Wealthy couple drunkenly ditch their car and a strange tow truck driver regales them with off-putting stories, stories relating strangely to their personal lives. With short fiction by Stephen Graham Jones (Mongrels, Mapping the Interior, The Only Good Indians), Philip Fracassi (Behold the Void, Sacculina), and Renee Miller (Cats Like Cream, The One You Feed).
(review request submitted by Eddie Generous, the editor, for an honest critique)
I’ve tried to think of some witty, ingenious way to describe the stories in Midnight Exhibit. Then, I realized I could best sum them up by saying two words… fuck’d up.
Yes, every contribution to the anthology was disturbing.
Stephen Graham Jones – Too Little Too Late: Decomposing, coherent bodies… just eww. Cue the puke bucket!
Renee Miller – Another Pretty Face: This story will have men grabbing their junk for sure!
Philip Fracassi – My Love, Do Not Wake: The story started off reminding me of a scene from Harry Potter. The one where Lord Voldemort’s face is on the back of Professor Quirrell’s head. Anyways, it might’ve started off like HP but then it took a weird-ass turn into the land of fuck’d the hell up.
I’m still shaking my head on this collection. So disturbing it’ll stick in my mind for a long while. 🙂
Lucy is a young girl who loves her Pa, their cow, and the little farmhouse she calls home. She also loves the red bicycle that Harvey gave her as a present. But not all is idyllic, and she struggles to steer clear of the local transient, Joe-Michael.
Gannon and Farrah move to Lucy’s family farm many years after Joe-Michael became Lucy’s father’s farmhand. Together, Gannon and Farrah hear Lucy’s voice for the first time on an audio recorder hidden in the woods near the old family homestead. Even though their lives are separated by decades, they intersect at the pond where the secrets have been submerged by Joe-Michael.
Blurring the lines between time and space, Lucy shares her tale with Gannon and Farrah in an unconventional turn of events.
“Wait, play that again,” said Farah, still wearing the headphones.
Gannon used the touchpad mouse on his laptop to slide the tracker on the editing software to play the recording again. This time he pressed the loop button and then the triangle play button. The two-second recording played repeatedly in a loop cycle. He watched the reaction on his fiancées face.
Farah cupped both hands over the headphones to block out any extraneous noise. Eyes closed, she listened to the recording repeat itself. “Taa daaa! Taa daaa! Taa daaa! Taa daaa! Taa daaa!” She pulled off the headphones and handed them back to Gannon. “She’s saying ‘Taa daaa!’ in a singy song voice. It’s a little girl. Almost like when Payton does a cartwheel and finishes with a ‘Taa daaa!’”
Gannon smiled at her. “This was recorded at 2 a.m. in the middle of the forest away from any of the walking trails.”
Farah shrugged her shoulders and moved off toward the kitchen. “She is saying ‘Taa daaa!’”
Gannon closed his laptop. He moved into the kitchen to help Farah with dinner. Shuffling the chicken around in the frying pan Farah asked, “Wasn’t the recorder near that old farmhouse?”
Gannon nodded his head. “Yeah, it was up the hill from the old Griffith house.”
Farah thought for a moment. “Maybe a little girl used to live there? Maybe she was a slave?”
Gannon pulled the plates out of the cupboard for dinner. He wouldn’t say that Farah was a psychic or medium. However, she did have a sixth sense about things. She just seemed to know things. Since moving into their house a year ago, she had several dreams – if you want to call them dreams, more like visitations from the old woman, Julie, who used to own the house. At first, they weren’t sure if it was Julie, but at the community potluck dinners a couple of the neighbors described Julie. They talked about her mannerisms, the way she dressed, her routine, and Farah and Gannon were able to deduct that who visited Farah at night was Julie. Farah never got the sense that Julie was malicious. But seeing a ghost can be unnerving in its own right.
Gannon had his own experiences; however, they were different. He usually heard movement. Or sensed a presence. Many times, while working from home, he caught himself checking the closets because he swore a physical person was secretly hiding in their house. Never finding anyone, his next logical conclusion was that he was hearing Julie move around the house. Gannon was a trained scientist. Therefore, he errored on the side of skepticism. Gannon would be the first to admit that he had to control himself from automatically jumping to a paranormal explanation. He forced himself to eliminate all other logical possibilities before believing or accepting that a ghost was living in their house.
