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Book Review: The Worst is Yet to Come by S.P. Miskowski

NOTE: This review was originally published at High Fever Books in January 2019. That website has been closed, so I am republishing it here.

Publisher: Trepidatio Publishing/Journalstone

Release Date: Feb. 22, 2019

Pages: 208

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I grew up in a town like Skillute, Washington. Well, not exactly. But the similarities are certainly there. A small town, complete with American flags and a sense of calm. But then you start to look a little deeper. You start to see the deep cracks in the foundation. Granted, the cracks in my town are nowhere near as deep or twisted as Skillute’s. But that’s one of the many strengths in S.P. Miskowski’s new novel, The Worst Is Yet To Come. It’s all about a sense of place. This novel is a reflection of how the world we live in can change us, how it can bend and break us into monsters if we’re not careful. While I haven’t read any of her previous novels featuring Skillute, I never felt lost or out of my element. That speaks to the skill she’s brought to her creation.

S.P. wastes no time shepherding us into the story. We are quickly introduced to Tasha and Briar, pulled together in a way that almost feels like destiny. In those early pages, as the two girls are quickly bonded together by an act of righteous violence, I could start to feel the wheels turn. As the focus on our protagonists shifted to the other characters, I found the urge to hold my breath creeping up. I knew something bad was coming, but I wasn’t quite sure what form it would take.

This novel comes in at a brisk 208 pages. Every page is used effectively to deliver atmosphere, character, and most importantly, dread. The themes (motherhood, the past manifest) are themes that we’ve seen in S.P. Miskowski’s work before. But their usage here feels reflective of our world in 2019. Many of the problems that these characters face are the same problems wrought large on social media and news coverage. These problems are handled with a care and depth that you’re unlikely to come across very often, especially in speculative fiction. Though these ideas sound big, they are presented in such a fashion that they never felt unrelatable.

S.P. Miskowski is one of the greatest writers working in horror today. Her grasp of language and her skills at crafting a story are immense. By the time we hurtle into the conclusion, we’ve been dragged through the mud and we don’t quite come out unscratched. The ending may seem abrupt, but I suggest you take a moment to dwell on it. Bad things happen in Skillute. And not everyone will come out safe on the other side.

Last of 2020 (Wrap-Up)

Photo credit: Universal Pictures

The year is over. I’d like to say that I’ll miss 2020, but I’m not a very good liar. This year was a wash in so many ways. But I’ve touched on how bad everything is a few times here on my blog, so I wanted to just say that and move on.

This is my annual wrap-up post, so I’ve come with plenty of things to share. Let’s talk fiction:

Fiction

Pank Magazine Header.

It was a reprint heavy year for me, but I did have a few original pieces go out. The first was ‘The Mouth that Opens’, which was featured on the Nocturnal Transmissions podcast. It’s no secret how much I love this story, and I think the Transmissions team did an incredible job.

The next story was another audio reprint, this time in the newly launched ‘The Night’s End Podcast’. ‘They Come Crawling’ is a Lovecraftian piece that I originally published in a Miskatonic themed anthology. If you want some classic Lovecraftian, it’s the story to read.

’The Eldritch Film Club’ was published at Pank Magazine for their Halloween month. After that, I put up a story for National Cake Day over at my Curious Fictions page. These are both free reads, so you can check them out whenever.

The last story was published last week. ‘To Pull A Circle Straight’ was published in Exeter Publishing’s ‘From the Soil: A Hometown Anthology’. It features a fictional version of my hometown. Come for the pizza, stay for the vengeance.

Non-Fiction

In February, I launched a gaming focused website called Game Loot. It’s hosted over at Medium. I’ve been wanting to write about video games for quite some time, and Medium allowed me to explore and experience this in a very cool way. I wrote over 40 articles, including a few that I am very proud of. I’ve developed an audience, and I’m proud of the work.

