NEWS…..

First I must apologise for the lack of activity with the mag. I don’t like it just as much as you but it is what it is.

Work, family (and sporadic writing ) have been full on for the past few months. Some things have to give when it gets like that and the magazine has suffered – badly.

So, what’s going to happen?

Well, here are my plans…

1. I’m going to be giving the place a dust down and maybe change things up a bit.

2. I’m going to clear the whole submissions inbox and start afresh. Everyone with a story in there (if they’ve not already got fed up with waiting and sent it elsewhere) will get an email.

3. Submissions will re-open in time for Halloween and we will take it from there.

I know some folk will be a little pissed off with me for not getting back to them regarding their stories but life is just too hectic sometimes and I’d like to extend my full apologies to them.

Thank for your support and an announcement will be made shortly regarding submissions.

Peace…..

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AJ Hayes Writing Contest at Noir @ the Bar L.A.

TKnC:

Updates on the Aj Hayes Writing Contest. It looked a great night…

Originally posted on Ashedit:

The essence and style of AJ Hayes was very evident last night as crime writers and readers hoisted toasts at the bar, read excerpts of his work, and celebrated the winners of the first annual crime writing contest named after him. It was an event within an event, hosted by Noir at the Bar L.A. and held at the Mandrake Bar in Los Angeles. First, the Hat…

To the side of the stage, a battered chair sat with a brown fedora on the seat. This was the designated place of honor for AJ's hat.

To the side of the stage, a battered chair sat with a brown fedora on the seat. This was the designated place of honor for AJ’s hat. Just a few seats away, in the front row, sat Thury Hayes, AJ’s beautiful wife, anxiously waiting to hear the names of the winners.

Thury & Nestle

Eric Beetner(L) announced the talented recipients of cash prizes made possible by the excellent promotion and publicity of Steve Weddle and the Do Some Damage crew.

Angel Luis 
1st Place: Angel Luis Colon…

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Apologies…

Sorry 1

You may have noticed a complete lack of activity around here for a month or so. For that I’d like to apologise to everyone who has a story in the inbox. It may look like it but I’ve been being ignorant. More the fact that I run the magazine on my own, real life has been hectic and any spare time I’ve had has been used up with my own writing. I’m hoping to have my first novel finished soon and that has taken precedent over submissions – a bit selfish, I know.

So, my plan is to start tackling all submissions and getting a reply out to folk within the next 2 weeks. If you’re successful your story will be published quite soon after that.

Best of luck…

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The Light by Tabitha Wilson

I had been holding on tight for at least a couple minutes but it didn’t appear to be working. The dog’s ribcage was still rising and falling as he breathed. In fact, he didn’t even seem to mind that I was squeezing his neck so viciously. “Dumb dog,” I said and released him. He popped up off the linoleum, panted loudly and wagged his tail, hoping for more. His ignorance sickened me and I turned away and went to my room in the finished basement, though I could never really get away from hearing his wheezing and panting.

My mom let me have the basement when I turned 12. She needed the extra room upstairs for the baby, anyway. John Charles. What a stupid name for a baby. I don’t know why she kept having babies. There were already four of us before John Charles the baby came along and stole my room, which used to be pink, but was now painted blue and yellow and had a border of sailboats around the top edges of the walls. I guess my mom thought John Charles the baby was going to start sailing the seas before he even reached his first birthday.

I turned on the old TV set and switched the dial until I found a channel that would come in. A man was speaking into a microphone and waving one fist around in the air. It was Sunday so the only things on had to do with the Lord and the Devil, who was going to get you if you weren’t careful. That was one thing I was thankful for. At least my parents didn’t make us go to church like the neighbors. Sometimes I would watch them from my tiny basement window shuffling into the long station wagon, all dressed up like birthday presents. I got up on the stool and looked out the window even though I knew they had already left. It was almost ten, and they wouldn’t be back until quarter to one. I turned, jumped off the stool and landed on my bed, which was unmade as usual. At least nobody hassled me about that anymore.

“And the Lord Jesus said unto us, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and thou shalt receive the light!’” The man on TV was bellowing even louder now.

I stood up on my bed and opened my arms and proclaimed, “I shalt love the Lord with all my heart and soul and mind.” I waited for the light until my arms got tired and I collapsed onto the pile of sheets.

