Friday, July 12, 2019

GUEST POST: How two Canadian’s made me a better writer by Steve Stred.

Today I am excited to have a Guest Post from Author Steve Stred. Steve has 9 books under his belt, including his newest release THE STRANGER, with new work on the way. You can visit his website HERE for loads of info on the author and his works. Steve is from the Great White North and today shares with us some of his writing inspirations.

                                              How two Canadian’s made me a better writer
by Steve Stred

“So you’ve got a direction, but not a destination?” – Biker, One Week (2008) played by Gord Downie.

Hello. My name is Steve Stred and I am Canadian. We may already be friends or acquaintances 
over on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. You may just be a fan of my work as a new indie author who writes dark, bleak horror. Or heck, you may even just be a fan of my reviews over on Kendall Reviews.

No matter how we met or became friends, whether in real life or through social media, you’ll more
than likely know that I am a proud Canadian. I grew up in the super small, unincorporated community of Burton, British Columbia. Approximate population - 100 people. Sometimes more, 
sometimes less. We were roughly thirty minutes from the town of Nakusp and three hours from
Kelowna. (Google it – go ahead I’ll wait. Yeah, see how small it is? Now you zoom in – see that
ball field in the middle? My childhood home is the one just to the right of it. When you zoom in as far as you can and it says Burton Main Rd – our home is just to the right of ‘Rd.’ That’s my mom’s car all blurry. She still lives there.)

I loved my childhood. I spent a lot of time by myself in the woods behind our house and really
learned to utilize my imagination to create different games etc. I also loved playing sports and enjoying the outdoor offerings, which has been a big inspiration on my writing. I recently revisited my hometown while at my Grandpa’s memorial and I was struck with just how many of my stories, novels, and novellas are based on places and things from there.

But I didn’t really grow up wanting to be a writer. It was a combination of two other Canadians;
Gord Downie and Andrew Pyper who gave me the confidence to pursue writing.

For those who don’t know, Gord Downie was the lead singer for the Canadian rock band The
Tragically Hip. I discovered The Tragically Hip on Much Music. The song “Ahead by a Century” from the album “Trouble in the Henhouse” blew my mind. It was Canadiana through and through and haunted my brains. To this day, when I hear this song, it sticks in my head for weeks.

The Tragically Hip – Ahead by a Century

Though this came out in 1996, I didn’t explore much more of the Hip’s music until I heard “Bobcaygeon” from the album “Phantom Power” released in 1998. The lyrics to this song are few powerful and allude to a different moments in Canadian history.

The Tragically Hip - Bobcaygeon

Then in 2008, I saw a trailer for a movie that I knew I needed to see. ‘One Week’ tells the story of a man who finds out he has terminal Cancer. So he buys a bike and heads West, across Canada. He leaves behind his job, his fiancĂ©e and family and just drives West. He’s young, doesn’t have much time left and wants to find himself, discover more about himself before he passes on.

One Week Trailer

Not only is ‘One Week’ one of my all-time favourite movies, it also inspired my short story ‘Jim’ from my collection Frostbitten: 12 Hymns of Misery. The premise of the movie and my story – where one day you simply find out you have a terminal disease and don’t have much time left really gets to me. More so now that I have a young son, but I think it’s a frightening thing that could happen. And yes I do dwell on this frequently.

Oddly enough, there is a horrible, strange connection between ‘One Week’ and Gord Downie. You see, Mr. Downie appears in the movie as Biker Guy. Joshua Jackson, yes of Dawson’s Creek and Fringe fame, plays the main character Ben. So Ben heads West and along the way runs into everyday Canadians. One such character is Biker Guy who Ben meets at a motel. That meeting leads to this interaction;

Biker Guy: “You know they’ll approve Medicinal Marijuana for Cancer treatment.”

Ben: “Why did you bring up Cancer?”

BG: “I had an ass-load once.”

Ben: “So you got treatment?”

BG: “Actually... it went away on its own.”

Ben: “Seriously?”

BG: “Nah, I’m just shitting you man. I got treatment.”

On May 24, 2016, Gord Downie was diagnosed with an aggressive form of Brain Cancer.
Now you are asking yourself – where does Andrew Pyper fall into this equation?
Great question. Let me tell you.

