Friday, October 28, 2011

Flash Fiction Fridays: Your Worst Nightmare

Bibliophilic Blather's Nightmare month ends today with a great piece by Michael Robb Mathias. Happy Halloween!




The Next Big Thing
By Michael Robb Mathias


"I won't do porn." She brushed her long golden hair out of her mascara laden eyes and sipped the last bit of her margarita. The music had stopped at last call.

"Nah, beautiful," he said as he fondled his goatee thoughtfully. "You're not porn material." She wasn't. Even when the dance floor lights went off, and the house lights came on, she looked great. Curvaceous, he decided. The tight black party dress only accentuated the look.

She pouted as if he called her fat. He caught it. With a glance around the emptying bar he put his arm around her. "You're too hot for porn. Baby, you could be the next big thing."

"Really?" She let her arm trail around his waist.

"You could be." He looked around the bar again curiously. "We're filming a piece later tonight. I can get you a part... If you want it."

"Absolutely!" She grinned, but then stopped and turned to face him. Her elation disappearing as quickly as it had shown itself. "No nudity right?"

"I told you baby. You're way too hot for porn." He replaced his arm around her shoulder and urged her toward the exit. "Didn't you come with friends?" he asked casually. He wasn't sure if she arrived with the girls she had been drinking with or not.

"Yeah, but they left with those lawyers." She stopped them again, right in the doorway, and looked up at him. She knew they weren't lawyers. They were car salesmen, but she didn't care. What she wanted was in this guy's pants, in the back right pocket of them. She put a worried little girl look on her face. She could definitely act, even when she was half drunk. "You think they were really lawyers?"

"Probably not. Let's get to the Caddy." He took her hand this time and gently pulled her out of the entry and into the well lit parking lot. "Maybe you should call them and see if they are alright."

She stumbled in her heels, but caught herself. "Yeah," she acted like it was a good idea. "You drive a Cadillac?"

"I'm a producer, what else would I drive?"

"You look like the sports car type." She giggled. Producer! She thought he was a make-up artist, or somebody's assistant. Maybe he was legit. She decided that he just might be. The Cadillac was old, but in immaculate condition; like a show car or something, all shiny, black, and sinister. She couldn't believe she had marked him for a stooge. He had a confident look, and his suit didn't come off of a bargain rack. It was obvious out here under the harsh street lamps that he wasn't just another pick up artist with a wallet. "Where are we going? Will I get paid for what I do?"

"Wait a minute." He let go of her hand. "You're not a hooker are you? I don't do that. I'm not..."

"I meant for my part in what you're filming tonight." Her tone was indignant, but her look pleading. She wanted him to believe her. "I'm not like that."

He thought about it for a moment. It didn't really matter. "I'll have to call my guy on the set." He opened the car door for her.

She faked her call. He didn't.

"She's the next big thing. I say we give her some cash," he said into his cell.

In a tiny voice that sounded plainly in the quiet interior she heard: "Tell her we'll pay her. I just want to get this done while the moon is full. There are no clouds, and Earl is getting restless. Get her over here."

When he hung up the phone, she grinned to herself, but acted as if she hadn't heard.

"Three hundred bucks for fifteen minutes," he said it in a way that brooked no negotiating. She nodded in the affirmative as he fired up the Cadillac. She had only been hoping to pilfer his bills. Three hundred and some real exposure was a far better deal than creeping away with what was in his wallet.

"What's my part?" She asked as he drove. "Do I have any lines?"

"All you have to do is sit in a chair and throw your head around." He reached over and gave her thigh a pat. "Earl will do the rest. He's good at what he does. He's a rock star."

Rock star! "Where are we filming?" She fought to hide her excitement.

"Out in a wooded field behind a warehouse. Don't worry, we have a permit." He lied.

They cut through a lot with knee high weeds growing up through the cracks in it, and then turned behind a building. A van with a light stand in front of it was parked there. A fat bearded guy with a movie camera greeted them. He seemed pissed off.

"Get her in the chair." The fat man ordered. "Earl is tripping out, and the moon is perfect."

