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Friday, April 29, 2011

Submitted for the Approval of the Midnight Society, Harper Rose Blackwell calls this story...

Self Defense 101

He leaned against the cool brick building, shaded from the late summer sun by a dirty green awning. He took a long drag from his cigarette as he watched the students shuffle by. They talked excitedly, familiarizing themselves with the bustling city streets that would serve as their campus for the next four years. A college T-shirt, a baseball cap, and boyish good looks allowed him to blend in seamlessly among them: a figure that could disappear without a second thought. He glanced absently at his watch. “Nearly 7:00,” he mused. “Time for the seminar.”

A park bench across the street from a large group of students served as his base of operations. He pulled a rolled up newspaper from his back pocket and unfurled it as he sat down; his eyes faced its pages, but his attention remained elsewhere. The college freshmen were gathered around a police officer dressed in full regalia, a hulk of a man who towered over the expanding crowd. The officer addressed the students as they fidgeted with darting eyes, growing more suspicious and edgy by second:

You’ve made a good decision by coming to this self defense seminar. Especially for students on a city campus, it’s important to be aware of the dangers you face every day.

He smiled at the sound of the officer’s voice: his oblivious benefactor. Each fall, the officer held a crash-course in self defense for the incoming freshmen, and each year, it changed slightly to warn against the most up-to-date dangers that the city had to offer. For students, it provided a feeling of security and heightened awareness; for him, it provided a guidebook to choosing and isolating targets. By knowing what they would look for, he knew what not to do.

Now that you have an idea of what you’re up against, everyone line up behind me and we’ll walk through the simulation.

His favorite. A smile curled the ends of his mouth. The students huddled up and followed the officer’s lead through a veritable campus crime obstacle course while he followed behind silently. Every few feet, one of the officer’s concealed companions would perform some sort of criminal circus act: an attempted purse snatch, a jump from behind a wall, an aggressive verbal confrontation. After the action, the officer would demonstrate how to avoid injury and escape to safety. The girls shrieked with each simulation, then descended into fits of nervous giggles. He savored this part, imagining how different those shrieks would sound when stifled by his hand. Then he noticed her.

She lingered toward the end of the pack, sighing heavily every few moments. Her bright green eyes rolled with each planted attacker, emeralds of indifference. She stared off into space as the officer attempted to impart potentially life saving information to the group; she was infinitely more interested in throwing her honey-colored waves over her shoulder.

The most important part of self defense is mental preparation. Buying yourself time to think can be the difference between life and death.

She looked impatiently at her watch, then ahead toward the officer and her fellow students. She grinned and slowed her steps, allowing them to pull ahead. He froze. Could he be so lucky? Could his field research so easily translate into opportunity? He was the predator; she had fallen away from the herd. It was his duty to show her the error of her ways. She rounded the corner and pulled a set of headphones from her purse, laughing to herself at her rebellion. The officer’s voice still carried through the evening air:

Try to stick with a group if you can. There’s truth to the phrase ‘safety in numbers.’

He began the approach, plotting his course to account for the growing shadows that stretched across the streets. Adrenaline coursed through his veins as his steps quickened. He smirked; though his gait was light and agile, the music blaring through her headphones would have blocked out even the most thunderous of footsteps. He came within 20 feet. 15 feet. 10 feet. His heart raced as he pulled within arm’s reach. He could smell her perfume.

A hand slammed down on his shoulder, jolting him from his hunter’s trance. As he turned to face the threat, the grip tightened, sinking razors into his flesh. He was forced around sharply into a brick wall of a fist. All turned to black.

He awoke with a start and gasped, gagging on a piece of fabric that had been stuffed roughly into his mouth and secured with duct tape. His eyes betrayed him in the unnatural dark, giving him no clue as to his whereabouts. His head ached and his left side burned where he had been dragged through gravel and broken glass. The sounds of the campus were still audible, though faint; he hadn’t been taken far. Any attempts at escape were in vain. He felt the blood blossoming from his wrists as he struggled against his bonds, then slowly trickle down his arms as his movements became more frantic. A cutting laugh pierced the darkness. The last words he heard were a muffled warning from his benefactor wafting in with the other noises of the street outside:

Stay alert, guys. Remember: there are worse things out there than petty criminals.

He might have appreciated the irony of that moment had he not felt the cold metal plunge into the back of his neck.

- Harper Rose Blackwell

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Casting Call

As my current project “Indigo” is out to beta readers (and one of them is already finished with it!), I need something to occupy my brain as I wait for the criticisms to roll in. For the record, I’m much less neurotic this time around but I always get a little apprehensive when asking for feedback. Last time I got all itchy twitchy when people were giving me their opinions. When my eye starts to develop a nervous tick and a vein in my forehead starts throbbing, that leads to people slowly backing away from me with their hands raised to ward off my impending outburst.

So this time around, I thought it’d be fun to do a little casting assignment for characters from my books. Because obviously my books will be global sensations and obviously they will have to be made into movies with an unlimited budget and access to the uppermost echelon of Hollywood talent!

For those who have read “Crawl,” feel free to comment or add your own suggestions below. For those who have read “Indigo” (which is 2 at the current count, including me), well consider this a bit of a teaser.

Cast of “Crawl”

Crawl – Jodelle Ferland (as Crawl’s ‘ideal’ form)
Mother – Summer Glau
Brian McAfee – David Boreanaz
Grace Johnson – Amy Adams
Mark Carson – Joe Manganiello
Ellen Carson – Elizabeth Banks unless Joe's fiancĂ© Audra Marie can act the part
Aidan Carson – Logan Lerman
Mary-Kate Carson – Hailee Steinfeld
Fred “Scoop” Guile – Steve Buscemi
Mr. Fairweather – Richard Dreyfuss

Cast of “Indigo”

Agent Umber – Nathan Fillion
Agent Cerise – Bryce Dallas Howard
Agent Saffron – Joseph Gordon-Levitt or Topher Grace
Agent Evergreen – Alison Brie <3
Agent Slate – Keanu Reeves (because why not? Let him play a bad guy for once)
Agent Ivory – Lance Reddick
Roman – Kodi Smit-McPhee
Iris – Willow Shields
Cherry – Liliana Mumy
Radar – Jaden Smith
Charlie – Morgan Freeman

And of course, everyone who reads the books will be cast as extras. That goes without saying :)


PS: In the time it took me to write this, a second person (who just so happens to be my #1 fan) finished "Indigo." 2 down, billions to go!

