Author: Stephanie Ellis

Friday Update: Pandemic Book Launches

PANDEMIC BOOK LAUNCH 27.3.20

Announcements are continuing to come in on a regular basis at the Pandemic Book Launch on Facebook and the number of members has grown considerably. Remember you can find out more about Jim McLeod’s vision for the group here. For more information, please go back to the Facebook page to find out event and/or publishing details, or you can click on the purchase links which I have included below (where available). 

If you buy, please also consider leaving reviews for the authors and even dropping them a line on twitter or their websites to have a chat with them about the book.

If you see that an announcement has been removed from the listing, don’t panic! Horror Tree uses a program which drip-feeds its posts across social media at defined intervals over the coming year so you will continue to receive publicity that way. 

I will retain book launches whose date has passed for a couple of weeks before they are removed from the latest listing.

Pandemic Book Launches 

Note: All links – where available – are given to kindle versions but please feel free to use the link to direct yourself to the print copies! I have included just the UK and US amazon sites for simplicity.

 

March

PS Publishingall 6th March (more info here

The Mysteries of the Faceless King: The Best Short Fiction by Darrell Schweitzer Volume 1

The Last Heretic: The Best Short Fiction of Darrell Schweitzer Volume 2

Apostles of the Weird, ed. S.T. Joshi

His Own Most Fantastic Creation, ed. S.T. Joshi

 

Hidden Magic (Magic Underground Anthologies Book 1) ed Melinda Kucsera, pub Magical Mayhem Press, 10th March, 2020. amazon.co.uk, amazon.com.

Blood Red Sky by Paul Kane, pub Silver Shamrock Publishing, 10th March, 2020. amazon.co.uk, amazon.com.

A is for Aliens (A to Z of Horror Book 1) ed P.J. Blakey-Novis, pub Red Cape Publishing, 13th March, 2020. amazon.co.uk, amazon.com.

 

PS Publishing – all 13th March (more info here)

Best of Best New Horror Volume 1, ed. Stephen Jones

Best of Best New Horror Volume 2, ed. Stephen Jones

Dead Trouble and Other Ghost Stories by Aidan Chambers

The Curse of the Fleers by Basil Copper

 

Ghastly Tales of Gaiety and Greed by E.F. Schraeder, pub Omnium Gatherum, 14th March, 2020. amazon.co.uk, amazon.com

 Borne of the Deep by Michael Patrick Hicks, (The Salem Hawley Series, Book 2), pub 15th March, 2020. amazon.co.uk, amazon.com.

 

 

Keida-In-TheFlames by Matthew Cash, pub Burdizzo Books, 16th March, 2020. amazon.co.uk, amazon.com.

The Breach by M.T. Hill, pub. Titan Books, 17th March, 2020, amazon.co.uk, amazon.com

The Evil Within (Dark Devon Mysteries, Book 1) by S.M. Hardy, pub. Allison & Busby, 19th March, 2020. amazon.co.uk, amazon.com.  

How to Destroy the World: An Author’s Guide to Writing Dystopia and Post-Apocalypse by A Trevina, pub 20th March, 2020. amazon.co.uk, amazon.com

 

PS Publishing – all 20th March (more info here)

Warts and All by Mark Morris

The Storm by Paul Kane

Forever Konrad by Martin Goodman

 

The Magpie Coffin by Wile E. Young, pub 20th March, 2020. amazon.co.uk, amazon.com.

 

 

Coleridge by Tom Eady, pub. Silver Shamrock Publishing, 24th March, 2020. amazon.co.uk, amazon.com.

The Return by Rachel Harrison, pub. Penguin Random House, 24th March, 2020.

Operation Congo by William Meikle, pub. 25th March, 2020. Available here.

 

 

Sole Survivor (Rewind or Die Book 6) by Zac, pub Unnerving, 26th March 2020. amazon.co.uk, amazon.com.

Lilitu, The Memoirs of a Succubus by Jonathan Fortin, pub Crystal Lake Publishing, 27th March 2020. amazon.co.uk, amazon.com

 

PS Publishing – all 27th March

The Companion And Other Phantasmagorical Stories Volume 1 by Ramsey Campbell

The Retrospective And Other Phantasmagorical Stories Volume 2 by Ramsey Campbell

Ramsey Campbell, Probably by Ramsey Campbell

 

Pandemonium by Luke Walker, pub Hellbound Books Publishing LLC, 27th March, 2020. amazon.co.uk, amazon.com.

Unreal: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction: Volume 1 ed. Aditya Deshmukh, pub 28th March, 2020. amazon.co.uk, amazon.com.

Scream Ride by D.I. Russell, pub 31st March, 2020. amazon.co.uk, amazon.com

 

April

We all Hear Stories in the Dark by Robert Shearman, pub. PS Publishing. Due out April. Watch out for Ginger Nuts of Horror review.

Darkened Wings Flutter by Lou Yardley, pub. 3rd April, 2020. amazon.co.uk, amazon.com.

Rise by Jackson R. Thomas, pub. Alien Agenda Publishing, 3rd April, 2020. No purchase links available yet.

 

 Arterial Bloom ed Mercedes M. Yardley, pub Crystal Lake Publishing, 3rd April, 2020. amazon.co.uk, amazon.com.

 

 

 

 Seven Cleopatra Hill by Justin Holley, pub. Silver Shamrock Publishing 7th April, 2020. amazon.co.uk, amazon.com.

 

PS Publishingall 4th April

Studio Of Screams by Christopher Golden, Tim Lebbon, Stephen Volk, Mark Morris And Stephen R. Bissette

England’s Screaming by Sean Hogan (Electric Dreamhouse Press)

 

 

The Ruin of Delicate Things by Beverley Lee, pub 7th April, 2020. Available for pre-order. amazon.co.uk, amazon.com. Kindle only at present.

Awakening: Queen of Spades Book 1 by EJ Dawson, pub 10th April, 2020. amazon.co.uk, amazon.com.

We All Hear Stories In The Dark by Robert Shearman, pub. PS Publishing, 10th April, 2020

John McNee’s Doom Cabaret by John McNee, pub Sinister Horror Company, 24th April, 2020. amazon.co.uk, amazon.com.

Q by Christina Dalcher, pub HQ/Berkley, 30th April. amazon.co.uk, amazon.com. Note: this is titled Master Class in the US.

 

Happy reading.

Steph

 on behalf of Stuart and the Horror Tree Team

 

Trembling With Fear 03/22/20

​What can I say this week? I don’t think any of us could have predicted the current global situation back at the beginning of the year. I have continued to despair at the selfishness of so many whose continued stockpiling has created hardship for others. Alongside this however, there are many shining lights in the darkness. One in particular is Jim McLeod of Ginger Nuts of Horror. He has created the Pandemic Book Launch over at Facebook which provides writers with a platform for all those launches which have vanished in the viral ether. It’s a place for writers, readers and reviewers so pop over there to have a look and also look out for Horror Tree’s Friday post which provides a weekly update of the listings on that site (thanks to Stuart for supporting this). Our first post went out on the 20th March. In addition, keep an eye out on twitter and Facebook for authors offering free reads, take advantage but pay them back with a review. Some of these are listed over at Nightworms, a great review site if you’ve not checked them out yet.

Before I go into the stories this week, I just want to highlight another group of creatives who need our support – up-and-coming musicians. My son, currently studying at uni for his MA in Jazz will have no gigs and so no prospective income. Many others will be in a similar situation – as will those looking to put on events. My daughter, studying Event and Festival Management has lost all her work for the summer, plus other events more recently. If you have a member of your family or friends in a similar position and they would like to share their music, send me their links. I will include some at the end of this editorial so you have music as well as words. If there are a lot of them, I’ll put them up over at my own website and share on twitter. I might have a word with my son and get him to follow Jim’s lead and maybe create something similar for uni student musicians.

This week, Trembling With Fear starts with Silent Witness by G.A. Miller, which brings us a bit of a twisted date night. You might think you know what’s going to happen, you have your villain and victim cast in your mind, but do you? And much as I often ask for different settings, you can’t beat a cemetery for atmosphere!

Knock On Wood by Elizabeth Nettleton plays on one of man’s most basic fears but cleverly leads up to it so the final line gives it the twist to chill.

Song of the Pedlar by Alison Faye is a very atmospheric gothic piece with an almost fairy tale quality to it. The last line is particularly heart-wrenching.

Waste Not, Want Not by Phillip E. Dixon is a vampiric tale which has a brilliantly dismissive last line, it really puts humans in their place.

