Last weekend saw me disappearing from the online world for a little while, mainly because the security settings on my tablet refused to allow me to view various postings/emails on the ‘free wi-fi’ supplied by a well-known UK hotel chain. I had no quibble (one of my favourite words) with that as it gave me a good excuse to sign off and read a book. Anyway, that weekend was spent in Derby at Sledge Lit, a writer’s convention for those who read or write in the spec fic genre. I met up once more with Alyson Rhodes (contributor to TWF, reviewer and interviewer for Horror Tree) and Martin Fuller (TWF contributor and White Belt in Use of the Apostrophe – although Black Belt in Story Ideas). To be able to switch off from everyday life, ie the one you have to live to pay the bills, and just be absorbed into the writer’s life is a wonderful experience. I attended author interviews/readings with Mark Morris and M.R. Carey and sat in on panels featuring Sarah Pinborough and Stuart Turton amongst others. I couldn’t face any workshops as NaNo and editing responsibilities had left me somewhat braindead.

One of the best panels I attended was the one about getting an agent. In this, all the authors completely identified with those of us in the audience. They had ‘made’ it, but they understood how tough it was and that it did not make them any better than us, just that they had finally had the breaks and that it would happen for the rest of us – if we kept at it. So please, go back to those Horror Tree articles on getting an agent and keep on trying.

If you’ve not been to a convention – and this is the first year I have attended any – I would recommend them. If nothing else, they are a great motivator and you come away wanting to write more and get something done, but on the other hand they are also a great way of forging friendships and making you feel like a ‘proper writer’. Whilst I haven’t signed up for any next year, I have bought tickets for StokerCon in 2020 when it will be held in the UK for the first time.  You have until the end of December for early bird prices. I am really looking forward to a ‘horror only’ convention and, as it’s in Scarborough, popping up to Whitby … I mean, Dracula!

One thing I would ask. If you go to any of these cons with friends and you see someone on their own, invite them to join you. Conventions can seem a little ‘cliquey’, lets break down those barriers and invite everybody in.

Also, convention drawback. You buy books and your TBR pile suddenly doubles …

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

I can’t believe we’re in the final month of 2018 already! That’s just crazy how fast this year has gone.

At any rate, I just wanted to re-point out a few areas which we’d appreciate more submissions for if you’re in the mood to get writing!

  • The Unholy Trinity – We’re looking to have 3 stand-alone drabbles that link together either in theme, character or to expand upon one another. They need to work alone but there has to be some connective tissue!
  • Serial Killers – On the opposite end of the spectrum, we’re hoping to print a few more serials. Stories which can easily be broken up into 4-10 installments of 1,000-1,5000 words or so in length (we’ll go longer or shorter a bit as long as it works!) We’re not looking for a story to just be cut up though, these have to work as mini-chapters for the overall tale being told.
  • Finally, in January we’ve got a call for authors in the LGBT+ community or stories that would fit in that area!

‘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

He Could Be a Psycho Killer

The first car to drive by slowed, but passed him. That was okay.

It was the husband who was driving, and he had nearly yielded. In the end, though, the wife had objected: “He could be a psycho killer for all you know!”

Oh well. Rich liked them better alone, anyway.

It was two hours before another car came. It was an old-fashioned model, 1990s at the latest; a thin coat of dust rested atop its matte purple finish. The car thundered ahead, but thudded to a stop ten metres ahead of him and started to reverse. A door flew open. “Get in.”

Rich smiled gratefully and climbed into the passenger side, hoisting his duffel bag over his shoulder and into the backseat.

“Where to?” the driver asked. He had a dull sort of look, like a man who travels from town to town selling insurance or encyclopedias. He had a smell to him, too, like he’d been on the road for a while without a proper shower.

“North Bay,” Rich replied.

Nothing but miles and miles of desolate road ahead of them – he had time to play with this one.

“North Bay,” the man echoed. “My sister married a guy from North Bay. Not much to see.”

Rich shrugged. “Well, you know, I like the quiet life.” He restrained a smirk. “I got a girl out there. Figured I’d move out, look for work, settle down.”

It was a lie, or course. The kind of thing you say when you’re hitchhiking and you want your driver to feel safe. The kind of thing a man with a switchblade in his pants pocket and an axe in his duffel would never say.

The driver nodded. “Sounds very nice.” His voice and mild and non-committal. His inflection didn’t change as he added: “It’s a shame you won’t get there.”

Rich felt a small prick in his thigh. He looked down. The top of a syringe, the needle jabbed into his saphenous vein, was still sticking out of it.

“This’ll go best if you’re calm,” the driver said, as Rich’s world started to fuzz and fade. The driver pulled to the side of the road and stopped. “If you relax, this business can be over very quickly. It’s when folks start to panic that things get messy.”

Rich shoved his hand into his pocket and groped for his knife. He grasped it just as the sedative took effect. His fingers slipped away. “I’ve got an axe,” he tried to say, but his words were slurred and garbled.

“Shhhhhh.”

Rich slumped in his seat. The driver pulled the syringe from Rich’s thigh and restarted the car. Cranking up the radio, he drove for a while before turning onto a gravel road that veered off into the woods.

Madison McSweeney

Madison McSweeney is a Canadian horror writer and poet. Her works have appeared in a number of outlets, most recently Bikers VS The Undead, Under the Full Moon’s Light, Zombie Punks F*ck Off, Horror Tree, and Rhythm & Bones. She blogs at madisonmcsweeney.com and tweets from @MMcSw13.

Be Careful What You Wish For

The policeman looked up to see an agitated woman standing at the reception.

“Yes?”

“It was that stupid man’s fault!”

“Pardon?”

“Meldrum, the writer.”

The policeman knew who she meant.  A local celebrity, churning out dark fiction.

“Well, I know him.  As a joke, he put me into one of his silly stories.  My character killed her husband.”

“And?”

“Meldrum kept teasing me about killing my own husband.  Constantly asking if I’d done it yet.  He wouldn’t stop.  He just kept on and on.”

“And?”

“Well, I did the only thing possible.”

“What was that?”

“Naturally, I killed him instead!”

RJ Meldrum

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.

Website: http://wolfstarpublishing.com/meldrum/

Business As Usual

A bleary-eyed man in a stained lab coat handed his proposal (in triplicate) to the bureaucrat in charge of government subsidies for time travel.

 

“For an effective vaccine, we urgently need samples of a non-mutated strain of the virus that’s plaguing the world. My remote-viewing team located a pocket of potential donors two centuries ago in an isolated Alpine village.”

 

“You’re too late,” the clerk said, suppressing a yawn.

 

“Not if we leave immediately! We can still save mankind.”

 

“Sorry. We’re over budget. The last available grant went to a classical musician who wants to study the harpsichord with Beethoven.”

John H. Dromey

John H. Dromey has had short fiction published in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Stupefying Stories Showcase, Unfit Magazine, and elsewhere, as well as in a number of anthologies including Chilling Horror Short Stories (Flame Tree Publishing, 2015) and Timeshift: Tales of Time(Shacklebound Books, 2018).

Needles

Entranced by new age music and sandalwood incense, I close my eyes letting the acupuncturist do her magic.

I need serenity. Soon, I will tell Jeremy. He deserves to know. Hell, I was the best man at his wedding.

But it happened. Joanna and I fell for each other. We couldn’t help ourselves, the attraction too great.

My hands and feet hurt, probably guilt throwing off my chakras. Opening my eyes, Jeremy leers down at me.

I jump up, except I don’t, my hands and feet pinned to the table.

Jeremy points a steel needle at my eye, “Hello, betrayer.”

S.E. Casey

Not long after celebrating his twenty years of accounting service in a Boston investment firm, S.E. Casey began to write. As an attempt to quell an unspecific desperation and stave off a growing resentment of everything, he found stories buried in the unlikely between-spaces of numbers, balances, and accounting formulae. This expanding existential collection has been published in many magazines and online publications, which can be found at www.secaseyauthor.wordpress.com.

Amazon Author Page:  amazon.com/author/s.e.casey

 

A Lucky Man Indeed

Eighteen decades into its journey, the freighter Erebus turns lazily against the blackness.

Stacked in her hold: half a million earth men and women. Their stasis pods are stacked like poker chips, each rigged with failsafes and self-repairing circuitry. There is a better chance of a lottery win than a stasis pod fail.

Pod #20456 houses a lucky man indeed, as a minor glitch causes him to wake.

No room to move – scarcely room to scream.

His eyes flicker left and right, and he sees the company he will keep for eternity…

…and decides he has room enough, after all.

Douglas Prince

Douglas Prince is a 28-year-old writer of horror and other dark fiction.

Born in Melrose, Scotland, he moved to the Wirral peninsula in his late

teens, and has lived there ever since. A lifelong fan of horror, he began

writing his own macabre tales in April 2018. He currently lives in

Birkenhead and hopes, one day, to be able to write for a living.

URL: https://theprinceofdarkness.com/

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About Stuart Conover

Stuart Conover is a father, husband, published author, blogger, geek, entrepreneur, horror fanatic, and runs a few websites including Horror Tree!

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