Tag Archives: Horror

Order up! Macabre Macaroni

Lisa BurtonLisa Burton here with another serving of Macabre Macaroni. I try to avoid the dark side of technology, being a robot myself. Even I have to admit it can be misused.

Technology is wonderful, but it should be used with caution. This week, Craig takes kind of an extreme approach to some future advancements in the medical field… or are they already here?

***

Monitors

Mrs. Levine sat beside the hospital bed and held her husband’s hand. It had been three days this time, and only a few lucid moments passed between them.

She held on to something through her faith, but another part of her explored the value of their home, what might be left of their finances, and even the possibility of going back to work. One day per week at the library was all she’d found, so far.

They both knew one or the other would go first. After fifty-seven years of marriage, it was inevitable.

The doctor came into the room and placed a hand on her shoulder. “How’s he doing today?”

“About the same. He’s been pretty quiet.”

“Why don’t I have Nurse Silvio take you to the cafeteria for a nice cup of coffee? I want to check his vitals, and get someone to change the bedding today.”

“You’re too good to me doctor. You need to get some rest too.”

“I’ll be fine, don’t you worry. I have an intern helping today. She can do the heavy lifting.”

The doctor walked her to the nurse’s station and handed her off to Nurse Silvio before returning to his patient.

***

He waited for the intern, then closed the door. “Take some notes, Parkins. The Accounting Office needs this data.” He lifted the face off the patient monitor. The false data kept reporting even as he set the cover aside.

The real monitor revealed different data. “Looks like he has about two-hundred thousand, eight-hundred heartbeats left,” he said.

Parkins asked, “What’s that put it at, Tuesday morning?”

“Seems about right. I’ll be in surgery that day. The old woman is all yours.”

“Gee, thanks.”

“It’s part of the job. You’ll have to get used to it.”

“Isn’t there anything else we can do for him?”

“Look at this number. His bank account will run out just about the time his heart fails.”

“The third graph shows his insurance is still strong.”

“Doesn’t matter. If he can’t pay his deductible, the hospital gets stung for that part. Accounting keeps this hospital in the black and I, for one, want it to stay that way. Our new monitors are really helping. They allow us to do everything possible while the patient can afford it. This bed needs to go to someone who can pay.”

“I don’t know, I mean it isn’t like Accounting has to talk to the grieving widow.”

“The accountants are in charge, no doubt. I think they may be a bit more generous in the wage department this year. The new monitors are allowing us to detect all kinds of surgical options. Just the other day, insurance authorized the removal of a gall bladder for a patient who’d had a motorcycle accident. Insurance paid full price for the surgery even though we already had her open to treat internal bleeding.”

“That’s a blessing, I suppose. My parents bought me a Camaro before I headed for college. That was nine years ago, and I’m still driving it. The passenger window is held up by duct tape now.”

“Tell you what, I’ll let you notify the mortuary. They pay a nice referral fee and you can keep it. It won’t replace your car, but it might let you fix the window.”

“I really appreciate it.”

“If the widow gives you a hard time, hook her up to a monitor. Maybe she has something insurance will cover in full.”

“Hope so, we already know she doesn’t have anything for the deductible.”

“You’re going to make a fine doctor one day, Parkins.”

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Is a tragedy acceptable today?

I stayed up until midnight playing video games with my son. I knew I'd pay for it today, but did it anyway.

Frankie, the alarm dog, got me up at 4:30. I should be overjoyed that she gave me twenty minutes longer than my alarm clock usually does. It's a flex day, so maybe I'll grab a nap this after noon.

I hacked out another micro-fiction while the dogs managed to go back to sleep. Then I grabbed a fresh coffee and sat beside the footboard of my bed.

A slurping noise moved from the darkness to just the other side of the footboard. A black tentacle slid a Nylabone out on the floor beside me.

“Black is a new look for you, isn't it?”

“Oh, you know me. Always trying something new. I think it makes me scarier in the dark.”

