Looking for writing-related posts? Check out my new writing blog, www.larrykollar.com!

Monday, October 31, 2011 No comments

October Horror Spotlight #4

Happy Hallowe’en! I’m wrapping up this series with some real treats: free horror fiction, fresh from the blogs! Clicking the links below open a new window, so you won’t have to remember to return here for the others.

Maria Kelly’s The Were-Traveler is a newborn webzine — the first issue, Hundred-Word Halloween, was published on Saturday. I happen to have two pieces in that issue. ;-) The ‘zine focuses on drabbles (100-word stories) and other types of micro-fiction, with occasional flash or short stories.

Lake Lopez wants to “scare the hell out of you,” so he blogs at The Scary Story. There are short and long pieces to suit your scarification needs. His current serial, Sinister, is definitely worth reading.

Christian Jensen’s Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children is for those adult-types who like their erotica with a big side dish of horror. Or maybe it’s horror with a side of nookie. Whatever!

And that’s a wrap. It’ll be November in less than an hour here, so enjoy whatever’s left of the day!

Friday, October 28, 2011 31 comments

#FridayFlash: Geek vs. Zombies

If there’s a moral to this story, I suppose it would be don’t mess with a geek!

“You’re my little geek girl, Linda.” Her father’s voice came to her from years away.

“Flipping switches, turning knobs, pushing buttons,” she said aloud, and grinned. “Gotta figure out how stuff works.” What was once a passion was now a survival trait. She’d been in touch with her parents up in New York City up until the phones stopped working. Maybe they were still alive.

Linda Ma stepped away from the edge and wrote in her notebook:

Weaknesses: All senses seem dulled except for sense of smell. They can hear a gunshot, but not a bow. Sense of touch is all but gone; they ignore arrows to non-vital parts. If they are upwind, they cannot find a living person standing still in shadow.

They appear to be lazy, following the path of least resistance unless they smell prey. Stairs are difficult for them, locked doors are impossible.

Feeding habits: they are pack hunters, not scavengers. They will not eat carrion — which makes sense, otherwise they would attack each other. They will eat animals they can catch, but prefer human flesh. Packs of dogs follow them and attempt to snatch some of their kills (or tear off hunks of zombie legs) without themselves landing on the menu.

Knowledge — potentially useful — gained from a nauseating week of observation. Most of it had been done from right here, her fourth-floor rooftop garden, where the zombies got only occasional whiffs of her but no ideas how to reach her. Some of her work, though, required getting way too close. The dogs made things easier for her, though — the constant racket of their barking, nipping at zombies, and their smell (they rolled in carrion) kept them from noticing a living human lurking downwind. On the one occasion they spotted her, she reluctantly put an arrow into a dog and ran for it; they went for the easy meat.

She turned back to her notebook:

Miscellaneous: the zombies and dogs are in the process of forming a sort of symbiotic relationship. It might be useful to think of the dogs as remora, or pilot fish, but more aggressive. She pushed away the memory of what happened after she crippled one zombie with lucky shots to each knee: the dogs fell on it with gusto and left it little more than a skeleton, twitching on the street. Given the opportunity, they have no problem eating each other — but it’s possible that the dogs will start protecting the zombies, and perhaps even helping them find food, as time goes on.

She could hold out a long time. She had managed to raid a grocery store, and between that and what others left in the apartment building, she had plenty of food. Her father had immigrated here, her mother was second-generation, and they had raised her as Western as they knew how. But rice and vegetables just agreed with them all, and they made little effort to Westernize their diet. A vegetarian diet was about the only thing Chinese about her habits.

Picking up her notebook, she felt reluctant to add the next part:

How to fight: stay downwind. Attack from cover. Avoid using firearms, it seems to draw them. She remembered the small group of people who’d shot up a small pack of zombies, only to attract several larger packs with the noise. It had not ended well for the living. Crippling them is much easier than killing — the latter requires severing or destroying the head — and once crippled, the dogs will finish the job.

It may be better to take an Eastern approach, and simply remove ourselves from their path instead of trying to confront them. Their primary food supply (us) is mostly gone already, and they are not clever or quick enough to catch most animals. Zombies need an energy source, just like anything else, and without that they may finally turn on each other. Or they may simply lay down and finish dying.

“Or,” she said with a grim smile, looking at the cases of dynamite, fuses, and blasting caps she’d carried up, “you can just blow the bastards to Kingdom Come, and let the noise bring more. Lather, rinse, repeat.” It wasn’t an endless loop, but it would be a lot more fun than waiting.

Thursday, October 27, 2011 8 comments

October Horror Spotlight #3

I didn’t post last week because I was having way too much fun last Thursday. I ended up attending the Red Iris Books launch party on Twitter, conducted under the hashtag #TrickOrTweet. There was much swag and prizes — I got eBook copies — and the authors, S.M. Reine (@smreine) and Angela Kulig (@angelakulig), both ended up in the birdcage that is known as Twitter jail for excessive tweeting. As one of the other attendees put it, “it’s not a party unless someone goes to jail!”

And thus, I dedicate this week’s spotlight to the new indie imprint, Red Iris Books. Both books are available as eBooks (Kindle and Nook), and in paperback. As always, clicking a link will take you to the Amazon page for each book.

Let’s start with S.M. Reine’s Death's Hand (The Descent Series) since, as she puts it there’s more boobage on the cover. (She knows how to attract eyeballs.) 99¢ (Kindle eBook) or $12.99 (paperback), rated 5 stars on one review.

The blurb:

Policing relations between Heaven, Hell, and Earth is messy and violent, but Elise Kavanagh and James Faulkner excelled at it — until coming across a job so brutal that even they couldn't stand to see one more dead body. Now they've been pretending to be normal for five years, leaving their horrific history a dark secret. Elise works in an office. James owns a business. None of their friends realize they used to be one of the world's best killing teams.

After years of hiding, something stirs. Bodies are vanishing. Demons scurry in the shadows of the night. A child has been possessed. Some enemies aren't willing to let the secrets of the past stay dead…

And I have a feeling the former partners will be dragged out of retirement. This looks like an adult-oriented series; younger readers might enjoy her novel Six Moon Summer.

Angela Kulig’s Skeleton Lake is $2.99 for the Kindle edition. A paperback edition is available at B&N if you’re shopping the Nook Store. It’s rated 5 stars on two reviews.

