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Murder Mystery Books: The Elements of a Successful and Enjoyable Plot

Murder mystery books have been entertaining readers for centuries, captivating audiences with their intricate plots and unexpected twists and turns. But what makes a murder mystery truly successful and enjoyable to read? A well-constructed and surprising plot is essential for a successful murder mystery, with twists and turns that are both unexpected and believable. Additionally, well-developed characters are crucial for readers to relate and become invested in the story. The setting should be described in detail, it should be believable and consistent, and the tension and suspense should be gradually built up, with the most dramatic moments saved for the climax of the story. Finally, the resolution should be satisfying, with all the clues and red herrings coming together in a dramatic and coherent way. Overall, a successful and enjoyable murder mystery must have a well-constructed plot, well-developed characters, a consistent setting, and a satisfying resolution.

If you’re looking to check out a good murder mystery book, we’ve previously shared “30 Page-Turning Murder Mystery Books That’ll Hook You From The Start.”


Taking Submissions: We Fear Not the Sea

Deadline: March 30th, 2023
Payment: 2 cents per word
Theme: Stories inspired by sea shanties, more on that below!

This is a Call for Submissions for We Fear Not the Sea, an anthology of stories inspired by sea shanties.

Each tale should be based on, or somehow incorporate, one sea shanty and include a speculative element of some kind. Give us your adventures with ghosts, sea monsters, and mermaids! Put us in the salty sea boots of sailors, whalers, pirates, and privateers!


Taking Submissions: Jane Nightshade’s Serial Encounters

Deadline: August 30th, 2023
Payment: $5
Theme: Short stories about casual encounters of fictional people with serial killers

Have you ever wondered about the ordinary people who came in contact with famous serial killers before everyone knew them for their depraved, murderous acts?

What did Jeffrey Dahmer’s plumber experience when he unclogged the notorious cannibal’s toilet? Or how about the guy who worked in the music shop where Charles Manson had his guitars strung? The girl who waited on Ted Bundy at his favorite coffee shop? Jack the Ripper’s neighborhood bartender? How about one of the kids who had John Wayne Gacey perform as a clown at their birthday party?

For this anthology, we’re looking for short stories about casual encounters of fictional people with serial killers, that turned creepy or deadly. Stories can be straight crime/thriller stories or ones with a supernatural bent (haunted objects, ghosts, demons, etc.).

Characters and victims, aside from the serial killers, must be fictional—real names of victims or family members can not be used. Also, feel free to use lesser-known killers like Richard Speck or The Boston Strangler, in case the Bundy and Manson stories start piling up like the bodies of their victims…

Note: Stories should not lionize or celebrate the serial killers, or promote racism, bigotry, or depictions of violence against children.


Epeolatry Book Review: A Blackness Absolute by Caitlin Marceau


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: A Blackness Absolute
Author: Caitlin Marceau
Publisher: Ghost Orchid Press
Genre: Horror
Release Date: 21st, February, 2023
Synopsis: A Blackness Absolute is a collection of short horror stories by up-and-coming Canadian author Caitlin Marceau. The collection takes in uncertainties of perception, feelings of vulnerability—to the weather, the natural world, the tenuousness of sanity—and mixes these elements with a strong sense of history and folklore. From the title piece, which evokes the pure claustrophobic terror of becoming lost and disoriented in a cave-system, to the final tale, Doireann, where a woman performs unusual funeral rites in a starving community, each story layers ambiguities to create an unnerving effect that will get under your skin.

If you love great storytelling, creepy atmospherics, and stories that instil a sense of dread that will return to you in the dead of night, then you’re sure to find something to enjoy in this masterful collection. These stories will linger long after you close the book.


Trembling With Fear 1/22/2023

Hello, children of the dark. How are you doing on this fine January day? Me, I’m still on a bit of a high after seeing filmmaker Darren Aronofsky be interviewed at the British Film Institute last night. He’s made some of my favourite films – ok, maybe not favourite, but certainly films that have left a lasting impact on me – and it’s always a privilege and a pleasure to get to hear these creative leaders speak live, in the same room. 

Since I made the decision to truly prioritise my creativity and make big changes in my life, I’ve tried to make the most of these sorts of opportunities to attend events and Q&As and suchlike. Living in London is such a gift for these things, but I’m also grateful for all the virtual events that have become a staple since the beginning of the pandemic. It makes the creative arts more accessible to those outside the big centres, and that can only be a good thing.

Case in point: next month in the UK, we have the Ghost Story Festival happening in Derby, which is in the Midlands of England. But the organisers know that not everyone will be able to get there, so they’ve added a preview night with two virtual sessions happening on the day before the festival proper kicks off, as well as launching a YouTube channel featuring interviews with the speakers. Then there are all the writing groups around the world who are using Zoom and other platforms to bring writers and creatives into our phones and computer screens to share wisdom, tips and expertise. Yes, even Horror Tree tries to make opportunities and offerings more accessible – have you subscribed to our YouTube channel yet?

Nothing is perfect and no one is doing everything right, but I am heartened to see these steps towards embracing different needs within the creative world. And, from where I sit, I reckon the world of speculative fiction is leading the way in embracing diversity. In Penguin Random House’s list of 10 most anticipated books of this year sits Victor Lavalle’s forthcoming Lone Women – no way would a horror book have appeared on that list a few years ago. In our own way, Trembling With Fear welcomes submissions from all writers of the darkly speculative, no matter your age, gender, ethnicity, beliefs, abilities – as long as you adhere to our submission guidelines, of course. Please do check them before submitting to us, as we will automatically decline stories that feature graphic sex, rape, racism, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny and misandry, or killing or abuse of kids or pets. 

But now let’s turn to this week’s menu. The Trembling main course comes courtesy of neurodiverse writer Robert Zerbe and his sticky garage door. This is followed by three delicious quick bites:

  • Marc Sorondo faces an end of the world scenario,
  • Chelsey Pippin Mizzi goes to hell, and
  • Finbar Hussey writes in a diary.

If these stories inspire you to get writing, you’ll find details on how to submit to us over here, and we have an insatiable appetite. As Stuart said the other week, we would like to re-open to short stories soon but we still have quite a few waiting for publication. If you really want to get your short story mojo going, we are looking for submissions to our Valentine’s special – that’s shorts up to 2500 words or drabbles of the usual 100 exactly. Our new specials editor Shalini awaits your imagination!

Over to you, Stuart.

Lauren McMenemy

Editor, Trembling With Fear

I know that I keep talking about the new hosting and design and that we’re not there yet. I promise you; we’re getting SO CLOSE! This is the big hold-up for quite a few upcoming changes and I’m hoping it shall be sorted soon.

Another change, I know that once upon a time in the past, it had been mentioned that we might be bringing iPhone and Android apps of the site into existence. We’re still exploring that idea and might have a way to feasibly do so that won’t kill our already pretty low budget. (We’ve lost a couple of Patreons lately so the budget has been shrinking. Gah!) 

For those looking to support the site, we’re always open Ko-Fi donations and always have our Patreon going.

As always, I hope you had a great weekend.

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree


Serial Saturday: The Sweet Shoppe Part 2

  1. Serial Saturday: The Sweet Shoppe Part 1
  2. Serial Saturday: The Sweet Shoppe Part 2
  3. Serial Saturday: The Sweet Shoppe Part 3 Scheduled for January 28, 2023
  4. Serial Saturday: The Sweet Shoppe Part 4 Scheduled for February 4, 2023

The Sweet Shoppe by Jameson Grey

II – Mr Wolfe’s Sweet Shoppe

“Oh, this is an unexpected treat – customers.”

Pearl and John’s entering the shop had set off a bell and a little man – the storekeeper, presumably – had bustled through a beaded curtain behind the counter. “I was working up a new batch of lollipops in the back. How may I help you this fine summer’s day?”

There was an unmissable hissing sibilance to his voice that immediately put Pearl in mind of Kaa from The Jungle Book. Forcing herself to suppress a giggle, Pearl averted her eyes to the storekeeper’s apron where she noticed a sticky red mess – strawberry juice from the lollipops, she assumed.

“It wasn’t a planned trip I’m afraid,” John said. “We’re rather lost and, as if that’s not enough, we’ve just gotten a flat.”

“Oh dear,” The storekeeper sympathized. “That road can be quite treacherous. I have informed the municipality on many occasions, but I’m told they have other priorities. It can be so easy to take a knock against those walls, can’t it?

“I was distracted by an animal and clattered into the wall trying to brake and not hit it,” Pearl explained.

“Was it a dog, by any chance?” the storekeeper asked.

“Might have been,” John said. “Certainly small and nimble enough. It wasn’t a bear, thankfully!”

“I rather fear that might have been my Peter. It wouldn’t be the first time he’s ran out on the road and given customers of mine a scare.”


Installing the Fantasy Kitchen Sink in Rural Australia to Ward off Cthulhu

Installing the Fantasy Kitchen Sink in Rural Australia to Ward off Cthulhu

by: Ashton K. Rose

When I first started writing Urban/Paranormal Fantasy, I never considered using the world I knew best as a setting. My first fantasy novel that had a distinct urban fantasy setting was a vampire political/crime drama I wrote at nineteen. It was the first time I’d written fantasy entirely set in the “real” world. My teenage writing in the genre sitting firmly in the portal fantasy genre heavily influenced by the Oz Series and Narnia books.

The issue about writing stories set in the city, I’d never lived in one. I’d only been to “the city” a handful of times. The largest place I’d lived in was a small town of 4,000 people. Before that I spent the first fourteen years of my life living on a remote family farm. A lot of my ideas of what the city was like, was guess work based on the books and tv shows I’d seen. Making it easier to start writing Gaslamp fantasy in place of fiction with a modern city setting. It felt easier to write mistakes in a 19th century setting rather than a modern city. It was easier for people to notice the mistakes I’d made about life in modern cities.


Indie Bookshelf Releases 01/20/2023

Got a book to launch, an event to promote, a kickstarter or seeking extra work/support as a result of being hit economically by Covid or life in general?

Get in touch and we’ll promote you here. The post is prepared each Thursday for publication on Friday. Contact us via Horror Tree’s contact address or connect via Twitter or Facebook.

Click on the book covers for more information. Remember to scroll down to the bottom of the page – there’s all sorts lurking in the deep.

Before we go to the shelves, please check the first item. We all love to read but to read we need writers and here is one who needs us: