Since 2011, Shotgun Honey has been honored to have a variety of talented writers helm what we fondly call the “Gauntlet.” A right of passage for every story that graces our site, where the story is reviewed individually by three submission editors and requires a majority vote.
It started with Kent Gowran, Sabrina Ogden and myself, and has shuffled with following generous and talented folks: Chad Rorbacher, Joe Myers, Erik Arneson, Chris Irvin, Jen Conley, Angel Luis Colón, Nick Kolakowski, Renee Pickup and Hector Acosta.
Nick Kolakowski stepped down at the start of the year, transitioning to a role as associate editor for Shotgun Honey Books, an imprint of Down & Out Books. Nick is the author of the Love & Bullets Hookup series, as well as the dystopian novel Maxine Unleashes Doomsday. We hope to see more work from him the future as I recommend all his works.
Renee Ascher Pickup also stepped down in 2019 to focus on the diverse publishing efforts of Bronzeville Books, which we here at Shotgun Honey greatly endorse. She brings a unique view and voice to every project she is associated with, and we’ll miss her contribution.
This lease the talented Hector Acosta to read all those submissions. Because we didn’t want to weight of the world upon Hector’s shoulders, and there was a bit of catch up to do, in December we closed submissions. And now our pantry is bare.
I am happy to announce that Flash Fiction submissions are open once again, and who is going to man the “Gauntlet?”
Joining us for 2020, I would like to welcome Nikki Dolson and Paul J. Garth. Nikki Dolson is the author of All Things Violent and Love and Other Criminal Behavior. And Paul J. Garth is a short story author who’s work can be found on Shotgun Honey, most recently with “Eulogy”, and in various collections and web magazines. Both present diverse POVs from various areas of the US, and Hector likes them. As the senior man, that’s important.
We’re looking for new stories, diverse voices, and interesting twists. Are you ready for the new “Gauntlet”?
With just two weeks left in the year, we bring together a third group of writers and friends to recommend their favorite reads of 2019. It’s been a great bunch of titles that have added to my already towering TBR collection. So many potential gift selections for the book lover who celebrate the holiday seasons. And if they don’t, we might as well just make a book holiday and gift them anyway.
I want to thank those who have contributor so far, and welcome new contributors Nikki Dolson, Dharma Kelleher, S. W. Lauden, and Alex Segura.
I fell out of love with the private detective in fiction until I met Roxane Weary. Three books in to this excellent series and I am hooked again. Lepionka can write a goddamn story and I am here for every tale of Roxane Weary. The Stories You Tell is a great damn ride.
Space nuns! Humankind out on the edges of known space. I could tell you so much more but if nuns in space doesn’t get you interested then this isn’t the book for you. (THIS IS THE BOOK FOR YOU. TRUST ME.)
This choice won’t surprise anybody who’s heard me raving about Blake Crouch on the Writer Types podcast. Crouch’s last two thrillers (“Recursion” and “Dark Matter”) are right in line with my current tastes in crime fiction—the characters are complex, the mind-bending plots are dense, and the writing is excellent.
Speaking of the Writer Types podcast…I may have retired from the show in October, but I left an even bigger fan of Eric Beetner’s writing than I was going in. Beetner is a prolific purveyor of top notch pulp who consistently gets more bang per sentence than most crime writers publishing today. This tightly-plotted thriller is no exception with it’s engaging characters and breakneck pace.
I’m a sucker for rock & roll reads (this is one of about 20 I devoured this year), but Debbie Harry’s story is truly fascinating. There was so much I didn’t know about her early days in Manhattan, including run-ins with Andy Warhol’s Factory crowd and the New York Dolls—way before she got famous with Blondie. The casual tone makes it feel like she’s confiding a few great stories over drinks. Definitely a book to check out if you love punk rock, power pop or new wave.
