Category Archives: Short Fiction

Chatting with… AJ Brown

Southern BonesAnother great horror author has launched a collection of short stories recently, and I happen to virtually know this guy: AJ Brown worked on the copyedits of Tattered Souls volume 2, in which Misery of Me was published 🙂 So I decided to ask a question on each of the different stories you can find in SOUTHERN BONES. Enjoy ♥

The first story made me go back years, when I used to visit Chincoteague Island with my parents to see the wild horses…what inspired you to write this story?

AJB: Many people have said they thought Wild Horses iss based off the song of the same name by U2.  Let me go ahead and clarify, it isn’t.  Though I love U2, this story is based on a field along Highway 378 here in South Carolina.   There were wooden fence posts that held up the old style metal fence that we often see in rural areas all over the world.  There were trees opposite the road and in that vast field that stretched left to right (and vice versa if you drove the opposite direction).

One evening on the way home from work, I saw a horse running loose in the field.  It caught my attention to the point of me pulling onto the highway shoulder and just sitting there watching this beautiful creature gallop and trot about without a care in the world. Later that night I sat with pen and paper and out flowed the story of Prince, the king of the Wild Horses.

Unfortunately, that field is no longer there, and niether is the horse (it has since been turned into a well-to-do neighborhood–oh the sins of progress).

If you had a star to wish upon, what would it change in your life?

AJB: I would wish to be smarter.  No, seriously.  Nothing has ever come easy for me.  In school—and even now when I take classes for work—I would spend hours studying and would end up with a low C.  I have to really concentrate when trying to learn or I won’t retain it.  It’s the one area where I, admittedly, am jealous of my older brother.  He can hear or read something once and never forget it.  He can look at something for a minute or two and know how to fix it. He is probably the smartest person I’ve ever met.  I would love to have just a tenth of his intelligence.

I’m an atheist, so I never understand the devotion people have to religion – but if you had written your own bible, what would be its first rule?

AJB: That’s a good question.  I can honestly say, I would probably go with something along the lines of the Golden Rule. Love one another, to love your neighbors as you would yourself.  Yeah, I know it sounds like a cop out answer, but that would probably be my first rule.

Ugh, I used to have a neighbour that was just as annoying, but in a more creepy way – that man scared everyone in the neighbourhood…who inspired you to write about the woman in the red stucco house?

AJB: The Red Stucco House wasn’t inspired by a person.  I had been walking down the hall at work one day and the first line–or at least the first four words–popped into my head.  “She loved that house…”  It’s not a profound thought, or really anything that would make most people think twice.  But, you know yourself, as a writer, anything is fodder for a story.  I chewed on the thought for a while, asking why she loved that house so much.  In my head I could see a game show host like Bob Barker walking around with the Barker Girls pointing out all the different reasons she loved the house.  I took Barker out of the equation and focused on the materialistic aspects and the story just kind of wrote itself.

There’s something utterly scary about extreme weather, as events throughout recent years have proven – have you ever survived a tornado, flood, etc?

AJB: The closest I’ve come to a major storm or weather event was Hurricane Hugo back when I was in my very early twenties.  It tore up Charleston and much of the coast and even did significant damage in the little town I lived in at the time, but nothing like the damage seen from Hurricane Sandy or Andrew or Katrina.  In South Carolina, most of the really bad storms seem to skirt by us.  Every once in a while, though…

It’s always so comforting to have strangers to be the bad guys, but I’ve noticed you take a lot of family as center stage of your horror…care to explain why horror is always more scary when it hits close to home?

AJB: It’s easy to be afraid of strangers.  You see someone walking down the street that may be a little shady in appearance and you cross the street hoping he doesn’t cross as well.  You’re mindful of the neighborhood you just drove into because the houses may be a little dilapidated and there are people sitting in rickety chairs out on the lawn, smoking and just kind of looking rough, wearing old clothes with holes in them and they may or may not be dirty.  It’s easy to see someone with a scowl on their face and have that nervous edge surface along your skin.  It’s just easier to be afraid of folks you don’t know.

People tend to trust family and friends, they tend to let their guard down and even overlook some quirks that they would find disturbing–or at the very least uncomfortable–in other people.  Most people can’t imagine a loved one hurting them or someone they know.  They can’t imagine a spouse would try to kill them, or that their kids could become horrible monsters.  Do you think Ted Bundy’s parents thought he would end up being a serial killer?

There’s an old saying, hold your friends close, hold your enemies closer.  Even that little proverb suggests that the people that could harm you the most are not the people you love, but enemies or strangers for that matter.

Let me pose the question back to you and the readers out there:  Which would be more disconcerting to you, a stranger who kills a child or a mother who kills her child?  They are both horrible in their own right, but the mother who kills her own child would be far worse, in my opinion, than a stranger killing a child.  The mother with her unconditional love or the stranger with no feelings at all toward the child?  To me, the most horrific events happen within the family–and often those things are covered up by other family members, which makes it that much worse.

AJBrownA.J. Brown is a kook. It’s true.  Ask him.

A.J. Brown is also a storyteller who dabbles in some of the darker words in writing.  He is a southern gentleman who enjoys strawberry Kool-aid, Legos and The Walking Dead.  Oh wait, did we say southern gentleman?  Who are we kidding?  He may be southern, but a gentleman?  Nah. He’s a country boy from a redneck family.  The southern accent is real. His new collection, Southern Bones, can be found online and in print format.  Check it out. You won’t be sorry.

The links! The links!
Southern Bones on Amazon or in print
AJ’s blog
AJ’s  facebook

Mistral

I’m no fan of French music, but Mistral Gagnant by Renaud always made me so sad…which inspired me for this flash fiction. Enjoy, peeps ♥

Sitting with you on that bench reminds me of a better time, how your little hand used to feel in mine, and your laugh sounded like the sea, peaks and rolls. But then the sky fell down on our heads, on your childish hopes, and everything changed. Even you did, you grew up and I grew old, after we lost everything and everyone.

“I won’t do it,” you say, looking straight ahead just like your mother did before an argument. Before they took her away from us, leaving a kid and her old man, barely able to sustain us both.

“You have to.” I want to scream and shout, but end up breathing out in a whisper. “You have to prove you can, or they’ll end you.” After six years of hell, hiding and scrapping life off dark corners, I thought you’d knew what to do, what would happen if you didn’t.

Dawn stretches before us, hungry birds over head at war, picking at the fresh corpses. Soon, they’ll fly down at me; not fast enough, the bullet will go through my head.

“It’s time, darling.” I stare at your eyes, sad and angry and hungry. “Then you run until you can’t no more.” Something I can’t do anymore, something I used to be best at. But then one of their weapons bit my leg and ate my flesh. It smells, it creeps up, it kills me little by little – like leaving you behind. Or are you leaving me? I can never be sure.

“But we’re the good guys, Dad…” Don’t you dare, not after all this time. Please clear your throat, please wipe your nose and stand proud – I choose when I leave, and I say it’s now. “Why do I have to…”

“Kill me, so they won’t follow.” I’ve told you so many times, weren’t you listening? What can’t you understand? “Kill me, so you will be free.” And live, a vow I can’t keep, anymore. “Do it.”

You raise the gun to my head, place it between my eyes, and cry. But don’t, think of no one depending on you, how your old bastard of a father promised you a good life but gave you trouble, in the end. The end, of a worthless existence: the end of yours, with mine.

I close my eyes, seeing the wind through your hair, the sun blinking your tears of laughter. I hear it, your voice whispering my name, your cold fingers holding tight to my hand, and the promise that soon, we will be together again.


Drum-roll, please…

I fell in love with writing in my tiny flat in Zone 2, London. It was a freezing cold night, a draft came from the single-glazed bay window of that old Edwardian front room I called my home, my fingers danced on the keyboard as words flew out, when I realized: I wouldn’t be doing anything else, right now.

Then came the Master’s in screenwriting diploma a year later. When people asked if anything happened with the scripts I’d been writing,  I replied of course not, I knew no one in Montreal, had been gone too long, lost touch, etc. So, during the two next years, I made my own short films: produced, directed, wrote – and hated it. They never were as good as what I had written, even if they were distributed and sold to TV.

Novels, I told myself. I’ll write novels, get them published, and be happy – but agents got in the way. Five years, seven projects, and about 500 rejection letters later, I still haven’t found one. Oh, I’ve gotten advice and cheers and encouragement, some said my writing was beautiful, I knew how to build up a scene, they admired me and loved my work…but no one wanted to represent me.

What is a girl to do? How do I get published without waiting another year or two to get an agent, then the rewrites, then the submission to publishing houses? Well, I sent my query to the best small publishers my research provided…

AND GIRLS & MONSTERS IS GETTING PUBLISHED BY DARKFUSE IN 2013!!!

Cheers to you all, I’m having a drink right this moment 🙂 I never thought *this* could happen that fast.

Oh, what is Girls & Monsters, you ask? It’s a collection of 5 novelettes about, well, girls and monsters. It’s dark, gloomy, aimed at the young-adult/new-adult gap, it’s scary and funny and I’m in love with each of my characters and their monsters – because don’t be fooled, we all have one waiting in the dark…

Happy Goth dance♥


Body for Body

Well. It took me 8 months to finish the dystopianly dark I WAS HERE trilogy – do NOT judge, things got in the way, like they tend to do when you least expect them to. So here’s the third and final installment, after Bullet for Bullet and Blood for Blood. Enjoy, Friday flashers 😉

Body for Body

Water dripped on metal, rusting the air. Before my eyes, steel twisted intricate patterns to form my cage. Four walls, a hole in the ground. The old warehouse housing men, killers and fathers, and me.

The night started with drunken victory chants from the Amazons on their way back from another attack. The rhythmic rhymes could be heard for miles, with the thick fog hanging low and the imminent splashes of rain overhead. They didn’t care – they’d won, always did.

“Soldier or breeder?” I asked no one in particular, scared of who they brought back. I wondered if it’d be a girl, rebelling against their ways like me, choosing this instead of killing or reproducing. “Soldier or breeder?” I asked again, wanting to know if I’d make a friend or foe.

The man in the next storage unit spat on the ground, mumbling, “Shouldn’t have kept you alive for nothing.” He’s right.

“Survivors, warriors, it’s the same to us,” said the woman in charge of everything. She spoke to a stranger, like she had to me on my first night with the Amazons. “Which path will you take, is what we need to know.”

I thought of Roman, Henryk, the other men – all this time I believed them rapists, but the girls I traveled with had planned their pregnancies from the beginning.

“Here’s our group of male breeders, but we always need more. More women to fight, more men to fuck.” Her voice rang high as she threw me a smile, knocking on my cage door for hello. It rattled, like my bones.

“No more war, no more blood. Enough,” I said.

“Body for body, each life they took we give back.” Automatic, the response she gave to every question about her method. “And we will win the war, with love and compassion, trust and freedom. We’ll change the world, you’ll see.”

The girl next to her had to decide between a crumbling building where the pregnant women waited to deliver in peace and the warehouse where soldiers in training guarded the prisoners they kept.

“I want to fight, I want to make them pay.” The girl chose her fate.

Nothing like mine, where they threw me in a cage, to control me, to make me change my mind, to make me come to them. Once again, they won.

I woke up from tension sifting the air out of the basement. The wave of it woke me up before dawn, when stars diluted the sky. Rushed voices, cracks of rocks under thick soles, then a light sparkled in the dark. The smell of burning leaves mixed with rusty metal.

“Let me out,” I begged. “Set me free,” I cried. I drank my tears, salt better than the sandpaper coating my mouth. “Don’t forget me.” But the Amazons already had, weeks ago, when I said ‘no.’

A ball of fire exploded at the back of the storage units and spread its wings with red and orange flames. Smoke thickened and scratched at my eyes, the welcoming draft bringing danger closer to me. Men screamed in pain as they cooked alive, rattling their cages as they tried to escape the inevitable fire.

I waited for the chaos to pass, crawled in a hole in the dirt. Warmth boiled my back, the walls of my cage fell and protected the little that was left of me. Then, nothing but silence.

My memories of tripping over fried bodies littering the floor were more vivid than anything else. Gunshots and smoke surrounded each step between the dilapidated buildings; screams and shouts of vengeance echoed on the walls around me. But I ran, away from them.

Through the rain, under the sun, splashing through the creek and dusting the road. A quiet place to end my days, to stop my heart from beating. Because to live meant to kill, to take life away; whether by gun or giving life. Not me, never. Like an animal, I’ll die alone.


Blood for Blood

Sequel to my #Fridayflash Bullet for Bullet – enjoy ♥

Blood for Blood

The rain grayed the sky and blackened our footsteps. Around us buildings crumbled and bones burned, and life buzzed, hiding in dark corners. For days, the thump of my soles hit the asphalt at the same beat as the others. Becoming one, as if I belonged.

“Healthy girls have no choice.” He’d been right – how do you say no to a gun? “We’re letting you live, should be thankful,” Romain said, the leader of this tribe of kidnappers and their victims. The plume of his breath died in the wind, along with my resolve to rebel and run away. Nowhere to go but Hell.

After the war, the explosions and the terror, after losing everything and everyone, where was my will to fight? At the sight of the men’s guns, the smoking snouts left me cold; at the sound of their gunshots and screams of victory, I lost all hope. I’m with the bad ones, I am one of them.

The other women watched my every move, their gazes printing cold marks on my neck and face. Motherly Josie, sexy Carmen, childish Kay, and me, beauty queen turned tomboy. I should have carved a scar on my cheek and plucked out my lashes.

“After tonight, we’ll be at sea,” Josie whispered. They never talked to me: the new girl they’d betray the second they got the chance. No alliance, no safety net, Tim once said. “And then who knows what they’ll do with us.”

“We’re good for two things.” Carmen frowned as I slowed down by her side. “Screw and cook. There’s nothing left to put in the pot, they’re getting restless. Watch them beg once we turn the guns on them.” There was a plan, but I wasn’t part of it.

Romain stopped the pack from crossing the destroyed boulevard, looming skyscrapers reflecting clouds and smoke. The men waited as their leader faced us, eyes seeking mine before finding Carmen’s. Shadows moved behind the building’s glass – people, lots of them, watching us.

“What is it, Carmensita?” His French accent changed the S into Z. “What is that buzzing I hear?” I jumped at the clank of his gun and moved away, my back stopped by the corpse roped to the sleigh. I gagged at the smell, at what was about to happen. Would my body be tied next to the dead man’s?

Carmen straightened up, hand on her hip, defiant. “You heard me, you barbaric piece of shit.”

Romain smiled at the challenge. “We played by your rules, didn’t we?” The other men circled the women, me included. “Should be happy, your meeting point and one more soldier.” They were talking about me. I’m the soldier, but for which army?

“Blood for blood, you’re worth what you spilled.” Faster than I expected, the women drew weapons and Carmen shot Romain. “That’s for my kid. And that,” bang, another man fell, “is for my mother, too old to come with us.” Revenge, the women wanted revenge.

“Stop, don’t!” cried Henryk, the second in command. Hands in the air, his head shook and his voice trembled. “I’ve always been nice to you, Carm…” bang, he died from Kay’s bullet to the head. I looked away from the brains coming out of the shredded hole.

“For Martha, for my sister.” Bang, bang, Josie killed two others.

“And this one is for me, for her, and for every woman we knew.” Carmen shot with perfect aim and a cold gaze, never leaving the weapon’s sight. Not even when she aimed it at me. “And you, should we keep you around?”

For my bravery, I wouldn’t fall from pain or break to pieces after a loss. I didn’t after my makeshift family stared at me from the window as an explosion rocked the ground and killed them all. For my cowardice, I never tried to plan against the men, like Carmen and the others had.

“I have nothing left to lose.” No truer words ever escaped my lips. No heart, no soul, no home, no love.  I have nothing to lose because I’ve become nothing.


Bullet for Bullet

I had a dream and transcribed it as a #Fridayflash. Enjoy:)

Bullet for Bullet

We should have been more careful, hid better. We thought that in the rows of deserted homes and abandoned streets, no one would see us, sense us. How wrong we were.

Tim was drying the dishes I passed to him, Maria kept her legs up after having cooked all afternoon, and the kids played with the dog and the cockatoo. A perfect family picture, except that two weeks ago, we hadn’t known each other. Two weeks ago plus one day, my real family died before my eyes.

“What’s that sound?” Tim stopped me from running water over the soapy plates and we both leaned in toward the open window. “Is that a wheel creaking?” he asked me, as if I knew.

The kids stopped playing, everyone stared at each other. We’ve been found.

“Should we run?” Maria’s voice, barely audible over the racket coming from outside, came too late, like her plan. “Can you see them?”

From our third story apartment, we watched a small group of survivors passing down the small alley, doing like us and hiding from the roads. Through the dead tree branches and the ashen grounds, a man looked straight at us. Without a word, he pointed then invited me with his index finger.

“Can you manage by yourself?” asked Tim, but we all thought the same: doesn’t matter, they’ll want to meet us all anyway. “Too late to hide the food, but Sam and Miko can be quieted down.” The dog and the bird, a feast for hungry men, but dear companions to us. Luxury, keeping pets.

“Yeah, maybe in the back shed?” My voice sounded strange, higher than usual. I glanced at the kids hiding in Maria’s arms, then tried to lie the best I could. “They’re like us, don’t be afraid.” I stepped out, not finding the strength to smile or breathe.

The stairwell had been left as found, and every time we passed through, it tinted our clothes with black dust. Soles cracked the debris on each step, warning us if someone ever approached, although no one had. Until now.

Outside, the stink of gunpowder and burnt wood greeted me with its clouds overhead and smog lying close to the asphalt. Not thick enough to conceal any of us, or any of them.

They stood by the fence; their makeshift sleigh with water barrels and crates of food guarded by two thugs. They checked me out, wolf-whistled, but all I saw were guns.

“Hey there.” He spoke with a French accent, and the creases on his face showed he was mid-forties under the black gunk. “Would you care to show us your home? Just to make sure you’re abiding to the code, you know.”

I signed for him to follow me, and when two others moved in our direction, I said, loud enough, “Bullet for bullet. One of yours’ shoot, we do the same.” I lifted my chin toward Tim, aiming our sole weapon at them from up there. Five shells left, one for each of us if anything bad happened.

“Of course, we know how to play.” The man walked behind me, and although I heard only his footsteps, I couldn’t help but look over my shoulder. Three women, eight men and a corpse hanging at the back of the sleigh. A warning or a loved one? “How long you’ve lived here?”

“Two weeks.” The initial contact, I wanted to remain silent. Tim was the diplomatic one, the one people believed. When the silence became unbearable – around the second floor – I asked, “How long you’ve been running?” They were nomads, gypsies, pirates. The worst kind of humans.

“Much like you, about fourteen days.” His accent clashed against the empty rooms and echoed back to me.

“Go in,” I said with a quick shake of the head. When he opened the door, Maria and the kids stood up with fear in their eyes, I had to turn away. I jumped at the thud of thick wood closing behind me and knew with certainty: I’ll never see these people again.


2012 Resolutions

New year’s melancholy. What I used to be, who I wanted to become. Have I changed? Probably. But one thing remains: to aspire to something different.

Write More * Write Better * Write for me

In the spirit of this list of wishes, here’s a flash inspired by this dream I’ve had just before waking up. You know the kind – one that stays with you all day, that you can’t push out of your mind. And days later, you just have to bleed it on the page.

On the Rocks

Clever, they pretended to be something else. A meteorite shower all over our planet, but nothing to worry about. Brown shapeless space stones weren’t a concern to us, until they landed.

Inside, millions waiting to take our place, to send us away. Ships lined up, futile fighting ended in death; my father, the neighbor, our president. The only hand left to hold was my mother’s.

Through the shredding of our lives, she smiled at me. I asked her: In the wide map of black above, will we lose ourselves? She said: Between the stars and the moon, nothing will catch us if we fall.

 

For all of you who are still missing out, City of Hell is on the loose, catch it if you can while one of the wonderful stories is FREE


Chatting with Lisa Forget

I’ve been meeting such great people from around the world on Kelley Armstrong’s forum, that when I learned that Lisa Forget lived close to me, I almost didn’t believe it! This gal is a well-rounded artist, and with her new short story available at MuseItUp Publishing, she’s now a published author, too.

 

Me: You’ve kept your approach to romantic vampirism fresh even if it sometimes feel like it’s all been said and done in that genre. What/who inspired Deathly Quiet?

 Lisa Forget: First, I want to thank you Anne for inviting me to chat. I’m thrilled you feel my little dark tale might offer something fresh for those who enjoy this genre.

Although, I’ve always loved stories about vampires – especially written in the gothic style – I never intended to write one.

Deathly Quiet was inspired by a little street in Montreal, near where I grew up. Just like Moira, it always intrigued and frightened me and as a child I was convinced the houses on the street were haunted. When I grew up I often drove by Sebastopol street just to soak up the ambiance and to watch the Caleche drivers tend the horses in the stables that exist there even today. One night, after driving through that part of town, I set my mind to writing a dark tale about an young woman coming face to face with terror. Writing the story “by the seat of my pants” I started with a young Irish girl named Moira, a creepy street named Sebastopol Row, an inky-black crow and a pool of dripping blood and let the words flow. The moment I penned the stranger stepping out of the shadows – he bared his teeth at me. That’s when I knew he was a vampire. Perhaps my deep-rooted feelings about the street, the stables, the houses, coloured my story and my love of the gothic style decided my traditional treatment of him. In a way it was as though one of my childhood nightmares had come to life.

Me: Loving this – I do the same, Iinspire myself from what surrounds me, and then of course I twist it into my own darkness. When you write, do you need to be in a frame of mind? Do you put music on? Does it influence your writing?

Lisa Forget: Usually, I only sit down to pen a story if I’m in the right mood. The only time I “force” myself is if I’m doing NaNoWriMo or editing. However, sometimes I do put on music to heighten creativity right before I sit down at the computer. I usually turn the music off once I begin typing. Yes, I’d say music does influence my writing. Three bands who get my creative juices flowing are Hedley, Coldplay and Muse. Their music and lyrics touch me and spark ideas.

Me: What are you future writing plans? Other paranormal short stories in the works? Or maybe a novel?

Lisa Forget: At the moment, I’m awaiting the first edits from my publisher for a YA short story entitled “Leapling”It’s slated for February 2012. And, I’m writing some dark shorts for a project I’m collaborating on with Pat Hollett and Tammy Crosby – an anthology called “Bleeding Ink – a collection of Dark Tales.” We’re compiling a collection of creative and dark stories from talented writers like you Anne….hint, hint.

My plan is to finish the stories I started…. LOL! I have several. What I’m presently working on is “The Guardian of Secrets” – a paranormal romance. I’m also editing two completed novels, “The Powers Within” (YA) and “Love Eternal” another paranormal romance. “Love Eternal” was the very first writing project I completed a few years ago based on a 5th century Welsh legend. Once I’m done the edits I plan to submit the stories to my publisher. Hopefully they’ll like them and I’ll have reason to write a sequel to Powers and finish the sequel to Eternal!

Deathly Quiet is a hauting tale of love and regret, get it now