Deadly Ever After

Archive for the tag “short stories”

Red, White and BOO! FREE BOOK.

TODAY’S BREW: mucho coffeo

By Julie

HAPPY HOT, BRIGHT AND LOUD HOLIDAY, EVERYONE!

As a reminder of when we can once again pumpkin spice the very blood in our veins, the anthology I was a part of for Halloween, (ahem, currently ranked #8 in horror anthologies on Amazon, cough cough), HALLOWEEN NIGHT: TRICK OR TREAT is FREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE FOR YOU AND MEEEEEEEEEE!

Red, white, and boo!

So go grab yourself a copy and shudder through the works of some amazing authors, including LIL’ OL’ ME. Get it right here: https://www.amazon.com/Halloween-Night-Trick-Amy-Giuffrida-ebook/dp/B017E0Z27O/ref=pd_sim_351_3?ie=UTF8&dpID=510kfeF7eGL&dpSrc=sims&preST=_UX300_PJku-sticker-v3%2CTopRight%2C0%2C-44_OU01_AC_UL320_SR200%2C320_&psc=1&refRID=E8SFAXYSH63TNFWTEQ7X

Enjoy! And tell your friends! READ A BOOK, SAVE AN AUTHOR.

 

 

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March Madness Flash Fiction: SCAVENGERS by Christi Frey

TODAY’S BREW: Macadamia nut something

By Julie

This is it! The last day of March and the last story of our flash fiction challenge! And this one is a whopper. I grinned like an idiot when I read it. It’s by the mastermind Christi Frey, who never ceases to amaze me with how much and what she can do. Check Christi out on Twitter http://t.co/778R9jx0LX and http://t.co/778R9jx0LX.

 SCAVENGERS

by Christi Frey

Scavengers, I thought scathingly.

“Go away,” I told them. “I don’t have anything what you’re looking for.”

Bits of string. A couple of metal rings about an inch in diameter. Some ocular glass for an old telescope whose casing had long since rotted away. A dozen odd sized screws from the heaps. And the one thing I hid from everyone. Those were the things I carried.

The first of the scavengers showed up yesterday. Then another. Then a few more over night, until I figured there were a few dozen all told. Flitting through the heaps. Watching. Waiting.

I thought I was safe enough, at the time. Didn’t think scavengers would jump unless they saw you were crippled. I was wrong. And I’d never been that deep in the heaps before. It was too late to get out.

They gathered round, eyes unblinking, persistent as a herd of pigeons. As a flock of rats. One from behind jumped and pecked at my old leather satchel. I whirled and kicked at it, missed. The next one bit my ankle – I caught it with a boot and it flew out of the circle, scrabbled to its feet and came again with all the others.

I hit at them with the bag, battered three at a swing but they were leaping, pecking, little claws gouging, the bony weight of all of them pulling me down.

I panicked. I mean, some part of me panicked. The other part just watched. It knew what was coming next. That other part – the part where all the feelings died – it takes care of you, in times like these. It steps in. It says, Go home. Don’t watch. I’ll take over now.

I saw it happen as though from a great height. The skittering herd. The blasted wasteland. The slag heaps. The small, lonely figure lashing out as it disappeared beneath a furry grey boil. The mad search for something.

*   *   *

When I came to I was flat on my back, with that puke-it-up feeling you get when it seems the earth might actually be up, the sky down, and somehow you’re pressed against the ceiling. White light searing on cement-baked ground. The world’s worst hangover. You press your palms into the gravel and wait for it to stop spinning. Sometimes it does. Sometimes it doesn’t. You roll over and slowly put your head up anyway.

Little roast carcasses littered the ground. There was a blast circle of scorched earth, and I was at the center of it. Scattered bits of fur and feathers. A bloody beak here, an unblinking eye there. My bag was gone.

I groped at my neck. The string – still there. The little pouch I’d dropped beneath my shirt, a single bit of rolled paper inside. I pulled it out.

Not a map. Not even a picture. But the only thing I’d ever found in this godforsaken heap that contained a real, living memory. The only thing that ever pulled me back from the madness. The thing that no one else could have: a childish scrawl of red crayon on a piece of faded paper.

All it said was “HOME”.

March Madness Flash Fiction: CRUSH DEPTH by Mairi Kilaine

TODAY’S BREW: So much.

By Julie

Mairi Kilaine is such a comfort of a person. I get warm all over when I talk to her. Not like that. Good lord, you guys. But she’s reassured me more times than I can count, and been a backbone for me when I needed one. You can pick up the anthology CHRISTMAS NOOKIES (Best title ever) to see some of her work! http://www.amazon.com/Christmas-Nookies-Holiday-Reads-Book-ebook/dp/B00Q80PRSQ/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1424718727&sr=1-1&keywords=christmas+nookies but find her budding blog here http://www.mairikilaine.wordpress.com/ and definitely find her on twitter https://twitter.com/Mairvin. Love you Mairi.

CRUSH DEPTH

 by Mairi Kilaine

   crush depth: the depth at which a submarine’s hull collapses due to pressure

As a child, my greatest fear was immaculate conception. My family isn’t religious, so I’m not sure where this came from. Even at the naive age of 8, I thought that sharing my fear with my parents would be akin to preemptively covering my tracks. I spent hours figuring out how to explain to my parents that I’d been spiritually knocked up. Perhaps if I’d had a personal relationship with God, He could let them know it was all cool.

As a teenager, I laughingly explained my childhood fear to my dad, though a tiny part of me still cringed when I thought of it. My dad, the scholar, explained that it was impossible. Not because God didn’t exist, but because The Immaculate Conception is a term that can only be ascribed to Mary and her status as a woman without sin. If I were to become inexplicably pregnant, it would be parthenogenesis. I would like to say this was comforting, but it only served to create a parallel phobia of scientifically impossible and spiritual pregnancies. How would I be able to tell the two apart? I shoplifted some gum, just in case.

I’m not pregnant and never have been. This isn’t the story of how I brought forth a demigod or defied science by naturally producing a clone of myself. I’d also like to point out that I’m not afraid of a naturally occurring pregnancy. I feel like you need to know this about me to truly understand what was going through my mind when my period stopped, my guts went haywire, and my abdomen swelled while on a four-month journey with an all-female crew, having crossed however many leagues beneath the sea.

I didn’t tell Doc what I really suspected. I played it cool and lobbed out less terrifying suspicions like a massive uterine tumor or acute liver disease. It didn’t help that she was stumped. Her testing capabilities were limited and we wouldn’t surface for another three days.

“Do you have a history of anxiety?”

“No,” I said. “Should I not be anxious about this? Because it feels like I should be anxious.”

“I was thinking it might be psychosomatic, like a hysterical pregnancy. I don’t know.”

“You don’t know?”

“Sorry. I really hated my Psych rotation. Between you and me and the deep blue sea, I barely passed that shelf exam. A six week rotation at the VA would drive anybody crazy.”

Doc was great. I don’t want to give the impression that she was unpleasant or bad at her job, but she wasn’t a psychologist. We were all restricted to the very specific jobs we’d been trained to do, but just enough to pass our tests. None of us had active experience.

We weren’t analyzing data or tracking enemy vessels or observing the effects of deep sea diving on hamsters. If anything, we were the guinea pigs, an all-female crew, test subjects for new air circulators in the racks where we slept. Still, I felt lucky for the opportunity. I didn’t want to jeopardize my chances for future missions.

I kept it between Doc and me.

#

Everyone had put on some weight, but I was getting self-conscious about my belly. I started doing crunches in between racks while DeMello was on watch. I was on my sixth rep when DeMello burst into our berthing compartment and slammed the hatch. Her hand was clamped against her mouth. She shook her head at the sight of me.

“What’s wrong? Are you ok?”

I scrambled up to sweep the dark curls from her face. Her normally warm brown skin was ashen and she pleaded for help with her eyes. I eased her fingers from her lips, revealing her teeth, which hung loosely like chimes dangling in the breeze.

“Want me to get Doc?”

She nodded, tears pouring down her cheeks, dotting her blue coveralls.

It took me longer than expected to track down the good doctor. She was sequestered in Captain Marksman’s stateroom and you don’t just enter the Captain’s closed stateroom. The thought of DeMello’s pendulous teeth prodded me along and I knocked, opening a crack as I did. “Excuse me, Ma’am. It’s an emergency. DeMello is-”

The Captain was laid out, pant legs pushed up as high as they could go. Her face was hard, but tear tracks were still visible on her cheeks. Doc hunched over her knees. I say, ‘her knees,’ but in reality it was where her knees should have been. Her kneecaps had slid out of place, one down her shin and the other drooping to the side. Sweat drenched Doc’s collar.

“We’ve had quite a few of those. I’ll see her in a moment. Gather available crew in the crew’s mess.”

#

“At least twelve of our eighty-eight submariners have experienced fear-based medical anomalies. At this point, I think it’s fair to suspect that we are the ones being monitored, not the circulation machines.”

“This is stupid.” Chief Machinist’s Mate Moser, lead tech for all those machines, rose from her bench seat, rattling the table as she stalked out of the mess. Doc eyed Moser who wiped sweat from her brow as she fled.

“Anyone else-” Doc started.

“Yes!” Cookie yelped. She leapt up from behind the mess counter, pushing through the crowd and opening her coveralls. Her normally smooth, ochre stomach was marred by an outcropping of small, bloodless holes.

Doc rose suddenly and tore out of the mess. I jumped to follow, hand instinctively on my swollen belly. I caught only the tail end of their argument up above before Doc came crashing down the ladder from the upper deck. Moser stumbled down after and checked her vitals, but it was too late. Doc was gone. Moser’s whole body convulsed as she let out a keening wail.

“Please don’t send me to the brig!”

I couldn’t breathe. Three more days until surfacing.

March Madness Flash Fiction: MUNCHIES by Kris Silva

TODAY’S BREW: A dude named Joe traded me some French Vanilla

By Julie

Kris is one of the kindest, most thoughtful and endearing folks on the planet. You can’t have her but you can follow her on Twitter https://twitter.com/gravewriter71 and check out her blog http://t.co/45eg4lKWKM.

Kris Silva’s only published work thus far was a fantasy in “Playgirl” during her college years, although her erotica repertoire has expanded to saucy Muppet tales. She is also a freelance fiction editor, having harangued and cheered authors Sue London and Andy Click through various published works (and she’d be very happy if you grabbed one to read, right now). Currently she’s working on her own comic horror novel, entitled WENDIGOGO, involving cannibalism and cannabis in fairly equal measure. A chronic misanthrope, she prefers online interactions to awkward conversations in person, though an offering of Lindt may smooth the way. Her Twitter friends and extended hippie family funded her move last fall from Arizona to Wisconsin, where she’s found the best six-foot-tall frog EVER. They enjoy riffing movies and long walks in graveyards.
This story is a play date with the protagonist of WENDIGOGO. Bring your own snacks.

MUNCHIES

by Kris Silva

Morty awoke gagging. He made it halfway across the room before throwing up. Fuck. How much did I drink last night? The empty bottle and spent limes littering the coffee table told the story. His friend Ryan had stopped by with cheap tequila and a broken heart.

Wind howled outside. No blare of Faux News from his elderly neighbor next door, for once. Small favors, I guess. Seeing the remains of the hot wings they’d ordered, Morty’s stomach rolled. Goddamn I feel like shit on a Ritz.

He drifted off in the shower. Disturbing images played: deep snow, someone shrieking, blood gushing…

Morty startled at the kettle’s shriek. He poured a mugful of chai and searched for clean clothing. Yesterday’s shirt was drenched in barbeque sauce. He paused before the mirror, something amiss. It took a few minutes before he saw it; then he chuckled.

Guess I have had a few holiday treats. His normally scrawny frame had filled out. This shirt used to hang off him; now he saw a belly curve. No wonder, considering all the family he’d endured of late. With all the interpersonal stress, he’d been lighting up more, and for every bout of the munchies there’d been sweets available. His metabolism was fast as a ferret’s, though. No harm in a couple extra pounds in this weather.

Tea eased the nausea. After a cup, his head felt clearer. He might even be able to eat. His eyes drifted to the gaming console. Yeah. Relax, kill some monsters, have a toke… The mess on the carpet halted that. Fuck. Better clean that up before you step in it. Frosty Flakies would have to wait. He could ignore the dirty dishes, the laundry piles…but he drew the line at vomit on the rug. And Steve wasn’t here anymore to clean up. His roommate simply vanished weeks ago. Jackass still owes me for utilities.

He used a rag to sop the mess. Gahh. Looks like it wasn’t even digested… He plucked a bone from the rug; it hit the bottom of the mop bucket with a solid thunk. Fat stuck to the carpet. He breathed through his mouth; the driblets of…what is that, skin?…smelled horrible. He kept dabbing until only dark spots remained. Hopefully it’ll fade. Not like they’ve ever replaced the carpets in this dump.

He emptied the bucket into the trash, feeling dizzy. Could he reach the dumpster without freezing? Just toss it outside; I feel like sh– That’s an awful lot of bones, he thought. I never eat that many wings. Are wingbones that thick?

That’s not a chicken bone.

What the fuck.

Gristle glistened over the round, smooth, large bone. Morty touched his throat. It’d felt as though he’d vomited a baseball. Looks like a skull, can’t be, chicken skulls aren’t even… Looks like a kneecap.

He stared. Slowly he registered the variety of…things…in the trash. Bones he couldn’t possibly have eaten. Something dark and wetly matted.

Morty swallowed. Get a grip. You’ll eat anything with a bad enough case of the munchies. He nodded, exhaled, knotted the bag. Screw the dumpster. Just set it outside. Snow blew in when he opened the door. Whiteness buried all: shrubs, sidewalk, and steps undiscernable. But under the porch roof, pink stained the drifts. A hawk must’ve snagged that wild rabbit Morty had seen around. He wouldn’t dwell on that. He hated thinking of the suffering of small creatures.

Gradually his stomach settled, and he rolled a joint while defeating goblins. His world collapsed into the blanket wrapped around him, tea within reach, the action on the screen.

Morty jerked awake at loud knocking. He didn’t remember drifting off. “Hey man, open up! It’s fuckin’ cold out here!”

Ryan. Crap. Morty really wasn’t up to entertaining. Crossing the room, he stepped in a wet spot. Wet and cold. He suddenly remembered the bucketful of shining-wet bones and…stuff. Pink snow by his door. He hesitated, uneasy.

More knocking. “Morty, I know you’re home. I saw you.”

Morty yanked open the door. “What did you see?”

“What?”

Morty blinked. It was just Ryan. Harmless, chubby Ryan. “Fine, come in. But no goddamn tequila.”

Ryan chuckled uncertainly. “Hell, no! Thanks for last night, though.”

“Yeah.” Fresh flurries covered the pink stains. Morty locked the door. “Hey, man…what fucking sauce was on those wings? I was sick as hell this morning.”

“Just spicy barbeque.” Ryan plopped onto the sofa. “Too much takillya, maybe?”

“I guess. Not really feeling social today, man.”

“It’s cool. We could just watch a movie.”

Morty shuddered. “Nothing gory, okay?”

Ryan studied him. “Yeah…you look kinda ill. Hey, I’m sorry. You sat up all night, listening to me go on and on about Cheryl…”

“It’s all good.”

“Seriously, man. You’re a great friend. Look…how about we just hang out? No heavy shit. No tequila!”

Morty sighed. “No more tequila, ever.”

“I hear ya. I’ll make some coffee.”

Stubs filled the ashtray; Morty didn’t recall smoking them. When Ryan went to the kitchen, Morty escaped to the bathroom. He had to adjust his sweats on his skinny hips as he returned to the living room.

“How about Clue?” Ryan suggested.

“Sure. What did we watch last night?”

“Huh?”

“The snow monster. Hunting people…” Gristle and guts. The heat of the kill. Pink snow.

Ryan smiled, puzzled. “We didn’t watch anything, dude. Just shot the shit awhile.”

