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Friday, January 23, 2015

FREEBIE FRIDAY! A Dark Southern Gothic Folktale

A free dark fantasy folktale for your weekend reading pleasure. Inspired by a Cherokee legend and first published in The Clockwise Cat and reprinted in HALLOWEEN THIRTEEN, my collection of macabre/strange short stories.

Enjoy!


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Revenge of the Ulagu 
by Bobbi A. Chukran 
"Hon, I wish you wouldn't use chemicals around the house. It's not good for the kids, or for us," Coralee complained.
"You've read too many of those tree hugger magazines," Herbert said, wagging his head back and forth, squinting his little beady eyes and aiming an aerosol can of wasp spray towards a huge nest of yellow jackets up under the eaves of the farmhouse. "That's just a load of horse-shit, you ask me. Now you get back, you don't wanna get stung. You know how yeller jackets are. When I spray 'em, they're gonna go crazy! Remember last time you got stung you swole up like a melon."

Coralee stepped back inside the safety of the screen door where she cast a wary eye on Herbert. He sprayed the nest full of yellow jackets, and sure enough, they went insane, flying straight for him. He dropped the can and ran, almost escaping. One of them, however, was faster than he was. It landed on the side of his face and stung.

"Damn!" he yelled, slapping at the wasp and knocking it to the ground.

He ran back into the house and into the kitchen. Coralee frowned and cursed under her breath, hating the fact that the nest had been destroyed and hating the fact that her husband was so ignorant when it came to using toxic chemicals around the children and her garden. She knew there were better ways. Her native ancestors believed in living in harmony with the insects, birds and wildlife, and she believed the same thing. She shook her head, but made up an ice pack and applied it to the side of Herbert's face, feeling sorry for him because he was such an idiot.

That night, Herbert's head throbbed, and his jaw was swollen to the size of a baseball. "I think the stinger's still in it," Coralee said.  "We need to get the stinger out. My grandma says if you don't get that stinger out, other wasps will come back for it later."

Herbert was mule-stubborn and wouldn't let her look at it. "That's just an old wife's tale. Something your grandmother said just to vex me," he grumbled, took a few allergy capsules and went to bed. He tossed and turned for a while. The pain was almost unbearable but finally Herbert fell asleep.

About 2 a.m., Herbert was awakened by a strange thumping vibration at the bedroom window. There was a small tree beside the house, so he assumed it was a branch tapping against the windowpane. He turned over and tried to go back to sleep. Then he heard a buzzing sound, so loud that it reverberated in his head and filled his brain with nothing but the loud buzzzzz. He got up and walked to the picture window. He saw a large shadow, thought he was dreaming, but it became obvious that he was not. Herbert, not being terribly smart (and proving Coralee right about that), opened the window to get a better look. At that moment an enormous yellow jacket, the size of a large dog, flew in and attacked him, its huge stinger pressing itself into the side of his neck over and over until he was paralyzed from the venom.

His wife lay asleep in their bed, not twenty feet from the window, but she didn't hear a thing.

The yellow jacket wrapped its legs around Herbert like he was a dead fly and flew out the window, carrying him with it.

The next morning, Coralee called the county sheriff and reported Herbert missing. She told them that he had disappeared during the night, and as far as she knew, he had. The only other thing missing besides Herbert was his ugly plaid pajamas, which she said he'd worn to bed that night. She figured he'd been kidnapped since he would have certainly changed clothes had he run away from home on his own. For the life of Coralee, though, she couldn't figure out who would want to kidnap Herbert.

Three days later, while searching for Herbert, the sheriff found a cave filled with hundreds of man-sized cells, in a network of tissue paper thin walls, each holding the white grub-like larvae of oversized yellow jackets.

In the back corner was a human skeleton, wearing Herbert's ugly plaid pajamas. The body was identified by dental records (and the pajamas). His bones had been picked clean. No obvious cause for Herbert's death was ever found. As for the large larvae, entomologists were called in, but their only theory was that a few wasps had mutated because of something in the local environment. They'd never seen anything like it! The cave was sealed tight and a warning sign was erected over the entrance.

