Review: Hammers on Bone by Cassandra Khaw



With Hammers on Bone, Cassandra Khaw gives an old-school PI story a cool Lovecraftian update. There’s plenty of old-school gumshoe narration (although the story is firmly present-day), along with a heaping dose of ancient gods and gritty mysticism. If this turns out to be the first in a series it is one I’ll happily return to.

PI Joe Persons takes on what should be a simple job from an eleven-year-old client: kill the boy’s abusive step-father, McKinsey. The appropriately-named Persons (you’ll find out why!), naturally, gets more than he bargains for. McKinsey is a meat-suit for something ancient, see, and Persons is being warned off the case by some dame, but he’s a dog with a bone now and serious things are afoot, see?

Mostly, I dug the heck out of Hammers on Bone and the way Khaw played with classic private eye tropes in a way that felt fresh with its sleek infusion of horror. Khaw has a terrific voice and can turn a phrase rather nicely, and her writing and cool style have me eager to check out her other stories, notably Rupert Wong, Cannibal Chef, but also whatever else she publishes along the way. Joe Person’s is a neatly complicated sort, for multiple reasons that I should not actually discuss, and the climax was solidly creepy, gross, and violent. And, jeez, check out that cover illustration by Jeffrey Alan Love – it’s beautiful and speaks wonderfully toward the story within.

My only real complaint concerns the novella’s brevity. There’s a lot of story brewing under the surface of Persons narration that, since this is first person point of view, neither he nor readers are privy to. Khaw nails the sense of epic scope surrounding Persons’ case, and I wanted more. By book’s end, the plot grew a bit muddied and obscured with some last-minute dangling threads – but, again, if this turns out to not be a standalone title, this niggling detail could resolve itself. Given the nature of Persons and Khaw’s impressive writing, I’m certainly game for more and she’s definitely an author to watch out for.

[I received an advanced copy of this title for review from the publisher via NetGalley.]


Buy Hammers on Bone At Amazon

Original post:

Review: Hammers on Bone by Cassandra Khaw



Update – 5/24/2016 11:55 a.m.

Over the weekend, myself and several of the other contributors joined fellow CLONES writer and podcast host, Hank Garner, on his Author Stories Podcast. Give it a listen!

Human cloning.
Technology evolves faster than we do.
The law shields us from our worst temptations.
But the opportunity is there, dangling just out of reach—perfection and ascension… or delusion and destruction.

In this collection of clone-themed stories, ten of today’s top speculative fiction writers explore our morality, our built-in societal restraints, and reflect upon our state of grace.

Similar is not necessarily the same.

“CLONES: The Anthology” features stories from Amazon bestselling authors Rysa Walker (the Chronos series), R.D. Brady (the Belial series), Susan Kaye Quinn (the Singularity saga), Best American Science Fiction notable Samuel Peralta (Faith), and USA Today Bestselling and Multi-Award Winner P.K. Tyler, plus five more of today’s top authors in speculative and science fiction.

“The Replacement Husband” Nathan M. Beauchamp
“Like No Other” Daniel Arthur Smith
“Awakening” Susan Kaye Quinn
“Eve’s Children” Hank Garner
“Black Site” Michael Patrick Hicks
“Fahrenheit 1451” Samuel Peralta
“All These Bodies” PK Tyler
“B.E.G.I.N.” R.d. Brady
“Splinter” Rysa Walker
“The Vandal” Joshua Ingle


My story, Black Site, is a wicked little bit of Lovecraftian horror, which one advanced reviewer has called a “gory sonovabee” and “gut-ripping, face-twisting, vomit-inducing horror.” Another wrote that it is “A deftly written thrill ride that kept me intrigued and guessing all the way to the end. (P.S. This would make a great sci-fi movie, kept envisioning it as one as I read.)” So, hey, if there’s any Hollywood execs reading this, maybe you want to heed this advice? 🙂Chris Fried, reviewer extraordinaire over at The Leighgendarium, said Black Site is “A true tale of horror and science untethered, successfully cultivating your sense of dread and raising your apprehensiveness. All of that spine-tingling tension eventually climaxes into an explosive, senses-shattering finale.”

In addition to Black Site, you’ll find plenty more great stories on hand in CLONES: The Anthology, and, for a limited time, this collection of short stories is on sale for only 99c. So, buy it now for a great savings! It will soon be going back up to its regular list price of $3.99. There’s even a paperback version available so you can get a physical copy of that great Ben Adams artwork to display on your bookshelf.


And don’t forget about the CLONES: The Anthology Kindle Fire HD Giveaway!

To celebrate the release of CLONES, our benevolent story curator, Daniel Arthur Smith, is giving away one 6″ Kindle Fire HD tablet to US winners (international winners will get a gift card equivalent).

If you’re on Facebook, you can enter the contest here!

If you’re not on Facebook, no worries! You still have a chance to win by following this link directly to the Rafflecopter link and signing in with your e-mail address.

As always, reviews are appreciated. Once you’ve read CLONES: The Anthology, please share your honest thoughts on Amazon and/or Goodreads. Reviews are the lifeblood of writers and serve as social proof for other potential readers who may be on the fence on whether or not to check out this work.

