"It's All Over" - Scenes from the Second Storey
A little ghost story about a sceptic falling prey to everything he believes in. This was commissioned by Morrigan Books as a story inspired by a The God Machine song of the same title. The song itself is a haunting piece and created a sense of isolation and loss.
Shane Jiraiya Cummings (for HorrorScope) said - "It's All Over" is by L.J. Hayward, a new writer with promise if this story is anything to go by. A classic ghost story, complete with remote lighthouse and dark and stormy night, "It's All Over" had an initially confusing climax (...edited for spoilers ;) ), but the denouement partly explained the confusion while adding an air of mystery. This story, which had an urban legend kind of feel, had a nice circularity to it.
Dark Wolf Fantasy Reviews said - James goes to an isolated old lighthouse reported to be haunted by a ghost in search of material for his psychological thesis, but also in need to make peace with his part and present. L.J. Hayward creates a very nice ghost story mixing atmosphere with mystery while steadily building the climax amplified by an excellent twist. The journeys James takes down his memory lanes into the past leads the reader to what seems to be a certain outcome, but the story's finale make this deceiving one of the main qualities of "It's All Over".
"The Hounds of Wychwood" - Aurealis: Australian Fantasy & Science Fiction #41
A quirky little tale inspired by a couple of 'true stories' found in one of those 'supernatural investigations' magazines you don't really see anymore. Barnaby Archibald of the Society for the Investigation of Supernatural Oddities in 1860s Cotswolds might just very well be an ancestor of modern day Matt Hawkins of Night Call fame. They both certainly have a habit of thinking they know everything and learning, the hard way, they don't.
(Below is the image by Andrew Saltmarsh that accompanied the story.)
Mark Smith-Briggs (for HorrorScope) said - LJ Hayward's "The Hounds of Wychwood" is the only story to use a male protagonist, but the period piece about a supernatural scholar who faces Fairy Hounds and Black Dogs in a quiet country village is a real treat.
"The Plain of Pillars" - The Phantom Queen Awakes
One of the pillars (see what I did there?) of my early fantasy reading was Kenneth C Flint's Shidhe books. This story is my ode to those myths he brought to life for me. It shows the battle of Cath Maige Tuired as seen by the Morrigan and her enemy, Indech mac De Domnann, and the goddess's heartbreaking vision of the world they help create.
"Wayang Kulit" - Dead Souls
Sort of a blend of horror, myth and moralistic tale with an unsympathetic main character, exotic locale and total comeuppance at the end. A story where guilt manifests itself through myth to teach a rather stern lesson. The very deeply hidden genesis of this story can be found in Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart".
Temple Library Reviews said - "Wayang Kulit" brings the reader back to the realm of myth, this time in exotic India. What starts as an innocent puppet show, imbued with religious mystery and charm, morphs into a life imitates art situation, where the narrator is treated to an ultimatum and a chance to reach spiritual revelation and alter his behaviour. This is an obvious story, but the beauty comes from the anticipation, the language and the satisfaction from the deserved fate to a conceited, materialistic person.
Dark Wolf Fantasy Reviews said - Scott is a tourist in Indonesia and together with his girlfriend, Kerri, and their local friend, Ramelan, he attends a puppet play which will resemble a bit too much with the story of his lifetime. As I constantly say I prefer to read psychological horror and this story fits this pattern. A traditional puppet play triggers remorse in the main character and I liked how L.J. Hayward doesn't trace clearly the boundaries between reality and imagination and which gives more power to the story.
"The Curtain" - In Bad Dreams - Volume One: Where Real Life Awaits
My first sale. A tale of a particularly bad day at work for a woman already on the edge. Of all the shorties, this one is inspired by actual events that happened to me. Thankfully, they didn't happen on the same day, let alone one right after the other, so I didn't go off the deep end. The idea of the 'curtain' between life and death is an old one, but it was a work colleague who applied it to my experiences with those patients, adding an element of spine-tingle to otherwise harmless interactions.
Angela Slater (for Asif!) said - "The Curtain" by L.J. Hayward is creepy in all the right places, but don't read it if you're about to go into hospital. I really liked this story, it genuinely and skilfully evoked a sense of dread, rather than just being nasty - something not all horror stories manage. There's a big difference between being just grossed out and having the hairs on the back of your neck do a St Vistas' Dance.