Tag Archive: Short Stories

Great news in my inbox yesterday, after the sad demise of Pill Hill Press earlier this year the newly formed Embry Press have now released Use Enough Gun: Legend Of The Monster Hunter III


use enough gun


Originally due for publication late 2012 by Pill Hill, the Monster Hunter series is now under the Embry Press umbrella. Miles Boothe – who runs Embry – also plans to release another anthology – Both Barrels – later in 2014 that will feature stories from parts I and II of the Monster Hunter series. This collection will feature my first published short story Groundhog Day. As and when I have publication news I’ll share.

Use Enough Gun features stories about hunts that have gone wrong, hunts where the hunter has to visit dark places within themselves to survive. My short story titled Jack features with its pages.

Really pleased to be published again.


The time for talking was over, Siron Darr looked left and right, his company lined up beside him as they always were. The odds weren’t good, thirteen against fifty, but he’d seen worse. The Scallian’s were showing steel already, those deadly curved blades they favoured. The time for blood had arrived.

Darr felt movement beside him and saw Malash, the Shifter, step forward. His skin was alive, moving like waves on the sea. Darr smiled; the odds weren’t that bad after all. He drew steel, long sword in his right, shorter blade in his left, and gritted his teeth. The wet sounds next to him, the crunch of bones, ripping of clothes, were the only sounds and both groups tried their best to ignore them.

The low rumble was felt more than heard, Darr saw some of the Scallian’s pale; they were a superstitious race and he could see they were spooked, uncertain. Tales of Shifters existed in every society Darr had visited, from The Four to far away Sarakesh, but none had seen one in centuries. There was movement to his right, a black hulk towering above him. Darr was reckoned a giant, standing near seven feet tall, but compared to this, he was no bigger than a Scallian. Malash the Shifter was gone, a monster Gorilla twice Darr’s height stood in his place.

The moment broke the same time the Scallian’s did, Darr and his company surged forward, swords and axe’s flashing in the sunlight, screams and blood filled the air. Above all the mighty roar of the beast, it tore into the Scallian ranks throwing bodies around as it they were toys. Darr cut three down from behind; there was no room for honorable conduct in situations like this. All around bodies littered the ground, broken, cut and bloodied. Darr was glad to see none were his friend’s.

One, braver than the rest, turned and stood his ground, Daar swung and their blades locked. He had some skill with a blade this one, they cut and thrust, parried and twisted. But Darr was stronger and stood head and shoulders above the smaller Scallian. No matter what skill you had, size and strength always mattered. Eventually the Scallian made a mistake and Darr split him from shoulder to gut, both hands gripping the hilt, his full weight behind the cut. The Scallian didn’t cry out, he didn’t have time to, the look of surprise on his face nearly made Daar laugh out loud. Then, like a dead fish the Scallian flopped boneless to the ground. Darr moved on, he was already forgotten; there were plenty more where he came from.

The rest of the Scallian’s were broken, half their number dead the rest fled. Darr stood covered in blood and gore, his company around him all breathing heavily but alive. The monster Gorilla stood beside Darr, its arms covered in blood, the fur matted.

“Just a little chat you said?” Joakim, Darr’s second, spat onto the ground, his one eye blazing with battle fever still. He pointed at the bodies. “Is this your idea of a chat?” Darr smiled as Malash, the Shifter, began to change next to him, his skin moving like waves on the sea.

“In situations like this,” Daar wiped the sweat from his face, his hand running up over his bald head. “You can’t avoid a little blood.” He looked round the ring of bloodied faces, all battered and scarred from a life time of living by the sword, and they all nodded in agreement. Beside him the noises had stopped and Malash was Malash again, a frail grey skinned creature with an over large head and black eyes. He looked at Darr and smiled.

“Better than sex.

Bits Of News

I read a lot of blogs by other writers, and I’ve noticed that at one time or another all of them have been visited by the Not Worthy Monkey. That devious little bastard that sits on your shoulder, whispering in your ear about how bad a writer you are, how no-one will ever be interested in what you’re doing. He always comes visiting when you’re at your lowest and so more open to his bogus “advice”. The little bugger turned up on my doorstep about a week or so ago, totally unannounced he plonked himself into by chair, pulled my laptop over and started reading, giggling as he went.

