Wednesday, December 28, 2011

My #BestReads2011

I both read and listened to almost 50 books this year (49 if you want to get right down to the nitty-gritty facts), and while I enjoyed each one--what's the point of finishing a book you don't like?--some stood out more than others. John Wiswell of The Bathroom Monologues came up with the #bestreads2011 blog-hop, so I decided to share my favorites here. When you finish looking at my choices, head over to John's post to see what books others have chosen as their favorites of the year. I think you'll be hard-pressed to walk away without the itch to check out at least one title.

Of the 49 books I read this year, I chose five as my favorites (as well as another for an honorable mention). Without further ado, here they are, presented in the order I read them:

1. Hidden Mickey 2: It All Started... by Nancy Temple Rodrigue and David W. Smith : I love Disney, and more specifically, Disneyland. With this series based at Disneyland, I figured it would be a slam dunk. The first book was a bit clunky, but I enjoyed it well enough to move right on to this second book. And I'm glad I did. It had a much more dangerous plot than the first one, and the slight hint of the supernatural was fun to read about. This one was more character-based than puzzle-based like the first one, but the puzzles in this one were fun to follow. Even though the characters were more "out there" than in the first book, they felt a lot more real. It was also fun to spend a much more intimate time in Disneyland. I really felt like I was there at times. (Of course, I've been to the same places as the characters many, many times.) The part of the book that took place on the Jungle Cruise was especially fun--it took me back to my days as a skipper navigating the rivers of the world and cracking corny jokes. I highly recommend this book. It was an easy choice for my top five of the year.

2. The Time-Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger : This year I discovered, and this was the first book I downloaded. (Actually, it was free, but I signed up for the service soon after finishing it.) The voice acting was delightful--it really brought the characters to life. As for the story, it grabbed me by the throat right from the beginning and didn't let go. It had some wonderful lines throughout, to go along with the sparkling, but increasingly sad, story. If you enjoy speculative fiction at all (or even if you don't and simply like a great story), give this one a read (or listen).

3. The Child Thief by Brom : Wow, from beginning to end, this one was dark. It was right up my alley. It's based on the Peter Pan story, but Brom takes the legend and makes it his own. There are many familiar pieces showcased, but it's all turned on its head with a liberal dash of new characters/situations. This is not a Disney's not even the same tone as the original Barrie story, and that one was pretty dark if you peered close enough. This one is full of violence, swearing, and death upon death. If you're a fan of the legend of Peter Pan, and you enjoy a healthy heaping of darkness in your fiction, you won't be disappointed. If you don't care one bit about Peter and his lost boys, but you enjoy dark fantasy and horror, you also won't be disappointed.

4. The Prestige by Christopher Priest : This is another one I listened two rather than read. The narrator did a marvelous job throughout, inflecting different voices to each character. As for the story itself, I thought it was brilliant. For the most part, it is told in journal entries by the two competing magicians. It's quite interesting to hear their sides of the story, and I found myself rooting for first Borden as he penned his account of his life, and then Angier when it was his turn. Both had secrets that they dodged around, though the text does give enough hints for their discovery. It's full of twists and turns, and I highly recommend this book.

5. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline : This is by far my favorite book of 2011. It easily makes its way into my top five favorite books of all time. The story is terrific, and it was so much more fun because of all the pop culture references from the 1980s. The real world, set in the 2040s, is a depressing place, and is certainly a possible future. The Oasis, though, the virtual reality world where most of the story takes place, is, like the name suggests, an oasis from the hard life. The main character, Wade/Parzival, is fun to follow, and I found myself rooting hard for him. The other characters are also well-drawn, and I found it easy to get lost in this story. I recommend the audio version, since Wil Wheaton is the narrator, and he does an excellent job of bringing this story to life. All in all, especially if you're a child of the 80s, and even more so if you enjoyed video games and other fantasy/sci-fi entertainment in the decade, give this one a read. I'd be shocked if you were disappointed.

Honorable Mention: Bag of Bones by Stephen King : I'm not putting this in my five because I've already read this one many times. This year, however, I listened to it for the first time, with Mr. Stephen King himself narrating. I enjoyed it as much as the first time I read it back when it originally came out. Mr. King proved to be an excellent narrator, and I'd certainly like to listen to him read some of his other books. Bag of Bones is one of my favorite books of all time, so it was nice to experience it in this way.

I hope you enjoyed my list, and head over to The Bathroom Monologues to check out the rest of the #BestReads2011 blog-hop.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Writing Prompt #86

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm not labeling it this week, so take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun with it!

Is that Santa climbing down your chimney...or something else entirely?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Writing Prompt #85

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm labeling it as fantasy, but take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun with it!

Your favorite stuffed animal comes to life.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Writing Prompt #84

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm not labeling it this week, so take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun with it!

You have a superpower, but it only works when adrenaline courses through your veins.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Writing Prompt #83

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm not labeling it this week, so take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun with it!

That's not candy in Grandma's candy dish.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

#FridayFlash--The Fantabulous Funnybone Floatiboats

The Fantabulous Funnybone Floatiboats
by Eric J. Krause

Heidi waited for the last boat to cycle through, and then grabbed her waders, flashlight, and walkie-talkie. She couldn't put into words how much she dreaded Tuesday nights, her turn to walk the flume. As light and airy as it was during the day, the building was that much darker and heavier once the last guest left.

She took a deep breath and stepped down into the water. Though it was only 18 inches deep and the waders were insulated, she felt chills flash all over her body. That wasn't from anything other than her dread and anticipation. So far.

During the day, the Fantabulous Funnybones sang and danced to the delight of the children, and to a lesser extent, their parents. Now, though, in the dark of night, the various dogs, cats, and mice stared down with menace in their dead, mechanical eyes. But as creepy as the robots were, they weren't the problem. No, the real problems drifted unseen around the lifeless automatons.

Or at least that's what the stories said. And as much as she laughed about it with her coworkers in the well-lit break room, she didn't when she was down here alone.

She sloshed through the first room without incident. The flume and propulsion devices worked fine, and she didn't hear any cringe-worthy sounds. Just as she did every Tuesday night, she said, "One down, four to go," referring to the various rooms of the ride.

It started in the second room. Just tappings and footsteps up among the characters. Heidi ignored it, instead focusing on the flume. She'd heard it all before. But then came a whisper that caused her blood to run cold.

"Heidi, Heidi." She couldn't tell where it originated from, but she knew right away it wasn't human. The malice in the voice caused her to pick up her pace. Her flashlight stayed trained on the flume and propulsion system, but her attention remained up amongst the cartoon characters. She saw nothing.

As she passed from the second room to the third, she walked through the coldest spot she'd ever felt. If every air conditioning vent in the building was pointed to that one area, it wouldn't have been as cold. She sloshed a few steps forward, and the air remained frozen. A voice, different from the one before, said something, but it was so garbled that she couldn't understand. This time she lifted her flashlight, but other than the various Funnybone characters, she saw nothing.

After a few more feet, the voice returned, and this time she had no problem understanding it. "Die, die, die." As it spoke, something splashed into the water in front of her. A scream escaped her lips, and she positioned her flashlight so she could see. It was an animatronics eye. She pulled out her walkie-talkie, intent on calling for help. She'd feel stupid relaying the story, but at this point, she didn't care.

Before she could press the talk button, the ride turned on. But that was impossible. A padlock lay attached to the start mechanism, and the only key was in her pocket. Either someone had cut the lock, which they wouldn't do--they knew she was in here--or even more improbable, something in here caused an override.

As the Fantabulous Funnybones sang their signature song of tolerance and peace, the water propulsion jets spit out more air than necessary to move the boats at a steady pace. It knocked Heidi off-balance, and the walkie-talkie flew from her hand. It splashed into the water at the same time she did, but it was far out of her reach and already rushing away in the current.

She tried to prop herself up, but her hand slipped on the bottom. Her head went under, and before she could pull it out, hands pushed her down. She struggled and tried to scream, but water rushed into her lungs. She'd only been under a second, and she already felt the first signs of drowning. She knew she shouldn't panic, but with phantom hands still pushing down, that was impossible. Thrashing about did no good.

Her head hit the bottom, and the hands disappeared. She pushed up, but pain assaulted her scalp. Through the chlorinated water, she saw her hair stuck in one of the propulsion mechanisms. A quick yank broke a good chunk of hair loose (with a fair amount of scalp). It wasn't enough. She still couldn't rise. And she'd already taken in too much water. Unless she acted fast, she was going to drown in a foot and a half of water.

Heidi grasped her hair and planted her feet on the bottom of the flume. It would hurt like a bitch, but her legs were strong enough to pull her free. And she had to hurry. Not only was she about to pass out, but the boats had no doubt been launched. With the speed of the propulsion jets, they'd not only get to her in a hurry, but would hit too hard to survive.

With the speed of the water, she couldn't get traction on the bottom of the flume. She tried a new angle and moved her feet to the side of the flume. She pushed hard, screamed out the last of the air in her lungs as her scalp ripped, and freed herself. She pushed up, but before she broke the surface, the first boat slammed into her. She didn't die right away, but it pinned her down, trapping her at the bottom.

As the happy music of the Fantabulous Funnybone Floatiboat attraction played above her, the last thing she heard was a raspy voice.

"Join us."

Monday, October 24, 2011

Writing Prompt #82

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm labeling it as horror, but you can take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun with it!

