Book Review – All Hallows by W. Sheridan Bradford

Defined as ‘literary horror’ by the author, “All Hallows” may be a bit off-putting to some readers. However, for those who like their horror richer and deeper than the usual blood and guts slasher quick reads out there, this novel may be exactly what you’re looking for.

All Hallows follows the old (nay – ancient) and somewhat cantankerous old witch, Maren Glover along as she tries to make her way home on Halloween Night. There is some pre-amble to this stroll through town, which may seem somewhat out of place, until you get further into the book then it all falls into place and makes sense. She encounters other creatures of the night, other witches, an eleven-foot-tall werewolf (But don’t call her that, that only makes her angrier and do you really to make an eleven-foot-tall werewolf even more pissed off at you? No, no you do not.), and a vampire just to name a few. All of them are sorely tempted by a high bounty placed on Maren’s head. But, Maren, old and road-weary as she is, keeps her handy-dandy bowling bag of tricks always on hand and she isn’t about to go quietly or easily into that sweet night. And, oh, does she love her sweets! Maren is a wonderful character. I couldn’t get enough of her absent-minded, somewhat disorganized old lady ramblings throughout the book. All the characters in this book are described with a flourish that keeps them each memorable and unique.

My only complaint about the book is that I think the author went a little overboard with the lengthy wording and word choices in the first half. In a couple of instances, there were sentences that covered almost an entire page.  Yes, a single sentence drawn out with enough commas and semi-colons to drive my high school English teach mad. This is typical of the old Gothic Horror novels that I so love, so it wasn’t terribly off-putting to me in that regard. This, along with wishing I had a thesaurus on hand, made the first half of the book a bit of a struggle. That being said, once I reached the halfway mark, everything changed! The narrative quickened. The sentences and paragraphs shortened. The dialogue and characters blossomed and were a delight. They drove all the action forward at a wonderful pace. It became a book I couldn’t wait to have time to sit down and get back into. Had the first half been written like the second half, I would have easily given it a higher rank without a second thought. It was all worth it in the end and I’m hoping Mr. Bradford puts out more work soon – very soon. Please!

BUY IT HERE: ALL HALLOWS by W. Sheridan Bradford

Raven Rating: 4 out of 5 Caws.

The Raven Scale:
1 Raven: Yuck! Don’t eat that.
2 Ravens: Bread crumbs, but it’ll keep us alive.
3 Ravens: Oh, hey! Peanuts, popcorn and cat kibble!
4 Ravens: Lunch time pizza place dumpster. Hell, yeah!
5 Ravens: Holy Shit, Fellas! Fresh Road Kill!

So, Ya Wanna Be In A Book, Do Ya?

I’ve had quite a few people ask me to put them in one of my books. It’s funny and I wish characters came to me that easily. I can only answer that if a story calls for someone like them, I’ll put them in, but I can make no promises.

One of these requests comes from a woman who works in the café where I work. She’s quite a character herself and I’d love to work her in at some point – even if just for a one-scene cameo. Another person is my uncle. He’s got some wild stories from his youth to tell and thinks I should put them into one of my books. Other friends and family have made it onto the pages in various ways without even asking and probably at least one would rather I hadn’t.

The habit of drawing characters from people I know pretty much dominates my writing, most of the time they are fictionalized to the point that even the person being taken from won’t recognize themselves. In other cases, the characters come to me from some other unknown and mysterious realm of which I haven’t a clue about. The two best examples of that are Lee Yagar and Mary Alice Brown from my psychological horror novel “Dark Hollow Road”. Lee came to me first. One night I was sitting alone by a campfire in my backyard and he told me his name and that he knew what had happened at the house on Dark Hollow Road. He also made it clear that getting that information out of him wasn’t going to be easy. Weird, I know – but that’s what it’s like to be in my head sometimes, the voices – the visions.

All that being said, there’s still a chance you can be in your friend’s book. Is there any way you can help move that dream along? Yes, there are a few methods you can try.

Probably the easiest, and least attractive way is to be an asshole and piss your writer friend off. I write Horror and dabble in the Murder-Mystery genre so if you want to be snuffed out in a gory and unpleasant way, that may just be the ticket to admission. You’ve made an impression and if I detest you enough, I’ll find a way to kill you in the most grisly way possible. Best of all, it’s completely legal. Nobody has to go to jail and nobody has really died – but I feel a whole lot better about things. As a bonus, despite you being a total waste of air in the real world, your most horrible traits have been exposed and you have been made immortal. Don’t you feel special now?

