Voices

Tales of Horror

by Lawrence C. Connolly
Illustrated by Jason Zerrillo


Trade Paperback • 6" x 9"

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Available 8/14

VOICES Cover

Voices includes the definitive versions of eleven classic and two all new stories of psychologically affecting horror, along with commentary by the author.

Combining the genre-bending stories of Lawrence C. Connolly with the surreal art of World Fantasy Award nominee Jason Zerrillo, Voices is an exploration of the art of storytelling, where whispers become screams . . . and images echo in the mind.

This is more than a story collection: it’s a sounding of the depths of horror.

Product Details

Horror Short Stories

268 Pages

Trade Paperback • 6" x 9"

ISBN 10: 1-934571-04-0
ISBN 13: 978-1-934571-04-0


Table of Contents

Introduction: Voices
The Haunted Attic: 1961
     “Mrs. Halfbooger’s Basement”
Monte
     “Moon and the Devil”
Music, Dreams, and Trauma
     “Traumatic Descent”
Illegal Art
     “Smuggling the Dead”
Dante’s City
     “Lesions”
Beans
     “Decanting Oblivion”
Revision
     “Things”
Derelicts
     “Flames”
Rediscovering Holmes
     “The Death Lantern”
The Between Books Secret
     “Beneath Between”
Jamming with Springsteen
     “Die Angle”
Spare the Rod, Raise the Cain
     “Junk’d”
One for the Road
     “Shrines”
The Haunted Attic: 2011

Reviews & Blurbs

“Connolly is a master of the short story. He writes with an economy that hums with the quiet power of a finely-tuned engine. His stories are artfully constructed and memorable for their smart originality.”
     —Tom Monteleone, editor of the Borderlands anthology series

“. . . eleven previously published short stories and a pair of originals, all in [Connolly’s] trademark style of thoughtful horror.”
     —Publishers Weekly

“Lawrence C. Connolly doesn’t just get under your skin, he burrows. His style is deceptively unshowy . . . all the better to jolt you.”
     —Stephen Volk, award-winning screenwriter of The Awakening and Ghostwatch

“‘Shrines’ hooked me all the way to the last page. I loved it. It must be amongst the best of Connolly’s work. The ideas had me guessing and looking into an abyss that seemed infinite.”
     —David Slade, director of Hard Candy and 30 Days of Night

“Lawrence C. Connolly is a master of the dark fantastic, and Voices is a treasure trove of sinister wonders, not to be missed!”
     —Tim Waggoner, author of Like Death

“With his latest collection, Lawrence C Connolly proves yet again, if proof were needed, what a fine, intelligent and above all humane writer he is. These stories—turns creepy, moving and often downright terrifying—are about edges and borderlands, the lost and losing. These are stories about voices, and the clearest voice of all is Connolly’s own, and it is a delight to hear it.”
     —Simon Kurt Unsworth, World-Fantasy-Award-Nominated author of Lost Places and Quiet Houses

Praise for the Stories

“Traumatic Descent”
“. . . one of the finest scare stories ever written.”
     —Pittsburgh Tribune Review

“Mrs. Halfbooger’s Basement”
“. . . the realization of every child’s fears.”
     —Publishers Weekly

“Decanting Oblivion”
“. . . breathtaking, absolutely top notch.”
     —The Fix

“Flames”
“. . . splendid. . . .”
     —The Harrowing

Praise for the Author

“Connolly provides plenty of entertaining and satisfying reads.”
     —Publishers Weekly

Visions is . . . the sort of collection that gives genre fiction a good name. . . . the stories display an unusual degree of humanism and a deep regard for nature. Best of all, perhaps, Connolly writes good sentences.”
     —Bill O'Driscoll, Pittsburgh City Paper

“Plain and simple, this guy can write.”
     —Thomas F. Monteleone, Bram Stoker Award winner

“Sharp images . . . etching depictions of eerie scenes and telling analogies are this writer’s forte.”
     —Jetse de Vries, The Fix

“One of the joys of my days at Twilight Zone was encountering the work of an extraordinarily subtle and imaginative writer, Lawrence C. Connolly, who brought enormous power to the shortest of stories.”
     —T.E.D. Klein, author of The Ceremonies and Dark Gods

“For years I’ve been an admirer of Lawrence C. Connolly’s exquisite and deeply affecting short fiction—he always writes with great skill, intelligence, compassion, and subtle lyricism. . .”
     —Gary A. Braunbeck, award-winning author of Destinations Unknown and Mr. Hands

“[O]utstanding short stories.”
     —Robert Morrish, fiction editor of Cemetery Dance

“[A] captivating writer who crafts drum-tight plots, loaded with realistic characters and fantastic settings with great style and substance.”
     —Michael Arnzen, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of 100 Jolts.

