Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tuesday for Tuesday, 1.3

Today is the conclusion of Chapter 1 of  "Tenacious Tuesday". 
Check back next Tuesday for the beginning of Chapter 2!

Tenacious Tuesday
Chapter 1, Part 3
by Lindsey Michelle

     Upon entering, Kenneth disappeared into the kitchen, while Tuesday tossed aside a pillow and reluctantly sat down upon the ratty sofa. There was that day’s newspaper covering a stack of magazines on the coffee table. Tuesday pushed away the newspapers to reveal the magazines – her eyes widened as she saw the top one.
     It was as though the “His Girl Tuesday” headline was magnified.
     Kenneth came back into the living room at that moment. He paused ever so slightly when he saw the magazine.
     Tuesday held it up “You have this?”
     Kenneth put the champagne and glasses down. “I should explain. This is my brother’s apartment...”
     “Mine’s being redone.”
     Tuesday looked into his eyes. “You knew I wasn’t June.”
     “I thought you were playing along,” Kenneth replied.
     “Playing along? What are you talking about?”
     “It wasn’t a fun game,” Tuesday said, grabbing her purse and slamming the door.
     Kenneth followed her outside but she didn’t look back.

     London was everything she hoped it’d be. She had a few days before filming began, so Tuesday decided to spend the day shopping.
     She walked out of the hotel that morning and noticed a suited driver leaning against a big shiny car. She was going to pass by, but the driver seemed to catch her eye and give a slow nod.
     Tuesday then heard a familiar voice as the backdoor window rolled down. “Need a lift, miss?”
     Tuesday broke into a grin when she saw Kenneth’s face. She was giddy at the sight of him.

     “How are you here?” she asked incredulously.
     “Get in!” Kenneth said, taking her hand as the driver opened the door. “There’s something I want to show you.”
     Kenneth instructed the driver to an address. It was a short drive, but Tuesday was impatient with anticipation. What did he wish to show her?
     The car pulled up in front of a large London estate.
     “It’s beautiful,” Tuesday said, admiring the house, though confused as to why he brought her there. “Whoever lives here is very lucky.”
     “Tuesday,” Kenneth said, “I live there.”
     Tuesday looked at him in disbelief. “You?”
     Kenneth put his hand to Tuesday’s cheek, then leaned in and kissed her.
     He smiled. “I never said I was a struggling painter.” 

To Be Continued...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

American King - Novel Excerpt

The following is a novel excerpt (Chapter Four) from
American King by Fred Sottile
Click on the book cover for more details or to purchase

    Heading out on the road with a suitcase full of cash, is very high on my list of recommendations for just about everybody. At first, you don’t have a problem in the world, but after the initial glow fades, you realize that you have a large responsibility. What to do? What to do? The research that I was doing for the king was still valuable, but now, with my windfall, I had to consider upgrading my general plan. I needed to relax and think. The South is great in the winter and I was lucky again. Just when I was unsure which way to point the van, God, in his infinite wisdom gave me a sign. It read, WELCOME TO MODIFIED COUNTRY -  TONIGHT - OUTLAWS.   Fantastic, a little diner dinner, and then an outlaw stock car event. I wondered if there’d be any super sprints. Open wheel cars are downright hairy. The greatest part is, when you are at a stock car race, you know you’re in America. You can feel it.     
     The stands were full, and I couldn’t help gawking at some of the “real characters” that you see at these events. The guy sitting next to me was a skinny redneck-looking dude, about sixty, with a butch-waxed head, and a grease-stained Iskendarian tee shirt. He started right in, telling me about the track, and the cars, and the history of the whole town. I started right in being polite, showing a little respect, you know, faking it. It wasn’t long though, before my condescension turned to real respect. This man was a walking encyclopedia. I couldn’t get a word in, and I didn’t want to.  Racing and politics. Racing and religion. Racing and just about everything. The “feature” was a real heart stopper. A number of spectacular multiple car wrecks, and three separate battles for position developed every time the announcer yelled “we go green”. After twenty nine laps of “the real deal”, everybody was disappointed that the race finished under the yellow.  “That just ain’t right”. I felt the same way.          
     They say “when the green flag drops, the bullshit stops”, but what they don’t say is, when the checkered flag drops, the bullshit doesn’t stop. The old guy just kept rollin’. He went from physics, to global weather, and was on bird migration, when we hit the parking lot. Then he told a girlie story and said, let’s get some coffee. He said, “We’ll go to the other diner.” My head spun. The other diner? Had he seen me in the diner where I had dinner?  What’s going on? When we got there, I had to laugh to myself. The place was called, THE OTHER DINER. Well, OK, that’s one for paranoia. The parking lot was full of racers who hadn’t “eaten right” all day. I thought I was in for a wait, but the man  knew two “old boys” sitting at the counter who recognized him, and graciously chugged their coffee and gave us their seats. The waitress asked, “separate checks?” When I said, “No, this one is my turn,” the man moved about a foot away from me, stuck out his hand and said, “You can call me Scottie.” I couldn’t help it, I came back with, “Well then Scottie, you can call me Kirk.” I was going to have pie and coffee but Scottie ordered first and selected the biggest most expensive steak dinner on the menu, and a large vanilla shake. Caught up in the momentum, I had a Monte Cristo sandwich and a coke, just before midnight. Feeling full and ready to go, I couldn’t believe my ears when he asked the waitress for pie and coffee.                                                         
     Having enjoyed the company, and feeling that I had showed an old motor-head a good time, I was ready to head out. Scottie wasn’t done. He said, “Talking with you has been great. I can see that you can appreciate the finer things in life. C’mon, let me show you my shop.” Again I followed. S&M Fabrications was the home of a machinist gone mad. Amidst the mountains of parts, hardware and materials of all kind, was an immaculate Bridgeport machine, and stations for lathes, drill presses, welders, pipe benders, bending brakes, milling machines, a cutting table and two drafting tables. Not one thing newer than nineteen seventy five. “S&M”, I asked? Marty was killed in seventy five by a drunk driver, was the response. “Yea, but S&M”, I asked again? “Scott & Martin” he boinked back at me. Looking at me like I was some kind of idiot. “Right, sorry, never mind” I conceded. “Sorry about your partner.” I realized a lot was just as Marty had left it. “What exactly do you fabricate?” I asked. “Mostly pipes” Scottie told me. “A lot of folks out here have dune buggies, Baja racers and sand rails. I’m the exhaust guru.” He pulled out a book of off road, hot rod photos. I don’t know which of us fell asleep first. 
     I woke up Sunday morning to the smell of coffee, and the sound of a lathe coming up to speed. Scott had already gone out to bring back fresh pastries, and said, “You got dinner. Breakfast is on me.” “Fair enough“, I said. “Is this your day off?” Scottie explained that he didn’t take a day off, that he lived here, and to him, one day was the same as the next. My eye kept going to a shotgun that was mounted on the wall, and Scottie noticed me looking. “It doesn’t shoot any more” he said, and asked, “You interested in guns?” I told him that I didn’t know much about guns, but was always fascinated by them, and asked him if he had one that I could fire. He asked if I was more interested in rifles or hand guns. I told him I’d like to try both, and that it was a shame, that the shotgun was retired. He said, “The shame is, ammo costs money, and I’m in, shall we say, the slow season.” “I’ve got money for ammo” I said, “Ya got any good working guns?” Now he really laughed and said, “Oh, I think we might be able to dig something up.”         

