WOOFER'S LAIR

Welcome to Woofer's Lair. Curious as to what you will see here? Well, for the most part, you will find book reviews, maybe the occasional movie review, and if you are lucky, you might stumble across one of my own works in progress. If you like what you see or what read, and even if you don't, please feel free to leave your comments. As I am somewhat new to blogging, all of your constructive feedback is appreciated. Have fun and thanks for stopping by.

Wicked Seasons

Wicked Seasons
My short story, HUNGRY FOR MORE, is included

CURRENTLY READING

CURRENTLY READING
Hunter Shea's Loch Ness Revenge

Saturday, May 29, 2010

When Nature Strikes Back. . .

Do you remember as a child being glued to the TV while a community fought for their lives against an invading army of giant ants? Or a giant tarantula? Or a giant preying mantis? I do. I remember being glued to my seat as the giant menace appeared on screen to lay waste to the town. Even now, although the special effects of some of those movies are so hokey now that they are laughable, I still enjoy watching The Deadly Mantis, THEM!, Empire of the Ants, etc., so when I saw William Meikle's Crustaceans, a tale of giant crabs loose in New York City, I jumped at the chance to read it.

When a dead whale washes up on a New England Beach, a small team of marine biologists are called in to determine the cause of death. As they prepare to take their samples, something with the belly of the beasts manages to rip its way out and proceeds to tear part the scientists. Meanwhile, Joe Porter, a New England fisherman, is out at sea pulling in his traps, hoping to bring in enough Blue Crab to keep him in smokes and booze. His catch is better than he could ever have hoped to imagine. Amongst his haul, he notices one crab that is larger than the others, and having spent more years on the sea than he cares to count, he knows this crab is no Blue. Besides the size, this one is more aggressive than the others. He succeeds in getting it into the net with the rest of his catch and watches in horror and disbelief at the one crab rips through the entire haul of Blues. Back on shore, rather than sell the remaining crab, Porter puts it in a tank, believing there's something special about the crab.

Wanting to know what killed the team of biologists, the Government calls on the expertise of Shona Menzies, a marine biologist who specializes in crabs. What she sees on a series of videos shown to her by the head of the operation, Colonel Stark, chills her to the bone. She realizes that her father was right in his assumptions and the giant crabs are back.

While studying the immediate area and trying to find evidence as to where the crabs might have gone, they receive a call that a small group of whales washed up on a beach in Long Island, and unlike the one they are studying, these one are still alive. While they are taking off to investigate the latest incident, Joe Porter has noticed that the crab in his possession has grown dramatically over the period of two weeks. Thinking he might be able to make a small fortune selling it to one of the zoos or aquariums, loads the tank into the back of his truck and makes for Central Park to negotiate with one of the curators what he thinks would be a fair price for the crab.

The military arrive on the scene in Long Island just as the crabs eat their way out of the bodies of the whales. While trying to clean up this mess, they receive a distress call regarding a ferry that is on a collision course for one of New York City's piers. While trying to prevent the collision, they discover that the shiver is crawling with the giant crabs. Even with their heavy artillery, they are unable to destroy all of the crabs. Most of them rip their way through the hull and make their way for the city, which contains a maze of sewers, active subway tunnels, and abandoned tunnels.

And the hunt is on. Will the military and one lone fisherman be able to find and put an end to the hundreds, maybe thousands, of giant, man-eating crabs that are now loose beneath the streets of New York City, or will the city fall under the onslaught of the killer crustaceans?

Reading Crustaceans, I was transported back to the days of my youth, and was thoroughly engrossed in Meikle's story. At one point in my reading, I had to pause and wonder if maybe I hadn't missed an earlier book, as there is a reference to a previous attack in years past, however, it wasn't enough to stop me from reading. In fact, I was completely immersed in the events as they unfolded that I didn't stop to question certain "holes" until after I was done. Given that there was previous contact with the crabs, and it was Shona's father who lead the investigation, in fact, he dedicated his life to pursuing these giant beasts, I was expecting more history. Where did they giant crabs come from? Are they they result of genetic experimentation gone wrong? Are they a species that mutated after being exposed to fallout from nuclear testing? Are they survivors of the prehistoric times that have been reawakened because the polar caps are melting? I was disappointed in that there was no attempt to explain where they came from.

