VIVISEPLTURE Edited By Andy Remic and Wayne Simmons ................................................................................................ .............................................................. 2 THE FACELESS By Simon Bestwick ................................................................................................................................ ................................ ...................................................................... 2 DEAD HARVEST By Chris F. Holm ................................................................................................................................ ................................ ....................................................................... 2 DESOLATE (Kindle edition) By Robert Brumm Jr. ................................................................................................ ................................................................................. 3 GIANT THIEF By David Tallerman ................................................................................................................................ ................................ ......................................................................... 3 LEST YOU SHOULD SUFFER NIGHTMARES: A BIOGRAPHY OF HERBERT VAN THAL By Johnny Mains............................................. 3 THE MUTILATION MACHINATION By Shaun Jeffrey ................................................................................................ ........................................................................ 4 The storm before the Hush (Collaborating on my first novel with Tim Lebbon) By Gavin Williams ....................................................................... ................................ 5 GREATSHADOW: BOOK ONE OF THE DRAGON APOCALYPSE By James Maxey ................................................................ ....................................................... 7 The Involuntary Spasm of Writing By Alan Spencer ................................................................................................ ................................................................................ 9 THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF BODY HORROR Edited By Paul Kane and Marie O’Regan ................................................................................ ................................ 10 BABYLON STEEL By Gaie Sebold ................................................................................................................................ ................................ ....................................................................... 10 THE NOCTUARY By Greg Chapman................................ ................................................................................................................................ .................................................................... 11 FEARFUL FESTIVITIES By Gary Fry ................................................................................................................................ ................................ .................................................................. 11 Paul Finch Interview................................................................ ................................................................................................................................ ................................................................ 13 NEW DAWN FADES ................................................................ ................................................................................................................................ ............................................................. 20 ROUGH MUSIC By Simon Kurt Unsworth................................ ................................................................................................................................ ............................................................ 20 DARKENING SKIES By Juliet E. McKenna ................................................................................................................................ ................................ ......................................................... 20 Ramblings of a Tattooed Head By Simon Marshall-Jones Marshall ................................................................................................ ...................................................................... 20 MILE MILE 81 (Kindle edition) By Stephen King ................................................................................................ ................................................................................. 22 Cyndi Crotts Interview By Trevor Wright ................................................................................................................................ ................................ ............................................................... 24 VAMPIRE’S BLOOD (AUTHOR’S REVISED EDITION) By Katherine Meyer Griffith .................................................................................... ................................ 28 DEADFALL HOTEL By Steve Rasnic Tem ................................................................................................................................ ................................ ........................................................... 28 THE SEA OF FLESH AND ASH By Jeffrey Thomas and Scott Thomas ................................................................ .............................................................................. 28 SCREAM OF THE BANSHEE................................................................................................................................ ................................ ............................................................................... 29 From the Catacombs By Jim Lesniak ................................................................................................................................ ................................ ...................................................................... 29 Introduction to 13: Tales of Dark Fiction ................................................................................................................................ ................................ ................................................................ 35 Civil Beasts By Eric S Brown ................................................................................................................................ ................................ ................................................................................. 36 Dirty Story By Gary McMahon ................................................................................................................................ ................................ ............................................................................... 38 If You Lay Here Quiet Next to Me By Alan Spencer ................................................................................................ .............................................................................. 40 Desperate Measures By Stanley Riiks ................................................................................................................................ ................................ ..................................................................... 42 The Tax Collector By Tommy B. Smith ................................................................................................................................ ................................ .................................................................. 44 Organ Grinder By William R.D. Wood ................................................................................................................................ ................................ ................................................................... 46 The Machine By Fred Venturini ................................................................................................................................ ................................ .............................................................................. 48 To Hear a New World By Matt Leyshon ................................................................................................................................ ................................ ................................................................. 50 Whatever it takes By Joseph D’Lacey ................................................................................................................................ ................................ ..................................................................... 52 Wounder By Andrew Hook ................................................................ ................................................................................................................................ ..................................................... 54 Mongrel Days By Andy Remic ................................................................................................................................ ................................ ............................................................................... 56 103 By Shaun Jeffrey ................................................................ ................................................................................................................................ .............................................................. 58 The Watchers at Work By Gary Fry ................................................................................................................................ ................................ ........................................................................ 60 13: TALES OF DARK FICTION Edited By Adam Bradley ................................................................................................ ................................................................... 62 13: TALES OF DARK FICTION Edited by Adam Bradley ................................................................................................ ................................................................... 63 13: TALES OF DARK FICTION Edited by Adam Bradley ................................................................................................ ................................................................... 65 Edited By Stanley Riiks, Written By Adrian Brady, Eric S. Brown, Brown Douglas Cobb, Jim Lesniak, Simon Marshall-Jones, Stanley Riiks, Charles D. Romans, C.M. Saunders, Alan Spencer, Brett Taylor, J. S. Watts , Gavin Williams. Proof-read By Sheri White, Samuel Diamond. © Morpheus Tales January 2012
www.morpheustales.com Chief Inspector Renwick is put on the case with her VIVISEPLTURE Edited By Andy Remic and friend and colleague Mike Stakowski. TV psychic Wayne Simmons Allen Cowell cuts short his tour when he is visited www.anarchy-books.com by his three spirit guides who send him back to Vivisepulture is a collection of short horror and Kempforth (his home) to help find the missing macabre fiction published by Anarchy Books. children. Anna Mason’s brother is back from Twenty-two stories of darkness chosen for our hospital following his breakdown caused by the reading enjoyment with little or no regard for the death of his wife. She is working on a book of local depth and comfort of our nocturnal repose. Then history about a secret place that no one ever talks about any more: Ash Fell, an old hospital and again, they weren’t meant to be comforting. The stories range from what could be sanatorium for the injured from World War One. considered science fiction with a horrific bent A mist is hanging over the town and it’s (“Plastipak”), to those with a more supernatural getting worse. And the Spindly Men, the local flavour (“Rotten Cupid”), and those of more human legendary boogiemen, are being sighted all over the inspired horror (“You Always Remember Your place. First”). There is a broad range of voice and What do the Spindly Men have to do with perspective in these stories with often surprising the missing? What does the mist enveloping the town have to do with it? And how are the victims of turns of events and falling action. Human experimentation (be it conducted by the first world war involved? the government or aliens) weighs in (“Snot”), as Bestwick paints an intriguing picture of town does mankind’s descent into pseudo-barbarism life in northern England, and then shreds it down to (“Torturer’s Moon”). Classic horror and the the bone. The wounded characters are fully fleshed, supernatural are represented as well (“Zombie perhaps quite harshly, as the author doesn’t shy Gunfighter” and “Pipework”), and there are several away from painful subjects. This is a book that stories that cross subgenres. All told, there is a hurts. The hideous war-wounds, the chilling Spindly variety of writing styles and interpretations of Men and the spookily eerie Ash Fell are brought themes that most will appreciate. The downfall to together remarkably well for a writer on only his this – if there is one – is that puristic readers of one second novel. style or interpretation might not find enough of their The Faceless is a lesson in horror; it brings together many aspects of the genre, throwing in preferred type of story. If, however, you prefer a broad range of human depravity and brutality alongside the ideas and reinterpretation of archetypal fears, then supernatural to harrowing effect. Bestwick wants to Vivisepulture could be a good read for you. hurt you, like the best horror does. Gary McMahon, Everyone notices at least slightly different things the current king of UK horror, has a masterful about the same subjects after all. And sometimes challenger in Bestwick, and horror fans have never even a slight change in the voices that whisper to us had it so good. The Faceless propels Bestwick in the dark can generate entirely new fears... or deservedly into the top flight of unflinching horrific genius. remind us of old fears we had almost forgotten. By Stanley Riiks By Charles D. Romans THE FACELESS By Simon Bestwick www.solarisbooks.com
DEAD HARVEST By Chris F. Holm www.angryrobotbooks.com
Quality! Horror fans must read this book! Reviewing books can sometimes be difficult; it’s hardest when a book leaves you with absolutely no feelings one way or the other. It’s also difficult when you get swept up in the story and instead of reading for review, you read for the enjoyment of following the story. That’s what happened almost as soon as I picked up Bestwick’s novel. A baby goes missing in the northern town of Kempforth. A teenager also goes missing. Detective
The late Sam Thornton is a Collector. One of the Fallen himself, he collects the souls of the damned from those whose time is up. Fated to roam the world in borrowed flesh, either living or dead (though Sam prefers a “meat suit” of the newly dead) he is good at what he does, but then what should be another routine collection from his former hometown of New York proves to be anything but. Going on the run with the still very alive girl whose soul he was supposed to collect, Sam defies his 2
www.morpheustales.com handlers and soon finds all heaven and hell on his to an experimental prison on an island somewhere tail and out to get him. near Antarctica. There, he and the other inmates are Dead Harvest by Chris F. Holm is a slick, cajoled into working in an illegal platinum mine fast paced, supernatural thriller, but not so slick that where they uncover a mysterious doorway under the it lacks depth. Holm must be a fan of Milton’s ice. When the door is opened it unleashes a deadly Paradise Lost and possibly Marlowe’s Faustus, disease, and something much, much worse... given the characters and themes that populate the There are a few typos and errors in this book book, especially its take on the hell-is-everywhere (he said in a cold, clam voice) which need to be riff (“Why this is hell, nor am I out of it” to quote addressed, and several misplaced POV switches Marlowe’s Mephistopheles) that runs throughout the indicative of a novice writer, but the pace of the story. Nevertheless, highbrow literary this is not. story and overall quality of the writing more than Narrated by the hard-boiled, wisecracking Sam, it is makes up for any shortcomings. Robert Brumm Jr. End of Days-style noir with a touch of the Jason is certainly one to watch and with a sequel to Bourne about it. Plenty of action, plenty of violence, Desolate already in the pipeline, this could be the with at least one supernatural femme fatale and a start of something big. story that keeps you on your toes and turning the By C.M. Saunders page until the denouement. The main plot threads are all resolved GIANT THIEF By David Tallerman satisfyingly by the end of the novel and it stands on www.angryrobotbooks.com its own as an extremely entertaining story, but Dead Harvest is book one in a new supernatural series Easie Damasco is a thief. He is also our narrator on called The Collector and it keeps enough loose ends this tour-de-force of fantasy. Enslaved giants, under untied to make book two in the series, The Wrong the command of an evil warlord, invade Easie’s home. Easie, a loveable rogue if ever there was one, Goodbye, a must-buy. It looks like Dead Harvest’s publishers, finds himself an unlikely hero in this action-packed Angry Robot, have added another well-groomed and fast-paced fantasy adventure. Tallerman writes with a pace and style that thoroughbred to their increasingly impressive makes the book impossible to put down. Fantasy stables. adventure doesn’t get more exciting than this. By J. S. Watts Clever, funny and inspiringly naughty, our narrator and hero, Easie Damasco is a kind of Jack Sparrow DESOLATE (Kindle edition) By Robert Brumm of this fantasy world, stunningly brought to life, and Jr. www.robertbrumm.com imaginatively played with in this action-filled plot. Tallerman stand tall and proud with this, his Many writers, both established and up-n-comers, are debut novel. A writer well known for his short playing the Amazon Kindle game at the moment stories, Tallerman provides a breathtaking first novel where they offer their work free for a limited time to to delight fans and new readers alike. boost their profile. To take advantage just browse A fine debut. A fine fantasy novel. the website and see what you can get for nothing. I By Adrian Brady won’t lie to you, there is a load of crap out there, but occasionally you stumble across something a little LEST YOU SHOULD SUFFER NIGHTMARES: bit special. This is one such book. Having A BIOGRAPHY OF HERBERT VAN THAL By previously been up on Smashwords and others for a Johnny Mains price, the author decided to place Desolate on www.screamingdreamspress.com Amazon for free, and after shifting more than 700 I believe this is the first non-fiction book from one copies in 12 hours, he must be very glad he did so. The premise of this short novel is intriguing. of my favourite small presses in the UK, Screaming Alcoholic Howard Bell loses his marbles and goes Dreams Press. Unfortunately, it proves they should on a bloody rampage that leaves five dead, so is sent stick with fiction.
www.morpheustales.com Thal’s methods (he acted as agent and editor to This some and payment was not always forthcoming). short, limited The final part of this book is an article that edition (100 appeared in SFX Magazine in February 2010, now copies) hardback two years old. This is a shortened and much more is basically a focused (edited?) version of the first article and series of reprints, really the gem of the book in that we finally get most of which something interesting. But it’s two years out of date; are not the books that were anticipated have now been particularly high published. in quality. Probably the dullest and least insightful or Herbert interesting biography I have ever read of a man who van Thal, for probably didn’t deserve a book written about him. those of you who The final article is the only redeeming feature of an don’t know (and otherwise worthless book. there will Why Screaming Dreams chose to put this out doubtless be is beyond me. Even dedicated fans will be many), was the editor behind the legendary Pan Books of Horror, disappointed. By Stanley Riiks which most horror fans brought up in the sixties and seventies will remember with fondness. I myself first read one of the Pan Books of Horror in my THE MUTILATION MACHINATION By teens. It was my introduction to short horror fiction Shaun Jeffrey and, like the Hammer films released around that www.shaunjeffrey.com time, had a long-lasting effect on me. Unfortunately, the editor of the series was a This is a new collection of previously published and fairly secretive and quietly bookish man. Not the re-packaged short stories by one of the fastest rising dark fiction writers in the world today. I like the way usual subject of a biography. So, what do we have here? The first part of SJ writes, and after reading his novel Evilution, I an overlong article that offers a brief biography of couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into this little beauty. van Thal that offers little in excitement or even of We all know short stories are an entirely different art interest. It then proceeds to critically evaluate the form to novel writing. Whether easier or more Pan Books of Horror in an ad hock fashion, difficult is open to debate, and neither here nor there completely dismissing some books. There are some with regards to this review. What this collection quotes thrown in in an attempt at authenticity, most does prove is that SJ is equally adept at both. Some of which have come from interviews that appear in stories here are longer than others, and truth be told, full later in the book. It reads like an undergraduate some are stronger than others. Such is the nature of essay; it’s dry, without life or humour, and offers the beast. Most of these stories have a distinctly British little in the way of insight or discovery. That takes up the first 38 pages, although it flavour, and reveal a seedy side to SJ’s work I didn’t realize was there before. One of the highlights is feels like much longer. The next two pages show copies of letters “Not So Different”, the tale of a fatigued truck van Thal wrote to authors. Again, nothing insightful; driver who unwittingly picks up a hitcher and these are one or two paragraphs long. There may be embarks on a terrifying journey with a brutal a couple of vaguely interesting sentences in the page conclusion. It is right up there with the best suspense set, but the letters don’t even hint at the personality stories I’ve read in a long time. But my personal of the editor writing them. The letters are basic and choice in this collection has to be the story from included (surely) as filler. which this collection takes its name, the twisted tale A two-page checklist of van Thal’s work of a psychic card shark so rich in horrific, vivid follows. imagery that it will haunt your nightmares. After that, a series of interviews and articles By C.M. Saunders by some of the contributors to the books is included. Some are dull and overlong, mostly by writers who no longer write, and some who hint at the dodgy van 4
www.morpheustales.com The storm before the Hush (Collaborating on my writing – and Tim Lebbon. It was a fun, collegial system – a bit like a little writing family – and a first novel with Tim Lebbon) By Gavin Williams great learning experience. Some of us also took our Back in the mists of time – let’s call it, ooh, 1995 – I interest to the next level and started physically was a young aspiring writer with great ambitions attending genre writing conventions. Tim and I met first in person at “Welcome to and sackfuls of demented story ideas (most of which I would shudder at today and instantly discard, but my Nightmare” a rather amazing one-off horror con in Swansea, Wales. We hit it off immediately, that’s so-called “creativity maturity” for you). During that period there was a flourishing sharing a lot of the same fiction influences and, horror/scifi/fantasy short story scene in the UK frankly, a weakness for soul-singeingly downbeat which boasted a constellation of self-produced endings. We talked and talked, as you do at cons, (sometimes even photocopied!) subscription and, yes, drank heavily. The folio cycle rumbled on magazines – sometimes referred to as fiction and we continued to bump into each other fanzines – published under exotic/cheeky names occasionally at events (Tim lived in Wales, I was such as Exuberance, Grotesque, Psychotrope, and North of England) and when we did we always The Universal Mind. It was a wonderfully kicked around ideas. And then, ridiculously late in passionate and volatile scene with magazines the bar at a British Fantasy Society convention sometimes lasting only a handful of issues before situated in Birmingham, I think, we made The Pact. We were going to write a novel. Together slowing from monthly to bi-monthly, then quarterly, before finally coasting to an indefinite hiatus, if they (uh oh). It seemed like a massive undertaking, but a bothered to tell anyone anything at all. (Actually, as far as I know I’m still due to have a story in thrilling one at the same time. Tim had written at least one short novel, Mesmer, but this was to be my Exuberance #8 - I should chase that up.) I remember the period with enormous first long form narrative (and first serious fondness, especially as the Internet has made such a collaboration!). Hush was an intriguing prospect because the scene utterly obsolete, and in my mind it now possesses a curious moment-in-time/end-of-an-era hard work was shared. You’d have thought this quality. The scene was also a fertile training ground would make the writing process much easier. for new talent; a place where they could cut their However, that didn’t turn out to be the case. It teeth and receive no-holds-barred feedback before transpires that the presence of someone else in the making a run at the ramparts of the grown-up creative equation prevents writers from being the publishing industry. These magazines gave first one thing they love most... and that’s lazy (hmmm, exposure to such future luminaries as Neal Asher shall I start writing now, or when I’ve read the and Tim Lebbon (more on them in a moment), while paper/made the bed/washed up/walked the dog/eaten also providing an outlet for shorter works by genre a cookie/ had coffee/ phoned my mum/stared out the titans like Ramsey Campbell, Stephen Gallagher, window for three hours... ?). Writing with a partner makes you more honest. You can’t get away with Simon Clark and many others. One of the most enduring titles from this filler. You aren’t allowed to say, “This bit’s too period was Stuart Hughes and David Bell’s award- hard, I’ll bodge it for now and rewrite later”, then winning Peeping Tom where I scored a few of my never come back to that bit because it “sorta works”. own first sales. In addition to the magazine, There’s always someone else to say, “Hey, my name however, Stuart and David took another interesting will be on the cover, too, so we need a do over”. step. Since this scene was so focussed on aspiring Having a writing partner means you really have to authors, they decided to establish a set of writers’ fight for story elements you believe in and you have folios – in essence postal writers’ groups. Every to be a thousand percent sure of them in the first month each member would receive a package place. Collaboration forces you to interrogate all of containing stories from the rest of the group. Each your writing assumptions. But before all that, back would write critiques on those pieces, take out their in 1996, Tim and I needed a starting point. We needed... an idea. own story along with accompanying crits, then add a Now, for writers I think there are basically fresh tale to the parcel before posting it along on to the next person. I was asked to join the first group, two categories of story ideas. First, there are the Gifts From God (or which included Stuart himself, Derek M. Fox and Sara Jayne Townsend – both of whom are still Parcels Out of The Aether if you’re less 5
www.morpheustales.com reverentially inclined). These are the rarest breed Grunters are Frankenstein’s ideas: shambling and they come only once or twice a year. They patchwork entities, stitched from this and that, arrive fully-formed like tiny exquisite gems, with a lashed together with some strange meat which the beginning, middle and an end, set-pieces, themes, cat has chewed. Creatively, though, this can be even and characters already loaded in and tied off with a more rewarding since these ideas involve a long bow. It feels almost like you’ve discovered these chain of tiny eureka moments hard won after fierce ideas rather than created them, as if they’d lain trench warfare with yourself. Grunters represent true under the sands for millennia until you came along creative accomplishment and that makes them just with your archaeological tools to carefully brush as wonderful as those easy Gift-From-God freebies. With Hush, for instance, we had a title early away the crust and uncover their flawless beauty... on, but it didn’t mean anything at that point. It was Hush was not one of those ideas. Hush was in the other camp, which I like to just a cool-seeming word to hang on our cover. It think of as Sloggers or, better yet, Grunters, and was only through that long process of gestation that the title acquired its final, they involve work, man! hopefully surprising, Brain-breaking graft. It significance within the goes like this: you know story itself. It’s a bit you kinda, maybe, want difficult to talk about the to write something about actual plot without a guy who inherits a flicking on the SPOILER dangerous magical item, ALERT klaxon, but the maybe a ring or a sealed seed of Hush began in box or, oooh, a spear – two places. One was an that’s good because it’s idea I’d jotted down in a already dangerous! And notebook years earlier you know you want the about a man who spear to be possessed, but discovers a diary filled that’s a little tired so you with revelations about a need to give it fresh spin. supernatural disaster Perhaps the spear itself is which has already a parasitic creature, or a happened, and how that projection of bone jutting impacts his understanding in from a parallel of the world around him. dimension, and, and, er, The other germ was Tim anyway, it’s a metaphor and my shared love for H. for the destructive power P. Lovecraft. of anger! All of which What is so reminds you of another terrifying about idea you had five years Lovecraft’s vision, and ago which might fit in why his influence persists with this. So you spend the next two days paging feverishly through all your even today, is his concept of cosmic indifference. old notebooks in the garage and when you finally The terror at the heart of Lovecraft’s work is not that locate that idea... it isn’t what you thought it was in you’ll be eaten, maimed, or even have your soul the first place and you discard it... boiled away into bubbles, but that you simply just... On and on this turns as you whittle away, don’t... matter. All your hopes and dreams and gradually getting closer to something you can finally thoughts are mere crumbs beneath the soles of write. Sometimes you put the idea up on a couple of dispassionate behemoths. Lovecraft anticipates so metaphorical chairs to stress-test it, jumping up and much of our modern condition, from big physics down for a bit (talking it over with long-suffering (discoveries about the size and age of the universe family members, comparing it to the structure of and the utter insignificance of our place in it) to your favourite novels). Sometimes the ideas snap urban alienation, globalization, and corporate and and you twist an ankle. Sometimes they hold and, political corruption. Lovecraft’s pantheon of voila, you’ve discovered the perfect ending... babbling idiot gods don’t care about the little people, 6
www.morpheustales.com about humanity; they just blunder insanely along, properly handled, can stand shoulder to shoulder pursuing their vast and incomprehensible goals, with the best literature on the shelves”.) We were oblivious to our futile endeavours down below. also ecstatic to be short-listed for the August Derleth Before we embarked on the book, Tim and I knew British Fantasy Award for Best Novel that year (it that we wanted to do something BIG, something was the year China Miéville won for Perdido Street Widescreen. Something, dear reader, with balls. We Station, so we weren’t too disappointed). Hush was republished in 2005 by Delirium wanted to Destroy The World, and when you want to Destroy The World, Lovecraft is always a good Books in a marvellous limited edition hardback as place to start. Where we chose to go after that is part of their Dark Essentials series. Since then, hopefully what makes Hush fresh and exciting, however, it has been out of print... Until now, as rather than some over-excitable exercise in fan lit. Tim and I are delighted to announce that Hush is You may be surprised what we do with all those available once more as a kindle edition – both in the UK and the US – complete with Chris Nurse’s juicy Lovecraftian themes. Physically we wrote Hush in a similar beautiful original cover. If you choose to pick it up I manner to the folio, as a two-person Round Robin hope you find it interesting. It comes from a longletter. This was in the Dark Ages before Internet vanished and special time in genre history and is a access was common, which seems almost product of Grunting, not God. incomprehensible in these days of 24-hour smartphone/tablet/netbook instant access, but for the http://www.amazon.co.uk/HUSHfirst eighteen months or so Tim wasn’t online so ebook/dp/B007BJSZLY/ref=sr_1_1?s=digitalwe... sent diskettes through the post! I would write a text&ie=UTF8&qid=1329919591&sr=1-1 section and send it to Tim, who would rewrite my work, write his pages and then blast them back to http://www.amazon.com/HUSHme... and so it went on. Wash, rinse, repeat. ebook/dp/B007BJSZLY/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qi Interestingly, this method actually stoked a bit of d=1329919780&sr=8-2 friendly rivalry between us and, inadvertently, made Hush a better book. Because we plotted in advance we were both able to anticipate which slabs of story would fall into our allotted segments. As a result we GREATSHADOW: BOOK ONE OF THE would try and smuggle in as much extra excitement DRAGON APOCALYPSE By James Maxey as we could before the hand-over, so neither of us www.solarisbooks.com got stuck with “a dull bit”. I know I slipped in the odd insane supernatural war flashback when I A powerful and magical dragon called Greatshadow. thought Tim wasn’t looking, and I’m sure he did the A gang of twelve warriors intent on killing the same to me. What this means is that HUSH doesn’t dragon, either to steal its wealth and kill the dragon let up for a moment. It’s packed with battles, nail- for the Church. A female warrior out to steal the shredding suspense, sudden gasping reversals and treasures of the dragon... awesomely-huge swoopingly-emotional set-pieces. Action-packed and thrill-a-minute writing, Basically, something blows up roughly every three this epic fantasy adventure keeps you on the edge of pages. So at the end of the day, collaboration is your seat almost from the first page. The world is better value. It provides far more bang for your buck wonderfully portrayed, the characters are well– in this case, literally! rounded, and the action is plentiful. In total it took about three years of diskettes The dragon is mesmerising, a shadowy and development and avoiding the dull bits to finally figure of menace and yet also their key to freedom. complete Hush, and it was published in 2000 by Maxey has created an entertaining world, fledgling independent press Razorblade, famous for and this book is the perfect introduction to it. The their gorgeous cover art, challenging dark fiction, inclusion of the first chapter of the second book in production delays, tiny tiny print and occasional the series is enough to whet the appetite of this full-on dust jacket typos (something Hush reviewer. mercifully avoided). Tim and I were delighted by By Adrian Brady the warm critical reception. (Brian Keene called it a “modern masterpiece”, while the Hellnotes review said, “I offer Hush as proof that scary books, 7
www.morpheustales.com head, I drew it without realizing somebody else The Involuntary Spasm of Writing By Alan would notice. This was the innocent phase of my Spencer drawing that would soon advance from “He likes to I’ll set aside the talk about book sales and winning draw things, how cute” to “Why is he drawing these fans and talk about why I write despite so little things? We better make sure he’s not crazy”. In junior high I had a secret pastime for financial payoff. Well, to be honest, I have no choice in the matter. I honestly think this writing adding words to what other students wrote on bug is hardwired in my DNA. I got the idea for my bathroom walls. Penises were huge (no pun novel Zombies and Power Tools from finding a intended) fodder for bathroom walls. I’d add my power-saw at work where one shouldn’t be, and then own spin to the genitalia. I’d take the original penis the boss telling me in response, “I just don’t know and draw a mouse trap around it. Another penis, I’d how to put my tools away”. These instances occur draw a flag waving nearby and give the dick hands often in a given day, though the ideas may not so the phallus could salute it. More often, someone always add up to anything spectacular. I think would write that someone else sucks or somebody’s writing for me is really an involuntary spasm. Let momma sucks. I’d jot an extra ditty to it, like “Your Mom Sucks,” then me, “but she makes a mean me give you a few examples. meatloaf” or “but at least she’s not passive aggressive”. These little things were like inside jokes to me, because I didn’t know if anybody really read them or particularly enjoyed them. I don’t know why I really did this at the time, but I couldn’t help myself. It was a secret compulsion. High school was the apex of my odd pastime. I was that angst-filled teenager who in art class drew gory paintings, anything from people eating people to victims hanging by hooks, eviscerated. Sure, the art teacher gave me guff, but he knew I was a nice kid so to speak, and he didn’t reprimand me for it. I also had a shitty garage band going at the time, a death metal group named “Pentagram Slut”. We sucked horribly, but I do remember one song turning out well called “Buckets of Heads”. During class and during lunch time, I’d write dumb metal songs about killing people. These were all writing-related activities that didn’t get me sent to the counsellor’s office, but this next thing did. I started off this piece talking about how ideas pop into my head, and how I can’t really help it. It’s like that a lot when I’m bored or wishing I was somewhere else. Most of the time, I did it without realizing someone would see what I did and could react poorly to it. This happened when I was a junior in high school taking a computer class. It was When I was in the sixth grade, I remember an introduction to multimedia. It was mostly about my teacher suddenly yelling out from her desk, computer graphics, using clip art, and creating “Stop drawing in the corners of your papers!” I slideshows. One assignment was about making a immediately blushed, the burning heat building up slideshow about the food groups and the food in my cheeks telling me that yes, she was talking pyramid. I had to describe how many meats, about me. I often drew strange things in the white vegetables, grains, etc. that you were supposed to spaces of my turned-in work I did in class, anything get in a given day and add a graphic that displayed from karate guys doing kicks in the air to random the said food item. We had way too much time as a monsters stomping around. Whatever was in my class to work on this, and I finished the project 9
www.morpheustales.com ahead of schedule, so I kept re-evaluating it and novels I’m very proud of: B-Movie Reels and Badding extra flair to each slide, including back Movie Attack, both coming out this year from Samhain Publishing. So no matter what happens stories. One slide was about a kiwi a man had with my writing from the financial aspect, I’m thrown at a moving car, and the result caused the car always looking for new ideas to write and enjoying to crash and burn, and this was why the man had the hell out of the process. Here goes a new year of sworn off eating kiwi. Another slide showcased a horror! bowl of exotic fruits and how the taste of them drove a woman to leave her husband and elope with THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF BODY HORROR a house servant. By far the most damning slide was Edited By Paul Kane and Marie O’Regan the one I created involving cereal. I drew with a www.constablerobinson.com computer mouse a squiggly cartoon boy enjoying a box of “Hemoglobin O’s.” Imagine Cheerios with Kane and O’Regan have blood instead of milk. I had a cartoon caption of the brought together a disturbing messed-up-looking kid saying, “Now with iron!” I and visceral collection of also included a page about watermelons, where I tales. From Mary Shelley, drew blood trickling down the fruit. A caption Edgar Allen Poe and H. P. beneath the watermelon begged the question, “Why Lovecraft to modern works does the mysterious fruit keep bleeding? Every bite by the likes of Stephen King, brings me closer to the truth”. Clive Barker, Christopher The point of me telling you this is that it Fowler, Simon Clark and gave me such a writing high well before my fellow many more, this is a students or the teacher reacted to it. I enjoyed it remarkable collection. Its diversity and the range of strictly because it did something for me that I stories make this very different from the usual needed at the time, which was ultimately an escape. collections, despite the similar themes. Neil Gaiman’s “Changes,” Michael Marshall It gave me a much-needed distraction. I hated high school for the most part, to be honest, and those Smith’s “Walking Wounded,” and “Almost forms of writing really helped me survive it. Forever” by David Moody provided my personal Needless to say, the school counsellor gave me a favourites in this great anthology. The theme works good talking to after the computer teacher freaked extremely well, and the chosen stories represent the out seeing my crazy slide show. Why I did it, I can’t exploration of bodily horrors better than any I’ve say. It’s like I forget everything else when an idea read. Ghoulishly creepy, and sure to send a shiver occurs to me. I obsess over it, and I obey the spasm down your spine. The editors have done a sterling to follow an idea to wherever it wants to go. These days, I still use writing to get through job on this horrifying collection. By Adrian Brady life. Not to sound cheesy, but I look forward to getting home after work to start writing. It keeps me motivated and from sleeping in too late on my days BABYLON STEEL By Gaie Sebold off. It gives my life more structure than it would www.solarisbooks.com have otherwise, but most of all, I enjoy the creative process, the fun of coming up with characters and It’s not often you come across a new novelist who ludicrous plotlines. Imagining stories involving not only has so much to say, but also has a great zombies with power tools or vampires raiding a voice, and a story-telling ability any experienced cider mill sure gets my mind off my mind. It’s a novelist would envy. good thing I don’t operate heavy machinery, Sebold is such a writer, not perfect by any because I’m sure I’d drift off at the helm. And I’m means, but she is able to create real characters, and a not saying writing is all puppies and kittens. The fascinating world full of intrigue and wonder. process of fixing the problems in the content of a Babylon Steel is a brothel owner and whore, story and editing, that’s all hard work, but it’s also a beautiful and deadly ex-fighter, who runs her rewarding. business with skill and passion. Inside her house of This being early 2012, I have Ashes in Her ill repute is an unlikely bunch, but she calls them Eyes: Uncut coming out after its first release was cut family: a fey princess, a muscular blue alien, a pair short by its initial publisher. I also have two other of sadomasochists, and more. 10
www.morpheustales.com When a high-ranking young girl, almost on alternative worlds. And just like the genius behind the eve of her wedding, goes missing, Steel is called Hellraiser, Chapman’s writing is by turns brutal and in by the infamous Fain to help find the girl before a beautiful. It often presents interesting conundrums; diplomatic incident is caused. But Babylon has for instance, if you could have the chance to exact problems of her own - a series of murders of women revenge on your mother’s murderer would you do so of the night is threatening to ruin her business, and and dare to live with the consequences? besides Babylon was a young girl on the street Also available from Smashwords is herself and hates anyone who preys on those less Invocation: Prelude to the Noctuary, a separate fortunate. Not only that but her past is coming back short story which tells us eager readers more about to haunt her. Meknok (a central character in The Noctuary), one It appears Sebold may have bitten off more of the Dark Scribes of hell whose job description than she can chew; one plot takes charge for the first includes inspiring mankind to take the dark path. half of the book, the second plot comes to the fore By C.M. Saunders with the latter half of the book, and nothing quite meshes as well as it should. The first plot, the more FEARFUL FESTIVITIES By Gary Fry exciting and universe- shattering, is dealt with a www.screamingdreams.com simple summing up at the end. The structure of the plotting could have been woven together with a lot Another 13: Tales of Fiction more skill, and it just feels a little lazy. This is a Dark shame because it detracts from what is essentially a contributor has a new book out. This time, bloody good book. It’s annoying. Sebold is a very good writer. The first- the writer of the person narrative is immersive, the characters that longest story in that has inhabit the book are well rounded and developed, anthology and the strange world (a mix of fantasy and SF that produced a Christmas works immensely well) they live in is fascinatingly novel reminiscent of King’s Needful Things. well-portrayed. A few days Irreverent, and bloody good fun, Sebold is a Christmas, new breed of writer with a brilliant future ahead of before some citizens of the her. small village of By Stanley Riiks Hitherton receive a message asking them THE NOCTUARY By Greg Chapman www.wix.com/darkscribe/gregchapman what they want for Christmas. But as with similar stories, when their wishes are answered, they get With The Noctuary, Australian writer Greg more than they bargained for. Chapman has come up with a genuinely creepy, This hardback edition from Screaming addictive little tale. In a nutshell, it tells the story of Dreams is beautiful, with the design printed onto the struggling writer, Simon Ryan, who is chosen to cover rather than a dust jacket. The quality of the SD become a scribe of hell. He meets his brethren, the products is matched by the content, with Fry Dark Muses, and under his pen, fact and fiction fuse producing a magnificently scary novel. His together to become one single reality. He is given characters are well described, and he has such a the task of re-writing his life story in his own blood, lovely turn of phrase that you have to read on. Fry’s and discovers the power to literally write people and written style doesn’t feel like a natural story-teller’s; events out of existence. He creates a kind of anti- instead it feels like a seasoned and well-honed word superhero to do his dirty work for him, but who is artist. He manages to sweep you up with his really pulling the strings? imagery, in the story and characters. Treading the blurred line between fantasy A brilliant Christmasy tale of greed and fear, and horror, Chapman’s recent work has been this book again provides a warning to be careful compared favourably to vintage Clive Barker. True, what you wish for. there are similarities. They share the same ability to Fry in top form yet again. manipulate the English language to evoke the same By Adrian Brady kind of nightmarish imagery, surreal settings and 11
www.morpheustales.com Oddly, this didn’t really cut much ice with any of the prose publishers I first approached. Some, I think didn’t believe me – they didn’t understand why I was writing short horror stories when I already had a career in television, while others were just determined not to be impressed. But one advantage I did have was that I was already the client of a good London agent. He obviously had no involvement with my independent press work, but he was interested enough in my horror output to send my ideas, outlines and scripts to movie companies. Many of these projects were subsequently optioned, though only two have been made as full feature films to date. The real positive from all that was that I got to work over many years with producers, directors and professional scripteditors, whose knowledge and ideas helped me develop as a writer across-the-board (my father always used to say that if you can write a film script, you can write anything – because the discipline required is enormous). This certainly paid off. I subsequently had more and more stories and novellas published, they were increasingly wellreceived. And soon I found that professional rates were being offered for mass-market anthology and magazine appearances. This was assisted by a lot of intensive networking, both online and at conventions, where I made a point of introducing myself to people who could offer me real work.
