All Stories, Editor Picks, General Fiction, Short Fiction

Week 404: A Rich Vein; The Week in Originality and Remembering Stuff That Shouldn’t Get Lost

A Rich Vein

I used to wonder why so many writers fill their fictional hellworlds with zombies. For a time I thought having a mindless monster (as they were once) whose only advantage is superior numbers, but whose eradication would make the hellworld no worse than a heckworld, was a literary lesson in perspective. The zombie hellworlds I have seen do not appear to have much else wrong with them save for the wowser undead infestation. I bet at the end of a, say, ten year zombie “challenge” (as the ruling parties would certainly call it) that going ape upon discovering the drive thru worker forgot to put the extra ketchup packets you asked for in your bag might not be as valid a reason to make a fool out of yourself in public that it used to be. What a wonderful shiny heckworld that would be.

But of course the real reason there are so many zombies (and vampires) is the same one that sent everyone to California in 1849. Get it right and there’s gold in them thar hills (though silver is a different matter). Seeing people have a go at the various undead genres bothers me no more than seeing someone buy a lottery ticket at 7-11. I wish them luck. You never know when the money ship might drop anchor in your harbor. Still, many aspiring best selling authors are a bit late to the party and suffer from what I call Closing the Crypt Door After the Undead Got Out Syndrome.

Still I am just as willing to give commercial success as much a go as the next cynical writer. Sometimes I play with the notion of concocting something so calculated that it cannot miss. I really can’t think of anything too calculated for the zombies (even though that was the aim a couple of paragraphs ago) because at its soul all you’ve got to do is have the brain-crazed bastards on your tail. The idea, the creepy crawly idea of it is great–and all efforts to improve zombie mental acuity and add subtext only detracts from the purity of the original premise: Chased by a slobbering, jabbering monster, like in a childhood nightmare. Besides, zombies are as gross as any daycare during cold and flu season.

Ha! Yet I do have a boffo vampire story (the reason for their sudden, perhaps inexplicable, inclusion at the start of paragraph two). But my vampires are slightly different from the traditional crowd. You see, I’ve never understood why ancient Dracula types create a whole slew of apprentices. These tyro vampires are usually poorly trained and in time they do enough stupid shit that inevitably leads the townfolk to the Master, whom somebody stakes like a dead butterfly to a cork board in the last reel. I’m willing to suspend disbelief, to a point; I’ll allow for vampires, but not ones who make so many bad decisions that I cannot believe they have been around since the Dark Ages.

My vampires live in groups of seven to ten or so and can shapeshift enough to loot banks for capital, for they lead opulent lives. But, as in tradition they can go about in the day, yet without the powers they have at night. Still, they must be careful during the day because the rays from the rising and setting sun can kill them, when the sun still appears to be touching the horizon; they are gold when there’s space between. My vampires sleep in nice hotels during the day, with vials of graveyard dirt shoved where the sun does not shine, and travel between the hemispheres to always be where it is winter, to take advantage of longer nights.

Anyway, they feed but do not kill. Their victims survive, get better and get rich selling zombie stories. But there is one proviso: To remain a vampire you must kill a person whom you loved in life and change she/he into a vampire before that person dies–or you will cease to exist.

Well a woman who was loved by a vampire was made one, and she had an unrequited love for a married man named, oh let’s call him, Horace. But Horace was married to Hortense and they had two infant children. It didn’t matter to the lady vampire who killed Horace; for she was not president of the Hortense Fan Club.

Turns out Horace liked being a vampire, but he also missed Hortense. So he went to her and told her about the gig, and begged her to join him in everlasting, well everlasting. Hortense says “Swell, but let me raise the kids first.” So Horace and the pack travel the world for another twenty years or so and he comes back and discovers that Hortense is terminally ill. But it doesn’t matter, the kids are raised and she’s still alive.

But as it nears dawn, she reminds them of the vows they exchanged. He understands and as Hortense draws her last breath (coincidentally, and with no one else in the room) near dawn, Horace opens the drapes and they go out together. Call it “Till Death.” fill some plot graves (as in doing something about the woman vampire who loves Horace and just how they get the money out of the vaults) and there you go, a marketable commodity.

Sadly, what I just wrote looks like something that might sell, even though it took about forty seconds to concoct. There’s something seriously wrong with that situation, mainly my inability to do anything with it. So, there you go, a free story premise that I must now turn my back on.

The Week in Originality

I am willing to wager that all five of our performers this week can do something with “Till Death” but all are too smart to associate with it. Along with three site debuts, we had the return of two long time friends.

Monday began with the 28th site appearance by David Henson. Delta Zero underscores both the intelligence and humor that are always evident in Dave’s work. And you have to think when you read it. Some might wonder “huh?” But there is actually an art of reading that is set higher than just being able to understand the words. I’d also like to state that, including his faithful daily comments, Dave has actually appeared on the site hundreds of times. If you have appeared in the past few years, David has been there for you. I hope we all return the favor.

Snakeskin by newcomer PL Salerno made Tuesday worthwhile. PL is a young writer, and if this is the quality we have to look forward to then the world of fiction is in competent hands. This is a wonderful blend of reality and the mystic, and frankly, quite entertaining at any level.

