New Story Alert: ‘Night Shift at the Blue Acres Care Facility’

I mentioned a new submission acceptance and it’s officially out in the world!

My story ‘Night Shift at the Blue Acres Care Facility’ is featured on the third episode of the Hooks of Horror Podcast!

Hooks of Horror

It’s a great new podcast that gives a prompt every month that is then recorded and put out. The narrator does an incredible job. The show is high quality. I’ve included a link below:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/hooks-of-horror/id1409415525?mt=2#episodeGuid=5b88dcbbe17657bc09eb42c8

Enjoy!

Monthly Review (August 2018)

It’s August and that means we are TWO MONTHS AWAY from October which is the best month of the year and please don’t fight me on this because you will lose. August was a busy month for me for a lot of reasons (started taking classes, work craziness, lots of reading to do). So here are some numbers for the month:

Story Submissions:

Submissions: 3

Stories Still Out in the Wild: 2

Acceptances: 1

Rejections: 4

Fhtagn! Four rejections this month! The first three shot-gunned into my inbox on the 1st of the month to remind me that humbleness is a virtue that people should have (or something). I can’t speak for the cruel intentions of the universe.

I sent two of the stories back out, and one of them (a reprint) is back in the story armory. I’m struggling to get some new stories done, but these last few months have been a little dry. I’ve got my eye on a few deadlines for upcoming anthology/magazine calls that I hope to have a stories completed for. But August wasn’t all doom and gloom!

I do have one acceptance… But I can’t talk about it yet! More to come on this.

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What Else Have I Been Doing?

An interview with Kristi DeMeester!

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Kristi had an amazing 2017 and has quickly shot up my list as one of my favorites in the Weird Fiction scene. Read the interview I did with her here to get her take on a bevy of topics (her life, her novel, where you can catch her future work). My next interview will be with Michael Wehunt on the 5th of September.

‘Pickman’s Gallery’ by Ulthar Press

Pickman's Gallery

Ulthar Press’ newest anthology hit shelves on the 18th of this month. It features my story ‘A Pickman Original’, a piece detailing the occupational hazards of being an art collector. To celebrate it’s release I wrote a piece about it’s subject (Richard Upton Pickman) that you can find here. You should also totally buy a copy of this from Ulthar Press or Amazon. Matthew Carpenter has put together another amazing book that I hope all horror fans glam onto.

‘Night Shift at the Blue Acres Care Facility’

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I put together a free story for a submission to The Hooks of Horror Podcast. This kills two birds with one stone. I get to submit a story, and you get a free story to read! So here it is. I hope you enjoy it!

With that we say goodbye to August.

One month closer to October.

Night Shift at the Blue Acres Care Facility

Jake’s phone died with a feeble buzz. Jake tore his ear buds out from his ears and stuffed both his phone and the headphones into the front pocket of his scrubs. Just his luck. Stuck on the night shift with no music.

He looked out over the quiet of the care facility. The silence of the place was starting to get to him. He wished he’d kept his job at McDonald’s. Sure, the pay was better here. But the hours certainly weren’t.

He’d been stuck with the graveyard shift at Blue Acre Care Facility. It was his job to serve as security between the hours of 11 PM and 7 AM the next morning. He was a knight in scrub armor for a building of old people who couldn’t care less about him being there. The only other employees in the building were some catty nurses at the front desk, another security guard in the East Wing, and his buddy Darrell working laundry downstairs.

Five days ago, Jake had been on the Laundry Crew as well. Then it started happening. Old people began dying. Not the normal way they do in facilities like this. This was the fishy sort of death, sometimes multiple in one night. The night shift nurses’ (during their rounds) would find them, mouths open wide and their dry eyeballs bulging. Maybe. Jake suspected that was an exaggeration.

You know what wasn’t an exaggeration? The corpses in the basement. The biggest snowstorm in southwest Michigan had struck earlier in the week. The heavy ice and snow had pulled down power lines and trapped people in their homes. Most of Allegan had lost power, including the morgue up the road. They couldn’t get the bodies. No power to keep them cool. So they were being kept in the service hallway in the basement. Covered in sheets with the doors locked up, a portable cooling system running overtime to keep the bodies cold. Darrell said that the hum of the thing was driving him crazy down in the laundry room.

The owners of Blue Acres had lost it. They couldn’t figure out why their patients were dying. Was it disease? Something more sinister? Jake had been pulled from laundry and stuck at a security desk until an investigation could be completed. His job was to watch the hallway. That’s it. The nurses did everything else.

