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Thursday, June 30, 2011

From "Bone Dressing" by Michelle Brooks

Bone Dressing
“So, let me see if I have this straight.” I said, wrinkling my nose and pointing at Sarah. “You, are some grade-school, past life elevator operator working the control panel of the entire entourage of my past lives kind of like a TV programmer, or Sulu in Star Trek – my own personal pint-size paranormal navigator.” My gaze and hand shifted to Beau. “Mr. Wonderful over here is the male lead in this comedy of errors otherwise known as my life, uh, lives. Furthermore, in that capacity, he also serves as the damn cruise director.” Finally, turning to T.J. I wrapped things up. “And Fluffy is the transcendental doorman, mmm, doorcat - that or maybe some kind of furry, four-legged bouncer - a roller coaster ride attendant, there to help get you on and off the ride, buckle your seatbelt, and remind you to keep your hands and feet inside the ride at all times? Does that just about sum things up?”

From "Oogie Boogie Central" by M. Stephen Lukac

Oogie Boogie CentralA supposedly dead serial killer appears at a bookstore autographing:

The next person in line had approached the table during their conversation.  The customer, a tall man in a long denim coat, was holding a sleeping child against his shoulder, but wasn’t carrying anything for Gary to sign.

“Your little guy there must be pretty tired,” Gary said, filling time until Alex could hand him a book.

“He’s just dead,” the customer agreed, “but I’m a huge fan of yours and I wanted to get something autographed.”

“Well once these folks wrestle a book free, we’ll hook you right up.”

“Oh that’s all right.  I brought something with me.”

 Instead of reaching into his coat, the man released his hold on the boy’s shoulders, causing the child to fall back, still connected to the man by the arm he held across the back of the boy’s knees.  As the child completed his descent, the man turned slightly, changing the boy’s trajectory enough that he landed in the middle of the table, scattering books everywhere.

Gary and Alex jumped back from the table, attempting to distance themselves from the eviscerated corpse laid before them like a sacrifice.

“Just make that out to Ted,” the man in the long coat demanded.

From "Cold Water" by Annmarie McQueen

Cold WaterHaving run away from home, Hope Weller faints, only to wake up in the house of a strange boy with mesmerising chocolate eyes.

“So, where am I exactly?” I ask.

“My house. Number seven Treneor close, Cleadon village, England,”
he chuckles awkwardly. “You know? It’s that dreary little island off the coast of Europe that’s always raining.” I frown, ignoring his bad attempt at a joke. Cleadon village is just over a forty minute drive away from my own small city: Sunderland.

“And,” I continue. “Who are you?”

The corner of his mouth twitches upwards. “Ash,” he says. 

 “Ash who?”

Falkland. Now, it’s only fair you tell me who you are.”

“My name’s Hope.”

“Odd name,” he comments.

“You’re the one named after a tree.”

“Hmm, touché.”

For a second his eyes, a dark sepia, glow with amusement. And try as I might, I can't force down the dry laugh that escapes my chapped lips, even though the truth is all I want to do is scream.

From "These Hellish Happenings" by Jennifer Rainey

These Hellish HappeningsAfter throwing the car into gear, Alex drove to the exit of the parking lot and pressed play on the radio. As the car lurched onto the street, the sounds of raucous drumming, keyboards and guitar filled the inside. The music picked up in volume and speed before suddenly dropping out entirely, replaced by a familiar voice.

Jim Morrison. Singing Touch Me.

Jack stared blankly out the window. His mind had decided to abandon all attempts to comprehend the situation. He was driving down the street with a shape-shifting demon who obviously had a thing for the musical stylings of The Doors.

And if this wasn’t more tripped-out than any tripped-out crap Rufus had ever witnessed, Jack would’ve willingly thrown himself from a cliff.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

From "Children of the Lost Moon" Gabrielle Blue

Children of the Lost Moon"I know you’re not a child. But you don’t understand the dangers involved. There’s no way you can defend yourself against a werewolf. No way."

