Flash: Frozen

Stock Art of Frozen Pool

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Okay, that didn’t go well.” Kai said.

 

Brook looked across the pier and newly frozen lake. Fog shrouded the immediately surroundings because of the sudden switch in temperature from steamy summer to frosty winter. She pulled the wet towel tighter, grateful she had climbed out of the water using the aluminum ladder now covered in icicles before Kai cast his spell to take the edge off the burning July day. “Understatement handsome … That is definably an understatement.”

 

(Words 78 – first published 4/7/2014; republished in new blog format on 11/12/2017)

Book Review: Death Warmed Over

Amazon Cover - Death Warmed Over

Book Cover from Amazon

Death Warmed Over (Dan Shamble, Zombie PI Book 1) by Kevin J. Anderson

BOOK BLURB ON AMAZON

Ever since the Big Uneasy unleashed vampires, werewolves, and other undead denizens on the world, it’s been hell being a detective—especially for zombie PI Dan Chambeaux. Taking on the creepiest of cases in the Unnatural Quarter with a human lawyer for a partner and a ghost for a girlfriend, Chambeaux redefines “dead on arrival.” But just because he was murdered doesn’t mean he’d leave his clients in the lurch. Besides, zombies are so good at lurching.

Now he’s back from the dead and back in business—with a caseload that’s downright unnatural. A resurrected mummy is suing the museum that put him on display. Two witches, victims of a curse gone terribly wrong, seek restitution from a publisher for not using “spell check” on its magical tomes. And he’s got to figure out a very personal question: who killed him?

For Dan Chambeaux, it’s all in a day’s work. (Still, does everybody have to call him “Shamble”?) Funny, fresh, and irresistible, this cadaverous caper puts the PI in RIP … with a vengeance.

 

MY REVIEW

A typical urban fantasy detective – the twist on this one is the PI is a Zombie and one of his cases is investigating his own death.

What I loved about the story: This PI doesn’t work just one case, but a dozen cases at a time. He isn’t a down-and-out Noir PI trying to climb into or out of a bottle. He just happens to have been killed recently. Other than that, he has a good set of friends, a solid job, and a smart girlfriend. Unlife promises to be as good as living had been.

With the dozen or so cases, Mr. Anderson doesn’t need to create false trails and red herrings. There is so much going on, of course Dan Chambeaux has a time uncovering the big bad’s case since he also has to work on all the other cases which pay the bills. I think this particular aspect of the story is more real than most detective stories I have read.

What I didn’t like about the story: Several times the author repeats information from the chapter before. About 1/6th of the book is repeats. Now in order to do the investigation, the PI does have to review the evidence to see if he is missing anything. Sometimes going over the information with friends lets him see the problem from a different perspective. If I was editing the book, I would recommend cutting about half of the repeats.

The chapter endings usually complete a mini-story within one of the PI’s cases, which makes picking up and putting down the book easy. If you read about 2 to 3 chapters at a time during a commute or between errands, the repeats may not bother you at all. I tend to swallow books whole – in this case I bought and finished the book the same day.

Overall a good story and solid start to a new series. Also works fine as a stand-alone.

Flash: Glow

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net, adjusted by Erin Penn

“Is it suppose to be glowing like that?”

Kneeling on the stonework before rusty gate, the teenage boy asked distractedly while adjusting the flashlight imbedded in his hat “What’s glowing?

“The statue, man, it’s glowing.” His companion complained in a raising whine. “Why is it glowing green?”

Glancing over to where his friend rocked back-and-forth, the flashlight in his hand bouncing around the large room, Franklin shook his head. “Dude, calm down.”

“Is it part of the haunted house?”

“Emmet, chill. We aren’t there yet.” Franklin turned back to his task, pulling out a set of tools from his inside jacket.

“I am chill. Chilled to the bone. Why isn’t this place heated?” Emmet’s frightened voice echoed in the chamber.

Rolling his eyes, Franklin put a measure of distain into his voice only a junior in high school can manage. “It’s a catacombs. Duh.”

“Stupidest idea in the world going through a freaking cemetery to get to the haunted house.” Emmet hugged the large black bag he carried tighter and got closer to his friend and further away from the statue.

“….p.a.sssss”

A couple of leaves brought inside with the boys tumbled in the breeze as Emmet spun to face the room. He managed to bite back a little girl scream and, in the silence, Frankie commented, “Great advertising, you got to admit it. Go past the cemetery to the abandoned farm and its House of Terror.”

As a distraction, Frankie’s comment didn’t each make third place. “Come on, come on. What’s the holdup?”

“They chained the gate. Guess they finally found the entrance.”

“Well that’s just great.” Emmet’s flashlight shakily ran over the room once more as he juggled the awkward, lumpy bag against his chest. “Why would they chain an underground gate?”

“I may have pranked them last year.”

Emmet looked over his shoulder, down at his friend. “Brilliant Einstein. Could have told me before I dragged all the equipment out here.”

“It’s one bag.”

Biting his lip, torn between exasperation and fear, Emmet’s belated response sputtered out after a moment. “….Of equipment. I’m carrying it.” He moved the heavy bag in his arms again before turning to the rusty gate built into the stonework of the room and his friend who still was fooling with a heavy metal chain and lock. “And I’ll be dead if dad finds out it’s missing.” He shuttered at how much grounded he would be between the laptop and wi-fi cameras he had “borrowed” from his dad’s private investigator business. He might be able to attend the graduation ceremonies next year.

“ssssshall … passssss”

Emmet jumped, managing a full turn without his feet touching the ground, landing to face the catacombs again. “What’s that?”

“What?” Franklin pushed with his back against where his friend was bumping him as Emmet backed up to the closest living thing in the room.

“The hiss.” Emmet paused listening.

Franklin enjoyed the silence and the light not bouncing around the room like a freshman who had drunk his first Red Bull.

“I think the statue is glowing brighter.” Emmet whispered.

Really, it was getting beyond annoying. “Emmet, the statue is not glowing.”

“Yes it is. Look!”

Franklin peered over his shoulder. “Okay, light is reflecting off of it.”

“Hello, the only light is this flashlight and it is white.” Tired of being ignored, the straight A math student brought out Logic.

“Has to be something from the haunted house.” Franklin muttered.

“Fine.” Iron replaced the whine in Emmet’s voice. “Let’s find out by getting out of here and into there.”

Franklin blew out his breath. Anger would not help. “I’m working on it.”

“Come on. You open all kind of doors with those picks you made for LARPing.” The whine returned another octave higher.

“Yeah, this one is a Master lock. Takes a bit.”

The wind sighed again and a raspy voice proclaimed. “You shall not pass.”

“Dude, don’t quote Gandalph to me. I’ll get it open.”

“I didn’t say anything,” said Emmet softly.

 

          *****

 

“Watch the squishy bit there.” Lance waved his hand toward some of the gore the scene techs has marked just to watch his partner’s face pale. Paul made things too easy sometimes. The junior partner dropped his head to concentrate on what he was doing, but Lance wasn’t through teasing. “Look around a bit. They still haven’t found the second kid’s head.”

Once the other detective finished pulling the shoe coverings offered by the Crime Scene Investigators, he raised his eyes again and they skittered over the brightly lit scene refusing to fully absorb the … the …. Closing his eyes, he breathed through his mouth getting the taste of copper and mold and diesel mixing on his tongue. Better than his nose. He concentrated on the generator noise; the catacombs had no electricity of their own so they brought in a generator to power the spots lighting scene for the investigators.

“Decapitation,” Paul stated with no inflection whatsoever, “then quartering.”

“Yep. That is what the doc said. The body parts were chopped off after the kids died but only by seconds.”

His eyes still closed, Paul continued to process the scene he couldn’t look at. “The second head is behind the statue.”

“Well, wha-da-ya know.” Lance bounded from the gate situated between the cemetery catacombs and the old moonshine hole the farmer family next door had dug during prohibition into their barn’s floor. Rounding the stone statue of a knight grasping a bare sword blade with two hands in front of his chest, Lance verified Paul’s observation. “I knew I kept you around for a reason.” The older officer waved the techs over.

They had been concentrating on the blood bath at the gate. No tracks had led to the statue nearly twenty feet from the primary scene, no blood residue at all. Deep in the shadows caused by the unnaturally bright lights they had brought, a teenage boy’s head stared up in terror.

“Lance, could you have them turn off the lights for a moment?” Life had returned to Paul’s voice but in a creepy way. Uncertainty did not become the detective who had rocketed through the city’s ranks in three years to become partner to the most decorated officer presently serving on the force.

Frowning toward Paul and the generator, Lance shook his head in wonderment. The younger detective was still swaying with his eyes closed. “Umm, can it wait until they take their pictures?”

“You know Lance, maybe not.” Paul turned toward where Lance’s voice was emanating beside the statue and opened his eyes. He immediately closed them again, taking a step back. “I think I see something.”

“And you are going to see it better in the dark?” Lance chuckled.

“I think I see a Younger thing.”

Lance stopped and blinked once. “Well, fuck.” He tapped the shoulders of the tech taking the photos of the newly found body part. “Back off boys.” He waved to everyone in the large stonework room and ordered loudly. “Way back.”

Those techs who have worked scenes where Younger had been involved moved very quickly. Younger wasn’t a police detective or even on the force. No one knew what he was involved with, but he always came out clean and it was obvious to everyone involved if Younger hadn’t done whatever it is he does things would have been much, much worse.

