Galactic Convention: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Talk about your hive of scum and villainy. The quadrennial galactic convention was being held on Earth and I was one of the lucky lottery winners for a single, meter-long, third of a meter-wide table in Exhibitor Hall W.

I was staying in the oxy-breathers dorm, a two-meter by three-meter space where I was also storing my stock. Books. I guess I’d lucked out because most aliens found the idea of a book, novels specifically, unusual and quirky. We were only a week and a half into the month-long event, and I was already ordering more stock.

But back to the hive and scum. Nothing at the event was illegal but child-abuse and sentient-selling. If a being was within its species age of consent, it could indulge. In anything.

I’ll admit. There was a lot of cool stuff to buy, but I was on-site to make money, not spend it. Just standing at my table was an education. Several times a creature had sidled up to my table to offer to sell me one drug or another. Jewels. Tech. Tiny animals, even. These roving entrepreneurs were illegal, but they’d bought their entry tickets and smuggled in their goods. Good luck to them.

I’d had several offers, too, by creatures looking for a female human. Companion, they said. Right. I could just see myself locked in some dingy, alien crib, my body being sold for profit while I was starved, drugged, or worse, on some alien planet or spaceship. I declined. I shivered when they each walked, lumbered, or slithered away. I remained vigilant when I moved away from my table.  Like on Earth, I suspected that aliens were no less picky about snatching people if the opportunity presented itself.

Still, I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. So many variations on sentient life. I’ll have story fodder for the rest of my life. A news crew came by and interviewed me. My book sales skyrocketed. I was pleased to see my bank account growing. Quite a change from its usual downward plunge.

The problem came about three weeks in. I realized I was being stalked. A creature, one, I realized, that had approached me the first week, looking for human females, was loitering near my booth. I paid more attention. He, or it, had a friend, loitering further away, but always within view. They trailed me when I went to the bathroom, making me apprehensive. Then, when I closed up shop for the night, back to my dorm. As far as I know, they weren’t coming inside, but I was nervous. They followed me closer and closer until the fourth day, when I reported them to security. I watched from my table with more than a little relief when the two were hauled away. A day later, security told me that they’d found a warehouse where several female women, and a few female aliens, were being held prisoner. Apparently, they were filling out their supply just before the show close.

I thanked them for telling me, but I became hyper-vigilant after that. Any creature that looked at me for even a second longer than I thought they should I took a picture of and reported to the cops. They sent a team around my booth more often and reassured me that I was safe but the last few days of the show I didn’t feel safe. I was glad when the show ended. I packed up my remaining stock and left as fast as I could.

On my drive home I constantly checked the cars behind and beside me. I made random turns when I thought a car was following me for any length of time. By the time I got home, I was a wreck, and locked every lock in the house, checking them all every hour. A glass of wine and a chat with my best friend helped bring me down to a saner level. Still, before I went to bed, I checked everything again.

I was at the grocery store, restocking my fridge, taking my supplies to my car when they struck. I’d let my guard down just a second as I moved bags from the cart to my car. They grabbed me from behind, a hand clamped over my mouth as a very strong arm pulled me away from my car. I don’t know which was uppermost, my fear or my rage. I kicked shins, grabbed the door frame, pounded him with my free arm, anything, anything. A van screeched up behind my car and my captor dragged me toward the van’s door which was sliding open. So, three men, I thought. One driving, the guy holding me, and one in the back, masked.

I tried to bite the hand over my mouth as I pulled my feet up to brace against the van. The guy in the van wasn’t having it. He grabbed my feet and began pulling. Then there was yelling from all around me. Police in SWAT gear surrounded us and the guy holding me was pulled one way as an officer pulled me another.

Away from the kidnappers, I vomited next to someone’s car. EMT’s checked me out. I was offered a trip to the hospital which I declined. I called my friend and she came over to stay with me. Turns out there was a whole planetary kidnapping plot, which the cops had discovered when I reported the first two. Hundreds of human women had been kidnapped and were being sold to the aliens.

I testified two years later. The memories had me shaking on the stand as tears ran down my face. I try to live my life, but my trust is gone. Once I thought I’d like to take a trip out into space. No longer. I’m fine. Right where I am.

Words: 973

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Phoenix Fan Fusion T’s, KJZZ Book Fest, Interview with January Jones: Monday Blog Post

Newest News:

Last week I began showing some of the t-shirts from the Phoenix Fan Fusion. Above is one for this week.

My table at KJZZ

I attended the KJZZ Arizona Story Fest and Authors Showcase on June 1st.. It was held at the Mesa Convention Center – Building C, a place I’d never been. So I was a little nervous about driving down by myself and finding the place. I shouldn’t have been. It was very easy to find and the venue was just perfect for the event. Activities at the KJZZ Arizona Storyfest included: Storytellers Main Stage, Authors Showcase & Reading Stage, Children’s Storyteller Stage & Craft Area, Arizona Expo. I had a blast, talking to all of the attendees. There was also time to network with the authors, so that was fun, too.

I have an interview at 7am tomorrow morning with January Jones on her BlogTalkRadio.com show January Jones Sharing Success Stories. I know it’s early, but you should be able to find the recorded show at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/januaryjones. Come on over to hear what January and I have to talk about.

Giveaways:

I’m gearing up for the Summer giveaway. I see other authors signing in and getting their prizes ready. I’ll let you know when it goes live.