Everything had been quiet though. Not that Jake minded that. What could he possibly do if someone came strolling down that hallway anyway? Some tall fella, reaching for a door handle, smiling at Jake as he–

It’s so cold

Jake startled and nearly fell from his chair. Someone had just spoke! It had been clear enough that he felt like it was coming from directly behind him. Jake jerked his head around. No one in the hallway except for him. Nothing. You need sleep. You need to get on the day shift. He settled back in, alert for a few minutes. After a while, the complete and utter silence wore on him.

Jake felt his eyes growing heavy. He let them close, just for a second. Behind his eyes, tinged at the edges with darkness, the hallway stretched out. Bad art and maps of the facility dotted the walls. Ice crept up from the floor, frost turning hard as it reached ever higher. Something was walking down the center of the hallway. Impossibly tall. Spindly arms tipped with thin fingers. Fear blossomed in Jake’s chest, red-hot. He got a quick glance at the figure before he averted his eyes. It was maggot-grey, its wrinkled torso shot through with cerulean veins. It walked in a jerky movement that made Jake’s head swim. The ice was creeping higher and higher, consuming wall lights like black mold in a rotting house. The Maggot-Thing turned its head and stretched its neck out, the loose skin pulling ever tighter at the base of its squashed head.

It’s so cold please Lord it’s so cold

Metal crashed against something hard and Jake screamed awake, his hands lashing out at his desk. He stood up, his heart thudding. Midway down the hallway in front of him, the basement door had been thrown open. Muffled footsteps echoed down his desolate hallway, growing distant as the metal door closed. Someone is breaking in!

Without thinking, Jake ran around his desk and charged toward the closing door. He’d fallen asleep and someone had taken the opportunity to rush down the stairs! No. Not today. He was going to put an end to this.

Jake reached the door right before it latched. He yanked hard and threw himself through.

He took the stairs two at a time, his chest heaving. His heart was threatening to beat through his ribcage. He had no plan. No way to fight an intruder. What are you doing!?

Jake stiff-armed the basement door and found himself on the other side. He looked right, facing the laundry and boiler room. Empty. He turned left, his eyes scanning up from the floor. When he saw it, he felt his stomach churn.

Blood covered every inch of floor. A severed hand lay off to the side, coated in red-tinged frost. Its deceased owner lay in the center, torn asunder. Organs gleamed pink. Dark skin was coated crimson. Darrell. His only friend. Dead.

Jake fell into the wall, stifling a scream. He was barely holding on. At the end, just beyond Darrell’s mutilated corpse, the utility hallway double doors were thrown wide. Cold air rolled through into the main hall. The sound of the industrial cooling machine droned on, the hum of a thousand mechanical wasps. Jake could see everything.

It’s cold please save us please

He saw two rows of gurneys on each side of the utility hallway. Twelve sheets covering twelve cold bodies.

The intruder must still be down here. He’d unlocked the utility door. He’d killed Darrell. Fear and rage melded inside of him. He knew, in the rational part of his brain, that he should flee. Call the police and let them hunt this murderer down. But Jake didn’t want that. He wanted to hurt this monster. Break his bones. Inflict on him what he had on Darrell.

His tennis shoes crunched on the frosty floor. His breath misted. Claustrophobia clamped an icy hand around Jake’s throat. The utility hallway was a small space. Only a few closets with extra supplies or old furniture. The corpses took up every other square inch. Jake looked around, his fists clenched. He wasn’t sure what he was expecting. But–

Voices seared through his brain. Jake howled and clamped his hands to his ears. It did nothing to stop them. It was a pandemonium of wails and howls, punctuated with whispered threats. The sound was coming from inside his head.

Ice was creeping up the walls. A pipe suddenly burst, the sound blowing Jake’s eardrums out. He reeled, his hands thrown out for balance. His fingers found the cold resistance of a corpse. He cried out and hugged his arms back to his body. He was beginning to blubber now. He felt helpless.

The double doors slammed shut.

Jake stopped and stared. You’re trapped. He heard the door lock engage with a final click. The air was ice now. It was getting colder.

Jake rushed the doors and threw his shoulder into them. They rattled, but did not give. He did it again and again, the shock of it traveling through his body. He could feel his face and fingers going numb.

The voices raised in pitch, laughter keening through. The corpses were laughing at him. They’d sprung a trap. He was a victim now. But for what purpose!? Why!?

From behind him, Jake heard the silky rustle of sheets moving. Jake paused his attack on the door. The voices had gone silent. He wanted to turn around. He wanted to see what he’d heard.

