Friday, May 30, 2014

" Blood Moon" by Carol Davis (Novelette)

Genre:  Supernatural

Type of Short Story:  Novelette

Summary:  Will Bronson is a single father with an 11-year-old son, traveling from town to town, surviving on the pay from odd jobs. Struggling to stay one step ahead of the thing that killed his wife nine years ago: a werewolf, one of the thousands that stalk human prey throughout the world.

In the years since Elizabeth Bronson was murdered, Will has learned the truth about what's out there. How to track the wolves down and kill them. So when a stranger sends a message saying "Help me," Will can't say no. After he meets the mysterious owner of a battered RV parked on a dirt road in the middle of the Colorado Rockies, he can't walk away -- even though by staying, he's putting his son's life, and his own, in mortal danger.

Because there's a wolf close by. And it's ready to kill again.


The boy lifted his gaze, looked at Will long and hard. When he spoke, his voice had a catch to it, one that packed more of a wallop than if he’d stood there complaining for half an hour. “That’s a lot of people,” he said. “More than a hundred people died? Didn’t anybody notice? Why didn’t anybody notice? Why isn’t it on the news if a hundred people–”

“I don’t know.”

“Is that supposed to be okay? Is that normal?”

“It’s just a guess,” Will told him. “That the wolf got them. People disappear all the time. Get tired of their lives, so they run away. Start up again somewhere else. Nothing says they’re all dead.”

“But they could be.”


“Do you think they’re dead?”

“I don’t know.”

“I know there’s crap going on all the time,” Danny said wearily. “I know the world’s full of rapists and killers and thieves and bad things happen to good people. I know all that, Dad.”

There was a “but” hanging in the air.

It went unspoken.

When Danny’s expression began to collapse, Will closed the distance that separated them and wrapped an arm around his son, pulling Danny in against his chest.

“Could use your help,” he said after a minute, close to the top of Danny’s head. “That thing’s covered a lot of ground, and we don’t have a lot of time to find it.”

“I ought to be in school.”

That, spoken into the folds of Will’s shirt. Will sighed silently and rested a hand against the back of Danny’s neck.

“We ought to be a lot of things,” he replied.

“But it’s gonna kill again.”

Will couldn’t argue that. He could give Danny that much, that bit of honest assessment; he wouldn’t have argued the point with an adult, and Danny, stepping back away from Will so he could look Will full in the eye, had pretty much stopped being a little boy a lot of miles back.

“We’re gonna do what we can,” Will said.

“He should have called Jeremiah a long time ago.”

“We’ll do what we can,” Will said again.

Then he steered Danny back toward the RV.

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Friday, May 23, 2014

"Stranger In The House" by Chris Vaughn (Novella)

Genre:  Mystery, Thriller

Type of Short Story:  Novella

Summary:  Ashley Steele is coming home. Casie Steele knows because her lawyer told her so. 

It has been seven years since he was recruited to work in a post-9/11 Middle East, six years since the letters quit coming. But the man who walks into their house is not Ashley Steele.

They were newlyweds when Ashley chose duty over love, but Casie knows the difference between her husband and a stranger. It's his face, his body, but not his soul. She's on her own--to everyone else he's same old Ashley.

Casie’s sanity, safety, and Ashley’s inheritance is at risk… everything changes when a stranger is in the house.


Chapter 1

Casie's hand trembled so much she couldn't hold the tea cup. It slipped out of her hand, like so many things had slipped lately. The tea cup bounced once off the floor before it shattered on the solid oak floor. The few drops of tea that had been in the cup would be easy for her maid Maria to clean up. She looked around with panic to see if any had gotten on the photo album. Rarely today did families have a big old coffee table photo album--the type of an album that held the black and white pictures and professional pictures to store family memories. Casie only had a few of Ashley when he was a child. Some families take pictures to store the memories, some didn't; Ashley's family was the latter.

The few pictures she had of Ashley as a young boy seemed ancient, not having seen his face in so many years. There were the few she had of their marriage and then no more. It seemed it was all she had left of Ashley. She stared at the wedding portrait of him and her. It seemed to be all that was left of him.

Six years was a long time to look at the same pictures. She rearranged the photos and the furniture to give the house a different look. They didn't share many nights together in the house and then he was gone. Casie kept the yellow bow on the porch pillar in new condition, and made public how she had planned his welcome home party for the day he walked through the door. She checked the mail every day looking for a letter or official notification. She checked several times a day. The pressure had started to show in her actions, and face.

