Friday, October 29, 2010

The Final Act

Horror Month wraps up today on Flash Fiction Fridays with award-winning authors Daniel Pyle and Julie Ann Weinstein. Enjoy.

by Daniel Pyle

Jack and Elle unloaded the U-Haul and spent the morning sorting through boxes. When Elle pooped out around noon and suggested she go get them some lunch, Jack agreed.

"Wanna come with?"

"Nah," he said. "You go. I’m gonna check out the back yard again."

She laughed. "You and your back yards. I think you would’ve bought a burned-out shack if it was on a big enough plot."

"I know I would have." He gave her his best but-you-love-me-anyway smile. "If you get burgers, don't forget the bacon."

She found the car keys and left. He went through the back door to survey their property.

Their property. Thinking about it made him feel so grown up. In thirty-five years, the most valuable thing he'd owned had been a used Volkswagen. Now he had land. Property. A little piece of the whole world.

Something whined behind the privacy fence separating their yard from the neighbors'.

What the hell was that?

It sounded like an injured dog or a crying child.

"Is somebody there?"

The whining came again.

"Are you hurt?" He walked to the fence and tried to peer between the slats, but the wood was swollen, gapless. He grabbed the top of the fence and hoisted himself up.

The first things he noticed were the doghouses lined up along the opposite fence. He counted twelve.

Twelve dogs? Who owns twelve dogs?

Breeders? Dogfighters? Dogsled racers?

He pulled himself farther up the fence, rested his stomach against the tops of the slats.

"Is somebody back here?" He half expected a dozen pit bulls or dobermans to jump at him. None did.


The word was soft, almost inaudible, but undeniable. Jack thought the sound had come from one of the doghouses. Knew it had.

Jesus. It is a kid. You've got to call for help.

No. If there was a child trapped in here with a bunch of dogs, he had to do something now, before it was too late. He'd never thought of himself as a back-turner.

He swung over the fence, dropped to the other side, crept across the yard.

The thing that slunk out of the first doghouse to meet him wasn't a dog or a child. Not exactly. Its sharpened teeth dripped bloody saliva. Scar tissue covered its face and one eyeless socket. It wore a torn Superman shirt and a pair of stained underwear. It smelled like shit and blood and decayed meat.

It reached for him with a twisted, human hand.

"Wanna play?" It bared its teeth and growled.

Jack screeched and turned back for the fence.

The thing chased after, grabbed him by the ankle, pulled him to the ground.

Jack turned to fight it off and saw more children-things crawling from their houses.The first little beast blinked its lone eye and bit into Jack's leg. By the time the rest of the neighbors got to him, he was too busy dying to scream.

Daniel Pyle is the author of one novel, Dismember, and many short stories. He lives in Springfield, Missouri, with his wife and two daughters. His new novelette, Down the Drain, is a creepy monster tale that's perfect for the Halloween season. It's available now from Amazon, iBooks, and For more information about Down the Drain or the author, visit

The Whisps of Shadows
by Julie Ann Weinstein

The wind spoke to me. I saw it in the palm trees. Their leaves swaying downward in shame trying to hide the secrets and still I walked up to the house. Ignoring the watchful swaying of the palm trees, the whistling wind, the wisps of shadows telling me to leave, to leave the inhabitants there; they’d invited this upon themselves.

I rationalized, they’d killed the goat and drank its blood, and danced a thousand dances in candlelight playing the ouiji board, but still I felt responsible. I gave them the goat and the keys to the house, the one rumored to be haunted on old Mill Road, but still I walked past the house ignoring the screams inside and on the corner I turned around at the sound of my own name being chanted, "Willford, Willford."

And so I turned back, walking up the old manor, past the whistling palms, knocking on the door, the door no one answered. I followed the trail of blood past the entryway into what once was the formal dining room with a crystal lamp with tear-drop candles weighing down its base above the silver candelabra on the floor. Seeing my own name on the wall in blood I screamed. I heard the chanting, "Wilford, Willford."

I saw a man with the goat’s head on his own, wielding a butcher’s knife, calling, "Father, you shouldn’t have come." He was my son, this man-goat with the taste of blood on his hands. "It’s the ouiji board, my son. You and your friends got carried away. It’s just a game, a twisted game. You mean no harm." A chorus of voices chanted, "Willford, Willford is home," and I saw the whistling palms curling in half screaming, "No." And my own blood drawn on them, "Wilford, the protector," and the chanting quieted down. It’s so silent now. They say it’s the silence of death you notice first.

Julie Ann Weinstein has published over ninety short stories and is a Pushcart Nominee. She is an editorial consultant and a flash fiction workshop leader in the Southern California area. Julie is also published under the name Julie Ann Shapiro. She currently lives in Encinitas, California, where she is working on future short story collections. “The Whisps of Shadows” is an excerpt from her story collection, Flashes From The Other World (All Things That Matter Press). To learn more about Julie Ann Weinstein, visit her website at

Thanks to all our Horror Month authors. It has been creepy, unsettling and scary; in other words, perfect. Next month, get ready to explore the dynamics of family gatherings. Boo.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

It's Almost Halloween

I am going to forgo “Editing for Grammarphobes” today. I am immersed in Halloween activities, including writing a murder mystery for my son’s classroom party on Friday. The graveyard is up in front of our house. The gnarled gourds are in place. A pumpkin-headed creature, tucked in our magnolia tree, awaits non-suspecting pedestrians.

I love Halloween. I have great memories of dressing up in whatever costume I wanted, parading around the gym at school and eating cupcakes in homeroom. After darkness fell, the trick or treating commenced, followed by a dinner of beef stew eaten by the orange glow of a jack o’lantern and accompanied by scary stories on the radio. Then, the pièce de résistance — sorting through and eating candy while watching “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.”


When I got older, the original Celtic notion of Halloween being the one day the veil between this world and the next could be drawn aside was intriguing and only added to the mystical quality the holiday already possessed. The darkness, the horror, the being able to wear black lipstick and play Goth for a day. This is what Halloween is all about.

On Friday, my Halloween gift to you is flash fiction from two award-winning authors, Daniel Pyle and Julie Ann Weinstein. A bonus full-sized chocolate bar in your trick or treat bag.

I wish you a magical All Hallow’s Eve. May it be filled with creepy shadows, unexplained fog and wolves howling in the distance.


Monday, October 25, 2010

Can and May: The Bane of Many an English Teacher

Do you remember being in elementary school and having to use the facilities? Making your way up to the teacher’s desk after waiting too long to begin with, crossing your legs in a futile attempt to stave off what could only be described as certain humiliation?

“Can I have the girls’ bathroom pass?”

The teacher looks up blankly at you. “I suppose you could.” And then goes back to grading papers without handing you anything.

You hop from foot to foot, pee pee dancing in utter disbelief.

The teacher sighs and puts down her red pen. “May I help you?”

Finally, the lightbulb goes on. “May I have the girls’ bathroom pass?”

“Yes, of course, dear.”

You rip the pass out of her hand and sprint down the hall.

It was an infuriating, but effective way to learn the difference between “can” and “may.”

“Can” means am/is/are able.


I can write a sentence.

“May” requests permission.


May I have some candy?

Coming Friday:
Horror Month wraps up with award-winning authors Daniel Pyle and Julie Ann Weinstein. You are not going to want to miss this!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Horror Month Continues

The Shed
by M.R. Mathias

He was caught up in the moment, the hot, sweaty, lustful moment before release. The verge. The girl was writhing on the packed dirt floor of the old tin shed beneath him. She had resisted at first, but no longer. Now her head was buried in his shoulder, and she was grunting with the animalistic power he was filling her with. He was right there on the edge. He was, he was…

“Mom! God,” the tween girl gasped with suddenly wide opened eyes. He turned his head just in time to see the edge of a cast-iron skillet as it cracked into the side of his skull with a deep ringing crunch.

He rolled off the little girl onto his back. He felt his body sputtering and could see them. There were two of them. One was the girl’s mother, the other her older sister. They had demon eyes and when he tried to roll to his feet so he could run away, he found he couldn’t move. The older sister, Emma was her name, snarled savagely as she stomped down on his head. As soon as she lifted her booted foot, her mother leaned over and slammed the edge of the skillet into his face. He tried to dodge the blow, but he still couldn’t move. He felt his teeth shatter and his lips explode, but the pain was already starting to fade.

“Get her outta here Emma,” the mother ordered. “Take her to the house and then bring me the shovel from the garage.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Emma said as she stomped his pulpy face one more time for good measure.

His vision went astray then. He could see her mother bringing down the skillet again with one eye, but the other was seeing a bloody shoe. It was as if he was looking in two separate directions at once. He didn’t have time to rationalize what that meant, because the final skull caving blow crunched into his brain cavity with a sickening wet explosion of light.

His soul slipped from his body then. He hovered over the little girl’s mother, watching on helplessly, as she pounded his skull flat. He tried to scream, but no sound came. He tried to flee, but he had no real form, no legs to run with. He could still feel that feeling, that tingling edge of release that had been about to burst out of him. It was maddening.

Emma returned with the shovel, and the two women took turns digging him a shallow grave right there in the shed floor. His ghost was still hovering over them when they put the last bit of dirt back into place over his corpse. Then his mother started calling him in for supper from next door. He tried to go, but couldn’t. He tried to call out a response, but no sound came.

“We haven’t seen him!” Emma called back. “Tommy didn’t come over here today.”

© Copyright M.R. Mathias, 2010

M.R. Mathias is the author of several e-novelettes, including Oathbreaker, Superhero and The First Dragoneer, as well as three full-length novels, The Sword and the Dragon, The Royal Dragoneers and the Young Adult title,The Adventurion, all available at, Smashwords and Barnes and Noble. For more information about him, visit .

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

For Whom Do You Write?

Today, “Editing for Grammarphobes” deals with an age-old dilemma of American English writers. Yes, I said it is the Americans, for the Brits seem to know the answer to this quandary, as they speak the true English, and we, bastardized versions of the original tongue.

Who or whom?

British punk bands know which one to use. See if you can recognize this lyric.

“This indecisions bugging me
If you don’t want me, set me free
Exactly whom I’m supposed to be
Don’t you know which clothes even fit me?”

That’s right. It is the Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”

Okay, so here is the rule.

“Who” and “whom” refer to humans and animals with a name. According to AP Style, “who” is used when someone is the subject of the sentence, clause or phrase.


The singer who is the best in the choir has a solo.

Who will it be?

“Whom” is used when someone is the object of a verb or preposition.


The drummer to whom the set was rented broke the cymbal.

Whom do you think is the best?

Holiday Flash Fiction Wanted

Ho. Ho. Ho. Before you know it, the holiday season will be upon us. I am looking for pieces of flash fiction, 500 words or less, on your interpretation of “the holidays.” Could be Christmas, Yule, Winter Solstice, Al-Hijira, Ashura, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Eve or Day or Festivus. The choice is yours.

The deadline is November 29. Please send it to me at, and put “Flash Fiction Fridays” in the tagline. Don’t forget to include a short bio and links. The only thing I ask of you is to sign up to follow Bibliophilic Blather. No biggie, right?


Monday, October 18, 2010

Editing for Grammarphobes: That or Which?

Figuring out whether to use “that” or “which” can be tricky. Strunk and White states “that” is a defining, or restrictive, pronoun, while “which” is nondefining, therefore, nonrestrictive.

Restrictive clauses limit the focus to identify a certain noun.

Nonrestrictive clauses add extra information about one, and only one, noun.

The definitive illustration appears on page 59 of Strunk and White.

The lawnmower that is broken is in the garage. (Tells which one.)

The lawnmower, which is broken, is in the garage. (Adds a fact about the only mower in question.)”

And here is my example of a sentence with a nonrestrictive clause.

The Chicago Bears’ offensive line, which showed itself to be weak and ineffective, contributed to Sunday’s loss.

(There is only one Chicago Bears’ offensive line discussed in the sentence, to the great disdain of many fans.)

I think I like the lawnmower example better. At least I do not have any emotional investment in it.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Oh the Horror!

Today, Bibliophilic Blather is proud to host not one, but two pieces of flash fiction; one from a veteran writer and artist, the other from a promising newcomer. I hope you enjoy these two different takes on what can be truly frightening.

