Tag Archives: fantasy

We Are Living in a Dystopian Fantasy

What if the Trump administration was just the beginning of a Young Adult Fantasy story?

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Naomi felt like a baby in a blanket. She was swaddled, covered in drool, warm and safe. It took her a moment to realize she was wearing a straight jacket and that stiff surface beneath her wasn’t a crib, but the floor of a padded cell.

Naomi’s eyes took time adjusting to the light. The fluorescent fixtures had rainbow auras, they shined so bright they cast sunspots on the walls. The shadows swayed back and forth as her pupils shifted in and out of alignment. Finally the chamber revealed itself.

The cell was lined with a canvas with two tones: white on the top and stained at the bottom. Its cushions were lopsided from years of use. At this point the padding looked like it would do a better job protecting the walls than the patients.

Naomi’s head throbbed. It felt like a rat had burrowed beneath her brow, curled up, and started kicking the skin. It took all her strength to wrench herself up off the floor. Continue reading We Are Living in a Dystopian Fantasy

Tooth Fury: A Story About the Magic that Goes into Every Bar Fight

My people once lived in castles as white as pearls, with great ivory towers, and spires that drilled into the clouds. We rode lifts on floss cables over waterfalls of twinkling blue paste, and rivers of green antiseptic.

Every surface of our fortress had a healthy gleam. There were no stains, cracks, or cavities. We all did our part to keep it that way. Adults fitted their shoes with bristles and glided across milky walkways. Children rode mint sleds down streets paved with bone. Jolly chimney sweepers cleaned the plaque from the gutters.

We danced beneath the long sharp roots that lined our roofs without fear of them ever falling.

The kingdom was sturdy. The infrastructure was strong, because we had a steady supply of the mineral our society was built upon.

I was a human ivory dealer (or Tooth Fairy if you prefer). My job was to procure the precious commodity we needed to fortify our city, and leave a sufficient payment for those who supplied the materials.

Ours was a trade-dependent economy. Fairy folk paid for goods and services with smiles, hugs, and songs, but for some goofy reason humans wouldn’t accept positive sentiments as payment. We had to investment in their markets so that we could pay for what we needed. Continue reading Tooth Fury: A Story About the Magic that Goes into Every Bar Fight

Shop Dropping: A Spooky Story about People Who Put Things on Retail Shelves

I worked in one of the last bookstores in town. Print wasn’t dead, but it was on life support. The neighboring restaurants drew in most of our business. The bulk of our sales were made while customers were waiting to be seated elsewhere.

Parents paged through new releases as their children collected all the trinkets we’d placed at eye level. Millennials turned all the political biographies around, teens stole glimpses at artful nudes, and couples bickered about Playboy’s newfound presence at the checkout counter.

The bad element snuck in with the dinner rush. They couldn’t look me in the eye on their way in, but they looked out for me the further they went. I’d catch them craning their necks over the shelves and ducking back down once I’d made them.

I’d walk by and they’d say, “Browsing.” before I got one word in.

It’s store policy not to accuse anyone of wrongdoing, but there was no such thing as too much costumer service when one of them was around. I made sure these people had a chance to meet everyone that was on staff at the time.

Troublemakers weren’t hard to spot hunched over in their cardigans with their hands in their pajama bottoms. They came from all walks of life, but they’d devolved into gaunt, pale faced ghouls, with cherry red eyes, and plum purple eyelids. Each one stinking of nicotine, body odor, and box wine.

I’d go back to the section they’d been “browsing” in, scan the shelves, and try to find what they’d done. There were always subtle signs. I’d find a stack of front facing hardcovers repositioned with their spines out, a title set atop the row, or a handful of books on the floor.

Troublemakers had to make room for their additions to our inventory. You see they weren’t shoplifting. They were shop dropping. Continue reading Shop Dropping: A Spooky Story about People Who Put Things on Retail Shelves

Death Hacks: Tricks to make Your Afterlife more Fun

Most of you ghosts will haunt the places where you died because you think you have unfinished business there. You’ll spend your days peering out the windows like puppies eager for their masters to return, lingering on the off chance that clairvoyant children will walk through your front doors.

You sentimental specters will extend attic steps, hoping to lure young paranormal investigators into the orgy of evidence you’ve prepared. If they take the bait you’ll tip over lamps to spotlight chests filled with photo albums and records from insane asylums. You’ll run your fingers through journals, pretending to be a gust of wind, until the pages land on the right passage.

You’ll spend your time around the living campaigning for your cause and wondering why your intentions get lost in translation. You’ll roll a tricycle to the site of your unmarked grave and wonder why no one is in a hurry to exhume the body. You’ll have the same epiphany every fledgling phantom has had before you: trying to get anything done by haunting the living is like herding cats.

