Sliced and Diced: A collection of dark and twisted short stories, by Joan De La Haye (40:00)

Today we see that humor can make dark stories seem even darker.

What I gleaned about the stories: If someone secretly hates the gift you got them, them sharing it with you might not be a good thing.

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Note: This is a short story collection, so the rules are slightly different from standard Immerse or Die: instead of reading on every time I lose immersion, I stop reading that story and move on to the next one. As usual, I stop reading after the third WTF.

WTF #1: Muddled clauses

Analysis: The second sentence of the opening story is: It’s a death knell for some unfortunate creature, even if it isn’t always an immediate end, but it is always a bloody one. When I hit the second comma, my instinctive parsing was the end of a modifying sub-clause. While It’s a death knell for some unfortunate creature… but it is always a bloody one is a technically valid sentence, this broke my flow; a death knell is an audible warning so what would a blood-spattered sound look like?

A moment later, I realised that the third clause modified the second; the end was not always swift but it was always bloody. However, …even if it isn’t always an immediate end, but it is always a bloody one isn’t grammatically correct, so whatever trust that might provide in one area was lost in another.

My faith damaged before the end of the first paragraph, I moved on.

Kudo #1: Humorous Horror

Analysis: One of the stories opens with a werewolf who is only a wolf while the light of the unobstructed full moon is on them, so clouds and shadows are causing them to shift back and forth to comic effect; however, the story is otherwise the usual visceral killing that characterises classic werewolf tale. This contrast both saves the story from becoming a single joke and makes the horror of tearing someone apart feel even more brutal by contrast.

WTF #2: Missing punctation

Analysis: Several pages into a subsequent story, I hit: He smelled worse than mother superiors rude noises after bean soup. Because there was no apostrophe, I parsed mother superiors as a plural; thus the remainder of the sentence conflicted with my mental image requiring me to rebuild it.

Ironically, the mixing of humour and seriousness that I had noted earlier contributed to this catching me so off guard; while smelling like several mother superiors is not normally a description someone would use, a joke that the mother superior smelt a little odd so several of her would smell worse works quite well as banter between people who know each other.

Momentum stalled, I moved on.

Kudo #2: Variety

Analysis: While the stories do share an authorial voice, so have a certain consistency in type of horror, the stories and characters display sufficient range that I didn’t begin to feel I was reading the same story repeatedly with only the details tweaked.

Take the Pepsi Challenge: Want to know if my own writing measures up? Download one of these free short stories, in the format of your choice, and decide for yourself.

Fluency, by Jennifer Foehner Wells (6:23)
Amber Fang 3: Revenge, by Arthur Slade (0:53)

About the author

Dave Higgins has worked in law and IT for both public and private sector organisations. When not pursuing these hobbies, he writes poetry and speculative fiction.He was born in Wiltshire, England. Raised by a librarian, he started reading shortly after birth and has not stopped since. He currently lives in Bristol with his wife, Nicola, his cats, Jasper and Una, and many shelves of books.