Saddle Sores and Wagon Trails

big-badgeI can’t really pinpoint when I first considered the idea of The Big Adios–I think it was sometime around the 1st anniversary of Shotgun Honey. It is safe to say it was somewhere just under 10 months ago. The first granules were formed well before that when I wrote The Greenhorn for a writing challenge put on by Chuck Wendig. It was a simple wordlist challenge, but the words immediately charged me with a story about a US Marshal riding into a lawless town to either free the townsfolk of tyranny or die trying. It was a faux Western, and if you read it you’ll know why. One of the words on that magic list required me to take the story in quite a different direction.

But the idea for US Marshal Brady Hawkes, an Easterner from Charles Town, WV, born to privilege and lineage who shuns it all to become his own man in the Colorado Territory, the idea called to me. There was more to Hawkes and the raucous mining town of Prosperity, CO. There were many more Buck Godot’s for Hawkes to face. So as I jotted down notes, I looked for venues.

gunfightwide

There are a few periodicals, but online was a wasteland. Not one site dedicated to the Western, and only one stood with any prominence to support the genre. David Cranmer’s Beat to a Pulp. He has his own inclinations towards to the genre, but BtaP is great for all kinds of genre bites, both flash and short stories.

So the idea was, Hey, I could put together short fiction site for the Western genre just like Shotgun Honey. How hard could it be? And the idea started solidifying about 6 months ago and loosely announced 3 months ago. The days have whittled and behold, tomorrow is the day of Launch.

Where did the time go?

tba-sneakI do have to ask myself that, because as of Friday I didn’t have a clear or concise idea of how I was going to design the site, how it would be presented? Aged, rustic and western, that’s all I knew for sure. I may have had an idea of the palette? So I fired up photoshop and browsed the web for texture and design ideas. Find things I like, motivators. I needed to get some paint on this blank canvass.

Two days straight, taking a break for food substances and to watch a movie and 3 episodes of Justified. I needed some inspiration, and wouldn’t you know it all started with a badge. Amazingly for the detail of the design–to paraphrase Larry the Cable Guy–I got’r done!

So tomorrow is the big day and we start off with an exception story about Marshals Cash Laramie and Miles Gideon by Edward A. Grainger aka David Cranmer, kicking off 8 weeks of scheduled fiction, some of it firmly in the saddle and others bending the genre, every Tuesday.

It’s up to you as readers and contributors to keep us going.

I hope to see you there: http://www.thebigadios.com

F3, Cycle 104: Ain’t No Friend of Mime

It’s been a long while since I participated myself in a Flash Fiction Friday prompt. Flannery and Joyce have been doing a great job keeping the site together and coming up with great prompts. I started a story a few weeks back from the prompt Is Anyone There? that I plan to expand and finish for an anthology later this year. This week’s prompt by Joyce was a word list: gunshot, train, mime, balcony, monkey, rain. So this is my contribution to Words, Words, and More Words.

Normally I would give a few rewrites on a story before letting out in the wild, especially one like this that is a little left of what I usually write. So consider it for what it is, a rough stab at story about a mime and a murder. I hope you enjoy it none-the-less.

Ain’t No Friend of Mime

I got the call on the squawk, a 10-55 with units on scene and coroner in route. I was 20 minutes from the end of my shift, ready to call it a day when McGrady invited me to the show.

McGrady met me at the bottom of the stairs outside the complex. He had a fresh pack of nails, pulling away at the cellophane with nervous fingers. He took one out and offered the newly open box. I waved off, reminding him I was nearly a year into redemption. He thought better and tucked his unlit burner behind his ear.

“So what do we got, Bill?”

“It wasn’t ours at first. A lady across the yard called in the complaint. A 288. She told dispatch there was a man in the apartment across from her spanking his monkey.”

I didn’t know if McGrady was having me on or not. He liked to be a joker, but he managed the delivery with a straight face.

Bill continued as he led me up the stairs. “Another call came about five minutes later, a shooting with a 10-54. Patrol arrived on scene and confirmed, upgrading to a 10-55.”

We passed through two officers, probably first on scene, both seemed to be having a laugh, and entered the open apartment. They acknowledged us with a nodded, “Detectives.”

