Fridays 5 02/26/2021

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When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Click on the authors name or image to be taken to their amazon page.

Pete Mesling

A: Garrison Keillor once remarked that an artist is someone who gets up in the morning and does art. By that definition I remain something of a failure. I get up most days and go to work like a schmuck. The writing I do when I can, and that means lunch breaks evenings, and weekends, folks. But publishing has done a lot to make me feel like a proper writer, especially having some books out there with only my name on them. Writing every day is important for me, too. I’m not masochistic about word counts, and I’m happy to let blog posts qualify on a slow day but having my head in the game more or less daily keeps me going—and feeling like a writer.

Bio: Pete Mesling has published poetry and fiction widely, including two highly regarded horror collections, a book of poetry, and a novel of intrigue and suspense. Other publishing highlights include All-American Horror of the 21st Century, the First Decade: 2000 – 2010 (Independent Legions Publishing); Survive the Night: Three at Dusk, Two at Dawn (forthcoming from Dark Regions Press); Shallow Waters, Vol. 3 (Crystal Lake Publishing); and two of the Poetry Showcase anthologies put out by the Horror Writers Association. Mesling is the official Clive Barker proofreader for Gauntlet Press. Learn more at http://www.petemesling.com

A. M. Harte

A.)  I’ve been writing for far longer than I can remember, but I honestly never seriously thought of myself as a writer until recently.

 I started out as a voracious reader. I lived books, breathed books. Writing was something I did on the side, for myself, a clumsy attempt to emulate the books that gave me so much pleasure. A way to get those characters rattling around in my head out onto a page, to live out my dreams.

 Throughout my late teenage years, things changed. From emailing chapters to my sister, I progressed to posting work online. I gained readers — readers who came back every week for more. Their encouragement and support made something click in my head. It confirmed to me that I wanted to be a writer, wanted to keep writing and sharing stories.

 That’s when I started thinking of myself as a writer.

 See, despite the romantic ideal of the lonely author locked up in a cave somewhere, inscribing words on a stone tablet fueled only by alcohol and caffeine, I ultimately believe that writing is for readers. If you don’t want someone to read that story one day, why write it down? I think that’s why I only recently began to think of myself as a writer, because previously I wasn’t really writing to share.

Are you a writer if you don’t have readers? If a tree falls in an empty forest, does it make a sound?

Bio: A.M. Harte is a speculative fiction enthusiast and chocolate addict. She is excellent at missing deadlines, has long forgotten what ‘free time’ means, and enjoys procrastinating.

An avid reader, she’s been writing fiction far longer than anybody’s been paying attention. Her work includes the dark fantasy novel “Above Ground” and the zombie love collection “Hungry For You”. Some wonderful places that have featured her short stories are: Best of Friday Flash Volume 2, Flashes In The Dark, 12 Days 2010, The Random Eye & the charity anthology Tales for Canterbury. 

WEBSITE http://amharte.com

Wednesday Lee Friday

A: From age 5-11, then not again until my 30’s. There was this whole, wide swath of time when I didn’t think I could ever “really” be a writer. I thought I needed someone else to tell me I was a writer, instead of just getting the hell out there and writing. Glad I finally figured it out—but wish I’d started 20 years earlier.

Bio: Wednesday lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan with her husband and two crafty cats. She is a member of the Horror Writer’s Association, and also enjoys Shostakovich, Dexter, loom knitting, The Simpsons, crafty things, quality horror of all kinds, and kettle cooked potato chips. She covers TV and movies for 411Mania, sexy stuff at Kinkly.com, and has done a ton of ghostwriting…though not about ghosts.

David A Simpson

A: Hard to say. Even though I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a little kid and I went full-time for about a year until Covid hit, I’m still not sure if I consider myself a “writer”.  So far all of my releases have been self-published. I have a New York literary agent and a Hollywood film agent, and I’ve sold 100,000 copies but I still don’t consider myself a writer. Is that the imposter syndrome, I’m pretending to be one although I know I’m really not?

Bio: David A. Simpson is an Amazon bestselling author of the Zombie Road and Feral Children series. He loves to travel and has a long list of places to visit on his bucket list. He likes weird things and will drive a hundred miles out of his way to see a weird sculpture made from junkyard parts or a Bonnie and Clyde museum.

S. J. Krandall

A: I first considered myself a writer as soon as I began to filling pages with stories. I believe that if you are enjoying it and you write often then you are a writer no matter what you produce. Whether it be poetry, blogs, short stories, graphic novels, or anything else you are writing… have fun with it! 

Bio: S. J. Krandall is a horror author whose recent work was published in summer of 2020.  She was born in Florida but raised in New Jersey where she still resides with my husband, their two sons and two dogs. For more than twenty years she has worked with children with varying abilities as both a teacher and an aide. Now, a stay a home mom, she cares for her family and takes time to enjoy other interests. Her work in progress includes her second book to her series and a variety of short stories. 

Webpage: sjkrandallbooks.com

Weekly Writing Challenge 02/24/2021

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Managed another 620 words even though I was tired after a day shift at the hardware store where I work. But it’s what you gotta do when you’re a writer. You have to develop the habit of consistency, and the only way to do that is to write every day whether you want to or not. I’m far from perfect when it comes to that, and I’ve let distractions take me from my work, watching TV or playing games when I should be writing. It is what it is though, and for me the writing itself is the best reward. To see the story come together in the readers mind and know I’ve touched their life no matter how brief is what drives me.

I’m anxious to get to the end of this one so I can start the rewrite, and add the emotional elements to the skeletal structure of the story. So without further adieu I give you the next installment of

Third Times a Charm

“I’m fine, I’ll be right back.” He wasn’t sure what was going on, how could Mona be here? He killed her. He saw her die with his own eyes. Was someone playing games with him. Was it her brother?  Her Sister? They had never liked him, believing Mona was too good for the likes of him. That’s what it was, wasn’t it? Her siblings were playing mind games with him. He’d show them. He waited for the elevator, watching the light above the door as it counted down to his floor. The doors opened with a ding and he stabbed the button for the lobby with his thumb. He’d show them.

Reaching the lobby he raced out the front doors and stopped. The flow of pedestrians had dwindled to a trickle and he stood on the sidewalk, looking first one way, then the other. A siren wailed, its warbling voice getting closer with every passing moment and he ignored it. Focused on trying to find the person or person responsible for this little game. From his right came a familiar sigh and he swiveled his head in that direction, catching sight of Mona as she slipped into the alley.

He followed, one hand on the butt of his pistol as he raced down the garbage strewn street. A couple of vagrants were arguing over the contents of a garbage pail. He paid no attention to them as he walked by, his gaze scanning every possible hiding place for his target. He imagined they were watching him while he searched. Probably laughing at his futile attempt to find them. Reaching the end of the alley he was forced to admit defeat and turned back to return to his apartment.

Coming around the front of the building he saw a police cruiser and an ambulance parked at the curb with their emergency lights flashing, a small crowd gathered around them. It was a common enough sight for this area so he didn’t pay much attention to what was happening as he entered the building. When the elevator doors slid open he knew he was in trouble. The hallway was filled with the other resident that lived on his floor, all eyes fixed on the police officer at Nicks door, whispered questions followed him to his apartment.

