Racing through October

Red Rocks of Sedona by Randy Cockrell

Red Rocks of Sedona by Randy Cockrell

Is the month going by as fast for you as it is for me? Wow, it’s been a crazy month. Last week my hubby and I went to Sedona with several of our hiking friends and had a good time hiking that area. The picture at the top of the post is from there. Too beautiful for words. Of course the weekend before was the craft fair, that was exciting. The 4th was my visit to the Sedona book fair.  Then there are the meetings for the book festival we’re planning for Payson, dental appointments, HOA meeting, project management phone calls and a luncheon for the neighborhood ladies.

In between all of that, I’m prepping for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo or NaNo). I want to have stories scheduled for every Friday in November so I don’t have to worry about that while I’m writing my newest draft. I have 2 scheduled, 1 written and ready to be scheduled and one still to be done. I still need one for the 31st of October, too. That should probably be kind of Halloweeny, don’t you think? Other NaNo planning is my outline. It’s going to be a cozy mystery, the first one I’ve tried to write. I have five plot lines and about 30 scene sentences completed. I think another 30 – 40 scenes will fill the story out nicely. If you don’t know, NaNo is a writing challenge. Every November thousands of authors, new and experienced, try to write 50,000 words or more in the month. It turns out to be 1667 words per day, minimum. You can go to the website and check it out. www.nanowrimo.org/en/sign_in It’s free to join and there are forums to visit to talk with others about writing. I need to think about a cover for my cozy mystery, too. Hmmm.

The garden is still producing tomatoes and the sweet and hot pepper plants still have a couple peppers on them ripening. Otherwise the garden is looking a little worn and tired. Soon I’ll have to pull everything out and prep the beds for the winter.

Thanks for stopping by my blog today.

Like any author, my books sell based on reviews. Would you be interested in getting a free copy to review for me? Go to the button on the right side of the blog or go to my Newsletter tab to sign up. Or sign up here. Use Control, Click to access the link. Let me know if you’d like to be a reviewer on Goodreads or the e-tailer site of your choice.

First Encounter: a Brown Rain Story released September 18th! I’m pretty excited about it. You can buy it and my other books at: Apple, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, or Smashwords today!

Writing Platform? Do I have One?

Phoebe at Park by Randy Cockrell

Phoebe at Park by Randy Cockrell

When I saw this month’s topic, to be honest, I was baffled. I didn’t know what that meant. So, being a modern woman I went to the internet to get some help. I stumbled on http://www.be-a-better-writer.com/writing-platform.html and checked out the definition there. Here’s the first paragraph on their page.

“Having a writing platform means that you have an audience, and that you have some vehicle in place to reach that audience when you have books to sell. This platform is as important to those not yet published as it is to established writers.”

Oh! Yeah, how am I contacting people, selling books, putting my name out there? Good question. The site offers thirteen things you should or could do to create a rounded “platform”. If you’re interested in what they suggest, check out the site. However, we get all of this same information right here on Forward Motion. Here are a few of the things I do.

Aside from writing the next book, which is the number one suggestion, I started a blog. One day I’ll turn it into a regular website but for now, until I start earning money from my books, the blog does much of what a website will do for me. It forces me to write to my audience on a regular basis. I’ve settled on two days per week, Monday and Friday. Friday’s are for a flash fiction piece. It tends to be a little rough. After all, I’m putting out a story a week! But that regularity helps me be consistent. Don’t think I gained a lot of readers right off the bat, it took a long time and I still have fewer than 500. Monday posts are for getting to know me. I share news about my garden, my writing, my family, my hobbies. I’ve focused my blog on my readers, not other authors. You won’t find author tips there but you may find a recipe to use the abundance of your garden.

I have business cards for my writing. That’s another suggestion. When I mention that I’m an author, people want to take a look at what I’m writing. A business card makes it easy. I use the cover of my most recent book as the graphic and usually print ten or so at a time with my facebook page and blog page listed so people can find me. When do I buy business cards? See the next paragraph.

To get more exposure, do an author signing, or a reading at the local library, or give a presentation to a local group. An author signing can be at a book store, the local library or in my case, a local craft fair. I made sure I had plenty of professional looking business cards made up, they cost about $10, and I had a postcard made as a give away at my table. It’s good to offer a little something extra to those that buy your book. And it’s nice to have something with your info on it to give those who look interested but don’t buy right that minute.

Another thing I’ve done is help other authors. I had a lot of help in my path to learn how to be an author. Now, I feel confident enough to help other authors. Being generous with my knowledge helps others and who do you think they’ll mention to their readers when they talk about how they became successful? This is a good place to mention that you can use your website or blog platform to help authors advertise their books. Give them a platform or give them a review. It’s all good.