After Herbert's funeral, Coralee sat on the front porch rocking and sipping sweet tea, watching the yellow jackets hover around the door. She remembered her Cherokee grandmother telling her the story of Ulagu, a giant yellow jacket that would snatch small children and take them back to its nest to feed to its young. She remembered the story about the stinger and how they'd always come back to reclaim those they'd lost. She believed that the old stories had basic truths at their very roots.

Coralee didn't know what had really happened to poor Herbert, but she had a good idea.

In no time at all, the yellow jackets rebuilt their nest beside the front door, and as far as Coralee was concerned, it would stay there. She vowed that a wasp nest would never again be destroyed on her property.

She smiled and rocked and rocked as the yellow jackets gently buzzed around her head.


END

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Bobbi A. Chukran writes gothic small-town tales and is the author of the "Nameless, Texas" story series. She lives near Austin, TX in a tiny town full of characters that are fodder for her fiction. She gardens like a fool, herds rescue cats, blogs and carries on at http://bobbichukran.blogspot.com.




Cozy-Noir Fiction: Where rain-slick streets and cozy kitchens intersect

THE ANTHOLOGY OF COZY-NOIR
Where rain-slick streets and cozy kitchens intersect
Review by Bobbi A. Chukran




There is something for everyone in this new anthology of mystery cozy-noir fiction. Cozy-noir is that "mood indigo," murky meeting place where rain-slick streets and cozy kitchens sometimes intersect. On the surface, cozy-noir is a "self-contradicting theme," but the authors were inspired to make it work in some unique ways.

Thirteen authors, Robert Lopresti, Judy Brownsword, Magdalena Jones, Herschel Cozine, L.E. Schwaller, Percy Spurlark Parker, Michael Guillebeau, Kate McCorkle, David Himmel, Lynn Kinnaman, Wenda Morrone, John Haas and Bobbi A. Chukran (myself) contributed stories that run the gamut from dark and murderous to light and tongue-in-cheek.

The stories were set in small towns and large cities and in diverse locations---from the Ozark hills, New York City in the 1940s, a Chicago penthouse, a Canal Street bar, a pizza joint, a Texas honky tonk, a county fair, a masquerade charity ball, diners where you just might run into the wrong dame, a small town where jukeboxes play sad country songs to a home where a bedroom game turns deadly.

There are stories of lust, murder, deceit, mayhem, revenge—with a smattering of knitting and a few servings of pie.

Cowboys, mobsters, private dicks, lawyers, bodyguards, devious dames and your average Joes star in each of these stories of cozy-noir. Editor Andrew MacRae did an admirable job of selecting a diverse overview of characters, locations and story types.

Disclaimer: Although I do have a story in the book, I purchased a paperback copy from which my review was written.

http://darkhousebooks.com

Available in paperback and e-books 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

DYE, DYEING, DEAD ON SALE

For a limited time, the first "Nameless, Texas" novella is on sale at Amazon for only $1.99 this week (regular retail is $2.99). If you're a fan of Aunt Jewel, Jeremy, Kendra and the other quirky folks who live in the small Texas town just outside Austin, you'll enjoy this first longer novella in the series.


http://www.amazon.com/Dye-Dyeing-Dead-Nameless-Mystery-ebook/dp/B00M0DADFW

And while you're there, also check out the other short stories in the series.

Also available Now in E-book and paperback at these Online Retailers:
SMASHWORDS
APPLE
BARNES & NOBLE

KOBO
PAPERBACK


Happy trails!

bobbi c.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

One more time...

If you still haven't read my First Annual Christmas Gift to my Readers short story, Holly, Hemlock & Mistletoe, it's been reprinted over on the wonderful BURIED UNDER BOOKS blog, edited by Lelia Taylor

Take a look, and while you're there, check out some of the other interviews and reviews.

 https://cncbooksblog.wordpress.com/2014/12/24/a-short-story-for-your-christmas-pleasure/

Happy New Year to all!

bobbi c.


Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Blackholes and Subterranean Gremlins

Dear peeps,

I've decided that the reason I can't find things here in this new/old house is that we have some kind of timey-wimey blackholes in the walls, AND/OR we have subterranean gremlins that live under the floorboards of the house.  They must sneak up through the cracks overnight and snatch anything that interests them.

Like, for example, my notebook of story ideas.

Why is it, that the smaller my living abode shrinks, the harder it is to find stuff?

Answer me that.

After several days of pondering that question, and tearing the house apart--twice--I've decided that the only logical answer is, and I repeat...

Subterranean Gremlins.

I'm thinking they look sort of like this:

Sweet and innocent during the day, but voracious little notebook-eating buggers at night.

More study is needed on this matter.

happy trails,

bobbi c.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Mincemeat and Murder


Where Short Story Ideas Come From. . .

I talked to my mother yesterday. I had sent her a copy of my Christmas short story "Holly, Hemlock & Mistletoe" in with her Christmas card. She's always been amazed at my stories and always wants to know where the ideas come from. She marvels at the fact that I actually have ideas, I guess. LOL. When she pressed me for details, I finally said I have more ideas than time to put them into stories.  True. But I really couldn't explain where some of them come from. She never believes me anyway since some of them are so convoluted it's hard to track the origin.

So, this morning I was relaxing and browsing online for recipes. I've recently gotten into making chutneys and such, and love tasting (in my mind) the mixtures of tart, tangy and sweet ingredients. I made two over the last few days—a delicious Pear Ginger Chutney and my annual Cranberry Sauce tarted up (literally) with oranges and candied ginger. (It's similar to Aunt Jewel's recipe for Cranberry Sauce except she's not brave enough to add the ginger. She says it gives her the colly-wobbles.)

I ran across a recipe for mincemeat, a traditional Christmas condiment. That brought back memories. My grandmother was fond of making and eating mincemeat, although as a child we hated the stuff. I wondered why that was since we'd loved her other concoctions. So I went in search for the origin of the stuff and ran across the phrase "Operation Mincemeat."

It seems that Operation Mincemeat was a WWII British "dis-information plan" carried out in order to fool the Germans into thinking that they had, by accident, intercepted 'top secret' documents.  According to an article in Wikipedia, the documents were attached to a corpse deliberately left to wash up on a beach in Spain.

 Ah, a corpse planted with false documents! Interesting! Pretty soon, my mystery-writer imagination went on overdrive and I had an idea for a story. There's still some thinking to be done, because I don't really write historical world war stories. Still, there's a hint of an idea there and actually several other authors over the years have felt the same way.

 I sure hope my mother doesn't ask for the origin of that story, because I'm not sure she'd believe it anyway.

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Copyright © 2014 Bobbi A. Chukran. All rights reserved. 


Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Free Short Story -- A Holiday Gift to my Friends

Dear friends,

Please accept this gift as a token of my appreciation for the support that you've given me over the last year. It's just a fun little story, nothing too high-tone, no swearin' or cursin' either. :-)

Click RIGHT HERE!

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Happy Holidays!

And Happy Trails!

bobbi c.


Monday, December 15, 2014

Five Things I Learned from Patricia Highsmith



by Bobbi A. Chukran

Last week, while re-arranging my book hoard, I came across Patricia Highsmith's book, PLOTTING AND WRITING SUSPENSE FICTION. Then a member of my Sisters-in-Crime group mentioned it, so I decided to re-read it. 


 
Last time I read the book, it didn't "resonate" with me but I decided to give it another try. It's a short volume and easy to get through in a Sunday evening when there isn't much else on PBS besides the Boisterous Boy's Bell Choir from Belgravia or some such.

Patricia Highsmith was a suspense author from Ft. Worth, Texas (my birth town) who wrote THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY and STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, her debut novel that was adapted by Alfred Hitchcock into one of my favorite movies.

Ms. Highsmith admitted that the book is NOT a "how-to write" but a series of things she learned throughout her career. Throughout my re-reading of the book, I learned things about my own writing and had a few mini-epiphanies that will definitely change the way I think about my work.