“You could be onto something. Things you can't quite see are more frightening. What's with the dog toy?”

“Oh, Frankie and Otto were tugging at it yesterday and it flew under the bed. I thought she might need it back.”

“Not for much longer. I think her puppy teeth are almost all gone now.”

“Good thing too. Those babies are sharp. I had to steal a Bandaid while you guys were sleeping.”

“No problem, that's why they're there.”

“So what brings you to talk to the old under-the-bed monster today?”

“Tragedy.”

“You're going to have to be more specific.”

“Okay, tragedy is a time honored kind of story. When done well, it produces a powerful emotional experience for the reader–“

“Right a PEE, I read your blog. Too funny.”

“As I was going to say, it seems to be out of favor today.”

“Times change and all that.”

“Maybe they do, but maybe they shouldn't. Not everyone gets a happily-ever-after in real life. Fiction should reflect real life.”

“Riiiight. You write stories about spacemen, witches, and dwarves.”

“Okay, but I try to get real human emotions into them.”

“You still haven't told me what specifically brings you here today.”

“I nearly wrote a Greek tragedy a few years ago with The Cock of the South. I chickened out, and didn't completely go that route. Well, I've gone and done it again.”

“And you're worried it will make people mad. You're looking at it from the wrong side of the mirror. For every one of those happy endings, a monster dies somewhere. Do you know how many of my friends are hanging around the Union Hall just waiting for another story?”

“How many?”

“All of em, and they aren't going to get another story because the author killed them off.”

“Don't you guys always manage to stick a hand out of the grave right at the end, or open your eyes suddenly?”

“Only in horror. Not every monster story is technically a horror story.”

“That's all great, and I appreciate that monsters would understand, but they don't buy many books these days.”

“So it's a commercial thing?”

“Not exactly, it's a story for my blog.”

“Now you're just being stupid. Those things have the lifespan of a gnat. Eight hours later the readership forgets all about them.”

“Maybe they do, and maybe they don't. They don't swarm back and re-read the posts, but the story might stick with them.”

“Yeah, that's a good point. Is this for your macaroni thing?”

“It's called Macabre Macaroni, and yeah.”

“Maybe you can bracket it with something happy on either side. End with one that isn't a tragedy. They always remember the last one.”

“So bury it in the middle somewhere?”

“That's my opinion.”

“Thanks Under-The-Bed Monster, I owe you one.”

“You owe me several, but who's counting.”

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Weeds

My wife has a thing for weeds. Maybe I've written about this before, but she buys them and decorates the house with them. I'm not a fan, but I don't hate them either. Maybe indifferent is the right word here.

Saturday night she was visiting family in Nevada. I was home watching puppies and taking care of Otto. My son and I stayed up late playing Diablo III because it has a new expansion pack.

Otto stirred in the middle of the night. He's been doing this due to pain, and sometimes he needs to go outside. He wasn't grumbling about the pain, and he had a pretty good weekend. At this pace, he'll be back to his old shenanigans in a couple of months.

This time he was upset about something. He didn't bark, like he would if a neighbor dog barked or someone was in the park next door, but something had him shook up. I walked over to him and put a hand on his head.

Then I heard something like the sound of water being poured on a hard floor. That's the best way to describe it. It had to have been about three AM, and I also thought of a rattlesnake, but that would be completely absurd.

I opened the bedroom door to peek into the kitchen. It's the only hard surface we have right now. Then I heard it again. It was behind me.

I walked to my nightstand and turned on the lights, and it sounded from my wife's jar of weeds. Now the windows are closed and they are away from the air conditioning vent too. I glanced left and right of them; nothing.

It sounded again. This time the weeds toward the middle were vibrating. The megaphone shaped arrangement seemed to be causing a mild amplification to the noise.

My first thought was mouse, but we haven't had a mouse ever since we moved to Idaho.

It sounded again, and I picked up on the rhythm of the noise. I shook the vase, but couldn't get it to sound again. I am certain that a moth fluttered in there and got stuck.

