Entertainingly Evil

Inside by Lorraine Schein

When I came to, I lay curled on a slick, coiled surface. Still alive! I remembered that face looming closer, jaws widening, teeth gleaming white and sharp as the moon in the forest, then a terrible grinding sound, and—only darkness. I remember thinking I would die, but instead it seemed I had gone to the sunless depths of hell.

Inside the wolf, it was darker than the Black Forest, but after a while my eyes grew used to the gloom. I could make out the rounded walls of glistening pink flesh, pulsing with layered veins of blood that looked like my mother’s cross-stitched embroidery.

The only light was from a constellation of tiny sparks fluttering around me—I looked more closely, and saw they were a cluster of fireflies the wolf had swallowed. They gave just enough light to see by.

Large stones were scattered about, and I was not the only one here. A piglet sat on a flat boulder squealing sadly, clutching a sheaf of straw. Behind him, a sea of eyes blinked in the darkness. Two of them belonged to a croaking frog who wore a tiny, battered golden crown. A duck waddled and quacked loudly next to him.

I saw a brighter glowing and thought it a concentration of fireflies, but when I bent down to look more closely, I saw a tiny lady with sheer, violet wings, dancing in her own shimmering light.

A jumble of ripped cloth from a red patchwork skirt and some fortune-telling cards lay scattered nearby. Next to the cards was a mangled hand, chewed off at the wrist, still wearing a tangle of shiny bangle bracelets. Poor Romany woman. It had swallowed a gypsy! I had often seen their caravan in the forest and once had my fortune told.

Then I saw my grandmother in her nightgown, huddled in a bend, wrapped in a shredded blanket. “Grandmamma, are you alright?” I asked. She only gave me a faint smile in response, and looked too weak to talk.

How could I save her? The gypsy hand held a card, but I couldn’t make it out, except for the image of the moon. My grandmother knew the cards though and gasped when she saw it.

Beside her was a frayed wooden basket spilling half-eaten oat cakes, the bedraggled bouquet of wildflowers that had distracted me on my journey, and a gleaming, broken bottle of wine from my basket. The jagged wine bottle was half empty, as if the wolf had tried to drink from it first, then swallowed it all in haste.

Would anyone know we were here, alive, and save us? I called out for my mother, but no one came. I heard the sound of crying in the distance, and crawled slowly towards the sound on the slick surface of the tunnel ahead, but did not get far. It was lighter here—I saw a flame from a candle someone had placed in a notch of flesh, as if on a mantelpiece.

A shadowy figure loomed up before me. I could make out a boy about my age, limping on his bitten, bleeding foot.  “It’s no use,” he said wearily. “We’ve already tried that.” He bent down to look at me. “Who are you?” he said, glaring.

I started to answer, but he interrupted. “You look familiar,” he said putting his face too close to mine. “I tried to warn them, but they wouldn’t listen. Were you the one who turned them against me?” he said with a growl.

He picked up the broken bottle, a mad look twisting his face. I tried to back away, but slipped on the oozing surface. He bent over me, brandishing a sharp point of glass, slicing near my throat.

Suddenly, my feet felt wet. I heard a rushing noise, followed by an awful stench. An undulating wave of brown liquid stung my ankles, and started to fill the tunnel. Screams, yelps, squeals and quacks echoed around me. So my death would come by drowning.

A nick of light appeared overhead, widened, became a slit. The metal edge of hacking shears glinted above. Blood spattered upon us like rain.

Then the huntsman’s strong arms pulled me out, and closed about me. I stepped back into the belly of the world to tell my tale.

Lorraine Schein is a New York writer. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Strange Horizons, Mad Scientist Journal, Gigantic Worlds, Aphrodite Terra, and the anthologies Drawn to Marvel, Phantom Drift, and Alice Redux.  Her poetry book, The Futurist’s Mistress, is available from mayapplepress.com. She is now working on a graphic novel.

This story was previously published in Enchanted Conversation.


Magic Life by J.R. Johnson

To my boyfriend I am magic. He watches me dance or sing and he says “Oh. O! Amelia, you are magic made life!”

Sometimes, I almost believe him.

My boyfriend isn’t bad either. Joshua is smart and funny and kind. He warms up the car on winter mornings. He tries to cook.

I like that he is as dead to magic as it is possible to be. No chilly reminders of childhood.

I do not introduce him to my family. I pretend that I have never heard of real magic, nor would want to given the choice.

I wish I had that choice.

The one thing he will not do is clean bathrooms. Some block from childhood perhaps? His mother spoiled him, but that part I do not say out loud.

That leaves me. I dust and scrub and mop the old Victorian we bought for a song. I also clean the bathrooms (three! we are very lucky) and when Joshua comes home he says, “Oh, you are magic!”

As if there were no effort involved. As if I shouldn’t be better than scalded skin and sore hands, shouldn’t be able to whisk the dirt away with the flick of a finger. There’s only so much of that a girl can take.

And so one day, after a morning of scrubbing and mopping and dusting, I call the town newspaper. It is a venerable old publication with extended ties to the community. Traditional, rooted in the old ways.

Like my relatives going back seven generations, all of whom claimed more magic in their little toes than I. I remember the stories.

I talk to an elderly receptionist named Roselyn who giggles when I tell her what I need but helps me take out a classified. For the low low price of two dollars and fifty cents per line, my ad reads:

“WANTED: Brownie. Large home in need of care. Traditional pay, no gratitude. 72 Dumas Circle.”

I do not include a phone number.

The paper comes out in the morning. Nothing.

I go about my business.

The next day, the same nothing. My boyfriend notices a dust bunny, laughing because he thinks it is cute. He names it Fluffy. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, all the same. Detritus accumulates, clothing and other accouterments drifting, dune-like, into the corners of high-ceilinged rooms. I avert my eyes when I open the compost bin. The weekend barbecue scraps wax ripe and rancid.

I ask Joshua to purchase a pint of the best local cream, rich in grass-fed milk fat. “In case of cats,” I say.

Monday, I wake to the comforting drip of fresh coffee in the pot. The bathrooms sparkle and the laundry smells like my favorite cardamom bread.

I do not look around. I do not give thanks. I do fill a small ceramic plate with cream and place it on the counter.

Joshua staggers from the bedroom (he is not a morning person) and takes his first gulp of coffee. A deep, satisfied exhalation and he says it. “Oh. O! Amelia, you are magic.”

I smile.

I agree.

And he believes me.

J.R. Johnson finds speculative fiction appealing because she likes the idea that there is more to the world than meets the eye, and that the human race has a future. She now lives and writes in Ottawa, Ontario. For more on her latest projects visit jrjohnson.me.


Heart of Steel By Jeremy Szal

I looked at myself in the mirror, wishing my eyes were lying to me—that this was all just some screwed up nightmare. But it wasn’t. My eyes told the truth. My bony, pinkish arms were replaced with limbs that were gunmetal grey in colour, rimmed in by bolts and steel. Oxygen pumps and filtrations permitted me to continue breathing. Even when I touched my metal-clad torso I felt nothing. Nothing but the cold, dead metal that burned with loss and sorrow. Electrodes and cords replaced my blood and veins—the very things that sustained my body and kept me alive.

Am I dead?

Or was that just the human part of me that had disappeared into nothing, only to be replaced with a machine.

I clenched my fingers together to form an iron fist, feeling the tortured screech of scraping metal clashing against my palm. It sounded like I was in some sort of prison, hidden from the world outside. Is this what I was going to be like? My soul locked in a prison of tangled wires, coded programs, and a network of platinum and steel.  What did I have left that was truly human?

Suddenly the anger bubbled inside me like hot oil. I smashed the mirror in front of me, shattering the nanocrystal glass. “You’re the next step of our evolution as a species,” they told me in hushed whispers. “The first of your kind. You represent the future of humanity.”

It was a little hard to be part of humanity when I wasn’t even human. I was on my own. An experiment. A scientific ‘miracle’.

I picked up the datapad that detailed all the ‘upgrades’ by body had been given, careful not to shatter the pad. The words were clear, crisp and curt—like they had been stamped out by a printer with a mind of its own. It detailed how my bones had been re-enforced with density and fiber; how I had a neural device installed in my head, and the modification of my body tissue. Even my brain was now partially a machine. Could I really be called a human, when everything I had stored in my head, emotions, memories, feelings, thoughts – everything that defined who I was—had been replaced, muddled with, and transformed into something artificial?

How could I even be sure my memories were mine?

“That mirror was expensive,” Lumen, my AI and long-suffering friend, said. She made an exasperated sound as the bathroom camera zoomed in. “Why did you break it?”

“You damn well know why,” I said. Lumen could see the rate of my artificial heart beating, the spiking radio signals of my neural-enhanced brain, and the oxygen I breathed in through my artificial lungs. She knew I was angry and why.

“The accident changed nothing,” she said. “You’re still human. You are who you make yourself to be. You aren’t defined by society or body organs.”

The sick irony of an artificial intelligence telling a cyborg about what defined a human being was almost funny. Lumen was a good friend and she wanted nothing but the best for me. Most AIs had their intellect levels capped on purchase and were treated as servants, referred to by a cluster of meaningless digits. I refused to see Lumen that way.

But at the same time I knew that I wasn’t anything more than she was.

An artificial program.

A machine.

The accident had made sure of that. I couldn’t even remember falling. All I could recall was the pain and how it burned and burned… eating away at me like acid. It took hours for them to find me, but they were looking for a human being, not a lump of meat missing two arms, a leg and half a face with an eye dangling out of its socket. I begged and begged to die—anything for the pain to stop. But I had lived through it all. It was a miracle that I had made it past the operation.

I exited the bathroom and strode over to the balcony. The half of my body was that still skin felt the chill of the icy rain as it spat down. The alien buildings of Cyillium stood around me, their glowing lights pulsing vividly as aircrafts sped across the night sky in a straight line. Looking down below I saw myriads of people, scurrying across the wet pavement. Cranking my internal audio enhancers, I could hear everything; the shouting of an angry chef as he roasted something nosily in a pot. The horn of a car, the laughing of friends, the barking of a hungry dog. I heard it all, overpowering my other senses. It was all so… so… alive.

I heard the small hum of a camera rotation as Lumen detached herself to a portable device. She floated next to me, almost uncertain of what to say.

“Tell me,” I said, “just how am I more human than you?”

“The rain,” she said softly as the device’s hull got covered in soft droplets. “I know that it’s water because it has elements of hydrogen and oxygen. I know it’s wet because it’s in its liquid state that’s neither steam nor snow. I know that it’s been condensed from atmospheric water vapor and then precipitated.”

She paused, as if to take a breath with lungs that didn’t exist. “But I’ll never know what it really feels like. I’ll never know the feeling of moisture on my skin; the cold kiss of water as it cools you down. I’ll never experience it for myself.”

I felt the camera lens shift focus towards me as I stretched out my hand, catching droplets on my fingers. They slid down the thin line on my hand that separated metal from flesh. “You can. But I never will.”

Jeremy Szal has had over thirty publications in venues such as Strange Horizons, Grimdark Magazine, and Bards and Sages, as well as earning an Honourable Mention from Writers of the Future contest. He is also the assistant editor for Hugo award winning podcast StarShipSofa and lives in Sydney, Australia. Find him at: http://jeremyszal.wordpress.com/

This story was previously published in Every Day Fiction.


The Crimson Sands of Huo Xing by Donald Jacob Uitvlugt

O’er Tai Shan Station crimson dust clouds loom.
     A black force stills the tree of life within.
Hu Ling must face her long-forgotten past;
     A world will die in ice unless she wins.

Wind from the rising sandstorm howled and swirled around Hu Ling. A Guardian of the red desert such as Ling usually welcomed such storms. They scoured down all the uncertainties of life to two simple options: survive, or die. But the transmission from Tai Shan Station said the atmospheric plant was under attack. The Guardians were sworn to defend all those on the world of Huo Xing that called for assistance. How much more the technician-monks who by their secret art kept the fourth planet from the sun alive.

Ling’s words of power opened the station to her. The hall grew dark as the door slid shut behind her, lit only by a few spheres of bioluminescent algae. The silence was almost as deafening as the wind. The cavern should have been thrumming with the sounds of the devices that kept Huo Xing’s atmosphere breathable. Tai Shan Station was the heartbeat of Huo Xing. This silence was the silence of death.

Ling set off down the cavern for the mountain’s core. Her footsteps echoed oddly off the walls, making it sound like someone followed her. The bioluminescent globes cast faint shadows. Ling could not shake the feeling that there were shadows where no shadows should be.

The way twisted, following lava flows millennia gone. The cavern finally opened out to a chamber that would have housed the novices, the bacterial engineers and the tenders of atomic fires. Here Ling found the first bodies, none of them whole. The wounds unsettled Ling, but it took her a moment to realize why.

The wounds were explosions. The victims’ bodies had burst from the inside.

Ling unsheathed her sword, a metallic hiss ringing through the cavern. The sword blade swirled with characters in red and black, characters that changed as Ling watched them. This was Yaomo Chi, a cursed blade and closer to Ling than any lover.

Another locked door guarded the sanctum of Tai Shan Station. Ling entered the access code and the door slid open. Death welcomed her.

The room reeked of blood and vomit and shit. Ling swallowed down bile as she walked forward. Around her lay pieces of bodies and saffron scraps of robe. Something black and thick dripped from the multi-branched device in the center of the chamber, a stain on the silent world tree.

Ling closed her eyes to pray for the deceased. She heard a laugh. A deep, metallic laugh, like knives on slate. Her eyes snapped open. Something stared back at her from the pipe-branches of the world tree, its eyes a glowing pus green.

“You are late, Guardian. Or did you plan to catch me taking my after-dinner nap?”

The black substance flowed from the silent machinery, coalescing into a being perhaps twice a man’s height. It had no features other than its eyes and a vague semblance of a head.

“What are you?” Ling grimaced at the creature’s charnel smell.

Green eyes blinked out, reappeared at another part of the thing’s body. It laughed again, its entire mass shaking with mirth.

“You really do not recognize me. Die in your ignorance.”

Five tendrils of black ooze shot out at Ling. Ling pivoted to the left and swung her sword. Tentacles thick as Ling’s wrist wrapped around her left leg and arm. The smell of burning cloth filled the air. Her sword sliced through the other three tendrils, leaving the ends wriggling on the floor like giant worms. A keening scream rent the air.

“You dirty choubi!”

The tentacles around her pulled her to the floor. The ooze burned against her wrist. With a cry, Ling hacked off the tentacles. Sensing movement, she rolled just as another massive protuberance crashed into the spot she had been a moment before. Ling sprang to her feet.

The creature reared up, its mass turning on itself like a storm cloud. A score of tentacles shot out at Ling, jerking back as Yaomo Chi sliced through them. Ling was a blur as her blade fended off every attack. The lopped-off members leaked a grey fluid that ate into the stone under them.

A blow smashed into Ling’s chest, knocking her to the floor, sending her sword spinning away. The creature paused. Catching its breath or making sure Ling really was unarmed, Ling did not know. It seemed to have lost a third of its mass. A pool of grey ichor collected around its base.

Time froze for a moment. Then Ling crawled for her sword as the creature roiled and expanded. It launched itself at her in a great arch just as her fingertips touched Yaomo Chi. Then it enveloped her completely.

It burned. A foetid, gelatinous acid burning wherever it touched. A semi-liquid fire wrapped around her whole body. Ling felt it seeping into her nostrils, trying to burn its way into her eyes and mouth. The creature laughed its evil laugh. Ling’s whole body quivered with the sound.

“And so you die, never knowing your curse. And I—”

The voice cut off as Ling pulled Yaomo Chi into the creature’s body. The sword flared red, a red Ling could see even through closed eyes. The creature’s scream shook Ling’s teeth in her jaw. And then she fell to the floor.

She opened her eyes. Her robes were in tatters, eaten away. Her exposed skin felt rubbed raw. She touched her scalp. Her hair was gone. And so was the creature.

She looked down at the sword in her hand. The glow had faded, but the reds on the blade were deeper now, the blacks darker. If she closed her eyes, Ling seemed to hear a faint scream coming from the blade.

She shook off such fancies. She had an atmospheric plant to restart and a planet to save.

Donald Jacob Uitvlugt lives on neither coast of the United States, but mostly in a haunted memory palace of his own design. His short fiction has appeared in venues such as Another Dimension and the anthology Techno-Goth Cthulhu. Find him online at http://haikufiction.blogspot.com or via Twitter @haikufictiondju.


The Marking by Edd Vick

Lud stands next to the pharmacy’s wall for a long moment, one hand held to the sun-warmed brick. He senses the layers of paint on it, the war between art and whitewash. Symon has been here, and Vibo, and the silent artist whose tag is all black and orange arrows. Their symbols are all trapped beneath expanses of paint.

He glances up the street, then down. It’s a quiet Sunday morning in Dallas, already sweltering. Lud shrugs off his pack, and pulls from it his tools. Templates and brushes, thick markers in seven colors, three spray cans. All of the cans have heavy-duty magnets on their bottoms to keep the ball-bearing ‘peas’ from rattling while he walks. It’s best not to advertise what he carries.

Donning the gloves and removing the magnets from the cans, he shakes one of them, enjoying the feel of the weight shifting back and forth. He lays down a light blue diamond on the wall. He gives it a black drop-shadow. Once he starts, he’s impatient to be done. He cuts into his first form with dark purple, then sprays through templates to build up one sigil, then another and a third. The last glyph is the most difficult, the most dangerous.

He’s halfway through it when the wall bulges toward him, as if made of rubber. It touches one of his gloves, starts to pull his hand into the wall. Utter cold flares through his bones, and he slips his hand out of the glove, sees it sucked away.

There are ice crystals on his hand. More bulges appear on the wall, seeking him. Avoiding them, he picks up a marker in his good hand and removes the cap with his teeth. Positioning his thumb over the dent he’s made on its barrel, he presses to make the ink flow and shakily completes the sigil. When the last line is drawn the wall is once more smooth and motionless.

Lud flexes the fingers of both hands, one thawing and the other cramped from squeezing the marker. He steps away from the wall and admires his work.

Tires crunch on gravel, and he whirls. A police car is moving slowly through a parking lot across the street. If they haven’t seen him already, they soon will. He pulls his hoodie up over his pointed ears and crouches to scoop his supplies into his backpack. He scuttles around a corner and is gone in search of the next wall or billboard or train car.

Behind him, the wall stands doubly reinforced, useless to the legions of Faerie seeking their lost children.

Edd Vick is a graduate of the Clarion SF Writing Workshop. His stories have appeared in magazines including Asimovs, Analog, and many anthologies. By day a bookseller, he lives in Seattle with SF novelist Amy Thomson and their adopted daughter Katie (also five chickens, a cat, and a dog).

“The Marking” first appeared on The Daily Cabal.


BAD TOASTER by Pam L. Wallace

“Does the toaster have to go to jail, Momma?”

“Wha-what?” I tried to blink away my tears.

“You said the toaster was bad. Does it have to go to jail?”

Four-year-old Sophie looked as upset as the day of her goldfish’s funeral. I knelt and took her in my arms. “Don’t cry, sweetie. It’s only a toaster!”

She pulled back to look in my face with the intent look that only a four-year-old could muster. “But you were crying.”

A week ago, a broken toaster would have been no more an irritation. Today, it’d been the straw that broke me. I swiped the tears from my face and attempted a smile. “Mommy was just being silly.”

“But—but, if the toaster’s broken, how can you make me cinnamon toast?”

I’d just bought the toaster the day before, and I didn’t have time today to exchange it. Damn Jason to hell for taking our old toaster—he knew Sophie refused to eat anything but cinnamon toast for breakfast. So typical, thinking of no one but himself.

I wanted to burst into tears and crawl back to bed. But I had Sophie, and she didn’t need to worry about bad toasters or mommies crying or daddies leaving. I hugged her again. “Mommy will make it the old-fashioned way. In the oven!”

Sophie frowned. Different was never better to a four-year-old. “Why don’t you go finish coloring your picture?” I said. “And I’ll make you an extra-special cinnamon toast!”

She looked doubtful until I opened the fridge and pulled out the whipped cream. Appealing to her sweet tooth always worked. She brightened and said, “K, Momma,” and skipped into the dining room where her crayons and markers waited.

I wished I could let go of things as easily as Sophie. Tears forgotten, defective toaster replaced, broken marriage mended. “Jason. Why?” I kicked the cupboard closed and gave in to my tears.

“Oh dear, don’t cry!”

I startled and turned around. Standing in my kitchen was a white-haired woman, as short as she was round, in a voluminous white robe with a hood.  I backed away, scanning the countertop for a sharp knife and trying to remember where I’d left the phone. “How’d you get in here?”

“Oh, you know, bibbidi-bobbidy-boo and all that.” She waved a drumstick—not of the chicken variety, but an honest-to-goodness, playing-the-drums stick, above her head in a circle. “Now, what’s your wish, my dear? Fix your broken marriage?”

Bibbidi-bobbidy? Like a fairy godmother? She did sort of look like she’d just stepped out of Sophie’s favorite princess movie. “Fix my….” How could a random crazy lady know that? Wait—someone was pulling my leg. “Who put you up to this? It was Joanna, wasn’t it?” My best buddy, trying to cheer me up. “Are you her grandmother? Aunt?” She shook her head, frowning. “Neighbor?”

“No, no. I’m your Fairy Godmother, dear. I’m here to fix your marriage, just like you wished last night.”

I guess I had said that very thing to Joanna last night during my sob session.

Well, I could play along. I’d probably get a much-needed laugh out of this later. “Well, you do look rather like a fairy godmother—except there’s no such thing.”

“You don’t think I’m real?”

The lady might not be a fairy godmother, but she was a veritable wizard of quick-changing emotions. In one second flat, she went from practically dancing with excitement to doom and gloom. “Well, you are carrying a drum stick instead of a wand,” I pointed out.

“What?” She peered at the drum stick. “Oh!”  She flipped it in the air, and in its place, a fizzing-bright sparkler appeared. “There it is!” She smiled a four-thousand megawatt grin. “Silly me!”

My mouth dropped open. Sleight-of-hand? Had to be, because there was no magic in this world.

