Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sequencing my 2015 Anthology

I'm taking some time off to edit anthology of my entire output from last year. Everything is in here from flash, to longer short stories, a new novella and a half and even slightly touched up editions of Numbers 16:32 and Popular Mechanics for Young Widows. There's 23 stories in here and it's a lot to sift through.

I want to treat this like an "Annual" from the comic book world. It's nearly everything I've written in 2014 and is a great way to tie a bow around these ideas and move on to my 2015 writing schedule. Next year's stories seem to be dominated by crime, but I suspect we'll see some more scifi and horror come back into the fold sooner or later.

The most fun I'm having with this is finding the right order to put the stories in. I'm trying to not put anything with similar topics and themes close to each other. Also trying to mix up the length of the stories so that it has a good pacing. I think bands go through this when putting their albums together.

I'm a pretty pulpy writer so creating the cover image is also proving to be quite fun. I'm stuck on something with skulls at the moment. We'll see if a better idea presents itself in the next week or so.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Doin' Time at Xmas - @FlashFridayFic

Flash Friday Christmas challenge was a Santa ornament mugshot in around 150 words.

Doin' Time at Xmas


Martha sighed and put the phone on speaker. She had her hands full this time of year keeping the family business going while she waited on Kris to get out of the Hohaho State Pen.

“Hey sweetie, how’s Christmas going at the shop?”

She let him sit in silence. Martha had been at this table trying to reconcile a pile of shipping invoices all morning.

She still loved him, but was still mad at his pig-headed commitment his work team that got them into this situation to begin with. Rudolph already had two priors and a third strike would send him away for life. Kris thought it would be better accept the blame of the DWI himself. The spineless elves on the scene didn't intervene.

“Sweetie you there?” he asked.

Martha chased another bite of reindeer jerky with some egg nog and let him marinate a while longer.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Passage - @FlashFridayFic

My first attempt at a semi-final round of Flash Fiction resulted in the following story. I ended up more than doubling the word length limit of the story and preferred my final entry "A Foothold In the Orchard." For the sake of comparison I wanted to share this story which was also based on the "light at the end of the tunnel" photo prompt for the competition.


The tube was constricting now that Chae was close to the end of the prison she’d been making her way through over the past three days.  Yesterday she’d had an opportunity to move one of her arms forward when the wall shifted. Had that not happened, her arms would still be pinned to her sides, just like when she’d been fed into this beast head first by her tribe’s elders. 

For now though she needed to rest and save her energy for the final phase of the trial. She lay still and let the annelid’s gentle peristalsis carry her out inch by inch while she slept. With one arm free she could advance through the last section of tube faster than perhaps the Sentinel was expecting. If she was lucky she could catch it by surprise.  

Chae dreamed of Mother’s apothecary while she slept. She’d spent the last year before the rite of adulthood mixing medicine along Mother’s side and grousing about the upcoming trial she and the rest of the children their age had to pass if they wanted to move on to upper grades in school. She could opt out of the trial if she chose. Unlike the others she had no fighting experience. Refusing the trial would guarantee her a life in the service of others who had been brave enough to face the rite of passage and survive. 

Mother encouraged her through the year. Over the months of constant encouragement and guilt Chae’s pacifist convictions keeping her away from the rite eroded enough or her to accept the challenge. She’d spent dozens of hours in the worm upset at her mother persuasive abilities.

Despite their enormity, the worms were much like the small ones in the medicinal garden behind the apothecary. The giant invertebrates had a single large passageway from end to end that was designed for ingesting boulders and stripping them of their minerals and nutrients. They were also large enough to contain breathable, yet dank and putrid air. Other than the single sharp tooth about halfway through the digestive system, the walls of the beast were smooth, and constantly conveying sustenance through the beast until the inevitable end where the deadlier half of the rite, the Sentinel, presented itself.

When Chae awoke again she was about three arm lengths away from the end of the worm. She still couldn’t make out any images, but she heard wailing. An agonized grief. Someone in the trial must have died in the passage. A rarer death of the two possible. She closed her eyes to see if she could identify from the sobbing which sets of parents were now in mourning. 

It was Graham and Chae was relieved. He was a preferred son I the village. The elders had chosen the biggest and gentlest of the creatures for him but he must have proven too large to digest. He’d considered himself a man well before the rite of passage and had attempted to hold her down and demonstrate his pre-achieved status against her will. Chae bit a sizable hole in his cheek while he was on top of her. He’d told each of his friends that he’d been bitten by a wild dog in order to save face and not lose any of his stature. Chae hoped that the worm hadn't suffered while the elders tried to salvage their fortunate son. She found comfort in knowing that Graham, having failed the first stage of the rite would never be considered a man.

Chae’s fingers found purchase in the remaining walls of the backend of the worm and she started to pull herself out. Quickly and silently large beak sliced through the worm’s walls and took of the tip of Chae’s middle finger with it. She retreated and waited. “Eat more,” she encouraged the Chimera she now saw eating away at the back of her pathway out, trying to reach her. She’d poisoned this beast around day two using some of the powder she’d secreted into the trial in her cheeks. 

Two more bites and Chimera roared in agony. The poison in the worm’s blood would cause an unquenchable pain in the chained monster. She would defeat the beast and lay her hand on the sacred headstone without raising a blade. If she mixed her potion properly, the Chimera would likely not be able to guard the stone against any of her other classmates emerging over the rest of this afternoon.

Chae’s eyes had now fully adjusted to the outside world. The elders that circled the worm stood back watched in awe to see the girl struggle to free herself from the remains of the worm. They couldn't help as that would taint the ritual. She’d defeated the Chimera before emerging from the beast. Perhaps she’d been the first to do so. 

The tooth she’d removed from the worm seemed redundant had it not been for the other target she’d been intending to use it on. She dropped it to the ground. It was useless, Graham was already dead, laying near the slaughtered remains of his own passageway. A wreath of flowers had been lain over their intended champion. He still had more mourners and elders around them than Chae did as she pulled her remaining self from the worm. She approached the Chimera and patted its feathered head. She had more in common with this creature than any of the others in their tube. “Sorry I had to do that to you.”

The Chimera had been trained to put up a fight for the candidates, but never go in for a kill. The monster had been conditioned over to the decades to ignore its instinct and accept the worm meat as a greater prize than the much preferred taste of the children inside. Sometimes it forgot its training. Chae never held that against him. 

As an afterthought she walked to the headstone and touched it’s smooth surface marred by runes. Now she finally had more villagers around her than Graham. They awaited the first of three commands they had to deliver on for the first person of the group to complete the rite. As the newest adult in the village, Chae delivered her edict, “Burn the dead.” 

She decided to wait on the other two commands. She was free of the beast and had an adulthood ahead of her to plan out her next moves. She’d let her pacifism somewhere inside that worm.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Foothold in the Orchard @FlashFridayFic

I made semifinals in the Flash Friday end of year Flashversary! This time we had a pick of a tunnel leading to light and a 500 word limit.

A Foothold in the Orchard

The clay walls were wet. Somehow it was more hot and humid down here than the tangerine orchard twenty feet above him. Jake’s sweaty hands weren't helping and he slipped again. He wasn't afraid of falling, just screaming on the way down.

“You still down there, boy?” Jake looked up upon hearing the farmer’s slow drawl. The old man’s head looked down the hole, eclipsing the better part of the opening’s light. Jake remained silent.

“Don’t worry. Police ‘er gone. ‘Bout twenty minutes ago,” the farmer said casually, seemingly without any hurry to salvage the man in his dried-out well.

“Good. Thanks. Get me out of here.” Now that his escape from this narrow pit was upon him, he found it harder to keep his grip.

“Now you wait a minute. Policeman says you robbed the credit union. The one on Jefferson Davis and Lee.” He could hear the old man spit something substantial into the weeds on the edge of the hole. Thankfully not into it.

“Don’t worry that bank is insured.”

“It’s a matter of principle young man. You have to live by principles for crissake. I know I do.”

Jake bit his tongue and slipped down another foot. “Let me out and we’ll talk more.”

Jake considered the other hiding places he’d considered: his buddy’s attic, the burned out warehouse, under the overpass. All of them seemed like quaint vacation destinations compared to his location dozens of feet under the ground. In hindsight he should have been more suspect about the easy bargaining with a dotty old man he’d met at the convenience store. The one that was now blocking his way back out.

“Listen, sir!” Jake yelled. “Are you a man of God?” It was a last ditch ploy, but one that had always worked on Jake’s too-sympathetic grandmother.

“Don’t know. What do you think, Officer Philips? Am I a man of God?”

Another man’s silhouette joined the farmer’s at the top of the well. “You chose a poor partner in crime son.” The policeman’s voice carried authority even this far down the well.

Jake’s stomach dropped. For an instant he thought of letting go and ending his life at the bottom of the well. He didn’t want to go back to the prison, but looking down, he noted that there were worse places to end up.

“Let me up. Get me out of here.” Jake yelled. “I’ll take you to the money. I’m turning myself in.”

“Oh we already found your money, son.” The officer held up a small stack of bills. “I got some spending money and looks like ol’ Deke here can finally pay off that outhouse he’s been digging this hole for.”

“Best wishes young man.” The farmer said, somehow sincerely. “If you see my wife down there, let her know I said hi.”

Jake screamed as the two silhouettes disappeared, only to be replaced by a wooden square with a small hole cut in its center.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Cardinal Spark @FlashFridayFic

This week's prompt at Flash! Friday was a roaring building fire. It had to be exactly 150 words.

Cardinal Spark

Once the roof collapsed into the bigger fire below there was zero chance of saving the building. Henry considered all of the devotion that had gone into building the congregation up to the point where a capital campaign for the church would even be feasible. He had lost his commitment to his faith long ago, but thought this building would be a final gift to the believers he’d shepherded over the decade.

Watching his church burn, Henry knew this was the retribution for his sins. He threw his clerical collar into the embers of one of the pews and watched it curl. The cinders kicked up again. A gold wedding ring had been thrown into the fire in the same place. He looked over and remembered Sheila was with him. She rested her head on his cheek and whispered into his ear “Do you like what I've done for us?”

Friday, December 5, 2014

Crash Test Impulses @MicroBookends

Micro Bookends flash fiction is tough. 100 word limit and have to start with "sacred" and end with "sound." Also had to incorporate the prompt photo of a fighter jet.

Crash Test Impulses

Sacred words never came when she closed the door of the crash test vehicle. Nancy could never bring herself to pray over the cadavers she’s transported to the labs. She was a woman of science and to bring mysticism into this cruel but necessary work would betray her own commitment to rationalism.

She put a cloth bag over the cadaver, resting the sewn in pressure pad over the corpse’s forehead. She gave the thumbs up to the engineer in the booth. Nancy wondered if this grandmother ever thought she’d be in the cockpit of a fighter jet. Nancy laughed, relieved that the din of the jet would cover the sound.