Shifting Gears

Hey there, everybody, glad to have you back. Apologies for last week, it was a rough one, and I was ready to collapse from exhaustion by the end of it. Literally – Friday afternoon I was having trouble holding it together and at one point just stared at my desk with my head in my hands, my head pounding, gut churning. Blame poor sleep. And this won’t be as long as my usual entry, either, as this week has been just as crazy and when I get home I just want to veg out, BUT I wasn’t about to leave this empty for another week, either. I am putting those days behind me.

And the events in the wider world have not helped. Not getting on the soapbox this week (I have Twitter and Facebook for that), but let’s just say I’m feeling particularly discouraged with where we’re headed. That’s all.-

Apologies if I repeat myself here, but I don’t have the time to go back and read my last complete post. I managed to power through a good portion of Elkmont last week, but also realized that it’s going to take some time to develop. I think there’s a kernel of something good there, but I’m going to have to reconfigure a lot in the outline drafting process. I’m not even through the treatment yet. It’s a more complex story than In the Pines or the other book that I’m working on, so I’m thinking of putting it on the backburner while I develop the next book. But we’ll get there. First, to talk about In the Pines.

I picked it up…well, TRIED to pick it up last Friday, but fate kind of intervened with too much work and exhaustion. So I let it sleep a few more days before getting back to it Monday. I think I’ve said before that the early chapters are pretty good as planned, so it’s just a matter of drafting. I was a little tentative going into the drafting portions, but it didn’t take long to get a feel for the characters and motivations and such. I’ve decided I’m not going to write this book in an entirely linear fashion, at least in the first draft; I am going to set a word quota for each chapter for each pass through, and pick bits and pieces of scenes to write the high-level draft. In other words, for one chapter I may write a portion of a confrontation in a gas station; for the next, I may write a quiet moment in the woods. What I’m trying to focus on is consistency of tone and theme between those portions that I write. There may be something important that comes up in that gas station confrontation that then comes back into play in the woods; rather than force myself to go back and remember what I was thinking, the idea is to follow the thread through the chapters. That can better inform the characters’ emotions and feelings, I think. I don’t know, it’s an experiment, but it feels better than my previous process so far.

I’m about six chapters in (out of seventeen), and the vast majority of what’s left will be revising the plot outline material. But I’ll also be writing little snippets of dialogue and narrative here and there so I have a thread to revisit during the next phase. Eventually I want to “kick away” the outline portions and leave just the narrative in place. I’ll post some examples of that when I get to that stage.

So moving on to the next bit: the Hauntworld sequel, which will not be known as such. I’m envisioning more of a series, with Zoe (this name seems to be sticking) at the center of the series and her mentor, Kevin Rook, working for her. Some things have changed since I wrote about this two weeks; Zoe is now multi-racial, the daughter of a white English seer who worked with Rook on the Imago case back in the late 90s (though Rook doesn’t know this until halfway through the interview) and a South African woman who serves as an ambassador to England. It’s introduced some great dynamics between Rook and Zoe, who have, in my opinion, fantastic chemistry and are a blast to write. And no, there’s not going to be any creepy relationship stuff between the two of them, nor is there any paternalistic factor to it, as Zoe’s father is quite alive and influential in her life. It’s a great opportunity to explore a pure mentorship relationship. They’re oil and water on social issues, but they develop a respect for one another as the story evolves. I’m having a lot of fun writing them and definitely see potential for that long-term series. I already have ideas for two more cases for Zoe to tackle after the first book, so at least a trilogy, but who knows how far it could go. The goal is to make the stories light-hearted and breezy, but with horror and supernatural elements. I really think it’s going to leapfrog Elkmont as the next book after In the Pines.

So that’s my report for this week. No really exciting photos to share at the moment, as I just don’t have the time for that; told you there’d be a sacrifice somewhere, and that’s going to have to be it. See you next week.

Sunday Fiction: Open Slay Part 4 (The Finale)

Open Slay

And so we have the final entry of Open Slay. Have a happy holidays, everyone! See you soon.