Another, much nicer way, is for me to love you deeply – as a friend, as a family member, as someone I hold near and dear to my heart. I’ll treat you a lot better then. Be a positive inspiration just by being yourself. I love that. I may still have to kill you, of course, but at least the readers will be crying over your death instead of shouting about how you got what you deserved – you jerk.

It’s not just dearly loved friends that find their way into my stories, but common people I remember from my childhood. My memories of tons of those from my hometown and surrounding communities populate my Barnesville Chronicles. Sometimes it feels like I’m cheating so bad when I use them. Small towns are full of quirky characters just begging to be written about.

Lastly, be original. Stand out as someone who I will see and make a mental note of – either by way of your voice, the way you dress, some sort of wild hair-do, something I will remember when I walk out of whatever space we may be sharing when I notice it. I’m really into people watching. It helps to be memorable and unique. This brings us back to that café lady. I’ve no doubt she’ll show up in a book at some point, but I don’t know when or where. Next time a café scene is required, I suppose, as I only know her within that realm. She’s funny and unique and has a certain boisterous loudness about her that may prove quite useful in the future. Notes have been taken.

Book Review – In The Valley Of The Sun by Andy Davidson

At the age of ten, I read my first vampire novel, Dracula by Bram Stoker. Over the past forty years literally hundreds of other vampire novels and short stories have crossed my path. Most of them have been quite forgettable. Andy Davidson’s In The Valley Of The Sun is not one of them.

First, it’s original. That’s really hard to find in the world of vampire novels. The word vampire is never used and the effects of becoming one of the undead don’t adhere 100% to the traditional. Better yet, these particular creatures of the night do not ‘sparkle’. (THANK, GOD!) If you want goody-goody vampires this book is NOT for you.

Set in West Texas (not to be confused with West, Texas – which is located in Central Texas), we follow the wretched and lost life of Travis Stillwell, a deeply disturbed and traumatized Vietnam Vet who travel the roads in search of something he’s lost – what that is, he’s not sure. Even before he meets up with Rue, he’s not a particularly pleasant fellow. After they meet, well – it goes from ugly to absolutely monstrous.

It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book of this length (almost 400 pages) in less than 10 days and that’s always a good thing. Loved this book to pieces and would recommend it as a MUST READ to anyone who loves the vampire genre as much as I do.

Raven Rating: 5 out of 5 Caws.

The Raven Scale:
1 Raven: Yuck! Don’t eat that.
2 Ravens: Bread crumbs, but it’ll keep us alive.
3 Ravens: Oh, hey! Peanuts, popcorn and cat kibble!
4 Ravens: Lunch time pizza place dumpster. Hell, yeah!
5 Ravens: Holy Shit, Fellas! Fresh Road Kill!

It’s Springtime In Barnesville!

… and that can only mean one thing, it’s time to start building for the Scarecrow Festival.
Unfortunately, the melting snow has put a damper on the festivities by exposing the decomposing remains of one of their citizens. It could have been an accident or it could be murder.
One young investigator believes it was the latter and is soon caught up in Barnesville’s greatest, bloodiest secret.

Watch The Trailer:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0wJxP…

Buy The Book:
mybook.to/scarecrowmoon_morris

Movie Review – Christopher Robin (2018)

In which some folks may be surprised to find out that there is a much softer, child-like side to this particular Horror writer. I’m not all dark spooky houses and blood curdling screams.

I’ve been desperately in love with Winnie The Pooh my entire life. On our first trip to Disney World (that’s the one in Florida) in 1972 I acquired my first stuffed Pooh Bear. I still have that bear. His fur’s not as thick and fluffy as it once was. One ear is longer than the other. His shirt is a bit grimy. And the top of his head is infused with more of my tears than I care to admit. He was and still is much loved.

As with Christopher Robin, Pooh was my friend, companion and confidant when I felt no one else was even up into my teenage years. I still have my original set of Winnie The Pooh paperback books, my bedroom curtains, and will sit and watch the original cartoons at the drop of a hat when I can. When my son was born, his bedroom was decked out in all things Pooh Bear.

