Friday, 27 January 2012

Thirty Ninth Friday Flash: The Travel Agent

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He was itching to go somewhere, anywhere away from his humdrum life, somewhere with colour and life. Most of all he wanted to get away from his boss and family, who never seemed to give him a break. They always had some demand or other, that was when he spotted an “Anytime, Any Place” travel agent sign. The sign looked old and peeling, but it was still more appealing than the razzle-dazzle travel agent next door. He went up the stairs to the small offices. An old woman in a tie dye t-shirt and flowery dress greeted him from behind her desk. The walls were plastered with travel memorabilia from around the world.

She smiled and rubbed her hands together. “Tea?”

“Oh, yes please!”

The lady prepared the tea.

“That's a Sylvanian tea strainer isn't it?”

“Yes, very good eye, I collect them.”

“I collect a few myself.”

“Excellent, milk?”

“Just a spot.”

She expertly tipped the pint of milk to deliver the desired amount.

With tea in hand she got down to business. “So I understand you need a break?”

“I would love one.”

“Anything in mind?”

“Somewhere where I can do my my own thing,” Joe replied sipping his tea.

“Somewhere where you can feel like somebody?”


“Then I have the perfect place for you.”

“Tell me more.”

“I will do better, I will show you.”

He put down his half finished tea and followed her to a door behind her desk, a very plain door that had a pentagram carved into it.

"What's that symbol for?"

"Oh the previous tenants, they were a bit kooky."

"It must have been a long time ago."

“A very long time ago, but we don't have time to dilly-dally, now close your eyes.”

“That's silly.”

“It won't work If you don't.”

He shrugged and closed his eyes. She took his hand and they took a step forward through the door, there was a lot of rushing wind sounds.

“Do not open your eyes!”

He scrunched his eyes up tighter. A few moments later he could smell and hear horses.

“Go on, open them.”

He was in a carriage, a grand and ornate carriage. “Where are we?”

“Godollo, Hungary, you're on your way to your palace.”

“My palace?”

“Yes, indeed. There are some drawbacks though.”

His stomach dropped. “Yes? It's all a dream isn't it? You drugged my tea?”

“No, no, very much real,” she replied with a laugh. A very deep laugh that made Joe drawback a little.

“You're now the eighteen year old Empress Elizabeth, and will suffer a tragic death.”

He looked down, his arms were milky and delicate and he was wearing a golden dress. “When?”

“Many years from now.”

Elizabeth smiled. “It doesn't seem bad to me.”

“It doesn't, but once you're done you will be my servant forever.”

“Not burn in hell?”

“Nah, that's just a myth, but believe me it's no vacation.”

She shrugged, “I can live with that, but say what happened to the previous Elizabeth? Not hurt or anything I hope?”

“Oh, not at all, she will be back any second now to take back control of her body.”

“No! You can't!”

Joe felt helpless and horrified as he lost control, he could feel every sense, but not control any of them.”

The old woman smiled wickedly. “Enjoy the ride!”

Monday, 23 January 2012

House of Fear, M is for Monster and PULP! (Summer/Fall 2011) - Short Story Collections Progress Review Part 3

Here's a continuation of the reviews I'm doing of the books I won earlier this year via the #coffinhop and Kamvision review blog. I'm reviewing 3-4 stories of each book per blog post.

I've included website details of the writers where I could find them. I will also be posting the reviews on Goodreads (If you're one of the writers involved and I didn't link you, please let me know and I will).

Part One and Part Two

House of Fear:

Hortus Conclusus by Chaz Brenchley

It's about a group of friends who go help the mother of a deceased friend clean up a disused garden, and it doesn't take long before strange things start to happen. Things that prove that maybe their friend's spirit hasn't yet departed. While I enjoyed the story, I think it could have been a bit more scarier, but I don't think it was the aim of the story, because it left me feeling uneasy, like you should be doubly sure you treat people with respect while they're alive otherwise it might come back to haunt you.

The Dark Space in the House in the House in the Garden at the Centre of the World by Robert Shearman

Being a Dr Who writer (mentioned in the foreword before the story) I knew this story was going to be a little different and I wasn't disappointed. Cindy and Steve are forbidden from going to the centre of the forest, but predictably they don't listen. Being passive aggressive God is disappointed, but he does little to punish them, only
warning them not to go into the attic. And so the story goes on with its many twists and turns. It's the sort of story Alice would be proud of. The overall tone was compelling and it felt like a breeze to read.

