Darker Tales from the Den – Dona Fox – Book review

Darker Tales from the Den - Dona Fox

Darker Tales from the Den – Dona Fox – Book review

JWK Fiction

Dona Fox has a certain style to her stories that can catch you by surprise. There comes a point when you realize what is going on, but it’s too late to brace yourself or to look away. These are dark, macabre stories about people in bad situations that only seem to get worse as the night goes on. The top tales in the collection leave a lasting sting or dull thud of heartache, either way a welcome experience for the horror reader. I picked a few of my favorite tales here to say a few words about.

Something bad crawls out of the dark attic in The Chill and Willey Snake dragging long forgotten family secrets in tow.

Bruised Cardamom begins with a poignant description on the death watch of a woman, Mrs. Macy, true in its words and gut wrenching to anyone that has watched a loved one die.  The description of the woman shredding tissues and curling them into little balls as she’s waiting in fear for death is unsettling. A line that struck me… “How many boxes of tissue does it take to die? How meaningless are paper tears?” The volunteer stays with her into the night learning a deep dark secret in this outstanding tale.

In One Historic Night, one friend invites another into his twisted Nazi fanatic world and drags him down to the depths of madness.

Shypoke’s Tears, which I had read before in the anthology, Ghosts Revenge, (JWK Fiction) is a short piece with a big punch. From the first paragraph a transgressiodona foxn is taking place in the characters and it’s a thrill to see the outcome.

In The Calais Curse, we visit the French Resistance of the German occupancy. This tale is a haunting centerpiece of the collection as a young woman begins a process too free her grandmother from her nightmares. The story started out a little loose and all over the place but stick with it and it settles into streamline tale where a tragic, moving ending is revealed.

Li Gran Toy Zombi is a creepy tale I first read in the Toys in the Attic anthology and was happy to revisit here. It takes place in New Orleans, 1977, and if you’re thinking Voodoo Curses you are correct and in for a devilish treat.

Crystal Bones on Gossamer Wings is a fitting finale for the collection as the tale is written in deep first-person as were the earlier stories in the book. Dona’ s greatest storytelling aspect is when she immerses the reader in that strong character voice. Those stories are distinctly superior to the more standard narrated tales. There are shades of Joe R. Lansdale in those stories where the reader shares each thought, vision, and reaction as it happens in the character’s head. When she combines that voice with her astute perception of life, death, and human suffering, she delivers haunting horror fiction.

Darker Tales From The Den – Dona Fox – Paperback and Kindle


crows by Favim


Mexico Barbaro (2014) – movie review

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Mexico Barbaro (2015)

It’s a gruesome, gorefest!mexico-barbaro poster

Several horror shorts by Mexican directors are collected here with mixed yet overall good results. We have drug-lord murders, sacrificial slayings, witchcraft and rituals in this gruesome horror anthology. All the stories are told with Mexican folklore as the framework. An investigation into gangland executions sets the tone for the shorts that are about to follow. Two thieves hide out in an abandoned building complex in the countryside, where they see strange visions. Soon it’s difficult to tell what is real and what is deadly in this trippy-headed haunt (my fave story of the lot). Next, a young lady’s chance encounter with a dead body begins a terrifying chain of events. A young couple looking to have their first romantic evening fall victim to a creepy creature haunting their country cabin. A young mother learns why she should listen when her daughter claims she’s seen the boogie-man in one of the gorier segments. And finally, we learn why we shouldn’t enter a strip club on The Day of the Dead in Mexico. All the stories relay a simple message, there is a price to pay for evil behavior. Some of the shorts are not what English audiences would expect from a film and feel almost like vignettes rather than complete stories. Despite the serious theme and varied accomplishment of the eight collected films, overall it’s a gory fun flick to watch. Not for the queasy, you’ve been gore-warned.

A violent, gory and nasty anthology from south of the border that ties in Mexican folklore.

I give it 3.0 nasty, gory, gutted, slayings out of 5 on the gruesome death scale!


My Short story, “Gray is a Life” published in new anthology

Gray is a Life published in Ugly Babies 3/ Ghosts Redemption

I have a short story that was just published in the anthology Ugly Babies 3/ Ghosts Redemption.