Where will I Be?:

The Payson Book Festival 2019. Mark your calendars for July 20th. Go to www.paysonbookfestival.org for all of the details! I just saw the book that we’ve been doing with the Payson Community Kids. What a darling project for our little authors and artists. We’re having the book printed and available for sale at the festival. The Payson Middle School, 6th graders made a microzines. We worked with Rosemary Dumbrowski of ASU and Sophia McGovern to make them and the kids were amazing. Many of those microzines will be on display at the festival. We have nearly 90 authors, lots of speakers in both the Fireside and Maple rooms, and again, the silent auction. Want to just make a donation? Go to our Paypal.me page, Payson Book Festival.

Newsletter Sign Up:

Click here to sign up for my newsletter. I’ve put sign-up gifts on the regular and the SciFi/Fantasy and the Cozy Mystery newsletter sign-ups. That’s right. If you sign up for my newsletter you get a free story from me. Be prepared for fun and contests! Click on the video link for a short video from me. Hear what I’m working on. Join my “A” Team to be the first to read my books and hear what new books are coming.

Don’t forget to follow my blog, too. Different material goes in the blog as in the newsletter. You can share both, so spread the word!

Newest Book Release:

Gold Dreams released May 13th, 2019. It is only up on Amazon, at the moment. I’ll let everyone know when the print version is up and is up on the other platforms. You can also see all my books on http://conniesrandomthoughts.com/my-books-and-other-published-work/. If you’ve read any of my books, please drop a short, honest, review on the site where you bought it or on Goodreads or BookBub. It’s critical to help me promote the books to other readers. Thanks in advance.

Thank you for reading my blog. Like all of the other work I do as an author, it takes time and money. If you enjoy this Monday blog and the Friday free story and the recipe I put up on the 25th of every month, consider donating to https://www.paypal.me/ConniesRandomThought. I appreciate any donation to help support this blog.

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Tornado: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Tornado by sh4d0wqu33n 
https://www.deviantart.comsh4d0wqu33nartTornado-20808879

Tornado by sh4d0wqu33n
https://www.deviantart.com/sh4d0wqu33n/art/Tornado-20808879

It’s become a thing. Really. It never used to happen my mom said. Never. It was the mid-west, she told me. Kansas, Oklahoma, those kinds of places. Not Arizona. Not Nevada or Utah. But now—now we all have storm shelters.

It’s bad right now. Spring. Right. The worst. The sirens go off nearly daily. We grab our stuff, head down into the shelter. Last month we were down here for three days. One tornado after the other. I don’t complain. I live, well, lived, in a trailer park. There were dugout shelters but not as good as the one here at school. There’s water in this one. And vid. The teachers want to hear the news, but we get to watch the latest stuff too. It’s not so bad.

I haven’t told them mom was lost in the one last month. She was high and didn’t hear the sirens I guess. The whole trailer park was wiped out. I told admin she was in California. They’re lettin’ me stay here. For now. No matter. Graduation is in a month and a half. I’ll be able to do my own thing after that. Momma called me Heidi Bateson. After my dad’s mom, I guess. She never said.

Global warming they called it. I don’t care. That was twenty years ago. What’s that to me now? The planet, they say on the vid, is in a major drought. All of the weather patterns have gone haywire. What’s that to me? I’m a poor kid from a poor area. No one gives a crap about the likes of us. I just need to be smart. Stay in the groove that will keep me in food and shelter. The geeks have it easy. They’re always talking about gettin’ on with the big gloms. I guess. There has to be somethin’ else valuable.

Space is an option. I’m healthy. They need miners. I see the ads all the time. Then there’s the planetary ships. I’m not a geek, but they need healthy women, right? Go somewhere, like they say, the old Earth. Like it used to be.

Acting. I’m acting all the damn time. I could do that. Get rich. They couldn’t do anything to me then. I’d have all the best. A gold-plated shelter. Plenty of food and water. Any vid channel I want.

The teachers all drone on and on about what has to be done next. Like it makes a difference. Like anyone cares. It’s always gonna be like this, right? Desert forever. I’m a red-head, I use my sunblock just like they say. No sunburn for me. Not many red-heads now, I hear. All the better to be an actress, right?

My friend, Bectie, is one of the geeks. Don’t know why she likes to hang with me but she’s cool. She says I should stay away from the boys. There’ll be a big market for a girl like me. Genetics, she called it. I guess cause there’s not a lot of red-heads. Maybe that’ll be a card for the planetary ships. Stay cool, she told me. I believe her. She’s ultra-smart. Her parents work for the gloms. One of the biggest. All into the planetary ships and the food tanks. She’ll have a spot, she says. She’ll take me with her. I play hard to get but she’s right. And she’s cute. I can dig that.

I do have to try and get one thing. My mom had a gold chain. A locket, she called it. Kept it in a secret place in the trailer. I’d like to get that. Gold is valuable. Not much left to be found. So I need that. Had a picture of my granma and granpa. I never met ‘em. Died before I was born. Ma said they died of heart break. I don’t know what that means. She said their ranch died. Not sure what that means either. But no matter. If I get that chain, I’ll have gold. Maybe enough to be an actress.

As soon as the storm ends, I’m headed to the trailer. Some of it must be left, am I right? Some of it?

