Other Voices, Other Tombs

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OTHER VOICES, OTHER TOMBS is an anthology packed with unsettling stories from the finest independent authors in the horror genre. This anthology runs the gamut of styles, including everything from literary horror to creepypasta. Ania Ahlborn, Kealan Patrick Burke, Michael Wehunt, Mercedes Yardley, and Gemma Files are widely considered some of the best authors working in dark fiction right now. Also included are stories from NoSleep Podcast legends: Gemma Amor, JD McGregor, and Michael Whitehouse. OTHER VOICES, OTHER TOMBS is a must-read for the Summer and Fall of 2019!

Now available in paperback and eBook!

This book is a general horror anthology, but there is a light summer theme. Kealan Patrick Burke leads off the book with a throwback tale that takes place in the summer of 1989. Two boys uncover a terrifying entity while exploring an abandoned swimming pool in “The Second Hand”.

“Uncomfortable Gods” by Michael Wehunt takes place entirely on the grounds of the sleazy 40 Winks Comfort Lodge. Husband and wife, Den and Karen, are sidetracked on their way to the beach by Den’s horrible toothache. Den leaves Karen in the motel room for longer and longer periods to deal with his toothache, eventually Karen is forced to uncover what is leading Den astray. A psychological tale with wonderfully gruesome imagery. Worth multiple reads!

Gemma Amor leaves it all on the hot tarmac in “Three Lanes Deep”. A long, sweaty traffic jam forces Lucy to leave her car in search of a place to relieve herself. She encounters friendly strangers who offer her a cold drink and a place to go to the bathroom–then all hell breaks loose.

“The Switch” by Cameron Chaney takes place at a summer camp. Fans of the Lindsay Lohan star vehicle The Parent Trap should appreciate Chaney’s light homage, and his heinous twist.

Astute readers will certainly be sweating Kevin Lucia’s oppressive “A Circle that Ever Returneth”. A man takes a job beneath his perceived status in life at a bottle and can redemption center, and soon realizes he’s being ground down to nothing by the repetitive tasks and mind numbing interactions with his co-workers. This story is a proper lost episode of The Twilight Zone. Jordan Peele, take note.

There are other non-seasonal themes that run through the book like Ania Ahlborn’s take on the difficulties of early motherhood in “The Governess”, featuring one of our favorite storytelling devices, a malfunctioning baby monitor; Mercedes Yardley’s “Urban Moon” which deals with a mythological reinterpretation of violence against women and a major problem with social media.

A woman must cope with the emotional difficulties of her occupation as an end of life nurse for a young girl in a hospice center, in Garza and Lason’s “Fly away, little fledgling.”

There are many more fantastic stories from incredible authors like Gemma Files’ apocalyptic “This is How it Goes”, Mike Duran’s folk horror, witchcraft infused “Bury Me in the Garden”, poor choices made by a woman on a snowy stretch of highway in Upstate New York “Alone in the Dark” by J.D. McGregor, Michael Whitehouse’s government cover-up on a remote Scottish isle in “Forget the Burning Isle”, C.W. Briar’s horrific children’s POV regarding bad behavior in “Can We Keep Him?”, and Caytlyn Brooke’s take on psychotic teenage angst during prom season, with her tale “The Red Rose”.

Pick up a copy now and support independent writing and publishing!

eBook or in paperback

Read the First Chapter of ‘The Thrumming Stone’

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CANTICLE ONE

 

Even by lax cultural standards of the 1990s, my sister and I were probably too old to be rocketing down the hill at Virginia Ave Park. Jenny was 16 and I had just turned 14, but an impromptu afternoon of sledding freshly fallen snow was one of the last bastions of pure, unadulterated joy in our increasingly complicated lives. We were in the 8th and 10th grade at Lestershire High, coming of age during the peak of MTV’s generational influence—thankfully, we were still a couple years away from voluntarily tethering our social lives to AOL and its Instant Messenger. And even though we were glued to MTV and reruns of 90210, our worldview was still largely shaped by our family, friends, teachers, and small town.

Our passage into adolescence had been a rocky one. Our mother, Helen, had only been gone for a couple years, but her eulogy and burial still felt recent. Jenny and I were young enough that her absence was omnipresent in our daily lives—an empty seat at recitals, a dearth of home-cooked meals, missed rides to and from sporting events. Yet, there were moments between the two of us, here and there, which recalled the blissful innocence and wide-eyed optimism that had defined our childhood. We could still enjoy the holidays and looked forward to seeing our extended family; there were birthday parties, presents we hoped to receive, sleepovers and dances that we planned for months in advance.

Our idyllic, storybook village had not yet been laid to waste by layoffs and plant closings. Main Street still felt like the center of town. Everyone I knew had been at the Christmas parade, only weeks prior. It seems alien now, but there were two roller skating rinks, at which I had recently attended birthday parties; and this was the same year that I had started high school.

I was a nostalgic kid. Always looking to recreate monumental moments from my past, even though I was still just that—a kid who’d only just found his postpubescent voice. I was taken aback when Jenny brought up sledding. We only lived a few streets away from the best sledding hill in the county, and it had been such a centerpiece of our childhood winters.

We’d dug out my dad’s old wood runner sleigh and a beat plastic sled that most people would have tossed after a season. A layer of fresh, powder snow had fallen that late-December morning, just right for speedy trips down the slick slope. The hill at Virginia Ave was already a canvas of intersecting lines and boot prints, but the park was largely empty when we got there. There were a few stragglers who were trying to erect a small snow ramp, but it kept flattening each time they hit it. We watched them while we made a few runs of our own, until they finally gave up and went home, and the park was ours.

“Maybe we should try down there,” said Jenny, pointing to a smaller slope at the northern end of the park, running alongside one of the softball fields.

I just shook my head and laughed. Jenny always had to take an innocent outing and find a way to make it a little more dangerous, or at least involve some sort of trespassing. I had gotten scraped up by too many ledges, dogs, and thorn bushes to follow her blindly into another misadventure.

“Why not?” asked Jenny.

“It just goes down to the crick.”

“C’mon, dude. I bet it’s steeper.”

“What if we hit the ice and fall in?”

Jenny snickered. “It’s frozen over and the water’s probably only ankle-deep, anyway.” She began toward the other hill, dragging our dad’s antique sled behind her, ignoring my warning. She didn’t even look back to see if I’d follow. “If you fall in, I’ll call Captain Kirk and you can be on Rescue 911.”

I can’t lie and say I didn’t hesitate, but ultimately, by age 14 I had largely grown tired of playing the wimpy younger brother—especially since I now towered over her. I picked up my crappy, red sled and jogged to catch up.

This second hill was mostly forested, but there was a broad path that led from the edge of the softball field to the bank of the frosted-over creek—it certainly looked like it would be a fun, fast ride.

“There’s no way that you won’t go onto the ice, Jenny.”

“There’s nothing to worry about,” she said. “I’m practically an Olympic-caliber sledder. I’ll just turn before I hit the ice.”

“Just be careful, okay?”

“Sure.”

She set the sleigh at the edge of the hill and took a seat. But instead of pushing off down the steep embankment, she hesitated and looked back at me like she had been struck with a brilliant idea.

“You get on the back,” she said. “More weight is better with these old sleds.”

“No. You do it first.”

“Don’t be a wuss, Joey.”

I sighed and got on the back of the sled. I knew she’d torment me for days if I didn’t comply. She was great at telling everyone we knew about how much of a little bitch I was. I took some comfort in the fact that if we crashed, I’d likely land on top of her.

Jenny grabbed the rope and placed her feet on the steering board. “Ready?”

“No.” I just assumed that with her at the helm things wouldn’t end well.

“3….2….1!”

We shot off from our position and down the unmarred path. As we glided down the hill, we carved out two deep tracks in the snow; it really is amazing how fast runner sleighs can go. The sled picked up speed as we made our quick descent, and Jenny screeched with glee. Despite my initial trepidation, I couldn’t help but crack a smile.

The slight bumps on the way gave us brief rushes of weightlessness, and a large stone or root sent us airborne. We only got a few inches off the ground, but tufts of snow shot up in our faces when we landed, and Jenny had to redirect us away from the trees that lined the left side of the path.

I knew that we were traveling too fast for her to steer us hard in any direction, and I think she recognized it soon after—though I now suspect that it had always been her intention to take us onto the ice. But she made no move to halt or alter our progress as we passed over the creek, the runners hissing beneath us as we traversed the ice. I suspect we even picked up speed over the twenty-or-so-yard-width of Little Choconut Creek, because we were propelled into the woods on the other side, narrowly avoiding a few gnarled maples and elms before slowing among a field of glacial erratics.

Jenny fell back against me and we rolled off the sled as it came to a halt. I yelped as I landed elbow to rock. “Get off!”

She sat up gingerly and shook some snow from her scarf. “Holy crap. That was—”

We were both startled by a loud groaning and then a series of pops from the ice behind us.

“See, I told you we wouldn’t break through the ice,” said Jenny, grinning. We got up and took a few steps back toward the creek to have a look at the source of the noise.

Our sled had evidently cut a section of the ice like a knife, because there was now a large gap which exposed the running water below.

C’mon! How are we supposed to get back across now?” I instantly regretted not having the guts to just tell her no.

“Relax. We’re still in Lestershire, bro. We’ll just head this way until we get to Airport Road,” said Jenny, pointing toward the rocky clearing where the sled had come to a stop.

“Yeah, I guess,” I said. “I think I can hear a truck nearby.”

We wandered the forest, trying to determine the direction of what sounded like an idling engine. We had never been in that part of the park before and, though I knew our house was still only a ten-minute walk, it suddenly felt like we were miles from civilization, shut off from the world. It was exhilarating—that adolescent call to adventure and exploration—we didn’t get out of Lestershire all that often.

“Some of these rocks are pretty cool,” I said. The landscape was unique, like something you’d find in the Catskills or Adirondacks, not smack in the middle of our little village. “I’ve never seen anything like this around here.”

“I think it’s this way,” said Jenny, ignoring my comment. She started up a steep incline.

“Wait, Jenny, check this out,” I said, approaching one of the larger stones in the field. It was between four and five feet tall but wasn’t as round as the others; it reminded me of one of the smaller monoliths I’d seen in books about Stonehenge and other megalithic sites—I’d been obsessed with Stonehenge since elementary school. When I got closer to the stone, I first assumed that it was covered in faded graffiti but was pleasantly surprised to find out that the lines were carved into the rock.

“What?” She came back down but took her time in doing so.

“It looks like pictures, but like it’s some sort of writing…”

“On the boulder?”

I looked at the squiggles and characters from different angles, tried to make some sense out of them. There were animals, people in conflict, indiscernible swirls that seemed to say something that I couldn’t quite grasp. “It’s like hieroglyphics, I guess.”

Jenny came up beside me and examined the markings. “Yeah, wow… They’re not hieroglyphics, though. They’re called petroglyphs.”

“What’s that mean?” I asked.

“It just means someone made inscriptions on the stones. Probably Iroquois.”

“Where’d you hear that?” I asked.

“Mr. Verity,” said Jenny, referring to one of our school’s more eccentric teachers. He had been her history teacher and now he was mine.

We dusted off as much snow as we could around the rock to get a better look at the carvings.

 

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“So, you think this is really old?” I asked, tracing some of the intentional lines with my finger.

When she didn’t respond, I leaned over to see what was occupying her attention, and was spooked by her now-frozen, emotionless expression. “Jenny?”

But I didn’t have time to wait for a response, as I began to feel a vibration through my gloves, emanating from the monolith itself. A sudden wave of nausea swept over me and I felt a sickening fear of losing consciousness—the sort of stimulation where in the midst of the experience, you come to the conclusion that ‘this is what it’s like to die.’ My racing thoughts only subsided when my vision narrowed to the point where I blacked out. What I experienced then is still difficult to describe. Because, in essence, I merely collapsed next to a rock in a snowy forest. I knew it to be all the same symptoms of passing out. I’d fainted in junior high shop class, during a grisly discussion of bandsaw and drill accidents; I knew the feeling well. But this experience had one noticeable difference, in that, between my loss of consciousness and the cloudy recovery of my faculties, a window into some sort of special knowledge was briefly cracked open and then swiftly slammed shut.

I sat and stared at my black snow boots for some time after coming to, trying to recall the fleeting image. It was an identical loss to the times I’d awoken from a nightmare but had no recollection of the terror I’d just experienced. For some reason, I felt like my boot was the only tenuous connection I had to the vision. My boot. A soldier’s black boot. Soldiers walking through the desert during the Gulf War, in their hot, heavy gas masks.

 

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“Joey?” came my sister’s voice, shakily.

I looked up, immediately losing my train of thought. She was sitting too—with this pale, dazed expression that I’d only seen on bite victims in vampire movies.

“I don’t hear the humming anymore,” she said. Neither did I.

We both silently got up and headed up the incline, eventually finding our way through the woods and reaching the street that joined Airport Road and Virginia Ave. We didn’t speak of our encounter with the vibrating, thrumming stone on our walk home either. I could tell that she was drained, though I didn’t dare mention my vision, or ask her whether she had experienced anything uncanny at the monolith.

I think we both understood that the other had undergone some sort of trauma, and that the best course of action was to just leave it be.

 

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE THRUMMING STONE

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The Thrumming Stone

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Thrumming Stone front cover

Could you really prevent a massive disaster if you knew it was coming?

Would your friends and family even believe you?

What if you were an average high school freshman, and seemingly the only person who could save your town from utter destruction?

THE THRUMMING STONE is a sci-fi horror novella (with interior illustrations by Ryan Sheffield) about teen siblings who discover a nightmare-inducing monolith in the woods near their home. Once unleashed, premonitions and apocalyptic visions spread throughout their high school like a plague.

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Drawn by artist Ryan Sheffield

Read the first chapter for free!

The illustrated paperback version is now available here!

Or check out the eBook on Amazon here!

What Waits in the Dark

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Who truly knows what lurks in dark corners or in the darkest of hearts? WHAT WAITS IN THE DARK contains eighteen illustrated tales which explore the horrors found at the periphery of shadow and light.

A Soviet doctor attempts to play God during the Battle of Stalingrad.

Friends come face to face with a Japanese urban legend in Syracuse, New York!

A woman hears her husband sweetly singing to their daughter over the baby monitor, but soon realizes he’s not home.

A raucous fraternity takes a haunted hayride through the woods that they won’t soon forget.

These and 18 other creepy tales can be found within WHAT WAITS IN THE DARK.

Pick up a $10 paperback copy at Amazon!

or the eBook here.

20 interior illustrations by Mikey Turcanu:

Illustrated Horror Stories for Kids: A ‘Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark’ Lineage

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The Thing at the Foot of the Bed and Other Scary Tales — Maria Leach, illustrated by Kurt Werth (1959)

This book was a touchstone for Alvin Schwartz in writing his Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series. It features many of the same urban legends he would go on to include in his booksspecifically, a cemetery dare, ghostly hitchhikers, body parts falling down chimneys, departed souls seeking lost possessions, and even a killer in the back seat.

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Monster Tales — edited by Roger Elwood, illustrated by Franz Altschuler (1973)

Monster Tales and its 1974 sequel Horror Tales read more like The Hardy Boys meet The Brothers Grimm. Most curiously, the introduction to this book was written by Robert Bloch (best known for writing Psycho) and it certainly feels like it could have been the inspiration for each of Alvin Schwartz’s introductions in the Scary Stories series. “Precious Bodily Fluids” and “The Vrolak” are fun stories with fantastic illustrations.

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Ghosts — Seymour Simon, illustrated by Stephen Gammell (1976)

This book has had a long shelf life. It is one of the Eerie Series — nonfiction books describing historical encounters with ghosts, monsters, and aliens. I remember it fondly in my elementary school library in the early ’90s. My boys regularly borrow it from our local library, though the newest version is missing Gammell’s drawings. I guess creepy babies in coffins is a harder sell in the 21st Century.

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Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark — Alvin Schwartz, illustrated by Stephen Gammell (1981)

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Schwartz is known as a modern folklore populist for good reason. Since Maria Leach’s The Thing at the Foot of the Bed, no other author had attempted to encourage storytelling in kids. The tales are short and memorable, and Schwartz gives tips on how the stories should be performed. I’m glad I heard these stories from a friend (in a dark, dark closet) before reading them, or seeing Gammell’s unbelievable illustrations. As a kid, you get caught up in the illustrations because they’re so garish, so unlike anything you’ve ever seen. You miss out on the full experience if you never hear the stories performed by someone your own age.

Esteban and the Ghost — Sibyl Hancock, illustrated by Dirk Zimmer (1983)

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The artwork will seem familiar to fans of Alvin Schwartz. The story should too. It’s about a man who was dared to stay the night in a haunted castle. Everyone else who took the challenge died of fright. Esteban begins hearing noises coming from the chimney, body parts tumble out of the fireplace, then he finally encounters the ghost…

In a Dark, Dark Room/More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark — Alvin Schwartz, Illustrated by Dirk Zimmer/Stephen Gammell (1984)

Most kids first encountered Alvin Schwartz through his I Can Read entry: In a Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories. Tales like “The Green Ribbon” and “The Teeth” were memorable and frightening for a young reader, and could’ve easily been in the second installment in the Scary Stories series.

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More Scary Stories ups the ante by instructing children in the practice of spirit conjuring with “A Ghost in the Mirror.” As long as there are mirrors in bathrooms, Bloody Mary will be with us for the rest of our lives.

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America’s Very Own Ghosts — Daniel Cohen, illustrated by Alix Berenzy (1985)

There are some American ghosts present in this collection of tales, such as Lincoln, Edison, and Houdini. But its strengths lie within its location haunts like “The Bell Witch” of Tennessee, and “Black Aggie” of Maryland.

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When the Lights Go Out: 20 Scary Tales to Tell — Margaret Read MacDonald, illustrations by Roxane Murphy (1988)

This is actually a sequel of sorts to MacDonald’s Twenty Tellable Tales (1986). Both books are clearly inspired by Shel Silverstein’s poetry books and the Scary Stories series, but aren’t meant to be frightening, and focus on the sillier elements of storytelling.

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Halloween Poems — selected by Myra Cohn Livingston, illustrated by Stephen Gammell (1989)

In the midst of his Scary Stories tenure, Gammell illustrated the heck out of 18 Halloween inspired poems. The poetry is forgettable, and it almost seems a waste of Gammell’s talent for the macabre, which he certainly delivers.

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If You Want to Scare YourselfAngela Sommer-Bodenburg, illustrated by Helga Spiess (1989)

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This book’s a hidden gem. Five original tales, originally published in German in 1984. It was a Scholastic release, but quickly got drowned out by the glut of elementaryage horror releases following the success of the Scary Stories and Fear Street books.

World’s Strangest “True” Ghost Stories — John Macklin, illustrated by Elise Chanowitz (1990)

The text is from Macklin’s 1967 release Strange and Uncanny, and the stories are ‘true’ in the sense that America’s Very Own Ghosts is ‘true.’ This version of the book is illustrated and did well enough to warrant a sequel in 1994. There are some familiar topics, such as the vanishing hitchhiker/lady in the white, a murderous car, and a phantom pirate. But the text was written long before the Scary Stories craze and there are some genuine American legends that I promise you’ve never heard before.

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Scary Stories 3 — Alvin Schwartz, illustrated by Stephen Gammell (1991)

The stories are longer, and Schwartz is at his most gruesome (see “Harold” and “The Red Spot.”) No longer are there instructions for performing the tales. The following year (only months after Schwartz’s death) would see the first Goosebumps release, which would change the face of elementary school reading — favoring chapter books, no illustrations, toneddown gore and much less violence. It’s interesting to think about what the next iteration of Scary Stories might have looked like. Would Schwartz have attempted a kid’s horror novel? R.L. Stine is a fan of the Scary Stories series. I can only imagine how much fun a hybrid Goosebumps/Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark style series might have looked like — and certainly illustrated by Stephen Gammell.

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Scary Stories 3 was Gammell’s last iteration of his most beloved drawing style.

Grimm’s Grimmest — Arranged by Maria Tatar, illustrated by Tracy Arah Dockray (1997)

A solid collection of the goriest of Grimm’s fairy tales. The interior illustrations and choice of material remind me most of Elwood’s Monster Tales, while Professor Tatar offers a more interesting taste of classic folklore than many of her predecessors.

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Nightmare Soup — Jake Tri, illustrated by Andy Sciazko (2016)

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25 years passed before there was an illustrated collection of spook stories that even came close to the style of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Which might speak more to the reach and influence of the Goosebumps and Harry Potter franchises. Nightmare Soup and its sequel, Nightmare Soup 2: The Second Helping, hit the tone and style of Schwartz and Gammell wonderfully. The stories have enough edge to keep 10- to 12-year-olds interested, without the confusing depth or vulgarity of contemporary horror and creepypasta. There are many illustrated books of horror stories that have come out following Tri and Sciazko’s first publication, but none are as accessible to that 10- to 12-year-old audience as the Nightmare Soup series.

Joe Sullivan is co-author of Corpse Cold: New American Folklore and Resurrection High.

Tales From Valleyview Cemetery

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ValleyviewCemetery_Final_CoverWelcome to Valleyview, where bodies lie buried but an ancient curse never sleeps. A father hears strange voices on his daughter’s baby monitor. A trio of gravediggers faces a swarm of supernatural creatures. A group of teenagers puts a mausoleum legend to the test. A husband and wife take a stroll through a corn maze that they’ll never forget.

Tales From Valleyview Cemetery contains seventeen interconnected tales of terror — legends of a town and cemetery entrenched in occult practice, macabre history, and a demon elemental waiting for his people’s return.

Here’s what some critics and people have had to say about TFVVC:

“Full of suspense, unpredictable plots and the thrill of wondering what will happen next, I loved this book.” — Genuine Jenn

‘These are the types of tales to be told around a campfire at night or at a sleepover. In fact, I think they’re perfect for those types of scenarios.” — Horror After Dark

“This isn’t your typical anthology. It was fascinating to see how all of the short stories were connected to each other. I liked the fact that I got to experience the same places and people from different points of view.” — Long and Short Reviews

“A great trip down nostalgia lane. Classic horror at its best. Ill definitely keep an eye out for others by this author.” — Amazon reviewer

“I was happy to read every short story in this collection and as a whole, my advice is not to go into that place. From zombies, ghosts, demons and human sacrifice it’s got it all and more.” — Amazon reviewer

Purchase your copy at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Add the book to your Goodreads.

At The Cemetery Gates: Year One

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cemeterygatesone_final_coverTwin brothers enter a funeral parlor as a gag and end up uncovering a sinister operation.

A mysterious illness plagues a small town and a college student seems to be the only one trying to stop it.

A girl’s time-lapse photo project reveals an intruder from the cemetery that shares a fence with her backyard.

At The Cemetery Gates: Year One is for fans of urban legends, manifestations of the macabre, and strange twists of fate. It is a horror/paranormal short story collection inspired by urban legends, folk tales, and anthology TV shows like THE TWILIGHT ZONE and ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK?

Here’s what some critics and people have had to say about ATCGYO:

“I’d heartily recommend At The Cemetery Gates to readers who want a little something to nibble on before bed each night…” — Horror-Writers.Net

“I grew up loving those Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark short story anthologies, and I think that At the Cemetery Gates captures that classic horror story vibe and urban legend type atmosphere while still being completely unique and original.” — Rebecca McNutt, top Goodreads reviewer

“They each are the perfect length to read if you’re reading on a trip and in need of a quick, creepy read before bed, for campfire tales, or even for your own personal enjoyment.” — Charmed Haven Book Reviews

Purchase your copy at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Add the book to your Goodreads.