Monday, March 29, 2010

Too Late a Lesson Learned - Part 5

Emily made her way upstairs to Amelia's room, where Amelia was sound asleep. Emily tore the blanket off the mattress and kicked her sister in the side.

"What's going on? Emily, why did you do that? That hurt."

"I don't care, bitch. Wake up. I want you to know what has happened, and what is going to happen.'

"What are you talking about? What has happened? What have you done?"

Emily folded her arms and leaned against the shabby bureau.

"Well, let's see now. First, I had a friend cut daddy's throat, and then I had the same friend cut Nanny's throat. What do you think about that?"

Amelia's eyes began to fill with tears.

"What do you mean, you had Nanny's throat cut?" She gasped and began to sob. "Why would you do such a thing? How could you do such a thing? You know I loved her and she loved me. Daddy never loved me so I'm not really sure how I should feel about that, but you had no right to take someone away from me that loved me."

Emily began to laugh.

"Loved you? Loved you? There's a hoot. You're dirt under the world's feet. You never have been, are not now, and will never be worth anything to anybody. Besides, I'm not finished. I haven't told you yet what is going to happen. I am going to take your miserable self downstairs and my friend is going to cut your throat, only slowly, so I can watch you die and enjoy every minute of it. Now, get your ugly self out of that bed and let's get it done."

Emily grabbed Amelia's arm and pulled her off the mattress and began to drag her to the stairwell. As they passed the small desk Amelia had fashioned for herself out of some old boxes so she could do her lessons, she could feel herself burning with rage. As Emily continued to pull her out of the room, Amelia reached across the desk and grabbed a pair of scissors she had been using to create a collage for Nanny's room. She held them at her side until they reached the stairwell and with no warning, she swung herself around and plunged the scissors deep into Emily's throat.

Emily let go of her and grabbed the rail, blood already running in rivers down the front of her gown. Her look of puzzlement only made Amelia angrier, and she pulled the scissors out and stabbed Emily in the throat one final time. Emily staggered backwards, slipped on the first step and tumbled down the stairs, landing in a sitting position against the front door, blood turning her blue gown bright red.

"Oh no," Amelia said aloud. "What have I done? Emily? Please? I didn't mean... You just made me so angry all these years, but I would never do anything to hurt you. But, killing the one and only person I have ever loved and who loved me back was too much. But, what have I done? Oh no..."

She trailed off as she saw the Ancient One moving around the bottom of the stairs to look at Emily. Amelia's blood ran cold.

What is that thing doing here, she wondered. Oh yes. Emily had said a 'friend' had murdered daddy and Nanny. That must be who she meant. Amelia scrambled to clear her head. Have to think. Have to figure out what to do. What to do

The Ancient One began to make its way slowly up the stairs to Amelia, arms extended, blood-drenched talons glistening in the moonlight.

"What do you want?" she screamed. "Don't come any closer. Oh, God, you don't understand me, do you? And, I don't know how to talk to you."

As it made its way closer and closer, it spoke in a deep and raspy voice.

"Yes, I understand you. I do speak your language. I prefer the ancient words in their proper form and they are the only ones I obey, but I have been among your kind long enough to be able to understand. You ask what it is that I want. What I want is to fulfill my mistress' last command. I must obey her last request of me."

"What last request? What are you talking about?"

Amelia found herself unable to move as the thing made its way upstairs to her.

"The last thing she said to me from the ancient script was that 'if anything should happen to me, kill everyone left in the house--avenge me'. From where I'm standing, it would appear that is you."

"I can stop you!" Amelia screamed. "There is a command to stop you. Oh God, what was it, something like--oh, I can't remember! What were the words? I heard Nanny say them many times. What were the words? Oh God..."

As the thing raised its arm to make the first cut, it spoke for the last time.

"Yes, you did hear them. You heard them many times. But, you never really listened, did you? You never paid attention to any of your lessons. You always waited until the last minute to read your assignments. You never learned to do things on time."

The last thing Amelia did was open her mouth to let the scream come out. As usual--too late.

Too Late a Lesson Learned - Part 4

In the days to come, while Nanny took her afternoon nap, Emily took the big black book to her room and read and learned and memorized. Whispering part of the chants only to perfect the pronunciation without actually producing an effect, she found it easier and easier to issue the commands.

One evening when daddy came home and announced to his children Nanny's services would no longer be required as he had found another love to fill the void left by their mother, Emily knew the time had come for him. She could not allow another woman to come into the house. It was all well and good that Nanny would be out of the way, but it would be more difficult to eliminate daddy and a new bride, along with Amelia. This new woman of his would want his money and he'd already been talking about rewriting his will to include her, which meant less for Emily, and that couldn't happen. Something had to be done before he brought this new enemy into the picture. Something would have to be done now.

One evening a few days later, daddy announced that his new love would be returning from a trip to Europe within the week and would begin to move her belongings into the house. He was beside himself with happiness; he seemed to find a new reason to go on living. He kissed his daughters goodnight, then retired to his room, awaiting Emily's delivery of his glass of warm milk and medication. He dimmed the lights and thought about how different things would be when she arrived. A new mother for his children, someone he would really enjoy having pleasure him--he would no longer need Emily--and he had offered Nanny a generous severance and a gracious reference and told her she was welcome to remain in the house until she obtained another position. She had done so well with Amelia and Emily, he had no intention of putting her out in the street.

Baxter believed Nanny had accepted the news well, but he could detect a hint of bitterness about her manner. He reasoned she simply had come to love his children and was just sorry to be losing contact with them. But it had to be this way. His new wife would want to run the home and care for the children herself. How wonderful life would be.

Emily appeared at his door, holding a glass of milk. No medication for you tonight though, daddy, tonight you die. She began whispering the chant.

"Nodumar, Amande. Amande!"

She commanded the Ancient One to appear. She turned to watch as he seemed to walk through the wall, arms extended, razor-sharp talons ready. Baxter turned to see what she was looking at and froze in horror.

"What the hell is that?" he gasped. "What the..."

Emily began the command.

"Tokur shamand," she whispered. "Tokur shamand. Nostrad."

Kill him. Kill him how.

Before Baxter could move, the thing was upon him, slicing and slashing. He tried to scream, but with his throat cut from ear to ear, he could make no sound. He slumped back on the bed, covered in his own blood, his eyes frozen open forever with fear and torment. Emily simply smiled.

"Good job, Ancient One," she said aloud, even though she knew it could not understand her. "Now, let's take care of the one who brought you to me. She is of no further use to me. I know she was planning to kill my father before he wed so she could continue to control us and ultimately his fortune. I know that was her plan because it was also mine, but now she must die too."

The Ancient One tilted its head, not comprehending any part of what Emily was saying, awaiting his next command, which Emily couldn't have been happier to provide. She whispered the command to kill Nanny as she slept in her bed. Be silent, but quick, she had ordered. Don't let her see it coming.

Emily realized Nanny knew the words to stop the thing and she didn't want her to have time to utter even one syllable. Emily followed the creature downstairs as it made its way to Nannny's room. Nanny awoke just before the first cut across her throat, but it was too late. It was deep and painful, and all she could do was gasp for air that would not be forthcoming. The thing continued its bloody task until the bedcovers were stained red.

"Another job well done, dear friend," she said, receiving no response from the thing. "We'll do the last one a little bit differently because I want Amelia to see it coming. Yes, I definitely want her to know she's going to die tonight. Then, we'll dispose of the mess, and I'll finally have a life for myself. And, of course, you will always be a part of it, dear one."

Emily approached the dark mass and stroked the black hood that covered its head. She had never seen its face and believed it was probably best that way. She told it to remain downstairs and that she would personally deliver its last victim. But, before she left, she gave it one last command. It nodded and Emily knew all would be well. All would be well.

Too Late a Lesson Learned - Part 3

Emily got ready to get up and go downstairs to sample more of daddy's liquor, which she found extremely soothing. Daddy never minded it; she would take a little from here and a little from there, until her glass was full, then take it up to bed and slowly sip until she was warm and comfortable inside. The glass was washed and back in the kitchen cabinet before anyone arose each morning, and Emily enjoyed the danger of it all. It was now a nightly ritual for her, and she never wanted to stop. Every once in awhile, daddy would call her to his room to pleasure him, and it helped being somewhat numb.

Emily thought her daddy was a sick fuck--a child molester. She'd learned about such things in spite of her isolation. She'd always pretended to relish his touch and showed gratitude for what he tried to teach her, but in the end, he was just a sick fuck and Emily wished he would just die.

His touch repulsed her, he always smelled of medication. He was taking quite a bit of it of late. She had often considered giving him a few too many pills in his milk in the evening when he took all his medications before he went to bed, but she decided against it. He was too well known, no one was ever in the house but her and Amelia, and of course, Nanny, but everyone would probably suspect Emily anyway. Somehow, they would find out she had done it and life would be over. She decided the best thing to do was just to wait him out. He would die soon enough, she was sure of that, and then the inheritance would be hers as the eldest, and she would boot Amelia out, along with this spook of a live-in babysitter and have the house all to herself. She was patient; she would just wait him out,

As Amelia's pleasure crested and fell, Nanny began reciting the archiac chant to summon the Ancient One so he could join them and watch. Emily was very adept at learning foreign languages, but this was one she had never heard before. She listened closely though and tried to remember. If all this chanting did conjure something up, she wanted to be able to bring it out of the shadows for her own personal use. Of course, Amelia was lost in a world of her own design, as usual. Listening to nothing, remembering nothing, learning nothing. For the first time in her life, she was feeling, and she was going to keep feeling as long as it would last.

