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Suspended In Dusk NEWSuspended in Dusk is available! This anthology is edited by Simon Dewar, an all ’round awesome person, and features some fabulous stories by some fabulous authors and me. ;)

“Disquieting and at times terrifying, SUSPENDED IN DUSK shows that horror can, and should, have substance.” ~ Kaaron Warren, Shirley Jackson Award winner, and author of Slights, Mystification, Walking the Tree.

“SUSPENDED IN DUSK offers a delicious assortment of chills, frights, shocks and very dark delights!” ~ Jonathan Maberry, Bram Stoker Award winner and New York Times bestselling author of Fall of Night and V-Wars

So where can you get it? It’s currently available on Smashwords and Amazon, with print and epub versions to come.

Our lovely editor was interviewed by Ian McHugh if you want to check it out here (the anthology had a bit of a rocky start!)

Table of Contents:

Alan Baxter – Shadows of the Lonely Dead
Angela Slatter – The Way of All Flesh
Anna Reith – Taming the Stars
Armand Rosamilia – At Dusk They Come
Benjamin Knox – The Keeper of Secrets
Brett Rex Bruton – Outside In
Chris Limb – Ministry of Outrage
Icy Sedgwick – A Woman of Disrepute
J C Michael – Reasons to Kill
John Everson – Spirits Having Flown (Reprint)
Karen Runge – Hope is Here
Ramsey Campbell – Digging Deep  (Reprint)
Rayne Hall – Burning (Reprint)
Sarah Read – Quarter Turn to Dawn
Shane McKenzie – Fit Camp (Reprint)
S. G. Larner – Shades of Memory
Tom Dullemond – Would to God That We Were There
Toby Bennett – Maid of Bone
Wendy Hammer – Negatives

So excited to be part of this project, and I hope you enjoy reading the stories! Here’s a snippet from “Shades of Memory”:

Patrick reined Constance to a halt to study the bent metal sign. It should have said ‘Miriam Vale’, but some unknown vandal had gouged at the paint, so that it now proclaimed: M   an Vale. Beside the sign, an upside-down, blackened ute rusted by the crumbling highway. Black sand drifted against the useless vehicle, carried on scorching winds from the endlessly burning coal seam gas fields to the west.

The tightness in his chest might have been from anxiety or exhaustion. This was the first town he’d seen in the past three days of horseback travel under a blazing Queensland sun. Razed homesteads littered the verges of the highway, remnants of the Upheaval. Patrick licked cracked lips, his throat dry, and longed for decent food and a bed.

Patrick gave Constance a gentle kick and her hooves thud-clopped on the disintegrating road.

They passed a rotting old Queenslander, its roof missing, lantana strangling the walls. Parched dust and spiky weeds filled the space once occupied by lawn.

Down the road a mangy yellow dog barked and then disappeared behind a large black object. Patrick squinted through the orange haze of sunset, but couldn’t make it out. As he approached it resolved into a giant fibreglass crab, charred and twisted and riddled with bullet holes. It blocked the doors of what had once been a petrol station, but was now a burnt husk. The bowsers had melted into blackened lumps from the heat of the conflagration.

A tiny smear of yellow caught his eye. He nudged Constance closer, although she snorted and trembled. A scraggly dandelion flower lay between the crab’s claws.

Photo by (Waiting for) Godot on Flickr (2014 CC Some Rights Reserved)

Photo by (Waiting for) Godot on Flickr (2014 CC Some Rights Reserved)

I don’t really believe in evil as an absolute concept that exists outside of human consciousness. Evil is relative. Only humans have the capacity to intentionally inflict harm and actually understand the suffering of their victims (as far as I am aware! Clearly if intelligent aliens fly in tomorrow I will retract that statement). Therefore evil, to me, is a uniquely human construct and a matter of perception.

Where stories deal with supernatural expressions of evil, I tend to see them as one of two things: either a way to project a human evil on something external to humanity (like werewolves as symbols for the base, animal instincts in humans), or an experiment to see how humans will behave when an (imaginary) objective evil threatens them. (There are probably more variants but I can’t think of them right now). In “Perfect Soldiers”, for example, the evil isn’t so much the demonic beings—as problematic as they are for humankind—the evil lies in the choices made by the people trying to survive. I wanted to explore the ethics of the ways in which the humans were trying to overcome the supernatural evil. And that “evil” itself, in absolute, objective terms, isn’t evil at all, in the way that hurricanes or volcanic eruptions aren’t evil.

I’ve always been more terrified by stories that deal with the normalisation of human evils. Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” struck at the very heart of my fears, that of the creeping normalisation of atrocities. Recently Kaaron Warren’s “Sky” (in Through Splintered Walls) had a similar effect. What evils are humans capable of in the name of culture and tradition? In deference to authority, and a desire to fit in, our nicest and most agreeable people will inflict pain and suffering on other human beings. We know this to be true in war (also here); when mob mentality rules; and in normal, civilised society.

We (in general terms of course, on a societal level) prize people who conform and who obey authority and are agreeable. If, then, evil is just a matter of relative value, of subjective judgement, and we’ve become blind to our society’s corruption (or convinced of a dire need that justifies morally questionable actions)… how then, are we to determine if an act is evil, or if it is actually good because it is necessary?

In the face of such uncertainty, it is little wonder so many story-tellers choose to project evil onto an external, supernatural figure. Viewing evil from a distance helps us to process and understand it, but we also run the risk of forgetting the source. Fighting the demons outside of us is easier than fighting the ones within.

What Came Before, and What Comes Next

For the first blog post in the Equilibrium Overturned “Uncovering Evil” blog tour, pop by and read JG Faherty’s thoughts on the matter of evil.

Next stop: Sean Eads, on the 15th of September.

“Heat, Flies, and Cane Toads” is a childhood nostalgia poem, and the wonderful Stuart Barnes (who, by the way, is Runner-up in the 2014 Arts Queensland Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize!) very kindly decided he loved it and wanted it for Tincture Seven, so here it is!

As usual you can buy a Tincture at many different places.

Tincture website

Kindle

Kobo

Tomely

Tinctures are full of short fiction and poetry that tease your mind and tug at your heart so please support small press and writers and grab a copy to read with your beverage of choice :).

pumps

Photo credit: Lloyd Barrett

As much as writers are allowed to have favourite stories, this is one of my favourites. I was gripped with the urge to write this story three weeks after the Goo-boy was born, as I was lying in bed trying to rest. Instead I propped myself up and wrote the first thousand words, based on the image that jumped into my mind that I couldn’t purge. I “saw” a girl huddling behind a rusted old petrol bowser, but she wasn’t a normal girl: her skin was red, she was naked and completely hairless.

And thus “Banned Girl” was born.

This story was semi-finalist in the Writers of the Future contest, and finally found a home at Fictionvale. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it! (Click the image below to buy).

Excerpt from “Banned Girl”:

Just north of Boonah, an abandoned petrol station rotted on the outskirts of the Forbidden Zone. The rusted gas pumps thrust up against a tainted, toxic sky, like giant robot warriors standing guard against the threat to the east. Normally the only menace was the odd mutant wallaby or giant goanna, but there were more sinister dangers to look out for. The adults would’ve been angry if they knew we were there, but they didn’t, and we were well inside the Wards, so it was okay.

I was there with Abby and Alice, the mayor’s daughters, when I saw the banned girl. She’d crept out of the Zone and hidden behind one of our robot warriors—useless as a sentinel, obviously. Abby hadn’t seen her and ran toward the line of warriors.

“Abby, ’ware!” I called. “Banned girl!”

Abby turned midstride and bolted for the crumbling building. Alice met her on the step and, huddled together, they turned and peered with dreadful fascination at the banned girl’s red skin, which oozed from every pore. Her hairless body trembled, poised on the brink of flight.

Through all this commotion the girl hadn’t moved. She clung to the rusty pump and watched us. Fear and disgust welled inside me. I stooped and grabbed a rock. Abby and Alice, strengthened by the support of each other, egged me on with matched, twinny glee.

“Throw it, Ben! Don’t let it come near!”

I hefted the rock and pretended to toss it. The banned girl swayed and flinched but her grip didn’t falter. With the shouts of the twins echoing in my ears, I pegged the rock at the banned girl.

It hit her naked belly and she cringed but didn’t let go.

“Another one, Ben.” The vicious harpy cries nudged my darker side. I hurled another rock at her head. It hit her and she was felled, a stunted red tree cut down by my ax. Without thinking, I started toward her, but the twins crept up behind me and their little hands tugged at my sleeves.

“C’mon, Ben, they’re dangerous. Even dead.”

I wanted to see if she was dead, but I let them pull me away.

“Don’t tell anyone. If they knew we was here…” Truth was, I’d get in more trouble than the mayor’s girls.

The twins shrugged in unison, twirling fat ginger plaits. “Okay.”

