Category Archives: Fiction

Gatwick to the Odd Quarter


A view of Letchworth from the Great Northern.

My eyes are heavy on the 11:34 to Peterborough, and I’m crammed between my suitcase and a teen-aged Brit and I feel sorry for him. I need a shower, a nap, some reassurance. I’ve just officially packed up and moved to England and everyone I love and everything I know is an ocean away.

I’ve planned this since last November. I had been working a short-term gig and needed something to come next.  I’ve toyed with the idea of moving to the U.K. for a few years, and felt reasonably confident that I could could get this thing going over there — this work thing.  I had connections, and thought I was a shoe-in.

I mentioned it in an off-hand way to my ex — we have kids together and I wasn’t going to leave the country without them. She is in a relationship with the VP of her London Office, and I thought that she’d like the idea.  I was right.  She was over the bloody moon.  She texted me the next day to tell me that she had a fat offer waiting for her in that same London Office. Yeah, I know. This went from theory to reality within days.  Shit got real. I endeavored to “cool her jets” by reminding her that it was just an idea, but she wasn’t having it.  “I need you to commit to the U.K.” she said, and I dutifully, inexplicably agreed. I always cave. I’m not going to fucking talk about it.

I put all of my efforts into finding something.  I knew where to look and who to talk to.  I made it my job to find a job. In my head I feared a prolonged and nasty custody battle with my ex, who at this point made it clear that she was moving to the U.K. I couldn’t stomach the conflict, and in all honesty I have always wanted to raise my kids overseas anyway, but now the clock was ticking.  She had a job, had started shopping for houses with her boyfriend, and I was still scrambling.

I won’t recount the conversations I had with the recruiters I knew, and the utter frustration at the lack of progress.  It sucked, and I felt like some shit went awry. When things happened, they happened quick, and unexpectedly. I got a call from a dude in Germany who represented a company in the U.K. and wanted me to talk to his client. I got on the phone, and after about four rudimentary questions I had a job offer. The first thing I did was to call the ex and let her know. It was a go.

I’ve flown into Gatwick on my exploratory trips since January.  It’s not the closest airport to where I’ll live and work, but after doing it once, I was comfortable with the plane to train routine. It meant a lengthy train ride from the airport to Kings Cross, where I hop on the Great Northern rail to Peterborough to grab my rental car. It’s a beautiful journey, especially the further north you go. After getting my rental, and bouncing off curbs and medians to get to the shabby brick hotel that will be my home until my house is ready, I was more than ready to sleep. Before I did, I googled the area I was in.  I wanted to see where I could hike, explore, and find some peace until my kids would join me.

My search turned up Monk’s Wood, Archer’s Wood, and the Odd Quarter. The first two were easy enough to figure out.  They’re medieval and British, and make perfect sense.  The last?  Well I don’t know.  It is in fact a piece of property adjoining the not-quite-Bates-Hotel I am currently staying at, and there is no explanation for the name. Moreover, it’s private property, so there’s no option of finding out for myself.

But how perfect is this. The Odd Quarter. The name invites all kinds of images and definitions and I don’t think I want to settle on one. I feel like I’m well-suited for such a destination, or perhaps, I’ve never really existed outside of it. It fits for now and I love the mystery.  I hope this will be one mystery of many that I share with my kids who love odd things. Let’s find all of the odd things.





Cover Reveal: Corvidae

CORVIDAE-cover-resizedVery excited by the beautiful cover of the Corvidae Anthology, edited by Rhonda Parrish. My story, “The Rookery of Sainte-Mère-Église” will appear within. Here are all the exciting details:

Anthology edited by Rhonda Parrish
Rhonda Parrish’s Magical Menageries, Volume Two

Associated with life and death, disease and luck, corvids have long captured mankind’s attention, showing up in mythology as the companions or manifestations of deities, and starring in stories from Aesop to Poe and beyond.

In Corvidae birds are born of blood and pain, trickster ravens live up to their names, magpies take human form, blue jays battle evil forces, and choughs become prisoners of war. These stories will take you to the Great War, research facilities, frozen mountaintops, steam-powered worlds, remote forest homes, and deep into fairy tales. One thing is for certain, after reading this anthology, you’ll never look the same way at the corvid outside your window.

Featuring works by Jane Yolen, Mike Allen, C.S.E. Cooney, M.L.D. Curelas, Tim Deal, Megan Engelhardt, Megan Fennell, Adria Laycraft, Kat Otis, Michael S. Pack, Sara Puls, Michael M. Rader, Mark Rapacz, Angela Slatter, Laura VanArendonk Baugh, and Leslie Van Zwol.

CORVIDAE, praise

“Smart and dark like the corvids themselves, this excellent collection of stories and poems will bring you a murder of chills, a tiding of intrigue, a band of the fantastic, and—most of all—an unkindness of sleepy mornings after you’ve stayed up too late reading it!”
— Karen Dudley, author of Kraken Bake

“Magic and corvids collide in this certain to intrigue anthology.”
— Joshua Klein, hacker and inventor of the crow vending machine

“A creepy, crazy kaleidoscope of corvids, Corvidae is what happens when you bring together ingenious writers and sagacious subjects. It’s nothing short of a thrill ride when this anthology takes flight.”
— Susan G. Friedman, Ph. D., Utah State University;

“As sparkling and varied as a corvid’s hoard of treasures, Corvidae is by turns playful and somber, menacing and mischievous. From fairy tale to steampunk adventure, from field of war to scene of crime, these magical birds will take you to places beyond your wildest imaginings.”
— Jennifer Crow, poet and corvid-by-marriage