It was a sparse apartment, a worn out couch to one side against the wall, a beat up coffee table a leg length away, and directly across a kitchenette with a small table and a single chair. You could cross the room in three long strides. Only two other doors in the room. One next to the couch was either to a bathroom or a bedroom. Based on how the pillow cushions were positioned on the couch, I was going to wager a bathroom. The other was a glass door, shattered, that lead out to the balcony, the sheers wafted open in the night breeze, and I could see an old biddy with binoculars across the way. The only decoration was a framed picture of some clown with what appeared to be a splatter of shit across the glass.

I hated clowns.

These weren’t the first thing you saw when you entered. No, you couldn’t help but see the dead clown–sorry mime–in the middle of the room with his outstretched arms choking a monkey. A gunshot both, possibly from the same bullet based of the placement of the bodies.

I liked mimes less than clowns. I grimaced.

Bill, with a stone face, pointed to the bodies. “If it weren’t for the bullet holes, I’d say it was autoerotic asphyxiation.”

I patted him on the back as a smile cracked his lips, “Yeah, Bill. I’m sure you can tell that to the Captain.”

“I would, but he’s the one who gave me the line.”

“So do we have anything? What’s the story?”

Bill flipped open his notes, “Yeah, the mime here is a Marty Marceau. Changed from Martin Mullen. Occupation, well, mime. He worked down at The Green. And..” Bill looked around the room, “must of done pretty well for himself.”

“We got a timeline? He and the monkey look pretty fresh.”

“Yeah, rigor hasn’t set yet. Probably about 45 minutes. Girl downstairs, says she’s the girlfriend, she found  ol’ Marty here choking the monkey. She called 911 moments after the initial complaint.”

I rolled my eyes. “Girlfriend have a name? She still available?”

“Yeah, she’s in her apartment with an officer. Her name is Angela Lansbury. She’s a…”

“Don’t tell me, a writer?”

“Well, actually…”

I turned to head out, “Never mind. Let’s visit the girl.”

She was down there with the officer, mascara bleeding down her face.

“Angela?”

Her apartment was more decorated in oranges and pinks, the furniture was new but looked comfortable, entertaining. On the walls hung evocative prints of fruit in a pop art style. She wore pink hot pants that I was sure had the word JUICY on the backside, the top was a white halter that didn’t leave much to the imagination with a new set of Double Ds. Her hair was professionally bleached with a streak of pink, and her lipstick matched her shorts. Being a writer must be a lucrative business?

She looked up, the rain of mascara couldn’t hide her sweet face. She hadn’t lost all her innocence. I’m sure she fooled more than one editor with her school girl wiles.

“Angela, could you tell me what you told the officers earlier? What happened upstairs?”

Her lips quivered and she squeezed her fist white knuckled. She began to cry again.

I sat down beside her. The couch was soft, yet firm. I imagined that would be useful for a writer. Angela turned away and grabbed her large shoulder bag, trying to slip her hand inside to snag a tissue. I saw the glint of metal.

I stood quickly, “What do you have there, Angela?”

She started to pull the tissue out, but slumped into the couch and let the bag fall to the floor, the barrel of .22 slid out.

“I did it” she said practically in audible.

I grabbed the gun and the purse, dumping the remaining contents onto the glass coffee table. House keys, vibrator, condoms in various sizes and colors, an extra pair of panties, a wallet with about $300, some loose change and a train ticket. Everything a woman on the run needed.

The officer who had sat with her pulled her to her feet and cuff Angela.

“Why? Why did you do it?”

“The monkey. That bastard was cheating on me.” She saw our strange looks, “Not the monkey, you dopes! Marty, Marty was. He hated that monkey. It was that stone bitch, Bella’s monkey. She’s one of them human statues, did her bit across from Marty day in and day out. I knew it was only a matter of time. She wasn’t the only one, there were plenty of others.” She fumed, raging, then continued, “he had the monkey and I knew. For sure. No way he’d watch that monkey, unless…”

I thought back up to the corpse laying on the floor, and as she was escorted out the door I had to ask, “What did you see in him?”

She softened and smiled through her mascara stained face, “He was a good listener.”

Book Tuesday

Man, has it been an age a day since I posted something relevant. What a major slack I am. I work hard at it.

If you work in books or love to read books, you’re probably aware that Tuesday is typically new book day. And usually for me it’s a day of frustration. Agonizing to the core when I saunter off to my local book store and never find the book I know has been released. Usually I write this off to living in a small state and small population. Also I tend to read authors who aren’t best sellers, even though they should be and everyone should be reading them. I guess we can’t all be James Patterson (who by the way, if you’re reading this, I’d be happy to take a check to write one of your books. My daughter needs to go to college.).