Jake did, tears forming in his eyes. All twelve corpses were sitting up. Wrinkled skin and dry, bulging eyes. Pale flesh gone loose with age. One by one each corpse smiled, lips pulling up into a rigid mockery of a human smile.

Tears rolled down Jake’s cheeks. He was frozen, his back pressed hard into the unyielding door. Then, from the corner of the hall where darkness gathered, the figure from his nightmare emerged. It’s real. Its fat, heavy head brushed at the ceiling. It’s nearly translucent skin quivered in unholy anticipation, long fingers curling and uncurling. The Maggot-Thing walked toward Jake, its gait long and unnatural. It was a hulking horror unlike anything else that Jake could have ever dreamed of. Cold emanated from it. He could see the air twist, an aura of sheer rime.

The corpses swung their legs around and set their feet on the frozen floor. Sheets slithered down in unison, the sound nearly lost under the roar of the portable cooler. They began to close in, each lurching body still grinning. The Maggot-Thing’s head twisted like a towel in a wringer. The skin split in several places, the blue wounds bloodless and gaping. It hunched over, pressing its gargantuan hands on the nearest gurney. The metal twisted under its weight.

They planned to claim him. As they had so many before. The first corpse grabbed at Jake. Jake fought, but it was no use. They were too strong. There was too many of them. They had him by the arms, by the legs, by the neck. He thrashed uselessly. The Maggot-Thing turned its head skyward in vile ecstasy. Its skin twitched, the veins inside squirming.

The voices in his head had gone silent. They had nothing more to say.

 

 

 

 

Who is Richard Upton Pickman?

In honor of my story ‘A Pickman Original’ appearing in Ulthar Press’ newest anthology ‘Pickman’s Gallery’, I thought I would take a dive into the character that the anthology is centered on. The original call for the book asked for stories centered on or connected to the infamous artist. If you’re interested in this anthology (you should be!) I think it would help to know a little more about it’s strange subject.

Who is Richard Upton Pickman?

The character was created by renowned horror author H.P. Lovecraft. He first appeared in a story entitled, ‘Pickman’s Model’, written in September 1927, and published in the October 1927 issue of ‘Weird Tales’.

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If you haven’t read the story, I suggest you check it out. It’s available for free online, or for very cheap other places. I think it may be one of my favorite of Lovecraft’s stories. Here’s a quick synopsis, taken from http://www.yog-sothoth.com:

The story revolves around a Bostonian painter named Richard Upton Pickman who creates horrifying images. His works are brilliantly executed, but so graphic that they result in the revocation of his membership in the Boston Art Club and he is shunned by his fellow artists.

The narrator is a friend of Pickman, who, after the artist’s mysterious disappearance, relates to another acquaintance how he was taken on a tour of Pickman’s personal gallery, hidden away in a run-down backwater slum of the city. As the two delved deeper into Pickman’s mind and art, the rooms seemed to grow ever more evil and the paintings ever more horrific, ending with a final enormous painting of an unearthly, red-eyed and vaguely canine humanoid balefully chewing on a human victim.

A noise sent Pickman running outside the room with a gun while the narrator reached out to unfold what looked like a small piece of rolled paper attached to the monstrous painting. The narrator heard some shots and Pickman walked back in with the smoking gun, telling a story of shooting some rats, and the two men departed.

Afterwards the narrator realized that he had nervously grabbed and put the rolled paper in his pocket when the shots were fired. He unrolled the paper to reveal that it is a photograph not of the background of the painting, but of the subject. Pickman drew his inspirations not from a diseased imagination, but from monsters that were very much real.

According to H.P. Lovecraft’s text ‘History of the Necronomicon’, Pickman vanishes from his home sometime in 1926. He does appear again in ‘The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath’ as a ghoul.

I think ‘Pickman’s Model’ works so well because Lovecraft captures the breathless horror that he’s known for so perfectly. We feel like we’re there with Thurber as he descends further into his friend’s studio. While the descriptions of the art and the ghouls feel quaint by today’s horror standards, it’s hard to deny the sense of terror that this Lovecraft creates. At first we assume that Richard Upton Pickman is mad. But the truth is so much worse.

Want More Pickman?

I can’t blame you. He seems like a cool guy. Little eccentric, but who isn’t? Here’s where you can find him:

‘Pickman’s Other Model’ by Caitlin Kiernan

This is one of my favorite short stories ever. The story acts as a sequel of sorts to the original story, but with some added bite. I read it when it was reprinted in ‘New Cthulhu: The Recent Weird’, edited by Paula Guran.