The one exception was Farah. Gannon wasn’t sure if Farah knew or not; he suspected she knew, but she was his barometer. If Farah suspected paranormal activity, Gannon was one-hundred-percent onboard. He still tried to eliminate all logical possibilities. But in the back of his mind he was doing a happy dance when Farah believed something originated from the paranormal.
“So, you’re saying I picked up the voice of a ghost?” asked Gannon.
“A spirit,” corrected Farah.
Gannon chuckled. “I go out there trying to capture the howl of a Bigfoot and come away with the voice of a spirit.”
Short stories are a challenge to write because brevity is necessary. Mr. Solar weaves an intriguing tale of murder that will keep the reader turning the pages.
While using listening equipment in the woods, Gannon picks up voices which lead him to a dark discovery of a past hidden by time and almost lost to living memory. As he delves further into the events, he sees the source of the sounds. The pleasant vision of a laughing little girl and the scowl of the hired hand leave him chilled and confused.
This tale makes the reader wonder if the horror of some events rend the veil of time, forcing the living to relive and acknowledge the past. Some voices refuse to be silenced.
Ernest Solar has been a writer, storyteller, and explorer of some kind for his entire life. He grew up devouring comic books, novels, any other type of books along with movies, which allowed him to explore a multitude of universes packed with mystery and adventure. A professor at Mount St. Mary’s University in Maryland, he lives with his family in Virginia.
I was so honored to have my short story, Yuletime at Cherrywood Hall, Pippa’s First Christmas, included in the #WolfpackAuthors anthology that was published earlier this year. The anthology is a compilation of works by authors of all genres, and all proceeds are donated to the Lockwood Animal Rescue Center (LARC) My contributed short story is one close to my heart—it is a prequel to a storyline in the 3rd book of my #cozymystery series, Deadly Receptions; the Debut of Castlewood Manor. It tells the tale of a tainted bridal veil from years gone by and introduces the readers of my series to Aunt Pippa, the beloved ancestral aunt who saved the Cherrywood Hall estate with her marriage to Charles Lancaster, the 4th Marquess of Kentshire.
The short story takes place in the weeks before Christmas. Pippa has been receiving demeaning messages criticizing her every move as an American married to the popular marquess. A chance snowstorm brings her nemesis to Cherrywood Hall. Pippa meets her husband’s previous fiancé, the author of the critical notes–a jilted woman who is filled with anger at the woman who holds the position and privilege that she thought would be hers. As a blizzard rages outside, her mind is set on deadly revenge…Will Pippa’s first Christmas at the hall be her last?
Read more about the #WolfPackAuthors anthology and the great cause it benefits here:
The idea was simple: form a group of authors based on the mantra, “Do good things for the right reasons.” We are a pack – #WolfPackAuthors. Together, we expand exposure for our books, help one another with all aspects of the process, pick each other up when the lonely life of writing gets us down.
As with wolves, words can be dangerous or healing. The reintroduction of the wolf, hunted to the brink of extinction, carries such far-reaching results as to make vegetation grow on what was once barren, and to change the paths of rivers. Considering these powerful facts, we chose to donate the proceeds of this anthology to Lockwood Animal Rescue Center /LARC, a facility with a unique mission. They are one of the few organizations focused heavily on wolves, integrating military veteran rehabilitation into the caretaking process.
In this collection of work, you will find a showcase of many of our members’ talents: A young girl betrothed to a werewolf, yet her father, a human, is the true monster. Two snipers who lay in wait, an otherworldly supreme being watching them, in the form of a majestic wolf. A she-wolf sets her sights on a young woman, married to the man she loved. The paradoxical story of the big bad wolf, who through no fault of his own sets out on a calamity filled adventure. A batch of witty private investigators at work solving crime. A sarcastic banshee, a shapeshifting detective, and a vampire, all friends, investigate a string of murders. There are many others, varied in style or genre.
Come on an adventure with the WolfPackAuthors. We’ve got the stories you want; together, we hope to make the world a better place for wolves, humans, and those who dare to dream.
Cozy Mystery – Yuletime at Cherrywood Hall: Veronica Cline Barton Fairy Tale/ Parody – Unfairy Prosecuted: J.W. Crawford Fairy Tale – Poppy: Tia Fanning
Fantasy/ Supernatural – For the Love of the Pack: Sharon Lopez Horror/ Meta horror – The Untold One: B.L. Clark Horror – Frost Harbor: Alexander Pain
Literary – Omega Road: Lee M. Tipton Magical Realism – An Early Snow: Andi Marchal P.I./ Detective – The Wolf: Joe Congel
P.I./ Detective, Cozy Mystery – Mrs Solberg’s Problem: CW Hawes Poetry – Wolf Pack United: Angie-Marie Delsante Poetry – Welcome to the Den: Lori Katherine
Romance/ Supernatural – The Soap Maker’s Mother: Christina van Deventer Science Fiction/ Military – Sacha: Jeff DeMarco Science Fiction/ Paranormal – Wolf Cry: Z Gottlieb Science Fiction/ Paranormal – Circus of the Night: Stefan Angelina McElvain Urban Fantasy – True Nature : Luna Selas
Veronica Cline Barton earned graduate degrees in both engineering and business and has had successful careers in the software and technology industries. Her lifelong love affair with British murder mysteries inspired her to embark on a literary career. The Crown for Castlewood Manor and Cast, Crew, & Carnage; the Filming of Castlewood Manor are the first and second books in what she calls her My American Almost Royal Cousin Series. When not traveling and spinning mystery yarns, she lives in California with her husband, Bruce, and her two cats, Daisy and Ebbie.
A normal day in the Deep South turns into a nightmare, as Chantal discovers that beauty and terror trace the fault lines between life and death. She fights to understand why a good woman, her friend Aida is stricken with a debilitating illness that steals her mind and reason. When Aida’s terrifying visions are revealed, what price does it have when it’s shared with Chantal?
Take a walk on the dark side, where existence is fragile and knowledge of the after-life can cross over and become frighteningly real and physically dangerous to anyone who knows the truth. Make it a summer to remember with a fantastic new story from Black Calyx Books!
(review request submitted by the author for an honest critique)
Dementia is a scary illness. It weakens the mind and body. People with the affliction are aware their time is limited, and there’s no cure. Loss of motor function, loss of memory, and hallucinations are just a few symptoms a person faces with this terrible illness. Again, it’s a sad and frightening illness.
Bibiana wrote about the fears and heartache of having Dementia from a sufferer’s point of view and a friend’s as well.
She focused a lot of time on hallucinations. Were the three people Aida saw real or the result of her disease? To avoid spoilers, I won’t say either way.
I will say this…
When you sense evil or death breathing down your neck, real or imaginary, it’s a real mind F—K. You can’t help but live in constant fear. And fear, as we discover, is like food for vile creatures.
After I finished this short story, I read the “Afterword.” In my opinion, I think Bibiana Krall should’ve put the “Author’s Note” before the actual story. Knowing this story was loosely based on real-life events increased my score. Before the “Afterword,” Troika was a solid three stars. After I read the “Author’s Note,” my score jumped a point.
Also, before the story began, Bibiana had an “Epilogue.” An epilogue goes at the end of a story.
Other than those two things, I wouldn’t have changed anything else. It was a quick, to the point, read and had just the right amount of spookiness to keep me engaged. No gore, only a story that embraced the word FEAR.
Bibiana Krall is the author of seventeen titles on Amazon, a former international travel expert and luxury insider, she has lived the adventurous life she writes about. Her novels and short stories highlight kickass, female protagonists in character driven stories that utilize social narratives.
Winner of a ‘Pay It Forward Scholarship’ from Wilkes University CW, Bibiana Krall has been called a, “Lyrical maven and literary wordsmith.” @Goodreads Learn more about Bibiana’s books, watch cinematic book trailers.
NOTE: A story which incorporates similar themes to major motion pictures such as these – JURASSIC PARK, ALIENS, ALIEN RESURRECTION, STARGATE, THE LOST CITY OF Z.
From the sworn oath of an ancient curse a cult rises. She is the ocean vast, its deadly rake, and primal power. Her first ones commune from across the great divide and make their new hive in the emptiness of men. A secret project, born from the ambitions of a young nobleman, transcends the passage of time and reaches through the veil of life and death for her reawakening. Deep beneath a mountain, inside a secure facility at the heart of a covert black op called Nexilexicon, a team of scientists, the military and the CIA are about to punch a hole through to another dimension. What could possibly go wrong?
