Tuesday, May 29, 2012


This week we were to write a story about perceived fear, either triggered or based on a phobia.  We also were supposed to include the following words:  Dark, Crunching, Eerie, Monster, and Fear.  The genre was open, and the word max was a sinister 1,313.

Fear can be quite beneficial in some cases.  If it doesn‘t feel right to cut through that dark alley to get home a few minutes earlier, it‘s probably best to trust that instinct, pass it by, and stick to the main thoroughfares.  Unfortunately, in others, it can twist itself into an almost all consuming power over those it controls…


I first found out that I was the one who was going to be forever hunted when I was 6 years old.  I had an older brother, who informed me that he had it on good authority that the monster who lived in our shared closet had been placed there to eat me.  I remember asking him why not both of us, since both our belongings were stored there.  He told me that the creature itself had come to him one night in the dark and explained to him that only I was to be his next meal.  No specific date or time had been provided; the event would occur in that vast realm of time and space known as ‘some day’.

Sometimes in the night, I could hear crunching sounds, and I always checked my feet to make sure I was not being munched on from the bottom up.  When I told my brother about the noises the next morning, he would always laugh.  I knew then that he and the monster were in it together, and that’s why I killed him.  It was easy, really.  He always took his bath with the radio on, so he didn’t hear me when I came up behind him.  As soon as I hit him in the head with the bat, he went under.  Doc Schultz said he most likely slipped trying to get out and hit his head on the side of the tub.  Mama bought a bath mat after that and told me to take showers.  There was never any more crunching in my room at night.  I figured my monster found somebody else’s big brother to join up with.

Fear has always been the driving force in my life, and quite a necessary one.  People don’t understand that being afraid is a good thing--it’s what keeps you alive.  It makes you aware, alert, and always on guard.  Folks are out there to get you, and you must always be ready when they decide it’s time to take you down.  That way, it’s them that get put down and you go on.  There’s always someone out there after me for one reason or another, but I always come out ahead, because I’m smart.  And ready.  Always.

I have to admit that I was quite shocked and saddened when I realized that my own mother had joined the crusade against me.  I never knew my father--he had died just before I was born.  I’ve always wondered if he had been a part of my life whether things might have turned out differently.  I like to believe that he would have protected me from any and all determined to bring harm to me, but the poor man never stood a chance.

I finally came to realize that his so-called accident by being run down by a bus with faulty brakes had actually been an event carefully planned and carried out by his own wife.  I wasn’t there, of course, but in my heart, I know she pushed him into the street.  When my mother’s dementia was in full swing, she told me it had been my fault.  She said while they were waiting to cross at the light, I had started moving around and kicking her, and she lost her balance and fell against my father just as the bus rounded the corner.  Unborn, and already I had become the world’s scapegoat.  Apparently, my mother had been the third point on the triad of evil with my brother and the monster in our shared closet.

She was easier than my brother though; a slight nudge at the top of the stairs.  She had already taken a few falls around the apartment.  Everyone said it was only a matter of time.  I have never crossed a street on foot or taken a bus.  I take no chances and I go on.  Always smart.  Always ready.

I sold the house after Mama was gone.  It was hard, but I finally convinced the city to tear it down.  I told them there was a lot wrong with the foundation and it would never be safe.  They said they didn’t really want to since it was in the middle of the block, but I knew they were lying.  They were all minions of the monster, and my brother, and my mother, and they wanted to terrorize and destroy whoever moved in after I left.  But there was no way I was going to permit them to continue their ungodly mission.  The next family might not realize what’s happening until it’s too late.  They probably won’t be as smart as me.  Or as ready.

Every day I made a fuss and finally, they knew they couldn’t wear me down, so before you know it, the house was gone.  Kids play ball in the empty lot between the houses now.  Thanks to me, they are all safe.  My work here is done.  I don’t know why this duty has been placed on my shoulders, but I accept it willingly.  Fear is my constant companion, yet together, we seek and destroy evil wherever we find it.  With my house and its closets gone, at least I am free from the eerie and dangerous presence that used to reside there.  Or so I thought…

I did some research and made some calculations and learned that if I moved 1,417 miles from where the front door of my old house had been to the front door of my new home that the evil wouldn’t follow.  Evidently, I hadn’t allowed for the extra footage between the front door of my building and the actual front door of my specific apartment.  I knew I should have selected the calculator with the square root button on it.  It would have set me back only an extra $1.84.

In addition to myself, there were six other tenants and the Building Manager who lived there.  At first, they seemed resigned to keeping to themselves, as am I, but lately, the cycle of evil has begun anew.  Mrs. Carmichael, who lives in 4A, has a widowed daughter, Mrs. Danover, who lives next door in 4B.  I wondered why they didn’t just live in the same unit since they were family and then the reason became apparent.

The mother started coming to my apartment, bringing me muffins and telling me how her daughter was available and saying how well we would get along.  She said I should go to her daughter's apartment since she was expecting me.  I’ll just bet she is.  With all her closet doors open…

Well, back to the calculator.  I never liked this city anyway.  My move will occur not a moment too soon though since the Manager, Mr. Jeffries, who lives in 1A next to me, has asked me to meet him in his basement office around 5 to sign my lease termination papers.  I told him I would be happy to join him down there.  Me and my 9mm Glock.  Yes.  I’m smart.  And ready.  And armed.