At this point the puppies were thoroughly interested too, so I forced them all to go outside and go potty… Otto too. When they finished, I went back to sleep and never gave it a second thought.

As an author, you can bet I chalked it up. I may never use it, but it could enhance a story or turn into a Macabre Macaroni type story at some time.

Has anything like this ever happened to you in the middle of the night?

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The Idea Mill #29

We haven't visited the old Idea Mill for some time. To be honest, I've been busy, and the articles haven't really caught the attention of my Muse. I finally have three, so it's time to truck them out again.

For my new readers, I use push feeds to get the kind of news I want to read. This pushes archeology, cutting edge science, and even a few creepy feeds directly to me. I bookmark those that have some merit and share them here. There is an Idea Mill category in my sidebar if you want to skim the old ones.

Our first article is about a ship called the SS Baychimo. In 1931 she got stuck in the ice. This was the last time she had a crew. That didn't stop her from sailing the arctic without a crew. She was spotted for years, and there were several attempts to salvage her, but she was having none of it. She was last seen in 1969. I'll let the article do the math, and it says 38 years. You can read more here.

I like this, because it happened. It isn't some fantasy idea concocted by an author, and it lends real credibility to any ghost ship fiction you might want to write. You could give her a personality and write a kids book about her finishing her mission without a crew. You could also haunt the crap out of her and it's a perfect setting for a horror story. Isolation is a must for a good horror story, and hundreds of miles at sea is pretty isolated.

This one almost didn't make the list, but I decided to add it at the last minute. It's about gene splicing and designer babies. For you deep researchers out there, there are some great scientific terms that would be a great place to start your research. Read all about it here.

Let's face it, superheroes and their supervillains are all the rage right now. This seems like a great backstory for those characters. Maybe you prefer a different spin and develop a world where everyone is tall and attractive. Messing with nature could lead to unintended consequences. I have a bulldog for crying out loud. They are famous for the health issues associated with overbreeding. Take this to a human level, and perfect specimens might be more susceptible to health issues from pollution, or the common cold, or can't process sunlight into vitamins.

Finally, this one is more of a story element than something that would drive a whole plot. (In my mind. Your mind might be better.) There is a liquid that people can breathe in. It sounds pretty high tech, but it's called perfluorocarbon. I did a bit of digging, and found out it's also used in makeup and as a potential artificial blood. Read all about it here. Apparently it carries oxygen really well.

The first thing that comes to my mind is Mr. Freeze's wife in her liquid filled tube to preserve her life. Luke Skywalker went through some of this too. I have a need in a future story for a situation like this, and may have to use the word to explain how it's done. Thank God, I have it saved forever in The Idea Mill. Maybe it would make a great preservative for those deep space journeys to another planet. You know, the ones that take twenty years.

So part of these posts involves me outlining a corny story using all three. Let's see where this goes.

In a planet filled with designer perfect people, someone discovers the SS Baychimo. By now it is an archeological treasure to be explored and preserved. Unfortunately the researchers catch some ancient disease like Measles from the wreck. Their immune systems are compromised and any of the ancient vaccines aren't going to work. Make sure to make a political statement one way or the other about vaccinations. Doesn't matter to me which way, but this kind of story should make a hot-button point.

With a looming shortage of perfluorocarbon to preserve the dying, someone needs to act fast. This is where the second class citizens, produced the old fashioned way, will come into play. They are heartier and can work around the sick and dying with less risk. They are on the verge of a vaccine that will save the day. They've been treated like second class citizens for centuries, and there is some doubt about whether they will act, or simply let nature take it's course and rid them of the designer population.

How about it, you guys. Do any of these kick your Muse in the rear? Maybe you prefer a vat of designer babies, preserved in perfluorocarbon, being shipped to a distant planet. Their spaceship is called the SS Baychimo. Someone discovers them a thousand years later, and they're all still alive. What would you write based upon one of these?

