Phone it in Friday XVIII: Writing

With the blog closing in on 1000 days of posts (just 162 to go!) and the release of The One-Minute Mysteries of Inspector Gerard (read reviews here, here, and here), it seemed like a good time to reflect on writing, and to discuss some writing projects I have in the works.

When I revived the blog on WordPress in late 2018, I never intended to write daily.  I’d maintained a Monday-Wednesday-Friday posting schedule on the Blogspot blog, which I shifted over to WordPress on 1 June 2018.  I kept that pace up briefly, but when school resumed I left the blog dormant until late December 2018, and after three days of consecutive posting by happenstance, WordPress informed me I was on a three-day “streak.”

That caught my attention.  At that point, I decided to write daily for the month of January 2019.  It seemed like a fun a challenge, and I figured it would help build an audience and give me something constructive to do during the slowest month of the year.

After that, I thought, “Eh, why not go to fifty?”  From there, 100 didn’t look too difficult.

Once I hit 100, I decided to try for a year.

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Post-Spring Break Short Story Recommendation: “Dave’s Last Choice”

At one point or another we’ve all experienced the situation where we’ve seen or heard some new idea, word, or concept, and suddenly, we see it everywhere.  When I bought my car in 2020, I suddenly began seeing Nissan Versa Notes constantly.

Similarly, there seems to be a certain synchronicity to events.  Right as I released The One-Minute Mysteries of Inspector Gerard, Rachel Fulton Brown and the Dragon Common Room poets published Centrism Games.  After a week of reviewing short stories—and then contemplating writing my own collection of short stories—my buddy Jeremy Miles announced that he is working on a new short story project.  Indeed, last week’s TBT, “TBT: The Creation of Culture,” looked back at Jeremy’s excellent collection of poetry, A Year of Thursday Nights (now in a more affordable “Shades of Grey” edition).

So it was with great delight that I read not only Jeremy’s plans to compile a collection of short stories, but that he also included a draft of one of them, “Dave’s Last Choice.”

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Spring Break Short Story Recommendations 2021, Part III: “Out of the Deep”

Rounding out this week’s Spring Break Short Story Recommendations is Walter de la Mare‘s 1923 psychological ghost story “Out of the Deep.”  This story is the second in Chilling Ghost Stories, edited by Stefan Dziemianowicz.

“Recommendation” is perhaps a strong word for this story, which is, at times, excessively wordy and confusing—and that’s coming from me!

“Ghost story” is also, perhaps, a bit of a misnomer, though there does appear to be at least one—and possibly three—apparitions in the story, although that’s never made entirely clear.

It’s the wordiness and lack of clarity, though, that paradoxically make the story interesting.  Walter de la Mare was a poet, and brings something of poetry’s attention to the consonance of words.  At least, I’d like to think that’s what he is going for here; he clearly enjoys playing with language, almost the way a punster does.  It makes for tedious reading at times, but does have the effect of keeping the reader guessing as to what is really happening.

But I digress.  The real “ghosts” are the ones haunting the protagonist, Jimmy, a listless young man who has taken possession of his late uncle’s rambling London townhouse.  Jimmy apparently has no occupation, and lives by selling off the sumptuous possessions his aunt and uncle left behind.  Jimmy is also something of an eccentric insomniac, who finds it difficult to sleep unless bathed in candlelight (at least once in the story he sells some household items so he can purchase candles).Read More »

Spring Break Short Story Recommendations 2021, Part II: “The Personality Cult”

Today’s short story selection, Michael Noonan‘s “The Personality Cult,” comes from Terror House Magazine, an alternative online literary journal that publishes some excellent works from newer authors (although, it should be cautioned, they publish anything, including pieces that are borderline smut; browse with care).  Indeed, two of my Inspector Gerard stories will appear there later this month.  I’ve been reading Terror House Magazine for a couple of years now, and have been impressed with the gems they publish.  “The Personality Cult” is one such precious stone.

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TBT: Lazy Sunday LVIII: Spring Break Short Story Recommendations Recap

It’s getting into that spooky time of year, so for this week’s TBT I decided to look back at “Lazy Sunday LVIII: Spring Break Short Story Recommendations Recap.”  I spent most of my Spring Break this year reading horror short stories, writing reviews about and recommendations for some of the better stories I read.

I won’t do much more editorializing than that, as the original post is quite lengthy and detailed.  I will add that love short stories, and find the form chillingly effective for horror.  The brevity and concision of the form encourages horror writers to deliver chills and terror straightaway, and allows for frights to be the focus.