And here’s the bit of music I’ve promised from Dylan, not jazz this time but a folk cover, something posted specially for St. Patrick’s Day: Allistrum’s March. Enjoy!

Remember, if you’ve family or friends in a similar position to my son and have lost out on performance opportunities, send me links!

Take care

Steph

 

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

Pandemicing is hard folks.

I’m one of those who are blessed to be able to work from home. Which is great! I can hide from the virus with my family. My job is secure, intact, and I’m keeping myself busy. I’m lucky there and I do count my blessings.
The downside is that there are things that are easier to do at work which are done in person. Not only that, but my time to work on writing and Horror Tree was on my commute to and from work which gave me 2 40-minute time periods each time to work on being productive.
Now, those times are dedicated to helping manage the kids so my wife doesn’t go insane. Please, excuse any delays in my email and social media responses for the next few weeks.

Somehow, I’m still managing to help deliver you all a full week’s worth of open calls and get this part of the site updated!

I hope all of you are doing well in surviving Covid-19 and are able to stay away from it. I also hope that it doesn’t affect any of your jobs.

On the upside, we have new fiction to help distract you from a world run rampant with disease and supply issues! I hope you enjoy.

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

(more…)

Unholy Trinity: The Girl Who Dies in a Horror Movie by Margo Rife

Our church worships at the altar of the Unholy Trinity. Its gospels are delivered as a trio of dark drabbles, linked so that Three become One. All hail the power of the Three.

The Girl Who Dies in a Horror Movie

The Girl who survives in a low-budget horror movie lives in constant fear.

The Girl who dies in a horror movie doesn’t follow society’s rules.

The Girl who survives never ventures out by herself. The Girl who dies goes off

the path alone while looking at her phone. The Girl who survives is an average girl

who looks over her shoulder and knows someone wants to hurt her.

The Girl who dies drinks too much, sleeps too little, drives too fast. The Girl who dies 

thinks life revolves solely around her.

For one girl to survive— must another girl die?

The Extra Who Wears a Red Shirt in a Star Trek Episode|

The Extra who dies first follows orders without question and never says to the Captain, “I’m not descending into that Alien sewer system with throbbing green bacteria.” The Extra blends in, never complains, and greets death like an old friend. The Extra who dies never even gets a name.

The Crew Member in the yellow shirt who survives stays close to Captain Kirk and jokes with the Captain while setting his phaser to stun. The Crew Member who survives has an uncle in the industry watching out for him. 

For this mission to Cassiopeia 5 to succeed-an Extra must fall.

The Person Listed to Die Before his Next Birthday

The Person listed to die before his next birthday on the Southern 

Life Insurance Mortality Table argues that his uncle lived to 96

and smoked 3 packs a day. The Person listed early to die dines on

pepperoni Hot Pockets while listening to conspiracy theories on the radio.

The Person listed to die early makes fun of those who visit their doctor,

floss, get colonoscopies and buckle their seat belts. The Person listed early to die

feeds his gut with grievances. Fuels his rage with ruminations. Refuses to revisit prejudice. Lives in Florida on a gator farm. Rest in Pieces.

Margo Rife

Margo seems to be drawn to small word count. As a playwright, she has had two short monologues performed by the Women’s Theatre Festival and MOJOAA Performing Arts. 

 She is also fascinated with flash fiction. It’s a new obsession and she hopes to someday meld her writing and graphic design skills.

Inspired by a member of her writing group, she is expanding into the horror genre. 

Plays available on NPX site. New Plays Exchange.com

Flash Fiction: Goodnight Shark, Down the Rabbit Hole Darkly, I am Cheetos…hear me roar, Diary of a Lazy Eye.

Feature: Pandemic Book Launches

In these difficult times, the horror community has done what I have noticed it always tends to do, support those who are currently in need of help or who may need help in the near future. It is one of the friendliest, most caring and inclusive communities you could wish to be part of. It is a family. This is never clearer than when hard times strike.

Many of you will already be aware of the famous (or infamous!) Jim McLeod, genius behind the wonderful Ginger Nuts of Horror review site. On Monday evening he came up with a fantastic idea to support writers and created a public Facebook group – The Pandemic Book Launch. He introduced it as aFacebook hub for authors and publishers to run online book launches in response to the corona virus pandemic.’ From Jim:

‘This is for the authors and publishers who are now without a physical launch for their new books due to the Covid pandemic. We have set up this group to offer live book launches via Facebook Live as well a place to leave a post about your new book along with a purchase link. If you don’t have the facility to create a universal Amazon link drop me an email with the info and I can create one for you. My thoughts are one post for each book and you can use the post as a sort of micro blog where you can add to the post comments things like links to reviews, Ask Me Anything Posts, giveaways etc. If there are people who want to use FB live, drop me an email and we can work out a posting schedule so we aren’t standing in each other’s spotlight.’

As you will see when you visit, it is a work-in-progress and is being supported by a number of volunteers. It is a public group, so all can apply to join, subject to moderator approval. You can hear much more from Jim, here

I’m over there doing what little I can to help and Stuart has agreed for Horror Tree to create a post on Fridays which will be a list of upcoming launches as announced on the Facebook group thereby giving the authors a signal boost. This is Stuart’s continuing way of supporting the writing community, the reason he created Horror Tree in the first place.

For more information, you can go back to the Facebook page to find out event and/or publishing details, or you can click on the purchase links which I have included below (where available). Please note the format of this will probably evolve over the weeks as well. 

If you buy, please also consider leaving reviews for the authors and even dropping them a line on twitter or their websites to have a chat with them about the book.

Pandemic Book Launches 

Note: All links are given to kindle versions but please feel free to use the link to direct yourself to the print copies! I have included just the UK and US amazon sites for simplicity. At the minute, all I’ve got are book publication dates but as things move on, I expect to be able to include media events relating to these works.

The listing is in publication order. Any mistakes, just let me know and I’ll amend.

Flashing Steel, Flashing Fire: Ten Tales of Valor and Imagination by Matthew W. Quinn. Pub. Flashing Steel Enterprises. Reformatted version, launch should have been The Atlanta Sci-Fi and Fantasy Expo. Repub from 2014.  amazon.co.uk, amazon.com.

The Plague by Richard Meldrum, pub. Demain Publishing, 26th Jul, 2019. amazon.co.uk, amazon.com.

My BFF Satan by Kyle Rader, pub. 20th Jan, 2020. amazon.co.uk, amazon.com.

Hidden Magic (Magic Underground Anthologies Book 1) ed Melinda Kucsera, pub Magical Mayhem Press, 10th March, 2020. amazon.co.uk, amazon.com.

Blood Red Sky by Paul Kane, pub Silver Shamrock Publishing, 10th March, 2020. amazon.co.uk, amazon.com.

A is for Aliens (A to Z of Horror Book 1) ed P.J. Blakey-Novis, pub Red Cape Publishing, 13th March, 2020. amazon.co.uk, amazon.com.

Ghastly Tales of Gaiety and Greed by E.F. Schraeder, pub Omnium Gatherum, 14th March, 2020. amazon.co.uk, amazon.com

Borne of the Deep by Michael Patrick Hicks, (The Salem Hawley Series, Book 2), pub 15th March, 2020. amazon.co.uk, amazon.com.

The Breach by M.T. Hill, pub. Titan Books, 17th March, 2020, amazon.co.uk, amazon.com

How to Destroy the World: An Author’s Guide to Writing Dystopia and Post-Apocalypse by A Trevina, pub 20th March, 2020. amazon.co.uk, amazon.com

Coleridge by Tom Eady, pub. Silver Shamrock Publishing, 24th March, 2020. amazon.co.uk, amazon.com.

Lilitu, The Memoirs of a Succubus by Jonathan Fortin, pub Crystal Lake Publishing, 27th March 2020. amazon.co.uk, amazon.com

Scream Ride by D.I. Russell, pub 31st March, 2020. amazon.co.uk, amazon.com

We all Hear Stories in the Dark by Robert Shearman, pub. PS Publishing. Due out April. Watch out for Ginger Nuts of Horror review.

Darkened Wings Flutter by Lou Yardley, pub. 3rd April, 2020. amazon.co.uk, amazon.com.

Rise by Jackson R. Thomas, pub. Alien Agenda Publishing, 3rd April, 2020. No purchase links available yet.

Arterial Bloom ed Mercedes M. Yardley, pub Crystal Lake Publishing, 3rd April, 2020. amazon.co.uk, amazon.com.

Seven Cleopatra Hill by Justin Holley, pub. Silver Shamrock Publishing 7th April, 2020. amazon.co.uk, amazon.com.

