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Story Spotlight: Candy Apple Baby by Colin Thornton

Here’s a little snippet from Issue 14 to get your engine running this week …

Candy-Apple Baby

by Colin Thornton

It was a candy-apple red, metal-flake, chrome-plated Harley Davidson Low Rider, chopped down, pimped out, and fully accessorized, parked under a misty cone of light from a streetlamp almost as if it was waiting for Zoober to wander by.

For months he had fantasized about owning a motorcycle: tearing down the highway, a big, nasty redhead on the seat behind him, her arms wrapped around his waist, cheek resting on his shoulder.  Money was his problem, or rather, lack of it.  His old man wouldn’t pay for it, that’s for sure.  And there was no way he was going flip burgers for minimum wage like those other peons.

“Well now, looky here.  Someone left the keys in the ignition.”

He listened to the night, scanned the houses on both sides of the street — dark and quiet.  In the silence he could hear that chrome-plated angel calling out to him, whispering in his ear, enticing him, compelling him, daring him to do what most other sixteen-year-old boys would never dream of.

Although Zoober had never been one for going to church, praying, or any of that spirit-in-the-sky crap, he looked up at the stars and with all the sincerity he could muster, said, “Thank you, Jesus.”

 

JD is standing on a hoist, half a dozen fan belts over his shoulder, up to his elbows in the engine of a 1985 Corvette.  He holds out an empty hand, says, “Seven-sixteenths.”  His assistant wraps her fingers around the socket, slowly sliding it onto the wrench with a firm click and a gentle twist.  Brown skin, brown eyes, long auburn hair, naked under her bib overalls.  “Anything else JayDee?” she coos in a soft pillow voice.  Shivers of anticipation ripple up his inseam as she passes him the ratchet.  A smear of grease on her earlobe looks like a drop of chocolate sauce.  He leans forward to taste it …  Tic Tic Tic — Huh?  Tap Tap Tap —  What’s that noise?  Knock Knock Knock …  As Jennifer Lopez fades from his dream, JD realizes that someone is banging on his bedroom window.  Bang Bang Bang —  “JD, wake the fuck up!”  He squints at his clock, rolls over, and peels back one corner of the curtain.

Zoober is standing in the garden, urgently beckoning him outside.  JD shakes his head.  “It’s still dark out.”

But Zoober insists.  “Get out here.”

A beam of light shines through his bedroom door, casting a silhouette of a figure against the wall.  “What’s going on down there?”

“Nothing, Dad.  Nothing.  Bad dream, that’s all.”

“Well, dream quieter.”

Dad mutters something under his breath, flicks off the light and goes back to bed, closing the door behind him.

After a few minutes of quiet, JD slips into his jeans and T-shirt, eases open the back door, and sneaks out to meet his nocturnal friend.

Zoober bounces from foot to foot, arms crossed, shoulders hunched, hands tucked in his armpits.  “Jesus, man, I’ve been bangin’ on your window for ten minutes.”

“It’s four thirty.  What d’you want?”

“I need to put something in your back yard.”

“You woke me up for that?”

“It’s important.”

“What is it?”

“A motorcycle.”

 

Next day, sitting in the school cafeteria after classes, Zoober brags about his previous night’s adventure; the who, what, where, and when, saving the why for last:  “The keys were in it.”

In a lifetime of dumb moves, this ranks high on Zoober’s top ten list.  “Don’t you think …” JD asks, pausing to add the emphasis his slow companion needs, “…  someone might — miss it?”  And just in case the subtle point he was making was also missed, adds, “Might want it back?”

Zoober stares blankly.  Blinks.  “But the keys were in it.”

Before JD can explain the concept of impulse control, the Pappas twins, Chris and Nick, come into the cafeteria and straight over to their table.

Nick says, “Three guys in the parking lot looking for you, Zoober.”

“Big guys,” adds Chris.

“Brick shithouse big.”

“Ugly too.”

“Real ugly.”

“Capital UG ugly.

“Little guy has a cool tat, though.”

“Totally.”

Strangers in the parking lot could be anyone, but the coincidence is too much to ignore so JD suggests they take the back door out of school and cut through the alley to get home.

Seconds after stepping outside, a white Cadillac Escalade with blacked-out windows screeches to a stop beside them.  Three people jump out:  A wisp of a guy in a leather jacket with a tattoo of a snake on his neck and two sumo-sized bodyguards wearing mirrored Ray-Bans.

