Book Review: Varying Distances

The first page of a fiction collection is an introduction to a writer’s mind. The further you go, the deeper you delve into their psyche. In this manner, you can reach any world of their invention and join any journey they imagine. Ray Bradbury and Somerset Maugham were masters of short fiction. If you were to combine the work of these authors with a dash of Rod Serling, you’d have Varying Distances by Darren Speegle.

Speegle’s stories range from the bizarre to the fantastic. He is well traveled and the stories reflect several cultures, both in setting and flavor. The first forays into his collection seem to begin with his unconscious mind and slowly work forward to the conscious. It’s much like a sleeper awakening from a dream. The first story in the collection, “In the Distance, a Familiar Sound,” is as poetic and disjointed as the character searching for the meaning of consciousness. Linear time doesn’t exist.

Each story gains clarity as you move through the pages. Against his will, a painter is commissioned to capture the soul of his subject on canvas, contractors in Iraq encounter a strange and menacing vehicle, Halloween is explored through the eyes of a god-like being, a hitman has trouble discerning between human and machine, a man finds he cannot escape the horror of his past or the people who populate it, an addict sees parallels to his life no matter what country he visits, a woman leads a man to Germany and a haunted house, a man searches for the beast which murdered his aunt, and a confused taxi driver must take a man to his destination.

My favorite story, “For Love of War,” falls in between the fog and clarity. The contractor in the story falls in love with the woman who saves him and discovers she’s more ethereal than mortal. Speegle’s prose borders on lyrical and you can easily imagine this story as a ballad.

“A Puddle in the Wilderness,” is a frightening story. In this tale, aliens masquerade as backwoodsmen alà Deliverance. Pity the poor couple who fall prey to them. (Warning: mature themes are addressed here.)

If you’re a lover of the bizarre, you’ll love this collection. Step inside Speegle’s mind and stay a while. The worlds within are amazing.

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Press Release: Tales From The Lake by Crystal Lake Publishing

The Legend Continues…

 

Twenty-four heart-rending tales with elements of terror, mystery, and a nightmarish darkness that knows no end.

 

Welcome to my lake. Welcome to where dreams and hope are illusions…and pain is God.  

 

  • This anthology begins with Joe R. Lansdale’sThe Folding Man, one of his darkest stories ever written.
  • Kealan Patrick Burke’sGo Warily After Dark pulls us into a desolated world, and reminds us of the price of survival: a guilt that seeps into the marrow.
  • Damien Angelica Walter’sEverything Hurts, Until it Doesn’t places us in the middle of a family whose secrets and traditions are thicker than blood.
  • Jennifer Loring’sWhen the Dead Come Home explores a loss so dark, that even the stars are sucked into its melancholic vacuum.

 

In the spirit of popular Dark Fiction anthologies such as Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories and Behold: Oddities, Curiosities and Undefinable Wonders, and the best of Stephen King’s short fiction, comes Crystal Lake Publishing’s Tales from The Lake anthologies.

 

This fourth volume of Speculative Fiction contains the following short stories:

Joe R. Lansdale – The Folding Man

Jennifer Loring – When the Dead Come Home

Kealan Patrick Burke – Go Warily After Dark

E. Grau –To the Hills

Damien Angelica Walters – Everything Hurts, Until it Doesn’t

Sheldon Higdon – Drowning in Sorrow

Max Booth III – Whenever You Exhale, I Inhale

Bruce Golden – The Withering

JG Faherty – Grave Secrets

Hunter Liguore – End of the Hall

David Dunwoody – Snowmen

Timothy G. Arsenault – Pieces of Me

Maria Alexander – Neighborhood Watchers

Timothy Johnson – The Story of Jessie and Me

Michael Bailey – I will be the Reflection Until the End

E.E. King – The Honeymoon’s Over

Darren Speegle – Song in a Sundress

Cynthia Ward – Weighing In

Michael Haynes – Reliving the Past

Leigh M. Lane – The Long Haul

Mark Cassell – Dust Devils

Del Howison – Liminality

Gene O’ Neill – The Gardener

Jeff Cercone – Condo by the Lake

 

With an introduction by editor Ben Eads. Cover art by Ben Baldwin. Proudly represented by Crystal Lake Publishing – Tales from The Darkest Depths.

David’s Haunted Library: Quiet Places

 Dunballan is a place that has its share of dark secrets,  along with a beast that stalks the woods around it. There is a long history associated with this small town and David McCavendish’s family is part of it. David has been living in London and now has to return to the place of his ancestors in order to inherit the family home. He now has to adjust to country living and in order to help him, he brought along his girlfriend Sally.

Sally quickly realizes that something is a little off about Dunballan. The only person who seems to talk to her gives her a history of the town that includes some stories of odd spirits that lurk in the woods, one being Hettie Of The Hedgegrow. Another problem is that every time the beast in the woods appears, David goes into a depressed catatonic state that lasts for days. Sally realizes that the town is cursed and will do anything to keep David from suffering through it. The problem is she may not be able to help him without making everything worse.

Quiet Places by Jasper Bark is not your average horror novella. It feels like Jasper Bark was thinking to himself: “What are the things that scare people the most?” As he was pondering that question he sat down and wrote a terrifying piece of work that relies on mood and emotions rather than gore or a hideous monster. The beast in this story isn’t all that scary, but what it represents is and the history surrounding it is even worse. I felt the scariest part of this book was in the very beginning which I don’t want to give away but Jasper pretty much nailed my worst fear and he wasn’t even that descriptive. It was all psychological, Jasper makes you imagine it instead of showing it.

After the gut wrenching start, you as the reader are left to wonder how we got there and then you get the history leading up to the event. This book gets into mythology, the occult and a history of David’s relatives. I loved all the attention to detail in this book but most of all I loved the character of Sally. We see Sally deal with a lot of different issues in this story but she stays strong even when things are at their worst. Sally seems like she doesn’t fit in anywhere and she isn’t sure she even cares about fitting in. She does know who’s important to her though and will do anything to save him.

Quiet Places is heavily inspired by H.P. Lovecraft and could be considered cosmic horror but it’s a highly original novella. This is a psychological horror story that gives you a lot to think about. Some of the questions it raises are who do you trust in a town of strangers? How far would you go to save a loved one? And What would you do when all hope is lost? Quiet Places shows us that a story doesn’t have to be bloody to be scary and there are far scarier things than death.

 

Where Nightmares Come From, The Art of Storytelling in the Horror Genre: A Review

Where Nightmares Come From, The Art of Storytelling in the Horror Genre

Review by Stephanie Ellis

This novel was received free in return for an honest review

4 out of 5 stars

As a writer gradually developing her craft I am always open to hearing and reading the views of those at the top of their game, those who have ‘made it’. Like most, I think we approach such articles in the hope that we’ll discover the magic ingredient, the key that turns a novel in the drawer into a published piece of work. I didn’t get that from this book, nor is it something I discovered from my go-to motivational source, On Writing by Stephen King, who also appears in this particular publication. What I found, which was equally valuable, was the same story from all contributors—whether they be a filmmaker, author, poet, director, publisher or editor—the rule of three: read, write and finish what you start. No exceptions. I learned from Ramsay Campbell that you don’t need different notebooks from different projects, he—like me—makes notes on one thing, goes on to another, then returns to that first project … in the same notebook! I learned that daily word counts don’t always matter—unless you’re trying out for that annual marathon, NaNoWriMo. I learned that you should write for yourself. I mean, if you don’t enjoy it, why bother? In truth, and in my heart-of-hearts, these horror giants were merely stating what most of us already know, the only rule is that rule of three. Whilst the book was geared towards those who write in the horror genre, much of what was said can be applied to writers across the whole range of fiction and even non-fiction. And when it comes to nightmares—everybody is different but the contributors reinforce the idea of developing horror from the everyday and mundane, from the what ifs? There doesn’t have to be blood and gore, it can be subtle, darker and slow-building—again, another reassurance as that is the style of horror I prefer. So what did I take away from all this? A lot of reassurance and a reading list … oh, and the determination to keep on writing. And now I’m off to read Patricia Highsmith’s The Snail-Watcher.

http://www.crystallakepub.com/

 

By The Fire: Episode 149: Challenge 13: This is the End

As I start to write this post the song that is playing in my head is The End by The Doors. Because that’s what this is, the end of the contest and what a trip it has been. The last challenge in The Next Great Horror Writer for episode 149 of the HorrorAddicts.net podcast is the hardest one yet. This one was only open to the semi-finalists and they had to submit The first 3 chapters of their horror fiction novel including a cover letter, synopsis, and query. Wow!!! I have the highest respect for everyone in this contest because they had to work hard to be a part of it and everyone in it has shown how dedicated they are to their craft. The winner of this challenge and the grand prize for the contest is a book contract from Crystal Lake Publishing.

To sit and think on what everyone in this contest had to do to stay in it just boggles my mind. I can’t imagine doing it myself but this little group of writers really showed us what they were made of. The contest began with almost 120 entries and we eventually saw the field get narrowed down to just few. Along the way our writers had to produce an audio drama, a commercial, short stories, non fiction blog posts, create a monster, an intro to an original character and finally the beginning of a novel.