My current WiP had been going well, part one wrote and with beta readers, and part two progressing better than I’d thought. But he was doing his utmost to put paid to that feeling of wellbeing that has been with me for the most part of this year. That feeling that finally I’d hit on something that might just do it, might just get people interested in what I had to say. In the space of a couple of days I hit snag after snag. Characters wouldn’t behave and the flow stalled. Since he came calling my writing has been hit and miss, going from everyday to every other day, and then every other other day. I was despondent, finding excuses not to open the file up and start writing, the Not Worthy Monkey was winning.

Then last night that all changed. It’s amazing how effective two emails can be to lifting the spirit.

use enough gun

I submitted a short story to the third in Pill Hill Press’ Monster Hunter anthology collection – Use Enough Gun – close to a year ago. I’d already had my story Groundhog Day published in the second volume and was over the moon to be accepted again. Then things went a bit awry at Pill Hill, the result being the site closed and all the authors were told the rights to their stories had reverted back to them. But then came Miles Boothe like a veritable knight in shinning armour, he took up the challenge and created Embry Press, a new publication house that would be specializing in stories about monster hunters. Whilst he was sorting things out he told all authors accepted by Pill Hill that he would be carrying on with publication of the third volume.

Last night I had an email from him, it had attached the edits for my story Jack, he’d indicated some changes that helped the pace and tone of one of the action scenes. He also put a note on the email saying he felt that this story was the best work I’d done. Four little words, best work I’d done, that’s all it took and the Monkey was riled, his grip on me weakened and he was starting to become dislodged. But I wasn’t out of the woods yet, he was still in my head, his case still unpacked.

Then I had a second email, this one was from Douglas Strider – author of the brilliant Space Danger: The Deadly Planet of Death -, Doug is someone I’ve know for about a year on Twitter, his a fellow budding authour, and he kindly accepted my request to beta read the first part of my current WiP. He’d done a great job, he’d given me lots of comments, ideas and a huge barrel of encouragement. He liked what I’d done and how I’d done it, and what’s more he wanted to find out what happens next. I was high on praise and my back sore from all the clapping. The Monkey, he was on the doorstep his case in hand, a dejected look on his face as he went on his way.

Now I have my laptop back, now I have my mojo back, the Monkey banished – for now – but I’m not complacent cos I know if I’m not mindful he’ll be back.

To Miles and Doug I’d like to say’s thanks, you’ve lifted a flagging writers spirits a thousandfold.

A day early but…

So February…

Another month down, ten more to go until I hit the big 50; so what did February do for me?


Quite a mixed bag this month…

space danger

First up there was Space Danger: The Deadly Planet of DEATH by Doug Strider. I had an early look in on this as Doug (who I’ve known on Twitter for about a year) asked me to beta read for him. Great little novella, with funny settings, characters and a story that whips along nicely. If you like Douglas Adams & Terry Pratchett you’ll like this.

from man to man by DEM Emrys

Man to Man by D.E.M. Emrys is a tight short story about a grizzled warrior who just wants to get on with his life and forget his past. But the past doesn’t stay away for long.

the alchemist of souls

The Alchemist of Souls by Anne Lyle, you can see my review below this post.


Still reading…

dreams and shadows

Dreams and Shadows by Robert Cargill is a quirky read, shades of Neil Gaimen so I’ve been told (never read him so will have to take their word for that). If you like stories about creatures that live unseen alongside the “real” world, this is for you.

ack ack macaque

Ack-Ack Macaque by Gareth L Powell is brilliant so far. Funny and gripping, plus who can’t love a foul mouthed, cigar chomping, booze swilling one-eyed gun totting monkey.


the following

Still keeping up with The Following (Sky Atlantic), though I do fear it’s in danger of over arcing itself. Nearly mid-way through S1 and the tank is being filled with water, the shark is on its way and the bike prepped for the jump. This show is in danger of losing itself in its own backstory, too many flashbacks (memories of LOST) and not enough answers. It needs to either give something back to the viewer in the way of answers, or have the bad guy’s cock-up once in a while. The whole “everything is pre-planned” theme its using is wearing thin and getting to the point of being unbelievable (how can Carroll – who is in prison and has been for years – know Hardy will be somewhere/do something at a set time so he can counteract it).