I submitted to Ghosts Redemption anthology because I had a good story that fit that theme. Then the publisher decided to combine the two anthologies into one release. I don’t usually like when they do this because I like themes and I usually try to get people into the theme….this book has some great ghost stories if you care to pick it up. That way it’s not just about my story, but a lot of great reading.  Now my story is buried in the middle of 70 stories and people that like the graphic violence of the Ugly Babies series, are probably not going to like the cerebral context and atmosphere of ghost stories. So it doesn’t really make a lot of sense to me.


However, perhaps readers like it…what do you think? Would you like one book with two different themes?

ugly babies 3 ghosts redemption

If you’d like to get an anthology with many stories in it, it’s a lot of bang for the buck, check out the Ugly Babies 3/ Ghosts Revenge Anthology. On Amazon.com

I’ve been getting a little more selective with where I send my stories and I’m going to tighten that up even more. I think I may be at the stage where I can release my own collection and have some success with it.

I’ve sent a few stories to pro-paying markets but haven’t had any success. I have been paid for my writing before but not at the professional level. It’s a finicky, literary market and I’m more like a pulp writer. There aren’t many pulp magazines and zines left out there.



Body Bags (1993) – Movie review

body bags 1993 - pic 1

Body Bags (1993)

Directed by John Carpenter & Tobe Hooper

Stacy Keach
David Warner
Sheena Easton
Debbie Harry
Mark Hamill
Robert Carradine

BB is a great little horror anthology by John Carpenter where he plays the host, a corpse in the morgue that finds different bodies of interest, and introduces the stories through their misfortunes. It was made for Showtime as a TV series jump off thus it had budget restrictions that limited effects to blood and violence. It first aired in 1993. The series never got the green light but the film still lives on.

A woman, Anne, comes in for the midnight shift at a self serve gas station. All she has to do is take money, charge credit cards, turn on pumps and…survive the night. Her first customer creeps up to the window slow and zombie-like while her back is turned, then scares the crap out of her by banging on the glass. Well, that customer is none other than, Wes Craven, in a surprise cameo. The next customer (David Naughton, American Werewolf…) uses his body bags 1993 - postercredit card then leaves without it. When Anne runs out to catch him, she accidentally locks herself out. The solitude and isolation of the lonely station begins to unnerve her. We have a homeless man come by for a bathroom key, (George Buck Flower, a familiar player in Carpenter films) then another car with yet another Carpenter regular, Peter Jason. After he leaves the woman retrieves the Men’s Room key only to discover there’s someone in the garage bay. She enters the garage and finds the homeless man murdered. A maniacal killer attacks her and she fights back in classic Carpenter cat and mouse suspense style.

In the next story, Richard (Stacey Keach), is going bald and feels bad about it despite his girlfriend, Megan (Sheena Eastonshe was a famous 80s singer) saying it‘s alright. He’s doing the Trump sweep over and spray, and trying a hundred products that don’t work. He sees an add on TV and calls the company about hair implants that carry a strange caveat. David Warner is the company CEO and we have the lovely Debbie Harry playing a Nurse in this episode. His grows hair like you wouldn’t believe. But the hair doesn’t stop growing. Turns out it’s a living organism. There’s a really disgusting part where he finds some growing in his throat. This segment is an ugly lesson in vanity.

The last one has Mark Hamill, (yes the Star Wars Luke Skywalker guy) as a minor league baseball player, who gets an eye transplant and takes on the characteristics of the organ doner. Turns out the organ donor was a sadistic serial killer. He begins getting migraine headaches and having terrible visions. There are some shocking visions of the dead victims crawling out of the dirt in his yard. He starts treating his wife badly and acting violent. This epi has a great gruesome ending.

This is a great addition to the horror anthology legacy. The stories are simple but effective making it a good watch. The fact that it had a lower budget and two of the segments were based on urban legends makes it more gritty than Creepshow or the HBO Tales From the Crypt series. For that reason it feels more relevant to modern horror tastes. An added enjoyment was picking up on the cameos as they appeared in the film

body bags 1993 - pic 3 wes craven

Gritty, realistic style lets it stand up well to today’s horror flicks.
I give it 3.7 psycho slashers out of 5 on the blood soaked anthology of horror scale.