Tom Sheehan continues to shine and is still in a career of the quality that PL and our other authors have a chance at. The Rifle aims at the upcoming 200 mark (as you see I could not resist the cheap, cheap pun there). And as always Tom hits the bullseye (it was a two-for-one sale at the cheap, cheap pun show). Still, Tom once again excels at blending a situation and characters as he has for decades.

We welcomed Benjamin Pluck on Thursday, Thanksgiving in the USA. Careful Who You Save is something I fell for even though I am not smart enough to know what it really means. It draws the shine of existence through a prism and what wild colors I saw. And unlike acid, the story was free. Beautifully constructed and in no way overstated. We certainly llok forward to more from this writer.

Our third first timer was Elana Kloss, who closed the week with Cherry Pie. Elena writes sharp, descriptive and fearless prose. There isn’t as much as a wasted syllable in this piece, which takes wicked and frequent turns. Although it is relentless, it challenges you, like the other four we saw this week, to think while reading it.

Remembering Stuff

The other day I mentioned the band Chicago to a coworker, who is maybe thirty. I saw the Who? glaze her eyes to the degree that I didn’t bother to confirm it. There’s nothing wrong with that, really, it is just one of those ugsome things that happens as time marches on. Still, It has motivated me to write a list composed of items of people and abilities that are either forgotten or are on the edge of extinction and should not be. Slot ten left open for fellow fist shakers.

  • Parallel parking (Jesus, people, I can do it.)
  • American Thanksgiving Day meaning something more than Black Friday Eve
  • Setting aside the goddam phone when talking to someone (I correct that now–I say, “Hey, I’m over here.” Don’t care who gets mad; even said it to my boss once.)
  • The works of Shirley Jackson
  • Klaus Nomi
  • People instantly googling the obscure things I say, right in front of me, instead of asking
  • Displaying the manners and intelligence necessary to prevent you from talking about your STDs and felonies on your cell in public.
  • “Three-fer” beer chips. All the local bars had those
  • State Liquor Stores (I rather liked seeing all the good stuff in one place–and not in places like 7-11 or Walmart–something wrong there)
  • Open


Editor Picks, General Fiction, Short Fiction

Week 401: A Dirty Slate; Welcome to YES-vember and What’s On Your Wonderwall?

Tableau de rasa is Latin for “a clean slate.” In philosophy it describes the unmuddled mind of infancy, which is soon spoiled by life. I was once one of those overly polite people who’d write “As you know…” or something equally cagey before sneakily defining a term that I figured maybe only half the readers already know. This of course presents an unwinnable situation for the polite person. I have always seen condescending people as jerks while patronizing types are smiling jerks. In my mind you cannot patronize without being condescending but you can condescend without being patronizing. So, if anyone out there smells either on my breath I apologize, but it might be an aid to know that I consider condescension slightly less rotten than patronization.

Continue reading “Week 401: A Dirty Slate; Welcome to YES-vember and What’s On Your Wonderwall?”
All Stories, Editor Picks, General Fiction, Horror, Humour, Short Fiction

Week 399: A Tribute to Dark and Stormy Knights and Another Week That Is

As we get closer to Halloween I find myself thinking of the darker side of the human heart. But instead of making a list of horror films and actors (which I have done before), I would like to salute the Evil Bad Guys* of Film and TV, for they are the ones who make stuff worth watching. (I use the word “Guys” in the unisex form–for I do not care for “Gals.”)

Continue reading “Week 399: A Tribute to Dark and Stormy Knights and Another Week That Is”
All Stories, Editor Picks, General Fiction, Short Fiction

Week 398: Positive Thinking; The Week In Rocktober and Sing, Little One, Sing Like the Wind

Positive Thinking

We will celebrate our eighth anniversary next month. Anniversaries and birthdays usually make me queasy because I view each as another item to be checked off a Great To Do List whose final task is “Die.” But I will allow that there is maybe, perhaps, seemingly and possibly an element in my personality that could be improved by wise advice, Vitamin Jesus or even a sunnier attitude brought about by better chemistry.

Continue reading “Week 398: Positive Thinking; The Week In Rocktober and Sing, Little One, Sing Like the Wind”
All Stories, Editor Picks, General Fiction, Short Fiction

Week 397 – Winging It, Truss’s Truss And I Didn’t Have Time To Look At Religion.

I never plan these. I never know what I’m going to write. I will look up a reference if for some reason one comes to me but I don’t start out with a plan.

Sometimes there are some things that happen on the site or in the news that I make a mental note to saying something. (Today is an example as I knew that there was something!!)

Continue reading “Week 397 – Winging It, Truss’s Truss And I Didn’t Have Time To Look At Religion.”
All Stories, Editor Picks, General Fiction, Short Fiction

Week 396: Stumbling Leaves; Another Week That Is; Autumnal Vexations

I like fall, but I avoid saying “I like autumn.” I went to school with a girl with that name and hated her. I wouldn’t want the little god whose job it is to check up on the likes and dislikes of people like me to get confused. So, to be clear, I like autumn, but not the Autumn I knew in seventh grade.