I’ve been reading horror/thrillers for almost 30 years, ever since my mom’s friend, our neighbour let me borrow some of her Stephen King books. I stuck to the tried and true and mostly read King for many years.

Then, in 2015 I was in a Walmart in Abbotsford, BC and I was looking through their paperback section where they typically have 2 for $15. I’ve told this story a number of times, but it really is a in key moment both my journey as a reader but also as a writer.

In the 2 for $15 section that day, I spotted ‘The Demonologist’ by Andrew Pyper and ‘The Troop’ by Nick Cutter. I read the synopsis for both and was very intrigued. I also saw that both of them were Canadian. I went into shock. I’d been a pretty sheltered horror reader for many, many years and to see that not one but two authors from Canada had books out like this, really threw me for a loop. To see a Stephen King blurb on Nick Cutter’s book and to read that Pyper’s book was an International Bestseller was amazing to my Canadian reader’s brain.

I talked about it so much my wife finally told me to go back and just buy them, so I did. Don’t get
me wrong, I absolutely love ‘The Troop,’ but it didn’t speak to me like ‘The Demonologist’ did.

Pyper embraced being a Canadian and actively includes Canadian locations in his books. I’d
never experienced it before and it left me thrilled (and my wife a bit annoyed at how much I kept talking about it.) I grabbed Pyper’s other books ‘Lost Girls’ and ‘The Damned’ next and when I began reading ‘Lost Girls’ and it was set in Northern Ontario I could have cried. I’d finally found my author.

As I started my writing journey, I knew that it was ok for me to base my stories around my
childhood haunt in Burton. I try not to ever use specific locations as I like to leave some  
ambiguity as well as to allow the reader to use their imagination and place the location somewhere they’ve been, but all of my releases have been based on real places, real locations in and around Burton. I have a few upcoming releases that aren’t, but for the most part – anything wilderness related I’ve released – Burton.

By Andrew Pyper showing that it was ok to embrace Canadiana and use real Canadian locations I was able to write how I wanted to write. After all, if my favourite author (and bestseller) can do it, then why can’t I?

I spent the month of May celebrating my love of Pyper and it’s still ongoing, but I had the chance
to interview Andrew via email. I’ll remember it forever and can’t thank him enough. I even made sure to ask him about any difficulties he’d come across from being a Canadian author and was happy to see that it wasn’t anything major. (Condensing his reply – essentially everyone thinks Canada is really far away.)

But my Gord Downie – Andrew Pyper connections don’t end there. I really respected just how much Mr. Downie spoke out about reaching people and fighting for the rights of the less fortunate. He became an advocate for Aboriginal Rights and spoke out about environmental issues frequently.

After his diagnosis The Tragically Hip announced a farewell tour, which culminated with their last
performance, a home town show that was also aired live on our national television channel, the 
CBC. I had hoped to get tickets for me and my father in law Peter in Calgary, but sadly they sold out in minutes.

On August 20, 2016 the band performed one last time in Kingston, ON. It happened during the Summer Olympics and CBC cut through coverage off to go live and showed the entire concert commercial free. I watched it while my wife puttered around the house (we were only a week
away from our son joining us at that time.) I cried pretty much from the opening song (Fifty-Mission Cap) to the last song from their encore, which you may have guessed was Ahead by a Century.

“I write every day. I walk around in silent conversation with my latest unfinished songs.”— Gord Downie, 2009.

While the quote discusses Downie’s approach to songs, it’s how I’ve always approached my stories. It’s how my brain works and functions.

As I continued writing I kept Downie’s words front of mind and my belief that is was ok for me to be a Canadian Horror Author. I wrote a blog once called “I’ll never be a bestseller... and that’s ok,” and I still stand by that sentiment. I write stories I want to read, stories that I need to tell, stories
from where I’m from. I believed this because Andrew Pyper was Canadian and his books connected with me, which meant just maybe my stories might connect with others as well.

After those first three Pyper releases, the next book of his that I read was “The Wildfire Season.”
The story follows a chief of a forest fire brigade. I smiled frequently while reading this book, as
Pyper mentioned numerous small towns in Western Canada that I’d visited. I was also intrigued 
as the story itself is set in Ross River, in the Yukon, which is very rare to read Yukon based thrillers.

