Flash Fiction for Terrible Minds — New Weird/Southern Gothic

(AUTHOR’S NOTE:  This is actually based off of a figure that appears whenever I have fever dreams.  Every.  Single.  Time.  For the last five years.)

THE GALLOWS MAN

He follows them.

They always think that they can run, that they can find a way past him, that he can’t catch up.

But they’re wrong.

Terry lit another cigarette, one eye on the rearview as he drove.  “Shut up,” he snarled toward the backseat.  The whimpering decreased in tone.  He glanced at the road ahead, then back at the rearview.  “Shut up or else I’ll make you shut up,” he threatened again before turning back to the road.

The gallows loomed at him, and he couldn’t stop.  The car’s brakes screamed as he tried, the back seat passengers flung forward into the seats, the car whipping around as it hit the gallows, boards crashing through the windshield and piercing the car’s body.

Slowly, Terry lifted his head.  It might have been minutes later, it might have been hours.  He couldn’t tell.  He reached for the .38, turned to the backseat, where the hostages were.  Two pretty little teenagers and a little boy.  They were still there.  Good.  Seemed to still be breathing.  Even better.  He put the gun back down and took a look out the shattered windshield.

Dry desert stared back at him, empty, desolate, nothing for a hundred miles or further.

Where were the boards?  He wondered for a moment.  What happened to the gallows?  If it hadn’t been there, if he hadn’t hit it, what had broken the windshield, the passenger side window?

“Fuck,” he whispered, his voice dry as the sand around them.  “Fuck this noise.”  He turned the key, and the starter whirred and clicked, but didn’t catch.  He tried again, and again, before hitting the steering wheel.  “Shit!” He shouted.

He’d been very careful to keep his gaze forward, but now he turned to his left, and saw only the desert.  To his right, the same.  One of the children moaned in the back.  “Yeah,” he answered.  “What you said.”

“He’s coming,” the boy answered, his eyes glittery with fever.  “I can see him.  He’s coming.”

“Fuck that noise.  Shut up.”  Terry tried to open the door, but it was bent, warped in the frame, and fought him, trying to stay closed.

“He’s coming,” the boy whispered again, his eyes falling shut.  Terry bent back to the door, pushing as hard as he could, wanting out of the metal coffin.  The kids were as good as dead, and that was both a good thing and a bad thing.  Good because he wouldn’t have to worry about feeding’em and piss breaks.  Bad because he’d been using them as hostages the last two days, and the cops wouldn’t have a reason not to shoot at him now.

“S’okay,” he said to himself.  “It’ll be okay.”  He shoved again at the door and it finally gave, shrieking metal protesting as it bent against itself.  He stumbled and fell out onto the fiery blacktop, scorching and scraping his forearms.  He scrambled to his feet, sore but whole.  Now he could look into the backseat proper.

The girls were covering the boy with their bodies, protective even near death.  Something — whatever the fuck he’d run into, he guessed, had knocked the one with red highlights in the head, and she’d bled everywhere.  The other one, the blonde, was just…she wouldn’t be moving anytime soon, he reckoned.  And the boy beneath them.  He’d been sick anyway.  Terry turned his head, went to the trunk.  It popped open easily, and he hauled out the three duffels and a couple bottles of water.

The man was standing next to the car when Terry closed the trunk again, and Terry jumped.  “The fuck, old dude,” Terry stammered, “where’d you come from?”

The old man was a caricature of old men; he was tall, dressed in a grey suit that looked as if he’d just walked out of a western.  His nose jutted out of his face, his thin lips were pressed together tightly, and he laid one hand on the windowsill of the back door before glaring at Terry.

“Yeah, they need help, man,” Terry said, backing up a step.  He shifted the duffels a little higher on his arms.  “You go get help for’em, okay?  That’s what I was about to do.”  He started around the passenger side.  He could reach in and get the gun, lay the old dude out, and be on his way.

He took two steps more before it was all gone.  The car, the road, everything.  All there was was the gallows before him.  “Shit,” he squealed, and turned to run, but the old man caught his arm and pulled him along.

