Small Press Interview: Crystal Lake Publishing

As I had mentioned during my Small Press Publishing piece, I wanted to make the full text of the interviews I had conducted during the research for the piece available.

This first one is from Joe at Crystal Lake Publishing.


Crystal Lake Publishing Interview

With unmatched success since 2012, Crystal Lake Publishing has quickly become one of the world’s leading indie book publishers of Horror, Mystery, Thriller, Dark & Speculative Fiction, and Suspense books with a Dark Fiction edge.


Sci-Fi & Scary: How important is the presentation of your client’s works (editing, copyediting, proofreading) to you?

Crystal Lake (Joe): Extremely. It shows respect to the author, the work, the genre, and the readers. Plus it’s a very important step toward building a proper brand for Crystal Lake Publishing. Therefor it can affect sales right now and in the long run. My goal as publisher is to build a brand and for readers to trust our brand so they’ll keep coming back for more. I want readers to trust me and Crystal Lake with future releases, whether they’re familiar with the author’s work or not. Lots of our readers have picked up our new releases simply because they trust my judgement.


Sci-Fi & Scary: When you sign someone, whether it be for an anthology, or a novel, how much effort do you put into promoting their works?

Crystal Lake: My absolute everything. I don’t just promote books, I promote careers. In the end, their success will be beneficial to me in the long run, anyway. But basically it comes down to my love for books, great stories, and promoting authors. I’ll link to their other books, be it with me or another publisher, their newsletter, and whatever else I can get my hands on. Long after the book is out, I’ll keep promoting it, as well as brainstorm with the author on how to get more readers to give it a shot. We’ll try new techniques, update the description or keywords, do giveaways etc.


Sci-Fi &Scary: I know several small presses don’t really put out notifications of upcoming novels nearly as far in advance as bigger publishers do. (This results in sites like mine being much harder pressed to promote them like we would love to do.) Why do you think this is?

Crystal Lake: The major contributing factor here is that small budgets prevent us from sometimes confirming a date well in advance. Plus, with such a small team involved in small presses (with the publisher normally taking on most of the work to save money), a lot can go wrong and result in delays. Bad health or family responsibilities can have an effect on a launch date, something that will definitely not happen with the bigger publishers, where a team of over 100 people can be involved in a book’s launch.

I try to work with a two month publishing window. With two months left I should have eBook ARCs in hand, review copies going out, and the launch being discussed with the author. But this really isn’t always possible. Pushing back a release isn’t a great move, but I’ve had to do it about twice now.

I’d also love to print out paperback ARCs and send them for possible Publishers Weekly reviews etc., but right now we don’t even send out more than two or three paperback review copies (to major genre magazines or ‘Best of’ anthologies, the odd award here and there).


Sci-FI & Scary: What is the biggest problem facing small presses today?

Crystal Lake: By now we’ve covered the budget aspect, but a press’ own success can be a problem. Success leads to authors wanting more…and expecting more. My job is to grow the Crystal Lake image and put our best foot forward, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have problems, setbacks, and tight budgets. We went from paying $30 a story to paying 5c to 6c a word in only two years. After recent successful anthologies (Gutted, Behold, and Where Nightmares Come From), some authors are now expecting 8c to 10c word. I’m a big supporter of authors and helping them write full-time, but with so many presses closing down these days, my first responsibility lies with protecting the longevity of this press. Too many presses close down because they think paying more will result in earning more. Hope is the worst marketing plan in existence.

If I can mention one more problem… A growing concern (with more and more authors choosing to self-publish) is proving to authors that we’re worth the royalty cut we take. That we have the experience, contacts, and platform to help them be successful. I’m a big fan of self-publishers, and actually recommend hybrid-publishing to my authors and mentees. By choosing to put one or two of your books in the hand of a reputable small press, you now have the opportunity of reaching new readers, reviewers, and perhaps even learning more launch techniques you can try in your own releases.

A small press’ main purpose might be to support authors, but we’re still a business that needs to show a profit.


Sci-Fi & Scary: What is the atmosphere like for small press owners? Is it every press for itself, or do you guys sometimes work, or at least talk, together?

Crystal Lake: It used to be very quiet, but that’s no longer the case. These days the majority of publishers definitely help and support each other. I recently started a coalition of publishers (almost like a mastermind group), and every person I approached responded positively (over 70 publishers). We use this group to support each other, run ideas off one another, and basically prevent more presses from closing down. And if they do close down, we’ll be there to help in the transition and guide their authors to new contracts. The main reason we started this group was to take pitches from those authors who were affected by their respective presses closing down.

        Just like authors shouldn’t compete with each other, neither should presses. There are enough readers out there, and most of them read quite fast.

So yes, I support other presses, just as I hope they’ll support Crystal Lake.


Sci-Fi & Scary: What do you think the most important thing an author looking for a publisher needs to keep in mind when shopping their novel (or short story) around to small presses?

Crystal Lake: Just like with short stories, don’t take rejection personally. Understand that our schedules and budgets really limit how many books we can accept. Taking on too many books in a short period of time exhausts our resources and support base necessary for a successful launch. With too many books lined up we’ll eventually start spending less money on marketing per book, which will result in poor sales and a press eventually closing down due to too many expenses.

It doesn’t matter how great your book is, it’s just not a guarantee. There’s a reason small presses only have an open sub periods every now and then. We can get up to 300 pitches, but will probably only be able to accept five to eight new projects (especially if we offer an advance on royalties). So don’t think that just because it’s a small press it’ll be easier to get accepted. Great titles can be turned down simply because we can’t expect you to wait two years for the book to be published.