"Look, I’m no novice, Luke. And it’s not just fencing. You’ve seen me with a sword. I’m fast. I may not be as fast as you, but I’m way better with a weapon than most people could ever dream of being. So don’t treat me like I’m your basic couch-potato teenager without a clue. I know what I’m up against. I’ve seen it. I. Get. It."

"No, I don’t think you do - get it. Savannah, werewolves may not be quite as fast as we are, but they are much faster than humans. They can rip you apart before you even have a chance to react. They also have one defining trait that we do not - if they do not kill you, but merely scratch or bite, you will become infected."

He grabbed me by the upper arms and stared down at me, face grim, indigo eyes frightening.

"You would become a werewolf.  And I would have to kill you."

From "The Afternet" by Peter Empringham

The AfternetSaint Peter walked across and gently touched the cool metal jacket of the nearest processor. In front of him was a big red button, flashing rhythmically; as a reflex it created in him a desperate need to press.

‘What’s this?’ he pointed to the button.

Saraswati did some kind of extraordinary shimmy with her arms, like an epileptic fit at a darts tournament, then smiled at him benignly.

‘It sets the machine running. Press it, and all of the admissions to Heaven and Hell will be performed by this machine. Let’s face it, you’re eight hundred years old and you can’t cope with the workload you have now. Imagine what it’s going to be like when they really start going at it.’

Peter looked from the smiling deity back to the sweep of the enormous lighted room and then his eye was drawn to the flashing red button. No more whining usurers, loan sharks, stinking thieves, beggars, devil worshippers, sister-, daughter-, brother-, son-, or motherf*@!rs demanding their place in heaven. Conversely, no innocents, blessed children, good Samaritans, devoted worshippers…Saraswati began to play Greensleeves. Saint Peter pressed the button.

From "After All is Said and Done" by Belinda G. Buchanan

After All Is Said And DoneIt is late in the night, and Ethan & Renee's father has just died.  Renee is sitting in the kitchen at Ethan's' home…

   They sat in silence for a while listening to the rain falling softly upon the roof. 

    "I talked to him a few days ago.  He seemed fine,” she said softly.

    He watched as Ryan sucked on his bottle.  “Sometimes, a heart attack can come on suddenly without any warning.”

    “Did he say anything to you?”

    “No, he never regained consciousness.”

    She nodded and wiped at her eyes.

    “I’m sorry for what I said earlier,” he said quietly.  “It’s just that none of us has lived there for years.  It makes more sense to have him here.”

    “I suppose you’re right,” she said after a moment.  She watched him as he held the baby.  “How does it feel to be a father?”

    He couldn’t help but grin.  “It feels great.”

    “I’m glad you and Jessica worked things out.”

    His smile faded.  “No thanks to you.”

    She crossed her arms and sighed.  “I know you’re still angry at me over what I said to her.”
    “It was none of your business.”

    “You’re my brother, and I care about you.  That makes it my business.”

    His eyes flickered.  “No, Renee.  It doesn’t.  What happens between Jessica and me is nobody’s business but ours.  Understand?”

    She sat stone-faced.

    “How’s James?”
    “Fine.  I talked to him a little while ago.  He’ll try to be here for the funeral.”

    “He’ll try?”

    “He’s a busy man,” she said curtly.

    “I’m sure he is.” 

From "The Devil & Preston Black" by Jason Jack Miller

The Devil and Preston Black"Preston," John Lennon said in a very narrow voice, "Have a seat."  

He poured brandy into a second glass and pushed it across the table.  John looked just like he did when he played Instant Karma on Top of the Pops.  His hair had just been cut short and he seemed agitated, like the primal scream therapy hadn't kicked in yet.

I almost asked what he was doing here and he said, "If you knew he'd shoot, why didn't you stop him?"

My reply got caught in my throat like a hiccup, and I took a quick drink to ease it out.

Lennon said, "If it was you on the sidewalk and me on the street I'd have let you know.  It's the right thing to do, right?"

"But I didn't know.  I thought he was one of us."

"Oh, I see." John took a drink.  He held the glass by the stem and swirled the brandy around.  "One of us, huh?  Like you, me, us, 'one of us'?  Or one of you 'one of us'?  Big difference, you know."

