Thursday, January 31, 2013

M L Gammella Week 32: Righteous Revenge

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M L Gammella’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: Righteous Revenge

Sha'donar was approaching as the sun sank toward the horizon. The night before a major battle was a holy celebration for the Strijela people, especially for warrior and head priestess Mirja'a. It was her responsibility to bring the blessings of Upinde to her people.

The upcoming battle had special significance for her as well. She was finally going to exact revenge for the death of her parents at the hands of the Bijeszlo. Many years ago, the Bijeszlo swooped down from their settlement in the northern ranges and brutally attacked the Strijela. The Bijeszlo focused their attacks on the priests and priestesses, decimating the holy people of the Strijela.

Mirja'a's parents died protecting her, shoving her into a hidden panel in the wall of their bedroom as the Bijeszlo stormed the temple. She remembered hearing the screams of her mother as a Bijeszlo soldier cut her down, only after murdering her father, the head priest of the Strijela. Mirja'a stayed her hidden spot, shaking and terrified, even after her mother's blood seeped into the space.

The Bijeszlo weren't able to kill off the entire priesthood of the Strijela before the people rose up and fought back, but the damage had been done. The majority of the senior priests and priestesses were dead, leaving only a few elderly priests and laypeople. The Strijelaist people mourned for months, black bunting hanging from flag poles and totems until the cloths became worn and frayed.

During this time, a young Mirja'a, still a child, tried to fulfill the roles her parents held with the help of the remaining priesthood. It was very difficult. She often cried out to Upinde, questioning why their god would allow this to happen to the Strijela. Through many a crisis of faith, Mirja'a finally realized her calling to her people and threw herself into her role as the head priestess.

She trained with the war chief for years, growing strong while learning the art of war. She would revenge the deaths of her parents and the others that the Bijeszlo butchered. Their blood would flow as a sacrifice to Upinde.

Now was that time. Her training was over. She was the Strijela, the arrow, that would strike the Bijeszlo.

As the setting sun reflected off the water, Mirja'a stood on the stone-filled shore with her bow in hand. Her instrument of revenge would be consecrated with the blood of her enemies. Soon, she would need to return to the village before Sha'donar started. Now was her time to pray to Upinde, to seek the calm presence of her god and the blessing of righteousness.

Mirja'a strung her bow with a tipless arrow, and drew the wood back toward her jaw. Tomorrow, her arrows would be tipped with the finest arrowheads the Strijela people could make, but today, her arrowhead would be her supplication to Upinde. Arching her back, she pointed her bow up into the sky. With a soft word of prayer, Mirja'a closed her eyes and released the arrow. She listened to the faint whistle of her arrow through the air and continued to pray.

A gust of wind caressed her body and she opened her eyes. "Thank you, Holy Upinde," she murmured, kissing her bow and settling it across her body.

After a final look across the water, Mirja'a turned and walked back toward her temple where her people would be waiting. It was time for Sha'donar, the Holy Blessing. With Upinde's grace, they would be victorious.


M L Gammella lives in Ohio with her husband and their three pets. She is currently working on her first novel, a paranormal suspense based in Maine. Please follow her at @MLGammella and visit her website at Onward to the Written Word.


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Kimberly Gould Week 32: Never Be Afraid to Try

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Kimberly Gould’s Picture Choice: Both

Title: Never Be Afraid to Try

“Go on. Try it,” Alan dared, nudging the plate of takoyaki toward me.

I was a sushi virgin. Well, nearly. I’d had cucumber rolls before, those seemed harmless. Tonight I’d had cooked shrimp and barbequed eel. Those looked safe. It required a dare and the promise of a fresh can of Sapporo to get me to put the piece of raw salmon on my tongue. It wasn’t as bad as I expected. I could really only taste the wasabi. I chugged my beer down and squeezed tears from my eyes.

Octopus. It was cooked, he had told me, but still, it was octopus. Inside a sweet doughy shell, but still, octopus.

“You can do it. You watched me to it,” he taunted, nearing a dare.

“Fine.” I picked one up in my fingers, popped it in my mouth, and swallowed, only chewing once.

The sweet syrup on the outside coated my tongue and the chewy center was similar to a cookie or tart. It wasn’t bad at all. I snagged another and chewed more slowly. Nope, I didn’t taste fish.

Alan grinned. “Told you! You just don’t know until you try something.”

I snorted.

After dinner, he paid. That had been another requirement to get me into a Japanese restaurant. Then we walked through the park back to my place.

“Pat?” he asked, stopping me and looking toward the sunset.

“Yeah, Al?”

His hand, brushing the back of mine as we walked, slipped around my waist and pulled me closer. “Thank you for trying.”

I held my breath, sure I knew what was coming next. This was Alan. He’d been totally honest about his sexual orientation from day one, four years ago. He hadn’t pushed me one bit. Until today. He put his lips to mine, firm lips, still tasting of beer and green tea.

I closed my eyes and tried to kiss him back. My hand moved to his arm. Was it inviting? Did he know I wasn’t completely turned off, just awkward as hell?

His nose brushed mine as the kiss broke. “Thank you,” he murmured again, then backed up slightly, taking my hand in his.

That was easy. I squeezed his in return. If anyone thought it odd that two guys were holding hands, they needed to grow up and take a look around.

I did take a look around. We were alone in the park.

Leaning over I kissed Alan’s bristly cheek. “I wouldn’t mind doing this again sometime.”

His smile was brilliant. I was willing try a lot of things to see him so happy.


Kimberly Gould is the author of Cargon: Honour and Privilege and the upcoming Thickness of Blood. She can be found most places as Kimmydonn, including


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Samantha Lee Week 32: No

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Samantha Lee’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: No



"You heard me; I said no."

"I did say please."

"I know. I was listening. It was very impressive. I'm still saying no."

"Well, why?"

"Why what?"

"Why are you saying no?"

Cat looks at me as though I've lost my mind. "I happen to enjoy not being grounded, you know. Da only finally forgave me for the last time I went along with one of your ideas less than a fortnight ago. My birthday is in three weeks. I am not risking it. No."

I roll my eyes and throw up my hands. "We only got found out the last time because of your cat triggering that stupid charm. And there's no charm to trigger this time around."

"Rav, you want us to go tomb-raiding in Egypt; someone's going to notice."

"No one noticed when we redecorated Easter Island."

Sighing, Cat shakes her head and begins to pace back and forth across her balcony. It's night, the crisp air haunted by the scent of flowers blooming in her private gardens below. Two cats, huge black beasts more on par with tigers than house pets, prowl along her rail and she pauses to pet them every now and then. She seeks comfort in the touch, but more than that, it grounds her, lets her see through the chaos in her brain to the real world. It's one of the reasons her father allows her to keep so many of the beasts around, but then he would understand best. "They noticed, Rav," she tells me, snapping me out of my thoughts, "they just didn't realize it was our doing."

"That's because we are geniuses who can cover our tracks like nobody's business, especially when we're working together. Enchanting those Easter Island statues to date to specific centuries - some in the future - was particularly brilliant, no?"

My little sister snorts, folds her arms across her chest, and turns her back on me. It's a move she's pulled on me countless times since our childhood and has yet to succeed in deterring me, although I find it cute when she tries. "No, creating the ruins of a workshop was brilliant," she informs me, her tone haughty. One guess whose idea the workshop was. "But one successful excursion does not mean this one will be and, again, Rav, my birthday is three weeks away; I am not okay spending it in my room."

"You won't! And this will be fun, sis, swear."

Cat tilts back her head and sighs. "Fine, run your plan by me one more time."

I grin, feeling my impending win. "Well, Egypt is riddled with all those tombs, right?"

"Hmm, I had heard something to that effect, yes."

"Well, I found this one particular tomb that's still intact; the mortals haven't found it yet and for all intents and purposes its basically forgotten and thus unspoiled."


"Still holding all of its treasures. It's got this wonderful atmosphere too. You can just picture it, can't you? Catching your first glimpse of it through a crack in the rocks, seeing the columns and carvings cut into the rockface, feeling that first stir of dry air as it carries the echoes of the past to you. And, plus, you know, camels."

Cat freezes midstep and slowly turns her head to stare at me. The expression on her face is priceless. "Camels. Rav, we're not only Fae, we're nobles! Surely there's some...non-camel alternative!"

"Camels? You don't like camels?" I blink, a little taken aback. "What have you got against camels?"

"Nothing! Absolutely...nothing. I just prefer alternate modes of transportation is all...not of the humped persuasion. What about...sand dragons? They'd make good steeds."

"No. We have to do camels. It's part of the experience."

"Fine, fine - and then what?"

"Then we look around. It'll be fun. Come on, Cat, where's your sense of adventure?"

Cat considers, sighs, and nods, caving in. I knew she would.

We go tomb-raiding.




"You heard me; I said no."

"I did say please."

"I know. I was listening. It was very impressive. I'm still saying no."

"Well, why?"

"Why what?"

"Why are you saying no?"

If looks could kill, Cat's would have had me poisoned, stabbed, shot, hung and beheaded all at once."I happen to enjoy not being grounded, you know. The last time I went along with one of your ideas, I ended up grounded for my birthday!"

