Flushed by Svingen and Pederson is the first book in the Meantime series. The title is very deceptive and would be more accurately written as {{Not Flushed}} but after reading the story I must give way and appreciate author literary license.

“A retching reflex causes him to turn around and throw his right hand as far away from himself as he can, upward and outward, into a well-known, infamous salute.” (loc 403-404). From this point of the short story to the end there are elements of humor. Before this point, the attempts at humor are good, funny to some, and creative. Unfortunately, they are too close to the truth. There could not be a thinner disguise. For that reason, I found myself more distressed while reading this than amused.

Baked Goods to the Rescue

Warped is offering number three from Meantime Stories by Syingen and Pedersen. Why “Meantime?” because you read these stories in the meantime. Meantime of what? That is up to the reader who downloaded the book. This very short story can distract you from routine tasks, so you can read it in the meantime while formulating the national defense budget for small nations. Or whatever.

In the ancient times of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, creation was explained to us with the number 42. For non-lovers of math, this culinary explanation may be more fulfilling. There are two and one-half main characters plus Ada to explain what is going on with this story. Captain Lisa Henderson, commanding, and Second Pilot John Bang must deal with a crisis. We will ignore Passenger Liaison Officer Robert Decker. His character is not developed, and he complains too much anyway. The 3500 passengers are just filling.

I feel it worthwhile to quote from the Introduction to this novel, Horror d’Oeuvres: Bite-Sized Tales of Terror so that readers know what they are getting into. I came to this collection via Tobias Wade. He publishes a couple of fantasy/horror/twisted tales per week. I get those free in a weekly email. Tobias Wade is listed as an author of this edited anthology. One of his emails recommended this collection. It has 61 pieces of short fiction plus three bonus stories. My (hopefully relevant quote):

“This anthology was born from a rogues gallery of the best authors from Reddit’s premier horror flash fiction community, /r/ShortScaryStories.” (loc 170-172).

“This charity anthology … All revenue generated from the sales of eBooks, physical books, and audiobooks will be donated to Scares That Care!, an approved 501(c)(3) charity which fights the REAL MONSTERS of childhood illness, burns, and breast cancer by helping families that are experiencing these extraordinary hardships cope with the financial burden. It’s a 100% volunteer charity; meaning all donations are given to those who are in need; no CEO salaries, no overheads. Donations will be made on a quarterly basis for one year following the publication date of this collection. All information on the donations, sales numbers, and all other pertinent information will be available on www.reddit.com/r/Human_Gravy.” (loc 175-180).

I found little evidence of a dilemma in this short story with what I consider to be a deceptive title. For me, a dilemma is a situation in which I must make a decision that will damage me the least whether that is in terms of material or more abstract goals. With General Rahmini’s Dilemna by Benson Grayson, there were multiple short terms dilemmas. But the General always fortuitously avoided them. He did not escape disaster by clever, well-planned actions; rather unusual opportunities presented themselves. After the first few times this happened, the novel became boring and I read along just to find out what other fantastic pieces of luck would fall out of the sky to improve his life. A reader of this might think a long time about Karma.

If there was a measure of the ratio of surprises to a number of pages, Paid In Full by Mark Newman would rank very favorably. Not only were there a lot of surprises, they were paradigm shifts. A character development would be unfolding interestingly but almost predictably and then out of the blue the character would make a 90-degree shift. Characters to be pitied became malevolent, unsavory characters. Evil bad folks, along with the lines of torturers, would just give up and leave witnesses alive. Not that they would go unpunished, but they didn’t act in ways that would assure they would not get caught. This novel is a short story of 149 pages and was one I want to keep so I paid the USD 0.99 Amazon price.

What Is My Name Today?

Stillhouse Lake by Rachel Caine has provided me with the densest, fast-paced, complex reading experience in the past several months. I tend to read and comment on a novel or short story every day. This was a breath of fresh air in superior writing. It could have gone wrong if the author had treated character backstories differently, but Rachel Caine deftly hinted at just parts of backstories as she teased the reader to continue the path in search of a motive for some horrible acts.

A seemingly harmless and innocuous Melvin Royal had pursued his hobby as a serial killer and eviscerated many of his victims in his home workshop while wife Gina Royal, daughter Lily, and son Brady were on the other side of the wall, perhaps in the kitchen or in the family room watching TV. Melvin may never have been caught had it not been for a drunk driver who crashed into the workshop one mid-day to reveal his latest hanging victim. Mel quickly was judged and went to jail for one murder but then Gina found a storage site which provided evidence of many of Mel’s murders, Mel was awarded an extended stay in prison and felt that Gina should pay for her disloyalty. Still, since he was in prison, he should not have been much of a threat. Enter Internet Trolls and the phenomenon of cult followers who love social misfits.

Starting out with the comment that this is not a spoiler, in The Bad Box by Harvey Click, the bad box is a coffin. It might be a coffin look-alike, such as an abandoned refrigerator. Any material could be used for construction. The only requirement is that there are air holes. The purpose is a sensory deprivation of its inhabitants although some box managers carried this to an extreme. Eva Dietrick had gone a bit far by leaving Angel, her granddaughter, in the bad box so long that she died and Angel was going to have to do something about that. At least the grandson, Darnell had not died.

Do You Know Where Your Muse Is Today?

“Ghost Writer” as a profession unfairly has a negative impression attached to it through no fault of the writer. Instead, a large segment of the population considers the person who hires the ghostwriter to be a cheat. In the case of non-fiction, the employer is considered lazy as in the case of a former President of the US publishing accounts of wartime experiences to an audience that largely believed the author was the President. In the case of fiction, the employer may be viewed as a clever business person but one claiming an unfair reputation as a writer. This is not the case with Natalie, our writer protagonist in Ghost Writer by Netta Newbound.

Horrible Truths

Orphan Girl by Indika Guruge has an arresting title and front cover. I assumed that the author was a non-western writer and looked forward to an account of life in orphanages and how children accommodated and changed as they grew up to an age when they would leave the orphanage. How would their experiences affect their post-orphanage life? How would they remember their experiences? This is not that book. This is a story of terrible tragedy, bravery, and an almost unbelievable tale of tolerance for pain and abuse. In the tradition of historical fiction, facts are presented which are indisputable. Fiction is created by the author as logical dialogue and character feelings are expressed that could not possibly be known by the author. Some dialogue might be backed up by interviews of friends, teachers, and substitute parents. Other dialogue must be created through author empathy. The author does an excellent job drawing the reader along a path leading to a terrible ending. I should have known better when I read the subtitle: “The story of an abandoned child’s tragic fate as a migrant worker in Saudi Arabia. Inspired by a true story, In memory of Rizana Nafeek.” (loc 3-5).

What follows is a Writing Rant. To play on words, not really a pun, it could be called a Righting…