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

It’s Been A While

Cover reveal

Hello, (taps mic). Is this thing on?

Well, that summer was long and hot and yet over too quickly. (Time is weird like that).

I’ll be honest I’ve neglected this place a bit. Between settling into life in Munich, writing as much as I can, and writing my fortnightly newsletter (sign up here www.tinyletter.com/stevetoase) I’ve not really given this blog much love. I’m hoping to change that.

So here’s a quick catch up.

It’s been a good year for publications. Since June (when I last posted here), I’ve had stories accepted for;

Fiends in the Furrows: An Anthology of Folk Horror

Pantheon Magazine: Gorgon-Stories of Emergence

Mad Scientist Journal

Mystery Weekly Magazine

Not One of Us

Shimmer Zine

A couple of publications have happened since I last posted.

Flick Illustration

(Artwork by William Cunningham)

My story The Flick of the Wyvern’s Tale has now published by Cameron Callaghan from ACDP in BUILT FROM HUMAN PARTS

100-biker-237_196235(1)

I’ve also recently had an article in British magazine 100% Biker about the Rustic Racer Ride, a café racer show here in Bavaria.

Last year British Fantasy Society published several of my flash fiction stories in Horizon. Recently I found out Mask made Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year 10 Honourable Mentions Longlist, and was also given a shout out in the summation.

I’m busy behind the scenes with several articles, and have just finished the first draft of a novella. More on that later.

I’m heading back to the UK for Fantasycon and will be appearing on a couple of panels. Again, more on that later.

The big news is that I have a collection out with longtime collaborator Hazel Ang.

Ruby Red and Snowflake Cold: tales to warm the heart, is a distillation of my fiction and Hazel’s art into a beautiful booklet that gives a really good overview of the work we’ve done together. If you’re in Munich this weekend we’ll have some copies at Munich Comic Con, and I’m hoping to bring some to Fantasycon.

I think that’s everything for now. Have a good weekend and see you soon.

 

The Kromlau Gambit published in Galileo’s Theme Park

galileosthemeparkrough2_250

I’m very happy to have my story The Kromlau Gambit published by Third Flatiron Anthologies in Galileo’s Theme Park.

This is a bit of a milestone in a couple of ways. Firstly, it’s my first professional story sale, something I intended to achieve before the end of 2018. Secondly, it introduces a character who appears in two other, as yet unpublished, stories. He has been one of my favourite people to write, even though he is a somewhat morally compromised character (to say the least).

Here’s the opening paragraph of The Kromlau Gambit. I hope you’ll follow the links and buy a copy. The full table of contents is below. (Buy Galileo’s Theme Park at Amazon UK/US/DE)

“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.”

 

Contents
And Yet They Move by Alex Zalben
For the Love of Money by Ginger Strivelli
The Kromlau Gambit by Steve Toase
Vincenzo, the Starry Messenger by Dr. Jackie Ferris
A Hard-Fought Episode at the TON-1 Black Hole by Eric J. Guignard
Titan Is All the Rage by Jemima Pett
Signals by Erica Ruppert
Night on the High Desert by Connie Vigil Platt
Dispatches from the Eye of the Clown by Justin Short
The Beast and the Orb of Earth Deux by Wendy Nikel
Growing Smaller by Jimmy Huff
Titanrise by Adrik Kemp
New Heaven, New Earth by Neil James Hudson
First, They Came As Gods by G. D. Watry
And the Universe Waited by Jo Miles
The Bright and Hollow Sky by Martin M. Clark

Grins & Gurgles (Flash Humor)
Devouring the Classics: Ten Recipes by Rachel Rodman
No Encore by Ville Nummenpää
Just Right Guy by Art Lasky
Advice for the 2060s Birder by Lisa Timpf

 

Flowers and Lips-New Stories Published

31947274_858134007714492_3536494234943094784_n

“Blumen, Blumen selbst pflücken

Kommt mit mir nach Hause

Du bist süβ und sehr, sehr schön

Drinnen oder Draußen

Eine ist weiß, eine ist gelb

Einige begann sich zu röten

Ob im Boden

Auf dem Tisch

Immer für die Toten”

(Song from Verwelktag)

This week has been a busy week for publications.

On Monday Asymmetry Fiction published my story ‘White Lips’. This is a story about strange neighbours, childhood fear, and getting yourself into situations you can’t easily extract yourself from.

You can read the story online here; www.asymmetryfiction.com/white-lips/

In some ways ‘Verwelktag’, published in the latest Lackington’s, is a very different story, yet there is still that sense of compression by the place where you live. This is my attempt at writing my own take on a Schauerroman, a German tradition of Gothic story.

The magazine is a real treat, with stories by Premee Mohamed, Kate Heartfield, R.M. Graves, Laura Friis, A.J. Hammer, and J.M. Guzman. Subscribers will also get an Exquisite Corpse story by Mike Allen, Amal El-MohtarVajra Chandrasekera, Natalia Theodoridou, and JY Yang.

You can pick up the issue, or subscribe here www.lackingtons.com/issues/issue-17-spring-2018/

 

The Many Faces of Mephistopheles Published in Fortean Times 366

Article

One of the aspects of living in a city like Munich is the opportunity to visit shows and exhibitions. Currently there is a major festival ongoing about Goethe’s Faust. After a visit to two of the museums involved (Kunsthalle and the Deutsches Theatermuseum) I was inspired to write an article about the changing appearance of Mephistopheles from Goethe’s famous play in the 19th and 20th century.

I’m very happy to say that the article was published in the latest Fortean Times, FT366, out today.

The contrast between the three articles I’ve written for Fortean Times so far shows one of the reasons I have so much affection for the magazine. The sheer range of subjects and viewpoints presented is breathtaking. I would highly recommend picking up a copy, but especially this one. It’s a good deal. Just sign here…

DbNm8rsW4AELTmO

 

 

Runs on the Board Flash Fiction Part 1

1461807_10151732079757251_110089772_n

In 2013 I was commissioned to work with photographer Lucy Carolan on Runs on the Board, a Cultural Olympiad legacy project based around the Grey Fox trophy, an over 50s Cricket tournament held in Yorkshire.

As I had no real prior knowledge of cricket, my approach was to interpret the language of the game through my own filter of myth, folklore and magic realism, relating each story back to the laws of cricket. (If you want to read about Runs on the Board from the perspective of a passionate cricketer I’d recommend reading the quotes from Nick Ahad, the writer for the second 2013 creative team, here in this article).

As with many things the stories are no longer online, so I’m sharing them here over a series of posts. I hope you enjoy them.

 

Planting Time In Season

Law 10-Wisden 1963

“Unless permitted by special regulations, the Pitch shall not be rolled during a match except before the start of each innings and of each day’s play”

 

“Our groundsman puts a lot of time into the ground.”

Collecting moments during the week the Groundsman saves them up for when he walks over the outfield, and the worn turf between the creases. He keeps them warm in his shirt pocket. There is no pattern to the moments he chooses, though each is selected with care. An instinct that comes through many years on the roller. Making his way from the pavilion he carries five minutes from a bank queue and half an hour waiting in for a delivery. In the weeks when he has not collected enough seconds to plant the ground he rings around the players. They donate time spent on hold or waiting to get the barman’s attention. With an orchadist’s touch he lifts each moment out, moves a blade of grass to one side and slides it into the soil.

After he has mowed the grass and rolled the pitch the groundsman stands on the boundary satisfied, watching the sprinklers water the outfield, the moments planted shimmering in the spray.

END

 

Vestigial Chicken Feet

Law 4-Wisden 1963

“All runs shall be recorded by Scorers appointed for the purpose”

 

The grandchildren of Baba Yaga’s hut crouch on the edge of cricket grounds throughout the country. Out of sight their vestigial chicken feet cling to the soil. Some bred with local buildings, sheds and outhouses. Now their skin is brick and lime planking rather than barked lengths of knotted fir trees. Baba Yaga’s twice turning hut was scented with kvass. Its descendant’s timber is soaked with the steam of steeped tea. All have flickering eyes that record every batting stroke and catch played out in front of them, and they never forget.

 

Baba Yaga’s hut is almost as well known as Baba Yaga herself. Standing on two chicken legs the hut would turn to face the woods when Baba Yaga was flying the world in her mortar and pestle, pivoting back around upon its mistress’ return.

END

 

Willow

Law 25-Wisden 1963

“The ball shall be held to be “dead”-on being in the opinion of the Umpire finally settled in the hands of the Wicket-keeper or the Bowler or pitching over the boundary”

 

With a gardener’s steady hand he planted the willow shallow in the short grass. Roots take well here. Branches sprouted in all directions, each bearing a single red fruit, skin like bruised pomegranate. He chose one curving bough and watched it arch to the left. Those rejected crumbled to dust on the breeze until the one remaining fruit settled in the grass. Seed to windfall in a glance.

END

100% About Motorbikes

“Love what you do and do what you love.”

Ray Bradbury

100-biker-232_194417

Growing up I had two real loves; the paranormal and custom motorbikes. I’ve been very lucky to be able to earn a living writing about both. In fact I got my first writing break in custom motorbike magazines, writing reviews for Back Street Heroes (under my nickname Hermann) when Blue Miller was the editor. After that I started writing event features and had my first bike feature published in 2011.

It’s been a few years since I did any articles about the biker scene (my son was born, and as the stay at home parent it was harder to get out and cover events), but that’s all changing. This month I have my first event feature in 100% Biker (now under the familiar editorial guidance of Blue). You can read my article about Biker-S-World, Salzburg in the latest issue, available at most newsagents in the U.K. and online from the 100% Biker website.

2017 Publications

FT358

2017 was an excellent year. One of my best to be honest. I had at least one new piece published every month, as well as an article in Fortean Times, and a piece accepted by Folklore Thursday. If I can keep up the momentum in 2018 I’ll be very happy.

January The Broken Nail in Theme of Absence (Link)
February A Summation of Starlings in The Singularity (FB Page)
March Hyter and the House That Stands in Aurealis #98 (Link)
April Dial 0 for an Outside Line in JJ Outré Review (Link)
May Not All The Coal That Is Dug Warms The World at Tales to Terrify (podcast) (Link)
June Haunting Harrogate The Author (Link)
July Der Heilige Antonius von Padua Klinik von Geisterbefestigung in Mad Scientist Journal (Link)
Cars, Coins and Cursed Colours at Folklore Thursday (Link)
August Schneestern in Pantheon Magazine (UK/US)
Several flash fiction stories in British Fantasy Society Horizons (Link)
September The Forgetting Wall in Mad Scientist Journal (UK/US)
Hell On Wheels, Cover Story of Fortean Times 358 (Link)
October The Enamelled Crown in Hinnom Magazine (UK/US)
November Why the Sea Tastes of Salt and Why the Moon is Always Turned Toward Us in Typhon: A Monster Anthology Vol 2 (Pantheon Magazine) (UK/US)
December Fluted Bone in Tincture Journal 20 (Link)