A glint of light caught the corner of Emily's eye. Her eyes widened in shock and her heart began to race as she saw emerging from the dark corner of the room a large figure. The figure was draped in a black cloak and its hands were folded. At least, she thought they were hands until she saw the talons resting on each of its arms.

My God, she thought, is this that Ancient One Nanny keeps talking about? My God, she has summoned up the devil himself. The creature moved effortlessly and silently across the floor toward Amelia and Nanny, who had eased herself off the blanket outside the circle of candles next to Emily.

"Look," she whispered, "he has come. He has come to drink from the well of this young woman, to join his soul with hers as he has done with mine on many occasions. You will be next, my dear," she said. "You must let the Ancient One consume you and become one with him. Then, he will be ours to command."

Ours, Emily thought, you mean, mine to command, you twisted old bitch. That thing can do whatever it wants to me if I can control it. How much worse than daddy would it be..."

The dark figure covered Amelia, slobbering over her, licking her everywhere with its black tongue. Emily began to feel sick to her stomach, but watched Amelia writhe in ecstasy and began to feel stirrings of her own. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad after all. And it would be hers to command. She glanced over at Nanny, who was joining in the festivities by feverishly pleasuring herself.

Emily thought they will all have to go. All of them. First daddy, then Nanny, then poor little Amelia, the slug. Emily knew in the terms of her father's will, one of the conditions was that she provide a home for Amelia. He had never believed Amelia would be able to fend or care for herself and despise her though he did, he did want to make sure she was well cared for. Well, Emily was not about to provide a home for her or anything else.

Maybe I'll get my friend the Ancient One to take them all out, Emily smiled. Nanny had said it would do anything for us. I wonder if it would kill for me.

Nanny was so preoccupied with her own delight, she didn't notice as Emily thumbed through her book of commands in the ancient language.

Surely there must be a spell or something in here that I could use, Emily thought. Every chance I get, I'll sneak a look. The purposes behind the chants are right alongside the words to whisper. I'm not going to learn what she plans to teach. I'll just learn what I need.

When the thing was finished, it arose and waited. Nanny turned to look at Emily, and she had already removed her clothing and was pushing Amelia out of the circle and positioning herself on the blanket. Ready. The creature ran its sharp talons firmly over her body, not hard tough to cut, but certainly enough to light the fire within her. She let the creature take her and had to admit it was pleasurable in a kinky, bizarre sort of way. She had no plans for a second helping of a visit of this kind, but once would be enough. She would learn how to summon it and control it. She would learn how to make it do her bidding. She would learn how to make it kill for her.

When the Ancient One was finished with Emily, it slowly backed itself up into the corner from which it had come and vanished into thin air. Amelia was all giggly and excited. Nanny was completed satiated, and Emily wanted to vomit.

But, she thought, there is always a price to pay, isn't there, for getting what you want. Always a price...

Too Late a Lesson Learned - Part 2

Life went down the same path for the Coopersmocks year after year until Martha took to her bed ill. Doctor after doctor consulted doctor after doctor, but none could reach any conclusions about the root of her malaise. The Wednesday evening special occasions with Emily came to a grinding halt--Baxter did not feel it appropriate to engage in pleasurable activities with his daughter on one side of the bed while his wife lay ill on the other. Martha had told him it would not cause her any distress; she would simply medicate herself so as not to be disturbed. Emily's lessons must continue, she had told him--the child must not be deprived, her future was at stake. But Baxter explained it just wouldn't be the same, something would be missing. He would continue Emily's training when his beloved wife recovered and not before. That was his final word on the subject.

Martha Cecily Coopersmock died quietly in her sleep two months to the day she first took to her bed. No one could explain her demise and thus, no attempt was ever made. She was simply removed from her bed wrapped in her favorite satin bedding and transported to the funeral home. A touching service occurred three days following her death; all her close friends and their families were in attendance. All but Amelia and Emily. Daddy had explained to them that this was not an event they should witness. They needed to remember their beloved mother as she was. Silently. Not another word about it. And not another word about it was ever spoken.

Things were different around the Coopersmock house after that. No more Wednesday evenings, no more entertaining. Daddy seemed to withdraw into himself and further distance himself from his children. That is, until the day he brought Nanny home.