With that, here is “Lazy Sunday LVIII: Spring Break Short Story Recommendations Recap“:

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Spring Break Short Story Recommendations, Part IV: “The Shed”

Well, all good things must come to an end.  Such is the fate of Spring Breaks everywhere.  While I still have the glorious weekend before me, today marks the formal last day of break.

With that, it’s time to finish out our Spring Break Short Story Recommendations (read Part I, Part II, Part III, and the TBT installment) with 1952’s “The Shed,” a bit of small-town terror by E. Eerett Evans.  This story is a tad obscure, as is its author, and I couldn’t find a free version online, but like “The Judge’s House” and “Thus I Refute Beelzy,” it’s from 11 Great Horror Stories.

“The Shed” takes place in a small town in Michigan in the first decade of the twentieth century, and focused primarily on the rough-and-tumble adventures of the town’s boys, all under fourteen.  The boys are scrappy, plucky, and fun, and spend their days exploring town, splashing in the local waterhole, and generally doing the kinds of things boys did before they were shut up in classes for eight hours everyday.

The boys’ favorite play place is a dilapidated shed that belongs to the local railroad company.  They use the shed as their base of operations, and as a makeshift jungle gym.  However, they strenuously avoid one dark corner of the shed, in which resides The Shadown, an iridescent, subtly shifting, amorphous mass of malevolence.  The boys know, instinctively, to stay away from it, but otherwise tolerate its malignant presence.

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Spring Break Short Story Recommendations, Part III: “Seven American Nights”

For today’s edition of Spring Break Short Story Recommendations (read Part I and Part II), I’m moving away, at least temporarily, from the collection 11 Great Horror Stories to look at piece from another collection, this time in the science-fiction vein.  The collection, Not the Only Planet: Science Fiction Travel Stories, compiled by Damien Broderick, was published in 1998 by Lonely Planet Publications.

When I was a kid in the 1990s, Lonely Planet dominated, at least in my young mind, travel guides.  They were the “cool” travel guides, that told you how to bike through Shanghai or where to get good food in Nepal.  I managed to pick up a few of them at second-hand stores or book sales, and would just pour over them and their descriptions of odd places around the globe.

As such, I always thought it was cool that Lonely Planet put out a collection of science-fiction stories—naturally, about travel.  My memory told me that I picked up this collection in middle school, which is plausible, but the I was out of middle school by 1999, and I picked up this book at a used bookstore.  Having the means of a thirteen- or fourteen-year old, I would not have paid full-freight for it.

Indeed, I remember vividly the bookstore where I purchased it, if not the name.  I was on a trip with my best friend from the time, David, to his family in Virginia (in Blacksburg, if I recall correctly; David’s father was an alumnus of Virginia Tech, and I think his mother grew up in the area).  I can’t remember if it I was drawn to the book because of its strange cover art, the science-fiction travel focus, or the Lonely Planet imprimatur, or some combination of those three, but I picked it up and have enjoyed it thoroughly.

Of course, the publication date of 1998 leads me to believe that I was slightly older than my memory suggests, maybe fifteen.  What I do remember is that these stories really left an impression on me, particularly one odd tale, the feature of today’s post:  Gene Wolfe‘s “Seven American Nights.”

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Spring Break Short Story Recommendations, Part II: “Thus I Refute Beelzy”

As I noted yesterday, Spring Break is an excellent time to catch up on some reading.  I am particularly fond of short stories, especially ghost stories, which can thoroughly explore one or two ideas in a relatively bite-sized chunk.  They’re perfect for casual reading while enjoying some downtime.

Like yesterday’s selection, today’s short story recommendation, John Collier‘s “Thus I Refute Beelzy,” comes from 11 Great Horror Stories, a collection of short stories that are not entirely horrific in nature, the title notwithstanding.

Thus I Refute Beelzy” definitely is a horror story, with touches of The Omen and Children of the Corn; that is to say, it’s a little bit of “terror-tot fiction,” a term I learned recently from Alan Jones’s review of the film Let’s Be Evil, one of the scores of bad horror films on Hulu.

The whole story is very short—about five pages—and can be read in around ten to fifteen minutes.  Indeed, there is a chilling recording of Vincent Price reading the story that is just shy of thirteen (mwahahahaha!) minutes long:

Within those five pages, though, Collier crams a great deal of characterization—and terror.

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