Was I right, or was I right…  They were all down there.  Mrs. Janofski from 2A, Mr. Miller in 3B, Mrs. Carmichael and her widowed daughter from 4A and 4B, and even Mr. Nowicki in 2B and that odd Miss Canaday from 3A--all waiting.  For me.  I had a full mag so I dropped them all.  When I walked in, they had all yelled ‘SURPRISE’.  It was indeed.

When Mr. Jeffries fell, he landed on a cake on the desk.  It had ‘Happy Birthday, Leon’ written on it and two rows of candles.  Clever bastards.  Today IS my birthday.  The candles probably would have exploded when I blew them out…

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


24 stories by 23 writers, all based on the same overall theme:  Emergency Exit.  What image does that theme create in the mind?  Well, this book contains 24 possible ones.

Every story in this collection, while based on the same theme, is well-crafted, rich in the detail of countless settings, and full of interesting and unique characters, each with their own journey through life, with all its unpredictable twists and turns.

I'd love to include details about each story, but then I'd give them away, and that would be cheating each and every one of you out of the pleasure of reading them for yourself.  Definitely read Notausgang.  All the stories are short ones, yet each contains their characters' lifetimes and then some--each seeking some type of 'emergency exit' in their own way.

You'll like these characters, you'll fear them, you'll laugh with them, and you'll lose all hope right along with them.  This anthology will take you on an emotional roller-coaster ride and you'll enjoy every second.


This week’s prompt was to use three words:  Frenetic, hobbit and cummerbund.  Quite the challenging combination, to be sure.  The genre was open and the word limit was 1,000.  Here’s my offering--a bit odd perhaps, but I hope you enjoy.



“I have a few minutes before I have to leave, so I’m trying to finish this crosswor…”


“Let’s see now.  Another word for excited--starts with f-r-e…”


“Got it.  ‘Frenetic‘.  I think the ‘t’ is the last letter for the word ‘hobbit’.  Haven’t heard that word in a long time.  What were those?  Small hairy little creatures…”


That’s when I shoved my pen in her eye.

“Carol Ann, I told you never to call me Ralphie.”

It wasn’t my fault.  She stuck her face right up into mine and she was screaming.  She did this every Friday night.  She knew how important our awards banquets are to me.  Members of my profession are not often recognized for our work, so we took it upon ourselves to do so.  From four counties come the members of our club, and we have dinner in the meeting hall at the back of Dawson’s Steakhouse and we present photographs of our achievements.  Everyone receives an award, which is only fair, since we are all artists of the finest caliber.

Carol Ann never did an artistic thing in her life.  Even the brownies she baked for me once a month always turned out lopsided.  Not a creative bone in her body, but I loved her anyway.  That’s why I stayed married to her for 45 years.  Well, almost 45.  Next week Thursday would have been our anniversary…

I know what to do.  I’ll put her in my studio for now, and clean up this mess.  She wouldn’t like me leaving the kitchen floor all covered in blood.  When I get back from my meeting, I’ll take care of everything.  She may not admit it, but in my heart, I know she’ll be proud.

I need to get moving so I’m not late for cocktails.  Deep breaths, Ralph, and try not to get all upset.  True, it was your favorite, but you can always get another pen just like the one in Carol Ann’s eye.

I knew being here this evening would take the edge off.  The attendance tonight is outstanding.  I had no idea this group would grow so quickly.  There’s so many more of us out there than even I realized.  What we do takes a great deal of training and I hadn’t known there was such an interest in this day and age.  Kids today, what do they know.  They all want to be rock stars…

Dinner was superb.  Dan Dawson’s mother has the best recipe for chicken fingers in the state.  It’s some special herb or spice she puts in the breading.  Dan’s a lucky man.  He’s got his whole family working with him.  His mom, Betty, is the cook, his daughter, Janelle, is the server, and his son, Winston, is the cashier.  It must be wonderful to have your family at your side, helping you with your career.

I wouldn’t know.  Carol Ann never took any interest in my work.  How many times I tried to get her involved, but she would have no part of it.  She did have her shows to watch and discuss with her lady friends.  I never minded that.  But still, it would have been nice if she had worked with me on one small project.  Oh well.  No sense crying over spilled milk, as my beloved mother always used to say.

Dessert, this evening, was another triumph.  Betty’s homemade apple pie.  Looking at everyone’s plate around the table, every slice is a masterpiece.  Each one exactly the same as the next, all the crusts level and equally browned to perfection.

I like when everything is aligned, be it the tires on an automobile or oatmeal cookies on a baking sheet.  There’s no excuse for being careless.  For instance, all it takes is a few seconds to make sure your canned vegetable labels are all facing front in the pantry.  Otherwise, valuable time is wasted picking up each one for identification.  How difficult is it to lead an ordered and symmetrical life?  Did I mention Carol Ann’s lopsided brownies?

I’m so proud of the award I received tonight.  I was the winner in the ‘most colorful’ category.  I do take pride in using a lot of color in my work.  When I get home, I’m going to go all out for Carol Ann; she deserves the best.  I’m not going to make the same mistakes that boy in the movies made though.  Putting his mom in the fruit cellar would have worked if he had just been able to resist putting on her dresses.  That won’t happen to me.  Carol Ann always wore pantsuits.

