Imaginings

I love my children’s imaginations. I love seeing what they come up with, the plays and pet shops, the art and dances, the worlds they create.

My oldest is crazy about sci-fi and horror. How much she “gets” always impresses me. Her imagination allows her to understand things well beyond her years. And we have great conversations about the movies and books after.

Lately we’ve been talking about equality (except for last night when we were talking about demonic possession and devil spawn — seriously). She literally doesn’t understand people who hate others for absolutely no reason. She doesn’t “get” the fear. The need to control, or worse, let others control them.

Today I put out a collection of cyber punk short stories about control, or the lack of it. It’s been sitting on my computer since last year.  Big Pulp and Silver Blade published a couple of stories and people asked if there were any more coming out. I enjoyed the characters, so I wrote a few more and asked John Hornor Jacobs to put together a cover (which, btw, looks fantastic).

Here’s where it gets tricky; my kid wants to read the collection. In general, most of my stories are not quite kid friendly. My zombie and crime pieces usually don’t bode well for young audiences.I think all but the last story is ok for her. Interestingly, I am actually nervous about her reading my work. This adds a new layer to our relationship.

While I look forward to what she has to say, I’m also concerned she’ll think I’m nuts. Or realize that I am. I hope, though, she sees me as maybe more than that; she’ll realize I’m just some kid who still lives in his imagination and that that’s ok. I want her to always nurture her imagination; I want us to grow and discuss and think about the world we want to live in.

If you are so inclined, feel free to check out the collection at Amazon.

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Heads Up

I found some good reading on the intertubes and thought I’d give some well-deserved shout outs:

Cindy Rosmus’ story, Homesick, is over at newfleshmagazine. Aaannd they have a free e-book.

PulpMetalMagazine hosts one of Richard Godwin’s stories. Well worth it.

You like comics? Well, there’s this guy, Walt Kneeland, that does these reviews at his blog and at cxpulp that you might be interested in.

Did you hear Poetic Justice Press is making an e-book and it’s going coming out in August? Well, now you did.

Sabrina Ogden over at They Call Me Kate has some good news.

Val Nieman’s Blood Clay from Press 53 is out.

And now for some self promotion:

May 4th you’ll get a chance to see my story “Kids Are Mean” at Shotgun Honey. If you didn’t take  look at the site from my Facebook or Twitter posts yet, then maybe you should catch up — great stuff from a new mag.

“To Honor and Obey” will appear in Yellow Mama in issue # 26 (June 15). Yes, that Yellow Mama. Some wild, wild stories in this issue. Still working through them, but good stuff so far.

One of my zombie stories is coming out at Title Goes Here in July — it’s a mouthful.

And another zombie story that gives a whole new take on bible camps is coming out in the anthology CHIVALRY IS DEAD by May/December Press. Look for it right around father’s day. By the way, you should check out their other books. A lot of great horror in them there pages.

Pulp Empire #7 is due out in November and, yep, it sports one of my stories. If you follow me on Twitter, maybe you’ve checked them out already.

“I See Black Light” will be in a future issue of one of the premier crime/noir mags out there: Beat to a Pulp — rock on.

And the legendary Mysterydog accepted a killer story for a future issue of Darkest Before Dawn. Pub date forthcoming. This is one story that the character just won’t leave me alone, so I think I’ll have to go back to him and let him do more things in a few more stories.

Open Heart

Patti Abbott has another pretty amazing challenge.

Open Heart

Corey knew the heart was a delicate organ: her father’s burst while putting on his boots, and her mother’s was buried with her father.

Chubs swung his fat arms, cracked his neck, let out a loud, “C’mon baby,” as if throwing dice.

He snatched up the rolled up bill and made the fat white line disappear.

“Oooora!”

Chubs was 18. Corey bordered on 40. She smiled at his enthusiasm.

When there was a knock at the door, Corey strolled into her office, settled into the chair behind her desk, and absentmindedly gazed at the middle drawer.

“Chubs, my man.”

“Shut the fuck up.”

Corey listened. The door slammed shut.