game of thrones S2

Halfway into the re-watch of S2 of Game of Thrones (Sky Atlantic), still by far the best thing on TV by far. S3 is only a few weeks away, there will be blood, and dragons. Ripper Street (BBC1) is still gripping stuff, dark and brutal and my hat goes off to the BBC for not toning it down in any way.

ripper street

Went to the flicks this month and caught A Good Day To Die Hard. Bruce is still king, yes it was corny, yes it was OTT, but hey – Yippe Kiyay Mother Russia.

a good day to die hard


Slight downer with the writing this month, all the short stories I had out in the big bad world have now come back with rejection slips. Very disheartening, but it goes with the territory. I’m already looking at other outlets to send them to.

The TV script has been put on hold; hit a few snags that need ironing out so looks like I may miss the BBC Writers Room Spring window.

Prepping is all done on the post apocalyptic novel, and the alternate history one.

Current full on WIP is a short story I wrote a year ago that I’m re-working into a novella or (possible) novel. Part one is out with beta readers, part two is about a third wrote. Not rushing it, still trying to keep to my writing plan of having a finished novel by the end of the year.

So that was January, first month of 2013, eleven months until I hit the big 50. So what did it mean for me?


I finished Great North Road by Peter F Hamilton. This was the first of his books I’d read outside of the Commonwealth Saga. It was enjoyable, though I did find some sections overblown and there seemed (to me) to be a lot of filler.

I also read Redshirts by John Scalzi. I was expecting something more along the lines of Galaxy Quest, if that was what he was heading for then it fell well short of the mark for me. There were some funny moments, but I did not have any of the laugh-out-loud moments some of the reviewers seemed to have enjoyed.

I was back on familiar territory with Bait Dog by Chuck Wendig (a double bill of the novella Shotgun Gravy & the novel Bait Dog). Familiar as in I know what Chuck is about, have  a pretty good idea of how he works. Though I will be honest and say I was surprised by the intensity of this one. Also it was Chuck without any psychic or vampiric powers. A hard hitting story of bullies, racists and sadists. Not for the faint of heart.

Just finished (last night) Apocalypse: Year Zero, a collection of four novellas that center of four women who go through life changing, and shattering events – 911, the Boxing Day tsunami, hurricane Katrina and California’s “big one”. The end result of these experiences is they each find they have power over fire, water, wind and earth. And as they slowly come together over the course of the four novella’s it’s revelaed that the Four Horsemen were not men at all.



Well actually only TV, I did intend to go and see The Hobbit for a second time but never got round to it. TV wise I’m now a proud subscriber to Sky TV, and boy am I a happy bunny. Watched Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior (available on Alibi) staring the brilliant Forrest Whitaker. Some pretty hard, brutal stuff in there. Also been watching Ripper Street (BBC1) set in Victorian London in the months after the Ripper killings. Dark, gritty and no holds barred, it also stars Gerome Flynn who seems intent on carving out a niche for himself as a hard as nails character actor (he’s also the brilliant Bronn in Game Of Thrones)

This week started watching The Following (Sky Atlantic) staring Kevin Bacon. Ex-FBI agent brought out of retirement to bring down an escaped serial killer. It has echoes of Red Dragon but an interesting twist is the serial killer has amassed a following, he’s been creating serial killers, he has (possibly) an army of them. Its not for the faint of heart (especially episode 1’s Ice Pick lady scene) but looks to have the makings of a gripping drama.

I also received my DVD of Dredd, watched it and still think its a brilliant stab at bringing the iconic character to the screen. Its just a shame it bombed at the cinema and so highly unlikely and sequels will be forthcoming.



Some sad news last week when I received an email telling me that Pill Hill Press has closed. Pill Hill gave me my first break, published my first short story. On top of that I have another story accepted by them that was due to be in their next anthology. But there was a sliver lining, Miles Boothe – another author and ardent monster hunter – has created Emby Press and intends to honour all submissions made to Pill Hill. So hopefully in a few months the anthology will be released.

I’ve had a short script placed with Twisted Showcase – a web based anthology series (named in the Guardian’s Top 25 web shows in 2012) – for several months now but they have been struggling to fit it into the filming schedule. There was talk of making it as their first animated short, but finding an animator with time on their hands is not easy. Now they are looking into producing it as a comic strip, and if it is successful on the site will be the first of many.