The blurb:

Unsure if she's drowning or being saved, all Marlow wants to do is run away. Ensnared in a haunting love triangle, she realizes both boys have holes in their hearts—scars from loving the same girl, a girl who managed to stay dead.

Now she is being hunted for what she has become and what she never asked to be. Even as a Skeleton Marlow isn’t the worst thing in the night—she isn’t even close.

I hope you’ll support indie authors. There’s a lot of great stuff out there for not a whole lot of money — and yes, there’s not so great stuff, but it’s up to us to highlight the good stories out there.

There’s going to be one more Spotlight post, on Monday (Hallowe’en itself). If you know of a good story that needs spotlighting (even yours!), leave me a comment or email.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011 1 comment

Writing Wibbles

Oh hey! Remember when I mentioned submitting two drabbles to the Were-Traveler? They were both accepted later that evening, woohoo! I’ll post a link when I get it.

I’m in the middle of a sort of writing break. I say “sort of,” because the flipside to working when you’re staring out the window is that you’re always working. But it’s a good way to fill up 20 minutes of downtime — for example, while I was waiting for choir practice to start I wrote down a few hundred words of a scene in Pickups and Pestilence, where Caitlin talks to Delphinia. That was interesting: after a false start with the opening sentence, I was off to the races. Something that I’ve known for a while but have just now put into words: if the opening isn’t working, start with dialogue. Seems like it works for me every time.

I’ll probably come up with something for #FridayFlash. Maybe something dark, as it’s the season (and I get bigger responses from darker fiction, insert evil laugh here). Speaking of responses, I’m a little disappointed in the (lack of) response to my current #TuesdaySerial. Makes me wonder if it’s that bad, or if it’s not grabbing people the way I’d hoped. I made an ePUB of the complete story and put it on the iPad for Mrs. Fetched to read; she’s found it interesting so far but I was hoping she’d have finished and offered general feedback by now. I’d like to have a couple beta readers check it out (Mrs. Fetched is an alpha reader of sorts).

On the other hand, in the last few days I won the Grand Prize of a big pile of (autographed!) paperbacks in the #LieOrDie event, and scored a couple eBooks in the #TrickOrTweet launch party from Red Iris Books. The latter was a ton of fun — the authors both ended up in Twitter Jail (is that a bird cage?) for posting too much — and I met a couple new tweeple. Tomorrow’s October Horror Spotlight will thus be focused on Red Iris.

Having decided to take a writing break, I’ve turned back to whittling my huge to-read pile. I started with G.P. Ching’s The Soulkeepers, which by coincidence is one of the paperbacks I’ll be getting from the #LieOrDie event. It was a great story — with a flaw or two, of course. But I so identified with Jacob (the main character) that I knew he was about to do something monumentally stupid and had to put the book down for a day because I didn’t want to see! (And I was right.) Yet another book that I need to review. I might combine three reviews into a single blog post this weekend.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011 6 comments

#TuesdaySerial: Xenocide, pt 2

I combined two scenes today because they're under 1000 words combined. Hope you’re enjoying this…

Part 1

Xenocide, Episode 2

Ruth’s Sports Bar was a good place. Ruth was an ex-cop and knew cops and EMTs sometimes needed to talk about things nobody else needed (or particularly wanted) to hear about. She gave us a corner booth, away from eyes and ears.

The waitress left our beers — Sweetwater 420 for me (the name reminded me of the kid), Amber Bock for Tenesha. That kind of surprised me, I figured her to be a wine drinker.

“Well?” I asked.

Tenesha laughed. “Doc Dix looked at it like we brought him a camel. And the maintenance crew about quit when they got a whiff of the back of the ambulance!”

The mental image gave me a chuckle, too. “The sheriff called the Fibbies. I guess he didn’t want to deal with it either. They’re gonna be all over this town by tomorrow afternoon. I’m sure they’ll want you to give a statement again.”

“I oughtta just write it down and hand ‘em a piece of paper.”

“Good idea. Me, I can just hand ‘em the pictures I took and let them do the talking.”

“Y’know, that’s the last you’ll ever see of those pictures.”

“Yeah.” I didn’t mention I’d filled a keychain drive with copies of all my photos and paperwork, and slipped it above the ceiling tiles in the supply room — I trusted Tenesha, but didn’t want her getting in trouble covering for me. Sheriff Carmichael likely did something similar with the reports. The Fibs had resources that we didn’t, but that didn’t mean we wanted them stealing everything. It just might be needed.

“You know, Adler, it wouldn’t hurt to clue in that kid who called you in the first place. You know, about the FBI being in town and all.” Tenesha took a long swig from her bottle and held my eyes with her own.

“Good point. He could have let someone else find it and call it in.” I know it sounds weird, a cop going easy on a pothead. But that’s Sheriff Carmichael’s policy: his theory is if we let the little stuff go, people will cooperate better when something serious is up. My dad says that’s how it used to be: the cops would take drunk kids home to their parents instead of “miring the whole family in the legal and so-called correctional systems.” Thus, Jacob Moss and his alleged bag of weed wasn’t an issue unless he got stupid about it and made it an issue — on the other hand, we show no mercy to distributers or meth labs. It seems to work; we get tips, anonymous or otherwise, about anyone even thinking about setting up a meth lab in the county. Out of town feds aren’t likely to see things our way, though.

We finished talking shop and tried moving on to other topics. Afterward, I walked Tenesha out to her car and she kissed my cheek. I couldn’t get a commitment from her for a repeat, but she didn’t turn me down either. Which is probably how it should be in an exurban county; things can get busy.

I caught Jacob Moss on his way out of his parents’ house the next morning. He was bundled up in a black hoodie for the chilly October morning.

“What’s going on?” he asked, looking me over. I wasn’t in uniform, and driving my own car. “I’m not in some kind of trouble, am I?”

“Not any of your own making. Besides, I’m off-duty. But I need to fill you in on some stuff. Lemme give you a ride to school.”

Moss looked up the sidewalk. “Fine. But you gotta drop me off before we get there.”

“No problem.” He got in, and I got rolling. “You know that — that body you found yesterday?”

Moss looked out the side window, away from me. “Yeah. What about it?”

“The sheriff called in the FBI. They’ll probably want to talk to you. Ask you the same questions I did.”

He breathed a swear word. “I wish I never called you guys. Do the right thing, get pounded.”

“That’s why I came by. To let you know. We’re not the enemy, at least the county cops aren’t. You know that, right?” He gave me a reluctant nod. “Yeah. So the FBI is gonna walk into your house like they own the place, and they’re gonna give you funny looks because you wear baggy pants and black t-shirts, and one of ‘em might poke around in your room while the other one’s asking questions that sound like they think you did it. So… I’m not sayin’ you do, but if you got anything that you wouldn’t want Feds stumbling across, you might want to get rid of it. Okay?”

“No worry. I’m clean.” He didn’t sound like he meant it. “So when do you think they’ll come?”

“For you? I’m guessing tomorrow. Today they’ll hit town and grill my ass and confiscate the pictures I took. That’ll take ‘em all day, because they’ll ask me the same questions in like six different ways — then they’ll do the same to you tomorrow. Just stay calm, tell them what you told me, and you can call ‘em on it when they start asking you the same questions. They’ll be busy running down the list of everyone’s names on the report and talking to them tomorrow, so they won’t be in your space too long. As long as you don’t give ‘em a reason to hang around.”

Moss laughed. “Yeah. Thanks for the warning, Ossifer. You can let me out here.”


Friday, October 21, 2011 13 comments

#FridayFlash: Cody Resolute (White Pickups prequel)

A few weeks ago, Nina Pelletier posted a writing prompt on Google+: Backstory on why you (or your character) have a certain fear. That got me thinking: what is it that Cody fears, and why? But he explained it to Sondra that night they moved into the townhouses, and I thought I’d expand on that a little. I’ve added to it since it appeared on Google+ so if you saw it there you might want to re-read anyway. This happens about three years before White Pickups begins:

Cody Resolute

Cody hunched over himself in his bus seat, face buried in Second Foundation. He wasn’t really reading, but the book hid his wet eyes. A baseball cap covered his neat haircut. I did everything for her, he thought. Why did she do that to me? God, he hated these clothes. Designer stuff made him feel like a nerd, but she had gotten him to wear them. No more.

The sixth-grader sharing his battered bench seat was preoccupied, talking to the kid across the aisle, and Cody felt it safe to wipe his eyes. “Never again,” he whispered to the book. “I’ll die before I let anyone make me be someone else.” His parents approved of his new look, especially his mom, and that was gonna be a hassle. He pulled the ball cap down tighter. That haircut crap was something both parents were happy about, and going back to looking like Cody was going to be tricky. Even going back to wearing his real clothes might be a problem, but maybe he could do that a little at a time.

He closed the book and watched out the bus window for a while, letting the landscape go by in a blur. He cracked the window open, letting in a little fresh air. The bus reeked of teen hormones and sweat, a smell so familiar that hardly anyone noticed, but the April air felt good (even if her name was April).

After countless stops, starts, and turns, the bus stopped in front of the Laurel Hills subdivision; Cody and a couple other kids he didn’t know well got off and hiked to the clubhouse. One of the kids stopped to check the mail. The other was an eighth-grade girl, a cheerleader, and Cody had nothing to say to her. She had no intention of talking to a seventh-grader, but was offended that he didn’t try. I’m supposed to ignore you. You’re not even looking at me. She trailed behind his quick stride, glaring at his back. Too bad he’s not in high school, I’d talk to him. He’s kind of cute.

The clubhouse was a short walk from the entrance. Cody would wait here for the elementary school bus to bring Teri; the cheerleader’s ride wasn’t here yet and she stood fuming and fidgeting at the curb nearby. Dad bought the house in here a year ago, and it was an okay place. He had his own room, and it was cool to have a pool, even if it was here at the clubhouse — it was covered up right now, but it would be open next month. Cody peered over the privacy fence, thinking how cool it would be to ride his skateboard in there. He would love to ollie up onto the diving board and roll right into the pool if he could do it without getting caught.

“Not like I’ll ever get a chance to do that,” he mumbled, oblivious to the puzzled look the cheerleader gave him. He sat and opened Second Foundation, and soon lost himself along the edge of the galaxy, leaving girls and other problems light-years behind.

“Hey dork,” said Teri, blocking his sun. His sister was a pain in the butt, but he still kind of liked her. Usually. At least the cheerleader was long gone.

“Kaaaaaa-terrrrrrrr-aaaaaaa,” he said, rasping the name and dragging it out.

“Don’t call me that, dork!” She gave him the scowl that only an eight year old girl can give.

“Why not, Katera? It’s your name.” He grinned.

“I don’t care. It sounds stupid. I go by Teri, and you know it. Let’s go, you can read that stupid book at home.”

“It’s not a stupid book, Teri-ble,” said Cody, tucking it in his backpack. “You’re just too stupid to read it.”

“I’m tellin’ Mom you called me stupid!”


Home after school was always quiet. After putting his nerd clothes away (forever), Cody did his homework while Teri watched Cartoon Network and Nick Jr. The parents would be home in a couple hours, then — then Dad was grilling burgers for supper. Cody thought a moment.

“Hey Dad. Need some help?” Cody stuck his head through the sliding glass door to talk to his dad, who stood at the grill on the patio out back. Dad had a beer close at hand, like he always did when he was outside.

His dad gave him a puzzled look. Cody was wearing what his mom called “play clothes” until last year: plain blue jeans and a t-shirt with the school mascot. He still had the hat jammed tight over the parent-approved haircut. “Did your mom send you out here?”

“No. I figured I should learn how to grill burgers and hot dogs, if you wanna show me how. If you guys get sick or something, I could fix supper.”

“Well, sure. It’s never too early to start learning how to be self-sufficient.”

“Um... does that mean not depending on someone else?”

“You got it, son!” Cody’s dad grinned and beckoned him closer to the grill. “Okay, this is how you start. Stack the charcoal like this....”

Wednesday, October 19, 2011 No comments

Writing Wibbles

I have to admit I made little or no progress on the Pickups series this week. But I did finish a short story I started in January 2008, and actually came up with a title, Xenocide. It’s my #TuesdaySerial for the rest of the year; I kicked it off with Episode 1 yesterday. Comments (even negative ones) are always appreciated, of course. I think it’ll wrap up in the first or second week of January — by then, White Pickups should be in the eBook stores and Pickups and Pestilence should be in beta. I have a somewhat aggressive (for a guy with a day job and raising a grandkid) publishing schedule for next year: Pestilence, an anthology, and maybe a novelized version of FAR Future. If I’m really productive, maybe the first book of that YA trilogy will be out by the end of next year.