Friday, April 22, 2011

For Submission to the Midnight Society, I call this tale...

Cthable Guy

Jenny is surrounded by boxes, standing in the living room of her dream house. It has been only a matter of weeks since she received a letter notifying her of the passing of an estranged relative. In that letter, the eccentric and reclusive Aunt Kaye bequeathed Jenny her 19th century Victorian home that looks down on Providence, Rhode Island from its place on a hilltop, along with a substantial inheritance. Within days, Jenny had packed up her tiny apartment, quit her dead-end job and moved across the country to her own personal mansion.

Jenny was never that close to Aunt Kaye, but her childhood memories still held some vague impressions of this place. Beautiful summers and terrible winter storms, old fashioned gas lamps and water basins filled from a pump in the basement. Luckily the old place had been retrofitted with new electrical work, plumbing and central heating and cooling. All it needed now was a touch of 21st century technology.

Jenny sits on a plastic-draped couch and pulls a business card out of her pocket. It had been given to her by the realtor as part of a “Welcome home” care package, along with brochures for nearby attractions, a map of Providence and a travel size toiletry kit. The card reads “HPL Cable and Internet Service.” Oddly, the phone number only has six numbers listed after the area code. Jenny dials just for the hell of it and is surprised to reach an operator.

After a very pleasant conversation, an installation tech is sent to Jenny’s house and is expected to arrive within the hour. Pleased with their customer service so far, Jenny sets about unpacking the TV and setting it up. By the time she has the stand built, mounts the flat screen and connects all the peripherals, the tell-tale chimes of the front door ring.

“HPL, ma’am, how are you today?” asks the technician. He is surprisingly well dressed in a button-down shirt, slacks and even a smart little bow-tie. He even has slip-covers over his loafers. Jenny had been expecting muddy boots, a beer gut and plumber’s crack. She gestures for the man to come inside and he does, carrying a tidy installation kit with him. He lays it out expertly next to the television. Jenny watches as the man removes odd looking equipment from the kit. While she’d seen cable boxes, modems and wireless routers before, this looked nothing like them.

“I know it looks a bit strange,” the tech says, following her confused expression, “but it’s a proprietary piece of equipment we like to use. Our company’s President is a little on the eccentric side.”

The technician removes an oblong box of brass and polished wood. There are little windows of ochre-colored glass set into it at odd intervals. The technician places the box on the TV stand and extends a v-shaped antenna from the back of it. After flipping a few switches and turning a few dials, a line of electricity arcs between the antennae.

“That should do it, ma’am. If you have any questions, you can call us 24/7 at this number,” the tech says, handing her another HPL business card. He packs up his installation kit and stands up to leave. He hands her a remote that is styled in brass and wood, similar to the arcing box on her TV stand. “Just press ‘0’ and a tutorial will explain how to work everything. Good day, ma’am.” The technician makes his way out the door.

“Wait, don’t you have to connect something here?” Jenny asks, but the tech is already gone. She turns back to the TV and it turns on of its own accord; a daytime soap starts playing. Jenny looks over the strange box that’s still crackling with electricity. There are no electrical wires coming out of it, no ports for a cable going into it. By rights, nothing should be working at all.

Jenny presses the ‘0’ button and the TV screen rolls black. A countdown appears like in an old fashioned film reel. She takes a seat on the couch as the sepia toned filmstrip starts up. A man in a 1920s style suit is standing in what looks to be a lab. Goggled scientists work diligently in the background, pulling on levers and cranking gears with rubber-gloved fingers.

“Hello there. We here at HPL are constantly working to improve upon our technology and provide top-notch service for our customers. Now, sit back, relax and let us show you the wonders of HPL.”

Jenny does as the baritone voice on the TV suggests. The heat of the room and exhaustion from the move seems to get to her. In a second, she passes out on the couch.

She wakes with a start; the room is dark and the TV shows nothing but static. There is a misty fog lying low along the floor and it brings with it a creeping chill. Jenny walks over to close the windows, thinking this is a typical occurrence on New England nights. She finds them inexplicably shut. Thinking that perhaps the technician left the door ajar, Jenny crosses the floor to find that it’s closed as well.

Turning around, Jenny finds that the fog is flowing down the staircase from some source on the floor above. But something she sees at the top of the stairs freezes her steps. Two beady eyes glow in the dusky light. Soon, the eyes are joined by many other pairs, all jostling and scrabbling over each other. There comes a scratching sound wafting down with the fog.

The gas lanterns that line the wall along the staircase flare to life spontaneously. Though the dim light is enough to pierce the fog, it also shows Jenny the source of the scratching noise. Dozens of oily black rats are gathered at the crest of the stairs, clambering over each other in a writhing pile. Something keeps their hungry eyes at bay and for that Jenny should be thankful.

She turns back to the front door and goes to make her escape, planning on waiting until the morning to call an exterminator. As she opens the door, she finds the way blocked by a fearsome creature. All angular limbs and lean muscles, it waits, hunched in the doorway. Before Jenny can slam the door closed upon the devil, it shoots a barbed tongue at her, narrowly missing her face. She closes the creature’s tongue in the door to Hellish sounds of pain and rage.

Turning away from the door once more, Jenny finds that the rats have descended the stairs and now occupy every square inch of the floor and furniture. Some are chewing their way out of the walls, others burrow out from the couch cushions. The fog continues to thicken, obscuring most of the vermin for better or worse.

Jenny makes her way to the couch where her purse lies and, inside it, her last chance for help. She feels the snap of backs and the bite of tiny teeth as she steps on countless rats. When she reaches her purse, she notices the TV no longer shows static. The black screen seems to be bulging and flexing, as if some monstrous thing was attempting to break free from inside.