The policeman held up his hand as he approached. “You can’t come in here, sir.”

“It’s my apartment, what’s going on?”

The police turned to Nick’s open door. “Detective, the occupant of the apartment is here.”

“On my way,” a young Latino dressed in a suit said. Nick recognized him as the detective that originally questioned him when he shot Mona, but he couldn’t recall the detective’s name.

“Nick Falon,” the detective said, extending his hand, “strange we should cross paths like this again.”

“How’s that, Detective, I’m sorry I seem to have forgotten your name.”

“It’s detective Martin, do you know a Miss Denise VanMeter?”

“She’s my neighbor from across the hall, why? Is she okay, Denise? Is everything all right?” He tried to see what was happening in his apartment but there were two other people standing at the doorway to the kitchen, blocking his view. What is happening?”

“That’s what I was going to ask you. Did you invite Miss VanMeter to your apartment?”

“Of course I did we were going to have dinner, I had to run an errand.”

“I’m going to need you to come down to the station.”

“I can’t, not until you tell me what’s going on.”

“We’ll talk about it down at the station.”

“I’m not going, not until you tell me what’s happening.”

“You don’t have a choice,” Detective Martin said, nodding at the patrolman behind Nick.

To be continued!

I know it’s too early to say, but what do you think?

New in Horror 02/22/2021

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Hallucinations (Trigger Warning) Anthology

It is important to remember that we are ruled by our minds. Our reality is our perception. How can we move forward when that becomes untrustworthy, how do we move forward when we become aware that our perception is different than that of everyone around us?

Our very sanity comes into question; we can’t shake the notion that we might be mad. Or worse, what if we aren’t insane. What if everything we see exists?

Included in this anthology are 13 stories of shifted perceptions by up and coming horror authors. You’ll find the stories inside bizarre, bloody, and upsetting. But before you open this collection and enjoy the stories inside, remember…

You were warned.

Bow-Legged Buccaneers from Outer Space: David Owain Hughes

The year is 2082—the not-so-distant future—and Chinatown is a prison. One hundred years ago, between 1980 and 1990, hardcore arcade gamers, cinemagoers, TV freaks and comic book nerds took over the large oriental area and turned it into a no-go zone. The streets became violent, corrupt and the powers that be lost control. A large wall and river were constructed around the city; the waters were filled with sharks and patrolled by the government’s secret police, who had more artillery than Rambo.
Paul ‘Frank Castle’ Hoskins is one of the good guys, doing his best to keep the streets clean and the innocent people safe. When Chinatown comes under attack from space pirates, will Frank have finally met his match? Will he be able to protect the woman he loves and save his beloved home? Bullets will fly, blood will be spilt, and vengeance will be sought.
Includes the bonus short stories Sticky Buttons and The Last Freakshow on Earth!

Cult Cinema: Howard David Ingham Non-fiction

Religious extremism is one of our most acute current anxieties, but it has been with us for centuries. And from the birth of Christianity right through to the post-Trump era, it has always been tied to personalities and the cults they inspire. And the stories we tell about them reflect that. Cult Cinema uses cinematic and televisual depictions of isolated sects, self-help pyramid schemes, pagan village conspiracies, evangelical grifters and more to shine a lens upon what happens when belief goes bad. Drawing from sources ranging from situation comedy to exploitation horror and beyond, this book examines why people join abusive religious groups, what we really mean by “brainwashing”, and what it means to escape. Howard David Ingham has been writing about media, horror, the occult and the storytelling of religious belief for two decades. Their last book, We Don’t Go Back: A Watcher’s Guide to Folk Horror, was nominated for a 2018 Bram Stoker Award (Superior Achievement in Nonfiction). “A personal and cinematic journey through the strange and terrifying world of cults, this is a deeply honest and empathetic look at how people fall into – and escape from – damaging group dynamics. Cult Cinema is a breathtaking achievement…” Gwendolyn Kiste, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of The Rust Maidens

Imperfect Lodgings: Pete Mesling Poetry

“The most important thing about dreams is the existence in them of magical emotions, to which waking Consciousness is not ordinarily sentient. Awe of vast constructions; familiar eternal halls of buildings; sexual intensity in rapport; deathly music; grief awakenings, perfected lodgings.”
—ALLEN GINSBERG, JOURNALS: EARLY FIFTIES, EARLY SIXTIES

Therefore God becomes as we are, that we may become as he is.
—WILLIAM BLAKE, THERE IS NO NATURAL RELIGION

Fridays 5 02/19/2021

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What is the hardest part of writing?

Clicking on the authors name will take you to their site.

Rick Hautala

A: Ideas are easy for me. And writing is a struggle, but a fun one. Revision is always fun. And editing is tedious but necessary. But the absolute hardest part of writing for me is developing the ideas once I get them. That’s where you have to fill in the blanks and piece the story together to get an outline or, at least, a clear idea of where you’re going. That is the worst and hardest. After that, it’s easier … but never easy.

Bio: Rick arrived on the horror scene in 1980 with many of his early novels published by Zebra books. He wrote and published over 90 novels and short stories from the early 1980s on. In 2011 the Horror Writers Association awarded Rick and Joe R. Lansdale the Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement. Sadly, on March 21 of 2013 we lost Rick to a heart attack. For me personally he was a writer who was always willing to help those of us starting out, and though I never met him personally I counted him among my friends.

Jo-Anne Russell

A: The hardest part of writing for me is getting started. Social networks are my drug of choice, and make for many a day wasted – to a point. Other than that, knowing when to stop going over a piece is hard for me.

Bio: Jo-Anne Russell is a horror writer, and publisher, living in Edmonton, AB, Canada. Her stories have appeared in anthologies by Brazen Snake Books, Static Movement, Wicked East Press, and Hidden Thoughts Press, just to name a few.
Her taste for the macabre has provided her imagination with a feast that fuels her writing and creativity. If you like horror, the bizarre, or you just don’t like to sleep at night, give her books and short stories a try.
Her debut novel The Nightmare Project is the first in the shocking trilogy called Dangerous Minds, and is now available.

William F Nolan

A: Sitting down in front of a sheet of blank paper (or a blank screen nowadays) and filling it with good words is the hardest part.

Bio: With 85 books to his credit, plus hundreds of scripts, articles and short stories embracing a dozen genres, William F. Nolan is an official Living Legend (voted that honor by the International Horror Guild).
As a noted pulp historian, he is a recognized authority on Black Mask, Dashiell Hammett, and “Max Brand” (Frederick Faust). Nolan has edited six collections of Faust tales, has written Max Brand: Western Giant, and is the author of the forthcoming biography King of the Pulps: The Man Who Was Max Brand.

Wednesday Lee Friday

A: The obvious answer is finding the time to write. For me, it was also believing the work is finished enough to let it be seen by other people. And of course, finding people who actually want to read what you’ve written. Turns out, writing a novel is the fun, easy part.

Bio: Wednesday lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan with her husband and two crafty cats. She is a member of the Horror Writer’s Association, and also enjoys Shostakovich, Dexter, loom knitting, The Simpsons, crafty things, quality horror of all kinds, and kettle cooked potato chips. She covers TV and movies for 411Mania, sexy stuff at Kinkly.com, and has done a ton of ghostwriting…though not about ghosts.