But that’s all I’ll talk about myself this post. I seem to remember seeing something about this when it hit the fan in August, but my Twitter buddy and fellow Planet Georgia denizen (and virulently anti-traditional publishing advocate) Kendall Grey reminded me about it today. The Write Lawyer weighed in on the saga of Kiana Davenport, who had the audacity to self-publish (with Amazon) an anthology to keep paying the bills while her novel was working its way through the sluggish bowels of the traditional publishing system. The publisher, Riverhead Books (a Penguin imprint), had rejected the anthology years ago but had a full-blown temper tantrum when they found out what she’d done. The editor delivered a lovely shouting session over the phone, accusing her of (among other things) “sleeping with the enemy” (i.e. Amazon). They then canceled her book and refuse to return to her the publishing rights until she returns the $20,000 advance (which she needed to pay bills and live on in the first place).

Davenport sums it up pretty well, I think, on her blog: “Sleeping with the enemy? Perhaps. But now I know who the enemy is.”

But as Kendall points out, it’s not just publishers taking far too long (to their own detriment) to adjust to the new world of self-propelled eBook publishing. After attending a local romance writers’ conference in Atlanta, she’s pretty much sworn off writers’ conferences. And, quite likely, the Planet Georgia chapter of RWA (who sponsored this conference).

All the writer conferences I’ve attended (yes, every single one) are geared for people looking for agents/editors to schmooze. … I do not belong with these people. I’m an outlier who doesn’t fit into their box. I refuse to wear their leash.

Responding to comments, of which there were many (and most supportive), Kendall did admit that there were other good things about writers’ conferences — the networking, promotional opportunities, and the like — which got me wondering. Would a writers’ conference geared toward indie- and self-publishers spark any interest? Rather than workshops on crafting the perfect query letter, what agents are looking for, and so on, the agenda could focus on topics relevant to indies:

  • Setting up an author’s site
  • Blogging stories
  • Compiling an anthology
  • Getting the formatting Just Right
  • Print on Demand
  • Promotion without driving all your friends crazy
  • …and of course, the great plotters vs. pantsers smackdown

There could also be ad hoc crit groups and a “skills exchange” — as I wrote last week, you need a good team behind you, but not everyone has the cash upfront to hire that team. But I might be a typesetting gearhead and need an editor; she has editing chops and needs a cover artist; he can produce killer cover art and needs someone to format his own book. We could all take on the parts we’re good at, and everyone gets (we hope) a quality job without breaking the bank.

Kendall thinks I ought to take this and run with it. I don’t think I have that much time on my hands. But if people think it’s a good idea, I’ll try to facilitate it. If I get a lot of response, I’ll open up a new blog or website to keep things moving.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011 3 comments

#TuesdaySerial: Xenocide, pt 1

This is a story I began in January 2008, the kind of scifi-detective mashup I've always wanted to do, and never finished. I first envisioned it as a flash, but soon realized I would need a lot more room to tell this tale. I got hung up on it, moved on to other things, but Deputy Adler was sitting in the back of my mind, waiting for a connection. Things got rolling earlier this month, taking the story from 600 to 2900 words — then I had a word-storm over the weekend, adding another 3300 words in two days. I think I have 1500–2000 words to go, and I know how it's going to end and wrap up. It won’t get left hanging, and it won’t blow up into another gigantic three-year project.

So come ride with an exurban cop on the strangest case he’ll ever see…

Xenocide, Episode 1
The Smell of Worms and Burnt Coffee

“Do I have to say it all over again?” The kid looked frustrated and nervous. “I bought a Coke up here and was gonna drink it down at the creek. I like to sit down there, y’know? It’s cool and quiet.

“So I smelled something weird, and walked down there —” he flailed a hand downstream — “and saw the body. I smelled a dead deer once, and that didn’t smell nothin’ like this. I ran back up here to the gas station and called you guys. So can I go home now?”

“Yeah,” I said. “You might have to tell it one more time, in front of a judge. But it’ll just be a deposition. You won’t have to go to court. You want a ride home?”

The kid — Jacob Moss — shook his head and got moving. Like as not, he had a little weed on him, but he wasn’t a troublemaker. If he didn’t get stupid about it, we’d never have to do business again.

“Hey, Adler. Steve.” It was Tenesha Davies, one of the EMTs. Short, black, all business, but cute as all get-out. “You gonna come down and process your crime scene so me and Ali can — we’re not sure — well. Come see for yourself.”

I ducked under the tape and took pictures of the scene, and Tenesha started talking. “Whatever that thing is down there, it’s ain’t human.” Now that we were back down at the creek, she seemed a little pale under her coffee complexion. 

“You sure? It could have been here a while.” But Moss was right: the smell was wrong. Dead people don’t smell like worms and burnt coffee. I handed Tenesha the camera and approached. The body was wrapped up in something like a blanket, with a leg sticking out. The light was tricky down here, and I suspected the leg was broken; I could see how someone might have jumped to conclusions — but Tenesha? I held my breath and flipped the blanket back.

My brain went in several different directions at once. The cop saw the telltale pattern of a shotgun blast at close range. But the college biology student saw a pattern that looked more arachnid than human: oblong body, way too many limbs, and something that sort of looked like a breathing mask. A deeper part of me just wanted to get away from that smell and that sight. A long way.

“Some kind of animal?” Tenesha said.

“Not an animal. Animals don’t wear masks and carry stuff.” I pointed to the mask and what looked like a bag underneath the body. “But you’re right, it ain’t human.”

“So what do we do with it?”

“Take it to the morgue. Let Doc Dix figure out what to do with it. Then we could get us a coffee.” I hoped. “Here, hand me the camera. I need some more shots before I process this. Can you hang around until I finish?”

“Me and Ali have to cart this thing off. We ain’t goin’ nowhere. Much as I’d like to do just about anything else.”

“Me too.” I took a shallow breath. “Can you guys keep this quiet? I don’t think we want this all over the evening news.” I paused. “Yeah, the kid will talk, but nobody’s going to take a pothead seriously.”