The Ruin of Delicate Things by Beverley Lee, pub 7th April, 2020. Available for pre-order. amazon.co.uk, amazon.com. Kindle only at present.

John McNee’s Doom Cabaret by John McNee, pub Sinister Horror Company, 24th April, 2020. amazon.co.uk, amazon.com.

Thanks to Janine Pipe for helping me produce this listing.

Happy reading.

Steph

 on behalf of Stuart and the Horror Tree Team

Trembling With Fear 03/15/20

Oh, the coronavirus, it has so much to answer for. To see so many in Britain go into stockpiling mode and triggering shortages was depressing. It just goes to show how much it’s become every person for themselves these days, no thought for the vulnerable who need the goods or those who can only afford to buy day-to-day. By clearing the shelves like this, people are triggering the very shortages we could have avoided. Supermarkets are finally rationing certain items but I really wish they’d done that as soon as this behaviour kicked in. And toilet roll? Makes you proud to be British.

I will say this is a disease which worries me in that my parents fall into the at-risk category by virtue of age and I know people with underlying health issues who are more vulnerable, but I’m just trying to keep it in perspective and keep reminding myself flu is a bigger killer. I know it’s also going to have difficult economic effects which I don’t make light of. But most will survive this and you have to tell yourself that. Try not to let fear run your life.

On a more upbeat note, I was really excited to announce last week my signing with Silver Shamrock Publishing for my novel, The Way of the Mother. This will come out in October and marks a huge step forward with my writing. A mix of folk horror and dark fantasy, it’s a tale of grotesque characters, ritual and survival and I had great fun writing it.

Accompanying me on this publication journey are many other members of the Horror Tree and Trembling with Fear family. Check out the following:

G.A. Miller is offering his three kindle books on amazon free for one day only on Sunday.

John C. Adams’ Dagmar of the Northlands is out on amazon and smashwords

Patrick Winters has a story, The Faoladh, in Neon Druid: An Urban Celtic Anthology

Robert Allen Lupton’s story, Flash of Fire, is in charity anthology Amongst Friends. Proceeds to fire relief in Australia.

Alyson Faye has a story, End of the Month, in the Horror for Hire anthology from Emerald Bay Books (due out May 2020). Not content with that, you can find also find one of her tales in Flash of Fire (see above) and in COLP.

This week, Trembling With Fear starts with Boring as Hell by RJ Meldrum. Horror doesn’t have to be blood and guts or ghosts and creaking floorboards. Horror can be found in the knowledge that sheer mind-numbing boredom of office work, the day-to-day drudgery, is going to go on forever. This is true hell and sadly I think this story may actually speak to many. On a more positive note it might serve as a springboard for change. Although for George, that change looks somewhat worrying.

Devil’s Bridge by Mike Rader has some wonderful imagery – ‘Midnight, the moon washed his clothes white …’ Poetic and greatly adds to the atmosphere.

Hold On by G.A. Miller is a tale of horror which suddenly appears in the very place where you would expect to find reassurance.

Swag by Dale W. Glaser shows us what could happen if you don’t get your laundry done. Love this Lovecraftian tale with a moral. Show it to your teens!

 

Steph

 

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

Hello Pandemic Season!

It sounds like more and more people might end up stuck at home either by force or by the plague so it seems like a good time to set some writing goals. If you find yourself in a job or school that might make it mandatory to take some time off, now is the time to put together a plan. It sounds like it could be up to 8 weeks of mandatory closures in some areas. While I can’t see the US actually enforcing this with how much capitalism controls our lives, some might end up lucky. If you could be one of them – put together a writing plan! Imagine you’ll have 1-8 weeks ahead of you. What would you want to get written? What writing realistic writing goals would you set for each scenario? Plan them out and commit. You might just end up seeing it happen.

For the rest of us, it is an exercise in what you really want to write at the moment and could guide your writing time to be more productive if you need a goal to work on.

At any rate, this week we’ve got some great stories for you. I hope you enjoy checking them out!

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

Boring as Hell by R.J. Meldrum

The clock ticked away the minutes and hours. It was the loudest noise in the office, but George barely heard it; the sound had long since faded into his subconscious.

The office was large. He wasn’t sure how many people worked there; everyone was tucked into their own individual cubicles. The cubicles were arranged so the workers couldn’t see each other, but some flaw in the layout allowed him to see the girl next to him. He couldn’t see much, just a tuft of brown hair, the edge of a shoulder, the hint of a skirt. He’d never seen her face. He’d never spoken to her, but watching her gave him some comfort. She felt like a friend.

Every day in the office was the same. His in-box was always full when he sat down. It was his job to empty it. He processed orders and dockets. Goods received, goods shipped. It was the same endless routine, but today something was different. George put a completed invoice into his out-box and then paused. He felt more alert, more thoughtful. It suddenly occurred to him he couldn’t remember how long he’d worked in the office. He couldn’t remember how much he got paid. He couldn’t remember what he did when he left the office. Where did he live? Did he have a family? Sweat broke out on his forehead. Was he having a stroke? Was it a brain tumor? He stood, his head spinning. He stumbled over to the cubicle where the girl worked.

“I don’t feel well. I think I need help.”

She looked at him, her eyes dull and uninterested. Even in his distressed state, George saw she was significantly older than he’d imagined. Before she could respond, a disembodied voice echoed across the office.

“Will all employees return to their assigned cubicles.”

George looked up at the ceiling.

“I’m ill!”

“Will all employees return to their assigned cubicles immediately.”

“Please!”

“Will all employees return to their assigned cubicles immediately!”

The woman stared at him blankly without speaking. George returned to his cubicle, still feeling unwell.

The next morning, he noticed the woman’s cubicle was empty. He felt a brief sense of disquiet, quickly forgotten, as the drudgery of the day’s work blocked all conscious thought from his mind. But in his subconscious, the questions from the previous day were still there, causing a spark of self-awareness in the endless routine and conformity. His neurons fired, his brain cells reviewed memories and observations. A revelation popped into his conscious mind.

“I know where I am.”

In the distance an alarm sounded and the disembodied voice spoke once again.

“All employees remain seated.  All employees remain seated.”

The voice continued, but George paid no attention. He stood.

“I KNOW WHERE WE ARE!”

There was a soft voice at his side.

“Come this way, George. Please.”

The man next to him was a stranger. Dressed in a neat business suit, it occurred to George this might be his boss. He felt his arm being taken and he was led to a small, windowless office at the side of the main office. He’d never noticed it before. There was a table and two chairs.  The man sat in one and indicated for George to sit in the other.

“This has only happened twice before, George. It is, if the word isn’t slightly inappropriate, a miracle.”

“What?”

“Your revelation.”

“Oh.”

“So, tell me, where are you?”

George hesitated.

“Go on, George, you were brave enough to shout it out to everyone in the office. Tell me.”

“I think…I think I’m in Hell.”

“And why do you think that?”

“It’s the same every day. The same boring, dull endless paperwork. I don’t know who I am, I don’t know where I live or what I do outside this office. I don’t speak to anyone. It’s the same routine every day. Hell isn’t fire and torture, at least that’d be interesting. Hell is this.”

The man smiled, then leant forward, his hand extended.

“Congratulations George, you’ve just been promoted.”

RJ Meldrum

R.J. Meldrum is an author and academic.  Born in Scotland, he moved to Ontario, Canada in 2010.  He has had stories published by Sirens Call Publications, Horrified Press, Trembling with Fear, Darkhouse Books, Smoking Pen Press and James Ward Kirk Fiction.  He is an Affiliate Member of the Horror Writers Association.

Facebook profile: https://www.facebook.com/richard.meldrum.79
Website: http://wolfstarpublishing.com/meldrum/
https://twitter.com/RichardJMeldru1

Devil’s Bridge

I saw the man sitting on the wooden bridge.  Midnight, the moon washed his clothes white, his beard twists of silver curls.  He waved for me to join him.

I called, “Who are you?” 

He spoke not a word.  He pointed beyond the bridge to the cemetery wall, beckoned me to follow him, his eyes imploring.

I paced behind him, curious, uncertain.  He slipped through a narrow gate, stopping beside an old stone tomb.

I froze.  My name was carved into the stone above the door.  

My companion opened the iron gate and shuffled into the depths.  “Come, friend …” 

Mike Rader

James Aitchison is an Australian poet and author.  He writes noir fiction and horror under the pseudonym Mike Rader.  As James Lee, his children’s horror stories have sold more than three million copies in Asia.  Visit his publisher’s website: www.flameoftheforest.com

Hold On

The dense fog obscured the light from the moon and stars, so I took her hand in mine as we entered the path through the woods.

