[Review] – Calling Darkness Podcast

By Elle Turpitt

Take six women, make them read what they believe to be ‘Dutch’ poetry (psst, it’s actually a demon summoning spell), and trap them in a big, remote house, and you have the brilliant, hilarious, yet sometimes very creepy, Calling Darkness.

The podcast, written by S.H. Cooper and Gemma Amor, features a fantastic cast of voice actors, who bring the various characters to life. One thing I’ve noticed with a lot of drama podcasts is how difficult it is to keep a clear idea of what’s happening, but it’s handled really well here, with the mysterious Narrator guiding the listener, drawing them to different parts of the house and revealing, very effectively, what is happening at any one time.

There’s not a single moment in ten episodes that isn’t, in some way, entertaining, whether it’s the comedy or horror aspect, and the podcast presents some horror tropes in a new fresh way, keeping the listener constantly guessing what might happen next.

The tension will keep you on the edge of your seat. The humor does exactly what humor should do in horror – gives you a momentary relief before you’re hit with something else, or gives you a chance to laugh just after you’ve jumped. Each character gets their own moments, creating a truly fantastic ensemble feel, and it’s so easy to fall in love with all of them. It doesn’t take long to really start cheering for them, to care about them, to want to see them get out alive and maybe heal old wounds along the way.

An intelligent, hilarious, and sometimes heart-breaking horror podcast, Calling Darkness shows what can really be done with the medium, to great effect. This one gets all the stars. Give it a listen, and I promise you won’t be disappointed. Not until you run out of episodes, anyway.

Social Media

Main website: callingdarknesspodcast.libsyn.com

Facebook: /CallingDarknessPodcast

Twitter: @CallingPodcast

And don’t forget to catch them on Spotify!

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[Review] – Black Rainbow by Scott Savino

By Elle Turpitt

I love a good anthology. I love when themed anthologies span genres, and when genre anthologies span themes. They’re an absolutely fantastic way to discover new favourite authors, and to explore a wide range of fiction. 

On all those levels, Black Rainbow does not disappoint.

Black Rainbow is an LGBTQIA anthology, written by LGBTQIA writers, containing LGBTQIA characters – different sexualities, different relationships, in the kind of diversity that really should be more common in horror (and fiction in general). There was not a single bad story in the whole anthology, and I found myself absolutely gripped by every single one. And this anthology reinforces something that’s been on my mind recently – good horror is often, at its core, about love. Whether it’s the sacrifices we make for the ones we love, the ways we harm them, or about trying to find it, love runs through these pages as much as horror, whether it’s subtle or not.

There really is something in here for every horror fan. From supernatural elements, including vampires, werewolves, old gods, cults, and strange creatures creeping out of the night, to more grounded horror, each story presents something different.

There were heart-warming stories, stories to send shivers down your spine, and stories to make you tear up. Some of the standouts, to me, were Curios and More, Mr Flip, It Should Be Raining, and The Last First Date of Bear Bloomfield. But I think this is one of those anthologies where everyone reading it will have a different favourite. 

This book is absolutely fantastic, and a must read for any fan of horror. Every story is brilliant, and on the whole the anthology is really well put together. Definitely check it out.

5/5 stars

[Interview] – Mother Horror

By Patrick R. McDonough

Dead Head Reviews (DHR): Thank you so much for letting us interview you! Dead Head Reviews loves what you’re doing for the indie horror community. What do you think about the current state of the community and where do you see its future?

Mother Horror (MH): Absolutely. My pleasure. Thank you to Dead Head Reviews for interviewing me and for the kind words. The current state of the horror community is one of generosity, unity and buzz. I think we’re experiencing a re-branding of the horror genre. Readers are discovering that horror is rich with multiple sub-genres and a wealth of talent. Literally something for everyone. There have been a lot of successful movies made from horror books like THE RITUAL and BIRD BOX on Netflix that reached a new audience for horror. Of course Stephen King and Joe Hill have a steady stream of adaptations under their belts and then of course we are seeing publishers scramble to bolster their roster of horror authors. So it’s been a great year. The way I see it.  

DHR: Is there a backstory to the name “Mother Horror”? 