Well, time to run and much to do.  My colleagues asked if I’d like to take some leftovers home to the wife, and I responded that I‘d make sure she was completely stuffed when I got home.  Harry and Leonard laughed until they cried.  Most people don’t realize that we taxidermists have a sense of humor.  I have been known to be quite amusing, at times.

It’s sure going to be quiet around the old homestead from now on.  But there is that nice Widow Samuels from Church, who’s always smiling at me after service.  Maybe I could give her a ring after I tell people that Carol Ann’s run off with the handyman.  I’ll introduce myself as Ralph Simpson.  Ralph.  I really don’t like to be called Ralphie…

Thursday, May 17, 2012


What’s that you said?  You don’t know Andreas?  Well, shame on you.  Andreas is the creation of Jeffrey Siger, and we’re first introduced to him in Murder in Mykonos.  We become further acquainted with him in Assassins of Athens.  So, what’s so special about Andreas Kaldis?  Let’s begin at the beginning.

Murder in Mykonos:  The story begins with Andreas Kaldis being ‘promoted’ to Chief of Police on the island of Mykonos (approximately 90 miles, by plane, from Athens).  In truth, the employment change was more a matter of ‘removing’ him from his position in Athens.  Andreas was getting a bit too close to the powers that be in an investigation, and powerful people don’t like it when detectives get too close to them or to their activities.  Removing the inquisitive law enforcement officer from the equation is the only solution.  He could be made to simply disappear, or he could be ‘promoted’.  The latter was the decision in Andreas’ case.

Andreas is described as a ‘hot-shot detective’.  Make no mistake.  Impulsive and irrational, he is not.  He is also not to be underestimated.  He may not behave in the expected politically-correct manner, but he gets the job done.  He’s smart, he’s methodical, and he’s not afraid to step on toes to get the job done.

So, his new career as chief ‘dog-and-cat protector’ (as he sees it) begins with a bang.  There’s a killer in paradise.  A body is found under a stone slab in a church crypt that should have contained only bones.  The Greek Orthodox faith prohibited cremation, and due to a lack of cemetery space, the dead were buried in cemeteries for 3 or 4 years.  Then, they were relocated to a crypt under the family’s church, provided they were affiliated with one.

On top of these bones, however, was a fresh kill--two weeks deceased max.  It was a woman, and she was ritually restrained and posed.  And, she wasn’t the only one.  To add yet another complication to Andreas’ already full plate, the daughter of an Ambassador traveling in the area is reported missing.

Tassos Stamatos, Chief Homicide Investigator for the Cyclades, already haunted by his own personal demons, joins Andreas on the hunt for the killer and the missing girl.  Both of them give it all they’ve got in hopes they will find the girl before the killer does.

Assassins of Athens:  Old world traditions can be both charming and heartwarming.  Here, however, we discover that certain ancient practices can be based on vengeance and carried out with murder.

In Athens, Andreas begins his investigation of the murder of a young man, whose body had been placed in a dumpster.  Unfortunately, that was only the beginning of the nightmare.  What is happening runs so much deeper than parents losing their son.  There are powerful and dark forces at work and they are intent on making certain that their message is received and clearly understood.

Andreas’ ‘trust no one’ outlook is certainly a wise one.  To get the answers he needs, he has to deal with both sides of the law.  Sometimes, in order to catch the Devil, one has to pass through the gates of Hell and take him on in his house.  Andreas Kaldis makes that journey whenever necessary, and never takes the time to knock.

Can Andreas find a way to stop the impending collision of bad and worse  before more lives are destroyed?

Characters, plotline, pacing--all critical components in any story.  But, as in real estate, another three critical aspects are location, location, and location.  Here’s where you hit the jackpot.  The location is Greece, with all its old-world beauty and new-world intrigue.  The author lives in Greece, and he knows whereof he speaks.  The descriptions of islands, restaurants, hotels, side streets…all  rich and colorful.  You can picture every street corner, every shop window, every passer-by.  You feel as if you are shadowing each character throughout their journey and you can feel the rain, smell and taste the food, and shudder with their fear.  With such vivid depictions of settings, people and events, when you reach the end, you want to go back and experience it all over again.

If you’d like more information about Jeffrey and his books, check out his website here.  His blog is called Murder is Everywhere, and can be found here.

Not to worry if you’re tardy to the party; there’s no time like the present to join in the festivities.  Get all four books with Andreas (Murder on Mykonos, Assassins of Athens, Prey on Patmos, and Target: Tinos), and I know that he’ll become your new best friend too!


Faith is defined as belief that is not based on proof.  One can find joy in practicing their faith, and also find comfort from their faith in times of hardship.  But, what happens to that faith when tragic events occur that make it difficult, if not impossible, to blindly accept that what has occurred is all in the plan of a Supreme Being, a God who knows all, sees all, and tests that faith every second of every day?  Do we simply go on and hope that, through our continual assent, we’re passing said tests and that, when our time comes, an eternal reward awaits us?  Is it realistic to hope also that our reward will include, not only free access to the Tree of Knowledge which will enable us to understand the purpose behind all, but also enable us to reunite with any and all loved ones who have pre-deceased us?  One man had strong faith, but when life dealt him a horrific hand, he began to doubt and question, and decided to seek his answers in a most unusual and dangerous way.

The Knowledge of Good & Evil relates the story of Ian Barringer, who was an investigator of supernatural mysteries on behalf of a television show entitled Probing the Paranormal, that he and Dr. Angela Weber worked on.  Dr. Weber, a psychologist, in addition to being responsible for helping Ian try to deal with the loss of his parents through various types of therapy and analysis, was also Ian’s fiance.

Ian’s parents had been killed in a terrible accident when he was a child.  He was plagued long into his adult life with emotional difficulties concerning their death.  He was raised in an orphanage, and later entered the seminary and was ordained a priest.  Over the years, however, the trauma and doubt resurfaced and he left the church.  Even with all the years of treatment, the loss of his parents was something he simply could not move beyond.

All the obsessions and fears return, and he informs his fiance that he intends to seek assistance to resolve his emotional turmoil.  He assures her he loves her and wants to marry her, but cannot move forward in his life until he can resolve the issues surrounding his parents’ death, and the questions of faith regarding his fear that they are lost to him forever.  He travels to a monastery and initially keeps in touch with her on a regular basis.  The letters then become sporadic, and finally cease.  After no word from him for over a week, Angela receives a telephone call from a priest at the monastery who informs her that Ian is there, in the Caribbean, and that her help is needed to stop him.  She doesn’t understand what it is that she needs to stop him from doing, and she is informed that she needs to stop him before he kills himself.

Before you envision Ian sitting on a ledge threatening to jump, or locked in a windowless room, sitting in the bathtub holding a razorblade to his wrist, let me explain.  Ian has no intention of committing suicide--technically.  He does plan to die, yes, but not remain in that state.  He fully intends to return to the living.  Ian’s plan is to achieve clinical death, then journey to whatever afterlife exists, and return.  His purpose?  To find out what happened to his parents, perhaps even interact with them; basically, to find out the truth.  What happens after death--where does the soul go--is there a pre-Heaven interim location--is a sentence to Hell really eternal?  Now, if that isn’t enough to make you want to grab this book and get started, there’s more.  A secret faction of the Church is in no way supportive of Ian’s efforts.  There is doctrine that the Church wants its followers to know and then again, there are documents, events and occurrences that the Church feels are best kept behind locked doors.  This group will do anything it has to--and I do mean anything--to stop Ian from gaining the Knowledge and from visiting the various levels of Heaven and Hell.

We share his experiences with death and his travels through all the regions of Heaven and Hell, as Angela waits in the realm of the living and prays he is able to return undamaged--able to return at all.  Does he find answers to his questions--to the questions all mankind has been asking for centuries?  Is he able to finally come to terms with the death of his parents and find the strength to be able to move forward with this life?

The Knowledge of Good & Evil is a breathtaking thriller indeed.  Twist upon twist will keep you turning the pages until the very last.  The story will entertain you, the characters will intrigue you, the vivid descriptions of the realms and residents therein will terrify you, and whatever your personal beliefs are, it will leave you wondering.  I guarantee, once you begin, you will not want to put this one down.  I rate it Five Stars and then some.

The author of The Knowledge of Good & Evil is Glenn Kleier.  For more information on this book, Glenn, and his other works, check out his website here.

Monday, May 14, 2012


I wish I could go back and change what I said that day. I just know things would be so different now. Haven’t we all said that at least once? Well, our challenge this week was to grant that wish, and give our protagonist the opportunity to make a different choice and show its result. The word max was 1,991 (perfect) and the genre open.

Would changing one decision really have that big of an impact on your future? Let’s see the result of one man’s choice.


"You're not serious, are you? I mean, you can literally send me back to a specific event in my past where I would be able to make a different choice?"

The old man simply nodded. He said all I had to do was explain where I wanted to go and why, and I could alter the future. I had to be prepared though, he warned, to accept the consequences of said decision. At Ronny's Tavern on the Lake, celebrating my promotion, my co-workers had presented me with a coupon for a free consultation, as it was apparently called. I'd passed this odd shop countless times on the way to my country place, but never stopped in before. I'm a grown man and now, a full partner in the county's most prestigious law firm, but frankly, the thought of going in there made me shudder. It had an air about it. Ominous. Creepy, even. But here I was, in the back with a man who appeared to be hovering at around 120 years of age, telling me how I can achieve peace in my heart. Go back and fix a mistake, he had said. As melodramatic as this sounded, there was one event in my past that weighed heavy on me. It didn't hold me back; I've done well. But, it's always been there--like a shadow. Maybe if I talk about it, which I never have before, I can finally leave it behind. Maybe the consultation angle isn't a joke after all. An hour of free therapy just might do the trick.

When I told him that if I could go back, it would be to a moment in the Vietnam War, he didn't flinch. I wondered if his lack of emotion was just for show, and he had a recorder under the table so he could attempt a bit of blackmail down the road. No matter. I could afford it now. So, I said to send me back to Kham Duc, in the Quang Tin Province, to May 11, 1968, around noon. I, and my best friend Ray, were Army engineers deployed to upgrade the local airstrip. Intel had been scarce and fucking wrong, and the Cong surrounded us. Some of us had been evac'd by the 834th Air Division, but Ray... Damn. We were under fire and running, but when we were almost clear, Ray took one in the leg. He fell, told me to go on, and started crawling toward some brush. I never hesitated--not for one second. I hauled ass and made the transport. Years later, here I am, successful, and in one piece.

It's true that he told me to go on, but I was wrong to listen. I could have carried him, dragged him, whatever it took, and we both would have made it. Found out later from one of the rescued POWs from my unit that the Cong took him prisoner, tortured him, and put his head on a stake. One of the later units was able to recover his…, it, and his tags to bury. I'd like to go back and make a different choice. I’d like to go back and do the right thing. When he says to go on, I want to tell him 'like Hell', grab him, and shove him into that plane so we can both go home. What kind of consequences could there be from that choice? I know one thing that would come out of this. For the first time since that day, I'd be able to get a good night’s sleep.

It's wild how that's stayed with me all these years. It's not like I'm remembering him every waking moment. It's only at night, when I'm alone, and I look around at all I have. That's when I remember my best friend, and how I left him behind to die. If only this mumbo jumbo was real...

* * * * * * * * * *

Damn, I hope I don't end up with a black eye. I'm due in court this morning. What an insane dream I had last night. Stupid alarm scared the crap out of me and I fell out of bed and clipped the nightstand with my face. Great. That's what I get for sitting in a candlelit room with a nutty old man mumbling chants and burning incense. That tea was probably drugged because I have no recollection of driving home or getting into bed. There had to be something in it because I was back on that airstrip, running with Ray. He took one hard to his right thigh, fell and told me to go. I picked him up and dragged him to the transport and pushed him in. I jumped in after and we took off.

Ray was pissed. He told me he'd probably lose the leg and end up a bum and it would be all my fault. I told him to shut the fuck up and let me know what corner his box was on so I could come and toss a couple of bucks in his tin can. He laughed a bit, then passed out. I slept. Soundly.

He did end up losing that leg just above the knee, but the VA fixed it with some company to give him a prosthesis for no cost at all. I visited him a couple of times in Rehab, but he made it clear he didn't want me there. I never went back. I was sure he was going to be okay. We take care of our own. We do. Right?

It’s wild how the old man got me to have a dream that seemed so real. I hope whatever he slipped me isn't addictive. So far, I feel okay, except of course for the header I took into the nightstand. I believe I'll keep my experience last night to myself though. Those clowns down at the office don't need to know any of this. Funny thing, though. I feel like a big weight's been lifted off me. Saying it all out loud, even to that weirdo, maybe was all it took. I may thank them for that dumb coupon after all.

That’s it. No more Mr. Nice Guy. I'm going to report that lazy good-for-nothing maintenance man when I get home tonight. Half the lights are out in this garage. Considering I pay almost $4,000 a month for my apartment and parking privileges, you'd think the jerk could get up off his ass and change a couple of light bulbs. What the fuck did I just step in? There's supposed to be a cover over this hole. Terrific. First a black eye, now a sprained ankle…

"Get up, and hurry up about it. Give me your watch and your wallet."

Maintenance and Security's asses are going to both be nailed to the wall. A masked man pointing a gun at me in this garage?

"I don't have all fucking day, bud." The man assumed shooting stance and aimed the gun at my face. He looked ex-military. Oh my God. The eyes. So filled with hatred. I know those eyes. I know that hatred. But it can't be... How could it...

"Ray? Is that you? It's me. Donnie. Ray, you remember me, don't you?"

"How do you know my… Ah, yes. Donnie. My best friend, right?”

He pulled the mask off and there, standing right in front of me, was Ray. The man I had seen get shot and crawl away while I ran for my life. The man whose head had been found displayed on a bloody stick with his tags stuffed in his mouth. The man who never made it out of…

“I always figured this world was too fucking small and now I know for sure it is. I thought I'd seen the last of you in that Rehab Hospital. You live here, huh, my friend? This joint takes lots of bucks. You got lots of bucks, Donnie, my friend?"

"I'm a lawyer now, Ray. After we got home, I went to law... No. What am I saying. After WE got home? You never made it home, Ray. The Cong took you out."

"You're crazier than me, my friend. The Cong took my leg, but you dragged my sorry ass to that transport and made sure I got home all safe and in pieces. They gave me a fake leg, as you can see, and tossed me out into the street. Not enough housing to go around. Not enough jobs either. Plenty of spit to deliver my way, though. Oh yeah, Donnie. We sure came home heroes, didn’t we? I‘m willing to bet nobody spit on you though, huh, my friend? You didn‘t end up sleeping in doorways, begging for quarters, digging in garbage cans for leftovers and even clothes. What did that suit set you back, my friend? Five, six grand, maybe?"

I'm still drugged. I have to be. I couldn't really have gone back to... It isn't possible to alter the past so the future... But, Ray's here... Now...

"Ray, let me help you. I can always use someone at my firm. The pay's good and there's benefits too. You can even stay at my place until you find something. Look, I want to help you. What do you say?"

"What do I say? I say, I've had about enough help from you already, my friend. I told you to go on, but you helped me right into a life of pain pill addiction and life on the streets. What was that you said to me way back when? Let you know what corner my box is on so you can slip a few dollars in my tin can?"

My God. This is really happening.