1. I learned that "who-dunnits" might not be the best thing for me to write.

Ms. Highsmith admitted that she was "not an inventor of puzzles" and that the "mystery who-dunnit" story was "definitely not my forte." She goes on to say that her worst book (A GAME FOR THE LIVING) was of that type. 

This made me think about the types of stories I'm writing. I've been reading lots of cozies and traditional locked room (puzzle) mysteries, and increasingly I have to admit that they aren't my favorite, either. I've actually been trying to write some and have that unsettled "queasy" feeling that comes when I go off track.

Turns out, my favorite short stories I've written have not been the traditional "who-dunnits,"—they've been SUSPENSE. Even my literary short stories have an element of suspense in them (see "Sadie and the Museum Lady" -- free to read on The Dead Mule).  My first mystery novel, LONE STAR DEATH is a sort of hybrid of suspense and traditional who-dunnit. I'm not sure why I never noticed this before.
The stories I like to read the most aren't traditional "who-dunnits" or cozies. Or should I call them "dozies"? Just kidding, sort of.

The ones I like the most are the more suspenseful types with lots of action and  little twists at the end. Stories like you might have seen on the Alfred Hitchcock TV show, or The Twilight Zone. So if I don't like those other types, why write them? Good question!

 I think one of my best stories is "Dewey Laudermilk & the Peckerwood Tree." I consider it more of a suspense story than anything else. And the one that sells the most is my "Aunt Jewel and the Purloined Pork Loin" story. It's a comedy caper with suspense and not a who-dunnit at all.

2. I learned that it's OK not to like all of my characters.

I recently admitted to some writer friends that I don't like many of my characters, and I wondered why this was so. In her book, Highsmith also talked a lot about liking characters and the importance of the reader caring about them. Her amoral, warped characters are actually sympathetic. Highsmith invented characters like Tom Ripley, a con man who became a rich sociopath. Her admiration for the character came through as she talked about him. And, according to Highsmith, it's valid for the author to actually like characters like these—even the bad ones--but we don't have to in order to write a good story.

After reading that, I realized that I DO like some of mine, but I was thinking about my protagonist when I should have been looking in the other direction. I DO like my villains and those like the poor luckless slob in "Dead Dames Don't Wear Diamonds," published recently in THE ANTHOLOGY OF COZY-NOIR (Darkhouse Books).

Now, I need to figure what it is about the characters I DO like and about the ones I do NOT like. Maybe I can apply some of that knowledge to new characters to make them more sympathetic to my readers.

3.  I learned that my main recurring theme seems to be REVENGE and that's OK.

 Ms. Highsmith claims that every author has a "theme" that will eventually emerge and that they should pay attention to it. Her theme, she said, was the relationship between people (especially men) and those sometimes life-changing or threatening encounters. This is certainly illustrated in her first novel, STRANGERS ON A TRAIN.

Knowing a theme is useful for an author because it helps with plotting and coming up with ideas for new stories. Sure enough, when I flipped through my files, I found that six stories have "revenge" as the theme. Instead of cringing and feeling like I'm a bad person, I'm running with it.

4.  I learned where that "really sour feeling about the whole project" comes from.

I've been calling it that "queasy feeling" and am glad to know that it's not just me and it's not the stomach flu. The feeling that a story is "forced, self-conscious and utterly without life" comes about when an author doesn't identify with her character and isn't feeling the emotions of the character. Now that I know where it comes from, perhaps I can pay more attention to it and take steps to alleviate it. Without Pepto-Bismol.

5.   I learned that authors have always struggled with some of the same things.

Ms. Highsmith stated, "I have scarcely a morning that doesn't bring something in the post that could be called psychically disturbing" and brings about "anguish and muted screams." She mentioned taxes, not being able to go on four hours' sleep any more like we used to and the feeling that "the aim of society is to put us all out of business." She ends the book with this advice: "…remember that artists have existed and persisted, like the snail and the coelacanth and other unchanging forms of organic life, since long before governments were dreamed of."

Good to know. And to remember.

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About the Author

Bobbi A. Chukran writes short tales of mystery & suspense from "Nameless, Texas" featuring mirth & murder, holidays & homicide.
A complete list of Bobbi's stories and books can be found here: