Guest Post: How to Submit a Short Story for Publication: The Complete 10-Step Process

[NOTE: This is a shortened version of an article that appears on The Write Practice’s blog. For the full article plus examples, read How to Publish a Short Story: The Complete Guide.]

Writing and publishing short stories is the best way to get your name and your work out there to start establishing yourself as a writer. But the process of getting short stories published can seem a tad overwhelming at first. Where do I start? How do I find places that publish short stories? How do I submit a short story for publication?

The thing is, once you know what you’re doing, getting short stories published isn’t as scary as it seems.

How to Submit a Short Story for Publication: The Complete 10-Step Process

Once you’ve gotten your story polished to the shiniest it can be, you’re ready to submit. But how do you go about doing it? What is the professional etiquette for submitting? What should you prepare before you email an editor?

Here are the steps to submitting a short story to a publication:

  1. Read the guidelines

Ninety-nine percent of publications have guidelines posted on their websites. You probably already read them when you chose your publication, but you’ll need to read them again.

Guidelines are extremely important and you need to follow them. There are publications out there that will reject your story without reading it if you don’t follow the rules.

If that sounds petty, it may be, but as someone who’s edited anthologies before, I can tell you it’s a huge pain if the author didn’t follow instructions. And the last thing you want is to annoy the editor.

Remember, they get hundreds of manuscripts every time they’re open for submissions. They don’t have time to deal with an author who can’t follow instructions. Plus, it’s rude and shows a lack of enthusiasm for the publication to ignore the rules.

I repeat: Read the guidelines and follow them.

  1. Pay attention to deadlines

Deadlines are there for a reason. They’ll be listed on the publication’s website and you need to abide by them. Don’t think you can sneak in a day late with an excuse. If you miss the deadline, you’ll have to wait until the publication opens again or submit elsewhere.

  1. Format your manuscript properly

An improperly formatted manuscript is another annoyance for editors. Some publications will have specific formatting guidelines they want you to follow (again, check the guidelines), but most will simply want your story in standard manuscript format (Shunn). Go to that link and read the entire document thoroughly! Here’s a final checklist to make sure you have everything you need.

It makes it a lot easier if you format your stories in Shunn format as you write them so you don’t have to tweak later.

  1. Prepare a bio

You should always have an updated, short author bio ready to go. Bios are written in third person and are often required to be under one hundred words. (You may want to prepare two: one under fifty words and one under one hundred.)

If you have published stories in other publications, you can list them. Choose your three most recent or your three most prestigious. Don’t list everything you’ve ever published, though.

If you don’t have publications, don’t worry! Just leave that part out.

  1. Prepare an elevator pitch

An elevator pitch is pretty much what it sounds like: a one- to two-sentence summary of your story (what you could get out in the time it takes to ride an elevator). You’ll also hear it called a premise, a summary, or a logline.

IMPORTANT: Not every publication will want this. In fact, most don’t. If they don’t specifically say they want a premise, short summary, elevator pitch, etc. in the guidelines, do not send them one.

do recommend you prepare one at this stage, though. It’ll be easier later on when you’ve forgotten the exact point of your story and you need to have one. It’s also less stressful to have one prepared before submittal.

  1. Write a cover letter

Cover letters are not nearly as daunting as they seem. They’re really just a few sentences introducing yourself and your story.

You don’t need to fill a page with several paragraphs. In fact, don’t do that! Editors don’t want to spend more time reading your cover letter than they do reading your story, and they don’t need to know what made you want to write or how many pets you have.

Here’s what you need in a cover letter:

Salutation (Dear Editor is normally fine)

Story title and word count

Optional: Elevator Pitch (Again, DO NOT do this unless the publication asks for it.)

Any previous publications (It’s fine if you don’t have any. Just skip this. DO NOT say you’re a novice or this is your first story.)

Thanks and sign.

  1. Submit

Most publications take email submissions. Some use other systems, like forms on their site, Moksha, Hey Publisher, or Submittable. You’ll find where and how to submit your story in the publication’s guidelines.

Pay special attention to the guidelines. (I know I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but I can’t stress this enough.)

Paste your cover letter in the body of your email. Most likely, unless your story is a piece of flash or you’re submitting poems, you will attach your story to the email. This is the standard way to submit, but make sure that’s how your chosen publication wants it.

