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Friendy Friday with Horror Addicts!

Happy Friday, friends! As I write to you this morning, I'm bouncing with excitement. For those of you who've been around the Rock 'n' Romance blog for a while, or if you follow me on social media, you know I'm a huge fan of the freaky, a lover of all the creepy, so when my pal Emerian Rich hit me up to host a stop on the blog tour for the Next Great Horror Writer Contest, I gleefully accepted! I've done readings with Emerian and last year I even got to hear Jonathan Fortin read from his work, which I'm chomping at the bit to read. I also met the ridiculously talented Sumiko Saulson, who I highly recommend you all check out. Her poetry is sublime.

Horror has been a friend of mine since childhood when I used to stay up late on the weekends and watch Creature Features with my stepdad (who is the original Dude, btw. I mean, Jeff Bridges is awesome, but my Dude rocks). So without further ado–or fangirling–here is Ermerian Rich to tell you about this entry for the Next Great Horror Writer! continues our Horror Bites series with a bundle of new fiction by our Next Great Horror Writer Contestants.

Featuring work by:

Jonathan Fortin

Naching T. Kassa

Daphne Strasert

Jess Landry

Harry Husbands

Sumiko Saulson

Adele Marie Park

Feind Gottes

JC Martínez

Cat Voleur

Abi Kirk-Thomas

Timothy G. Huguenin

Riley Pierce

Quentin Norris

With introduction by Emerian Rich. is proud to present our top 14 contestants in the Next Great Horror Writer Contest. The included stories, scripts, and poems are the result of the hard work and dedication these fine writers put forth to win a book contract. Some learned they loved writing and want to pursue it as a career for the rest of their lives. Some discovered they should change careers either to a different genre of writing or to a new career entirely. Whatever lessons came along the way, they each learned something about themselves and grew as writers. We hope you enjoy the writing as much as we did.


A sneak peek inside…

AUDIO ADDICT by Daphne Strasert

Submitted for the 5000-Word Music Horror Challenge, Episode #142

It wasn't as if Cadence knew there was going to be music at the party. She didn't expect it to be squeaky clean either—it was an all-night-upperclassmen-only-parents-out-of-town-rager, after all—but she thought there would just be some underage poetry, maybe a cluster of audioheads in the haze of a rap cloud.

But the hard stuff? Music? A suburban house party was the last place she thought she'd see a group of teens passing around earbuds, a look of rapture on their faces as they cupped their hands over their ears.

Cadence wasn't a square, but she'd attended freshman health class just like everyone else. She'd had the dangers of experimenting with music burned into her brain along with the grainy photos of ear infections. Poetry was okay, as long as no one drove under the influence. Even her parents kept a little Tennyson in the locked cabinet by their bed they thought Cadence didn't know about. Rap was a greyer area. Audioheads in Colorado were always going on about Rap helping soldiers with PTSD and legalization, but it was a long way from any sort of federal recognition. Cadence's parents would flip if they knew she'd listened to a small hit to unwind after last semester's finals.

But no one else was making a fuss at the party. Hell, the valedictorian was in the circle of listeners, just like everyone else.

“You don’t have to plug in.” The unfamiliar voice at Cadence's shoulder dripped over her skin with the sweet laziness of honey.

Cadence startled and turned to look at the girl who had materialized at her side.

“I know,” she answered.

The girl regarded Cadence with sharp eyes—more appraisal than judgment in their dark depths. She took a step closer, crowding into Cadence's space as if they were already friends, and shifted her mane of curls over one shoulder with a shrug.

“No one will care.”

“I know, I just…” Cadence took a steadying breath. “Is it really that good?” She wanted to play it off with casual indifference, but the words came out as an innocent, awed question.

“I wish I could tell you it wasn't.” The girl smiled, a look just as intoxicating as her voice. She cast a dreamy gaze over the huddle of listeners. “But there's really only one way to decide for yourself, right?” Her eyes came back to Cadence, clear and keen again. “I'm Lorelei.”

“Cadence.” She held out her hand.

“Seriously?” Lorelei ignored the offered handshake, but a grin split across her face like sunshine. “What, did your parents think naming you Melody was too on the nose?”

“It’s a family name.” Cadence dropped her hand back to her side. “My Grandmother’s back before the ban.”

“Well then, Cadence...” Lorelei gestured to the circle of earbud passers in front of them. “Want to see if it’s worth all the hype?”


It's starting again. The pain and the pleading. The torture and crying. There's no way to stop it. Her throat is raw from screams she can't hear. She won't be harmed—not unless it's necessary. Keeping her alive and there and docile is the priority. Regardless, fear lances through her chest. It's almost worse, knowing that this is what stretches in front of her, without even the hope of death as a reprieve. She won't die. The universe isn't that merciful.


Cadence and Lorelei met under the bleachers behind the baseball field almost every day after last period. They'd stretch out in the dirty gravel, among the half-empty bottles of Gatorade and dropped change, nothing between them but melody, their bodies tangled in the headphone cord and each other.

Lorelei always brought the hits. Everyone knew someone who knew someone who sold rap, but music was harder to come by. She said her brother got them from a DJ in the Shallows and Cadence was glad for it. She didn't want to go to the huddled ruin of buildings where the shadows never fully receded and the sounds of sirens were always a few blocks away. It was a place that existed across America—simultaneously unique yet exactly the same in every city—and it was never somewhere good girls wanted to be after dark. Of course, a good girl wouldn't be plugged into a guitar hit—sharing headphones and everything—in the middle of the afternoon.

“We might be hard up for a while,” Lorelei said one day as she stretched out over the ground at Cadence's side. “Bro got busted for possession.”

“Oh. Wow.” An icy vise gripped Cadence's heart and her breathing stuttered in her throat. “I'm sorry.” She said the words but didn't feel them. She should have felt bad—for Lorelei, for her family—but only an insistent panic raced in her chest. Something tore at her insides, twisting behind her ribs.

“S'okay. But he can't hook us up anymore.”

They sat in silence for a few minutes, Cadence toying with a discarded soda tab as her mind whirled across unfamiliar paths.

“Can you ask him who his dealer is?” she asked.

Lorelei's lips twitched. “I mean, I can…but he's going to be in the Shallows.”

“Right. Of course, yeah…” Cadence bent the tab between her hands—back and forth, back and forth—until it broke. She dropped it with a hiss as it pinched her fingertip. “What if I came with you?” she asked, examining the blood blister as it formed. “Two's better than one and all that.”

Lorelei took a while to respond. “I guess that'd be cool.”

The clawing, snarling thing in Cadence's chest relaxed.


Her captor is returning. The girl can’t hear the crunch of tires—can’t hear anything but the intoxicating, delirious music—but headlights flash through threadbare curtains, momentarily blinding her.

It was never supposed to be like this. This wasn't supposed to happen. The music was just fun, harmless fun…

Author: Daphne Strasert is a horror, dark fantasy, and speculative fiction writer from Houston, Texas. She has been published in several anthologies including Crescendo of Darkness and Postcards from the Void. You can find out more and read some of her writing at


for Horror Addicts, by Horror Addicts

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WOW! I can't wait to read more! I hope you enjoyed this little trip into the freaky. My reader group on Facebook Ro's Roadies of Romance has a Freaky Friday post each week and I love to share good stuff and hear what kind of creepy you guys are experiencing. Want to join us?

I'm off on an adventure this next week to Portland, Oregon and I will definitely be sharing the fun stuff and working on a new book! I promise to go live and perhaps put up a Merrill's Musings post on the ole blog.

Stay Tuned for more Rock 'n' Romance...

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