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Into the Dark with Jon Steinhagen

With the release of our seventeenth anthology, we at Sirens Call Publications decided not to break tradition and asked all of the contributing authors in FEAR: Of the Dark to share the inspiration for their stories. Out of the nine authors whose tales lurk between the covers waiting to terrify you, seven took up the challenge of putting their fears into words. The last author to invite you into his world is Jon Steinhagen, author of Another Voice. But before we delve into what horrors hide in dark of his mind, let’s take a moment for everyone to get acquainted just a little more…

SteinhagenJon Steinhagen is a resident playwright at Chicago Dramatists whose plays and musicals have been produced nationally, including Blizzard ’67, Successors, ACES, The Teapot Scandals and the new musical The Next Thing. He has received four Joseph Jefferson Awards for his work in Chicago theater and won the Julie Harris Playwriting Award for his comedy The Analytical Engine. His short fiction has appeared in print and online, significantly in The American Reader, Barrelhouse, The Minetta Review, Monkeybicycle, and The Atlas Review. He is a member of the Dramatists Guild of America and Signal Ensemble Theatre. You can find Jon on Twitter at @JonSteinhagen or on his website.

And without further ado, we turn you over to Jon…

The Comfort of Another Voice

If there’s one thing that freaks me out, it’s the sound of something that is definitely alive rooting around outside.  On the roof, on the porch, perhaps (but hopefully not) in another room. Instead of leaving one character alone in an old dark house to investigate and slowly go bonkers, I added a bantering best buddy to take the edge off the suspense yet heighten it because the investigation becomes a shared experience. I tried to pay homage to Stephen Dixon’s run-on dialogue technique and base the house’s architecture on a friend’s childhood home, a creepy old pile dating back to 1874 – the empty servant quarters on the top floor just opposite the attic gave me gooseflesh then, as they did when I was last in the house eight years ago prior to it being sold. Lastly, one summer evening, as I sat in my living room, reading a book (not a horror story), I clearly heard a male voice say my name twice. So “present” was the voice that I could pinpoint its origin – ten feet away in my darkened dining room, which actually is the home of my old piano and other non-dining furniture. Never heard the voice again, nor do I hope to hear it ever again, regardless of whether it was a spirit, psychic energy, or just my imagination…whatever it was, it wanted my attention. It got it.

Thank you Jon! Now let’s take a look at FEAR: Of the Dark

FOTD_desaturated_coverWhat makes your skin tingle? What makes you look over your shoulder sure that something is lurking there? What ratchets your tension level up  so high that nothing matters more than what comes next on the page?

The answers to those questions are the ones we sought when we put together this collection of nine stories. Inside these pages you’ll find fear that engages, fear that provokes, fear that drives you to the brink of… Well, everyone has a different precipice when it comes to fear, but the stories selected for FEAR: Of the Dark certainly held our attention.

If you truly enjoy a well written story that engages the senses and prompts anxiety and paranoia, FEAR: Of the Dark may be the perfect collection of short stories for you. And in case you were wondering, it is waiting for you, out there – somewhere; you just don’t know it yet.

Contributing Authors:

Rose Blackthorn, Juan J. Gutiérrez, Jovan Jones, Lars Kramhøft, Lisamarie Lamb, Jon Olson, Zachary O’Shea, Jon Steinhagen, and Alex Woolf

***

Available for Purchase at:

Amazon:

US | UK | Canada | Australia | Germany | France | Spain | Italy | Japan | Mexico | Brazil | India

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***

And here’s an excerpt from Another Voice

Jerrick calls Natterman. He says, “This is driving me crazy. I’ve got to do something about it, and I know I should wait till morning and call an exterminator or something or go up there in the morning myself with a broom or a shovel or something I can do some damage with but also carry, but I need my laptop, like, yesterday.”

“Back up. What’s going on over there?”

“Long story. I don’t suppose you could stop by? A couple of minutes?”

“Sure. I’m always up for getting out of the house.”

“I’ll give you the nickel tour of the new place.”

“On my way. You want something?”

“You’re going to stop somewhere first?”

“It’ll take half a second, I got a taste for a gyros. You want one?”

“Sure. No tomatoes. And an order of Greek fries. Just hurry up. I’m one Scotch shy of doing this myself, and I don’t want to do this myself.”

“Can you clue me in, at least?”

“I have to get into the attic. Hurry up.”

“Remind me how to get to that dump.”

Jerrick gives him his new address again and a few tips on how to navigate the irregular Olmstead streets. He tells him to hurry up.

He hangs up, goes up to the stairs to the first landing, listens. Nothing. He opens the door to the staircase that leads to what were once the servants’ quarters, listens, hears the scampering, shuts the door.

He turns on all the lights on the second floor by darting into the dark rooms and dashing to the lamps. There is no overhead lighting in this house, everything has to be plugged in; every lamp on the main floor has been ablaze since he turned them on the second the sun began to set. He can practically hear the meter outside whirring at breakneck speed and can only imagine what all of his future electric bills will look like, but it has to be done. The lights have to stay on.

He calls his wife. No answer. He checks the clock, estimates it’s got to be seven in the morning in London. She should be up. She might be showering. No, she wouldn’t be showering with the boy up and about, she’d have showered the night before, while he was asleep, if she did indeed shower before. And she doesn’t have to answer her phone all the time, although he’s never tried calling her ‘round the clock. He’s always honored her schedule and never called her when she’s supposed to be at the gallery or even while he thinks she’s having dinner, either with the boy or by herself later when she’s put him to bed. Now he can hear the scampering from the first landing, with the staircase door shut. Two seconds of it, no more, something small or semi-small hauling ass in the attic or in one of the tiny rooms. He punches the old light switch on the wall. Nothing…

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Into the Dark with Lisamarie Lamb

With the release of our seventeenth anthology, we at Sirens Call Publications decided not to break tradition and asked all of the contributing authors in FEAR: Of the Dark to share the inspiration for their stories. Out of the nine authors whose tales lurk between the covers waiting to terrify you, seven took up the challenge of putting their fears into words. Next up we have Lisamarie Lamb, author of Teeth and Claws and Fangs and Horns. But before we delve into what horrors hide in dark of her mind, let’s take a moment for everyone to get acquainted just a little more…

LisamarieLambLisamarie Lamb started writing in her late teens but it was only with the birth of her daughter that she decided to write more seriously, with the aim of publication. Since that decision in 2010, she has had over 30 short stories published in anthologies and magazines.

In November 2012, Dark Hall Press published a collection of her short stories with a twist, entitled Over The Bridge. In November 2013, J. Ellington Ashton Press released a second short story collection entitled Fairy Lights.

She has collaborated on – and edited – a project entitled A Roof Over Their Heads, written by six authors from the Isle of Sheppey about the island where she lives with her husband, daughter, and two cats. You can find Lisa on Twitter at @lisamarie20010 and on her blog.

So without further ado, we turn you over to Lisamarie…

The Inspiration behind Teeth and Claws and Fangs and Horns

The inspiration for Teeth and Claws and Fangs and Horns is simple: shadows are scary! From the first time I saw Disney’s Peter Pan and Peter’s shadow ‘escaped’ and had to be sewn back on by Wendy, I’ve found them creepy. It’s as though they could very well have a life of their own and they are just waiting for the perfect moment to strike. After all, we can’t see them all the time… So shadows that can come alive are scary, but shadows that can come alive with a malevolent streak to them are worse, and I thought I couldn’t be the only person in the world to be somewhat creeped out by them. That’s why the father in the story is so sure he can create some kind of formula that will rid the world of them once and for all. I mean, what use is a shadow really? The problem is, of course, that whereas before they were threatened shadows were fairly content just to look scary. With the promise of destruction hanging over them, they become that little bit more dangerous…

Thank you Lisamarie! Now let’s take a look at FEAR: Of the Dark

FOTD_desaturated_coverWhat makes your skin tingle? What makes you look over your shoulder sure that something is lurking there? What ratchets your tension level up  so high that nothing matters more than what comes next on the page?

The answers to those questions are the ones we sought when we put together this collection of nine stories. Inside these pages you’ll find fear that engages, fear that provokes, fear that drives you to the brink of… Well, everyone has a different precipice when it comes to fear, but the stories selected for FEAR: Of the Dark certainly held our attention.

If you truly enjoy a well written story that engages the senses and prompts anxiety and paranoia, FEAR: Of the Dark may be the perfect collection of short stories for you. And in case you were wondering, it is waiting for you, out there – somewhere; you just don’t know it yet.

Contributing Authors:

Rose Blackthorn, Juan J. Gutiérrez, Jovan Jones, Lars Kramhøft, Lisamarie Lamb, Jon Olson, Zachary O’Shea, Jon Steinhagen, and Alex Woolf

***

Available for Purchase at:

Amazon:

US | UK | Canada | Australia | Germany | France | Spain | Italy | Japan | Mexico | Brazil | India

CreateSpace

Smashwords

***

And here’s an excerpt from Teeth and Claws and Fangs and Horns

The screaming started early. Much earlier than usual. Clem looked up from his notebook and sighed at the ceiling light, removing his glasses and pinching the bridge of his nose. It hurt. Everything hurt. And the screaming was still coming. It pierced the very walls and Clem’s brain and he hated it. He hated everything about it, hated that he knew what was happening, and hated more that he could do nothing to stop it. He looked down at his useless notes, scribbles and scrawls of figures, fractions, and thick, black lines, and felt like ripping them to pieces and throwing them out of the window.

They were supposed to be helping. They were not doing anything of the sort.

“Darling?” he called, his eyes scrunched shut against the incessant, pitiful noise coming from the floor above. “Darling? Liz? Are you there? She’s having another turn. She’s scared again. The noise… Could you… Would you go up to her?”

Clem waited for a response for what felt like a decade, and was rewarded with his wife’s head as it poked through the door to his study, her shadow landing neatly on his face and across his littered desk. Clem’s wife wore a faintly dazed expression, her eyes sunken in a soft, black circle of exhausted and bruised flesh. She stared at her husband as though she didn’t know who he was or why he was there, and then caught herself, shook herself, shook her head; “I’m just about to have a bath, Clem. I need a bit of a relax. I always go up to her. You go this time. Go on, she’ll be pleased to see you.”

And then she was gone, bustling from the room in a hurry spurred on by fear of losing her time away from them. She had to get away. She had to lock herself in the bathroom for an hour or so (or forty-five minutes, or half an hour, or anything) and hide from motherhood with a glass of wine and a book full of the sort of sex she’d never have.

Clem, left suddenly alone, felt aggrieved. That wasn’t fair. He was the father, she was the mother. Which meant, as far as he saw it, that it was her duty to comfort a screaming child. Especially when it came down to the reason for the screams.

But not so.

Not tonight, apparently.

The screaming had started early.

Damn Dot and damn the dark.

Clem slammed his journal closed and threw down his pen, making sure that, should anyone be watching, they would be able to see just how annoyed and irritated he was by the whole idea of having to leave his comfortable study to go and attend to the girl upstairs. It made a good show. It made him seem frustrated and tired and fatherly in a brusque and brutish way, which was fine by him. Not that anyone was looking. Not that anyone cared.

No one cared that he was scared. That was the whole of it. That was the reason he wanted to stay rooted to his faded old chair in his brightly lit office. Where it was safe…

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Into the Dark with Zachary O’Shea

With the release of our seventeenth anthology, we at Sirens Call Publications decided not to break tradition and asked all of the contributing authors in FEAR: Of the Dark to share the inspiration for their stories. Out of the nine authors whose tales lurk between the covers waiting to terrify you, seven took up the challenge of putting their fears into words. Next up we have Zachary O’Shea, author of The Erebus Compact. But before we delve into what horrors hide in dark of his mind, let’s take a moment for everyone to get acquainted just a little more…

ZachOSheaZachary O’Shea was born in the refinery belt of California and raised in the neon desolation of Nevada. When not avoiding one armed bandits and tourists he enjoys various activities: facilitating, designing, and occasionally playing table-top RPGs, reading, writing, and eating out too often with great friends. You can find Zachary on Twitter at @boxofteeth or on his website.

So without further ado, we turn you over to Zachary…

My Many Threads of Inspiration for The Erebus Compact

The kernel of the idea that became The Erebus Compact stems from Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery. When I read it years ago in school the abrupt horror of the situation resonated with me. Although my later tastes drew me to things more macabre and strange, the inhumanity of the tale stuck after all these years. The sheer superstitious and brutal nature of Tessie’s murder for the good of the town bothered me because once it could have easily been just the way it was and no one batted an eye. So when I sat down to write something for FEAR: of the Dark I knew right away I wanted to have some aspect of people set to a trial due to tradition.

It seemed only natural then to make it a period piece as such a story in the modern world might not work out so well. Then I thought of what the darkness and night does to the world, slowly consuming it until nothing is left but the void. I wondered what if it did so in an organic way, like a living thing set to devouring.

The story about a couple spending a night trying to avoid being eaten by living darkness after being selected from among their neighbors took shape. For me, one of the eeriest things about a pitch black night is the feeling that something else is out there that you cannot see, even though there is no evidence to support that. It’s the same feeling we have as children wondering what’s in our dark closet, and I’ve found it sticks with me as an adult. If you’ve ever been outside somewhere rural where there is little ambient light at night, little sounds of civilization, it’s not hard to feel there is something else there. So, the living darkness needed to have a presence to it; something malignant and ancient to fulfill my own horror tastes.

Everything else fell quickly into place, like what sort of couple would suffer the greatest in such a situation? Newlyweds are still getting used to one another, but have their eyes cast to the future. What if that future is threatened to be cut tragically short by outside forces? Last came the ‘why’. Why was the little hamlet plagued by this creature of hungry night? What sort of deal, or compact, fostered such a horrible tradition? Who exactly would ensure the devilish contract was kept year after year? In the end, I found that I like the answers to those questions and the general unrelenting terror of the story. I really hope readers do too.

Thank you Zachary! Now let’s take a look at FEAR: Of the Dark

FOTD_desaturated_coverWhat makes your skin tingle? What makes you look over your shoulder sure that something is lurking there? What ratchets your tension level up  so high that nothing matters more than what comes next on the page?

The answers to those questions are the ones we sought when we put together this collection of nine stories. Inside these pages you’ll find fear that engages, fear that provokes, fear that drives you to the brink of… Well, everyone has a different precipice when it comes to fear, but the stories selected for FEAR: Of the Dark certainly held our attention.

If you truly enjoy a well written story that engages the senses and prompts anxiety and paranoia, FEAR: Of the Dark may be the perfect collection of short stories for you. And in case you were wondering, it is waiting for you, out there – somewhere; you just don’t know it yet.

Contributing Authors:

Rose Blackthorn, Juan J. Gutiérrez, Jovan Jones, Lars Kramhøft, Lisamarie Lamb, Jon Olson, Zachary O’Shea, Jon Steinhagen, and Alex Woolf

***

Available for Purchase at:

Amazon:

US | UK | Canada | Australia | Germany | France | Spain | Italy | Japan | Mexico | Brazil | India

CreateSpace

Smashwords

***

And here’s an excerpt from The Erebus Compact

Over the top of the forest canopy came the sun slowly ascending from the depths of blue-grey dawn like a deity of old. Parallel to those haughty patriarchs of myth its mien promised both a renewal of life, and a danger to gaze upon. A traveler might mistakenly assume this was why the door of every home in Rosewood remained shut and shutters closed. Yet there were eggs to gather, cows to tend, and fields begging to be reaped. The lack of activity didn’t lie in the quaint village being abandoned either. Fresh curls of smoke slithered from stone chimneys and occasionally the murmur of terrified voices leaked out.

The explanation lay in the date. There would be no moon hanging above Rosewood on this September night. Yet the collective fear began with the sun’s first rays. No one wanted to look on their front porch because of a sense of foreboding of what might be found waiting there. Somewhere a dog whimpered, and fell silent in mid-sound.

Home by home front doors opened, by only a crack at first, later flung wide when the occupants saw nothing save the mercy of thin air. Wives gasped in relief, husbands thanked the Lord above, children laughed, and families began their daily work. Still, a miasma haunted Rosewood as neighbor waved to neighbor. September’s new moon always laid doom at the feet of someone in the hamlet. This year the dubious honor fell on the doorstep of David Blythe and his pretty young bride Clarissa. She gurgled while trying to fight a faint, her fists and face pressed tightly between her husband’s strong shoulders. For his part Goodman Blythe stared lifelessly as his heart struggled to remember how to beat. Like everyone else they knew what the unspent candle with ruddy string tied about it meant. It was going to be the longest night of their lives, if they survived until dawn.

Mrs. Blythe, of fair complexion and slight health, took straight away to bed. Bound both by tradition and the red thread David whispered that he would return and made for the city square. The sooner the townsfolk knew who would suffer when night fell the sooner he could prepare. Despite the cooling weather he broke into a cold sweat while walking, and seemed to hollow with age in a space of a few blocks. Some shook their head as he passed, others crossed themselves, a few scoffed wondering what sin had come back to punish the Blythes.

By the time he reached the city’s core, built around a boarded-up well, David had a following. He numbly nodded to their apologies, but knew full well none of them wanted to take his place. The Lord Mayor and Sheriff greeted him with bowed heads and useless platitudes. They helped him atop the sturdy boards across time-eaten brick. His boots brushed grimy chains, causing a rattle to echo down into the well’s fathomless darkness. A curl of crimson filament was wrapped about the links. He stood there through the morning, like a tragic figure in a freak show. David lost count of how many times he was thanked for his sacrifice before those who had once been genial neighbors or fair-weather friends quickly retreated…

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Into the Dark with Lars Kramhøft

With the release of our seventeenth anthology, we at Sirens Call Publications decided not to break tradition and asked all of the contributing authors in FEAR: Of the Dark to share the inspiration for their stories. Out of the nine authors whose tales lurk between the covers waiting to terrify you, seven took up the challenge of putting their fears into words. Next up we have Lars Kramhøft, author of The Chosen. But before we delve into what horrors hide in dark of his mind, let’s take a moment for everyone to get acquainted just a little more…

LarsKramhoftLars Kramhøft is an upcoming  writer of fantasy and horror and  co-creator (with Tom Kristensen) of the graphic novel Made Flesh which has been nominated for best horror publication in Denmark in 2014  (it is slated to be published by Evil Jester Press in the US in the summer of 2014). He lives in Copenhagen where he is currently working on his first novel, a dark coming of age story involving satanism in the middle ages. You can find Lars on Twitter at @LarsKramhoeft or on his blog.

So without further ado, we turn you over to Lars…

Of Dark And Winding Roads: An introduction to The Chosen

When I was asked to write a piece about the inspiration for my short story The Chosen, I was forced to face the one question that has struck writers dumb since the dawn of time – or at least since the invention of the moveable type printing press.

It’s a question that comes in many forms, all of them equally terrifying, but it boils down to this; where do you get your ideas from?

Well, Neil Gaiman, one of my great literary heroes, once said that ideas come from confluence – from two things flowing together.

That always struck me as one of the most honest, no-bullshit, down-to-earth answers to the question I’ve ever heard.

Only, in my own case, it’s rarely just two things. Maybe once, when I become as good a writer as Gaiman, I will only need two things, but for The Chosen I needed three things to make the story come together. And I can tell you pretty much exactly what those three things were.

Oh, and don’t worry. I’m not trying to demystify the creative process completely here. As you will see, the creativity-by-confluence idea actually leaves plenty of room for muses to sweep in and sprinkle fairy-dust all over the place.

So three things – before I overstay my welcome here. Three very different elements of a story that I think illustrates at least my creative process very nicely.

Number one: Driving on country roads, at night, when it’s snowing. I don’t have a drivers license myself, but I’ve been riding shotgun often enough to have seen:

“the few illuminated feet of road that was visible in the headlights, a monotony broken only by the evanescent gusts of snow that kept coming like ghostly riders across the bitumen.”

It’s both a beautiful and haunting sight. The kind of thing that gets my imagination going and makes me want to put words onto paper.

Number two: The moth-man mythology. The setting of the story is a dead give-away here. I absolutely love cryptids, and it was through reading about the mothman that I came across the  abandoned ordnance works that hadn’t been used since World War 2 and which were, by some, believed to be the moth-man’s home. Like the protagonist in the story, I remember thinking; Now that has to be a god-damn spooky place. I wanted to use that in a story some time. And so I did.

Number three: It was a dream I had one night. The story Johan tells Bob, about what happened down in the ordnance works, and the thing that follows them, is a word by word transcript of a dream I had. Right down to the dust and the coughing. I very rarely have lucid and coherent dreams (If I had, my work would be a whole lot easier!), but this one just came to me. The moment I woke up I knew had to write it down.

And thus The Chosen was born.

So you see, plenty of fairy dust still at work here.

Even if it comes down to confluence.

Pleasant nightmares.

Thank you Lars! Now let’s take a look at FEAR: Of the Dark

FOTD_desaturated_coverWhat makes your skin tingle? What makes you look over your shoulder sure that something is lurking there? What ratchets your tension level up  so high that nothing matters more than what comes next on the page?

The answers to those questions are the ones we sought when we put together this collection of nine stories. Inside these pages you’ll find fear that engages, fear that provokes, fear that drives you to the brink of… Well, everyone has a different precipice when it comes to fear, but the stories selected for FEAR: Of the Dark certainly held our attention.

If you truly enjoy a well written story that engages the senses and prompts anxiety and paranoia, FEAR: Of the Dark may be the perfect collection of short stories for you. And in case you were wondering, it is waiting for you, out there – somewhere; you just don’t know it yet.

Contributing Authors:

Rose Blackthorn, Juan J. Gutiérrez, Jovan Jones, Lars Kramhøft, Lisamarie Lamb, Jon Olson, Zachary O’Shea, Jon Steinhagen, and Alex Woolf

***

Available for Purchase at:

Amazon:

US | UK | Canada | Australia | Germany | France | Spain | Italy | Japan | Mexico | Brazil | India

CreateSpace

Smashwords

***

And here’s an excerpt from The Chosen

Three people were sitting in the little Nissan Pathfinder that made its way through the night and the whirling masses of snow on the road from Point Pleasant in West Virginia to Baltimore, Maryland.

The world had become black and white, reduced to darkness and the few illuminated feet of road that was visible in the headlights, a monotony broken only by the evanescent gusts of snow that kept coming like ghostly riders across the bitumen.

Bob Dillinger, a forty-five year old father of two children and author of five novels, stole another glance at the rearview mirror and wondered again if it had been a mistake to pick up the two hitchhikers. It wasn’t that they seemed dangerous as such, but there was an air of nervousness about them that Bob had sensed, almost subconsciously, the moment they got in the car. More than nervous, the two young people seemed, and the word had materialized in his head very much against his will, haunted.

Bob had been on his way home from his editor’s office in Point Pleasant after a meeting that had dragged on for way too long considering the weather reports that were already then starting to come in. He paid his editor a visit a few times a year, and usually the drive took about six hours, but in this weather he guessed it would be closer to eight. Eight hours before he could expect to cuddle up under a blanket, Carrie next to him and Bruno, their brown Labrador retriever snoozing at his feet.

Had both of the hitchhikers been male Bob wouldn’t even have stopped, but the Saint Christopher medal that his wife had given him wouldn’t allow him to ignore a young couple standing out in the freezing cold like that.

It was the kind of night people froze to death on. “As cold as a witch’s tit,” Bob thought, smiling at the expression, and the memory of his father it carried with it.

Now the boy and the girl were sitting speechlessly in the backseat, the boy on the right and the girl on the left, right behind Bob.

The boy had said that their names were Johan and Stine and that they were from Stockholm in Sweden, hitchhiking through the states. Like all Scandinavians Bob had met, they spoke English well, though Johan’s accent didn’t deny itself in the soft, flat way he pronounced the words.

Stine hadn’t said anything, just acknowledged Bob with a despondent wave of her hand before she capsized into the backseat and folded up her arms and legs as if to make herself as small as possible.

Occasionally, a series of hard, dry coughs overwhelmed her and made her double over.

No, the couple didn’t seem dangerous as such, but Bob wouldn’t put it past them to maybe be on drugs. He wasn’t a prejudiced man, but in a situation like that, his basic instincts couldn’t help make generalizations…

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Into the Dark with Jovan Jones

With the release of our seventeenth anthology, we at Sirens Call Publications decided not to break tradition and asked all of the contributing authors in FEAR: Of the Dark to share the inspiration for their stories. Out of the nine authors whose tales lurk between the covers waiting to terrify you, seven took up the challenge of putting their fears into words. Next up we have Jovan Jones, author of Black Whisperer. But before we delve into what horrors hide in dark of his mind, let’s take a moment for everyone to get acquainted just a little more…

JJJovan Jones resides in Charlotte, North Carolina with his wife and children. He draws inspiration to write from various facets of life. He believes the emotions that accompany every situation are indicators of the type of person we are. Those feelings we express or attempt to hide are several stories jumbled together. Once organized and transcribed they form a book of who we are. It is the pure joy of delving into the deeper stream of consciousness that inspires him to write often dark tales. Authors that influence him most are Donald Goines, Iceberg Slim, and Clive Barker. He is the author of Tears of a Rose and a contributing author to Vamptasy Press Broken Mirrors, Fractured Minds. You can find Jovan on Twitter at @JovanJonesJJ or on Facebook.

And without further ado, we turn you over to Jovan…

Inspiration for Black Whisperer

The inspiration for Black Whisperer came to me as I brainstormed for the FEAR: Of the Dark open call. Our thoughts speak to us all day, every day, but the voices aren’t always our own. Perhaps, I should’ve kept that tidbit to myself. My point is it occurred to me that maybe it isn’t always our thoughts that speak to us. It could be God, our subconscious, KGB radio frequencies stammering communist idioms attempting to manipulate your actions. I don’t know for sure, but I came up with a malicious demon that looms in the darkness driving people mad before murdering them in the dark.

I remember reading Clive Barker’s The Great and Secret Show and getting lost in the “quiddity”. I wanted my story to bring readers into the darkness and make them reassess their notions of what is in the dark. The primal fear of darkness is compelling to the point of madness. Before modern day technology, people worried about wolves, bandits, quicksand, etc. As time progressed, stories were told about the Wendigo, Boogeyman, and others. I bring to you my grotesquerie; the Black Whisperer.

This is a dark tale about a widower whose wife appears to have committed suicide, but her husband quickly becomes acquainted with the malicious entity behind her death. For years she claimed a demon was stalking her in the darkness. Her husband questioned his wife’s sanity, but before she could get help she was dead. His mind becomes fickle in the aftermath of his grief and he isn’t sure if he’s imagining the shadowy demon or not. All doubts are erased after a physical encounter in his dark bedroom with the Black Whisperer.

In the story my main character seeks help from a psychologist. He wants to know if he’s loony or not. I thought about that concept also for this story. We all know someone who seems nuts, but the reality is that we can’t see what they see. There is an unknown; unchartered territory that treads the line of the supernatural and the psychologically ambiguous. I personally enjoy exploring that “quiddity” as the great Clive Barker said. What is that essence of the darkness? The unknown is terrifying, particularly so when it is introduced for the first time and you’ve never imagined anything like it. I wanted to bring my own creation out of the black unknown that is the dark.

Thank you Jovan! Now let’s take a look at FEAR: Of the Dark

FOTD_desaturated_coverWhat makes your skin tingle? What makes you look over your shoulder sure that something is lurking there? What ratchets your tension level up  so high that nothing matters more than what comes next on the page?

The answers to those questions are the ones we sought when we put together this collection of nine stories. Inside these pages you’ll find fear that engages, fear that provokes, fear that drives you to the brink of… Well, everyone has a different precipice when it comes to fear, but the stories selected for FEAR: Of the Dark certainly held our attention.

If you truly enjoy a well written story that engages the senses and prompts anxiety and paranoia, FEAR: Of the Dark may be the perfect collection of short stories for you. And in case you were wondering, it is waiting for you, out there – somewhere; you just don’t know it yet.

Contributing Authors:

Rose Blackthorn, Juan J. Gutiérrez, Jovan Jones, Lars Kramhøft, Lisamarie Lamb, Jon Olson, Zachary O’Shea, Jon Steinhagen, and Alex Woolf

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***

And here’s an excerpt from Black Whisperer

I must warn you of a real danger that everyone is susceptible to. Yes, you the reader of this testimony! Take my account of the bizarre seriously; please do not consider this a folk tale, or some kind of misinterpretation of my psyche trying to make sense of a tragedy. No, this creature… demon lurks in the dark. During the day it watches us in the shadows—under vestibules, the side of dumpsters, under trees our kids play under and climb, wherever light is blocked it’s there. My wife Leticia, may she rest in peace, told me about the demon years ago, but I ignored it as superstition. I actually tried to make her “face her fears.” I told Leticia that I would take care of her and now she’s gone and God only knows the status of her soul.