Nanny, it seemed, was someone daddy had heard about from one of his business associates. Children need a woman in the house, he had been told, and Nanny had tutored and raised his partner's children from infancy. She had a special way with children, Baxter had been told. She had knowledge of ancient languages and cultures, and little ones were drawn to her like she was a magnet. Late night whispering under the covers, exchanging playful looks and gestures, she was a gem and a half. Baxter's partner's children were now grown and on their own so Nanny's services were no longer required there. There had been some unfortunate occurrences while she had been under their roof (accidental deaths of pets and friends), but Nanny always seemed able to lift the children's despair. Get her while you can, Baxter had been told. She will no doubt be hired on the spot by the first family who knows she has become available. She lives in and takes over the care of the children. Totally. Baxter would be able to put his life back on track and not be concerned about Amelia and Emily's welfare. Nanny would take care of everything.

Baxter met Nanny over coffee, discussed the position, and brought her home with him, suitcase and all. Yes. This was the right thing to do under the circumstances. The children do need a woman around the house. And, she came so highly recommended.

Amelia took to Nanny at first sight, Nanny being somewhat of a social outcast herself. Not someone one would actually term as ugly, but most assuredly unattractive and on the solemn side. Amelia loved her. Really. Emily, on the other hand, seemed oddly suspicious of Nanny's fondling and repeated attempts at solidifying a bond between them. She constantly spoke of bizarre things such as the existence of parallel worlds and communicating with something called the Ancient One--never really saying anything specific about this entity, but always promising to teach Amelia and Emily how to call out to him, summon him, command him.

Soon, she would say, the time will come very soon when you are both ready for an introduction. You will relish the company of the Ancient One, she told them; he can become your best friend. But you must pay close attention to my instructions on how to reach this visage. Very close attention. Mistakes must not be made. Nanny told them she would teach them the ancient dialect, but it was difficult and they must agree to study hard and must remember correctly. Exactly.

The ceremonies, as Nanny referred to them, began harmlessly enough. They must be conducted by candlelight, she had said, and the ancient dialect must be spoken in whispers. The three of them must sit together in a circle, their bodies touching somehow. They must be united as one; this was a very important point to remember. One must never summon the Ancient One alone. Never while alone. She had repeated this so many times, Emily began to grow weary of Nanny'c constant admonitions. The Ancient One. The ancient dialect. Sit in a circle with bodies in constant contact. Rubbish. Emily wanted to see this creature, or whatever it was, for herself. She also wanted to see what it could do when commanded. Then, she would become a believer.

One night, after the Mr. had gone out for the evening, Nanny told Amelia and Emily they were going to take a step further tonight. They were going to demonstrate for the Ancient One that they appreciated and reveled in the joys and sorrows of the flesh. Once he saw that for himself, he would know they were worthy of his presence and attention. The girls had no idea what she was talking about, but found out soon enough.

Upstairs in one of the extra bedrooms, Nanny had prepared the area by placing a large blanket on the bare wood floor and had surrounded it with small black candles, which she slowly and carefully lit--one by one--all the while muttering some phrase, over and over until they were all afire. She had asked Emily to remain outside the circle this time; secretly, she didn't really trust Emily very much and thought she would be able to conduct the rite with Amelia with much more cooperation. Amelia was a sad child, and lonely. She had been basically rejected by her parents, had no real friends to speak of, and yearned for someone to care for her. Amelia would enjoy this bonding rite. Nanny knew she could count on Amelia to let the Ancient One know he would be welcome in this house.

Nanny quietly told Amelia to remove her clothing. Amelia was embarrassed, but she did as she was told. Emily sat on the mattress in the corner of the room wondering what kind of perverted game this was going to become. Well, it would figure. Perhaps this thing--creature--vision--would want to touch her sister. Heaven knows no human man could bring himself to. Emily thought of Amelia as a slug and pointed out the resemblance to her often enough.

Amelia lay on the blanket and Nanny gently spread her legs. Emily's eyes kept sweeping the room, awaiting some dark presence with fiery eyes to come and copulate with her sister.

Just like in the movies, she smiled to herself, and this was all just as hokey. But there was no dark vision, no eyes aflame with desire. It was Nanny herself who caressed Amelia, kissing and gently stroking her in her secret place until Amelia began to moan with delight. Emily watched Amelia shudder briefly and laughed silently.

It didn't take very long to get her off, she thought, just a few seconds. Well, Emily had been the recipient of daddy's training after all. Not Amelia. Surely, she wouldn't be able to hold back from all that intimacy.

A Bit of Horror From Years Past - Part 1

Here's one of my horror/crime pieces that was originally published in Hellbound Book's anthology, DeathGrip: Legacy of Terror. I think it still evokes a shudder or two; sure hope so. See if you agree. Enjoy. I'll warn you though. It's quite a lengthy piece, so I've split it into five parts. Still, make yourself nice and comfy and make sure you're all alone in the house. Horror is more fun that way!

Too Late a Lesson Learned - Part 1

Amelia Lorraine was really in a tizzy. For sure. No doubt about it. In the recent past, she had felt a tad flustered briefly a time or two and, or course, one could not ignore the fleeting moments she had been certain she had experienced a conniption, but right now, she was most assuredly in the midst of a tizzy. Standing at the top of the stairs, staring down at her sister, Emily Mildred, sitting with her back against the front door, blood gushing from the gaping wound in her throat, pooling in a lake around her. What else could it be? Yes, indeedy. It was a tizzy alright.

* * * * *

Amelia Lorraine and Emily Mildred Coopersmock had been born to wealth. One would never have guessed it though, to look at either of them. Baxter Eugene and Martha Cecily Coopersmock had lived very extravagantly and had zealously indulged their expensive tastes. Their expensive tastes, certainly. Baxter had founded an advertising agency that did nothing but make money with very little effort on his part and as time went on, all his business did was more of the same.

The Coopersmock's eight-bedroom home was carpeted throughout--so plush, the children's feet could not be seen as they made their way from room to room. The master bedroom, entry into which was restricted to the Mr. and Mrs., with the exception of 'special occasions', was furnished with priceless antiques and wall-to-wall museum-caliber artwork. The bed was a four-poster, with 14-carat gold edging and bright blue satin bedding. The bathroom was furnished with a sunken tub and gold fixtures sparked throughout. The dining room contained an elegant oak table, also edged in gold, with an oak china cabinet displaying gold-edged dinnerware. The Mr. and Mrs. really enjoyed the look of sun reflecting off gold. It made their favorite rooms sparkle and shine, and they spared no expense to indulge their fancy. The living room was equipped with an entertainment center that spanned the longest wall and held a wide-screen television, a stereo system, a DVD player, a VCR, and their projector. A movie screen could be lowered with one of their numerous remote controls, several recliners circled the room to provide comfort at any angle, and the fully stocked bar provided its own unique form of comfort on cold winter nights. The kitchen was full of every modern appliance known to man, and a twelve-course meal could be prepared effortlessly with the touch of a few buttons. Truly a luxurious haven for the privileged few. But, when it came to the children...

Upstairs, there were seven bedrooms that were reminiscent of prison cells. They were each furnished with a three-drawer bureau, a box spring and mattress resting on the floor--headboards and frames being deemed unnecessary clutter--and a wastebasket. Each room had one window, covered with a drab white curtain, and that was the extent of frivolous decoration. Baxter and Martha believed children should not be pampered, and that they must learn to earn the luxuries life has to give. They had the run of the house during daylight hours and could enjoy the fruits of their father's labor, but every evening after dinner, they were sent to retire to their rooms to do their lessons and experience the way of life of the average person off the street. It was an experience they did not enjoy, and that was their parents' point. Since they were girls, there was no necessity in planning for a career or any of that nonsense. What they needed to do was refine their manners and appearance to enable them to marry well, learn several languages to impress the elite and someday, if they learned their lessons well, they would be able to rise above the banality of their existence and become the mistresses of an estate as their mother had.

Let them see both sides, Baxter and Martha were in agreement. They'll make the right choice.

Emily was the first-born and she was an absolute delight. A physically beautiful blond, blue-eyed child, precocious and witty, Baxter and Martha made the decision to fill their home with more of the same. Unfortunately, when Amelia made her entry into the world, the Coopersmock's plan to populate the house went up in smoke. Amelia was somber and morose. The child was not at all appealing to the eye, with her stringy brown hair, dark eyes, and uneven smile. She was not at all a joy to behold, and Baxter and Martha felt the best thing to do was simply to leave the rest of the bedrooms furnished as is and empty. No more little bundles of joy for them. Not after Amelia.

Special occasions occurred once per week on Wednesday evenings. This was another important part of growing up as young, marketable ladies. Amelia, however, was not included in these sessions, as Baxter was repulsed by her--daughter or not. Emily though, was not only pleasing to the eye, but also pleasing to daddy as he began to train her how to please a gentleman--physically. Emily was instructed, from the age of 12, to arrive at the master bedroom door at precisely 8:00 p.m. every Wednesday evening, clad only in a sheer gown and follow her father's instructions in the art of love-making. Baxter and Martha (who always observed and provided helpful tips) routinely sent Emily back to her own room when all was over and done with words of encouragement to assure the child that she would be successful in adult life. She would someday become the mistress of her own estate and her spouse would never stray if she learned her lessons well--the ones from her books and the ones taught by daddy in the bedroom.

The door was always closed once Emily arrived and often, Amelia would sit outside and lean against the door so she could hear what was said and try to imagine what was going on. She always felt cheated and betrayed, but only had to be briefly in the company of her mother or father to be reminded of why she was not asked to join in on any family activities. They never missed an opportunity--nor did Emily--to point out how basically unattractive she was and her best hope for the future would be to join a convent or some such establishment. Marriage was not in the cards for Amelia. No man would have her; no man would want her. After all, if daddy could not bear the touch of her hand, what man on earth could bear to lie with her? She had better just concentrate on the lessons from her books. Perhaps, she could become a teacher in a girls' boarding school if the convent idea did not pan out. There was always that possibility as well.

The Coopersmocks frequently entertained others in their social class; although Amelia and Emily were always confined to their rooms during such events. These gatherings always began in the dining room with a sumptuous dinner, then continued and finished in the living room with music, movies and laughter. Several times, Amelia and Emily would sneak to the edge of the stairwell and watch the goings on. It puzzled them that the guest couples always brought their children along. The children were encouraged to participate in the festivities and to engage in games and socializing with each other, but not with Amelia or Emily. They were never permitted to attend these get-togethers held in their own home. They were permitted to socialize only with each other, and there was definitely not much of that.

Emily flatly despised Amelia and made that point clear on a daily basis. Amelia never lost any sleep over it though--she felt the same toward Emily. They didn't play together; they barely spoke to each other, so no problem in that regard. There was no love lost between the Coopersmock sisters, so no one ever had to worry about their playing together getting out of control.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Crimefactory Issue #2 Available!

Issue #2 of Crimefactory is now up. Get in there--I plan to begin my journey through the factory today--and check out all the fantastic stories, essays, interviews, etc. There's something in there for everyone; actually, EVERYTHING in there is for everyone, so don't delay. Click on the link below and get lost in there. Don't bring any breadcrumbs to leave along the path in though; you are not going to want to find your way out any time soon.

We're talking a lineup that includes Jimmy Callaway, Dave Zeltserman, Charlie Stella, Craig McDonald, Reed Farrel Coleman, Kieran Shea, Peter Dragovich, Chad Eagleton, Ray Banks, Josh Converse, Gerard Brennan, Stephen D. Rogers, and Patricia Abbott. There are various features, including reviews of different types of media, including one of Dennis Tafoya's Dope Thief by yours truly--you have to read Dope Thief, by the way. Reviews of comics, films, etc., will clue you in on what's hot and what's not.

Note, this is Issue #2. If you still haven't checked out Issue #1, what are you waiting for?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Crime Fiction? What is that?

I had a really interesting experience the other day while I was at the library. I was waiting in line to check out some books and the woman in front of me was asking the clerk if he could help her find something. She explained that she needed some help to find some good crime fiction novels. Then, she added, 'so what kinds of crime fiction are there?' I wished I had my camera with me so I could have immortalized the look on the library clerk's face. Confusion doesn't even begin to cover it. He pointed to a section labeled 'Mystery' and told her to begin there.

When I got home, I started thinking about her question, and wondered just how many types of crime fiction there were. I did some research and found there were quite a number of different types and sub-genres. Let's take a look at some of them.

Beginning with what I see as the main category, crime fiction itself is defined as fiction that deals with certain aspects of crime(s), the criminal(s), and the police and/or detectives who solve them. I'm not sure what I had originally expected to find, but I certainly was surprised by this loose explanation. Surely there's so much more to a crime fiction piece than that; so many different elements and driving factors. Well, looking into this further, I was amazed at what I found.

Let's begin with detective fiction. This is comprised of stories that contain detectives as characters, right? That's what I thought until I dug deeper and found that, not only is that a nonsensical analysis of detective fiction, there are actually several sub-genres of that type of plotline. You can, however, define classic detective fiction as a story that contains a detective, whether they be professional or amateur, who investigates and/or solves a crime, which is often a murder. Within that scope though, are countless variations on that theme.

Hardboiled detective fiction: This is a literary style which portrays crime and violence in an unsentimental way. This was kind of a broad statement, but does give a clue that there's more to it than just throwing in a PI or two.

Detective fiction itself can be broken down into three subcategories as well. You have the whodonit, which is a complex plot-driven variation of the detective story in which the puzzle is the main feature of the story. Then, you have the locked room, which is where a crime, usually murder, is committed under seemingly impossible circumstances and/or the perpetrator continues to escape detection also under seemingly impossible conditions. Lastly, you have the cozy, where any sex and/or violence are downplayed or treated lightly or with a touch of humor.

Inverted detective or howcatchem: This one really intrigues me (Columbo was the best in this regard, in my opinion). This is where commission of the crime is revealed at the beginning, and usually includes the identity of the perpetrator. Where the story goes from there is that it shows you how the detective attempts to solve the mystery and identify the individual(s) responsible.

Then, we come to the sub-genre of a thriller. Thrillers are generally plot-driven vs. character-driven stories. But within thrillers, we also have several variations.

Psychological or suspense thriller: These reverse the formula, and become primarily character-driven. Often the suspense comes from two or more characters preying upon each other's minds.

Legal thriller: The main characters in these stories are usually lawyers and their firms. The concept of justice itself plays a major role. The lawyers in these types of thrillers are usually taking the system on, almost as if they are on a type of quest for truth and the power of good. Frequently, they become so obsessed, they end up putting themselves, their friends and family, and at times, their employers, at peril.

Police procedural: These can be described as a piece of detective fiction which tries to accurately depict the day-to-day activities of the police as they investigate crimes. Novels of this type usually consist of several unrelated crimes since they are focusing on the investigative procedures and skills of the police and detectives working the cases.

Last, but most certainly not least, we have noir--a personal favorite sub-genre of mine. Noir is defined as of or relating to a type of crime literature that features tough, cynical characters, dark plotlines, and bleak settings. Gritty and truly not for the faint of heart.

Looking back, there really isn't just one type of crime fiction story or novel. Crimes, and their involved parties on all sides, are all different, and writing about the same crime can be approached from many different perspectives. This, to me, is what makes this whole area of literature so incredibly fascinating. There are no limits to style or point of view when it comes to writing about crime. Good stuff. Indeed.

Spinetingler Nominees!

Here are the Spinetingler nominees for the best short story. Whoa. Check out each and every one of them--they are all superior reads!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Check Out a REAL Killer!

Take a look at Dave Zeltserman's trailer for his new book, Killer. The trailer is most assuredly a 'killer' indeed. This doesn't make you want to get to know his character, it makes you NEED to get to know him. There's a real intensity there in the story of this man, and just that small glimpse you get in this trailer really draws you in and peaks your curiosity. There's a lot more backstory there besides the man's hits--a lot more to him than just his profession. Click on in there and watch it. You will immediately know exactly what I'm talking about.

By the way, you also need to read Dave's Small Crimes, Pariah, Bad Thoughts and Bad Karma. These are truly brilliant--truly, and you will enjoy each and every one. The thing is, once you start reading anything by Dave Zeltserman, all you end up doing is looking for more. He's THAT good, people. Really. Here's the link. Enjoy.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Another Glimpse Into The Life Of Our Deaf Hit Man

Chad Eagleton has written a positively brilliant piece continuing to explore the world of the deaf hit man created by Christopher Grant. All I can say about this one is read it. This will take you where you need to be right about now.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Our Deaf Hit Man Lives!

Okay, something really cool is happening here. Christopher Grant, who is responsible for that jewel of the web, A Twist of Noir, created a character in his story, Reverberations, who is a (still nameless) deaf hit man. I can't explain it, but anyone who read this great story got the character stuck in their head. For some reason, you didn't want your association with him to end with that tale--you needed to know more--needed to kind of birddog him to see what he was currently up to. Nutty, but true. There was just something about him...

Well, Jimmy Callaway picked up the torch and ran with it in his incredible story, Closed Captioned. It took our favorite character further, gave us a deeper look into him and kept him alive.

Well, I picked it up from Jimmy and kept the fire burning with my story, Blind Date. Another look into how our deaf guy thinks and operates. I couldn't help myself. I'm proud to see it up on A Twist of Noir--that his creator saw my story for the tribute to his character that it was meant to be. Can't explain it, but, his story has got to be told and, when you tell it, it has to be told right. I feel like we owe our deaf guy that much.

I've included links here of what currently is available on this fascinating character.

First, we have Christopher's story, Reverberations, where we meet our guy.

Next, we have Jimmy's tale, Closed Captioned, where we get to know him better.

And, here's mine, Blind Date, where we see him in action.

Enjoy. They're a blast to read, and I know I can speak for all of us when I say that they were a blast to write too. I'm going to keep watching, and hopefully more stories about him will come along--perhaps a collection. Now, that would really be something!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

My New Story up at A Twist of Noir

My new short, The Good Neighbor, is currently up at A Twist of Noir. As always, there's a ton of great reads in there. Check mine out if you have a bit of time, and make sure you check out all the others too! So you never forget, sign up to follow ATON. That way, you won't miss any of the treats!

Here's where to follow:

and, here's a direct link to my new one:

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Why ask why? Because we need to know why. But, why?

Why did he go on that rampage? Why are they robbing THAT bank? What was the reason behind taking the victim's worthless bracelet? Why, why, and more why's. Everyone does whatever it is that they do for a reason, including criminals. But, do they always have a specific reason for acting in a certain way or for commiting a crime in a specific way. And, why did they decide to commit that particular crime in the first place? These are questions I, as a reader, frequently ask of the material I'm reading, and it got me thinking. Do readers, in general, seek a motive for the characters' acts and/or behavior, or do they simply accept them, incorporate them into the story, and keep moving? Let's talk about that.

One movie I've always loved is the first in the Die Hard movie series. Our wonderful villain, Hans, is trying to convince the executive on scene, Mr. Takagi, to provide him with the code for one of the vault's seven locks. Mr. Takagi makes a comment alluding to the fact that Hans and his crew are 'terrorists' and Hans laughs and asks what made him think they were terrorists? Mr. Takagi is stunned and his response is along the lines of 'you mean, this is just about money'? I always found it interesting that the fact that they were only after bearer bonds ($640 million to be exact) surprised him. Then again, Hans did deliberately try to mislead the police into believing they were holding those hostages in the high-rise pending the release of various political prisoners, so perhaps Mr. Takagi just picked up on that. But, my point is, he really seems to find it hard to believe that they were doing all of that and going through all of that just for money. I personally thought it brilliant. They shut down everything, locked everyone out that was out and locked everyone in that was already in, had someone to figure out how to open the locks to the vault and, in the end, knew that cutting off the power would break the final seal. Of course, they hadn't counted on Bruce Willis being in the building with them, and well, that was their mistake. But, getting back to motive, theirs was the desire for money. They didn't care who they had to go around, over, or through to get it. It was all about the bearer bonds. Simple enough. No deep-seated psychological issues with their mothers, no childhood conflicts with their peers, no backstory about an aunt by marriage twice-removed who collected decorative hairpins, no contributing factors. Just one solid, unshakeable focus--one driving force--one motive: money.

What I enjoy most of all about this is its simplicity. Whether you've seen this film, or whether you like it or not is really not relevant here. You have to admire the fact that motive is kept so simple and basic. There's no looks back into their childhoods or disillusioned youths. All they want is money. Although, sometimes motives that stem from various factors that have built up over the years can be extremely interesting as well. Take serial killers, for instance.

Now, I know what some of you are thinking. Serial killers? Not again. Sorry, but I, myself, happen to enjoy the complexities of a serial killer. Their motives and methods always run deep and are dark and sinister. I enjoy reading, and writing about, their personal lives, the way they hunt, how they choose who to hunt, and... Well, you get my drift. There's nothing basic or simple about a serial killer, or at least, there shouldn't be, and I think that's why they interest me. Mass murderers and/or thrill killer type characters can be just as complex at times. Of course, there are always the leads from the film, Natural Born Killers. Not a lot of deep motivation there, I don't think. But, that's a whole other ballgame. I will say though, I really like that film. It's strange and the characters are all bizarre and you hate them all and yet, you can't turn away. But, onward and upward.

Like I've said, I like a motive--a reason--a driving force behind a criminal. One caution here though. Make sure when you write them, do not go overboard with that. Don't include little snippets of their dreams and childhood heartbreaks on every other page. Don't go on and on about how their mother's re-marriage warped their perception of the world as they knew it. And, I don't even want to hear about the teddy bear that got tossed by mistake when the family moved. While that might be used to explain why the reunion was turned into a massacre, I don't believe I'd stick with the story long enough to reach that chapter.

Give me motives and reasons, let me get to know your characters as people and as criminals. Go back if you need to, but don't let all that bog you down. Stick relevent tidbits in here and there, but keep your story moving. Oh, and only tell me things once. Trust me, I'll remember. Nothing turns me off a story quicker than reading the exact same sentence twelve times on twelve different pages. Oh yeah. It's happened. I won't name any names, but you know who you are. Don't do that!

I'm going to close with mention of one character for which no motives or reasons were ever necessary. He was so brilliantly written, and portrayed, that it never mattered. No matter how many times you see this particular film, you never care why. You know why all the other characters do what they do, and it's important that you do. It helps you to get to know them better, and believe me, they are worth getting to know. But there is the one guy...

I'm speaking, of course, of the film, No Country for Old Men, and the character I'm referring to is our cold-blooded killer, Anton. You know he's after the money from the deal that went bad, but who does he work for? Does he work for either side? Who does he answer to? Getting to know him for just a couple of minutes makes one wonder if he would ever be in a position to answer to anyone. This is a man who is colder than cold--professional though and even honorable, in his own sinister way. But, reason? Motive? Who can say. Is it his job? Who cares. He's a terrifying persona--calm and methodical and oh so deadly if he feels you are in his way. This is one case of a character where no motive and/or reason is offered.

This is the only occasion I can recall where reasons behind a character's behavior don't seem relevent. Really, the only one. As a writer, I always try to get something in there to let you see the world through my criminal's eyes--let you get inside his/her head so you understand. As a reader, I want writers to do the same for me. It seems to make them, and the story, more real for me. How about you?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Updated Link to Dan O'Shea's Church Flash Contest

Here's an updated link to the contest with all the contributors and the links to their stories. Wouldn't want you to miss any. Mine is below (Bless Me, Father). Get on over there and start reading. I guarantee you will enjoy these deliciously dark and sinister tales.