“I’m not sure if anyone would believe we carted a dead alien, for that matter. But yeah, we’ll keep it quiet. Human or not, this is a crime scene.” She smiled. “Maybe we’ll need something a little stronger than coffee.”


Friday, October 14, 2011 15 comments

#FridayFlash: On the Georgia Road 4

If you missed any of the others in this irregular serial, they’re here:

#1: the commuter
#2: interstate patrol
#3: lake property house-sitters

“And now for your ‘Viewer Feedback.’ We’ve received a lot of email concerning Sean McKinzie’s ‘On the Georgia Road’ series. Most of the responses have been positive, and Keri B. of Decatur is typical:”

Cut to: mail animation. Paper springs from letter, text fades in. Marcia voiceover: “Please give my thanks to Sean McKinzie for such an informative series. We’ve been putting off our annual camping trip in the North Georgia mountains, since we’ve been concerned about safety, but it looks like there’s really nothing to worry about. Thanks again!”

Cut to: Marcia. “Those who gave our coverage a thumbs-down fell into two camps. Steve L. of Norcross is one example:”

Cut to: mail animation. Marcia voiceover: “This drivel is typical of the happy-babble that TV news has been for decades. Shame on you for trivializing the very real hardships that people in Unincorporated areas have to face every day! If you want to know the real story, you could talk to my brother. He and his family escaped, and are living with me now.”

Cut to: Marcia. “Bobby J. of Marietta was also negative, but for a very different reason:”

Cut to: mail animation. Marcia voiceover: “Count on the media to exaggerate problems. No government interference, and you get a $5000 tax credit on top of that? If someone in Unincorpated [sic] territory wants to trade places, get in touch!”

Cut to: Marcia. Ironic smile. “It’s good to know we haven’t lost our knack for simultaneously trivializing and exaggerating the issues. And now, doing two opposite things at once, it’s Sean McKinzie, ‘On the Georgia Road’ in Milledgeville. Sean?”

Cut to: Sean, exterior, trailer park. “Thanks, Marcia. Rather than venturing into Unincorporated Georgia, today we’re in Milledgeville, in the heart of the Georgia Quadrangle. Milledgeville is a boom town these days, due to the number of people relocating from Unincorporated areas.”

Cut to: view of trailers. Sean voiceover: “The Baldwin County Fairgrounds is now home to the largest Relocation Center in the state. Many people leaving Unincorporated areas move in with friends and relatives while looking for work, whether in Atlanta or any of the other metro areas along the corners of the Quadrangle. Those who don’t have that option often come either here or to a similar Center in Statesboro.”

Cut to: interior, office. Title: Kwame Grammer, FEMA Director, Milledgeville Relocation Center. “People choose to relocate for many reasons, but most of them boil down to either health or economics. People with chronic health issues need to be near stocked and staffed medical facilities. Others need work.”

“Understood. But why FEMA?”

“The federal government considers chronic energy shortages to be an extended emergency. After a natural disaster, like an earthquake or hurricane, resources are often unavailable — and in the Unincorporated areas, resources are nearly always unavailable.”

Cut to: stock shot, office workers. Sean voiceover: “Upon arrival at a Relocation Center, people’s skill sets are entered into a database and matched with open jobs. Most, of course, don’t find a match right away. But some skills, such as healthcare, have more positions open than people. In general, people with college educations can find work in their field while lower-skilled positions have plenty of people to fill them. But for some, jobs aren’t the primary issue.”

Cut to: interior, elderly woman. Title: Janice Pernal / relocated from Rome GA. “Even if there was gas, I haven’t been able to drive for a long time now. My church brought me groceries and took me places, and made sure I had firewood for the winter. But I got sick about when they stopped bringing fuel, and it got harder for them to look after me like they did just when I needed to see a doctor. The preacher-man talked me into coming here, and they brought me to Atlanta. The gov’mint folks carried me down here from there.

“I get to missin’ my old home, though. They tell me I won’t live too long without healthcare, but I might just find a way home anyway. If I can pass away in my old place, amongst the memories I have there, I don’t think that would be so bad.”

Cut to: exterior, young man talking. Sean voiceover. “For most, relocating comes down to one thing: economics.”

Title: Ray Beckwith, electrician / relocated from Hiawassee GA. “Even with the tax credit, I wasn’t gettin’ enough work where I could drive around to the jobs. Some of us were pooling our money and takin’ a truck down to Gainesville once every coupla weeks for groceries, but the gas started costin’ more than the groceries. Then someone siphoned the gas outta the truck, and we were SOL. I got lucky, FEMA hired me on to take care of wiring here in the trailer park. The kids are catchin’ up with their schoolwork, and we got lights. You don’t know how big a deal that is until you don’t have ‘em for a while. The trailer’s about the same size as the one we lived in up in Hiawassee, so we got room at least.”

Cut to: exterior, middle-aged couple, Sean voiceover. “Rarely, some who leave their Unincorporated homes behind decide they were better off where they were.”

Title: Frankin and Sarah Burke, Toccoa GA. “Sure, it’s rough up there. Don’t hardly get no power, can’t find work, so we thought we’d come give this a try. Yeah, the lights come on and all, but we’re crowded in with a bunch of folks we don’t know and we still can’t find work. People in town look at you like you’re a bleep. The FEMA people helped get us a loan against our tax credit so we can get some solar things to run our lights. We got a good garden at home, we’ll get by.”

Cut to: exterior, trailer park, Sean. “The Burkes tell us they’ll invite us up some time, to see how they’re doing. Until then, in Milledgeville, I’m Sean McKinzie.”

Thursday, October 13, 2011 No comments

October Horror Spotlight #2

Welcome to the second spotlight post. Here’s a few more books for your reading enjoyment. (If you’re running an ad-blocker, you might need to turn it off for farmanor.blogspot.com to see the links for some reason.)

Dark Tomorrows is a collection of short horror stories by various authors. Reviews on Amazon are divided equally among “love it!” and “hate it!” for some reason. I’m in the “love it!” camp, giving it five stars. You can see my review under my real name on Amazon if you want the full monty.

Three of the stories stood out in my mind, perhaps the three longest ones. I felt like one story — Amanda Hocking’s “The Second Coming of Pippykins” — didn’t really belong in here. Not because it was a bad story, it just wasn’t a piece of dark fiction. It was actually humorous to me. Her other story, “Of Shoes and Doom,” was also chuckle-worthy but still dark. If her other work is this amusing, I’ll have to try reading some of her novels.

