Category Archives: author

The Journey: Chapter 3

Excerpt from my book, ‘Fragments of Fear, Collection’.

 

“Poor Harold”
Harold was not having a good day. What little hot water he usually had for a shower was already used up by another tenant in the undersized, overpriced, rodent infested, apartment building he lived in. So, yet again, he took an ice cold shower. The shower must have felt sorry for him, and somehow told the toaster to make it up to him.
The toaster obliged by giving him a little extra heat and burning his last piece of toast. Harold choked down the burnt toast, and washed it down with a half cup of cold coffee, as he stumbled out the door, trying to dress himself. He barely made it to the bus stop in time.
He sat down, hoping that his luck would change when a spring from the seat broke and shot up into his leg. It didn’t hurt him, the real problem was when he stood up, the spring caught hold of his pants and ripped a large hole in them. The rest of the way to the office, he had to cover the back of his pants with his tattered briefcase. In the elevator on the way up to his office, he heard snickers from behind him that stopped when he turned around.
He got off at his floor and quickly made his way to his cubicle that was barely big enough to fit his tiny desk. He collapsed into his chair and let out a long sigh.
Harold was not having a good day. In fact, Harold was not having a good life.
He just couldn’t seem to catch a break. He was never popular in school, but he always made decent grades, usually just missing the honor roll.
When he was in ninth grade, his father passed away, leaving him to take care of his mother. She had Alzheimer’s disease that got progressively worse. Some days Harold would come home just to be chased off by his mother, who thought he was a burglar.
On good days, she chased him with a stick, on bad days, a shotgun. His mother passed away just before he graduated high school. The house was left to Harold, but the mortgage still had ten years left to pay it off, and Harold couldn’t afford the payments. He sold the house and had just enough left for a down payment on his pitifully small apartment.
He wanted to go to law school but couldn’t afford it. So he got a job as a clerk for a low-grade law firm, which was essentially a bunch of ambulance chasers. He hoped that he could get some practical experience, study for the BAR, and maybe move up to middle management in the meantime.
Six years later, Harold still sat in his same tiny cubicle. His computer was so out of date he couldn’t even run the internet. His chair and desk were falling apart, and the ‘one’ button on his phone hadn’t worked in nearly two weeks. He tried to call maintenance, but their extension number was ‘221’. Every time he went past their door, a sign was hanging on it saying, ‘On break. Leave a voice mail for any repairs.’
The other clerks were very possessive, and wouldn’t let anyone else use their phone. The display on Harold’s phone said, ‘341 messages, press ‘one’ to retrieve.’ While trying to decide what to do, his phone rang.
“Harold Funston, how can I help you?” he said.
“Funston!” his boss shouted.
Harold jumped, nearly dropping the phone.
“Yes, sir?”
“Where’s my report?” he growled.
Harold floundered.
“What report, sir?”
“The one I needed done two days ago, on last month’s profit/loss margin.”
“Sir, you never asked me to do any report.”
“I left you three voice mails in the last week.”
“But, sir, my phone, it’s … ”
“I don’t want to hear your excuses! Have that report on my desk in one hour or you’re
fired!”
Harold was so upset, he dropped the receiver, comically juggling it all the way to the floor. He hung the phone up and frantically began gathering information to start his report. As much as he hated his job, losing it would be catastrophic. He was already living paycheck to paycheck and falling behind on bills. Soon he would have to get another crappy job on top of this crappy job, just to afford living in a crummy apartment. His only glimmer of hope was a faded postcard he kept by his computer, showing a beautiful tropical beach. The phone rang again. He picked it up while continuing to type.
“Harold Funston, how can I help you?”
“You have just won five million dollars!” proclaimed an automated voice.
Harold’s jaw hit the desk. It was the miracle he had been waiting for. He looked at his picture and started to dream of diving into the clear blue ocean. He was brought back to reality by the voice on the phone.
“The ACME prize corporation has selected YOU as its grand prize winner! You need
only confirm your name and address to claim your prize. If you do not confirm, we will pick another lucky winner.”
Harold was drooling. He knew that from now on, everything was going to be okay.
“To confirm your prize, simply press ‘one’, and an operator will assist you.”
Harold stared at the phone in disbelief.
He started hammering on the ‘one’ button, like he was playing a video game, in the
desperate hope that the button might register just one time.
“Please press ‘one’ to confirm,” the voice repeated.
“One! One!! ONE!!!” he screamed into the phone, as a last, desperate act.
“I’m sorry, we did not recognize your response, better luck next time.”
The line disconnected.

***

“An equally entertaining story, sir.” The conductor said. “May I collect it?”
“Sure,” the man said, eyeing the conductor cautiously, “as long as you don’t go getting’ rich off it behind my back.”
“No need to worry Mr. Darden,” the conductor said. “I collect these stories only for myself.”
“All right, let’s shake on it,” the man said, grasping the conductor’s hand.
Instantly, shock spread across the man’s face as he quickly released his grip.
“My apologies sir,” the conductor said. “I have poor circulation.”
The conductor moved on to the next passengers, leaving the man to stare at his hand.
“What’s wrong?” his friend asked.
“It felt as if his hand was made of solid ice.”
“How did he know your name?” the other passenger asked slowly.
The woman who sat beside him smiled and shook her head.
“It’s on the ticket he just punched.”

