Unfortunately, there’s nothing new to report yet, but I’m still hoping that something will be released soon that I can comment on. In the meantime, here’s another Review, this one on a book I share with Barbara Custer of Night To Dawn. This contains my short novel of the Vietnam War, plus several of my Soul Stealer short stories, for which I received high praise from the reviewer. Tom
BLOOD MOONS AND NIGHTSCAPES
TOM JOHNSON & BARBARA CUSTER
Night to Dawn
Historical / Science Fiction / Horror / Fiction
Bad Moon Rising
Private Martin is RA or Regular Army, better known as a lifer to all company men. He makes Sergeant, and sees much of the world and definitely too much death. The men in his company are survivors. They live with fear as a constant companion, but do their duty just the same. Sergeant Martin is a veteran of the Korean and Viet Nam wars. He has seen death up close and personal. Along the way he has lost many, some friends, some not. To the enemy, they were all the same. It does not matter if you have a wife and kids waiting for you – war does not discriminate. The only real heroes are those that are able to fight despite the fear that threatens to consume them daily. Some men talk big, but when it comes time to fight, they duck and hide. This is an amazing look into the life of a soldier. The descriptive story telling of Tom Johnson allows the reader an insight into one man’s journey. His fears, his laughter, and his pain are wondrously laid out, and give you a glimpse as to what a hero really is.
Airman 1st Class Jim Stewart is going down. The chopper carrying him and several others has just been hit. The little gray man watches the scene with sad and soulful eyes. His duty is about to begin. He is the soul stealer. The pilot is shot, and the copilot as well as the rest of the crew, have been ejected from the chopper. The only survivor is Jim. Now he must make it to a rescue point before the men who shot them down find him. Surviving in the jungles of Vietnam is no easy feat. The snakes are as deadly as the Viet Cong. One bite, and Jim will be dead in minutes. However the little gray man is there to ease his suffering. This one will definitely make your heart race. The action is constant, and if you dislike snakes, this will only encourage that feeling. The range of emotion in such a short story is remarkable.
Little Ricky’s Monster
As a young country boy Little Ricky is just as impressionable as his friends. They struggle to hide any fear that may cause them to look weak in the eyes of their friends. Paula is a freak of nature. She is known as “The Monster” because of her large stature and the hair covering her body. Monsters are in stories not in real life, but Ricky swears he saw one in the barn. Screwing up his courage, he goes to investigate. What he sees frightens him, but the soft words spoken by the monster calm his nerves. She is hurt, and he needs to help her. But she is not the only surprise for young Ricky. The little gray creature helping Paula has another one for him. One can find a friend in the most unlikely places. Little Ricky stumbles upon one such person. This story is sadly sweet, and shows the kindness of a young boy without the prejudice of society.
Life has been very difficult for young Heather Raytzis. Her mother’s death left her an orphan, and the neighborhood boys are relentless in their harassment. The worst bully is Mark Welsh. He got rid of Heather’s mother, and now he has his sights set on Heather. Heather misses her mother more than she can bear. Her mother was her only friend, and although her foster parents are loving and kind, they cannot make up for the loss. The horrible way her mother died will be with her forever. Mark and his buddies decide to prove once and for all that Ms. Raytzis is a vampire in a very deadly way. Now Heather is left alone with only her memories, or is she? This tale is dark and mysterious. It is the perfect combination of suspense and horror with a touch of the paranormal.
I Saw the Light
Jerry Stone is the lead singer of the rock band, the Heavy Stones. They are working their tails off to get recognized. This means working in some venues that leave a lot to be desired. The little gray lady has her eyes set on Jerry. She watches from a dark corner, and only he notices her. It is almost time to meet him. Jerry is nervous, as he has seen the same old lady at several of his shows. No one else has noticed her, and the uneasy feeling will not go away. But they have a show to put on, and he sets his feelings aside. The club they are playing in is a serious fire hazard, and it only takes one bar brawl for things to get out of hand. However it is the little old lady who is there to ease the pain. Spooky is what comes to mind with this story. Jerry’s concerns with the building they are playing in, and the little old lady who shows up for his last song will give you chills. You can almost hear the eerie music playing in the background.
Sergeant Martin is with the 119th Infantry Regiment in Bardenburg, Germany, leading a group of young soldiers against Hitler’s forces. They are little more than boys, and it is his job to keep them alive. The unknown soldier is keeping watch over the young man. It will soon be his time. Sergeant Martin is concerned when one of his young soldiers starts seeing people who are not there. But with weapons fire going nonstop, he has little time to determine the problem. Many soldiers crack under the pressure, and he fears that the young man is doing just that. The nameless soldier will help many cross over in this war, and easing their pain is what he does best. It is a comforting thought to believe that there is help in the end. The soul stealer is a relief for these men, and you can feel their initial reluctance turn to peace.
A Lesson on Suffering
As a certified nursing assistant, Viola Gaunt has a promising career. She is good at her job until one incident with a patient leaves her with chronic back pain, and an anger that warps her senses. Dr. Chuck Walters is Viola’s surgeon when her back is badly damaged. However it is her mind that concerns him most. Viola takes her rage out on her patients. The frail and the elderly never stand a chance against her evil. She systematically drains their lives and their bank accounts. Dr. Walters is ultimately her judge and jury. He is much more than just a doctor, and he can take Viola to a place deserving of her kind. This story will send chills up your spine. The main character is evil incarnate, even more so because she is as human as she is inhumane.
The Bag Lady
Police officer Francis “Frankie” Martin is in her element. She patrols the streets of Chicago with her fellow officers, and is as tough as the next guy. A fact she is quite proud of. The little old bag lady watches as Frankie goes in after a fellow officer. He has already met his maker, but her work is not yet done. The creep that kills Johnny Morales gets away that night, but Frankie receives a second chance. She is quick to determine his M.O., and takes up a position to stop him. He is not going to get away if she has anything to say about it. The bag lady once again makes an appearance, but only the deserving get a pain-free ride out of life. The soul stealer is more of an angel on earth. Her arrival may herald certain death, but it comes with peace and understanding. Each of these stories is told in a unique manner and always gives the reader a new perspective in the face of a tragedy.
Respiratory therapist Walter Mooney has a good life, a decent job, and a loving wife. A dream changes all of that. Frank Nunzio is the programmer of Walter’s life. He wants a life, and if it means taking over Walter’s, so be it. The dream leaves Walter feeling physical ill. However nothing could prepare him for the terror to come. Upon awakening, Walter steps into his own personal Twilight Zone. Nothing is as it seems, and the final straw is his aged doppelganger showing up as his boss. Walter learns that his life is nothing more than a programmer’s pastime. Only now the programmer wants Walter’s life as his own. The Matrix comes to life for Walter Mooney. His character is spiraling into a vortex that ultimately leaves him really looking at his life and his behavior for the first time. Quite a concept if you can wrap your mind around it.
The man in the elevator is just like everyone else in his building. He arrives and departs from his job at the same time every day, and generally has no contact with anyone other than the occasional hello or goodbye. They are all little more than robots. The little gray person takes the same elevator as the man. They do not speak, but the man is curious; the little man is so small and frail, he appears to be ill. The man taking the elevator finally hears the little gray man speak, and strikes up a conversation. This is so rare, he really surprises himself, but there is something compelling about the little man. After hearing a disturbing news story on the radio, the man is even more anxious to confront his new acquaintance. He gets his chance. This feels so real it is unsettling. How much of our lives do we spend completely oblivious to our surroundings? Hopefully this is a lesson learned that we must become actively involved in life, before it is too late.
Roses for Elaine
Elaine struggles for every breath she takes. Her emphysema has led to pneumonia, and it takes all of her energy just to suck in the tiniest of breaths. Paula Blaine is Elaine’s primary care nurse at the Silver Springs Nursing Center. She takes great joy in watching people suffer, and helps them along in any way she can. Elaine teeters on the edge of life and death, but no matter how bad it gets, she does not want to return to Silver Springs. The threats made to her by Paula will only get worse. Going home with her son Kevin and his wife is what she longs for. However she must tell someone what she knows before any more people die. Even if it means risking her own life. The fact that there are people in the health care industry like Paula is frightening but real. This story really hits home, by showing how easily these patients can be mistreated.
The Naturalist grew up in the sixties; hippy clothes, smoking pot, and protesting the war were his life. It took a few years, but he finally grew up and became an adult. The little man stops by The Naturalist and admires his paintings. The renditions are so real they look ready to step off the page. But he is not here to admire artwork. Painting wildlife is what The Naturalist does best. His work is so lifelike that most people compare it to a photograph. He especially enjoys painting in the mountains outside of San Bernardino. He is just getting packed up when the little man shows up on the lonely road. What starts out as a pleasant conversation quickly becomes the dire realization that this may be the end. Lives can take many twists and turns throughout the years. The Naturalist was a hellion as a young man, and could have easily chosen a life of sin. However he found his niche in the world and prospered as an admired and talented artist.
Big Jim Martin has lived a full life, and seen most of the world in his fifty years. He can tell a good story, and is willing to do so at any opportunity. The small man enjoys listening to Big Jim’s stories. Getting to know his clients always helps in the end. Big Jim and his dog, Sugar, have hiked together many times. They put a lot of miles behind them, and sometimes Jim gets lonely for human conversation. He will talk to anyone who stops to listen, and the little man who comes upon them on the trail is a great listener. When the time comes for Jim to depart, the little man is more than willing to help ease his way. Big Jim likes to tell some pretty tall tales, but it is all in good humor. You believe in his goodness, and his story will touch your heart.
The Road Home
Emily Mayes is in the last stages of the nerve disease, ALS. She has battled fiercely, but moving back to the city and into a nursing home is out of the question. Her son, Joe. understands his mother’s reluctance to go into a nursing home, but he has never figured out why she refuses to live in the city. Serenity Springs holds so many memories for Emily, some good, but also some that are horribly sad. The domed city would be so much easier on her and her family, but she just cannot live there. Her late husband comes into her thoughts with more regularity now, and he wants her to return to the city. She must forgive herself if she is to move on, and that forgiveness lies miles away in the frigid cold and blinding snow surrounding Serenity Springs. An old woman’s grief has crippled her life for decades, even more so than her disease. However she can only move past this in her own time. This story is achingly sad and tender.
Tom Johnson writes with a passion that is hard to ignore. His stories are sometimes brutally honest and always emotionally profound. I am a huge fan of his work and highly recommend it. Barbara Custer has a flair for the unusual. She will take ordinary people and twist them into the most bizarre and strangely compelling storylines. The compilation of stories in this book varies greatly. Some are fantastic, some are odd, but all are expertly written.
Reviewer for Coffee Time Romance
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