Minus the scales and fangs, the runt looks a lot like his tattoo — thin and wiry, bristling with aggression and nervous energy.

Snake’s jaw muscles twitch as he steps towards Zoober and JD, sizing them up, nodding and smiling to himself at some private joke.

He locks the kids in a cold-blooded glare, his eyes all pupil, like two lumps of tar.  In a breathy hush that somehow seems to amplify his rage he says, “In the car.”

Zoober and JD are shoved into the back and sandwiched between the two Sumos.  JD watches Snake’s reflection in the rear-view mirror.  His dead fish eyes, pale, cold, and glassy, scanning his prisoners, coming to rest finally on JD.  The intensity of Snake’s gaze feels like a corkscrew boring into his skull.  After what seems like an eternity, Snake smirks and nods.  “Punks,” he says, as if he was spitting a gob of snot.  “Two frightened punks.”

For a instant, Zoober looks at the door handle.  Just a flicker of a glance, a reflex.  “Don’t.  Even.  Think about it,” Snake warns.

He backs out of the service road, drives through the parking lot and onto Main Street.

For a long while they drive in silence.  Snake wants them to sweat, wants them to know who’s in control, give them time to let fear gnaw on their imaginations.  Eventually he says, “You have something of mine.  I want it back.”

Before JD can say turn left at the next stoplight, Zoober starts blurting out directions, leading them 180 degrees away from JD’s house.  Down the avenue, past the church, the strip mall, and Johnny’s Burgers.  Zoober points down the street.  “There,” he says.  “Brick house on the left.  Green garage door.”

Snake parks.  The Sumos haul themselves out of the car to let the prisoners out.  “We’ll be right back,” Zoober says and trots up the driveway to the side door, opens it, and walks in.

“What the fuck are you doing?” JD asks.  “This is Mackie’s house.”

“They don’t know that.”

Zoober walks right through the house, JD close behind.  Past Mackie’s bedroom and up the stairs into the kitchen where Mrs MacNeil is making dinner.  As easily as flipping a switch, Zoober turns on his choirboy charm.  “Hey, Mrs  Mac.”  She’s delighted to see two of her son’s friends.  “We have to study for a math test tomorrow,” Zoober lies.  “Mackie’s on his way.  He told us to wait out back.”

It would never occur to Mrs  MacNeil that her son’s friends would get into mischief like the delinquents she sees on TV.  “Nice to see you boys taking your schoolwork seriously,” she says.  “Are you hungry?”  So nice, JD thinks, the world’s best mom.  He feels like a cad for deceiving her.

“Thanks, but we really should study,” Zoober says, never thinking that the woman he’s dismissed as an airhead might notice that they don’t have any books.

Outside, JD hisses at Zoober.  “Are you suicidal?”

Zoober is so full of hubris it’s leaking out of his sneakers and leaving a slick on the deck behind him.  “I’m not going to let a dwarf and two Neanderthals with glandular conditions run my life.  Let’s get outta here.”

JD would like to kill Zoober himself and save Snake the trouble, but he feels helpless, out of control, as if he’s fallen into a river and been carried downstream into unknown territory.

They go down the stairs, across the lawn, over the fence, through the neighbour’s backyard and down the driveway to the next street, expecting freedom and finding instead a white Escalade — parked, engine running, one Sumo beside each open door.

This time they are thrown into the back seat and squashed between the two bodyguards.  Snake turns to face them — first Zoober, then JD, slowly shaking his head from side to side.

Zoober has an excuse.  “We —”

“Shut up!” Snake shouts.  Zoober’s bluster shrivels and dies like a worm in the sun.

He pulls out a gun, sticks it in JD’s face.  So close, all he can see is the end of the barrel, a silver circle of steel like a giant zero summing up his chances at getting out of this car alive.  He watches Snake’s thumb press down on the hammer and cock the gun with a click that echoes in his ears like a cannon.

“Have I got your full attention?” he asks.  JD nods.  “You’re out of time and I’m out of patience.  You know what I want.”  JD nods again.  “Now, where to?”

Read the rest in Pulp Literature Issue 14.  On sale now!