If you’re curious, a couple of them really stand out. I wrote a beast of an article highlighting all the games I completed in 2020. I’m like it quite a bit—I worked on it all year long—and I think it’s very much worth a read. I wrote a very long piece on Persona 5 Royal, as well as an article about Pokemon Blue. I also wrote a piece on Shiny Pokemon for SUPERJUMP on Medium as well.

A website I used to write for went under, leaving a good number of my reviews unavailable. I’ve republished them here, with new links in my Bibliography section. I reviewed tons of great horror books, so if you are looking for a recommendation, I’d suggest going there.

Everything Else

I tried to fill my time in 2020. I played tons of video games, watched lots of movies, and hit my reading challenge goal over at Goodreads. That’s always a cause for celebration!

I was also interviewed over at Horror Talk Radio, where I talked about publishing and the industry as a whole.

I hope that the new year is better. I just got a huge acceptance, and I can’t wait to share that with everyone. I’ll also be working on putting a short story collection to shop around, but that may be a future goal.

Happy New Year, gang.

Interview in the A.M.

Photo credit: United Artists

Happy Thanksgiving, gang! This is my second holiday post, but it just kind of happened that way.

By now you’ve likely finished your football eating and food watching, so now you can move on to less made-up Thanksgiving activities. Let’s talk cake.

To celebrate National Cake Day (and Thanksgiving I guess), I’ve put out a free story over at Curious Fictions. It’s called ‘A Slice for Delilah’, and I think it’s quite a bit of fun. This also serves as a birthday story, so there is that.

I was also interviewed over at Horror Talk Radio earlier this month. We talked horror movies and publishing tips. It’s my first interview about my work, so it was pretty exciting. Check it out if you’re interested!

As a reminder; stay safe out there. Wear your mask and keep your distance.

Halloween Behind Closed Doors

Photo credit: International Pictures

It’s nearly Halloween, and the horrors of 2020 may never end. We’ll be spending everyone’s favorite pumpkin-centric holiday from within the warm comforts of our living rooms. This—of course—leads to plenty of indoor activities. The CDC says that this is the best way to avoid getting sick, and only idiots don’t listen to the CDC.

October was a busy month for me. My work is still hectic, but I’ve found time to celebrate all things horror in the dwindling twilight hours. Of all the movies I watched here in October, I think that my personal favorite is the unbelievably terrifying Ghostwatch. I bought a DVD copy off of Amazon UK, and it may creep it’s way into my all time favorite horror flicks. Watch Ghostwatch. You won’t be sorry.

Books! I just finished the absolutely sinister Dark Tales, written by the legendary Shirley Jackson. I also enjoyed the lyrical horror of Richard Gavin’s Grostesquerie and Jonathan Raab’s layered blitzkrieg The Crypt of Blood: A Halloween TV Special. I’m currently reading The Turn of the Screw with my wife (The Haunting of Bly Manor was SOOO GOOD) and the YA slasher Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis. I’m on track to smash my reading goal. Easy.

I’ve been playing some horror games on Itch.io in the evening (Faith, ANATOMY, Approaches) and I also finally drove the nail into the Dishonored series by finishing Dishonored: Death of the Outsider.

I’ve also been pumping out horror stories and sending them out. I have 11 stories out on submission, and I got an acceptance a few days ago! This is the time of year to write horror, and I will be channeling all that energy into my keyboard until October’s final witching hour ends.

Happy (almost) Halloween! Stay safe, wear a mask, and please vote.

Secluded Reminders, Transmitted Directly

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Photo credit: Paramount Pictures

My wife Liz and I are currently in quarantine. No, We haven’t been exposed to COVID-19. And yes, we’ve moved from our place in Ohio and now I live in the UK! This is not a permanent arrangement. We’ll be here for the next couple of years, and then we’ll be off to parts unknown. We arrived in country last week, and we are currently mid-way through the aforementioned quarantine. A little while longer we’ll start the process of transitioning to our new life here in England…

So that’s a big life change! In regards to writing, I’m using this quarantine time to catch up on some writing, reading, and video games. It’s a little dull, but we are getting along okay.