MH: Yes, there is a little backstory. My Night Worms business partner, Ashley Saywers nicknamed me Mother Horror a few years ago. We started out as friends on Instagram and I influenced her to read so much horror in one year she ultimately started referring to me as “Mother Horror”–indoctrinating her into the world of dark, wicked reads. *evil laugh*

DHR: Ha-ha, very cool. For those that aren’t familiar, would you mind telling us a little bit about Night Worms?

MH: Sure! I’d love to. I co-own a business called Night Worms which is curated, hand picked horror books packaged together with some goodies to enhance the reading experience and delivered to one’s door every month for 37.99 + shipping. We have a theme and we make sure to include at least three books, sometimes three and it’s always a mix of indie and traditional horror from a variety of sub genres. Novels, novellas, collections, anthologies and poetry. It’s a great service.

DHR: It certainly sounds like a great service. When did you become a reviewer? Do you remember the first book you reviewed?

MH: I have had a Goodreads account FOREVER. I would leave reviews strictly for my mom because we were following each other. I’d be like, “Mom, this one’s for you!” or “Mom, don’t believe the reviews, this book is SHIT!” I started noticing that a few random users would like my reviews and so I started being more intentional about sharing my thoughts and feelings. Joining a community like #bookstagram on Instagram changed everything. I was invited by both SCREAM Mag and Cemetery Dance to write reviews for them based on the fact they were following my social media accounts. The first book I reviewed for Cemetery Dance was THE ATROCITIES by Jeremy Shipp. There were several for SCREAM.

DHR: Are there any other places you write for? How do you manage to keep pushing out so many reviews for several sources?

MH: I was recently asked to write occasionally for Black Static magazine. So I’m very excited about that opportunity. I also keep my Goodreads and Amazon reviews as up to date as I can. I’m writing reviews and working on Night Worms full time. It’s not just a hobby or a side-gig anymore. It’s my full-time job.

DHR: That fantastic! Have you always had such an ardent love for horror? Do you recall what first sparked your interest for horror?

MH: My mom is an avid reader and horror is her first love. Horror books were readily accessible and I raided her collection. My first big time horror book was Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot and it will be a forever favorite. But even as a small child, I had a penchant for the macabre, mysteries and dark things. I would shut myself up in my room and read for hours after school, sometimes skipping dinners and going to bed way too late.

DHR: Is there another genre, perhaps one that may come off as a surprise, that you also enjoy reading? 

MH: Not surprisingly, Fantasy is my other love. I obsessed over the SONG OF ICE AND FIRE series by George R. R. Martin. Dark or Epic Fantasy often has elements of horror. Like the DARK TOWER Series, THE TALISMAN, or THE STAND by Stephen King can really go either way on the shelf–Fantasy or Horror. I just haven’t read any Fantasy books in a long time. I’m pretty happy and preoccupied with Horror.

DHR: While reading and reviewing, is music necessary to have as background noise? Do you prefer silence while reading or reviewing?

MH: Yes, silence for both reading and reviewing. I can read while the TV is on but I don’t like to. I prefer quiet. 

DHR: What authors are you currently reading that you may want to spread the word about? 

MH: Currently loving the works of: Sarah Read, Sara Tantlinger, Matt Hayward, Aaron Dries, Bob Ford, John Boden, Paul Tremblay and just a slew of others. I think it’s best to follow my Twitter or Instagram to get a daily update on what I’m reading and reviewing. Not to mention I post bookmail coming in so folks can stay up to date on current or upcoming new releases.

DHR: I know this is a pretty tough one to answer, but, do you have a favorite author(s)?

MH: I do have some pet favorites–authors who can typically do no wrong: Josh Malerman, Paul Tremblay, Nick Cutter, Ania Ahlborn, Chad Lutzke, Stephen King, Joe Hill, Brian Keene, Jonathan Janz, Stephanie Wytovitch, Nicholas Day, Kristi DeMeester, Stephen Graham Jones and Damien Angelica Walters.

DHR: I recall a discussion you had some time ago about sub-genres in horror that you wish to see more of. One was stories that focused on mothers (to-be-expecting ones specifically). As an expectant father (first timer here) this idea is absolutely fascinating to me. Are there any other sub-genres in horror that you wish were written about more often?

