Close your eyes and listen

I’m proud to announce a brand new shiver-inducing short story of mine has been chosen as part of Lycan Valley Press Publications’ celebration of Halloween this year! Even better, “Old Cobwebs for New” has been given a dramatized reading and you can listen to the audio as you peruse the text, all for free!

Check it out HERE!

As the witching hour approaches

Now seems like an ideal time to remind people that your humble scribe really, really loves Halloween. If you’re familiar with my work you’re aware that a sizable portion of my output falls into the horror genre, which tracks with that particular holiday obsession. But it also bears pointing out that I’ve written several stories which specifically take place on All Hallow’s Eve.

Creepy Campfire Quarterly

I’ve always had a soft spot for The Trap, which appeared in Creepy Campfire Quarterly #2. It’s got a haunted house, a costume party, and weird forces at work, pretty much everything I love about Halloween. You can still get a copy of CCQ at Amazon, which makes for excellent seasonal reading!

And of course, Kellan Oakes, my son-of-a-druid private investigator, was introduced as part of a Christmas anthology series, which eventually morphed into a Halloween anthology for a couple of years, so he has a pair of Halloween adventures to his credit as well. The best part about the two Pulpwork Halloween Specials pictured above is that you can find them at Amazon (here and here) AND if you already have Kindle Unlimited you can read them for free!

If you are looking for some quick hits of spooky stories, I recommend checking any of those collections out … IF YOU DARE!!!

Animal cruelty

It should go without saying that I am against animal cruelty, in the sense of real human beings in the real world inflicting real and needless pain on real defenseless animals. However, in the realm of horror fiction, if we are talking about imaginary animals expressing cruelty and more or less wreaking havoc in an imaginary world, bring it on.

Nefarious Nature cover

Today is publication day for Nefarious Nature, which features my story HORNANTULA. The title is in all-caps as it’s meant to evoke the title of a monster movie, although in this case you should think more along the lines of SHARKNADO than JAWS. In fact, I wrote this story several years ago specifically for an anthology soliciting tales in the mold of recent Syfy Channel original movies, but it ended up not making the cut. And since it’s such a specific pastiche (which, to be fair, gives a decent amount of guff to the laughable pseudo-science and stock archetypes of that sub-genre by telling the entire vignette from the point-of-view of essentially a background character) it was difficult to find a suitable alternative home for it.

I’m very happy that Nefarious Nature turned out to be that happy home! Buy a copy direct from the publisher RIGHT HERE!

Five Alive

I am as susceptible to waxing nostalgic over forgotten foodstuffs of my 1980’s childhood as the next Gen X’er, so please forgive my indulgence of that tendency today, as this blog has now been online for five whole years. A blog isn’t exactly a living thing, and I have nothing else to say remotely connected to juice or citrus flavors or anything like that. It just popped into my head and would not be denied, compelling me to share.

My writing, both in terms of raw output and market acceptances and publications, has had its ups and downs over the past half a decade. And that span really only represents the time during which I’ve staked out some branded cyber real estate to crow and commiserate about it, not the whole of my creative endeavors. But on this blog’s anniversary, I do feel a sense of moderate pride for having stuck with it throughout. And I anticipate bigger and better things to come in the ensuing five years, so please continue to watch this space!

Echoes

I have been remiss about checking in here, and missed the month of May entirely, so in an effort to catch up, please allow me to announce the availability of two books in one post:

The collections above are both from the same publisher and each one includes a new story of mine. Well, new to you, that is. In an interesting turn of events, the anthology on the left contains my tale “Scent“, which is an oldie that I wrote over a decade ago, during a period in my life when domesticity was in full bloom. I held a steady day job which I liked, had bought my first house a couple of years earlier, and had gotten married the previous summer. We were talking about having kids, and already had pets. With life so emotionally, socially and economically stable, it seemed like a good time to revisit my attempts to write fiction and have it published. I took my inspiration directly from my happy life, a string of reflections on the ups and downs of owning a good dog who needed to be walked every night before bedtime, rain and sleet and dark of night and all. Optimistic as ever, I assumed I could crank out a few thousand words and have it gratefully accepted at Weird Tales or someplace similarly impressive. Of course, such was not the case. I submitted the story a few more times to other markets but got no takers, and so it became my first “trunk story”. And it stayed in the trunk for a good thirteen years, more or less, until the open call for UnLeashed came along and seemed to be the perfect match I had been waiting for.

Annual Review“, my tale in Horror for Hire, on the other hand, is a story which went through the entire life cycle of inspiration (as documented here, drafts, revisions, submission, acceptance and publication all in the span of about three months. You really never know when everything is going to come together; it might take hours, or years, or never quite coalesce at all. I suppose that’s why you always have to keep trying, as that’s the only way to find out.

Two birthdays, of a sort

Happy birthday to the Bard of Avon, as William Shakespeare turns the big 456 today! Maybe! Scholars have no official consensus on his exact date of birth, only his record of baptism on the 26th of April, 1564, which means he was born some time earlier that week. Probably! But almost certainly not the 23rd of April, because that is the date of his death in 1616, for which there are also official records. It would be an amazing coincidence for Shakespeare’s dates of entry to and exit from the stage of the world to be the same, which is both why the notion of today being his birthday has stuck, and why it’s most likely wrong.