From "77 Days in September" by Ray Gorham

77 Days in SeptemberHigh above the sun-baked prairies of Lawrence, Kansas, the missile reached its target.  No one on the ground even noticed the blast.  Perhaps had someone been looking at precisely the right location, at precisely the right time, they might have noticed a tiny, momentary spark in the bright afternoon sky.  Had they seen the flash, it likely would have been attributed to the glint of sunlight reflecting off a passing airplane.  From every vantage point below the detonation, there was no sense of the destructive capacity contained in that tiny speck of light.  More than 300 miles above the earth, a nuclear explosion impacts nothing with the force of its blast.  It is merely a large bomb going off in a vacuum, creating no shockwaves, no fireballs, no radiation, not even any sound. 

 Despite the lack of explosive destruction, this was now the most lethal weapon to be unleashed in the history of the world, but it was a weapon that would have had absolutely no discernable affect on mankind 200 years ago, other than creating a more colorful aurora.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

From "Candy Kisses and Bullet Holes Fill Her Up" by Christopher Wright

Candy Kisses and Bullet Holes Fill Her Up"I AM THE ROBORACLE.”

“I know who you are, so stop saying that.” Maybe it should be a relief that the monster I came to slay is just my extremely obnoxious, vaguely prophetic, former robot companion, but the problem is he’s extremely obnoxious.  He’s always saying things like “I AM THE ROBORACLE” and “THE FATES SAY YOU ARE BONED”.  The best part of being a space slave was not having to hear him every day.


“I don’t have time for this.  Where’s Emma?”



“From outside!”


“What?  I’m not an odometer!  Go measure for yourself.”


From "Before Her Eyes" by Rebecca Forster

Before Her EyesTessa Bradley has been abducted by two foreign speaking men when she stops at a mountain grocery for cigarettes…

 The muzzle hits me between the shoulder blades. I don’t expect it because we’ve walked a fair way in silence. I fall hard to the cold ground. I play possum, wanting a minute more to figure out why I’m here, who these men are and why they hate me.

From "Nothing to Lose" by Consuelo Saah Baehr

Nothing To Lose“My name is Bob Waller. I’m calling at Sylvie’s suggestion.  I’m recently separated and she said you were in the same boat.” She felt no obligation to respond.  “Hello…are you there?”


“Well, are you?”

“Am I what?”

“In the same boat?”

She had a vivid picture of herself and Bob Waller in a flimsy rowboat, in the middle of the ocean, wearing business clothes.   She didn't want to be friendly or helpful.  Sylvie had no idea how fat she’d become.  This man would show up at her door and faint.  What could she tell him: I’m very fat, can you take it?

“I guess,” she finally answered.

“I have a little boy who spends weekends with me.  How about you?”

“How about me what?”

“Do you have children?”  He asked hopefully.  He would be disappointed if she were any less emotionally stranded than he.


This made him thoughtful and silent.  So what?  He was the one who wanted to row out of the harbor of loneliness into the port of togetherness.  She considered offering him this metaphor but decided against it because she could feel herself seething with anger.  Why?  What did she have against this stranger?

From "Consumption: A Novel" by G.S. Johnston

Consumption: A NovelMartin has written Sara a letter with his first impressions of Hong Kong

High point of the evening? Two Filipino waitresses ceremoniously brought a huge silver tray displaying a roasted pig, the complete carcass.  With visible effort, they heaved it up onto the center of the dining table, the fat still hissing and spitting.  Evidently it was to be carved by the hostess in situ, like some pagan ritual. 

At the head of the table our hostess, beaming ear to ear, lowered her dark eyes towards the pig, which lay facing her, its teeth snarling. 

“You’ve forgotten the apple!” she shrieked, slapping the table with her hand.  “I told you about the apple.”

A servant winced and walked back through the swinging doors.  A moment later she reappeared with a shiny green apple.  But in the heated confusion caused by Hong Kong’s language soup, the waitress stood with the apple in her mouth and the carving knife and fork held up beside her face.
This place is a madhouse.  I wish you were here. 