“Lawrence C. Connolly writes with clear beauty and a purity of prose. . . . Connolly is a writer to follow, and his work a thing to savor.”
     —Mary SanGiovanni, author of The Hollower, from Leisure Books

Excerpts


Introduction: Voices

It’s dark tonight. The only light comes from a lamp that flickers and dims, guttering like flame when the wind blasts the eaves. Manuscripts dating back to the late 1970s lie piled around me, reams of carbon copies, dry-toner Xeroxes, dot-matrix backups, laser printouts—the artifacts of a writing life that began in the days of the typewriter and progressed through the ages of desktop, laptop, and handheld computing. I’ve been looking through those stories and notes, recalling the events that inspired them, deciding which ones to include in a book that will be equal parts collection and recollection.

Most of the documents are also on my hard drive, but those are the final versions. Tonight I’m interested in the notes and marginalia as much as the stories themselves. Every story has a backstory, a voice or experience that inspired it. Tonight, we’re going to listen to some of those.

Can you hear me? Am I coming through OK? It’s a long way from where I am to where you will be, somewhere in my future, holding a book that at the moment is still paper-clipped pages and handwritten notes, but I think we’re ready to go. Keep reading. Turn the page. Stay awhile. I can’t do this without you.

Tonight, I have stories to share.

 

Derelicts

The Sixties are often cited as a decade that challenged conformity. And they did, in some ways. But those years were also marked by spreading homogeneity, evident in the bedroom communities that sprang up around major cities, displacing the family farms that had once dominated the American landscape. But sometimes, after the farms were paved over, the old houses remained.

In 1968, I discovered a derelict house in a tangled valley a quarter mile behind my home. It stood midway down a slope, partly buried in the hillside. A portion of its roof was gone, but its interior remained intact: floors, stairways, empty rooms. My friends and I hung out in it through the fall, abandoned it when winter came, and returned to the site in the spring only to find that it had been bulldozed to make way for a new development.

A few years ago, I found myself thinking about that house while driving the north-south corridor of freeways, highways, and back roads that lead to the school my daughter was attending in North Carolina. Occasionally, the roads cut past abandoned houses, dead-looking things with half-gone roofs and empty windows. But one was different, dark but intact. I began watching for it each time, noting the weeds that overtook its walk in summer and the unmarked snow that surrounded it in winter. Then, one night, passing it late, I thought I saw a light in an upstairs window—a fleeting flicker, there and gone.

That night, with the radio off and cruise control on, I tended the spark that would become “Flames.”

 

“Flames”

Snow billowed as he struggled to his feet, each move uncovering layers in the ground beneath him: first snow, then leaves, then ash. The ash rose as he moved, mixing with the snow to form a dark skid that followed him as he slogged back toward solid ground.

Turning in place, he saw that he was in a shallow pit about twelve-feet around. Stones lined its edges, jammed together, impacted beneath the snow.

A fire pit.

He looked back along the skid of leaves, charcoal, and ash. And there was something else, a cold spark amid the blackness at his feet. He picked it up, rolling it into his palm, drawing it close until he made out its amalgam-filled crown, enameled shaft, broken root. . . .

A human tooth!

He dropped it and backed away, noticing other shapes, some rounded at the ends, others curved like shards of pottery.

Bones!

Something popped behind him. He looked back to find that the wind had thrown the shed’s drop-cloth door across one side of the A-frame, exposing a line of things that he hadn’t noticed from across the yard: shovels and picks for digging, an ax for splitting wood, bundled fabric for kindling, and two five-gallon jerry cans. What did it all mean? What had happened at this place?

 

Spare the Rod, Raise the Cain

Writing is a bit like parenting.

It begins with conception, the story’s idyllic phase, a time when the creation exists entirely in the abstract. But then comes the work and, possibly, a period of disenchantment. I speak from experience as a writer and a son, though not as a parent. My daughter’s always had it together. Some children, like some stories, exceed expectations. For the moment, let’s consider the ones that don’t.

Other writers may disagree, but I find that a phase of disappointment is almost inevitable when raising a story—postartum depression, if you will. Some parents know it as the terrible twos, and, fittingly, I generally become aware of it a couple days after completing a first draft. In my younger days, I sometimes succumbed to disenchantment by doing what I now consider unthinkable. Namely, tossing the unruly story in the trash. Talk about bad parenting!

I now accept that ideas are going to go through rebellious phases, times when they need to be reined in, corrected. In any event, trashing isn’t an option. Neither is forcing the story to be what it isn’t. And neither is holding it back, keeping it from the world.

Writers need to know when to let go. Overprotection is counterproductive, futile, unhealthy. Eventually, every story must fend for itself. And then? Best case scenario, it becomes successful, sends money home, and tells the world how great you were for showing the way. Not-so-best case? It moves back home.

All of which brings us to our next tale.

“Junk'd” went out into the world in the spring of 2009, was accepted for publication, and then returned home two years later when, after a series of delays, the editor’s arrangement with the publisher fell through.

Of course, I knew what to do. I’d experienced the same thing with other stories. But this time, rather than sending it packing right away, I decided to hang out with the concepts for a while, get to know them a little better, help the creation become something more than it had been when it first entered the world. The changes were small, but the differences they made were considerable. What had started as a minor bagatelle for a theme anthology now seemed ready to hold its own with the other stories in this new collection.

Interestingly, “Junk’d” is a story about a young man who might be seen as a metaphor for a failed draft, a prodigal son forced to return to a home where, rather than being coached back into interaction with the world, is pretty much ignored by his parents. Not surprisingly (given that it’s a horror story) a number of lives get trashed along the way.

Buckle up if you can find a seatbelt.

We’re about to go riding with the bad kids.

 

“Junk’d”

“Yvonne said to look for a turnoff.”

Joey didn’t see one of those, just a sloping shoulder, the leaning remnants of a guardrail, and—way off in the distance—a dark house looking like a cutout against the trees.

“You said 20 minutes, Chuck.”

“Yeah.”

“This is taking too long.”

The dotted line turned solid. The road veered, tires squealed, and there it was, another sign, hand-lettered:


HIDDEN DRIVEWAY
ON LEFT

Chuck turned, jumped a berm, and sped onto a narrow straightaway.

“Don’t see a house, Chuck.”

The road steepened, the car racing faster now. Chuck toed the brake. It was an instinctive move. Nothing worth noticing. But as he did, something thumped beneath the floor, the clank and grind of realigning gears. And then, with Chuck’s foot still on the brake, the car surged forward.

“Chuck?”

Chuck stomped his foot, bringing it down harder, pumping the break, but each time the engine revved.

“Chuck!”

Chuck tugged the hand brake. No good. He took his foot from the pedals, feet flat on the floor now. But the car kept accelerating, winding to a high-pitched roar. “Get out, Joey!”

 

“Shrines”

His taskbar vanishes. The screen goes black. Power failure? No, the laptop hums. And the TV isn’t completely blank. A pattern stirs the darkness. He leans forward, then sits back again, remembering the instructions: 60 inches, no closer.

He straightens his back against the chair, staring, focusing, discerning a rotating cube. He blinks. The movement seems far off, tumbling toward him until the cube pivots, grows larger, breaks apart, then fills his view.

“Whoa.”

The desktop speakers are off. The room is silent. He listens with his eyes.

“Rob.”

It’s Kathy, her voice calling through the expanding angles and lines.

“I’m here, Rob.”

He feels her sitting before him, leaning close, alive within the image on the screen.

“Josh is here too.”

The image blurs. He blinks, feels a chill on his cheek.

“We love you, Rob.”

He wants to reach for her, but he’s afraid to move . . . afraid he’ll break the spell.

The air quickens with the scent of talc, benzocaine, baby skin.

“We’re both here, Rob.”

“I can’t see you.”

He feels pressure on his hand, fingers locking with his. He holds on, squeezing.

“Hold on, Rob.”

He doesn’t answer.

“Please,” she says. “You have to hold on.” She squeezes harder.

The screen darkens.

 

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About the Author

Lawrence C. Connolly’s books include the novels Veins (2008) and Vipers (2010), and Vortex (2014), which comprise the three-book Veins Cycle. His short story collections, which include Visions (2009), This Way to Egress (2010), and Voices (2011), collect his stories from Amazing Stories, Cemetery Dance, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Twilight Zone, and Year’s Best Horror.

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