WIHM: The Invisible Woman

In the wonderful TV series Feud: Bette and Joan, Jessica Lange as the ageing film star Joan Crawford laments there are only three kinds of roles written for women: “ingénues, mothers and gorgons”. This seems to be the case in horror fiction too. Where are all the middle-aged female characters?

I’ll tell you what got me thinking about this.

My short story, “Hair and Teeth”, first published in Aurealis #113, is about a middle-aged woman who suspects that her relentless vaginal bleeding is not due to menopause but something a lot more disturbing. Before turning my hand to fiction, I used to write health and medical information. I’ve always been fascinated and freaked out by the countless illnesses that afflict the human body and psyche. Medical snippets often find their way into my horror fiction.

Of “Hair and Teeth”, an editorial member of the Aurealis team, David Catt, wrote: “This story unbalanced my expectations with its cloying sense of unease, isolation, paranoia, and impending dread. I also enjoyed the diversity of a middle-aged female protagonist. Delightfully unsettling”. I was thrilled with his feedback, yet one of his observations struck me. Catt is right: middle-aged female protagonists are rare.

What baffles me is why. Horror fiction taps into our universal fears of disease, pain, decline and mortality. What better vehicle to explore these issues than the female body? Our reproductive system is a complicated (and some would say infernal) machine, with its visceral and bloody offerings of menstruation, pregnancy and childbirth. A lot of things can—and do—go wrong with these processes. But during the menopausal years, the female reproductive system tends to gleefully jump off the rails altogether.

While some women breeze through “the change”, others grapple with heavy and painful periods, mood swings, anxiety, depression, unbridled weight gain, insomnia, night sweats, an increased risk of various gynaecological problems including six different types of cancer, and that’s just for starters. Surely, the middle-aged woman is ripe fodder for all kinds of horror stories including body-, supernatural- and psychological-subgenres.

So, why the lack of representation?

One of my writing colleagues, aged in her early sixties, maintains that women past their reproductive prime become socially invisible. Does this invisibility carry over into fiction? I once met a writer who disliked creating female characters, especially older ones, and considered them a “necessary evil” to augment male characters—and this writer was an older woman herself. A form of self-imposed erasure? Maybe. Whatever the case, I don’t understand. Why exclude characters that could spring, authentically, from your own life experiences?

It’s not the marketplace rejecting these characters, it’s the writers themselves. “Hair and Teeth” will be reprinted in Year’s Best Hardcore Horror #4, due for release in April 2019. One of the editors, Randy Chandler, told me, “Your tale is just the sort we hope to get—extremely disturbing, highly original and of course well written. Body horror dealing with universal fears. Great stuff.”

As horror writers, we really need to start giving middle-aged female characters their own spotlight.

Deborah Sheldon

Deborah Sheldon is a professional writer from Melbourne, Australia. She writes short stories, novellas and novels across the darker spectrum. Her latest releases, through several publishing houses, include the noir-horror novel Contrition, the dark fantasy and horror collection Perfect Little Stitches and Other Stories (winner of the Australian Shadows Award “Best Collected Work 2017”), the dark literary collection 300 Degree Days and Other Stories, the creature-horror novel Devil Dragon, and the bio-horror novella Thylacines. Deb’s short fiction has appeared in dozens of well-respected magazines such as Island, Quadrant, Aurealis, SQ Mag, and Midnight Echo. Her work has been shortlisted for numerous Aurealis Awards and Australian Shadows Awards, long-listed for a Bram Stoker Award, and included in “best of” anthologies. Other credits include TV scripts, feature articles, non-fiction books, stage plays, and award-winning medical writing. Visit Deb at http://deborahsheldon.wordpress.com.

Taking Submissions: Story Seed Vault

Deadline: February 24th, 2019
Payment: Short Fiction (<150CH) $3AUD per story, Long Fiction (>150CH/<200CH) $2AUD per story

*We might require additional evidence of a claim to publish.

Via: Story Seed Vault.

