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Allusionary Assembly

The Writing of Kerry E.B. Black

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Novella Review: Gwendy’s Button Box written by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar

As a fan of magical realism, I was enchanted by Gwendy’s Button Box written by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar. I understand the two authors collaborated after a long-time internet friendship, with Mr. King reaching out to Mr. Chizmar to finish the story begun many years prior but not finished. The collaboration produced a beautiful and strangely uplifting novella. In it, a middle school girl decides to climb the Suicide Stairway in a park in Castle Rock to lose weight after being teased. At the top, she meets a mysterious man who presents her with a peculiar box. Gwendy suspects the box has tremendous power and decides to keep it safe.

There are some possible triggers, including attempted rape, suicide, and murder, but all are necessary for the story’s advancement, and the overarching tale has the feel of a charming fairy tale. I recommend it.

A 99 Word Carrot Ranch Cacophonic Lament

Charli Mills posted a new word prompt, but since I am sick and feeling a bit sorry for myself, this is my response. I suggest you check out https://carrotranch.com for happier responses. And if you feel so inclined, I can uses some virtual chicken soup.

This Sickness

Written by Kerry E.B. Black

Someone with a ball peen hammer pounds every joint, stretching muscle and ligament until bone grinds cartilage.

An orchestra warms-up between the ears, its cacophony deafening, with pulse matching its erratic rhythm.

Eyes receded into aching sockets, where lightshows dance along the periphery.

Shadows sink into vision, obscuring. Strained eyesight triggers migraines, with comic book enthusiasm. “Bang, Pow, Pop!”

Razorblades reside in vocal cords, stripping speech to a barely audible squeak. Amusing to the children.

An anaconda squeezes the midsection, shrinking stomach capacity.

Hazy zombie turns to exhausted fever dreams between doses of medicine that promise returned good health.

Review: Weirdsmith Magazine

Terry M. West is an author and publisher whose fertile imagination is always producing. His latest publishing venture is Weirdsmith, a series of publications that highlights a particular author of Terry’s choosing per issue, with nightmarish covers of Terry’s design. The issues are available through Kindle (free with Kindle U at the moment, if you’re a part of that program!), as a soft-cover, and in HARD COVER. (You read that right! Hard cover!) The results of these collaborations are wicked fun!

For issue one, Tylor James created two short pieces to fill the eighty pages with creepy goodness. The first, “Mosquito Summer,” is a “creature feature” to make your skin crawl, while the second story, “Old Dance Hall” is a ghost story with a bittersweet romance. Both would be perfect for a camping trip or a stop by the lake, assuming you pack your bug repellent!

Weirdsmith Issue two features an enormous skull on the cover and the reliable writing talent of D.S. Ullery who fills the slim volume with the teeth and swirling claws of a summoned CarNex demon in Bog Rats Draw Blood, while Graffitti visits an abandoned house with stories in its walls. These quick tales of revenge have a surprising heart.

Terry M. West’s cover of Weirdsmith issue three features a huge, skull-faced, winged demon, hands alight with malignant magic, looming over an old-fashioned carnival. Shaun Hupp shares his out-of-print Trailer Park, a tale of a man bent on punishing his ex-wife and the residents of the ironically named Pleasant Palaces trailer park. To that end, he summoned the CarNex demon, and the bloody results leave quite a mark.

Weirdsmith issue four boasts an E. R. Robin Dover re-release – his The Evil One, a tale where a  New York City Mayor unleashes the CarNex to keep his beloved city safe. Also included is a new short story, Simple Man wherein a fellow tries to follow his mother’s wish that he make a difference as a simple man. Dover fills the forty-three pages of the magazine with as much gory goodness as can be managed, and Terry M. West put together a cover worthy of contemplation, with a grieving person kneeling before a skull beneath a goblinish demon with dead eyes.

Now, I’ll admit I have a reason for favoritism, by my favorite Weirdsmith cover is volume five, featuring a gothic scene complete with an alluring, dark-haired woman. Terry M. West outdid himself, if you ask me. How could I help but write something inspired with such source material at my disposal? I also used Terry’s demonic creation, the CarNex, in my first story, Magnificent Feast, but the source of its release is a bit surprising. The result is a bloody mess of a gorefest. The second story, Feel it in the Bones, trips through a graveyard where a group of scholars finds more than they expect. In all, these seventy-nine pages are presented for your pleasure, if you enjoy spewed blood and guts, ravenous monsters, marauding packs of pets, and misguided youth.

That’s all the Weirdsmith magnificence available at the moment, but I hope there will be new issues soon.

Book Review: “The Red Brick Road” by Levi Bronze

Fans of C.S. Lewis’s Narnia series will find much to admire in Levi Bronze’s “The Red Brick Road.” In it, Dorothy from Kansas journeys to Oz, but she’s lured from the yellow brick path to walk a different journey, one where she’s encouraged to fulfill her desires and worry about herself first. It’s ultimately a tale of redemption with much to say about the value of tenacity and friendship. There are plenty of intriguing characters and conflict in need of resolution, and my MG reader kids enjoyed it very much. 

Book Review: The Broken Girls by Simone St. James

Simone St. James wrote an intriguing paranormal mystery – “The Broken Girls.” In it, the strong-minded lead, Fiona, is obsessed with her sister’s murder. Under the guise of reporting  the reopening of the historic girls’ boarding school Idelwild Hall (where her sister’s body was discovered), Fiona discovers some mysteries won’t – and shouldn’t – stay buried. Though told in two distinct times lines, the book reads like a dream with a lovely rhythm and attention to Gothic details. St. James fleshed out the cast of characters, including a ghost named Mary Hand. Although this is the first time I’ve read a book by Simone St. James, it will most definitely not be the last.

Book Review: Beloved by Toni Morrison

This amazing ghost story by Toni Morrison haunts. It touches on the horrors of slavery, the lasting harm of imprisonment, and the freedom that even frustrates death. Why do I say only “touches on slavery” when the story’s main characters are escaped slaves pursued almost two decades after they arrived in a free state? Because there are so many more evils to slavery than can be exposed even in a Pulitzer Prize winning novel. Love in its many complex forms, desperation, will to live and die by one’s own volition – Powerful themes dealt with beautifully by Toni Morrison. This is a book that will leave a mark, and not only on literature. Beloved’s compelling, non-linear story with its visual, heart-wrenching writing, Beloved is a story not to be forgotten.

Book Review: Little Paranoias by Sonora Taylor

Little Paranoias is a collection of twenty short stories, flash fictions, and poems written by Sonora Taylor, a writer whose easy way with dialogue puts the reader smack-dab within her decidedly dark imagination. I recognized some of the stories from previous publication in “The Siren’s Call” and the Ladies of Horror Podcast, and although all of the stories have merit, my favorite was “Hearts are Just Likes” which is found at about the half-way point of the book. Its modern imagining of Edgar A. Poe’s “Tell-Tale Heart” made me very happy, indeed! One of her shorter pieces, Stick Figure Family, has a definite sense of humor in its twisted telling. Within the 140 pages, there’s sure to be something especially interesting to any horror lover, which makes this an excellent recommendation.

Book Review: “The Poison Eaters and Other Stories” by Holly Black

Holly Black’s short story collection “The Poison Eaters” showcases her distinctive style and unique take on the paranormal world. To her, there’s nothing unusual for a runaway to be hooked on drugs to keep thoughts of her real home in the fairy realm at bay. A bookworm on a beach might find a mysterious white flower that transforms him into a wolf. (That story, “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” had my favorite last line in the collection! Nicely dark.) A girl might visit a graveyard’s Night Market to save her sister in one story while another has a competitive eating contest with the devil to save her dog’s life. “The Coldest Girl in Coldtown” exposes the gritty part of vampirism, and there is a story set in Wallingford for fans of Holly Black’s Curse Workers series. The book’s title piece, “The Poison Eaters,” has a Poe-like creepiness to it, and I enjoyed “Paper Cuts Scissors” for its lush, fantastic love of literature and acceptance of goodbye.

This collection showcases twelve wonderful short stories in about 212 pages with diverse characters.

Book Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chboski

There’s always light at the end of the tunnel. That’s certainly true in Stephen Chboski’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower. In this ya novel, high school freshman Charlie writes letters to us. Yes, I believe they are written to the reader. Charlie’s non-judgemental compassion, self-effacing honesty, and unbiased intellectualism make him a truly loveable friend. His fellow “misfits” Sam and Patrick introduce Charlie to other older teens, and Charlie’s world expands. He truly observes the world around him. Charlie comes from a loving family, but every teen faces challenges. From first dates, kissing, and sex to the importance of a rounded education, freedom of expression, and flouting the rules (and roles), this book negotiates these challenges, all through Charlie’s world view – and Charlie’s is a hopeful outlook, even in the darkest of situations. 

This book was too old for still-at-home kids, but I’m going to recommend it to them when they’re a bit older. It reminded me of the difficulties faced at every age, and I wish I’d have found “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” when I was younger. I know it would have made a meaningful contribution to my life and allowed me to know we are never alone, even when we feel the most isolated.

I read this because I thought it was a precursor to Chbosky’s “Imaginary Friend.” I’ve since discovered my error, but it was a happy mistake.

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