Visit Crystal Lake Publishing’s website, sign up for their mailing list, and get three free e-books!

Sweet Home #Webtoon Review

Title: Sweet Home | Author: Youngchan Hwang | Illustrator: Carnby Kim | Pub. Start: 01/15/2018 | Current Episodes: 13 | Genre: Thriller/Horror Webtoon | Triggers: Car accident, thoughts of self-harm and suicide | Rating: 4 out of 5 | Source: Webtoon App

A reclusive high school student is suddenly forced to leave his home due to an unexpected turn of events.

Sweet Home is a running Webtoon on the Webtoon app*. Reading a Webtoon is like reading a graphic novel or mange but in a comic strip style. I think anyone can make one and upload it. I like the Webtoon app because it has a huge selection of stories and art styles to choose from. There are a few pros and cons to it, though.

The Webtoons are scheduled so you know when the next one is coming out.
There is a good variety to choose from
The way they’re grouped makes it easy to find what genre you like the best
You can search by Webtoon name or author or illustrator

Having to wait for the next episode to come out if it’s a running Webtoon
Sometimes it can be hard to tell if the content will be graphic until you’re actually reading it

I found Sweet Home because the author and illustrator did another Webtoon that I liked very much. I can’t really name it here but it is a really good one. Sweet Home is an online comic that has different levels of “What!?” Such as “What do you mean?”  “What the heck!?” And, most of all, “What!? That’s how they ended that episode!?” Cliffhangers are everywhere.

The story follows a character whose family has just died. However, he is a hermit, depressed and suicidal and it does not seem to affect him emotionally. Your first impressions of him…aren’t great. He’s locked in a room and only talks to his mother through texting and another view of him is at his family’s funeral where he’s angry that he doesn’t have enough money to live on. But the author is very good at giving you characters that can be unpleasant but you still want to know what will happen to them and follow them in their story. Since the insurance money will only take him so far ( a job never occurs to him) he plans to kill himself on the date which his money will run out on. However, before he can go through with it people start getting turned into abominations that can only be described as demons. He is still human yet has the effects of the disease that turns them into demons. So he gets the powers they have but remains human.  Throughout the series he thinks a lot about suicide but his actions show that he wants to live. He’s a very complex character. He is more than a cardboard cutout with just one facet and one emotion. There are less than 20 episodes right now and I cannot wait to continue it. It’s a great comic to pick up. If you have problems with depression, though, I wouldn’t recommend it. It can get very dark.

I like the art style as well. It’s slightly different than the art style for the other comic that I like. It fits the tone of this comic perfectly and I’m impressed that the illustrator can do different styles for different stories. I would recommend Sweet Home (besides the above conditions) and the Webtoon app in general. I think it’s best suited for teens more than smaller kids, though. Unless there was strict parental supervision as some of the stories can be quite graphic.

*We have no connection with Webtoon other than enjoying its comics. We have no financial or other interest in the app

Focus on the Frightful – Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

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Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

This book has always interested me. I love the story of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and its exploration of our duality, good vs. evil and our human struggle to rise above our baser impulses. Or give into them. The story itself is neat, tight and goes at a steady pace until the end. I do think it’s a shame that the story is so well known as it works as a good mystery if you don’t know the connection between Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I can imagine when it first came out its revelation near the end was quite stunning. Now even the lightest dabbler in horror or classic horror knows what’s going to happen. It’s also interesting to me that a lot of apocryphal stories have grown up around it. One of the first I heard was that he wrote it in three days and when he showed his wife she was so horrified by it that he burned it. And then wrote it again. This seems hardly likely as she was in the habit of reading his drafts and marking her criticisms in the margins.  The quick writing time, between three and six days, seems accurate. Modern scholars have floated the theory that Stevenson may have been under the influence of ergot or cocaine. I can’t say whether or not this is true, nor from what they draw their conclusions from.

One trend I’ve noticed lately is that Jekyll/Hyde has become sympathetic. Many of the movies I’ve seen or heard of represent Dr. Jekyll as a sympathetic character. A man who, for the sake of science! has unwittingly unleashed the beast that is Hyde. Or it is presented as a side effect of other research.

I’m sure we’ve all heard the repression of Victorian society analogy so I’m not going to go into that here. I’m more going to focus on the way the book’s ideas have changed in different media such as movies, video games, music and more. So, from here on out, for those one or two people out there that doesn’t know the story of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde there will be spoilers from here on out.

My main problem with most modern adaptations of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is that Dr. Jekyll is generally portrayed as a kindly soul that is trying to separate the evil side of himself to be rid of it. While that’s Dr. Jekyll’s main goal at first, once he separates Hyde from himself he chooses to embrace that side of himself. When he realizes that it’s possible to “hide” behind Hyde he revels in the freedom this provides. At the start Hyde is younger and underdeveloped. As Jekyll continues to exercise that part of himself Hyde grows stronger and larger. I noticed when I was listening to it the other night (a great recording and quite cheap) that Dr. Jekyll always refers to Mr. Hyde as “Mr. Hyde”. He never says “I” or “myself”. He always refers to Mr. Hyde as though he’s a separate entity instead of a part of himself. Jekyll also doesn’t seem to realize that even though he managed to separate the evil from the good, only leaving the evil, the “good” side still retains the impulses toward evil. So they’re very obviously there the whole time. But once Hyde has been created Dr. Jekyll shunts all of his evil and undignified cravings onto Hyde wanting to come out and play. He doesn’t want to associate his saintly Dr. Jekyll personality with Mr. Hyde.

I realize that there was no way that Stevenson could have detailed Dr. Jekyll’s “undignified” activities. My guess would be he probably frequented whorehouses and perhaps opium dens or other drugs and drinking. The subtlety, in my opinion, makes it that much the creepier. It lets your imagination range and think of the worst scenarios possible. I’m assuming Mr. Hyde’s debauches of a monstrous nature did not include murder. Dr. Jekyll is a pompous, self-righteous hypocrite. I’m sure some of it was the Victorian sensibilities but I have the feeling he’d be the same way no matter what time period he was born in. He soothes his conscience by ‘repairing’ the after effects of Mr. Hyde’s debauches. Even his “good” works are solely for himself. After the praise he receives from himself isn’t working for him anymore he turns back into Hyde to release his pent up pleasures. Thus proving that Dr. Jekyll does not truly want to be good. He only took a hiatus because he was getting frightened by the growing dominance of Mr. Hyde. I’ve always wondered why Hyde grows but Dr. Jekyll does not shrink or turn more primitive.

I noticed that the older movies portray Hyde as more monstrous. The latter interpretations portray Hyde as a slightly scruffier version of Dr. Jekyll. One of the movies that annoys me the most is Mary Reilly. That movie tries everything possible to make Dr. Jekyll the good guy. Even the murder of Sir Danvers Carew is framed as being “okay” because Sir Danvers is a pervert who frequents whorehouses with children instead of the totally unprovoked attack that it is in the book. I realize that the focus of Mary Reilly is supposed to be on Mary rather than on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde but still. Two of the worst portrayals I have ever seen were in Van Helsing and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. In both versions Mr. Hyde is portrayed as something more akin to The Hulk rather than the more subdued description in the novella.

Since 1908 the themes and adaptations of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde have been going strong with a new adaptation in development. It has also permeated other facets of the media and people in general. We use the term “Jekyll and Hyde” to denote someone who has wildly different moods and characteristics. There are songs, such as Five Finger Death Punch’s Jekyll and Hyde (I recommend skipping ahead to the 1:23 mark, the music doesn’t start until then) and Halestorm’s Mz. Hyde. There are even two musicals adapted from the book. If you want a really, um, unique look at the Jekyll and Hyde story you should check out the Nintendo game – Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It’s hard as heck and just as weird.

So what do you guys think of Dr. Jekyll? Do you see him as the unfortunate victim of his own curiosity and desire to be free from rigid expectations? Or do you see him as a self-absorbed ass who was willing to risk his life for the freedom to do whatever he wanted without it tainting his good name?

Sci-Fi Biweekly Bulletin: Ready Player One, Void Black Shadow, and More

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From spaceships to alternate history, and other worlds to nanites, science fiction is a fascinating genre of rather amazing depth that many talented writers happily delve into on a daily basis. And we, the curators here at Sci-Fi & Scary, aren’t even going to talk about a tenth of it right now. However, what you will get is a selection of movies, books, and interesting articles from across the net. Also, there’s a strong potential for puns, gifs, and a moderate amount of fangirling.

*This post contains Amazon Affiliate Links, which help support the site*

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Your Sci-Fi Funny

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Science Fiction Movies

Movie cover for Ready Player One

Ready Player One

Ready Player One Synopsis: When the creator of a virtual reality world called the OASIS dies, he releases a video in which he challenges all OASIS users to find his Easter Egg, which will give the finder his fortune.

Starring: Tye SheridanOlivia CookeBen Mendelsohn

I  am not a fan of the Ready Player One book. My suspicion is that the movie is going to be naught more than a brightly colored vomit-fest of Speilberg nostalgia propaganda. So, needless to say, I have no desire to watch this any time soon.

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Science Fiction Books

Book cover for Void Black Shadow

Void Black Shadow – Corey J. White – March 27, 2018

Mars Xi is a living weapon, a genetically-manipulated psychic supersoldier with a body count in the thousands, and all she wanted was to be left alone. People who get involved with her get hurt, whether by MEPHISTO, by her psychic backlash, or by her acid tongue. It’s not smart to get involved with Mars, but that doesn’t stop some people from trying.

The last time MEPHISTO came for Mars they took one of her friends with them. That was a mistake. A force hasn’t been invented that can stop a voidwitch on a rampage, and Mars won’t rest until she’s settled her debts

Note: A while back, I reviewed the first book in this series, Killing Gravity, and it was amazing. You can check out that review here. .

Buy Void Black Shadow: Amazon Affiliate Link

Other new releases:

Floatsam (Peridot Shift #1) by R.J. Theodore – Goodreads | Amazon

Architects of Infity (Star Trek: Voyager) by Kirsten Beyer – Goodreads | Amazon


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Science Fiction Trivia

I’m Going to Moon You

With tomorrow night’s Blue Moon being the last Blue Moon until 2020 I thought we could take a look at all of the other full moons out there. Don’t worry, I’m not going into every single name for every single phase…although I do like the name Gibbous Moon, it’s very close to ‘gibbering’…but I digress. Here’s a list of the top twelve more colorfully named moons. Most moons have two or three names but I’m going with the name that I find most interesting.

Wolf Moon – The first Full Moon in January.

Hunger Moon – The first Full Moon in February. So called, I’m assuming, because winter is dragging on (and on and on) that the animals are getting hungry. As were the people in former times.

