This is where you can find updates and sneak peeks of my books, and the books I am involved in curating, along with the odd quote from a current project that makes me laugh, or I feel like sharing!
The House of Vines
Contemporary fantasy with a twist!
Something dark is stirring...
Release date: Available now!
At the heart of the sleepy market town of Brindleford is an old shopping arcade. Half-empty and generally overlooked by the inhabitants, it is full of secrets. But all that is about to change…
Basically, there's this wizard, right, who's properly evil - like actually-eating-other-peoples'-actual-hearts evil - and he's after this thing. The Chalice of Knowledge. It's been missing for centuries and is rumoured to give anyone that drinks from it all the knowledge of the ages. In other words, him getting his hands on it would be a Very Bad Thing.
But he's not the only one searching for the Chalice.
Oh no - there's an unemployed werewolf, the owners of a magical bookshop, a particularly malevolent poltergeist, two orphaned runaways, a redoubtable florist, a retired music teacher (and his heavily pregnant labrador), two unsavoury wizards, a slightly sentient shopping arcade and Ivy Chambers, the last witch in a long line of Witches, whose job it was to watch over their sleepy little town.
Oh, and a parrot.
Needless to say, life in Brindleford is about to get interesting, even for its more unusual inhabitants.
The Last Human Getaway
Some forests still have secrets...
Release date: To be confirmed
Available for pre-order from: Coming soon!
Annie wanted to get away from it all - and now she really has! Stranded at an inn in a remote mountain valley in the heart of the Ancient Caledonian Forest, she is about to learn that the stories she grew up hearing all had a grain of truth to them. And ancient things never truly sleep...
Will the Gate hold? Or will the Otherworld break through?
He could understand why, now that he held it in his shaking hands. He had never fully comprehended the lure, the power of the thing. Now, with its wrappings coiling across his knees and the cool, enticing Chalice in his grip he fancied that he could hear it calling to him.
He shuddered, involuntarily.
Almost without meaning to, he caressed the artefact, running his bitten fingertips over the strange, seductive designs adorning its surface.
It wanted him.
He could feel it.
But he wouldn’t make that mistake, not where countless others had before. He had seen what had happened to them, through the myopic lens of history, glimpsed the smoking ruins of their lives – seen, in minute detail the potential power within. He had already lost too much.
He would not let it destroy anyone else’s family, as it had his own.
Ignoring its delicious temptation, he wrapped it once again in its plain, linen bindings, and nestled it, reverently, amongst the straw.
The infernal thing had caused so much pain, bred so much hatred. It was a state of affairs that could not be allowed to continue.
He remembered the night – such a long, bleak night – that he had tried to destroy it, and he had wept as the flames licked at the Chalice, the core of his – and so many others’ desires. But no matter how the flames had leapt and crackled, no matter how the tinder smoked and smouldered, no matter how much fuel he had stoked around the thing, it would not burn, would not even blacken.
That had been a terrible, dreadful confirmation – if he hadn’t already had enough proof. Something so wicked that it could not be touched by flame: it had to be the work of the Devil himself.
With the certainty that he was safeguarding the young and enterprising fools of the future, he sealed the box and concealed it deep in the shadows. For a long moment, he gazed at it.
Think, it seemed to say.
Think of what we could do, you and I. Together.
He compressed his lips in distaste, and touched the hollow in the wall. He waited until the grinding cacophony of stone on stone ceased, and inspected his work. Satisfied that his hiding place betrayed no crack, no sign of itself, he turned and walked purposefully away.
He would not look back, he had sworn that to himself, and that promise, at least, he would keep.
No matter how it whispered to him.
Face pale under the waxing moon, and feeling curiously lighter now that his burden had been laid down, he closed the great oak doors with the softest of clicks.
Some things were better left buried.
The Vineyard was an old, Victorian arcade in a back street just outside the heart of Brindleford, and looked rather like it had been there forever – the neighbouring buildings appeared to be huddling under the protective wings of a giant, glossy mother hen. It was all iron and glass, resembling a stocky greenhouse, designed to emulate the Crystal Palace of the Great Exhibition; there was a half-domed protrusion to the apex of the frontage, which had the name above it, wrought in great white, iron letters. The metal stems of climbing plants wound their way around it, making it look strangely organic.
Despite having stood for a hundred and fifty years in the midst of the cacophony of English weather, it looked as if the decorators had finished with it only the day before: its white painted metal gleamed in the sun, and the great glass panes that made up the majority of its outer walls and roof were so clean that they sparkled.
Which was odd, because although it was blatantly an inherently magical place, it didn’t really feel like it; it felt oddly mundane, as if it was trying really hard to look innocent. It made Christopher feel slightly on edge, as if it was somehow watching him, and – little as he wanted to admit it – he could almost understand why people had stopped visiting the businesses there.
It was three generous storeys high, although Christopher couldn’t see anything room-like above the second storey; there were curtains against the glass walls on the first floor, and supposed that this was where Mistress Burwell lived.
The inside was bright and airy, sunlight spilling down from an enormous light well that stretched up to the half-dome at the top of the frontage. The central corridor had been expertly tiled at some point in the past, and it too was kept scrupulously clean; the tiles were still glossy and bright, clicking in a friendly fashion with every step. In keeping with what he was beginning to suspect was the original theme, someone had painted elegant vines around the doors and windows of the bays. It had a sort of homely feel to it, despite the strange and deliberate absence of any sign of magic, and Christopher began to relax a little as he acclimatised to the barrage of new smells.
Ivy’s tea shop took up two bays on the right hand side, and seemed like a peaceful sort of place. The second of her bays, that looked out onto the street, was a little smaller, and couldn’t be accessed from outside the teashop (someone had put rather a lot of potted shrubs around the door to stop people trying to use it) and was wall-to-ceiling full of wool, threads and fabric in every colour imaginable. It strongly reminded Christopher – who had very little interest in knitting or sewing, except in emergencies – of a fantastical sweet shop. Even though the shop had only just opened, there were already two women in there, fondling various balls of wool and talking in an animated fashion.
The bay furthest from the entrance on the right was taken up by a busy florist’s, which had possibly the most vegetation in one place that he had ever seen outside of the woods; it smelled bright and fresh to Christopher, and he smiled at the middle-aged lady who was putting a bucket of irises out in front. She gave him a friendly sort of nod and continued shifting buckets of fresh flowers, giving Joanna a small wave as she caught up with him.
All three bays on the left of the Arcade were empty, and as he looked at them Christopher was struck by a strange feeling of sadness, as though the building was lamenting its emptiness. It felt distinctly wrong that these shops should be vacant, and he was suddenly very glad that they would be moving here.
He watched as Professor Barraclough unlocked the doors to the middle bay – opposite Ivy’s tea shop.
The doors (which resembled church doors, and had pale glass panes in them to match the walls) had a satisfying creak to them, and – Christopher was surprised to see – an old mortise lock. He supposed that burglary wasn’t that much of an issue here, with at least two respected witches on the premises.
Although there was the slight tang of a room that had been shut up for too long, the empty shop was surprisingly clean, and he wondered for a moment whether Ivy had aired it out for them, before deciding that there was probably some form of cleaning charm in place. The walls were papered in a rich red with gold trim, presumably selected by the previous tenant, and a wooden floor had been put down at some point, making the room seem larger and full of light.
Barraclough showed him the back office, which was a room that ran behind all three of the bays on that side of the Arcade; there was a spiral staircase behind a curtain, roughly in the middle of the space, which apparently led to the rooms above. There was definitely magic on the curtain: a warding spell designed to keep anyone who didn’t belong upstairs firmly on the ground floor.
In Case of Emergency
Release date: Available now!
The fifth anthology by the talented, eclectic and disparate community of writers known as The Superstars, this exciting new collection of fiction, non-fiction, poetry and experiments is the result of twelve months of prompts, picked at random and posted on the first day of every month between January and December 2019, and curated by Lauren K. Nixon.
What do we fear? What is it that sends a shiver up our spines, that makes the hair on the backs of our necks stand up? This year our prompts dance along the edges of the unreal and unsettling. Without quite intending to, we have all delved into themes of myth and folklore with a mix of both sinister and whimsical stories and poems. We have been prompted to examine what makes us human - and those most human of questions: what lurks in the dark forest, or the stormy seas? What secrets lie in the mists of autumn or the heart of a flame? Where will the path less trodden take us - and when we get there, will we still be who we were when we set out?
Including work from: Rae Bailey, Nic Bescoby, Helen L. Bourne, G. Burton, Jessica Grace Coleman, T. J. Francis, Kim Hosking, Catherine Looser, Wayne Naylor, Lauren K. Nixon, Laura Sinclair, E. L. Tovey, Yvonne Ugarte and Shaun M. Vale, and artwork from Naveen Liz Hearson, A. Lizard, Heather E. Page, PhoenixShaman and Neil Turner.
The strike of the match was lost in the misting rain and solo saxophone moaning of unrequited lust behind the Tallahassee Late Night Jazz and No Alcohol Club, but the flare briefly showed downcast eyes in a luminously pale face and a glint of honey gold curls. He pulled at the belt of his raincoat and drew the brim of his Homburg lower over his forehead.
- Tallahassee Golem, Rae Bailey
Every town has its urban legends,
Stories told by torchlight to frightened children.
Whispers in the playground,
That spread like wildfire.
- Johnny's Crossing, Nic Bescoby
Violet had always thought it was particularly cruel to have exams at the beginning of term. Well, maybe not always, she reflected, unlocking her office door and quickly tidying her desk for the day’s round of supervisions. There had been a time when, as a keen undergrad, Violet had relished the chance to outshine her course mates and prove she had worked hard, even over the holidays.
- Violet Thornfield and the Forest of Glass, Helen L. Bourne
The klaxons wailed in the background, a jarring noise that penetrated down to the bone. The harbour, quiet and unruffled but for the squall hitting the buildings in the grey dawn light, burst into unexpected life. Windows and doors were flung open – the odd cry rang out, a shout from one unseen source to another, hidden in the depths.
- The Shipwreck Women, G. Burton
The eternal riddle
Take me to the depths
Of my tree-lined home
- Autumn Strange, Jessica Grace Coleman
The seven hunters loaded up their weapons and slipped on their masks. Outside the music swelled. The hunters looked at each other with anticipation. They were ready.
On cue, the hunters bounded from their hiding place and danced at a lively pace towards their target. The creaky castle bent as the ladies atop it shrieked and skipped around in perfect choreography, in feigned distress at the arrival of the hunters.
- The Seven Hunters, T. J. Francis
I wish I could tell them how
Your mouth curves when you smile,
And how your brown eyes shine,
But my words will not do you justice.
- Kerosene Dreams, Kim Hosking
The village of Low Oswald?
’Twas here it used to be
Until the night, so long ago, it was taken by the sea.
I was but a spratling then, but still I hear the roar
Of foam-filled waves and hissing spray, a-pounding on the shore.
- Low Oswald, Catherine Looser
“Paging Doctor Turner! Paging Doctor Turner!”
The announcement came over the intercom.
The doctor in question checked her pager as she started running down the hall. The now antiquated device instructed her to report to the operating theatre. She flew down the hallways and bumbled by several nurses as she darted for the stairwell in her hurry apologizing, almost absently as she prepared for what potentially awaited.
- Parallel Lies, Wayne Naylor
They say, long before there was a church or a lord here, a bargain was struck.
High winds mean high waves, and they mean something else here, too. On days like this, men don’t venture beyond their front doors. They stay home and tend the hearth, play with their kids, fix those things around the house they’ve been promising to do for months. They remain under cover.
- The Bargain, Lauren K. Nixon
I was only five when they left. When my parents slipped back in time, rewriting history to keep from being found, taking with them my baby sister, my dog, everything I had known. They took everything, and ran.
But they left me behind.
- The House Around the Corner, Laura Sinclair
“Mrs Court is ready to see you now,” the secretary said, looking down at Oswald.
Oswald clambered down from the chair and entered the Head Mistress’s office. He had never been called to the Head Mistress’s office before.
- Low Oswald, E. L. Tovey
Hamish wore a trench coat
Silk-lined, of cobalt blue,
Epaulettes on shoulders both,
Six buttons, shiny new.
- Scarecrow Town, Yvonne Ugarte
Four figures made their way through the crowds of the busy pedestrian district of the brightly lit neon city. All were clothed in long, dark coats with scarves that covered their mouths and noses from the cold. Their boots looked expensive and their trousers were finely tailored, albeit in slightly old-fashioned styles.
- The War Council, Shaun M. Vale
The Girl Who Spoke to Death
Touching and gently humorous
Release date: Available now!
The first time Ottie saw Death, she was six years old...
A tale of life, Death and unexpected friendship. To her neighbours, Ottie is a perfectly normal woman. But she is a woman with a secret. One she will take to her grave. More or less.
Mayflies is a gently humorous, touching and moving book about how the bonds of friendship can extend across the largest of gaps, and will make you pause and think about things just that little bit more.
- G. Burton
This was awesome. I loved it. Couldn't stop reading it.
- Val Robertson
This was a nice, subtle, slice of life (and afterlife). It really drew me in.
- Adam G. Smith
When she opened the door, dark clouds were gathering on the horizon behind the stranger, and she told him to put Erik in the stable if he was intending to stay. He smiled and did as she asked, and she knew that his visit held no urgency – at least for her or her near neighbours.
“I think Erik’s glad of the chance to rest,” he said, without preamble, as he came in.
Ottie took in the dust on his boots and the tired arch of his back and decided that he was probably glad of it, also.
“You’ve been busy,” she observed.
“Yes, I suppose,” he reflected. “I don’t really have the same relationship with time as you do, but yes, this past month has been unusually full.”
She fixed him with a penetrative gaze. “Not nearby, or I would have heard.”
“What brings you here?” she asked, after a few minutes of companionable quiet.
“There’s to be a fire,” he replied. “Not one that can be prevented.”
“The storm?” she guessed and he nodded.
“I think so. I never know for sure until I’m there.”
“Fire seems like a hard way to go,” Ottie reflected.
“In my experience there is no easy way,” he mused. “But as they go, fire is not pleasant.”
