GIVEAWAY! Check the new page for “Visions from the Veil” info

I’ve got a new page up for all things related to Visions from the Veil, so be sure to check it out for giveaway opportunities and more!

via Visions from the Veil

COVER REVEAL and GIVEAWAY! “Visions from the Veil” is coming soon.

The long-awaited reveal of Visions from the Veil cover art is here! Feast your eyes upon it below, but be careful. There are some things you weren’t meant to see.

Share this page and be sure to tag @TheHoltoning for a chance to win a free electronic copy!

My thanks to Mar over at The Bold Mom for the cover design.

KEVIN HOLTON_VISIONS_WRAPPING

4/5 Stars for “Brothel” and “Hysteria” by Stephanie M. Wytovich

If you like dark poetry, you’ve heard her name before. As a long-time fan of her work, I recently gave myself the kick in the seat to actually post reviews of her collections. I’ve only just started Sheet Music to my Acoustic Nightmare, but I have a feeling that’ll be a 5 star rating.

In the meanwhile, here are my thoughts on Hysteria: A Collection of Madness.

No surprise this was nominated for a Bram Stoker award. Horror poetry is hard to come by, but when done right, it’s really compelling. Such is the case with this collection, the debut release of one of the rising stars of dark verse. A few poems didn’t thrill me, but I’m an occult snob, so 666 does nothing for me. Beyond that, these are certainly inventive, and great for anyone looking for horror, poetry, both, or just a solidly good read–or one hell of a coffee table book!

And now, a slightly longer, in-depth review of Brothel.

This truly epic collection of poems by Bram Stoker-winner Stephanie Wytovich continues to combine eloquence with gritty topics. A book titled “Brothel” containing poems like “From Behind” and “Naked” isn’t shy about its contents, and each poem, like another position in the Kama Sutra, embraces a new way to talk about the sleaze and sin of the world’s oldest profession.

The book isn’t all the joys of getting paid to get laid. Some pieces recount struggling with addiction and disorder, while others tell of violent clients who get off on beatings and brandings, but this isn’t a narrator who goes down quietly. This is a fierce collection, told by a narrator who refuses to be a victim. She destroys her abusers, whether physically or through her own voracious appetite, calling to mind Plath’s “Lady Lazarus”: “Out of the ash/ I rise with my red hair/ and I eat men like air.”

Brothel is a book that knows sex is about power, in which succumbing to temptation is simply a part of life. While some individual poems fall flat compared to the more impressive ones, this collection is more than worth the money, so don’t worry. If you’re tempted to read this, hit buy. You’re in for a real good time.

Whether you like or agree with my reviews, you really should be reading her work, so check out the links above to find them on Amazon.

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In the mood to stick around with me for a little while? My Patreon has free fiction, and additional stories for paying subscribers, not to mention a bunch of other goodies. High-paying backers also get promotional opportunities, so it’s great for indie writers and small presses. Check it out!

4/5 Stars for “Death to Fairy Tales” by Alex S. Johnson

In the mood for something weird? I recently took a look at Death to Fairy Tales. Here’s my review, also posted on Amazon.

Be forewarned: this isn’t a collection of horror or of fairy tales, as you might assume, but an array of some of the strangest, most bizarre stories and poems out there. Granted, there are horror elements I won’t spoil for you, but lets just say that when you ‘meat’ some of these characters, you’ll be glad you don’t know them in real life.

Some parts of the prose are a little too abstract to have a solid landing, but those that work do so quite well. The poetry is more concrete, and the lines that aren’t are mysterious enough to work on multiple levels, leaving the reader thinking rather than confused. One reads, “Future tense/ thrummed its fingers through/ all subsequent galleries,” capturing an ethereal sense of the world that perfectly sums up the New Weird vibe of this collection.

