Friday, January 25, 2013

"The Encounter" by Chrystalla Thoma (Novella)



Genre:  Urban Fantasy

Type of Short Story:  Novella

Summary:  Centuries ago, they tried to invade us and failed. Now the elves are back.

Paranormal Bureau Agent Ella Jones knows her job: fight the Shades living between worlds and keep everyone safe. But then her partner goes missing, a mysterious guy saves her life, and increasingly dangerous creatures slip into her city. After centuries of peace, the gates beyond the Veil are opening and an old enemy is returning: the elves. 

Ella needs to find her partner, uncover the identity of her savior, and find a way to stop the elves from invading again. With the world going to hell, what’s a girl to do but grab her guns and knives and figure it all out, one way or another.

Excerpt:

Although it was early September, the cold bit to the bone and the air smelled like snow. Snow and piss and trash. The alley stretched ahead, empty of life and strewn with crushed cans and paper.

Ella didn’t move. Faint humming filled her ears, and clicking noises sounded. The clouds above shifted, though no wind blew. The Veil was thinning. Shades would be lurking, waiting to pounce. In the past, faint, frail faeries came through; these had recently turned into more malevolent creatures — kobolds and goblins with a taste for blood.

Nothing moved. Her cheeks ached with the cold. Swearing under her breath, she shifted her hand on the grip of her gun. She wore her blouse inside out for protection and the patterned letters on the front scraped against her skin and itched. The charms hanging around her neck chimed softly as she turned to check behind her and she clapped a hand over them, the iron ice-cold against her palm. A strand of dark hair fell in her eyes; she blew it off her face.

Night was falling, limiting her vision, and she just wished she knew where the hell Simon, her partner, was. He was supposed to meet her, but there was no sign of him.

No sign of the caller who’d reported being pursued by a Shade, either, and she couldn’t just shout ‘Secret Paranormal Investigation Team of one here to save you’, could she? Not with the Shade lying in waiting. Poor fellow had either escaped or found death. Sooner or later she’d know which it was.

The air thickened, growing opaque with dark fog, and she clasped her cold iron charm against her chest. She drew a deep breath and caught a whiff of blood.

A shift behind her, a current stirring the trash, and three Shades came out of the mist, running at her, claws extended.

Ella spun and slashed with her twin knives, the symbols on them blazing. She caught one Shade under the chin and cut upward, drew the other into the creature’s belly. The Kobold shrieked, clawing at its throat with sharp-nailed fingers, then fizzled and faded, returning to the grey space between the worlds — the river of Grey, where twisted ghosts and shadow creatures nobody knew much about wandered.

Quiet settled around her. She turned in a circle, knives pointing down. They dripped black ichor that burned holes where it dripped into the ground.

Where were the other two Shades? And where had all these come from? The Veil rarely thinned so much as to admit more than one at a time.

A swish in the air behind her and she dropped to the asphalt, rolling away, coming to a crouch. The other two Kobolds leered at her, spindly legs and ugly feet bare to the icy wind that now tore through the city. She rose slowly.

Dave would love this new development. One more thing to worry about, on top of the increased Shade aggressiveness they’d observed over the past days.

Ella barely had time to duck when the Shades attacked, each from either side. She slashed at one and backed away. Simon, damn you, hurry up! Her partner was so going to hear about this. He never stood her up, so what was going on?

No time for speculation. Her boots skidding on loose gravel, she raced toward a construction site. It stood silent in the night, pillars and scaffolds rising like ruins of some ancient temple, silvered by moonlight. She dug her fingers into the chain link fence and climbed up, swung a leg over and dropped on the other side. She ran lightly between pits and pieces of machinery, looking for a good spot to make her stand.

Too late she caught the glint of yellow eyes peering at her from behind a half-built wall. Backing away on broken pieces of concrete and planks, she tried to wrap her mind around this. More Shades? Maybe she should call Dave right now, ask for extraction ASAP.

But she never got the chance. The goblin, because that’s what it was, stepped from behind the wall, massive and horned, drooling silver saliva. The Kobolds snickered and chittered, a series of clicks and sighs that chilled her spine. Jesus, how many were there?

She drew her phone, keeping the knife in her other hand, and pressed one, the speed-dial for a distress call.

Then the goblin flew at her, knocked the phone out of her hand and slammed her down to the floor. Her head hit the concrete and the world blacked out for a moment. As her senses returned, the dark fading, she saw the goblin tower over her. She barely registered the burn of something sharp pinching her side, too shocked to feel much of anything. She patted the concrete at her side, seeking her knife in the rubble, then froze when the goblin drew back a massive fist and gave a grin full of sharp teeth.

Somewhere behind her, the kobolds clicked and clapped.

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Friday, January 18, 2013

"Under Contract" by Craig Hansen (Short Story)



Genre:  Horror, Humor

Type of Short Story:  Short Story

Summary:  "Traditional publishing ruined my life!"

Many writers tell tales of the horrors of writing for a traditional book publisher. None are quite like Under Contract.
Under Contract reveals the long-buried tale of Craig Hansen’s secret past as a contract writer working for a traditional print publisher, and everything that led to his long, twenty-year silence before emerging last year as an independent author.

It’s a tale that never needed to be told, probably shouldn’t have been told, yet against all legal advice, common sense, and wisdom, has now been told.

So, did Craig Hansen survive a secret past as a contract writer for a traditional publisher, or is he full of cherry smoothie? Decide for yourself.

Excerpt:

It was a dark and stormy night. Suddenly, a shot rang out! The maid screamed! And...

Err, wrong story.

Sorry, Snoopy.

Anyway, yeah, I was young and stupid, what can I say? This was before the era of Nook. Well before. Like, the eighties, remember?

One day, I was approached by an editor in a dark overcoat.

“Hey, kid,” he whispered in a conspiratorial, Deep Throat-esque voice. “I got something I wanna show ya.”

A naïve teenager, I approached him.

“What’s that?” I asked.

He opened his London Fog trench coat and there it was, revealed at last. Pale white, etched in patterns not familiar to me, yet strangely ... familiar.

“This here’s a traditional publishing contract, kiddo,” he said. “You write three books in the next five years, and I promise you, we’re gonna take care of you ... real good.”

“Gee, mister,” I said, because although I wasn’t alive back then, I somehow seemed to live in the fifties, “that sure sounds like a swell deal. I’ve always wanted to be a writer for a big publishing firm in New York.”

“Don’t sweat it, kid,” the editor said, eyes scanning the streets warily. “Of all the firms in the Big Apple, this one’s the firmest. Sign here.”

So I did.

And thus began the most harrowing experience of my life.


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Friday, January 11, 2013

"New Year's Eve Confessions" by Samantha Grey (Novelette)




Genre:  Romance

Type of Short Story:  Novelette

Summary:  After three months in Greece, Jenelle is home for the holidays and spending New Year's Eve with the one person she wants to kiss when the clock strikes midnight. She's been pining after Darren for two years, and she's ready for him to know how she feels.

A hot midnight kiss is sure to lead to more, but Jenelle worries about the timing. His girlfriend of two years cheated on him, and Jenelle doesn't want to be his rebound. Not to mention she has a plane to catch in just a few days. Is this night of passion a one-time occurrence between them, or could it be the start of something deeper?

Excerpt:

Darren put his hands on her hips as the music bounced through the club. They were closer to the speakers, and it was so loud she wouldn’t be able to hear him if he tried to speak to her. She didn’t think he was thinking about talking, though, not as she moved her hips back and forth to the beat, and he leaned towards her. He really had improved since that Halloween party, and she took full credit for it. She hooked her arms around his neck, and he pulled her closer, his hips bumping into hers.

She met his eyes. His tongue ran over his bottom lip as he rocked his hips with hers. His grip tightened on her hips, and she wondered, not for the first time, what it would be like to feel his hands on the rest of her.

They seemed to melt into one person as people danced around them and the music drove their bodies. Some songs were more upbeat, and they jumped around and cheered, and that confident, carefree side of Darren’s came out. But during most of the songs, their bodies were so tight together she wasn’t sure where hers began and his ended.

She ended up with her back to his front. His breath fanned on her bare shoulder, sending a chill down her spine even though she was warm from the dancing and from the two of them being so close. His hands were spread on her hips, her butt snuggled into his hips. When she felt something just a little stuff against her lower back, even more heat went through her. She leaned into him, angling her head to the side.

His lips traced a soft trail on her neck, and she shivered involuntarily. He started to pull away, but she led her hand up to his head, resting it on the back of his neck, entwining her fingers in his hair. He kissed her again, first her neck, then her collarbone and her shoulder. His fingers dug into her hips, curling them around her dress’ fabric. She imagined him just ripping it off and she shivered again.

“Five minutes!” the DJ yelled, his name echoing over the speaker system.

Darren’s lips were moving up her neck, and he kissed her earlobe. Jenelle swore she stopped breathing at the sensitive touch. One of his hand inched down her dress until she felt his fingers through her tights on her leg. His other hand was cradling her waist to him, his breath in her ear, and her eyes fluttered until they closed. She didn’t care that they were practically groping on the dance floor. She’d waited for this for two years and she and Kelly had made sure they’d be here alone while the rest of their friends, like meddling Yvonne, were elsewhere tonight.

At the thought of Yvonne, her stomach stirred. Was this like a rebound thing for him? Was he really over her? After more than two years, could he be over her that quickly?


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Friday, January 4, 2013

"Whiskey, Zebra, Tango" by David A. Todd (Short Story)



Genre:  Action, Crime, 

Type of Short Story:  Short Story

Summary:  A routine traffic stop in Providence, Rhode Island results in a high speed chase, and the suspect fleeing on foot in neighboring Cranston. The investigation determines that Sharon Williams Fonseca, by all appearances an average housewife and grandmother, helped him get away. Police from both Providence and Cranston investigate who she is and why should would help the man, who is suspected of being a terrorist in Yemen. A mysterious CIA agent appears as they are interrogating her, and helps fill in the gaps on what they have learned.

Excerpt:

Officer Pete DiPetrillo enjoyed the quietness of the night. Not a moving car in sight. A rash of business burglaries around Columbus Square had him and his partner, Sonny McCormick, parked on a side street and watching. Everyone in the neighborhood knew they were there. This was deterrence, not surveillance. The bad guys would lay off for a while, and hopefully the detectives would figure out who they were.

Their evening shift was about over. Pete and Sonny had covered all the successes and problems with the Red Sox, the Patriots, and the Celtics, and were just moving on to the Bruins when the radio interrupted.

"All units in South Providence in the vicinity of Elmwood Avenue, pursue a fleeing vehicle southbound on Elmwood, a gray Toyota Corolla, license Papa-Delta-7-7-1. Suspect is a Middle Eastern male, believed to be alone in the vehicle. Suspect fled from a routine traffic stop—"

"That's us," DiPetrillo said, and started the engine. They were sitting thirty feet east of Elmwood.

McCormick grabbed the mike and said they would pursue. The suspect car came rapidly into view, zoomed through Columbus Square, veering right at the wye onto Reservoir Avenue. Whatever unit stopped him downtown was not in close pursuit yet, though sirens sounded down Elmwood.

"Jeepers, he's going 80 at least," DiPetrillo said. He gunned the cruiser into the intersection, accelerating rapidly, but the suspect had already disappeared over the railroad bridge. They were up to 60 at the top of the rise, and could see other units in the rearview mirror and the suspect ahead of them. They were now the closest unit.

This was DiPetrillo's first time to drive in hot pursuit. He'd been in Sonny's place several times before. Those adrenalin rushes were nothing compared to what he felt now. His cruiser had more power than the Toyota so they were gaining. The suspect took the right at the Y ahead.

"Suspect stayed on Reservoir," McCormick called in, and appears to not be taking Route 10." The slight rise ahead caused them to lose sight. "C'mon, step on it."

"I've got it floored now. He's gonna be in Cranston before we get close to him.

"Has Cranston been dispatched?" Sonny called in.

"Cranston has been dispatched. So far no report on where their units are." The dispatcher had rarely been silent as she coordinated units.

"We'll see him in a second," DiPetrillo said. "He's just…oh, call it in."

Sonny spoke into the mike, "Suspect has turned west onto a side street just south of Route 10. We are fifteen seconds away."

To make the turn on the side street, DiPetrillo began braking just as he left the bridge over Route 10. He turned sharply, and saw the Toyota ahead in a gas station parking area. The driver had done a 180, crashed the rear end into the air pumps; the driver side door was open, and the suspect was nowhere in sight. DiPetrillo braked harder to bring the cruiser to a stop.

"Vehicle has crashed at the Hess gas station at Reservoir and," McCormick looked at the street sign, "Carleton. Suspect is not in sight and may be on foot."

They had stopped not ten feet away from the crashed car. DiPetrillo looked at the area. The suspect could have fled up Carleton Street, or across the front of the gas station to whatever street was on the other side, or might even be hiding behind the car. The gas station attendant was outside the door of the building and looking in their direction, which convinced the officers the suspect hadn't gone across the front of the gas station. This was a residential area, houses on small lots, no cars on the street. DiPetrillo saw that it was actually two streets that came together in a tight wye, forming a wide triangle of pavement before joining Reservoir Avenue. The suspect could be down either street, or hiding in a back yard. The square was dark except for police flashers. He could hear little over the sound of his engine and air venting from the destroyed dispenser.

Other units began pulling up, both Providence units from the north and Cranston units from the south. A Providence captain took charge. He sent DiPetrillo and McCormick, along with two other officers, on foot to check the street to the left and others to check the street to the right, while sending cruisers down both streets. "Listen for dogs barking," he instructed. "Other teams will begin leapfrogging you in a minute."

DiPetrillo and McCormick and the other two began a quick check of the front of the houses first houses, discussing how they would handle going into the back yards. They could hear a dog yapping at the third house, and when they got there they encountered a woman standing at the bottom of the porch steps, holding the dog's leash and trying to pull the little terrier to her. She looked up at the officers before her with guns drawn, and let out a little shriek.

DiPetrillo spoke first. "Ma'am, please get inside your house. A suspect may have come down this street. We don't know if he's armed, and—"

"I saw him," she said, taking a step toward them and pointing down the street. "He went that way very fast, just seconds before you pulled up." DiPetrillo saw she was an older woman. He guessed about fifty, slender, hair at her shoulders and loose, and wearing a bathrobe over what looked like a housecoat.

McCormick spoke into his lapel microphone. "Suspect was last seen on foot heading…"Again he looked for a street sign, saw none, but the woman said, "Cottage." "…west on Cottage Street, maybe a minute or two ago."

"What's down this street?" DiPetrillo asked.

"It's a long block, then little league fields," she said. "Beyond that is Speck Pond. Franklin Street crosses it first."

"Okay, ma'am. Back inside your house, please. We'll have an officer here in a moment."

"But I've got to walk Molly."

"Later, please." The officers took off at a trot in pursuit.


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