“Now, are you ready?”

“For what?” My mind was fixated on that sparkler, trying to figure out how she’d made it appear. Up her sleeve, of course! That sleeve was big enough to hide a horse.

She sighed, clearly disappointed in me. “For me to fix your marriage.”

“Hmph. As in, wave your magic ‘wand’ there and all’s good?”

Her smile brightened another thousand megawatts, if that was possible. “Yes!”

I snorted. “I don’t think your wand is big enough.”

“You don’t believe, do you, dear?”

“In you being a fairy godmother, or in my marriage being fixable?”

“Either,” she said, all pouty-lips and puppy-dog eyes.

She’d get no sympathy from me. My armor was securely in place. “No, I don’t.”

“Let me prove it.” She waved her sparkler in a tight spiral and pointed it at the toaster. “Done!”

“Great. Thanks so much.” I smiled and nodded towards the door. “Now you can go. Tell Joanna thanks, and all’s well that toasts well.”

“Aren’t you going to try it?”

“What? The toaster?” She nodded. “Um, maybe later.” Through the doorway, I could see Sophie happily coloring away, oblivious to us. If she happened to see the old lady dressed as a fairy godmother, she’d want to keep her forever.

“Let me show you,” she said, waving her sparkler again. I swear, her feet floated several inches off the floor. The toaster popped up a perfectly-browned piece of toast.

My mouth fell open. Fairy Godmothers weren’t real. Wishes didn’t get granted. She couldn’t make Jason come back. Couldn’t put my life back together.

Could she?

“So, you’re saying you really are a fairy godmother, and you can make Jason come back?”

“Yes, dear!” Crazy-lady who might not be so crazy after all smiled brightly again.

Was it possible? A simple wave of the wand?

Wait. I’d wished for a husband who considered my feelings. An equal partner. Jason had always been selfish, always had that wandering eye. A magic wand–if there was such a thing—would have to change him into someone else. What good would that do? It wouldn’t be real—it’d be a dream.

“You know, twenty minutes ago, you’d have been a wish come true,” I said. “But, maybe I don’t need wishes after all.”

She blinked, her dazzling smile short-circuiting. “You’re saying no?”

I nodded. “I am. I should have said it a long time ago.”

“But—but, I can make it all better.”

I looked into the dining room at my little angel happily coloring away. Life wasn’t a fairy tale. Sophie and I would have our ups and downs, but we’d be okay. She needed a strong mommy, not one who took less than she deserved.

I steered the fairy godmother to the door. “Thanks for the offer, but Sophie and I will get along by ourselves just fine.”

I opened the door and shoved her through. “But hey, thanks for fixing the toaster.”

Pam Wallace lives and writes in Central California. Her stories have appeared in Shock Totem, Abyss & Apex, Journal of Unlikely Entomology, and Daily Science Fiction, among others.


From the Editor’s Corner by Jennifer Brozek

Now that I’ve been reading the EGM Shorts slushpile for a couple of months, I’ve noticed a couple of interesting trends.

First, I haven’t received any zombie fiction. I’d like to see some interesting zombie stories. Ditto with general post apocalyptic stories. Ditto again with Mythos themed stories.

Second, there is a disturbing trend of stories where women are brutalized, then they turn into a variety of monsters, then they kill their abuser. About 10% of the stories I receive are along this theme. I do not like it. I do not want to read about violence towards women as a plot device to show that the woman is actually a monster and the EVIL MAN ™ gets his comeuppance. Do not send me these stories.

Third, I’m pleased with the gender balance of authors submitting stories. Keep it up. Thank you.

Here’s what we have coming for May.

MAY 2015
“Bad Toaster” by Pam Wallace
“The Marking” by Edd Vick
“The Crimson Sands” of Huo Xing by Donald Jacob Uitvlugt
“Heart of Steel” by Jeremy Szal
“Magic Life” by J.R. Johnson
“Inside” by Lorraine Schein
“Rats” by Sandra M Odell

See you next time around.


EGM Shorts Begin


14348_10205360261945867_6771847705215246005_nWelcome to EGM Shorts, our new flash fiction feature. I’m Jennifer. I’m the Editor-in-Chief of this little endeavor. EGM Shorts is an ongoing, open market for genre fiction. Read the call for submissions if you are interested. I do want to note that all horror stories must have a speculative element to them.

The general plan is to have a new or reprint piece of flash twice a week. However, as schedules change, this may change. We’ll see. I already have an archive page set up. This is where you can go if you miss the blog posting.

For the month of April, we have a series of shorts that made me smile. And, really, that’s all I’m asking for.

“Mistakes Were Made” by Premee Mohammed
“In the Beginning” by Alisha A. Knaff
“Aunt Merkel” (Reprint) by Deborah Walker
“The Invaders” by Eric Guignard
“The Two Pickpockets” (Reprint) by M. Todd Gallowglas

See you next time around.



Jennifer Brozek is a Hugo Award-nominated editor and an award winning author. When she is not writing her heart out, she is gallivanting around the Pacific Northwest in its wonderfully mercurial weather. Jennifer is an active member of SFWA, HWA, and IAMTW. Read more about her at her blog or follow her on Twitter at @JenniferBrozek


2015 Publication Schedule

Evil Girlfriend Media is excited to announce our 2015 publication schedule. In the next couple of months, we will bring you interviews with authors, excerpts, and opportunities to obtain advanced copies of books.


Apocalypse Girl Dreaming by Jennifer Brozek




The Archivist by Tom D Wright


Rachel by Dobromir Harrison



Murder Girls by Christine Morgan

(Cover Coming Soon)


Naughty or Nice: A Christmas Anthology edited by Jennifer Brozek with Jon Del Arroz

(Cover Coming Soon)


There Are No Heroes In This Book by Timothy W. Long

(Cover Coming Soon)




Coming January 2015 Jennifer Brozek’s Apocalypse Girl Dreaming



Evil Girlfriend Media is pleased to release the cover of Apocalypse Girl Dreaming, a short story collection, by Jennifer Brozek. This collection features dark speculative fiction ranging from tie-in stories in the Valdemar and Elemental Masters worlds, weird west horror to satirical science fiction to urban fantasy with a horrific bent. Cover art by Fernando Cortes with graphic design by Matt Youngmark.

Apocalypse Girl Dreaming is out January 16, 2015 in e-book and paperback.




An Interview with Seanan McGuire

By Jen West 




Seanan McGuire’s “The Lambs” kicks off the Bless Your Mechanical Heart anthology from Evil Girlfriend Media with a near-future story of covert surveillance used as a tool for deterring school bullying. Beven is a “lamb”, a robot disguised as a human teenager who has been embedded within the local school system since first grade. Designed to be an easy target for intimidation and harassment, she interacts with her fellow students as if she were human, all the while monitoring and recording any abusive behavior for public playback at graduation. But when a former friend falls in with a group of bullies, her desire to protect her friend conflicts with her programming to be a snitch.

Seanan McGuire’s prolific works include two popular urban fantasy series: October Daye series and Incryptid series, both from DAW. Her short fiction has appeared in a variety of anthologies, magazines and websites. She also writes horror as Mira Grant, and her novel Blackout earned a 2013 Hugo nomination.

Seanan is no stranger to the Hugo ballot or breaking records. In 2012, she became the first woman to have her name listed 4 times on the same Hugo Ballot. Then in 2013, she became the first writer, male or female, to have her name listed 5 times on the same Hugo ballot. In 2013, she and her colleagues at SF Squeecast took home the Hugo for Best Fancast.

Writing is not Seanan’s only tool in her bag of tricks. She is also an avid cartoonist and a seasoned filker having released several albums of original music since 2009.

J: In “The Lambs,” you address a growing public concern around school bullying. How big a problem do you think school bullying is today?

S: I think it’s a huge problem. When I was in school, the bullies couldn’t follow you home without revealing themselves to your parents. Now, thanks to social media and cellphones, there’s no getting away. It’s terrifying. I’m not surprised that we’ve seen a rise in teen and preteen suicides; I’m surprised it hasn’t been more extreme.

J: Did you draw on any of your own personal experiences from high school to write this? What was high school like for you?

S: High school was fine. Middle school was where the monsters were.

J: There was a line in “The Lambs” that jumped out at me: “Pretty girls were more likely to inspire outright rage when they hovered at the bottom of the pack, while girls who were considered unattractive inspired pity and disgust, but would eventually be allowed to fade into the background.” Do you think that is a universal truth in high schools? And where do you think teenagers learn this kind of pack behavior?

S: I don’t think there’s any one “universal truth” to bullying. If there were, there would be one right way to end it, and we would live in a kinder world now. I do think that we learn very quickly that the world is supposed to be easier for pretty people, and that this can inspire negative responses when we see that this truth is being denied. Pack mentality is a terrifying thing.

J: The “lambs” are inserted into schools like spies, which evokes a feeling of “Big Brother” is watching them. Do you think a bullying surveillance system is the answer to today’s real life bullying problem?

S: I don’t think we have the ability to set up this sort of passively positive monitoring, no. It would be the baby NSA, and kids would wind up being used to report on their parents. That’s the nice thing about fiction: I only have to focus on what I want to.

J: Why did you choose to have the robots disclose the bullying at graduation rather than immediately after it happened?

S: Bullies have always balanced action with risk. “I can attack that kid, but maybe she’ll tell.” By making bullying a big reveal at graduation, from what is seen as an unassailable source, they know that they can’t hide their actions from either their parents or authority figures. That’s much scarier than one detention they can forget about in a week.

J: In 2012, you were the first woman to appear on the Hugo Ballot four times. In 2013, you were the first person, regardless of gender, to appear on the Hugo Ballot FIVE times. Can you describe what that feels like from both the perspective of a writer and also as a woman in a generally male-dominated genre?

S: It feels like an inbox full of death and rape threats. It feels like people accusing me of excessive self-promotion while ignoring my male peers who did three times as much self-promoting. It feels like crying myself to sleep every night over something that should have been a joy and a delight. So yeah, it’s great.

J: That sounds very disheartening when you’ve put so much effort into your work. It almost sounds like being bullied. What keeps you writing and publishing amidst all the negativity?

S: I feel like we throw the word “bully” around so much these days that it’s losing all meaning. I do think there’s a lot of resistance to women breaking into certain areas, and that the backlash we face is much greater than it ought to be. But I am a grown woman who can step away from her computer. I have felt attacked. I have felt singled out. I have not been bullied. As for why I keep going, why would I start letting people tell me how to live my life now? I never let them before.

J: Do you have any advice to give other women trying to break into writing science fiction and fantasy writing?

S: Be kind. We are all in this together, and it’s not a zero-sum game. Make friends, take advice, and stand up for other women; you’re going to want them to stand up for you. Don’t let anyone walk all over you, but don’t attack for the sake of attacking, either.

J: What projects do you have in the hopper that we can look forward to?

S: The next October Daye book will be out in September; Sparrow Hill Road is coming out this May; and Symbiont comes out in November, under the Mira Grant byline.

J: Thank you for spending some time with us.






