Coven Justice – Drabble published in Quarantine Quanta

My drabble, Coven Justice, has been chosen for a slot in the recent drabble contest, Quarantine Quanta, run by fellow writer Maura Yzmore. The contest spans a variety of speculative fiction—horror, sci-fi, and slipstream—as well as some unclassifiable pieces. My drabble landed in the Quanta of Levity category reserved the cross-genre humourous (in my case sardonic humor) selections.

[Click for story link.]

Much thanks to Maura Yzmore for spawning this contest during these days of quarantines and distancing. It was a most generous contest especially considering it being free to enter. So please check out, spread the word, and support Quarantine Quanta as well as checking out some of Maura’s own drabbles (she’s written one or two…or more).

 

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Cover by Daniele Serra

Rue Morgue Magazine names Mannequin as Best Multi-Author Horror Anthology of 2019

Recently, Rue Morgue Magazine has named the anthology, Mannequin: Tales of Wood Made Flesh, as the best multi-author horror anthology of 2019! Happy to have had my tale, “The Night Shift”, as one of its sixteen stories. Congratulations to Silent Motorist Media and editor Justin Burnett on this honor.

As the first release from Silent Motorist Media, this is certainly a big accomplishment. For a small press in a saturated market, publishing is a tough and often thankless job. In upcoming SMM news, they are soon coming out with a second release: The Nightside Codex. They also will be opening a submission call for a third anthology release tentatively named Mysterium Tremendum.

See the below for links and book description for Mannequin. Please also check out Silent Motorist Media’s website, facebook, twitter, and Patreon for those who would like to support indie creators.

Mannequin Kindle Link

Silent Motorist Media Website

Rue Morgue Magazine Link

Mannequin Book Description:

Mannequin: Tales of Wood Made Flesh, an anthology celebrating the uncanny realm of the living inanimate. Featuring tales of dolls, mannequins, statues, and other varieties of humanoid horror, Mannequin explores the intersection between artificiality and life through a stunning variety of writers both established and new. This highly-anticipated debut anthology from Silent Motorist Media is certain leave readers of horror and weird fiction more than satisfied.

List of Mannequin Contributors:

Ramsey Campbell
Michael Wehunt
Christine Morgan
Richard Gavin
Kristine Ong Muslim
Nicholas Day
William Tea
S.L. Edwards
Matthew M. Bartlett
S.E. Casey
Austin James
Jon Padgett
Duane Pesice
Daulton Dickey
Justin A. Burnett
C.P. Dunphey

(Introduction by Christopher Slatsky; Cover by Don Noble)

Ten Weird Writers to Save Us All! – Silent Motorist Media’s annual list

The 2nd annual “Ten Weird Writers to Save Us All”, a speculative fiction writer spotlight, has been posted by the good folks at Silent Motorist Media. I am honored to be included this year. The List is compiled through nominations and aims to cast a light to those writers who work a bit under the radar as the below mission statement suggests:

Nominate a weird, bizarro, horror, or otherwise experimental writer you feel could use some recognition this year for their tireless work. Try to avoid nominating folks who already have a strong online presence and fanbase; the point of this list is to express gratitude to authors who might not receive it otherwise.

I’m not sure who nominated me for this (but I have a few ideas), but it means a lot that someone(s) thinks enough of my work and took the time/effort to do so. Thanks, too, to Justin Burnett, the mind behind Silent Motorist Media for hosting this. One of the aims of Silent Motorist Media is to help and promote independent writers. I have always had positive interactions with Justin and have two flash pieces previously featured on the site (“Biological Determinism” and “The Beauty in the Breaking“). Also check out SMM’s first release, the anthology “Mannequin” featuring puppet related weird stories by Ramsey Campbell, Michael Wehunt, Richard Gavin, and Jon Padgett to name a few.

So I hope everyone will follow/support Silent Motorist Media. Congratulations to the other winners. The full list appears here.

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MANNEQUIN: Wood Made Flesh- Anthology Release

From publisher Silent Motorist Media, the themed anthology MANNEQUIN has been released this week. My story “The Night Shift” is one of sixteen stories about dummies, puppets, mannequins, scarecrows, and other various human-disguised automatons. From the back cover:

Mannequin: Tales of Wood Made Flesh, an anthology celebrating the uncanny realm of the living inanimate. Featuring tales of dolls, mannequins, statues, and other varieties of humanoid horror, Mannequin explores the intersection between artificiality and life through a stunning variety of writers both established and new. This highly-anticipated debut anthology from Silent Motorist Media is certain leave readers of horror and weird fiction more than satisfied.

I’ve always avoided writing a puppet story. It’s well trammeled ground in the horror/weird fiction world and, as a Ligotti-phile, I subconsciously accept anything I attempt would grossly pale in comparison to such masterpieces as “Dream of a Manikin”, “Dr. Voke and Mr. Veech”, or “The Clown Puppet”.

However, because I wanted to be a part of Silent Motorist Media’s inaugural anthology, I got to work to come up with a puppet story that wasn’t too derivative. I ended up being inspired by a title that I didn’t end up using: “Hypergamy of Puppets”. It’s a ridiculous concept, of course, but interesting too—how to fit a story that makes sense around such an absurd abstraction? Sleeping on this conundrum a few nights, an idea formed although in the end I dropped the title. I’m not sure how many people know what hypergamy is without looking it up; plus, I needed to use the title to keep the reader focused on the corporate elements lurking behind the narrative.

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View of a city park from the 21st floor

Many of the details in “The Night Shift” are experienced. I work a desk job in Boston on the 21st floor across from a small city park. The park is nicknamed “Pick-up Park” as in the story, and underneath its lush tree-lined lawn is concealed a parking garage. Also, I’ve worked long enough to notice the trends in corporate life explored in the story such as the taking down the walls of cubicles, no longer assigning seats, and the investments in flexible work-at-home, work-when-you-can technology. I can also see where further technological advances will influence work culture in the future. I’ve always avoided using my mundane office as a environment in a story. Again, maybe subconsciously I know I can’t compete with Ligotti’s “My Work Has Not Been Done”. However, given corporate life’s invisible coercive strings of scheduling, time sheets, dress codes, and office etiquette; what better place to set a story about puppets?

Another trend of working in the city I have lately noticed is the use of greenery. In the lobby of my building, for example, vertical gardens have recently been installed around the elevator wells (see pic below- yes, the plants are real). The tops of most buildings are ugly slabs of concrete with a physical plant inartfully perched on top. However, more and more, gardens are being built on rooftops as perk for its occupants. It’s quite a juxtaposition to see these oasis suspended high above the streets. It’s rather calming and makes me feel less stress about the hustle of the city.

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Vertical garden structure in the building lobby.

MANNEQUIN is available in print and ebook (click here for link). The full list of authors is as follows:

Ramsey Campbell
Michael Wehunt
Christine Morgan
Richard Gavin
Kristine Ong Muslim
Nicholas Day
William Tea
S.L. Edwards
Matthew M. Bartlett
S.E. Casey
Austin James
Jon Padgett
Duane Pesice
Daulton Dickey
Justin A. Burnett
C.P. Dunphey

(Introduction by Christopher Slatsky)

Thanks to Justin Burnett from Silent Motorist Media for publishing and compiling such a great TOC (Ramsey Campbell!!). There are many of the best weird/horror authors working in the industry today here and am honored to share a few pages with them.

Here’s a few more Boston pics from outside my office windows. Until next time. -S.E. Casey

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Rooftop lawn and reflecting pool
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Another vertical-indoor garden shot

 

Silhouette Golems – New story in the upcoming issue of VASTARIEN

I am happy to announce my short story Silhouette Golems will be in the next issue of the  literary journal VASTARIEN.

If there is one current publication that I would wish to have a story placed, it is VASTARIEN, a publication inspired by the writings of Thomas Ligotti. Many years ago I stumbled upon a copy of The Nightmare Factory, a compendium of many of Ligotti’s stories, which I felt an immediate and strong connection. More philosophical and atmospheric than gory or scary, this was my gateway into cosmic horror, although Ligotti’s stories stand out in their own unique category. Reading the first three issues of VASTARIEN, to have one of my works appearing here is definitely a high-point in my writing career so far.

Edited by the co-administrators of the longtime message board Thomas Ligotti Online (Ligotti.net), Jon Padgett and Matt Cardin, VASTRIAN is a tri-annual publication of weird fiction, non-fiction articles, poetry, and other literary hybrids. I am honored to be included in Volume 2, Issue 1 with many indie authors that I read and follow such as Matthew Bartlett, Gemma Files, C.M. Muller, Farah Rose Smith, Kyle Opperman, and Jayaprakash Satyamurthy to name a few (see full Table of Contents below).

The current issue can be pre-ordered now (click for link). It will be available to ship and available on Amazon in the next few weeks. However, buying direct or through a Patreon plan can help support VASTARIEN, as a greater percentage of the proceeds will go to the publication.

Thanks to Jon Padgett and Matt Cardin for bringing my Silhouette Golems to life! Looking forward to reading the issue!

PATREON LINK HERE.

SUBSCRIPTION LINK HERE.

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And if Vastarien was a nightmare, it was a nightmare transformed in spirit by the utter absence of refuge: nightmare made normal.

2018 in Resentments – A year in writing

‘Tis the time for authors to make #amwriting year end summaries and/or lists of accomplishments. Some post submission/rejection statistics, others make best-of’s, and there are those who write look-back or look-forward type posts. I’ve decided to join the fray and make a ‘2018 in resentments’ blog.

“The man who lies to himself can be more easily offended than anyone else. You know it is sometimes very pleasant to take offense, isn’t it? A man may know that nobody has insulted him, but that he has invented the insult for himself, has lied and exaggerated to make it picturesque, has caught at a word and made a mountain out of a molehill–he knows that himself, yet he will be the first to take offense, and will revel in his resentment till he feels great pleasure in it.” – Dostoevsky, “The Brothers Karamazov”

I wrote a similar ‘resentments’ post last year, so might as well make it an annual occurrence. Of course holding onto resentment isn’t a good thing, but the harm isn’t the things we actually resent, but in the resentment itself—the deleterious effect of cortisol and the self-destructive behavior it can trigger. However, if we can avoid reacting with anger or denial, resentment can be helpful, much like pain. No one wants to feel pain, it’s terrible by definition, but it’s our greatest tool in positively modifying behaviors. Your hand hurts? Don’t try to be noble stoically dening that it hurts, see what may be causing the pain and, hey, take it off the stove. And maybe never put your hand on the stove again, okay?

Time was the resentment of 2018 that I couldn’t escape. It got particularly difficult to balance my writing goals with everything else this year. I constantly felt that I had no time and whenever I did anything it was at the expense of the five other things that I could have done. I felt like I was rationing aspirations and holding my dreams hostage. But time is a universal constraint. Everyone has the same amount—24 hours in every day—so it’s a mirage resentment. Resentments generally stem from unfairness, that someone next door is getting a free ride or being arbitrarily favored (re: Cain and Abel). So my frustration isn’t really with time, but in my choices of how I am using it. I admit that there is a lack of organization and planning on my part. I am a master of procrastination and allow myself too much leisure time as well.

One of the casualties of my time resentment was that I ended up only reading just two books all year (not counting short stories, but still). I feel especially guilty for all the writing friends whose books I promised to read, but ended piling up in my TBR pile one on top of the other. What’s worse, in last year’s post I vowed to read more. This misfire is especially damaging as reading is one of the best ways to improve writing. It’s a definite help for me to read professional authors to learn by osmosis. But it didn’t happen. It got to the point where I began to resent those book bloggers or Goodreads reviewers who read fifty books a year. I’m obviously projecting. I need to find the time to read, to make it a necessity, and not feel like I am sacrificing my writing time by doing it.

My reluctance to read also stems from my own inability to finish a book I wanted to self-publish. I stumbled on a writing blog a few months ago which introduced me to a new writing term of ‘Anthology Author’. Supposedly, this is a pejorative dig describing a writer who appears in many short story anthologies and magazines, but doesn’t have any novels or collections published under their own name, the negative implication that this is being something less than a ‘real writer’. This got to me a little bit I’ll admit. While I really wanted to get something out on Amazon/Smashwords that I am proud of, I found myself deferring all year to work on submission calls. However, the more I thought about it, falling into the category of ‘Anthology Author’ isn’t a bad thing. I love the challenge of writing for open calls and being a part of a group project. Writing for me needs to be fun and meaningful. Getting a regular dose of success and being active in the writing community helps keeps me engaged and motivated.

Some of the anthologies/magazines/websites I did get published in 2018 include Hinnom Magazine, The Sirens Call, Molotov Cocktail, Silent Motorist Media, Aphotic Realm (issues #4 and #5), Weird Christmas, Grinning Skull Press, and Trembling With Fear (Horrortree.com!). Of course, there are countless more which I got rejected from. But there is no resentment there; I am genuinely grateful to have the opportunity to submit. Also, here and there I get some feedback which is invaluable.

So I am grateful that there are markets dedicated to publishing stories and promoting relatively unknown authors like me. My only resentment is the lack of reader feedback that they get as I am always proud of my work and awed by the effort that goes into it. Whether I’m in a anthology/magazine or not, I wish more people would buy, read, review, and otherwise support these publications. But I am just as much to blame. While I have donated to some Patreon/Indiegogo projects during the year and bought a bunch of indie books, my reading and review writing is lacking. I need to step up my game in those areas.

What is the cost of not supporting indie authors/publications? During the year there were a few publishing houses that closed down (Hindered Souls Press for example) which means less opportunity for everyone. It’s a tough business and is important to support these places as they are important resources for authors, especially those of us who are starting out. Most of these markets aren’t run by entrepreneurs or business people, but genre fanatics doing it because books are a passion. Two magazines that I have stories in are from Aphotic Realm (‘Dystopia’ and ‘Eldritch’). Aphotic Realm don’t offer ebook versions deciding to publish in full-color glossy paperback. Yes, the magazines are relatively expensive to purchase, but part of the charm is the artwork and comics that wouldn’t translate well to digital, hence the physical only policy. Part of the price are the visual aesthetics and feel which are a throwback to enjoyment I got out of the graphic novels of my youth. I can be as penny wise and pound foolish as anyone, however, buying decisions shouldn’t only consider the actual product, but the support you are giving to the publisher for the viability of their future. Most people lose money in publishing, or at the very least put in a lot of effort (and time!) with zero compensation.

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Animal Control” illustration courtesy of Molotov Cocktail.

And then there’s this guy. My story Animal Control, published by Molotov Cocktail Lit Zine (3rd place finish in the 2018 #KillerFlash contest) is my favorite piece that I wrote in 2018. I got a great response from this story, easily my most commented on work. So what is there to be resentful about? Nothing, except perhaps the story itself is about resentfulness. Resentment is destructive, annoying, and toxic, much like my fictional animal control officer. You wish it away, out of your life forever, but when it’s forced out everything goes to hell, the counterbalance of the world thrown off. For example, most people end up worse off after winning the lottery. Yep, not an exaggeration. Maybe it’s best to learn to live with my irksome metaphoric animal control officer, endure his boorish behavior and obnoxious idiosyncrasies because the alternative may be worse. And when his negativity impinges on your conscious, use it to benefit by using it as a sign to check your life choices and your gratitude of everything you have accomplished.

I’ll wrap up on that positive note. Hopefully, I learn from 2018 and read more, write more, and post more reviews in 2019. Thanks to everyone who has read, commented, interacted with, published, and/or tolerated me over the last year.

S.E. Casey

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THE STARS OVER CASPER, TEXAS — honorable mention, Weird Christmas Flash Fiction Contest

My 350 word short holiday story, THE STARS OVER CASPER, TEXAS, received an honorable mention from WeirdChristmas.com‘s inaugural holiday flash fiction contest. You can listen to my story and 11 other weird flash fiction stories from the contest results episode of the podcast (mine starts at 12:41), or read it in the comments section. So, what is my story about? I think the host’s introduction to it says it all, “…a mix between Cormac McCarthy and Thomas Ligotti”. So, that’s going in the Author Bio; heh, heh.

Thanks to Craig at Weird Christmas for running the contest. He has committed to doing it again next year, so get your stories ready (only 350 days until the 2019 deadline). Also, thanks to Brian Earl (twitter- @XmasPastPodcast) from the Christmas Past blog for his reading of my story.

