Stitched Saturday! 3.25.17

carnival


By David Court

They say that if you listen hard enough on a dark windless night, you can hear the screams of laughter over the distant echoes of a discordant carnival calliope.
But not tonight. The only sound tonight is that of relentless rain, the occasional crack of thunder slamming through the firmament to break the monotony. It thumps against torn and decayed tarpaulin and clatters against rusted corrugated iron roofing.
Marlowe’s Fair has been closed for the best part of two decades, a graveyard of abandoned skeletal structures hurriedly left behind. Abandoned booths and faded novelty bins – anthropomorphic jungle creatures with ragged toothed mouths agape – dot the landscape like funeral cairns.
Larry pressed his back against the boarded-up door of the haunted house, hugging himself tightly as defence against the torrential downpour as he sheltered in the doorway. He wasn’t alone – an assortment of crudely airbrushed life-size wooden figures – each portraying a classic horror character – stood there in the mock graveyard that lay in front of the rotting façade of a building. A barely recognisable rendition of Lon Chaney’s wolfman stood there, staring at him.
A loud voice pierced the white noise of the rainfall, inches away from him. It was all Larry could do not to shriek out in surprise.
“They’re coming to get you, Barbara!”
Larry emerged from behind the wooden figure. He had a wild-eyed and savage expression, bared teeth and fingers curled into claws.
“That was zombies, not werewolves.” sighed Larry, fear replaced by burgeoning annoyance as his heart-rate slowly returned to normal.
“Oh well,” shrugged Mark, gesturing to Larry. “Come on, walk with me.”
Larry straightened his jacket and walked to join Mark, who had already started slowly heading towards the centre of the fairground. Larry felt uneasy, although he was unsure why.
“Where are we going?” he asked, finally caught up with his colleague. Mark strode purposefully and that, combined with the man’s preternaturally long legs, meant Larry had to move at a half-jog just to keep up.
“The old coaster.”
Larry froze, an almost overwhelming sense of dread locking him to the spot. Mark stopped as well but didn’t turn around. Mark’s shoulders slumped with resignation, as thought he’d expected it.
“I… I don’t want to. Do we have to?”
“You know we do. Come on.”
Without turning, Mark continued onwards. Despite his better judgement, Larry followed.
The old wooden coaster loomed up ahead. It looked more like a massive scale art installation now than a ride, huge metal supports bearing broken and dangling track. Almost on cue, thunder cracked across the heavens and illuminated the massive decayed structure for the briefest of moments. Stalagmites of wood and steel, piercing the heavens.
The two of them walked past the sun-faded “You must be this tall” sign, zig-zagging through the tangled and toppled rusted barriers. Every time Larry hesitated, Mark tenderly took his hand and urged him on. It was only now that Larry realised that, despite the rain, he was bone dry.
With every step they took, the scenery was replaced. A pitch-black night of rainfall became a grey late autumn afternoon, empty lines became crowded with laughing and excited children.
None of them cared as Larry and Mark pushed their way to the front of the queue. A bright red train pneumatically hissed to a stop in front of them, and they clambered in. No sooner had the metal harnesses locked them in place when their train – already packed with crowds of children – began to clatter its way up the first slope, the rhythmic click click click of thick metal chains strained to their maximum.
“I know what’s coming,” sobbed Larry, “You need to stop this.”
“Can’t stop now, Larry. We’ve already started.”
The slope in front of them seemed to stretch upwards forever, extending even as Larry watched.
Larry turned to look at his colleague, tears filling his eyes.
“I remember, Mark. There’s not a day I don’t remember.”
“But you didn’t remember to check the roller-coaster track that day, did you, Larry? You didn’t send the test cart around like you were supposed to, did you? Your hangover took precedence. If you’d sent that empty train around, you would have seen what happened to it and… well, I guess you know the rest.”
“Twenty years I’ve had to live with that, Mark. Twenty years.”
“That’s twenty more years than any of the children got, Larry. Ironic that in the end though that you went the same way as your rollercoaster – death through neglect.”
The top of the slope was nearing now, the train slowly righting itself as they reached the summit. Anticipatory children’s screams filled the air but all Larry could see was the track ahead – that one metal support that had rusted and cracked, the wooden tracks just twisted enough that the cart would be sent hurtling towards the ground.
“Same time tomorrow, Larry.”
That sense of weightlessness, the pressure contorting Larry’s face, the knot in his stomach.
They say that if you listen hard enough on a dark windless night, you can hear the screams.