You can create and control the undead.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Underpants Gnome Problem

If you're like me, beginnings and endings to novels come relatively easy. Maybe a great opening scene and a bang-bang, satisfying to everyone ending take some thinking, but the general opening and closing of the novel are there almost from the inception of the idea. But, of course, more than half the novel is neither of these; it consists of the middle of the book. While I usually have a few ideas of how to bridge the gap, most of this chunk of the book is a mystery to me as I start planning. Thanks to South Park, I like to think of it as The Underpants Gnome Problem.

Sometimes this middle section of the novel seems like it'll never materialize. Little scenes come, but nothing major, nothing that will wow the reader. But fear not, there are things you can do to defeat this dreaded Underpants Gnome Problem. Here are a few things I like to do.

1) Freewrite: If you're not sure what comes next, simply grab a blank sheet of paper or open a new file in your word processor, and write. Don't worry about making much sense, simply jot down ideas that come to you. Keep your pen (or fingers) moving, and put down ideas that come to you, no matter how silly they seem. Sometimes those silly ideas turn out to be gold, either on their own, or with a bit of tweaking. Or those silly ideas might be blocking the golden ones. Whatever the problem, often freewriting will help.

2) Work on something else: Maybe your brain simply needs to marinate the idea. Work on a short story, watch TV or a movie, or read a book. While you're concentrating on these, your subconscious mind will be playing around with ideas for your novel. Give it a day or two, and then go back to it. You might find that you now have a nugget of awesomeness waiting for you!

3) Start plotting: You know how you want to start, so plot that first act. When you get to the final scene, you might be surprised to see you know where you want to go next. And if not, plot the ending. If you're still blocked, plot minor scenes from the middle, ideas that have been floating around but aren't those big blockbuster scenes you need to bridge the gap from beginning to end. Put all of these scenes on 3x5 cards and spread them out so you can see them at the same time. Chances are, something will click. You'll see ways to put these scenes together, and those big blockbuster scenes will come.

4) Know your characters: Get to know your characters. Often they will dictate how the middle of the novel should go. You know the major problems, so give your characters quirks that work with or against these problems in interesting ways. Your characters could very well be the key to getting your novel from beginning to end seamlessly.

If you try one or all of these tips, you should be well on your way to bridging the gap between collecting underpants and profit. That big dreaded question mark should fall away. Remember, whatever you choose to do, it can always be changed later, either while you're writing (there's no rule saying you can't amend your outline) or during revision. Since the middle is the biggest part of the book, it can be daunting, but these simple tips should help you out. So get out there, collect those underpants, and make a profit. I have no doubt you'll figure out how it works!

Writing Prompt #81

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm not labeling it this week, so take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun with it!

A Witch visits the used broom salesman.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

#FridayFlash--Slit Wrists

This one has a few instances of "adult language."

Slit Wrists
by Eric J. Krause

"Death will come easy, just close your eyes!" he wailed at the top of his lungs, which brought out raucous shouts of "Slayer!" from the fellow metal-heads around him. Slit Wrists, the ultimate Slayer cover band, would be on stage next, and the energy in the building bordered on catastrophic. When Tom (yes, the lead singer-bassist had legally changed his name to Tom Ayala) belted out the opening scream of "Angel of Death," the club might just come down around them.

An old Metallica song blasted on the sound system while the roadies and technicians readied the stage. Heads banged and throats growled out the lyrics of "Creeping Death" as if they were watching the song actually performed. Wouldn't it be cool if someone organized a "Big Four" concert done by cover bands? He'd be there, that was for sure, and he knew most of these crazed motherfuckers would be, too. No doubt that could tour around the country, using different cover bands in each city if necessary. If he had more ambition, he'd totally make it happen.

Without any big build-up, Slit Wrists stomped out on stage and tore into it. As expected, they launched with "Angel of Death," and the crowd went ballistic. Three separate pits exploded in the tiny club, while fists, middle fingers, and devil horns shot up from those not moshing. After the first song, the band transitioned into "Killing Fields," "Disciple," and "War Ensemble."

After those four songs, with the crowd riled up to dizzying heights, Tom stopped and addressed the crowd. This was strange--Slit Wrists always played through two dozen or so songs in rapid-fire succession and left. No talking at all. If anyone but him wondered about this, they didn't show it.

"We are Slit Wrists, and we're here to slay you fuckers! This is 'Mandatory Suicide!' Die, fuckers, die!"

The crowd's reaction shot up to even higher testosterone-driven levels, and the mosh pits erupted harder than before. He seemed to be the only one in the place who didn't like that short speech. As much as he wanted to watch the rest of the show, something in the back of his mind told him to leave.

Turns out he should have trusted that voice.

As the group pounded through the song, a strange green fog fell from the ceiling and poured from the front of the stage. It was a neat effect at first, giving the band and crowd an eerie, otherworldly glow, but it soon proved deadly. A bitter taste assaulted his tongue, followed by a burning in his throat. And he wasn't the only one to notice. A number of people fled to the exits, but those doors proved locked. Some tried to escape backstage, but something he couldn't see blocked their way. He coughed and fell to his knees, joining everyone else in the final moments of suffocation. Those in the mosh pits had already succumbed, and somewhere in the back of his mind he realized the music had stopped, the stage now empty. Slit Wrists certainly had killed tonight.

Screams died with the patrons around him. He wasn't far behind. With his last living thought, he wondered why they'd chosen "Mandatory Suicide" instead of "Chemical Warfare." That would have made more sense . . .

Monday, October 10, 2011

Writing Prompt #80

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm not labeling it this week, so take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun with it!

A ghost serenades you every night at midnight.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Query Letters for Novels

My latest manuscript, Dragon Guard, a YA modern fantasy, is all set to be viewed by agents and/or publishers. So, of course, that means it's time for the dreaded query letter. I know many authors, myself included, hate this part of the process. We spend so much time getting out long manuscript (mine is over 70K words) as perfect as we can, and we need to summarize it in just a few sentences to entice an agent or editor to even give it a look. It can be quite frustrating.

I'm not professing to be an expert on the subject. How can I? I've yet to have an agent bite on a query I've sent in. But that doesn't mean I don't know the formula for creating a good query letter. I've spent hours reading through various query letter advice, both in printed form and on the Internet, and I've found the skeleton of a letter that should be serviceable every time a query letter is asked for. If you're not sure what you're doing, follow this format, and you'll be good to go. Of course, it's simply a format, and you will still need tight and sparkling prose in the letter, but at least you don't have to start from scratch.

Lets take a look at the format of a simple but effective query letter, which is three paragraphs in length:

1st Paragraph: This is your opening paragraph. You want to grab the agent's or editor's attention right away. You want to dive into the action. Think about dust jacket/back cover summaries--the plan is to get your reader, whoever it may be, interesting in your book from the get-go. Since characters are often the most important part of any story, the sentence I usually start with is: "[Lead character] is a [occupation or vocation] who [life situation]." After that, add 4 to 6 sentences explaining the "wow" factor of the plot. This, of course, means the main thrust of the story that will get readers excited. You will likely have interesting and exciting sub-plots, but for a query letter, stick to the basic plot that runs through the entire novel. If this basic plot isn't exciting in itself, you may have trouble selling the book at all. Finish this opening paragraph with a sentence about how the novel ends. It may seem strange to do so, since back cover summaries would never tell how the book turns out, but agents and editors want to know you can bring your tale to a satisfying conclusion.

2nd Paragraph: This is the background paragraph. Here is where you put the title of your novel, the approximate word count, and relevant parts of your personal background (if you have anything relevant--no worries if you don't; simply leave that out). You should then list your writing credits, if you have any. I also put a link to my web site, which has links to some of my credits, as well as how I can be found on various social media outlets. End this paragraph with a sentence or two to the agent or publisher about why you chose to send to them. Do a bit of research--go to their web site and see other projects they've been involved in; visit their Twitter feed/Facebook profile/blog if they have any of those; check to see if they are looking for specific materials in addition to their wide interests. When you are armed with some of this information, find a way to personalize your submission to this agent or editor. A little human touch can go a long way!

3rd Paragraph: This is the "Thank you" paragraph. This is two or three simple sentences. If you are sending only a query letter, write these two sentences: "Thank you for your consideration. I hope to hear from you soon." If you are sending in a synopsis, the first 10 pages, the full manuscript, or whatever else is required in the agent's or publisher's submission guidelines, you can add one more sentence telling what you've enclosed (or, more likely nowadays, what you've pasted in the body of the email below). An example would be: "Below is my short synopsis and the first ten pages of my manuscript." You, of course, can change the order of the sentences in this final paragraph so it sounds best to you.

That's it. When you finish the third paragraph, sign your name with a simple sign-off, such as "Sincerely," and you're done. Also make sure you read the submission guidelines carefully, as some agents and editors have specific information they want in the query letters they receive. But in most cases, this simple structure will serve you well. You still have to come up with your own scintillating content, but at least now you'll know where to plug it in. Good luck!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Writing Prompt #79

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm not labeling it this week, so take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun with it!

You must find the secret book hidden in the library.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Writing Prompt #78

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm not labeling it this week, so take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun with it!

You discover the world actually does revolve around you.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Writing Prompt #77

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm not labeling it this week, so take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun with it!

A picture frame brings photographs to life.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

#FridayFlash--The Mysterious Box

The Mysterious Box
by Eric J. Krause

The two men stared at each other across the table, poised to reach for their pistols. The box sat in the middle, beckoning to both. The only thing that kept blood from being shed was that neither knew if the secret contents were worth dying for. They'd dug it up out near Boot Hill that morning while hunting for gold, and since the vibe screamed powerful riches, neither had been willing to share.

