Trembling With Fear 02/07/21
Women In Horror Month has arrived. I was writing an article recently focussing on indie presses which had women at the helm in some way, whether owner, co-editor or the like. This was partly because women can be their own worst enemies when it comes to confidence and I felt that some might, just might, take that first step to attempt publication by approaching a press where women were more visible in terms of control. To this end, I compiled a list of such presses with the help of good twitter folk. Some notifications came in after I completed my article so I have decided to add these to the list and get the list put up publicly somewhere for reference. With this in mind, if anybody knows or is involved with presses where women are at the forefront, let me know!
Now I was going to skip any ‘editor’ gripes this time BUT as I was writing this, I checked the emails and I found yet another rude response from an author. I am mentioning it this week because I think it’s important to remind writers that such attitudes can damage their careers in the industry. If any of these writers sent such emails to bigger publishing houses, bigger names, they would receive extremely short shrift and find themselves locked out of future opportunities. I would never dream of responding to rejections in the way that some have been recently and actually, the traditional approach to rejections is that you do not respond to them, no matter how aggrieved you may feel. Additionally, in terms of contact, we aim to respond in a timely manner to all emails. On the website, we allow 3 weeks but generally, we manage a quicker turnround. And actually, I don’t often mind people querying sooner, it’s just how it’s worded. I could have kept quiet about this but I think it’s something everyone should be aware of (and I know most of you already are). Editors and publishers speak to each other, if you don’t act in a professional manner, this can get round.
Okay, and breathe, and back to why I’m doing this in the first place – the stories 😊
The first story in Trembling with Fear this week is Drăculea by Bogdan Boyar. If you’re going to write about Dracula, then you should get a Romanian involved and Bogdan provides a wonderfully humorous and delightful take on this particular monster. Poor old Uncle Gicu. The more stories we get from other countries the better, it adds to breadth of styles and voices and provides a refreshing change to the traditional ‘western view’.
The Mask by G.A. Miller is a timely reminder that small actions can have big consequences.
Viaduct Victims by Mike Rader gives a hint of something happening in the past, the ghostly repercussions continuing today. Some grudges never die.
Wee Dafty by R.J. Meldrum brings us the horrors of childhood and the torments of the bully. Children can be monsters and sometimes the monsters get their comeuppance.
Enjoy the stories and send us yours!
So far, so good! Women in Horror Month is moving along swimmingly and I hope that you’ve enjoyed our first week of spotlights. While there is more to come, if you are a woman who writes, edits, publishes, reviews, etc in horror and wants to share a guest post, do reach out to contact at horrortree dot com today!
If you’ve been thinking about submitting to Trembling With Fear, we’re open year ’round. That being said, we’re pretty backed up on our standard-length fiction at the moment so are primarily looking at drabble, Unholy Trinities, and a few serials. Those are the sweet spot at this time.
Speaking of fiction, we have some fantastic stories for you to read once again this week and as it is February, next Sunday is our Valentine’s Day edition. Love of the written word is in the air and you’ll have some great reads to check out as always! 🙂
DRĂCULEA by Bogdan Boyar
In the murky light of the medieval-looking cellar, the tourists, with their classic handbags, hats, and cargo shorts, were all eyes and ears, some with adrenaline-dilated pupils, others too drunk to understand anything.
The guide had just finished his tour of the castle-mansion-boarding house in Prislop Pass, in the eastern part of Romania, by bringing them all into the dimly lit cellar, around a theatrically arranged coffin with washable paint “blood” stains, and plastic bats around the corners.
– Here, Count Dracula was bringing his brides. He was draining their blood, and at the last moment, before the last breath of these beautiful women…
Locked for more than half an hour in the coffin, Uncle Gicu, who was nicknamed Drăculea by all the staff of the mansion, was sweating and cursing intensively. In the black suit with a cape, theatrical make-up, and with the plastic fangs that tormented his decaying teeth, the man, a former actor at a municipal theatre which lost all of its audience, with or without tickets, was waiting for the signal in his earphones, and was beginning to lose his temper.
However, after the squeaks that were indicating that the audio system was being adjusted, Uncle Gicu heard the engineer’s bored voice in his headphones.
– Come on, Uncle Gicu! Do your job.
Right in the middle of the guide’s nonsense, about how Dracula tickled the neck of the bridesmaids, Uncle Gicu came out stormily as if pushed by a spring from the coffin, screaming and twisting.
The lid of the coffin was thrown aside, and after the screams of the tourists – that the local brandy had not completely anesthetized – died down, they all burst out laughing.
With only a short time frame to change his clothes between two rounds of tourists, he had forgotten to zip up his fly.
He quickly covered himself with his cape and prepared for the part of his job he hated the most: taking pictures with the tourists. Half an hour of twisting movements and grimaces. An American made him hold his 240-pound wife in his arms. Two Japanese wanted 50 photos, in coffin, without coffin, full body, portraits, with filters, without filters. An Irishman posed with him with a beer in hand, and was about to fill his tuxedo with vomit. And a couple of British tourists insisted on being photographed while pretending to cut off his head, with a can opener, with a compass.
With ruffled hair, sweaty, with a cuff stolen by a souvenir lover, Uncle Gicu was smoking now , bitterly, the “after-cigarette”, sitting on the edge of the coffin.
“Another day of a pathetic job. In a pathetic boarding house. With pathetic people… Illiterates… Alcoholics… They come here to hunt vampires, that’s what the travel agency tells them… And they are too drunk to stand up… They come the same way they leave. Everyone dreams only of vampires, counts, brides… They didn’t even read that nonsense of that lunatic Irishman… What could you explain them about Vlad Ţepeş? How the entire Europe should thank him, should be grateful that he existed… How he managed to guard the borders of the rich and careless kings in the West… Does anyone know, beyond stories and movies, who Dracula was? Or the Dragon Order? Do they even know that, if it weren’t for these knights, Europe would have become a Turkish conquered territory? You have no one to talk to… There’s no point in wasting history on them. I explained all these to them so many times, and they never understood anything. Animals…”
After finishing his imaginary monologue, Uncle Gicu rose slowly, sad, hearing the creaking of the pine boards. He took a sip of vodka and decided to walk home, to the neighbouring village. After sitting for a few hours locked between the coffin upholstery, he needed fresh air.
Leaving behind the gate of the boarding house, he did not notice the bushes that moved unnaturally beside him, or the noises of the broken branches in the forest near the paved road. Only when he stopped to light a cigarette did he hear footsteps rushing toward him. He wanted to turn, but he didn’t have time. He felt something, like a bolt of lightning piercing his chest. And he began to contemplate, as from a distance, the wooden stake which, pushed in his back, protruded through a lung, and came out through the solar plexus. He fell to his knees, and before his eyesight turned completely dark, a short question swirled in his head, “Why?” Then, with the last remnants of reason, he realised: he had forgotten to change his clothes. And leave the props. He spat out his plastic fangs with a lump of blood and collapsed on the cold cobblestones, whispering: “Illiterates.”
Unconvinced, the tourist pretending to be Van Helsing pulled the dirty wooden stake from the inert body, turned the corpse over, and, with all his force, pushed it once more in the heart of the dying man. Then, contemplating his work with pride, he took a cold beer from his thermo backpack. He wiped the sweat from his forehead, and burped triumphantly.
– Bloody Nosferatu!
Bogdan Boyar, 40 years old, born and residing in Romania, uses the Balkan urban legends to develop them into short stories, with humour and suspense. After an intense and hyper-active period in the local press – a vast source of inspiration for future books, the author has “taken refuge” in another passion – the translations, and finds in the literature the remedy for the “writing microbe”.
Interested in gothic and rock music, he made the move from the “regimented” style of work to the freelancer career and did not regret the choice made, in no way. A collection of his short stories inspired by the horror urban legends in the East European area will soon be published.
“Just a little farther, past the cans…ah, there they are!”
I pushed my cart aside so I could scan the boxes of soup mix on the shelves. She wants that one with garlic and herb, the one that’s always hard to find.
Harder still with this damned mask on, fogging my glasses. Glancing up and down the aisle to insure I was alone, I pulled the mask down below my chin.
“There, that’s better. Won’t hurt anyone.”
And the murmuring began… “Are you sure?” echoing from all around me. Suddenly, I was surrounded by pandemic victims, all slowly edging closer…
The old Creswick viaduct still carries the main rail line to Melbourne across the narrow gorge. At night, through its arches, one can see ghostly pines in the plantation.
Walking in from the road at twilight, I noticed the shadowy bundles beneath one arch. I stepped closer. They were dead foxes. Throats cut.
A shoe scraped on stone. “They killed my wife and child,” came a voice.
No one was there. But ragged breathing sounded nearby.
“When?” I heard myself ask.
An invisible force lifted one of the foxes. It landed at my feet. Its blood splashed my shoes.
Mike Rader is a pseudonym used by Australian author and poet James Aitchison. As J J Munro and Mike Rader, Aitchison writes horror and noir crime. As James Lee, he writes Asia’s biggest selling horror series for middle readers — Mr Midnight — which has sold over three million copies. His work can be seen at www.flameoftheforest.com
“You’re a wee dafty; you’re a wee dafty!”
“I’m no a wee dafty!”
The kids danced round her.
“Yer maw died in the gutter! Drunk as a lord!”
“She choked on her own puke!”
Someone reached out and punched her. Then another and another. Eventually, they all did.
Afterwards, bruised, she lay in the dirt, crying her eyes out. The kids laughed and left her. They would do the same tomorrow and every other day, until she was broken. She prayed for deliverance.
Behind the departing kids, a shadow formed. Her mother, long dead, had heard her prayer.
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
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