Now Available: IU 2015 Flash Fiction Anthology

indies-2015-flash-fiction-anthologyThe Indies Unlimited 2015 Flash Fiction Anthology features a year’s worth of winning entries from the weekly flash fiction challenge [including two from yours truly]. It contains 51 stories by 36 different [awesome] authors from around the world, with full color pictures by award-winning photographer K. S. Brooks and thought-provoking prompts by five-star author Stephen Hise.

From a war veteran’s revenge to the misadventures of Og – everyone’s favorite caveman, there are a myriad of genres and stories to appeal to every taste.

Included in the anthology are stories by Susan Berry, Robert Capko, AV Carden, Victoria Ann Carr, Thomas Diehl, Leland Dirks, Jules Dixon, Stephen Douglass, Ed Drury, S.K. Fischer, Kira Flynn, R.B. Frank, Christine Frost, Terveen Gill, Dusty May Jane, A. L. Kaplan, Zack Lester, William Lewis, S.A. Molteni, John D. Ottini, Rachel Palmer, Brenda Perlin, Daniel Peyton, Greg Phelan, Diane Selby, Hannah Selby, S.B. Smith, Chris Sparks, Sara Stark, Kat Stiles, Steven M. Stucko, Janni Styles, James R. Tate, Richard Trisdale, Byron Wade, and M.P. Witwer.

Check out my two entries:

Forever Hold Your Peace, 17jan15, and Bargain Bin Valentine, 14feb15


Flash.Fiction: Naked Ambition, or Form of a Lizard

Today’s Indies Unlimited Flash Fiction Challenge goes like this:


Photo by K.S. Brooks @

As B-List superheroes go, Lizard Man was not exactly a frontrunner. He sat on the door handle and sighed, wondering if there was a C-List.

The power to transform into a tiny lizard had a very narrow set of advantages.

Sure, he could squeeze into places most other superheroes could not go, but lord help him if there was a cat waiting on the other side.

His young ward, Turtle Boy, looked expectantly at him. “I’ll keep lookout while you slip under the door and get the Psybernetic Crystal.”

It would not be Lizard Man’s finest hour…

And my response is:

Or so he thought. There were too many disadvantages to being Lizard Man. That gecko on TV made everything look easy, cool. It wasn’t.

From the crack beneath the door, he surveilled the room. No easy task from lizard height. No cats, thank goodness. That would have been disastrous, possibly fatal.

He scurried across the evil scientist’s hotel room, hoping to catch sight of the elusive Psybernetic Crystal. Once it was in his possession he’d have the ability to control machines, maybe even robots with his mind. For good. Not evil. Surely that would make him an A-List superhero.

Once sure he was alone, he transformed into his human body. He shivered. The room was darn cold. Perhaps the crystal would also allow him to rematerialize fully clothed.

He scanned the room again, this time with the advantage of human height.

The crystal shimmered like an unfulfilled wish. This was too easy. As he lifted it from its pedestal, electricity surged though him, energized him. His hair stood on end, and he nearly dropped the crystal when the alarm went off.

He had to get out, quick. But how?

“Turtle Boy,” he shouted. “Trip the security guards.”

He hoped Turtle Boy wasn’t taking one of his numerous naps and was relieved to hear the scuffle in the hallway.

Now to exit the window and climb down the fire escape.

Stepping onto the ledge, he cursed the evil scientist for visiting in winter. Chicago Januarys were darn cold. Especially naked.


NOTE:  On Wednesday afternoon (February 10th), IU opens voting to the public with an online poll for the best writing entry accompanying the photo. Voting will be open until 5:00 PM Thursday.

I’d really really — really —  love it if you’d vote for my entry. No login / user account creation is required to vote.

Flash.Fiction: Tom’s Turmoil, or A Bad Day for a Sauna

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted. And if I wrote memoir, you’d know more about why it’s been a long time. But I’d prefer to write fiction, to distract myself from the problems, stupidity, and banality of the real world. But thanks for reading my posts.


Anyway, today’s Indies Unlimited Flash Fiction challenge intrigued me. The title that went out in the email was “Bad Day for a Sauna” while the title on the website was “Tom’s Turmoil”. I thought, sauna in the middle of the woods, really?

And here’s what transpired.

The prompt is…

Photo by K.S. Brooks

Photo by K.S. Brooks

Ah, finally! This was what Tom had been waiting for: true wilderness.

Right at this moment, quitting his job and selling everything became totally worth it. Tom had gotten absolutely disgusted with the rat race and couldn’t deal with it anymore. He wanted to get as far away from people as possible. And now, at last, he was.

As he pondered where to set up his tent, there was a loud noise behind him. Quickly turning, Tom’s jaw dropped when he saw…

And my response (250 words):

… a gigantic black bear totally unconcerned about the noise it was making, or about Tom, walking within ten feet of his truck. Tom’s heart raced. Man, being this close to something so wild was awesomesauce. This was why he’d come. This was why he’d left those city rats behind. That Walden dude’s the man.

The urge to follow numbed Tom’s fear of appearing on the next episode of When Bears Attack.

 Light-footed as possible, he snuck through the heavy brush, tracking the bear at a safe distance. Each step enhanced the euphoria he had longed for back amongst the daily drudgers. When the forest thinned, he slowed, then squatted at the edge of a clearing and took in the intoxicating vista.

Near the river, back dropped by mountains, steam rose off a small pool. Even though he’d heard of local hot springs, this was the first one he’d come across.

Tom froze, slow blinked twice. The sauna-like pool wasn’t what had him blown away.

Dumbfounded, he watched the bear lower itself into the pool beside three other bears. His bear leaned over and kissed one of the other bears on the muzzle.

“Bad day?” The kissed bear smoothed Tom’s bear’s fur.

Tom’s bear stretched, then spread its arms on the edge of this wilderness hot tub. “Do bears poop in the woods?” It growled, “SOS,DD. Some idiot camped in the passing lane.”

Tom turned away, pushed toward base camp. Man, I got to stop smoking so much dope, he thought.


NOTE:  I know Thoreau wrote Walden. Tom does not.

NOTE:  On Wednesday (October 14th) afternoon, IU opens voting to the public with an online poll for the best writing entry accompanying the photo. Voting will be open until 5:00 PM Thursday.

I’d really really — really —  love it if you’d vote for my entry. No login / user account creation is required to vote.

2014 IU Flash Fiction Anthology is out…

The 2014 Indies Unlimited Flash Fiction Anthology is not only available, it’s free [on Kindle] through May 25th.

AND in it, you’ll find one of my submissions, from the January 11, 2014 contest: Death for Sale.

Here’s the prompt:

Photo by K.S.Brooks

          Photo by K.S.Brooks

The car was a 1954 Pontiac. Her first owner was Bill Keenan, a newspaper reporter for the Kansas City Star.

Bill drove the car home and his wife met him out on the front steps and shot him dead. She’d found out about Bill and his secretary.

Now, you can say that didn’t have anything to do with the car, and I guess you’d be right. Still, it seemed to have gotten the car off to a bad start. Over the years, she was owned by 13 people. Every one of those folks was murdered.

I don’t really consider myself to be superstitious, but I don’t see no reason to tempt fate, neither. That’s why I tried to talk Eric out of buying the car. It was useless, of course. He was in love with the thing.


It took me longer than I expected because I needed to do some research, but the research is a huge part of what I enjoy about putting together a story.  Anyway, below is what I wrote in response to the prompt.  I titled it Bit of a Poke.

This was my response:

“For Christ’s sake, Eric, as if this old heap isn’t bad enough, the steering wheel’s on the wrong side,” Fiona said. “What could possibly have possessed you to buy it?”

“The seller told me a great story.”  Eric smiled the smile, the one that, long ago, had beguiled her into marrying him. “Get this.  All thirteen owners died, uncannie like. Murdered.”

“And dunderheid that you be, you believed him. I dinnae ken what gets into you sometimes.”

“The original awner, a guy named Bill from Kansas, well, his wee wife shot him the day he brung it home. Apparently ol’ Bill was giving his secretary a bit of a poke on the side.”

Fiona felt her face burn.

“The seller swears a brollachan possesses this here motorcar. Swears it pops out every now and again and enters a human’s body. Poor awners always seem to get the warst of it.”

She clenched her fists, digging her nails into her palms. “Really?”

“The second awner, another damn American looking to live in the Highlands, brung it over and, get this, he ended up being kil’t by an axe murderer. In the garage. Right beside it. It’s wickit. A brollachan makes sense.” He smiled again, darker this time. “And the murderers either weren’t caught or convicted.”

“So why the f–  Why would you buy it, you eeejit?”  She watched Eric’s eyes go dark, then glow red.

“Did I forget to tell you, you unfaithful cow, I put the car in your name?”

Flash.Fiction: Snowman (and older entry)

Photo by K.S.Brooks

              Photo by K.S.Brooks

This is one of my flash fiction entries, an older one, from the Indies Unlimited, February 1, 2014 contest.

The prompt was:

State Trooper Tom Dewitt pulled up on what he thought was a vehicle that had gotten stuck in the snow and abandoned by its occupants. The vehicle was no longer running and he couldn’t see anyone inside.

He didn’t want to stop, fearful that his own car might become stuck as well. He drove slowly by, and craned his neck to look into the other car.

The two occupants were slumped toward each other, and from the blood splattered on the headrests, Tom knew the serial killer they called the Snowman had returned. What Tom did not know was that the Snowman was still there…

And my response:

Tom enjoyed working with his partner Tommy. They seemed to share something, some deeper understanding he’d never had with other partners. Tommy, normally called Tom, went by Tommy on the job so it wouldn’t be so hard for the other officers to differentiate between them.

But even having Tommy in the car with him didn’t make what Tom was seeing any easier. Two bodies bathed in blood and frozen stiff, yet clasping each other as if seeking solace in their final moments, a sight gruesome enough to turn the most seasoned officer’s stomach. The Snowman, that bastard, had claimed two more.

“You okay?” Tommy said.

“Just makes me queasy. They’re the first ones I’ve had to report.”

“You want me to—”

“No. I got it. Thanks.”

Suppressing the urge to puke, Tom called it in. With the knee deep snow, they’d need a truck to haul the car to the station.

“What kind of person could do this, Tommy?”

“Dude, maybe it’s an illness. Like maybe the guy’s a schizophrenic or someth—”

“That’s no excuse. There’s a world of difference between being a psycho and being a monster.”

“I’m just saying. He could be sick, inside. Yet… Yet, look totally normal, like us, on the outside—”

“Give it a rest, alright.”

Tom turned the radio up, and the two waited in silence.

Forty-five intolerable minutes later, Jameson tapped on the window.

“Tom, you okay?”

Tom nodded.

“Man, it must have been creepy sitting here all by yourself.”

Flash.Fiction: Sugar Britches – or – What A Mom’s Gotta Do

This week’s Indies Unlimited Flash Fiction challenge allowed me to show the part of me that knows mothers can and do put their children first.

The prompt is:

The little flower had fallen off one of the cookies. Andrea stood and stared at the flawed little thing. In all other respects, it was the same as the other cookies. It just seemed so much more plain than the others. 

Photo by K.S.Brooks

Photo by K.S.Brooks

It is different. It has given something up – perhaps its dreams or its youth. That cookie is the mother of the others. 

She stood mesmerized by the thought. She felt a tug at her blouse. 

“Mommy, I hafta go to the bathroom!” 

Andrea sighed. “Just a second, sweetie. Miss? I’ll take that one.” 

Just then Bruce came strutting around with the cart. “Hey sugar britches, we gotta go. The game will be on in a few minutes.” 

As the woman behind the counter lifted the flawed cookie out, it broke. Andrea winced, then some little thing inside her broke, too. Bruce was definitely going to miss the game.

And my response (250 words):

Before they were even out of the parking lot, Bruce was complaining.

“God, you’re sappy. I’m gonna miss the kickoff ’cause you had to stand in line for a cookie with Mom on it. A broken cookie with Mom on it.” He laughed as he pulled a beer from the backseat cooler. “Guess that kind’ov fits you though, don’t it, baby cakes? Broken…” He popped the beer open and took a long draw. “You’re one dumb—”

“Just stop. Please. Polly’ll hear.”

“Sheesh, excuse me.” He belched, laughed again, then continued, “I’m pretty sure buying broken cookies at full price ain’t too smart.”

Andrea clenched her teeth. As much as she hated his complaining, hated the drinking and pet names, hated him for even existing, she knew arguing wouldn’t help. Over the past year or so, she’d all but given up, until he started calling Polly sugar britches. Until she noticed how his hands lingered when he touched Polly.

Andrea caressed the bag with the cookie in it and then causally sat it on the console between them. As she expected, Bruce didn’t hesitate to wolf down the one cookie. The broken cookie with Mom on it.

When Bruce started to cough, Andrea glanced back at Polly, made sure she was strapped into the car seat. The ride was about to get bumpy. But from now on, Polly would be safe.

Sugar britches might be dumb, but she had been smart enough to buy a cookie with nuts in it.

NOTE: On Wednesday (May 13th) afternoon, IU opens voting to the public with an online poll for the best writing entry accompanying the photo. Voting will be open until 5:00 PM Thursday.

I’d really really — really —  love it if you’d vote for my entry. No login / user account creation is required to vote.

Flash.Fiction: Initiation

I’m a sucker for a sob story, for an underdog. So I knew I had to save this little bear from the Indies Unlimited Flash Fiction challenge.

Photo by K.S.Brooks

Photo by K.S.Brooks

The prompt is:

The bear in the middle is Ursula. She always felt she was destined for a special purpose – maybe as a gift to a sick child or as a favorite toy.

Though she was passed over again and again, Ursula kept a cheery and hopeful disposition.

But at last a year had gone by since she had been unpacked and shelved. The store manager gathered up the unwanted toys and put them in a bargain bin in an effort to unload them before Valentine’s Day. As the day wore on, every toy was picked except Ursula…

And my response (250 words):

The hope Ursula clung to died as the store manager extinguished the lights and locked up. Today had been her last chance. Now she’d end up in the trash, because seriously, how long could he keep her around?

No one wanted her. Her fur wasn’t the sparkly pink little girls loved, nor was it the blinding white young men chose for their new loves. It was brown, bear brown.

She closed her eyes, wondered how many days she had left. Weariness from the false cheer, from the happy face she’d displayed for so long overtook her and she drifted into hibernation, free from sadness and fear.

“Wake, my sweet girl.”

Eyes blurry with sleep, Ursula didn’t recognize the face or the voice. “What? Who?”

“Artemis, silly bear.” As she leaned over the bin, the woman radiated beauty and power. And goodness. “You didn’t think you were left behind because you’re of no value, did you? I have plans for you, important plans.”

As Artemis lifted Ursula from the bargain bin, the world changed. The store dissolved. They stood amongst ancient ruins, washed white by the sun. Dark blue seas shimmered in the distance.

“Welcome to Brauron,” Artemis said. “You’re needed here. We guide girls on their path to womanhood.”

~ o ~

The next morning, when the store manager opened up, he couldn’t remember who bought that last bear. But never mind, at least he wouldn’t have to throw it in the garbage.

Time to put out the Easter bunnies.

~ o ~

NOTE: If you’re interested, the story of Artemis at Brauron is a historical and mythological one combined.  In ancient Greece, when girls reached puberty, many went through a rite of passage held in honor of Artemis.  You can read more at Wikipedia and Ancient Peoples.  Or just do your own search on “Artemis” and “Brauron”.

NOTE: On Wednesday (February 18th) afternoon, IU opens voting to the public with an online poll for the best writing entry accompanying the photo. Voting will be open until 5:00 PM Thursday.

I’d really really — really —  love it if you’d vote for my entry. No login / user account creation is required to vote.

Flash.Fiction: I did it!

Flash-Fiction-Star3Whoohoo, I won this week’s Indies Unlimited Flash Fiction contest.

Check out this week’s entries here.

Believe me, the competition was tough.

At Indies Unlimited, you’ll also find lots of great articles, tips, techniques, and advice about writing, publishing, and editing.

And possibly you’ll win the next contest.

Flash.Fiction: The Sucker Punch

As soon as I read this week’s Indies Unlimited Flash Fiction challenge, I knew the story in my head. I just had to write it.

Photo Copyright K. S. Brooks

The prompt is:

Blaine slipped out the back of the wedding hall. He couldn’t believe Tiffany was marrying that no-good cowboy. Roy McCoy had slithered his way into Tiffany’s life while Blaine was in Iraq. It wasn’t right. He had emailed her every day and Skyped whenever he could. Why hadn’t that been enough? He wasn’t really gone that long. She should have waited for him.

He gazed upon the unprotected refreshments. His grip tightened around the bottle of ipecac. “Speak now or forever hold your peace,” wafted out from the hall. Blaine took a deep breath…

And my response (250 words):

The green punch, old Roy-Boy, his onetime best friend, would go for the green punch and add a hefty dose of JD to it while that lying little— while Tiffany wasn’t looking.

Blaine was pretty sure the ipecac wouldn’t hurt anyone, anyone abstaining that is. Besides, if he remembered correctly—and his memory was a bit hazy these days—Tiffany and all her friends were teetotalers. Something about the ipecac… The very bottle in his hand had been in the last “care” package she’d sent him. In his head, something flared like distant artillery.

Sure he had a problem. But barfing up what little they got to eat… Barfing in that heat wasn’t going to make Iraq a happier place. What made things better was a good dose of anti-reality, easily found in the rotgut liquor all too available in Iraq.

“—may kiss the bride.”

Too late. Blaine heard the crowd exploding as the happy couple walked down the aisle.  He pocketed the ipecac and stepped back into the shadows of the reception hall.

And who stopped right in front of the alcove in which he hid? The Bride and Groom, of course.

“Don’t cry, hon,” Rat-Roy said.

“You know I love you.” Two-Timing-Tiffany sniffed into a tissue. “But this, this isn’t what I pictured.”

“I loved him too, you know. I wouldn’t be here if he hadn’t—”

Something fired in Blaine’s memory.

“I’d already planned,” Roy said. “I’m going to make a memorial speech at the reception.”

~ o ~

NOTE: On Wednesday (January 21st) afternoon, IU opens voting to the public with an online poll for the best writing entry accompanying the photo. Voting will be open until 5:00 PM Thursday.

I’d really really — really —  love it if you’d vote for my entry. No login / user account creation is required to vote.

Flash.Fiction: The Tunnel

Time for another Indies Unlimited Flash Fiction Contest entry.

The prompt:

Photo Copyright K. S. Brooks

I had hunted up here before, but in the cloak of mist I had lost my bearings.

After a while, the quiet became unnerving. I quickened my pace, hoping to come across a familiar landmark or perhaps even a logging road.

I saw the looming shadow of a structure ahead and called out. No answer came, but I proceeded forward, hoping someone might be there to help me find my way. I stopped short when I saw the barn. I knew where I was now, yet it was impossible. That barn burned down thirty years ago.

And my response (249 words):

Having grown up in the city, I had only ever seen pictures of the barn. But my mother had told me stories of how she played there when she was young. How in its cavernous rooms and loft, she and her cousins reenacted stories of swashbucklers and detectives. Of treasure hunters and monster-killers. How, one year, her father built tunnels through the stacked, bailed hay so they could pretend they were in an old castle with secret passages.

So how was it, considering I’d never been there, that in this dream it was so real? I’d never had a dream this real before. Yes, I’m known for my wild imagining, but I’d never been able to process smell and touch like this. Never smelled freshly mown hay or had mist dampen my face. Never felt the roughness of weathered wooden walls beneath my fingers. Not in a dream.

As I always imagined it, hay filled the loft. I couldn’t resist. I climbed the ladder, and as I did, I noticed a hole about halfway up the stacked bails. I scrambled up and into the tunnel. Even though I was no longer a kid, the shaft seemed to accommodate me with ease.

For what felt like a long time, I crawled on hands and knees, somehow unafraid of spiders and snakes. And when I emerged, my mother, my dead mother, and her dead father greeted me. Behind them stood past friends and family, smiling.

Welcome to Paradise, my mother said.