A Sudden Rush

by LB Gschwandtner

Peggy had to go to the toilet so bad she almost peed her panties getting out of the car. In the bathroom, she pulled them down so fast her diamond ring caught in the elastic and ripped some stitches. But she made it just in time.

“Ahhhh,” she breathed.

Outside on a tree branch, a little wren with its tail stuck up in the air, looked perky and happy. Absently, Peggy reached out to the roll of toilet paper and spun it around with her fingertips, but she couldn’t find the break.

“Odd,” she thought. But maybe this was a new roll after all. Who paid attention to replacing toilet paper? She bent over to see where it began. Over the years, the bolts of the toilet seat had somehow loosened, and now the seat slid off center and hung to one side off the bowl. Peggy felt porcelain against her thigh.

“Crap,” she muttered as her right butt cheek tipped forward. Instinctively, to steady herself, her fingers closed around the soft toilet paper roll, and it spun around until it pinched her knuckles at her wedding band and diamond engagement ring. Her hand stuck, wedged between the fat roll and the wall fixture.

“Ow,” she winced and thought how ridiculous this was.

She tried to wriggle her hand free, but the toilet seat slid farther to the right, and her arm wrenched sideways. With her hand stuck in the paper roll, her naked butt, pants down around her ankles, was half in the air with her arm twisted around in a painful curve.

“Help,” she cried. But, of course, there was no one else in the house. To stabilize her body, she reached down to the floor with her left hand. That’s when it happened.

There was a noise as of rushing water coming from far away, like a dam had burst. A sound so subtle at first it could have been someone turning on a faucet in the kitchen or a bath downstairs. Just a gurgling rush. Until it hit her from behind, and the water was exploding out of the toilet, drenching her, cascading over her in great sheets as if she had entered a hurricane. On it came, wave after relentless wave. It lifted her up and up until her hand wrenched free from the now sodden toilet tissue roll and she was pushed to the ceiling as if she was trapped inside a sinking boat.

She gasped for air as the water rose faster than it could drain out from under the door. It enveloped her, filled the tub and cabinets, submerged the toilet and Peggy found herself staring out the window from under water, as if she were a fish in a bowl watching the little wren with its perky tail.

Then, with Peggy’s very last breath of air, the water receded in a huge eddy, twirling into the toilet like some reverse funnel cloud. Down and down and down, until the last bit of water was sucked back into the toilet with a sound like a dry cough.

A bewildered Peggy looked down at the puddle on the bathroom floor.

“This is what it means to be old,” she thought.

Laura B. Gschwandtner is married, the mother of three daughters, a writer, magazine editor, artist, and co-owner with her husband of an integrated media business. Her work has appeared in various journals, including Del Sol Review. One of her prose poems has been included in an anthology, Oil and Water and Other Things That Don’t Mix, which is a collection being published to support victims of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

She has received awards for three different stories from the Writer’s Digest Annual Competition in the mainstream literary category and the Lorian Hemingway short fiction competition, and was short listed for a Tom Howard Short Story Contest. She also founded, which offers free themed writing contests with prizes for emerging writers.

Her first novel, The Naked Gardener, is available at in Kindle and print versions.

She lives in Virginia.

by Alexandra Horton

In an abandoned house in the urban city, a girl named Lauren stared at her reflection.

Her reflection stared back, mimicking her. Mocking her.

Lauren raised one hand. Her reflection did the same, at the same time. Just like a normal reflection you'd expect to see in a normal mirror. Except nothing was normal now.

Karen's blue eyes stared still, not daring to look away. The reflection's eyes stared back, unblinking, but the reflection's eyes were green.

Everything else was exactly alike. The same soft black hair, falling down to their shoulders. The same pale skin. Everything was the same. Except the eyes.

Lauren heard little children laugh outside, trick-or-treating. It was Halloween night. How clichéd, she thought. She didn't lose eye contact with herself.

Minutes passed. Lauren lost track of time. Her eyes watered, desperately wanting to blink. But she stared on nonetheless.

It was a month ago that she had learned her reflection was someone else. Lauren had caught it moving when she was not. Since then it had been moving without her doing the same.

Lauren watched her reflection finally move of its own accord. It lifted an arm, reaching out a hand. Lauren knew it was unwise, but she felt compelled to lift her own hand, and so she did.

Their fingers were close to touching. If I were to reach out any further, Lauren thought, I could touch. The reflection mouthed the word "touch" as Lauren thought it.

As their fingertips touched, and the light faded from the hazy house Lauren was standing in, the sound of breaking glass filled her ears, yet she could not let go. And when she finally opened her eyes, herself and the reflection had swapped. The reflection walked off to live Lauren's life, and Lauren became nothing more than the same misunderstood reflection.

Alexandra Horton is 12 years old. Her story, “Blinded by the Light,” was published in the Red House Young Writer's Yearbook 2010. Her poetry has appeared in Puffin Post magazine. She has two cats called Sootica and Wallis. She loves to write and read in her spare time and has a random obsession with Pokemon and Harry Potter. When she grows up, Alexandra wants to be an author or a flash mob organizer.

She lives in London.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

More Commonly Misused Words

Here are a few more words I have seen used incorrectly.

Aggravate, Irritate

Strunk and White states “aggravate” means “to add to an already troublesome or vexing matter or condition.”


The car bombing aggravated the already tense situation in the war-torn city.

“Irritate” is to annoy or chafe.


Perpetually late people irritate me.

Allusion, Illusion

“Allusion” means an indirect reference.


The senate candidate made an allusion to her opponent’s position on taxes.

“Illusion” is an unreal image or false impression, according to Strunk and White.


Plastic surgery creates the illusion of youth.

Trivia Question Answer

I asked if anyone knew the difference between “homonym” and “homophone” on Monday. Apparently no one does, because there were no comments. That is okay; I had to look it up myself.

“Homonyms” are words that sound and are spelled the same, but have different meaning, such as stalk (a part of a plant) and stalk (to follow someone). Homophones sound the same, but are not spelled the same way.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Editing for Grammarphobes: Homophones

Homophones are words that sound the same, but have different meanings. Here are examples of five such word sets.

Rein, reign, rain

Rein is the leather strap for controlling a horse.

Reign is the period a ruler is on the throne.

This sort of rain falls from the sky.

There, their, they’re

There is an adverb indicating direction, according to The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law.


Look over there.

The girls went there for dinner.

It can also be used with a pronoun for impersonal constructions in which the real subject follows the verb.


There is no room at the inn.

Their is a possessive pronoun.


They went to their house to watch movies.

They’re is the contraction for there are.

Site, cite, sight

Site is a location or the place of something. It can also be a website.

Cite means to quote a source.

Sight is to see.

Compliment, complement

AP Style makes the distinction of a complement is “a noun and a verb denoting completeness or the process of something.”


“The ship has a complement of 200 sailors and 20 officers.

That tie complements his suit.”

Compliment is a nice thing said to someone.


He gave her a compliment on her dress.

Hoard, horde

Hoard is to amass things.

Horde is a large group or a nomadic tribe, according to Yahoo! dictionary.

Trivia Question:

What is the difference between homophones and homonymns?

Please post your answer in the comments section.

The first to respond correctly to last week's question was Mary McDonald. Way to go!

Q. What did E.B. White write?

A. Charlotte's Web. (He penned Stuart Little as well, plus many other books for adults and children. White was also a contributor to The New Yorker.)

Friday, October 8, 2010

Flash Fiction Fridays: Horror Month Continues

Wishing You Were Home
by A.F. Stewart

I made a wish on a shooting star last night.

This morning I woke and found her standing in the kitchen making breakfast. It was impossible; Kimberly died last year.

“Morning, Steve. I hope you’re in the mood for bacon and scrambled eggs. Sit at the table, they’re almost done.”

I sat at the kitchen table in a daze, and she served me a plateful of hot food, just as if nothing had happened. Kimberly sat in a chair, staring at me from across the table.

“Aren’t you going to eat?”

“No, I don’t eat anymore, not since I was killed.”

I nearly choked on my eggs. “You know you’re dead?”

“Oh, yes. And to answer your other unspoken question, this is not a hallucination. It is very real.”

“How? How are you sitting here, looking perfect after being dead for a year?”

“I’m not certain. Something about wishes and the alignment of stars. It was explained, but it was a bit technical and boring.”

“It was explained? Who explained it?”

“These beings. They were in charge of where I went after I died.”

“Beings? What were they, angels?”

“I don’t know, exactly. They had wings, so let’s say they were angels.” Kimberly gave me an odd look, so I shut up about the subject and finished my breakfast.

“What do you remember about-about what happened? I mean, do you know why I made my wish?”

“Yes, I know. I remember the fight, Steve. I remember how you bashed in my skull with that stupid paperweight.”

I lowered my head, unable to look at her. “I didn’t mean to, but you were leaving me, for him!” Walking out on our marriage for Jim, her stupid fitness trainer, she had been cheating on me for months. “It didn’t matter in the end, I lost you anyway. That’s why I made the wish. I just wanted to be with you again. I wanted things to be the way they used to be.” I reached across the table and took her hand. “And now they can.”

“Yes, we will be together, forever. Just not the way you thought we would. I poisoned your breakfast, Steve. You are going to join me in death.”

I could feel the searing pain in my stomach and I doubled over, falling to the floor. Kimberly sat calmly and watched my agony.

“Why? Why? Did you want revenge?”

“I was just granting your wish. You wanted to see me again, for the two of us to be together again. But I’m dead, Steve, and nothing can change that. The only way to be together is for you to die. Of course, I will enjoy watching you suffer. Then I’ll take you back to hell, where we’ll suffer as one.”

She smiled. She had such a lovely smile. Maybe I was going to die, go to my damnation, but we would be together.

Oh well, no wish is foolproof.

A. F. Stewart was born and raised in Nova Scotia, Canada, and still calls it home. She has been writing for several years, her main focus being in the fantasy genre, and is the author of seven independently published books that include Chronicles of the Undead and Passing Fancies. Visit her blog at

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Commonly Misused Words

Affect, Effect

When used as a verb, “affect” means to influence, according to The Associate Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law.


The weather affects traffic patterns.

“Effect” means to cause.


The new mayor will effect many changes in the city.

Used as a noun, “effect” means result.


He did not realize the effect his actions would have upon others.


This word should not exist. It is a double negative. Always use “regardless.”


Regardless of the situation, he always keeps a smile on his face.

Next up: Get ready for more horror on Flash Fiction Fridays.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Commas, Part Two

Here are some other ways to use commas, given to us by those masters of the English language, William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White.

“Place a comma before a conjunction introducing an independent clause.”


The temperatures can drop suddenly, but fall is still my favorite time of year.

“Enclose parenthetic expressions between commas.”


Fall beverages, such as pumpkin spice lattes, hot apple cider and orange spiced tea, add to the coziness of the season.

Here is the one and only ambiguous comma rule.

When composing a list of things, placing a comma after the last item in the list is a matter of personal preference. Use it or omit. It is your choice. Strunk and White say to omit it, but other well-respected grammar sites tell otherwise.


I like the autumnal glow on the trees, pumpkin pie, the first sweaters of the season and the sound of leaves crunching beneath my feet.

Snickers, Laffy Taffy, Air Heads, and Kit Kats are great choices for trick-or-treat candy.

Both are acceptable.

Trivia Question:

What did E.B. White write?

Enter your guesses by posting a comment, and I will announce who submitted the correct answer on Wednesday.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Horror Month Begins

I Imagine
by Robin Morris

I imagine her eyes burning. Flames caressing the blue lenses that looked at
me with love. Blue turning to black in the heat. I imagine fluids boiling,
then flashing into steam. Eyeballs bursting.

I imagine the fingers that used to caress my back, my face. So softly, so
tenderly. Fingers turning to crisp carbon in the inferno.

She always said she wanted to be cremated. She shuddered at the thought of
being buried, cold and lonely and food for the filthy things that live in
the earth. She made me promise.

I imagine her bones blackening, flesh peeling away, flaming and turning to
ash. I imagine her spine becoming a conduit of fire.

I imagine these things because I can't see into the industrial incinerator.
There is no window that allows me to see her burn.

I imagine that she is still screaming, though I no longer hear it.

I promised her she would be cremated. I never promised that she would be
dead first.

Robin Morris was born in Chicago and has lived in four states from the east coast to
the west. She lives in California at the moment, where she says her career as a screenwriter is going nowhere. She has the required two cats in a single room apartment.