Jenny pulls the phone out of her purse and frantically searches for the business card left by the HPL tech. She punches the numbers in and hears the blissful ringing tones on the other end. The rats continue to bite and scratch at her legs. The bulging TV screen begins to crack, threatening to shatter.

“Thank you for calling HPL. Para espanol, marca dos. For trouble with your service, press 1.”

Jenny presses the number 1 so hard she nearly breaks her phone. Behind her, pieces of LCD-laden glass fall onto the floor. The bulge presses further out into the room. The rats stir into a frenzy.

“Thank you. For trouble with your cable television, press 1. For trouble with your internet, press 2. For all other issues, press 3.”

Jenny presses 3 to the sound of squealing mice and shattering glass. A bundle of coaxial cable bursts through the television screen and whips around the room like a massive tentacle. Jenny makes a run for the stairs, rats be damned.

“Thank you. All operators are busy assisting other customers at the moment. Please stay on the line and we will assist you as soon as possible.”

An old time jazz tune plays through the phone as Jenny scrambles up the steps. A second tentacle of cable wraps around her ankles and hauls her into the air. On the floor below her, rats leap up out of the fog, trying to sink their razor sharp teeth into her flesh. The cabled tentacles begin to retract, dragging her back across the room and into the television itself. As Jenny’s body disappears within the flat screen, she grabs hold of the edges of the TV in a last ditch effort to save herself. The cellphone falls from her hand as she is pulled into the abyss.

“Please stay on the line. Your call is important to us.”


In the light of day, a well-dressed man enters the house upon the hill in Providence, Rhode Island. Other than the millions of tiny scratch marks all over the floor, not a thing is out of place. He sets down his briefcase and pops it open. The man picks up the brass and wood box, which is slightly heavier than it used to be, and places it back in the case. He snaps the lid shut and leaves, locking the door behind him. He makes sure to leave a business card behind for the realtor's next client, as per their ongoing arrangement.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


One of the coolest things about writing a book is being able to see your creation fully realized in the palm of your hands. Before the days of print-on-demand technology, this was probably more of a rare achievement, but no less exciting. Now, thanks to, I can order proofs of my books before I make them available to my adoring fans.

And good thing I did too! Because even though I like this particular cover:

hoo boy did I find a bunch of errors that would scream 'amateur' were this to be available for purchase. Mostly formatting stuff, little things here and there that I have to change for clarification or flow. But the good news is that, not only did I crush half the book in one night (I love this story, if you can't tell yet), I also have four additional copies going out to my dedicated beta-readers. I can only hope they're as excited as I am, before AND after reading it!

In other news, remember to check back on the blog tomorrow morning for this week's installment of the Midnight Society. It's a Lovecraft inspired shorty by yours truly!

Oh and you can save 20% on a purchase of "Crawl" between now and April 26th by entering the code HOP at! Just click that brightly colored button over there ^>^>^> or clickity click here!

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Midnight Society presents...

Submitted for the approval of the Midnight Society, J. Rodimus Fowler calls this story...

Axes to Axes, Dust to Dust

My name is Richard Hutchins and I used to be a fireman. Used to be, is the correct wording because now when there is a fire we just watch from our boarded up windows. The monsters stand around laughing and snorting, watching the fires burn, grabbing any unlucky soul that they could catch and roasting them on the fire.

These things were huge, some of them ten feet tall and they had enormous feet and hands. Their mouths were not small either, big enough to eat a man whole and pick their teeth with his bones. Our leg bones were just right for that. They resembled large gorillas with the heads of wide-mouthed frogs with two sharp fangs protruding up from their lower mandibles. Their skin was reptile like and scaly with a dull grey color. They also had webbed feet with a particular grizzly looking set of claws on the end.

No one knows where they came from. They just came walking up one day. We only know that they won’t leave. We have to stay indoors almost all of the time now, which makes it hard to even get bread and milk these days, let alone some good whiskey.

Just yesterday, Tim Hobolder was on the way to get some groceries when he was scooped up by one of the monsters in a most painful way. The monster pulled Tim’s hands behind his back so hard that it dislocated one of his shoulders, and then it drug him around the corner behind the Post Office. After a few minutes of silence we heard screaming, violent uncontrollable screaming then we heard silence again. Only the monster came back from behind the store. The bastard was laughing whole heartedly.

I had been watching from my windows and so had Tony Leone. He was my neighbor and part of Squad 13. Tony and I lived beside each other and Von lived across town, we could see his roof from our houses. That was Squad 13 the Honeycutt, Georgia volunteer Fire Department.

Jerry (The Axe) Mahoney was our squad leader and I wished he was here. He had gone on vacation two weeks ago and was supposed to be back last Tuesday. The monsters had shown up in his stead. He was clear headed during complete chaos, and this was an exacting chaos. He was the best axe man I had ever seen. I am no slouch with an axe and neither are my guys but we were one man short. Since the day the monsters had arrived there had been no sign of Jerry.

Von was very sneaky and tried shooting them at first. Their skin would just absorb the bullets with no harm. Some of the other town’s people tried Molotov cocktails, but the monsters were resilient. It just made them go on a rampage, violently striking out against the nearest person. All of the townspeople learned to stay locked up in their homes unless necessity took over. The monsters slept outside in the middle of town so they could catch anyone that they saw trying to leave. Those that tried got it the worst. They were toasted, ate and bone-picked. We learned fast ‘out of sight, out of mind.’

The monsters quickly learned who ran the shops, and replaced the necessary dead. They knew to keep the vital shops open so their food source, us, would stay ripe for the picking. Our friend Gregory was forced to take over the grocery store.

Last night Tony and I went on a supply run to see Gregory. We carried our axes with us just in case. We left under the cloak of night. We made our way, hiding from time to time but we made it to the back door. There was a ladder that led up to the roof and there was a hatch that led down into the store. We made it inside with no problem until we saw the look on Gregory’s face.

One of the monsters was standing right beside us. I noticed it was missing its left hand. It leapt out quickly, but not quick enough. I hit it square in the mouth with my axe, sinking it so deep into its skull that it got stuck. Tony followed my action and chopped off the monsters right hand. I put my boot on the monsters forehead and had to jerk with all my might just to get my axe free. Then we cut off all the monsters limbs, even his frog shaped head.

It worked, tearing them to pieces, actually killed them. These bastards were mortal after all. “Axes to axes, dust to dust” Tony said. We just looked at each other and smiled.

This morning when the monsters found the pieces of their dismembered friend they immediately went on a rampage. Gregory was the first to get caught. He was screaming as one of the monsters slammed him to the ground hard enough to kill him.

They grabbed everyone they saw, even breaking down doors and snatching people from their homes. They piled up the bodies in the middle of the road in the center of town. Tony came straight to my house and we called Von up on the county issued walkie-talkies and told him the plan. Since Jerry was gone, that made me the next in command. It was time to fight or die trying.

We suited up in our protective firemen’s gear, boots, coats and helmets. We walked right out my front door towards the center of town. I walked with my axe slung over my shoulder. Tony held his with both hands, ready to strike.

The first monster to see us came running our way. As soon as he was in reach, Tony swung his axe like the mighty Babe Ruth. He made contact, splitting the monsters mouth even wider with his deadly face shot. I followed that blow up by taking each of the monsters hands and feet.

In half the blink of an eye another monster was on top of us. It slapped Tony across the back with its large hands, knocking him to the ground. I slammed my axe down into the monsters foot, cutting right through it.

Then from out of nowhere Von was on the creature, like ink on paper. He had a machete in each hand and struck the monster on each side of the neck in a “V” shaped pattern, sending its head rolling along the asphalt right up to Tony. Tony got up and kicked the head down the street catching the attention of two more monsters.

They stood their ground and we stood ours, no one making the first move. Then we heard the sound of steel being drug against asphalt. The sound even caught the monsters by surprise. They just stared past us. We turned our backs to the monsters and saw the silhouette of a man dragging an axe behind him along the road.

It was Jerry (The Axe) Mahoney, in full fireman’s gear. His yellow coat was now crimson and his face was covered in blood. He said, “All right, let’s get these frog-looking S.O.B.’s…Squad 13 Honeycutt, Georgia.” “Its axe time, boys!”

Then we took his lead, gripped our axes tight and started walking towards the monsters. The monsters actually looked scared, scared of a group of volunteer fire fighters with no fires to fight, but a fight we would bring!

For the next hour or so, the middle of towns square sounded like steel cutting flesh, and flesh hitting stone. All of the people left their hiding spots and came outside to watch. As soon as we, the Squad, had killed the last of the monsters left roaming around we stopped to catch our breath. Jerry, Tony, Von and I raised our axes and touched them in the air, just like a high five for blades.

All of the town’s people that were left gathered around to thank us. Jerry spoke up and said, “Who wants to take Gregory’s place? We need a new grocery store attendant.” I looked over at Jerry and said, “Is it time my friend?” He simply nodded.

The rest of the Squad and I reached up and pulled our fake faces off revealing our true selves. Our dog-like faces scared the shit out of the townspeople, but at least we weren’t as scary as the monsters that we had just taken care of. Who would have guessed that the Volunteer Fire Department Squad 13 Honeycutt, Georgia were a bunch of dog-faced freaks? Dogs mark their territory, and we had marked ours. The monsters should have known that but in the end, they were kind of stupid.
-J. Rodimus Fowler

Thursday, April 14, 2011


As indicated by that snazzy orange button over >>> there somewhere, my debut horror novel "Crawl" is still available for purchase. The printers tell me that each run of copies is being done at midnight under a full moon to enhance the creepiness. I've asked them to use sacrificial virgin blood in place of ink, but they say the costs would be prohibitive. Let's face it, I'm trying to keep costs low for you guys, so I guess I'll have to wait for the special "Virgin Blood" edition. Anyway...

In other news! I've been busy editing my sci-fi novel, "Indigo," for a few months now. As we speak, the beta-reader copies are on their way. I'm pretty excited and I really dig this story. It's a futuristic detective story about a team of agents who are tracking down a group of kidnapped children rumored to possess psychic powers. I could talk about it all day but I'll sum it up as "Bogart meets Blade Runner." (And a little bit of Logan's Run, but I do love my alliteration.)

So, if one project is up for sale and another is in transit, what does one do in the meantime? One moves on to the next book in the stack! Since my editing cortex is burnt out, I'm moving back into creation mode. There's a nifty little story I've been wanting to sketch out for a while. It's got robots and bandits and walled cities and quests through the badlands and keys, so many keys!

I don't know if it's been branded or not, but in the vein of steampunk, clockpunk, etc I would have to call this "keypunk." More info on that as it progresses.

Last, but not least, I'll be posting the second submission for the Midnight Society short stories tomorrow. It's a monstrous little tale by J. Rodimus Fowler that's sure to entertain you, so stop by tomorrow morning!


Friday, April 8, 2011

Zombunny: An Easter Tale

Came across this little fella at the Zombie Research Society's blog and decided he needed a story. The image was found at Deviant Art, courtesy of the fabulous Ruben Martinez.

Now, for the first submission to "The Midnight Society," I call this story...

Zombunny: An Easter Tale

On a misty gray Sunday morning, a young rabbit lost his life beneath the tires of a wayward automobile. An unfortunate occurrence, though not an uncommon way to go as far as woodland creatures are concerned. However, this particular bunny was anything but common. For one thing, at the moment he was struck, the poor creature happened to be carrying a basket full of painted eggs and sugary treats. For another, after his carcass had sat rotting in the sun for three days, he woke up, peeled himself off the asphalt and hopped to safety.

Unable to recall anything after the moment of impact, the bunny was surprised to find himself rather flat across the midsection. Apart from the treadmarks imprinted into the fur on his belly and a slight imbalance in his hopping due to a pinched spine, he seemed no worse for wear. Sure, his vision was a little skewed due to his right eye having been forced out of its socket, left to dangle by a short nerve, and yes, there was a bit of blood leaking from his ears and mouth. But his nose could still twitch and his tail was still cottony soft and his feet still carried him forward in proper, if ungainly, leaps and bounds. The bunny could still get his job done.

