Sunday, July 12, 2015

Monday Mixer Winners 07-12

Thank you to those intrepid souls who came out for the return of Monday Mixer. It will take some time, I'm sure, for more participation but I was definitely quite pleased with the trio of entries received. Now, on to the results:


There were no stories selected for Honorable Mention this round.





Dave James Ashton for his story Libations. This was a very entertaining tale of the ultimate in dysfunctional family relationships. Dave took full advantage of the "less is more" approach to the Mixer and worked the required prompt words in seamlessly and without any pressure.  Well done, sir!


Lisa Shambrook for her story That Sinking Feeling.  No stranger to the Mixer, Lisa has consistently presented excellent stories and shown great aplomb in managing to work all of the prompt words into a story without compromising the tale. This was a haunting offering and the emotions and surroundings were made very palpable. In this instance, some of the prompt words were not, in point of fact, used as the part of speech requested but it was nevertheless an outstanding effort. Bravo! 
.

Alex Brightsmith for her story Can You Keep a Secret? Alex has a style I have always enjoyed though seldom seen enough of. Few writers I know of could make accountants and their dealings an interesting read. Alex managed to do this with seeming ease. This was a tough call but also well-earned. Congratulations, Alex and thanks for taking the time to step back into the world of flash fiction for the Mixer. 


Please bear in mind my decisions are entirely subjective and may not find favor or agreement with all, but decisions are like that. For those writers not mentioned, no slight is intended and I hope next week will find you back for more.

Here is the link to view and read all of the truly inspired offerings for this week.  Please show a little Monday Mixer love and make a point of clicking on each entry and checking them out. Remember, each link clicked on takes you directly to that particular writer's page and provides them blog traffic and, hopefully, feedback to encourage them to come out & play next week.


Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Field Trip


Stumbling out of the villa, he noticed blearily that he was missing his favorite boot knife. Now, that was a damned shame. It was one of a matched pair…a gift from a blade smith of exceptional skill. That said artisan was no longer among the living made it all the more irreplaceable. Taking cover in a small stand of trees, he centered himself and allowed the adrenaline overload to seep from his muscles.

As one of the best covert operatives the Agency had ever fielded, he’d seen his fair share of blown missions. This one, however, was a cock-up of truly epic proportions. Either Intel Branch had supplied him the most inaccurate data in their history or someone…someone high up had hung him out to dry. 
At length, he decided there would be time later to figure out which of those two scenarios he had been dropped into. Now, he needed to devote his energy to clean-up and extraction. Well, if nothing else, it would present him an opportunity to retrieve his knife.

Moving with almost supernatural stealth, he moved to a discreet distance and surveyed the house. As expected, all was dark and silent. Though much of the night was lost to him in the haze of combat, he was confident enough in his fieldcraft to know he wouldn’t have left the electricity intact any more than he would have left any opposition alive inside. That would simplify matters.

Crossing the threshold, he nearly stumbled over the body at his feet. Kneeling, he checked the sentry, finding his missing knife lodged in the man’s sternum. Given the difficulty he experienced retrieving it explained why he had abandoned his prized blade in the first place. Sliding it into its sheath, he continued his search of the interior.

Minutes later he’d identified nine downed men total. Given he had not so much as a scratch, he figured he hadn’t lost his edge in hand-to-hand to the specter of middle age. As surreptitiously as possible, Zed stacked the bodies like so much cordwood. Checking his chronometer, he placed a block of thermite amongst the corpses and set the timer.

Returning to the upstairs office, he confirmed not only were there no blueprints in the wall safe…there was no friggin’ safe at all. Oh yeah, this was starting to smell really foul. He definitely needed to know who had sanctioned this op. His long-term retirement plans depended on that knowledge.

Stopping at the kitchen to sever the gas lines to all three of the commercial-grade stoves, he ghosted back into the night and took cover in the same stand of trees. The flash of the thermite ignition was immediately followed by the house being blown to flinders.


Nodding with satisfaction, Zed checked clean-up off of his mental to-do list and concentrated on finding the means to make it back to friendly terrain. Given the outcome of the night’s efforts, he couldn’t help but wonder just how friendly that terrain might prove to be.