She looked up and saw the full yellow moon. She was lead to an old steel desk chair that was sitting in the open field. A bank of trees formed a perfect backdrop. When she sat down he pulled her hands behind her back and cuffed them to the chair. The lights flared on.

"What are you doing? What do I do?"

"Just throw your head around like you're jamming." He stood and smiled at her panic stricken expression. "Oh, and scream when it hurts. Scream loud."

"What the fu... Who is that?" She was talking about the huge shirtless man that was stalking towards her with a machete in his hands. The camera man was stumbling along beside him filming.

"That's Earl."

"You said he was a rock star." She yanked at the cuffs franticly, but it was a futile effort. "What are we filming?"

"He's been smoking crack all day, hon. He is a rock star, and he's about to make you 'the next big thing' in snuff."



© 2011 Michael Robb Mathias

To find out more about the author's full length Horror/Paranormal novels visit, http://www.mrmathias.com/MichaelRobb.html or http://www.mrmathias.com/ for free novel previews.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Winter Flash Fiction Due 11/28

Nightmare Month wraps up with on Friday with an excellent and appropriately creepy piece of flash from M.R. Mathias.

Next up is an open prompt in November, for which all of the spots are filled, I am happy to report.

So now it is time to cast our eyes toward December, a month when winter's chill rears its head. When merriment is juxtaposed with the quiet peacefulness of a snow-covered wood.

What does winter mean to you?

The deadline for winter flash fiction submissions is November 28. Remember, 1,000 words or less. Send them to karen@karenberner.com. Put "Flash Fiction Fridays" in the subject line and include a short bio and purchase links with your story. Also, please remember to sign up to follow Bibliophilic Blather, so we can build our online writing community.

I look forward to reading your work.

Thanks.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Flash Fiction Fridays: Scared Yet?

Nightmare month continues today on Flash Fiction Fridays with a great piece by Leah Griffith. Enjoy.





Too Big To Kill
By Leah Griffith


My eyes were running over the pages of a good novel when I first noticed some movement in my peripheral vision. It was just a slight shadow, and then stillness. I ignored it, figuring it was just a stray lash that had been bugging me from an overindulgent application of Ultra Thick Lash Mascara I had purchased at the Rush & Shop on my way home from work last night. I’d been working double shifts at the Cranky Yankee, a small diner right outside of town, and last night was my first night out with the girls in two long weeks. Unfortunately, I ended up blowing half the money that I’d been saving on buying drinks for everyone, instead of piling it up for the big move out of my parent’s house to live on my own.
   
I laid my book down to straighten myself, searching for a more comfortable position, and started thinking about the weird guy I’d caught checking me out at the bar last night. He seemed to pop up everywhere that I went. I even hid in the ladies room for about twenty minutes, telling myself that it was all in my head. But sure enough, there he was waiting for me right outside the door when I finally came out. 

He looked too old to be there. His coloring was pasty, like he was born in a wax museum, and he wore a quirky beige fedora, complete with feather, down low on his face, like he was trying to hide his identity. The guy was skinny and short, actually small would be a better word to describe him, and he had a sort of femininity to him when he moved, like he could have been a….she. 

The bar was packed, so I had to squish past him to get by.  When I did this his hand brushed my butt, so I turned and frowned at him, hoping he’d take the hint to get lost. Hint was NOT taken, because he replied by blowing me a kiss, which on the creep-o-meter measured about a zillion. I stayed close to my friends, Meg and Cheryl, for the rest of the night, but I didn’t mention Mr. Creepy to either of them. 

I fluffed the too-hard pillow, trying to make it conform to the shape of my neck, and laid back down on the couch to read. Mom and Dad were out for the evening leaving their three-pound Chihuahua, Chica, and me on our own. I lifted Chica onto my lap, where she curled into a little doughnut and closed her eyes. The TV was set on low, creating a soft background noise, so that I wouldn’t feel alone. I couldn’t seem to get that weird guy from last night out of my head.

After reading a few more pages, I had the same strange sensation of movement from the corner of the room, so I looked up and nearly fainted! Waxy and cold looking, with long disgusting nails, he moved confidently through the room.  My heart pounded against my ribs, choking off my breath. I knew that I was on my own and would have to save myself, but I felt pinned to the couch, unable to move. 

He stood there, rubbing his hands together as though he had a diabolical plan in mind for me. I figured I only had one chance at attacking him. If I failed, I’d be at his mercy. I didn’t think that I could kill him, but I was determined to fight back, and if that included killing him, then so be it. It was him or me!

Jumping from the couch, I swung at the intruder with my shoe, a lame weapon, but the hit was hard, causing him to fall to the floor. Chica cautiously moved in sniffing and pushing at him with her delicate rosebud nose, and then bravely carted him off to her pillow bed in the corner of the room where she dismembered his lifeless body. 

Relieved, and proud of myself, I picked up my shoe, snagged the Windex from under the kitchen sink, and sprayed at the disgusting brown smear on the wall, wiping with a paper towel until every bit of the invader’s gooey guts were gone. 

I hate bugs.




Leah Griffith discovered the magic of words when she was very young. Her mother was a swooning romantic, so as soon as she and her two older sisters were able to hold pencils, their mother had them writing poems. Leah’s mom would start the poem and then pass it around so that each of them would contribute, resulting in a smattering of words somehow as synchronized as a galaxy. 

Her first novel, Cosette’s Tribe, won first place in the Laine Cunningham 2011 New Novel Award, sponsored by The Blotter literary magazine. Her blog, Eating Life Raw, is a place of ruminations and revelations on the randomness of life. Imagine Erma Bombeck and Gandhi doing the tango. Leah is currently working on her next novel and running a home business. 


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Editing for Grammarphobes: Getting the Bugs Out of Your Writing

I was reading the November issue of The Writer, a wonderful publication I have subscribed to ever since I decided to have a go at this profession, some three thousand years ago. There is a great article by Sue Sommer on pages 26 and 27 called “Don’t Let Tricky Word Pairs Bug You.”






Sue’s book, The Bugaboo Review, is a lighthearted examination of usage, grammar and spelling mistakes compiled during her years as an English and creative writing teacher.

We have covered some of her word pairs already in past posts, but here are a few new ones.


all ready/already

All ready means “completely prepared” (all is ready); already means “previously.”

Example

Lila was all ready to go, but her friends had already left.


discreet/discrete

Discreet means “judicious or prudent”; discrete means “distinct, separate, diverse.”

Example

Be discreet when you meet your boyfriend.

Each cow has its own discrete markings.


veracious/voracious

Veracious means “truthful, honest”; voracious means “starving, hungry, insatiable.”

Examples

Matt has always been veracious.

After a marathon, runners are voracious, eating everything in sight!


Up Next

Another great microfiction piece is up on Flash Fiction Fridays as Nightmare Month continues with “Too Big to Kill” by Leah Griffith.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Flash Fiction Fridays: The Nightmare Continues

Welcome to Flash Fiction Fridays' Nightmare Month. Today, we have not one, but two stories to keep you on edge and disturb your dreams. Enjoy.






Golden Eyes
By Ivana Milaković


I wake up covered in cold sweat, sick with fear. I know it was just a bad dream, and yet, I have to get up and check her out, just to see she’s fine. Barefoot, without turning the lights on even though it’s the middle of the night, I walk to her. She opens her golden eyes and looks at me, and I start to breathe, realizing only then I was holding my breath.

Her gaze is calm, so I calm down too. I feel sorry for waking her up, and comfort myself with the thought that she always finds it easy to sleep.

Sleep doesn’t come so easy to me, though. I don’t even remember the nightmares and don’t want to; all I want is for her to be safe, and there’s nothing in the world that could guarantee me that. Nothing and nobody could guarantee me that someone wouldn’t hit her with a car for the fun of it, or cut her and post the pictures on Facebook or videos on YouTube. People are becoming increasingly angry, increasingly nervous, and many of them like to take it out on those who are smaller and weaker than they are – and she’s so small and vulnerable. I tell myself that she has her own strengths anyway, that she is really smart and careful – sometimes even more careful than me! – but that’s not enough to comfort me.