“No matter what, don’t let go, OK?”

“I won’t!”

We made our way through, the dry leaves and twigs cracking beneath our feet. We heard rustling nearby so we picked up the pace, wanting to get through to the road beyond.

I stopped to take a moment to breathe and get my bearings, but the rustling continued.

I turned to whisper to her to be quiet… and saw the thing now holding my hand.

G.A. Miller

G.A. Miller is a new voice in the chorus of horror authors, drawing his ideas from everyday, commonplace events that take unforeseen turns down dark corridors.

Web: https://talesfrommiller.com
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/GMiller666
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100015787309417

Swag

The thing is, I’d missed laundry day and was running late. I threw on the free, ugly t-shirt I’d gotten at that presentation on timeshares in Saint Villaret last month. Sure the logo was weird but how was I supposed to recognize it as the secret sigil of a malevolent elder god? Or that exposing it to sunlight would make the sky explode like a fiery ocean of liquid madness to herald the return of Zangooka the Unliving Doom? So sorry I inadvertently unleashed the apocalypse or whatever but it’s not like I could leave the house half-naked, could I?

Dale W. Glaser

Dale W. Glaser is a collector, re-teller and occasional inventor of fantasy tales, as well as an unapologetic t-shirt hoarder.  He requires air, food, water and stories in order to survive, not necessarily in that order.  His lifelong love of written words has manifested as a devotion to the English language almost exclusively, which is probably just as well because if he were to master any of the dead tongues that conceal ancient mysteries and invoke malevolent forces, we’d all be in trouble.  His short stories have been published in magazines such as Weirdbook, Occult Detective Quarterly, and Outposts of Beyond, as well as anthologies such as Subliminal Reality, Eldritch Embraces and Carnival of Fear.  He currently lives in Virginia with his wife and three children.  He can be found online at https://dalewglaser.wordpress.com.  

Trembling With Fear 03/08/20

Life is never easy and sometimes it can feel so overwhelming and isolating, you wonder how you are going to make it through. One answer for anyone in such a situation is to remember you are part of the family here at Trembling With Fear and Horror Tree and that we are here to support you in whatever way we can.

Some of you may have noticed recent posts on Facebook by TWF alumni Patrick Winters. Patrick has been very open about the serious health issues he is facing whilst remaining upbeat when describing the gruelling treatment he is going to have to endure. Show him he has family here, pop over to Facebook and show him your support, search out his work online and give feedback and reviews. Let him know you care.

These are also difficult times for small presses. Horror Tree publishes submission calls from many such sources and we all search its pages for the perfect place to submit our work. What happens to the resulting publication though, once it has chosen the select few and gone into print? Some will buy the book, a number won’t, but without sufficient support, these presses will die – and then who will buy our work? I’m not saying buy every anthology, finances are tight for so many of us these days. What I am saying, is perhaps consider buying one or two of the many anthologies out there. Even better, put up a review and feedback to authors and publisher. I’ve raised this issue following another post on Facebook. This time from Corona Books (who put out the Corona Book of Horror Stories) wondering whether to just give up. I hope they don’t.

A Little Conversation by Steven Holding is our first story in Trembling With Fear this week. Control is the element which seesaws in this tale, wrong footing you as to whether Veronica is a victim or survivor, an innocent or someone with a darker soul, as she enjoys a little conversation with a stranger. From such an ordinary start it soon spirals into darkness and all taking place on that most everyday of places, the park bench.

Desert Vengeance by Ken McGregor takes us right into the heat of the desert. The senses are employed here to great effect, creating a graphic and horrific image.

Eye of the Creator by Ryan Benson a creation story birthing hoped for perfection but with an element of underlying doubt raising disturbing possibilities in the reader’s mind.

Unfinished Business by Scarlet Berry is a tale of marital discord to an age-old refrain. Familiarity breeds contempt, and what else?

Steph

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

Happy weekend! Unlike last, Spring has started to hit the Windy City and temperatures are up in my part of the world.

That, has been refreshing!

First thing’s first. I’d like to take this opportunity to put out a call for drabble. We’re a little short on them at the moment so if you’ve got time to spare to put together 100-words please head over to our Trembling With Fear Submissions Page today!

At any rate, enjoy this weekend’s words from the four author’s below! I’m sure you’ll enjoy them as much as we did!

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

A Little Conversation by Steven Holding

“Is this seat taken?”

The question pulled Veronica from her thoughts, dragging her back into the world. She had been lost once again, trawling through memories, relishing the images of her childhood as they played out in her mind’s eye. It had, of course, been a long time since she had experienced the sensation of sight. Yet her loss of vision, at one time the cause of great anger, was now, thankfully, no longer such a painful subject for her. Her accident seemed to be part of another life, and with the passing of time and the slow healing of wounds, so she had finally grown comfortable with her disability. She accepted her senses for what they were, and in this she had found some peace. She turned her head in the direction of the voice and smiled.

“No, I don’t believe that it is,” 

She paused, brandishing her cane, the subtle waggle generating a pleasing swish-swish.

“But you’d probably be a better judge of that than I…”

There was a momentary silence as Veronica attempted to gauge the man’s response. A terse cough, obviously forced, told her all she needed to know. She felt the man’s embarrassment, could probably have warmed her hands against his flushed cheeks if she chose to.

“Don’t take offence, I was just teasing… Please, join me.”

Veronica felt the wooden park bench give as the man sat down. Judging by the drastic sag beneath her, he was a man of some considerable weight.

“Thank you” he said. His voice, whilst soft, contained an underlying croakiness. A definite smoker. Despite the overpowering scent of cheap cologne, Veronica could smell the stale stench of tobacco on his clothes.

“Lovely day” he stuttered, “The sun is out, and the sky is blue, no clouds and… err…”

Veronica laughed.

“It’s ok… You don’t have to describe it for me… I can tell it’s a beautiful day…”

She moved her head slowly, taking in a deep breath.

“I can feel the sun on my face, can smell the flowers, the freshly cut grass… I can hear the kids laughing over there on the climbing frame… It all adds up, lets me build a picture inside my head…”

“I’m sorry… I didn’t wish to appear rude…” whispered the man.

Veronica heard the sound of bikes, felt the sudden displacement of air as they sailed past the bench.

“Don’t be silly,” she replied. “No harm done.”

“I would hate to upset you,” he continued, ” I see you sat here every day and you always look so happy…”

Veronica felt her pulse quicken. Slowly, she tightened her grip upon her cane. Something felt wrong. The man, seemingly unaware of her discomfort, went on.

“Strange, I would think, that one who is so…. afflicted, remains so positive…”

Veronica began to stand, pushing herself up from the bench.

“I’m sorry, but I really must be going…”

She gasped as she felt a hand wrap around her wrist. It squeezed tightly, the vice-like grip so strong she nearly dropped her cane. Her legs buckled as she crumpled back down onto the bench. Before she could scream the man was at her ear, the aroma of mint failing to disguise something less palatable upon his breath.

“Know this. In my other hand is a blade. I have used it before.”

Veronica felt the press of metal against her cheek, the kiss of cold steel sudden and terrifying. As quickly as it had appeared, it was gone. She struggled to control her breathing, panic flooding her body.

“What do you want?” she hissed.

“Just a moment of your time, the lend of an ear if you would be so gracious… Nothing more…”

“Please don’t hurt me!”

“If you do as I say, I will not harm you. A little conversation is all I require, a chance for me to tell you a few things… It’s not too much to ask now, is it? And if you are a good girl, who doesn’t attempt anything… foolish, I see no reason as to why we cannot both enjoy our exchange.”

Even though the tap of her cane upon the pavement told her she was shivering, Veronica could not feel her body. The thought of movement seemed impossible. Everything seemed unreal. She could feel her mind slipping away, her sanity making a slow, deliberate retreat from reality. It was, she knew, essential to her survival that she regained control. She bit at her bottom lip, the flare of pain instant, the taste of blood immediate. The hurt served its purpose, the dull throb in her mouth giving her something to focus upon, pulling her back into the moment.

“How did you lose your sight?” asked the man, his tone now casual, as if the threat of violence had never even occurred.

A… A car…accident,” replied Veronica.

Keep talking, she thought to herself, buy yourself some time.

“I was fifteen. A passenger. My brother was driving. He… He died.”

The man placed a hand upon Veronica’s knee.

“I’m sorry for your loss,” he said. There seemed to be genuine concern in his voice. “God can be… cruel. Don’t you think?” 

“I don’t believe in any God!” she spat, the fury in her voice shaping each word. 

