The Contrary Canadian

We write books that are DIFFERENT. These are works you will not find on mainstream bookshelves. And yet they are of such quality they are being recognized anyway…

The Preditors & Editors Reader’s Poll for 2013 is now complete. Here are the awesome results (Our member winners are in bold type face).

Standings for Horror Short Stories

1. Waterless, Rose Blackthorn, Buzzy Mag
2. Taut, Shaun Meeks, Smart Rhino Press
3. 9 Vials of Blood, John B. Rosenman, Chase Enterprises Publishing
4. Fish To Die For, Keith Milstead, J. Ellington Ashton Press
5. Game of Straws Origins, SB Knight, Knight Stalker Press
6. The Testament of Charlie Fairweather, Stephen M. DeBock, Gypsy Shadow Publishing, LLC
7. What the Butler didn’t See…, Teel James Glenn, Fiction Vortex
8. Skin Deep, Carson Buckingham, Smart Rhino Press
9. Ophie and the Undertaker, Shebat Legion, Perseid Press
10. Loneliness Makes the Loudest Noise, Monica J. O’Rourke, HW Press
11. Death of the Spider, Micki Peluso, Chase Enterprises Publishing 
11. Butcher, Carrie Lynn Barker, The Foliata Oak
12. The Dying House, B.E. Scully, Anthocon
13. Haunt, Jeffrey Kosh, Grinning Skull Press
13. Darkness, Darkness, Fred Andersen, Uncial Press
13. What About Mom?, E. J. Ruek, Chase Enterprises Publishing
14. Highway 24, Jeff Chapman, MuseItUp Publishing
14. Devil Inside, William Cook, King Billy Publications
14. Forever, in Pieces, Kurt Fawver, Villipede Publications
15. I Live in the Gut, Gary McMahon, Crystal Lake Publishing
15. Welcome to Hell, CK Houghton, Wordsmith Literary Publishers
15. I Sea Monsters, Paul Copeland, J. Ellington Ashton Press
15. Eat Shit and Die, Frank J Edler, StrangeHouse Books
15. The Unknown Caller, Craig D. B. Patton , Anthocon
15. Dead Jimmy and the Selkie, Iseult Murphy, Drabblecast
15. Drowning in Tears, Stephen Zimmer, Hellscapes Volume 1, from Seventh Star Press
15. Ten to Midnight, Suzie & Bruce Lockhart, Horrified Press
15. The Ghouls, Jarod Anderson, The Were-Traveler
15. The Infestation, Kay Jakabs, SNM Horror Magazine
15. Coffin Dirt, Tom Wescott, Mystery and Horror, LLC
15. Shock Therapy, Sam Bellotto Jr, Double Dragon Publishing
15. The Final One Percent, Desmond Warzel, Blood Bound Books

Standings for All other Short Stories

1. Of Jasmine and Pomegranate, Mike Arsuaga, Boroughs Publishing Group
2. Zvonek 08 Feline Intelligence, Anne H Petzer, Gypsy Shadow Publishing
3. Det. Lupèe: The Impossible Cases, James Secor, Chase Enterprises Publishing
4. Lies and Paine, Cyrus Keith, MuseItUp Publishing
5. What the Indian Saw, Teel James Glenn, Pro Se
6. The Midnight Zone, Elizabeth Delisi, Tirgearr Publishing
7. Love Potion #9.5, Kat Holmes, MuseItUp Publishing
7. Ritual, Salvatore Buttaci, All Things That Matter Press
7. Love and Other Wounds, Jordan Harper, Out of the Gutter Online
8. A Christmas Accident, Melissa Keir, Secret Cravings Publishing
8. The Only Gifts We Give, Ian Florida, Every Day Fiction
8. Rags to Riches, Penny Estelle, MuseItUp
9. Forbidden Destiny, Lia Michaels, Sassy Vixen Publishing LLC
10. The Winggirl, Whitley Weston, Secret Cravings Publishing, 10. Daddy’s Girls, Josie Coxx, Pole Publishing

Standings for Anthologies

1. The Soul That Screamed, Horrified Press
2. Nightmare Stalkers & Dream Walkers, Horrified Press
3. The Best of the Horror Society 2013, The Horror Society Press
4. The Speed of Dark, Chase Enterprises Publishing
5. Allegories of the Tarot, Word Webber Press
6. Sharedc Whispers, Champagne Books
6. Dreamers in Hell, Perseid Press
7. Fresh Fear: Contemporary Horror, James Ward Kirk Publishing
8. Dandelions of Mars; Tribute to Ray Bradbury, Whortleberry Press
9. Twisted Tails VII: Irreverance, Double Dragon Publishing
10. Still Dying 2, Rymfire Books
11. The Art of Love, Whiskey Creek Press
11. Raygun Chronicles: Space Opera for a New Age, Every Day Publishing
12. Eulogies II: Tales from the Cellar, HW Press
13. Someone Wicked, Smart Rhino Publications
13. Shall We Dance?, Dancing With Bear Publishing
14. ‘Tis the Season for Seduction, Sassy Vixen Publishing LLC
14. Bleed, Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing
14. Enter At Your Own Risk: Dark Muses, Spoken Silences, Firbolg Publishing
14. Tales from the SFR Brigade, SFR Brigade
14. The Crimson Rope, Evernight Publishing
15. Horror Library Vol. 5, Cutting Block Press
15. Persephone’s Song Anthology, Keith Publications
15. Shifty, Elizabeth Ann Scarborough
15. Gingersnaps & Candy Canes, Dancing With Bear Publishing
15. Shifters: A Charity Anthology, Hazardous Press
15. After Death…, Dark Moon Books
16. Harboring Secrets, Cherokee McGee
16. Until The End, Horrified Press
16. Mechanized Masterpieces: A Steampunk Anthology, Xchyler Publishing
17. Fear the Reaper, Crystal Lake Publishing
17. Shadow Masters an anthology from The Horror Zine, The Horror Zine
17. Murder, Madness, and Mystery, Feed The World With Words
17. Naughty Sleepover, Decadent Publishing
17. O Little Town of Deathlehem, Grinning Skull Press
17. Roses Are Red, Diamonds Are Blue, Muse It Up
17. Southern Haunts: Spirits That Walk Among Us, Seventh Star Press
17. Zippered Flesh 2: More Tales of Body Enhancements Gone Bad!, Smart Rhino Publications
17. DOA 2 : Extreme Horror Collection, Blood Bound Books
18. 31 Devotions for Writers, Family Friendly Fiction
18. The Demonolgia Biblica, Western Legends Press
18. Best Tales of the Apocalypse, Permuted Press
18. What We Carry Home, Ascent Aspirations Publishing
18. Falling Over, Infinity Plus
18. Wee See a Different Frontier, Futurefire.net Publishing
18. Doorways to Extra Time, Spencer Hill Press
18. A Dash of Madness: A Thriller Anthology, Xchyler Publishing
18. Unidentified Funny Objects 2, UFO Publishing
18. Tales of the Wold Newton Universe, Titan Books
18. Blood Addict, Excessica
18. For the NIght is Dark, Crystal Lake Publishing
18. The Other Half of the Sky, Candlemark & Gleam
18. All Hallows’ Evil, Mystery and Horror LLC

