April 10, 2012 — 607 words
By 1889 Labs
A little about you, first. Do you have any hidden talents?
TL: I am 30 years old and a single mom of a beautiful 9 year old daughter, Alli. I started writing when I was her age but didn't start taking it seriously until she begged me to publish the things I had been working on. Before that, writing was simply a way of keeping the stories I loved to tell myself.
As far as hidden talents, I know how to play trombone quite well. It was a passion in high school but it's still something I love to do. Of course now, I don't have much time to play.
TL: Alone is a YA book which takes you on a journey of healing for a 23 year old girl, Willow, struggling with cutting. Through her art, she finds a way to tackle the things that have destroyed her soul for too many years. Cutting has caused her to become isolated and although she is a successful artist in her town of New Jollie, she still feels incredibly alone.
Is there anything you want readers to take away from your writing?
TL: Cutting is a personal journey that usually leads to disaster unless you tackle it head on. For some people, that means years of therapy, but Willow never felt comfortable with going that route. What I would like for my readers to take away from Alone is a better understanding of cutting. Also, impossible as it may seem, cutting is something that can be conquered through pure will and a better understanding of who you are.
Which other indie authors do you recommend or admire?
TL: Well, she's no longer an indie author for the most part, but Karen McQuestion is a huge inspiration. She was one of the first indie authors on Kindle who managed to turn writing into a full time career. That in itself is an amazing accomplishment, but I think she's done it with such grace. I've had the honor of speaking with her and it's obvious that she wasn't in search of fame, she just loves to write and is grateful that people like reading her work. Her writing always has a clear direction and she has memorable characters that can make a lasting impact on a reader.
Lastly, what question should we have asked you, and why?
TL: I think I should have been asked what inspires me as a writer.
Alone and my Tamporlea Trilogy were both inspired by photographs. There's a saying: "A picture is worth a thousand words." I have just used that saying and stretched the thousand words to several thousand. I love looking at a photo and imagining my own story attached to it.
Tiffany Lovering is a life-long upstate New York resident and spends most of her time devoted to her daughter, Allison’s activities. In between going to soccer practice, recitals, and spending way too much time on Facebook, she writes young adult fantasies and paranormal romance. You can find all of Tiffany's book on Amazon.
April 10, 2012 — 302 words
By Tim Sevenhuysen
When the world stopped kaleidoscoping, Tic rolled up against the wall of the hold and emptied the contents of his stomach onto the floor. He tried to stand up, but his innards churned and he fell back and stared at the ceiling.
Haglyn's face swam into focus as she dragged herself over to him.
"Bolter!" she said. "Are you dead?"
Tic flapped his jaws like a fish out of water.
Milly stepped up beside Haglyn. "Oooh, feels like I got folded up into a little ball..."
"Not supposed to engage an Origami Engine when we aren't strapped into proper anti-fold seats," said Haglyn. "Still, we're alive."
"Mmmmrrghnn," said Tic. The effort sent a splitting pain through his temples.
"Look," said Milly, "blood."
"Must've hit his head," said Haglyn. "Concussion, too, maybe. Fester's out cold, that businessman hasn't done much more than twitch since I came to, and from the looks of things the Engine has made its last jump."
Milly peeked at the engine. Thin, acrid smoke was wisping up from it, and every surface and connector was black and charred. "At least it got us here," she said. "Wherever 'here' is."
A speaker crackled. "We're at Entulov 5," said Pelly. "It was the only other planet I had in my recent coordinates."
"Thanks, Pelly," said Milly. "You saved us!"
"Is that gratitude?" said Pelly. "There's something I'm not used to."
"We should land," said Milly. "If we're going to chase Libden down again and free my parents, we'll need a new engine, and probably some medical supplies. I'll deal with those things. You can stay here and take care of the others."
"Nuh uh," said Haglyn. "I'm going with you."
"But you can't even walk!" said Milly.
Haglyn scoffed. "Think something like that will stop me?"
April 9, 2012 — 737 words
By Ellie Hall
"Alternative-Read.com (AR) is a website developed as a vehicle for promoting all comers from the writing world. This collection brings together the Writers on the Wrong Side of the Road, the most dangerous rule-wreckers from Alternative-Read.com who sprang at the chance to create an anthology designed to give the reader “a different kind of reading experience. And just to make sure that happened, AR took away the rules and let them write whatever the hell they liked. Edited by Sassy Brit and Clayton C Bye.”
Overall this was a really enjoyable read which I’d rate an easy four stars, with eight of the seventeen stories presented scoring four stars or up. Where there were problems, it seemed always to be with endings, endings too abrupt in otherwise well-written tales. Though I will admit to expecting something more outlandish.
The standouts, for me, were:
Simon Seeks by Natham Yocum – An emotive journey with a psychic who has known too much suffering to remain neutral in his work (4)
The Barefoot Hero by Timothy Fleming – This was flawless, a touching reminiscence of one young life ruined by war, and a simple act that said so very much (5)
The Cenotaph by Casey Wolf – Another war story of sorts. A young man who is uncertain about his future camps by an isolated cenotaph. In an interesting clash of past and present, he meets the lone survivor of a town who lost their sons to war, and who remains, endlessly tending their monument (4)
Take Two by Kit Germain – An inventive twist on post-apocalyptic survival of the species. Well executed and fast paced, this story looks at the twin horrors of religious intolerance and a genetically modified world (4)
Triona’s Beans by Casey Wolf and Paivi Kuosmanen – I understand that there were no boundaries put on this selection, but in my opinion, this is out of place here. As a story for the 5-10yrs age group, it is an engrossing look at tolerance and empathy for people who are different, but lost and utterly displaced. An excellent children’s story, not substantial enough to translate to an adult audience (4)
The Smile in Her Eyes by John B Rosenman – This was lovely. An old man sees his dead wife in the eyes of a teenage girl, then struggles with the certainty of his vision and the socially unacceptable relationship he must pursue (5)
Slumfairy by Tonya R Moore – This story requires a leap of faith; you go into a crisis with the characters and are carried along with them. There is little time to acquaint yourself with the world they are fighting through, but if you trust the author, enough detail is supplied to keep everything together. I enjoyed this thoroughly, but felt it could be part of a larger work (4)
Pronghorns by Casey Wolf – Probably my favourite story in this collection, not least because it met my expectation of something dark and utterly unique. It is a superb study of the thoughts and emotions of three people involved in a murder-suicide plot (5)
Of the stories that remain, one I’d like to comment further on is Malpas by Marion Webb-De Sisto. I rated this three (3) and I really wanted it to be more. I found the premise and characters intriguing and once it got started, the stage was set for a very unusual erotic love story, but it was the longest entry in the collection and it could easily have been cut in half. A shame; it would have been a favourite.
There are no stories in this lot that do not deserve to be read; they are all of a worthy standard. I believe some needed tighter editing, which they didn’t get – possibly for ideals of free expression.
April 7, 2012 — 2,030 words
By Guest Author
Something I've been thinking about a lot lately: why do people approach the self-publishing discussion from an "either or" perspective? One can either be a self-published author or work with a publisher. You can switch, but you can't do both at the same time.
This strikes me as kind of counter-intuitively passé: conforming to the stigmatism of self-publishing that assumes authors go alone because they can't get a publisher, while at the same time fighting to "prove" that self-published works can be just as good. If self-publishing is just as good then it's really just another tool in the author's toolbox, right? Why not do both?
In the past I've done both. In the immediate future I have a couple of projects on either side. For me the decision to self-publish was not about what was best for me as a writer (legitimacy -vs- better rights) but what was best for the particular project.
Placed with Publisher
When I finished the first draft, Split-Self was a mess. Frankly, the second draft was a bit of a mess too. It needed so much editing work and it was my first romance novel, a genre I had little experience in as a reader let alone as a writer. The publisher provided exactly what I needed: a good swift kick in the ass It took almost a full year (unusually long for a romance novel) but by the end I was extremely happy with the result. The publisher's existing lists introduced me to many new readers. I sold (and continue to sell) more books than I would have on my own.
Placed with Publisher
This was written specifically for 1889 Labs. I was really impressed by the quality of their books and knew I wanted to work with them on something. This idea seemed like a perfect fit. If they hadn't liked it, I probably would not have written the book. In retrospect, I should have sat on the idea a little bit and given myself more time to work with it on my own. I love the final result, but there are some elements that if I had to do again I would not do the way I did them. Ultimately 1889 Labs helped me realize that, and I think I came out a better writer for it. Plus it's always nice to be awed by MCM's amazing talent for giving you exactly the cover you want without talking to you about it at all.