Colin Thornton studied drawing and painting in college, played music for a few decades while he built a career in advertising.  Today, his paints dry, drums on a shelf, marimba locked in its case, and his advertising days over, he writes short stories.  ‘Candy Apple Baby’ is a chrome-plated tale about theft, fractured friendships, motorcycle envy, and Darwin’s third law.  Colin rides a recumbent bicycle, not a Harley Chopper.

If you’re in New Brunswick you can catch Colin reading at the Frye Festival in Shediac this coming Sunday April 23rd around 3pm.

Writers’ Block Busting

As a mystery writer, I love misdirection, because it sets me to investigating.  Quick and unhelpful answers to writing questions are some of my favourite black boxes.

The knee jerk answer we all get when we ask, “Why am I stuck?” is, “Writers’ block”.  Litmus test on this answer:  Quick?  Sure.  Unhelpful?  Totally.  So why do we accept this answer?  I’ll tell you why some of us accept it, it’s because if we have writers’ block then that’s proof we’re actually writers. So, once we relax and agree we really are writers, just as we have always wished to be, let’s deal with the serious issue of being stuck.

If we’re stuck, it’s like being stuck in any aspect of our lives that is getting us down.  It means we don’t have excellent goals to keep us interested, excited, and on track.  In writing, goals mean outlining.  So, when brainpages adhere one to the other, one way to get unstuck is

  1. Procure a timer
  2. Set the timer for 5 minutes
  3. Outline the beginning, middle, and end of your story for 1 character.  I often use the story evolution page from the brilliant First Draft in 30 Days : A Novel Writer’s System for Building a Complete and Cohesive Manuscript(Paperback) – 2005 Edition 
    by Karen Wiesner

Repeat as necessary, for more characters, until the writing mind is raring to go.

In order to avoid getting stuck at all, outlining this way in odd 5 or 10 minute parcels of time during the week works wonders.

I hope you’ll have another brilliant writing week. Cheers Mel

muse smallThis week from @yourwritingmuseWriting down your great goals fuels your writing career beautifully. Admirable practise.  Your Writing Muse #amwriting @pulpliterature

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Literature & Libations: the Beer Bundle

As you know, we at Pulp Lit are all about the beer.

And because we are SO excited to celebrate the launch of our very first novel, Stella Ryman and the Fairmount Manor Mysteries, and the launch of our fourteenth (!!) issue we want to buy you a beer!

Pre-order your copies of Stella and Pulp Literature Issue 14 below, and we’ll include a  drink ticket (also good for wine, highballs, or soft drinks if beer isn’t your tipple) when you come to pick them up at our Double Launch Party on Monday April 3rd at the Steamworks Brew Pub in Gastown.

Even if you can’t make the event, this bundle of both books for $30 still saves you $3 — enough to buy a single bottle of beer at the liquor store and toast with us from afar.  And we’re feeling so giddy we’ve decided to offer two other bundles as well: Stella plus a subscription, in either print or ebook.

Image result for cc humphreys

CC Humphreys

Authors CC Humphreys, Mel Anastasiou, and Joseph Stilwell among others will be there so you can get your copies signed!

Beer Bundle #1 – The Radler

A digital subscription to Pulp Literature , the ebook version of Stella Ryman and the Fairmount Manor Mysteries, plus a free drink ticket at our launch party. $25 

Beer Bundle #2 – The Skyhigh IPA

Pulp Literature Issue 14, featuring stories from CC Humphries, Greg Brown, Pat Flewelling and more, the beautiful hot-off-the-press print version of Stella Ryman, plus a free drink ticket at the launch. $30

Beer Bundle #3 – The Dunkelweizen

The deepest darkest savings!  A one-year print subscription to Pulp Literature, the print version of Stella Ryman, plus a free drink ticket at the launch.  All for the cost of a regular print subscription. $50

You can also buy these bundles at the Creative Ink Festival this weekend if you come and visit us at our sponsor table.

Stella may be a devout tea-drinker, but she’s no teetotaller.  Join her — and us — at Steamworks for literature and libations.

Mel Anastasiou

Pulp Literature Double Launch
Monday 3 April 2017, 7 – 10pm
Steamworks Brew Pub
375 Water St, Vancouver BC
RSVP here

 

 

 

Last day for Creative Ink Passes!

Well, not the last day entirely — you’ll still be able to purchase passes at the door for $100.  But today’s your last day to get them online for only $80.  This is an amazing deal for three days worth of workshops, panels, pitches, blue pencils, and rubbing elbows with industry professionals.

All three senior Pulp Lit editors will be there (a rare chance to find us all on the same continent at once) and we’ll be doing an Hour Stories Session, and many panels and workshops — some involving swords!  Plus you can find us and our marvellous crew at our sponsor table in the vendors’ hall, and at the reading and booksigning where we will launch Stella Ryman and the Fairmount Manor Mysteries.

In addition to Guests of Honour Eileen Kernaghan and Ken Scholes there are so many amazing speakers and writers attending that we can’t list them all.  Instead, go to the Creative Ink website and check them out yourself.  Whatever you do, don’t forget to register today and save yourself $20 to spend in the bar.

See you there!

Jen, Mel, & Sue

Where the Angels Wait

Pulp Literature Issue 14 is with the printer and will be available in time for The Creative Ink Festival (31 Mar – 2 Apr) and our launch at Steamworks on Monday April 3rd.  We’re delighted to have another story, ‘The Ankle Bracelet’, from our very first feature author, CC (Chris) Humphreys.

Chris will be on hand at the launch to give a reading and sign books, but in the meantime, let us whet your appetite with a snippet of the poignant ‘Where the Angels Wait’ from all the way back in Pulp Literature Issue 1.

Granada, Andalusia, Spain. August 1986.

Sitting on the edge of the bed now, listening. A door opened, shut, someone has come and gone, that much is certain. They’ve hidden them, and he must find them.

Unless they didn’t leave.

“Hello?”

No reply. He has to start. The drawers? Too obvious but he tries a couple. The cushions? He pulls them off the sofa, feels down the back and side, moves carefully because if they
are there what state might they be in? He finds a crumb covered coin, nothing else. On the high shelves then, at the back of the cupboard, rolling in dust? Or in a jar in the bureau, pickled, floating like onions? With others? Alone? Alone, yes, has to be.

He starts to move quicker. Grapes on the table, that’s frightening. Eat one? Too risky. Time’s nearly up, pull back the sheets, grope under the pillows.

“Who’s there?”

He lies back down. “There’s no one there,” he says, challenging the dark.

He sits up. He knows where they are. His father is in the doorway, making it look small, and he has them exactly where they should be.

“Looking for these?” Dad says, and starts to squeeze his eyeballs from his face.


Off the bed,
groping for a light, blundering in an unfamiliar dark to a wall, a door, a switch, filling the room with yellow, running to the window, pulling back the thick curtains. He thrusts his head out into fierce sun and furnace air and the heat brings him back. He remembers where he is.

It takes him longer to remember why.

Six PM. Jet lag muzzles his head like a warm, wet towel and he can’t figure if home is ahead of Granada or behind. No, behind, it’s nine in Vancouver now. Gwen will be getting Sunday breakfast. French toast. Wearing her blue smock to protect her church clothes. If he was there they’d eat, then she’d take the smock off.

“Coming?” she’d ask.

“Nothing to confess,” he’d say.

He’ll call, catch her before she goes, but after a shower. He wants to make sense when he speaks to her. Before the shower though…

read the entire story in Pulp Literature Issue No. 1, Winter 2014.

 

Introducing Renée Saklikar, the Magpie Award Judge

It is our pleasure to introduce the judge for this year’s Magpie Award for Poetry, Surrey BC’s Poet Laureate Renée Sarojini Saklikar.

Renée Sarojini Saklikar writes thecanadaproject, a life-long poem chronicle.  Work from the project appears in journals, anthologies and chapbooks.  Renée’s first book, children of air india, un/authorized exhibits and interjections, (Nightwood Editions, 2013) won the 2014 Canadian Authors Association Award for poetry and was a finalist for the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Award.

Renée is currently a mentor and instructor for Simon Fraser University, and co-founder of the poetry reading series, Lunch Poems at SFU.  With Wayde Compton, Renée co-edited The Revolving City: 51 Poems and the Stories Behind Them (Anvil Press/SFU Public Square, 2015).  She is currently at work on the long poem, “Thot-J-Bap”, excerpts of which can be found in Eleven Eleven, The Capilano Review, DUSIE and The Rusty Toque, as well as in chapbooks published by Nous-Zot and above/ground presses.