     In the gun shop he was like a kid in a candy store. I noticed he was getting quite a variety of bullets. The owner asked, “Did you lose a relative? You’re over three hundred bucks.” Scottie looked at  me and said, “Damn, I’m sorry, I guess I’m getting carried away.” I asked, “How long will it take us to waste all this lead?” He replied, “As far as time goes, it depends on how far you want to be from the targets.” I told him I wanted to be far. He said, “Well then, this ought to do it.” He was happy. Turning to the owner, I commented, “Not much business.” He answered, “Can’t be. We ain’t open.”                                                
     I was grateful for a chance for a little target practice. I wasn’t sure if I fooled him or not. The way he said, Well hell, I guess you’re a natural, kinda’ led me to believe that he was letting me know, that he knew, that I was, well, not a complete beginner.                                                            

     After dinner, which was my turn to buy again, we dragged back to the shop. Lo and behold there was a smashed exhaust header leaning up against the front door with a note on it that said, DO YOUR THING - JOSE - 9050. I was happy for Scott. I asked, “Don’t you have to fit this in the vehicle?” He said, “No I have the blue prints and a fixture. Let’s just say this ain’t the first one of these I’ve made.” I asked, “Why don’t you just make a few and have them ready?” He patiently explained that you had to reuse the flange. I was going to tell him that while it was apart, that he could probably, easily make a few copies of the flange and……..and…….I decided to drop it. He went right to work. After a few hours he gave me five bucks and asked me to run for snacks. I came back with four paper bags of groceries and a pizza. 2:00 AM I woke to the flash of a MIG welder. “Almost done” he said. Next time I woke up, you guessed it, coffee and pastries, and a lathe coming up to speed. I asked, “Didn’t you see all that food I brought home last night?” He shrugged, “Yea?” “Just gotta’ have a pastry in the morning do you?” I continued. He grinned, “Oh, no man, my old lady brings ’em every morning, well, except Saturday, on her way home from work. She’s an overnight baker.” Old lady? Scottie had a girlfriend? I never gave it a thought. This guy was full of surprises.                                               

     Full of surprises? I asked what was going on with the lathe and Scott said that he was working on a number of projects. Always a bunch of stuff in the works, I think was the way he put it. He said that he thought my gun handling was OK, and asked me if I was interested in this. “This” was an automatic hand gun, made right here. He handed me a nine shot clip of nine millimeter hollow points and a large, very impressive looking silencer. He invited me to go out back and squeeze it, gently. The action was so smooth and easy, and the sight was already set for where I was standing. It was accurate, but lots of guns are accurate. This one though, had no flash, and was ninja quiet. I was quiet too. Speechless for a moment. Finally, and dead serious, he asked, “How many do you want?” I looked him right in the eye and said, “Two. Two and a matching machine gun.” He hesitated about ten seconds and finally said, “The machine gun is going to take some time.” Some cash changed hands, and I asked, “Time frame?” He gritted his teeth and said “Not more than two months.”

© Fred Sottile

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Clean Scar - Short Story

"The Clean Scar" is a short story by T.C. De Witt. To learn more about T.C., visit his blog.