This story was written for the weekly Finish That Thought flash fiction phrase prompt. 

Friday, July 3, 2015

Account Balanced

Photo Credit

Dante Edmonds dropped anchor and surveyed the surrounding area thoroughly. The last thing he needed at this juncture was unwelcome attention from a coastal patrol vessel or from any manner of law enforcement.

Having regained his freedom, he vowed he would never be so confined ever again. He wasn’t na├»ve enough to believe he was the first man imprisoned for selling antiquities of questionable provenance, but to have been betrayed by a man he’d trusted had been the more grievous blow. This was a lesson the rightful owner of this boat and its contents should have learned sooner. Edmonds had taken the first opportunity to eliminate him, casting his lifeless body overboard.

As darkness fell, he went below decks and retrieved the heavy ordnance containers. Priming the contents of each for use, he returned to his surveillance of the sprawling mansion complex. The grounds were well-populated for the party only now beginning.

Given the relatively short range of his weapons and the fact his mission was initially intended to be carried out by two men, the timing would be tight. Raising the anchor, he gunned the powerful engines, moving as close in as possible without running aground.


Leaping from the pilothouse to the deck, he fired one after another of the heavy antitank missiles into the various visible structures. As he motored away from the burning rubble and carnage, he had no assurance he had definitely eliminated his betrayer but it was, all in all, still a good day’s work. 


This story was written for the weekly Flash! Friday flash fiction writing challenge.

The Beholder

Photo property of Jean L. Hays


Joseph “Joey Bones” Giabone stepped from his Town Car onto the sand-swept roadside. His son, Joey Jr. stood nearby, pointing excitedly.

Joey Sr. gazed with a befuddled expression at the rusty, garishly-painted hulks. “And I am to understand for this you abandoned business school and exhausted the bulk of your trust fund?”

“It’s called avant garde art, Papa. Isn’t it wondrous?”

Sighing, Joey placed a hand on his bodyguard’s shoulder, and whispered sotto voce, “Chastise the boy but bring him home alive, eh?”

He climbed back into his car, giving not a second thought to his son’s latest foolhardy endeavor.



This story was written for the weekly Friday Fictioneers flash fiction photo prompt. 

Intervention


Though it had been less than five years since Volodya and the rest of the clan had left Amalia behind, it seemed far longer. In truth, such a span was barely an eye blink for a vampire. It had been five very momentous years in which her kind as well as many other paranormal species had finally emerged from the shadows of legend and into the chaos of the world at large.

This, of course, meant certain compromises. Vampires were required to register their existence with all governmental and law enforcement agencies. Additionally, there were issues with the vampiric dietary preferences. From science came relief in the form of synthetic blood products proven to allow subjects to survive and thrive without need for human victimization.

As the leader of her clan, Volodya made the decision they would renounce their anonymity and join the greater society they were being offered acceptance by. Met by vehement protests from Amalia and a handful of others, the elder vampire was adamant his decision was in the best interests of all. Having been undead for nearly four hundred years, he spoke of times when their only choice had been to cower and hide or be driven to extinction. It was far past time, he maintained, to end their exile and live within the acceptable bounds of the modern world.

This was a decision Amalia could not, would not abide by. In all fairness, the fact she was a vampire at all owed to her rebellious nature. Having snuck out to an after-hours club in the city, she had been bitten and turned by Volodya on her way back home. Freed from her repressive upbringing, Amalia reveled in the freedom her vampiric lifestyle provided. She gloried in the strength, the invulnerability, the heightened awareness provided by her altered state. Ironically, she now felt more alive…more vital than she ever had while she was still among the living.

It was those enhanced senses that drew her from her reverie in a flood of overwhelming input. Concentrating…reaching outward with her mind…she could scarcely believe her perceptions. Despite her warnings, they had returned? She could smell the unmistakable scent of her father’s cologne. She could hear the hushed voices of her mother as well as her brother, David.

That they were here, in her inner sanctum could only mean it was because Billy had allowed them in and that gave her pause. That she must punish him for this transgression was not in question. That she had any desire to do so was. Her relationship with him was…complicated. He was her confidante, her sometimes lover, her servant and, yes, the protector of her immortal body while she slept. What he, most certainly was not was “some verkakte Renfield” as her father had so unwisely described him during his prior visit. She had narrowly avoided tearing him limb from limb that night.

To her Billy had grown to be so much more. He was possibly the only being, human or undead, who understood her fierce need chart her course in an uncertain world with no hand on the tiller but her own. He was the only one who accepted her for who and what she was with an unwavering sense of certainty that she, reluctantly, admitted she simply could not do without. He was, in every sense of the term, “her man” and this infraction of her cardinal rules disturbed her greatly.

But there would be time to deal with his transgressions later. For now, she must focus on her misguided family and this, their latest albeit if she had her way their final, intervention. She would not surrender herself to one of the Paranormal Adjustment Centers. She would not kowtow to the self-appointed guardians of “proper” societal behavior. She could and would face the future in her own way and on her own terms. Of that she must, somehow, once and for all convince them.

Resisting the urge to burst in upon them with talons and fangs extended and crimson eyes blazing, she glided silently up the stairs. It was going to be a very unpleasant day for one who was only at her best at night, she mused.


This story was written for the weekly Mid-Week Blues-Buster flash fiction challenge and is very loosely based on the Amy Weinhaus song Rehab

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Requiem


Cecily seized the Cosmopolitan not unlike a drowning soul clutching for a life preserver. The pressure of her slender fingers bid fair to snap the delicate stem of her glass at any moment. When she spoke, her voice was little more than a whisper.

“Ten years, Brandon…it’s been ten years. We decided not to advance our relationship while still in college because we both had too much at stake. Then came grad school and more waiting. But dammit, we’ve been junior partners three years now. This is no game, anymore. This is my life!”

“I still have hopes. I have dreams and aspirations and intentions. I also have doubts and worries and despair. For God’s sake, I have a uterus…with a timer. And time is running out. All I’m saying is I can’t bring myself any longer to believe you’ll ever be ready…be committed….to us. All I want is for you to look me in the eyes and tell me…tell me I’m wrong. But you can’t do that, dearest, can you? Can you?” Her voice trailed off somewhere between a sigh and a sob.

For what seemed an eternity, he sat silent and unmoving…his expression as inscrutable as the Sphinx himself. When, at length, he spoke there was no hint of uncertainty in his words. “No. I don’t suppose I can.”

And in that moment, the dreams and aspirations, the hopes and desires of one very confused and distraught woman died a death from which no resurrection could ever occur.


This story was written for the weekly Thursday Threads flash fiction phrase prompt.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Tale by Torchlight



The wedding reception was going exceptionally well until all the lights went off. With a sigh, Angus MacDermid placed his pint on the bar and waited for the emergency lamps to activate. When several seconds passed and it was still as black as the Earl of Hell’s waistcoat, he growled. While it had been a trifle…unwise to host such a large gathering in an unfamiliar venue, he’d assumed his lads would have checked the place out to insure such amenities as the electricity were stable.

If he survived the darkness and the Deaders it would inevitably draw out, he’d have strong words for Billy and Donald. Well, time for recriminations later. Now was a time for swift and decisive action if his family and guests were to see another sunrise.

Reaching into his sporran, he drew out a clip and slapped it into the Browning Hi-Power from his thigh holster. Grinning, he reflected that what a Scotsman had beneath his kilt these days was likely to be a sight more than just his bollocks.

Before he could shout down the growing clamor, his eyes were struck by the beam of first one and then more electric torches. By the reflected light he saw Billy handing out more of the same. Mayhap the boy wasn’t a complete sod after all, Angus thought, as muffled automatic rifle fire erupted from outside. Deaders…far sooner than expected.

Pushing through the crowd he both saw and heard more weapons readied in the hands of his guests. He continued toward the front of the hall and the dais where Jimmy and Caitlin had been seated. If nary another soul survived this night, he’d see his only offspring safely away. He’d only just navigated the steps when he saw her, switchblade in hand, cutting the last of her long gown away to knee-height and stowing the blade back in her decolletage. She was one to be prepared for the worst, he mused. She stomped towards him, green eyes flashing.

“Before ye say sumpin’ fool, I’ll not be gaein awa, Da. Deaders or nae, this is ma day. So, oan yer trolley and see tae yer guests!” Brandishing a heavy revolver he’d rather not imagine how she’d stowed on her person, she snarled at him again. “Ye mak a better door than a windae, Da!” She lowered the weapon and scanned the darkness for targets.

He’d always known she was a braw one but he was in no mood to argue tonight. “Here now, Caitin. Ye need tae –“

She rounded on him, “Yer getting’ skelped if ye say one more word. I’ll nae hae my wee one thinkin’ her ma wasnae one to fight when fightin’ were needed.” She placed a protective hand on her belly, rubbing gently.


Angus wasn’t sure whether his or Jimmie’s eyes snapped open wider that night, but he nodded curtly and turned away. Over his shoulder he snapped, “I swear ya numpty lass, if we survive this night, we need tae talk!” 



This story was written for the Finish That Thought weekly flash fiction phrase prompt. 

Friday, May 2, 2014

Faded Youth

Copyright - Renee Heath
Staring at the wax congealed on the tabletop, the waiter found it a fitting analogy for the wrinkled, liver-spotted entourage that had so recently cavorted here. In reality they were as spent and wasted as the candle’s essence, clinging to a solidity they no longer possessed.

Granted, a 50th wedding anniversary was an event of some import but hardly worth the undignified behavior of the revelers.

While he found it sad that the oldsters still clung so fiercely to a youth long gone, he failed to realize his relentlessly-dour attitude had stolen away his own youth just as surely.


This story was written for the weekly Friday Fictioneers flash fiction photo prompt. 

Second Time Around


Buddy scampered and cavorted about the freshly-mown grass of the dog park, behaving as if every day were filled with endless sunshine and unbridled enthusiasm. 

He had not been a dog for very long now but, with each passing day, the memories of a time when he had been something…someone very different faded just a little bit more.

Now, he barely remembered the needles and the nurses, the sickness and the sadness, the weakness and the worry. He no longer recalled exactly what had been wrong with the tired, pain-wracked and hope-bereft little boy he had once been.

It was sufficient unto the day that he was now strong and vibrant, filled with potential and promise and destined to live the long and happy life he had been so unfairly denied before.


This story was written for the weekly Five Sentence Fiction flash fiction writing prompt: freedom. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Defiance Chosen



It wasn’t the first time Chelik had seen fire fall from the sky. It bid fair, however, to be the last time he saw it. The alien insectoid Cholgachi overlords had come to exact their tribute from his people. The tribute was always the same…twenty of the clan’s strongest and most healthy young adults.

In anticipation of their arrival, Chelik had known better than to journey too far away. As one of his peoples’ most-skilled hunters, it was not unusual for him to spend days, if not longer, away from his home. Not all of that time was spent satisfying the need for game. Instead, he spent considerable time in the Tainted Lands…there where his clan had, most unsuccessfully, risen in resistance so very long ago. Though legends held the land was so virulently-poisoned as to spell certain death to anyone, experience had shown him this was no longer true.

While he did suffer headaches and nausea for days after departing the Tainted Lands, he was obviously still alive. He considered it an acceptable trade for what he found there. The shards of metal, he surmised, could only be of alien origin as his own people had no such skill in metalworking. Regardless, they provided him arrowheads of such surpassing strength and quality they might well serve his needs.

With every step closer to home, dread was replaced by resolve and an unwavering sense of purpose. He would not…could not allow himself to submit to the will of such beings as held his future….his very life in their unfeeling claws. Consequences and doubt must be set aside. No other option remained to him.

Crouched in the brush on a promontory overlooking the village, Chelik knew he was at long albeit effective range for his bow. His consciousness faded as he devolved into hunter mode. The villagers…the aliens…all else mattered not a whit. His target became all as he nocked his first special arrow and aimed…not at the invaders but at their ship.

Certainly, that which flamed when it came down from the sky could obviously be made to burn by other means. His star-metal arrow hissed downward, piercing the shell of the craft and a slow but steady stream of greenish fluid flowed from the breach. Dipping his second arrow into the coals he had kindled at his side, he set the shaft aflame and sent it after the first only seconds later.

He had no more than tossed himself face down when an explosion shook the ground violently. Burning debris rained down narrowly missing the young man. Without rising, he already knew he had destroyed not only the ship but its crew. With two arrows, he had possibly sealed the fate of his entire planet but he could not find it within him to regret his decision.


If he and his kind were to die, was it not best to do so with backs straight, heads up and eyes wide open? No man should ever die upon his knees…ever.


This story was written for the weekly Finish That Thought flash fiction challenge. 

Monday, March 31, 2014

Rainbow Concoction


Rotting produce, discarded cans, and assorted detritus made no difference as he lay looking up into the night sky. 

He had no idea whose chemical expertise had devised the Rainbow Concoction but it sure as anything made life a lot more manageable.


This story was written for the Gargleblaster flash fiction writing challenge. The challenge was to write a story of exactly 42 words based on the question, "What's so amazing that keeps us stargazing?" This is my response. 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Finding a Voice - Sale Continues


Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #37,022 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
#48 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Literary Fiction > Short Stories


Finding A Voice is the material realization of one writer's quest to find his place, to establish his identity, to find his niche in the ever-expanding world of independently-published literary offerings. With 18 offerings in 8 different genres, this book provides something of interest to almost any reader.

Thanks to the love and support of readers (and the Countdown option from Kindle Select) this book has soared in popularity in just two days. Thanks to all those who have purchased a copy. For just .99 cents, you too may find what has attracted so many to take a shot at this book. Go on...get it. I suspect it will be the most enjoyable single item you purchase today for under a dollar. 


Friday, March 28, 2014

Nature Call

Copyright - John Nixon

Benjamin followed the irresistible pull of a power he found both unavoidable and irresistible. It spoke to him in his dreams…in his mind through a disjointed language of images and formless concepts.

He trudged on, sensing the end of his long journey. As if by proximity, the indistinct nature of the communication vanished and the voice in his head was clear and calm.

“I have been known as Yggdrasil…the Tree of Knowledge…and so very many, many other names. The future of you and all of your kind is threatened in a way only you can avert...with my help, of course."


This story is written for the weekly Friday Fictioneers flash fiction photo prompt. 

Adieu to Friends

Scrap trotted along beside the Big One, uncertain why they had gone so far from home out here into the spooky woods he had never before been allowed to enter. The terse, emotionless expression on the face of his guide made it, patently, clear he did not wish to discuss the matter with the puppy.

The Big One had become very quiet and moody of late and nothing Scrap could do seemed to drag him out of his dolorous mood and back to the carefree days of the not-so-distant past.

At length, the Big One stopped and fixed his small friend with a steely glare, before informing him their…association was at an end and Scrap would need to make alternative arrangements for his future.


Scrap stood in stunned disbelief as the Big One took wing and sailed away, unwilling…unable to believe a dragon and a puppy could simply not be lifetime companions.


This story was written for the weekly Five Sentence Fiction flash fiction prompt: companion.  

All Jacked Up

Head bowed and shoulders hunched, he seemed oblivious to the worsening weather. Fat flakes of snow began to waft downward as evening gave way to night on the streets of Whitechapel.

In truth, he sought to both exercise and exorcise the voices whispering and gibbering in his mind. He took to the streets hoping to walk so long and so far they would be banished when he, at length, found it expedient to return to his home and the solace of exhausted sleep.

The demons murmured consolation the inclement weather would dissuade all but the most dedicated of the local constabulary from their rounds. They assured him, though, the conditions would not deter those sullied flowers of womanhood who peddled their flesh to the lecherous.


They chided it was his duty…his obligation to sweep such refuse from the streets. With a sigh and a nod, he acquiesced to their demands.


This story was written for the weekly Visual Dare flash fiction photo and phrase prompt: covert.