Make sure you take note of what kind of file the publication wants. Some are okay with a simple DOCX format, but some want an RTF. You can change how the file is saved in the SAVE AS menu.

Make sure your story is attached before sending the email! (Seems ridiculous, but I’ve sent emails without attachments several times.)

If the publication requires a “blind read,” make sure you don’t have any identifying information on the document.

Make sure you have the correct email subject line typed. (Guidelines, again.) If you don’t, it might get lost in a spam filter. If there are no specific guidelines regarding the email subject, go with: SUBMISSION — Your Story Title — Your Last Name.

Proofread your email!

After you’ve done all that, take a deep breath. It’s time.

Hit SEND!

  1. Submit again

Check to see if your chosen publication allows simultaneous submissions. If they do, that means you can submit your story to other publications while you’re waiting for a decision. [FYI: Multiple submissions allowed means the publication will take more than one story from you at once.]

I highly recommend submitting to as many publications as you can. The acceptance rate for anthologies and magazines is quite low, so you’re increasing your odds of being published if you get that story out there to as many editors as possible!

  1. Record your submission

You need to keep track of where you’ve submitted, when you submitted, when you expect to hear back, and what the response was.

There are online options for this, such as The Grinder, but you can use anything that makes you feel comfortable and that you’ll keep accurate. A spreadsheet or notebook would be fine. I double up on my tracking and use a site as well as my own spreadsheet.

  1. Wait

You’ll most likely be waiting a while before you hear anything from the publication. This isn’t a quick process and it’s often agonizing to wait for an answer, especially if you’re new to the whole submission process.

Most publications will have their expected response time listed in their guidelines, but they’re often late. Be patient. They’re sifting through hundreds of stories. Whatever you do, DO NOT email them to ask for an update (unless their guidelines say you may after a certain time). It’s unprofessional to do so and won’t earn you any points in the editor’s eyes.

 

Publish, Publish, Publish!

Getting short stories published is a pretty simple process once you know what you’re doing. (Way simpler than writing!) Getting your writing out there with short story publication is the best way to keep your work on your readers’ minds.

If you get a few rejections along the way, don’t give up! We all get them. It’s part of the writing process.

 

[To read the remainder of the article with examples of cover letters and bios, read How to Publish a Short Story: The Complete Guide.]

 

 

Sarah Gribble

Sarah Gribble

Author

Sarah Gribble is the best-selling author of dozens of short stories that explore uncomfortable situations, basic fears, and the general awe and fascination of the unknown. She’s currently cooking up more ways to freak you out and working on a novel.

Follow her on Instagram @sarahgribblewriter, or join her email list for free scares at https://sarah-gribble.com.    

10 Forgotten or Ignored Horror Novels

The word TOP 10 written in vintage metal letterpress type on a soft backlit background.

I am pushing 50 years old. My mum taught me to read before I started school. That means I have over 40 years of reading under my belt. I was not even 10 when my grandmother introduced me to pulp fiction, especially science fiction, some old horror, and the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs. However, after being introduced to Stephen King on my 12th birthday, I found my true reading love. And so more than 30 years of horror reading began (although, as you will see, it did start before then, it just wasn’t quite so all-encompassing).

 

I don’t exclusively read horror (nor exclusively write it), but it is my first love. The problem is, many modern horror books just don’t do it for me. They go for gore or overt sexuality at the expense of a tight, taut story, or are cliché-filled bore-fests. And talking about this with some other writer/readers, I decided to present ten horror works produced in my lifetime that have disappeared from the collective consciousness, and yet that I think are well worth re-appraising.

 

Now, we are not going to have any of the usual suspects here. No Stephen King, Ramsey Campbell, Dean Koontz, et al. And no anthologies. These are stand-alone stories that I like.

 

And, tempted as I was, I am not going to include my own work Sins Of The Fathers (https://www.amazon.com/Sins-Fathers-S-Gepp-ebook/dp/B07XBDP2RF/ and https://www.bookdepository.com/Sins-Fathers-S-Gepp/9781947227408 and Barnes & Noble…). Even though I am amazingly biased, I think it is a fine horror book.

 

I present these in order of year released, except the last one… but I’ll explain that when I get there. And I will try not to include spoilers. So, hopefully, here are 10 books that you will seek out and enjoy as much as I have.

