Monday Blues: Creepy Little Bedtime Stories

(“Monday” Blues: On the first Monday of the month, I’ll recommend a new world – a book, a game, a podcast, etc – to escape into. Or at least to look forward to after a hard day’s work.)

Creepy Little Bedtime Stories

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A Series of Short Stories by William F. Aicher

What It Is: A series of stand-alone short horror stories, each taking on a unique horror sub-genre and voice.

Why You Should Read It: As part of my recent horror binge, I came across this series of shorts and greatly enjoyed each of them. Each entry in the Creepy Little Bedtime Stories series offers an injection of fast-paced, bite-sized fear. What also makes them fun is that reading through the series will essentially take you on a tour through horror sub-genres, ranging from dark fairy tales to crime horror to body horror. Each entry also has a distinct voice and style – from the tight, clean suspense of Pretty When You Sleep to the abstract, lyrical eeriness of Roommates – showing an impressive range from one author. Like the best horror stories do, each entry explores deeper thematic material under their spooky surfaces. Plus, they’re short enough to read in one sitting, right before your own bedtime.


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If you’re looking for even more books to read during the long, gray winter, you can download my apocalyptic vampire novel, Night Plague, for free from my email list.

There’s also free short fiction, including some spooky stories,  available from my website.

Hearing in Color (Flash Fiction)

Source: For 2019’s first flash fiction post, I’m going to share the story that placed 1st in the The Writer’s Workout’s September 2018 500 contest.

Prompt: Write a story embodying the concept of depression in under 500 words.


I can’t hear the music. It used to play nonstop inside my head, each new moment stirring up melodies. Most people perceive color through sight, but I found it inside song. Now the world is gray.

I stare up at my ceiling. The light fixture above my bed hangs loose at one end. The sun seeping in through my curtains blanches my room and stings my eyes. At least it’s comfortable beneath the blankets, safe, something like pleasant. I should get up, but I already know how the day will go – I’ll sit down at the piano and feel just as blocked as I did yesterday. Time will slip away. Night will come again. I’ll toss and turn. Repeat, repeat, repeat, like the notes in a song in which I’ve forgotten the next verse.

My stomach growls for the third time. I can’t ignore the hunger pains anymore, clenching like my body wants to curl and fold itself up until it can blow away on the breeze, taking my mind with it. I wouldn’t mind floating through the air, aimless and at rest. At least I wouldn’t have to fight anymore.

With a sigh, I push myself up on my palms. Something is wrong. I’m too weighed down. I look back to see my shadow staring at me.

“Stay,” my shadow orders.

I try to rise, but my shadow sticks to the bed. It’s heavy, as if all of the void is condensed inside its ink – all of that vast emptiness we spend our lives trying to forget.

“I have to try,” I tell it.

“It’s not worth it,” it tells me. “Any song you write will be erased by time. Anyone who listens will forget it. Nothing worth anything can come out of your useless soul.”

My phone buzzes on my bedside table. “Hey,” a text flashes on the screen. “I picked up tickets for your recital next week. Looking forward to it!”

…I was looking forward to it, too.

“You’ll disappoint her. You’ll disappoint yourself. You’ll fail.”

I pull forward with all of my strength, and my shadow rips free from my bed.

***

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My fingers summon the notes of a familiar song. It sounds blank at first, all of its colors gone, but I keep playing. Even if the song seems like silence to me, maybe someone else will hear what I used to.

I tap out the chorus, and for a moment, my walls turn blue, my hands turn tan, the sunlight turns gold. Then the gray returns.

I smile, just a bit. Colors flicker like the stars in the void. Even if I can’t always see those stars through the fog, I can hear them in the echoes of my notes. Maybe one day the abyss will be the night sky again – not empty, but full of planets, fire, light. For now, one note after another is enough.


I hope you enjoyed this brief story! If you’d like to read more, members of my email list get first access to updates and sneak peeks.

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween! I hope the night brings you plenty of sweet treats, a pleasant autumn-colored evening, and the fun sort of scares.

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Childhood Friend – Flash Fiction

If you’re looking for a short, spooky read, you can find Childhood Friend, the 1st place flash fiction from the All Hallow’s Prose Halloween competition, on the WriterWriter blog, along with the other winning stories offering bite-sized helpings of horror.

Read them Here.

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LGBTQIA+ Halloween Derby


For fans of LBGTQIA+ fiction, there’s a Halloween Derby going on at Prolific Works with a variety of free paranormal LGBTQIA+ stories.

I’ve got a couple of stories offered here as well, including a new Prolific Works exclusive called Like the Stars, so if you read them, I’d love to know what you think.

Read them Here.

 

My Halloween Recommendations

If you’re looking for more scary stories, these are my personal favorites.

Book: The House of Long Shadows by Ambrose Ibsen

A deceptively terrifying haunted house story with fantastic imagery – I could see the setting so clearly in my mind after finishing it that I may as well have watched a film. This is one of the few horror novels that managed to genuinely crawl under my skin, and one in which I cared about the outcome so much that it got me out of my analytical “writer brain” and turning pages quickly.

Movie: The Babadook

One of the few movies I’ve watched more than once. What seems like a simple, maybe even a little cheesy, movie at first glance hides a powerful metaphor – for grief, for anger, for the mental pains we sometimes try to stuff in the closet – but which always seem to creep out somehow. What’s scarier than that?

Game: The Cat Lady

A chilling, powerful slow burn of a game that delves into its character’s psyche – and the player’s. The game sinks deeper into darkness than nearly any other peace of media I’ve experienced, but it offers glimpses of hope and beauty, too.

Thank you for reading, and have a fantastic November!

(Apologies for the lack of posts lately, too. School has been eating me alive, but I’m hoping to pull out of its grip a bit next month. Although then comes NaNoWriMo. Good luck to any fellow writers participating!)

Friend (Flash Fiction)

(Flash Friday: Every other Friday (or so), I’ll share a flash fiction story and the prompt that spawned it.)

Source: This prompt came from a page in this workbook, which I highly recommended.

Prompt: Begin a story with the following sentences: “How did you know?” I asked, not sure I wanted the answer. I thought I had been careful. I thought she


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“How did you know?” I asked, not sure I wanted the answer. I thought I had been careful. I thought she honestly liked me as a friend. As a person. No, that couldn’t be – not if she’d known. Her interest in me had to be because of what I was. It had to be because of her job with the Agency. I was her enemy, not her friend.

She smiled weakly, “I hoped, before I knew. You seemed different than other people.”

“Different?” I frowned. I’d tried so hard to blend in, to pretend to be human. I’d failed, then.

“Not in a bad way. You didn’t seem to walk around with the same sets of assumptions and expectations we do. You were excited and horrified by different things.” She smirked, “you even laughed at my jokes.”

She paused, as if all of this was just another joke and I was supposed to keep on laughing. I didn’t. I didn’t think I’d ever laugh again.

Her face fell. “Still, I must admit to spying on you. I saw you in your original form. I’m sorry. I’ve been a terrible friend.”

I swallowed, trying to pretend the hurt wasn’t there. “Friend? Why would someone from the Agency still call me a friend?”

Her eyes widened. “Oh no, I’m not from the Agency! I was searching for someone like you because I was hoping you’d take me with you to the stars! I’m sick of Earth.”

She’d used me, then, but I still found myself smiling. I should’ve said no, but I knew that I wouldn’t. I also knew how much she’d love my home – the planet her people called Luyten b.


If you write your own story with this prompt, feel free to post it in the comments!

Summer Writing Goals

(Friday Updates: I’ll post updates from my projects (about) every other Friday).

With my vacation from school well under way, and summer officially beginning next month, it’s time to get my writing goals organized (I’ve got a few game design projects going on too, but that’s a whole other post). Here’s what I’ll be writing over the season:


Writer’s Games 2018

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Each year, The Writer’s Workout hosts a contest in which participants write 1 short story a week for 7 weeks. Each week has its own theme, announced on Friday, with a story based on that theme due 72 hours later. It also offers feedback for each story and publication in the contest’s anthology for the top 5 stories of each theme. The contest is currently in its third week. I’ve dabbled with short fiction, but this is the first time I’ve really focused on it. I have to say, it’s definitely growing on me, and I feel like I’ve already learned a lot. It’s paying off, too – I found out just yesterday that my story for the second theme (silence) took 1st place! New, a post-apocalyptic fairy tale about a robot and a mermaid-like creature, will be published in the upcoming anthology.

The current round of the contest is closed to new entrants, but another will be starting in August. I highly recommend it for anyone looking to practice their short fiction. It’s been a great experience so far.

Re-Publishing Night Plague

Night Plague, my first novel, was originally published in 2014 by Severed Press. Its contract expired a couple of months ago and it’s quickly gone out of print, so I’ll self-publish and re-release it on June 10th to get it back out into the world. I’m currently taking the opportunity to review and edit it to bring it up to par with my current works (I feel like I’ve grown a lot in the four years since its publication). The changes are minor, but I’ve found that the little details definitely do make a difference. Reading it over again is actually pretty fun, since I keep on running into moments I’d forgotten about.

If you’re interested in reading Night Plague, subscribers to my email list will get a free digital copy upon release.