“You would be surprised how many think that, say that, yet in their final moments, almost all call his name. Call for his aid, scream for his mercy… I myself am ambivalent regarding the issue. Maybe he is there, maybe not… If indeed he does exist, he would be the same God regardless of our actions, of our prayers. We may need him, but does he actually need us?” 

Veronica felt tears coming, fought hard to keep them back.

“What do you want from me!”

The man continued, apparently oblivious to Veronica’s questioning.

“Now confession, that’s a peculiar thing isn’t it. Admitting one’s sins, one’s weakness, obtaining forgiveness. I must admit, I find the whole thing fascinating. And even if a man isn’t seeking absolution, even if a man has no faith and doesn’t require the pardoning of God, well, I still believe we all harbour a burning desire to… share. To speak of our sins. One only has to watch daytime television. You see it happening on those awful programmes every single day…”

The man squeezed Veronica’s knee once again. She grimaced as his nails bit into her skin.

“But of course, how insensitive of me. You wouldn’t have seen it at all now, would you?”

The man giggled at his own joke, the absurd, schoolboy shrill of his laugh making Veronica’s flesh crawl.

“And I,” he continued, “I am no exception. I find myself filled with a burning desire to share. An audience is what I require. But due to the nature of my activities, it would be prudent for me to remain anonymous. I require a listener who is literally all ears…”

Veronica could sense the man moving in closer to her. She stifled a sob as he nuzzled against her neck, her body quivering with revulsion as she felt the harsh, sandpaper rub of his stubble upon her cheek.

“Will you listen to me?” he moaned softly, his voice gentle, each word drawn out like the tender declarations of a lover.

Veronica clenched her teeth together, fighting the tidal wave of nausea that threatened to sweep over her, pushing her dread, her horror, deep down into the pit of her stomach. One thought, and one thought only, filled her mind. The same mantra that she had clung onto after her accident, holding on for dear life like a drowning man, clutching at the words to keep her safe, to keep her sane.

I AM A SURVIVOR.

She turned her head, her face inches away from the man’s, the tip of her nose brushing against his.

“Go on,” she said, “Go on you bastard… Speak, if you have to… I will listen…”

The man chuckled, his sour breath stinking, sickening, hot on Veronica’s face.

“There’s a good girl…”

She could hear him smile. He coughed, clearing his throat. 

“I have killed, I have murdered, I have snuffed out life… So many times, so many times…”

Veronica had no idea how long the ordeal lasted, how long the two of them sat there for, for how long the man spoke. Hours? Days? An eternity? Time became meaningless, formless, shapeless, as she endured the man’s speech. A list of atrocities, ceaseless, never ending, pain upon pain, suffering upon suffering. And when she thought there could be no more, there was more. A catalogue of torture so vile, so poisonous, she could feel the evil infecting her, spreading through her like cancer, turning her heart and soul black. She only knew he was finished when she realised he was no longer at her side.

“Thank you,” said the man, “Thank you for listening… Although I do wonder, whatever must you think of me?”

Veronica turned her head towards him. She reached up a trembling hand and wiped away the tears that had been trickling down her face.

“I think…” she muttered, “I think you are the Devil himself…”

The man laughed.

“If there is, as you said, no God, then it would be fair to say that there can be no Devil, don’t you agree?… And who’s to say that I am nothing more than a jolly good liar?”

Veronica listened to the sound of footsteps as the man began to walk away. The click of heels halted abruptly. She knew that the man had stopped and turned around.

“I have so enjoyed our little chat,” he said, his voice brimming with joy. “Maybe, and please do forgive the awful witticism, you will see me again soon?”

As the echo of his steps receded, Veronica let out a whooshing gasp of air. She pulled her cane close to her, gripping it with both hands, savouring the fragile sense of security it gave her. As the sobbing began, her chest heaving, she clung onto her precious words. Words, she now realised, that had power. Words, she realised, that were her prayer.

She was indeed a survivor. And this was what made her so dangerous.

Veronica slowly rotated the handle of her stick. It made a muffled click as she pulled it away from the main body of the cane. The glinting knife that was slowly revealed as she removed it from its sheath may have been small, but she knew that it would be more than enough.

Next time, she would be ready. 

Steven Holding

Steven Holding lives with his family in the United Kingdom. His stories have appeared both online and in print. Most recently his work has featured in the collections ‘Trembling With Fear Year Two’, ‘Splash of Ink’, and the anthologies ‘Monsters’ and ‘Beyond’ from Black Hare Press.  He is currently working upon further short fiction and a novel. You can follow his work at www.stevenholding.co.uk

Desert Vengeance

The sun is overhead, too bright in his eyes. He’d close them if he could. They’re painfully dry. Still, he could see movement peripherally.

The shuffle-scrape of talons against the sand grates against his eardrums. Vulture. The word inspires revulsion. Sounds vile, like throwing up.

The bird —big— leans over, cocking its head to regard him with one eye, blocking the sun.

Sweat soaks his armpits and groin, pooling between shoulder blades. The paralytic is just wearing off.

Lightning-quick, the bird plucks out his right eye.

Finding his voice, he screams, scaring the vulture away.

It comes back. And feeds.

Ken McGregor

Ken MacGregor’s work has appeared in dozens of anthologies and magazines, and the occasional podcast.

He has two story collections: AN ABERRANT MIND, and SEX, GORE & MILLIPEDES, and is a member of the Great Lakes Association of Horror Writers (GLAHW). He has also written TV commercials, sketch comedy, a music video, and a zombie movie. His debut novel (co-written with Kerry Lipp) is pending publication in 2020, and they are working on the sequel. He is the Managing Editor of Anthologies for LVP Publications, and curated an anthology (BURNT FUR) for Blood Bound Books (also due out this year).

When not writing, Ken drives the bookmobile for his local library. He lives with his kids, two cats, and the ashes of his wife.

Ken can be found at ken-macgregor.com. You can also connect with him via social media on the following platforms:

Twitter: @kenmacgregor
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KenMacGregorAuthor?ref=hl
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/macgregorken/

Eyes of the Creator

Helen closed the chest of the ID-1 automaton. Though metal, the chest’s curves resembled her own. As did the face. The eyes. 

Assembling ID-1 by hand took years but it/she was worth it. ID-1— nothing like assembly machines or flying drones—was a real robot like Asimov’s.  

No! Calling ID-1 a robot is saying a stealth bomber is a plane. 

But what if ID-1 failed to obey? Wipe it? Try again? Helen’s creator hadn’t designed her as obedient.

Think positive. Humanity isn’t alone anymore! 

She isn’t alone. Her android reflection proved she existed.

Helen and ID-1 stood eye to eye.

Ryan Benson

Ryan Benson resides outside of Atlanta, GA with his wife and children. Ryan keeps himself busy writing short fiction stories and a novel. Trembling with Fear (Horror Tree), The Sirens Call Publications, Dark Moments (Black Hare Press),Short Fiction Break, and the anthologies The Collapsar Directive (Zombie Pirate Publishing) and A Discovery of Writers have published Ryan’s work.

Twitter: @RyanWBenson
Instagram: ryanbensonauthor

Unfinished Business

Edwin entered the house carrying some shopping bags. “I’m starting a new project,” he announced.

“Really,” his wife Gloria sneered, rolling her eyes. “It will end up just like the others…. AN UNFINISHED MESS!”

Edwin took the bags down to the basement. A few hours later, he asked his wife to join him.  Gloria looked around. Edwin had covered the walls and floor with sheets of plastic. He was wearing coveralls and rubber gloves and was holding a maul.

“Big deal. You won’t finish it!”

“Oh, I’ll finish this one!” cried Edwin as he swung the maul at Gloria’s head.

Scarlet Berry

Scarlet Berry is a Yooper. She’s been married forty years to the same man and they raised four children together. She is a mystery wrapped up in a conundrum, and loves to laugh; both evilly and happily.

Trembling With Fear 03/01/20

​March in the UK is still wet and still windy. I’ve spent most of this week watching the news showing clips of Shrewsbury, a town in Shropshire, slowly drowning. Shrewsbury isn’t far from my parents’ home and when visiting, we often go there. Strange to see cars in the car park we normally use completely submerged. Piling on the slightly apocalyptic feel, we are also getting updates at work now about the Coronavirus as schools are one of the areas where any contagion can spread like wildfire. We’re ok and I’m not too worried as the risk in this country is currently low but I have bought the hand sanitiser! Doom and gloom abounds but there is always wine and the stories at Trembling With Fear.

