Writing: Fiction

“Speedeth All,” a military sci-fi story, is in the anthology Love, Murder and Mayhem, from Crazy 8 Press.

KEPLER-443b, 27 March 2318, UTC 14:27
It was shortly after dawn on their thirteenth day on the Bee, as they’d all started calling it. Not just as an abbreviation of the planet’s designation, but because it was annoying–and painful, if you didn’t watch what you were doing. Long days, vicious heat, nasty bugs, and hidden tunnel systems where the lizards hid. Add to that the lack of water or food, and almost complete absence of cover, and, for a “simple recon mission,” it was about as bad as it could get. About the only positive aspect of the place was that the atmosphere was breathable, though no one quite knew why.

My stories “Right Where She Wants Him” and “It Tore the Laugh from My Throat” have been reprinted in the new app Great Jones Street, along with hundreds of other great stories. Download it for your iPhone or Android phone!

I co-wrote “The Winter Canvas: A Daniel Block Story,” available in Grantville Gazette #67, with Robert Waters.

Daniel von Block sat dangerously close to his fireplace as he read again the devastating letter in his hand. He couldn’t believe it . . . your unethical behavior during the mural competition has brought into question your judgment . . . Frau Schlosser was pulling her commission because she believed that Daniel had broken the rules by spying on his competitors. Two other patrons had pulled their commissions as well for similar reasons, and now here he sat, in his apartment above his art gallery and studio, watching his dreams flicker away in the hot firelight.

My story “HX 1836 c” is part of the League of Space Pirates anthology/album/shared universe anthology, Precognitive Universe of Emergent Desire. The art to go with my story in the anthology was done by the amazing Meena Khalili, and it is both perfect and gorgeous. RVA Mag reviewed the book, and Style Weekly has included it in their 2016 Richmond Gift Guide. Check it out and see what Midnight Girl has gotten herself into.

“Joellis! Joellis, sweetie! Where are you, girl?” Artis set his toolbox on the floor beside the waste compactor, tucking it against the wall with his booted foot in exactly the same way he did every night when he came home from his shift at the water treatment plant.

Silence—or so he thought at first. As the hum and whine of the transport train gradually faded from his ears, he could hear faint noises coming from his daughter’s room.

Artis strode down the short, narrow hallway and rapped on her door. The thin metal warped from the force of the knocks, and he scowled. Cheap bastards.

In my story “Coming Clean,” two friends embark on a road trip, but one of them has a nasty surprise in store. Published in Virginia is for Mysteries II.

“Road trip?” Andrea asked when I climbed into her car a little before one p.m.

We’d planned to spend Friday afternoon together, since I had the day off, and she didn’t work on Fridays, but we hadn’t decided on anything specific in advance.

“Heck yeah,” I said. “Where to?”

She shrugged and pulled away from the curb as I buckled up. “South?”

I smiled. “My favorite direction. Onward!”

Robert Waters and I collaborated on the novella “Painted into a Corner,” which was serialized in the Grantville Gazette #s 60, 61, and 62.

Sophia crashed through the door of the studio, gasping for breath and holding the newspaper aloft. “Daniel! Daniel!”

Johann Bartel, who was always high-strung, yelped and fell into his easel, knocking a moderately well-composed portrait of Prince Ulrich into Konrad Göttsch’s particularly ill-done still-life of a bowl of fruit, and sending both canvases to the floor. Face down, naturally.

Konrad hurled his palette against the wall and swung a fist at Johann’s face, missing as the latter ducked and cocked his arm as if to return fire with his own balled fist.

“Enough!” Daniel von Block bellowed.

I co-edited the multi-genre anthology Trust and Treachery: Tales of Power and Intrigue with the amazing and talented Day Al-Mohamed. It contains a variety of imaginative, dark, intense, and beautiful stories, as well as a foreword by Day and an afterword in comic form by me, illustrated by Jack Park.

Cover of Trust and Treachery: Tales of Power and Intrigue anthology

If you like cookies–and what reasonable person doesn’t?–check out my grandmother’s recipe for Forgotten Cookies in my story “Summer’s End,” published in Allusions of Innocence.