Milk Moon – I could not find out why it is called the Milk Moon. I did a very laborious minute or two of Binging (yes, Bing) to find out. I didn’t come up with the reason for it being named so but I did come up with a recipe for ‘Moon Milk’ that sounds nummy. Described as a “Lullaby in a cup” I plan on trying it soon. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Honey Moon – One of the Full Moons in June, so named because it stays on the horizon longer and gives it an amber appearance. I like it because it sounds nummy.

Beaver Moon – It’s either named for the amount of beaver trapping done in that month or because beavers are particularly busy with their dams. Either way, the words ‘beaver’ and ‘moon’ in the same sentence makes me happy.

Cold Moon – Named appropriately because it’s in the month of December.

Black Moon – There are varying, conflicting origins to this name but the most common is when there are two New Moons in a calendar month. At present this can only happen in February but in the future…who knows?

Blue Moon – Since it’s all over the news right now you probably don’t need my explanation but it’s when two Full Moons show up in the same month. Which is fairly rare but not as rare as the “Once in a Blue Moon” saying indicates.

New Moon – Call me…ill-informed but for the longest time I thought a New Moon was the Full Moon. I guess I just thought the moon was just gone completely or hiding behind clouds when it wasn’t visible (hey, I was just a kid!)

Super Moon – The moon that orbits Krypton, thus giving it its name of SuperMoon.

Hunter’s Moon/Harvest Moon – The moon closest to the equinox in September or October. Thus called because the because the moon rises later, giving hunters and farmers longer days to work with.

Blood Moon – Muahahaha! Well, it’s not as creepy as it sounds (unfortunately) but I still like the name.

If you’d like to know a bit more and also check out the list that I got my information from and also gives you a few more moons and a few more interesting tidbits check it out here.

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Sci-Fi Guest Post Call

Want to reminisce about your favorite sci-fi TV show? We’re looking for between 500 and 2000 words. Remember, you get to advertise one of your books or films at the bottom of the post!

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Sci-Fi on the Web

A Quiet Place was just premiered at SXSW and apparently won over critics. I’ve been on the fence about it. How about you guys?

With the 30th anniversary of Beetlejuice today you can check out this video on SyFy on things you may not know about the movie.

The Tommyknockers may be getting a big-screen (or streaming) release, possibly helmed by James Wan. I certainly wasn’t thrilled with the mini-series so hopefully it’s in the works.

With Guillermo del Toro recently receiving an Oscar (or two) for The Shape of Water maybe he’ll finally be allowed to make these unfinished projects. I’d love to see his version of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark or, better yet, At the Mountains of Madness. But please no Tom Cruise/motorcycle duo.

If you’re interested in the night sky the last blue moon until 2020 will be gracing the sky this Saturday.


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Betrayal at House on the Hill #GameReview

Betrayal at the House on the Hill

Over the weekend we were introduced to a board game called Betrayal at the House on the Hill. It’s an RPG-lite style of board game that has horror elements. From 3 to 6 players can play but, as with most board games, more is better.

The goal of the game is to move about the titular House on the Hill, creating it with cards as you go, and encountering Events. As the game progresses you roll to start a ‘Haunt’. That’s when the game really begins. You look up the relevant Haunt in the book and go from there. One player may (or may not) turn Traitor. The rest are Survivors. Each has their own goals that are secret from each other. It had a distinctly Dungeons & Dragons flavor to it but much more simplified. Your characters start at their base levels of Knowledge, Might, etc. and gain or lose points as he game progresses. You also get item tokens that can help with the Haunts and Omen cards that give you tasks to complete by rolling the die for certain effects.

We had so much fun playing it. It took a couple of turns to get the rules down but in general they were fairly easy to comprehend. The Haunts themselves were fun and interesting. I don’t really want to spoil any of them because they’re like mini-stories. I got the Traitor both times and I can tell you that playing that side of it was very fun. You build the house as you explore with your character using cards to represent certain rooms. Each room typically has an Event that you must complete (usually accomplished with a roll of the dice) that adds to the atmosphere of the game.

The cards, tokens and characters are all of very good quality. The Event, Omen and Item cards are of a nice, thick quality, the character tokens are well-made (the painting is a bit iffy) and sturdy feeling. The only issue we had with it, quality-wise, was the tokens used to mark your spot on the wheels denominating your character’s stats. Quite a few of them were loose and would slip down.

It is definitely a great game for the entire family. I would recommend it for older players as there is quite a lot of reading. I give it five stars for entertainment, ease of play and quality of the board and tokens.

Ladies of Horror: Sara Brooke

Welcome to our second installment of Ladies of Horror. While we’re huge fans of Women in Horror Month, we’ve taken a frequent comment that we hear to heart. Which is that we should celebrate women in horror year ’round. So, that’s what we’re going to do. If you are a woman (or identify as one) who writes horror, be it poetry, short stories, or novel length pieces, you qualify for this. If you wish to participate, there’s a contact form at the end.

Please note: These are basic profile pieces, not tailored interviews.

  1. Name? Sara Brooke
  2. Where are you from? Jupiter, FL
  3. Social Media and Website Links?


Facebook: /

Amazon Author Page

  1. When did you write your first horror and/or dark fiction piece? 2012
  2. Want to tell us about it? The book is called Still Lake. It is my most purchased novel to date!
  3. Who encouraged you to write and try to get your work published? No one. I just decided that it was time to start writing.
  4. Tell us about your most recently published work: The book is called Renovation and it is about the home renovators from hell…Literally.
  5. What do you have in the hopper right now? I am working on a horror novel about a haunted hotel that is full of witches and other dark things…
  6. Do you think you have to write better than men to get noticed in the horror field? Writing is gender-neutral.
  7. Who is a woman in horror that you admire? Lisa Morton.
  8. What is the most irritating trope you see in horror? How do you avoid it in your own work? Happy endings. My stories rarely have them.
  9. What’s the best horror movie you’ve seen in the past 3 years? Get Out.
  10. What about the best horror book you’ve read in the past 3 years? Head Full of Ghosts.
  11. What type of horror do you think we’ll see coming to the fore now that zombie horror seems to finally be dying down? More supernatural-type horror.
  12. Do your own books frighten you? Hell, yes. I have actually frightened myself when writing stories about supernatural terrors. It is a very strange experience.

Support a female horror writer, and check out her latest work now:

Book cover for Kransen House


The Kransens live in an expensive, elegant home in the small town of Flening, Florida. Majestic and private, the grounds are surrounded by lush trees and colorful flowers.

But there is an ugliness underneath the manicured and perfect facade…

Secrets hide within the walls and curses whisper through the air.

Newlyweds Ben and Ana Kransen are moving into the house with their in-laws. They’ve got high hopes and expectations for a better life. But soon after they move in, strange things start to happen. Noises fill the air, dark rooms unlock nightmares of the past, and it becomes clear that some people are not welcome in the Kransen House. Their lives are infiltrated by death, evil, and an unspoken religion. Ana knows something is wrong and her family is in danger. Left with few choices, she must find a way to save the ones she loves or face the consequences of an evil legacy.

Purchase on Amazon or Barnes & Noble

I want to be a Lady of Horror!

Hidden City by Alan Baxter #BookReview

Title: Hidden City | Author: Alan Baxter | Publisher: Gryphonwood Press | Pub. Date: 2018-2-20 | Pages: 264 | ISBN13: 9781940095783 | Genre: Urban Fantasy | Language: English | Triggers: None | Rating: 4 out of 5 | Source: Received a copy from the author for review consideration

Hidden City

When the city suffers, everyone suffers.

Steven Hines listened to the city and the city spoke. Cleveport told him she was sick. With his unnatural connection to her, that meant Hines was sick too. But when his friend, Detective Abby Jones, comes to him for help investigating a series of deaths with no discernible cause, Hines can’t say no. Then strange fungal growths begin to appear in the streets, affecting anyone who gets too close, turning them into violent lunatics.

As the mayhem escalates and officials start to seal Cleveport off from the rest of the world, Hines knows the trouble has only just begun.

Book cover for Hidden City

Hidden City Review

Alan Baxter did a great job with Hidden City. This is a book that sufficiently creeped me out enough that I had initially had it listed as horror before I went to Goodreads and saw that it was listed as Urban Fantasy. Hidden City definitely is Urban Fantasy, but sweet baby Cthulhu, Baxter brings the skin-crawl. This was a book that managed to keep me uncomfortable for most of the read. My skin crawled, my scalp prickled, and I was always just on the verge of putting the book down and doing something else to give my overactive imagination time to die down.

The ‘unnatural connection’ between Hines and Cleveport was an interesting one. The author does a great job of illustrating the relationship between the two without every truly anthropomorphising Cleveport. Yes, it might have emotions and even a limited intelligence, but it’s not exactly yearning to turn human and screw someone’s brains out. (At least that I could tell.)

I loved that Hidden City doesn’t have a drip of happening romance in it. Abby Jones really is just Steven’s friend. There’s no unrequited lust there. Even though she is pretty much is a walking cliche of the “Hard-nose copy with the back story and the drinking problem”, she’s a nice contrast to Steven’s unassuming personality. This book is all about what’s happening on Cleveport’s streets, and the desperate fight to save not only the people on them but the city itself.

Hidden City kept me guessing. I truly didn’t expect it to end quite the way it did. I was over-the-moon about it ending the way it did. Some authors know how to walk that fine line between giving us the cliche happily ever after, and not quite burning the whole world down to embers. Baxter walked it perfectly. I can’t even complain about the final chapter, and that’s normally one of my biggest gripes!

Can I just mention the creepy factor again? Because ew. Ewww. Eww. Eww. Okay? Days after reading the book, I still have the imagery in my head. It just..ugh. There are some things we don’t need to visualize, and Baxter heaps them on you here. 

Overall, Hidden City was a delightful read that creeped me out and delighted me in that special way that only some books can. If you like your books a-typical, your urban fantasy not filled with love-sick werewolves and/or vampires, and your fungi of the dangerous kind, given Hidden City a try. It won’t spore you wrong.

This book is available for purchase at: Thriftbooks | Kobo | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

(Links open in new tabs, so you won’t lose your place!)

A Selection of Sci-Fi and Horror Graphic Novels Out March 28th, 2018

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A selection of some of the most interesting looking sci-fi and horror graphic novels out now, March 28th, 2018.

(If you’re looking for Marvel or DC comics, you’re probably looking in the wrong place.)

*This post contains affiliate links that help support the site and keep it as free of ads as possible.*

 Trying a slightly new format because I don’t think it actually matters why I like the comics.

Book cover for Breathless #1

Breathless #1

It’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer if the villains were big pharma. Scout Turner works as a cryptozoologist, examining and cataloguing supernatural creatures for scientific purposes. When she discovers the cure for asthma in the venom of a new breed of monster, she quickly finds herself on the run from Kenilworth Pharmaceuticals and the monsters that they’ve hired to kill her. With no one by her side but her clueless assistant, a morally ambiguous succubus, and her geriatric dog, Scout goes on the run… but in a world controlled by money and drugs, can she escape the reaching claws of a medical monopoly? From Pat Shand (Destiny NY, Guardians of the Galaxy) and Renzo Rodriguez (Hellchild) comes this healthcare horror story about the monsters creeping in the dark… human or otherwise.

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Book cover for Cyber Force 1

Cyber Force #1

TO PROTECT THE FUTURE, WHAT WILL WE BECOME?The classic series returns in a reimagining overseen by creator MARC SILVESTRI. In a modern world where humanity is defined by the technology it creates, a terrorist strikes at the heart of human progress. One of the few survivors of the attack is a man named Morgan Stryker. Mortally wounded, Stryker’s life is saved by his employers…but the price could be his humanity itself.

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Goosebumps Download and Die cover

Goosebumps: Download and Die #1

When Mitra and her two besties find a phone with the latest and greatest technology and apps, they think they are dreaming. But when push (notifications) come to shove, they might be living a nightmare!

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Book cover for Peek-A-Boo #1

Peek-A-Boo #1

A mother seeking solace with her two teenage children after a recent tragedy signs up for a group hiking and camping tour. But navigating the difficult terrain is the least of the hikers’ worries as the group soon finds they’re being stalked by unseen predators.

Note: This one was actually released on March 14th, but I didn’t come across it until today for some reason.

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Book cover for Saga #50

Saga #50

To help their friends, Hazel and her parents risk everything to visit a dangerous new world. Celebrating 50 consecutive issues by the same award-winning creative team. Plus, the winners of the latest SAGA COSTUME CONTEST are revealed exclusively in “To Be Continued,” the letters page showcasing the best readers in comics!

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Hercules: Wrath of the Heavens Vol 1#BookReview

Title: Hercules: Wrath of the Heavens | Writer: Jean-David Morvan  | Illustrator: Looky | Pages: 144 | ASIN: B076K72Y92 | Genre: Sci-Fi | Language: English | Triggers: None | Rating: 3 out of 5 | Source: Received a copy from the publisher for review consideration

Hercules: Wrath of the Heavens Vol 1

A stunningly illustrated, science fiction retelling of the legend of Hercules by multi award-winning writer, Jean-David Morvan (Wolverine: Saudade).

As war rages across the galactic frontier, one half-human, half-god super-soldier faces his greatest enemy – his own demons – in a bid for truth, redemption and revenge.

Book cover for Hercules: Wrath of the Heavens

Hercules: Wrath of the Heavens Review

I didn’t like Hercules: Wrath of the Heavens nearly as much as I hoped to, but I did like it. The legend of Hercules is a fascinating one, and when I was little, I absolutely loved watching the TV show with my mom. So, when I was Hercules: Wrath of the Heavens mentioned in the newsletter that Titan comics sent out, I figured I had to give it a try. The Hercules of old in a futuristic setting? Okay, let’s do this! And by the end of it, I was totally caught up in what was happening. However, it took a good 100 of the 144 pages in the volume before it hooked me.

Jean-David Morvan and Looky did a great job in translating the first few of Hercules’ 12 Challenges in Hercules: Wrath of the Heavens. The Lion was kind of expected. The Hydra surprised me. The Hind had me laughing. If the Hydra and the Hind are any indication of what we’re to expect of the re-imaginings of the Challenges, I really can’t wait to see the next volume. So, that was one aspect that I really liked.

And, lets be honest here, some of the artwork cracked me up. There’s a representation of a certain goddess wearing what one can only describe as aureole shields. I spent a solid three or four minutes looking at the Goddess and wondering if she had suspenders attached to the, er, pointy bits themselves. “Are they boob-spenders, or are we facing a Clooney’s Batman Nip-Gate?” Turns out, it was Batman-esque Nip-Gate that lead to a whole discussion with one of my bookish friends about Goddess bumps and gyroscopes.

The last quarter of Hercules: Wrath of the Heavens has a whole lot of adult images that seemingly come out of nowhere. I mean, there were things early on that told you it was a little bit risqué, but… Let’s just say that sometimes a graphic novel lulls you into a sense of complacency, and then you’re suddenly staring at someone with ladybits in rather irregular places. And more in that vein.

Oh, on that note, ladies and gets, please make sure you know this graphic novel isn’t for the younger comic book readers out there. Trust me – trust me­ – on this one. So, yeah, not for kiddos.

Also, there’s a set of panels involving matter and anti-matter that had me groaning in absolute delight. It was just so bad that it was awesome.

Unfortunately, while I liked the panels where action wasn’t happening, and the general art style, Hercules: Wrath of the Heavens was one of those graphic novels that I struggled with. The pages were too busy during action sequences, and my eyes didn’t know where to settle. There was just too much to take in, and I frequently felt lost as to what was happening during them. Not to mention that I’m really not a fan of panels that are taken over by weird noises like “Glonk”.

Overall, though, I enjoyed reading Hercules: Wrath of the Heavens, and will pick up Volume 2. It took me a while to get into it, and it’s not an easy read for me, but the ending was crude and fun that I need to see where Jean-David Morvan and Looky take this in future installments.

This book is available for purchase at: Thriftbooks | Kobo | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

(Links open in new tabs, so you won’t lose your place!)

Twilight Zone Tuesday – Shadow Play

Shadow Play

Adam Grant – Dennis Weaver
Henry Ritchie – Harry Townes
Paul Carson – Wright King
Jiggs – William Edmonson
Carol Ritchie – Anne Barton
Coley – Bernie Hamilton
Phillips – Thomas Nello
Father Beaman – Mack Williams
Judge – Gene Roth
Narrator – Rod Serling

We fade up to a courtroom. Two men are sitting at a table. The defendant and his lawyer. The lawyer nudges his client and says they’re coming. A jury is filing out of a room and into the jury box. They must be getting ready to render the verdict. The judge asks if they have reached a verdict and the foreman replies that they have. I’m guessing it’s not very good news…the foreman looks deadly serious. The judge asks the defendant to rise. He asks Adam if he has anything to say before sentencing. Adam does not. He is, however, very sweaty. As the judge reads the sentence – for the crime of first degree murder Adam will be sentenced to death by electrocution. As the judge is saying the words Adam is moving his lips along as though he’s heard it before, many times.

When the judge is finished speaking Adam breaks into manic laughter and then yells, “No!” and slams his hand down on the table. Everyone looks quite surprised. Then he totally loses it and says “No! I won’t die again! You can’t make me die again!” and rushes the bench. The bailiff’s try to drag him off and Adam begs the District Attorney to tell everyone they are a dream he’s having. The DA looks reasonably surprised at this, as well one would if they were informed they were a dream. Adam goes on to say that when he dies they’ll all die, too. Then he tells the newspaper man, Mr. Carson, to convince everyone that they’re a dream.

Adam Grant, a nondescript kind of man found guilty of murder and sentenced to the electric chair. Like every other criminal caught in the wheels of justice he’s scared right down to the marrow of his bones. But it isn’t prison that scares him, the long silent nights of waiting, the slow walk to the little room or even death itself. It’s something else that holds Adam Grant in the hot and sweaty grip of fear. Something worse than any punishment this world has to offer. Something found only in the Twilight Zone.

We get the full-on jail scene, harmonica and everything. There’s an awful lot of guys on death row. Must have had a bad year. Adam’s lying on his cot. He’s writhing around with his hands over his ears. The harmonica’s not that bad. Adam yells at Coley to lay off the harmonica. Coley obliges and lays off. Adam says it’s ok, it’s not his fault but his. He got Coley out of a bad movie that he saw once, the same as the rest of the corny dream. Across the way one of the prisoners advises him to not think about it or he’ll crack up like the guy a few cells down. Phillips is talking to his “mother”. Jiggs says that Philips was fine until he started thinking about it. Adam says it’s different with him. Jiggs wants to know why? He got a death wish or something? Jiggs says it isn’t different and that even he wonders what it’ll be like. Adam says he knows exactly what it’ll be like: “You walk out of your cell, pass two gray doors, 78 steps to the final door. It’s painted green. There’s a guard that opens that door for you and you go into a room. It’s tan. It’s all tan. There’s nothing in it except one chair. It’s like a chair you used to sit in school when you were a kid. It’s hard and solid.” Jiggs interrupts him to tell Adam to knock it off. Adam goes on: “They strap your arms and legs. Then they attach the electrodes.” Adam goes on to describe it more and Jiggs says he sounds like he’s been through it before. He says the electrodes feel cold at first then you wait, listening for it to happen.

They do a fancy cut from his description of the chair to two huge porterhouses cooking in the oven. A woman flips them then fiddles with the oven. The doorbell rings and the newspaper man is standing there, totally snockered. He invites himself in and pours himself more gin. They tell him to take it easy and he responds that when he dies he wants to see no empty bottles. They tell him it’s not funny and he says he wasn’t trying to be. He says he was making a comment on the short and unhappy life of Paul Carson. He kindly pours them drinks and brings the tray to them. Carson starts to say “For tomorrow we…” but Henry cuts him off, sounding irritated. They must have taken what Adam said to heart. And I just noticed that on a desk behind Henry there’s a stone llama. Carson plunks himself down on the coffee table and reminds them that it’s only a few more hours. Henry’s wife gets irritated and tells him thanks for the newsflash. Like they’re not nervous enough as it is. Carson says he’ll leave and breathe his last elsewhere. Henry’s wife pushes him back down on the table and says she’s going to bed. Henry wants to know what about dinner and she says she lost her appetite. I guess that means that he doesn’t get to eat either and those gorgeous steaks are going to go to waste.

Carson wobbles his way over to Henry’s chair and perches on the arm of the chair. He says he’s scared. Henry asks if Carson actually believes what Adam says and Carson says that as crazy as it sounds, he does. Carson says he can’t prove it’s true. Henry says that doesn’t prove anything. He can’t prove the world isn’t going to end but that doesn’t mean it will. Henry says that Adam killed a man in cold blood and he’s going to pay for it and those are the facts. Carson says that Henry is just as worried as he is because there’s a tiny little part of him that does believe it. Carson says isn’t there a little part of him that thinks he can’t be married to a lovely wife like Carol, money in the bank and a lovely house? Henry says of course, if you’re a success that you’re bound to think it’s a dream. And if things are bad then you think it’s a nightmare. That’s what’s wrong with Adam. Carson says he’s been talking to Adam and he makes a lot of sense. Then he begs Henry to go and talk to Adam.

Back at the jail Adam asks Jiggs what time it is. Jiggs wants to know if Adam has a date or something. Adam says no, he’s just expecting someone. Jiggs asks if he’s waiting for the governor with a big fat pardon in his hand. Adam says he’s waiting for the district attorney. He usually comes around nine. Adam paces frantically around and then punches the wall. Henry is right on time. He says hello to Adam and steps into the cell. The guard leaves them alone for a bit. Henry says that Adam doesn’t seem surprised to see him. Adam says that he’s not. The District Attorney always comes at nine but it isn’t always Henry. Henry wants to know if Adam is sticking to his dream story. Henry starts to talk and Adam says the words with him. he grins grimly and tells Henry that after dreaming it night after night he should know all the words. Adam says that it’s simple. When he dies they’ll die, the whole world dies because this world does not exist except in his nightmare.

Henry says that he can’t accept it because it doesn’t make any kind of logical sense. Adam says that’s the only kind of sense it does make. Would the DA visit a man alone before he’s about to e executed? Or take himself. He says that Henry doesn’t know anymore about him than when it started. Henry starts to say there are vagrants and strangers in every town. Adam says it with him and Henry tells him to knock it off. Henry says that he can prove it. What about their parents? And his parent’s parents? Adam says a dream world is built complete. Henry wants to know what about when they sleep? Is that when Adam is supposed to be up and around? Adam says they sleep because he dreams them sleeping. Henry asks if it’s just a dream then what does it matter? Why doesn’t Adam just relax and enjoy it? This makes Adam giggle like a crazy guy. I think he caught a case of over-acting while he was in jail. Adam wants to know if Henry has ever dreamed of being tortured or drowned or killed? And didn’t Henry feel like it was? So real he would wake up screaming? Adam says it feels that way for him every single night because he dreams the same dream every single night.  The only thing different is the people are switched around a bit. Sometimes Henry will be the DA, sometimes the judge. Which makes me wonder…even if this were true what the heck is Henry supposed to do about it? He’s only a figment of Adam’s imagination. Henry goes to leave and Adam says he’ll prove it to him. Henry’s wife has a steak cooking for him at home. He says to go home and look in the oven, it’ll be something else. If he can change that then why can’t he change the bigger dream? Henry comes barreling in the house and Carson wants to know what’ up? Henry yanks open the oven door to find a pot roast instead of the steaks that were there.

Jiggs calls across to Adam and asks if he woke him up. Adam laughs…again…and Jiggs wants to know why he’s laughing. What’s so funny? Adam says that nothing’s funny. Jiggs says that he’s been thinking about what Adam said about it being a dream and if he told the governor about it they might let him out on a psycho. Adam says that the governor wouldn’t believe him. Jiggs doesn’t believe him, does he? Jiggs says that doesn’t matter. If Adam thinks it’s true then he must have a screw loose somewhere. He says he’ll prove it to Jiggs. Who gets tried, sentenced and executed in the same day? No one. But that’s how he puctured it so that’s how it happened in his dream. dam says he pictured Philips, Cooley and Jiggs but real death houses aren’t like that. He’s never seen one so he just imagines it that way.

Back at Henry’s house Henry and Carson are hanging out by the fire. Mrs. Henry comes down. I guess she wasn’t able to sleep. They all are antsy, waiting for midnight. Henry asks why midnight? Carson says it’s because Adam has only see it in movies and it always happens at midnight in the movies.

Back at the prison they’re getting Adam ready. A priest comes in to give him the last rites or whatever it is they do. The priest asks if there’s anything Adam wants to say. Adam says no. the priest asks if he wants to pray and Adam says not to bother. The priest says there’s always a need but Adam disagrees. It might be necessary in real life but not in a nightmare. Adam wonders where he got the priest’s face from. He almost recognizes it each time but never quite gets it. He gets it at last and says now he remembers. Father Beaman from Spring Hill. No wonder he didn’t recognize him. The priest looks confused. He says that Father Beaman died when he was ten and was replaced by a younger priest, That’s where he got the newspaper editor from. As Adam’s trying to figure out where he got other people from the priest gives up and throws a cross at Adam before he leaves. They start escorting Adam to the chair.

Back at home Henry’s pacing up a storm. Carson asks if Henry can get at least a week’s stay of execution? Forget the dream stuff. Whether it’s real or not doesn’t matter . The kid believes it so they should get a stay because Adam might be legitimately crazy. Carson asks Henry if he’s wiling to send a mental incompetent to the chair? Henry says he regrets it and will as long as he lives but he grabs the phone anyway and calls the governor.

Back at the prison they’re getting Adam into the chair. It’s a very tense scene flashing back and forth between Adam getting strapped into the chair and Henry talking to the governor. Henry’s trying to get the governor to grant a stay of execution. Adam’s all strapped in and they throw the switch just as the phone rings. Just like in the movies.

The clock disappears, the people freeze and the lights fade down. The lights fade back up on a courtroom. Jiggs is the judge now. Carson is the jury foreman. They find him guilty and the whole ‘Shadow Play’ starts all over again.


We know that a dream can be real. But who ever thought that reality could be a dream? We exist, of course, but how? In what way? As we believe, as flesh and blood human beings or are we simply parts of someone’s feverish, complicated nightmare? Think about it and then ask yourself…Do you live here, in this country, in this world, or do you live instead in the Twilight Zone.

This episode has always been pretty meh to me. what about you guys? Do you like it? It makes me wonder exactly what Adam wants the people in his dream to do to help him. it’s his head, his dream. Which, if he can control parts then he should be able to control all of it. I dunno. I rarely remember my dreams and when I do they’re more like watching a movie.

Stay tuned next Tuesday for The Mind and The Matter which isn’t too bad of an episode. It’s actually pretty funny. And we’re only two episodes away from one of my favorite episodes, The Obsolete Man.