Standings for Book/e-book Cover Artwork

1. Fantastic Futures 13, Roy Mauritsen
2. Walker’s Run A Sanctuary Novel, Book One, Marion Sipe
3. Echoes, Charlene A. Wilson
4. Relics, Maer Wilson
5. Enchanted Skean, Vonnie Winslow Crist
6. Dark Liaison, J.D. Brown
7. An Alexandria Winter Anthology, 2013, Renée Barratt
8. Second Time’s the Charm, Melissa Keir
8. A Wandering Warrior, Aidana WillowRaven
8. Cardinal Desires, Deron Douglas
9. Four Days, Eli Wilde
9. Faizah’s Destiny, C.K. Volnek
10. The Soul That Screamed, Jude Hunt
11. Sirion, Ivano Massari
12. Mortimer, Karri Klawiter
12. Someone Wicked, Cover art by Jamie Mahon, Design by Amy York
12. Blame it on the Sun by Jamie Hill, Cover art by Michelle Lee
12. Harper’s Wish, Krista Ames
12. Itsy Bitsy Spider, Kimberly Shursen
12. In This Kingdom by the Sea, Cover Art by Bev Haynes
13. Haunted Hills, Judith B. Glad
13. Raygun Chronicles: Space Opera For a New Age, Paul Pedersen
13. soundbyte, Cat Connor
13. Detour Trail, Becca Barnes
13. Winter’s Sweet Kiss, Annabelle Blume, Lily Carlyle, Shaya Roy, Michelle Ziegler, Terri Rochenski
14. Blood and Fire, Ally Shields
14. Code Name:Ghost, Natasza Waters
14. Det. Lupèe: The Impossible Cases, James Secor
14. ORACLE, Delilah K Stephans
15. Fresh Fear: Contemporary Horror, William Cook
15. She Rides, Adelle Laudan
15. Scent of a Killer, Covers By StruZa
15. Magic in Outer Space, James Hartley
15. Memoirs of a jobseeker, Ivano Massari
15. The Rules, Mark Troy
15. The Partisan’s Wife, Cover art by Michelle Lee
15. Breaking Glass, Lisa Amowitz
15. Christmas Goes Green, Kate Pagel
15. Mai Tais and Mayhem, M. S. Spencer Cover art by Dawne Dominique
15. Quest of the Hart, C.K. Volnek
16. Shh! It’s a Secret, Geoffrey Hewer-Candee
16. Mystical Wonders – Second Chances, Dawne Dominique
16. A MARRIAGE BARGAIN, Blaise Kilgallen
16. The Dsiappearing Rose, Renee Duke
16. Adam and Sheree’s Family Vacation, Giselle Renarde
16. The Finder Series, Renee Barratt
16. STORYTELLING – The Indispensable Art of Entrepreneurism, Rudy A. Mazzocchi
16. Payton’s Woman by Marilyn Yarbrough, Cover art by Sheri McGathy
16. The Speed of Dark, Zentao
16. The Antique Love, C.K. Volnek
16. The Storm-Wing, Lorinda J. Taylor
16. Karma Visited, Chelle Cordero
16. Severed Ties, Angie Skelhorn
16. Outmaneuvered, J.L. Hammer
16. China Blue, Kat Attalla
16. Allegories of the Tarot, Kris Austen Radcliffe
16. Country Captured, S. Willett
16. Anything You Want, Dawne Dominique
16. Anselm, a Metamorphosis, Ardy Scot
16. The Protector Series (Books 1-3), Carolyn Wren, Design by Dawné Dominique

The Speed of Dark Wins

Readers’ Favorite International

Bronze Award for Fiction Anthology

 

The Speed of Dark Reviewed by Lee Ashford for Readers’ Favorite

“The Speed of Dark” is a horror anthology of short stories written by an assortment of authors, and published by Chase Enterprises Publishing. Editor Clayton Clifford Bye states in his Introduction that “horror” means many things to different people. It can mean an intense feeling of fear or shock or disgust. It can mean terror, dread and fright. He quotes Lovecraft as defining horror as a profound sense of dread. He quotes Stephen King as identifying three levels of “scary”, terror, horror, and revulsion. In “The Speed of Dark” the editors were going for a different level of horror, they hand-picked 27 authors to craft “disturbing” horror stories. They succeeded admirably. Don’t expect to sleep well after reading this book. Some of these stories will stay with you for a long, long time, continuing to disturb you long after you have read them.

Many of the tales in this collection are superbly written. They also happen to be very disturbing. One can be forgiven for wondering about the mental state of some of these authors. But for a fan of horror, there is much to revel in within the pages of this compilation. I believe that every word used above to describe “horror” represents an emotion you will feel during the course of reading this book. Some of the stories have unexpected endings, which create the horror you will feel. Others start out with disturbing circumstances, and maintain that sensation of uncomfortable dread throughout. The editors at Chase Enterprises Publishing have tapped some brilliantly twisted minds to contribute to their anthology. In their effort to produce “disturbing” horror stories they have succeeded far beyond what I expected, even in spite of the introductory warning. Horror fans take note, “The Speed of Dark” is a book you must add to your library. Now.

http://www.claytonbye.com

http://shop.claytonbye.com

 

The Contrary Canadian

Help me welcome self-published children’s author, Linda Hales. Linda has published several books, her latest being “Sunshine And Her Big Blarney Smile.”

ImageA young girl tries to cheer up her great grandfather. Read along as she uses her imagination and her big blarney smile to chase away his sad and angry day.

The Contrary Canadian

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Once in a Lifetime
Clayton Bye
 
 
     We were mice, moving through a myriad of tunnels in the north field. There were five of us in there. Hadn’t heard or seen anyone in more than half an hour.
 