S.E. Casey

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CLICK FOR STORY LINK

The Toy Gun Factory – (A Christmas Horror Story)

There were no ceremonies and no witnesses. Twelve days before Christmas, in the middle of the Shaker Hills Mall parking lot, the tree appeared overnight.

Driven clear through the asphalt, its expansive width obliterated several rows of prime parking spaces. Gnarled bark and cankerous knots pocked its sooty trunk. Laden with rotten needles, its black branches swept off the stocky axis casting an ominous shade in the weak December sun.

Ribbons of mercury festooned the dark conifer, an infernal beauty in the cancerous tinsel although no one was fool enough to touch. We knew to steer clear, a tangible blight radiating from its awful core. At night, we beheld the lights recessed in the stygian foliage blinking deliberately like eyes of some wicked deep-forest predators.

No one knew the motivation behind the unwanted gift or the identity of its silent benefactor. The mall remained open despite the sinister presence. However, sales were sluggish, the mall plagued by a myriad of strange phenomenon. Without explanation and at irregular intervals, dirges of bassoons and oboes would blare over the PA system. Escalators suddenly reversed zooming backwards at ten times the speed, several broken bones and concussions the consequence. A six-year-old girl’s hand was badly scalded in the atrium wishing well, the waters somehow brought to boil.

The odd occurrences continued after hours. The department store mannequins were repositioned during the night, no one admitting to the deed. In the morning, the store owners would find them lurking in menacing poses or dangling from the ceiling in mock hangings. Thirteen mannequins went missing, the same number as the work gloves and coveralls mysteriously stolen from Krauss’s Sporting Goods.

Silent for decades, the abandoned factory behind the mall fired up its furnaces. Iron dust spewed from the dilapidated smokestacks which had been painted in a candy cane swirl. No one smiled at the mockingly festive design, a foul brown cloud gathering above the dilapidated building. Whoever manned the old assembly lines remained a mystery. No one could get close enough to find out, the demonic growls of the watchdogs slinking unseen amidst the winter shadows keeping everyone at bay.

The mall shut down three days before Christmas, abandoning the most profitable shopping days. The Yuletide spirit had been wrung out of us. We mostly stayed home, the shuttered factory’s hellish growl and faceless laborers the town’s only commerce.

On Christmas Eve, we were compelled to gather around the monstrous tree. Basking in the icy moon shadows, we celebrated under the starry black limbs, foolish worshippers shushing the crying children before hanging our sacrifices in those solemn, malevolent boughs.

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Story first published in 2017 on HorrorScribes.com. Placed 6th place in the Horror Scribes 2017 Christmas Horror Story Contest.

Needles – Drabble published by Trembling with Fear (HorrorTree)

My 100 word story, Needles [click for link], is included in the 12/2/18 edition of The Horror Tree’s Trembling with Fear weekly fiction blog.

I thought of the story more than a year ago as a possible drabble, but never actually wrote it due to laziness. I originally came up with the idea while commuting, which I have found where most of my stories are born. Writing a number of drabbles over the summer, I decided to see if my ‘Needle’ idea worked and finally conquered the procrastination imp to write it.

Thanks to the Horror Tree—Steph Ellis, and Stuart Conover—in publishing. I have been using the Horror Tree for submission ideas, publishing news, and industry tips since I started writing. It’s a great resource, informative, and a big time saver. Glad to contribute a little something to the site, hopefully this goes some of the way to saying thanks!

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Vinegar Chips available at 101Words.org and Other Drabble News

My 101 word story “Vinegar Chips” has been posted at 101Words. It’s the first in a group of drabbles I have recently written. There has been several recent drabble horror anthology releases that have been making the rounds in recent months (DrabbleDark, ed. by Eric S Fomley and 100 Word Horrors, ed. by Kevin J Kennedy), so I thought I would throw my hat into the ring. Perfect, the short-short format, as in the summer, my time to write is limited.

I also have 100 word stories accepted to be published in Chronos: An Anthology of Time Drabbles (available for pre-order) and Drabbledark II (release TBA). Also, I have written two other drabbles that I am waiting for markets to open. Another 100 story I wrote I expanded into a full fledged flash which I am excited about.

Thanks to Maura and Shannon from 101Words for publishing. Check out 101Words.org and their sister site, FlashFictionMagazine.com too!

S.E. Casey

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