The Experiment (revisited)

In the fall of 2011, a pretty amazing thing happened for me. I had a short story of mine published in The Derby Telegraph over in Derbyshire—you guessed it, in England. I had a short story being read by the people of Derbyshire, and in print no less. It was a fuzzy feeling of warmth. Knowing that somewhere, across the pond, people were picking up their local newspaper and reading a story by me. I’ll never forget that fuzzy feeling.

Soon after the story made it to their website and I linked to it form this blog.

Well, recently I clicked on that Derby Telegraph link and found it no longer existed. Saddened by its removal from their website, but kind of understanding because it did sit on their site for many years, I’ve decided to republish the story here. And as is my new custom, I’ve converted it into 3 readable formats (epub, mobi, PDF). And also as is my custom, they are all free for download to read at your leisure on whatever device you carry or keep locked to the desk.

BUT FIRST, some art!

Hitchcock’s artwork and headline as they originally appeared in The Derby Telegraph.

The above amazing artwork was made by David Hitchcock to accompany my short story when it ran in The Derby Telegraph. This artwork is fantastic, and really captures the feel I had in my head at the time I wrote the story. I wanted to make sure that I shared his work, because it was incredible and if you know him, let him know how amazing his artwork is and that I love it.

If you are tired of waiting, here is the link to the files: Download link for eBook files (epub, mobi, PDF).

About the story.

But before I go, how about a little history on the story? A little behind the scenes? When I wrote this story it was just under 2,000 words in length, but The Derby Telegraph was accepting stories under 1,500. I had to trim a good 500 words out of this already short story. The result? In my opinion, it turned out to be a much better story, after I trimmed and trimmed and trimmed. It really felt like I let a lot of excess go.

Side note – do you think I might have more to this story? WELLLLLLL…. I did develop some more to it at some point. But still have not written any of that down. If you’d be interested in an extended Experiment someday, let me know in the comments.

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#ebook, #science-fiction, #scifi, #short-story

Pussy Wag*n by Taylor Christine

Today, I’m bringing out a second installment in the Josephine the Dragon saga (which is a really lame way to describe it). These stories tend to be a little heartwarming, a little humorous, a little awesome. Maybe a lot awesome? Maybe. Yeah. Probably.

These stories are written by Taylor Christine, and are a lot of fun. I first heard these stories at an open mic, and am happy to bring them to the blog in written form. Enjoy.

You can follow Taylor on Twitter with @becky_ketchup.


Pussy Wag*n

When Josephine the Dragon was in high school, she didn’t participate in extracurricular activities. She hated the dull hum of the fluorescent lights. She hated the monotonous scheduling that woke her up at 6:30 every morning to the unchanging, unforgiving curriculum which put her to sleep. Josephine had imagination. She had humor. But most importantly, she had answers. The thing about high school is that it never asked her the right questions. Until one morning. Continue reading

#flashfiction, #shortstory

Mystery Box

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Mystery Box.”

Journalist Thomas Bradshaw woke up at 10:45am without an alarm, as was his custom. He grimaced at the sunlight forcing its way through the closed shades. He cursed himself for the millionth time for not buying big, thick and black curtains for his window. Though, he figured he’d never get out of bed if he ever did. He pulled his phone from the nightstand without looking and saw he had two text messages. Continue reading

#flashfiction, #crime, #mystery, #shortstory, #writing

ROGUES GALLERY 5: Sofia Essen


Sofia Essen

Author Bio: Sofia Essen’s passport claims she is Swedish even though she left the country more than two decades ago and hasn’t returned since. She now lives in Crete where she has watched fellow expats tirade against seemingly endless amounts of bureaucratic red tape to comical results. Some people fail to understand things don’t work in Crete in the exact same way they do back home, wherever that might be. So Sofia is often tempted to tell the highly strung foreigners she encounters to relax and take a deep breath. She knows that if you want to live on a Greek island and enjoy it, you have to learn to adjust to the pace of the island… she thought there was a story in there somewhere, and then she wrote it. This story was published in April 2012 and it’s titled Change of Pace. She also blogs.



Change of Pace

By Sofia Essen

Chapter 1
      
“We’re going to crash!”  

The passenger next to me turns in his seat and gives me a kind smile. “I don’t think so,” he says in a soothing tone of voice. “It’s only a little turbulence.”

“No, we’re going to crash,” I reply with absolute certainty. “Bad things always come in threes.”

“And this plane crashing would be bad thing number three, I assume?”

I nod in confirmation.


“I see.” He runs a hand through his slightly too long blonde hair and then smiles again. This time I notice that his cobalt blue eyes crinkle charmingly at the corners as he does so. “Mind if I ask what bad things number one and two were?”

