SHOWDOWN AT SMITH ROCK

Sweat dripped down my back as I studied Smith Rock canyon. I’d tracked Blackjack McDougal all day. The trail had been just a little too easy to follow for it not to be a trap, one especially designed for me. Blackjack was a cheating, lying SOB, but not stupid. He had to know I would come after him. Two weeks as sheriff and the town already questioned my right to the job. After all, it was my ex that robbed the bank and blew up the cavalry commander.

“What do you think, Tin?” I asked my four-legged partner. “Do we wait for X-troop cavalry or take him ourselves?”

Tin’s tail flopped, creating clouds of parched dirt. His whimper echoed my thoughts. There was no way we could do this alone. My shoulders drooped and I turned away, almost stepping on a rattler. Tin growled and we retreated to a safe distance.

“I got an idea, Tin.”

It didn’t take long to make the necessary preparations. The sound of hundreds of rattlesnakes echoed around the canyon followed by Blackjack’s screams. Swaying brush marked Blackjack’s trail as he charged out of the trees and smacked into a wooden fence overgrown with weeds. A full flip landed him at my feet. I grinned and pointed my laser riffle at his chest.

“Problems, Blackjack?”

“Rattlers, hundreds!” Blackjack’s eyes were stretched wider than I thought possible. “For old time’s sake, save me!”

The rattling reached a defining pitch as Tin leaped over the fence and stood over Blackjack, steel teeth bared. Blackjack’s face was whiter than a daisy. I struggled not to laugh.

“Nah, that’s just Tin, my new electronic deputy dog. I reprogramed his bark synthesizer. Always said your rattlesnake phobia would be your downfall. Just be glad I found you instead of those X-troop cavalry robots.”

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THE POTION OF POWER

Colorful glass bottles filled the shelves in the small shop, some tall, others not. A few seemed to glow but that could have been from creative lighting. The containers had only one thing in common. None were labeled. Yet the old woman who ran the shop reached behind several to grab this one for Bob.

It was a long shot, but Bob was desperate. No job, nearly homeless, and the most fantastic woman he had ever met probably didn’t remember talking to him last week. Why would she? He was useless. That small blue bottle was his only hope. If it worked, Vanessa was sure to notice him.

“The ointment must be used sparingly,” said the woman, as she took his last few bills and handed him the bottle. “Too much and there will be dire consequences.”

Bob laughed. “Will I grow fangs or something?”

A toothless grin spread across the old woman’s face, but there was no humor in it. “Remember, you must still find the root of your problem and prune it out. Otherwise it will only fester.”

He left clutching the blue glass.

“Bang!”

Bob’s bottle of salvation slipped and smashed open. His heart raced. People screamed and ran. But Bob acted instinctively. In seconds he pinned the gunman and saved dozens. It wasn’t until the man was hauled off that he noticed Vanessa watching him from across the street. His heart raced as he walked toward her.

#

Weeks later, after the reporters stopped asking questions, after endless job offers, Bob stood by the shop with Vanessa and stared at the concrete where the ointment had spilled. A pair of blue eyes gazed back. Jagged glass fangs stuck up from a long crack in the pavement beneath them. Vanessa leaned over the low fence that surrounded the damaged pavement then smiled at him.

“I didn’t need the ointment at all,” he said. “All I really needed was confidence.”

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“SUPPOSE” Is Now Available In Print

Suppose

For those eager readers who have been asking, “Suppose” is finally available in print: A collection of over sixty riveting tales, with new and expanded stories.


Suppose: Drabbles, Flash Fiction, and Short Stories has undergone a complete rewrite, with new and expanded stories: over sixty tales of humor, horror, fantasy, sci-fi, romance, and life experiences so unbelievable that they have been disguised as fiction.

Suppose you saw something you couldn’t explain. And then suppose it turned out to be something far stranger, or funnier, or more horrifying than you ever expected. That element of surprise, and a different way of looking at things, is what this anthology is all about. Most of the short stories take less than fifteen minutes to read, and the ultra-short drabbles take less than thirty seconds.

Kathy Steinemann, Amber Hayward, A. L. Kaplan, and Donna Milward share their tales and fantasies in this book of drabbles, flash fiction, and short stories.

Why would the government force an artist to paint portraits of despots or drug lords? Why would healthy people die for no obvious reason? Do you suppose that wishes could ever be dangerous? What’s a BioInterFace Fluxxatron? Do aliens watch reality shows? Why would someone pay double the usual rate to move a heavy trunk? Why is the mud from Sludge Flats so valuable?

Discover the answers to these questions in this eclectic collection.

For a limited time, readers can receive a discount on the print edition at CreateSpace, the company that produces books for Amazon. The reduced price of $9.99 USD is further reduced by $2.00 with the discount code below:

DISCOUNT CODE: FPHUKVQB

https://www.createspace.com/5572855

And here are the other formats currently available.