Taking Submissions: From A Cat’s View Volume II

Deadline: April 15th, 2019
Payment: $25.00

  1. You must be eighteen or older.
  2. Stories must be the previously unpublished, original work of the submitting author.
  3. Your story must be written in English, double-spaced in 12pt. Times New Roman font, and submitted by email as a .doc or .docx file attachment, or copied directly into the body of the email to [email protected].
  4. Your story must be complete, edited, and publication-ready, between 3,000 and 7,000 words.
  5. Your story must be written (fully or partially) from a cat’s point of view. That is, from a cat’s perspective, using its words or thoughts. The cat does not have to be a principal character, though the cat’s character should impact the plot in a significant manner.
  6. All genres and time periods will be considered, excluding erotica, but including mainstream literature, romance, science fiction, fantasy, mystery, steampunk (or any “punk” sub-genre), humor, paranormal, or horror. Achieving a variety of genre will be a component in selection.
    Note: Plots involving cat familiars and witches are low on our list of preferred stories for the second volume. To be considered, it must be freaking brilliant! Submit at your own risk.
  7. Most adult language is acceptable, but indiscriminate or extreme usage may affect selection.
  8. Multiple stories by the same author will be considered but each story must be submitted separately and will be treated contractually as a separate submission.
  9. Simultaneous submissions are okay, but please notify us immediately if your story has been picked up by another publisher. (This is a generous provision, and failure to advise us that your story is no longer available can jeopardize your future standing as a contributing author.)
  10. You will be notified of your submission status within sixty days of receipt. If your story is selected, emailed notification will include an attached Publishing Agreement for your review and signature.

The following summarizes the major terms in the agreement, but the summary is not part of the agreement nor intended to replace the necessity to read the agreement in its entirety prior to signing.

Publication: The story will be included in an anthology book titled FROM A CAT’S VIEW VOL. II (or other title to be named) and published in ebook format (and print and/or audio formats at the discretion of the Publisher) to Amazon (Kindle), and may be published to other online retailers, such as Barnes & Noble (Nook), Apple iBook, and Kobo, at the discretion of the Publisher.

Payment: All payments will be made to contributing author by check or Paypal (preferred method) within thirty days of the ebook publication date (or sooner at Publisher’s discretion). Payment shall be in the amount of $25.00 U.S. for each story submission selected by Publisher.

Note: Submissions received from Post-To-Print Publishers existing list of contributing authors, if selected for publication, will be paid $35.00 U.S. However, our selection process is not biased in favor of past contributing authors (regardless how much we cherish each of you).

IMPORTANT: For published pieces, Post-To-Print takes Electronic Publishing Rights and First Print. Note that most publications will not accept work that has been previously published in print, eBook, or on the web. Once your work is published it can only be marketed as a reprint, which severely limits the number of markets that will accept it, and drastically reduces the pay rate it can receive. It is up to you, the author, to decide if publishing your work in print and/or eBook formats and/or on the web, giving up your First Publishing Right for a token payment, is advisable.

Contributing Author Warranties: The contributing author must warrant that s/he owns the copyright for each individual story submitted, and that the submission(s) is the original work and creation of the contributing author and only the contributing author.

Copyright: The Anthology will be copyrighted separate from each individual story, and individual copyright notices for each story will be printed on the appropriate front page of the publication(s) (or other location depending on the publication format).

Author Credit: In addition to the customary copyright notice, each contributing author’s story title, and byline will be listed within the pages of the anthology book in the order of the story’s appearance, and on other pages as appropriate and customary. The presentation order of individual stories will be determined at the discretion of the Publisher.

Author page(s), not to exceed five hundred words, will be allocated at the end of the anthology for each contributing author’s biographical information, referral to his/her website, blog or similar online site and social media accounts, and the promotion of other published works by the contributing author, if any. No advertising or promotion unrelated to the author’s internet presence or published, or soon to be published, works will be allowed.

IMPORTANT: This anthology may contain a story (or stories) written by Post-To-Print’s staff; however, staff submissions will never constitute a majority of stories selected and will be considered as a means to fill the publication if the desired number of stories is nearly met at submission deadline.

Cost of Publication: The Publisher will absorb all costs of production and publication, if any, i.e., costs associated with editing, cover art, and formatting. The Publisher has final say in selecting and approving cover art and cover design.

Personal Information: Each contributing author is required to provide the following personal information to the Publisher upon signing the Publishing Agreement:

    • Full legal name and all pen names
    • Physical address, including zip code
    • Cell and/or home telephone number(s) (and the best times to reach you)
    • A list of all URLs/addresses to your personal website(s) and/or blog(s), and social media accounts, including Amazon author pages, Facebook, Flicker, Goodreads, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn, Meetup, Pinterest, and Twitter—whatever applies.

Please feel free to email me directly if you have questions that aren’t answered above. We look forward to receiving your submission.

Robin Praytor, Managing Editor
Post-To-Print Publishers, LLC
[email protected]

Via: Post To Print.

Ongoing Submissions: Winter Tangerine

Payment: $50

At Winter Tangerine, we want the electric. We aim to disrupt the status quo. To amplify the unheard. To account for the unaccounted. To publish the unconventional, confront the uncomfortable, marvel in the mundane.

We publish issues twice a year. We are currently open for free submissions in poetry, prose, and visual art.

Before you submit, please look over these guidelines. 

  • Submissions are read without names or identifying factors so please do not put any identifying information on the document you upload to Submittable, or in your title. We automatically reject submissions that do not follow this, so please look over your submission before you press send.
  • Please send all poetry submissions in Times New Roman or Garamond, size 12.
  • Please send all prose submissions in Times New Roman, double-spaced, size 12.
  • Please send a cover letter with your submission. The cover letter should include a brief biography and the title of your pieces. This letter cannot be viewed by our reading staff so your identity will not be revealed to those considering your work.
  • Please include an artist statement on the first page of your submission. Use this space to show how your identity helps shapes your work. This statement will not be included in publication — it’s for us to have an extra lens when viewing your work. Literature does not exist in a vacuum; identity is an important shaping factor in any artist’s work. Please do not include your name or specifically identifying information in this statement.
  • We like works that combine and subvert language. Pieces in English that weave other languages are welcome.
  • We do not accept previously published work. If your piece has been published anywhere other than a personal blog/website, please don’t submit it. This includes submissions through Tip Jar and to any of our Spotlight or Spitfire Series features.
  • We encourage simultaneous submissions, but please inform us through Submittable if your work has been accepted for publication elsewhere.
  • Please send your work in one singular submission, within the appropriate category. If you want to send four poems and two short stories, please send the poems in one document through the Poetry category, and the short stories in one document through the Prose category.
  • We will not consider erotica or graphic violence. We also will not consider misogynistic, racist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist, or otherwise bigoted work. Be thoughtful.
  • Contributors to all WT issues, regardless of genre, are compensated with $50 flatly. Contributors retain their copyrights. We reserve the right to feature any excerpt or image in promotional work or a “Best of WT” anthology in perpetuity.
  • Winter Tangerine publishes exclusively online.
  • We only accept submissions through Submittable. You can ask us questions through email, but just in terms of logistics, we can’t look over work sent to our email address.
  • It can take some time for us to respond to you. It might be a day or it might be several months. Sometimes we get backlogged. Actually, we are almost always backlogged. Sadly, we don’t have the capacity to provide status updates on submissions. Please do not email us asking for a status update — we do not have the capacity to respond. If your work is “In-Progress” on Submittable, that means we are still actively considering it.

We truly appreciate the incredible level of interest in our magazine and will get back to you as soon as we possibly can. We look forward to reading your work!

Via: Winter Tangerine.

WIHM: Scores for Horrors: Women Who Pioneered Creepy Cacophonies

Scores for Horrors: Women Who Pioneered Creepy Cacophonies
By: Cat Kenwell

You know the scores…John Carpenter’s Halloween. Bernard Hermann’s Psycho. John Williams’ Jaws. Male composers dominate the terrifying tunes that come to mind when we think of horror soundtracks.

Or do they?

Well, no. If you’re looking for the really creepy sounds—the ones that will keep you awake at night—you’ll want to give a listen to the work of three women who pioneered electronic music and scared us silly in The Innocents, The Legend of Hell House, and The Shining.

As part of a series celebrating Women in Horror Month, this blog digs into the fascinating iconic musical contributions of female composers Daphne Oram, Delia Derbyshire, and Wendy Carlos.
(more…)

Taking Submissions: Hatchet Job

Deadline: April 30th, 2019.
Payment: 2 cents a word for reprints, 4 cents a word for original work.

This horror anthology, to be edited by Jerry L. Wheeler, seeks stories under 10,000 words that involve one of the traditional tropes of campfire tales and slasher films: the axe murderer. Stories need not focus solely on this antagonist, but all stories must somehow involve this threat or concept. Think Angela Carter’s “The Fall River Axe Murders.” Surprise us by breathing new life into this theme. That said, we anticipate most of the book will be reprints – for which we are offering 2 cents a word. Original work pays 4 cents a word but first query the editor with a synopsis.

Specs? Please submit Word docs only, standard formatting, 12 pt Times Roman to me at [email protected], using the title of the anthology as the subject line. The deadline is April 30th, 2019.

Picture

Via: Lethe Press Books.

Taking Submissions: Deaths’ Sting

Deadline: September 2nd, 2019
Payment: $30

DEATH’S STING is RBE’s first anthology on immortality.

Quite simply, we want Sword & Sorcery tales about immortals in the vein of Karl Edward Wagner’s Kane, Barry Sadler’s Casca, Steven Erikson’s Rhulad Sengar and Kallor, and Dennis O’Neil’s Rā’s al Ghūl.

Dark tales of those who return from death, victorious over death’s sting — or horrifyingly despite! Do not be writing horror though; think dark and low and gothic fantasies as you devise your S&S tales. Obviously – no matter how many times our protagonists die throughout your stories – they’ll die to live another day . . . and perhaps see another RBE anthology on immortality. RBE is seeking stories for this anthology that most closely deliver the dark sides of S&S more than its potential for humor or lightheartedness.

We will be accepting 13-15 stories, and stories should be 2k-9k words in length. Nothing shorter will be read, and our sweet spot is in the 5k-7k range. Don’t hold back – wow us with good ol’ heroic storytelling!

Submissions will remain open until we find the stories we want or through the end of Labor Day Weekend 2019. Response time on your first 500 words should be less than a week, while response time after we receive your full story should be less than two months. There are always exceptions, but we will strive to keep all informed.

Publication is intended for Christmas 2019. We will publish within months of closing, so depending upon acceptances, DEATH’S STING could appear any time before or after the target. Again, we will keep all informed. Payment of $30 flat per story shall be rendered after publication. Authors will receive electronic copies and permanent discount on print purchases.

Via: Rogue Blades Entertainment Submittable.

WIHM: Two Victorian Women in Horror

Two Victorian Women in Horror

Jill Hand

The nineteenth century produced some top-notch women horror writers. Today I want to draw attention to two of my favorites:  Amelia B. Edwards (1831-1892) and Bithia Mary Croker (1849-1920.)

Edwards resembled one of those supremely capable Victorian women who occasionally appear in works of fiction.  A poet, composer, journalist, and Egyptologist she excelled at pistol-shooting and horseback riding. She traveled extensively and was an active supporter of women’s suffrage. Her self-illustrated 1877 travelogue, A Thousand Miles Up the Nile, became an immediate best-seller.

Edwards also wrote horror stories. Her 1881 short story, “Was it an Illusion?” appears in the Oxford Book of Victorian Ghost Stories, edited by Michael Cox and R.A. Gilbert, 1991, Oxford University Press.

Another of her stories, “The Phantom Coach,” was published in 1864. Like “Was it an Illusion?” it takes place in a harsh, wintery landscape, creating an atmosphere of terror and death. It tells of James Murray, a young lawyer who gets lost in a snowstorm while hunting on the English moors. He stumbles onto a farmhouse, apparently the home of an elderly recluse, a scientist who grudgingly allows him to come in and get warm.

I say ‘apparently’ because it’s unclear whether the old man is real or a hallucination.

Murray says he has to get back to his wife. She must be frantic with worry. His host tries to talk him out of going back out, but he insists on leaving. In that case, the old man says, he can catch the coach that carries the night mail. It’s a three-mile hike to the crossroads where it will pass by, but if he hurries he can make it.

Murray sets off in the company of a servant. It’s snowing like crazy. The servant tells him about a terrible coach accident that took place in the vicinity nine years previously. Then he leaves him to meet up with the night mail.