On October 18, 2017, I was in Peace River, Alberta for our regional clinic for work. I finished      reading ‘The Wildfire Season’ as we flew up. Just before lunch that day the news began to trickle out that Gord Downie had passed away at the age of 53. As we always do in Peace River, we ate lunch at Tim Horton’s. The reason Ben decides to ‘go West,’ in the movie – a Tim Horton’s Roll-Up-the-Rim cup has it printed on the inside. When me and my colleague had finished lunch, he drove me up to an overlook so that I could see the town and the mighty Peace River. I’d never been in the town before and wanted to check it all out. As we drove up the winding road the local radio played “Ahead by a Century.” Part of their ongoing tribute to Mr. Downie that day.

Recently, I was back in Peace River for work again and wouldn’t you know – I was reading “Trade
Mission,” by Pyper. This odd Canadian connection continues.

I hope one day to meet Andrew, shake his hand and thank him for inspiring me in a way I didn’t know I needed. I’ve been fortunate now to strike up a casual social media friendship with him, messaging occasionally and getting butterflies when I see that he’s taken the time to reply. I never like to feel like I’m bothering anybody, so I need to keep myself in check from not messaging him every day.

When it came time for me to really look at writing my newest release “The Stranger,” I had the
confidence in myself to pursue the environmental and bigotry story lines because these two            Canadians laid the foundation down for me to be confident. I thought about Gord Downie’s work with Aboriginal rights and people. I looked at Andrew Pyper’s scope of work and his dedication to not being afraid of saying he’s Canadian in a literary world populated with Best Sellers from other countries.

And I looked at myself and thought about the road I’d taken to get here.

They did it before me.

I knew I could do it.

So I did.

And I can’t thank them enough for making me believe in my Canadian-ness.

“I love this country. I love my idea of this country.” — Gord Downie, 2012

* Thanks Jim & One Legged Reviews for all your support and for inviting me to contribute a guest

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

A PENNY FOR YOUR THOUGHTS by Matt Hayward & Robert Ford

A PENNY FOR YOUR THOUGHTS by Matt Hayward & Robert Ford

Published on June 1st 2019

Published by Poltergeist Press

(from the book description)

Fresh from a stretch in prison, Joe Openshaw is living at home with his father and trying to get his life together again. He has let go of old habits, especially the ones that turned him into an addict and helped land him in prison.

On a hike along the Lowback Trail, Joe stumbles on one of the town’s oldest secrets—buried long ago, if not forgotten.

It’s an unusual but safe enough treasure—a jar of old pennies. What interests Joe isn’t the pennies themselves, but the pieces of paper taped to every coin—a child’s handwritten wish on each one.

When the first few wishes come true, they are simple things. Fun. Harmless.

Except as time goes on, Joe realizes they aren’t really wishes at all…they’re exchanges, and the bill was racking up.

Nothing is free in life.

Sooner or later, you always pay.

 Ok, so I am not going to beat-around-the-bush on this review. I LOVED this book. Robert Ford and Matt Hayward have taken one of the oldest idiom's "be careful what you wish for, you just might get it" and put a new twist on the story with horrifying outcomes.

And it all starts with a jar of pennies. Our main character Joe is trying to get his life together after serving time in prison. While hiking he stumbles upon an old jar of pennies with strange written notes attached to them. A seemingly innocent find that will lead Joe and his friends and family down a path that will leave them changed forever.

The authors writing styles come together seamlessly to create a compelling and wondrous story. We are treated to some truly frightening and disturbing scenes, but they manage to even it all out with doses of comedy (mainly centered around Joe's friend Kenny who falls victim to a very particular wish early in the story). You become invested in Joe very quickly in the story. His character is believable and very likable and you will find yourself rooting for him as the tale progresses. Really all of the characters that the authors have created in this story are believable, and that is a true writing art in my eyes. To connect with a character and in turn the story itself, you have to become vested in the characters lives and care about their outcomes. It came to the point that I could not put the book down and found myself reading until 3am just to finish it.

While there is comedy present in the book, there is also a fare share of  horror, loss, sadness and finally redemption.

This is just such a well written novel and I could not recommend it higher. A PENNY FOR YOUR THOUGHTS is sure to be on everyone's top 10 lists for 2019.

You can purchase A PENNY FOR YOUR THOUGHTS in print and ebook on AMAZON.

You can learn more about the authors and their other works by clicking on their names below.

And to learn more about the published please visit POLTERGEIST PRESS.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

THE STRANGER by Steve Stred

THE STRANGER by Steve Stred

Published June 1st 2019

(from the book description)

The Stranger is the second novel from Steve Stred and 9th release overall. The Stranger is another offering following in the footsteps of similar books Invisible, YURI and The Girl Who Hid in the Trees. As Steve describes his works; “dark, bleak horror.”

With this release, Steve has decided to look deeper into what makes humans tick. He confronts two key elements of mankind; bigotry and our environmental footprint.

Featuring stunning cover art by Chadwick St. John (, The Stranger will be a story that will leave you feeling uneasy and have you looking at the trees differently.

Maybe it’s not the wind making the branches sway…



The Stranger. 

Steve Stred is what I would consider a prolific writer. In just under 2 years he has released 2 novels, 4 novellas and 3 collections. He has been a very busy writer. If you are a regular here you will have seen Steve's name pop up before. I have had the pleasure of reading several of his books and have yet to find one disappointing. THE STRANGER is the authors 2nd full length novel and is one of the best stories he has written yet.

Malcolm and his family are enjoying a late season get-away at their favorite cabin in the woods. But the idealic vacation starts taking a dark turn as strange events start to occur and effect Malcolm and the family. Fierce wolves, ominous signs and frightening shadows moving in the trees threaten the family and lead them down a path from which they might not return.

The author not only gives us a terrifying story, but also touches on some very important topics such as bigotry and ecological issues. All wrapped up a "creation tale" story that pulls heavily from North American Indian lore.

Once again the author shows us his talent of creating believable/real world characters. Malcolm and his family are just your typical family. The main character Malcolm is really the focal point of the story. He is one of those characters that you want to sympathize with as he suffers loss and battles forces beyond his control, but you just can't. Because Malcolm is a bigot, his hate, especially toward Native people is horrible. Just when you think you can side with the character he says or does something that makes you look at him as a total P.O.S. His actions not only effect him, but his family and ultimately the outcome of the story.

The true heart of this story belongs not to the doomed family, but to the character of Wandering River, a North American Indiana who is gruff, and throughout the story does everything he can to try and save the family, tho fought at every turn by Malcolm. He knows what is happening and even though he knows the inevitable outcome he tries to help.

One last thing to touch on is "mythos" creation. When an author starts to make a world that all his stories somehow tie into and effect each other. Readers will notice subtle connections between some of the Steve's stories. I have always been a big fan of this style of writing. Seeing a new world built and grow is a wonderful thing. The creation tale that has been created in THE STRANGER has spawned some unique and fearsome entities and I am excited to see where the author takes them next.

Steve Stred has once again shown us that it is not safe to be in the woods. Every shadow, every blowing branch could be THE STRANGER coming for you.

You can purchase THE STRANGER in ebook and print on AMAZON.

You can learn more about the author Steve Stred by visiting his site HERE.

Thursday, May 23, 2019



Published April 16th 2018

Published by McFarland & Company

(from the book descriptions)

Set in the American Southwest, "desert terror" films combine elements from horror, film noir and road movies to tell stories of isolation and violence. For more than half a century, these diverse and troubling films have eluded critical classification and analysis. Highlighting pioneering filmmakers and bizarre production stories, the author traces the genre's origins and development, from cult exploitation (The Hills Have Eyes, The Hitcher) to crowd-pleasing franchises (Tremors, From Dusk Till Dawn) to quirky auteurist fare (Natural Born Killers, Lost Highway) to more recent releases (Bone Tomahawk, Nocturnal Animals). Rare stills, promotional materials and a filmography are included.

I have always been a horror fanatic. Watching and reading any films or books I could get my hands on. In fact there are two rooms in my house dedicated to my passions. One is a library with shelf after shelf of old and new books. The other is my video room, filled with every genre under the sun of movies. Yes there are kid movies and even some chick-flicks, but he majority are horror movies. Over the years I have gathered quite a collection, from Italian Gothic horror to Japanese VCD, Black-n-white classics to bootlegs and of course VHS nasties. Even now as I write this, I have a movie entitled The Toy Box playing in the background, a 2018 film about a family trapped in the desert in a haunted motor-home (Hey I didn't say it was an award winner).

So when Brad Sykes asked me to read his new book, I jumped at the chance.

Just a really quick background on Brad. He is an author, a producer, a screenwriter and director of over 20 films. Most recently he was involved with the movie HI-Death, soon to be released on disc and old-school VHS. He is also in charge of NIGHTFALL PICTURES. Needless to say, Brad has the background and the knowledge to do a book like this justice.

TERROR IN THE DESERT: DARK CINEMA OF THE AMERICAN SOUTHWEST is a exhaustive look at the history of the desert themed horror movies. Every film you can think of and even more that you my never of heard of before are covered in this book. There is just so much to read here and none of it disappoints. The authors knowledge of the subject matter is amazing as he covers movie after movie of this sub-genre. I never knew there were so many and found myself making a list of films that I would now need to track down and view.

The book is a treasure-trove of information on over 100 movies. Including production stills, posters and some rare images. Even the most knowledgeable movie fan is sure to find something new in these pages.

I think what I liked liked most about this book is that you can tell that the author is enjoying what he is writing. This is not just some reference book written without feeling, the author is telling us a story. A story interwoven in so many movies, good and bad, that share a common thread, that of sand, cactus, heat and fear. Thankfully Brad has taken us along on the ride with him.

Maybe the author can treat us to another sub-genre book in the future. Ocean Horror would be a fun topic (hint,hint)

I would highly recommend this book to ANY movie fan. Whether your a horror fan or not, this book is a must read.

You can purchase
now on AMAZON in print and ebook.

Please make sure to check out NIGHTFALL PICTURES for information on past and upcoming releases.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

SCREECHERS by Kevin J. Kennedy & Christina Bergling

SCREECHERS by Kevin J.Kennedy & Christina Bergling

Published March 6th 2019
(from the book description)

In the apocalyptic fallout of the burned world, the screecher is a massive beast evolved to kill and built for survival. One screecher abandons its home among the crushed remnants of a city and moves to explore the wider world. Unbeknownst to it, one of its surviving nephews decides to tag along.

I have to admit that I went into SCREECHERS expecting another post-apocalyptic creature feature. And while it is that genre, it offers surprisingly more.

The world has been ravaged by an unstated apocalyptic event, and beasts have mutated to the new surroundings. One of these creatures is the Screecher. An intelligent killing machine that believes it is the last of its kind. It sets off from its home in a destroyed city to explore the world around it, not knowing that the is one more, younger, Screecher left alive. There are many dangers in this new world, Apoc-wolves, large crab-like creatures with stingers (think CLICKERS) and an unknown new discovery to the Screechers, humans.

Three survivors from a destroyed human community set off into the barrens to try and find a new home. Little do the know that the perils they encounter will bring them face-to-face with the Screehers, and the outcome will change their lives forever.

This is a great creature book with some outstanding monster battles throughout, including a very impressive and bloody final battle. The author's manage to give the creatures personality, so you are not just given a mindless killing machine, but a beast that thinks and reacts in ways that don't just rely on force.

But at it's core Screechers is a story about family. Not only is the relationship between the human survivors tested and strengthened, but we see the growing relationship between the two Screechers as they bond on their journey across the wasteland. And then finally the how the Screechers interact with the humans who cross their path.

Kevin Kennedy and Christina Bergling have crafted an entertaining, exciting, frightening and yes at times touching tale of life in an apocalyptic world. This novella is perfect for a fun weekend read.

SCREECHERS can be purchased in ebook and print on AMAZON.

You can learn more about Kevin J. Kennedy and his other works on his website HERE, and Christina Bergling at her website HERE.

Friday, April 19, 2019

UNSETTLED by Jay Sigler


Published April 19th 2019

(from the book description)

Friends since high school, Brendan and Matt have been there for each other through all of life's ups and downs. But when a devastating accident takes everything from Brendan plunging him into a state of paranoid obsession, their friendship is put to the ultimate test. Fighting to keep his own family from falling apart, Matt struggles to help his friend, and his long suppressed anger begins raging to the surface.

