Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The March of Freedom - The Glass Coin

My story "The March of Freedom" is now available to be read at The Glass Coin.


Also showing so far this month are:

Angel Zapata's story "El Dia de los Reyes (The Day of the Kings)" - Click HERE

Sairah Saddal's tale "The Red Bangles" - Click HERE

Sarah J. Schaffer's story "An American Holiday" - Click HERE

Adam Whitlatch's The Weller: Land of Plenty eBook

Adam Whitlatch has just released a new short story e-book entitled "The Weller: Land of Plenty" through KHP Publishers and is available at The Merchant's Keep bookstore.



Matt Freeborn is scouring the wastelands of western Iowa for water and gasoline to replenish his dwindling stocks. He encounters a town where his precious water, the universal currency of the wastes, is shunned and everybody in town seems to want him dead. Matt must unravel the mystery of this veritable land of plenty if he ever hopes to get back out alive.



It's available for purchase at the crazy price of $1.99 (you get all three file formats: PDF, MOBI, and EPUB). Go on...you know you want to!!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Daily Bites of Flesh 2011 - Now Available


Daily Bites of Flesh 2011 is now available from Pill Hill Press. 365 stories - one for every day of the year.

Edited by Jessy Marie Roberts and including authors such as: Carrie Clevinger, David Barber, Lee Hughes, Jim Wisneski, Laurita Miller, Lily Childs, and myself. I look forward to getting my hands on a copy and getting to know all the other great writers involved in this anthology.

For more information on this book, and other Pill Hill Press releases, go HERE.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Glass Coin - Call For Submissions



The Glass Coin is looking for a little more variety for their December issue. They have a few Christmas themed pieces, but would like something else. Perhaps a piece about the Festival of Lights or any of the ones listed in our summary or any celebration or tradition you may have. Variety is the key.



TRADITIONS & CELEBRATIONS

Extended Deadline – Accepting Submissions until November 15


December 2010 - You fast in Ramadan. Or maybe you eat turkey in October (or November – whatever). Some eat unleavened bread in Nisan. And others go vegan for the first full moon of Taurus. Maybe for you, the best day of the year includes trick-or-treating or fireworks. For some these times are sacred, for others it’s just a day of fun. And no matter when we ring in the New Year, we all have traditions and we all celebrate. What defines our differences can also be the source of our similarities.



Submission guidelines can be found HERE.

Click HERE for future themes.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Writing Contest - CZP/Rannu Fund for Writers of Speculative Fiction

The CZP / Rannu Fund For Writers of Speculative Literature offers two awards per year of $500 CDN each, one for fiction, one for poetry, granted to two writers of speculative literature (i.e., science fiction, fantasy, horror, magic realism, surrealism, etc.), of any nationality/place of residence.

The contest is open from November 15th to Janurary 15th. 7,000 words or 5 poems (no more than 10 pages) Submit entries WITHIN THE BODY ofF your plain text email to: rannufund@gmail.com


Further details on the fund can be found HERE and details on the contest can be found HERE.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

"The Truth Is An Illusion" up at Postcard Shorts

I have a short piece, entitled "The Truth Is An Illusion" up now on Postcard Shorts.

Postcard Shorts is a cool site, with stories up to 1500 characters accepted and printed in a postcard format. It has a nice look to it and some really great flash fiction within the site. Have a look and see what you think - the submission guidelines are here.

A big thank you to the editor, Richard, for the quick response and acceptance.

Monday, November 1, 2010

I Dare You - Celebrate!

This week is the last week of the Guest Dares over at JM Prescott's blog, A Reader's World.

Also happens to be my Dare as well.

And this week it is to Celebrate!!

All the details can be found HERE. Hope you can come out and play.

Just Discovered - Icy Sedgwick



From her profile at Icy's Blunt Pencil:

Icy is an aspiring author, writing in her cold garret in old London town. Originally from the North East, she settled in the fair capital five years ago. She's had various works published online, but now she intends to try this 'novel' business...


I have read her eBook entitled "The First Tale" (available from Smashwords for the princely sum of 99 cents - and worth much more!) and have discovered she has published an eBook of her previously published online short stories entitled "Checkmate & Other Stories"...and the good news is - this one is free.
 
Her blog page has a lot of great writing - from Parrots & Pirates, to a web-serial set in Vertigo City - and some amazing flash fiction as well.
 
So, what have you got to lose? Go and have a look.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Hello Ween'er

Erin Cole's 13 Days of Horror is almost at a close - what a fantastic set of stories she has had again this year. I have enjoyed them all so far.

If you haven't had a chance to read them, please do so. There are some fantastic writers showcasing their work, and Erin is such a champ for hosting them.


Last year, I was extremely pleased to be selected to have a story there. It was called "Branded" and I really enjoyed the characters so I decided to go back and revisit them again this year. I have noticed that my style has changed somewhat (hopefully for the better) and I present this year's piece entitled "Hello Ween'er".


Hello Ween'er

“...and a Happy Halloween to you, too.” Jimmy waved goodbye, grinning like a lunatic with a packet of Crazy Gum. He knew it was stupid; the customers didn’t give two shits if he smiled and waved – would care even less if he did somersaults and sang the company song naked in six foot of snow. Nope, them bastards just wanted him to fill ‘er up and don’t forget to give the window a good cleanin’ – those damn bugs were everywhere tonight. Is this place built on a fucking swamp? Jimmy would chuckle, nod and then curse them under his breath as they drove off.


When the taillights faded into the distance, Jimmy walked back across the driveway to the store when two figures, standing under a street lamp some hundred yards or so up the road caught his eye. Something about them was familiar...

“Oh, settle down Jimmy.” The words were meant to come out strong and authoritative, but were little more than a whimper by the time he finished. The whimper became a shiver (that became a tremble) as the names Damien and Lilith slapped him broadside across his head – names he had hoped to never hear again.

#

Jimmy discovered he was holding his breath as the two strangers crossed the concrete apron beside the driveway. The hair stood on the back of his neck and he could feel his balls trying to crawl into his abdomen. They stopped beside the gas pumps at the furthest edge of the driveway. The taller of the two (had to be a man – just look at the size of the fucker) raised his hands in the air and Jimmy could feel his heart doing the quickstep inside his ribcage. With a rush, he brought his hands back down and the fuel pumps exploded; balls of fire roared into the night sky, blinding him momentarily. The heat forced him backwards, and his eyes slowly regained their focus.

What he saw on first inspection of the destruction outside scared him; he could see them, standing there (damn, they were smiling) and they continued toward the front entrance. He got up from behind the counter with the intention of locking the doors, only to be halted by a terrible sense of déjà-vu. A memory of last year’s Halloween; his best friend Richard; impaled with a fireplace poker by a lunatic. That memory scared Jimmy six ways to Sunday.

He wheeled about on the heel of his Doc Martens, crashed through the door to the rear office and came face to face with the man of his nightmares. In a flash, a gloved hand – all sinew and strength - grabbed Jimmy by the throat – he thought he could hear the bones in his neck start to snap, crackle and pop.

A woman’s voice – dull and lifeless - reached his ears and for a moment, Jimmy thought it had come from the big guy who was using his Adam’s apple as a stress ball. Jimmy had to fight the urge to laugh and then the realisation come that maybe that wasn’t such a flash idea after all.

“Let him go, Damien.” The monster released his grip slightly – enough for the sweet taste of oxygen to fill his lungs, but not enough for Jimmy to make any use of his second wind.

Damien, Jimmy thought, damn I was right.

Lilith slithered up beside him and placed the palm of her hand against his cheek. Cold bitch, he though and, once again, had to stave off a case of the giggles. She ran a long, sharp fingernail down the length of his throat. Her cold, dead lips brushed against his ear.

“Nice to see you again, Jimmy – it has been far too long.” He felt his knees buckle slightly and the hulking presence that was Damien kept him on his feet. “Tell me where can I find the others?”

“The others? I don’t know where they are...we all went our separate ways after that night. I haven’t spoken to anyone since...”

“Liar!” Lilith screamed into Jimmy’s face. “You know what we do with liars, don’t you Jimmy?”

Jimmy didn’t know but was pretty sure he didn’t want to find out.

“Why did you run, Jimmy? You and Emily – and the others – were warned what would happen if you did. Now, your spur-of-the-moment, chicken-with-its-head-cut-off decision has come home to roost.” Lilith smiled at her own little joke. “Are you going to tell me where they are, Jimmy?”

One quick shake of the head – two, three – and Lilith screamed; in agony or frustration, Jimmy wasn’t sure, but he was sure-as-shit of the extra-long, blood-red fingernails pointed directly at his throat, and the intention that he could see in her eyes.

“Too bad, Jimmy...just, too bad.”

#

Outside, a car pulled up beside the gas pumps as Lilith and Damien searched the office for some clues to the whereabouts of the others. Lilith saw the vehicle arrive and nodded to Damien to take care of the unwanted attention.

“What the fuck happened here?”