What begins in the wilds of the Amazon jungle in 1847 culminates in a threat to mankind’s very existence.
(review request submitted by the author for an honest critique)
This story takes part in different time periods, so I’ve broken up my review into sections to discuss each area. Beware, there are spoilers!
The story begins with Sander van Straten embarking on a voyage. It’s not long before feelings of excitement turn to feelings of dread.
First, a mighty storm struck and they lost a young sailor.
Next, a swarm of insects descended on their ship and the crew had to hunker down below deck.
Then, there were the strange markings on the barrels and several stolen items.
Was the cook correct in saying this voyage was cursed? Even though I found Keith Anthony Baird (the author) long-winded at times, and the story seemed to teeter on the dull side, I was curious about the crew’s fate.
The crew’s trek through the Amazon jungle was quite adventurous, but I’d expect no less. They crossed paths with many exotic creatures, came face to face with a spider the size of a man’s head, and were ambushed by the natives. I wished they’d stayed in the jungle longer. I was thoroughly enjoying their time there, even though they weren’t at the least.
When they went back on the Eva, trouble again struck hard and fast. Rhames overtook their ship, and Eva’s crew members were held captive for two weeks, starved before released onto a small island. No drinkable water, no food, nothing but the clothes on their backs. The men turned into savages. They ate one of their own, had to if they wanted to survive. Sander couldn’t allow himself to partake of human flesh. I’m not sure I could’ve either.
Life on the sea was hard, but life on land was no picnic either.
Chapters 9 -11
We jump forward in time to 1964. For over a century, Eva’s treasure has been lost to the sea but no longer. Wreck hunters have found the bounty and, with it, the curse that accompanies it. These chapters were laced with mystery, intrigue, suspense, death, and left me wondering what the hell was going on.
It’s 1973, and an international team has been in the Al-Hajar Mountains for five weeks. Five weeks before the discovery of a chamber’s entrance. What they did find there is an archaeologist’s wet dream: mummified creatures, crystals, and a civilization that thrived and appeared highly evolved and intelligent. Unfortunately, their good fortune didn’t last long. Nobody’s luck remains good for long in this story.
Chapters 13 – 15
2012 – Project Nexilexicon was underway, and things were finally getting really good. Using DNA discovered at a dig site 40 years ago, scientists have reanimated/resurrected the creature Sander van Straten saw during his time in the Amazon jungle. The animals had six limbs, around 650 pounds, and had a presumed bite force that would resemble a crocodile’s.
I knew these creatures would escape their enclosure, but I didn’t realize how they would. They were extremely organized and intelligent in their escape. I won’t go into detail, but you’ll be amazed by what these creatures could and did accomplish.
Humans versus beasts… I knew it would be a bloodbath, and I was right. Keith Anthony Baird had the creatures biting heads off and separating limbs from bodies. Soldiers did everything to stop them, even sacrificing themselves for the civilians.
This set of chapters were my favorite out of the entire book. I actually could’ve used more action like this. In my opinion, I would’ve edited out much of the beginning time spent in 1847 and devoted more paragraphs to Project Nexilexicon. What the scientists and government were doing underneath a Nevada mountain range was the only reason why my score became a solid three stars.
The first eight chapters were mostly bland. Chapters 9-11 were okay. Chapter twelve had great potential but fell flat overall. However, Chapter 13-15 had me on the edge of my seat! I also enjoyed the epilogue because Keith ended with a nice twist. It’ll make you wonder what’s going to happen next for Project Nexilexicon.
Keith Anthony Baird lives in rural Cumbria, England, with his partner Ann, a mad spaniel, two cats and two goldfish. He’s also inherited two daughters and a grandson. He’s had a varied career, having been a journalist for ten years, and also a designer and a retail manager in his time. The Jesus Man is his first novel, written throughout 2016 and based on an idea he devised just under thirty years ago.
Inspired by such luminaries as H. P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, and H. G. Wells, his aim has been to deliver stories in a classic vein, but with a contemporary slant in both style and content. He aims to remain entirely independent, producing his works his own way, without interference from traditional publishing houses.
In his spare time, he and Ann indulge their shared love of the mountains by scaling the many peaks of the inspirational Lake District National Park.