Scare-Your-Pants-Off Contest Results

Before I announce the results, I want to thank all of you very, very much for participating in this contest. While I run these contests mainly for fun, they also serve a couple of legitimate writing purposes: to give you feedback from readers (your target audience), feedback from a publisher’s perspective, and to practice getting your work in front of others. Submitting is a nerve-wracking experience for most writers and you get over the fear by doing it.

Every single entry in this contest had things in it that I really liked. I tried to mention the strongest points in my comments on each post. I also listed things you should watch out for, things that might keep me from reading more were they a “real” submission.

I recognize that I seriously crippled your writing by giving you only two paragraphs to set up your story and provide enough of a hook to entice your audience to keep reading. This is really tough to do. In many cases, I’m sure you would have taken more time, given us more depth and developed the scene more completely had you been submitting the first chapter. Therefore, if I suggested that you do that, please do not see that as a criticism of your entry, but rather an indication that I felt there was undeveloped potential there.

If you want to take credit for your work, please identify yourself in the comments section of your post.

Now for the awards.

Reader’s Choice

First Place with 7 votes: Entry #22 submitted by Patricia Wiles

Honorable mentions, a four way tie with 4 votes each (in chronological order):

Entry #6 submitted by Karlene Browning

Entry #8 submitted by Jeff Savage

Entry #9 submitted by Michael Keyton

Entry #21 submitted by Melanie Goldmund

Publisher’s Choice
(Ones I’d be most likely to ask for more…)

First Place: Entry #21 submitted by Melanie Goldmund
This one went immediately to creepy, had wonderful descriptive imagery, and could be developed into a great story/novel. Even though the paragraphs were long and it would read better if separated into more than two, this entry embodied the spirit of horror in a classic style. It gave us a great beginning and I see lots of potential.

Honorable mentions:
Entry #13 submitted by David Woolley
This is a great start to a tween horror novel. With all the inappropriate teen horror out there right now, I’d love to see something like this developed into a scary novel that I wouldn’t be embarrassed to give to my children, nieces and nephews. (If you finish it, let me know.)

Entry #8 submitted by Jeff Savage
This has wonderful descriptive language and a very strong beginning. It would make a great prologue for something really cool. I’d love to read more. (And I don’t care if you call it a prologue or chapter one, it’s still a set up to a story, not the beginning of the story itself.)

First Place Winners: Please send me your mailing address and the title of the book you’d like for your prize—a classic horror book of your choice (must be available in paperback and easy to find). If your entry is the beginning of a full story you may send the entire story to me and I will post it here and also include a link back to your blog or website. (Include the link in your e-mail.)

If you are not one of the first place winners, but you have the rest of your story posted on your blog or website, feel free to post the link in the comments section of your entry.

Advance notice of upcoming Christmas Story Contest:
I’m going to run a Christmas story contest, beginning December 1st. I will post the full stories. Word count limit is 1500 words (although you can do less). I will be dividing the entries into two categories: published authors and unpublished authors, with Readers Choice and Publishers Choice prizes in both categories. Start writing now. I’ll publish more details in a few weeks.

Scare-Your-Pants-Off Time to Vote

Okay, that’s the last of them. Start voting!

You can review contest guidelines and voting rules here.

Click the label “07 Halloween” at the bottom of this post to bring up all contest submissions.

UPDATED: Got a few e-mails asking for clarification.

1. Post vote in the comments section of the post you’re voting for.

2. Examples of a vote I will count:
“I VOTE for this one.”
“This one gets my VOTE.”
“VOTING for this.”
Notice the common thread? Put the word VOTE in it.

3. Examples of a vote I will not count (because I don’t know it’s a vote):
“Lovely images.”
“This one was really spooky.”
“This one made me shudder.”

Scare-Your-Pants-Off #22

Marsha sat in John’s recliner – head bowed, an empty jar between her dry palms. The darkness acted as a whetstone, honing her senses to a fine edge. She detected the Chanel No. 5 lingering on his sweater; his footsteps in the hall irritated her as much as the grind of a dentist’s drill. He’d stopped sneaking in a long time ago – he had that little respect for her. He didn’t care if she was in their bed or not. She knew he wouldn’t turn on the light to find out.

Marsha set the jar on the side table. John screamed and thrashed. The jar vibrated. Marsha smiled, satisfied that her husband was remembering – and regretting – the last words he’d spoken to her, the question he’d so carelessly asked this morning: “Don’t you have anything better to do than collect black widow spiders?”

Submission Deadline Tonight

Just a reminder that all submissions for the Scare-Your-Pants-Off contest must be received by midnight tonight, as indicated by the time stamp on your e-mail. I will post the last of them tomorrow as early in the day as I can.

Voting starts at 12:01 a.m. on the 30th, but you might want to wait until mid-morning to be sure all the submissions have been posted. I will post notification that submissions are closed when they’re all up.

Please review the guidelines on voting. If you click the label “07 Halloween” at the bottom of any of the submission posts, it will bring up all contest submissions.

Feel free to comment on as many as you want, but only vote for three. You must clearly state that your comment is a vote for that submission or it will not be counted.

Scare-Your-Pants-Off #21

The morning fog was thicker in the cemetary, and the only sound Claudia could hear was the purring of the buggy’s wheels as they rolled over the fallen leaves on the path. Even Tim was quiet. She wondered if he’d fallen asleep, and leaned down to check, but he was awake, sucking his two middle fingers and staring out in silence at the trees and bushes and the white haze around them. On the grave next to her husband’s, there was a mound that she didn’t remember from her last visit. Funny, it looked as though someone had arranged a body there and simply covered it with leaves. And was it her imagination, or did it smell strange as well? Claudia sniffed, but only caught the usual autumn scent of decaying leaves and moist, cool air. Parking the buggy on the path, she approached the simple headstone to lay down her chrysanthemums. There was a single rose on the stone already, another thing she didn’t remember from last time; a long-stemmed flower that had dried out completely to brittle shades of brown and rust. Trying to avoid the unusually large thorns, Claudia reached out to grasp the stem, only to cry out in pain and toss the rose away. That hadn’t just been a finger prick. It felt like something had bitten her.

The rose had landed on the pile of leaves and Claudia stared malevolently at it for a moment, then turned her attention back to her finger. It was bleeding, and she squeezed more blood out of it in a first, rudimentary attempt to cleanse the wound. Straightening up, she shook her hand so that the large drop of blood that had collected on her fingertip went flying in the same direction as the rose. The pile of leaves shuddered. At first, Claudia thought it was the wind and ignored it, leaning forward to reposition her chrysanthemums on the headstone. But unexpected motion caught her eye, and she looked again. Instead of being blown in one direction or another, the leaves were sinking. They rustled as they tumbled slowly down into the earth, and then the rustling sound changed, and the movement of the leaves shifted subtly. Something was coming up from underneath them. A violent shiver of fear shot up Claudia’s spine to the top of her head, and she had to force herself to take even one step backwards. The smell came first, a gag-inducing stench of rot and decay mixed with the metallic tang of fresh blood. Sliding her other foot backwards, Claudia felt it knock something behind her. She froze for a moment, and then she remembered. The buggy! Tim! Something black was emerging from the leaves now, vaguely human in shape but not at all human in appearance. Trying for a scream but only managing a raspy, breathless “uhhhh,” Claudia whirled, reaching out for the handles of the buggy.

Scare-Your-Pants-Off #20

I pushed the shopping cart next to the driver’s side of the car and unlocked the doors. As I opened the door, a wave of heat assaulted me. I quickly started the car and turned the air conditioner on full blast. I left my door open to let some of the heat escape and carefully reached into the back seat and started buckling Julia into her car seat. I tried to calm her protests with a rattle and she grasped it tightly in her chubby hands.

Next it was Olivia’s turn. I pulled her out of the cart and lugged her around to the passenger side of the car. I tried to remain calm as she cried about going to the park. “Maybe later sweetie, please stop crying. Let’s go home and have lunch.” I said all of these things as I struggled to get her buckled into her car seat. Then suddenly the car lurched forward. I cried out in pain as my shoulder caught on the edge of the door. Olivia stopped crying and her blue eyes widened in fear. I looked up and screamed as the car continued to move. A man was in the driver’s seat of my car and I watched in horror as his foot slammed down on the gas pedal.

Scare-Your-Pants-Off #19

Lonnie checked her image in the mirror, noting the dark circles under her eyes that even makeup couldn’t hide. She quickly looked away, picked up her tote bag and hurried to the car. She couldn’t be late. She was not unprepared for this ordeal, though her dreams had taunted her otherwise in various bone-chilling scenarios all last night, in between restless moments of

As she entered the back door of the chilly red brick building, Lonnie was prepared for whatever fate was determined to hand her. Life had been good to her; she had done her best to be a good person. She had few regrets. She made her way down the hallway to the chamber with painted cinder-block walls and sat on the cold metal chair in the back of the room, erect and outwardly composed. As the clock ticked away, Lonnie did not flinch; fear would not rule her last moments on earth. She began to count her breaths: In, out. In, out. In, out. Then, her heart thumping in her throat, her mouth suddenly cotton dry, she rose to her feet, clutching the tote filled with books, pictures and homemade visual aids to her chest, as the dreaded words were pronounced: “Sister Carrigan will now present Sharing Time.”

Scare-Your-Pants-Off #18

At exactly 6:33 a.m. on Saturday, April 6, Suzette’s husband announced on his Web site the revelation that proved without a doubt that he was the Davidic servant, the one mighty and strong; that the Second Coming would take place by the end of the year; and that all previous
pretenders to the position are now counterfeits and must immediately repent or be struck down and lose their celestial inheritance.

Three hours later, when the number of e-mailed and phone in death threats hit double digits, her husband set her apart as an avenging angel (which gave her the authority to violate the sixth commandment), thrust a deer rifle in her arms, and barricaded himself in the
basement with the children and the second wife. Suzette turned on conference, adjusted the recliner so it was facing the front door, sat down with the rifle across her lap, and picked up her tatting.

Scare-Your-Pants-Off #17

The late October storm drew Samantha to the window above the kitchen sink. The new neighbor pulled into his driveway and slipped inside, but not before glancing over the hedge toward the window. He was a single man. Probably mid-thirties with a large collection of old-time Boston Red Sox baseball caps and an identical gray sweater collection. At least it seemed he had a lot caps and sweaters unless, of course, he wore the same ones everyday. Samantha shut the blinds and pulled the drain on the dishwater. The day her neighbor moved in he brought with him an antique oval wall mirror with an elegant gold frame. The moving truck brought everything else. Beyond that there wasn’t much she knew of the man who purchased the vacant Hampton estate next door except that whenever she did see him he ducked inside or quickly ensconced himself behind the tinted windows of his red truck that sported a worn and pealing Jesus Saves window sticker. Somehow the man always knew she was watching. She had the same impression whenever she walked from the kitchen to the front door in full view of the entryway mirror. Whenever she saw his red truck in the driveway she avoided the hallway for the same reason she avoided an accident on the freeway. There was something creepy about gawking at a body pulled from the wreckage.

It was odd that their new neighbor never answered the door when she went over to welcome him to Salem Heights. And when she left an invitation in his mailbox to join her and John for a welcome dinner it was returned by post and stamped: No Such Address. She put away the breakfast cereal boxes and went to collect the morning paper when the poorly-latched front door swung open on the blustering storm. She pushed it shut, got down to wipe up the rain and noticed a baseball cap lying just inside the threshold. It must have blown in on the wind. She reached for it when a movement in the hallway mirror caught her attention. Was that the flash of a gray sweater in the reflection?

Wet Your Pants Scary* (aka #16)

A large mass of cosmic debris fell from the sky and plummeted deep into Lake Hi-Land, located in southeastern Michigan. The water mass that was displaced by the asteroid plumed high in an enormous fountain as waves with tsunami strength dispersed in all directions. The rolling water swept over bridges, drenched farmland and washed over the whole land. It was like a dam had broken and all of the water streamed towards the one city located on low ground on the eastern edge of the lake. Tendrils of water frothed over the banks, soaking all within reach. The wave seemed to move in slow motion as it crested over the town, packed with tourists for the annual Festival. Then time resumed its normal pace as water swelled into the town, drenching every nook and cranny until it subsided in a sodden mess that permeated every inch of ground.

The old-timers felt the chill in the air that made frail bones creak and noses run. It was time, once again, for Hell (Michigan) to freeze over.

*Title changed by request.

Scare-Your-Pants-Off #15

Emi prayed it was only the pulse of dense rain against her bedroom window that had wakened her. That the noise, the whispered slide of someone opening the bureau in her mother’s bedroom, wasn’t real. But she knew, knew with all the instant terror that coursed through her veins, it was real. And when she saw a beam of light flash across the wall just outside her doorway, she guessed what it was. A thief.

Scare-Your-Pants-Off #14

I awoke with a start and rolled over so violently that I screamed out as pain blossomed in my leg. I sat up and massaged my cramped leg and looked around to see what had yanked me out of a deep sleep. I swung around and tenderly put pressure on my leg, and that’s when I felt it.

The carpeted floor was warm under my bare foot and it was never this warm in the middle of the night. I could see flickering light under the door and knew that I was encountering my worst fear. I felt that if I touched the doorknob, my fingers would be scalded. Sure enough, a finger of flame stretched above the lower hinge, hungrily reaching for me. The room seemed to close in on me as I realized I had nowhere to escape. The fire sucked all of the air from my bedroom and my breathing became labored. It was like an evil presence, biding its time on the other side of the door. Soon it would enter and take me unwillingly into its smoldering embrace.

Scare-Your-Pants-Off #13

“Mr. Skelton?” Jenny stepped through the weather-worn wooden gate and inside the yard. “Is anyone here?” A critter ran through the nutgrass without showing its head above the unkempt overgrowth. Jenny pressed the plate of double chocolate chip cookies against her red sweater. Why did she ever agree to deliver these for mother? No one in her right mind ever stopped by the Skelton place. The broken windows in the estate’s towers, the black crows nesting on the electric wires and the rumor of what grew in the garden patch were more than enough to scare her and her seventh grade friends from lingering very long on Hollow Street this time of year. What a bother, these cookies. Jenny hurried through the weeds, up the porch and softly said, “Mr. Skelton, are you home?”

There was no reason to knock and risk stirring the old man. She laid the treats in front of the door, mumbled a happy Halloween greeting her mother insisted she leave with the man and hurried back through the yard when she saw it half-hidden among its own leaves that twisted in and out of the crosspieces on the redwood arbor. It was true, but none of her friends would ever believe she’d seen the wart-skinned fable that appeared in the garden patch each October unless she brought home the vine top. She inched closer, reached past the greenery and when she plucked the prickly vine from the top of the fire-red pumpkin the crows took to flight and the door to the estate flew open. Mr. Skelton chased down the porch with the help of a cane, cursing her and telling her to, “get back girl, get back,” but it was too late. The leaf covered arbor opened like a door to a dark, cold world and a monstrous gust of wind pushed her inside.

Scare-Your-Pants-Off #12

Ragan rocked on the old porch pondering his nightmares from the night before. He had hoped the sunrise would have calmed the fearful feeling within him, but so far the morning dawn had only served to make his mood darker still. Some men had normal grandmothers. Ones that baked them cookies and made sure that their bootlaces were tied. They were love and perfection personified. They had kind winkled hands, happy smiles on their faces, and short gray hair that was always well kept. He wasn’t one of those men. His Grandmother was far from the welcoming stereotype. He wondered at the reasons fate would bring her to his memory now, of all times. When he was in later life and far to old to need the influence of any kind of motherly figure. Not that his grandmother had been the mothering type. He was happy with his job. Perhaps he was alone but that didn’t bother him either. He was just fine. He had the boys at the old club where he went golfing every Friday. He was perfectly content to lay all memories of that old witch in the past where they belonged. He shuttered as flashes of his dream came to him, and a picture of the hideous woman he was forced to spend a week of every summer with filled his mind.

She had knarled hands with huge lumps for knuckles–hard, bony, fierce hands that always had something or the other underneath the fingernails. His grandmother had been an avid gardener, but sometimes he could swear that she had dried blood beneath those fingernails. He reminded himself that those were childhood suspicions. Something he had merely dreamed up in a suspicious fit of horror late one night in that atrocious country cabin that hardly held together anymore. Perhaps the fear of the roof falling in on him had permanently damaged his tender childhood soul. He liked that lie. It was a good one. The memory of her visage loomed before him meancing, she had thin gray hair. Oh, how it had reminded him of cobwebs and shadows. It was stringy with grease and sometimes food. It lay plastered onto her skull and dangled dangerously close to the floor. Ragan had loathed it when his grandmother came close enough to let her straggly hair brush against him. Her face, oh mercy, her face was the most hideous thing he had ever seen. It was lined deep with wrinkles that seemed cavernous to his young mind. Like her face had been taken between two large hands and crunched like a piece of paper. Her nose was too small and her lips too large. When she smiled one had a feeling that she would be able to eat you if she opened wide enough. Then he heard her voice just as he had heard it in the dream: Count the crows, my boy, count the crows.


Last contest I held only had a few submissions. Fearing I would see a repeat, I said in the rules you could only vote once. However, we’re getting a LOT of submissions for this one, so I updated the voting rules to allow you to vote for three.

However, voting does not start until October 30th. So don’t vote now.

Scare-Your-Pants-Off #11

He had warned her not to reject him again, but the publisher folded the form letter and slid it into the self-addressed stamped envelope. His hand-written threat on the bottom of the query hadn’t scared her a bit. She lifted the envelope containing the final rejection to her mouth and quickly licked the seal. Her tongue tingled, she licked her lips and swallowed. Perhaps it was more than a threat.

A high-pitched sound filled her office and she screamed when she saw the string of words whizzing through the air towards her. They were moving fast but somehow she could read them all—regret to inform you, unfortunately, sorry, sadly, does not fit. Each word, each phrase landed on her body and seared into her flesh.

Scare-Your-Pants-Off #10

“Go on, you yellow-bellied chicken liver.” The words of the fifth-grade bully echoed through Hayden’s mind as he tread carefully on the creaky porch step of the abandoned house at the end of Blake Street. There was barely enough light to show the outline of two small broken windows at the top of the front door, flanking the bent and rusty knocker, barely hanging by one equally rusty nail. The shifting shadows of light and dark threw themselves into an everchanging kaleidoscope of distorted faces on the door—mouths opened. Screaming, howling in silence, these flickering ghosts of light and dark seemed to watch him as he approached.

Hayden stepped onto the porch. Stopped. Right foot in front of the other, he took one more step toward the door. The wood beneath his feet screeched and strained, then broke through under his weight. As Hayden crashed through the rotting porch wood, the scent of death and decay rushed into his nostrils, filling his lungs. Just before his head hit the dirt beneath the porch and the darkness came, Hayden felt something hard and icy cold wrap around his ankles.

Scare-Your-Pants-Off #9

I can’t remember how I found the house. That in itself is part of the problem, one I’ve retraced many times in my mind, until it has become more than an obsession. It has become my entire life. And there is worse. I cannot now remember how to leave it. You think my mind wanders perhaps – like a child’s; and there have been times I’ve run through these rooms like a child, searching for the tiniest crevice or crack through which I might slip out.

Sometimes I wake up, still warm in dream. I am walking up Stow Hill and before reaching its brow I take a left, and then turn right. Within moments I am lost in a warren of old houses that seem to multiply even as I walk. And the faster I walk the more numerous become the streets; each twisting off in illogical angles, until at last the house appears, as if by magic. That was how it was the first day.

Scare-Your-Pants-Off #8

The rain raps against the cracked glass of my window like sharp and bony knuckles pounding the top of my skull. It’s getting darker earlier, and even when my clock tells me it is daylight outside, the sun refuses me like a faithless lover, hiding herself behind a grim gray sky. The cold seeks me through the cracks and knotholes. But the living things have fled. Even the rats and spiders eschew me—perhaps sensing the cold inside, perhaps understanding I would crush them in my bare hands without the slightest remorse.

In another few days, children will arrive, laughing and playing—hiding their true selves behind masks and costumes. But I won’t be here. I feel the shadow growing within me—filling me with a black, relentless hunger. Would that I could pull it off like a mask; throw it away like a costume. But I have finally come to realize the thing growing inside me again like a dark tumor is not an alien usurper but my true self unfolding. Soon I will begin to feed, to give myself over to the rage that burns my tongue and lips with a sanctifying fire. This time I won’t stop. This time I know where you are. I am coming for you. My love.

Scare-Your-Pants-Off #7

Sydney couldn’t believe her luck. She’d gotten the last cinnamon/ raisin/chocolate chip bagel at the deli this morning. She found an empty seat on the subway and had it all to herself all the way to work. On her way home, as she turned the corner at Elm and Rose, she found a twenty-dollar bill just lying on the curb. She picked it up and stuffed it in her pocket as she fit her keys into her front door. But Sydney would never have a chance to spend that twenty because horror waited on the other side. Sydney’s lucky day was also her last.

Scare-Your-Pants-Off #6

I jerk from unconscious to wide awake in an instant. My heart hammers in my throat. When I swallow I taste a hint of blood. The sheet on top of me trembles with each heartbeat. I hold my breath, willing my pulse to slow to normal, straining to hear any sound that doesn’t belong to the morning. Nothing. I let my breath roll out, unclench my hands, relax my jaw. It was nothing. Just a dream. I roll over in my bed and bump against something that shouldn’t be there—long, solid, cold and covered with blood.

Scare-Your-Pants-Off #5

I hate mirrors at night. If I have to go by one in the dark I avoid looking at them. I’m always worried I’ll see some dark form standing near me, or that my face will change like in “Poltergeist”. Telling me the fear is all imagined doesn’t work either, especially since I know Nostradamus used to sit in a cloaked and darkened room staring at a ‘black mirror’ to receive his hideous visions and scrying through mirrors isn’t just something Christopher Paolini made up in Eragon. Apparently there is some power between mirrors and other world reflections. It’s not all imagination. So when I saw the dark form of a man standing behind my
reflection in the middle of the day my heart turned over. I knew my house was empty.

Scare-Your-Pants-Off #4

Horror, LDS Style

The perspiration dripped down the back of her neck. Her heart beat wildly, thundering in her ears and pounding in her head. Her husband sat in a chair next to her, motionless. He said nothing. Had the shock rendered him speechless? Her own distress paralyzed her. Fear wrapped itself so tightly around her, she struggled for breath. How could this happen? It was the worst of her nightmares. She wondered if she could rush to the door fast enough and evaporate into the night. Again, the man across from her said, “Sister Jones, would you accept the call to serve as Relief Society President?”