I got Dark Tomorrows when it was free, but it went back to being 99¢ last night — just in time for it to get the Horror Spotlight treatment. It’s definitely worth the pittance, in my opinion.

Now on to the stories I’ve been pointed toward this week…

Fear in Words, Vol. 1 (The Stories) by Jason Darrick is another anthology. Darrick bills it as “Five short horror stories. Each is unique in the fear it brings, some cerebral, some more visceral.”

This one is also 99¢, and gathering rave reviews (all 4- and 5-star) so far.

No Laughing Matter by Jim Bronyaur is a novella about a murdered clown that won’t stay dead. Now that’s a scary premise. Some people are afraid of living clowns… an undead clown is like triple the terror.

One (4-star) review so far. Sounds like plenty of shivers for 99¢.

Who gets the spotlight next week? That’s up to you. Let me know about horror from an indie author (even if you’re the author) and I’ll put it in the queue!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011 2 comments

Writing Wibbles

I’m a few hundred more words into Pickups and Pestilence, which is that much closer to putting the finishing touches on this project. I’m enjoying the part I’m working on now, leading up to Cody’s final showdown with the trucks and their creator’s proxy. You ever get that kind of blockage where you know what you want to write, and can even recite some of the passages in your head, but just can’t seem to get it down on paper? But once you get that first sentence down, the rest just pours out like syrup.

Actually preparing to self/indie-publish a novel has called to mind a particular scene from Mason’s favorite movie, Cars. After the first race, the retiring veteran The King (voiced by Richard Petty himself) tries to give some advice to the vainglorious rookie Lightning McQueen: “This ain’t a one-man deal, kid… you ain't gonna win unless you got good folks behind you.”

And yes, that’s how writing is like NASCAR. The driver, or author, is the one whose name is plastered on the car (book). And that’s the person who gets cheered or booed — the pit crew or editor can screw up or save the day, but they’re rarely (or ever) named. The NASCAR driver has mechanics and engineers who optimize the car for each race, has a pit crew to get the car back out on the track, and (especially at the big-money Nextel Cup and Grand National levels) has sponsors providing funding. In the same way, a successful author is the most visible member of a team that includes beta readers, editors, cover designers, typesetters, and (again, at the big-money levels) publishers who turn a story into a book. Now some authors, especially at the indie level, might do their own cover design or typesetting (which translates to eBook formatting in this century), and many people are their own publishing house. But it’s when authors or drivers go in thinking it’s a one-person show, that things don’t go so well. There are no guarantees — drivers and authors alike can land a big sponsor or publisher, and still end up at the back of the pack — but “[getting] good folks behind you” is necessary to do well both on the track and in the Kindle Store, Nook Store, iBooks, or Smashwords.

On the really short end of story telling, Maria Kelly’s The Were-Traveler is looking for submissions for a Hallowe’en Drabble issue. A “drabble” is a story that runs exactly 100 words, no more no less. As Maria puts it, “The trick to writing a good drabble is a great twist ending. Give me that, and you’re in.” I managed to come up with two and sent them in. I never wrote a drabble before (deliberately, at least), so I hope I did OK. The page I linked to itself links to submission guidelines and the preferred word-count tool — yes, different word counters can and do come up with different results. My own metric of “leave three blank lines on a Moleskine page” gets it in the ballpark, anyway. If you want to give it a shot, the deadline is October 20th (extended from the 10th, which was good for me because I only figured out the subjects of my drabbles on the 10th).

Tomorrow is the second October Indie Horror Spotlight. I don’t see any reason (right now) to not have it up on time this week.

Monday, October 10, 2011 6 comments

Let There Be Light

Tonya HardingYou know I wouldn’t pass up a chance to re-use this picture, right?

Tuesday evening, I was playing with Mason under his bed for a few minutes. When I went to get up, I put my left knee down on the register grate… then put my entire weight on that knee. HURT I limped around for a few minutes until the pain went away and didn’t think much of it.

Until that night, when it hurt enough to wake me up. Ibuprofen was my friend then and for the next two nights. It never got to the point where I couldn’t walk on it, or needed my friend Reality the crutch, but I didn’t like it much. From then until Friday afternoon, when the pain subsided, I didn’t do much tweeting, blogging, or writing. I’d planned to post yesterday’s October Horror Spotlight on Thursday, but it was one of the casualties of the week.

So when I got home from work on Friday, I got crackin’ on my #FridayFlash and got it posted.

But Saturday brought new issues to the fore. Ever since the fluorescent fixture in our bathroom crapped out again last winter, we’ve been getting by with a lamp on the vanity. It hasn’t been a wonderful workaround — it gave just enough light to be useful, but took up space and we kept trying to flip the switch. We finally decided to do something about it and picked up a new fixture at Home Despot.

As with any project, I realized I needed more parts once I actually got started, not to mention getting the wrong parts for the next thing, so back I went. With everything I needed, the actual job took less time than the round trips needed to get the stuff. (I took the picture with auto-exposure set to −2 so the light wouldn’t blow out the whole picture.)

A less annoying, but still necessary project, completed the electrical work at FAR Manor. One of the dimmers in the living room wasn’t working right, and I decided to get something that didn’t have a large protruding knob that Mason or Skylar could put a lot of sideways force on. What I really wanted were the new touch-plate dimmers, but they didn’t have any rated to work with dimmable CFL or LED bulbs. So I settled on sliders with rocker switches.

One of the things I got on my second trip was a wall plate and a 3-way switch. It turns out that they don’t have a wall plate with two big rectangular cutouts (slider size) and one small (regular switch size). So I replaced the working switch with a rocker so I could get a plate to fit them all.

Unlike the bathroom light, where I just had to turn off a switch to have safe working conditions, we had to find the breakers for the dimmers. Once that was accomplished, I got to work… OH $#¡+ the 3-way switch was on another circuit we hadn’t shut off! Mrs. Fetched fixed that by hitting the main breaker, and I got that job finished without any further tingly zappage.

