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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

From "Discontents" by James Wallace Birch

DiscontentsI cannot explain to you how I felt. If you’ve ever wanted to be a part of something, then you understand. If you’ve ever felt let down by the world, then you understand. And if you’ve ever been to a party the night before a hurricane or blizzard was supposed to arrive, where you’ve celebrated the prospect of the monotonous cycle of our everyday society being disrupted if only for a day, then you understand, though you may not have realized it before now. If Fletcher Spivey wanted to change the world, I was his man.

From "Black & White" by Nicki Lynn Justice

Black & White
Now, about that cat..."

     She sighed. "This is going to sound really silly."

     "No sillier than you just did."

     She ignored that comment. "It was a way of rating my relationships. If I liked the cat better than the guy, I'd dump the guy."

     "But you don't have a cat."

     "I have a good imagination."

     He nodded. "So how many imaginary cats did you get rid of?"

     "None," she replied.

     "Anyone ever ask you to get rid of the cat?" he quipped, to cover the curious feeling of pleasure her words evoked.

     "The last one would have. I got rid of him instead.

     "But you were going to get rid of the cat for me."

     She shrugged. "I was half in love, almost asleep, and had just been through the most incredible love-making experience of my life, so I may not have been thinking clearly."

     He preened. "I've been told that I'm pretty good."

     "Hah," she exclaimed. "They probably just felt sorry for you."

     He quirked an eyebrow at her, but didn't bother to reply. "I don't think anyone has ever said they were half in love with me," he said softly.

     "Don't count on it. It could go either way. The cat hasn't been dropped off at that nice home in the country yet."

From "Where Does the 500LB Alien Sleep?" a story in "Tips for Tailoring Spacetime Fabric -- Vol. 1" by Roger Bourke White Jr.

Tips for Tailoring Spacetime Fabric : Vol. 1
The great ape was advancing on me—slowly, carefully, ready to spring at any moment. I stood there, longknife in hand, ready to meet its ferocious charge with a single life-draining thrust. Behind me, the princess was clinging to my bare back, her arms wrapped about my thickly muscled chest. She was waiting for me to overcome this final obstacle. The monster looked fierce, but with her soft body pressed close to mine, I felt I had the strength of ten.

The ape closed. He was about to spring, when he slowly raised his great paw and said in a soft, feminine voice, “How many fingers am I holding up?”


I squinted at his massive paw. I couldn’t tell. Was this some sort of trick?

“How many fingers am I holding up?” he insisted.

His paw was fading. The princess was fading. I opened my eyes. There was a female human there holding a hand in front of my face. She said again, “How many fingers?”

I didn’t care. I felt miserable. I concentrated hard on it … God! I’m not sure I can count that high!

“Three,” I finally croaked.

“Good. You’re coming out in a satisfactory fashion.

From "A Love In Time of War" a novella from "Affairs of The Heart" by Borislava Borissova

Affairs of the HeartAfter a while, the older white-haired man repeated in amazement, “Let’s clear this up. You fought to the death in the Balkan War against her father, her brother and her country. And she served as a nurse to Bulgarian soldiers, among blood, wounded, dead, and the smell of formaldehyde on the opposite side of the borderline. Does it mean you are coming to ask for the hand of your enemy’s daughter? The Bulgarian general, who personally led his army from the front line against the Ottoman divisions?”

“Yes. First there was the war… the love followed later. Peace was somewhere in between.”

“Yesterday, you could have killed her on the other side of the front, today you are in love and what about tomorrow?”

“She feels the same way. All our efforts to remain enemies appeared to be in vain. The border line between our ability to hate or to love appears a thin one.”

His fellow traveler shook his head distrustfully. “Your story sounds crazy. Most probably, her father will not allow her to marry you. Hmm... Kidnap her instead. Escape together as others have done many times on the Balkans.”

“Who would easily marry a Muslim man and a Christian woman in secret? If not, what would she be in my life without a legal marriage? A mistress? The woman who was born to be my wife? I cannot make a political scandal between our countries. The general is respectful and popular.”