Our lead story this week is My Girlfriend is a … by David Berger is a darkly humorous vampire story. Lightly told and mixing vampires and accountants, the sophisticated and the naïve, this is delightful entertainment. A very fresh take on an old trope which I thoroughly enjoyed. I must admit to spending time trying to remember what blood group I am to see where I fitted into the distribution table at the start. I’m fairly certain I’m A+.

Lest Ye Be Vexed by G.A. Miller is a salutary lesson for those who eavesdrop. This worked particularly well because of the evidently oblivious nature of the main character. This is a good way to build an element of tension – you know something bad is going to happen but they don’t.

Lost Pet by Radar DeBoard introduces a devil dog with the same endearing qualities which dogs display towards their owners. They just take a slightly different form.

This Too Shall Pass by RJ Meldrum is a tale of transition but whilst it leads to a world of horror, it is actually told as a straightforward process with terror noticeably absence. It subverts the expected trope of change.

Thank you again for all your stories. Keep writing and submitting.

Steph

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

I’m going to mimic Steph above and complain about the weather. It is March, and there is fresh snow on the ground. I know it isn’t unheard of, but this year, it just seems to be adding insult to injury to have. The Windy City doesn’t feel quite as apocalyptic as parts of the UK, but it isn’t fantastic!

I know I usually let Steph handle the story introductions, but I did want to weigh in that things are going to be a little more lighthearted at the start with David’s vampire story. It’s a fun little tale that should leave you with a smile on your face.

Speaking of stories, we’re not behind but could always use more! We’ll have some big news when it comes to Trembling With Fear over the next month, but I can’t narrow down exactly when that could be happening yet.

Unrelated to Trembling With Fear, I believe we just had a fantastic job at celebrating Women in Horror Month and would love to hear what you thought and if you feel we should make any changes for next year!

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

My Girlfriend is A… by David Berger

 

O+

1 in 3

37.4%

O-

1 in 15

6.6%

A+

1 in 3

35.7%

A-

1 in 6

6.3%

B+

1 in 12

8.5%

B-

1 in 67

1.5%

AB+

1 in 29

3.4%

AB-

1 in 167

0.6%

Vampires! I hate vampires! I mean I really hate ’em. Can’t stand ’em. I end up spending a lot of time around ’em, but they make me crazy!

Okay, okay, I know. I know the facts: They have a super-rare, genetically inherited form of anemia that makes them photophobic, often grows their canines and often makes them kind of tall and pale. And makes them crave human hemoglobin!

And I know that the government uses all kinds of stuff to “cure” it: bone marrow transplants; chemical substitutes; animal blood; all that stuff that doesn’t really work. And all that supernatural stuff about garlic, crosses, that’s bs. A stake in the heart or a silver bullet will kill them – but they’ll kill anyone. I mean, was the Lone Ranger really a vampire hunter? Or maybe with that mask he was one of them! Just kidding.

But I hate ’em. I really freakin’ hate ’em. I can’t stand ’em. They’re boring. All they want to talk about is being vampires. Vampires this and vampires that. Try to get one to talk to you about global warming or chess or … anything.

Okay?  

So, naturally … my girlfriend’s a vampire. But it’s okay: She’s great. Let me tell you about her.

I met Carole in one of those clubs where you go down some steps and you’re in the dirty, cobwebby basement of some building and the furnace is still blasting in another room. How was I supposed to know what kind of club it was? I’m originally from Cleveland. We don’t have those there. Or if we do, they’re underground, like gay clubs used to be. (And to answer your question: Yeah, there are gay vampires.)

So it’s real dark in there. Just candles on the tables and a couple of lights above the bar. The music wasn’t too loud. Not much dancing. Once I got used to the darkness, I saw some really good-looking women: most of them tall, pale and thin, which puzzled me at the time: I guessed they were models or something. A lot of the guys seemed the same way. But sitting in a corner by herself, lookin’ all bored and lonely, was a pretty woman with short, curly blonde hair. Sort of a girl-next-door type. (I’m from Cleveland, remember.) And I went over to her and introduced myself. I’m not shy.

“Hi. I’m Eddie Wallace. Can I buy you a drink?”

She looked at me kind of funny. “And I’m Carole Springer. Sure.” 

“So what’re you drinking?” 

“Just get me an O-Plus. I’m not really into it tonight. And tell Freddy to oxy it.”

So I went to the bar and I said, “Two O-Pluses, please. With oxy.” 

The bartender says, “One of them for you?” 

“Yeah.” 

“You sure you know what an O-Plus is?” 

“Sure. It’s a drink. Some kind of drink.” 

He says, “One O-Plus and one, uhhh, rusty nail. That’s for you. You look like a rusty nail type of guy. ”

“I don’t like rusty nails. I asked for two O-Pluses, with oxy, whatever that is.” I said.

He said, “I know what you asked for. Trust me: You don’t want an O-Plus. And I won’t sell you one, anyway.”

“What is it?” I asked. “Some kind of drug?”

“Take it back to your friend at the table. She’ll explain it to you. That’s 50 bucks.”

“50 bucks!”

“Right, and the rusty nail is on the house.”

Nothing ventured; nothing gained. So I paid him, and I watched him as he opened a refrigerator behind him with a key. He took out a tall silvery canister and poured out a maroonish-red liquid into a heavy cut-glass tumbler. Then, he got a small tank of oxygen and put the hose attached to the valve into the drink. 

“Not everyone likes oxy,” the bartender said. 

“Fancy that,” I said, fascinated by what he was doing. As the gas bubbled into the drink, it got a brighter red. Finally, the glass went into a microwave for 45 seconds. (I watched the timer count down.) I paid the man and headed back to the table with the drinks.

“Freddy wouldn’t give you two O-Pluses, would he?” Carole asked.

“No,” I said. “You know him.”

She shrugged her shoulders. “Everyone knows Freddie. He owns the place.”

I handed Carole her drink and sat down. “Here’s to ya,” she said as she raised to the glass to me and drank half of it down.

“Whoa!” I said.

She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand; then she looked me in the eye. “You don’t know what an O-Plus is, do you, Eddie?” she sad. “In fact, you don’t know what kind of place this is, right? You don’t know who hangs out here.”

“It’s a club,” I said. “An average sort of dark, noisy club. You’re an interesting girl; I’m a regular guy.”

“One out of three isn’t a great score,” she said.

“What do you mean?”

“Did you see the wrought iron ‘V’ by the door as you came in?

“Uh, no.”

“Do you know what the ‘V’ stands for?”

“Victory?” I said, hopefully.

“Guess again,” she said.

“Virgins?”

“Hardly.”

“I give up,” I said.

“I’ll give you a hint,” she said.

“Please.”

“What’s O-Plus? I mean normally: if you read it in a magazine.”

“It’s a blood … . Oh!” I said.

“You got it, buddy,” she said, winking at me as she finished her ‘drink.’

“And you’re a … .”

“You pass the course,” she said, with another wink.

“So what do we talk about?” I asked.

“Well, I could tell you about the carvings on my coffin or the architecture of my grandfather’s castle in Transylvania if you like. Or maybe the difference between the toxic effects of sunlight in Spain and in Florida on us. Or we could talk about you.”

“I’m pretty boring,” I paused. “I’m … an accountant.”

“You’re kidding me,” Carole said. “Look, it’s nothing to be ashamed of.”

I dropped my chin, as if I was embarrassed. She took my hand. “Poor baby,” she said. “Spurned by society. So misunderstood.”

We both laughed. I noticed her touch was cool and her skin was unusually smooth, but then again she was a v … . (Couldn’t quite say the word yet.) So what did I expect? 

“Do you want another O-Plus?” I asked. 

She looked at me with a serious smile. “You sure you can handle it?”

“I can handle it,” I said. 

“Okay,” she said. 

Freddie looked at me skeptically as I arrived at the bar. “What’s the next step above O-Plus?” I asked.

  “A-Plus’s the same as O-Plus,” he said. “Just a slightly different taste, which I know your friend doesn’t care for. Above that’s A-Minus.”

“Okay. An A-Minus and another nail.”

“That’ll be a hundred bucks.”

In for a dime; in for a dollar. I watched, again fascinated, as Freddie went through the moves to make the A-Minus. When I got back to the table, Carole looked at the drink and smiled. It was a slightly deeper color than the O-Plus.

“Well, well, well,” she said. “That’s interesting. And on the first date, too.”

“Is this a date?” I asked.

“It is now,” Carole said. As we continued to talk, her skin began to flush and her eyes became brighter. 

“So I’m an accountant,” I said. “What does a vampire do for a living?”