“Right…” Morty lit up. The haze was comforting. Ryan watched the movie. Morty smoked, avoiding thought. Peace spread from his lungs to his tingling fingertips. His stomach growled.

Ryan’s belly quivered in mirth, liquid, full of heat. Morty felt a cold draft; he needed warmth in his guts, dribbling hot down his chin. Never really noticed how chubby he is; practically a walking pork roast. Gravy built-in.

Morty wiped his mouth. Ryan stopped laughing. “You don’t look okay. Want me to grab something from the fridge?” He shifted uneasily. “Uh, whatever you need, man.”

“Thanks,” said Morty. “I’m really getting the munchies.”

March Madness Flash Fiction Series #1: EIGHT WORDS by Kennedy Thompson!

TODAY’S BREW: Trader Joe’s made it.

By Julie

I’ve mentioned that what I LOVE about this flash fiction series is that every participant is scared. They’re all feeling not good enough. They all took it super seriously and doubted themselves, and with every private message, email, text I got about how awful their stories were, I smiled, because I knew how these blog series work on Deadly Ever After. We support each other, we applaud each other’s bravery, and we kick some amazing talents out into the world in this very safe environment. Many of these writers haven’t even had their work go public before. Listen to me when I say…..

  • YOU ARE NOT THE FIRST TO PUT THEIR FIRST WORK UP HERE.
  • YOU ARE BETTER THAN YOU THINK YOU ARE.
  • YOU’VE DONE SOMETHING MOST PEOPLE WILL NEVER DO IN THEIR ENTIRE LIVES.

Today I’m unbelievably, ridiculously, gushingly proud of Kennedy Thompson. This girl…yes, girl, merely 17 years old… is an amazing talent, and the most caring young woman I have ever met. I could go on all day about her, but let me tell you that my youngest calls her “his fairy,” and she makes him feel better when he needs it. I’m proud to have her put her first public piece out in the world right here, today. And it’s gorgeous. SO MAKE HER FEEL WELCOME OR ELSE.

IT BEGINS……..

EIGHT WORDS

by Kennedy Thompson

My eyes were burning and my head ached, but the book just started to get good. I rarely go to bed without finishing a book, which generally means sleep doesn’t come easy. “Hello Sarah, I’ve missed you.” I gasped, not because those five words were what I was waiting for these last seven chapters, but because “hello” was highlighted. I kept opening and closing the book and couldn’t stop blinking. The page remained highlighted. Defacing books, whether it be writing in them, folding over the pages, or even tearing the pages out, is like sinning to me. Or worse. Definitely worse than sinning.

One word couldn’t mean any harm.

I hopped off my bed and fell on the floor. As quick as possible I started throwing the books out from underneath my bed. Each of them I’d read within the last week. Searching for more highlighter, knowing I’d seen it before recently, thinking it was just a figment of my imagination. Hoping it was, at least. No one ever came in my room, I was very adamant about keeping everyone out. Just as I was unshakeable about damaging books. I was always in my own head, in my own world, not welcoming outsiders, not letting anyone past the surface. Therefore, no one would’ve had access to my personal library, no one would’ve been near my bed.

I hoped.

It felt like years went by. My long blonde hair was like a bird’s nest on top of my head, my face stained with make-up and tears. My giant purple sweatshirt weighed me down but I didn’t have enough strength or motivation to take it off. I rocked back and forth, staring at the mess in front of me. Every book was just a front and back cover with its pages strewn about, if they didn’t have anything highlighted, I crumpled it and threw it across the room. The pile was taller and wider than me. Half of the books had no letters highlighted. Others had one or two. The entire book was destroyed, I had no mercy, no patience, no sanity.

I grabbed permanent markers and began scribbling my unscrambled letters on the wall. “Hello, we’re all mad here.” I smiled sadly. Just like Alice in Wonderland. The freak out was for nothing. I flopped onto my bed and closed my eyes. I laughed at myself, and cried too. I loved Alice in Wonderland. Though nothing explained how everything got highlighted in the first place. My feet aimlessly traced my sheets, then I felt it. Another book. My heart stopped as I sat up.

Fourteen letters, but wait, there’s more.

I feverishly turned the pages, scanned them, and tore them out. I found “you” “will” “are” “that” “fix” “we” all highlighted. Six highlighted words. That was the most in one book. I slung the hardcover at the wall.

Fourteen letters, seven words, one last thing to do.

The back of my hand was red and tender after scratching it incessantly. Anxious. I added it all to the sentence. I sunk to my knees, reluctant to read the finished product. “Hello. We are all mad you are here. We will fix that.” “No, no, no, no, no. There has to be more books.” I whispered shakily. I scurried around my room for a pathetic fifteen seconds, knowing the rest were locked in my wardrobe. I stopped and stared at my wall. I kicked it and then collapsed. “What does that even mean?” My body shook so hard it was vibrating. “Hello. We are all mad you are here. We will fix that.” My voice grew quieter, the further I got. “I don’t unders–” The lights flickered and went out. The door slammed. I screamed at the top of my lungs.

Bright light spilled through my eyelids, burning my eyes. I struggled to open them. “Carrie, Carrie? Are you even paying attention?” My head shot up. I nodded. “Well, will you read your highlighted words on page 452?” “I… I don’t highlight words in books. That’s worse than sinning.” I replied with more sass than I meant to. My history teacher shot me a dirty look. I turned to page 452 anyway. To my surprise, one word was highlighted. “Goodbye.” I whispered. “Pardon me, Miss Marks?” The lights flickered out. My heart was in my stomach and I stopped breathing. The door slammed. Screaming filled the air, but this time, it wasn’t just mine.

Fourteen letters, eight words, there’s nothing else I can do.

Size Matters: Novellas vs Full Length Novels

Todays brew:  hot water with lemon and honey

by Kristen

Is it just me or does it seem like more books than ever are coming out lately?  A lot of you have accused me of forgoing sleep to write, or of being a machine, but some authors are even making me say how do they do that?  There are people putting out new stories every couple of weeks. And readers love it.

So how the heck do they do it?

Novellas. Novelettes. Short stories.  Call them what you want, but under 50K is the new black. Tor is starting a new imprint for novellas. Kindle Unlimited is making short stories profitable for many authors. Some authors are only writing short stories now. A huge change from when I first began my publishing journey and there was no market for novellas. And again, readers love them. They’re priced competitively and they don’t require a huge commitment. A couple weeks ago, I had a lot of down time on a job. So between talent, I read. (I do all my best reading on the clock.) I wound up checking out three novellas that day.  It was cool to just have this little nibble of a story that was tailor made to the time I had.  A full length book can take me weeks to finish, if I ever do. My attention span isn’t what it used to be. Chances are, yours isn’t either.

You may have noticed I’ve written a few of novellas as well. My Colorado Shifters stories are all under 30K.  I decided that I wanted to supplement The Spotlight Series with shorter stories dedicated to the sidekicks. The Trouble With Bree was born.  I found that paranormal readers are a little more open to the short format, but with recent serial releases from bestselling authors such as Elizabeth Lee and Marquita Valentine, I think that contemporary readers are soon going to find these stories fit into their busy lives nicely.

Writing a novella takes similar planning to writing a novel. The main difference is that the characters will be dealing with one main conflict, and not as many subplots.  With only 30K (or less!) words, every single one of them has to be a part of a well-oiled machine. Just because your story is short doesn’t mean you can skimp on character development or plot. I also find that my novellas have fewer characters, and the story takes place over a shorter span of time.

The biggest challenge came to me after I wrote three novellas in a row and it was time for a new full length story, The Fire Dancer, which will be the next Night Songs book.  The words were coming, but something wasn’t right. I had to go back and spend some more time with my story and my characters. It was okay to follow with the characters while they went for coffee or watched a movie, as long as something else was happening in the scene. In a novella, that kind of scene would have been shortened to just a mention of the activity. I had that chance to get to know my characters, and develop their personalities in other ways.  It didn’t have to be go go go all the time.  In my novellas, there are usually only two main characters and they usually want the same thing. In my novels, there’s a bigger cast, and they all have their own interests in mind.  Subplot city, baby.

Once I let myself slow down and explore Holly’s story deeper, the story flowed at the correct pace. When I say slow down, don’t think for a minute that I wrote less. I just spent more time with each scene, or let it have more complex parts.  The beauty of that was the characters took over. There are a few twists in that book that I didn’t see coming until they happened, and those are my favorite, because I think they make the book.

After The Fire Dancer, I returned to novellas. It was time for another Colorado Shifters story. I’d had the concept, an older woman working with a younger personal trainer, in mind for a long time. I’d planned to write it as a full length contemporary, but with a title like Cougar and the Lion in mind, it was perfect to adapt into this series.  This time, I incorporated some subplots. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to tell the story in under 30K words, but I told myself it didn’t matter how long it was, just write the story as the main character, Arielle, tells it to me. My girls haven’t wronged me yet.  The story wasn’t exactly the one I’d expected to write, but it’s Ari’s story, and I hope I did her proud.  The subplots actually drove the story. Had I not given some of the secondary characters time to appear in the story, it would have never worked as well as it did.

I want to keep writing both formats.  It’s a good challenge for me, and hopefully changing things up makes me a stronger writer.  I have three series I’m working on now, and the next story I have on tap is shorter, and then I’ll return again to a full length novel.  The shorter books are a great way to keep readers engaged between longer books, and as they’re a fun way to tell stories in a different style.

My novellas tend to land at 27K words and my full length books at about 68K.  What’s your sweet spot?  Have you tried your hand at shorter fiction, or will you be sticking to strictly novels?

MARCH MADNESS FLASH FICTION FUNTIMES with Julie

TODAY’S BREW: Coconut Justice. (not what it’s really called but I like this better.)

By Julie

We’ve run many flash fiction series over here, and it’s been too long. I love love love giving a supportive, fun environment for all writers, especially new ones, to put up a snippet of their work. I love having a place where writers feel safe enough to put up their work and show us what they’re capable of, many for the first time ever. The amazing Zoey Derrick, erotic and paranormal romance author put up her first piece here! Our good friend Beau Barnett cried when he put his first piece up on Deadly Ever After and has been published since. My own brother in law came out of his shell and put up a short story for our Nightmares Before Christmas series. And what I love the most is how all of these writers congratulated each other, commented on the stories, shared them on Facebook and Twitter, and made sharing their imaginations feel as good as it should.

Related, lately I’ve been given an incredible amount of support from people regarding my struggles with Sam and his OCD, as well as my recent surgery and alllllll the mental and emotional backlash from this stuff. Specifically my friends on Twitter have been relentlessly at my side with incredible words of encouragement, reminding me that I matter to them, sending me gifts, for crying out loud, praising my books…. It’s amazing, and I’m DESPERATE to find a way to thank everyone.