###

Announcement over the school loudspeakers:

That’s it for todays activities. Now, a roll call of yesterday’s student losses.

Howard Dukelow

Ethel Lipowitz

Miriam Skrownek

Heidi Bateson

Donnie Ford

Steve Barca

Tina Morales

May God take mercy on their souls.

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Happy Memorial Day, Phoenix Fan Fusion, Brown Rain Covers, KJZZ Book Fest: Monday Blog Post

Newest News:

It’s Memorial Day. It’s a cold, overcast, blowy day here, and if it’s going to rain, I wish it would just get on with it. A quiet day for me as I came home from the Phoenix Fan Fusion adventure last night. I’m still tired today and with the weather, decided to just stay home. A nap may be in my future.

Phoenix Fan Fusion was an adventure, no doubt.
Since last Thursday I’ve been at the gigantic Phoenix Fan Fusion. As with other years, it was a wild collection of costumes plain and simple, and costumes complex to the nth degree. I was in my booth watching the parade go by for the entire weekend and it was something to see. So. Many. People! So many costumes. But not everyone was in a costume. Many people just had SciFi or Fantasy or just plain funny t-shirts on. By Saturday, I’d decided to get some pictures of those t-shirts. It was hard to do. There were so many people, many were out of range before I noticed their shirt, or they were way over on the other side of the aisle. Whatever. I did get some and I’ll present them one at a time for the next few weeks. Just because they’re fun. Above is one for today. And many thanks to all of the people who agreed to have their picture taken. I appreciate it.

Brown Rain series cover updates. The Brown Rain covers and interiors finally cleared and I received copies just in time for Fan Fusion. The Gold Dreams cover and interior finally cleared also. Those I was not able to get in time, but I will have them for the KJZZ event.

I’ll be at the KJZZ Arizona Story Fest and Authors Showcase on June 1st, which is absolutely free to attend! Here’s the scoop.

Mesa Convention Center – Building C
June 1, 2019
10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Activities at the KJZZ Arizona Storyfest include: Storytellers Main Stage, Authors Showcase & Reading Stage, Children’s Storyteller Stage & Craft Area, Arizona Expo.

Fun for everyone.

Giveaways:

No giveaways right now.

Where will I Be?:

KJZZ event I just mentioned.

The Payson Book Festival 2019. Mark your calendars for July 20th. Be in Payson for the book festival. Go to www.paysonbookfestival.org for all of the details! I just saw the book that we’ve been doing with the Payson Community Kids. What a darling project for our little authors and artists. We’re having the book printed and available for sale at the festival. Also, I participated in another workshop with the Payson Middle School, 6th graders to make a microzine. We worked with Rosemary Dumbrowski of ASU and Sophia McGovern to make them and the kids were amazing. Many of those microzines will be on display at the festival.

Newsletter Sign Up:

Click here to sign up for my newsletter. I’ve put sign-up gifts on the regular and the SciFi/Fantasy and the Cozy Mystery newsletter sign-ups. That’s right. If you sign up for my newsletter you get a free story from me. Be prepared for fun and contests! Click on the video link for a short video from me. Hear what I’m working on. Join my “A” Team to be the first to read my books and hear what new books are coming.

Don’t forget to follow my blog, too. Different material goes in the blog as in the newsletter. You can share both, so spread the word!

Newest Book Release:

Gold Dreams released May 13th, 2019. It is only up on Amazon, at the moment. I’ll let everyone know when the print version is up and is up on the other platforms. You can also see all my books on http://conniesrandomthoughts.com/my-books-and-other-published-work/. If you’ve read any of my books, please drop a short, honest, review on the site where you bought it or on Goodreads or BookBub. It’s critical to help me promote the books to other readers. Thanks in advance.

Thank you for reading my blog. Like all of the other work I do as an author, it takes time and money. If you enjoy this Monday blog and the Friday free story and the recipe I put up on the 25th of every month, consider donating to https://www.paypal.me/ConniesRandomThought. I appreciate any donation to help support this blog.

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Reconstruction: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Laptop by Shadd am89 via DeviantArt.com

It’s Friday. The monsoons don’t start for another month and a half and my eyes and nose are so dry it feels like I’m going to have a bloody nose any minute. Staring at this computer screen isn’t helping any either. Eyes feel like they’re rolling in a sandbox.

My boss, Cassandra, sticks her head around the door. “My office. Now.”

Oh joy. I glance at the clock. Really, two thirty on a Friday afternoon? “Sure.” I sigh. If I was in trouble about something, she would have let me have it right there. No, I think as I push away from my desk. It’s something else. Some news she can’t wait to ruin my weekend with. I grab my notebook and wander down the hall.

As I get there, I see the other four department managers arriving. I nod to my friend, Callie, head of database design. Her eyebrow goes up a fraction of an inch. We both grin. It’s definitely going to be a weekend ruiner.

We huddle in her office around a small conference table. I open my spiral notebook to a clean page, noting date, time, and people in the room. These little notes have saved my bacon in the past. Cassandra starts.

“I was glad to see everyone still here. This is news that can’t wait.” She looks at each of us, then nods. “Management has decided that there will be no pay raises this year.”

