For Queen and Country

feast

Scene from the 2017 film “Victoria & Abdul

The wedding loomed closer and all Tay could do was think of storm clouds. She did love Silas, after a fashion, but while their marriage would join their two Kingdoms into a formidable and wealthy Empire, Udristan to the east and Mutriuka and Kozanar to the south would likely become fearful. Previously, neither her beloved Sasmen or Silas’s nation of Crenia to the west were considered a threat, but this wedding and all of its implications could be interpreted as a prelude to war.

“A penny, Tay.”

She had been staring out her private tower’s western window at the city skyline and the farm lands beyond, and hadn’t noticed that her mother had come in.

Turning, she walked over to her, knelt, and kissed her hand in greeting. Then she rose and faced the Queen. “You would be short-changed, I’m afraid.”

“Oh, that again.” Her friendly demeanor instantly soured, and she adopted an expression of displeasure. “I’m only thinking of our people. This alliance will strengthen both of our nations. You know that.”

“And quite possibly plunge us into a bloody war, Mother.” She spun and walked to the window, and then turned back to her progenitor and the most powerful woman in their nation. “I’ve explained the dynamics of it again and again…”

“Yet you fail to convince me, little one.”

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Growing Back

overgrown city

Found at playstationlifestyle.net – no image credit available

“I’ll be out front taking care of the weeds, Diane.” Rudy Harper was yelling as he held the door open between the laundry room and the garage.

“Okay.” He could hear her well enough, though she was in the kitchen.

He shut the door. The garage was already open to the driveway so he had plenty of light to see. He wasn’t in a good mood, and was muttering to himself as he opened one of the utility cabinets. “Freaking summer. Everybody loves freaking summer. Gonna be another scorcher today, freaking hundred degrees at least. There. Gotcha.” He pulled the bottle of weed killer and a pair of gloves out and closed the cabinet.

Putting on the gloves, he wielded his weapon, preparing to vanquish one of his sworn enemies. “Freaking weeds, always growing up through the cracks in the concrete. Got the lawn mowed and edged early enough, but I’ll end up sweating like a pig over the damn weeds.”

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Victorious

summit

© Sue Vincent

Casworon stood at the summit, his booted feet planted on the flagstone, his back, torn crimson cape over tarnished and broken chain mail, pressed against the ancient wall. The battle had been won, but at a terrible cost. The field below was littered with the dead of his foe, Jusveer, King of Zedrov, but so was it with his own dead, except for Arabel. His beloved Queen and wife had been taken during the conflict, by agents of Asluitania who were supposedly neutral.

Now that he had won the right to Jusveer’s lands and retained possession of his own, they would likely hold Arabel to random. No, Asluitania would not be interested in ruling these lands, but they would demand a yearly tribute in gold, oil, and spices. Casworon would have to sign a binding decree to pay annually after his Queen’s return. Plus, even if they had mistreated her, he could seek no vengeance against their ruler, Erembour, the sinister Shadowmaster, such was the nature of agreements with evil.

The Warrior King gazed out over the vastness of the western ocean, pining for his love as the distant barge, just at the horizon, carried her away to dark lands.

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When Masculinity Isn’t “Toxic”

chivalry

Image found at CNN – Photo credit unavailable

I’m about two-thirds through my read of the Superversive Press anthology To Be Men: Stories Celebrating Masculinity, which I plan to review both on my blog and on Amazon. I’ve already written about my anticipation of this volume and authored a review of The Last Hunt, which was Richard Paolinelli’s contribution.

Last night before going to bed, I read the Campus Reform article, Researchers say masculinity training ‘ignores human nature’ written by Toni Airaksinen, and I was amazed at how the themes of her missive and the anthology converged.

Apparently, there’s something on university campuses today called “masculinity training,” which is designed to purge male students of their ‘toxic’ masculinity. In fact, a Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater is calling for ‘toxic masculinity’ training in kindergarten.

However, as cited in Airaksinen’s article:

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When Meg Comes to Visit

ferry and birds

white-ship-traveling-through-vast-body-of-water-with-white-birds-flying-beside-879479 Pixel Photo

The Golden Gate Bridge was almost completely concealed in early morning fog as the 6:30 a.m. ferry made its way from Vallejo to the San Francisco Ferry Building. It was a typical Monday morning commute, and a much more civilized way to get into the City, though the crowding on board was still barely tolerable.

It was Erma Carr’s first day traveling to work by water, having given up with both driving and BART, this being somewhat ironic, seeing that she was an Ichthyologist.

“Hey, look at that.”

“Is it a whale?”

“Whatever it is, the thing’s huge.”

The comments of her fellow passengers pulled her toward the starboard side of the ferry, which was facing the Golden Gate and the Pacific Ocean beyond.

“There’s a dorsal fin. Is it an Orca?”

Carr’s blood proverbially froze in her veins. She was a shark biologist working at the Steinhart Aquarium, and had done her Master’s Thesis on extinct shark species. What she was looking at was impossible. The Megalodon species had perished over two-and-a-half million years ago. It was nearly as big as the ferry, and as it breached the water, she knew it would kill them all.

I wrote this for Week #29 of the Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner challenge. The idea is to use the image above as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 195.

I found out the other day that a film called The Meg is coming to theaters in August, based on the book series by Steve Alten. Yes, another shark movie, but this time the shark is 60 or 70 feet long. You can read more about Megalodons at Wikipedia or do a Google image search to get some sort of idea of how huge these brutes were.

I wrote this one just for giggles.

To read other stories based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com.

So far, I’m the only one participating in this week’s linkup, so please consider adding your own story. Thanks.