She looked down at the broken cup, and joined her hands together to stop them from shaking.

"Mrs. The phone is for you. It's Richard." Maria handed Casie the phone.

"Hello Richard." Richard, a friend of Ashley, and their family attorney, called often to check on Casie.

"Casie, how are you? You didn't look good last night."

"I'm all right. Just nerves."

"Seven years is a long time to wait."

"I know. If they'd just tell me something... Couldn't they just let me know if he's alive or dead? If's he is dead, I'll take it hard, but at least I'll know."

"Casie, there are lots of families like you now. War is hell, especially for the families at home. I want to make sure. I care for you, Casie, and you need to take better care of yourself. You need to make some decisions, and Casie, it's time to consider moving on." His voice was soft.

"Richard, I'll make the decisions I need to, when I have to."

"It's almost seven years now, Casie. Your must moment is almost here."

"Richard please! This is hard for me." Her voice sounded frustrated. Richard had constantly prodded her lately to make decisions and move on with life.

"I'm sorry. I care for you and don't want to see you hurt. Six long years, and the seventh anniversary is almost here." Richard was the family lawyer and understood the legal hurdles that would come in the next few months.

Richard spoke softer to her, "Casie, you can't move on with life until Ashely had been declared dead. I know it's hard but not only am I a friend, I want to be more. But I'm your lawyer, and business comes first for me. It's been almost seven years, and there are some things that have to be talked about, and soon."

"All right, Richard, what?"

"Like I've been reminding you, it's been almost seven years now. In a couple of months it will be seven years, and Ashley will be declared legally dead. There is the family inheritance, the home, etc. When he is declared legally dead, according to the will, you being his wife, the estate and inheritance go to you."

"Why do you have to keep reminding me of the will? The estate. Money! Money! Money! That's all you ever bring up."

"Because it has to be dealt with, and an estate and inheritance worth 170 million dollars has to be handled correctly to take care of you in the future. Those things must be addressed. There are things that haven't been dealt with since he is not here, and the authority isn't given to you, or me, or anyone to execute those particulars, until he returns or is declared legally dead."

"All I care about is getting him home alive and well. Every time we talk lately you bring this up." Her hand held the phone, and it shook. Like a feeble old woman, she grabbed the phone with both hands. "Richard, I'm done with this now. It's not a good time for me."

"Can I come over later to check on you?"

"That will be fine. Let me go."

"Until then, Casie."

She hung the phone up and called out to Maria. "Maria, please come clean this broken cup, and bring me another cup of tea."

Maria had anticipated her wanting more tea, and was already preparing a fresh cup.

"Mrs. Casie, do you want just tea?" This routine had been repeated many times over the years, and more so in the last few months.

"No, Casie, you know how I want it. It's early but I need it. I need something to calm my nerves."

Six years was a long time not to know whether your husband was coming home. Every day had become a day to wonder if she'd find out he was alive or dead. Patriotism was good trait in Ashley, but he'd volunteered so quickly it had cost her a husband, as well as a family--a whirlwind romance of several months, followed by less than a year of marriage before he had left. At least they had enjoyed a great honeymoon, and some good months where they travelled abroad through Europe and the Middle East. Casie held those memories tight, but memories didn't keep her warm at night, or fill her house with a future or children.

Right after 9-11, calls had come in for Ashley. He was recruited due to his family connections in the Middle East. He knew people, and the language, and he knew people who knew people. Those connections were a family life line of resources for his father's business. He knew it would be a perfect cover and offered his services. He had traveled overseas with his parents most of his life, and when the State Department agreed, Ashley was on his way.

Ashley knew the landscape and the people of the Middle East like he had grown up there. He'd been taught the customs and protocols of the culture and, better still, his family had known the people who made things happen.

Their honeymoon had been a magic carpet ride of romance and excitement for them. In late June of that year they had married. July was spent in Europe, followed by August in Jordan. The world made sense then, but all the world made sense in August of 2011 until terror and confusion became the norm.

Who'd have expected Ashley Steele had been anything important? Someone must have. Radical groups? Islamist fundamentalists? They may have discovered who he was, and why he was there. Maybe his disappearance had nothing to do with his work for the Agency, but more than likely it had.

Casie had gone to sleep at night wondering if she'd hear news that he had died a violent death at the hands of a thief or been tortured in the desert. Torments like those had been in her mind every night for years.

