Here’s a reading from my new book HE HAS MANY NAMES available on October 23 from Clash Books!
Here’s the same reading live at Killercon.
Here’s a reading from my new book HE HAS MANY NAMES available on October 23 from Clash Books!
Here’s the same reading live at Killercon.
Chapter 1: The Oralia
I’d been trying to get ahold of my agent for months. I was beginning to think she was dead. Then she called, at dawn, sounding like she’d run up a flight of stairs. “Noelle, drop whatever you’ve got going on tonight.”
Box wine and ramen, done.
“A publisher wants to meet with you at the Oralia Hotel. It’s super swanky and upscale. So doll yourself up.”
I hung up and spent more time putting my pitch together than my outfit. I got ready at the eleventh hour, ruined a zipper in my panic, and did my makeup in a series of swift strokes right before my Uber pulled up.
I scooted into the middle seat nervously adjusting my necklace in the mirror. It was a bib of emerald laurels mom had given me for just such an occasion. I have no idea how much it set her back, but it was priceless on waitress’s salary. And…I had it on backward. I unlatched the bib, flipped it around, and struggled to get it back on.
“You know what you look like with your good bag and cheap shoes?” I muttered in my best Hannibal Lecter voice. “You look like a rube.”
“What was that?” My driver squinted through the mirror.
“I was just wondering if you could go a little faster.”
The Oralia was hard to pick out of the skyline. Its bricks were so black it blended into the storm, but there was no missing the hotel when facing it dead on. Spotlights shot up the columns, like something off the poster for a silent film. The entrance was made of dark marble tiles separated by a grid of gold. A golden maze-like pattern ran up the side of the building. The balconies started on the third story.
I walked inside and a bellhop stepped forward. “Welcome to the Oralia. May I take your things?”
I handed him my umbrella and kept my briefcase to myself.
I strode past chandeliers that looked like pipe organs, gorgeous gargoyles, and a giant clock that assured me I didn’t have time to appreciate the art deco architecture.
It felt like I was rushing through the set of a Busby Berkeley film. Big buxom sculptures grazed my case, water fountains sprayed my forearms, and ballroom music beckoned me in.
The archway between the lobby and the check-in counter featured a gilded recreation of the entrance: a skyscraper lit from the bottom up. Behind the front desk was a smaller version of the same thing.
From the stained glass stars to the bright red carpeting, the lobby screamed Golden Age Hollywood. Even the name Oralia meant golden. I felt certain that this was one of the last bastions of elegance and class from an era when there was still tinsel in tinsel town.
I scanned the plaque on the counter to confirm my suspicions.
And… The hotel was founded in 2008.
The concierge didn’t notice me. She was face deep in a paperback. I leaned over to see what it was. I couldn’t catch the title, but I caught the hunk of beefcake on the cover.
At this stage of my career in publishing I was in the retail sector, working at an establishment whose name rhymes with Yarns and Global. The hardest part of my job was when I had to tear the covers off of the romance novels that weren’t selling. The publishers didn’t want them. They just needed to know we weren’t giving them away, so they had us send back the remains. I felt bad for the male models on the covers, all their bench presses gone to waste. I felt worse for the women on the back, smiling with their eyes so full of hope, yearning to be loved.
I daydreamed writing romance under a penname, giving single women the bearded billionaire bondage experience of their dreams. I’d like to say it was artistic pride that kept me from doing it, but really, it was fear of not being able to pull it off. Romance wasn’t my area of expertise.
The concierge felt my eyes on her. She buried her guy-candy in a drawer, folded her spectacles, and stood up.
“May I help you?”
I gave her a nervous smile. “I’m here to see Matilda MacDonald.”
The concierge pointed to a vampish figure on a couch in the corner.
Matilda wore a black pants suit that was all pleats and leather, with no undershirt. The Pradas she’d kicked up on the footrest were patent leather with heels that went on forever. She wore her jet-black hair in a pixie cut. Topping off her look was an armored ring that ran the length of her index finger.
Matilda swiped at a phone in an embroidered leather case. In her clutches, it looked like a forbidden text filled with spells for calling up the dead.
I extended my hand. “Matilda MacDonald?”
Matilda extended the hand with the armored ring. “Noelle Blackwood. It’s a pleasure to finally meet you.”
