2018 My Year in Fiction

This is my first time writing an eligibility post, so I hope this covers all bases.

2018 has been a good year, with nine stories published, my first pro sales, as well as my collaboration of flash fiction and art with Hazel Ang.

Here you’ll find stories about flowers, knitting, art, and stone circles. All those seem like pleasant ways to spend a Sunday afternoon, but not so much in these stories.

Most are unsettling, some are visceral, and at least one prompted a Charles Payseur at Quick Sip Reviews to say that it ‘creeped me right the fuck out.’ (Sorry Charles!)

I hope if you can find a moment to have a read you find something here you enjoy. 

 

Streuobstwiese

Shimmer Magazine #46

3100 words

Kate’s been out on the roof again. She’s drawn her finger through salt the color of wood ash, the sigils barely holding together on the terracotta slope of the tiles. The gutters are clogged with yellow fat, and dead hares whose eyes are gilded in gold leaf. Across the valley a field of barley whitens with mold and blight.

Streuobstwiese appears in issue 46 that can be bought via the Shimmer website, and will be online to read for free from 4th December.

 

“This is a rather chilling story about Rachel, a woman living on an orchard outside of town with Kate, whose story is perhaps a bit unclear but who definitely has powers. Magic that is dark and dangerous and snares those unwary who get too close to the house. Magic that punishes any who trespass, and punishes Rachel as well for all the small things that Rachel feels. Their relationship is interesting and a little difficult for me to piece together, weaving with that of an artist who is gone now but not before leaving his mark. It’s a story heavy with grief and with fear mixed with love. Rachel is trapped, both by Kate’s powers but also by her own affections. She doesn’t want to leave, but the further the story goes, the more she’s pushed toward a drastic choice.”

(Review by Charles Payseur, Quick Sip Reviews)

Verwelktag

Lackington’s Gothics Issue

3800 words

Sunflower heads drooped as if embarrassed to be so tall. Stalks like sharkskin. Then dahlias. Globes of dead planets reborn in nested florets. She cupped one after another in her hands. Let them settle in her palms. Lowered her face and allowed the fragrance to rise into her. Lost to herself she wandered from row to row to row. Deeper into the centre, far from the road, to the middle of the small field, she spotted something in the worn dirt and her breath caught in her throat.

Sunlight reflected off the metal staples holding the limbs in place, fur flayed back to show yellowed bones. The chest cavity was empty of organs, instead stuffed with petals and seedheads.

 

“And with this story the issue goes full on into horror, with a disturbing take on the trope of people visiting a foreign town and finding themselves on the receiving end of some violent local customs. The follows Angela and her husband Joe as they visit a small German town. One that has some unique plant-based festivals. The piece opens with a trespass, with Angela and Tom not respecting the local laws, and ends with, well, that would be telling. It’s a thrilling read, tense and horrifying, though content warnings ahoy because this story does linger on some rather graphic violence and imagery. And it’s a very visceral and intense take on this horror trope, leaning on the Gothic landscape and darkness, the isolation that comes when you’re in a place where you don’t speak the language, where you’re vulnerable because you’re facing an organized, united threat.”

(Review by Charles Payseur, Quick Sip Reviews)

Verwelktag is Online to read for free at Lackington’s

 

The Jaws of Ouroboros

The Fiends in the Furrows anthology

5015 words

“Four other teams around the edge, and one in the fox covert on the far side of the stone circle,” he said, not bothering to quieten his voice. Over the sound of sandstone grinding against sandstone we barely heard each other speak.

“Are you going for all of them?” I asked, leaning close.

He grinned, rubbing his face to smudge more dirt across his skin, and pulled out the machete from inside his jacket.

“Every single one.”

The Jaws of Ouroboros appears in the anthology The Fiends in the Furrows: An Anthology of Folk Horror, available from Nosetouch Press.

 

White Lips

/Asymmetry

2050 words

We all had different names for the woman who lived in next door’s garden. My parents called her Mrs Poppyseed, though I never knew if this was what she was called, by marriage or by birth. My sister, older than me by two full years, called her Widow Weeds for the way long hair hung lank down her face, whether the sky was heavy with rain or crackling with sunlight.

Me? I named her White Lips for the way she scrunched her mouth shut until tiny cracks crazed her cheeks.

White Lips is available to read for free at the /Asymmetry website

 

Dirt Upon My Skin

Not One of Us

2915 words

Sally noticed Campbell had gone, and the surveying pole fell from her cramped grip to smash beyond repair upon the kerb. Moments earlier they had been alone together in the disowned housing estate. Now Campbell’s hi-vis jacket was not in sight. Sally and the tripod-legged Level stood at opposite ends of the deserted street.

Dirt Upon My Skin appears in Not One of Us: Animal Days II

 

The Kromlau Gambit

Third Flatiron Anthologies

3000 words

The room was too hot and too small, and the black haired man was coming up fast on the fly agaric he’d ingested in preparation for the meeting. Sand flies crawled across his scalp and over his eyebrows. He let them find the warmth of his mouth, dedicating each small death to a different perished god. Blood sacrifices were still blood sacrifices, no matter how small.

The Kromlau Gambit appears in Third Flatiron Anthology: Galileo’s Theme Park

 

Split Chain Stitch

Mystery Weekly Magazine

2975 words

To cast on make sure you have a slip knot on the left hand needle. Place the point of the right hand needle into the slip knot and make a knit stitch. Whatever you do, do not slip it off the left.

Rachael found small towns had a gravity to them like some dense star lay hidden under the marketplace cobbles. Held people in place. Held time in place. She passed through like a comet. There was a skill to prizing herself away from the weight of these little communities. For now though she needed to collapse into the centre and let it consume her. Burn everything else away. She opened the café door, waiting for her eyes to adjust.

Six women sat around on comfy chairs, each headrest protected by a fine lace antimacassar. The only light came from old lamps balanced on rustic wooden shelves, a small constellation of spotlights above the café’s kitchen and single mobile phone. Under the low hum of conversation the sound of needles sounded like claws clattering on tiles.

Split Chain Stitch appears in Mystery Weekly Magazine November 2018 and is available to purchase from the website.

Our Lady of the Tarpaulin

Not One of Us

1285 words

From the balcony we heard sirens announcing the boat’s arrival. Deep undulating notes echoing against worn stonework lining the river.

The Goddess was toward the stern, sitting or crouching. It was hard to tell. She was wrapped in green tarpaulins, held in place by salt stained ratchet straps.

Our Lady of the Tarpaulin appeared in Not One of Us #60 and is available to purchase via the website.

 

Disruption

BUILT FROM HUMAN PARTS

5945 words

Day 0

Third row, aisle seat, Jack Saunders opened the in-flight magazine. Distraction from the boredom of delay. He read a feature on the best ten cafes in Vienna. Another about the emerging club scene in Budapest. Cities he had no intention of visiting. Next, he picked out the safety advice card, studying pictograms so he was fully versed in case of crisis. No pretty little image to help the current situation.

Available to read online at Medium

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Publication News – Shimmer, Mystery Weekly Magazine, Lackington’s, and BUILT FROM HUMAN PARTS

Last week was probably one of my busiest for publications.

Shimmer 46

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Kate’s been out on the roof again. She’s drawn her finger through salt the color of wood ash, the sigils barely holding together on the terracotta slope of the tiles. The gutters are clogged with yellow fat, and dead hares whose eyes are gilded in gold leaf. Across the valley a field of barley whitens with mold and blight.” Streuobstwiese

Shimmer Magazine #46 was published on November 1st, including my story Streuobstwiese.

This felt like a big moment for me. I’ve tried so many times over the past few years to get a story into their pages. To finally succeed meant a lot. This, however, was tempered by the news that issue 46 would be their last issue, so it was a sad day too.

Shimmer stories have always been special. Magical, sometimes melancholy, often unsettling, always beautiful. The magazine is much loved and will be truly missed.

You can pick up a copy of this bump issue (containing twelve stories) at this link  

Mystery Weekly Magazine November 2018

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The latest Mystery Weekly Magazine came out, featuring my story Split, Chain, Stitch. Split, Chain, Stitch is a story about knitting (yes knitting), but also small communities, being an outsider, and gossip. It’s probably many other things, but what it’s not is a nice cosy tale. Here’s the start to whet your appetite. You can pick up a copy here.

To cast on make sure you have a slip knot on the left hand needle. Place the point of the right hand needle into the slip knot and make a knit stitch. Whatever you do, do not slip it off the left.

Rachael found small towns had a gravity to them like some dense star lay hidden under the marketplace cobbles. Held people in place. Held time in place. She passed through like a comet. There was a skill to prizing herself away from the weight of these little communities. For now though she needed to collapse into the centre and let it consume her. Burn everything else away. She opened the café door, waiting for her eyes to adjust.

Six women sat around on comfy chairs, each headrest protected by a fine lace antimacassar. The only light came from old lamps balanced on rustic wooden shelves, a small constellation of spotlights above the café’s kitchen and single mobile phone. Under the low hum of conversation the sound of needles sounded like claws clattering on tiles.

They all looked up, hands still dancing.

“Can we help you?”

The café air reeked of stewed tea and furniture polish. Rachael looked for the woman who had asked the question. She sat close to the door, lap obscured with a half finished cable knit jumper in thick peacock coloured wool.

“I’m here for the Knit and Natter group,” Rachael said, brandishing her sewing bag like a membership card.

“Knit and Natter? Plenty of both here. Apart from Sally. Always on that phone of hers.”

Sally looked up from the screen and scowled, dropping her glasses back around her neck on their purple cord.

“I’m trying to find that pattern I mentioned, but the Internet keeps fading in and out.”

“Get it for next week,” one of the other knitters said, reaching behind her for a cup of tea.

“I wanted to start tonight. Otherwise I’ve got nothing else to work on. I’ll go outside and pick up a signal there.”

Rachael watched her stand up and stride across the room.

“Sorry, can I just get past,” she said.

“Sorry,” Rachael echoed, moving over to let her through, shivering in the draught from the open door.

“Don’t stand there letting the cold in. Some of us have arthritis. Come and get yourself a cup of tea. Sit down. I’m Joan, this is Liz, and this is Mags. Over there is Jan. Charlotte is in the corner. By the radiator. You’ve already met Sally.”

“I’m Rachael,” she said taking a seat next to Joan.

“Hello, Rachael. Now show us what you’re working on.”

Opening her bag, she took out her needles and the ball of wool.

“I’m not really working on anything, but I want to make something with stars on,” she said, putting them down on the chair arm.

Joan smiled.

“Let’s start at the beginning then.”

By the end of the night Rachael knew how to cast on, cast off, how everyone drank their tea, which ring on the cooker took ages to light, whose husband had been seen with the wrong person, whose son had been arrested for fighting, and the exact place in the near deserted café to get a good WiFi signal. At home she opened the door and shut out the town again.

When attaching the sleeve, match the notches as you pin it in place. When starting the round ensure the stitches of the underarm are put on hold.

Joan was making a sweater for her son, though he never really appreciated them. Jan crocheted toys for the local charity shop. Rabbits and mice. That sort of thing. Liz knitted scarves for anyone who sat still long enough. Charlotte owned the café and knitted jumpers for penguins. She’d been making them for years to send out to the Falkland Islands. Mags mainly did cross-stitch, but they let her come along anyway. Sally was always starting the next thing. The next project. The next idea. None of them lasted until the following meeting. And Rachael?

 “I just want to knit a scarf. Maybe a hat?”

“With stars?”

“With stars,” she said.

Joan nodded, and smiled, her hands never stopping. Needles always clacking.”

Lackington’s

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To complete the triumvirate of tales my story Verwelktag (in English), published in the Gothics issue of Lackington’s, was made available for free online. This is my take on a Schauerroman, a German Gothic fiction tradition, which tends to be darker than the English Gothic story. You can read the whole story here.

BUILT FROM HUMAN PARTS

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(Art by Katherine Nurmi)

The previous week wasn’t without publication news. Cameron over at Animal Cracker Death Parade published my story Disruption. Disruption is based on a true story, when a flight was cancelled and we were bumped to one three days later from the other side of England. You can read the full story at this link.