Sometimes I think of locking her up, of not letting her go out of the house. There are people who do that, some of them even pride themselves for being careful and reasonable. I couldn’t do that to her, though. I couldn’t just lock her up and take her freedom away. Even if she lived longer that way, would she be as happy as she is now, free to do what she wants and go where she pleases (within reasonable boundaries, of course – if there’s a neighbor with a mean dog, I’m going to yell at her for getting anywhere near that yard, and go ahead and laugh at me for acting silly, I dare you!)?

I lay in my bed, still awake, still afraid for her, when she comes to check me out. Has she heard me? Did I make some noise I wasn’t even aware of? Or has she sensed something? I don’t know, and at that moment, it doesn’t matter. I look at the contours of her small body, at her beautiful golden eyes, and I calm down. There she is, right in front of me, and she’s fine. She’s perfectly fine.

I make myself comfortable as she jumps on my bed and purrs me to a peaceful sleep.




Ivana Milaković is an author, a freelance writer, a translator and an editor. She has a degree in Dramaturgy from the Faculty of Dramatic Arts in Belgrade, Serbia. Ivana is the author of a short story collection, a mixture of horror, fantasy, and fairy tales retold,  Mačji snovi, or Cat Dreams. She enjoys writing short fiction and has been published in various magazines, e-zines and anthologies. To learn more about Ivana, please visit her blog.





Prophet Road
By Barry Napier


It fades in like film grain marching across an old theater screen.

She is standing in the middle of a dirt road, cars and gravel only phantoms in the tracks. The ditches to each side so worn and faded that she can imagine the finger of God etching them shortly after Eden. The dirt track wound away to both sides, bending to the right ahead of her where it eventually merged into the distant forest. In the other direction, the path sketched itself through an impossibly green field where it then narrowed to a pencil point on the horizon.

A butterfly passed by her, circled back around perched on her shoulder. It seemed to be directing her eyes slightly to the left where a long forgotten white house stood untouched by human hands for countless years. A once-white porch sat crumbling and gray. A porch swing hung from a single chain with its fallen twin curled up in a rusted loop on the porch boards.

She looked beyond the house and saw a fence, the majority of it cracked and fallen. She waited for a human shadow to fall across the posts, as she knew it would because it had before — both in her real life and in this wheel of a dream that never stopped coming. The sun blazed down fat and bright, but there was nothing behind the fence to cast a shadow.

She studied the wooden fence, its rails splintered and cracked, waiting for that figure to appear. But the blue country sky on the other side of the fence and the golden fields that rolled out beyond them were all there was to see. She knew that something was different this time, some new design that unknotted her ability to rely on the same old haunts, the same old reassurance that this was only a nightmare from which she would eventually awake.

Then she saw him, not behind the crooked fence as he should be, but coming down the road from the opposite direction. He was dressed in a black suit and from this distance he was so small; he was just a speck on the landscape, nothing more than an approaching fly.

But as he closed the distance, covering the dirt track as if it were a cut and he was a stitch, he became that larger looming horror. He closed the gap, smiling at her, bowler hat cocked slightly to the right on his head of gray hair.

He smiled as he passed, his eyes red and his lips cracked. He smelled of mold and her grandmother’s old linen closet where she once hid as a little girl.

“We’re coming,” he said as he brushed by her.

Her heart dropped and in both the dream and in her bed, she shivered. She watched him walk away, longing for him to turn back around.

Whether to decode his message, or because she didn’t want to be alone on this road, she did not know.




Barry Napier has published more than forty short stories and poems in online and print publications. He is the author of The Masks of Our Fathers, 13 Broken Nightlights, and A Mouth for Picket Fences (his first poetry collection, released by Needfire Poetry). His novel, The Bleeding Room, was released by Graveside Tales in September 2011. To learn more about Barry, visit his blog.



Wednesday, October 12, 2011

You Want In?

Fossil that I am, you know it has taken me awhile to get into Twitter. Well, I am discovering great things on it every day, one of which I want to share with you.