I held my briefcase to my chest. “The pleasure is mine. Publishers never reach out to mid-listers. Who do I have to thank for floating my name in your direction?”
Matilda smirked and took her seat. She reached into her bag and slid a book across the table. “I trust you’ve heard of Barkley Carver.”
Barkley Carver, his name always made me think of trees, especially since there were evergreens on the covers of all of his books, including this one Out on a Limb.
Cover artists used tree lines as visual shorthand for shallow graves, which fit since all of Barkley’s stories started with hikers discovering a body. Barkley filled his fictitious funeral plots with the segment of the populace that made up his audience: upper-class white women; the same ones the media turned into saints whenever they went missing, say while jogging through the woods. This is why the mystery section of every bookstore looks like a forest mural.
Barkley took this theme a step further by working it into each of his titles: Fruit from the Poison Tree, Shake Like a Leaf, and A Tree Falls Silent.
I flipped the book over to find the same portrait Barkley Carver had used for the last twenty years. The author stood proud in his bomber jacket, full flight suit, and helmet. He leaned on the nose of a fighter jet and looked to the sky in big aviator shades.
Matilda signaled to the bellhop. He set a storage bin on the table, and flipped it open.
I peered inside. “What’s that for?”
Matilda nodded at my luggage. “Your briefcase, your coat, your phone, and a smart watch if you have one.”
I tapped my luggage. “What about my manuscript?”
Matilda drew a piece of paper from beneath the table. “Think of this meeting as less of an acquisition and more of a commission. Go ahead put it in.”
“Then I suppose you’ll want my Wi-Fi glass eye and fiber optic hair extensions?”
Matilda rolled her eyes. “Would you be so kind?”
Joking aside, Matilda wasn’t going to pass anything my way until I gave up my phone, so I did, and the bellhop left with the bin.
Matilda slid the piece of paper across the table. It wasn’t an offer. It was a nondisclosure agreement. I skimmed far enough to get to the part where I realized Matilda’s proposition wouldn’t start until I’d signed.
I drew a squiggle and slid the agreement back. “Why all the secrecy?”
Matilda swapped the agreement for a manila folder. “This offer is for you alone. Barkley and I, we’re not like other publishers. We don’t take submissions. We seek out talent and your name, Noelle, has come up several times. Your screenplay for The Identity Thieves just made the blacklist. Script readers gave it their highest marks, but do you know why it will never get made into a film?”
I shrugged. “Because it doesn’t have the words ‘fast’ or ‘furious’ in the title?”
Matilda nodded. “Because it can’t be retooled to fit an existing franchise, yes, just like your first manuscript couldn’t be softened into teen lit, and your last one couldn’t be sold as fantasy or horror. Your work defies traditional branding. Now that’s where we come in.”
I shook my head. “What is it with the royal we? I thought you only published Carver’s titles.”
“Oh we do, but we publish 5 Carver titles a year. We’d like to ratchet that number up to 15.”
“Those are James Patterson numbers.” I slouched into the sofa with an underwhelmed sigh. This was all starting to make sense. “You want me to ghostwrite for Carver. You know, serial killer thrillers aren’t really my forte.”
Matilda leaned forward and tented her fingers. “Barkley chose you because he wants to explore a new direction.”
I cocked my head. “He’s read my work?”
Matilda pushed her armored ring back and forth. “You know that paranormal investigations podcast you’re on?”
Ohhh. “So he’s heard my work.”
“We’ve listened to all nineteen episodes.”
“Then you know I’m just the token skeptic, there to make the show seem balanced.”
“Maybe that’s why they hired you, but you’re the star of the show. Every week you break down all of their supernatural pseudo science into simple psychology.”
Turning a screw into my skull, I quoted myself. “Stimulate the anterior insula and you too can see a ghost.”
“Of course. We’re hardwired to see faces everywhere.”
Matilda raised an eyebrow. “Seriously?”
“I’ve seen them in wallpaper, marble tiles, even a chain length fence when the light hit it just right.”
Matilda cocked her head. “And you never flinched?”
I shrugged. “Our ancestors had to spot predators in an instant. So sometimes we see face where there are none, the Virgin Mary on toast or a cloud shaped like Donald Trump. It’s just a glitch in evolution.”
Matilda nodded recognizing this talking point from the podcast. “People don’t hallucinate that much, do they?”
I nodded. “Oh yeah. No need for drugs or schizophrenia. With enough anxiety people will see all sorts of things.”
Matilda leaned forward. “Are you speaking from experience?”
“About anxiety or hallucinations?”
Matilda tilted her head back and forth.
“On the podcast, when I said part of my writing ritual involved speaking to my characters like they were actually there-“
Matilda perked up. “Walk ins you called them; imagined figures that felt like they were literally in the room.”
“I was being hyperbolic to prove my point.”
Matilda feigned a smile. “Still, you’re clearly qualified for this, so much so that Carver is eager to lend you his name.”
I looked down at my boots, still wet from the walk. “Yeah, but isn’t that cheating?”
“It’s collaborating. He’s the architect. You’re the engineer. He draws the blueprints. You build the house.”
“And how extensive are Carver’s blueprints?”
Matilda tapped the manila folder with her pen. “He’s written a ten-page synopsis.”
“So it’s a sketch on a bar napkin?”
Matilda shrugged. “It’s bare bones, but think of how much freedom that’ll give you.”
I waved my hands in the air. “Yeah, but it’s Carver’s name on the building. How does that help my career?”
Matilda leaned forward. “Right now, your name, with your following in the paranormal community, might get you into a local bookstore. Carver’s name will get you that prime checkout counter space at a national grocery chain.”
“Were you a real estate agent prior to your career as a publisher?”
“I’ve been many things.” Matilda smiled and passed the manila envelope across the table. “This one little book will earn you royalties for the rest of your life. It’ll buy you time to get your own magnum opus in print.”
I shuddered. “I could always put it out myself.”
Matilda pursed her lips, feigning optimistic approval.
“It’s true, as a group, self-publishers are taking bigger bites out of the e-book pie, but as individuals most of you are starving. Anonymous reviews don’t have the sway of syndicated columns, podcasts don’t have NPR’s listeners, and trendsetters don’t have the influence of traditional publishers. Go ahead and throw your book at the wall, see if it sticks, but when readers have so many options they prefer established brands.”
I unbuttoned the top button of my blouse and let out a low sigh. “How does this bestseller factory of yours work?”
Matilda raised her eyebrow, knowing she had me.
“You’ll stay here, in the Oralia, until you’ve finished a draft. We’ll comp the room, the pay-per-view,” she tilted her head back and forth, “and room service within reason.”
I looked toward the concierge. “Why put me up here? Doesn’t Carver trust anyone to keep his secret?”
Matilda bit her lip to conceal her smile. “It’s something new we’re trying. Think of yourself as an artist in residence. The Oralia isn’t old, but it was built by people who remember when this town was filled with magic. Soak it in.”
I scanned the lobby of the creepy hotel that was to be my home.
“This is starting to sound a lot like a Stephen King story, one that didn’t end well for the author in it. Is there any kind of advance?”
Matilda produced an attaché case and took her time entering the combination.
The locks clicked open and she slid the case across the table. It was lined with stacks of cash. They were twenties, but more money than I’d ever seen.
Matilda slammed the case shut. “This will be in a safe behind the counter. Send us a draft in one month and management will be authorized to hand it over.”
“It’s how Carver wants it done. It’s in the contract. Think of it as a writing marathon.”
I reflected on my first semiautobiographical novel. I labored on it in my twenties, sold it for pennies, and watched it barely make back the advance.
I looked back at the cash. “All that for one month’s work?”
“When can I check in?”
Matilda slid another document across the table. “Right after you sign on the dotted line.” Continue reading Book Excerpt: HE HAS MANY NAMES
The following is an excerpt from Retail Hell, my new short story (at 8,600 words it’s more of a novelette) now available on Amazon.
The Customers Cometh (an early chapter from Retail Hell)
Jezebeth led Barbara to a cliff side overlooking an endless subterranean shopping center. To Barbara it felt less like a cavern and more like another world with a rocky skyline. Great walls of shelving stretched in all directions, cut from lopsided stones, like catacombs with sale signs. Barbara could just make out the checkout counters on the horizon.
Jezebeth pinched Barbara’s shoulder.
“Do you mind if I give you a bit of fearless feedback? I couldn’t help but notice that you were lagging behind on the way out. I know it’s your first day and you’re trying to contain your enthusiasm, but don’t worry about it. Just let loose. Run headlong into each new challenge. Alright?”