The stage is set. We know something spooky is about to happen.

Through the snow dim lights appear. It’s the coach! It’s freezing cold and snow is blowing down in sheets. Murray waves for the coach to stop. He’s relieved to climb inside and take a seat. But he’s not relieved for long. Something’s funny about the coach. It’s falling apart and it smells bad and there’s something wrong with the other passengers.

 I won’t give away the ending, but it’s worth reading.

The second of the two female Victorian horror writers who merits mention is Bithia Mary Croker (1849-1920.) She wrote novels and short stories based on her 14 years in India and Burma, from 1877 to 1892.

Her short story, “To Let,” tells of a family driven from their vacation rental by the sounds of a fatal accident that happened there years earlier.

It’s an early example of the trope of the house that at first seems too good to be true but is gradually revealed to hide a dark secret.

The house is called Briarwood. It’s in Shimla, in the foothills of the Himalayas. The accident that triggered the haunting involved a horse and rider falling from the verandah and sliding down the mountainside. Everything’s fine while the weather’s good. Then on rainy evenings the terrified occupants of the house start to hear a series of sounds. First there’s the clip-clop of hooves as a rider approaches. Then a man’s voice calls out a greeting from the verandah, followed by a splintering crash and a woman’s scream. Nothing is seen, only heard, but hearing is bad enough. Finally the family can stand it no more, and flees.

Here’s where it gets interesting. Rudyard Kipling’s short story, “The Phantom Rickshaw,” is also set in Shimla. In it, Kipling casually mentions various local hauntings. He states, ‘Dalhousie says that one of her houses “repeats” on autumn evenings all the incidents of a horrible horse-and-precipice accident.’

The town of Dalhousie is spread out over five hills in the northern Indian state of Himachal  Pradesh. Shimla is its capital. It was also the summer capital of British India. It is famous for its spectacular mountain scenery. Its houses and roads cling to the mountainsides, with sheer drops to the gorges below. It seems evident that Kipling and Croker were describing the same haunting. The question is, was Briarwood a real house that experienced a “repeat” haunting, or was it just a rumor?

Several of Croker’s horror stories set in India were written from the viewpoint of a woman driven from her home. Her descriptions of life in the “hill stations” seem enviable at first. The transplanted English residents enjoy a social whirl of teas and concerts and excursions to points of interest, made possible by numerous Indian servants.

The sense of unease slowly builds, as it becomes evident that the narrators are outsiders in a land where their presence is tolerated but not welcome. The ghosts they encounter serve both as a warning to those who venture into places where they’re not wanted and as a symbol of the negative effects of empire. It is especially appropriate to us from a twenty-first-century viewpoint. But even simply taken at face value they’re enjoyable horror stories.

Jill Hand

Jill Hand is a member of the Horror Writers Association and International Thriller Writers. Her short stories have appeared in Test Patterns, Test Patterns: Creature Features, and Caravans Awry, from Planet X Publications. Her literary criticism of the work of Shirley Jackson appeared in Vastarien: Vol. 1, Issue 2. Her Southern Gothic thriller, White Oaks, will be released in May by Black Rose Writing.

You can see Jill’s Amazon Author Page Right Here!

WIHM: Publishing, Self-Publishing, and Choosing to be Seen

Publishing, Self-Publishing, and Choosing to be Seen

By Sonora Taylor

 

Traditional or self-publishing – what’ll it be? We’re in an era where one can choose both. I think that’s especially helpful for writers who are unsure about how they want to get their stuff out there, but know for sure that they want to.

 

I was that writer in 2016, when one of my New Year’s resolutions was to spend a little time writing after work each day. I started a short story I’d been plotting in my head for a few months – a story that eventually became “All the Pieces Coming Together.” I finished that one, and wrote another one. Then another. Then, I started a piece that I slowly realized would become my first novel.

 

The publishing side of writing is a whole other world, and almost a full-time job; whether you’re querying with publishers or deciding to go at it on your own. I decided to self-publish before I discovered the ins and outs of submitting to publishers. I’d heard the pros and cons of self-publishing, and decided I liked the pros of it.

 

Two years into self-publishing, I still do. I like being able to choose things like my title and who gets to design my cover (all of my covers were illustrated by the super-talented Doug Puller). I like being able to work consistently with my wonderful editor, Evelyn Duffy. I like seeing my books sell, and I like hearing feedback from readers. And, I especially like getting to see just what happens when I put my work out in the world.

 

Nothing huge has happened yet. None of my work has blown up, but it also hasn’t collected digital dust. It’s been read, and it’s been enjoyed – all at a calm and steadily-growing pace, one I can still control by controlling the publishing side as much as the writing side.

 

This control has helped give me more confidence to put my work out there. I have anxiety, and something that often sets off my panic is unforeseen ramifications from putting something of mine out in the world (be it a book, an email, or even an opinion – it’s exhausting, but that’s for another post). Before publishing my first short story collection, I was fraught with nerves. What will people think? What if everyone hates it and there are hate blogs or hate tweets talking about how shitty my work is? I still remember my heart ramming in my chest at these thoughts, the sadness and ways out I was devising for these scenarios. It took up a lot of my time, time that would’ve been better spent writing.

 

When I self-published “The Crow’s Gift and Other Tales,” none of those things happened. It sold at a reasonable pace. It got some reviews on Amazon (all positive for now – yay) and appeared on strangers’ Goodreads shelves. It’s still out there and still selling. It’s quietly present – an evergreen experience I’ve found with each piece, and an experience that helps to temper my anxieties about sharing my work.

 

By choosing to self-publish, I was able to give myself a confidence boost that’s made writing, submitting, and publishing a much less stressful experience. When I was first submitting, I went through similar panicked experiences before ever pressing “Send.” Self-publishing isn’t a catch-all for what comes next, but it gave me a good idea – and helped calm me down during the submission process. I began submitting more peacefully, looking at calls for stories and getting my stuff out there, but always with the knowledge that I had choices when it came to releasing my work – work that people wanted to read, and work that people enjoyed. And wouldn’t you know, I got my first acceptance almost one year after self-publishing “The Crow’s Gift and Other Tales.”

 

I can’t say what my future in publishing will hold. Even if I end up releasing something through a publishing company, I don’t know if I’ll ever give up self-publishing. I like setting my own production and distribution schedule, and I like working with Doug and Evelyn. I also like having self-publishing as a constant in terms of getting my work out there. I like being able to do both, and I think authors being able to choose both is a great place to be in.

 

You can check out Sonora’s latest release, ‘Without Condition’ on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07NJDCWGQ/

Sonora Taylor

Sonora Taylor is the author of The Crow’s Gift and Other Tales, Please Give, and Wither and Other Stories. Her short story, “Hearts are Just ‘Likes,’” was included in Camden Park Press’ Quoth the Raven, an anthology of stories and poems that put a contemporary twist on the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Her work has also been published in The Sirens Call and Mercurial Stories. “The Crow’s Gift” will be featured on the horror podcast “Tales to Terrify” later in 2019. Her second novel, Without Condition, is now available in ebook and paperback on Amazon. She lives in Arlington, Virginia, with her husband.

Find Sonora Online:

Website: https://sonorawrites.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/sonorawrites
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sonorataylor/
Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/sonorawrites/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17015434.Sonora_Taylor

Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/Sonora-Taylor/e/B075BR5Q7F/

Blog: sonorawrites.com/blog

Trembling With Fear 02/10/2019

February is the shortest month but provides plenty of opportunities to write. Remember we have a Valentine’s Special coming up but if you missed that, there are still others. Take a look at our Submissions page to see what else you can challenge yourself with. And please take note of word counts …

The lead story in Trembling with Fear this week is The Hangman’s Tree by G.W. Musko and is a very creepy and atmospheric tale. We loved the whole setting of the gallows tree and the villagers down below, the bodysnatching and the undead. Musko also uses the senses – sight, sound, touch, smell – which adds to it. Using senses allows a reader to relate to a character and draws them in, often triggering an emotive response. We could feel that cold night air, hear the sounds in the village, sense the fear. This is what we want from a story, to bethere … and I was.