 The Clean Scar
by T.C. De Witt

     Sarah’s mama had a scar across her face that was deep and forever pink; her left hand was missing the smallest two fingers, but she was not frightening to look upon. She had a kindness about her that was more constant and more powerful. Sarah did not fear her, and no one in their small village had an unkind word to say about her.
     She had gotten the scar and lost the fingers when Sarah was five years old. When Mr. Cohen had lost control of his plow, it rolled directly into their barn as Mama was hanging laundry across the line. The manic plow tore the wooden structure to shreds with her in it.     
     The whole village went into an immediate uproar at the injury, and they went after Cohen. But Mama came to, Sarah weeping at her side and uncertain what would be underneath all the bloody bandages, Mama stood, pushed passed the doctor, and strode into the town square to tell everyone that Cohen was not to be blamed. He was a good man, and she did not blame him.
     Sarah loved her mother, for her heart was so big. No one bothered Mr. Cohen after Mama said not to. And no one said anything about the scars.
     The pounding on the door woke Sarah abruptly. She was eight now. She leaned over the edge of her bed and peered down at the center room as Mama shuffled in her nightdress to the door. “I’m coming. I’m coming,” Mama shouted and then muttered, “At this hour. Who would be out?” She opened the door and a man fell face down at her feet.   
     She yelped in surprise. Sarah sat bolt upright in her bed.
     Mama held up her full hand and waved her young daughter back. “It’s okay, dear. Stay up there.”
     The man did not move. He seemed to lie there motionless, and Sarah wondered how he had ever managed to pound on the door. He looked dead now, not that she had ever seen such a thing.
    “Help…” he moaned from the floor.
     Mama fell to her knees and pushed the man over onto his back.
     Sarah could see this mysterious visitor now. He was in some sort of uniform. She had frequently seen other men dressed like him in the village over the past months. The uniform was an ugly brownish-grey, and around the right arm was a red badge of sorts with a white circle and a strange crooked black cross in the center. Sarah had asked Mama what the men were, but Mama would never say. She would just smile and say,
     “They are just passing through, my little mouse. They are nothing.”
     “Help,” the soldier moaned again. He had red all over his chest and neck, and Sarah knew it was blood, blood like from the plow and the barn.
     Mama dragged the man carefully into the entry and grabbed a blanket off the chair by the fireplace. “What is your name, son?” she said softly. “My dear,” she spoke to Sarah now, “bring me the pitcher and some rags.”
     “Is he dying?” Sarah asked quietly as she slid off her bed and moved to the ladder. She kept her eyes upon the man; he was breathing loudly, a rattling in his throat.
     “Bring me the water, Sarah.”
     The man coughed, and crimson came from his lips. He moaned and clutched at the wound in his chest. A pool of blood formed at his throat and dribbled to the floor.
     “That… that’s…” he was looking to the window were the menorah had three lit candles flickering gently. “That…”
     Mama moved so that she was over him and looking down into his face. “Tell me your name,” she said.
     His eyes seemed to roll in and out of focus but came to rest upon the pink scar. He took a sharp breath of surprise and then coughed. He looked away. “L-lionel,” he muttered. “Karr.”
     “You just relax, Mr. Karr. You just lay there, and I’ll take care of this.”
     Sarah set down the pitcher of water and the rags and then stepped back. Her toes curled under her feet and she thought about going up to her slippers. It was winter, December, and the floor was very chilled in the night. She wondered if she should add a log to the dwindling fire. She wondered if the man would want food. She kept wondering about anything other than the blood dripping to the floor underneath the man.
     Finally, she crept to the fire and set another log upon it. She did not look back at the visitor anymore.
     “Sarah,” Mama said after a long time. “He’s resting now.”
     The man had a blanket over his body and his eyes were tightly closed. He was breathing slowly, and looked very peaceful. Rising, Mama moved to her. Sarah had crawled up onto the chair facing the fire and was hugging her knees. “Will you keep an eye on our friend? I need to go ask Doc Walsh for something for the wound.”
     “I can go,” Sarah said quickly. She moved to stand, but Mama put her hands softly upon her shoulders and kept her in the chair. “Just look after him. He’ll sleep.”
     Sarah was alone at the fire now.
     The soldier groaned in his sleep and Sarah turned to look at him. He moved slightly and touched his bandage. His eyes flickered open and Sarah looked at his face completely, for the first time.
     He was young. His skin was smooth, but he had purple under his eyes, which were odd to her. One was brown and one was green. She had never seen such a thing. Their eyes held, but then he drifted back to sleep and she was left staring once more at his young face. She moved to the fire and without realizing it, she fell asleep.
     “You know you saved my life?” the soldier’s voice came in the darkness behind Sarah’s eyes as she came out of her deep slumber. Mama’s voice came, “You were hurt. What else would anyone have done?”
     Peeking through her lids, Sarah did not open her eyes fully nor move suddenly to let them know she was waking.
     “Others… would have let a person like me--”
     “Others do not know the blackness that can be put upon the soul by simple acts,” Mama said. “He looks down on us always.”
     The man thought a moment and then said quietly, so quietly, Sarah had to hold her breath to hear him over the crackle of the fire next to her. “I don’t believe in that fantasy.”
     She could hear the smile in Mama’s words, “No one is asking you to, Mr. Karr.”
     He did not say anything else.
     “Do you want any more water?”
     He must have nodded because he was slurping then.
     Sarah kept her eyes closed, and soon fell asleep once again.
     The man with the different colored eyes was gone when Sarah awoke to the warm sun cast upon her face the next morning. She stirred and a blanket that had been draped over her fell to the floor. She looked around to the kitchen and found Mama, her back to her, at the stove. Sarah stood and then pulled the blanket back over her shoulders. Though the sun was warm, it was still winter and the cold snuck into the cottage easily.
     In the kitchen, she stood alongside Mama and rested her head into Mama’s arm. Mama lifted her arm about, and, still stirring the breakfast porridge, stoked Sarah’s dark hair with her three-fingered hand. They did not speak about the man who had fallen through their door.
     Some time came and went, a soon Sarah had grown many inches and Mama’s hair had become a little more white than any of her blonde. They were walking from market when Sarah saw a crowd gathered around Mr. Cohen’s shop. They were all laughing and some even clapping. Mr. Cohen was standing a top his display and stomping carelessly over his tomatoes while shouting at two men in the ugly soldier’s uniforms. They had rifles slung over their shoulders, but they were not using them.
     “You tell your master he has no place here! You tell your god forsaken devil of a master that he will burn for what he is doing!” Cohen was screaming louder and more franticly as he avoided the grasps of the soldiers, though they did not seem to be trying too hard to capture him. Cohen went on, shouting to the gathered crowd now, “They’re going to take us all away, you hear me? They are going to take us to those structures they’ve raised and we’ll never be seen again! They have machines there! They have contraptions that – that take the souls out of people! They have machines and death and – and we’ll all be destroyed! Do you not hear me? Their soulless, unclean devil master is – is coming down like – like a dragon!” The crowd laughed at the crazed man as he kicked squashed tomatoes at the two men.
     Sarah looked confusedly at her mother, and then moved to get a closer look, but Mama held her hand. “No, let’s not be involved. We have shopping to do.”
     “But,” Sarah began to protest.
     “We have shopping,” and Mama walked them the other direction. Sarah could still hear Cohen screaming and the crowd laughing at the odd scene.
     It was winter again, and the wind was biting. It sliced into the house and Sarah’s teeth chattered ever waking moment. She was nearly twelve now. She waited for the clock to chime so that she could put another log down, when a heavy pounding sounded at the door. Mama was out, so Sarah moved to answer the door.
     “Open up!” a deep guttural shout ordered from the other side of the door.
Sarah hesitated. “Who…?” she began, but the door tore open with a snap of wood at the bolt. She screamed in horror and stumbled back.
     A man in the strange military uniform stepped swiftly into her home and was followed by two more men with guns in their hands. The lead man shouted angrily at Sarah, and in her fright, she did not hear a word. He grabbed her around the wrist and she screamed loudly. She did not know where her mother was. She could not think. She could not feel her feet as the man pulled her into the snowy yard and toward the market. He kept yelling at her and the other men. She could feel the edges of her nightgown growing damp and she knew her feet were covered in mud now.
     The market was full of people, everyone for the village it seemed. And they were all shouting and crying, and they were all so confused. Sarah was screaming for her mother, but she was crying too hard to know if the words were even escaping her throat. She was thrown into the muddy snow at the feet of so many, and tears were in her eyes. And she thought she could hear her mother shouting over the chaos.
     “You will let me pass, sir! My daughter is alone in there, and you will let me pass!
Sarah got to her feet with the help of some hands and she could see a parting in the crowd before her. It was her mother she heard. The soldiers were moving into a half circle facing the villagers, and Mama was before them forcing them back. She was raising her voice, and it was an unfamiliar sound; it was something none of them had ever heard. Sarah’s mama was shouting.
     “You get back! You all get back! Now! All of you!” Mama carried on. She had tomatoes in her basket, and she was now throwing them at the men, and it was not funny like when Mr. Cohen had been doing it. No one was laughing now. It was quiet and only the wind now dared hiss in the village square.
     The man who had dragged Sarah from her warm home, who had dragged her from the warmth and safety of the fire stepped forward and raised his pistol to Mama, and he sneered with yellow teeth.
     “WAS IS LOS!” a voice boomed and the soldier turned sharply along with the other men in the uniforms. “What is this!” the voiced repeated and a man stepped through the ranks. The strange uniformed men all seemed to snap into a straight posture and looked forward with rigid stares. This man was in a different uniform, cleaner and more warmly dressed. He had a thick black beard that covered the bottom of his face, but it did not soften his yell. He marched over to the man pointing the pistol at Mama and barked at him, “What is the meaning of this scene?”
     “The woman,” the yellow-toothed soldier said. “She was…”
     “Then you end it!” the other barked viciously. He snatched the pistol and walked closer to Mama. He looked down at her and raised his arm straight.
     Sarah screamed in horror and shoved her way out of the silent crowd. She flung herself over her mother and put herself between the gun and its target. The man shouted and waved his flinching soldiers back. “Nein!” He moved to the mother and the child and pulled Sarah off Mama. Sarah looked up at the man defiantly, unblinking.
     And she knew that he would not kill them.
     The beard had grown thick over his once young face and there were cracks at the edges of his eyes, one brown and one green. He stood motionless over them, the gun pointed at the snow and mud.
     “Sir…” the other soldier said.
     “We received orders from an imposter,” Karr said sharply though still remained staring down at Mama and Sarah. “A saboteur.”
     “S-sir?” the other said.
     Karr turned sharply and faced the man and all the men. He shouted again in a very authoritative voice, “This saboteur is believed to be English, and he is on the move East.    We must track him down before he can destabilize anymore of our missions. We must move NOW if we are to capture this man.”
     The men hesitated for only an instant, and then all of them moved every which way with purpose. They grabbed up crates and filled up their vehicles. They moved in organization without ever looking back once for any more orders.
     Karr looked down upon Mama and Sarah; he looked up at the shocked yet still silent village. He said nothing. He looked into Mama’s scarred face one last time and then turned on his heels and stomped away.
     Before the sun could warm into Spring, the village was empty. Mr. Cohen’s field was overgrown and thick with tomatoes, but he was not there to pick them. Sarah heard that the buildings in the North that had the contraptions that took people’s souls were getting bigger and there were tales of more of them, but she did not listen to the tales. She laughed with the others and smiled with her Mama as they moved further and further from the village. She never asked questions. No one did, that she ever heard.