“I lost my job on Thursday and my boyfriend dumped me on Friday.”

“Bummer.”

“My sentiments exactly.”

I’m not particularly superstitious, but it’s been a bad week. In addition to getting dumped and losing my job, I just turned thirty. It would somehow make sense for the plane to crash. All of that aside, the turbulence is growing stronger by the second. The complimentary champagne the flight attendant gave me before we took off is threatening to splash out of its plastic flute and onto my favorite pair of perfectly faded blue jeans.  

I take a big gulp of the dancing champagne, hoping it will help me forget about the turbulence while also saving my jeans from a bubbly soaking.

“Cheers,” says my neighbor. He takes a sip then sets his glass aside. “So, what did you do before you got fired?”

“I didn’t get fired, I got downsized.”

“Isn’t that the same thing?” he asks, which ruffles my feathers.

“Tact obviously isn’t your thing,” I remark in a huffier tone of voice than I intended.

“Sorry,” he says with a rueful shake of his head. “And no, tact isn’t my thing. I lack the gene for it or something. I come from a long line of tactless people. But isn’t downsized and fired the same thing? I mean, at the end of the day, you’re still jobless, right?”

“I guess so,” I grudgingly admit.

“Okay, so tell me what you did before you lost your job.”

“I worked for a company called Milton International. They own small luxury hotels and spas around the world.”  

Resting his elbow on the armrest between us, Mr. Tactless leans closer. “And what exactly did you do for Milton International?”  

“Whatever my boss, the Director of Human Resource at Milton’s New York office, didn’t feel like doing,” I reply with a disgusted wrinkle of my nose. “He called it delegating.”

“How convenient for him.”

“Yes, very convenient,” I agree. “When I wasn’t completing tasks he delegated to me, I assisted in the recruitment and training of hotel staff. I also handled staff problems and looked after their general welfare. You know, basic babysitting and pacifying.”

“It sounds like you had a lot of responsibilities,” Mr. Tactless remarks.
 
I did have many responsibilities and I took pride in handling them to the best of my ability. For ten years, I worked hard to climb up the corporate ladder within Milton International. I started at the bottom as a Front Desk Assistant in one of their hotels. I was always at work before eight o’clock in the morning and I rarely left before seven in the evenings. When my colleagues went out to have lunch, I stayed behind and ate a sandwich at my desk.  

My promotion to the Human Resource division two years ago was a big victory for me. After that promotion, I worked even harder with increased dedication to my job. I didn’t complain about my boss’ tendency to over-delegate because he often hinted I would naturally step into his shoes as the Director of Human Resource when he was made Regional Director, which he was sure he would be within the next couple of years. Oh no, I didn’t utter as much as a peep in objection when he assumed I wouldn’t have a problem doing both his job and mine while he went off to play golf with his own bosses. I was happy to send him off to the golf course to kiss influential butts while I kept my eyes on the prize – the corner office with the big windows.   

It would be an epic understatement to say losing my job came as a shock to me. Having my career goals and dreams of that corner office unceremoniously ripped from me hit me like a physical blow to my solar plexus. It left me dazed and breathless. I knew Milton International had hit a rough patch, and there were whispers of imminent layoffs in the corridors. Ironically, just before I was downsized, I helped restructure the Marketing Division, which meant letting some people go. But, like an ostrich with its head in the sand, I chose to believe my job was safe. The alternative was too frightening to contemplate.        

I take another generous sip of champagne and let out a heavy sigh.

I’m thirty, unemployed, unattached, and seriously starting to regret boarding this flight. Even if we don’t crash, what am I going to do when we land? I’m flying solo on this trip, and all I know about my destination is that it was the birthplace of the first Olympics.  

Note to self: spontaneity doesn’t agree with me.    

I like routines. I’m not at all ashamed to admit I’m as predictable and reliable as Swiss watches are rumored to be. I liked knowing my alarm clock would wake me at precisely five-thirty every morning five days a week. I would then have a quick cup of coffee followed by a long hot shower. After slipping into one of my five identical black pantsuits, I walked from my very small apartment in the West Village to the office.  

On Friday evenings, my ex-boyfriend, Brian, picked me up from work in his beige Volvo and took me to his apartment in Brooklyn. He dropped me off at the office again on Saturdays so I could get some work done in peace and quiet without my boss interrupting me every five minutes to delegate one task or another. And on Sunday mornings we slept half an hour later than usual (if we stayed in bed any longer than that, Brian’s bowels wouldn’t move, which rendered him cranky for the rest of the day) and then had brunch in the restaurant on the ground floor of his building.     

At some point during the day, we usually went for a walk or caught a movie, which was always some European film and, in my opinion, depressing. I put up with Brian’s taste in movies since he tolerated me blasting Bon Jovi records at ear-splitting decibels without too much complaint.

