REVIEW: Teenage Grave | Filthy Loot, Ed. Ira Rat

Teenage Grave from Filthy Loot

Filthy Loot consistently puts out good product, and the press’s latest release is no exception.

This is a nice and tight anthology, coming in at just 70 pages, and can easily be read in one sitting. Every paragraph is compelling, and each story is paced nicely, with good payoff endings.

Jo Quenell hits it out of the park, as always, with “Stale Air.” Creepy and sad.

Sam Richard’s “I Know Not the Names of the Gods to Whom I Pray” is a look at visceral grief and bereavement after the death of a romantic and sexual partner. Sam’s writing punches you right in the gut, over and over, and his descriptions of gore are always fantastic. (check out more from Sam at

“Apate’s Children” is the first work I’ve read by Brendan Vidito, and I really enjoyed it. Creative interpretation of guilt and atonement. Really imaginative use of mythological reference here, too.

Justin Lutz‘s “Start Today” gave made my stomach churn, gave me chills, and left me with my jaw hangin’ on the floor, in that order. Loved it. Great way to end.

I don’t hesitate when I give this book a 5-star rating. Filthy Loot had introduced to me so many authors whose work I love, and I’m excited to see what they have coming up next for us.

Follow Filthy Loot editor, Ira Rat on Twitter @eyerarat, and me @evanstjones

“Antlers” by Evan St. Jones @ Serotonin Poetry

I wrote a short piece of prose about depression called “Antlers.” Serotonin Poetry published it on their site.

I’m thrilled, as this is my first piece I’ve had accepted by a publication. I’m excited to keep writing and submitting short stories, but having this little piece accepted is certainly a milestone I’ll always remember.

Check it out here:

“Antlers” by Evan St. Jones

Follow me on Twitter @ evanstjones and Serotonin @ serotoninpoetry

I’m writing…

If you had told me at the start of quarantine in March of this year that by December I would be reading and writing every day, I would most certainly have thought you’d lost your damn mind. Early this year was tough. For me and everyone in the world. I felt the rug get snatched out from under me and wandered directionless. As a joke I saw on Twitter said: “Planning for the future during COVID is speculative fiction.” Indeed, that’s how it feels.

So instead of planning for my own speculative future, I dove into the imaginations of authors far and wide. With help from a genetics test, I was finally able to start a medication that works well for my depression and anxiety disorders, and I’m able to focus long enough to read again. Reading has inspired writing.

So I write. I write a little every day. Sometimes, I write a lot a day. I don’t know if it’s good stuff that I’m writing, and I don’t care. I’ve started a good dozen of short stories, and I’m impressed with my own capacity for creativity. I truly didn’t know I had it in me. Thank you modern medicine.

I’m currently trying to hone my skills as a writer. Like I said in a previous post, I haven’t really written any creative fiction in over 10 years until a few months ago. I’m rusty. Actually, I don’t know if I was ever any good. The stories I wrote in high school sure sound terrible. Haha. So I’m reading books about writing, taking segments of writing courses as I can, watching a lot of Youtube videos about writing and publishing, befriending authors and trying to work up the nerve to ask them for advice. One sweet man, whose work I really enjoy, offered to read some stuff for me whenever I feel like sending it, but so far I’ve not gathered the confidence to do so more than once (thanks Luke, if you read this. I’ll send some more eventually).

I’ve found that, while it’s difficult for me to share my work with people I know, sending in submissions is not as nerve-wracking. For some reason. I’ve sent out four submissions over the past month, and that feels good. I don’t have high hopes for any of them getting back to me with positive news, but it doesn’t matter. It felt good to send something in. Like I could look in my email outbox and see something tangible that I finished. That’s a good fuckin’ feeling for someone who feels like they haven’t completed anything in over a decade.

So, I’m writing. It’s a journey already. Let’s see where I go.

Review: Amy M. Vaughn | Skull Nuggets

Skull Nuggets by Amy M. Vaughn

I’ve struggled my entire adult life with depression, anxiety, and panic disorders. There have been spans of time where I would have done anything to help cope with the pain accompanying mental illness, but I can say I never considered drilling a hole in my head. Maybe I would have if there was any solid evidence it worked for such illnesses.

Amy M. Vaughn’s book, Skull Nuggets, exists in a universe where nanoscopic organisms called neurophages (colloquial referred to as “brain mites”) have recently been discovered. It is theorized that undergoing trepanation, or having part of your skull surgically removed, can help relieve mental illnesses like anxiety and depression by decreasing the pressure on the brain and allowing for more blood to circulate through it. Vaughn combines the idea of trepanation (which actually exists, and the history has been well researched and documented in this book) with the fictional Forato House testing hallucinogens injected directly into the frontal lobe in order to eradicate the brain mites. In doing so, they believe they can help patients reach a state close to nirvana, and sometimes even beyond that.

Robert, our protagonist, lives in a small apartment subsisting on social security due to his depression. While researching neurophages and trepanation, he comes across Project Skylight, an experiment taking place at the nearby Forato House. He meets a woman named Bet at the corner store, and learns that she is in town looking for her father, who she believes is a resident at the Forato House. The two of them hatch a plan for Robert to apply to be a subject in their experiment, and Bet to apply for a housekeeping position in order to “save” her father, who had borrowed money from her for rehab, and then lost communication.

The characters in Skull Nuggets were all likable. Robert seems like someone who has a lot of potential, and seems quite bright, but he’s been overcome by his mental illnesses. Bet is audacious, sweet, and compassionate with the heart of an activist and fiercely loyal to those she loves. Those working at and running the Forato House seem to truly believe in their vision for a brighter future, and the patients there only did what they thought would relieve their mental maladies.

This is a story of grief, depression, sickness, desperation, and hope, above all else. The moral I gleaned was that what we’ve been through and how we’ve responded to it is what makes us who we are as people; that is, if it wasn’t enough to break you, and at that point, maybe a hole in the head would solve all of your problems?

I loved this book, and it made me feel like I’d be all right.

Review: Andrew J. Stone | The Ultimate Dinosaur Dance-off

The Ultimate Dinosaur Dance-off by Andrew J. Stone

An explosion of dance, color, psychedelia, dinosaurs, and inter-dimensional / inter-species romance. I found myself literally dancing in my chair as I read, sights and sounds evoked by the story.

When brothers Colin and Joe, along with Joe’s girlfriend Emma, see a light emanating from a cave during a camping trip, they never could have imagined that upon investigation, they would be launched into a psychedelic romp through a prehistoric island of dinosaurs on a pirate ship complete with a talking longneck figurehead.

Once they arrive on the island, they are greeted by dancing apatosauruses with vibrantly colored tie-dyed skin. The landscape around them is as strange and colorful as the dinosaurs: twisted and warping based on the apparent whims and dance moves of its inhabitants. Colin, Joe, and Emma join the dinosaurs and dance until they collapse from exhaustion. When they awake, Colin and Emma realize that Joe has gone missing in the night. Colin stumbles upon Rose (the apatosaurus he danced with the previous evening) in the bushes, and she agrees to help him and Emma on their quest to find Joe. She had bad news though: Joe has been captured by The Tyrannosaurus Task Force and will be fattened up to be eaten at a feast following The Ultimate Dinosaur Dance-off at the House of Rex.

What follows is a funny, heartwarming, brain-scratching, and terrifying trek that will leave you admiring Andrew J. Stone’s writing (beautiful, lyrical), as well as having learned more than you expected to about dance and dinosaurs. 

We get a look into Colin’s relationship with dance and his brother, Joe, his infatuation with dinosaurs, and his attempt at love in flashback sequences sprinkled throughout. These always made me feel more fond of Colin, and helped me understand him a little better.

The author mentions in the acknowledgments that he has been influenced by Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and The Land Before Time for most of his life, and these beloved children’s stories are both evidently imprinted upon the DNA of The Ultimate Dinosaur Dance-Off. I would recommend this book to readers of both of those works, as well as anyone who considered themselves a fan of bizarro fiction. It was a wild ride, funny as hell, and touching. Do not miss this one!