Bookpunk

art

© Sue Vincent

Eleven-year-old Keel watched his thirteen-year-old sister Alina from behind as she trudged down the alleyway. "C'mon. Don't wanna b late," she signaled.

The thin, waif-like boy, walking through January’s half-frozen muddy puddles in dirty, sandaled feet, dressed in over-sized khaki shorts with hems down to his shins, and a ratty green sweater made from an old Army blanket, heard her synthesized voice and simultaneously saw the text on his head’s up.

"Geek off. We've got time," was his caustic reply. He had slowed so he could look at Gemmi’s tagging, he was pretty sure it was her work, freshly painted on the old bricks. He was oblivious to the cold breeze from behind, blowing his matted, tortilla-colored hair with violet tips (all that was left of last November’s dye job) into his eyes.

"This is more important than your hotties for Gemmi." She impatiently grabbed his wrist, causing him to regard his sib for the first time that morning. She covered the holes in her thin, coffee-stained white tank top with a black leather vest, the one she ripped off from the dying multiplex in the burbs last month. There were just as many holes in her black yoga pants (she liked retro), and if he’d listen to her actual voice instead of what came through the interface, he’d have heard the faint, metallic click as numerous piercings colliding in her mouth when she spoke.

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Lepers: A Short Story Review

keyan bowes

Author Keyan Bowes – image found at bigpulp.com – No photo credit given

I became aware of author Keyan Bowes‘s short story Lepers when I received it as part of the latest newsletter from Mysterion Magazine.

Since I’m interested in having at least one of my short stories published by that periodical, I thought it might be a good idea to see what they think is acceptable fare.

Oh, Mysterion is:

…an ezine of Christian-themed speculative fiction edited and published by the husband and wife team of Donald S. Crankshaw and Kristin Janz. We seek quality speculative fiction with Christian characters, themes, or cosmology. Join us as we rediscover the mysteries of the faith!

Lepers is a little over a thousand words long, qualifying it for something just a tad longer than flash fiction. It chronicles the brief encounter between Vijay and his former friend Raj, who he was told had died while studying abroad, but in fact, has become something like a zombie.

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The Minor Goddess

goddess

Photo credit: UnexpectedTales

“Well, it’s about damn time.” She was more provocative than beautiful, though her piercing brown eyes, dark chestnut-colored hair, and burgundy-painted lips were definitely alluring. She was leaning over her tucked in legs, the skirt of her short, deep, Prussian blue dress hiked up, revealing ample, pale-skinned thighs and just a little more besides…and she was barefoot. Her expression was expectant with a dash of mischievousness.

Since my divorce, I’d been living in a flat on the third floor of a converted Victorian in Boise’s counter-culture North End. Having parked my car around back, I was walking up the front steps, a sack of groceries from the Co-Op balanced in my right arm, while thumbing through my keys with my left.

“I beg your pardon?” I paused on the ancient concrete steps, a cold January breeze blowing from the north chilling me. I thought I wouldn’t be out very long and so only put on a light jacket, and now I was shivering.

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The Last Invader

cybercafe

Exterior shot of the Suyash Cybercafe in Mumbai, India

Twenty-seven-year-old Alicia Vasquez rapidly manipulated the keyboard in front of her at the cybercafé in Mumbai, not far from Mahim Bay. She’d left Ranbir at a local cinema watching that superhero movie while she arranged for the two of them to join the next Chadar Trek. The fellow who’d died of a heart attack a week ago in Ladakh had put off most of the tourists, at least temporarily, so she was able to get a discount.

However, that man, wasn’t just a man, he was resistance, like her, and his death wasn’t accidental. Alicia would use Ranbir as a pawn, planting an electronic signature on him indicating he was the agent, not her. If the ancient alien machine hidden in the Tibb Cave detected the sign and attacked, she’d have time to plant the detonator, ending the ancient alien invader’s resurrection forever. Long live the human resistance.

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw writing challenge. The idea is to use a Google maps image/location as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 150 words long. My word count is 148.

