Monday, November 21, 2011

THE LOST CHILDREN CHARITY ANTHOLOGY



Clicking on the cover at the top right of my blog will take you exactly where you need to go so you can get more information on this project, as well as provide links to where you can purchase this amazing anthology, to which I am very proud to have been a contributor.  For your convenience, I will place another link here.  Let me give you a bit of background here too.

This began as a prompt on the terrific flash fiction site, Flash Fiction Friday.  The photo (also used as the anthology's cover) was to be the inspiration and the challenge was to write a story about those children who are lost, neglected, abused, and existing in despair.  The response was magnificent, as writers from everywhere contributed moving and tragic tales of childhoods filled with violence, emptiness and uncertainty.

Thomas Pluck and Fiona Johnson each pledged to donate $5.00 for each story contributed to two organizations dedicated to the protection of our children (PROTECT and Children 1st).  Following the incredible response to this flash challenge, Thomas, Fiona and Ron Earl Phillips compiled 30 of these stories and The Lost Children Charity Anthology was born.

When you click on the link, you will find this collection is available at Amazon, Amazon UK, Amazon Germany, Amazon France, Smashwords, Apple iBookstore, and Barnes & Noble.  You will also find out the special benefits that will result from your purchase.  Not only will you be obtaining an anthology full of stories crafted by incredibly talented and dedicated writers, but you will also be assisting those lost children that the stories have been written about.  Half of the proceeds from anthology sales will be going to PROTECT and half will be going to Children 1st.

This anthology would make a fantastic gift, not only for friends and family, but for yourself as well.  And remember, all proceeds from sales are going directly to the organizations listed.  Children really are our future and a testament to our past.  Let us do everything we can to make sure they are able to have a future that is productive and successful, but above all, one that is happy and free from fear.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

FLASH FICTION FRIDAY, CYCLE 57: PARANOID PETEY

This week’s prompt was to use a bottle of ketchup in your story. The genre was open, and the word max was 1,000. This one was nothing but tons of fun!

PARANOID PETEY

“I’m telling you, Joey, my new landlady’s CIA or something. She’s always at her front window, peeking through the curtain, writing down when we all come and go in a little black notebook. I seen it, Joey. She’s a fuckin’ spy. You gotta help me find another place right away.”

Oh crap.

Here we go again. No use telling him the woman’s just some nosey old cow who’s got nothing better to do with her life than monitor her renter’s comings and goings. Really. No point.

See, Petey’s my wife’s brother. He’s nuttier than a Christmas fruitcake, but he’s got a special talent that more than makes up for his daily delusions. The kid’s got the stickiest fingers in town. I mean, he can steal the chair you’re sitting on right out from under you and it will be an hour before you even know it’s gone. He really is THAT good, so helping him move 16 times over the past couple of months is no biggie. When I send him out for anything, he always comes through. Doesn’t ask for much either--just enough to get by on; that is, until today.

“Joey, I need to find a better place, so after I do this one, you think maybe you and I could have a long talk about me getting a raise?”

“Petey, you get that clerk to pull out that tray of diamond rings and then swap out the biggest one for this piece of glass and we’ll see. All I need is one more score and then your sister and I can get a nicer place too and rest easy for awhile.”

Petey was real anxious to apply his sleight of hand skill, but wanted me to help him move out of the ‘CIA agent’s’ building first. ‘Paranoid Petey’, my wife’s always called him. Considering the magic in those quick hands of his, “Petey, The Magnificent’ is the moniker I prefer. I got the dolly out of our storage locker and the Bengay out of our bathroom cabinet.

* * * * *

“Where have you been, Petey?” I was in the throes of a major panic attack. “You were supposed to be here two hours ago. I thought you got pinched.”

“Oh no, Joey. I got the ring okay, but then there were these plainclothes dicks everywhere--I seen them--so I stopped in over to the Royale Hotel’s dining room and got a burger. That’s so I could throw them off. See?”

“Okay, Petey. No problem. So, where’s the ring?”

“Well, I couldn’t very well just up and leave with it on me, now could I? So I stashed it in a safe place.”

Uh-oh. Petey may have been quick with his hands, but his mind was something else altogether. Not the sharpest tool in the box, as some say.

“You stashed…, I mean, you don’t have…, where is it, Petey?”

“Oh, it’s where nobody would ever think to look for a ring. You can go over to the hotel to get it because I can’t, see? They’d remember my face. I heard clicking the whole time I was eating my burger. I just know somebody was taking my picture over and over the whole time I was there. All you gotta do is walk in the dining room and go to the first table on the right side up against the wall. That’s where I left the ring.”

Oh crap.

“You left the ring right there on the table? A big fat expensive diamond ring?”

“Joey, Joey, Joey. What kind of a stoop do you think I am? You think I’d leave a ring like that right there on the table? No. I dropped it inside the ketchup bottle that was on there. It was brand new and I’m sure it’s down on the bottom by now. Just go over there and sit at that table and order something. Then when nobody’s looking, put the bottle of ketchup in your pocket and bring it back here and we can get the ring out. Smart move, huh?”

I began to wonder how my wife would feel about becoming an only child.

Okay. How hard could this be? Just stroll in, ask to be seated at the first table on the right, order coffee and pie, slide the ketchup bottle in my pocket, and stroll out. Piece of cake.

* * * * *

Some big group was making their way into the hotel, heading for the dining room. I figured I’d just blend right in, but the hostess was checking names off a list. Not to worry. I just told her that all I wanted was some coffee-and, but I needed to sit at the first table on the right by the door since I was meeting a friend and didn’t want to miss her arrival. I gave the girl my most seductive wink and she blushed crimson. Tonight, I was going to score a home run.

“I’m very sorry, sir,” she composed herself and smiled that fake smile hostesses always wear. “As you can see, we’re expecting a large group this evening. We’ve moved all 30 of our tables together to accommodate them. I would be happy to get you a seat outside on the patio, if you’d like.”

When she stepped back to point to my Plan B seating arrangement, I saw that they had set up the tables in two rows of 15, each one covered with a white tablecloth, each one’s center containing a salt and pepper shaker and a brand new bottle of ketchup.

Oh crap.

On my way home, I decided that Petey and I were most definitely going to have a long talk about getting him that raise…

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

FLASH FICTION FRIDAY, CYCLE 56: DADDY'S BOY

The prompt this week was this photo. The story was supposed to be sci-fi, and 600 words max. I'm not really sure where Daddy's Boy came from, but with my NaNo project, I remain in a very dark place. I don't know if there's a point in this piece. Perhaps not. Maybe it's simply just another stop on this month's dark journey.
 
 
DADDY'S BOY

“Jeffery, what are you doing? You’re supposed to be settled in and getting ready for us to begin our orbit. We’ll be landing soon and you’re going to need to be well rested. You’re not supposed to be messing with those controls. We’re going too fast.”

“Yes, Father. I know, Father. Whatever you say, Father.”

“Jeffery, there’s no need for insubordination. I told you that I would allow you to participate in this mission if you remained respectful and remembered your place.”

“My place? Remember my place? What is my place, Father? What has my place ever been, besides under your feet? That stops now. I’m not messing with the controls. I just permanently disabled the auto-guide, so they won’t be bringing us home.”

“What in God’s name have you done? I’m getting the doctor. I may be too old to restrain you, but he can put you where you belong--locked in your quarters.”

“Don’t waste your time. I’ve already flooded his chamber with a toxic gas and he’s dead. I don’t need him, you see? I don’t need anybody--not anymore. You’ve told me all my life what a failure I was and how I could never manage anything on my own. You asked me over and over when I was going to start being a man. Well, how about now?

“Son, I just don’t understand.”

“Don’t ‘son’ me. I was never anything but a nuisance to you. Well, I’m in charge now. What in God’s name have I done? Dear Father, I AM God--NOW. We’re going on past your world to find another where I will be in charge. I’ve even brought friends along to help me. You remember those little crawly things we found on IK485? The ones that killed our navigator? They had him eaten down to the bone in less than 3 minutes. I believe they will be powerful persuaders to whatever life forms are already there. Don’t you agree?”

“Jeffery, you brought those monsters on board? You can’t control them. They’ll kill us both.”

“No, Father. Not ‘us’. You have two choices. One, get in your chamber and I’ll begin filling it with the toxins. It will be quick and relatively painless. Or, two, I can place you in the supply room where my buddies are stored. It will be quick, and not painless at all.”

“You are insane. I can’t believe you are doing this. Why, Jeffery, why?”

“I’m going to find another world that will be all mine to do with as I choose. Now is as good a time as any to grow up, I suppose. Haven’t you been telling me just that every day? Haven’t you? Father?”

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

FLASH FICTION FRIDAY, CYCLE 48: LOVE BITES

This week’s prompt was to use music in a short fiction piece, any genre, with a limit of 750 words. I decided to use Def Leppard’s Love Bites. Sometimes it really can, you know…

LOVE BITES

“Love bites, love bleeds,
It’s bringing me to my knees…”

Rachel began to cry.

“That’s the one, Lionel. I hate the sound of it. That’s the song he always puts on when he…, when he brutalizes me. He calls it uniting our souls with love’s eternal flame or some such insane thing. His idea of foreplay is punching me with his fists, and then he rapes me. I just can’t take it anymore. I’d rather be dead than have him near me again.”

Lionel knew what he had to do. He’d only known Rachel for a couple of weeks, but she had stolen his heart the night they met. She’d stopped in at Gino’s for a nightcap and when he saw her tears, he had moved her to a corner table and begged her to unburden herself. She said she’d been to show her mom her latest bruises, courtesy of her husband, and said she desperately needed a friend. That was the beginning of forever for Lionel.

“Darling, Lionel began, “it is not you who needs to surrender your dreams. It is your bastard of a husband who needs to die, and I promise you, I will take care of everything.”

* * * * *

“Two birds with one stone, my pet. First, the sucker offs my old man after setting me up with the perfect alibi. Then, I worked my magic on him. I went on and on about how the police kept hounding me, tormenting me, accusing and driving me mad, pushing me right over the edge to who knows what. He couldn’t bear to see me suffer any more. He told me again that he would take care of everything.

