[TMT] 1.12.2020 – New Digital Series

As mentioned in my previous post, Refocusing, I will be doing things differently this year. The previously planned collection, Squirming Disease and Other Stories, has been scrapped in the sense that its contents will no longer appear all at once in a collection. Instead, I will be doing a digital e-book series – called TWENTY – throughout the year, releasing a new story each month or so. Pictured to the left, you can find the default cover for the series, with the placement of the single’s title (in this case, “Squirming Disease”).

Mid January, the first title of TWENTY will be released: “Pray.” This story has gone back and forth between being a short and a novella multiple times, but I have found it worked best in its shorter form. In February, my horror collection, HORRIFIC HOLIDAYS, will be released in digital and physical formats; as a result, TWENTY will possibly skip that month, though that has not yet been decided. I have six stories written and ready for release in the TWENTY series already, and another slew of which are partially written. Once this year has wrapped, they will be collected together for a physical release (either December 2020 or January 2021).

I will post another blog of details as I figure things out.

[TMT] 1.7.2020 – Refocusing

I’m going to change things up a bit. In the past, I have saved The Merchant’s Table for specific articles I’ve written (only one of which has appeared on this site, I think). However, for generalized updates (thoughts, musings, uncertain plans, etc.), I am going to start doing those under The Merchant’s Table, giving it more of a blog structure. With that in mind…

Life in 2019 was a mess. Outside of writing, that is. In the world of Aiden Merchant (my primary alias), I was relatively busy – having released two story collections and several singles, all the while reviewing books occasionally – but my personal life was in recovery mode. We lost our home late 2018, so 2019 saw us (me, my wife, and baby girl) moving back in with my folks to try getting things back together. It was a rough year and we have still not recovered fully. We have just moved into an apartment, so that’s a step in the right direction, but things are still very tight and stressful. Between our living situation, trying to move, and my day jobs, 2019 was hell.

It is for these reasons that I’m trying to do things differently in 2020. One thing I will be doing is self-publishing less (despite having more projects already done now than I did in all of 2019 combined). This means I will be submitting most of what I write, in hopes of securing an agent or publisher to help me forward my writing into career territory (which is my ultimate goal). Another thing I will be doing is finally start (or, technically, restart) my epic novel, Lydia’s Shadow. Originally, I had wanted to do a couple novels leading up to it with some important characters, but this book has been in the works since 2012 – I’m more than eager to finally return to it.

On that note, let me give you some background. Lydia’s Shadow is a large novel with a large cast, set in a well-to-do mountain town in the Appalachians. If you’ve read any of my collections, you should be familiar with it; Lydia’s Shadow has appeared or been referenced to in multiple stories released in 2019. Anyway, I actually wrote the book three times between 2012-2014, more than a thousand pages in drafts (one of which was complete). I then decided the project was too much for me at the time and shelved it. A couple years later, I did a screenplay miniseries telling the backstory of one of the main characters from that book: Gina Charter. That miniseries went beyond 700 pages and might be released as a serial this year (I keep going back and forth about it). If it doesn’t come out in its current screenplay form, one day it will be turned into a novel; I just don’t know when.

But I digress. You should know Gina Charter’s name, as well. Like Lydia’s Shadow, she has appeared in multiple released stories already.

I’m a bit all over the place, aren’t I? I apologize. Let me try to get back on track.

With my upcoming collection, Squirming Disease and Other Stories, there are several shorts contained within that are part of the Lydia’s Shadow universe (think of them as prologues of sorts). In fact, the title story (“Squirming Disease”) is tied to Lydia’s Shadow, as well. So, I know I want that to come out before Lydia’s Shadow. That being said, Lydia’s Shadow will probably take at least a year to write because of how big a story it is; this means that even if Squirming Disease and Other Stories ends up being published by someone other than me, the timing should still work just fine.

That leads me to my next update. Squirming Disease and Other Stories has been pushed back for further editing. I still think it will be self-published this year, but I’m not opposed to showing it off to some publishers either. However, if I do it myself, I think summer is the latest it will release.

Now, why the additional editing? Well, for one, I put it on the back-burner for a month or two while I wrote the impromptu Horrific Holidays collection (releasing this Valentine’s Day). The other reason has to do with me deciding it’s time to return to Lydia’s Shadow – I no longer wish for Squirming Disease to be specifically horror in its contents. This ties in with another announcement, but we will get to that soon. The main reason I want to flesh out the collection a bit more with stories outside of the “horror” label is because Lydia’s Shadow isn’t a horror novel. Now, it certainly has horror throughout it, but I think of it as more of an epic thriller. The connection may still sound weak to you, but let’s discuss my next announcement that ties it all together.

I am taking a step back from the horror genre. This doesn’t mean I won’t write horror anymore – I have too many projects that I have already started and plan to release eventually – but I don’t want to be putting my focus on it like I’ve been doing these past nine months. The thing is, I joined the horror community quite on accident. My followers came from me watching Stephen King hashtags, because he is the writer I most emulate. As months passed, I made more and more contacts in the horror community and found myself specifically forcing myself to write horror. Well, maybe force is a strong word; but, I did specifically try to come up with horror ideas, instead of letting my natural ideas come to me. It is for this reason that I have so many finished or partially finished horror stories at the moment. But the thing is…I prefer writing suspense, crime, drama, and science-fiction. If you look at my first two collections – Dead as Soon as Born and Kill for Them – you’ll see there’s only a couple horror stories to be found in those combined six hundred pages. So, basically, I’m going back to my heart. If I have an idea I want to run with and it’s not horror, I’m going to go for it and not bother myself with thoughts like, “How do I make this more horror in style?” That’s already happened in the past six months (especially), maybe more than once.