“Why the static, my man?”

“You don’t understand ‘shut the fuck up’?”

“Man, I get it, pat me down, ok, I ain’t got nothin’ on me.”

The open palm slap was unmistakable.

Corey opened the drawer and peered inside. Her flesh felt like mirror shards falling off her frame.

Corey pictured him reconsider coming to her; clearly it was too late to turn back.

“First door on the right.”

“Cool, my man, cool.” After a moment she heard the guy’s voice, barely a whisper. “My man, tell me something, no offense, but tell me something, ok? Word on the street is she’s crazy. She crazy?”

Another slap, this time louder than the first. He yelped.

“Corey is like my grandma, man. That woman taught me everything. Every damn thing about this business, about surviving. She’s my grandma without the milk and cookies and bull-shit.”

Corey didn’t know whether to laugh or cry so she pulled out her four-inch ceramic blade from the middle drawer.

“I wouldn’t…”

“Shut the fuck up.”

He shut the fuck up.

A moment later he stood in front of Corey, a backpack in his hands. His hair was shaved tight and his thin moustache was immaculate. He was young. They all seemed young to her now. His brown eyes flashed from Corey to the knife and back to Corey.

“I understand you’re looking to be an independent distributor.”

He squirmed. Talking like that always made the street boys squirm.

“Yes, mam,” he said.

Corey watched his eyes fall to her arms, her chest. She saw shock spread from his whites to the pupils. She sighed.

“You have the down payment?”

“Yes, mam,” he said holding up the backpack.

Corey nodded.

“You wanna to count it?”

She didn’t move.

Ok,” he said. “I’ll just leave it here then, on the floor. I guess, you can just keep the backpack. I’ll replace it.” He gave a weak smile. “Yeah, no problem.”

“What’s your name?”

“What?”

“And not what they call you out there. What did your mama name you?”

“Jaron, mam,” he said glancing at the door.

“Jaron, you call me ‘mam’ one more time, I’ll have to cut you.”

Jaron hiccupped a laugh then swallowed it.

“15% for you. Full payment due on the last day of the month. If you’re killed while working, we’ll give your designee a lump sum. You break our code, both of you are done.”

Corey considered the blade again. When her father bought it he said he’d never need another knife for the rest of his life. He was right.

Corey saw sweat bead on the boy’s forehead. How old? 15 maybe? How many of these boys are growing up without their fathers?

Her mind wandered to her own father. He was a good man: he called her Sweets, came to all her dance recitals even when dirty with sewer stink, used cookie cutouts on her PB&J. Once when the boys at school were bullying her about her “crazy” momma, he found them one-by-one and whispered in their ears. They never said a word to her again.

Once she got up the nerve to ask her dad why momma never got out of bed and was angry so often. Her daddy told her that momma was a wonderful woman who just lost herself sometimes. To Corey, that made as much sense as anything.

Jaron glanced at her arms again. She felt like she was being ripped apart and stuffed with straw.

“You. You, uh, ok?”

Corey’s eyes focused, a dark red line seeped from arm, skin flayed open like someone cupping her hands begging for water. Corey’s mind lit up ecstatic.

“I really don’t mind the scars,” Corey said, the knife-edge poised. She drug it further, skin opening like a smile.

“But, you know, it’s like trying to stitch gangrenous flesh. I can’t contain…” she gazed up searching for a word, “the absence of me.”

She held up her arm, blood speckled her desk. “It’s not there. You see what I’m saying?”

“Yes, mam.”

Jaron’s eyes widened as Corey slipped around the desk, the knife tapping her thigh.

His lip trembled but he didn’t move. He understood he should’ve listened to grandma.

Rock on

Many of you may remember that for a long time I was doing a story and song on the blog. Yes it was a simple idea by a simple man: connect a great story with a great song. I even met the enigmatic Matthew J McBride doing it. Great times.

Storychord had the same idea but with a different audience in mind.

So, I found a few things that just seemed to fit together so nicely that I had to bring them together in one spot.

First is the story Terry Yaki and while you’re reading enjoy RJD2, The Horror.

I also want to share the F3 series to you. A community of writers and readers sharing creative work and impressions of their creations. A lot of really good authors are putting up fantastic stories. Best thing, it’s open to everyone.

 

Too Much Good Stuff

So I was looking for a classic Whodini song alluded in the title of this post, but couldn’t find it. I went with the next best thing —

Cindy Rosmus has a story up entitled Fools’ Night Out that you should go read. While you’re there at Yellow Mama take a looksie.

Do Some Damage is also rockin’ and rollin’.

If you haven’t seen this William Gibson interview, why not?

I swear the Japanese have never seen The Terminator. DVice looks at some new smarter, longer lasting robots. Further down on the page some goof is actually researching teaching robots to deceive. That sounds like a fantastic idea.

If you’re a writer and haven’t seen this post on clear writing, it’s worth a read.

Zombie Culture? What?

Oh, and the Left for Dead comic. A must read if you haven’t yet. Don’t say I never shared anything with you. And if you like comics, I’m a complete fan of what Radical Publishing is doing.

Story and Song

Uh oh, two days in a row? What’s going on over here? Today we have a story published at a fine mag: The Flash Fiction Offensive. After you read this fine tale by Jim Harrington, take a look around.

The song, well, Southern Culture on the Skids is going to give us a funny look at the exasperation portrayed by main character the end of the story. Hell, it’s just plain funny.

Friday Flash Fiction #33

Another five days have passed and another Friday Flash Fiction is complete. If you’re not familiar, we get a sentence on Friday and the story is due Tuesday. The starting sentence was given to us by David. And you should check out the site for the other fine contributors.

Back In the 50’s Miles Played Something New; It Still Is

“It was a shortcut that I would regret for the rest of my life.”

It was May and my beater of a Chevy barreled on down the highway toward Pittsburgh. I was going to see my girlfriend. Well, barreled may not have been the best way to describe my car chugging along. And although technically speaking Kristy broke up with me, I didn’t think it counted because I didn’t accept her “I want to be friends” death knell.

My car started acting up in the middle of the sloping hills of nowhere Virginia. The countryside was beautiful I guess. The Beech and Oak trees pushing against small farms while cows grazed in fields that shot into my vision as I rounded a corner. I suppose I could see someone wanting to have a family in a place like that: removed, quiet, simple, a place that would keep the kids safe. To me, it seemed more like a place a person would want to come and die in; I mean I could see my grandma saying “this is perfect” and then the next time I saw her she’d be a painted mannequin laying in a box.

My car was getting low on gas, and even though Slipknot pushed me on, I edged off onto the exit and headed for the Mom & Pop station. The station was a plain cinderblock building with a large front window. A Coke sign flashed next to their “2 Hotdogs a Dollar” followed by a smiley face. It was written on a poster board and hung with duct tape. I kid you not.

No one was there when I pulled in. These pumps were so old they didn’t even have the card readers so I wasn’t sure what to do. Shit, I figured, I’ll give it a go and if it’s a problem, someone will come out. I pumped and no one came out.

Inside a squat woman sat behind the counter. She had deep purple pits in her face probably from bad acne when she was growing up. Too bad too, cause she wasn’t ugly besides that. Dark hair, blue eyes, perfect little nose. Kristy always said you can know a lot about a person just by the shape of his or her nose. I thought she was crazy. Then one day we were at the mall and she pointed out this guy and asked what my first impression of him was.

“I don’t know. We’ve never met.”

“That’s why it’s a first impression.”

“Don’t you have to meet to get an impression?”

“You believe in love at first sight?” she asked leaning into me and making me blush. I admit it. I’m an easy blusher. She would say I want you inside me and my face would light on fire.

I looked at the him. He was a completely average, nondescript guy. Slacks, shirt, tie, crew cut, name tag, a little scruff on his chin.

“I dunno. He looks like a jerk,” I say.

“So not a nice guy?” she asks. I shake my head no. “Why?” she responds.

“I dunno.”

“Look at his nose. It’s turned up just a little.”

It was.

“He could be the best guy you ever met, but the nose.” She tapped her beautifully shaped nose and smiled.

“I guess.”

I paid the woman and headed back for the interstate, but the interstate wasn’t there. I drove a mile down, then back and I could see the exit for whatever town I was in, but no ramp to get back on. I knew it had to be a bad practical joke.

When I walk back into the gas station, the woman doesn’t seem surprised at all.

“You’re looking for the interstate,” she said.

I started blushing because clearly there was something she knew and I did not which ultimately made me look like an ass right at that moment.

“There isn’t an on ramp. Only an exit.”

I looked out the window in disbelief, and I have to admit, hoping that it would magically appear.

“Happens all the time. There’s a sign, but people miss it or have to get off for the gas. Here,” she says pulling out a photocopied map of roads through town that would get me back on.

“Oh, thanks,” I said. “Who does that? Puts and exit without and entrance?”

She shrugged her shoulders. “You want a hotdog?”

“I have somewhere I have to be.” I imagined Kristy out with her friends and newly free of me, of us. They are egging her on to go to this club or that party. I imagined other men sliding up to her with false smiles and beautiful eyes. My stomach was a ball of dirt.

She looked out the window then turned back to me saying, “There’s a shortcut.”

“Yeah, that’d be great.”

She started writing directions on the photocopied map. It seemed silly they wouldn’t just put the shortcut on there in the first place.

Back in my car, I followed the map closely. The sparse houses came closer and closer together and soon I was passing stereotypical named neighborhoods: Red River, Foxborough, Blue Haven. At least the outskirts had some character, but here it was the exactly like suburbs where Kristy and I met, kissed, snuck off to screw in our respective basements while our parents were working.

When my car jerked and sputtered, my stomach followed suit. It chugged again. Popped a bit and I glided it roadside. I sat there for a minute, mind racing, and tried to crank it again. Nothing. Not even a grumble. First my girlfriend and now this, I thought. How could I show her I loved her and we belonged together if I couldn’t even get to her? Hitting the steering seemed like the only thing I could do, but that only left me with a throbbing palm.

I got out and felt the sun on my face. It was warming up. I opened the hood and stood there staring down at the Chevy’s innards as if I knew what I was looking at. It was a dead carcass for all I was concerned and I wasn’t Jesus.

So I trotted off toward the closest street, Plum Rd. Houses lined the streets and a few cars squatted in the driveways. The first house had two black men sweating in the sun in front of it. One man mixed and wheel burrowed mortar while the other layed brick upon brick, his belly sweat soaking his T-shirt while he finished what looked to be a mailbox. I figured one of them had a cell or the owner would let me use her phone to get a tow.

As I got closer, I could hear his whistle stealing the silence. It was Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue” and it was fantastic. It was the type of talent that immediately makes a person want to learn how to do it. Passion counted for something and he made tune sound like springtime itself. Kristy would have loved it.

“Hey,” I said interrupting his melody.

“Hey.” His voice was deep and his eyes were gentle.

“You have a phone? My car died and I need a tow,” I said pointing to the road. His eyes followed my finger but the car was just around the corner.

“Yeah, yeah, my man. I have ya’ back,” he said reaching into his pocket and handing his phone to me.

I called AAA, something my mom forced me to get when I started driving, and handed his phone back.

“Thanks,” I said. “I can’t believe this happened.”

“Such is life.”

“I guess it could’ve been worse, I could’ve been stuck on the interstate.”

“Yeah, yeah,” he said wiping the sweat from his forehead. “So you just passin’ through?”

“Heading to see my girlfriend. Well,” I started then trailed off. His booming laughter caught me off guard.

“Oh I knows those ‘wells’ too good, my man. Where this girl at?”

“Pittsburgh.”

“Where you from?”

“Georgia.”

The man nodded, laughed to himself, and grabbed a cigarette from his pants’ pocket. “Usually them girls ain’t worth it.”

“Mine is,” I said all too quickly.  He didn’t know Kristy, or me, so I didn’t feel like hearing his advice.

He lit the cigarette and took a deep inhale. “Can I tell you sum’thin’ my daddy tole’ me a long time ago?”

I looked down the street. I didn’t want to listen but it was better than sitting in my dead car. “Sure.”

“There are no more stories, my man, not like we used to hear anyways. No beginnings, middles, ends. A young man doesn’t have to be afraid of change.”

Interrupting him, I turned my gaze back on his soft features. “I’m not afraid of change.”

He nodded and took another drag on the cigarette. “I didn’t say you were, my man. You ever see dem chairs made sticks?”

“Yeah.”

“And people say, don’t sit on ‘em cause they afraid it break under your weight.”

“Yeah.”

“You ever wonder why they make that chair if they afraid it will break as soon as a man sits in it?”

I looked at his partner sitting in the shade. He was a scrawny man with tight muscles who seemed too slight to do the work he did and he seemed glad for the break.

“That ain’t a righteous fear,” he continues. “You hear me, my man?”

The simple things with Kristy kept pushing into my mind so it was hard to concentrate: the finger dances we had when sitting in the dark movie theatres; the way she would turn toward me, hair falling across the side of her face, eyes smiling; the way her  chap stick smelled when we kissed.

“Fear is thinking a story falls into a place where it can’t rise up again. A righteous fear is the lack of meaning, and maybe this girl of yours ain’t your meaning.”

I didn’t know what to say. “Thanks for letting me use your phone. The truck should be here soon.”

A broad smile appeared on his face and he threw his cigarette butt into the street.

“No problem, my man,” he said, then coaxed the scrawny man up from his break, “Yo Perry, let’s git.”

As I turned to walk back to my car, I heard him break into song again. It was a simple tune, something Kristy would’ve fell in love with. The melody diminished with each step toward my hulking car, until I was left with nothing but the sound of my own syncopated breath and the tow truck rumbling to save me.

A Lot Going On

Cormac Brown has a fantastic write up of the premier issue of Dark Valentine. He lays out some of the contributors, artists, and shares some of the themes of the magazine which can be found in PDF here.

While your checking out magazines, try a little poetry to go along with the fiction and artwork. Gerald So is one of the editors of The Line Up a magazine of crime poetry which has featured writers like Patricia Abbott, Sandra Seamans, Michael A. Flanagan, and others. Really interesting stuff there so go get some poe-try on.

Over at Twist of Noir, Cris Benton’s story,  is well worth the time to read.

Paul D. Brazil turned me on to Fiction Daily which bills itself as finding “good stuff to read in places you wouldn’t normally look”.

MediaVirus Magazine is another source for some really cool reads. Clearly the intertubes are a problem, because I’d do nothing but sit around and read if I could.

Hell Hole is Chris Grabenstein’s fourth mystery novel and Jen Forbus reviewed it for us at her site, Jen’s Book Thoughts.

Can someone please tell me why it takes so damn long to get Huraki Murakami’s new book, 1Q94, in English. It won’t be out until September 2011.

Flash Magazine is accepting submissions for its October issue while 977, which used to be nothing but flash is now up and accepts short stories as well.

If you have a crime novel manuscript sitting on your desk and you’re not sure what to do with it, perhaps you want to submit it to The New Pulp Press for review.

The sci-fi nior train

The series exploring Oscar and his Special Forces unit, Azreal, in the service of the PCG (Planetary Control Group) rolls along with a new story, “Furious”, up at Dark Valentine.

The set up story for the series, “Paint Me a Victim, Make Me a Cause”, can be found on Big Pulp.

The others, like “Power Surges” which was previously published at Pulp Engine, follow one of the characters in Oscar’s unit.

Again, “Furious” just came out in Dark Valentine edited by Joy Sillesen, and published by Katherine Tomlinson. What’s really cool about this magazine is not only the quality writing, but the fantastic illustrations that go with them.

If you like the series, “Breaking Knute” is in final edits and will be coming out at Silver Blade next month.