So usually Book Day is a bit of a disappointment, reading wise. And well, writing wise, I’ve never been published… before… in a format that would be celebrated on Book Day.

Until today! Boo-yah!

So get your checkbooks out and your e-readers charged, here’s the skinny on some books you’ll want to buy.

The Lost Children: A Charity Anthology
Lost Children Books
303 KB
Edited by Thomas Pluck, Fiona Johnson and Ron Earl Phillips (me!)
$2.99

This anthology came off the springboard of a writing challenge posted on Flash Fiction Friday by Thomas and Fiona, where contributors wrote stories about different aspects of child abuse and neglect. As additional incentive Thomas and Fiona respectively pledged $5 to Protect.org and £5 to Children 1st Scotland.

Turnout was great, five times our weekly contributions, netting a total of about $600 for all charities involved. So Thomas, who spearheaded this effort, asked me to come on board as co-editor along with Fiona, and we paired it down to 30 stories of horror, reality and some hope.

I invite you to try.

Beat to a Pulp: Hardboiled Edition
Beat to a Pulp
230 KB
Edited by David Cranmer, Scott D. Parker
$.99

BEAT to a PULP: Hardboiled is a compilation of uncompromising, gritty tales following in the footsteps of the tough and violent fiction popularized by the legendary Black Mask magazine in its early days. This collection includes thirteen lean and mean stories from the fingertips of Garnett Elliott, Glenn Gray, John Hornor Jacobs, Patricia Abbott, Thomas Pluck, Brad Green, Ron Earl Phillips, Kent Gowran, Amy Grech, Benoit Lelievre, Kieran Shea, David Cranmer, and Wayne D. Dundee and a boiled down look at hardboiled fiction in an introduction by Ron Scheer. Edited by David Cranmer and Scott D. Parker.

Some heady talent I’ve been included with, and worth all 99 cents and then some. How can you turn it down?

So this isn’t all about me, let us take a look at Blasted Heath.

Today is 11/01/11 and a Tuesday, and Allan Guthrie, who may owe some favors in either heaven or hell, and Kyle MacRae, who I don’t know well enough to make cracks at, hung out their shingle for Blasted Heath, a new e-book publisher. I was lucky enough to receive copies of DEAD MONEY by Ray Banks and ALL THE YOUNG WARRIORS by Anthony Neil Smith. I’ve virtually flipped through both and each is more than promising. Also released are PHASE FOUR by Gary Carson, THE LONG MIDNIGHT OF BARNEY THOMPSON and THE END OF DAYS by Douglas Lindsay, and THE MAN IN THE SEVENTH ROW by Brian Bendreigh.

And Back to me.

If you want to look down the road to about the 30th of this month, I will be in Luca Veste’s OFF THE RECORD anthology, stories based on classic song titles. I thought about songs such as Dolly Parton’s Jolene, the Eagles’ Desperado and Don McLean’s American Pie. I went with the latter. No levy, but I hope you’ll pick up a copy and read all the wonderful stories included.

CISI Contest Winner: False Promises by Ken Fish

So, that’s what it feels like to pretend, he thought, as he laid in bed staring at the water-stained ceiling, trying to fall asleep for what felt like the millionth time in his fifteen years of living. It had been a normal day. It had been a rough day. In Abel McIntyre Junior’s family, there was no difference. In his family, in the trailer park with the neighbors that surrounded him like ghouls from a house of horrors, the best days for him would likely kill any other kid, he always thought.

Abel knew how other kids lived, and it wasn’t like him. He could see their houses on the soft, rounded hills across the Mystic River through the loose glass slats of the crank-open windows in his tiny wood-paneled bedroom. They had yards with grass and swing sets in them where children played all summer, and mounds of colorful flowers that gleamed in the most carefree way from mid-spring to mid-autumn. Even in the winter when those same hills were just grey mounds spiked with the craggy skeletons of oaks and maples, the houses glowed golden and warmly, twinkling on the coldest of days when there was ice in the air and the river looked as if it was frozen solid.

They lived in actual houses, and those houses they lived in didn’t have wheels under them. This fact alone seemed to provide those kids with some sense of permanence and security that Abel never knew. This fact alone, Abel sometimes caught himself believing, raised them up above him and his ever-toiling Ma, Ethel, and drunkard Da, Abel Senior, and their house with the wheels underneath it just in case they needed to make a run for it again.

