Book Review: Broken on the Inside by Phil Sloman

Broken on the Inside by Phil Sloman

4/5 stars!

Broken on the Inside (Black Shuck Books) is a collection of five very dark short stories by Phil Sloman. All start from a point of psychological turmoil, the mind building its own madness which then manifests into something physically and disturbingly real.

The lead story, “Broken on the Inside, is an example of the power of mind control and the unintended consequences of the manipulation of others, in this case murder. “Discomfort Food will probably put you off your burger and chips. “The Man Who Fed the Foxes and “There Was an Old Man (be warned, there are some gross moments!) are accounts of mental breakdown in the starkest detail whilst “Virtually Famous flips and distorts reality.

Yes, it is a small collection, but Broken on the Inside packs a big punch. Strong, powerful and wonderfully dark, this is high quality writing and I would happily recommend it to anyone and everyone. 

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Editor’s Blog: What if Death Looms?

A tall man rests on a chaise longue, facing the camera. On his knees, which are held together, he holds a slim, richly bound book. He wears knee breeches which feature prominently in the photograph's foreground.

“He did not wear his scarlet coat,

For blood and wine are red,

And blood and wine were on his hands

When they found him with the dead,

The poor dead woman whom he loved,

And murdered in her bed.” – Oscar Wilde

Because it’s Irish Horror Month, I’ve been scouring websites and books to find just the right poems and stories to share. In this quest I ran headlong into a decidedly frightful trepidation offered up by the late Oscar Wilde. “The Ballad of Reading Gaol,” his 190 verse poem on the cruelties of prison life in the Victorian age, raises several alarming themes, but the one which scares me the most concerns a prisoner condemned to die.

For many humans there is no more frightening thought than the realization that we might die, but for the prisoner sentenced to a looming appointment with the gallows the terror must be stifling.

Wilde loved paradox, and he portrayed this well in this poem in a chilling portrait of a fellow prisoner on his way to the gallows for killing his wife. He expresses confusion at the manner in which the condemned man comports himself as the day grows near. Paradoxically he conveys a certain admiration of the man’s handling of certain doom.

“So with curious eyes and sick surmise

We watched him day by day,

And wondered if each one of us

Would end the self-same way,

For none can tell to what red Hell

His sightless soul may stray…

…I only knew what hunted thought

Quickened his step, and why

He looked upon the garish day

With such a wistful eye;

The man had killed the thing he loved

And so he had to die…

…He did not wring his hands, as do

Those witless men who dare

To try to rear the changeling Hope

In the cave of black Despair:

He only looked upon the sun,

And drank the morning air…”

Is the man facing his fear? Is he insane? Or is he operating out of pure shock? Take a look at the entire poem and decide for yourself.

Kate NOX

Jeff Carlson’s Frozen Sky, Volume 4: Battlefront

When Jeff Carlson left us in July of 2017, we didn’t think we’d get a chance to read any more of his work. Such a sad prospect for those of us addicted to his high-octane, post-apocalyptic and science fiction writing.

But now, thanks to his family, we have a second chance to enjoy his work. His new book is the fourth and final installment of his Europa Series. The Frozen Sky: Battlefront is now on sale on Amazon for Kindle.

“Reeling from their battles against the People’s Supreme Society of China, the allied forces detect a radio signal from inside Europa’s vast, black depths. Rallying the survivors, Vonnie assembles an interspecies team with NASA and the sunfish for a do-or-die mission into the Great Ocean. What they find will turn their worlds upside down…”

According to his wife, “Battlefront, the fourth and final volume of Jeff Carlson’s Europa Series has been published. It is available now on Amazon as an eBook and the paperback version will be available soon. Jeff’s manuscript for Battlefront was nearly complete at the time of his death in July 2017, and the final editing and assembly was done by his father, Gus Carlson, as a tribute to Jeff and a service to his many fans.  Whether you are Jeff’s family, friend, fan, colleague, or professional contact, we hope his final creative vision will find a place on your shelf (or device) and in your hearts.”

