RJ to be at Imaginarium 2015

E. Chris Garrison, me, John F. Allen
E. Chris Garrison, me, John F. Allen

Next weekend I’ll be attending the Second Annual Imaginarium Convention in Louisville, KY. Last year’s event was, quite simply, the most fun I had last year. With Seventh Star Press as a major organizer and several Speculative Fiction Guild authors well represented, I’m anticipating bigger, better, and more fun than ever.

What is Imaginaruim? Quite simply, If you love books and the people who write them, or you aspire to write and want an inspiring weekend training seminar, Imaginarium will be the place to be.

First of all, let’s get to a huge change over year one. The change that affects each and every one of you. The dealer’s room, crammed full of authors and vendors, will be free and open to the public. To participate in the programming, you need to buy a one-day or weekend pass, but if you just want to shop for yourself or for people on that list that starts to become relevant very soon, you can come and go as you like, free of charge. Click here to see Imaginarium’s website to read all the details about location, passes, hotel, etc.

11403423_1017912164885713_4460008536803645248_nYou’ll find me at a table with good buddies John F. Allen and Chris Garrison in the Seventh Star Press section. You’ll find my full array of books, which you can buy with cash or credit card all weekend. Autographs as always are free and worth every penny you pay. Here’s my price list:

10468076_813484258661839_5960947186833888854_nHaunting Blue $15
Haunting Obsession $10
Virtual Blue $15
Darkness with Chance of Whimsy $10
Lost Sole Ghosties $5 each or free with any purchase
I’ll also have special deals on multiple title purchases.

I’m on three panels this year, my schedule:

Fri, 7 pm in the Madison Room
Comics and the Silver Screen: Also with Glenn Porzig, John F. Allen, S.C. Houff, and T. Lee Harris

Sat, Noon in the Oldham Room
The Great Space Opera Debate: also with Dave Creek, Kathryn Sullivan, and Katina French

Sat, 9 pm in the Shelby Room
Writing a series: Also with Brick Marlin, Melissa Goodman, T. Lee Harris, and Teresa Reasor

Of course, you’re all coming just to see me, but you should know there’s dozens of panels for readers and writers, a movie screening room, a masquerade ball, and two free writer’s workshops. Hope to see you there! And if you can’t make it, follow my updates on Facebook and Instagram throughout the weekend.

Check out my photo album from Imaginarium 2014.

RJ visits Armand Rosamilia

cropped-book-signing-setupLast Wednesday, horror author and good buddy Armand Rosamilia posted a guest blog I’d created some weeks earlier and while I was busy attending to  other things. And what I mean to say is, I’m posting it several days later completely on purpose in to maximize exposure over a period of time.

Yeah, we’ll go with that.

So did you know that being a modern author is a lot like being in a garage band? Its true! Here’s what I posted.

Me between two author co-op peeps John F. Allen and E. Chris Garrison.
Me between two author co-op peeps John F. Allen and E. Chris Garrison.

The Bass Player Quit Again

Or, the Chemistry of Author Co-Ops

“She wants to be an author when she grows up!” I looked down into the wide eyes of a tween girl. Her parents pulled her over to my booth so they could tell me this, apparently in hope that I could grant some words of wisdom on the spot. So I tell her half the truth. The good half. The encouraging half.

Thanks to modern technology, specifically ebooks and digital publishing, this little girl is growing up in a time when anyone who wants to chase their dream of being an author will have more choices before them than any era before. She can choose to avoid the lifelong frustration of rejections and never getting that break. Her destiny will be in her own hands, and success or failure will be more in her control than ever. The parents smiled and the girl glowed and my duty to inspire future generations was done for the day.

I had, of course, only told her the good news. What I didn’t tell her was that her destiny will be in her own hands, and success or failure will be more in her control than ever.

—-

You’ll need to click over to the original post on Armand’s blog to read the rest. And while y0u’re there, check out guest posts by other authors scheduled to appear at the Second Annual Imaginarium Convention in Louisville, KY, including a guest post by my good friend E. Chris Garrison.

Click here to finish reading my guest post.

Event filled Weekend Post Mortem

11728985_10153611422727754_1641723581632914433_o
The Three Amigos, L to R, John F. Allen, Me, and Chris Garrison
IMG_1237
Chris Garrison poses at the just-finished display shortly after setup.