That wakes up Seth. He’s always bragging about how he gets the biggest raise every year. That’s despite the rule about not talking about salary. I think he’s lying. I’ve been doing half of his work for the last three years. And, the company only gives pay raises to a small percentage. I expect Callie is the one getting the money. I know I get some. What Ellie and Bob get is a mystery.

Cassandra let the murmuring subside. “Budgets have been cut. People are going to be laid off. Least productive departments first. Some of you will be affected. Some of your department’s work will be handled by other parts of the company, either here in the U.S. or overseas. Some work the company is just dropping. They’re not going to brand on that any longer. The uproar in the room grew louder as she walked around her desk and sat in her chair.

I had all I could do not to yawn. I could see this was coming. I’d told Callie so a year ago. Anyone who could read the business journals and had an eye on the company’s investments and closings would have known. I’d already begun sending out resumes and refining my own branding. I did feel bad for Callie, though. She worked hard and had two kids in high school. She’d been hoping to hold on until they were out of college.

Cassandra rapped on her desk. “Let’s keep calm, people.” She turned a sheet of paper over, typed side up. “This is the initial break out.”

She read down the list. I had to cover my grin with my hand as she announced Seth’s department’s work was going to be picked up by the Minneapolis office. “What am I supposed to do,” as an afterthought, “and my team?”

“Offers will be made to allow you to move,” the boss said.

I knew that wasn’t going to happen with Seth. He had a big family here. His wife was executive VP across town at the biggest bank in the area.

Then both Ellie and Bob were told their department’s work was going overseas. Ellie began to cry. Bob went pale.

Cassandra turned to me. The announcements were getting worse and worse. I braced to hear that the company was dropping the work my department did altogether.

“Your department,” I could hear everyone stop breathing, “is going to be expanded. Project management is the coming thing and the company is jumping on that bandwagon.”

The others stared. Cassandra carried on. “You’re being promoted to Division Manager and you’ll be organizing the growth and hiring of additional staff. Congratulations.”

I have to admit, it took me a second to wrap my head around that. Everyone else was essentially getting the axe and I was getting a promotion. Wow! “Um, Thank you, Cassandra. I’m so sorry, everyone else. So sorry.”

“We’ll be making announcements over the intercom at three-thirty. Please keep this news to yourselves until then.” Cassandra turned that paper over again and turned to her computer. A sign we were done. Everyone stood. In the hall I gave Callie a hug. “Your department wasn’t touched.”

She shrugged. “Not yet anyway. I should have believed you last year.”

“Well, you’re good for now. It’s not too late.”

She nodded and wandered away. Cassandra called to me from inside her office.

“Yes, Cassandra.”

“I’ve been told we’re going to build up a real presence here in Phoenix. Lots of big companies moving into the state. The whole southwest, really. You up to the task?”

“Absolutely.” I grinned. “I assume my department doesn’t do the sales. Just the project management work?”

She nodded. “I take over the Sales. VP.” She looked smug. I’d heard that she and the operations manager were close. Maybe that paid off. I don’t know. “Congratulations. We’ll still be working together.” With that she made a quick, little face that let me know she hadn’t thought about that, but she pulled it together quickly. “Yes. Of course.” She turned back to her computer. “The president will see you at 10 on Monday. He wants to talk plans with you.”

“I’ll make a note.” I left the office and went back to my desk. In half an hour, my team was going to be hitting my office door. I poured more chocolates into the bowl on my conference table and got on my computer. Time to pull up notes on how to run a bigger department.

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Social Media: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Security concept. Laptop with exclamation mark on the display

Em dragged herself out of bed, croaking, “I’m up,” at the ever-present home assistant. “Assistant my ass,” she said to herself as she hit the shower. “Arial, extra-hard on the shower, hundred and seventeen.”

“That’s not your usual setting, Em.” The oh so soft and pleasant voice made Em want to scream.

“Well, it’s what I want today.”

“That temperature is not recommended for optimum skin care.”

Em clenched her teeth. “I don’t care. Just turn on the damn shower.”

“Profanity is a sign of maladjustment and social break-down, Em. Should I call your doctor?”

Em bit back a snarky comment. The damn assistant would report her to the local authorities. She didn’t need that sort of hassle. “No. I’m fine.” She stood outside the shower waiting for it to turn on. “I’m ready, Arial.”

The shower turned on. “Thank you. Please start the coffee.”

“Yes, Em.”

Em let the water beat on her back. She shouldn’t have drunk so much last night. The stress was getting to her. Without a job, she had been assigned three extra hours of social media. If she wanted her sub, she had to do it. Wallowing through the kitten pictures and the whining of people she didn’t even know had made her eyes bleed. She needed those drinks. Whose bright idea was it to link subsistence payments with social media? She hoped they choked on it.

Done, she toweled off and dressed. The coffee was ready when she got to the kitchen. “Do I have credits for breakfast, Arial?” Her stomach could use some toast, at least.

“Subsistance allowance provides three hundred calories of food block.”

Em’s stomach rolled. The stuff tasted like paste. “Sure. Food block.” The delivery door opened, and an unappetizing gray block of yeast food awaited her hand. “Yum.” She grabbed it and the cup of coffee and headed to the computer. Might as well start socializing.

With diligence, she stayed at the console all morning, five of her eight hours done. Some of it standing and marching in place, just so she could keep her blood flowing and eyes open. “What’s for lunch, Arial?”

“Spaghetti and meatball yeast bars.”

Em rolled her eyes. “I don’t have any credit left from my last job?”

“It’s slated for your rent payment, Emily. Should I redesignate that credit?”

“No.” She rolled her eyes again. What she did not want to happen was to have to move into subsistence housing. They were eight by ten-meter plas-crete cells. Might as well live in a dog-crate. “Fix the yeast bar.”

“Yes, Em.”

Emily took the bar down to the street. She had to get out into the sunshine and away from the console before her brain fried. “Hey, Lucy.”

“Hey, Em. Looking for a job?”

Em hated the way news got around. Came from everyone having to be on social media all the time. “Yeah. You hear about something?”

Lucy shook her head. “Nah. You’re an architect, right?”

“Yeah. Hook me up, when you hear something.”

“Will do.” Lucy gave her a thumbs up and went back inside.

The more money you made above subsistence, the less time you had to spend on social. She was going nuts. She had to get back to work. She tapped the comms contact in her temple. “Jason Bear,” she said.

The call went through. “Hey, Em. What’s up?”

“Jase, I need a job, man. You know I’m good. I won that award last year for best design in Chicago.” She walked along the sidewalk, nodding to people on their stoops or lounging against the building’s walls.

“What happened?”

“Company went bust. The partners overextended their loans and the government picked them up for fraud. The rest of us were escorted out of the building and told to find new work.”

“Bummer. I’ll check around.”

“Thanks, Jase, You’re the best.” She hung up. No sense annoying him by hanging on too long. With luck, he’d find something in his company. He did antique designs from the 1960s. Rectangular glass boxes were not her favorite but anything to get off of subsistence. She made several more calls then went back to her apartment. She needed three more hours of social to earn today’s meals.

Months went by. She called everyone she knew. All of her saved credits were just about gone on the rent. The miserable diet had caused her to loose thirty pounds. Twelve hundred calories a day didn’t go far. She’d cut everything else. No need for the gym, that was for sure. Though there had been times she’d changed into workout clothes and hung around the door leading into the gym to button-hole people she knew coming out. She kept it light, but she was desperately looking for work. Any work at this point.

“Jase,” she said when she called him. “You hear about anything?”

“No. Not really. How you doin’?”

“It’s getting down to the wire, Jason. Your company have anything at all. Anything?” She heard him draw a deep breath.”

“Well. The job board has second assistant admin position.”

“I’ll take. Just send me the application.”

“It doesn’t pay much.”

“It pays something, though. Right. Then I can work my way back up to architect. Come on, Jase. I’ll owe you a big one.”

“Fine. Fine. I’m sending now.”

“Thanks, Jase. I’ll have this back ASAP.” She clicked off and pulled up the application on her console. The listed pay made her heart sink. Just barely what her rent was. “Fine,” she said to herself. She filled it out and hit send.

It took three days. Half a day before her last rent payment was due.

“We have received your application,” the communique said. “Welcome to the Payvil Company. You’ve been accepted to the second assistant admin position. Your files have been updated to reflect this employment. You start tomorrow.”

Em wept as relief flowed through her. She’d be the best second assistant admin they’d ever seen. Anything to get off social media.

Thank you for reading.

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More OWSCyCon, Story Time, KJZZ, Brown Rain Series Updates: Monday Blog Post

Butterfly by Randy Cockrell

Newest News:

A reminder. I’m going to be taking over the Facebook Fantasy and SciFi Reader’s Lounge on Thursday, May 16th at 5pm Eastern. That’s just 4 days away, and I just want you to know about it and mark your calendars. See details in the Where Will I Be section below.

Also, if you’d like to take a look, check out the pages at https://owscycon.ourwriteside.com/about-ows-cycon/ I have what is being called our book store open. I’m at the Fantasy, Mystery/Thriller, and SciFi tabs. Not all of my books are listed, but there is a link back to my website where everything I have is posted with buy links. Enjoy!

#OWSCyCon2019 

In other OWSCyCon news, the wonderful Timothy Bateson, an administrator of the OWSCyCon and a SciFi/Fantasy author in his own right, has been doing what he’s calling Story Times. He took a section of my newest book, Slave Elf, and did a YouTube and a YourListen audio recording of it. I’m so stoked. It’s kind of weird hearing someone else read it aloud. As the author, I had my own version of it playing in my head, but Timothy has done a great job. This Story Time is a new offering for OWSCyCon and I have to tell you, I’m loving it. So, go on over to either site and have a listen. It’s about seven minutes long. Note, if you use YourListen, a popup ad appears. Just go to the little X in the upper right-hand corner, click on it to make it disappear. The audio page is right underneath it. #OWSCyCon2019 

Brown Rain series cover updates. So far I’m having trouble getting the First Encounter books out. Some sort of ISBN issue that’s making me crazy. However, The Downtrodden is out. Also, I’ve done my edits on both Kindred Spirits and Tested, so they’re ready to go into Vellum, then onto KDP. Cross your fingers for me.

Oh, yes. I’ll be at the KJZZ Arizona Story Fest and Authors Showcase on June 1st, which is absolutely free to attend! I know, May and June 1st is a busy time for me but if you love stories, you’ll want to be at this event.

Mesa Convention Center – Building C
June 1, 2019
10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Activities at the KJZZ Arizona Storyfest include: Storytellers Main Stage, Authors Showcase & Reading Stage, Children’s Storyteller Stage & Craft Area, Arizona Expo.

