Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction Challenge: My Father's Unusual Death

Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction Challenge: My Father's Unusual Death

This story was written for Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction Challenge: Another Ten Words. Here is the challenge:
"I’m going to give you ten words. Your job is to work all ten of these words into a flash fiction story, ~1000 words in length. That’s it. End of mandate.

"The story’s due in a week: Friday, August 30th, noon EST.

"Post at your online space.

"Link back here.

"The ten random words are as follows:
Funeral, Captivate, Deceit, Brimstone, Canyon, Balloon, Clay, Disfigured, Willow, Atomic."
 (You'll notice I took one liberty: rather than "captivate" I used "captivated".)

The characters and situations used in my story are entirely fictional.

My Father's Unusual Death
by Paige Williams

My father's manner of death was fitting since he had been the kind of man for whom one feels the word "eccentric" was tailor-made. I'll tell you more about that in a moment.

When my father met my mother it was love at first sight. I don't have pictures of her but my father said she had long blond hair and a smile that held the sun. I asked him why, and he replied that whenever she smiled, no matter how sad he was, he felt happier. She captivated him.

But nothing lasts forever. When I was three years old my parents left me with a friend and went fishing on a nearby lake. When they'd reached the middle of the lake where it was deepest my mother stared into the water, fascinated by something just under the surface.

"What is it?" my father asked.

My mother bent over the side of the boat and said, "Henry, there's someone in the water!"

"Gilda, be careful, you'll fall in!" My father said, leaning forward as though to pull her back. (My father didn't tell me this, but whenever I play the scene in my mind I imagine my mother rolling her eyes at him for being overprotective.)

As my mother leaned over and touched her fingers to the surface of the water, her breath caught in her throat and she said, "My God! Henry it's ..." Then her body went limp and she stopped breathing.

After the autopsy, the doctor told my father that his wife had experienced a massive aneurism and died instantly. He said it was painless, she probably never knew what happened: one moment she was alive and the next she wasn't. 

Like untempered glass heated in a clay oven to an extreme temperature and then plunged into cold water, my mother's death shattered something deep within my father. He died that day, though his body took another 50 years to follow suit. 

But I digress. I was talking about my father's unusual death.

All his life, or at least as long as I remember knowing him, my father rhapsodized about riding in a hot air balloon, how peaceful it must be, like flying while held in the arms of an angel.

Eight days ago, the day after his 80th birthday, he decided to cross the top two items off his bucket list and ride in a hot air balloon while visiting the Grand Canyon.

The balloonist who took my father up, a man born well before the atomic age, told me that one moment my father had been riding in the basket of the hot air balloon, happy as a clam, but the next he'd vanished.  The balloonist was a religious man so, for one bizarre moment, he thought that, like Elijah, my father had been caught up to heaven. Then, horrified, he realized his client must have jumped.

Panicked, the man peered over the edge of the basket in time to see my father falling through the air, his arms and legs splayed out from his body, his long white hair streaming up behind him as the wind grabbed it. A moment before he plunged into the pool at the bottom of Mooney Falls he shouted, "Geronimo!"

Miraculously, my father survived the fall, though two swimmers nearly had heart attacks. It's not everyday you see an octogenarian plunge through the air, heading straight for you, shouting 'Geronimo'.

Moments later, after my father recovered from the shock of not-being-dead, he swam to the edge of the pool and, throwing his arms out from his sides as though to embrace nature in her entirety, he laughed and exclaimed, "I'm alive!"

Everyone there--three hikers, the two swimmers who were wondering about their cardiac health, as well as a couple on their honeymoon (they had planned on the waterfall being much more private than it turned out to be)--said my father looked happy, even peaceful.

A moment later my father was dead.

The witness accounts differ in many respects about what happened but one thing everyone agreed on was that, as he was about to walk away from the lake, it was as though he saw something just beneath the surface of the water. He took a step closer and peered into its depths--or at least as far as he could, given that he'd just turned 80 and his contacts had popped out in the fall.

"Gilda?" he said, his voice trembling. He looked away, rubbed his eyes, then looked back and grinned. "Gilda, my God! What are you doing down there?" As he said this he reached out to the pond but the moment his fingers brushed the water his face changed. He gasped, eyes wide and staring, then slumped forward and hit his head on a rock, cracking his skull open like an egg.

For a moment the witnesses to my fathers demise were stunned and stood, frozen, watching his disfigured body float down the pond toward a lazy stream, a red ribbon of blood trailing out behind him. Later that day, searchers found his body nestled against the boughs of a desert willow.

The medical examiner said the blow hadn't killed my father, that his heart had stopped beating before his head hit the rock. When I asked what had killed him, the doctor shrugged and told me, "It was heart failure. The man was 80 years old after all."

Considering that everything born must also die, it was probably one of the better ways to go.

My father's funeral service was not at all what I'd expected. I'd imagined a hell and brimstone sermon, one that promised an eternity of damnation to the unsaved. As it was, the pastor quoted a piece of scripture that summed up my father perfectly: "he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth."

The day after the funeral, the balloonist found a note from my father wedged inconspicuously between two of the basket's floorboards. It contained a neat listing, in pencil, of 10 activities under the heading "Bucket List", seven of which were crossed out. The remaining three were, in order: 'Ride in a hot air balloon,' 'See the Grand Canyon' and 'Free fall.' At the bottom of the note, hastily scrawled, as though it was an afterthought: 'If I don't make it, water my plants.'

"My Father's Unusual Death” copyright © 2013 by Paige Williams.

If you'd like to leave a comment, or leave a link to your work, please do. Cheers!

Photo credit: Freshwater lakes.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

How To Make Your Protagonist Likable

I was over at CreateSpace just now and found a great article on the importance of making one's protagonist likable.

Here's an excerpt:
But here's the interesting thing: Dexter is without a doubt likable. Why is that? Has Lindsay hypnotized us into thinking his psychopathic protagonist is likable when he's really not? Is part of his appeal that he satisfies his bloodlust by killing really bad people? No, I'd say Dexter is likable because he wants to be good, but he struggles with it. In his own twisted way, he wants to do the right thing even if it is untoward and disturbing.

To make a protagonist likable, even one who's not a model citizen, give him an inner conflict between serving a greater good and satisfying his own self-interest. That sacrifice your protagonist makes to forego his or her own selfish desires and indeed serve the greater good is what makes him or her likable.
To read the rest head on over to: Make Your Protagonist Likable.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Story Behind Stephen King's "Joyland" Hitting The Top Of The Charts

The Story Behind Stephen King's Book Joyland Hitting The Top Of The Charts

Stephen King is my favorite horror writer so I was fascinated by Kevin Quigley's article: How Stephen King’s Joyland Broke a Decade-Long Dry Spell and Dominated the Summer.

Kevin Quigley details Stephen King's rise on the charts, particularly the New York Times bestseller list for mass market paperbacks. Apparently Joyland is his first book to reach the top of that list in a great many years.

Kevin Quigley writes:
... King’s hardcovers have topped their chart nearly as regularly as he’s released them, but until very recently, King hadn’t had a paperback book hit the #1 spot since 2003 – and that was for the movie tie-in edition of Dreamcatcher, which stalled at #2 on its first chart run over a year prior. ...
. . . .
When Joyland entered the charts on June 23rd, it looked like business as usual, sliding in at #2 just below the newest Sylvia Day Crossfire novel ...
. . . .
After hitting #1 during the last week of June, Joyland managed to hold the top spot for five more weeks – all of July and the first week of August – before being pushed out by J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy. Even then, it managed to stay at #2, meaning that for its entire chart run, Joyland clung to one of the top two slots on the paperback chart.
All in all a fascinating article.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Stephen King, The Shining: "... an unexpected monster lying in wait, crouching among the dried bones of its old kills."

I'm reading Stephen King's book The Shining. I can't believe I haven't read it before.

No, that's not right, of course I can believe it, I just regret it. Why did I wait?

I started reading King's books as a late teen on the advice of a friend's mother. (Yes, that's right, my friend's mother got me reading horror!) I've read all his books since, but that leaves his entire backlist for me to work through.

My advice: for those of you who have just discovered King, make The Shining one of the first books you read. Here's a quote, this is Jack Torrence describing himself:
"He was like a man who had leaned around a corner and had seen an unexpected monster lying in wait, crunching among the dried bones of its old kills."
Scary reading!

Photo credit: "The bird and the moon II"

Friday, August 9, 2013

How To Add A Widget To Your Goodreads Page

I had to hunt for this link so I'm posting it here:

Goodreads Widgets

Stephen King makes a supernatural musical: The Ghost Brothers of Darkland County

Stephen King makes a supernatural musical: The Ghost Brothers of Darkland County

Today was my day to catch up on what one of my favorite authors, Stephen King, has been up to.

Supernatural Musical: The Ghost Brothers of Darkland County

You probably heard what a hit Under the Dome, the TV show, is and that it's been renewed for a second season, but what you might not have heard--I hadn't--was that Stephen King and John Mellencamp are working on a musical together called Ghost Brothers of Darkland County.

Here's an excerpt from the site:
The musical’s superb blues ‘n roots songs, performed by a stellar collection of guest artists, drives this haunting tale of fraternal love, lust, jealousy and revenge, 13 years in the making.
Music and lyrics: John Mellencamp
Libretto:  Stephen King, 
Musical direction: T Bone Burnett

Billed as a supernatural musical, Ghost Brothers, stars Elvis Costello as the devil (Old Nick), Rosanne Cash, Sheryl Crow, Kris Kristofferson, and many more.

Official Site:
The Ghost Brothers of Darkland County

Good write up on Stephen King and what he's up to:
Looking for more Stephen King this summer?

Let me leave you with this quote from the king of horror. It is in reference to his TV series, Under the Dome:
“There’s only one element of my novel that absolutely had to be the same in the novel and the show, and that’s the Dome itself,” he wrote. “It’s best to think of that novel and what you’re seeing week-to-week on CBS as a case of fraternal twins. Both started in the same creative womb, but you will be able to tell them apart. Or, if you’re of a sci-fi bent, think of them as alternate versions of the same reality.

“As for me, I’m enjoying the chance to watch that alternate reality play out; I still think there’s no place like Dome.” (From: Stephen King addresses ‘Under the Dome’ critics)
 "... there's no place like Dome." And that, folks, is why he's the king. ;)

My latest story, The Invasion of Dryreach, is currently free on Smashwords.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Dumb and Dumber 2

Apparently Dumb and Dumber 2 is in the works. Or, as it's said to be titled, Dumb and Dumber To.

