Friday, March 20, 2015

"Lightning Draw" by Annie Turner (Novelette)

Genre:  Western

Type of Short Story:  Novelette

Summary:  Book 3 of the Zachary Davis Series
The demands of being a Texas Ranger have taken their toll on Zach Davis. Worried he might be losing his edge, he works on tracking down a dangerous gunman in an effort to prove he still has what it takes.


Zach lurched awake with a start. He glanced down and saw that he held his pistol in his hand, cocked and ready for action. He had grabbed the weapon from the dead of sleep as naturally as he would take a breath. His instinctual reaction had managed to save his life on numerous occasions.

The deep purple of dawn was only now starting to reveal itself. Zach glanced to the left and right in tense, alert movements, trying to discern what it was that had startled him.

His brown stallion was grazing about ten yards away. Zach trusted the horse more than most people. The animal normally had flawless instincts when it came to detecting danger. And yet… the horse seemed unperturbed.

A bad dream?

It made sense to Zach that he had woken up from nightmares. His mind had been unsettled for weeks now.

No… it wasn’t a dream. Something’s wrong…

It wasn’t a sound he heard; else the horse would have his ears pricked. It was more a gut feeling, a sense of lurking danger.

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Friday, March 6, 2015

"Wanderlust Creek and Other Stories" by Elisabeth Grace Foley (Short Stories)

Genre:  Western

Type of Short Story:  Short Story Collection

Summary:  From the author of The Ranch Next Door and Other Stories come six more short stories exploring the joys, heartaches and laughter of life against the backdrop of the Old West. In “Single-Handed,” a gunfighter’s courage comes in doubt when he refuses to explain to his friends the real reason he backed down from a fight. The capable proprietress of the busiest eating-house in town handles a day of disasters large and small in the light-hearted “The Rush at Mattie Arnold’s,” while in “Room Service,” a hotel night clerk finds himself in on odd position after he allows an exhausted traveler to stay in a reserved room. And in the title story, the novella-length “Wanderlust Creek,” a young rancher and his wife struggle to hold onto their land and their dreams in the face of adversity from weather, enemies—and even doubts of each other.


(from “Wanderlust Creek”)

He reached up toward the reins with his other hand and his hard fingers closed round her wrist. Gloria had not expected it and could not use her quirt, which had slipped down and tangled around her other wrist. The bay horse slewed around sideways in displeasure at the pull on its mouth, but she could not twist her hand free. “Don’t touch me!” she said, a little breathless, hoping her anger concealed a sudden touch of panic.

The younger man put in, though doubtfully, “Hey, do you think—”

A rifle shot cracked and a bullet kicked up the sod a foot behind the other man’s riderless horse. All three horses shied violently; the man on the ground lost his hold on Gloria’s wrist and stumbled as the bay pulled away, and swore as he turned round angrily to look for the source of the shot. Relief leaped through Gloria as she steadied her spooked horse. Ray!

Ray Collins emerged on foot from the brush bordering the meadow, a little to the rear of the scene and closer than any of them had realized, a Winchester in the crook of his arm. In a few purposeful strides he crossed the intervening space and joined them, coming up alongside Gloria’s horse. He looked up at her, catching her eye for a second to see if she was all right, and then he spoke sharply to the men. “What do you think you’re doing here?”

“I been getting that question a lot lately,” said the man on foot, his face still dark with anger. “You crazy, shooting at us like that? What business you got doing it?”

“You’ve got no business at all trespassing on my land, or laying your hands on my wife,” said Ray. “Get out of here before I put another shot a lot closer to you.”

Here the younger rider, whose face at sight of Ray had registered first surprised recognition and then slight guilt, cut in. “Hey—Ray—”

Ray glanced at him, his own recognition failing to make any impression on his restrained anger. Chris Borden tried to smile uncomfortably. “Gosh, Ray, I didn’t expect to see you here,” he said. “I’m sorry about all this. I—I didn’t know she was your wife—”

“And if she’d been somebody else’s wife, it wouldn’t have mattered?” said Ray cuttingly. “Thanks a lot.”