When I saw the trailer for Christopher Robin I knew I just HAD to see it. I mean, it’s POOH BEAR for crying out loud. Finally, thanks to Netflix, I was able to watch it earlier this week. I was in tears before the darn opening scene was over with!

Christopher Robin is all grown up. He’s a busy, busy man with not a lot of time for his wife and daughter. Work is sucking all the life and fun out of him and he’s under huge pressure to make drastic cuts to the department he’s in charge of – 20% by the end of the week.

Then, along comes Winnie The Pooh – in all his walking, talking, rumbling in his tumbly flesh, so to speak. He appears on a park bench where Christopher Robin finds him and immediately freaks out. What follows is Christopher returning Pooh to the Hundred Acre Woods only to end up staying there much longer than planned. The plot is super, super simple and because of that, I was rather disappointed. Even the Disney cartoons from the late 1960s had more interesting plots than this movie. I got the impression that each of Christopher’s co-workers was based around a resident of the Hundred Acre Woods – but this was never explored. Would have loved to have seen this happen.

The animation was amazing and really blew me away, but even with that, the story just didn’t carry me as far into the world of Pooh as I wanted to go. It was dumbed down and simplified way too much and didn’t seem to take into consideration that long time Pooh Bear fans like myself would want to see it or journey back to our childhoods as Christopher Robin was able to do.

Be all that as it may, I enjoyed it for what it was even as I wished there was more to it. I’m glad I didn’t pay theatre ticket prices to see it, though. It’s a cute movie with a good message even if the plot was not in the least bit deep.

A bear of very little brain or not – Winnie The Pooh’s child-like wisdom is probably one of the best things going on out there in the world and for that, I’ll always love him.

In honor of Pooh, I’m skipping my traditional Raven Rating system on favor of Honey Pots and giving this a 2 out of 5. It’s a nice little smackeral, but not nearly as satisfying as this particular chubby little bear had hoped for.

 

Book Review – The Taking by Dean Koontz

As much as I love to read, sometimes it’s a real struggle. The inability to connect to characters is all too often a big problem. Maybe the plot just doesn’t feel logical or the ending is abrupt and unsatisfying. Or, I try a genre I don’t normally read and realize why. Happily – The Taking is no such book. Happily – The Taking blew me away!

Molly and Neil Sloan wake shortly after midnight to the sound of heavy rain. They quickly realize, along with the rest of the world, that this is no ordinary storm. It glows and glistens in unearthly ways and falls from a purple-tainted sky. Like it or not, the Sloans can’t stay in their home. They must venture out into an alien-infused landscape to find out who – or what – is taking over planet Earth and if salvation is possible.

H.P. Lovecraft meet H.G. Wells. From day one, page one, I did not want to put this book down, but work and sleep required it in stretches way too long. Told from Molly’s perspective, we are draw minute by minute into the weird and terrifying realm of an alien invasion. They arrive quietly, unseen and unheard, but with alarming efficiency and speed. By the time Molly and her husband and the other residents of Black Lake, California realize things aren’t right, it’s way too late – but, they still have to try. The main body of the story takes place over the course of just barely twenty-four hours and I felt as if I walked with Molly and Neil for every minute of it. Even better, I thought I had a pretty good idea how it was all going to end … I was wrong.

I was gripped. I was compelled. I was anxious and horrified. I was completely and utterly entertained. I loved every aching, ugly, terrified minute of those twenty-four hours. By far, the best Dean Koontz book I’ve read to date and I can’t wait to get my hands on more of his work.

Raven Rating: 5 out of 5 Caws.

The Raven Scale:
1 Raven: Yuck! Don’t eat that.
2 Ravens: Bread crumbs, but it’ll keep us alive.
3 Ravens: Oh, hey! Peanuts, popcorn and cat kibble!
4 Ravens: Lunch time pizza place dumpster. Hell, yeah!
5 Ravens: Holy Shit, Fellas! Fresh Road Kill!

I’m Writing As Fast As I Can.