 

1) Uncle Gustav’s Ghosts by Colin Thiele (1974)
This was the first horror story I ever read. I was apparently 6 years old and I loved it. It is more a children’s/young adult book (as most of Thiele’s works are) but even reading it as an adult, he mixed horror and humour and great characters so brilliantly. With an introduction like this, it’s no wonder I fell in love with horror. Set in South Australia (where I have lived my whole life), a missing bride comes back with poltergeist activity to afflict a family. Simple, yes, but so well written. Amazing book.
I will add here I was fortunate enough to meet Colin Thiele when I was in primary school (I would have been about 9 or so) and he autographed my copy of this book. It is still one of my most cherished books.

 

2) The Curse Of Loch Ness by Peter Tremayne (1979)
I did not read this until over ten years after its release, but it was something that struck me because it took a thing so common – the monster of Loch Ness – and turned it on its head. None of my friends liked it, but I didn’t care. The way the build-up of terror is done is quite eerie. There is a lot of foreshadowing, though, and some of the appearances of the true monsters feel a little contrived, but it feels like the pulp fiction I love and it just rattles along at a nice pace.

 

3) The Shaman by Frank Coffey (1980)
Quick side-story. I wrote my first “long story” in 1982, at the age of 11. Around 30k words long, it was as crap as you would expect from that sort of a kid. But it told me I could do it. I started high school the next year, and by 1985 I was again writing long stories. After a few attempts, a friend gave me this book because, according to her, I wrote like this guy. Not as good (she was always honest with me, for which I will be forever grateful) but the same sort of style. So I read it. Reading it again recently – yeah, this is the pulp fiction I write. A tale of Aztec magic and human sacrifice, its horror is mixed in well with a history of the Aztecs without it being info-dump time. And it also showed me that the ending can be a happily ever after one in horror. I also like that a lot of the horror is implied; there is not a lot of gore. Yeah, this one resonated with me as a teenager.

 

4) Tricycle by Russell Rhodes (1983)
A blind teacher, a sex-starved woman with a creepy five year old son who rides a squeaking tricycle, a flood, mysterious deaths – this story has a lot in it, and yet it manages for the most part to keep up a sense of dread. The story is well-written – there are some literary allusions throughout, which feel a little odd – and the blindness of the teacher is well-written. Only the ending lets it down. Still, up till then, a strange little story.

 

5) Monkey Shines by Michael Stewart (1983)
A former athlete becomes crippled, and is given a monkey helper. So far, so good, possibly a tale of man and animal working together. Well, yes… and no. See, the monkey is given psychotropic drugs to increase its intelligence. Then the owner starts to take the drugs as well. And they share dreams, and things spiral out of control from there. This is a slow-burn horror novel. It’s a style I have tried myself, only to be told it does not sell that well any longer, but I enjoy it. However, again, the ending leaves a bit to be desired, with things wrapped up a little too neatly. But until then, a nice study in terror.

 

6) The Long Night Of The Grave by Charles L. Grant (1986)
The final book in a trilogy I have not read, but it stands well enough on its own. This is a story of the mummy, the good ol’ Universal monster. An ancient Egyptian mummy in a small town in England is brought back to life by some priests, people are killed and it feels like it was pushing for a chance to be made into a movie. Despite this, there is a nice feeling of impending doom over everything. Maybe not complete terror, but there is an uneasiness, and the characters do come to life on the page. And the ending definitely left the story open.

 

7) Saurian by William Schoell (1988)
When I first read this in the mid-1990s, I did not like it. I think I was comparing it to the works of Stephen King, which I was devouring completely (I was working and could afford to fill in the gaps in my collection). However, I had the chance to re-read it a few years ago, and I was much more impressed. Okay, sure, it has one of the worst-written female characters I have come across in modern horror, and the monsters seem to gain new powers as the book goes on, but this is an incredibly original monster. Alien mutant things crash-land on Earth, and adopt the first form they come across – dinosaurs. Fast forward and one can also become a human now, and he destroys sea-side communities (as a monster) so he can build more expensive properties there (as a man). What takes this above crap territory is Schoell’s amazing grasp of place. His descriptions of where things are happening are so good, they really do add to the book and make it better than it otherwise would have been.