A.M Harte

A: Finishing!

You start off in that wonderful honeymoon phase, where your idea is wonderful and amazing and smells like roses. Then halfway through you hit that slump. It hasn’t met your expectations, it’s horrible, you’re wasting your life with this writing malarkey. You can’t possibly inflict this crap on anyone. This is when a lot of people give up. But you need to persevere, dig in your heels. If you don’t finish the book, it’ll haunt you.

You muddle your way through to the end of the book, and finally realize that it’s not so bad after all. Sure, not as amazing as you’d originally thought, but passable. Phew…. Except you’re not done yet. Then comes the dreaded revision. Edits. Rewriting. The story loses all meaning and becomes a string of words.

Finally, finally, you hand the book over to your readers. Then you start the next book, and go through the entire cycle again.

Bio: A.M. Harte writes twisted speculative fiction, such as the zombie love anthology Hungry For You. She is excellent at missing deadlines, has long forgotten what ‘free time’ means, and is utterly addicted to chocolate.

Weekly Writing Challenge 02/17/2021

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This week I’ve managed 750 words and the end is in sight. I know exactly where this story is headed now and I’m looking forward to the big reveal. I hope you’ve been enjoying my posts, and I’m always looking forward to your thoughts on my work. It’s taken me years to come to the conclusion of why I write. Before I would always answer that question with, ‘because I must.’ Now I realize I write to entertain. I only hope I’m achieving that goal. Without further adieu, I give you the next installment of Third Times a Charm.

Third Times a Charm

Where could he even begin? Hell, he wasn’t sure where to start, maybe at the beginning. “I grew up in a small place called Borden right outside the town of Frostburg in western Maryland. Me and my friends would sled ride in the winter and play in the woods during the summer. Went to Mountain Ridge high school and served four years with the Marines, joining right after I graduated.”

“That’s a start I suppose, it is nice to know you care enough to not brush me off. So, are we eating at your place tonight?”

What could it hurt? Didn’t Dr. Morrison say Mona’s presence was nothing more than the guilt he felt at taking her life? If that were true, and everything he’d experienced since her death was a result of his own feelings of guilt, why not bring an outside influence into his life.

“Like I said, it’s cramped, but if you’re willing to overlook that you’re more than welcome to come over.”

“Would seven be good?”

“Works for me,” Nick said, following her into the crowded elevator. They silently rode to the first floor, Denise’s arm wrapped snugly around his own. There they parted to go their separate ways. Nick felt a spring in his step as he crossed the lobby and stepped out into a spring day. It was beginning to look like all the despair that had been his life was finally passing, like dark clouds breaking up under the sun a smile spread across his face. Tonight would be the first step into a new life and he was really looking forward to the change.

The day passed slowly, uneventfully, his mind focused on the evening with Denise. For the first time in a long time he was looking forward to the end of the day and that expectation seemed to cause all the clocks to grind down to a snail’s pace. It was so different from the past when the day seemed to speed by him, the sensation Mona was watching his every step never far from his thoughts. Doctor Morrison explained that his feelings were guilt speaking to him the only way it knew how.

Eventually the day came to an end and he was able to escape his office. His takeout order was waiting for him at Mario’s and with a spring in his step he made his way back to the apartment building where he lived. A block away from him, the sidewalk around him filled with pedestrians taking advantage of the early spring day, he was brought up short by a familiar shout. He scanned the crowd ahead of him and spotted her at the entrance to his building. Mona stood with her arms wrapped about herself, her eyes scanning the crowd flowing around her.

No, it couldn’t be, it wasn’t possible for her to be here. She was dead. He killed her. A single shot to the forehead, the look of surprise on her face as death claimed her never straying far from his thoughts. Another thought bulled its way through. Denise? Where was she? Was she okay?

Ducking into the alley he made his way to the service entrance and slipped inside. Impatiently he waited for then elevator to take him to the seventeenth floor.  Once inside he struggled against his panic as the car slowly rode up, stopping occasionally as passengers got on and off. Finally, he reached the seventeenth floor and bolted from the elevator. At his door he slipped the key into the lock, the door behind him opening.

“Hey stranger, is that dinner?”

Plastering a smile, he didn’t feel on his face he turned around to Denise and held up the bag from Mario’s. “Gimme a couple of minutes and we can eat.”

“I can’t wait,” she said.

Nick slipped into his apartment and crossed to the bedroom. From his nightstand he retrieved his pistol and slipped it into the waistband of his pants. As he was crossing back to the door it opened to reveal Denise dressed in a flowing sheer robe that clung to every surface of her body.

“Where are you off to in such a hurry?”

“I’ve gotta take care of one little thing. I’ll be right back.”

“You mind if I wait here?” She looked around the small apartment.

“That’ll be okay, I’ll be right back.”

She grabbed his arm before he could get away. “Are you sure you’re okay? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

To be continued!

What do you think so far?

This week in horror 02/15/2021

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Tales from the Gulp: Alan Baxter

Strange things happen in The Gulp. The residents have grown used to it.

The isolated Australian harbour town of Gulpepper is not like other places. Some maps don’t even show it. And only outsiders use the full name. Everyone who lives there calls it The Gulp. The place has a habit of swallowing people.

A truck driver thinks the stories about The Gulp are made up to scare him. Until he gets there.
Teenage siblings try to cover up the death of their mother, but their plans go drastically awry.
A rock band invite four backpackers to a party at their house, where things get dangerously out of hand.
A young man loses a drug shipment and his boss gives him 48 hours to make good on his mistake.
Under the blinking eye of the old lighthouse, a rock fisher makes the strangest catch of his life. 

Five novellas. Five descents into darkness. Welcome to The Gulp, where nothing is as it seems.

Moon Child: Gaby Triana

As the only daughter in her Cuban-American home, 18-year-old Valentina Callejas has been raised to do what her Catholic grandmother and mother say to do. But Valentina feels a different pull–an affinity with nature, a desire to read tarot cards and study the occult. After ditching her church’s retreat and fighting with her family, Valentina flees her Miami home and ends up five hours away at Macy’s house, a sister she’s never met until now.

When a mysterious wolf leads Valentina to nearby abandoned Sunlake Springs Resort, she meets the “clairs,” young psychics drawn to the hotel’s haunted history. They’ve been waiting for her, they say, to open a magical entryway to the spirit world. But Valentina’s sensitive hands tell a different story–of anguished spirits, menacing cracks, and hooded ghosts of Florida’s hateful past. Even the local legend, the beautiful Lady of the Lake, all hint to the hotel’s sinister history. To protect her new friends from the horrors awaiting them on the other side, Valentina must use her growing powers and decide, once and for all, if she’s the witch she was always meant to be.

Severed: Joshua Marsella

In this prequel to SCRATCHES, the members of Third Squad are sent on a recon mission to Northern Vietnam in 1967. Their squad leader, Sgt. George Hanscott, has to make the difficult decision to disobey his unit’s direct orders putting his squad’s lives at risk, or help a local fishing village end the terror that’s been plaguing them for over a century. Will his decision backfire or will his squad of US Marine’s be able to destroy the evil entity they don’t quite understand?

Will we find out how George became such a heinous monster? Do we really want to know?