The conductor ambled up to the next passenger. She was an elderly woman, tall and thin who wore a black dress and functional shoes. She sat alone, straight as an arrow in her seat. She seemed to sense that someone was approaching, even though the conductor moved as silent as the grave.
“Excuse me, sir,” she said to the conductor. “Has anyone turned in a large, King James Bible to lost and found?”
“No ma’am,” the conductor said. “Did you lose one?”
“Well, yes,” she said. “I always take it with me on long trips. And now that I think about it, my purse is missing too.”
“Nothing has shown up, ma’am. Are you sure you brought it with you?”
“I’m positive!” she said. “At least, I think I’m positive… I’m pretty sure…”
She trailed off.
The conductor smiled a knowing smile.
“I will look for them with all diligence,” he said. “In the meantime, may I have your ticket?”
“Oh, of course,” she said, handing the ticket to him. “I’m sorry, sir, you must get so tired of the silly ramblings of an old woman.”
“Not at all,” he said, sincerely. “In fact, I enjoy hearing a good story. Do you have any?”
“None of my stories are good enough to tell,” she said.
“You’re just being modest,” the conductor said with a sly grin.
“Well,” she said, starting to blush. “I do have one.”
“As they say…’I am all ears’.”

***

 

 

The Journey: Chapter 1

The Journey: Chapter 2

Last chance

My newest shory story is free on Amazon for one more day.

I have to say I was rather shocked at having offered my story for free and only having 6 people take me up on my offer.

I feel like one of those poor unfortunate souls who is hired by a restaurant to stand on a busy street corner, dressed like a giant hot dog, and hand out flyers that no one takes or reads.

So once again, I’ll put on the suit, stand on this particular street corner and offer people my story.

I thought up my Mr. Smiley series a few years ago as a way to introduce my short stories. He has developed quite a bit and taken on some unique and interesting challenges.

If you like the Twilight Zone or Tales from the Crypt, you’ll like Mr. Smiley. Give it a try. I’ll be standing here, waiting.

The Journey: Chapter 2

Excerpt from my book, ‘Fragments of Fear: Collection’.

Warning: graphic violence

 

“She”

She staggered awkwardly down the empty street, not really knowing where she was going.
With one arm, she clutched the wound in her side, the other arm was outstretched in front of her, as though searching for something. Never looking back, always moving slowly forward. On and on she trudged, tireless, relentlessly looking for something but not knowing what. She only knew it was out there. It had been there before, but when? Where?

The empty streets were slowly disappearing through darkness and late evening mist. Nothing moved except for her, even the air seemed still. Deserted cars, half-destroyed buildings, and rubble were her only companions, and still she kept on going.

‘Reason’ and ‘blame’ were the furthest things from her mind. The beginning didn’t matter, ‘now’ was all that mattered. The few street lights that still worked flickered to life. They gave her a dim, somewhat eerie view of her surroundings, but there was nothing she wanted to see. ‘It’ wasn’t there. So on she went with her endless search.

All around was evidence of chaos and destruction, yet she wasn’t afraid.
How many days, or weeks, had she been silently walking, yet she didn’t feel tired? All that mattered was the search. Whatever it was, she knew, somehow, that she had to have it.

Had something caught her eye, or had her fevered brain begun to hallucinate? She scanned the ruined landscape. There it was again, movement. Her pace quickened. The silhouette of a moving human form stirred a feeling she hadn’t felt in a long time. But what was this feeling?

Joy, at finding another living person?

Fear of what they might do to her?

No, those weren’t it. The feeling grew stronger with every step she took. Finally she recognized it…

Hunger.

She steadily approached, mere steps away, when the man turned toward her with a look of shock etched into his face. She realized that her search was over. Not remembering the last time she had spoken, the sound coming from her throat was more like a feral growl. Struggling, as though the line from her mind to her mouth had been damaged, the word she had waited so long to say attempted to escape her lips.

She looked him in the eyes and said, with a raspy voice,

“Brains!”

She lunged at him before his shock wore off. He reached for the gun on his side, but her inhuman strength was too much. She ripped his arm off and cast it aside like a candy wrapper, then pulled his skull apart, and started eating while he was still screaming.

The body laid lifeless on the ground, she rose from gorging herself, and started walking. Never once did she look back at the shell of a man she had just torn to shreds.

She staggered awkwardly down the street, not really knowing where she was going.

***
After the man had finished his story, the conductor softly cleared his throat. The storyteller whipped his head around quickly. For just an instant, he thought he saw a skeletal hand outstretched towards him, with bones as white as ivory. Blinking hard to clear his head, he looked again and saw merely the milky white hand of the conductor, beckoning for their tickets.

