New Reviews

And the Winner of HNR’s Very First Writing Contest is…


First off, let me just say that I was extremely pleased with the way this contest unfolded. HNR is a relatively new site, and anytime a new site promises money and exposure – I personally think – it’s reasonable to question validity. I wasn’t certain of how many would invest their time in banking on the unknown, but nearly 50 submissions came in, and a sizable portion of those tales were actually very enjoyable reads.

As an author, when you choose to invest time in a contest of this nature a number of questions run through your mind. And, rightfully so. Time is money, and none of us have enough time, and money seems to be forever fleeting.

If you had questions heading into the contest, you’re thinking straight. If it were me, I’d have a load of inquiries…

Is this site for real? Will they honestly live up to their word by not only completing but also fairly judging this contest and every entry? How long will I really have to wait to get paid, and is that marquee slot a real guarantee?

Well, my mission from day one has been to bring honest thoughts to readers, honest reviews to writers and, hopefully, at the end of the day, help some authors to sell some books. I think we’re making that a reality, and that has, at this point, been far more rewarding than a dollar sign.

As the site expands, I intend to get a little bit deeper into the publishing element of the game. I think we have an opportunity here to create a fantastic brand. Based solely on the submissions received for this specific monster-themed contest, I’m finding confidence in the idea of being able to publish a few anthologies annually under the HNR moniker. The little engine that could, may just pull it off.

The best of the best stories submitted were targeted, authors contacted. A proposal was made: If you’re willing to allow us the right (nonexclusively, so you’re free to sell/publish your work with other outlets) to publish your content in an anthology, we’d be overjoyed to slave over the project and assemble a collection of top notch short stories. A wealth of you embraced the idea, and that’s got me extremely excited. As an ambitious author, it should excite you as well.

Why not see the résumé grow? It’s easier to sell a story once you’ve established a history of published work – that’s a fact I’m learning myself, finally. That said, I received a lot of stories from a lot of previously published authors, but I showed no favoritism, of that I assure you. While judging these stories, I paid no attention to who wrote them, only the quality of the story. I really want to stress that. As a judge, your name meant nothing to me. You story meant everything.

So for those of you who fielded that invitational email and happily agreed to allow us to include your story in our first anthology, be on the lookout: it’s going to take a few months to get everything properly assembled (I’ve got some great support for this project, thanks in large part to Todd Keisling and Brian Moreland), but it is indeed happening and it will be available on a wide scale!

Now that I’ve rambled on, I think I’ll get to our big announcement.

The winner of the first writing contest is… Justin Robinson!

Justin submitted a beauty of a story titled, “The Lamb”, filled with some fantastic imagery and gorgeous prose. He provided a story that not only captivated, but opened a door for something that could be much grander, should Robinson ever choose to return to that world. It’s a novel waiting to happen.

But Justin’s victory wasn’t an outright clean-sweep. He had some amazing competition.

Rob Errera submitted an insane tale, “For Becky… Forever”, and Megan Kennedy struck a nerve with her unsettling tale “The Waste”. Luann Lindsay’s “Time Enough to Die” immediately caught my attention, as did Bonnie Ramthun’s “The Little Hitchhiker”, Glenn Rolfe’s “The Delicious Death of Parker Stephens”, Andrew Pettit’s “The Dark Terror”, Andrew Hilbert’s “Margaret and the Infestation”, Stacey Turner’s “The Lake” and Wendy Potocki’s “Things On Sticks”.

This was a very, very competitive field, and realistically, had Justin not entered the competition, any one of those stories could have easily taken the top prize. And keep in mind, those are just a few of the awesome works that came my way!

So, Justin, congratulations. Your story was strong enough to overcome a plethora of awesome stories.

“The Lamb” will hit the marquee on March 20th (I wanted to make the official announcement a bit earlier than initially planned) and will run in the first slide through April 20th. I won’t keep you waiting on your paycheck either. You’ll see a paypal deposit make its way through today!

I promised the winner of this contest some feedback from two established authors. Todd Keisling and Brian Moreland (two incredibly awesome writers who both happen to be really, really good guys, might I add) stepped up to be guest judges for the contest, and they lived up to and surpassed what was requested of them. They’ve both been amazing help, and here are their thoughts on “The Lamb”.

Brian Moreland:

As I read “The Lamb” for a short story contest, I had my critical hat on and was ready to find the story’s flaws and move on to the next story. Instead, I got seduced by Justin Robinson’s eloquent writing style, his fluid prose, and the undercurrent of darkness that resonates just behind his story’s words. I got sucked into the world of Father Arthur Chiesa at the St. Vitus School for Boys, and I’m damn glad I did, or I would not have discovered Robinson’s fine talent at writing horror. Be warned: “The Lamb” is gets under your skin, worms its way into your brain, and builds a burrow within your psyche that won’t go away. I would love to share the images that I found most compelling, that still haunt the passages inside my mind, but that would give too much away. I’ll say this: If the story has any flaws, I was enjoying myself too much to notice them. “The Lamb” was a sinfully delightful read and the clear winner for me.

–        Brian Moreland, author of Dead of Winter and The Witching House

Todd Keisling:

I selected Justin Robinson’s THE LAMB as the winner for a couple of reasons. The first I’ll mention is also the first thing that stood out to me about this story: its structure. The story builds tempo, beginning with the introduction of Father Arthur Chiesa, covering a brief history of St. Vitus School for Boys and Chiesa’s predecessor, and moving straight to the story’s focus: young Joshua, a troubled youth. Let’s say Joshua is a little more than troubled. You might even say he’s enlightened. I’ll stop there and leave you to discover the rest, but I mention these things to reinforce the fact that Robinson structured the story in a very straightforward, almost classic manner. He doesn’t meander with his details; the story moves along at a steady clip before its climax, leaving readers with a solid punch to the face and a desire for more.

Yeah. About that.

I’m going to contradict myself here. I think this story succeeds because of the way it ends, leaving the reader speculating on its final events. The ending is a quick jump-cut to a black screen and scrolling credits. For the self-contained structure of the story, this ending works well. However, one of my criticisms would be the nature of the story itself. I wanted to know more about Joshua’s . . . divine friends. Robinson only gives us a glimpse of them, and then the story is over. I would like to see a little more, and perhaps if the author is up for the challenge, I think a novel could be grown out of this premise. Hence my contradiction: I liked the ending, but I also didn’t like the ending—if only because I think the author could give us a little more.

Another criticism I have is the author’s treatment of Father Chiesa’s character. In the opening scene, when I discovered the premise and setting for the story, I feared the author might tread into well-traveled, safe waters with his protagonist. Until the ending, I thought the author was going to prove me wrong—but then he went there, and I felt a little disappointed. I won’t go into specifics—you can discover this for yourself, and maybe you won’t have any issues with it—but I would caution the author about utilizing stereotypes in his fiction. From a story-crafting perspective, I can understand why Robinson chose that route with Father Chiesa’s character, but to me it felt a little cheap.

However, despite these criticisms, I enjoyed this story immensely. It has the right balance I look for in a horror story, and the writing was quite solid too. In close, I return to something I said a couple of paragraphs back: I think a novel could be grown out of this premise. I certainly hope Robinson indulges us there. He’s got a knack for telling a good story.

–        Todd Keisling, author of A Life Transparent and The Liminal Man

Congratulations Justin!

About The Overseer (1669 Articles)
Author of Say No to Drugs, writer for Blumhouse, Dread Central, Horror Novel Reviews and Addicted to Horror Movies.

5 Comments on And the Winner of HNR’s Very First Writing Contest is…

  1. Warmest congratulations to Justin, and to the other entrants, best wishes, and hope to see all of you represented in print, soonest!


  2. Congrats, Justin.


  3. Congratulations Justin for a job well done! Special thanks to Brian Moreland and Todd Keisling for your opinions and using your time and talent alongside Matt in judging this contest. …as always…just me…the old hippie..Vitina


  4. Wayne C. Rogers // March 16, 2013 at 8:16 pm // Reply

    Great job, Justin. I look forward to more of your stories!


  5. Hey, Justin, congratulations and, frankly, not the least surprised. Talent extraordinaire!


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