You’ll get jaded trying to petition deaf ears to your cause. You’ll have telekinetic tantrums, throwing books, upending tables, and burning family photos. The next thing that will happen is you’ll turn on your new tenants. I did. Continue reading Death Hacks: Tricks to make Your Afterlife more Fun

The Phantom of Truth

The Phantom of Truth appeared at the foot of my bed. His black robe draped over the mattress. His boney knees made the springs squeal. He pinned me to the pillows with a crocked finger as thick as a broom handle.

The Phantom did not fade in and out like a waking dream. He was a real tangible thing, buckling the floorboards, scrapping his hunchback against the ceiling, getting dust all over everything. He was a giant whose every movement shook the room. If he jumped he’d take the whole floor down with him.

It occurred to me that his long black robe was made from scales. I thought the robe might’ve been stitched together from snakeskins, until I saw it puff out on its own like the sack beneath a frog’s neck. The cloak had no seams. I couldn’t tell where it ended and the creature’s long arms began. Continue reading The Phantom of Truth

My Audiobook is now on Bandcamp

My horror novella Terms and Conditions is now on Bandcamp! Find out what happens when an artist accidentally sells his inspiration to the devil.

Download the audio from Bandcamp:

Continue reading My Audiobook is now on Bandcamp

How to Make Sure Your Mystery is Satisfying

How the Lost School of Storytelling Blurred the Line Between Intriguing and Confusing

I love writing mysteries with vast casts, layered subplots, and dozens of twists. My favorite mysteries contain elements of science fiction, horror, and fantasy. They’re the everything and the kitchen sink approach to storytelling. The TV show Lost inspired much of my love, and apprehension, for this facet of the mystery genre.

Lost has taught me a lot about what to do and what not to do when writing mysteries. It featured emotionally involving character arcs with themes like regret, the wages of sin, and crisises of faith. It set up intriguing plot lines about psychological manipulation, international conspiracies, and time travel. Lost successfully followed through on its character arcs, but fell short of bringing its plot lines to completion. Continue reading How to Make Sure Your Mystery is Satisfying

Dream House

Struggling with a hostile work environment, Mark imagines the perfect hideaway, only to find it expanding into his real life.

1. Overgrowth

Dream House

Mark’s footfalls echoed into the distance. The hall had the dressings of a ballroom, and the length of a tunnel. No matter how far he went, the point at the end never changed shape. The banner beneath the ceiling must have stretched for miles.

Rays of light cut through the curtains, setting the tiles aglow. Walking with his eyes shut, he felt the sunshine on his nose. He could go on this way, counting windows without ever running into anything, or anyone.

The help was on holiday. There was no dust to polish, the sheets tucked themselves in, and the meals came out of their trays prepared. This gave Mark the freedom to ride the banisters down the stairs, to line couch cushions like dominos, to juggle Faberge eggs, ming vases, and leather bound first editions.

Wearing two story drapes like capes, Mark was a bachelor in a castle, an emperor of emptiness, the king of a kingdom known to no one.

The grounds were too vast to cross in a day. Mark had to set up camp in an uncharted guest room before finding the strength to press on. He had to traverse the deserts of the zen garden, the hilly expanse of the miniature golf course, and the pine highways of the bowling alley.

With each trek through the building, Mark discovered something. Feeling droplets on his forehead, he looked up to see water sculptures shooting streams through the chandeliers. He climbed staircases so wide, he mistook the steps for rows in a theater.

Crossing the library, Mark happened upon a fleet of fire engines labeled with the dewey decimal system. He didn’t understand their function, until he needed a ladder to get something.

2. Grey Stone Church

To save time, Mark rode a dirt bike across the courtyard, weaving around gazebos, hedge sculptures of video game characters, and a pride of bronze lions covered in bird droppings. He could’ve used the field for crops, for football games, or as a landing strip for commercial planes; instead he filled it with street signs to give himself an idea of where he was going. There was always a new path to explore.

The estate was ever expanding, but there were no contractors, no designs to sign off on. Mark didn’t have to suffer the sight of plumbers’ cracks, the sound of catcalls, or radios blaring. This was his project. He was the surveyor, the engineer, and the foreman.

He didn’t break his back carrying the stones up the mountain. He didn’t run a wheel barrel full of mortar across the foot bridge, or dig the trenches to fill the reflecting pools.

Mark’s castle wasn’t built from the ground up, it was composited. The parts weren’t airlifted in, they materialized from it.

3. Tropical

In the city, Mark’s studio apartment shared its walls with shouting brawls. Arguments echoed from floor to ceiling. He fell asleep to surround sound domestic disputes, quadrophonic make up sex, and the off tempo rhythm of creaking mattresses. Counting backwards on his pillow, Mark wasn’t sure if he ever lost consciousness.