"Why don't you boys play cards for it?" the bartender said. He had no idea what was going on. If they hadn't been so focused on the box and each other, they may have turned their ire on him for the contempt in his voice. Instead they both nodded.

"Five card draw, blackjack, or high card?" the first asked.

"Two outta three high card," the second said.

"Aces high or low?"


For the first time since taking their seats, they tore their eyes off the other and the box and looked at the bartender. "You got cards?" one asked.

The bartender held up a pack, but didn't toss it over. "Only if you both promise to forget about your guns. At least here in my joint."

They nodded, and the cards landed on the table with a thwack. The first man opened the pack and gave it a few quick shuffles. He passed it across the table and the second guy shuffled the deck to his satisfaction. He placed the cards in the middle of the table, right next to the box.

"Who deals?" the first asked.

"I'll cut, you deal."

They looked at the cards, the box, and then at each other. "Fine," said the first.

The second cut the cards, and the first placed one before each.

"Two out of three, aces low," The bartender said, now as caught up in this business as either man. "Turn 'em over, boys."

The first man had an eight, and the second a three. They glared at each other as they took turns shuffling again. Once the deck stood ready in the center of the table, the first man cut the cards, while the second dealt them out.

"Do it," the bartender said in a strained whisper. The first man had a ten, but the second sported a queen.

"All tied up," the bartender said. Neither noticed the pair of six-shooters in his hands. Two loud pops ended the game before a winner could be declared.

"Sorry, boys, but if you two want that box so bad, it's gotta be something good." Before charging out to take control of the mystery, he listened for any commotion outside. None sounded, so he holstered his guns, vaulted over the bar, and grabbed the box. It was nondescript, wooden, and about a foot long each way around. It felt empty. He flicked the latch on top and pulled it open.

A strange red dust rose out and encircled him. Before he could move, it landed on every part of his body and soaked into his clothes, his skin, his hair. A compulsion overtook him, and he whipped out his guns faster than he ever before had and peppered the wall with precision accuracy.

He holstered his guns again and looked into the box. All he found was an old, tattered paper. It read: "You are now the best shot in the land. Use your power well, and it will bring fame and fortune. But prepare yourself for challengers. They will come fast and furious."

The doors to the saloon swung open, and the bartender jumped and grabbed for his guns.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Writing Prompt #76

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm not labeling it this week, so take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun with it!

You become a character in a classic video game.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

#FridayFlash--The Fortune Cookie

The Fortune Cookie

Charles set down his chopsticks and let out a sigh. He couldn't eat another bite. The Orange-Flavored Chicken at Lu's was the best money could buy, both taste and portion-wise. He'd barely touched the fried rice, but that would heat up just fine for lunch tomorrow. Of course, he still had room for the fortune cookie. It wouldn't be a Lu's meal without that.

He broke open the plastic wrapper, devoid of the usual advertising. Strange. For as long as he could remember, Lu's address and phone number adorned the wrapper. Mr. Lu must have decided to save a bit of money. Didn't really matter, as long as the cookie was still light and tasty.

It snapped in two, same as always, and the fortune fell into his palm. These were silly, but he still got a kick out of reading them. Lu's fortunes weren't really fortunes at all, but silly sayings or old proverbs. When they did predict the future, it was something mundane that didn't matter anyway. So when Charles read this one, he let out a gasp.

"Tomorrow at noon, duck." And not only that, there were five lucky numbers listed: 2, 17, 23, 38, 41.

"What in the world?" Definitely a new cookie company. Seemed a little too specific. Whoever wrote this one probably just wanted to get as many people to look silly at noon as possible. As Charles tossed his trash, for some reason he pocketed the fortune. Just for laughs. Or at least that's what he told himself.


At lunch the next day, Charles found himself alone on the company smoking porch. He popped a cigarette into his mouth and reached into his pocket for his lighter. His knuckles brushed against a scrap of paper, which he fished out. The fortune from yesterday. He'd forgotten he'd put that in with his change and keys this morning. Why, he didn't know, but it sounded like a good idea at the time.

He glanced at his cell phone. 11:58. Should he duck? No one was out here, so he wouldn't look goofy to anyone but himself. He lit the cigarette and looked out into the beautiful courtyard the company provided. Sure, the hours sucked and the work was repetitive and boring, but at least he got this view a few times each day.

Noon. He chuckled and bent down to tie his shoe, just in case anyone was watching from one of the windows. Why he was following the random advice from the cookie was beyond him, but why not? It wouldn't hurt anything. And he could share a goofy story with the cute counter girl at Lu's next time he was there.

Glass shattered behind him. He fell on his butt and looked up. A bullet hole spider webbed the thick window. He peeked inside and saw an upper-management-type slumped over dead, blood trickling out onto his desk from the hole in his chest. Charles figured if he could see the floor behind the dead man, there'd be a puddle of organs and gore.

He looked up near the top of the buildings forming the triangular courtyard. Nothing. At that moment, his bravery--or shock; he wasn't sure which--wore off, and he dashed away. Should he tell anyone, or simply hope there were no cameras out here to pick up his presence? Had the cookie really saved him? Somewhere in the back of his mind, those five lucky numbers danced. He'd have to hit a convenience store on the way home to play the lottery.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Writing Prompt #75

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm not labeling it this week, so take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun with it!

You can't let the clock strike twelve!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

#FridayFlash--Church Bells

Church Bells
by Eric J. Krause

The church bells sounded down the street, as loud as if he were right next door. The ceremony was about to begin. Soon there'd be another Mrs. McGillicutty in town. Jonah was a good kid; no doubt he'd picked a woman who'd be as loved as the elder Mrs. McGillicutty.

He picked up his Jack and Coke and drained it in one swallow. His refill had more Jack than Coke.

Weddings always turned him introspective, made him melancholy. His had been wonderful, the highlight of his life. And Shirley couldn't have been a more beautiful bride. God, she'd been a looker back then. Back before it had all gone wrong.

He didn't like shouldering all the blame--Shirley had hit the bottle almost as hard as him when they lost their son--but he couldn't denounce he owned most of it. He'd been the one to turn violent when he had too much drink in him. She merely grew weepy. And helpless.

The next glass held all Jack except for a slight splash of Coke for flavor. The bride's limo sped past. Those church bells must've been the signal for her driver. Either that or she was running late. He tried to wave, but his hand wouldn't obey. Hell, what did it matter? She didn't know him, and he didn't know her. He couldn't even remember her name, though it'd been plastered in the paper often enough this week. And why not? She was marrying into local royalty, wasn't she?

Shirley hadn't, but she knew it going in. He wished it could have been different, but they married for love, not money or fame. He downed the rest of his Jack and grimaced. But that was true for most people. All these damn newspaper stories on the McGillicuttys and their ilk sometimes made the common man forget that.

He didn't bother pretending with his next refill. It held all Jack, no Coke. Trouble? You betcha, but he was beyond caring. If he knew what was coming next, though, he might've. Not likely, but maybe.

Those church bells chimed again. This time telling people to take their seats; the bride she was a-comin'. No backing out now, Jonah McGillicutty. It was for better or for worse time.

When Shirley walked down to the tones of that ancient organ, it looked to be for the better. Too bad everything ended up for the worse. He slugged down the Jack and didn't bother pouring more. If he wasn't going to mix it with Coke, might as well take it straight from the bottle.

Shirley stood staring at him from the sidewalk, as fresh and pretty as their wedding day all those years back. He shook his head and blinked hard. When the liquor allowed him to refocus on the yard, not only was she still there, but she now stood in the middle of the lawn.

"Shirl?" he managed to croak out. No, that wasn't her, but an illusion brought on by Mr. Jack and the thoughts of weddings. His Shirley hadn't moved in over ten years. She lay right where he put her--buried in cement under the porch.

The world spun, and by the time he caught himself and righted his perspective, she stared at him from the base of the steps. Somewhere in the back of his mind he heard the church bells. No doubt Jonah McGillicutty had received the instructions to kiss his bride. In a few minutes time, they'd ring again, this time as the newlyweds dashed to their waiting limo. When he and Shirley made that sprint, not to a limo, but to his old Ford pickup, the guests had tossed rice. Now they'd blow bubbles; the elder Mrs. McGillicutty had never met an environmental cause she didn't like. Not that it mattered to him. He wouldn't be around for that final volley of church bells. That he knew for certain.

Shirley now stood above him, her perfume a mix of decay and that lavender scent he always adored. Her face held the same slack expression she wore that night after he choked her to death. He hadn't wanted to, but she made him. Divorce? No, that wasn't an option. Sure she'd caught him in the act with Sandi Lee Parker, but if she'd taken care of her wifely duties, he never would have strayed. Yeah, the loss of little Edgar to crib death had devastated him, too, but he still had urges. And she had plenty of time to grieve.

As she stared down at him, he wondered if she'd choke his life away. Tit for tat. She wouldn't need to get rid of his body or keep a dirty secret for so many years. She'd be able to simply blink out of existence and head to Heaven, Hell, or wherever. Maybe they'd be square and she'd drag him along.

Whatever she decided, she took too long, and he couldn't bear the wait. He grabbed the bottle of Jack, still half-full, and slammed that bitter liquid. He sputtered a few times, but managed to down it all. The bottle tumbled from his grasp, and through his murky, black-lined vision, he couldn't see her. He'd bested her again. Or so he thought. As the dark closed around him, her quiet chuckle, the one he loved to draw out of her when she was alive, sounded in his ear.

Down the street, the church bells sang to the town, proclaiming another couple now lived in holy matrimony. And he'd been right; he wasn't around to hear it.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Writing Prompt #74

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm labeling it as science fiction this week, but take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun with it!

The tender, tasty meat at that new restaurant comes from space aliens.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

#FridayFlash--The Last Time

The Last Time
by Eric J. Krause

Rich watched her sleep. So peaceful, his Mary. He hated seeing her in so much pain, which was why the night was fast becoming his favorite time.

Every morning, as he cooked her breakfast, he wondered if it would be the last time. As he gave her a kiss when she left for work or on an errand, he wondered if it would be the last time. Anything she did, he wondered if it would be the last time.

She murmured a few words, which brought tears to his eyes. This was it, the moment he'd feared for so long. He placed a kiss on her forehead for the last time, placed the barrel of the gun to her temple, and pulled the trigger.

He ignored the gore on her pillow and put the gun in his own mouth. She hated him, was tired of their life together, but he couldn't divorce her, and he wouldn't tolerate cheating. Now her dream mumbles convicted her. And him. He pulled the trigger for the last time.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Writing Prompt #73

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm labeling it as horror this week, but take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun with it!

There's a strange bacteria in the town's water supply

Monday, July 25, 2011

Writing Prompt #72

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm labeling it as fantasy this week, but take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun with it!

There is a talking mouse in your house.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Writing Prompt #71

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm labeling it as horror this week, but take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun with it!

The devil wants to make you an offer.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Writing Prompt #70

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm not labeling it this week, so take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun with it!

A new designer drug produces strange effects on those who take it.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Writing Prompt #69

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm not labeling it this week, so take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun with it!

The rifles in the shooting gallery fire real bullets.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

What I'm up to (why no #fridayflash stories)

Since I'm not posting many Friday Flash stories anymore, I thought I'd give a quick update on to what I've been up to, writing-wise. About a month ago, I finished the first draft of a young adult modern fantasy book--it involves a teen who discovers he has interesting powers thanks to meeting his true love, who happens to be a dragon. I always let my drafts sit for a month, and I figured in that time I would dash out quite a few flash fiction stories to have ready for Fridays for the foreseeable future. I got two done and posted them, but then something unexpected happened. A new novel-length idea came to me, and it wouldn't let go. This one isn't a YA book, but one a horror story for adults. I dived right into planning it, knowing I wouldn't really have time to write the thing with my YA novel due to be revised at the beginning of July. But I started plotting anyway. Today, after a couple of weeks, I finished with the plot outline, only to discover I need to add a few things that will change the outline, maybe not significantly, but enough to be more than simple paste-in jobs. But I really like this story, and I think these additions will only make it stronger. I have a feeling that starting next week I'll be revising the YA story and writing the first draft of this adult story each day. Busy, busy, busy, but I'm looking forward to the challenge. I've never worked on two things at once before. Should be interesting.

So what does this mean for my Friday Flash stories? There will be none for the foreseeable future. If inspiration strikes, I may occasionally post one, but don't expect anything. Feel free to check out my past stories here on this blog (or you can download my first 50 for free at Smashwords--click the link on the right side of the page). I don't believe I'm done with Friday Flash, but for the moment, I'm having too much fun working on longer pieces. So now you know what I'm up to, writing-wise. See you all on Twitter and/or Facebook!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Writing Prompt #68

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm labeling it as horror this week, but take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun with it!

An unconventional monster terrorizes your town.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Writing Prompt #67

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm labeling it as horror this week, but take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun with it!

Did something in that painting/photograph just move?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Writing Prompt #66

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm labeling it as science fiction this week, but take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun with it!

A packed commercial airplane flies through a mysterious wormhole into a different dimension.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

#FridayFlash--Jesus Talk Radio

Jesus Talk Radio
by Eric J. Krause

"And the Lord Jesus Christ shall descend from Heaven and pass judgment upon the entirety of the human race. Those he deems worthy will ascend with him. The rest will be stranded on Earth, forced to deal with the deadly destruction brought by the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse."

Desmond let out a sigh and glared at his boss. "Damn it, Roy, can't you listen to something else? All this Jesus talk is giving me a headache."

"When you own the shop, you can listen to whatever you want. Besides, a little Church Talk Radio isn't going to hurt your soul any."

"I'm just saying a little hard rock might boost morale."

"I could supply you with hookers and blow and it wouldn't help your morale, Des."

"We should test that theory out." Desmond kept a straight face for about two seconds before busting out in laughter.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah. You need Church Talk Radio, no doubt about it."

"Those who don't worship our Lord Jesus Christ are damned to an eternity of never-ending suffering in the bowels of Satan's Hell. But it's never been easier to ensure your place on the stairway to Heaven. Repent your sins, say your prayers, and keep Jesus close to your heart. When he looks deep into your soul, your very essence, he'll have no choice but to accept you into his flock."

"You hear that, Des? Even you can get into Heaven."

Before Desmond could make a smart-assed reply, the door to the shop banged open. The man standing there brought an unnatural silence to the room. Even the metal-grinding machines seemed to respect him. Or at least fear him.

"I didn't realize deep conversation occurred here," the man said. "I'm impressed. Mind if I sit in and rap with you?"

Roy swallowed hard before he could answer. "No, of course not, Mr. Vargas. Please, take a seat." He knocked some dirty rags off a nearby stool.

Mr. Vargas met that act with a hard backhand across Roy's face. Desmond started to rise, to help his boss, his friend, but thought better of it. Mr. Vargas gave a slight nod that said it was the right decision.

Roy, to his credit, didn't rub his cheek, which was bright red and would probably be bruised in a few hours. "What do you want, Mr. Vargas. I've already paid this month."

"Mr. Bigg has decided payments shall now be made on a bi-weekly basis."

Desmond snorted, as he usually did when someone spoke the mob boss's name. A person who went by the name Mr. Bigg had to be suffering from SPS--Small Penis Syndrome.

Mr. Vargas looked towards Desmond, his hand reaching into his pocket. "Something funny?"

"No, sir. Something caught in my throat."

Mr. Vargas gave a hard stare, but didn't push the subject. Desmond held his breath until the thug looked away. Damn, he really needed to keep himself in check or he might not survive one of these visits.

"Look into your heart. Jesus does not want death, suffering. But neither does he want heathens walking amongst his loyal subjects. It is your job, nay, your duty to spread the good word. Let us get as many people into Heaven as we can. It will never reach capacity, and we will keep our savior from forcing unnecessary slaughter."

"How much does he want?" Roy asked. His eye had begun to swell. What lie would he tell Mary? Desmond knew damn well he wouldn't share the truth.

"How much do you think? Same as the monthly rate." When Roy paled, Mr. Vargas flashed a wicked grin. "But think of all the safety that buys you. Not just here, but at home. Be a shame if something bad happened to your beautiful wife or your lovely children."

"Bastard," Desmond said.

"No, Des, let it be. This isn't your problem."

The wicked grin on Mr. Vargas's face grew bigger. "Oh, no, Des, he's wrong. It is your problem now. Thanks to that smart mouth of yours."

"This has always been about business, Vargas, not family."

Mr. Vargas reached into his pocket and pulled out a pair of brass knuckles. "That's where you're wrong. This has always and will always be about money."

Desmond stood and took the punch. His face cracked, though through the fire, he wasn't sure what broke: his nose, his cheek, or his teeth. Mr. Vargas pulled him up and kneed him square in the crotch. Desmond crumpled, his breath nonexistent, the world an ugly shade of black and red.

"But remember, my faithful followers, the choice is ultimately theirs. If they decide to ignore the teachings of our Lord and savior, they call upon the horsemen themselves. There will be no guilt coming from the glorious throne."

By the time Desmond came to, Mr. Vargas was gone. Roy stood nearby, his bruising cheek now the least of the injuries in the room. "He says you debt is paid if you remember your place in the future. Next time he won't be as tolerant."

"You didn't pay him, did you?"

"Of course I did. I'm not risking Mary and the kids."

Desmond stood and fought the dizziness that threatened to throw him back down. He patted Roy on the shoulder and headed for the door.

"Where are you going? I'll close up and take you to the hospital."

"No need, boss. I have to go see a man about a horse."

"What? I think you might have a concussion, Des."

"Maybe so, but that doesn't change anything." He motioned to the radio. "Your crazy preacher man is right about one thing. A horseman rides tonight. Death is coming for Bigg's family." With that, he left Roy's shop, maybe for the last time.

"Remember, what you do in the name of Jesus, what you do in the name of what is right, will be rewarded. Never doubt that, and you will find yourself amongst the worthy."

Monday, May 30, 2011

Writing Prompt #65

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm not labeling it this week, so take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun with it!

You awake to find yourself in a maze.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

#FridayFlash--He's Back

He's Back
by Eric J. Krause

He sat perched on the stony edge of the roof of the American United Banks building, looking every bit the iconic gargoyles he named himself after. Crime festered below, from the petty crooks shaking down helpless citizens to the mastermind costumed supervillains whose crazy schemes could net millions in a single night. They'd all grown complacent, cozy, in his absence, but that ended tonight. Tonight they'd remember the fear that compelled safety in the streets for so long.

Politics had driven him away. With no crime, less police officers were needed. With cutbacks looming, the officer's union sprang into action, condemning costumed vigilantes, as they called him. Once the darling of the police force, the Gargoyle now found himself ordered shot on sight. The union rallied the public into a frenzy with TV, radio, and Internet smear campaigns. It wasn't long before he had to endure taunts, boos, and heckles anytime he showed up to stop a crime. The hurled rocks and broken bottles came next, followed by pot-shots from .22s and bigger caliber guns. John Q. Public proved more hazardous than the actual criminals. So he gave them their way and left town.