* * *

On Wednesday, my mom announced to the dinner table that Grandma was coming for a visit and she was going to stay in the basement. She said it nonchalantly as she stuffed mashed peas into John Charles the baby’s puckered mouth with a rubber-clad spoon. My three younger sisters sat unaffected, twirling ears of buttered corn in front of their smug, round faces. I looked at my dad, but he was busy reading the newspaper as he shoveled roast chicken into his mouth, small bits being distributed throughout his beard.

“Now, Lila,” my mother said without looking at me. “Don’t get cross. You have a double bed and there’s plenty of room to share.” I said nothing, but gave her the evil eye until I realized she was too preoccupied to notice. Quickly inhaling my dinner—you weren’t excused until you finished—I mumbled, “May I be excused?” and took my plate to the kitchen without waiting for an answer.

My grandma looked a lot like a bird, with two toothpicks in orange pantyhose jutting out from her knee-length skirt and landing in a pair of squared, buckled heels. She arrived just after dessert, which I missed because I was being forced to clean my room. We all sat in the living room pretending to have a nice time while my grandma cooed and kissed John Charles the baby sailor. My mom had even costumed him up in a sailor suit just for the occasion. He looked like an idiot, his fat head waggling around in a sailor’s cap and a drooly fist punched into his pink gums while Grandma pecked incessantly at his cheeks. Oblivious to the horror show on the couch, my sisters were playing with Barbies near the fireplace, but the dumb dog with the thick neck had joined in and was panting loudly at my grandma’s feet. Finally, my dad put a stop to the madness and told us it was bedtime. I heaved a sigh of relief until I remembered I was going to be sleeping next to an old woman who probably smelled funny.

It took her years to get down the basement steps, me holding her papery hand and leading her slowly. Her sturdy heels clicked like tap shoes every time she struggled to the next step. Arthritis, she said was the reason. “My bones just don’t like me anymore.” I couldn’t blame them. She looked like an unhealthy chicken and smelled like curdled milk. After we’d gotten into bed, she started chattering on about how beautiful John Charles the baby was, so healthy! And those chubby cheeks! He reminded her of my dad as an infant. I pretended to fall asleep and she finally quieted down. I did go to sleep for a while, too, until she woke me up with her wheezing. I put the pillow over my head but it didn’t help. “Heeee-haaaww, heeee-haaaww.” I was going to be a wreck for the President’s Challenge Fitness Test in gym tomorrow. The moonlight from the small window cast a long stripe through the darkened basement onto my grandma. I could see her chest moving up and down as she struggled to breathe. Her dyed, curled hair was trimmed just above her neck, which I noticed was awfully scrawny, and I finally saw the light.

Tabitha KingBi0: A mail-order bride by trade, Tabitha Wilson divides her time between collecting wooden teeth and raising leprous felines in her abandoned military storage facility located somewhere beneath an Iowa cornfield. She also owns a snarky greeting card company and creates subversive products for Fred and Friends. Her work can be found (now and very soon) on Shotgun Honey, Out of the Gutter, and Yellow Mama. Contact her at facebook.com/cardjackers

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News and Updates…

News_765x350px

Hi everyone and thanks for stopping by.

You may have noticed that the mag hasn’t been running as I had planned and my aim is to rectify that ASAP.

Life has been pretty hectic but I’ve also been hit by the writing bug – in a big way – and I’m hoping to have the current WIP finished by the end of May. What originally started out as an idea for a horror story has twisted and turned it’s way into a crime story but, as it involves sleepy little villages in the middle of nowhere, that could change again. I was aiming for around 30-40,000 but with the new twists and turns that could end up a lot longer. It’s something I’m really excited about as I’ve not had the ‘bug’ like this for a while.

OK, magazine news. The inbox is bursting so for the time being I’m going to close submissions until I’ve read, replied and scheduled. I’m hoping to get word out to writers within the next 2 weeks.

As always, thank you all for your continued support. It is appreciated more than you will ever know.

Oh, by the way, the magazine is officially 1 year old today as that was when it was registered with wordpress BUT I will be celebrating it’s first birthday on 18th April which was when the first story was published. Incidentally, it’s my youngest daughter’s birthday on that day too. All presents will be greatly received.

Have a great weekend and keep your eyes open for a new story going up soon.

Cheers!

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Uber-Death Translator by Chris Benton

I was trying to warm my bony ass upon a cold drift-wood stool at the Fat Pelican, when Megan walked in wearing a delicate black dress that the sea wind wouldn’t dare tear off.  Megan was more than a Pelican confessor, she was a colleague; she never gave a breathing fuck about the addictions, physical afflictions or mental illnesses of parents, she was only wanting, waiting, even panting for the moronic miracles of two, maybe four students that could be possibly snared within the terminal web of her passion. I was fascinated by her, more than fascinated; I was madly in love with her, and I’d only known her for nine gestating months before the tragedy.

She sat beside me with a fleeting glance. Most of the denizens were standing, screaming about what had happened, perfectly oblivious of us. I didn’t know what to say to her, but she said it for me.

“Hey David, wow, this shit is growing some serious wings.”

“Yeah, some of it,” I said.

“You know all of it,” she told me, and she was right.

“I’m sorry Meg.”

“Why the fuck are you sorry? I wasn’t even there.”

“I know, but I already heard about Julian’s diary.”

“Wow, that was fast, I never even get a chance to fucking read it. Mae, give me a shot of Old Crow, with a red Bud chaser.”

Mae was fast and Megan was faster, swallowing the sad marriage within a minute. She slowly unhooked her hair and her long red mane began to burn through the dim, doomed space; a blessed lantern lighting the drunken darkness, giving migraines to the bitter Mermen and failed fathers flanking us.

Megan lit a Salem, and I couldn’t help brooding upon her brand. I never knew she smoked. I never smelled it. I nodded and she proffered one. I quit smoking two years ago, but when she lit it for me I felt the smooth arms of hell welcoming me home once more.

“David, it’s men like you that created telepathy.”

“My silence was always notoriously transparent.”

“Is that why your wife left you?”

You sagacious little slut, I nearly said, instead I raised my shot glass. “Cheers.”

“That was a cunt thing to say David, I’m sorry.” She palmed my right hand, which was clenched on the bar’s scarred skin. Her own skin was cool, clammy and so terribly tender, a small biography of lifelong, relentless terror. My dick stirred with the sudden intimacy. She was probably still fucking with me; she was smoking Salem’s for Chrissakes. Who the fuck knew what other casually cruel spells she had in store for my bony ass? As far as I felt, my heart was just another chew-toy, like Julian’s.

“When did you first fuck him?” Not why, but when, it was a ninety yard fucking pass of a question. Try catching that one, my darkly damaged beloved.

“I didn’t first fuck him, I sucked his cock,” she said, before ordering another round for both of us. She lit another Salem and added, “It was the coldest cock I’ve ever tasted. I sucked it long and hard for nearly twenty minutes, even breaking a sweat. It still tasted like a fudge sickle. And he didn’t even come, which bummed me out; cold heart, cold cock, minus the cold cum, the formula shall remain tragically incomplete.”

She caught the ball alright, and tore it to pieces with her teeth. I downed my shot of Old Crow and it swam coldly down my throat, into my belly, forever failing to be warmed.

“So what did he say about me?”

“What do you mean?”

“David, bullshit does not become you. One of your strong suits, that and your gigantically sad fucking eyes. I swear, you have the baby black holes of a molested child. Did your Aunt ever suck your cock?”

“Yes, I read it.”

“And???”

“He loved you.”

“More than you do?”

“Maybe, in a more distorted way.”

“So you are in love with me.” She lipped another Salem and pushed the pack towards me like a malign passport. I took another, of course. “Distorted,” she echoed, “What a disgusting fucking word.” She lit her cigarette and buried any remaining disgust in smoke. I decided to bare my soul, what was left of it anyway.

“Yeah, Meg, I fell for you the first time I met you during lunch break, you were theorizing about the lonely orgasms of Flannery O’Connor, and my heart has been a fucking hostage ever since.”

“That’s nice, David, why didn’t you wine and dine me? Separation still too fresh?”

“Maybe. Perhaps I’m a fucking coward; perhaps Julian is the true romantic.”

“Was, you wannabe amputee. What exactly did he say about me, what do your dirty little cookie-jar-hands remember?”

Ok, she wanted it, so I gave it: “December 17th, 2012, My English teacher Megan Winnow is a profoundly sad little woman, yet her urine burns brighter than memory. Megan shall be my long companion, and I shall be her Uber-Death Translator, she will never be afraid before the shivering turn, our brains are impervious to pain and our hearts are impervious to hell.”

“His last entry,” she said. She gazed into her empty shot glass like a gorgon and when Mae asked if she needed another she turned Mae into stone. Like the clockwork of all ruined lives, the TV’s over the bar were suddenly wearing her face, her smile, a smile so bright it drank the whole, hacked apart purgatory of the Pelican for ten timeless seconds. After her smile were the even brighter smiles of her dead, and the face of Julian, Julian the true romantic, Julian who knew the hidden temperatures of Megan’s mind and body, Julian, the Iceman never cometh, Julian, the Uber-Death Translator.

Megan finished her beer in the cathode silence; the frail, black flower of her dress had withered into seaweed from the thousand putrid thoughts around us. She smiled at me, not the blinding network smile that held all our ravaged souls rapt, a smile that spoke again of another Megan beyond her bitter words that terrible distances bred. She kissed me, laying this memory on my tongue, and left forever without paying.

CHRIS PROFILE PICBio:  Chris Benton was born and raised in Wilmington, North Carolina where he still resides until his parole. His stories are lingering at A TWIST OF NOIR, PLOTS WITH GUNS, THRILLER’S KILLER’S ‘N’ CHILLERS, THRILLS, KILLS ‘N’ CHAOS, BLACKHEART NOIR, CRIME FACTORY, AND SHOTGUN HONEY He can be found on Facebook…

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Buckets In Southwark by Lily Childs

Cold wrists and a cold heart that barely dared beat, lest he think her willing. She let it tremble – he wasn’t here today and for that she was truly grateful.

They peppered every spare space in the poorly-lit basement. She’d given up trying to count them because whenever he came down and did what he did to their tiny corpses, he’d throw them back into the room afterwards, discarding them, forgetting them until the next time he got the urge. Some lay at her broken feet now, gazing at nothing; once demure.

The tears came again. Incarcerated without the need for chains in a hovel of her own stupidity. “Look at you,” her friends had said. “You’re gorgeous. Why would you want to look like someone else, especially her?” And they spoke her name with such malice, such disgust… she should have listened.

Outside, a thin mist of snow swirled in widdershins along the streets of Southwark, whipping around ankles and stinging pink faces. Walkers slid and laughed in some kind of wonder.

It should have been magical, but the winter weather brought no joy to the basement, instead a new fear poked insidious fingers at its resident. The only light to penetrate the square room came from the small, grubby window below pavement level. When that became obscured with freezing flakes the basement would be plunged into a murky darkness. The waiting, the dread of hearing his lumbering footsteps on the stairway would be magnified. At least with a little light there were distractions, albeit pitiful, but to be blind in this place of torture…

And then there was the noise from the streets; voices bantering, buses roaring past too fast. The snow would insulate her against those sounds. All she’d be able to hear would be muffled mouths, crunching feet, tyres spitting sludge.

He didn’t come that night.

Nor the next.

She slept right through, starving and exhausted, not caring if she crossed over into death’s cold embrace.

A dull yellow hue greeted her when she finally awoke, drowning the basement in a weak shade of sulphur, jaundicing her skin and that of all the little corpses. She realised she could still see.

An inch, two inches of snow carpeted the pavement above, but the window was completely clear, save for a spattering of white along the bottom frame. She shivered beneath the rough blanket and watched as her breath crystallised before dissipating up, up, up toward the street and the great outdoors.

It’s stealing my warmth.

She understood. Any heat produced by her emaciated body, any breath rasping from her lungs was escaping through that thin, single pane of glass. It was enough to melt the snow before it settled.

So that was it; the end. She couldn’t eat, couldn’t drink, walk or take a pee without help – and now even her breath was not her own. She felt her gut judder as a familiar wail of despair began to grow. When it came out, it was a skinny whisper, as skinny as she.

“Did you hear that?”

“Yeah, what the hell was it?”

“Sounded like a fox.”

“Too high-pitched. Anyway, it came from down there. There’s no garden, just a basement by the looks of it.”

Naked limbs hit the floor. Heads twisted on half-broken necks as they tumbled in a pile of wild hair, the expressions on their faces unmoving. She picked one up and threw it at the window. It missed by several feet.

“Help. Help me. Help me.”

Two pairs of black-booted feet shuffled and stamped in the snow outside on the pavement but by some miracle did not wander off.

“Hey!” she tried calling again.

Nothing.

She grabbed more of her silent companions and aimed them at the wall like fleshy darts. Weak. She was too weak. Every muscle, every sinew screamed in her wasted body as she twisted around in the bed, dragging her useless feet over the bare mattress. The new position gave her a mildly better view of the pavement and she jumped as two purple buckets dropped to the ground beside the feet above, to the jovial sound of laughter. She looked down at her own bucket on the bare floorboards, brimming with stinking waste. From nowhere a rage of adrenalin burst its way into her blood and she screamed again, a whistling, shrill banshee call that failed to penetrate the lively chat of the charity collectors outside her window. With one last cry and a double lunge at the glass, she gave up.

The world fell silent.

She couldn’t see them but the two young men on the pavement looked at one another, and turned. One crouched down to stare through the small opening in the building behind him. He reached forward to wipe the filth-speckled glass.

“What is it? What can you see?”

“It’s dark man, but it looks like… fuckin’ freaky. There’s dolls, millions of broken dolls, all over the place. And, oh. Oh Jesus.”

She didn’t hear them break in. The copper that skidded on rubber limbs snapped his wrist as he went down, his colleagues tripping over his back.

“Get up, idiot. Leeson; call for back-up and an ambulance.”

Breath in her face; old coffee and stale smokes, but not booze or the reek of loose teeth in rotting gums she’d become so accustomed to.

“Look at the state of her, guv. She must have been here for ages. Can’t have been dead long though.”

Sighs all round; what a waste.

“Ah shit. Look at this.” A clang of metal sliding on metal.

She can’t speak and she can’t move but she knows what they’ve found behind the curtain that hangs from the rafters.

His bath.

“Don’t touch anything. What…? I can’t even work out what I’m seeing here.”

Behind the policeman the corpse began to hiss from the bed. The copper turned to stare, eyes bulging in disbelief at the bubbles spilling from the mouth. Dead, but not dead.

It spoke.

“Blood, and piss, and white fire from his… his…”

“She’s alive! Leeson; where’s that ambulance?” He bent over the life-sized, shrivelled Barbie doll on the bed. Her eyebrows appeared permanently arched on the high, white forehead, topped by a mop of greasy brown hair studded with wilting platinum extensions.  Sharp cheekbones, clearly chiselled by a surgeon’s knife, poked out from her face with no meat in the sallow space below. But it was her whispering mouth that chilled him as it chattered on with lips tattooed in an everlasting pink smile.

*

The ambulance bluesed and twosed away, carrying a clumsy constable and a nameless girl who’d only ever wanted a slice of the plastic pie, to be perfect, to be wanted.

Across the street, pacing the apartment where he lived with his trophy wife, Ken removed his false teeth and tongued the gaps in his gums. They’d take his collection away, he knew it. But after buying that last live one from an ad back in the summer, it had kind of ruined the thrill anyway. Smelly. Wriggling in the bath, objecting to his manipulations and penetrations… that’s why he’d not been back for a few days now.

No matter; he had spares.

He opened the door to his bedroom and struggled to wade through the heads and torsos that spilled over his brogues. His wife was in here somewhere; he could do with some company.

lily-childsBio:  Lily Childs is a writer of dark fiction, horror and twisted crime. She lives on the south coast of England, a stone’s throw from the sea. Lily has been published many times in anthologies and collections, most recently in The Bestiarum Vocabulum, Fresh Fear and Bones. Her own collection, Cabaret of Dread is available in paperback and for Kindle on Amazon. Lily is currently completing her first novel, a supernatural horror. Find out more on her blog, The Feardom at http://lilychildsfeardom.blogspot.com

 

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