Thank you, and happy reading!


Send in the CLONES!

Black Site

Coming May 24 – CLONES: The Anthology

First, the really big news – I will have a brand new short story appearing in the upcoming book, CLONES: The Anthology. “Black Site” is a wicked little bit of cosmic horror, in which a group of researchers attempt to unravel the origins of life itself. Needless to say, things go a bit haywire. If you’re a fan of Alien or Lovecraftian stories, this should suit you nicely, I think. I had a ton of fun writing this one, and, quite frankly, it might be my new personal favorite work to date.

Here’s the synopsis:

CLONES: The Anthology – available May 24th

Human cloning.
Technology evolves faster than we do.
The law shields us from our worst temptations.
But the opportunity is there, dangling just out of reach—perfection and ascension… or delusion and destruction.

In this collection of clone-themed stories, ten of today’s top speculative fiction writers explore our morality, our built-in societal restraints, and reflect upon our state of grace.

Similar is not necessarily the same.

“CLONES: The Anthology” features stories from Amazon bestselling authors Rysa Walker (the Chronos series), R.D. Brady (the Belial series), Susan Kaye Quinn (the Singularity saga), Best American Science Fiction notable Samuel Peralta (Faith), and USA Today Bestselling and Multi-Award Winner P.K. Tyler, plus five more of today’s top authors in speculative and science fiction.
“The Replacement Husband” by Nathan Beauchamp
“Like No Other” by Daniel Smith
“Awakening” by Susan Kaye Quinn
“Eve’s Children” by Hank Garner
“Black Site” by Michael Hicks
“Fahrenheit 1451” by Samuel Peralta
“All These Bodies” by Pavarti K Tyler
“B.E.G.I.N.” by R.D. Brady
“Splinter” by Rysa Walker
“The Vandal” by Joshua Ingle

CLONES: The Anthology is listed on Goodreads, so go add it to your TBR!

Advanced Reviewer Copies are making their way into circulation, so keep an eye out for reviews in the coming days and weeks as we prepare for the big release day. (I may have one or two to spare for interested reviewers who can post their honest review to Amazon between May 24 – 30. Feel free to contact me.)

Below, you’ll find the cover art designed by Ben Adams. Ben’s work has appeared in a few places, and you may recognize his work from the art prints he did for Hugh Howey’s Beacon 23. Needless to say, he did a phenomenal job on this title.

In other news, I was recently interviewed by fellow author and podcaster Nadine Matheson (who I was lucky enough to appear alongside with in the No Way Home anthology, curated by Lucas Bale, at the start of 2015) for the Spectrum Books podcast. You can listen to the interview on iTunes today!

This is my second podcast appearance – my first was last year on Hank Garner’s terrific Author Stories podcast. If you’re a glutton for punishment, you can listen to even more of me right over here. You’ll note that Hank is also a contributor to the CLONES antho. We’re working on setting up a round-table podcast so that all of us writers can get together and drink heavily discuss our work. Look for more info on that as we get closer to release.

Now for the really awesome part – here’s the cover for CLONES: The Anthology!


Send in the CLONES!

Review: The Dream Beings by Aaron J. French


About The Dream Beings


Born with a mysterious gift he never wanted… a gift that could mean his death.

When Jack Evens’s name appears in blood at the scene of a grotesque ritualistic murder, the private investigator is drawn into a conflict that extends beyond reality, into the realm of dreams…and nightmares.

A serial killer is after him, but this is no ordinary psychopath. This killer is controlled by mysterious creatures from another realm. If he hopes to survive, Jack must finally come to terms with his psychic ability, a gift that has haunted him since he was a child.

At stake are the women the killer has targeted, Jack’s own life, and something much more…something of cosmic proportions.

About the Author

Aaron J. French is a book editor for JournalStone Publishing and the Editor-in-Chief for Dark Discoveries magazine. He has edited several anthologies, including Songs of the Satyrs, Monk Punk & Shadow of the Unknown Omnibus, and The Gods of H.P. Lovecraft (Winter 2015) from JournalStone Publishing, which includes new Mythos work from the biggest names in horror fiction, including Adam Nevill, Laird Barron, Bentley Little, Christopher Golden, Jonathan Maberry, Joe Lansdale, and Seanan McGuire.

2014 saw the publication of The Chapman Books, a supernatural thriller collection from Uncanny Books featuring Aaron’s novella “The Stain.” His single-author collection, Aberrations of Reality, was published by Crowded Quarantine Publications and it is the first book to collect Aaron’s fiction focusing on the occult, metaphysics, and the weird. His zombie collection Up From Soil Fresh was published by Hazardous Press in 2013; also in 2013 “The Order,” an occult thriller novella about a Lovecraftian secret society, was published in the Dreaming in Darkness collection. Look for Aaron’s brand new hard-boiled Lovecraftian novella “The Dream Beings” forthcoming from Samhain Publishing in January of 2016.

My Thoughts

Aaron J. French is a name that crossed my radar thanks to his involvement as editor of the recently released anthology, The Gods of H.P. Lovecraft. When I got word of his solo release through Samhain’s horror division, and gave the synopsis a gander, I knew I had to read it.

