QSFer Die Booth has a new “unsettling” queer spec fic collection book out: Making Friends (and other fictions).
Anna answers an advertisement to find her ideal man. Harry gets more than he expected when he buys a rare bottle of wine. Donny comes up with a plan to get the perfect engagement ring for her girlfriend.
Coming out, coming home or letting go: from the Cheshire Literature Prize-winning author of Spirit Houses, My Glass is Runn and 365 Lies come 25 queer little tales of where we come from, what we hide from and what we love.
Sometimes horrifying, sometimes beautiful and occasionally both – Making Friends straddles the boundaries of genre with themes of identity and belonging, fear and love.
Warnings: There’s a full list of content warnings in the back of the book. Main ones: drug use, dysfunctional families, violence, hanging, mention of war, stalking, nightmares, fire, flood, drowning, brain tumour, mummified cat. It’s very quiet horror though, there’s very little graphic content and it’s warned for by story in the content warning list, so people can skip individual stories if they like. I’ll be putting it on my website too when the book is released.
Kobo | Smashwords | Lulu
Excerpt from the start of ‘The Night Post’
“The night post has arrived, sir,” Carter said.
Alfie watched him, his unhurried progress across the lawn which stretched, manicured, into the distance where the house stood. For what felt like a long time but was probably only seconds, it seemed that he approached without getting any closer; a skipping film frame, doomed to repeat. Alfie shut his eyes, willing the notion away. When he opened them, Carter’s shadow dropped across him, stark in the monochrome sunlight and he turned down the corner of his newspaper to squint up at him and ask, “Where’s Cora?”
“Playing by the stream, I believe, sir.” That patient, placid voice was an anchor. Alfie nodded. Folded the newspaper in half along practised creases, the headline announcing Westminster Abbey Hit. He laid it on the grass and unmoored from his deckchair, wiping the back of his hand across his brow that felt hot, despite the blood-temperature air. Half way to the house he looked back towards the stream: the bank higher on this side gave the illusion that the fields went on, uninterrupted, to the flat horizon. It was punctuated only by the striped canvas of his chair sagging into the grass. By their shadows stretched out across the lawn: Carter’s, walking away, leaping longer with every step. Colourless clouds slid across the sun. Their shadows, swallowed by nothing, winked out.
It was always summer, but never truly light, as if the world was covered with a layer of ash, a draped veil of mourning. Alfie couldn’t remember any summer like this before, yet this one seemed to be going on forever: he never thought he’d long for the damp sulk of autumn. At dinner, when he presented the salver, Carter didn’t speak, merely held it out, expectantly. On it was an envelope, plain and greyish, with no address or stamp. Alfie picked it up and turned it over in his hands. It was damp to the touch, with a moist texture like the spongy top of a mushroom, an effect not diminished by the fungal scent of the wet glue that stretched from the paper in clinging ribbons, like skin coming away from a burn. Alfie stared at it. “Maybe we should let it dry first.” That prompted a raised eyebrow – perhaps at the delay, perhaps at ‘we’. Alfie shook his head, pressing his lips together. He looked back at the letter. He couldn’t tear his gaze from it. “When did it arrive?”
“I’m afraid I’m not precisely sure, sir.” His voice was the ever same soothing cadence. “Sometime between ten a.m. and noon.”
“How did it get here?”
“Somebody brought it up, sir,” Carter said.
He woke soaked in sweat, the bedclothes twisted about his legs, binding as a winding sheet. It was never dark, always the same grey half-light reaching between the curtains. Wiping the wet heat from his forehead, Alfie grasped at the retreating streamers of his dream. But they dispersed, like smoke after fire.
“Ten a.m. sir,” Carter said.
Alfie stared at the plate of fried eggs in front of him. The grease seemed to congeal as if sped up, soaking into the rafts of toast. Something about it made him feel nauseated: it was too… organic. The viscid yellow eyes of the yolks looked morbidly alien. He focused instead on his dressing gown sleeve, the twist of red piping braid letting out a puff of loose silk stuff. He moved his other hand, slowly, pinched the trailing thread between thumb and finger and gave a gentle pull. Was alarmed at how suddenly the whole thing unravelled. “Where’s Cora?”
“I believe, sir, she is playing by the stream.” Carter cleared his throat discreetly. “The night post has been, sir.”
It was just as before. Alfie pulled at the flap, wet glue peeling free along all the seams so the blank envelope fell away from the contents entirely, a star of paper with a folded core. He picked at a corner, the fibres of paper furring at his touch. Unfolded it with care – not quite wet, but pulpy enough to tear. A gutter smell, almost earthy, of places underground, emanated. The letter was no letter: the paper was blank. It gave Alfie a dropping feeling in his belly, a nagging tug of recollection that he didn’t want to recognise. He looked up at Carter. “Who brought it?”
“I’m afraid I don’t know, sir.”
“How did they get in?” Following Carter’s glance he saw, across the hardwood parquet of the grand hall floor, a wet trail surely too widely spaced to be footprints, all the way to the staff door.
“The cellar, sir,” said Carter.
The trail, Alfie noted, was not just water. A dark stain, like melt-water after city snow. A sludge filthy with soot, in the summer, in the countryside, without any rain. “Lock it,” Alfie said.
Die Booth likes wild beaches and exploring dark places. When not writing, he DJs at Chester’s best (and only) goth club. You can read his prize-winning stories in places like LampLight Magazine, The Fiction Desk, Flame Tree Press and The Cheshire Prize for Literature anthologies. His books ‘My Glass is Runn’, ‘365 Lies’ (profits go to the MNDA), ‘Spirit Houses’ and ‘Making Friends (and other fictions)’ are available online. He’s currently working on a collection of spooky stories featuring transgender protagonists. You can find out more about his writing at http://diebooth.wordpress.com/ or say hi on Twitter @diebooth