The Hunter Grimm by Arthur Unk is a poem (yes, we will take dark poetry) and is presented as an excerpt from a book. It is a narrative work which starts to tell a tale and, while telling you a lot about Grimm, actually leaves you wanting to know more – because of the note as to where it comes from. This hint of mystery was a nice touch.

Into the Light by Gary Hazlewood focuses on the use of sound and light interacting to lead the reader through the story, turning them, in effect, into characters, the people in the story almost taking a backseat. A novel approach.

Winter by Stacey Macintosh brings us the personification of winter in the form of the Queen of Winter and her expectations as consort of the King of Summer. He is the one who will thaw the frozen winter – but the reader knows they cannot coexist and so hints at a doomed relationship despite what the Queen says. Lots of detailed winter imagery here, painting an easily imagined scene. We felt cold reading it.

On a personal note, I would just like to wish my son, Dylan, happy birthday for the 14th, 22 years old! I’m feeling positively ancient.

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

‘Trembling With Fear’ Is Horror Tree’s weekly inclusion of shorts and drabbles submitted for your entertainment by our readers! As long as the submissions are coming in, we’ll be posting every Sunday for your enjoyment.

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

The Hangman’s Tree

I steal bodies from the hangman’s tree. Jewels, rings, and coins that the hangmen forget to shake out I happily collect too, but it’s the bodies that pay the best. Men and women can reach almost two hundred Liros per corpse; children even more. Although it was a long time before I broke that taboo.

Each night I move in time with the sun’s setting. The mountains cast long shadows over the village which conceal me like a grey blanket as I creep up the hill. On my belt hangs a sharpened knife and a sack hides my face.

The tree is impossible to lose sight of, even on the darkest nights. Its colossal trunk sits omnipresent above the village, silently glaring down on the wooden huts. During the day while in the fields people keep their eyes down and try to ignore the roped titan. In the nights it fills their dreams with dread.

Even the guardsmen, so sure of themselves down in the valley, fear the tree. They stand away from it with their backs to the faces of the hung.  Their rifles tight to their chests, wide-eyed and ready to fire at any sound on the wind.

I sit and watch them from afar, cold and curled up in the brambles. Eventually, when the tobacco runs out, or the wind begins to bite, they lower their guns and head back home. When the day breaks and the new guard marches up the hill, no one makes note of the missing bodies.

#

Once the hill is empty, I finally begin my work, move like a ghost. When I walk my boots are soundless against the ground of wet leaves. My breath barely escapes my lips. With hands wrapped by gloves, I grasp onto the rough twine rope and with a glint of silver cut down the body. It takes less than a minute where any graverobber would take five.

My first night, when I was still learning from Frillo – before he too found a place on the tree – I almost cried when the weight of the person fell on me. Stiff and cold, surrounded by the aura of death that I soon grew familiar with. The reek of sour earth and dirt. By now I am as comfortable as a hunter with venison or a fisherman with fish.

Pulling the body away from the village and deep into the valley, I meet my buyers before the sun sets. They hide their faces too and once the money is in my hands I depart swiftly. Who and why are questions better left unasked.

#

Before Frillo hung, the hunchback forgot to tell me a secret to our trade which may have saved me from sharing his fate. But he never mentioned it and none the wiser I set out to the tree that night. Under the blue hunter’s moon, as if it were any other night.

#

She was still fresh. Barely a day spent on her branch. Almost beautiful in the way her pale face and fair hair gleamed under the cold glow of the moon. When I cut her from her place and set her on the ground, I could swear she felt almost warm. As if a trace of impossible life had clung to her.

The night was bitterly cold but I pulled a glove off and with a hand red and raw from the wind touched her cheek. I had to convince myself I was wrong. The tips of my fingers felt as if pressed against a stove. Startled I shot my hand back. Before I’d never thought I’d wish for the clammy touch of a body.

The choices rattled in my brain. Leave her, or drag her to the buyer. She was certain to fetch a good price, yet I felt no desire to tangle myself into the occult.

The girl decided for me. Her eyelids drew open and she glared at me with clouded-over eyes. Then her jaw flopped open revealing a dark maw filled with a shriek.

I stumbled back, my mind unable to comprehend anything but disgust and primal fear deep in my stomach. The scream seemed to echo out across the entire mountain. A wail far removed from anything human.