I wince. "It wasn't as bad as all that, Cat, not really."

"Rav, you brought me to a tomb and neglected to let me know just how many mummies were interred there."

"I didn't know!"

"I'm a necromancer, Rav! You brought a necromancer to an ancient Egyptian warrior graveyard! Da's guard are STILL hunting them down!"

I wince again - she has a point about that - but I push on. Let it never be said I'm not persistent. "But, Cat, this time will be different."

"Oh? How so?"

I smile wide and spread my arms. "No camels!"

Cat blinks. "Rav?"



I sigh. This just kept getting harder and harder each and every time. I couldn't understand it, no siree.


You can read my blog - Calliope's Domain - over at


Monday, January 28, 2013

Jen DeSantis Week 32: Coming Home

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Jen DeSantis’ Choice: 1

Title: Coming Home

The door caught in the frame, it’s wood warped from sitting locked for too many consecutive seasons. He ran his fingers along the door, pushing gently against it until it finally gave way.

The air belched out, musty and stale. The light filtered in through windows that appeared caked with layers of dirt. Dust motes danced in the air in front of his eyes. He breathed in deeply, inhaling the dense, stale air as he stepped within the doorframe. The floorboards groaned beneath his feet and his steps displaced a miasma of dirt into the air.

The door clicked closed behind him and he stood just within the entrance.

Home. He’d finally come home.

The carcasses of dead insects cluttered the window sills and the drawers were covered in a lacy film of moss. But it was still home. He’d been away for so long, locked in the nine by nine cell with only the blank wall to keep him company. And so he’d conjured up his home to keep him occupied. With visions of home in front of him, he imagined what he’d do when they finally let him out.

He ran a finger over the locked top drawer. It left a trail in ten years worth of muck. With a trembling hand, he pulled the key out of his pocket and fit it into the lock. The mechanism turned easily and he pulled it open.

He exhaled, finally at peace. His precious tools hadn’t aged a day.

That old thrill filled him once again. He prepared to go hunting once again.


Jennifer DeSantis is a Horror and Paranormal Author and host of the #FridayPictureShow. She lives near Philly with her family. In her spare time is an aspiring ninja.


Sunday, January 27, 2013

Ruth Long Week 31: The Wife That Wasn’t

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Ruth Long’s Picture Choice: Two

Title: The Wife That Wasn’t

Out on the moors, the inclement afternoon weather was wholly befitting the moody nature of Albion.

Inside the great room of Castle Grunwal, though, an altogether different mood prevailed.

On the heels of a rousing game of marbles, father and daughter were now engaged in a bit of family history.

Stopping before the last painting in the row, Freddie tugged her father’s sleeve. “Who is this, Papa?”

He smiled indulgently. “You know who she is, poppet. You were named after her.”

“Yes,” she said, nodding so vigorously that her dark curls danced, “but I like the way you tell the story.”

He lifted her onto his shoulders. “That is your Tante Frederica, the wife the King of Graziers sent to me when I returned from the War of the Broadlands.”

“The wife you didn’t marry, right, Papa?”

“Quite right poppet,” he said, with a heavy sigh. “Instead, I impulsively married your Tante’s terrible companion, Lady Claramond.”

She grinned, her dark eyes sparkling with mischief. “Why would you marry such an ogre, Papa?”

He looked swung her off his shoulders and onto the back of the divan. “The she-brute twisted my arm.”

Looking up from her embroidery, Claramond said, “Stuff and nonsense!”

Hubert chuckled. “When first you arrived, my dove, you scolded the cook, hounded the chamber maids and boxed the stable boy’s ears.”

Claramond chucked a pillow at him. “I was readying the household for Frederica, as was my duty.”

He evaded the velvet missile. “And a good thing too, for it was only a few short days later the plague swept through the village.”

Freddie snuggled up to her mama. “That’s how you lost Tante Frederica, isn’t it?”

“Yes, my pet,” Claramond said quietly.

“And how papa came to marry you.”

“No, Freddie,” Hubert said, settling onto the divan beside them. “I married your mama for love. She was formidable and sharp tongued, yes. But she was accomplished, beautiful and willing to put up with a road-worn blue-blood.”

Claramond tipped up Freddie’s chin. “Do you know what I asked for as a wedding gift, sweetpea?”

Freddie touched the gemstone in the hollow of her mother’s throat. “The star sapphire?”

“No, sunshine, something far more precious,” she said, kissing the top of Freddie’s head. “A daughter!”

Freddie eyed her parents suspiciously. “Then why do I have four big brothers?”

Hubert chuckled. “They’re testimony to your mama’s determination to get a little Princess Frederica of her own!”


A reader by birth, paper-pusher by trade and novelist by design, story-telling in my passion. If you enjoyed reading today's story, please consider checking out my blog, joining my creative community or participating in the madcap twitter fun @bullishink.


Saturday, January 26, 2013

JB Lacaden Week 31: Hex 4 - Merlon

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JB Lacaden’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: Hex 4 - Merlon

The enchanted flame didn’t stop burning until Lion’s body was nothing but ashes.

Hex stood up and started walking towards the girl.

“No, no, please!” The girl said as she backed away.

“I won’t hurt you,” Hex said.

The girl, deafened by fear, kept on crying until she eventually found the strength to run away.

Hex watched her go, confused and scared as to what’s happening to him. He could still feel the intense heat that came out of his palm though when he checked he saw no burn marks; the only thing there was the uncanny looking tattoo. Hex opened and closed his hand.

Lion’s scream as he died burning still rang clear in Hex’s ears. Before him, Lion’s ashes stirred as a light breeze passed by. A couple of feet away, Dog stirred and mumbled something unintelligible.

Fragments of the past resurfaced in Hex’s mind. Flashes of faces and places and conversations floated in and out of focus. Hex fell down on his knees with his head clutched in his hands. His hand burnt with an intense heat and Hex wasn’t able to stop himself from screaming with pain. He directed his palm towards empty space and fire came spiraling out of his hand. It roared and scorched the ground and the air; seemingly never wanting to stop.

Hex felt all life being drained from him. The fire finally started to weaken. Darkness crept in from the corners of Hex’s vision until eventually darkness was all he could see. The fire finally stopped and Hex fell on the ground unconscious.


He woke up to the smell of curry. Hex opened his eyes and he was greeted with a blinding headache. His hands darted to his head as he rolled to the side in a fetal position. That’s when he realized his right hand, the one tattooed with the flame spell, was bandaged tightly with a white cloth though the cloth was now stained red with his blood.

“Ah, you’re awake,” a voice from somewhere said. “Dinner’s just about ready.”

Hex forced himself to sit. He looked around with squinted eyes and saw a small, old man seated by the fire. The old man smiled at him.

“Who are you?” Hex said weakly.

The old man stood up. He was wearing a brown robe that reached all the way to the ground and he had a thick, brown scarf that went around his neck and over his head. “You feel anything wrong?” He asked.

“Headache, a bad one,” Hex answered.

The old man gave a nod and reached inside his robe for something. He pulled out a red colored leaf and he handed this to Hex. “Chew,” was all he said.

Hex looked at the leaf and then at the old man’s face. The man smiled at him. Hex saw that the left half of the old man’s upper teeth was missing. Hex smiled back. He took the leaf and did as he was told.

The juices from the leaf flooded violated Hex’s taste buds with a sickening, bitter taste. Hex gagged and almost threw up but the old man motioned with his hands to Hex, instructing him to keep on chewing.

“Baraya leaf does wonders despite its taste being like horse dung,” the old man explained.

Hex swallowed the juices.

“Good,” the old man went back to his pot over the fire. “Now, come, eat.”

Hex stood up and followed. He looked around. They were in a small house, if house was even the right term for it. The walls and ceiling were made of plywood and scrap metal and the only furniture was the blanket Hex was lying on and the iron pot the old man’s stirring with a wooden spoon.

Hex sat cross-legged on the ground. The old man handed Hex a spoon. “Sorry, no bowls,” the old man said.

“No worries,” Hex said, followed by: “You haven’t told me your name yet.”

The old man blew on a spoonful of curry. “You may call me Merlon,” the old man said in between blows.

“Merlon. Thank you for bringing me here and offering me food,” Hex said.

Merlon gave a nod. “The headache’s gone, yes?”

Hex hadn’t noticed it but the old man was right, his headache was gone.

Merlon saw the look of astonishment in Hex’s face. The old man laughed. “Like what I said, Baraya leaves are one of a kind.”

The small dinner proceeded in silence. Hex was surprised as well at how the curry tasted. He expected it to be bland and to taste of salt at best—as to be expected with the rest of the food found in the slums—but the curry was very tasty. The spiciness danced on Hex’s tongue which complimented well the smooth taste of chicken (at least, that was what Hex thought it was).

When the food was all gone, the old man reached inside his robe and pulled out a long, wooden pipe and placed it between his wrinkled lips.

“What happened? I mean, after I passed out.” Hex asked.