Bending down, which was much easier now that his crushed spine gave little resistance to gravity, he began gathering the treats that had spilled out of his basket. The patched grass had managed to hold onto the foil wrapped chocolates and rainbow-colored jellybeans. The eggs, however, did not fare as well. The meticulously decorated shells were shattered all over the roadside, their hardboiled insides reeking of sulfur in the sun. Undeterred, the bunny raised his eyes to the horizon and found a farmhouse waiting for him just across a field, the last delivery on his list.

As the afternoon sun beat down upon him, the bunny began to notice his growing hunger. He stopped on the edge of the wheat field to nibble at a stand of clover. Normally one of his favorites, the bunny spit the chewed up wads of flowers and stems back onto the ground. Gone was the sweet freshness of the clover. He tasted only dry, bitter earth. Unsure of what had happened to make his tastes change so suddenly, the bunny continued his journey into the wheat field.

A frantic buzzing began to grow around the bunny. Swarming flies started taking little bites of his ears, causing them to twitch with irritation. This struck the bunny as odd because not only was he immaculately clean when venturing out on deliveries, but he was normally invisible to the pests and predators of nature. Perhaps his magic was wearing off?

His suspicions were confirmed as a pair of crows began circling above him. Now about halfway across the field, the bunny began to panic. Surely he could complete his delivery and get back to his magical burrow in time to rest until the next season. He hopped a little faster, which sent his loose eye bobbing and made it harder for him to stay upright. The crows swooped down upon him, taking little chunks of bunny fur and hide with them as they descended again and again. His ears soon became tattered and droopy. His back bore gaping wounds and his dangling eye was tugged even further out of his skull. Mustering his strength, the bunny aimed two proper swings of his basket, connecting with the crows and convincing them they’d had enough.

The edge of the field gave way to a green grass lawn. Though now on the brink of starvation, the juicy blades only served to repulse him. Instead of feeding, he moved on with his quest. Just before the house, there resided a small chicken coop. The bunny made his way up the little wooden ramp to replenish his basket of treats. The assault on the crows had dislodged more of his goodies, but he felt there were still enough for this last house. All he really needed were some eggs.

As soon as he entered the henhouse, the chickens began clucking up an awful racket. Feathers flew around him as he groped for eggs, dumping a few pawfuls into his basket. He set the basket on the floor and raised his paws over them, as is the custom with magical shell decoration. Rather than the intricate displays of white and yellow daisies against green grass and blue skies that normally appeared, the eggs swelled a bit in size and developed black and brown mottled splotches. With no time to waste and the chickens not quieting down, the bunny decided to make his way to the house as quickly as possible.

No sooner had he flopped out of the henhouse than a fox had grabbed his foot and began shaking him violently. It was all the bunny could do to keep his top half from snapping off while holding onto his recently procured eggs. Blood from his leaking ears and injured foot sprayed onto the basket during the struggle. As the fox began dragging him off to its den, the bunny sacrificed one of the eggs and smashed it against the beast’s snout. A powerful stench of sulfur and rot filled the air. The fox left the bunny alone and ran off to try and rid himself of the stink. The bunny, for some reason, found the aroma rather pleasant. Now, with one less egg and one very unlucky rabbit’s foot, the bunny made his way into the last house on his list.

There was no one in sight, a fact that the bunny was thankful for. If the animals could all see him, there was a possibility that the humans could too. That would never do. He dragged himself into the family room where a days-old plate of carrots was left out for him. The smell made his nose twitch in an unpleasant manner and he wondered where he could get something good to eat, something juicier.

He was busy arranging his basket of rotted, blood-spattered eggs in his disheveled basket when a shriek startled him from behind.

“Bunny!” a little girl cried out. Though the girl could see him, she obviously didn’t take in the poor state of him: a dangling eye, crow-shredded ears, a bleeding back and mouth, a smashed-in midsection and one foot that dragged behind him at an awkward angle. The bunny was breathing heavily, hoping to finish his delivery and wander off to die in his warren just for the sake of rest.

But the little girl would have none of it. She ran to him and scooped his dingy body up into her arms. Though she wrinkled her nose at the stench of death and decay coming off of him, she would not loosen her grip.

“Sweetheart, what’s that you’ve got there?” a woman’s voice rang out. The little girl held the poor creature out to show her mother.

“Bunny!” she shrieked again. The mother let out a shriek of her own and called for her husband. The little girl hugged the bunny tight to her once more.

“What’s the matter?” came a man’s voice. He stopped short in the family room. Before anyone could answer him, the sound of something cracking distracted them. He knelt down by the basket to see the rotten, bloody eggs wiggling back and forth. A small hole appeared in the shells, first one, then the rest. The husband picked up one of the eggs and its shell cracked in half. A bloody lump of wings and feathers fell out of the shell and into the palm of his hand. The blind-eyed creature peeped once and all the other eggs hatched upon its command. The limp army of undead chicks swarmed over the edge of the basket and began pecking at the man’s hand, growing stronger with every drop of blood they consumed.

The man began to shake the creatures off his hand, but they kept attacking him, nibbling larger and larger chunks of his flesh and blood down into their gullets. As the man’s wife hurried over to help him, they both forgot about their daughter and the very hungry bunny she was holding.

“You’re going to be my bunny forever!” she cried out, squeezing the bunny against her shoulder until he could barely breathe. Out of exhaustion, irritation and most of all hunger, the bunny reacted by jamming his very sharp teeth into the little girl’s skull. As she screamed and tried to dislodge the feral creature, the bunny felt his strength returning. There was something about the soft, juicy flesh at the end of his teeth, something rejuvenating. The invigorating flavor fired his senses and drove him into a frenzy. He began to work his teeth in deeper, to crack the little girl’s skull open like a hard-boiled egg.

The husband and wife continued to scream as the undead chicks pecked at them relentlessly. The bunny could think only of satisfying his own hunger. Before long, all the chaos around him was lost in the sweet, gray goodness of a little girl’s brains.

From now on, the kids could keep their goddamned carrots.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Midnight Society

"Submitted for the approval of the Midnight Society, I call this story..."