Fifty Shades of Carousel
Mike L Lane

Broken down and abandoned, the carousel’s shoulders slumped and she stared at the cracked pavement in shame. Her life had been picked clean by vultures and her gears glistened with rust stained tears. The storm had washed away the love she had known and most of the secrets she kept dear. Gone were the days of happy passengers, spinning around gleefully with no destination in mind and no reason to want one. Gone were the intoxicating smells of the midway permeating the air, seductively luring in marks to her charms. Gone was the intoxicated barker that pushed her buttons like an abusive lover and sent her whirling into the night with a head full of emotions, both fearful and aroused. She loathed the ride jockey, but she missed him, too.
He had always been the one to keep her engine running. Whenever she felt out of sorts and longed for rest, he was the one with the magic touch who could get her to do things no one else could. When one of the passengers dropped their half-eaten caramel apple in her lap, the barker cleansed her and made her feel new and alive. When plush animals found a way beneath her tracks, it was the barker that slid his hands beneath her and removed the foreign object with care. She missed the whiskey on his breath as he leaned over her burst safety valve and tinkered her into submission. She longed for his rough hands beneath her chassis. They had a bond like no other and though he often cursed her, she knew the barker loved her.
He had not always been faithful, though. There were times when he would bring one of the other carnies onboard for a late night romp, forcing her to watch. She knew it got him off, having sex with someone else while she suffered in tearful silence. He acted as if she weren’t even there, but she knew better. He wanted her to see. He wanted her to hurt. She didn’t understand why he could be so callous, but she never protested. These were just flings, of course. A man being a man she supposed. Someday he would stop all of this foolishness and love only her.
On the night of the storm, he had forced himself on one of the marks and ravaged the slut inside of the carousel’s housing. The woman had screamed and fought in vain to escape the clutches of her beloved barker, but he had only flipped the music switch to drown her out. He continued his debauchery without a second thought, bending the woman over her engine and having his way. The maddening polka waltz blared into the night air and the girl’s screams mingled in like violin strings plucked by a child. She remained a silent witness to this atrocity for as long as she could in hopes that he would stop and send the unworthy woman on her way. But whiskey controlled her man and he bobbed on like the horses on her platform. Anger bubbled up inside her and she made a decision. She would show him that this was wrong and that he loved her more than this ungrateful woman ever could. Careful not to harm him, she set herself in motion and slammed one of her pistons down on the girl’s head, silencing her screams forever in one blunt, bone-crunching stomp. The barker jerked back in horrified astonishment, splattered with blood and chunks. The body twitched and shuddered before collapsing into a heap, caught in her mechanics and gumming up her works. Her motor cursed in protest and she patiently waited for her love’s caressing hands to set her right again. Instead, he fled into the pouring rain, never to be seen again.
It had taken a long time for her motors to stop running, but the heartbreak of her abandonment by the only man she had ever loved was enough to seize her engine. Sorrow weighed heavy on her heart, but she knew she would have her revenge. Someday someone would come along and discover the rotting corpse within her housing. Someday they would drag that stinking mess out of her and find the barker’s nametag clutched in its cold, dead hand. He would be sorry for abandoning her. She would see to it.


Carousel of dreams
Jason Morton

It was a child. It always started with a child. The end of life was wanted by the time the child reached adult hood. The playground faded into memory as death played the role of mother, maiden, and crone. Visions never sought began to invade like vampires to blood we remember everything. The old carousel faded into second hand photographs of empty yesterdays. while it started with a child it ended with an old shell of a body that never knew, never cared, and sadly never tried.


The Undead Fair
James Matthew Byers

The carnival had lain in waste,
An empty husk of trash.
Departed long ago, the taste
A rank decaying rash
Within the lining of each booth
As ghosts and ghouls alike
Enlivened up the sunken roof-
A carousel and pike
Around and round with no one seen
As horse and pig at play
In motion routed king and queen
And spirits on flambé
Engaged in eating popcorn hulls
Remaining in the mind.
The sounds of laughter never dulls,
Residual and blind.
For all the long departed come
And join the festive flare,
Remembering where they are from-
Alive, the undead fair …


By Briana Robertson

A sinister silence looms over the abandoned park, keen and unyielding as the blade of an executioner’s axe. No critters creep. No crickets chirp. The wind itself won’t risk the barest whisper.

Nothing stirs. The equine figures that once danced merrily ‘round and around lie in collapsed ruin, their joints buckled and broken, their eyes wide in eternal tortured agony. Wooden tracks, once the blazing trail of thrill-seeking shrieks, are now nothing more than splintered shards that threaten to skewer any foolish creature who dares come too close. Dull remains of once-bright awnings hang in lifeless tatters, the unwilling victims of unrelenting time.

Heavy clouds crawl across the sky, blocking out the stars, and drenching the place in a pervasive dampness. The cloying scent of rotting things permeates, seeping into every hidden nook and cranny; it assaults the nostrils and causes the stomach to roil.

Just beyond a warped and errant Ferris wheel, a solitary figure stands in shadow. A malignant aura enshrouds him, poisoning the air he breathes: an admonition that warns life has no place here. But life isn’t what he seeks.

A single tear slips down his cheek, a lonely tribute to this place; to what it once was, and what it will never be again.

A shot shatters the silence, the echoing sound waves ricocheting off the forgotten rides and attractions. The figure crumples, an accursed corpse left to decay in this barren graveyard of forsaken dreams.

Moments pass. Heavy silence returns. On the far north end of the park, a sliver of moonlight breaks through the clouds and glints off the face of the funhouse. The windows gleam, and the doorway gapes; the building seems to grin. And whatever grim presence lurks there, gloats.



Unhorsed

by Daniel L. Naden

The carnival grounds were empty.

They’d been abandoned for as long as Martin could recall, a decrepit collection of rusting rides and rotting buildings that extended beyond the end of the boardwalk, and they were still abandoned as he stepped off the sea-blanched planking onto the dirt paths. He didn’t know anyone who had ever seen the carnival in operation, but neither did he know anyone who came here. Which, in a way, was kind of odd.

He’d come to the grounds to settle a score. His gang, the Bars, was on the way. They’d been trailing behind as he went ahead to meet up with the head of the Walkers, the gang who controlled the boardwalk and beach. the Walkers ran drugs, and pimped out a few girls, but mainly, they were there to serve as the eyes and ears and on-the-ground muscle for the mob guys who ran the restaurants and casinos on the boardwalk. It was primo turf, to be sure, but the Walkers weren’t going to have it after tonight.

A week ago, a group of Walkers took a stroll, bold as hell, through Martin’s turf. They walked into the little convenience store that served as a front for the Bars’ own drug trade and robbed it. Kicked the shit out of the guys who were there and swiped a good chuck of their supply.

Ordinarily, Martin would’ve loaded up a couple cars, gone over to where the Walkers hung out, and shot it, and as many Walkers as the could find, full of bullet holes. Martin didn’t mind playing hard when he needed to. And he didn’t mind killing a bunch of those Walker pussies, either. But the Walkers were connected to the mob, so Martin had to be careful. Turf wars are one thing. Mob wars, something else.

So Martin went to talk to the mob boss, first.

Jako Czernik was known for being a brutal bastard, but he was also reputed to like ambition. When Martin explained, both his need for payback against the Walkers, Czernik looked bored … dangerously so. But when Martin hinted that he’d been looking for a way to take over the boardwalk and beach from the Walkers, Czernik had become interested in a hurry. Martin had left with Czernik’s blessing to face, and fight, with the Walkers … but with the warning that it had to stay out of sight.

Czernik suggested the carnival grounds, which was weird because, until that moment, Martin had forgotten the grounds existed. He’d been on the boardwalk plenty of times over the years; played on the beach as a little kid. Often enough, one would think, to have noticed an abandoned carnival at the west end of the beach and boardwalk. And yet, the place defied description. It was a hard place to think about … at least it was until he got here and started looking around.

All around him were silent shopfronts with vacant windows like dark eyes, weak shadows cast gray by overcast skies. Rides everywhere were falling apart. A fiberglass climbing attraction was treacherous with rotting ropes and sun-splintered holes — especially in the three-story slides. The legs and framing of the wooden roller coaster leaned drunkenly, causing the track to warp crazily in some places, fracture in other. In the center of it all stood the carousel. Pieces and panels hung askew and at some point, a tarpaulin had blown to be tangled over the roof. The horses, however, were gone. Martin thought they’d probably been sold off when the carnival closed down.

So certainly, the whole place was falling apart. And yet, at a glance, nothing had been vandalized. As far as Martin could see, there was little trash, no broken bottles or used rubbers or any of the usual leavings of the druggies who would ordinarily have loved a place like this.

There were no tags or other graffiti painted on the barren clapboard walls … as if even the gangs didn’t come here or want to claim the grounds as their territory. Weird.

Martin took a glance over his shoulder. His guys should’ve been there by now.

Martin took a step toward one of the booths, reacting to a noise he heard, or thought he heard, when a voice came from behind him.

“Hey, puto…”

Martin turned slowly to see Fazio, standing with his Walkers right at the edge of the boardwalk. Fazio’s face was split with a shit-eating grin.

“You here all alone?” he said.

“What’s it to you?” Martin replied. He gestured at the Walkers. “You must be scared of me to bring so many. It ain’t enough.”

Behind Fazio, his guys bristled at the comment, but Fazio waved them back.

“We’re not here to fight you, Martin,’ he said. “We’re here to watch.”

“Watch what?”

“Jako called me today and told me an interesting story,” Fazio’s smile grew even larger, but looked far less genial. “He said that some jerk wanted to horn in on our turf.”

“So?”

“So he sent you here and asked us to come here and watch you.”

“Watch me what?” Martin asked.

“Watch you here,” Fazio said. “At sunset.”

“What happens at sunset?”

Fazio darkened, as if a cloud passed over his face. He pointed at the sky behind Martin.

“Watch and see.”

Through the overcast, last of the setting sun cast rays over the edge of the horizon. Then, it was gone.

As if in response, Martin felt the ground shudder and heard distant sounds like something was screaming. He turned, trying to locate the source, then spun the other way, but couldn’t find where it was coming from.

The thudding sounds grew closer.

Rather than wait for whatever it was that Fazio … and Czernik, apparently … had set him up for, Martin decided to run. To find high ground.

He sprinted between the shopfront and the carousel, aiming for the climbing structure, but stopped, frozen in place, at what he saw.

Horses. Carousel horses, along with a variety of other creatures: panthers, an elephant and a rhino, several unicorns, among others, lost in the rising cloud of dust.