So I have a good dimmer and a good 3-way switch in the parts drawer now. I think I know where I want to put the dimmer…

Sunday, October 09, 2011 2 comments

October Horror Spotlight #1

If I don’t do this now, I’ll feel guilty about it all week. I was planning to have this one ready for Thursday, but I managed to hurt my knee by putting all my (not insubstantial) weight on it while it was resting on a register on Tuesday evening while playing with Mason under his bed. It hurt enough that I couldn’t even blog about it, and I blog about everything. The pain faded to background level some time Friday evening, in time to get a (late) #FridayFlash done.

So, without further ado… it’s time to spotlight some horror fiction by indie authors. Even with repeated begging on Twitter, I had to mostly dig up (haha) this week’s entries on my own. Maybe people will understand I’m serious about this and help me out the rest of the month. Prices listed are for Kindle eBooks. If you have a Nook or other eReader, I’m sure many of these titles are also available on Smashwords as well.

Here be Monsters — a free anthology of horror. The author list includes two Twitter friends of mine, S.M. Reine and Jeremy Shipp.

Seed (Ania Ahlborn) — Here’s a creepy little tale that will keep you reading. I owe Ania a full review, so I won’t go any farther here. Of the (so far) 92 reviews on Amazon, well over half of them are 5 star and there are very few ratings less than 4 stars. For a 99¢ eBook, that's saying something.

From Dark Places (Emma Newman) — UK author Emma Newman, aka @EmApocalyptic on Twitter, brings us an anthology of dark fiction. If you prefer to read from paper, that option is open as well. ($4.99)

Season Of The Harvest (Michael R. Hicks) — Murder and interstellar intrigue around genemod food? This sounds like a fascinating story, and I’ll grab it myself once I work down my current “to-read” pile. Another book whose Amazon ratings are top-heavy with 5- and 4-star reviews. ($2.99)

Don't Fear the Reaper (Michelle Muto) — This sounds like an interesting story, dealing with the afterlife for suicides. Of the 5 reviews on Amazon so far, every single one is 5 stars. ($2.99)

All right — if you’re an indie writer, and you want your day on the blog, email me at FARfetched58 at aim dot com.

Friday, October 07, 2011 14 comments

#FridayFlash: What Is Due

I injured my knee mid-week, and it wouldn’t let me write. This is an excerpt from a longer short story, which also features one of the two main characters from Chasing a Rainbow The Crossover. I guess I need to get crackin’ and finish that story so I can share it with you.

What Is Due

The trap was laid, and Lodrán calmed his breathing. Damned-fool Easterners, he thought, never cheat a man in his own home. But they were making enough noise to draw attention to themselves; stomping and chattering preceded them up the stone-lined corridors. As a practitioner of the Silent Art, especially one who earned his pay in the ancient warrens beneath Ak’koyr, Lodrán knew the value of quiet.

“You are paying weregild for our brothers, Edrac?” were the first clear words Lodrán heard as they approached. Edrac’s hired swords had lost nearly half their number to the rouvanth who guarded what Edrac sought, and they carried their fallen comrades homeward. Torchlight flickered; Lodrán could now see his hands but the rope that made his trap was invisible. He backed down the side passage a little farther.

“It wasn’t I who killed them,” Edrac replied. “But to keep the peace — shall we say, ten gold octagons for each?”

“Seems fair,” one of the swordswomen said. “If you pay us,” another growled.

“Everyone will be paid,” Edrac sighed. “We cut out the locksmith, after all. Extra for all of us.” The torchlight shone down the corridor where Lodrán squatted, a shadow among shadows. “Speaking of the locksmith, I expected him by now.”

“Maybe something ate him,” one of the men chortled. Several others laughed, as the last torch passed the opening. Lodrán scuttled to the intersection, staying to the shadows.

“Hey, how much longer?” one of them complained. “I never knew Tisiph was so heavy...” Now Lodrán was behind them. He picked up each end of the rope and stood in the center of the hallway.

Now. He snapped both ends of the rope, hard. One, two, three, pull!

“Hey!” “Look out!” “What—” CRASH! Lodrán pulled harder, then dropped the rope and dived back into the side passage. His imagination described what he could not see: the swords leading the way had their feet pulled backwards. They fell kicking, unbalancing those behind them. These dropped their fallen comrades and fell back themselves, in a chain reaction.

“Lodrán!” Edrac snapped, clambering over his hirelings. “You should have stayed where you were, you fool.” The mage wore a cruel smile, squinting down the side passage, looking for Lodrán. “Where are you, you son of a whore? It doesn’t matter, we’ll see you,” and began a spell.

Lodrán reacted quickly. The safehouse master had only one thing to say about fighting a mage: a knife or spear will stop any spell, if you throw fast enough. Lodrán was fast. His knife hissed, and Edrac cried out, clutching his thigh and moaning.

“I only want what is due me,” Lodrán said to the wall, making his voice echo down both sides of the corridor. “Throw it down here and go your way.”

A crossbow quarrel hissed by and clattered down the hall past Lodrán. “What stops us from coming for you now?” one of the swordsmen growled.

“Nightwalk is my home,” Lodrán replied, “Follow me and you’ll die. You might find me, but thirst will find you. Care to try?”

No reply. Edrac gasped and spat. “Help me up, damn you,” he groaned.

“Don’t try another spell,” Lodrán warned. “You won’t survive it.”

Edrac smiled, though he must be hurting — Lodrán’s knife had pierced his thigh, far too close to the most vital spot of all. “No, no more spells. Consed, put twenty gold octagons and that ring in a sack. Yes, that ring. Now throw it down there.” The sack clinked on the floor, close to Lodrán. “So everything is as it was agreed upon?”

Lodrán snatched up the sack, squeezing it to keep the octagons from clinking and giving away his position. He reached into the bag and touched the ring, not daring to take it out and possibly having it glint in the dim torchlight. He felt a gaudy piece of jewelry intended to distract from the true treasure, a scroll that tingled his hands before he passed it to Edrac. “Yes,” he said quickly, and pocketed his pay.

“Good,” Edrac purred, then spat again. “Now you have your due. How will you spend it?”

“Eh?” Lodrán kept his responses short, seeing two of the swords step into the corridor, raising torches. He squinted to keep his eyes from giving him away.

“We’ll wait here for you — after all, we’re between you and the way out, hey? Sooner or later, something will flush you out. We won’t have to chase you anywhere.”

Lodrán sighed. The two swords started down the hall, but a word from Edrac stopped them. They settled down to wait, weapons ready, while another tended Edrac’s wound.

