Flash: A photo forever

Photo 120139056 | Chorizo © Bhofack2 | Dreamstime.com

Chorizo sizzles on the stove, while I pinch some thyme and marjoram for chopping. I move the egg bowl aside for the long reach to the windowsill jungle to break off just one more bit of thyme. My phone buzzes indicating an incoming text where I had it stuck on the wall charging. “Bestie!” I shout in joy. “Siri, activate voice to text.”

Morning going well?

“I’m making chorizo breakfast tacos. Want some?”

You know I do! Take a picture.

I tell the phone to take a shot of me as I hold up the sprig I just trimmed in one hand and my chopping knife in the other. A wave of dizziness hits me, and I hear the knife clatter when I grab ahold of the counter. “Ay, Dios.” Pork and spices drench the air while I wait for my vision to clear. I blink rapidly.  A ding, then another, then a third happen as the green bits on the wooden cutting board come back into focus.

When the black clears, I see that my phone had sent my distress cry as a voice to text message. Narcisa responded immediately with:

U ok

What happened?

Come on girl respond.

Another ding comes through, I’m calling.

The phone instantly shows a red and green circle. As it starts vibrating, I tell the phone to answer. “I’m okay, I’m okay.” I say before she even gets a word out. “Just a little dizzy.” I put the sprig on the cutting board and lean over to pick up the knife.

“Again?” Narcisa asks, worry boring through the distance between us. “Emilia, you need to see a doctor about that.”

I puff a breath when I stand straight. “No, it isn’t a problem.”

“Yes, it is girl. You haven’t biked in months, not since the last fall when you hurt your wrist.” My bestie’s voice firms. “You love biking. Whatever this is, is affecting the quality of your life. That is doctor’s time.”

“I’m fine. Really I am.” I laugh as I chop the last bit. The laugh is weak.

“I don’t believe you.”

I turn to toss the fresh herbs into the meat and give it a stir.

“Don’t ignore me.”

“I’m cooking.” I say, twisting around to where the phone hangs. “Give me a sec to make sure this doesn’t burn.”

“Only one.” A pause follows that is barely a pause. “Times up.”

“If you are so worried, why don’t you come on over?” I dare ask her.

We met online a couple of years ago and just clicked. Instant best friends forever soulmates. But we have never met in person, even though the social media tags shows she lives in the same city as me. Narcisa has serious body image issues; there isn’t a picture of her anywhere online, though her video feed is full of puppets used to talk about everything from politics to books she’s read to stories from her retail job. She has this amazing alto voice, and when her mermaid puppet sings, pure goosebumps. I’ve dueted a couple times, spinning my unimpressive soprano against her magic.

“You know, I just might.”

“REALLY!” I jump up and down, excited beyond measure.

“Ouch, no screaming girlie girl.”


“Forgiven.” I can hear the smile in her voice. “Yes, I think everything … I think I’m ready.”

“You are for real.” I whisper. I turn off the flame and set aside the wooden spoon. Crossing the small kitchen in a single step, I pick the phone up and repeat where she can hear me. “Are you for real?”

The silence makes its own statement.

“You don’t have to if you don’t want to.” I fill the air with words.

“No, no, I do want to.” Narcisa responds. “I just … what if you …”

“I will love you no matter what. Fifteen, fifty or five hundred.” I assure her. “You could look like a bulldog for all I care. You are my best friend.”

“Can you take one last picture? Before I come over. I need to know. You know, that you mean it. Just your eyes,” she says, “they have your soul and I want it.”

“No problem.” I say, pulling the camera in for a closeup of my black-brown eyes. After hitting send, I hit the floor with another round of dizzy. I can’t make a sound.

“Be over in five. Don’t go dying on me before then girlie girl.”

(words 743, first published 11/5/2023)

I want your photograph Series

  1. A photo for now (7/9/2023)
  2. A photo forever (11/5/2023)

Flash: A Photo For Now

Photo from Unsplash

“Hey girlie girl, shoot me a pic of where you are.”

“Sure thing bestie.” After the voice to text sends the text for my BBF who I have never met in real life, I lift my phone, click, and send. It’s a little harder than normal, what with riding a bike and all, but she asks for a pic at least once a week so I’ve had lots of practice taking photos at a moment’s notice. She never sends one back – has serious body image issues which we are working on together. I hope I find out what she looks like some day.

(words 103, first published 7/10/23)

I want your photograph Series

  1. A photo for now (7/9/2023)
  2. A photo forever (11/5/2023)

Flash: Attrition

84942186 © publicdomainstockphotos | Dreamstime.com

Crunching underfoot within a forest is expected from leaves and last year’s ferns; in the forest of bones, the crunching is from some poor soul’s vertebrae from the Wars of Attrition. Not a place to walk through barefoot.

Not a place to walk through in general. The dead don’t like to be disturbed. Mourning for eternity, the skeletal trees radiated a perpetual winter chill from their bare branches, never budding with hope, despite the summer green and ripening fields Malloryson left behind. He would have never entered these damned woods if this wasn’t, ironically, his last hope. A stick, two days hardtack wrapped in a handkerchief, good boots, and, maybe, a ten-minute lead on his pursuers was all he owned at this point.

That lead became infinite the minute he passed into Dead Man’s Forest, for none but fools would follow him here. Walking around the forest takes days; not a single farmer’s path carved through the bones, chill, and unsettled dead of the blighted battlefield. Pushing deeper, Malloryson slowed his rush, confident the investigators would leave the walking dead man to the dead.

Water would be an issue soon, he thought, his mouth dry from his run. Last night’s gentle rains left red-tinted puddles reflecting oily rainbows, sitting strangely in the hollows between white roots digging into the black earth, bubbling yellow ooze clung to the wet edges like puss.

