It’s time for Honey to Change

One wishes they had a crystal ball, to foresee the future. See how the road takes us and to see how, seemingly, at a moments notices things change.  Change happens constantly.

One day Kent Gowran had an idea to start a website dedicated to flash fiction crime stories. The next day he has two willing assistants to get the ball rolling. All of a sudden there is a site with three editors wading an uncertain current of the internet, with the goal of publishing short shots of fiction from authors willing to face the challenge of three individual editors.

We didn’t know if we’d last a month, and I’ll be the first to say I was skeptical with a 3 day schedule. I was afraid we’d run out, that between the three of us we could agree on enough stories to fill the bill. I guess I didn’t foresee the quality of ready to publish stories or the tenacity of our contributors to submit over and over again despite rejection.

Three editors, three days. It seemed to work. A fantastic combination.

Most of you know, though we didn’t make any fanfare about it, that Kent stepped down as editor from Shotgun Honey at our first anniversary mark, and we officially brought on board Chad Rohrbacher to act as our third. Kent filled in from time to time to schedule stories and was an absolute invaluable part of our BOTH BARRELS anthology. Kent is a big man with a big heart. Not only did he let me in as an editor, but he let me in as a friend. I may not raise the doom claw, but we both care about family and fiction, and interests that overlap surprisingly in between.

On Tuesday, Shotgun Honey went from a web magazine or flashzine to a publisher with the release of BOTH BARRELS. That  isn’t the only change to be made this week.

Where Kent was our heart, Sabrina Ogden could be called our hope. Our faith. She kept me positive, as she does everyone, but wasn’t afraid to set things straight on a topic. As you know–or you will now–Sabrina will be having some reconstructive jaw surgery in the next month or so. I figured she would be taking time off–if only I had that crystal ball–but she decide she would need more.  Like with Kent, it is simply time for Sabrina to move on. And like Kent, Sabrina became a friend and not just a co-editor.

So now it’s official, our original editors Kent and Sabrina have stepped down. As friends I wish them the best and expect them to keep me up on all their new adventures. Maybe now I can get Kent to submit a story? Maybe he’ll be good enough to pass the new gauntlet of editors?

For the last couple weeks, behind the scenes two new editors have been reading and deciding the fates of our contributors. Let me introduce former contributors Jen Conley and Joe Myers.

Born and raised in New Jersey, Jen is really familiar with traffic. She lives three miles from the beach, or the Jersey Shore, and loves bagels and pizza. She’s a long-time, rabid fan of the Black Crowes and is obsessed with ID and Mad Men. Jen loves a good crime story, especially ones with characters that pop, and has written some dark tales herself. When not writing or reading, she teaches middle school and hangs out with her son who knows everything about Star Wars.

If you’ve read Jen’s work on our site and other venues, you’ll know you don’t want to ask her if she knows Snooki? She’s got a mean hook.

After growing up watching virtually every episode of Law & Order and The Twilight Zone ever recorded, Joe Myers finally realized that he couldn’t draw his comic books as fast as he came up with the stories and started writing them down. Since then, he wrote his first novel at the age of 17 and his work has been published in Shotgun Honey, The Escapist, and even earned a “not half bad” at a contest one time. When he’s not writing stories or doing freelance illustration, Joe can be found collecting old t-shirts, jackets, and being licked to death by his two dogs.

We met Joe last year at Bouchercon in St. Louis, and he just kind of clicked. It was a great opportunity to include to Joe on the team.

Both have been a valued asset already.

So now with Chad, Jen, Joe and myself we’re ready to see what the future brings. Another anthology for sure, and hundreds of more hard-boiled crime flash fiction.

If only I had a crystal ball, I’d tell you more.

For those attending Bouchercon this weekend in Cleveland, former editors Kent and Sabrina will be on hand with buttons and books. Be sure to get both and wish the two good luck, and give them a pat on the back for outstanding service. Jen and Joe will be at Bouchercon, also. Be sure to glad hand them, buy them plenty of drinks. These guys are helping choose your fate. A little good will, as they say, goes a long way.


Crazy Eight’s

I put my size nine in the door and it splits in a shower of particleboard and cocaine residue. There’s two boneheads on the couch and the sight of my blue eye and .38 launches them out of their seats. The first, a big skinhead with a beer gut, gets two in the chest, one in the forehead and the red stuff spiderwebs across the back wall. Number two squeals and trips over the coffee table. Something about having his best buddy’s brains on his cheek doesn’t seem to agree with him. He hits the floor and rolls over, belly up.

–Fuck man, I didn’t do nothin’! I didn’t do nothin’!

He stretches the second “do” out into a low whine. I stomp him and feel his ribs cave.

–I’ll let up just long enough for you to get five words out. Where’s Jackie?

The guy’s face blanches and he starts burbling spit and Cheetos.

–I don’t know, Remy. I-

He realizes he’s screwed up and whips his head back and forth in an exaggerated shake. The good news is he knows my name – that’s makes things easier. I drag him to the kitchenette and take him by the wrist. Once we get to the sink, he knows what’s about to happen.

–He goes to Crazy Eight’s!

His hand goes in past the rubber catch and I make sure he feels the blades.

–You better not be lying to me.

He looks up and sneers. What teeth he has left look like ripped newspaper.

–Why do you care, motherfucker? Huh? Tell me that.