My WIPs are ticking along nicely. I’ve been prepping a post apocalypse novel for a couple of months now which is close to being ready for the start of the first draft. I’ve also finished a treatment for a pilot episode that I will be writing next month. The aim is to have it written, beta read and second drafted by the end of February so I can catch the current BBC Writers Room submissions window. Once that is done I start work on the novel first draft.

I still have four short stories out there in the world waiting on acceptance/declining emails.


All in all January was a packed month, February is shaping up to be more of the same.


I’ve never been able to enjoy Christmas, not since my eyes had been opened to the horror it ensues, the death and destruction wrought simply because of one day. Of course I’m in the minority; part of a dwindling band sworn to defend against the truth that is Christmas, defend the Earth against the savage incursions that happen every year.

It’s always the children that suffer, they’re the ones that believe in the myth that is Christmas, believe that for one day it’s perfectly acceptable to allow a stranger into your home. But it’s that stranger that is the problem, him and his armies, poised to strike should any opening be found.

We were winning the war, just, but it was a war of attrition that was wearing us down, dwindling our numbers year on year. Because of this mistakes were bound to happen, lapses in the command structure; but that’s all it takes, one slip up, and they’re in. Swarming across the Divide in their thousands, all we can do is stem the tide and plug the hole; after that it’s a simple cleanup operation.

But some mistakes are too big to clean up, the incursions on such a scale that the collateral damage brings the world’s attention frighteningly close to the truth. I’m glad to say when that last happened it wasn’t on my watch, south-east Asia isn’t my section, but I know a lot of the guys who worked in that area, who were on duty that night; guys that are still struggling to cope with what happened and what they had to do to stop a full scale invasion.

But stop it they did, but the result was over a quarter of a million dead and large swathes of the coastlines of countries surrounding the Indian Ocean devastated. Was it too big a price to pay? To save the Earth, save over six billion souls from being wiped from existence by Claus and his minions. No, no price is too big for that. In wartime decisions have to be made that go against all that is considered rational and normal. To save a thing you may have to sacrifice a thing. The guys in the Indonesian section knew that, that’s why they plugged the hole, sealed the Divide and stopped the invasion.

But still it has its affects, still has its own sort of collateral. Even now eight years later people who were there that night have counseling, the images of what happened after were beamed around the world for all to see, but to them it was evidence of the aftermath of their actions. Some couldn’t handle it and took the cowards way out, others just withdrew into themselves. Some, the hardy few, still man the trenches in and around the area battling hard each December 25th in case the Divide should be breeched again. It’s a sad fact that no matter what the sacrifice, whatever the collateral, once a breech has been made it is forever weakened and is a target for continuous assaults.

But we are vigilant, were stand between mankind and the abyss, ready and willing to lay down life in order to keep the enemy out. Christmas is Hell; don’t let anyone else tell you any different soldier.

Now buckle up and prepare to move out.

NOTE: The following story is a work of fan-fiction. It was originally written for a competition ran by 2000AD under the title Dredd Lines. Judge Dredd and everything associated with the character are Copyright of Rebellion Publishing. There is no connection between myself and Rebellion or 2000AD, and none should be inferred. Judge Dredd is the creation of John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra.





Cripps flinched, as much from the roar of his Lawgiver as he did from Dredd’s voice. He knew he shouldn’t be intimidated, he was a Judge, well would be soon as long as he got through today. He shot a glance sideways at his assessor. Judge Dredd himself, up until two hours ago he’d been confident of finishing the day with his eagles; then Dredd had walked into the mess and called out his name.

Dredd stood stony still not speaking, but from the stories he’d heard he was like that most of the time. Cripps watched the perp slide down the wall leaving a bloody trail, his Lawgiver hung loose at his side. Dredd walked over to the body and looked down his hands placed on his hips.

“You never read him the charge sheet. Charges have to be read before carrying out the sentence.”

“He went for a weapon…”

Dredd rounded and in a second they were stood nose to nose. Cripps flinched again, if he was going to survive as a Judge he’d have to get that under control. He wasn’t a nervous man; they’d have picked that up in his psych evaluations and never passed selection.

