Tagged: Trembling With Fear

Trembling With Fear 4-21-24

Greetings, children of the dark. Sad to say our April short story submissions window is now closed, and I thought I’d bring you a very real statistic to show why we moved our submissions process to this strange quarterly beast. 

The statistic is this: in that 2-week window, we got more than 50 submissions.

Yes, 50 stories. Each of you should have now received an email to acknowledge your story is in the system, but if you haven’t and were expecting one, please do get in touch. We are very old-school here at TWF Towers and there is no automated email immediately going back to you to say “hey, we got it!”—it does take an actual human (i.e. me!) to go into the inbox and fish them out, catalogue them, and put them into our system—but I’ve now moved every submission into the next step of the process. From here, Stuart, Shalini and I get to reading, reviewing, analysing, arguing, and finding those stories that we’d like to accept. Of course, with 50+ stories for essentially about 12 spots, we’re going to have to be very critical and maybe let go of something that would’ve made it once upon a time. For that, I’m sorry.

Before the move to a staggered submissions process, we would be getting around the same number of submissions every single month. And there are just a handful of us, all volunteers, trying to make our way through those submissions. And we can only publish one short story a week, alongside our three drabbles. (If you want us to be able to afford more, get to supporting us on Patreon!)

If we didn’t try to limit the opportunity to submit, we would currently be scheduling stories several years in advance—and no one wants to wait a decade to see their story in digital print! (And yes, we still haven’t made our way through all of the stories from the last window, and there’s actually a handful of stories I need to edit and send back to writers who submitted in the last half of 2023. Life, sorry, etc.)

This process is to protect our writers from frustration as much as it is to protect our tiny team from burnout. We do, of course, have many other opportunities within the Horror Tree ecosystem to flex your creative muscles and submit your works. Your story might fit one of the many open calls we list on this site—the very reason for our being!—or maybe you’d like to write for a special themed edition or submit a story for serialisation. We also have our short sharp speculations, aka the drabbles, of which we publish three every single week! Maybe try your hand at some teeny tiny stories, or stringing three of those together on a theme to tell a longer story as an unholy trinity

Anyways, this week’s TWF menu. Our main course is a silent one, and it comes from the dark mind of Mitchell Strickland Jr—and it’s so great to put a strong disabled protagonist on these pages. That story is followed by the short, sharp speculations of:

  • SG Perahim’s monsters under the bed 
  • Santiago Eximeno’s stranded mermaid, and
  • RJ Meldrum’s renovation surprise.

Over to you, Stuart.

Lauren McMenemy

Editor, Trembling With Fear

 
We have a new site sponsor for the month, so if you’re looking to pick up a new book, I highly suggest The Dark Man, by Referral and Less Pleasant Tales by Chuck McKenzie!
 
***

Last week, I was busy with my youngest being home all week sick; this week, it’s been my oldest. (I swear… if I’m sick next week…) So. I’ve been doing a lot of prep work. There’s not much to show off quite yet, but there is more progress on Shadowed Realms, which is long overdue, and we are starting to hone in on our new layout as well as starting to plan for our next physical release. On the upside, we have a few new contributors interested in helping out on the site, which is exciting news! 

And now the regular announcements:

  • Don’t forget – Trembling With Fear Volume 6 is out in the world, and if you’ve picked up a copy, we’d love a review! Next year, we may be looking to expand past just the Amazon platform. If we do that, what stores would you like to purchase your books from?
  • ATTENTION YOUTUBE WATCHERS: We’ve had some great responses so far but are open to more ideas – What type of content would you like to see us feature? Please reach out to [email protected]! We’ll be really working on expanding the channel late this year and early into next.
  • For those who are looking to connect with Horror Tree on places that aren’t Twitter, we’re also in BlueSky and Threads. *I* am also now on BlueSky and Threads.
  • If you’d like to extend your support to the site, we’d be thrilled to welcome your contributions through Ko-Fi or Patreon. Your generosity keeps us fueled and fired up to bring you the very best.

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

(more…)

Unholy Trinity: “The Magic Tree,” “The Dead,” & “Rebirth” by Fariel Shafee

Our church worships at the altar of the Unholy Trinity. Its gospels are delivered as a trio of dark drabbles, linked so that Three become One. All hail the power of the Three.

 

The Magic Tree

 

“In the morning, we shall find that tree.”  His voice was deep, confident. The book on the table was fully illustrated.  The picture of a tree resembling the torso of a senile lady stared vividly.  Its head was filled with thin grayish leaves and vines shot to the ground like locks of uncombed hair.  The branches looked like crooked hands with long fingers.

In the morning, he was nowhere.  The police searched.  Nobody believed me when I said that a two-legged monster with antlers, a body filled with dark long hair, stared at me ominously before disappearing in the haze.

 

The Dead

 

The tree was more alive and darker than what I had imagined it to be from its picture.  The roughness of the barks, the silky leaves, the subtle smell that was sweet and rotten simultaneously, made me nauseous.  Yet I felt addicted.

The crack in the bark was the entrance to another world and I walked along, surrounded by moss and rodents, bones of rotting corpses.

He lay at the end, now reduced to a skeleton.  His eye sockets were two holes gaping at the universe.

It was the tree who had devoured the hunter.  Now it was my turn.

 

Rebirth

 

Encased by the mythical tree of death I weep at the skeleton I know belongs to my beloved.  “You shouldn’t have pursued this tree!” I curse.  The tree is silent, but his emotions prevail: “ It called me.”

Now I’m sensing the darkness of this world beneath.

Suddenly, I see a shadow, the same two-legged monster I had glimpsed when he had disappeared.

I am ready to die.

Then I hear a howl with a familiar humanness buried underneath.

“You?”

“Mankind gave me nothing.”  His silence mocks.

“This tree gave me a new life,” he derides as I cry out hysterically.

 

 

Fariel Shafee

Fariel Shafee studied physics. However, she loves to wander in the land of impossibles. Her writing has been accepted by 34 Orchard, Black Hare Press anthologies, Sirens Call etc. She has also exhibited art internationally. Her writing credits and art portfolio can be seen here: http://fshafee.wixsite.com/farielsart.

Trembling With Fear 4-14-24

Greetings, children of the dark. First things first: short story subs will CLOSE tonight. Anything submitted after today will not be read, and will not be kept on file until the next window at the beginning of July. Please take note of our submission windows, which you’ll find in the deadlines section of the submissions page, here

Why do we do it this way? Quite frankly, because there were way too many submissions! Not long after I took over this column, it became clear that if we didn’t close to submissions every now and then, we’d have writers waiting literal years for their story to be published. I love that you’re all so keen and ready to submit to us, and that we get so many great stories, but it just became unmanageable. The windows help us to keep on top of things. We still have people waiting several months to be published, but months is better than years. 

If you can’t wait for the quarterly window, fear not! There are plenty of other opportunities. Your story might fit one of the many open calls we list on this here site—the very reason for our being!—or maybe you’d like to write for a special themed edition or submit a story for serialisation. We also have our short sharp speculations, aka the drabbles, of which we publish three every single week! Maybe try your hand at some teeny tiny stories, or stringing three of those together on a theme to tell a longer story as an unholy trinity

See: lots and lots of opportunities out there. The spec-fic beast is hungry and never, ever satisfied…

Anyways, this week’s TWF menu. Our tasty main course comes from David Bradley, who’s dealing with a weird mouth thing. That story is followed by the short, sharp speculations of:

  • Cassandra Daucus’s dirty secret 
  • Patrick Winters’s hidden meanie, and
  • DJ Tyrer’s existential angst

PS, the fae stuff went really bloody well, thanks for asking! Keep an eye out for the next one—Writing the Occult: Connection to Land will take place on 15 June, just before the solstice.

Over to you, Stuart.

Lauren McMenemy

Editor, Trembling With Fear

 
We have a new site sponsor for the month, so if you’re looking to pick up a new book, I highly suggest The Dark Man, by Referral and Less Pleasant Tales by Chuck McKenzie!
 
***
 
 

Oof. It has been a week. My youngest has been sick all week and my oldest has had Jr. High prep + standardized tests + soccer. Not to mention, work has a huge pile of projects on my plate at the moment. I was able to push ahead slightly on Shadowed Realms. However, it’s not quite there yet. I’m hoping that this coming weekend, I’ll be able to get it finished up so we can finally let it loose upon the world! 

And now the regular announcements:

  • Don’t forget – Trembling With Fear Volume 6 is out in the world, and if you’ve picked up a copy, we’d love a review! Next year, we may be looking to expand past just the Amazon platform. If we do that, what stores would you like to purchase your books from?
  • ATTENTION YOUTUBE WATCHERS: We’ve had some great responses so far but are open to more ideas – What type of content would you like to see us feature? Please reach out to [email protected]! We’ll be really working on expanding the channel late this year and early into next.
  • For those who are looking to connect with Horror Tree on places that aren’t Twitter, we’re also in BlueSky and Threads. *I* am also now on BlueSky and Threads.
  • If you’d like to extend your support to the site, we’d be thrilled to welcome your contributions through Ko-Fi or Patreon. Your generosity keeps us fueled and fired up to bring you the very best.

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

(more…)

Unholy Trinity: “The Hospital of Saint Cecelia” by Tim Law

Our church worships at the altar of the Unholy Trinity. Its gospels are delivered as a trio of dark drabbles, linked so that Three become One. All hail the power of the Three.

 

Part 1: The Patient

 

Songbird they called me, showering me with gifts and praise. I sang for everyone, even the Pope. What God giveth, sadly, He must also taketh away.

That was how I ended up at Saint Cecelia’s, a patient of my uncle, Dr. Francis Robertson.

“I will return your sweet song to you,” he promised. “Or I shall die trying.”

I certainly sang, as two hundred and fifty volts passed through me. Six seconds, then ten, and when that did not work Uncle pushed us both past breaking point.

One of us died that day; it sure as hell was not him.

 

Part 2: Dare

 

“I’m bored,” complained Suzanna.

The boys loved the arcade, but it wasn’t her scene.

“Where do ya want to go then?” asked Gary.

“Saint Cecelia’s?” suggested the girl, smiling mischievously. “It’s supposed to be haunted.”

Ben shook his head, arms crossed, but Gary and Suzanna would not take “NO” for an answer.

 

That was how they found themselves wandering the cold, dark halls of the asylum.

“Did you guys know Suzanna Robertson was a patient here?” Suzanna whispered.

“The Songbird?” asked Ben, surprised.

Suzanna nodded.

“She was my aunt, my namesake, I love coming here to listen to her sing.”

 

Part 3: Song

 

Will my torment ever cease? Cursed am I to wander these halls, to remember the pain, never to rest. The joys of life, the wonderful memories of a time when my voice gave pleasure, not pain.

Now, when I open my mouth all I release is fury and woe. Those who bear witness to my song have their very souls stripped away.

All but one, she who brings them, time after time. I sense my uncle’s spirit in her, his madness now hers to own. I try to warn the two beside her, but all I can do is scream.

 

 

Tim Law

Timothy Law is a writer of fantasy, horror, detective and general fiction from a little town in Southern Australia called Murray Bridge. Currently working at the Murray Bridge Library he has dreamed since high school of becoming a fulltime author. His stories can be found at http://somecallmetimmy.blogspot.com.au/ and other platforms.

Trembling With Fear 4-7-24

Greetings, children of the dark. I’m neck deep in fairies as I write this, getting ready for my big Fae Day event which, by the time you read this, will be over. I feel like I’ve been less engaged in this edition of my Writing the Occult events, and I’m not sure why: life, probably, but maybe also I’m just not a fairy person? Who knows. Maybe by the time you’re reading this, I will have been converted and will be looking under rocks and behind bark for evidence. I’m feeling like a bad Celtic-blooded human right now!

But for that reason, we’ll go straight to the good stuff this week.

Well, first I should remind you that our April short story submissions window is open for just one more week! They are coming in thick and fast, and we are going to have to make some tough decisions. We just can’t run more than one short story a week for many, many reasons, and we get dozens and dozens submitted in each window. We used to get dozens every week, which is why we had to move to the windows! Submissions guidelines are here, and you submit by using this form, making sure to choose TWF from the drop-down box underneath the name field. Please, please upload your story in an editable document format, not a PDF and not posted into the form. And our process is not automated, so it might take me a while to acknowledge receipt of your sub. I will get there, I promise. TWF is powered by human volunteers. 

Remember, though, that we are definitely open to drabble submissions every day of the year, so if you’re not successful with your short, maybe go shorter? Give it a try?

Anyways, this week’s TWF menu. Our tasty main course comes from J.L. Royce, who’s gone off for a hike in the Michigan wilderness. That story is followed by the short, sharp speculations of:

  • Brian Maycock’s lazy long weekend, 
  • Noah Wood’s collective creep-out, and 
  • Richard Meldrum’s meeting in a dark alley.

Speaking of the boss man, he’s one of the panelists at Saturday’s British Fantasy Society online event day. The whole day is about “the book journey”—all those things besides the writing!—and I’ll be moderating the panel on marketing featuring Stuart, Jenn Hanson-dePaula from Mixtus Media, and indie writers and promo machines Beverley Lee and Nicole Eigener (aka Nicoverley). Ever wondered how to get your writing *out there*? Join us! It’s free for BFS members, and just £5 for everyone else, plus it will also be recorded if you can’t make any/all of it live. Details are over here.

Over to you, Stuart.

Lauren McMenemy

Editor, Trembling With Fear

 
We have a new site sponsor for the month, so if you’re looking to pick up a new book, I highly suggest The Dark Man, by Referral and Less Pleasant Tales by Chuck McKenzie!
 
***
 
 

Spent a LOT of time on Shadowed Realms and site stuff this last week. Nothing quite ready for an update but a lot will be announced soonish!

And now the regular announcements:

  • Don’t forget – Trembling With Fear Volume 6 is out in the world, and if you’ve picked up a copy, we’d love a review! Next year, we may be looking to expand past just the Amazon platform. If we do that, what stores would you like to purchase your books from?
  • ATTENTION YOUTUBE WATCHERS: We’ve had some great responses so far but are open to more ideas – What type of content would you like to see us feature? Please reach out to [email protected]! We’ll be really working on expanding the channel late this year and early into next.
  • For those who are looking to connect with Horror Tree on places that aren’t Twitter, we’re also in BlueSky and Threads. *I* am also now on BlueSky and Threads.
  • If you’d like to extend your support to the site, we’d be thrilled to welcome your contributions through Ko-Fi or Patreon. Your generosity keeps us fueled and fired up to bring you the very best.

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

(more…)

Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Eleven – Finale

  1. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part One
  2. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Two
  3. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Three
  4. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Four
  5. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Five
  6. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Six
  7. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Seven
  8. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Eight
  9. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Nine
  10. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Ten
  11. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Eleven – Finale

 

 

Part Eleven: Dread Knows No Escape

 

After what felt like hours, Jeffrey finally mustered the courage to turn the flashlight back on once he could hear only the faint shrieks from below in that cursed chamber. Reaching the final ascent, he scrambled up out of the pit by bracing himself against those sickeningly slimy walls. It was only once he reached the hallway after sprinting along the rocky passage that he felt his stomach churning once again and vomited onto the floor, collapsing from exhaustion after a few moments. The man-made walls around him contrasted with the rocky tunnel just a few feet away, yet he felt no sense of relief- no sense of escape from the pit. The straight lines of the hallway and the pristine, neat door at the end appeared as a façade, masking the crushing weight of the universe’s savagery all around. The cheap veneer of control and order- human might and intelligence- was corroded all around him by knowing the brutal reality of was to come. All he could see were the fleeting, distracting pleasures given to a pig being fattened for slaughter, but he knew they would never taste sweet to him again- not after this night; not after seeing the rotted substance beneath a ravishing face. 

Jeffrey pushed the door open and stumbled into the main corridor, tracking ugly mildew and slime behind him. The early hours of the morning had brought the first employees in for the day, and he was soon whisked away by guards. His limp body slumped into a chair at the table in the holding room after a dazed walk through the building as he was escorted past bewildered workers looking from their laboratories. 

“Where’s Mr. Survant?” a security officer curtly asked. 

“W-who?” Jeffrey asked.

“Alan Survant, the other custodian on your shift,” the officer clarified.

“In the- in the cavern…” Jeffrey answered after a long pause, trailing off as the shrieks filled his memory again; he realized he’d never heard Alan’s last name until now. 

“You mean the bore hole behind door 4135 in corridor S-2 where we found you?” 

“I-I guess that’s it. The hole at the end of the tunnel… that’s where we were.” Jeffrey rolled the guard’s words around in his head, reflecting on the pit’s man-made nature that had not occurred to him. The story about the abandoned mining operation returned to his mind now. 

“Why were you back there? And how did you get access?”

“I don’t know- I woke up there. Alan had brought me there I think,” Jeffrey recalled. 

“Are you saying he assaulted you?” 

“He had a gun… he said I had to go into the pit,” Jeffrey’s recollection blurred as he tried to recount the night. “We were down there- we saw all of it.” 

“You saw the tunnel, you mean?” 

“Well, it was the- the…” he struggled to find the words. “It was moving, there were bodies.” 

“Sit tight for me, I’ll be back in a minute,” the officer abruptly announced as he exited the holding room, leaving Jeffrey alone to process the images in his mind- the images which could hardly be distinguished from those in his dreams over the past months. 

“Jeffrey, right? My name is Dr. Rechian.” A woman quickly entered the room and sat across from him, setting her notepad on the table and preparing to write. “You say saw something after you entered the-”

“I fell into it,” Jeffrey corrected, feeling as though he needed to communicate that he would have never entered of his own volition. 

“Right, you say that you saw something. Movement or bodies of some sort?” 

“Like I told the guard, ma’am, I saw the- the thing down there. It-I-it was, at least I thought- yes it was moving. It was there,” Jeffrey stumbled over his words, noticing the increasing difficulty he had in remembering the horrific entity in the cavern. 

“And these bodies- How many were there?”

“They were people… they were bodies of people,” he explained. “You know all of this, right? You know about what’s in the pit, or the bore hole, right?”

“Just answer the question, please,” Dr. Rechian instructed. “How many bodies? 

“At least ten or eleven, I would say… I-I can’t remember, it was hard to tell when they were around us.” 

“Around you? What do you mean?” she sharply asked, clearly taken aback by his answer.

“Well- they moved- they walked… or moved somehow… they came right toward us. I left, I left and I had to push through, I…” 

“And this creature, where did you see it? Was it with the bodies?” Dr. Rechian continued after visibly processing his answer in her own mind for a moment. 

“They were all in the same place. The thing… I don’t understand how it was… I can’t see why it would be like that… it filled all the room in front of us.” 

“Okay, take a minute to breath,” she advised, seeing the terror of recalled memories creep across his face and fill his eyes as he spoke. “Can you tell me what it looked like? What do you remember?” 

“I-I don’t know… I don’t know. It was so much- there were so many- I don’t know why it was like that,” he continued to repeat, sinking in his chair as the crushing recognition of helplessness once again closed in around him. 

“Okay, Mr. Wright, thank you for your time.” Dr. Rechian stood from her chair and began to leave the room. “Wait here and a paramedic will be in shortly to check you out.” 

“Wait, please, I-I don’t know what to do!” Jeffrey had become visibly frightened, gripping the table with white knuckles. “Please, tell me what-I just want to know what- I need…” he trailed off in defeat.

“Mr. Wright, I don’t have answers for you. I’m sorry,” she had turned back toward him, softening her stance.

“Please, I don’t know how… I don’t know why it’s like this,” he strained for words to describe the dread inside of him.

“Look, I wish I could help you,” she said as she attempted reassurance, calculating how she should manage his pleas.

“Those bodies… why did they- why did they move?” Jeffrey again contemplated. “Those bodies-”

“Those bodies have been there for decades, Mr. Wright,” Dr. Rechian cut him off with a sigh, apparently resigned to the fact that giving him information would do little damage at this point. “Those corpses have been motionless in that cavern since before this facility was constructed to study them. They’ve somehow been preserved among the growth along the cavern’s walls since a mining operation sealed off the opening after the miners refused to keep working. The fact of the matter is that we don’t understand any more than you do, which is why you’re in here and not in the back of a patrol car right now.” 

“Then… because they’re moving now, are you going to do something? What do you plan to do with them?” 

“As of this morning, they’ve all disappeared- and we didn’t find Alan Survant’s body down there either,” she replied with an informative coldness, though her voice betrayed the unsettled and disturbed fear that had fallen over the entire facility. “A new branch of the cavern system seems to have opened, though. We’ll start our search there once we’ve secured the area we know about already. This thing can’t hide forever.” 

“Hide?” Jeffrey asked in bewilderment, recognizing the assumption that it was hiding to be entirely absurd. “You can’t stop it,” he muttered, the eon-old and foreboding revelations in the book and on the blade swimming through his thoughts. 

“We’ll do what we need to do,” Dr. Rechian insisted with a renewed confidence. “We’ll find it.” 

“You can’t stop it…”  

Unholy Trinity: “A Room in Hotel Purgatory” “He, Them Like String” & “Running Backwards” by Andrew Buckner

Our church worships at the altar of the Unholy Trinity. Its gospels are delivered as a trio of dark drabbles, linked so that Three become One. All hail the power of the Three.

 

A Room in Hotel Purgatory

 

The blood will wash off, but the indignity will not.

I was going in circles. My hotel room, an undug coffin, had already morphed into a rundown home. The home was previously a diner.

But, I did kill him. He was abusive. He wasn’t going to stop any other way. 

The ghostly, alien creature with my abuser’s face told me to leave my hotel, run around in the daylight, and stop to let everyone see the blood and I would be forgiven.

His body would walk again. The blood would wash away.

I just had to find my hotel room.

 

He, Them Like String

 

The rage red planet he landed on was a set for a television show of his life.

In the corner, his mother, an eight-legged spider, knitted another him.

In the living room, his two sisters, four-foot gray alien spiderlings, took the freshly knitted version of him and set it on fire. 

A script turned its pages in front of him.

It read: “THE FIRE SYMBOLIZES THE PASSION HE LOST IN CHILDHOOD. THE STRING REPRESENTS HIS SELF-ESTEEM. PRIMARILY, HOW THOSE CLOSE TO HIM USED AND MANIPULATED HIM.

A mass of rendered flesh, string, a web connected, unspooled bones, those around him.

 

Running Backwards

 

The tarot card flipped over. It revealed a creature running backwards, a strange symbol the psychic had never seen before.

The psychic started to speak but her eyes said it all. She’d never seen this card before.

“The circular movements seem to suggest…,” she started.

An animal-like rage built in me. Was this part of the fate forecast by the unknown card?

A growl was heard far away.

A glass broke.

Was the creature in the cards some type of ghost or demon?

“No, it’s running backwards,” I thought. “They are terrified of me. A power I had all along.”

 

 

Andrew Buckner

Andrew Buckner is a multi award-winning filmmaker and screenwriter. His recent dark comedy/ horror script “Dead Air!” won Best Original Screenwriter at the fourth edition of the Hitchcock Awards in 2023.

A noted poet, critic, actor, author, and experimental musician, he runs and writes for the review site AWordofDreams.com. Twitter/X @moviesforlife09

Trembling With Fear 3-31-24

Greetings, children of the dark. A quick word first up: the next short story submission window opens tomorrow, 1 April. No, this is not an April Fool’s Joke. Send in your darkly speculative fiction that’s less than 1500 words. Yes, the word count matters. No, we won’t consider it anyway if it’s a bit longer or if it doesn’t meet any of our other submissions guidelines, which you’ll find here. Make sure you use the form to submit, and that you choose TWF from the drop-down menu, and then indicate it’s a short story and upload in a .doc or .docx please, otherwise we might not see it or be able to review it. The window closes in TWO WEEKS. 

Anyways…

After last week’s missive about neurodiversity, it’s somewhat ironic that I’ve just taken part in a panel about creating more authentic and affecting depictions of mental illness in horror. Ironic, but wonderful: this is my passion topic. And this one was actually my first ever involvement in StokerCon! Big thanks to the wonderful Lee Murray for inviting me, and to my fellow panellists Angela Yuriko Smith, LE Daniels, and John Palisano for their honesty and insights. (Yes, I’m pinching myself that I was among them as well.) It’ll be part of the online programming for StokerCon, 30 May to 2 June; details here

I say it’s a passion topic of mine for a good reason: it’s both personal and professional. I’ve been very honest, both here and elsewhere, about my own mental health challenges and how working with dark speculative fiction can be like therapy of sorts. That’s the personal side. The professional side? Well, you’re reading it. In this role (a volunteer one, btw), I read a helluva lot of dark stories, good and bad and in between. And far too regularly, I’ll read a submission that uses mental health as a lazy trope. Listen up, writers: that sort of thing will never make it through the TWF filters. The schizophrenic serial killer, the obsessive stalker, the “nut house” (yes, we’ve had subs using that terminology) as a setting for gore and violence, using mental health as a punchline, these are lazy tropes. There is so much more you can do to explore mental health within dark fiction. 

We were asked for examples of stories that do it well, so I thought I’d share my recommendations here to show you what I mean. First up, Scott J Moses’s novella Our Own Unique Affliction uses the immortality of vampires to dig deep into ennui, existential crises, suicidal thoughts, grief, trauma, and more. It was one of my favourite reads last year. Also on grief, trauma and identity, try Cassandra Khaw’s The Salt Grows Heavy or Alison Rumfitt’s Tell Me I’m Worthless, two very different works but both searing. The obvious one for me when it comes to mental illness in dark fiction is Catriona Ward’s Last House on Needless Street—I can’t say any more because that would be spoilerific, but it’s so well-researched, well-informed, and well-executed in its representations. And on the short story side, head towards Sarah Jackson’s stories exploring trauma through hauntings. I took Sarah’s workshop on the topic at the UK Ghost Story Festival and it was so darn good…

Anyways, off my high horse and onto this week’s TWF menu. Our tasty main course comes from Joseph E. Arechavala, who’s having trouble sleeping. That story is followed by the short, sharp speculations of:

  • SG Perahim’s adventures in babysitting, 
  • Lionel Ray Green’s vengeful scarecrow, and 
  • Christina Nordlander’s floral bursts.

To finish, my usual couple of plugs. For the last time: Writing the Occult: The Fae is coming up in MERE DAYS, with a whole globe full of amazing speakers. Never fear if you can’t make the whole day—it IS long—because we’ll record it all, but only for ticket holders. Tickets are £40+bf, which gets you entry to the whole darn day as well as a recording you can come back to in your own time for all time. Tickets here

Also: I’ve roped Stuart into being on a panel at the next British Fantasy Society online event day. The whole day is about “the book journey”—all those things besides the writing!—and I’ll be moderating the panel on marketing with the boss man, Jenn Hanson-dePaula from Mixtus Media, and indie writers and promo machines Beverley Lee and Nicole Eigener (aka Nicoverley). It’s free for BFS members, and just £5 (about US$6.50) for everyone else, plus it will also be recorded if you can’t make any/all of it live. Details are over here.

Finally, last week I spoke a lot about neurodiversity in the SFFH community. After making/politely inviting members of the BFS community to share their own stories, I figured I should probably share my own. So for those interested, here you’ll find my reflection on being an “unpublished author” trying to Do The Thing while trying to understand how they actually tick. “Just make time for it” doesn’t work for some people!

Over to you, Stuart.

Lauren McMenemy

Editor, Trembling With Fear

 
We have a new site sponsor for the month, so if you’re looking to pick up a new book, I highly suggest The Dark Man, by Referral and Less Pleasant Tales by Chuck McKenzie!
 
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Shadowed Realms is INCHING towards completion! We have a final ebook proof copy and the text for the physical copy that we’re currently reading through. Once everything looks good, we just need to finalize the covers for the print copies and we’re in business! 

I’ve got some light, neat publishing news to share for my own work as well! I have two drabbles coming out in ‘Programmed Hearts: Stories of Robots and AI‘ and three drabbles coming out in ‘Wyrms 2‘. Fun fact on the second one, two of the three have characters who are parts of other WIPs and that you may read more about down the line! 

 
 
And now the regular announcements:
  • Don’t forget – Trembling With Fear Volume 6 is out in the world, and if you’ve picked up a copy, we’d love a review! Next year, we may be looking to expand past just the Amazon platform. If we do that, what stores would you like to purchase your books from?
  • ATTENTION YOUTUBE WATCHERS: We’ve had some great responses so far but are open to more ideas – What type of content would you like to see us feature? Please reach out to [email protected]! We’ll be really working on expanding the channel late this year and early into next.
  • For those who are looking to connect with Horror Tree on places that aren’t Twitter, we’re also in BlueSky and Threads. *I* am also now on BlueSky and Threads.
  • If you’d like to extend your support to the site, we’d be thrilled to welcome your contributions through Ko-Fi or Patreon. Your generosity keeps us fueled and fired up to bring you the very best.

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

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