October 23, 2014

Old Udek (A Trashling Tale)

The first snowfall is always a festal night in Fill. Great drifts blanket the mountains a pure white.

Every year, when the first flake is sighted, Old Udek dons his winter robes. He makes his way to the top of the tallest mountain, ignoring aching bones and his frostbit nose.

Once there, he opens the flask around his neck. He catches a single snowflake within it, stoppers the flask, and makes his laborious climb back home.

When the revelers ask why he does this, knowing the flake will melt, he always replies, "I'm storing up hope, against the dry season."

October 16, 2014

Kiara's Quest, Part I (A Trashling Tale)

Deklan the healer shakes his head. Kiara's pet bird is sick and there's nothing more that he can do.

Mistress Verta says the Makers will the beginning and end of all things. Master Ember says that such is the way of all flesh, to be calcinated and perish.

The Cogger 53211 promises her a clockwork bird that will sing and never tire. Barilla the Tinker promises a hand-carved grave maker in bronze that never tarnishes.

Her parents—cruelest of all—tell her it's just a bird.

After they leave, she takes her pack and sets out to find a cure.

October 09, 2014

A Dialogue Between Mistress Verta and Master Ember (A Trashling Tale)

"I cannot let you preach what you preach."
"We are the physicians of Fill. We must tell the truth when no one else will."

"You want to set the world on fire."

"Yet you destroy what you don't understand."

"I could never understand your view of life."

"You are naïve children. Your name reveals everything."

"You are prophets of gloom and destruction in a world hungering for hope."

"You forget the point of it all. The meaning of existence."

"We must build. We must bring order from chaos. That's why we're here."

"Everything must end in fire, even the Makers."

October 02, 2014

Burge, the Mouse-Herder's Son (A Trashling Tale)

The songs of Giatolo called out to him in the tavern. Sick to death of mice, he wanted adventure.

He kissed his mother and left before his father came home from the pens. Brigands took his bread and cheese before the end of the first day, outlaws his staff and pack before the end of the next.

He grew stronger. He learned to fight with the sword and the pike, with the axe and the mace. He defeated fierce monsters and saved many maidens fair.

But to the end of his days, his fingernails still smelled to him like mouse-dung.

September 25, 2014

Lord of the Bugs (A Trashling Tale)

Nobody talks about us much. The troubadours sing about Mouse-herders, but Mouse-herders buy their ale. The Children preach the virtues of the Farmers' life, but Farmers make up most of their flock.

We purvey protein to the most desperate. Grubs, worms, beetles, flies. Did you know the flavor of cockroach steaks depends on the beast's fodder?

Trashlings of every tribe have eaten in my shop. Penurious Tinkers, traveling Coggers, absent-minded Scribes and mendicant Children of the Makers. Farmers returning from a poor night at the market, and yes, even Mouse-herders.

Those-Who-Burn eat here often. They say turnabout is only fair. 

September 18, 2014

Paroxetine, Eater of the Orange Lotus (A Trashling Tale)

Deep in the lairs, they told stories of gifts of the gods to make one immortal and wise.

Paroxetine didn't want the Orange Lotus at first. He trained himself to sleep at night, to endure the light of day. He dared to walk under the gaze of the sun.

He wanted to see a Maker.

After that day, he sought out the Eaters in their lairs. He dared to open the orange flowers and partake of the fruit within. Pale imitations of ambrosia and soma.

None of his companions ever asked him whether he ate to remember or to forget.

September 11, 2014

53211 the Cogger (A Trashling Tale)

He levered the back panel off the artifact on his workbench and peered at its inner workings.

"A Chipper would see what I'm doing as sacrilege. An effort to pry into secrets the Makers never meant us to know."

He withdrew several gears and wrote down their sizes and number of teeth.

"But why would They give us all these things, unless They wanted us to use them?"

He polished the gears and fastened them onto his latest invention. He wound the mainspring.

"We do the Makers' work when we create."

His creation smiled and nodded her head in agreement.

September 04, 2014

Tu-va-illa (A Trashling Tale)

She is ancient, even for a Trashling. She saw the Great Avalanche. She witnessed the crusades of the Makers' Children against Those-Who-Burn-Forever. Some whisper she is older than Fill itself.

They come bearing bones from mice and birds and strange beasts only the Makers know. They bring their hopes and fears, their hates and loves.

"Return on such-and-such day."

She sings as she shapes the bones into charms. Every customer is satisfied, though perhaps not in the way they expect.

No one knows why she keeps certain bones for herself. No one knows the language of the songs she sings.

August 30, 2014

Haiku Fiction Horror

Every month the awesome people at Grey Matter Press sponsor a flash fiction writing contest. I'm happy to report that this month I am one of two grand prize winners! (The first ever tie in Flash Masters history.) You can read my winning entry here. I can't wait to get my signed copy of John F. D. Taff's The End in All Beginnings.

I'm the sort of person who loves DVD extras; in that spirit, I wanted to talk a little about my process in writing my entry.

Last month's contest was for a 100 word story. I have some experience writing 100 word drabbles. In addition to the Trashling Tales, I've had 100 word stories published in The Drabbler, Necrotic Tissue and elsewhere. But for the third contest, the word limit was raised to 200 words.

Writing a 200 word story is a lot different than writing a 100 word story. (If you don't believe me, try it.) Because I'm more comfortable with the 100 word story, I thought, "Hey, I should try to write two drabbles that depict the same event from two different perspectives."

Thus my story "He Said/She Said" was born.

Another fun feature of the monthly contests is that one must include a set of words in the story. This month the words were: Death, Pearl, Stairs, Hate and Organ. I thought it would be fun to use each of the words in both halves of the story, so I did. E.g., in one section pearl is the gem, in the other, it's a woman's name.

"He Said/She Said" is an example of haiku fiction in that you really need both halves of the story to get the complete picture as to what's going on. I'm happy that the story seems to have resonated with the judges. I certainly had a lot of fun writing it.

I take my victory to mean that there's something to this haiku fiction thing...

August 28, 2014

Ariela the Cloud-Dancer (A Trashling Tale)

She stands atop Mount Washdry and gazes at the shrouded moon. Dark bands trap its silver light.

She undoes her hair and sways skyclad to the song that sounds within her soul. Wrists and ankles move, knees and elbows. She closes her eyes as the dance overtakes her completely.

Limbs whirl. Wordlessly, she keens her song. Slow, fast, loud, soft. Her dance flows gracefully and without effort as the wind.

When she is finished, she opens her eyes. The moon shines pure blessings on all Fill.

Does she know whether or not her dance moves the clouds? Does she care?

August 21, 2014

Quicknib the Scribe (A Trashling Tale)

When I was young, a distant glimpse of the Makers set me on my path.

To find the Scribes is sufficient call to our way of life. I spent years as an apprentice Paper-Reclaimer, slowly working my way up to Ink-Confector, then Pensmith. Invested at last in my sacred robes as Scribe, I labored a month on my first composition.

Master Truehand led me to the very top of Mount Cheforiac and took my work from me. I wept as he let the paper go.

We cast our tales to the winds, O Makers, hoping that you will notice us.

August 14, 2014

Giatolo the Sell-Sword (A Trashling Tale)

Cardboard crunched. Giatolo drew his twin blades and kissed bone charms made by Tu-va-illa herself.

Green eyes glowed in the shadows—the beast killing the Mouse-Herders' flock. A grey tomcat launched itself at Giatolo. Teeth snapped so close that he felt its hot breath. His blades flashed. The cat snarled and batted him to the dust.

The grinning beast grabbed him by his mouseskin vest and tossed him into the air. The sell-sword laughed, somersaulting and landing on the cat's back.

His blades sang until the tomcat ran off howling. Giatolo chuckled and gathered severed whiskers to re-string his lute.

August 08, 2014

A Human Echoes Top Ten

Today marks the release of the hundredth episode of the Human Echoes Podcast. For a hundred weeks straight, Tony Southcotte and AlbertBerg have reviewed horror films and weird fiction while talking about everything from AJ and Bodybuilding Ninjas to Yarn-bombing and Zombies.

I came to the podcast late, around Episode 60, thanks to an announcement for one of their flash fiction contests at Horror Tree. With the old writer's saying in mind, "Know your audience," I listened to an episode or two.

I got hooked.

There's something purely delightful about the back-and-forth between the two hosts, and I've been introduced to a world of movies and books that I wouldn't know without the podcast. Listen to HEP and you start to feel like you're a good friend of people you've never met. (For the record, and in interests of full disclosure, I also won that contest...)

Human Echoes has really become more than just a podcast. There's The Writers Arena they founded, where two writers duke it out via a weekly short story contest. But even more, there's a whole community of fans who regularly talk via social media. I wouldn't have been able to compile the following top ten list without their help.

A special thanks to the incredible Jon Jones, who nominated most of the episodes. I also want to give a shout-out to everyone who responded to my Twitter call for nominations and the ensuing conversation: Rich Alix, Danny Brophy, Joseph Devon, Ellie Ann, Jen, Caleb Newell and Hannah-Elizabeth Thompson. My apologies if I missed anyone.

And of course thanks to Tony and Al for making it all possible.

The ranking is all my own doing. If you disagree on the episodes and their ranking or want to suggest other episodes, please comment or let me know.

10) Episode 83, with Hannah-Elizabeth
This episode is a rare one without Tony, but features the HEP superfan, Hannah-Elizabeth. It introduced me to the awesome Timmy Failure, but even more it highlights the fan community the podcast has created.

9) Episode 89, Review of Maximum Overdrive
Nobody is better at creating a great review of a bad movie than Tony and Al. This is an excellent case in point, Stephen King's directorial debut.

8) Episode 43, Review of Rubber
And then there are hidden gems that I at least wouldn't know about if it weren't for the guys. From the teaser on the HEP webpage: "In this episode Tony and Al take a ride with Rubber, a movie about a cold-hearted serial killer named Robert who goes around exploding people’s heads with his psychokinetic powers; also he is a tire."

A movie about a homicidal tire. And it works!

7) Episode 35: Review of The Orphanage
Another great movie that I wouldn't know about without Tony and Al. A haunting movie about ghosts that are scary without being (Mike Myers pinky raise) evil...

6) Episode 32, First interview with Joseph Devon
There are a lot of interviews on this list. I think because, as I've already mentioned, the guys are all about community. About creating a place where creative people are appreciated. This interview with the author of Probability Angels is the first case in point.

Plus you get all the DEV-un versus de-VONN fun.

5) Episode 44, Interview with Ellie Ann
Speaking of great interviews with great authors, you can't miss the interview with the queen of trans-media, Ellie Ann. It's about her novel The Silver Sickle, and so much more.

4) Episode 68, Review of Krampus the Yule Lord
This is probably my favorite review episode. And what's not to like about Krampus? (He may come to get you if you don't like this episode.)

3) Episode 64, Interview with Eric Luke
The guys reviewed the author-read audio novel Interference in Episode 61, and the review was great. A free audio book about a Lovecraftian horror entering the world through audiobooks? Metafiction and horror. What's not to like?

And then came the interview, and Mr. Luke is so gracious and charming. It's a pure delight to hear him talk about his craft. If you haven't heard the interview, go check it out. Now.

2) Episode 81, Second interview with Bill Oberst Jr.
The guys have interviewed the actor Bill Oberst Jr. twice. Best known for his work in horror films, Mr. Oberst is the hardest working man in Hollywood. Seriously. Check out his IMDB page.

The guys talk with Mr. Oberst about his work on the movie Children of Sorrow. And then he talks about why he chooses the sorts of roles he does. Awesome. Just awesome. As a person of faith who writes horror, I find this episode so inspiring. I've listened to it at least four times and keep it permanently on my ipod.

I know, I know. It's weird to put this here, especially since I haven't heard the episode. But I have it on very good authority that the episode is awesome. I plan on listening to it at least twice this weekend.

But I also put Episode 100 here to make a point. The Human Echoes Podcast keeps getting better and better. So mathematically, Episode 100 must be at least a hundred times better than Episode 1, right?

More seriously, I know that with Tony and Al, the best is always yet to come. I hope that this list inspires them to keep doing what they do, because they sure inspire us.

Congrats, guys! Keep the awesomeness coming!

August 07, 2014

Free example of Haiku Fiction!

I found with my surprise and delight today that A. A. Attanasio's short novel Killing with the Edge of the Moon is currently available free for Kindle.

If you want an example of what I mean by haiku fiction, read this book. It's an awesome story spanning two worlds while focusing on the experiences of two characters.

A moving story. I highly recommend it.

Kranok the Searcher (A Trashling Tale)

The pathways of the Land of Fill shift from night to night, month to month, year to year. Only the Makers know why.

Kranok stands at a crossroad. He raises his Searcher's staff to divine his next step.

If he goes left, he will reach the habitations of artists and artisans, Tinkers and Coggers. If he goes right, the fields of Farmers and pens of Mouse-Herders. Straight ahead lie the camps of the Makers' Children, next to the furnaces of Those-Who-Burn.

He opens closed eyes and sets off over the refuse itself. He walks somewhere he has never been before.

July 31, 2014

An Experiment in Haiku Fiction: The Trashlings

Two of the most influential works in defining my conception of haiku fiction are Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson and The Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters. Winesburg, Ohio is one of the first examples of the "novel-in-stories" genre, a lengthy narration told through a series of interconnected short stories. The stories work as individual pieces, telling the histories of an interesting cast of characters. Yet they all interrelate to recount the main character's coming of age.

The Spoon River Anthology is a collection of poems, and it does not have the "through line" of a novel. But Masters paints the picture of a single small town by presenting us the epitaphs of its citizens. The life stories told in the poems often give different perspectives on the same event. One can only figure out what happened by reading between the lines of two or more versions of the same event -- if there is a "true version" at all.

Inspired by these two works, I'm going to try a writing experiment. I am in the process of writing a sequence of interconnected one hundred word drabbles. I hope to create a consistent world and hopefully an interconnected narrative. Why drabbles? Because I find that the limitation of the hundred word form focuses my creativity. And they're a heck of a lot of fun.

You get to be my test subjects. I hope to post one drabble a week here at my blog. Come explore the Land of Fill with me. And let me know what you think of the Trashlings:


How It Began

My wife and I recently brought a couch to the local landfill. As we lowered it off the truck, a scrap of paper blew into my face. I cursed, snatched it off, and shoved it into my pocket.

I forgot about it until I reached for my keys to drive home. The paper bore words in a black-brown ink. I didn't understand the story at first. Not until we found more scraps of paper. 

Together, they speak of a race of creatures living in the landfill. I don't know whether or not the tales are true. 

They call themselves Trashlings...