Oh, click here for Part 3.

Hearts Wires

Jen watched Bill’s body jerk on the claws, reveling in the savage satisfaction that glowed within her. She couldn’t think of a more deserving end for the bastard. How many nights had she endured of the pig writhing over her, snorting out his perverse sentiments? Too many, and she was glad to see their end when the beast jerked its hand, its claw no doubt bursting Bill’s black heart.

She thought it might have been appropriate for the beast to give out a bloody roar now in celebration of its savage victory over the man, but it remained silent, studying Bill’s dead body. Goosebumps rose on Jen’s body as it lifted Bill’s body a bit more and then flung him against the far wall. The heavy man rattled the walls, knocking a few pictures to the floor.

Now the beast raised its head and turned, setting  its gaze on her. She controlled the situation, but still it unnerved her, adding a quivering stomach to shaking hands.

She remembered her grandfather’s advice: Stand your ground. No matter what, stand your ground. It must know who’s in charge.

She touched the charm and shook her head, but the beast didn’t seem to understand. It took two steps forward, its claws dragging the floor, making a horrendous noise.

Stay calm, her grandfather said in her head.

Far easier to hear than to do, but she extended the charm toward it with a trembling hand. “No. You can’t harm me, great-grandpa.”

That stopped the beast in its tracks. It cocked its head, studying her as it had studied Bill’s corpse.

She nodded, chancing a step toward the thing. “That’s right. Gustav. You remember Gustav, your only son?”

It considered a moment longer and then nodded.

“He was my granddad. He told me all about you. He told me about this,” she said, and nodded toward the charm. Continue reading

Fiction Friday: Open Slay Part 3

Okay so here’s how we’re doing this: I have two parts to post and I want them both up before Christmas. I had originally planned to just combine them into one part, but I don’t think that’s going to be possible with my current schedule. So today I’m posting Part 3, and Part 4 will come either tomorrow or Sunday. Let’s get this thing out the door! I’m also going to have a mini-giveaway on Sunday, so keep your eyes open for that. For those who might not be back until after the holidays: have a happy one, from us to you. You helped us give close to $200 to the Capital Area Food Bank, and it means a lot. Now, on with the show…

Oh, and click here to read Part 2.

Bill couldn’t – wouldn’t – believe what he saw when he opened the cabin door. Ally’s initial screams, even muffled though the cabin walls, had shaken him to the core. His hand shook and his stomach rebelled as he turned the doorknob. What he saw on the other side of the threshold, though, that hit him fast and hard. He heard himself shouting (though not a scream, he would never do something so histrionic as a scream) out as the snowy thing lifted the axe above Ally.

She’ll be all right. She always gets out of things like this, he thought. She would get out of the way just in time, and run back to the cabin, just as he yelled for her to do.

No miraculous save this time. No last-minute intervention. Nothing but the ax completing its horrifying arc, burying itself square in the center of Ally’s beautiful face with a thick, sickening schwack.

This time, he might have screamed. He couldn’t be certain of much once she had fallen backwards into the snow. He wanted to run for her and destroy whatever that thing might be, but Jen held him back.

“You can’t help her now. You’ll just get killed,” she whispered.

He knew this to be the truth, but how. How could he let that pass without doing something? He found a certain sick fascination in observing this: though his intellect knew that he could do nothing, his emotions insisted that she could still be saved, if only he…

The thing pulled the axe from Ally’s forehead and swung again, this time separating her head from her body in one clean swing.

There could be no other word for it: Bill shrieked and did the only thing that he could think to do, slamming the cabin door and throwing his weight against it as he stared into Jen’s steady eyes.

She’s taking this remarkably well, he thought, moments before something heavy threw itself into the door, jolting his body.

“Help me!” he cried out, reaching for her.

She shrugged, her eyes wide. . “What am I supposed to do?”

He waved his hand toward the table. “Get a chair or something. We can stick it under the handle.”

She moved, though not as quickly as he would have liked, strolling from her spot near him toward the table.