Fun for everyone.

Giveaways:

If you’ve looked at my “Where Am I” page on my website, you’ll have noticed that I’m going to be at the Phoenix Fan Fusion over Memorial Day weekend. (May 23rd – 26th) I had a contest up, a giveaway actually of a free exhibitor pass for one of those days. No one entered. So, sorry, no one wins the pass.

Where will I Be?:

If you are a fan of most any genre, I’m participating in an on-line cyber conference here: http://owscycon.ourwriteside.com/about-ows-cycon/. The event is May 17th through May 19th.  But there’s more! We’re starting the festivities early. I’ll be doing a blog hop takeover, May 16th  at 5pm Eastern time of the Fantasy and SciFi Readers Lounge. #OWSCyCon2019  #SciFi  #StoryTime

Phoenix Fan Fusion! If you haven’t ever been to this event you need to check it out. The catalog of things to do is humongous! I’ll be down in Artists Alley, Four Carat Press, booths AA930 and AA932. Come check it out. If you’ve never been, it will blow your minds. It’s May 23 – 26th. Come see me!

The Payson Book Festival this year is going to be more exciting than last year. Mark your calendars for July 20th. Be in Payson for the book festival. Go to www.paysonbookfestival.org for all of the details!

Newsletter Sign Up:

Click here to sign up for my newsletter. I’ve put sign-up gifts on the regular and the SciFi/Fantasy and the Cozy Mystery newsletter sign-ups. That’s right. If you sign up for my newsletter you get a free story from me. Be prepared for fun and contests! Click on the video link for a short video from me. Hear what I’m working on. Join my “A” Team to be the first to read my books and hear what new books are coming.

Don’t forget to follow my blog, too. Different material goes in the blog as in the newsletter. You can share both, so spread the word!

Newest Book Release:

Slave Elf released February 19th, 2019. It is finally up on all of my other retailers in ebook format. You can buy it at Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords today. You can also see all my books on https://conniesrandomthoughts.com/my-books-and-other-published-work/. If you’ve read any of my books, please drop a short, honest, review on the site where you bought it or on Goodreads or BookBub. It’s critical to help me promote the books to other readers. Thanks in advance.

Thank you for reading my blog. Like all of the other work I do as an author, it takes time and money. If you enjoy this Monday blog and the Friday free story and the recipe I put up on the 25th of every month, consider donating to https://www.paypal.me/ConniesRandomThought. I appreciate any donation to help support this blog.

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The Last Spin: Flash Fiction Friday Post

By Randy Cockrell

In honor of Mother’s Day, I’m not cutting this into 1000 word or less parts. You have the entire story, right here. All 1754 words of it. Enjoy, and Happy Mother’s Day this weekend.

Ruby Ray tapped the button again and adjusted herself in the chair. The electronic spinning wasn’t nearly as satisfying as the old-fashioned slots but what could she do? The spinning stopped as she tapped the button again. Win! She smiled in satisfaction. Not a big win, but substantial.

She tapped again to start the spin and returned to her previous thoughts. Maybe less chance of the casino cheating? But, then again, they could get the tech to set the computer payouts as tight or as loose as they wanted. She shrugged. If they were going to rip off the customers, they were going to do it, Gambling Commission or not.

The spin stopped. A win, but not much. She sighed and bet again. A look around showed the usual regulars with a scattering of occasional people she’d seen before. Plus, there was a bus in today. She shook her head. She didn’t like the bus visitors. They clogged everything up and screed up the machine’s patterns. Ruby shifted again. She’d been in the chair for three hours. The spin was a bust.

“Dang it,” she muttered under her breath. She hit the call button and the little light on top of her machine blinked red. A last swallow of her now warm iced tea and the woman cruising the aisles stopped by.

“Hey, Ruby.”

“Hey, Gina.” Ruby and Gina knew each other’s names. Ruby was here every day, so she knew all of the attendant’s names. “I need a bathroom break. Can you hold my machine for me?”

“Sure, Ruby. Shall I lock it?”

Ruby knew they could do that. “No. I’m just going to the bathroom. A sign should do it till I get back. I just don’t want the bus people to take my machine.”

Gina nodded. “Okay. I’ll just hang around here till you get back.”

“Appreciate that.” Ruby slid out of the chair, waiting a moment while her legs adjusted to actually doing their job. It was getting harder and harder, she thought, over the last few months. She waddled off as her legs protested. Getting’ old ain’t for sissies.

In the stall, she checked her cash. She didn’t like flashing her money on the casino floor. Her kids, knowing she liked to casino, has sent her money for Mother’s Day. All told, six hundred dollars. There was four hundred left. She tucked it back into her wallet and left to wash her hands.

The walk back to the machine was better than the walk away. The blood was flowing and the muscles had loosened up.

Gina saw her and just as Ruby reached the slot machine, took the “Reserved” sign down. “Here ya go, hon.”

“Thanks, Gina.”

“Good luck.” Gina continued her rounds as Ruby settled back in.

She checked the totals on the screen. Good. Just as she’d left it. She hit the Bet button. The spin began. A big win. She grinned. Her months-long research into the best paying machines was paying off. Ruby upped the bet to maximum and spun again. Again, it payed off. She was up to six hundred and fifty dollars from her starting two hundred-dollar start. Not a bad haul but she figured that this machine was due to pay big. She was staying here, hell or high water, till it did.

The afternoon wore on. The cocktail waitress brought her a burger and fries. Ruby was still doing well so she gave her a fiver as a tip. She tipped Gina as well, when she took another trip to the bathroom. Her legs didn’t really recover on that trip, but Ruby just cursed her old age, eighty-one this year, and climbed back into her chair.

Later, Gina stopped by to tell Ruby she was going off shift. “Andy will be around to help if you need it.”

Ruby nodded. “Have a good night.”

Her mind wasn’t really on the good-bye, though. Half an hour ago she’d started losing. Half of the money she’d gained was gone. She changed the patter she’d been using to stop the spin. It didn’t help. Ruby put another two hundred dollars into the machine. “You’re supposed to pay off today.”

The machine responded by ending on a combo that didn’t pay off at all.

Ruby ordered a glass of beer. Relax, she told herself. It will come around again.

Fifteen minutes later, she dropped two hundred and fifty into the machine. The last of her Mother’s Day money and fifty of her own. She spun but it only paid the bare minimum. Come on, sucker, she thought as she punched that Bet button again. The pictures rotated, around and around. Ruby hit the stop. Nothing.

She clenched her jaws together, her false teeth grinding. Ruby rubbed her left arm. Thank God they got rid of the old pull handles. The buttons are so much easier. She spun and spun. The payouts crept up a little, then down to nothing. She put her grocery money into the machine. Well, she thought, the pint total for today is looking good. She spun. It went poorly. Ruby called Andy over.

“I’m on a roll, Andy. Can I get a little loan here?”

Andy looked around. “It’s your money, Ruby, but why don’t you just head home? You’ve been here nine hours.”

Ruby gave it a quick thought. One more night in that tiny, cold, room at the retirement center was going to make her scream. She shook her head. Despite the pain in her leg, she was staying. The jackpot on this machine was going to pay. She just knew it. “No. Ask, please.”

She gambled as she waited. She was down to her last fifty dollars when the manager came over. “Hi, Mrs. Ray. I’m John Sweetwater. I hear you’re interested in a loan.”

“Yes. I’ve been a good customer. I’d like to keep playing.”

He stroked his face, his long braid swinging along his back as he thought it over.

Ruby could see that he was reluctant. “I’m sure you’ve seen my file. I’m good for it. I’m in here all the time.”

“Of course. We just…” he paused. “Well, you are a good customer. We just hate to put people in this position.”

“I’m good for it. Really.”

Other patrons were now turning to stare.

“You’re right. You are. So.” He stared at the non-descript drop ceiling for a moment. “Are you sure I can’t talk you out of this? We can give you a ride home in our courtesy car.”

Ruby wondered what kind of casino this was that they didn’t want to keep a gamble in her seat. “I’m sure.” She knew. She KNEW! This machine was going to pay off tonight.

The manager sighed. “All right.” He waved Andy over. “Reserve Mrs. Ray’s machine.” He turned to her. “I’ll need you to come to the office to sign some paperwork.”

Relief flooded through her. “Of course.” She slid from the chair. Again, her legs protested. “You don’t mind if I stop at the ladies?”

“Of course not. Con on back to the office when you’re ready.” He signaled another floor attendant. “Bring her when she’s ready. The young woman nodded, and he left.

“Come on, Ruby. We’ll take care of everything.”

“You’re so sweet, Ann.” Ruby threaded her thin arm through Ann’s. “How’s that chubby little cherub of yours?”

In the office, Ann led Ruby to the chair in front of John’s desk. “Good luck, Ruby.”

“Night, Ann.”

“Are you sure you want to do this?” John studied her with concern on his face.

“Yes!” She was so sure of it. It had to be tonight.

He put a paper in front of her. “The contract.”

Ruby scanned it as she absently rubbed her arm. She was disappointed to see it was just five hundred dollars. She sighed. “This looks fine.” Ruby picked up the pen john had slid over with the contract. She signed and pushed it back. “Is that it?”

He examined the contract. “That’s it.” John handed her five hundred in hundred-dollar bills.

Ruby fanned them out. It wasn’t often she got such a windfall. “Thank you.”

“Good luck.”

Her lower back hurt on the walk back but she was so happy about the loan, she didn’t care.

Andy removed the sign for her. “Good luck, Ruby.”

“Thank you, Andy.” She sat down, made herself comfortable and hit the Bet button. It was a little disappointing to see the spin come up empty. No worries, she told herself. It will come.

After fifteen minutes, she added the five hundred dollars she’d received from the manager. Her stomach was upset. It was going to take a lot of time to repay the money, but she didn’t care. This machine was going to pay off.

Around and around. Ruby stopped the spin in every combo she could. The total kept dropping. What is wrong with this? she thought. It should pay! She stabbed the buttons, frustration and annoyance making her angry. The dollar total kept dropping as spin after spin at maximum bet kept dragging it down. It was hard to breathe, but she stabbed the button again. The last time, her hand on her bosum.

The pretty pictures spun and Ruby let them spin without interference. Her head hurt. Her legs hurt. Her chest hurt. “Com on,” she whispered.

The spinning drew to a stop. Nothing.

