Author Archives Crystal Lake Publishing

Symbol of Beauty by Erik Hofstatter (a Tales from The Lake Vol.3 honorable mention)

Tales from The Lake Vol.3 book cover with coffee

The following story received an honorable mention from Tales from The Lake Vol.3 editor Monique Snyman. ©ErikHoffstatter

SYMBOL OF BEAUTY

Erik Hofstatter

Lieng crept along the edge of the bed, her tiny feet sinking into the fluffy carpet. Daniel stirred and rolled, wrapping the duvet around his leg. The little girl stroked the feather in her hand and brushed it against daddy’s protruding foot. No reaction at first. On the second stroke, he twitched and moaned. Lieng giggled. This was fun, tickling her dad while he slept. She observed the shape of his feet. They were not beautiful.

“I say wake father nicely,” Miya whispered, peeking through the bedroom door at her rebellious daughter. It’s been four years since she left China and married Daniel, but still she struggled to grasp the English language.

“I am!” Lieng said.

“What are you two plotting?” Daniel asked with a yawn, a grateful smile stretching across his thin lips.

“Our daughter was ticking you with feather again,” she said, scooping Lieng into her arms.

Daniel double blinked. “You were tickling me again, you sneaky little foot monster?” He reached for Lieng’s foot and put extra emphasis on the ling, hoping that Miya would pick up on her error. She could be sensitive at times when corrected, and Daniel tried his best not to sound patronising.

As he tickled his daughter’s miniature feet, Lieng screamed, rolling and twisting in her mother’s arms like an overgrown worm.

“That is enough, go and eat your breakfast,” Miya said, ushering the girl out of the room. Her eyes lingered on her movement as she ran.

Lieng’s steps were too long, she lacked a womanly sway and Miya did not like it.

“Come here, beautiful.” Daniel said, pulling his wife down onto the bed with him. She was eleven years younger. He stroked her velvet skin as she nestled into him. “I’m so grateful that your aunt arranged our rendezvous, even though I had to travel all the way to China to get you.”

He remember he had very little going for him before meeting Miya, except for his job, where he performed reasonably well. At thirty six, he still lived at home with his mother, and most of his evenings were spent with a bottle of scotch, drinking and wondering if this really was everything life had to offer. He could hardly believe his luck when Jing-Mei, his Chinese work colleague, asked him to visit China with her for two weeks and meet her niece. Daniel dreamed of seeing the Great Wall of China and if he could bag a wife in the process? What was there to think about?

“Me as well. You know how unhappy I was in China. Now I live in England with you, we have a beautiful daughter and a nice home. I will always love you for this happiness you gave me.” Miya said.

Daniel kissed her sweet lips, inhaling the jasmine scent from her raven hair. He did not believe her. He knew how this looked. He knew what everyone at work thought. She married him for money.

“Is your mail-order bride ready to be picked up yet?” They teased him. So what? They were only jealous. Whilst they watched their whale-like wives snore, he had a beautiful young woman to have sex with every night, and love? That’s something he could only hope for.

“Do you think Lieng is beautiful?” Miya asked him, interrupting his thoughts.

Daniel turned on his elbow, not quite sure how to interpret the odd question.

“Yes, of course she is. Why do you ask?”

Miya’s eyes rested on her palms. “I mean more in her motion. Like she walks?”

“I don’t really know what you mean, honey.” Daniel said, confused. He knew Miya descended from a very traditional family and was raised in a strict manner, but when she came out with strange stuff like this, he was truly lost. As much as he tried, Chinese customs were wasted on him.

“Never mind. I show you what I mean later. She’s ready, I think.” Miya continued.

“Ready for what?” Daniel asked.

“You’ll see. I’ll take Lieng to visit her aunt now. Meet us there for lunch?”

“Okay,” Daniel said, trying to sound confident. He climbed out of bed, dressed himself and pondered Miya’s bizarre words. He really ought to double her English lessons.



Jing-Mei’s detached house towered in the distance.

Daniel admired the architecture and wished he could generate enough money to purchase such a luxurious property. He tightened the scarf around his neck and approached the building, wading through layers of thin snow. The woman could barely speak English, yet she drove a brand new Mercedes and lived in a friggin’ palace. The rumour was that she married a rich English guy, but then he died of a heart attack two years later and left everything to her.

Some people have all the luck. Perhaps one day, when she popped her clogs the house would pass onto him and Miya.