And speaking of approximate birthdays, happy book birthday to my first Kindle Single, Red in Tooth and Claw! Amazon says it was released on April 22nd, but I’m pretty sure the publisher didn’t announce or promote it until the 23rd. Either way, close enough! The story is two years old today, and if you want to get it something, a review on Amazon would be great!

Curses aren’t real, said the tomb defiler

I really don’t believe in jinxes. Still, it’s undeniable that there’s something in all our reptile brains that shivers whenever a coincidence involving A), anticipatory excitement, followed by B), dire developments, occurs.

This blog was pretty quiet through most of 2019, as I worked on finishing my novel, but saw a resurgence in the first couple months of the year as I awaited feedback from beta readers and got back into the swing of short story submissions, acceptances and announcements. All was going swimmingly for about ten weeks, and then … COVID-19.

It would be totally understandable if the widespread disruption caused by attempts to flatten the curve (attempts which I wholeheartedly support) led to publishers reconsidering their release schedules. Heck, it would be understandable if some of the smaller presses which are really labors of love or passion-fueled side projects simply folded up their tents altogether due to having bigger things to worry about. In other words, I wasn’t expecting full follow-through on a lot of things that had been set in motion before COVID-19, either in timely fashion or any fashion at all.

So you can imagine my delight when it turned out that Emerald Bay Books was very much moving forward with their original release dates for the two separate anthologies I had stories accepted in. In fact, they expanded their plans, about which more in a moment. But first, the imminent release news!

UnLeashed: Scary Stories of Furry Friends will hit the Kindle store this Friday, April 17, which means you can pre-order it right now! Please do, read my short story “Scent”, and support a small business!

Incidentally, I’m pretty sure this is the first time I’ve landed the coveted lead-off spot in a table of contents, definitely so for books with more than five or six stories in them:

Second, speaking of the number of stories in a book, while I originally had a story accepted into the anthology titled Horror for Hire: Scary Stories of Workplace Terror, in the end that anthology was filled to overflowing with so many clock-punching thrills and chills that the publisher opted to split it into two volumes! So my tale “Annual Review” will now be found in Horror for Hire: Second Shift, which you can also pre-order now!

Keep on drabblin’

A couple years ago I posted about creative formats I was trying my hand at, other than standard 5,000 word short stories. One such example was the drabble, which is a piece of prose of exactly 100 words. I said I would likely never beat that record for shortest published work, but as of today I have tied it! Another one of my drabbles, “Swag”, was accepted by publication by the fine folks over at The Horror Tree. You can read my micro-story here (scroll down to the “Enter the Drabble” header).

If I blurb even a little bit about the century-word piece here, I’m likely to give away the whole thing, so I’m just going to send all of you in there blind. I will add a plug for The Horror Tree while I’m at it, however, aimed particularly at any and all of my fellow writers. The Horror Tree is a great venue for getting drabbles, slightly longer flash fiction, and even occasional short stories published, but that’s really not even it’s main purpose. It’s primarily an aggregator for open submission calls, which I find pretty indispensable when I’m attempting to find homes for my own brain babies. Check it out, bookmark the URL, and visit early and often!

Out of the bestiary

I woke up this morning to another short story acceptance, and yes, I still get excited by those and find them highly gratifying. That doesn’t necessarily make them blogworthy, but I feel that this one was if only because it was a personal frst. I’ve been fortunate enough to receive dozens of acceptances over the past few years, but this was the only time I can ever remember that involved … the fakeout and swerve! By which I mean, the message from the publisher literally included the following lines:

This one was immensely popular for our writers, and that made decisions exceptionally hard for this project. And so it is with deepest regret……..that we have decided to accept your story for publication!

And while the use of the rare triple-ellipsis is a tad worrisome, ultimately I suppose I can’t fault the publisher for having a bit of a larf with sending out notifications of what is essentially the best possible outcome for the recipients.

Wasp with tarantula
By Charles J Sharp – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25024575

And to be fair, the story itself, “HORNANTULA”, is also a bit of a larf. I originally wrote it as a pastiche of SyFy Originals in the vein of SHARKNADO, for an anthology themed along those lines. But it wasn’t accepted, and I always suspected that it was because I ramped up the absurdity rather than doubling down on the pulpy action and menace. I’ve been shopping the story around for a while since, with no success until now. So my goof of a story was greeted with a goof of an acceptance – so be it.

From the desktop to the table of contents

It would have been both highly anticlimactic and undeniably on-brand if I had blogged twice about being inspired to write to a certain anthology call and submitting to said anthology only to be forced to acknowledge that I did not ultimately make the cut for the table of contents. Fortunately, I can now report the happy news of an acceptance!

The tale this time around is yet another instance of what I have been thinking of as my signature take on horror: events begin to unfold against a very mundane backdrop – the offices of a fictional high finance firm, here – with only a hint of unsettling tension, then things get a bit weird in a semi-explicable way, and then at the very end the supernatural terror bursts through to take everything careening past the point of no return. It’s a well I return to often, because I know what I like.

Of course this means I still need to come up with more original material for my forthcoming short story collection, as mentioned in the previous post, and my editor is going to kill me if I keep farming out the new fiction to other publishers. Perhaps there’s gold to be mined in the vein of an amateur writer trying to satisfy the demands of small press contracts …?