Querying or Self-Publishing Paragon

Paragon, a dark/high fantasy thriller about a wayward scientist who wants to rewrite his world, is my favorite child longest running novel project. Although I’m doing one more read-through to make sure it’s as polished as it can be, it’s essentially ready to go. I haven’t decided whether I want to query agents for it, or if self-publishing would be the better choice. I’m really torn. It’s also not particularly commercial in style, so I’m not sure whether the latter is an option or not. Either way, though, I’m excited to share it soon. If I do commit to shopping it around then I can’t say for sure how long the process will take, but if I go the self-publishing route, it’ll release sometime before 2019. I’ll post updates as they happen.

Finishing the Final Draft of The Atlantean Crown

I’ve got a few plot tweaks to make to the The Atlantean Crown, a YA sci-fi novel about a power-hungry princess and an impending apocalypse, and it’ll also need one more read-through for polish, but this one’s also within in range of querying or self-publishing this summer. At the very least, I’m aiming to finish the final draft. In terms of how it’ll actually release, it’s in a similar situation to Paragon.

Finishing a few First Drafts

There are a couple of other novels I’m not quite ready to talk about yet, but both are near ‘the end’. While not as high of a priority, I’d love to knock out their messy first drafts.

Participating in Activities and Challenges: Camp-2018-Writer-Profile-PhotoFrom Ninja Writers 30 Day Writing Challenge to Camp NaNoWriMo to Ela Thier’s 6-Day Freewriting Challenge, I’m pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone and participating in as many activities as I can. It’s always interesting to meet other writers and try out new approaches to the craft. After all, with school on break, this is the best chance I have to experiment, grow, and of course, write like mad.


Whew! I don’t know if I’m going to manage all that, but I’m damn well going to try.

What goals are you writing towards over the summer?

 

 

Halloween House (Short Fiction)

(Flash Friday: Every other Friday (or so), I’ll share a flash fiction story and the prompt that spawned it. Catching up for last week today.)

Source: This is a slightly longer story from the 2017 Fall Writing Contest at The Write Practice and Short Fiction Break (this piece didn’t place, but was shortlisted).

Prompt: A love story themed around the autumn.


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Even though a year had passed since Emma had seen Clyde, his face looked exactly as she remembered it. Unkempt amber hair framed painfully familiar features. His lips seemed as tender as they had during the first and last kisses they’d shared. His soul shimmered in his speckled blue gaze.

She smiled, and he smiled, too.

“Emma…”

Clyde’s voice drifted through the otherwise silent bedroom, and Emma savored it like a favorite song replayed on the radio after years of static. That sound – so deeply embedded in her memories – was all the proof she needed that he was really there.

“I shouldn’t have come,” he said, his smile wilting.

Emma searched for his gaze through the dusky flickers of candlelight. He was right. Maisey and the rest of her friends would think her insane if they knew about her visits with her former fiance. Her reputation would never recover from the scandal. “I don’t care,” she decided. “This is what we want, so what does it matter what everyone else thinks? You’re the only one I need.”

“No, Emma…” His features tied themselves into an anxious shape she’d never seen them in before. “I…don’t want this anymore.”

Her joy disappeared as if she’d been dunked beneath the autumn ocean. Her mouth opened, searching for words and failing to find any that made sense.

“You’re miserable, Emma,” he sighed. “We both need to move on.”

“No!” Emma startled at the volume of her own voice. “I waited for you, just like I will next year! I don’t mind, as long as we have Halloween night.” Her fingers wrapped around the cross pendant laying across her chest – the same one that had once belonged to him.

His eyes hardened, narrowing in on the pendant. “Give that back to me, Emma.”

She shook her head, her grip tightening around the cold silver. “If I don’t, you’ll keep coming back, won’t you?”

“You may as well be holding me hostage,” he growled. “Do you really think this is anything like what we had? Clinging to memories won’t give us our old life back.”

Three knocks echoed up through the floorboards from the front door below.

Emma held Clyde’s stare for a few seconds longer, sucking down the hurt with a deep breath. “Don’t you go anywhere,” she ordered. “I’ll be right back.”

***

Emma pounded down the stairs, the house groaning beneath each footfall like a weary, living thing.

Her visitors were probably the same damn kids who pranked her each year. She lived in the so-called Halloween House, after all. The neighborhood entertained itself with tales of strange voices, inexplicable shadows, and slamming doors. Boys and girls in costume had taken it upon themselves to knock on the door during the dead of Halloween night as proof of their bravery.

She grimaced with an anger that wasn’t entirely directed at the children when she reached out for the doorknob, already imagining the shouts she’d use to shoo them away. If those brats were searching for a good scare, she’d give it to them. This was the one night of the year she shared with Clyde. No one was going to ruin it for her.

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