Trembling With Fear 08/04/2019

Well, that first week of my holiday went quickly. I could talk about the horror of a stomach bug which knocked out my poor husband and sent him to hospital (thankfully better now) and then wiped out myself and my eldest but I won’t, it’s just too gruesome. Instead, I’ll share some publication news from TWF stalwarts (and I am particularly pleased for these two as they have been writing and publishing with us for so long). R. J. Meldrum and Kevin M. Folliard have joined me in the Short Sharp Shocks series of books from Demain Publishing.

Richard Meldrum’s novella, The Plague centres on a small Russian village, whose children are struck down by a plague, or is it a curse … An interview about Richard and his book can be found here.

Kevin M. Folliard’s Candy Corn is a Halloween tale featuring a sociopath, a lobotomised husband, a teen outcast and a basement. Perfect horror fodder. An interview about Kevin and his book can be found here.

Both are available on amazon at only 99p and both are now lined up on my kindle for me to read, although I am only on p. 436 of Chuck Wendig’s 780 page monster, Wanderers …

And by the way, it’s purely spooky coincidence that both Richard and Kevin feature in this week’s TWF.

I also have a little publication news of my own and this is for charity so I’m dropping it in here (I was pretty chuffed as this was a blind submission). Water, clean water, is something many of us are used to and take for granted. Sadly this is not the case in some parts of the world and Things in the Well Trickster’s Treats 3 Seven Deadly Sins magazine of flash has been created to raise money for this cause. Find more details here, either to buy the mag when it’s out and enjoy a bit of creepy reading, or give to the cause directly.

Over to Trembling With Fear, which, as always is free to read and to submit to (remember to check out our submission guidelines, especially with regard to word count!).

First up is The History of Crossword Puzzle Horror Fiction by Reed Beebe. And the first thing I would say to this is a wow for originality. Totally new to me. This flash piece gives us stories within a story and shows how just a few words, carefully chosen can create terrific effect, as can unique formatting. I did suggest to this author, perhaps we should try it ourselves and see who can come up with the most original set of clues!

Away with Words by RJ Meldrum gruesome but with such a funny twist, gives a whole new meaning to ‘cat got your tongue?’.

Let’s Do It by Kevin M. Folliard starts off with lines reminiscent of Cole Porter, love will surely follow. But no. The remaining lines all begin with ‘Let’s … ’ but become more sinister and chilling by the moment. Great build up of horror.

The Chatterbox by Scarlet Berry is one of ‘out of the mouths of babes’ stories, the passing on of family secrets which are best kept quiet, as revealed by the twist at the end.

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

Our new contract system is so close to being in place that I can taste it! 🙂 There is a lot of set up but we’ve been making huge strides on getting it into place. I’m hoping that it will be easier for everyone involved in delivery and keeping the system organized. 

On top of that, we’re scheduled pretty far out at this point on shorts but still could use an influx of drabble to help get us closer to the end of the year! 

For those who haven’t signed up for our newsletter, I just wanted to share a few of our standard inclusions.

We’re always looking for more help! From articles to interviews to reviews to those with artistic talent to web coders and beyond. If you’re interested in contributing and think you have something that would help out PLEASE don’t shy away from contacting us!
*I have a special interest in someone who would want to do Top 10 lists or crowdsourced Q&A articles which I could help provide a crowd for.*

Please reach out if you have any thoughts, suggestions, or requests for the site or mailing list! 

Also, in case you missed it, Volume 1 of ‘Trembling With Fear’, does now have a lower price over at Amazon if you haven’t picked it up yet. If you have, please do leave a review! 

I hope everyone has had an amazing weekend!

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

The History of Crossword Puzzle Horror Fiction

On Halloween night 2009, writer Sayward Hart, sleepless and high on drugs, concluded that her paper’s crossword puzzle was alive and commanding her to commit murder. At least, that is the story she told the police. Regardless, the experience inspired Hart to craft a new form of fiction that would appeal to both horror fans and crossword enthusiasts — crossword puzzle horror fiction.

Hart wrote her first crossword horror piece — Crossword Crimes” — while awaiting trial. The story was published online by the now-defunct horror fiction site, Graveyard Picnic. The site’s readers encountered something unique:

1 Sharp knife in the kitchen
5 Members of the family
7 Deranged intruders
10 Severed ears

1 Creepy old house
2 Monsters under the bed
3 Giant spiders in an old fireplace
4 Pictures of missing kids
5 Empty graves”

Initial site comments regarding the piece were mostly positive. Some expressed confusion; “What the hell is this?” wrote one commenter. One commenter wrote that the story made him want to vomit, while another noted that she was more interested in the author’s pending criminal trial,

Over the next few months, Graveyard Picnic published more crossword horror stories penned by Hart, including the acclaimed “Crossfire” and “Across/Down.” Hart now had a growing following, aided by publicity from her sensational televised trial. Other horror authors soon took a stab at the form.