From "The Astrology of Love - A Matchmaker's Guide to The Universe " by Suzanne White

THE ASTROLOGY OF LOVE - A Matchmaker's Guide to the Universe
144 sign Combos (Chinese &
Western) reveal your best  compatibilities in LOVE. Ratings as follows
4 hearts = Bed of Roses :
3 hearts = Bed and Breakfast
2 hearts = Breakfast in Bed
1 heart =   Pillow Fights
 No Hearts = Bed of Nails

RAT with OX - Gets 3 1/2 Hearts

The undisputed name of this game is stability. Oxen settle Rats down.
Rats enliven Oxen. For a marriage, what could be better? Well, a lot
of things could, but we won’t go into that now. If you are a Rat
seeking a partner or an Ox looking for a mate, I would suggest you do
some serious prospecting. The Rat initiates action, the Ox gives a
mighty bulldozing push. Then the Rat takes the ball and runs it to the
goal. It’s a sound (if not hilarious) long-term commitment.

Monday, June 27, 2011

From "Intoxication" by Tim Kizer

Intoxication (a psycho thriller) (As the Darkness Falls)As she pulled the trigger and watched the holes appear on the target, another theory formed in her head: what if someone had hired Helen to kill her? In this case, it would be so much harder to figure out the motives behind the attempt on her life.

Another thing--a poison could kill you, but it could also cripple you for the rest of your life. In light of this fact, what was Helen’s intent? To murder her or get her paralyzed? Suppose they wanted her out of the way but alive (that would explain why Rick had not died that day). It takes an expert to choose the right substance and the right dosage to spare the target’s life while damaging important body functions. An expert such as a chemist? But Helen was not a chemist; she was just a bimbo with a marketing degree from Fullerton State University.

If Helen had died, how was Leslie going to identify the forces behind her? That would be a very tough task. And in the meantime, these people would send a replacement killer instead of Helen.

Damn, it was too early to relax after all.

From "The Werecat Chronicles" by Sally Bosco

The Werecat ChroniclesA strong feeling made me pull off the highway and down the main road of a tiny town that looked more like a ghost town than a living community.

Driving further down the street, I came to a motel right out of an Edward Hopper painting.  I pulled into one of many vacant parking spaces and walked into the office feeling like a zombie. The man behind the counter gave me a momentarily suspicious look. He probably thought I was awfully young to be traveling alone.  He was right.  But when I pulled a roll of money out of my backpack, he smiled, said, “Thank you, miss,” put the cash into his old-fashioned register, and handed me the key.  Room number three.

Predictably the room reeked of mildew. I looked around at the stained carpet, the corroded air conditioner, towels thin as slices of ginger and wondered.  Was this the place where I was going to die?  A cheap motel room?

I pulled back the bed covers and collapsed onto the sheets.  The clock radio said .  In ten minutes I’d be dead.

From "Wanderlust" by Heather C. Hudak

Wanderlust (The Cordelia Chronicles)“Name’s Balthazar, but everyone calls me Balty,” he said in a smooth baritone that would make Barry White jealous.

I stood in silence staring at the mountain of a man standing before me. He was well over six feet tall--at least 6 feet 5 inches if I were to wager a guess. And, his jet-black hair was shaggy and overgrown, curling up at the nape of his neck and brushing past his eyebrows into his eyes. A slight growth of dark hair--just a tad thicker than a shadow--covered his chiselled jaw. I guessed him to be in his mid-thirties, and he was utterly stunning in a rugged and unkempt way. He must get really good tips as a server--women would love him.

Like, Mina, Chaseyn’s mother, Balthazar was a full vampire. I’m not sure how I knew, but I did. The knowledge terrified me, and the throbbing of my pulse drowned out all other sound. Running would be useless. Balthazar would have the gift of extreme speed--all vampires did. Screaming was out of the question--my voice was stifled in my throat. This was it, I thought. This is how I was going to die.

From "Fire Season" by VH Folland

Fire SeasonA small group have been cut off by the fire, with the Brooke's Vale strip the nearest rescue base.

“Gotcha.” The other pilot shut the cockpit, and dashed back to his own aircraft. Quickly he began marshalling the remaining passengers into the Robin. Behind Jim, the woman was seated, securing the belt firmly around herself and holding the toddler on her lap sideways, arms and legs tucked in tightly. Mercifully the child was not crying, looking around with wide terrified eyes.

“Ready and belted. I’ve got a good grip on her,” the woman said, quietly. The headset was obviously already on, settled with professional speed.

“Hold her tight,” Jim growled. This did not sit well with him, but he saw no other choice. He increased throttle and turned the aircraft, giving himself as much space as possible to take off. The crop sprayer’s limitations were cabin space rather than weight, but with an unrestrained passenger he wanted a smooth take off and as much space for error as possible. He was breaking every safety rule in the book but he could not, in conscience, leave people to burn.

Friday, June 24, 2011

From "Not to Us" by Katherine Owen

Not To Us
Ellie has recently discovered the betrayal of her best friend Carrie (Michael's wife) with her husband Robert. Now, she's learning from Michael that she has breast cancer...

“This is a joke; right? You just didn’t tell me I have cancer, because, frankly, if we’re being honest, Michael.” My voice wavers. I try to smile again, but can’t quite make it work. “I’ve got enough shit going on right now.”


I can’t find any solace in his tone. I shift in my chair and just look at him. We’ve known each other for almost twenty years, since the days at the University of Washington when all four of us had been sophomores in college. I’ve seen him naked a half dozen times, in those innocent moments, when we had all gone camping together, drank too much, and let strip poker go a little too far. He is my best friend Carrie’s husband. He is best friends with my husband, Robert. My friend even.

And, yet, in this moment, all I can think of is that there is worse news than this—worse news that I will eventually have to tell him. My resolve gives way. My eyes betray me first and fill with tears, not for myself, but for Michael.

From "The Lynching of Hiram Wilson" by Buzz Malone

The Lynching of Hiram Wilson Chariton, Iowa 1870“What do you think?” Evelyn asked her sister. “Does it cause my hips to look too small?”

“I think it is incredible,” Clara replied. “You will be the most beautiful bride in the history of Lucas County,” she said, looking on in awe as the dress formed around her sister’s perfect figure.

Even as the woman knelt and pinned, they heard the bells clang in the front of the store. Clara had no way of knowing that the voice of the man, muffled through the interior wall, was that of Hiram Wilson. If she had known she might have panicked. She may have fainted. She may even have hid or run out the back. But she could not have known that it was Hiram, separated from her by only a few feet and thin facade wall constructed only to offer privacy to those fortunate souls genteel enough to be purchasing fitted clothing.

A few feet between the two, and a thin wall were all that stood in the way of a fate of their own. A step by either, a slightly elevated voice to be recognized, the opening of the swinging door, and they would be face to face.

From "Witness to Death" by Dave White

Witness to DeathJohn Brighton, your typical public school teacher, has decided to follow his ex's new boyfriend, hoping to catch him cheating on her.  Instead...

Digging his nails into his palms, John took a deep breath and stepped forward.

Reaching the edge of the building—still ten feet from the edge of the river—John turned right.  As he did, he saw the group of men had stopped and were looking at Frank Carnathan, who was walking toward them, albeit slower than he was walking before.   One of the men, an Arabic looking one, not wearing a trenchcoat yelled, “That’s Peter!”  After he spoke, he stopped walking.  The trenchcoats kept coming.

Frank stopped, dropped his hands at his sides.  Then he turned back toward John and broke out into a sprint.

Behind Frank, the five men in trenchcoats pointed guns at him.

From "No More Mulberries" by Mary Smith

No More MulberriesScots-born Miriam, married to an Afghan doctor and living in rural Afghanistan, has stepped outside to calm after an argument with Iqbal when he cancels her English classes with some of the village boys...

She looked upwards. Familiarity with Afghanistan's night skies never lessened her sense of awe. On moonless nights the Milky Way was a magical white path through stars that didn't twinkle - they blazed. Constellations her father had taught her to recognise when she was a child - Orion, the Seven Sisters - demonstrated proudly that here they possessed far more jewel-bright stars than she had ever seen in Scotland. Tonight, though, an almost full moon had risen dimming the stars' brightness, silvering the jagged peaks of the mountains which kept the valley safe. 'Our moon,' she whispered. 'Oh, Jawad, what have I done?'

'Miriam?' She jumped at the sound of Iqbal's voice close behind her. Had he heard her whisper?

She turned to face him relieved to see he was smiling. 'Children ready for bed?' she asked. 'I'll go say goodnight to them.'

He shook his head, coming to stand next to her saying softly, Ruckshana's already asleep. Farid is learning his spelling words for tomorrow.' He reached for her hand. 'Miriam, look, I suppose I should have mentioned it to you - cancelling the boys' classes.'

Mentioned it?' She snatched her hand away, the need for calm forgotten.

From "Leaves of the Fall" by Violet Yates

Leaves of the Fall“Hey, what’s going on with Trevor?” Rose asked.

“What do you mean?”

“He’s been acting weird, flying off the handle. And the other night, I found him down at The Donut Shoppe hanging with some girl.”

Ethan sighed into the phone, and from the popping sound in the background, Rose could tell he was opening a beer.

“I haven’t even talked to him outside of work lately. I don’t know what his deal is. Wish I did,” Ethan said. He paused for a moment and then he said, “Ahh. That hits the spot.”

“Ethan, do you think he’s messing around?”

“With that girl? I don’t know. Hey, wanna come over? Sherri’s not here and I got a few extra beers.”

“Uh, I don’t know.”

“C’mon, please? It’ll help you take your mind off Trevor.”

In her marriage bedroom, Rose stood before their disheveled blankets, staring into space, with the phone clutched tightly in her hand. She walked out into the kitchen and turned around in a circle, drinking in the silence. Trevor would have been done with work hours ago, yet he wasn’t here.

She went to the fridge, took the hamburger that she was supposed to make dinner with, and tossed it into the trash.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

From "Blue Bells of Scotland" by Laura Vosika

Blue Bells of Scotland: Book One of the Blue Bells TrilogyWhere could they all be? The MacDougalls couldn't have returned so quickly for vengeance. They couldn't have emptied everyone out so swiftly and silently that he slept through it.

Niall stooped to slide the dirk from his boot. Its smooth metal blade ran cold up his leg. A bead of sweat inched down his jaw. He scanned the desolate castle, right and left, and straightened, pushing the long, dark hair from his forehead. The walls: they were like his castle walls, but—he studied them—not quite.

A wave of dizziness crashed over him. He squeezed his eyes shut, braced his hands on his knees for a moment, and pushed himself back up, staring at the ruins where the stables, blacksmith, and armory should have been. The close was no longer beaten earth, grazed by sheep, but soft with dewy grass, like an English garden.

He touched his temple, under his hair. The lacerations were still rough, tender to the touch. The wound ached as if it were only days old. Had it caused him to sleep long enough for people and sheep to disappear, for grass to grow?

...and walls to crumble?

From "Gray Skies" by Hugh Ashton

Beneath Gray Skies"You may not know this, but I've killed quite a lot of Germans in my time. A good number of them I killed while I had German bullets in me. One more German won't be too hard for me to manage."

Goering strutted up to come face to face with Brian. "I am giving the orders here. Maybe I can persuade your officer to forget all this if you stop this nonsense now."

Brian's hands moved in a complicated fashion too fast for David to follow.

The bayonet at the end of his rifle flashed, cutting the ribbon around Goering's neck, and the large Pour le Mérite medal fell tinkling to the sidewalk. Goering's face flushed as his hand shot to his neck, wiping away a trickle of blood that had suddenly appeared there.

"You'll pay for this!" he shouted.

"Send a letter to my bank," retorted Brian, deliberately misunderstanding Goering. "There's enough in my account to pay for a bit of dirty ribbon. Come on, David, we're off."