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

From "Immortal Heart" by Julie Miller

Immortal Heart (Lady Tech)Can Brodie Maxwell save BJ Kincaid from the danger closing in on her?:


When she hit the wall of Brodie’s chest, he twisted and wrapped his body around her like a shield.  The horrible impact knocked them both to the ground and they skidded several feet across the pavement. Brodie landed on top, knocking the wind from her lungs. She heard a crunch and a muffled "oof" and felt a burning along the side of her left leg and shoulder.

They came to a stop when they hit the grass at the curb. BJ lay stunned, smothered in the vise of Brodie's arms. When she could breathe again, she squirmed until she wedged a little space to free her hands. She snatched Brodie around the neck, burying her cheek against his collar.

"This is all my fault. I'm so sorry I got you involved in all this."

Brodie rolled onto his back, bringing BJ on top of him, holding her securely with one arm. His hand roamed up and down her back. "Are you hurt?"

The car speeding from the scene wouldn't register until later. At the moment, BJ could only revel in the warmth and strength of the man who held her.

"C'mon, honey, answer me."

From "Blades Of The Moritati" by Durand J. Compton

Blades Of The Moritati (An Highly Irregular Adventure)She is no aged crone but the days of her youth are long past. Her hair is pale as last summers straw, her face lined with a thousand fine wrinkles. She is draped in a volume of raw silk, girt with a belt of black pearls. She paces the length of a simple chamber and pauses before the organic flue set in the centre of this hallowed space. Pale green fire dances above the vent. She passes a long-fingered hand through the flame.

‘So, My Prince, you grace me one last time. Do you recall our last meeting, Sir?’

‘Aye, My Lady, I do recall, though many long centuries lay between. I had just committed the Thirty-third Sin of Admittance and being elevated to my formal seat, a Prince of the Realm, I left the Bastion of Power and journeyed here, to seek your wisdom ere I took that final step to Witchdom.’

‘And did I give you false counsel?’

‘No, My Lady, you spoke the truth, devious though your words were. I have gained a certain eminence among my peers, my schemes have drawn wealth and power beneath my hands.’ He strides with pensive grace about the oracle. ’And I have come to bear a certain doubt.’

From "The Gardener's Ice Maiden" by Stella Eromonsere-Ajanaku

THE GARDENER's ICE MAIDENHe knew he’d gone way too far, but her vulnerability coupled with her infuriating stubbornness had pushed him over the edge. Having her walk into his home late in the night, speaking to him as if being a gardener made him less than a person was a direct attack at his insecurities. The fact that she paid his salary didn’t give her the right to talk down at him.

   He was nobody’s doormat, especially not Olivia’s!

   ‘I get it. So you come into my life to look for a job, I offer you what you want, you get rewarded, but that isn’t enough for you. You go ahead and warm your way into my son’s life. What is your plan? To wreck my already fragile reputation in New Ferry?’ she paused, trying to make sense of what she’d just experienced. ‘Now…now you lay your filthy…wretched fingers on me, pulling me like some dirty, street tart…’ she choked, trying to get her point across.

   Olivia didn’t sleep at all the whole night. Restlessly, she walked up and down her bedroom floor. Every nerve in her body was stretched to breaking limit.

   That explosive kiss…

   One kiss…no, not one, two heart-melting and…

From "I Can't Get Next to You" by Chicki Brown

I Can't Get Next to YouTamyra goes to audition as an exotic dancer as a way to increase the collateral she needs for a business loan to open her dream business -- a handmade crafts store...

Luckily, my audition had been scheduled when the club was closed, so Deion was my sole audience. I hung my clothes in a locker in the dressing room and massaged some Tite-Grip into my hands then entered the main room where he was sitting at one of the tables like a patron. While I explained my interest in working there, he examined me from head to toe.

“Have you ever danced before?”

I swallowed and tried hard to sound confident. “No, but I’ve been taking classes at Polelateaz and practicing on my own pole at home almost every day.”

“Do you have a music preference?” He moved to the sound system in the wall.

“Nothing too fast, okay?” I had practiced the routine probably fifty times and felt confident about my performance. 

   A couple of times during the song, Deion smiled and shouted words of encouragement over the music. I was certain I had the job until he hit the repeat on the stereo remote and said, “All right, Tamyra. Let me see your lap dance.”

Monday, August 29, 2011

From "Hope Thinks Infinite" by E.J. Loera

Hope Thinks InfiniteHe grinned.  "It’s pretty clear your own people hate you even more than we ever could.  It seems to me, that definitely puts you on our side.”

“I have been on your side,” I assured him.  “I thought I’d made that clear.”

“Can you blame us for wanting more assurance than your word?” Jenna asked.

“I guess not, no.”

Jenna moved to our shared bars.  “Can I ask you something, Jack?  You still look super pale, and I would have thought you’d have gotten up by now – or tried at least – if you could have.  So tell me – how much more blood would you need to be okay?”
I shifted in my seat to test my strength.  It was practically nonexistent despite the illusion of my calmed body.  “By ‘okay’ I assume you mean ‘strong enough to help us take on your former crew of superhuman monsters,’ right?”  My gaze swerved to Bear.  “Is that what we’re talking about?  That was the purpose behind asking me all those questions about this ship, right?”

He nodded.  “I wasn’t planning to use the word ‘monsters,’ but yeah, I guess that’s pretty much the long and short of it.”

From "The Honeycomb Comet" by Roger Bourke White Jr.

The Honeycomb Comet: Tales of the HXSo you would know my story? How, with a single ship and its crew of a scant three thousand—each with no more physical capability than one of you humans!—I came to be Emperor of your alien planet of nine billion people, most of whom name it after its dirt? And Protector of the rest of your Solar System, with its other billion?

Others have told this tale … and told it, and told it, and told it again over dozens of your years. But though many have wished for the truth from my own mouth, I have resisted, I know not fully why. The theories that your xenopsychologists have published have amused but not convinced me. But now I am old, and my place as Emperor is strangely secured by my ill health—my enemies find it prudent to wait for my natural death! So while all is as good for me as it’s going to get, I am moved to recount the great tale at last.

From "Where There Were No Innocents" by Thomas Rowe Drinkard

Where There Were No Innocents (Mack Brinson Series)Mack Brinson is listening to a Recon Team leader tell a story about his most recent mission into Laos:
He continued in almost a whisper.

“We all stopped and strained our eyes as much as we could, and saw nothing.  I couldn’t smell anything either.  You know how, sometimes you can smell the NVA bastards because of their body odor—then I did smell something nasty.  I was picturing a patrol of about ten NVA easing toward our position and felt my nerves zinging, getting ready to fight. About that time there was a big, loud ‘Whuff!’ and this damn hog came running through our position.  Big sonofabitch, probably a boar, but I didn’t have a chance to check for balls!  He didn’t do anything but snort and charge ahead, slamming through the brush right down the middle of the team’s perimeter.  I told you that our team was good! Not one guy popped a cap when he came through.  Turns out that that was really good considering what happened later. I didn’t check closely, but I’ll bet that a couple of our guys damn near pissed their pants.”

He paused and sipped again, winking broadly as he put down his glass.

“ I know I damn near had wet shorts!”

From "The Impending Darkness" by Noah Murphy

The Impending Darkness (K23 Detectives)
A goblin gang leader named Crol is talking to a mysterious goblin shaman named Qub about carrrying out an assassination...

“So, what be ye price, exactly?” Crol asked.  Me assume this no free.”

“Price be paid,” Qub replied.

Crol raised an eyebrow. “What price that be?”

“Ye tip the scales exactly where need be.”

Crol died.

No whimper.

No scream.

His eyes just closed, and his soul was no more.

Qub stood up and walked out of the foreman’s house. Before a Krung could say anything, he fell dead, and then, one after another, they each fell dead. The slaves in the mine and their homes fell where they stood.

Qub smiled as he witnessed the dead.

He wrapped the cloak tightly around himself as he walked into the shadows.

The Krug had unknowingly set in motions events beyond their comprehension.

Soon, the world would know the power of Armagda the Destroyer, and crumble.

The age of chaos had begun.

Friday, August 26, 2011

From "The Black God's War" by Moses Siregar III

The Black God's War [A Stand-Alone Novel] (Splendor and Ruin, Book I)In the Kingdom of Rezzia, inside the highest chamber of the grand minaret, ten-year-old Lucia looked out to see her father, King Vieri, on the balcony. He lifted her newborn brother high above his head, and the masses, hundreds of feet below, roared with devotion.

Father, what are you doing! she thought. Be more careful with our savior.

Lucia glanced down at her mother resting in the birthing pool. The queen’s black hair clung to her neck, all of it soaked by the holy waters.

“You did it, Mother!”

Kindness brightened her mother’s face. “Thank the gods, dear. You have a brother now. A very special brother. Go, join your father and wave to the crowd.”

“You stay here and rest. I’ll wave to them on your behalf.”

Her mother laughed. “Thank you, Lucia. That sounds perfect.”

Lucia crept toward the archway leading to the balcony, which wrapped around the circular chamber. She squinted, fighting the midday sun. Tears soaked her father’s cheeks as he presented the pink baby to the faithful. Nature had tattooed thorny red and black vines on little Caio’s hands and forearms: the holy markings of the Haizzem.

From "Superior" by Tracy Brantley

SuperiorI had been dreaming.  Wow, that’s the most vivid dream I have ever had.  It was almost as if I were sleepwalking, except that it seemed more tangible than that.  It seemed more like I had really been near Karter, and had really kissed his lips.  I started to smile and at the same time started to feel the color rising in my cheeks.  His lips were definitely as soft but yet as solid as I thought they would be.  It was then that I heard him chuckling.  I sat straight up, and there he stood by the window of my room, which was now ajar. 

“What the hell are you doing in my room?”

“You tell me, Joselin.  You were the one dreaming about me weren’t you?  No point in trying to deny it, I could practically hear you calling my name from the street.  It’s a wonder your parents haven’t come busting into your room yet.”

There weren’t enough blankets in the room to cover up this level of humiliation.  In fact there probably weren’t enough blankets on the planet,  which left me no choice but to try denial.

From "Elijah Deville in Coasting to Death" by Jeremy Diestelkamp

Elijah Deville in Coasting to Death (Elijah Deville Novel Series)Elijah has just awoke a couple hours after being hit over head by a mysterious stranger...

As Elijah began to wake up, he was overtaken by the pungent smell of manure.  They were obviously in a barn.  He couldn't move, because Becca and him were seated back to back, had their arms and legs tied to their chairs, and their mouths gagged with handkerchiefs.  A few minutes later, as Becca was beginning to wake up, a strange looking man could be seen standing in the shadows whispering to another man.  Wanting to hear what was going on, they pretended to still be unconscious.

"Have you decided what to do with them yet?" said one man.

  "Isn't it obvious, they can't be allowed to tell anyone what they've seen."

From "Abandoned" a story in "Distortions: A Collection of Short Stories" by Trevor White

Distortions: A Collection of Short StoriesDespite a dreamless sleep his mind is scrambled, and it takes him a moment to realize his position in relation to the rest of the world. Once oriented, he rolls over and looks at the watch aside his bed. 7:00, glow the soft blue digits. Aware of the time, he moves to the second order of the day: Travis, he thinks, my name is Travis Jonathan Nelson.

Slowly he lifts the blanket and rises from bed. His joints, facing gravity for the first time today, pop as he stands and stretches. Clad in jeans, a shirt and hoodie, and thinning socks, he walks the cool linoleum around the bend and enters the foyer.

Here, angular girders crisscross a soaring ceiling dotted with air vents and the Mylar balloons of careless children. Sixteen aisles stretch eastward, and westward, half as many checkouts, dual automatic sliding doors, and an enormous sign on the building’s front that he does not have to see to read. Superway, it glows into the empty darkness outside. This is his home, and his alone.

From "Golden Opportunity" by Donna Marie Rogers

Golden OpportunityAngela Roberts has just shown up at James McMillan’s door claiming his brother, Reese, sold her his half of their prosperous Colorado horse ranch...

“I told you, I’m not going anywhere. I own half this ranch, whether you like it or not. And if you insist on making me leave, I promise you I’ll be back with the sheriff.”

Great. Just freakin’ great. Sheriff Martin would pounce like a mountain lion on a chance to make James miserable. And if she got that vindictive old cuss involved, the story of Reese’s stupidity would be all over town by nightfall.

His frustration must have shown on his face because a knowing smile curved those luscious lips. James propped his hands on his hips in defeat and took a step back. “Fine. You wanna play house, lady, be my guest. Just don’t get too comfortable.”

With a toss of her head, she picked up her suitcase, her high heels clicking on the tiled floor of the foyer as she strode past him. It took all James’ self-control not to give her denim-clad ass a swat as she passed by.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

From "Butterfly Powder and the Mountains of Iowa" by Erich Eipert

Butterfly Powder and the Mountains of IowaBefore I knew it, she'd plunged it into my bad arm. Well, I thought it was my arm at the time. Actually, what she did was jab it into the fabric part of the cast to cut the two sections apart. Underneath, the patches of dead brown skin looked positively cancerous, but there was no new swelling and only a slight tenderness. "Better see Doc in the morning," she advised as she knotted two dishtowels together for a sling.

From "Lodestone Book Two: The World of Ice and Stars" by Mark Whiteway

Lodestone Book Two: The World of Ice and StarsPatris explains Sakaran economics!

“You stole from them, didn’t you?” Keris interjected.

Patris frowned. “How did you know that?” She looked at him askance.

“All right, yes, I stole from them. I would have thought that any civilized society would appreciate basic economics.”

“Let me guess. They didn’t appreciate your actions.”

Patris huffed. “You’re right there. I tried to explain it to them, but it was hopeless. ‘Look’, I said, ‘I arrived here with nothing but the clothes I’m standing in. I have no money or whatever it is you people use for money. I have the same right to life as you do. So how am I going to live? Theft. Basic wealth redistribution. I told them straight, ‘You should be thanking me,’ I said. But it was like trying to lecture a bunch of ignorant children.” 

“Imagine that,” Keris said dryly.
“Exactly. They summoned a pair of their watchmen–drach, they called them. Surly fellows. No sense of humour whatsoever. They threw me in some kind of jail. I’m not sure what they intended for me, but I don’t think it was anything good. So I let myself out and escaped.” 

“You stole the key.”

Patris shrugged. “Naturally.”

From "M.O.D." by J. C. Allen

M.O.D.Scott and Sheila head the FBI's Florida task force, where M.O.D. has been leading them on an embarrasing wild goose chase after "liberating" huge amounts of money, weapons, and personnel:

The partners fixed and ate breakfast together while reading the newspaper.  “Who is M.O.D.?” was the headline.  The majority of the first section was dedicated to the subject in one way or another.

Sheelia finished first and called her boss.  Scott remained silently reading and eating until he heard Sheelia shriek, “You’re kidding!”

He jerked his head to face her, “What is it?”

Sheelia finished her conversation as Scott impatiently waited, then said, “More than 35,000 US troops disappeared last night, along with another few thousand ships, planes, tanks, missiles, explosives, etc.  Not surprisingly, nobody knows where any of them went.  Planes disappeared from radar, vehicles vanished from the road, and the people… nobody has a clue.  That’s not the worst though.”

Scott shrugged, “Nothing will surprise me at this point.”

“Oh yeah?  We lost over 800 field agents and a few hundred support crew, technicians, etc.  The CIA lost contact with a fourth of their operatives.  Even members of the Secret Service are missing.  Some of these people had personal transponders embedded in their bodies and they still can’t find them.  The Army and Marines have recalled all troops to defend the country.  The Air Force and Navy have ordered all ships and planes to return as well.  They’re calling up the Reserves, National Guard, and Coast Guard.”

“We’re going to war with ourselves.  Great,” Scott said lazily.

From "Mission Zero" by S J MacDonald

Mission Zero (Fourth Fleet Irregulars)Inspector Mako Ireson is having a tour of the corvette Minnow before heading out into deep space with them...

Then, from the mess deck below them, Rangi’s voice emerged again from the hubbub, explaining to their passenger that this was where the crew ate their meals and relaxed. A minute or two later, a question was audible from the inspector.

‘I know that port is to the left when you’re facing the front of the ship and starboard to the right,’ he said.  ‘So which way am I facing now?’

Alex looked determinedly at his desk screens, taking no notice of the laughter that erupted after a thunderstruck couple of seconds on both the mess deck, and everywhere else within earshot.  It would be expecting miracles, really, to expect spacers not to crack up at that.

‘Please, sir?’  That was Ordinary Star Jenni Asforth at the Flight Control station, addressing the skipper in a pleading tone.  ‘Can we keep him?  I’ll feed him and take him for walks, honest!’

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

From "'Sketches (preface to a Jazz Painting)" by Durand J. Compton

Sketches (preface to a Jazz Painting)Spade broken and feeble.

‘I’ll be here all night,’ he sobs. When dawns moisture matted the grass, the laughter had lost but the coffin remained. The hole was not enough, what with taxes and the hidden stones.

Wipe the brow, soil streaks cigar smoke.

‘I would not do this, if I loved you,’ he used to say. Dead laughter has taken liberties with her swollen throat. She never heard the children or the scars the tires left. Neighbours flee the sandlot where weeds dream of lesser nights.

For a few weeks, at the very least, the coffee halted ages pen. Long lines of memories grafted to his face. With all remorse and longing, trips up the stairs calling- ‘You are not what I meant. I am not the artist. I need you. Dig my ditch. Etch the stone. Sing the song. Light up my life.’

He left the attic empty, feeding on the dust. He spends the nights alone these days and sleeps beneath the cellar.

They never found the body but the laughter lingers on.

From "Harbinger of Evil" by Meb Bryant

HARBINGER OF EVIL (mystery thriller)In 1963, Detective Richard Mobey is interviewing the prime suspect, Hattie Lee, in the French Quarter...  
“Again, please state your name.”

“Hattie Lee. Don’t I have the right to an attorney?”

“What the hell for? Nobody has charged you with anything. Even if we did, why would you need an attorney for questioning?”

“In case you haven’t noticed, I’m black,” she said.

“In case you haven’t noticed, I’m white. So what?”

“I won’t get a fair trial.”

“Lady Justice is blind.”

Hattie fumed, “She’s not blind; she’s blindfolded. Either she’s peeking or she can smell money a mile away.”

“Don’t worry, you’ve got the right to a fair trial, if it comes to that.”

“The criminal justice system favors rich white people over poor minorities.”

“Why don’t you stop being prissy and cooperate?” Mobey reproached. This interview had the potential to become antagonistic. Hopefully, it wouldn’t; he never liked to browbeat a woman.

“For the record, isn’t your name Hattie Lee Jackson?” he asked with pronounced patience.

“Jackson was on my birth certificate. When I turned eighteen, I had my name legally changed and dropped Jackson.”


“Maybe I don’t want the same name as a tourist attraction.”

“Jackson Square?”


“It’s also the name of a past president.”

“Do I look like a past president?”

From "In Space No One Can Hear You Rock!" by Jonathan Davison

In Space No One Can Hear You Rock!As the galaxy looks on with anticipation, Johnny delivers a message to the people of the alliance in a language that is universal and compelling...

Beginning slowly and carefully, I was sure to use long, wavering notes. I closed my eyes and allowed my feelings to commandeer my conscious mind. Without effort of thought, my fingers found their own paths up and down the fretboard. They explored every fret, lovingly caressing the grain of the wood beneath. As the emotions of the last few years of my life were channelled through to my finger tips, unexpected tangents were taken, the tired old stock licks were abandoned in favour of new and exotic phrasing. The death of my father, Marty's humiliation and demise, the support I received from Bryony and of course her touch, her smell, her spirit. All of these things welled up inside of me and manifested themselves into the most organic, flawed but perfect melody I had ever conceived. As the intensity of my music created a kind of feedback loop on its own emotion, the singing, howling, wailing notes began to bore deep into the psyche of all those who listened. I did not need to speak my pain to be understood, billions of listeners across the vacuous expanse of space could feel every iota of anxiety, excitement and tenderness that I had experienced in my short life.