“I do freelance IT. I mostly work at night, at home, for obvious reasons. I’m not usually out during the week. I’m between jobs right now. Isn’t that delightfully boring.”

“I work with a lot of IT people.”

“Yeah, but wouldn’t you prefer I did something mysterious?”

“Like what?

“I don’t know? Designing long, flowing clothes or making jewelry with mysterious dark stones and lots of clunky gold?”

“That would be intriguing. But I’m an accountant. Intrigue … mystery … not a big thing for me?”

“You’re not married, are you?”

“Was once, a long time ago? You?”

She shrugged her shoulders. “We don’t generally … marry.”

“But you all do have kids, obviously.”

“Yeah. We do.” She paused. “Y’know, it must be the O and the A you bought me, because this is getting very deep very quickly.” She was talking kinda fast. “Yes, we have kids. But we’re not big on family life. We mostly have kids with each other, but occasionally with normies like you. It’s a recessive gene. We’re slowly dying out. The weirdest thing is when two normie parents have one of us. Not a good space to grow up in.”

“Is that where you come from?”

“Yup,” she said. “Let’s get out of here. My place?”

I took a deep breath. Things were happening very quickly. But a smart, pretty blonde on a weekday night. Even if she was a little strange. Wow!”

A cab to her place in a quiet neighborhood … never mind where. Up the elevator and into her apartment. No black candles; no weird statues on an altar; no strange-smelling incense; no coffin. It was a kinda normal-looking place, kinda small. There were heavy dark curtains over the windows. In a minute we were on the couch, kissing like you always want to kiss. It didn’t take long before clothes started to come off. Carole seemed to become both more intense and more dreamy as we went on. But suddenly, she pushed me away a little.

“Something first,” she said.

“What?” I asked.

She tilted her neck slightly to the left and widened her eyes. “You know,” she said.

“You mean … ?” I asked.

“Sure. Don’t worry. It doesn’t take long. It doesn’t hurt. It won’t turn you into one of us. But it’ll make me sooo happy. And you’ll like it too.”

Like I said before: In for a … .

It was like a long, slow, passionate kiss on my neck. 

“She stopped for a second just after she started and said, “Oh my god: AB-Minus! Fantastic!”

It lasted maybe ten minutes. It was kind of nice, warm and almost sleepy. And when she was done, Carole looked even dreamier and more intense than before, if that was possible. We went on to make love in various ways for hours. It was the greatest … never mind.

Afterwards, we lay in a tangle of arms and legs on her couch, still half dressed, breathing together.

  “You know something?” I said finally.

“What?” Carole said. She paused for a second. 

“You really … .”

“No, please don’t say it. You know I’ll hate it when you say it. Puh-leese!”

“Okay. I won’t say it.”

“Thanks,” she said.

“But I’m thinking it,” I said

“I hate you,” she said, kissing me on the neck.

David Berger

David Berger is an old guy from Brooklyn, now living in Manhattan with his wife of 25 years: the best jazz singer in NYC. He is a father and grandfather.  He has been, among other things, a case worker, construction worker, letter carrier, high school and ESL teacher, a legal proofreader and a union organizer.  Loves life, his wife and the world. Hopes to help the latter escape destruction.

David has been published by Verso with his graphic history of American bohemia: ‘Bohemians’, co-written by Paul Buhle and by DRABBLE for his works ‘Invisible Dudeand ‘Statuary’. His story, Ghoul Days, features in The Sirens Call ezine, Issue 45.

Lest Ye Be Vexed

The man in the booth behind me sounded sinister. A low, somewhat nasal voice, carefully modulated with deliberate pauses to imply hidden threats?

I can’t say.

I don’t know if he was on a phone or if he had a silent companion with him, but he was deeply unsettling.

I have no idea how he realized I was listening, but when I felt enormous pressure in my back, I looked down and saw the point of a blade poking through my shirt, dripping blood on my lap… and then that voice, much closer now, whispering “Never listen at a keyhole…”

G.A. Miller

G.A. Miller is a new voice in the chorus of horror authors, drawing his ideas from everyday, commonplace events that take unforeseen turns down dark corridors.

Web: https://talesfrommiller.com
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/GMiller666
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100015787309417

Lost Pet

“Waggins, where are you?” Marcy hollered into the wooded area. “Where are you, you dumb animal,” she muttered.

She turned to see a large beast appearing from the trees. It opened its mouth letting an object fall from it and hit the ground.

Marcy looked down at the human leg that now lay before her. She stared up at the creature that looked down at her with large globs of drool and blood dripping from its jowls.

“Ah dammit bud,” she said with a sigh, “You’ve got to stop bringing me gifts. You always get dirty when you do that.”

Radar DeBoard

Radar DeBoard is an aspiring writer who just wants others to find enjoyment in his work. Even though he lacks publication and experience, he hopes his work will have an impact. He has a passion for horror and finds it the most interesting genre to write. 

https://www.facebook.com/WriterRadarDeBoard/

This Too Shall Pass

The liquid burned its way down her throat. They told her it would, but the sensation was still overwhelming. Their hands held her, soothed her.  They’d all been through it before; they knew what she was experiencing. The pain suddenly spiked and darkness washed over her. She felt herself slide out of consciousness.

She woke to find faces peering down at her.

“Am I…?”

“Yes, the transition was successful.”

The world looked different now, literally. Her eyes saw more colors, more shades. She felt the bloodlust grow. Her tongue felt the elongated canines. She smiled.

“Welcome,” said her new companions.

R.J. Meldrum

R.J. Meldrum is an author and academic. Born in Scotland, he moved to Ontario, Canada in 2010. He has had stories published by Sirens Call Publications, Horrified Press, Trembling with Fear, Darkhouse Books, Smoking Pen Press and James Ward Kirk Fiction. He is an Affiliate Member of the Horror Writers Association.

Facebook profile: https://www.facebook.com/richard.meldrum.79
Website: http://wolfstarpublishing.com/meldrum/
https://twitter.com/RichardJMeldru1

Trembling With Fear 02/23/2020

February is cold and grey and miserable outside. Rain has eased off where I am but a lot of the UK has been flooded, included parts of the world I grew up in. To cheer myself up, and because it’s half-term, I’ve returned to my WIP and inflicted misery on my characters there. As a pantser I had no real idea how this was going to end but, as is usually the case, once I am three-quarters the way through, the ending has presented itself to me. I love those moments of revelation as it makes the storyline feel natural. To get to that point though, I think a number of people are going to have to die – which is sad 😊.

We have some great stories this week in Trembling With Fear. First up is Jeff’s Coat from Taylor Morrison. Familiarity born of long years of marriage, despair, and cheating plus a case of the infirmities of old age give rise to a tragic incident. Playing with a person’s long-held assumptions, and ailments, creates a certain type of blindness allowing a lot of scope for an unfortunate train of events to be set in motion. A great way to manipulate your characters, play on their assumptions.

Office Hot Line by Tim J. Finn is a warning not to listen to your co-workers, pass along their comments and something might go wrong. Then again, in real life, always make notes of colleagues’ comments or things you hear from passers-by. They in turn lead to new stories.

Not Another Zombie Story by Ryan Benson takes a very familiar trope, gives you the line you expect and then adds the twist. Are there zombies here? Read to find out.

Why by Andrea Allison brings punishment in a different form. Life might be the punishment, rather than death.

Steph

 

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

There is quite a bit of awesome to read today in the stories below and the perfect thing to do on a lazy Sunday morning, or, to get the brain juices flowing before you sit down to write for the day.

This is always a month that is easy to lose track of the quality of fiction that we’re getting. With it being Women in Horror Month, February is FULL of articles, reviews, interviews, statements, and so much more that I’m always thrilled that we’re able to share with you.

We have a full week left in February but this is the last Sunday of the month, so, see you next month fellow readers and authors!

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

Jeff’s Coat by Taylor Morrison

“Jeff, please stop hanging your coat on the lamp!” Melinda yelled down the hall. “You’ll knock it over one of these days.”

Jeff had dropped his coat on the lamp next to the front door every day that month without fail. Melinda would come home from working her late-night shifts at the 7-11 to see a dark figure standing in her living room. The sight nearly made her old heart stop, but after her eyes adjusted to the light, she saw that it was just Jeff’s coat hanging on the lamp again.

“I’m too tired to walk to the closet to put it away,” Jeff said, appearing in the kitchen, his grey hair brushed back out of his face. Melinda had once thought he was very handsome, sexy even. But now she didn’t find him the least bit attractive, even with his slicked-back hair and nice dress clothes.

“Whatever,” she said, closing the closet door behind her. “I’m running late for work.”