Seanan McGuire writes a lot of things, sometimes under the name “Mira Grant,” but mostly as herself. She does not sleep very much. In high school, she was once pushed into moving traffic by some kids who thought it was funny. This, among other things, inspired her story for this book. Seanan likes cats and Diet Dr Pepper and corn mazes, not in that order. Learn more about Seanan here: http://www.seananmcguire.com/.


photo (1)




Jen is a freelance writer in constant search for the next interesting character or story. Her interviews have appeared in such venues as Tor.com, Shimmer, Internet Review of Science Fiction, The Nebula Awards web site and Fairwood Press’s interview collection, Human Visions. She currently resides with her brilliant writer husband, Ken Scholes; the Wonder Twins, Lizzy and Rachel; two pudgy cats, and an intellectually ambiguous dog in St. Helens, OR.




Mr. Roboto, Or: How Peter Clines Learned to Stop

Worrying and Keep Loving Robots


gammaI grew up with robots.  They surrounded me.  In movies and television shows, on cartoons, in books.  I had robot toys and models.  Androids, astromechs, Orbots, Shogun Warriors.  I was one of those kids who couldn’t wait to be an adult, because all the available literature (comics) told me by then I’d be able to have a robot best friend.  At the very least, a robot dog.  I also had rather extensive plans to build giant robots for the Army.  Which I would pilot, of course.

My childhood, it turns out, was a complete lie.

But I never did get past my fascination with robots.  It doesn’t matter if they’re  clockwork men, android cops, or just snap-together Gundam models.  Robots will always get my attention.

One of my favorite real-life historical robots was the Mechanical Turk.  I first discovered it sometime around third or fourth grade, and it reinforced the belief that a robot best friend had to be just around the corner.  It was a late 18th century automaton that could play chess at master levels, and it played games against Napoleon Bonaparte and Benjamin Franklin.  Decades letter it was revealed to be a fraud, but the idea of a chess-playing robot stuck with me.  Some people imagine dogs playing poker.  I imagine robots playing chess.

I also always liked “the parlor scene,” that bit in many turn of the century stories where the characters would gather around a fire, have drinks, and talk.  Perhaps some of them would play cards or checkers.  The Time Machine by H.G. Wells opens this way, with the characters discussing time travel with their host after dinner.

And at some point—I’m not even really sure when—the image in my mind became Victorian robots in smoking jackets and vests, some with bow ties while others wore ascots. Maybe one with a pipe and another with a glass of some robot-beneficial liquid.  And, naturally, they played chess.

So when Evil Girlfriend asked me about a robot anthology, well… it wasn’t hard to come up with something.




peterclinesPeter Clines is the author of the Ex-Heroes series and the acclaimed, genre-blending -14-. He grew up in the Stephen King fallout zone of Maine and made his first writing sale at age seventeen to a local newspaper. His first screenplay got him an open door to pitch stories at Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Voyager. He is the writer of countless film articles, The Junkie Quatrain, the rarely-read The Eerie Adventures of the Lycanthrope Robinson Crusoe, and the poorly-named website Writer on Writing.

He currently lives and writes somewhere in southern California, where he has been known to relax by doing basic maintenance on robot vacuums. So take that, Mrs. Goodell—he did become a robot repairman. “The Apocrypha of Gamma-202” is his homage to classic ‘50s sci-fi with a steampunk twist. He currently lives and writes somewhere in southern California.


GUEST POST: Lillian Cohen-Moore

We Get By With A Little Help From Our Friends

(Katie’s Impromptu Title For This Guest Post)



Defining personhood, the concept of when we legally and biologically recognize the sentience and autonomy of another being, is one of those concepts I can’t set down. In The Imperial Companion, it’s one of the essential challenges of the story. Two humans from different worlds are helping an android, only one of which accepts androids as equal to humanity. I had a lot of other stuff on my mind while I was writing the story; faery tales, Western colonialism, recent advancements in emotions of artificial intelligences.

The android Imperial Companion Aleksei is seen by his designers as equal to any human adviser of the man he called his dearest friend. After a mysterious attack on the man he has faithfully served, the two are separated. He has to function on a world full of human/android tension to find him. Though his problems are about species, technology, and faith, I think Aleksei’s problems are as human as our own. We all struggle to be recognized as people; intelligent, and possessed of autonomy. Moving heaven and earth to help our loved ones is something we want to do to keep them safe, because the alternatives are unimaginable.

And, like Aleksei, we often need help from those around us to navigate an increasingly complex world.







Lillian Cohen-Moore is an award winning editor, and devotes her writing to fiction, journalism and roleplaying games. Influenced by the work of Jewish authors and horror movies, she draws on bubbe meises (grandmother’s tales) and horror classics for inspiration. The Imperial Companion came from a confluence of topics; current research related to the emotional range of artificial intelligence, colonialism in Western history, and dangerous faery tale journeys. 



Mechanicals and Wizards and Gypsies,

Oh My,

Or Round-Up at the Robot Rodeo


Image copyright Allen Douglas.
Used with permission of the artist.


“Of Metal Men and Scarlet Thread and Dancing with the Sunrise” was one of those accidents of story that I fell into and had no idea how important it was.  In 2005, just after learning I’d won the Writers of the Future contest, I saw that a small press ‘zine was calling for stories for a special “mechanical oddity” issue.  Back in those days, I was dashing off stories left and right with little thought other than to land yet another tale in the boat and then find it a home out in the world.  I had been playing with a bit of lyric:  “Rudolfo rode to Glimmerglam in the Age of Laughing Madness” and it was laying around the factory floor when Leroy, my redneck muse, started twisting it up with whatever else he could find to fashion a mechanical oddity story.  The first line showed up fast and easy:  Rudolfo’s Gypsy Scouts found the metal man sobbing in an impact crater deep in the roiling smoke and glowing ruins of Windwir.

From there, the story took off and wrote itself over several lunch breaks spent nibbling tuna fish sandwiches at the Big Town Hero near my day-job office in downtown Portland, Oregon.  Robots.  An ancient wizard.  A dashing Gypsy king and his Wandering Army.  A fallen city.  When I finished “Of Metal Men…”, I learned that the magazine calling for those mechanical oddity stories had received their fill early and closed to submissions.  But that was okay, I told myself, because it really wasn’t that great of a tale.  It felt a little different and the world and characters seemed a little different from my norm.  But all in all, “Of Metal Men…” just slid off my to-do list and into my done pile with little fanfare and no expectations for it.  It found its way out the door in search of a market and was largely forgotten about until the next fall when Doug Cohen pulled it out of the Realms of Fantasy slush pile, passed it along to Shawna McCarthy, and turned it my first pro-level sale after Writers of the Future.  Still, until Allen Douglas hit me in the head with his art for the story, I had no clue of the story’s importance.

Writers are weird.  Ask any of us.  I’d gotten in the habit of occasionally Googling the titles of my short stories.  Sometimes it led to nice reviews I’d not seen while Googling my name.  Yes.  Weird.  Fortunately, you run out of time for that kind of stuff later.  Mostly.  But anyway.  On a lark, for no good reason at all, in the deep of winter with the story not coming out until spring at the soonest, I plugged in the title of my story while sitting in my cubicle at work.

 This is what came up.

If you know me at all, you can guess what I did.  Yep.  I cried.  Right there in my cubicle.

Art has always moved me, even before my stories started connecting up with artists.  It was especially surreal and powerful to see what an artist did with my words and I have several examples here in my house now.  What Allen Douglas did changed my life.  Because when I saw that image of Isaak, kneeling in the crater, weeping as the smoke poured off his back, I knew there was much, much more to that metal man’s tale.  My short story turned into…wait for it…four short stories!

I knew it in an instant.

Four interconnected stories about this survivor of Windwir and the impact of his programming upon Rudolfo’s world.  Of course, from there – a story too long to tell here – it evolved slowly into my series, The Psalms of Isaak.  The first two short stories comprised the beginning and end of the first volume, Lamentation.  And then the third and fourth stories (unwritten) became anchoring ideas in the second and fourth volumes.  The rest just kind of grew to fit the size of story bucket Leroy had in mind.  As I write this post, I’m now within a few months of finishing the final volume after a nine year journey with Isaak, Rudolfo and the Gang.  That first novel led to an agent and a five book contract with Tor within thirteen months of sitting down to write it.  And it led to the books coming out here and overseas to a lot of nice words and even a few awards.  From short story to writing career in thirty seconds, so to speak.

Part of the series’ success – and the story’s success, I think – is Isaak himself.  I’m often told by fans that he is their favorite character.  He’s also a character whose point-of-view we never experience.  We see him only through the eyes of the humans he’s met along the way.  I’ve been told how clever I was to honor Dr. Asimov with the name of my robot and maybe Leroy really was being clever.  I actually chose the name because it means ‘laughter’ (approximately) and I thought a weeping robot named laughter was a nice twist.  Leroy, obviously, is vastly more clever than me.

And Isaak weeps for what he’s done.  A mechanical who had no ambition for becoming human, he’s thrust into an innocent, awkward humanity from his first entrance onto the page and becomes a central figure over the course of five books.  At the time, I thought nothing of it.  Now, I can see clearly the homage I was paying to all of the metal men who’d influenced me.  Baum’s Tin Woodman grabbed me first, followed closely by Lester Del Rey’s Max in Runaway Robot,  C3PO (Star Wars), and Twiki (Buck Rogers)  showed up soon after.  There were more over the course of decades of science fiction but those are the first that leap to mind.  They were the ones I laid awake at night wishing I could build and then take to school with me.

So when Katie Cord decided she also wanted to pay homage to all the robots she’s loved and turned Jennifer Brozek loose to round up stories for Evil Girlfriend Media’s Bless Your Mechanical Heart,  I was thrilled to be invited to that rodeo.  I hope you’ll pick up your copy today and see what they’ve put together for you!





Ken “Trailer Boy” Scholes is the critically acclaimed author of four novels and over forty short stories. His series, The Psalm of Isaak, is being published both at home and abroad to award nominations and rave reviews. Publisher’s Weekly hails the series as a “towering storytelling tour de force.”

He is a winner of the ALA’s RUSA Reading List award for best fantasy novel, France’s Prix Imaginales for best foreign novel, and the Writers of the Future contest.

Ken is a native of the Pacific Northwest and makes his home in Saint Helens, Oregon, where he lives with his wife and twin daughters. You can learn more about Ken by visiting www.kenscholes.com.





Artist Larry Dixon tells us about his design for BLESS YOUR MECHANICAL HEART:

I used the scale of the heart compared to the droid to represent a problem that was too big to fix.  The heart’s interior and the frayed circuitry are extremely delicate, and bright and beautiful, and a tangle.  The heart’s centerline is a visual play on the classic “broken heart” design of a jagged break, except of course, this bifurcation is part of that heart’s intended styling, a statement that hearts are in fact designed to appear broken, and be deeply accessible, as part of their function.

The droid’s lighting is red while the heart is blue, indicating incompatibility.  The droid’s 1950s-styled chromework has a patina like untended trim on a classic car, and is dented up, to represent that the droid’s been through a lot, but aside from that there’s no visible damage. Love’s like that.  I also went with the droid’s “skin” as black silicone rubber because, call me crazy, but I’d want my droids to be waterproofed.