In the evening, I watched him cook bland dinners because I’m allergic to cooking and Brian is allergic to pepper, and then we played Monopoly or Trivial Pursuit until ten o’clock. Neither of us are night owls. We both slept through four out of the past five times the ball dropped at Times Square on New Year’s Eve.   

My life wasn’t exciting, but it was organized and as comfortable as a well-worn slipper. I like being comfortable. I don’t need much excitement or adventure to be happy. Sticking to my routines gave me a sense of inner peace. It made me feel in control of my life.

“Would you care for a refill?” A female flight attendant with platinum blonde hair and a brilliantly white smile is hovering in the aisle.

Before I can reply, the man next to me says, “Yes, we would. Would you actually leave the bottle with us, please?”      

The flight attendant doesn’t look pleased by the request but complies with a clipped, “As you wish.” Since we’re sitting in business class, I don’t suppose she has much choice. As she trounces off down the aisle, my neighbor turns to me and nods towards the almost full bottle. “You sounded like you could use it. Those sighs of yours were rather painful to hear, almost heart-wrenching.”   

“Were they? Sorry!” My cheeks color slightly in embarrassment, but I grin at him anyway. There’s something about him, something I can’t put my finger on, that makes me want to smile at him despite my less than cheery mood. “Cheers again.”

“Cheers.” He takes a sip before setting down his glass and offering me his hand. “I’m Alex Collins.”

“I’m Anna Cox.” I take his hand and notice his trustworthy handshake – nice and firm. People with limp handshakes make me suspicious. “Nice to meet you.”

“Likewise.” Alex tops up my glass, which is draining at an alarming rate. “Is Athens your final destination or are you heading out to one of the islands?”

“I have no idea!” I confess in a squeal of panic. “I bought my ticket on-line last night. I haven’t even booked a hotel room.”

“That’s brave.”

“Yeah, maybe.” I make a wry face. “Or stupid.”

Alex laughs. “Mind if I make a suggestion?”

“Not at all. I’m very open to suggestions at this point. Any and all suggestions you might have are welcome.” I open my arms wide to reinforce my statement. “Suggest away.”

“Skip Athens and head straight to Crete. It’s my favorite island.”   

“Crete?” I consider his suggestion for a moment. Then I sit up straight, pull my shoulders back, and raise my chin. “Crete! Why not?”
  
The turbulence has died down. The plane is no longer gyrating like a backup dancer in a techno-pop music video. I unbuckle my seatbelt, excuse myself to Alex, and then clamber over him and into the aisle with more hurry than grace. Nature calls.

I face my reflection in the mirror in the postage stamp-sized bathroom. A thorough inspection concludes I look just the way I always have, which strikes me as odd. My safe, organized, predictable way of life has come crashing down around me. Everything has changed. I feel like I’ve lost all control of my life. I’m no longer the captain of my own ship, and it’s veering way off course to uncharted territories. Yet my eyes are still green, and my hair is still dark brown and cut into a short bob. I’m still five foot six with a small bust, flat butt, and a belly that needs some toning.

I wash my hands, splash some water on my face, and check my mirror image once more. Yep, the same face I saw before I turned thirty, got downsized and dumped is staring back at me. It’s just
everything else that has changed.


Continue reading, buy it on Amazon.

ROGUES GALLERY 4: Sarah Allen


Author’s Bio:  Sarah is a fan-girl and uber-dork working on submitting her first novel and drafting her second. She memorized The Cat in the Hat at age three and has loved reading ever since, which made graduating in English an easy decision. She writes short stories and poetry as well and has been published in several literary magazines such as The Tipton Poetry Journal, Atlas Poetica and Boston Literary Magazine. She is a social media nerd and blogs at http://fromsarahwithjoy.blogspot.com/. She is a slytherpuff, anglophile and Jane Austen groupie. She is a sevret lover of jazz and post-grunge rock, and a not so secret lover of Colin Firth, white chocolate, cavalier king charles spaniels and Frasier.



Lunatic by Sarah Allen.
I am in love with the man in the moon. Lunatic is what they would call me if they found out. But lunatic is not always a bad thing.


I am in love with the man in the moon. I wait for him, wait for him to pour through the atom-thin cracks in my window, wait for him to rise from the moon dust, the particles of light.

He is the color of the moon. His eyes and hair streak light across my wooden floor, from his face to mine. I could bathe in that light. And if I did, I would be trapped with him in his night-cage, freedom in being trapped anywhere with him. The bars would be pillars of light.

Fingers touch me like moonlight. Then I know he is here. I don’t turn around. I sit still and let him pour in around me.

Cities, lost dogs, asphalt in the rain is what he talks about. As he speaks I can see the road glistening like obsidian, muddy paws at the bakery’s front door. Oh, the things he sees, the things he shines his light on.

We ride together like a Ferris wheel, up and around the world, around the night. I am cold, and he wraps his pale arms around me. We watch morning birds emerge from their trees. You are the morning bird, he tells me. I have never wanted so badly to be caged.

Again, I wait. I wait while he is pulled back through my window, beam by beam fading slowly. I wait until there is nothing left but his reflected face in the glass. I wait until that, too, is gone. Then there is only me, alone in my blue-grey room, wrapped in a blanket flecked with moon dust.

‘Everything’ anthology available on Amazon

Two of my short stories are featured in a collaborative short story anthology titled Everything available through Amazon for $0.99.  The anthology also includes stories from Pat B, Nancy Cavanaugh, and Natalie Mendez.  This collaboration is a direct result of meeting across Google+, which continues to be a cool experience.  Danke, Google, danke.

My stories included.

  • The Red Balloon.  Linus Martin has watched as the recession has taken its toll on those he manages, while it appears his superiors reap their own rewards.
  • 18 Wheels.  Tom, lone truck driver, takes on a new charge in the form of a passenger.  Her name’s Luna, a teenage runaway.  It was meant to be a simple pick up and drop off, until a very complicated relationship forms between the two.

Cafe de Mort

George sipped his espresso, and gently laid it to rest on the saucer.  The cafe he had come to know so well in the previous weeks had always made the perfect espresso, and he was going to miss it dearly.  The weeks leading to today had seemed very surreal, almost like a vacation for the mind.  The closer he got to today, the clearer his mind became, and for the first time in years he was feeling very content.  He felt fresh.  He was on the edge of rebirth.  He let himself enjoy the sun’s warmth, the cafe and view.
    To his left, several tables over, sat a man with his daughters.  One was a teenager and the other was much younger.  They had been here most days in the weeks George had, and were finishing up there usual breakfast and it seemed the daughters were especially hyper this morning.  They spoke rapid-French and George could rarely keep up with the conversations when eavesdropping.  The teen was quite a beautiful girl and often had an impact on passing boys her age.  The father was in his fifties, and smiled proudly, spoiling them every morning at the cafe.  And as was their custom the two girls talked him into letting them cross the cobblestone road to the jewelry store.  He ordered a refill on his coffee from the waiter, and watched with glee as they ran across the stones and into the old building with the wooden sign hanging above the door.  A biker leaning against the wall of the shop for a break moved his position to the other side of the door and watched the girls casually through the display window.
    There was a jogger sitting at a far table at the edge of the outside cafe, sipping on some water and resting his hand on his fanny pack.  He wasn’t sweating and looked too big to be a jogger.  He wore his hood up on his jacket, covering half of his face, but anyone could see that his eyes were constantly darting back and forth.  He was constantly people watching.
    George glanced at his watch, and finished his espresso.  He rose to his feet and walked to the father’s table.  He stood several steps back from it, but leaned his head forward and spoke to the man, “Pardon, monsieur?”
    The father’s eyes looked at him worriedly, and his smile faded.  “Bonjour.”
    George licked his lips as he prepared to ask the question he had memorized.  “Etes-vous Jean-Claude Batiste?”
    This seemed to get the father’s attention, and he looked at him very seriously as he answered.  “Oui.”
    “My French is rough, pardon moi.  Parlez-vous anglais?”
    “I do.”
    Now that George could speak English, he could say exactly what he wanted to say with confidence.  “I believe you knew my father.”
    Batiste squinted at him, as if trying to see a resemblance to someone he might know.  “Who is your father?”
    “Alexander Lamarck.”
    Batiste instantly snapped his finger at the jogger, who got up so fast that his chair fell over.  He shoved his hand into his fanny pack and gripped a Walther PPk, but kept it hidden.
    George’s blue eyes appeared to glaze over black and his voice lowered.  “I’m not going to kill you.”  He let him chew on this for a moment, and a soft breeze came through the old village, sending chills down the spine of Batiste.  George took one step forward and whispered.  “Je vais ter vos filles.  I’m going to kill your daughters.”
    Batiste’s eyes shot to the shop across the street just in time to see an explosion knock out the entire front wall of the building.  The blast knocked the jogger across a table, and Batiste fell over backwards in his chair, crashing against the hard rock.  The ceiling also gave way and dumped several thousand pounds of rock and tile onto the biker who had been leaning against the wall  
    George took the blast and the confusion immediately following to make his planned exit.  He darted through the cafe’s small kitchen, out the back door and down the old wooden stairs behind it.  He found his strategically placed scooter, jumped onto it, started its engine and sped off down the cobblestone streets towards the edge of town.   

#crime, #shortstory