29 July 2010

"Bobby Jones" #Fridayflash

When I was fourteen, we was a family of moonshine runners. Daddy loaded the cars up with the crates and off we'd go, smoking cigarettes and trying to keep our hands off the goods, but there was many a night when we'd be hiding from the police and end up all alone with nothing but the 'shine to keep us company. Nights when we sat in dewy grass and traded tales, each bigger than the one before it, til we was sure it was clear to get back out on the road again.

Daddy souped up those black cars and fixed it so the brakelights wouldn't light up, giving the us runners a better advantage to get away since they weren't giving away where we was turning off at.

My brother Bobby knew all those backroads. He had to perch on the edge of his seat to reach the pedals the first year, then he sprouted right up with the rest of us and we couldn't call him lil' Bobby anymore.

The biggest scare I got was when I had to ride along with Bobby (before the growth-spurt even) and we was tearing down them skinny rutted roads like the Devil himself was after us. It was about 2 o'clock in the morning and Bobby was driving back full-throttle. The car was empty thank the Lord, else all those jugs be about broke but then we heard the car before we saw it and there was the law, on our tails trying to get us to stop. We passed a car on the right and there was mud and clipped grass flying through the air and Bobby’d laughed at me and just drove faster.

He revved that old Chevrolet up and we shot down that road like a black muddy bullet. Mailboxes knocked up against my door like bony knuckles and somebody's dog erupted in a fit of barking till the police behind us had to swerve hard to avoid hitting the stupid mutt.

"Moonshine Running"  - Ian Guy 

I had no problems believing that we'd outrun them behind us but sweet baby Jesus, I clung to the seat, then the dash, trying to squirm away from my door when the branches screeched along the sides, and then half the tires dropped down into a rut and I peeked over the windowsill. Bobby grinned over at me and told me not to worry. That fender’d be there when we got back.

And somehow it was.

Bobby grew up to race cars, and me? Well I met a nice dame, we had some kids and I became a house painter. We split ways once we made up our minds, me opting for the safer family route and Bobby taking to the circuit making money driving in circles til he zigged when he should’ve zagged.

He found that he couldn't outrun the Devil for long.

R.I.P. Bobby Jones 1912-1943


Bobby Jones might be fictional but Icy Sedgwick sure isn't. Go on and visit her work. And thank her for this fine idea of a car chase. - C.C.

Check out Ian Guy's other fine art!

23 July 2010

Special Feature: Meet Pamila Payne

The very first time I came across Pamila Payne's website was after I was double-featured with her AT-THE-BIJOU. I was so impressed with the immersive stories and gritty noir (not to mention it's set in Texas at a ghostly motel) I had to know more. Somehow, she didn't find me to be a crazy; we actually have quite a bit in common. So when she agreed to an interview hosted at Mindspeak, you can imagine how delighted I was. 

Please, if you follow and enjoy my work, I can guarantee you will love hers.

After all, we write from the same vein. - Carrie

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? What was it like growing up for you?

Early, early childhood. I started sorting out how to read and write before I started school and pretended to write new parts for the bible to annoy my grampa. I developed a precocious sense of irreverence toward imposed religion. He was a minister and he read to me about god a lot. It was all up for debate as far as I was concerned. He also read me the newspapers and whatever was laying around because I would shut up and listen and not torment my gramma when he was reading to me. I was a typical maladjusted social retard right out of the gate. Other children were alien creatures, whose language and customs were indecipherable to me. I failed at assimilation. I turned to books for companionship and learning and never looked back. I started writing "serious" stories in high school when a sympathetic english teacher encouraged me.

Not to mention you have a famous brother. Can we mention him? (I'm a Nitzer Ebb fan)

He's a very private person. I will say that I adore him, he's an amazing artist and a very kind, loving brother to me. He's in Europe performing with the Ebb again right now.

I have to put off unnecessary things (like sleep) to get anything done for my stories. What is your work schedule like when you're writing? When you get really inspired what are your methods to capture those lines?

There is no rhyme or reason to my writing, I don't keep a schedule. Sometimes I write one sentence fragment at a time. Sometimes I'll stay home and binge write for hours and hours. If I don't have to go to work, I'll exist on tea and rye crackers spread with inappropriate condiments to avoid leaving the house. When the story is talking, I have to get it down wherever I am. This can be awkward at work. I've written parts of my novels and short stories on scratch paper, receipts, my arms. I've walked around muttering fragments under my breath over and over again to keep from forgetting them. Now I usually have my iPhone with me and can tap bits into that. It feels a little more civilized, but it still sucks when the inspiration is happening and I can't stop to just sit down and write properly.

Dealing with historical settings means accurate tidbits in your stories. How do you research for your writing?

I research like a dowser online. I look at vintage picture archives a lot. Pictures can really get me worked up. I watch old movies the way people turn on background music. I listen to radio theater and old radio shows. I really love recorded interviews and oral histories of real people so I can get a sense of how people spoke in the past. I read archived newspapers. I skip around doing keyword searches on google. I file everything away for future use. I'm a magpie.

Your writing is so well put-together. Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?

You're already doing a stellar job, far as I can see. Maybe I'd give you the same advice I keep telling myself - you know you can really write, it's not a hobby, it's who you are. So do whatever it takes to make it your career. The clock never stops ticking, but we do...

I'm a huge collector/avid reader of non-fic/reference books. What kinds of books do you own/read?

I own a fair amount of nonfiction research books that I covet, but don't honestly use as much as I use the internet to look stuff up. I cleared out a lot of books the last time I moved. I keep certain novels and photography books that have personal meaning or are references. I hardly ever read paper books anymore because of the time commitment, I started listening to audiobooks years ago and have become a voracious listener instead. Audiobooks, and reading aloud have had a huge impact on my development as a writer. That's why I'm pursuing a career in narrating as well as writing. Mostly, I'm drawn to crime stories, mysteries that have unusual elements, pulpy or noir detective, darker fiction... surprised? In the last year I've been making it a point to buy paper books and read them with my eyes when someone I like online gets published. I'm reading Eric Beetner's One Too Many Blows to the Head right now. (It was practically written for me to love it - destined to become a new noir classic.) Also, I'm a Dickens fanatic. I continue to be comforted and inspired by Dickens.

The colors and noir-look of your website really caught my eye right off. Who did that gorgeous site of yours?

Hah. My barely serviceable googlephobic site is homemade by me. Angrily. I've developed a sort of road rage at my website. I was just screaming at my poor computer this morning. It's not the computer's fault. It's the evil software. One of these days I'm going to sort it out and do it properly. I haven't figured out how to get comment fields embedded. There's an email address connected though, and I'd love to hear from my visitors.

I really love your style with everything you write. Where can I find more work you've done?

Most of my readable online work is published or linked on my website and my blog.
I haven't submitted to lit mags nearly as much as I ought to. I'll do something about that.
I really like this one, "She Got Hers" at The Journal.
Six Sentences is where I got my start. There are some rare non-Bella Vista pieces here.
I'm also one of the mysterious Harbinger*33 authors, I'll have a few new pieces in that when it comes out.

As to getting published and/or finding an agent, I find this too is a strange alien process. Just when I think I've got a handle on it, the whole thing goes sideways. I suspect I'd be published and successful by now if I'd have just followed Stephen King's advice from his book, On Writing, and found myself a loving, supportive wife when I was young. Too late for that. I'm studying the phrase books and trying to learn the language as best I can. I can kind of manage a sort of pigeon query-speak at the moment. But I'm a lot like Slappy. I'll figure it out. I figure everything out eventually.

Everyone please check out Pamila's stunning work and leave some love in the comments section. Thanks for dropping by and supporting excellent writers.

15 July 2010

"Vicarious" #Fridayflash

Photo credit: xandert from morguefile.com

“Part vampire, part warrior,
Carnivore and voyeur
Stare at the transmittal.
Sing to the death rattle.”

Vicarious – Tool

A woman fell on the cracked sidewalk and chanced a glance behind her. The two shaded figures were gaining. With a sharp cry, she clawed to her feet again and fled. An ATM machine stood silent, waiting for customer to insert card. Her silhouette grazed over the glass lens of the camera. She turned a corner into the alleyway. The two figures gave close pursuit. Out of sight, her scream was cut short.

A man stood outside his house gazing up at the sky at the darkened hulks roaring overhead. His wife stood at the door halted by his harsh words. Great bellies seemed to drift overhead before the bay doors opened. He registered as a slight orange and red blip on the monitor screen before the blast.

A girl lay on her stomach over her bed, grinning into her webcam. Accented murmurs filtered from the screen. She smiled coyly before unbuttoning her blouse. The elderly woman next door was slowly mottling as her Pekinese caught and jerked strips of flesh. On the counter, her overly simplified cell phone rang. The gas stove never lit. The web camera image dissolved into a fit of static when the duplex exploded.

A business woman stepped onto the elevator downtown and selected a lower floor. She popped open her clutch to extract her lipstick, her eyes climbing towards the ceiling where the camera blinked, comforting her. She swallowed the lipstick and bit into her lip as the cable snapped and the car plunged ten stories into the garage. The doors bulged but wouldn't open.


Up in the sky, an old building stood defiant against the winds, swirling through broken glass to catch old scraps of paper and rustle tattered drapes. Curling wallpaper flaked to the moldy carpet. One room remained unaffected by time. A great bank of curved monitors, stacked artfully to form one solid wall of hundreds of changing images, and an eye to the world. Yellowed New World Order posters clung to the walls. Graphs of human violence in various locations of the globe highlighted with circled lettering.

Still seated, though it’d been long ago that his legs had last been strong, a man slumped in an overstuffed office chair. Every so often he moaned softly, gaping his toothless mouth. His grey tongue snaked out to flick dust off his lips.

Hordes of cockroaches and rats scurried along and over abandoned desks, skittering over the CRT monitors, three of which had ceased function. The figure jerked in his seat, shaking his fingers gently over the arms of his chair. Wires danced from his fingertips, and his eyes shifted under his sealed eyelids.

On the top left monitor, gunfire, sending a body to the ground.

His mouth pulled upwards in the semblance of a smile.

08 July 2010

"Too Much Rope" #Fridayflash

Photo credit: seriousfun from morguefile.com

"Give any one species too much rope and they’ll fuck it up." – Roger Waters

It was one hell of a party. Laurie stood by the homemade punch with Don Rivers, the CEO of Fargo. Don was one of those guys you didn’t forget. He was so overdone with cosmetic surgery in his sixties that he made Kenny Rogers look mild in comparison. He baked his skin golden in the tanning bed and wore a silver-link watch with the brand name so curly it was illegible.

Laurie wore fuchsia lipstick, which made Stein grin. One night at the office, he had Laurie on all fours on his desk. She had the most gorgeous moan he’d ever heard on a woman, and could go for days. She loved the paddle and—

Don glared in his direction, and Stein ripped his gaze away.

Ice floated in his drink, watering down the Skyy Vodka someone’d slipped in it. If they meant to be stealthy, the blue bottle next to the gigantic punch bowl definitely served as a distinct warning. Besides, it unbalanced the fruity taste overpowering it and shifted it into a teenage slumber party concoction created by slipping shit out of dad’s liquor cabinet to impress friends. Stein rubbed his nose, and glanced back at Laurie. He took an extra few seconds to appreciate her long legs in that minidress and headed for the mens’ room.

He engaged the lock and unrolled a baggie of white crystalline powder from his dinner jacket pocket. In the roll was a short straw and a razor blade.

“Did you see the way he looked at you?” Don said, his extra-white dental bleach job nearly blinding his date. Don had a way with women even though none of them could hardly stand to look at him. His wallet proved to be an aphrodisiac, and if that wasn’t enough, his penile pump made sure the lucky lady would never slip away unsatisfied. Laurie was fairly unchoosy about who was paying her car note. The big stiff one was merely a bonus in the situation.

“Let’s take a ride in the Beamer,” Don said, brushing his hand over Laurie’s. She jumped as if startled, and agreed eagerly. Being seen with the old codger in public was more humiliating at times than she could stand. Besides, he’d fuck her and leave her alone.

Stein emerged from the mens’ room, put back together nicely with a nice zing to his pace to boot. Don and Laurie were missing. He grit his teeth. Don made his moves like a cobra, and Stein figured it was about damn time somebody acted as the mongoose.

The parking garage shuddered in shadows as cars exited and entered the towering structure. Don popped the locks on the little tuna-blue Z3 Convertible and opened Laurie’s door for her. Her legs folded in, and she opened her tiny purse for a hair band. Don didn’t like the wind to mess up his hair, but he had a convertible. He often compromised by driving with the top down and the windows up, which Stein always felt was a douche bag trademark.

A long, low black car met Stein out of the garage elevator, and he got in. The earthen-dead scent of distressed leather rose up to meet him, smell of dead cow, his dad had always said. Yet dad always got those goddamn Mercedes with leather seats. If this was cow, Stein'd eat the steering wheel. The coke twisted in his veins, and he grinned at his eyes in the rear-view mirror. He pulled out of the parking space, just as he heard the Goodyears squeak on Don’s BMW.

Don drove fast after they’d broken out of the garage space, and Stein had to work to keep up. Then the damn car would slow down, and Stein would have to drop back to give his quarry a little more rope. He snickered at the memory of Roger Water’s song. It was after Pink Floyd had dethroned their rock-star egoist bassist. Something about rope and fucking shit up.

Out on the freeway the little convertible ahead of him rocketed away, opening up more lead. Stein cursed and stomped the gas pedal to the floor. His car, bless good ol’ Demonic steel, picked up the cues immediately, and within a few seconds he could see Don’s tail lights again. Instead of slowing to a content follow, Stein kept the pedal all the way down and sped up to run alongside the BMW.