The Muse of Copenhagen by Nina Allan

Nina has a done a great job of writing from the male perspective, normally you can tell quite easily that a writer is a bit out of their depth. Johnny gets a strange call from his uncle stating that he doesn't have long to live and when he inherits his childhood home he should get rid of it as soon as possible. Johnny goes over, but he soon gets caught up on childhood memories and doesn't want to get rid of any of it. Then his trip into the village changes everything and quickly decides to sell, but it's too late, he is not alone.

An Injustice by Christopher Fowler

A group of friends decide to go ghost hunting. Max, Ali and Shape. Max is the serious one and is in love with Ali and she doesn't know it, because she's too busy trying to get into Shape's pants and Shape doesn't care because he's only in it for the moment and will do anything to piss off his upright parents. Finding a possible ghost in the wrong side of town they stalk and soon discover that it's not all as it seems. A great story that ties in modern events quite nicely.

The Room Upstairs - Sarah Pinborough

The story had a laid back feel to it. A man casing out the town waiting for his accomplice to arrive, but soon gets distracted when something upstairs in the B and B he's staying in makes an awful racquet every night. He confront the other guest and landlady, but they know nothing. It soon reaches a stage where he can't take it any more and goes and finds out for himself. He finds something that makes him realize he should maybe change his ways.

M is for Monster

J by J.C. Andrijeski

As stated in an Amazon review the start of this story is a bit of a jumble, but the rest of it makes up for it. A squad of marines find an odd man in a cave, a man who doesn't give a straight answer, things soon descend into chaos and a monster shows up.

K by Bec Zugor

One of my favourites of the anthology. It had quirkiness to it that was quite compelling. People are dying from drinking too much water during a heatwave, the MC tries to deny that he knows what is going on, but he soon has to face reality that something from his past has caught up with him. Would make a great low budget film.

L by AJ French

Rozz encounters a bagboy who wants a kilo of drugs, and things soon get even more bizzare when the bagboy turns out to be quite wealthy and lives in a Adams Family style mansion. Being a Frasier fan I kept on imagining the MC was Frasier's producer Rozz, which made things even more weird, but in a good way. With his steadyish girlfriend Marie by his side he soon discovers the bagboy is into even more dangerous things than drugs.

M by Jeffrey Sorensen

A group of friends go out to stay in a cabin in the woods. A recipe for disaster in almost every story. The story jumps right into the action and pretty much stays there the whole way through without feeling tired. There's a monster outside that only one of them has seen it, A monster that has already killed one of their friends. With a fast pace things soon reach boiling point.

PULP! Summer/Fall 2011

It seems this book will be finished a lot sooner than the other two, so will wrap things up for this volume in Part 4.

James and the Gentry by Kevin Lauderdale

Quite enjoyed this story. Had a light-hearted feel to it, Reggie, a gentleman and his valet James are thrown into a spot of bother when James rescues a faerie from a bull, a princess no less and as per custom she is no indebted to him and they must get married, and as breathtaking as she is he just doesn't feel it and doesn't want to live in the faerie world, and not only that a past flame of his is betrothed to his best friend Flippy, with limited time they have to figure out how to escape the marriages. I enjoyed the James character the most and hope to stumble across more of his stories in the future.

Radon's Daughter by Julie Jansen

This story had an ethereal/noir feel to it. Detective Weatherford is investigating a case involving a cashed cheque, but everyone in the bar says she should leave saying she's in for more than she bargained for. It's not long before she discovers the cause of her problems, a possessed pinball machine that compels people to play it until they disappear. A mystery she will need all the the help she can get to solve.

The Ball C Griffiths Knowles

I liked the characters in the story and the writing itself, but the plot of the story was a little dull to be honest, it felt like an interlude between grander/more action type scenes in a novel. A sky captain sends his wife into flirt with a prince and get information about a possible invasion, but he soon regrets it when he sees how friendly things get. He falls apart, but luckily his friends and his wife keep things on track until there's unexpected development. I think Mr Knowles should develop this into a novel, I think it would work quite nicely. Especially with how popular steampunk is at the moment.

A Reversal of his Fortunes by J Boyer (I couldn't find any site linked to J Boyer)

The MC is a hitman and he has a dinner appointment with his client. What follows is a polite stand off between the two characters, while compelling it could have been more intense. Without giving more of the story away that's about all I can say.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Thirty Eighth Friday Flash: The Classroom

Melvin gripped the steering wheel hard, he felt like a fool. Maybe it was all in his head? Maybe she didn't like him at all?