"Ray, you know that I never meant that the way it sounded. All I was trying to do was..."

I saw the smoke come out of the barrel when Ray pulled the trigger. Getting shot is not anything like they make it seem in the movies. You can hear the gun go off, and you can feel the bullet rip through your insides right before it all goes black.

Word to the wise: Let sleeping dogs lie. Because some? They've got a helluva bite...

Saturday, May 12, 2012


The second print volume from Pure Slush is now available.  It's called Notausgang, aka Emergency Exit.

There are 130 pages with 24 stories from 23 writers-fiction and non-fiction.

I have a story in here, and am very proud to be a part of this exciting project.

Click here for a taste of Notausgang.

Click here to purchase your copy.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


This week, in 1500 words, we were to tell about meeting the parents.  Relationships can be a very complicated thing, and when you add in-laws and other family members into the mix, well, sometimes we really must learn to accept those things we cannot change.  I’m not sure where this one came from, but some questions are perhaps best left unanswered…


Long blond curls.
Picture-perfect smile.
What my Mom calls ‘a nice girl’.
My kinda gal…

Marcianna’s family moved into the Yager farm at the South end of town.  You know, the property that’s bordered on three sides by dense woods and has a pond in back of the barn.  I remember how none of us kids wanted to go there at noon, much less after dark.  Old Mr. Yager lived in that big house all by himself because he was a zombie and ate little boys’ brains raw.  I knew that was true because Jimmy McDougal told me and my friends all about it.  Jimmy was in his 7th year of high school then, so we knew he was real smart and knew just about everything.

Last spring, folks in town started talking about how the Yager place was empty and how old Mr. Yager just up and disappeared.  We figured maybe he had some of his zombie friends over and they ate him up by mistake.  Whatever happened, there was no trace left.  I know, because my Pop sells places and he was there and saw it all.  He was surprised though afterward since he said the house was kept up real nice.  Huh.  Guess even zombies know how to use a broom.

Anyhow, he sold it to a Mom and Pop and daughter.  I’m sure, by now, you guessed the daughter was Marcianna.  We went through the last year of high school together and now that we graduated, we plan to get married.  I’m going to start as an apprentice with Donnie Dixson over to the prison.  He runs the electric shop there and makes real good money.  Somebody’s got to keep the lights on so those fellas can read their books and get their diplomas all squared away before their time comes to sit in the hot seat to get cooked.  Donnie has to keep the electricity on to that chair 24/7 too.  They’re always executing at 2am or some such time.  Geez.  Who wants to get woke up in the middle of the night just to get juiced.  That’s just mean.  I’m not for that.

Marcianna and I, we’ve got our lives all planned out.  I’ll work out at the prison, and she wants to stay at home and have lots of babies.  It’s going to be terrific, except there’s only one small bridge left that we have to cross.  I still have to meet her Mom and Pop.  The good news is that it’s going to happen later tonight.  She told me not to be put off because they might seem a bit odd.  I told her all kids believe their Mom and Pop are odd, and that I was sure hers were no odder than mine or anybody else’s.

My sweetie said tonight would be the perfect time since this was the night of her becoming ceremony.  I asked her if that was like a confirmation, and she looked at me funny.  I said I was sorry and to never mind.  Guess my altar boy is showing.  Marcianna explained to me that her becoming was when she came of age and was ready to take on a mate for life.  She said her parents would be there, aunts, uncles, cousins, the whole gang.  First, we would share a special meal that had taken all day to prepare, and when the clock struck midnight, she would become.  I needed to be there so she could select me and then it would be official.  I would belong to her.  Forever.  Now, some may run scared at the sound of that, but my Pop said only a real man is completely faithful to his woman.  Till death do you part and such.  I’m all for that.

I got to Marcianna’s at 6:30 exactly.  If I was going to impress her family, I needed to start right out by being punctual.  Mom always said not to keep a lady waiting.  Real men aren’t rude.  I used the knocker since they didn’t have a bell like we do.  It was strange looking, not like the ones over at Dan’s Do-It-Yourself Hardware.  This looked made to order--sort of like some kind of animal with long teeth.  Guess they get ready for Halloween a few months early.  Marcianna opened the door and took my breath away.  She was wearing a long, strapless black gown with sparkly stuff on it and her hair was all down with kind of a wind-blown effect.  Her lips and nails were bright red, and she had a gold band on each finger.  Her black heels made her a good three inches taller than me.  No Siree Bob.  This wasn’t like a confirmation at all.

She led me through the house and out to the backyard, where her family members were circled around two large Bar-B-Q spits.  Whatever they were cooking smelled delicious, but I couldn’t quite place it.  I do know those roasts were the biggest I’d ever seen.  I took a step closer to see if I could figure out…  Oh my God…  Couldn’t be…  Those pieces of meat on the rods are…

“Marcianna, is this your young man?”

The old lady startled the Hell out of me. Her face was the texture of my Uncle Nate’s pickup’s upholstery; same color too.  I put her age at maybe 128?

“Yes, Grandmama,” the woman I knew I loved, but wasn’t sure I really knew, said.  “This is Daniel.  Daniel, I’d like you to meet my Grandmother on my mother’s side.  That’s my Grandmother on my father’s side over there adding sauce to one of our entrees.  If you don’t keep adding sauce, the meat ends up being so tough.

Do you prefer white or dark meat, dear?  We have both.  One of these hitchhikers Daddy picked up obviously spent lots of time on the road.  That’s why he was already a lovely shade of golden brown.  The other was new at it, I think.  Started out quite pale with a small cluster of freckles even.  Don’t worry though.  They’ve both been marinated for hours, so I’m sure either one will be quite tasty.”

Okay.  So they pick up hitchhikers, bring them home, soak them in spices, grill them, and serve them up with corn on the cob and slaw on the side.  The Lord did say ‘judge ye not…’ and I’m all for that.  I do believe, however, I’ll just fill up on veggies this evening, and I thought I saw some rolls on one of the tables.  I can always ask Mom to fry me up a couple of eggs when I get home…

Dinner was great.  Everyone seemed to really be enjoying themselves.  Once you get past their dietary peculiarities, these aren’t bad people.  They asked me lots of questions about my plans for the future, and mine and Marcianna’s plans for our family.  I may have had one too many glasses of punch though because I’m starting to see double and everyone’s voice sounds like an echo.  I’m used to a beer or two down at Rusty’s, but this stuff’ll sneak up on you.  Fruity taste, but it sure packs a powerful punch.  Hope a headache doesn’t find me in the morning.  I’ve got to be out to the shop at 7.  Don’t want to be late on my first day.

Marcianna’s Mom and Dad are such nice people.  They helped me into the house and let me lay down on this nice bed in their spare room.  I never knew they sold black sheets and pillowcases in town.  Those must have been ordered special, what with Halloween coming up in a few months.  Just until my head clears, I told them.  Her whole family must be worried about me because all of them are standing around the bed looking down at me.  I think I’m going to love being part of this family.

I can hear the clock chiming.  Must be midnight.  Her aunts helped me sit up and put pillows behind me.  They don’t want me to miss Marcianna’s special moment.

I can see her now, coming through the door.  She’s dressed the same, but there’s a long black veil covering her head and face.  Kind of like a Goth communion thing.  I feel like giggling, but I’d better not.  Mom did always say that real men aren’t disrespectful.  Her family members move aside and now she’s at the foot of the bed.  Her two cousins remove the veil and I sense a difference in her.  She’s a bit fuzzy, but there’s something.  I just know it.

Those long blond curls are now a short black tangled mess.
Those soft blue eyes are now nothing but two bloodshot slits.
That picture-perfect smile is now a jagged fanged sneer, covered with froth and drool.
That ‘nice girl’ is now crawling toward me on all fours, claws tearing the spread, panting, snarling, and dripping with sweat.
My kinda gal…

Friday, May 4, 2012


Many thanks to Veronica Marie Lewis-Shaw, a friend and extremely talented and accomplished writer, who has provided a wonderful review of King's Bishop, for which I am very grateful.  I've put links to Veronica's sites here too so you can enjoy her work as well.

Here's her link on Blogger

Here's her link on Wordpress

Make sure you pay her a visit.  Lots of stories, reviews, etc.  I guarantee once you've had a sample, you'll definitely want to go back for more!

Thursday, May 3, 2012


The prompt this time was to write a story set during the American Civil War that portrays a conflict between two good people.  The issues at the time divided this country, and my tale shows the additional destruction war can cause between two friends.  I hope you enjoy.


He knew he wouldn’t be able to hang on much longer.  The numbness in his right leg was slowly moving upward.  He remembered when his father had injured his leg helping at their neighbor’s farm.  When the numbness had totally consumed his leg, a couple of hours hadn’t even passed and he was gone.  Just closed his eyes and was gone.

At least he had been in his own house and in his own bed with his own wife and son by his side.  Josiah was alone in a field, about ten yards from a road rumored to be used to transport Union troops across the state line.  It wasn’t so much that he was afraid to die; it’s simply that he didn’t want to die here.  Not here.  And not today.  His regiment had left him water and food to hold him for a day, maybe two, since he told them he had a friend nearby who would help him.  Perhaps if he prayed, that might turn out to be true.

He felt the sun hot on his face.  He must have dozed off briefly.  Can’t do that again, he thought.  Might not wake up next time.  Could try to make it into town.  Could make it if I can find a stick to lean on.  The shadow that came over his face frightened him.  I won’t open my eyes, he thought, and I’ll just let the animal take me.  Please, Lord, don’t let it hurt too bad…

“Is that you, Josiah?  Josiah River?”

Someone had hold of his shoulders and was shaking him.  He opened his eyes slowly and saw a familiar face.  This can’t be, he thought.  Is this what really happens when you die?  You go back to your childhood?

“Josiah, it’s me.  Adam.  Jones.  You must remember.  We went through school together, married our sweethearts at the same service…  It’s been many years and many miles between us.  Is it really you?  And the choice you made was to become my enemy?”

Josiah couldn’t believe this was really happening.  He and Adam had been inseparable since the third grade, and even after their double wedding that warm spring day so long ago, they were still the best of friends.  The following year’s winter had brought grief when Adam’s wife had died in childbirth, and the boy a few days after.  He’d left the farm and his life behind and gone to begin anew.  Now, out of nowhere, in the middle of this Hell, this war that has brother killing brother, comes his friend, yet his heart was heavy with grief.  Adam wore the Union colors.

“How did you come to be here, my friend?” Josiah began.  “My Sarah passed two Springs after your Marie, and we were childless as well.  Tell me where you’ve been and how your life has become.”

Adam was unsure how to respond.  It wasn’t as if this was a casual reunion at a family get-together.  This was war, and he knew his place and position well.  All the states in this great country had to remain together, and it was up to the Union army to bring it back around to the way things should be.  After all this time, he runs across the best friend he’s ever known and he’s made the grave error of choosing to support the wrong side.  Under no circumstances was he going to sit and reminisce with a Confederate.

“In case you haven’t noticed, Josiah,” he said.  “I’m a Union soldier, and you obviously are not.  I’m part of an infantry regiment and we’re camped back a ways.  I came ahead just to make sure this road, which belongs to us, was clear through to town.  No enemy troops are supposed to be in this area.”

“Adam,” Josiah could feel the icy chill of his friend’s manner.  “I realize that there are two sides to this, and I also realize that you are on one side and I on the other.  But, our friendship goes back to our youth and common decency demands we remain honorable.  Can you not see that I am badly injured?  It happened when my regiment encountered several renegade Union soldiers a few miles back.  They attacked us and attempted to take all our weapons and any money we had been carrying.  They were not dedicated to the cause--your cause, and had separated from their main unit with plans to loot and murder.

To make my point, it is becoming more and more difficult to detect any sensation in my leg.  I fear, at the very least, I shall probably lose the entire limb, and at the very worst, my life.  Do you have a doctor there with your regiment who could attend to my injury?”

Adam didn’t understand why Josiah couldn’t grasp the severity of their situation.

“What is it you want me to do?  Adam asked.  “Should I have my men come and transport you back to our camp?  You don’t seem to be willing to accept the fact that you are Confederate and I am Union.  You are wounded and I am sound; therefore, you are my prisoner.  We were told at the outset to take no prisoners however.  You people are trying to destroy this country with your dissent and defiance of the laws of the land.  The two biggest issues of slavery and export taxation must be dealt with in the proper manner and this country must remain undivided.  The sooner you traitors understand and accept that, the sooner all this bloodshed can end.

A question just came to mind though.  Why are you here alone and injured?  You said you were with a regiment.  What happened?  Did they get tired of carrying you and caring for their wounded so they just dropped you off in a field to die?  Is that the way the Confederacy treats their own?”  

Josiah wondered yet again why all this conflict had to occur.  Why was this great country being torn apart by its own?

“No, Adam.  I was not deserted by my fellow soldiers.”  Josiah was finding it difficult to focus.  Why was the sun so hot today?  “I kept up as best I could, but I’ll tell you the truth.  My unit was on its way to a place called Gettysburg to join other waiting troops, where they plan to greatly deplete the Union’s resources, as well as their manpower.  I tried to keep up, but I was holding them back and knowing the importance of the Gettysburg skirmish, I begged them to go on ahead.  They refused, until I assured them I had a supporter in the area.  Only then did they go forward.  You see, my old friend, I accept and understand the important nature of the issues behind this conflict as do you, but even so, I am trying to maintain my sense of humanity.

My regiment was needed at Gettysburg and at Gettysburg they will be--with or without me.  If I am to be taken prisoner, so be it.  If I am to be shot instead, then perhaps that was the Lord’s plan for me all along.  I’ll trust in that.  A question comes to my mind also, my friend.  That uniform you wear, do you carry yourself as the honorable man you always were, or do you now take pride in yourself as a killer?  I am acquainted with the terms of war and I will accept whichever answer you offer.”

Adam looked down at his childhood friend, who was growing more pale with each passing minute.  His food and water supplies had been exhausted, and his leg was diseased and discolored from the wound.  He’d seen wounds that looked like that on his own men, just before they died.

This war had split his country in two.  Both their beliefs were strong, and these beliefs had divided their friendship as well.  He and his regiment were on their way to Gettysburg as well to join forces already in place.  It would be his fight however--not Josiah’s.  Josiah’s war would end here…in this field…today.

He wondered what decision his sense of humanity demanded.  Did his sense of humanity even remain?  War took much, then took yet again.  But, this conflict was for the good of all.  Of this, he was certain. As was his friend.

Adam sat down in the grass with Josiah, whose eyes were half shut and was now struggling to breathe.  As he placed the canteen to Josiah’s lips to share the cool water, Josiah reached for his hand.  Adam took Josiah’s hand in his and held it firmly.  He decided for the time they had left together, the war be damned.  They could both be on the same side once more.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


Following is a link to a review of my first novel, King's Bishop Takes King's Rook's Pawn.  It is very much appreciated, and many thanks to the reviewer, Glenn Kleier.  I just recently finished reading one of Glenn's books, Knowledge of Good and Evil, and you will see my review of that book here soon.  I'll give you a hint now though--it was AMAZING!  I'm also looking forward to reading another of Glenn's books, The Last Day.  I highly recommend checking out Glenn's books.  For more information, here's a link to Glenn's website.

To anyone who is contemplating reading King's Bishop..., I hope you will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.  It began as a short story, but with the encouragement of a friend/writer/editor, Walt Hicks, characters' lives expanded and a novella was created.  Many thanks to Walt, now and always.