“Weapon? You’re supposed to be a Judge, even if he had a weapon we have to follow procedures.”

He stormed passed Cripps leaving him standing there looking at the body. He heard the roar of a Lawmaster and turned towards his.

“What are you doing?”

Cripps was half on his ride uncertain what to do.

“Carrying on with the patrol sir?”

Dredd motioned towards the body.

“Call that in it’s your perp.” He revved the engine. “Procedure Cripps it’s the first rule of wearing the badge.”

He sped away up the on-ramp heading for the downtown overpass. Cripps settled into his seat looking at the body then triggered his comm.


The Obama Concourse was in flames, the remains of two hover transports scattered across a dozen lanes. The west side of Montgomery Scott Plaza was gone, taken out as they’d come in, the air was full of the roar of burning fuel and sirens.

Cripps stood next to Dredd listening to the report from a street Judge. Cripps tried to gauge the reaction Dredd had to what they saw, but there was none, he stood impassively as he was told of over a hundred fatalities; you’d think he was being told his dinner was late for what little emotion he showed. He knew what Dredd was, they all did, the stories were legends, his exploits; his cold heartedness. But up close, as they had been the past few hours, Cripps was having difficulty accepting anyone could be this detached from the world around him.

“There’s nothing we can do here cadet, simple case of droid malfunction.” Dredd turned to go then looked back at the other Judge. “Best have the owner questioned though, and pull his service records; there could be a case for maintenance negligence, culpable homicide.” The other Judge nodded and returned to his cleanup team, Dredd went back to the Lawmaster’s.

“If the company owner is found to be negligent what’s the punishment cadet?”

“Failing for proper droid maintenance carries a mandatory ten year sentence.”


“On your recommendation, after the robot wars, every company that operates droids has to ensure they were properly maintained and serviced.” Dredd looked at him, he wanted more. “To ensure there was no repeat of what went on before the war.” Dredd nodded but still showed no sign the question had been answered to his satisfaction.

“Alongside the negligence charge, if there are fatalities due to the poor maintenance then the sentence is life.”

Dredd started his Lawmaster and pulled away, Cripps watched him glide between the traffic: guess I passed that one then?


Billabongs was a popular entertainment franchise, they’d been popping up all over the city for a couple of years. Cheap synthol and high end holoprogs meant citizens could chill out and escape the daily drudge. The entrance faced onto Marcus Collins Drive, three ground cars showed extensive munitions damage, the second level windows blown out.

Dredd stood looking up, Cripps stood beside him watching the Justice Department drone cross the street towards the entrance. As it mounted the curb it was hit, an exhaust trail led up to the east side window.

“There.” Cripps pointed; Dredd looked at him managing to look even more unimpressed than normal.

“Thank you cadet I think I managed to ascertain the trajectory.”

Cripps dropped his arm quickly looking back at the window hopping his embarrassment didn’t show.

“Rocket launcher?” Judge Mitchells looked questioningly at Dredd.

“Exhaust all wrong that came from an inbuilt weapon. We have an ABC up there.”

ABC- Cripps looked from Dredd to the window. He’d never seen one of the old warrior droids, but knew all about them. Their history was required reading at the academy; if it was an ABC they had problems.

“What’s the procedure cadet?”

“Full tactical assault squad recommended, ABC’s have extensive…”

Dredd was already halfway across the street his Lawgiver in his hand.


“No time.”

Dredd raised his weapon and let off two rounds at the window the rocket had come from. High explosive shells took most of the wall along the second floor out, as rubble fell towards the street Dredd ran up the steps and in through the front door.

“Drokk.” Cripps set off after Dredd his weapon out watching for any movement from above, and then was up the steps and inside.

Dredd was by the elevator, the doors open, as Cripps approached he tossed an anti personal mine in and hit the button, the doors closed and the elevator went up. Dredd headed for the stairs, Cripps ran to keep up; they’d not gone a dozen steps when the building shook with an explosion. Dredd didn’t break his stride and reached the door to the second floor seconds after the blast, without stopping he barged through his Lawgiver raised scanning the room beyond.

