Monday, January 30, 2012

“Mom’s Letter” by David Todd (Short Story)

Genre:  Mainstream Fiction

Type of Short Story:  Short Story

Summary:  Thirteen year old Danny Thompkins is at scout camp, waiting for his family to pick him up. They are very late. At last his dad and sister arrive, and on the drive home Danny learns his mother is in the hospital. At first he thinks nothing of this, as she spent a week in the hospital several times a year for kidney treatment. Then his dad says her illness is terminal, and she’ll never leave the hospital. Danny re-reads a letter his mother wrote to him that week which he received at camp. Forty years later, the adult Daniel finds that letter, and a flood of memories come forth.


“We can’t wait any longer, Danny. We have to go on with the ceremony. The other boys and their families are anxious to get home.” Scoutmaster Bob’s voice was both firm and kind.

“It’s okay, sir.” Thirteen-year-old Danny Tompkins tried not to sound disappointed. He continued looking down the narrow camp road for a few more moments, and hoped an approaching vehicle was the old familiar Chevy station wagon with his parents, brother, and sister. When a pick-up truck topped the rise and pulled into the campsite across the road, Danny turned to join his fellow scouts.

It was Sunday afternoon. Two dozen scouts formed a semi-circle around the fire pit at Campsite Manitou….

…When the award ceremony was completed, the families spoke appreciatively to the scout leaders and left. Danny, Scoutmaster Bob, and his assistant waited another half-hour before the station wagon pulled up. Danny’s father and sister quickly got out, leaving no one else in the car. His dad said a few words of apology to the scoutmaster. The footlocker loaded, they zoomed off in a trail of blue smoke before the scoutmaster could tell them about Danny’s award.

“Where’s Mom and Frankie?” Danny asked as soon as they were moving.

“I put your mother in the hospital this morning. Frankie is with your grandparents.”

His dad offered nothing more and Danny asked no questions. He began to talk about the week at camp. He told of the nature hike, the five-mile hike with pack, his cooking merit badge, and his mile swim on the previous day. His dad and sister sat silently in front as he kept up a constant chatter. They came to Curtis Corners, and went straight instead of right.

“Why are we heading to the city? Aren’t we going to Grandpa’s and Grandma’s?”

“I told you, Son, your mother is in the hospital. We’re going straight there.”

“But why don’t we just stay—”

“Frankie and your grandparents are at our house,” his dad interrupted.

“Oh. When’s Mom getting out?”

His dad twisted his shoulders slightly to glance sideways at Danny in back, and said with an impassive face, “‘Getting out?’ You don’t understand. She’s not getting out this time.”

Buy this story on Amazon or Smashwords.

Friday, January 27, 2012

"Beyond Home" by Emily Ann Ward (Short Stories)

Genre:  Mainstream Fiction

Type of Short Story:  Short Story Collection

Summary:  A short story collection of new adult mainstream short stories, centered around travel and transitions. Two sisters visit The Grand Canyon after their dad dies; a young man takes an impulsive trip to Hawaii with a runaway bride; and a young woman remembers a trip with an ex while deciding whether to move across the state with her current boyfriend. Includes Magnitude, Number Six, and Song for Megan Leclare.


They could never agree, not in all of her twenty-three years, so why would they start now when things seemed much more important? As much as Laura wanted life to be different in the wake of her father’s death—for everyone to be more pleasant and realize that life was beautiful and meant to be lived—things just went back to the way they were. Her mother still washed the dishes every night at seven fifteen, and her eighteen-year-old sister couldn’t agree with a word she said.

“I just think it would be really awkward,” Jessica said. “We haven’t seen them for years, but now that Dad’s dead, we’re going to go visit them?”

Laura wished she wouldn’t say he was dead. She knew they all meant the same thing, but passed away, gone, or even left, they all seemed different. “They’re family,” she said. She remembered the funeral, and seeing her first cousins, who she had only seen in pictures every few years. They were growing tall and scrawny, like their dad and uncle.

Jessica scoffed. “Right.”

“Look, it’s just one stop,” Laura said. “Cheyenne, Wyoming. Add it to the list.”

Jessica huffed, but obeyed. Cheyenne, Wyoming, where their dad grew up and where his brother and sister still lived. “That’s number five.”