 

8) The Wrath by David L. Robbins (1988)
Let’s go back to ancient Egypt again! But we don’t have mummies this time – now we have a plague. It turns people into a strange undead dog-like creature. It reads like Indiana Jones meets 28 Days Later. There’s martial arts, the army, a stupid woman putting everyone’s lives at risk and it is a fun ride. But… the women are portrayed as such 2-dimensional ciphers they might as well be cardboard cut-outs. They are given no real character. And the ending is, frankly, stupid and too neat. I think it might have over-reached itself. Still, fun read, just turn your brain off to do so.

 

9) On The Edge by Margaret Visciglio (2014)
Wow, there’s a jump in years! And it shows what I came to think of horror produced in that time not by some of the big names. Unfortunately. We were dumped with more vampires than you could shake a stick at, or gorefests with all the scares of a House of Horrors at a carnival. Then Margaret (who has been a supporter of my work as well) released this. It is for young adults, it is almost fantasy, but it is so well-written and the characters live on the page. In rural South Australia, a family find a three-headed cat and they have to decide between protecting it and letting vested interests take control. It is a bit preachy about ecological issues (I don’t mind that, personally), and the horror diminishes in the last half, but still a great book well worth tracking down.

 

10) Pig by Kenneth Cook (1980)
Now, first, the reason this is at the end of the list. This is my favourite Australian book. Ever. Any genre. Bar none. It is easily in my top 5 books of all time. I am biased – I love this book. Basically, it is the story of one conservationist’s desire to kill the largest feral pig he has ever come across, leading a horde of other feral pigs across the Australian outback. The final third of the book is just such an exhausting roller-coaster ride of adventure that I could not put it down. My aunt gave me this book when I was about 13 years old or so and she discovered I liked horror; this was the first ever “adult” book I read in less than 2 days. I could not put it down. Unfortunately, it was overshadowed by the far inferior Razorback and its awful film adaptation with a terrible puppet pig. This is so much better. I know some people have an issue with the lack of chapters; don’t care. This is so well written and so well plotted and so well described, it stands head and shoulders above so many books that are better known and regarded more highly. If you can find a copy – get it. Read it. I am sure you won’t be disappointed.

 

Now, I am the first to admit that not all of these will appeal to everyone, and that many are quite clearly of their time. The 1980s have a lot to answer for, and some of the story tropes visible here are proof of that. But these are fun reads and something different in light of the horror that is available today.

 

Good reading!

Epeolatry Book Review: Nightmare at 20,000 Feet: Horror Stories

Disclosure:

Our reviews may contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through the links in this article we may receive a small commission or referral fee. This happens without any additional cost to you.

Title: Nightmare at 20,000 Feet: Horror Stories
Author: Richard Matheson
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Non Basic Stock Line
Release Date: 5th January, 2002

Synopsis:

Remember that monster on the wing of the airplane? William Shatner saw it on The Twilight Zone, John Lithgow saw it in the movie-even Bart Simpson saw it. “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” is just one of many classic horror stories by Richard Matheson that have insinuated themselves into our collective imagination.

Here are more than twenty of Matheson’s most memorable tales of fear and paranoia, including:

“Duel,” the nail-biting tale of man versus machines that inspired Steven Spielberg’s first film;

“Prey,” in which a terrified woman is stalked by a malevolent Tiki doll, as chillingly captured in yet another legendary TV moment;

“Blood Son,” a disturbing portrait of a strange little boy who dreams of being a vampire;

“Dress of White Silk,” a seductively sinister tale of evil and innocence.

Personally selected by Richard Matheson, the bestselling author of I Am Legend and What Dreams May Come, these and many other stories, more than demonstrate why he is rightfully regarded as one of the finest and most influential horror writers of our generation.

Nightmare At 20,000 Feet (336 pages, pub Jan 5, 2002) is a collection of twenty short stories, previously published in an eclectic mix of magazines from Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine to Playboy.

 In addition to his well-known novels, many of which have been turned into successful Hollywood films, Matheson has decades of short story publication behind him. He’s also written episodes for much-loved TV shows like “The Twilight Zone”.