Since the last night I posted, I’ve had a couple of pieces pop up into the world. Both reprints, and both on fiction podcasts. The first is a reprint of my lost media story ‘The Mouth That Opens’, which was featured on the Nocturnal Transmissions podcast. The second was my Lovecraftian piece ‘They Come Crawling’, done with incredible skill via The Night’s End Podcast. I love hearing my work adapted by talented people; it makes me look good.

I’m currently editing stories for two submission calls (one involving cake horror!), that I hope to have wrapped up in the next day or two. One positive aspect of quarantine; I got the time!

I have about four stories out on submission now, so once I hear something I’ll let you all know.

For now, I’ll be seeing you on the other side, on a far more open shore…

 

The Allure of Boulder Escapism

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Image credit: Paramount Pictures/Lucasfilm LTD.

We are living in some strange times. I got to thinking about the site today and how I haven’t posted anything since January. This has to be the longest four months of my life, and I know that I’m not alone.

So what have I been up to? Well, since I work in a hospital, I’ve been staying plenty busy at work. When I’m not working and thinking about COVID-19, I’ve been doing what everyone else has. Watching TV & movies, playing video games, reading books, etc. I re-watched the main Indiana Jones trilogy, which continue to be the gold standard for everything adventure films should be. Globe-trotting and boulder escapism have never seemed more alluring.  Under that same category I watched the John Wick trilogy, which rock harder than I could have ever dreamed.

I’ve been gaming like a fiend as well, writing features for my Medium publication. It’s called Game Loot, and it’s an experiment. I’ve mentioned several times that I’ve wanted to write about games, and I figured the most fun way to do so is to try out Medium! I have mixed feelings, but I plan on sticking with it at least until December or January of next year.

I’ve been catching up on my reading as well, and I’m using this thread to capture my thoughts on what I’m reading through-out the year. Lots of good horror, lots of good fiction.

Last thing before I wrap this up: I’ve got a couple stories I’m actively working on. Even though the world is a mess, publications always need work. As always, when stuff drops I’ll post about it on here.

Quick ranking (best to the very absolute worst): Raiders, Temple of Doom, Last Crusade, Crystal Skull

post script: I put together a flash story. It’s a small thing, hidden away on my Letterboxd account. I hope you like it. The spring always needs more ghost stories.

Incoming Nocturnal Transmissions

As we near the tail end of January, I thought I’d drop in to update you all on the happenings in my writing world.

The first (and biggest) news is that a podcast called Nocturnal Transmissions will be adapting my short story ‘The Mouth That Opens’ for an episode! It was originally published in the relaunch of Sanitarium Magazine (featured here), so I’m thrilled that it will be published again! Though I don’t have an exact date for the episodes release, I’m excited to see what the talented team at Nocturnal Transmissions can do.

I also have a few pieces out at Signal Horizon. They are not writing focused, instead high-lighting my interests in video games. One is about my favorite games of 2019, and the other is a short review of a comedy-RPG called Cthulhu Saves Christmas! High Fever Books will also be publishing a new book review from me next week, as well as a list of horror books to look forward to throughout 2020. A little reminder: as I publish stories and get more freelance work, my Bibliography will be updated accordingly!

My Favorite Things of 2019

The year that was 2019 has (thankfully) gone away, leaving us to start anew in 2020. While 2019 wasn’t as great entertainment wise as 2018, it still had a lot of incredible things worth checking out. If you want to see what I liked last year, you can click here.

Just like last year’s piece, instead of giving each media form an article, I’m just going to sum everything up in this instead! So buckle up and let’s dive in…

My Favorite Movie of the Year

Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood

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I’m not shocked that this has earned the spot. Quentin Tarantino’s newest feature is a love letter to a bygone era. It’s got a dynamite cast and all the Tarantino style that you could ever want. This is also the director’s most mature work. While it’s violent and loud, we spend a lot of time just hanging out in this world. I could spend another ten hours with Clint and Rick.

