The Keys: Twisted Tales from Auntie’s Attic

By Sherin Nicole, Drew Bittner, Leon Cooper, David Disspain

You have unlocked the world of Auntie’s Attic and a peculiar set of keys.

“Well Kept Storage For Needs Big And Small”

The slogan seems benign. The circumstances, not so much. You’ve received one of the keys. White as bleached bone and slick as lies, your key unlocks a storage room. Inside you’ll find an object that could lead you anywhere, but wherever you go, you cannot return.

“The Keys: Twisted Tales from Auntie’s Attic” is a thrilling new anthology of mesmerizing stories from the hidden realms deep within Auntie’s Attic, where unimaginable adventures, dark secrets, and unexpected twists await.

Each key unravels its own spellbinding tale, taking you on a journey of emotion, mystery, and discovery. Brace yourself to travel far beyond the ordinary, and prepare to wield “The Keys” to unlock the unknown in this bewitching new collection!


In the beginning…

No, let’s start with…

Once upon a time, there were four writers: Sherin, Dave, Leon and Drew, each one somewhere along the path of being a writer. Given that we’re all sociable folks (mostly) and wanted to be part of a writing group (definitely), we agreed that we could meet up, talk, and give it a try.

Four of us got together in the café at Barnes & Noble in Clarendon, Virginia. I was the only one who knew everyone else and I had no idea if this ensemble would jell, but I was hopeful. So we ordered our drinks at the Starbucks counter, grabbed a table, made introductions and everything clicked. Sherin, Dave and Leon took to each other as if they’d been friends for years. A circle of friendship was born.

Then we asked ourselves ‘what now?’

We each had stories in some stage of development, and we were all willing to share them for mutual critique, but somewhere along the line, we wanted more. Why not write new stories for an anthology? (I think it was Sherin who had the idea for a book, having had novels published already.) We liked the idea—us guys were game for sure—but what would be the premise? Was there a central theme around which we could write stories?

I’ve had storage units for several years, in all sorts of places. Some are wonderful, modern and brightly lit and air conditioned, while others are barely more than shacks with a dubious lock on the door. TV shows have been made about people opening up and selling off the contents of unpaid units. Nobody really knows what lies inside those mystery boxes until they’re opened… which gave me an idea. What if our stories all involved a protagonist getting a key to a storage unit—and whatever is inside changes their lives dramatically, for good or bad? Seemed like an idea that could generate lots of stories.

And when I pitched it to the group, they agreed. We would go off and write our stories, then figure out a location. We knew it would be ONE place, not a different facility in each story, but… well, that “one facility” turned out to be interesting in and of itself, and it became a character on its own.

I think it might have been Leon who suggested simply “The Keys” as the name for the anthology, while Sherin supplied “Auntie’s Attic” as the facility’s name. Dave pitched that the place would look different from story to story—not a function of age or when the story was set (as far as I was concerned, they were all set “now”) but because the place would change, like light through a prism, depending on who perceived it. Some people would know the place, others would swear it had never been there before. It would be a mystery unto itself, and one we wouldn’t even try to solve.

We wrote several stories each—I abandoned my first idea, as the execution was proving far too dark even for my sensibilities—and then gathered to go over them. We were making excellent progress, and then covid hit. The pandemic shut down our gatherings, pushing us onto sporadic web chats and email exchanges, but we made some headway even so.

Then Sherin, who was the unflagging advocate of this becoming more than a writing exercise, said she was actively promoting it to publishers. Our collective hopes rose—and soon, we learned that we had a publisher. Miniver Press wanted our book. Now all we had to do was… everything that comes after writing.

But the stories were there. We picked and chose, then added some additional vignettes to flesh out the setting and the concept, and got to work rewriting. The premise worked; our stories ranged far and wide in the realm of the fantastic, but were connected by that common thread of—a humble storage facility where strange things awaited those with the right key.

Turn the key, open the door, you never know what you’ll find inside.

- Sherin Nicole, Drew Bittner, Leon Cooper, David Disspain