Now, this post has gotten a bit overwhelming with this and that, so here is a quick break down:

–          Horrific Holidays releases February 14, 2019

–          Squirming Disease and Other Stories is undergoing further edits and additions

–          My Gina Charter screenplay series may release as a serial collection this year

–          I will be starting Lydia’s Shadow in the next month or two

–          I’m no longer worried about specifically writing horror

–          I will be submitting more than self-publishing in 2020

–          I forgot to say above that I wrote a horror novella last summer that hasn’t released yet – I don’t know if I’m self-publishing it or submitting it (again)

I will close this by saying ARC’s for Horrific Holidays are available digitally now. Physicals are limited and saved for specific people, but you can message me with stats that could land you a copy (if you’re in the U.S.).

See you all next time!

[EXPANDED REVIEW] Till the Score is Paid – by Gemma Amor

4.5 / 5.0

ATTENTION: We have yet another release from Gemma Amor, and that is cause for celebration. This year, I have read three of her books (Grief Is a False God set to be my fourth before the New Year), and it was time well spent. Now, just as 2019 is closing, we have a new collection, one that proves once more that Gemma has no problem digging deep into your psyche with her stories.

I will start by saying, admittedly, I wasn’t feeling the instant awe as I did with Cruel Works of Nature when starting Till the Score is Paid (“Foliage” being a hard opening act to follow); however, the collection gradually becomes more memorable and thought-provoking as it moves along. While Cruel Works of Nature certainly hit those moments of personal, emotional turmoil – don’t get me started on that Jack in the Box story – Till the Score is Paid is more on the level of Dear Laura in regards to its inner turmoil. The pressure, the emotional scarring…


  1. HAVE YOU SEEN MY DOG? – This story had plenty going for it, but the weak explanation as to the why of things hurt my overall enjoyment. Don’t worry, though; the collection picks up from here.
  2. PURE WATER – This one reminds us (gruesomely) not to drink dirty water. It’s short and to the point, with a slight vibe of The Troop (Nick Cutter). I wish it had been extended a bit further, but it works well at this length as well.
  3. I AM GHOST – This crazy kid has issues. I would love a backstory telling us of the heinous acts he did prior to this particular Halloween night.
  4. JUSTINE – Gemma takes us on an unexpected and satisfying trip during “Justine,” one that is apt to bring upon an excitable squirm. I loved the direction she took it, and am pretty sure this is my favorite in the collection. This, or “Caleb.”
  5. RAT GIRL – Aside from an expected conclusion, this story set up the creeps well. The interaction between the two kids stood out. I could have read a full story about their odd friendship.
  6. MY BEST FRIEND – This was gross, twisted, and fun.
  7. HEART OF STONE – You’ve got to feel bad for this father. His ex-wife is a real shithead. I would have liked to see her removed from the equation, but the way Gemma has things play out is more haunting.
  8. CELL BLOCK B – I got Clive Barker vibes from this story. Dark and bloody and nightmarish.
  9. A BIRTHDAY CAKE FOR BRIAN – Remind me never to go to this kid’s house. Yeesh!
  10. THE STRANGLER – Remember how I said this collection burrows deep into your mind and mental state? “The Strangler” is probably the most personal and horrific story (aside from Dear Laura and the aforementioned Jack in a Box tale) I’ve read by Gemma. It visualizes postpartum depression as a sick monster, one that defiles you as it sees fit.
  11. CALEB – This closing story proves Gemma’s ability to blend genres seamlessly and still surprise us in the end of it all. “Caleb” is a darkly hypnotic mix of historical fiction, witchcraft horror, drama, and fantasy.


Where Cruel Works of Nature shined in its bloody and bizarre monsters and sets, Till the Score is Paid excels in its use of psychological horror. And though it isn’t without its flaws, the complaints are minimal and vastly overshadowed by Gemma’s ability to write.

Both Cruel Works of Nature and Dear Laura made my Top 10 Reads of 2019, and now I have Till the Score is Paid trying to wedge itself in at the last minute. Even if it doesn’t end up making the final cut, it will still have come damned close.

And as usual, if you haven’t read Amor yet, get on it already.

NEWS: “Mission Statement” 2020

Things are changing. Originally, I was hinting or actively talking about a handful of releases in 2020. While none of these projects have been cancelled, most have been removed from promotion because of my “mission statement” for 2020. Read on for details.

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[PRESS RELEASE] Squirming Disease and Other Stories

My first horror-focused collection is coming early 2020. Read on to find out what stories are expected and the currently projected release date.

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[NEWS/PRESS RELEASE] “Out At Sea” gets eBook release

Out at Sea originally premiered on http://www.kendallreviews.com. Read on to find out about its new eBook release.

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