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Ghostly murder on Lisa Burton Radio

Coming at you with one, point twenty-one jigawatts of power, all across the known galaxy and into the spiritual realms, this is Lisa Burton Radio, the only show out there that interviews the characters from the books you love. I’m your host, Lisa the robot girl, and with me today is Finn McLachlan. He and his friend Cain have been observing some pretty unusual situations lately. “Welcome to the show, Finn.”

“Thanks, Lisa. When they said robot girl, I pictured a female C3PO or R2D2, which you’re so much not. Totally a good thing.”

“Thanks, Finn. My bio says you’re in high school and you have a girlfriend named Lindsey. What can you tell us about her?”

“Somebody crossed their wires, sweetheart. Lindsey is one massively cool girl, but she’s into Cain, my best friend, who’s currently trapped in the web of the reigning mean girl, Erin. I know, high school drama, right? He needs to grow a set and dump her, but the dude’s worried about hurting her feelings. Told him empty shells like her don’t have feelings. Lindsey’s the first girl I’ve met who might be worthy of him.”

“Wow, now that’s a best friend. So what kind of unusual situations have been going on?”

“I think my boy, Cain, is in trouble. Strange things are afoot at the Shannon home – namely in Cain’s bedroom and the attic – the door to the attic is in his room. Doors opening and closing on their own, writing in condensation on a mirror, his cat hissing and growling at things no one can see. And get this – the temperature was 90+ degrees outside, but he could see his breath in an attic with no air conditioning. But only in a certain corner of the room. Kind of creepy, right? I thought maybe Cain was just imagining things – I mean, the guy’s really into horror movies and books, so I thought he’d just had some nightmares you know? Guess I should have known he wasn’t that creative.

“So he got this idea to set up an old camcorder to record what went on in his room while he was sleeping, when a lot of the weird stuff has been happening – maybe get some proof. When he woke up the next morning, the camera was lying on the floor across the room, like someone – or something – had thrown it.”

“Okay, we discuss some weird situations on this show, but that’s pretty far out there.”

“Well, sweetheart, it’s about to get even weirder. We played back that video and saw the attic door open on its own, then the mattress dipped on his bed, like a person had sat on it. After a few seconds, his hair moved away from his face, like someone was running their fingers through it. Really freaky stuff. Next thing you know, clothes start flying off his bed, the camera gets knocked sideways, and the screen goes white, then to static. I worked with the recording, frame by frame, and that’s when we caught our first glimpse of Sarah, the ghost, vengeful banshee, or whatever you want to call her, who’s decided to make herself at home in Cain’s humble abode. After we talked with her – yeah, we actually spoke with a ghost – we kinda got the impression she wasn’t of the Casper variety, if you know what I mean.

“So, it turns out Lindsey’s Aunt Mona owns a metaphysical store down on King Street and she might possess a tad more than the normal five senses and could offer some help. And right now, she’s the only lifeline we’ve got.”

“Well — Maybe Aunt Mona can help exorcise Sarah somehow. Stranger things have happened.”

“Something’s got to happen soon, because we’ve already got a dead body –did I forget to mention that? Considering the guy’s head was nearly separated from his body, I’d say it wasn’t from natural causes.”

“Is there any connection to Sarah?”

“He’s one of three guys Sarah said was responsible for killing her. Cain and I warned the other two, but they think we’re making up all this ghostly vengeance stuff. Sarah seems stronger after murdering the first guy, and I bet she’s got something special planned for the other two. The girl’s got breathtaking anger management issues.”

“This is way off the beaten path. I think you guys should tell the authorities, and find some outside experienced help.”

“Seems like that would have been a logical step, right? Until Sarah threatened Cain’s family – and I consider his mom and sister just as much my family as his. Then there’s the weird way Cain’s been acting…but it’s probably nothing.”

“You can tell us Finn. It’s that kind of show. What’s on your mind?”