Paul Finch Interview What inspired you to start writing? My father was the main inspiration. Brian Finch was a respected television playwright throughout the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. He was extremely versatile, working in everything from cop shows to comedy. He also created his own dramas and eventually won a well-deserved BAFTA for Goodnight, Mr. Tom. Given that he’d achieved all that having come from a very poor background, and left school with few qualifications, he couldn’t have been anything other than a massive inspiration to me. How did you go about first getting your work published? It’s a bit of a misconception that I started out in the small press. I was writing for television long before I became known as a short story writer. My first TV show was THE BILL in the late 1980s. I broke into that because I was a serving police officer at the time who had developed a real urge to write about my experiences. I continually sent scripts on spec to THE BILL offices, all of which were ignored – until one day in 1988, when I wrote a television police drama called KNOCK-OFF JOB. It was a standalone cop story, but nothing to do with the THE BILL – it was actually set in Greater Manchester, where I worked, and it concerned a murder inside a police station. I sent it off to the studio, and about six months later received a phone-call asking me to go and see them. I did, and they asked me if I’d like to write for the show. I obviously said ‘yes,’ but my life didn’t really turn around at that stage. The main thing that had impressed them was my knowledge of police procedure, police life, police attitudes and so forth – I had an inside knowledge which nobody who hadn’t been part of that world could possess, and they identified this as something they could make use of. I still didn’t know how to write a script, so they taught me … and then I suppose the rest is history. I remained a writer for THE BILL, on and off, for the next few years.
What other writers have influenced you? In terms of horror, the list is endless. I first became interested in the genre in the 1970s, as so many of us did, by reading the Pan and Fontana series. But the ground had already been prepared for me by a childhood interest in ghosts, monsters and such – TV shows like Dr Who, Quatermass, Children Of The Stones. I’d always thought that scary stories were incredibly cool. As a youngster, at the behest of my father, I’d also read the likes of Poe, James, Wakefield, Le Fanu, but I suppose the authors who provoked me into actually writing horror seriously in the late 80s and early 90s, would be guys like Ramsey Campbell, Stephen Gallagher, Clive Barker and Chris Fowler. Those were the names I really looked out for back in those days, whenever I was buying a book. Stephen King had obviously made an impression as well, though being an American his world seemed a little further away from mine.
You were first published in small-press magazines. How did you make the leap to mainstream publishing? As I mentioned above, I was a TV writer before I had short stories published in the small press. So I suppose I had the mainstream experience first. 13
www.morpheustales.com Who are your favourite authors and favourite work of others, that, from an early age, I developed a yearning to do the same thing – to bring images books? Again, I could prattle on endlessly. I’ll just say that and ideas that I found exciting, scary, wondrous, my three favourite novels are, in horror terms, The amazing and so forth, to the attention of everyone Wolfen by Whitley Strieber, in fantasy terms, else, to try and snare other folk in the same net. It Grendel by John Gardner, and in fantasy/historical sounds a bit strange when I put it like that, I terms, The Saxon Tapestry by Sile Rice. I must have suppose, maybe even a bit egocentric, but I’m being as honest as I can here. I so love putting my ideas read them all about six times each. and concepts out there in writing or on screen that it’s something I just on keep doing. I can’t think of What are your other influences? I’ve always enjoyed the clash of the fantastical and anything else that would interest me more. the mundane, so when interviewed in my early days and asked ‘What kind of horror do you prefer?’ I’d You have written a wide range of books, including always say ‘The kind that could be going on in the some tie-in novels. What do you prefer writing and next street to where I live.’ That’s still true to an why? extent, though these days I cast my net a little First and foremost, I consider myself a jobbing writer. In other words, I write further out than the next street. what pays me the most. I hope What I mean by all this is that that doesn’t sound too I’m as influenced as much by mercenary, but it’s my living reality as I am by fantasy. I and I need to make it pay. That enjoy real places – not just the aside, I have several areas of ancient and mysterious, but the real preference. As an exmundane: the forgotten nooks in copper, I love working within our cities, quiet villages where the police milieu; it’s an area nothing ever seems to happen, where I consider myself strong those suburban railway stations and informed. It doesn’t just that no-one ever seems to get off have to be crime. I’ve placed at. Despite appearances, all police heroes in many horror these places have stories to tell, and fantasy situations as well – either truthful or mythical. I in fact, I thoroughly enjoy read a lot of history, and I mixing and matching the subregularly browse through tomes genres. Other areas where I have of folklore and superstition. I very strong interest would have don’t know why, but the to be those of folklore, undercurrents of our culture and mythology and history. Once beliefs are a huge influence on again, these are fields where I me – I have this urge to keep on consider I have a good workinginvestigating them in my work. Of course, the world of make-believe can do it for knowledge, and where I feel very comfortable me as well. I love the great plays, the great movies. I telling stories. doubt there’s a single person writing today who hasn’t at some point seen some incredible work of What is your writing day like? Do you have any performing art and thought afterwards: ‘How I rituals or routines when you write? would love to produce a piece of work that would I don’t like to sit at my computer screen all day, so one thing I do as often as I can is dictate into a have half impact on others that that just had on me’. Dictaphone while I’m walking my pet Labrador. I then type it up later on. Of course, that’s never the Where do you get your inspiration? I’m not sure how to answer that question. I can only final draft, but it helps you get past what I consider say that I get a real buzz from the creation of the toughest part of any writing project – actually entertaining fiction. I’ve been so affected during my getting it down on paper for the first time. It can also own life by marvellous books and stories I’ve read, stop you going stir-crazy, gets you out into the fresh marvellous movies and plays I’ve watched, my air and gives you (and your dog) plenty of exercise. imagination has been so fired by the awe-inspiring At one time people must have thought I was a bit 14
www.morpheustales.com touched, seeing me wandering the streets all day too upset when people give me a bad press. Of apparently talking into my closed fist, but now, in course that depends on what I suspect their the age of mobile phones, no-one bats an eyelid motivation is. If a critic finds fault simply because I thankfully. I also use the Dictaphone to check the suspect he’s the sort who always has to find fault, final draft of every piece of work I produce. This is then that can be annoying. And of course I don’t a useful tactic which I often suggest to relatively always agree with them anyway, even if I think their new writers. It’s okay skimming through it on screen motives are honourable. But one thing I do honestly or on the printed page, but no matter how careful believe is that it pays to take things on board. If your you think you are being, it’s still relatively easy to work is continually criticised – by different miss things. My solution is to read the finished reviewers – for the same offence, then possibly they version into the Dictaphone and then play it back have a point. It can’t hurt to look at what you’re through earphones while, once again, taking the doing, and see if you’re actually doing something faithful hound for a walk. This doesn’t just help you wrong. That way you can make negative criticism iron out errors and literals, but if you’re playing it work for you. One thing is absolutely certain – a back and it sounds clumsy, clunky, clichéd, critic is never doing you a favour by telling the whatever – then you know you’ve still got a bit of world your work is good if it isn’t. work to do. You continue to write short stories and novellas and How do you put a book together, do you just sit have them published by small presses. Why not concentrate on the more popular novel form? down and write, or do you plan chapter by chapter? I don’t just sit down and write. These days I’m Well... I do both these days. In fact, to be honest, I usually writing to a deadline, and find that forward probably spend a lot more time working on novels planning pays. Of course, you can spend too much and movie scripts than I do on short stories and time doing this – sometimes, say if you’re tired, it novellas. I have to make a living, after all. But I like can be an excuse not to do any actual writing. My the shorter form, and whenever I can fit it in, I do. method is to sketch out the story and then tentatively The small presses tend to be the natural home for divide that up into chapters. But I’m not hidebound that kind of stuff as there are so few other markets by this. Once the writing starts, all this planning may interested. go out the window if something better suggests itself, and it often can – it depends on where the What book are you reading now? story and the characters are actually taking you. I I’m currently reading The Quincunx by Charles suppose my answer must therefore be, know what Palliser. you’re going to do beforehand – that will give you a rough idea how long it’s going to take you and how What is your proudest moment as a writer? much time you need to dedicate to the project each I think that would have to be completion of my short week, but be flexible and open to other possibilities. Christmas novel, Sparrowhawk. I really did feel the Sure, being organised and meeting deadlines is divine breath blowing through me when I was important, but you also want to produce a damn working on that one. It started out as such a simple idea – to write a Victorian Christmas ghost story, good book. and yet while I was working on it, it evolved into If you could go back in time to when you started something much, much bigger. I still remember writing and give yourself one piece of advice what every moment of its conception. It was the week leading up to Christmas 2009, and snowing very would it be? Don’t give up the day job too soon. I moved from heavily. My wife’s office is just up the road from the police into journalism, and in 1998 was suddenly where we live. None of her staff had been able to get confronted with the spectre of redundancy. I took it in because of the blizzard, so I went up there with willingly as I thought my writing career was really her, to keep her company and to write (to the taking off. As it happened I wasn’t quite there at that accompaniment of endless Christmas carols on the radio). I don’t know what it was, but this story I was stage, and we had several tough years afterwards. working on just kept expanding, and in strange and Do you read reviews of your work? How do you exciting ways. I didn’t actually finish it that week – it was well into the following year, probably deal with criticism? I’m actually my own harshest critic, so I don’t get summer I would say, before I’d dotted the last i and 15
www.morpheustales.com crossed the last t. But for once in my life I was original concept was hatched by the director Paul hugely satisfied with the finished piece of work. If I Campion, who I was working with at the time on say so myself, it had become much more than just a another project. We were looking to do a low-budget routine horror story: it was a historical fantasy, a horror movie that we could turn around quickly. We historical mystery, a historical romance. It was also definitely didn’t want to do a slasher or a torturerich with Christmas atmosphere; no mean feat when porn, both of us in agreement that we much you’re putting the finishing touches to it in June and preferred a supernatural premise, and if possible July. I was also pleased with the characterisation. I’d something a bit more cerebral than the norm. I really felt an emotional attachment to the people I remember we were having bangers and mash was writing about, which doesn’t happen all the together in a pub, and were throwing some ideas time, as any author will tell you. Anyway, the book around. We were contemplating a Roman or was published as a stand-alone novella (40,000 medieval background – something different, words) by Pendragon Press the following Christmas something that would make folk sit up and take and reached the final ballot for Best Novella at the notice. Paul Campion’s access to Weta Workshop in BFS awards the next year. Since then it’s gone on to New Zealand (who he worked with on Lord of the receive great reviews all over the internet, and is Rings), would have made that more manageable now available on Kindle. I still think it’s one of the than many might imagine. But then, for some best things I’ve written, if not the best. I even reason, he suggested a World War II scenario. I’d adapted a film script from it on spec, though so far recently had a novella published called The Retreat, that’s fallen on stony ground, the snowbound which concerned a bunch of frost-bitten German Victorian London setting, not to mention the battle soldiers retreating from Stalingrad and holing up in an eerie Russian mansion deep in the scenes in Afghanistan, frightening forest. Paul took the idea away with off at least two producers with their him to ponder it, but then came back potential expense. with something completely different. A friend had drawn his attention to Are you disappointed with any of the witchcraft history of the Channel your work when you look back on it? Islands; he’d thus been over there, At risk of contradicting my previous and had learned about the Grimoires answer, almost always. However – a series of powerful books filled recently something’s been written, I with spells and incantations literally immediately spot an error or designed to raise demons. His new something clunky that somehow got concept concerned an Allied through my editing net, and I commando raid on one of the certainly don’t relish looking back Channel Islands falling foul of on stuff I had published a long time diabolists. We started thrashing out a ago, as that is likely to be riddled proper story together, tying the with howlers. But to be honest, that’s the way it should be. We all of us have to keep satanic elements in with Hitler’s quest to find striving to improve. None of us are good enough to magical weapons with which to win the war and, sit back on our laurels and say ‘that’s it, I’m at my when we learned about Wright’s Hill Fortress in peak’. So it’s always good thing if you look back on New Zealand – a 1940s bunker complex which has your work and think that you could have done a barely changed since those days - setting everything better job. It shows that you’re still on a learning in this claustrophobic underground environment. The rest is history really. We couldn’t gain the curve and will only get better. attention of any UK-based financiers, but there was strong interest from the New Zealand Film Tell us about The Devil’s Rock. I wrote the movie script for The Devil’s Rock in Commission, so long as we made the movie over 2009. It was finally green-lit and produced by there, used a New Zealand crew and cast New Chameleon Pictures in 2010, and released to the Zealand actors. That certainly wasn’t a problem for cinemas and on DVD in 2011. Thus far it has done me, and definitely not for Paul Campion, as he holds very well, selling to most major territories in the dual UK/NZ citizenship and, as I’ve said, was world. It’s a World War II horror movie with strong planning to film over there anyway. The film has occult elements. It’s not just my own work. The probably done better than we could have hoped, 16
www.morpheustales.com most positive reviews focusing on its intellectual paid for it as a job – well, need I say more. approach to the subject-matter (though there is plenty of blood in there as well – gorehounds won’t But what do I like least? Ultimately it has to be the be disappointed). A year down the line, it’s still haphazard nature of the writer’s remuneration. doing healthy business and we are now working on Unless you’re Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, or one of that other handful of international star names who the sequel. have taken the world by storm, you are always going Do you write for a particular audience, or for to struggle to have a completely comfortable life financially. So many really good writers known to yourself? If you want to sell your work widely you need to me personally, many of whom have written for tailor it for specific audiences. I appreciate that television in the past, or have had book deals and writing is one of the purest forms of self-expression, films made etc, are still in that strange position of and that ultimately it comes from the heart and must not always being able to plan holidays, not always therefore please you before it can please anyone knowing for sure whether they can get a mortgage, else, but once you’ve got over that hurdle you need etc, because their earnings fluctuate alarmingly from to consider who is going to read it. If it’s so year to year. And this situation never seems to inaccessible a piece that no-one will be interested improve, in fact if anything it seems to be getting except your mum, who’s probably only being polite worse, and it happens at all levels. How often do anyway, then to me it’s a waste of time. Likewise, if you see ‘for the love’ anthologies advertised – in you really want to hit the markets, it’s important to other words, there’ll be nothing for the writers look at what’s hot. If no-one is currently buying except exposure, and yet you can be damn sure serial killer thrillers, but they are interested in damn sure the printers aren’t doing it for exposure. ghosts, then don’t write Silence of the Lambs, write That’s a strange quirk of this industry, and one I’m The Woman In Black. That sounds like you’re always disheartened by. limiting yourself, but it’s just realism. Besides, no good ideas are wasted – you just shelve them until Do you get writers block? such time as the subgenre is back in fashion. I don’t think I’ve ever had writer’s block in that I Obviously you have to be happy with the work first, simply can’t think of anything to write. However, I but if you haven’t identified a viable section of the have been mentally tired and have had to take a public who will buy your book or watch your movie, couple of days off as I just couldn’t face the physical no-one who’s any good will publish or produce you effort of sitting down and writing. That usually comes after you’ve worked very hard and very anyway. intensively over a period of months, usually to meet a tight deadline. On occasions like that I’ve What do you like to do when you’re not writing? My wife and I have pretty busy social lives. We regularly worked all evening, all weekend, and have close circle of friends, who we see a lot and sometimes all night as well. That’s nearly always a like to chill out with. In addition, we travel – we mistake, as you’re not at your best, and will be always take the opportunity to travel, and we enjoy brutally exhausted by the end of it, but deadlines are going to the theatre and the cinema. I’m also deadlines. involved at various levels with local junior sport, mainly producing publicity material, writing round- If you could meet anyone, fictional or real, dead or alive, who would it be? ups, match reports and so on for local clubs. Charles Dickens. Don’t ask me why – it’s not just What parts of being a writer do you like best? And that my family are descended from him (which we’ve now discovered they are), but that any writer least? What do I like best? Well... being a writer enables to who can so impose his work on the world that an you go places during the day that nobody else can. entire era of history is named after him must have Who else in the modern age can lead a Roman been a very special person. legion across the Rhine, or ride out under the portcullis at Camelot with King Arthur? The answer Which do you prefer writing/reading, short stories is no-one except us. Nothing beats that moment or novels? when you’re so engrossed in your work that you are I have no preferences any more. I love all the forms. actually there, living it and breathing it. And to get I consider that I’m at my best and most effective 17