Writer Mick Hess had previously written and narrated short horror stories for his YouTube channel. Thrilled by the challenges of the crossword horror format, Hess enthusiastically crafted and self-published over thirty crossword horror stories, including his acclaimed piece Cross/Kill”:

1 Gun on the table
5 Bullets in the chamber
6 Depressed friends
10 Sad parents

1 Derelict hospital
2 Deranged doctors
3 Bone cutters
4 Frightened patients
8 Severed hands”

A growing interest in crossword horror fiction inspired filmmaker Toby Slim to produce the horror movie Crosswords; in the film, college classmates are murdered one by one, as clues regarding the killer’s next victim appear in a campus newspaper’s daily crossword puzzle. Despite its small budget and bad reviews, the movie was a profitable cult hit. The movie benefited from Hart’s highly publicized retrial, and marks the zenith of crossword horror’s popularity.

After her acquittal, Hart continued to write masterful crossword horror stories, along with Hess and a growing number of writers. Many critics remained skeptical of the new genre; neither a conventional horror story nor a proper puzzle, crossword horror struggled to find acceptance. With Hart no longer in the news, reader interest waned.

Hess, a tireless promoter, conceived the idea of a convention to celebrate the genre and rekindle interest. Booking a cheap out-of-season ski lodge in Colorado, Hess invited Hart and other noted crossword horror writers to attend a weekend of discussion and camaraderie among fans.

The event was well-attended; the lodge was completely booked, and the first days of the convention were delightful. But the attendees’ joy turned to horror when the mutilated bodies of Hess and Hart were found in the meeting hall on the last morning of the convention. Written in blood on a nearby wall was a crossword horror story:

1 Guilty writer
3 Fingers missing
4 Toes hacked
12 Stab wounds

1 Untalented huckster
2 Hands cut off
5 Cuts to the face
9 Missing teeth”

The murders of both Hart and Hess remain unsolved, but their deaths triggered a brief resurgence for the genre. Slim’s sequel to Crosswords, Crosswords: 2 Down, was loosely based on the convention murders; the film failed to achieve the success and cult status of its predecessor, and no subsequent crossword horror films have appeared. While several nonprofit online sites continue to explore the form, the crossword horror market has disappeared. Today, crossword puzzle horror fiction is largely remembered for its controversial creator’s gruesome death rather than its literary quality.


Reed Beebe

After years spent hunting monsters and fighting ninjas, Reed Beebe now resides in a quiet village and passes the time writing fiction.  



Away with Words

“Did you see Mrs. Jones at number four? Right old tart.”

He was barely listening. It was a constant monologue of inane gossip. From dawn to dusk, she never stopped.

Her tongue flicked out, ready to moisten her lips prior to another round. He reached up and sliced it off with the knife he held. Her face suffused with agony and humiliation. The stump flapped around, spraying blood. He smiled, holding her tongue.

“Finally, no more gossip. But let’s make sure.”

With great deliberation and a sense of ceremony, he reached down and fed the bloody morsel to the cat.

RJ Meldrum

R.J. Meldrum is an author and academic.  Born in Scotland, he moved to Ontario, Canada in 2010.  He has had stories published by Sirens Call Publications, Horrified Press, Trembling with Fear, Darkhouse Books, Smoking Pen Press and James Ward Kirk Fiction.  He is an Affiliate Member of the Horror Writers Association.

Facebook profile:


Let’s Do It

Let’s get a drink.

Let’s get to know each other.

Let’s tell tales and unload.

Let’s forget about jobs and de-stress.

Let’s trust each other. No BS.

Let’s go back to my place.

Let’s have fun for a change.

Let’s take a chance.

Let’s be quiet for a while. A long while. A forever while.

Let’s wrap you up tight and take a drive.

Let’s agree this night was a mistake.

Let’s make it our little secret.

Let’s make this hole in the woods your special place.

Let’s watch the sun rise. And promise each other this won’t happen again.

Kevin M. Folliard

Kevin M. Folliard is a Chicagoland writer whose published fiction includes scary stories collections Christmas Terror Tales and Valentine Terror Tales, as well as adventure novels such as Matt Palmer and the Komodo Uprising. His work has also been collected by The Horror Tree, Flame Tree Publishing, Hinnom Magazine, and more. Kevin currently resides in La Grange, IL, where he enjoys his day job as an academic writing advisor. When not writing or working, he’s usually reading Stephen King, playing Street Fighter, or traveling the U.S.A.

Author Website:




The Chatterbox

One fine day, little Jeanette told her grandmother, “My mother said that I shouldn’t let you pump me.”


Puzzled, her grandmother asked, “Pump? What does that mean?”


Jeanette replied, “It means to ask me questions about what’s happening at home.”


“Oh, I see,” said her grandmother. “What can’t you tell me?”


“I’m not supposed to talk about how Mama burned the chicken for dinner last night and I’m not supposed to talk about how we have lots of bills, but not enough money. Oh, and I am especially not supposed to tell you about the man sleeping in the freezer.”

Scarlet Berry

Scarlet Berry is a Yooper. She’s been married forty years to the same man and they raised four children together. She is a mystery wrapped up in a conundrum, and loves to laugh; both evilly and happily.

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