Numbers of the bEast

Open your eyes. Do you see?

The Sign is everywhere—yellow, like caution thrown into an autumn wind that whispers of danger. And Madness. Winding a shadowed path to the places where sane men dare not tread. To a beach of rusted bone. An ancient sea glittering black beneath the woeful glare of violet suns. A forgotten palace, its labyrinthine halls tarnished by aeons of unrelenting plague…

My eyes are open. I have seen. Never one content to merely follow, I pursue.

We meet in the dim, lamp-lit streets of my dreams. He knows me by the sickness burning inside. Recognizes the fever dripping from my fingertips, etching the echoes of unremembered memory upon sheaves of crumbling parchment.

He reaches into his robes. At first I think he’s withdrawn another smoke. Thin. Pale. Tightly wrapped. But he does not press it to his lips. Does not touch fire to its hollow, cylindrical frame. Something else, then. A scroll. Yellow ribbon knotted at its center. He offers it to me like a royal scepter.

Reaching through a veil of silver smoke, I pluck the scroll from his outstretched hand. It pulses, warm and fragile against my trembling flesh. I free the ribbon from its center, slipping the yellow fabric round a bare finger.

Inked upon the scroll a ring of decaying characters.

Open your eyes. Do you see?

Together, they form a sign.

A number.

An invitation.

There were others before me. Their blood stains the steps of the forgotten palace where they hold court in gilded halls—drinking, smoking, and making merry madness—forever…

He smiles. Asks if I can afford the price of admission.

I clutch my number and bleed.

*For Joe Pulver

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Double the celebration! Double the Flash!

Good afternoon. Happy Father’s Day and Happy Solstice.

For those of you who don’t follow my other blog, The Angry Hourglass, I host a weekly flash fiction challenge that takes place over the weekend. It’s part of a vast and colorful (or colourful for my friends across the Atlantic) online flash fiction community that I’m happy to be a part of. As with many communities that share a passion, we’ve created a nickname and hash tag to identify ourselves and share our love on social media: #FlashDogs. Over the past few years, the Flash Dogs have come together and created an anthology series (all proceeds donated to charity) featuring the medium we all hold dear—flash fiction.

What does any of this have to do with Father’s Day or the Summer Solstice?

This year the two holidays coincide. They also happen to coincide with the release of the Flash Dogs’ second anthology, that is itself a two-volume piece. These themed volumes are aptly titled Solstice: Dark and Solstice: Light.

photo from The Flash Dogs website

photo from The Flash Dogs website

I have a story in Solstice: Dark, but even if I didn’t, I’d recommend picking up this set. The quality of writing that these writers produce on a weekly basis (and many of them several times per week, depending on just how many flash fiction challenges they tackle) is astounding. I wish I had the stamina to produce like these folks.

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Me and Dad and unofficial Flash Dog mascots, Cayenne and Poncho

So! Celebrate Father’s Day! Celebrate Solstice! Celebrate Flash Fiction and the mission of literacy! Swing by The Flash Dogs website and follow the links to your favorite flash format (print or ebook) and enjoy.

I have a few updates regarding upcoming publications that I will announce in the coming weeks, so stay tuned.

Flash Dogs In Print

Just got my hands on a print copy of the Flash Dogs Anthology, and it’s prettier than I could have imagined. If you still haven’t picked up this collection of flash fiction, head over to theflashdogs.com and follow the appropriate link.  Remember, all proceeds go to charity, so in addition to getting some great stories, you’re also contributing to a good cause. 🙂

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Flash Dogs: An Anthology – Coming Soon

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I have a strange little story appearing in this collection, due out next weekend. I’m honored to be part of this charity anthology, appearing alongside a number of authors I’ve come to call friends. A significant amount of of work has gone into the production of Flash Dogs, all done for love of the flash fiction form.  All proceeds from the sale of this anthology benefit The International Board on Books for Young People. For more information about the anthology, its authors, or the Flash Dogs in general, visit www.theflashdogs.com.

HAIR SHIRT DRAG by Gordon White

Gordon White is a friend of mine, and I was privileged enough to read ‘Hair Shirt Drag’ before it was purchased by the folks at Sekhment Press. It’s a great story. I can’t wait ’till Wrapped in Black is released so I can permanently add ‘Hair Shirt Drag’ to my collection. Strong work, Gordon!