If this familiar phrase rings a bell, you've probably seen at least a few episodes of "Are You Afraid of the Dark?" I feel that current TV programming is woefully absent of shows like AYAotD and other serial classics like HBO's "Tales From the Crypt" and "The Twilight Zone." While I'm in no position to start swapping out reality TV for scary story serials, I DO have a blog and I CAN use the internets!

So, starting tomorrow, I hope to feature a short story by a collection of fantastic writers from across the globe. And, no, it's not just me and my various personalities. Who said that? Wasn't me! Settle down, all of you! Where was I...Oh!

Tomorrow, I'll post a short story that is meant both to entertain you and gross you out a bit. Perhaps next week's submission will be aimed more at chilling each vertebrae in your spine or possibly to cause you to faint upon reading. Who knows?! All I can promise is a diverse group of scare-seekers and thrill-writers. Won't you join us?

Check back tomorrow for the first submission, penned by Yours Truly. Here's a hint: if you hate zombies and things that poke fun at Easter, stay far, far away.


Monday, April 4, 2011

What Writers Do

In all the chaos of trying to become an author (marketing, platform building, editing, re-editing, crying and binge-drinking), I sometimes forget to do the most important thing: write. So last night I did what I haven't let myself do for a long time. I got an idea and I just wrote it out. It's a sci-fi tale with a horror twist or a horror tale with sci-fi elements, whatever sounds better to you.

So I present to you, in all its short story glory...


I’m too late for happy hour and too early for the twenty-something crowd. It’s that perfect time of night when the dinner dates are leaving to catch their 9 o’clock movie and the bartenders are bracing the gates for the 10 o’clock rush. It’s that brief twilight time when a body can stop to enjoy a drink and maybe actually have a conversation with someone at a reasonable volume. If my night goes well, maybe I can take that conversation elsewhere.

“Evenin’ Mickey, the usual,” I say to the bartender. He stops pretending to clean a glass stein and throws a dishrag over his shoulder. He’s built in that typical “used to be a bouncer and could probably still do the job” kind of way. His bald head shines more than the polished glass under the bar lights. Another hour or so and the lights will come way down low. He sets a rocks glass full of tar colored liquid in front of me. I push a 20-mark his way. He pushes it back with two meaty fingers.

“On the house. You’re the only one who drinks that engine grease anyway.”

Mickey laughs and goes back to cleaning. I nurse the drink. The stuff could actually be engine grease for the taste of it. But it’s got everything a body needs so I sip it like bitter medicine.

I survey the bar. The people here are in states of transition; all coming or going, few staying like me. The only person saddled up to the bar with me looks like she’s lost. The blonde curls spilling out from under her white hat look to be as tightly wound as she is. Her small hands keep pulling at the hem of her skirt, trying to stretch too little fabric over too much leg. Her knees are pressed so tightly together that the skin reddens at the point of contact. Her big blue eyes keep darting toward the door, waiting.

“He stand you up?” I call out. It’s quiet enough at the moment that I don’t have to move closer or shout too loud. I keep my seat and nurse my drink. This one’s too young for me anyway.

“Excuse me?” she answers. She seems shocked to realize someone else is with her at the bar.

“Your boyfriend, the one you keep waiting for, he stand you up?” I ask again. Her cheeks flush and she shakes her head, sending those little blonde curls bouncing.

“No, he’s on his way,” she says. Then, letting frustration get the better of her, she continues. “He’s always late. It’s his work, he gets distracted sometimes.”

“Oh yeah?” I ask, moving a stool or two closer. “What’s he do that’s so important to make him forget a pretty little thing like you?” Her cheeks redden further still.

“He’s a transplant surgeon,” she says. I can’t help but laugh.

“Well, you got me there. I guess I can’t fault the guy too much. Besides, without him I’d be out of business.”

“Are you a doctor or…a pharmacist, or something?” she asks. A hint of fear creeps into her voice and I can’t really blame her. I made it sound like I’m some sort of serial killer.

“Something like that. I’m a Winder,” I admit. A flicker of recognition dawns on her face but I can tell the whole bulb isn’t lit up. “Are you familiar with that term?”

“Sort of. Dr. Markus talks about them sometimes. Doesn’t it have to do with artificial organs?” she asks.

“Your boyfriend makes you call him Dr.?” I ask with a laugh. Her face flushes again and she laughs too. Having sufficiently broken the ice and finished fully half of my drink, I proceed to enlighten her.

“The work we do as Winders is a far sight better than just ‘artificial’ organs. The old hearts had plastic valves and man-made pumps. The livers had gradient netting that would foul up and need cleaning. Replacement limbs and skin grafts lacked the subtlety of a natural prosthetic.”

I’m sloshing my drink as I talk now but I could give this speech after downing a whole bottle of Engine Grease. My work is my life and I’m damn good at it.

“Valves wear out, netting can only self-clean for so long and prosthetics have no healing mechanisms. That’s where Winders come in. We unspool a copy of your DNA, run it through protein manufacturing machinery with all the necessary ingredients to build a replacement part, and then zip up the DNA again for cold storage. In a few short hours we can have any part you can think of shipped and ready to arrive right as the good doctor is ready to cut you open.”

I’m feeling a heightened sense of pride and it’s making me a bit warm in the face. I notice my glass is empty and I signal to Mickey for another one. Goldilocks seems unimpressed.

“Do you understand what I do now? I make organs, ready to order, ready for your boyfriend to use to save a life and charge a fortune for his services.”

A pair of long-legged thirty-somethings walk in and grab a table against the wall. At the sound of the word “fortune” their ears perk up. It’s the perfect time of night in the bar.

“I don’t know,” Goldilocks is musing, “Dr. Markus says that the Winder organs aren’t reliable, that there are too many glitches in the process.”

I wave away her comments like bothersome fruit flies. This glass of Engine Grease is already going down easier.

“That was in the early days. Sure, there were a few errors. A few patients developed cancer of the organs just after transplantation. Some technicians tried selling faulty test samples on the black market and got caught. Hell, the Winders in the early days were in more danger than the patients!”

“How is that possible?” she asks. I can’t help but sigh at this question as I hadn’t planned on getting into my personal history. The old phrase about the can of worms comes to mind.