To Be Self-Published
Originally this was accepted conditionally by the same publisher that handled Split-Self … unfortunately the condition in question was that I completely rewrite it. I had broken all the rules of romance, created a dark erotic thriller that was unpublishable not because it involved sex slavery and plenty of dubious consent (no, no that was fine!) but because I refused to cap it off with a Disney-esque happily ever after. Two more major m/m publishers gave me exactly the same feedback. I hate to fly in the face of what everyone is trying to tell me, but I don't understand why any reader would buy a dystopian future involving sex slavery only to get pissed off when things don't end happily ever after? Aren't there enough Nicholas Sparks books to go around? Can't a book deal with a dark topic in a fun, snarky way and yet still be realistic about the fact that love does not save people, heal significant trauma, or transform them into better people?
How to Quit Playing Hockey
To Be Placed with Publisher (probably)
Depending on how pissed off I still am about Guttersnipe, Split-Self's publisher will probably get the first look at this coming-out novella. The characters originally appeared in a short story freebie called There's Cock In This Book, that everyone seems to love but everyone seems to hate the ending of (oops). Take note readers: if you make enough noise about something the muses get their act together. There are a couple of concerns that might keep this one from being placed. One, the characters originate from something I self-published. I'm honestly not sure how a publisher is going to feel about that, but I am sure I do not want to take down the original story or rerelease it for any price other than FREE. Two, this is ultimately a sweet story about a real issue (homosexuality in professional sports). I don't want a sexy man-titties cover, but I feel like the publisher will probably want to go with what "sells". Three, I've build the demand for this book on my own … do I really want to split revenue with a publisher if I don't have to? On the other hand, this is the type of book that should be accepted really easily: it's follows the rule of romance, it's short, it will promote the backlist to new readers. And with a publisher it will be more visible and more likely to be considered for potential awards than it would if I went alone.
Season in The Red
To be Self-Published
This is a reboot of a webserial I did before Split-Self. It was very popular, but it was also deeply flawed (too many characters, too long, narrator was unbelievably annoying). I've wanted to redo it for a while, borrowing from the serial structure used in romance novels (where installments do not continue the story but merely pluck two minor characters from a previous installment and make them the new major characters). Problem is it's about hockey players and is not a romance. It's more a Shonen Jump style 'peak behind the curtain into the secret life of men' story, a genre I affectionately refer to as "slash fodder". I think it's fair to say that not many publishers are going to "get" this approach. They'll either want to market it to boys or they'll assume they need love stories in order to market it to girls.
This m/m romance about regret, heartbreak and time travel involves me applying a lot of the things I learned about psychological thrillers while writing Guttersnipe to a book that isn't as dark or controversial. That being said I'm not sure how m/m publishers will react to it. It's not an easy 'two people fall in love' story, but it's not angsty in predictable ways either. I feel like if I don't prove myself with Guttersnipe, I'll probably get a lot of push back to make this story more cheerful … which I'm not particularly interested in doing.
To Be Self-Published
My baby An epic crime/spy m/m trilogy. I've spoke to a few publishers about it, but I always decide against submitting. Too much plot for the m/m publishers, too much gay for everybody else. I want the freedom to make this a tragedy if I see fit. I want the freedom to make the romance secondary when that makes sense. First draft of the first book is done. I want to revise it a bit, handle certain things better (like the main character's transsexual lover), take out some stuff I wrote to make other people happy and tighten up the beginning. That kind of revision would go better with a publisher, but I doubt I can get the compromises I would need to handle the concerns listed above.
Girls On Top
To Be Placed with Publisher
Assuming 1889 Labs is ever ready to run this serial, it's theirs. Promises to be really scandalous story about the New York tech scene. Perfect for a publisher because it has that convenient "THIS super popular thing meets THIS super popular thing" breakdown that publishers love (the Social Network meets Gossip Girl) and even though 1889 doesn't really care about that, we have special plans for it that make that kind of instant marketability really important.