For starters, all I can say is, WHAT A GREAT WEEKEND! So let’s start with letting the shields down and a little truth telling. Events like these are taxing. They’re outdoors, they involve limited windows to set up big displays. Sometimes, by the time it’s all set, you have to find a second effort to get your public game face on.

But two things make it much easier. 1) Partnering with terrific people and 2) a good turnout and terrific conversation. And that’s why this weekend went so well.

For starters, I arrived way early to the Historic Hannah House, much to my surprise, so I found what I considered a prime shady location for our group. E. Chris Garrison and Laura Terhune arrived shortly after, and we had everything we needed. A kind stranger (I’ve never met any other type at the Paranormal Meet n Greet) helped us set up Laura’s canopy and we were set up and ready well ahead of opening. John F. Allen arrived shortly before noon with his vampire / werewolf thriller title.

Being a display of fictional ghost stories (as opposed to stories based on actual haunted encounters), we were not everyone’s cup of tea, but lots of visitors showed interest, and everyone treated us like family, which is on par with every  experience I’ve had here, and that’s why I love supporting it. We had lots of conversations, caught up with old friends, met a few new ones, and even sold some books. I’m already looking forward to next year.

L to R: James W. Kirk, Me, John F. Allen, Chris Garrison
L to R: James W. Kirk, Me, John F. Allen, Chris Garrison

Speaking of old friends, the biggest surprise was seeing an old colleague, James W. Kirk. He and I go back to 199*mumble* college creative writing days, and he’s gone on to create quite a horror anthology brand with himself as editor-in-chief of some dozens of books. Check out his work here.

Then Sunday I returned to VERY local territory and took a double shift at the Greater Mooresville Chamber of Commerce booth during the opening day of the Old Settler’s Fair. I saw a lot of people who know me better as CopyBob but who were very interested to see the book titles I rarely discuss amongst them. And like last year, a few folks walked off with some books and my eye-catching Lost Soles (I need to make some more).

At the Old Settler's Fair 2015
At the Old Settler’s Fair 2015

So I arrived home VERY tired, but also very excited to see the effort we put into offering the best stories and displays we possibly can start to pay off.

Looking ahead, I have a nice window to wrap up on Red Lotus Novelette 3 before you can all catch up with me at Imaginarium Weekend in Louisville, KY Sept 11-13.

Link to my Facebook Photo Album of the weekend.

New Blog Interview with Fiona McVie

DWACOW low rezToday, Book Blogger Fiona McVie’s added me to long series of author interviews. I posted almost 2k words about Haunting Blue, Darkness with a Chance of Whimsy, childhood influences, advice to writers, and much more.

Here’s the first few paragraphs:

R.J. Sullivan

Age Forty-*mumble*

Where are you from: Heartland Crossing, Indiana

A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc  

I have an education and a family life.

Fiona: Tell us your latest news?

My latest release is called Darkness with a Chance of Whimsy (DWACOW), compiling ten years of previously published short stories, including two stories directly tied to my Paranormal Thriller series. I am also releasing the collected paperback of my Red Lotus space opera series, just in time for Christmas.

Check out the full interview by clicking this link.

InconJunction 2015 Ahead!

This upcoming weekend marks my fourth year as a local author with InConJunction, a general SF/F con with a long and distinguished history in Indianapolis, and not for nothin’, the first con SF I ever attended waaay back in 199*mumble*.

Chris Garrison and Matthew Barron
Chris Garrison and Matthew Barron
John F. Allen and Chris Garrison
John F. Allen and Chris Garrison

Go here to get all the relevant hotel and location information from the con’s dedicated website.

This will also be the second year I’ll be a vendor as part of the author co-op group Speculative Fiction Guild. My books will be alongside many of my local peers, including author besties John F. Allen and Chris Garrison, plus Matthew Barron, Katina French, Davide Jobe, and Nathan Terhune.

My panel schedule this year is light but mighty:

All of my panels are in Indianapolis Ballroom C
Friday @ 9 PM @ Writing Dialog with Matthew Barron
Saturday @9 AM Small Press Publishing and Writer’s Expectations
Saturday @ 5 PM Building Your Brand: Promoting Your Work on Social Media

Inconjiunction is always a good time. I’m looking forward to seeing many old friends and making many new ones. Inconjunction will also be the first place ever that you can get a signed copy of my brand-new release Darkness with a Chance of Whimsy.

When it comes to endorsements, go big or go home,
When it comes to endorsements, go big or go home,

All of my books will be priced to sell,and the more you buy, the more you save.

Haunting Blue $15
Haunting Obsession $10
Virtual Blue $15
The Paranormal Trilogy (all 3 novels) $35

Darkness with a Chance of Whimsy $10
All four books $40
Signatures: FREE and worth every penny you pay.

“Lost Sole?” Ghosties $5

Looking forward to seeing many of you there!

More photos from Inconjunction 2014,

Whimsy Preview: Robot Vampire

DWACOW low rezClick here to view the previous entry “Starter Kit”
Click here to read the 8-part blog series of previews from the beginning

“Robot Vampire” has gotten a lot of good attention since its release in 2012 as part of Vampires Don’t Sparkle, an anthology edited by Michael West. I suspect that the story being a fundraiser for cancer research helped, not to mention its amazing table of contents, with story contributions from Lucy A. Snyder, Maurice Broaddus, Tim Waggoner, Gary A. Braunbeck, Bob Freeman and Stephen Zimmer, to name a few, all helped to bring attention to the story my way. I’m certainly proud to be in such  company.

I recall the germ for the story came about on a long family drive, one in which you find yourself playing nonsense games with each other. Anyway, for reasons I can no longer remember, we started pairing up monster types and giggling over the results because when you’re slaphappy, you’re also the most hysterical people in the world. And so, someone shouted “zombie robot!” (giggle) “werewolf zombie!” (giggle) “vampire werewolf!” (giggle) “robot vampire!” And while I giggled, a part of my brain already started to wonder “how could I make that work?”

Less than a month later, Michael West and I were talking and he asked if I had any ideas to submit to his anthology. Before I could think it through, my mouth responded, “Robot vampire”. Michael smirked that awesome Michael West smirk and said, “If you can make that work, I will buy it.” “You got it,” I said, even though I had no idea beyond the title.

Must brainstorming later, I turned in a story, one I’m pretty durn proud of, and still am. And so, apparently, was Michael.

The Setup: Jinan is an experimental robot who appears as a dark-haired Japanese girl and who emulates the agility of a human dancer. Moments before her premiere exhibition, Jinan is given a last-second programming tweak. The unintended consequence is that the robot achieves sentience, and the performance that follows wows the audience beyond almost everyone’s wildest expectations. Toshio, the show choreographer, is the one person who is not happy. In fact, he is furious over Jinan’s improvisations. The moment Jinan is alone, Toshio expresses his anger.

FINALVDS_coverWith their absence, something changes in my internal processes, a discordant flow of energy, again beyond my parameters to analyze. A response on the opposite side of the spectrum of the positive response I experienced earlier. I search my vocabulary for an appropriate word.
Dread. Is this dread?

Toshio yells in my face. “I know what you’re doing. Showing off for your masters. They programmed you too well, you little Diva bitch in the making.”
I file a conclusion about Toshio in a heuristic subroutine and speak my conclusion out loud. “I don’t like you, Toshio.”
Toshio’s face changes; his lips curve the opposite of a smile. “Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that! You don’t like me? You think I give two shits if you like me?”

Toshio walks to the toolbox in the far corner, opens the lid and examines its contents. “Gentoshu says you can learn now. To me, that’s great news. And very bad news for you, little Diva.” He turns toward me. One hand grips a screwdriver. He waves it in the air, the end pointed toward my face. “That means you can now respond to being punished, doesn’t it? But how?” Toshio looks upon me for several seconds. “I’d backhand you if you were a real girl. But I’ll bet I can come up with a way to make you respect me.”

You don’t need to listen to him, my special friend.
I detect a voice, speaking directly to me, in my head, but outside myself. The experience, so unexpected and without context, causes me to speak out loud. “What?”

Toshio looks at me. “I said it’s time to make you understand your place.”
From his tone, I conclude that Toshio has not heard the voice.
As I consider this, the voice speaks again. I can help you, special one. I can protect you now. He cannot see me, he cannot hear me, but you can. Do not give me away, and in return I will help you.