Digital Editions:

Amazon.comAmazon.caAmazon.co.ukAmazon.deiTunesBarnes & NobleSmashwords

Paperback Editions:

Amazon.comAmazon.co.ukAmazon.deCreatespace

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RED ROVER, RED ROVER

“Damn fracking,” mumbled McAllister. He stared at the red water in the little creek. “First they cause an earthquake, then they pollute the groundwater. Now something’s using my farm as a fast food highway.”

After the quake last year he’d been thrilled to have a new creek bubble up across his farm. Not anymore. The weird noises grew louder every night. Livestock vanished with increasing frequency.

Sweat dripped down McAllister’s back, but not from the sun. Last night he saw something slither up this creek bed, leaving a trail of feathers. A dozen of his best layers, gone. The unearthly prints around the hen house were the only clue something wasn’t right.

The bushes rustled. High pitched chirping echoed around him. He tightened his grip on the shotgun and kept moving. The air felt charged, pricking his skin. His heartbeat quickened. Maybe it wasn’t the fracking after all. Maybe it was something else.

Wind and darkness swirled around him. He leaned into the tempest and continued forward. The storm vanished as quickly as it arrived, leaving McAllister in a still and barren landscape with a red stream. He blinked in the bright light and scorching heat. Large and small leathery wings filled the sky. Their screeching and chirps made his hair stand on end, but the golden eyes that studied him nearly made his heart stop.

“Mmm, a human,” said the dragon. “I wonder if it tastes like chicken.”

“Looks old and tough. Not enough meat for the children. Throw it back in the portal and try a different opening.”

The dragon flicked a claw at McAllister knocking him back into the whirlwind. A moment later he landed on his farm next to the now dried creek bed.

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DRASTIC MEASURES

The old grandfather clock began to chime and Mr. Pritchard’s mouth stretched into smirk. Three-thirty in the afternoon. Normally he’d be napping now, but ever since Becky Vogel moved in with her noisy little Pomeranian, Yappers, he hadn’t had a decent rest. Neither had Casper. That annoyance was about to end.

“Time to see if our plan is going to work, Casper,” he said, rubbing his hands together. The Samoyed yawned and flopped his tail. “I’m tired too, buddy. Keep your paws crossed that the brat takes the bait.”

He hobbled over to the window and pulled back the drape just as Becky started to race down the street. Yappers perched in the bicycle basket, raising his usual ruckus. Mr. Pritchard cringed. Even Casper whimpered and buried is head under a pillow.

The bicycle screeched to a halt by the table he’d set up down the block. They stared for a full minute, then Yappers leaped from the basket and started chowing down on the mound of liver kibble. A moment later Becky grabbed cookies in each hand and gobbled so fast she started coughing.

“Good thing I left you a bottle of water, you greedy little imp.”

He pressed his face against the glass and laughed as the pair remounted and road away.

“Glad the kid can read the sign,” he said. “Free treats for kids and dogs. If you’re quiet between the hours of three-thirty and four-thirty, there will be more tomorrow.”

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GOOD NEWS COMES IN CLUSTERS

It seems that good news comes in happy little clusters. My poem, “Midnight Dance,” won honorable mention the Balticon 49 poetry contest and was published in this year’s BSFAN magazine. I had the pleasure of reading my poem at this year’s convention. Balticon is run by the Baltimore Science Fiction Society. (BSFS) See my recommended links for more details.

Earlier in the week I receive notification that my poem, “Aware,” was accepted for publication in Dragonfly Arts Magazine 2015.  Dragonfly Arts Magazine is published by Hope Works. (Howard County Maryland Domestic Violence Center.)  Check back soon for the link to a free copy.

After so much good news, how could there be more? Well, there is. Indies Unlimited 2014 Flash Fiction Anthology, which contains four of my short stories, is now available on Amazon as an E-book. A print version is forthcoming.

Happy writing Y’all.

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TYPOS

“Look at this mess, George. The grammar’s all wrong. You’ve spelled ‘there’ four different ways on the same page. Your punctuation is all over the place. The only job you’ll ever get with this kind of work is trash pick-up.”

Those words stung when Mrs. Davies said them back in high school. They still did, but I turned them around. A dozen books, three on the best seller list, and two movies. Quite a bit better than a janitor. At least she got one thing right. I needed to get my act together. Right after graduation I poured my soul onto page. Now I had money to burn on Armani suits. And a special little gift for Mrs. Davies. I’d rub this cheap, error-filled sign right in her face.

“Well if it isn’t George P. Urim,” said Mrs. Davies as I walked into her classroom. “I was hoping you’d visit one day.”

“Uh, hi, Mrs. Davies,” I said. The smile plastered across her face was more disconcerting than the fact that she remembered my name after all this time. “I brought you something.”

Her eyebrows shot up as she took the package and removed the extravagant wrapping. As soon as she read the sign she started chuckling. “I see you aren’t the only one with grammar issues. ‘The early worm get’s the bird,’ indeed. At least you made errors work to your advantage.”

She motioned to her bookshelf. On it sat all twelve of my novels and ticket stubs from both movies.

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