© T.C. De Witt

Tuesday for Tuesday, 1.2

If you missed the first part of "Tenacious Tuesday" last Tuesday,
click here to see how the story begins. 

Tenacious Tuesday
Chapter 1, Part 2
by Lindsey Michelle

     Conversation with Kenneth seemed effortless. They talked about their respective backgrounds – Tuesday was an east coast transplant, while Kenneth had grown up in Los Angeles – and their current lives.
     Portions of their current lives, anyway. Tuesday discussed her motivation and desire to act, but she stopped before mentioning the modeling she’d already done, the steps she’d already taken. What was wrong with her? She wasn’t ashamed of the pictures. She never thought she’d be so bothered by anyone’s preconceived notions.
     “I think you’ll be an incredibly nuanced actress,” Kenneth said. “You seem very smart.”’
     Tuesday smiled. He had his own vision of her, not what the magazines told him to think. She pushed her plate slightly to the side and leaned closer to her over the table.
     “Tell me more about your paintings,” Tuesday said.
     She listened as he described his passion for art. Tuesday was focused on his words until she noticed, out of the corner of her eye, a pack of teenagers rise from the corner booth and head towards her. She turned her face slightly, an useless attempt to hide behind her hair.
     One of the boys in the group slowed as they walked past Tuesday and Kenneth’s table.
     “Hey it’s Tuesday!” he exclaimed, before the girl next to him rolled her eyes, glanced apologetically at Tuesday and pulled him away.
     Kenneth looked at Tuesday. His eyes twinkled. “He certainly needs a calendar. It’s Saturday!”
     Tuesday smiled and put her hand on his. “What should we do now?”
     They agreed to go for a drive, though the fact that they each had a separate car made things difficult. They were discussing what to do when Tuesday’s cell phone rang.
     To her surprise, it was her manager. “I have the news you’ve been waiting for!”
     Tuesday was intrigued, though genuinely confused. “News? What? What!?”
     “The role of Fiona – you got it!” he practically shouted.
     Tuesday put her hand to her head in disbelief. “But that can’t be... no, Henry, you’re wrong. Liz Jones got the part, that was months ago.”
     “Liz dropped out to shoot some pilot in Hawaii. They had to choose a new girl, fast – didn’t your agent tell you?”
     Tuesday shook her head from side to side, unable to speak.
     “Well, pack your bags, dear. You leave for London next week!”