Pleas from civic leaders started not two weeks later. "Save us, Gargoyle. We're sorry for how we treated you. Please come back." And on and on, over and over. He knew he'd relent and return, but first he let them stew in their own juices. Let them see how ineffectual the crooked police union had become. He considered a press conference to announce his return, but that was never his style. Next he thought about a fireworks and laser light show as he burst into action, but that was too flashy. No, it had to fit him, and what better way to come back than by simply showing up and stopping crime? The murmurs in the underground would scare a great deal many crooks into going straight before he ever had to face them.

He spread his oversized wings and launched into the night. It didn't matter where he landed; each street in the city had turned into a cesspool needing his immediate attention. First he'd clean out the vermin on the streets, then decimate the costumed heavies, and finally destroy the corrupt police union. This great metropolis deserved nothing less.

He was back. Evil beware.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Writing Prompt #64

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm labeling it as fantasy this week, but take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun with it!

The evil black knight turns out to be the kingdom's beloved fair princess.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Writing Prompt #63

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm labeling it as horror this week, but take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun with it!

A family of monsters is living in your closet.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Newest Short Story

I have a new short story published in the Internet magazine, 69 Flavors of Paranoia. It's a horror story called "Dora's Book" (click the title to see the story), and it's a take on the Pandora's Box myth. Give it a read and let me know what you think. I'd love to hear!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Writing Prompt #62

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm labeling it as horror this week, but take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun with it!

You have zombie-like symptoms, but you don't think you're dead.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Newest Published Story

I have a new short story published over at Escape Into Life. It's a horror story called, "Weeds and Dead Flowers." Go give it a look and let me know what you think!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Writing Prompt #61

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm not labeling it this week, so take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun with it!

An angry mob stands at your front door.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Writing Prompt #60

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm labeling it as science fiction this week, but take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun with it!

Your car gains a mind of its own.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Writing Prompt #59

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm labeling it as fantasy this week, but take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun with it!

You discover an ancient magical treasure in your backyard.

Friday, April 1, 2011


by Emma Newman

Maddy twisted the lipstick casing and watched the deep red stick emerge. It was her mother's favourite, shaped for her lips, and even though she twisted the stick of colour up and down, marvelling at how it sparkled, she resisted the urge to smear it onto her own. That would be bad.

She dropped it into the make-up bag as she heard her mother coming back from the bathroom, bringing the scent of perfume and hairspray with her.

"Don't touch my make up Maddy," she said, closing the curtains.

Maddy pouted, lurking near the dressing table as her mother lifted the stockings laid on the bed carefully.

"I've got tummy ache," Maddy said as her mother rolled the first stocking up her leg.

"No you haven't," her mother replied. "I'm going out Maddy, you just have to get over it."

"With Smelly Simon?"

"Don't call him that!" her mother scowled as she rolled the other stocking up and fiddled with the clasps.

Maddy looked at the red dress laid out next to her mother's necklace. She could run downstairs, drink some milk, hold it in and pretend to throw up all over it.

"Don't even think about it," her mother said.


"Whatever it was, don't."

Maddy pouted and flopped onto the bed, narrowly missing the newly pressed dress. Her mother put it on quickly, then sat at the dressing table.

"Is Sm- …is Simon taking you to a restaurant?"


"Will you eat pizza?"

"I don't know."

"Can I come?"

Her mother sighed and twisted around to face her. "No Maddy."

"I'll be good, I promise."

"No Maddy, that's enough now."

Maddy tucked her knees under her chin and watched her mother paint on her eyes.

"Can I have some mascara too?"

"No, it's nearly bedtime, and I've told Kelly that it's 7:30 sharp."

Maddy knew she'd be able to trick the babysitter into letting her stay up late. But if the plan worked, her Mum might be home early.

Her mother plucked her lipstick out of the bag and pulled her funny face to get it right up to the lines. Maddy studied how she smacked her lips together afterwards and blotted, leaving a dark red kiss on the tissue that was scrunched up and tossed into the bin.

"How do I look?" her mother asked after putting her high heels on.

"Nice," Maddy said and her mother groaned. "Very nice Mummy," she corrected, eliciting a smile.

"The taxi will be here any minute, why don't you go downstairs and play with Kelly?"

Maddy sloped off, knowing her mother wanted to be by herself in front of the mirror. She went into her bedroom instead, brushing her fingertips against the flowers her mother had brought in to cheer her up when she'd told her about the date. She drifted over to the window to look at the evening sun bathing the houses in Sunny Delight. She hoped the phone would ring and they'd hear that Simon's leg had unexpectedly fallen off so he couldn't take Mummy out ever again.

Then she remembered the plan, and smiled. The scent of the blue irises in the vase drew her closer, she sniffed and thought about fairies. It would be okay. Mummy would be home before it was dark, and Smelly Simon would never be seen again.


Maddy was brushing her teeth when the front door opened and then slammed shut. She held her breath as her mother ran up the stairs to her room and shut the door. Maddy pressed her ear to the wall separating them, heard her mother crying. She bit her lip, feeling sad and happy all at once.

She rinsed her mouth, then padded to her mother's room. She opened the door quietly and saw her mother seated at the dressing table, blowing her nose.


"Why aren't you in bed?"

"I was," Maddy lied. "Are you sad Mummy?"

"Yes." She made the sound of a baby elephant into another tissue.


"Because all men are horrible."

Maddy took a couple of steps in, and when nothing was said, carried on until she reached the dressing table. She squeezed her mother's hand. "I still love you Mummy."

Her mother's tears flowed faster. Remembering just in time, Maddy plucked a tissue from the box and dried her mother's cheeks tenderly.

"I'll be alright Maddy, go back to bed, there's a good girl."

She didn't argue. Holding the damp tissue carefully, she went back to her room and closed the door. The scent of the flowers was intense, she approached the vase, inspecting the blooms carefully in the soft amber light of her Winnie the Pooh lamp.

"Hello?" she whispered. "Little fairy?"

There was a soft pop, like a bubble's death, and the fairy was there, peeping out from behind one of the irises.

Maddy beamed. "Hello!"

"Hello Madeline," the fairy said in her sing-song voice. "Did my Lord's present work?"

"Oh yes! She thought it was her lipstick. And it made Smelly Simon say something horrible to her, just like you said it would!"

The fairy clapped her hands, fluttering above the vase. "And have you remembered what you must give me in return?"

Madeline held up the tissue. The fairy's nose wrinkled, and she blew glittery dust off her hand that coalesced into a golden cup. "Squeeze the tears into this."

Madeline did as she was told. Only two drops came out, but when the fairy sniffed at the liquid, she looked delighted. "Good girl," she said, fluttering up to be level with her eyes. "Now, remember, every time that lipstick is used, my Lord will know, and he will want bitter tears in return."

"I know," Maddy said. "Thank you."

The fairy smiled, stroked the tip of Maddy's nose. "Such a resourceful little girl… I'm sure Lord Iris will look forward to seeing what you grow into."

Maddy watched the fairy disappear. "Yay," she whispered and clapped her hands. Just like the fairy.


April Fools! The story you just read appears here on my blog as a part of the Great April Fool's Day FridayFlash Blog Swap, organized by Tony Noland. You can find my story for today at Emma Newman's website, Post-Apocalyptic Publishing. To read all the dozens of stories swapping around as a part of the GAFDFFBS, check out the GAFDFFBS index over at Tony's blog Landless. For hundreds of thousands of words of fantastic flash fiction stories, check out the FridayFlash hashtag on Twitter. It happens every Friday!

Read more:

Monday, March 28, 2011

Writing Prompt #58

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm labeling it as science fiction this week, but take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun with it!

You travel back in time to warn your younger self about something.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

#FridayFlash--The Angel Express

The Angel Express
by Eric J. Krause

He staggered forward, eyes fixed on his destination. Dirt caked deep in his face, running as mud where his tears tracked down. Bright crimson streaks painted his shoulders and back, covering the leathery scabs where they'd once been.

His wings.

His throat felt raw, like ground meat. He didn't test it, but he had no doubt his voice, if it worked at all, was hoarse to the point of incomprehension. Not that it mattered. There was no one left to talk to until he reached the gates.

The wounds--his stumps--itched and stung all at once. Hopefully it was the healing process and not maggots. He fell to his knees, vomited, and fought hard not to reach back to feel for movement. Why dwell on it when there was nothing he could do?

He clenched his teeth and stumbled forward. Almost there. He dreamed they'd shower him with spirit wine, purifying both his outer and inner wounds. Sure, and maybe they'd rediscovered the secret of Ambrosia from the long lost Greek and Roman Gods while they were at it. That'd get him back in the battle in no time.

He glanced back. Had he heard someone or something coming up behind him? No, it was impossible. No one but angels could pass through this plane, and he very well could be the last one outside the Lord's realm. With good reason, too, he thought as another shiver of pain rocked through his body.

How they found him made no sense. He'd lived among mortals since they first understood how to create and use tools. He'd kept his wings hidden, not only from the mortals, who despite their flaws, he loved as if they were his own offspring, but also from the demons who stalked and hunted the Earth and all surrounding dimensions. If they couldn't sense or see his wings, they couldn't single him out. His divinity saw to that.

Another sound drew his attention behind him, and this time there was no mistaking it. Something was following him. His muddled mind couldn't piece together how it was possible, but he braced himself. Not that he'd be able to fight anything off.

A half-dozen demons got the drop on him as he left his home. That they were of the lesser persuasion ultimately saved him. He dispatched three in short order, but that didn't dissuade the others. Before he could size them up and discover the best ways to both attack and defend, one had a blade against his left wing. He screamed as it fell, landing with a hollow thud on the ground.

The agony and loss propelled him on, and he made short work of two more demons. As he turned to face the last, the one who'd disfigured him, the blade slashed again, dropping his right wing. Blood dripped down his back and pooled at his feet.

That final demon laughed and raised the blade for the kill, but even in a haze of pain, he moved too quick. The demon's sword dropped and disintegrated as the monster joined its brethren in oblivion. He thought he might follow his six enemies, but though his blood flowed free and the pain blazed through him, he managed to shift planes to the only one where he had a chance. The Angel Express. The Highway to Heaven.

He couldn't venture a guess at how long he walked, crawled, and scratched his way forward towards the pearly gates. Now that he was in metaphorical spitting distance, something moved in to finish him. Though he hoped he struck a regal pose, he had no strength left to defend himself.

He fell to his knees and wept when he saw. Wings. An angel. But how? Even if he wasn't the last on Earth, what were the odds another would follow?

Then he saw. It wasn't another coming up the Angel Express, but his wings. And propelling them forward? No. Impossible. But there they were, no doubt sent by the Lord Himself. Three holy cherubs.

No words were spoken. Could they even communicate out of His presence? The wings touched his back, and though the pain disappeared, the itching intensified. One of the tiny cherubs placed its hand on his head, and light engulfed them all. When it lifted its touch, he felt as healthy and strong as ever. If not more so. He stretched his wings and found them alive and well. Even the bloodstains streaked across his skin had vanished.

The three cherubs smiled at him, their miniscule wings working overtime to keep them afloat. He expected them to zip off, their job done. He'd already received a gift he'd never expected, but what came next brought more tears, this time of intense joy. The cherubs outstretched their tiny hands, awaiting his to join them--a once in an eternity ticket to the Realm of the Throne. He wiped his tears away and put his hand in with those of the three cherubs.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Writing Prompt #57

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm labeling it as horror this week, but take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun with it!

One wrong step will drop you into a pit of deadly snakes.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

#FridayFlash--Bedtime Thoughts

Bedtime Thoughts
by Eric J. Krause

This was always the hardest part. Those few moments between the light going off and exhaustion claiming his consciousness. This was when his ghosts haunted him. They may not be the supernatural ilk of campfire tales or horror movies, but that didn't make them any less frightening. It might have even given them more terrifying power over his soul.

He'd been a lousy husband, inattentive father, and an even worse human being. He'd kicked dogs, shot at cats, and even, as cliché as it sounds, stolen candy from babies. He deserved the sweet treats more than those loud balls of snot! But it haunted him. It all haunted him. He might as well have been visited by three Christmas spirits.

But he didn't have anyone, living, dead, or otherwise, to confide in, to teach him lessons. He'd chased everyone away. He wanted to make amends, but he no longer could. In fact, he didn't understand how to even if given the opportunity. He couldn't simply toss down a purse of shillings, with a few extra tucked in, to a child passing on the street to buy the biggest goose in the butcher shop.

He could, though, do other things. He could volunteer at the local homeless shelter. He could attend church more often and live by its teachings. He could simply decide to be nicer to his fellow human beings.

"Bah, humbug," he said, a crooked grin on his lips. He flicked on the light, picked up his copy of A Christmas Carol, and tossed it in the wastebasket. Better to quit reading crap that made him feel guilty before bedtime.

He pulled out his latest copy of Playboy. Yeah, looking at young, nubile nudie women would take away his depressing thoughts. Screw humanity.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Writing Prompt #56

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm labeling it as science fiction this week, but take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun with it!

Something sinister on the dark side of the moon makes itself known.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Highest Stakes

This is being posted as if it were a Friday Flash, but since it's about 2700 words, it's much too long to be considered a piece of flash fiction. Two weeks ago, Neil Colquhoun (@necol66 on Twitter) threw out a random fact that the numbers on a roulette wheel add up to 666. I tweeted back that it could make a cool story, and he answered by challenging me to write one, and he'd write one, too. We'd make it a contest to see which one readers enjoyed more. The rules were only that we had two weeks to write a story under 3000 words, and it had to relate to the numbers on a roulette wheel totaling up to 666. The two week deadline is up, so it's time to post. Here is my story, and check back later for a link to Neil's story and the poll where you can vote for your favorite. I'll update this with both links when I have them. Until then, enjoy my story. Let me know what you think!
UPDATE: Click here to view Neil's story and to vote for your favorite. Simply scroll down for his story once you're on his site.

The Highest Stakes
by Eric J. Krause

He stared down at the roulette table, unsure why he was here. Which casino was this? When did he get here? He blinked hard and shook his head to dislodge the cobwebs. But before he could figure those out, he had to discover who he was.

There was no question that he was here to play. He had 100 chips in front of him--five stacks of twenty. And he couldn't up and walk away. Some unspoken rule reminded him he'd have to play until the end.

Though he tried, he couldn't see anything around the table. He might as well be playing in someone's dark basement, and for all he knew, he was. The dealer wore a long black robe, complete with a huge hood that kept his face from sight. Three other players sat around the table, but he couldn't focus on them. He made out their features well enough to tell they were males, but no other defining characteristics popped into his mind. It was like looking at them through a mix of dense fog and plastic wrap. He couldn't even check out their hands for hints of their ethnicity or age--the chips moved out as if pushed by telepathy.

And as far as bets went, he needed to get his out there. Though it was a standard roulette board, this wasn't a normal game. He had no clue as to who briefed him on the rules, but he knew them well. One chip needed to be placed on a single number each roll of the ball--no more and no less. 13 was his lucky number. It meant something, but for the life of him, he couldn't remember what. There was more leverage on the outside bets; at least one chip needed to be wagered with each spin, but there was no upper limit. He could choose odd or even, red or black, and 1 through 18 or 19 through 36 for even money. For two-to-one odds, he could choose the first twelve numbers, the second twelve, or the third twelve, as well as on of the three columns. The game was limiting, but as straight-forward as roulette could get. He tossed a chip on odd.

The dealer picked up the ivory ball with hands of polished white bone and flicked it around the wheel before motioning for no more bets. He tried to speak up, ask if anyone else saw the dealer's skeletal hand, but his voice wouldn't work. He took a deep breath and tried to push it from his mind. As strange as it was, that wasn't what mattered here.

The ball flew around the wheel, hypnotizing him. Hopefully it wouldn't land on the zero or double zero. If it hit the former, something dastardly would befall the player with the lowest amount of chips. If it hit the latter, that fate would be shared by the one with the second lowest. He was fine for the moment in either of those regards, but that didn't make him eager to discover the terrible secret.

No worries this round. The ball skittered around the wheel and settled on Red 7. The dealer set a new chip on top of his winner. As soon as that chip lay on the original, his head spun. His name was Clayton Briggs, though everyone called him Clay.

He pulled the winning chip off and stared at it. It looked no different from any of his others. He shrugged and placed it on 13, while keeping the one on odd in place. The game here was to have more chips than the other players, so conservative was the way to go. A quick glance at the three other piles showed him way ahead.

The next roll landed on Black 8, and the dealer slid both his chips away. He refilled 13 on the inner board, but changed his outer strategy by placing a chip on the third twelve and another on black. He was rewarded with a Black 33. Once the dealer paid his three new chips, his head swam, and he knew his about family.

Clay had a mom, dad, and younger brother, though Dad had been dead for twenty-five years, and Mom for close to ten. He hadn't talked to, or even heard from, his brother Jeff since shortly after her funeral. He felt something about a wife, but nothing stuck in his mind.

Before the call for no more bets, he picked up the chip on the third twelve but left the one on black alone. That decision paid off as the next number was Black 17. The new chip told him he did indeed have a wife, at least he used to. Maggie had stayed with him for eight years. Some of those had been good, but most had been miserable. For her, anyway. He'd had too many mistresses and one-night stands to count. After years of knowing without hard evidence, she finally caught him in the act and demanded a divorce. The only good to come from it all was that they didn't have any children to drag through the mess.

He kept his bets on 13 and black, but this time the tiny ball settled on Red 21. No win meant no memories. What would happen if he bet two different places outside and only hit one? Would he get a memory or not? He didn't want to chance it; now that he knew a win meant learning more about his life, memories were more precious than chips. He placed two--one of the obligatory 13, and the other on 19 through 36. This time the ball plopped down on Black 15.

A bright light exploded above the table. Black 15 had been one of the other players' numbers. Feelings of peace and tranquility trickled down, and the player to Clay's right rose into the air. He still couldn't see him clearly, but he couldn't miss the look of relief on the man's face. Plus the feelings of giddiness flooding off of him were contagious. When the player was gone, the good feelings lingered, and Clay didn't care that he'd lost his second roll in a row. He put his chips onto the same bets and waited. Before the dealer started the next round, a new player replaced the departed one. This guy had the same anonymous look, but the depleted chips turned into five stacks of twenty.

The ball this time landed on Red 18, just one away from making him a winner on his outer bet. The euphoric feelings left over from the ascension faded, but before he drifted into despair, he noticed he was still far ahead of the two players who'd been there when he arrived. In fact, one of them was down to just a few chips.