Laura examined their road trip destinations in Jessica’s loopy handwriting. The first one was the one that seemed the most important. Since Laura had been old enough to walk, Dad had promised that he’d take them to the Grand Canyon. Something else had always come up: Jessica’s broken leg, Disneyland, his mom dying. Some nights, he’d tell them stories about the canyon to get them to go to sleep, how big and far and wide it was. And Laura would fall asleep, amazed that anything in this world could be bigger than her school.

They had a lot of ground to cover. They’d leave from Chico, California and travel to Flagstaff, Arizona, then up to Colorado, where Dad met Mom. Laura couldn’t remember whose idea it had been, but now that it was being put into action, it seemed like something they had to do.

“Did Mom go shopping?” Jessica asked. She stood up and walked over to the fridge.

Opening the fridge answered her question; there was a wealth of food inside. Their mom was thrilled to have her older daughter home for a while. She had cooked something grand every single meal: banana pancakes, homemade potato salad, lamb roast, apple pie. Laura was pretty sure it took her mind off of Dad.

Jessica started warming up leftover lamb.

“Come on,” Laura said. “We’ve got tons of planning to do if we really want to leave in six days.”

“Six days is an eternity!” Jessica exclaimed, flipping her light brown hair off of her shoulder. “All we need is money.” She left the room, whistling, and Laura didn’t bother to ask where she was going. She was just going to have to do this herself.


A few days later, the three of them sat on the back porch. The crickets were chirping loudly, almost drowning out the soft music that came from the old record player. Mom had a bottle of beer in her hand, and it looked odd, like she was wearing a bikini or something. A lot of things seemed odd, though: Dad’s empty chair, the way everything in the house looked the same even after four years, but just the air felt different.

Mom looked at Laura, a sleepy smile on her face. “I’m glad you guys are here.”

Laura nodded. “Me, too.”

The stars spread over their heads in the deepening sky. They seemed to go on forever, twinkling and spelling out stories. The four of them used to lie on the back porch in the summer, bundled up in sleeping bags. Dad would tell them about Orion, Leo, Andromeda. Jessica would always fall asleep first, and Mom would go inside because of her back. Laura would try to stay up longer than he did, but she usually fell asleep anyway and woke up with mosquito bites on her face.

Jessica went inside for a moment, then came out with a slice of apple pie. She settled back down in her lawn chair, and the three of them sat in the silence, listening to Dad’s records and the crickets.

“When do you girls leave?” Mom asked.

“Tuesday,” Laura said.

“You’d better be careful,” Mom said. “I’ve heard stories about rapists at campgrounds.”

“There are rapists everywhere,” Jessica said with a full mouth.

“Geez, Jessica, swallow your food,” Laura said.

Jessica mimicked her in a high voice. Mom began laughing, and Laura rolled her eyes. “How old are you?” Laura asked.

“I don’t know how you’re going to survive two weeks on the road with each other,” Mom said with a chuckle.

Jessica gave Mom and Laura a smile that worked on her teachers in fourth grade, the one that said, I’m completely innocent.

Laura couldn’t believe Jessica was eighteen already, old enough to vote, to buy cigarettes. She had a high school diploma and probably a boyfriend, though Laura hadn’t asked yet.

She wasn’t sure how they were going to survive two weeks, either.


Laura woke up early Tuesday morning. She took a shower and finished packing. The last trip she went on, not including driving here to her mom and dad’s house, was going to the Coachella Festival a few months ago with Nathan, Kayla, and their friends. She had camped in a small tent with three other girls. They were up giggling at three in the morning every night and tried sleeping in the next morning only to be forced out of their tents by the heat.

Dad’s truck had definitely seen better days, but Jessica assured Laura it would get them all the way to Colorado and back. Laura knew they didn’t really have any other choice. Mom wouldn’t give up her Excursion, and Laura’s small Honda would be useless with Dad’s pop-up tent trailer on the back. It was something they had used a few times when they were younger, mostly during Memorial Day weekends, a trailer that had sat in the driveway for five years now.