There are a lot of other ways to add to your writer’s platform. Some I have the time and competence to do, others I’ve not tried yet. If you’re a reader, how do you feel about going to your favorite author’s website? If you’re an author, what do you do to build your writer’s platform? Feel free to leave a comment in the comment box below.

About the picture above. I was looking for a picture of puzzlement. I didn’t find any I liked but I did come across this picture of a little chihuahua I know, Phoebe. It was so cute I had to use it.

The Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour is sponsored by the website Forward Motion (http://www.fmwriters.com). The tour is you, the reader, travelling the world from author’s blog to author’s blog. There are all sorts of writers at all stages in their writing career, so there’s always something new and different to enjoy. If you want to get to know the nearly twenty other writers check out the rest of the tour at http://merrygoroundtour.blogspot.com!  Up next: Jean Schara!

Flash Fiction Friday: Royal Apples

Gala Apple on Tree by Randy Cockrell

Gala Apple on Tree by Randy Cockrell

The prompt for this story came from a Chuck Wendig challenge. From a list of uncommon apple names, pick three and create a story using those names. I had fun with this and used more than three names.

King Solomon sat on his throne, Reverend Morgan standing on the floor of the throne room in front of him. All of the King’s advisors and courtiers had been sent from the room. He even dismissed the guards. They were alone.

“Tell me again?”

“Yes, Sire. Your son, Crown Prince Rudolph has come to me in private asking me to wed him and one of your maids, Malinda. I put him off, but it seemed to me that the young man was making an error in judgment. I’ve come to you, despite Prince Rudolph’s confidence in me, to let you know.” He spun his hat in his hands around and around the brim as he spoke.

The King drummed his fingers on the arm of the throne. It was just like his son to run off and try to secretly wed one of the servants. He scowled at the Reverend. “I find it disconcerting, sir, that you betray a confidence of one of your flock.”

Reverend Morgan had the grace to look ashamed.

“That being said, I appreciate the information. Have you met the girl?”

“No, Sire. Just the Crown Prince.” The man shuffled his feet and looked at the floor.

King Solomon glared at the far wall. “That will be all, Reverend. Thank you for telling me.”

The Reverend bowed, turned and hurried to the door of the throne room. By the time the echos of the door closing behind the man finished ricocheting around the room, the King decided what to do. “Guard!”

Two guards opened the door to the throne room and stood at attention. One of you find the Prince and bring him to my apartments. The other one, find the servant Malinda. Bring her to me after the Prince arrives in my apartment.”

The guards bowed and hurried off.

An hour later, Crown Prince Rudolph was shown into the King’s apartment. He was at his carved oaken desk in front of a window, reading dispatches.”

“Father,” the Prince bowed in front of the desk. “You sent for me?”

The King put down the dispatch he was reading and stared at his son. “You’re twenty-three this year, son, are you not?”

“Yes, Father.”

“And you think it’s time for you to marry?”

A blush crept up the young man’s face. He straightened his spine. “I do, Father. I take it Reverend Morgan spoke with you?”

The King stacked his papers neatly and set them to the side of the desk. He folded his hands in front of himself. “He did. You are aware that I am negotiating an alliance with the King of Russet for the hand of his daughter for you?”

“I’m aware, Father. But I’ve never met the girl. She could look like a horse and weigh as much.”

They were interrupted by a knock at the door. “Enter,” the King called out.

The guards escorted the servant, Malinda, into the room. The King dismissed them with a wave of his hand. A comely girl, the King thought to himself, as he watched the two young people exchange worried glances. She stood next to the Prince after a curtsy to the King.

“You wish to wed my son?”

She glanced at the Prince and swallowed. “Yes, Sire.”

“I have plans for the Prince. Marrying a servant does the kingdom no favors, girl.”

Her head drooped. “I understand, Sire.”

A teardrop sparkled in the sunlight streaming through the window. He felt sorry for them but he had to think about the kingdom. “Where are you from, girl?”

“From the Kingdom of Apple, Sire. I came here as a child, my parents were killed there.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. I remember an uprising there, oh, ten years ago. The royal family was all killed. The country still hasn’t recovered.” He looked closely at the girl.

“Yes, Sire.”

“The King and his Queen were friends of mine. We held a hunt every year.” He leaned forward. “Let me see your face.”

The Prince nodded for her to comply. She held up her head, tears still in her blue eyes.

The King’s brow furrowed. “Who were your parents?”

Malinda twisted her skirt in her hand and looked as though she wanted to bolt from the room. “My parents here are shop keepers, Sire. They sell dry goods and imported items from other lands.”

He shook his head. “Your birth parents. Who were they?”