Before the dealer called for no more bets, Clay decided he needed to worry more about getting his chips closer to 100. He moved his outer bet chip to the third column and added another to red. He watched the ball spin around and gasped as it almost stuck in the slot for his lucky number 13. Instead it wound up one spot over on Red 36. Though the result wasn't as good as hitting his number, he still won both outside bets, bringing his chip total back up to 96. And, more importantly, the tingling feeling in his mind meant another incoming tidbit about his life.

Clay was an accountant for CRASH-GAP, a highly successful computer repair business that specialized in fixing both hardware and software issues. CRASH-GAP stood for Computer Repair And Software Healers-Gerald And Paul. Gerald and Paul were the founders and owners--Gerald Wilkins and Paul Marx. Clay got on well with both.

He focused back on the table and decided to continue his conservative play. He left a chip on red, but put the one on the third column back in his bank. The player across from him went all in with his few remaining chips. The ball stopped on Red 23, giving Clay another win. The guy on the other side of the table, though, hadn't been as lucky. As soon as the dealer swept away those final chips, an intense heat erupted from behind the player, eliciting a scream. It was the first sound Clay had heard since he got here, not counting the clicks of the chips and roulette wheel. The player's face went from terror to surprise, and he was pulled backwards out of his chair. No thud or crash came from him hitting the floor--he was simply gone. As soon as it all started, it was over, and a new player sat in that spot, five stacks of twenty chips in front of him.

Just as Clay was thinking there was no way he wanted to go out like that, the dealer paid him his winnings, and a new memory flooded his psyche. As the accountant for CRASH-GAP, he had Gerald and Paul's undying trust. And he abused it. Twice a year he'd siphon out a chunk of money for a trip to Las Vegas. He made sure the amount was small enough to go unnoticed without a thorough check of the books--which no one but him ever did--but big enough for him to have a good time.

He took his chip off red and moved it to odd. He contemplated playing a second outer bet, but didn't want to get too far behind the two newcomers if he lost both. The black-cloaked dealer spun the ball around the wheel and it landed on Black 4. Both players ahead of him won their outer bets, meaning he was further behind if the wheel stopped at a double zero. He needed to close that gap and get one of them below him.

He kept a chip on odd and played another on the second twelve. A good win here would push him back closer, especially if one or both of them lost the spin. No such luck. He sucked in a deep breath as Black 26 hit. The dealer's bone-white hand swept away all three of his chips.

He glanced at that double zero and replaced his three chips. He then dipped back into his bank and played two more, one on black and the other on the first column. Five chips, counting the obligatory one on lucky number 13. Something would have to hit, and hopefully a bunch of them. Then he could breathe easier.

Instead his heart beat faster and sweat formed on his brow. Red 30. He'd lost each one. He now sat at 86 chips, still well ahead of the guy with just under two stacks, but further behind the other guys who still had close to their starting allotment of 100. This was stupid. Unless he wanted to race to the bottom, he needed to get back to his conservative play. Let them make the mistakes. Besides, his focus should be on Black 13; that's where the true prize lay. He placed a chip on 1 through 18 and watched the dealer make the spin.

Success! Black 10. As the dealer set his winning chip down, his next memory infiltrated his mind. He did take money from CRASH-GAP, but if he came back a winner, he returned it all. No one, neither Gerald nor Paul nor anyone else, was any the wiser. What's more, he took money only for gambling. His plane ticket, his hotel room, his wining and dining of beautiful women--be them ones he met or rented--all came from his own pocket. He only needed the CRASH-GAP money for that bit of extra fun. He wasn't a compulsive gambler, so even when he lost, he often came back with some of what he took. That chunk always went back into the company's account.

Clay put his next chip on odd. There was no point in throwing chips away on more outside bets than was required. That 13 was all that mattered. He watched the ball go round and round and gasped as it landed on the single zero. All eyes, even the dealer's, shifted to the player sitting with the lowest chip amount. He screamed and struggled, but couldn't go anywhere.

The wheel came to a halt and emitted a shrill, high-pitched whistle. The zero glowed, and the numbers around it shifted. Black 2 moved into the neighboring square inhabited by Red 14 to form a 16. That 16 moved to Black 35 to make a 51. On the other side, Black 28 invaded Red 9 to create 37. The 37 shifted over into Black 26 to form a 63. This continued on both sides of the wheel until the growing numbers met at the double zero. Both pushed into the green square and morphed together, forming a big 666.

Flames shot out of the sides of the wheel, disintegrating it. The heat assaulted Clay, but though it was uncomfortable, it didn't burn him. He glanced over at the loser and saw it affected him for the worse. His skin singed black even though he was no closer to the fire than Clay. Pain echoed in the guy's voice, his pathetic moans. A large red hand with razor-sharp claws raised out of the void the wheel left and grabbed the loser. He only managed a few weak whimpers through his now crispy lips. In the blink of an eye, the arm yanked him down the hole. The flames settled and extinguished, and the wheel reappeared, as if nothing had happened. With a flick of his boney wrist, the dealer sent the wheel back in motion, ready for the next roll of the ball.

Clay looked around and took a deep breath. A new player had replaced the one dragged down to Hell or wherever. Though he wasn't far behind, Clay had the lowest chip amount. Either a zero or double zero meant he'd suffer the same fate he just witnessed. He contemplated throwing his conservative strategy to the curb, but it was likely his best bet to get out of this mess. Less chips spent meant more time for lucky number 13 to hit, and that was the only true exit from this. He slid a chip to odd.

He didn't want to look as the ball began its descent. This time it landed nowhere near either zero, settling on Black 31. He closed his eyes and waited for the incoming memory.

"Clay, I need a minute of your time."

"Sure." Crap. Paul Marx. When did he ever make it to the office so early? Two more minutes and the money would have been back in the CRASH-GAP account. "What can I do for you, Paul?"

"I'm not going to beat around the bush, Clay. We know you've been embezzling money from us."

"But . . ."

"Don't bother denying it. We have irrefutable proof." Paul sighed. "I'm sorry, but I've called security. They'll escort you out front to meet the police."

"No, Paul, you don't understand . . ."

That's as far as he got. A shock of pain sprang through his entire body, starting on his left side, and he blacked out, never to awaken. A massive heart attack took him hours after returning from the biggest gambling weekend of his life. He'd taken ten grand on Friday and turned it into a couple hundred by Sunday. Had Paul given him that extra two minutes, he'd have deposited half of that back into the books, more than enough to square them for all the years he'd been doing it. Too late now.

He kept his chip on odd. Was all of this really random, or was it a scripted process that was a surprise only to the individual player? He hoped the game was straight, otherwise, if the memories were to be believed, he knew which way he was headed. As the ball danced out of the dealers polished fingers and sped around the rim of the wheel, he ignored the fact that lucky number 13 could be his salvation. Instead he prayed that it landed on neither zero.

Monday, March 7, 2011

I've Been Interviewed!

I've been interviewed by G.P. Ching about my book Way Over the Line. You can check out the interview at her website, So, Write. Give it a read! I hope it inspires you to download the book!

And don't forget, you can get Way Over the Line, as well as my other two books, for free at Smashwords this week. Follow this link to head on over and pick it up!

Writing Prompt #55

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm labeling it as fantasy this week, but take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun with it!

Two knights square off for the love of a fair maiden.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Free ebooks: March 6-12

Smashwords is running a promotion for Ebook Week, and I decided to make all of my books free for it. If you haven't yet had a chance to check out my three books, now is your chance!

Way Over the Line: Eighth-grader Jessie Campbell loves baseball, but he's terrified of the ball. When he and his best friend, Ryder, are abducted by space aliens to play in the huge intergalactic baseball tournament, Jessie will need to deal with horrors such as space pirates, and, even worse, actually participating on the field. And if all of that wasn't enough pressure, Jessie may also be the fabled chosen one.

The Breath of Life and Other Stories: Twenty tales of horror, science fiction, and fantasy make up this collection of short fiction. The stories range from tales of Atlantis, video games that are a bit too real, what happens right after death, battles with vicious dragons, and much, much more.

The Friday Flash Stories of Eric J. Krause: Volume 1 (Ok, so this one is always free, but if you haven't downloaded it, why not do so this week?) : Fifty flash fiction stories. These are tales of horror, fantasy, and science fiction, as well as some bent more towards the mainstream.

Give one or all of them a shot! You can't beat the price this week. If you enjoy them, I'd love a review. Thanks! Enjoy your reading!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

#FridayFlash--A Rose From a Stranger

A Rose from a Stranger
by Eric J. Krause

Sandy sighed and looked around the club. Heidi was on the dance floor somewhere, likely rubbing up against two or thee guys she'd never seen before. Yeah, that sounded like fun. How did she always let Heidi rope her into this? God, she needed a boyfriend, and she certainly wasn't going to find one in a place like this.

The bartender walked up to Sandy and handed her a rose. She looked up and frowned. Even with this long dating drought, she wasn't about to start with women. That wasn't her.

The bartender chuckled, as if she'd read Sandy's mind. "Not from me, honey. The guy over there."

She followed the bartender's motion and saw a guy she hadn't noticed before. He was cute. Maybe there was someone here worth her attention. She shook her head. No, she wasn't this superficial. Not like Heidi.

The bartender set a card down in front of her. "Also from the gentleman," she said before walking away to service other customers.

Sandy looked at the guy. He smiled and mimed opening the card. She batted her eyelashes and sniffed the rose. What the hell was wrong with her? She never acted like this. But she had to admit that the rose and card were a good pick-up line. And the fact that he was a hunk didn't hurt, either.