“Well…..Cain’s more of a ‘behind the scenes’ kind of guy and stays away from the spotlight, but lately it seems like….maybe he’s not completely Cain. Say there’s a chance, before Sarah got stronger, she needed a little help with her killings to-do list. It could make someone wonder. Someone who doesn’t know him like I do.”

“Oh my God! Have you told him? What are you going to do?”

“I’m thinking something along the lines of ghostly possession intervention. If that’s not a thing, it should be.”

“I think you should tell him, but you need to make sure it’s really him you’re talking to. I don’t know if that means daylight, hallowed ground, or just away from the house, but he needs to know.”

“He may not believe me, but it’s time to lay all the cards on the table. We need to know everything we’re up against and then make a game plan. I’ll give Sarah the fight of her miserable, undead life before I let her hurt Cain or anyone else I care about.”

“Oh I’m so sorry. Too bad you can’t just call in Hellboy or someone to take care of it all. I really feel for you guys, and wish you the best of luck. We’re about out of time. Do you have any final comments for our listeners today?”

“Totally off topic, but how do you feel about younger men? Is the whole dating a human thing frowned upon as a general rule or is that more of just a guideline? I’m single, you know. I’ll give you a call if I live through this.”

“I’m flattered, Cain, but I’m totally into my career right now. I’m sure there are some nice girls in you’re hometown who would appreciate a local hero.

“If you want to find out what happens to Finn, Cain, and Lindsey, pick up the book, Sarah, by Teri Polen. I’ll include all the important deets on the website. Help me keep the lights on around here by using those sharing buttons, I’m sure Finn and Teri would appreciate it, and would do it for you when your character appears on the show.

“If you’d like one of your characters to appear on Lisa Burton Radio, drop me a line. I’m always looking for guests. For Lisa Burton Radio, I’m Lisa Burton.”

***

Book Blurb:

 

Seventeen-year-old horror fan Cain Shannon thought helping a ghost find her killers would be the supernatural adventure of a lifetime. Now, he just hopes to survive long enough to protect his family and friends from her.

A bet between friends goes horribly wrong, resulting in Sarah’s death. When she returns to seek justice against those responsible, Cain agrees to help her. But when he discovers Sarah has been hijacking his body, he realizes she wants retribution instead of justice.

Terrified of what could have happened when he wasn’t in control, Cain commands Sarah to leave his house – but exorcising her isn’t that easy. She retaliates against her murderers in bloody, horrific ways, each death making her stronger, then sets her sights on Cain. With the help of friends, Cain fights to save himself and his loved ones and searches for a way to stop Sarah before she kills again.

 

Purchase Links: Amazon Barnes & Noble Black Rose Writing

Teri Polen reads and watches horror, sci-fi, and fantasy. The Walking Dead, Harry Potter, and anything Marvel-related are likely to cause fangirl delirium. She lives in Bowling Green, KY with her husband, sons, and black cat. Sarah, a YA horror/thriller, is her first novel. Visit her online at www.teripolen.com

Contact Links:

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Dear Lisa, on #LisaBurtonRadio

This is Lisa Burton Radio, and I'm your host, Lisa the robot girl. One of the things I've wanted to try is sharing some of the mail we get on the air. So here we go.

I've gotten a lot of mail about my tattoos. The questions vary, so I'll try to cover as much as I can and hopefully your answer is in there somewhere.

When I was first booted up, they gave me a job, planted me in a house, and abandoned me. I found myself with days off as part of my cover. Nobody was supposed to know I was a robot, so I had to live like everyone else. I spent a lot of my off-time at the open air markets and street festival. All the other girls that summer had a kind of retro-style going on, so I adapted it to fit in better. It's still a popular sub-culture, and I still enjoy it.

The other girls had tattoos, and I really didn't know if I could get one or not. I'm covered with a genetically modified human skin, and it's fed by a hydroponic layer from underneath. Basically, I gambled whether it would work or not.

My leg is based upon a silk painting I saw, but I changed it up to things I like. There are koi fish on my ankle, mandarin ducks on my leg, and a persimmon tree with fruit up on my hip. They're always in odd numbers, so three fish, five duckies, and seven persimmons.