Barbara half nodded.
Jezebeth slapped her on the back. “Don’t worry. You’ll get another opportunity after the meeting.”
Barbara turned away, preferring the endless hellscape to her micromanager’s wild unblinking eyes.
Greeters, in red and black uniforms, ran out and scattered along the plane below.
Jezebeth clapped her hands. “There they go.”
The greeters scurried behind volcanic craters, like townsfolk fleeing bandits in the old west. Some fought over hiding spots, while others helped each other bury themselves in the dirt. Continue reading An Excerpt from Retail Hell
I’m going to be using the word “muse” a lot in this post. When I do I’m referring to people with the power to influence your material, not the arpeggio-laden rock band, or the nine daughters of Zeus and any of the sexist connotations that go with them (that conversation is being held in the lecture hall across campus, if you hurry you can still make it).
Call me a cosmonaut but I believe the arts are a form of telepathy, a way to express thoughts and feelings that simply talking (or texting) fail to do. I believe a subtle story of heartbreak has more power to resonate than a loud I feelstatement. By showing instead of telling the story draws out the reader’s empathy. It compels them to put themselves in the hero’s shoes. The abstraction makes the expression all the more genuine. It forces the reader to participate, to draw their own conclusions, and unearth their own theme.
So if art is telepathy and artists are psychics it stands to reason many of us have ideal minds we long to inhabit. Let’s call them muses. These muses could be family members, romantic partners, or associates with mutual interests.
Good muses enhance our writing. When we write with a close confident in mind we put our guard down, get intimate, and create work that resonates, but when we write with the wrong muse our work gets guarded, diplomatic, and disingenuous.
So how the hell are we to know the difference?
Lessons on Screening Muses from Saint Anthony
Saint Anthony the Great is considered to be the father of all monks (and more importantly one of the first Obi-Wan Kenobi figures). Anthony started life with every advantage. His parents were wealthy landowners. He had a stable full of camels and a pocket full of bling, but when he heard Jesus’s message of trading material treasures for treasures in heaven he gave away everything.
Anthony cast off his inheritance, ventured into the desert, and wandered the land. He abandoned human companionship in favor of the divine. He fasted, exposed himself to the harsh Egyptian sun and eventually he started to see things. Anthony had visitations from ethereal figures whose divine leanings weren’t always clear to him.
Angels appeared as scrubs. Demons came on as ballers. It was hard to tell the difference between an angel in humble attire and a devil that had cleaned up well.
Antony’s visions were impaired. Not every angel wore a halo made of tinsel and not every demon wore a vinyl smock with a picture of who they were supposed to be on the chest. Anthony had to rely on his feelings to know which of the creatures he’d encountered.
He realized angels left him feeling rejuvenated, hopeful, and optimistic, while Demons left him feeling drained, exposed, and humiliated.
When screening for muses consider your feelings for the people in question. Really consider. Just because someone is important to you, just because you admire them, doesn’t mean they’re the right person to have in mind when you put pen to paper. That person you’ve been crushing on could be throwing you off your game.
The Person You Most Admire Might Be the Wrong Muse for You
I’m drawn to emotionally unavailable people, people who say, “I don’t think I’m ready for a relationship right now. Not anything serious.”
I want something substantial yet I’m drawn to those people. Of course I don’t consciously admit I have a thing for vagabonds. I’m not the one driving when my subconscious decides whom I get to have a crush on. Yet when I do take the wheel I find myself fighting to stay on a winding road that in all likelihood lead straight into a ravine.
These relationships are built on a rocky foundation of abstraction, emotional dithering, and the tension that comes from knowing that at any moment the whole thing come crashing down.
What I’ve learned from my pursuit of these impossible people is they slow my narrative writing right down. People who make you nervous in your heart don’t make for great muses in your art. They do if you’re writing about the individual in question, but not if you’re trying to cover the broad spectrum of human experience. Especially not if you’re delving into a topic that’s outside of the scope of their interest.
Do An Inventor of Your Muses
You can’t always decide who you’re drawn to, but you can decide whom your ideal reader is. Maybe that person shouldn’t be the one you’re trying so damn hard to impress in life. A bad muse will make you feel too embarrassed to write something heartfelt. They will make you censor your life experiences and hide your humiliation. They will have you filing down your jagged edges when you ought to be making them sharper.
