Crescendo of Darkness Tour: 3DX Party, June 14th

CRAIGMAN, aka A. Craig Newman,
invites you to come celebrate the release of “Crescendo of Darkness”,
a music-themed horror anthology,
which includes Craig’s original story,
“Circe’s Music Shop”!

June 14 from 6 PM to 11 PM @ The Pyramids

Come on out to dance or swim or whatever else makes you happy.
Win Door prizes and a chance to get a signed copy of the book!“crescendo-of-darkness”-book-launch-party-june-14-the-pyramids/#entry283322


Book Review: Mountain of the Dead by Jeremy Bates

Mountain of the Dead by Jeremy Bates

Reviewed by Stephanie Ellis

5 stars

In 1959, a party of ten set out on a trek through the Northern Ural Mountains. After one withdrew due to illness, the other nine continued on in order to gain their Category III hiking certificate. Their route took them to Kholat Syakhl, the Mountain of the Dead. None of them returned. Files relating to the incident remained classified for years and even now not everything has been released to the public. The state also subsequently restricted access to the Dyatlov Pass area for three years after the incident.

This tale, based on true events, weaves a narrative between the recreation of events at that time and the story of a writer following in their footsteps to discover the truth behind the tragedy. As the story inevitably propels the members of the party to their end, told in the form of a countdown, you are invited to share the dreams and hopes of some of the group, ideas of a future and love and family. Together with the inclusion of expedition photos showing young faces full of laughter and promise, the story is brought to life and the poignancy of what is to come heightened.

In addition, the writer chasing their ghosts has his own demons to confront and this trip is his attempt at closure over a personal loss. That he insists on seeing the trek through to the bitter end, despite appalling conditions, has catastrophic consequences.

Here communism, the gulags, the folk belief of the Mansi tribesmen who live in that area and supernatural elements combine to give real authority to a powerful story

Full of horrifying suspense and well-researched, the author guides the reader to a shockingly believable conclusion. A page-turner in the true sense of the word and a thoroughly entertaining read. I will definitely be looking out for other books by this author.

Stephanie Ellis can be found at and on twitter @el_Stevie.

When Stephanie is not writing reviews, she is co-editor at The Infernal Clock ( a fledgling publishing venture and is also co-editor at The Horror Tree’s Trembling With Fear online magazine ( where they’re always open for flash submissions. She has also had short stories and a novella published in a variety of horror anthologies and magazines.

Book Review: Fatal Fetish edited by Toneye Eyenot

Fatal Fetish edited by Toneye Eyenot

Review by Voodoo Lynn

Fatal Fetish is an interesting amalgamation of stories. You get everything from encounters in space to serial killers and sexual cannibalism to clowns, mechanical Jekyll and Hyde’s, yeti, goblins, djinn, redheads, and A.I. I learned new terms like ‘sissygasm’. The stories were engaging on various levels; obviously, some more than others.  Let me also add that there are stories here that you will want to have ready access to a computer because the jargon utilized was such that I was completely unprepared for it and would’ve been lost had I not have been able to look the words up. It did make for a more culturally diverse read, I will admit.

There are plenty of stories here that make the ones you don’t care for, well worth the read. In fact, you may end up losing time over the ones you like, as I did. Let it be noted, that the ones I liked or were most disturbed by, had me re-reading them a second time, with the more lurid passages having me pass over those words again and again—solely for comprehensive purposes, of course.

So please, allow me to escort you into the world that is Fatal Fetish

“Biscuits and Gravy, Those Wicked Little Things” by Essel Pratt

This is the first story in the anthology. Perhaps, I have a weak spot for science fiction, thanks to my father and my early exposure to Star Trek. Perhaps, it appeals to my deep fascination with space and all its dark mysteries and frontiers.  Perhaps, it just appeals to my deep seated fascination and ultimate dream of, not only traveling in space but, to also engage in naughty activities while in said vicinity of it. Yes, that is an active interest of mine. This story however, gives me a very grim and real look into the dangers of space. (Thanks a lot E. Pratt, as if Mary Roach didn’t do enough of that!)

I don’t say this lightly. I have thought about all the possible consequences about having such relations in space however, this story doesn’t necessarily focus on that for me—though that is definitely something you can’t miss. What it does highlight for me is how distracted we humans can become if we are otherwise engaged in other immersive activities. What this author has done is manage to engage you in what seems like an everyday, happy go lucky story of two extraordinary people who have feelings for one another, who finally engage in said feelings and pay a most terrible price for it.

Oh, did I mention that this story takes place all within five pages? The author deftly pulls you in (even though you know you’re gonna read something horrific shortly) and then, hangs you out to dry, shall we say?

If you are a fan of “Guts” by Chuck Palahniuk, you are way ahead of the game here. If you are unfamiliar with this, don’t look it up if you wanna be surprised by this story! It’s urban legend meets science fiction.

In the end, this was my favorite story. It was shorter than I liked, but it sucked me in with its straight forward and descriptive, albeit disturbing detail.

“Life-Like” by Brian Glossup

This is my next favorite story and it also happens to be one of the longest in the anthology. It is so worth reading, especially if you like to be left questioning things. At first you think of it as a story about a lonely, older man in middle management and his needs, who decides to buy a sex-bot.  You will find yourself questioning not only what is moral, and what should be expected when we purchase something, but where our rights end and where someone else’s begins. Or, do they even begin? Is there even a ‘someone ’?

Although, the lead character gives us hints that he may not be want we think.  In the story we follow Malcolm as he goes to the company headquarters and places an order for his sex-bot. We know it’s a machine but, as he starts picking out her personality and, I’ll just call them her ‘parts’, things start getting really creepy.

The president of the bot company makes it a point to inform Malcolm that she is capable of learning and feeling, due to her electronic brain and that it’s best to keep her happy for “maximum satisfaction”. As he’s chooses her personality, the president inputs “SLAVE-MAID-COOK-SLUT”.  Yup, I don’t like this guy anymore but, it’s just a machine, right? Property he’s paying for. When we decide to buy a new computer, we decide what programs we want installed, right?

I find it interesting when reading about how the sex-bot, ANNA, views her new master, she makes an immediate judgement call that I wonder how she is capable of making in the first place. (I mean, she didn’t go to Robot University. GO ANDRIODS!) When we get a general description of him, we’re told that

“His best shirt was stained and his good pants were ripped. He was overweight, overpaid and unattractive. The typical American.”

Damn. Where did that come from? Aside from the fact I find that a little insulting to a whole group of people, my question is, how did she come to this conclusion, fresh out of the box let’s say?

Poor ANNA. What comes next in her short life thus far is hours of brutalization. Her skin is so life like, that she is left with bruises all over her body. As the author tells us,

“Every inflicted pain was felt and processed through her electronic nervous system…teaching her positronic brain of his civilized barbarism.”

We see a new level of sentience beginning to form. She watches TV and learns about the ‘horrors of humanity’ until she discovers a channel where a woman is speaking about women’s rights and power. She has now reached a level of consciousness that makes her realize the true horror of her existence as a sex-bot.  It’s here that she begins to plan a way to forever escape this situation. The climax of the story takes place next and, it is electrical. And violent. And disturbing. And unlike anything I’ve read before.

It is at this point find myself starting to think about what criteria we utilize to say with certainty, that something is alive? Had Malcolm treated ANNA better, more like a sentient being shall we say, would she have really been happy in her new existence? She seems to have free will and is capable of making decisions, even if it’s via execution of various computer programs.  She’s intelligent and self –aware, don’t those things constitute a living being?  It reminds me of Star Trek TNG’s episode “Measure of a Man.” In it, Commander Data (an android) is being forced into a dangerous procedure to study his positronic brain and to hopefully, create a whole new generation of androids like him. He tries to refuse, and Star Fleet orders him to do it anyway. He resigns, and is then told he can’t because he is Star Fleet ‘property’. He then has a hearing to determine his status with Star Fleet, to determine whether he is a sentient being and has rights, or not and just property. There’s this fantastic dialogue between Captain Picard and Guinan and she mentions that there has always been disposable creatures—beings whose welfare and needs wouldn’t have to be bothered with—a whole generation of disposable people.

Isn’t that what we are dealing with this story? Is ANNA property, or is she a sentient being with a conscience? Did that company create a whole generation of slaves?  I think I can sum up the horrifying end of this story by utilizing a quote from Captain Picard with regards to whole generations of disposable people and the term ‘slave’.

“I don’t think that’s a little harsh, I think it’s the truth. But that’s a truth we have obscured behind a comfortable, easy euphemism. ‘Property’. But that’s not the issue at all, is it?”

If only Malcolm had heeded the warning he was given…

“An Excerpt of Yeti, Yearning” by Essel Pratt

I just wanted to give this one a mention because I find the idea of thinking like a sexually aroused Yeti interesting. This unusual story piqued my interest and I wish that they included a little more in the excerpt.

“Send in the Clowns” by Naomi Matthews

This one is a good one about psychopaths. In this case, a female with an obsession with sex and clowns. This is something I enjoy seeing—a strong, female, character being the antagonist. It’s interesting to read about how she slowly indoctrinates her boyfriend into becoming her sex-slave. Her reason for choosing him was pretty simple—he, and her last ex, both had a history of being jerks to women and not treating them well. Understandable yes, but that gives her no right to do what she does. The lengths she goes to, to get her boyfriend to be her permanent clown boy-toy is truly frightening and well worth reading about. I also want to mention that this is the story where I learned the new word ‘sissygasm’. A word that I never wanted to learn and now will never be able to forget.

If you are someone into reading about fetishes and horror, Fatal Fetish is for you.

Crescendo of Darkness Tour: Six String Bullets

Crescendo of Darkness from Press.

“Six String Bullets” by Cara Fox

The pull of a busker’s song becomes too much for a young woman to resist.

Cara shares her thoughts about her story with us below.

My story, ‘Six String Bullets’, was inspired by a chance encounter more than ten years ago now. I was living in Bristol, England. It’s a beautiful city with a ton of history, and one of my favourite parts of it is a winding network of cobbled streets by the name of the Corn Exchange. Sprawled across them are dozens of independent shops and traders, their individual stalls punctuated by my favourite part of the Georgian heart of the city – the street music. No matter what day of the year it is, you can’t walk along the cobbles without finding musicians ranging from a lively Caribbean calypso right through to whiskey-soaked blues.

It was one of these musicians who inspired my story. On a hectic day not long before Christmas, with commuters and shoppers alike hurtling to their destination with barely a glance to spare for each other, let alone the buskers trying to carve out a living on the rain-soaked streets, a distinctive riff caught my attention and pulled me out of the pedestrian flow. To my delighted surprise, a busker seated cross-legged with a battered guitar was flawlessly playing an acoustic version of a song from one of my favourite bands, The Wildhearts. It was so incongruous that I stopped to listen, and it struck me then that nobody else even seemed to have noticed the dreadlocked busker and the song that he played. For a few moments, as he realised I was listening, it felt like the two of us had stepped out of time together. The world carried on around us, but we were no longer a part of it.

Once the song came to an end, the spell was broken. I threw some coins in the busker’s guitar case, wished him a Merry Christmas and carried on with my life with a barely another thought for that strange moment in time until last summer, when I was kicking back with a bottle of bourbon and Springsteen’s Born In The USA blasting out of the speakers. When I reached the sixth track and heard that heartbreakingly raspy voice croon about a “six inch valley” in his skull, the image of a six string bullet immediately found itself a place in my mind. The concept of music as a weapon that could cut straight to the soul stayed with me and took me back to that encounter with the busker that only I seemed to see. From that fractured ghost of a memory, ‘Six String Bullets’ was born.

Crescendo of Darkness

Edited by Jeremiah Donaldson

Cover by Carmen Masloski Press

 Let music unlock your fear within.

Crescendo of Darkness Tour: Keep the Beat

Crescendo of Darkness from Press.

“Keep the Beat” by Calvin Demmer

A young girl questions why her tribe plays the djembe drums every night and finds it may be more than just a tradition.

Calvin shares his thoughts about his story with us below.

“Keep the Beat” Inspiration

By Calvin Demmer

Being from South Africa, I wanted to remain on the continent for the main flavor of my story “Keep the Beat.” I didn’t zone in on one specific culture, but tried to see what most of the tribes in Africa had in common in their past. Some of the habits they shared were the various rituals they practiced and their unique beliefs in spirits or the afterlife. I immediately knew my story would have a strong supernatural angle.

To incorporate the music theme, I wished for the instrument to be something interesting that would work well with the ideas I had for rituals; and fortunately I quickly knew what I would use. Then it was all about creating my own world, tribe, and specific reason for the instrument. This all actually came together pretty easily and the “Beat” part was somewhat inspired by an earlier short story I’d written called “Forbidden Fruit.”

As I worked on the story more, and through various early drafts, it kept taking a darker and darker road. The stakes needed to be high for my main character and I wanted there to be a harsh penalty for ill conceived actions.

Overall, if a supernatural African world, where spirits linger and time honored rituals must be obeyed to avoid great consequences, is what intrigues a reader, then “Keep the Beat” will definitely be a fun and interesting experience.


Calvin Demmer is a dark fiction author. His debut collection, The Sea Was a Fair Master, was released in June 2018. When not writing, he is intrigued by that which goes bump in the night and the sciences of our universe. You can find him online at or follow him on Twitter @CalvinDemmer.