He looked out the window, it was threatening to rain. He grabbed the gifts from the passenger seat and dashed from the car, holding them tightly to his chest. If he remembered correctly she normally stayed after school to clean up. Trembling at the door he knocked.

“Come in!”

There were a few kids at their desks. She looked up.

She sighed. “Oh Melvin! Again?”

“I brought this for you.” He placed a gift box and an envelope in front of her.

One of the kids sniggered.

“Thanks lovely, but it was 30 years ago, we were young, things have changed.”

“But we can recapture it, I know we can.”

She got up and gently placed the items into his hands. “So, how did you escape this time?”

“I locked the nurse in the bathroom,” he said scuffing his slippers on the floor.

“Class dismissed!”

“Yay!” shouted the kids, they snatched up their things and I ran out.

She took his hand, “Come, I'll take you home.”

Monday, 16 January 2012

Review of Larry Kollar's Xenocide


Being an avid fan of Larry's Friday Flash fiction I knew I had to get Xenocide when it came out and I wasn't disappointed. So here's my review and if you have .99c laying around please do yourself a favour and grab a copy. 10c per 1000 words is a bargain if you ask me.

"Larry has the rare ability to make his characters and situations feel lifelike, for instance even though the murder victim is an alien the characters aren't running around screaming thinking they had lost their minds, they approached the situation rationally and logically. Granted some people wouldn't be able to handle it, but being a cop and an EMT they've seen their fair share of odd things.

Overall I thought the story was nicely paced, the characters were interesting and the X-Files references made me smile."

Grab it from Amazon here

Friday, 13 January 2012

Thirty Seventh Friday Flash: The Bathroom

Lucy waddled into the bathroom with a mug of coffee in her hand, her pink fluffy slippers slapping on the floor. She placed it down next to her husband's DIY handbook.

“Much luck?”

“Still leaking, pass me the spanner.”

“Yes, dear.” She leaned down, her dressing gown getting a little wet.

“Don't dear me, if you didn't spend all our money on those stupid shoes we could have had that new bathroom fitted like we had planned.”

“They were on sale, besides I earn more than you and you know it.”

Her husband grunted something and mumbled under his breath.

“What did you say?” Her hands shaking, she was so sick of all the fighting.

“I said you're just as useless as your mother.”

Lucy kicked the steaming mug of coffee over.

“Ah!” There was a dull thud. Her husband's legs twitched, then there was utter silence.

Blood mixed with the spilled coffee, with trembling hands she checked for a pulse. There was none. She plopped down on the wet floor, quietly sobbing.

Would they believe it was an accident? Would they let her wear her new shoes in prison?

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Thirty-Sixth Friday Flash - The Station

Advil was sure everyone thought she was strange searching every inch of the floor with a magnifying glass. She doubled checked her watch, yes it was the right time and date. The eye strain was giving her a headache, popping a few pills, she downed them with some water. Holding the water bottle to her forehead to cool herself down she spotted something. Passing the water bottle to her assistant Tom she grabbed the magnifying glass and had a closer look.

It was a little red spot. Maybe the prophecies were true? Maybe her research wasn't for nothing?

”This is it Tom!” She swapped the magnifying glass for a pick axe. Tom backed away. Widening her stance she took a swing at the red spot, smashing a few tiles with the first blow.

Everyone turned around and stared.

Advil swung again, some of the tile came away and the red spot grew bigger.

A security guard approached.

“Keep him back Tom!”

Tom pulled out a badge. “Halt! This is a vital FBI mission, stay back.”

“Pull the other one pal, I saw you rock up in a rust bucket, you're just a bunch of crazy kooks,” replied the security guard hotly.

“So says the rent-a-cop.”

“Why you!”

But the confrontation was cut off by gasps. The red and smelly stuff was gushing from the hole. People screamed and ran away. Advil was covered head to toe with the stuff.

“What is it?” asked a finely dressed old man.

Advil laughed. “The red one, he is coming!”

“You're wrong, I'm already here.”

The old man snapped his fingers. The gooey red stuff burst into flames.

There was a loud bang. “No dreaming in class!”

Advil sat up to attention and wiped the drool from her mouth. She had to stop watching those late night horror movies.

** My fantasy novel Zoolin Vale is currently free for Kindle (weekend only) US UK