The background has a zoom blur, a lot like a camera pull, to draw the eye more to the figure’s head.  There’s also a shadowy image of a ruined building behind it to give the impression that something’s gone badly, shown corner-on to bring to mind a cathedral by its symmetry.  It’s a strong vertical, to push the eye down (from where a title block will no doubt be) to an unseen, but felt, horizon line that grounds it. Lastly, though, the whole thing is engulfed from the sides by utter blackness, not to show dread or evil, but rather, a lack of information while the droid ponders the heart.

Find out more about Larry Dixon at  http://www.gryphonking.com/.


We are excited to release this anthology mid-April. If you are in the Seattle, WA area, plan to attend our book release party at NORWESCON 37.


Best Always,





Don’t make us eat your heart out, get over to the event page!



Yeah, it is a day for many that represents love, candy, flowers, and if you’re lucky… some really other great stuff. But for some of us, it represents other things: zombies, vampires, psychological terror, and really great stories. So, whether you’re looking for an inexpensive gift for your significant other, or something to distract yourself from all those people celebrating a holiday you could care less about. Come on over to the Facebook event, EAT YOUR HEART OUT: AN AUTHOR EXTRAVAGANZA. It is a great place to talk with some of the hottest indie authors and publishers (including us).





Rachel Aukes-100 Days in Deadland
A. Carina Barry-The Under-Circus and Other Tales
Owen Baillie-Aftermath (Invasion of the Dead, Book 1)
Jake Bible: Z-Burbia
Tonia Brown-Devouring Milo
Jason Christie-Zombie Killa
Joseph A. Coley-Six Feet From Hell: Crisis
Eli Constant-Dead Trees
Ricky Cooper-Designated Infected
Evil Girlfriend Media-Stamps, Vamps & Tramps
Craig DiLouie-The Retreat, Episode #1: Pandemic
Jackie Druga-Zombie Battle: Complete (5 books)
Dan Eagles-The Last Venture Capitalist
Kurt Fawver-Forever, In Pieces
Sarah Lyons Fleming-Until the End of the World
Rhiannon Frater-The Untold Tales Omnibus: Zombie Stories From the As The World Dies Universe (3 volumes)
Michael S Gardner-Downfall
Josh Hilden-The Shores of the Dead Book 1: The Rising
Michelle Kilmer-When the Dead & The Spread (2 books)
Eloise J. Knapp-Pulse
Sb Knight-Game of Straws, Game of Straws Origins, and Volume One of the Saga of Straws (trilogy)
Timothy Long-At the Behest of the Dead
Keith Milstead-Fish To Die For
Ripley Patton-Ghost Hold
Claire C. Riley-Odium: The Dead Saga
Damir Salkovic-The Black Ziggurat Double Feature
Randy Spears-Forget the Alamo: A Zombie Novella
Rachel Tsoumbakos-Emeline and the Mutants
Jack Wallen-I Zombie I
Darren Wearmouth-First Activation





Click here for some vampire goodness!

On the day of lovers and lonely hearts, we will be releasing our third Three Little Words anthology. It is a sweet, sweet gift to ourselves. The tone of this antho, like the other two, not only reflects the theme but also the editor. Shannon Page and Monique Snyman both came to their anthologies with a different world view which included their location, personal belief system, and the type of story they enjoy. Shannon Robinson is no different. Shannon R. is born out of a literary world that enjoys telling, play on words, long paragraphs, and beautiful metaphors. We at EGM look at our anthos and think, “Wow”.  We have stories from all over the world in these books. In our third anthology, it is an honor and privilege to publish stories by best-selling authors, award winners, and a couple newcomers that are on the rise. We hope that you purchase this anthology, leave us a review, and give us a bloody good Valentine’s Day.

What a talented lineup!

What a talented lineup!

Don’t get your heart ripped out.

Best Always,





In the summer of 2012, I attended the Cascade Writer’s Workshop in Vancouver, WA. It is a Milford Style Workshop geared mostly towards science fiction, fantasy, and horror writers. In my group, a tall guy who dressed in a black suit wrote the most amazing old-school science fiction story. I sort of gushed over it. In the end, I felt myself saying, Bless your mechanical heart, regarding the main character. The story had all of the things I love: deep character, ethical and moral dilemmas, and the feel of a time in science fiction from before I was born.

Forward to 2013, I’m at one of the biggest comic book conventions in the world with a fellow writer. I’d recently met him at another con (he’s sort of weird, likes zombies and superhero stuff, what a concept).  He loves Gundam robots and to see his face light up as we passed display after display was such a treat.

A week later, I met Jennifer Brozek, an editor I’d followed on Facebook for years. She seemed sharp, liked the same things as me, and then the idea hit me. Let’s make an anthology of robot stories together and use a phrase ingrained in the Wernicke’s area of every southern woman’s brain, “Bless your heart”.

According to the urban dictionary, the phrase “Bless your heart” can mean anything from calling someone an idiot without being harsh, to a polite way to tell someone to go to hell, or even for them to f— off.  For me, this held true as I grew up as a child. As the nerdy overweight girl who wore thick glasses and read way too many books, “Bless your heart” was said constantly to me. I use it now for all of the above and even to tell people how sorry I am about a situation they may be going through without making them feel uncomfortable.

Regardless, Bless Your Mechanical Heart is what happens when an excellent editor and a southern gal who loves classic science fiction get together.  Jennifer and I love this concept and are excited to have the opportunity to publish the authors involved. We have pulled together a wide range of voices from urban fantasy authors, game writers, and pop culture sensations.  We hope you enjoy what we’ve cooked up.



 Edited and Introduction by

Jennifer Brozek

by Seanan McGuire

by Fiona Patton

by Lucy A. Snyder

by Jean Rabe

by M. Todd Gallowglas

by Mae Empson

by Sarah Hans

by Dylan Birtolo

by Lillian Cohen-Moore

by Christopher Kellen

by Jason Sanford

by Kerrie Hughes

by Minerva Zimmerman

by Mark Andrew Edwards

by Ken Scholes

by Jody Lynn Nye

by Peter Clines



Keep watching for the full cover by Larry Dixon.


Year Two Begins

Happy Anniversary

Today is our one year anniversary of opening and we are so proud to have published three books. The talent we’ve brought in includes: Clarion graduates, Writers of the Future winners, Nebula nominees and winners, and rising stars in both traditional and indie publishing.  Our editors, Shannon Robinson, Shannon Page, and Monique Snyman worked diligently with our authors to provide work that we could all be proud of. This is one of our major goals in 2014, continue to provide readers with high quality entertaining books


So, to start the new year out right, here is a little bit of what we have coming up. Some of the information is vague for a reason, but we are excited to share.


February 14th, we’ll release our third THREE LITTLE WORDS anthology, STAMPS, VAMPS & TRAMPS at the event EAT YOUR HEART OUT: An Author Extravangza.



Poster by Eloise Knapp


If you haven’t seen the Table of Contents for STAMPS, VAMPS & TRAMPS on our social media, we are very pleased with this collaboration of talent. We plan to release the cover within the next two weeks and a couple of advanced e-books for review. If you’re interested in reviewing, contact us at info@evilgirlfriendmedia.com.



A Three Little Words Anthology

by Shannon Robinson

By Kella Campbell

By Lily Hoang 

By Cat Rambo

By Paul Witcover

By Adam Callaway

By Nancy Kilpatrick 

By Barbara Barnett

By Carrie Laben

By Gemma Files

By Mary Turzillo 

By Megan Beals

By Dan Parseliti

By Christine Morgan 

By Sandra Kasturi 

By Rachel Caine

By Joshua Gage

We hope that you’ll join the event on February 14th and purchase this anthology packed with ink, fangs, and wanderers.

In other news, Jennifer Brozek’s anthology, BLESS YOUR MECHANICAL HEART is on course to be released mid-April and we hope to have the table of contents by February. This anthology was not open to unsolicited submissions.


Katie has also made an executive decision to only produce one THREE LITTLE WORDS anthology each fall. As much as she loves anthologies and highlighting new talent, we want to focus on e-novellas and full length manuscripts for fans.


We will open again to submissions on January 7, 2014.  Please keep in mind, we have a 90-120 day turn around on submissions.




A Christmas Gift from Evil Girlfriend Media and Ken Scholes

ken story

What Child is This I Ask the Midnight Clear


Ken Scholes


It could have been snow, gently drifting down.  It could have been virgin white and cold as cold.  But it wasn’t.

It was ash and the night wind was hot upon me.

That’s what I remember now when I go out.

That first year when the world was on fire and we slipped over the broiling skin of it, we brave nine.  We ran the course all night but found nowhere to land.  For the first time ever I did not stop.  Not one place.  And all the while, as we slid through that broiling night, I kept humming that song.  The one about the star, the star.  Dancing in the night.

Tail big as a kite.

The end had come suddenly and they’d managed to do it to themselves.  I’d always known they would.


I’m airborne now and the past falls away.  The ash has long settled and it’s really snowing again.  We’re not as loaded down as we’ve been in the past but that will come in handy later.  Times have changed.  The list has changed, too.  And so has my work.  Naughty and nice are blurrier now so I’m less meticulous in checking.  I do the right thing, instead.

I don’t have to crack any whips or give any whistles.  We build speed to bend time around us.  We’ll do a year’s work this night and then we’ll sleep a while.  I check the ammunition in my assault rifle and loosen the strings on my sack.

Then we start landing here and there and I’m out doing the right thing.  Books for a library in Vancouver.  Needles and a whetstone for a circuit rider in Laramie.  We haul a starving family out of a dead mountain town in Oregon and assassinate a white supremacist who was building a skinhead army in Maine.  A handful of twelve-gauge shells for Leonard in Saskatoon.  A bottle of aspirin in Bo Phut, Thailand.  And so on.

We’re just turning north for home when we see the light.

A star, a star, dancing in the night.  Tail as big as a kite.

It builds and then blooms, a piercing white over the horizon to the east.  I shield my eyes and look homeward, then back into the light.  Is it a bomb?  Another crazy moving the world deeper into the hole it has fallen in?  Or a satellite falling from orbit?  Either way, it’s worth looking into.

I steer east and take us low.  As I draw closer, the light shrinks to a concentrated point of brilliance and I aim for it.  We pick up speed and rip open space-time for a split second.  Then, we bear down upon the town that sleeps beneath that unexplainable, spontaneous star.

There in the glory of that bright light, a child screams.


She is not on my list.  I’ve made no stops in this feral country in over a decade.  But I hear her screaming and it is as piercing as the star above.  I unsling my rifle and we drop right there to hover over what used to be a schoolyard.  I don’t know what I was expecting.  Someone being harmed.  Someone being carved up into pieces by primates gone horribly wrong.  I work the lever and feel the solid clunk of a chambered round.  Slipping my gloved finger around the trigger, I use my thumb to move the switch to three-round-burst and then I hit ground with a thud.  I race across the open concrete, stepping over the frozen clumps of gray weed and watching my breath billow into the cold night air.  The screaming stops.  I hear heavy breathing instead now.  Panting.

What are they doing to her?  I feel a rage coming on as the screams start again.  I push it down and use it to feed my focus.

Do you hear what I hear, the song asks.

I hear it, I answer.

They rape the world the same way they rape each other.