“Pretending,” his mother always said “is much better than reality.” For Abel, there was always a certain disconnect between that mantra of hers and how he thought he lived his life. He never thought what he was doing was pretend, it felt more like protection. It was what he did to make do as the poor kid who lived in the trailer park that was essentially used as a halfway-housing complex for the underfunded and understaffed loony bin on the edge of this otherwise rich white town. For Abel, it was survival.

* * *

“Don’t you ever change your pants?” taunted Fred, the super-popular star of the soccer team at school. “I can smell those filthy things from here.” The reality of it was, Abel rarely did change his pants. In fact, he only owned three pairs; one for every day, one for Sunday, and one for the rare occasion when Ethel would sneak their dirty laundry into the laundry room of the loony bin where she and her sorry excuse for a husband, Abel Sr., worked.

Abel always loved laundry day. He relished the brief moment when the few clothes he had were stiff and crisp and smelled like the industrial detergent they used to kill off every biting, burrowing, stinging, blood-sucking creepy-crawly he imagined inhabiting the flesh of all those crazies where his parents worked. Every time he slipped into a clean pair of trousers or a fresh shirt he felt, if only for a second, reborn.

Abel could feel his face redden as he froze from a sickening mix of anger, humiliation and disenchantment. He’d been caught out again. He’d been targeted by yet another wicked prick who had nothing better to do than pick on the one kid in school who did everything in his power to be invisible to all those around him. Abel always kept quiet. He always kept to himself. He never did anything to anyone. He never did anything to deserve the sort of treatment he got over and over again.

Sometimes he thought he was cursed. When Abel was little, back before he started going to school, he fantasized about what it would be like to be able to get away from his Da every day. He thought it would be some sort of safety-zone, a cinder block oasis where there would be kids just like him, a place beyond the reach of his Da’s roaming hands, or worse yet, drunken fists. It didn’t take Abel long to discover the difference between fantasy and reality. To Abel, school seemed like the place people like his Da went to learn how to curse, fight, and in general, grow up to be an asshole.

“My gawd!” Fred hollered across the crowded cafeteria. “Didja shit yer pants, or what, Abel?”

Just then, at the very moment Fred called Abel by his first name, the name his worthless father burdened him with, everything else he said, could say, or would ever say again, meant nothing. At that moment, he could hear nothing but the blood rushing in his ears like the roar of the hurricane that crushed the crazy gay twins under the huge choke cherry tree that set their ragged pack of scabby, inbred cats free through the torn sheet-metal of their old 12’ by 40’ two lots down from the McIntyre’s.

At that moment, all Abel could see was Fred, his mouth flapping mutely before him. After that, all he could see was red — red from the mouth of that nasty boy Fred where Abel’s first punch landed with a stomach-churning crack, mashing Fred’s thin, pale upper lip into hanging shreds of gore. Fred’s mouth kept moving, but his face no longer read as arrogant. He looked truly shocked, and under that, truly terrified.

Abel couldn’t hear if Fred was trying to backpedal his way out of the suddenly desperate situation his mean mouth got him into. He couldn’t hear if Fred was screaming for help. Abel landed another punch, this time, to Fred’s jaw. He could feel himself smiling as his now torn knuckles made their impact, and the bone of Fred’s jaw gave way with a pop, down and to the left; a deformity deserved.

Abel could see the teeth swimming in Fred’s mouth, and his left eye instantly swollen, the indentations of Abel’s fist at its rim like the dimples on a fat lady’s ass. It looked as if Fred was shaking his head in a frantic NO gesture, but there wasn’t
any NO left in this. There was only GO left in this.

Abel heard later that he was growling and grunting like some sort of rabid animal when he was on top of him, that is, when he wasn’t laughing like one of those fellas from the fenced-in gravel lot in front of the nut house. Despite being one of the smallest boys in his ninth grade class, it took three middle-aged teachers and a Puerto Rican dishwasher to get him off of that poor boy. Abel was expelled that day, and day later, he was sent to juvenile hall.

* * *

A week after he got out, Abel saw Fred with his mother at the local grocery store. He was shattered. Fred acted like he didn’t see him, but Abel knew he did.

Abel didn’t know what happened that day at school. He relived it in flashes that provided neither context nor explanation. What he did know, is that it was like a dream coming true. All the times he’d been picked on, and all the times he’d been beaten up, had been erased by latching onto that smart-ass, Fred, and beating him to within an inch of his life.