His glance took in both of them. “You’d better ride out—now.”

With little else they could do, the two men complied. The one on foot gave Ray an ugly look, and glanced once more at Gloria before turning to his horse. “You’ll be sorry if you ever try something like that on me again,” he said to Ray, and then turned away.

As the men rode away across the meadow, Gloria turned her horse back in the direction from which she had come, towards home, and Ray fell in to walk beside her. His own horse waited in the brush from which he had fired. Gloria looked down sideways at him. She had learned to know his moods well enough in a year of marriage to tell that he was still simmering with anger, though outwardly contained. He ejected the spent shell from the Winchester and slung the gun under his other arm. The rifle shot had shaken Gloria a little, though she could not say it was a surprise. Ray’s patience had been short lately, for a number of good reasons.

He looked up at her again after a few minutes, and the expression in his eyes had nearly returned to normal. “Are you all right?” he said.

Gloria nodded. “I—I think they may have cut our fence.”
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Friday, February 20, 2015

“The Family Business” by Marina Finlayson (Short Story)

Genre: Humorous Fantasy

Type of Short Story:  Short Story

Renardo and his brothers are up to their eyeballs in debt, with one last chance to save their merchant business (and their gonads) from the moneylender. The great city of Tebos is holding its Festival of Song in three days’ time, and they have a wagonload of songbirds to sell.

There’s just one large, man-eating problem: the bored sphinx who guards the city’s gates, and her deadly riddle game. Renardo doesn’t even want to be a merchant, but somehow it falls to him to outwit the sphinx. No pressure. All he has to do is come up with an unanswerable riddle.


“I’m not asking riddles any more,” said the sphinx.

“Really?” The merchant raised his face from the dirt hopefully.

“Really.” The sphinx shifted her wings, which jiggled her bare breasts in a most interesting fashion. She saw the merchant’s gaze drift and frowned. “You shall ask them instead.”

The merchant’s eyes shot back to her face, alarmed. “Me?”

“All of you.” The sphinx’s nod took in the waiting caravans and the line of delegates behind her current victim, all toting their heavy riddle books under their arms. “Union regs only say I shall test each traveller and admit the worthy to the city. There’s no rule that says I have to ask the riddles. A person could get tired of creating riddles after a few centuries, you know.” She sniffed. “No one appreciates the work that goes into a good riddle.”

The merchant had too much on his mind to sympathise. Like just how big the sphinx was close up—bigger than a horse. Bigger than two horses, maybe. Not to mention the size of her teeth.

“Well?” said the sphinx, her snake-like tail twitching impatiently.

“Well what, your graciousness?”

“Are you going to ask me a riddle or shall I just eat you straight off?”

The merchant scrambled back in alarm. “Just a minute, your ladyship.”

He reached for his riddle book and she growled. “And that’s another thing. No more riddle books.”

“No more—?” The merchant cast an anguished glance at his well-thumbed copy of Riddle Me This. His father had presented it to him before his first journey to Tebos, and it had served him well ever since, though there had been that tense patch when the sphinx had decided that riddles were passé, and knock-knock jokes would introduce a little levity into the proceedings.

“Tick tick tick,” said the sphinx. “Time is money, you know.” She yawned, luscious, bee-stung lips pulling back to reveal wicked canines. Sweat sprang out on the merchant’s brow.

“Um …”

The sphinx flowed to her feet as the merchant hesitated. He scrambled backwards as she paced towards him, his eyes riveted on her face. “No, please. Just a minute, your magnificence. Mercy. Just—just—give me a second.”

His foot slipped and for a moment he windmilled on the edge of the precipice that looked down over Tebos. She waited, crouched down so they were nose to nose, till he stopped gasping.

“Lovely view,” he said with a sickly smile.

“The riddle, merchant.”

“What’s … what, um …” His brain had seized with terror. He rummaged desperately through the echoing spaces inside his skull for a riddle. Any riddle.

Buy this story on Amazon.  Find more of Marina’s work here.

Friday, February 13, 2015

"Choking Cupid" by Mira Day (Novelette)

Genre:  Chick Lit, Romance

Type of Short Story: Novelette

Summary:  Worst. Day. Ever.

At least for Summer Wilson. At 32 and single, she dreads Valentine's Day more than any other, and her hungry-for-grandchildren mother doesn't help matters.

When Summer's plans of wine, movies and ice cream with her best friend, Jessica, are ruined, Summer is forced to go on a blind date that would make any girl cringe. Pile on crabby customers and hotter-than-she remembers ex-boyfriends, all crowding into a local Asheville restaurant, and she can't imagine the day getting any worse.

In desperation, she turns to her new neighbor to help take her mind off her least favorite day, but even he might not be able to handle her aversion to Cupid.


“Don’t hate me.”

I read the text again, as I lock the café up for the day. After barricading myself in the office for a majority of the shift, I am more than ready to get out of there. Every time I ventured out into the dining room, someone on staff made a comment about me getting desperate or that I can only find guys at work. I brushed it off to not egg them on, but the bottle of wine at home is calling to me.

I hit the button to call Jessica. “Don’t hate me,” texts are never good.

“Ok, so really, don’t hate me.”

“What did you do, Jess?”

“How set are you on our plans?”

I walk down the icy hill to my car, glaring at the sidewalk. “You’re ruining them aren’t you?”

She giggles, “Actually, I may have just improved them. I met this super cute guy and he wants to take us out tonight. He has a friend for you.”

Jessica never finds the highest quality of guys. She usually falls for the first thing with biceps that pay her any attention, and trust me, they all pay her attention. Her bright blue eyes and red hair gives her the exotic, firecracker look the guys like to try and tame while her take-no-shit attitude keeps them begging for more.

I shake my head quickly, “No. No, no, no Jessica. Remember last time this happened? We met up with him and it turned out, he didn’t have a friend. And for whatever reason, we still ended up at home boy’s apartment. Oh, and let’s not forget the threesome he had planned.”

“It’s different this time. I actually met the friend. I promise.”

I climb in the car, allowing the phone to connect to the Bluetooth. Sitting back in my seat, I scowl at the dashboard. “What about the time the ‘friend’ was the guy’s sister. That was a fun night.”

“Geez, you’ll never let me forget that will you?”


“Come on, Summer. Do you know how long it’s been since I last had sex? I think I’m a virgin again. I need this.”

I make a face, “You don’t really expect me to believe that do you?”

“Oh yeah, it’s you who hasn’t had sex in forever!” She howls like a hyena at her own joke.

“You are such a bitch. Remind me why I’m friends with you?”

“Because you love me and I’m only looking out for your sexual well being. Now, go wash the café stink off you. I’ll be over in fifteen. Make sure to find something sexy, we’re going to Social Lounge tonight.”

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Friday, January 9, 2015

"Dead On The Floor" by Rocky Rochford (Short Story)

Genre:  Paranormal Thriller

Type of Short Story:  Short Story

Summary:  The beginning of the End starts now. For some of us, Life can be cruel, dealing us a losing hand and for Matthew Radley, a young Wiccan practitioner that is exactly what he got. After a lifetime of chaos, pain and losing himself, he finally got everything he wanted, the woman he loved, the future he desired and a reason to live, but in a single moment he lost it all. Unable to take the pain and no longer desire to live, Matthew takes the one thing he has left, his own life. For Matthew, his story has to end, in order for it to begin, his story has no happy ending, for his is a life of Love, Magick, Corruption, & Death and only asks for understanding.


How did it all go so wrong? I saw this coming and I still couldn’t change it! It still came to this! I failed. I had risked everything, and now I have nothing. Forgive me. With skin parted and veins severed, blood is quick to emerge and drip everywhere. Droplets of blood fall into the sink, and as a wide-eyed Matthew takes a step back, his blood now hits the ground. It is now that he sits himself down against the bath and accepts what is to come, bringing him to the here and now. “I should have known that it would be love that kills me.” He winces. “But what’s done is done.”

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Friday, January 2, 2015

"Biker Babe (Lady Godiva 1)" by April Ryder (Novelette)

Genre:  Contemporary Romance

Type of Short Story:  Novelette

Summary:  BBW Motorcycle Romance

What does a meek, plump housewife in sensible-heeled shoes do when stranded on a desolate highway after running away from home? She hitches a ride back to civilization with a hot biker, that's what! And so what if she has to stay overnight in a disgusting motel room that has half a mirror on the ceiling above the only bed? I'm an adult. I can handle it. I mean, she can!


The room was as bad as I had feared, with a dog-eared, tired look to it and the bed well used. I knew he was watching me from the door as I made my way across the small living slash bedroom and into the bathroom. A bathroom that proudly displayed its mould. I quickly left the cramped—and highly infections—little room to find him studying the ceiling above the lone bed. I shouldn’t have looked. Of course there was a mirror—well, half of one. My brain refused to speculate on what had happened to the missing half.

“It’ll do,” he said.

I stared at him wide-eyed. How could he think this flea-bag motel was an acceptable place to spend the night? No wonder they charged by the hour.

The corners of his dammed sexy mouth turned up. He was enjoying my discomfort. He probably a thought a woman like myself would complain, make demands that they upgrade, or refuse to stay in a place so…so disgusting. I kept my mouth shut. Of course I thought of saying all of the above, but I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of proving him right. I was lucky he had taken pity on me and picked me up in the first place. For that I was grateful. I glanced at the bed but quickly looked away. I wasn’t that grateful.

He nodded and opened the door. “I’ll be back.”

“Where are you going?” I asked, not liking how scared my voice sounded at the thought of being left alone.

He paused but didn’t look back. “I’ve business here.”

His words reminded me of my husband and I suddenly felt empty inside. “Of course you do,” I whispered. 

“I’ll be back with something to eat,” he said before the door clicked behind him.

He wasn’t abandoning me in this potentially roach-infested room, I told myself. I couldn’t expect him to put his life on hold to help me get back home. A home I had been running away from. If he hadn’t had business nearby, he wouldn’t have been there to rescue me. But rescue me from what? Being stranded on the highway, from my life or perhaps from myself.

I snorted. A crass sound I had never before made. This was getting me nowhere. I had to deal with the here and now, not worry about tomorrow. Right now I needed a shower, but before I could do that, I had to clean it.

The towels were mercifully clean. After standing in the claustrophobic shower and removing as much of the highway as I could, I towel-dried my hair. Of course there were blow dryers. Not for this ritzy place. After inspecting the bed for roaches, bed bugs and other greeblies, I had wrapped myself tightly in another towel and climbed in. My eyes must have been closed for longer than the few minutes I had thought, because when I next opened them the room was dark. The darkness didn’t scare me. The shadow looming over me did.

I screamed. How had he found me?
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Friday, December 26, 2014

Compromised (A Gene Bukowski Adventure Book 1)" by Piotr Mierzejewski (Novelette)

Genre:  Science Fiction Espionage

Type of Short Story:  Novelette

Summary:  Follow the exploits of Gene Bukowski and his team from the International Security Assistance Force in this near future Science Fiction Espionage series. This is the first in the series and Gene's assignment is to extract a former witness, and his handler, before the Russian authorities can get their hands on them!


Zaliv Neelova, Russian Arctic

Sladjan Smukavec rubbed his gloved hands together in a vain attempt of staying warm, grateful that he had paid attention to the not so subtle suggestion that he pack for cold weather. Of course, if he were to be honest with himself the suggestion was more akin to a threat, but the sentiment was there. After all, he was a valuable asset to his employer, so it wasn't as if the thugs could do any harm. At least not until his usefulness ended, something he hoped would never eventuate. He just wished that they had told him how cold it would be when they first bundled him into a car. Resisting the urge to stomp his feet, he continued watching as people went about loading the long container vessel.

Then again, the thugs neglected to tell him where he had been taken in the first place.

One thing was certain however, this was no paradise.

Although, for a Russian this far north, it may as well be.

It was isolated, and the digital age seemed to be stuck in a time-warp, dating back sixty years. Of course, until recently he had no idea how long a reach his employers had, assuming that they were just thugs at best and a well organised syndicate at worst. This facility merely represented one avenue available to his employed, something the cybernetic-prostheses surgeon had no thought possible even in his wildest dreams. He continued staring, taking in the white netting and snow that covered most of the facility. Just never mind that the facility was a fully fledged seaport, with pens for nuclear submarines and an accompanying air strip housing state of the art fighter jets.

"I understand you've the best in the business," the woman next to Smukavec said, breaking the sombre moment. Smukavec blinked, and reminded himself who it was next to him. Marya Samsonova had once made history by being the first woman to have earned the position of commander-in-chief of the Russian Strategic Artillery Corps, and eventually rising to Minister of Defence. But that was before the current regime, which had singlehandedly reappointed senior military positions by men and women that were willing to work closer with Europe and the United States. Last he heard, Samsonova had been appointed as the Russian Ambassador to the Peoples Republic of China. So yes, it was initially a bit of a shock seeing her waiting for him. Still, Smukavec knew he had to tread carefully.

"I was the best in the business, General," he said carefully.

Like with the weather, he had been told to watch how he addresses his employer. Yes, she may be a prominent politician and a reputable diplomat to boot, but she had resources that had impressed him--and scared the hell out of him. "But as with everything, the limelight I once enjoyed has moved on."

She pondered that statement quietly while watching the activity around them, and Smukavec tried not to dwell on the fact that he had once been the leading expert on cybernetic limbs and bio-neural operations. The techniques he had developed and technology patented had made him retire early, and make him rich beyond any expectation. It also got him into a lot of trouble later, especially when police arrested him for child pornography. That had been his undoing. It had been a humbling experience, a humiliating one at that. Neither the police nor the jury cared he had revolutionised medicine. All they cared about was that he liked watching children having intercourse.

Suddenly, she harrumphed. Smukavec tensed, reminding himself that the woman beside him controlled a criminal empire that reached beyond the city limits of Saint Petersburg. Finally, she glanced at him, and nodded to the anchored ship.

"There is a fully functional operating theatre aboard, along with the best med-techs and programmers in the Strategic Artillery Corps," she announced in a tone lacking the thick pronunciation so common of her countryman. "There are fifty of my finest men, Spetsnaz soldiers, aboard."

"For security?"


One should never question one's employer, and Smukavec did his best to remain calm, but wasn't about to fool himself. Still, he could not understand why he needed to know that Smaonova had attached fifty Special Forces operatives to the container ship. "No?"

"For augmentation, Doctor."

Suddenly, he froze. Of all the things she could have said, this one he least expected. Still, it made sense. In the time he had found himself employed by her, albeit indirectly, Smukavec had performed limited attachments of cybernetic-prostheses on the occasional thug who had their arm or leg shot off. Full on augmentation was tricky, challenging--and right up his alley. He sighed with relief. The healthier the person undergoing the procedure the better their chances of success. At least that was the general philosophy.

She glanced at him.

"Think of it as a pilot project," she then announced, and patted Smukavec on the shoulder with a woollen glove-wrapped hand. "If you successfully transform more than half of my men, you can assure yourself a long-term consultancy with my newly installed government."

Smukavec paused, and regarded her anew. The current government in Moscow, led by one Alexander Ivanov, was labelled as the first true democratic entity since Yeltsin. Whilst it wasn't without its problems, the regime under Ivanov had modernised economic infrastructures and secured several trade and defence agreements with Brazil and Venezuela. Equally, Russia went from a second rate country to a formidable power once again. Why she wanted to replace something that was good for the country at large was a mystery to him. Still--

"New government, General?"

She nodded, and smiled. Not that there was any hint of humour in that smile, and Sladjan Smukavec suddenly felt a shiver go down his spine...

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