Her mouth worked and she twisted the bit of skirt even harder. “I was told never to say, Sire. For my own protection.”

The King pushed away from the desk and walked to the girl taking her face in his hand. He peered into her face. “Tell me.”

He could see her throat work. “King Oliver and Queen Lacy.”

“I knew it,” he shouted and dropped his hand. “You look just like your mother.”

She shrank back as the Prince put his arm around her.

“What is it, Father?”

“I’d heard that the Princess’ body had never been found. I sent spies into the revolution to try and find out what happened but the girl was gone without a trace. The shop keepers, who were they?”

She took the Prince’s hand. “My guard and my nanny. They married when they got here and kept me safe.”

King Solomon clapped his son on the shoulder. “Perfect. I’ve wanted to do something about that revolution for years. This is excellent.”

Two months later, the Crown Prince Rudolph married Princess Malinda. In the spring, he led the army to the Kingdom of Apple to retake the throne. After the war, he and Queen Malinda reigned there happily ever after.

 

The End

936 Words

Find more of the Forward Motion Flash Friday Group here: http://www.fmwriters.com/flash.html

Weekend at the Craft Fair: Author Signings

The Drawing Prize Basket by Connie Cockrell

The Drawing Prize Basket by Connie Cockrell

I organized a book signing for this weekend’s craft fair. http://pinestrawberrybusinesscommunityaz.com/fallapple.html I started a couple weeks ago, contacting the fair people and it happened a fellow author volunteers for the event. We teamed up and were hoping to get an outdoors 10X10 ft. space for a discount. It turns out they had space inside and the other authors (3 of them) that we were going to shoehorn into the space, sharing the cost, would get tables inside too, all for the fact the one author volunteers. Yay! So five 8 ft tables indoors. Here’s the low down on all of them.

Me:

Me at my table by Connie Cockrell

Me at my table by Connie Cockrell

I sold the entire Gulliver Station series at the craft fair. I sold 4 complete sets and 2 of the first novel of the series. I also had 11 people sign up for my newsletter. I’m calling that a win. You can find links to locations were you can find all of my books on the Books tab on this blog site. I also have an Author Page on Amazon where you can find a list of my books.

Nancy Lee Burns:

Nancy Lee Burns at her Table by Connie Cockrell

Nancy Lee Burns at her Table by Connie Cockrell

This is the wonderful volunteer. Many thanks Nancy. She had two books at the signing, her first book: Retirement: Sacred or Scared and her newest book, Enjoy the Apple: You Picked It. Click on the titles to go to the Amazon links. She calls these Spiritual Adventure books.

Ken Crump:

Ken Crump and his book by Connie Cockrell

Ken Crump and his book by Connie Cockrell

Ken brought his children’s book, The Last Moment, to sell and sign. Click on the book title to get to the Amazon page. He had a wonderful illustrator for the book, Amy Abney, also local to my area. Her art work is amazing. His blog is www.brickhousepiggy.com and can be reached at KenCrumpAuthor@gmail.com.

Carole Emma Mathewson:

Carole Emma Mathewson and her Book by Connie Cockrell

Carole Emma Mathewson and her Book by Connie Cockrell

Carole has two books out, The Hostess of Providence, a one woman play, and her newest book, The Waste of War, a Civil War era Historical Fiction that is about her great-grandparents, a Union surgeon and his wife, who served as his nurse through some of the most horrendous parts of the Civil War.

Finally but not least, AnneMarie Eveland:

AnneMarie Eveland doing a Face Reading by Connie Cockrell

AnneMarie Eveland doing a Face Reading by Connie Cockrell

She brought her Self Help/Psychology book, At First Glance: What Faces Reveal. She spent much of Saturday doing readings for people. It was quite well accepted. Her site is www.HurrahForHumans.com and can be reached at Annemarie@HurrahForHumans.com.

We all had a great time chatting with craft fair goers, trading writing tips and enjoying a wonderful camaraderie. The basket drawing was won by Tara Fuller of Chandler who has donated the basket back to us. We’ll have to decide what to do with it now. I threw all the rest of the tickets away in Pine so have no way to draw a new winner.

I for one, learned a few things.

- Many people saw my SciFi books and assumed they were for kids. I had to gently tell them they had adult themes.

- People visiting a craft fair tend to walk as far from the tables as they can get and do their best not to make eye contact.

- Having a drawing, which we did, brings people in close enough to chat. Our drawing was a basket with one book donated by each author and a big mug with 5 different ways to make hot chocolate. If the word free didn’t bring them in to make out a ticket to drop in the jar, the word chocolate seemed to do the trick.

- Once you have them in to chat, we had great conversations and some people even took our business cards. A few even bought a book.