“Adopt an Indie” month will start in November, the brainchild of Donna Brown at Book Bags and Cat Naps. She has organized an event to bring authors, readers and book bloggers together to dispel the myth that the only good books come from traditional publishing companies. There are plenty of great indie novels out there. It is not just the Big Six anymore.


Readers will be able to read and review one book from the available selection, to “adopt” that indie, then have the chance to ask them questions about their work.

There also will be live chats and Q & A sessions. Bloggers will be sharing their perspectives on the changing book market, as well as posting novel excerpts.

Sounds fun, doesn’t it?

I have signed Bibliophilic Blather up as one of the “Adopt an Indie” blogs and will be contributing a guest post, as well as sharing updates throughout the month on the various events.


If you would like to join us, click here. If you are a reader, check out the list of more than 100 novels to try. If you are a blogger, sign up to get in on the action. Either way, it will be great fun.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Flash Fiction Fridays: The Nightmares Begin

You wake, sweat oozing from your pores, after an unrestful slumber, unable to shake that dream. Welcome to Nightmare Month on Flash Fiction Fridays. First up, a great piece by Paul Dail.







Another Oldie But Goodie
By Paul Dail


Margaret Daniels awoke in the night to music that only she could hear. She sighed and wondered if she could go through with her plan, even though she knew she didn’t have a choice. The singing was only getting louder.

At being close enough to ninety that she didn’t bother counting anymore, Margaret was supposed to be finally allowed some peace, but she hadn’t had a good night’s sleep since first hearing the music almost a month ago.

The Brookfield Retirement Home wasn’t much to write home about, even if one of the residents still had kids who cared to hear from them. The walls were paper thin, and Margaret could swear she knew more about her neighbors’ kids than she knew about her own. Consequently, the first night she woke to the muffled sounds, she blamed Barbara Young. Barbara’s husband had recently passed. Margaret assumed the music was part of her mourning, but after three nights, she complained to The Management. Barbara claimed innocence, and Margaret had been further infuriated when The Management told her (rather smugly) there hadn’t been any other complaints.

It wasn’t until she started hearing the music elsewhere – still very distant and muffled but somehow familiar – that she got nervous. She even considered talking to the Resident Quack, but when the song grew loud enough to finally discern the tune, and when Margaret finally looked at a calendar, she discovered what no doctor would be able to decipher. Except for maybe one of them voodoo doctors.

As a teenager, Margaret had loved the song “You Are My Sunshine.” What girl hadn’t? But the song took on new meaning when Herbert (God rest his soul) sang it to her on the night he proposed. Ray Charles had released his version that year, and when Herbert took the stage in a packed jazz club, it was in Ray’s style that he sang before asking for her hand.

Margaret had already been through one bad marriage and wasn’t necessarily ready for another, but she agreed. Herbert sang “You Are My Sunshine” again on their wedding day. He bought her the record for Christmas. And on their first anniversary, Margaret awoke to find her bed covered in daisies and Herbert serenading her, dancing around in his boxer shorts, as smooth as if he had been back in that jazz club.

There hadn’t been a second anniversary.

But now, almost forty-eight years since his death, Herbert was singing Margaret’s song once again. The first night she awoke marked exactly forty-nine years since Herbert had proposed. And tonight would’ve been their 49th anniversary.

Margaret climbed out of bed and got dressed. After making sure she had everything, she slung on her oversized shoulder bag, grabbed her cane and crept out of her room. She found Bobby the Intern asleep on one of the chairs in the lounge.

She prodded his leg with her cane. “Do you have everything in your truck?” she asked.

Bobby cracked one eye. “That depends,” he said. “You got my cash?” Bobby the Intern was a lazy slob, but like most lazy slobs, it only took the right amount of money for them to do something most others wouldn’t.

Margaret pulled out a wad of bills and waited impatiently while Bobby counted. Satisfied, he smiled. “Let’s go.”

As they drove, the song grew louder in Margaret’s head. “I’m coming, dear,” she murmured, ignoring Bobby’s sideways glances.

When they arrived at the cemetery, Margaret told Bobby to wait in the truck. She shouldered her bag and climbed out, shuffling slowly through the headstones until she came to Herbert’s. As if on cue, a hand broke through the soil. As if keeping time, the fingers snapped while Herbert used his other hand to claw out of his grave.

Margaret had come to expect this, but she hadn’t planned on Herbert looking as handsome as the day he died. She dropped her cane and walked up to Herbert. He engulfed her in his arms and they kissed. The singing finally stopped in her head.

Then the stench hit Margaret. Worse than the time her daddy’s dog hid all those dead rats under the house.  When she pulled back, she found Herbert looking more as she had imagined he would, the way someone should look after being embalmed for nearly fifty years. And exposure to the air wasn’t helping. He was decomposing more by the second… until she barely recognized him. Only the eyes bulging from their sockets were familiar.

“I’m here to take you with me, my sunshine,” he gurgled.

“I know you are, dear.” He tried to pull her back toward him, but Margaret reached into her shoulder bag and pulled out a chef’s knife.  In what was probably the fastest she’d moved in months, she slashed through Herbert’s neck. His head lolled back, splintering his brittle spine, then the corpse dropped to the ground, and the head rolled back into the hole.

“Maybe you’ll stay dead this time,” Margaret said and spat.

Bobby walked up carrying a shovel in one hand and holding a vinyl 45 record, still in its paper sleeve, in the other. “Sweet Jesus,” he said when he saw Herbert.

“I told you to wait in the truck.”  Margaret shook her head and sighed. “Well, quit lookin’ stupid,” she said. “You knew this was part of the deal.”

Bobby stared at her, and she could tell he was considering giving her back the money and returning to the retirement home, maybe without her. Then he must’ve remembered what he could do with that money, and he shrugged. “Whatcha want this old record for?” he asked. “You want me to bury him with it?”

“That was the plan.” Margaret took the record and pulled it out of the sleeve. It was Ray Charles’ “You are My Sunshine.” She flipped it up in the air, and it spun a couple times before landing on Herbert’s chest. The B-side was facing up. Hank Williams.

“Your Cheatin’ Heart.”


Paul D. Dail is the author of The Imaginings, a supernatural/horror novel, as well as several other novel and short story projects. While life has provided some of the best schooling he could ask for, Paul received his formal education in English with a Creative Writing emphasis from the University of Montana, Missoula. Currently, he is living in southern Utah with his wife and two daughters. He teaches Language Arts and Creative Writing at Tuacahn High School for the Performing Arts. To learn more about Paul, visit his blog. The Imaginings is available at Amazon.com, B&N.com, and Smashwords.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

2011 Flash Fiction Fridays Deadlines Remaining

We are getting ready to close out the year on Flash Fiction Fridays. October promises some wonderful stories of nightmares and fright. November will bring another month of open prompt, which is always fun, then December will herald tales of winter.

If you would like to contribute, here are the last deadlines of the year.

November 2011, Open Prompt, Due 11/1

December 2011, Winter, Due 11/28

Please email your submissions to me at karen(at)karenberner(dot)com and put Flash Fiction Fridays in the subject line. Don't forget to include a bio, website address, blog and any purchase links. Also, if you have not already, please sign up to follow Bibliophilic Blather, so we can continue to grow our online writing community.

Thanks!

Monday, October 3, 2011

October Reads

I don't know about you, but once the calendar flips to October, my thoughts turn to those of horror. One of my favorite things is to transform our house into what I think a suburban vampire family's home would look like, with a graveyard and coffin in the front, creepy critters scattered about, and plenty of skulls, spider webs and misshapen gourds.




An occupational hazard, I often decorate with books and would not miss the chance to make a few piles of scary stories, appropriately topped off with a skull or two. Some of my favorites for this time of year include the following.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Other Tales by Washington Irving.
Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice.
The Shining by Stephen King.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.
Dracula by Bram Stoker.
The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe.

Since I also enjoy the old-school, gothic creepiness and tragedy of Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë, I have saved Deborah Lawrenson's The Lantern for October, which I look forward to with eager anticipation.

What are you going to read this month? What are some of your favorite horror or gothic novels?