“Pardon me, sir,” the conductor said, “I didn’t mean to startle you.”

“I wasn’t startled,” the man said, “I just thought I saw…”

“Yes?…” the conductor said, expectantly.

“Nothing,” the man said, mentally shaking himself.

The conductor punched the tickets of the four passengers and began to move on, then paused.

“I hope you don’t think it’s too forward of me, but I collect stories, and I was intrigued by yours.”

“Umm … thanks.”

“Would you mind if I wrote it down in one of my journals?”

“Well, the thing is, it’s not actually my story. I just told it.”

“And why did you choose to tell that particular story?”

“I don’t know,” he said thoughtfully. “it just seemed appropriate somehow.”

“They say the eyes are the windows to the soul but I have found that to be false. I believe that the stories one tells hold much more insight into their true feelings,” the conductor said, with a knowing smile. “So, may I collect it?”

“I‘ll make you a deal. I‘ll tell you a riddle, if you guess it you can collect my story, if you don‘t, I get to ride for free.”

The conductor rubbed his pale chin thoughtfully.

“It’s a deal.”

“Okay,” the man said, rubbing his hands together. “A cowboy rides into town on Friday, stays three days and leaves on Friday, how did he do it?”

The conductor smiled. “My dear sir, you take me for a fool. I thought that you were going to offer me a challenge.”

“All right, smart guy, what’s the answer?”

“The horse’s name is Friday.”

The man’s face fell. “You’re the only person who ever got that riddle.”

The conductor merely smiled.

“Just one question, what is your profession?”

“Biochemical engineer, why?” he said.

“No reason,” the conductor said moving on to the other passengers. “I was just thinking about your story.”

“Hey, hold on there fella,” said the man seated across from the storyteller. “Ain’t you gonna write his story down?”

“Yes, when I’ve finished my duties.”

“Won’t you forget it by then?”

“No,” the conductor smiled. “I have an eidetic memory. It helps in my line of work.”

“A what? An electric memory?”

“Eidetic, you would know it as a photographic memory.”

“Well what good is an electric memory on a train?”

“You’d be amazed,” the conductor said.

“Well then, if you think his story was good, you’ll love this one.”

The conductor turned and faced the man with rapt attention.

“It goes like this … ” he began.

***
 

The Journey: Chapter 1

Is Twitter a dead end?

I was recently given a bit of advice by a successful author. She told me to follow the 80/20 ratio of posting on Twitter. Eighty percent of the time I should be focusing on others (liking, retweeting, commenting) and twenty percent on myself (posting about my book).

I tried this and it was immensely successful. I gained followers at a regular rate (around 100 per month) made connections, built trust with several of my followers, and generally enjoyed the increased visibility that I perceived I was receiving. However, after a month, I started to notice a disturbing trend. I was getting plenty of impressions, but very little actual interaction.

I logged this away as an anomaly and continued on my happy Twitter way. Shortly thereafter, I became more active on WordPress. Being an author who is trying to build his ‘Platform’, I posted each of my blog posts on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Tumblr, and Google+. My hope was that they would have a cumulative effect and increase my visibility. However, during all that time, I hung my hopes on Twitter. Having built a following of over 1,500, I felt that Twitter was the best chance of increased traffic to my blog and my site.

Then I read an article saying that Twitter was changing its algorithm, and traffic was going to become much harder to come by if you didn’t pay for Twitter ads. This was not something I had in my budget. Having to work a fifty hour a week job just to put food on the table makes Twitter ads a low priority.

I tried to go on with my Twitter life, but the seed of doubt had been planted. It was further watered when I read another blog post saying that twitter was less than useful, it actually took time away that could be used for other things.

I was now in full on doubt mode. I did a little research for myself and was shocked at what I found.

I started posting to WordPress in early June. During that time, I had 62 views, 48 visitors, and 34 likes. Each of my 14 blog posts, I had also posted to twitter, with a link to my WordPress blog.

During that same time, I had 16,000 impressions (views) total on Twitter. Of those 16,000, 1,729 were impressions that came from tweets of my blog posts. Here are the numbers.

Out of 1729 impressions, I received 5 retweets, 5 detail expands, 4 likes,

And a grand total of (drumroll please)

1 Link click

So, out of one thousand, seven hundred, and twenty-nine times tweets about my blog were seen, only one time was anyone interested enough to click over to WordPress and actually read the blog.

An entire month of posting for one click.

Was it worth it? For the numbers alone, no. However, I did make a few contacts, and even had a few people follow me who had over a hundred thousand followers. Several prominent authors followed me and a couple liked and retweeted my tweets.

Was that awesome? Yes. Will it help me out in some way? I don’t know. I would like to believe that making connections is always a good idea, especially with those who have already been successful.

Bottom line, is Twitter worth the time and effort I’ve been putting into it? I’d say a resounding no. Will I continue to have a presence and interact with my followers? Yes, but not nearly as much as over the last few months.