Renée is the inaugural Poet Laureate for the City of Surrey and the 2017 UBC Okanagan Writer in Residence.  She collects poems about bees.

We are delighted to have Renée onboard as the Magpie Award judge. Thank you, Renée!

The 4th annual Magpie Award for Poetry is open until April 15th.  Contest guidelines  here.

Galloping Time, Supporting Systems for the Writing Life

Now and then, a moment arrives, when hardly anybody wants anything from us. Maybe something was cancelled, leaving a serene empty space, or it’s the day after a holiday.

I used to go mad at such moments.  Quick, this is my chance to write 5400 words.  But, what if, instead of typing up a storm until the next serendipitously empty timeslot raises its noble head and invites us to gallop away upon it (okay, that’s a tempting thought to me too, so if you love that idea, leave this paragraph in your dust and ride away on inspiration), what if we use this little moment of peace to redesign the systems and reset the components of our lives to create timeslots of our own?  And perhaps ask 3 questions:

  1. If my perfect life and writing career were here, what would it look like?
    hint: every day includes time for relationships, for eating and moving well, and for kicking back.
  2. What am I using up time for that I don’t like much, and that doesn’t serve me or mine?
    hint: we all know what to do, so, how to do it?
  3. In the area of life where things seem so crazy they’re sucking my creative energy, is there any system, perhaps over the course of the week, that I could set in place to make things less onerous?
    hint: systems are not about achieving perfection, they are about our present selves doing something in a few minutes to save our future selves an hour for writing.

I don’t want to use my creative powers to deal with It’s five pm and there’s nothing to eat, what magic can I perform?  I like cooking, but I’d prefer to use the magic on my manuscript and have food in the fridge and a plan in the kitchen.  Come the weekend, I don’t want to take that big beautiful 3-hour drafting timeblock and use it to shoulder through crowds at Costco.  If we can generate a system or two, we can support our creative powers without shortchanging our lives and the people we adore.

I hope you’ll have another brilliant writing week. Cheers, Mel

We believe in bringing well written, gorgeously published, superb storytelling to readers, and we pay writers and artists competitive rates for their work. Subscribe here. Good books for the price of a beer!

muse smallThis week from @yourwritingmuseWhatever the weather, you keep writing. Your persistence, endurance, and strong talent move your career along beautifully. Your Writing Muse 

The Magpie Award is Open!

M is for March, and M is for Magpie … which means the 4th annual Magpie Award for Poetry is now open.  Earlybird rates save you $5 until March 15th, so hurry and get your poems in now.

Submission guidelines are here.

To inspire your fine-feathered words, here is some lovely coloured pencil work by Sandra Vander Schaaf, on artwork by Mel Anastasiou from Colouring Paradise: A Renaissance-Inspired Colouring Book.

'Two for Joy' by Mel Anastasiou, coloured by Sandra Vander Schaaf

‘Magpie’ by Mel Anastasiou, coloured by Sandra Vander Schaaf

 

The Real Sting: Bumblebee Contest Longlist

The Bumblebee Flash Fiction Contest: short and sweet stories with a sting.  The real sting, though, is choosing between so many excellent entries.  The editors had to work hard to select a longlist.  Thank you to everyone whose stories made choosing difficult.

Here are the authors on the longlist, alphabetically by first name:littlepen

  1. Amanda Truscott
  2. Candace Kubinec
  3. Catherine Raphael
  4. Charity Tahmaseb
  5. Claire Lawrence
  6. Colin Thornton
  7. Cornelia Hoogland
  8. David Perlmutter
  9. Soramimi Hanarejima
  10. Ingrid Jendrzejewski
  11. Jenny Fleming
  12. Jay Allisan
  13. Joel Freiburger
  14. Kat McNichol
  15. Katie Gray
  16. K. Kris Loomis
  17. KT Wagner
  18. Laura Taylor
  19. Leslie Wibberley
  20. Luo Yang
  21. Margaret Code
  22. Melanie Cossey
  23. Richard Arbib
  24. Rose Divecha
  25. Steven Kochems
  26. Tristan Marajh
  27. William Kaufmann

Congratulations, authors!  We editors will steel ourselves to make a shortlist for contest judge Bob Thurber soon.

In the meantime, the Magpie contest opens tomorrow.  Poets, prime your pens!