But there are things about fall I can do without; for instance, grownups who wear “onesies,” and those who get as excited as a three-year-old seeing Santa for the first time when the subject is “pumpkin spice.” Usually these people are one and the same. I will hear no defense for normal adults who wear onesies with little fire trucks and/or race cars, Bunnies, Unicorns, Cows, Green Aliens and Sea “Horseys” on them and must tell me about it. What you do at home is your own business, but unless you want me to wonder if you wear a “dype-dype” and rubber panties to bed, don’t bring it up, especially if I am eating.

Continue reading “Week 396: Stumbling Leaves; Another Week That Is; Autumnal Vexations”
All Stories, Editor Picks, Fantasy, Short Fiction

Where Have All The billigits Gone by Leila Allison


If you can imagine a realm that is both infinite and a place where nothing is farther than a mile from anything else, then you can imagine my land of make believe. You see, I failed High School Geometry and have no sense of scientific proportion. I went every day, but it was the first period, and I fell asleep with my eyes open. I wound up with four A’s and one F on that report card. I got my high marks in History, Drama, Music and Sociology. But the world is run by Slide Rule Supremacists who’d rather have kids bomb out in those and score big successes in the ometries.

I had to take an extremely remedial math class (which was as intellectually demanding as “Celebrity Jeopardy”) to gain my diploma. My crowning glory there was the creation of a coordinate graph. When connected, the numbered points revealed the face of Fred Flinstone with dollar signs in his eyes and the caption “Bedrock Lotto.” Although giving up on a freshly minted adult and releasing her into a high tech society armed with no fancier arithmetic in her head than how to arrange a Fred Flintsone graph is probably immoral, that’s just the way the old hypotenuse bounces. Besides, it continues to give me the freedom to create scientifically impossible vistas. Hooray for the armor of ignorance.

According to the 70’s band America, “Oz never did give nothing to the Tin Man that he didn’t, didn’t already have.” Well, the Wiz was hardly Great and Powerful then, now was he? For I, the ruling Penname in my little metaverse, have endowed all my Fictional Characters (FC’s) with unretractable Free Will, which they most definitely did not already, already have going in. The person who employs me (whose experiences, skills, shames and lacks are identical to mine) did the same for me; alas, you don’t need a head full of logarithms to conceptualize the vicious circle.

Continue reading “Where Have All The billigits Gone by Leila Allison”
All Stories, Editor Picks, Fantasy, Short Fiction

Week 392: J.D. Raccoons Tip Flower Pots Because Cows are Too Tall; Another Week That Is, and the Operation Snapped Shoelace Diary

(3 A.M., 22 August)

Life is full of idiotic vexations that should not be. Silly, inconsequential events that should mean nothing yet are something enough to fret over. A continuing woe of mine involves my part in a neighbor (from here, “Green Thumb”) having her flower pots tipped by Juvenile Delinquent Raccoons.

As I’ve stated in earlier posts, my building features a common yard inhabited mostly by flitting little Birds and Squirrels by day and semi-wild beasts after sundown. The beasts include my feral Cat friends, Alfie and Andy, an occasional Opossum named Olivia (who has a way of popping out from under the bushes and scaring the hell out of people) and a marauding band of four to six Jugglao/J.D. Racoons who drink Faro and smoke discarded cigarette butts. Green Thumb seems nice enough, but she operates under the delusion that she can place potted flowers in the courtyard and expect nothing bad to happen to them overnight.

Continue reading “Week 392: J.D. Raccoons Tip Flower Pots Because Cows are Too Tall; Another Week That Is, and the Operation Snapped Shoelace Diary”
All Stories, Editor Picks, General Fiction, Short Fiction

Week 390: The Week That Is and Old L.S. Has a Robot Farm, A.I., A.I., Oh-One-One-Oh!

“I compare ‘Intelligence’ to the dubious garment ‘chaps.’ All intelligence is artificial as all chaps are assless. I see thinking itself as something that creates items like chaps then almost always describes them as ‘assless’ even though that is a redundant observation. No where else in the natural universe does the non-extant difference between chaps and assless chaps exist other than between human ears. And if chaps had asses then they would be sewed on via artificial means–Ergo the concept of all things related to chaps is artificial, and any mind that ponders such must also be fabricated.”

Continue reading “Week 390: The Week That Is and Old L.S. Has a Robot Farm, A.I., A.I., Oh-One-One-Oh!”
All Stories, Editor Picks, Fantasy, Short Fiction

Week 389: An Ode to Cynicism, Good Stories and Dubious Advice Dispensed by A Herbivore


It’s hard for me to not be cynical; to not check every would be gift Horse’s bridgework; to not hold the suspicion that the evil that dwells in my heart must be in everyone else’s; to suspect myself for wanting the same evil in the hearts of others to license my own. Funny word cynical. As a belief system it prevents you from go-funding Phishy Royalty, yet in application it can aid you in successful phishing and lying in general. Thus you could say that cynical is a dubious, double-agent sort of concept.

Continue reading “Week 389: An Ode to Cynicism, Good Stories and Dubious Advice Dispensed by A Herbivore”