If your muse hates horror you’ll find yourself taking all the teeth out of your terror. If they’re prudish you’ll find yourself softening your sex scenes. If they have conservative leanings you’ll find yourself hiding your rebellious streak.
Conversely, if your muse thinks romance is an antiquated notion for sexist baby boomers guess what your stories are going to be lacking? If they harbor a deep hatred of yuppie squares you might get freakier than you really are. If they gag on sentimentality you’ll find yourself getting more sarcastic than you care to be.
A bad muse can stunt your growth or take your writing somewhere insincere. A bad muse slows your flow, they compel you to edit as you go, and ultimately give you writers block.
Just because you want to impress someone doesn’t mean they’re the right person to let into your headspace when you start writing. Use Saint Anthony’s metric for screening demons. Ask yourself: How does this person make me feel the moment they leave the room. Rejuvenated or drained? If they’re someone who consistently pokes holes in your ego odds are they aren’t going to read your writing anyway. So who cares what they think?
Write for the people who hear what you’re working on and ask a slew of follow up questions, for the people who remember story details from one conversation to the next, for the people who make you feel good even after they’ve left.
Chapter 1: A Little Too Quiet
It was move in day and my new condo was far from furnished, save for a coffee table and a floor full of boxes. Still I couldn’t wait to test the acoustics. I had tried to record a podcast in my previous basement apartment, but every passing car, barking mutt, and hooting frat boy had me pressing PAUSE. Recordings that should’ve taken minutes took days.
That’s why I persuaded my parents to invest in a top floor unit, high above the street corner brawlers, bus stop freestylers, and dissonant dive bars.
My new building was made for peace and quiet. It had glass fiber insulation, triple pane windows, and concrete walls. It had two security officers, cameras in every corridor, and a lease specifically stating: no parties whatsoever.
No longer would I wake up to a gaggle of giggling gals, flooding out of the stairwell in stiletto heels. No longer would I be a captive audience to a domestic dispute and no longer would I have to hear the makeup sex that came after.
I could sleep comfortably knowing the only thing waking me up in the middle of the night would be my own bladder.
The condo was like something out of a dream. When I stood in the center of the living room all I heard was the ringing of my own eardrums. I couldn’t believe this was mine, Daniel J. Cameron’s Casa de Heaven.
I shut off all of my electronics, except for the computer, turned down the furnace, and flicked off the lights. I dumped my journalism texts out and taped the box over the window. I even draped a blanket across the balcony doors just to be safe.
With the exterior of the space taken care of I pinned a roll of duct tape to a desk lamp, stretched a sock around it, and positioned it in front of my microphone. Voilà: I had a homemade pop filter to catch those stray P and B sounds before they could taint my audio with artifacts.
It was finally time to open the decibel meter on my phone. A whisper quiet library sits at 35 decibels. A bedroom at night rests at 30. I’d managed to get this place down to 25. Continue reading An excerpt from The Pigeon King
When a highway patrol officer asks, “Do you know why I pulled you over,” they’re inviting you to incriminate yourself. This is not the case with the state trooper in this story, he has his own reasons, ones that turn out to be pretty insane.
Like my previous short Headbleed this excerpt is another peek at a dark work in progress. It stands on its own as a fun dialogue driven exchange.
Why I Pulled You Over
Cameron leaned out the window to feel the summer breeze against her skin. It smelt of wheatgrass and wildflowers. The air freshener had nothing on it. Giving up on a radio signal, she embraced the steady whooshing of the wind. There was something surreal about the view, the sheer flatness of the plain. With the clouds touching the horizon, it felt like she was driving into a painting.
Checking her reflection in the side mirror, Cameron watched her jet black ends flow from the bandana concealing her blond roots. The sun made the Beetle’s orange paint job glow. The additions she’d made to the bonnet flapped with each gust, more distractions than hazards.
Cameron shift her gaze to the rearview mirror. Nothing but prairie in both directions. Reaching into her purse, she dug out her phone, setting it on the horn.
The lock screen was filled with a rainbow coalition of alert icons: the Snapchat spook, the Reddit robot, and the Twitter turtle dove. With her hand up at two, Cameron unlocked the screen with her thumb. The mail icon’s notifications were in the triple digits, it would have to be priority number one.
She held down the home button until she heard a chime. Cameron said, “Read my last e-mail.”
