I have a "you are what you eat" philosophy about reading. Aside from work written by authors I know personally (including those of you I only know in the digital sense), I tend toward highly recommended material written by acknowledged pros. I'm sure I'm missing some diamonds in the "rough", but reading time is limited (like too much of my life these days).
This is the third year I've picked up Ellen Datlow's Best of the Year--the first year in which the book is solely dedicated to dark fiction (and soley edited by Datlow). While I'm not through with Best Horror of the Year Volume 1 (it's my current "read in progress"), I want to highlight a few high points.
"Beach Head" by Daniel LeMoal is the first piece since god-knows-when that inspired a physical fear response from page one. The set up: three drug smugglers with hands tied are buried to their neck on a sandy beach. It only goes creepier from there. While the prose isn't always razor sharp, the effect is. I felt like I was suffocating while I read.
"The Hodag" by Trent Hergenrader affected me in a different, more nostalgic way. It is a tale that spans decades, and the narrator's chilling realization in the final paragraphs is more frightening than the Hodag itself. What is a Hodag? Glad you asked. "The Hodag" is the kind of story I would write if I could write better. It's a goal.
Some pieces, meh. I didn't finish "If Angels Fight" by Richard Bowes. Not my style, a little slow. But there is variety in this collection. Even if you disagree with Datlow, there isn't a true clunker in the anthology. Not that I've found, yet. It's nice to see what she picks for the best. It's nice to have a sampling of pieces from a number of high quality venues, too.
Yeah, I'm still writing short stories. I've chopped an old piece in half and am reworking it into something completely different, a tale of two friends separated by circumstances (supernatural and otherwise). From "Come Out and Play":
I tried to run; I turned and tried to run down the rough path, but my foot hooked a protruding tree root, and I toppled to the ground, skinning my left palm and striking my elbow on a rock. My inhaler toppled from my outstretched hand and tumbled into a pile of damp leaves. No, no, no, no. The sound of snapping twigs came closer; Gage came closer, but there was another sound—a scratching sound.
The sound of sharpened nails against tree bark. My lungs burned.
So there we are. October almost over (yay! Halloween), but no complete edits to Loathsome. Maybe in November.