They thundered up the dirt path on the other side of the shopfront — still painted with gaudy colors and carved, seemingly, with the same dramatic features. Their eyes, though. Those were alive, glowing as if lit afire by the setting sun’s rays. Their eyes were focused on Martin. On the intruder in their realm.

Martin changed his tack right away. Amid the shock of seeing carven animals come to life, one part of his brain was screaming at him to find high ground — like the climbing structure. Another part, a cold, rational part, whispered through the panic, telling him that to climb was to die. That height couldn’t be trusted to keep him safe from whatever fucked up magic animated those animals.

Instead, he turned back the way he came. Back to the entrance to the grounds. To the boardwalk where Fazio and the Walkers waited. He didn’t figure they’d let him escape — not since this seemed to be an execution — but he liked his chances better with them than any of the crazy shit chasing him now.

His path back, however, took him closer to the horses. He could feel the heat from their eyes; could hear faint hints of panted breath; could smell the sweat and froth from their mouths, a smell that reminded him of roadkill gone bloated under the sun.

A unicorn was closest to him and it swung its horn as it lunged, carving a ribbon of fire across his back. Martin stumbled and almost lost his footing, but somehow was able to spin away and find extra space to start running again.

Back throbbing, he sprinted toward the entrance. Behind him, a cat yowled, like a lover’s whisper in his ear, but he didn’t dare glance back. In front of him, Fazio and the Walkers locked arms, getting ready to bounce him back, like the world’s most fucked up game of Red Rover.

Right before he was caught behind, right before he would’ve crashed into the Walkers’ line, Martin played his last gambit:

He dove to the ground.

He was almost certain he was committing his last act, a fatal one. That the carnival monsters would close on him and rip him to shreds. Or that they’d bounce off the entrance and back into the grounds … and then rip him to shreds.

What he didn’t count on was the dust.

He face-planted into the ground and, in his slide, scooped up a lot of dust. His momentum carried him painfully up over the planked edge of the boardwalk, to land at the feet of Fazio. He saw Fazio raise a foot to kick him back in…

But at that moment, the thudding thunder passed over Martin — to fall on Fazio and the Walkers. Their screams started right away, as did a sound of carnage that Martin was never able to later describe.

Martin dragged himself painfully up to his feet, still half-expecting the animals to turn on him. But when they finished with the Walkers, leaving behind a smoldering, bloody arc of viscera, the sprinted down the boardwalk — past the restaurants and the night ocean glittering with the nearby lights. He saw the carousel animals turn into the final casino on the row; the ritziest one; the one owned by a certain Old World mobster.

He hoped Czernik was ready for visitors. Martin didn’t think the animals would be returning to the grounds for most of the rest of the evening.

 


DON’T FORGET!  You can join in by commenting!

Interview with Lisa Vasquez and MF Wahl for Dread Central

Sometimes I come out of the basement…

http://www.dreadcentral.com/news/214013/exclusive-qa-with-stitched-smile-publications-ceo-lisa-vasquez/

Let’s Talk: Uncensored

Author_Lisa_VasquezAs the CEO of an independent publishing company, things are hard. Let’s be honest, I’m not making six figures or living the life of luxury. You know what, though? That’s not why I do what I do.

Sometimes, people do things because the passion is there. That’s why we have “starving artists”. It’s about the art, the craft, or the calling that comes from someplace else. It doesn’t let you eat or sleep unless you’re pursuing it. Stitched Smile Publications is that calling for me.

I don’t do this for the fame. I don’t care if my name is mentioned alongside the logo. I do this because I want to elevate the independent authors and the independent companies who share the vision.

What I’ve seen lately has broken my heart.

Dishonest business practices standing at the pulpit in front of its flock. People are inherently good and want to help others. They give when they have little to assist those they perceive as suffering. In the end, what happens is bitterness and distrust because they eventually find out the wool was pulled over their eyes.

This … is why the Indie World has such a bad reputation.

Be honest. You put more into the business than you could afford. You screwed up. People appreciate honesty. I don’t want a sob story. I want deep down, gut wrenching honesty.

I guess it stems from my own origins. (And NO this isn’t a sob story, these are facts) My parents never had much. My father was a multi-recipient kidney transplant patient. I watched my parents struggle my entire life. Ever shared a can of asparagus among 5 people? Ever search the couches for change so your kids could eat that night? That’s where I come from.

You want to know what my dad did? He worked.

He went to dialysis in the morning. He came home, took an hour nap. He got up and went to school and made the Dean’s list. He came home and took a nap. He got up at 7 P.M., ate dinner and worked until 4 am at a band gig. He picked up milk and cereal on the way home and woke us kids up for school.

This man killed himself to make sure the bills were paid. The best thing about him was that he could turn an idea into a real business. He was honest, and hard working and watching him create something from nothing with his wife by his side was nothing less than inspirational.

He went from working menial jobs to owning his own successful business. He didn’t do it with hand outs. He saved and worked extra hours (yes, even as a terminally sick man with 3 hours of sleep a night), and he went without. We all did, because we had faith in him.

And my mother? My mother worked a shit job because insurance companies wouldn’t take my dad with his condition. He was dying and they were killing themselves to keep him alive. See the irony here? She would work from 5 A.M. until 2 P.M. on her feet in heels (the owner insisted) as a hostess for a restaurant down the block so she could be close to home in case my father ended up in the emergency room -which happened quite often.