That probably wouldn’t happen, though. Chinese people live for hundreds of years.

He knocked on the front door and waited, wondering once more about the meaning behind his wife’s strange words that morning and what bizarre Chinese tradition lurked within…



Lieng hummed a tuneless melody as her aunt soaked her tiny feet in a warm mixture of herbs and animal blood, massaging and softening the skin. She reached for the clippers and started trimming the girl’s toe nails.

“Do you like auntie’s pedicure, darling?” Miya asked. Lieng nodded, not sure what pedicure meant.

Jing-Mei produced a roll of bandages, several metres in length and soaked them in the mixture, too.

Miya opened her handbag and pulled out a funny looking pair of shoes, passing them to Jing-Mei.

“Are you ready to try on auntie’s special shoes, honey?” The child smiled and nodded once more, eager to look beautiful for her mother. “There will be some pain, darling, but you must be brave.” Miya said.

Jing-Mei remained silent. She’d illegally performed this procedure on young girls many times in China. She slowly curled Lieng’s toes under, but then pressed with great force downwards, squeezing the sole of her foot until the toes broke. Tears of pain poured out of the child’s eyes as she began to scream.

Miya stroked her daughter’s hair in a weak attempt to comfort her. “You must be brave, honey! This will make you beautiful. You will walk very elegant after this. Be brave! No boy will find you attractive otherwise.”

The toes cracked even louder on the other foot. Jing-Mei knew the next part was crucial and even more painful. She ordered Miya to hold the girl tighter in Chinese. As Jing-Mei held the broken toes against the sole, she drawn it straight down with the leg and broke the arch of the foot, too. Lieng yelled as hard as she could, but her pleas were subdued by the rag Miya placed in her mouth.

“There, there. The worse is over now,” she said.

Lieng slipped into unconsciousness, her suffering too much to bear, and Jing-Mei wrapped the soaked bandages around the child’s broken feet. She started at the instep, carrying over the toes and under the foot, then around the heel—pressing the freshly broken toes into the sole. At each pass around, she tightened the binding cloth, pulling the ball of the foot and the heel together, causing the broken foot to fold under the arch and pressing the toes underneath the sole.

Daniel heard the echoes of his daughter’s screams through the door. He kicked it down and barged inside the house, running from room to room—disoriented and frightened for his daughter’s life. What the hell was going on? What were they doing to his child? The rooms were all empty so he sped up the stairs. As he entered one of the bedrooms, he collapsed to his knees at the sight of his unconscious daughter and her lotus feet—the smell of herbs and animal blood still lingering in the air.

“What in God’s name have you done to her?” He sobbed through his fingers.

Miya glanced at her defeated husband, his distress twisting her face into a puzzled grimace.

“A Chinese tradition, a mark of beauty. We’ve only just begun…” she answered.

BIOGRAPHY: Erik Hofstatter is a schlock horror writer and a member of the Horror Writers Association. Born in the wild lands of the Czech Republic, he roamed Europe before subsequently settling on English shores, studying creative writing at the London School of Journalism. He now dwells in Kent, where he can be encountered consuming copious amounts of mead and tyrannizing local peasantry. His work appeared in various magazines and podcasts around the world such as Morpheus Tales, Crystal Lake Publishing, The Literary Hatchet, Sanitarium Magazine, Wicked Library, Tales to Terrify and Manor House Show. ‘Rare Breeds’ is due to be published in March 2016 by KnightWatch Press.  
Tales from the Lake
Tales from the Lake: Volume 5
Tales from the Lake: Volume 1
Tales from the Lake: Volume 2
Tales from the Lake: Volume 3
Tales from the Lake: Volume 4

  Crystal Lake Publishing   Sep 16, 2016   Blog   0 Comment Read More

Writers on Writing Vol.4 lineup and forthcoming omnibus

Crystal Lake Publishing logo We’re proud to present you with the lineup for Writers on Writing Vol.4 (in no particular order):

Stephanie M. Wytovich, William Gorman, Kenneth W. Cain, Lynda E. Rucker, Doug Murano, Sheldon Higdon, Steve Diamond, and Patrick Freivald.
There might even be a last minute addition. Volume 4 should be out in eBook format at the end of October.

Then, about a month later, you can expect the paperback and eBook omnibus of volumes 1 to 4 (all edited by Joe Mynhardt), which will include On Writing essays by:
Jack Ketchum, Brian Hodge, Mercedes M. Yardley, Tim Waggoner, Jasper Bark, Kevin Lucia, Monique Snyman, Todd Keisling, Dave-Brendon de Burgh, James Everington, Mark Allan Gunnells, Lucy A. Snyder, Daniel I. Russell, Theresa Derwin, Paul Kane, Jonathan Winn, Hal Bodner, Ben Eads, Kealan Patrick Burke, Nerine Dorman, Jonathan Janz, Stephanie M. Wytovich, William Gorman, Kenneth W. Cain, Lynda E. Rucker, Doug Murano, Sheldon Higdon, Steve Diamond, and Patrick Freivald.

If you can’t wait that long, be sure to check out volumes 1 to 3 right now. Vol.1 is free when you sign up to our newsletter. We even have a Facebook page for Writers on Writing.

Writers on Writing
Writers on Writing: Volume 1
Writers on Writing Volume 1-4 Omnibus: An Author’s Guide
Writers on Writing: Volume 2
Writers on Writing: Volume 3
Writers on Writing: Vol. 4

  Crystal Lake Publishing   Sep 12, 2016   Blog   1 Comment Read More

Beneath the Lake Videocast #2

beneath-the-lake

Here it is, folks: The 2nd installment of Crystal Lake’s Beneath the Lake Videocast.

It was recorded live last night. Thanks to those who attended. For the rest of you, not only is it informative to writers and editors, but it’s extremely funny and entertaining.Plus, there’s a big reveal towards the end regarding Tales from The Lake Vol.3

If you’re new to Crystal Lake, be sure to check out the first show, as well, and while you’re there, please subscribe to our YouTube channel. We have great things coming your way. To make sure you never miss out, our newsletter will always keep you informed.

To watch the live shows (as well as contribute in the chat window with questions or comments), all you have to do is subscribe to our Patreon account. For a monthly fee as little as $1, you’ll get this and lots of other Crystal Lake rewards and behind the scenes access.

All the best,
Joe Mynhardt


  Crystal Lake Publishing   Sep 11, 2016   Blog   0 Comment Read More

Welcome to Our Brand New Website!

That’s right, thanks to Coral-Leigh Stuart-deLange and Monique Snyman, we now have a brand new, professional website. Monique will be running most of the updates around here, since I’m more of the book geek than the computer geek, but you’ll be in great hands all the way.

Please take a look around at some of the features. We’ve only moved the basics from the old site, but we’ll update all the author bio pages, etc. as time allows, we’ll also add more features. And new books and authors, of course.

If you spot anything you don’t like, or would like to recommend a great plugin or feature you’d like to see on our site, don’t hesitate to contact us. We love chatting with fans. That’s the only way we’ll ever know what your literary needs are.

As part of our launch, we’ll be publishing four original stories over the next month, one every weekend. These are stories that received honorary mentions during our Tales from The Lake: Vol.3 submission period. They didn’t show up in the book, but they’re great reads from authors worth keeping an eye on. I’ll be doing that, for sure. The first story will be out next weekend, so be sure to check out our books while you’re waiting. 😉

Talking about Tales from The Lake: Vol.3, this Saturday the 10th at 5pm EST, host Todd Keisling will interview a few authors and editors on our live broadcast of The Beneath the Lake Videocast:

  • Monique Snyman (who edited Lake Vol.3) will represent my home country of South Africa.
  • Ben Eads (author from Vol.2) will be there to talk about the open submission period for Vol.4, which starts in December. He has quite a few surprises to share, so don’t miss out.
  • Kate Jonez (author in Vol.3) will be representing the Vol.3 authors.

And if you haven’t met host Todd Keisling yet, you’re in for a treat. You can watch the live show (and send in questions and comments through the chat window) by joining us on Patreon for as little as $1 a month. At $3 a month and more you’ll get this and a lot more perks, including discount on eBooks, free eBooks, and for the authors out there, the opportunity to submit your short story for Tales from The Lake: Vol.4 one month before the submission window opens. You’ll get your story in front of Ben Eads before he gets overwhelmed with submissions.

So welcome to this very exciting project. We love having you here.

And if you haven’t heard enough of us yet, be sure to join our newsletter. There are two free eBooks in it for you (Mobi and/or ePub).

All the best,

Joe Mynhardt

Crystal Lake Publishing

  Crystal Lake Publishing   Sep 09, 2016   Blog   2 Comments Read More