A new thought forms in a subroutine. The voice could be caused by a splinter in my thought processes that formed a separate thought entity within my own. The idea intrigues me. But the words keep me silent.
The voice in my head laughs. A real laugh, not a simulated one. I am not in your head. I am a spirit from outside you. Do you know what a guardian angel is?
____

Thank you for reading through this series of previews. I’m very proud of this collection and hope that this gives you a better idea of what you will find inside.

Click here to go to the dedicated ordering page of Darkness with a Chance of Whimsy.

Whimsy Preview: Starter Kit

DWACOW low rezClick here to read the previous entry of this series: Backstage Pass

“Starter Kit” was my first pro-rate sale, my only connection to an award-nominated collection (Lucy A. Snyder‘s chilling tale “Magdala Amydala” won the Stoker Award for best short story that year), and the first time I ended up in a table of contents with some writers I’d admired growing up and continue to admire. That the anthology came out through Apex Books also makes me unreasonably happy.

For all of these reasons, and maybe more, “Starter Kit” is one of two short stories I receive frequent comments (overwhelmingly positive) from the public (the other one will be discussed Monday when this series resumes after the weekend) so it’s appropriate that these two stories close the collection.

I share a bit more in the actual introduction to the story in my collection, so no need to repeat myself here. And so, without further delay, here’s the first couple hundred words of “Starter Kit.”
___

The cover of the anthology published by Apex Books.
The cover of the anthology published by Apex Books.

Rodget stepped into his foyer after a long day at work. He hung up his coat and gave his waiting wife a quick kiss. Already, he sensed something wrong, and when he saw Little Belljy looking at him with expectant, wide eyes, a sense of dread fell over him.

“It’s the tank,” his wife said.
Rodget squatted down, meeting his seven-year-old son eye to eye. “What’s up?”
“There’s no movement. I can’t see anything. Mom says it’s ruined, but I don’t think so.”

Rodget sighed. “Let’s take a look.” He followed his boy into the bedroom. The pressurized glass tank took up one entire wall. Unlike the tank he grew up with years ago, Belljy’s offered a backlit night monitor, computerized zoom, and other modern upgrades.

Rodget stepped up to the tank and squinted through the glass at the thick, milky white swirl contained within. From here, everything appeared normal. Glowing. Thriving. Hauntingly beautiful in its own exotic way. But the real damage wouldn’t be visible to the naked eye.
Rodget leaned over the tank’s mini-computer and called up the first set of coordinates. Frowning, he pulled the magnifier screen up to eye level and glanced at the numbers on the readout 357, 285, 13—one of hundreds of coordinates identifying growing civilizations. Two days ago, several had progressed to the space-exploration stage. From there it would only be a few more hours to faster-than-light travel. Just yesterday, Belljy ran into the room, excited to tell him that three of his planets had discovered each other and opened negotiations for trade.

Bracing himself, Rodget slid the magnifier left. The screen showed flashes of gas giants, rocky terrain, black holes, blinding suns. He synched the numbers in the upper-left corner of the magnifier to match… 357, 285, 13.
A smoking black ruin of a sphere centered on his screen, and Rodget couldn’t hide his disappointment. He stabbed the magnifier button several more times, closing in on a major city, hovels still smoking from the radiation, the bodies of tiny specks piled atop each other—broken, blackened, torn apart.

Next: The final entry: Robot Vampire
Click here to go to the dedicated ordering page of Darkness with a Chance of Whimsy.

Whimsy Preview: Backstage Pass

DWACOW low rezClick here to read the previous entry: “Inner Strength”

“Backstage Pass is, on one hand, a deeply personal story. Released as a “Seventh Star Single” (a 99 cent short story you can still order here, though buying the collection is a much better deal) just a few weeks before Haunting Obsession in 2012, the story was inspired by my encounters through the years steeped in pop music fandom. I tried to channel the general friendliness and surrealism of that group, some of the wacky personalities one can encounter whenever the obsessed gather together to…well…obsess together.

Although I call this a personal story, the tale is full of inaccuracies, exaggerations, and outright lies. The protagonist writes for Rolling Stone, lives in New York, and is part of the publicity staff of the object of his admiration (a southern rock belle named “Fiddle Dee-Dee”).