“Delightfully refreshing! I should have known that editor Parrish (who also edits the cutting edge horror zine, Niteblade) would want to offer something quite unique. I found it difficult to stop reading as one story ended and another began – all fantastic work by gifted writers. Not for the faint of heart, by any means.”
— Marge Simon, multiple Bram Stoker® winner

“Stories of magical beings and the humans they encounter will enthrall and enlighten the reader about both the mundane and the otherworldly. I devoured it.”
— Kate Wolford, editor of Beyond the Glass Slipper, editor and publisher of Enchanted Conversation: A Fairy Tale Magazine

“Seventeen tales… range in feel from horror to upbeat tales about homes where things go right, and are set everywhere from the modern day to mythical fantasy pasts. The best of these stories evoke things from real life – loves and values – and show characters making hard choices that reveal who they are and what they’re made of.”
— Tangent

“There’s no Disney-esque flutter and glitter to be found here — but there are chills and thrills aplenty.”
— Mike Allen, author of Unseaming and editor of Clockwork Phoenix


Edited by Rhonda Parrish

“Introduction” by Rhonda Parrish
“A Murder of Crows” by Jane Yolen
“Whistles and Trills” by Kat Otis
“The Valravn” by Megan Fennell
“A Mischief of Seven” by Leslie Van Zwol
“Visiting Hours” by Michael S. Pack
“The Rookery of Sainte-Mère-Église” by Tim Deal
“The Cruelest Team Will Win” by Mike Allen
“What Is Owed” by C.S.E. Cooney
“Raven No More” by Adria Laycraft
“The Tell-Tale Heart of Existence” by Michael M. Rader
“Sanctuary” by Laura VanArendonk Baugh
“Knife Collection, Blood Museum, Birds (Scarecrow Remix)” by Sara Puls
“Flying the Coop” by M.L.D. Curelas
“Postcards from the Abyss” by Jane Yolen
“Bazyli Conjures a Blackbird” by Mark Rapacz
“Seven for a Secret” by Megan Engelhardt
“Flight” by Angela Slatter


July 7, 2015

World Weaver Press

Rhonda Parrish

Rhonda Parrish’s Magical Menageries

Trade Paperback:
ISBN-13: 978-0692430217
ISBN-10: 0692430210

List Price:
Trade Paperback: $11.95
eBook: $5.99

Word length:


Fantasy and Horror
Short Story Anthology

Primary Audience:
General Adult

horror, fantasy, mythology, occult, WWII, steampunk, science fiction, ghost, magic, dark, disturbing, fairy tale, folklore, trickster, crow, Native American, urban, short story

Official page:


(US ebook)
(UK ebook)

Barnes & Noble:



IndieBound (Independent Bookstores):



Ingram. Direct bulk purchase through World Weaver Press (contact for rates).


Rhonda Parrish is driven by a desire to do All The Things. She has been the publisher and editor-in-chief of Niteblade Magazine for nearly eight years now (which is like forever in internet time) and is the editor of several anthologies including Fae and B is for Broken. In addition, Rhonda is a writer whose work has been in dozens of publications like Tesseracts 17: Speculating Canada from Coast to Coast, Imaginarium: The Best Canadian Speculative Writing (2012) and Mythic Delirium. Her website, updated weekly, is at

Mike Allen edits the digital journal Mythic Delirium and the critically-acclaimed Clockwork Phoenix anthology series. He’s a three-time winner of the Rhysling Award for poetry; his short story “The Button Bin” was a Nebula Award finalist. His newest poetry collection, Hungry Constellations, offers a 20-year retrospective on his career, while his first collection of horror stories, Unseaming, debuted in October to starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Library Journal. By day he’s the arts columnist for the daily newspaper in Roanoke, Virginia, where he lives with his wife and frequent project co-editor Anita Allen, as well as a dog named Loki and two sister-felines, Persephone and Pandora.

C.S.E. Cooney is a Rhode Island writer who lives across the street from a Victorian Strolling Park. She is the author of The Breaker Queen and The Two Paupers (Books One and Two of the Dark Breakers Trilogy), The Witch in the Almond Tree, How To Flirt in Faerieland and Other Wild Rhymes, and Jack o’ the Hills. She won the 2011 Rhysling Award for her story-poem “The Sea King’s Second Bride.” Other examples of her work can be found in Rich Horton’s Years Best Science Fiction and Fantasy (2011, 2012, 2014), The Nebula Awards Showcase (2013), The Mammoth Book of Steampunk Adventures (2014), The Moment of Change Anthology, Black Gate Magazine, Uncanny Magazine, Strange Horizons, Apex, Subterranean, Ideomancer, Clockwork Phoenix, Steam-Powered II, The Book of Dead Things, Cabinet des Fées, Stone Telling, Goblin Fruit, and Mythic Delirium. Her website is

M. L. D. Curelas lives in Calgary, Canada, with two humans and a varying number of guinea pigs. Raised on a diet of Victorian fiction and Stephen King, it’s unsurprising that she now writes and edits fantasy and science fiction. Her most recent short fiction, an Old West set steampunk story, can be found in the anthology Kisses by Clockwork. She is also the owner of Tyche Books, a Canadian small-press which publishes science fiction and fantasy.

Tim Deal is a writer, editor, adjunct professor, and a Bram Stoker Award nominee. His work has appeared in a number of published anthologies, magazines, newspapers, and Websites. He is also one of the Four Horsemen, the hosts of the annual Anthology Conference (AnthoCon). He holds an MFA in Fiction, an MA in Security & Safety Leadership, and is a combat veteran of the U.S. Army.

Despite being terrorized by chickens as a child, Megan Engelhardt still enjoys and respects birds—from a distance. She lives in northeastern Ohio with her husband and two sons and can be found online at or on Twitter @MadMerryMeg. Her collection of retold fairy tales with Amanda C. Davis, Wolves and Witches, is available from World Weaver Press.

Megan Fennell is a court clerk, cat owner, and writer of strange tales, currently living and working in Lethbridge, Alberta. Although loving magpies to the point of having two of them tattooed on her, it was the Danish myth of the Valravn that held her corvid-like attention span for this anthology. Her stories can also be found in Wrestling with Gods: Tesseracts 18, Tesseracts 17, OnSpec Magazine, and the charity anthology Help: Twelve Tales of Healing.

Adria Laycraft has stories in IGMS, the Third Flatiron Anthology Abbreviated Epics, FAE, OnSpec Magazine, Tesseracts Sixteen, James Gunn’s Ad Astra, Neo-opsis Magazine, and Hypersonic Tales, among others. She is a graduate of the Odyssey Writers Workshop and a member of the Imaginative Fiction Writers Association (IFWA). Adria is also an award-nominated editor. For more details visit

Kat Otis lives a peripatetic life with a pair of cats who enjoy riding in the car as long as there’s no country music involved. Her fiction has appeared in Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, Daily Science Fiction and Penumbra eMag. She can be found online at or on Twitter as @kat_otis.

Michael S. Pack was born in the Deep Southern U.S., but he fled to Canada after an encounter with a particularly fierce mosquito swarm. His short stories have appeared in several anthologies, most recently Missing Monarchs (Fox Spirit 2014) and Fractured: Tales of the Canadian Post-Apocalypse (Exile Editions 2014). He is currently working on an epic fantasy novel. He sometimes posts on twitter @Michael_Pack and on Facebook at

Sara Puls spends most of her time lawyering, researching, writing, and editing. Her dreams frequently involve strange mash-ups of typography, fairy creatures, courtrooms, and blood. Sara’s stories have been published in Daily Science Fiction, The Future Fire, GigaNotoSaurus, Penumbra, World Weaver Press’ Fae anthology, and elsewhere. She also co-edits Scigentasy, a gender- and identity-focused spec fic zine. On Twitter, she is @sarapuls.

Michael M. Rader lives in Colorado with his wife and two children where he does dad things, engineers electrical things and writes spooky things.

Mark Rapacz’s stories have appeared in a number of publications, including Plots With Guns, Revolver, Dark Corners, The Booked. Anthology, and The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2012. His novel City Kaiju was just released in 2014, while his second novel, Foreigners, is forthcoming from New Pulp Press in 2015. He and his wife currently live in the Bay Area where he continues to write stories.

Queensland Writers Fellow Angela Slatter is the author of the Aurealis Award-winning The Girl with No Hands and Other Tales, World Fantasy finalist Sourdough and Other Stories, British Fantasy Award-winning “The Coffin-Maker’s Daughter,” Aurealis finalist Midnight and Moonshine (with Lisa Hannett), as well as The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings, Black-Winged Angels, and The Female Factory (also with Lisa L. Hannett). She has an MA and a PhD in Creative Writing, and is a graduate of Clarion South 2009 and the Tin House Summer Writers Workshop 2006. She blogs at about shiny things that catch her eye.

Laura VanArendonk Baugh was born at a very early age and never looked back. She overcame childhood deficiencies of having been born without teeth or developed motor skills, and by the time she matured into a recognizable adult she had become a behavior analyst, an internationally-recognized animal trainer, a costumer/cosplayer, a dark chocolate addict, and a Pushcart Prize-nominated author with a following for her folklore-based stories and speculative fiction. Find her at

Leslie Van Zwol is an avid genre writer who enjoys adding a dash of grit to mystical worlds. She spends her days working for justice to support her nighttime writing habit, and is always on the lookout for her next adventure or inspiration. She also attributes the accuracy of this story to the noisy magpies that were constantly squawking outside of her window during the writing process. (Although the crows continually voiced their objection to the subject matter.)

Jane Yolen, often called “the Hans Christian Andersen of America”(Newsweek) is the author of well over 350 books, including OWL MOON, THE DEVIL’S ARITHMETIC, and HOW DO DINOSAURS SAY GOODNIGHT. Her books and stories have won an assortment of awards—two Nebulas, a World Fantasy Award, a Caldecott, the Golden Kite Award, three Mythopoeic awards, two Christopher Medals, a nomination for the National Book Award, and the Jewish Book Award, among many others. She has been nominated three times for the Pushcart Prize in Poetry. She is also the winner (for body of work) of the World Fantasy Assn. Lifetime Achievement Award, Science Fiction Poetry Association Grand Master Award, Catholic Library’s Regina Medal, Kerlan Medal from the University of Minnesota, the du Grummond Medal from Un. of Southern Missisippi, the Smith College Alumnae Medal, and New England Pubic Radio Arts and Humanities Award . Six colleges and universities have given her honorary doctorates. Her website is:

Anthologist and contributor photos may be requested through

New Story: “Trolls of Souhegan Valley.”

I received an email and contract from David F. Kramer, editor for Great Old Ones Publishing’s From the Corner of your Eye

Nissitissit Covered Bridge, Brookline, NH. Photo by James Walsh
Nissitissit Covered Bridge, Brookline, NH. Photo by James Walsh

anthology, for my “Trolls of Souhegan Valley” story. The theme of the anthology is “cryptids,” or what the Oxford English Dictionary defines as “animal[s] whose existence or survival is disputed or unsubstantiated.” Writing my story was a lot of fun as I’ve harbored a longtime fascination with mythical and pseudoscientific creatures, and I am particularly fond of the juxtaposition of the normal and routine against the strange and unexplainable.

In “Trolls,” my protagonist “Vic” is a Brookline, NH police officer whose shift begins with an inauspicious start — just before being dispatched on a particularly hazardous call, Vic’s wife (Eunice) tells him that she’s met someone else and is leaving him. Vic’s angst over a seemingly healthy marriage gone wrong serves as the backdrop to an unexpected encounter, the loss of a precious item, and a shockingly violent clash with the mythical denizens of the old New Hampshire woods.

Great Old Ones Publishing plans on releasing the anthology this June at the Anthology Conference (AnthoCon), and I hope to offer a public reading at that time.

The picture above (right) is the actual location and bridge in Brookline, NH where the story is set.  If you click on it you’ll find additional photographs by James Walsh, which reveal the startling beauty of this setting.

I’ve always teased my kids about the existence of trolls under bridges (and goblins in swamps, and giants in the mountains). I hope to raise them with the same wonder and imagination that my mother and grandmother raised me.

New Story: “The Rookery of Sainte-Mère-Église,” Corvidae Anthology.

Church with Parachute Memorial of John Steele.
Church with Parachute Memorial of John Steele.

At approximately 0140 hours on June 6th, 1944, paratroopers from the 505th Parachute infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division dropped into the French town of Sainte-Mère-Église as part of the D-Day Invasion. The regiment and their German adversaries suffered heavy casualties but eventually took control of the town.  Many can recall the iconic image of paratrooper John Steele whose parachute caught on the spire of the town church, and could only observe the fighting going on below. He hung there limply for two hours, pretending to be dead, before the Germans took him prisoner. The town continues to honor the role that the 82nd Airborne Division played in liberating the town, and many symbols and memorials remain that pay homage to the paratroopers.

Those that know me may remember my service with the 2/504 Parachute infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne, which launched my military career.  The proud lineage of the “Eighty-deuce” was instilled in me at the onset, and the history of the unit is kept alive in many ways, including the names of the many training drop zones at Fort Bragg, NC, which bear the title of their WWII counterparts.  So, in my airborne career, I have parachuted into “Sainte-Mère-Église” on more than a few occasions (the drop zone, not the actual French town).

Present day:  enter Rhonda Parrish and submissions for her new anthology, Corvidae for World Weaver Press. The theme of the antho was speculative fiction in which birds of the corvidae family featured prominently. So inspired I was by the theme, and by Rhonda’s talent as a writer and an editor, that I felt compelled to write and contribute a story.  Thankfully, after a rewrite, it was accepted and will be featured among this excellent group of writers: Corvidae table of contents.

“The Rookery of Sainte-Mère-Église” was inspired by WWII ruins that can still be found all over Europe where the battles occurred, and by the many war dead whose remains have yet to be recovered.  My goal was to contrast a tale of young love against the grim history of the region, using rooks to connect the present with the past.  Below is the short, unedited beginning:

“The Rookery of Sainte-Mère-Église” Excerpt

November morning. A Saturday. Thin branches of elm and poplar sagged beneath the weight of frozen rain. The sun pale behind the dampness, bleached out, sick.

Birgit wiped the wet hair from her eyes, trudged in her grandfather’s great rubber boots to the woodshed. Her footsteps crunched on the icy dew and her tiny feet almost slipped out. A clamor of angry cries greeted her as she came near. She opened the shed door, careful not to pull it from its one good hinge. The screech of the rusty iron was lost in the chaos of sound and feathers as dozens of black birds burst forth and took to the air. She ducked and covered her head, could feel the warm air beneath their wingbeats, could smell their little bodies mixed with the pine of the woodpile.

Rooks, her grandfather had told her. Sheltering from the cold.

Official Cover Release of X-Files: Trust No One

New Official cover for X-Files: Trust No One
New Official cover for X-Files: Trust No One

I was very pleased to see the new cover for the X-Files: Trust No One anthology coming out this Spring.  I was even more pleased to see that I had made it on the cover.  I cannot wait for this bad larry to hit the market.

You can read more about this anthology and my story in it (with relevant links to the publisher and editor) in my earlier post here.

New Story: “1988 Behind the 9:30 Club,” and an Important Anthology.

Cover art sample from Sean Frasier.
Cover art sample from Sean Frasier.

In November, Despumation Press announced that they’d be putting together a metal-themed anthology, the sales of which would benefit two very nice people who are going through some not so very nice health issues.  Despumation editor, Kriscinda Lee Everitt had this to say about the effort:

As some of you may or may not know, Metal Maniacs co-founder and former editor, Katherine Ludwig, has been battling non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and dark fiction writer, screenwriter, and metal/hardcore enthusiast, Dustin LaValley, has been struggling with some very serious Crohn’s/IBD issues. These things cost money, and I don’t know about you, but I can’t recall the last time I had the cash to just throw at some monster threatening your life, trying to bribe it to go away.

Kriscinda wrote that Shawn Macomber (Decibel, Fangoria, Rue Morgue, Shroud, etc.) had approached her with the idea of a benefit anthology and she liked the idea.  I’ve known Shawn for more than a few years as Shroud has published his writing before, and Shawn has been great about keeping in touch and promoting Shroud’s publications. Shawn came to me in October and asked if I’d like to write something for the anthology.  Of course I jumped in.

Over the following month I penned “1988 Behind the 9:30 Club,” which was based on a real life experience I had the venerable rock club in Washington D.C. back in the 80s when I was there for a Fleshtones show. In my story, my characters arrive at the club to find that Fugazi is playing instead of the Fleshtones.

So now the full table of contents is out and I’m pleased and honored to be joining so many tremendous writers in an effort to bring a little financial relief to two people who are bravely battling some serious health problems.  The Healing Monsters anthology is due out in March, so keep your eyes peeled and be sure to grab a copy once it’s released.

Here’s a short (unedited) excerpt of “1988 Behind the 9:30 Club:”

I escaped from the sullen cloud that had begun to form around Sully. It was a good crowd — alive, eclectic — and Fugazi cultivated a sound that was difficult to categorize. There were elements of hardcore, but also a rhythm that pulled itself from funk and ska roots. It was Mackaye’s distinct vocal style that did it for me. It was a departure from his rapid-fire lyrical assaults in Minor Threat, but it was still uniquely Mackaye.

And then there were the girls — shaved heads, pierced noses, tattoos, thick black eyeliner. I could only watch, as the music was too loud to try to approach and talk. In the meantime two beers turned into four, then six, then two shots of Wild Turkey, or maybe three. The band was nine songs in before they played “Waiting Room,” and though I’d been psyched to hear it, I needed air, and I needed it bad. I walked out the first door I saw and found myself in an alley behind the club. The air was muggy and stale and I could smell the dumpster and the rotten run-off of whatever greasy spoons spilled out onto the bricks.

King of Birds: Meet Greta…

His hair was gelled back into a slick brown helmet. Greta tried to maintain eye contact, but her gaze repeatedly shifted back to his hair.

Thoughts of Michael Douglas in “Wall Street.”

Her date was talking – something about “lobster rolls.”

She had found that these dates had steadily been reduced to simple ratios. If the sum of her date’s positive traits and attributes outweighed those she could absolutely not tolerate, then there was potential. She held no unrealistic expectations for emotional pyrotechnics. Quite the opposite. She had realized months ago that she was setting the bar pretty low, but her expectations had plummeted in an effort to contend with two years of loneliness.

Greta was sad to realize that she was on the fence about his hair.

They were at The Oar House, a little bistro along the row of shops that made up Tugboat Alley by the docks in Portsmouth. Only 18 miles from Walker Mills but a world away. Her date – his name had already slipped her mind – had mentioned that he collected first-edition science fiction novels. This opened a door in their conversation, or so she thought. Emboldened, she revealed her interest in vintage French pornography.

“French what?” he stammered.

“Nothing too hardcore, though,” she said. “A little BDSM, but mostly harmless stuff. No poop, no pee, no animals. Mostly just couples and threesomes getting it on.”

“Threesomes?” His face wrinkled up.

She raised a finger, hoping to backtrack. He ran his hand through his hair and cleared his throat. He wiped his gel-covered hand on the tablecloth.

“Wow, that’s, ah… that’s pretty interesting. I don’t know too much about that kind of thing.

Greta opened her mouth to explain, but wasn’t sure if she had the will. There was something about the way he said “thing,” as though she had just confessed to running a dogfighting ring.

“I mean, I don’t want to sound like a… but why would you collect… that stuff?”

The scale was tipping, the ratio changing.

“What was it the website promised?” he said. “‘Thirteen dimensions of compatibility?’”

Greta smiled to lighten the mood. “You think they would’ve rounded that up to fourteen or even down to twelve. Something luckier. What difference would one less ‘dimension’ make eh?”

He chewed on his bottom lip. She could see a crease form between his eyes.

“Values are the third dimension of compatibility,” he said. “No offense, but I’m not quite sure how we got past the third dimension.”

The third dimension is depth, she wanted to say. Mathematically speaking.

“Values,” she said, “are subject to interpretation.”

He removed his napkin from his lap, placed it on his plate and moved his chair back. “Not where I come from.”

She had seen that he was a “Christian” on his online profile, but she did not know how Christian, which degree of Christian. A lot of people said they were Christians. Hell, her profile even said “Christian,” but that was more to distinguish from any of the other great monotheistic religions. She could have left it blank but she was afraid that visitors to her profile would think she was a godless heathen.

Greta suddenly realized that she wouldn’t be able to get past his hair after all. Too slick. Too restrained. Too judgmental.

“I’ll pay the bill on the way out,” he said, and rose to leave. Greta seized his hand and thrust a twenty in it. Maybe a bit more roughly than she had intended. He stared down at his hand as if a snake had bitten it. Before he could say anything more, Greta was up and out, moving in the opposite direction.

Dismal, she thought. A train wreck. Worse, she was twenty bucks lighter, but there was no way she was going to allow him the magnanimity of paying for her. Men used money as a tool, and picking up the tab was his way of taking control, negating her, eclipsing her.

Greta tried to laugh, but it stuck in her throat for a moment and emerged as something different. She felt tears well in her eyes and became angry with herself.