The phone’s monotone modulation said, “On June 1st, Kat Carey sent you an email about A Guest Blog Opportunity.
I discovered your blog through a comment on a piece I wrote on eliminating exposition by modeling scenes after movies. Turns out you beat me to the punch by several months. You showed up early in the same dress, and by all accounts, wore it better. Jealous as I was, I’ve been lurking on your site ever since. My page reaches twenty-thousand readers a day, and your snark to wit ratio is exactly what I’m looking for.
I have an opening for Monday the thirtieth. I’d love for you to contribute.
Catching a billboard of an ultrasound out of the corner of her eye, Cameron chose to ignore its text, and the vehicle beneath it.
Pressing the home button until it chimed, Cameron said, “Reply to this email. Thank you for thinking of me, period. I’m covering an art car festival until the end of the month, period. We’ll see if I can get a moment to write something clever for you, comma, and a good enough signal to upload it, period. I’ll let you know by the end of the week, period. New Paragraph, Your consultant in crime, comma, Cameron Mandex. Send.”
Watching the grass sway along the highway, Cameron imagined herself floating above the road, with no wheels or engine, wishing this stretch of highway was her workspace. She saw herself coming back this way, far from the thumping speakers, the bickering couples, and the howling frat boys, she’d switch on cruise control and just let go. She’d finish her thesis out here.
The thought passed at the sight of the blue and red lights flashing in the rearview mirror.
Rolling down the window, Cameron held her license and registration at ten and two.
The highway patrol officer took his time ambling to the door. Through the mirror, Cameron watched him crack his neck from side to side, roll his shoulders, and stretch one arm across the other, a boxer preparing for a fight.
Standing in front of the sun, he snatched up her license. “Where’s the ball, Cinderella?”
Cameron squint, “I wasn’t speeding.”
The officer craned his head to take in the green stem atop the orange Volkswagen Beetle. “Can you think of another reason why I might have pulled you over?”
“Because you have a quota?” Cameron said flatly.
He rolled his eyes. “Try another?”
Biting her lip, Cameron sighed. “My tabs are current, my tires are full, my lights are in perfect working order.” She tilt her head back, “And even with the addition to my roof, the car is only eight feet tall, which is five less than the state maximum.”
“Can you think of any other reason?” The officer cocked his chin toward the raised teeth, framing the Jack-O-Lantern paint job beneath the windshield. “Maybe something obstructing your vision?”
Cameron glanced at the crooked smile just past her dashboard. She shrugged. “What do you want, an artist’s statement?”
Taking her piece in, the officer shook his head. “I wouldn’t go so far as to call this rig an ‘art car.’ With all this crap hanging off, it’s more of a mutant vehicle.”
Lowering his sunglasses, he peaked inside. “Christ, even the upholstery is orange? That’s dedication.”
He leaned over the window. “Are there any weapons in the… pumpkin, I should know about?”
Cameron looked to the long tube of pepper spray dangling from the ignition. “Nope.”
The officer rolled his head from shoulder to shoulder. The motion carried from one raised eyebrow to the other. “If I were to check the glove compartment, I wouldn’t find anything interesting?”
Cameron felt the sweat pooling beneath her bandana. She glared at the officer. “You mean, if you had a warrant to check it?”
Shaking his head, he waved the notion away. “I’ve got to run an inventory if you want to get your stuff back.”
Looking back and forth, Cameron processed this statement. “Get my stuff back? No no no, you’re not towing me.”
The officer threw his hands up. “This rig isn’t exactly street legal. Suppose the stem breaks off and hits another motorist.”
Cameron dug her nails into the wheel. “Suppose an eighteen wheeler pops a tire and the rim goes flying.”
The officer rapped his knuckles down the frame. “Suppose these papier-mâché teeth come unglued from the hood.”
Cameron snapped at him. “First of all, they’re silicone, not papier-mâché. Second, they’re caulked on, not glued, and third, this is a Beetle. That’s not the hood, it’s the trunk.”
The officer shook his head at the road. “I’m sorry, but semantics don’t make it safe. I’m going to have to ask you to step out of the vehicle.”
Cameron mouthed a vulgarity with no breath behind it. Slinging her purse over her shoulder, she reached for her keys.
The officer smirked. “Leave the pepper spray, I’ll get it for you.”