Toxic Fear and Things That Go Bump In The Night (and on Social Media)

fight or flight

Found at cbt4panic.org website – no image credit given

What started all this was a post by conservative speculative fiction writer Jon Del Arroz at the SuperversiveSF blog called My Post Mocking Feminism Goes Viral – Twitter Locks My Account. Apparently, his twitter account was temporarily locked again, this time for mocking something called National No Bra Day which is supposed to raise awareness about breast cancer by having women go braless (sort of like No-Shave November). This year, the event is on Saturday, October 13th, which makes it odd that anyone would bring up the topic now. Anyway, here’s Del Arroz’s tweet for your consideration.

If you go to Mr. Del Arroz’s blog, you’ll see that he is frequently critical of leftist and progressive causes, and leftist speculative fiction author Jim C. Hines went so far as to post a lengthy missive on his blog chronicling, in great detail, a list of Del Arroz’s supposed “trolling and harassing.”

On the other hand, I’ve been assured by numerous people who I respect that Del Arroz is being treated unfairly by a number of authors (such as Mr. Hines), and particularly by several Cons (conventions) for his religious and political views.

Why?

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The Digital Muse

houses

© Dale Rogerson

Another day, another sunrise. The sky is an ugly, pale yellow, and life is bland and uninspired.

“Hey, you.”

Addy turned toward her laptop sitting on the small desk in her bedroom. The speakers were on, so it was chattering away at her again.

“What do you want? I’m depressed.”

“Get over here. You have to finish your story. Marguerite’s trapped in that waterfront warehouse by Marsden’s goons. Will Preta be able to save her? You’ve got to help.”

A twinkle appeared in Addy’s eyes as she sat down at the computer, opened the file, and began to write.

I wrote this for the Rochelle Wisoff-Fields flash fiction challenge. The idea is to use the image above as the prompt for crafting a poem or story no more than 100 words long. My word count is 99.

To me, the image is pretty depressing, a smoke-filled summer sky, and the promise of another scorching day. The original version of this story before I edited it down, was more descriptive, but there’s only so much you can do with 100 words.

I leveraged characters from my story The Haunted Detective, and as far as the talking computer goes, I’m leaving that part rather vague.

To read other stories based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com.

Going Up

swing

Image credit Gamze Bozkaya via Unsplash

“Get back here, Deric! Do it now!”

The minute Enoch Fischer noticed the boy was missing, he knew there’d be trouble, but he didn’t suspect that not only had some fool strung up a swing at the edge of the cliff, but that the fifteen-year-old would use it.

“Relax. I’m fine. Can’t I have some fun once in a while?” The boy turned his head around as far as he could, but Enoch still could hardly hear him.

“That’s not fun, it’s suicide. Get off this instant.”

“Poor choice of words on your part, Dad.” He was laughing, taunting his adoptive father the way he had since he was able to walk. At the apex of the arc out into empty air, Deric pulled himself up by the ropes, twisted, and then falling, grabbed the seat with both hands. On the return swing, his legs were low enough to drag on the dirt and grass pulling him to a stop.

“You should have seen the look on your face.” He stood and swatted dust off of his pant legs, still laughing at the effect his stunt had on the older man.

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Another Assignment

town

Found at Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers – Image credit unavailable

This could be a lot of places in the world spanning decades or even centuries. I don’t know how I got here, but then, I never do. It’s morning but it’s getting warm fast, which probably means summer. Where are the people? There should be people here.

Electrical conduits. That puts me somewhere in the 20th or maybe 21st century. Wait. That sounds like radio or maybe a television set. Maradona does what? Now there’s a huge amount of cheering. Of course. Maradona. The 1986 World Cup. That was the goal that made him internationally famous.

I’m in Argentina. Now I’m remembering. My assignments are always to save a single human life or to take it. I’m a gun used by unseen forces to eliminate a threat to the timeline, or the hand used to protect an asset to history. Yes, it’s this door. In the next few seconds, I have to change history, but until the moment arrives, I won’t know how.

I wrote this for the 174th FFfAW Challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. The idea is to use the image above as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words long. My word count is 162.

I received a certain set of reactions to how I depicted Diego Maradona in my wee tale The Fan, so I thought I’d take another stab at it by at least mentioning the 1986 World Cup and his famous “Hand of God” goal as well as the “Goal of the Century.” It made him an instant legend, so I suppose I should give credit where credit is due, though it means less to my mysterious time traveler than his current assignment, whatever that is.

To read other tales based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com.

The Haunted Detective

san francisco 1947

San Francisco Chronicle Archives – From the back of the photo: “F Car goes through – The two months long blockade of the Fourth and Market intersection ended completely yesterday morning as F cars moved from Fourth Street across Market into Stockton. While police officers experimented with the new traffic pattern at the complex five-way intersection, workmen rolled down the last of the fill in the project. City officials hope the revised schedule will end one or more downtown bottlenecks.” September 9, 1947.

“I keep telling you this, Marguerite, but you never listen. You are just as breakable as the next person, maybe more so given your line of work.”

Private Investigator Margurite Carter was getting sick and tired of Cohen’s lectures. “Do I tell you how to stitch a cut, Sawbones? Just do your job. I haven’t got all night for you to fix up my broken wing. And what’s that crack about me being more breakable? I’m as tough as any guy in the business.”

“Tell that to your broken arm. It’s a good thing you’re left-handed. From the way you described the thug who jumped you, he must have had a hundred pounds on you. By the way, the name’s Dr. Cohen or Joel, not Sawbones.” The fatherly doctor tightened the binding a little too much on his thirty-year-old mouthy patient just to make his point.

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