It’s been a pretty busy first two months of 2019.

front_cover_smallStories are getting finished, polished, and presented to the world. The big news is that at long last, “The Murder” – Part 2 of The Witch’s Backbone – is set for release March 5th. Part 1 – The Curse ended on a bit of a cliff hanger with the kids hurdling down a steep hill in a bike race and … well, I really shouldn’t say too much about that, but if you’ve read Part 1, you’re sure to be in for even more surprises in Part 2. It picks up exactly where The Curse ends.

The Witch’s Backbone: Part 1 – The Curse

TWB_Barnesville_FrontFor those who haven’t had a chance to read Part 1, starting today and running for one week only, you’ll be able to grab the Kindle edition of The Witch’s Backbone Part 1: The Curse for a mere 99 cents! So… gather up your pennies and scramble over to Amazon before time runs out! I’ve never made it so important to readers that they read a set of books in order. I’ve always preferred stand alone novels, but … this is that rare exception. All are or will be available in both eBook format for Kindle and paperback editions on March 5th.

The Witch’s Backbone: Part 2 – The Murder – eBook preorders

BecauseSpiders_CoverAlso brand new out there is my first ever short story in eBook! “Because, Spiders” is a quick 30-page read about a little girl who shares my dreaded fear of spiders. And, it’s a mere .99! There will be paperbacks available as well so never fear those who aren’t into eBooks. (I’m not and I always appreciate the author who knows not everyone does that eBook thing.) Depending on cover art and how the paperback proof looks the first go round will determine when it’s available.

Because, Spiders for Kindle.

 

 

 

HororTreeLogo  REDCAPEWIHM

Also in February I’ve done a few little things for WiHM (Women In Horror Month). First, I wrote a guest post for The Horror Tree about one of my favorite subjects, the origins of Gothic Horror and the women who created it called “Digging Up My Writing Roots”.  I landed a spot on Red Cape Publishing’s list this year that features 27 other Women In Horror writers. Go check out that list! Looks like a lot of great reads to be had there. https://redcapepublishing.com/blog/

Screenshot_2019-02-22 BLURB - YouTube

Last weekend I was interviewed by Ben Walker for his YouTube channel BLURB. Ben does a lot of Bizarre Book Reviews and apparently some Bizarre Author Interviews. Yes, I just called myself bizarre – and quite proudly so! And, judging by what I’ve watched of Ben’s show – he’s not exactly normal, either. I’m sure he’d take that as a compliment. Don’t have an exact date on when it will be released other than in March, but I’ll be sure to post more when it’s finalized. I have to add that there’s a huge confession on my part that takes place during the interview. I can’t believe I put that part of myself out there for the whole world to know. God, help me. Ben also posted a book review for my psychological horror novel, Dark Hollow Road that you can find here.

Bizarre eBook Review – Dark Hollow Road

Of course, in between all of this, I’m writing – or trying to. For years I’ve had a couple of characters, Texas-born-and-raised twins, Choice and Liberty Hill, slogging around in my head just itching to be brought to life. It’s called “The Inheritance” and is being written with traditional Gothic Horror tropes in mind, but with a modern west Texas twist. Along with creepy twins, you’ll find have some totally pissed off Apache spirits, a hint of badass biker mayhem, an isolated Texas ranch, and the chance to inherit $33 million. What could possibly go wrong?

Well – I think that’s MORE than enough news for this month.

 

Part 2 – The Murder! The Newest Barnesville Chronicle Cover Release!

It feels like forever since I’ve had the joy of releasing a new title, though it’s only been a year. Maybe because this one has been finished for such a long time, but I had to hold off on getting it out there due to other things going on. Despite those plans not working out as I’d hope and prayed, it put the project back at the top of my to-do list. Thankfully, all the waiting and work is almost over.

Part two of The Witch’s Backbone will be out and about in the world in 6-8 weeks barring any more unforeseen delays. I’ve chose my grandmother’s March birthday for it – though I’m going to have to guess the majority of you have no idea when that is.

And so, without any further delay – I’d like to present you with the official cover release for the fourth title in the Barnesville Chronicle series The Witch’s Backbone, Part 2 – The Murder.

TWB2_Cover_reduced

 If the curse is real, how do they stop it from killing them all?

“One, two, three, four and five, not much longer to be alive.”