Stepping out of her pumpkin carriage, Cameron took it in one last time. Raising her phone, she positioned her modest creation into the frame; months of planning reduced to a single snapshot. Who knows how much of it she’d get back.
She remembered how she justified the investment to her parents, “People don’t open up to bystanders like they do to participants.”
She could already hear her father’s reaction to this development. “This is fate redirecting you to a path with a future at the end.”
Pausing at the patrol car, she got an odd feeling. There was something off about the coloring. Something foreign about the font for “STATE TROOPER.” She pointed to the text beneath it. “You’re a little ways outside of your jurisdiction.”
Opening the back door, the officer tipped his hat, “We cover every street statewide.”
Cameron froze. “Is there a Humboldt County in this state?”
Putting his sunglasses on, the officer cocked his head. “Sounds like your speech is slurring. You sure you haven’t had anything to drink?”
Opening the driver’s side door, he fished a breathalyzer out of the compartment.
Cameron squint, “No, and you never asked me if–”
He cut her off, “Better breathalyze to be on the safe side.”
The officer shoved the device in Cameron’s mouth. It happened so fast she didn’t have time to consent. She had to tilt her head back just to avoid chipping her teeth.
The playful tone fell out of the officer’s voice. “I’m going to need you to take a deep breath, then I’m going to tell you to exhale.” He squeezed the breathalyzer, “Alright inhale.”
Cameron flared her nostrils. An oder came off the device: the head smelt sweet, the body stunk of alcohol, and the tail was pure antiseptic.
The officer looked beyond the breathalyzer, locking eyes with Cameron. His lips shrunk in. Somehow she knew, he was gritting his teeth beneath them.
He tilt the breathalyzer. The odor intensified into a taste, industrial soap spilling down Cameron’s tongue. It overpowered her senses, the sound of wind faded, the sun dimmed. She felt weightless.
Woozy, Cameron teetered away from the breathalyzer. Lowering it, the officer ignored the results. Stepping forward, he positioned himself to catch her. Throwing a punch, Cameron found she hadn’t the strength to sustain her fist through the motion. It felt like it broke off her wrist and flew away.
Falling into the officer’s arms, the world fell out from under her.
Someone is abducting college students, yet no one knows they’re even missing. That’s because they’re still posting status updates, Tweeting trending hashtags, and snapping selfies. Their friends and family don’t see the guns barrels just outside the frame.
Cameron wakes up in a town that’s all but abandoned, apart for the stables filled with captive residents. She needs to figure out what her fellow prisoners have in common, and what their abductors plan on doing with them, while she’s forced participate in their social media schemes.
More to come.
Are you afraid of someone accessing your passwords? What if they got access to your person? The Heartbleed bug isn’t the most vulnerable part of your online identity, you are. Forget about someone hijacking your accounts. What if someone used your online profiles to replace you in the real world?
There’s more than one way to steal your identity.
If someone vague-booked on your behalf, would your friends know it wasn’t you? If someone took control of your tweets, would your followers realize you’ve been compromised? If someone commandeered your Instagram feed, would your friends notice a change in your point of view?
This story takes those questions to a whole new level. This is a preview of my work in progress, a millennial mystery, a social media thriller, a cautionary tale for those with a high connectivity clout score.
Teddy’s pod hurdled down the conveyer belt. The momentum pushed him into the chrome. His nub tail receded into his body. The stuffing churned in his belly. He hooked his paws around the bars. Orbs whizzed by in his peripheral. These were the other pods, micro prison cells just like his own. There were peeps all around. Teddy wondered if the sound was grease on the track until he realized the peeps were coming from inside those pods. He caught glimpses of silhouettes recoiling with hands over their faces. Teddy made the connection. The sound had been screams all along. Continue reading The Men Behind the Curtain: Part 2
The following is an excerpt from something I’ve been working on for the last year. I’ve been eager to show people what I’ve been up to, so I’ve decided to share a few chapters. Out of context, these chapters serve as excellent short stories. Since this first chapter is over five thousand words, I’ve decided to break it down into bite sized little scenes. This will be the first. Please forgive it’s rough shape. I never edit while I’m writing.
This piece is from my novel The Dark Parliament (name pending). It’s an R-rated tail where the imagination of an orphan day-dreamer is pitted against the nightmares of adults. So without any further ado here’s: