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“The Death Chute” finds a home with Strigidae Publishing September 25, 2015

Posted by ambrosestolliker in News, Novella.

On Thursday evening, I received word that my very first horror novella – The Death Chute – has been picked up by Strigidae Publishing.

Here’s a brief synopsis of the story:

The Death Chute is the story of 44-year-old reality TV producer Jake Porter. Jake returns home to his native Vermont to see to his ailing mother, Sophia, who suffers from senile dementia. His plan is to quickly set her up in a posh new nursing home in the Green Mountains and then head back to Hollywood to revive his career, now in jeopardy after his last few projects bombed with TV audiences. Despite the fact that the home was once a sanatorium for tuberculosis patients, many of whom died within its walls, Jake puts Sophia there believing she’ll be well looked after. However, not long after moving in, Sophia has a frightening experience with the apparition of a little boy suffering from TB. At first, Jake dismisses her story as a manifestation of her dementia, but as time goes on, it becomes clear the nursing home is haunted by something strange and terrible. With the help of the home’s sharp and attractive chief physician, Jake uncovers a dreadful secret concerning the fates of fifty black soldiers and their families who came to the sanatorium for TB treatment in 1943. As the haunting crescendos to a violent and deadly climax, Jake races against time in an effort to save his mother from the very place he’d hoped would give her solace in her final days.

I’m extremely gratified, excited and thankful that this story – one I wrote more than five years ago – has finally found a home. It was a great deal of fun to write too – I’d always wanted to write a classic haunted house and ghost story, and this was really one of my earliest attempts. I’ve long felt it was one of the best pieces I’d ever written, so I’m very, very glad Strigidae will be making it available to others to read.

It’s gratifying too because as most writers knows, novellas aren’t high in demand any more, and haven’t been for a long, long time. Earlier this afternoon, a colleague of mine reminded me of what Stephen King had to say about the novella as a literary form in the afterword of his masterpiece collection of novellas, Different Seasons, way, WAY back in 1983:

“I’ve got to tell you: 25,000 to 35,000 words are numbers apt to make even the most stout-hearted writer of fiction shake and shiver in his boots. There is no hard and fast definition of what either a novel or a short story is – at least not in terms of word count – nor should there be. But when a writer approaches the 20,000-word mark, he knows he is edging out of the country of the short story. Likewise, when he passes the 40,000-word mark, he is entering into the country of the novel. The borders of the country between these two more orderly regions are ill-defined, but at some point the writer wakes up with alarm and realizes he’s come or is coming to a really terrible place, an anarchy-ridden literary banana republic called the ‘novella’.”

When I was writing the first few drafts of The Death Chute, I didn’t really worry about word count or which “country” the story rightfully belonged to. I was just trying to write the best story I knew how. It just kind of ended up in “novella country.” Try selling one though – it ain’t easy. Gone are the days when great short fiction magazines had a place every month for longer works – The Saturday Evening Post and similar publications are mostly a thing of the past, unfortunately. Honestly, I’d just kind of gotten to the point where I figured one of the best stories I’d ever written would never see the light of day.

So, I’m very thankful to Strigidae for accepting my manuscript, and I look forward to working with the editors there on getting the story ready for print. As soon as I have more details to share on when the novella will be available in the market, I will be sure to share them.





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