“Well, isn’t that obvious? I brought you here, in my home,” Merlon pulled the pipe from his lips and continued on saying, “But if you want to know the specifics I’ll tell you. I saw the fire and the smoke while I was making my way back from buying food. Many of us saw the fire. Many thought it to be slavers harassing some poor souls.”

“But you thought it to be a different thing,” Hex said.

Merlon replied only with a smile.

“There was another man with me,” Hex thought of Dog. The thug must have regained consciousness by that time.

“Ah. That man. I took care of him,” Merlon replied nonchalantly.

Took care of him? Hex thought surprised.

Merlon saw the smile on Hex’s lips. “Looks can be very, very deceiving, my young friend.”

“I—I mean no disrespect, but that man, Dog, was probably half your age.”

Merlon just shrugged. The old man stood up, yawned, and stretched his arms.

“Age can be very deceiving as well.” Merlon walked towards Hex. “Now, time for sleep. We’ll have to leave very early tomorrow.”

Hex stood up. “Leave? What do you mean?”

“You just incinerated a man to ashes earlier and almost burnt yourself out. You clearly have no control over your magic. Tomorrow, we train,” Merlon said with a smile.


JB Lacaden dreams of someday being a published writer. He currently resides in Manila, Philippines. He's a lover of comic books, science fiction, and high fantasy. Check out some of his works at and follow him at @jblearnstowrite.


Friday, January 25, 2013

Jeff Tsuruoka Week 31: Lawyers, Guns, and Money - Part One

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Jeff Tsuruoka’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: Lawyers, Guns, and Money - Part One

Part One

Nobody ever walked into Antonio's cantina who didn't set out to go there.

There was no sign out on the road, no lights out front. You couldn't even see the place from the street.

Passersby did just that. Passed by.

To get to the bar you had to climb over a rusted out chain-link gate, cross a patchy mud and weed field, and then follow a winding trail through the trees-- about sixty yards-- until you arrived at Antonio's shack.

Once upon a time Antonio's clapboard shack was white. Decades of humidity, tropical rains, and general indifference dulled the paint right off, leaving Antonio with a warped two-story structure held together with hemp rope and dried mud from the edge of the canal out back.

The front porch hadn't yet fallen off and if you were very brave you could climb up what was left of the steps and go in through what was left of the door.

Those of us who knew better, meaning everyone who'd been to Antonio's more than once, walked around back and used the dockside entrance.

On your way in you might think you were at one of those places that's much better inside than it looks from the outside.

You'd be wrong.

Antonio's l-shaped bar lurched every time somebody leaned on it and most people stood and held their drinks rather than park their asses on his uncomfortable rattan stools. The dirt floor was more mud than dirt. Walls stained the same gray as the outside of the shack cried out for decoration. Anything would've been an improvement.

The television set, an old one with rabbit ears and a screen coated with enough tar to make everyone who appeared on it look like they're in black-face, got one channel. It ran soccer matches or news programs. Nothing else.

Antonio had no taps on the bar. Want a beer? You got it in a bottle from a small fridge beneath the counter. Tequila and rum were the other offerings. Hungry? You're shit out of luck. Antonio served liquid refreshment only.

The air inside the cantina wasn't conducive to eating anyway. The humidity gave it texture and held the smells of cheap smokes, spilled beer, and drunk sweat the way flypaper caught flies. In the summer months the stink of the canal made its way into the bar as well. The two fans, one placed at each end of the bar, didn't stand a chance.

Just another day in paradise. A sticky, smelly day in paradise.

I knocked back another shot of Antonio's rum and wiped some sweat off of my face with an already soaked sleeve.

It stung my cheeks.

The rough muslin shirt, like Antonio's cantina, used to be white but frequent washings in water of questionable character combined with constant wear turned it butternut gray.

A woman I'd gotten friendly with made it for me to celebrate my first month in her country. The woman was long gone but I still lived in that shirt, even though the thing rubbed me raw every time I had to mop my face. There's value beyond the intrinsic in a thing somebody made for you with their own hands.

It didn't hurt that I looked like everyone else around me when I had it on.

I slammed my shot glass down on the bar.

“Uno mas, Antonio,” I barked.

I'd been in country for two years and my Spanish still wasn't good but I knew how to order a drink.

Antonio, a wide, white-haired man in an unbuttoned canvas shirt and a pair of Buddy Holly eyeglasses, shambled over to me and stood there with his arms crossed in front of him.

I smiled and shook my head.

“All right, Antonio. All right.”

I dug deep into my pants pocket and came up with a handful of crumpled notes and some coins. It represented a healthy percentage of what I had left.

Antonio didn't break eye contact as he reached down to retrieve a grimy bottle and poured my shot.

I raised it in salute and set it down untasted.

He snorted and returned to his newspaper at the other end of the bar.

None of the handful of other drinkers took any note of the transaction.

Antonio's day customers were old, broken, or both. They were not watching TV and paid me no more mind than they did anyone else, even though I was the only gringo in town. They noticed me but they didn't see me. Big difference.

When I emptied my glass Antonio came back over and filled me up without my asking him to.

He put the bottle down on the bar and leaned forward.

“What you doing here, man?” he asked for the fourth time since I hit town.

His English was better than my Spanish.

I drank the rum and, for the fourth time, gave him the sob story I'd concocted.

Family dead in a plane crash. Major depressive episode. Left my home country to start over in a new land. Fallen on hard times since.

I don't know how much Antonio understood but he nodded along with my narration and then put a meaty paw on my shoulder.

“You need work?”

I had to think about that.

Working in the bar would keep me in booze and put a little cash in my pocket.

It would also put me front and center for anyone who walked through that door to see.

I could feel Antonio watching me. He knew. The son-of-a-bitch knew. I'd underestimated the man. The eyes behind those ridiculous glasses didn't miss a thing.

I looked at him across the bar.

“Days or nights?”

“Nights. I'm an old man. Need to sleep at night.”

“How much?”

I could have worked every hour for the rest of my life at the rate he named and not earn as much as I would have in a year back in Manhattan.

I extended my hand and we shook.

“When do I start?”

“Ahorita, cabron. Right now.”

I got up and climbed around the bar so he could show me what was what.

There wasn't much to show I hadn't already seen.

The rum and tequila lived on shelves built beneath the rickety counter. Antonio also kept some kind of home-brewed concoction in earthenware jars down there. The stuff had both the consistency and color of fresh mucus. I'd only seen it served to one person since began frequenting the cantina.

I knew about the beer fridge.

An old-fashioned cash register sat near one end of the bar. The only key that still worked was the one that opened the drawer. That key got a lot of use. Antonio ran a cash establishment. No credit. No tabs.

It took me about ten minutes to get it all down. I told Antonio that I was ready to roll but he insisted on staying with me for the rest of the night to watch me at work.

The evening custom started coming in just after sunset.

They looked a lot like the day drunks only not as far gone. They were more animated and much louder. Almost fun.

They worried me more than the day crowd but as long as I was pouring the booze- and had Antonio's backing- they didn't waste time looking at me.

Antonio stood and leaned against the bar, laughing as I ran around like a crazy man. After half an hour he nodded his approval and went to finish his newspaper while I ran his bar for him.

At the end of the night he handed me a bottle of beer and small handful of bills.

“Night's pay for a night's work,” he said.

I pocketed the cash and started picking up empty bottles and glasses.

“Before you go tell me something, cabron.”

I put the bottles in the trash bin and looked up at him.

“Did you do it?” he asked.

“Does it matter?”

“It matters to me, cabron.”

“Would you believe me if I told you I didn't?”

Antonio chuckled and folded up his newspaper.

“Just shut the door behind you when you're done. Buenos noches.”


Jeff Tsuruoka is an author in search of a writing career. He has found a home in the Flash Fiction circuit and is grateful to the blog hosts that give him the opportunity to get his work out there. You can follow him on Twitter @JTsuruoka and be sure to keep tabs on his weekly contributions to Daily Picspiration.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Michela Walters Week 31: Nothing Like Normal

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Michela Walters’s Picture Choice: Both

Title: Nothing Like Normal

“I want someone normal.” His words rang out in Janie’s ears, hollow and empty like all the promises he’d made to her over the last year they’d been dating.

Standing by her bed, she remembered his dismissal as if he were still sitting beside her on that bench when he broke her heart.

“I’m not sure what happened to you lately, but this-“ He waved his arms up and down her body, accentuating her entire being, “isn’t the you I met and fell in love with. You’ve turned yourself into a pink haired, punk wannabe. This isn’t what I signed up for. I want normal. You know, you with your blond hair and normal friends. Not whatever this freak is you’ve turned in to.”

He kept repeating the word normal, making her feel even more alone and unloved by the second. If he’d wanted to rip every shred of her ego into miniscule pieces, he’d accomplished what he set out to do.

After he’d left, she’d walked back to her apartment, mumbling the word normal under her breath the entire way. Normal? What did that even mean? No one was actually normal. Everyone was hiding something, or pretending to be something they weren’t.


Whether it was laughing at something that wasn’t funny, or speaking with SAT type words to impress someone, people ultimately tried to fit in, one way or another. But when everyone is acting, what exactly is normal then? What is the benchmark when there isn’t a control group? Janie just felt exposed and confused by the entire exchange.

