Sloth: Anthology from “Seven Deadly Sins” series.

Sloth is the third title of an anthology of short stories and micro fiction published by Black Hare Press out of Melbourne, Australia. The first two books in the series are Pride and Lust respectively.* I received a copy in the mail a fair time ago and I think that it is keeping with the theme of the anthology that I’m only posting this now. I’m sure the banana slugs from a few days ago would agree!

My small contribution to this colorful book was a quick, two page piece of micro fiction entitled, “I Want My Blanket,” where the denizens of the underworld gather upon the Plains of Paradox to witness a competition among imps with the prize being promotion to full devil and service with the Grand Devil itself. (Best not to dwell too much on the fates of the losers!)

The story came from a 2019 Halloween prompt where one was supposed to write a very short story that included a list of certain words such as “ominous” and the like.

I’m still reading Sloth and so far I would characterize some of the stories as straight Horror with shocking elements, exploration of the unknown or taboos and so on, while others seem more in the realm of dark fantasy or like the story I read last night, “The Last Stand” by Jo Mularczyk, dystopian science fiction. The tone of the stories varies, ranging from somewhat gritty to playful.

Now I don’t want to say too much more because this post isn’t meant to be a book review, since I don’t think it is seemly for me to review a book I have a piece of writing in. Even if it is only a two page curio touching upon the formalities of infernals. That said, my favorite stories so far have been “Death Care” by A.R. Dean and “One Hit Wonder” by A.L. King.

  • Publisher: Black Hare Press
  • Editors: Ben Thomas & D. Kershaw
  • Horror Short Story Anthology, released 2020
  • Available Formats: Hard Cover, Paperback, Kindle eBook
  • Hard Cover Pages: 447
  • Find Book on Amazon

* Book four, Envy, has also been released. As I understand, the next book in the seven book series will be Greed.

Scary Snippets Christmas Edition Released

I’ve had a bounce in my step for awhile now what with getting some of my very short fiction out there in the world.  One of those putting-bounce-in-my-step moments was placing a short story called “Turkey Day” with the good folks at Suicide House Publishing for their holiday offering Scary Snippets: Christmas Edition.*

I received two copies of the book the other day and am looking forward to reading it.  All of the stories are very short (hence “snippets”), between 100 and 600 words.  Naturally, being a Lady of Chaos Undivided I went for excess and made sure I used all 600 words.

Reindeer is tired of being used as a book rest and thinks duck needs to take a turn.**

Monsters and mayhem, by a goodly number of authors, include such things as cannibalism (tasty presented of course), Yule Cat, Revenge of the Christmas trees, and I am pleased to report that mine wasn’t the only story with zombies.

I must confess that my zombies were an oblique feature rather than the main attraction of Turkey Day.  One possible theme for my story might be that people are just a little too hard to impress these days and it’s a damned shame.  Whatever the case, I’m one of those people (currently anyway) who usually looks for a theme after I’ve finished my work rather than when I’m writing it.

Bird thinks the Thanksgiving Day ones are the scariest for obvious reasons!

In other news, I was the dungeon master for a Dungeons & Dragons game yesterday, which went pretty well.  I haven’t DMed in many years and I was a little nervous going in, but everyone said they had fun and are looking forward to once again visiting the Enchanted Forest, so I’m pretty pleased.

Finally, I have a sorry little tale (pun not intended) about my cat catching a mouse.  That will be for next time.  I hope everyone had a nice holiday.

Christmas Bird Clip Art

*  Suicide House Publishing has since changed its name to Nocturnal Sirens Publishing.

** My mother made the little clothespin angel, which I thought was cute, and put it in this year’s Christmas box.  Thanks, Mom! 🙂

Book Review: Stories We Tell After Midnight

“Here, the shadows keep their secrets and the moon hides from deeds cast in her glow.  In these pages, the Fae walk as human, the dead burn with their anger at the living, the creatures that live in the dark places of the wrong zip code creep out of the shadows and into the kitchen.”  — Crone Girls Press

Stories We Tell After Midnight is the debut anthology of short, horror fiction from Rachel A. Brune’s Crone Girls Press.  This book was my bedtime literary companion for a few nights and I found it an enjoyable read.  The stories varied in length from flash fiction to longer short stories.  Like pretty much all anthologies, the quality of the tales varied.  Some of the stories were excellent, some average, and a couple didn’t work for me.  Even with the stories that I thought fell flat, I did appreciate that the authors were taking chances.

This authorial taking of chances is something that I haven’t seen much of with the short fiction I’ve been reading lately, and made for an interesting change of pace.  This is probably because I have been reading a lot of fiction online.  Such work often tends to play it safe for reasons such as restrictive terms of service and risks the risk of feeling sanitized or politically correct.

Stories We Tell After Midnight is a refreshing alternative and gives us none of that.

The stories “go places” I haven’t seen lately.  Children in dangerous situations, terrors that seem familiar from recent headlines, unsavory culinary habits and sexual manipulations, to name a few.  Brune chooses work by authors who can sojourn into this dark country but do so without crossing the border into bad taste, even if in one case the author does drag his toe along that line, in my opinion.

Sometimes, Horror has to sojourn down twisted, borderland roads.