It was funny – the date, his hair, the awkwardness, his not-so-latent condescension. Or it should have been, though she felt it a bit tragic as well. Perhaps he, too, ran equations in his head, figured the ratio of tolerable to bizarre, and Greta’s predilections did little to help her cause. She wasn’t exactly making herself more desirable to her mainstream suitors.

It wasn’t just French porn. It was David Hasselhoff memorabilia; it was Klezmer music; it was 1950s cigarette ads; windup tin robots; Ed Wood movies; Burger King glassware; vacuum cleaner hovercraft schematics.

She was a niche player. Overspecialized. Difficult to find parts for.

These things were getting in the way. She had created piles of clutter that were building up between her and a normal life.

Greta found her Datsun in the parking garage and headed out of town. She turned into the Portsmouth traffic circle, and then launched on to the Spaulding Turnpike for the journey back to Walker Mills.

Story: “Green Light” by Tim Deal

It’s the 25th anniversary of our parachute assault into Panama for Operation Just Cause. To mark the occasion, I’m sharing a short story about the moments in the aircraft just before the assault. This story was written in about 2010. It was a finalist in Southern NH University’s Amoskeag MFA Fiction contest. Enjoy, and yes, this is a bit of a roman à clef.

Green Light by Tim Deal

     Squeezed in among four sticks of paratroopers on a C-141 bound for Panama, Corporal Bill Daisy had the soundtrack for the moment. The opening percussive rim taps to Bauhaus’s “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” carried just the right amount of tension — grim ambience, serious men on a serious mission.

Dinklage talked in his sleep next to him, something about “skin and scales.” Dinklage was a true snake-eater, hard, tabbed-out, Ranger-qualified. He’d almost been tossed out of Ranger School for talking in his sleep, but the kid maxed out his PT test and could write up and execute an operations order better than some of his instructors. Honor grad, no less, and would have been on the fast track to getting his sergeant stripes if he had not been caught in a gay bar in downtown Fayetteville. A full investigation was under way, the unit abuzz with rumors. Dinklage’s squad leader and platoon sergeant insisted that he made this deployment. The kid might prefer strobe lights and jean shorts, but he was squared away.

Twenty-four hours ago, Daisy was in Raleigh, up all night with an NC State cheerleader. The girl, a psych major or a sociology major, knew a very different Daisy. She knew the Daisy with a yellow mohawk fortified with Aqua Net (white can); she knew the Daisy with the painted leather jacket (Bad Religion, Misfits, Minor Threat), and hand-sewn plaid pants — the weekend Daisy.

“Are you in a band?” she had asked him. “Let me read your palm.”

But now, Daisy was a composite of military nomenclature: BDUs, LCE, TA-50, ALICE pack, M16A2 rifle, M1950 Weapons Case, MC1-1B Parachute. Daisy wasn’t a snake-eater, but he wasn’t a complete shitbag either. He passed every PT test, could hump twelve miles in under two and a half hours (full combat equipment), and had forty-two mass tactical jumps under his belt. Furthermore, he could stay up all night with an NC State cheerleader and not fall out of the 0600 Brigade Run.

Brown wasn’t a snake-eater either. He was a complete enigma. Twenty pounds overweight, a perpetual sniveler, and — much to the dismay of his roommate — a chronic masturbator. It was as if Brown had discovered his junk seven years after adolescence. He had been caught beating-off so many times he simply stopped lying about it. He’d offer a sly grin and then shuffle off to the shower. When Brown wasn’t skinning himself raw, he carried the “pig.” It was an unspoken rule in a rifle platoon that the fat guy carried the heaviest weapon, the M60 machine gun. The theory was that it would help him toughen up, lose weight. The reality was that Brown would only become tough enough to lug the pig on every other hump. In the intervals, he’d complain of stress fractures, shin splints, sprains, heat exhaustion, and general malaise. His chain of command became so tired of tearing into his ass that they would just pull him of the line, give the pig to Dinklage, and shuttle Brown to the aid station.

At that moment, Brown was breaking another unspoken rule. He had torn open an MRE (Meal Rejected by Everyone), and was spooning Beef Diced with Gravy into his mouth. There were few MREs that possessed the foul stench and dog-food consistency of Beef Diced With Gravy. The smell was compounded by the intermingled odors of jet fuel, sweat and flatulence. Daisy gave him a look, Brown paused, shrugged, spooned it in. The soundtrack didn’t fit here. This was not a Bauhaus moment.

Norton and Jenkins sat next to each other. Daisy couldn’t hear what they were saying, but it was obvious they were swapping jokes. The irony of their friendship had long ago faded. Norton was a small-framed, big-mouthed white kid from North Carolina who unabashedly bragged about his membership in the KKK. Jenkins was a six-foot-three black guy from Detroit who was obsessed with heavy metal. The two were inseparable and the only real dispute Daisy had ever witnessed was whether Hank Williams Jr. or Metallica “ruled.” Army recruiters had a saying, “there’s only one color in the Army — green.” That was bullshit. Norton and Jenkin’s mutual affability was not representative nor symbolic, it simply was.

Daisy had gulped wine with the cheerleader. It was all she had at her apartment. They went through three bottles while they rifled through her roommates’ CD collection, each taking turns as DJ. She liked pop music, he did not, but she was beautiful. She had been in a swimsuit calendar. She studied yoga, had a guru. She was shocked to learn that Daisy was in the Army, but Raleigh was just far enough from post that it didn’t carry the social stigma of dating a soldier. Now, on the aircraft, surrounded by men, guns and ammunition, the cheerleader seemed like a dream. At that moment, she would have no idea where he was, or where he was going.

Staff Sergeant Chappy, his squad leader, was sleeping with an unlit cigarette dangling from his mouth. Before coming to Division, Chappy was in the Old Guard and had supervised the detachment that marched at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Daisy rarely saw him without a cigarette in his mouth. Hell, he’d even seen him doing PT with one. Chappy believed in UFOs. He had a photo album of blurry pictures of flying saucers that he claimed he had taken himself. Chappy had gone to Ranger school with Dinklage and both claimed to have seen a glowing orb soar through the night sky during Desert Phase in Utah. Ranger School used food and sleep deprivation as a training tool.

Daisy’s legs had gone numb beneath the weight of his rucksack, which was rigged beneath his reserve parachute. His rucksack contained enough food, water and ammunition to last three days. Real ammunition weighed much more than blanks, and Daisy had made a point to take extra while he was in the secure personnel holding area before deployment.

His soundtrack shifted to “Disintegration” by The Cure: melancholic, encumbered, sober. He couldn’t sleep, though he had slept in less-comfortable conditions like cramped cattle cars, the back of a Sheridan Armored Reconnaissance vehicle, and standing for inspection at Division Review. Infantrymen could sleep anywhere when they were not humping, though there were a few occasions he felt himself drifting off then too.

In less than an hour, the cabin lights would come on and they’d be told to wake up anyway. They’d be told to stand up, hook up. check equipment, and then check static lines. After they “sounded off for equipment check,” the cabin lights would go out, the doors would open, and they’d be illuminated by the red indicator lights over each jump door. During a training jump into Florida, Daisy had exited the door poorly, failed to tuck his chin into his chest, and the risers ripped his K-pot from his head along with a layer of skin from his neck. He sprained his ankle on the landing and was medevac’d to the rear as a result. His helmet was never found and he had to buy a replacement from the supply NCO’s black market stash. Daisy had always suspected that he bought his own helmet back. The supply room was a racket. The supply NCO used to sell clean piss during drug tests.

Dinklage murmured something about “swift otters” in his sleep. Daisy ran his hands over his LCE to make sure he had properly taped all of the metallic noisy bits. They had done the rattle test back at the PHA, but sometimes the tape got stripped off while you were putting the parachute harness on. Though he was wearing a reserve chute, they were told that they’d have no time to use them if their mains malfunctioned. They’d be jumping at five hundred feet and their reserves were attached only as a point of reference for their hands during the exit.

The cheerleader’s name was Sara, and she was studying anthropology. Daisy thought it was important to remember that. He couldn’t remember her guru’s name, though Sara has told him many times and showed him pictures. Brown had lent him his piece of shit Diplomat to drive up to Raleigh, didn’t ask for gas money either. For some reason that was important for Daisy to remember as well.

Daisy found out his mom died on the night he had Battalion CQ duty. She’d had a heart attack while watching the World Cup finals at the Crown and Anchor in Las Vegas. At first, he didn’t recognize his father’s voice on the phone, it sounded hollow, dry. Sergeant Chappy was the staff duty NCO and released him early to make his leave arrangements. It would be Chappy that took him to the airport and got him smiling by the time they got there.

The jumpmasters and safeties began to stir and make preparations for the jump. In moments they’d all be up filling each other with the inflated bravado that only men knew how to manufacture. Daisy would play his part, he had to. It was like a fix. Suck in the testosterone and make it out the door when the red light turned to green. Whatever happened on the other side of that door would have to wait. But he could only make it through the door knowing they had to go through it together. The Division ran rampant with stories about the cherry paratrooper that froze in the door and was met with a jungle boot to the ass. He’d never seen it, but he was certain it’d happened. How many times had his legs weakened by the howl of wind that assaulted him as the jump doors were opened? Jumping out of a functional airplane was already an unnatural act. Jumping into combat was a whole different thing altogether.

Norton and Jenkins had lent him the fifty bucks he needed to buy another helmet. Daisy was broke after two of his post-dated checks to the pizza guy bounced and he was charged service fees. Norton offered thirty dollars and Jenkins the remaining twenty. They didn’t even bitch when it took a month and half to pay back. He bought them a case of Schlitz to make up for the delay, and then Jenkins kept the barracks awake with Megadeth and his drunken screaming.

“Air-fucking-born you pussies!”

Dinklage woke up and wiped his eyes. He elbowed Daisy.

“Did that fucking pogue open up an MRE in here?”

“Lights about to go on,” said Daisy.

“Whatta you think, ready for this?”

“Oh hell no, but I only bought the one-way ticket.” Dinklage smiled. He was a big kid, a Texan with smooth, confident drawl.

The lights came on and the paratroopers roused. They tightened leg straps, tugged on pouches of Redman, stood up and slapped backs. After a few moments the two jumpmasters positioned themselves in the rear of the aircraft next to the jump doors and faced them.

“Hook up!” They yelled in unison.

The words had instant effect. The troopers cheered in response. Daisy’s hand shook as he clipped his static line to the anchor line cable. Would this be the last time he ever hooked up? The last time Brown gripped a static line in his chubby hand? Daisy looked over at him, Brown’s camoflauge-painted chin still glistened from the rations. Their eyes connected for a moment. Brown was a slob and there was something real and alive about that. He was anything but a recruiting poster and Daisy liked it that way. Daisy nodded to him, Brown nodded back.

The jumpmaster told them them to check static lines, to check equipment, and then “sound off for equipment check!” On any other jump, like the ones at Sicily, Holland, Nijmegen, or any of the other drop zones at Bragg, the rearmost trooper would slap the ass of the trooper in front of him with a resounding “OK!” and then pass it forward. The ritual often became a contest to see who could leave the biggest welt. On this night the troopers passed up their message with a clench or pat on the shoulder and a firm, encouraging word.

The cabin lights dimmed and the red jump light bathed them in fury. The Air Force loadmasters opened the doors and turned them over to the Army. Warm air blasted Daisy’s face.

“Get some!”



Daisy leaned around and grabbed Dinklage’s LCE strap. He yanked it hard, looked the man in the eyes, tried to say something meaningful.

“Fuckin’ A, man.”

“Fucking A.”

He’d never asked Dinklage straight out if he were gay. It never seemed to matter. Dinklage was the first one to him after he sprained his ankle on the Florida jump. He’d helped him stow his chute, grabbed Daisy’s ruck and helped him to the rally point. Dinklage was also the first to check in on him after they returned, brought him a handle of Bacardi. Daisy had always wanted to be like Dinklage, to be as squared away. That’s what he thought about most.

Daisy saw streaks of light crisscrossing the ground below. It had been the first and only time he had seen tracer fire from the air and it took him a moment to realize that’s what he was seeing. Before he could tell Dinklage, the jumpmasters announced: “Hot DZ, Hot DZ!”

Panic knotted in his throat, his chest, his stomach. He bellowed to release it, joining the other impotent yells of false courage. What violence awaited them? He envisioned the bodies of dead WWII paratroopers hanging from the trees around Normandy. He thought of Sara and her guru. What words of wisdom would the cheerleader’s spiritual guide offer him? Would she tell him to breath a certain way? Chant? Pray? Meditate? If he died today, how would Sara find out? How much would it matter to her? Would it simply become an interesting anecdote she brought out during drinks with friends? Would she say she had seen his impending death in the palm of his hand?

He had the perfect song planned for this part, “She Sells Sanctuary” by The Cult — the extended version. The eery vocal strains would serve as the prelude to the jump, but once the first trooper made it out the door, the song’s explosive guitar riff would kick in.


The jumpmasters gave their second to last command: “stand by,” and the troopers moved forward towards the door. Daisy tried to turn up the volume of the music in his head, but the whiny-drone of the aircraft engines drowned it out. He could feel his platoon’s nervous energy vibrate and shudder through the anchor line cable. The brave exclamations had been replaced with a dense, resolute silence. Dinklage tapped him on his shoulder and yelled something that Daisy couldn’t make out.

“What was that?” Daisy yelled back over the drone of the engines.

Dinklage smiled and nodded towards the rear of the aircraft. The light turned green. Daisy’s stick shuffled quickly to the door. When he reached the opening he caught a flash of orange tracers, a sky full of silk, and the toes of his boots, before he leaped into the darkness.

New Story: “King of the Watery Deep” to Appear in Officially Licensed X-Files Anthology

X-Files Trust No OneI was honored when New York Times Bestselling author Jonathan Maberry invited me to pitch (and then accepted) a story for volume one of a three volume series of X-Files anthologies — officially licensed from X-Files creator Chris Carter.  Jonathan is editing the series for IDW Publishing, where he has published his enormously popular Rot & Ruin and VWars books. Volume one is titled X-Files: Trust No One, and will be released April, 2015.  It’s currently available for pre-order now from Amazon.

In “King of the Watery Deep,” Agents Mulder and Scully are asked to assist in investigating the disappearance of a US State Department political officer after her boat is found adrift in the Red Sea. The incident is officially attributed to pirate activity, but a found video suggests that something sinister may have risen from the depths. After arriving in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Mulder and Scully are forced to navigate the strict cultural landscape of Sharia law, while racing the clock in hopes of finding the officer alive.  In the end they face an ancient evil resurrected from the cradle of civilization.

X-Files:  Trust No One will also feature stories from Keith DeCandido, Kevin J. Anderson, Tim Lebbon, William W.D. Gagliani and David Benton, Paul Crilley, Heather Graham Pozzessere, Stefan Petrucha, Brian Keene, Aaron Rosenberg, Ray Garton, Gini Koch, Peter Clines, Max Allan Collins, Gayle Lynds and John Sheldon.

New Story: “Compound Problems” in Shotgun Honey

Mosque outside the Mohammediah Village Compound
Mosque outside the Mohammediah Village Compound

This is a late post, so forgive.  In October, Shotgun Honey, an ezine of hardboiled shorts, published my story “Compound Problems.”  The tale was inspired by my experiences living on a small, run-down compound in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The story was drawn from the kind of day-to-day “what ifs” that occurred as I examined the alien nature of expat life in the KSA. The descriptions of the compound, the Daihatsu, flight attendants, pool, and decrepit mini-market were all accurate at one point in my stay, though things began to get better the latter part of my year there.  The rest, lest one think otherwise, was a product of my imagination.  Go check it out here.

Late afternoon at Al Haraam Village, a residential compound in the Basateen district of Jeddah. Long shadows stretched across the stagnant pool, the failing mini market, and the dead palms. A ruined Daihatsu pickup circumnavigated the parking lot coughing up toxic plumes from the mosquito fogger…