Tag Archives: short fiction

ARC: A Midnight Clear by Sam Hooker, Alcy Leyva, Laura Morrison, Cassondra Windwalker, Dalena Storm, and Seven Jane

Thank you to NetGalley and Black Spot Books for sending me a free advanced reader copy of this book for an honest review. A Midnight Clear debuted November 5th.

I’ve made a concerted effort this year to read more short fiction; the vast majority of my weekly Short Tuesday series focuses on dark genre fiction. So I was intrigued by this short story collection from Black Spot Books, which has a dark holiday focus. Like a lot of short story collections, this one was kind of all over the place. I’m going to give each story a mini review, since there’s only six of them.

“The Dauntless” by Sam Hooker was a strong start to the collection. Great prose, fun details, and a gripping premise: the ensuing legal fallout when a ship of Santa’s elves is sent to deliver Christmas joy to one of Lovecraft’s monsters. If you’re a Lovecraft fan, I could see picking up A Midnight Clear just for this story. 4 stars.

“Tidings of the New Moon” by Alcy Leyva was well-written, but didn’t grip me–more a me thing, I think, than anything else. I’m generally a fan of werewolves in fiction, but this story was maybe a bit too on-the-nose for me in terms of some of the details. Nevertheless, Leyva is clearly a talented writer. 3 stars.

“Movin’ On Up” by Laura Morrison was a fun one for me, since I’m letting a Hell-themed project percolate in my mind right now, and that’s what this was: a trio of three inhabitants of Hell trying to persuade a woman destined for Heaven to venture downstairs instead. I wish this story had been given more room for growth, by at least a few thousand more words; it felt rushed. Yet it was tons of fun overall. 4 stars.

“The Poetry of Snow and Stars” by Cassondra Windwalker was a story that I unfortunately did not get along with. It has an adverb-soaked voice and tons of backstory that put me in mind of those romances you read where the author is trying to catch you up on all the previous characters in the series–I’ve never been a fan of that myself, and that sentiment counts doubly for a short story, where no word should be wasted. The maybe-murder-maybe-not plot didn’t catch me, and the Stanley Hotel setting felt wasted. 2 stars.

“Sleep, Sweet Khors” by Dalena Storm is actually the second work I’ve read by this author in 2019; I was introduced to her by her debut novel, The Hungry Ghost. Like Ghost, this story has a strong mythological spine, this time from the Slavic tradition. I didn’t like the mythology infodump in the middle of the story; I always prefer these kinds of details to get threaded through the narrative. As with Ghost, this author feels like she is currently developing her voice; she has some great ideas, and I’m digging the mythology threads she interweaves with her stories, but I’d like to see a bit more lyricism to her prose. 3 stars.

“Snow Angel” by Seven Jane was a weaker end to the collection, sadly. The prose felt overworked, and much of the narrative was spent in the main character’s head, which got tiresome for me as a reader because the MC was just bemoaning the holiday season the entire time–I didn’t want to spend any more time with her than need be! When we got to the big magical climax, I had a difficult time believing that all this was happening to the main character; was she really special enough to have all this magical attention lavished upon her? So this story and I sadly didn’t mesh. 2 stars.

In sum, this collection was a bit of a bumpy ride, but there were some fun, bright moments. If you’re looking for some Christmas-themed stories and you like your fiction with a dose of darkness, consider giving this a go.

Short Tuesday #33: HALLOWEEN SPECIAL

It’s spooky season, and I thought the only proper way to do Short Tuesday this week would be to give a whole bunch of suggestions for short stories that will scare you senseless! No need to crack open a thousand-page Stephen King novel when you can get your scares done in less than ten thousand words. 😀 Some of these short stories are tamer than others, but all of them pack a wallop; each story is a five-star read for me, and every single one of them you can read for free! So pick your candy, and have a great Halloween.


Snickers: the crowd-pleaser

I had a couple different contenders for this category, but “Some Kind of Blood-Soaked Future” by Carlie St. George, which I just read for the first time last week, had to be the winner. “Future” features a teen MC who just can’t stop encountering eighties slasher-type killers. It’s great for anyone who wants a more YA feel, it’s bloody, it has a start-to-finish arc (sometimes hard to come by in short fiction!), and it’s brilliant.


Popcorn: the classic

For this category I suggest H. P. Lovecraft’s “The Rats in the Walls.” I think that Lovecraft can sometimes seem a bit unapproachable to people who haven’t read him, because there have been so many other works inspired by him. I mean, he sparked an entire horror sub-genre, for crying out loud. “The Rats in the Walls” is an easy gateway into Lovecraft, and for a story from 1924, it features some truly terrifying imagery and an awesome ending.

By the way, I just want to give a small warning that the name of the cat in this story infamously features a racial slur, and the name of the cat has featured a lot in discussion about Lovecraft’s racial views. This isn’t the place to go into that, but I just wanted to give anyone reading a heads up.


Candy Corn: the love-it-or-hate-it

I’m putting “The Enigma of Amigara Fault” by Junji Ito in this category for a couple reasons. First off, it’s a short horror manga, so if manga is not your thing then… this won’t be your thing. 😛 Secondly, this story is basically a claustrophobe’s worst nightmare. “The Enigma of Amigara Fault” has made all the rounds on the Internet, and it totally deserves its infamy; it will stick with you.

All right, you’ve been warned! ❤


King-Size Candy Bar: just keeps on giving

For this category I suggest the sprawling “Interface Series,” which was a series of bizarre, non sequitur Reddit posts by username _9MOTHER9HORSE9EYES9. You can start reading here. The posts swiftly attracted interest, garnering media attention and questions about whether the project would be turned into a book. There was also some speculation about whether the posts had any link to Stranger Things, as there were similar elements between the two works and the first season of the TV show was released just a few months after _9MOTHER9HORSE9EYES9 started posting. Anyway, “The Interface Series” isn’t a short story per se, but each post is pretty short and will keep you hungering for more, so I think it’s a great fit for anyone who’s craving a king-size candy bar. 😀


Tootsie Caramel Apple Lollipop: the dark horse

If you love SCP, r/nosleep, and creepypasta, then I suggest the classic “Ted the Caver” as a seriously creepy Halloween read. (And if that’s a bunch of gobbledygook to you, well, you’re missing out!) You want to know what I love about this? It’s a website from literally 2001, that is still on Angelfire, that gets the spook done in a magnificent way. This one story has stuck with me for years. Definitely a good one for anyone who has claustrophobia as a horror trigger. 😀


Reese’s: perfection

We’re still a few months away from the end of the year, but if I had to make a prediction, “In a Cavern, in a Canyon” by Laird Barron will remain my favorite short story of 2019. Everything in this story works in perfect harmony: the characterization, the back story, the setting, the description, and the classic folk song “Oh My Darling Clementine” that forms a creepy musical background to the piece. Enough of me waffling–just go read it already!


What are some of your favorite horror bits and bobs–any suggestions? And how are you getting in the Halloween spirit this year?

Short Tuesday #32: “Some Kind of Blood-Soaked Future” by Carlie St. George

This week I returned to Nightmare Magazine for Short Tuesday; I mean, it’s almost Halloween, so how can I not? The short story I picked this week was “Some Kind of Blood-Soaked Future” by Carlie St. George. You can read the story for free here…

I loved this short story from start to finish! It details a high school girl who keeps finding herself in eighties slasher-type situations where she is the only survivor. After all her friends and her mom are killed, she decides to leave town to embark on a journey where she inserts herself into situations where a killer is bound to surface: frat parties, sleepy two-bit towns, etc. The hope is that she saves some people in each massacre, who will give her some money to continue her journey. If you’re into self-referential horror (and what true horror fan isn’t?), then this is the story for you.

The use of a second-person POV is an interesting narrative choice, and I don’t mean that in a “bad-interesting” type of way; I think it really works for the piece! Basically I don’t have anything critical to say here; it’s a great read for Halloween, especially if you’re at all a fan of eighties slashers.

Short Tuesday #31: “Glove Box” by Annie Neugebauer

This week I again happened to be looking up short fiction by Stoker nominees and found myself reading “Glove Box” by Annie Neugebauer, published in Dark City Magazine. You can read the story for free here…

I really enjoyed this short story! I don’t want to give much away, but it details a woman in a convenience store who is frightened of one of her customers, due to a string of violent events that have happened recently. The author manages to maintain a level of dread all while concealing background information from the audience until the very last moment. The story feels very grounded in the real world, without a hint of anything supernatural, but somehow you get the sense that there might be eerie forces lurking, ready to spring.

The prose is simple and fits the story well, and the MC, Rose, is very relatable; you can easily imagine yourself in her position, on high alert all while doubting her paranoia. If you want a quick, eerie story, “Glove Box” is definitely one to check out.