I also enjoyed how the stories took place in different eras and places.  There were tales set during the mid and late-19th Century up to the present day.*  I liked how the horrors varied between the entirely mundane to the magical/supernatural, and I appreciated the magic realism that permeated many of these evocative settings.

My favorite three stories in no particular order were:**

  • “Kitchen Spirits” by Nicholas Belardes
  • “Gobbl’uns” by Thea Rachel Brune
  • “It Has to Cool First” by Carol Gyzander

I just realized my top three picks all involved food one of sort or another!

“Kitchen Spirits” by Nicholas Berlardes introduces us to the recently widowed Pascual, who is having nightmares of his “re-animated wife” and seeing “a thing with crab-like legs” with “a corpse-colored tongue” sampling dead rats in his driveway.  Mostly, he wants to be left alone with his sorrow, microwaved refried beans and Netflix.  He also doesn’t want anyone messing with his cat, Panchito.  I can understand that, though one feels sorry for him as a man who has lost his old life and his purpose.

I enjoyed Pascual’s internal dialogue as he tries to cope with his current existence and broken heart while “visions of corpses infected his mind.”  If that wasn’t enough, throw in a pesky, teenage neighbor, who was given to “blabbing about some monster-filled dungeon he’d concocted for his stupid geek friends,” while delivering warnings about “bad mojo.”

As Pascual becomes more disturbed, and the environs around his house more sinister and seemingly unclean, one wonders if the kid might not have a point.

I enjoyed reading how Pascual ended up reacting once the full horror of the situation was revealed.  He seemed very human.  What made this a real page turner, of course, was hoping the cat didn’t take one in the neck.  You’ll have to read the story for yourself to find out what happens with Panchito.

Sure, take a big bite but watch out for your fillings!

“It Has to Cool First” is set in late-19th Century Atlantic City where two young orphans, Jeremy and his younger sister, Mary, try to obtain work.***  Any work so they might survive.  Jeremy is particularly appealing for his indefatigable willingness to strive, despite his tender years, to secure the immediate survival and possibility of a bright future for himself and Mary.

They end up at the Keuhnle Hotel at a bakery run by the sinister Herr Holdermann.

I enjoyed how Gyzander led me down the magical realism rabbit hole through addiction to a horrific outcome where the last line brings the story full circle to a satisfactory, evil conclusion, but with more questions and the possibility for alternative futures I can spin out in my head as a reader.  Horror that is more of the same?  A long and complicated Revenge?  What do the other people in the town and associated with the hotel really know about the bakery?  You get the idea.

You get extra evil monster points for taunting the kid when you know he’s hooked!

“Gobbl’uns” is a story of childhood jealousies and monsters under the bed.  Poor Charlie, on his sixth birthday, has to deal with the fact that his parents are much more focused on the needs of his younger brother than they are with the horrors that might be lurking under his bed, despite his father’s “monster repellent.”

What appealed me to most about this story was the masterful job the author did in capturing the essence of young Charlie through an adult, third-person voice.  I smiled at Charlie making a protective picket of his stuffed animals against the monsters and by the end understood (and sympathized a little) with his sibling rivalry, even while things didn’t work out quite like how the boy probably imagined or hoped they would.

Stories We Tell After Midnight was a dark, attractive read.  The plots were straight-forward, the writing crisp, and the settings varied and evocative, which makes for good bedtime reading.  I would only give this book a miss if you are highly sensitive or easily triggered, in which case I would respectfully ask why you are reading adult horror in the first place?

Congratulations to Crone Girls Place for a solid, debut offering.  As someone who enjoys a bit of horror tourism, I look forward to seeing the tormented landscapes Editor Brune takes us next.

This is an unsolicited review for which I received no compensation. All graphics used with permission of Crone Girls Press.**** 


* Would have been fun to see a story set in some sort of dark fantastic or science fiction future, though the lack of this in no way diminished my enjoyment of the anthology.

** Honorable mention to Elizabeth Donald’s “In Memoriam.”

*** It is fun when an author pulls from history, especially when they don’t tell you they are doing so.  (Several of the stories do this.)  Keuhnle’s Hotel, where Gyzander’s story is set, was built in 1875 by the father of Commodore Louis Keuhnle, who puts in an early appearance in the story.  According to Wikipedia, Keuhnle’s in Atlantic City was a “prime meeting place for some of the time’s earliest gangsters, racketeers, politicians, and unscrupulous entrepreneurs.”  Sounds to me like it was a place where people really knew how to party!

*** This I swear as a Chaos Lady and a supporting adept of the October Egregore, and upon the holy tentacles of the Dark Gods’ minions who handle such oaths as well as the ghost of Commodore Keuhnle!

January Thaw: Short Story

School has been keeping me pretty busy, and one of the things we’re doing is mucking about with social media as writers, potential writers, people posing as writers, etc.  So I’ve been flogging around my short story, January Thaw, in various places and thought I’d make a link to it available on Ye Olde Blog for anyone who might be interested.

January Thaw posits a future where old age is a thing of the past and no one dies anymore. Carolyn Deschaines is a woman who has lived too long, and after 150 years she has decided to gracefully “die of old age.” She puts her affairs in order but then she meets Theo…

January Thaw 350 pixels wide

Additionally, I finished the Red Spiny Back Poxwalker, who is now ready to take to the field with its green twin. I hope to get some pictures of my newest addition to the Festering Horde soon.