Posts Tagged ‘short story collection’

Today’s post on The Horror Bookshelf comes from Todd Keisling, the author of Ugly Little Things: Collected Horrors – which is out now through Crystal Lake Publishing– and a ton of other great books. I will be reviewing this in the future, so I won’t get into the book too much, but trust me when I say this is an outstanding book you will want to add to your collection. I reviewed Ugly Little Things – Volume One a few years ago (review) and ended up listing it as one of my top collections of the year. This edition features those stories along with other entries in the Ugly Little Things series and Keisling’s outstanding novella, The Final Reconciliation and I’m positive it will end up on this year’s “Best Of” list. Todd stops by The Horror Bookshelf to share 11 facts about the collection that will give readers a look behind the scenes at what went into crafting this collection.

Before I turn over the blog to Todd, I want to thank him and Erin of Oh, For the Hook of a Book Publicity for having me on the tour!

Ugly Little Trivia: Eleven Facts about Ugly Little Things

By Todd Keisling, author of Ugly Little Things

1: Many of the stories were written while I was suffering through a period of intense depression. The title Ugly Little Things refers to all the dark, nasty things that lurk inside all of us. The stories were my way of facing those demons, giving them names, and exorcising them. Several of these stories seem haunted to me because of this, like little totems representing a particularly dark point in my life.

2: The title Ugly Little Things was originally the title of a story in the collection. That story eventually became “The Harbinger” in order to avoid confusion.

3: The ULT “sessions” began in early 2013 and stretched through the end of 2016, but ideas for several of the stories go back nearly ten years. The aforementioned story, “The Harbinger,” originally began in 2007 as a Lovecraftian mythos tale set in West Virginia; “Saving Granny from the Devil” had multiple beginnings going as far back as 2009; and “House of Nettle and Thorn” was originally conceived in 2004 when I was still in college, with a working title of “Papercuts.”

4: Charles Boid, the antagonist of “Human Resources,” is a recurring character in a couple of unpublished tales involving his communion with an eldritch being that lurks in a digital domain. He may receive a proper story in the future, but for now, he pops up here and there as he pleases.

5: The opening scenes of “When Karen Met Her Mountain” were taken directly from a dream I had.

6: A limited-edition hardcover of the first four stories was printed in 2014 with the title “Ugly Little Things: Volume One.” There were only 45 in total. Henry Rollins has one of them.

7: I am my own worst critic and fully expect everyone to hate what I write. When I gave my wife an early draft of “The Final Reconciliation,” I did so with the warning that she probably wouldn’t like it. As fate would have it, that’s actually her favorite story of mine. Go figure.

8: Sometimes, I see my stories as images in my head. They’re mini-movies, their characters acting and speaking on their own behalf, and I’m just there to record things as they happen.

9: I’m currently at work on a novel titled “Devil’s Creek” that takes place in the hometown of the band from The Final Reconciliation. It’s also has some ties to “The Harbinger.”

10: Many of the events in “Saving Granny from the Devil” actually happened, including Granny seeing a man in black from her living room window.

11: Ugly Little Things: Collected Horrors isn’t a book of “feel good” stories. They’re dark meditations on the human condition, and if you aren’t careful, they’ll cut you in the most delightful of ways. You’re going to have a bad time. You’re going to hurt. And I think you’re going to like it.


Todd Keisling’s Official Website

Crystal Lake Publishing’s Official Website

Purchase Ugly Little Things: Collected Horrors: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or grab a copy from your favorite bookstore!

Ugly Little Things: Collected Horrors Synopsis

Short Story Collection by Todd Keisling
Includes the Novella, The Final Reconciliation
Published by Crystal Lake Publishing




The eleven stories in Ugly Little Things explore the depths of human suffering and ugliness, charting a course to the dark, horrific heart of the human condition. The terrors of everyday existence are laid bare in this eerie collection of short fiction from the twisted mind of Todd Keisling, author of the critically-acclaimed novels A Life Transparent and The Liminal Man.

Travel between the highways of America in “The Otherland Express,” where a tribe of the forsaken and forlorn meet to exchange identities. Witness the cold vacuum of space manifest in the flesh in “The Darkness Between Dead Stars.” Step into the scrub of rural Arizona and join Karen Singleton’s struggle to save her husband from a cult of religious fanatics in “When Karen Met Her Mountain.” Visit the small town of Dalton in “The Harbinger” and join Felix Proust as he uncovers the vile secrets rooted at the heart of Dalton Dollworks. And in the critically-acclaimed novella “The Final Reconciliation,” learn the horrifying truth behind the demise of the rock band The Yellow Kings.

With an introduction by Bram Stoker Award-winner Mercedes M. Yardley and illustrations by Luke Spooner, Ugly Little Things will be your atlas, guiding you along a lonely road of sorrow, loss, and regret. This is going to hurt—and you’re going to like it.


Praise for Todd and Ugly Little Things

“Todd Keisling is a born storyteller, drawing the reader into artfully constructed narratives that scout the darker end of the literary spectrum with skill and bravado.  A pleasure to read, his stories linger well after the last page has been turned.  Excellent stuff.” – John Langan, Bram Stoker award-winning author of The Fisherman

“Keisling writes in the shadows, his words like that first long drag on a cigarette after work. I couldn’t help coming back for more, and before I knew it, that one story, that one cigarette, turned into the whole pack.”—Stephanie M. Wytovich, Bram Stoker award-winning author of Brothel and The Eighth.

“In Ugly Little Things, Todd Keisling ventures deep into the dark abyss of cosmic horror. What he finds there—or what’s found him—will terrify you. This varied collection is tailor-made for fans of existential dread. Prepare to face the void. Try not to scream.”—Brian Kirk, Bram Stoker Award-nominated author of We Are Monsters.

“Todd Keisling’s promise delivers with Ugly Little Things. The only time you will dare to look away from the page is when you stop to look over your shoulder. He’s earned his right to sit on the shelf alongside King, Koontz, and Ketchum.” –Eryk Pruitt, author of Dirtbags and What We Reckon.

“Todd Keisling’sUgly Little Things contains 11 tales that sing with lyricism while they move the reader with suspenseful, clever, humorous and often wonderfully elegiac developments. The author has a keen, lucid understanding of suffering, which lends each plot-line extra heft and depth. These stories contain tenderly and humanely rendered characters who are drawn towards various forms of uncanny annihilation. After reading this excellent collection, I’m eagerly awaiting whatever Keisling produces next.” –Jon Padgett, author of The Secret of Ventriloquism

“One of the few perfect story collections I’ve ever read. Todd Keisling will keep you guessing page after page. He also has a knack for surprise endings you will not see coming!” – Armand Rosamilia, author of the Dying Days series

“Keisling always gets down to the essence of good storytelling. His no-nonsense approach arrests us, showing us worlds and characters that expand our imagination, leaving it tainted with horrors only the author can deliver. These stories are a testament to one of the bravest and scariest new voices in horror fiction.” —Ben Eads, author of Cracked Sky.

“Herein lie stories told in the traditional manner of spooky tales told round the campfire. Read this collection on a dark and stormy night and don’t answer the door if someone knocks.” —Kristi DeMeester, author of Beneath.

“A soundtrack to darkness, Ugly Little Things is hauntingly inviting and absolutely horrific. Keisling deftly weaves together a web of genre-bending terror in this must read collection.” – Michelle Garza, co-author of the Bram Stoker nominated Mayan Blue


About Todd Keisling

TODD KEISLING is the author of A Life Transparent, The Liminal Man (a 2013 Indie Book Award Finalist), and the critically-acclaimed novella, The Final Reconciliation. He lives somewhere in the wilds of Pennsylvania with his wife, son, and trio of unruly cats.


Twitter: @todd_keisling



Want to Feature?

If you’d like to feature Todd in an interview or guest article, or review Ugly Little Things, please contact Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, Publicist, at




Length: 150 Pages

Publisher: Precipice Books

Release Date: February 3, 2015

Review copy provided by the author in exchange for an honest review

Todd Keisling’s Ugly Little Things – Volume 1 collects the first four short stories that make up Keisling’s Ugly Little Things universe, an ongoing title and umbrella for his short fiction. I have been finding myself drawn more and more to the short story format because it is a great vehicle for horror fiction. I still love plopping down on the couch and starting a novel, but it is always interesting to see how various authors handle the constraints of the short story to craft punchy tales.

“Radio Free Nowhere” kicks off the collection and introduces readers to the young couple Conrad and Ashley. They are driving through the mountains through “Radio Free Nowhere”, one of those little patches of land where it seems like nothing but wilderness and the radio cuts in and out, the GPS doesn’t work and it feels like you are totally cut off from civilization. They find a lone gas station and stop for gas and directions. It is here, while pumping gas, Ashley first hears the music. When she heads inside she meets an attendant who conjures up images of that guy in horror movies who always tries to warn people coming into the secluded town of dangers and immediately becomes the first person you suspect of being involved. He is wearing ear plugs for seemingly no reason, but tells Ashley she will need them too and warns her the music she hears may make her do crazy things. She finds herself enthralled by the hypnotic music and the attendant takes her silence as a refusal his help and issues a final unnerving warning. Ashley follows the music and when she discovers what it is, readers are treated to a truly creepy scene that kind of reminded me a bit of a Twilight Zone episode.

“When Karen Met Her Mountain” follows a woman named Karen who finds herself battling depression when she loses her dad and then suffers a miscarriage. It is hinted that she may have addiction problems. Her and her husband are on their way to the funeral when they are attacked in the desert by religious fanatics. She “hears” her father offer her advice as she tries to survive the hellish encounter. There are session notes interspersed throughout that are a nice touch that shows how depressed and down on herself Karen felt. Stranded in the desert with no way to reach out for help, Karen relies on her animalistic need for survival and begins plotting her revenge. This is a highly thrilling story about overcoming loss and finding inner strength and offers plenty of exciting twists throughout the story.

“Saving Granny From The Devil” has some emotionally powerful scenes early in the story. While reading this story, I couldn’t help but think of one of my favorite short stories of all-time, John F.D. Taff’s “What Becomes God”. A visceral and emotionally engaging story, this is definitely one of the standouts from the collection. This is the perfect blend of the sort of horrible things we go through in real life and the supernatural. It is a semi-autobiographical tale and the honesty Keisling shows here made this my favorite story of the collection.

“The Harbinger” – I was never really terribly afraid of dolls or other inanimate objects growing up, but I do remember the first fiction character that really scared me was Slappy the Dummy from the Goosebumps series. Those books are marketed towards younger readers so the things he does is rather tame by horror standards, but man, those stories really terrified me as a young reader. Keisling tapped into my childhood fears in this creepy as hell story about a town on its last legs and their creepy obsession with a doll factory that seems to be the town’s only hope of survival.

I must applaud Keisling for the creation of the Ugly Little Things universe. The stories contained within this first volume all have a distinct voice and aren’t connected in a literal way, but Keisling’s decision to group them together as the “ugly little things” that lurk in his imagination is an effective choice. While they are all distinct and hit on different emotions, they piece together perfectly.

What made me fall in love with this collection was the variety of the stories and the emotional impact a few of them had on me. While I enjoy a straightforward horror story, the ones that really leave a lasting impact for me are the ones that explore more complex emotions and situations. These stories can be terrifying in their own right, but they also stir up other emotions. Keisling utilizes that ability to the max with stories like “When Karen Met Her Mountain” and “Saving Granny From The Devil”. These are engaging stories full of horror thrills and yet they still explore the depths of human nature and add a complex element to his works.

The short story format has been gaining popularity with a vengeance and there have been an absolute wealth of great ones released recently. Keisling’s Ugly Little Things is one of those standouts and deserves to be added to any horror fans collection. As of this review, there has been two more entries in the Ugly Little Things universe, “The Other Land Express” and “House of Nettle and Thorn”. After reading Ugly Little Things -Volume One, I am definitely looking forward to reading these! Keisling is an amazing talent and if you are into horror, you absolutely need to purchase this collection. Huge, huge fan and I can’t wait to see what other “Ugly Little Things” this author has in store for readers!

Rating: 4.5/5


Todd Keisling Official Website

Precipice Books Official Website

Purchase Ugly Little Things on Amazon