The State Department had never given her hope that he was alive. Then again, the State Department never would confirm his death, or the fact he was working for them. Ashley had reminded her before he left that nothing was on the record and nothing would be spoken off the record. Complete silence had been the only sound of Ashley she had grown used to. Silence growled a cruel torment for those who waited at home for the knowledge of what had happened.

Casie had finished her tea, and her hand was shaking again. She used both hands to place the cup back on the saucer on the coffee table.

"Maria, I'm going for a walk. I've got to clear my head, and steady my nerves."

"That would be good for you, Mrs. Casie. You should sit in the garden? Don't give up hope, Mrs. Casie. Every day brings something new."

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Friday, May 16, 2014

"Carnival Nights" by Kathryn O'Halloran (Short Stories)

Genre:  Literary Fiction

Type of Short Story:  Short Story Collection

Summary:  Carnival Nights is a collection of short stories about the dreams and hopes we bury inside us and the consquences of acknowledging those dreams. 

A country boy finally makes the move to the city but discovers things aren't the way he remembers them. A woman finds what she needs most after her death. A young girl learns that the idea of sex is better than the act.


She stands in the doorway holding a cantaloupe. Gift-wrapped. The hands offering the fruit are hidden by stretched and ragged sleeves; cardigan sleeves which I suspect have been sucked on and chewed. Multicoloured pigtails sprout from her head like apostrophes in an overpunctuated poem, the freckles on her nose are full stops. Under the cardigan is a mangle of lace, a jettisoned remnant from a child’s dress up box. She looks fey, but knowing, an urban pixie.

"I saw you moving in. I live downstairs and wanted to welcome you to the neighbourhood.” She hands me the cantaloupe and says she is on her way to a party, she can’t hang around bugging me. As if she would. I am not exactly overwhelmed with people offering me their company at the moment. I am about to invite her in for a drink but, before the thought gets from my brain to my mouth, she vanishes.

I moved into this flat a week ago, after dreaming for years of moving to the city. We had visited St Kilda on the Under-19’s footy trip, a bunch of country kids, wide-eyed and naïve. The other guys only wanted to gawk at the prostitutes and snicker at the homeless, as though the street life was an exotic zoo for their amusement.

Meanwhile I'd fallen in love with the place with its decadence and decay. I remember going to Luna Park, the giant mouth of its clown-faced façade swallowing me whole, wandering through the Art Deco ruins within, imagining former grandeur. I screamed like a child on the Scenic Railway. It wasn't the dips that scared me; it was the thought of that rotting wooden scaffolding holding the structure up.

That night, while the guys got drunk and made a nuisance of themselves with the girls on the street, I explored relics of lost opulence on palm-tree beaches. I drank beer in pubs with walls held up by decade-old collage of band-posters. I sipped bitter coffee in a street cafe and watched dramas unfold before me.

As I wandered the streets I felt like the images were filling my eyes up to overflowing. I wanted to hold it all in.

A man, greyed with age and hard living - tattoo with the name ‘Miranda’ snaking around his chest - asked if he could sell me an idea. Ideas were going cheap – a dollar apiece. I didn’t need them.

Buy this collection on Amazon.

Friday, May 9, 2014

"Glory: The Uxel Herum Saga" by Alain Gomez (Novelette)

Genre:  Young Adult Science Fiction

Type of Short Story:  Novelette

Summary:  Book 4 of the Uxel Herum Saga

Uxel Herum's plan to infiltrate the Imperium capital world quickly begins to go awry. While she initially hoped to act as a spy for the strozzi she is now little more than a glorified prisoner. Will she be able to complete her mission... alive?


The cargo ship lurched and Uxel glowered at the oversized Imperium thug piloting her vessel. The human was clearly uncomfortable trying to sit in a pilot’s chair that was designed for a bac. Her bird-like species preferred perching to sitting. It seemed ridiculous that she couldn’t take the lead on the controls and just have the thug give her directions. But no. “The colonel’s command was quite explicit,” the thug had said.

Her head twitched and she glanced around the cockpit nervously, a mannerism Uxel hated but seemed to have no control over when she was stressed. She hoped for the umpteenth time that Urgon had both received and understood her message. Her entire future hinged on that one little data pad.

How strangely life could turn out at times. The colonel’s offer to have her replace Urgon Shebel and tune ships for the Imperium was almost irresistible. A job like that would give her everything she ever dreamed of: wealth, power… respect. A few years ago she would have jumped at the chance without so much as a second thought. Who cared if she ended up selling out her people and her beliefs in the end? So long as it made her an easy quave.

But she did have a second thought. She had several second thoughts. In that moment Uxel realized that she had changed. Whether or not it was for the better remained to be seen. Perhaps she had become shrewder with age or perhaps Lady Valkon and the strozzi sense of honor had rubbed off on her. Deep down an insistent voice said that she owed the strozzi more than a quick betrayal. If power and respect were what she craved she would not find it through this Imperium job offer. The colonel could sugarcoat the deal all he liked but it didn’t change the fact that she would be nothing more than a peon or, worse still, a prisoner.

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Friday, May 2, 2014

"Eve the First: A Fairy Tale Revision" by Teresa Edmond-Sargeant (Short Story)

Genre:  Fantasy

Type of Short Story:  Short Story

Summary:  A retelling of Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale "The Wicked Prince," "Eve the First" introduces a princess unlike any other in popular fairy tales: ruthless, power-hungry and ambitious enough to conquer Heaven. After successfully monopolizing the known world, Eve lays her eyes on taking down God so she can reign supreme over Heaven and Earth.


She was called Eve the First. 

And once upon a time, that name, and its infamy, petrified the hearts and minds of anyone familiar with her conquests, capabilities, and cunning tenacity fueled by her volatility.

Eve’s innocent beauty belied her passion to conquer the world. Her doe-like eyes concealed the twinkle that reflected her megalomaniacal thirst for power. With her youthfully plump, pink lips, Eve barked demands at her subjects and soldiers, threatening to execute them if they failed to carry out her commands. She wore her lustrous locks in braids and pinned up into exquisite loops with hair ornaments crafted from the bones of her enemies and decorated with precious jewels like pearls, diamonds, and sapphires.

In Eve’s kingdom of Regnum, the populace sought for worldly knowledge, wealth, and prestige. Above all, the people pursued the supreme form of existence: immortality. To these ends, they excelled in architecture, arts, music, literature, alchemy and science. With the practices of Pagan worship, drunken orgies, and human sacrificing, they prided themselves on being their absolute best in knowledge and wealth, while their crude and barbaric natures situated them at the bottom of human existence. 
Eve ruled the land of Regnum with the utmost passion of all kinds: love, fear, cruelty, and intensity, but mostly the last three. Every day she studied maps of foreign kingdoms, plotted her next conquest, and trained her soldiers until their feet bled and their sanity broke. Wherever she went, her subjects genuflected and lowered their heads, averting eye contact. If Eve caught anyone sneaking furtive glances at her, she screamed the dreaded words, “Away with him and off with his head!” 

The next time that person was seen, his headless body was at the bottom of a ravine near Eve’s castle.
As she brandished her sword and ambition, Eve led her army all over the world, from the nearest to the most remote lands. She left behind trails of bloodshed, death, and tears. With every swing of her sword—a stab here, a beheading there—Eve radiated joy as blood splattered all over her armor and corpses piled up. Villagers said their bountiful fields, once ripe with harvest, were cultivated with the blood of the dead. Whole carcasses and body parts littered the meadows, turning them into rolling graveyards, as though the dead had been dug up. 

“I have unyielding determination that cannot be matched,” Eve once said. “If that makes me an evil woman, so be it.”

Once Eve conquered a village, she marched into its public square and staked her coat of arms into the soil. Her soldiers kept the crowd back while the crowd admired Eve’s glorious beauty sullied with dirt and blood. Clutching the flagpole, Eve placed her right hand over her heart. 

“Today’s victory is in memory of my dear mother, the late Queen Catherine the Third,” Eve said to her new subjects. “She would have been proud to know that I will bestow upon all of you a new day, a new life, and a new era. I acknowledge that from this day forward, this is the age we start to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, and heal the sick. I have ushered in a Golden Era of Peace where the sun will always rise in the east, trees shall forever bear fruit, and harvest season shall forever be abundant. This is the time when we unite as one to remake this land so it will transcend our utmost expectations and ideal selves.”

Eve then signaled her soldiers to present her newly conquered subjects with baskets of bread and meat and vessels of cider. 
“Today, what I have done was quite a sacrifice, but it was all done for you my beloved people,” Eve continued. “I will give you whatever you yearn for—food, shelter, clothes—and promise to alleviate you of the agonies you long suffered at the hands of your demon of a king. That will happen if—and only if—you crown me your ruler and allow me to erect my statues everywhere in your village.”

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