- Catchy book titles will bring passing visitors in for a look. Nancy’s book, Retirement: Sacred or Scared generated quite a few conversations.

- Don’t throw the drawing tickets away until we actually get the prize to someone.

Overall, we had a great time and hope we can get together again sometime.

Thanks for stopping by my blog today.

Like any author, my books sell based on reviews. Would you be interested in getting a free copy to review for me? Go to the button on the right side of the blog or go to my Newsletter tab to sign up. Or sign up here. Use Control, Click to access the link. Let me know if you’d like to be a reviewer on Goodreads or the e-tailer site of your choice.

First Encounter: a Brown Rain Story released September 18th! I’m pretty excited about it. You can buy it and my other books at: Apple, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, or Smashwords today!

Flash Fiction Friday: Final Third of Mystery at the Fair

Fonda Fair Butter Sculpture 2009 by Randy Cockrell

Fonda Fair Butter Sculpture 2009 by Randy Cockrell


Here’s the final third of the story with the whole thing in place so you don’t have to look for it. This is my first experiment with the cosy mystery genre. It’s a lot of fun. What do you think? Are you interested in hearing more about Jean Hays? Leave a comment!

Sweat rolled down the side of Jean Hays’ face, her short graying brown hair stuck to her forehead. The sun beat down out of a cornflower blue sky while end of the monsoon season thunderheads built up into towering blinding white and ominous portents of future rain. Rain every year for the fair, she thought as she trudged to the storage container where the plastic tubs of left over ribbons, banners and other fair paraphernalia resided the rest of the year.  She wiped her face and hoped the units were unlocked. The Fair Board President, Arris Van Horn wasn’t answering his phone. He should have them open by now.

She wiped the sweat from her face and lightly touched the metal handles of the shipping container. The front of the unit had been in the sun all day but while it was hot to the touch, she could grab the lever and pull it up. Must be ninety degrees out here. She swung the door open with relief that she wouldn’t have to trudge all over the fairgrounds looking for Arris and stepped inside. It was dark just a few feet inside the metal box and at least a hundred and twenty degrees. Sweat began dripping in earnest. Smells like mice in here, hope they haven’t gotten into the tubs, she thought.

Winding her way past safety cones, stacked tables, buckets of rope, steel cable and broken metal chairs, she stepped over a pile of rebar to reach her stack of tubs. One, two, three, four, she counted, where’s the fifth tub? The heat was giving her a headache. Maybe it’s farther to the back. A pile of cardboard boxes labeled, Mud Run, blocked her way. The storage container held material for several events that occurred on the fairgrounds during the year. Jean moved the three boxes behind her and stepped over a pile of rusting chain. Wish I’d brought a flashlight, she thought. It’s dark back here.

Squinting, she saw the medium blue tub four feet away on top of another stack of bins. There you are. She wiped her face again and held her breath. The smell of dead things was over whelming. I hope nothing crawled into my bin. The ribbons will be ruined. She picked her way past boxes, rusting metal things she couldn’t identify and a broken ladder. She pulled the tilted bin toward her and the pile of bins it was on fell over. Her bin slid to the floor, taking part of her thumbnail with it. “Owww,” she cried as she jerked her hand away. In front of her, the two doors of a metal cabinet creaked open and a desiccated human body fell out on top of her bin. She shrieked and scrambled outside.

She stared, panting, at the open door of the container then dialed 911. “This is Jean Hays. I’m the VP of Exhibits for the fair. I just found a dead body in the storage container on the fairgrounds.”

——-

Standing inside the yellow crime scene tape, Jean watched what looked like complete chaos as an EMT bandaged her thumb.

“That should do it,” he said as he smoothed the tape. “You should get a tetanus shot, too. The Emergency Care place over on the corner of the Highway and Longview Street can take care of you. If you go to the hospital emergency room it’ll cost more.”

“Thanks.” Jean examined her thumb. “I’ll do that.” She nodded toward the crowd of milling police and coroner and EMT’s. “Crime scenes always look like this?”

He shrugged. “Don’t know. There hasn’t been a murder in town since I started working, eleven years ago.”

They were interrupted by a uniformed officer. “Who said it was a murder?”

“It looked like a murder to me.” Jean nodded her thanks to the EMT who left. The officer’s tone annoyed her. She held out her right hand. “I’m Jean Hayes.”

He shook her hand, after a look of suspicion. “I’m Chief of Police Nick White. You found the body?”

“Scared the crap out of me. Fell out of the double door cabinet. Stuff was piled in front of it that held the doors closed. If it was a suicide, how’d stuff get piled in front of the door?” She jerked her chin at the small crowd gathering outside the tape. “The press is here.”