Honorable Mentions: Doctor Sleep, Spider-Man: Far from Home, Marriage Story, Us, Annabelle Comes Home

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to watch a number of well regarded films. Parasite and Little Women being up there. Doctor Sleep was my second favorite, which proves that Mike Flanagan can do no wrong.

My Favorite Video Game of the Year

Pokemon Sword & Shield

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I just hit 100 hours and I don’t think I’m even close to done yet? Pokemon Sword & Shield loved up the promise of our first console entry. Even though it’s release was met with some controversy, I think it has since proved itself as a fantastic entry. The Galar region is one of the best maps in ages, the new Pokemon are instantly iconic, and the Wild Area is extremely inspired.

Honorable Mentions: Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Death Stranding, Control, Days Gone, Super Mario Maker 2.

The moral of the story for gaming in 2019: Nintendo is back in a very big way.

My Favorite Book of the Year

In a year where I devoured short story collections like sinister candy, I found this choice particully diffucult. I read a whole boatload of excellent fiction by authors both new and old to me. I’ve added multiple authors that I will will always be on the look out for now.

Wounds: Six Stories from the Abyss by Nathan Ballingrud

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Wounds deserves the top spot. I’m in awe of this collection. It’s all at once haunting, grotesque, stunningly original. I said in my Goodreads review that it is a testament to what a horror collection should look like. As I acculimate publications and look to build a collection of my own, it’s books like this one. Also: I got a chance to meet Nathan at NecronomiCon Providence, and I can confirm he’s a super nice guy. Read Wounds. You won’t be sorry.

Honorable Mentions: Into Bones Like Oil by Kaaron Warren, Full Throttle by Joe Hill, Song for the Unraveling of the World by Brian Evenson.

Though I don’t have a catergory for it, I also read a handful of older books that deserve to be talked about as well. The Elementals by Michael Mcdowell is an undersung masterpiece, and is my favorite novel of the year. It released back in 1981, so it did not qualify for the top spot here. In anticipation for HBO’s adapation of Stephen King’s 2018 book The Outsider, I read that as well. It felt like vintage King filtered through his more controlled approach to story-telling.

And that’s it! Happy 2019/2020 everybody!

 

Changes to the Blog

Hello everyone!

Though I’ve been around, I took a small break for the holiday season. Thanksgiving is chaos and the Christmas season is more of the same. This small break has made me realize something: I need to change something up here.

In the past twoish years, I’ve been dedicated to three posts a month here on my blog: an interview, a feature, and a Monthly Wrap-up at the end. For awhile, I enjoyed these pieces. But, as time has gone on, I’ve seen a problem. I now do freelance work for multiple sites that have been eating up my non-fiction writing time. The interviews are amazing (I’ll still be doing those!) but the Monthly Reviews are by FAR my lowest viewed articles. So, for 2020 and beyond, I’m switching things up.

I’ve been studying what other author websites look like, and I’m going to adopt their methods. I’m going to do different pieces, but they are going to be focused on sharing what I’ve got going on in other places. New reviews, features and other publishing news. I’ll still be doing a Monthly Interview, but my input will likely fall away here. If I want to I’ll likely still post random articles, but I’ll be doing less lists and features here.

I’m excited for 2020. I have a flurry of posts coming this month and then in January, but then things will slow down. I’ll still be around. But it will likely be in other places and forms.

Thanks for everything you folks do and I’ll see you again soon.

Loading: My 10 Favorite Pokemon

In honor of a new game in my favorite franchise (Pokémon Sword & Shield!) I wanted to talk about some of my favorite Pokémon! I love this franchise and all of it’s colorful, interesting monsters. These games have entertained me for about two decades, and this new entry on a console is something I’ve been dreaming about for forever. So let’s rank some Pokémon!