There were a few more minutes of silence before Ottie was compelled to speak once more. “May I ask you something?”
The stranger inclined his head.
“Why did you come to me after my father’s death? You had no call to visit me, and I wasn’t there when it happened.”
It was something she had wondered for many years.
The stranger put down his spoon, collecting his thoughts.
“You had seen me by then,” he said at last. “You knew who I was and what I did, and I knew you would need an explanation. I owed you that.”
“But I wasn’t anything special. I was just a child. Nothing.”
“Yes, but you know what I mean.”
“I… I suppose it’s because you could see me,” he responded.
“Just that?” she asked, surprised.
He laughed. “You’re the only living person who has ever seen me, Ottie. For as far back as I can remember. Not just glimpsed in the throes of madness or fever, or heard my voice in the midst of some apothecary’s dream, or spotted me when coming back from the brink of death. Just living – and actually seen me. And spoken to me. Over and over.”
She felt her mouth fall open. “The only one?”
“For as long as I have been Death.”
The Fox and the Fool
A Shakespearean Romance
Light-hearted and uplifting
Release date: Available now!
A refreshing new novella from from Lauren K. Nixon, THE FOX AND THE FOOL celebrates love and friendship from the very edge of things.
Sometimes in Illyria you find yourself in need of a friend, particularly among fools.
A gentle, strange romance between two people who spend their lives on the edge of things, set after the events of Twelfth Night.
Things have settled quite amicably since the marriages of the two great houses of the town. But now there's a new fool on the scene - and we are all fools in love.
"The Fox and the Fool is a delightfully romantic tale that sweeps you up in an instant and doesn’t let you down until you’ve savoured every last drop. Perfect for fans of Shakespeare, it will also appeal to anyone looking for an enchanting, uplifting read about love and life." - Jessica Grace Coleman
"A light-hearted tale of fun, mischief and music - a story about the importance of friendship and brave vulnerability, all wrapped up in the setting of a Shakespearean town." - Clare Keogh
The rain had come again, the snap of an early summer storm. With dark clouds boiling in the welkin and water falling down like rivers from the rooftops, nearly all had taken shelter within their homes. Iris, who had been sent to deliver Lord Sebastian a letter from his sister, had fled inside, along with the steward, Malvolio. They had been caught in the garden and forced to shelter 'neath an arbour.
The man did curl his lip at her still, but having seen the torrent first-hand even he could not, in good conscience, turn her out into the flood. He bade her shift towards the kitchens, where she sat in merry conference with the cook and her beautiful assistant Judith, singing to sweeten their work.
"You would do me out of a license, Vixen."
She could hear the smirk in his voice, and was not much surprised when his boot landed on the bench beside her.
"Heaven forfend – I do not charge."
"A maid who would not charge might soon turn stale," he said, tartly. "Or, like the medlar, bletted be and over-ripen. Ouch!"
"We'll have none o' that in my kitchen, fool!" cried the cook, retracting her hand from where it had struck his pate.
"Good Mistress cook, this quick foxy creature takes no offence at my speech!" he declared, dancing neatly out of the matron's reach.
"Nay, rogue, thy serpent tongue doth betray thee!" hissed the cook, a good woman with a mighty arm and a healthy respect for the honour of her girls. It seemed that respect extended to every female within her kingdom, even visiting vagabonds.
"I, madam? Forswear it!"
He backed around the far side of the table, keeping the cook at arm's length, and met Iris's eyes long enough to tell her he was about to take to his heels.
"And don't think I did not see thy grubby hands about my pastries!"
Iris watched the expression of glee come o'er his face. She schooled her features as best she could.
"My hands, madam, 'bout thy pastries? For shame!" he cried, delighted. "I should crave deadly divorce from mine own fingers if they found themselves 'bout thy floury person!"
"Ooh! You –"
He turned then, as on a sixpence, and was away, leaving off his capers in favour of speed, ducking hurled pots. Quickly, while Judith and her fellow maids were engaged in laughing at their mistress' howls, Iris filched three or four of the pastries Feste's eye and hand had strayed towards, and which he had been forced to abandon.
Echoes of the Light
Nothing is as it seems...
Release date: Available Now
A brand new collection of stories from Lauren K. Nixon: in ECHOES OF THE LIGHT, nothing is ever quite as it seems...
Rooks and Apples is a bittersweet story of connection and loss, and a love that transcends even time. Frank Bennett didn't know what had hit him the day he met Ruby, and he never expected it to last a lifetime...
She had spent the war, she said, in an office in Buckinghamshire, but it was all very hush-hush.
Many times, he had watched the younger fellows try to draw her on it, and many times she had drawn them off the subject. The thing about Ruby was, while she may look dreamy and come off a bit ditzy, she was far from stupid. She had a way of leading a conversation away from herself.