 
     I’d come to a crossroads. I was pretty sure the tunnel on the right headed to the northeast, eventually coming up against the eastern fence. The tunnel on the left would take me to the north and another fence, or, if I stayed left all the way, it would split and end at the western opening, near the water pump which sat at the very edge of the woods.
 
 
     I laid on my back and stared at the sunlit ceiling above me. Someone walked overhead. Searching for mice no doubt. I stayed still and chewed on a long frozen stalk of field grass I’d pulled from the from wall of the tunnel. No danger here. My friends and I had never seen the like: you could jump up and down on top of any of the tunnels and never even make a crack. The crust of ice-fused snow must have been at least two inches thick.
 
 
     We had played all sorts of games on the field this winter, overtop the tunnels: lacrosse, boot hockey, broomball. Christmas holidays had never been this much fun.
 
 
     I don’t remember who thought of the tunnels. I think we started out building a fort and someone decided to dig a protective cave at the back of it. Genius from such a simple idea. When we realized the crust would hold our weight—even when all the snow beneath it had been removed, the digging began in earnest.
 
 
     The adults had no idea what we up to, and in the following days we built such a complex set of trails, you could almost get lost in there.
 
 
     I used the tunnels as a hiding place when it came time to pump and carry dozens of pails of water up to the house (mom used them for washing clothes).
 
 
     The girls would disappear at odd times without warning. My brother and I had figured out they had a little room somewhere near the center of the field. We just hadn’t been able to find it yet; I wasn’t sure I wanted to.
 
 
     The tunnels became something special to us—magical for sure—but something even more, a thing we could feel in our bellies and in the thudding of our hearts, yet couldn’t name. All I know is that each of us were enamored for the few weeks the cold weather kept the crust nice and firm.
 
 
     Then came the day—this day— when with no warning at all a foot appeared through the roof of the tunnel, just a few feet away from my head. A second foot soon followed.
 
 
     I called everyone out. We gathered in a mournful circle around the hole in our tunnel, knowing without speaking that the fun was over for now. None of us imagined that it would be forever.

 

 

Copyright © 2013 Clayton Bye

    

     I am a writer, editor and publisher. The author of 9 books and a varied collection of short stories, poems, articles and hundreds of reviews, I am in the process of publishing my second anthology of excellent short stories by some great talents from around the world. The first book featured general fiction, while the current offering is horror, through and through.

 
     I also offer a wide range of writing services, including small business management for writers.
 
 
 
 

The Contrary Canadian

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The Speed of Dark

The Speed of Dark – Available at http://shop.claytonbye.com/

I Will Love You To Death

John B. Rosenman

Young people in love—ah, our hearts go out to them, do they not?  And when it’s a young woman, a pretty young thing with bloom in her cheeks, why, we get sympathetic goose bumps, don’t we?

In “Jesse’s Hair,” one of my two stories in Chase Enterprises’ The Speed of Dark, I tried to play with this young woman in love theme so it would fit the strangely disturbing horror theme of the collection as a whole.  How could I do it?  Well, for starters, I made Suanna, the love-starved Southern gal six foot one inch tall and three hundred and twenty pounds.

What’s that you say?  That’s not strangely disturbing; it’s just gross.  Hmm, are you really sure about that?  Are the human oddities on TV’s Freakshow really that different from you and me, from what we complacently refer to as normal?  Do they not have the same desires as us, feel the same need to love and be loved in return?

What happens to any of us when the need to be loved is continually denied?  What happens in “Jesse’s Hair” when Suanna is publicly humiliated, and the young bucks and rednecks howl and go “Oink! Oink! Oink!” and “Su-eeee! Su-eeee! Su-eeee!”, comparing her to a fat pig in disgust?

Poor Suanna.  She has so much love to give, only no one wants it.  I wanted to show how any one of us, if denied love, can be twisted into a grotesque, hideous, perverted monster. In love-struck Suanna’s case, endless rejection creates a brutal female rapist and murderer who always takes something from the man she loves to remember him by even as she sets him on fire.

Let’s talk about perversion and fetishes.  Suanna becomes maniacally perverted and develops a dangerous fetish.  She becomes fixated on something connected with each man she develops an instant attraction to—it could be a belt buckle or a nice pair of hands—and she wants to take that item with her as a keepsake to remember him by.