A new Lisa Lutz book is always an event – and her latest standalone, The Swallows, is a provocative and timely look at the gender dynamics at a New England Prep school – dark, alluring, haunting and frightening in the way only teenage drama can, Lutz shows that she’s one of the sharpest and most versatile crime writers working today.
Burke is the modern master of domestic suspense, and she’s at the top of her game with The Sister – a twist-laden and tightly-plotted tale that demands to be read in one sitting. A compelling beach read that’s loaded with timely, sharp social commentary, The Better Sister was impossible to ignore and even harder to put down.
Rarely do we see a debut this polished, confident, and layered. Kim’s Miracle Creek is a jaw-dropping first novel that touches on family, hope, and desperation that’s also part murder mystery. Suspenseful, relevant, and complex, I was blown away by this book and had to read it twice.
Hope you found a book or two to add to your reading list or for holiday gifts. Be sure to check back next week to see more recommendations from our favorite authors.
You twitch and flop on the sweat-soaked bedspread and listen to the hum of the A/C. The walls are thin and you try not to make too much noise (someone may have banged on a wall or ceiling).
Between hallucinations (or during, you don’t remember), you decide the motel’s maid has a bad foot or leg because when she makes her rounds, you hear a slide-thunk along with the squeaky wheels of her cart. Knock at a door, the slide-thunk moves away. Slam of a door and its back again but the squeak is a straight-line sound. It goes silent but when it returns, it always moves forward.
When you close your eyes you think some karmic god must have the tines of a fork stuck in your gut and is twisting them slowly making you yowl and cry like some lovesick cat. You open your eyes and your eyeballs itch.
You owe a man money. You think as often as he fucked you y’all should be even but he claims your debt is bigger than even your sweet piece of ass is worth. So you emptied your bank account ($800) and left town (quickly).
You left behind a nice-ish apartment and the job that paid for everything material you could want but 15 years of constant pressure finally broke you. So fuck that job.
Fuck your parents too. Once they decided that you had decided getting high with him was more important, they wrote you off. Friends, if you had them, were work friends and they’re gone with the job.
Your sister—ten years younger, your confidant (your BFF)—is the only one who still calls. You tossed your phone on the way to Reno but you can still get your voicemails. You listen briefly to his demented slobbering. He swears he’ll find you, he’ll kill you. You delete his and save hers. Each night you listen to her say, Come home. Stay with me. Nothing is okay but you’re okay with me. You go to sleep to those messages. She’s the reason you’re here now, trying to let go of the drugs and the mistake of a life you made with him. For her, you’re sweating and cursing and weeping in a motel room where no one cares what you’re doing as long as you pay upfront and don’t burn the place down.
You’ve given up everything but alcohol and cigarettes. A girl needs to have something to find solace in. Marlboros and Jameson sit in a bag next to the gun you bought off some guy behind the liquor store. You took your ex-drug dealer’s messages seriously. You are a woman (an addict) who thought she loved a man. You see your mistakes clearly now.
It’s been enough days that though sleep is still torture for you it does come at times during the day, which means you’re awake at night listening to the sounds of the motel world. On one side a TV plays loudly, incessantly, from 10 pm til 2am. In the other room, there’s a woman with kids. Each night, you hear them pray then muffled laughter. You imagine them bouncing on the bed and their mother kissing them goodnight. Later, you hear her talking while pacing on the sidewalk in front of your room.
When your sister was small, you sang her to sleep each night. In the room you shared, you crooned made up songs using words from her favorite books ‘I love you so I’ll eat you up like green eggs and ham’ and other nonsense. She’d giggle and hum along until she fell asleep and you’d keep going, singing softer and softer until all you could hear was her quiet breathing and the cars on the highway whipping past your house.
You believe he will find you. There is a bullet in the chamber and several in the clip. You know how to work the safety. You wait for the footsteps you don’t recognize to pause in front of your door, then for someone, him, to gently test the doorknob. You sleep with a gun under your pillow because you’re sure that’s the only way home.