One reason is that I love Crystal Lake, and was so pleased to be working with them again. Another reason is that I finally get to share a TOC with my friend Harper Hull, a very talented writer I admire a lot. And a writer that also inspired my story in the anthology. I'm going to talk about my tale, and then turn it over to Harper to talk about his.
Harper Hull is the first person to turn me on to this phenomenon where people believe that the children books THE BERENSTAIN BEARS used be spelled BERENSTEIN, though there is no record anywhere that this was the case. Many have posited that it suggests the existence of parallel worlds and alternate realities. It's rather fascinating, and got me to thinking that I could do something with it.
So I started a tale entitled "The Pigmalion Pigs", very excited about the idea. I had gotten about halfway through it when Crystal Lake posted the guidelines for TALES FROM THE LAKE VOL. 3. The loose theme was urban legends, and while this wasn't a traditional urban legend, I thought it could be interpreted as a modern one. I mentioned this to the editor, Monique Snyman, and she seemed excited.
Then I hit a roadblock in that the story ended up being longer than I anticipated, and it exceeded the word limit for the anthology. I contacted Monique again, and she gave me permission to submit anyway. I wasn't sure how much the length would count against me, but I was just happy to be considered.
And even happier when I got that acceptance letter! The same day Harper emailed to tell me he got in as well with his excellent "The Cruel." I was just so thrilled, and can't for people to read my story, as well as Harper's.
Speaking of Harper, let's here from him:
Firstly, let me thank Mark for letting me ride sidecar on his blog this week. We're good friends and talk about writing all the time so it was a genuine delight to share a TOC with him in TALES FROM THE LAKE VOL. 3. The first but hopefully not the last.
The idea for my story 'The Cruel' came about in the same way as most ideas for stories seem to - a moment of "ooh, that could be interesting" during a completely normal conversation. I was discussing stupid trends and ideas we fell for back in high school with some friends - I grew up in England so these probably won't resonate with you foreign types, fair warning. We used to tuck our school ties inside our shirts to look like Duran Duran in their 'Is There Something I Should Know?' video. Some of us would wear the intricate bottle-tops from Grolsch beer bottles in the tops of our shoes like the pop band Bros. We discussed the best ways to make conkers battle-worthy. (If you don't know what conkers is, basically you have a horse chestnut seed on a piece of string and take it in turns bashing your opponent's conker until one smashes apart. Every time your conker wins it gets a number, so if you have smashed 5 other conkers yours is now a 'fiver.' Simpler times!) It was a split decision between baking them on a low heat and soaking them in vinegar. (As an aside, I was once photographed for the local paper as a wee lad for losing my King of the Conkers title to a good friend of mine named David. It was a complete fabrication; the journo turned up and the teachers picked out two kids to take part in this charade of a story, if I remember correctly David and I were picked because we had done the best in French class that week. And were extremely cute, of course.)
One of the lads in this conversation then said "do you lot remember the sound?" None of us had a clue what he was on about. The only sound that has stuck with me from high school was the nuclear attack sirens at the RAF base down the road going off at regular intervals for test purposes. Back then it was the height of the cold war and the idea of nuclear armageddon was very, very real - TV shows like 'Threads' didn't help which showed in graphic detail what would happen if the city of Sheffield was struck by bombs. Anyway, he explained to us about this sound thing. Apparently some lads started making this awful whining sound at the school he went to over a period of weeks and soon almost every kid in the school was imitating it at inconvenient moments (mid-class, morning assembly, lunch hour.) It got so bad the headmaster had to send a letter home to the parents banning it and threatening expulsion to anyone who kept it up. It stopped after that letter, surprisingly. It resonated with me, that anecdote, and the idea for 'The Cruel' was born.
I actually set the story in my old high school - the village is the exact village the school was located in, the teachers are loosely based on actual teachers I had - I find it far easier to track locations in my mind when it's somewhere I know like the back of my hand, of course. It's probably one of my favourite stories because of that intimacy, and I am ecstatic that it made the cut for this book. Go pick it up! Also, Mark's story 'Pigmalion Pigs' is one of the best I've read by him, it's a fascinating subject and will probably send you tumbling down a very, very deep rabbit hole after you have read it.
You guys can check out TALES FROM THE LAKE VOL. 3 here: https://www.amazon.com/Tales-Lake-Vol-3-A