Tag Archives: short fiction

A bit of research

Lisa walked into the paranormal office while buckling on her gun belt. She had a look of grim determination. She’d put on her jodhpurs, boots and top from the time we went on the outlining safari. “I don’t think this is a good idea.”Lisa Burton
“It’ll be fine. If I’m going to write these stories, a bit of research is necessary. I don’t know some of the details and I want to make the stories plausible.”

“You’re stories are all speculative fiction.”

“That’s not what I mean. Sure they have fantastic elements, but the real-world stuff has to be that much more accurate.”

“Those girls are hell-bent on destroying your writing career by sending you down a wormhole of research. They aren’t called the Research Sirens for nothing.”

“That’s why you’re coming, to protect me. I enjoy research, and a certain amount of it is necessary.”

“Yeah, and a certain amount of it isn’t. Remember when they talked you into flying to China? If Lorelei hadn’t showed up you’d still be there today.”

“They’re the best researchers ever, and I want their help.”

“I’ll pull the Land Rover around. It goes with my outfit.” She headed up the stone steps, then turned back. “Lorelei will be pissed if she finds out.”

“Then we can’t let her find out.”

***

Lisa parked behind the Olympus Lounge in the tiny mountain town. She set the meeting up, and this is where the Sirens chose.

She made me wait in the car while she looked around the parking lot, one hand on her big assed gun at all times. She held up her hand and made a come here motion with two fingers. She shouldered her canvas map-bag and we went inside.

The lounge was decorated with marble columns running up into a darkened ceiling. We crossed a marble floor while glancing at busts of famous authors.

The ladies waited on various pieces of plush furniture. Wiki sat cross-legged on a huge beanbag with her nose buried in the iPad mini she never seemed to be without. Her red A-line haircut looked like it was multiple shades from various dyes, and had been cut to look like it was chewed into shape. She wore a tee-shirt with the Apple logo, a denim skirt, black leggings, and sneakers.

Wiki had always been the most helpful, and she wrinkled her nose in the most adorable way when she spotted us. She jumped up and skipped to a table booth had been reserved for our meeting.

Conversia rose from the sofa and straightened her black sequined dress. Her caramel skin and huge spiral perm drew instant attention. The scoop neck on her dress wasn’t something that could be ignored. She walked gracefully to the table, heels clacking on the stone floor as she walked.

Libraria came out of the back somewhere. Her blonde hair was in a tight ponytail, and she hadn’t given up on the sexy librarian look. She carried a tray with a carafe of red wine and five glasses. She glanced at me over the top of her glasses before placing the tray on the table.

Conversia gestured at my chair and I took a seat.

Libraria poured the wine and offered me a glass first.

Lisa scooped it up and took a tiny sip. Her eyes fluttered as she did a complete chemical analysis. “He won’t be having any today. He brought his own.” She reached in her canvas bag and produced a small thermos and tin cup. “He prefers coffee anyway.”

Wiki leaned forward and gushed. “What are we doing today?”

“I, um, I’m working on two novellas and I’m nearly ready to start. They’re quite different, and I need to get some details right.”

Libraria said, “Thank the Gods you came to us first. Starting now could be a disaster. You need to do your research until everything is perfect. Why don’t you tell us what you have in mind.”

“Well, one of them is about these people locked in an underground bunker. They’re stuck there for three months, because of a regular thing that happens in their solar system. As a part of the story, I need to know about the human circulatory system.”

“What you need is a good book on anatomy. Entry into medical school would be even better, but you may not have time. I have a complete library here and can help you find anything you need.”

Wiki turned her iPad toward me and opened her mouth in a silent “ta-daaa” gesture. The whites of her eyes were framed by the heavy mascara she always wore. Her black fingernails and collection of friendship bracelets framed a YouTube video of the human circulatory system.

“Is that a new nose-stud?”