 The title story, the first in the anthology, explores the terror of aviation flying. My son has a private pilot’s license, so I don’t believe that terror to be true, but it’s fun to suspend disbelief. The rest of the book explores a variety of themes. In “Mad House”, forty-year-old English lecturer Chris Neal is pushed to his limit by the breakdown of his marriage, the strains of teaching, and that old friend—writer’s block. He reminded me of a turbo-charged version of Vladimir Nabokov’s heroes—broken and overwhelmed by all the demands placed upon him, slowly losing touch with reality. Unlike Nabokov’s gentle sufferers, Chris embraces his anger:

 “His thoughts drained off. He felt empty and helpless. He felt as though he could never write another word for the rest of his life. Maybe, he thought, sullenly displeased with the idea, maybe it was only the upset of her leaving that enabled my brain to find words.”

 Pressures of a wholly different kind face Jules in “Blood Son”, a vampire tale with a difference. I don’t know why we always assume the victim resists that first bite. I love how Matheson’s short story comes with a lighthearted twist:

“He found the page on the vampire bat. He tore it out and threw the book away.

He learned the selection by heart.

He knew how the bat made its wound. How it lapped up blood like a kitten drinking cream.”

My personal favourite is “Wet Straw”, in which John passes the lonely hours with a visit to an art gallery where he discovers that the pictures trigger powerful and painful memories of his late wife:

“He stopped in front of it.

It was a painting of a countryside. There was a big barn down in the valley.

He began to breathe heavily, and his fingers played on his tie. How ridiculous, he thought after a moment, that such a thing should make me nervous.”

“Wet Straw” was sad and moving, but also profoundly discomforting. 

You could say that about a lot of Matheson’s fiction, and I think emotional honesty lies at the heart of its continuing appeal.

Enjoy!

Horror Tree presents … An Interview with Jeff Strand

I first discovered Jeff Strand in 2010 when a novel titled Dweller arrived in my mailbox as part of the monthly Leisure Books horror club back in the day.

After reading it, Dweller instantly clawed into my Top 10 all-time books. It chronicled the entire decades-long friendship started between a lonely boy and an even lonelier Bigfoot-like creature. It was horror but unlike any horror I’d ever read before.

I met Strand at a Bigfoot conference in Georgia last year where he and his talented artist/wife Lynne were selling their books and art at one of the booths. I, of course, had to have him sign my copy of Dweller, and I even bought a print of his wife’s Dweller cover.

While mostly known as a master of horror-comedy, Strand writes straight horror with the best of the genre. Two of his novels, Dweller and Pressure, were nominated for Bram Stoker Awards. His short story, “Tipping Point,” won a Splatterpunk Award for Best Short Story.

With more than 40 books to his name, Strand released four more in 2019. The plots ranged from zombie animals and a serial killer with family issues to clowns versus spiders and werewolves.

So, which one was the most difficult to write and which one was the most fun?

Ferocious was the most difficult to write because of its simplicity,” Strand said in an exclusive interview with Horror Tree. “Two characters in a cabin surrounded by zombie animals. It was basically just a constant series of ‘Okay, now they’re totally screwed again. How do I get them out of this?” decisions.

“The most fun to write, and I suspect that this answer will surprise you, was My Pretties. Something like Clowns Vs. Spiders seems like it would be an absolute blast to write, but the absurd-yet-scary tone was a fairly tricky balancing act, and I’m slow at writing action sequences. My Pretties is more about suspense than action, and I really enjoyed figuring out how to parse out the information that revealed the big twist.”

Strand returned to his Wolf Hunt series in 2019, continuing the story of his two beloved characters, George and Lou. Why does Strand keep returning to these characters?

“About halfway through writing the first Wolf Hunt book, I thought, ‘I love these guys! Maybe I’ll write another one!’ But I focus on original novels far more than sequels, which has meant a four-to-five-year gap between each of the George and Lou novels, and that, my friend, is a terrible way to do a series. Though compared to my Andrew Mayhem series, I am blasting out the Wolf Hunt novels at a lightning-fast pace!

Wolf Hunt 3 came from reader demand and the fact that Wolf Hunt 2, though it didn’t have a cliffhanger ending, left plenty of unanswered questions. So, there was always going to be a third book … but when? A combination of elements made me decide that it was finally time to bring these poor bastards back. I don’t consider this the final book of a trilogy, but I did purposely write it so there doesn’t have to be a Wolf Hunt 4.

“Jumping back into these characters was effortless. I could write an entire novel of just George and Lou driving and talking. But, of course, the series is also about insane, over-the-top action, so I had to make sure the book delivered that aspect as well. If Wolf Hunt 2 is the darkest and meanest book, Wolf Hunt 3 is the weirdest and sickest.”

On January 13th, Canada’s Binge Bros. Productions announced they were optioning Strand’s 2016 young adult novel, The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever, for a movie adaptation. Strand wrote the screenplay himself, admitting he had to cut a lot of content.

“There’s actually stuff happening with several other books, but it’s all under a thick veil of secrecy,” Strand said. “Well, not Disposal — I’m allowed to say that Buffalo, New York filmmaker Mick Thomas is writing and directing that. The gag orders usually don’t bother me, although with one project in particular it’s kind of maddening.

“The process for The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever involved viciously hacking and slashing away as much of the book as I could. ‘Okay, here’s a page of really funny dialogue, but can I figure out a way to trim it down to two lines?’ I couldn’t be precious about anything, because even with what I thought was a brutal culling, my first draft was waaaayyyy too long for a goofy comedy about kids making a zombie flick. So, I got out my machete and chopped away even more. It’s still too long, but we’ll work that out as I enter the ‘working directly with the producer/directors on the rewrite’ stage.”

Strand said he never thinks about actors playing roles in his books.

“I never think about specific actors when I write a novel, and when people ask who I’d cast, I’m usually at a complete loss.” Strand said. “That didn’t change when I adapted my book into a screenplay. Other people will be making those decisions.”

Up next for Strand is a novel tentatively titled Hazel.

Hazel is about a middle-aged woman with telekinetic powers that she can’t control,” Strand said. “She can make you raise your hand into the air … but she’ll probably break your arm in the process. If she gets emotional, very bad things can happen to the people around her. She’s learned to manage it through prescription medication and by basically staying away from other human beings as much as possible. Enter a desperate hit man, his pregnant girlfriend, and a scam so cruel that no amount of pills can mute Hazel’s reaction.

“There’s not a publication date yet, but I will narrow it down to ‘reasonably soon.’ Beyond that, I’m being tight-lipped about other forthcoming projects. I’ll say that one of them will make long-time fans happy, and another will be something completely different from me. I do have a specific publication date in mind, and I may spring these upon the world with little or no advance notice! Beware!”

Since Horror Tree is a site that supports writers with markets, publicity, and writing advice, I asked Strand if he can offer any tips to writers.

“That’s a really tough question because self-publishing has opened up a completely different path to success,” Strand said. “Twenty years ago, I could stand behind a podium and say, ‘First, you need to find an agent,’ and nobody would scream ‘Liar! There are other ways to go about it!’ It’s not even just about what works best for a specific author. I’m a hybrid author; I do both traditional and self-publishing, so it’s about what works best for a specific book! It’s extremely difficult to give any kind of useful advice without actually talking to people about what they want out of their career.

“But I’m not gonna wuss out on your interview question. One piece of advice that is perhaps even more relevant now is ‘Don’t be in a hurry to be published!’ I was in a hurry to be published, but I didn’t have a choice. The gatekeepers said ‘Nope, not yet!’ It horrifies me to think that today’s options, where I can finish a book and people can buy it a few hours later, might have been available way back when I only thought I was producing publishable work. You can’t imagine the crap I would’ve put out into the world.

“So, don’t be in a hurry. Practice novels are totally cool. There’s no shame in your first novel never being published. There’s no shame in your first ten novels never being published. Like a sport or a musical instrument, you’ve gotta practice to get good at it!”

LINKS:

Website: https://jeffstrand.wordpress.com/

Twitter: @JeffStrand

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JeffStrandAuthor

Epeolatry Book Review: Berserker: Green Hell

Disclosure:

Our reviews may contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through the links in this article we may receive a small commission or referral fee. This happens without any additional cost to you.

Title: Berserker: Green Hell
Author: Lee Franklin
Genre: Horror
Publisher: HellBound Books
Release Date: 7th July, 2019

Synopsis:

A terrifying debut novel set during the Vietnam War.Australian Lance Corporal Terence ‘Pinny’ Pinfold and his squad find themselves in the midst of the living hell of the Vietnam War.Known as Reapers, their job is to go in after the firefights, collect dog tags and any evidence of war crimes. As each soldier tries to make some sense out of a senseless war, there are more questions than answers as mutilated, butchered bodies are discovered the further to the North they venture. Pinny soon finds himself at the very core of the real war – in a secret underground facility amongst hybrid creatures which belong only in the very worse nightmares. With Pinny’s aboriginal bloodline, the enigmatic Doctor Jacinta Harding believes she has found the perfect specimen… Pinny might survive the war, but he might not save himself.

Berserker: Green Hell (183 pages, Hellbound Book LLC Publications, 2019) by Lee Franklin is her debut novel. This book takes place during the Vietnam War and follows a group of Australian soldiers, known as Reapers, as they gather evidence of war crimes. The Reapers soon discover that they are not alone in the jungle and they must fight their way back to safety. As they attempt to make it back to civilization they discover the Americans have built a secret facility and may have some connection with the beast stalking them.

Lee writes with vivid descriptions and settings. Her tale’s action comes off as believable, and her bio mentions she served in the Australian Army. What I enjoyed is that this book leans into the Australian culture. The exposition on aboriginal bloodlines, the slang, and race tensions provide newness for American readers. If you like war-type violence, you’ll enjoy this read as Lee does not shy away from writing it out on the page. There are times I felt she could have used some more restraint to build tension. In the early chapters, Lee often tells the reader what they are seeing, instead of showing us and letting the reader create the image. No first book is perfect; my reader copy had a few typos and grammatical errors.

I was not totally satisfied with the ending. The lesson that Pinny learns about power and responsibility felt like it had not been earned. Lee appears to have a second part in mind, so perhaps she plans to dig deeper into Pinny’s psyche. The vivid descriptions and the Australian characters kept me interested to the end.

I would recommend this book to readers who enjoy creature horror and government conspiracies. 

I rate this book 3 out of 5.

10 Lesser Known Cryptids That Could Be Utilised By Writers

The word TOP 10 written in vintage metal letterpress type on a soft backlit background.

My first column (is that what I’m doing here? writing columns?) for the Horror Tree was my list of 10 mythical creatures that I felt were just ripe for using by some wonderfully talented author (https://horrortree.com/top-10-mythical-creatures-that-deserve-their-own-books-or-films/). Now, I don’t know how many people actually bothered to read that column, but some must have because I received a DM over on the Twitter thing suggesting two other creatures for a second list, should I be so inclined.

 

Wonderful, I thought… except they were not mythological creatures. These were cryptids.

 

What the…? was the response I received.

 

Now, I am sure hard-core readers of the paranormal will know the difference. A Cryptid is something that could conceivably exist, based on terrestrial science (such as it is used here). So, an extraterrestrial is not a cryptid, a dragon is not a cryptid, but a bigfoot is a cryptid. One other thing is that evidence of its existence should have been seen, but not everything claimed to have been seen is a cryptid (mothman is an example of this). Cryptids could be creatures out of place, creatures out of time, or creatures that evolution had a field day with.

 

Does that make sense? Too bad if it doesn’t, I guess, because that’s another essay for another time (and I have indeed written just such an essay about what makes a cryptid a cryptid… sad, I know).

 

So, this list is about those lesser known cryptids. No lake monsters, no bigfoot-style apemen (even if the Australian Yowie is little known), and no prehistoric creatures. Still, 10 animals for your reading pleasure. Maybe one of these beasts could make an appearance in some-one’s fine work!

 

  1. Ahool (also known as Athol)
    What is it? A large bat, found primarily on Java (the Indonesian island). Its wingspan is about twelve feet or so and it has a flat face, more like a monkey than a bat. Its cry gives it its name and it is said to feed primarily on fish.
    Story concept? Come on, this is essentially a winged monkey. Up the ante and make it decide that feasting on humans is a good idea. And it is huge. Imagine a cloud of these attacking a cruise liner or something like that.

 

  1. Artrellia (also known as Papuan Dragon)
    What is it? Essentially, an enormous monitor lizard found in Papua New Guinea, up to 30 feet in length and with a venomous bite (which it appears many monitors, including the Komodo dragon, do possess). It attacks by climbing trees and dropping onto prey, which its weight crushes, and it then eats.
    Story concept? It was first recorded in the 1930s, and was still being noted in the 1980s. In World War Two, two soldiers were reported as having been eaten by an Artrellia. Set your story back then. Think Predator with killer lizards in a Papua New Guinea jungle in 1944.

 

  1. Dobhar-chú (also known as Dobarcu or Doyarchu)
    What is it? While a part of Irish folklore, there are cryptozoologists who consider it real – a crocodile-sized dog with the head of an otter, flippers instead of legs and a vicious streak. Sightings have persisted into the twenty-first century.
    Story concept? A standard monster tale, set in a remote part of Ireland, with these animals attacking the group of teenagers. Different monsters always make the old tropes better.

 

  1. Gambo
    What is it? Known from corpses washed up in Gambia, the most notable being in 1983. Four and a half metres long, four flippers, tapered short tail, dolphin like head with more teeth than any dolphin, and nostrils on the end of the snout. It seemed to confirm long-told stories of sea crocodiles in the area.
    Story concept? Sea crocodiles? Come on, this writes itself. A whole bask of these things attacking shipping, coastal towns, whatever, and you can’t kill all of them, wipe out an entire species… can you?

 

  1. Gerota
    What is it? Reported as recently as 2011, this is a winged possum with horns and protruding fangs, possibly omnivorous, found in the Catlins in the south of New Zealand’s South Island.
    Story concept? Killer possums? A part of the world not completely explored, with very little human habitation? This thing writes itself!

 

  1. Intulo
    What is it? Found in many countries in southern Africa, this swamp-dwelling creature is a bipedal lizard that shows human traits, including weapon usage.
    Story concept? This is a real-live lizard-man, living in the swamps of southern Africa! Not a dinosaur remnant, but a highly evolved reptile. How advanced is their civilisation? How long have they been there? Do they pre-date humans? How much of human history was influenced by them? Did humans drive them into the swamps? The possibilities are endless.

 

  1. Ngoima
    What is it? Seen in the Republic of the Congo and other sites in western Africa, this is an enormous eagle, with a wingspan of four metres or more (to give context, the largest known eagle wingspan is 2.5 metres, Stellar’s sea eagle, but a wedge-tailed eagle in Australia was measured at 2.8 metres), that is known for eating monkeys. Its claws and talons are comparable in size to a man’s arm and hand.
    Story concept? A legitimate huge bird, known for eating monkeys. What if, due to man’s interference, they run out of monkeys? And humans are just there? Who would believe (to paraphrase Lindy Chamberlain), “An eagle stole my baby!”?

 

  1. Peel Street Monster
    What is it? In the 1930s, in Wolverhampton, England, this creature appeared, attacking and biting children – a four foot long rat. Extremely aggressive, the people kicked it to death. But where there’s one…
    Story Concept? Four foot long rats living in populated areas of England. Think about that. Not the rats in the walls of Lovecraft or the creatures in any of James Herbert’s vermin-themed books, but real large rats in large cities attacking people in broad daylight. To tell the truth, the idea of this gives me the willies. And I live in Australia where 90% of the wildlife actively tries to kill you.

 

  1. Trunko
    What is it? First seen in the 1920s off the coast of South Africa, two whales were fighting this thing. It’s the size of a whale, covered in white fur and with a long, flexible trunk. Its carcass was subsequently washed up on the shore, measuring 47 feet in length. 10 years later, a smaller one was washed up on the Alaskan coast.
    Story concept? What is it? How many are out there? Is it good or bad or just an animal? Should it be hunted or studied? So many story arcs open up with this strange, unknown sea creature.

 

  1. Upah
    What is it? Known to Westerners as the giant shrieking centipede. About a foot long, pale green, living in Sumatra and with a very painful, venomous bite. But it also makes a loud call or shriek, sounding somewhat like a cat in distress. It has been reported all the way into the twenty-first century.
    Story concept? There are not many arthropod cryptids, so having one that could be poisonous, living on a jungle-covered island could surely open up for some-one to have fun with. Next to nothing is known about them. How many offspring do they have? How often do they breed? What are their predators? If you took one away from Sumatra and its predators, how soon before they overtook a city? As a writer – go for it!

 

So, there you have it. 10 creatures that cryptozoologists legitimately believe could well be living out there in the wide world, and which could be perfect for a creature feature story, screenplay, film or whatever other form of art you want to go for. All of them have some great possibilities for narrative; it’s up to the creators to take the ball and run with it.

 

Happy writing!

 

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