Fridays 5 02/12/2021

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Author names and photos serve as active links to their website or author page.

How did you feel upon publication of your first completed project?

David Simpson

A: It was fantastic. I loved holding it in my hands. For me it was a lifelong goal and I didn’t care if I sold books or not. I mean of course I wanted to but to hold that paper back was a great feeling. I wrote it for me and told a story I wanted to tell. There were no considerations about what others would think or tailoring the story to a certain market.

Bio: David A. Simpson is an Amazon bestselling author of the Zombie Road and Feral Children series. He loves to travel and has a long list of places to visit on his bucket list. He likes weird things and will drive a hundred miles out of his way to see a weird sculpture made from junkyard parts or a Bonnie and Clyde museum.

Thaddeus White

A: Relieved that Bane of Souls was out there, but also immensely nervous of public reaction. Getting the first few reviews was cathartic. I also felt very keen to get cracking with the next book.

Bio: Thaddeus White is a pen name for someone else. He’s a Yorkshireman, and as well as being an avid fantasy reader/writer enjoys classical history. In addition to his fantastical writings, he offers tips on F1, with varying degrees of success.

S. J. Krandall

A: I felt really proud upon publishing my first completed project.  I set out to do something fun and it turned out to be an amazing experience for me.  I could not wait to share it with others and am looking forward to doing more. 

Bio: S. J. Krandall is a horror author whose recent work was published in summer of 2020.  She was born in Florida but raised in New Jersey where she still resides with my husband, their two sons and two dogs. For more than twenty years she has worked with children with varying abilities as both a teacher and an aide. Now, a stay a home mom, she cares for her family and takes time to enjoy other interests. Her work in progress includes her second book to her series and a variety of short stories. 

Scott Nicholson

A: I had a number of short stories published before my first novel, so I had my stack of rejection slips to dance upon. But I also knew there was a lot of hard work ahead.

Bio:  Nicholson has written hundreds of songs and poems and was a musician in a former life. As a newspaper reporter, he won three North Carolina Press Association awards. He’s had the usual collection of odd jobs: dishwasher, carpenter, painter, paranormal investigator, baseball card dealer, and radio announcer. Now he haphazardly trades words for magic beans and uses “haphazardly” as often as possible while decrying the overuse of adverbs.

Craig Saunders

A: My first published novel was Rain, and I cried like a baby – it had taken me seven years to get my first novel published (or thereabouts)…I still didn’t feel like a writer, though.

Bio: Since his first novel acceptance ‘Rain’ over ten years ago Craig’s short fiction has been published in periodicals, magazines, podcasts, ‘Best of’ anthologies, and his novellas have won a couple of awards. He’s been a top 100 bestselling author in horror, fantasy, and science fiction categories on Amazon, but it isn’t the New York Times so he doesn’t make a big song and dance about it.

If you’re an author who works in horror, sci-fi, or dark fantasy, follow this link to participate.

Fridays 5

Weekly Writing Challenge

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Real life intruded this week and prevented me from adding to the ongoing story. I’ve chosen instead to share the first chapter of my current work in progress. BITTER HOLLOW. I hope you enjoy it. Like the story, the cover below is a work in progress. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

The past bleeds through.

It didn’t matter how high, or how thick we built the walls around the memories that gave us the most pain, one way or another they found their way through.

Laura left three months ago, and the pain of her leaving was as fresh as the day it happened. One moment she was there, in the next she was gone. There’d been no goodbyes, no enraged notes blaming me for all my shortcomings, or any drawn out arguments punctuated by the slamming of the door.

It was the opposite in fact.

A silence that spoke with the finality of death.  While I was working she left, moving to her sisters in Baltimore, back to the hectic pace and the bright lights of a lifestyle that blinded both of us to the truth when we were first wed in a union doomed to failure the moment we said, I do.

For Laura’s family I was from the wrong side of the tracks, a point they tried to drive home, but in the beginning her love for me blinded her to our differences. Though I was a beat cop with no education beyond high school, filled with rage at the people of a country I once tried to help, we managed to keep our marriage together for seven years. In that time her family started warming up to me, so much so that her dad invited me to a round of golf.

I declined, I’d never been interested in golf, couldn’t see what was so competitive about chasing a little white ball around. My refusal to join her dad on the links proved to be the first chink in the armor that was our marriage. It wasn’t long before others followed, spreading out from that first little crack like a spider web to culminate in the chasm that opened between us when we were forced to move to the mountains. Here the slower pace removed the blinders the bright lights and fast tempo of life in Baltimore put in place. For the first time she saw me for what I really was, and she didn’t like it.

It didn’t matter that in sixteen years with the Baltimore police I rose through the ranks from patrolman to lead detective heading up the major cases bureau. I was just another poser trying to be something I wasn’t, and I’d invaded her space, tricking her into believing I was something I wasn’t. At least to her way of thinking. She made that quite clear the last time we spoke. Argued would be a better description.

“Patrol six, this is base, over.” A feminine voice came from the radio mounted on the dash.

Keying the mic, I responded. “This is patrol six, go ahead, over.”

“Hey Bill, on nights again I see, over.”

“Story of my life, whatcha got Rosie? Over.”

“It’ll get better, it always does. They hit the circle K again in Red House, over.” Everyone in the office knew about Laura leaving, a couple even blamed me for what happened.

“That’s the second time this month, they need to close after midnight. I’m on my way, over.”

“Roger, Bill, this is base, out.”

There was no need for lights or sirens, the culprits were probably already in West Virginia, so I pulled a U-turn in the middle of 219 and headed south.

The road ahead lay shrouded in shadows as the ridge above burned with the light of the approaching day. Laura always liked the sunrise. Especially in the mountains when the first fingers of morning ignited the ridges in a fiery glow as the night sought refuge in the valleys below. There was something primal about the rebirth of the day, and how the darkness retreated before its approach, seeking refuge in secret places the light dare not follow.

Every morning she’d sit in her favorite chair on the deck as the last of the night fled from the dawn. It energized her in a way I never understood, and to be honest I was a little jealous of that private time she shared with the morning.

When I was home, I’d either be asleep, or would watch from the kitchen as I got ready for work. After she left I wondered what would have happened had I joined her. Would it have given us something in common, a private moment we could share that might have saved our marriage?

Or would my intrusion drive a deeper wedge into the emptiness between us. Of course, that wasn’t the only reason I stayed away. To be honest the night scared me. Things lived in the dark, old things without a care that would devour your sanity given half a chance. I’d seen them in Afghanistan and locked away the memory, but like I said, no matter how high and how thick you build those wall, sometimes the memories escaped.

The past bleeds through.

With the memory I saw her eyes again, ringed in black to ward off evil spirits, too bad it couldn’t ward off incoming fire, and my stomach cramped at the thought.  

The Circle K convenience store came into view, the lights over the gas pumps formed an island of safety, a beacon to weary travelers passing through the night. Why anyone would put a convenience store here, especially one open twenty-four hours a day, was beyond me. It made no sense. There wasn’t enough traffic to warrant the hours, but the owner persisted, so greedy he was afraid he might miss a buck if he locked his doors.

The remote location made it an idea target for those with less than honest intentions. It wasn’t like the convenience stores in Baltimore that were built like a bank with a thick walls of bullet-proof glass protecting the clerk. If you tried to shoot the clerk you ran the risk injuring yourself with a ricocheting bullet.