Untitled YA Transsexual Story
To Be Placed with Publisher (if anyone has the balls)
This one is still in the really early stages, but it's about the only work I've ever done where I'd really like to see it placed with a Big Six publisher (hahahaha, yeah right) so I feel like it's worth adding to the list for that reason alone. I'm not the sort of writer who fantasizes about being in bookstores. I really like being a little shit no one pays attention to: it means I can have fun hanging out on GoodReads without people freaking out. But this … well this one is different. If I ever finish it and if I ever find a publisher that will take it for a YA market despite my sordid past of delicious porn filled romance novels (^_^) it will be significant. It's a Scifi dystopian dealing with a sub-species of humanity that is sequentially hermaphroditic, the guerilla war breaking out between them and their gender static oppressors and two teenagers caught in the middle. Gender identity issues abound, with any luck it will get banned in a few states and thrown out of libraries.
Another in development project, all I'll say about this one is it's built around the idea 'What if Stephen Colbert actually ran for President?' Definitely running this as a webserial first, hoping to have it ready for fall After the serialization I'm not yet sure what I will do with it. Wouldn't mind giving it to 1889Labs, but that will depend on their schedule.
Conversations about whether to self-publish always seem to be focused on the wrong things. It's not about control, or money, or credibility. Not every book will do well with a publisher, and there's nothing worse than a mishandled masterpiece.
For first time or small time authors the publisher is frequently an originality crushing bully. You get talked down to a lot and told ridiculous things by editors barely out of grad school. You frequently have to fight to keep your vision intact and people resent the hell out of you for it.
At the same time, being pushed by a publisher is the best way to sharpen your skills as a writer, and there's no arguing with the sales figures. Unless you have a healthy and growing backlist you will sell more with a publisher.
So most of the time, when I have something relatively straight-forward with little divergence from what I know the publisher wants, I'll put it with a publisher. Everything challenging or risky I'd rather save the time and aggravation and put it out myself. I'm not interested in fighting editors over "what readers want", I don't give a shit what readers want. I write the books that I want If they also, coincidentally, happen to be the books that publishers want then, yeah I'll sign on the dotted line. Otherwise… well, in this day and age with Good Reads and Amazon I feel like writers can have their cake and eat it too. Readers will be introduced to you through traditionally published works, then become the market for your self-published stuff.
April 5, 2012 — 998 words
By Letitia Coyne
When I first started to think about the popularity of stereotypes in modern fiction, I tried on the conclusion it was to do with the ongoing stupidification of the world; the Orwellian Newspeak ideals that are robbing us of our desire to communicate in anything more than sketches and sound bites; the determination to write in the same Neanderthal grunts modern humans use to speak. But in discussion, a friend began to list one word descriptions of people - feminist, housewife, temptress, hippie - and I realized the formation of complete personality profiles from single words was much older and deeper than any self-destructive cultural phase.
We generally think in shorthand and probably always have. Back when the world related easily to the classics, whole moods, whole histories of characters, could be called up for the reader by terms like ‘melted wings’ or ‘Damocles’ sword’. For most readers, in fact, ‘Orwellian Newspeak’ is a redundancy. Using either reference alone, or ‘Doublethink’ or ‘Big Brother’, would have sufficed to illustrate the point. Our minds work perfectly to translate the entire arc of ‘1984’concepts into the argument. Once an idea has entered the popular canon, it draws the whole boxful of its associations into the shared consciousness. [How much information comes immediately to mind if I say ‘sparkly vampires’?]
We naturally think in boxes.
As soon as we meet with anybody, in reality or fiction, we run the scan over them and box them. We do the automatic comparisons to self, assign them a type, and work out our assumptions and judgments. Those assumptions can always be adjusted as we go, depending on how important that person is going to be and how much more we learn about them. And when we do not have much time, page count speaking, we do not need to know more about incidental characters than we can gather in an instant.
Yes, it is nice when we read a story so well devised that every face in the crowd is clear, and every personality luminous. But it is equally tiresome to find an author so in love with their world and their people that they drone on about someone on the sidelines when we just want to get back to the story and see where the main characters are planning to go. Stereotypes are used most often by most authors to fit out minor characters.
But many genres rely on stereotyped characters as part of their appeal. Yes, the best authors allow us to feel we are seeing the world through the eyes of a real and substantial person/people, but at a fundamental level, there are character set pieces we expect to see and we recognize them on sight.