Damien approached the driver’s side window. “Leave.”

“Don’t get pissy, mister, just askin’ a question.”

Damien reached in through the partially opened window and drove his fist into the startled man’s chest, ripping his heart from his chest and holding it up above his head – like a trophy. Damien spread his mouth wide, clamping down on the drivers face; tearing away skin and bone in easy, practised movements. The body of the dead driver flopped onto the cement driveway with a dull thump.

The sound of the store’s automatic doors distracted Damien as Lilith emerged holding a small, red book in one hand, serviettes in the other. “Clean yourself up, Damien – you look like an animal.” She passed him the handful of napkins. “Now, let’s get moving – I found Jimmy’s ‘Little Black Book’. I know where they are.”

She closed her eyes and smiled “Let the pain and suffering begin - again.”

Friday, October 22, 2010

Call For Submissions - The Glass Coin



OPEN MINDS - The Glass Coin is Accepting Submissions for January & February.

January and February will be months for open minds.
There is no specific theme.
Explore an idea.
If you have a pair of ideas you may send those as well.

For these months, they will accept multiple submissions in the body of an email so they can see your ideas together.

The submission guidelines are here.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Bikes and Pink Dresses - I Dare You

An "I Dare You" Challenge at JM Prescott's "A Reader's World" story.

The challenge this week was issued by Julia Archer, which was "My dare this week is to write about a passage from light to dark." Below is my response to this challenge.



Bikes and Pink Dresses



Light bulb burns brightly...


Photo frames of a smiling girl; a thin layer of dust alters the colour of her blue eyes. Blonde-haired Barbies on the mantelpiece; a child’s age indicated by the mix and match of the doll’s clothing – these are still in pink dresses and ballet shoes. Youth trumps experience when it comes to dressing Barbie – who needs a teenage version with denim skirts and black boots? Teddy bears, tea seats, Hannah Montana – a snapshot of life, a moment in time preserved.

A window overlooks the backyard – a pink pushbike sits abandoned, covered in a fresh dusting of snow. A young child looks through the iron rails of the fence and wishes she could take that bike and make it her own – give it a life, and love, of its own, rather than being stranded and forgotten – just like the girl who once owned it.

A curtain flutters in the breeze yet the window is not open. The light is on yet there is no one home. Faces peer up at the window yet there is no one there.


Light bulb flickers...



Dark stains corrupt the perfect white carpet. Fragments of torn clothes lie scattered over chairs and the floor. Broken hearts and broken lives fled these rooms, leaving them as eternal reminders to a life denied.

A mother leans against the fence, weeping quietly. The once-pink bicycle, now tarnished with rust and ignorance, lies on its side, wheels spinning lazily in the breeze – a reminder of a better time; a time when little girls wanted to ride bikes and play with dolls in pink dresses.

A young girl appears in the window above her head. She waves to everyone but no one sees her; she stares at her reflection in the glass and hesitantly reaches to touch it. Ethereal, spectral, spiritual - she wails in pain once again.


Light bulb burns out...

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Dog Days Feature At The NOT!

My story, Hearts Grow Fonder, is up at the NOT!

Mine was one of many, many excellent pieces - I don't know how Mr. S did it, but what a collection!!

Do yourself a favour and get over there and read some magnificent 101-word pieces. You won't be disappointed!! You can even download the whole eChapbook HERE.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Mr. Cynical Goes To Sea

I was never one for the ocean – I could get seasick in the bathtub – but the wife had insisted I come along for the trip. Sharon had been pretty convincing, too; food, alcohol and poker were all mentioned as enticements, but I think it was the striptease and raunchy sex that finally won me over – not that I need persuasion in those matters.

We had set off two days later from the jetty down at the marina in a boat (and I use that word rather loosely – the proverbial lead balloon would have floated better) heading for the tiny island off the coast. Sharon had conveniently forgotten to inform me of our guests for the day – her boss, Karen, and partner Jock – and my thoughts about this tin-pot transporter were getting darker by the moment. I think sinking would have been a brighter prospect than spending the day with people that I had nothing in common with, nor had any interest in. A day on Flinders’ Island would have been wonderful had it just been the two of us – now it was going to be a nightmare.

“Oh, sailing, I remember when I was just a young girl...” I instantly didn’t like this woman but, to be fair to Sharon, I tried not to let it show. “...isn’t that right, Matthew?”

I had been ignoring her childhood regression like a teenager ignores housework. “Hmmm? Yes, you are most definitely right, Karen.” I replied, more out of hope than of understanding. I hadn’t the faintest idea of what she was prattling on about – something to do with family and castles and expense accounts. To me, she sounded like a reject from the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire auditions.

Several hours later, we came within sight of the small island harbour. Unfortunately, the rusting hulk hauling humanity started to give some signs that maybe we should have spent the extra fifty bucks and upgraded to the ‘condemned’ level. The engine began making noises that were normally only heard on those David Attenborough documentaries but, luckily as it turned out, we were able to float the rest of the way to our destination. Sharon’s boss, Karen (all boobs and no brains), told us all quite confidently that her husband, Jock, was a tram engineer and would be able to get us back on our way rather quickly. I had my reservations on that count.

“Oh yes, Jock has worked on all kinds of engines, haven’t you, Jock? I am sure he will be able to complete all necessary adjustments and calibrations before we head back to the mainland. Won’t you, Jock?”

Our maritime Saviour was silent. I think he was too scared of her to respond.

Unfortunately, no sooner had we stepped onto the white sands, the boat blew up; I don’t mean the engine – I mean the whole boat - exploded, erupted, blew itself into tiny little pieces and scattered its earthly remains across the majority of the beach – I guess it had had enough of the Self-Serving Bitch banter as well. A sacrifice I could well understand.

For the first hour or so, we sat around in a circle, trying to devise a plan (I didn’t hear anything more about Jock’s talent with engines – funny that) but we came up with nothing. Zero. Zilch. Nada. So we moved onto exploring the island for food sources. That seemed more like my kind of thing – food and I have a very good relationship and one I was looking forward to reacquainting myself with. It was decided that I would scout the around for food and shelter, leaving Jock behind “in case the women needed protection” – from what, I didn’t know. I wonder if they knew what the word deserted meant. I decided they didn’t.

“Now, don’t forget Matthew, if you see the wild Altherea berry, please get some for me. They are great for my skin.” I tried to judge if she was joking, then berated myself for forgetting that she wouldn’t recognise a joke if Jerry Lewis himself wrote it in the sand with big letters and flares all around – maybe someone removed her funny bone when she was younger. Maybe she had her brains relocated to her chest – although, if that were true, she must have been one smart woman. I do love a woman’s brain...

Morning high-stepped its way into afternoon; afternoon marched into evening. We had discovered no edible food on the island (I thought all deserted islands were under copyright law to at least have tasteless but edible berries) and shelter consisted of a few tall palm trees – sure they were pretty but not much good in the case of a tropical cyclone. Maybe if we all gathered under Karen’s chest we could be covered from any passing storm (not to mention the dribble that flowed from her lips.)

I began to wonder how long it would take before we started eyeing each other off. I remember hearing about a football team whose plane crashed in the mountains and that the survivors chowed down on their dead team mates. I considered relating this story to my fellow castaways. I doubted they wanted to hear it.

We cranked up a fire and sat around contemplating the future. Bad jokes about Gilligan and Ginger were aplenty – we all tried to laugh but it was hard...until I discovered that Karen wasn’t aware of who Gilligan and Ginger were. I made sure that Karen got the impression that Gilligan was the intelligent one (and you are just like him...) She pushed out those chest puppies in pride and, not for the first time, I felt like asking if she had gotten a building permit for them. But I guessed she wouldn’t appreciate it.

The evening closed in and Karen and Jock fell asleep by the fire; they were spooning – he was behind her (they had already worked out it couldn’t go the other way) and I looked at Sharon. She looked tired and hungry, but when she was sure Dumb and Dumber were asleep, she produced a Snickers bar from out of her top. We quietly nibbled on the bar that really satisfies (which, I may add, is false adverting) and lay down on the sand together, arm in arm – but still damn hungry.

Not exactly the perfect end to a perfect evening but, if worse came to worse (like it did for that football team)...that Karen looked like she might have a nice thigh, not to mention the breasts...

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Fires of Eden (Amelia & Kelsey)

Here is my piece for Heather Fitzpatrick's guest challenge 'The Edge' at A Reader's World. JM Prescott has asked a few of her friends to guest host over the last few weeks and it has unearthed some amazing stories.



The Fires Of Eden

Amelia waited at the top of the crumbling stairs; crouched, ready for action, using the lengthening shadows as cover. Agent Kelsey, her bodyguard and protector, had taken a few steps into the cave and was gesturing for her to follow him.


“What is..?” Amelia felt two fingers on her lips.

Kelsey whispered to her – she could barely hear him and edged closer, feeling his body against her, his hot breath against her neck. He had removed his gun from its usual spot in his belt. The tail of his shirt was visible under his dark jacket. “Are you ready?”

Amelia could only nod as she followed him down the dusty steps.

#

The cold struck them both as they entered the open cavern. Amelia tried to pull her windbreaker tighter around her body – Kelsey just shrugged and moved on.

Amelia’s eyes wandered over the walls of the vast caves; torches burned in golden sconces on the sandstone walls – which had been hewn from the very mountain. In the centre, a huge altar had been erected; Amelia recognised the carvings in the backrest. She grabbed Kelsey’s arm and indicated the throne.

“That is not a good sign. Do you know who these people were?”

Kelsey surprised her. “Yes, Amelia, I do.”

Amelia thought about it some more. “So, that means you lied to me about what we are doing here? You lied when you said we were looking for an ancient amulet...”

“No, Amelia,” Kelsey placed his hand on her arm, “I didn’t lie – I told some creative truths. You are here now – do you want to help me recover this artefact or not?”

She took a deep breath and looked Kelsey straight in the eye. “Let’s do it.”

#

Kelsey began searching through grottos and wall cavities. Amelia had started around the altar; her mind’s eye trying to interpret what she was seeing, trying to make connections to things she had learned. She ran her fingers over the etchings in the throne, sensing the workmanship that had gone into creating such a work of art. She took a step to the side of the structure and, inadvertently, knocked over a mound of smooth stones. Her head shot up and looked for Kelsey. He was off to one side of the room, staring intently at the ground. Amelia wandered over to him.

“Found anything yet, Kel...what is that?”

Amelia found herself staring into a pit – that wasn’t right; a chasm would be a better word, she thought. The sides of the gaping hole were surrounded by large stones and held together with an adhesive that Amelia had never seen before. She couldn’t see the bottom of the abyss. She slowly backed away.

The first burning arrow landed beside her foot. She recoiled immediately, screaming at the same time, stamping at the flames with her boots. She heard Kelsey call her name and his heavy footsteps as he came beside her, grabbing her by the waist and pulling her.

“Where are they?” Kelsey pushed Amelia behind him, as he searched the walls and upper reaches of the cavern. Three more flaming missiles hit the floor around them, setting fire to the dry and rotten timbers that must have been lying there since the creation of the altar.

Amelia backed up some more and found herself at the edge of the precipice – unable to move forward due to the ever-widening fire.

“Kelsey, what do we do now?”

“It doesn’t look like we have too many options, Amelia. We...we have to go that way.” He pointed to the hole in the floor. “That seems to be our only choice.”

Amelia shook her head in defiance, even though she knew he was right. She just wanted it on the record that she had objected.

“Hold my hand, close your eyes and step off...”

Amelia stepped right to the edge and closed her eyes. She could feel the heat beating against her skin – a direct contrast to the cool air she could feel coming up from the shaft.

“On three – one, two...” and Amelia let herself fall...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Erin Cole - Grave Echoes BUY IT NOW!






The nightmare is real…
Kate Waters suffers from narcoleptic hallucinations, which recently involve her unreachable sister, Jev, and a mysterious key. When Kate receives the terrible news concerning Jev's fatal car accident and acquires the strange key from her visions, she unlocks her sister's world of perilous secrets involving witchcraft, poltergeist, and a heartless killer determined to get back what is his.

The danger lies in whom to trust.
Terrifying paranormal encounters, a trailing wolf, and an attempted murder of one of Jev's friends, forces Kate to turn to the one she fears most, the priestess of Jev's coven, Thea. She challenges Kate's beliefs and provides her vital clues about her sister's murder, but will Kate overcome her fears before anyone else dies? To do so, she will have to trust in a world where the possibilities are unbelievable and the consequences are deadly.


You can buy Erin's book HERE in both paperback and eBook formats from Author House, and HERE from Amazon.

You know you want to!

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Days of His Life - I Dare You Challenge

A different challenge this week at JM Prescott's blog 'A Reader's World.' Heather Fitzpatrick issued the following Dare:

Challenge Yourself

We live in cities, in societies (online and in person) and in areas that have landmarks at key places. They serve to remind us of an event, a loss, a hero, or anything else we should never forget. We also have milestones in our lives that we either celebrate or disregard, but either way we are left changed. Bring a landmark, real or fictional into your story.

So, here is my take on this theme...


The Days of His Life

Katrina put down the telephone and screamed into the silence of the empty room. Her heart was breaking into a million little pieces; fragments of her life coursing through her body on the back of each of those millions of pieces. She sank to her knees, hoping that there had been a mistake – knowing there hadn’t been.

Jacob had been a small child when he had spoken his first words; Katrina and her husband had argued – albeit in jest – about what that word had been. She had thought he said mama (as mothers will) and his father had been adamant that the word was manna. Jacob’s father was proud of the boy – his faith was strong, and he felt that strength also in his son. Katrina admitted (if only to herself) that she would have been proud, too – if she could convince herself that Jacob hadn’t said mama.

She remembered the morning when he had taken his first steps. She had been in the kitchen, cooking their breakfast (how he ate, even at that age) and she felt something brush against her skirt. Looking down, she saw her son – all smiles and bright-eyed – shuffling along in an awkward gait. She had rejoiced; she had prayed for this moment (Jacob was a little slower developing these essential skills than the other boys in the neighbourhood – Katrina had often felt ashamed that their son wasn’t like the rest of the boys) and she immediately telephoned her husband to give him the good news. He had cried and laughed during the conversation, and left work early – just to be a part of yet another landmark day.

The choice of school for Jacob had been an important decision. They knew that they had to choose a school that would satisfy both their religious needs as well as Jacob’s educational ones. Once the decision was made, and Jacob was ready to start that first year, Katrina had been dealt a terrible blow. Her husband, working on the manufacturing press at the aluminium factory, had been involved in an accident which had taken his life – and her hope. She was inconsolable; only the desire to give Jacob the best life she could, kept her looking forward. His first day of school had been one of her brightest – yet saddest – days of her life.

Jacob had excelled at everything in the school environment; he was constantly at the top of his class – if not year – in most subjects, and became an excellent football player and runner. Katrina’s joy at Jacob’s selection in the All-State team in Athletics was unbridled. She could see his father in him, she knew he was looking down on their son and watching over him. College had followed, as had further recognition of his educational high standards and sporting excellence. She was as proud of her son as any mother, but she also knew that she loved him, regardless of his successes or failures.

The day Jacob proudly announced he had signed up for the Armed Services had shocked Katrina – not just that her little boy had grown up but he turned his back on his upbringing. Her disappointment was tempered by his desire to achieve and she couldn’t deny him his future.

The phone call had come, without warning, in the middle of the night. She screamed into the silence of the empty room.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Welcome To My World - Guest Dare Winner

My story Welcome To My World has been chosen as the "winner" for this week's guest I Dare You challenge at JM Prescott's A Reader's World.

Thanks to Julia Archer for the challenge; it was a little different for me to think that way - and I loved every minute of it. Thanks again!!

I also look forward to next week's challenge...won't you come play, too?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Guest Challenge - Julia Archer

Another week, another guest challenge at JM Prescott's A Reader's World. This week, Julia Archer has issued the challenge which can be found HERE.

For those of you who played along last time, I want to thank you again and, please, have a look this week and see what you can come up with. Should be interesting...

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Dog Days of Summer at the NOT!

The Magnificent Michael...that's what we should be calling Michael Solender with his latest creation - The Dog Days of Summer e-Chapbook. With the criteria for his selection process being the story should be exactly 101 words long, and must incorporate the words "summer" and "heat", he received nearly one hundred entries.

The selection process couldn't have been easy but his final decision has been made: congratulations to Sam Adamson for the Grand Prize winner entitled "The Pit of Hades". Darkness and humour in 101 words...my kind of storyteller.

Right now, get over to the NOT and have a look at the great e-Chap that Michael has done, plus the winning entry and others besides. Also a mention must be made to Kristin Fouquet for the excellent photography that really adds a wonderful touch to this collection.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Guest Dare at JM Prescott's 'A Reader's World'

Not many people would let me have control of their blog pages - and with good reason, I am useless at this stuff!! However, Jo Prescott has obviously much more faith than I in my blogging ability and asked for me to guest host her "I Dare You" challenge for this week.

So it shall be written, so it shall be done...

The dare for this week can be found here. Come on over and see what you can come up with. It really is a very simple thing...just like me!!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Ambush! - Amelia & Kelsey (Thinking Ten Post)

Today, on Thinking Ten, the prompt was On Location, Hiding.
I had been working on the follow-up piece to my Friday Flash story from this week and the prompt just seemed to work perfectly.
For those who haven't checked out Thinking Ten, go and have a look - it is great exercise!!
Also want to thank Blake Cooper for all his hard work behind the scenes - mate, you are doing a fantastic job!


Ambush!

Amelia sensed an ambush; the silence was too quiet, the streets too deserted. Her pack weighed down on her shoulders as she crouched behind a parked vehicle, scanning the intersection for signs of her pursuers. She knew they were out there; she had the bullet wound to prove it.

Agent Kelsey emerged from a darkened shopfront and gestured her forward. She closed the distance between them in a half-run, half crouch. When she reached him, he indicated for her to keep moving down the street. “Try to remain hidden in the shadows as best you can,” he whispered to her.

Amelia nodded in agreement and kept moving.

A few feet further down the block, Amelia heard shuffling footsteps and, before she had a chance to react, bullets ricocheted off the wall beside her head. She heard Kelsey return rapid-fire. She hit the ground, taking cover behind a Jeep. A click behind her told her the terrible news that Kelsey was out of ammunition.

She rose up from behind the vehicle and saw one of the assailants crossing the road, making a path towards Kelsey. In one swift, fluid movement, Amelia leapt over the bonnet of the Jeep, tucked into a forward roll across the pavement where one of the attackers lay dead. With one hand she grabbed the dead man’s gun, executed another near perfect roll and threw the weapon back over her shoulder to a rather surprised Kelsey.

The agent did stop to ask questions; he fired at the oncoming enemy, hitting him three times in the chest with precision, before placing another two in his forehead for good measure.

“Good work, Amelia,” Kelsey called to her. He could see her grin and the light in her eyes, even from a distance. He didn’t want to stop and explore that smile – not now, at least.

“Now let’s keep moving.”

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Treasure Hunter - FFF #39

Friday Flash Fiction time again and our well-appreciated moderator Cormac Brown offered up a Randal-submitted starter sentence "She knew time was running out, fast, but opening that door was Pandora's Box all over again."
There was an added challenge this week i.e. not to write in the same genre that we did in the previous edition of FFF. To that end, I have written a action/adventure story. My last piece was a...err...ummm...not an action/adventure one!!
One final thing: this piece is just a little longer than normal (about 1200 words) - I just could find any more edits. If you have ANY suggestions, please fire away!!



The Treasure Hunter

She knew time was running out, fast, but opening that door was Pandora's Box all over again. She firmly believed that her journey would finish here, that the answers she sought lay behind this carved oaken door, but she had a sneaking suspicion that they would want more for her – they always wanted more. She took a deep breath, turned the shiny brass knob and entered the room...

###


The flight into Nairobi had been a nightmare; winds had buffeted the Pilatus PC-12 immediately after takeoff and continued to so for the majority of the journey. She had been on many flights; however, they were usually in larger, international carriers. This small nine-seater scared her more than anything she had done before. More than the men in dark suits, the constant fear of discovery, the gunfights...

The pilot’s voice broke through her fear. “Miss James, could you buckle up please? We are about to set down in Nairobi. May God protect your soul.” The pilot laughed at his own black humour. Amelia James just wanted to punch him - hard.

###


Amelia had quickly located the Jacaranda Hotel. She unpacked her belongings, took a quick shower and waited for her contact to arrive.

She wasn’t made to wait long. She had just sat down in the huge, plush velvet recliner when there was a knock on her door. Amelia leapt out of the chair and crossed the room in a near-sprint. A quick peek through the spy hole revealed the man she had been waiting for. She unlatched and unlocked the door and ushered the man inside.

“Amelia, it is so good to see you. I had been worried you wouldn’t make it.”
“Thank you, Jamil, it is good to be here. I take it you have the documents we spoke of?”

Without replying, Jamil handed her a large yellow envelope, closing his hand over hers as she took it from him. “Be careful, Amelia, they are out there, searching for you. They know you are here.”

“I will, Jamil. I promise.”

###


Amelia arrived at the airport early. Her private flight waited at the far end of the airfield and she hurried across the tarmac and climbed the stairs. As she was about to enter the plane, a deep voice made her stop.

“Miss James, how nice to see you. Would you please drop your bags and come down the stairs slowly.”

Amelia turned and saw two men approaching the plane, arms by their sides but she could see the telltale bulges around their waists – definitely armed and dangerous. They stopped at the foot of the metal steps and crossed their arms, waiting for her.

“Come on, Miss James, we don’t have all day. Mr. Arbetreth is keen to see you and the documents you are withholding from him.” The taller of the two men spoke for the first time. “Besides, you don’t have a choice. Mr. Arbetreth can be very...persuasive.”

Amelia knew she had no choice; they had weapons and she believed they weren’t afraid to use them. Without really thinking of the consequences, she leapt into the air and spread her legs, each one landing smoothly on the railings either side of the stairs. She slid down toward her would-be assailants and, before they had a chance to register their shock, she landed one foot into the faces of either man, knocking them backward and off balance. She hit the ground hard, but rolled right back up to her feet. A sharp left foot snapped into the stomach of one of the men, doubling him over and she slammed her knee into face, hearing a satisfying crunch of bones and her attacker crumbled to the tarmac.

“Very nice, Amelia, I like your style.” It was the other man, gun raised and aimed directly at her forehead. This is it, she though, I am screwed. He is going to shoot me right here. She watched in fascination, as he tensed his finger on the trigger. That, however, was as far as he got. A split second later, his head had erupted in a splash of blood and bone. Amelia instinctively ducked her head and hit the ground.

“It is alright, Miss James, I mean you no harm.”

###


Amelia leaned back in the seat, staring out the window of the plane, watching the world slide below her, replaying the incident over and over. She wasn’t sure if she was pleased with her efforts or stunned by how close she was to be killed. She decided to be proud of herself. That kick...

“Care to share what you are smiling about? You were almost killed.”

Amelia looked up at the man who had saved her life. He was tall, handsome in an Indiana Jones kind of way, and had the palest blue eyes she had ever seen. He had introduced himself as Kelsey; she didn’t know if that was his first or last name – she found she didn’t care.

He sat beside her, worry furrowing his brow. “You really are a character – but if you aren’t careful, it is going to make you dead.”

“Kelsey, I can take care of myself. I have been chased, hunted and shot at so many times, I have lost count. This morning was a very close call, that is true, but I ain’t dead yet.”

He shrugged and leaned back in his chair. He pulled the brim of his cap down over his eyes and smiled. “You are definitely a character...”

###


Amelia and Kelsey arrived in Washington early the next morning. Kelsey had excused himself - citing appointments and a tight schedule, promising to catch up with her before she left town. Amelia found that she was looking forward to that.

###


She pushed open the door and stepped into the room. She was surprised by the size and opulence – even more surprised by the sight of Kelsey, standing beside the Director of National Intelligence. Her shock must have been evident, as the Director stood and approached her, a smile creasing his face.

“Amelia, welcome, please come in and take a seat. I see you know Agent Kelsey. No need for formal introductions, so we can get right down to business.” He shook Amelia’s hand and gestured to a seat in front of his huge desk. He returned to his seat, nodded at Kelsey, who moved around the desk and sat next to Amelia. She smiled at him, feeling a rush of emotions she knew had to be kept in check – she would explore them later.

“Amelia, my team and I have gone through the documents that you have brought to us, and Agent Kelsey has filled me in on what happened at Nairobi airport. We have discussed the implications of this and, coupled with what we know now about the missing artefacts, we believe we know exactly where we should next be looking.” The Director shot a quick glance at Kelsey. He nodded once – Amelia caught it – and the Director continued. “We would like for you to continue your service for the country, and would like to offer you an increased salary and top-level protection.”

“With all due respect, sir, I don’t think...”

“Miss James, the protection I am offering comes in the form of Agent Kelsey. I understand he has already saved your life once. I think he may be a little disappointed if you don’t show him a little gratitude in return.”

Amelia turned to face Kelsey. His smile was wide, his pale blue eyes shone brightly.

“Alright,” Amelia said, “I think I can live with that.”

Sunday, August 15, 2010

'The Thief of Shadows' up at Flashes In The Dark

A new story of mine, entitled "The Thief of Shadows" is up at Flashes In The Dark. It has been up for a few days...I got the publication date wrong...what can I say??

A huge thanks to Lori Titus for the acceptance. "Flashes" is one of the best online sites for short, flash horror fiction and I am so happy to be a part of it. Thanks again, Lori!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Solution to National Debt - FFF #38

Another week of Friday Flash Fiction, and this week, in lieu of a starter sentence, moderator Cormac Brown has offered up four words to incorporate into our stories. These words are: Toil, Coil, Bubble, Rubble. Thanks to Cormac for his continual dedication to this site...it is greatly appreciated!

Now, I will apologise if this seems a little familiar or similar to someone else's writing...I can't help where my influences come from. Two points for picking the author and story I may (or may not have) read lately...


A Solution to National Debt

Laura and Richard found a spot by the side of the road – a great place to watch the runners as they came past, heading into Newtown and, eventually, the city centre. She unfolded the blanket that they kept in the back of the car and he grabbed the picnic basket, closed the passenger door with his hip and strolled across to where Laura had smoothed out the blanket and was arranging some cushions as if they were expecting royalty – not some sweaty teenage boys.

They got the call from the Marshall on the Friday evening, saying Davey had been selected and would need to be at the starting line in the city on Monday morning at nine sharp. Laura and Richard were both elated and worried at the same time – happy because his participation could help wipe the debt they owed City Corp, but worried that his lazy ass might not even make it to the first checkpoint, thereby forfeiting any chance of settling the account and repairing the rubble that was their financial lives.

An elderly gentleman approached Richard. He removed his Akubra and crouched down beside the edge of the footpath where Richard had begun to sort out the food and drink for lunch; crusty rolls with meat and salad, champagne for Laura (she just loves them bubbles) and a six-pack for himself.

“Hello, folks,” came the greeting from the twisted and toothless mouth of the visitor, “here for one of your own, or just here for the view?”

Television cameras appeared out of nowhere, capturing the moment and broadcasting them not just across the country, but around the world.

Laura looked up from the pillow arranging assignment she had set herself. Her eyes locked on those of the old man, as if telepathically sending a message of sod off. When she realised that it wasn’t working, she shrugged her shoulders and went back to her cushions. “Yes, our son is running this year. We had a pretty bad time of it last year; the business folded and I couldn’t find work anywhere the New Sector. That’s why Davey is running – we could really use the prize money.”

“Yeah, it sure was a crazy time; banks closing all over the place, people losin’ their homes – some folks lost more’n that. Wages went to hell – those who could keep the jobs – and the introduction of the New Coin and Note currency doesn’t seem to have helped any.” He wiped a bead of perspiration from his forehead and gazed up the length of the street. “They should be coming any time now. How do you think your kid is doing?”

Richard shook his head. “To be honest, I don’t know. Last I saw on the big screen, he had made it past Checkpoint Three – that’s three grand he has paid off with minimal work or toil – but I really don’t think he has it in him to run the full distance, let alone do it in front of the pack.”

The old man placed his hand on Richard’s shoulder. “He will want to keep going, won’t he? You and the missus didn’t come all the way down here to watch your lives disappear down the drain because your boy couldn’t pay off the debt, now did you?” Richard was about to reply, but he continued on. “How far does he have to get before the City grants you a reprieve?”

Laura stood up, cleared her throat and placed herself between her husband and the old man. “That is none of your concern, sir. We are well aware of the risks – and consequences – of this race. We don’t need to be sharing it with strangers.”

“Whoa, there, Missy, you get back on your blanket there and just let us men do the talking.” Laura was about to reply in her usual balls-to-the-wall fashion but a flash of silver, tucked into the man’s belt, quickly dissuaded her from any further conversation. A rifle shot in the distance added to the tense moment.

“You are a Marshall, aren’t you? My God – you are one of...them.” Richard could hear the fright in his voice, could feel the trembling in his hands and the fear coiling around his spine.

“I am, indeed, a Marshall, and don’t worry, the lady’s insolence won’t be taken into consideration – it is to be expected, I suppose.”

Richard paused again, weighing up his words. “Into consideration...what does that mean?”

The Marshall laughed, loud and hearty, and tucked his hands into the pockets of his neatly pressed slacks. “What it means, son, is that your boy has already – how shall I put this – retired from the rest of his life. He broke down four miles back. He didn’t even reach the Ten Percent Gate. I am sure you are aware of what that means for you both.”

Laura began sobbing immediately. Richard didn’t know whether it was from the death of his son (lazy bastard, couldn’t make five miles) or from the imminent punishment for Laura and himself.

“Yes, I am aware of what comes now.” He was resigned to the fact that this would happen – they had prepared for this eventuality. “Can you give us a few moments to say our goodbyes?”

“Well, of course. But just remember, seeing as though Davey didn’t make the Ten Percent Gate, the viewers have decided through an online poll that you both should perish for your debts. Don’t you just love modern technology?”
Laura and Richard clung to each other, whispering goodbyes choked with grief-filled sobs, touching each other’s faces, as if not to forget how they looked in those final few moments.

Richard heard the safety flicked off, and saw the shadow creep across him as the Marshall put the rifle to the back of his head. He heard nothing more.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Book Week at ThinkingTen - 5 Pieces

This past week has been Book Week at ThinkingTen, a great site that I frequent often. We were provided prompts based on famous novels and had to write a piece within ten minutes (hence the title - but editing can take as long as you need!!) Below are my five pieces, with the prompt underneath each one for reference.
A big thank you to Blake Cooper for the challenge this week - it has been a blast!!


Retreat Or Surrender

They had come for her around midnight.


She had escaped the city just before it was destroyed, retreating to her haven in the mountains. The air, although tainted somewhat by the noxious aftertaste of the bomb, was still a lot healthier than that of the city. For how long, she didn’t know – but she had been happy to have escaped at all.

They had come for her around midnight.

She heard them before she saw them; scrapes of flesh across the veranda, broken fingernails tapping out a message of damnation on her door.

She locked all the doors and barricaded herself inside the living room – the one with the floor-to-ceiling windows. She saw them approaching the house through those windows; torn flesh, rotten teeth, broken limbs; yet on they came, coming for her – and she was trapped within the one place she had thought would be the safest in the world.

----------
On Location, Monday
A Room With A View



Me Thinks Me Is Sunk

I write this sitting in the kitchen sink – actually, to be more precise, a kitchen sink; not the one that is sitting in the bench-top of my condo down in Miami – no, I would be able to reach the phone from there. Instead, here I am, in the middle of someone’s horse paddock, legs tied (and ass-stuck) to this damn sink – and I am supposed to be writing a suicide note.


Damn this blackmailing crap – a couple of million dollars I was down, they gave me a loan, and now they want it back. They only gave me a really short time to pay it back – ninety days...ninety days? Why do they think I got a loan from ‘em in the first place? I couldn’t pay back the tenner I loaned from my eight-year-old son – and he’s mighty pissed, too, I might add.

So, here I am, knee-deep in seven flavours of shit, trying to write a convincing suicide note – how do you think I am doing? Pretty bad, so far, huh? But that’s okay...at least they had the decency to let me do it in my own time...

Now all I have to do is work out why they poured that sticky-as-shit honey all over my crotch...

----------
Take It Away, Tuesday (Starter Sentence)
I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.



Pelican Decoy

Did I ever tell you I was dyslexic? Probably not – we don’t know each other that well. I would like to tell you all about it, but then, what would be the pinto? It’s not like you will be joining me for a bark fest in the morning.


Anyway, my story is short. I’m dyslexic, and I work for the Collins Pelican Decoy. Pretty strange job for someone with my condo in it, but there you have it.

I was sitting in the lunch room with my boss – his skin was so pale, almost wrath I like - when both our grapes went off luminously east. We made a mad rush for the crap ark, in an effort to get to the big press crone fence; there was to be a huge emu net cannon regarding the future of the English gnu algae.

I still wonder why I was given this ensign mast.

----------
Words Inc, Wednesday (Use these words in your story)
(1) wrath, and (2) grapes



Never Return


FADE IN...CLICK


A young man lies on a quiet beach, enjoying the sounds of the beach; the rolling waves, crashing and dashing themselves on the rocky cliffs that formed the boundaries of his childhood playground.

FLASH...CLICK

Fast forward a few years to find him walking the beach, hand in hand with his own young children, sharing with them the joys of a beachside existence. He taught them to listen to the ocean, to hear its secrets. They gave him a bright, colourful seashell so he could always hear the waves.

FLASH...CLICK

An old man now, sitting on the porch; a discarded newspaper lay at his feet, the headline proclaiming the sea has taken another victim to its watery depths. Beside it, a broken seashell.

He will never go to the beach again.

CLICK...FADE OUT

----------

The Plot Thickens, Thursday (Use these elements in your story)
An Old Man (include the sea)



A Boy & His Guitar

Dear Uncle Tom,



I am writing this missive to say thank you – thank you for the two biggest gifts I have ever received; the red Gibson ES 350T is such a beautiful instrument – I hope I get good enough to do it the justice it deserves. The other gift which I am thankful for is the chance to use your cabin down here in Louisiana – I enjoy sitting down by the railroad tracks in the evenings, under the giant evergreens. Sometimes I won’t even take that guitar out of the gunny sack, but just sit and feel the rhythm of the trains rolling past, feeling their power and trying to recreate that sound with my guitar. For all of this, I am thankful.


Anyway, I have to go and do some chores.


Thank you again,


Jonathon Bartholomew Goode


P.S. Mother is funny – she thinks one day I am going to be so successful that I will be in front of a big band and that many people will come from miles around to hear me play. Isn’t she a hoot?

----------
Member’s Pick, Friday
Uncle Tom (include a cabin)

Monday, July 26, 2010

If You Go Out In The Woods Today... - FFF #37

Friday Flash Fiction time again and this week Cormac Brown, our fearless moderator and genuinely decent chap, offered up the following starter sentence: "As with juggling, the key to life is to keep the procession moving steady and don't look down." I stopped and started this piece three times, each time going in different directions, and I hope this one came out well. So, without further (insert French word here), here it is:


If You Go Out In The Woods Today...


As with juggling, the key to life is to keep the procession moving steady and don't look down. This is my motto and what I constantly tell the groups of snotty-nosed, private school kids who were regular visitors to these parts. School excursions had sure changed since I was a kid; no more museums, science fairs and historical monuments – no, now they came to me.

My name is Luke Lashner and I am the tour guide for the National Parks, usually in charge of leading these groups. I usually got dumped with old folks or bratty teenagers – god knows why, must be my charm.

This latest motley crew of adolescent misfits arrived at the assembling point – twenty minutes late. Their teacher – a mousy man with a roadmap of veins winding across his cheeks and a nose that Rudolph would be jealous of – introduced himself as Mr. Marshall (call me Reg) and apologised for the delay. His appearance gave me the distinct impression that he was scared stiff of the upcoming walk – not that I could blame him; it didn’t matter how many times I began this walk, I always found myself taking a deep breath (or three) before starting out.

After making sure that everyone was ready – water, food and good hiking shoes – we got on our way. It would be a long day for these kids and I took my time leading them down to the metal and stone steps that would eventually take us to the valley floor. On my own, I could do it in ninety minutes but allowing for teenage gossip, talks of girls and arguments about who had the better football team, it would take nearly four hours.

Mr. Marshall (call me Reg) gave some final instructions to the group – something about not fucking about and to pay attention to what they were told – and we started down. The first few steps were cut directly out of the mountain side (as were about half of the one thousand or so stairs we had to descend) and were slightly damp and therefore slippery. I told the kids to be careful coming down and I was quite surprised when they actually did as instructed.

Boys, at times, like to show off to their mates, but these kids were unusually quiet – I don’t know if it was fear or something else that made them hold their tongues. Maybe they had been threatened with school expulsion if they acted up but whatever the reason; I didn’t hear a word from any of them for the first hour or so of our descent.

About halfway down, we came upon a rest area and I told the boys to take off their packs and relax for ten minutes. The journey down is hard on inexperienced legs and some of the kids were huffing and puffing (would more than likely blow a house down) and they accepted my offer gratefully.

I could hear voices down below us, probably on one of the lower look-outs.
Sound travelled a long way out here – something to do with thinner air and atmospheric blah-blah-blah – and I turned to ask Mr. (I refuse to call you Reg) Marshall if he knew why it was so but he was nowhere to be found. I looked back up the stairs, scanning the zig-zag pattern of the walkway but to no avail – he had apparently disappeared.

“Boys, have any of you seen your teacher in the last few minutes?”
Heads turned my way slowly, sending a tremor of unease through me. Their silence did nothing to alleviate that. One of the boys – the tallest one in the group – sauntered toward me with a lopsided grin stretched unnaturally across his face.

“He had an...accident. He won’t be joining us for the rest of the day.”

I was amazed that I hadn’t been told and told the boy exactly that. “Where is he? Did he go back up the stairs? I had a look a few moments ago – he couldn’t have got far...”

I was cut off by the boy raising his hand, gesturing for silence. His apparent authority scared me; I could feel that little vein in my forehead pounding rapidly, keeping the beat in time with my heart. My hands were sweaty – like a boy, no older than these ones before me – awaiting the arrival of his very first date and hoping he didn’t screw it up.

“Mr. Marshall wanted to have a good look at the valley – and we accommodated him.”

I found myself slowly trying to back away from these kids (not that they acted like kids, no sir-ree.) The others began to draw in around me, creating a wall around me that I wouldn’t be able to physically break through. Talking was all I had left.

“What is it that you want? Why are you doing this?”

The tallest boy took a few long strides and was quickly standing nose-to-nose with me. I could smell the sourness of his breath and the fear in mine.

“No more questions or you shall have a guided tour as well – our style.”

“I was only asking about...”

I felt a hand grab me roughly by the collar and the boy shook his head, almost ruefully.

“I’m sorry, but I did say no more...”

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Not A Good Day, All Things Considered

Another week, another dare over at JM Prescott's A Reader's World. This week's dare was to include a light - "Go outside and write in the sun, curl up under your favourite reading lamp or light a candle. Turn your writing into a literal flash and somehow include a light in your piece."


Not A Good Day, All Things Considered


Robbie tumbled down the last few steps of Playbirds International – the self-confessed innovators of adult entertainment – and rolled onto the pavement in an ungainly heap of arms, legs and cigarette butts - another day in Paradise City.

Paradise City wasn’t its official name – it was actually Kings’ Cross, the red-light district of Sydney – but it was how Robbie thought of it; although, that definition was rapidly beginning to change. Last week, he had been tossed out of the Bourbon Bar on Darlinghurst Road – that wasn’t so bad as there weren’t twenty nine steps to be thrown down (Playbirds did – Robbie had counted them on the way up – just in case.)

He rolled over onto his back, made a quick check of all his vitals (wallet, watch and phone) and, when he was satisfied all was in order, he put in the effort to raise to his feet.

Halfway up, he felt a boot slam into the back of his right knee, sending him back to the filthy pavement. His knees cried in protest, but it soon went ignored when he felt the hard rubber sole of what could only be a policeman’s boot on the back of his neck. Robbie struggled to free his head from the pavement and, after thirty seconds or so, he felt the weight lift. Things didn’t improve, however, when he turned his head to face his tormentors. Immediately, he was squinting as the light from the officer’s high powered torch shone directly into his eyes.

“Well, lookee-here, partner, looks like we got ourselves a D and D.”
The two cops grinned as Robbie tried to get to his feet.

“Hey, don’t we know you from somewhere? Yeah, yeah...we do. You were that idiot we kicked out of the Red Lantern in Surrey Hills the other night. Yeah, sure, we know you.”

Robbie grunted and tried to sit up. One of the officers put his size thirteen boot into his back and pushed him back into the pavement. Robbie felt a hand in his back pocket and sensed his wallet being removed.

“Now, look at this, Jimmy,” one of the officers said to his partner. “Seems our friend here has a fair wad of cash in his wallet - I’m sure he won’t mind if we lighten it a little.”

Robbie kept his head down, not wanting to argue the point with them - not that he was in any position to argue. A few seconds later, he felt the foot remove itself from the small of his back and then something hitting him in the back of the head. He reached up and felt his wallet next to his head and he turned to see that both of the cops had disappeared. Well, that was reasonably painless, Robbie thought, I’m only down a hundred bucks or so.

His opinion changed quickly when he realised that, stuffed inside his wallet, was an infringement notice for drunk and disorderly, with a fine attached of one hundred and seventy five dollars. He was wondering what else could go wrong as he was crossing Darlinghurst Road when he saw the police car, headlights off, coming his way – fast.

He shouldn’t have asked.

***




This week's winner was the wonderful Sal Buttaci and his story "Up In The Air". Congrats, Sal, another fantastic piece!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Acceptance at Pill Hill Press!!

This morning I received an email from Jessy Marie Roberts at Pill Hill Press regarding my submission for their upcoming "Daily Bites of Flesh:
365 Days of Flash Fiction"
and the good news is:

I was accepted!!

My very first "published" (read that as 'printed') piece!! I am absolutely ecstatic. I was really happy with the final story and apparently, so were they. It isn't a paying publication but, as far as I am concerned, it is just as good as. They have some fantastic publications every year and I am just so happy to be a part of that.

Nothing quite like a major (for me) acceptance to get the creative juices flowing...

Onwards and upwards!!

A thank you to Jessy Marie Roberts, editor and compiler of the Daily Bites anthology for the acceptance. I appreciate it so very much.

A big thank you to all of my friends from 6S and T-10 for your constant encouragement, advice and support. You guys are the greatest!

Monday, July 19, 2010

'Good Help Is Hard To Fry' up at The Glass Coin

My story "Good Help Is Hard To Fry" is now up at The Glass Coin. The theme for this issue was Fame/Fortune. You can read my piece HERE.

A huge thanks to both Sairah Saddal and JM Prescott, co-editors of The Glass Coin, for accepting my story. I am very honoured to be a part of this publication.

While you are there, check out the upcoming themes and submission guidelines. Certainly worth a look!!

Her Family, The Nightmare - FFF #36

Friday Flash Fiction time again and this week, due to a malfunction that moderator Cormac Brown blames on the lack of Bundaberg Ginger Beer in the States (it's an Australian product!!), we had a choice of three starter sentences. All were great, but I chose the one supplied by Sue.
Thanks again to Cormac for hosting this great site, and to all those who participate weekly and make it a wonderful place to frequent.
(As a word of warning, this is a little longer than usual - but not by much.)


Her Family, The Nightmare

You know that feeling when you wake up sweating and thing “thank goodness it was only a dream”? The cooling sweat that makes you shiver? The rumpled bedclothes that indicate a night of terror? What if it wasn’t a dream – what if, deep down, you know it is your subconscious reminding you of an event you have tried – for years – to ignore, hoping it would go away?

Karen had dreams like that. Karen – young, beautiful and ambitious – had been plagued by dreams of this nature for the last few weeks. She couldn’t put her finger on the exact time they had started; it was definitely before Rob had left her for the dumb blonde in the office, so she reasoned that wasn’t the cause – as much as she would love to blame the cheating bastard. No, the more she thought about it, the more she realised that the nightmares had begun when her biological father has made contact with her, wanting to see her.

Her recollection of her childhood was vague to say the least; snippets of home and school, remnants of friends made and lost – all circulated inside her head, never forming a complete picture. Her mother had passed away when she was young and she spent much of her formative years being shuffled from foster home to foster home; she was a troubled child for the most part – not really a bad kid, just extremely withdrawn and introspective. The few friends she made were snatched away from her when she was shuffled along the adoption highway.

Karen had come out the other side of this childhood as a shy and reclusive adult. Her one long-time friend, Sheena, had introduced her to Rob, a financial whiz kid, and her life had seemed to instantly improve – her confidence soared, her interests expanded and she soon found herself finishing her education at the local community college and gaining her first real job – as a receptionist at Rob’s office. She made many friends, attended book clubs and bridge nights, art exhibitions and all-night bowling parties. Marriage had come quickly after – it had seemed the most natural thing in the world. Life had become good for Karen.

And then the dreams began; she couldn’t always remember them in the morning at first (who wants to remember a bad dream?), and then she started to keep a journal, writing down everything she could remember as soon as she woke up. Rob had laughed about it – he thought she was being silly – didn’t everybody have bad dreams from time to time?

The dreams continued – her journal filled with notes, brimming with fragmented memories of frightening and frenzied nightmares. She started a second journal after seven weeks – a third just three weeks later as her recollections become clearer, the nature of the dreams more consistent. The vestiges of the previous night remained in her mind’s eye longer every morning. She wrote down everything, forced herself to remember every detail, every word said, every scream uttered. She never had sweet dreams, happy dreams – they were always the same, horrifying dream.
After the third notebook, she decided to see a psychiatrist. She hoped he would help distance herself from her past.


#



Transcription of interview between myself, Dr. Eugene Banks, and new patient, K.

December 2, 2009



Dr: Good morning, K. How did you sleep last night? Did those tablets help at all?

K: No, Doc, they didn’t help one little bit. In fact, I think it was worse last night than ever before.

Dr: Tell me what happened.

(K. remains silent for a few moments; her face twists in torment – I think she is trying to decide how much to tell me.)

K: It was the same as every other night, except for one small detail – I saw his face...

(K. nervously glances from side to side, as if in search of the cause of her nightmares.)

Dr: From the beginning, K. I need to know everything – if I am to help you.

K: The dream started the same way as always; in a darkened room, but a sense of someone standing over me. I couldn’t see – it was very, very dark, like I was blindfolded – but I knew someone was there. I couldn’t speak; I tried to yell but nothing came out. I tried to move but it was as if I was tied to my bed – but it wasn’t really my bed, you know? It was like a conglomeration of all the beds I had slept in, in all the houses I had lived in. (K. stops here for a few minutes – a steady stream of tears have forced her to pause and regain her composure. She apologises, and eventually continues.) I felt a hand touch me – just one at first. I couldn’t pull away from it, I couldn’t...I just couldn’t... (K. pauses again, but only briefly.) Then I felt lots of hands; touching, caressing, and then pushing and pulling. It hurt and there was nothing I could do about it.

Dr: Do you want to take a break? Get some fresh air?

K: No, thank you. (K. wipes her eyes, still crying silent tears.) After the touching for I don’t know how long, I was suddenly free. I was able to move my arms and legs and the first thing I did was flail my arms, trying to beat away whoever it was torturing me. I came in contact with nothing but thin air. I got up from the bed and bolted to where I thought the door was. It took me a few minutes – it felt like hours (you know how dreams can be?) – everything seemed somehow distorted, warped.

Dr: What happened next?

K: I made it out the door and ran down unfamiliar hallways, searching for an exit. The carpeted halls seemed to go on forever, never leading anywhere. I eventually discovered a doorway that led outside but as soon as I put my hand on the knob, a familiar voice crashed into my ears.

Dr: Who was it? Did you recognise the voice immediately?

K: Not straight away.

Dr: What did the voice say? I take it that it was a male voice?

K: Yes, it was a man and he said that I would never be free, that it was entirely my fault and the guilt would drive me to the same end as my mother. He kept on blaming me; calling me dirty – a slut, a cheap little slut. And that I was going to get what I deserved – just like mother.

Dr: Did you recall during these dreams what the man was talking about? Or have you discovered the meanings of these words since?

K: Oh yes, I know exactly what he was referring to. It took me a while to remember why it was that I was sent off to foster homes; my mother had passed away and my father told the authorities that he didn’t have the means to support me on his own. My father would arrange for people to care for me; it was like he was a pimp – I realise that now. He would send me to people who liked to take advantage of young, innocent girls. And that is exactly what happened – every foster home I was delivered to, every family I lived with – I was sexually abused by either the father, or both he and any boys that lived there. I hated myself more than I hated them, but more than anything I hated my father. He caused this...this nightmare life for me. And I want to see him dead.

Dr: You mean your father wants to see you again because he wants to – what? Abuse you some more? Torment you? Kill you? Shut you up for good?

K: Make no mistake, Doctor. He wants all of that – and more.



(I am not entirely sure what I make of this: it felt good to start but on reflection, it doesn't really go anywhere...and it was too late to start again. If you have any suggestions on ways of making this better, please, shoot em at me!!)

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Woman Scorned - FFF #35

After a protracted absence, Cormac Brown has been kind enough to allow me to return to Friday Flash Fiction...and what a great starter sentence we have this week, supplied by Flannery. So, without anymore rambling, here is my piece for this week:



A Woman Scorned


"I don't disagree with you, but you have to admit, this puts me in a delicate position." Charlene Faulkner didn’t like where this conversation was headed. She had faced up to the fact, long ago, that if her husband found out about her five-year-long affair, that he would walk out on her and take her kids – her kids, damn it – and leave her with nothing. She was used to having everything (two of everything if you included the open tab she had on her lover’s credit card) and to lose it all would be devastating – not so much the loss of her family; she was young, she could always start again – but the loss of privilege and standing she had in her small community of friends and associates.

“You see, I have always been the ‘go to’ girl; having trouble with your husband...go and see Charlie. A bit short of funds this month...Charlie will help you out. I like that and I will miss it if this comes out. I agree that we can’t continue to sneak around; meeting discreetly in motel rooms and deserted park benches. I know I need to leave my husband, but it is something I am just not ready to do. Surely, you can understand that?”
Charlie looked into the eyes of the man who had held her last night, and the previous five nights. As far as her husband was aware, she was in Adelaide for a business trip, when in actual fact, she and Brady (what a sexy name, just like the main characters in those awful books her sister loved to read) were in a motel in downtown Sydney, just a few kilometres from her husband and home.

“I understand, Char, but something has to give. I have lived up to my end of the deal – the divorce paperwork is going through now. Not that Belinda really cares. She hated the long hours and the not knowing where I was – or with whom.” He kissed her softly on the forehead and gently slid a stray hair out of her eyes. “I want us to be together, and I want it soon. Do you understand?”

Charlie nodded once and started weeping as she watched Brady walk out the front door.

#

Charlie hurled the telephone against the wall. “Bastard,” she screamed at the top of her lungs. “Just wait ‘til I see you again, Mr. I-Want-Us-To-Be-Together.” A deep breath. “Bastard.”

She had received a phone call from her friend – a desk jockey down at the local police headquarters – informing her that the man she was seeing, the man of her dreams, was actually a private detective, hired by her husband to keep an eye on her, especially on her extended ‘work trips’. Her friend had told her that she had been tipped off by one of the other rich socialites who had discovered that her husband had done the same. Charlie’s friend put two and two together and knew she had to ring Charlie – as much as she knew it was going to hurt her.

“You bastard...I will teach you to try and have your cake and eat it, too.” Charlie picked up the telephone – the parts of it that were still attached to the cord – and threw it back down onto the floor in disgust. Cheap Japanese crap, she thought to herself as she fished her mobile phone out of the pocket of her Hermes handbag. She studied the phone for a moment, trying to remember his number. She wasn’t even completely sure she had it. The more she thought about it, the more she realised that he had always been the one to contact her, he was always the one that made the dates and times, that she was just a passenger on his train of deception.

“Bastard!”

#

Damien Faulkner was ecstatic. His wife, Charlie, had rung him and told him she had to stay away for another three nights – the convention was going longer than she had previously thought – and that she would be home on Sunday. Did he mind? Hell, he didn’t mind at all. Two phone calls later – one to the private eye he had following his wife, and the other to the sexy, if not slightly docile, secretary from the office he had been seeing for months – and he jumped in the car for a quick drive down to the local cellars. Kelly (or was it Kerry?) was always willing to ‘put out’ over a bottle of Dom. Long Live the Dom.

#

Brady sat alone in the near-empty restaurant awaiting the arrival of Charlie. She had sounded needy – desperate to see him. He knew in advance that she was going to call – Damien had told him about the conversation with Charlie – and he was excited to see her again. He knew that playing both sides was tricky – dangerous even – but she was such a good sort, he just couldn’t resist.

He saw her enter the foyer, dismissed the maitre’d with an annoyed flick of her delicate wrist (she was lucky she wasn’t really angry – the wrist would have snapped right off) and searched him out across the room. Their eyes met and Brady could sense something different about her; her hair was not perfect, she had left off the make-up and she was dressed like she had just come from the gym.

Brady watched her approach with growing apprehension; she looked mighty pissed off about something and he had already made the assumption that he was going to be the target of her fury.

“Bastard,” she screamed at him, “you complete and utter bastard.”

Brady knew – just knew – that this was not going to end well. He was even more sure when he saw he remove the snub-nosed pistol from her coat pocket (both coat and pistol he had paid for – bitch was going to shoot him with his own money) and point it in his direction.

“You picked the wrong field to play in, mister,” Charlie screamed as she fired twice, taking most of Brady’s head off in the process.

“Game over.”

Friday, July 9, 2010

Coated in History - I Dare You Challenge

Another week and another I Dare You from Jo Prescott at her wonderful site JM Prescott - A Reader's World. This week, the challenge came in the form of clothing..."Clothing can set the scene as certainly as a wedding dress, predict plot like a ski mask and laytex gloves, or reveal character like chaps and spurs."

So, here is my piece for this week's challenge, entitled Coated In History. I hope you enjoy it.



Coated In History

I sit alone at the end of the bar, looking every bit like the sad, pathetic loser that I feel. Everywhere I look there are groups of people gathered together, enjoying each other’s company; several men, dressed in coal-covered overalls are gathered together near the open fireplace that is blazing in the far corner of the room, laughing loudly and slapping each other on the back as good friends are comfortable doing; half a dozen attractive younger women are seated in the middle of the floor area, simultaneously preening themselves in the long mirror behind the bar and whispering to each other and breaking out in huge fits of giggles, occasionally glancing over at the miners to see if they are paying them any attention.

My night hadn’t started out this way. I had come here with Jo, my friend from the office where we worked ten hour days, slaving over endless reams of tax forms and, this being Friday, decided to drop by the local for a few cold ones before heading home to our respective empty homes. Halfway through our second beer, Jo’s phone rings and, after a few seconds, puts the phone back in his pocket, apologises to me (my brother has just been in a car accident – I gotta run), and he leaves me, sitting there alone at the end of the bar.

I finish off the beer that I ordered half an hour ago – it has gone warm and I contemplate getting another but decide against it. As I gather my things together, I notice Jo has left his coat – that damn ugly coat he so loves to wear – hanging off the back of his stool. I don’t want to ring and bother him so I figure I will take it home with me and will return it to him on Monday, maybe even drive by his house over the weekend and drop it off for him.

I step out into the night and find it has become quite cold; thick, heavy clouds have rolled in – they look like snow clouds – and I do the only thing I can think of – put Jo’s jacket on. It is woollen inside and extremely warm. I snuggle my body inside it and head out into the darkness.
My trudging footsteps are halted by a sudden, blinding headache. I hear myself moan from the pain and I feel a mixture of beer, bourbon and bile rise in my throat. I crouch down, limiting the chances of falling and injuring myself.

A rush of images assaults my mind; flashes of Egyptian pyramids, sand storms, and wall after wall of hieroglyphics. I cannot fathom what is happening. In a panic, I try to throw the coat off, but only succeed in tangling myself inside it. As I struggle with it, a final, terrifying image of a man who could only be a Pharaoh, speaks inside my head.

“Imposter, who are you to wear the Soul of the Pharaoh? Be gone and suffer a slow and terrible death.”

A fresh burst of pain shook me and I fell the rest of the way to the ground, finally able to pull free of the coat. I threw it across the gravel parking area and lay, trembling on the stony ground.

The trembling, however, has nothing to do with the cold.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

'Flagging Popularity' up at JM Prescott's A Reader's World

I must admit, I have never really been a fan of FanFic. It feels a bit strange borrowing so blatantly from others (although we borrow all the time from our favourite writers...if only in a subconscious way.) So, when the challenge came from Jo Prescott at her blog A Reader's World to write a piece of FanFic, I wasn't sure what to write. What resulted was something I am kinda proud of. My piece, entitled Flagging Popularity, can be found by clicking HERE.

A big thanks to Jo Prescott for the dare.

A massive thanks to Uncle Stephen for the inspiration.


As a side note, I just wanted to mention that Jo is also co-editor of a great e-zine called The Glass Coin. They are always open for submissions. Why not go and have a look-see? What can it hurt?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Justice Is Served, Sir up at 50 To 1

My piece "Justice Is Served, Sir" is now up at the cool microflash site, 50 to 1. If you haven't seen it, be sure to get over and have a look.

My thanks to Glen and Sam for accepting my story.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Plane Distracted

Lincoln was restless; he was in the underground car park at the airport, awaiting his sister's arrival from some far-flung exotic nation - yet another glamour shoot for that magazine she was always prattling on about. The radio was quietly playing in the background - not that he was really listening; he was too busy cursing the fact that he was the one designated to pick Donna up.

He glanced at his watch for what was the fifth time in as many minutes - two in the afternoon and she was already fourty-five minutes late. He wondered what tired, lame excuse she was going to use this time: the plane was delayed, customs was a bitch, I broke a fingernail - he had heard them all before and wasn't too keen on hearing another version.

The news on the radio broke in on his thoughts: "....Air France flight 2228 has gone down over the Atlantic Ocean, there were no survivors...."

"Bloody hell, another one, can't they keep these friggin' things in the air? What the hell is keeping Donna..?”


(This was a piece for Thinking Ten. The prompt was:
On Location, Monday: Air France Flight 2228
The only rule: somehow tie the above location into your daily flash
.)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Ornamental Warfare

"What can you reach for right now without getting up and without cheating. Pick the weirdest and strangest thing within your grasp and write about it. The weirder the better." This was the challenge issued by Jo Prescott at her cool site, A Reader's World. Below is my response. I hope you like it.



I stood atop the Deeping Wall. Aragorn stood to my left, sword held by his side, eyes fixed firmly on the advancing army. King Theoden, now over his spell thanks to the magic of Gandalf, was on my right. Archers lined the walls, swordsmen stood by the ramparts, awaiting the arrival of the enemy, axes and swords in hand, ready to deliver the killer blow to the heart of The Evil One.
The battle horn sounded from afar. I could hear the enemy below the fortress chanting their war song. Unintelligible words soared upon the wind, carrying with it the smells of boiling tar and rotting flesh. I knew that my foes would catapult the hot, viscous mass up and over the walls. We were prepared.
Swords clashed on shields, pikes held at the ready – the enemy advanced. It wasn’t a quick march, mind – they were slow and ungainly creatures, but their size, strength and thick skins were going to make it hard for our men to penetrate their defences. But I knew these men – I knew they would stand tall, stand firm – for their King.
I held my sword by my side as I waited for the right time to issue the command to attack. I could feel it coming closer...
“Captain, you must come see this.” It was Legolas – my elfin friend. He was agitated and pointing in the direction from which he had come. “Bad news coming from the East. Very bad news. You must come at once.”
I watched as he raced back to his vantage point, gesturing to others in the vicinity to come and see. I strode across and smiled as the men remained at their posts. Legolas was flighty and prone to exaggeration.
Coming across from the East were creatures that I had never seen the likes of. They stood tens of feet tall and must have weighed in the hundreds of tonnes. Even from this distance, I could tell that what we possessed here would be no match against these vile creations.
Gimli strode forward, rested his hand on my shoulder and addressed the King.
“Sire, if arrow and sword fail, my axe would be most pleased to sink into the flesh of those fell beasts.”
“Gimli, you honour your ancestors with such fine intentions. We shall battle this new evil in whatever fashion we must – and we must if we are to save Middle Earth.”
My attention returned to those at the base of the walls. They still waved their torches and beat upon their drums of war and slowly made their way towards us. Then, without obvious command, liquid fire began to rain down upon the Hold. Men around me cried out in agony, some died before they had a chance to seek the temporary shelter. Arrows began to fly over the walls as the enemy fired blindly. Several found their marks and I watched, devastated as man after man, fell in battle.
“We must fall back.” Theoden cried out to Aragorn and those around him. “Fall back.”
I stumbled backwards and fell, staring up at the sky and saw the mass of fire and stone hurtling towards me. I knew there was no escaping...

***

“Dad...Dad! I thought we agreed that the figurines and ornaments were for decoration only. Put them down and just watch the movie, all right?”



The winning piece by Kathy Monson is available to be read HERE.