When it came right down to it, She knew better than anyone that pretending to be someone you weren’t ultimately just made you miserable. Perhaps Adam breaking up with her wasn’t the worst thing in the world. Maybe now she could just live. Shit, she felt like for the first time in ages she could actually breathe. Janie hadn’t realized how suffocating her life had been. She’d dyed her hair because she thought it would be fun, something her stuffy country club parents would hate. Everyone in college had started dip-dying their hair various colors, so why not the entire thing? And when her stylist had finished, Janie had fallen in love with the vibrant look.

In this one small moment of defiance, Janie felt more like herself than she ever had wearing her Lucky jeans and Abercrombie shirts. It felt right, and she sure as hell wasn’t going back to the way she was. She was still a good girl at heart, getting good grades and not doing drugs, but by the mere act of turning her hair bright pink, she dipped her toe into the shallow end of individuality and the water sure felt fine.

She was just about to jump in the shower before having to head to her afternoon class when her phone rang.

“Hello?” she asked, but was surprised to see Travis, one of Adam’s fraternity buddies calling her.

“Hey Janie, it’s Travis.” he paused, thinking about how best to phrase his next question. “Adam came back to the house and told us what happened earlier. Um... I just wanted to tell you that I think he’s an idiot. You’re beautiful, pink hair and all. I know it’s too soon to ask you out, but well...When you’re ready, let me know, ‘cause I think you’re pretty much perfect the way you are.”

Janie stood holding her phone in stunned silence. Travis was a bit of a loner in the fraternity but had always been respectful to Janie when she came over to the house. Not so much some of the other brothers.

“Uh, yeah. Thanks, Trav. I’ll keep that in mind,” she mumbled, still trying to process everything he’d said. But the more she thought about it, the more she remembered Travis’ kind eyes and relaxed manner. His handsome face and dark shaggy hair didn’t hurt either. Finally replying, “I think I’d like that. But yeah, I need a few days to get my head around it.” They’d ended up talking right up until Janie had to leave for her class. With a promise to hang out over the weekend, they’d hung up.

Pulling her hair up into a messy ponytail, she left her room feeling buoyed by his kind words. She strutted through the Commons with her head held high and her ego almost put back together with the knowledge that at least someone liked her, the girl who’d decided she didn’t want to be normal any more. And that felt pretty damn good.


Michela Walters is a wife, mother and book enthusiast. She is currently attempting her hand at writing her first romantic fiction novella. You can read her other stories on her blog:


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Sarah Aisling Week 31: Got a Secret . . . Can You Keep it? (Part Seven)

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Sarah Aisling’s Picture Choice: Both

Title: Got a Secret . . . Can You Keep it? (Part Seven)

The sidewalks downtown held an eclectic smörgåsbord of merchandise showcased in front of each shop. There were tables laden with books, jewelry, engraving and embroidery items, toys, art supplies, or food samples. Racks held all kinds of clothing from the latest fashions to bargain basement clearance items.

Ciel and Joanie hovered at the table in front of the art supply store. Joanie ran a finger over a set of chalks and sketchpad that were on sale; she was quite the budding artist.

“Oh, you have to get these, Jo!”

“I don't know . . .” Joanie's forehead wrinkled as she unconsciously pushed her glasses up. She was extremely frugal for a teenager, and it was rare she shelled out money for luxuries.

Ciel leaned in and whispered, “If you don't buy them, I won't tell you about Jason.”

Joanie's mouth dropped open. “You wouldn't dare withhold!”

“Would too.”

Joanie nudged her shoulder into Ciel's then snapped up the art supplies.

They moved on to the bookstore. Both girls were avid readers, and they spent a great deal of time exploring the sale table. They made their selections, planning to swap piles once they finished reading them.

The two friends entered their favorite café and collapsed at a table in the back corner, placing their heavy shopping bags against the wall. They decided to split an order of fries and a large Coke.

Ciel rested her elbows on the red-and-white checkered tablecloth, plucked a sizzling hot fry off the pile, and took a bite. Joanie salted her half liberally before doing the same, eyeing Ciel over the top of the humongous soft drink.


“Okay, okay! Jason walked me home yesterday, and we hung out at my house.”

Joanie's eyes narrowed, and she leaned in closer even though there was nobody else in the café to overhear. “You do realize Jason missed football practice to 'hang out' with you, right?” She employed air quotes for emphasis.

Ciel's cheeks burned. “Yeah . . . I didn't know he was gonna do that.”

“So you guys hung out at your place . . . and . . . ?”

“He was looking at the photos on the mantle and saw that god-awful one of me in the pink tutu—”

“Ugh! How embarrassing!” Joanie covered her eyes.

“Right? My mom just doesn't get it. So he was holding it out of my reach, and I lost my balance trying to get it back.” Ciel hesitated, swallowing hard.

Joanie gasped, “Did you fall?”

“N-Not exactly. Jason caught me and then hekissedme.” Her face burned a deeper shade of crimson.

Shut up!”

The sight of Joanie's wide brown eyes behind her big glasses, jaw agape, caused Ciel to burst into a fit of giggles.

“Are you shitting me, Ci? 'Cause I don't see why you'd be laughing.”

Ciel tried to catch her breath. “I'm laughing at you! You should see yourself!” A moment later, her laughter dried up and her pale gold eyebrows drew down. “Wait—why are you so surprised a boy would kiss me?”

Joanie gazed at Ciel as if she were daft. “Not just any boy. Do you know how many girls have late night fantasies about him?”

“You talkin' from experience?”

“Nooo! Just . . . just . . . keep to the subject here.” Joanie was clearly flustered, but Ciel let it drop.

“So, yeah, he did . . . kiss me.”


“And then told me he's had a crush on me since last year.”

“That's heavy. Are you two an item now?”

“He wants us to be . . .” Ciel's words drifted off, and she looked down at her hands, spinning the ring on her finger around and around.

“You don't?” Joanie slipped back into her usual unflappable persona; Ciel was certain she'd make a great therapist someday if she didn't pursue art.

“Joanie . . . it was my first kiss and . . . and probably his thousandth!”

“So? It just has to be the right kiss.” Joanie nodded her head with certainty. “Was it awesome? Did it melt your insides?”

“Gawd, yes!” Ciel grabbed Joanie's hand and squeezed so hard Joanie winced. “I had no idea a kiss would feel like that. I, um . . . felt it in places other than my lips.”

“You're supposed to feel it everywhere.”

“Yeah? When he held my hand after, I felt all light and tingly like I might float away. I had a hard time concentrating on my homework, too. Do you think . . . ?”


“I didn't pay attention in any of my classes today.”


“When I saw him in the hall, my heart just . . .”


“He wants me to wear his letterman's jacket.”

“Wow! So where is it?”

“I told him I needed to think it over. This is just . . . a lot.”

“Damn, Ci! Good strategy—playing hard to get.” Joanie nodded.

“I'm not playing anything. I'm scared, Jo.”

“Of what?”

“That he'll realize I'm a nobody.”

“You're freakin' awesome, Ci! I hope he realizes I'll break his kneecaps if he hurts you.” Joanie cracked her knuckles, making Ciel laugh.

The girls were so deep in conversation about events with Jason that Joanie never thought to ask how they'd gotten together in the first place. Ciel felt guilty hiding things from her best friend, but she knew once Joanie got wind of a mystery, she'd never stop digging until she uncovered the whole story.

A few hours later, Ciel lounged on her bed daydreaming while poring through the books she'd picked out at the bookstore. When her cell buzzed, she answered it absently without looking at the display.

“Hey, Jo!”

“Who's Joe?” Jason's voice came through the earpiece, and Ciel nearly dropped the phone.


“You were expecting some other guy?”

“No! No other guys call me.” Ciel wanted to jam the words back in. “Jo is Joanie.”

“Well, good.” A short silence stretched between them before Jason spoke again. “Anything new about Janice?”


“Sorry, Ciel. So . . . what'd you do after school?”

“Oh! Joanie and I went to the sidewalk sale downtown. It was fun. Joanie got some art stuff—she's really good at painting and drawing—and we both bought a bunch of books.”

“Cool. Did you tell her about us?”

“Uh huh.” Fear flared in Ciel's chest. “Is that okay?”

“'Course. I was hoping you would. Did you think about wearing my jacket?”

“Jason, I really like you, but . . . I have no experience. I mean—you were my first kiss.”


“Yeah.” Ciel's face heated up, and she wondered if Jason was rethinking getting involved with her.

“You kiss really good. I couldn't tell it was your first—except maybe when you turned your face away. So, what do you say?”

“It doesn't bother you that I haven't had other boyfriends? I'm not a cheerleader or popular or any of that.”

Jason sighed. “I'm interested in you, Ciel, not how many other guys you've been with or whether you shake pom-poms.”

“What will your friends think?”

“Who cares? Anyway, the important ones already know about you.”

“Okay.” Saying that one word felt like jumping off a cliff.


“I'll wear your jacket.”

“I come along with it, you know,” Jason teased.

“I'll put up with you, too, I guess.”

“Go to the spring dance with me?”

“I'd love to. Can I wear the jacket?” Ciel held back a laugh.

“I'm starting to think you just want me for my jacket.”

“You caught me. Seriously, I've never gone to any of the dances . . . what do I wear?”

“A dress would be great—a really short one.” Jason snickered.

They talked for another hour, falling into a comfortable rhythm. Ciel called Joanie as soon as they hung up to squeal over the dance and fret about what to wear. She dug through the snarl of papers in her backpack and found the flyer for the spring dance. It was the following Friday night, which gave her a little over a week to find a dress.

Ciel was about to put the flyer away when something caught her eye—among the list of chaperones was Paul Jeffries.


Sarah Aisling hails from the East Coast of the US and loves living by the ocean with her incredibly indulgent husband and precocious daughter. She’s currently editing her upcoming novel, The Weight of Roses. When Sarah isn’t being enslaved by her characters, she can be found with her nose in a book, obsessing over nail polish or anything leopard, biking, hiking, camping, and spending time with friends and family. Twitter: @SarahAisling Facebook: Website:


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

J M Blackman Week 31: Spotted

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J.M. Blackman’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: Spotted

I know that the sole purpose of blinds is to prevent others from looking in. But as I ready my area, adjust my armchair just so, wipe the lenses and eyecups, I, like every other watcher out there, know the truth. The blinds are really to hide those who look out, perhaps look on. Those who don’t want others to know how much we like

And I like to watch.

As is my usual ritual, I slide the thin strips of plastic between me and THEM open, just a bit. Just a slit, a slice of the outside. Yes, just enough to see, enough to tease. To provoke. To taunt, and plague and disturb.

Just enough to be involved.

There isn’t much activity this late in the evening. The normal comings and goings. People returning from day jobs, leaving for night jobs. Deliveries. It’s a weekday, so there are few get togethers to observe, even fewers parties. I do love a good party.

But then I find someone who is having a party. At least, a party of sorts. The type that people have by themselves. Closed door, closed blinds parties. But they’ve made the mistake of closing their blinds downwards and they haven’t closed them entirely. And before they closed them, I saw the video on their TV. People only watch those videos for one reason.

And I’m going to watch the reason.

Their lights are on and their shadow moves around the room. The bedroom.

Their shadow obviously disrobes, clothing falling like dark clouds behind the blinds. Their shadow moves to the bed. It is an oblong shape. A fan swings above it. I wonder if the air is cool on their skin. Their shadow lays across the bed. Their shadow...

The knock on the door is more than unexpected. I drop the binoculars and jump up so fast the armchair flies backwards. I very nearly slam into the blinds and window but catch myself on the sill. I hold still. I hold my breath. I wish I could hold my heart. Because it is beating so loud I know the person at the door can hear it. It announces that I’m home. It is the evidence of my crime. I clutch my chest just over it as if it could muffle the thunderous pounding. What’s worse is the pounding has long since filled my body--since I’d seen my party of one. And it had to be amplified by the filling of my skin. I try to quiet it, try deep breaths, but the knocking comes again, harder this time and I know I’ll need to answer.

I slide the chair away from the window, drop the binoculars into a drawer and straighten my clothes. I open the door and it’s the landlord.

“Good evening,” she says. I nod and mimic. “I’m sorry to disturb you, but we’ve received a complaint that there may a peeping tom in this apartment building and we just want everyone to be aware and protect themselves accordingly.”

“Yes, of course,” I nod gravely.

“Especially young girls like you, living on your own. It’s doubly important that you’re careful. Keep your blinds closed.”

“I always do,” I say, tugging at my dress.

“Good night, then.”

“Good night.” I close the door, eyes automatically roving to that drawer. But I pass it to close the blinds completely.

Can’t be too careful these days.


J.M. Blackman is a Language Arts teacher, author rep'd by Gina Panettieri and a feminist. She endeavors to review nearly everything she reads and is a happy wife. She's a SFF enthusiast, loves dark humor, and has an unhealthy need to protect the image of Batman.


Monday, January 21, 2013

Jen DeSantis Week 31: Bicycle Man

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Jen DeSantis’ Choice: 1

Title: Bicycle Man

I don’t know. Maybe it was the way he rode. Every day, lazily pedaling up and down the same tree-lined drive.

He possessed the air of a man without care for time, without a thought of worry. He’d sniff the breeze with a half smile crinkling his tanned and wrinkled face. Up close, his face looked like a piece of dried-out leather in need of a good oil. But from far away, from the benches that lined his street, he looked all soft edges and gentle touches.

I bet his hands were sandpaper rough.

Anyway, he was just so damn aloof. People waved to him, even little kids, but it was like he couldn’t see them. The old goat probably thought he was too good for them, even the babies. Him and his stupid bicycle.

And his stupid, fucking half smile that he never shared with anyone. He saved it for the air, for the sunshine. As though the little people who walked the street with him weren’t worthy of it.

Well, it was time he took a fall.

And I was just the man to help him down a few rungs.


Jennifer DeSantis is a Horror and Paranormal Author and host of the #FridayPictureShow. She lives near Philly with her family. In her spare time is an aspiring ninja.


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Jeffrey Hollar Week 30: Urban Outdoorsman

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Jeffrey Hollar’s Picture Choice: Both

Title: Urban Outdoorsman

In the harsh lighting of his work room, the hooks were shining jewels of cold-steel perfection laid in line for his final inspection. He marveled at their cruel barbs and smiled, envisioning the captive prey that would thrash and fight their inescapable embrace to no avail. His reverent awe was curtailed by the insistent beeping of the alarm on his wristwatch. Silencing it, he realized he must conclude his preparations and be on his way very soon if he were to test his lures as planned.

He reached to the side of the table, retrieving the nylon case and opening it. One by one, each of the hooks were inserted into small slots within the case, leaving only their tops visible. Into another pocket, he placed a selection of heavy leaden weights of various sizes. The final addition to the case’s contents were two flat spools of fishing line, each rated for a weight of 500 pounds. He suspected the line far exceeded his needs but was reluctant to permit the possibility of losing whatever he might hook.

Zipping the case closed, he left his work room, locking the door securely behind him. Donning a shapeless, gray trench coat and a wide-brimmed felt hat, he was satisfied the ensemble concealed enough of his face and altered his body form sufficiently to ensure he was, for all intensive purposes, nondescript and unmemorable. He ensured the additional pockets he’d sewn into the lining of the coat contained the required items for his outing. When he had no doubts all was prepared, he left the house, walking at a slow but purposeful pace to the central train station.

It was a beautiful fall morning and though clouds threatened rain at some point, the day was still pleasantly cool and the breeze slight. In short, the conditions were perfect for his purposes. Arriving at the station, he was rewarded with a view of a nearly-deserted platform. The hour was not especially early, but it was the weekend and so the usual crowd of working-class commuters was otherwise occupied today.

He consulted the schedule board, checked the time and then waited the short interval for his desired train to arrive. For this outing, he’d chosen the North Line Express. It offered nine stops from beginning to end and he felt confident that would be several stops longer than he anticipated spending aboard. With an unexpected efficiency, the train pulled into the station exactly on schedule and he was pleased through the train’s windows he would have few other passengers to contend with.

As the train departed, he walked through the cars, casually making his way towards the next-to-last compartment. The door hissed closed behind him as he entered the compartment. He immediately drew the shade down over the window set in the door and, using a screwdriver, quickly disabled the door mechanism. Concentration was essential to his success today and no interruptions from other travelers could be allowed.

He knew the next stop was seven minutes away and set to making his final preparations. He had no guarantees of suitable prospects at any particular point on the train’s course, but he was a methodical fellow and so, preferred to always be prepared to seize opportunities as they appeared.

Sitting, he opened the case and set to work. Considering his options and the specific conditions of the day, he opted for four of the hooks. Securing each to a short lead line, he then attached each lead to the main length of fishing line. At carefully calculated points he secured the lead weights to the line. For best results, he chose to go with heavier sizes. He checked and re-checked the security of his knots and the weights before proceeding.

Having used a laser rangefinder, he’d long since computed the distance from the steel window rail to the center of the platform at each stopped. He had averaged the distance and arrived at a median he felt comfortable with. He began to unwind the fishing line, stopping periodically to confirm his measurements with a digital ruler. When he reached the desired length, he snipped the line and returned the unused line to its spot within the case.

Tying the far end of the line securely to the window rail, he pulled on it with all of his body weight to test its hold. Not surprisingly, it held him effortlessly in place. Perfect, he smiled. Donning a pair of heavy leather work gloves from his pocket, he coiled the remaining line around his left hand. He stopped with several feet of the line hanging by his side, careful to not snag himself with any of the hooks or to, in any manner, foul the leads with each other, he stood by the window and waited patiently for his opportunity to present itself.

Looking out of the begrimed window, he chided himself for neglecting one detail. He grasped the release and slid the compartment’s wide window open. He estimated the three foot by five foot span was more than adequate. The window in the kitchen of his home was considerably smaller and had proven effective in practice. It would suit his needs nicely.

The train slowed as it approached the next stop and he willed himself to remain calm and not tense up. Scanning the platform as they approached, he was mildly disconcerted to find not a single individual waiting. The stop was, of necessity, short and the train resumed its appointed course. He was disappointed initially, but reminded himself with calm reassurances there were plenty more stops to come.

Over the next half hour he viewed and rejected two more stops as unsuitable. Though he tried to remain unperturbed, it was impossible for him to completely banish the small doubts intruding on his sense of purpose. He reflected that no endeavor was without a risk of failure but refused to admit of such at this juncture.

At the fourth stop, his senses were stunned as if some entity was privy to his designs and was providing its divine approval to him. Shaking off the mental assault, he focused his gaze on the upcoming platform and spotted…her. She was a shapely woman, early 20’s in age, of medium height with her blonde hair drawn back in a ponytail. She wore a tight lycra workout top, silk running shorts and running shoes. Her attention was focused on whatever music her earbud headphones were delivering to her.

Dropping the coiled line from his left hand, he took a firm hold on the line in his right and began to slowly twirl it about. The practiced motion of his wrist snapped it around again and again increasing velocity with each rotation. As the train lurched to a stop and before the woman could change position, he shot his right hand forward, launching the hook-laden line directly toward her.

He sensed before it struck that his aim was true and so felt no anxiety as the action unfolded. Too far away to hear her, he nevertheless imagined he could as her mouth dropped open in shocked surprise. Slowly-spreading red stains on her torso indicated no less than three of the barbed hooks had found purchase in her torso. As her hands fluttered up to grab at the jagged intrusions, he shifted his weight backwards into the compartment, holding the line firmly with both hands and dropped to his knees. The tugging motion served to set the hooks so firmly into her she stood little chance of extracting them without assistance. As there were no other people on the platform, her chances for help were non-existent.

Standing again, he slowly took up the slack in the line until it was stretched taut. He watched as she sank to her knees, shock and blood loss combining to rob her of her ability to stand. He was ecstatic to realize she had not cried out loudly and there appeared no indications his actions or her plight had drawn the attention of anyone aboard the train.

As the train departed, he allowed more slack in the line, finally dropping it as the distance between the woman and the railcar lengthened. He felt his manhood stiffening as her bloody, heaving body twitched and she was suddenly jerked off of the platform and onto the unyielding track bed. Craning his neck to look out behind him, he watched with glazed eyes as the woman was dragged helplessly down the tracks with more and more blood streaming from her as the train gained speed.

Feeling his arousal build, he fumbled in his pocket for the switchblade knife contained within. In perfect synchronization with his release, he severed the line close to the window rail and the woman was lost from sight.

Regaining his composure, he retrieved all remaining evidence of his presence in the compartment, closed the window, and wiped down any and all surfaces he might have contacted during his ride. Having restored the door controls and raised the shade, he left the train at the next stop and walked back to his home.

He took a long, hot relaxing shower and retired to his living room with a steaming mug of coffee and the extravagance of fresh strudel he’d purchased on his walk home. He turned on his small television and switched to the local channel in time for regular programming to be interrupted. Though such footage should not have been allowed on air, he glimpsed the lifeless, bloody mass that had so recently been a vibrant young woman sprawled on the crimson-soaked rails. The reporter on scene seemed a bit put off and stammered visibly as she spoke of mysteries and lack of evidence of how such a thing could occur.

He abandoned all thoughts of coffee and pastry as he again felt his arousal building. Having satisfied such, he returned to his work room to unpack his nylon pack and put each item back into its proper place. He made a mental note to himself he would need to order more hooks from the Internet sporting supply store before contemplating another urban fishing expedition.


Jeffrey Hollar is half Klingon, half Ferengi, visiting Earth in an attempt to negotiate a merger. He is currently working on a novella and a collection of zombie stories with his wife, Lisa McCourt Hollar. Jeff writes almost daily for his blog, The Latinum Vault, found at


Saturday, January 19, 2013

Cara Michaels Week 30: Title: Lost and Confounded

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Cara Michaels’ Picture Choice: Both

Title: Title: Lost and Confounded

I didn’t get lost. Normal people, people who couldn’t find their way to the corner without checking their GPS, got lost. But no matter how many times I radioed my team, I got nothing but static in reply. And no matter which way I turned, I found myself covering new ground. Turning one-eighty, I couldn’t even find my own track. The terrain looked completely undisturbed by my passage.

Not even a fucking bent blade of grass.

Like I’d never even walked through it.

“Okay,” I said. “Okay. This is funny. On some not-remotely-funny level. I’m sure someone, somewhere, is having a grand laugh.” I looked to the sky to orient myself. “But it ain’t me, got it? Whatever shit is going on here, I want no part of it. I’m a tracker and I’m here to find someone and bring her home, that’s it. So enough with the mystic disappearing trail hoodoo.”

Someone laughed at me and my shoulders stiffened. Insult to fucking injury.

Taking a deep breath, I scanned my surroundings until I spotted the baby owl. Or… the baby in an owl costume. Or…

“What are you?” I asked.

It didn’t speak. Just giggled and hooted and otherwise made noises I associated with a baby or an owl. But not both.

“Oh, I get it,” I said. “This is what a Section 8 feels like. I’m losing my mind in real time. This is awesome.” I scrubbed a hand over my face. “Can I just go home now?”

The sky shimmered and on the horizon I finally saw something I understood. High voltage towers. Power lines. But the sun shone too bright, blowing out the sight like an overexposed picture. I blinked away flash blindness, seeing spots of brilliant white and deep violet and all colors in between.

And all the while, owl baby kept right on laughing at me.

Little shit.

“Listen,” I said. “Unless you’re going to help me, your commentary is unnecessary.”

If anything I made the kid laugh harder.

I lifted my face to the sky.

“I’m open to suggestions here,” I said. “Preferably one that leaves the peanut gallery here behind.”

The grass in front of me rustled, catching my attention. It shifted before my eyes, a clear trail opening to the northwest.

My mouth worked for a few moments before I figured out how to speak again.

“Right,” I finally croaked. “I’ll go this way.”


Cara Michaels is the author of the Gaea’s Chosen sci-fi romance series and host of the #MenageMonday flash fiction challenge.


Friday, January 18, 2013

M L Gammella Week 30: Another When Part 7

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M L Gammella’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: Another When Part 7

I stared at the two names on the list, John and Roger ... two people that I thought I knew. Could one of them really had been a party to what happened to me? They seemed like just normal guys at the office, even if they did immediately turn their backs on me when I was arrested.

The questions that had been swirling through my head over the past several days became shrieks in my head ... except the questions had names. What did John and Roger have against me?

Scratching my head, I tried to remember as much as I could about them. John was married, but Roger wasn't at the time of Margaret's death. Roger didn't even have a girlfriend. He had mentioned a few ladies that he was "friends" with a few times but the married men of the office just rolled their eyes.

Quickly, I wrote down as much information about Roger that I could, and wished more than anything that I had access to the kind of technology that was available in my real time. It would be so much easier if I could just punch in some words on my computer and have my search results pull up.

When I couldn't think of anything further, I looked down at the page and was disappointed with the paper being only half full. This was not enough information, not by far. I needed to scope him out, John too eventually, but I had a stronger feeling about Roger.

I vaguely remembered where Roger lived, but I couldn't waste time wandering around aimlessly while trying to find it. Hoping that the hotel still had them in suite, I yanked open the desk drawer and found a phone book.

I flipped through the pages until I got to the "C" section and ran my finger down the lines until Roger Clemente's name crossed my finger. I scribbled his address down on the same paper I was using earlier and rushed out of the hotel room. His street wasn't far from the hotel.

It was time to see what ol' Roger had been up to and what his part was in my wife's death.


Roger's neighborhood was very similar to mine, modest but well-tended homes with flowers and sedans around. It wasn't even lunch time yet so children were still in school and many people were at work. This would be a perfect time to try to see what I could find out about him.

I walked casually through the neighborhood, looking for housewives or any one else that were home that would see me. Thankfully, it appeared that Roger's immediate neighbors were gone for the day, either at work or the store. I honestly didn't care, just glad for my small bit of fortune.

This was back in a day when people didn't always lock their doors. I hoped that Roger was one of those people. The front door was locked, which didn't surprise me. The property had a privacy fence that was connected to the house. This would also help me, provided that the gate wasn't locked.

It wasn't.

I didn't bat an eyelash as I strolled through the gate, acting like I was familiar with the place and above suspicion. As I stood by the backdoor, I listened carefully for any noise from in the house in case Roger stayed home from work or had one of his female houseguests over. Not a sound could be heard.

I wrapped my hand around the door knob and it turned cleanly, not a squeak or squeal to be heard. As I walked up into the house, a quick glance told me that Roger's house was much more similar to mine than I realized. It was set up almost exactly the same.

There were a few differences ... mostly the lack of a feminine touch. Roger's home screamed bachelor. Each room was messy, not dirty, but cluttered in the way that we men tended to create ... things that Margaret was always after me about.

What I wouldn't give to hear her nag me about my shoes or papers laying out again.

Perhaps I still can if I can solve this mystery in time.

Despite Roger's evident bachelor status, there wasn't anything suspicious anywhere downstairs. He appeared to be completely harmless.

Frustrated, I scaled the stairs in hopes of finding something that would help. If his house was as much like mine as I thought, the master bedroom would be at the end of the hall while the other bedrooms were immediately off the stairs.

It did seem rather odd for a bachelor to have a three bedroom house without any kids or pets or anything.

The first bedroom was unremarkable. It was a plainly decorated guest room that looked like it had never been used. The thin layer of dust on the chest of drawers confirmed that. I shrugged and walked to the next room.

In my house, this bedroom would've been my office. Here, in Roger's house, it was something else entirely.

My hands shook as the door swung away from me.

This room was a shrine ... to Margaret.


M L Gammella lives in Ohio with her husband and their three pets. She is currently working on her first novel, a paranormal suspense based in Maine. Please follow her at @MLGammella and visit her website at Onward to the Written Word.


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Jenn Baker Week 30: A Night at the Cactus Canyon

Welcome our newest author to the Daily Picspiration blog, Jenn Baker. She is taking over the biweekly Thursday slot that Sydney Logan vacated to concentrate on her recently released novel and other projects. We wish her the best. Enjoy Jenn's first entry on the blog and leave a comment with what you thought!

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Jenn Baker’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: A Night at the Cactus Canyon

Pepper walked around the end of the pool table studying the balls. He took a long pull on his beer, set it aside, and grabbed his cue stick. He leaned over the table focusing on the series of events he needed to happen on the table. Pepper needed the cue ball to hit the orange 5 ball just right so when it hit the blue and white 10 ball, the blue 2 ball landed in the corner pocket. He leaned over to line up the shot when Tyler walked over with new beers.

“Hey, did you see that Chelsea is here?” Tyler asked as he placed a beer on the high top table. Pepper straightened, scowling at his best friend and roping partner.

“You know that is a dirty trick. Bringing up my ex-girlfriend just as I’m about to take the lead in our game.” Pepper reached over to the high top and grabbed his beer.

“I’m not trying to distract you. I just thought you should know that she was here.” Tyler took a drink of his beer and pointed at the pool table. “Are you taking that shot or not?” Shaking his head, Pepper put down his beer, leaned back over the table, and took the shot.

“Well, shit.” Tyler said when the blue ball landed in the corner pocket. “I don’t know why I ever play with you.”

“Because you like getting your ass kicked at pool.” Pepper lined up his next shot. The orange ball bounced off the side rail.

“While I was at the bar getting us refills, I found us the perfect pair for fun tonight." It was not uncommon for the roping partners to share female partners for a night of fun. But since Chelsea, Pepper wasn't interested. He was tired of the games. He was ready to settle down. The only reason he continued on the circuit was to make a little more money toward purchasing his own place.

"Have fun, Tyler. I'm just going to finish this game, have a couple of beers, and head back to the motel."

"Pepper, you need to snap out of this funk you are in." Tyler sulked, taking the cue stick from Pepper.

"I'm not in a funk. I'm just not interested in one night stands anymore."

"You are such a bore since Chelsea entered and exited our lives."

“Look Tyler, I’m not in the mood to go over all of this again. I’m going to take my beer and find a table. Once I finish it, I’m heading back to the motel.” Pepper grabbed his new beer and headed off into the crowd of the Cactus Canyon.

Unlike most honky tonks, the Cactus Canyon was a flashy bar. With a large bar that had seating on three sides at one end of the building, a dance floor that was edged with bar high tables, pool tables in a corner, and a mechanical bull in the other. Pepper moved through the crowd in search of a table. He found one near the dance floor entrance. While sipping his beer, Pepper watched couples move on and off the dance floor as the live band played.

"Hey, Pepper."

Pepper looked up to the voice to see a rodeo buddy, Cody, sit across from him. "Hey, Cody."

“Are you ready for this week?” The guys were in Greeley, Colorado for the week long Greeley Stampede Rodeo. It was one of the big money and point rodeos on the circuit. Pepper needed the points and money to extend his and Tyler’s lead in the world standings.

“I am, but you know Tyler, he is busy with the girls.” Pepper took a drink of his beer.

“Isn’t that the best part of being a rodeo cowboy? Having your pick of girls at every show?” Cody smiled as he looked around the bar.

“It used to be, but I’m ready to settle down.”

“Does Tyler know?” Cody asked startled.

“Yeah, but he isn’t happy about it.” Pepper looked over to the dance floor and watched the dancers. They sat in silence for few moments before Cody cleared his throat a couple of times.

"Out with it Cody. I know you want to ask me something."

"Well, um. Did you know that Chelsea is here in Greeley?"

"Yeah. I saw her at check in. I don't know if she saw me, but I saw her."

"Are you okay that she is here?"

"I'm fine. With every rodeo I enter, I know there's the possibility of running in to her. This just happens to be one of the biggest rodeos I've entered this year."

"If she’s here tonight, would it be okay if I, um..." Cody's voice trailed off.

"Are you asking my permission to dance with my ex-fiance?"

"Well, yeah." Cody hunched his shoulders and leaned back in to his chair, as if he was afraid Pepper might hit him.

"If she's willing, go for it.” Pepper took another drink of his beer. “Tyler said that she was here somewhere.”

“Hey cowboy, you want to have some fun?” Pepper looked up to see a buckle bunny standing next to Cody. She was dressed in tight jeans that were tucked in to her bright pink boots. Her shirt was so low cut that he was surprised she didn't fall out of it.

“No thank you.” Pepper looked at Cody.

“I would love too.” Cody said as he stood. “I’ll catch you later, Pepper.” Shaking his head, Pepper turned back to the dancers as he finished off his beer.

Pepper frowned at his empty beer bottle and placed it on the table. Leaning forward on his elbows, he rolled the bottle back and forth between his hands watching the dancers. His attention quickly turned to a brunette swinging her hips during the line dance. Her legs were encased in tight jeans, accenting her tight ass. His eyes gradually traveled up her toned body. She faced away from him. He watched as she moved to the music, willing her to turn toward him. She lifted her arms over head, causing the edge of her shirt to ride up, exposing the smooth skin of her lower back. Pepper bit back a groan. He loved the feel of the warm skin of a woman's lower back beneath his lips.

She continued to dance, laughing when she missed a step. There was something familiar about her, but Pepper figured it was because she was like most buckle bunnies, tight jeans and little inhibitions. As the song ended, she twirled around and stopped facing him. Their eyes met. The brunette who shook her tight ass and made him hard was none other than Chelsea. His beer bottle crashed the floor, his focus completely on her. She bit her lower lip before turning to talk to the woman next to her. Pepper pushed back from the table and stalked back to the bar. He needed something stronger than a beer tonight.


Jenn lives in central Florida with her best friend and husband, Andy. When not reviewing books on her book blog, PonyTails Book Reviews, she writes her own Contemporary Western Romance and Scottish Historicals. Jenn is hoping to have her first novel, The Prodigal Cowboy, published in the fall of 2013.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Kimberly Gould Week 30: Landing On Your Feet

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Kimberly Gould’s Picture Choice: Both

Title: Landing On Your Feet

“What is that?” I asked, pointing.

Janine hugged her jacket closer. “A new friend?” she suggested.

“No, that is not a friend. That is a cat.”

“Well, yes, he’s that, too.”

“Absolutely not! You know the landlord doesn’t allow pets.” I couldn’t believe she was so foolish. We had a nice place here. It wasn’t big, but it worked for us. I stormed away from her.

“Wait, Lacy, don’t you want to meet him? Isn’t he cute?”

The kitten had mottled brown and grey fur. He blinked at me with big eyes, pleading with me.

I didn’t touch him. I turned my back and went to the window. Lacy followed, pointing to where she had found the kitten behind the dumpster.

“Let me see him again,” I said, taking the kitten. I held him out of the window, over the full dumpster.

“Lacy! No!” She yanked hard on my arms and pulled the cat back inside.

“It’s only two floors and the dumpsters full. He would have been fine,” I told her.

“But he wouldn’t be able to get out! What would happen when they collected?”

She had a point. “I don’t want to see him in my stuff.” I wagged a finger in the cat’s face.

Then I moved to sit in the window I had taken her to.

“Don’t mind her, Stripes. She’s a grumpy old lady.”

I pushed open the door and dropped my sopping bag inside. Shaking rain from hair, I was grateful it hid my tears. How could he? On Valentine’s Day? Who does that?

I filled the kettle and turned it on, trying not to think about him.

Falling into the chair with my mug, I blew across the top, steam swirling up and away, like my lovelife. I had really let myself believe this time it would work out, this time I would grow up and move one with my life. Instead, I was back in this apartment with my tea like an old lady.


An old cat lady.

Stripes had never been friendly with me. That suited me, I didn’t want to get attached and then have to get rid of him when the landlord found out. Today, though, he came to me. He clawed my pant leg and I bent to lift him to my lap. He’d gotten so big. A warm furry ball that started purring as I stroked his back and head.

When I stopped, sipping my tea again, he looked up at me. It was a familiar look.

“You’ll land on your feet. You’ll be fine,” he seemed to say.

I ran my hand over his back and his eyes closed, purr resuming. He was probably right.


Kimberly Gould is the author of Cargon: Honour and Privilege and the upcoming Thickness of Blood. She can be found most places as Kimmydonn, including


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Samantha Lee Week 30: Begun in the Waters

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Samantha Lee’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: Begun in the Waters

Once upon a time, a very, very long time ago, back when the Earth was young and life younger yet, the Fae began. We came from the soil, from the rocks, from the trees, from the plants, from the beasts. We evolved, and we didn't, from life itself. We had strength, we had speed, we had grace, but we were...unfinished, like shells, like shadows, incomplete.

Something was missing, something important and vital, and we realized this. We were meant to be the guardians of this world, to tend and protect its resources and speak for those who could not speak for themselves. But man were many, so very, very many, and we were so few and so fragile, so easily destroyed by man and his weapons. We needed a shield. We needed protection. We needed to be more.

The first of the Royal Fae were brother and sister, husband and wife. It is said they found a well in the groves beyond the edge of the darkest forest. The water, if it was indeed water, was a wash of brilliant colours, sparkling like liquid gems as the pair drew it from the well's depths and into the sun. Magic, power, energy, all of it was contained within those droplets that passed the pair's lips and slid down their throats. More than an infusion, this liquid formed a connection, linking these two, these sole two, to all the power and energy the world had to offer. A channel was opened, beginning in the earth and flowing through them and back again, becoming exponentially stronger with each cycle.

When the pair returned to the Fae, they set about bringing their brethren into the connection. Strength, power, agility, speed, everything they were became more and with this energy came magic, came immortality, came so much more. The pair were rewarded with a throne and the Fae, now so much stronger than man, withdrew to pockets of world beyond and between where they could safely and freely be left to grow and prosper.

This, then, is how the Fae came to be. It is the origin, the beginning, the start of species, of a kingdom, of a power so great and magnificent today, brought about by but a few drops of colourful water found in a well in times before time.

And it is only the beginning...


You can read my blog - Calliope's Domain - over at


Monday, January 14, 2013

Jen DeSantis Week 30: Precious Cargo

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Jen DeSantis’ Choice: 1

Title: Precious Cargo

“Look, Stephen, I didn’t mess up the plane’s landing gear. It needs maintenance and the flight will be delayed.”

I rolled my eyes as I looked out onto the scorching tarmac where our bird sat, grounded. My fucking luck, of course. The last leg of a twenty-three hour epic journey halfway around the world, and I get hung up at the last puddle jump from San Fran to Huston. My contact, however, didn’t seem to feel the personal pain of my delay. He had other worries on his mind.

“Where are my diamonds?”

“I checked the fuckers in my baggage, asshole. Where do you think they are?”

A low growl sounded over the line and I smiled, knowing how frustrated my delay was making him.

“The merch is safe and sound and you are just going to have to be patient,” I crooned.

I moved the phone away from my ear to hang up with Stephen’s voice called me back. “Jeremy?”

His voice was a chill whisper that sent a shudder down my spine. All of my dealings with Stephen had been sterile and over the phone. I knew about him, knew the shadowy history that other talked about. But I’d never met him face to face. I didn’t relish the thought of finally delivering his goods to him. The tone of his voice seemed to whisper of the terrible things that he could do to me, that he would do to me if I failed him.

“Y-yes?” I hated myself for the stutter in my response.

“You will bring the diamonds to me directly. You will not fuck this up. And if so much as a scratch is on my precious cargo when you arrive, you will pay the price. Am I understood?”

My heart pounded in my chest. Stephen’s voice hadn’t gotten any louder, but the cold intonation had become more clipped and pronounced. Fear slid down my back like an icy fingertip as my mind raced with the thought of what price he might exact.


“Yes, sir. I understand.”

I’d regained a measure of control in my voice, but the fear coiled around my spine making me shiver despite the baking heat that radiated through the window pane.


I could almost hear him smile. As his line went dead, my heart quailed in my chest. Suddenly the three and half hour flight that lay ahead of me felt too short and the number of obstacles in the way of my handing off the diamonds safely seemed to grow before me exponentially. I tucked my phone into my inside coat pocket and patted the special pouch which would hide the diamonds from x ray devices. They were safe, but was I?


Jennifer DeSantis is a Horror and Paranormal Author and host of the #FridayPictureShow. She lives near Philly with her family. In her spare time is an aspiring ninja.


Sunday, January 13, 2013

Ruth Long Week 29: Welcome To Cypher Cove

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Ruth Long’s Picture Choice: One

Title: Welcome To Cypher Cove

Caden woke to find himself strapped to a metal table. A quick examination of the room revealed a half dozen other tables, none of them occupied, and a power source larger than any he’d encountered. Four windows, two doors and an observation mirror rounded out inspection.

He was plugged into the power source so a quick reverse charge would free him, though he wasn’t sure that’s what he wanted just yet. When the door swung open a moment later, he was glad he’d stayed where he was. He molded his features to feign relaxation. A warm hand on his brow surprised him but he kept the pretense.

“Mr. Raynes. Caden Raynes. Can you hear me?”

He modulated his response so that his eyelids opened slowly and his eyes appeared hazy with sleep, though they recorded every detail of the speaker. A curvy woman wearing scrubs. Dark skin, dark eyes, and dark glossy hair piled atop her head.

She moved closer. “I wasn’t sure how long you’d take to recharge. My name is- ”

“Zaydee Parker,” he said, finishing her sentence. “Professor Dunscomb mentioned you. Where is he? We were in the middle of an assignment one moment and the next, I woke up here.”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Raynes.”

He swung his legs over the edge of the table and sat up. “Why? What’s happened?”

She looked away from him. “The two of you were attacked on the way here. There wasn’t anything we could do for Dunscomb. This is a house of tech, not medicine.”

He tore the electrical plug out of his arm and his feet hit the floor. “He’s dead?”

“Not yet, but close. We sent a team for help but they didn’t make it back. I don’t have enough units to try again. Not in time, anyway.”

“Do you have the necessary medical supplies?”

“I think so but what does it matter? We don’t have a doctor.”

“You do now. I’m designed to access and apply skills as necessary. I’ll need the room prepped and a willing attendant.”

She reached out to touch him, stopping short before making contact. “You’re the real thing? Not just a rumor?”

“No more than the tech haven we’re standing in is a rumor.”

She motioned him to follow her out into the corridor. “I can’t believe it. You’re the only one of your kind and you’re here, under my roof, in my building, close enough to touch.”

“We don’t fully exist without each other, do we, Zaydee? Tech and AI have a symbiotic relationship.”

She used a keycard to open an electronic door and they passed through into a makeshift surgical bay.

“Using soft cuffs to restrain me on that exam table tells me you didn’t want to harm me. Securing me in a room by myself tells me you had a vested interest in keeping me safe. You may not fully trust me but you are very interested in me, aren’t you?”

She handed him a set of scrubs. “Perhaps. Dunscomb sent word that he’d had a breakthrough and as soon as he could complete a real world scenario, he’d make a full disclosure. But that was nearly a year ago and we heard nothing further – until the mayday call this morning.”

“They burned out the lab trying to destroy me. And if I can’t save Dunscomb, they’ve won. He’s the only human alive who knows my framework.”

She reached out and this time, she connected with him, her hand resting on his arm.

“You’re wrong about that. I don’t have it all hashed out yet, but while you were recharging, I scanned your interface and acquired a substantial working knowledge of - ”

He gripped her wrist. “Mind what you say next, Zaydee, because I’m not one of your second-hand units. I reason. I adapt. I experience.”

She saw the warning in his clenched jaw and the tension in his strange pale eyes. “I may be just an ordinary hacker to you, Mr. Raynes, but I’m the best hacker this side of the grid. I built Cypher Cove as a refuge for other tech junkies, a place where we aren’t bound by the anti-AI rules and regs of the city, where we are free to create and restore tech as we see fit.”

The pressure of his fingers let up a bit but he didn’t turn her loose.

She rushed on. “Cypher Cove is also a place where the abandoned and abused units we rescue on a nearly daily basis can live out their purposes in peace. I know every piece of tech out there, except you. So yeah, I want to study you. Intensely. Truth is, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you since my crew carried you into the orientation bay today. And I’m terrified that you’re going to walk out of my lab and my life without giving me that chance.”

He let go of her hand and smoothed a thumb along her jaw. “Zaydee Parker, you have nothing to worry about. You’re going to have all the time in the world to get inside my head. You see, what you haven’t yet realized is that even if the professor survives, he and I have nowhere to go because you and I are public enemy number one. And while we’re being truthful, the fact that we share that title does a number on my circuit boards.”

Her face blossomed into a smile. “Caden Raynes, it’s my great pleasure to welcome you to Cypher Cove, where we offer all the best in city living, sans the rules, riff-raff and rat-race.”


A reader by birth, paper-pusher by trade and novelist by design, story-telling in my passion. If you enjoyed reading today's story, please consider checking out my blog, joining my creative community or participating in the madcap twitter fun @bullishink.