This circle K convenience store was like any other, a non-descript box sitting at an angle to the intersection. Over the pumps a large canopy with the Circle K logo at each corner provided protection against inclement weather. I pulled in beside an old pickup truck parked next to three farm tractors, the mud still fresh on their tires.  

Inside and to the right, several tables were set up to serve as a small dining area. One was occupied by four old men who spoke among themselves. They held styrofoam cups of coffee in aged hands seeking relief from the morning chill. It was as typical a scene as one would expect in such a place and I noted that the old men were the farming type, judging by their mud-covered boots, and the rides waiting outside. 

Still visibly shaken by his encounter, the young man at the counter, whose name tag happily identified him as Donald, stuttered as he struggled to answer my questions.

“Did you get a good look at him?”

“I couldn’t see his face clearly, he wore a ski mask,” the not so happy Donald replied.

“Did you see which way he went?”

“To the left I believe,” Donald answered after a moments consideration during which he stared at the front door as he struggled to remember, “but I’m not sure, I was afraid he was going to shoot me.”

“I understand.” I placed my hand on Donald’s shoulder, I needed him to settle and focus before he lost what little information he might have.

“It’s important we know which way he went when he left.” I reassured him, though it really didn’t matter. It was doubtful the direction of the robber’s escape would make much difference in the ensuing investigation, but I needed Donald to believe this so he could focus on what happened. I glanced up at the sign hanging over the register.

Smile, you’re on camera! It exclaimed in bold type beneath a smiley face. 

Under the sign a closed-circuit camera pointed down at the register, the red light below the lens dark. I’m sure the culprit knew the security camera was not working. It was a poor man’s security system only effective with those who had no intention of robbing the place to begin with.

“I don’t suppose there’s a video?” I asked anyway, feeling just a bit foolish for doing so, but you could never be sure when something might break your way.

Donald’s dispirited shrug was answer enough and I turned my attention to the conversation among the four old timers. A conversation centered on a woman it appeared each of them had known at one time or another.  One of them might have noticed something the others missed, I’d have to talk to them, but first I needed to call this in so we could get some of the state boys down here to take over. 

As a detective it would have taken an act of god to get me to turn a case over to another agency, the fact I was so anxious to do so now was just another indication of the new direction my life had taken. As a sheriff’s deputy with over six hundred square miles to cover and more than thirty thousand residents I didn’t have time to conduct a thorough investigation. I needed to be on patrol.

“Almost got him,” one of the old timers said and the comment drew my attention to outside. A white van was racing down route 219 towards us. It wasn’t the van that stood out. On the driver’s side, a bright red smear of what looked like blood ran from the front bumper to just before the rear wheel.

The van jerked right, then left, crossed the center lane as it left the road and shot across the small parking lot, bearing down on the pumps.

“Shut em down,” I shouted as I spun around. Donald was oblivious to the danger as I leaned across the counter. I shoved him out of the way with my shoulder as the image of a rising fireball filled my mind. Just like the FOB when rockets rained down from the mountain peaks above. I smacked the shut off and turned to watch, hoping I’d been fast enough.

The old men at the table were unable to react in time to save themselves as the gas pump crumpled beneath the bumper of the mini-van. There was a moment when I was confident the entire place was going to go up, a moment that thankfully passed as the van came to rest against the second pump after shearing the first from its mount, trapping it between the nose of the van and the second pump.

I raced outside, followed by the others. A woman sat behind the wheel staring straight ahead between the peaks of her white knuckles, her expression dazed.

She had been pretty once, when she was young, before the effects of gravity and indifference from the man she married had their way with her. Her cheeks were streaked with mascara, her eyes confused as she stared into the distance, her hands held the steering wheel in a death grip that made her knuckles stand out like jagged peaks. Reaching for the door handle I realized how fresh the blood was.

“Are you okay, Ma’am?”

She turned to look at me, her head moving so slow I imagined I could hear the creaking of her muscles. She carried a confused expression on her face, a thousand-yard stare that cut through me as she looked at something that wasn’t there. A memory possibly. I’d seen that look too many times before, the survivors of violent crimes wore a similar expression as their minds forced them to relive their terror.

“Where’s Harold?” she said, the blonde hair framing her face damp with sweat.

“Who’s Harold, Ma’am?”

“Harold, my husband,” one of her hands flew to her face and she gnawed on a knuckle as her eyes widened. “No, don’t,” she cried out, “please,” she pleaded.

“What happened?”

“No,” she moaned, closing her eyes and covering her face with her hands.

“That’s Harold’s wife?” one of the men behind me said and I spun around, a thousand thoughts ricocheting through my mind. Questions mostly, with why leading the pack.

Why was she afraid? Why was she running? It was obvious she was running from something, a hastily packed suitcase sat on the back seat, bits of clothing peeking out from around the edges. Where did the blood come from? Was it Harold’s? Why would she run her husband down?

“Harold who?” I asked instead.

“Harold Felton, he runs the vegetable stand on 219 every fall.”

That Harold, I realized as I recalled several run ins with the crusty old man whose customer service skills were in serious need of updating. That brought me back to why. A question I intended to answer.

New in Horror 02/08/2021

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A Variable Darkness: John McIlveen

From the award-winning, best-selling author of Hannahwhere and Inflictions, John McIlveen offers his latest collection, A Variable Darkness, thirteen tales of his trademark blend of heartache, humor, horror, and a ton of humanity. Inside these pages you will meet a captivating girl who is the embodiment of all female youth and the registrar of broken hearts. You will travel to 1693 Massachusetts, where a suspected witch mentors a teenager. You will meet Ricky Briggs, who wakes up without a spine, join in on the craziest Yankee Swap imaginable, and ride along with a cantankerous old spirit in a 1994 Mercury Grand Marquis.

The Guardener’s Tale: Bruce Boston

“The Guardener’s Tale” is a dystopian novel of the future in which everything is controlled and perfect, from work to sex. Unemployment does not exist. Stimulants and holograms enhance the sexual experience. One man, Thorne, searches for something more. He learns that there is a subculture which is able, to some extent, to avoid the trappings of the perfect society…for a while. Interested in the past, Thorne learns the deadly psychological secret of the perfect society. But the past, as they say, is prologue, as is Thorne’s future.

Friday Night Massacre: Michael Patrick Hicks

After succumbing to a deadly virus and incurring the wrath of voters in the 2020 election, the president of the United States makes a deathbed deal with the devil.

Imbued with supernatural power, President Tyler Coleridge refuses to surrender office after being defeated by his rival candidate and rings in the new year with a White House bloodbath.

After Coleridge turns against the press and his own Secret Service detail in a violent display of savagery, it’s up to the lone survivor of the president’s protective detail, Mike Hutchinson, to put a stop to Coleridge’s reign of madness before the nation is utterly crippled.

Inspired by the events of 2020, Friday Night Massacre is a splatterpunk horror action novel in the grindhouse fashion, with a dash of comic book sensibility.

Fridays 5 02/05/2021

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This week I feature more of my older posts while I gather answers from a new batch of writers. If you write horror, Sci-Fi, or Fantasy why don’t you pop over to the Fridays 5 page to check it out. You’re more than welcome to submit your answers and I’ll gladly get you into the Que.