About fifteen minutes into the vigil, the swords’ patience ran dry and they ventured down the passageway. They found a chalk drawing of a Hand, one outstretched finger pointing down the passage. “The Hand that Points the Way!” Edrac hissed. “He has another way out! After him!” He wove a spell that lightened their load and they moved swiftly. Farther along, another Hand pointed the way, and another.

They raced through the switchbacking passageways until, stiff and sore from the effects of Edrac’s spell, they came to a door. This door was marked with a Hand showing a different finger outstretched; none of them needed Edrac to explain this particular rune. They opened the door — and blinked as the daylight of Sunside filtered down a stairway. At the top, a lone figure looked down and then was gone.

Monday, October 03, 2011 1 comment

Indie Author Horror Month!

A few years ago, I celebrated October by posting links to classic horror movies found on archive.org. This year, I’m arbitrarily proclaiming October to be Indie Author Horror Month. I should have started doing this last month, but I only thought about it today. Better late than never, right?

To celebrate, I’m going to post a list of horror fiction by indie authors. I want to support indie authors, because I’ll soon be one myself (hoping this very month!) and I think it’s the right thing to do in any case. So here’s a chance to plug your book!

  1. Let me know about a book or story you want spotlighted! Authors are welcome to send in their own work, and everyone else is welcome to make suggestions too. Books, eBooks, and blog fiction are welcome. (If I get reader suggestions for any title, I’ll mention that.) Message me on Twitter at FARfetched58, or email lkollar at gmail dot com — or just leave a comment here if you’re in a hurry. If you email, put “Horror Spotlight” in the Subject title. If I get a bigger response than expected, I’ll use that to set up a Gmail tag. Include a link so people can buy the book, if applicable.
  2. Let other writers know about this. Tweet it, Facebook it, Plus it, spread it around in forums. Include a link back here, or to…
  3. On Thursdays, I’ll post — then you can buy or download the books that interest you! (I’ll probably run links through my Amazon affiliate account so I’ll make a few cents too. Yeehaw.)

Note that there’s no requirement about following me on Twitter, or following my blog, to participate. But I sure won't object if you want to follow either or both. ;-)

If I get a halfway decent response with this, I’ll spotlight another genre (thinking sci-fi right now) in January.

Way Out West

Technically, this wasn't an “Escape from FAR Manor” — my employer has an office in Beaverton OR, and they wanted me to attend the Author-it training the writers out there were getting. Fortunately, we have something set up with a travel agency, and they took care of making the derangements (including changing my name on the plane tickets to match what’s on my driver’s license). It’s been like six years since I had to get on a plane, and several things have changed since then — like fees for just about everything including checked baggage. Since you’re allowed two carry-on bags (one luggage and one “personal item” such as a computer bag), I put my clothes in a soft-sided bag and loaded up the laptop bag with other things.

So Monday morning, I bolted out the door a little later than planned since I was trying to take care of a panic-mode glitch in one of Mrs. Fetched’s video projects — leaving behind the credit card I’d planned to use for incidentals such as the hotel room and rental car. Fortunately, I’d stopped for lunch just a little ways down the road and was able to call someone to bring it to me.

It’s difficult to find a non-stop flight from Atlanta to Portland, and nearly impossible to find one that fits the corporate travel budget, so I had an hour and a half layover in Chicago. O’Hare is undergoing a lot of reconstruction right now, so things are a little strange. For the first time in my experience, they rolled stairs up to the plane and we got off outside. Cool! Getting to the next gate took about a third of my layover time. It was going to be a long leg to Portland — around five hours — so I asked the guy at the United desk whether the inflight meal was worth paying for. “The food itself is okay,” he said, “but you don’t get very much.” He proceeded to suggest a place just down the hall that made great hot sandwiches, and I took his advice. It was an early supper, but it was going to be a long evening (made even longer by shifting three time zones west).

On the plane, I suddenly realized I’d left my crappy feature phone in the terminal. A flight attendant told me there was time for me to go grab it, but another one brought it in and asked if anyone had lost a phone. I was of two minds: 1) Whew! 2) Can’t get rid of it, it followed me onto the plane! I suspect if I’d left an iPhone behind, I’d have never seen it again. We left without further incident, and I spent the flight reading and listening to my iPod.

In Portland, the nice young woman at the Hertz rental counter gave me directions to the hotel — or rather, directions to the exit I needed to take. The hotel turned out to be a few blocks off the road, and I stumbled across our office while looking for it. I finally stopped and called the front desk and got directions. The room was labeled “kid-friendly” — it had a little table for kids to sit and draw or play board games, there were cute decorations all over… Mason would have loved it, but I had it all to myself.

Mason and Dutch
Mason and Dutch
For me, the high point of the trip was meeting Janet, a regular on Andi’s blog, and her husband Wayne. They lived just a few miles away, so we managed to get together the last evening I was there at a local Thai restaurant. They plied me with gifts for Mason (really cool folks!) and sent me back with most of the leftovers. I didn’t do much exploring other than that, just spent a lot of uninterrupted evening time writing. I pretty much stayed jet-lagged the entire week, waking up at 4am every morning.

The second-to-high point was the first leg of the trip home. The TSA people in Portland actually smile and talk to you; I asked one if there was a problem bringing my lunch through security. “No,” he said with a grin, “but you might have to share!” I didn’t have to, but there was plenty. The first leg of this trip was to Seattle, on Horizon/Alaska Air. Not only did they roll the staircases out like in Chicago, it was a twin turbo-prop! I hadn’t flown on a prop plane since college, in the days of North Central/Republic Airlines. More cool! They used two staircases, which made boarding a lot less congested than usual. We got in the air, and they brought beverages around. Including… free beer! I LOVE THIS AIRLINE! I did ask them if they planned to serve Atlanta any time soon (doesn’t sound like it, drat).

Finally, the long flight to Atlanta on Delta. And here was a surprise: every leg, both ways, was on a different plane. The Boeing 757 was easily the most cramped from a passenger standpoint, while still being the largest. Even the Bombardier prop-job was more comfortable. I read a lot, catnapped, and generally endured until we landed. Delta’s gone downhill in a lot of ways in the last 20 years.

With the unresolved jet-lag, at least I didn’t have to readjust when I got home.


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