“Kapha” by Joanne Avallon, published by SmokeLong Quarterly/Weekly 

SmokeLong Quarterly’s editors made an excellent decision in choosing to publish Joanne Avallon’s “Kapha”. A true dark tale hides at the heart of this spiritual flash piece. The unnamed protagonist identifies herself as a “Kapha” (a dark/brooding person on the negative side, but abundant/desired on the positive,) because her yoga teacher tends to call her by her ayurvedic personality type. The story is very short, but its brevity astute readers will find a depth few works of flash fiction are capable of.

The protagonist is constantly needed by others, who seek her out, when lost, when in trouble and this demand on her has drawn her away from herself, and her family. The soon realizes the wants of strangers pulling her from a life lived for herself. Soon, like ripples in a calm pond the effects reach out to all areas of her life and by the time you’re finished reading “Kapha”, you’ll feel it too.

Reviewed by Brandon Layng


“Man of Ego, Man of Hubris, Save Us from the Sun” by Salvatore Pane, published by FriGG  

One thing I’ve noticed about short stories with long titles, is they tend to be overly humorous or overly serious. Salvatore Pane’s offering is a bit of both. It’s refreshing.

There are obvious holes in the science of the tale – often sacrificed for the sake of humor. Get past that and have a laugh. If you do you’ll find that while you’re soaking in the laughs, you’re absorbing a serious real world issue in this space drama. Ex-President Nixon is captain of a space ship full of kids, whose mission is to teach bears the art of parkour. Why? Tax dollars at work, of course. He brings on board, Reezy East (a ridiculous name for a character in my opinion, but makes sense for a rapper,) another disgraced public figure, to entertain the kids. After a debacle at an awards show – ring any bells? – that ends in tragedy, the rapper joins the mission in the hopes of finding redemption.

Pane pants a good picture of Reezy’s inner struggles and makes us hope for him, much in the way fans of Reezy’s contemporary counterpart hoped for a change in their own idol. But in the end, even self-sacrifice can be self-serving.

Reviewed by Brandon Layng


“That Old Silk Hat They Found” by Mark Leslie (Audio)  

From collection “One Hand Screaming”  

This is the first of two audio stories we’ll be reviewing in this issue of STLGzine. The review will be on both the story itself, and the reading.

Mark Leslie’s “That Old Silk Hat They Found”, is a cute and tormented tale that pokes a twiggy finger at each and every hole in the Frosty fable. Mr. Leslie does the reading himself for part of his Prelude to a Scream podcast, but the story is featured in his One Hand Screaming collection, after a couple of previous publications. In the audio’s introduction, the listener is treated to a brief history of the story’s journey, along with a bit of a “current events” on the author’s life (with a follow-up after the story about the author’s thoughts on the story). This reviewer is partial to behind-the-scenes info but it may not be for everyone – as interesting as it is.

The story is well worth the wait for impatient listeners. “That Old Silk Hat They Found” answers the age old question: What does the snowman in my front yard think about? The children may have put a smile on Frosty’s face (very painfully melting one with a fingertip) but since they forgot a pair of legs, he’s not going anywhere fast, unlike his cartoon counterpart. Apparently, snowmen also have an oral history. We listen with mounting amusement and terror, as one old timer (also named Frosty) tells the newcomer what he’s learned during his four week lifespan. By the end we, the listeners, are hoping the protagonist Frosty will be dismantled before the great Apocalypse, called, Spring.

It’s a great story and Mr. Leslie does a superb job of reading it. As much as the words, his voices ratchets up the tension and involves the listener; tickling funny bones and chilling marrow. It’s a “Frosty the Snowman” for horror lovers, you won’t want to miss on a cold Winter’s day.

Reviewed by Brandon Layng



“Wounds” by Joseph Mulak, narrated by Amy Tapia, published in audio on ShadowCast Audio

“Wounds” by Joseph Mulak, narrated by Amy Tapia, is the second audio story reviewed this issue. The story is part of The Masters of Horror anthology, which has been adapted for audio by the ShadowCast Audio podcast.

Being a parent is tough. Being a parent when you’re broke…

Well, let’s just say you’ll need to make some hard decisions. This reviewer has been a penniless parent and I can sympathize with the characters in Mr. Mulak’s story – but I wouldn’t say I could ever make the same decisions to “save” my children from hardship. I could empathize with the husband and wife, stuck in a dark house, blizzard blowing outside, and personal demons running rampant in their minds. From the beginning the story brought to mind Frankenstein; a house in the middle of nowhere that could easily have been a castle; a dark creature, hurt and wanting peace; and the mad man who made the monster hiding inside. I can’t say with any degree of certainty how much of my feelings about this story were because of the writing or because of Amy Tapia’s breathy-voiced reading. Her paced narration and almost whispered tone made “Wounds” all the more eery. She was the perfect choice for reader on this one.

There are quite a few moral lessons in the story – without being preachy – and one of them has to be: Hard decisions can often end in easy mistakes that come back to haunt you.

Reviewed by Brandon Layng


“Dust” by C.L. Needham

Marion Peters is obsessed with cleaning. Her home must be free from any speck of dirt or dust. This obsession consumes her life completely; she won’t even accompany her husband to Paris on a business trip for fear of falling behind in her cleaning, although her house is spotless.

She wasn’t always so obsessed – she had a career until she married Roger. They got married, and she got pregnant, but had a miscarriage. Since then, she focuses all her energies on keeping a pristine home.

She successfully keeps the dust at bay, but at what cost? And what happens when she realizes she really has no life and decides to skip a cleaning?

“Dust” is a great story of obsession and despair and what can happen if you let them consume you.

Reviewed by Sheri White


“Lucky You” by Nadia Bulkin

“Lucky You” is the story of Javier, a man cursed with immortality shortly after his first child is born. After his wife dies, Javier is left to raise the child on his own. As she gets older, they both realize he is not aging. His daughter just thinks he has good genes, but he worries something more sinister is going on.

Javier has several more wives and children over his lifetime, memories of all fading as the years go by. Will he ever find peace? Will he ever get to age and die like normal men?

“Lucky You” is an amazing story of what life might be like if someone were “lucky” enough to live forever. Although death can be scary, it is a necessary part of life. Javier is an example of how immortality is a curse, and definitely not a blessing.

Reviewed by Sheri White


“The Letter” by Danielle La Paglia @Dannigrrl5

There are good relationships and there are bad relationships. Good ones can last a lifetime but the bad ones have got to end sometime. “The Letter” by Danielle La Paglia is an excellent example of why you should be careful in how you break it off.

Lesson 1: Don’t dump someone with a letter.

Lesson 2: Don’t accept a glass of wine from your psycho ex.

“The Letter” is a quick shot of reality; the kind best taken in small doses.

Reviewed by Brandon Layng


3 Responses to REVIEWS #3

  1. Thanks for the great review Brandon. Much appreciated!

  2. Joseph Mulak says:

    Wow…I’m out of the loop. Didn’t even know you reviewed my story on here. Though, after reading this, I was left wondering whether you liked it or not. You never really said. Btw, I could never make the same decision for my children as the characters did either…

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