My favorite short scary stories

Horror always works best in short form. Which isn’t to say that I don’t love a good scary movie or novel. I do. But there’s something about a short horror story.

A good short story creeps into your brain and lodges there. You might not even know it at the time. It’s only when you’re letting your mind wander. It’s when something is waiting to remind you of its existence in the dark of night when all you want to do is pee and go back to sleep.

Today I want to share with you my nine favorite short horror stories. Some of them are classic horror shorts, some are creepypastas. All are chilling.

The Snowman, from The Wrong Station

This is a recent find for me, this podcast. I wrote a review about this podcast on Haunted MTL, you should check it out. 

But this one story managed to get on my list. It starts as a conversation between good friends who haven’t seen each other in a while. They’re just catching each other up about what’s been going on in their small town. That’s all it seems like until suddenly it’s not.

The Monkey’s Paw, by W. W. Jacobs

There’s a good chance you’ve seen this story redone or parodied somewhere. Even if you have, you should read the original. It’s spooky. The premise is simple. A couple who just lost their child makes a wish to have him home. This, of course, goes awry. 

Scary Stories, by Alvin Schwartz 

I’m not going to list a specific story here, because they’re all awesome. The missing toe and Harold are probably my favorite. Yes, I know these are technically for children. No, I don’t give a damn. 

Rap Rat, Creepypasta

Try as I might I can’t find an author to credit for this story. But it’s one of the first CreepyPasta stories I ever heard, and it’s what got me hooked.

Rap Rat is an old board game that came with an eerie VHS tape. After watching the tape, people report having horrible nightmares. And that’s just the start.

Welcome to Dead House, By R.L Stine

Goosebumps was my introduction to the horror genre. And while this is technically a standalone book, it’s still short enough to warrant being on this list. 

Welcome to Deadhouse has a twist that we can all see coming now. But as a child, it messed with me. I’d never read anything like it, never seen anything like it on tv. And it hooked me as a horror fan for life.

Laughing in The Dark, Are you afraid of the dark

I remember this being the second episode, but Wikipedia says it’s the third one. Oh well, that doesn’t matter. What matters is that the episode is scary as hell and well-acted. The clown stalking the boy is horrifying, but not as much as the realization that some things can’t be made right. Some things are done and a price must be paid.

It’s the most fun in the park when you’re laughing in the dark. Damn, that line. 

The Raven, by Edgar Allan Poe

This poem has been told and retold a thousand times. But my favorite version is the one from the first Treehouse of Horror. It’s read by the astounding James Earl Jones and Dan Castellaneta. This is one of those times you remember that Dan Castellaneta has professional acting training and a hell of a good voice. It shines in this as he reads the classic horror tale. 

The Mist, Stephen King

Hear me out. If you saw the movie, I’m very sorry. That movie sucked so, so hard. But the short story it’s based on is wonderful. It’s still about a neighborhood stuck in a grocery store while who knows what is waiting outside. But the ending, my goodness the ending is so good. I won’t ruin it for you if you’ve never read it. But it is so worth the read. 

The Lottery, Shirley Jackson

I don’t know that anyone doesn’t know the premise of this story. The chilling casualness of the town, as they stone an innocent woman to death. There’s no reason for it but tradition. A tradition that no one even remembers who started it or why.

Think about that. This town kills someone every year for no other reason but tradition.

I did a whole podcast about this over on Haunted MTL with my fellow Bloody Marys, which you should give a listen to. You should also take some time and read The Lottery. It’s a chilling tale that is more relevant now than ever.

So now I want to hear what you think. What’s your favorite horror short? Let us know in the comments. 

I also want to let you know that there won’t be a post next week. I’m going on vacation and will be as offline as possible. Peace out, see you in November. Happy Halloween. 

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A last minute Preptober list that you totally have time for

Today’s image is by <a href="http://Image by <a href="">Candid_Shots</a&gt; from <a href="">PixabayCandid Shots.

It’s October 16th. If you’re participating in Nanowrimo, we have half a month left to get ready.

If you’ve been procrastinating, now is the time to get started on your Preptober list. 

If you have no idea what the hell you’re supposed to be doing for your Preptober list, I’m here for you. Each of these things can be done over the next two weeks and will help you succeed in Nanowrimo this year.

List five ideas every day

Notice that I didn’t say good ideas. You should feel free to write the worst ideas you can think of. Just get yourself thinking about your story. What might happen?