     Tuesday slammed her phone closed. “I just got the secondary-lead female role in Gil Mendel’s new film!”
     Kenneth’s face lit up. “Wow! Congratulations!.. I don’t know what to say.”
     Tuesday paused. “Wow... I’m speechless.”
     “This deserves champagne,” Kenneth said. “I have a bottle that’s waiting to be opened if you’re interested.”
     Tuesday hesitated.
     “We’ll take your car,” Kenneth said.
     She nodded in agreement, though she still wouldn’t be able to see what type of car a painter drove.

     Tuesday glanced out the car window as they sat at a stop light. In less than a week she’d be in a new city, full of unfamiliar faces and sights. Her heart beat with excitement.
     “Have you ever been to London?” Kenneth asked.
     She looked at him and shook her head.
     “You’ll have the best time.”
     Tuesday’s heart skipped a beat. It was the excitement, wasn’t it?
     Then why was it painful to look into his eyes?
     “It’s too bad we didn’t meet sooner,” Tuesday said.
     He squeezed her hand as they pulled up to an unimpressive apartment building. “Tonight’s for celebrating.”

     To Be Continued...

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Duke's Handmaid - Novel Excerpt

The following is an excerpt from The Duke's Handmaid, a novel by Caprice Hokstad
Click on the book cover to purchase the novel.

     Twin moons hung in slivered crescents, peeking through the scattered clouds. Fog flowed from the coast in wispy pseudopodia toward the inland woods. Leafless branches cast oddly twisted shadows in the wan moons’ light. Early evenfall should have lent Keedrina more security. It didn’t.

    The shadows plagued her and she was sure she heard voices in the forest. Her heartbeat quickened at the prospect of discovery. If Mother found out, she’d beat her harder than a muddy rug and lock her indoors for several years. Keedrina pressed on through the thickets, resisting the urge to run. Running would draw more attention if she was right about being watched and not merely being paranoid.

    Six months of clever artifice, though rewarding, came with a price. The strain of constant deception wore on Keedrina’s nerves; she’d never meant it to go on this long. She’d only wanted to meet the Elva farmhands that worked the field by her house, to talk to them a little. The reading lessons weren’t even her idea. Botlop had offered when she admitted she couldn’t read the note he brought her.

   She should tell him. Keedrina bit her lip, considering just how to bring it up. She wasn’t who he thought. She wasn’t even what he thought.

   She crouched at the edge of the wood to allow the pounding in her chest to subside. Warily, she glanced over her shoulder. No one had followed; nothing seemed awry. She inhaled deeply, stood, gazed one last time at the forest, then turned and stepped into the clearing. Keedrina sat on a weathered bench in an abandoned gazebo and lit three votive candles, sheltering them from the wind in clay cups. This meeting spot was far enough from home that Mother had never caught her and Botlop likely assumed the nearby farm was her family’s. Keedrina never disabused him of that notion.

   She looked up and scanned the darkening horizon. Botlop always came as soon as he finished work. Throughout the summer and harvest it had been light at this hour, but the days grew shorter as winter impended.

   Botlop waved as he approached. He was lean and vigorous; wisps of curly black hair dangled over his brow, his buckskins an inch too short for his legs. Keedrina waved back, then checked her dark brown braid as she lowered her hand. It was still pinned over her ear. He arrived and flashed a winning smile. His gray eyes sparkled in the candlelight. Keedrina smiled, craning her neck to catch a glimpse of what he carried.

   “Well, Keedrina, you’ve read just about everything I can lay hands on. This is the last book I can find.”

   Though she longed to read more, Keedrina found herself strangely relieved. She still hungered as much as ever to learn about the intriguing yet forbidden Elva. Maybe if they limited their clandestine meetings to once a week, she wouldn’t feel so guilty. She’d have to find a way to dampen her mother’s growing hopes that she aspired toward the magehood. Using communing with the Wood Nymphs as an excuse to leave the house every evening had created an unexpected backlash in that respect. But could she continue to deceive the young man who’d been so patient with her?

   “Thank you, Botlop. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for all your time and trouble to help me.”

   Botlop sat and scooted close to her on the bench. “Maybe now you’d let me meet your parents?” He took her hand. “I’d like to ask them if I could court you, Keedrina.”
   Her jaw dropped. She looked down at her feet as she disengaged her hand from his. Even if she loved him, even if she were old enough, it would still be impossible. “B-Botlop? I c-can’t.”

   He sighed. “What is it? I’ll have land one day. I’d take good care of you. I thought you liked me.”

   Of course she liked him—as a teacher and a friend. But that wasn’t what he meant. She weighed using her age as excuse, but that would have led to her secret. If she were Elva, sixteen would be old enough to marry. Somehow, the secret she had minutes earlier hoped to disclose now seemed cruel to consider divulging. She took a quick breath. “I like you, Botlop, but I’m really not worthy of you. You don’t know anything about my family. I’m sorry. I never dreamed you felt this way. I didn’t mean to mislead you.”

   Botlop fumbled with the tattered book. He opened his mouth as if to speak, but no words came. Suddenly, he stood and turned, scanning the farmlands. Keedrina looked up, startled by his abrupt rise. He set a staying hand to her arm as she began to stand. Keedrina frowned. She heard nothing but the wind sighing through bare branches. She searched the shadows but found nothing amiss in the encroaching night.

  Botlop suddenly bolted, issuing a warning as he ran. “Stay here.”

  Keedrina was bewildered. Why would he run off like that?  Surely it wasn’t because of her awkward rebuff? She kept her seat until she heard something—far off screams and unintelligible commotion. Keedrina stood and ran after Botlop.

  She could hardly see the ground in front of her, but the further she ran down the dirt path, the more her dread increased. As she passed a line of trees, she saw her farmhouse in the distance—on fire. Fear for her family flooded her mind. Horror quickened her footsteps to a frenzied pace.