I think part of my disappointment stems from the fact that I read a digital version of this book and was judging how much I had left to go by the percentage indicated at the bottom of the screen. When I hit 65-70% marker and came across THE END, I felt cheated (the remainder of the book was dedicated to a preview of a future work). I was like WTF? That's the end? That can't be the end. For me, that's a mark of a good story where I find myself wanting more and it isn't there. My only hope is that Meikle will pick up where he left off with this story and explore the origins of the great beasts.

I will be the first to admit that Crustaceans is not for everybody, but if you were (are?) a fan of movies like The Deadly Mantis, Food of the Gods, THEM!, then I would highly recommend it.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Tell me a story. . .

Tell me a story. Those words haunted Kenneth Nicholson for years, terrorized his waking hours to the point where he had been forced to abandon his family and the man he loved to start a new life in another state. Not that his new life was anything to brag about -- work and a string of meaningless relationships -- but it wasn't haunted by his past.

When the phone call comes from his ex-wife to tell him that their son has been brutally beaten and his chances of survival are slim, Ken is forced to return to New Orleans. Nobody except his ex-wife knew he was coming back, so when the phone rings and a woman on the other end says, "Welcome home, baby," followed by, "Tell me a story," Ken knows there is something more to his son's attack than just a random beating. When it is discovered that his son's fiancee has vanished, Ken believes she had something to do with it. This is confirmed when the address the woman has given turns out to be where Ken spent a portion of his youth -- and the source of his nightmares.

The home is a rundown mansion formerly known as Wonderland. It was also the home of Travis Brugier, Ken's one-time lover and a man of formidable wealth, influence, and Power. Ken knows in that instant that Travis is responsible for what happened to his son. But Travis is dead by his own hand. The man committed suicide when Ken made it known he wanted out. Now Travis wants him back, and he will stop at nothing until Ken returns to him, even murder, as he demonstrates when Bobby, Ken's son, is killed while in the hospital. Can Travis be stopped before everyone close to Ken suffers?

Rarely have I been blown away by a book the way I was with The Dust of Wonderland. I bought it a couple of years ago and just let it sit on my shelf. It's published by Alyson Books, an established gay and lesbian publisher, and that in itself was enough to make me keep it on the shelf. It has been my experience that many of the gay and lesbian novels I have read are so poorly written and boring, it takes me forever to get through them. In short, I was afraid to pick it up because I didn't want to be disappointed. After reading Lee Thomas' novel, I can only say, What the hell was keeping me from this book?

With The Dust of Wonderland, Lee Thomas has created a haunting, heartbreaking masterpiece that will have you on the edge of your seat to the very last page. He paints a portrait of a man who is forced to confront the nightmares of his past in order to save the ones he loves. You can feel his terror and his despair as he tries race against the clock to stop a creature that has the ability to reach from beyond the grave. Thomas' novel is well written and well paced. Each chapter ends on a note that keeps you wanting to read on to find out how things turn out. The Dust of Wonderland is an excellent novel and is one that should be on everybody's MUST READ list.

Friday, May 21, 2010

No More Teachers, No More Books. . .

Think back to the time when you had just graduated high school. You had the whole summer to relax, but could you really relax? The excitement and anticipation of your college years loomed at the end of the summer. To be on your own, away from the supervisory eyes of your parents, free to do what you wanted when you wanted to do it, and as long as you kept your grades up and you didn't get busted by the cops, campus security, or the faculty, the next four years were to be the best of your life.

Now imagine arriving at campus on that first day. And all of your worst fears, your darkest nightmares are about to become a reality. That's what you will find in Campus Chills, a collection of thirteen college-themed tales of the supernatural by some of the best writers in the industry.

In Harbinger, Kelley Armstrong enthralls us with the tale of Jenna, a student haunted by the ghost of a naked dead girl. Is the girl a threat or is she trying to warn Jenna of impending danger?

Julie E. Czerneda's The Forever Brotherhood introduces us to Dougie, who feels threatened by the presence of thirteen glassy-eyed Goth students seated at the back of the lecture hall, thirteen students whom nobody ever sees enter or leave the room, but who are always there.