Today, the Pegman takes us to Mumbai, India. Mumbai, formerly Bombay, has such a long and rich history, there are many stories that could be told. I looked up news items for Mumbai and came up with Dead trekker’s family urges caution from “The Times of India.” Apparently, a 35-year-old man participating in the Chadar Trek, a ten-day hike across a frozen river bed at extreme altitudes with temperatures reaching -35 degrees F, and with hazards such as oxygen deprivation, perished of a heart attack near Tibb Cave.

With no disrespect to him or his grieving family, I used this as the jumping off point for my wee tale of the potential revival of an ancient alien threat and the long-lived human resistance attempting to eradicate the last strongholds of the extraterrestrial machines.

Find out more about the trek at MountainIQ.com.

Oh, I used the Suyash Cyber Cafe as the scene for my story.

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

By the way, now that my first two short stories have been accepted for publication, I’ll probably have less time for many of these online challenges, as I’m redoubling my effort in creating tales to submit to anthologies and periodicals. I’ll still be around from time to time, though.

Being Published in the Anthology “World War Four”

zpp ww4

Promotional image for Zombie Pirate Publishing’s “World War Four” anthology

Fantastic news. On the heels of receiving an email saying that my first story was accepted for an anthology on Sunday morning, yesterday, I received the following:

Thanks for contributing to WORLD WAR FOUR. When we started Zombie Pirate Publishing in 2017, we could not have guessed at the enthusiastic support we would get from writers around the world. WORLD WAR FOUR received more than forty submissions. We thank you for your contribution.

We really enjoyed your submission Joey and would like to inform you it will be included in the publication released March 1st. Congratulations!

Yes, Adam Bennett and Sam M. Phillips at Zombie Pirate Publishing accepted my short story “Joey” for their World War Four (yes, you read that right) anthology, due to be published March 1, 2019.

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Being Published in the anthology “Magical Reality”

magical reality

Announcement of the “Magical Reality” anthology from Pixie Forest Publishing

Sunday morning, I woke up to some wonderful news. Actually, when I saw the email from Pixie Forest Publishing with the title, “Decision for The Dragon’s Family,” I was prepared for another disappointment at being once again being rejected. Then I read this:

Thank you for submitting your short story “The Dragon’s Family” to Pixie Forest Publishing’s modern fantasy anthology. We really appreciate you letting us consider your story. After much consideration, we have decided we would love to include your story in our anthology.

I was still swilling coffee and trying to wake up, but at that moment, I could have been dancing on air.

Later, I found out that there had been 62 submissions to the “Magical Reality” anthology, and only 11 stories had been picked, including mine, “The Dragon’s Family.”

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The Return of Flight A-10

RAF Ascension

RAF Ascension Island – January 2002 – licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

“There it is again. Let me put it on speaker, Richard.” Thirty-eight-year-old Kristen Hines was on assignment for the NSA at the RAF Ascension Space Communications facility on the mid-Atlantic island. Richard Porter was the fifty-five-year-old civilian division chief.

As the static switched from Kristen’s headset to the speakers in the secure communications room crewed by a dozen specialists, the regular pinging became a fragmented voice.

"Surrender...Nazi...A-10...spacecraft...aliens...releasing us..."

“Mr. Porter, Sir. Got something on radar.” Roger Bennett’s gaze didn’t deviate from his screen. “It’s entering Earth’s atmosphere.” Hines reached for the secure line to Washington as Porter muttered. “So the bloody Nazis did manage it.”

“What?” Kristen’s hand paused.

“Granddad was only one of six intelligence agents to discover that before the fall of the Reich, the Nazis had launched a manned rocket into space.”

“How could they have survived all these years.”

“They’re on re-entry. Guess we’ll find out.”

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw writing challenge. The idea is to take a Google Maps image/location and use it as a prompt to craft a piece of flash fiction no more than 150 words long. My word count is 150.

Today, the Pegman takes us to St. Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha in the middle of the South Atlantic.

I did my homework and discovered that RAF Ascension, also known as Wideawake Airfield or Ascension Island Auxiliary Field, “serves as a space-based communications, signals intelligence, and navigation nexus and hub (Ground station). One of only four GPS satellite ground antennas is located there.”

I also discovered that during World War Two, the island was used by the Allies “to base patrolling anti-surface-commerce-raider and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) forces against the Axis powers’ naval units.”