“Death to Fairy Tales” is a kaleidoscopic reinterpretation of the world, and while some of these visions aren’t always clear, they’re all fascinating. Some even have accompanying illustrations, for those of you that enjoy such additions. Perfectly capturing the sense of jamais vu, the strange among the familiar, this is a great collection for those looking for more unusual work.

The collection can be found here.

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Looking to support this humble cyborg on his quest to write all the books and afford insulin in the process? Be sure to check out my Patreon! Pledges get at least one book a year, possible audiobooks, even signed copies.

Short Stories, Big Scares: A Review of 100 Nightmares by K. Z. Morano

Hello Travelers,

Today I bring you my review of K. Z. Morano’s 100 Nightmares, a collection of 100 stories of 100 words apiece with illustrations mixed in. I do hope you like what I’ve got to say, because you’d be missing out if you didn’t hop over to Amazon (or lulu or smashwords) and take a look at one of horror’s newer up-and-coming writers.

Best,

Kevin

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100 Nightmares is a collection of tightly-written, hard-hitting stories that leap from one genre to another as lizards leap from wall to wall. Ranging from realist to Lovecraftian, from dark fairy tales to alien attacks, Morano has no problem exploring a wide range of topics via the oft-done but rarely done well medium of micro-fiction. As an added bonus, this features illustrations from four separate illustrators, breathing color and design in the spaces between each little slice of horror.

As with any collection this size—and especially one that endeavors to make each story only 100 words—there are some phenomenal stories. A number of these set my skin crawling, and once in a while I had to stop and say, “Man, that was… woah,” as they’d left me speechless. The tradeoff is that some aren’t quite as high-caliber. These less impactful tales are still worth reading, but won’t leave the same wide-eyed look on your face.

Some of the twists feature far more disturbing fates than others. Among the most wonderfully disturbing are “Mommy Makes Dinner” and “Contaminated Conception,” the latter of which has a deft change of her usual narrative voice. These kept the stories from running into one another.

The order and placement of stories in any collection is a daunting task that some overlook, but Morano has clearly taken care with where each piece belongs.

Morano’s work sometimes interweaves prose and poetry, creating a musical narrative style that lures the reader into a sort of dark lullaby. This is especially important when featured in stories that otherwise would be weaker, such as “Deep,” a Lovecraft-inspired tale that doesn’t hold the same terror or as visceral a punch as some of the others.

I’m not sure how I feel about the pictures included—in one sense, they’re interesting snapshots that embody a chosen story, giving the reader a change of pace from the rapidly-shifting scenes. For stories like “Golden Locks” and “The Lights Went Out,” the images were captivating. However, with writing that is already both succinct and visually-oriented, some of the pictures seem unnecessary, thereby taking away from the image Morano has already implanted in the readers’ minds, such as that which accompanies “Gingerboy.”

They’re most effective in the Yokai section, which focuses on creatures from Japanese folklore. Both the stories and the illustrations are daring and evocative, composed so that you don’t need to know the original myth to understand the story.

Morano’s skill is most apparent in handling surreal and abstract topics, but the strict length works both in her favor and against her. “Tick-tock,” a piece both disturbing and rife with barbed satire, left me craving more; it was as effective and powerful a story as they get. “Glass Slippers and Lotus Feet” left me wanting more as well, but this time, out of confusion. The majority use their space very well. It’s only the occasional tale that might leave a reader needing more detail to understand what was happening.

Among pieces like “Tick-tock” and “Mommy Makes Dinner” are a number of pieces with a brutal, intriguing psychology, such as: “Johnny’s Horoscope,” which blurs lines between the supernatural and schizophrenia; “Practice Makes Perfect” has a twisted notion of just what we’d sacrifice for those we love; “Witch’s Stew” is one of a raw, macabre desperation to survive. These are but a few of the stand-out shorts in this collection.

K. Z. Morano is definitely one of the better writers on the indie horror circuit, and I know I’ll be keeping an eye out for what work she publishes in the future. You’d be doing yourself a favor if you did the same.