How many of us are similar, only dialed down a bit?  Aren’t most of us perverted or askew in our own way and have our secret fetishes?  C’mon, you know what I’m talking about.  It could be a pair of lady’s stockings, perhaps something we’re ashamed about and fear being made public.  We know we’re a little bent inside and wish we could be normal, whatever normal is.

Suanna is far worse.  As the story makes clear, she’s become one of society’s deadly predators who is “broken . . . by life” and who futilely hopes some man will see her inner beauty and capacity for love and heal the “sickness that festers in my mind.”  No such luck. For Suanna, the tragic murder train rolls on.

I hope I make readers care about Suanna’s heartache and misery.  While they won’t condone what she does, they may come to understand and sympathize with her.  Admittedly, she’s a hard heroine and protagonist to sell, but that kind of task is the type of thing that horror does best, especially when those around her are so cruel and obtuse.  Just think of the mistreated, misunderstood monster in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

As you read “Jesse’s Hair” and other stories in The Speed of Dark, be on the lookout for humor, for horror and humor, sometimes sick humor, often go together like love and betrayal, piety and falsehood.  Why?  For one thing, horror often portrays extreme, supremely sinful, strange, or abnormal acts and emotions, which tip so easily into laughter.  Why again?  Perhaps the best answer is that horror and humor are emotionally volatile and often attract each other, like a lit match does dry tinder.  Horror and humor complement and intensify each other, fire up the blaze together—as I hope you’ll agree after reading the following perversion of a typical romantic scene:

Excerpt from “Jesse’s Hair”:

They stop on a bluff overlookin’ a lake.  Mr. Moon dapples it, glistens on their bodies as they kiss and grope.

Laughter: hers.

Hoarse breathing: his.

I dismount, hearin’ the sound of clothes comin’ off in a hurry.  By the time I get close, she’s already mounted him.  I see her tits jiggle and her face strain up at the moon like she’s prayin’ to it.

Let me tell you: pretty girls don’t look so nice when they’re grindin’ away with their little minds intent only on pleasure.  Whorey Dorey even squeals a bit like a pig, and I mouth silent echos in the darkness.

Oink!  Oink!  Oink!

Quickly, like I’ve done five times before, I strip off my clothes and lay them in a pile.  The crucifix on a chain that ma gave me for communion when I was twelve, I leave on top like a marker.  Barefoot, I skirt the car, come up behind her.  They’re reachin’ a crisis, so they don’t hear me open the door and climb in.  Drivin’ my hand like a meat chopper into her neck, I catch Dora as she collapses and flip her over into the back seat.  Then I mount Jesse.

 Further Reading:

Wet Dreams,” another of my darkest stories, is available from Muse It Up Publishing at the link below.  In dreams lie our deepest, most secret selves.  Do any of us ever really know what lurks in the hearts of those who lie beside us at night?  Are we really ever safe?

http://tinyurl.com/cazwvxq

john4

About John B. Rosenman

John, a retired English professor, has published 300 stories in Writers on the Wrong Side of the Road, Weird Tales, Whitley Strieber’s Aliens, Galaxy, The Age of Wonders, etc. He’s also published twenty books, including SF novels such as Beyond Those Distant Stars and Speaker of the Shakk (Mundania Press), and Alien Dreams and A Senseless Act of Beauty (Crossroad Press).  MuseItUp Publishing released three SF novels: Dark Wizard; Dax Rigby, War Correspondent; Inspector of the Cross.  Kingdom of the Jax, a sequel to Inspector of the Cross, will be published in May 2013.  MuseItUp has also published The Blue of Her Hair, the Gold of Her Eyes (winner of Preditors and Editors Annual Readers Poll), More Stately Mansions, and the dark erotic thrillers Steam Heat and Wet Dreams.  Two of John’s major themes are the endless mind-stretching wonders of the universe and the limitless possibilities of transformation—sexual, cosmic, and otherwise.