Fuck Don. Fuck Laurie, that corporate whore. Stein sidled alongside the BMW. Don glanced, did a double take, and started shouting angrily at the tinted windows of the considerably larger sedan violating his space.

“What the fuck is your problem?” Stein heard faintly in the silent cockpit.

“Fucking lunatic! Get the fuck over!” Don shouted again and accelerated to lose the maniac that somehow decided he wanted to be in his lane while he was still in it. Stein sped up along with him. Don was rich, but he wasn’t stupid. He’d opted for the lower optioned model that gave him the looks, but had none of the horsepower. Had Don opted for the fucking Z4, he might’ve at least shaken Stein.

Don bared his teeth, white-blond hair whipping around his reddened face. Stein could see Laurie peering around Don, trying to see what’d pissed her date off so much. It was probably the most excitement she’d see all week until Don took that overseas trip to Japan. She never had fucked a Japanese man before. It was worth dealing with Don just for—

“What in the fuck is wrong with you?” Don screamed again. Stein cackled behind the deep tint and massive chrome grille of his ride. Yeah, he’d premeditated. Somehow he usually did. It was this kind of luck that kept him in business. Being Death had all kinds of perks.

They crossed over onto a bridge, and Stein jerked the wheel hard to the right.

01 July 2010

"Ghost Host" #Fridayflash

Photo credit: o0o0xmods0o0o from morguefile.com

“You don't scare me, you don't scare me," I said

To whatever it was floating in the air above my bed

He knew that I'd understand

He was the ghost of a Texas ladies' man.”

Ghost of Texas Ladies’ Man – Concrete Blonde

The check-in desk was polished and immense. One clerk worked at this unholy hour. I signed my name, collected the key, and declined help with my bags. The elevator worked slowly, creeping skyward at a snail’s pace. I had a business conference in less than seven hours and was hoping for a bath before bed.

The penthouse suite was an upgraded offering to my executive suite. Seems that a conference was in town at the same time. The hotel’d accidentally booked my rooms. I acquiesced to the top-floor accommodation eagerly.

Everything seemed normal until I slipped into the bath. Though the water was steamy, the room grew cold to the point I could see my breath.

“It’s a good thing those bubbles are covering up that heavenly body,” a voice said from nowhere and everywhere at the same time, “I’d have trouble asking you out otherwise.”

“Who’s there?” I asked, sinking lower into my bath, up to my eyes. I had mace; it was unfortunately in my suitcase and therefore might as well been in the next state.

“It’s been awhile,” the voice said, yawning gently. “I can’t imagine what took you so long to get here.”

“Who are you?” I cried again. “Where are you?”

“Pardon me ma’am,” the voice drawled, “I’m just haunting this suite for eternity is all.”

“Haunt?” The hotel brochure featured a 24-hour gym and available massage, not an ectoplasmic roommate for every suite rented. Especially one with a Texas drawl. I wanted to stand, but if he was looking…

“Could you look away then?”

“I could, but why would I want to? You’re the choicest woman I’ve seen in years.”

Unbidden, a smile threatened my lips. “Really?”

“Scout’s honor ma’am.”

“You’re obviously a ghost of good taste.”

A good-natured chuckle. “As long as we’re on the subject of taste—”

“What about taste? I’m not giving you anything.” I said as defiantly as I could, to the voice that was probably completely in my head as a result of two hours’ sleep in the past three days. That was it. It was all a hallucination. I might even be still asleep on the plane.

“I was wondering if you could play a Hank Williams record.”

“Oh. I don’t have any Hank Williams.”

“Have room service send you up a record then.”

“We haven’t met properly,” I faltered, “I’m Jessica.”

“Benjamin ma’am. About that record.”

“I have something better. But you have to promise not to look at me while I set it up.”

He promised, and so I stood, snatched a towel from the stack next to the tub, wrapped it around me, and went straight to my bag. My iHome was one of my favorite gadgets aside from my iPhone. I plugged in the speaker dock, set my phone in the cradle and tapped the iTunes app.

“Any particular song?”

“Ladies’ choice,” was the disembodied answer. I made my selection.

“I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” poured out of the tiny speakers. At first I heard nothing, until there was a sniffle. Then my ghastly guest started blubbering.

“That’s what I wanted to hear,” he said. “It was playing while I drank myself to death. And once you hear a song, it gets stuck in your head and keeps you awake.”

“So I’ve heard,” I said, with an exaggerated yawn. “Anything else before I go to sleep? You’ll need to leave the bedroom you know.”

“I wouldn’t dream of disturbing your sleep ma’am.”

I bought all of the albums I could find of Hank Williams on iTunes. And plugged the iHome in out in the kitchen.