I've been watching The Newsroom and loving it. One of my friends told me: Hey! Did you know Jeff Daniels (he plays Will McAvoy on The Newsroom) was one of the leads in Dumb and Dumber?

So I watched the movie. It was lowbrow humor at its best, but it was strange watching the same actor who plays such an intelligent character playing someone a few fries short of a happy meal.

I think this clip from YouTube sums it up:

Monday, August 5, 2013

A documentary on the making of Pet Sematary: Unearthed & Untold: The making of Pet Sematary

The making of Stephen King's Pet Sematary

I love Stephen King's books so I was excited to learn a documentary is being made about the filming of Pet Sematary. Read all about it here: The making of Stephen King's Pet Sematary.

Here's the trailer:

Writing progress

I'm halfway through my second draft of the prequel to Dryreach (yes!) and hope to be well into my third by Sunday.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Daily Update: Dryreach Prequel, First Draft, Done!

Writing Progress

Yesterday I wrote about 2,500 words, about 1,500 on the first draft of my Dryreach Prequel--which I finished--and 1,000 on the next story I'll be working on, tentatively titled Samantha.

Samantha is about a girl who learns she's half Fae after her father dies. It's about a lot more than that but I generally don't talk about my stories while I'm writing them, only afterward. I think Samantha will be either three interlinked novellas of 20,000 words or so, or it will be a novel.


I vaguely remembered my dream last night but I let it slip away. Grrrr ... I need to be more disciplined about writing them down.

I do remember that, a few days ago, I dreamt about the number 2376. Interesting number ...

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

My Dream: A Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley Mashup

Last night I dreamt I was Bram Stoker.

Only I wasn't.

I was Bram Stoker, the author of (among other things) Dracula, but I was chasing down a creature I had tried to assemble and breathe life into, but (surprise, surprise) my experiment had gone horribly wrong.

One of my assistants/associates had betrayed me and now, pursued by a mob, I raced against time to find my creation before my enemy did.

What, exactly, the betrayer wanted with the monstrous product of my pride, my vanity, I don't remember. That information didn't come through the veil of sleep.

All in all it was a tantalizing dream. I don't usually write my dreams down but I'm trying to change that. Hopefully, if I do, I'll be able to recall more of them.

Fingers crossed!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013




I've been watching Whodunnit? for the past few days.

Yesterday I finished watching episode number six and can say that it's been better than I expected (though my expectations were low) in a B-movie cheesy kind of way.

The premise is that there is a murder among the 13 (of course!) contestants/guests and it is up to them to find out which one it is. Each week someone is 'murdered', which simply means they leave the show. So far the little dramas where the contestant bites it have been surprisingly good considering the small budget the show must have.

My writing day so far

I've been thinking of blogging about my writing day, about the stories I'm writing, how many words I've written, that sort of thing.

Today I've written 1,153 words on the prequel to The Invasion of Dryreach (now free on Smashwords) and hope to write at least 2,500 words by the end of the day. Ideally I'll have the first draft done today or tomorrow and the second draft completed by Sunday (cross fingers).

Hope you're having a wonderful day!

Photo credit: "Little One"

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Invasion of Dryreach: Free Novella!

I started writing The Invasion of Dryreach in 2007. I wanted to write a story about vampires and superpowers that involved a group of hunters going out and destroying beasties and solving a mystery. Here's the blurb:
Ella Winters, monster hunter, must enter the vampire infested town of Dryreach to rescue her fiancé. The problem: a new kind of monster has arisen and wants to rule the world.
 (I've included the first chapter at the end of this post.)

I didn't know how The Invasion would end in 2007 so I put it away. I pulled it out over the years and added a scene here, a scene there, but I still didn't know how it would end.

A few weeks ago I was taking a shower and--bam!--the ending came to me. After many hours of fevered writing I finished it.

This is one of my favorite stories, it was a lot of fun to write, even though the story took its time coming to me.

I'm making the novella (25,000 words) free for the next two weeks, until July 31, 2013. If you'd like to read it, here's the link: The Invasion of Dryreach. If you don't want to go through Smashwords, email me and I'll send you the book.

I try to publish one story every two months or so and I usually give them away for free for two weeks. If you'd like to be notified when a new story comes out, leave me your email address. I haven't set up an account at MailChimp yet so just email me at paigewilliamsonline (at) gmail (dot) com with the subject line: "Add my name." Or, really, whatever you like as long as I get the idea.

Here's the first chapter of The Invasion of Dryreach:

It was the worst-case scenario.

24 hours ago a tourist had alerted authorities that the abandoned graveyard near the sleepy town of Dryreach had been desecrated. Over 50 new graves had been dug and covered in. Fresh claw marks were in the ground above most of them suggesting something had clawed its way out. To any hunter that screams vampire infestation. Rogue biters were creating cannon fodder for a big assault.

When the mayor of Dryreach learned about the fresh graves he, per protocol, suspended all travel to and from the city. What wasn't per protocol, what in fact had never happened before, was the strange fog that had begun to engulf Dryreach until it became a communications dead zone ensuring that we had no idea what kind of vampires these were or how many of them were massing.

As soon as communications with Dryreach went down the Rogue Vampire Detection and Eradication Team (RVDET) assigned to New Mexico was dispatched from Santa Fe. We monitored their communications until the squad entered the town. The fog swallowed them like a lake swallows a pebble; it was the last anyone heard from them.

After an hour of communications silence Special Forces were sent in. They didn’t have the vampire specific training of RVDET but since their orders were to ‘shoot anything that moved’ I guess no one figured it mattered.

As with RVDET, it was like the squad marched into a communications black hole.

I had a gut feeling this infestation was bigger than anything we’d encountered. The government had been leaning on news stations to soft-peddle what was happening; they didn’t want folks fleeing the towns around Dryreach and they scrambled to both cover their asses and come up with a solution.

Asses first, solution second.

Two hours ago Rodney McKay, my fiancé and second-in-command, had left for Dryreach. I would have stopped him if he'd given me the chance. So he didn't. He left me a note explaining that Maria, his niece and only family, had gotten back from her vacation just before the town had been engulfed by fog, and was now trapped. He was going to get her out or die trying.

As soon as I found the note I knew what I had to do: find Rod and Maria and bring us all back, alive.

#  #  #

Winters Inc. had been founded by my father. He hunted vampires. Zombies too, but mostly vampires. A rogue vampire had surprised him last year and he fought to the death. The business was mine now. Last year hadn't been as busy as usual, probably because we'd culled most of the rogue vamps, those that refused to abide by the accords the United Nations and the Vampire Council had issued. Some vamps thought the Vampire Council had sold them out and rebelled, others had elevated the maxim, 'Might makes right,' to a law and couldn't understand why they weren't allowed to feed on an unwilling human. What they failed to understand is that someone is always stronger. Better.

I was heading out to Dryreach to bring Rod back. I had no illusions. I knew I probably wasn't coming back, but hunters don't leave their friends behind and they don't expect to grow old.

On my way out I looked into the break room. My team, Warren, Doc and Dian, were seated around the break table watching the endless news loop about what was happening in Dryreach, the photographs of humans lying dead on the main street, their throats ripped out, fang marks still visible in their white, gutted, flesh.

I shivered.

Perhaps it was a mercy only a few pictures had been transmitted before the fog had descended on the town cutting it off from the world.

Seated at the lunch table, munching on taco chips, Dian speculated about what kind of beastie had taken over Dryreach and why. Her favorite theory was that it was so obvious vampires were the cause they couldn't be. They were being set up by another, even worse, group.

That was Dian; she'd held just about every crazy theory there was since she'd started working for my Dad six years ago. But I liked her infectious laugh, her unswerving dedication, and most of all I appreciated her ability to gather and synthesize information.

Warren, my right-hand man, sat beside Dian. When my dad found him, he was an hour away from being turned into the undead. It takes an entire night, from sundown to sunrise, to turn a human into a vampire. Everyone else under for more than two hours had died or gone insane. Warren had survived with his mind intact but he had brought something back with him. A darkness.

Jerald "Doc" Hayden sat beside Warren. Doc looked like an aging California beach bum but was the best doctor I'd ever known. He was passionate; we'd had our share of disagreements over the years. Hell, Doc had his share of disagreements with everyone over the years—but I couldn't ask for a better friend.

I didn't go in, I wasn't going to tell anyone I was heading to Dryreach. If they knew they would either want to stop me or, failing that, come along and I couldn't allow either.

My throat tightened and I blinked back tears. Time to go. 

Before I could turn away Dian looked over and saw me. "Hey, Ella," she said, "The governor declared a state of emergency in Dryreach."

Warren looked up from reading his tablet. "He just declared martial law as well. Guess we're not going to be getting a paycheck on this one."

That Governor, James Malcom, had declared martial law didn't surprise me, but it made it all the more important that I get to Dryreach quickly, before it was completely cordoned off by troops. After a brief stop at my office to make sure everything was in order and to retrieve my bug out bag—a backpack containing everything I was likely to need on a job—I walked outside into the scorching heat of the desert.

#  #  #

After the air conditioned confines of the office building the heat hit me like a suffocating wall of fur. That was what early August was like here on the Colorado Plateau. Heat rippled up in waves distorting my view of my jeep parked on the asphalt parking lot.

Warren was standing beside the jeep.

I sighed and walked over. I should have known getting away wouldn't be that easy.

Warren's eyes were hidden by dark brown wrap around shades. When I was about eight feet away he nodded at me and said, "Rod went to Dryreach to get his niece." It wasn't exactly a question. His gear was in a backpack that hung from his shoulder.

"You're not coming," I said. "The team needs you; I can't risk your life."

Warren crossed his arms over his chest. He was wearing a tight t-shirt and I could see every bump, every ripple, of his impressive, zero fat, physique. But I was engaged so, naturally, that sort of thing didn't interest me.

"I'm the best fighter you have," Warren said. "If Rod is still alive I'm the best chance he's got."

It was true. Warren was a much better fighter than I was, than any of us were. Whatever the vamp pheromones had done to him, he had inhumanly fast reflexes, and his eyesight ... well, let's just say eagles would be envious. And those were only the abilities I knew about. I often felt he had abilities he hadn't told anyone about.

I nodded and walked closer until we stood an arm's length apart. I was glad he had shades on. Whenever I looked into his eyes I had the impression he was trying to read my soul.

"Let's be honest," I said. "I'm probably not coming back, we both know that. But I have to do this. Rod went to rescue Maria because she's his only family." I fingered my engagement ring, I'd thought I counted as family, but I pushed the bitter thought aside. "Well, Rod is my only family. Some people are worth dying for and he's one of them."

Warren looked at me for so long the silence became uncomfortable. "You don't understand. You, Rod, the team, you're my family."

"I'm not making a suggestion Warren. This is my organization, which makes it my call whether you go, and I'm telling you to stay back." As I spoke I opened the drivers side door, tossing my backpack inside.

"Wait!" Warren said, and laid his hand on my shoulder. I'm not sure which I noticed first, the unnatural coldness of his touch in this heat or the prickling sensation that poured from his hand and ran down my spine; it was as though an open circuit had brushed my shoulder. Involuntarily, I jumped back and, without thinking, drew my gun and pointed it at him. My eyes were wide and I was breathing in great, shocked, gasps.

To have reflexes like that is why I train every damn day.

Warren put his hands up in the universal gesture of, "I'm not a threat," and slowly backed away. After a few moments, when my heart started to slow down, I holstered my gun.

"Warren, what the hell was that?"

"You need to take me," Warren said, ignoring my question. "I'll make you a deal. I'll tell you why you need to take me and if you don't agree I'll stay back. No argument."

I glared at him. Why couldn't he be like the others? If I told any of them, 'I'm going, you stay back,' they would have grumbled but they wouldn't have been this kind of a pain in my ass.

Warren grinned as though he could sense the gist of my thoughts and I glared at him. After a moment I smiled and shook my head. I had to give him points for perseverance.

"Okay, tell me why I must take you," I said. "But then I'm leaving, alone, and I don't want to hear anything else from you about it."

"I'm the only person who has come back from being bit by a vampire and buried almost till sunrise," Warren said. "Everyone else under for that amount of time was dug out of the ground insane or went that way in less than a year, usually taking a bunch of innocent bystanders with them."

I nodded, shifting uncomfortably. "Yes, you were dug up almost five years ago. A record. Warren, I have no idea where you're going with this but I don't have time to listen.

Warren looked at me for a heart beat and, slowly, took a step closer. I wanted to step back, I really wanted to step back, but I didn't. That would have meant giving in to fear. It would also have told Warren that he freaked the living shit out of me.

Slowly he moved his right hand forward, toward me.

"You've always wondered what I can do, what powers I took back from the grave with me."

It was true. I had wondered. But I'd also wondered what it felt like to burn in hell for eternity. Doesn't mean I wanted to experience it.

His hand crept closer. He was giving me ample time to step back or knock his hand away, but the truth was I was curious, I wanted to know.

"Okay, show me," I said. "But make it fast, we're burning daylight."

#  #  #

As soon as Warren's fingers brushed the surface of my forehead it was as though thoughts, like oily electric fingers, reached out, seeking to grip my mind, seeking to shred and rend and rip and tear. I gasped.

The thoughts felt alien, like slippery probes communicating with me in a language I almost understood. If only I focused on them and concentrated I could...

"Don't!" Warren said in a choked whisper; he drew his hand back from my shoulder with a speed that suggested he'd been burnt. "Don't listen too hard, that could set up a connection between you and the vampire. Telepathy is a two way street."

Vampire?! I looked at Warren, horrified. My next thought made me unsteady and I had to lean against my jeep or risk falling. "All these years they've been able to read your thoughts?"

"No!" Warren shook his head emphatically. This was the most animated I'd seen him. "I can keep the vampire from reading my mind but his thoughts are always with me. He's trying to find me. He wants to take me over, control me."

I'd had no idea. "This vampire, the one who would have been your sire, did he feel me in your thoughts?"

Warren shook his head. "You are invisible to him since you sensed him through me; it's like listening to a wiretap. You can hear the conversation but you can't join in."

I nodded. This was bizarre and intensely disturbing. "This ... this is what you feel every day?

"Yes. Every day I feel his mind. It searches for me, trying to find a chink in my mental defences. He wants in, he wants to control me."

"How do you stand it? Feeling his thoughts, it was ... obscene."

"Now you know why so many of the almost-turned, the so-called 'half turned,' go insane. I suppose they felt it was preferable."

"And you're worried that one day the vampire will break through and you'll go insane too?" It wasn't exactly a question.

Warren looked at me for a moment and then, slowly, took his dark glasses off. I swallowed and tried not to look away. His eyes were black on grey: a black iris squatting inside an expanse of grey. I shivered.

"The vampire wants to control my thoughts. He wants me to let him in. If I do, he will take me over and control me like a puppet. Your dad thought I could fight him off forever..." Tears formed in Warren's eyes and his voice was close to breaking. He looked away from me and blinked rapidly a few times. "I can't. I don't know how much longer..."

That's when I realized. "You want to die," I whispered.

Warren looked down and didn't say anything. I felt helpless. He was trapped in a hell vampires had created for him. He'd been keeping it together for my dad and, now, for me. The vampire's sadism combined with his courage ... I got angry. All my feelings coalesced into a white-hot point of fury. My feelings about the biters killing my mom and then my dad, anger at them threatening Rod's life, anger at what they were doing to Warren.

When I'm angry I don't think much. I guess the body is wired that way; adrenalin was pumping through my veins and when that happens you react, you do things, things that perhaps your higher brain would disapprove of.

I grabbed Warren's hand in both of mine and held it in front of me. "Warren, look at me," I said, my voice a whisper. I was going to do something I'd never done before, something my father had told me never to try, never under any circumstances.
Here's the link to download the story: The Invasion of Dryreach.

If you would consider leaving a review--whether good, bad or indifferent--that would be fabulous!


Photo credit: "Premade BG 96" by Brenda Clarke used under Creative Commons Attribution Licence 2.0.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Destruction Of The Death Star: An Inside Job?

Destruction Of The Death Star: An Inside Job?

A friend saw this on boingboing.net and sent it to me.

Originally it was made as a parody of the 9/11 video 'Loose Change' but I think it's brilliant on its own.

This video asks the question: Was the destruction of the Death Star an inside job?

Photo credit: "Angry bird" by kevin dooley under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Joss Whedon: "My biggest professional disappointment is Firefly being cancelled"

From The Telegraph:
Joss, who wrote and directed Buffy The Vampire Slayer, said: "My biggest professional disappointment is Firefly being cancelled: that's how I learned what real grief is. And that will never go away.

"Part of that sadness is that I didn't know how to fight. Now I look back and go, 'You know, if I'd had just a little more moxie, maybe I could have read the signs'.

"But I came to understand that grief is like losing a limb. You don't grow another arm, you learn to tie your shoes differently."
I loved Firefly, it was, hands down, one of the best dramas out there but I think it really says something that Joss Whedon considers its cancellation his biggest professional disappointment, considering his reaction to Alien Resurrection.

The following is from an interview with Joss in 2005:
It wasn't a question of doing everything differently, although they [the producers of Alien Resurrection] changed the ending; it was mostly a matter of doing everything wrong. They said the lines...mostly...but they said them all wrong. And they cast it wrong. And they designed it wrong. And they scored it wrong. They did everything wrong that they could possibly do. There's actually a fascinating lesson in filmmaking, because everything that they did reflects back to the script or looks like something from the script, and people assume that, if I hated it, then they’d changed the script...but it wasn’t so much that they’d changed the script; it’s that they just executed it in such a ghastly fashion as to render it almost unwatchable. (Joss for a minute: A brief chat with Joss Whedon, via Wikipedia: Alien Resurrection)
After viewing a particularly horrible movie I've often wondered: What were they thinking? How could it have gone so wrong? Well ... that's how!

Photo link: Sean & Nathan @ the Flanvention.

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Following, Season 1, Episode 6: The Fall

Is it just me or is The Following getting even more creepy?

Don't get me wrong, I never thought that a TV Show about the cult of a serial killer was going to be cheery but ... damn.

Here's an example. Paul Torres is part of Carroll's cult so, naturally, he's a serial killer. Paul gets injured--Ryan stabs him in the stomach in an escape attempt--and betrayed by Emma.

Here's the creepy part: I felt sorry for him!

But this is a serial killer! I shouldn't be feeling sorry for the guy, he's just getting what's coming to him. Yet I do.

I suppose that's part of the perverse genius of the show.

I'm looking forward to watching episode 7: Let Me Go.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Hannibal, TV Series, Episode 5

I'm watching the fifth episode of Hannibal.

I'd forgotten that Jack Crawford's wife dies of cancer, here we see her soon after the diagnosis, fighting her losing battle with the disease.

A sad episode.

As I poked around the internet looking for more information on Mrs. Crawford--it's been ages since I read Thomas Harris' books--I read the wiki entry for Will Graham. I had forgotten that Hannibal grows to hate Will (in the books at least) and tries to kill him, and his wife, using Francis Dolarhyde as his cat's paw.

I'm going to re-watch Red Dragon tonight.

Photo, from Flickr, "Behind the Haunted Wood."

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Following: A TV Show For Writers

The Following: A TV Show For Writers

I just watched the first episode of The Following.


I wasn't planning on watching the series because my friends said it was violent. Really violent. Torturing-puppies-for-fun-violent.

And they weren't wrong.

But there's a lot more to the show than violence. It has a flawed hero (Kevin Bacon as Ryan Hardy) to root for, a thoroughly, irredeemably, evil villain (James Purefoy as Joe Carroll), a damsel in distress (Natalie Zea as Claire Matthews) and clearly defined stakes that we care about.

Excuse this turn of phrase, but it's clearly writer porn.

No, it has nothing to do with writers--pale out-of-shape flab-buckets that we are--doing the nasty. If you haven't seen the first episode you won't know what I'm talking about so in true fan-girl fashion (and, yes, it took only one episode for me to become a fan) I transcribed the really juicy bits from the end.

Okay, if you're still reading you either know what's coming or you don't care about spoiling the surprise. This dialogue is between the convicted serial killer, Carroll, and disgraced FBI agent Ryan Hardy.
Carroll: Claire is very important, Ryan. Every good story needs a love interest. She's the only woman I've never truly loved. She's the mother of my son.
.  .  .  .
Carroll: [Referring to the next book he is going to write] I thought I might go more traditional this time. A hero, a villain, good versus evil. I need a strong protagonist so the reader can truly invest. A flawed, broken, man searching for redemption.

Carroll: And that is you. [Carroll points to Ryan.] You are my flawed hero.

Carroll: Yes, I insured that by killing Sarah. She was the 'inciting incident,' the hero's 'call to action.' Oh this is merely the prologue, this is just the beginning. That was the entire point of Sarah's death.

Carroll: It was for you.

Ryan: If this book ends with anything other than your death, you better plan on a rewrite.
That has to be one of the best last lines ever.

But, then, Kevin Williamson is the shows creator (The Scream movies, The Vampire Diaries, Dawson's Creek) so that's hardly surprising.

I've taken a look at some of the reactions over at IMDB and find that the show isn't universally liked and that some folks have complained about the later episodes, but ... well, I guess I'll see for myself. I hope the show lives up to its (great) potential.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Trap: My Entry For Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction Challenge: Choose Your Opening Line (1,000 words)

The Trap: My Entry For Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction Challenge: Choose Your Opening Line (1,000 words)

This is the first time I've entered one of Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction challenges, though I've read the work of many who have and am more than a little intimidated.

The challenge was to choose one of 14 opening lines and write a short story for it that was no more than 1,000 words long.

Here goes.

The opening line I chose: "Once James accepted that he had no choice but to burn the books, the question became which to burn first." Valerie Valdes

Gasping for air, James' thin frame shuddered as he hauled himself up on his good leg, his crushed right arm impotently bound to his bloody side with the reminants of his shirt. He set his jaw, his grey eyes turned inward, fixed on the memory of his precious Winnie. He would not let her death be in vain.

Digging the lighter from his pants pocket he couldn't help but grin. Winnie had nagged him to quit smoking, she'd even threatened to leave him once. Now it just might save the galaxy.

Who'd have thunk? He giggled.

Punchy, getting punchy ...

James slapped himself and for a second or two stared at the lighter trying to remember what it was doing in his hand.

Then he remembered. He had to burn the library to prevent the Chaos Walkers finding The Book of Ascension. If only he knew which book it was he could spare the library but the monks had died to keep their secret.

The door groaned and cracked under heavy blows. "Come out and we'll let you live." He didn't recognize the voice, but its mechanical pitch belied the presence of a Chaos Walker.

Yeah, sure, they'd let him live, let him live as one of them. But that wasn't living. He knew, he'd tried it.

And Winnie had saved him.

Breathing a plea for forgiveness to whatever deities might care, James held the flame under the nearest book. They were all hundreds of years old, brittle and dry, and would burn like tinder. This would become his pyre.

He smiled. Soon he would be with Winnie.

But the book didn't catch fire. It didn't even discolor. James swore and threw the lighter across the room where it bounced harmlessly off one of the thousands of books lining the walls. Before they were massacred the monks must have bespelled them.

The small exertion cost him and James coughed, a fine red spray filling the air. He staggered and nearly fell.

With a scream of rent wood and bending iron Chaos Walkers tore the door from its hinges and swarmed into the library, surrounding James.

Calvin, the High Lord's son, strutted through the fractured doorway, his black cape fell from narrow congenitally stooping shoulders and swept the floor, picking up splinters of dead wood and metal at its hem.

Calvin turned to James, his face barren of any emotion except scorn, his dead, cruel eyes reveling in James' fall from grace.

James stared at the floor determined not to give his brother the satisfaction of seeing him afraid. "You didn't think you could destroy the books did you?" Calvin's upper lip curled. "I didn't think you were that big a fool."

James' sight blurred. Blood still seeped from the deep knife wound in his leg despite his hastily devised tourniquet. He blinked to clear his vision and willed himself to stand tall. "Think me a fool if it pleases you. I would do anything to keep a monster such as you from possessing the power of an ascended being."

Legend said the power of an ascended being was enormous. A whole army could be laid low with only a word. If any of the Chaos Walkers were able to ascend they would have the ability to remake the galaxy in their image. The image of death.

James' legs gave out and he toppled onto a nearby stack of dusty tomes. As he moved, his leg sent shards of pain slicing up his spine. At least he wouldn't live to see the galaxy destroyed, but that was small comfort.

Clinging to the books for support, James looked around the room and wished Calvin wasn't the last thing he'd see. If only he could be with Winnie and look into her beautiful eyes as he died. James' legs gave out and he slid to the floor.

Calvin grinned, his eyes dead, and said something but James couldn't hear the words. He was cold. So cold. So this was death.

James didn't mind dying; his only regret was that he hadn't been able to destroy The Book. If only he'd been brighter, been able to figure out which book to destroy and been fast enough to do it before the soldiers broke in.

The light was fading, casting everything in shades of twilight. James' faltering gaze fell on a glowing white shape beside Calvin that hadn't been there a moment before.

James smiled. "Winnie," he said. Or tried to say. His lips were heavy and refused to move. He tried to smile at his dead love but his muscles rebelled.

Winnie looked at him, her lips trembling as she took in his mangled body. Tears filled her eyes. She mouthed something. He thought she said, "My love, the galaxy is safe."

James frowned and tried to shake his head. "If they find the book ...," he tried to say, but he was too weak to form the words.

Winnie knelt over him and said something but he couldn't understand her. He thought she said, "There is no book. The secret is the library."

He didn't understand what she meant but that didn't matter. Winnie was with him, and his love was the last thing he would see. James sighed, content, and felt himself slipping, spilling out of his mortal shell.

The secret is the library. Winnie's words crept sluggishly through his dying brain and then, the moment before he breathed his last, he understood.

-- S --

The Chaos Walkers read every book in the library countless times but never discovered The Book of Ascension. As they read, some of them remembered what it was to be human.

The monks had understood knowledge held power and that the library could transform, if not bodies, then hearts and minds.

-- The End --

If you read my story, thank you! I hope you enjoyed it. :-)

Photo credit: "Trinity College Library (1 of 2)" by Brett Jordan under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Stephen King's Son, Owen King, Writes First Novel "Double Feature"

Stephen King's Son, Owen King, Writes First Novel "Double Feature"

Double Feature, by Stephen King's son Owen King, is due out March 19th.

Here is the description from Simon and Schuster:
SAM DOLAN is a young man coming to terlife in the process and aftermath of making his first film. He has a difficult relationship with his father, B-movie actor Booth Dolan—a boisterous, opinionated, lying lothario whose screen legacy falls somewhere between cult hero and pathetic. Allie, Sam’s dearly departed mother, was a woman whose only fault, in Sam’s eyes, was her eternal affection for his father. Also included in the cast of indelible characters: a precocious, frequently violent half-sister; a conspiracy-theorist second wife; an Internet-famous roommate; a contractor who can’t stop expanding his house; a happy-go-lucky college girlfriend and her husband, a retired Yankees catcher; the morose producer of a true-crime show; and a slouching indie-film legend. Not to mention a tragic sex monster.

Unraveling the tumultuous, decades-spanning story of the Dolan family’s friends, lovers, and adversaries, Double Feature is about letting go of everything—regret, resentment, dignity, moving pictures, the dead—and taking it again from the top. Against the backdrop of indie filmmaking, college campus life, contemporary Brooklyn, and upstate New York, Owen King’s epic debut novel combines propulsive storytelling with mordant wit and brims with a deep understanding of the trials of ambition and art, of relationships and life, and of our attempts to survive it all.
Read more about Owen King and his book over at USAToday.com: Owen King's debut novel is not about his famous dad.

Best of luck to him! Sounds like a great story.

Photo credit: "BORDERS" by VinothChandar under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Sleeping Beauty, From a Different Perspective

You may have seen this before, it was uploaded in December 2009, but it's a great twist on the story of Sleeping Beauty.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Moon Base Could Be Built Using 3D Printing. No, Really!

It's true, fact is stranger than fiction.

This amazing story comes by way of Jacqueline Howard over at The Huffington Post.
As if planning to build a moon base weren't enough, the European Space Agency may try to do it with 3D printing.

"Printing" a building out of layers of lunar soil could be much easier and cheaper than bringing the whole structure from earth. And there's even a printer that can do the job -- a device known as the D-Shape, produced by London-based company Monolite UK. It hasn't used real lunar soil yet, but tests with similar mixtures have been successful.
Read the rest here: ESA Moon Base Plan Could Use 3D Printing & Lunar Soil (PHOTOS)

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Roger Ebert's Review Of The Believers

Roger Ebert, wow, that man can write!

I watched The Believers yesterday, it wasn't good. Wanting to share the pain, I read some reviews on IMDB and Ebert's stood out. He wrote:
I'm getting tired of the dingy tenements in Spanish Harlem with the blood-soaked chicken feathers on the floor, and the scenes where the shrink realizes he needs a witch doctor to save his child.

One thing you gotta say about Caribbean native religions: They don't inspire stories that could star Loretta Young. Most religious movies are about peace and love and friendship, and how one day all of humanity is going to hold hands and be brother and sister. Movies about Caribbean native religions are always about guys with blank eyes who stare at you for 10 seconds and you're volunteering to wring the chickens' necks yourself. (The Believers)
Question:  Have you seen a movie about Santeria or Voodoo that you would recommend?

About the photograph: "fallen angel panorama.jpg" by rhoftonphoto under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Monday, March 4, 2013

We Are Stardust

I'm a science geek, so when I saw this post on Brain Pickings I had to share. The visuals are stunning. Of course they are recreations, but still.

This is a beautifully breathtaking "short film based on a combination of real NASA footage and science fiction imagery, celebrating the legacy of Voyager 1".

Dutch Designer and director Mischa Rozema says of the film:
I wanted to show the universe as a beautiful but also destructive place. It’s somewhere we all have to find our place within. As a director, making Stardust was a very personal experience but it’s not intended to be a personal film and I would want people to attach their own meanings to the film so that they can also find comfort based on their own histories and lives. (Stardust: A Mesmerizing Short Film About the Voyager 1 and the Wonder of the Universe)
The score is beautiful and haunting, if you would like to own it it's available from iTunes. All of the proceeds are going to the Dutch Cancer Society.

Photo: "Noche de luna llena - Full moon night" by Luz Adriana Villa A. License: Creative Commons Attribution 2.0. (I cropped the photo, but that was the only change.)