I don’t know how many times we’d come home to an empty house and wonder if our dad was going to come through the door that night.

We were the only kids in grammar school (back in Stone Age) with written consent from the principal to carry pagers. We had to know if we were being picked up by family friends or just going home to …wait.

I watched the tears well in my parent’s eyes when they couldn’t give us a new pair of shoes or afford to buy the name brand cereal we loved. (Though mom got creative and put the generic cereal in the name brand boxes…took us yeeeaaars to catch on. Good one, mom.)

Because I had them as role models, I’ve been sitting here every month putting all the money I have into this company. There were times I wondered how to make the bills and not once did I think to ask for money for the light bill. Not once did I set up a GoFund to help myself. If I set up campaigns or GoFund it’s to help my authors because I know if I help my business, I help myself.

I have no business running a business if I don’t know how to! My authors count on me…Do I make mistakes? Hell, yes. And I am open about it. I’m honest and say, “I fucked up. I’m sorry.”

I don’t lie about it. Once you shake the congregation’s faith, you’re done. I’d rather give you something for the money you donate or offer to me, or do some work for you in return than to be handed charity or help for a dishonest reason.

So What Are My Other Options?

Patreon [link] – (from their page) 

Patreon is the best way for creators to earn ongoing revenue directly from their fans.

For creators, Patreon is a way to get paid for creating the things you’re already creating (webcomics, videos, songs, whatevs). Fans pay a few bucks per month OR per post you release, and then you get paid every month, or every time you release something new. Learn more about becoming a creator on Patreon HERE.

For patrons, Patreon is a way to join your favorite creator’s community and pay them for making the stuff you love. Instead of literally throwing money at your screen (trust us, that doesn’t work), you can now pay a few bucks per month or per post that a creator makes.  For example, if you pay $2 per video, and the creator releases 3 videos in February, then your card gets charged a total of $6 that month.  This means the creator gets paid regularly (every time she releases something new), and you become a bonafide, real-life patron of the arts.  That’s right–Imagine you, in a long frilly white wig, painted on a 10-foot canvas on the wall of a Victorian mansion.  And imagine your favorite creators making a living doing what they do best… because of you.

Tee-Spring [link]

Teespring is a platform for custom apparel. The company was founded by Walker Williams and Evan Stites-Clayton in 2011 in Providence, RI as a way to simplify the process of selling custom T-shirts.

Now, if you’re reading this and you’re offended? This may apply to you. It stands to reason that if this rubs you wrong, you might have less than honorable intentions.

Let me make it clear, if you genuinely have no other recourse than to ask for help and you’ve exhausted all other options, this post is not aimed at you. People sometimes need help. People want to help.

People also want to lie.

Be careful. Ask questions (you have a right to ask them). Ask for transparency (receipts for charitable donations, records, etc.). The last thing I want is to have good people lose money. That goes for those needing it, and those giving it.

 

 

logoABOUT THE AUTHOR: By design, Lisa Vasquez creates horror with vivid, dark, and twisted words and images that not only drags the reader in between the pages, but onto the covers that house them, as well. When she releases her grasp, readers are left alone to sort through the aftermath those images leave behind; each one becoming a seed that roots itself within the soft confines of their psyche. She takes this passion for writing horror and uses it to mentor other authors and volunteers as the Publisher’s Liaison for the Horror Writers Association. In January 2016, Lisa took her commitment to the next level and opened an independent publishing house, Stitched Smile Publications.

You can read Lisa’s work in several anthologies, or by purchasing her newly released novel, “The Unfleshed: Tale of the Autopsic Bride”. For more information and updates on Lisa’s work, you can find her at: http://www.unsaintly.com or on Facebook (facebook.com/unsaintlyhalo), Twitter (@unsaintly), Instagram (unsaintly)

 

 

WIHM8 – Writer Vs Editor – Briana/Kate

reaper“Katelyn Murphy is everything one could ask for in an editor; not only does she catch all of the grammatical and/or punctuation errors that inevitably accompany any first (and subsequent) draft(s), she is also an extremely insightful and in-depth reader, with the ability to offer helpful suggestions that will take any story to the next level and beyond. 
With clean highlighting and detailed notes, Kate manages to point out inaccuracies, inconsistencies, areas of repetition, etc., while always maintaining a positive tone and encouraging attitude. From the beginning of our working relationship, Kate has been open, friendly, and available. She is always ready and willing to engage in discussion regarding my work, and she never insists that changes be made based strictly on her own thoughts and opinions; rather, she makes inquiries about the intention behind the work, and how that intention might be maintained while still elevating the work itself. 
How does she keep the tears … uh, I mean the doubt away? Well, she’s honest. She lets me know what works and what doesn’t. She points out things that make my stories both weaker and stronger, and helps me find the best way to tell the strongest story possible while remaining true to myself as an author. It’s as simple–and as complicated–as that. 
Long story short? Katelyn Murphy is a kickass editor, and I wouldn’t trade her for the world.”
Briana Robertson

WIHM8 SSP Style! Kate Murphy

Our second lady of WIHM8 is Kate Murphy. Kate came to us as an intern with SNHU and fit into our little family like a long lost little sister. Her skill as an editor is exemplary and she also does book cover work!

Kate is an easy going, down to earth gal. Let’s get to know her!

 

Short Bio

Kate Murphy is a Michigander-turned-New Yorker-turned-Michigander-again who has a Bachelor of Science degree in Graphic Design and a Master of Arts in English and Creative Writing. She loves thrillers, and what really scares her (aside from heights and insects) are books and films that make her think, “This could totally happen.”—i.e. serial killers, exes who have gone off the deep end, etc.

When she’s not editing for SSP, Kate, unsurprisingly, spends her days writing. She is currently working on a steampunk fantasy titled “Cantilever,” which explores the ins and outs and ups and downs of life atop a giant bridge.

Website: www.kmurphy.me

Books Edited

  • “Reaper: A Collection of Stories by Briana Robertson”
  • Select stories in “Unleashed – Monsters vs. Zombies” volumes 1 and 2
    • Prometheus Lives
    • Dead Spell
    • The Unchosen
    • Red Ashes – Return of the Sweeping Death
    • Science Voodoo
    • KERBEROS MF1

Favorite Quotes by Author Briana Robertson

  • “We’ve got better things to do than dwell on the dead.” – Briana Robertson (“Prey”)
  • “This creature has intelligence that its brethren do not. I feel a vicious, vindictive smile creeping onto my face. Intelligence means a challenge.” – Sam Fraser (“Prometheus Lives”)
  • “Tragedy has struck more than the heart of our clan on this cloudless night.” – Michael Musclow (“Red Ashes”)
  • “I can be pretty badass when I need to be. I’m Death.” – Roger Jackson (“Science Voodoo”)
  • “I forced myself to examine the city down below again and witnessed the town I grew up in devour itself and turn to ash.” Otis Carlisle (“The Unchosen”)
  • “It was like an entire continent of the damned had been lifted off of the planet and hurtled slowly at Charon’s little pier on the beach.” – Peter Demmon (pen name “DEMMON”) (“KERBEROS MF1”)
  • “The end, m’boy,” the witch said. “This is how humanity dies.” – Mark Deloy (“Dead Spell”)

Women In Horror:Stitched Style

This month is be going to be fun. I have some Women in Horror who you are really going to want to stalk.

Coming 2/6/17:
M.F. Wahl
Briana Robertson
Veronica Smith
Donelle Pardee Whiting

More to come, keep your eyes peeled.

Not Like It Used To Be

Families line the streets. Kids are bundled in coats, hats, gloves and blankets. Adults stand or sit in folding chairs, hands in pockets or laps, their excitement matching the children’s. A chill hugs each person tight. Teeth clatter, legs shake and dance; people trying to stay warm. Hot chocolate and coffee work for a while, but fade, leaving shivers along spines.

“How much longer, Momma?” they asks, young eyes and hearts waiting, hoping to catch a glimpse of an elf or reindeer or even Santa Clause. Maybe some candy will get tossed their way.

“Not much longer,” mothers and fathers announce, some happily, others with a chagrin that sits in their stomachs like heavy rocks. Christmas isn’t like it was when they were kids, back when December meant presents and eggnog and feasts, parties and family get-togethers, Christmas lights and holiday specials on television. Snow-filled streets meant sledding and snowmen, snow angels and snow ball fights.

There’s no snow this year; streets are covered in dust and dirt, debris from crumbling buildings, worn by time, weather and the passing wars. Few trees have stood the test of bombs and bullets. Fewer windows remain intact.

A breeze blows along Main Street, lifting grit and trash into the air. Many cover their faces, kids cry out from the sting of sand in eyes; some adults shake their heads and wonder why others choose not to wear protective goggles.

“Here they come,” a kid shouts. Others echo his words, sending a buzz along the road. Eyes open wide in anticipation and little ones squirm in their seats; blankets come off as they stomp their feet, kicking up clouds of dust.

Down the street a truck appears, adorned in reds and greens, its lights shining. The driver honks and waves a meaty hand as he passes through the crowd of onlookers.  Three fingers are missing. A pinky and thumb form an odd shaped L. “Merry Christmas,” he bellows. It comes out “Mare-wee Cwis-moss.”

The next vehicle inches along, yellow and orange lights cling to its exterior. The top of the car is missing, shorn off pieces of metal still jut out where the top use to be. A real beauty sits on the trunk, her feet inside the car. Her blond hair is singed at the ends, her once youthful face scarred on one side, an eye drooping, the eyebrow gone. A rusty crown sits atop her head. An unraveling sash across her faded blue dress reads Miss WW III 2038. She smiles. Her teeth are missing.