Sekhmet Press LLC

excerpt from

WRAPPED IN BLACK

Thirteen Tales of Witches and the Occult

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HAIR SHIRT DRAG
by Gordon White

I ain’t never read the Key of Solomon, but I read the Book of Kings. Rest of the Bible, too, back when Mama thought that’d help me fit in. It didn’t, I won’t, and, truth be told, I ain’t all that broken up about it. It’s hard being the only son in a family of powerful women, harder still when people say you aren’t even man enough for that. But I’m just about over it all, really.
It’s a humid July evening, as Mama says, accenting both syllables. We’re on the porch, listening to the crickets and the frogs settle into their nightly delirium as fireflies rise up across the tobacco fields like ghost lights. Mama’s got a mouthful of needles as she helps me pin the dress I’m wearing. She’s ain’t…

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FlashDogs

Things are heating up over on my weekly flash fiction challenge site, The Angry Hourglass. I’m seeing more and more participants every week, and the judging is becoming increasingly difficult. It’s very satisfying. Furthermore, some of my more ambitious regulars have formed an official pack, aptly named FlashDogs, and they are organizing their first anthology. I can’t take any credit for this endeavor, but I am excited to be associated by proxy. So, how does one become a FlashDog? It’s easy!

1. Follow @FlashDogs on Twitter

2. Write Flash Fiction (weekly competitions held at Flash! Friday, Finish That Thought, and The Angry Hourglass).

3. Tag your Flash using the #FlashDogs hashtag

That’s it! Now go get your flash on!

My Writing Process Blog Tour

While I’m in the process of transferring some of my content from blogger to wordpress, I thought I’d take the opportunity to make “My Writing Process” the first blog post on my new site.

Thanks to David Shakes (@shakes72) for tagging me. You can find his content here.

 

What Am I Working On?

I’m working on a number of projects at the moment, the most ambitious of which is a novella entitled Aletheia that I hope to have completed by October. The rest of my projects lie safely within the realm of flash and short fiction, although I’m still looking for a shiny idea that might carry me through NaNoWriMo this year.

How Does My Work Differ From Others of Its Genre?

It doesn’t apply to everything I write, but a great deal of what I put to paper has distinct medical undertones (and overtones; subtlety is not my strong suit). That said, my goal is to write in such a way that a medical background is not required to understand and enjoy my stories. Only my readers can say whether or not I succeed.

Why Do I Write What I Write ?

I write dark fiction because I’m still afraid of the dark. I write dark fiction because the only way to survive darkness is to understand it and to know what lurks inside it. I write dark fiction because when I sleep, it is the darkness that whispers dreams to me.

How Does My Writing Process Work?

This isn’t a rock solid formula (I’ve been known to deviate from the recipe from time to time), but more often than not, writing a story goes a little something like this:

Step 1: Idea (often while driving in my car, shampooing my hair in the shower, trying to formulate a comment for a report at work, or working on an unrelated story)

Step 2: Magic (seriously, magic – though it sometimes takes a long, long time to conjure)

Step 3: Story (happy dance!)

Step 4: Editing (self-doubt)

Step 5: Editing (self-loathing)

Step 6: Beta-readers

Step 7: Editing (consider throwing the whole thing in the garbage and giving up on writing all together)

Step 8: Beta-readers: Round 2

Step 9: Editing (agonize over every single word, change key words 6 or 7 times, decide to keep the original word)

Step 10: Submit and wait for the crushing heel of rejection (repeat ad infinitum)

Step 11: Idea

Introduction to 3 Other Writers

I’d be remiss if I didn’t tag at least one of the folks who participate in my weekly flash fiction challenge at The Angry Hourglass. They show up week after week and in a period of 36 hours, create vivid, engaging, super-short fiction based entirely on a randomly chosen photograph. That’s damn impressive, I don’t care who you are.

 

First up is Jaime Burchardt (@jaimeburchardt)

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Jaime writes and occasionally judges for The Angry Hourglass. His passion in life is film, and he writes primarily screenplays with aspirations of one day being a director. Having spent almost a year sharing creative material with Jaime, those are some movies I’d definitely like to see. You can read his blog here.

 

Next up is Taylor Scheid (@TaylorLScheid)

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Taylor has the great misfortune of living in the same area and thus attending the same writers group as I. This means she’s subject to the fallout of every step of my writing process as outlined above. She’s also a good writer and keeps me on track with regard to grammar and punctuation. She deserves chocolate. Lots and lots of chocolate. Read her blog here.

 

and last but not least, Gordon B. White (@GordonBWhite)

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I met Gordon on LitReactor, and since he isn’t a malpractice attorney, we get along just fine. He writes dark fiction that makes my skin crawl and does some beta reading for me from time to time. This is lucky for me, because Gordon is a much better writer than I, and I can use all the feedback he can give me. You can read his blog here.

 

Well folks, there you have it! Now I’m going to go inside and get back to work. There are some very large insects out here and…

Step 1: *IDEA*