FV4-final

I was lucky enough to make the Aussie Spec Fic Snapshot this year, and even luckier to have my lovely friend Helen Stubbs interview me. I managed to get away with an elf photo as my bio pic too ;).

If you’d like to read my blatherings, head over to The Edge of Time. And thanks for your support!

Equlibrium Overturned is now available to purchase in paperback or kindle formats through Amazon. Grey Matter Press have been fabulous to work with, and their anthologies are doing extremely well so if you like a bit of darkness in your stories, you should really check them out. I’ve been waiting on this publication for quite some time, and I’m thrilled it’s finally out there. “Perfect Soldiers” is arguably the most ambitious story I’ve written and I owe thanks to Jason Fischer for helping me figure out which direction to take it.

From the blurb: The rift between this world and the one beyond has been ripped open, and a terrifying evil from the other side is gaining momentum by feeding off the hatred and fear of humankind. With a dwindling number of available soldiers, the armies of Earth are forced to resort to unspeakable measures to fight what may be the war to end all wars.

And a teaser:

Bieruń, Poland

Dominic Meyers, UN Special Forces, watches the white-haired general lean forward in his seat as the chopper begins its descent into Hell. Sweat beads on the old man’s forehead; the clammy fog of his fear blankets the cabin. He points to the east.

“Is that it?”

Dominic nods without looking. He can see it in his mind’s eye: a subtle, warped shimmer extending from the horizon and pointing into the sky like a narrow finger. Turn your head and look at it out of the corner of your eye and it becomes a dark smudge. The general is mind-blind so he says, “Yes, sir.”

“Not very impressive, is it?” The general forces a laugh. Dominic shrugs off his commanding officer’s oppressive mood.

“Sir, it would be useful if you could employ the mind-calming techniques you learned during briefing.”

The old man’s face turns pink, but he closes his eyes and remains still as the chopper bumps onto land. The fear that permeates the air subsides.

Dominic throws open the door. Two men wait just beyond the swoosh of the rotor blades.

Welcome back, Dominic, he hears in his mind. As he pivots back to the general, he sends a thought to both men.

This one’s weak. Be on guard.

undertowcover

My near-future dystopian tale “Paradise Drowned” is now available to read in the Gold Coast anthology Undertow. I want to give special thanks to Helen Stubbs and Elizabeth Fitzgerald for their hard work as editors, and particularly their editorial input into my story.

“Paradise Drowned” is set in the Gold Coast hinterlands, with the majority of the coastal strip drowned by rising sea levels. The story drew inspiration from several sources: a dream my partner Lloyd had; the photos provided as prompts; and particular controversial social issues that affect contemporary Australia. I grew up on the Gold Coast so it was really interesting to think about what the Gold Coast might look like in the future, and how the inhabitants may have to adapt. Here’s a little teaser…

I crept away from camp, wading through the shallow water that flooded the mature rice crop, and climbed up a small hill in the middle of the paddy. At the summit I lay on my back. Wisps of cloud swirled across the stars. The sounds of people drifted on the humid breeze: talking, pots banging together, the cries of tired children, the occasional raised voice. Smoke from the woodstoves lingered in my hair. My conscience nagged me to go and help clean up, but instead I gazed at the sky and wished I could fly away.

Water sloshed. I tensed, then a familiar irregular footfall crunched uphill toward me. I sighed and sat up. Guilt prickled, that I’d made Layla follow me out here on her crippled foot.

“Nasra, you must stop this. You are not a little girl anymore.” My sister’s voice was sharp but carried a note of sympathy; at twenty, she was three years older and wiser than me.

I replied in Arabic. “Every night I want to throw up, waiting for the next one. What if it’s you? What will I do then? We’ve already lost Mama.”

The night darkened as clouds gathered to obscure the stars. The first drizzle of warm rain started to fall as Layla sat beside me. She gazed off to the east, to the hills where the remnants of the Gold Coast’s residents clung, safe above the flooded streets of the coastal strip. New Venice, as it was known, was the refuge for undesirables and escapees.

“Be strong,” she said, stubbornly speaking in English. The more we speak English, the better we get. She put her arm around me and squeezed. “We will take care of each other.” She stood and tugged at my arm. “No point worrying about what might be. We take one day at a time.”

I pouted but in the darkness she didn’t see it. With a groan, I got to my feet and wiped the rain from my eyes.

“Good girl,” she said. We returned to the camp filled with temporary buildings and unwanted human flotsam.

undertowinside

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