Thursday, August 26, 2010

#Friday Flash - Postage Due Pandora - Part 2

Friday is finally here, and so is Part 2 of "Postage Due Pandora".  Enjoy!

(Click here to catch up with Part 1)

Postage Due, Pandora - Part 2

Katie uttered a small grunt of disgust, and flung the marble across the room, where it happened to go through the door, into her bathroom.  She hurried after it and slammed the door, hoping it wouldn’t be able to roll underneath.  Her heart was racing.  She waited a few minutes to see if the eye would come back.  It was silent, except for her mother’s muffled singing coming up the stairs outside.

She went back to the bed and sat down.  She picked up the box and lay back to study it.  The inside was black velvet, much like her other jewelly boxes, but this stuff was darker than anything she’d ever seen before.  It must have been an illusion, but she couldn’t see the bottom of the box.  She held it up to the light, and still the blackness persisted, and seemed to go on forever.  

Katie’s train of thought broke off suddenly, as she heard her door open; heard the knob twist, and the catch release.  She heard the door swinging open.  She looked up, and saw that in fact, her door remained firmly shut.  There was a soft thumping sound, like footsteps in the shaggy green carpet, and they seemed to be getting closer.  Now she could hear breathing.  It was the slow, heavy sighs of something very large.  She heard a rough scratching as the something pushed its thick hide through her open door. (IT’S CLOSED, her eyes insisted).  The breathing was louder now.  She could hear her own breathing too, as it was now coming in short panicked hitches.  (But there’s nothing THERE.) An image formed in her mind, of something that walked on two feet, and was made up of the bald and stretched pink skin of a recovering burn victim.  Where this came from, she didn’t know, but as soon as she thought it, she knew it was true.  There was a monster in her room, and it was making its way toward her.  (But the door is CLOSED – the DOOR IS CLOSED – there’s NOTHING THERE!)  Her mind was wailing now at the contradiction before her.

Thump.  A huge and meaty foot hit the floor inside her room.  Thump.

Katie screamed, and bolted upright. The breathing stopped.  The thumping stopped.  The door was still closed.  Her heart was pounding. No, stupid – your heart is thumping, get it? Katie closed the box, and shook her head.  This was all a little too weird for her.  She’d have to have a long, serious talk with Stephen when he got back.


The bathroom door shuddered.  Katie looked around, and saw the eye, now wedged firmly under the door, and shaking the door violently, trying to get free.  Its tiny black pupil was gone, and the silver iris stared at her, the stare of a dead thing.  

Katie screamed at the bedroom door, “MOM?!  MOM!  HELP ME!”

There was no reply from downstairs.  The bathroom door was rattling on its hinges as the eye jerked and shuddered, working its way out of its temporary prison.

Then, nothing.  Seconds passed.  Katie could only hear the pounding of her heart in her ears.  She looked at the door, and the eye was gone.  Everything was still, she couldn’t even hear the music from downstairs anymore.

“Mom?  MOM?”  Where was she?  “MOM?”  Katie felt six years old again and separated from her mother in a department store.  She felt small, lost and afraid.

There was no answer.  She heard the doorknob start to turn again.  “NO,” she said out loud, shouted out loud. With a queer doubling of her vision the room blurred in front of her.  A moment later the sensation passed, and everything suddenly seemed normal again.

Nothing.  There was no such thing as a disembodied eye that moved and rolled on its own.  It was ridiculous.  Sudden movement caught her eye, and she jerked her head to see her own pale reflection staring back at her.  Her own eyes looked red and, touching her cheek, she realized she’d been crying.


Katie jumped slightly at the sound and spun around to look at the bathroom door. Nothing there.

She decided she’d had enough.  Time to go downstairs, help Mom finish dinner and forget all about this.  Smoky clothes be damned.

She turned her door handle.  It was locked.  She jerked at the knob again and again.  Behind her, the bathroom door began to shake again. The hinges were starting to rattle. Incredibly, the force was starting to shake them loose. 

Suddenly, there was a new sound.  It was a soft scraping at her feet.  She looked down, and saw a plain white envelope, with “Katie” scrawled hastily on it.

She tore it open and read:


Your father and I have been quite unhappy for some time now, about seventeen years, give or take. 

We’ve had long discussions about this, and we’ve decided that the best thing to do is just start over.  We were never cut out to be parents.  Hopefully we’ve faked it well enough that you won’t end up on drugs or homeless, but in any case, it’s time that we get on with our own lives.

We didn’t want to leave you completely helpless, so here is some money to get you started on your new life without us.

Hope it’s a good one.

Mom and Dad.

P.S. We sold the house.  You have until tomorrow to get out.

P.P.S. There is nothing in the box.

Click here to go to Part 3

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Conveyor - now online at "The New Flesh"

I've been a lucky guy in the past week.  A good handful of stories have appeared online.  Today's the third.  Check out "Conveyor" at The New Flesh today. 

It's dark.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Wicked East Press - "A Wicked Bag of Tales"

Here's a new approach to building an anthology that Wicked East Press is doing.  They are collecting the names and e-mails of authors willing to write for a "secret" project.  Out of all interested participants, 10 are selected at random to write a 10,000 word story.  Genre and prompt are assigned at the moment you are chosen.  There is also a time limit imposed.  So given the length of story, and the time constraint, this may not be for the faint of heart, or the slow of pen.  Payment is a contributor's copy (with the possibility of "something extra"). Here is a snippet from the site:

10 writers receive an email...

--"Your challenge, if you choose to accept it: to write a 10,000 word story within the prompt and genre that you are given. You may share this story with no one. You will have a set time limit and at the end of that allotted time--your story will take on a life of it's own."

This will be very "hush-hush".

Those interested let us know on this thread. Then send a PM to me with an email address. I will take sign ups until September 25 and then lock this thread. 10 names will be pulled from a hat/box/pan/bowl and those 10 people will receive further instructions by email. I will post a listing of those that have received their notice (death warrant?). All ideas will be sent by email, per instructions.

I will keep the community posted with tid-bits, but won't share too much!

At the end... we will have one hell of a book!

You need to be a member of Wicked East Press to participate, as you must sign-in to announce your participation and PM the editor with your e-mail. 

I've thrown my hat in.  It's not that I don't have a lot to work on right now (I do) but having a deadline would really help me get my work habits back where they need to be, and I love a challenge.

For those of you NaNoWriMo-ers, this could be just the warm-up you need!

Link to the site here.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Back to old haunts

Just a quick post today.  I've got a few stories coming up online this week and next.  The first is a piece up at MicroHorror, where I first started publishing online.  It's called Adaptation, and you can check it out here.

I'll be laying off #fridayflash this week, as I got great notes back on two longer works-in-progress.

However, there was definitely time to chip in something for Lily Child's Friday Prediction. 

(update) AND ...

If you have a little more time, my story "Eight Cups a Day" is now online at Thrillers, Killers n' Chillers.  Before you check this one out, get a glass of water.  Trust me.

Happy Friday.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Friday Flash# - Postage Due, Pandora - Part 1

Alright - I teased some people with this last week, over at Lily Childs' Feardom.  My 100 word entry was a teaser for this, much longer piece.   To that end, I'm going to make my first real #fridayflash, part 1 of the full story.  It's been battered around and workshopped to death for about a year now, in and out of editor boxes, which tells me the best place for it to be is here with me.

Here we go:

Postage Due, Pandora

Katie thought the box was a joke at first. 
The note on the plain brown craft paper read, in Stephen’s carefully overwrought calligraphy,  “Thinking of you.”  It had been waiting on the “mail table” in her front hallway when she’d arrived home.  Looking at the package, she felt a tiny shiver at the nape of her neck.  Putting it down to the air conditioning, after the humidity outside, she picked up the box.  The first thing she noticed was heavy it was, like it was full of rocks.  She pulled her hair out of her eyes, before the card got wet and unreadable.  The skies had opened up about two blocks from home, and she’d had to run to avoid the worst of the downpour. 
The gift was typical of her cousin Stephen.  Currently, he was travelling in India, looking into a new group that was mixing ancient sitar raga, modern hip hop, and nu metal. At nineteen, he was the youngest-ever scout for Broken Needle Records. They’d been inseparable through six years of middle and high-school and the distance had strained their bond, but had yet to break it.  Before he left, though, Katie had given Stephen a hard time,  accusing him of leaving his family and friends behind.  She realized now that it had been a grossly unfair way to treat her closest companion, and worried about it constantly.  The arrival of the package was a good sign, it had to be.  
The postmark on the wrapping indicated he’d sent this from Mumbai.  Katie peeled off the wrap to find a powder blue box, with gilded yellow scrollwork and long fabric tassels at the corners.  But powder blue?  Katie smiled.  In the last three years at high school together, Stephen had defined goth for her, and she had gladly followed his lead; dressing exclusively in black for the remainder of their high-school years, earning them both the title of “the Trauma Twins.”  If Stephen was buying her something powder blue, then things had definitely begun to change.   
She was starting up to her room when her mother called from the kitchen, shouted actually, to be heard over her “Crazy Eighties” CD, which she always put on when she was doing housework. “What was inside the package honey?” she asked.
 “A wooden box Mom. From Stephen. I haven’t opened it yet, but it looks pretty funny.” 
“Funny how?” There was a hint of ice in her tone. Donna liked Stephen, but had never really forgiven him for taking Katie to get her first tattoo when she was eighteen.
“Um, it just doesn’t look like Stephen’s taste, or mine, for that matter.”
“Can I see it?”
“Not right now Mom, ‘kay?” Katie tried hard not to lose patience.  She didn’t really need to do the full-on rebellion thing with her Mom, but she’d ditched her cigarette about three blocks from home, and had been chewing on strong mint gum ever since.  The last thing she wanted right now was face time with Mom.  Smoking she wouldn’t understand. She called down the hall, “I want to check it out first.”
“Okay honey, dinner in thirty, kay?” Katie heard the sound of running water, and the catchy synth of And I Ran was turned up.  She went upstairs before she had to listen to her mother singing along.
She was so focused on the package, she could hardly look away, and stumbled on the last step, sending the box flying out of her hand. A previously unnoticed card shook loose of the wrapping and landed nearby.
She picked up the card, which was the same powder blue shade as the box, and had red Sanskrit on the top line, with English underneath.
“There is nothing in the box.”
Underneath that, written quickly in Stephen’s handwriting, which seemed oddly rushed and shaky, “Yes there is.”
Intrigued, Katie picked up the box and the brown paper, went into her bedroom, and closed the door.
Sitting on the bed, Katie held the box in both hands, and began to examine it. The hasp was standard.  She’d had a half dozen diaries and jewelry boxes growing up that operated the same way, with a tiny gold hook and eyelet. 
She was about to unlock the lid when her eyes caught sight of the card again, with Stephen’s hastily scrawled message.  Interesting that he’d been in such a rush to write this one, but then had taken care to sign the outside packaging with his usual careful calligraphy.
Katie shook the box.  It seemed empty, just an ordinary jewelry box, probably with little compartments inside. She was lowering the box back to the bed, when she felt something inside rolling around.  It hadn’t been there a second ago, or it most certainly would have made a clatter when she shook it.  Still though, she tilted her wrist to the right, and the something inside shifted again.
Little hairs were standing up on the back of her arms now.   Whatever was rolling around in there sounded alive.  This was a ridiculous thought, she realized.  It was probably a marble, or, maybe some little piece of ornamentation that she’d broken loose with her shaking, and would be kicking herself for ruining in a couple minutes’ time. Nonetheless, the thought wouldn’t go away.
Katie decided to set the box on her perfectly flat night table, and study it for a little while longer. She set her present down; its weight now seemed heavier than before, and warmer.
The sound came again.  Rolling, rolling.
“This is stupid.”  Katie said aloud, trying to establish some sense of reason.  It was probably some gag thing that Stephen picked up, full of magnets or something.  It was like the rattlesnake eggs that her dad brought home one time.  You got all worked up, she thought, and when you opened it up it was just a rubber band and a clothespin.
Katie thumbed the latch, forcing herself to laugh at her jitters, then lifted the lid by one of its golden tassels.
Free from the box, a small white marble flung itself into the air and landed squarely on Katie’s lap.  The split second before it spun around, she knew what it would be.
The eye looked at her, and she looked back.  In its silver iris, Katie felt, rather than saw, intelligence, and anger.  It’s not rattlesnake eggs, she thought.

Monday, August 9, 2010

A Question

Anyone else ever have a short story take on a life of its own and need to become a novel?  The rewrites I'm doing are proving fruitful - very much so.  If this goes the way I think it is, that'll be the THIRD novel I've started this year (with completion for all of them far off in the horizon.) It makes me say "Yay."  Then it makes me say "Holy Shit."  Then it makes me say "Yay again."

Ever have that happen?

Just asking.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Friday Flash-ing (Kinda)

I feel like I'm coming in a bit late to the "Friday Flash" party, and while I've yet to go all-in and do the #Fridayflash thing, (and I may yet) I've noticed a couple other weekly writing parties out there, and want to spotlight one in particular:

Lily Childs' Friday Prediction.  Every Friday, the Macabre Ms Childs picks three words at random from the dictionary / encyclopaedia etc., and challenges the visitors to her excellent blog to come up with a 100 word story based on them.  It's wonderful exercise to try and get a coherent plot out in such a compact space.  This has been going on for a couple of months now, but like anything else new, it needs great word of mouth to grow, so check it out!

This weeks words were: cavernous, jewellery box, and freedom.

Here's my attempt (prompt words in blue)

Postage due, Pandora

Katie looked closely at the tasselled, powder-blue jewellery box; a present from her ex-boyfriend Stephen - at least that's what the card said.

Below his anally-retentive tiny signature had been a single additional phrase, "There is nothing in this box, remember that."

Katie wondered why, if the box was truly empty, it should feel so heavy, but there was only one way to find out. 

Lifting one of the ornate golden tassels, Katie opened the box. The insides were cavernous, and stretched out to forever. 

From somewhere deep inside the box, came a tiny, rasping voice, 


Fucking Stephen ...

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Home for a rest

Just checking in.  I've been away at a cottage for a week or so, and though I brought writing stuff with; I decided to take a full-on holiday, so next to nothing got done.

Back now, and the word of the week is "rewrites."

I've finished with my writing course, but have been given the chance to get one more piece seen by "my" author, and have settled on a 25 pg. short, as I haven't been working on anything with him yet that's got a beginning/middle/end.  The short is done, but I'm finding tremendous difficulty getting going on the rewrites.

How do you do it?  Any tips?  I've been trying a few things, but what's NOT working is going through in Word "tracking changes".  The next thing I'm going to do is print out and make changes/notes on paper. (More and more I've been running away from the computer to do the actual writing -- the internet's siren song has been way too seductive of late.) 

So ... I'm looking for what works for you guys out there, as August is going to be "editing" month.  I have to tune up this short  by next Friday (and anyone interested in a preview in exchange for comments would be greatly appreciated), rewrite another short for an antho that closes at the end of the month, and THEN, in September, I'll be returning to the "big" story.  I'm also going to try and squeeze in some flash for a few special events that are happening.

Truth told, this is a new part of the process for me.  In the past, 90% of my stuff has been so short it's been easy to go through 2-3 times and tweak this / that / the other, usually cutting to fit a hard word cap.  Now that I'm north of 20 pages on things, it's a different beast, and once I get the bones of the novel out - holy crap. 

Any thoughts?