The ghost of a professor obsessed with an authentic leather-bound Shakespearean collection haunts the library in Kimberly Foottit and Mark Leslie's Prospero's Ghost.

In Truth-Poison, James Alan Gardner tells of the discovery a fruit that contains a compound that proves deadly to some, but has the ability to reveal the cosmic truth to others.

Sèphera Girón tells us of one student's attempt to put an end to a string of brutal attacks that have plagued the university and its surrounding area in Can You See the Real Me?

How far would you go to impress a girl? In Michael Kelly's Different Skins, Gary volunteers to spend the night down by Taddle Creek, the haunting grounds of The Lady of the Sticks, just to prove to Carmen he's got a bigger set than his friend Will.

What can a museum's exhibit of a triceratops and the accidental death of a young girl have in common for Ashley? Find out in Nancy Kilpatrick's Sara.

Can the dead reach out to punish the living for their crimes? Or are Shara's symptoms psychological manifestations brought about by the guilt of having murdered her "best" friend. Susie Moloney answers that question for us in Sown.

If you had the chance to go back in time to save the one person you loved most in life, would you do it? What if by opening that window and saving that person, you risked bringing about the end of the world as you know it? Would that change your mind? In Douglas Smith's Radio Nowhere, Liam has that opportunity.

Quite a bit of what goes on at The National Institute of Nanotechnology happens behind locked doors. But something has escaped in Brit Trogen's Red Cage, and it has already killed one person. Kevin made a mistake in his past and it has haunted him. He now has the chance to redeem himself if he can stop the thing from killing again. Or will he be its next victim?

To what extreme would you go to pass a class? In Edo van Belkom's The Sypher, Richard LaPorte, a straight-A student, suddenly finds himself in danger of failing a class and ruining his GPA. Half-joking, a friend who is also in danger of failing the class, points the finger at a fellow student who comes across as being not all that smart but who happens to be acing the class, accusing them of "siphoning" the knowledge from the select few who happen to be failing the class. Even though he is joking, Richard takes it to heart and plans to do something about it.

On a more traditional note, Steve Vernon's Old Spice Love Knot shows the extremes a girl in trouble will go to in order to protect her family from shame, and how love can reach across the distance to protect a loved one from what could be a tragic mistake.

In In Pursuit of Dreams, Carol Weekes shows us that when young man has a strong desire to learn, he can overcome all obstacles, even death, and what it means for the professor responsible for delivering that education.

When I read anthologies, I usually have low expectations, as I tend to find the stories hit or miss. The collected tales are, for the most part, uneven, either leaving me cold or keeping me on the edge of my seat. Rarely have a come across a collection of short stories that have a solid core and remain solid throughout. Campus Chills is one of those rare exceptions, and I applaud Mark Leslie for the choices he made when compiling this anthology. I admit that not all of the stories appealed to me, but they were well written and kept my interest. Not once was I tempted to skip ahead over the balance of a story because it bordered too much on science fiction, which usually tends to bore me, or didn't contain enough of a horror element to suit me. The stories were crafted in a way to keep me reading, and for me, that is a successful story.

Campus Chills
is perfect for those nights when you are home alone and the rain is coming down and the night is highlighted by thunder and the occasional flash of lightning. I highly recommend it!




Wednesday, May 12, 2010

ZOMBIE FIGHT NIGHT

This piece originally started out as a short story that I was planning on submitting for possible publication in an anthology; however, I wasn't happy with the short cuts I had to take to keep to the maximum word count allowed. As a result, what started out as a short story is now being developed into a novella.

Zombie Fight Night
by
Michael J. Evans

The gunshots echoed through the concrete canyons of New York City ’s Greenwich Village . To David Valcin, who drifted in that blissful state between sleeping and wakefulness, it was the sound of distant thunder. He rolled over, waiting for the drumming of the rain to begin, but that first volley of shots was only followed by another round. He reached out lazily to pull Mark closer to him, seeking comfort in the warmth of his lover’s body, but his arm fell on empty space. He opened his eyes to the darkness of their bedroom to find himself alone in bed. The space next to him was still warm, so Mark had only recently gotten up. Rolling over to face the window, he found his lover seated on the window seat, one leg curled beneath him, the other pulled up to his chest. His chin was resting on his knee as he stared out onto the street below. His nude form was a mask of shadows highlighted by the bluish rays of the full moon filtering through the grime-streaked glass.