Classical fantasy absolutely demands a set of known characters. They may have quirks, but we need to see a mage, a youth, warriors with swords, thieves, publicans, maidens, witches and a being of supreme evil. We want to travel with these characters on their quest, and we must watch them develop, grow, overcome, and learn through their travails.
Romance novels have had four characters in a thousand different guises since they began: the firebrand, the virgin, the rake, and the gallant. They must share the stage with the old aunt, the sidekick, the evil earl, and the love rat, but their hair color and their historical era only fleshes out the story of the love/conflict/love. That is why we read the book. We want to hear that story again. We want to see love prevail against all odds.
Without the gumshoe to lead us through the dark streets, past the hard faced harlots with hearts of gold and the smart/sweet victims of street-wise criminal sleaze-balls, there is no illusion of swift and brutal justice in the dangerous world of noir. We want to hear again how we can vicariously outwit and out grit the bad guys.
In the massively popular young adult market, especially in ensemble pieces set in schools, instantly recognizable characters are essential. We read these stories about a time in life when we must classify and associate and judge and belong and understand the members of specific stereotyped groups because there is a war out there for young people. That is the time when we are defining ourselves. We must define others, too, and we understand each other best within a known social structure.
It goes on; pick a genre. Each of us chooses our genre, with its featured characters all easy to recognize and understand, and we enjoy the same basic few stories told and retold by the same basic few characters. Through them we see ourselves. Through them we experience the thoughts and actions of others. Through them we ask, ‘what if?’ and find answers. Through these stories, told along the same basic lines since the ancient myth cycles, we try to understand ourselves and others, and the way we all fit into the world we share. And we will keep reading them until we do.
We need to hear our stories, all seven, or twenty-three, or ten thousand of them, told and retold by characters that represent ourselves and known others. We need those stories.
Unfortunately stereotypes are too often used to ostracize or ridicule a group by collecting some known negatives and applying them to all people in that group. In fiction, stereotyping in any form, character or event, or clichéd phrasing and overused memes, is frowned upon. Beginning any story: “It was a dark and stormy night…” and collecting some cut-out characters to move through a predictable landscape, should be avoided like the plague. But like every rule about what makes a story good or bad, the stereotype rule is best broken.
April 3, 2012 — 1,004 words
By Guest Author
by Calum Kerr
I suffer from a problem. I don't know if it's classifiable or treatable, but it certainly affects my life.
I have big ideas.
I didn't used to. I used to think small, but the problem started about a year and a half ago and it seems to be getting worse.
First it was simple: I was going to write more stories and submit them to magazines. In order to do that, I set out to write a flash-fiction every day for a month. January 2011 was that month. The resulting 31 stories then, somehow, transformed themselves into a small book--one which I am still selling and promoting.
That was the start.
Soon after, I decided to set up an online press. Now there are four of us working on a bi-monthly magazine called Word Gumbo, and issue six goes to press as soon as we've sorted the submissions.
Then, in May 2011, I decided that the month of stories had gone so well, I should do a flash-fiction every day for a year. That project, flash365, is now just 29 stories away from completion and has led to at least one collection being published and my own programme on Radio 4.
And then in October, not content with everything else, I hit the big one: the idea which would take over my life. On National Poetry Day, I suddenly wondered if there was a National Flash-Fiction Day. When I found that there wasn't, I decided that I should do something about it. I spread the word and, next thing you know, it was happening!
All of which is just a long way of saying: I had this idea and lots of people seem to like it. I announced the day on Twitter and Facebook, and asked for people to run events to coincide with the day, to be held on May 16th 2012 (chronologically in-between National Days for Short Stories and Poetry, a natural place for Flash-Fiction Day, it seemed to me). And many, many people all over the UK have taken up the baton.
Events are now happening in all parts of the UK, from a flash-slam in Oxford, to an evening of readings in Abergaveney; from workshops in Manchester to a competition in Bristol, and on and on, with reading, slams, workshops, flash-fiction-flash-mobs, book launches, write-ins and more happening all over the UK.
Some of these are being run by people who would have been running these kinds of events anyway, but a number have been set up by people taking part for the first time. It's spreading like crazy, and aims to be amazing.
One area which has had a huge response is competitions/publications. On our website we have been able to list a wide range of places for writers to submit their work and see prizes, publication, or both. But we also have projects which promise to outlast the day and become places of publication for flash-fiction on into the future.