Rooks and Apples
In The Long Dark, someone is picking off the crew of the lunar Helium 3 mine. As the longest serving member of the 'ghoul squad', Marley knows very well that the moon can be a very lonely place, especially when the lights go out...
“I don’t know,” said Starla, slowly. “Joe used to say it only had to make sense to one person to be enough of a reason to kill…"
They shared a speaking look.
“Whoever it is, is sending us a message,” said Marley. “Starting with shift leaders and the commander.”
“You realise that means you’re next?” asked Starla, after a moment.
“Over my dead body,” said Marley, automatically.
“Honey, I think that’s sorta the point…”
The Long Dark
The Butterfly and the Lion proves that you can find friends in the most unexpected of places. A dark secret lurks deep at the heart of Lark View Asylum, and FBI Special Agent Leo Jericho is slowly losing his mind trying to find it...
“So – I just want to get this straight,” said Leo, whose brain was sagging from the weight of the conversation. “You pretended to be insane so you could be placed in the same ward as Emma, and, what – break her out?”
“Yes,” she said, as if it was the simplest thing in the world.
“Emma, who is currently catatonic?”
“On your own?”
“Even though you knew you might be locked in here forever if something went wrong?”
“But what if you were caught?”
“She’s my friend,” said Meg, leaning against the wall beside him.
Leo paused for a moment, thinking.
“I take it back, you are crazy.”
The Butterfly and the Lion
Some Assembly Required
An Ensemble of Short Stories
Release date: Available Now!
SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED is the second anthology by The Superstars, an eclectic group of writers and artists, and curated by Lauren K. Nixon.
An exciting mix of fiction, non-fiction and poetry, this collection represents a year’s worth of creation on every conceivable topic, from the light to the dark, and the fantastic to the mundane.
From the dark things that lurk in the rain, to monsters roaming the woods; from murder most foul, to rampaging gnomes; from the agony of saying goodbye, to the joy of first meeting; Some Assembly Required has a little bit of everything.
The rain spat on the windshield of the car that swerved around the first turn, obscured from the driver by the thick patter of water. The speedometer climbed and the driver took another sharp turn, nearly skidding onto the sidewalk on the other side of the street. Every house was dark at this time of night.
- The Last Human Getaway, Emilie Addison
Everyone has that one friend; Dan was ours.
You know what I mean, that one friend. The one who had all the probably inadvisable ideas, which seemed like genius when he explained them, and somehow always got us to go along with whatever hair-brained scheme he had concocted that week.
- The Psychadelic Gnome Project, Hannah ‘Han’ R. H. Allen
(black blinds reflect the light like white mirrors)
Childhood lying still in a summerlight bath:
bright framed panes of window laying
a still picture on the water mirror;
slight stirring blasts magical fractures,
glass glitter, break, ripple; still unbroken.
- The Murders, Rae Bailey
“Keep away from there!”
The barked order made Sean jump, nearly making him drop all the samples he was holding.
He looked down and saw that his size eleven shoe was mere inches from falling into a pit.
- The Incident Pit, Hannah Burns
Stop, is it anarchy?
What about gravity?
Will it hold my reality?
- Reboot Reality, G. Burton
Thomas stared out at the sea, the dark waves crashing on the shore like they did every night. The hazy moon was hiding behind the clouds, peeping out every so often to illuminate the violent waters beneath.
- The Boy in the Storm, Jessica Grace Coleman
Just like any year during the month of May it was raining cats and dogs.
Cats and dogs? Who came up with that saying anyways? Raining cats and dogs. What an absurd description for the torrential downpour that had been constant, of late.
- The Boy in the Storm, Hailie Drescher
On the morning of his getaway, Morris was woken, as always, by the Model X23 he had personally modified, based on the commercial version that had made his company’s fortune. Easy on the eye, and with nothing in the voice to betray that it was produced by synthesiser, he listened with a certain wistful pleasure to her – its – summary of the news, the weather, the status of the household ambience and electronics and his schedule for the day ahead.
- The Last Human Getaway, Mike Farren
Now a shadow looms,
Lost within the memories…
- The Exit is Everything, J. A. Foley
Wake up from a dream,
Is life all that you can see?
Do you know if it is true?
Reboot my reality.
- Reboot Reality, T. J. Francis
I can tell you many things about bees.
- Telling the Bees, Cynthia Holt
Most stories focus on the victor, or the victor in the end. The bright, young, oppressed spark that shot meteorically into the heavens. This is different; this is about someone who believed she was a high-flier, but, on reflection, found out she was nothing more than average.
- Take a Pebble, Kim Hosking
It rankled with Ernest Clarkson, 62, that his home village of Cheddar was famous for just one thing. One thing I probably don’t really need to say to you as it’s most likely the first thing that jumps into your brain when the word Cheddar is mentioned. For Ernest, a keen runner, it was a constant source of annoyance that the world didn’t know more about his beautiful village.
- The Lovely Perch, Philip Lickley
The crack of dawn is my favorite time of the day, when I slowly open my eyes to the possibility of meeting with her again. I could never get tired of that lady; she is one of the kindest souls I have met in all my life.
- The Lovely Perch, M. Loftouse
The noise was thunderous. The air was close and still, and the stench of sweat and dust filled the noses of the working men.
They toiled deep underground, smashing their picks against the rock face, extracting the sparkling minerals that lay buried in the grey.
- Telling the Bees, S. R. Martindale
I went for a walk one fine spring morning. As I crossed the meadow by the river, I saw a young girl sitting on the ground and crying. Next to her was a hole that a dog might have dug to find a bone, and in the hole was a doll.
- The Incident Pit, J. McGraw
The world was cold when the Hammersmith came.
The skies were dark; all around were cliffs and plains of glittering ice, cold as death. We huddled against the dark in caves and huts of rock and wood, fighting the biting, life-sucking frost. Lives were harsh and short, and filled with hardship.
- The Hammersmith, Lauren K. Nixon
It was a good gig, exit polling. $50 bucks per hour, which was insanely high back then, for ten hours of standing around with a clipboard the first Thursday of each November. It could get pretty cold, but they gave you coffee and they paid cash. You just had to know Bob to get the gig.- The Exit is Everything, Annie Seng
"We have to pull the plug. That's ten confirmed kills in the last three hours."
The atmosphere in the highly secret EHSA control room was tense, but that was normal. The last ten years had spawned such a large number of alphabet agencies that even Ronald Reagan would have struggled to keep track of them all.
- The Psychadelic Gnome Project, Louise D. Smith
This Way Up
Release date: Available now!
The fourth anthology by the talented, eclectic and disparate community of writers known as The Superstars, This Way Up is exciting new collection of fiction, non-fiction, poetry and experiments: the result of twelve months of prompts, picked at random and posted on the first day of every month between December 2017 and November 2018, and curated by Lauren K. Nixon.
This year's work stems from a sense of liminality - of being on the edge of two worlds or states of being. Join our authors as they explore the weird and the wonderful, the normal and the arcane, the emotional and the physical, and the dangerous and the safe - and, ultimately, what it means to be human. From the dark things that lurk in human (or inhuman) hearts, to the things waiting for us after our final battles; from murder most foul, to meting out justice; from the agony of saying goodbye, to the joy of first falling in love; This Way Up has a little bit of everything.
Including work from: Emilie Addison, Han R. H. Allen, Rae Bailey, Hannah Burns, G. Burton, Jessica Grace Coleman, Hailie Drescher, Amina Farooq, J. A. Foley, T. J. Francis, Kim Hosking, Wayne Naylor, Lauren K. Nixon, Iain Shaw, Louise D. Smith, Ariadne Thayne and E. L. Tovey, and artwork from Naveen N. Bhat, Liz Hearson, Heather E. Page and PhoenixShaman.
I'm just a paper mosaic of what you've wanted me to be,
Pieces shoved together and forced into an image of your creation.
- Paper Hearts, Emilie Addison
The maiden walked through the forest.
With only the moon to light the way, the trees took on a more sinister countenance, a place of in-betweens; half-light, half-shadow.
- Come, You Spirits That Tend on Mortal Thoughts, Han R. H. Allen
I walked in woods a week ago
enjoying clear light
through leaves and
shimmering on the lake.
- Death by Delivery, Rae Bailey
The chimes weighed heavily on the heart.
Charles looke out at the view from the clocktower. A dull mist lay heavily over the houses, their windows lit by the flickering of fires inside.
- The Clocktower is Calling, Hannah Burns
Love is not pink,
Nor is it true,
It encompasses every sort of hue -
Even the black and the blue.
- Love is Not Pink, G. Burton
The graveyard was still and quiet, although she knew it wouldn't be for long.
Soon it would be filled with the sights and sounds of the dead.
- Where the Ravens Went, Jessica Grace Coleman
The Isle of Seven is wondrous,
The Isle of Seven is mysterious.
- The Isle of Seven, Hailie Drescher
Heavy boots clanked onto the cobbled pavement, crushing the shards of glass littered about. Evidently, something had happened around here. Pale olive orbs aimlessly skimmed the expanse. He saw no reason to be bothered by the chaos, save for his own macabre need to satiate his curiosity.
- The Whisper Market, Amina Farooq
Video screens and holographic images lit up the entire city. Not a single building was left untouched by the massive, colourful lights brightening the night of the metropolis.
- The Lost Poetry Office, J. A. Foley
Bad Bargain Lane was on the very outskirts of town. Its gritty path and the muddy track that stood in for a neglected road belied its popularity; the reason for its continued existence. Although locals would never set foot there (or be seen to set foot there, which is never the same thing at all), it lured tourists in like a Venus flytrap, spellbinding them into overlooking the dilapidation, the overpriced tat, and the dishonesty of the shop owners, all of which contributed to the nickname.