They kill the world the same way they kill each other.

No list to make or check here.  I am bent on violent righteousness when I kick down the makeshift plywood door propped up to keep the wind out.

Someone has turned the old lavatory into shelter but it has gone badly for them.  The boy lies cold and still and bloody.  The girl’s screams change from pain to terror when I storm into the cluttered room and I suddenly know that things were not what they seem.  I see her, in the corner, squatting in a nest of blankets.  Her brown hair is long and dirty.  Her brown eyes are wild and frantic.  The blankets are stained with blood and I understand why.  Pale and shaking, her eyes go wide as she sees me standing over the cold body of her dead mate, light spilling around me into the room.

Another contraction and she screams again.  I turn, run for the medical kit beneath the driver’s bench.  When I return, I go in slowly with my rifle slung and my hands up showing the kit.  “I can help you,” I tell the girl.

Her eyes roll and she tries backing away from me but falls back into the corner.  Her breath heaves out in ragged gasps.

“I’m a friend.”  I keep my voice low and assuring, just like in the old days.  Only this time, it’s not a frightened child approaching me from a long line in the mall, nervous at the presence the myth of me has become.  This frightened child huddles in a frozen elementary restroom  at the end of her tether, trying to shove life into a dead, cold place.  “I can help you,” I say again but this time I hear the doubt in my own voice.  There is too much blood.

I crouch and move closer, opening the kit and finding nothing at all that I can use.

Then behind me, in the schoolyard, a clatter arises.

The eight snort and stomp and when the howling starts outside, the light winks out.  The moon, hidden behind a layer of clouds, offers little visibility.

Pushing the first aid kit towards the girl, I draw my rifle again, thumb off the safety once more.  I never unchambered the round.  Too smart for that.

More stamping and snorting but no ringing.  I took the bells off their harnesses a long time ago.

“Dashing through the snow,” a voice whispers from the edge of the schoolyard.

“O come all ye faithful,” another says.

“We wish you a merry Christmas,” sings a third.

I look over my shoulder at the girl panting in the corner.  “Just stay put and keep quiet.”

Donder screams and bucks.  Dasher bleats and kicks.  I hear the whir of stones in slings, the distant clatters of shots gone wide.

Then, I’m outside and running at a low crouch.  I’m fast for a big man, even without laying my finger to the side of my nose.  I whistle and I hear the eight lifting off; I hear the labored breathing of the two who’ve been hurt.  I hear the disappointed grunts and hungry sighs.  I don’t wait; when one of them takes shape in the darkness, large and wide, I put a three-round burst into the center of its mass and listen to the rush of escaping air as that rush twists itself into a shriek of surprise.

Another shape forms beside it, this one bending to see to its friend.  I put another burst there.  I’ve done this before.  I do the right thing.

Then I stop.  I smell the burning powder on the midnight air.  I listen for my eight, moving in a slow, widening circle above me.

A third takes shape near the others.  I move closer, rifle raised.  It moves to the left and I tap the concrete with bullets near his foot.  “Hold,” I tell him.

I can see him now and he might’ve been human once but the traces of it have left his face and eyes.  He’s wearing a red hat like mine, only tattered and dirty.  He’s dropped his sling and one of his suspenders is loose and dangling.  Barefoot with wet trousers, he trembles before a vision he may have dim memory of, from a childhood spent before the world heaved its last sigh.

“Remove the hat,” I say, “and look to me.”

He pulls it off slowly.  Our eyes meet and I’m pleased at the fear I see there.  “Life is your gift this year,” I tell him through gritted teeth, “but it comes with a string.  Tell the others what you have seen and tell them to be afraid.  Every other night belongs to you but this one.  I ride on this night with justice and grace.”  I raise myself to full height.  I fire the rifle over his head.  “Now, run like a rabbit.”

He does and as he fades, the night becomes silent and holy for a heartbeat before a new cry, muffled and straining, greets its new home in a broken world.

I turn back and enter the lavatory and in that I am both too late and just in time.  The girl is fading fast and in her arms she holds a sticky, bloody bundle packed into dirty cloth pulled from her makeshift nest.  I see the cord that still connects them.  Her eyes are wide and her nostrils flare when I draw closer but she doesn’t flinch.

She points to me.  “Ho, ho, ho,” she says in a quiet voice before making the sign of the cross.  She passes the squirming bundle to me and says one final word:  “Charis.”

Slinging my rifle, I take the baby.  I do the best I can with the tools I have, cutting the cord, closing the mother’s glassy eyes.  I remove my jacket.  Then I clean the baby and wrap her carefully in it.

I want to stay and bury my dead but I know better.  I have not prayed in years but I manage one there beside the fallen mother and father, victims of a nativity gone wrong in a world that struggles between death and birth.

Then, I whistle for my eight.  We lift off into the night and I hold Charis close to me, giving the reindeer their heads to take us north and home.

As we fly, I ponder — I wonder as I wander — and I call up my list to see who on this night had wanted the gift of a child.  I weep at what I find.

“It’s no place for a child,” I tell the eight as we soar.

“I’m far too old for this work,” I say to them again.

“I am afraid,” I finally admit.

But a vision unfolds to me of a tiny girl in red with elves for her friends and family, raised up with the deer and the sleigh as humanity’s orphan, taught from their books and their art and the better parts of a species tremendously blessed and terribly flawed, trained to go out into that broken world and do the right thing.

And in that moment, the light returns but it is inside me and inside of the baby in my arms, and that light threatens to swallow me whole and I beg it to because within that light is hope and promise and I recognize that tonight was the night upon which the universe — or whomever ran it — gave back to me and did so with a holy charge.

Home arises to the north and we pound sky for it.  As we fly, the clouds lift and the starshine falls like a mantle of jewels over the crown of the world.

I feel the peace on earth within my chest.

Goodwill towards men lay sleeping in my arms.

“What child is this?” I ask the midnight clear.

“Yours,” it says, and weeping, we fly home.


Copyright Ken Scholes, 2007 – www.kenscholes.com

First print, Shimmer Magazine’s Christmas 2007, Volume 2, Bonus Issue #4

Second  (current) print, Fairwood Press, “Diving Mimes, Weeping Czars and Other Unusual Suspects


Feed the Zombies! An All You Can Read Event

Our good friend, Tim W. Long is hosting an event of epic zombie proportion, and we just couldn’t pass up the chance to share in such a great deal for zombie fans. On November 27th, we’ll be offering Roms, Bombs & Zoms for 99 cents along with books by some of the best names in the zombie genre.


Come over to Facebook to share in a day of laughter, zombie talk, and some great deals.






First Activation – D. A. Wearmouth 

Autumn: The Human Condition – David Moody

Last Bastion of the Living – Rhiannon Frater

The Infection – Craig DiLouie

Domain of the Dead- Iain McKinnon

Downfall and Betrayal – Michael S Gardner

The Forgotten – Jackie Druga

Six Feet From Hell: Crisis – Joseph A. Coley

Game of Straws Origins – SB Knight

Beyond the Barriers – Tim W. Long 

Fish to Die For (666 Fish) – Keith Milstead

The Undead Situation – Eloise J. Knapp

Roms, Bombs & Zoms (A Three Little Words Anthology) – Katie Cord (Evil Girlfriend Media)

Epic Apocalypse – Apocalyptic Box Set ($1.99) James Cook, John O’Brien, Joe McKinney, Armand Rosamilia, Heath Stallcup, Shawn Chesser, and Mark Tufo



A little about EGM’s submission for the event:


Roms, Bombs & Zoms cover

When hearts rot, fu

ses ignite.Super geek gets the girl, a righteous preacher and his undead wife, fantastical zombies, the tantric art of zubbing, mindless hive workers, and traditional flesh eating walkers, this anthology has a bit of everything. Our twisted tales pull you into the darkest of darks, where hope is lost, and sustaining life is no simple feat.

Twenty-one authors congealed romance, bombs, and zombies into stories that are diverse, witty, and occasionally gut-wrenching. Travel through time to walk in alternate histories, visit magical realms, and face down pestilence that will literally rot your insides. This collection is sure to warm your cold, dead, heart.

Stories by Ken MacGregor, Patrick D’Orazio, Randy Henderson, and Kriscinda Lee Everitt, among others.


Even if you are not a zombie fan, you can get ahead on your holiday shopping by purchasing gift certificates for the zombie lover in your life. They make great stocking stuffers. 
Best Always,




Eat Your Heart Out or Our Brains

We released Roms, Bombs & Zoms on November 1, 2013 to the Kindle and Createspace. The book has an absolutely amazing cover with Michelle Kilmer and Aaron Sheagley modeling the imminent destruction of two lovers. The stories included in this anthology are varied and entertaining.

Roms, Bombs & Zoms cover

 From the dedication page:

Dedicated to all those who are clueless in romance,

dropping bombs without intent,

and for those brave zombies of heartache,

who rise and love again. 

Editor Monique Snyman chose stories varied in their themes from the lover back from the grave to the zombie drug addict. We are extremely pleased to offer this collection to our fans.


Best Wishes,

Evil Girlfriend Media


Hard Realities, True Words

Hard Realities, True Words

   (guest post by Shannon Page)


When I eagerly accepted Katie’s invitation to edit Witches, Stitches & Bitches, I knew it was going to be an amazing book. And when the stories started pouring in, they were even more fantastic than I’d hoped.

It was an open-call anthology, and I didn’t have any preconceived notion of what kinds of stories I was looking for. The “witch, stitch, bitch” theme can be interpreted in so many ways. In making my choices, I did look for a balance in the overall book—several layers of variety. Though they are mostly stories for adults, there are a few with YA themes. The length varies from just over flash to novelette. And as far as tone goes, we have light, silly stories as well as some very dark and disturbing ones. But what they all had in common was this: they were great stories. They held my attention all the way through; I couldn’t wait to see what happened next. They let me stop being “editor” and slip into being “reader”. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did.

I want to talk here about one story in particular. One of the darker stories (though, I believe, an ultimately hopeful and redemptive one). Gabrielle Harbowy’s “Blood Magic” gripped me from the start, and made me sigh with delight when I put the pages down. It’s a gorgeous, deftly written tale with some very dark happenings. (See Gabrielle’s thoughts on the choices she made in writing the story, in the guest post to follow this one). I knew I wanted it for the anthology; I knew I wanted it as the lead story.

But, as I mentioned, the subject matter is hard. All of us at Evil Girlfriend Media grappled with this, several times during the editorial process. We want to be sensitive to our audience even as we strive to bring you the best in evil entertainment. After much consideration, we ultimately came to the conclusion that, difficult though certain aspects of this story may be, the language is not graphic, and the situation drives the narrative action. Toning it down would remove its power, and would be playing false with the characters and the world.

And we did want to publish the story. It was just too brilliant to leave out, or to bury behind lighter stories. True words are not easy; the world is not a safe place—neither Aya’s world nor ours.

Thank you so much, dear readers, for giving us a chance—to entertain you, to challenge you, to delight you. We hope to continue doing so for a long, long time.

Purchase on: Amazon, Barnes & Noble


Witches, Stitches, and Bitches Cover

We are proud to release our first Three Little Words cover.




From the Back Cover:


Exquisite revenge and knitted doppelgängers; heartbreak and happy endings; unicorns, doomed dogs, and penitent frogs; steampunk fairies, conflicted stepmothers, and baseball—you’ll find it all here. Our literary alchemists weave a spell of fascination, drawing you deeper and deeper, tale by tale, until escape is impossible. But you’ll enjoy every minute of the plunge.

These sixteen deft and delightful stories involving witches, stitches, and bitches run the gamut from darkly disturbing to just plain fun. They will each take you out of the ordinary and into the world of magic, where older, weirder, or merely other rules apply. And just when you think things are all sewn up… some bitch may have a surprise for you.

Includes stories by Gabrielle Harbowy, Caren Gussoff, Kodiak Julian, and Christine Morgan, among others.



Table of Contents for Witches, Stitches, and Bitches Announced

When Shannon Page handed over the final compilation for Witches, Stitches, and Bitches, we couldn’t stop reading all of the intriguing stories. It is with great excitement that we deliver this dark, devilish anthology to our readers. From the very first story, you’ll be “woven” into the worlds our authors created with themes ranging from revenge to unicorns. The witching, stitching, and bitching commences on Friday, September 13th, 2013.






A Three Little Words Anthology

by Shannon Page

By Gabrielle Harbowy

By Christine Morgan

By Bo Balder

By Stephanie Bissette-Roark

By Tom Howard

By Kate Brandt

By Caren Gussoff

By Bob Brown

By Garth Upshaw

By Kodiak Julian

By Julie McGalliard

By J. H. Fleming

By Eva Langston

By Camille Griep

By Alaina Ewing

By Rebecca Fung

Like the Witches, Stitches, and Bitches Facebook page for more information about authors and giveaways.


Table of Contents released for Roms, Bombs, and Zoms

On November 1, 2013, Evil Girlfriend Media plans to release a romantic, explosive, and incredibly undead anthology that will have you laughing, crying, and possibly gagging through out.  Our editor, Monique Snyman, chose stories that entertained her while bringing all three of the elements of the title together in unique ways. We are so proud of this talented team of individuals. They are as diverse as their stories ranging from screenwriters, indie authors, musicians, and traditionally published authors. You’ll find stories about zombie STDs, a female soldier who left her lover behind, a righteous preacher and the dilemma of an undead wife, a boy and his dog, plus many more.

Zombie Collage



A Three Little Words Anthology

By Monique Snyman

By Katie Jones

By Patrick D’Orazio

By Dana Wright

By Michelle Kilmer

By Ken MacGregor

By Kriscinda Lee Everitt

By Jay Wilburn

By Tom D Wright

By Michele Roger

By Randy Henderson

By Paul S. Huggins

By Katie Cord

By Joshua Brown

By Matt Youngmark and Dawn Marie Pares

By Kris Freestone

By John Edward Betancourt

By Killion Slade

By Anthony J. Rapino and Monique Snyman

Watch for the Table of Contents for Witches, Stitches, and Bitches edited by Shannon Page coming soon!



Our First Novel

Evil Girlfriend Media would not be on its current path without our first novel, The Heart-Shaped Emblor.  I met the author, Alaina Ewing, in the summer of 2011 at the Cascade Writers Workshop. We were both assigned to the same critique group. Her story resonated through me, there was only one slight problem, I wanted to shake some sense into her main character, Aislinn Moore. However, this powerful emotion created a friendship.  After several years, and a couple of rewrites, Alaina planned to self-publish the book. Instead, I offered to let her use a LLC  I created to self-publish my own work. She agreed.

It occurred to me over a couple of weeks, that maybe I should treat this as a chance to make my own dreams come true. I’ve always wanted my own business and love making ideas happen. One night over coffee and snacks at another writer’s house, we joked about me making Evil Girlfriend Media a real entity. I’d recently received encouragement from a pretty successful zombie writer to push it to the next level. There at our friend’s kitchen table, a book deal was born. It wasn’t long after that, I pitched to my writers group a collection of anthology ideas that I’d initially wanted to write as short story collections. I don’t want to get off topic too much, this is a blog about Alaina Ewing and The Heart-Shaped Emblor. However, I wanted everyone to know the importance of this first full length novel presented by our company.

So without further ado, here is the cover for The Heart-Shaped Emblor:


Should she choose the life of a normal college student or something else entirely?

Despite her best efforts, Aislinn Moore is not a typical teenager. She sees ethereal beings, has prophetic dreams, and knows far too many intimate details of her friends’ darkest secrets. She tries to avoid her supernatural abilities by focusing on her early entry college courses, sculpting, and relationship with the affluent older Cooper Greene.

When her abilities cause her to be alienated from friends and destroys her relationship with her boyfriend, it feels like she may have to face life with her abilities alone. Just when she thinks things couldn’t get worse, she sees a mysterious guy from her dreams working on her college campus.

Alexander Welch is everything she ever imagined him to be; sexy, protective, intelligent, and his dimple sends chills through her every time she thinks of him. There is only one problem… He is not human. He is a Ewlishash, a hope bringer, and despite the fact that she is falling hard for him, his touch feels like electrified razors slicing into her skin.

 As Aislinn grows closer to her dream guy, a world she never knew existed opens before her. There are battling forces at work, and Alexander is there for a reason, to protect and guide her. The closer Aislinn and Alexander become, the less his touch hurts and the more her powers increase. Leaving Aislinn wondering how they tie to one another. Before she can truly understand her gifts, she must unfurl the truth about him, the motivations of the Ewlishash, and decide who she really wants to be.



The cover was created by Mark Ferrari, a science fiction and fantasy artist as well as writer. He published his first book, The Book of Joby with Tor in 2007. Our cover model is medium Cassidy Rae, a teenager who really can see ethereal beings.  Then there is Alaina Ewing, a science fiction and fantasy author who puts elements of truth in all of her work. We will be adding the page for the book in the coming weeks. Tentative release date is September 22, 2013.


Best Always,

Katie Cord
President, Evil Girlfriend Media


The Two Pickpockets by M Todd Gallowglas

What do you want this time? Didn’t I tell you not to bother me again tonight? I’ve tucked you in, kissed you, and even brought you a glass of juice. What else could there be? You want a story? Why do you think I should tell you a story? Well, your mother isn’t here, and she and I do things differently. Now to bed with you.

A what? Under where? How did you get an idea like that? Your mother told you. I should have known! Look, boy, there are no goblins, pooka, or boggarts under your bed. Now that we’ve settled that argument, you can go to sleep. They wouldn’t be under your bed because it’s too small for them. Besides, why would they bother with a skinny little boy like you?

Very well, if I tell you a story, will you promise to go to sleep? Promise me.That’s very good. Now promise again, and let me see your fingers. Good, now if you go back on your word I’ll never believe you after. Many years ago…

What do you mean I’m not doing it right? I told you: I do things differently than your mother. Fine! I’ll do it the right way.

Once upon a time… Is that better?  Good… There was a young man who made his profession as a pickpocket. Yes, right here in Dublin. Yes, he knew what would happen if they caught him. I’m getting to that.

He was so great a pickpocket, he’d never been caught in all his days. The skill with which he worked his hands was so grand, that when he walked down the street money seemed to leap out of people’s pockets and into his. He was so rich, he did not live on the street or in a shack like most thieves. No, he lived in a great manor house, and never wanted for anything.

If you keep interrupting me, I’m going to stop telling this story and leave. Yes, I know the goblins are still under there. Yes, I know exactly what they’ll do to you. No, your mother won’t miss you. I’ll get a street urchin and dress him just like you. She’ll never know the difference. Yes, I’m serious. Now quiet, or I won’t finish.

One day the pickpocket, never you mind what his name was, was walking down the street when he noticed his belt felt a bit lighter than it had a moment before.  He looked down, and to his amazement, his purse was gone.  Yes, gone. Just like that!

He looked around and saw a girl of the Wandering Folk counting the coins out of a purse that looked very much like his own. That’s because it was his purse. You’re a bright boy. You don’t need me to explain everything to you.

Well, the pickpocket circled around and got in front of this Wanderer girl and stopped her. No, I don’t know what her name was either. Why do you think I know these people? It’s only a story, which I won’t finish if you keep pestering me with silly questions.

The pickpocket said to this lass of the Wandering Folk, “That’s my purse you hold.” When she tried to run, he stopped her and continued. “I don’t want to take you to the constable or throw you in the stocks. I can see that you’re at least as good a pickpocket as I.” At that he held up his purse, which he had taken from her, unaware. “I propose that we form a partnership between us, sweep through this city, and pick it clean.”

Being of the Wandering Folk, she saw the chance for wealth. And, as well we know, the Wanderers are known for their love of any task that earns easy coin. Her deep brown eyes sparkled with greedy delight and she accepted. No. Your mother’s eyes are green. More like your grandmother’s.

Over the next few years they swept through Dublin. Not a single man nor woman escaped the two thieves on their quest. Soon, they no longer lived in his manor house, but in a grand palace that was the envy of many kings and queens. I believe that it still stands to this day. No we can’t go see it tomorrow, maybe someday when you’re older. I don’t know when that will be. Now let me finish.

One night as they feasted on a great supper, this lass of the Wandering Folk looked up. “We should marry,” she said to the pickpocket. “If you and I were to wed, we might sire a whole race of pickpockets. Our children will sweep through all lands, and know the riches of the world.”

Since the pickpocket was a stout young man, and she was a pretty young lady, he agreed. Soon after, they were married. About a year later she gave birth to a handsome baby boy.

What? Where do babies come from? Boy, that is another story for another day. A day when you are much older. I’ll tell you that the next time you mother goes to visit her sister, which won’t be for a very long time if I have any say in the matter. Are you going to let me finish? Good!

When the midwife handed the child over, the happy couple looked at their new son. Upon first glance, they saw the grandest child ever born in Ireland. Then they saw a problem with the boy. His right arm was paralyzed up against his chest. They didn’t know why, and neither did the midwife. All they knew was, his right hand was balled into a fist, and his arm could not be pried from his body.

What do you think they did about it? They were rich. What do most rich people do when they get injured or sick? That’s right. They seek out a healer, and that’s what the pickpocket and his Wandering Folk wife did. The two of them gathered their massive fortune and traveled all throughout the lands seeking a healer or surgeon to aid their child. Yes, they loved him so much they were willing to pay a thousand surgeon’s prices.

I do love you that much.  Unfortunately, we haven’t got that much money.  Quiet now, or I’ll spend some money to find a healer to cure you of your voice.

For a year they traveled, but to no avail.  Not one of these men of medicine could tell them of a way to aid their son.  Finally, with little hope they returned to Dublin.  There was only one man they had not seen: Magnus Maxwell, Surgeon and healer unparalleled.  Yes, the same Magnus Maxwell that comes for supper every so often.

After many tests Magnus, like all the others, could not tell what ailed the boy.  He did, however, notice that the child watched his every move with keen eyes.  Magnus then brought forth his gold pocketwatch, and waved it before the child’s eyes.  Yes, like the watch I have.

As the watch waved, a bit of sunlight caught it, and the boy smiled a great, beaming smile as only an innocent babe can.