Another blow and the door shivered in its frame; he felt the contents of his stomach quivering with the shot.  “This is not good, this is not good,” he muttered, over and over.

If Jen heard him, she didn’t indicate it. She was in a world of her own as she chose one of the old wooden chairs and dragged it across the floor.

“What are you, in slow motion? Come on,” he said, and ripped it from her hands.

Her best response was, “Sorry.” She backed away, playing with the charm on her necklace, watching him as the door buckled for a moment and he did all that he could to close it again.

With the beast repelled for a short moment, he whirled, cramming the chair under the knob. He’d only seen this done in TV shows and movies and knew well the line between fiction and reality, but it had to work. The basic physics of it made sense.

He backed away from the door, wiping his hands on his pants. The chair seemed so flimsy compared to that…

Whatever that is. Whoever that is. Because it can’t be what I thought I saw. That’s impossible.

A new blow rattled not just the door but the wall itself. He swore that the wall bowed as he watched it, giving three times as the beast beat against the door.

At last, when he had become sure that the wall couldn’t possibly hold up to the beast’s ferocious attacks, that the whole side of the cabin would cave in, allowing the beast to waltz in and feast on their blood, the blows stopped.

They stopped, and the beast went silent.

He and Jen stood frozen for a long time, waiting for the next blow, but it never came.  Soon the only sound from outside was a gust of wind, rattling the eaves as it blasted toward the roof.

He chuckled and patted his shaking hands together. “There. That’ll show…”

A thump silenced him. They turned toward the source of the noise to discover a thick layer of snow at the bottom of the fireplace. The wind must have dislodged it from above, spilling it down the chimney and snuffing out the fire that they had built.

You wish that’s what happened, he thought.

His heartbeat strengthened in the back of his throat. He backed away from the fireplace, glancing at Jen. “That didn’t just happen.”

She walked toward the fireplace and knelt down, running a finger through the melting snow. She nodded and turned toward him, extending a finger loaded with snow. “Sure looks like it did, honey.”

Again he noticed her overwhelming sense of calmness. Even accounting for shock, he couldn’t understand her reaction. “Get away from it,” he said.

She shrugged and stood up, raising her eyebrows. “Okay, but I don’t think it can –”

The fireplace exploded with the wind that they had heard passing over the roof.

Of course. The bastard didn’t give up. He found another way.

This, too, coiled in his brain in the most logical of fashions; he watched himself backing away as if from a long distance. More snow blew down through the chimney and out into the room, piling itself on the edge of the hearth.  Jen backed away slowly, retreating to the far wall, well away from Bill.

He whipped his head around, his mind grasping for a weapon that would stop this beast in its tracks. It had to be impossible. How could you fight something made of pure snow?

The snow began to coalesce, going from amorphous blob to familiar patterns – an arm here, a leg there. He knew that it would be complete soon, and ready to kill them both. He had to do something.

He tried to get Jen’s attention, but she had become focused on the monster, rubbing that god-awful charm between her hands, muttering something under her breath. He shouted her name, but it disappeared into the roar of the coalescing beast.

He hated to do it, but she would have to take care of herself for now. God knows he had tried to get her away from the thing.

Now defense – how…

His eyes fell on a can of WD40 that sat, neglected, in the far corner of the cabin. He hadn’t run at full speed for close to ten years, but he did it now, practically sliding as he reached down for the  WD40 can, narrowly avoiding the beast’s swinging fist, which smashed into the mirror on the wall.

The mirror made a horrible crashing sound, falling into a thousand pieces that scattered across the floor. It confounded the thing for a few moments, giving Bill time to sweep his Zippo from the dining room table.

He whirled, turning the can and lighter on the monster. He pressed the trigger on the canister and snapped the Zippo’s wheel, gasping as an arc of flame spread out ahead of him, touching the beast in several places. It coated the snow, setting the beast alight where-ever it touched.

The beast remained utterly silent as the flames ate away its white flesh; Bill thought this might be the most unsettling thing about the whole experience, as if it were nothing more than a killing machine, refusing to slow or swerve from its purpose. It didn’t even flail as the flames consumed it. It continued to come at Bill, its strides a study in single-minded, deadly focus. Bill staggered backward, but he kept his finger on the trigger. He knew it meant the difference between life and death.

He gave a whoop of victory as the flames spread to the beast’s legs, halting its steady forward progress. Bill had only to take one step, then another, to avoid it. At last it stopped altogether, trying to hold its form. Its dying body extinguished the remaining flames, but by then the melting had progressed too far for the beast to pull its body back together.

Laughing, Bill turned off the makeshift blowtorch and kicked the beast in its soft head, sending snow, ice, and water skittering across the floor. Frenzied with power, he stomped his foot on the remains until nothing remained but a small pond of water in the middle of the floor.

When he had finished, he threw his head back, pushing his hair back on his skull with one hand. He winked at Jen. “That, my dear, is how you do it. That’s a man at work.”

Jen said nothing; she simply circled the puddle, rubbing her charm, her eyes staring at nothing and everything at once.

“Well aren’t you going to thank me?” he said.

She remained silent.

How dare she rob him of this triumph? The feeling had already begun to slip away, , replaced by a sick, shaky feeling. This was no joke. This…thing…had killed the woman he really loved. They would never get back together. There would be no happy ending for them.

He opened his mouth to speak, though he had no idea what he would say. Would he accuse her? Would he apologize?

It didn’t matter, for the words died when he noticed something at his feet. He recoiled, throwing his hands over his face.

It was the puddle; it had begun to quiver, slowly at first, but becoming more energetic by the second.

No, that’s impossible, he thought, and found the thought immediately fascinating. Even after all he’d seen he still believed this to be impossible. He would have chuckled had his stomach not been consumed by a gnawing sense of dread.

As he took a step away from the puddle, the chair beneath the door knob fell to the floor with a loud thump. The front door burst open, bringing with it a fierce, roaring wind that rose from nowhere and blasted through the cabin, cutting through his exposed flesh.

He watched in horror as the puddle rippled, catching the wind. It began to crack, the telltale sounds of freezing water. Within moments the water began to climb upwards over itself, rising in columns that resembled the beast’s legs. As the water climbed, so it froze; one moment its legs were water, the next solid, translucent ice. Then followed the beast’s abdomen, climbing upward toward its head and outward to its arms.

My God.

The beast – now made of solid ice – rose before him, extending its right arm as it solidified. That arm lengthened, growing into an angular hand with fingers that continued to extend, forming foot-long icicles that resembled razor claws.

Bill made a sound in the back of his throat, stumbling backwards. He thought he would fall on his ass, but he never got the chance. Instead, pain seared through his body as the ice beast thrust its arm forward. He looked down, his mouth spreading in dismay and disbelief. The beast had skewered him, its ice claws cutting through his upper belly and into his chest cavity; he could feel the cold, sharp things moving in there.

He tried to speak, but it must have pierced one of his lungs. He could do nothing but flap his lips. He knew that shock must be setting in, but he couldn’t do anything about it.

The beast grinned at him with its insane face and made another snapping motion.

Bill’s world went dark.


Click here for the chilling conclusion!

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Wednesday Fiction – Open Slay, Part 1: The Beast

Welcome back to Wednesday Fiction, folks! As promised, I’m ready to continue this ongoing fiction experiment. The new series, Open Slay, is designed to be delightfully cheesy B-movie schlock (is there any other kind), so don’t go into this expecting any sort of highbrow art. The concept itself is silly enough, so I felt that trying to carry out a “serious” take would just undermine the whole endeavor. Besides, I’ve loved cheesy horror anthologies ever since I was very young, cutting my teeth on The Twilight Zone and the Outer Limits and numerous comic horror anthologies. I wanted to write one of those stories, and…well, last week when we had breakfast at Cracker Barrel I saw a completely demented looking snowman. Thus was born Open Slay…

Todd Bell stepped away from his snowman, putting his hands on his hips as he admired his precise handiwork. The snowman proved that he deserved better than spending Christmas weekend banished to a remote cabin in the Poconos.   He should be sipping nice claret in a warm, dry studio, not standing shin-deep in the snow, his shoes covered in ridiculous plastic bags.

He promised that he would address the issue with Ally that very night. No matter how great a lover the girl might be, she was not worth the misery of this filth.

He sighed. Still, you must do what you can with what you’re given, he thought. He thought this to be the motto of a true artist; no, a creative force. A craftsman.

Critics had hailed Todd’s paintings as – dare he think it – genius, possessed of a dramatic flair natural for the Daniel Reich gallery. He had deliberately cultivated the shocking, bloody style, as one did not see it in many other Village artists. He felt he could have carved or thrown clay. The medium didn’t matter, his dedication to excellence mattered.

And you have certainly outdone yourself this time. He smirked. He had granted The Beast (as he had christened the snowman) a strange smile, crooked and a bit deranged, promising something far worse than holiday cheer.

I have to make sure that asshole Bailey sees this thing, Todd thought. Andrew Bailey. Voice art critic and bane of Todd’s existence, the troll of a man had appeared in several of Todd’s paintings now, first as a victim of a brutal back alley mugging and most recently as the disgustingly obese victim of a murderous wife.

This, though? This might well be the best likeness yet.. Todd had decided that The Beast’s mouth – as a central feature to Bailey’s ugly maw – would have to be its most important feature. Simple stones would never have done justice to the thing, so he had used a simple spoon to carve the teeth from the snow, ensuring that they came out pointy and jagged, in the same fashion as the snaggle-toothed critic. The eyes had been a simpler matter. He had rendered these as large, rounded things that regarded the world with a perpetual hunger. Todd’s point of pride, however, had to be The Beast’s limbs.  The lack of articulation had always been his objection to the snowmen that his friends had created as a child. Today, he had kicked them in the back of the head, fashioning The Beast’s legs into thick trunks that supported its barrel body.

Snickering, Todd whipped out his iPhone to snap a picture. He may not have been able to get a signal in this godforsaken asshole of the world, but he could still ensure that the world saw his genius, Instagrammed, the moment that he got 4G reception. Continue reading

Wednesday Fiction: Abby the Hero Part 4

Welcome back to Abby the Hero.

I had originally intended to end the story here – four parts, that seemed to be more than enough time to share Abby’s story. The thing is, stories often have minds of their own, and protagonists minds of their own. Combine the two and you encounter a scenario that you never quite counted on. It’s a pleasant occurrence when it does happen, but you never really know how to plan for it.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

So here we are. Obviously, this is something of a flashback-via-video-recording. I think flashbacks in short stories can be a fine line to tread – you’re already trying to only fit the relevant information in, so you’d better make damn sure that the information you’re sharing is relevant. Thankfully, this time the trail of breadcrumbs for this particular story leads here, and the trail continues on past the flashback and into the present, where Abby gets her last revelation in Part 5.

Apologies for the length on this one; believe it or not, this is a slightly abbreviated version. There’s just too much to tell in this flashback, and I’ve sliced it as thin to the bone as I dare without compromising the vision. As usual, the full version will be presented sometime in the near future.

You can read Part One here, Part Two here, and Part Three here.

On with the tale…


Abby had not been a child of the Cold War; in fact, the concept had been dead for close to a decade by the time she joined the world, but she had read enough books and seen enough videos to understand what rocketed into the sky before her. One movie in particular jumped out at her now. She had stumbled across it late one night on YouTube and hadn’t been able to click away, fascinated by people going about their lives right at the end of the world. The people in that movie had seen missiles fly into the air just like the ones that rose into the sky before her (okay, not exactly like this, she thought, the effects had been really cheesy). They’d said it could only mean one thing: the Russians would fire back.

Abby racked her brain. This couldn’t be the Russians, would it? She wished she had paid more attention to the news videos online; she had seen something about a crisis in the Middle East, but ignored it. Didn’t they always have some sort of crisis going on?

So, no, maybe not the Russians, but she sure as hell didn’t count on those missiles going out without something coming back. Something very, very nasty.

Daniel spoke up in her ear, and she came back to the moment. “Abby, you still there? You shouldn’t ought to talk like that – “

Abby seized the camera from its position on the fallen log and lifted it toward the sky, following the missiles’ arc. “You see that?”

“I see it. What is it, though?”

She tucked the camera under her arm and ran for her scooter. “It’s the end of the world, Daniel. You run and tell mom and dad, tell them what you saw, tell them that they fired the missiles and you all need to get into the cellar as soon as you can.”

Daniel went quiet for a few seconds, and when he spoke again, his voice cracked. It couldn’t be easy for the 11-year-old. “What about you?”

She stowed the camera in a leather bag on the back of the scooter and pulled the helmet off of the handlebars. “I’ve got my scooter. I’ll worry about me, you worry about the family, okay? I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

Scrabbling sounds came from the other end of the phone; no doubt Daniel getting up from the computer and heading for the cellar door. “I wanna keep you on the phone, is that all right?” he said.

She turned the ignition key. “You know I can’t talk and ride. You just go on ahead and get everybody. I’ll be there as soon as I can. Isn’t more than a five-minute drive.”

“Okay,” Daniel said, panic and terror palpable in his voice.

She wished she could be there to comfort him. “It’ll be okay.”

“Okay,” he repeated, and the line went dead.

She stowed the phone in her pocket, kicking out the kickstand. She leaned forward and squeezed the throttle, willing her little red scooter to pull from its reserves, going as fast as it possibly could. The machine topped out around 30 MPH, and she knew she’d need every bit of it to get back home as quickly as she could.

The dirt road that took her out of the countryside jolted the scooter, nearly throwing her a few times, but she held as steady as she could, relying on the skills that she’d honed over years of driving her father’s ATV over these same back roads.

The road wound downward toward the valley between this ridge and the one where her family lived, the curves adding an extra layer of difficulty to her flight. On a normal day she wouldn’t exceed 15 MPH on these roads, but the imminent threat of destruction pushed her forward, commanded her to go faster, to keep it steady and handle it as well as she could.

After what seemed an eternity, she reached the bottom of the dirt road, the scooter jolting as it hit the pavement that intersected the dirt road. She eased off of the speed, allowing her just enough time to wrench the scooter to the left, onto the open paved road. Once she’d straightened, she opened the throttle up again, her eyes trained on the dissipating vapor trails in the sky.

She felt the phone vibrating in her pocket. She tried to ignore it – desperately wanted to ignore it. She lowered her head and focused only on the road, counting off the moments in her head, but each vibration against her hip shook her soul. What if Daniel hadn’t gotten the family down below? What if he’d frozen up?

Sighing, she took her right hand from the handlebar, sliding the phone from her pocket. Continue reading

Recharging the Batteries with a Trip to the Dark Side

Everybody, you ready for another week? Ready to paint that smile on your face and press forward valiantly  I’m not sure that I am, but as usual lots of coffee and writing should get me through in a semblance of sanity. Let us pray that it works.

Now, I typically don’t talk too much about my weekend, or even day-to-day, activities on this blog. It’s hard to cite any one reason for my reticence. I guess I just don’t feel that many of those activities relate to the goals of this site, save for my writing and writing-related activities, and I mean, what am I going to do, update you on my daily word count? Nah. I don’t roll like that. I do enjoy telling you good folks about the development of my works, but even that can get tedious after awhile.

But hey, I’m lucky this week, and very happy to share something of my weekend with you folks. You see, this past weekend the wife and I attended first the Cox Farms Fall Festival, and then something called the Fields of Fear. Given the connection to horror and to the sorts of things that inspire my writing, I felt there was some relevance to offer to you, the reader. And if it’s not relevant, at least you can enjoy the pretty pictures.

So let’s be clear on one thing: I love Autumn. Seriously. My love of the season dates way back to at least age nine or ten. Back then I loved creeping around the deserted streets of my small hometown, watching the place settle down as the sun first set and then night fell. I thrilled to the sound of the wind through the skeletal branches that towered over me. I loved the aching feeling that I got in my bones when I saw nice warm lights in houses. It was desolation, but a nice sort of desolation.

It’s become very important for me to celebrate the arrival of Autumn and Halloween; every year I try to find some way to mark the passage of time, as my thoughts increasingly turn to my own mortality and the idea that I have one less Autumn remaining in my lifetime. Sure, that sounds morbid, but it reminds me of just how important it is to relish these things and celebrate them. It helps me to understand the root of the Halloween celebration.

This trip has become one of our shared traditions, and we both relish it. Thus, I feel fortunate to share some of it with you.

Let’s start by talking about the Fall Festival. This is, essentially, the more family-friendly, child-friendly version of Fields of Fear. We’re talking farm animals, lots of talk about what goes on down on the farm, hayrides, and…well, I’ll let some of the pictures talk for themselves.

The trip had an inauspicious start, as I first forgot to dig out the directions and then compounded the problem by not accepting the wife’s offer to print directions (male pride, hoooo). The real coup de grace on my dignity, however, happened when the GPS on both of our phones crapped out. So there we are in the sticks of Virginia, trying to find this place and knowing that they would stop allowing new visitors through the gates in the next 20 minutes. Moods were not exactly high, but I managed to stumble upon the right path, and we arrived with minutes to spare.

Hey, this guy was happy to see us.

We both really enjoy the day-time version of the festival – it’s “soft”, yes, but it has an enjoyably cheesy quality to it. And I mean, hell, who doesn’t want to see fluffy ducks and baby pigs? I don’t want to meet the person that doesn’t enjoy that sort of thing.

And I mean that.

Continue reading

Wednesday Fiction: Abby the Hero Part 2

Welcome back to Abby the Hero. Last time (click that for Part 1) I essentially said that I want to understand the reasons that we hide things away from ourselves and what sort of events spur us on to the revelation, showing us those items that we’ve hidden in plain sight. I suspect I will eventually move on from gnawing on this particular bone, but it seems to be the cause du jour, and I’m riding the muse all the way to the end of the line.

You’ll likely notice a few similarities to I Was Born for the Stage: a young woman in peril. A mysterious building. A force driving her forward. Abby, however, is a few years older, and has a bit more agency to resist those forces. Her internal monologue and language palette tends to the melodramatic (part and parcel of the teen years). But she’s finding her way in the world and stumbling upon some hidden truths about herself, where Elsbeth’s discoveries had more to do with the external world.

I didn’t plan it this way, but I see a developing internal narrative to where this is all going, and I suspect Abby is the end state, which is why I feel compelled to say a bit more about it.

You can read Part One here.

On with the tale…

A comforting sense of familiarity washed over Abby as she ascended the stairs. It had to be the first positive emotion that she had felt in the place, and it threw her off even more than the oppression and sadness that had been hammering her over the head. She paused, running a hand over the banister. She couldn’t say exactly why the polished wood felt so utterly familiar under her skin. Had she been here before?

That’s impossible. You’d remember a place like this, no doubt.

Her mind told her that, but her emotions didn’t feel so sure. After some time she gave up on figuring it out. Maybe this place wasn’t meant to be solved. She pushed herself toward the landing again, taking one stair at a time. As she neared the top a pair of phantom voices spoke up, their echoes betraying their unearthly nature.

“You always get to go first.”

“That’s ‘cause I’m the best.”

Abby’s stomach wrenched and a wave of déjà vu overcame her, threatening to wash away all consciousness. Here it was at last, the thing that she had secretly wished to see, and her body reacted with nausea and an intense desire to run away.

Well, fuck that, she thought, and climbed the remaining few stairs two at a time. When she reached the top she stopped and turned toward the source of the voices, somewhere off to her right.

After a moment of silence a pair of ghostly images appeared through the door at the end of the hall. They raced toward her, insubstantial but clear enough to make out a haze of features on each face. She fought the nausea down, summoning the presence of mind to pull Trudy from her case. She raised the camera, spotted the ghostly images on its tiny screen, and snapped just as they reached her, rushing through her body in a tide that made her entire body tingle.

She stood still, letting the sensation wash over her and fade before she dared to look at the image she had captured. Continue reading

Wednesday Fiction: Abby the Hero Part 1

Welcome to the new Wednesday Fiction series, Abby the Hero. I feel a few words are due before we dig into this one. I began the Wednesday Fiction series for two purposes: one, to give my fiction readers something more to read in between my releases and two, to experiment with genres, ideas, characters, and plots. This is why the stories have bounced between topics and genres so wildly. In the process of digging these stories out of my subconscious, I’ve discovered a few things: I’m more comfortable writing with a female protagonist for whatever reason (I suspect because my earliest stories featured them – 24 years of habit can really wear a groove into the mind), I’m fascinated with undiscovered and hidden things that most people might not notice, and that, at present, I’m fascinated with the dichotomy between what someone believes themselves to be and what they actually are.

I’ll talk some more about this with the next entry. For now, enjoy the story.

The sun had just begun its descent over the sea when Abby arrived at the house on the ridge. A seasoned urban explorer at all of 16 years old, she knew that exploring this house at twilight might not be the smartest (or safest) idea, but…

Calculated risk, she thought. A calculated risk with potentially enormous emotional payoff. Something in her soul, the same part that drew her to these abandoned places, insisted on seeing destitution in this light. Like it or not, this house practically breathed the dark smoke of the road poet, and her emotions responded in kind. Continue reading

The Next Big Thing – Week 12: Room 3

Well, well! The ever-awesome Kim Koning offered to include me in the Next Big Thing, and how the hell could I say no? Answer: I couldn’t…not say no. Well, whatever. You know what I mean. Here, have Kim’s own answers to this thing – I suddenly want to read her work in progress!
Now, like all such memes, I’ve tried to track down the original source of this one, but as you can imagine, finding the Next Big Thing in the sea that is Google has proved nearly fruitless.  I do emphasize “nearly”, however, because as best as I can tell, author Karina Harris started this thing. I’d be happy to be corrected on this. Always credit where credit is due.
I’m actually very excited to participate in this. As Kim pointed out, most authors are more than happy to talk about their story and characters and hell, the timing couldn’t be more perfect to give you more information about my forthcoming novel, Room 3. That said, let’s look at ye olde questions…
Ten Interview Questions for The Next Big Thing:
What is the working title of your book?
Room 3. Its original working title was Entanglements, as the book’s intent is examining how our lives end up wrapped together.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
The original concept (woman is kidnapped by strange organization and subjected to experiments that she doesn’t understand) came from the film Videodrome; in that film, an organization is putting out videos that manipulate the mind as part of its agenda to reshape society. Entanglements originally included a parallel story of two average joes who stumbled across this woman – Carla – and her website. She had been creating this website on a cellphone that had no signal but could pick up a wifi from next door. That idea stretched credulity, and I could never quite get things to work together. The current – and final – incarnation is an almagam of ideas that presented themselves along the road to publication. Continue reading

I Gave a Speech: A Brief History of Me

I recently joined Toastmasters, as they opened a chapter at work and encouraged us to join for a pretty decent discount. My ears perked up when I heard about it because I’ve been looking to sharpen my public speaking skills and just get used to the concept for when I finally get around to doing some readings. Our first meeting was last month, and I decided to participate but not speak. Once I had a sense of the format, I jumped right in, volunteering to speak. Yesterday I finally gave my first speech and thought I’d share it with you.

You can click here to listen to an audio version; the text of this speech is below. Apologies for any issues with the sound levels. I need to get that reverb under control.


Good afternoon everybody. I’m excited to get the chance to speak to you and share some of my experiences outside of work, since I apparently come across as a quiet guy while I’m here. Don’t let appearances fool you, though! Ask my wife, family, and friends. They’ll let you know all about how much I can talk. I just have a pretty strong wall between my personal and professional life that probably needs to come down a bit, and this is my way of doing it. Continue reading