It was a challenge to capture the tone of these escapades and use those episodes in a sci-fi tale, and I even included cameos of real people by name in what I hope they find flattering representations (“Mary Kay,” whom I told you about in my Fade excerpt, appears in this excerpt) but the story is pure fiction beyond the general truth that people can get lost in their hobbies and obsessions.

However….that said….I thought, for this excerpt, I’d pick the moment from the story that happened very much as depicted (and recalled as best that I could). Though still fictionalized, much of this scene really did happen, with minimal fictionalization to hide the name and identity of the guilty party. I suppose “Tony Stoker” may one day want to speak to me, but probably not. The lesson remains true–don’t act “cray-cray” around a fiction writer. We just can’t help ourselves.

The Setup: In the hours following the brutal murder of pop star “Fiddle Dee-Dee,” avid fan Jared Price discovers, to his horror, that he’d actually met and interacted with her murderer months before. As the realization hits him, Jared flashes back to…
—–

The original ebook cover designed by Stephen Zimmer
The original ebook cover designed by Stephen Zimmer

Ten months earlier—Chicago, October 29, 2010 
Jared stood near his friends, Mary Kay, Jamie, Rick and Michelle, still seated at the table where they’d viewed the track-by-track live performance, essentially loitering in the club after Dee’s jazz album release party. While Dee handled the official press backstage―such as it was―they waited for the coast to clear to hold a private meet n’ greet with Dee.

Tony Stoker (dubbed by Dee’s fans as “Stoker the Stalker”) also waited, his camera with its telescopic lens hung from one shoulder while he cradled a huge scrapbook against his chest. His gaze darted to their table, around the room, and back again. Tony frequented the newsgroups, so he knew their names. And he knew they had special access.

But they knew his name, too. And they knew he didn’t have special access. At this stage in her career, Dee often showed her few devoted fans incredible consideration, but if she bothered to keep a blacklist, Tony Stoker’s name would occupy the top slot.
Jared knew Tony Stoker by name, but not on sight. As they shook hands, Tony exclaimed, “Oh, you’re Jared Price! I’m Tony Stoker. You’ve been doing her website, right?”

Later in the story, my regular series character Rebecca Burton makes an appearance. Art: Bonnie Wasson
Later in the story, my regular series character Rebecca Burton makes an appearance. Art: Bonnie Wasson

Jared broke eye contact and stared into his drink. Damn! Now what? “Dee … Fiddle Dee-Dee … is just one of my clients. I write a syndicated music column. Recently, Rolling Stone and Billboard invited me to submit some reviews.” He braced for Tony’s next question.
Tony didn’t disappoint. “So … you guys going to meet with her tonight?”

“Nope, definitely not,” Jared answered, hoping he didn’t sound as much a liar as he suspected.
Tony’s arm fell across the back of Jared’s shoulders. “Buddy, can I tell you something?”
Jared flinched at the man’s piercing, brown-eyed stare―the look of someone who operated on a different plane from the rest of the world. “I think Dee-Dee is a goddess,” he oozed. “Her voice has the power to heal, to hurt, to affect our world. Maybe that’s intense, but that’s how I feel.”

Unfamiliar with how to handle whack jobs, Jared hoped understatement was the proper way to go. “Yeah, uh, that comes off a bit intense.”
Stoker the Stalker thrust the scrapbook at him. “I’m a professional photographer, but this book is just my Fiddle-Dee-Dee shots.”

Backstage Pass features the first appearance of Rebecca Burton's nemesis Sparkle, as drawn by Chris Garrison and sipping from a Rebecca Mermaid Mug
Backstage Pass features the first appearance of Rebecca Burton’s druid nemesis Sparkle, shown here sipping from a Rebecca Mermaid Mug as drawn by E. Chris Garrison

Opening to a random page, Jared saw eight consecutive shots of Dee on stage, virtually an identical pose, taken rapid-shot. Why display so many shots of the same moment?
Because he’s a whack job. Still, can I really judge another’s level of fanaticism?
Jared flipped the page. “Here’s one of her coming out of her hotel in Wisconsin last year. I waited in the lobby for six hours.” His finger dropped to a photo of Dee, a large canvas hat over her head and dark glasses hiding her eyes. Tony caught her mouth open in a frozen snarl aimed at the cringing blonde next to her. Lisa.