A marching band follows, horribly out of sync, no rhythm, none of them marching in unison with the ones in front, behind or beside them. Damaged horns squawk and squeal, bells clatter, hollow drums are rapped on with broken sticks from fallen trees, all forming a cacophony of noise that no amount of rehearsing could fix. Some of them are missing limbs, a foot here, an arm there, both legs over there, being pulled along in a wheel chair by a man with no arms and a limp, a rope tied around his waist. Distorted faces and twisted torsos make the rag tag orchestra a crowd favorite. Several other bands would follow, strategically placed along the length of the parade, but none quite as spectacularly grotesque.

A semi pulling a trailer creeps up the street. Women dressed in red and white striped bathing suits dance along poles to ancient Christmas Carols that few of the children have ever heard. Adults sing along to Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer and Holly Jolly Christmas. Few even notice the women. The new wave of freaks—the beauties of a long forgotten yesterday who have no blemishes on their faces and who aren’t walking with limps—stare out at nothing as they dance, cringing with fear at those gawking at them. Tears fill their crystal blue, green and brown eyes.

Cars proclaiming the holiday season inch along, large men behind the wheels; motorcycle riders doing wheelies and criss-crossing figure eights, careen about, almost going into the crowds, but pulling back at the last moment, much to the dismay of the thousands of onlookers. It is rumored that once a year a bike goes off course, taking out several spectators to the delight of those who are fortunate enough to take in the carnage. Smoke billows from rusty mufflers, engines growl, spit and sputter during turns, but none of the bikes slide out of control, maiming or killing folks along the streets. Children poke out their lips. The pain would be worth not being like the freaks dancing on poles for men and women alike to ogle and insult, to abuse as they see fit when the parade is over.

The first hour pushes well into the second one. As the end draws near a burnt orange fire truck looms in the distance, its tires dirty, ladder crusted in grime and rust. A wooden chair sits at the back, elevated. A large man with blush red cheeks and flowing white and gray hair, a beard down to his stomach and a red jump suit sits on the throne. A hole is in one knee, no black belt at the waist. His black boots are scuffed and his red cap is missing the dangly white ball that should be attached to its tip. At his feet sit several packages and bags, wrapped in newsprint and tied with twine.

The children scream, “It’s Santa Clause.” They laugh and cheer and clap; some of the adults cry. Santa didn’t look like this when they were kids. He wasn’t a scraggly old man whose rosy cheeks came from drinking a pint of illegal liquor before the Christmas parade. He wasn’t a man with a sack not full of goodies, but something much worse. He wasn’t this vision of insanity that the younger people know and somehow love.

The fire truck stops. Santa stands, reaches behind his throne, hefting a gray bag onto his shoulders. He waves a black glove at the crowd as he turns in a circle, a toothless smile noticeable even with the thick tufts of gray and white that cover most of his face from ears down. His eyes fall on a group of people huddling around a metal barrel, flames licking up from it. They warm their hands and roast marshmallows; the perfect picture of happiness.

Santa points. “Onward, Rudolph.”

The fire truck veers to the left as the driver mashes the gas. The engine revs, the truck lurches forward, black smoke spills from the exhaust. Bodies scatter as the grill and bumper strikes the crowd. A brilliant flash of orange, yellow and red emits from Santa Clause’s bag of gifts. The explosion follows, ripping the back of the fire truck apart. Santa evaporates in a spray of metal, flesh and shredded wrapping paper. The front of the truck smashes into a dilapidated building that collapses. Brick, metal and glass tumble to the ground, taking with it several more people and kicking up a large dust cloud. Fire engulfs the truck, the building and many onlookers. Others scramble about, searching for body parts, tossing pieces aside, frantically looking for…

“I found it,” a woman yells and lifts Santa’s head from a pile of rubble. His jaw is missing, along with one ear. An eye dangles from an empty socket. Her family and friends pat her on the back, congratulating her, some grudgingly, others with the genuine sincerity only offered by loved ones.

A collective groan emits from those seeking the Christmas prize. People gather their blankets and meager belongings. Kids shuffle with parents back to their cold homes, devoid of windows and heat, misery greeting them at their doorways.

A green car pulls alongside the woman, the back door opens but no one gets out. A white gloved hand extends from the darkness, and beckons her to get in. The woman hugs her family, tears streaming from her eyes.

“I’ll miss you all,” she says and steps toward the car.

“We love you, Mommy,” one little girl says and hugs her leg tight. She lets go, steps back. “You’ll be the best Santa ever.”

“You bet I will,” she says and lifts Santa’s head high in the air. Blood spatters her and her family, but she doesn’t seem to notice. She gets inside the car, to little fanfar. It speeds off, leaving the family waving. The little girl bends down, picks up Santa’s stocking cap, turns it over in her hands, and places it on her head.

“Daddy, do you think I’ll ever be Santa Clause?”

Her dad kneels, puts both hands on her shoulders. “Anything’s possible, sweetheart. Anything’s possible.”

The family leaves, father and daughter holding hands. They chatter about the parade, the fireworks and wonder about the body count. Still, some adults stand, shocked, dismayed by the events. Christmas wasn’t like this when they were kids…

 

The Ghastly Glittergrieve – A Christmas Cautionary Tale

At the same precise time every year,
come dark on Christmas Eve,
A blighted spirit springs to life,
the ghastly GLITTERGRIEVE.