One night when we were both five, James and I stood on the porch at Gramma’s house on a hot July night, staring in awe at the lightning bugs flashing in the darkness. When we asked Gramma how she made them glow like that, she just smiled and told us the magic only worked if we didn’t know the secret.

My collaboration with Robert Waters, “The Multi-Colored King,” was published in Grantville Gazette #50.

Rebecca Abrabanel greeted Dr. James Nichols at her front door.

“James, please come in,” she said, standing aside to let him in.

In a room on the floor above them, her children, Sepharad and Baruch, were playing with a new friend: five-year-old Benjamin Block. It sounded as if they were going to crash through the ceiling.

Nichols chuckled. “You have a full house today, it sounds like.”

Rebecca nodded. “The children have a new friend from Grantville. A young boy who likes superheroes. He is introducing them to the Man of Steel.”

My story, “The Light,” is in the November 2013 issue of Skive.

People always talk about the light at the end of the tunnel. Fuck the light at the end of the tunnel.

“Promise Kept” is one of 53 pieces of horror flash fiction in the anthology Dark Bits.

She was expecting a key. An old-fashioned, ornate skeleton key with a faded pink tassel attached to it; a bland, utilitarian silver house key; a tacky flower-patterned copy with a green rubber bumper around the base; a key to a safe deposit box, with Do Not Duplicate stamped on it; a key to a lock box, a filing cabinet, a padlock, a shed, a bus station locker; even a card key for a motel room in a tiny town in Wisconsin.

My second-person story, “Gonnagetya,” is in the anthology You, Me & a Bit of We.

You’re walking out of your hotel room, your mind on dinner and drinks in the restaurant downstairs, feeling well satisfied with yourself in general. Then two kids come bursting out of the room across the hall: a girl who looks about nine, fast on the heels of a boy who might be four or five. As he runs, he’s screaming, “Nooo,” and she shouts, “Gonnagetya, gonnagetya, gonnagetya, little pus head!”

My PI story, “It Tore the Laugh from My Throat,” was reprinted in a revised edition in Wildside Press’ Detective Megapack.

I was supposed to be on vacation. I was supposed to be relaxing, putting my feet up, reading. I was supposed to be eating locally-caught seafood, like drum, soft-shell crab, and oysters dug fresh. I was supposed to be sitting on the porch of my little rental cabin on Chincoteague, enjoying the break I’d earned after nearly four solid months of long hours, seven-day weeks, and living out of my car while working on a huge class-action lawsuit. The phone was not supposed to ring, and if it did I was not supposed to answer. But it did, and I did, and this is what happened.

I co-wrote the story, “The Persistence of Dreams,” with Robert Waters. It was published in the Grantville Gazette, an online journal associated
with Eric Flint’s 1632 series.

Grantville, May 1636

Daniel Block stretched his aching back, then tilted his canvas to capture more of the fading light of the evening. The reddish hue changed the colors on his palette, giving Fraulein Barnes’s pale arms and shoulders an orange tint that he found most intriguing. Painting outdoors had much to offer, though he worried the colors of his final work would be off. But then, the painting would seem odd to down-timers anyway. Even many of these up-time folk seemed tied to tradition when it came to art. Perhaps, he thought, my coming to Grantville will help change

“Transcript of Statement” is a somewhat experimental piece of writing: it’s the statement a woman makes to police after she’s attacked. You can find it online at Grift.

The van was white, but with old paint showing through on the side. Like from a rental company, maybe—Budget or Ryder, something like that. I dunno. It was worn and faded. Dents and a few rust spots. I’m a PI, so I notice things. I try to. Couldn’t see the plates from that angle, of course. Not that it matters now.

During the second half of 2012, I worked a vast number of hours on a project with artist Chuck Scalin, designer Meena Khalili, and a group of mostly local authors on the Evidence Boxes project. I wrote one of the stories, entitled “Consumed,” and a news article, entitled “Mystery boxes perplex authorities,” as well as editing all of the stories. The result is a limited-edition book art project that I am very proud to have contributed to!

Bill was a hero: a hero, dammit. True-blue, bold and brave, all-American. With his swank uniform on, tearing around town in his shiny Duesenberg, a sweet and sassy girl by his side, we all bought into the show. We were convinced Bill was the king of spies to Reilly’s ace, and everyone wanted Bill coming around—dancing, laughing, telling his tales with a wink and a finger to his lips. He was glorious, and everything was jake—at least for a while.

My second vampire story is called “Blood Born.” It was published in the Loco-Thology anthology.

Most people who experiment with calling demons don’t survive that tricky learning period. If you call up a demon but don’t do it quite right, the demon can’t come all the way through. Demons apparently find this quite annoying, so they eat you and return to where they came from—usually leaving no sign they were ever there. And when the raising is successful? Carnage.

My story, “Everyone Knows,” about a security guard who doesn’t get along well with his bosses, was published in Richmond Macabre II: More Nightmares.

Jack’s first wife, Louise, left him because he was a loser. He worked as a security officer for just 9.75 an hour, in spite of his degree in criminal justice and his rugged good looks. He looked like he ought to be some kind of government agent, she thought, and make at least 80K a year. But he’d shown no interest in seeking any other job. Instead, he’d been demoted from security supervisor no less than three times over the five years they’d been married, each time for refusing to follow orders.

A story I’m especially fond of, “The End of Grace,” was published in the anthology, The Old, Weird South. It’s about the true cause of the Louisa (Virginia) Earthquake.

On August 23, 2011, at 1:51 pm (EDT), there was an earthquake centered in Louisa County, Virginia, with a magnitude of 5.8. Unlike most earthquakes on the West Coast, where tremors are seldom felt even a state away, this quake was felt for hundreds of miles—as far north as Montreal. According to the United States Geological Survey, this is “due to the ease of wave propagation through the North American craton.”

My PI story, “Right Where She Wants Him,” is a dark tale of an evening on the job as a private investigator.  Did I mention it’s dark? (You’ve been warned.) This story is in the really marvelous journal Needle: A Magazine of Noir.

By the time we’d been in the car together for twenty minutes, Carl had used the word “motherfucker” nine times. He’d talked about sex unendingly: who the subject was screwing, how utterly fuckable his wife was, who some celebrity bimbo was doing this month. He’d called me baby. Twice. Soon, I was going to punch him.

My first vampire story is in Richmond Macabre. This rather bloody story, “Hunting Joey Banks,” features a PI searching for a client who’s been abducted by bad guys.

I was hunched in the corner of a small, rickety tree house overlooking a backyard in Church Hill near midnight, struggling madly not to move. I had the mother of all leg cramps, and it took everything I had not to holler with pain and try to massage it out. Since becoming a vampire two years ago, I’d become stronger in almost every way—but when I go too long without a red meal, the pains kick in with a vengeance. If I’d been home, I’d have been rocking back and forth, cursing loudly, but any movement would alert the four men talking in the hedges below that I was there, and my investigation would be over before it really even started. Worse, my client would almost certainly end up dead, and while that might not exactly be a tragedy, it would definitely be awkward.

“Cleaning Fish” appears in Chesapeake Crimes: They Had it Comin’. I like to describe it as a story about the healing power of murder.

Jake had expected to find himself digging ditches or washing cars or some such work when he got out on parole, but this wasn’t half bad. He whisked a brush down the Thoroughbred gelding’s hindquarters, both of them enjoying the shade from the barn’s broad overhang and the cool breezes coming from the lake. After he finished, there was a pair of dapple-gray Percheron mares and a palomino gelding who needed grooming. Then, after lunch, Jake would clean tack and do some minor repairs in the equipment shed. Whatever Otho and Anna Waggoner, the farm’s owners, asked him to do.

Chesapeake Crimes III contains my story “It Tore the Laugh from My Throat,” and the front cover features a photo I took on Chincoteage in Virginia.

My short story “Still, Life” won second prize in the 2007 Style Weekly fiction contest.

The woman is lying on the bench, asleep, when I arrive at the North Richmond train station around noon. For some reason, I feel compelled to sit and watch her for a minute or so, until I catch the rhythm of the rise and fall of her side. In spite of the air conditioning, the air is warm and heavy, and I doze for what must be almost two hours. I awake to see the same woman, lying on the same bench—only now, she’s not breathing.