The free-wheeling days of the summer of 1980 are over. September has inched into October and chilly autumn winds blow through the village of Meyer’s Knob. Four friends sit atop the highest hill they know of. What should be a joyful occasion is one of mourning and sadness, instead. If only they’d known the curse was true, they’d not be standing here sending their friend postmortem birthday wishes.

“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name.”

The curse and the witch that goes with it are both real, and by the end of this particular day, they are going to come to realize their nightmare is nowhere near over. While the friends struggle to overcome their grief, they search for ways to unbind themselves from the horror that seems inescapable. They call on their local priest and they delve deeper into the world of witchcraft  – desperate and terrified.

“Ask about the murder.”

Cryptic whispers and messages from beyond the grave seem to be pointing them in a certain direction, but they don’t understand what the dead are asking them to do. Only one man knows the answer, the key that will end it once and for all, but his fear keeps him from revealing the secret to anyone, let alone a group of budding teenagers. He tried once and failed. Will the horrible knowledge passed down to him through his ancestors really work? Or is there truly only one way to end the witch’s curse, to let it play out and watch one child after another die?

If you haven’t read Part 1 – The Curse yet, you’ll want to do that before diving into this one to get up to speed on the mess the kids of Meyer’s Knob have gotten themselves into. Here’s a handy link to help you do just that.

The Witch’s Backbone Part 1 : The Curse – myBook.to/WitchsBackbone1_Curse_Morris

 

 

 

 

The Crow Report – The Return

If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know my last Crow Report was not a happy one. One of the local murder was found dead in the neighbor’s yards. (Details Here: When Death Comes Cawing). I was devastated by the death and even more so when the rest of the birds did not come back for weeks, then months.

I am happy to report that on New Year’s Eve, three of the five returned! The tears flowed again but this time they were filled of utter joy instead of heartbreak! They didn’t stay long, but there they were, sitting in the pine tree and strutting around in the yard. They’ve come and gone over the past few weeks, each time making a bit more noise and staying a little longer to enjoy the peanuts and cat food.

After a big storm that hit Saturday night and dumped a foot of snow in the area, tossing their food into the yard was rather pointless. The offerings immediately vanished. I decided to try something new. I had two wide planks of wood about a foot wide and 3-4 feet long just sitting around doing nothing by the kitchen porch. Using those, I made a small platform by laying them diagonally between the two railings. Not the biggest landing spot, but better than having to waddle and dig around in the snow, I figured.

It only took a few minutes for the Blue Jays to make good use to it, but Blue Jays are not Crows and without a doubt, I could probably stand out there and the Jays wouldn’t care in the least. The Crows – well, they aren’t so sure about the whole thing. None of them took advantage of the new configuration Sunday. Monday was a different story.

I saved a few pieces of raw bacon from our Sunday morning breakfast along with some boiled Cornish Game Hen giblets – necks, livers, gizzards, etc. That along with the normal peanuts and kibble made for quite the spread. Of course, the Jays came first, nabbing all the peanuts in no time. A Starling showed interest in the kibble, but didn’t linger. Then – quiet. Until about 3:30 when I heard the caw-caw-caw. I dared to peek out.

There they were, SEVEN of them, in the trees, eyeballing the platform.  One flew down to a nearby stump, tipping his head this way and that, taking in the situation. He fluttered over a bit closer on the ground, pushing snow with his tummy then flew up, did a quick survey and headed back to the tree post haste. Others flew in, doing the same. None of them seemed too keen on landing just yet. But, it was clear they knew there was food up there. Finally, one of them took the dare and landed, grabbed something and was gone just as fast.

There was a lot of crow debating after that. More fluttered in, but none landed. This all took place over the span of about half an hour. They all flew off shortly after. It was just starting to get dark so I’m sure they were headed for their roost for the night.

As I won’t be home today, I won’t be able to spy on them when they come by at the usual times. I will be able to see if anything is gone when I get back, though. And you better believe I’ll be checking the platform for tell-tale Crow footprints in the snow.

The End Is Nigh.

The end is nigh.

In less than 18 hours, 2018 will be over. Thanks be to God.