In the morning meeting, Mark made the coffee hoping no one would call on him. His eyes stung every moment they were exposed to oxygen. They felt heavy enough to sink into his skull. Collecting cups, he was a satellite orbiting his coworkers.

Lee, his boss, followed close behind, tapping each employee on the shoulder, in a variation of Duck Duck Goose.

“So what’s your goal for the day?” Lee breathed down the staff’s necks until he got an answer.

Crouching, Mark cradled the cups in his arms.

Lee moved onto his next victim, “What do you aspire to learn today?”

Reaching for a napkin, Mark’s stack toppled over. His security blanket rolled across the floor. Panicking, he clutched for the cups.

There was a tap on his shoulder.

4. Dream Coat

Lee smiled, he’d found his goose. “So Mark, what could you do differently to achieve success today?”

Mark looked to the ellipsis in his thought cloud. “Not drop the cups?”

Lee tossed him a line, Mark left him to tow it back in. Unlike the sales team, Mark had no figures to beat, no positive encounters to share, no acknowledgments to give.

Passing by a senior staff meeting, Mark heard Lee refer to him as an “Automated automaton. Good with numbers, but unable to compute casual conversation.”

Filling his thermos at home, Mark avoided the water cooler. He couldn’t understand emotional reactions to the weather, pride in parking spaces, or interest in other people’s children. He managed big accounts, but small talk went over his head.

When Lee mandated psychological assessments, Mark feared it was to uncover his glitch.

5. Towering Green

Sitting outside the therapist’s office, Mark paged through an issue of Home magazine, a catalogue of living room layouts, throw pillows, and patio furniture. Reading an article on Feng Shui, Mark scanned the waiting room.

Opening the door to her office, Dr. Jennings found Mark dragging a fern to the other side of the chairs.

Wiping the dirt from his palms, Mark only spread it around. When Dr. Jennings offered her hand, he went in for a hug, careful not to pat her on the back. When she directed him to a love seat, he lay across the armrests.

Dr. Jennings squint to hide her amusement. “Don’t worry. This is an informal chat, a way to gage the team’s overall satisfaction. Management thought this would be a little more personal than a survey.”

Nodding, Mark changed his position.

6. Wood Chipper

Settling in, Dr. Jennings read her chart. “How do you see yourself fitting in among your peers?

Mark shrugged. “The tall person in the back of the group photo.”

Dr. Jennings shook her head. “I’m not looking for a literal answer. Think of this office as a family. Which member are you? Do you see yourself in the driver’s seat, on the sidelines of a soccer game, or are you sneaking in a cartoon when you should be doing homework?”

Mark rolled his eyes, “I’m haunting the attic. I’m not sure if anyone even knows I’m there.”

7. Rubble Man

Mark never had the courage to see a therapist. Now one had been delivered to him. He made the most of this captive audience. Thinking it essential to give Dr. Jennings the whole picture, he got abstract. Over-sharing, he linked childhood humiliation to emotional scars left by ex-girlfriends. Looking at Dr. Jennings notepad, Mark watched her fine script devolve into automatic writing.

Running out of pages, Dr. Jennings decided to switch mediums, inviting Mark to try guided meditation. She came up with the scenario, leaving just enough space for him to fill the holes.

Dr. Jennings chose her words carefully, “I want to give your thoughts a beginning, middle, and end.” placing an emphasis on the word “end.”

Hesitant to sacrifice his hour, Mark was a reluctant participant. Entering the wilderness of his imagination, he was told to picture an animal jumping into his path. He described a badger sniffing the air, climbing up his leg, and settling on his shoulder.

The badger said, “How do you feel about your output today? Is this your finest work, or could you aspire to do better?”

Dr. Jennings suggested Mark keep his answers to himself until the end of the session.

8. Being Green

Leading her patient to a clearing, Dr. Jennings instructed him to fill it with something. “A treehouse, a log cabin, a beached submarine, it doesn’t matter, just the first thing that comes to mind.”

Watching a breeze draw circles in the grass, Mark felt it against his cheeks. Smelling the dewdrops, he took in the steady drone of the grass hoppers, rustling trees, and chirping birds.

Clouds rolled across the landscape. Their shadows morphed into geometric shapes, getting darker as they got smaller. Realizing why, Mark acted in the knick of time. He leapt from his position just as a support beam crashed down where he was standing.

A row of metal rained across the field. The dirt shift, propping the beams up, aligning each one into place. The ground embraced whatever the sky had to throw at it.

Staring into the sun, Mark watched its rays transform into amber arches, saffron spires, and scarlet shingles. Sprouting in spring-like formations, vines caught pillars on their way down. Bricks fell into perfect stacks. Leaves popped out from between them. Overgrowth ran up the building, before the roof had even come in.