As children try to fall asleep,
it’s scurrying ‘cross your ceiling,
A shadowy nook it’ll find itself,
(one prime for self-concealing).

No bigger than a walnut yet,
this nasty little shade.
Observing from his darkened perch,
to watch festive tables laid.

Invisible at first, he is,
for his acts of misfeasance.
But before the day’s events are done,
you’ll feel his Christmas presence.

He’s there for every opened gift,
for all wrapping ripped away,
for every garish Cracker pulled
each fateful Christmas day.

He’s watching, in the shadows hid,
for each present you reveal.
(This is a task he undertakes
with fervor and with zeal).

In small black claws, he holds his book
with your name etched within.
A black mark will be noted down
for every spotted sin.

For every time you grimace
at your gift of aftershave,
the demons sat there thinking,
“That is no way to behave.”

With each half-hearted “Thank you”
that trickles from your lips,
Against your name, he’s sad to see,
Another black mark slips.

Each cardigan you toss aside,
each pair of socks rejected –
To the scrutiny of the Glittergrieve,
you’re silently subjected.

The demon’s purpose is laid bare,
once revelries have ceased.
For every black mark in the book,
The beasts size has increased.

It’s midnight now, on Christmas day.
And everybody’s resting.
But you’re awake from too much wine,
stomach noisily protesting.

The tap’s turned on, to wash your hands –
your bladder now relieved.
But in the mirror, there it stands,
the ghastly GLITTERGRIEVE.

Dark eyes poke out through masks of skin,
all evil, black and hateful.
The faces from which it peers behind
peeled away from the ungrateful.

Atop his face of ruined flesh,
a faded paper crown.
A tinsel wreath hangs round his neck,
cracked baubles draped around.

It rises up, towering o’er you now,
a weird and twisted shape.
Red, Green and Gold and shimmering,
its crude wrapping-paper cape.

With practiced claws it steals your soul,
Your watcher’s now your killer.
In one fell swoop, you’re doomed to be
A demons stocking filler.

The lesson here? Be thankful for
your gifts, which are meant well.
And if you’re good, you will receive
Good tidings and no Hell.


meDavid Court was born and resides in Coventry, UK with his patient wife and his three less patient cats. A few years back David achieved minor internet notoriety under the pseudonym FoldsFive for his animated GIFs telling the entirety of the Star Wars Trilogy, a fact that he’s still jolly well proud of and insists on telling anyone at any opportunity. When not reading, blogging angrily on http://www.foldsfive.co.uk or http://www.davidjcourt.co.uk, drinking real ale, being immune to explosions, writing software for a living or practicing his poorly developed telekinetic skills, he can be found writing fiction.

Terrible Toys (A Christmas Poem) by Lisa Vasquez

Twas the night before Christmas when under the moon
A feeling of sadness was followed by doom
The children were still in their beds drenched with red
While toys giggled madly and danced on their head
A doll with one eye held a knife in the air
The Robot ate entrails with Ole Mr. Bear
Mother let out a scream high and shrill
While Barbie and Ken went in for the kill
I crawled to the stairs to make my escape
To be met at the top by a man in a cape
“Let’s go to work” he whispered to Jack-in-the-Box
Who sprung on back, followed by Fox
Army men shouted out into the hall
“The bigger they are, the harder they fall!”
I let out a shout and attempted to run
And that’s when the cowboy … he pulled out a gun!
“Howdy Partner” he said with a growl
“Get him!” the wolfman said with a howl
I grabbed my son’s bat and swung it around
I smashed the Robot , I kicked down the clown
Then what to my wondering eyes did I see?
The tree had grown teeth and was coming for me!
The elf on the shelf laughed as he taunted
“There’s nowhere to go! This house is haunted!”
The lights were hung ‘round my neck with great care
Little green men tied me into a chair
I cried and I begged, “Please let me go!”
Behind me I heard, “Ho! Ho! No!”
St. Nick came around me and gave me a grin
“You’ve been naughty,” he said, tapping his chin
He turned to the toys and they all gave a cheer
“It’s time to begin! Santa is here!”

 

 

Author_Lisa_VasquezBy design, Lisa Vasquez creates horror with vivid, dark, and twisted words and images that not only drags the reader in between the pages, but onto the covers that house them, as well. When she releases her grasp, readers are left alone to sort through the aftermath those images leave behind; each one becoming a seed that roots itself within the soft confines of their psyche. She takes this passion for writing horror and uses it to mentor other authors and volunteers as the Publisher’s Liaison for the Horror Writers Association. In January 2016, Lisa took her commitment to the next level and opened an independent publishing house, Stitched Smile Publications.

Her work can be found in several anthologies, and her upcoming, full-length novels will be released in 2016. For more information and updates on Lisa’s work, you can find her at: http://www.unsaintly.com or on Facebook (facebook.com/unsaintlyhalo), Twitter (@unsaintly), Instagram (unsaintly)

 

Do You Review? Calling all Bloggers!

typewriter 1Hey guys!  We’re starting to get things in order for the new year and we’re looking for fresh, new reviewers!  Do you have a blog? Do you love to read horror or dark fiction?

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