The room was a mess, several bodies lay just inside the door, heads split open, limbs missing. Cripps gasped involuntarily, he’d never been squeamish; you couldn’t be if you wanted to wear the badge, but it was a shock seeing them lain out like that. Dredd didn’t break his stride advancing into the room, stepping around the bodies; paying them no heed. To their left the outer wall was gone, blown out by Dredd’s high explosives, to the right another hole where the elevator doors had been. Some of the bodies closer to the elevator still moved, they’d obviously been caught in the blast, Cripps moved towards them and Dredd held up his hand and shook his head. He pointed forwards, touching two fingers to his visor then pointing at a pile of rubble against the far wall.

A metal leg poked out of the top, the ankle rotated with a sickening grating sound of mashed gears, Cripps moved to the other side of Dredd and came towards the pile from a different angle. A sound behind them made them both stop, Dredd was quick but the ABC was quicker, it came down out of the ceiling, one massive arm scythed through the air catching Dredd in the chest hurtling him across the room, he landed perilously close to the exposed elevator shaft. The rest of the ceiling gave way and the droid landed on its one remaining leg facing Cripps.

It towered ten feet high and had three bodies strapped to its barrel shaped chest section. Cripps looked on in horror as one moved, a young woman, she looked at him blood and tears streaming down her face.


He looked towards Dredd’s prone form but he’d get no help there. The droid took a hop towards him bringing one arm up as the launcher folded out from the surface. Cripps scrambled across the floor as the spot where he’d been erupted in a shower of stone and dust.

“Desist and disengage weapons systems droid.”

Cripps tried to put the sort of authority in his voice he’d heard Dredd use, but it didn’t sound the same. He was afraid, he may be a senior cadet and undergoing his final assessment but there was nothing he’d learnt at the Academy that prepared him to face off against an ABC.

The droid fired again, Cripps just managed to get away as what was left of the outer wall exploded sending debris crashing down. He knew he had to end this quick, there was only so long he could evade the shots. Making his way through the smoke and dust he found he was close to the elevator shaft, looking down he saw it was clear all the way down to the sub basements, a good 100 meters or more. Looking back towards the hopping shadow he formed a plan, all he had to do was figure out how to get the citizens off it.

Moving round the outside of the room he managed to get behind the droid, he tried to remember everything he’d read about the ABCs audio range, he hoped the falling masonry and electrical discharges would mask his movements. The body strapped to the droids back was a young boy, it wasn’t moving and as Cripps crept near he saw the ragged hole in the throat. Cursing under his breath he moved to the right where a man was strapped, he couldn’t see any visible wounds but could see he was unconscious.

That meant two were possibly alive, looking at the strapping it appeared to be industrial, setting his Lawgiver to needle laser he took aim and severed the strips holding the man’s upper body in place. Too late he realized his mistake, as the body tipped forward Cripps saw the strips holding his legs in place; the man’s head smacked against the floor, landing under the descending foot of the droid. There was a sickening crunch as the man’s head ruptured like a melon.

The droid stopped and looked down then its whole top section swiveled round and faced Cripps. The arm came up as the next shell cycled in the launchers chamber, Cripps looked at the woman; she appeared to have lapsed into unconsciousness again, toggling the selector on his weapon he fired two high explosive rounds at the droids leg before it had time to level its arm.

The leg gave out as the knee joint disintegrated sending the droids heavy top section backwards; it crushed the body on its back then skidded on the gore straight through the hole into the shaft and was gone. Cripps stood in amazement looking at the dark hole; he couldn’t believe what he’d just done, a loud crash from below followed by a rush of hot air told him it was finally over.


Cripps watched the medics giving Dredd the once over, he was sitting on his Lawmaster looking none too happy that they wouldn’t let him go until they were finished. Cripps half smiled and realized Dredd never looked happy. A shadow fell over him as Dredd pulled up alongside.

“Find something funny Cripps?”

“No sir, nothing, nothing at all.”

“Let’s head back; you need to write this one up rookie.”

Cripps nodded and hit the starter then stopped when he realized what Dredd had called him, Dredd leaned in close.

“You did well, it was a tough call; you can’t always save everyone.” Dredd clicked the gear selector then sat waiting. “Lead off Judge Cripps.”

Flash Fiction – Body Of Proof

What to do with the evidence? Probably a question asked by countless felons over countless years. But what was the answer? What was the best way to get away with it?