My wife was murdered March 12, 2010. The police said that it was a suicide. It wasn’t. As my wife used to call the demon, Black Whisperer killed her. I know, because it told me. Sometimes it has a baritone voice equipped with the usual vulgarities and expletives typical of a man. Sometimes the voice is a female’s; an alto. This voice tries to comfort me, and reassure me that there’s nothing to fear in the dark. I know better. I met the bastard! Recently it has learned to mimic my voice. Now I must be extra vigilant, because the Black Whisperer tries to infiltrate my thoughts by imitating my voice and planting harmful suggestions in my mind. I foiled its plan. He almost got me recently. I was convinced that my thoughts were my own, but I was mistaken.

I stood on the precipice of lunacy. The culprit of madness keeps trying to entice me to become comfortable in the dark, but I see through his machinations His subtleties and charm will never convince me; especially after what he did to me.

Like I stated before, my wife told me of the Black Whisperer. She told me! So, one night I was sitting in my living room. I was comfortably entrenched in my old burnt orange recliner riddled with food stains and a couple of holes on the left arm rest from the cherry of a cigarette that dangled far too often from my drunken finger tips. The ice jangled in my glass filled with honey colored whiskey. The sweet voice of a rhythm and blues songstress eased my tensions of the work day as I sat back and let the music do its thing. While I was in my mental cool down from trudging through the day, I realized that for the first time in a while I wasn’t feeling guilty about Leticia’s death. The brief period of guilt free thoughts made me terribly anxious once I sensed that this moment was a sign that I was beginning to let go. I jolted to my feet. I wasn’t ready to let go! I threw the empty thirty dollar bottle of whiskey that was on the coffee table into the corner of the room. My chest hurt, and my breath became laborious. I gazed upon the shards of glass and felt security in my rage. Susurrous sounds emanated from the shadowy corner by my vintage juke box. A man’s faint voice spoke to me unintelligibly. I scoured my apartment, anticipating a violent confrontation…

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Into the Dark with Rose Blackthorn

With the release of our seventeenth anthology, we at Sirens Call Publications decided not to break tradition and asked all of the contributing authors in FEAR: Of the Dark to share the inspiration for their stories. Out of the nine authors whose tales lurk between the covers waiting to terrify you, seven took up the challenge of putting their fears into words. Next up we have Rose Blackthorn, author of In the Dark. But before we delve into what horrors hide in dark of her mind, let’s take a moment for everyone to get acquainted just a little more…

RoseBlackthorn 0207Rose Blackthorn lives in the high mountain desert of Eastern Utah with her boyfriend and two dogs, an Australian Shepherd mix called Boo and a Yorkie named Shadow. She spends her time writing, reading, being crafty, and photographing the surrounding wilderness. An only child, she was lucky enough to have a mother who loved books, and has been surrounded by them her entire life. Thus instead of squabbling with siblings, she learned to be friends with her imagination and the voices in her head are still very much present.

She is a member of the HWA and has been published online and in print with Necon E-Books, Stupefying Stories, Cast of Wonders, Buzzy Mag and the anthologies The Ghost IS the Machine, A Quick Bite of Flesh, Fear the Abyss, From Beyond the Grave, Horrific History, Eulogies II: Tales from the Cellar, Blood and Roses, O Little Town of Deathlehem and The Best of the Horror Society 2013, among others. You can find her on Twitter at @Rose_Blackthorn or on her blog.

So without further ado, we turn you over to Rose…

How To Freak Yourself Out When You’re Home Alone…

So, the wonderful ladies at Sirens Call Publications asked if I’d like to do a guest post about the inspiration for my story In the Dark which has just been published in FEAR: Of the Dark. Since this particular tale actually has kind of an interesting back story, I was happy to participate.

First, like the characters in the story, I have two dogs. I also live in a rural area about five miles from the outskirts of the nearest (small) town. The house where I live is surrounded for the most part by empty fields and the occasional stand of trees. It’s very quiet here, and I enjoy being away from the hustle and bustle. The original inspiration of this story actually happened to me, at my house, on an evening when I was home alone except for my dogs. As the sun dropped behind the horizon, the wind came up as it often does. My dogs, sweet little cuddlers that they are, were playing in the backyard. And then they weren’t playing anymore. They were standing at the back fence, staring into the darkening field behind our house where nobody lives. And they were growling. Their hackles were up. They began to bark, and dash back and forth along the fence line, snarling and baring their teeth. They would not listen to me as I tried to call them back into the house. There was something out there in the closest little outcropping of Russian olive trees, they were sure of it. Whatever it was, they didn’t like it, and they were doing their best to warn it off. And for the first time since I’ve lived in this house, in this quiet sparsely populated area, I was scared.

Keep in mind, I have worked Haunted House attractions, and I’ve watched horror movies and read horror novels for most of my life. It takes a lot to scare me anymore. But at that moment, with my dogs doing their best to warn off whatever was out there, knowing I was pretty much on my own, I got chills and the hair stood up on my arms. I couldn’t see anything in the trees, but it was getting pretty dark and the wind was blowing so everything was moving. Fear of the unknown may be humankind’s first and most lasting fear. No matter how civilized or advanced we become, the unknown still has the ability to frighten.

Secondly, in the area where I now live, there is an ongoing legend about a strange piece of property. You can check it out online; I did. The place is popularly known as Skinwalker Ranch, and it has a long history of odd occurrences. Unexplained lights in the sky, sightings of unclassified animals (bigfoot? werewolves?), livestock disappearances and cattle mutilations, the list goes on. Conspiracy theorists have stated there are UFO landings, portals to other dimensions, and that the Department of Defense and National Institute for the Discovery of Science have at different times funded or performed scientific inquiry into the strange happenings at the ranch. The local Ute Indian Tribe apparently has legends concerning a Skinwalker or shapeshifter, which is supposedly responsible for much of the bizarre activity in the area.

So, was there a skinwalker wandering around in my back field, antagonizing my dogs? I’m about seventeen miles from the ranch, but I suppose that’s not too far for a shapeshifter to wander. As for me? I keep my doors locked and make sure my dogs come in before dark.

Thank you Rose! Now let’s take a look at FEAR: Of the Dark

FOTD_desaturated_coverWhat makes your skin tingle? What makes you look over your shoulder sure that something is lurking there? What ratchets your tension level up  so high that nothing matters more than what comes next on the page?

The answers to those questions are the ones we sought when we put together this collection of nine stories. Inside these pages you’ll find fear that engages, fear that provokes, fear that drives you to the brink of… Well, everyone has a different precipice when it comes to fear, but the stories selected for FEAR: Of the Dark certainly held our attention.

If you truly enjoy a well written story that engages the senses and prompts anxiety and paranoia, FEAR: Of the Dark may be the perfect collection of short stories for you. And in case you were wondering, it is waiting for you, out there – somewhere; you just don’t know it yet.

Contributing Authors:

Rose Blackthorn, Juan J. Gutiérrez, Jovan Jones, Lars Kramhøft, Lisamarie Lamb, Jon Olson, Zachary O’Shea, Jon Steinhagen, and Alex Woolf

***

Available for Purchase at:

Amazon:

US | UK | Canada | Australia | Germany | France | Spain | Italy | Japan | Mexico | Brazil | India

CreateSpace

Smashwords

***

And here’s an excerpt from In the Dark

The sun had set and in a remarkably short time the ambient light in the sky had faded. As soon as it really got dark, that’s when the ruckus started. The two dogs ran back and forth along the back fence, barking–barking–barking. They lived in a rural area, and there were no houses to be seen beyond the back fence; just fields with weeds and trees, and eventually another fence off in the distance.

“What do you think is out there?” Tristan asked. She tried to sound nonchalant and slightly disinterested, but there was a low current of unease in her voice. They’d only lived here for a month, and she wasn’t used to the quiet or the lack of other people.

“Could be a lot of things,” her father Jim replied as he put the last of the washed and dried dinner dishes away in the cupboard. “Rabbits or raccoons. Even birds.” He closed the cabinet door and cocked his head, listening to the ongoing barrage of sound. “Although, it could be coyotes, too. Maybe we should call them back in here.”

Tristan nodded and went to the back screen door. There was a light switch on the wall beside it, and she flipped it on. The bulb outside wasn’t very bright, so the light didn’t quite reach all the way to the fence. “Blue!” she called through the screen, then, “Brutus! Come on, you two. Time for bed.”

The dogs must have looked back at the house to where she stood silhouetted in the doorway, because she saw eerie reflections from their eyes. Blue was bigger, so her eyes were higher and a little farther apart. Brutus was a terrier mix, only ten or twelve pounds, but his eye-shine was almost as high as the bitch’s because he was standing on his back feet, front paws braced on the chain-link fence.

“Come on, time to come in!” she called again, and clapped her hands together sharply, making her palms sting. But they just turned away from her and went on with their barking, dashing back and forth along the length of the fence as though looking for a way through to the dark fields beyond.

“Stubborn little shits,” Jim said, but he was smiling. He went to the little hidden closet tucked inside the laundry room just off the kitchen, and came back with a BB gun. He had put the gun there, making sure it was loaded, just in case they had any problems with wild animals getting inside the fence. Now he pumped it a couple of times, and told Tristan, “Open the door, T.”

When she did, he stepped out on the patio and whistled, a sharp piercing sound that silenced the dogs. “Come on, dogs. Now,” he called, and the authoritative tone in his voice did the trick. Reluctantly, they left the fence and trotted across the yard. “Get in the house,” he added when they hesitated at the edge of the patio. Blue tucked her tail, and scooted through the open door. Brutus, true to his feisty nature, yipped once in canine defiance, then raced into the house. “Shut the door. I’m going to go take a look.”

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Into the Dark with Alex Woolf

With the release of our seventeenth anthology, we at Sirens Call Publications decided not to break tradition and asked all of the contributing authors in FEAR: Of the Dark to share the inspiration for their stories. Out of the nine authors whose tales lurk between the covers waiting to terrify you, seven took up the challenge of putting their fears into words. We begin with Alex Woolf, author of The House on the Peninsula, but before we delve into what horrors hide in dark of his mind, let’s take a moment for everyone to get acquainted just a little more…

Layout 1Alex Woolf was born in London in 1964, and as a child of the 1970s remembers frequent power cuts and being frightened of an all-consuming dark. When he grew up he became a writer of fiction and non-fiction, mainly for young people and usually on quite dark themes. He’s had over sixty titles published in many different languages, including books on spiders, Nazis, asteroid strikes, ghosts, aliens and the Black Death. His recent fiction includes Chronosphere, a time-warping sci-fi trilogy, Soul Shadows, a horror novel about cannabalistic shadows, Whispers from Behind the Cellar Door, a collection of horror tales, and Aldo Moon, featuring a teenage Victorian ghost-hunter and described by bestselling crime writer Peter James as “witty, ghostly and at times deliciously ghastly.” 2014 sees the release of Iron Sky: Dread Eagle, his first foray into the world of steampunk. He lives in Southgate, North London, with his wife and two children. You can find him on Twitter at @RealAlexWoolf and on Facebook.

So without further ado, we turn you over to Alex…

The House On The Peninsula Inspiration

I’ve always liked stories that lead you down unexpected paths. They start somewhere familiar and you think you know where you are, and then something happens and another thing happens and before you know it, you’re in a place that is completely alien and usually quite frightening. A good example of this is the movie From Dusk Till Dawn, which starts as a straightforward tale of a bank heist and a getaway, and then descends into vampiric horror.

In my story, ‘The House on the Peninsula’, we begin with a thief – a housebreaker. I thought it would be interesting to have as my hero a man who actually likes the dark – who relies on it in order to carry out his secret, nefarious work. I don’t know any thieves personally, so my inspiration for this character had to come from within, and from what I imagined such a person might be like. The thief is comfortable and relaxed as he goes about his business. There is no hint at first that he himself might be under any threat other than discovery.

When I began writing the story, I didn’t have any clear idea about what was going to happen. All I knew was that I wanted to subvert expectations – the thief’s expectations of what was going to happen next, and also, hopefully, the readers’. I wanted the house to be – for that night at least and for my thief – the worst place on earth. And I wanted the darkness to be a character in the story – or several characters, because the quality of the darkness actually changes from scene to scene.

I once read a book called The Ritual by Adam Nevill, about a bunch of hikers who get lost in a dark wood and terrible things start happening to them. It’s very good at describing that moment-by-moment, sweat-drenched descent into horror. As I wrote the story, I tried to imagine at each second how the thief was feeling. I tried to picture myself in that house, stumbling along in his shoes. I recalled an experience in my childhood when I got lost at night in a country house where I was staying. I was attempting to find the toilet, but there were so many doors in the long corridor, and I was terrified of opening any of them in case I found myself in someone’s bedroom. There was some light in that corridor. It would have been a lot more frightening if there hadn’t been.

I’ve mentioned a few inspirations here, but I’m sure there were many more that reached in from my subconscious while I was working on this story. As a writer, I’m only ever vaguely aware of what’s going on in my brain as my fingers are punching away at the keyboard. I’m gripped by the unfolding narrative, striving for words to describe what I can see, hear, and smell. Most of the time I don’t have a clue where any of it comes from or how it got there – but I want to take this opportunity to thank any storytellers out there from whose wellsprings of imagination I might have unthinkingly taken a drink. Perhaps one day this story might serve as an inspiration to some other writer. That’s a nice thought!

Thank you Alex! Now let’s take a look at FEAR: Of the Dark

FOTD_desaturated_coverWhat makes your skin tingle? What makes you look over your shoulder sure that something is lurking there? What ratchets your tension level up  so high that nothing matters more than what comes next on the page?

The answers to those questions are the ones we sought when we put together this collection of nine stories. Inside these pages you’ll find fear that engages, fear that provokes, fear that drives you to the brink of… Well, everyone has a different precipice when it comes to fear, but the stories selected for FEAR: Of the Dark certainly held our attention.

If you truly enjoy a well written story that engages the senses and prompts anxiety and paranoia, FEAR: Of the Dark may be the perfect collection of short stories for you. And in case you were wondering, it is waiting for you, out there – somewhere; you just don’t know it yet.

Contributing Authors:

Rose Blackthorn, Juan J. Gutiérrez, Jovan Jones, Lars Kramhøft, Lisamarie Lamb, Jon Olson, Zachary O’Shea, Jon Steinhagen, and Alex Woolf

***

Available for Purchase at:

Amazon:

US | UK | Canada | Australia | Germany | France | Spain | Italy | Japan | Mexico | Brazil | India

CreateSpace

Smashwords

***

And here’s a little excerpt from The House on the Peninsula

I’ve never understood it when people say they’re scared of the dark. It’s not the dark that’s the problem now is it? Dark never hurt anybody. It’s like saying you’re scared of a mask. What you mean is that you’re scared of what it’s hiding. That’s a mistake commonly made, I find. Personally, I love the dark. Dark is my friend. Dark helps me do my job. And I don’t mind that people fear it, if it means they’ll leave me be.

I’m working tonight, as it happens. It’s two o’clock in the morning, and dark as a badger’s guts. Cloud’s covering any light from moon or stars. Perfect! I’m out on the peninsula at the south side of the bay. It’s a narrow, curving blade of land. A single road leads almost to the very end where the black rocks tumble into the foam. There are houses strung out along the road – big old houses, sturdy enough to bear the constant sea winds, with heavy oak timbers that creak at night. They probably creak days, too – though I wouldn’t know about that. Those creaks are my friends, too. People fear them, just like they fear the dark, and they don’t come bothering me.

At night, you can see the lights of the houses on the peninsula from the far side of the bay. You can see them from the marina, or from the upper floors of the high-rise hotels in town. The lights twinkle prettily through the sea mist like ships on the horizon. By eleven o’clock, or thereabouts, they’re all switched off – all but the outside lights, which go on burning steadily till dawn. You can see them, if you can’t sleep, on your early-hours amble along the beach, or while nursing a nightcap on your hotel balcony. But would you notice if the outside lights of one of those peninsula houses all of a sudden went out? I promise you wouldn’t. Put it another way: in the fifteen years I’ve been working this strip, no one ever has.

***

I’m standing in the hallway of the fourth house from the end. I’ve been lucky – found a window open. It’s been a few months since my last excursion to the peninsula, and security’s obviously got lax again. It’s one of the bigger houses, space enough for a family of five or six to judge by the number of windows on the upper floor.

Apart from the odd creaking of joist or rafter, it’s quiet in here. You can barely hear the crash of the surf or the screech of gulls. With my torch, it doesn’t take me long to locate the fuse box. They’re always in the same place – the cupboard under the stairs. I remove the lid. All the black switches are pointing upwards like a row of goose-stepping soldiers. The big red mains switch is pointing upwards, too. I push it down. That’s dealt with the lights – and I’m willing to bet none of the insomniacs across the bay noticed a thing…

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