“Whatcha thinkin’ about, Babe,” Dave asked.

Mark turned his head. “Did I wake you?”

“Nah.” David shifted, laying on his side, and propped himself up on his elbow. “Anything exciting out there?”

“Not really. Quiet, actually.”

“Then what’s the problem?”

Mark went back to studying the street below.

“Talk to me, Babe.”

After a long silence, Mark said, “It’s not fair.”

“Babe. . .”

“It’s not,” Mark whined. “This was supposed to be our ‘Happily ever after’. Our fairy tale ending. Not something out of a fuckin’ Stephen King novel.”

“Shit happens.”

Mark’s head whipped around. “How can you be so. . .”

“Rational? Matter of fact?”

“It’s a fuckin’ nightmare!”

“It’s not that bad.”

“Not that bad? There are zombies out there! Real-life fuckin’ zombies!”

Sensing that Mark was on the verge of another emotional meltdown, Dave threw back the blankets and got out of bed. He was naked and the slight chill in the room caused him to shiver. He crossed to the window and wrapped his arms around his lover, pulling the younger man securely against his chest. “It’s not that bad because I’ve got you with me.” He placed a kiss on top of Mark’s head before turning his attention to the street below.

The bar across the street was dark, the windows broken and boarded up. The newsstand next door to it was in a similar state, the glass panel on the door shattered, the display window gone. Glossy pages of skin mags littered the street, offering up an eye full to those who passed by – if they cared to look, but at this hour of the night, those who wandered the streets only had one thing on their minds. Food. Warm, living flesh and hot, racing blood. It was getting harder to come by. People had learned quickly that while the walking dead never slept, they were more active at night. It was during the daylight hours that the living ventured out and foraged for food and supplies. All that was getting scarce, too, which is why Dave thought it best if they put the city behind them The reports on the news, of which there hadn’t been any in a couple of weeks, warned that the dead seemed to be drawn to the cities. Reports coming in from all over the world confirmed that the large metropolitan areas were no longer safe. But was anywhere really safe anymore? Who knew how long it would be before the dead outnumbered the living? It could realistically happen.

It had only been six weeks — God, is that all it’s been? — since the first report had come over the news that a woman in Saint Mary’s Hospital who had been declared clinically dead had returned to life. She had been deemed a medical miracle until test results indicated that she was still clinically dead. No pulse. No heart beat. No respiration. No nothing. She should have been lying on a cold slab in the morgue, but instead she was up and walking around. Well, shambling around would have been a better descriptor. You could see from the film footage that it was an effort for her to put one foot in front of the other, like a marionette with an inept puppeteer pulling the strings. The news commentator did state that the woman, whose name was being withheld, did seem to have a healthy appetite. At the time they had failed to mention what the woman had had a craving for. It hadn’t come out until the next day that she had killed the morgue attendant, had partially eaten his body, and he too had come back from the dead. He had been found been found on the third floor of the hospital, in the maternity ward. Enough said there, but there was no way of knowing how many people he had infected, as he had been free to roam the building the entire night before being found in the morning. The hospital had been placed under quarantine, but not before whatever it was that was causing the dead to rise up had escaped from the facility. The way the plague was spreading morbidly reminded Dave of that old Faberge shampoo commercial, the one that said, “I told two friends, and we told two friends, and so on and so on. . .” By the end of that first week, reports of the walking dead were pouring in from all across the United States , and by the middle of the second week, the situation had gone global.

A tension beneath his hands brought Dave out of the past and back into the present. Only one thing could spark this sudden reaction in his lover.