www.morpheustales.com with movie script format, but no-one outside a What scares you? production unit is ever going to read those, so if you Real life issues, of the sort we all face everyday. I were to press me, I’d say that I probably still prefer know that’s probably a boring response. But, the novella – or the expanded short story, as I like to unfortunately for me, I’ve always being able to think of it. distinguish very clearly between reality and fantasy. That’s why horror fiction is such a joy for me – it’s What are you working on now? a total escape. But the real world of families and job One movie script – The Devil’s Rock 2, and a crime security and mortgage worries and uncertainty about novel, The Nice Guys Club. I’ve always got a few how you’re going to put your children through short stories on the go as well, usually two or three college and all that – I find all that very frightening, at the same time, plus I’m editing my Terror Tales so much so that I’m murder for putting off big, series of original anthologies for Gray Friar Press. important decisions until the last possible minute. If Thus far we’ve produced Terror Tales of the Lake you’re asking me what really scares me in terms of District and Terror Tales of the Cotswolds. Terror spooky fiction, I still think you have to go a long Tales of East Anglia is the one I’m currently way to find any corner of the genre more relentlessly working on. But you can get regular updates for all disturbing than the Jamesian world of ghosts and these projects, and others, on my blog: vengeful revenants. So many of us have absolute http://paulfinch-writer.blogspot.com views on the afterlife – it definitely does exist, or it definitely doesn’t. And yet nobody knows for sure. Do you have any advice for other writers? Ghosts are an intangible concept, because there are Yes – I mentioned earlier on how I got to know no hard and fast rules about what they actually are people in the genre by networking. Well this is or how you deal with them. I often used to say to absolutely vital. The age of the misanthropic writer people how consoling it would be to actually see a slaving away in a garret room, never seeing anyone, ghost and thus know for sure that there is life after is over. There are too many out there trying their death. Honestly, wouldn’t that be reassuring? Well, hand for geniuses to get discovered by accident. I maybe... but I’d defy anyone to be in the same can’t stress enough to any author wanting to break in situation as the characters in The Haunting of Hill how important it is to get out there and talk to other House (1963’s The Haunting for those working in people in the industry, especially now you’ve got a movie terms), and not be terrified out of their senses. tool at your disposal like the internet. But you shouldn’t just do it online. Conventions , open What makes a good story? nights and so forth are all about door-stopping the It’s got to be a page-turner. That’s the only thing I names in the genre, particularly editors, publishers can say that I think should be a rule. At one time I’d and producers, introducing yourself and having a have said that it has to have a beginning, a middle quick chat – don’t be shy, that’s why they’re there - and an end, but I don’t believe that any more – and it’s never a big jump from saying ‘hello’ to then writers with greater skill than me have proved that enquiring what they’re working on next, and then isn’t the case. Others would say it has to have asking if you can send them something. Another subtext. I’d disagree; subtext will add value to a piece of advice I’d give is always learn from your story but it isn’t a requirement – fiction’s first job is rejection slips, of which we all have enough to to entertain, and if it can inform at the same time, all wallpaper our bedrooms. If an editor has taken the the better. But no piece of fiction works for me if it time to tell you why your story or play or novel doesn’t keep me interested. Note, that doesn’t mean doesn’t work for him, consider his remarks it needs to have an explosion on every page. carefully. You don’t have to accept them, but at least Numerous classic authors wrote amazing novels give them the time of day – they may be the devoid of any of what we would call ‘action’, but difference between getting it right the next time or they are written with such wit, clarity and élan that failing again. Lastly – keep writing, regardless of you can’t help but keep reading. Even thrillers or rejection. I’ve met so many writers who just don’t horrors can be written on a ‘slow burn’ basis, but write enough, either because they’re too easily that doesn’t matter to me so long as they are bruised by rebuttal or because they are lazy, and possessed of the sort of crisp, driving narrative that then they wonder why they never make it. It’s like keeps me interested as a reader. any craft; you have to work at it hard to become an expert. 18
www.morpheustales.com doesn’t bring into question its inclusion alongside NEW DAWN FADES www.postmortem-press.com/new-dawn.php Paul Finch’s gruesome King Death or Gary McMahon’s disturbing but subtle What They Hear Post-Mortem Press has produced several notable In The Dark. But compared with the rest of the anthologies recently, including 2011’s Dark stories on offer, it feels a little like the poor cousin. Doorways and The Road to Hell. The latest addition Rough Music deserves to be read, but to the acclaimed series is this collection of post- doesn’t quite live up to the standard of previous apocalyptic zombie tales which gathers together editions. Spectral Press continues to produce the writers from all four corners of the globe. In the very finest in fiction, and maintains a quality of introduction, NYT best-selling author Joe Schreiber fiction difficult to match. makes it clear that this book aims to ‘turn the whole By Stanley Riiks enterprise upside down and burn it to the ground’. A bold statement indeed. The only problem I find with DARKENING SKIES By Juliet E. McKenna themed anthologies is that with each and every story www.solarisbooks.com dealing with the same core subject matter, things get pretty boring, pretty fast. And surely, there is only This is the second book in the epic Hadrumal Crisis so much one can do with a story about zombies, series, and continues the story of the first book. If isn’t it? you haven’t yet read Dangerous Waters, it is This is where Post Mortem Press deserves heartily recommended, and you would be missing credit for putting together a collection of fresh, bold out on a lot of the story by coming into the story at tales that generally put a new slant on zombie this stage. The Island of Hadrumal has been saved from culture. It is interesting to note how the public’s perception of zombies seems to shift with time. one danger, only to fall straight into another. Gone are Romero’s shambling wrecks, replaced Captain Corrain knows the truth of the matter, but is with a new generation of walking dead who can hailed as a hero, and is drawn closer to Lady plot, set traps and ambushes, and even become Zurenne as he tells her his secrets. Intrigue bounds in this epic fantasy. Quests, rebels or form vigilante groups. Zombies now have an agenda that far exceeds eating brains. I guess the danger, and lurking evil all coalesce to provide us originals, what Schreiber would refer to as ‘slow’ with this supreme entertainment. McKenna’s writing is excellent, both managing to evoke a rich world zombies, just weren’t scary enough for us. and characters, and moving the plot on speedily to By C.M. Saunders keep the excitement levels raised. The second excellent book in what is truly an ROUGH MUSIC By Simon Kurt Unsworth www.spectralpress.wordpress.com amazing series. I’m looking forward to the third novel with whetted appetite. The quarterly limited edition chapbooks of Spectral By Adrian Brady Press continue to impress with Unsworth’s short tale of manipulation and guilt. The possibly supernatural Ramblings of a Tattooed Head By Simon element of the story may also be a manifestation of Marshall-Jones psychosis, as Mr Cornish is kept up for several nights by a mysterious noise. When he goes to As both a publisher and a reader, I occasionally get investigate it, he finds a man outside his window asked as to where I stand on the whole e-book thing: banging a wooden spoon against a piece of metal. are they going to replace physical volumes entirely? When he goes to investigate the same noise the next Are traditional publishers going the same way as the night, more mysterious dark figures appear just Dodo? Or will we see the end of the book as we’ve outside the light from the lamppost. Cornish is known it for thousands of years? It’s an intensely attempting to fix his failing marriage, and the sleep interesting question which will generate heated debates for the foreseeable future, have no doubt deprivation is not helping. I can say without a doubt that this is not the about that, and I feel that there are no easy answers. finest of the very fine chapbooks from Spectral I can only speak from my own perspective, as Press. Unsworth does a pretty decent job, but someone who isn’t in the least interested in buying compared with previous stories, this is predictable or owning a Kindle or similar. But, before we get on to the main meat of and not outstanding. It’s not bad, and it certainly 20
www.morpheustales.com this column, let’s deal with that last bit for starters: being considerably cheaper (or even free) than a not wanting an e-reader. It has nothing to do with physical specimen. However, if you accidentally being a Luddite or a technophobe – if that were the leave that gadget behind somewhere, it costs a good case I certainly wouldn’t be sitting in front of a wedge of money to replace it – if you leave a computer screen writing these words or using one paperback behind, it costs considerably less to do for my job. I’ve always been fascinated by science the same thing. Even more to the point, books don’t and technology, eager to try out any form of new need batteries – they’re always charged up and device, be it a computer, mobile phone, video or ready for action. That’s how I feel as a reader - however, as a DVD player, as soon as it came out. I bought one of the first digital watches as a young teenager back in publisher, things are entirely different. Personal the early 70s. So why is it then that I am averse to preference doesn’t (nor should it) enter into the debate – it makes complete sense to have the books I getting an e-reader? It’s simply to do with personal choice – as publish available in all formats and on all platforms old-fashioned as it may seem to some, I am in love out there. Just because I don’t have or want an ewith books, real books, tomes that I can hold and reader doesn’t mean I should restrict their just physical incarnations. smell and flip the pages of. Elsewhere, I have traced availability to the roots of that fascination and obsession with the (Admittedly, one of the first impetuses for the things, but suffice to say here that it stems from my setting up of Spectral Press was to remind people parents’ own love of them. The one thing I that, for all the convenience of an e-reader, the one remember most about my childhood was the books aspect they can’t compete on is the sheer beauty that that packed numerous bookshelves around my a physical book is capable of possessing, and I felt parents’ bungalow in a small rural town in Wales. that I wanted to remind people of that. However, When they had the loft converted into two that latter reason only makes aesthetic sense, but bedrooms, they made sure that the landing was from an economic point of view it’s just possibly graced with a well-stocked bookshelf so both my tantamount to shooting myself in the foot.) More brother and I could grab something to read when we than that, however, I want to translate the values of wanted to. In fact, that was the very bookshelf upon high quality and top-notch storytelling I’ve put into which I discovered the paperback that was to pitch my physical publications into the electronic sphere. me headfirst into the horror genre – Elliott Quality is timeless in whatever format and on O’Donnell’s The Screaming Skulls and Other Ghost whatever platform. It’s almost impossible not to notice that Stories (Four Square 1966). Later on I found The Eighth Pan Book of Horror Stories in the same place currently there’s an explosion in e-book publishing, (graced with a cover featuring a decapitated head in a phenomenon which isn’t all that surprising. Apart a hat–box), as well as a whole host of other genre from the format being cheaper to produce and easier stuff, mostly science fiction, which my father to distribute, it’s also meant that anyone and absolutely adored. I was never short of any reading everyone has the capacity to have a book published. material and I would say that my childhood was Log on to Amazon and you’ll see what I mean: there spent mostly with my head happily stuck in some must be thousands of self-published books available, of varying quality, with tons more being added book or other. So began my love affair with the printed every day. Of course, this is both the upside and word and the horror genre, and even though four decades have passed since I first picked up downside of giving everyone access to new O’Donnell’s book, my love for these little objects of technology and process. It’s now even easier than desire has never diminished. And it never will. ever to go from manuscript to ‘printed’ page. There’s just something reassuring about the weight Additionally, the whole process can be achieved by and feel of a book that’s absent from an e-reader. just one person – the author. This inevitably means Plus, being something of a literature geek means that that some vital steps that traditional publishing I love the smell of a book too, an aspect most insists upon, like critical appraisal, editing and definitely missing from an electronic gadget. Yes, an proofreading, are often missed out altogether. This is e-reader is far more convenient for travelling with, entirely due to the lack of any species of gateenabling as it does for anyone to carry a whole keeping in force: in other words, there are no means library’s worth of books around in one convenient by which the wheat can be sorted from the chaff, the package. Add to that the incentive of many books good from the completely hopeless. Whilst the idea 21
www.morpheustales.com of a gate-keeper, a filtering agency, is great in with contented people sitting quietly reading, just theory, in practicality it would be an enormous savouring the look, feel and aroma of the books that logistical nightmare, being both time- and money- their grandparents themselves read as children. consuming in the extreme. Therefore one of two things will happen at some point: either the cream MILE MILE 81 (Kindle edition) By Stephen will somehow rise to the top and stay there or, as I King think is more likely, the present bubble will burst www.stephenking.com/index.html when those on the lower rungs of the electronic publishing ladder will realise that the returns for It is always a challenge reading their time and effort just aren’t worth it, simply a new book by an established because no-one’s buying their material or the author. Especially one as reviews are consistently negative. established within the genre as (As an aside – I noticed one day recently that SK. Everyone has their a story suggested on one evening appeared for sale favourite SK books (for the online at Amazon less than 24 hours later – without record, my personal choices wanting to cast aspersions on the skill of the author are ‘Salems Lot, Christine, Bag in question, it just appears ludicrous that people can of Bones and Duma Key), and do that these days without the intervention of some the fear is that nothing else he writes could ever hope to reach these lofty heights. kind of quality control system.) Getting back to main theme of this column, As a result, each time you read a new book you here’s what I believe will pan out as far as the mentally prepare yourself to be let down and sadly, present e-book revolution goes, so you can take this through no fault of the great man’s, you often are. SK has always been at the forefront of the as being my ‘official’ stance of sorts on the whole affair – at some point a kind of equilibrium will be digital revolution. His unfinished serialization The reached, where each of the different incarnations of Plant (2000) was the world’s first mass market the book will reach a healthy accommodation. The ebook, and since then he has used the internet as a industry needs e-books, for sure, but conversely it marketing tool with great success. His official also needs traditional publishers – if only for website, featuring a virtual mock-up of his actual ensuring that essential processes like editing and working office, is a veritable treasure trove. I’ll stop proofreading are applied to quality literature. People there. One thing SK certainly doesn’t need is any do care about quality products and that’s what promotional help from me! So let’s set the record straight. Mile 81 is not traditional forms of publishing provide. So, for the foreseeable future at least, the a new novel, that honour falls to 11/22/63 (of which physical book will be here to stay – it’s been around a free sample is included here). It isn’t even a for millennia and the touted demise of the book is novella. It’s a short story. As such the price tag unlikely to happen overnight (look what’s happened stings a little, and you just know this is going to turn with the CD – vinyl was deemed to be doomed as up in his next collection. But what nobody can deny they took over, yet vinyl sales are now on the is the fact that SK is a master storyteller. The sign of increase and it’s a growing segment of the market). a master storyteller is they make it seem so On a practical level, books still sell in healthy effortless. The words wash over you, into you, and quantities, plus there will always be people like me through you. Mile 81 sucks you in immediately, who will opt for the physical version over the bringing to mind the young cast of IT, then goes electronic. What will have happened in fifty years’ careering off into a story about a station wagon with time is more difficult to predict, of course, but the a voracious appetite. To summarize, if you are a nostalgic side of my character would like to think casual reader maybe your best option would be to there will be the odd eccentric out there who will wait for the collection, but if you are a devoted fan, treasure those paper tomes of the past, being you certainly won’t be disappointed. The great man reluctant to embrace the e-book or whatever it is once described his writing as the literary equivalent they have then. It would be nice to think that, tucked of a Big Mac and fries. If that is true, then Mile 81 away somewhere amongst the shiny new edifices of would be the accompanying sachet of ketchup. Nonglass and steel in the cities of the future, a little shop essential and existing purely to compliment his existed in which could be found armchairs, a coffee existing body of work, but boy, does it ever! bar, and yards of bookshelves lined with real books, By C.M. Saunders 22
www.morpheustales.com Cyndi Crotts Interview By Trevor Wright Growing up, were you a fan of horror movies? And if so, which ones were your favourites? Oh most definitely. I remember as a kid my very first horror-type film was Jaws. I watched it with my eyes closed when the shark was getting close to attacking someone. My dad would laugh at me for doing it and talked to me during and after the film to explain to me that it’s all fake and that it’s just a movie. He wanted to assure me that there was nothing to be afraid of and that horror movies are made to scare you. After a while I got used to them and he and I would go to the video store and rent lots of horror films. My mom wasn’t really a fan of horror much but she would sit and watch them with us. I really have to thank my dad for being the one who really helped me overcome the fear of horror films. Now I love them. As for my favourite horror films, well, that is kind of a hard decision but I’d have to go with The Exorcist, Halloween and Phantasm. Those are just classics now and they are still awesome films to watch. When Halloween comes around each year, I make sure I have my popcorn and these three films ready to go to start my horror movie night. So I took the chance and asked around and I finally got my chance to work on a film as the wardrobe assistant. It was such a great experience and I learned a good bit from doing that. The plus side to being on the other side of the camera is it keeps you on set and you can learn from the other actors around you, so that’s a great reward for me to learn from others. Also when I go on sets now as the actor, I tend to pay more attention to detail and to how things are set up when filming takes place. So it’s for sure something to learn. Don’t get me wrong, my passion is acting, but it is a position that I will take on a film if I get the opportunity.
You act, model, have done casting, wardrobe, and held other behind the scenes positions. With all of your expertise, which do you find the most rewarding? Honestly, I find all these positions very rewarding. You can learn so much from each one. I actually started out modelling and got pretty good at that but later learned that runway modelling would never come to be for me since my height would never reach the industry standard. So when I found that out, I decided to move onto the acting scene. I stayed in that for many years and in between growing up and becoming a teenager, I would take breaks and just be a kid and wanted to be with my friends. So I didn’t do a lot of acting again until I reached my early 20s. I then took a couple of acting classes to brush up on things and to get back into the game so to speak. From then on I stuck with acting and I have become more involved in other aspects of the business as well. I took a chance one time in trying to work on the other side of the camera and wanted to learn about wardrobe on a film set. It’s always good to know more than one thing about films. You never know when you might get a chance to be on a film, so I tend to leave my options open.
I’ve also tapped in on the casting side of films in the past couple of years and that has also been rewarding. It’s great to know you have the ability to see talent that others may not know about or may have not come across before. It’s a really great feeling to see the people that you cast for a film and how gracious they are that you chose them to be a part of it. I know from being an actress what that feeling is like and can appreciate having someone take that chance on you. I know a lot of people in the business and have worked with a good bit as 24
www.morpheustales.com well. So I have a pretty good eye as to who can play cunning and intelligent creature that stands apart what roles and who is better at pulling each from her undead brethren. So far the comic has character off. Even though a lot of them are friends, made just a few appearances at conventions starting I still have to make sure I don’t cast them in a role around the late 2010, early 2011. There is an awesome list of actors attached to this series as well. that I know they are not right for. It will definitely be a comic that will catch the You were in one of my favourite indie horror films of interest of b-horror movie fans. To find out more on the past few years: Delivery. What can you tell us this awesome comic and where to keep a look out about your experiences on set? for it, check out That was a film I was in a few years back when I http://comicbookdivas.com/gingerstein. was just starting up again in the entertainment business. It was actually the second film I had been Do you see yourself continuing to work in horror cast in that Jose Cassella was the director on. I had a films or would you like to predominately do other really great time with everyone and truly enjoyed genres? working with Jose again. It was great to be on set I do see myself continuing to work in horror films. and I learned so much from watching the other There are so many more roles that I still want to take actors. The character that I play in this film is a film part in and have a chance at on the horror side. Don’t get me producer. It was so long ago but I wrong, I would remember a few also like to have a chance at other bits and pieces of types of films such the film. It’s really as sci-fi, comedy, cool to find out dramas, action, that a film you’ve etc. Each genre been in made it to brings a different the shelves of character to the rental stores and scene and I think retail stores. It’s that you need to also available experience them through Netflix so all. Plus, it helps for those who to widen your haven’t seen it yet, range as an actress you need to check it out. as well. You find your strong points What is Gingerand your weak Stein: Rise Of The Undead? And when/where can points and you get a chance to work on those. I think we read it? it would be great fun to be in an action film or even I became involved when Jeff Hughes contacted me a comedy. Everyone loves an adrenaline rush just as last fall of 2010. From there I was contacted by much as they love to laugh at things. Dennis Willman to be involved in this comic book series. The comic book is created by Dennis If you could be in any movie already made, what Willman of Iron Dead Studios and published would it be? And whom would you play? through Comic Book Divas, which is owned by Jeff There are so many films out there that I would have Hughes. Dennis is also for the illustrator of each and enjoyed being in, but I don’t think I could pick just every character in this comic. To give you the short one. I have enjoyed the roles of many women but and skinny: “Ginger-Stein is the story of an ordinary there are just a few that really have caught my eye woman called upon to become extraordinary as the and rewarded my viewing. The first female I world falls victim to a zombie apocalypse.” My enjoyed watching in a horror film was Jamie Lee character in this series is Officer Kate Sully, who is Curtis in Halloween. That was one of the films I a Detroit police officer. She's tortured, angry and really enjoyed, and it would have been such a great deeply saddened by the fact that she was betrayed opportunity to have gotten that role in a film that has and lost her entire family. Sully is a predator, a become so popular for multiple generations. Then 25
www.morpheustales.com there are the grindhouse films which I really enjoy what’s new out there. The only other things that I very much. Lots of action along with a little horror, really enjoy reading are the film scripts that I receive so it’s two great roles in one. Take for instance, from films I’m cast in. It’s always exciting to get a Planet Terror. That had some really great action in script and to be able to imagine how your character it. I liked the role of Cherry Darling played by Rose is going to be in that film and the scene around you. McGowen. That would have been a great character For me, that is the best kind of reading: when you to have played as well. Other films are Pulp Fiction, actually get to become a character and act it out. in which Uma Thurman has a classic role. I loved her character and the film itself was completely How do you unwind after a long day on set? excellent. Lastly I’ll have to go with Michelle When I first get in the door, my dogs are always so Rogriquez. I love just about all the roles she’s been glad to see me so I spend a little time with them. cast in. She gets to play the tough girl and the bad Then I like to get on the computer and check out any girl in everything she does. My favourite films that e-mails that I may have missed throughout the day. I she has been cast in and those that I would have usually get online, see what my friends have been up enjoyed being in are Fast & Furious, Machete and to and chat with them for a little bit. Then after that I S.W.A.T. All three of those films had great roles and head into the living room and watch some TV shows each one brought something a little different to the or maybe even a movie. It’s a great way to unwind table, but still they got to show her tough girl side, and to get into another mindset before heading off to which is a role I’d really like the pleasure of playing. bed. Where can your fans go to learn more about you? I have many sites that my fans can go to and find out about me and my new projects.
Official Cyndi Crotts website: http://www.cyndicrotts.com Cyndiland: http://cyndicrotts.blogspot.com My IMDB Page: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1962680 Twitter: http://twitter.com/Cyndi_Crotts Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/people/CyndiCrotts/561415203 Comic Book Diva Model Cyndi Crotts: http://www.comicbookdivas.com/cbd-models/cyndicrotts The full interview is available in Scream Queens: The Final Chapter, free to read and download here: http://issuu.com/morpheustales/docs/screamqueenst hefinalchapterfull
This magazine does a lot of interviews with horror authors and publishes a lot of horror fiction. Do you have a favourite horror author and/or book? I really have never been much of a bookworm. I’m more of a travel buff so I like reading about different places and things and to see and learning about
Or buy the printer version here: www.lulu.com/spotlight/morpheustales
www.morpheustales.com means that floors and walls aren’t straight, rooms VAMPIRE’S BLOOD (AUTHOR’S REVISED and passages are there and then disappear, and the EDITION) By Katherine Meyer Griffith www.myspace.com/kathrynmeyergriffith functions of the hotel are shrouded in dust and secret. A whole heap of weird happenings occur, I know what you are thinking. Oh no, not yet including visits by religious groups, hauntings, and a another Twilight-clone written to cash in on the brilliantly scary visit by murderous cats. current Hollywood vampire craze. I thought exactly So why doesn’t this work? The hotel itself the same thing, until I actually started reading the isn’t scary, it’s the rarely-seen inhabitants and latest revised reissue from KMG. What this book visitors who provide not only the action, but all of has is substance and style! Not to mention plenty of the excitement. The guests are only interludes in the action and a rip-roaring storyline based around a tedium. dilapidated movie theatre which has become home The tone is strange - at times the book feels to a renegade family of vamps. As with most like a fairy tale, at times a drama, at other times a families, there are divisions and disagreements, horror novel. But it lacks any over-arching feeling, mainly involving the practise of slaughtering hence the suggestion it was a series of shorts pulled innocent townspeople for food. The older family together. members prefer to keep a low-profile, surviving on The characters are mostly forgettable, the blood of animals, while the younger generation including the well-developed Carter with a full back are altogether hungrier, more daring and less caring. story, a mostly selfish and unlikable character. He is KMG’s strengths lie in the depth and warm a father willing to risk his daughter’s life by staying complexity she lends her characters, and Vampire’s at the obviously dangerous hotel for no discernable Blood is brought to life with a recently-divorced reason. novelist called Jenny, who faces a crossroads in her Ultimately this might be a book I think of life and the plight of her ageing father and alcoholic more fondly than I remember it now. There are a kleptomaniac mother. This real-life drama is set off couple of really excellent scenes, but the rest of it is against the now-familiar brooding vampires who pedestrian and dull. This is a strange book, and not long for something approaching normal lives. in a good way. Another solid offering from KMG. By Stanley Riiks By C.M. Saunders THE SEA OF FLESH AND ASH By Jeffrey Thomas and Scott Thomas DEADFALL HOTEL By Steve Rasnic Tem www.terradanworks.net www.solarisbooks.com This is two stories (novellas) written by a pair of brothers. The stories aren’t particularly similar, although they both appear to have been inspired by the painting which adorns the cover. Jeffrey’s story involves a nightmare-ridden old woman who is dying, a young woman experiencing visions, and a researcher who is being stalked by a strange figure he thinks of as The Crooked Man. These characters destinies will merge both in reality and in dreams with dark and nasty results… The second story by Scott follows a similar path, in that several characters are included, but this time over several different times as they explore New England. A Victorian Englishman, a doctor from World War One, and a book collector who is tracing the paths of his predecessors are included in this story. What both stories have in common is a moody atmosphere which works splendidly. They
Having been aware of Tem’s work from numerous Best of the Year horror anthologies, I was quite looking forward to this. The interior illustrations by D’Isreali reminded me of Neil Gaiman’s excellent The Graveyard Book, and I was expecting a modern fairy tale set in a hotel. This is a strange book, difficult to review because I’m not sure whether I enjoyed it or not. There are certainly some memorable scenes, which may linger in my memory long after the rest of the book is forgotten, but the book often just drifts without direction. In some ways it reads like a collection of related short stories pulled together with the gaps filled in with nothing. But anyway, on with the story… After the death of his wife and an hours-long interview, Richard Carter heads to Deadfall Hotel with his teenage daughter to start running the place. The lonely hotel is occupied by strange and mysterious guests and staff. Its unique architecture 28
www.morpheustales.com both give you a kind of creeping chill that the best For this edition, I have made the conscious horror does. decision to cover actual published works rather than Both Thomas brothers can write, and it digital editions. While the Kindle of Evil is being would be difficult to pick a favourite of the two loaded up with words of doom, the solid feel of a stories. Some small-press collections tend to be book is already starting to feel nostalgic. The lightweight and forgettable; fortunately, this is not convenience of digital is undeniable and it allows the case with this book. Both stories have enough more authors than ever to get their works into depth and quality to make you see them through to readers’ hands instantly2. However (you knew this the end, and the stunning atmosphere of their New was coming), a digital item is ephemeral – England setting is a pleasure to behold. essentially vapour. Vinyl is making a comeback for A remarkable collection by two very talented the same reason hardcover books will always have a brothers. market: they are tangible, tactile items in an By Adrian Brady increasingly digital world. I, for one, like to own an item, not a license.3 There is no resale or intrinsic value to a license, and the media can disappear with SCREAM OF THE BANSHEE (DVD) (2011) the device; it is a known fact that the U.S. When a professor receives a Knight’s glove and a government has warehouses full of data that cannot strange map in the mail, it leads her and her team to be accessed simply because the hardware no longer the discovery of a mysterious box, hidden in a secret exists. Data and software from as recently as the room. When the box is opened it is found to contain 1980s is difficult to use (floppy discs, anyone?), so the severed head of what appears to be some kind of why should we expect our digital libraries to be monster. And so begins Scream of the Banshee extant in twenty years? Perhaps turning forty has which, on the face of it, is just another straight-to- made me look at the long view, perhaps I grew up DVD horror flick, with the now-obligatory cameo with a love of books that may not be instilled in the appearance by Lance Henrikksen, but this one younger generation, perhaps I worry too much... actually has some substance. Loosely based on the Celtic legend of the Banshee, the script is solid with The Century’s Best Horror Edited by John Pelan a few twists and turns to keep you guessing. There Cemetery Dance ($150.00) are thrills a-plenty, a few genuinely jumpy moments, and the acting isn’t too bad. The only thing that Diving straight into reviews, let us start with a perhaps could have been done better is the special highly anticipated (at least in the Catacombs) effects, which often look like somebody with a collection that finally shipped: The Century’s Best mental disorder has chucked tins of red paint Horror! Checking my records, this volume was prearound. Still, if you like your horror cheap and ordered FIVE years ago and the joke was “which nasty, this could be just the ticket. Not a bad way to century’s best horror”. At last, in my grubby hands, this two-volume set is everything it was hyped to be: while away a rainy Sunday afternoon... By C.M. Saunders an overview of 20th Century horror fiction. The conceit was to pick one tale from each year with only one story per author allowed; one From the Catacombs By Jim Lesniak hundred different authors are encased within these Ye Olde Reviewer is drafting this column in the volumes. I would be hard-pressed to name a hundred aftermath of Who’s Yer Con1 in Indianapolis, authors, much less sift through the century. This was Indiana, where I was the sole comic book dealer in a a massive undertaking and all is forgiven. Name a sea of gamers. Kudos to the staff and volunteers for 20th Century horror scribe and it is likely that they making it the smoothest vendor experience I have shall be found within; no glaring oversights are ever had; the only thing not provided was a minion present, although there may be quibbles on which to unload the trailer at home (I had to provide my tales should have been included. own). The gaming community was bemused, yet 2 welcoming, and a good time was had by all. Admittedly, prior to owning a Kindle, I had one book by fellow columnist Eric S. Brown; I now have seven. Go ahead, buy a couple, I’ll wait. Be sure to congratulate him on the new addition to the family! 3 Ironic that this is in the digital-only review supplement, isn’t it?
Say it out loud! http://www.whosyergamers.org 29
www.morpheustales.com A highly recommended purchase, in spite of Let’s see, a Lovecraftian the high price – and I do not believe that an Mythos pair of novellas, electronic version is forthcoming due to rights edited by S.T. Joshi, issued issues. Remember, this is more than 700,000 words in a limited, signed edition across two volumes! with gorgeous illustrations by Cyril van der Haegen – Lights Out By Nate Southard how could this go wrong? Thunderstorm Books ($35.00) Sigh. I cannot slog through the first novella. I have Lights Out is the inaugural certainly tried – several volume in Thunderstorm times, in fact. Mr. Books’ “Hard Rain” series – Stableford is trying so hard to affect an archaic intended to be affordable, writing style that it gets in the way of the actual signed hardcover books, each story, which has interest in and of itself. of which is limited to 140 The titular story attempts to intertwine copies. Lights Out has a fullHPL’s world with the actions of Thomas De colour, full-bleed casebound Quincey of Confessions of an Opium Eater fame. cover and a sewn, not glued binding. This is an Hallucinations, madness and a romp through the attractively produced edition.4 English countryside should be a recipe for one What, you ask, is the content? A vampire fantastic story. Unfortunately, reading this feels like tale that is site-specific and site-bound. The victims a bloody chore; not from the concepts and ideas, but and possible victims are unable to flee as the locale from the plodding pace and attempts to write in a is Burnham State Maximum Security Penitentiary; bygone era’s voice. It is such an ordeal that I have they are there for the duration. The evil had been not even attempted to read The Legacy of Erich trapped under the prison until an escape attempt Zann, the second novella in the book. freed the creature. Now the inmates (and staff), who As a Lovecraft fan, I have read many can barely even coexist, must band together for volumes of varying quality over the years. I do not survival. question Mr. Stableford’s writing ability, as it must Never having been to prison5, Ye Olde have been as difficult to write this edition as it was Reviewer cannot state if the description is truly to (partially) read it. If you must read an HPL tribute accurate, but it has a claustrophobic feel. Mr. for enjoyment, save your money on this volume and Southard is wise to limit characters to a few, as find a copy of Neil Gaiman’s Shoggoth’s Old readers could easily lose interest if you have to keep Peculiar. a flow chart to know how everyone is related. The interactions seem realistic, with flashbacks to pre- Nightmares in Decay: Art of Harry Clarke prison life to flesh out our cast of victims. Although Creation Oneiros ($19.95) the cast can sometimes degenerate into stereotypes (the mafia don, the black gang leader, the cholo, This is a etc.), we do get a sense of who they are. It takes compendium of Mr. some doing to care if these people survive – yet we Clarkes’ fifty start to see personality rather than just prisoners. illustrations of the An interesting read from an author I had not works of Edgar encountered previously. As a subscription model Allan Poe, primarily was offered for this series, I shall be getting them all from the 1919 and I shall consider future individual editions from edition of Tales of Mystery and Mr. Southard. Imagination. Although we are treated to a brief biography of Mr. The Womb of Time By Brian Stableford Clarke, we are here for the illustrations! Perilous Press ($50.00) From somewhere betwixt and between the 4 The second edition, William Ollie’s The Mountain, is a decadent and orientalism movements, the art herein similarly attractive volume, but arrived too late to be reviewed is macabre and finely detailed. Not as cross-hatched this excursion. 5 as Gustave Dore’s illustrations of Dante, but a Shocking to some, I know. I have seen Oz and Caged Heat… 30
www.morpheustales.com plethora of fine-line work, well-suited to the words recommended for fans of comic history. of Mr. Poe. The illustrations are presented as full Once again, I thank those of you who brave pages annotated with snippets of the text they originally accompanied. The collection is rounded my tortured prose for Morpheus Tales. Please take out with a selection of colour plates and tailpiece your time with this supplement, as it is a labour of love for all involved. Also, consider subscribing to illustrations. Despite the intrinsic quality of the art itself, the print edition to help keep this magazine thriving Ye Reviewer cannot wholeheartedly recommend far into the future! As we swing the doors shut on the this volume of curious imagery. Alas, some of the images have muddiness to them, whether from a catacombs, let this be a forewarning: the next edition corrupted image file or lack of access to a clean shall be completely comprised of graphic novels. original. This is most pronounced in the colour Some small press items have been delivered while section and is distracting. More damning is the fact some are forthcoming6; I have not been disappointed that Barnes & Noble has produced a new edition of by any thus far – can you bear the wait until the next Tales of Mystery and Imagination, complete with review supplement? illustrations, as a leather-bound hardcover at about the same price of this slim volume of “just” the illustrations. For what you receive for the money, I must recommend the latter. Charlton Spotlight #7 Edited By Michael Ambrose Argo Press ($7.95) We finally get another issue of this great magazine exploring the history of the muchmaligned Charlton Comics Group – the first since 2008. There is exhaustive coverage of Charlton’s artists, writers and editors that has not been explored in other venues. This new issue is in full colour (a nice change) and is primarily dedicated to an interview with George Wildman and Hy Eisman, profusely illustrated with work from both gentlemen’s careers. George was Charlton’s final comic book editor and both men are known as Popeye artists. We also have some regular columns and the final part of the Charlton Comics Checklist, taking us through the bitter end in 1986. Charlton Comics is important due to the quality of talent that walked through its doors – usually at the start of a career. They were also heavily invested in horror comics, usually featuring Steve Ditko art, with several titles lasting into the 1980s. With the editorial freedom at Charlton, you could have genius or utter crap, sometimes in the same issue. Some of the first comics acquired by yours truly were from this C-list publisher and are fondly remembered. Ambrose’s magazine is highly
Morpheus Tales #15 Review Supplement, Apil 2012. © COPYRIGHT April 2012 Morpheus Tales Publishing, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Review can be used, in full or in part, for publicity purposes as long as Morpheus Tales Magazine is quoted as the source.
13: Tales of Dark Fiction Preview and Review Section
How many Lovecraft adaptations do you think there will be? You do realize that the proofreaders burn an effigy of me every time I type Cthulhu, right? 31
Morpheus Tales Presents:
13 Tales of Dark Fiction Table of Contents Introduction to 13: Tales of Dark Fiction Civil Beasts By Eric S Brown Dirty Story By Gary McMahon If You Lay Here Quiet Next to Me By Alan Spencer Desperate Measures By Stanley Riiks The Tax Collector By Tommy B. Smith Organ Grinder By William R.D. Wood The Machine By Fred Venturini To Hear a New World By Matt Leyshon Whatever It Takes By Joseph Dâ€™Lacey Wounder By Andrew Hook Mongrel Days By Andy Remic 103 By Shaun Jeffrey The Watchers at Work By Gary Fry Proofread By Samuel Diamond, Craig Saunders and Sheri White 34
Introduction to 13: Tales of Dark Fiction An original anthology of dark fiction. I thought it would be a good idea. It was better than I ever imagined. I wrote a wish list, authors I admired, authors I dreamed of working with. Names I knew would never let me publish them. How wrong I was. Writers want to write. If you give them the freedom and the opportunity to tell a story they grasp it. The stories in this book are written by authors, both established and up-and-coming, who inspire me, thrill me, excite me and scare me. The number 13 is considered to be an unlucky number in some countries. There is even a recognized phobia, Triskaidekaphobia. During the last supper there were thirteen people around the table. The Knights Templar arrests were sanctioned by King Philip IV of France on Friday the 13th, October 1307. Thirteen moons instead of the 12 caused headaches for monks working on calendars who considered it an â€œunfortunate circumstance.â€? But the alternative community has taken 13 as their number. Tattooists consider 13 their symbol. Italy thinks of 13 as a lucky number. On a more personal note, my sister was born on the 13th. As was Taylor Swift... You decide for yourself if that is unlucky or not! 13 is an original anthology of dark fiction: dark SF, dark fantasy and horror. Thirteen dark stories by thirteen (surprisingly nice and well-adjusted) authors, the anthology includes tales of murder, hurt, music, loss, writing, pain, murder, insanity, Sasquatch... Thirteen very different stories, offering a range of dark fiction, to draw you in, to creep you out, to send shivers down your spine... To entertain you. Adam Bradley
www.morpheustales.com Civil Beasts By Eric S Brown Private Jessie Morgan of the Union Army held his position in the trees above the road and prayed the Rebs passed by without noticing him or any of the other remaining members of his unit. His hands were shaking so bad, he was terrified his Springfield rifle might go off accidentally and doom them all. He wasn’t a newbie; Jessie had seen plenty of action in the last few days but at the moment he felt like one. Robert, Wes, himself, and the Colonel were the only survivors that he knew of from the engagement two days earlier when the Rebs had sprang their trap. With all the fighting going on to the north in Virginia, no expected the Rebs to have such a large force, over a thousand strong, on patrol in this part of North Carolina. Their unit had stopped near a creek they’d come across, for their midday meal and for the officers to plot their next move, when the Rebs had caught them off guard, taking out their sentries silently. No one saw or heard the bastards coming. The first volley of fire from the Rebs cut their numbers nearly in half. The Colonel rallied the men as best he could and they tried to make a stand but it was futile and hopeless. Most of the men were dead before they got to fire more than a single shot. The Colonel gave the order to retreat but there was no organization to it. By that time, it was every man for himself and everyone knew it. Most of the men were gunned down, shot in the back as they made a break for it. Jessie had narrowly escaped with his life. There had been a couple of rounds that came so close, whizzing past him as he ran, that he’d nearly wet his pants. Jessie felt no shame in running though. His wife and son were waiting on him back home. Dying in a battle that was already lost wouldn’t help them or serve to do anything except get him a fast fall into Hell. He’d fled into the trees and kept moving until the sounds of screams and gunfire were far behind him. For a long time, he’d merely wandered about trying to decide what he should do. Jessie was alone, lost behind enemy lines. When the Colonel and the others found him, he nearly wept at the sight of them. Now, the four of them headed north. The Colonel assured them all their best hope was to stay low and keep moving. Eventually, he told them, 36
www.morpheustales.com theyâ€™d reach safety or stumble across another battle group who had fought their way through the Rebsâ€™ lines and be able to join up with them.
Eric S Brown is the author of numerous books including Bigfoot War, Bigfoot War II, War of the Worlds Plus Blood Guts and Zombies, Season of Rot, and World War of the Dead to name only a few. His short fiction has been published hundreds of times. He lives in North Carolina with his wife and son where he continues to write tales of flesh eating corpses, blazing guns, and the things that lurk in the woods.
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www.morpheustales.com Dirty Story By Gary McMahon (For Rob Shearman)
That night, when he got home from work, Harry couldn’t get all the dirt out from under his fingernails. He washed his hands in the sink, using washing-up liquid mixed with sugar (an old trick a mechanic friend had once shown him), but the dirt wouldn’t budge. He scrubbed his nails in the shower, but still it didn’t clean off. Finally, in an effort to promote sleep, he took a long bath, and while he was in there he once again took out the scrubbing brush and scrubbed his fingernails until the fingertips began to ache. The dirt, despite a lot of it being removed by the process, remained smeared and uglylooking. “It’s weird,” he said to Sharon, on the phone, later that evening. “I keep cleaning my hands but the muck under my nails just doesn’t seem to shift. I can see it coming off the skin, but it’s like there’s more replacing it.” “You always were a filthy bastard,” said Sharon, giggling. Then she started to talk dirty, just the way Harry liked it, and all thoughts of his reddened fingers – and his grubby fingernails – were forgotten. He couldn’t see them properly in the dark anyway, and once those fingers were clasped around his prick they felt clean enough. Especially when he pretended it was Sharon’s hand stroking him to climax rather than his own. He slept for a little while, about two hours. This was better than usual; certainly it was longer than the night before. He reached out to turn on the bedside lamp, and once again noticed the blackened ends of his fingernails. Sighing, he grabbed the book he’d been reading and opened the page to the part he’d got up to yesterday. It was a good book, a political thriller, and soon he was lost in a fictional world of spies and intrigue. When morning arrived he was dozing. He hadn’t quite managed a proper sleep after his nap, but had slipped in and out of a light snooze. He didn’t feel very refreshed; a headache was forming behind his eyes. He got up, showered and dressed in his work clothes, and then left the house without having breakfast. The work was backbreaking that morning. Harry and his crew had to dig up one side of a small residential street in the suburbs, making ready a trench for the installation of fibre optic cabling. Most of the time Harry liked his job: It was easy, if 38
www.morpheustales.com strenuous, and allowed him the time to think about things that a more technical position would not. He’d lied about his qualifications to get this job, pretending that he didn’t have a degree and that he had failed all his O-Levels at school. It had been easy when he thought about it; because what kind of idiot would lie about something like that?
Gary McMahon’s short fiction has been reprinted in both The Mammoth Book Of Best New Horror and The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror. He is the British-Fantasy-Award-nominated author of the novels Hungry Hearts from Abaddon Books, Pretty Little Dead Things and Dead Bad Things from Angry Robot/Osprey and The Concrete Grove trilogy from Solaris.
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www.morpheustales.com If You Lay Here Quiet Next to Me By Alan Spencer “Don’t ever go in that room, Stacy. It’s not a place I want you to go.” Before she could remember why she couldn’t enter that nook in the bedroom, that glorified closet, she once again succumbed to a bout of dizzy confusion. Always confused. How did she get here in the first place? - in Robert’s flat? That was his name, she believed, though she had only recalled that after he had called himself “Robert”. The memory of getting here and arriving at this point laying down on the bed, his bed, open eyed and staring at the padlocked door across the foot of the bed, wouldn’t occur. Glancing at the suspicious door, she asked him, “Am I locked in, Robert?” Then she was bringing him in close, the black-haired man who smelled of fresh shaving cream - and how his face was so smooth; she didn’t want to be affectionate with him unless he’d just shaved - kissing him on the lips and teasing that special place under his neck and jaw line that always tickled him. She kept him near, the man she loved, who she now knew again, and declared, “I love you, Robert. I’ve missed you. How long have I been here? Did I stay the night?” She assumed she stayed the night, the morning light barely lighting up the closed drapes from the other side. “No, Stacy, you’ve been here all this time. It’s like you never left.” Then she shoved him away by pressing against both his shoulders, horrified by this strange man who seemed so comfortable - comfortable enough to clutch her breasts between kisses and admire her with knowing, familiar eyes - and she cried out, “Just who the hell are you?” Weak with tears, the source depleted from so many forced cries and delirious fits of confusion, she asked herself why did she smell like this man? Why was the bed so familiar? Where could she run to and escape? Robert watched her across the room, his back against the wall, his eyes doughy and on the verge of tears. He then shook his head in defeat, and he walked to a shelf of old pictures and removed a white leather bound book. 40
www.morpheustales.com She shirked from him as he closed in, and the man quickly reassured her, “It’s safe. I’m not going to hurt you. I want to show you some pictures. It’ll get you up to speed, baby. I promise.”
Alan Spencer is a horror author who has published the novels The Body Cartel, Inside the Perimeter: Scavengers of the Dead, Ashes in Her Eyes, and the forthcoming book Zombies and Power Tools. His short fiction has appeared in over twenty anthologies and in the magazines Morpheus Tales, Black Ink Horror, and House of Horror. Spencer's story “Suffering Begins in the Mouth and Ends in the Belly” was nominated for the 2010 Pushcart Prize. Visit his blog at: http://horroralan.blogspot.com/
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www.morpheustales.com Desperate Measures By Stanley Riiks They always used to say that cockroaches would be the only ones to survive a nuclear holocaust. Well, they were half right. The cockroaches did survive. But they weren’t the only ones. No, the fucking rats made it through too… most of them from what I’ve seen. Humans didn’t fare too well. Apart from the explosions at the beginning destroying the population centres, there were the after-effects, the nuclear winter. But that wasn’t the worse. I haven’t seen a human being for almost a month according to my watch. It’s difficult to tell time when the sky’s a permanent dull grey, no sunshine, only acidic rain and ashy-sleet. Anything that comes from the sky burns, so you have to hide during the regular downpours. Staying underground has other advantages. The flies don’t come down here. Up there, out on the streets of a decimated London, the flies rule. Swarms of them feast on the dead bodies that litter the city. I was on holiday at the coast when it all started. That was ages ago now, must be over a year. Time stopped, almost literally. With no news, no papers, no daylight, no night, it’s difficult to keep track of time. At first it filled the TVs, and it wasn’t a great big bang. Not to begin with. Kim Jong Il, that crazy little North Korean, from his deathbed, set off a load of missiles heading towards South Korea. We watched them on the news, fourteen there were. Everyone expected that they would be nuclear, but they weren’t. Of course, by the time we found out it was too late. The South Koreans retaliated, the U.S. retaliated, and the Chinese then retaliated against the U.S. and the South Koreans. And the North Koreans had started a world war without even using a single nuclear bomb. They’d used something far worse. It was a deadly virus. It didn’t just kill people, it twisted them, turned them into monsters, making them killing machines. It was like an ultra-fast version of rabies and it spread across the devastated world like a plague. The nuclear fallout affected crops, food supplies started shrinking, prices exploded. Russia was basically the only major country still able to produce crops after China and America virtually 42
www.morpheustales.com wiped out each other. When the Russians attempted to save themselves by banning the sales of wheat and corn outside the country, the European Union went to war with them. More bombs dropped. The devastation that caused affected me directly.
Stanley Riiks is a genius. It’s official, he’s a signed up member of MENSA and everything. Oh, and it’s pronounced Ricks if you were wondering. Stanley Riiks describes himself as the action man of fiction, but with the appendage attached and in fully working order. He can prove it if you like. Stanley Riiks is a writer and critic, currently more critic than writer, his work has appeared in numerous magazines, journals and books. Stanley Riiks enjoys starting every sentence with his name and writing about himself in the third person. Apart from writing and critiquing Mr Riiks (yes, you may call him that) leads a scholarly life involving as much sex, money, travel, crime and punishment as possible. There is also some alcohol involved in there somewhere. His latest project is Editor of the Morpheus Tales Supplement.
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www.morpheustales.com The Tax Collector By Tommy B. Smith Once each year, the Tax Collector rode through town on his gleaming metallic stallion, and this was no abnormality, but a second visit, such as in the special case of Mack Brumbleby, was. Because the situation was a tax matter, local law (which consisted of Sheriff Tacker and one deputy whose name no one could remember, widely referred to as “Deputy No-Name”) stepped aside. Unaware of his plight, Mack sat in the local saloon soaking up cheap whiskey and watching the ebony figure of Ella Tempesta circle the saloon tree. The tree’s base issued from beneath the saloon where it received water from a crude irrigation pipe. The narrow trunk wound through the wooden floor and small, round stage upward to the ceiling and beyond. The high branches spread jaggedly out above the saloon’s roof, and were visible to anyone standing outside. In the town’s early days, the saloon had actually been constructed around this tree. Around this tree she now danced, Ella Tempesta, curvaceous and inhumanly sensual in her movements and her burning eyes which lanced blistering-hot desire through every human gathered. Mack Brumbleby forgot about both his whiskey and his friend Miguel Castillo, who sat a seat over. In one corner, the anonymous pianist kept a curious, rhythmic melody reminiscent of sprinkling cold rain that sliced through the smoky air, and Ella Tempesta’s body turned with it - or did the music instead follow her? Mack and Miguel could only watch her, entranced, speechless. When someone approached to nudge Mack and whisper into his ear, Miguel never noticed. Mack’s head slowly turned. The color drained from his white-bearded face. He swallowed hard. Even the incomparable Ella Tempesta could not distract him from the news he had just received. “Miguel,” he whispered. Miguel didn’t respond. Mack pushed his friend’s shoulder. “Miguel!” he repeated, more insistently, but Miguel’s attention was locked elsewhere. For the sake of precious time, Mack gave up his efforts and quickly 44
www.morpheustales.com stood, almost stumbling over the seat in his effort to hurry out of the saloon. When the entire saloon began to clear, Miguelâ€™s spellbound gaze broke from the dance. He was puzzled to notice his friendâ€™s absence, and the emptying saloon. He made his way over to one patron who remained, but before he could ask the question, he had his answer.
Tommy B. Smith is a writer of dark fiction whose work has appeared in numerous publications that include Morpheus Tales, Every Day Fiction, Darker, Black Petals, and a variety of other magazines and anthologies. His presence currently infests Fort Smith, Arkansas, where he resides with his wife Carrie and three cats. More information can be found on his website at: http://www.tommybsmith.com
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www.morpheustales.com Organ Grinder By William R.D. Wood Gravel crunched under the Mustang’s tires. Frank Delgado eased the vehicle to a stop beside the abandoned black-and-white and silenced the growl beneath the hood with a turn of a key. He lowered the window and checked out the patrol vehicle. The driver’s door stood ajar on the brand new ‘69 Plymouth Fury and the car’s radio microphone lay on the front seat. The leather seats glistened, covered with the dew, and an overloaded key ring hung from the ignition switch. Frank shook his head. A cop would never make a move like that in Philly. Good way for some lowlife to come along and jack your ride. Bunch of dumbass hicks could afford a hot, straight-off-theline patrol car, but not a cop with an ounce of brains to drive it. The Sheriff had decided to send an officer to talk to the carnival’s manager before sunrise. The carnies wouldn’t be expecting a visit so early from local law enforcement. Last two times this carnival had blown through town they’d failed to drop by the county clerk and pay for their permits. Not this time. Frank had received the call to check up on the rookie cop when he’d failed to check back in or return. Frank stepped out of the Mustang, his foot cutting a swath through the mist oozing across the ground. Another humid day in the making here in Middle of the Nowhere, VA. Overcast too. A combination guaranteed to trap the heat like a goddamned sauna. Frank reached into the patrol car and pulled the mike out to the extent of its cord. “Dispatch, this is Delgado.” He looked at the tents and booths and trailers clustered together in the freshly cleared field. The trees had been cut and the grasses mowed down not two weeks ago and the gravel poured not long after. More land cleared on the taxpayers’ dime so the county could make it available for events, or contractors. Who would want to set up this far from town, though? A damned carnival, of course. “Go ahead, detective. Any sign of Richie?” asked a woman’s voice from the speaker. Frank winced. So unprofessional. “No. I’m headed in now. “ “Sheriff said he’s coming out himself. He’ll be along in about twenty minutes.” 46
www.morpheustales.com Frank clicked the radio microphone button twice to acknowledge and let the coiled cord snatch the mike inside the car with a clunk. “Reckon you should wait, then?” squawked the woman.
William R.D. Wood lives in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley in an old farmhouse turned backwards to the road. His profound love of horror and science fiction routinely leads him to destroy the world, whether by alien artifact, zombie apocalypse or teddy bear. http://writebrane.blogspot.com
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www.morpheustales.com The Machine By Fred Venturini March 3, 2005 Now that I have a prototype of the machine in my home, I have to begin keeping a journal. Thomas relented and gave me one to try out for myself, if I’m going to chronicle this technology’s rise - mainstream media won’t cover it. They call Thomas and his doctors quacks, but this is often the name reserved for all alternative therapies, even the effective ones. After this is over, I won’t be a freelancer or hobbyist anymore when it comes to writing - I may be a footnote in encyclopedias and articles, one of the first to turn away from the evil indoctrination of pharmaceuticals to blaze a trail into a new world of health and wellness. Last night, I attended a dinner at an expensive steakhouse in an expensive city, sitting alongside Dr. Mexico (I’ll call him that since he’s a specialist from Mexico, specializing in UV light therapy). “Ultraviolet light can purify the human body,” Thomas said. He wasn’t a doctor, but educated himself in the company of doctors once he laid the groundwork for his machine prototype. “Toxins are removed, viruses and bacteria and fungus have no chance. Diseases are eradicated; the immune system goes from being a casual militia to a motivated armada. Aches and pains, sore joints, the common cold, the flu - the list goes on. These ailments disappear in hours on my machine.” Dr. Mexico talked about the proven history and results of the treatment - photoluminescence, it’s called - but added, “It is shunned in this country because it would cripple the pharmaceutical companies. If a machine that could cure dozens of ailments could be in every home, billions stand to be lost. The government is lobbied hard by these people, and would shut down the research.” “We want to take some of our closest friends and allies, people who have followed our work, people who believe in us, and have them use the machine for a few weeks,” Thomas said. “But I’m not sick,” I said. “So wouldn’t it be harmful or useless?” “You’re toxic, Frank,” Dr. Mexico responded. “Processed foods, impure water, even the aluminum in your deodorant can poison our systems. This will cure that condition and make you 48
www.morpheustales.com nearly invincible to illness.” Thomas swirled his wine, then nodded to the waiter, wanting another bottle. I’d seen the wine list; two bottles was a week’s salary for me. “We are having success against AIDS and Hepatitis C,” Thomas said. “It seems that everyday, we’re having results against something new. Hell, even hangovers.”
Fred Venturini lives and writes in Carlyle, Illinois. Horrific things do not happen in that idyllic town, so he makes them up. Occasionally, those stories appear in magazines and anthologies, such places as Sinister Tales, Dark Distortions 2, Writer's Post Journal, Susurrus, and others. Even more rarely, he gets a check for something he has written and pays the light bill with the money. He is still waiting for the Cubs to win the World Series.
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www.morpheustales.com To Hear a New World By Matt Leyshon Joe spins the barrel of the gun just so, as he has many times before. His eyes, like discs of jet afloat in shimmering white aspic, gaze blankly ahead at some shadowy space above the heads of all those gathered watching. He tries to recall the sound he has heard so often as he travels from one world to the next, the orchestral swoon of a bullet rushing through his brain, but it evades his probing like a fragment of eggshell suspended in spilt albumen. Sat opposite him at the small foldaway table the Turk clenches and unclenches his fingers nervously at his chest, his eyes wide with hopeful desperation. Slowly, delaying the bliss like a junkie preparing his fix, Joe angles the gun just right into the roof of his mouth, feeling the cold metal he closes his eyes and pulls the trigger. Pop. A sleep encrusted eye flickers open, spraying alternate universes of dust into the ether. He tastes a rush of oceanic minerals furring his tongue and feels himself drowning beneath a wet and insufferable weight; the reek of stale quim and salty cum. His clothes flap against his flesh like seaweed at high tide. The bullet careers around the curve of his skull, racing through holographic worlds like an overexcited child sprinting through a hall of mirrors. It furrows The Valley of the Saroos along the surface of his brain with a plough of not just moulded lead, but also of sound, and in that moment Joe hears perfect oscillations, and a reverberation that hints at eternity. The crowd in the private room explodes into cheers and applause. Joe opens his eyes, feeling them burn as though he were submerged in rancid seawater. Disorientated, as if awakening from a dream, he withdraws the barrel from his lips. His lungs lighten and he opens his senses to absorb and comprehend his surroundings, at once just as he remembers them, but also bearing the air of an impostor, as if everything has been replaced with replicas; the spectators, the furniture, and Joe himself, none seem quite as they were. He absently scans the men in suits who have gathered in plush chairs around the room to watch desperate and broken men play Russian roulette. Joe was desperate, but not for money, he craves fix after 50
www.morpheustales.com fix of that sound, the roar of his brain being blasted into nothingness, from one world to the next. A few seconds pass, and he finds himself once more at one with the world, belonging in this room, like the last piece of a broken mirror being glued back into place. He spins the barrel again and passes the gun over to the Turk and the crowd hush once more.
Matt Leyshon is a writer based in Blackpool, England. Many of his strange stories are set in the fictionalised Dorset town of Leddenton where he grew up. His work can be found in publications such as E'ch Pi El, Lovecraft's Disciples, and Paraphilia Magazine.
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Whatever it takes By Joseph D’Lacey “Get up.” He was still asleep when he heard the words and for a moment they became part of his dreams. Between the oil slick that was his conscious mind and the purer water of the unconscious below it, there were currents, riptides. A ‘get up’ was a stupid looking costume. He saw a clown with a green nose wearing the get up, looking out of place at a funeral. It was something a cowboy said to a horse to make it move. It was what your prick did for your lover, but he didn’t have a lover. In his half-dream state he conjured three teenage babes, all for him; saw himself ‘getting up’. He drifted deeper into the comfort of the water layer, the slick receding above him. Get up was what James Brown did; he did it like a sex machine, man – and he stayed on the scene. “I said, get up.” In the warm safe water, a thermocline chilled him. Below the angle of his jaw he felt cold, blunt pressure. He popped upwards through the water, into the filthy oil of consciousness above it. Into confusion and reality. The pressure increased causing his head to turn. He felt the pillow beneath it, the musty duvet drawn tightly around him. The bluntness was hard and it felt sharper the greater the pressure became. He could even smell the oil. Was it sewing machine oil? He opened his eyes, but there wasn’t much to see; they were fogged with sleep crud. He felt the grit of it in the corners of them, the smear of gummy fluid across his vision. The curtains in the bedroom were still closed. But the shape, the outline of a person leaning over him and the gesture and positioning of the shape’s hand was unmistakeable even in those circumstances. There was a woman in his bedroom and she had a gun tucked under his chin. She gestured, with an incline of her head, in the direction of his bedside table. “Take a look.” In the gloom, all he could see was the luminous digits of his alarm clock. “What does it say?” she asked. He blinked away the sleep and saw that it was five past 52
www.morpheustales.com eight. He should have been at work by now. “Yeah, that’s right. You’re late. What have I told you about that? Huh?” Impossibly, the gun pressed harder into him, hard enough to make him want to gag as it constricted part of his throat. He didn’t struggle. He didn’t fight. What was the point? “I... I’m sorry,” he said.
Joseph D’Lacey is the author of MEAT and Garbage Man – EcoHorror published by Bloody Books – and post-apocalyptic survival novella, The Kill Crew. MEAT has been translated into German, French, Hungarian, Russian and Turkish and was optioned for film in ’08. The novel also earned him the British Fantasy Award for Best Newcomer in 2009. His fiction has appeared in small presses, magazines, print anthologies and online. He co-curates www.horrorreanimated.com where he blogs about Horror and interviews today’s creators of the genre. He lives in Northamptonshire with his wife and daughter.
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www.morpheustales.com Wounder By Andrew Hook Cramped on the single bed in my one-room apartment, Chloe’s head rests on my chest and I try to synchronise our breathing. Outside, the dawn is rising. My amber curtains become translucent with the emergence of the sun. It was a warm night. Not too hot to be huddled together, yet too cold not to be. Chloe’s thin hair is tied back into a ponytail held by pink elastic. I kiss her forehead, taste sodium traces like a deer at a salt lick. She dreamt the deer overnight. A white hart. Her own heart had beat inside her chest and she pulled up her t-shirt, antlers under the skin pushing out mini-triangles, until suddenly it burst through and skittered left and right, flicking up forest debris with hooves of shining silver. She gave chase – her stomach unquestioningly healed – until the deer stopped by a white lake. She had imagined fish in the lake until the deer’s hooves refused to fall through the surface. She watched as it bent its neck, extended its tongue. Just at the point of touching the surface, she woke. I know all this despite her not telling me. She knows that I know. The white hart faded into the whiteness of the lake, became background. Two hours later, with the top of the sun level with my windowsill, I regulate my breathing until it matches hers. Only it doesn’t: she is always either one breath ahead or one breath behind. ### When I first met Chloe everything was bonus or wounder. Our favourite band coming to play at The Waterfront. Bonus! The same gig cancelled: wounder! It became habit. Something she – and then we – said repeatedly, a validation of the relationship. The sharing of certain words like a mantra, a secret handshake. Something that was wholly me and wholly her. Something that was us. That I would always associate with us. She was a natural brunette. During summer months her hair colour lightened as her skin colour darkened. We met during Spring, and shortly afterwards her previously one-tone face became speckled with freckles. In my madder moments I imagined that each new freckle was an indication of her increased love for me. I wanted love to manifest itself in ways other than the purely emotional. I see now 54
www.morpheustales.com that she wanted this too, but that the freckles were not part of it. Due to the death of her previous tutor, our evening digital photography classes had been combined. I saw her first through the lens of my camera, as I was working through the menus, trying to find a setting for multiple exposures which I was sure I had found before but somehow never managed to find again. She wasnâ€™t the tallest girl on the planet, five foot two in her estimation, although I had a feeling she might be taller. Later, several weeks later, as I bent to kiss her during a coffee break, the air coalesced around us and sealed us together. From then on, we were inseparable. Like a couple living in a bubble, kept away from the dangers of the outside world. Yet our immune systems vulnerable due to the fragility of love.
Andrew Hook has had over 80 short stories published in the past ten years, with recent fiction appearing in PostScripts, Art From Art, Nemonymous and Zahir. His most recent novella, Ponthe Oldenguine (Atomic Fez), is a comic media satire which he promoted using a penguin mask. He considers this to be normal.
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www.morpheustales.com Mongrel Days By Andy Remic The huge man sat at the table with a half-empty bottle of brandy. His powerful hands - knuckles tattooed with script and military data - were spread flat on the surface amidst pools of old beer and trey spirit. He watched the dancer with gleaming, hungry eyes, watched her twirl and shift, her young limbs supple and smooth, black skin unblemished, scared eyes a testament to humble beginnings with a promise of worse to come. The man sipped his drink; felt the alcohol kick his brain around his skull. He groaned inwardly, then glanced at the other men who watched the dancer with wet lips and panting tongues, clapping and cheering her on as gyrations accelerated and clothing fell away, was tossed away carelessly as drugs took hold, and their cheers grew louder, more urgent, and her movements were fluid, final lacy items cast aside to reveal quivering, naked flesh The blow smashed him from his chair, and he rolled automatically despite the brandy, coming up snarling with fists raised. Kicks rained down, but the tattooed man rode the blows, surging up and out to grab one of his attackers, pulling him tight, sinking teeth into the man’s thigh and drawing a glinting stiletto blade from his belt which he shoved up and over, a slam into the attacker’s lower back. Screams. Panic. Chaos. Another blow landed, with a heavy bar this time; then another, and another. The huge man staggered, scattering chairs. He was aware of blood pooling across the floor, making it slippery. The music had stopped. Another blow hit him across the shoulders, and he went down on one knee, like a half-felled oak. He groaned, blood frothing through spewed sounds. The SMKK clicked behind his skull and he ceased all movement. The men gathered close around, invading his personal space and binding his hands tight and dragging him violently from the London nightclub. Outside, rain pounded the black streets. Gutters chugged with an excess of water. Blood and rain streamed down the man’s face as he was dragged before another, larger, group of men, 56
www.morpheustales.com sheltering under umbrellas with neat suits and gleaming pistols. “Mongrel,” nodded the largest of the men. The tattooed man looked up into cruel black eyes. “What the fuck you doing, McDonnell?” Blood was seeping from his face, and McDonnell gestured to a corpse being dragged down the steps by its legs, head bumping on every edge. A man handed McDonnell a bloodied blade. McDonnell tutted, shaking his head.. “Come on, you know the way we play, Mongrel. What are you doing, stabbing my men? Killing them dead? That’s not the way we play on these mean streets anymore. You should know that, better than anyone.”
Author of Spiral, Quake, Warhead, War Machine, Biohell, Hardcore, Cloneworld, Kell’s Legend, Soul Stealers, Vampire Warlords, Serial Killers Incorporated, and the upcoming SIM, Theme Planet and Toxicity. www.andyremic.com www.anarchy-books.com
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www.morpheustales.com 103 By Shaun Jeffrey Daniel stared down at the long line of people. He couldn’t believe so many had turned out to claim they were the reincarnation of the late Max Francis, but when there was over a million pounds at stake, he guessed the saying ‘where there’s a will’ was more than apt. When he had seen the advert, he knew straight away there was a possible story for the newspaper: Are you the late Max Francis? Have you been reborn? If you can verify your identity, then the substantial estate totalling over a million pounds will be given back to you as per the instructions of the will. Identification process will begin at 9 a.m. on 20th March at Brown & May Solicitors. A short call later and he managed to obtain exclusive rights to sit in on proceedings. “So, Miss May, what are your feelings about adjudicating over the will of a man hung for murder?” Daniel asked the middleaged brunette. The leather chair squeaked in protest as Miss May sat back. She looked up from the notes she had placed on top of her crossed legs and frowned, making her pinched features even more pronounced. “What do my feelings matter?” “I’m just interested in getting an opinion from someone other than one of the claimants. From someone involved in the execution – excuse the pun – of the will.” Miss May shrugged, noncommittal. “I’m just doing my job, which is adjudicating in a will made out in 1945.” “But don’t you find it a bit, you know, strange?” “Apparently Max Francis was a great believer in reincarnation, and he believed he would return to claim his own fortune. He had no descendants, so his money has been sitting idle.” She glanced briefly across at her partner, Mr. Brown, who sat in the corner of the room, reading a newspaper. He seemed taciturn and had hardly said a word, the only sign he wasn’t asleep being the odd furtive rustle as he turned the page. “So why was the advert placed now?” “There was a specific request with the will stating when the advert should be placed in all the national newspapers. Something 58
www.morpheustales.com to do with it being a special Spring Equinox.” Daniel readjusted his position on the windowsill. “I read the advert, which is why I’m here. But to be honest, I thought it was a joke, you know.” “It’s no joke.” “So how are you going to verify if one of these people is Max Francis returned from the dead?”
Shaun Jeffrey was brought up in a house in a cemetery, so it was only natural for his prose to stray towards the dark side when he started writing. He has had four novels published, The Kult, Deadfall, Fangtooth and Evilution, and one collection of short stories, Voyeurs of Death. Among his other writing credits are short stories published in Cemetery Dance, Surreal Magazine, Dark Discoveries and Shadowed Realms. The Kult was optioned for film by Gharial Productions. Shooting has been completed. Release details pending. For more information, please visit: www.shaunjeffrey.com
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www.morpheustales.com The Watchers at Work By Gary Fry There was a security camera attached to the wall at the end of the street; Jamie Hood was surprised somebody hadn’t nicked it. It was high up, surveying the whole shopping precinct, but he’d known lads to commit stupider acts. No doubt adult watchers were on the lookout for brats like Jamie’s old friends, only a few of whom he’d retained since leaving school eighteen months ago. His own job in the bookstore kept him above suspicion, but he sometimes considered how easy it would be to steal a small fortune from the safe in the cellar. He never would, of course – he was an honest boy. Nevertheless, this thought often brought out the latent rebel in him. The intercom buzzed from the ground floor and Jamie’s heart rate stepped up a notch. That would be Lynda – only the pair of them was on duty this morning – wanting one of two things: another cup of coffee, or to remind him that he must break down the delivery boxes in the cellar before lunch. In a short while, a third member of staff would join him and their manageress, but until then he was stuck up here in the sale section. He loved working downstairs with the beautiful twenty-six year old; he entertained fantasies of their stealing away together for some foreign clime . . . But it was all ridiculous: her dad owned the chain of Big Print. Jamie lived in an ex-council house with his parents. A wider gulf between them he couldn’t imagine. He nervously thumbed the intercom’s wheel that allowed him to listen, and then pressed the button to speak. “Hi. Er, hello. Yes?” He’d made a mess of that, but his boss didn’t appear too troubled. It would have been different if he’d been speaking on the phone to a customer. “Oh yes, Jamie, as soon as Brenda arrives, I want you to tackle the cardboard,” came Lynda’s cool artificial voice from the speaker. “Yes, okay.” Sometimes he thought he’d do anything for her, legal or illegal... “Erm, would you like a cup of – ” But she’d already terminated the communication, other important matters to attend to. It was Friday; there was a lot to organise before their busiest time at the weekend. Jamie sulked and 60
www.morpheustales.com went back to unprofitable daydreaming. Over a year earlier, a few of his so-called friends had tormented him over his decision to apply to work here. One laid bricks, the other installed burglar alarms; the last book either had read would be something in their childhood. Jamie was no great scholar himself – he’d failed three of his GCSEs, and secured only two grade Cs – but every now and then he’d pick up a horror novel, welcoming the change from dispiriting telly at home. In truth he wasn’t keen on work at all, but if he wished to keep up with other people his age, he needed money. And there was no other way he’d get a girlfriend. He didn’t want people to think he was a loser.
Gary Fry lives in Dracula’s Whitby. He's had a number of short story collections published, a chapbook, a handful of novellas and a novel. Ramsey Campbell has described him as “a master”. Forthcoming are a new novel called Fearful Festivities (Screaming Dreams) and a short story collection called Shades of Nothingness (PS Publishing). Check out all his activities here: www.gary-fry.com
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www.morpheustales.com Clever ideas and a good amount of tension make this 13: TALES OF DARK FICTION Edited By story difficult to put-down. Adam Bradley Matt Leyshon is working on a collection for www.morpheustales.com Morpheus Tales. His stories are thick with 13: Tales of Dark Fiction is without a doubt the atmosphere, and his writing is heavily stylised; his most important book of the year. Not only does it world drips with filth and decay. “To Hear a New feature my story “Desperate Measures,” a solid little World” wraps you up in the music, twists and spins post-apocalyptic tale if I do say so myself, it also you into insanity. “Whatever It Takes” by Joseph D’Lacey is a features my story alongside some of my heroes. 13: Tales of Dark Fiction is a marvellous story every writer can understand. The author of MEAT and The Garbage Man offers a unique and book, and I’ll tell you why… It starts off with a Bigfoot story set during insightful perspective on the horrors of writing, and the American Civil War by Zombie/Bigfoot master what writers are prepared to do to get where they Eric S. Brown. Bigfoot plus war equals great fun; want to be. Another tale that lingers. I first became aware of Andrew Hook from the story packs a punch and a half. The second story, entitled “Dirty Story,” is his exceptional small-press imprint Elastic Press, by Gary McMahon. Do I need say more? McMahon which published some great collections, including is a genius. His stories are brutally honest, heart- the amazingly memorable Gareth L. Powell’s The wrenching, and hurt like no one else’s. They are Last Reef. Sadly Andrew closed down Elastic Press, darker, more disturbing, and more menacing than but fortunately it was to concentrate on his writing. anyone’s, except maybe Stephen King on his best “Wounder” is a very smooth and subtle addition to day, and deeply wounding to the reader. McMahon the book, a twisted urban fantasy that creeps under is my hero, and always will be for the masterpiece of your skin. “Mongrel Days” by the powerhouse that is horror fiction that is Pretty Little Dead Things. Alan Spencer has been a regular contributor Andy Remic is a twisted SF story. As you would to Morpheus Tales since the beginning, and he expect, there is full-on (FULL-ON!!!) action and always produces good solid fiction. With his story in adventure, with a dark underlying menace just 13 he has outdone himself. “If You Lay Here Quiet beneath the surface. Remic is a demented genius, Next to Me” is a masterly tale, subtle and spooky, seemingly at home writing thrillers, horror, SF or with an underlying menace that lingers long after fantasy. It is for his fantasy trilogy the Clockwork Vampire Chronicles, and particularly Kell The you finish reading. Next comes my story. I can’t say much, just Legend, that I will always love him (in a manly nonsexual way!) for making me feel as excited as a read it for yourselves. “The Tax Collector” by Tommy B. Smith four-year-old again. Shaun Jeffrey’s novel The Kult is a cracking reminds me of Jonah Hex and Joe R. Lansdale’s stories, which is high praise indeed. This ghostly crime/thriller/horror novel. For his contribution to western is tense and atmospheric. Tommy edited 13 he provides a nasty story of greed and revenge both the Dark Sorcery Special and the Urban entitled “103”. The final story that makes up 13 is Gary Horror Special (in which he published my story “Shoot Out”), and like Alan has been published in Fry’s “The Watchers at Work.” I first read Fry’s Spectral Press chapbook Abolisher of Roses, a subtle Morpheus Tales magazine several times. William R.D. Wood’s “Organ Grinder” is a and engaging story. “The Watchers at Work” is the fun tale of death and brutality. There’s a level of longest story in the book, but Fry knows how to intelligent nastiness here which is creepy. You’ve make every word count. He builds the tension and gotta love it! I will never see to the circus/fun fair in atmosphere like a conductor with an orchestra. Expertly written, it makes you feel exhausted and the same light again. I was massively impressed with Fred exhilarated at the same time. A great story to end an Venturini’s novel The Samaritan. It is an incredible impressive collection. 13 has been a labour of love for its editor, story which tugs at the heart-strings, and makes you read on to find out what disturbing and twisted thing and the passion shines through. 13: Tales of Dark is going to happen next. His story “The Machine” Fiction is a remarkable anthology, and I am ever so returns to a classic theme of dangerous science. grateful to be a part of it alongside some great names and amazing stories. 62
www.morpheustales.com author of horror novels like Hungry Hearts, Pretty Little Dead Things, and The Concrete Grove Trilogy. “Dirty Story” focuses on a working-class 13: TALES OF DARK FICTION Edited by man, Harry, and a little hygiene problem he has that Adam Bradley develops into an obsession. Harry wants to look nice www.morpheustales.com & clean for his girlfriend, who wants to take their Morpheus Tales is one of the UK’s premier horror sexual relationship to a different level. But however magazines. Some of the best horror authors of today hard Harry tries, however many bars of soap he submitted short stories, and 13 were meticulously uses, however much he scrubs his skin raw, the dirt selected through a gruelling process by the editor, keeps coming back. It invades his fingernails, the Adam Bradley, and have been gathered together to pores of his skin, and even inside his body. Is this all form the spine-tingling anthology, 13: Tales of Dark just inside of his mind, or is it something much, Fiction. Many of the top names from the horror much more? The third tale is by Alan Spencer, and is “If authors of today are included in this collection, from the very first offering by the renowned author of You Lay Here Quiet Next to Me.” It sounds kind of Sasquatch and zombie horror, Eric S. Brown, to the creepy, like words a serial killer or stalker/serial famed author, Andy Remic. Is this anthology killer might say to his victims, but that is not at all awesome? Is it kick-ass? Is it worth the cover price what the short story is about. Rather, it’s about the to purchase it through Smashwords or wherever else transcending love a man, Robert, feels towards his you might choose? Hell, to the ya, to each of the wife, Stacy. After she dies in a car crash, Robert hits upon a plan to keep her with him always, or for as preceding three questions! Thirteen glorious tales of horror await your long as the blood he’s collected in a bottle holds out, twisted imaginations within the pages of this sick (in at least. But her existence is tenuous at best - she can a good way) anthology. I won’t go into detail about only exist within the walls of a locked room, and she each story, but I will give you an idea of what each is, unfortunately for Robert, very, very, forgetful. She has some dim recollections of Robert, but they tale is about, to whet your appetites further. As I mentioned, the anthology opens with a come and go. When they go completely, she thinks choice cut by Eric S. Brown, a dude who is getting he’s some twisted stranger who has imprisoned her more and more attention in the circles of horror within a locked room. It’s not easy for poor Robert writers today. Many of his novels can be purchased to keep the love alive, just because he’s somehow on Amazon, such as Bigfoot War, Bigfoot War II, managed to keep his wife alive... Spencer has also War of the Worlds Plus Blood, Guts, and Zombies, written horror novels like The Body Cartel, Inside Seasons of Rot, and World War of the Dead. The the Perimeter: Scavengers of the Dead, Ashes In His one that begins this collection is “Civil Beasts.” It is Eyes, and Zombies and Power Tools. The next short story is “Desperate set during the American Civil War in Pennsylvania, and is a nuanced tale of... a not-so-nuanced tale of Measures,” by Stanley Riiks. It is a first-person blood, guts, and a ticked-off Sasquatch on a violent post-apocalyptic tale of survival despite the odds spine-snapping, skull-crushing rampage. Jamie, a and the horrendous difficulties the remnants of private in the Union army, and a couple of other humanity have to face just to even find enough food soldiers he’s with witness a Sasquatch being shot at to eat. That is a very real problem the narrator of this by Reb soldiers. The Rebs have shot and killed an gem deals with, and he takes up residence in an Indian woman who had run out of the woods, abandoned hospital (or is it abandoned?), trying to shouting “Sasquatch,” over and over again. She was scavenge and catch whatever vermin he can to keep likely trying to warn the soldiers, but they thought himself alive. This includes delicacies that most of she was just speaking nonsense and got tired of us would be disgusted to try, such as rats and hearing her, so one shoots her in the head. Does the cockroaches. Oh, and humans - did I forget to story have a happy ending for all involved? It’s a mention humans? And then, what if you could no tale about a rampaging Sasquatch - what do you longer find anything around you to eat, but you were slowly starving to death? Would you make... the think? The second story is “Dirty Story.” Despite its ultimate sacrifice? The fifth short story is “The Tax Collector,” title, it is not in the least pornographic–sorry, guys... but it still is a pretty cool tale, deserving of being by Tommy B. Smith, a fellow resident of the city I included in this anthology. It’s by Gary McMahon, live in, Fort Smith, Arkansas. I’ve never met him By Stanley Riiks
www.morpheustales.com before, but this story definitely proves that he is a odds at Russian roulette on a nightly basis. Just how very talented up-and-coming author worth paying does a man play night after night, always somehow attention to. As the title suggests, it is about a tax ending up the victor, and alive? Could one rig the collector, but one of the future. As now, it’s pretty game, possibly, with the use of music and sound much impossible to escape the Tax Collector when frequencies? Read this to find out what it means to you owe him, big-time. The cool thing is, though nightly dodge the proverbial bullet, to enter and exit this appears to be set in a future time, the characters alternate dimensions, and to finally meet a creature behave as if they are directly from the times when right out of H.P. Lovecraft’s most twisted, dark Fort Smith was one of the wildest cities of the Wild imaginings. The ninth tale is “Whatever It Takes,” by West. The main protagonist, Miguel, takes a bullet from the Tax Collector in his hand, to protect his Joseph D’Lacey. The author riffs on the various friend, Mack Brumbleby. This gives Mack enough meanings of the two-word phrase: “Get up!” The time to escape, but can anyone really escape from story is one almost any writer can relate to, as it’s tax collectors for very long? And, just how far will about a man who suffers from writer’s block, and friendship go, when you’re about to lose your arm he decides to seek help for his problem. He finds that the solution is not what he had expected, at all; from infection? Short story number six in the anthology is but, the words do come to him - for a while. It all “Organ Grinder,” by William R.D. Wood. Officer depends on how strong the motivation is–a gun Frank Delgado is the main protagonist in this tale, pointed at you is a pretty powerful motivating factor. and he’s sent to investigate why a rookie officer Still, what if you simply run out of ideas? Read hasn’t reported in after being sent to check out a “Whatever It Takes” to find out what happens, and carnival that’s come to town. At first, the carnival who knows? Maybe you’ll decide to take a writer’s seems to be oddly deserted... then, Delgado begins block in stride the next time you feel your creativity seeing the dead, mutilated corpses upon the ground, temporarily blocked. Then, tale number ten, “Wounder,” by and one old man, who looks as if he should be dead, up and walking around. This is one of my favourite Andrew Hook, takes the reader to the world of tales in the collection, and gives having a case of the dreams, and over the edge, into craziness. What do they mean, the words “sane” and “crazy?” Does the crabs a whole different meaning. Tale number seven, “The Machine,” by Fred male protagonist listen to his friend, Drew, when she Venturini, is also a pretty cool story. You know how tells him that his new girlfriend might be crazy? quacks and snake oil salesmen have conned people There wouldn’t be much of a story if he did listen to down the ages with “miracle cures?” What if one of her, now would there? The love between the the peculiar inventions actually worked? That’s the protagonist and his girlfriend is one which is great at basic concept behind this well-crafted horror tale. first, as most loves are, but then the protagonist The machine produces UV light, in frequencies that decides to try to help his girlfriend conquer her supposedly promote healing and general good nightmares. That doesn’t go so well, as he discovers. health. You place a part of the device under your You may think that your girlfriend/boyfriend is tongue, which is presumably the best area to achieve crazy - read this tale to find out what crazy is really the quickest results. The story’s protagonist, who all about! Number eleven is “Mongrel Days,” by Andy narrates the first-person tale in a series of journal entries, tells of how he got a prototype of the Remic. Andy is a fantastic author, who has written machine to test out from a very reputable “doctor” such books as Spiral, Quake, Warhead, War who is not really a doctor, but whom he calls “Dr. Machine, Biohell, Hardcore, Cloneworld, Kell’s Mexico,” as the guy is from Mexico. Who else is Legend, and more. It’s set in the future, and the main better to trust for one’s medical advice? The protagonist is a guy named Mongrel. He has obvious machine works wonderfully well, but even a fighting skills, and he gets pushed around just a bit machine designed to bring about “miracle cures,” more than he decides he can finally to take. Mongrel gets beaten up and kidnapped by the has its limitations…. Number 8 of the 13 is “To Hear a New minions of a crime boss named Riegel. Mongrel has World.” It is by Matt Leyshon. This short story is admired the skills of the famous Anarchy Androids, about Joe Meeks, a dude who has somehow figured but he doesn’t think there’s any way that they can out a way to cheat death–at least, temporarily - help him escape from what looks like a certain managing to earn a tidy sum of money by risking the death. I really enjoyed this tale; I think you will, 64
www.morpheustales.com also. Remic’s at the top of his form with this some good review comments and I admit I’ve read masterpiece of mixed genres. worse collections, but I have to say, it’s not an The twelfth tale is “103” by Shaun Jeffrey. outstanding collection. Sorry, guys. I found it to be something of a curate’s egg: It’s about the attempts of three people to carry out the wishes of a wealthy dead man, Max Franci, who good in parts, bad in parts. The variety of tales is a plus: rampaging was also a serial killer, who reportedly had killed over one hundred people. The three are interviewing androids and terrifying tax collectors, love after people to determine if they might be proof that death, Sasquatch, a Kafkaesque meditation on filth, resurrection is possible, that one of them might be auto-cannibalism, an extreme solution to writer’s Max come back to life in a different body. Max met block, a reincarnated mass-murderer, shared his end by being hanged at the Strangeways prison, nightmares and a visit to the funfair where the rides but can even death keep a dead man down? Forever are horrifically unusual. is a long time... When the stories work they are dark, The 13th tale, “The Watchers at Work” by compelling and imaginative. One story, a literary Gary Fry, is an excellent piece to close the and literally mind-blowing fugue on a search for the anthology. It tells the story of a young man who perfect music, is bloodily poetic. I particularly liked works at a bookstore, and is jealous of the success of “Organ Grinder” by William R.D. Wood and “If his friends. He is also horny, and fantasizes about You Lay Here Quiet Next to Me” by Alan Spencer, the 26-year-old owner of the book store. Is she but I’m not going to list all my favourites or you’ll perhaps too perfect in her appearance, though? This be able to work out which ones I didn’t like. There tale is about what happens when the protagonist were some stories I fundamentally failed to engage decides to nick some cash from the bookstore’s safe with. Of these, a few felt less than polished. to pay for a vacation his buddies have talked him While we are considering the negatives, the into taking. What’s one to do when money’s tight? review copy I was provided with would have Perhaps a better question the protagonist should benefitted from a good going over by a proof-reader. have asked himself is: “Who might be watching me The stories were splattered with typos and errors, to steal money?” It’s always great to read a story that the extent that I found myself distracted from some has a moral. It should prove to be edifying for the of the weaker stories. One can only hope the sale readers of this anthology. copies have been cleaned up. My final comment on the collection is an That wraps up my summation of the 13 tales in this superb horror anthology, 13: Tales of Dark observation on its compilation. Why, when there are Fiction. If you love reading horror stories & novels, so many good speculative fiction writers of both I highly recommend that you check this anthology genders, does the collection only include male out! writers? This is the twenty-first century, guys. Were there really no stories by women writers worthy of By Douglas R. Cobb inclusion? I can easily think of more than six female Originally published, reprinted by permission of the speculative fiction writers (modestly excluding author: http://douglascobb.wordpress.com/ yours truly) whose efforts are consistently superior to the weakest stories in the collection. Speculative 13: TALES OF DARK FICTION Edited by fiction is all too often seen as a male-orientated Adam Bradley www.morpheustales.com market. Perhaps Morpheus Tales should be checking out what a twenty-first century woman can do? Okay, this is going to be an interesting review to By J. S. Watts write. I’ve been given carte blanche to review - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Morpheus Tales’s own 13: Tales of Dark Fiction Morpheus Tales Back Issues and Special Issues are without fear or favour. Thank you, Morpheus Tales. available exclusively through lulu.com I take my hat off to you. It’s a brave and egalitarian decision, but I just hope you know what you are http://stores.lulu.com/morpheustales letting yourself in for. 13: Tales of Dark Fiction is exactly what it For more information, to order or subscribe visit says on the tin - a collection of thirteen dark our website: speculative fiction stories: a combination of science www.morpheustales.com fiction, fantasy and horror. It’s already received 65