Jeff scoffed, “Like your job is so important! Just stay home and take care of the house; I’ll make the money.”

Melinda crossed her arms. “Excuse me?” Jeff was a businessman at a law firm, doing god knows what. She hadn’t cared to ask in the five years since he’d started working there. “I’d rather work minimum wage than stay home and take care of your sloppy ass,” she barked.

Jeff ignored this and crossed to the closet, where he removed his jacket and slung it over his shoulder. Without a goodbye, he left the house, slamming the door behind him.

Melinda held back tears. The house was a wreck. It wasn’t a huge house, but it had everything they needed. She knew most of the mess was Jeff’s, and she couldn’t bring herself to clean up after a man who’d cheated on her, even if it was six years ago.

She entered the bedroom and booted up the computer. Shed bought divorce forms online a few days ago and felt she’d better print them now before she forgot. Then she put on her shoes and headed for the door.

***

Melinda returned late from work to find the door unlocked. Even when Jeff was home, the door was always locked when she got there. She opened the door and stepped inside. Her heart leaped into her throat. A man was standing in her living room.

“J-Jeff?” Melinda said, fumbling for the light switch. The light came on, and relief washed over her. It was Jeff’s coat again, hanging on the lamp.

“Jesus Christ,” Melinda snapped. Then she was startled again by the loud snore of someone sharply coming awake.

Jeff was asleep on the couch and was now protesting the light being on. “Turn that light off!” he yelled, covering his eyes with his hands. Melinda turned the light off, and with the room back in black, she could see now how she’d mistaken the jacket for a man.

“Jeff!” Melinda snapped, “Just hang your goddamn coat up!” She grabbed it and stumbled to the closet to throw it inside. “And why are you sleeping on the couch?” She returned to the living room to shove him awake.

“What, woman!”

“Why are you sleeping out here?”

“I was watching the news and fell asleep.”

Melinda found the remote and turned the TV on. The room glowed with the soft light of the television. The news was playing just like he’d said, and a breaking story was scrolling across the screen.

“Tennessee Strangler strikes again.”

“Wow,” Jeff said, “they’re still talking about it.”

Melinda watched the TV for a few more minutes before turning it off. “Go to bed,” she said, placing the remote back on the table. “I’ll be there in a second.”

Jeff got up off the couch and walked to the bedroom. Melinda was starting to remove her shoes when she heard an audible gasp.

“Melinda?” he asked, coming back out of the bedroom. “What is this?” He was holding several pieces of paper—the divorce papers she had printed earlier.

“Oh.” She had completely forgotten about them.

“You want a divorce?”

“Maybe.” Melinda held back tears.

They sat in silence for several minutes. Finally, Jeff spoke up.

“I love you,” he said in a whisper. “I love you; please don’t leave.”

Melinda let a few tears spring from her eyes before speaking. “Then why are you so mean?”

Silence fell once again. Jeff walked across the room, grabbed his coat, and exited the house. Melinda had seen him do this before on many occasions, but this was the first time it stung.

She sat on the couch, weeping into her hands for about an hour before turning the TV on as a distraction. The story of the Tennessee Strangler was still in big text moving across the screen, which made Melinda get up and lock the door.

The next morning, she woke to the sound of the dishwasher. It was odd to her, as she hadn’t been the one to turn it on; it almost sounded foreign.

“Jeff?” Melinda walked out into the kitchen and saw the place was spotless, as was the living room. Jeff came out of the bathroom, holding a toilet brush and smiling.

“One second,” he said, putting the brush back, then returning to hug her. “I’m sorry I haven’t been helping around the house.”

Melinda didn’t know what to say. Instead, she hugged him, wrapping her arms tightly around his waist. He kissed the top of her head and whispered a soft, “I’m sorry,” into her ear.

Later that night, after dinner, Jeff cleaned the dishes and dried them while Melinda put them away. She could see the difference it was making. They hadn’t argued the whole day. Shortly after the dishes were done, Melinda got ready for work.

“I’m gonna head out to the bar for a few hours,” Jeff said as she was getting her shoes on. Melinda gave him a soft kiss and told him to be careful. He said he would, and they made their way out the front door.

Several hours later, Melinda returned home from work to find the front door unlocked again. She would talk to Jeff about that in the morning. She entered the house and was faced with the shadowy figure she saw every night when she came home. That damned coat. He needs to hang it up properly, she thought to herself. Then she saw the lump on the couch. Jeff must have fallen asleep again. To be kind, she didn’t turn the light on but allowed him to continue sleeping. He had to work in the morning, so she would let him get a good night’s rest. She stumbled blindly to the bedroom and quickly fell asleep.

Melinda woke the next day a little after eleven, wondering why Jeff hadn’t said goodbye to her. Even when they were fighting, he still made an effort to tell her bye.

Maybe I slept through it, she thought. She walked to the closet to get her slippers when she saw Jeff’s coat. It was hanging in the closet right where she usually put it after removing it from the lamp. Only last night she’d left it where it was. And didn’t Jeff take it to work? It was forty degrees outside.

Melinda walked into the living room, and her heart sank. Jeff was lying lifeless on the couch, his eyes bulging, and dark red and blue marks laced around his neck. Melinda covered her mouth to stifle a scream. That’s when she realized Jeff’s coat wasn’t on the lamp. The figure she saw in the dark last night, the man-shaped shadow. It was a man.

Melinda ran to the bathroom and puked into the shiny clean toilet Jeff had scrubbed the day before.

Taylor Morrison

Taylor Morrison loves writing horror stories and dramas. This is his first publication but he plans on having many more in the future. 

Office Hot Line

Dooley sighed as he finished scribbling down the latest numbers from Lassiter Food’s west coast offices. He started to hang up before he remembered the bizarre tales related by fellow employees who visited his LA counterpart on a regular basis.

“One more thing, Samuel, my man. I have buddies that tell me you have some big-time mojo voodoo. Since it’s freezing here, how about you send me some heat from your part of the world.  Right through the phone, warm me right up. How about it, buddy. Make me all toasty warm.”

Dooley’s head combusted and sizzled to smoldering ashes.

Tim J. Finn

Tim J. Finn was born in Boston and still calls the area home sweet home.  He penned his first story, an origin tale for Aurora’s the Forgotten Prisoner of Castle Mare kit, while enrolled in Catholic school.  The good nuns no doubt felt his literary tastes confirmed their convictions regarding the sinister nature of a left-handed person.  

Tim’s non-writing jobs have included radio disc jockey, short order cook, data entry clerk and front desk receptionist. Tim is a member of the New England Horror Writers and the Horror Society. He holds a BA in English from Grinnell College. His work has been published in numerous anthologies and magazines, including Trembling With Fear Year One and most recently in both the Halloween and Christmas editions of Scary Snippets. www.authortimjfinn.net,  amazon.com/author/timfinn,  [email protected].

Not Another Zombie Story

Duane sat at his laptop. “I’m sick of zombies.” He pecked the keys. “Hate them.” The walking undead populated pop culture and dominated the news, novels, movies, television, and video games.

Guess the living dead are on everyone’s mind. A smile crept over his face before he typed, ‘In the Zeitgeist.’ Pick everyone’s pocket by reading everyone’s mind. Monetization.

What started this craze? Poisoning the environment? Consumer culture?

Leaning back in his chair, Duane cracked his knuckles. I need fresh air.

A peek out the boarded up window revealed a dozen ambling corpses. Damn. I miss complaining about the weather.

Ryan Benson

Ryan Benson resides outside of Atlanta, GA with his wife and children. Ryan keeps himself busy writing short fiction stories and a novel. Trembling with Fear (Horror Tree), The Sirens Call Publications, Dark Moments (Black Hare Press),Short Fiction Break, and the anthologies The Collapsar Directive (Zombie Pirate Publishing) and A Discovery of Writers have published Ryan’s work.

 Twitter: @RyanWBenson

Instagram: ryanbensonauthor

Why?

Death sat across from me in my living room. Black robes hanging off him like rotting flesh. He granted me a question. Why I was chosen above others eluded me.

He waited patiently for me to speak. I had only a single question, one held within my heart since the day of the accident. “Why did you take her and not me?”

His silence was deafening. A darkness penetrated deep within me until finally he spoke. “She never belonged to you. Another had to be punished for their crimes,” he said, disappearing into the shadows. 

“You’re wrong,” I said, crying.

Anrea Allison

Andrea Allison currently resides in a small uneventful town located in Oklahoma. She is an author who enjoys writing horror of all varieties. Her work has appeared both online and in print.
 
You can visit her website at http://www.andreallison.com.

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