I think of Blair lying asleep in bed and all the scars Jackie left. The stare-down I give him lasts just long enough for him to lose his nerve.

–I just do.

And then I throw the switch.

 

Crazy Eight’s. Fantastic.

Crazy Eight himself – a geezer from the days when biker gangs were cool – is crazier than a shithouse rat. You’d expect any establishment of his to be the last place you’d want to be on a Friday night. And it lives up to expectations. The bar is in the basement of an apartment building, if you could still call it that. Broken windows stick out like a glare through black eyes. Once upon a time, Crazy Eight’s had been the gang’s clubhouse. Nowadays, it’s just a wide spot in an empty road.

Most every building on either side of the street looks like a tornado came down and sucker-punched it. Hell, who’s to say it hasn’t. All I know is, I’m feeling pretty damn exposed out here. I pull the Trans Am around the building and kill the engine. It dies hard. There’s not even any wind to rustle what live grass there is left – there’s not even another car in the lot. I sit and wait, thumbing my pistol in one hand and tapping out a cigarette with the other. I think about switching on the radio just for some noise, but decide against it. I settle for playing with my lighter. Flick flick. Flick flick.

The lights in the bar are on, but that’s it. Maybe the building’s tenants checked out. Maybe they’re all asleep. In one way or another, at least. A few minutes of eternity later, I’m sweating under my jacket and my head’s starting to pound. I stub out the cigarette and climb out.

I sidle on up to the door and try the knob. Locked. I could kick this one in too, but something suggests a subtler approach. I whisper a few choice words to the lock and it slides out of place. Call it a parlor trick if you want – not all magic is throwing fireballs. And it’s damn handy. The door swings open without a sound and I creep inside.

BTO’s singing on the jukebox, but aside from the cigarette smoke, the place is empty. You ain’t seen nothin’ yet, sings the juke. Next thing I know, I’m greeted by a bottle of Corona across the teeth and a haymaker chaser. My knees give way and soon I’m kissing the floor.

–Remus Blackwood. Shoulda’ guessed.

The voice chuckles.

–Take him outside, boys.


Scrapbook

Blair calls to let me know Smilin’ Jackie’s back in town. Her voice is all silk stockings and razorblades, but right now it’s trembling so bad I can hardly tell what she’s saying. Even a razorblade’ll snap if you shake it up enough. She asks if she can stay at my apartment. Of course she can. Door’s open.

I’m already downstairs when she’s coming up the street. Coupla’ pricks in Mariners hoodies coming off a bender think it’s funny to waggle their tongues and make faces at the blind girl, until they see the scarecrow-looking fucker in an Alley t-shirt leaning by the doorway. If the crow tattoos don’t tip ‘em off to who it is, the mismatched eyes and the cigarette hanging off my lip do. I give ‘em the eye and they take off running. Any other night, she’d have hit me with her cane for “bullying”. But not tonight.

She’s barely got her Chucks off before she hits the bed, already out cold. I take care of the rest, peeling off her jacket and jeans, leaving a Smashing Pumpkins shirt and a scrapbook of scars – gashes of white on café au lait skin, each one a bad grindhouse flick in a nightmare cinema. I stroke a lock of black hair out of her face and catch the first show, already almost faded. It’s from when Jacko got drunk and clubbed her with a bottle of Maker’s. She was lucky the thing shattered so easy, left her with a spiderweb and blindness instead of something worse. I run my hand over her back and keep going down the list. The only reason he’s not adding to it is because he doesn’t know about me.

Five little crescent moons in her arm, left by a handful of crack nails when she tried to run from one of his drunken rages. There’d be a scar in her mouth from where his left hook split the roof to go with it. Six-inch gash two inches below the ribs – Jackie tickled her with a Bowie knife when he caught her with a barista. They never found the  body. There’s the ropes of raised skin on her back, marks from being whipped with a bike chain. Burns across her stomach from manning his explosive cocktails of Drano and turpentine. Guinea pig track marks along both her forearms. Puckered skin in her left thigh from a .38 after she’d been left as the distraction when the cops knocked down Jackie’s door. The bastard was too strung out to remember they carried radios. They caught him four blocks away while the ambulance was shrieking up the freeway. Last I heard, he was begging for a plea deal: Half the meth cooks in Belltown for a couple years off his sentence. Guess it stuck.

She moans a little in her sleep, pulls at her shirt before rolling over on her other side. Four years of hell all scrambling for screen time. It takes a little digging, but I find my old jacket, sliced all to ribbons from my last job, and sling it over her small body. I kiss her on the forehead, lock the window, and close the bedroom door without a sound.

The clock on the kitchenette counter says 6:23. Sun won’t be up for another hour or so yet. I’ve got time. I find my bottle of Maker’s Mark and take a swig before pouring the rest down the drain. My brass knuckles are by the toaster and I hunt the pile of clothes on the couch for a clean shirt. I pick a red tie to go with it. At 6:30, I lace up my boots, take my new jacket off the rack and have a look in the closet. Switchblade. Lantern oil and my lighter – close enough. I pull out a pack of unused hypos and find a jar of unfinished hoodoo I’d put together for an old gig. Of course I’ve got a .38. I search high and low for a bike chain. No dice. Doesn’t matter. I throw what I’ve got into a duffel bag and go.

I can pick that up on the way.