At fist Joyce thought of just burying Gerald. Drive out to the country, dig a hole; let the worms have him. But then she thought of the logistics in doing that. They didn’t have off road parking, she’d have to somehow get the body down to the car without the neighbors seeing – and Mrs. Prentice never missed a thing. Plus Gerald was twice her size; she’d never be able to shift him. Plus he was in a heap at the bottom of the cellar stairs, and even if they had off road parking she’d never get him up those.

Next up she thought of setting fire to the house. Gerald had always been a stickler for keeping the insurance up to date, so she knew she’d have a nice payout at the end of it. But she’d seen too many CSIs to know that wouldn’t work, she was no arsonist and knew she’d incriminate herself. Then it came to her, a flash of insight, sat halfway down the cellar stairs looking at Gerald’s crumpled form with his head twisted too far round so it looked like he had it on back to front.

As she thought about it she was initially disgusted, the thought of going through with it turned her stomach. But then she thought of her life with Gerald, the years of mental abuse, the twisted sex, and that awful way he had of honking like a pig whenever he was in her. Disgusted had been her life for the past fifteen years, disgusted was letting him do those things, making her watch him do them to others as well.

She’d got up off the stairs and went down, stepping over his body with a tickle of fear that maybe he was faking and would grab her leg. Then she’d crossed to his workbench, something he’d always taken such pride in, always kept clean. She’d picked up the hacksaw and flicked the blade, then turned to look at him.

“Any ketchup?”  Joyce jumped, shook her head to clear the memories. Mark from across the street stood in front of her, the top of his head starting to go pink from the sun. “You were miles away Joyce?”

“Sorry, wool gathering.”

Mark waved his plate that held more meat than salad.

“Thinking of when Gerald gets back hey?” He winked at her and she suppressed a shudder, he’d winked at her like that during one of Gerald’s little parties, the ones where he’d made her do things.

“Can’t wait.” She clamped her teeth together to keep the bile from rising and picked up the bottle handing it to Mark. The back yard was full of friends and neighbors, Pet and Cathy from next door. Marcia and John from next to Mark. Pat, Frank and Billy, three of Gerald’s party friends. She smiled to herself, glad they were all having such a good time. Looking back at Mark he’d covered his steaks in sauce and was picking up a large morsel.

“Damn fine pork Joyce. Gerald get it for you?”

“Yes.” She looked around at the BBQ; Billy was throwing some more steaks on, stepping back as the sizzled and spat. “They’re from Gerald.”


All Rights Reserved © Philip J Norris November 2012

Submissions for the Fantasy Faction Anthology closed in May, since then the team of readers have been working their way through 1,700 entries, the aim to whittle them down to the six winners that will appear in print alongside established authors such as Michael J Sullivan, Myke Cole, Mark Lawrence, Jon Sprunk and Adrian Tchaikovsky. The reading process has been a mammoth task, according to estimates the three readers have read over 10million words between them – or the so far published five books in GRRMs A Song Of Ice And Fire six times over.

They have so far narrowed the 1,700 down to a long list of 30, what they have been doing this week is posting the titles and author names of this list over on their site – http://fantasywritingcontest.com/category/judges/ – for the world to see. Once this has been done they face the task of reducing that list to the final six.

As an added bonus, yesterday they posted the finished cover artwork for the anthology.


Looks very impressive, of course it still need the anthology title, author names and cover quotes adding.


Looking forward to seeing the rest of the names posted, so far 15 titles have been revealed, so we’re halfway. This is a pretty selfish interest on my part because I’ve submitted to the anthology, watching the names go up everyday is nerve wracking, but appearing on the long list – and the possibility of being in the final six – would be a massive boost to any author.




Flash Fiction Short – Run FourE3t

4E3t watched the man came in through the doors, there was something about him that made the ‘bots subroutines question his appearance. It was a hot day, through the windows 4E3t could see people in casual summer clothes; but he was in a long camelhair coat and a wide brimmed fedora? If 4E3t had been programmed differently it’d probably have seen the man for what he was, a Fed, or at least Cop; but 4E3t was only programmed to tend bar.

