Book title: Hardened Hearts
Gwendolyn Kiste, J.L. Knight, Robert Dean, Jennifer Williams, Madhvi Ramani, Leo X. Robertson, Scott Hallam, Laura Blackwell, Sarah L. Johnson, Meg Elison, Tom Deady, Somer Canon, Calvin Demmer, Theresa Braun, John Boden, Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, Eddie Generous, James Newman (Foreword)
Genre: Horror, Sci-fi, Fantasy, Speculative
Published: December 3, 2017 by Unnerving
~ Blurb ~
17 stories of difficult love, broken hearts, lost hope, and discarded truths. Love brings pain, vulnerability, and demands of revenge. Hardened Hearts spills the sum of darkness and light concerning the measures of love; including works from Meg Elison, author of The Book of the Unnamed Midwife (Winner of the Philip K. Dick Award), Tom Deady, author of Haven (Winner of the Bram Stoker award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel), Gwendolyn Kiste, author of And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe and Pretty Marys All in a Row, and many more.
Hardened Hearts dips from speculative, horror, science fiction, fantasy, into literary and then out of the classifiable and into the waters of unpinned genres, but pure entertainment nonetheless.
Grab a copy!
~ Excerpts ~
40 Ways to Leave Your Monster Lover – Gwendolyn Kiste
Never accept an invitation from a wolf. That’s a simple rule and one you should appreciate. All girls understand such a danger. But when a man isn’t a wolf—not yet anyhow, the moon isn’t right—and when the invitation is not a shrouded pathway into a forest but an entrée downtown with dinner and a Broadway play, how dangerous can it be?
(Would it be too on-the-nose if the tickets are for Into the Woods?)
You’re in an Uber on your way to the theater when your mother calls. You don’t answer. What would you say to her anyway? “I’m going on a date with a married man. How’s your ladies group at church?” No, it’s better to leave her to voicemail.
After the show, over red wine and a red tablecloth, he tells you everything you want to know about him. His eyes are greener than you remember.
When the restaurant shutters for the evening, he leads you to a waiting taxi. Since he lives on the other side of town—he’s already told you his address three times—he doesn’t join you. But as you climb in the backseat, he leans in and kisses your cheek and leaves a whisper in your ear before he turns and vanishes into the darkness.
What is Love? –Calvin Demmer
The die cast.
Their fate dealt.
I targeted the wooden huts, raining bolts of lightning their way. Beautiful infernos erupted. I aimed for the wooden enclosures next, sending livestock running in a frenzied stampede. The villagers stared at me with mouths agape and eyes threatening to pop out. The pandemonium reached its crescendo. I ignored the cacophony of screams between the cracks of thunder, indifferent to the chaos I’d brought upon the village.
I followed commands.
Lerato’s enemies were my enemies.
Destruction had become routine.
As my wings grew tired, the devastation below bored me. The cracks within my soul demanded more than papering over. The chief of the doomed village burst from his hut, pulling me from my thoughts. The proud man wore feathers tied around his head and animal-skin attire rode his abdomen and hips. He shook his fist at me.
I directed an unrelenting bolt his way.
The white electrostatic discharge cracked. The chief could do nothing as he burst into flames. He fell, burned to a crisp.
The ash and bone that remained of the man pierced my mind. I’d done it. The typical excuse that I was following orders didn’t work.
This was my crime.
They had all been mine.
Porcelain Skin – Laura Blackwell
Ruth stared at the unfamiliar thing. It was bigger than a recipe box, smaller than a shoe box, and made of heavily polished rosewood. “All right,” she said cautiously.
Michael’s smile slipped. “It’s from Helen’s son. He wants you to have it. You remember Helen, right?”
“Helen was my best friend,” snapped Ruth. “She died in 1982. It’s been thirteen years, but I haven’t forgotten her.” Never forgot the gentle smile, the scent of her lily-of-the-valley soap.
“He said this was on her dresser as long as he could remember,” Michael explained, looking disappointed.
“He thought maybe you gave it to her, because you two used to go to the ballet together in Atlanta.”
Michael opened the box lid, and a porcelain dancer sprang into view, slowly rotating to a tinkling tune.
Ruth shook her head. Not even the tune was familiar. “If it was Helen’s, I’d be honored to have it. I’ll writehim a thank-you note later today.”
Ruth and Michael had lunch at the one restaurant that changed the oil for the fried okra often enough. Afterward, he checked the noisy pipe in the bathroom, but didn’t find a leak to repair. By midafternoon, the stunted rear of his toy-like car was turned to her house, and the gravel crunched for what was likely to be the last time until the electric-meter reader came. The closest neighbor was a quarter of a mile away.
When she went to bed that night, Ruth wound the music box and set it on her bedside table. She watched the pretty ballerina spin slowly. The minor-key tune wasn’t from a ballet; it sounded more like a lullaby. The pink satin lining told her nothing, nor did the ballerina’s pose (arms in sixth position, feet en pointe in first), nor did the oval mirror that doubled its movement. Ruth examined the serene porcelain face, with its softly blushing cheeks, its pink smile, its direct gaze. People used to say Helen had porcelain skin—and to be sure, it wasn’t freckled and sun-roughened like Ruth’s—but the ballerina was a different thing altogether. It was new to her, nothing to remind her of her friend, but Ruth felt a surge of warmth toward it anyway.
~ Editor bio ~
Eddie Generous is the creator, editor, designer, and publisher of Unnerving and Unnerving Magazine. He is part pigeon and part taco, and resides on the Pacific Coast of British Columbia with his wife and their feline overlords.