Jared knew about the fight, but few others did. He wanted to slug the slimy leech.
The Stalker’s voice droned on. “After about four hours, the bellboy asked me if I wanted something to eat. I told him I was fine.…”
“Everything okay here?” His “date,” Mary Kay, wandered over from their table. Though Mary Kay was “very gay,” they play-dated at concerts.
He read the questioning look in her eyes. “Just fine, MK. I was telling Stoker here,” he emphasized the name, “that Dee’s calling it an early night.”
“Yep!” She ran with the lie. “We were talking about hitting a dance club. Chicago’s got a wicked night life, and we wanted to do something positively sinful.” She flashed a mischievous smile.

Jared took her hand. “I like how you think. But first, I need to find the restroom.” He turned toward Stoker, who looked miserable. “Want to go clubbing?”
“No … I don’t think so. Maybe I’ll hang out for a few more minutes.”
“Suit yourself.” He headed for the Men’s Room.

Once alone, he pulled out his phone, found the D. Pat Cell entry and hit Talk. He kept Fiddle Dee-Dee’s name entered under an abbreviation of her little-known birth name, Deana Patterson. Last thing he needed was to lose his phone and for someone to find her name and number.
“Hello?” A familiar southern drawl.

“Dee? It’s Jared. Sorry to bother you.” He always apologized. Fiddle Dee-Dee deserved the proper respect. “We’re down here, but a guy named Tony Stoker latched onto us. He’s not taking the hint. Tony is―”
“The creepy photo guy?”
“Uh … yeah. Should I tell him we’re meeting later?”

He heard her sigh. “Shit, no! I don’t need to deal with him tonight. Look, I’m almost done with the reporters. I’ll send the bouncer down. He’ll pretend to kick everyone out. You wait behind, and after Stalker-man leaves, the bouncer will escort you upstairs. The bouncer’s name is Lenny. He knows your name. I told him he can trust you to point out who’s in our group.”

She trusts me. A childish flush flowed over him. “Sounds good.”
The ploy worked.

Next: Whimsy Preview: Starter Kit
Click here to go to the dedicated ordering page of Darkness with a Chance of Whimsy.

Whimsy Preview: Inner Strength

DWACOW low rezClick here to read the previous entry in this blog series: Able-Bodied.

Inner Strength (subtitled for this collection “A Rebecca Burton Short Story” referencing the recurring character of my paranormal thriller series) was the second story written for Strange, Weird and Wonderful magazine. Whereas the first time, Able Bodied was selected from a slush pile, this time D.L. Russell invited me to write an original story for an issue in which I would be featured. Being a naturally humble person, I took him up on his invitation immediately.

This is also the only story where I recorded an audio version of me reading the entire thing. I have no idea where that file is now, and thinking back, I’m fine with it being lost forever. Few things are more awkward than trying to read a bedroom scene that you wrote yourself. Now you know.

The story was later reprinted in the magazine’s Best of collection A Big Book of Strange, Weird and Wonderful, Volume II. I am very proud to have been a part of that magazine’s short history and lament its passing. Fortunately, D.L. continues his efforts as the editor in chief of Black Books Publishing and as a brilliant author in his own right. I look forward to seeing what’s next for him.

Setup: This scene is the second one in the story. Todd Burton had his daughter “Becky” Burton for Halloween overnight as part of his visitation arrangement, and it’s the next morning. (During the first scene, Becky dances to a Fiddle Dee-Dee song and that’s not the last time you’ll hear about Dee n this series) He must now drop her off at his ex wife’s house, and as he does so, he is wallowing on his failed marriage and current circumstances.

Artwork that introduced the story in the Winter 2011 issue of SWW
Artwork that introduced the story in the Winter 2011 issue of SWW

Todd Burton maneuvered the van down the narrow side streets of their neighborhood. Her neighborhood. He had not so much as stepped up to the front door in eleven months, but he still often thought of it as their home.
If this was still our home, I wouldn’t be dropping Rebecca off in front of the house and heading on to run errands on my own. I’d gather everyone up and we’d head off to a movie, just the three of us.
He shook his head, clearing the melancholy. He spent little enough precious time with his daughter, and he hated when runaway thoughts dampened that time. He adjusted the reflector attached to the rearview mirror, allowing him to look all the way to the back of the van. Rebecca no longer sat in the middle row of seats. Since the separation, she preferred to go all the way to the back of the van, the couch-like seat at the rear, and stretch along its entirety, eyes locked on her video screen.

Rebecca caught his gaze upon her and smiled. She wiggled her fingers lazily at him and returned her attention to the game in progress.
At least she seems happy. He pulled up, parallel to the curb, and stared across the lawn to the modern suburban home. Two stories, three bedrooms, plus a loft, the perfect home in which to grow a family.

Todd sighed. He just wished he knew what he could do to change things. He heard the words, heard the excuses, watched the love of his life shake her head and shrug. “I just don’t love you anymore.” How does that even happen?
He always figured there was someone else, though he never saw any indication, and Rebecca never revealed anything about a new “Daddy” in her life. But the alternative—that their life together was a lie from the start—was too devastating to face.

BB2SiteSmallCover  Todd released a deep breath, swung open the driver’s side door, and stepped onto the street. His gaze traveled across the front porch, over the driveway. The gray Ford Taurus sat peacefully in the two-car driveway, the usual oil stains spotting up the pavement of the space next to it, without so much as a telltale drop of fluid or tire track to indicate the comings and goings of someone new.
Eyes still on the house, he stopped in front of the passenger door and popped it open. He thought perhaps the blinds behind the windows shook just a bit, indicating someone inside had noticed their arrival. He braced himself to hear the familiar voice of his soon-to-be-ex wife offer some sort of awkward greeting from the porch.

Todd flashed back to another time, long ago, when Olivia normally drove the “Errand Runner,” a name Todd had affectionately dubbed the reconditioned green van during one of his geekier moments. Settling into the passenger seat, Todd channeled his best Harrison Ford voice. “Firing up the sublight engines on the Errand Runner, honey.” Olivia would roll her eyes and shake her head, inserting the key and waking up the grumpy engine, but she always flashed him an affectionate smile that warmed his heart. The same smile that made him fall in love with her in the first place.

Now, Todd waited for Rebecca to emerge, knowing she needed a few extra seconds to disengage herself from her Nintendo DS, but time stretched beyond the norm. Annoyed, he called into the dark quiet of the van. “Come on, Rebecca, save your game and let’s go!”

He knocked insistently against the solid steel siding, knowing the noise would penetrate her concentration, even through headphones. He listened for any answer.

Silence.

“Becky?” The silence alarmed him. No thumping of feet from the back of the van, no telltale “bleeping” of electronic noise to indicate the obvious preoccupation of his little “nerd in the making.” Not even her usual cry for patience, “I’m saving, Daddy!”

“Hey, string bean, save and quit, girl! Now.” Though relatively roomy, Todd hated struggling his 6’2” and 240 lbs of bulk around the middle row to the back of the van. Maybe she just didn’t hear me? Did she fall asleep? Maybe she found it a bit too comfortable today.

Todd placed a foot onto the first step and shoved his head into the compartment for an un-obscured view to the back.

Or so he thought.

Instead of the back seat, he saw a fantastic, unreal image—and froze.
Hovering in mid-air was a large, gaping “maw” of a portal, surrounded by a border of green glowing energy. The wavering oval gaped open about four feet high and perhaps two feet wide, encompassing what looked like the mouth of a cave, lit from within.

Click here to go to the Darkness with a Chance of Whimsy order page.
Click to continue to Whimsy Preview: Backstage Pass (A Rebecca Burton Short Story)

Whimsy Preview: Able-Bodied

DWACOW low rezClick here to see the previous post in the series: Fade.

“Able-Bodied” was the first story I wrote specifically for a market. In this case, an ezine had launched out of Ft. Wayne, IN, called Strange, Weird, and Wonderful. “Able-Bodied” was written after pondering the meaning of the magazine’s title for several months. The submission led to an acceptance and a dialog with the editor-in-chief D.L. Russell. D.L. is a hell of a writer in his own right, and we have since become friends and he’s a valued colleague. Click here to check out his short story collection Hell is An Awfully Big City to see a cover that helped influence the cover to my own collection.