In another world, Dr. Jennings continued giving her directions. She told Mark to go inside, she said something about a cup, its size and shape having some importance, but Mark didn’t hear her. He was busy moving in.

9. Afterglow

Crossing the estate, Mark bent time and space, moving from the top of the world to sea level without going down a single hill. One door spat him out in a tropical climate, while another spat him out in a snow covered forrest.

The porch overlooked a mountain range, while the parlor overlooked a beach front.

10. Toys in the Attic

Each session took him someplace new.

Mark lay in a hammock as long as a fishing net, high up in the meditation chamber, a glass dome, with a view unpolluted by city lights.

Star gazing, he found the Andromeda galaxy, then the long streak of the Milky Way. Dimming the lamps, he waited for the Northern Lights to make an appearance.

Mark found his way to the dream house on his own. Pacing the apartment, he crossed over with his eyes open. Flicking the kitchen light, he watched torches spark to life. The banquet hall stretched out before him. Running the tap, he watched streams rise from the great fountain, feeling bubbles and coins beneath his feet. Taking a shower, the steam cleared to reveal the heap of coals in the palace sauna.

11. Moss Giant

The real world was full of secret passageways to the other one. Smelling oak barrels the moment he stepped into the cubicle, Mark discovered a wine cellar beneath his desk.

Waiting in line at the bank, Mark listened to the Christmas music playing over the speakers. Closing his eyes, he overlooked his estate from the bell tower. It had grown from a mansion into a metropolis. He’d yet to eat a meal from every kitchen, sleep beneath every canopy, or relieve himself in every washroom.

Mark’s stays in the dream house grew longer.

Charging through an obstacle course, he stepped through tires lined across a balance beam, two stories above a ball pit. A few cartwheels later, he was safe on a platform. Running up a springboard, he leapt for a ring. When he grabbed it, it made a sound like a keyboard tapping. Moving hand over hand, he heard the clicking of a mouse button. Dismounting, he listened to the slow hiss of a seat release.

Although the gymnasium lights were the same color as his desk monitor, Mark’s work was far away from here.

12. Rock Garden

Fearing his workout had pulled something, Mark felt a pinch on his shoulder. Turning, he found Lee’s talons squeezing into his tendon. Lee pulled Mark out of his trance and into his office.

Lee couldn’t wait for Mark to take his seat, before launching into his prepared speech.

“Mark, I know you’re not one for small talk, that’s why I’m going to give this to you straight.” Tenting his fingers, Lee tapped his lips. “Your numbers are down, my bosses want to put them out of their misery.”

Mark reached for the pen set on Lee’s desk. Tilting one toward him, the room shook, rumbling with a sound like cranks from a drawbridge. Lee spun around, opening the blinds to search for the source of the noise. Mark tilt the other pen in the same direction. The rumbling returned. Dust spilled from the ceiling. The tiles moved toward the window, fleeing the scene.

Shielding his face, Lee ducked behind the desk.

Moving onto the next accessory, Mark pinched a ball from the Newton’s Cradle. Lifting it up, he primed the pendulum. Thunder struck as it came down.

Cracks zigzagged across the support beams. The air was thick with sawdust. Lumber crashed down on the desk. Looking up, Mark found darkness where a corner office should be. A flash of lightning revealed the distant bricks of a vaulted ceiling.

The desk still had a few more toys for Mark to play with. Flipping a sand timer, he felt the chair sink out from under him. The carpet broke into tiny grains, sinking through the floorboards.

Lee shrieked, jumping out from his hiding place. Sand trickled through his fingers. He looked to Mark for an explanation.

Mark shrugged.

13. Pinkie

Vaulting over the desk, Lee charged through the door with no mind for glass.

The staff shot up from their cubicles.

Ignoring his wounds, Lee spun around to find the ceiling tiles back in place, the desk free of debris, and the carpet in its proper shape. The chair was still spinning, but Mark was gone.

In the room with the vaulted ceiling, Mark listened to the rain tap on the glass. Cranking the window open, he peered over the edge, trying to figure out his location. In the dark, he couldn’t tell if the gargoyle on the roof was a chimera or a griffin.

Lightning flashed, revealing a part of the dream house he’d never been to before: a spiral steeple wrapped in a water slide. Stepping out on the gutter, Mark knew this would be a good night to explore.

14. Redstone Complex

Find the Time (Audio Short)

What if you could freeze time, hit pause, hit mute, tell the whole to just wait a minute? What would you get accomplished without the looming punch clock, without the mouths to feed, without the noise pollution? What would you do if the earth rotated on your time?

This is a short story about someone with just such an ability. Too bad for the rest of the world, frozen in time, that this person happens to be a writer.

The Men Behind the Curtain: Part 2

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