This is for you.

Next month, get all your non-sports related March Madness fun right here in the form of boatloads of flash fiction stories (1000 words or less) about MADNESS. Madness can mean a lot of things. Insanity, naturally. Madly in love, obsessive, crime stories, Alice in Wonderland-esque worlds, anything your little heart desires.

No rules. Except madness, less than 1000 words. Get it to me by 2/28.

Maybe you write romance and want to put a spin on madness. Maybe you write horror and want to try romance. Maybe you write erotica or sci fi and want to try something totally new. Let me be your host to give it a shot. Maybe you’ve not written a damn thing in two years. Give it a try again. Maybe you’ve never written ANYTHING but you want to. Let me be the one who helps you.

I want to make you guys feel as good as you’ve made me feel. And for those of you who don’t know me, know that I want to help you get your voice out there. I just do.

Remember when you send me your story to give me links to your books, or your blog, or your Facebook and Twitter, or nothing at all if you like. But I’d love to say, “GET MORE OF THIS INCREDIBLE PERSON RIGHT HERE.”

I believe in you guys.

LET THE MADNESS BEGIN.

THE DARK CARNIVAL IS HERE

TODAY’S BREW: Dunkin’s dark roast because FREEEEEE. HAPPY NATIONAL COFFEE DAY, PEOPLE I LOVE!

By Julie

Soooooo, you may or may not be able to get a couple of killer stories from Ye Olde Undead Duo for free in the coolest anthology ever soon. AND MBY MAY OR MAY NOT I MEAN MAY. YOU MAY. Not to mention some of the most amazing short horror pieces I’ve ever read from many of our friends. I CANNOT WAIT FOR YOU TO GET IT.

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LOOK AT HOW EERIE AND SUBTLY HOLY HELL THIS IS.

October approaches. Autumn leaves are nearly falling. The Dark Carnival is calling, calling. Will you answer its call? Will you heed the beckon?

 The doors are opening.

 Will you leave with your life?

In this anthology, several authors and illustrators explore the dark and hidden dangers that lie within a carnival that has come to town. But it is no ordinary carnival. It’s The Dark Carnival.

And when The Dark Carnival comes to town, there’s no promise that anyone can leave…alive.

Edited by: Jolene Haley, Kristen Jett, and Jessi Shakarian

 LOOK AT THIS LINEUP.

Contributors include: Kat Daemon, Kristen Strassel, Julie Hutchings, C. Elizabeth Vescio, Mark Matthews, Brian W. Taylor, Kim Culpepper, Eli Constant, Mari Wells, J. Elizabeth Hill, Nicole R. Taylor, Ashly Nagrant, Kristin Hanson, Calyn Morgan, Tawney Bland, Roselle Kaes, Ken Mooney, Emily McKeon, Bobby Salomons, Ezekiel Conrad, Sheila Hall, Michelle Davis, Lucas Hargis, Vanessa Henderson, Ryan Bartlett, Debra Kristi, Jessi Esparza, T.A. Brock, Ruth Shedwick, Brian LeTendre, Amy Trueblood, Gregory Carrico, Jamie Corrigan, Kate Michael, Tyle Anne Snell, Alicia Audrey, Meghan Schuler, Jamie Adams, Wulf Francu Godgluck, J.C. Michael, Suzy G., Kristin Rivers, and Claire C. Riley. *Final lineup subject to change

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Add it to Goodreads here:  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20495362-the-dark-carnival

Flash Fiction Friday: THE CHILDREN METHOD by S.K. Sophia

TODAY’S BREW: Eggnog! It’s Thanksgiving weekend, fools! Oh, who am I kidding, it’s beer.

By Julie

FLASH FICTION BLACK FRIDAY! MWAHAHAHAHA! I’ll force you to stand in horrendously long lines and read a short story you could have read tomorrow anyway!

No, seriously, though. I’m so pleased. My sweet, not so sweet friend Destructo Girl wrote this masterpiece for us. I can tell you in all sincerity, that just like her, this story is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Read first, then visit http://www.crowdrise.com/thrivegulu/fundraiser/dearsaima to donate to the rehabilitation of war children so they can get better physically and mentally and move on.

She rules for that link. And for so many other things. Follow S.K. Sophia on Twitter @sk_sophia) and visit her kick ass blog at http://t.co/FO0weuF9cd.

The Children Method

by S.K. Sophia

 

Tipu Maleng, the Holy Spirit, guided me. He revealed people’s bad intentions. He was my protector as much as he was my commander. That’s why I survived, and that’s why he’s in hiding.

“Diallo? Pst. Are you awake?” A frail hand touched my shoulder.

I turned to the small boy and frowned. “Don’tchu touch me, Chacha. If you touch me, I will hit you.”

“But I’m afraid,” his lips trembled. “I hear gunshots.”

“You hear gunshots every night.” But nobody ever came. “Now, leave me be.”

“But Diallo, what if he returns?” Chacha whispered.

I froze. Breathing was no longer worth the effort of expanding my lungs. My heart shriveled into a prune-like object; blood burned through my veins like acid. I rose to my feet, cold certainty fuelling my physical strength.

“What are you plotting?” The words escaped.

Chacha scrambled to his feet, terrified. “Nothing!”

