Every year, authors from Fiction Writing, a Facebook Group hosted by Brian Paone and Laurie Gardiner, produce a short-story anthology in the ‘Of Words’ series. This year, from Scout Media comes A Haunting of Words—the third volume in an ongoing short story anthology series featuring authors from all over the world.
If you love dark, delicious twists, this is your true home. If, as the days draw in, you fancy a plethora of shivers down your spine, this is your ultimate dream. Whether you love macabre psychological thrillers, you relish tragic romance, you want the catharsis of a heart-wrenching tear-jerker, or you want to laugh until your belly aches, there is a story for you here.
These stories will haunt you forever…
Anesthetize (or A Dream Played In Reverse on Piano Keys) by Brian Paone is a dark, twisty psychological fantasy. The final lines left me reeling as it all fell into place. Troubled teen Mark Crowley is desperately trying to contact his ex-girlfriend Sam, who has taken out a restraining order. As he pours out his pitch black soul to the ghost of his best friend, Dawson, the macabre coils of Mark’s mind and past unravel. It feels surreal, like a bad dream, haunted by the chilling leitmotif of the cat, Bonnie, playing the piano keys in reverse. One to read and reread.
Rowdy by D.W. Vogel is a heartwarming tale about the ghost of a dog who never left his family. A simple story, yet one to tug at the heartstrings, and evoking a poignant image you can’t get out of your mind.
Widower’s Choice by Virginia Carraway Stark is a melancholy yarn about an embittered old woman bemoaning her lost life and loves, Memories engulf her in a macabre dance, as the eerie love-hate duality tears her soul in all directions. Virginia is a truly gifted writer. The lyrical cadence of her style harks back to 19th Century opulence. It’s just writing that, irrespective of the story, it is a pure pleasure to read.
The Blue Amberol Turns Again by K.N. Johnson is one of the most original, chilling and best-written tales in the anthology. Set in two timelines, the Oscar-winning star of this story is an old record player that is as seemingly indestructible as the ring in The Lord of The Rings. And just as evil. It twists song lyrics, remembers the past, and predicts the future. This provides not only a refreshingly unusual short story, but a fascinating insight into phonographic and musical history.
If It’s Not Okay, It’s Not The End by Travis West is a poignant cautionary fable about the transience of life and the possible nature of death. It speculates compellingly about the reason some people come back as ghosts, whereas most never do. Four rock musicians on the cusp of fame are killed in a road accident. Whilst his bandmates sought a hedonistic life of booze, drugs and no-strings sex, Howie is seeking something deeper: to rekindle his love for his ex-girlfriend Ashley. The ghost of John Lennon helps the band adjust to being dead, and is instrumental in showing them how a ghost can move on. Gripping stuff!
Only The Dead Go Free by J.M. Ames is…gosh, where do I start with this one? Even the title is messing with my mind! This story is darker than Vantablack and so gory it makes The Silence of the Lambs look like Anne of Green Gables. It is a mindbending horror story about a house steeped in an ever-returning circle of bloodshed. While it overdoses a little on blood and gore for my personal taste, its quality is undeniable: the build-up, suspense, sharp bends and twists are exhilarating. And, at its heart, you have the emotional catharsis of a troubled mother’s struggle to protect her child.
The Unimportance of Being Oscar by Mariana Llanoe is a highly original, quirky and quick-witted tale about a mysteriously time-warped Oscar Wilde’s struggles in the modern world. Here, of course, the opposite is true to his own time: his sexuality is accepted, and his writing panned. Anyone who has ever tried to get anything traditionally published will relate to the (now) Oscar’s frustrations. It is driven both by an acerbic wit and a devastating satire on the modern publishing industry that Oscar himself would have been thrilled with.
Knock, Knock by D.L. Smith Lee is another tragically poignant cautionary tale about love given too late. A love-starved boy from an abusive home finds a friend, a boy in a closet, and eventually disappears with him. His mother spends many wanton years waiting in vain for his return. It offers a blistering warning: love and treasure what you have now, for you may lose it forever.
Gunpowder and Wool by Kari Holloway is a war story about soldiers from the South marching to their certain doom in the heat and dirt in the throes of the American civil war. Or is it? I totally did not see this one coming. Quick-witted, fast-pasted, twisty, acerbic…it is absolute classic Kari. A must read!
Thief by Laurie Gardiner is another one that eddies and ricochets around your mind long after you put it down. A great story always leaves an aftertaste. At the story’s heart is the deep love between two child twin sisters, Cira and Luna. Each has their own cross to bear. Cira is riddled with ‘Medullo’, the brain tumour ‘thief’ that is stealing her body. Luna is desperate to win the love of her mother. The full, shocking, horrifying family history is intimately woven in a lyrical and beautiful prose. And the denouement is chilling yet mesmerising at the same time.
To buy A Haunting of Words from Amazon.com, click here.
To buy A Haunting of Words from Amazon.co.uk, click here.