Once everyone but the lead CSI and the two detectives had returned to the cemetery proper above the ground, Lance nodded and the tech squelched the lights.

Both detectives stared at the scene, not needing to wait for their eyes to adjust to the blackness.

“So, Lance, is it suppose to be glowing like that?” Paul asked dryly.

Lance growled, “You got him on speed-dial. Call him.”

(Words 1,298 – first published 10/22/2017)

Flash: Tank

http://www.deviantart.com/art/night-at-the-oasis-36345289

copyright 2006-2013 foolishbunny

“Fuck.”

 

Startled, Neville immediately went on full alert. Anything to set Younger cursing could not be good. Neon lights blazed over the gas station, making an oasis of light and cement in the black night. Nearly seven hundred miles from their stomping grounds, the needle pegged empty and they had to stop for gas. Ramps had been closed the last fifty miles because of flooding. This was their only chance before the fumes ran out.

 

Neville leaned forward in the passenger seat to access his gun tucked into a back holster. “What’s wrong?”

 

“I hate using stolen cars. I never know what side the gas tank is on.”

 

(words 108– first published 10/2/2013; republished in new blog format on 8/06/2017)

Flash: Waves Against the Pier

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The following post was written June 5, 2013.

ConCarolinas 2013 – On Sunday I attended a writer’s workshop. The panelists were:

Moderator – Joe Naff (http://www.moonwingmedia.com/) – Writes fantasy and supernatural thriller with strong female lead characters. (Eternal Forest; The Chronicles of Shyra (Series); The Gospel of the Font)

Panelist – Catherine McLean (http://www.catherineemclean.com/) – Write space opera. (Karma and Mayhem; Jewels of the Sky)

Panelist – Winfield Strock III (http://adventures-above-the-aether.blogspot.com/) – Writes steampunk. (Adventures Above the Aether, Aether Legion)

With this eclectic group of speculative fiction authors overseeing the workshop, we were instructed to write “A scene where the scene expresses the emotion of what is happening.” for fifteen minutes. Okay, I can do that. Below is what was written word for word; no time for editing.

***

Waves crashed around the pier, throwing a fog of salt water around Clyde. Angry tears trickled down his face, leaving tracks in the sea-mist sweat. Life wasn’t fair, he thought.

A scream escaped his wounded heart and was torn away by the unforgiving wind. Soon he would need to leave. The blood-red sunset promised a storm, no matter what the weatherman had said. He looked forward to spending the night in the creaky beachcomber shack he rented, fighting leaks and rattling panes.

She shouldn’t have left him. He had done everything right. From the first spell of summon to the last spell of binding, his high school sweetheart should have stayed with him until death parted them.

What had gone wrong?

An incoming wave driven by tide and storm pushed him back a step. His sopping jeans cling to his skinning legs like lichen. His bare feet slipped a bit on the slimy mold.

He couldn’t even summon her back. The last binding spell made her immune to hearing siren energy. She should have held steady.

(Words 176)

 

We did a round robin with the participants reading their pieces and giving feedback. Then we got the kicker for the second hour of the workshop. Write the same scene but with an opposite or strongly different emotion. Characters may be changed, but the location/scene needed to remain the same. Oh, boy. … I think I can do that. …. Ummm, okay …

***

Waves dashed in ahead of the storm, hurtling towards safety in the sand. Clyde remained on the mossy pier, digging his bare feet through the slimy green coating for firmer footing. He waited impatiently through the ruby sunset for full dark. The storm promised big ones to curl, dare and ride. Wind ripped at his pony-tail, lashing at his back and check.

Should he do this without backup? His partner had left him, refusing to even set foot in the rickety shack they rented each year, after they fought all the way from the city. Hell, Clyde didn’t even know how he was going to get back after the weekend. His high school buddy had left in a spray of sand and gravel.

An incoming wave rushed the aging pier, diving him back a step with its force. His wetsuit prevented him from felling the icy touch, but salt clung to his lips, wetting his appetite for adventure.

Soon, soon. The midnight ride through white crests and driving water would be his world. Centering him as nothing else did. Only in the blue, with water under and over him, when Neptune tried to bury him and he could laugh at the gods did he feel alive.

Unable to wait longer, he checked the tie on his ankle. He picked up the board and ran screaming off the end of the pier and started paddling into the failing light.

(words 238)

 

I really like the parallel I was able to pull. The screaming by the main character and the loss of a special friend. The timing of the second wave pushing him back. The mold/slime on the ancient pier and the existence of the shack to live in. The exercise was fun, and also showed I really need to work on adding more description to my writing. Flash needs most of it stripped, and my long-form writing has suffered because of my concentration on flash writing. I am really glad I attended the workshop.

(post initially published 6/5/2013; republished in new blog format on 7/2/2017)