He pushed onward, looking for shelter and water, pressing against the horror each of his footfalls brought from the muffled crunching in the silent woods.

Once wizards walked here, summoning creatures from beyond to fight the rebel slaves. Humans died in droves, but for the hundreds of deaths, one or two of the monstrous beasts would fall, making the wizards vulnerable just long enough the slaves could kill a magical despot.

And then the cycle of destruction and death would start again, and end again.

Again and again.

And again.

The humans surviving the Attrition Wars didn’t win, so much as they didn’t die.

Malloryson’s hope was, like his ancestors, he was very good at not dying, so far. Unlike the burgomaster’s son, who he had accidently on-purpose killed. That soft throat needed to be squeezed to stop the poisonous words bubbling forth. It had been easy to squeeze tighter.

Malloryson didn’t regret the results. Some people are worth dying for.

The crunching of bones softened the spongy, squishing noises in his memory. A bubble, a gasp, a rattled wheeze.

The last echoed against the leafless trees. Not a memory.

The crunch of bones played counterpoint to the scrape of claws from some forgotten creature of the Wars.

Sucking sounds gurgled out from the mud as nearby bones cracked together into a new form.

A grimace splintered the blood-speckled rigor mortis grin engraved on Malloryson’s visage. Really, he had hoped to survive one meal within this cursed place. Part of his mind squealed “run away”, while another part debated if becoming a meal counted as the one meal he had hoped for.

He was done running. Too tired after hours of being chased by the investigators. If he was about to die, he wouldn’t die panting.

Instead he stepped forward to face the bone abomination, dead but refusing to admit it. Just like him.

Approaching the creature weaponless, Malloryson reached out his killer’s hand still dewed with the last breath of a hatemonger. The grotesque froze, tilting the head sideways, confused, before unhinging its jaw, exposing three rows of infinite teeth like a goose.

A mud-red tongue twisted out and looped around Malloryson’s hand, stripping the blood offering. Chill raided warmth from his arm. The tongue jerked back to the jaws of uncountable teeth, and Malloryson stumbled closer. He stared in the non-eyes of the forgotten bones and thought: how magnificent death looked.

A fitting last thought. Malloryson expected never to wake again. The return of awareness wasn’t kind.

(first published 3/5/2023, 650 words – Created from a Workshop attended at Ret-Con 2023 run by Tally Johnson. He provided thirteen possible visual prompts, all ghost/horror related. I choose prompt six which showed a traveler entering a forest of skulls.)

Book Review: Mexican Gothic

Amazon Cover

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia



After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find—her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.   
Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.
Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness. 
And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.



All the classic tropes of the Gothic genre, all tied up into a piñata to be hit and spun with a Latino flavor until destroyed to reveal a treat-filled ending for those who love this type of horror. Set in the mid-1900s, the story centers on Noemi – a happy modern city-bred debutant – who must face an ancient house in the county to visit her newly wed cousin.

An unsettled quiet covers the community sunk beside the mountain-top manor, buildings and people left behind after the silver mines closed and finding themselves unable to relocate. Within the manor, Noemi discovers her cousin may be recovering from a fever illness, according to those that reside there, or her cousin may be been driven mad from the family secrets her groom had hid until marriage. And the longer Noemi stays, the more secrets she discovers about what happened to her cousin, the town, and the family. The question is how many secrets can Noemi discover before she knows too much to be allowed to leave.

Gothic glory-ness – Rich in the Mexican mountains and culture. Deep in the fame and faded fortunes of the failed sliver mines, Machismo culture of the mid-1900s strongly portrayed by the men and internalized by all the women in the book. And a house- oh, the house! Dark, dreadful.

I did find the beginning slow – but the final quarter of the book is worth the slow build. A typical pattern for gothic horror stories. The machismo grated on my nerves, but is appropriate to the time setting and culture.

I read this for my speculative fiction book club. They continue to push me into reads I didn’t know existed but expand my world. Call out to Maven of the Eventide and the rest of my group!

Writing Exercise: Tension Arrows

Photo by Susan Q Yin on Unsplash

After a read, I had the following feedback for an author:

Are you trying for thriller or horror vibe? I think the scare factor / tenseness needs to be ramped up a notch. This can be done by increasing the urgency (thriller leaning) or the uneasiness (horror). At the moment, the tenseness is steady throughout the book – might be helpful to work on building some up-and-down into the manuscript.

Tension needed to be ratcheted up within the story, but not all at once, and certainly not without some relief now and again. The roller-coaster ride needed to be put into play. In this particular case, a slow build was needed to start, but getting faster with time … taking a break now and again … then slam readers as they relax.

The tool I suggested to help visual this ride is place an arrow beside each build of tension, making sure to have at least one arrow per chapter. Adding more arrows as the manuscript progresses (3 or 4 per chapter by the end). Make a flat line or down arrow for each “break” from building tension.

WRITING EXERCISE: Write a tension-building scene. Add tension arrows once done.

My Attempt

The gun meant nothing. To him. To me. As it sat waiting between us.

Off to the side, the clock ticked, ticked, ticked. One of the old analog clocks of a bygone era, like the gun.

Peace. The world was at peace. Both of us could feel the calming emissions working their way through the layers of concrete between us and the city outside, but the scents blown up from the subway vents and billowing out of the skyscraper doorways had been replaced by mildew and dust in this time-forgotten subbasement.

We had left our cells at the entrance, before making our way down here. No tracking, no emissions.

Just us.

And a nothing gun.

He twitched. I moved faster.

The explosion pounded my chest, and I dropped the heavy metal object when the hot residual sprayed back.

(words 138, first published 11/22/2022)