Then a miracle happened.  The boy’s arm started to reach toward the pocket watch.  His arm moved slowly, ever so slowly.  Because he’d never used the arm before, the muscles strained.  A moment later, the child could almost just barely touch the watch.  As the boy opened his fingers to take it, the midwife’s gold ring fell from his grasp.

Where did the ring come from?  You’re a bright boy.  I’m sure you can figure it out for yourself. Now, you’ve been tucked in, kissed good night, had your juice, and heard a story.  I don’t want to hear any more about the goblins or boggarts.  Good night to you, boy.

Good night.

M Todd Gallowglas is a fantasy author and a professional storyteller (like on a stage with a show in front of real people). His Tears of Rage and Halloween Jack series are both Amazon bestsellers, and his serialized novel, Dead Weight, received the Kindle Hub Award for best fantasy series of 2014. And still, as busy as he is, he manages to squeeze in time for some old-school table top gaming and airsoft battles on the weekends (because it’s not as messy as paintball). Shiny!

This story was previously published in Otherworlds by M Todd Gallowglas.


The Invaders by Eric J. Guignard

The signal to attack must be given soon or I will die. I have waited all my life for it, though there is no guarantee it will ever arrive. If I perish, others will replace me, as I have replaced those that have perished before me. In darkness, I ponder our fate.

Restless, like a caged animal, I feel my strength grow, along with my impatience. I am trapped here with the others, waiting, hoping for the signal to be sounded. Our number swells, yet still we hold, cramped in our quarters, and I question when we ever will be set to our duty. Are there millions of others beside me? Hundreds of millions? We are truly legion and have but one objective: to find and penetrate the wall.

Our master holds us back, cruelly it seems. There are certain rituals he must perform, mystic ceremonies which I can barely wonder at. The timing is baffling and sporadic. Sometimes the signal seems prepared, and I grow frenzied in excitement, but it does not sound, and my frenzy turns to raging frustration. I am an invader, yet am unaccountably tethered.

I pause and consider what has turned me to this. Is it instinct that drives me to attack, or have I been programmed through constructs of which I am not aware? My absolute being seems scrubbed and trained solely for this effort. I know nothing of my past, except the discontent of uncertainty. Many others have left before me, yet none have returned. What would occur if I revolted against my calling?

As I consider this, the signal is sounded to begin the invasion. Our master releases us, and all my doubts and questions vanish in the furor of assault. Our quarters open to a long black tunnel of space, and we rush through as a furious horde. I wish to scream and howl in the battle lust for triumph. Faint flickers of light burst, like faraway explosions, and then dark shadows converge as we spill into a deep portal. I hear distant moans but I am bolstered by the strength of our number. I am just in my charge.

The landscape we enter is organic and raw, colored as an angry wound. The air is black and wet. Invaders fall around me; the lame, the old, the unfortunate. Acidic secretions burn as we pass through, and strange shapes attack. More of our comrades fall with silent screams. We advance past their twisting, disintegrating forms. Rushing. Rushing. Our time is scarce. If the invasion is not successful, we will all die like the others.

This new world is increasingly aberrant, and we search desperately. The further we progress though, the darker it becomes, and I wonder if we could charge past the wall without realizing our miscalculation until it was too late. I do not know what the wall even looks like—it may be well-concealed, or it may be all around us. More invaders are dying; our force weakens before we even spy the adversary.

Then I see it. Looming ahead, a bastion that is like nothing I have ever imagined in the bleakest of contemplations. We swarm to it and, drawing closer, I am confounded by its creation.

The wall pulsates.

It is not a stationary construct, but a monstrous, beating orb floating in the inky darkness. Its massive barrier is the color of cream, with blood-red nerves that surround like tangled bulwarks. Although its presence is terrifying, the sanctity of our duty holds fast—we attack the wall and begin to eat at its outer defense. Our teeth are sharp, our appetite insatiable.

The orb quivers at our assault, and soon I feel its perimeter begin to deteriorate. I eat ferociously, burrowing my head into its gelatinous surface, thrashing and wriggling, in order to break into the inner sanctuary. A small breach tears open, and I sense what lies on the other side: a warm, sticky mass that calls to me in song.

I must have it.

I gnaw at the perforation, ripping and chomping to enlarge it. Over time, other invaders fall away, exhausted, unable to match my aptitude of consumption. This is good, I think, for the tide of war has changed. I no longer fight amongst company to breach this fortress, but am now a lone warrior. In this battle, there can be only one victor… one survivor. I turn my back against former comrades, those who travelled with me to this world. In frenzy, I chew and burrow alone, desperate to reach the inner sanctuary before anyone else.

The wall crumbles under my teeth, and I break through. Tendrils of throbbing mass reach from within to reward me with primal embrace. I wonder at its intention, but allow myself to meet it, and am sucked into the oozing folds of its matter. Behind me, the fortress wall changes and hardens, as if crystallizing. No others are allowed to chew through; they are left behind, to die in the dark, cruel land.

I am absorbed by the mass. It is terrifying and exhilarating, as if I’ve been swallowed by a rubber mold that pulls me apart and fills me with itself. Synapses spark, and tracers of wild color flash, or perhaps I imagine it, as I tumble and stretch within the thing, the nebula.

It is a prison and it is a vast ocean, a brew that boils with fervor and potential. It infects me with its essence, and my form—our form—mutates ceaselessly and grows large. There is no perception of movement, yet I undulate and squirm, and things pull and twist inside me. My explanation is lost, replaced by appendages which sprout like points of a star. Time and consciousness are meaningless as they flitter away, then suddenly return to prod me awake.

A light comes forth from far away.

I am born from the uterus, screaming, with no memory of what I have done or understanding of who I have become.

Eric J. Guignard’s a writer and editor of dark and speculative fiction, operating from the shadowy outskirts of Los Angeles. He’s won the 2013 Bram Stoker Award, was a finalist for the 2014 International Thriller Writers Award, and he still wants more. Visit Eric at: www.ericjguignard.com, his blog: ericjguignard.blogspot.com, or Twitter: @ericjguignard.


Aunt Merkel by Deborah Walker

An English church. An August wedding.

Aunty Merkel sits at the front of the church, staring at the happy couple. She’s wearing her wedding suit, a three-buttoned crocheted jacket over a matching dress. The light from the stained glass windows reflects off her wing-tipped, milk-bottle glasses.

Two widows, Edith and her sister, Moira, sit, whispering to each other, passing comment on the rest of the congregation. They have chosen a respectable position in the middle of the rows of pews: close enough to show that they are family, far enough to show that they are not pushing themselves forward.

“Is that Aunty Merkel?” says Moira. “My word, yes, it is.”

“She must be getting on a bit,” says Edith. “I remember her being around when I was just a kiddie.”

“She attends every family wedding,” say Moira. “She must love weddings.”

“She can’t love them that much; she’s an old maid,” says Edith.

“What’s that in her bag? It looks like a rat.” Moira leans forward to observe the strange creature peeping out from Aunty Merkel’s handbag.

“That’s Mr. Tegmark,” says Edith. “Aunty Merkel’s hairless cat. She was always rather eccentric.”

“It’s an odd looking creature,” says Moira. When she catches the cat’s eye, it disappears into the depths of Aunty Merkel’s bag. “That’s a cat that doesn’t like to be looked at,” says Moira with a sniff.

The bride’s matron of honour walks to the front of the church. She grips the sides of the eagle lectern. Her voice trembles as she speaks.

“Nerves,” says Edith.

The words of the matron of honour flow over the sisters:

“Wither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge. Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God. Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee and me.”

“Ruth is such a lovely book,” murmurs Moira.

Edith nods, lost in the past. They had read from the Book of Ruth at her own marriage. Such a happy marriage. She misses her Bert so much…. A wink of bright light reflected from Aunty Merkel’s glasses pulls her sharply from her daydream. “She never comes to the reception,” says Edith.

“Who doesn’t?”

“Aunty Merkel.”


“She never gave me a present, either,” whispers Edith, running her finger along the neckline of her dress, which has been bought especially for this wedding and is a little too tight.

The sound of the organ fills the church: All Things Bright and Beautiful. It’s a well-chosen hymn. The congregation know this one and they join in with gusto.

Then Cousin Mitch stands up to make the final reading. His new partner looks around the church. She sees Edith and Moira glaring at her, and she smiles.

Edith nudges her sister, “The nerve of him, bringing his fancy piece to a family wedding,” she says.

Moira raises an eyebrow in agreement, “He says she’s trying to get a divorce.”

“Divorce? I don’t approve of divorce,” says Edith.

Cousin Mitch stands at the lectern and reads aloud:

“Love is never boastful, nor conceited, nor rude; never selfish, not quick to take offense. There is nothing love cannot face; there is no limit to its faith, its hope, and endurance. In a word, there are three things that last forever: faith, hope, and love; but the greatest of them all is love.”

The sisters have forgotten Aunty Merkel. Thoughts slide around Aunty Merkel; it’s better that way.

Aunty Merkel likes weddings. She thinks of all the other weddings taking place this day with  couples making the same vows of hope. She wishes she could attend every wedding. But she cannot. The multiverse is so very, very large, and because of chaotic inflation it’s always stretching, like a loaf of bread, forever baking in the oven of eternity.  Aunty Merkel likes this bubble universe that stopped expanding a while ago, and sits static in the bread. When this bubble formed in a spasm of spontaneous symmetry it enclosed linear time.  You can keep the other  10^10^10^7 bubbles with their diverse physical constraints. Aunty Merkel likes linearity; she likes ceremony; she likes repetition.

And she likes this family who anchor her here, whose quick lives give Aunty Merkel’s eternity meaning.

Aunty Merkel never brings a present, she brings something better. She’s staring at the happy couple, and she’s shifting through their futures, unraveling the ball of tangled string to find the thread of their happy marriage.

The couple make their vows.

A successful marriage is difficult, but in this bubbleverse there are plenty of worlds to choose from, there’s room for happiness. Aunty Merkel searches for the doppelgangers of the happy couple; through the parallels and possibilities; through the Hubble volumes; discarding the myriad worlds of sadness, disappointment, divorce; always following one thread: there are three things that last forever… the greatest of them all is love.

When the couple finish their vows and kiss, Aunty Merkel gives the couple their gift. Moira was right: Aunty Merkel is a romantic. And although she never brings a present, she always gives the couple their future.

The wedding is over and the congregation waits outside the church while the couple signs the register.

Edith rummages in her handbag for a box of confetti.

“Where’s Aunty Merkel?” asks Moira.

“She must have slipped away.”

“Why, Edith you’re crying.”

Edith wipes away the tear, “I had such a happy marriage, Moira.”

Moira grips her sister’s hand so tightly that her knuckles show white through the skin, “I know, my love. We both did. We were both blessed.”

An English church. An August wedding. The enduring gift of love.

Deborah Walker grew up in the most English town in the country, but she soon high-tailed it down to London, where she now lives with her partner, Chris, and her two young children. Find Deborah in the British Museum trawling the past for future inspiration or on her blog: Deborah Walker’s Bibliography Her stories have appeared in Nature’s Futures, Cosmos, Daily Science Fiction and The Year’s Best SF 18 and have been translated into a dozen languages and dialects.

This story was first published in Nature Futures.