Remember, you’re not required to use any of this in your novel. It’s just there to start you thinking. You might even use this to list things that for sure will not happen in your novel. 

Gather your supplies

What do you write with? I’m writing my Nano novel this year on paper because my eyes have been messing with me and I don’t want to stare at a screen any more than I need to. So, I’ve stocked up on notebooks and the specific felt tip pens I like. I’ve got a big stack of index cards for outlining. I’m ready to go.

Make a list of things you need to write your novel, and get them now.

Let the people in your life know your plans

This is especially important if you’ve never done Nanowrimo before. I do this all the time, so my darling husband just rolls his eyes.

We can’t expect our family to respect our goals if they don’t know what the goals are. So let your family know what to expect over November. You’re going to need time away, daily, to write. Figure out if things need to be taken off your plate and whose plate they can be comfortably set on.

Plan your time

When do you have time to write? Are you a morning person or do you work best late at night? Can you write right after work or during a lunch break? Would you be better off getting your writing done in one long session, or breaking it up over the day? Are there going to be days this month you can’t write at all?

Take a look at your calendar and block out time now. If you have this time in your calendar already, you’ll have fewer excuses when the time comes. 

Brainstorm for a full week

You need time to think about your story. Mull it over. Write about your characters, their background. Just play around on paper for a full week. Set nothing in stone yet. Right now, your ideas are play dough. 

Outline for a full week

If you’re a pantser, go ahead and skip this one. You’re wrong, but you can do it. 

Outlining is time-consuming. But if you do it right, it makes the rough draft a lot easier. You’re not lost, wondering what to do with the story next. I mean, that might happen when you’re outlining, but that’s sort of the point.

Keep in mind that the outline is not written in stone. In the course of your rough drafting, you might find the story going in a different direction. That’s okay, let it. The outline is just the start.

We have half a month left to go before Nanowrimo. Are you ready? 

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Should we even do Nanowrimo this year?

2020 has been a dumpster fire of a year. Literally, the worst one I’ve ever lived through. I’m not going to try to make light of this.

So what if we don’t do Nanowrimo this year? What if we throw our hands up and say it’s too much. With everything else we’re dealing with, who could add writing a novel in there? Shouldn’t we all spend November trying to just survive and figure out how to have Thanksgiving on Zoom?

Hell no. 

Mind you, I’m not shaming anyone who doesn’t participate. But I’ll be doing it. And if you were thinking of writing a novel this year, you should do it too. Here’s why.

Publishers are still buying books

Agents and publishers are still accepting queries. Books are still coming out. People are still reading. So why not write a book?

Fiction can reach hearts and change minds.

If you’re feeling helpless, write about it. Write about your story of 2020. Write out your anger, your pain. Write about losing your job, your freedom. Whatever this year has been for you, write it out. 

Or you could write a fictionalized story about a country that let a deadly pandemic run wild even though they had the means to fix it and save thousands of lives. Just a thought.

Fiction can reach hearts and minds that straight facts can’t. Think of how many times fiction has hit you right between the eyes and made you see the world differently. You have the opportunity to do that now. Writing is the voice we have in addition to voting.


So let’s use every tool we have. Get your story into the world. 

It’s a needed creative outlet

Okay, so not everyone wants to change the world with their words. Some people just want to create something. 

It’s in our nature to need a creative outlet. To make something. To paint, sing, write, draw, knit, whatever. If you just want to write a little something for fun or to say you did it, go for it! Write something and don’t worry about what you’re going to do with it later. Just love the process.

We can get something good out of this year 

We know how hard this year has been. There hasn’t been a lot to be happy about. Everything went wrong. People will be spending holidays without loved ones they had last year. 

We have to get some good out of this year, damn it. Any good we can. And if we can end the year on a high note, be able to say we did this one big thing, that’s a win. 

Let’s win just a little this year, together.

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I’ve decided not to do a Milwordy. Here’s why

You might remember a month ago I decided to go for a Milwordy. I did a whole post about it. For anyone who doesn’t know, a Milwordy is when you try to write a million words in a year. 

I do this sort of thing sometimes. I hear about some fancy new challenge online and it just sounds fun. I can make a little chart and track my progress. I can watch my numbers go up like on a video game. It’s a good time. 

It’s also, like, instant gratification for me. If I have one complaint about writing, it’s that gratification is at a minimum. Writing books takes time. Writing short stories take time. Writing a damned poem can take time. And getting any of that work published? Don’t get me started. Years, you guys. Years. For someone like me, gratification is so important. (Not that kind, you pervert.) I need to feel like I’m accomplishing something. Word counts are a great way to feel that way. Watching them pile up is great for me.