© Caprice Hokstad

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Snagging - Flash Fiction

Snagging is a flash fiction piece from Fionnegan Justus Murphy, co-author of The Pan trilogy.

by Fionnegan Justus Murphy

     Courage crept into Julia’s heart as storm clouds crept through the sky over Source Lake. The wind hadn’t picked up yet and the lake was still wrinkle free, but that would soon change.  She promised herself she would ask for her father’s blessing on this trip and she wouldn’t leave without it.  She had maybe twenty more minutes before the rain would sheet down.
    Julia went to the fishing pole at the front of her skiff, The Lucky Cyclops, and slowly reeled in the line.  She unhooked her bobber and tore off the worm.
    “I hate to give you a free meal,” Julia joked, “but…” she tossed the worm into the water. 
    The Lucky Cyclops was her father’s attempt to make her feel better about the loss of her left eye ten years ago.  At the time, his joke devastated her, but she had since grown used to the idea and learned that her sense of humor could save her life, but mostly it just helped her get through the day.  She treasured the boat now.  It was where she would come to talk with her dad since he passed away. 
    Julia noticed with regret that she talked to her dad more after he died than she ever did while he was alive.  He didn’t seem so stern, and as she got older she would catch glimpses of his sense of humor in her memories that she hadn’t noticed the first time around.  Maybe he just didn’t know how to talk to kids.  Or maybe he just plain refused to talk down to anyone.  Either way, she wished she had been more confident when he was around.  He was the only person who found her special and interesting, and she wished she had thanked him for that.
    A bell clanged from shore just as she finished locking off the line of her bobbing pole and she headed back to her casting rod.  Everyone at the pier joked with her about coming out to this spot so often.  She never caught a single fish in this small bay, and they knew it.  But she welcomed the jokes.  If people didn’t know the truth about this place then she could keep it to herself. 
    Just a few more long casts before heading back to the dock.  She brought up the subject already, but she still had not landed an answer.  Perhaps her specter father was angry with her.  She knew he thought she was settling for Thomas.  Her dad had told her several times that he’d rather see her alone forever than settle for someone who doesn’t deserve her.  He didn’t want her to sell herself short because of her one eye, which maybe she was.  But guys weren’t rushing to be with an uneducated, one-eyed girl with no future.  And Thomas had been with her for a while now.  Sure, he was a gin runner and hung with some unsavory types, but he was loyal and sometimes he was the only one who could make her feel better.
    “I’m not getting any younger, pa.  Please let me have this.”
    “Even if it’s to end poor for me I want to at least have the ups; the dancin’, the cookin’, the stories.  And what of my chance to raise a wee one of my own?”
The wind picked up and carried her lure much further than normal, dropping it in far deeper waters.
    “You got to raise a wee one.  Why can’t I know that?  Let me try.”
    Her pole bent. 
    Finally, some sort of answer. 
    She pulled and reeled, pulled and reeled.  The drag on this one was pulling The Luck Cyclops backward in the water.  She began to feel the first drops of rain break through her thin hair and tickle her head.
    Whatever his response, it was heavy.  Usually her snags were small.  A corset, lacy and lovely, that she wore to her baby sister’s wedding.  She found two shoes from different pairs but tied together anyhow.  She began wearing them ten days later after her boot got stuck, suctioned in the mud and the sole ripped off.  Even her powdered blue eye patch was a snag.
    The Lucky Cyclops was finally directly above her catch-of-the-day with the line dropping straight down into the water below.  Rain fell more freely now and it ran down her face and soaked through the back of her shirt.
    Slowly, out of the shadows, a white figure began to ascend.  Its big form lolled patiently towards her.  It certainly couldn’t fit inside of her cooler.  She’d be unable to hide it. 
    It looked like a body.  Momentarily she panicked.  Momentarily the white figure was Thomas.  Then it was her father’s corpse.  Why would he do that?  His answers were usually obscure and undecipherable, but that would be cruel, and he never was that.  Julia’s shoulders burned and her hands hurt on the reel, but she wanted his answer and she refused to give up.
     Finally, after holding her breath from straining, the object surfaced and spread out on the top of the ripples.  Julia caught her breath, and a tear hidden within rain fell from her eye, the eye that still allowed her to see and to feel.  She put her pole down and cautiously crouched, reaching over the side. She pulled the sleeve, and as lightning lit up the world she raised her wedding dress out of the water. 


© Fionnegan Justus Murphy


Tuesday for Tuesday, 1.1

Today is the beginning of my short story series Tenacious Tuesday. I will post a portion every Tuesday for the next several months. Be sure to check back to see how the story continues!

Tenacious Tuesday
Chapter 1
by Lindsey Michelle

     Tuesday was convinced she was on the worst date of her life. While he droned on, she practiced various reactions to his plodding stories and brainstormed revenge on the friend who arranged the date with this weasel.
     She knew he wouldn’t cut the date short. It wasn’t because he liked her – Tuesday could barely get a word in edgewise, did he even notice her there? – but because he could brag to his friends that he went out with this month’s It Girl. A photo spread of her had just appeared in the country’s highest read men's magazine. Her pear-shaped figure was the new trend. Men taped bikini-clad photographs of her in their bedrooms; both sexes admired a photo of her clad in a robe with a deep V in the back, exposing her smooth skin. All fell under the heading “His Girl Tuesday.” She wasn’t sure about the possessive headline, but she couldn’t complain. She was one step closer to her dream of being an actress.
     “So I kind of hope you’re not planning on dessert...” her date said suddenly, snapping Tuesday to attention.
     Thank goodness, Tuesday thought, we’re nearly through.
    “No, no dessert,” Tuesday agreed. “Better turn in early.”
     He smiled at her. “My thoughts exactly. I’m pretty eager to see what you look like out of that robe.”
     Tuesday stared at him. She wished she could pull off throwing a drink in his face, but she’d never been able to exit smoothly. Instead, she carefully folded her napkin and walked out of the restaurant without a word.