Chief White turned to see a photographer taking pictures with a long lens. “That’s Scott Duley, works for the town newspaper. The editor will be calling me soon for the story.” He turned back to her. “Did you recognize the body?”

“No.” Jean was hot and wanted a drink of water. A whole bottle of icy cold water sounded really good, what with the sun beating down on her head. “It was too dark in there and I was busy getting out. I’ve only lived here a year, anyway. Most people are still strangers.”

His left eyebrow cocked up. “You’re on the Fair Board.”

Jean shrugged. “Not hard. They needed volunteers and I’m a good organizer.”

Nick eyed her then said, “The body had ID, Ida Grange.” He studied her reaction.

She shook her head. “Sorry, Chief, It doesn’t ring a bell.”

“She and Arris Van Horn were an item last year.” He adjusted his equipment belt.

It was Jean’s turn to raise an eyebrow. Why would he share that information? she thought. “You think Arris did this? A poor place to hide a body since he’s in charge of the container.”

The Chief sniffed. “Maybe.” He looked around and waved an officer over. “Take Ms. Hays statement and let her get back to her business.”

“What about my bins?”

He looked directly at the officer. “Check the bins and if they’re clean, let her have them.” He never looked at her, just turned and walked back over to the gurney where the body lay covered.

—–

After an eternity of questions and a maddening examination of the bins, Jean was released. In the Exhibits building the Superintendents surrounded her.

“What happened?” was the primary question. She told them what she knew and they drifted off to complete their set up.

Karen Carver, Superintendent of Homemaking Arts, approached her half an hour later as Jean reviewed paperwork for the exhibits. She handed Jean an icy bottle of water. “I expect they kept you standing in the sun. You’re probably thirsty.”

Jean took the bottle and untwisted the cap. “They did.” She drank half the bottle then her right eye squinted. “Sorry, ice cream brain.” She recapped the bottle. “Thanks.”

“No problem.” Karen glanced around the building. “Um, did you hear anything?”

Jean cocked an eyebrow. “As in?”

“You know; any suspects?”

Jean didn’t really know these people. While they’d had a few planning meetings, she wasn’t friends. She wondered how much to say. “Well, the Police Chief asked probing questions.”

“Probing?”

Jean asked, “What do you mean?”

Karen shrugged. “Well, you know, it’s a small town. A body was found in one of our storage containers. It’s got to be a short list of suspects.”

“Do you have a theory?”

The woman looked around again. The fans that moved the hot air drowned out any nearby conversations. “Well, Ina George has been missing for months.”

“What do you know?”

“Maybe I shouldn’t say.”

Jean’s military training kicked in. “If you know something, you need to say so, to the authorities.”

“Well,” she tugged at the hem of her sleeveless blouse. “I don’t know for sure.”

“Come with me,” Jean said in her best Master Sergeant voice.

Karen fidgeted but after a command wave, followed Jean to the crime scene.

“Chief White,” Jean called from the outside of the crime scene tape.

“Yeah.” Annoyance spread across his face.

Jean had the urge to say “FU” and turn away but she held her ground. No small time police chief was going to intimidate her. “It’s important.”

He said something to the officer beside him and strode to the tape opposite them. “I’m a little busy, Ms. Hayes.”

“I understand that, Chief.” Her voice rose slightly and he scowled. “Ms. Carver is one of my Superintendents and I believe she has some pertinent information.”

He questioned Karen, then called an officer over to take her information while he stepped away to make a call on his radio. Two squad cars raced off, dust spewing into the air.

It wasn’t until the next Tuesday that she read in the paper that Arris had been arrested for the murder of Ida Grange.

A week later she bumped into Chief White at the local grocery. “Ms. Hays.”

“Chief.”

“Thank you for the tip last week.”

“My pleasure, Chief.”

He looked uncomfortable. “Uh, have a good day.”

“You too, Chief.”

She rolled her eyes when they parted. “What a clown,” she muttered.

 

The End

500/485/488 Words

Find more of the Forward Motion Flash Friday Group here: http://www.fmwriters.com/flash.html

Fun, Fun, Fun, All Month

Cathedral Rock, Sedona, AZ by Connie Cockrell

Cathedral Rock, Sedona, AZ by Connie Cockrell

Are you enjoying cooler weather? Have you broken out the stew pot? I made macaroni and cheese this weekend. It still averages 80 to 85 degrees here during the day but it just seemed right to bake a mac and cheese dinner.

Writing has been hit or miss since the first of October. I did see a contest with only 9 days left to enter. The prompt was a photo and the challenge was to write a story in 500 words or less about what was going on in the picture. Well, I thought for a moment and the words just started flowing onto the keyboard. It felt good. I submitted it that night. I’ll find out in a week or two if I won. If I didn’t win, I’ll share the story here on a Friday.