“Lord have mercy on this man,” the old dude shouted, and Terry’s arms wouldn’t listen to him no more.  He watched the duffel bags fall away from him, even as his bootheels hit the first step of the wooden platform.

“Have mercy, Lord, though he has brought carnage and death unto others,” came the reply of a thousand voices, “and into Your city.”

“Have mercy, Lord, though he has been the rapist of two of Your children,” the man intoned, and Terry found his feet coming up the second step of the platform.

“Have mercy, Lord, though he was the death of Neil Hamilton, Your servant.”

“Christ have mercy on this man,” and the third step, and oh, no, no, he was walking up them on his own now, the old man was at the top.

“Christ have mercy on Terry Word, yes, Lord.”  How’d they know?  How’d they know his name?

“Angels and ministers of grace, You have sent, O Lord, to protect Halliday from folks like him.”

“And so do You show Your favor, O Lord, unto the blessed.”  Fifth step, and he tried to throw his body weight backwards.  He was sure if he could get off the wood, he’d be all right, he’d be able to run, but his body was not cooperating, not even a twitch.

“For Your favor, O Lord, we give thanks.  For Your mercy everlasting unto everlasting, we give thanks.  For the grace You have given unto me, to be the vessel of Thy vengeance, I give thanks, O Lord.”

Eighth step, eye level with the platform.  The old man had his head thrown back now, his long grey hair whipping in the wind, his arms outstretched as if he was embracing the sky.  And still his feet were lifting and falling, ninth step, tenth.

“Thirteen steps to the gallows, Terry Word.  Thirteen steps to your fate,” the faceless choir intoned, and Terry whispered, “Jesus.”

“Is Lord,” the old man said.  “Now and forevermore.  Hear, brethren, hear the truth, that every knee shall bow and every tongue confess it, even the tongue of a murdering rapist.  But He is merciful, Terry Word.  He is merciful.”

Standing now at the top step, on the platform, and the old man comes close now,takes him by the arm and leads him to the center.  “You murdered in cold blood a man who offered you a ride.  You took his daughters’ innocence.  You ignored the pleas of his children, to seek help for his son, who was ill.  All of this you did in Jonah County, Terry Word, and that was your mistake.  For in 1894, God sent the Gallows Man to protect His people here in Jonah County.  And He has never lifted His hand from those people.”

The noose settled around Terry’s neck, and the man tautened it.  “Have you any last words, Terry Word?”

Terry shook his head.  This was a dream, had to be a dream.  He’d crashed and hit his head, and now he was dreaming.

“So be it.  May the Lord have mercy on your soul.”

A moment later, the trap fell, and Terry’s body dropped, his neck cracking at the end of his fall.  “And so ends the life of yet another ungrateful wretch,” Jonah Hawthorn intoned.  “Thank You, Lord, for allowing me to continue to protect Your people.”

Trooper Caleb McDonald was just finishing up with a speeding ticket when the old man walked up.  “Sir,” the old man said, “sir, I’m right sorry to bother you, but there’s some kids in trouble over on Highway 29.  Just past mile marker 33.  Hurry, please, sir.”  Caleb never got a real good look at the fella, but he saw the grey clothes, saw it was an old man, and knew, just knew, not to look any closer.  He’d grown up in Jonah County, after all, and he knew The Gallows Man didn’t take to staring.

Terry Word’s body was found a mile away from the car.  No one spoke about the rope burn around his neck.  “Exposure,” was written as his cause of death.

E-book Pirates, this is what you have done to me.

Absolutely nothing.

YET.

I’m not a big name.  I’m not even a medium size name.  FUCK I’M NOT EVEN COMIC SANS.

However, you guys, really.  Look, I understand.  I understand all about not being able to buy a book right now.  I understand not being able to download something into your Kindle or Nook because it’s the wrong file type or whatevs.  But for fuck’s sake, dude.  REALLY?  Almost everyone has a smartphone now.  And if you have a smartphone, you have access to a FREE Kindle or Nook reader app.  So you can buy the book.  Srsly.  So that’s not an excuse, okay?  That goes TRIPLE if you have a tablet.  Bitch, please.

If the book has not been released in your country because of censorship or because the publisher just hasn’t released it, hey, that sucks.  Write to the publisher.  Write to your equivalent of a congressman, if you have one.  BUY IT OFF AMAZON.COM instead of Amazon.co.yourcountry.  Don’t rip it off, y’all.

Of Seraphim and Cherubim is currently only available via Kindle, because I signed on for the KDP, Kindle Direct Publishing program, and I have to let it just sit on Kindle for three months.  I will be releasing it for Nook soon — like beginning of March, I think.  The same thing is going to happen for Glass Houses.  My book is, and all of my books will be, lending enabled, because I still get paid a little bit for that.  The thing with lending sites is that the books being offered can only be lent once.  That’s not like what the torrent people are doing.  That’s not our books being out there to be spread around over and over and over.  (I know, because I’m a member of Lendle.)

But the real reason I’m griping about this is…you guys ripped off Lilith Saintcrow.  You ripped her off so bad she’s not writing any more of the Steelflower series.  I loved Steelflower.  That was a REALLY good book.  And she came to the decision that with the torrents and the piracy and the whatnot that she couldn’t afford to write any more in that series.  She just couldn’t.  It didn’t make financial sense for her.   And I understand that, and I applaud her for making the decision that was right for her, and I don’t blame her at all.

Now pay attention, because I want you to think about something.  WHAT IF Lilith wasn’t the only author who made that decision?  What if all of the authors who are e-pubbed, including me, suddenly turned around and said, “Due to e-piracy, we just can’t afford to agree to e-publish anymore.  It doesn’t make financial sense for us.”  Or worse yet, what if the big publishers who e-pub those books said it instead?  Just “Fuck you, Amazon, we’re not making any money off of this now, we’re not doing it anymore.”

Then you’re left with the likes of me, who had not been published by the Big Guys, and the very, very disturbed person who wrote Wesley Crusher: Teenage F**k Machine.  (DO NOT GOOGLE THAT.  What has been read cannot be unread.)  And if that happened, well, I’d probably drop out too and either just concentrate on the day job, or really try to hit the indie presses, the small presses.

Is that what you want?  Really?  I mean, there’s Lendle.  There’s hitting up friends and family, “Hey, have you lent out such-and-such yet?  If you haven’t, can you lend it to me?”  And trading off like that.  Because we do still get paid for those.  Not as much as sales, but something.

I don’t see myself — I’m not a name, like I said.  I’m just starting out.  I’m nobody compared to everybody else participating.  This doesn’t affect me yet.  YET.  As many books as I have in my head, there’s always a possibility that maybe, just maybe, one of them might take off.  And then more.  I can hope.  And if that happened…oh, man.  If you have never sat down and written a book, if you have never gone through the labor of writing the first draft, sending it to your betas, fixing it afterwards, sending it to an editor, crying over the revisions, et cetera, fixing it then, and only finally when it’s as good as you can possibly make it, publishing it…don’t blow it off.   Seraphim was started in January of 2012.  First draft was finished May 1st.  After editing, after revising, it still didn’t get e-pubbed until December.  That’s a year of my life, y’all.  That’s a year of balancing work, kids, husband, writing, stealing moments to write, writing things on my craptastic phone of craptasticity and emailing it to myself, that’s research, that’s translating phrases to French and then back again because my editor thought it should be in English.  That’s…it’s fucking well HARD.

On top of that?  It’s not cheap.  Cover art is expensive.  Having the manuscript formatted was expensive.  Hiring an editor, because I NEED someone else’s eyes on my work, is expensive.  Add in the cost where I was working on the book when I could have been working the day job, the lost income?  If you add that in, Seraphim probably cost me somewhere in the vicinity of two to three grand.  That is a LOT of money for me.

So when I think about someone taking my book, that I worked on and babied for a year, and just blowing my work off as if it wasn’t anything…honestly?  It hurts.  I work hard on all of my books.  I have books waiting behind the curtain of my mind that will blow you away.  But e-piracy means there’s a very good possibility that you’ll never get to meet Colm MacLir and his leman, Siofra.  You may never get to meet the O’Dea Brothers as they speed through the streets of Chicago, Buffalo, and Cleveland.  You may never get to know about my dragons, or my Nagyrka, proud warriors of the steppes.  That would be your loss.

I know the continuing adventures of Kaia was mine.

Tempus flipping fugit. Also, I am not really here right now.

This weekend (a three-day for the kids, oh joy, in fear of WHITE STUFF FROM THE SKIES!!! That never showed up) was one of those weekends that draggggggggggged.  Every day seemed too long.

Today is not one of those days.  Already, it’s almost eleven, and I have to leave at noon to go pick up stupid paperwork stuff so we can renew and change our drivers’ licenses.  I have work-that-pays-me to get done, and I’m woefully behind, and…*flail*.

So I came here instead.

The steampunkery is running full steam ahead.  I should start work on Chapter Seven tomorrow night, I think.  Hoping to have it done and to my collaborator for our weekly telephonic conference.  Chapter Six was very short, horribly short, kill me now short, but it was necessary that it be that way.  I felt that if I added any more to the scene, then it would detract from what had taken place already.

I am a firm believer in the gun on the mantelpiece trope.  If I bring something/someone in, they will have a job to do.  In my work, there are no side characters, not really.  Note Monsieur Herat; Jacques is jocular, kind, calm, and helpful.  He went a long way from being a messenger boy to being, really, Erik’s right-hand man.  And he’s cool with that.  Because quite seriously, take a look at your life.  Yes, there’s people in it (the barista, the guy you buy your groceries from, the pizza delivery guy) who you don’t have a deep relationship with.  There are also people in it that are important.  You are always the star of your own story, but without your BFF, your story wouldn’t be half so awesome.

And now I really have to try to get this work-that-pays-me done.  But I wanted to say that yes, the work continues, and yes, we’re running at high speed.  To be this far in in probably a month is invigorating.

Much love always.

~Sherri

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

It’s January 1st, 2013, my loves.  Erik, Sara, Randall, Myra, and I all wish you love, luck, and success in the coming year.

If you’re here from Fitocracy, welcome!  I appreciate you coming to check out my work. 

I am hard at work on the Steampunkery, my darlings.  Chapter Five, and I’ve still barely begun.  It will be one book, but Odin’s EYE, it will be a monster.

Of Gargoyles and Grotesqueries, the sequel to Of Seraphim and Cherubim, will be written this year.  I’m just quite honestly not sure when.  It will come when it comes.  Erik will NOT be rushed or forced.

I am still waiting for input from YOU, Gentle Reader.  I am always available here in the comments, via Twitter (@scomptonmyers) and at ofseraphimandcherubim AT Gee Mail DOT com. 

Thank you, and Stars light your path.  93 to the Thelemics!  Blessed Be.

~Sherri

Question/Blogtag thing from Robert R. Best

(found at http://www.robertrbest.com)  Who stole it from somebody else.

I’m going to have to add my own tags later, loves, as I’m on a deadline with the day job.

What is your working title of your book?

The title of my current novel is Of Seraphim and Cherubim.  The Steampunkery does not yet have a title for the book proper, but the series is called Lemuria Rising.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

Bare bones?  Well, what would happen if the Phantom of the Opera were still alive?  How would he deal with technology?  What would happen if he met someone from our era, and how would he deal with her?

What genre does your book fall under?

Paranormal romance fits it best.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I would kill for Jeremy Irons to be twenty years younger and play my Erik.  Sara is harder…Anna Paquin.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

The Phantom of the Opera learns how to be a man, with a little help from a Witch.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Oh, Kindle/Nook.  I’m too impatient to get discovered.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Four and a half months, approximately.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I can’t make an accurate comparison.  I can tell you that the sex is much more realistic than 50 Shades.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Shannon and Raeven.  They read it as it came on my private blog, and kept assuring me that it was good, and that it was publishable.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Dude, I’ve got the Phantom of the flipping Opera changing a diaper and quoting Star Trek.  If that’s not far out enough for you, well, my bad.  There’s actually lots more to discover about both Erik and Sara in the sequel, Of Gargoyles and Grotesqueries, which isn’t written yet…

As I said above, I have a deadline today, so I have to get back to that, but I will tag other authors tonight!

Thanks, Robert, for inviting me to play along!

~Sherri

TAG!  JENNY SOSNIAK IS IT!  www.http://www.jennifersosniakbooks.com/
Twitter peeps, if you’re interested in this, Tweet me and we’ll set it up!

THEY’RE HERE!

Erik and Sara have arrived at last in the Kindle store, easily found by searching Of Seraphim and Cherubim.  I have been inundated by the day job and daily life for the last…sweet dear Theotokos, how long has it been since I’ve updated?

Anyway, yes, the book is out, easily found in the Kindle store, is lendable, and is only $3.99.  Also, it has a very healthy preview.  I need to get around and figure out how to get the cover art up here as my background, too. 

If you’ve come here because you bought the book, you loved it, you want the sequel…as of right now, OF GARGOYLES AND GROTESQUERIES is being planned for a December 2013 release.  However, this is dependent on several factors, not the least of which is Erik whispering in my ear again.  (He’s been awfully quiet lately.)  I do promise that when I start really working on it, there will be updates, probably some playlist action (if you’re wondering, SERAPHIM was born to the sounds of early ’80s Billy Joel, RENT, and old, old Gordon Lightfoot).  I can’t listen to PotO while I’m writing my Erik and Sara.  Can’t. 

If you’re here because you bought the book, please consider leaving an Amazon review so that more people can find it.  Also, I truly hope that I gave you your four bucks worth.  I can, as always, be reached here:  @scomptonmyers on Twitter; ofseraphimandcherubim at g mail dot com. 

As for the other projects, specifically, the steampunkery.  LEMURIA RISING is back on track — at least partially.  My collaborator is also a very busy person, and he’s not been able to send me the information I’ve needed regarding the world races, et cetera.  I’m hoping we’re back on the same page now, and I am three chapters into it.  LEMURIA RISING is the name of the world, the name of the series itself, and the name of the book will come to me (or him) eventually.  To the best of my knowledge, LEMURIA will also be a series, containing different pro and antagonists. 

So that’s it for now.  Monday, I’m answering some questions sent to me by my fellow Missourian, Robert R. Best, the author of the Lakewood Memorial trilogy, http://robertrbest.com/ and tagging some new authors with the questions.  I look forward to hearing from YOU, Gentle Reader!  Yes, you!  Leave a comment, like the Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/SherriComptonMyers  Tweet at me, email me. 

Be well and be blessed this holiday season!

~Sherri

Happy Halloween, or Blessed Samhain, and happy birthday to…

…Of Seraphim and Cherubim.

Yes, my dears.  The cover art is back, and this morning, E-Book Architects received the files.  They say that it’s going to be ready around November 16th.  I’m giving myself two weeks after that to get it up on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

I’m not sure what to feel.
I’m excited, I’m ecstatic, I’m overwhelmed that my vision will, at long last, be available to you all.
And I’m really looking forward to moving on and getting Gargoyles and Grotesqueries really, truly STARTED.

Speaking of future projects…that is the next one.  I know, I know, I was going to do something different in between, but it’s just not working out that way.  I was working on the steampunk book, that didn’t work out, I thought about doing something myself in a variation of that genre, but I didn’t want to upset my collaborator, and then I thought about something else and it just sounded too…I don’t know.  Too mind candy.

I’m still in la-la-land, I think.  And if it’s this bad now, gods only know how crazy I’ll be when it’s actually up at Amazon and the NookStore!