The man surveyed the lounge area; he came down onto the lower level where customers as well as hotel guests could eat and drink. He stopped and looked around at the glass doors that led towards the reception, 4E3t noticed another man similarly dressed; it also noticed the slight head movement that passed between them. As the man turned towards the bar 4E3t activated one of its many subroutines and picked up a towel and glass.

“Good afternoon Sir.” It began cleaning the glass. “What’ll it be?”

The man sat on one of the stools and took his hat off placing it to his left. 4E3t saw the sweat mark around his head. As the man leaned forward, tugging his coat out from under him so he could sit more comfortable, 4E3t saw something under his armpit, a shiny sandalwood grip. If 4E3t had been programmed with curiosity it would have asked the man if he had a permit to carry a weapon, but 4E3t was only programmed to tend bar.

“Water, ice cold.”

The man reached inside his coat and pulled out his wallet. 4E3t swiveled its top section 180º, opened the vent on its steam inlet and its servos began to roll its bulk along the length of the bar towards the refrigerator. With a hiss it stopped and a secondary arm snaked out of its torso taking a bottle from behind the glass door. In a fluid motion 4E3t opened the bottle, filled the glass with ice, began pouring the water and turned heading back towards its customer.

“Will Sir be eating today?” 4E3t placed the already frosting glass in front of the man.

“Just the drink.” He opened his wallet and pulled out a single bill, at the same time he allowed one half of the wallet to hang open, showing his badge and ID. “I’m looking for a Steambot, designation Gum9.You seen it?”

4E3t adjusted its stance, retracting the secondary arm and closing off the steam inlet, its servos quietly hummed; a sound the man probably missed as it was just below the range of human hearing. Its optical sensors saw the barcode down the left hand side of the ID, a code designed to override any ‘bots programming, placing them under the bearers command. 4E3t noticed the second man in the reception area had now moved to just outside the glass doors, he had his arms folded, one hand casually inside his coat.

“The hotel registry is publically accessible Sir, any ‘bots with that registry would be listed.”

“But this isn’t just any ‘bot is it.” The man flipped his ID shut, the look on his face a mix of concern and determination. 4E3t watched as he sat forward, casually letting one hand fall inside his coat; close to the sandalwood grip. “A Gum prefix makes the ‘bot a military unit and so it should not be anywhere near the public, and certainly not tending bar in a hotel.”

A secondary subroutine activated inside 4E3t, steam was re-routed from its primary functions, shutting down the polite voicebox, deactivating the weak optical sensor and causing it to drop the glass it was still cleaning. New functions came online in their place, infra-red optics showed the cold metal of the man’s gun under his coat, the larger white smudge under the second man’s coat the told 4E3t that he carried a larger gun but that it wasn’t capable of penetrating his armored casing; and hidden armament ports under the waiters uniform it wore opened.  In the microsecond it took 4E3t to do all this, the man had sat back, his hand clearly grasping the grip of his gun. 4E3t calculated the speed he would draw the time elapsed before his comrade came in through the glass doors and the percentage fatal casualties within the lounge area. The results were acceptable and within preprogrammed guidelines.

4E3t fired, the man’s head disintegrated into a shower of blood, brains and bone. As the second man reacted 4E3t tracked his movement and fired again, the munitions hit him in his midsection; he folded and was lifted off his feet, trailing blood and intestines as he flew through the air before crashing into the reception desk.

All around was chaos, women screamed, men scrambled from cover, and somewhere an alarm sounded. 4E3t activated another subroutine, the outer casing of the ‘bot split open and fell to either side; inside a smaller, more maneuverable unit shot up into the air on twin steam jets. 4E3t hovered and scanned the area, both Policemen were dead; there was one man in the reception area downed when the munitions that had taken out the Policeman, had passed right through and into him. In the lounge a woman had gone into labor, 4E3t calculated the early onset brought on by its actions would not endanger mother or child.

4E3t fed steam into the jets and rocketed towards the street side windows, as it smashed through and shot into the air tracer fire followed it up, the small caliber rounds bounced harmlessly off and it felt no need to return fire. Rear sensors scanned the city below, but no heavier caliber munitions had been brought in to deal with the situation. 4E3t plotted a course out of the city and into the surrounding mountains; it kept low, below radar, as it thought what to do next.


All Rights Reserved © Philip J Norris September 2012