As raw emotions take over, the lines of reality begin to blur. And when actions are taken solely on perceived reality, can anything truly be settled?

Wow! Yes that is my expert, official statement about UNSETTLED. I just finished it and had to sit for awhile to gather my thoughts and decide how to right up a review that is both informative and at the same time not ruin what is such a well crafted story. So I decided to just talk about my views on the story and let the description from the book cover above be the only peek at the actual story line.

I went into this novella knowing I was not going to get a smiley happy tale. If you have read the author's first novel TRAIN THOUGHTS (review available HERE), you will already know that his style is very raw and emotional and at times horrifying. 

UNSETTLED takes the agony and despair from TRAIN THOUGHTS and turns it up to 11. Jay's ability to create a believable character is on display right up front. This is a small cast, our two main characters, Brendan and Matt, and 3 more that figure into the story. The attention given to these few characters is wonderful. They are your normal, every-day people, they have flaws, they have ups-and-downs and most of all they have inner turmoil and secrets. 

This story is 100% emotion. From the first page, till the last you will be biting your nails as the next chapter unfolds. There are no creatures here or malevolent forces, the true monsters are the human characters themselves. Whether driven by anger, despair or resentment, sometimes what man can do to man is the most horrible thing we can witness. 

The despair and tension build to a crescendo in the final chapters and all boils over into a utterly horrifying, bloody and tragic ending.

 This is only the 3rd published work by author Jay Sigler, and with UNSETTLED he has placed himself in some rare company with other authors who excel at emotional horror such as Chad Lutzke and Brain James Freeman.

UNSETTLED is a small novella at just over 60 pages, so it is perfect for your weekend read. Just have 1, no maybe 2, OK let's just say 3 glasses of wine ready while you read. This story will make you gasp and leave your heart aching, but you don't want to pass it up.

You can purchase UNSETTLED in ebook and print on AMAZON.

To learn more about JAY SIGLER and his works you can follow is author's page on FACEBOOK.

Monday, April 15, 2019

ROTTEN LITTLE THINGS by Justin M. Woodward

ROTTEN LITTLE THINGS by Justin M. Woodward

Published April 12th 2019

Published by Simple Bicycle Publishing

(from the book description)


Monica has suffered from paranoid schizophrenia her entire life. For the most part, she manages her disease well--that is, until her family moves into an old house in the woods, and she starts seeing an imaginary entity from her childhood creeping around the property.


Things quickly become terrifying for Monica as her reality begins to blend with fiction, and something else entirely. . . some indescribable evil out in those woods.

I was a big fan of Justin Woodward's TAMER ANIMALS that came out last year. (you can read my review of that book HERE) It was a very well written and creepy coming-of-age story that featured a legendary creature named the Goatman. Myself and other readers really wanted to see more about that character. With ROTTEN LITTLE THINGS, we finally have more of a look at the elusive and deadly Goatman.

ROTTEN LITTLE THINGS is a prequel novella taking place 12 years before the events from TAMER ANIMALS.  You can read the new novella on its own without having to have read TAMER ANIMALS, but you will miss out on those "holy crap" moments that come to light in the new novella.

 The story introduces us to the Dresden family who have moved to a new home in a small town in Georgia. Monica, the wife/mother suffers from paranoid schizophrenia which she has dealt with for most of her life. They are hoping for a new start, but Monica starts seeing a creature that has haunted her since her youth, appearing in and around the new home. As her episodes get more violent and disturbing, how will she tell real from delusion? And are her visions a warning to what is coming for her next?

The author has managed to pack a lot into this fairly short novella. The tension builds from the first pages and we are pulled along as we watch poor Monica's sanity unravel. We are witness to a whole family in decline. Monica's husband and son are there as a support structure, but are helpless to stop what transpires. Justin's writing style is super-tight and you will never feel a lag in the story. It just barrels on to it's very horrifying conclusion.

Those who have read TAMER ANIMALS will notice references to places and people they are familiar with. Weather it be a creepy old covered bridge, a ragged house deep in the woods or one single name uttered on the last page.

Once again Justin M Woodward has given us an excellent story and left us wanting more. I cannot wait to see were the author, and the Goatman take us next.

Both books mentioned in this review are available on Amazon.

To learn more about Justin M. Woodward you can follow him on FACEBOOK.