‘Pickman’s Gift’ – A quest in the game ‘Fallout 4’

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A quest in Bethesda’s massive RPG has you helping/hurting a murderous artist that shares a name with our subject. The Fallout franchise loves a good Lovecraftian reference, and this one is a corker. Though this isn’t the exact same character, it’s the closest you’re going to get digitally. It’s one of the better side quests in the game, so I suggest you step out into the Commonwealth and seek it out if you haven’t already.

Lastly…

Pickman's Gallery

I mentioned it above but I can’t let you go without one last plug. I can tell you now that this collection will be worth every penny that you lay down. Matthew Carpenter has put together an incredible TOC that deserve your attention. When this drops later this month, I’ll let you know. I’m also considering having a give away for a copy, so be ready for that.

That’s everything you need to know about Richard Upton Pickman. I didn’t mention everything (I didn’t talk about the Night Gallery episode because I have not *gasp* seen it), but I think I hit the highlights. Am I missing any good Pickman stuff? Let me know in the comments below!

 

 

 

Author Interview: Kristi Demeester

Welcome to another Author Interview! Every month I’ll be interviewing authors and creators about their newest works, their lives, and what influences them. This month’s interview is with the insanely talented Kristi Demeester. Kristi’s short fiction has been featured in numerous anthologies and her collection and debut novel (Everything That’s Underneath and Beneath respectively) have recently been released.

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Hello Kristi! I’d like to thank you for joining me here. Let’s start with an easy one: tell us a little bit about yourself. What made you want to be a writer? What do you do in your spare time?

I started as a voracious reader, so story has always been a deep, intrinsic part of my life. But I wasn’t the kid who tried to write her own stories. I didn’t start writing seriously until my early 20s, and then it was because I wanted to be able to write the stories I wanted to read but couldn’t find. In my spare time, I wrangle a kid and squeeze in what writing I can. My spare time is my writing time. 

I’ve noticed that a lot of your stories concern the tumultuous relationships between mothers and daughters. Is there something particular that draws you to that theme? Or does it crop up organically as you work?

That’s a theme I revisit because it’s something I was working through as I was writing those stories and am still working through as I come to terms with it now. There is a lot of emotional fear for me wrapped up in how mother’s can prey on their daughter’s emotions and use it for their benefit. And so I was working through much of that fear in my stories. 

‘Beneath’ was one of my favorite novels of the year last year. It felt like a takedown of toxic religion wrapped in a gonzo horror tale. How did the process of writing the novel go?Beneath

Thank you so much! I started Beneath almost four years before it ever saw the light of day. I originally planned for it to be a possession story, but it slowly morphed into something else. I’d completed about a hundred pages of it, and then set it aside and started writing short stories. The summer of 2014, I finally got back to it and finished it in earnest. After that draft, it went through another draft where I added in Cora’s character. It was truly a labor of love getting that book out. 

A lot of young writers I talk to get discouraged with the grind (sending stories out on submission, etc.) and the constant struggle that is the publishing world. Do you have any advice for any writers looking to get published?

Be the most stubborn asshole you can be. Discouragement and rejection happen to all of us, but pick it back up and keep going. Find a good beta reader who you trust and respect. You’re going to get jealous of other’s people’s success but don’t let it stifle your own work. And don’t be a jerk to an editor who rejects you. As a matter of fact, don’t respond to a rejection at all. Not even to say than you for reading. Just send it on to the next. 

What’s next for you? Any new books or stories on the horizon?

Everything That's UnderneathI have stories forthcoming in Apex, Pseudopod, Shimmer, Ashes and Entropy, Welcome to Miskatonic University, Chiral Mad 4, Disintegration, Eydolon, Lost Films, Lost Highways, Year’s Best Weird Fiction, Vol. 5, and Fairy Tale Review. 

Let’s talk about books for a moment. What’s in your To Be Read pile right now? Any books you’re looking forward to in the future?

I’m currently reading and loving Julia Elliott’s The Wilds. Next up is Victor Lavalle’s The Changeling. I’m looking forward to reading some Caroline Kepnes and Paul Tremblay’s newest The Cabin at the End of the World. 

Last question: where can people find your works?

www.kristidemeester.com or on Twitter at KMDemeester. 

Pickman’s Gallery – Coming August 2018

New publication announcement!

Pickman's Gallery

My story ‘A Pickman Original’ will be featured in Ulthar Press’ new collection ‘Pickman’s Gallery’. It will be released sometime in August. My story will be featured with a ton of very talented writers. I’ve included the link to the original announcement below.