In addition to writing, what else are you passionate about?

William F Nolan

A: I love cartooning and sports car racing, and the work of Max Brand.

Bio: William writes stories in the science fiction, fantasy and horror genres. He is best known for coauthoring the novel Logan’s Run, with George Clayton Johnson. He co-wrote the screenplay for the 1976 horror film Burnt Offerings which starred Karen Black and Bette Davis.

Scott Nicholson

A: I was a painter and rock musician, and now gardening is one of my passions, but I could see getting back into painting.

Bio: Scott haphazardly trades words for magic beans and uses “haphazardly” as often as possible while decrying the overuse of adverbs. He had 105 rejections before his first story sale and over 400 before he sold a novel. He hasn’t learned much from his mistakes but thinks he’ll probably improve with practice. If nothing else, he’s become a better liar.

Rick Hautala

A: Reading, of course. You can’t be a writer and not read–good books, bad books, indifferent books … every kind of book to see and learn what the craft is all about. Other than reading and writing–my family and politics. My friend Tom Monteleone calls me a “leftie, liberal, tree-hugging, granola-crunching, long-haired hippie.” That works for me … and my politics reflect that.

Bio: Rick arrived on the horror scene in 1980 with many of his early novels published by Zebra books. He wrote and published over 90 novels and short stories from the early 1980s on. In 2011 the Horror Writers Association awarded Rick and Joe R. Lansdale the Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement. Sadly, on March 21 of 2013 we lost Rick to a heart attack. For me personally he was a writer who was always willing to help those of us starting out, and though I never met him personally I counted him among my friends.

Craig Saunders

A: Not much…I like to read, a little, PC game, a lot, and drink coffee and smoke! I’m the epitome of dull, really!

Bio: Craig Saunders is the author of around fifty novels and novellas, including the Amazon bestseller ‘Vigil’. As ‘Craig R. Saunders’ he penned the seven-book fantasy saga of the world of Rythe, beginning in ‘The Outlaw King’ and culminating with ‘Beneath Rythe’.

Jo-Anne Russell

A: I am passionate about reading and horses. I own a beautiful white appaloosa mare named Whisper. It is because of her I put together a charity anthology called Scarlet Whispers, that benefits a local equine rescue called Hilltop Haven. I even board my horse there – at least until I find my new country home.

Bio: Jo-Anne Russell is a horror writer, and publisher, living in Edmonton, AB, Canada. Her stories have appeared in anthologies by Brazen Snake Books, Static Movement, Wicked East Press, and Hidden Thoughts Press, just to name a few.
Her taste for the macabre has provided her imagination with a feast that fuels her writing and creativity. If you like horror, the bizarre, or you just don’t like to sleep at night, give her books and short stories a try.

Weekly Writing Challenge

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Third Times a Charm

The story is coming together in my mind. I know where it’s going to end, it’s just a matter of putting my butt in the chair and getting it there. 689 words this week. Pretty good for an hours work. Too bad we can’t do that all the time.

He persisted as was his nature, getting dressed for work, going through the motions of a regular life that was far from routine. Beyond his bedroom window the world continued to follow its own course, seemingly unaware of the drama that was his life. The sound of traffic on third avenue reached his room as he gazed into the mirror, adjusting his tie. He never could get the damned thing to work right.

The thought sparked a memory of Mona reaching around his neck to fix his tie, joking with him about his inability to do something so simple. Can’t even tie a knot, she’d say with a sparkle in her eye as his love for her swelled in his chest until it felt like he was about to explode. Her missed her so much he sometimes wished he would have never pulled the trigger. So what if she killed him, at least he wouldn’t have to live without her.

He pushed away the sorrow, refusing the acknowledge its existence, moving through the small apartment to the tiny living room with a kitchen in one corner. At the door he paused, slipping on a happy face to show the world before opening the door and stepping into the hallway. Out here, in the world, the memories were not as strong, and he found he was able to function. The door across the hall opened and Denise stepped out, pulling the door closed behind her.

She slipped her arm into Nicks. “Good morning stranger, what happened last night?”

“I’m sorry, got tied up in a meeting at work, then my boss wanted to have a couple of drinks.”

“I heard you stumbling in around two, did you get enough sleep?”

“You were still awake?”

“I wanted to make sure you were okay.”

Nick was touched by her concern, had it not been for Denise he might not have made it through those first few months. They’d become fast friends after he moved in across from her and that friendship was slowly evolving into something more intimate. They’d shared a few dinners, and he had slept over in her place twice, but they were far from taking the big step of moving in together. It was mostly a friends with benefits arrangement, but he sensed Denise wanted to take it to the next level.

It was a step he was far from prepared to take. For starters he had yet to tell her the truth about what happened between he and Mona. As far as she knew they were divorced, and nothing more.  He was worried about how she would respond if she knew he killed his first wife in self-defense and he wasn’t entirely sure how to broach the subject with her.

“I’m all right. You want to try for tonight?”

“I’m up for it if you are.”

“It’s a date then, I’ll pick up from Mario’s on my way home, you grab the wine. Some good food, some good wine, we’ll see where the night leads.”

“I know where I want it to go,” she said, tightening her grip on his arm. “The only question that remains, your place of mine?”

“I’m sorry, it’s just so cramped in my place, can’t we eat at your place.”

“Are you sure it’s because your apartment is so small?”

“What do you mean?”

“You’re not hiding anything from me are you?”

“What would I be hiding?”

“I don’t know, the fact you’re still married, maybe you have kids you don’t want me to know about. I don’t know that much about you aside from where you work, and what you do for a living. I don’t know where you grew up, if your parents are still alive, does your ex come around. I poured my life out before you and you’ve yet to tell me where you’re from originally.”

“I’m sorry, it’s just.” He hesitated. Denise was right, she deserved to know more about him and his past. But that past included the death of his first wife by his hand. It wasn’t a subject you simply dropped into polite dinner conversation.

So what do you think about the story so far? Keep in mind this is raw, unedited work.

This week in Horror 2/1/2021

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Family Solstice by Kate Maruyama

The Massey family loves their house. It’s been in the family for generations, and the land on which it sits has been with them even longer. In the summer everyone comes through to visit and the house is alive with family friends, barbecues and lobster boils. But come fall, the mood shifts as all of the kids start training for their turn in the basement.

Shea, the youngest Massey is training extra hard. She’s thirteen and that means this is her year to battle on Solstice. Her older siblings won’t tell her exactly what’s in the basement, you don’t know until you’re fighting it. She’s excited finally to be in the know.

She does know that whatever happens in the basement every December 21 makes it possible for the Masseys to spend the rest of the year enjoying their home and all that it brings. It is her family duty.

But something about this year is different. Mama’s extra quiet this fall, and the house is breathing early.

Beyond Rainbows by L.C. Mortimer

Tiffany Erickson is nobody special.

She’s just an ordinary person trying to live an ordinary life, but that’s nearly impossible when you live in a world ravaged by the undead. She roams through the free realms, hiding and living in the shadows of the impossible cities, until one day, everything changes.

A lost child.

An unimaginable note.

A plea for help.

Tiffany has a choice to make, but no matter what she chooses, she’s about to discover that she can no longer stay hidden in the shadows as the world rots away.

