It’s about time we finally announce the winners for HALLOWEEN PARTY 2019.
It is extremely challenging to choose winners in general, and this anthology had so many excellent submissions that it was, in fact, doubly difficult.
But, winners there must be.
Our third place prize is going out to James Michael Shoberg for his collection of poems:”The Grim Wicked Wood,” “Lizzy Dies From a Plane Crash at the End of This Poem,” and “Run Red.”
Dave and I found Shoberg’s writing to be absolutely delightful, clever, and creative. Dave read them first, and couldn’t wait to show them to me, and Dave is not typically a poetry guy.
Here is a little taste of one of the poems… to whet your whistle:
Kirk’s father said, “Roam and you’ll come to no good,
For bloodsuckers lurk in the grim, wicked wood.
This farm’s isolated; there’s no neighborhood,
And trees swallow screams in the grim, wicked wood.”
He frightened the lad, maybe more than he should,
To quell the allure of the grim, wicked wood.
“I know my boy’s mind, and he’ll come to no good—
He’ll get himself lost in the grim, wicked wood.
And frightening him, maybe more than I should,
Will keep him away from the grim, wicked wood.”
What will be the outcome of “The Grim Wicked Wood?” Will Lizzy die in that plane crash? I’ll never tell…never.
Our second place prize is going out to James Goodridge, for his short story “The Stumpville Affair.”
Dave and I really liked Goodridge’s juxtaposition of horror and pulp novel. Dave said, “James’ story reads like a Dashill Hammett Nick and Nora adventure if Hammett had been writing for WEIRD TALES and finding inspiration in William Hope Hodgson’s occult detective, Carnacki.”
Here is a tasty little morsel from inside of “The Stumpville Affair” just to give you the unique flavor of this piece.
…The creature snatched at him as razor-sharp fangs bit into Mason’s right arm, snapping it off at the elbow. Blood, bone, and muscle mass splattered about in the moonlight. Mason’s lower arm sailed end over end into the air, finally landing atop the weathered house roof. As shock set in, August Mason howled in pain, body quivering. His cries reverberated into the village of Stumpville before trauma took him into eternal darkness.
Just before dawn, the day laborers Mason had hired approached in a dirty pickup. As the headlights grew nearer, the creature, which had been feasting upon the Mason’s crimson and pink flesh, vanished into a nearby treeline. The hens, which had remained silent, resumed their frenzied cackle as Mugsy the rooster emerged from the crawlspace beneath the hen house.
Times were tough, even for occult detectives. Our clientele, those high society moneybags who hired Sue and I to chase ghosts or perform Tarot readings, had dried up as a reliable source of income. Contract work from the city’s paranormal Office of Special Concerns had slowed because of budget cuts.
It was Tuesday, 12:35 AM. Dressed in stripped azure PJs and my red smoking jacket, I was in for the night. I sat behind my desk rolling around a nice-sized emerald from our stash on a desk blotter, wondering how much it might fetch. Off in the distance, a tugboat horn mewed deep on the Hudson River. At least the tug captain had work, unlike the occupants of Riverside Drive and 107th Street. A mug of hyssop tea on my desk curtailed my cravings as the silence of the room was suddenly interrupted.
Sweet heaven help me! What is going to happen next? There is only one way to find out who, or what, is ripping people apart, and you must find out if you want to survive!
Our first place prize is going out to Lisa Fox, for her story “Fallen Hero.”
Fox is a frequent contributor to our anthologies, and we have enjoyed all of her submissions over the years (can I say that now? Wow! Years!). “Fallen Hero” has amazing suspense, and no respite from the terror and retribution inside. What we particularly liked about Fox’s story was the way it pushed you relentlessly forward; there was no hope of escape from this horror.
Here, then, is a small bit from the beginning of “Fallen Hero,” to disquiet you and make you wish you had the book in front of you so that you could find out how it all turns out. Badly… it all turns out badly.
The man walked.
His scuffed work boots pushed pebbles with each step down the gravel path toward town. Ashen dust clung to his faded dungarees and the faint aroma of smoke lingered in the crisp fall air. Hands tucked in the pockets of his tattered black leather jacket, he strode beside the rusting tracks peeking through tufts of brittle overgrowth, the rails warmed but once per week with the slow rumbling of the CSX train as it passed through Mineville, brimming with coal. In the distance, endless rows of dilapidated houses settled beneath the shadow of shale mountains.
After 20 years away, the man returned to the only home he had ever known. Nothing changed here—nothing ever changed here. But, had he? His rounded and hunched shoulders belied his former stature; it was easier for him, better for everyone, to slink by in a world where he was no longer welcome than to rise to his true height, walk with purpose and show them that he was different now; he’d done his time, made peace with the past. The man welcomed the camouflage of age, his graying hair and beard painting him in a sad, non-threatening invisibility that he hoped would allow him to blend in with the landscape and help others forget.
His hazel eyes, magnified by the thick lenses of his oversized and bent wire-framed glasses, fixated on the dust that swirled in eddies beneath his feet. He studied the impression his soles made in the terrain and the way the gravel reset itself as he marched forward, his presence as fleeting as his footsteps.
The boy emerged from the shadow of a burnt-out home in the distance.
Oh, no, no, no! If only the boy had not emerged! Sweet-mother-of-all-that-is-unholy, save us!
I have to tell you, truly, that I do apologize, but once you open the pages of HALLOWEEN PARTY 2019, nothing will save you, not closing the book, getting out of bed, putting on all the lights, having a nice cup of tea or a good stiff drink, the dawn… nothing. Open the book, and your doom is sealed.
How pleasant and perfect.
HALLOWEEN PARTY 2019, on sale now.
Congratulations to our three winners, and many thanks to all the contributors who are older authors, support older authors, and make it so hard to choose!
And thanks to you, dear reader, for supporting the writing dream and the writing life, second acts, and late bloomers.