“Lies,” I growled, grabbing the boy by his collar, lifting his feet off the ground. “You think you can walk away from me? Do you know what we do to traitors? We hack them with machetes and hang their bodies for everyone to see. You will be mocked for being such a weak fighter.”

Chacha struggled until I let go and ran straight for the door. I followed, my gaze piercing every surface it touched. I was consumed by an active thrill. My therapist called it ‘appetitive aggression,’ a side effect of a war criminal’s spiraling paranoia. What did he know? He wasn’t a fighter like me. He wasn’t chosen.

“Diallo,” a female voice projected, expertly radiating authority. Strong. Steady. Sure.

“Charlotte,” I said, reflecting her vocal attributes.

“You should be in bed.” She smiled as if I would obey like a powerless slave.

She would die first. “Of course, ma’am. Goodnight.”

I doubled-back whilst listening to the dying footsteps of my nurse. Once she was at an appropriate distance, I turned and sprinted along the corridor, entering the hall where the younger children slept. Chacha went pale when he saw me.

“You shouldn’t be here,” he said, pulling his duvet up to his cheeks.

“Wake the others,” I ordered. Time was of the essence.

Chacha shook his head, his wide-eyes filling with a tearful innocence I once had; a pathetic sight. I slipped my arm around the back of my shorts to pull out a Buck Mark pistol.

“Disobeying orders violates our army code,” I said, pointing the gun at his face. “Wake them. Quietly.”

He rushed around the room, shaking each child gently. They stirred and sat up, not afraid like children should be.

“Play is over. You are not children. You are soldiers.” I scanned the room, taking in each blank expression. These children did not scare easily. “Nobody will accept you. They want children back, but you will return as men.” I walked through the middle of the hall, turned on my heel and walked back to the front. “We will resume our mission. Overthrow Museveni’s rule. Once we do, you will all be rewarded with power and wealth. You will be high rank soldiers.”

The lights flickered on. Charlotte walked in. She looked at the doe-eyed children, and then she spotted the gun and fell back a few steps, eyes wide with terror.

“What are you doing with a gun? Where did you get that?” She trembled like a puppy in rain.

I turned to point it at her, eyes fixed on her pale expression. She held up her trembling hands in defense. The children watched in silence.

“It’s a shame. Men would pay top Sudanese pounds for you.”

“Diallo, put the gun down. These children have seen enough violence.”

“Bek!” I screamed. Fury bubbled under my skin, turning my bones to ash. “I killed my parents. We all did. What makes you think I will not kill you?”

“Because he’s not telling you to,” she said. “He can’t control you anymore. You’re mentally sick, Diallo. Let me help you.”

I straightened my back and furrowed my brow. “I answer to the code. This,” I nodded to the gun, “violates the army code if I don’t use it. You are nothing but a goffel.” I turned to Chacha who was watching through his fingers. “Kill this goffel for me.”

“I can’t,” he whimpered.

I glared at his tear-stricken face. “Are you not one of us? Please come forward and kill,” I said, holding the gun out to him.

The fragile boy approached me, watching the others as he passed. He took the gun into his shivering hands and pointed it at Charlotte.

“Chacha, don’t listen to him,” her voice shook. “He’s psychotic. Put the gun on the ground and kick it to me.”

I leaned down so my mouth was just inches from his ear. “The Holy Spirit told me she has bad intentions. Kill her or I will kill you, then I will kill her myself. Either way, she is going to die.”

Chacha’s grip tightened. He let out a blood-curdling scream and pulled the trigger, hitting Charlotte in the chest. Her back crashed into the wall behind with a loud thud and she collapsed into a heap on the floor, blood seeping from her wound. I pried the gun out of Chacha’s clutch and put a hand on his shoulder, squeezing it to comfort him.

“You are a strong fighter,” I said, and turned to the rest of the children who were now huddled together, hugging and holding hands like a family. “We can make a difference once we overthrow the government. Power. Wealth. It will all be ours. They think of us as children, but the Holy Spirit chose us, just like he chose him. Let us escape this prison they call a haven and slaughter all evil.” I pointed the gun to the ceiling, my finger on the trigger. “Let us finish what Kony started.”

 

Flash Fiction Friday: IN A PINCH by Jered Meyer

TODAY’S BREW: This peppermint mocha just might happen today.

By Julie

IT’S FLASH FICTION FRIDAY! Today’s author, Jered Meyer, is best known on Twitter for his rogueish handsomeness and his ability to say what we’re all thinking during his live tweets of Dora the Explorer. Underneath the hilarity is an introspective, thoughtful and complex, romantic guy that knows a thing or two about writing. His novel, WAYPOINT is in my filthy little clutches, and in honor of his alcoholism, so is a beer. NOW GO GET ONE OF HIS BOOKS YOUR DAMN SELF, SUPPORT AN AUTHOR. http://t.co/JV6f7EswK1. And follow him on Twitter because you can’t even picture how funny he is. @The_KJM.

Now, enjoy his first dive into horror! I GOT HIM TO DO IT.

IN A PINCH

 

His left hand gripped the edge of the porcelain sink, thumb tracing under the lip of the basin. His right wiped at the bathroom mirror. None of the spots disappeared. Pale pink drops of dried toothpaste that stood in stark contrast to the brown-red rust creeping along the metal frame. He should clean it soon. Would clean it soon, as soon as he got to it, another home project for the list that he never had enough time to attack.

He never had time for anything anymore, it seemed. Not even family.

His son had been asleep by the time he’d gotten home from work, worn out on chocolate milk and cartoon marathons about fantastic monsters and talking animals up to no good. After kissing him and making sure his blankets were tucked in tight around him, he had gone downstairs and paid Kimberly her hourly rate plus a few extra bucks for babysitting on such short notice.

She was a sweet thing. Eighteen, dark hair. Watching kids to help save for her upcoming freshman year of college. Filling out still, blossoming into a beautiful young woman. Maybe in a year or two, he could-

Tight. His eyes closed tight and he frowned hard enough to make the bridge of his nose throb. He never would have thought of Kim that way before Anna divorced him. She didn’t deserve to be considered like that. He made a note not to hire her again.

From the bathroom to the bedroom he went, closing both doors behind him. Tie loosened, hung from the rack he had next to the door. Dress shirt unbuttoned, tossed onto the closet floor. Slacks undone, dropped into a puddle by the nightstand. Socks…who knows where they went, thrown haphazardly as he climbed into the comfort of bed. The satin sheets were slick and cool under his skin. The matching pillowcase soothed his headache.

In moments, he was asleep.

Something pinched the back of his neck. His eyes fluttered open and he looked around blearily. He sat up, pulling the blankets around his hips and rubbed at the base of his skull.

A sliver of light crept into his room and he realized with a start that his door was cracked open. He had closed it, hadn’t he? He had. He always did. A cursory glance around his chambers revealed him to be alone. But then…

He swung his legs over the edge of the bed and stood. His fingers scratched at his stomach as a yawn escaped him, and then he journeyed out into the hallway.

Save for the two bulbs in the hall, the lights in the house were extinguished. No noises drifted from the darkness of the building. It seemed almost normal. Almost.

“Skyler?” he called out as he neared his son’s room. The boy’s bedroom door was closed. There were no sounds of stirring. No response to his voice. “Hey, buddy? You okay?”

His fingers touched the doorknob and a shock of cold caused him to jerk his hand back. He looked around, bemused. The rest of the house was warm, almost uncomfortably so. The thermostat was always set at a decent enough sixty degrees, but tonight it seemed closer to seventy.

He gripped the doorknob again, prepared this time for the chill. It never came. The metal in his palm felt perfectly normal. Slowly, he turned it and pushed the door in.

“Skyler?” he called again. “Are you awake?”

It took a moment for his eyes to adjust and when they did, he found they could only take in one piece at a time. The room was quiet. The twin bed in the right corner was empty, the sheets made neatly. The thin curtains on the window were only partially drawn and a pale light shone through, casting a light blue patch to glow on the floor.

A chair was in the corner opposite the bed. A chair? He had never put a chair in the room. There had been no reason to. His gut filled with lead. A slender figure sat in the seat, holding his son. A woman. She had light hair that hung down to her shoulders with no direction.

“Anna,” he whispered. “What are you doing here? It’s the middle of the night. You’re not supposed to pick Skyler up until this weekend.”

The woman didn’t respond. She sat, still, clutching the young boy to her chest.

He moved closer, concerned and more than a little angry. It was presumptuous of her to just show up in his home. It would confuse their son and it had scared the shit out of him. Five steps took him directly before her.

“Give him to me, Anna. Let me put Skyler back to bed.”

She looked up at him without a word. The noise that burst from his throat was technically a moan, but it registered at a decibel generally reserved for screams. Her face was no face at all, but a veiny,yellow slab of flesh. There was no protrusion that resembled a nose. Where her eyes and mouth should have been were instead perfectly round holes. The meat around them throbbed and they oozed some thick mixture of pus and blood.

With urgency, he yanked his son from the arms of the monster. He stepped quickly back, towards the center of the room. The creature in the chair stayed seated, silent, exhibiting no signs of distress at having the boy stolen from her.

He held his boy out from him, just enough to look him in the eyes and assure him they would be okay, that they were leaving, escaping the house. The eyes, sky blue, looked back and forth into his own, animated, meaty and with no sense of worry. The rest of the child was made from a material not unlike the porcelain of the bathroom sink. More durable. Lacquered wood, perhaps. It hung limply in his hands.

An anguished wail ripped through the room and he tossed the thing aside. It hit the floor near the bed, the doll-creature’s neck slapping against the frame holding the mattress in place. The head fumbled away and black ichor sprayed from the neck stump over his son’s bed and and the wall behind it.

Mind scrambling, he turned away from the whirlwind of evil that had consumed his child’s room. He darted for the door and slammed face-first into the wall. Frantically, he searched for the exit, but the same wallpaper – light green with wide-eyed Japanese cartoon characters plastered on it in repeating patterns – extended unbroken all around him.

He screamed in frustration and beat at the wall, the barrier separating him from the peace he had felt only moments before. He begged for an escape.

Something pinched his neck.

With a long, desperate gasp of air, his head raised from the bed. His eyes were open so wide it almost hurt. He looked both ways, chest pounding, searching and finding nothing. The walls were clean, soft and white. The floor was the same, but linoleum instead of wood. The door, closed, set at the foot of his bed. Normal. Perfectly normal.

His wrists were wet. He looked down and saw that he had rubbed them so raw against the restraints that a small amount of blood had begun to stream through. It stung, but it was not an unfamiliar occurrence.

He laid back on the sterile, rolling bed they had assigned to him and closed his eyes. His heart-beat began to even out. There would be someone to take care of him come morning.

Thank God, he thought. Just a nightmare.

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