Darker Days

“Wildly varied and always surprising, Darker Days is a fantastic collection of dark wonders. Cain is a gifted storyteller and a writer to watch.”  Jonathan Janz

“I’ve said before that the way to assess the health of a genre is to look at the number of excellent young writers it attracts. There is a new wave of excellent writers showing up in Horror. Kenneth W. Cain is one of these very good writers. His prose is precise, his plotting and pace move seamlessly and quickly, and his stories are compelling. Darker Days is a good example of some of his best work—highly recommended.” — Gene O’Neill, The White Plague Chronicles

“A feast for the senses no matter your tastes! Kenneth W. Cain does it again with Darker Days: A Collection of Dark Fiction.” — Rena Mason, Bram Stoker Award® winning author of The Evolutionist and East End Girls

Darker Days, the latest collection of short stories by Kenneth W. Cain, delivers on its title’s promise. From the very first story readers are dragged into seemingly ordinary situations that serve as cover for dark secrets. Ranging from subtle horror to downright terror, from science fiction to weird fantasy, Cain demonstrates a breadth of styles that keeps you off balance as you move from one story to the next. There is something for everyone in this collection—as long as you don’t want to sleep at night!” — JG Faherty, author of The Cure, Carnival of Fear, and The Burning Time

Reviews for Embers:
“Kenneth Cain has the ability to bring up hard topics without driving them into the ground or beating you over the head with them.” — SciFi & Scary

Kenneth W. Cain is an exceptional writer. His stories never fail to provide the chills and thrills you want from a horror anthology. Highly recommended.” — Goodreads review

Now that you’ve warmed by the embers, submerse in darker days.

The author of the short story collections These Old Tales, Fresh Cut Tales, and Embers presents Darker Days: A Collection of Dark Fiction. In his youth Cain developed a sense of wonderment owed in part to TV shows like The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, One Step Beyond and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Now Cain seeks the same dark overtones in his writing.

There’s a little something for every reader within this collection. These 26 short speculative stories arise from a void, escaping shadows that ebb and weave through minds like worms, planting the larvae that live just under the skin, thriving upon fear. These are Cain’s darker days.

In this collection, Cain features stories from the Old West, of past lives and future days, the living and the dead, new and unique monsters as well as fresh takes on those of lore. Once more he tackles themes of loss and grief and the afterlife, always exploring the greater unknown. In “The Sanguine Wars,” Cain takes us to a future where soldiers are made to endure the horrors of war. He explores the complexities of global warming and what lengths men and women alike sink to in “The Reassignment Project.” And, as often is the case, he ends on a lighter note, with “Lenny’s New Eyes” and “A Very Different Sort of Apocalypse.”

When the darkness comes, embrace it. Let it wrap you up in cold. Don’t worry, it’s not your time…yet.

Includes the following stories:

  • “A Ring For His Own”
  • “Heirloom”
  • “Rust Colored Rain”
  • “Prey”
  • “Passing Time”
  • “What Mama Needs”
  • “My Brother Bit Your Honor Roll Student”
  • “Outcasts: The Sick and Dying 1 – Henry Wentworth”
  • “The Sanguine Wars”
  • “The Hunted”
  • “Her Living Corals”
  • “Puppet Strings”
  • “The Trying of Master William”
  • “By The Crescent Moon”
  • “Mantid”
  • “The Underside of Time and Space”
  • “Outcasts: The Sick and Dying 2 – Gemma Nyle”
  • “The Griffon”
  • “Adaptable”
  • “When They Come”
  • “The Reassignment Project”
  • “Presage”
  • “One Hopeless Night by a Clan Fire”
  • “Lenny’s New Eyes”
  • “Outcasts: The Sick and Dying 3 – Anna Kilpatrick”
  • “A Very Different Sort of Apocalypse”
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Tales From The Lake Volume 5

“If you’re a short story reader, this is an absolute must-read. Volume five is even better than the four preceding volumes, which is a very hard bar to hit. Go buy this!” — John R. Little, author of The Memory Tree, Miranda, and Soul Mates

Reviews for Tales from the Lake Volume 5:

“…not a “look under the bed for monsters” volume, but one that has a pensive chill. The stories are like a tap on the shoulder; a reminder that good days end and that no one is protected from anguish.” – Hellnotes

“Taken all together, Tales From The Lake – Volume 5 is an absolute triumph, a wonderfully inclusive celebration of the best that the Horror genre can produce, unhindered by the constraints of themes or specific topics. The individual stories within the collection are uniformly of a very high quality, and have been expertly brought together and edited by Kenneth W. Cain and Crystal Lake Publishing.” – Sci-Fi and Fantasy Reviews

“edited by Kenneth Cain, one of the as yet unsung heroes of dark horror fiction–an author in his own right who deserves much more attention and spotlighting.” – The Haunted Reading Room

“This anthology from Crystal Lake Publishing is by far the best volume yet in the Tales from the Lake series!” – Amazon review

“The most terrifying thing in the world is not a vampire or zombie, it is mankind and what we are capable of doing to each other. This collection from editor Kenneth W. Cain will eat at you for a long time. Horrifying, haunting, and unforgettable!” – Goodreads review

“I’ve been a fan of the Tales From The Lake anthology since the first volume and it’s amazing to see how much it has evolved over the years. Volume 5 is quite possibly the best yet.” – Goodreads review

“Kenneth W. Cain did an excellent job of weaving the stories together and they flow from one to another leaving the reader on a journey of terror and entertainment.” – Goodreads review

“Over the years I’ve read enough anthologies, short story collections and fiction magazines to refine my expectations for what comprises a premium horror story. So when I declare that I thoroughly enjoyed two-thirds of the fiction in TALES FROM THE LAKE VOLUME 5 – – that says a lot about the high quality of the contents.” – Pop Culture Podium

“…this one has some seriously fantastic offerings.” – A.E. Siraki

The Legend Continues…

In the spirit of popular Dark Fiction and Horror anthologies such as Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories and Behold: Oddities, Curiosities and Undefinable Wonders, and the best of Stephen King’s short fiction, comes Crystal Lake Publishing’s Tales from The Lake anthologies.

Where are the real horrors? Whether they be a family member returning from the dead, exploring the depths of depression or the deterioration of the mind, you’ll find them here.

This anthology contains twenty-two tales and three poems to elicit unexpected emotions, to bring you into the story. Welcome to my lake, where dreams really do come true… As nightmares!

This fifth volume of speculative fiction contains:

Poetry:

  • “From the Mouths of Plague-Mongers” by Stephanie M. Wytovich – A wonderful look at our world and the cruel reality of it all.
  • “Malign and Chronic Recreation” by Bruce Boston – Where Internet addiction meets sexual addiction.
  • “Final Passage” by Bruce Boston – A breakdown of mental acuity as it leads to the inevitability of death.

Short stories:

  • “Always After Three” by Gemma Files – A young couple discovers that in a downtown condo you almost never know who your neighbours are, or what they might be doing.
  • “In the Family” by Lucy A. Snyder – A former child actress reveals dark family secrets to her long-lost niece.
  • “Voices Like Barbed Wire” by Tim Waggoner – Sometimes forgetting is more painful than remembering.
  • “The Flutter of Silent Wings” by Gene O’Neill – A heartbreaking tribute to a Shirley Jackson classic.
  • “Guardian” by Paul Michael Anderson – Even creatures beyond time and space need friendship.
  • “Farewell Valencia” by Craig Wallwork – When you’ve got no reason to live, there’s a hotel that can give you every reason to die. So book in, unpack, and prepare to be checked out, forever.
  • “A Dream Most Ancient and Alone” by Allison Pang – A lake mermaid with a penchant for eating children forms a tenuous friendship with an abused girl trying to escape her past.
  • “The Monster Told Me To” by Stephanie M. Wytovich – In order for Bria to deal with her past, she must confront the ghosts of her present.
  • “Dead Bodies Don’t Scream” by Michelle Ann King – If the universe won’t give her a miracle, Allie will make one for herself. But dark magic has a price, and paying it is going to hurt.
  • “The Boy” by Cory Cone – Grief-stricken from the sudden loss of her husband, a young woman fears she may lose her son as well, if she hasn’t already.
  • “Starve a Fever” by Jonah Buck – Fleeing down a bayou highway with a sick criminal in the backseat, a getaway driver must sate his passenger’s horrifying needs while evading the police.
  • “Umbilicus” by Lucy Taylor – A father becomes involved in a scheme to rescue a friend’s lost son—with terrifying results.
  • “Nonpareil” by Laura Blackwell – Maisie’s wedding cake business needs every client it can get—especially rich ones—but between the groom’s unpleasant family and the mysterious bride’s strange requests, Maisie has a tough job baking a cake that will please everyone.
  • “The Midland Hotel” by Marge Simon – If walls of a hotel could talk is one thing, but what if it happens to be a sentient collector of souls?
  • “The Weeds and the Wildness Yet” by Robert Stahl – Still reeling over the sudden death of his wife, Charlie stumbles across a mysterious object at a yard sale—a monkey’s paw, like the one in the legendary story. Despite the terrible events that befall that fictional family, he can’t help but want to give it a try.
  • “The Color of Loss and Love” by Jason Sizemore – A couple set out to rescue an unfamiliar couple, only to face an airborne disease that overtook the world.
  • “The Loudest Silence” by Meghan Arcuri – A woman is trapped by her worst enemy: her mind.
  • “The Followers” by Peter Mark May – The Followers are slow, but they never tire. Nor do they or have to stop to drink, eat or sleep like us living. They are on a relentless death march and we are only delaying the inevitable.
  • “A Bathtub at the End of the World” by Lane Waldman – A little girl plays with her toys in a locked bathroom. Everything is fine, except for the zombies outside.
  • “Twelve by Noon” by Joanna Parypinski – An old farmer goes about his routine tending to the nine scarecrows that preside over his field, when three college student show up and cause a strange disturbance.
  • “Hollow Skulls” by Samuel Marzioli – When Orson’s son is born, the memory of a tragedy creeps back into his life, threatening his very sanity.
  • “Maggie” by Andi Rawson – An intense, disturbing relationship between love and murder is exposed.

With an introduction by editor Kenneth W. Cain. Cover art by Ben Baldwin. Proudly represented by Crystal Lake Publishing – Tales from The Darkest Depths.

Embers

“Not a squall, not a blizzard … It’s a pulp horror AVALANCHE! That’s Kenneth W. Cain’s new collection, Embers.” — Mort Castle, Bram Stoker Award® winner

Reviews for Embers:
“I think I can safely say that this collection is one of my all-time favourites.” — Confessions of a reviewer

“Cain’s characters are anything but black and white. They are as multi-faceted as any real person you know. They are presented with difficult decisions and even worse situations, and they do the best that they can. Monster and man both are tested relentlessly, Cain never taking the easy way out. Some of the stories are predominately scary, some are predominately sad. All of them will evoke a range of emotions while you read and long after you’ve finished.” — Charnel House Reviews

“Prepare for the stretching of your mind and the expansion of your imagination as Kenneth W. Cain boldly goes into unexplored territory, sometimes speculative, other times horrific, but always enlightening.” — Mallory Heart Reviews

“Some of these tales take on a poe-esque quality, while others a more Lovecraftian tone, and then we find those that bestow upon us the moral musings of Rod Serling. Yeah, these stories are good!” — Horror Novel Reviews

“If you enjoy your horror with a touch of Lovecraft, I believe you’ll appreciate this body of work from Kenneth W. Cain more than you would otherwise.” — Cemetery Dance (Frank Michaels Errington)

“The market is flooded with short story collections and I sincerely hope that Cain’s Embers finds an audience as he has a strong voice and an obvious writing ability. A really good collection overall” — The Grim Reader

“Each story is connected by a little thread to the next one. Kenneth created a web of weird, sometimes gory, sometimes psychological and always scary threads.” — Banshee Irish Horror Blog

Embers is a collection that strolls into every corner of horror to gather bits before running them through the spin cycle, dial set to dread.” — Unnerving Magazine

“…from page 1 I enjoyed reading each and every word.” — Terror-Tree

“Books like Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark were always a fun read as a child right before bed. Cain’s Embers is like an adult version of those novels.” — The Horrific Network

“What makes his work scary is that he takes normal everyday situations with characters just like you and me and twists them into something horrific. These are tales that really could happen to anyone.” — S.J. Budd

“Overall, Embers is a well-constructed and put together collection of horror stories from Kenneth W. Cain that marks another quality release from Crystal Lake Publishing.” — A.E. Siraki

“I thought it was a great collection.” — Sci-Fi and Scary

From the author of the short story collections These Old Tales and Fresh Cut Tales comes his latest effort, Embers: A Collection of Dark Fiction. In his youth Cain developed a sense of wonderment owed in part to TV shows like The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, One Step Beyond and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Now Cain seeks the same dark overtones in his writing. There’s a little something for every reader within this collection. These 25 short speculative stories represent the smoldering remains of a blaze, the fiery bits meant to ignite the mind with slow-burning imagery and smoky twists and turns. These are the very embers of Cain’s soul.

In this collection, Cain features stories of troubled men and women, both living and dead. Themes of loss and the afterlife take on many forms, as he explores the unknown. For instance, “The Chamber” focuses on a hardened veteran of World War II who has committed heinous crimes. He seeks only to find peace from his conscience, but sometimes that comes at a great loss. “Valerie’s Window” visits a small town amid a tragic end to humanity. Only things are not as they seem, and the more Valerie comes to know herself, the more her reality is revealed. “The Benefit of Being Weighty” has a humorous side, but the theme of this story revolves around fat shaming and the price one must pay for being so ignorant. Hopefully, these three short descriptions have increased your curiosity to read the book.

When the dark comes, light a match. Let the fire burn bright and hot. So that when it dies the embers warm you.

Includes the following stories:

  • “The Chamber”
  • “Valerie’s Window”
  • “A Window to Dream By”
  • “Each New Day Unknown”
  • “Gone”
  • “Under the Drift of Snow is Another World”
  • “Blackbird’s Breath”
  • “Desolate”
  • “Lost in the Woods”
  • “Final Breaths”
  • “Closer”
  • “Flocking Birds”
  • “Pirouette”
  • “To Save One Life”
  • “Of Both Worlds”
  • “Breathing Cave”
  • “Soul Tapped”
  • “The Water People”
  • “Water Snake”
  • “Evolved”
  • “Buried Beneath the Old Chicago Swamps”
  • “The Bad Men”
  • “Parasite”
  • “Strip Poker, Crabs, and Blue Women”
  • “The Benefit of Being Weighty”

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Listen to “Perfect Little Hands” for FREE

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You can listen to my story “Perfect Little Hands” from my collection Fresh Cut Tales for FREE by clicking the link below.

CLICK HERE

Make sure to stop by and “like” The Wicked Library Facebook page, and follow my blog to learn about upcoming projects.

Lifeblood

Like a mashup between Underworld and Twilight.

A young and shy Lara struggles to find her identity when fate throws something new and unexpected at her after meeting a strange couple at a local bar. She finds herself overcome with desire and a thirst for blood. Despite the strangeness of her situation, Lara quickly adapts, only to find her world shaken when a young girl named Millicent enters her life. And then again when she stumbles across a male werewolf named Lowell. Together, these two individuals help Lara to rediscover her humanity. She soon learns her budding relationship with Lowell is a forbidden love, and the struggle begins to secure their freedom. A journey to ensure their small unique family will remain safe from the vampires, werewolves, and shapeshifters that go bump in the night.

Jade

Like a mashup between Blade and Resident Evil.

In the not so distant future, a starship freighter returns from a far away planet in outer-space, carrying a strange virus. Earth falls victim to a horde of zombies, and the remaining survivors struggle to stay alive, hiding in the wreckage created by a war to eliminate the threat. The survivors are thrown into a tailspin when bloodthirsty alien vampires invade a post-apocalyptic Earth, seemingly to defend the earthlings. With humans quickly becoming a dying breed near extinction, a select few find themselves the unwitting participants in a secret plan to aid mankind. Young Jade leads the charge in this suspenseful thriller, utilizing her newfound special gifts and a specially crafted sword, she embarks on an epic journey with love interest, Trent, to assault the supernatural menace. She soon uncovers a dark web of deceit and must fight to uncover the truth.

Robert Essig: The Genesis of People of the Ethereal Realm – Part Two

Rob pic 2

All stories have a genesis, a birthing into the world from writers’ minds, through their fingertips and into their computer (or onto paper for those who still write first drafts longhand).  In part one of this essay I wrote about how I came up with the idea for my novel People of the Ethereal Realm and a bit about the writing process.  If you haven’t done so already, you can read part one at Craig Saunders’ blog. I’ll be here waiting for you when you’re finished.

People of the Ethereal Realm was published as my second novel, however it was the first novel I’d written.  That’s not to say that I didn’t have opportunities for the book to be published before Post Mortem Press released it in July.  Bringing this book into the world began with several years of false alarms and disappointments that taught me a lot about the small press in the process.

So, after selling a number of short stories, I’d written my first novel, and I couldn’t have been more proud of myself.  I hit the Web and searched for viable publishers to send my manuscript.  This was before Post Mortem Press had opened for business, so they weren’t yet on my radar.  I’d sent the manuscript to a number of publishers, some of whom I had short stories published with, others with a sparkling clean reputation, and yet others I had little knowledge of.  The first thing I learned (something I should have learned from submitting short stories) was that research, particularly concerning unknown publishers, is a must.  I also learned to go with my gut, to listen to my heart. To ignore intuition is a fool’s game.

people of the ethereal realm cover

So I had several poles in the water and I got a bite from a publisher—whose name will remain concealed—that I had no prior experience with. They emailed a contract that could have been an offer on a new house it was so big. I read every word of it, mostly the same jargon typical of a publishing contract.  They offered a twenty-five dollar advance, and then later in the contract I was given the option to have my advance applied to the cost of the twenty books I was required to purchase at full price within a certain number of days after publication.

Let that sink in for a second.  How much is the average price for a trade paperback?  Somewhere around fifteen dollars give or take a buck.

I was shocked, so I ran a Google search (yep, should have done that first!), and found a great deal of bitching and complaining about this publisher.  They were a pay-to-play gig, and from what I read, they didn’t put much force behind their horror titles, as evidenced on their website where there were plenty of thriller and romance but no horror novels to be seen.  This is what I mean about following intuition.  That had struck me as strange from the get go.

Needless to say, I politely rejected the contract and waited for bites from the other poles I had in the great pond of small press publishing.

Soon enough another publisher emailed me with an acceptance letter, contract to follow.  The contract never showed up and they were unresponsive to my emails. As of this writing, they seemed to have fallen off the face of the planet. Dodged a bullet there, I suppose.

I was beginning to think that this book was destined for disaster.

Next I sent the manuscript to Twisted Library Press.  I’d had many a story published in their anthologies and even edited two of them (was taking submissions for a third anthology at the time).  I could see the signs on the wall, beginning with so many anthology submission calls that there would be no way for a publisher to possibly follow through with each one.  I also saw that there was what seemed like an equal number of novels to be published by an ever-growing list of imprints.  But still I submitted my novel when I should have taken a moment to realize what was very clear.

The book sat in limbo for a year.  The cover had been designed, it had gone through an editing process, and I had even started promoting it.  The contract expired and soon after Twisted Library Press became defunct.

So People of the Ethereal Realm was destined for disaster … or maybe not.

During the period of time that I had edited anthologies for Twisted Library, I discovered a brand new publisher: Post Mortem Press.  I sent Eric Beebe a story and it was published in their debut anthology Uncanny Allegories.  My novella “Cemetery Tour” was included in the PMP release The Road to Hell, as well as a few more shorts in other anthologies.

Having been with PMP from the beginning, I’d watched them grow. It was all the research I needed.  In Eric Beebe I found a trusting publisher and a man of determination and dedication.  I submitted my manuscript, and when I received the acceptance letter, I knew that People of the Ethereal Realm was finally destined for something good.

I learned a lot during the process of getting this book published, but I am no fool and realize that there is so much more to be learned in the strange and sometimes discouraging world of publishing.

On a final note, I would like to thank Ken Cain for being gracious enough to allow me the use of his blog.  I appreciate it, man!

Find more about Robert on his website: https://robertessig.blogspot.com or on Facebook.
Other books by Robert on Amazon.