John can be found at his website at http://www.johnrosenman.com, at his blogsite at http://www.johnrosenman.blogspot.com, and at . . .

https://www.facebook.com/john.rosenman, http://twitter.com/Writerman1,  http://www.amazon.com/John-B.-Rosenman/e/B001KMN69E, http://s631.photobucket.com/albums/uu31/jrosenman/, http://www.humanmade.net/john-b-rosenman, https://m.pinterest.com/johnrosenman/pins/

Read an interview at: http://www.milscifi.com/files/inter-JBR-BS.htm

Buy link, Muse It Up Publishing: http://tinyurl.com/83a2ezn

Buy link, Crossroad Press: http://tinyurl.com/bnxozdm

 

The Contrary Canadian

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Do you like adult horror? If you do, then please check Leigh M. Lane’s post at http://johnrosenman.blogspot.ca/ It’s titled “Deconstructing the Unreliable Narrator,” and it concerns her story “Plastic People” in THE SPEED OF DARK, a collection of strangely different and disturbing horror stories. Leigh and John both have two stories in the collection, and there are 19 authors and 27 stories overall. This is haunting and creepy horror for adults. The tales makes you think and have multiple levels, examining the very nature of reality which contrary to popular belief is not always as simple and cut and dried as you may think. Please drop by, read Leigh’s reflections, and leave a comment.

The Contrary Canadian

Next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, I shall be participating in a small blog tour. Small but potent. With writers like John Rosenman, Ken Weene, Lisa Lane, Micki Peluso and James Secor, it will be like eating a rich dessert. Not just because of the discussions and the excerpts, but due to the new material they’ll be bringing to the table.

The Speed of DarkLook for me on the 27th. More later…

The Contrary Canadian

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Today is all about my new, short horror story collection, The Speed of Dark. This The Speed of Dark Front Cover Beta Versionbook contains 27 strangely different and disturbing tales by 19 fantastic authors who had the courage to take on the challenge of breaking out of the accepted mold of what “horror” is right now. We eliminated Bizarro, quite frankly, because these authors see themselves as a new genre–and they may be right. Where did we end up and what are readers saying? Let’s hear from some of them now…

1. This was a horror anthology I was mightily pleased to have read. I’ve read some horror stories that are of the “gore” variety, which can honestly bore me sometimes. While everyone has their own tastes and preferences, it is “psychological horror” that gets to me, that I find a lot more dark and disturbing than explicit violence (i.e. the motivations and psyche behind brutal and/or cruel acts).

Perhaps the greatest thing about anthologies is that they feature a wide variety of authors–different voices, different styles, though the stories in this case are linked together based on that psychological horror dimension. The anthology is very aptly titled after one of the stories (“The Speed of Dark”, by Clayton Clifford Bye)–in terms of concept and pacing. That story in particular is a great short story, in the sense that the writing flows in an effortless, succinct kind of way where all the pieces (the story has something to do with “food” *ahem*) come together really neatly.

There is a lot of scope and dimension in these short stories, all of which are accompanied by a short summary at the beginning of the story (I always like that with anthologies, so that I have a rough idea of what each story is about before I get into it further). I enjoyed stories like “Jesse’s Hair” (by John B. Rosenman) and “Little Girl Lost” (by Lyn McConchie) for that same reason (the handling of macabre themes in a very stylish, understated way–actually this goes for the entire anthology; I’m just naming those two right now because I especially enjoyed the themes in those two stories!).

Do consider adding “The Speed of Dark” to your digital and/or paperback library, if you’re looking for a good dose/exploration of original–and relatable–psychological horror. – Jess Scott

2. The Speed of Dark is an anthology of short tales of horror by Cynthia Ainworthe, Kenneth Weene, Clayton Bye, Micki Peluso, Mary Firman and more than a dozen other great writers. It’s one of those hard-to-put-down books that keeps you up all night reading…and trembling. From the computer generated green terror in Retrovirus, to the dreadful secrets in the cellar in Taking Care of Mother and the unexpected fate of the man in room 600 in Hansom Dove, readers are sure to find that each of these macabre stories will keeping them wanting to read one more before, if they dare, turning off the lights. – T.R. Heinan, author of L’immotalité: Madame Lalaurie and the Voodoo Queen