Laura remembered coming home after Dad’s burial and memorial service. She and Jessica sat in her car in the driveway, not yet ready to go in for the reception. “We should go help Mom,” Jessica had said.

“Yeah,” Laura had said, but they sat there, feeling the emptiness of death. She saw the trailer in front of them. “Is that thing still working?”

They got out and worked to bring the trailer to its full height: cranking it up, putting the bars in place, fitting the door on, bringing the table down, even attaching the bungee cords. When they were done, they were sweaty, and their dark-colored dresses were covered in dust and dirt. They stood back and admired their work, staring at the trailer Dad had been so excited to bring home fifteen years ago. Mom came out, asking where they’d been, but she stopped short and came to stand next to her two daughters, looking at the trailer in silence. It almost felt as if he were still alive.

They now loaded their things into the back of the truck, which Jessica had taken to get washed yesterday. Laura opened the front door, only to find it still littered with Dad’s things. A half-finished pack of cigarettes rested in the console, trash was scattered across the ground, and his sunglasses hung from the rearview mirror.

“Jess!” Laura called. “I thought you cleaned it out.”

Jessica looked up from the hitch, wiping her forehead. She just stared at Laura for a moment, and then said, “I cleaned the outside.”

“Well. . .” Laura said, motioning to the dirty truck. Jessica went back to attaching the trailer to the hitch, silent. Laura looked back into the truck. It still smelled like him, like tobacco and sweat and his aftershave. She began taking out the trash. She left his sunglasses, his cigarettes, his scent.

Mom was crying as she said goodbye. “Take pictures for me. You know I’d come, but. . .”

“Don’t worry,” Laura said. “I’ll call Aunt Julia and make sure she’s taking care of you.”

“I’ll be fine.” Mom wiped her face and pulled Jessica over for a hug. “I love you both. Have fun. Call me when you get to Las Vegas.”

“We’ll bring you back lots of money,” Jessica promised.

Mom laughed as they got into Dad’s truck. Laura remembered learning how to drive in this thing, her dad giving constant instruction, and Laura swearing when the brakes took longer than she thought. The stop sign had ended up almost completely past the truck.

“Love you, Mom,” Laura said. She smiled, starting up the engine. “We’ll be back before you know it!”

They pulled out of the driveway. Jessica immediately took out her iPod and asked, “What do you listen to these days?”

Laura shrugged. “Anything. I like oldies, though.”

“Hmmm. . .I haven’t got anything old but Michael Jackson.”

“Nah. Put something else on.”

Jessica began playing a pop-rock band. She sang every word, and Laura wondered how long it took her to memorize the lyrics. Aside from occasionally talking about school with Jessica and commenting on her pictures, they hadn’t talked much. Her senior year had taken up most of Laura’s time.

“Do you have a boyfriend?” Laura asked.

Jessica just laughed. “No.” She put her seatbelt on and put her feet up on the dashboard.

“What about that Jake guy?”

“We just went to prom together,” Jessica said. “He’s nice, but he’s kind of an airhead.”

There was a moment of silence as Laura maneuvered the truck and trailer through town, headed for Burger King. “Want some breakfast before we go?”

“Yeah,” Jessica said. “What about you?”

“Yeah. I love Burger King’s french toast sticks.”

“No, I mean, are you still going out with Nathan?”

Laura, too, laughed in response to this question. “No. We broke up in May.”

They got through the drive-through, though Laura was convinced she was going to sideswipe the trailer, and ate in the parking lot. Laura was feeling proud of herself for being able to drive the trailer well when Jessica asked her what happened with her and Nathan.

“I guess we just grew apart. It was like he was suddenly a different person. I don’t know.” She paused. “I don’t think Dad would have liked him.”

Jessica munched thoughtfully on her sandwich. “Who will walk us down the aisle?”

This simple question brought tears to Laura’s eyes. She didn’t want to think about the rest of her life without her dad. But all of these unanswered questions loomed before them. Who was going to take over Dad’s shop? Who would disapprove of their boyfriends? Who would take care of Mom?

“Sorry,” Jessica said quietly.

“Forget it.” Laura started the engine up. “Let’s go.”