When I was looking up signals intelligence, I found an online copy of the last German message intercepted by the British during the war signaling Germany’s unconditional surrender.

Putting that all together, I wondered if there were any “conspiracy theories” based on a Nazi Manned Space Program, and lo and behold, I found the answer at Astronotes which used information about Nazi Germany’s Aggregat Rocket Program.

It was a lot of fun to write, but 150 words doesn’t do it justice.

To read other stories based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com (link fixed).

From Up in the Sky

quarry

© Russell Gayer

“What the hell?” Sixty-two year old millionaire Warren Hollister stared down the long gully carved in his quarry terminating at an unconscious man being put on a wheeled gurney by ambulance attendants.

“It’s like I was saying. Thought he was dead, but when I checked, he was breathing,” gasped Jake Fischer, the Foreman.

“Not a scratch on him.” Hollister shook his head in wonder.

“No clothes either.”

“What are you suggesting?.”

“Who knows what happened? Last year the Russkies sent up Sputnik, and today, a man falls from the sky.”

“A superman, Jake, and right now, he’s mine.”

I authored this for the Rochelle Wisoff-Fields flash fiction writing challenge. The idea is to use the image above as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 100 words long. My word count is 98.

This is actually part of a story that’s been floating around my head for years, the idea that a mysterious man can fall from the sky and into the hands of what could be a ruthless millionaire. Since Jake mentions that Sputnik was put in orbit the previous year, that puts my story in 1958, just over 60 years ago.

I got the scene for my rock quarry from this news story and very loosely based it on the 1953 “Adventures of Superman” television show episode Panic in the Sky (video).

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

Dreaming on Such a Winter’s Day

zebra unwinding

Image credit: Zulkarnain Ismail

William Blake knew he was in trouble when he saw the zebra unraveling like a ball of twine, especially since there shouldn’t be any free roaming zebras in the high desert southeast of Boise.

“Get a grip, get a grip, get a grip,” he muttered to himself, pressing his hands on each side of his head. The vision wouldn’t go away, but neither did the zebra seem to mind its condition.

“Of all days, why did it have to happen today?” Every New Year’s morning, the forty-eight-year-old electrical designer took a walk in the open fields south of his home, symbolically welcoming a year of new hope. “But I have to be at Edna’s in an hour for breakfast. I can’t go like this.”

The zebra moved on but then the clouds started turning themselves inside out, swirling and shifting from white to silver, then to magenta and turquoise. The grass around his ankles and then all across the field. writhed like serpents and rubbed against his legs like affectionate house cats, while the trees in the distance grew and expanded to Pellucidar-like proportions. Then the sky became granite and the ground turned to vapor, but neither did the atmosphere collapse upon him, nor did he fall through the mist.

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Across the Hell Land

apocalypse

Post apocalyptic art by Albert Goodwin, 1903 – a work in the public domain

Gray-haired, burnt-skinned Santos had forgotten the number of times he had appealed to the Glow for an end to his journey through the hell lands. He couldn’t fool himself with the placebo anymore, and so as he put out the campfire and slipped on his rucksack, the dull pain in his right knee became his rough companion with each step, thanks to the oblique scar left by the direwolf last Fall.

The old woman he encountered in one of the shelters reclaimed from a flatlands hell crater had tried to minister to him, but the scar tissue had already formed, and her potions were far too weak to repair damaged cartilage. Being maimed didn’t bother him as much as the fact that having to leave her alone again, she died two days hence, probably by the same pack that had struck at him, as evidenced by the sign of the carrion birds circling above her hut.

But heartstrings weren’t something he could afford. She had refused to go with him when he asked. The reluctant ranger told her the plague to the East was spreading by rats and sand hares, had consumed his community, and that the only safety was his destination, the half-mythical city beyond the western foothills. But she said she’d made her peace with the high desert and the hell lands. Her husband and five sons had died during the first disaster, and being of prairie stock, she chose to stay, to tend their graves, living off of a meager garden, wearing sackcloth and ashes.

She never said her name or how long she’d been alone, but he kept seeing her face, cut and grooved with wrinkles like a river delta as step by step, limping, praying to the Glow with each gasp of pain, he kept walking.

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