Number 10:

250px-635HydreigonI wanted to start my Top 10 list with the mini-King Ghidorah himself: Hydreigon! Every generation has it’s pseudo-legendary Dragon type, and Black/White had this beast! I grinded to have one of these guys for what felt like a million years back when I played it in 2010. A menacing design and decent stats help this guy earn my #10 spot.

 

Number 9:

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Being the horror writer that I am, I love me some Gothic design. Slap a creepy mansion on the side of a crumbling cliff and I will come running. With some of the new Pokémon appearing in Sword/Shield, I’m one or two Pocket Monsters away from a Gothic themed team. And that’s why I love Chandelure. If you excuse me, The Manderley is calling…

 

Number 8:

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Excuse me… What took so long to get a T-Rex Pokémon!? It took forever! But I think Tyrantrum was worth the wait. Just look at him! What a beast. This dude’s got Cool Points to spare. And they even gave him Dragon as a secondary type. Be still my tyrant heart.

 

 

Number 7:

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 And now for my first dip into Gen 1. Dragonite has been one of my favorite Pokemon since the very beginning. When Lance (with that CAPE!) sent his first Dragonite out, I was blown away. It wasn’t what I expected, but the design remains powerful and iconic all these years later. Though he may be a little derpy, Dragonite has earned his spot on so many of my teams.

 

Number 6:

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Look… I have a thing for the Pokemon used by region Champions. We aren’t even halfway through this list and you’ve seen two of them. But! Metagross is a beast. Used by Steven, he’s a rare mix of Steel/Psychic type. He may be slow, but his formidable design on the field is nothing to scoff at. While Generation 3 has never been my favorite groups of new Pokémon, Metagross is its highlight.

Number 5:

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We are at nearly a thousand Pokemon. But Generation after Generation, the original three starters have stayed at the forefront of fans’ minds. I’m one of those fans. The Venusaur line was not my first choice growing up. Grass=lame. But this earth-shaking tree-dino has loomed large for me as I’ve gotten older. One of the stronger starters competively, if I need a Grass or Poison type, I look to my boy Venusaur first.

Number 4:

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We are nearing the end. The lights are fading. What’s that? Is that a smile in the dark?

Gengar is terrifying. He was the Boogeyman in Red/Blue, a Pokémon that I desperately wanted for years. For me, he’s the ultimate Ghost type. Great stats and iconic design, coupled with what is perhaps my favorite Mega-Evolution. It’s rare that Gengar doesn’t pop on my team.

 

Number 3:

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Since the day that I first played Pokémon Red, Charizard has always been one of my favorites. He was my first starter, and a legend on the playground, whether he was on a foil card or leading your digital team. Though he’s been outclassed competively by other Fire types, Charizard will always stick in my mind. Plus, Game Freak keeps giving me new forms to be amazed by. Stop being awesome, Game Freak!

 

Number 2:

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My number two slot belongs to the mighty Sandstormin’ Tyranitar. While every Pokémon on this list holds a special place in my heart, Tyranitar stands tall among them. One of my favorite designs wrapped up in a pseudo-legendary that awed me from the first moment I saw it. Whenever I create a Pokemon team, Tyranitar almost always earns a spot. When I learned that his line appears in Sword/Shield, I knew this new Generation was going to rock.

Number 1:

250px-230Kingdra.pngWe’ve arrived at my Number 1 pick. Kingdra is my definitive number 1, and here is why. Looking at the rest of the list, you can see all the reasons that these other Pokémon are here. They have iconic designs. They are strong battlers. They either play to my nostalgia or have been found on my team before. I prefer intimidating, terrifying Pokémon. I think Kingdra fills all these stops. When Clair first sent out Kingdra against me in Gold, my team was wiped out. When I finally found a Dragon Scale and convincing my friend to help me evolve my Seadra, I was over the moon. Kingdra’s cool typing and design have always appealed to me. He ticks all the boxes. It’s how it is. Kingdra is my favorite Pokémon of all time.


We are two days out from Sword/Shield! I’ll be there day one, ready to catch them all.