On the street below, stumbling from the shadows into the harsh glare of the streetlight was a woman. Or what was once a woman. You couldn’t think of them as people anymore, not when your very survival depended on your ability to put a bullet through their heads. Or an axe. Whatever it took to damage the brain. It was a short trip to insanity if you couldn’t put that kind of distance between yourself and them. It was a concept Mark still had difficulty wrapping his mind around. Whenever he saw one, he froze, like the proverbial deer in the headlights, unable to believe that the thing before him meant to do him harm. Even four flights up, in the safety of their apartment, he still suffered a strong reaction to the walking dead. If Dave hadn’t been around, Mark would have joined their ranks weeks ago. No matter how often he tried to drill it into his lover’s head, Mark still lived in the world of Denial.

Tightening his left arm around Mark’s shoulders, Dave’s right hand soothingly caressed the other man’s bare chest. Together they watched the zombie shamble its way down the street. Its gait was uneven, having lost one of its high-heeled shoes somewhere along the way. Dave fought to suppress a chuckle as an old nursery rhyme from his childhood played through his head: Deedle deedle dumpling, my son John, went to bed with his stockings on. One shoe off and one shoe on. . . His laughter would only serve to aggravate Mark’s delicate condition, but trying to find humor in this Romero Film Fest come to life was the only way he was able to retain his tentative hold on sanity. That, and the man in his arms. Mark had no clue how much he relied on the him to be his anchor. Without Mark, would there really be any point in going on?

As it continued on its way, the couple could see that the back of the thing’s blood-stained blouse had been shredded, exposing skin that had been repeatedly clawed at by undead fingers eager for warm meat. The smooth flesh of its arms and legs was marred by ragged wounds where the skin had been bitten and ripped away.

Dave placed a gentle kiss on the top of his lover’s head and tried to gently pull him away from the window. “Come back to bed,” he whispered. “I want to make an early start.”

Mark tilted his head and looked up at him. “We’re still going?”

Dave nodded.

“But why? We’re safe here. Why can’t we stay here?”

“Babe, we’ve been over this before,” Dave explained for what seemed like the hundredth time as he led Mark back to their bed and gently pushed him down on the mattress. At times like this, Dave felt as if he was dealing with a child rather than a grown man. Mark allowed himself to be tucked in, but his eyes never left Dave as the man rounded the bed and crawled in next to him. Pulling Mark close and holding him tight, Dave sighed. “It’s not going to be safe for long. You heard what they said on the news. Those things are being drawn to the cities for some reason. We need to leave before we’re trapped here.”

“But this is our home,” Mark mumbled sleepily.

“Home is where the heart is, Sweetie,” Dave whispered in his lover’s ear. “And my heart is with you. Always. Wherever we go, as long as we have each other, we’ll always be home.” Dave knew how corny and cliché that sounded, but it was what Mark needed to hear. He needed the reassurance that they would always be together, even though Dave knew it was a promise he couldn’t keep. As he had said earlier, shit happens, and while he would do his damnedest to keep them both alive, he couldn’t guarantee that he would always be successful. Dave waited until he knew the other man was asleep before allowing himself to close his eyes and let sleep claim him.



* * *



The street looked like the abandoned set of some post-apocalyptic war movie. Civilization had devolved so quickly once the dead started walking, and it had rapidly become every man for himself. The police had given up trying to stop the looting; they had bigger fish to fry as they tried to stem the growth of the booming undead population. It was a problem they found near to impossible to contain; the civilian casualties were adding to the undead ranks faster than the police and military could cut them down. As a result, not a store front had been spared. It didn’t seem to matter what the store sold, from flower shops to sex shops, the jewelry stores and the video stores, if there was something to be had for the taking, it had been taken.

Standing on the corner of Bleeker and Christopher Streets, Dave waited for Mark to come down. He felt a pang of guilt as a patrol car passed by a block away, heading south along Seventh Avenue . Probably headed for City Hall to defend the City’s illustrious mayor. So many of his fellow officers had already abandoned their posts in the name of self-preservation, packing up their families and getting the hell out of Dodge before the much-dreaded dam broke and the dead came pouring into the city. He refused to judge them because as much as he had cursed them out at the time, here he was about to do the same thing. He would just be one more body who didn’t show up for roll-call this morning.