MH: Well, we get a lot of male-centric coming of age horror which is my favorite sub-genre so I’m always banging on about seeing some female-centric coming of age horror. That would be awesome! Chad Lutzke has one coming out at the end of the month called THE PALE WHITE

 DHR: I recently read your interview with Chad Lutzke where you two discuss that book (very entertaining stuff, by the way!). Have you, or will you, ever interview by means of Skype or podcast? I recently wrote a review about Ink Heist. Just my personal opinion here, but seeing you and the Ink Heist boys on an episode would be so amazing!

MH: Funny you should mention that! I’m going to join the Ink Heist boys in a guest spot to interview Nicholas Day soon. But plans for a Night Worms podcast or video channel are just a gleam in my eye and nothing terribly serious happening at the moment.

DHR: I’m looking forward to that episode! Reviewers in the horror community seem to be growing. Do you have any advice for anyone that wishes to pursue this, whether for hobby or on a professional level?

MH: I actually just told my Night Worms team of reviewers to stay humble and hungry. Be passionate. Don’t beg, borrow or steal to reach your goals–just do what you do and let your drive and your passion shine through. I was invited by industry people to write reviews or blurbs or provide interviews–I didn’t pester anyone or solicit myself to get where I am and that feels really validating and authentic to me that what I have, I worked for. It was noticed. I love that.

 DHR: That has to be the greatest feeling. Do you go to conventions? If so, what ones?

MH: I have not gone to any yet but I plan on going to some in 2020. I will be at Scares That Care Weekend, hopefully and perhaps something in May that I’m not talking about quite yet. 

DHR: Is there an area in this community that you feel is under-appreciated?

MH: Under appreciated?? Hmm….I can’t think of anything!

DHR: Dead Head Reviews looks up to you as one of the crucial members in the community. Would you like to give a shout out to any other reviewers?

MH: Thank you! And hell yes! The Night Worms crew, The Ink Heist guys, Shane–my horror bro. Tracy and the SciFi & Scary Team, my girls Mindi, Ashley, Emily, Audra, and Alex–the OG Night Worms. Jim and his team at GingerNuts of Horror, George and Steve. Ed Lorn and Michael Hicks–Mike runs High Fever and he writes amazing reviews. The Ladies of Horror Fiction Team of reviewers, Where The Reader Grows-Chandra Curtis at Cedar Hollow and Kendall.

DHR:  Thank you for setting a professional standard for all of us. And again, thank you for giving us your time to do this interview!

MH: My pleasure!!

Follow Mother Horror on social media:

Instagram: /mother.horror
Twitter: @SadieHartmann

Goodreads: /user/show/28225370-sadie-hartmann-mother-horror

And don’t forget to catch her and the rest of the Night Worms crew at nightworms.com

[REVIEW] Devouring Dark – by Alan Baxter

DEVOURING DARK by Alan Baxter

When I went to read Alan Baxter for the first time, I ended up choosing Devouring Darkbecause its premise reminded me of a comic series I enjoyed when I was growing up: The Darkness. You have your anti-hero with a shadow-like power surging inside him that can be unleashed in horrific ways. There’s a lot than can be done with this idea, but for now this is a standalone novel and not a series (though Baxter has several others, so maybe there’s hope yet for Devouring Dark to continue).

Though I definitely enjoyed this book, I had a few issues that nagged me along the way. There’s a surprising amount of slow sequences for what should be an action-fueled story. There’s also the matter of Matt’s guilt (which powers his darkness); what he did as a child is absolutely terrible, and yet Amy (the character he falls for with a similar power) is very easygoing about the whole thing. She basically tells him not to worry, it’s no big deal, and he should confess it to his parents and smooth things over. I’m sorry, but that was unbelievable – if my kid came and told me they had done such a thing, we would not be able to “smooth it over.” What Matt did is unforgiveable, even if he was just a kid when he did it.

I would have liked to see more action – though I get Matt’s condition keeps it from showing up hardly at all in the story – as well as some different interaction between his character and the others to gain sympathy from me. I was interested in our anti-hero up until I learned the cause of his guilt; I didn’t care about him after that, and felt Amy was just blinded by her interest in him and willing to overlook his evil.