Buy this collection on Amazon or Smashwords.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

"Love on the Rocks: A Prescott Carmichael Jaunt" by Howard McEwen (Novelette)

Genre:  Humor

Type of Short Story:  Novelette

Summary:  What's this business with the feather? Whatever it is, it's busted up Daisey and Gus's engagement days before their wedding. Their parents call in Prescott Carmichael to help get the kids back together. Mr. Carmichael sends Jake Gibb to gather intelligence. And all Jake wants is a drink. Do the kids get back together? Does Jake get his drink?


Who are you, he asked.



I’m Jake Gibb. I’m staying with the Nottles down the street.

No you’re not.

I am too Jake Gibb.

You’re not staying with the Nottles down the street.

I am too staying with the Nottles down the street.

Mr. Carmichael is staying with them.

I work for Mr. Carmichael. He’s on his way. I flew in last night. Who are you?

I’m Augustus Nottle.

The bridgegroom, I thought.

What were you talking to Daisey about, he asked.

I wish I could tell you. I thought we were talking about the wedding. She wanted none of it, though.

Gus Nottle stepped out from the bushes glancing down the road to make sure Daisey was out of sight.

You want to go get some donuts, he asked.

He looked to have had his fair share of donuts. While not a bad looking guy he was doing a good job of chasing down his father and Mr. Nottle in the Great American Girth race.

Donuts? Sure, I said. I didn’t want a donut. My girlfriend senior year of high school worked in a donut shop. It was an erotically sweet smell at first but after six months of her playing pretty good defense donuts had become the smell of sexual frustration.

We hiked it across a couple of yards and got into a nice little Pontiac two-seater.

This is one of our wedding presents from mom and dad, he said. Daisey wanted babies right away. Mom and dad and Uncle Jack and Aunt Diane think that’s a bad idea. This is one of their little games. You can’t fit a baby seat in this thing.

I grabbed shotgun and thought, by the looks of it, he wasn’t going to be able to fit soon enough.

We took a seat at Flamingo’s House of Donuts and he ordered two banana cream pie donuts. I ordered a single plain. He let me pay for all three. I didn’t expect a good donut on Hilton Head but this was the best I ever had. It still conjured up the ennui of teenage passion denied but tasted nice just the same. Young Mr. Fink began to inhale his two in about four breathes.

So what did Daisey say to you, he finally asked when he needed some air.

Not much. She’s the one that called the whole thing off, right? Did she tell you why?

He dodged the question with some half sentences. I did some nodding.

She didn’t tell you why she was calling it off, I finally said.

She’s just so.... she can’t.....I don’t know why she’s....

If I’m to help you’ll have to use predicates, I chided him. He must really hate predicates because that threw him into a tizzy. He gobbled the last quarter of his last donut, licked his fingers clean of cream and stormed off. I saw the tail lights of that little two seater and began to wonder if he’d forgotten he was my ride. Ten minutes later, I decided he had.

Buy this novelette on Amazon or B&N.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

"The Ranch Next Door and Other Stories" by Elisabeth Grace Foley (Short Stories)

Genre:  Western

Type of Short Story:  Short Story Collection

Summary:  A collection of Western short stories that go beyond the standard action and adventure of the genre to focus on character and conflict. In the award-winning “Disturbing the Peace,” honorable mention in the 2010 Rope and Wire short story competition, a sheriff experiences a revelation about himself and his relationship with the people of his town, while in “The Outlaw’s Wife,” a country doctor worries that his young friend is falling for a married woman whose husband is rumored to be a wanted criminal. From the suspenseful “Cross My Heart” to the comedic romp of “A Rangeland Renaissance,” to a Western twist on star-crossed romance in the title story, “The Ranch Next Door,” these stories will appeal to a variety of readers, as well as established fans of the traditional Western.

(from “Delayed Deposit”)

Across the street, Jim Beaudine rested his shoulder against the rough plank wall at his left, rifle in hand, watching the silent shaded windows of the bank. He heard footsteps behind him and then Sheriff Graham was at his side, breathing noisily after his run.

Graham was a stocky, sandy-haired man, rather short, with a round bulldog face which had a tendency to turn red at the slightest exertion or irritation. At the present moment it was already a warning pink.

“Who’s in there?” he asked of his deputy, squinting across the sunny street at the bank.

“Middleton, of course…one of Arnold’s freighters, Mrs. Eberley and the Murphy boys.”

“Well, this is a nice kettle of fish,” said Graham, and to do him credit, he did not mean the hostages.

“That’s who was seen go in, anyway, and haven’t come out. Nobody saw the hold-up gang get in. They must have come through the side door and got the drop on everyone.”

“Door should have been locked,” said Graham testily.

“Should have don’t mean it was.”

Graham wiped the sweat from his forehead with his hand, wiped his hand on his trousers and gestured impatiently toward the bank. “What’s going on in there? Have you seen anything?”

“Nope. They’re trying to figure out what to do, I guess.”

“They must be first-class idiots to try something like this in broad daylight, with the place full of people. And if theyare idiots it won’t be hard to get them out of there.” Graham nodded twice emphatically, highly satisfied with this conclusion.

“Always thought it was a bad idea to have a door back there,” said Jim Beaudine musingly.

“Well, if they didn’t have a door there, they wouldn’t be able to take shipments in and out without being seen from—” Graham realized the futility of the argument in mid-sentence and finished in exasperation, “oh, never mind.”

Buy this collection on Amazon or Smashwords.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

"The Last Medal Winner: Four Science Fiction War Stories" by Robert Collins (Short Stories)

Genre:  Science Fiction

Type of Short Story:  Short Story Collection

Summary:  In this short collection are four science fiction stories about war, from an effort to get a hero his due to the use of a new technology to keep a planet free. All four stories have been previously published.

Dear Mr. President:

Greetings from John Nance Garner, your predecessor in this high office. I am writing this letter to you on my last full day as President of the United States. I am also writing a few other letters, but as this is the one you’re reading, I doubt if you’ll ever see them. Keep your mind on what this letter says, and you shall weather the coming storm.

“How do you know a ‘storm’ is coming?” you ask. Simple: this moment has been prepared for, by myself and my special advisors. They used their expertise and experience, came up with several options, then developed the appropriate solutions. This letter contains the answers to the particular crisis you are finding yourself embroiled in.

I wonder, am I still alive as you are reading this? I know it's doubtful. Maybe you are a junior congressman as I write this. Maybe you’re in high school. Maybe you haven’t been born. Strange, isn’t it? I hope and pray you shall never have to go through this.

Now, to the issue at hand. As you are reading this letter, I can surmise that Germany and Japan are on the brink of war. They are nearly evenly matched, either economically, militarily, or both. All efforts to find a diplomatic solution have failed, and it is only a matter of time before the tanks roll and planes take to the skies.

Buy this collection on Amazon or Smashwords.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

"The Birthday Box" from a collection by Steve Mace (Short Stories)

Genre:  Horror

Type of Short Story:  Short Story Collection

Summary:  Lydia Charlesworth, the daughter of a museum curator, receives a mysterious and sinister package on her birthday. The contents are linked to her father's work...and a secret deadly cult which worship a supernatural spider-goddess...

Victoria tore open the brown paper wrapping. Underneath that layer, she found a plain cardboard box. On top of the box there was a piece of paper, attached by sticky tape. It was a typed note, with James’ name on it. She carefully tore it away from the box, before opening the note up and reading the following:

Dear James,
I do hope you accept this gift, a present for your daughter on her very special 7th birthday.

My client wishes to keep his identity discreet, and therefore it shall not be revealed, but this gift is a reflection of your services rendered.

Many happy returns to your daughter.

That was it. There was no clue as to the identity of whoever had sent the present. Victoria frowned, bemused. ‘My client wishes to keep his identity discreet’- how odd, she thought. It was a bit of a mystery. She picked up the parcel and found that it did not feel that heavy. She took it upstairs to her husband’s study. She would ask him about it when he arrived back home from work.

In the meantime, she went to pick Lydia up from school. The little girl was already excited about her birthday and looking forward to having her friends round for the party. She sat in the back seat of the car and talked about the games they would play, like ‘Pass the Parcel’ and ‘Musical Chairs’. She was a very pretty child, having inherited her blonde hair and blue eyes from her mother, rather than the dark looks of her father.

