Author: C.D. McKenna
Publication Date: 24 October 2022
Available As: e-book
All Eric wanted was to tell the right story . . . the perfect story.
Eric has one chance to prove himself with his publishing firm. With a jealous and bitter boss, the author has one goal: to outdo himself and prove that the company is nothing without him. A best seller, Eric is in talks for one of his works to be adapted to a TV series. To the public eye, Eric has it all together.
But the once popular writer has demons, and plenty of them. He’s got a rocky past and has recently moved into a foreclosed home. Struggling for motivation, Eric has a deadline to meet and if he doesn’t meet it, he’ll lose everything.
When a doll shows up on his front porch, dirty and broken, Eric decides to keep it. After all, it may have inspiration he needs to write the story he’s always wanted to tell.
But every choice has consequences. And Eric is about to learn what happens when you let the demons in.
The Perfect Story: The Tales of Lily is a brisk horror novella from noted high-fantasy author C.D. McKenna. It’s the story Of Eric Chaplin, a pretty successful author of psychological thrillers, who is facing a strict deadline for his next story. Having achieved what many authors can only dream of,a literary agent, publisher, and publishing team, and with a possible television adaptation on the horizon, Eric should be riding high but he’s struggling to find the time to write. Normally a very well organised and reliable individual, his life has fallen apart a bit in the last year; his house is a mess, dirty plates are piling up, and he’s medication for his crippling headaches and to curb the voices in his head.
For Eric, writing is a way to give those voices an outlet; his antipsychotics keep him stable, but his writing is his chance to be creative. While some, like his nosy neighbour Ms. Tatum, disapprove of the dark subject matter of his works, it’s proven successful, but that success comes with the additional pressure to live up to expectations. Faced with constant interruptions from his publishing team, advanced deadlines, and distractions from food, television, and even unpacking, Eric’s life takes a turn for the truly bizarre when a mysterious and creepy doll arrives on his doorstep and refuses to leave no matter how often he tosses it out. Creepy dolls are a bit of a cliché in horror and have been done to death; but, while the author doesn’t do too much new with the doll, which Eric comes to name Lily, she does masterfully associate the doll’s unsettling nature with Eric’s degenerating mental state and stifling procrastination. Thanks to Eric being on antipsychotics, a side effect of which is noted to be hallucinations, it’s never truly clear whether Lily is actually possessed by a malevolent spirit or if it’s all in Eric’s head as another elaborate excuse not to get to writing.
Soon, Eric is tormented by gruesome dreams, and this is where the author’s horror chops really shine; dismembered bodies, ominous messages, and an alluring, if ghastly, female figure torment Eric’s dreams and soon spill over into his waking day. However, he finds himself reinvigorated by these experiences rather than terrified; he comes to care for the doll, to carry it with him, to have it near to fuel his creativity, neglecting his personal hygiene, appointments, and well-being to bash out this one perfect story. At around fifty pages, The Perfect Story: The Tale of Lily is easy to get through in one sitting and full of fun imagery, anecdotes, and represents a snapshot of the pressure and difficulty that comes from being a writer. It’s hard to stay focused and motivated even without a possessed doll watching your every move, and there’s a subtext here that really had me thinking the more I read. Not just on the surface level with questions regarding Eric’s mental stability but questioning whether the horrible things he’s written about are somehow avenging themselves against him. Ultimately, the author opted for a monstrous twist at the end but still managed to keep Lily’s true nature a mystery. While, as I say, the haunted doll cliché has been overdone, Lily is really more of an ancillary player to the greater troubles weighing down on Eric and becomes something of an allegory for procrastination and self-doubt, which makes The Perfect Story: The Tales of Lily an enthralling read that I highly recommend.
If you’re interested in checking out The Perfect Story: The Tales of Lily, and to learn more about C.D. McKenna and her journey as an author, visit the links at the top of the page.