My complaints aside, I did enjoy the majority of this book, enough so that I would like to read a sequel. I also found Baxter’s writing comfortable and inviting, so I will look into his other work in the coming months. So, overall, this is a recommended title (especially for comic fans). – by Andrew Redman

3.5/5.0

[Review] – The Town That Feared Dusk – Calvin Demmer

This short story is part of the Short Sharp Shocks collection, and it really delivers on that. After the death of her colleague, Sylvia needs a story to boost her career. She finds information on a ‘Suicide Bridge’, but the investigation drags her deeper than she ever expected to go.

This is one of those stories that’s really easy to get carried away in, as the reader follows Sylvia to the bridge and beyond, as she discovers there’s more than meets the eye to the suicides reported there. The empty town, the non-cooperative locals, and the eerie imagery all builds up to a tense climax, making the reader as eager to find out what is happening as Sylvia is. The ending packs a shocking punch, as promised in the collection.

The only downside is how short it is – I wanted more, more about the town, more about Sylvia, more about the unfolding events. But that’s just the sign of a good short story. The way elements are combined words really well, and I can’t imagine anyone regretting picking this one up.

4/5 – Elle Turpitt

[Review] Grind Your Bones To Dust – Nicholas Day

Dangerous, deadly creatures emerge from the night, leaving nothing but slaughter in their wake. But monstrous beasts aren’t the only evil haunting these pages. Enter a preacher and raven, determined to cause as much destruction as the flesh-eating donkeys in the desert.

It’s rare I would describe horror as beautiful but damn, is this book beautiful. And haunting and violent and absolutely, utterly mesmerising.

The novel is split into four parts, each distinct and fresh, feeling perfectly blended to the character the prose is following. Each character feels unique, with everything needed from a character; their own wants, desires, arcs. Their own voice. Each section bleeds wonderfully into the next, leaving the reader wanting more with every page. The imagery is striking, the landscape terrifying, the events gripping. Day paints a bleak, unrelenting world, in a story of loss, love, redemption and pure horror. This is not a novel for the faint of heart, but one which will, without a doubt, linger with the reader for a long time to come.

5/5 – Elle Turpitt

[Review] Ink Heist Podcast

By Patrick R. McDonough

​Do you like horror? Or laughter? Perhaps you’re looking for a place to discover new authors of dark fiction. Ink Heist – A Podcast for Readers of Dark Fiction is your answer. First a quick ink Heist history lesson. Created on April 14th 2018, the ‘zine focused primarily on speculative fiction and films of all types. Heavily favored genres include: crime, noir, neo-noir, and horror, with a dash of poetry, creative non-fiction, and crossover genres.

The Founders

Rich Duncan

A Philadelphia suburb native, that currently resides in Central New York with his wife, daughter, and dogs. A few years before he and Shane became partners, he created The Horror Bookshelf, which is still very active to this day! Horror is his first love, but crime and noir have an equal place in his dark heart. His other interests include searching for vintage paperbacks to add to his immersive collection, watching an unhealthy amount of movies, and losing himself in underground music from the 1980s through the 21st century.

Shane Douglas Keene

​A Portland, Oregon native that lives with his wife and three dogs. Formerly of Shotgun Logic, and a semi-regular contributor to monumental review platforms such as Gingernuts of Horror and This Is Horror. Like any good lover of horror literature, he has an unhealthy amount of books. When his mind isn’t being consumed with reading, he finds himself writing about books and their creators, as well as listening to heavy metal and blues, and focusing his energy on encouraging literacy.

The Podcast

This pod is 100% unscripted. Shane and Rich lead every guest with a specialized conversation starter, which ends up leading them and their guest into a unique conversation. With each episode, we get a new piece of Shane and Rich, as well as bits of the guest’s background and some of their hobbies beyond writing. From start to end, the show runs like a well-oiled machine, even during an occasional pause or forgotten muted mic. The pauses have a certain beat to them that almost always are followed with comedic dialogue. 

Episode Breakdown

Episode 101: The Fearing with John F.D. Taff

​First aired – July 8th 2019

​Run-time – 48 mins 26 seconds

​Considering that Rich reviewed Taff’s earlier novels in 2014, it’s only fitting that he be the first guest. We get the overall concept and ideas which inspired Taff’s latest serialized novel The Fearing. He tells us about the publisher he mainly works with—Grey Matter Press—and the man behind GMP, Anthony Rivera. The behind-the-scenes of putting together a single book is absolutely fascinating, and that’s exactly what we learn about. They also touch upon on the authors in the indie horror community that are making the biggest strides and pushing the indie movement forward. 

Episode 102: A Very Irreverent Conversation with Hunter Shea

​First aired – July 23rd 2019

​Run-time – 1 hr 32 mins 11 secs

​Hunter Shea, The Monster Man, tells us about working with Don D’Auria of Flame Tree Press, his most recent novel Creature, and his upcoming novel, Slasher (released October 24th). For me, slasher films from the 80’s and 90’s is what started my horror craze. They don’t even have to take themselves too serious to capture my attention. Slasher sounds like it is exactly that, a fun horror film in book form. There really aren’t enough books out there like that, which is all the more reason to get pumped for Shea’s upcoming novel!

Oh yea…and Rich wrestles with his dogs. Nothing unusual here, folks!

Episode 103: A Conversation with Laurel Hightower

​First aired – August 6th 2019

​Run-time – 1 hr 14 mins 35 secs

​Hightower and the ink Heist boys talk about her debut novel, Whispers in the Dark, brought to you by Journalstone/Trepidatio. She tells us how her mother was a writer and the lessons she instilled in Laurel at a young age. Hightower is not only a rising name in this expansive community, but she’s an intelligent, funny, and fluent conversationalist. I have yet to read her novel, but this episode only made her name and book stamp a place in my mind. It’s going in the TBR pile! They discuss and dissect parts of the book but never actually spoil anything. It’s an intriguing enough story, but don’t take my word for it…check out this episode!

Episode 104: Digging deep into The Fearing Book One: Fire and Rain with John F.D. Taff

​First aired – August 13th 2019

​Run-time – 1 hr 2 mins 6 secs

​Taff is back, making him the first guest to appear on the show multiple times, which is pretty impressive considering the show is only six episodes in. This time, we focus on book 1 in The Fearing story. This is the first of a four-part series. The four episodes will have an in-depth breakdown for each book. We meet the characters and their potential arcs in Fire and Rain. Afterwards, theories on what fears would haunt Shane, Rich, and John are contemplated.

Episode 105: A Conversation with Josh Malerman

​First aired – August 27th 2019

​Run-time – 1 hr 56 mins 32 secs

​Author of Birdbox, Unbury Carol, Mad Wheel, and Inspection, Malerman discusses his stories, creativity itself, and describes the indie horror community with the perfect word: “elasticity”. They cover what determines horror (who cares, it’s all horror!) and how the genre is being stretched like an elastic band by new and interesting voices. They mention how they’d like to get together one day over some drinks and discuss horror. I would love to be a fly on that wall (while enjoying my own fly-sized beer). The genre as a whole, being carried by the indie community, is emphasized, which it’s certainly hard to argue. If you’re new to this podcast, I’d suggest starting with this one. It just may get you hooked on a few good Malerman books too!

Episode 106: Rich and Shane: Screaming Into the Abyss

​First aired – September 3rd 2019

​Run-time – 2 hrs and 54 secs

​This episode has no guests. It’s all about Shane and Rich going back-and-forth with questions and answers, which branch off to other topics and…it’s just glorious. This is my favorite episode, so far…but I have a feeling next week’s episode will become my new favorite episode, hehe.

​Right off the bat they get into a great book discussion on what they’re currently reading, books they’re looking towards, and break down author catalogs. A recent love that Shane talks about is Chade Lutzke’s upcoming The Pale White, set to be published September 27th through Crystal Lake Publishing. This novella is already hyped to be a lovely addition to Lutzke’s ever-growing bibliography. 

​Something I really love to learn about is new publishers in the indie world. If you haven’t heard of them yet, now’s the time to look into Silver Shamrock Publishing. A few titles to look for: In The Scrape, a fantastic novella by James Newman and Mark Steensland; Cricket Hunters, a novel by Jeremy Hepler, and a highly anticipated anthology coming October 1st, Midnight In The Graveyard, with names such as Robert McCammon, Kealan Patrick Burke, and Catherine Cavendish!

​One of the most fascinating parts of this episode is when they talk about why they’ve pursued horror. Shane tells a tale about him as an eleven-year-old. A boy that became magnetized by one of his father’s book covers. He had to have it…so he stole it. After he read it, it changed him. That book was Stephen King’s ’Salem’s Lot. Rich on the other hand found his love in the film world—slashers from the 80’s and 90’s. He rented a VHS copy of Candyman. Someone told him the plot and it scared him so badly that it sat and taunted him from his kitchen table for a week straight!

​Rich brings up a project Shane and him are collaborating on. A book. This is something I left out of episode 105’s breakdown (the first time they mention it). Neither one gave away too much, actually they barely gave away any details. What they did inform us on is it’s a strange tale that has potential to be of novella length. Shane describes it as “mayhem within a drug facility in the middle of nowhere”. After hearing these past six episodes, I know for a fact these guys are nuts about horror and they have good taste. I can only imagine how well-crafted their finished product will be. Sign me up for a copy!

​Towards the end of the episode they talk about future guests. They should all be met with equal anticipation: John F.D. Taff returns to have a deep dive into book 2 of The Fearing. Scott Thomas talks about his recent book, Violet. Chad Lutzke will discuss his bibliography and upcoming novella, The Pale White. Laird Barron is anticipated to elegantly talk about crime and horror novels, as well as his Isaiah Coleridge series. Other future guests include: Betty Rocksteady, Caroline Kepnes, Todd Keisling, J. Danielle Dorn, and Karen Runge. 

Final Thoughts

I love this podcast and was hooked after the first episode. Without a doubt, this is a MUST listen. I binged the series—while washing dishes, performing house work, even while driving—and now I’m waiting excitedly for episode 7. It’s just as enjoyable for a veteran author, as it is for an editor, publisher, or a reader. This podcast has opened my eyes to a lot of names in the indie horror community. My love and interest has only grown for it. In fact, this podcast and community has nabbed my heart and ran off with it for keepsies.

Social Media

​Main Website: inkHeist.com

Facebook: /InkHeist

Twitter: @InkHeist

Check out Ink Heist – A Podcast for Readers of Dark Fiction on Spotify! What episode(s) have you listened to so far? Did we introduce you to the show? If we did, please tell the ink Heist boys that Dead Head Reviews sent you!

[Review] – Mr. Deadman Made Me Do It – Chris Baker

Who doesn’t love a good anthology? And, friends and fiends, this is a good anthology.

This delightfully gory collection centres around the figure of Mr Deadman, each short story featuring the strange character in one way or another. They all feel different, with characters from different walks of life, all with their own version of Mr Deadman, but it still feels like the same character, slipping from one person to another, offering them whatever they need at that particular time.

Inside the anthology are stories about revenge, love, or just out and out gore. Some characters are truly and utterly pitiful, pulling you into their stories in a way that just won’t let you go. And when their despicable acts are committed, they come out with the same response – Mr Deadman made me do it.

Not all stories end in the same way, and not all characters are pitiful. Some try to resist him, some find themselves faced with the consequences of summoning Mr Deadman. All are entertaining. 

Slightly more editing could have been done on the stories, but in the end it didn’t really matter. The anthology was fun, a rollercoaster of gore and violence, and easily able to carry the reader through to the very end. An excellent read for anyone who enjoys a lot of splatter.

4/5 – Elle Turpitt

[REVIEW] The Night Crawls In – by Steve Stred

I have read a few of Steve’s books this year – including The Stranger, Jane, and The Girl Who Hid in the Trees – but I think The Night Crawls In has to be my favorite so far. This collection of drabbles (stories averaging just a couple hundred words for the most part) and poems may be short, but it leaves a lasting impression. So many of them read like excerpts of novels, leaving me wanting more.

The drabbles of “The Night Crawls In,” “The Clearing,” “Curiosity,” “Text Message,” and “Random Bruise,” all left me wanting the full story. It would be great if Steve ever uses them for novels or novellas down the road, because they all left imprints I couldn’t shake.

As for the poems, I found “Worms,” “Forever,” “Six Shots (To Redemption),” and “Self” to be the most memorable and striking. I’m not much for rhyming, so it was great to read so many of these entries without that structure at work. And like the drabbles, there were a handful of stories to be found in some of these poems that would do well as extended pieces.

The Night Crawls In is something you can read in an hour or two (depending on how you choose to savor each entry). Generally speaking, this would make me shy away from an actual purchase. However, this collection is worth the cost; you’ll want to reread it from time to time, I’m sure. – by Andrew Redman

4.5 out of 5.0