Looking back on what has been for the past 364 days, I can’t help but feel a bit disappointed in what I’ve been able to accomplish. Maybe I ask too much of myself. What I consider my best novel to-date, “Dark Hollow Road”, came out this past spring. Yes, I know to complete a novel is considered a huge accomplishment and I’m not saying that it isn’t. I’m super proud of that book, yet I’m still disappointed. Sales have been horrible for all my titles this year – absolutely abysmal – and I think that’s where my mood truly lies. Not in “Dark Hollow Road” specifically, but the overall feeling of not being good enough, yet again. So few sales, even fewer reviews. Artists can be so self deprecating, so full of doubts and insecurities that we often don’t recognize the greatness of what we’ve accomplished. Instead, we look at how we’ve failed. Case in point …

In 2018, I completed Part 2 of The Witch’s Backbone and had all intentions of getting it out there in the fall. Instead, I submitted it with a great deal of encouragement by a fellow writer to a publisher on the threadbare hopes that it, along with Part 1, would be good enough. It wasn’t. Fail.

In 2018, I started to write another book in the Barnesville Chronicles – “312 Seymour Drive”. Twenty chapters or so in, I lost all control of the thing as it spiraled into something I couldn’t give a direction to. My focus was lost. The story is rambling with too much going on and I’ve still no idea how or where to pull it back so I can get on with it.  Fail.

In 2018, after the disaster of 312 Seymour Drive, I decided to finally get my shit together and work on that collection of short stories and poems I’ve been wanting to do for a very long time. I had some new short stories floating around. There was one I wrote some 20+ years ago I really wanted to give a spit-shine to. I was super excited about the whole project and was thinking how great it would be to have a little something out before Christmas. Nope, didn’t happen. Oh, it’s done – more or less – I do need to go through a printed copy and edit and was never able to get a cover concept that I really liked, so… there it sits. Fail.

In 2018, one of ‘my’ sweet crows mysteriously died in the neighbor’s yard. We’ve had no real neighbors on that side for about three years due to a house fire. It’s being renovated very, very slowly, so it was nothing anyone did over there. Will never know what happened, but the end result is that the small murder of 5-6 birds that used to come around daily for peanuts and crow chow, has vanished – POOF! – I’ve not seen them since. It’s been three months. I’m told this is typical behavior and to be patient and all sorts of advice from other corvid enthusiasts. So, three years of work and yup – feels like another fail to me.

In 2018, we made an epic journey way out to southwest Texas to be part of the Day of the Dead celebration in Terlingua Ghost Town. I needed to go there as part of my research for yet another book idea. I was inspired beyond my wildest dreams. I took tons of pictures and wrote page after page of notes. I was all gung-ho for weeks after we got back and then … it all came to a screeching halt when a Christmas-themed short story hit me. Which, by the way, I’ve not finished yet, either. Double fail.

In 2018, I did manage to get out ten author interviews and write up some book reviews. I was even interviewed once myself. I watched a few movies, but not as many as I would have liked. I read a lot, too. Recently, I picked up a paintbrush again – something I’ve not done in a good ten years – and completed two small paintings. That’s something, I suppose. I’ve been dubbed ‘Queen of Horror Cults’ by none other than, Monster Man & Final Guy, Horror author Hunter Shea.  Pretty sure nobody else out there can say that. I’ve also managed to keep not just one, but two, succulent gardens not just merely alive, but thriving. That’s pretty mind-blowing if you know my history with houseplants. It’s not good, people. It’s not good at all.

Needless to say, the cons far outweigh the pros when it comes to 2018. I wish I could look back at it all and somehow view it in a more positive light. If I could see it as laying groundwork for the potential greatness of 2019 instead of merely a series of failures, that sure would help.

I know this isn’t the usual upbeat end of year review most people write, but I’m just being honest here. I’d love to end of a happy note, but to quote Eeyore, “We can’t all and some of us don’t. That’s all there is to it.”

The end if nigh.

In less than 18 hours, 2018 will be over. Thanks be to God.

P.S. – After I finished writing this, I went out to the kitchen in search of my missing, now cold, cup of coffee. While I waited the minute it took to heat it back up in the microwave, I went to the window over the sink – and almost immediately found myself in tears. Guess who was out there noshing on the peanuts, crow chow, and bits of leftover Cornish game hen I’d tossed out before I sat down to write? Three of my beloved crows. Yes, I’m taking this as a sign that 2019 will be so much better! 😀