Of course, I wanted to do a Milwordy. Especially right now, when I’m working on a bunch of projects that all need a little progress every day. Yes, a little progress adds up, but not near fast enough for me. A daily word count that includes all my little projects and any freewriting I do?

Hell yes, sign me up.

After trying for a whole month, I’ve decided that a Milwordy doesn’t serve me at all and I’m done trying. 

Now, a quick disclaimer. Just because something doesn’t serve me doesn’t mean it won’t serve you. There are many people for who a Milwordy goal is fantastic. And it’s great! Good for you, in the most honest way possible. 

I’m also not advocating for quitting things too soon or because you don’t like a challenge. Sometimes challenges are good. Sometimes a thing will serve you very well if you give it some time to exist in your life. Even if at first it serves you like a cannon in the gut. 

But if we all stuck with everything, some of us would have screwed our lives up. Some of us would be in abusive marriages, shitty jobs, poorly chosen college majors.

That being said, I wanted to go through some reasons I’ve decided not to do a Milwordy for a few reasons. One, because I’d hate for you to think I’m just a big quitter. Two, because I hope that if you’re struggling with whether or not you should keep at something, this will help you make the best decision for you.

To start with, a million words is sort of an arbitrary number. I mean, it’s a beautiful number. It’s a nice big, round number and I love it. But when we’re talking about a million words as a word count for a year it doesn’t work. It’s not the same as, for instance, Nanowrimo. That’s 50,000 words in a month, the minimum required word count to be considered a novel. That being said, let’s do some math together. Let’s say an author writes a novel in a year at 50,000 words. Let’s say she also writes a short story every month at about 2,000 words and maybe two or three blog posts or articles a week at 1,000 words each. To be fair, let’s assume that same author does three pages of free writing a day, maybe a page of journaling. Now, a rough estimate of that word count is 300 words a page. That’s roughly 440,000 words in a year. Not even half of the Milwordy goal and that’s a shit ton of writing. Want to know how I know? That’s roughly how much I write in a year. And if you want to know how I figured out those rough estimates, keep reading. We’re going to get into that.

Yes, achieving a Milwordy is a massive goal, and it should require you to stretch and work hard. But there’s achievable goals and stupid goals. More than doubling what’s honestly already sort of a lot of writing comes down to personal abuse. 

I could probably do it, though. I’m not bragging, I probably could write a million words in a year. I wouldn’t be taking any days off, and I’d probably get even fatter than I am now. But I could write a million words. 

L.Ron Hubbard wrote a lot. A stupid scary amount. Most of it’s hot garbage. Like, bad. Sit down and read some of his stuff, it’s hideous. Hubbard was able to do that because he focused on quantity, not quality. If I wrote a million words in a year, it would take me another three years to edit, polish and publish all of it. And by that time I’d probably be sick of the whole thing. Or, let’s face it, I’d have lost my notebooks.

Let’s talk about notes now. I, like many writers, take a lot of notes. I take notes while I’m watching movies to review, when I do research for an upcoming project, or just sorting my thoughts out on the page. But notes don’t necessarily take a lot of words. I generally keep my notes pretty short, as they’re just there to jog my memory later. So, when I dreamed of pages and pages of notes filling up my word count every week, I was not considering reality. This Milwordy goal was encouraging me to expand notes unnecessarily, wasting time. I don’t have a lot of time to waste.

Now, I’d like to go back to something we talked about earlier. I have some weirdly specific numbers regarding my writing. For much of my work, my trusty computer does all the counting for me. But I do a lot of writing on paper. And that meant I had to count that by hand. 

Okay, so I didn’t count every word. I counted the words on 100 lines and figured out the average. Which works well if I’m writing out a full line.

Do you have any idea how much time it takes to count all that? Again, time I don’t have to waste. It’s one thing when I’m doing Nanowrimo, counting out words in a rough draft for a month. Doing that for a whole year? No way, Man. I’m still having PTSD from it. Try writing out several pages of nightmare details at three in the morning. Then, count it the next day. See how happy you are about it. 

Now, I can’t emphasize enough that some people benefit from doing a Milwordy. If you’re one of those people I want to hear about it. Please let us know in the comments below. But now it’s time for me to set this goal aside and focus on what’s important.

Telling stories. 

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