My shoulder has a chambered nautilus out hunting. Mathematical things appeal to my programming. I like bricks and tiles. The perfect spiral of the nautilus is just awesome. My tattoo artist came up with the ruins she's hunting among, and I went with it.

It hurt, and my pain receptors worked pretty hard. I don't know if I felt it exactly like you might, but that's the only experience I have. The ink stayed, and I love them.

A couple of you wanted to know about my hair. It's real hair, and seems to have become permanent. I wore a wig until the lab decided to test some new baldness drug on me. They painted it wherever they wanted me to have hair. My skin registered some pretty serious chemical burns, but the hair grew. They never released the drug for human consumption. I guess, in a way, it's okay to experiment on a robot girl. At least I saved some poor rabbit from the same experience.

I don't have hair anywhere they didn't paint me. I'm okay with that, because I never have to shave. I like my hair, and my brunette wig didn't look nearly as nice.

This one says, “Dear Lisa, what it's like working for an author?” I only know about one author, but it isn't a bad gig. Craig mostly likes peace and quiet when he writes. That and a couple gallons of coffee. This is his quiet phase.

There are times when he gets all manic, and excited about stuff too. Those are the times when we assemble a cast of characters and go over dialog together. If it doesn't sound right, he changes things and we do it again. Sometimes I get to swing weapons around, shoot guns, and even mix up magical ingredients. Those are fun days, but then it's usually back to more quiet time.

Eventually it becomes time to publish something. I'm the one who arranges blog tours, places Amazon advertising, and nearly everything else. Over the course of the last few books I've gotten to pose with various story elements and share my posters with various blog hosts. I really enjoy that part of the job.

It helps that I have a swag deal that lets me keep the clothing and various things I pose with. That's how I got the formerly haunted biplane, the rocket-pack, and more.

So how about it gang? Do you like an occasional Dear Lisa segment? There are a lot of places I could go with this. I could get a sponsor, like one of your books. I could read your letters on the air, and include links to your social media. To do that, I need a couple of things.

First, I need more questions. It might be cool not to make them all about me. Maybe the odd advice question could be fun. Maybe you'd like to know how Craig sets up his book releases, or how he outlines things. If you like this segment, send me some questions.

Second, I would need someone to volunteer as a sponsor. It isn't bad exposure for the price of free. Maybe you have a price reduction, or an anthology to promote. My regular interviews are better for a new release, but a bundle or anthology would make a good sponsor.

Speaking of my interviews, I always need guests. If you have a new book coming out, maybe something freshly released, or even a special price reduction, a character interview could entice a few buyers. Drop me a line and we'll set something up. I need more guests right now.

Craig said I could use an anthology he's in as an example. It might sound something like this… Today's sponsor is Macabre Sanctuary, a collection of ten short stories by ten fabulous authors. These tales are all paranormal, supernatural, and horror, guaranteed to make your hair stand on end. Pick up your copy today for the amazing low price of absolutely free. Macabre Sanctuary.

For Lisa Burton Radio, I'm Lisa Burton. And seriously, you guys, drop me a question or set something up for a character interview. I think Craig wants to turn my radio station into a chicken coop.

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The Experimental Notebook of C. S. Boyack II

My second Experimental Notebook got its own review too. I’m so glad everyone is enjoying these stories.

When Angels Fly

2

I have just finished reading The Experimental Notebook of C. S. Boyack II and my review follows the blurb on Amazon from the author.

“A second collection of short stories and micro-fiction. Every story can be read in a single session. This time there are a few tributes to the pulp era. Stories include science fiction, paranormal, and horror.”

Boyack has written a very nice collection of short stories; including sci-fi, horror, and paranormal genres. Each story was woven well and described in a vivid manner. Each story was unique, full of twists and turns, and they were short enough in length that allowed for excitement in knowing that another short was following soon.  Each stories theme was uniquely different from each other. I rate five stars!

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