The card was made of simple white stock folded in two. She opened it and found six words hastily written in blue ink. "Trust no one. You're being followed."

She looked up at him, and he put a finger to his lips and walked over to her. She glanced to the dance floor for Heidi, but still no sign of her. Was she living it up in the sea of people, or had they already gotten to her?

"Stay calm," the man said as he saddled up next to her. "Can you smile and act flirty?"

"What?" She had to struggle to utter the single syllable.

"It's your best bet. Act like you're having fun with me, and I'll get you out of here. I promise."

Sandy looked down at the rose, and then back up at him. She forced a smile and a laugh, and even managed to touch his arm in a playful manner. Her stomach clenched, and she wanted to run onto the dance floor to find Heidi, but this man, whose name she didn't even know, held her there.

He smiled back at her. "You're doing great. In a few seconds, we'll head for the back rooms. You'll be safe there. When I point, look, giggle, and nod. Got it?"

She laughed, but under her breath said, "My friend is dancing. Is she in trouble, too?"

He stroked her face, and leaned in close like he was giving her a kiss. "She should be fine. You're the only target in here tonight. Don't worry; I'll make sure she knows you're okay. Now follow my finger and don't forget to keep up the act."

Sandy looked where he pointed. There was a nondescript door at the back of the club. Almost unconsciously she nodded and giggled. She spared another quick glance to the dance floor, and she could swear she saw Heidi's hot pink hair bouncing up and down. Good. At least she was safe.

"Don't look around on our way back there. It'll look suspicious. Got it?"

She nodded and made sure her smile stayed plastered in place. With the rose and card clutched in her hands, she followed the man. Was he an undercover cop, or maybe a private eye? But who hired him? She tried to push it all out of her mind and concentrate on getting through this. She'd question him when they were alone.

He led her through the door and slammed it shut. She found herself in a large space with no furniture. There was a lone door on the other side of the room, but before she started towards it, he grabbed her upper arm in an iron grip.

"Remember when I said not to trust anyone?"

She gave a weak nod.

"That included me."

Just before the lights clicked off, dropping the room into total darkness, two huge, green, slimy monsters pushed through that other door.

Sandy couldn't even muster up a scream.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Writing Prompt #54

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm labeling it as horror this week, but take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun with it!

A doll comes to life.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

FridayFlash--Take That First Step

Take That First Step
by Eric J. Krause

Blue water sparkled below. The white wash of the current dashed against the jagged rocks of the cliff face. It was pretty as a painting, as his momma used to say. He was high enough up that he couldn't see the individual waves, so it might as well have been on a canvas.

Up here all that existed was him and the beautiful sights. He refused to turn and look at the landmass. That brought nothing but thoughts of his failed marriage, his soon to be ex-job, and the mountain of debt he'd never manage to claw his way out of. No, his future didn't lie that way.

He'd never been up here before. In fact, he hadn't even known this breathtaking point existed. With so much going wrong, he needed something right in his life. He'd parked his car in a turnout on the highway and hiked up through the rocks and shrubs in the off-chance he'd find something wonderful. His shoes weren't ideal for the terrain, and he knew his slacks were now trash-bound, but he had to take the gamble. If he'd done that with more frequency, maybe his life wouldn't be utter garbage. He'd read that risk-takers often had the most success. Slow and steady didn't always win the race.

As he looked out at the ocean view, he understood how that was true. If he had decided to keep driving, he'd certainly be home by now, but so what? This--this awe-inspiring, life-altering view--would never have existed. For him, at least. If he listened hard enough, he could make out the crash of the waves. And hints of the salty sea air wafted to him, bringing a peace he no longer thought he could have.

All this because he dared get out of his car and take that first step. After all these years, could that be the meaning of life? Take that step. Take the plunge. Yeah, that sounded right. Not just sounded right, but it felt right. That was advice that would fix everything.

Without another thought, he took that first step off the cliff's edge. He took the plunge.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Where to buy Way Over the Line

If you'd like to see the first 15 chapters (roughly the first third of the book),you can click here for that.

If you're interested in picking up your (e)copy of Way Over the Line, you have options.

As a paperback:

You can buy it at Amazon for $12.99

You can buy it at CreateSpace for $12.99

As an ebook:

You can buy it at Smashwords in many different formats

You can buy it at Amazon for the Kindle

You can buy it at Amazon UK for the Kindle

You can buy it at Barnes & Noble for the Nook

It is also available at the iBookstore (soon if not yet). I don't have a link for it, but I'm sure a simple search will turn it up.

At each spot it is available for the low price of $1.99. I hope you make time to pick up a copy of your very own, and I'd love to hear what you think of it, either here on my blog, on Twitter, on Facebook, or as a review on whichever site you purchase it on.

Thanks! I hope you enjoy the story!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Writing Prompt #53

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm labeling it as fantasy this week, but take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun with it!

You often turn invisible, but can't control when or how long.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

#FridayFlash--The Lucky Slot Machine

The Lucky Slot Machine
by Eric J. Krause

He sat at the slot machine, pressing "Play Max Credits," never looking up. This was the luckiest machine in the casino, and no one would play it but him.

Singe bar; blank; seven.


Double bar; single bar; triple bar.

Ten credits.


Blank; blank; double bar.


A cocktail waitress walked by. "Drinks, sir?" He answered with a quick shake of the head, and she wandered off. He never saw her look of concern.

Cherry; blank; seven.

Four credits.


Jackpot; jackpot; (he gave a harsh inhale); blank.



Single bar; single bar; single bar.

Twenty credits.


Blank; seven; blank.


Eyes lingered on him, but he felt none of it. Or, if he did, he figured they were jealous of his machine. He couldn't lose.

Eight or nine hours ago (it was actually four days, but he'd lost all track of time), he put in two hundred credits ($50). He stood now at 146. No big wins, but it paid out steady.

Jackpot; jackpot; (sharp inhale); single bar.



Blank; single bar; single bar.


Seven; double bar; blank.


Triple bar; triple bar; triple bar.

Sixty credits.

Whoot! Back to two hundred credits. A voice in the back of his mind told him to stop and press the cash-out button. Breaking even was the same as winning on the slots. He'd gone in expecting to lose, after all.


Blank; seven; jackpot.

That stupid voice didn't know this was a lucky machine. It was only a matter of time. And then he'd be on Easy Street.


Double bar; blank; single bar.


Single bar; single bar; triple bar.

Ten credits.

Yes, he'd be a fool to leave. This had to be the luckiest machine on the strip. It was just too bad he'd muted that nagging voice in his head--the one that said luck isn't always a good thing. Every passer-by who had to look at his emaciated form would agree.


Blank; triple bar; double bar.


Seven; jackpot; blank.


Single bar; blank; seven.


Blank; blank; cherry.

Four credits.


Thursday, February 3, 2011

#FridayFlash--The Ouija Board of Love

The Ouija Board of Love
by Eric J. Krause

Robby led Amanda over to the table and pulled her chair out. She giggled, gave him a little curtsy, and sat down. He'd already set the board out, and she looked at it with interest.

"So this is what an Ouija Board looks like. It reminds me of a creepy alphabet chart that might be hanging in a Kindergarten classroom."

"What better way for the spirits to communicate with us?"

"And you really think they'll tell us why David broke up with me?"

He gave a noncommittal shrug. He and Amanda had been best friends for fifteen years, since they were three years old. The friendship was purely platonic, but when David broke up with her last week, Robby realized how relieved he was. He discovered feelings for her that went way past normal friendship. And if it all went according to plan, this Ouija Board could get her to see him as more than just a friend, too.

"So what do we do?"

"We put our hands on the pointer and wait for the spirits to move it. Keep your hands still, but go with it when it does move."

"Right," she said with a giggle. "Either it won't move at all, or one of us will push it."

He shook his head and gave an exaggerated eye roll. "Oh ye of little faith."

She gave back an eye roll of her own and put her hands on the pointer. "Do we ask questions, or does it just move?"

"It can do either. If it doesn't move, we'll ask it some stuff."

She concentrated on the board, and he concentrated on her. Damn, she was beautiful. How had he gone all the way through high school without realizing that? He vowed to make amends for that now that they were in college. Especially since she was now a free agent, so to speak. He gently nudged the pointer towards the "H" and then the "I."

"You did that," she said.

He flashed his best innocent look. "Not me. The ghosts."

She shook her head but played along. "Hi back. Are you here to give me advice on David Bellows?"

Robby pushed it towards "Yes."

"So how do you suggest I get him back?"


She frowned at him, her confusion throwing off a sexy vibe. "What does that mean? Do not go back to him? Why not?"


Her frown deepened. "Good guy here?" Her eyes went wide. "Robby, are you saying . . . ?"

In the boldest move of his life, at least as far as he could remember, he shoved the pointer towards "Yes."

She looked at him with shock etched on her face. Just when he was about to apologize, the corners of her mouth twitched up, and her face blossomed into a smile. "Look, it's moving again."

This time she guided the pointer. "K-I-S-S-H-E-R."

Robby needed no other invitation. He leaned across the table and planted a quick peck on her lips. Before he could retreat back to his seat, she reached out, gripped the back of his head, and kissed him hard. He moaned into her mouth and returned the kiss with gusto.

In their new-found passion, neither noticed the pointer sliding around the board on its own. "A-N-D-T-H-E-Y-L-I-V-E-D-H-A-P-P-I-L-Y-E-V-E-R-A-F-T-E-R."