3. And, yes, they’re right about the sub-title which says Strangely Different & Disturbing. It’s not that different from some horror anthologies that I’ve read, nor did it disturb me to a huge degree. But yes, some of it was still a bit different and slightly disturbing. The trouble with much recent horror that I’ve (unwillingly) read, is that those who write it go over the top. They bring in monsters, lakes of gore, dismembered bodies, and graphic sex. I like my horror low-key, understated, and more about the human condition. In The Speed of Dark I got two things. One was excellent presentation with very good editing, and the other was well-written work that in most cases wasn’t overly graphic, but which was interesting, involving and rarely over the top. Much of it was quietly creepy and therefore very effective. And the editors were intelligent, where an author presented two suitable stories, they didn’t insist on taking only one, and then, finding they needed more work, filling out the anthology with poorer-quality tales. Instead where they were offered two good stories, they took both, so that in a number of cases an author had two stories appear. And I noticed that when they happened those authors’ work was often the work that I really liked. So – I’m not going to comment on every story, but that said, I didn’t find any stories that I felt were inadequate. Some I didn’t like that much as a personal preference, but I thought that all of them were well-written and of real quality. I’ve seen a previous award-winning anthology from this stable, and that one too fitted everything I’ve said here. This outfit could be one to watch.

The first story set the tone for this anthology beautifully. What About Mum by E.J.Ruek is horror, not because of anything in-your-face, but from the gradual realization of what this is about as you read it. It ends with a newspaper clipping that ties up the story consistently and neatly, and makes sense of some of the final loose ends. It’s a story you may come across in the newspapers regularly, but the author makes you see it for yourself. Jesse’s Hair by John B. Rosenman is again delicately intrusive. It begins in such a way that you sympathise with the protagonist, understand her pain, and wish people would be a bit kinder. And then you find out what the years of abuse have created. Which is brutally realistic because this type of low-level bullying can produce effects out of all proportion. Retrovirus by Clayton Clifford Bye was clever. It took an aspect of our computerized society and moved it into a new space and a new form of the ‘post holocaust’ sub-genre. Micky Peluso’s Death of the Spider is both horrific and sad, while Lyn McConchie’s Little Girl Lost is savage in a way that makes the reader like it. I was prepared to be horrified at the topic until I was almost at the end and realized what was happening, then I smiled, I do like evil to get its comeuppance. Unbreakable fetters of Admantine by Jim Secor is an interestingly surrealistic tale, it winds and confuses but ultimately satisfies. While Across the Tracks by Tony Richards has some of the same factors although with a very different background and protagonist but with an ending that is equally as effective.

Clayton Bye’s title story, The Speed of Dark is plain creepy, a little sickening when you see where this is going, and very well handled as a theme. Taking Care of Mother by Mary Firmin is unpleasant, it has something to say about society’s attitudes towards those marked in our minds as either ‘less fortunate’ or ‘the dregs of society,’ and just how wrong we can be in some of our assumptions. It may also be a warning about being patronizing. Lyn McConchie’s Sowing On the Mountain is all too realistic in some ways, and delicately drawn fantasy in others. And yet, the fantasy element is sketched in so lightly the reader is uncertain as to whether it really existed, an aspect of the story that enhances it considerably. And the final story, Plastic People, by Lisa Lane chronicles a descent into the darker places of the mind and is exactly the right note on which to conclude. All in all the editors have done a fine job on this anthology which only confirms my impression of the previous one the publisher had out. Take a look at the site, http:shop.claytonbye.com Buy this anthology, and maybe copies of the previous one as well. I think it would be money well spent.
- Glenda’s Bookshelves

4. As children, we’re frightened of the things that hide in dark places. As adults, we learn that it’s the things hiding in plain sight of which we really need to be afraid. This anthology underscores that fact.

Some of the stories in “The Speed of Dark” are terrifyingly mundane, making me want to check over my shoulder to make sure the sweet old lady next door isn’t hiding some horror inside her house. Others make me want to laugh, but the kind of laughter that happens when you realize you’re the last person in the world to get the joke, and you’re the punch line. And still others make me wince, as conventions of comfort and polite society are ripped away, exposing ugly truths you suspected might have been there but were never really quite sure.

All of them, however, make me glad I have a large watchdog, a phone in every room, and a bedside light to keep the shadows away while I read.

Not for the faint of heart, I felt violated by a few of the pieces, repulsed, as, I believe, was intended. The writing is sometimes so beautifully lyrical and descriptive, however, it makes it hard to put the book down. Shame on me for appreciating the clever turn of a word.

And these authors are wordsmiths, whether or not you’re a fan of horror. There’s a beauty here that mocks the subject matter – or maybe it’s the other way around. Things this eloquent shouldn’t be so vulgar, should they?

I received this book for review purposes, and I’m grateful to have been one of the lucky ones. No matter what I think about the ugly, fantastic side of human (and inhuman) nature, “The Speed of Dark” is a winner.
- Kimberly Morgan

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