Oh, and it turns out that the UK will be the first country to ever have a National Flash-Fiction Day, so we are getting calls from Ireland, the US, New Zealand and beyond, asking for them to be allowed to join in. With that kind of enthusiasm, can International Flash-Fiction Day be far away?
Flash-fiction, meaning short stories of about 500 words or fewer, has of course existed for as long as there have been short stories. But it was only formally named twenty years ago and has really risen to prominence in the past ten. Its time has come, with the ability to read on smartphones, ebooks and tablet computers. It’s accessible for readers, it’s accessible for writers, it’s fun, it’s moving, it’s complex, entertaining, scary, uplifting and packs one hell of a punch, and it’s definitely time it was celebrated and brought to the attention of the public at large.
The idea behind the day was to celebrate the form, but it seems like it’s doing so much more. It’s spreading the idea of flash-fiction among writers and out into the wider society. And it’s forming a new community of flash-fictioneers who are now finding they have an identity and a community to be part of.
This has certainly been my biggest idea to date, but I never realised that it would be so much bigger than even I could have imagined. It has become a shared idea in the minds of writers and readers, and looks set to become a fixture of the writing calendar for years to come.
The first National Flash-Fiction Day will be held on May 16th. There are many events happening. If you can get to one, why not join in? If you can’t, why not set one up? And if that’s too much to ask, there are many events happening online that you can take part in without leaving your desk.
It promises to be a great day, so why not join in and help us celebrate those tiny stories that can do so much?
Here’s to big ideas!
Calum Kerr lives in Southampton and lectures in Creative Writing at Winchester University. He is also a writer, an editor, and the Director of National Flash-Fiction Day. His stories have been published in many different places, and a collection, 31, is available on Kindle. His pamphlet, Braking Distance, will be published by Salt later in the spring.
April 1, 2012 — 410 words
Christelle couldn’t believe it. Even today that same strange dip and swerve would surge through her gut and stop her in her tracks and her breath would go AWOL.
There she had sat – spilled beans, spilled guts, nowhere near ready to see it as spilled milk – on Julie / Karen’s couch, doubled up like a diver with the bends – come up, come out too soon – and waiting for one of Karen’s combat boots to stomp on her toes.
Talk about the other shoe.
Christelle had been playing sweet Carrie Pipperidge to Karen’s shy Julie Jordan in Carousel and the last thing she wanted to do was blurt out, “I know, I keep messing up in rehearsal, but I’m so deeply in love with you that I can’t even remember who Carrie is.”
At least, it was the last thing she wanted to do while still in rehearsal. It would have been another thing when they had the performances behind them so that, if “Julie” was shocked, she had escape room.
But of course that’s what Christelle did. Blurted. Just like that. And not even at the theater, in rehearsal. At “Julie”’s. Sitting there on Karen’s couch. Working on their dialogue. Not even ready herself. Out it came.
And Christelle knew just as she did it that she could never again sing with any straightness: “You’re a queer one, Julie Jordan . . . ”
She was sure that the show was ruined, and more. She was sure that Karen felt fight-or-flight strung. Christelle just sat, elbows on knees, head in hands, that lurch in her diaphragm, looking for the force to run when Karen shooed her away.
No matter how much of a writer’s cramp she had from scribbling down the long list that she had just finished – all those guests for their tenth anniversary – she still couldn’t believe it.
* * *
Maude Larke has come back to her own writing after working in the American, English and French university systems, analyzing others’ texts and films. She has also returned to the classical music world as an ardent amateur, after fifteen years of piano and voice in her youth. Publications include Naugatuck River Review, Cyclamens and Swords, riverbabble, Doorknobs and BodyPaint, and Short, Fast, and Deadly. "Act I Scene I" was first published on Pure Slush in May 2011: http://pureslush.webs.com/act1scene1.htm
March 31, 2012 — 142 words
By Tim Sevenhuysen
I hope you've been enjoying Losing Freight! I've been having a ton of fun writing it and reacting to all of the poll results.
This coming week, April 2 to 6, Losing Freight will be on a short break, because my wife is due to deliver our first child, and I don't want that to disrupt the story in the middle of a week. Assuming that things go relatively smoothly and the baby has arrived by the weekend, we should be able to dive back in on April 9.
If you've gotten behind on the story, this week will be a great chance to catch up so you can vote along with everyone else in the daily polls!
Photo by Anne Davis.
March 31, 2012 — 343 words
By Tim Sevenhuysen
Tic, Milly, and Overard were tied up in the hold, flanked by Liberati. Haglyn laid nearby, legs sprawled uselessly beneath her. There had been no point fighting; the Liberati were too well armed.
Pelly's side hatch whooshed open, and Lady Libden stepped into the hold. "YOU'VE LOST, BOLTER!" she crowed. "YOU NEVER SHOULD HAVE INVOLVED YOURSELF IN THIS... LIBERATI: FIND MY ADAM ASTROBOT! SEARCH THE CABINS FIRST."
The Liberati hunted the cabins. "It isn't there," they said.
"BREAK HIS FINGER," said Libden.
A Liberati grabbed Tic's left index finger and wrenched it backwards. It cracked. Tic screamed.
"THE LONGER THIS TAKES, THE MORE FINGERS WE BREAK," said Libden. "CHECK THE COCKPIT NEXT."
The Liberati swarmed the cockpit and discovered the Adam Astrobot hidden behind the controls.
"YOU'RE LUCKY WE FOUND IT SO QUICKLY," said Libden. "YOUR OTHER FINGERS ARE SAFE, BOLTER. COME, MY LIBERATI." She and her minions stormed out through the hatch.
"They're letting us go?" said Overard. "Thank goodness!"
"Get us a view, Pelly," groaned Tic, holding his broken finger.
An image of Libden's ship projected onto the wall. The tractor beam had reversed and was pushing the Galactic Pelican back out into open space, while dozens of laser turrets followed their progress.
"Oh no... They're maneuvering us into safe firing distance!" said Milly.
Dr. Fester hobbled into the hold.
"Where were you?" asked Milly.
"Hid where I predicted they wouldn't look!" said Dr. Fester, winking. He bustled over to the Origami Engine and started tinkering.
The tractor beams disengaged. The laser turrets started to glow.
"Ah ha!" said Dr. Fester. "Thought so! Predicted it!"
"What!?" said Tic. "Did you fix it? Pelly, can you jump?"
"I believe so," said Pelly. "Would you like me to?"
"What do you think!?" yelled Tic.
The lasers fired.
Author's Note: Losing Freight will be on a break next week, as my wife is due to give birth to our first child. The story will resume on April 9. Thanks for reading and voting!
March 30, 2012 — 277 words
By Tim Sevenhuysen
Milly jabbed a button to release the docking connection between Pelly and Mak Overard's ship.
"Hold on a minute!" protested Overard. He moved to stop Milly, but Tic tackled him.
Milly grabbed the box containing the Adam Astrobot. "Pelly, get us out of here!" She tore the box open and pulled out the action figure. It was about ten inches tall, sealed inside a clear plastic cube.
"What are you doing?" yelled Overard. "Thieves! Kidnappers!"
"Shut up," said Tic. "Pelly, project a viewscreen on the rear hatch." An image of Overard's ship flickered onto the flat surface. Beyond it was an enormous red-and-silver cruiser.
"Is that Libden?" said Milly.
Tic nodded. "Pelly, if she hails us, don't respond!" His PAI buzzed. As he pulled it out of his pocket, he accidentally thumbed the Answer button. Libden's face appeared on the screen.
"WHERE'S MY ADAM ASTROBOT, BOLTER!?"
"On the other ship," said Tic.
"Hang up!" hissed Milly.
"I CAN TELL YOU'RE LYING," shouted Libden. "I CAN SEE IT IN YOUR EYES!"
"How do I turn off the video on this thing?" muttered Tic. He twisted the PAI around, looking for the right button.
"AH HA!!" crowed Libden, as the camera panned across Milly holding the action figure. A bevy of bright-coloured lasers lanced out from Libden's ship and raked across Overard's abandoned vessel. It disintegrated.
"Did she just...?!" said Overard.
"Yep," said Tic, hanging up his PAI.
"Is she going to...?"
"Shoot at her! Jump away!"
"Our Origami Engine is dead, and those shields are way too strong..." said Tic.
The Galactic Pelican shuddered as it was gripped by a powerful tractor beam.