Through the course of this contest we’ve seen all of these writers grow and improve their skills and get tested like never before. I’ve really enjoyed the journey of these writers throughout this season of the podcast and it makes me sad to see just one winner. I think everyone in the contest should consider themselves a winner and be proud of what they have accomplished. Even if you get rid of all the other parts of the contest and just look at the fact that these writers have gotten to the point where they have submitted the first three chapters of their book is a big deal.

A lot of work goes into writing a novel, the planning, the outlining, the rewrites and finally the finished product. Some people spend years working on a novel and in my opinion its the most personal art form there is. Writers have to put their heart and soul into their novels and sending it to a publisher takes a lot of guts. It’s not easy becoming a published author, there is a lot of work involved in the process and when you do get published a whole new set of challenges await you. A writer’s work is never done and the ones that keep doing it are the ones that consider it their passion.

So Addicts, what did you think of the contest as a whole? Who did you think did the best job on this challenge? what do you thing the hardest part of doing a query and a cover letter are? Have you done one? What are the experiences you’ve had? Let us know in the comments.

 

#NGHW Winner! Who is the NEXT GREAT HORROR WRITER? Jonathan Fortin!

Winner Jonthan Fortin!

JONATHAN FORTIN
Age: 29
From: El Cerrito, CA, USA

Twitter

As a child, Jonathan Fortin was perpetually terrified, so of course he grew up to be a horror writer. Haunted by tales that grow in his head like demonic children, Jonathan believes that a good horror story is first and foremost a good story—just one where particularly awful things happen.
Facebook / Website

Jonathan wins:

Crystal Lake Publishing

Grand Prize: Book Contract

 Dario Ciriello, Editor

Grand Prize: Full edit of winner’s novel up to 50,000 words.

HorrorAddicts.net

Short story contract with HorrorAddicts.net “Horror Bites” series.

Horror Writer gift box. Supplies and inspiration for the Next Great Horror Writer.

Winner line up / Final placement…

1st place: Jonathan Fortin


2nd place:

NACHING KASSA
Age: 41
From: Valley, WA, USA

Twitter


3rd place:

DAPHNE STRASERT
Age: 27
From: Houston, Texas, USA
Facebook


4th place:

JESS LANDRY
Age: 30
From: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Facebook


5th place:

HARRY HUSBANDS
Age: 27
From: Peterborough, UK

Facebook


6th place:

SUMIKO SAULSON
Age: 48
From: Oakland, CA, USA

Twitter


7th place:

ADELE MARIE PARK
Age: 53
From: Morayshire, Scotland

Facebook


8th place:

FEIND GOTTES
Age: 44
From: Dewittville, NY, USA

Twitter


9th place:

JC MARTINEZ
Age: 27
From: Metepec, Estado de México, México

Facebook


Honorable Mentions:

CAT VOLEUR
Age: 22
From:  Mobile, Alabama, USA

Twitter


TIMOTHY G. HUGUENIN
Age: 27
From: Bartow, WV USA

Twitter


AE KIRK
Age: 30
From: Devon, England

Twitter


QUENTIN NORRIS
Age: 26
From: Austin, Texas, USA

Twitter


RILEY J. PIERCE
Age: 31
From: Rice Lake, WI, USA

Twitter


 

RE- listen to this season of HorrorAddicts.net

Follow Crystal Lake Publishing!

Crystal Lake Publishing is the sponsor of our Next Great Horror Writer contest and we’d like to share their vision with you.

With unmatched success since 2012, Crystal Lake Publishing has quickly become one of the world’s leading indie book publishers of Horror, Mystery, Thriller, Dark & Speculative Fiction, and Suspense books with a Dark Fiction edge. Crystal Lake Publishing puts integrity, honor, and respect at the forefront of their publishing operations.

They strive for each book and outreach program that’s launched to not only entertain and touch or comment on issues that affect their readers, but also to strengthen and support the Dark Fiction field and its authors.

Not only do they publish authors who are destined to be legends in the field, but they also look for men and women who care about their readers and fellow human beings. They only publish the very best Dark Fiction and look forward to launching many new careers.

Crystal Lake Publishing is and will always be a beacon of what passion and dedication, combined with overwhelming teamwork and respect, can accomplish: unique fiction you can’t find anywhere else.

They do not just publish books, they present to you worlds within your world, doors within your mind, from talented authors who sacrifice so much for a moment of your time. You, the reader, is what it’s all about.

Crystal Lake Publishing is one of the best small presses out there. So how can you support Crystal Lake?

Support their Patreon page: https://www.patreon.com/CLP

Purchase some of their books: http://www.crystallakepub.com/book-table/

Subscribe to their YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/CrystalLakePublishing

Subscribe to their newsletter: http://eepurl.com/xfuKP

Follow them on Twitter: https://twitter.com/crystallakepub

Follow them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Crystallakepublishing/

Thank you for supporting Indie Publishing.