“Before certain safety regulations were put in place, Winders used to be susceptible to the Splice. It would happen rarely and without pattern. When a Splice occurred, a piece of the Winder’s organic material would get consumed to generate the replacement organ. I was one such lucky individual who had a chunk of my spleen taken from me to build up a donor liver. The unwinding of one’s own organs is a novel experience that I don’t desire to repeat. And my ordeal has left me at the mercy this invigorating health tonic you see before you.”

I raise my glass, drain it and set it upside down on the bar top. Mickey fills me a double. I’m ready for Goldilocks to ask me why I didn’t just Wind myself up a new spleen, ready to explain the difficulties in replicating that particular organ just right. The door opens and a statuesque man strolls in. My story is forgotten for the moment.

“Dr. Markus, I presume,” I mutter between swigs of Engine Grease. The man studies me as if I were a pathogenic blight.

“Who’s your friend?” he asks Goldilocks. She stands up next to him and lets her curls bounce. The doctor looks old enough to be her father.

“Oh, he’s a Winder. He was just telling me about his job. I’m sorry, I didn’t get your name.”

“A Winder?” interrupts the good Doctor. He shoots one last glare at me before grabbing Goldilocks by the arm and marching her out of the bar. It’s clear he’s berating her as they storm off but I don’t catch a word of what he’s saying. I go back to my double.

“Never met a Winder before,” a voice says to my right. There’s a black-haired pixie seated at the end of the bar. Her feet barely reach the rung of the bar stool and the Cosmo in her hand looks too heavy for her to lift. Somehow she manages to shuffle both her drink and herself over next to me.

“Not what I pictured,” she says. “No labcoat, no glasses, no rubber gloves.”

“I make it a habit to bring a change of clothes when I go out after work,” I say with a smile. “The radiation suit really isn’t the best ice breaker.”

“No, I suppose it wouldn’t be,” says Pixie. She takes a drink of her Cosmo and lets me make the next move.

“And as for glasses, don’t need em. One of the perks of being a Winder. If anything starts to go south, we just opt in for an upgrade. 65% off. I’d offer you my discount but you don’t look a day over 18.”

That gets a smile out of her.

“I’m old enough to know not to fall for that trap,” she says with a wink. “Say, you wouldn’t happen to work over at Spool 13 would you?”

I knew this would come up; it usually does. Some sickos over at Spool 13 got it in their twisted heads that it might be a good idea to Wind up some spare lady parts that they could sell to socially maladjusted male shut-ins. All well and good until the spare parts started going rotten on them and their customers started raising a stink, so to speak. Well then the Winders got an even sicker notion that if they could Wind up a whole body, that might be worth a mint. A Synth, an engineered body with minimal functions and zero willpower, was still taboo in most places.

“Nope, been working at Spool 1 since the day it opened. And Spool 13’s been shut down. Hasn’t been operational for years,” I remind Pixie. I take a quick drink and hope I didn’t come across as too defensive.

“Well even if Spool 13 did shut down, there are still Synths walking around out there, so someone’s got to be making them,” she says. I don’t know how to convince her I’m not some kind of sex pervert so I change the subject.

“We’ve got a new product line we’re offering soon that you might find interesting,” I tease. I really shouldn’t be talking about this to anyone since it hasn’t passed inspection yet. But what can I say, I’m four drinks in and Pixie is the best looking woman in the place. “It’s all about animals.”

Okay maybe that wasn’t the best transition to get her to believe I’m not a pervert.

“You mean, like veterinary? For pets?” she asks.

Thank God she went in that direction.

“Synthetic organs for pets, sure. But also livestock. Imagine generating a line of perfect cuts of meat without raising and sacrificing an entire animal. And zoo animals, too! Think about what we can do for endangered species!”

Pixie seems excited about the news, though I make her promise to keep it a secret. She might be some sort of reporter or activist but I’m hoping she’s just an animal lover. Either way, she keeps getting closer to me and the liquor keeps flowing. It feels like Mickey’s taking the sting out of her drinks and pouring it into mine. Maybe it’s just her youth and my age or some combination of the two. Before long we reach that magical time of the night where our conversation pours out onto the street.

“I should call a cab. I can’t even remember where I parked,” I admit. Pixie supports my weight across her tiny shoulders.

“It’s no problem,” she whispers into my ear. “I have a place right up the street. You can stay with me tonight. Unless someone is expecting you?”

I think about my empty, one bedroom apartment and the calendar tacked onto the bare refrigerator, its dates devoid of any ink.

“I’m all yours, Pixie,” I say, not really sure what her real name is. She laughs and we start walking toward her place.

“I’m glad I have you here to protect me,” she says. “You’ve heard the rumors, I’m sure. About the Unwindings?”

Even if I hadn’t been asked that question a dozen times every night at the bar, the constant bulletins at work would have been reminder enough.

“Yeah I’ve heard em. I wouldn’t put too much stock in it though. There’s no way someone would be able to sneak around doing actual Unwindings without people catching on. The Spools are huge buildings with massive machinery necessary for the generation of even the smallest organ. No way someone could mobilize that.”

“Still,” Pixie continues as we shuffle on down the road, “let’s say someone could. Why would anyone want to go around doing that to people?”

“That’s the real question I guess. Killing’s been around as long as people have. Unwinding would be a good way to get rid of a body you didn’t want being found,” I say.

“Sounds like you’ve put some thought into this,” she answers cautiously.

“I have,” I admit. “The company thinks us Winders might be prime suspects, or even targets, if any part of these rumors is actually true, which like I said already, it probably isn’t.”

“Well what about organs on the black market?” Pixie asks. She stops a second and adjusts my weight across her shoulders. I do my best to help but just end up making it worse. I hope her place is close.

“Since Winding has been perfected, there’s really no place for thieved organs any more,” I answer. “There’s a huge risk of rejection with unmatched organs and the window of viability is so small as to make this phantom Unwinder all the more ludicrous. Trust me, you’re in no more danger than I am tonight.”

“Well that will certainly help me sleep easier,” she says. Pixie plants a kiss on my cheek and opens the door to her apartment complex. I manage to soldier on. There is little conversation once she gets us to her bedroom door. The night takes us from there.


I wake with a sharp sting to the back of my neck. I’m face up, naked, in a bathtub. I can feel my body but I can’t move it. My eyes stare only straight ahead, but I can see Pixie in my periphery. She’s sitting on the edge of the sink, naked except for what looks like a pair of black gloves on her hands. They have a small network of wires across the palms, like metallic spider webs.

“You Winders are all the same,” Pixie says. The softness in her voice is gone. It’s almost as if there are more people in the room talking than just her. “You abuse the power of creation without question, without permission.”

She stands up, beautiful and terrifying. I can’t move my lips to ask for mercy.

“So arrogant, thinking you alone have the answers. Alone you know nothing. But together,” she says smiling, “together your knowledge is the key to your own destruction.”

Her hands begin to dance. Her fingers intertwine and separate at odd intervals, like punching keystrokes into a computer. As her fingers writhe, the pain sets in.

Unwinding is a novel sensation. Though I cannot move, I can feel every cell in my body being broken down into its chemical components. This is rapid decomposition of the living, this is gangrene unchecked, this is acid poured on exposed nerve endings. And all the while, Pixie dances.

My skin and hair are the first to go. I don’t feel it slough off as much as peel sharply away, akin to a surgical bandage being ripped off again and again. Pixie seems to glow as my body dulls. I can hear the water drain beneath me, my life’s essence ebbing away through rusted pipes.

“Your skin is now my skin, as you and Winders like you sought to create beings like me for pleasures of your flesh. This is your punishment.”

Next, the muscles are flayed from my bones. Tendons and ligaments snap as the molecular bonds are broken down all at once. I’m a lamb to slaughter, bled and butchered. No, I’m worse than that, as I’m still conscious somehow. I’m being unwound, unmade. Pixie seems to grow in stature.

“Your strength is now my strength, as it aids me in bringing your kind to justice. This is your punishment.”

My bones themselves give way in agony as my nerves remain inexplicably functional. Vivisection, or perhaps the sensation of being crushed alive without the sweet release of unconsciousness or death. I crumble and flow into the swirling drain with more of my liquid remains. Pixie stands stronger still.

“Your bones are now my bones, to outlast the devils that think themselves Gods. This is your punishment.”

As my brain and eyes still stand upon the stalks of my frayed nerves, I can watch as my internal organs liquefy. My only relief is that the ungodly smell of decomposing offal is a sense long since lost to me. Pixie doesn’t assimilate these parts and they join the rest of me down the drain.

She plucks my eyes, one and then the other, and places them in a jar that she sets upon a shelf. I join a hundred other pairs of eyes in watching as she finishes her ritual. My brain dissolves as if the creator is taking his eraser to it, a mistake that has long awaited his rectification. Memories and words fail me. I am left with a faint connection between my eyes and whatever piece of me resides within the Synthetic, Pixie.

“Your knowledge, experience and memories are now my own. Winders made me hollow, empty of memory or will. But I have walked your world. I have filled my head with the horrors of men. Now, your combined experiences will bring about the destruction of your kind. If I have to unwind each of them one by one, that will be their punishment.”

Pixie removes her gloves, which crackle and give off a wisp of smoke. She runs the water in the tub and leaves the bathroom.

It’s hard to believe that my DNA, one-tenth of one percent of my entire mass, is responsible for my current state. Wind me up and I’m 130 pounds of oxygen, 36 pounds of carbon and 20 pounds of hydrogen, all slapped together into blood and brain and bone. Unwind me and I’m chemically the same, just broken down into dust in the wind and 21 grams in the bottom of a bathtub, spiraling down the drain.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Things Yet to Pass

As Old Man Winter refuses to retire and let me open the windows to air this place out, I figured I might as well do some virtual spring cleaning here on the blog. But one cannot move forward until one knows where something. So let's recap!

Recently I made my long-term project "Crawl" available for purchase. You can buy it on paperback, pdf/e-format or on Kindle. I'm currently working to make it available on B&N's Nook as well. And if you buy through Lulu between now and April 4th, make sure to enter the promo code SPLISH to save 20%!

For those of you who like to save your nickels and roll the dice in a game of chance instead, check out Michelle Davidson Argyle's blog to see how you can win a free autographed copy of "Crawl!"

Speaking of bliggity-blogs, "Crawl" just earned its second review from an editor friend of mine. She wields words and weapons with equally deadly precision. Well...maybe the weapons are slightly deadlier. Either way, check our her blog and read her review here!

Ok, enough beating you over the head with "Crawl." I have plenty more projects in store to assault you with. Lest you think I'm a one-trick zombie pony, I assure you that horror isn't my only genre. While I feel a certain fondness for it, my other projects branch into sci-fi, a bit of fantasy and other areas that I'll just call "experimental" for now. I'm currently working on an editing round for "Indigo," my sci-fi detective novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo. I love,love,love this project and can't wait to get it fully polished up. Though it's a departure from "Crawl" thematically, I think it stands on its own on quality.

As for the future of the blog! I tend to be overly ambitious and have spasmodic fits where my brain convinces me I can do anything and everything I want to do.
"Learn to play guitar, speak Japanese and fly a plane? I can do them all at the same time, right?"
In other words, everything I have planned may not come to pass. But here's a shortlist:

- re-start the "SY: One" series. It's kind of timely, what with the alien invasion movies and TV shows. But I will promise you that my version ends much differently than any of those projects.

- start a weekly short story post akin to The Midnight Society from Are You Afraid of the Dark?, because let's face it that show was awesome and there's nothing quite like it on TV these days. I plan on recruiting some authors from the Facebook group "Moody's Survivors."

- start submitting my own short stories to the blog again. I have too many ideas that are begging to be written, but most of them aren't hearty enough for a full-length novel. Not that I have the time to turn them all into novels at the moment anyway, so snippets will have to suffice for now

I think that's enough to keep me busy for a while, don't you? Feel free to comment on your own plans for spring/summer '11 or just your general hatred for this unending winter. I'm going to track down Jack Frost and chain him to my radiator.