A sound drew his attention and he turned to look up the street. Across from the apartment building, the door to the boarded-up bar opened and a man stepped out. He was a tall man dressed in black jeans and a blue denim shirt, and while not fat, the man’s fondness for the bottle was beginning to become evident in the slight paunch he carried. His wavy brown hair, which normally hung loose to his shoulders, was pulled back in a ponytail, exposing the profile of a handsome bearded face. In his right hand was a 12-guage he had looted from one of the sporting goods stores.

Dave started up the street towards the bar. “Hey, Dean,” he called out so as not to startle his friend.

Dean Miller didn’t respond at first, only watched Dave approach. As Dave pulled up even with the man, Dean eyed the backpack strapped to Dave’s shoulders. “Finally abandoning the sinking ship, huh?”

Offering up an embarrassed grin, Dave said, “Yeah. The gun shots last night clinched it.”

“Didn’t hear it.”

You wouldn’t, Dave thought bitterly. Probably drank yourself into oblivion. “It’s getting worse. Mark. . .”

The bigger man cut him off with a wave of the hand. “Don’t need to explain yourself. You’ve been talking about it the past few days.”

“You sure we can’t convince you to come along?”

Dean shook his head. “They’ll get them under control.”

“That’s not what they were saying on the News.”

“And when have they ever been right? Christ, they can’t even get the weather right.”

Dave bit his tongue. The bartender could be as stubborn as all hell, and was there really any point in arguing? Comparing a weather forecast to a zombie apocalypse? The man was almost as bad as Mark when it came to living in denial. Dave wished he could be so lucky, but he had always been a realist, even as a kid. He knew his mother slept around. There was no sugar coating that fact. Just like there was no way to paint a rosy picture of the fact that his father liked to suck cock. His old man drank heavily, and then blamed the alcohol, but Dave knew the booze lowered his father’s inhibitions and allowed him to give in to his baser desires. It was also the only way of alleviating the guilt of betrayal he had felt every time he had one of his trysts. When the man was sober, the venom that spewed from his mouth towards the fags made Dave fear for his safety when he was younger.

© 2010 Michael J. Evans

Thursday, May 6, 2010

SNOWBOUND!

Twelve years ago, two teachers were brutally massacred at a secluded house on the outskirts of the town of Snowflake, North Carolina. Scalped, sexually mutilated, decapitated.

The killer was never caught.

Liz Johnson never quite felt comfortable in old Saunders Home. There was the feeling of being watched. Things being moved. The feeling of never quite being alone, even when she knew she was the only one home. But she and her husband had invested too much on the house to move out, not that they couldn't afford it. After the death of her husband, there's really nothing to keep her there -- until her rather disagreeable mother shows up on her doorstep under the pretense of helping her daughter throw this difficult time of her life. Martha Sawyer's sole purpose in life is to make her daughter as miserable as possible. Despite the presence of her mother, Liz has decided to sell the house and move into a condo much too small to accommodate both her and her mother, which means the woman will be forced to move back to Florida. To celebrate the beginnings of her new life, Liz plans a party for the weekend, inviting some of her closest friends. The snow starts to fall, and as they arrive at the house, the storm unleashes its fury, shutting them off from the rest of the world.

The killer, who has the uncanny ability to mimic the voices of others, returns home and, one by one, tries to dispatch the invaders. Who will survive the weekend of horrors?

Andrea D'Allasandra's Death House is a self-published endeavor, and I have learned to approach self-published works with caution. I will admit to being surprised with this novel. Despite some tedious repetitions, I enjoyed Death House. The reader should be forewarned, however, because is very formulaic in its style: a bunch of young 20/30 somethings, a secluded house, a storm to cut them off from any sort of escape, and a crazed serial killer. It's liked a novelization of a Friday the 13th or Sleep Away Camp minus the gore. While the aftermath of the killings is described in some graphic detail, very few of the actual killings are. Think Friday the 13th edited for network television. The killer approaches its victim, the weapon is raised, is brought down for the killing blow, and then jumped to the next scene. Being a gore hound, I did find this to be a little bit of a disappointment, but not enough to keep me from reading future works by this author.

The only drawbacks to this particular work, and it is a problem I have with most self-published projects, are some of the typographical errors and the occasional grammatical errors, which make me want to take out the red pen. Overall, though, it was an enjoyable read. If you are a fan of slasher films, I think you will also enjoy Death House.