The candles in the village flared up and the shouts of men’s barks mixed with the cries of frightened children. Then, came the footsteps of the guards as they raced towards the woman and me.

A fist knocked me down. Face pressed against the wet soil I saw them surround her. While she writhed and kicked, they grabbed the rope around her neck and dragged her back to the tree. She howled and spat as they cast the cut rope over her branch and with a single pull, hung her again. It was done as quickly as if they had seen it before.

She did not die again, however. Instead, she flailed and thrashed, cursing in her animal’s tongue, as I was marched away.

Her rage at being woken made the tree shake as if a storm were blowing through it.

#

The next day, I was granted a place beside her. My hanging took place at night with only an audience of hangmen and guards present. As the noose slipped around my neck, I kept my eyes closed and tried not to listen to the girl’s snarling at my side. When I dropped, the last thing I felt were her nails digging into my arm.

 

THE END

G.W.Musko

G.W.Musko is a writer of horror and surrealism. He’s the creator of the online series “Neo-Warsaw” and also writes free fiction for his blog “CintheR”.  You can follow him @Cigintherain and read more stories here http://gwmusko.tumblr.com.

The Hunter Grimm

Echo of death

On leather wings

Howls in the night

Of unearthly things

Without remorse

I watch them die

I am the monster

That makes their children cry

Beware ye foul beasts

Souls of the damned

Evander Grimm

Hunts this land

The night is my home

While you sleep, I plan

The last sight you see

Is death by my hand

I’ll send you to Hell, torpor, and the beyond

I bathe in the river Styx

I am friends with Charon

Run

Run

Run

While you can… I will find you

— Excerpt taken from the Book of Eternally Damned

Arthur Unk

Arthur Unk lives and works in the United States, but dreams of a tropical, zombie-free island. He hones his drabble skills via the Horror Tree Trembling With Fear (Dead Wrong, Flesh of My Flesh, The Tale of Fear Itself, and others yet to come) and writes micro/flash fiction daily. His influences include H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, and life experience. You can follow his work from all around the web via his blog at http://arthurunk.com or read his many, many micro-stories on Twitter @ArthurUnkTweets

Into The Light

The tapping was faint at first, rising steadily like a resounding drumbeat.

Next came a voice, soft gentle tones attempting to coax a response. The name sounded familiar as the beckoning continued.

A single, threadlike, ethereal beam of light pierced the harsh darkness. The rhythmic tapping ceased, once more the disembodied voice probed, “Katie, are you there? Can you here me?”

The response was muted.

The voice and tapping continued as the light pooled more enticingly.

Katie was drawn into the light.

The tapping ceased.

Five children were entombed inside the walls of Number 9, Katie was the sole survivor.

Gary Hazlewood

With two novels to his name and when not watching soccer Gary enjoys writing short horror tales. He lives a hectic family life outside of a small town in the north of England.

Winter

She let the cold flow outwards, creating soft billowing clouds of snow as she walked. The frost bit at her lips, icicles formed in her hair and the cold clung to her skin. She breathed out watching the tiny puffs of cold air dance before her frozen, blue lips. It was a spectacle and he’d been right all along. She was the next Queen of Winter and now it was time to take up her staff and rule as only she could as his consort – The Summer King. She shivered, not from the cold, but from him and his warmth.

Stacey Macintosh

Stacey Jaine McIntosh was born in Perth, Western Australia where she still resides with her husband and their four children.

Although her first love has always been writing, she once toyed with being a Cartographer and subsequently holds a Diploma in Spatial Information Services.

In 2011, she had her first short story Freya published in an anthology, twelve more have followed. The latest story, Morrighan, is available to purchase among all good booksellers.

Stacey is also the author of a self-published novel Solstice, and she is currently working on several other novels simultaneously

When not with her family or writing, she enjoys reading, photography, genealogy, history, Arthurian myths and witchcraft.

You can find her here:

WEBSITE: www.staceyjainemcintosh.com

FACEBOOK: www.facebook.com/StaceyJaineMcIntosh

TWITTER: www.twitter.com/StaceyJMcIntosh

INSTAGRAM: www.instagram.com/morrighanfae

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