The premise of The Dream Beings is simply outstanding – a psychic PI battling demons who are controlling a vicious killer that seems to have a sort of personal vendetta against him. Good stuff and worth a look, as far as I’m concerned.

Unfortunately, French’s novella failed to live up to my expectations. While it started off strong with an appropriately grisly murder and decapitation sequence, I found myself losing interest fairly quickly afterward.

A few issues cropped up that really limited my enjoyment of this story.

First off was the dialogue. French uses dialogue to infodump, and in great quantities, while he’s attempting to get the story into the swing of things. PI Jack Evens and his friend/Homicide detective Oscar engage in long-winded, unnatural, and stilted exchanges that carry on way too long and serve only to give reader’s a sort of long oral history on Evens and his, and his family’s history of, psychic powers.

My second issue had to do with the imbalanced tone that French adopts. Evens is a smartass, but the humor never really worked for me. This is an entirely subjective point, but when he tries to be funny if often derailed the story for me, especially when he drops an famous, much-cited quote from the movie Predator during the story’s climax. There’s also a lot going on here for a fairly short story, which only perpetuates this sense of imbalance. The psychic, horror, demonic, maybe ancient gods, cosmic riffs, and spiritual questioning never seem to gel into a unified narrative, as if French had a lot of ideas to tangentially connect but wasn’t able to give them the proper depth and focus required due to a limited word count.

This may sound overly harsh and critical, but I’m going to issue a reminder here that I’m giving a two-star rating on the Goodreads metric, which is defined as “it was OK.” And that’s a fairly sufficient summation as any that I could give this book. I didn’t hate it; I was able to read it and stuck with it in its entirety, thanks to its brevity. If there were a “Meh” rating, I may with that, but “OK” is about the closest I can get right now. Overall, I had a few too many problems with the execution and delivery, and found it missing more notes than it hit.

[Note: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

Buy The Dream Beings At Amazon

Review: The Dream Beings by Aaron J. French

CONSUMPTION Is An Award Nominee!

consumption-completeI’m a few days late in reporting this, but over the weekend I learned that Consumption has been nominated for a 2015 Independent eBook Award in the categories of Best Short Story and Best Horror in this year’s eFestival of Words.

You can check out the complete list of nominees here. This is a peer-nominated program, so if whoever nominated me is reading this, thank you so much for enjoying Consumption and thinking so highly of it. I’m glad the work stuck with you!

I know it’s probably a bit cheesy, but the phrase “it’s an honor just being nominated” is certainly apt, and I cannot even begin to express how incredible it is to find my name alongside a bunch of other writer’s whose work I enjoy and admire. Somehow I am getting lumped in with the likes of Hugh Howey, David Gatewood, Jason Gurley, William Meikle, Carol Davis, Joe Konrath, Joseph Nassise, Lindsay Buroker, Iain Rob Wright, Therin Knite, and so many others. This is a ridiculous thrill for me!

Award winners will be announced in August, which gives readers plenty of time to devour my ‘Chopped by way of Lovecraft’ culinary-horror aperitif. You can find it on Amazon for purchase or borrowing through Kindle Unlimited or the Kindle Owners Lending Library now.

CONSUMPTION Is An Award Nominee!

Consumption Cover Reveal

Coming Fall 2014…


Many thanks to Debbie at The Cover Collection for her fine work on this one!

CONSUMPTION is about as far from CONVERGENCE as the speculative fiction genre could allow, I think, and the cover does a nice job of capturing that. I’m trying something really different with this short story as I take a very brief break from science fiction to dip my toes into the deep, dark waters of macabre horror fiction.

Read on for the description and request your free eReader ARC below, and stay tuned for more details soon!

You Are

Reclusive chef Heinrich Schauer has invited six guests to a blind twelve-course tasting menu.

What You Eat

While snow blankets the isolated Swiss valley surrounding his estate, the guests feast eagerly, challenging one another to guess at the secret tastes plated before them.

Meat Is Murder

As they eat, each guest is overtaken by carnal appetites, unaware of their host’s savage plans…or of the creature lurking below.

One thing is clear: There is more on the menu than any of them have bargained for.

Consumption is a 12,000 word (approx.) short story. It contains graphic depictions of sex and violence, and is intended for mature audiences.

Consumption will release on all electronic formats Fall 2014, but you can sign up for a chance to read it before anyone else – for FREE!

Just note that Consumption is a short story and will only be available as an eBook. I’ll be mailing out the major formats to you – .mobi (kindle), epub (Nook/Kobo), and PDF – when they’re formatted and finalized.

Fill out the form below, drop a comment in the required text box asking for an electronic Advanced Reader’s Copy (ARC), and it’s all yours. If you sign up for an ARC, you’ll get a copy of my short horror story at least two weeks before anyone else.

There’s no strings attached – again, this would be completely free for you – however, I would really appreciate you taking the time to provide an honest review when the title launches. I’ll let you know when and where, and you can revel in the glory of having read Consumption and passed judgement on it well before anyone else in the world.

Consumption Cover Reveal