Book review – for readers and writers – no.136: House of Justice by Vincent Bivona

Today’s book review of a horror short story is brought to you by yours truly, Morgen Bailey. If you’d like your book reviewed or to send me a book review of another author’s book, see book-reviews for the guidelines. I am booked up months in advance though. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog.

Being a writer and editor, I read and review books with both hats. If you’re a writer reading this review and found it useful, do let me know. If you would like help with your writing, do take a look at my online creative writing courses are currently half price.

House of Justice by Vincent Bivona

House of JusticeHalloween only comes around once a year, and the Justices do it right.

They turn their house into a museum of torture, sectioning off each room with a velvet rope.

The exhibits are so terrifying that the local amusement park asks them for their secret.

It’s quite simple, actually. And four lucky–or unlucky–fans get to find out what it is first hand.

Review (of the eBook using Mrs Kindle’s text-to-speech function)

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Bailey’s Writing Tips podcast ‘short stories’ episode 001

Today saw the first Bailey’s Writing Tips podcast ‘short stories’ episode. As listeners to the podcast will know these episodes have recently been alternate hints & tips and red pen critique sessions. Well, to add something else into the mixture every other episode hereafter will be flash fiction (less than 1,000 words) or short stories (over 1,000 words). This means that the hints & tips episodes will be once a month as will the ‘red pen’ critiques, with these short stories in between.

I’m starting off the next few weeks with the flash fiction that have appeared on this blog as ‘Flash Fiction Fridays’. Because they’re short and, at the moment, I have plenty of them, I’ll be reading out two per fortnight and started today with ‘Captain Jack’s Cave’ (at 716 words) by crime novelist Neil L Yuzuk and Marla Madison’s 511-word ‘Halloween night’.

I won’t be critiquing them but just simply reading them out and I hope you enjoy this new format. And although I enjoy creating different accents I didn’t think I’d do the first piece justice by adopting what would work well in Cornish so stuck (or tried to!) with my Buckinghamshire. I then read Marla’s story and culminated the episode with a little about both authors:

Neil L. Yuzuk was born in Brooklyn, New York. Now retired after twenty-two years, as a SPARK Substance Abuse Prevention Counselor, he wrote Beachside PD: The Reluctant Knight, after collaborating with his police officer son David on a screenplay of the same name. The book was a finalist in the Global eBook Awards in the category of suspense / thriller. The second book in the series, Beachside PD: The Gypsy Hunter is in pre-publishing, and will be available in December, 2011. He’s working on the third book in the series, entitled Beachside PD: Undercover, as well as a screenplay: Fade To Light. Another book, Zaragossa: Fruit of the Vine is also in the works. Neil and David’s website is

Marla Madison is a retired Federal Mediator, now working as an Arbitrator for the state of Iowa and the Federal Mediation Service. ‘She’s Not There’ is her debut suspense novel. Marla is working on a second in her home on Prairie Lake in Northwestern Wisconsin where she lives with her significant other, Terry, a beloved shelter-dog, Skygge, and Poncho, an opinionated feline from the same shelter. Marla’s website is

That’s it for this week. Thank you for downloading / listening to this new short story episode. I hope you enjoyed it and I look forward to bringing you another a fortnight. In the meantime, next Monday’s episode will be another red pen session.

The podcast is available via iTunesGoogle’s FeedburnerPodbean (when it catches up), Podcasters (which takes even longer) or Podcast Alley (which doesn’t list the episodes but will let you subscribe).

Flash Fiction Friday 005: ‘Halloween night’ by Marla Madison

Welcome to Flash Fiction Friday and the fifth story in this new weekly series. This week’s piece is a 411-worder entitled ‘Halloween night’ by Marla Madison.

Halloween night

A mottling of blue, powder-puff clouds curtained the moon. When I left home, it had been free of encumbrance, a demi-moon, torn in two as if by an invisible, galactic predator.

Now as I walk this deserted lane, two spaces opened in the clouds, pale light from the moon creating glowing eyes, evil orbs peering down at me from the heavens. I walked faster as a corner of the moon appeared in one of the eyes in the clouds, creating a malevolent, one-eyed presence.

Shivering, I turned my eyes to the ground and kept walking.

I had to know.

Not wanting to be seen, I’d parked my car at the end of the cornfield. I moved stealthily toward Jonathan’s cabin, where I suspected my love to be snuggled in with another woman. Did he have the bed scattered with rose petals for her as he had for me on our first night? Was the bedroom aglow with candlelight?

I had to know.

Something snapped in the field beside me. I started, but kept up my pace. The soft, crinkly rustling of the autumn corn seemed to whisper, “Go back.”  I walked faster. A dead tree, its branches black and gnarled against the sky, reached for me, its branches crusty, jagged tentacles. I gasped, but continued my journey forward.

I had to know.

There were no lights on in the cabins near Jonathan’s. The frigid fall air and steady drizzle had kept the weekenders away.

The mossy, damp scent of the lake reached my nostrils as I heard a gentle lapping at the shoreline behind his cottage. Soft light flowing from the windows barely illuminated the approach to the front door.

I knew every inch of the yard, from the rusted mailbox, to the weather-beaten window boxes Jonathan filled with yard tools rather than planting with flowers. I peered over one. My breathing ceased at the sight of my beloved with his arms around another woman, their lips melding together in a passionate kiss.

My mouth burned with the acrid taste of jealousy. I longed to crawl into the woods and let the creatures of the earth have me, let dead leaves form a shroud around my wasting body.

Now I knew.

Running back to the road, I stumbled.  I’d nearly fallen on the tines of an old, wood-handled pitchfork; my beloved had a habit of leaving tools lying about. As quietly as possible, I leaned it against the shed where no one could step on it and injure himself. But why should I care if Jonathan or his slut pricked their feet? I pictured her with blood drizzling from dainty, pink toes, her long, curly hair falling over her pained face.

Jonathan never used to lock his doors. He probably still didn’t, in spite of the unfair restraining order he’d filed against me. I had to make him understand the depth of my love for him. I picked up the pitchfork, caressing its rugged shaft in my trembling hands and moved toward the house.

I’m coming, my darling. Now you’ll know.

Ooh… thank you Marla.

Marla Madison works part-time doing arbitrations for the State of Iowa and the Federal Mediation Service. Working full-time as an author, Marla is busy penning her second novel of suspense. She’s Not There, her first, is now available as an ebook. At home in Northwestern Wisconsin, she lives on Prairie Lake with her significant other, Terry, a beloved shelter-dog, Skygge, and Poncho, an opinionated feline from the same shelter. Some of her favorite things are playing duplicate and tournament bridge, golfing, reading, pontooning, and taking long walks with her dog.

If you’d like to submit your 1,000-word max. stories for consideration for Flash Fiction Friday take a look here.