“It is! Thanks for noticing. It’s a real diamond too–”

Conversia placed a perfectly manicured, red fingernail under my chin. She turned my head her direction. She batted her eyes and leaned forward, the scoop-neck of her dress guaranteeing I wouldn’t turn away. “Pay attention. Sometimes all you need is a consultant. Someone else has already done this research. All you need to do is find them and ask them some logical questions.”

“Uh-huh, um, what kind of questions?”

“What do you intend to have happen in your story? Ask if that’s plausible.”

“Okay, so I have another story where the character is going to learn to play the upright bass. I don’t know anything about bass clef.”

Squee! Look at these cute bass clef earrings I found.” Wiki wrinkled her nose and turned her iPad back towards me.

Lisa moved towards her. “Those are really cute.”

Wiki slid over in the booth so Lisa could sit down.

Libraria said, “I also have books about music theory, simple chords, and can even find you one about how to build your own bass.”

“Girls!” Conversia said. “The man needs another consultant. There are any number of music teachers, instrumentalists, and whatnot that could answer his questions. I suggest a month or two in Vienna or someplace where he can really learn.”

“It isn’t going to be symphonic in nature. It’s more like rock-a-billy, bluesy stuff.”

“I see,” Conversia said. “Perhaps I can set up a mentorship with Brian Setzer or someone similar.”

“That would be awe–”

Lisa slapped me across the forehead. She opened her mouth and played back an audio recording of my own voice. “I don’t have to be perfect, I just have to be plausible.”

I leaned back in my chair and sipped my coffee. The girls leaned back in the booth, and Libraria crossed her arms.

“I think we’re done here,” Lisa said.

Wiki turned her iPad around once more. In a half-hearted voice she said, “Look, a cute cat… playing an upright bass.”

Lisa grabbed me by the collar and stood me up. She pointed me toward the door and gave me a shove.

“Bye, ladies. Always a pleasure,” I said over my shoulder.

***

Lisa pulled onto the highway out of town. “You’re such a dope. A few horn-rimmed glasses, a scoop-neck collar, and a wrinkled nose and you’re ready to move to Vienna. I told you they were dangerous. Lorelei told you they were dangerous.”

“I think Conversia was onto something though. I need a consultant for each story.”

“I have all your friends in my database, and there are a couple who will do a wonderful job. I’ll send out some email and see if they’re interested.”

“At least you didn’t fall under their spell.”

“Don’t be so sure. Wiki and I ordered those earrings, and a bass clef pendant to go along with them. We’ll be like sisters, she said.”

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Filed under Muse, Writing

The day I accidentally created the universe

I walked out of work at 5:30. My mind was full of ideas about all the blog projects I have to get to. Lisa's radio show demands constant attention to keep it up to date. I have a couple of October invites I need to get to as well. Then there is the matter of one last micro-fiction for my October celebration.

Lorelei, the Muse leaned against my tailgate. She faced the Boise Mountains, and I knew she wanted something. She knows I like that view of her athletic form, and she taunts me whenever she wants something. She wore heels and a short skirt, but abandoned the jacket in this heat. She walked up to the passenger door and waited for me to unlock it. She looked fantastic, but then she is a minor goddess.

We buckled in and I worked my way out of the parking lot to the stop light. “So what's up today. You seem to be jumping in fast after your vacation.”

“I know you have ideas, and I just want to know when you're going to get on with them.”

“I plan on writing the micro this weekend. It's only a two day weekend for me.”

“Yes, and you have all your blog duties, I understand. It's time to get started on the novellas. Have you done anything with them?”

“I was thinking I might start the first one next weekend. I have outlines, characters, and more. I've been dwelling on The Hat a lot lately. I even have a character name.”

“And?”

“Lizzie St. Laurent.”

“That's a mouthful, but sounds appropriate to the story. When do you think Lizzie can get to work?”

Next weekend. In fact, I keep trying to go beyond the story, so I know it's time to start writing.”

“Going beyond isn't always bad. Maybe there's more than one story to Lizzie.”

“If it's a novella, how do you pull that off? A second novella?”

“Let's not get ahead of ourselves. You haven't written the first one. Remember telling me a story will be as long as it needs to be? Maybe it's actually a novel.”

