Friday, August 15, 2014

"Another Place" by Clare Young (Short Story)



Genre:  Children's Fantasy

Type of Short Story:  Short Story

Summary:  A young boy, accompanied by his toys, goes on a quest to find his lost dog.

Excerpt:

The bowl was empty and the basket was empty. When Tim came home from school, he found his father sitting at the kitchen table holding the red collar and leash.

“There’s something I have to tell you,” Tim’s father said, and Tim knew it must be bad because his father was sitting at the kitchen table, not on the living room sofa as he usually did. The kitchen table was for words and news and talks; the things his father was in charge of. Tim placed his backpack near the back door and sat at the table, waiting for his father to begin.

“Something has happened to Luke,” his father said, “which means that he’s gone somewhere. Somewhere nice, but somewhere he can never come back from.”

Tim thought for a while. “Like a holiday?”

“Not quite. On a holiday you come back home again, but Luke can’t come back home again,” Tim’s father cleared his throat and pushed the red collar and leash into the middle of the table.

“Why can’t he come back home again?” Tim asked. Perhaps Luke couldn’t come home because he was lost; he didn’t even have his collar with his name and phone number on it.

“Because,” Tim’s father paused, and Tim thought that maybe his father had taken Luke for a walk and then left him somewhere. “Because he can’t. At some point everyone goes to a place they can’t get back from. It will happen to me, your mother, and you one day. Today it has happened to Luke.”

“But where’s he gone?”

“Another place, far from here, where he has lots of friends and family. He won’t be lonely.”

Tim thought, and got upset, because Luke was his best friend so why would he want to leave? Tim left the kitchen table, ran upstairs and lay on his bed and cried. He cried because he couldn’t understand why Luke would want to leave; they had so much fun every day, apart from when Tim was more interested in playing with his toys.

After a while, Tim sat up and yelled out to the wooden Sailor boy, Steve, who stood on top of Tim’s bookshelf.

“It’s not fair!”

“What’s not fair Tim?” said the wooden Sailor Steve.

“Luke’s gone and he’s not coming back,” Tim said.

“Where Tim? Where has Luke gone?”

“I don’t know, somewhere else.”

“Oh, don’t cry my dear,” Daisy Rag Doll, climbing out from beneath the bed, joined in. “I’m sure we can find him.”

“I don’t know,” Tim said, wiping his nose on his sleeve.

Daisy Rag Doll climbed up on Tim’s bed and shuffled over to him.

“Don’t do that dear, use a handkerchief,” she said, handing him one of her own.

Tim wiped his nose properly, and wooden Sailor Steve climbed down from the bookcase to join Tim on his bed.

“I think he may be lost, and that’s why he can’t come back. Dad was holding his red collar and leash, and he...” Tim became upset again and buried his head between his knees.

“Now now Tim, don’t cry,” Daisy Rag Doll softly patted Tim on the back.

“If he is lost, then we can go find him. We shall find him!” Sailor Steve said

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Friday, August 8, 2014

"Take Off Your Mask" by Mary Pappas (Flash Fiction)



Genre: Drama

Type of Short Story:  Flash Fiction Collection

Summary:  People wear masks. They hide who they really are. Why do they do that? What is more painful, trying to take off the mask or keep on wearing it? 

Five women pretend to be something they are not in this fiction anthology.

Short stories about dangerous relationships.

Nothing is at it seems.

Excerpt:

“Thank you, but my idea of having fun includes going home, reading a good book and sleeping early. Maybe some other time.’’

‘’For God’s sakes Brenda, why do you insist on living like a nun? How are you ever going to meet someone if you never go out?”

”I met enough men in my short life, Gina. I know how that story ends, so I don’t want to see a repeat.’’
“I know you have been hurt by those jerks who disappeared from your life with no explanation. But not all men are like that, Brenda! Somewhere out there, there is the right guy for you, but you have to go out to meet him!’’

“The right guy for me exists only in the romantic novels I read. So, I have actually met him. He will just never meet me.”

“You don’t really believe that, do you?’’

“I really do. Reality is scary, Gina. Sometimes, you have to make your own reality in order to survive.”

Buy this collection on Amazon.

Friday, August 1, 2014

"The Magnum Opus" by Deina Furth (Novelette)



Genre: Steampunk Science Fiction

Type of Short Story:  Novelette

Summary:  Creating the perfect companion is Rastigan's dream--maybe even his obsession. For years, he has tinkered and planned, pouring his heart into his work as intensely as he pours scotch into his glass. But every machine that he builds falls short of his expectations. His work completely consumes his thoughts and time, leaving him a homebound hermit with nary a connection to the outside world. As the years press on, Rastigan seems doomed to live out remainder of his life as a solitary eccentric who finds companionship only with his favorite brand of booze.

Then he creates Evangeline. She far surpasses anything he's ever built in terms of complexity, intelligence, and of course, beauty. She's his most lifelike invention to date, and to him, she is perfect in every way--that is, until she begins to develop her own desires. As she begins to question the world around her, Rastigan fears he's once more out of the picture, doomed to be alone forever.

Has Rastigan finally found the companion he's yearned for in Evangeline? Or has his obsession with building his magnum opus gone too far?

Excerpt:

Piano music drifted from a record player as Evangeline entered the den. She wore the dress Rastigan had requested. Sheer white fabric draped loosely across her shoulders and waist in layers that shifted and fluttered with her slightest movement, and it was so long that she had to gather her skirts to avoid tripping. When he saw her, Rastigan clapped his hands together and smiled warmly, apparently pleased, then he reached out to her, beckoning. Evangeline clutched her skirts tightly and carefully shuffled forward, stopping about two feet short of his trembling, open arms. That sensation. That vexing repulsion at discovering something she wished she hadn’t, and the desire to push it as far from herself as possible. What was it?

“You look lovelier than ever, my doll,” Rastigan said a little too loudly. He closed the gap between them and wrapped his arms around her waist, his movements looser and less controlled than before. He fumbled around, trying to place his hands properly for a dance, while his legs wobbled with the pull of the liquor. “Go on, now, put your arms around me,” he commanded.

Evangeline let her skirts loose and did as she was told, folding her hands together around the back of his neck. It was slick with sweat, and his greasy hair fell against the back of her hands, leaving trails of residue as it swished with his movements. Rastigan swayed from left to right, and back again, burying his head in her neck with a sigh as the notes swelled louder, enveloping the pair in the piano’s melancholy song. The fire burned brightly behind him, crackling softly with the music and casting oversized projections of their dancing silhouettes onto the walls.

It was still there. This feeling, this desire to get him away. To hurt him.

Where did it come from? Was it his drunkenness, his sloppy attempts to turn her into his entertainment? Or was it something deeper?

“You dance well,” he said, groggily. His words leaked from his mouth, the Ss and Ls oozing into a single slushy syllable. Evangeline kept her head facing forward, her eyes fixed on the way the shadows stretched and shrank in the flickering light above the fireplace, rather than look at her dance partner’s wilting, alcohol-touched face. Rastigan pressed his lips to her cheek, trying to draw her attention. When she didn’t respond, he slid his fingers up her waist and across her shoulders. He pulled his body away from her, wobbling as he went, and looked directly into her eyes. Evangeline stopped moving altogether, clenching her hands into fists, making her body stiff and distant.

That unremitting feeling.

“Oh, Evangeline, you remind me so much of my—”

Thunder interrupted his words, a crash so loud that the windows vibrated, and the entire room ignited with a white-hot luminescence that snuffed out the fire’s soft glow. In this light, his features looked harsh, angular. His eyes were wide, bloodshot and red rimmed, and his mouth curled into a grimace at the intensity of the storm, revealing his uneven and stained teeth.

For the first time, Evangeline could clearly see the fear inside him, the same fear his trembling voice had harbored the night before. As the flash faded, he broke away from her, holding his hand to his heart, clutching at his threadbare shirt. The force with which he pushed himself away nearly sent her tripping over her dress. Now he cowered like a child, his eyes darting about the room as if searching for monsters in the shadows.

Fat raindrops pounded against the windowpane, and another rumble of thunder tumbled through the room, softer this time.

“You-you may go, Eva,” he said.

Eva?

She raised her hand and pointed at her chest, trying to gain his attention, seeking clarification.

But Rastigan had already collapsed into an armchair next to the hearth. He wrapped a trembling hand around the bottle of scotch he had placed on the table and pulled it to his lips.

Evangeline backed away slowly.

Eva.

Evangeline.

Who was it that she reminded him of?

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Friday, July 25, 2014

''Murder Horror Flash Fiction Stories'' Anthology (Flash Fiction)



Genre:  Horror

Type of Short Story:  Flash Fiction Anthology

Summary:  An anthology of horror flash fiction stories all involving a murder. Murder out of habit, impulsive murder, murder framed on someone else, murder carefully planned and executed.

Excerpt:

What is that noise behind her? Footsteps? No, it can’t be. She is sure of that, however she is not turning back to check it out. She is fastening her pace even more.

But the noise behind her is not stopping. Someone or something is definitely behind her. Is she being followed? No, it can’t be. Maybe it is a stray dog, or a stray cat, or another person walking back home like she is. She is sure of that, however, she is no turning back to check it out. She is fastening her pace even more.

In less than 5 minutes she will be home she starts telling her scared heart that is beating fast. She is fastening her pace even more.

Buy this collection on Amazon.

Friday, July 18, 2014

"Knights of the Iron Dragon" by Edward Lange (Novelette)



Genre:  Steampunk

Type of Short Story:  Novelette

Summary:  The Iron Dragons: flying, steam-powered battleships. Used by knights to fight the dragons that dwell in the sky.

Excerpt:

It was only a few moments before the ship and the beast engaged in combat. The dragon made the first move, lunging at the cockpit with its snout wide-open. Lily dove the Iron Dragon downward, just as the beast’s jaws snapped shut. Behind her she could hear a chorus of metallic clicks, as the archers fired off their crossbows. The beast howled in pain, as the barrage of arrows crashed into its body. Though most had merely bounced off the creature’s scaly hide, enough had struck his soft underbelly that Lily could see droplets of blood fall down onto the windshield of the cockpit.

“Try to aim for the wings.” Harding said. “Crippling it will be easier than killing it.” The archers silently agreed, and continued their assault.

For the next several minutes, the knights of the iron dragon engaged the winged monstrosity that threatened their countrymen. The twin serpentine forms twisted in the sky, shining silver and green in the sunlight. The two combatants would often get so close that they’d appear as a single half-flesh, half-metal double helix in the sky.

They would swoop, and smack into each other, denting the metal on the air ship, and cutting the flesh of the monster. Through the various windows of the craft, Lily and the others were given dozens of up-close glimpses of the beast’s increasingly bloody body. Its stench dominated the cabin, to the point that it was the only thing the knights could smell, besides the blood, and the smoke from the engine.

The creature’s roars and growls eclipsed all other sounds. The knights in the craft felt like they were really and truly in the belly of the beast. All other sensations and life experiences had been supplanted by this dragon. It occupied all senses, and only its death or theirs would free them from its grasp.

Throughout the ordeal, Lily found her mind bombarded by memories of the last time she’d seen a dragon. Her nostrils could faintly smell her sister’s burnt corpse, and hear her final death cries. Tiptoeing around the edges of these flashbacks was the paralyzing terror and fear that Lily had felt at the time, and the threat that it would take over again. But Lily resisted. Throughout the ordeal, she kept herself focused on the task at hand, expertly dodging the beast’s attacks, while flying in close to give the archers clear shots. There had been a few moments when she wasn’t able to push these emotions back, and she felt them overwhelm her. But when these moments came, she simply did what she’d done at all other such times; drown it out with blind, undiluted hatred.

As the fight went on, the wings of both combatants became riddled with holes and tears. Both now had to struggle to stay airborne, but neither was in any immediate danger of falling out of the sky. The fight would go on.

Buy this story on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Friday, July 11, 2014

"Money Lies" by Annie Turner (Novelette)



Genre:  Western Adventure/Mystery

Type of Short Story:  Novelette

Summary:  Book 1 of the Zachary Davis Series

Called in to investigate small town's bank robbery, Texas Ranger Zach Davis immediately gets the impression that there's more to this case than meets the eye. A mysterious note, a ruthless railway overseer... how does it all add up? 

Excerpt:

His horse and chaps were caked with mud that dried days ago as they made their way across the desert with dogged determination. The only hint of moisture in the barren landscape was the sweat dripping off their worn bodies. It was a state of being that Texas Ranger Zachary Davis had long since become inured to. He didn’t sign up for the Rangers for a life of lavish comfort.

Zach dared to tilt his head up to look at the bright, sun-cooked landscape. At long last he could just make out the faint outlines of buildings in the distance. Lagerton was a flea-ridden, no-account little town that existed solely to service the needs of the railway crews as they worked to lay down tracks. It was the sort of place that might not even exist in ten years if the crews decided the location too inconvenient. But it was also the bread and butter of Zach’s profession. Towns like this had little to no law enforcement and it was his job to right the wrongs.

A telegram was sent to the Rangers a week ago saying that a bank robbery had taken place. Unless there had been a tip off to prevent a robbery from ever taking place, there was little Zach could do other than write up an official report. But the mayor of the town had insisted. There was something about this case, something different.
Buy this story on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Friday, July 4, 2014

"A Higher Purpose" (Witches of Cullowhee) by Lucy Varna (Novella)



Genre:  Paranormal Romance

Type of Short Story:  Novella

Summary:  The day Adam Cowan walked into the coffeehouse she managed, Ella Southards panicked. Here was the man of her dreams, literally, but he had made his appearance twenty years and a failed marriage too late for her bruised heart.

Adam came to Cullowhee to take a much needed breather from his past. In the reluctant Ella, he sees the possibility for a fresh chance at love, if only he can convince her to gamble on him.

As Adam persuades Ella to make a place for him in her life, she begins to wonder at the timing of his arrival there, and if her life might hold more promise than she'd ever dared to dream.

Excerpt:

He came in early that Monday, shaking off the cold rain with the absent-minded air of a man with things to do.

When Ella Southards saw him, her heart flipped in her chest, then boomed so hard it took her breath.

His features were astonishingly familiar to her: the wavy brown hair that tended to curl at the ends because he'd forgotten to cut it; the long nose and thin lips and heavy brows above chocolate eyes in a face that was thin, intelligent, friendly; the athletic build, earned through work and not trips to the gym; clothes that were more shabby than chic, but still labeled him as Somebody. Not somebody famous, but somebody with a life, somebody with a purpose.

She recognized him, but she'd never met him. Never seen a photo of him, never heard anyone talk about him. But she knew him, nonetheless.

"Ma'am."

The voice of the customer in front of her, waiting for the coffee-like concoction she was supposed to be preparing, brought her back to the present. With a smile of apology, Ella finished making the drink and rang up the sale. As she shut the cash register drawer, a soft glint of gold winked from her ring finger, and the surprised astonishment she'd felt at seeing him faded into a muted despair that had been her companion for far longer than she liked to contemplate. She'd remembered him, but had forgotten that she had nothing to offer any man, especially not this one.

Without giving herself the time to look at him again, to wallow in the reality of his presence, she signaled to her co-worker that she needed a bathroom break. Carrie Long, a petite twenty-year-old chemistry major, was a sweet young woman, but her effervescent optimism was a bit more than Ella could stand at the moment.

She slipped into the back, used the bathroom so she wouldn't be caught in a lie. Dawdled for a moment in front of the mirror. Caught herself smoothing her hair back and wishing for better makeup, a face lift, a tummy tuck, and nicer clothes, all at the same time. Exasperated, she checked her watch, determined that he'd had enough time to order something from her eternally perky co-worker, and that it was safe for her to get back to work.

On the way back in, she grabbed a box of coffee cups, hoping Carrie would forgive her for taking a bit too long in the restroom, and not talk about the dishy gentleman who was currently uppermost in Ella's mind.

Carrie sidled up to her and grabbed some cups to help restock. "Check out Mr. Hottie over there by the door," she said.

Ella suppressed a sigh. Carrie refraining from noticing, and talking about, a good-looking man had probably been too much to hope for. "Who?" she asked, not looking up.

Ella caught the are-you-kidding-me eye roll out of the corner of her eye. "Tall, dark, and handsome at number two," Carrie said, as if it were perfectly obvious. "Coffee, straight up, and a doughnut. No froufrou crap for him."

"Ah, a manly man," Ella said.

"And nice, too." Carrie gave up all pretense of work and settled her elbows against the counter.

"So he asks politely before he drags a woman back to his man-cave?"

Carrie laughed and nudged Ella playfully with her elbow. "Har, funny," she said. "Aren't you even curious?"

"Nope." Ella purposely used her no-nonsense Mommy tone. "I have a firm policy of not ogling manly men. Besides," she added, "I'm married. Takes all the fun out of it."

Carrie snorted. "Yeah, right. You're married, not blind." She grabbed the empty coffee cup box and tugged a bit. "And you're only half-married, anyway. It'll be over soon, right?"

Ella relinquished the box and shook her head. "Not soon enough, but that doesn't really matter. Until it's legally settled, I'm still married."

Carrie's face melted into sad sympathy for a moment before she abruptly stuck her tongue out and made a funny face. "Neener, Ms. Stick in the Mud," she said in a light tone. "One of these days, I'll get you to admit you think he's hot." And she flipped her blonde ponytail and grinned when Ella muttered a mock stern, "Very mature, Miss Priss."

He stayed at the small table for an hour while he drank coffee (black) and ate a doughnut (powdered sugar) and peered intently at the screen of his open laptop. The rain abated, people drifted in and out. Ella discovered a pressing need to clean under the counter any time he looked up. Carrie chattered prettily away until they'd run out of chores and people to wait on, then took a textbook and highlighter out of her backpack to study in the fits and starts around customers.

Another hour passed with him typing madly away, hunched over at the small table. The cup of coffee sat forgotten among crumpled napkins. Ella hadn't the nerve to bus the table around him or offer a refill, as she normally would. Thankfully, Carrie didn't notice the aberrant behavior, being absorbed in a weighty tome on the ethics of responsible journalism, her minor.

Finally, he rose and stuffed his laptop into its bag. He picked up his trash and stood for a moment as if unsure about the etiquette of leaving it on the table or discarding it on his way out. Carrie was putting away her book in anticipation of the lunch rush and noticed his dilemma. With a pretty smile (and, really, Ella admitted with some envy, what about Carrie wasn't pretty?), she bounced over to help, chatting with him in a friendly way that brought a matching smile to his face.

When he left, Carrie turned to Ella with a triumphant grin. "Adam Cowan," she said. "New to town, divorced, one child. Paleogeologist with multiple degrees, one in math, by the way, coming out of a long stint of field work, and writing a book on his finds. Sexy voice." Carrie sighed dreamily. "If only he were a bit younger."

"You got all that from a one minute conversation?"

Carrie laughed mischievously. "I'm good, but not that good. No, I recognized his name. He's doing a lecture series at the college on science and math journalism. Every Monday night at seven 'til the end of term." She paused and slid Ella a sideways look that was not as innocent as it should have been. "Not that you're interested or anything."

Ella pulled a wry face at her co-worker and shooed her back to work.

"Very mature, Madame Grouch," Carrie said, and Ella entered the lunch rush in a lighter mood for the co-ed's antics.

He came back to the coffeehouse several times over the next few weeks, and more than a few times she saw him jogging shirtless past the window along the sidewalk. Ella avoided him whenever possible, and passed that time without ever having to wait on him personally. Carrie was deep in the middle of juggling a heavy course load and managed only a few knowing looks. To her credit, she only teased Ella once about attending Adam's lecture series.

As the days passed, Ella settled into life as a nearly-single woman. She met with her lawyer, learned that a final hearing had been set for the divorce, and ignored her husband's phone calls. After leaving the coffeehouse each day, she worked on some freelance accounting work she'd taken in to make ends meet, and finished knitting a sweater intended to be a Christmas present for her son, with whom she spoke by phone or e-mail nearly every day.

She met Harold Tennenbaum, her old math professor, for lunch one day, but didn’t give in to his urgings to return to school to finish her degree; nor did she agree, at his request, to join a research project in desperate need of her particular skills. "I'm too old," she insisted. He merely shook his head sadly, as if he understood that it wasn't her age holding her back at all.

Most of all, she did not think about him, the man who had haunted her for so long, or the reason fate might have brought him into her life at that moment and not another.

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