Abel pretended to be sorry in front of the judge. He pretended to be sorry in front his so-called anger management counselor in juvenile hall. He even tried to pretend to be sorry in front of his Ma after his month of being locked up behind a tall chain link fence and those thick concrete walls, but she could see right through him.

“You don’t have to pretend to be sorry in front of me, mister,” she said smiling wryly.

Abel said nothing in response. He just smiled and thought about how everything was gonna be alright from that point forward. He had no idea if he believed that, or if he was just fooling himself, and to be perfectly honest, he didn’t care either way.

Daniel B. O’Shea – Tornado Relief Challenge – Treading Water

This week over at Dan O’Shea’s GOING BALLISTIC blog, he challenged his friends and readers to write a bit of flash fiction. To motivate the writers and help out the Red Cross, and the many devastated by the violent weather, heavy rains and tornadoes that have swathed through the South, Dan being the big man he is will donate $5 for each entry.

How could I not contribute. The restrictions on the story were that it relate to rain and that it be 1k or less in word count. I got the rain, but oops, I went over the word count a little. Sue me.

Hope you enjoy the story. Be sure to read the stories by the others who want to see Dan separated from his hard earned money (for a good cause).

Link – http://ronearl.com/fiction/treading-water/

“Fish Stew” and other edibles

I haven’t posted much lately, which doesn’t make this blog all that interesting to most, I aim to change that in the new year. Like with with most of my writing I need to do more of it.

I’m sure I didn’t mention it here, particularly, but Christopher Grant, the mind behind A Twist of Noir (ATON), announced a challenge in early Fall and I accepted. ATON has been publishing some of the finest bits of fiction on the web, nearly 600 stories by the time Grant got a marvelous idea. For the next hundred and one stories, 600 – 700, contributors would have to match the word count to the post count. I opted to write two stories, so for story 641 I had to write a story exactly 641 words. And I did.

“Fish Stew” published today. I guess this technically is my first non-self-published story. I’ve posted quite a few stories these last few months thanks to prompting from Steve Weddle, Patti Abbott and my own workings with Flash Fiction Friday.

Hopefully it will be received well. My next story for the ATON 600-700 challenge is story called “Killing Hope.” I’ve got a few drafts down, but well over the 672 my story is required to be. When I’m done, I should be a killer.

Speaking of Steve Weddle, Steve has put the finishing touches on the Winter Edition of NEEDLE: A Magazine of Noir. It promises to be great one with the first part of an ongoing serial by Ray Banks and stories by Anthony Neil Smith, Kieron Shea and quick up-and-comer Matthew McBride. I put my order in, and you can too. You can even save the cost of shipping by using promo code: HOLIDAY305.

I was laid up a bit the last couple days, so I spent it reading some shorts online. I especially got caught up in the work of Ian Ayris, a Londoner, who writes this bloody brilliant twisted tales. I been gobbling them up over at Pulp Metal Magazine. I don’t what I like better the completely British names of his protagonists or the twisted endings? My favorite has to be “Cold” about poor Jonathan Sideboard, his stony father and an old bike. Actually what I love the best is the language. Spot on as they say.

Will try to post more. If I don’t before Christmas hits, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

The Needle And The Damage Done

Steve Weddle held a writing challenge this last week in the name of Hilary Davidson. The prize her book, THE DAMAGE DONE, signed. Pretty sweet. Only requirements were that it reference Canadian Neil Young and actress Ava Gardner.

The story came quick, but went through several iterations. It doesn’t feel quite complete, but I hope it makes for a good story a good story and you enjoy.

Link: http://ronearl.com/fiction/the-needle-and-the-damage-done/

Father’s Day – Flash Fiction

It’s another one of those crazy writing challenges. This one instigated by writer Chuck Wendig over at Terrible Minds, his writing life blog. He’s a little on the crazy side in an insanely good way.

Chuck put together a wild t-shirt with his crazy bearded face and laser beams coming out of his eyes. It reads “My Beard Comes So Fat, I Wanna Do Laser.” The challenge was to use the second half of the shirt slogan in a 1000 word bit of flash fiction or make it into a funny graphic for an internet meme. You got bonus points if you used the first half too.

As contrived as the contest is, I would assume the bulk of the entries would be funny or light. I can do funny, but I’d rather not.

Enjoy my contribution.

Continue reading “Father’s Day – Flash Fiction”