“Would you be mad? I know you want a novella.”

“We've gone over this before. I inspire – you create. That's up to you. I'm only trying to steer your career in directions that could benefit you.”

Her sandalwood perfume was inspiring me. It's so rare these days that it sometimes warns me she's around. “I've had a couple ideas for a follow up story, but nothing is taking full form yet.”

“Like I said, no rush. Deal with this one first. Maybe you can write one of your short stories about her for the next Experimental Notebook.”

“That would probably be best. You know what would be fun? I could team her up with Jason Fogg. He should get another story in any future Notebook. He has a science fiction background, and she has a paranormal basis though.”

“So? Doesn't seem to stop your robot girl from interviewing angels and ghosts.”

“I mean, well, I suppose it could be done. She'd probably do better with others of her kind though.”

“If you say so. It isn't like you're lacking for paranormal characters.”

“Yeah, but the guys from Panama are over a hundred years in history. Even the Will O' the Wisp kids are nearly fifty years in the past.”

“Keep talking it out.”

“I don't under– Oh, she might get along well with a bunch of characters from The Playground. Gina, Morley, Helena, Justine, even Clovis under the right circumstances because he brings so much tension to any scene.”

“Now you're getting it.”

“Maybe one day I'll do my own paranormal team adventure. It could be like the Marvel Universe, but I'm no Stan Lee.”

“Neither was he, until he was.”

I suspected I was high on sandalwood. “Maybe Lizzie, Jason Fogg, throw in Clovis and Justine, maybe Morley Jenkins. Take on some huge world class bad guy.” I turned to the passenger seat, but she was gone.

She'd done it again; filled my head with ideas, most of which will never bear fruit. This is kind of her style. I wind up dwelling on things and eventually stories take shape. I knew my head had been filled with all kinds of inspiration, and I'm actually looking forward to see what takes form.

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Shifting Gears

I flew a wide circle around the meadow at the writing cabin. After Lisa’s explosives incident, I tried to be careful.

She used the forks on the tractor to maneuver a section of our survival bunker into the hole. I took it as being safe to land. She came over the speaker in my gyrocopter. “Coffee is all ready. I’ll be in after I get this section in place.”

I touched down, moved onto the elevator, and lowered everything into the basement. No sense risking my ride if Lisa wasn’t finished blasting.

I decided to move into the paranormal office, since the sound of heavy equipment was closer to the other wall. Doubt, the raven, flew into the room and accompanied me. I smirked at him and said, “Sorry dude, I’m writing micro-fiction today.”

He glared at me like I brought his daughter home late.

I spent a couple of hours on micro-fiction. I managed about 1700 words, but it wasn’t easy with Doubt glaring at me.

The biggest problem is a stylistic issue. What do you do when your character is speaking, and all that comes out of her mouth is guttural grunts and growls? It’s important to get her viewpoint, but we also need to know what gets heard. I have an idea involving italics, and quotations. I won’t share the story until October, so maybe something else will come to me.

Lisa came in with questions. “How are you going to furnish this bunker after I assemble everything?”

“You’re going to have to leave out the last section. Then load up all the furniture, food, and stuff before you attach the last piece. We don’t want to carry too much down the ladder, and beds and such won’t fit.”

“I think you’re a month out. I need to wire and plumb everything, plus you’ll need high speed internet and all the bells and whistles.”

“No problem. My story characters might have to live under harsh conditions, but there’s no reason we have to. You’ll need to seal it against moisture, then bury it.”

“Yeah, with all that fresh earth out there, one of the sabretooths came off the mountain and did what cats do in fresh earth.”

“You’re a trooper. I’m sure you’ll figure out what–”

The front door burst open, and we went to see what happened.

Lorelei, the Muse, stood framed in the doorway. Sunlight backlit her brunette hair and formed a halo around her face. I always assumed it was some kind of goddess trick. She wore a short summer dress and wedge shoes. She spread her arms and said, “Buongiorno!”

Lisa squealed and ran to hug her. “Where have you been lately?”

“I took a vacation. It looked like you guys had enough to do with the Yak Guy. Today, I’m here to check on your next projects.”

“Oh, cool, I can give you a tour of the bunker.”

“I peeked at it. It doesn’t look like there’s much there yet.”

I stepped forward. “There will be. Lisa has some nice ideas to decorate it, and I’ll make sure it’s functional.”

“Thank God. I was afraid you were going to decorate it.” She reached onto the porch and produced a large box. “I brought you a present. It looks like you’re getting prepared to write Estivation, but I don’t want you to forget about The Hat.” She sat the box on the coffee table and removed the lid with a flourish.

An old grey fedora sat inside, and a whiff of mothballs caught my attention. I eased closer, and the dents in the crown narrowed like eyes, and the crown of the hat formed eyebrows above them. “Hey, how’s it going?” the hat asked.

“Um, fine.” I looked at Lorelei. “You really weren’t kidding about this were you?”

“I never kid when it comes to inspiration.”

“What am I going to do with him?”

“Please, you’ve done this before. Talk to him. Spend some time together, then write his story.”

“But what about Estivation?”

“These are both supposed to be novellas, remember? You can probably work on them together. When you burn out on one, take up the other.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll help you,” the hat said. “I’m pretty sure the robot chick will too.”

I put my hand around my beard. What had I gotten myself into this time?

Lisa hooked her thumbs in her tool-belt and rose to her toes. “I will too, I always do.”

Lorelei said, “Lisa, I heard you ordered some hats in preparation for this one. Let’s go see what you bought.”

“Fun! Come upstairs and we can try them all on.”

The girls headed upstairs. That looked like the end of construction for the day. I looked at the hat. “What now?”

“Traditionally, I go on your head. Then Lorelei tells me you have a paranormal office. Let’s go take a look.”

I plopped the fedora on my head. “Fine, but I need more coffee for this.”

“Oh, none for me, thanks. Never touch the stuff.”

This could be a crazy Fall, and Winter.

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Daily Review: The Experimental Notebook of C. S. Boyack II

Amazon Review

By Mae Clair

The author deals with death, afterlife, loyalty, survival and loneliness and weaves those emotions into cleverly constructed fast-paced short stories.

This is a spectacular collection of short and micro fiction. I really enjoyed the author’s first Experimental Notebook but this one is superb. The blend of stories from sci-fi, to paranormal and even horror, is an entrancing mixture much like strolling through a sideshow carnival and goggling at all the curiosities. Some of these stories will make you think, a few might make you squirm, but all will have you applauding at how deftly they’re delivered. Read More Here…

 

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It’s a Draft

I put in the effort today. I needed to pick a project and focus on it, so I limited myself to just one thing. I added about 4500 words to The Enhanced League and finished it.

It's a draft with flaws, and it needs some help here and there, but it exists now. I can address the issues in the editing phase.

So what is it? It's a story about an alternate baseball league where anything goes. This includes performance enhancing drugs, aluminum bats, lasers that call balls and strikes, and more. I borrowed pages from my Experimental Notebooks, and my novel The Playground to try telling an overall story by writing a bunch of short stories, micro-fiction, and something new. There is a pinch of science fiction involved when it comes to my semi-main character too.

That something new is what I am calling anthems. They're almost like a monologue, but written in second person point of view. I think I shared one on this blog a month or so ago.

4500 words is a long day for me. Since these were individual stories, I didn't know what I had until I assembled them all. The book came together at slightly over 37,000 words. That isn't a lot, and I feel like it could use another three to five thousand.

Still, my intention all along was to make it a 99¢ special. I also have a theory that novellas are where it's at right now, so maybe it does work.

My personal goal was to make all the short pieces tell a larger story, and I did. It keeps me from my normal twist endings, but I'm okay with that. This isn't an Experimental Notebook. I still managed two pretty good ones using my semi-lead character Roger Warren.

I'm trying to celebrate, I swear, but I always wind up critiquing my own work. I poured a big glass of Laphroaig, not my usual drink, and am trying to type between bouts of throwing a squeaky bone for Otto.

I would like to work on The Yak Guy Project tomorrow, but can't. I have a Lisa Burton Radio to assemble and schedule. I also have a new one to work up a shtick on and ship to the guest author. Then there are those Storyreading Ape posts I need to write. To tell you the truth, I'm dragging my feet there, because I may have a new release to post about. Maybe I'll write May's post and deliver it. Then, if I have a new release, I can write about it for June.

Lots to think about, more toys to throw, and a nice smoky scotch to down. I'd like to see a Spring Training game for actual baseball, but there doesn't appear to be anything on right now.

My wife called and already spent all her money on the first day. Let's be honest, I knew this would happen. It sounds like they are having a great time, and I'm going to have to accept the fact that another day of spending is going to happen.

So it appears I did get some writing done. The girls are having a great time, and did spend too much money. Otto is having fun too, and whisky (without the e) is good for what ails you.

Tomorrow is all about blog work, after I call my parents. Then I need to deal with some mundane things like dirty dishes and such. It won't be that hard to resist the editing phase, since it isn't my favorite. I'll probably still dwell on things like cover art, Lisa posters, beta readers, and the whole releasing a book strategy. I promise not to initiate any of it though.

I wish I could share it with my critique group, but I may be on the verge of losing the group. We've been together for years, but three of the members stepped out. We got one new member, but now we're having trouble scheduling the meetings. We skipped February all together. My beta readers for Enhanced League are going to be more important than ever.

The Enhanced League needs time to ferment. A couple of weeks of being ignored will give me a new perspective on the whole thing. It may also give me time to finish The Yak Guy Project.

Yak Guy is next, with no new projects until it is a draft too.

Talk to me tonight. Did you do any writing today? What do you think about novella length works? Would you rather be at the Mall of America with my wife and daughter?

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The saga of today

I've been waiting for some news all day. It never came, and so the post I had planned will have to wait for another time.

My wife works at a hospital, and her holiday time has to be shared. She got today off, but has to work tomorrow and Monday. My instructions were to entertain Otto, the dog, for a few hours so she could sleep in.

We had some degree of success with what I call poodle time. It involves him zoning out in my lap and leaving my poor wife her one day to sleep in.

I spent a little bit of time playing pumpkin ball, and since the squeaker has been tusked to death, it makes a quiet toy now. (There on the floor in the picture.)

The sun came up, but at five degrees it didn't seem to make much difference. The world was covered in pogonip. This is a Nevada/Indian word for what everyone else calls hoarfrost.

It really is beautiful, and I spotted a great horned owl in one of the trees around town. I couldn't get a shot of him without too many branches in the way, so you'll have to imagine how wonderful it was. The screens at the local baseball diamond were like thin sheets of ice twenty feet tall.

We decided to spoil Otto by taking him to the pet store. He chose a couple of squeaky bones, and a furry football. Then we stopped by Whole Foods and my wife grabbed a pair of lobsters.

Quiet night indoors for us. New Years Eve has been called amateur night by many, and it's a good time to stay off the roads.

I got a new X-Box for Christmas, and we decided to play with it tonight. Not much fun there. Umpteen jillion megabite downloads are required, and it's been pretty useless so far. I've never owned a gaming system before, so this came as a surprise. Then the controller needed an update, then each game needs an update…boring.

I managed a bit of short fiction, and that has to count as my victory today. That's only a writing victory, and the dog, the pogonip, the nice dinner with my wife are bigger victories.

Hope you are all having a nice New Year's celebration, and be careful out there.

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A few loose things

I watched old movies, played with an app, and wrote another short piece. I also ordered some promotional material that I can use during some future promotions. I’ll address all of them in sections.

The new app simply allows me to take a photo and add text to it. All of the ones I’ve tried so far are kind of burdensome to use. This one is even worse, because it doesn’t allow me to squeeze it into a vertical shape, it simply flows beyond the box and doesn’t show everything I typed. I have other apps that work better.

Sometimes it’s nice to make up an image for a pinned tweet and get a few more words by making them part of the photo. Still, I made this and it might give some of you a chuckle.

I spent some time with my old mentor, Sir Alfred Hitchcock today. Since Halloween is on a Monday, they decided today was a good day for a film festival. I caught some of Vertigo, watched all of Psycho, and turned it off when The Birds came on. I think The Birds had a great concept, but failed to deliver. No doubt there are people who disagree with me, but that’s my opinion. I wish one of these outfits would rediscover Rope, I loved that one.

Psycho was ground breaking in its day. It was the first one that showed murder so brutally. Hitchcock was known as the master of suspense, but he drifted into horror territory with this one. (Aside: I could sure see Jamie Leigh Curtis’ face in some images of her mother.)

Psycho started kind of an arms race. Prior to this, monsters lumbered, howled, and threatened. I believe this was the catalyst of all the gore that’s come to be expected in the horror genre, and I think that’s what eventually killed it off. If Psycho were to be made today, Bates would have had sex with Janet Leigh’s corpse before dismembering it (Requiring power tools that are deafeningly loud), and possibly eating the evidence.

I kind of wish we could go back and erase all the blood and gore from this genre. That’s why I try to include a bit of suspense, but leave the rest out.

I broke down and used a coupon to order some promotional stuff for the next time I decided to do a push. Maybe people don’t want another gift card or ebook, but something unique will garner more attention. Maybe not, but I’m going to find out.

Finally, I wrote this thing. I don’t exactly know what to call it, but I’m calling them anthems. I am looking for input as to what they actually are called. They are from a narrator’s POV and use second person perspective.

I had another of my crazy thoughts, and intend to include them in my collection of short stories called The Enhanced League (TEL). They have nothing to do with the stories, but they might be fun to break things up. I like the idea of between three and half a dozen of them. TEL will be about a futuristic baseball league. Some characters will recur in the stories and some are one shot wonders.

Anyway, I don’t know how to solicit your input without sharing one, so here goes nothing. It’s draft material, but will give you the idea. Let me know if it’s too crazy to live, or has some merit.

Anthem #2

The Hardest Day

 

You took the wife and kids to the ballpark more religiously than most folks go to church. For you, it was church. Didn’t matter if it was blazing sun, or frosty nights, you were there.

Your wife was the life of the party. Everyone knew her, and she always seemed to draw the television camera the way she stood and led cheers. You wound up on the kiss camera more times than you were comfortable with.

You named your son after a Golden Glove winning shortstop. When the team travelled, the two of you played catch in the backyard and practiced that shovel toss to second base.

The kids grew up, and your wife passed away. Some of your old buddies from the trucking company bought your seats for a game or two when you didn’t have someone to take you. It wasn’t much, but the money helped pay for your meds.

Your son took you to a few games, until his own kids started playing sports. Now they spend most of their time kicking soccer balls around. Your daughter and her new husband took you once, but it felt like meeting your new step-parent.

Finally, the day arrived. You offered up your seats and sold them for five figures. The guys from the trucking company were pissed, but they couldn’t pay going rate.

You thought you were going to have a stroke. You sold out, Buddy. You sold a piece of your soul that day. You worried that you might have cursed the team somehow.

You wanted to give them to your kids, but they couldn’t have cared less. Your son-in-law would have sold them too and used the money to bet on horses.

So here you are, in assisted living with no family around. You bought the league pass and get every game on your new big-screen television. The old farts come around to watch, and they seem to be enjoying the team as much as you do. You finally admit the air conditioning doesn’t ruin the experience.

You’ve seen more games this year than the last three combined. Your doctor even approved a beer, provided you only have one. You never told him about the hotdogs Mrs. Corrigan brings. A hotdog never killed anyone anyway.

It was the worst day of your life, the day you sold the seats, but none of this would be possible if you hadn’t.

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