Fun Facts:

There’s also cameos in the film by Sam Raimi, Greg Nicotero, Roger Corman, Tom Arnold, Tobe Hooper, and John Agar.

In “The Gas Station” segment, look for the news report that tells of a dead body turning up in Haddonfield.

Clive Barker was asked to do a cameo but couldn’t make the shoot due to a conflicting schedule.

Toys in the Attic – Anthology Book Review

Toys in the Attic 

Anthology – JWK Fiction
Edited by Mary Gwenivieve Fortier

toys-in-the-attic“Into the Attic” is a short poem that suitably opens the wonderfully themed anthology, Toys in the Attic. It’s followed by an introduction for the theme, tempting the reader to journey up the steps into that dark and dusty place at the peak of the home where forgotten playthings wait in the shadows. Both are written by the talented Mary Gwenivieve Fortier and they set the mood for what lies ahead; toys that are monsters and monstrous toys, sinister fun for the horror fan. The horror comes in poetry, prose, limericks and short tales. The poems are not the poems of days gone by but modern tales, easier to read and more blatant than a Frost or Whitman. The first striking poem is “Aiding Evil” by Lemmy Rushmore, where a dollhouse removed from the attic portends the fates of the family in the real house. It was followed by a short story concerning a dollhouse titled “Light in the Attic,” by Essel Pratt where the character starts on the outside looking into the toy windows only to have at some point experienced a paradigm shift and is then looking out of the dollhouse windows and doors. “Magic Macabre” by Sheldon Woodbury was a finely written story and a pleasure to read. The disappearance of an aging magician leads a man back to his childhood home where he discovers a magic kit in a trunk that had been waiting there for him since he was a child.

“Tea Time for the Innocents,” by Nicola Nicoli was a horrifying tale concerning a child’s tea set carefully laid out in the attic of a man’s new home and a creepy ghost girl host that needs living children to attend her little tea party. “The Pig in the House” by Alex S. Johnson was unnerving, as a young girl finds a dollhouse with figures that represent everyone in her family plus one extra, of a Pig. Josh Brown had a haunting tale about a view-master toy in which he saw his wife’s death among the images. This one reminded me of a Twilight Zone episode. John Palisano had an interesting story about the early video game system, the Atticus 2000 titled, “The Waiting.” This mystery story and was a good deviation from the horror tales. Right away you sense a difference in the writing style. “Gronk the Gruesome” by Thomas M Malafarina was another of my favorites for its nostalgic sense of old toys, 50s sci-fi and childhood wishes, when a man finds an old robotic monster toy in the attic of a former grade school bully.

Tim Wellman‘s, “The Last Turn” displayed shades of Jumanji but had its own feel. I was impressed with Chad Lutzke’s story, “Calm Before the Storm.” It had the restraint and class of a veteran writer of an earlier time, reminiscent of Ambrose Bierce or Robert Bloch. “Etched in Blood” was a chilling tale of an evil child trapped in an etch-a-sketch by Lori R. Lopez. “Maggie and the Zeotrope” by Krista Clark Grabowski was a well rounded story that relayed the short life of a child and her wicked step-mother. “Jacks” by Nicholas Day was a great short tale with excellent pacing. Dona Fox had a wonderful tale concerning a toy snake taken from a voodoo priestess grave in New Orleans many years ago in, “Li Gran Toy Zombi.” It’s always a chilling pleasure to read her stories. The anthology ends with an eerie tale by David Shutz II, concerning a toy phone.

There were some great poems and artwork included in the book along with the top notch stories I highlighted here. An enjoyable read over all. See if your favorite childhood toy has taken up residence in “the Attic” and what evil deeds it will unleash upon those who discover them.

kindle or paperback versions
Available at Amazon: Toys in the Attic

teddy bear and toy chest cristinasroom on etsy


Trilogy of Terror (1975) – movie review

***Top Television Horror Movies of the 1970’s***

Trilogy of Terror - pic 5

Trilogy of Terror (1975)

directed by Dan Curtistop 1970's TV horror - small
written by Richard Matheson
and William F. Nolan

Karen Black
Robert Burton
John Karlen
George Gaynes

Trilogy of Terror posterDan Curtis and Richard Matheson are together again for another exceptional TV movie, perhaps the best of the lot. Karen Black plays 4 different characters in three separate stories of this horror anthology film. The last segment has pushed this made-for-TV film into legendary cult status. A lonely woman gets a Polynesian Zuni Fetish Doll as a gift. When handling it she knocks off it’s protection necklace and the thing comes to life with a thirst for blood and death. The battle between Karen Black’s character, Amelia, and the evil warrior doll in a small claustrophobic apartment is one of the great conflicts in horror films. That doll still haunts the dark corridors of my nightmares. While everyone talks about the Zuni Fetish doll episode, ‘Amelia‘, the other two stories are quite good also. Karen Black who at the time had not been considered a horror film actress excelled in the lead roles of this film and especially the last segment. If you have not seen this film I recommend that you do it. Hopefully it still stands the test of time and new viewers are as frightened by it as original viewers were in the 1970’s.

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Fun facts:

During the “Julie” segment, a shy teacher agrees to go to a movie with a student. The movie is supposedly a French vampire film, but what we see on the screen are scenes from The Night Stalker.

Karen Black came up with the idea of grinning and showing fang-like teeth similar to the ‘zuni’ doll in the final scene of  ‘Amelia.’

In the Nightmares and Dreamscapes episode, “Battleground” (Stephen King) the hitman has the Zuni fetish doll from “Trilogy of Terror” in a display case.


trilogy of terror - TV Guide ad Trilogy of Terror - pic 4

(TV Guide Ad pic thanks to ‘Joe’s Rec Room’)

Suspended in Dusk – book review

suspended in dusk anthologySuspended in Dusk
Edited by Simon Dewar
Anthology – various authors

Suspended in Dusk adheres to a general theme. Dusk can be foreboding, the onset of night. It can mean the end of an era or a life. As expressed in the introduction by Jack Ketchum, it can also be a time of transition. Here we find a collection of high quality horror tales to thrill and chill the discerning horror reader. In Shadows of the Lonely Dead by Alan Baxter we find a benefit for an old age home nurse who has witnessed too much death. Next is the small town horror that emerges from the forest, looking for human sacrifices in, At Dusk They Come by Armand Rosamillia.

A Woman of Disrepute by Icy Sedgwick is written in old style gothic, which is a style I enjoy reading. The Ministry of Outrage is an intelligent socio-political commentary that oozes unfathomable truths about the human race and our penchant for violence. Extra kudos to Chris Limb for this offering.

Reasons to Kill by J. C. Michael is one of my fave stories in the book. It pulls you in and keeps twisting, wringing the tension tighter and tighter. It is a fantastic story of zombie infection and vampire lore that feels organically original. Ramsey Campbell contributes to the anthology with a frightening variation on a buried alive story called, Digging Deep. Reading it imparts the feeling of claustrophobia and the desperation in the man’s pleas for help are unnerving.

There are many other great stories to read here, each with their own unique style and tone. Hats off to editor, Simon Dewar, for choosing tales that are top notch horror entertainment and delivering one of the best horror fiction anthologies I’ve read in some time.

Check it out on Amazon: Suspended in Dusk

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Terror Tract (2000) – movie review

Terror Tract pic 1

Terror Tract (2000)

John Ritter
Bryan Cranston
Rachel York
David DeLuise

Here’s a horror anthology film that some will find entertaining. It was made in 2000 but feels like 1980s style horror tales. We have twist endings, brief nudity, past and future stars, and some good ol’ fashion story telling. It’s not going to blow you away or win any awards but it was fun to watch…at least for me.Terror_Tract_Film_Poster

John Ritter plays Bob Carter, a real estate agent in a seemingly perfect suburb. He’s showing homes to a young couple. Each home seems to be under-priced to be a deal of a lifetime. However, the agents company believes in full disclosure and John is faced with telling the twisted tragedies which had transpired within these homes. So within each home we are introduced to a new story.

A man finds his cheating wife with her lover and attempts to exact revenge, but all goes wrong and he winds up dead. That’s okay, there’s time to get them later. A father and daughter relationship gets strained when the five-year-old finds a small monkey in the yard and begs to adopt it. However there’s something rotten about this simian and the father (Bryan Cranston) goes all Heisenberg on it. A psychiatrist discovers that her patient knows a little too much about a serial killer’s methods for attacking successful single women. She signals for security but will they get there in time?

Finally, Bob reveals that he’ll loose more than his 6-figure salary if he doesn’t make a home sale this afternoon.

There are no explosions and even the make-up effects were minimal, however the tales were strong enough to keep me interested and reminded me of Tales from the Crypt. If you’re looking for a good anthology to prime you for the Halloween season, you can check out this modest film. You may find it enjoyable.

Terror Tract pic 6

A fun anthology of horror tropes enjoyable enough for the horror fan.

I give it 3.0 murderous stabs in the night on the good ‘ol horror staples scale!


Tales From the Beaumont House – by D.F. Holland


Tales From the Beaumont House
by D.F. Holland

Midnight Book Shop

This collection of short stories by D.F. Holland has an interesting unifying thread. The tales told all take place in apartments within the Beaumont House complex. It’s a premise I like, reminding me of an old Amicus Anthology film or early horror writer collections. The first five stories have a Night Gallery or Twilight Zone feel to them with some modern themes interlaced into the stories.

In Moonglow, a centuries old spirit influences a game programmer to make him a reality in the video game he created. The spirit’s image is that of a vampire, but he’ll deal with how he was created, after he figures a way out of the game.

In Awaken to the Nightmare, a young man witnesses slushy gray water filling his apartment. This brings him back to a childhood incident that should have never been forgotten.

In Gathering of Souls, Holly purchases a painting from a nearby antique gallery. She soon finds that the lonely girl in the grassy field is in desperate need of a friend.

The 1940’s, traces the life of Jennie, who finds herself in a heartfelt relationship with a spirit in the Beaumont House. Shades of the film, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947) are felt in this melancholy tale.

Cyberspace relays the story of a psychic medium and his chance encounter with someone in an online chat-room.

And finally in the novelette-sized story, Heir to a New World, a young Mom looses her daughter to a rash of nightmares her child has been experiencing. She is convinced that her daughter was not just kidnapped by men but something bigger was taking place here. She finds other mom’s in the area who have lost children and feel the same way. It is not until a Mr. James gets involved that Beth realizes there is a correlation to the missing children and the sightings of UFO’s.

Ms Holland embraces old style writing methods using an omnipresent narrator voice for her stories. This may put an unexpected passive voice in the reading that could put an extra layer between the reader and the characters. But it can also be charming as she touches upon points of her character’s entire lives. The exclusion of visceral violence and racy subject matter would make this a good candidate for Y/A reading, especially for those who like paranormal tales of all kinds.

Amazon Kindle

Barnes and Noble

Midnight Book Shop

Dark Companions (1982) by Ramsey Campbell – book review

RC Dark CompanionsDark Companions (1982)
by Ramsey Campbell

Dark Companions is a book of short stories previously published in magazine’s ranging from pulp to pro markets through the 1970’s into 1980. Many of the stories have to do with childhood experiences that we can all relate to. The Chimney entailed a terrifying urban legend and a young boy who guarded the fireplace in his room every Christmas as a black figure slithered down the chimney and into his sanctuary. It wasn’t until many years later as an adult, called by the police to his parents home, that he learned what that frightening creature was. He stared in disbelief as his childhood home burned to the ground.PunchAndJudy

Other creepy stories included fan favorites Macintosh Willie, The Invocation, and Out of Copyright. The book also includes, The Puppets, a tale of first love, it’s untimely ending and it’s maligned correspondence with an old vagabond’s stage-carriage puppet show.

Dark Companions is a collection of psychologically creepy horror, quiet horror that lingers after you’ve read it. It’s a great starting point for those not indoctrinated into the work of Ramsey Campbell. These stories represent a period in which Campbell desired to break away from his Cthulhu Mythos origins and find his own voice as a weird fiction author. You will find the stories highly successful in their intentions to get under your skin and fester as each tale progresses.

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