     She stood on the sidewalk as she waited for the valet to bring her car to the front of the restaurant. Another dull date, another man she’d never see again. Her friend Mindy kept setting her up, but Tuesday wished to focus solely on her career. Anyway, they had all been duds – she wanted someone fun, creative.
     “They take forever, don’t they?” a male voice said.
     Tuesday looked up. She hadn’t noticed the man standing next to her, He smiled as their eyes met. He was average height, slender, with wavy blond hair and blue eyes. Tuesday found him attractive, but she was used to ignoring the dozens of pickup lines she had heard recently.
     She didn’t respond, but he spoke up again. “Slowest restaurant in L.A.”
     Tuesday nodded. “Isn’t my first choice.”
     “Mine either. It was strictly business, I’d never come here otherwise.”
     “What do you do?” Tuesday asked.
     “I’m a painter,” he responded, and then, to clarify, “I don’t think I managed to sell any paintings tonight.”
     No wonder he wasn’t at this restaurant often, Tuesday realized. A painter couldn’t afford the prices.   
     He looked at Tuesday and asked what she did. Tuesday couldn’t help but hesitate – was he just being nice? All month she’d been recognized. Could she really be a nameless face to this adorable painter?
     “A series of small jobs,” she replied, and before she could lose the nerve, “I’m June.”
     She was born on a Tuesday in June, after all.
     “Nice to meet you, June,” he replied. “I’m Kenneth.”
     “Small portions, too,” he continued.. “In fact, I’m still hungry.”
     She felt her own stomach growl, and almost giggled. “So am I!”
     “June, I know we’ve just met, but it seems useless for us both to return home where we’re simply going to stare into our sad refrigerators,” Kenneth said.
     Tuesday laughed.
     “I say let’s meet at the highly acclaimed, very hip...” he trailed off, in mock suspense,” Mel’s Drive-In.”
     Tuesday grinned. Should she? He was a complete stranger, yet she felt more connected to him than any of her other dates.
     The valet finally pulled her car to the sidewalk. She smiled at Kenneth.
     “Looks like I get a head start.”

     To Be Continued...

Monday, March 7, 2011

Fiction to Film

Adapting a novel or short story into a screenplay or short script can be a challenging yet rewarding experience. In prose, a writer has the luxury of an endless amount of paragraphs to impart needed backstory and information about characters or plot. In a script, a writer must find a way to convey these details in the characters' dialogue or actions. As a screenplay reader, I often read scripts in which the writer uses narrative to tell the reader vital facts about the characters. This is a no-no, because a movie viewer isn't reading the screenplay as they watch the film.

When I adapted my short story Local Call into a short script, it was necessary to convey needed information about the protagonist's career. The short story begins with the following paragraph:

The outdoor mall was the wrong place to choose for my lunch break. In an attempt to distance myself from the summer crowds, I huddled under a vast free-standing umbrella, desperate for a spot of shade. I would’ve been bothered had I not been in a jubilant mood. My career was booming. I was the leader of a medical team that had just finished a successful round of tests on a new sedative. Prisons and hospitals would benefit from the new drug, meant to calm criminals or the mentally ill. My boss beamed when he gave me the good news. He told me to expect a newspaper article within the next few days. My photograph would be in the newspaper.

Since I did not want to use voice over in the script, I opted to create a phone conversation between the protagonist and his wife. It was important to retain the protagonist's self-satisfied tone. In the opening of the script (below), the details about the protagonist's work and the sedative are mentioned conversationally, rather than stated outright in the prose:



A sunny and warm summer day. CAMPBELL PETERS, 30s, dressed in a business suit, stands in a spot of shade. Campbell has a debonair but slightly arrogant demeanor. He talks on his cellular phone.
The meeting was superb. I don’t
think Louis could be a prouder
boss. I’ll be written up in the
paper in a few days.
Well, why wouldn’t they include my
picture? It’s not everyday someone
creates a new sedative to calm
I know, it creeps you out.
I'd love to hear from others about changes they've had to make while adapting their writing!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Local Call - Short Story

Local Call was originally published as part of an anthology in Scary Stories, Series #002 (currently out of print). Since then, I have also adapted the story into a short script. Look for a future post about adapting fiction into scripts.


     The outdoor mall was the wrong place to choose for my lunch break. In an attempt to distance myself from the summer crowds, I huddled under a vast free-standing umbrella, desperate for a spot of shade. I would’ve been bothered had I not been in a jubilant mood. My career was booming. I was the leader of a medical team that had just finished a successful round of tests on a new sedative. Prisons and hospitals would benefit from the new drug, meant to calm criminals or the mentally ill. My boss beamed when he gave me the good news. He told me to expect a newspaper article within the next few days. My photograph would be in the newspaper.
     I took out my cellular phone, ready to call my wife to discuss dinner plans. Before I could dial our home number, I noticed a tall man eyeing me. More specifically, eyeing my phone. I could see why. It was a brand-new cell phone – not just a phone, but a personal organizer as well. It stored numbers, addresses and my schedule. It was still shiny, and there were no nicks in the screen yet.
     The man looked at me pleadingly. He would have been quite striking, with his sandy blond hair and prominent eyebrows, but he wore a torn shirt and filthy pants that barely covered dirt-covered sneakers. I noticed his shoelaces were untied. He was sweating profusely, despite the fact that his clothing was appropriate for the day’s weather. In contrast, I was dressed in a dark suit, but my forehead was perspiration-free.
     I began to walk away. Immediately, I heard the man’s voice.
     “Sir!” he called after me. “Sir, wait, please.”
     I was reluctant, but I stopped walking. I couldn’t bring myself to pretend that I didn’t hear him. When I turned, his face was less than five inches from mine. I gasped and instinctively stepped back several feet.
     “May I borrow your phone?” he pleaded.
     I hesitated. I didn’t want anyone touching my new phone, much less a stranger that seemed to need a bath. The man held out his hand. I didn’t say anything.
     “It’s just a local call.”
     I sighed and managed to hand him the phone. I watched to make sure he dialed only seven numbers and then tried to act nonchalant as he put the phone to his ear. My eyes lingered on his grimy fingernails. The man glanced at me nervously.
     He mumbled two or three sentences into the phone that I didn’t understand. I didn’t even recognize the language, but then, foreign language had never been my strong suit.
     The man closed the phone and handed it to me. He lingered as he dropped the phone into my hand. I felt what seemed like a quick shock on my palm. I pulled away.

     That night I reclined in bed with my wife, watching the local news. I told her about my boss’s words.
     “You’ll be famous,” my wife commented, with a laugh.
     I think she expected me to laugh, but instead I added, “My picture will be in the paper.”
     She didn’t respond, for breaking news on the television captured her attention. The newscaster began, “The male murderer known as the Killer Surfer, who was responsible for three deaths near the beach early this summer, has struck again. The bodies of a man and woman were found late this evening, leading police to believe the murder happened sometime this afternoon. They are notifying neighborhoods to keep windows and doors locked, use their alarm systems, and most importantly, do not open your door to any strangers...”
     My wife shivered. “Gives me the creeps.”
     “We’re quite a few blocks from the beach.” I reminded her.
     “With the help of eyewitnesses, we finally have a police sketch to show viewers,” the newscaster continued.
     “These drawings always look the same,” my wife said with a yawn.
     The sketch appeared onscreen. I was immediately fixated. Those heavy eyebrows.
     “He used my phone today!” I exclaimed.
     My wife stared at me as if I were crazy. “What?”
     “He made a local call.”
     I tried to explain, but my descriptions were all over the place. I needed proof. Finally, I jumped out of bed and rummaged through my briefcase, searching for my phone. I knew for a fact that the numbers of all outgoing calls were stored in a file on the phone.
     The pocket in which I usually put my phone was empty. I ran my hands around the bottom of the briefcase, but my phone wasn’t there. I dumped out all the contents. Nothing.
     “It’s gone.”
     “It must be somewhere,” my wife insisted. “It’ll turn up.”
     “I’m going to check the car.”
     “It’s late, don’t go out in the dark. Didn’t you just hear the news?”
     My wife looked nervous. I could tell she didn’t want me to go outside. As much as I wanted to find my phone, it wasn’t worth a big argument. I agreed to search in the morning.

     The phone didn’t turn up in the car, and it didn’t turn up in my office. I sat at my desk and called my phone service to report a lost phone. The last thing I needed was some thief making calls from my phone number and pawing through my personal information.
     Once I stated my name and address, the company worker on the other end of the telephone asked for my cancellation password.
     “Wilma,” I said. My wife’s middle name had been an easy password to remember. She despised the name. She thought it sounded old-fashioned.
     “I’m sorry, sir, that’s not the password we have on file.”
     I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “There’s a mistake.”
     “We have to be careful about identity theft. What we can do is send a written cancellation form to the address we have on file, and then if your handwriting and signature matches out, we can cancel your plan...”
     By this point I was barely listening.

     I finished work early, eager to return home. I tried to call my wife to give her a heads up, but the phone kept ringing. I guessed she stepped out to chat with a neighbor.
     Her car was in the garage, so I parked in the driveway. I walked up the front steps and took out my house key. I shoved it in the lock and tried to turn. It didn’t budge.
     On closer inspection, the key didn’t seem to fit at all. What was wrong? Was my wife nervous enough about the Killer Surfer to call the locksmith? She hadn’t mentioned it that morning.
     I pounded on the door. No answer.
     “Key isn’t working,” I hollered, pounding louder.
     Finally, the door opened. There stood the man from the mall – the eyebrows, the man from the news, the Killer Surfer. My heart raced.
     “What are you doing here? Where’s Katherine?” I demanded. I was so shocked that my fear barely registered.
     The man peered at me, leaning over a bit to get a better look. “Are you a friend of my wife’s?”
     “Get out of my house!” I searched in my pocket for my phone, then remembered it was gone. Still, I threatened, “I’m calling the police.”
     The man began to close the door. “I don’t know what your problem is, but this is my home. I’ve lived here for five years.”
     Katherine and I had moved into the house five years earlier.
     “My last name is on the mailbox,” I insisted. “Richards.”
     “Anyone can read the mailbox,” he said, and slammed the door.

     I feared for Katherine. Her car was there, which led me to believe that she was inside the house. I imagined her trapped in a closet, her hands tied behind her back, her mouth gagged. She was probably frightened and crying.
     I snuck around to the back of the house. Our back door had never been as secure as the front – as I thought of this, I realized that the man could have used this same method to enter our home.
     I crouched behind the door and listened. I heard a sizzling sound, and after a minute, a faint humming. I tried to breathe as silently as possible. I knew I had to look through the window, but I dreaded what I might see.
     Slowly, I straightened my back until I was eye-level with the window. There I saw Katherine, standing over the stove, mindlessly stirring a pot of potatoes. She was humming a soft melody.
     “Katherine,” I yelled, banging on the window.
     My wife whipped her head to the side and shrieked when she saw me.
     “Paul!” she screamed. I expected her to run to the window, but she seemed frozen. “Paul!”
     “Let me in,” I mouthed. She remained motionless.
     The man ran in the kitchen. He looked at Katherine, then directly at me.
     “That’s it,” he said. “I’m calling the police.”
     Then the Killer Surfer crossed our kitchen and picked up our telephone. His hands were clean this time. Katherine put her clean hand in his. I didn’t see the rest. I ran.

     I ran around the side of the house to my car. I reached for my keys, but my pockets were empty. I briefly contemplated returning to the back of the house, to search for the keys in the grass, but somehow I knew I wouldn’t find them there.
     I spent the night in my office at the hospital. No one greeted me, but I didn’t care. I needed to be left alone, to make sense of what was happening to my life.
     I tried to call my friends, but they wouldn’t speak to me.
     I tried to call my parents, but they hung up the telephone.
     By morning, I couldn’t take it anymore. At the earliest bit of sunlight, I headed outdoors. I stopped at the corner to buy a cup of coffee. I gave my order to the man working there, but he just stared at me.
     “Wait here,” he muttered, and disappeared through the hospital doors.
     As I was waiting, I glanced down at the morning newspaper. The headline read: “Killer Surfer Strikes Again.”
     And there, directly beneath, was my photograph.

© Lindsey Michelle

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Welcome to SelfScribes!

SelfScribes is a new blog designed to feature writing of self-published and indie authors. Content includes, but is not limited to, short stories, excerpts from novels, excerpts from screenplays or plays, opinion pieces and articles. Fiction and script writing should be from unpublished or self-published works, or previously published but no longer in print; articles may have been featured in print or web publications.

Writers retain all rights to their works. E-mail writing submissions and a brief writer bio (including photograph, if desired) to: LuluScribe@hotmail.com

Happy writing!