When James got home from work, his wife showed him the mysterious box in his study. He was as mystified by it as his wife was. “I can’t think who it would be”, he told her. “A client would have mentioned something to me at work. I don’t think I even mentioned Lydia’s birthday to anyone. How strange.”

“Do you think…it’s alright?” Victoria asked, biting her lip. “I mean…maybe we should open it and see what it is? We can always wrap it up again. I think we should check it out.”

“You want to?” James glanced at her, his eyes made smaller by his bi-focal glasses. “It would spoil the surprise, wouldn’t it?”

“James, I want you to open it”, his wife said firmly. It was not just the fact that the sender was anonymous. There was something sinister about the mystery, something that instinctively made her feel wary. She didn’t want her daughter opening this mystery box without her or James having checked it first.

James picked up the box and held it up to his ear. He heard nothing. “You think it’s a bomb?” he asked, laughing.

“Don’t joke about things like that”, Victoria said, admonishing him. “Open it.”

James shook the parcel hard, wondering if he might break what was inside, if it was something delicate. Nothing made a sharp cracking noise, but he did hear something else. He frowned. It had been almost…a scuttling noise. Like something was alive and moving in there. Would someone have put a kitten or a puppy in a box? There were no holes for breathing.

He wondered if he had imagined it, but decided it was probably best to open the thing. The lid was taped shut, and he picked up a pair of scissors to slice through the tape. Once he had done that, the two sides of the lid were slightly ajar. Cautiously he opened the lid…

Buy this collection on Lulu or on Amazon UK.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

"Bright Moon" by Marilyn Peake (Short Story)

Genre:  Dark Fantasy

Type of Short Story:  Short Story

Summary:  In China, an infant faerie is found by a toddler. Delighted, his peasant farmer parents see this as an opportunity to raise a second child despite China’s one-child Planned Birth Policy. They name the baby Ming Yue, meaning "Bright Moon." She is precious and magical. As China begins its industrial revolution, waterways and rice paddies run red with pollution, farms become cancer villages, and the baby faerie struggles to survive.

The baby was cute. The Zhou family found her, naked and shivering, in a thicket of bushes next to the stream winding its way like a singing ribbon across their farm. That night, they named her Ming Yue, meaning “Bright Moon”, as the cool white illumination of a full moon rained down from the heavens and filled their home with light. Observing her bright blue eyes, they later nicknamed her “Ming”, meaning simply “shining, bright, clear”. At the time of her discovery, they assumed that she had been left by parents too afraid to transgress the one-child Planned Birth Policy.

Cheng-Gong, their toddler son, had been the first to find her. Wearing coveralls more stained with mud than their original beige dye, he had been digging in the soil for worms as his parents worked their tiny farm. Aware of both butterflies and faeries flitting to and fro upon the wind, his hearing and other senses keen and developing every day, he heard a baby’s cry and wandered off to find its source. Running as quickly as his little legs would carry him, he ignored his parents’ shouts warning him to stop and come back. Following after Cheng-Gong, they eventually came upon the tiny baby, kicking her legs and wailing within the deep grasses of the thicket.

Jia Li, the mother, picked up the fretting infant, cheeks red and slick with tears, and held her close. To her husband, Quon, she spoke furtively, “Someone left her, probably hoping we would find her. We should keep her. The government allows us only one child without penalties, but we didn’t have this baby ourselves. We should be allowed to keep her, don’t you think?”

As Quon smiled, the leathery, sun-baked skin of his thin cheeks and around his glittering black eyes gathered into wrinkles. “Yes, yes, we should keep her. Last night, I dreamed that a dragon had climbed down from the mountain caves above our farm, carrying a golden cup in its mouth. Then I woke. That must have been a message from the gods that this infant was on her way. She is a very special gift.”

For a moment, Jia Li’s wizened face softened and filled with a soft radiant glow. Then, remembering her responsibilities of motherhood, she realized the baby needed clothes soon and Cheng-Gong needed an introduction first. Kneeling down, Jia Li showed the infant, now happily cooing, to her son.

Cheng-Gong reached out a chubby little hand and patted the newcomer on her shiny golden head. “Momma, her hair is gold.”

Quon thought back to his dream of the dragon carrying a golden cup in its mouth. Jia Li wondered if there had been male visitors from abroad, perhaps Europe or the United States, within the past year. She tried to remember, wondering if the baby might be the result of an illicit union between a local Chinese woman and some blonde-haired man. So much the better if that were true, she decided, because it was less likely that the woman would ever try to reclaim her child, especially if she already had one, as the Chinese government would never allow two children without fines and other penalties. Briefly, she remembered a local man hung from a tree for failing to pay the fine after the birth of his second child, a fine as large as one year’s earnings; but she tossed the thought from her mind, feeling certain the child’s golden hair would somehow protect them.

After gazing into the dark glimmering eyes of her new brother, Ming Yue was carried into the small farmhouse of the Zhou family and swaddled in brightly colored, tattered blankets. That night, she drank sweetened goat’s milk, waved her arms and babbled incessantly while her older brother danced rings around her with entertaining antics.

As the full moon rose high in the sky, stars twinkled and winked and planets sparkled like diamonds, Mr. And Mrs. Zhou rose repeatedly from their dreams to feed their crying infant. The next day, Jia Li stayed inside the house with her children, too tired to handle the risk of being sighted by nosy neighbors or government authorities.

Three months after Ming Yue’s arrival, as his mother was changing his little sister’s clothes, Cheng-Gong pointed to her back. There sprouted tiny, sparkling, light blue feathers. Suddenly released from the confinement of the tiny undershirt, they fluttered and flapped, completely out of sync with each other. The baby giggled and smiled at her mother.

Buy this story on Amazon.

Monday, January 9, 2012

"Dirt Baby and Other Small Mercies" by Stuart Millard (Short Stories)

Genre:  Transgressive Fiction

Type of Short Story:  Short Story Collection

Summary:  In this mini-length collection of short stories and flash fiction, Millard leads you through another unsettling wander down strange verbal pathways and untrodden literary trails. Assisted suicide for aging snowmen, hearts replaced with bombs, and the humiliating death of Fruity O' Toots; and what of the lonely tornado who tried to befriend the anvil?

One complete flash fiction from the collection:

Small Man

When Reg Cuff heard that Sandlewick's abandoned Tiny Town model village was up for auction, he sold his home and failing business and moved right in. As Tiny Town's resident giant, you could often hear him from the car park, stomping around the diminutive streets and growling at plastic figures living out frozen snapshots of their lives. At first, it probably seemed like fun; the little man that nobody noticed suddenly the lumbering master of his own kingdom. He filled his days terrorising the silent inhabitants, crushing train carriages beneath his feet and yelling “God can't save you now!” through the roof of a weather-beaten fiberglass church. By night he curled up on the astro turf of the cricket green, finding comfort in the metrical tinny mooing from the miniature farm he'd splintered with his fists. Eventually, something inside him snapped. There's a loss of perspective particular to giants – everyone seems so far away when you're half as tall as the sky. He emerged naked from the boating lake like Goya's Colossus, standing astride the smashed up buildings and tearfully howling for forgiveness.

“I'm not going to hurt you,” he said, peering inside the tiny houses for a friendly face, but nobody ever came to the window.

Buy this collection on Amazon.  Also, check out Stuart's site.

Friday, January 6, 2012

"Cannon Fodder: Operation Horse Whisperer" by Marilyn Peake (Short Story)

Genre:  Science Fiction

Type of Short Story:  Short Story

Summary:  The years 2026 – 2027. China is the world’s superpower. Recuperating from a nasty head injury in a military hospital, U.S. Army Private Jack Walker experiences vivid memories of fighting along the Chinese-Mongolian border. The military brass insist he’s been fighting in Ethiopia, Africa; and they have photographs to prove it. Of course, all isn’t what it appears to be. There’s the matter of the luminescent purple liquid in the hypodermic needle and the little purple pill.


February 2027
The sky was deep primary blue, the clouds milk-white cream hastily whipped into the random, shifting shapes of giant frogs, horses, palaces, and guns. The men sat - bundled in heavy coats and wearing large, fur-lined caps and gloves - on top of horses that snorted cloudy mists from their warm nostrils. The dirt and grass were frozen and dusted with a thin sprinkling of snow.

Jack Walker carried a large golden eagle on his arm as he rode into the snow-covered mountains. Many of the Mongolian men supported two eagles. As the horses maneuvered the terrain, the men sang songs.

When the sun dropped from the sky and set like a brilliant red campfire along the mountain ridge, the blue sky darkened, the clouds grayed, and a fox scampered out into the open leaving clear tracks in the frothy snow.

The men fed small chips of ice to their eagles to make them keener and hungrier. Jack studied the fox. Wearing a thick, bushy coat – white, black, gray, and topped with lustrous red fur – the fox pointed its black snout in the direction of something primal, tucked its front legs under him and pounced into the snow to race forward.

The men removed tiny leather hoods from the feathery heads of the golden eagles; then set their trained birds free to track the fox. The eagles soared into the evening sky, solid black against the fire-and-ash color of dusk, on wingspans of seven and eight feet. The men followed their flapping guides on the backs of their horses.

Nergui waved to Jack Walker. “Walker!”

“Mr. Walker! Mr. Walker!”

Jack felt a cuff tighten around his left bicep and heard the rhythmic beeping of the blood pressure machine. He inhaled an uncomfortable mix of cleaning fluids, male body sweat, and a woman’s perfume. He opened his eyes.

The room was dark. Soft golden light spilled onto the wall in the shape of a tall, distorted triangle. In the dimness, Jack made out the small face of Nurse Nancy, the most frequent night shift nurse.

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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

"The Blessed and The Damned" by A.R. Williams (Novelette)

Genre:  Dark Fantasy

Type of Short Story:  Novelette

Summary:  When her twin sister kidnaps her daughter, Lorna Jassan must return to Kuwar in order to find them. Her mission forces her to seek help from Weslin, a man she never wanted to see again. In the midst of her search, Lorna must keep a sixteen-year-old secret hidden, but the city has secrets of its own. Can Lorna unravel them in time to rescue her daughter and escape?

Lorna Jassan forgot how the fog smelled of ash and bone. It hung over the bay, thick and heavy, dampening all sound except the gentle lapping of waves against the Virgin Saint's hull. Nearby, she could make out other ships in the mist. They bobbed like shadows on the waves. Fog lanterns glowed orange-yellow on their decks then disappeared as the ships passed, the soft tinkle of bells, fore and aft, the only hint that they were close and danger near.

"Captain, please prepare me a boat. I'm ready to depart the ship," Lorna said.

"Impatient, impractical woman. Do you not listen? There are dangers in the fog," Captain Baraheri said, disturbing the silence that surrounded them. He wore his dark hair in the religious knot of his people and a multi-colored chapan cinched around his waist with a maroon belt. He looked at her, sadness etched on his face. "I too have children and understand your plight, but this is madness."

"I will wait no longer," Lorna said. "My daughter is out there, lost and alone. The goddesses only know what she is going through."

Sheridan, her man-at-arms, pulled thoughtfully on his grey-white mustache and leaned against a rail. He said nothing to choose either side, but waited for the issue to be resolved. He reminded Lorna of one of her father's mastiffs: old, tough, reliable. She suspected he was enjoying the debate.

"There are many mysteries in the fog," Baraheri said. "I have seen ghosts emerge from thin air and take a man's life. I have witnessed brave men lose their minds and their courage due to the horrors of that city. They are a fierce people, suspicious of outsiders."

"Ghost?" Sheridan asked in disbelief. "We are paladins of the Three Sisters; you can do better than try to frighten us with tales of ghost, sir?"

Captain Baraheri scratched at his beard. He glanced at Sheridan, then back at Lorna. "There are many swords in Kuwar. Twice as many daggers. Even the Iskartaya have blades." He noted Sheridan with a slight nod of his head. "In a city of five hundred thousand, two is not an imposing number. Your gods cannot protect you; even they are outnumbered by the gods of Kuwar."

"I will pay for a boat," Lorna said. She extended her hand to give him a satchel of coins.

Captain Baraheri looked at her as though she offered him a snake. He raised his hands in rejection. "Only a fool accepts money from the unfortunate." He shook his head in disgust, braced his hands against the rail and looked out into the fog. "I will give you a boat," he whispered.

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