She has to fight, but it could cost her everything.

Outside by Artyom Dereschuk

The town has been evacuated.

Strange beasts roam the streets outside.

Our only choice is to wait for the rescue… But will it come?

Yuri – a young man from a backwater Russian town – wakes to find the doors to his crumbling apartment complex welded shut… from the inside.

Before anyone can make sense of it, something not from this world kills a postman stranded on the other side of the door. And when the town’s old evacuation sirens begin to blare, Yuri and everyone else in the building realize an impenetrable door could be the least of their worries. In fact, it could be the only thing standing between them and the otherworldly creatures roaming the now deserted streets outside…

Someone in the building knows what’s going on. Now, it’s up to Yuri to figure out who it is, what they know, how these events are linked to their town’s past, and how to lead everyone to safety – before the threats lurking outside find their way in.

Fridays 5 1/29/2021

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January 29, 2021

If you could ask any author, living or dead, one question, what would it be?

William F Nolan:

A: Bradbury said that he wanted to be buried on Mars in a Campbell soup can in the “Bradbury Abyss”. I’d ask Ray Bradbury if he found his way home to Mars.

Bio: William writes stories in the science fiction, fantasy and horror genres. He is best known for coauthoring the novel Logan’s Run, with George Clayton Johnson. He co-wrote the screenplay for the 1976 horror film Burnt Offerings which starred Karen Black and Bette Davis.

Scott Nicholson:

I’d like to ask Mark Twain what he thinks of the 21st Century. I am sure he’d have a grand time making sport of Facebook!

Bio: Scott haphazardly trades words for magic beans and uses “haphazardly” as often as possible while decrying the overuse of adverbs. He had 105 rejections before his first story sale and over 400 before he sold a novel. He hasn’t learned much from his mistakes but thinks he’ll probably improve with practice. If nothing else, he’s become a better liar.

Rick Hautala:

A: I’d ask Shakespeare not where he got his ideas, but how he developed them … or I’d ask Hawthorne why he seemed to be depressed all the time …

Bio: Rick arrived on the horror scene in 1980 with many of his early novels published by Zebra books. He wrote and published over 90 novels and short stories from the early 1980s on. In 2011 the Horror Writers Association awarded Rick and Joe R. Lansdale the Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement. Sadly, on March 21 of 2013 we lost Rick to a heart attack. For me personally he was a writer who was always willing to help those of us starting out, and though I never met him personally I counted him among my friends.

Craig Saunders:

A: Joe Hill…when’s the next book coming out!? haha – I love Joe Hill, since reading Heart Shaped Box.

Bio: Craig Saunders is the author of around fifty novels and novellas, including the Amazon bestseller ‘Vigil’. As ‘Craig R. Saunders’ he penned the seven-book fantasy saga of the world of Rythe, beginning in ‘The Outlaw King’ and culminating with ‘Beneath Rythe’.

Jo-Anne Russell:

A: I must say, this is one of the hardest questions I have ever had to answer. To choose only one is torture. However, it would be Ray Bradbury, and I would ask him;  “What is it like on the other side?”

Bio: Jo-Anne Russell is a horror writer, and publisher, living in Edmonton, AB, Canada. Her stories have appeared in anthologies by Brazen Snake Books, Static Movement, Wicked East Press, and Hidden Thoughts Press, just to name a few.
Her taste for the macabre has provided her imagination with a feast that fuels her writing and creativity. If you like horror, the bizarre, or you just don’t like to sleep at night, give her books and short stories a try.

Calling all authors of horror, sci-fi, and fantasy. If you’d like to participate in Fridays 5, follow this link.

Fridays 5



Weekly Writing Challenge

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I managed another 490 words in the hour I allotted myself. A couple of things emerged in my mind while writing. The first is the emotional aspect. Honestly I can’t wait to finish the first draft and get into the rewrites where I can layer in those emotions. Some came through but nowhere near as powerful as what they can be.

The second thing to emerge is a possible title. Third Times a Charm. You’ll see why when you read this segment. Has anybody else tried following along? If so leave a comment, I’d love to read what you’ve come up with.

Without further adieu I give you part two. Tell me what you think, but please keep in mind this is raw work with only minor editing.

Third Times a Charm contd.

He’d had many of them over the past six months, his nights filled with dreams of Mona coming at him with a butcher’s knife. Stalking him while he slept, a ghostly killer lurking in the shadows lying just beyond view. He knew it wasn’t possible for her to be there, but the knowledge never lessened the terror he felt in her presence.

There had actually been a time when they loved one another, when they were first married and the future was bright ahead of them. He remembered looking forward to a long happy life at her side. They hoped to have kids but after her second miscarriage they decided it would be best to put aside that dream. There would always be the option to adopt, and they had even gotten to the point of starting the paperwork.

But Mona was persistent, she wanted to try one last time before they threw in the towel. He was hesitant, not wanting her to go through all that again, but she persisted and in time he relented. Third time’s a charm she always said, and at first it seemed like she might actually make it this time. Each time before she lost the child in the first month. On her last try she made it to the second trimester before everything went south.

The day was permanently etched into his memory. She had a morning appointment with her doctor and he had his own appointment with a new client at work so he wasn’t able to go with her. Maybe if he had things might have turned out differently. But it still wouldn’t have changed what happened.

Nick didn’t know about it at first, but later, after everything happened, he found out she lost the baby in the doctor’s office. Like many expectant parents they read everything they could find about their growing child. By week sixteen their baby was able to blink, the heart and blood vessels were fully formed, and their fingers and toes had fingerprints. It was at that point it really began to sink in they might succeed, that it was true, that sometimes the third time was a charm. 

Mona even got to the point of considering baby names, she bought several baby naming books and pored through the pages every day in search of the perfect name for her miracle child. She was so excited and some of that excitement found its way to Nick who started looking forward to having a newborn in the house. They’d gone through so much disappointment already he was afraid to hope. Worried that by doing so fate would intervene. He even let his guard down and allowed himself to be dragged along by Mona’s happiness. 

Too bad it didn’t last.

The memories followed him as he started his day. A cold shower did little to alleviate the weariness that consumed him, and coffee couldn’t even begin to touch the fatigue.

End Segment!

This week in Horror 1/25/2021

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Creepy Nightmares by Bryce Nealham

A place can get cold, dark and lonely when terror comes to visit.

Creepy Nightmares presents a collection of strange, dark and mysterious short horror stories that are so chilling that they will no doubt keep you up at night.

This book of short creepy stories contains three terrifying tales of horror and suspense beyond your imagination.

Here is a horrifying peek into the shadows of pure fear…

A true story of a mother and her two daughters being terrorized by something unseen and evil that lurks in their new home. Creepy noises, objects moving around the place, tall dark figures appearing out of nowhere and discoveries in the basement that someone tried to hide.

Another true story of a family who just moved into a remote piece of farmland. They quickly discover that at night, large wolf-like creatures roam the fields on the hunt for something to eat.

A tale of a teenager who wanted to spend one last time in the cabin his father bought for the family before he died. However, on the last night the teenager would be terrorized by something stalking the property…trying to get in.

The Big Book of the Masters of Horror by Assorted authors

If you were looking for the Holy Bible of the horror anthologies, consider yourself lucky, because you just found it!
Cosmic horror, supernatural events, ghost stories, weird fiction, mystical fantasies, occult narratives, this book plunges you into dark domains and brings you face to face with surreal monstrosities.

This collection of the greatest mysterious dark tales gathers together more than 100 authors and more than 1000 short stories (!), which makes it truly unique in its kind.

Be aware that this book includes a big amount of stories that appear for the first time in digital print.

Night Terror by H.C. Townes

Blake, a small town firefighter, meets the woman of his dreams on the most tragic day of his life. He soon finds himself head over heels for this mysterious woman. However, he quickly learns true love isn’t all he thought it would be.

Weekly Writing Challenge

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January 20,2021

For Christmas last year my wife gave me a complete set of Rory story cubes and I was inspired to get back into trying to write short stories. I’ve always been a long form writer, able to create novel length works much easier that I can create short stories. Every so often I come up with a good one, but in most cases my shorts need a lot of work.

A couple of years ago I started a weekly writing challenge on my blog. The intent was to create a story whose title started with a letter from the alphabet. The rules were simple. Every week I’d allow myself one hour to write the selected story with the goal of writing at least 250 words. Whatever I accomplished in that hour I would share on my blog that Wednesday. Raw, unedited, and would continue doing so until the story was done.

I managed to finish all the way up to E before real real life forced me to shelve my plans. This year on January 1st, I retired. I still work three days a week but I now have time to jump back into my weekly challenge. This time instead of limiting myself to the alphabet, I’m going to use the Rory story cubes to create each story.

Monday I rolled the dice and came up with the following.

Character roll:  Planting. Burying. Running. Walking.

Opening: Carrying a box.  Turn.  Pushing a button, elevator possibly.

Middle: Two people agreeing, thumbs up, shaking hands. Something broken, something fragile. Throwing a ball, catching a ball, playing sports.

End: Jumping from one level to the next, jumping down. Headphones, listening to music, overhearing a conversation, eavesdropping. Knocking on a door, pounding on a wall, looking for something.

After some thought here are the first 380 words of the yet to be titled work.

Nick was asleep when the sound disturbed him, a crashing rumble that drove him awake and he sat up in bed looking around the cramped bedroom.  Her perfume filled the room provoking the last image he had of her. She came in low across the bed, staring at him with a murderous gaze, the tip of the butcher knife in her hand drawing a line in the sheets. She was going to kill him, he was sure of it, and he rolled away, off the side of the bed. He yanked the drawer of the nightstand open. She lashed out with a furious cry, the tip of the blade passing over his shoulder, igniting a burning line of pain as his hand closed around the butt of his pistol. He bought it to protect them from intruders, unaware it’s eventual use would be to defend him from his wife. The same women he’d sworn to honor and protect, to give his life to, was trying to kill him.

The memory faded into the dark recesses of his mind as he reached out for the nightstand and turned on the light. A soft yellow glow filled the room, casting the small dresser into deep shadows. It was then he realized someone was in the room with him, watching him from the deeper night gathered at the far edge of that small pool of light.

“Who’s there?”

He slid open the drawer of the nightstand and removed his revolver. The police had given it back to him after he was cleared of any wrongdoing in his wife’s death. In the shadows near the window, he saw what looked like a person standing with their arms crossed over their chest.

“Mona?” As soon as he said her name he knew it couldn’t be right. No way she could be there with him. She was dead and buried, her new residence at Parkview cemetery courtesy of the weapon he held in his hand.  

The lid of the toilet slammed down, and he jumped back as the shadow at the window faded into the night. He rubbed his eyes and swung his legs out of bed, noting that it was now a little past three am and it was going to be another sleepless night.

End segment!

So what do you think?

If you’d like to follow along and do the challenge yourself by all means you’re more than welcome, and I’d love to read what you’ve written. If you’d like to grab your own set of story cubes they’re available here.

New in Horror

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January 18, 2021

Masquerade: A Supernatural Thriller

The first in a series of Beth Harper books, Masquerade is a dark supernatural thriller set in a remote North Yorkshire village. Following a whirlwind re-location for a live-in job at the local inn, Beth quickly realises the whole village is thoroughly haunted, the people here fearful and cowed. As a spiritual medium, her attention is drawn to Scarsdale Hall nearby, the enormous stately home dominating what is undoubtedly a wild and beautiful landscape. Built of black stone with majestic turrets, it seems to drain the energy from the land. There is, she feels, something malevolent about it, as if time has stopped.
With the help of her spirit guides and the gift of astral travel, she will soon face the most daunting task of her life. Why is she being shown images of expressionless children gripping the bars of fairground wheels, forever going around and around? And why are the lines of women and children walking to Scarsdale Hall each day, silent and grim-faced? Barely a word is spoken here. There is no joy, no life…
Past and present are as entangled as a box of ribbons, her task being to unravel the darkly disturbing truth laid down centuries before. But are the embedded secrets too horrific for those involved to ever admit, even to themselves? As the enormity of the task unfolds and Beth is pitched against one of the most powerful families on earth, she considers this may be too much for her. Ultimately, however, this is her journey, too. And she will be pushed to the limit of her abilities. Besides, as her spirit guide, Billy, says, ‘They’re still doing it…’

The Ticking Ghost by Phil Miles

Somewhere in London, a device lies hidden. It contains a virus whose means of contagion is unique, astonishing… and devastating. For now, the virus is secure. But soon the device will activate, and its deadly payload will be unleashed.

The key to finding it lies on a remote Scottish island, in an empty house at the end of a pier. Drew Turner, a talented but volatile detective, has been tasked with discovering this vital clue. Accompanying him is Megan Mallory, a prickly MI5 operative. They must work out their differences and work together if they are to avert the imminent catastrophe.

But the house at the end of the pier is not as empty as it seems…

Three Cold Hours by Jonette Blake

POISON IN THE POND
Karen Malcolm believed her terrible ordeal was over. Instead, it plunged her into a supernatural nightmare where even the monsters are afraid of the dark.

THE UNHEARD
When Jenny Abercrombie finds out what really happened all those summers ago, she will have to choose between believing her sister’s side of the story, or believing the ghosts who want revenge.

STRANGE LEGACY
Elijah Brooks discovers something sinister is behind the disappearance of stagehands at his Wild West recreation show: a strange legacy that has been in his family for generations.

The Bayou by Arden Powell

Small-town Louisiana, 1935.

When Eugene was twelve, a girl from town disappeared. Everyone said the gators must have got her when she strayed too near the bayou. No foul play, just a terrible accident. But Eugene can’t shake the conviction that Mary Beth’s death had something to do with the man who used to haunt her—the man no one else could see.

Now, nearly two decades later, there are more dangerous things than gators in Chanlarivyè. People are disappearing again, and this time, no one can find the bodies. As the town’s unease grows, charismatic fugitive Johnny Walker arrives on the scene, shedding bullet casings and stolen bank notes in his wake.

He tangles himself up in Eugene’s life and awakens memories Eugene thought he had laid to rest years ago. Memories of the mysterious man who followed Eugene into his dreams, and memories of the bayou—and of the horrifying entity that lurks beneath the water’s surface, slowly seeping into the town like a stain.