We at HorrorAddicts.net thank his family for bringing this new work to us and especially to Gus who spent time to make sure we got the chance to read it. Thank you.

If you haven’t yet heard about Jeff, we have many episodes, interviews, and his tribute on this site to explore:

Click here to read Jeff’s tribute.

Frozen Sky 2: Betrayed by Jeff Carlson, A Review

A Jeff Carlson Double Header, A Review

13 Questions with Jeff Carlson, An Interview

Jeff Carlson on Post-Apocalyptic Fiction, A Blog by Jeff

Podcast Episode #051, Featuring Jeff’s work.

Podcast Episode #027, Featuring Jeff’s work.

Podcast Episode #020, Featuring Jeff’s work.

Podcast Episode #001, Featuring Jeff’s work.

Guest Blog: Irish Vampires by Brian McKinley

Irish Vampires by Brian McKinley

Ireland is not particularly known for its vampire legends. Strange, in a way, because the Emerald Isle gave birth to two of the best-known and most influential vampire authors in history: Bram Stoker and Sheridan LeFanu. The authors of both Dracula and Carmilla, respectively, were both born and raised in Ireland and likely owe some of their literary creations’ characteristics to stories they heard growing up.

The most famous of Ireland’s vampires is a specific woman known as the Dearg Due (dar-ag dua) or “red blood sucker” said to be buried in Waterford, Ireland. The story is told of a beautiful young woman who, forced to marry a cruel and abusive clan chieftain, committed suicide. At the anniversary of her death, she rose from the grave with a blood lust. She began with her father and former husband, but her rage and thirst could never be sated. She sings to men in their sleep, luring them from their homes and draining the blood from their bodies.

In their earlier, pre-Christian forms, many fae creatures had distinctly vampiric characteristics. The first of these is called the LeananSidhe (Lee-awn She). They appear as beautiful women, often invisible to everyone but their intended victim, who seduce men and try to cause them to fall in love. If successful, the Leanan-Sidhe will drain him of life energy during sex, similar to a succubus, and feeds small amounts of her blood to him so that he is inspired to write love poetry to her. Slowly, he is drained to a husk. If, however, the man does not fall in love with her, the Leanan-Sidhe will strangle him and drain his body of blood. In some versions of the legends, resisting the seduction of the Sidhe causes her to fall in love with her intended victim and serve him as a slave.

Rather than simply drink the blood like most vampires, this creature has an element of the vampiric witch to her. She keeps her victims’ blood in a large red cauldron, which is the source of her ability to shape-shift into animals, become invisible, and remain youthful. The Sidhe in this creature’s name is a word traditionally associated with the fae in Irish folklore and refers to the ancient burial mounds Celtic people used for centuries. These mounds were often believed to be gateways between the land of the living and the dead. Some early beliefs about the origin of the fae mention not Arcadia, but rather the underworld.

A variation on this theme is the Baobhan Sith (Bavaan Shee). Technically a revenant, created when a woman died in childbirth and the body rose as a fae—again we see references to the underworld origin of fae—this vampire was unusual in that it would attach itself to a specific family and live among them normally. In fact, prior to the arrival of Christianity in Scotland, it was considered a sign of status to have one in the family. Most likely a precursor to the Banshee, the Baobhan Sith warned of impending death by wailing and, if a group of them came together to wail, then the death would be of a great person. After Christianity took hold, however, the Baobhan Sith took on a more evil role.

Described as a beautiful, tall, pale woman in a green dress (which hid cloven hooves), this vampire would appear to lone shepherds or travelers as a woman they knew or lusted after and lead them away to dance. Once the man was exhausted, the Baobhan Sith would attack and drink his blood. They could also transform into crows and, like most fairies, it was vulnerable to iron.

