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Where darkness dwells, embers light the way. From the author of the short story collections These Old Tales and Fresh Cut Tales comes his latest effort, Embers: A Collection of Dark Fiction. In his youth Cain developed a sense of wonderment owed in part to TV shows like The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, One Step Beyond and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Now Cain seeks the sa Where darkness dwells, embers light the way. From the author of the short story collections These Old Tales and Fresh Cut Tales comes his latest effort, Embers: A Collection of Dark Fiction. In his youth Cain developed a sense of wonderment owed in part to TV shows like The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, One Step Beyond and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Now Cain seeks the same dark overtones in his writing. There’s a little something for every reader. These 25 short speculative stories represent the smoldering remains of a blaze, the fiery bits meant to ignite the mind with slow-burning imagery and smoky twists and turns. These are the very embers of Cain’s soul. In this collection, Cain features stories of troubled men and women, both living and dead. Themes of loss and the afterlife take on many forms, as he explores the unknown. For instance, “The Chamber” focuses on a hardened veteran of World War II who has committed heinous crimes. He seeks only to find peace from his conscience, but sometimes that comes at a great loss. “Valerie’s Window” visits a small town amid a tragic end to humanity. Only things are not as they seem, and the more Valerie comes to know herself, the more her reality is revealed. “The Benefit of Being Weighty” has a humorous side, but the theme of this story revolves around fat shaming and the price one must pay for being so ignorant. Hopefully, these three short descriptions have increased your curiosity. When the dark comes, light a match. Let the fire burn bright and hot. So that when it dies the embers warm you. Table of Contents: • The Chamber • “Valerie’s Window” • “A Window to Dream By” • “Each New Day Unknown” • “Gone” • “Under the Drift of Snow is Another World” • “Blackbird’s Breath” • “Desolate” • “Lost in the Woods” • “Final Breaths” • “Closer” • “Flocking Birds” • “Pirouette” • “To Save One Life” • “Of Both Worlds” • “Breathing Cave” • “Soul Tapped” • “The Water People” • “Water Snake” • “Evolved” • “Buried Beneath the Old Chicago Swamps” • “The Bad Men” • “Parasite” • “Strip Poker, Crabs, and Blue Women” • “The Benefit of Being Weighty” Interview with the author: So what makes this collection of Dark Fiction so special? Cain: There are many qualities that go into making a book special for someone, which makes it hard to define. I’ve put my all into this collection of dark fiction, as I do each and every story I write. For me, it’s all about growth, and hopefully that continues to show in my work—that I’m growing as an author. Which short story is your favorite and why? Cain: I’m quite fond of “Valerie’s Window,” which is a bit of an urban fantasy. I like her internal conflict, what horrors she must overcome in order to set herself free. Without giving too much away, Valerie’s is a personal struggle, which often best reflects actual life. Why should readers give your short fiction a try? Cain: I think many readers will enjoy the stories, maybe even see a part of themselves battling evil forces. As I stated before, my primary goal in writing has always been growth, but I also strive to connect with my readers. I want to take them on an adventure. In this case, many short voyages, the sort you can go on during your lunch break or while you eat dinner. And I think readers will enjoy the wide variety of journeys I’ve set up for them in this collection. How would you classify your writing style? Cain: For short stories, I like them lean. I want my stories to move at a certain pace and voice, depending on the feel. I often refer to my work as being dark fiction, but it’s really a mix of genres: horror, suspense, thriller, noir, fantasy, dark fiction, urban fantasy, science fiction, or even weird fiction. I like to mash genres together, to blend them and see where that leads my characters, but there’s almost always a dark tone to each story. Categories for Embers: • Monster fiction • Supernatural stories • Dark fiction short stories • Single author short stories collection • Psychological horror and suspense • Horror short stories • Occult horror books • Short stories collections • Classic short stories • Scary short stories • Dark fantasy horror • Speculative fiction anthology “Not a squall, not a blizzard ... It's a pulp horror AVALANCHE! That's Kenneth W. Cain's new collection, Embers.”—Mort Castle, Bram Stoker Award® winner “Collections such as this are the reason that, even after 45 years, I still enjoy reading horror!”—Douglas Draa, Editor of Weirdbook Magazine “Kenneth W. Cain’s imagination is on full display here. He will take you by the hand, lead you into the darkest places, and you’ll be thanking him every harrowing step of the way. A bright new talent in horror.”—Ben Eads, author of CRACKED SKY “With prose that is sometimes poignant, sometimes unsettling, but always incredibly dark, Kenneth W. Cain takes readers on a macabre journey with the smouldering burn of ‘Embers.’ A master of weaving tales around seemingly simple premises and ordinary situations with every day folk, Cain never fails to turn a story on its head and deliver a long-lasting sting. You’ll need some genuine embers to warm you after this, for some of these tales will chill you to the core.”—JIM GOFORTH, author of PLEBS and THE SLEEP


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Where darkness dwells, embers light the way. From the author of the short story collections These Old Tales and Fresh Cut Tales comes his latest effort, Embers: A Collection of Dark Fiction. In his youth Cain developed a sense of wonderment owed in part to TV shows like The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, One Step Beyond and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Now Cain seeks the sa Where darkness dwells, embers light the way. From the author of the short story collections These Old Tales and Fresh Cut Tales comes his latest effort, Embers: A Collection of Dark Fiction. In his youth Cain developed a sense of wonderment owed in part to TV shows like The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, One Step Beyond and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Now Cain seeks the same dark overtones in his writing. There’s a little something for every reader. These 25 short speculative stories represent the smoldering remains of a blaze, the fiery bits meant to ignite the mind with slow-burning imagery and smoky twists and turns. These are the very embers of Cain’s soul. In this collection, Cain features stories of troubled men and women, both living and dead. Themes of loss and the afterlife take on many forms, as he explores the unknown. For instance, “The Chamber” focuses on a hardened veteran of World War II who has committed heinous crimes. He seeks only to find peace from his conscience, but sometimes that comes at a great loss. “Valerie’s Window” visits a small town amid a tragic end to humanity. Only things are not as they seem, and the more Valerie comes to know herself, the more her reality is revealed. “The Benefit of Being Weighty” has a humorous side, but the theme of this story revolves around fat shaming and the price one must pay for being so ignorant. Hopefully, these three short descriptions have increased your curiosity. When the dark comes, light a match. Let the fire burn bright and hot. So that when it dies the embers warm you. Table of Contents: • The Chamber • “Valerie’s Window” • “A Window to Dream By” • “Each New Day Unknown” • “Gone” • “Under the Drift of Snow is Another World” • “Blackbird’s Breath” • “Desolate” • “Lost in the Woods” • “Final Breaths” • “Closer” • “Flocking Birds” • “Pirouette” • “To Save One Life” • “Of Both Worlds” • “Breathing Cave” • “Soul Tapped” • “The Water People” • “Water Snake” • “Evolved” • “Buried Beneath the Old Chicago Swamps” • “The Bad Men” • “Parasite” • “Strip Poker, Crabs, and Blue Women” • “The Benefit of Being Weighty” Interview with the author: So what makes this collection of Dark Fiction so special? Cain: There are many qualities that go into making a book special for someone, which makes it hard to define. I’ve put my all into this collection of dark fiction, as I do each and every story I write. For me, it’s all about growth, and hopefully that continues to show in my work—that I’m growing as an author. Which short story is your favorite and why? Cain: I’m quite fond of “Valerie’s Window,” which is a bit of an urban fantasy. I like her internal conflict, what horrors she must overcome in order to set herself free. Without giving too much away, Valerie’s is a personal struggle, which often best reflects actual life. Why should readers give your short fiction a try? Cain: I think many readers will enjoy the stories, maybe even see a part of themselves battling evil forces. As I stated before, my primary goal in writing has always been growth, but I also strive to connect with my readers. I want to take them on an adventure. In this case, many short voyages, the sort you can go on during your lunch break or while you eat dinner. And I think readers will enjoy the wide variety of journeys I’ve set up for them in this collection. How would you classify your writing style? Cain: For short stories, I like them lean. I want my stories to move at a certain pace and voice, depending on the feel. I often refer to my work as being dark fiction, but it’s really a mix of genres: horror, suspense, thriller, noir, fantasy, dark fiction, urban fantasy, science fiction, or even weird fiction. I like to mash genres together, to blend them and see where that leads my characters, but there’s almost always a dark tone to each story. Categories for Embers: • Monster fiction • Supernatural stories • Dark fiction short stories • Single author short stories collection • Psychological horror and suspense • Horror short stories • Occult horror books • Short stories collections • Classic short stories • Scary short stories • Dark fantasy horror • Speculative fiction anthology “Not a squall, not a blizzard ... It's a pulp horror AVALANCHE! That's Kenneth W. Cain's new collection, Embers.”—Mort Castle, Bram Stoker Award® winner “Collections such as this are the reason that, even after 45 years, I still enjoy reading horror!”—Douglas Draa, Editor of Weirdbook Magazine “Kenneth W. Cain’s imagination is on full display here. He will take you by the hand, lead you into the darkest places, and you’ll be thanking him every harrowing step of the way. A bright new talent in horror.”—Ben Eads, author of CRACKED SKY “With prose that is sometimes poignant, sometimes unsettling, but always incredibly dark, Kenneth W. Cain takes readers on a macabre journey with the smouldering burn of ‘Embers.’ A master of weaving tales around seemingly simple premises and ordinary situations with every day folk, Cain never fails to turn a story on its head and deliver a long-lasting sting. You’ll need some genuine embers to warm you after this, for some of these tales will chill you to the core.”—JIM GOFORTH, author of PLEBS and THE SLEEP

30 review for Embers: A Collection of Dark Fiction

  1. 5 out of 5

    Always Pouting

    I'm not going to summarize each of the short stories because there were quite a few and I'm lazy. I did really enjoy this collection of short stories more than I usually enjoy short stories though. I really liked Pirouette, Valerie's Window, Breathing Cave, and Blackbird's Breath. The rest of the stories were good also but those stood out the most. My favorite is definitely Valerie's Window and it reminded me of 10 Cloverfield Lane. I don't think I even really disliked any of the stories, there I'm not going to summarize each of the short stories because there were quite a few and I'm lazy. I did really enjoy this collection of short stories more than I usually enjoy short stories though. I really liked Pirouette, Valerie's Window, Breathing Cave, and Blackbird's Breath. The rest of the stories were good also but those stood out the most. My favorite is definitely Valerie's Window and it reminded me of 10 Cloverfield Lane. I don't think I even really disliked any of the stories, there was a lot of tentacles and zombies though.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Frank Errington

    Review copy Embers: A Collection of Dark Fiction features twenty-five stories. In any collection of this size, there are bound to be some hits and some misses along the way. Fortunately, there are more of the former leading me to suggest this work be added to your personal TBR list. The book begins with The Chamber - A visit to a place of unspeakable horror brings back nightmares, but not of what the reader might imagine. A most interesting and somewhat Lovecraftian beginning to the collection. If Review copy Embers: A Collection of Dark Fiction features twenty-five stories. In any collection of this size, there are bound to be some hits and some misses along the way. Fortunately, there are more of the former leading me to suggest this work be added to your personal TBR list. The book begins with The Chamber - A visit to a place of unspeakable horror brings back nightmares, but not of what the reader might imagine. A most interesting and somewhat Lovecraftian beginning to the collection. If you enjoy your horror with a touch of Lovecraft, I believe you'll appreciate this body of work from Kenneth W. Cain more than you would otherwise. Not all of the stories in Embers have creatures with tentacles. For example. Valerie's Window is a zombie tale where the heroine is dealing with something much worse than the mere undead. If you miss the tentacles, you don't have to wait long. They're back in A Window To Dream By, a short story with a killer opening line... Despite her tentacles and lack of human arms and legs, Seth had an inexplicable attraction to the woman. Rather than doing a synopsis of every story, here are a few of the highlights. I really enjoyed To Save One Life in which a spider named Boris plays a rather important role. Of Both Worlds - If you're perceived as a monster, you might as well be one. And then there's Water Snake - huge snakes capable of swallowing a fully grown human. Well-told and frightening. I might not have loved every story in this collection, but I would certainly return for a second helping of tales from Kenneth W. Cain. Embers: A Collection of Dark Fiction is available in both paperback and e-book formats from Crystal Lake Publishing. If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can read it at no additional charge. Also, if you are an Amazon Prime member you can read it for FREE using the Kindle Owners Lending Library. From the author's bio - Kenneth W. Cain first got the itch for storytelling during his formative years in the suburbs of Chicago, where he got to listen to his grandfather spin tales by the glow of a barrel fire. But it was a reading of Baba Yaga that grew his desire for dark fiction. Shows like The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and One Step Beyond furthered that sense of wonder for the unknown, and he’s been writing ever since. Writing, reading, fine art, graphic design, and Cardinals baseball are but a few of his passions. Cain now resides in Chester County, Pennsylvania with his wife and two children.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy Hepler

    This was my first time reading Kenneth's stories, and now I'll definitely keep an eye out for his future works. All around, "Embers" was a great collection of stories. In nearly ever tale, the characters have heart and are relatable, and his writing style is inviting and easy to get lost in. Among my favorite stories in the collection were Valerie's Window, Closer, and Flocking birds. This was my first time reading Kenneth's stories, and now I'll definitely keep an eye out for his future works. All around, "Embers" was a great collection of stories. In nearly ever tale, the characters have heart and are relatable, and his writing style is inviting and easy to get lost in. Among my favorite stories in the collection were Valerie's Window, Closer, and Flocking birds.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Yvonne Davies

    As a fan of short stories, I jumped at the chance to read this book. As usual when I read a collection of short stories I have my favourites, so for this review I will mention the ones that stood out for me. To Save One Life: This short story is about a serial killer. Due to this being written from the Hero’s POV, you can really imagine being in the room whilst the killer does the deed. I can guarantee that you will be as surprised as me when you find out who the hero is. Final Breath: Glenda is As a fan of short stories, I jumped at the chance to read this book. As usual when I read a collection of short stories I have my favourites, so for this review I will mention the ones that stood out for me. To Save One Life: This short story is about a serial killer. Due to this being written from the Hero’s POV, you can really imagine being in the room whilst the killer does the deed. I can guarantee that you will be as surprised as me when you find out who the hero is. Final Breath: Glenda is sitting by her dying daughter’s bed and makes a statement that she tries to keep. This is a story about a mother’s grief and as a mom myself, my heart was with Glenda. I can understand why she did what she did and the fear of the chase makes this story a page turner. Pirouette: Like the majority of young girls Maddie wants to be a ballerina and spends all her time at home practising. Unfortunately, unlike other girls Maddie’s home is not a happy one. This story tackles domestic violence, which is always a difficult subject to tackle and although some of the scenes were harrowing, this story went to show how brave Maddie and her mom where. A Window to Dream by: Seth is staying in a hotel whilst working away from home and comes obsessed with a mysterious woman. As she is not your stereotypical beautiful woman I could not understand why he had such a fascination. However, as the story progressed and the scenes got more descriptive, showed how obsessed Seth was and what he was willing to lose. A good twist at the end involving the group of homeless men. Water Snake. This is one of the creepiest stories in this book. If you have a fear of swimming in open water than do not read this. This story was intense and you knew something was going to happen, but even I was surprised how the story progressed. A fast pace story with so much action, it puts some full-length stories to shame. Not having read anything before by Kenneth W Cain, I did not know what to expect, but from page 1 I enjoyed reading each and every word. Each story is individual and you will not find two stories the same, whether it is a widower grieving for his lost wife or an ancient hermit hiding in his cave. With 25 stories, this book will keep you entertained for hours. A great read that lets your imagination run wild.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Arielle

    I gave this book a 5 star rating, which I hardly ever do. Almost every short story in this book was great! I love short stories because if one isn't good, chances are the next one might be. But in this case I didn't look at each next story with hope it would be better, but with excitement that it would be just as good as the previous one. I gave this book a 5 star rating, which I hardly ever do. Almost every short story in this book was great! I love short stories because if one isn't good, chances are the next one might be. But in this case I didn't look at each next story with hope it would be better, but with excitement that it would be just as good as the previous one.

  6. 5 out of 5

    GracieKat

    A very nice cover. The art work is excellent. It fits the Embers title well and is creepy looking. The Table of Contents is linked very nicely. The Chamber - 3 Stars Started well with a nice blending of past and present. I had a little trouble with the realism of the ending but it was well-written. Valerie's Window - 5 Stars Started out in a typical way but as the story progresses and more and more of Valerie's life is revealed it takes strange and disturbing twists that I did not see coming. It was A very nice cover. The art work is excellent. It fits the Embers title well and is creepy looking. The Table of Contents is linked very nicely. The Chamber - 3 Stars Started well with a nice blending of past and present. I had a little trouble with the realism of the ending but it was well-written. Valerie's Window - 5 Stars Started out in a typical way but as the story progresses and more and more of Valerie's life is revealed it takes strange and disturbing twists that I did not see coming. It was also realistic in her thoughts and actions. A Window to Dream By - 3 Stars A solid story but it felt like it needed more. Just something a bit more to understand what exactly is going on with that particular hotel and why. It's very Lovecraftian in tone, for the most part. Each New Day Unknown - 3 Stars Summons up the horror of recurring nightmares. But are they really nightmares. It's well-written but lacks much punch, at least in my opinion. Gone - 3 Stars Another solid tale and every parent's worst nightmare. You can definitely see the Twilight Zone influence at work here as it reminds me greatly of the episode 'Little Girl Lost' but slanted more toward horror than science fiction. Under the Drift of Snow - 2 Stars leaning toward 3 It starts out excellently and is very emotionally moving. The end, however, isn't really set-up at all so it just turns into a big "Huh. That came out of nowhere." It also has an implication that I thought was a little...manipulative. (view spoiler)[The husband grieving his wife's death feels doubly guilty as he was unfaithful. However, while going through some of her things he finds letters to another man. She had an affair and since hers was first then he's off the hook! (hide spoiler)] At least that's the impression I got from it. Blackbird's Breath - 2 Stars I'm not sure what the blackbird is supposed to represent, exactly. It reminds me a bit of Poe's celebrated Raven (although this bird doesn't speak, just chirps). If it's a punishment of some sort there doesn't seem to be much cause for it. Desolate - 4 Stars A creepy story about a particularly nasty form of addiction. Lost in the Woods - 3 Stars The emotional parts are very successful. They felt so real and touching. I also liked the idea of it. Lost in the Woods had a very 'Orpheus' feel to it. At the end it devolves into a rather disappointing typical horror tale. It could have been so much more. Final Breaths - 4 Stars Another parent's worst nightmare. If you have a hard time reading about prolonged hospital scenes this story will cut you to the heart. Again the emotions and realism are done so well that the supernatural elements almost seem out of place. I actually think the story would work just as well without them, if not better. Closer - 2 Stars I could see where it was going very early on. That's not exactly a flaw but so much of it just doesn't make sense. The character's inner monologue is very realistic and again, the emotions, thoughts and feelings of the character are well done. My issues with it are the total 180 flip in the character's inner morals which seems a bit extreme to be believable. The end is also a bit confusing. It seems throughout that they're in the woods, then it's revealed they're in a city or perhaps suburb ad it destroys the credibility the story had. Flocking Birds - 3 1/2 Stars Again, the family drama takes center stage to the rest of the plot. I was really torn whether to give this a 3 or a 4. I did like it. It's very realism was horrific but the end was abrupt and incomplete. It left me feeling dissatisfied because again, it could have been so much more and I think the author has the talent to bring it to a satisfactory end. Pirouette - 4 Stars Another excellently portrayed glimpse of a fractured family unit and not marred by any forced supernatural trappings. It is what it is and it is a great story. To Save One Life - 4 Stars I really liked the story. It had an interesting point of view on a serial killer. I would have given it 5 stars but for one flaw. It may seem harsh but it's huge to me. (view spoiler)[At one point the murderer is attacking a woman who has a gun. But rather than use it she's 'too terrified' and it sits uselessly in her lap. It gives our Hero of the story opportunity to act but it makes no sense. The absence of the gun would still have given the Hero a chance to act and at the same time not make it look like the woman has no self-preservation whatsoever. As a side note, I loved who the Hero turned out to be and actually makes me feel a little bad for squishing all of the spiders who have met their untimely end under my shoe. (hide spoiler)] At least this Boris ends up a little better off than the one in the song. Yes, you sneaky little author, I caught it. Of Both Worlds - 5 Stars Very Lovecraftian in tone, quite intentionally I presume. A very good story and also a little sad. Breathing Cave - 4 Stars I almost get the feeling that perhaps this started out as a different story and evolved into what it became. Which is still a very good horror tale. There is one small blooper that I can't help but mention because the author may want to fix it. I'm not going to hide it because it's not integral to the plot. The lead female character's boyfriend is using his phone for light. He says it's barely charged and shortly after blacks out, going dead. Yet, somehow, a moment later she finds it in the dark...and turns it on. If I somehow misunderstood the author's intentions there I will gladly correct my interpretation of it. Soul Tapped - 2 Stars I really wanted to like it as I love a good ghost story. However, the entity was easy to guess and there were quite a few things that just seemed improbable in the real world. The Water People - 3 Stars Could have been much better if it were a shade longer. It would give a bit more background on the creatures and their motivations. Water Snake - 4 Stars Water Snake had a SyFy Monster Movie feel to it and it was great. There was also a nice bit of snake physiology in there that a lot of authors overlook. Evolved - 3 Stars It was a good story but again, a bit more detail would have been helpful. It reminded me a bit of a Lovecraft story mixed with a Robert E. Howard story. Buried Beneath the Old Chicago Swamps - 2 1/2 - 3 Stars I liked it and the premise was good but at the same time I had no clue what exactly was going on. Not in the larger story, that was pretty clear but with the 'witch' and her house. It reminded me a bit of a more evil Howl's Moving Castle. The Bad Men - 4 Stars This one had a very dark Twilight Zone feel to it. Intrepid space explorers run into non-alien lifeforms n another planet. Parasite - 3 Stars (4 Stars for those of you that like bugs in the body) It was well-written and gross. Gross in a good way for those people that like creatures in the body stories. Strip Poker, Crabs and Blue Women - 2 Stars I didn't really care for this story. It tried a bit too hard for the humor and was just blah. The Benefit of Being Weighty - 2 Stars I really did not get this one. What did the ring have to do with anything? Would everyone really be such jerks about the guy's weight? Also, I think an easier way to take a ring off would be to get a jeweler to cut it off, but that's just me. It also has an afterword at the end by the author about how he got the ideas. I didn't want to read it until I had done the reviews. I didn't want them to color my opinions. The comments on 'Final Breaths' and 'Lost in the Woods' were very touching. From the emotional depth in those stories I wondered if the author was drawing on personal experience. I would also like to say that his original idea for Soul Tapped sounds like it would be a funny idea for a story, please, please make it! The book had no typos or grammar issues. I thought it was a great collection. The stories I thought were excellent more than made up for the few I didn't like. And other people might like those more than I do. Received from the author for an honest review

  7. 4 out of 5

    The Grim Reader

    I’ve read many, many short story collections over these past few years. Some good, some great and some that are just okay. So, where does Embers by Kenneth W. Cain sit? Well, Crystal Lake Publishing very rarely drop the ball with their releases. They are one such publisher I know I am going to get a quality read from more often than not. Their books always have great cover art and are presented in a professional manner with good editing and formatting. I am not familiar with Mr Cain’s work, but I’ve read many, many short story collections over these past few years. Some good, some great and some that are just okay. So, where does Embers by Kenneth W. Cain sit? Well, Crystal Lake Publishing very rarely drop the ball with their releases. They are one such publisher I know I am going to get a quality read from more often than not. Their books always have great cover art and are presented in a professional manner with good editing and formatting. I am not familiar with Mr Cain’s work, but of the many short tales on offer here, I found myself really enjoying most of them. Things get off to a great start with Chamber. This is a story set after the second world war. In this tale, something lurks within the darkness of a gas chamber and a soldier haunted by his past returns and comes face-to-face with an unimaginable, supernatural horror. Second story, Valerie’s Window is a zombie story! Oh no, not another zombie story I hear you cry…but, don’t worry, Cain’s Z’s are background to what is happening inside of a house where a woman is being held prisoner. I thought this story was very good. I’m not a zombie fan at all, but this story worked well for me and it was tough work in deciding whether Valerie was better off inside the house or out! And so things continue with some good and some excellent short stories. Cain’s characters often deal with loss, so there is a grim atmosphere lingering through most of the tales, much to my delight. There are tales with strong Lovecraft influences, a little Ray Bradbury here and there and even a sprinkling of Poe. Cain’s stories don’t outstay their welcome; they are short and sharp which works well for the most part, though on occasion I did wish for a little more depth. Towards the end of the collection I found myself really enjoying Breathing Cave, a claustrophobic story if ever there was one and The Bad Men, which is a nice mix of science fiction and horror. Overall, most of the stories in the book elicited some sort of positive response from me. Sadly, the collection ended with a bit of a whimper and I didn’t much care for Strip Poker, Crabs and Blue Women or particularly The Benefit of Being Weighty, though after reading the authors notes, I can see why the latter was included and perhaps why it is the final story in the collection, owing to its personal connection with the author. The market is flooded with short story collections and I sincerely hope that Cain’s Embers finds an audience as he has a strong voice and an obvious writing ability. A really good collection overall. 4/5 logs for the fire

  8. 4 out of 5

    Reading Reindeer 2021 On Proxima Centauri

    Review of EMBERS by Kenneth W. Cain A sterling single-author collection, EMBERS is the third short story collection by prolific author Kenneth W. Cain. For readers who haven't encountered Mr. Cain, here is a wonderful introduction. Prepare for the stretching of your mind and the expansion of your imagination as Kenneth W. Cain boldly goes into unexplored territory, sometimes speculative, other times horrific, but always enlightening. My recommendation is sample one story at a time, taking time t Review of EMBERS by Kenneth W. Cain A sterling single-author collection, EMBERS is the third short story collection by prolific author Kenneth W. Cain. For readers who haven't encountered Mr. Cain, here is a wonderful introduction. Prepare for the stretching of your mind and the expansion of your imagination as Kenneth W. Cain boldly goes into unexplored territory, sometimes speculative, other times horrific, but always enlightening. My recommendation is sample one story at a time, taking time to savor the enjoyment or to reel from the horror; then let the story sink in.

  9. 5 out of 5

    S.J. Budd

    I have to say I was really impressed at the size of this collection, 25 short stories, you are definitely getting your moneys worth. I first discovered Embers by Kenneth W.Cain as I'm a really big fan of Crystal Lake Publishing. Previously they have release some great horror short story anthologies such as Gutted which contains stories from Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker, Ramsey Campbell and Kevin Lucia. Crystal Lake have also released some really great original novels such as Pretty Little Dead Girls I have to say I was really impressed at the size of this collection, 25 short stories, you are definitely getting your moneys worth. I first discovered Embers by Kenneth W.Cain as I'm a really big fan of Crystal Lake Publishing. Previously they have release some great horror short story anthologies such as Gutted which contains stories from Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker, Ramsey Campbell and Kevin Lucia. Crystal Lake have also released some really great original novels such as Pretty Little Dead Girls by Mercedes M.Yardley. They have also branched out into non-fiction with horror writing guides which have been incredibly helpful over the years. So when I saw this I was eager to take a look. Looking at the beginning pages it is clear this is no novice writer he's had countless other things published in various genres. The first tale, The Chamber, was just so dark and chilling I knew this would be a great read. A very strong story to open the collection with. What makes his work scary is that he takes normal everyday situations with characters just like you and me and twists them into something horrific. These are tales that really could happen to anyone. There is a lot of depth to these tales, such as Final Breath, there's an extraordinary range of genres and topics used, some are like love stories with a dark twist, some are psychological, some are gory, there's plenty of monsters thrown in as well as those less known. Some are just downright scary and there's some very clever takes on familiar tropes. These are tales that will scare everyone, they're not all about monsters but some of the more real life down to earth horrors we will all face, such as loss of a loved one, beginning your life again, falling in love with the wrong person. As there are 25 stories I'll just highlight my favourite ones. Valerie's Window - A really dark sinister tale amplified from the perspective of the young naive girl, Valerie. A window to dream by - I just thought this was a really clever tale, particularly with the connection of the homeless guys who watch Seth looking up into the sky. It's only right until the end where you get the whole hit of the story and it's a great ending. Closer - Travis goes hunting with his estranged father in a bid to win his approval but he's never been able to pull the trigger. Killing just isn't in his nature. Breathing Cave - Kelly goes on a trip with her new boyfriend and his friends. They pass a cave, Kelly doesn't want to enter but doesn't want to lose face in front of her new friends. Blackbird's Breath - Henry is trying to come to terms with his loss until a blackbird gets stuck behind his fireplace.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Noelle Kelly

    Embers, A collection of Dark Fiction is a dark and twisted selection of smouldering tales. Best way to read Embers: Curled up by a dying fire, sipping a glass of red or tea! Recently, I've become a big fan of short story collections, so I jumped at the chance to review this ARC from Crystal Lake Publishing. Horror collections work especially well. A short pacy story can pack just as heavy a punch as a longer, more developed one. Gutted : Beautiful Horror Stories (also published by Crystal Lake Pub Embers, A collection of Dark Fiction is a dark and twisted selection of smouldering tales. Best way to read Embers: Curled up by a dying fire, sipping a glass of red or tea! Recently, I've become a big fan of short story collections, so I jumped at the chance to review this ARC from Crystal Lake Publishing. Horror collections work especially well. A short pacy story can pack just as heavy a punch as a longer, more developed one. Gutted : Beautiful Horror Stories (also published by Crystal Lake Publishing) re-awakened my love of horrific short stories. Embers reminded me of shows from my childhood like Tales of the Dark Side and The Twilight Zone (why I was allowed to watch this as a child, I still don't know!) Each story is connected by a little thread to the next one. Kenneth created a web of weird, sometimes gory, sometimes psychological and always scary threads. My favourite story is The Chamber, it made me feel clammy and uncomfortable for all the right/ wrong reasons, was the first one. In The Chamber, an old war veteran visits an old war site with his family and encounters horrors from the past and present. The imagery and sense of dread is excellently portrayed. Of Both Worlds and Breathing Cave, two slightly connected stories freaked me out! The environment and the character's emotions are so vivid, the reader feels like they are part of the story. The stories based largely in caves, reminded me of The Descent (an excellent horror movie from 2005). To conclude, this well written selection is perfect for dipping into. I love discovering new horror fiction authors and I will be reading more of Kenneth's work.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Wofford Jones

    I enjoyed reading these selected works by master Kenneth W. Cain over a few cups of coffee in the morning and late at night before bed. He has a grim and dark imagination. My favorite story by far was To Save a Life, just because it had me thinking three different things before I realized what was happening. Once I knew the full story, I re-read it so I could see the story play out from a certain character’s point of view. It was a clever story to say the least. You got me on that one, Kenneth. I enjoyed reading these selected works by master Kenneth W. Cain over a few cups of coffee in the morning and late at night before bed. He has a grim and dark imagination. My favorite story by far was To Save a Life, just because it had me thinking three different things before I realized what was happening. Once I knew the full story, I re-read it so I could see the story play out from a certain character’s point of view. It was a clever story to say the least. You got me on that one, Kenneth. Other favorites include, but not limited to: Pirouette, Lost in the Woods, Desolate, Valaries’s Window and Under a Drift of Snow Lies Another World. I love that some of Kenneth’s stories were open ended where the continuation of the story is left to the reader’s imagination to wonder how it might play out. This was the case with Water Snake, which had a great ending, but more was going to happen once the words of that story stopped. Loved his descriptions throughout all the stories. These tales weren’t heavy laden with an exorbitant amount of description, not that I mind tha—but just enough peppered in with the main action and continued to build a bit of nervousness with the reader. Parasite and Water People are two stories that created a great deal of unease with me. Plenty of times—throughout the reading of this collection—my eyebrows raised in alarm to a part of the story I didn’t see coming. Those were pleasant surprises--or should I say unnerving turns in the story? All in all, Embers is a nice assortment of dark literature. I recommend his work and I will be reading more of his stories in the future. Maybe Darker Days is next on my list.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Nev Murray

    "I think I can safely say that this collection is one of my all-time favourites. There is such a variety of stories in here that there will definitely be something for everyone in it." See here for the full review: Embers: A Collection of Dark Fiction "I think I can safely say that this collection is one of my all-time favourites. There is such a variety of stories in here that there will definitely be something for everyone in it." See here for the full review: Embers: A Collection of Dark Fiction

  13. 5 out of 5

    Paula

    An outstanding collection of short stories, you can check out my full review here... https://horrornovelreviews.com/2017/0... An outstanding collection of short stories, you can check out my full review here... https://horrornovelreviews.com/2017/0...

  14. 5 out of 5

    Eddie Generous

    Unnerving Magazine Review It’s never easy to roll a collection in a single review. Possibly, it’s even more difficult when the collected is by a single author and includes more than twenty stories. Here goes. Like any collection of this size, there’s bound to be some that just didn’t work for the reader, in this, Embers was the no different. However, the weights of the two were far from fifty-fifty. For the most part, Embers is horror on a rollercoaster. The thrills are frequent and often Cain str Unnerving Magazine Review It’s never easy to roll a collection in a single review. Possibly, it’s even more difficult when the collected is by a single author and includes more than twenty stories. Here goes. Like any collection of this size, there’s bound to be some that just didn’t work for the reader, in this, Embers was the no different. However, the weights of the two were far from fifty-fifty. For the most part, Embers is horror on a rollercoaster. The thrills are frequent and often Cain stretched the climax along for multiple pages. At times, this collection is bloody, at times grim, at times heart wrenching and at its best, it brings forth a fine tact in jarring finales. There were some standouts amid these pages: Valerie’s Window used a few tools of the horror kit to convey something that works with equal parts psychological and physical. Gone is the classic lost family member and supernatural odds stacked against a parent, done so perfectly. Closer is a slow burn, with a hell of an ending. Water Snake was a monstrous thrill ride. The Benefit of Being Weighty is pure ghastly fun. Embers is a collection that strolls into every corner of horror to gather bits before running them through the spin cycle, dial set to dread.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Scarlett Algee

    There are recurring themes in this collection: deteriorated relationships are a big one, and bird motifs are another (and in "Flocking Birds," you get both). There are a few weak spots as with any story collection--a few soft or abrupt endings--but by and large, Cain has a solid body of work here. I dislike spoiling any story, so I'll just list a few of my favorites: •"Gone": a lost child is every parent's worst nightmare, and this one has a really great Twilight Zone vibe. •"Blackbird's Breath": There are recurring themes in this collection: deteriorated relationships are a big one, and bird motifs are another (and in "Flocking Birds," you get both). There are a few weak spots as with any story collection--a few soft or abrupt endings--but by and large, Cain has a solid body of work here. I dislike spoiling any story, so I'll just list a few of my favorites: •"Gone": a lost child is every parent's worst nightmare, and this one has a really great Twilight Zone vibe. •"Blackbird's Breath": one of several bird-themed stories, this one is sad and frustrating and disturbing all at once. •"Valerie's Window": just what does Valerie see outside? Monsters, or simply the normal world? It's never clear, but if you're familiar with some of the past decade's kidnapping-related news stories, this is especially creepy. •"Closer": a man attempts to reconcile with his father, even though he detests what he's doing. Terrific twist ending! •"A Window To Dream By": possibly the story I like best, because every man needs a Lovecraftian romantic obsession in his life. Even if she has tentacles. Especially if she has tentacles. Altogether, these stories made for a good unsettling read. Highly recommended! (Review copy.)

  16. 4 out of 5

    T. Giachetti

    Righteous Read Horrifying, spine chilling, deathly dark! Everything who love horror craves. When you reach the end of this book, your soul desires more from this author! Recommend read.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Eva

    Embers is a well-constructed and put together collection of horror stories from Kenneth W. Cain that marks another quality release from Crystal Lake Publishing. Some of the particularly noteworthy stories are as follows: - “The Chamber” - “Blackbird’s Breath” - “Final Breaths”

  18. 5 out of 5

    Debbi Smith

    An eclectic collection of stories that are best served on a dark, quiet night. I'm looking forward to more from Kenneth W. Cain. Oh yea, leave the lights on. An eclectic collection of stories that are best served on a dark, quiet night. I'm looking forward to more from Kenneth W. Cain. Oh yea, leave the lights on.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Tere Fredericks

    As an anthology, this book has what, at first glance, very different story lines. However, as I read through the stories, what struck me was the loss of a family member. Usually a spouse. Sometimes a parent, sometimes a child, but with loss nonetheless. It has occurred to me that perhaps to every reader this is the most horrible thing that can happen in their lives. Who wants to see a family member die, and in the horrible ways that Mr. Cain has come up with? This is, based on the most extreme ho As an anthology, this book has what, at first glance, very different story lines. However, as I read through the stories, what struck me was the loss of a family member. Usually a spouse. Sometimes a parent, sometimes a child, but with loss nonetheless. It has occurred to me that perhaps to every reader this is the most horrible thing that can happen in their lives. Who wants to see a family member die, and in the horrible ways that Mr. Cain has come up with? This is, based on the most extreme horror people can face, actually what it says on the cover: a collection of dark fiction. And very dark it can be. Different worlds where humans have to live, weather phenomena, monsters, every thing dark in the genre. These stories are like nothing I’ve ever encountered before. However, they do touch on my very deepest fears: caves, crabs (I was literally cornered by a crab when I was 12 or so until my auntie came to my rescue. I am not kidding when I say that crab fed three of us until bursting), slime, and birds to mention a few. I could not read this book as I usually read: with only my Fire as light because I’ve kept my husband up enough with all the lights on in the house before I could sleep. I’ve overcome that to a great degree, but I needed the bedroom light on to read this book. Although Goodreads shows me as starting this book in March, I actually read it in one fell swoop on April 3rd. I give it five stars for the creep factor.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Darrell

    We get a large variety of stories in this collection. We get an amnesia-based version of hell, a story in which people start blinking out of existence, and a story in which a man finds a portal to another world in order to confront his dead wife who was unfaithful to him. There's a story about a girl trying to reconnect with her zombie brother, another story about a girl trying to bring her vampire brother back to life, and a short story in which a father and son go on a hunting trip (but they'r We get a large variety of stories in this collection. We get an amnesia-based version of hell, a story in which people start blinking out of existence, and a story in which a man finds a portal to another world in order to confront his dead wife who was unfaithful to him. There's a story about a girl trying to reconnect with her zombie brother, another story about a girl trying to bring her vampire brother back to life, and a short story in which a father and son go on a hunting trip (but they're not hunting deer). I thought the story about a daughter with an eating disorder ended rather suddenly after quite a bit of build up. "Pirouette" features a drunken, abusive father. I felt it was more of a scene than a full story. There's one story told from a spider's point of view, one about a tentacled cave monster, and one about vampires who live in a cave (which, really, when you think about, just makes sense). There's one about an elderly man who first gets stalked by teenagers, then by a ghost. Other stories feature water monsters, a giant snake that kills people, a caveman who evolves tentacles, a witch in a post-apocalyptic world, and one in which people encounter more evolved humans on another world and they attack each other for some reason (they apparently evolved within just a decade which is a bit too fast). There's a super creepy story about a parasite that grows inside people's heads and one about an overweight man with a magic ring that kills anyone who comments on his weight (this one contains a scene reminiscent of the infamous zipper scene in Something About Mary). Whew. I've got to say I didn't care for "The Chamber" which was the first story in this collection. Some of the wording was a bit awkward such as "Recalling the deaths having occurred" instead of "recalling the deaths that occurred" and phrases like "a shortened exhale escaped his lungs." It's unnecessarily wordy in places. For example, "three months prior to this day" is used when simply "three months prior" would have done. There's also unnecessary internal monologue. Most of the time, when he gives us the character's thoughts, it could be removed without losing anything. I felt that "Final Breaths", about a mother watching her daughter die in a hospital bed, was drawn out too long. On the other hand, most of these stories didn't feel long enough. They're often just brief glimpses into another world and many of them have the typical "the threat is finally over... or is it?" horror story ending. "Breathing Cave" gives us five named characters in the opening sentences, which is a bit much for a reader to keep track of right off the bat, however I did like the part in which linens that hadn't been washed "smelled of aging human flesh." Another story contained the memorable image of a woman covering "her face with her hands, staring out through fleshy prison bars." I liked "A Window to Dream By" which was about a monstrous woman coming down from the sky and the man watching her through his telescope. Not only does it succeed in make tentacles sexy again, (Who am I kidding? Tentacles have never not been sexy.) but it also felt very original. Another favorite of mine was "Blackbird's Breath" in which a bird gets trapped behind a chimney. The owner of said chimney tries unsuccessfully first to rescue the bird, then to put it out of its misery. It had a kind of dreamlike feel to it which I love. In the afterword, we're told this was based on a true story which is probably why it rang so true. Another one I liked was the humorous "Strip Poker, Crabs, and Blue Women". When we first meet Jesse, he's wearing nothing but a sock over his manhood. He's the type of guy who sneaks a peak at a girl's panties while she's being abducted by aliens. (He and his friends were playing strip poker in the great outdoors during said abduction, so they're all apparently exhibitionists.) When he finds himself on the alien ship, Jesse is more worried about his friend making moves on his girl than he is about the aliens. This story contains the obligatory anal probe joke as well as its fair share of genitalia jokes. (When God created his friend Adam, "he must have run out of clay when it came to the old Wang Chung.") Jesse and his friend Adam joke around and childishly play around with the alien equipment when they should be trying to escape. The reason the aliens abducted them in the first place is rather humorous as well. Kenneth W. Cain has a real talent for humor and I found myself wishing he injected a bit more humor into the other stories in this collection.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Holly Ann

    Cain outdoes himself yet again with a stunning collection of dark fiction. Some of the stories are funny, some are sad, and others will have you running from night light to night light in the dark. All of the stories are well-written and are guaranteed to take the reader on a rollercoaster of emotions! I loved every single story in this anthology, and am selfishly awaiting Cain's next collection. Cain outdoes himself yet again with a stunning collection of dark fiction. Some of the stories are funny, some are sad, and others will have you running from night light to night light in the dark. All of the stories are well-written and are guaranteed to take the reader on a rollercoaster of emotions! I loved every single story in this anthology, and am selfishly awaiting Cain's next collection.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Trudie Johnson

  23. 5 out of 5

    Will Overby

  24. 5 out of 5

    Dona Fox

  25. 5 out of 5

    Book lover

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lina Barreto

  27. 5 out of 5

    Vicky

  28. 5 out of 5

    Phyllis A. Dohn

  29. 4 out of 5

    Dilip

  30. 5 out of 5

    Crystal Lake Publishing

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