Edited by John Mynhardt
First, a little background: Shallow Waters is a monthly flash fiction challenge from Crystal Lake Publishing, in which a new challenge is posted online each month. The best submissions are then posted to the publisher’s Patreon page and voted on by readers. Those winners (and the most popular finalists) go on to appear in a new volume of Shallow Waters every so often. Currently, four volumes are available (for 99 cents, or free reading via Kindle Unlimited), all of which I recently gave a read.
Each volume contains twenty-ish stories, some of which are great, others that are subpar. Generally, with anthologies, that’s how it goes; rarely do you find a collection where everything blows off your socks. That being said, to purchase all four volumes to read back-to-back (as if they were part of just one normal-size collection) will cost you less than four dollars, and that’s pretty exciting. It is for this reason that I chose to read them all together for a singular review, and let you know which stories I found golden in the mines (without specifying which volume they appeared in).
“Closure on a Bed of Nails” by Chad Lutzke
“Fast Car” by Tracy Fahey
“Pretty Like Butterflies” by Tim Waggoner
“S1E7” by Robert Ford
“Pain is Your Teacher” by Michael Harris Cohen
“It’s Me, Not You” by Jonathan Winn
“Tunnels” by Tom Over
“Raining” by John Boden
“The Vessel” by Mark Allan Gunnells
“The Southland” by Pedro Iniguez
“Gently Used” by Jonah Buck
“Ollie Visits Grandma” by Mark Cassell
“Hourglass” by Chad Lutzke and John Boden
“Piece Meal” by Madeline Mora-Summonte
“Malignant Roots” by Red Lagoe
“Echoes” by Megan Hart
“Haunted Places” by Mark Allan Gunnells
“Hacked” by Patrick McDonough and Mark Cassell
“Ghost of the Wood” by Tim Meyer
“Turkish Delights on the Blue Line” by Soshana Edwards
“Love Letters” by Richard Thomas
“Mixed Marriage” by David Bernard
“That Which Makes Me Happiest” by L.F. Falconer
“Oppenheimer’s Door” by Alexander Zelenyj
As you can see, that’s a decent list of golden stories worth pursuing, and worth the four-dollar ticket. Some of these were not surprises – of course, I would end up loving entries by Chad Lutzke, Tim Meyer, John Boden, and Mark Allan Gunnells – but there were also a number of new writers I found thanks to these anthologies. Though I’d heard of some of them – like Tim Waggoner and Robert Ford – I had never read them. And then there were people I’d straight-up never heard of before this, like Alexander Zelenyj (I loved his darkly poetic, Lovecraftian tale) and David Bernard (whose story made me chuckle aloud). Our own Patrick McDonough did a piece with Mark Cassell, and it would make an awesome, tech-horror movie.
While, yes, some of these volumes were certainly weaker than others, they’re an enjoyable and worthy read when combined. Even if you just jump around to the titles you’ve been recommended by others, you should have a large platter of options. It’s for this reason that I will continue reading Shallow Waters; there’s fun in mining for gold, if you ask me.
I read these anthologies for review consideration using my Kindle Unlimited account.