So the book I’ve been helping another author publish? I put it into CreateSpace and the author is reviewing the proof copy. When it goes live, I’ll share a link to her Amazon page.

Saturday, four of us from the Payson Book Festival committee went to Sedona to see how they run their book fair. It was a small venue but still there were 59 authors there. There was a lot of variety, from cookbooks to SciFi, New Age to Mysteries. We picked up a few tips and ideas about how we’d like to run our book festival then we went to lunch and before we left Sedona, visited Cathedral Rock. That’s the picture up on top. We couldn’t have asked for a prettier day.

This weekend, October 11th and 12th, I’ll be doing a book signing at the Pine Craft Fair with four other authors. I’m putting together a basket with a donated book from each of us for a drawing. I hope you can stop by and see me.

Looking for something to read? You can get all of the links to purchase my latest book at the end of this post. I sent out a newsletter with the announcement and an offer that’s just for newsletter subscribers. Do you want in on the action? Look below for a link to the Newsletter sign up button.

Thanks for stopping by my blog today.

Like any author, my books sell based on reviews. Would you be interested in getting a free copy to review for me? Go to the button on the right side of the blog or go to my Newsletter tab to sign up. Or sign up here. Use Control, Click to access the link. Let me know if you’d like to be a reviewer on Goodreads or the e-tailer site of your choice.

First Encounter: a Brown Rain Story released September 18th! I’m pretty excited about it. You can buy it and my other books at: Apple, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, or Smashwords today!

Flash Friday: Challenge Follow-Up Two Fer Day

So Containing by that-photo-guy via www.deviantart.com

So Containing by that-photo-guy via http://www.deviantart.com

This is a follow-up of the Chuck Wendig challenge to write the 1st third of a story then leave it for another writer to finish. Last week no one picked up the final third of the story, Brandon Scott’s Plumbing Issues, so I’ll finish it off.

No one picked up my first third from three weeks ago so I’m doing part 2 of it after Plumbing Issues. I was going to try and finish it in 500 words but it just didn’t work. Next week, you’ll get the end of it.

I pick up the Plumbing Issues at the dividing line.

Title: Plumbing Issues (Part 1 by Brandon Scott at Coolerbs Reviews. http://coolerbs.com/2014/09/10/flash-fiction-challenge-the-first-half-of-a-story-only/)

Darkness, their home. A thousand bodies pressed up to each other, communicating through nothing but a torrent of clicks. A swarm; chirping and scuttling. Carapaces pressed up to each other, rubbing. The sound was deafening. The smell, even worse.

They ate, constantly. It was all they knew. A screaming fire in each stomach. Everything was food; rot, blood, skin. Everything.  Every inch of the surface picked clean. Any other creature, anything that was not an ally, devoured. Cracked open and slurped up. A few brothers had died, they too were eaten.

Every feeler started to twitch at once. A new noise had appeared. Booming, alien. Something was talking, something massive. The ceaseless noise, ceased. All stood at attention, wanting to hear.

Where is it?”

“I already told you on the phone”

“Well, could you tell me again, please?”

“The bathroom. It’s always the bathroom.”

“I said I’d fix it.”

“That was a year ago.”

“I will, I just haven’t gotten around to it. Okay?”

 “Okay.

“No, I… I’m sorry. I didn’t mean-“

“Just fix it.”

“Look honey, I got a bonus coming up. The vacation can wait, we can-“

“Not now. I don’t want to argue. I just wanna sleep. Could you just handle it, please?”

“Yeah, of course, good night.”

“Night.”

A thumbing noise, more akin to thunder than anything else, sounded across the entire hive. A single twitch of alarm turning into a wave of feelers. The pyramid of bodies began to crumble as individuals tried to move, to escape.

It descended into mayhem, bodies pressed against bodies. Towers made, purely by accident; collapsing just as quickly as they formed. The Queen attempted to calm them. Pheromones screaming for order.

They went unheard.

Their spiny legs found purchase, and raced on the sides. A burst a fresh air gave them a destination. Upwards. A barrier prevented them from passing, and they hungrily tore at it. The porcelain proving itself just another food source. Acid spat, melting it, mandibles scooping it into thousands of wailing mouths. Progress was slow, but they were persisting. More and more climbing up to attack the obstruction. When one grew too full, it would drop down. Its six legs, flailing in the air, being eventually righted by a shift of the mass.

This frantic pace continued for a while, the edge of the barrier weakening. Holes dug, but not yet wide enough to go through.

Then the noise sounded again, and all was still.

No….no you know what, it’s that mother of her’s. Made one comment about the toilet being dirty….and what does she do? She wants me to replace the whole God-damn thing.”

A noise of metal against plastic, followed by compressed air let free. A large weight dropped down parallel to the entirety of the hive.

Something, large, hit against the surface of the barrier.

The obstruction disappeared and the swarm, now uninhibited, rose forth in-mass. Spilling across the floor; thousands of them. Rushing forward. Manic with hunger.

The random hair, skin cells, a dead spider, found by the leading edge of the swarm disappeared into desperate mandibles leaving nothing for the horde behind. They roiled in the small room until an exit was found. There, they found fibers, soft and giving more traction than the smooth floor of the first room. It was dark but that was what they loved. It was dry, not their favorite but all the fiber made it worthwhile.

Again, spiny legs found purchase on wood, on more fibers touching the floor and leading upward. The swarm followed each link upward, racing each other to eat what was in front of them. Antenna quivered as they tasted the air. Protein, and a lot of it was ahead. They raced, each hungry belly wanting to be the first to find the prize.

Clicking, chirping, scuttling, the swarm raced upward. It grew warmer as they ate their way along the fibers. The lead creatures of the swarm gave off their pheromones, FOOD! They bit into the soft, warm meat.

A noise greater than any they had ever heard vibrated their timpani. They stopped, trying to recover from the noise. They heard a click and light filled the room, brighter than any they had ever been exposed to. They cowered. Again, a high pitched shriek, made the swarm retreat a foot or two, confusion reigned in the swarm. Hunger gnawed, but fear held them back. The fibers they were on moved, hard carapaces flew through the air as the shrieking grew in volume. The protein moved, brothers were trampled and eaten.

The queen, left behind, couldn’t help them. Her pheromones were too far away to help calm and organize. As the shrieking drifted away, the creatures returned to eating the fibers, tiny treats of mites and dead skin cells leading the swarm on. Booming noise gave them pause. They stopped to listen.

“You have to come right now! My whole bedroom is infested.”

“There are millions! Millions and millions! You have to come right now. My wife is going to have a stroke. You have to come.”

“Hurry!”

The noise stopped, the swarm ate. A hissing noise came from one wall where a crack allowed some of the brothers to leave the room. As more and more tried to go in that direction, more and more of their dead bodies filled the crack. They tasted bad but food was food. Soon those who ate the dead were dead also.

Again, the booming noise filled the air.

“What’s taking so long? They’re trying to get out of the bedroom. I’m out of bug killer. Hurry up!”

“Yes, that’s the address.”

The swarm barely paused now at the noise. The room was hot and dry. The food was dry. The swarm fed but the environment was hostile. They began to miss the wet, dark place they came from. Some of the brothers stood still, the lack of the queen’s direction rendering them useless.

_________

A thundering sounded from where dead brothers were piled in heaps. Cool air flushed into the room. The swarm paused. A humongous, bright yellow giant moved into the room as a mist drifted down from the end of an appendage. The mist was cooling, soothing even, after the hot dry air of their current location. The moisture felt good.

Not good were the hundreds of brother killed as the creature moved among them. They were crushed at each step the giant took. Many brothers tried to swarm the monster but the yellow skin of it was too slick for their claws to gain purchase. Many more slipped to their doom under the mammoth feet.

Vibrations filled the air.

“Oh my God, look at them. Where did they come from?”

The yellow giant rumbled. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Soon the bellies of the swarm began to ache. Images in their eyes, quavered, shimmered and confused the mass of insects. They began to move randomly, crashing into each other in piles the formed and dissolved in moments, only to reform in new spots immediately thereafter.

Brothers began to stop in their tracks, antenna quivering. They couldn’t make sense of the sights or sounds or smells of their own swarm. Movement, which had earlier seemed like a living, shifting carpet, stilled. The giant crunched across the room to the source.

“Spray it again!” was heard from outside the killing field.

“You ain’t gonna believe this,” the yellow giant yelled. “The whole toilet has fallen into your subfloor. There’s a nest down there.”

The man choked on the fear and the stench of the dead. “My wife is gonna kill me. She asked me to fix the damn toilet a year ago. I kept puttin’ it off.”

The yellow figure sprayed into the hole the toilet fell into. “I’m gonna need back-up.” He came back to the door where the owner stood. He pulled off the cover over his head. “I gotta call the Department of Health. This is an invasion.”

The owner slumped against the hall wall. “My wife is gonna kill me.”

The End

496/495/352 Words

Mystery at the Fair (Part One included so you don’t have to go to another link.) Part 2 begins at the line.

Mystery at the Fair

Sweat rolled down the side of Jean Hays’ face, her short graying brown hair stuck to her forehead. The sun beat down out of a cornflower blue sky while end of the monsoon season thunderheads built up into towering blinding white and ominous portents of future rain. Rain every year for the fair, she thought as she trudged to the storage container where the plastic tubs of left over ribbons, banners and other fair paraphernalia resided the rest of the year.  She wiped her face and hoped the units were unlocked. The Fair Board President, Arris Van Horn wasn’t answering his phone. He should have them open by now.

She wiped the sweat from her face and lightly touched the metal handles of the shipping container. The front of the unit had been in the sun all day but while it was hot to the touch, she could grab the lever and pull it up. Must be ninety degrees out here. She swung the door open with relief that she wouldn’t have to trudge all over the fairgrounds looking for Arris and stepped inside. It was dark just a few feet inside the metal box and at least a hundred and twenty degrees. Sweat began dripping in earnest. Smells like mice in here, hope they haven’t gotten into the tubs, she thought.

Winding her way past safety cones, stacked tables, buckets of rope, steel cable and broken metal chairs, she stepped over a pile of rebar to reach her stack of tubs. One, two, three, four, she counted, where’s the fifth tub? The heat was giving her a headache. Maybe it’s farther to the back. A pile of cardboard boxes labeled, Mud Run, blocked her way. The storage container held material for several events that occurred on the fairgrounds during the year. Jean moved the three boxes behind her and stepped over a pile of rusting chain. Wish I’d brought a flashlight, she thought. It’s dark back here.

Squinting, she saw the medium blue tub four feet away on top of another stack of bins. There you are. She wiped her face again and held her breath. The smell of dead things was over whelming. I hope nothing crawled into my bin. The ribbons will be ruined. She picked her way past boxes, rusting metal things she couldn’t identify and a broken ladder. She pulled the tilted bin toward her and the pile of bins it was on fell over. Her bin slid to the floor, taking part of her thumbnail with it. “Owww,” she cried as she jerked her hand away. In front of her, the two doors of a metal cabinet creaked open and a desiccated human body fell out on top of her bin. She shrieked and scrambled outside.

She stared, panting, at the open door of the container then dialed 911. “This is Jean Hays. I’m the VP of Exhibits for the fair. I just found a dead body in the storage container on the fairgrounds.”

___________

Standing inside the yellow crime scene tape, Jean watched what looked like complete chaos as an EMT bandaged her thumb.

“That should do it,” he said as he smoothed the tape. “You should get a tetanus shot, too. The Emergency Care place over on the corner of the Highway and Longview Street can take care of you. If you go to the hospital emergency room it’ll cost more.”

“Thanks.” Jean examined her thumb. “I’ll do that.” She nodded toward the crowd of milling police and coroner and EMT’s. “Crime scenes always look like this?”

He shrugged. “Don’t know. There hasn’t been a murder in town since I started working, eleven years ago.”

They were interrupted by a uniformed officer. “Who said it was a murder?”

“It looked like a murder to me.” Jean nodded her thanks to the EMT who left. The officer’s tone annoyed her. She held out her right hand. “I’m Jean Hayes.”

He shook her hand, after a look of suspicion. “I’m Chief of Police Nick White. You found the body?”

“Scared the crap out of me. Fell out of the double door cabinet. Stuff was piled in front of it that held the doors closed. If it was a suicide, how’d stuff get piled in front of the door?” She jerked her chin at the small crowd gathering outside the tape. “The press is here.”

Chief White turned to see a photographer taking pictures with a long lens. “That’s Scott Duley, works for the town newspaper. The editor will be calling me soon for the story.” He turned back to her. “Did you recognize the body?”

“No.” Jean was hot and wanted a drink of water. A whole bottle of icy cold water sounded really good, what with the sun beating down on her head. “It was too dark in there and I was busy getting out. I’ve only lived here a year, anyway. Most people are still strangers.”

His left eyebrow cocked up. “You’re on the Fair Board.”

Jean shrugged. “Not hard. They needed volunteers and I’m a good organizer.”

Nick eyed her then said, “The body had ID, Ida Grange.” He studied her reaction.

She shook her head. “Sorry, Chief, It doesn’t ring a bell.”

“She and Arris Van Horn were an item last year.” He adjusted his equipment belt.

It was Jean’s turn to raise an eyebrow. Why would he share that information? she thought. “You think Arris did this? A poor place to hide a body since he’s in charge of the container.”

The Chief sniffed. “Maybe.” He looked around and waved an officer over. “Take Ms. Hays statement and let her get back to her business.”

“What about my bins?”

He looked directly at the officer. “Check the bins and if they’re clean, let her have them.” He never looked at her, just turned and walked back over to the gurney where the body lay covered.

The End

500/485 Words

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