Similarly, people from Great Britain to Brazil to Eastern Europe and the United States all tell tales of White Ladies whose appearance boded death on the nights of the full moon. Originally ghosts of noblewomen who had been murdered or died an otherwise tragic death, and later associated with any local tragedy, they could be seen wandering cemeteries, crossroads, and the castles and manors where they died. Dressed in period finery and carrying chalices filled with poison, it was said that they would call out with hypnotic voices, inviting any who heard them to dance to music that didn’t exist. Those who accepted the invitation would be drained of blood, their bodies found the next morning by the side of the road. The White Ladies’ very touch was icy cold and could drain the life energy of the living. These ghostly ladies, like their fae counterparts, were vulnerable to the touch of iron but could also be warded off by crucifixes or priestly blessings. Another variation on this theme is the Lady in Red, more often a prostitute or jilted lover killed in a fit of passion and often to be found haunting theaters, hotels, and brothels.

Heard about any that I missed? Please let us know in the comments below!

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Brian McKinley doesn’t really exist. He’s a constructed mortal identity used by a relatively young Vampyr in order to publish the truth about The Order. Due to the world-wide influence of The Order and its minions, these accounts must all be published as fiction. Sometimes the names and sequence of events have been changed to protect the innocent, the guilty, and to keep from getting sued.

Brian is no longer a typical Vampyr and, for this reason, lives in hiding and writes from a secret location. The real “Brian” lives a life of danger and excitement; he loves Star Trek, Game of Thrones, and gangster movies as much as he loves chicken fried steak. And he really loves chicken fried steak! He’s a reader, a role-player, and a dreamer. He’s lived many lifetimes and is eager to share as many of them as possible with his readers.

He’s the author of Ancient Blood: A Novel of the Hegemony and Drawing Dead: A Faolan O’Connor Novel which won the Author’s Talk About It 2016 Horror Novel Contest.

 

FRIGHTENING FLIX: Dark Shadows Video Review

 

Kristin Battestella aka Kbatz is very excited to at last ramble about the highs and lows and ways to watch the gothic sixties soap opera Dark Shadows! In this introduction to the series, learn about the storylines, technicalities, and monster mayhem!

 

 

Get involved in the kitschy conversation on our Facebook Group!

 

To read even more of Kristin’s Dark Shadows Reviews, visit I Think, Therefore I Review.

 

Thank you for being part of Horror Addicts.net and enjoying our video, podcast, and media coverage! Next month look for our coverage from the NJ Horror Con and Film Festival March 29-31. Can’t wait!

From the Vault: Morbid Meals, Irish Wake Cake

One of the traditions of attending an Irish wake is to take something to feed and comfort the family during their grief. Even if the family doesn’t practice “sitting up with the dead“, a potluck gathering often is held to remember the deceased. One such dish is an Irish Wake Cake.

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EXAMINATION
This recipe is adapted from another one of my odd cookbooks, DEATH WARMED OVER, by Lisa Rogak. It is an interesting collection of recipes and customs surrounding feasts for funerals and for the dead themselves from 75 different cultures and religions. As a taphophile, I am fascinated by the many various practices of mourning the dead. Sharing food is just one way to ease the burden of those survive the loss of loved ones. Another interesting fact, pointed out in this book, is that most people eat a lot more food at funerals than they do at weddings.
So rather than talk about catering, instead, we return to a simple wake and the idea of bringing a dish over to visit, reminisce, and share a life and a meal together. This “Irish Wake Cake” is a fine variation of an Irish cream cheese pound cake. It is is simple, rich, and delicious.
ANALYSIS
Serves: 10
3/4 cup unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
3 oz cream cheese
1 3/4 cups cake flour, sifted (roughly 6 oz by weight)
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

1 cup dried currants or raisins
2/3 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp lemon juice

Apparatus
Electric mixer with mixing bowl
9 inch loaf pan
Small bowl
Cooling rack
Procedure
  1. Preheat your oven to 325 F degrees.
  2. In the mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to cream the butter, sugar, and vanilla together.
  3. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then add the cream cheese, mixing until thoroughly combined.
  4. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt, mixing until thoroughly combined.
  5. Gradually add buttermilk and mix until you have a smooth batter with no lumps, then fold in the currants.
  6. Pour the batter into a greased 9-inch loaf pan.
  7. Place the pan on the center rack in your oven and bake for about 1 hour 20-25 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean for a test.
  8. Remove to a cooling rack and let the cake cool down for 15 minutes.
  9. In a small bowl, combine the powdered sugar and lemon juice, then drizzle that icing over the cake while it is still warm. Let the cake cool down however before serving it.
  10. Slice the cake and serve with a dollop of clotted cream or whipped cream.
DISSECTION
There is a lot of dairy and fat, but substitutions will probably not work as well. You may be able to use margarine instead of butter and soy milk instead of buttermilk. There’s even vegan “cream cheese”. The ratios for everything might need a little tweak here and there if you go that route.
If you can’t find cake flour, you could use all-purpose flour. The difference is that cake flour is milled to be finer and it also has less gluten, which means your cake will be light and fluffy, instead of dense like bread. If you are going the gluten-free route, use a 2:1 mix of flour to starch (like 4 oz superfine rice flour and 2 oz tapioca starch).
I did have trouble finding currants but I didn’t want to use raisins. Instead, I found these incredible blueberry-infused dried cranberries. Those were very tasty and worked well with the tangy, lemony glaze.
I discovered that other recipes for Irish pound cake use Irish cream liqueur instead of the buttermilk, also instead of the lemon juice for the icing. Depending on who you are baking the cake for, that might be a welcome change to the recipe.
POST-MORTEM
This recipe came together so fast, I didn’t really have time to take photos of the steps. That’s how easy it is to make this cake. The hardest part was waiting for it to bake.
I served it with a little homemade whipped cream. Clotted cream would have been better, but that stuff takes forever to make.
This cake is so good, trust me, you will be finding reasons to bake it. People die all the time, after all. Good food is a beautiful way to honor the dead and celebrate life.

Book Review – Darker Days: A Collection of Dark Fiction by Kenneth W. Cain

Darker Days A Collection of Dark Fiction, by Kenneth Cain

I’ve always enjoyed reading a good scary tale, and in my opinion short stories make the best medium for leading the reader through the “valley of fear.” Don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed many horror novels over the years, but my favorite stories have always been short ones. That’s largely because they, by necessity, get right to the point and waste no time leading the reader right smack dab into the middle of the monster’s den.

Darker Days, by Kenneth Cain, is a great collection of tales that any fan of horror fiction would enjoy. There’s something in this book for everyone. The subject matter of the tales therein includes ghosts, cosmic horror, zombies, vampires, weird creatures, aliens, kaiju, and demons. While there were stories I enjoyed more than others, there wasn’t a single dud in this collection.

As I read through Cain’s stories, I found myself enjoying his style of writing. He does a good job of describing the setting and action without a lot of needless exposition. One thing I’ve never cared for is when a writer drones on for two pages describing what could be summed up in two sentences, and Cain avoids that nicely.

Probably my favorite story in the collection is “By the Crescent Moon. This one tells the tale of Mike, who has just moved into a house in the North Carolina countryside. The story works for me in several ways. There’s the trope of the dark, foggy night, with something strange lurking out there. It ties in with folklore, especially Welsh legends that touched the New World. Throw in a creepy old woman who possesses knowledge of the legends and lore of the area, and who tries to warn Mike against venturing out into the hills on that foggy night, and you’ve got the setting for a really creepy tale. Of course, Mike shuns her advice and things go to hell fairly quickly. But hey, if people acted with good common sense and clear rational thought, there would be no scary story. There would just be the tale of the guy who heeded advice and went back home, locked the door, and went to bed.  And who wants to read that story?

All in all, Darker Days is a solid set of stories that should entertain most any horror enthusiast.  For my part, I look forward to reading more of Cain’s work.  Next time you’re looking for a good scary read, you won’t go wrong grabbing a copy of this book.