- Bad Bargain Lane, T. J. Francis
The package was light, despite its bulky exterior. Reni slit it open and an old-style Polaroid fell out. Picking it up from the polished wooden floorboards she took in the picture; it was of a black and white, crime noir type, which she had to admit, had style.
- Tomorrow's Photograph, Kim Hosking
The body bag landed heavily in the packed dirt. It was late in the evening, but the light provided by the sun-battling twilight brought enough visibility for the work intended. The disused land was like a graveyard, great steel hulks of trains, carriages and cargo containers littering the tracks and surrounding environment.
- The Gardener, Wayne Naylor
"Just get on with it, Cassidy," said DCI Lightfoot, rubbing a hand across his face. "We've exhausted every other resource outside of the Darkhouse, and I don't fancy your chances of getting a straight answer down there after the mess Benton and Hurst made last month. Face it, you can either wait for something else to happen and let the case go cold, or you can suck it up and make a call at Wren's Lantern."
- Wren's Lantern, Lauren K. Nixon
Raine stood in the sands, many hours walk from anything. She could just make out the pyramids and the temples in the distance from her one remaining good eye. They looked like mere toys at this distance. To anyone else, this spot would seem nothing unusual, but she knew better.
- The Circle of Blood, Iain Shaw
Love is not pink
Love is not blue
Love is every colour
Love is light
Love is dark
Love is fear
- Love is Not Pink, Louise D. Smith
The moat is everlasting.
They say it broadens to match your ambitions.
Broadens to beat them. To quell any rising hope of stepping, leaping, swimming across.
- Paper Mosaics, Ariadne Thayne
It was as though the shutter suddenly snapped open for my Harry one day, and a new person fell out - a person who saw new angles in flatness, new light in shadows and splendour in simple sugar cubes.
- Tomorrow's Photograph, E. L. Tovey
Functioning As Intended
An Ensemble of Short Stories
Release date: Available now!
Functioning as Intended is the third anthology by the talented, disparate community of writers known as The Superstars. This fresh collection of stories, poems, snippets and experiments is the result of twelve months of prompts, picked at random and posted on the first day of every month between November 2016 and October 2017.
Including work from: Emilie Addison, G. Burton, Han R.H. Allen, Hannah Burns, Rae Bailey, Wayne Naylor, Jessica Grace Coleman, J.A. Foley, Hailie Drescher, K. Hosking, Kirsty McNulty, Lauren K. Nixon, Louise D. Smith, Mike Farren, Amina Farouk, T.J. Francis, Naveen N. Bhat, Chris O'Brien, Philip Lickley and S.J. Hopkins, along with artwork by Liz Hearson, PhoenixShaman and Karelin Victor-Kinzel.
Grandma told me to meet her by the pier to learn the family trade. I would have figured it was a normal request until she told me to come at three a.m..
- Knitter of Fishes, Emilie Addison
“Why do you do it?” he asked.
“Do what?” she replied without turning round, she knew he would be right behind her; he always was.
- Death and the Lady, Hannah ‘Han’ R. H. Allen
His unmistakable 3,
Upside down on a light oak off-cut
Lies as a pencil jotting
For a thing made and loved or
Unmade and forgotten.
- His Unmistakeable 3, Rae Bailey
If you get an amazing idea, unintentionally, from someone talking about it, to whom does it belong? Honestly, it doesn't matter who came up with it first. Ideas are just dreams without execution.
- Toh kya? Mai nachu?, Naveen N. Bhat
“Tell me what I’m thinking right now.”
“And then you’ll freak out when I get it right,” Alina groaned as she rubbed her head.
- Struggles of a Mind Reader, Hannah Burns
Radioactively attracted to one another,
The poison eventually kills.
- Relationship Status: Schrödinger, G. Burton
Peppermint Grove was an up-and-coming neighbourhood, a delightful village on the outskirts of Surrey that had seen a surge in popularity over the past year or so, when a certain well-known American baseball player had moved into the crumbling yet still hauntingly beautiful Peppermint Manor..
- Peppermint Grove, Jessica Grace Coleman
There was something about the woods out behind my grandparents’ place that always drew me to them. I’m still not sure what it was.
- November Picture Challenge, Hailie Drescher
Click, click, click… pause… click.
There was a wince followed by a sharp intake of breath before the bruised thumb was lifted off the red button.
- Icing Sugar Kisses, Amina Farouk
I cannot remember how we came to this place,
but they tell me it was a journey of many weeks
or months. Or years. It’s hard to keep a count
when you do not know your destination.
- No Words, Mike Farren
Today is a day I am not myself.
I feel separate and detached from the world around.
It seems still familiar for the others I see,
While no anchor grips or grounds me in place.
- Unfamiliarity, J. A. Foley
What do you call a Frenchman in sandals?
It was funny the first time. It was even funny the second time. By the thirty-ninth time, it was positively stale.
- Quantum Phillips, T. J. Francis
To anyone passing by, it would appear that Robert was merely waiting for someone, or something, but in truth the reasons why he was standing alone in a quiet cul-de-sac were much more complex. The run-down building before him, whilst very ordinary, represented much more to him than just bricks and mortar.
- Smoke Jumpers, S. J. Hopkins
It had been a long day on site. His clothes were soaked through despite the waterproofs, the mud had splattered up his trousers and his dark hair was plastered to his face. Nevertheless, he stopped on the narrow, cobbled street as the gate to the site bumped shut behind him and stared at the sight that met his eyes.
- Knitter of Fishes, Kim Hosking
One of my favourite memories of growing up is the time I used to spend at my great aunt’s house on a Saturday afternoon.
She lived in a small bungalow on the edge of town and though it may have not been the grandest house, to a young teenager it was like a cave of wonders.
- Icing Sugar Kisses, Philip Lickley
Walking down the street; nothing out of the ordinary, not until the corner to the car park. As she turns a waft of mint blows in her direction – she begins to wonder where it is coming from when she feels a sharp pain in her head and everything goes dark.
- Relationship Status: Schrödinger, Kirsty McNulty
The day started as it always did, with a crowd of people attempting to loosely queue in the small cramped office space called a bank in these so-called ‘modern’ times, where buildings reached for space beyond the heavens and people sought the brighter tomorrow from the shadows of those same structures.
- Grey, Wayne Naylor
Cold time was hard time.
Of all the punishments known to man, Artie thought that this must be the cruellest. At school he had read with horror about the penalties of old, which were all fire and blades, or crushed airways, or watery graves. Painful, definite ends to be sure, blood and viscera all over the place.
- Death and the Lady, Lauren K. Nixon
Daniel patted his hand on his chest, then at his side, and then the coffee table beside him. There he could feel only his laptop’s mouse and an empty glass that he accidentally knocked to its side. He couldn't feel the phone anywhere.
- Relationship Status: Schrödinger, Chris O'Brien
It’s a strange sight to see and a strange place to be. I never thought I would be staring at another person’s soul through the eyes of their own mind. But that’s what a Dreamwalker does. That’s what I do.
- Travelling Through People's Dreams, Louise D. Smith
Title Not Included
An Ensemble of Short Stories
Release date: Available now!
This collection is the work of nine authors over a twelve month period, including Hannah R.H.Allen, Hannah Burns, G. Burton, Jessica Grace Coleman, Cynthia Holt, Philip Lickley, Shaun Martindale, J. McGraw and Lauren K. Nixon.
"When we get out of this, the first thing I’m gonna do is go see my Kate, and I’m gonna marry her, there and then…”
- Dear Kate, Hannah R.H. Allen
She always used to buy them. Every Sunday she would walk down to the local market, where a little old man would sit every day from eight to three, churning out these decorative fruit pieces, but she always only every got the one type.
- Apricot Heart, Hannah Burns
She grew to the sounds of the underground,
The words that she always said;
‘Who would you see about troubled ground?
And why would they even care?’
- Aneurin Strange, G. Burton
Samantha Perks and James Daily liked to think of themselves as detectives. They weren’t – they were only eighteen years old, for one thing. Also, they knew nothing whatsoever about police procedure. They were, however, from the most boring town in the history of the world (in their humble opinion) and they were currently broke...
- Perks & Daily, Jessica Grace Coleman
I am standing at the counter
in the yellow room that is my kitchen.
I am eating the very last cookie in the last box of the
Peanut Butter Girl Scout Cookies that come
but once a year.
- The Last Cookie in the Yellow Room, Cynthia Holt
As the door slides open with a metallic groan, the thumping in my head suddenly and without warning becomes much more apparent to me, the throbbing, pulsating ache washing over my scalp like a tide of jellyfish, with the same amount of venom and fear.
- Take Flight, Philip Lickley
Hmm. Well, this was a change.
A bit wetter than I am used to, I have to admit. But, well, I kinda like it.
- Swimming With Pigs, Shaun Martindale
Darkness filled the cave, complete and unbroken. Anyone standing there would have felt the pressure in their ears of solid rock around them, but there was no one. Or rather, there was no one who could feel.
- Pennies for the Dead, J. McGraw
Maisie hugged her mother’s case tight to her front.
Of all the tasks her mother set her, this was her least favourite. Even scrubbing the floor of the laboratory, with all the viscous and unpleasant liquids that somehow accumulated there, was better than this.
- You Are What You Eat, Lauren K. Nixon