Crescendo of Darkness

Edited by Jeremiah Donaldson

Cover by Carmen Masloski Press

 Let music unlock your fear within.

Crescendo of Darkness Tour: Become the Music

Crescendo of Darkness from Press.

“Become the Music” by H.E. Roulo

A cellist would do anything for her child, even give up music, but that might not be enough to stop a curse from consuming her baby.

Heather shares her thoughts about her story with us below.

The Brutality of Music

By H.E. Roulo

It’s easy to forget that when we sing, hum, or hear a soundtrack, we’re experiencing the power of music. If a soundtrack is good, my dog will understand something important is happening on screen and look at the television. For suspenseful parts, she’ll stand and growl, even when nothing menacing appears visually. That communication with another species happens at a level beyond a spoken command. She understands the intent of the music.

Have you been transported by music? Heard people claim they’re transformed by music? What if the apparent latent power in music were real? It’s possible music binds the world together across language barriers and species, perhaps even at a metaphysical level. This forms the premise of my short story “Become the Music.”

In a wild rural area, where more things are possible, a musician draws something new into existence with her playing. She wouldn’t be able to put her power  into words, but music doesn’t require that. Unfortunately, that new entity’s potent mix of music, power, and possibility becomes a curse. What she’s made can’t exist alongside the casual musical brutality of our everyday world.

In a world where we can record and play music anywhere, we are casual about a powerful force that can heal, create, and transform. Emotion coded into music reaches deep into the subconscious. How can such a potent force become the simple everyday buzz and background to our lives? Are we made numb by the ubiquity of music? What happens to someone who isn’t?

Something that can be primal or civilizing, evocative of the human condition, and communicate with an infinite number of people who don’t speak the same language, can also be debased into throwaway notes given no care or notice. Wacky childrens’ toys chime on shelves. The music of the current generation’s rebellious prime becomes the background of a supermarket. These highs and lows—without bias for genre so much as intent—became the focus of my story.

In my Crescendo of Darkness story, the musician’s life is upended. Music becomes a threat. Seeking escape, she drives to a remote location seeking peace, solitude, and most of all silence.

Crescendo of Darkness

Edited by Jeremiah Donaldson

Cover by Carmen Masloski Press

 Let music unlock your fear within.

Crescendo of Darkness Tour: Circe’s Music Shop

Crescendo of Darkness from Press.

“Circe’s Music Shop” by A. Craig Newman

A music store owner, who won’t be bullied into submission, teaches two hitmen the meaning of pain.

A. Craig Newman shares his thoughts about his story with us below.

When I wrote “Circe’s Music Shop”, I did not plan to publish it.  In all honesty, in my head, I wasn’t writing. I was practicing. 

Practice makes perfect, or so we’re always told. And I want to be a great writer so I figure the only way is to write a lot. But the results of practice are usually riddled with mistakes.  A painter practicing the challenge of rendering eyes or hands will fill sketch pads with dozens of aborted attempts to get it right. A cook perfecting a recipe will throw away countless full and aborted attempts before hitting on the exact combination of ingredients and time and technique that gives the correct results.  So, I figured, and still do, that most things a writer writes should not be published but should be considered practice. 

With this in mind, I give myself challenges to practice with.  One challenge was to go to my friends and ask them what type of character they’d want to be they could be anyone at all in a story.  My best friend, Tamisha, said she wanted to be a sorceress.  Because I have a love of classics and myths, I immediately thought of Circe from “The Odyssey“.  I don’t remember how turning men to pigs became turning men to instruments. I do remember that I wrote the story quickly because I wasn’t stressing myself over a practice piece. 

Since writing this story, several have come and gone where I would consider myself having done some “real writing”. Ideas I mulled over and cultivated into complete premises.  Pieces I wrote and rewrote trying to infuse the work with everything I’ve learned about symbolism and artistry.  Real writing took real work and countless hours of time and effort and frustration. 

There are two things I learned from writing “Circe’s Music Shop”.  First, a writer can never tell where a good idea will come from.  Second, for me, “underwriting” is not a bad thing. Those other pieces that I mulled over and reworked about a dozen times have yet to become anything.  This piece that I just had fun with and tossed onto the paper has gained me more attention, praise, and success as a writer than anything else. 

So, what does this all mean?  How do I apply this in a practical sense?  I have no idea.  I’m still trying to figure that out.  I’ll let you know when I do.  

A. Craig Newman
Author and Instructor

Crescendo of Darkness

Edited by Jeremiah Donaldson

Cover by Carmen Masloski Press

 Let music unlock your fear within.