Able Bodied appeared in the January 2010 issue of the publication. It was also featured among the first Best Of anthology A Big Book of Strange Weird and Wonderful, Volume I.

Setup: None. “Able Bodied” is a story that best unfolds from the beginning, so here are the first words of the tale.

Art by David Burton and used by SWW to introduce Able-Bodied in the magazine.
Art by David Burton and used by SWW to introduce Able-Bodied in the magazine.

Police detective Todd Harding stood over the sprawled body. Today was The Whiz Kid’s turn to die.
Brad “The Whiz Kid” Zither lay on his stomach, brains leaking onto the polished oak floor, a look of slack-jawed stupor frozen on his youthful profile. Inches away, a ground-stone paperweight in the shape of the state of Indiana laid on the floor, the bumpy border of Lake Michigan smeared in crimson. The polished surface reflected a bright red stain―brighter than the crushed section on the back of the Whiz-Kid’s skull, which already began turning a gelatinous purple.

Ten years ago, The Whiz Kid exploded onto the technology scene, growing a “freeware add-on” office assistant program into a multi-million-dollar computer software company.
Tonight, The Whiz Kid had barricaded himself in the extravagant personal library of his luxurious mansion on three acres of the most secured, private woodland just north of Indianapolis, but that couldn’t save him from death.

Able Bodied is included in the Big Book of SSW Volume I
Able Bodied is included in the Big Book of SSW Volume I

In a few hours, The Whiz Kid would lie out on a slab alongside the homeless vet who died tonight of exposure in White River State Park, worth no more and no less.
The crime scene assistants hovered, anxious to clear away the body and start bagging evidence. Detective Harding shook his head, waving them off. He gave the study a quick preliminary glance. On the wall, the safe door hung open, exposing an empty metal pit.
The noise of a scuffle at the entrance broke Harding from his reverie. An angry slender blonde stormed through the door, followed closely by the rookie Rodriguez—his dark skin beneath the stubble of his shaved head glistening, even in this low light. He shot the rookie an annoyed glance. “What the hell, Rodriguez! I said no one enters the crime scene.”

“Sorry, Detective. She surprised me.” Though almost a foot shorter than the athletic woman, Rodriguez gripped her upper arm through the worn, ratty-looking knitted-blue sweater draped over the distraught woman’s shoulders. Her hair lay helter-skelter, as if she’d just woken up.

The woman pushed at the rookie’s hands. “I’m not ‘no one!’” she snapped, grammatical structure apparently the least of her concerns. As if fighting a draft, the woman crossed her arms over her chest, hands balled into fists at opposite shoulders, entwined in the knotted yarn of her sweater. Her right hand had clawed a large hole into the left shoulder of the tattered garment. “I’m Lauren Zither. This is my home, too! I want to know what you’re doing to find my husband’s killer.”

Detective Harding, usually the tallest and bulkiest person in the room at over 6’ and 240 lbs, knew he could create a considerable and intimidating presence, aided by his burr haircut, when the need arose. He stepped toward her, and noted with satisfaction how the confident anger soon melted from the young woman’s face. “Mrs. Zither, we’re examining the crime scene―which you seem intent on contaminating. You need to leave the way you came. Besides, there’s nothing you want to—”

She reached both hands to her mouth to stifle her shock.
Detective Harding placed a reassuring hand on her trembling shoulders, sinking his fingers into the tattered sweater, feeling the trembling of her shoulder. Couldn’t she afford a new sweater? That thing’s about had it. “I’m sorry. You don’t need to see this.”

She moaned into her hands, now pliant to the rookie’s guiding pulls toward the double-door entrance. “Who could have done this? It’s so … horrible!”
Harding watched Rodriguez usher the grieving widow out of the room. “Keep the room clear, Rodriguez! Crime team only.”

Harding placed his hands on his hips and surveyed the room again. He didn’t like it. Not one bit. It’s too … perfect. Too theatrical, too dramatic. Like a middle school stage play rather than the scene of an actual crime. Harding had examined dozens of murder scenes in his five years on the force, many more gruesome, a few more sterile, but he’d never before seen one so obvious. Whoever killed the Whiz Kid might as well have set up a neon sign flashing “Interrupted Random Burglary. Don’t look too closely.”
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Next: Inner Strength (A Rebecca Burton Short Story)