The sap wrote a letter confessing to my husband’s murder, blaming it on a failed business deal the two of them supposedly had. After he had dropped it down the mail slot, he jumped off his 24th story balcony. To protect me. To save me. Can you believe our luck?

So, both my rich husband and my knight in a shabby three-piece are out of our way. The life insurance check has cleared and all the banks have released the accounts to me. Now, you and I can be together just like we planned. I‘m really glad this is over though. Running into walls and punching myself till I was black and blue got old really fast, you know? My moron of a husband was starting to get suspicious of my recent bout of clumsiness.”

“Live lives, love dies,
It’s no surprise…”

“Oh my sweet, don’t turn that song off”, Rachel smiled at her lover in the driver’s seat of her new Jag. “I just adore it. I always have.”

“Love begs, love pleads,
It’s what I need…”

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

FLASH FICTION FRIDAY, CYCLE 47: ON AND ON...




This week's theme was the City of Lost Children. The topic was to look at the photo and to look into the child's eyes. The genre was open and the length 700 words. A heartbreaking prompt, but a lot of good will come from this week's challenge. Fiona and Tom will make donations to organizations dedicated to protecting our children for each story submitted. Fantastic idea, guys.

ON AND ON...

A woman and her kid just moved in across the street. With those needle marks up and down Mom’s arms, I doubt she’ll run the PTA’s bake sales. The girl looks 5-ish, skinny, wearing pj’s. What the fuck--it’s February. Mommy went inside and the kid’s on the stoop playing with dolls that have more clothes on than she does.

“Hi. My name is Katie, and I’m 6. You probably don’t want to play dollies with me, but could you sit and talk to me for a little while? We move around a lot and sometimes, I just get so scared being by myself”

I figured I’d clue this kid in on reality.

“Get used to it, kid. You’re gonna spend your life being scared of something. The ‘scared thing’ never goes away. Anyway, I’ve got to meet my boys downtown. We’ve got important stuff to do. And, put on a damn jacket or something, will ya? It’s starting to snow and you’re sitting there with your nose running and looking all nasty. Oh, and my name‘s Richie and I‘m 12, so don‘t bother me again.”

As I made my way to the corner to catch the #43 downtown, I heard the little gimp say she didn’t have a jacket. What kind of kid doesn’t have a jacket? I’ll bet her fucked-up junkie of a mommy has a jacket…

A week in Juvie wasn’t that bad. It’s snowing like a son-of-a-bitch outside and at least I was warm and got 2 meals a day. Used to serve all three, but the new Mayor made some cuts. You ever seen the size of him? He sure didn’t cut his third meal, that’s for sure. Crazy how stuff turns out. I don’t get grabbed for walking out of Danson’s with a $200 leather coat stuffed under my old denim one, but the 1 ounce bottle of $30 cologne in my jeans pocket puts me away. Glad I was able to stash the jacket in the alley before Detective Randall caught up with me. He’s not so bad really; he always cuffs me so I’ll look like a real bad-ass in the neighborhood on our way to the station. Have to keep my rep up, you know.

Those jerks at Danson’s just wanted their cologne back, so I get a week’s room and board and I still got the jacket. I was thinking about giving the one I‘m wearing to that pain-in-the-ass girl on my block. Stupid little idiot, sitting outside in the snow, playing with her dollies, with no jacket on. I know her mom’s inside shooting up, so maybe the kid’s better off outside. Don’t get the idea that I feel sorry for her or anything. She’s nothing but a headache, always wanting me to sit and talk and stuff. Like I’ve got nothing better to do. This jacket’s ready for the dumpster anyway. Giving it to her is no biggie.

It’s a good thing nobody found my stash. This jacket makes me look like I own this dump of a neighborhood; not that I’d want to though. Gotta find the kid. She’s probably out there sitting on her stoop in her pj’s again, nose running all over her…

Well, her mommy’s out there on the stoop, mumbling to herself. Junkie whore.

“Hey, bitch, where’s the kid?”

“What kid?” she could barely get the words out and it wasn’t even 8am.

“YOUR kid”, I shouted. I wanted to stomp her, but there were already people out.

“Oh her”, she came down the steps and started pacing back and forth in front of the building. “Hung herself in her room. Wound her jump rope on the closet door’s knob, swung it over, and looped it around her neck. Figures. Couldn’t ever do anything right, but THAT she does right. Now I’m going to have to move in to one those nasty shelters downtown cause with her gone, I won’t get my monthly assistance check. Selfish little slug…”

I tossed my old jacket in the dumpster on the corner. Going to catch the #43 downtown. The boys and I need to find someone to take down.

Hard.

Just because.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

FLASH FICTION FRIDAY, CYCLE 44: LAST LAUGH

I have been away for awhile, and have missed F3 terribly. Our move is complete though, and while there is always something left to tidy up or switch over, we're pretty much settled in. I have much catching up to do, going back to read all the stories I've missed. I had to get in on this one though. I mean, with a prompt like 'unrest' and it's relationship to fear? Right up there on my list of favorite topics. To me, unrest brings to mind the fear that all we know is coming undone.

The prompt was to write a story about unrest, with the genre being open and the word count being 1500 words or less. I do hope you enjoy.

LAST LAUGH

To Whom It May Concern,

I can only pray enough humanity remains within whoever finds this to invoke concern. If you are that rarity in these dark days, I write this for you.

My name is Steve Josephson, and today, I am 43 years old. I have always known this day would come, but I also had always hoped I would have more time. I wanted to grow old with my wife, Nancy, and for both of us to have been privileged to watch our 13 year old son, Ricky and our 6 year old daughter, Laurie, enjoy families of their own. However, none of it was to be.

When I retrieved the morning paper and read the headline, I became confused. Why wasn’t there panic in the streets? Why was there no military presence in the air and on the ground? Then, I knew. It was already too late. As I re-read the article, I could literally feel the bias. Of course, THEY had prepared and distributed this, the last edition. Not to warn. To inform. THEY were here, and wanted us to know our end was near.

I have been going to monthly meetings with fellow believers for about 8 years. When I would return home with valuable intel, Nancy and my children smiled and nodded, but never accepted the truth. Well, soon, the truth will be marching up our driveway.

The group and I were never able to determine exactly from which galaxy THEY originated, but the signs were all there defining THEIR objectives. Moving from world to world, turning the men and boys into slaves to build their cities, coupling with women and girls to propagate their kind, and consuming the elderly and infirm. I tried to warn my friends and neighbors that the indoctrination had begun using books and movies, but my words went unheeded. It was all being done to get us ready, so when the time came, there would be minimal resistance. I can only wonder what those closest to me are thinking now as they are being branded like cattle.

It matters not because I will not go quietly into that good night. And neither will my loved ones. THEY are outside even as I document these events, calling for me to step outside. THEY understand what I’ve done and want to help me. My home is surrounded and there is no other way out. Really?

I phoned my brother-in-law, David, to let him know what I had done so he could follow suit, but I was betrayed. I told him how I had shot Nancy and each of the children in the head as they slept. To keep them pure. To keep them safe. He hadn’t seen the paper, and there was still time to protect his family. But a good deed never goes unpunished, I believe the saying goes. As soon as I offered the solution, the lies began. There is no invasion, he said. It was all a joke. Nancy had that edition printed in a novelty shop especially for my birthday. My cake, to be delivered later, was in the shape of a flying saucer. What have you done, he cried. What have you done? Ha, ha, I responded. As if my wife would ridicule me, and joke about the future of our beloved Mother Earth…

Soon after I had hung up, THEY arrived, along with David, with THEIR vehicles and masks and weapons. It’s too late for David, but perhaps not for you. It’s a gradual take-over, you see--baby steps, and there is hope if you believe and do not hesitate. Understand the signs and heed my warnings. Don’t let THEM win. Nancy and our children are waiting for me on that other side. I saved the last bullet for me. As soon as I pull the trigger, I will be as free as they.

I believe entry will be attempted shortly, so my time for farewell has come. Be strong, and hold tight to your courage and faith. Remember too. One straight up under the chin. No pain. Only peace…

Thursday, June 16, 2011

FLASH FICTION FRIDAY, CYCLE 35: FIELD TRIP

The challenge this time was to create a sci-fi tale using the following words: Plutonium, galaxy, robot, photon and lasers. It didn’t end there though. The subject, if you will, was supposed to be Teenagers in Space (i.e., ages 13-19). It could be straight sci-fi, a coming of age tale, or a romantic piece. Explore what young people in this age group would do if they got stuck out in space, encountered aliens, etc. How would they handle it? What if they got into trouble? So many possibilities. I decided I would have my group of young people sign up for what I remember from my school days as an occurrence that was always a guaranteed good time: a field trip. Although, this one’s quite a bit different from ones I recall where we stared at Egyptian mummies and ate hot dogs in the park…

FIELD TRIP

“What are you doing, Einstein? Playing Star Wars again?” I couldn’t believe Big B brought a toy with him.

“I’ve told you not to call me that, Brain Boy. It’s Big B.” I knew he didn‘t get it, which is why I enjoyed it so much. “I’m not playing. It’s a robot I builded myself from scratch and it walks and everything. I don’t want these alien guys to think I’m some dummy.”

Now, what would ever give them that impression?

My name is Daniel Young, and I’m 14 years old. I’m a high school senior, and I already have several college scholarships pending. I have an IQ triple that of my companions collectively, and I was one of five selected for this trip. Anyone at our school could apply to NASA for a seat on this craft destined for some sister world outside our galaxy. I understand my being selected, but the others?

Brian, 17, wannabe gangster, who insists we never let the compartment go completely dark. Make of that what you will. CC, 16 and a jock-ess, who has colleges interested in her athletic abilities. Nothing else there of any interest. Really. Sarah, 17, and a ‘Little Susie Homemaker’. She speaks exclusively of recipes and household hints. Bored yet? And lastly, my favorite member of our little posse, Christina. Dressed all in black with hair, lipstick and nail color to match. A Goth and then some. Prophetess of doom. The only one with her finger on the pulse of the real world. Why the five us? Of no consequence. This trip will be the basis for my Master’s Thesis. The others? Well, they can start a scrapbook.

“Since we‘re not needed to drive this thing, I’m going to leave you and Robot-Man to your own devices. I’m going to the mainframe and see what I can hack into. Maybe get some intel on our destination. I’ll let you know if I find anything interesting.”

Like any of them would know ‘interesting’ if it bit them on the backside.

It was hard, even for me, but I managed to access some documents. I couldn’t believe what I found. I tried to convince myself that they had been placed there as a feeble attempt at a joke at my expense, but I knew differently. These were genuine. I printed the one I knew even they would be able to understand.

“I don’t want you to panic, because this might not literally mean what it implies.”

“Look, Brain Boy,” In spite of the fact that my own future was also in jeopardy, I could hardly wait for the schoolyard bully to piss his pants. “Just read it. Let us in on your big dark secret.”

“Fine. Like I said before, this is scheduled to be released to the media two days from now. It reads: ‘The government of the United States is saddened to report that the craft, the US Bridgewater has been lost, along with all its passengers, students Daniel Young, 14; Brian Hardaway, 17; CC Craft, 16; Sarah Simms, 17; and Christina Chase, 15. All systems show the transport had malfunctioned and exploded prior to reaching its destination, the planet known as XLD468-01. There were no survivors. We are asking for a moment of silence around the world to honor these brave young people.’”

“Hey, that’s all of us.” The Big B never disappoints.

“Right, Einstein. Do you understand the implications of what I’ve just read or do I need to explain it--slowly.”

“I’ve told you not to call me that. I told you, it‘s ‘Big B’. Anyway, I get it. This ship blew up and we’re all… What the fuck?”

I knew I could count on Goth girl to revel in our seemingly impending demise.

“Don’t you get it? They’re going to push a button and wipe us out. Simple as that.” Christina sat down with the resolve of an inmate getting comfortable in Old Sparky.

“I don’t think it’s quite as cut and dry as that,” I offered. “There were other documents in that same file that mentioned plutonium, photons, lasers, and other related technology. The way they read, it’s as if they’re requests for that technology. There were also numerous memos that had been removed which I could recover, had I the time. But it would appear the most pressing information we need to obtain right now is what has actually been planned for us, and more importantly, why. Don’t you all agree?”

Sarah was sitting quietly with small tears running down her cheeks. I noticed that CC, as usual, had absolutely no expression whatsoever on her face. I believed Big B, our female Grim Reaper, and myself would have to figure this all out. I was planning to suggest that we try to determine the purpose of the requests I had discovered when the craft abruptly turned and began heading toward our original destination.

“What now?” That jolt seems to shake CC out of her trance, while Sarah continued to silently cry.

“It appears that we are being guided in for a landing,” I ventured a guess. We weren’t moving at a speed which seemed dangerous and all the instruments seemed to be functioning properly, although I had never been allowed to investigate them prior to launch. ‘No need’, I had been told. The computers will take care of you all the way there and back. At this point, I was having serious doubts about that ‘and back’ thing though. We strapped ourselves in and waited. Not a whole lot else we could do.

Sarah was the first to smell the gas. I was surprised I hadn’t noticed it. After we were all secure, it began to fill the compartment, first clouding our vision, then our thought process. As I felt myself slipping away, I began to pray to a God I’d never felt the need to acknowledge before. Funny how that happens…

“Wake up, children. You are all safe and right where you are supposed to be. Nothing to worry about. Wake up, now. It is almost time.”

The voice was deep and strong and I believe the speaker’s goal was to reassure, but I felt a chill just the same. I struggled to open my eyes and found myself inside what appeared to be a cell, complete with bars on all four sides. I had been lying on a cot attached to one wall, and in the other corner, there was a commode with a sink next to it. The door, complete with chains and a padlock, was at the back. I was trying to figure out what chemicals I had inhaled that would generate such a delusion when I looked to my left and right and saw Brian and Christina, respectively, inside duplicate enclosures. I could see CC and Sarah further down the line inside their own cages.

“What is all this,” I asked The Voice. “Where are we?”

“You’re on XLD468-01,” it answered. “Transfer complete. You humans are all alike with your ‘need to know’ nonsense. The deal’s been made, but if you must know, I’ll explain. We trade technological advances for exhibits capable of being bred. Our people do so enjoy observing other life forms in their natural habitat, and we market the offspring as pets. The last batch, well, while they were most amusing, didn’t breed well, which is why this time, we requested a younger group. Like yourselves.

Now, tidy up and get ready, because this facility is getting ready to open for the day. Your noon meal will be forthcoming, although our guests may from time to time, toss you a treat. Hurry because the curtains at the front of your cages will be opening in just a few minutes. And remember, smile…”

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

FLASH FICTION FRIDAY, CYCLE 34: NATURE LOVER

This week’s challenge was a word list. The words were banana, iguana, elbow, flaming and pogo stick. Nutty? Absolutely! That’s the point. We were supposed to write a story using the words and make it wacky, absurd, and bizarre. Bizarre is right up my alley… Please enjoy.

NATURE LOVER

“I’m telling you, Bobby, this could be the one. If we get that key back for Boss, we could end up getting the higher paying gigs, instead of always being sent out to do the grunt work. Boss told me he knew all along that Jerome hadn‘t lost the key to that storage locker where that heist dough had been stashed. He was going to keep it for himself, as if Boss wouldn‘t find out.

Anyway, Jerome had been spotted at the Exotic Animals exhibit at the downtown zoo, and Boss‘ guys picked him up in the parking lot. Apparently, just before he slipped and fell off the roof of that 24-story high-rise on the East side, he confessed that the key hadn‘t actually been lost, but that he had tossed it in the gorilla habitat. All we have to do is go in there and get it.”

My brother wasn’t too keen on the details of our latest job, but this was his chance to show off his stuff. He spent hours on end in front of the TV set watching wildlife and safari shows and considered himself an expert on matters of the animal kingdom.

“Billy, how do we even know the key is in there?” Bobby’s hands started shaking and I could smell the fear coming off him.

“Bobby, it’s alright. I went by there and I saw it. Jerome put the key on a green cord and when he threw it in there, it landed on a branch in front of a big rock. Breaking in those habitats is like taking candy from a baby. Who’s going to steal a gorilla anyway? It will be easy as pie for us to get in and out in no time. We’ll go around midnight. The zoo’s closed and the guard’s sleeping it off in the office. Nothing will go wrong.”

We got to the exhibit a bit after twelve. Bobby had brought his tote bag like he always did. He liked to bring items he believed would be helpful when we were on a job. They always ended up being needless clutter, but it made him feel like he was part of the planning, so I figured, what’s the harm.

I explained that the quickest way to the gorilla’s place was through the iguana habitat. I picked the lock and as I started in, Bobby jabbed me with an elbow.

“Wait a sec,” he gasped, and pulled something out of his bag. He pulled it to its full length and locked it in place.

“What’s that?” I asked him.

“It’s a pogo stick,” he said.

“What?” Sometimes I really wondered about out blood line.

“A pogo stick,” he confirmed. “I found it in the hallway of our building. That little girl who lives upstairs must have left it there.”

“Okay, it’s a pogo stick,” I continued. “But why do you have it?”

“Well,” he explained, “I saw on one of my shows that iguanas have been known to eat small children. I figure if I bounce through, he won’t be able to grab my feet. You’ll have to run though, Billy, because I only have one of these.”

“Two things, Bobby,” I took a deep breath. “Number one, you’re not a small child. Number two, WHAT?”

I could see tears glistening in both his eyes, so I told him to go ahead and bounce through and not to worry about me. I’d make it somehow.

I closed the back gate and asked Bobby if he planned on bouncing back out as well, which he confirmed he did. I reminded him that I had walked slowly through and the iguana hadn’t moved a muscle. It’s dark, Bobby said, and he probably hadn’t seen me, but why risk it. Oh yeah. When we get home, I’m checking out that ancestor site on the web…

The gorilla was sitting in the corner. His eyes looked flaming red in the habitat’s dim light and Bobby was worried. Apparently, red eyes on a gorilla is not a good thing. But when he reached into his trusty tote and pulled out a banana, I knew we were done for.

“They like bananas,” he informed me. “Eating them makes them calm. I‘d better hurry though. I did only bring the one.”

Perhaps I should have thought this one through a bit longer…

“Bobby, my boy, why don’t you go in there, toss the big guy the snack, and grab the key. I don’t think we both need to go in there.”

Bobby knows I despise anything ‘monkey‘. Those creepy little fuckers with their creepy little hands…

“Billy, I’ll do it by myself. Hold my pogo stick. Bouncing makes them go wild.”

Maybe I’ll just let that ancestor site be. What was it ma used to say? Ignorance is bliss…

Bobby made it to the tree, but the cord was caught on the branch. Our gorilla friend got up and started making his way to where my brother was to see what was up.

“Bobby,” I tried not to be too loud. “Pull that off and toss it to me. Hurry. Our furry friend in there is getting curious.”

He got it loose and tossed it to me just as the big ape reached him. When my brother screamed, it sounded remarkably like the little 2 year old girl in our building on that day she’d seen her first rat.

“Bobby?” I hollered. “I’m going to take off and get this key to Boss. Your screams woke the guard--I can see him coming. The worst they’ll get you on is trespass. I’ll see you back at the flat.”

I could still hear Bobby screaming when I got back to my car. I hope that guard gets there soon. The last thing I saw was the gorilla gently stroking Bobby’s hair. Evidently, he had enjoyed the banana…

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

FLASH FICTION FRIDAY, CYCLE 33: BEHIND THE MASK

Such an intriguing prompt this week: Conspiracy Theories. We were to take a conspiracy theory from the lists here or here and write a story where our main character discovers it is real. The genre could be any and the word count of 1,000. This was so much fun to just let the story go its own way, as conspiracy theories often do. I hope you enjoy seeing what's Behind The Mask.

BEHIND THE MASK

I couldn’t breathe. I knew cameras covered every angle in my area, but I had to take the risk. I placed some correspondence over the memorandums I had received and turned into the corner and pretended to cough uncontrollably. Dropping the top of the stack, I balled up the memos and stuffed them into my pocket. When I felt they would not be readily noticed, I picked up the letters from the floor and placed them on the table. Still feigning the need to cough, I headed for the Men’s Room down the hall. The guard outside the file room had heard me and asked if I needed anything. I told him I was going to splash some water on my face and I’d be back in a jif. He went back to his magazine.

My name is Martin Jeoffries and I work as a government file clerk. It used to matter which agency I worked for, but it no longer does, since everything I’ve ever known and trusted has ceased to exist--or perhaps never really did. Let me explain.

My job is to file routine, non-classified correspondence. Mixed in with my morning’s run was a batch of memorandums to and from individuals unknown to me. That, however, is of no consequence. What sent me reeling was the directives within those memos. ‘Someone’ was telling ‘someone’ to devalue the currency of so-and-so province, initiate armed conflict between Country A and Country B and insure Country B’s debilitating loss, arrange the assassination of such-and-such Premier, you get the idea. They went on and on, detailing horrific schemes and deadly encounters, not just in the US, but in various countries throughout the world. Someone with access, or a change of heart, was using me to reveal the truth.

I used to think those who believed in conspiracy theories were whackos, but here was one I could no longer deny. Government functioning was orchestrated by a shadow faction located who knows where. Just because the memos found their way here didn’t mean the writers and recipients were. Regardless. What the hell was I supposed to do now?

I finished my day, the memos still on my person, and went to my friend Ray’s. I’d known Ray for 15 years and trusted him with my life. He told me to contact Jack Simon, Editor of the Free Times to set up a meet and hand over the papers. Ray would go with me to make sure I felt safe. I called Jack at his office, gave him an overview of the documents in my possession, and set the meeting for Friday at 10pm at our local park. True, it was deserted at that hour, but in this town, there was no safer area. All I had to do was wait two more days.

When Ray and I arrived, Jack was already there, sitting on one of the picnic tables. He appeared anxious and held out his hand to me.

“This is big, Martin. I can’t wait to see those memos. No one else knows about them besides Ray, correct?”

“Absolutely not, Jack.“ I knew we’d made the right decision. “I’ve told no one else and Ray’s the only one I’ve shown them to. Here’s all eleven of them. What now?”

I gave him the memos and he put them in his pocket and lit a smoke. His enthusiasm seemed to have evaporated. He turned to my friend of 15 years and told him to shoot me. I wondered why I hadn’t had any prior symptoms since I’d obviously developed a malignant brain tumor.

“Shoot me? Ray? What’s he talking abo…”

As I turned to face Ray, I saw him remove a handgun from his coat pocket and point it directly at my face. Before confronting Ray, I decided to get some answers from our esteemed gentleman of the press.

“I don’t understand. You are known as a speaker of the truth. People provide you with info on illegal goings-on and you expose them. I’d heard you’re afraid of no one and that you believe people have the right to honesty.”

“You’re a funny guy, Martin. I find it hard to believe anyone could be that na├»ve. No, I’m not afraid of anyone. Why should I be? I’m protected, and advised on just how much ‘honesty’ I’m permitted to print. I’m also paid well to perform a duty that I strongly believe in.”

“Martin, your problem is that you believe government should be of the people and by the people, but we both know that’s not a workable scenario,” Ray piped in. “James Madison once said that ‘you must first enable the government to control the governed, and in the next place, oblige it to control itself’. He led the way.

People are inherently mindless sheep, Martin, and prefer to remain so. If the general population was not strongly guided, the world would be in a state of uncontrolled chaos. When media, economy and even armed conflicts have been thoroughly scripted, the chaos is controlled and monitored. It’s the only way this can all work, Martin, the only way.”

I felt like I was trapped in a bad horror movie.

“If you were one of them anyway, why get me here to kill me? Why not just shoot me when I told you I wanted to go public with all this?”

“We had to be certain that you hadn’t shared your information with anyone else or made any copies of the memorandums,” Jack explained.

“What about whoever sent these to me?“ My last attempt at reason. “If I disappear, he or she will just forward more of this garbage to whoever replaces me.”

“Not to worry, Martin,” Ray screwed on the silencer, chambered a round, and aimed the gun at my chest. “We’ve already identified that individual, and he took early retirement with no notice. Funny. Right now, that seems to be the popular course to follow, since that’s what you’re going to do. Too.”

MISTAKEN

I am very proud to say that the following story of mine entitled Mistaken, was published on Pulp Metal Magazine on 5/29/11. I'm posting the story here as well, but please make sure you head over to Pulp Metal to check out the rest of the tasty tales and interviews there. Without further ado, I offer you a maddening tale of mistaken identity.

MISTAKEN

Some days, it doesn’t pay to even open your eyes, you know? I was sitting, minding my own in Josie’s, having two over, a slice of wheat, coffee, and a slice of Josie’s famous key lime, and working out the kinks of what was supposed to be my last score in Jewelsburg. I planned to hit the End of the Line Service Station; the one by the highway on-ramp. Not a big haul, but just enough to blow this dead-end burg. By the time the attendant, Donnie, untied himself and got to the phone, I’d be three counties over. I needed to make sure I got there right at open, before it got busy. I hoped their truck had come last night. I sure wanted to grab myself a few packs of those sugary…

“Marty! My man!” The shout startled the hell out of me and I knocked the rest of my pie on the floor.

A short, balding man in a three-piece slid into my booth across from me.

“How have you been? It’s me. Eddie. You remember. Ma’am? Coffee and a sweet roll to go, please. So, Marty, did you decide on that late model Ford you had your eye on last week at Cool Calvin’s Car Court? There were so many great deals, I just couldn’t make up my mind. Oh, thank you, ma’am. Well, Marty, I’ll be seeing you.”

With that, the man got up to leave. I knew I had to straighten out this clown in a big hurry.

“Wait. Eddie? You are mistaken. My name‘s not Marty and I‘ve never…” As I got up to follow him out to his car, I slipped on the pie I dropped and hit the right side of my head on the corner of the table. I scrambled to my feet and ran outside, but he was gone. Just as well. Probably on his way to some corporate mind-fuck. I went back inside to pay and beg a couple of aspirin from Josie.

Donnie was struggling with the door key when I pulled up. I saw the day’s start-up in the bank envelope tucked in his side pocket.

“Hey, Donnie,” I grabbed his keys. “let me help you.” I opened the door and pushed him inside.

“Freakin locks,” he mumbled, and flipped on all the lights. He took the money from the envelope and opened the register. I reached into my pocket for my .38 when I heard the bell over the door jingle. Who the fuck would come in here at this hour?

“Bob!”

Him. Again.

“Sorry about before, Bob. I had you confused with somebody else. You still do your wash at Rudy’s Tumble and Go over on Bander? I’ll never forget the night you and I just got our washers going and that drier exploded. What a mess. Yeah, young fella, a pack of smokes, whatever’s cheapest. Thanks. Well, Bob, good to see you. Gotta run.”

“Wait. Eddie. You are mistaken. My name‘s not Bob and I‘ve never…” As I turned and ran to catch up with him, I tripped over the display of bottles of window washer and gashed my cheek on the corner of the newspaper rack. By the time I got outside, he was gone. While Donnie was cleaning up the mess I had made, I noticed there were already two customers inside buying coffee and somebody was honking to be let into the garage for an oil change. I went back inside and bought a bottle of aspirin and went home to take a nap.

Lunch time. My bag was still packed and in the trunk, and I decided to go with Plan B, which was Dottie’s Dough, the small check cashing place over on Kramer. I already knew their schedule. The front clerk, Annie, went home for lunch from one to two, and Dottie was alone with all that green. Everybody in this lousy town took lunch from one to two, so me and my trusty .38 would pop in to say Hi, Gimme, and then So Long, Sister.

I waited until Annie turned the corner at Kramer and Collier before I crossed the street and strolled inside.

“Be right with you, hon. I’m in the back room nuking my meatball sub.”

It doesn’t get better than that. Dottie was all the way in the back and the cash drawers were wide open. Like taking candy from a baby. All I had to do was lean over the counter, reach in and…

“Phil!”

When I jerked my hand back across the counter, I snagged my wrist on a loose nail on the edge. I hoped I wasn’t a bleeder.

Dottie ran up front.

“Hi. Sorry to keep you gentlemen waiting. How can I help you?”

I just shook my head, shoved my hand in my pocket, and wondered how much blood the human body can lose before passing out. Eddie handed her a check and his license.

“All I need today, little lady, is just a quick $25, if you please. Phil, so sorry about before. I had you confused with somebody else. Listen, I forgot to ask you before. How’s that pull-out sofa from Frankie Foster’s Furniture working for you? When we were there during that midnight madness sale of his, you seemed so interested in the red one. Are those comfortable? Thank you, Miss Dottie. Take care, Phil. Gotta run.”

No. Not again.

“Eddie? You are mistaken,” I screamed. “My name’s not Phil and I’ve never…”

On my way out, I missed the last step and landed on Dottie’s parking lot on my face. Good thing she had that gravel paved over last spring. I got up on my knees, but he was already gone.

After making a quick stop for some antiseptic and Band-Aids, I headed down the highway and never looked back. Once I passed the county line, I started to breathe a little bit easier. I still had enough cash left to get a nice room for the night and maybe a small bottle of something warm. I believed that life would look better in the morning. Something was sure to turn up.

On my way out of a town called Gales Crossing, I passed a burger joint called Think Inside The Bun. I made a u-ee and pulled in the lot. My gut told me Lady Luck was finally smiling on me and calling my name loud and clear. The place was jumping with a bunch of high schoolers. I decided I’d grab a bite, then on my way out to pay, I would empty the register. One look at my 38 caliber buddy and every one of those punks would be running home crying for mama.

I had to admit, the burger and fries were great, and the coffee was hot and comforting. The kid at the checkout had his nose buried in some gamer magazine. The time was right. I started to slide out of the booth when…

“Stevie!”

Eddie patted me on the back and slid in across from me.

“So sorry about before, Stevie. I had you confused with somebody else. I just picked up a paper at Sammy’s Stop and Save and got one of their Smoothies. Remember when you got that raspberry one there? That’s what I got today and it was great, but then I got hungry. What’s good here, huh, Stevie?”

I debated with myself whether to attempt yet again to explain that he was mistaken and that I wasn’t who he thought I was and that we’d never met before, but instead I took Mr. .38 out of my pocket and shot the fucker square in the face.

Now.

“Check, please?”

Thursday, May 26, 2011

FLASH FICTION FRIDAY, CYCLE 32: LIVIN' ON A PRAYER

Cycle 32 was The Wrong Song. We were to pick one of these songs that people often make mistakes with the lyrics and use it as the title and inspiration for our story. The genre was open and the max word count was to be 1,000. This one was a lot of fun to write, and I hope it's also a lot of fun to read.

LIVIN' ON A PRAYER

“Ma said you need to take the long view. Of course, she also told me she‘s got a first class seat on the shuttle to the planet Zenon.”

My brother, Jessie, had made his weekly pilgrimage to our mother at the home. I stopped going a year ago since she makes the same speech every time. Following updates on her travel plans, she harps about me. Just because I don’t want to end up a grocery store stock boy like Jessie doesn’t mean I don’t have any ambition. I have some, but it’s not to be promoted to the loading dock. What I want is a penthouse, a Jag and a gorgeous movie star on my arm. I’m not going to get any of those things counting cans of green beans.

“Joey,” Jessie gave me his weekly speech again. “Mr. Hanrahan is looking for another stock boy. It pays minimum, but that’s only at the start. The work’s not that hard, and after awhile, you’d get benefits too. If you don’t take advantage, he’ll pay you for being off sick. Not many will do that these days.

Ma’s book is not always on the same page as the rest of us, but one thing she’s always focused on, Joey, is you. She doesn’t want you to end up like Pop. Pop flew by the seat of his pants she used to say, and you’re living on a prayer. Same thing. You live for the moment and never think of the consequences. For you, it’s like there’s no tomorrow. We both know how Pop’s tomorrows turned out. He screwed up one time too many and his Mr. B arranged for him to take a swim wearing a cement overcoat. She’s worried you’ll end up like that too, and so am I. One of these days, Mr. B isn‘t going to be so forgiving.”

Jessie knew about my little mishaps with jobs, but Mr. B always gave me another chance. This latest gig was going to get me two grand and all I had to do was get Mr. B’s money back. This mope was supposed to pick up a satchel at Point A and drop it off at Point B, only he decided to keep it. Nobody steals from Mr. B.

I wasn’t supposed to bump him off, just scare him and get the money. I checked him out and he’s actually smaller than me, so I told Mr. B okay. The one like this before didn’t turn out too well. Nobody told me the guy was 6 foot 3 and carried a bat. I’m 5 foot 2. He broke my arm, two of my ribs and I was in the hospital for 9 days. Mr. B let it go though. Said he admired my spirit.

Nobody mentioned this sap was armed. I got to his place and he stood at barely 5 feet. I just knew I could scare the bejesus out of him until he pulled his piece. We ended up struggling on the floor and then I heard the bang. Down went the little dude with a bullet between his eyes. Collateral damage. This happened before I got the cash, but I was sure he’d stashed it in his flat. I was wrong.

On my way to Mr. B’s, I tried to work out how I was going to explain why I didn’t have his ten large. Walking past the bank downtown, I dreamed of strolling in and taking what I needed. Thing is, you can’t rob banks so easy anymore what with cameras, time locks and all. Take too long to figure out, and I only had an hour.

As I passed the entrance, a 60-ish woman came out stuffing a roll of bills in her handbag. She acted all la de da, like she could flash all that dough and nobody would take it. Well, think again, old lady, because I’m going to. I followed her across the street to her car, which was parked in front of the alley that ran between the department store and the pharmacy. I knew the alley went right through to Main, and nobody was looking, so I got behind her and grabbed her bag. She started moaning ‘why, huh?’, ‘why, huh?’, ‘why, huh?’… After around the eighth ‘why, huh’, I clocked her and ran down the alley. I mean, come on.

I ran into one of the empty warehouses at Main and Fifth, and counted my take. Ten grand to the penny. I dumped the purse, pocketed the cash and proceeded to Mr. B’s. Today was going to be my lucky day.

Mr. B was so proud. I didn’t see the need to explain the details. We were in his den and he’d just handed me my share when someone came bursting in the front door. I heard a woman crying, and Mr. B told me to wait and went to see what was up. I heard him ask what happened and then a woman moaning ‘why, huh?’, ‘why, huh?’, ‘why, huh?’…

No fucking way.

When Mr. B came back, he told me that was his wife. Somebody had robbed her and he took her upstairs to lie down. Evidently, once a month, she liked to take out ten thousand in cash and go on a shopping spree. She loved to spread all that money around. It didn’t matter because nothing would happen to her. Everybody knew who Mrs. B was. I’m thinking, not EVERYBODY. I could feel my cement overcoat getting snugger by the second.

Mr. B told me to give him a call when I wanted more work. I told him thanks, but I would be busy for awhile. I’m going to call Jessie and find out if Hanrahan‘s still hiring. I’m thinking I might join him on Friday’s visit to Ma too. I could tell her how I’m taking the long view, and she can tell me all about what she’ll be doing on Zenon…

Thursday, May 19, 2011

FLASH FICTION FRIDAY, CYCLE 31: AMONG FRIENDS

This week's challenge was to create a story about negotiation, and have our character(s) use at least two tactics. Any genre, with a max of 1,000 words. I decided to keep mine Among Friends. Please enjoy.

AMONG FRIENDS

Tonight has gone straight to hell. I‘m supposed to be off, but a situation has developed that demands my attention. I’m a hostage negotiator, and I’ve been trained to talk people out, avoiding at all costs, any type of collateral damage. So, what is so different about this occurrence that requires my special brand of arbitration? The suspected killer of one of our detectives is my best friend, and his hostage is the vic’s widow. We‘ve all been neighbors and friends for years. How could all our lives suddenly go so terribly wrong?

What I’ve been told is Serena, Detective Edmond Rayston’s wife, hadn’t been well and was resting while her husband prepared a late meal for the two of them. She heard a knock on the door and her husband invited in their next-door neighbor, Richie Bender. She had started to fall back asleep when she heard them arguing. She heard glass breaking and went to see what was happening. As she rounded the corner leading into the kitchen, she saw Richie with blood on his hands and her husband lying on the kitchen floor with a carving knife in his chest. She ran back to the bedroom, called 911, gave them the details, and told the dispatcher she was going to ask Richie to give himself up.

When the units arrived moments later, Richie came to the front door with his hands around Serena’s neck and told the responding officers that this was a set-up, and that he didn‘t kill Eddie. Serena began screaming that Richie threatened to killer her too. Richie begged them to contact me, and if they complied, Serena wouldn‘t get hurt.

I was already in bed when I got the call. It happened so fast, as these situations always do, but I never believed friends would be involved. I’ve known Richie since grade school and I was best man at Eddie and Serena’s wedding. This is what I do for a living, but this time, where do I begin?

On my arrival, they had communication set up with Richie via the Rayston’s phone. Training and experience aside, I decided to just go with my gut.

“Richie,” I began, “this is Jer. I‘m here for you, my friend. Why don’t you come out and tell me what happened.”

“No, Jer.” Richie’s icy tone was one I’ve never heard before. “I know you‘ll listen to me. I’ve been set up, and I don’t know why. Serena called me and said something’s wrong with Eddie and asked me to come over. When I came in, I found Eddie on the floor with a knife in his chest and what’s Serena doing? Laughing. She said the cops were already on their way and that she told them she overheard me fighting with Eddie and that she was sure I stabbed him.

It’s a lie, Jer. I don’t know why she’s doing this. I came in and saw Eddie lying there and got down on my knees to see if I could help him. I touched the knife and got blood on me. I know this looks bad, but I didn’t do this. Tell me what to do, Jer.”

I wasn’t sure whether Richie understood the magnitude of the trouble he was in. His story was shaky, his prints were on the knife, he was covered with Eddie’s blood, and there was a witness who overheard the confrontation between him and the victim. He was reaching out to me, and I knew if I remained his friend, I could end this peacefully.

“Richie, listen. I don’t believe you realize just how bad this is. Eddie was a cop, and all the cops out here believe you killed him and you’re holding his wife hostage and threatening to kill her too. If you don’t let Serena come out now and then come out yourself with your hands up, they’re going to set up a shooter to take you out. That house is full of windows, Richie, and they’ll find you. If that happens, we’ll never find out the whole truth of what happened tonight. Is that what you want? Please. Let her walk out of there, then you come out and lie down on the grass. I’ll come along and we’ll straighten this out together, my friend. I’m going to help you any way I can. I promise. Okay, Richie?”

Serena came running out the front door, with Richie right behind her, and he was taken without any fuss. As they put him in the squad, he looked in my direction, and I gave him the thumbs up. He smiled and sat back, believing I wouldn’t be far behind.

Thing is, the moron hadn’t been set up only by Serena. I was actually the one who came up with the plan. I knew the dumb-ass would touch the knife--human instinct and all. Besides, who were the cops going to believe anyhow? Some weird used car salesman who lived alone or the wife of a slain detective who had been held against her will and terrorized? I know Richie, and he’s not all that stable. I could recount so many instances… Naturally, they’d have to take my word for it, but of course, they would. After all, I’m one of the brothers in blue, aren’t I?

On the way back to my house, I passed the ambulance where they were checking Serena out in the back. I glanced in her direction and she winked at me. Stupid broad. I told her not to act friendly toward me, at least not for awhile. Our affair had been going strong for some time and Eddie was suspicious, which is why he had to be removed. But I told her after a suitable mourning period, we could begin to date publicly and take it from there. It will all work out if she doesn’t fuck it up. It would be a shame if she was taken hostage again and negotiations failed…

Thursday, May 12, 2011

FLASH FICTION FRIDAY, CYCLE 30: IN PLAIN SIGHT




Our challenge this week was to construct a story around this picture, any genre and a limit of 1234 words. I always enjoy pictures as prompts, since if one really looks, it's amazing what one can see. Please enjoy.

IN PLAIN SIGHT

“Thanks, you senile old bastard, for a worthless house and an even more worthless painting. ‘You always look, but never see.’ You and your mindless sayings and asinine riddles.”

Daniel Vander, Jr. had torn the house up from top to bottom looking for some hint as to where to find the bulk of his father’s fortune. Even as his son was threatening to inject the morphine into his IV line, the old man just kept telling him to look at the painting he had done of his ‘treasure’ and to really see it. Daniel had learned that the ‘treasure’ he was referring to was Marta. God. The help. He beds that slut, paints a dirty picture and wants his son to look at it. He really enjoyed watching the old man gasp for breath when the morphine hit home. Maybe the whore knew where the money was kept. He’d deal with her later.

“Marta? Marta?”

Junior was shouting again. His father not in the ground even a week and already he was disrupting the household and completely disrespecting his father’s memory. He had learned by way of some underground grapevine that his father was dying and had appeared out of nowhere.

Marta Wilbur had been Mr. Vander, Sr.’s housekeeper since long before the boy was born. She had been hired right after he had married that woman. That weak and simple-minded creature that barely survived the birth of her child, only to take her own life not even a month later. Doctors had said she had been depressed. Life is depressing, Marta thought, but we all have work to do and others to care for. Selfish bitch, that one was. Leaving the mister alone with a newborn baby. Thank God Marta had been there to save them both.

“Marta, where the fuck are you? I’m hungry.” Daniel’s voice echoed through the house.

“Coming, sir,” Marta announced from the kitchen. “Just finishing placing your lunch on the cart. Sir.” The vile little beast is hungry. Well, enjoy this fine meal I’ve prepared for you. Once you’ve finished, hunger will trouble you no more.

Marta already had Daniel’s ‘suicide’ note typed and ready to place on the desk in the den. Consumed with guilt over murdering his father, the boy just couldn’t go on. A hefty dose of cyanide in his cooler was his chosen remedy to alleviate his suffering. She had included his confession, stating how he had increased the mister’s morphine dose to a lethal level, with no one suspecting foul play since his father’s illness had been terminal and his time was short. She had vowed her beloved employer’s murder would be avenged.

After the police had finished their inquiries and the ambulance had taken the dead boy away, Marta sat down with a glass of wine and admired her painting. No one would ever know the painting Mr. Vander, Sr., had done was of her. He had loved her in his own dignified way, but for fear of scandal damaging the reputation of his business and of the potential damage to her reputation as well, he could not allow their affair to be known so soon after his wife’s untimely death. As time passed, it somehow seemed less and less advisable to reveal their union to outsiders, so she remained his housekeeper and nanny to his son.

He promised to make sure she was cared for in the event of his death, but his son did come first. He did, however, make his son’s inheriting his millions conditional on the boy being able to figure out how to access the accounts. An important and valuable lesson he wanted to teach the young man. The boy was distant, vulgar and full of hatred for all around him. His father wanted him to take the time to see and appreciate the world around him and listen to and follow the counsel given him. He had hope for his child, but Marta knew better. The boy would never decipher the code. He was too consumed by love of self to even attempt to see any sign of beauty and grace elsewhere.

They had both delighted at the prospect of leaving such intriguing clues that he had placed in the painting on the bedcover beneath her. The letters ‘I’ and ‘N’--not subtle to be sure, but that had been part of their lovers’ joke. Then, going across further, the numbers ‘1’ and ‘5’, that signified the 15th step on the way to their home’s entry. The mister had taken the boy out often, to museums and galleries to try to help him to form a bond with others, but to no avail. Daniel would create a scene and necessitate the return home. Still, each time, his father would count the steps with his son, particularly noting the 15th step, hoping in the future on seeing the clues provided in the painting, the boy would make the connection.

Of course, Daniel had refused to look and therefore, had failed to see. Marta knew the key beneath the stone that was the 15th step was now hers to use to access the box at the local bank. With the boy out of the way, as secondary beneficiary, once she retrieved the account numbers, locations, and passwords, she could begin amassing her new fortune. She decided the first thing she would do with her new-found wealth would be to have her painting re-framed in honor of its painter. It had been his tribute to his love for her and she would hang it in a prominent place in the new home his will provided for her. Then, she decided she would hire a housekeeper. The place could really use a good cleaning.

Friday, May 6, 2011

DAN O'SHEA'S TORNADO RELIEF FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE: MRS. CARMODY'S MUFFINS

This story was written for Dan O’Shea’s Tornado Relief Flash Fiction Challenge: Have you ever seen the rain? Rain is supposed to play a role in the story. For every story submitted, Dan is donating $5.00 to the Red Cross to help out those people who were victims of the recent tornados. It was a pleasure to write for this terrific cause.

MRS. CARMODY’S MUFFINS

Willie was pissed. It wasn’t bad enough that Danny had given him half-assed directions to the rooming house where he was laying low after he’d botched that liquor store robbery, bitchy Mother Nature had joined in the plot against him. In his whole miserable life, Willie had never seen so much rain. He could barely see five feet in front of him and setting the wipers on high was nothing more than a joke. It was like there was a solid wall of water moving right along with him--like he was trying to drive along the bottom of a swimming pool that was full. The water was already covering the road. How long before the brakes gave out and he and the car just floated away?

The storm had hit with full force just as he had pulled into Nowhere, USA. Power was still on because the traffic lights were working, but all the businesses in town were closed and shuttered. There had been one service station open, but as Willie pulled in, he saw the attendant locking up.

“Hey,” Willie yelled, the rain hitting him like a fire hose in the face through his open window. “Any way out of this town back to the highway?”

“Not in this mess,” the attendant shouted. “All the roads in and out of town will be flooded soon. Follow the road you’re on to the end and you’ll find Mrs. Carmody’s place. She’s an elderly widow and a nice old gal and she’ll feed you and I’m sure let you keep your car in her garage next to hers, and maybe a cot where you could sleep till this is over. Good luck, buddy.”

With that, the man finished locking up and ran to a small house behind the station. ‘Good luck, buddy’ indeed. An elderly widow with a garage? I’m sure the nice old gal wouldn’t mind if I traded this heap I’m driving for whatever she’s got. She’ll feed me alright, and I’m hungry for coffee, some roast beef, new wheels, and valuables.

Mrs. Carmody loved the rain. Her home could withstand dire weather and since the storms were soothing to her, she’d fill this evening with her favorite past-time: baking blueberry muffins for her Ladies Club meeting day after tomorrow. The rain would be gone by then, and there would be plenty for the meeting, as well as a generous portion of these delicious treats for her lady friends to take home to their families. She made pies and cookies for the Church bake sale and other events, but for her Ladies Club, only these muffins would do. Such a dark and nasty night, she thought, and was very surprised when she heard the knock on her front door.

Willie knew he had found nirvana. The old bag was alone and loaded. She gave him a tour of the house and told him about her late husband’s BMW in the garage that she used only to drive to town once a month for groceries. He caught himself salivating when he saw all the artwork, furs and jewelry. How trusting these small-town rubes were, he smiled. ‘Look at this pretty diamond pin my husband gave me.’ ‘Look at this shiny gold watch he surprised me with.’ There was only one thing that was strictly forbidden, and that was her muffins. ‘Don’t touch them,’ she had told him, a spark of fire in her eyes. Crazy old bat, he thought. I wouldn’t touch your muffins with a stick.

Coffee cup empty, roast beef sandwich eaten, time to help the old lady ‘accidentally’ tumble down the stairs, load up his new ride and take off. With the rainstorm providing great cover, he’d be long gone before she was found. Where was the old biddy anyway? Maybe changing her Depends…

He got up to grab her car keys from the rack by the back door when he caught a whiff of the muffins. Damn, he thought, like catnip for people. Screw her. I’ve got to have one of these.

“Young man?”

The voice Willie heard behind him grated on him like his mother’s had when he was six and she had caught him in the alley removing the neighbor’s dog’s teeth with his dad’s pliers.

“What the fuck you want, you old…”

As Willie turned to face the soon-to-be-dead bitch, Mrs. Carmody drove the carving knife into his abdomen right up to the handle.

“I told you, no muffins!” she shouted. “Those are for my Ladies Club.”

Before Willie’s world went permanently black, he reached up with bloody hands to plead for help and understanding he knew would not be given.

“No, no, no,” Mrs. Carmody said. “I already gave you coffee, a nice roast beef sandwich, shelter from all this rain, but no more. Look what you did. Now, I can’t continue baking my muffins because I’ll have to go out in this awful storm to put your car in my garage. I can roll it down the boat ramp tomorrow night into the river when the weather clears. And then, I’m still going to have to clean up this mess you’re making on my floor, and take you down to the basement where you can share my deep freeze with the late Mr. Carmody. I had told him too that my muffins were only for my Ladies Club members, but he didn’t listen either.

Oh well. Best hurry. Now I have to bake an extra batch to even out the count since you took a bite out of one. Honestly. You men. You sure do love Mrs. Carmody’s muffins, don’t you…”

Thursday, May 5, 2011

IS A MURDER ALWAYS A MURDER?

When you write crime fiction and your plot includes a murder, what kind of murder do you use in your story? Now, I’m not referring to how your character gets bumped off (i.e., shot, stabbed, etc.). I’m talking about the various ’categories’, if you will, of murder Let me explain.

Murder is defined as the unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought. What it really comes down to is intent. Was the original intent to kill and then death achieved? Was it a premeditated, willful, and deliberate act?

A lot of plots are geared around this type of killing, but you know, there are many different ways to kill off your character that would perhaps add an extra layer or two to your story.

Why always use murder in the first degree. How about sticking in a second degree. The definition of second degree murder is pretty close to the one for first degree, but again, it comes down to original intent. Second degree murder is non-premeditated and can result from an assault. What makes it second degree vs. manslaughter for instance though, is that while the individual committing the assault did not set out to kill the victim, he or she is aware during the assault that death is a real possibility, but continues just the same. I know it’s a fine line, but under the law, the line is there.

Then we have manslaughter (sometimes termed as third degree murder), and actually, there are two types there. Voluntary manslaughter lacks a prior intent to actually kill, but does involve the intent to cause serious harm with total disregard for human life, and death results. Involuntary manslaughter is unlawful killing without intent. This would involve justified or accidental killings, which by the way, are still considered homicides, though depending on the circumstances, they may or may not be criminal offenses.

Self-defense, of course, is not included in any of the various categories of murder. That could create an interesting situation in a story since your character killing in self-defense would only be witnessed by the one who did the killing and the one who was killed. Tough perhaps to prove self-defense to the authorities, especially if the ’killer’ flees the scene. Possibilities? Definitely.

Lastly, let’s not forget suicide. Yes, I did say suicide. I have read actual cases where an individual made their suicide (or at least attempted) appear as if a particular person murdered them. It worked too, at least at the beginning. With the advancement in the various fields of forensics, however, that kind of plan would hopefully be easier to see through. One case involved a man who had a terminal illness and despised his neighbor. The reasons were ridiculous to any rational person, but not to him. He came up with this elaborate scheme to actually kill himself, but set up his neighbor as his killer. Almost got away with it too. The neighbor was arrested, which made it difficult to act in his own defense. But he had very supportive friends and a devoted family, and together, they were able to bring out the truth. In the meantime however, the man sat in jail just waiting. Scary, huh?

All these different twists and turns with what your characters are thinking, what they may or may not be planning, how they react when certain events occur, do they run and try to clear their name from behind the scenes, do they stand their ground and hope that really being innocent is enough?

If your guy wakes up one morning and decides to add another notch to his belt just because he enjoys it, so be it. Nothing wrong with a down and dirty serial murderer now and then. But take a chance. Get inside your character’s head and put different kinds of intent in there, or pull out any that’s already lurking, and then send him on his way to meet somebody, and the somebody dies. How? Why? Accident? Was he lying in wait to punch out the jerk who cut him off on the freeway, but the poor sap croaks on the sidewalk?

The possibilities are endless. There’s so many different paths your story can take, so many different situations your character can find himself or herself in when a death occurs. Be creative, be clever, use one type, use all of them, deceive your readers without mercy, make it impossible for them to put your story down until you decide to reveal how things really happened.

First degree, second degree, third degree, manslaughter, suicide… Decisions, decisions…

FLASH FICTION FRIDAY, CYCLE 29: SIXES AND SEVENS

The prompt this time was to find the title for our story. We were to find one beginning with the letter “s” at Brewer’s Phrase and Fable online at http://www.bibliomania.com/2/3/255/1184. “Sixes and sevens” stood out for me, and the definition given was when it was used concerning people, it referred to disagreement or hostility. Between the brothers in my story, I do believe it’s safe to say there’s more than a little of both. The genre was open, and the word count was to be 1,000 or less. Please enjoy.

SIXES AND SEVENS

“You’re an idiot, Mikey.” George Studarsky was anxious to get away from the prison and to the rooming house where the Warden had arranged for them to stay so he could start planning their next score. This was going to get him and his dumb-ass brother into the big-time. He hated these penny-ante gigs that netted them nothing and got them busted. That was all Mikey’s fault though.

Mikey was family, and George had promised their mom on her deathbed that he would look after him since he was slower in the head than most, but that promise was getting harder to keep with each passing day. George was never able to find out where Mikey got his tips, but they had all sounded pretty doable. Problem was, they’d get in, and it would all go to Hell in a quick minute because there was always one detail Mikey forgot to mention. They’d get nabbed, do a short stretch in the joint, get out early since they’re weren’t real badasses, Mikey would get another tip, and the cycle would continue.

George decided to get off that merry-go-round and do it right for once. This time, he got the tip from a couple of guards. They were both stupid as the day is long, and hadn’t known George was going to be released soon, so what difference did it make if he heard them talking. They were planning to sign-on to make a few extra bucks when a large amount of cash was going to be moved. George paid close attention to where the money was being moved to, and when. Details. Important ones.

George’s feet hurt. You’d think the fucking prison could supply a bus ticket to get them into town. Pointing him and Mikey to which road to start walking on wasn’t his idea of rehabilitation. Mikey had been so quiet and George knew why. He always got that way when he was trying to figure out how to present one of his mysterious tips. Mikey always wanted to make sure he remembered everything so he and his brother wouldn’t end up behind bars. Mikey hoped this time he’d get it right.

They got to the town called Anderton and decided they’d grab a bite. Sally’s Sandwich Haven sounded about right, and over their burgers, Mikey decided it was time.

“Georgie, I heard these guys talking in the yard about a gas station here that keeps cartons of smokes in the back and doesn’t put their money in the bank every day. We could take the cigs and cash and steal a car and leave. I’m not sure of the name, but if I look in the phone book…”

George couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Mikey’s tip pool had hit rock bottom.

“Mikey,” George began, “ a job like that would be a waste of time and get us busted for sure. Everybody knows how stupid you are and that you’ll believe anything, and they’re right. Forget gas stations. I’ve got something bigger.

Some bank needs repair and the money’s being moved to another on First Street temporarily. It’s all hush-hush since the move is to one that doesn’t normally hold much. It’s scheduled for 2:00 am and at 2:15, we’ll be in there helping ourselves.

You get the address. Joints like that have nickel and dime alarms and cheap locks on their safes. We’ll already have a car out there and be in and out in fifteen tops. You just do what I tell you , and nothing will go wrong. ‘kay?”

“Got it, Georgie,” Mikey felt better. He wasn’t sure he’d remembered everything about the gas station thing. He didn’t want to make another boo-boo.

* * * * *

As George and Mikey were being booked into the Anderton County Jail at 2:45 am, all the cops were still laughing.

“Great job, guys,” one of them said. “breaking into an empty bank. What were you going to steal? Pencils from the teller stations?” He doubled over with laughter as he escorted the brothers to a holding cell. They’d go before the judge at 9:00.

“Georgie?” Mikey said.

“I don’t want to talk about it, Mikey.” George was pissed. “Who knew some jerk was going to be out walking his damn dog at 2:20 in the morning by the bank in the mini-mall. I told you not to wave your flashlight around. We may as well have been shooting off fireworks in there.”

“Yeah, but Georgie,” Mikey continued, “the safe was wide open and there was no money in it. I wonder why.”

“I’ll tell you why,” George said. “Those guards were playing me and I’ll get them for it. We’re going to be locked up at Stilton again and I’ll take care of all of them. Saying there was going to be a ton of cash in the First Street Bank and it would be easy pickings and…”

“What?” Mikey asked. “Georgie, did you say the guards said the money would be in the First Street Bank?”

“Yeah,” Georgie pulled the blanket around him. Why did they always keep the thermostat down so low in these small town jails. “Some bank on First Street, the First Street bank, what the fuck difference does it make? We got suckered. That’s what matters.”

“You know what, Georgie,” Mikey felt bad. “It kind of does make a difference. When we were in the room, I was looking in the phone book to get the address of the one on First Street.”

“So?” George wished he had a smoke. Should have just gone with Mikey’s gas station job.

“Well,” Mikey hesitated. “maybe I should have told you about this at the room. Before I found Star National on First Street and Cooper, I saw there was a First Street Bank on the corner of 18th and Green. Do you think maybe that’s the one where they put all that money, Georgie? Did I make another boo-boo?”

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

FLASH FICTION FRIDAY, CYCLE 28: LIGHTS, CAMERA...

The challenge this time was to take the book closest to you, turn to page 70 and use the 7th sentence as your starter sentence. The genre was open, but hard-boiled, noir, crime action would be preferred. The length was to be under 700 words.

My starter sentence came from Dick Francis’ book, Field of Thirteen. Page 70 was part of a story entitled “Bright White Star”.

LIGHTS, CAMERA…

The director sighed. Already had a buyer for his usual fare, and now this happens. One hundred thou offered to make a snuff? An actual, honest-to-fucking snuff film? The order’s from some big-name actor, so the money’s real enough. The actor’s rep let Clyde look at it in his briefcase. Let him feel it up for a sec too. Even brought the gun he wanted to be used. A nice shiny new 9mm Glock--loaded. ‘Like your other films, please’ he said quietly, ‘except this time, when the girl puts the gun into her mouth and pulls the trigger…’

Clyde felt like he was going to be sick. So far, he’d had no problem unloading his work. He has the girl make herself feel real good, then she sucks on his old Colt 38 with the broken firing pin for awhile, pulls the trigger, looks right into the camera and laughs. But this time?

He’d picked this cutie up at a bus stop on the edge of town and brought her out here to the cabin. Told him she was 18, but he didn’t believe a day over 15. Promised her a few bucks, make her a movie star, you know the routine, and she’d come willingly enough. But, still. A snuff film?

He took her into the master bedroom, where he had his lights and camera already set up. Clyde told her to lie on the bed and get comfortable and try to relax. He handed her a bottle of some cheap whiskey he had stashed there for just such occasions. As soon as she unscrewed the top, she started gulping it down. Clyde hoped to hell she wouldn’t puke it up later on film. A scene like that would certainly decrease it’s value. He told her he had some stuff to take care of in the other room, but he’d be back in about 15 minutes and then they would make the movie. She just nodded and kept gulping. Clyde went into the back bedroom he’d converted to a kind of office and sat down at the desk. He really needed to think this through.

He put the Colt and the Glock on the desk and lit a smoke. This should have been an easy decision, but he couldn’t just wave off a hundred thousand dollars. At the rate he was going, that’s more money than he would see in 25 lifetimes. But, we’re talking death for real here…

Clyde always figured there were two sides to everything. Were there this time?

Nobody makes snuff films. Not for real, anyway.

Apparently, there’s at least one guy out there who believes I would.

This kid can’t just disappear.

Told me she had no family--totally on her own.

I’ve never even punched anybody out, much less killed anyone.

I wouldn’t actually be pulling the trigger.

How could I live with myself if I let this girl die?

A hundred thou buys a lot of therapy.

Doesn’t matter how you look at this. When all is said and done, it comes down to cold-blood, premeditated murder.

Yes. It does.


Four o’clock. Clyde thought the kid must be pretty well looped by now, considering she’s probably been gulping steady for the past 15 minutes.

Showtime.

He picked up the gun from the desk and went into the bedroom. The girl had already removed her clothes and was on the bed, sitting up against the headboard. Her eyes were barely open and lifeless in the room’s dim lighting. The bottle of whiskey sat almost empty on the nightstand against the wall.

He placed the gun on the bed next to her and asked if she knew what she was expected to do with it. She closed her eyes, nodded slowly, picked up the gun and began caressing it.

He positioned himself behind the camera and said, “Five, four, three, two…”

Sunday, April 24, 2011

DO YOU FOLLOW THE RULES WHEN YOU WRITE CRIME FICTION/NOIR?

During my travels through various writing sites, I noticed several of them mentioned rules that should be followed whenever writing a crime fiction/noir novel. While there were minor differences in phraseology, the supposed ‘rules’ were pretty consistent. Let’s explore each of these.

1. Whoever your killer is, make sure you let your readers meet him or her early on. You don’t want them to pop up out of nowhere late in the story.

I’m not certain I even understand this. Generally speaking, with crime fiction, there is an element of mystery involved. Are they saying you should reveal the identity of your killer as ’the’ killer or just allow the reader to get to know the character early on, but not let on what he or she has done or is planning to do? Since I’m not clear on what this actually means, I’m also not clear on how this is to be accomplished.

2. At least one murder should occur within the first three chapters.

Here I totally agree. When I’m reading a crime novel, if the bodies aren’t piling up by the end of Chapter 3, I’m done with it. At the risk of sounding psychotic here, if your novel includes one or more murders, I do feel the first one, at a minimum, should occur fairly early on. Locales, characters, basic storyline, all critical elements, but it comes down to the crime after all. Right?

3. Don’t include offensive crimes.

Regarding this rule, mention was made of the subjects of rape, child molestation and cruelty of animals being strictly taboo. While I cannot agree that any subject should be regarded as forbidden, I will agree that there are some that require handling in a tactful and sensitive manner. If any of these types of occurrences are relevant to the storyline, they should be included. However, make sure they are relevant. Don’t add these, or any other form of cruelty simply for shock value. That’s the lazy way out and requires no writing talent of any kind.

4. The crime has to be believable.

What? I’m not sure where this came from. It’s a sad state of affairs, but in the world today, unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of limits to what people will do to each other. Perhaps it refers to not including anything supernatural or a comic book type of crime, whatever that may be. I could use some clarification here.

5. Research when necessary.

Now on this one, I agree 200%. Whether it concerns a particular location you are using or your weapon of choice, make sure you incorporate accurate information. If the city in your novel is fictional, go wild with your street names, businesses and what have you. But if your city is an existing one, you’d better make sure your directions from such and such restaurant to so and so hotel in the downtown area are perfect. You never know. One of your readers might have been born right down the street from there. Even if none of your readers have ever been near your city of choice, if you don’t know what you’re talking about, somehow it shows. I can’t explain it, but as a reader, I don’t have to be an expert in any particular field to know when the writer’s been too lazy to look at a map. The same goes for weapons and especially areas of science. With documentaries on every night of the week discussing DNA and ballistics, inaccuracies will be spotted in a heartbeat. Nothing will turn a reader off a writer quicker than that. Make up your characters, make up your plot, but the things you take from the real world, make sure you keep them real.

6. Don’t reveal the identity of your killer too soon.

I’m not sure, but doesn’t this sort of contradict Item #1? Regardless, I’m not sure this should be a hard and fast rule. I mean, remember my favorite detective, Columbo? You knew within the first five minutes of the show who the killer was, but how their guilt was discovered was the point of the show. The motivation was sometimes revealed at the onset or fully explained at the end, but the killer’s identity was never in question. I don’t see any reason why this wouldn’t be workable in a novel, but it would require careful planning and appropriate presentation.

7. The killer must be capable of the crime.

I don’t believe this refers specifically to the criminal being physically up to whatever activity you have planned. I believe this may refer to him or her being psychologically and/or emotionally capable of committing a particular crime. While we can choose to make any of our characters break the law, before we choose the crime they are to commit, we need to examine who we’ve created. What kind of person is this? What are their likes and dislikes? What are their fears? For instance, if you’ve included something about a character’s childhood where they were traumatically scarred by being locked in a dark closet, don’t have them waiting for their victim in a pitch-black alley. I know that’s an oversimplification, but I hope you see what I’m getting at. We shouldn’t have our character who’s terrified of fire commit an arson, or if we have one who knows they’re a bleeder get involved in a knife fight and risk being injured in the struggle. Makes no sense. Make sure the crime fits the criminal and vice versa.

8. Start the action early on and keep it going strong.

Here, I agree to a point. While I will admit there is nothing more tedious than reading 10 or 15 pages of thoughts, there is also something very annoying about reading page after page of chases and fights, without really understanding the individuals involved in these confrontations and the motivations for them. I don’t need to know the details of every second of every day of a character’s life, but I do need backstory on how they came to end up where they are at the point the story takes place. I need to know who they have relationships with, what those relationships are like, how other characters fit into their lives and so on. Without well-defined characters, the plot is useless. Just be careful not to go overboard. A chase or fight here and there keeps me turning the pages.

9. Don’t make your good guy the villain.

All I have to say to this is why not? Isn’t that half the fun, having someone who is trusted and seemingly on the side of right and justice turn out to be evil incarnate? I believe that kind of twist adds a lot of flavor to a story. This individual appears supportive and sympathetic to the survivors or victim’s families, totally cooperative with law enforcement, but behind the mask? Only the victims see what’s really there and that’s right before they die. How exciting a storyline that would make.

10. Introduce your crime solver early on.

Lastly, again, why? Referring to TV shows again, take Murder, She Wrote. You knew crime writer, Jessica Fletcher, was going to solve the crime. With Columbo, you knew he was going to catch the guilty party. This works out fine if your central character is a particular detective or PI, and the story is geared around this specific individual. Then again, there are occasions where a character who has no connection whatsoever with the police or any such area either witnesses a crime or ends up being falsely accused of one and solves it to clear their name. A scenario like that can work very well and I think would pull the reader in nicely as well, since it would involve a ‘regular’ person on the trail of a killer. Imagine the danger they’d be in and the tremendous risks they’d be taking because they wouldn’t have any real resources available to them. The reader could imagine themselves in that situation and think, now, what would I do, or how would I handle that? It certainly would hold their interest.

Okay. We’ve gone through all the so-called ‘rules’ for writing crime fiction. I’ve told you how I feel about them. What about you? Are you naughty or nice? Do you follow these rules or break them every chance you get? Do you feel there should even be rules like these or any others? I believe the word ‘rules’ shouldn’t even come into play here. ‘Helpful guidelines’ maybe, but never ‘rules’. When our minds create, there shouldn’t be any restrictions or limitations on what we imagine. Now, THAT would be a real crime!

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NOTE: My good friend, and fellow creator of the deliciously dark world of noir, B.R. Stateham, was gracious enough to ask me to guest write on his blog (the above has been posted on his blog today too). He's got some fascinating and at times, frightening, characters over there you really should get to know. Head over to B.R.'s blog here. You'll be very glad you did.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

GUEST WRITER - B. R. STATEHAM



Question: How do you create a character who is as ice-cold as a cadaver when it comes to killing someone--yet one who actually posseses a conscience?

Or put it another way, in a sea of hit-men/assassin killer types found floating around face down in the dark waters called hardboiled, how do you create a character who is different. Different--unique--sympathetic.

A challenge. And that's putting it mildly. But one I wanted to try out one day on a kind of a spur-of-the-moment writing exercise. And . . . I'll be go to hell . . .what popped up on the screen was a guy named Smitty. Fully developed. Mean as back alley Wolverine with an aching tooth--with the black eyes of a pit viper who took in everything and anything in one glance. Reticent in speech--yet rather eloquent in his reticence.

One mean sonofabitch. That's Smitty. Yet . . .

Read the stories closely and you discover Smitty only takes out those justly deserving to be taken out. He's like the grim Angel of Death coming to collect his due among the miscreants and sadistic. And he does it spectacularly. Guns, poisons, explosives--even the front end of an F-150 Ford truck. It doesn't matter. When Smitty sets his eyes on you as his next prey--buddy, you're as good as dead.

Ah. But now, how to make him sympathetic? Make him someone from the dark side who you wind up willingly . . . or unwillingly . . . rooting for? Therein lies the McGuffin, as Alfred Hitchock used to say concerning his films. There's the catch that hooks the reader. And the answer is; I haven't a fraken' clue. It just happened.

One day Smitty was born in the back of my subconscious. He came out like some god of Greek mythology; sprung from the sea fully formed and magnificent to behold. But a god clearly hailing form the shadowy lands of Hades.

Take him for what he is, kid. The guy really does get under your skin and makes you want to read more about him.


BIO: B.R. Stateham is a fourteen year old boy trapped in a sixty-one year old body. His enthusiasm and boyish delight in anything mysterious and/or unknown continues.

Writing novels, especially detectives, is just the avenue of escape which keeps the author’s mind sharp and inquisitive. He’s published a ton of short stories in online magazines like Crooked, Darkest Before the Dawn, Abandoned Towers, Pulp Metal Magazine, Suspense Magazine, A Twist of Noir, Angie’s Diary, Power Burn Flash, and Eastern Standard Crime. He writes both detective/mysteries, as well as science-fiction and fantasy.

In 2008 the first book in the series featuring homicide detectives Turner Hahn and Frank Morales came out, called Murderous Passions. A Taste of Old Revenge is the second book in the series. At the moment we’re in a searching pattern to find a publisher.

In 2009 he created a character named Smitty. In 2010 a collection of Smitty stories, and a two-novella set came out featuring this dark eyed killer.

Married to a long suffering wife for a quarter century, B.R. Stateham is the proud father of three and doting grandfather of five.

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Thanks so much, B.R. for sharing with us some of Smitty's secrets.

If you would like to learn more about Smitty and B.R.'s other creations, head on over to his blog. You will find terrific stuff over there, including information about writing crime/noir, some of his stories, links to his books, and much more.

Just so you don't miss out on anything, why don't you go ahead and sign on to follow his blog. A few clicks and you will always be in-the-know.

Make sure you don't keep Smitty and the rest of the gang waiting...