Ruby leaned back in the chair. It felt as though all of the air in the room was gone. It seemed like the light had dimmed. It was all gone. She looked around. The night people were there, staring at their machines. Intense. Not like the day gamblers at all, she thought.

Her arms dropped to her sides. The cheery sounds of the different machines sounded far away. The flashing of lights softened. It felt kind of nice. Here with her friends. A few minutes later she began to lean, more, then more to her left until she tumbled from the chair to the floor.

The staff moved quickly. The ambulance was called and she was picked up. Her now still face covered with a sheet.

“That’s a shame,” Andy told another attendant after they watched the ambulance crew take her out. “So much time on that single machine.”

“Yeah,” the other guy said. “It had just paid off last night. Some old guy. He’d been nursing that machine for days.”

“Is that so?” Andy shook his head. “What a shame.”

Thank you for reading.

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OWSCyCon, Story Time, KJZZ, Brown Rain Series Updates: Monday Blog Post

Newest News:

Hey you all. I’ve been mentioning the OWSCyCon below, for over a month now. Well. Things are heating up. I’m going to be taking over the Facebook Fantasy and SciFi Reader’s Lounge on May 16th at 5pm Eastern. I know it’s still 8 days away, but I just want you to know about it and mark your calendars. See details in the Where Will I Be section below. #OWSCyCon2019  

In other OWSCyCon news, the wonderful Timothy Bateson, an administrator of the OWSCyCon and a SciFi/Fantasy author in his own right, has been doing what he’s calling Story Times. He took a section of my newest book, Slave Elf, and did a YouTube and a YourListen audio recording of it. I’m so stoked. It’s kind of weird hearing someone else read it aloud. As the author, I had my own version of it playing in my head, but Timothy has done a great job. This Story Time is a new offering for OWSCyCon and I have to tell you, I’m loving it. So, go on over to either site and have a listen. It’s about seven minutes long. Note, if you use YourListen, a popup ad appears. Just go to the little X in the upper right-hand corner, click on it to make it disappear. The audio page is right underneath it. #OWSCyCon2019  

Brown Rain series cover updates. I’ve been plugging along all last week and even with the Vellum, it takes me a lot of time to update the interior of each book. Part of the issue is learning Vellum. Another part is learning to use this Apple laptop. Third, is getting everything updated correctly on KDP publishing. At any rate, you’ll start seeing the new covers and spiffy new interiors popping up in the Amazon store soon, if not already. I’m going to revise the interior of Tested, as well, just so it matches, exactly, the other three books. It’s been a struggle but it’s getting done.

Oh, yes. I’ll be at the KJZZ Arizona Story Fest and Authors Showcase on June 1st, which is absolutely free to attend! I know, May and June 1st is a busy time for me but if you love stories, you’ll want to be at this event.

Mesa Convention Center – Building C
June 1, 2019
10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Activities at the KJZZ Arizona Storyfest include: Storytellers Main Stage, Authors Showcase & Reading Stage, Children’s Storyteller Stage & Craft Area, Arizona Expo.

Fun for everyone.

Giveaways:

Only 4 days left!!! If you’ve looked at my “Where Am I” page on my website, you’ll have noticed that I’m going to be at the Phoenix Fan Fusion over Memorial Day weekend. (May 23rd – 26th) I’ve decided that I should do a giveaway. A free exhibitor pass for one of those days. I know that not everyone can take off for Phoenix at the drop of the hat. But if you’re in the area, and you’d like to come see me at my booth and spend the day at the event, sign up by emailing me at connie.cockrell@conniesrandomthoughts.com. Post a picture of you with one of my books. Use the subject, PFF Ticket. I’ll draw a name on May 10th and contact the winner with directions for picking up the pass.

Where will I Be?:

If you are a fan of most any genre, I’m participating in an on-line cyber conference here: http://owscycon.ourwriteside.com/about-ows-cycon/. The event is May 17th through May 19th.  But there’s more! We’re starting the festivities early. I’ll be doing a blog hop takeover, May 16th  at 5pm Eastern time of the Fantasy and SciFi Readers Lounge. #OWSCyCon2019  #SciFi  #StoryTime

Phoenix Fan Fusion! Oh My Gosh! If you haven’t ever been to this event you need to check it out. The catalog of things to do is humongous! I’ll be down in Artists Alley, Four Carat Press, booths AA930 and AA932. Come check it out. If you’ve never been, it will blow your minds. It’s May 23 – 26th. Come see me!

The Payson Book Festival this year is going to be more exciting than last year. Mark your calendars for July 20th. Be in Payson for the book festival. Go to www.paysonbookfestival.org for all of the details!

Newsletter Sign Up:

Click here to sign up for my newsletter. I’ve put sign-up gifts on the regular and the SciFi/Fantasy and the Cozy Mystery newsletter sign-ups. That’s right. If you sign up for my newsletter you get a free story from me. Be prepared for fun and contests! Click on the video link for a short video from me. Hear what I’m working on. Join my “A” Team to be the first to read my books and hear what new books are coming.

Don’t forget to follow my blog, too. Different material goes in the blog as in the newsletter. You can share both, so spread the word!

Newest Book Release:

Slave Elf released February 19th, 2019. It is finally up on all of my other retailers in ebook format. You can buy it at Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords today. You can also see all my books on https://conniesrandomthoughts.com/my-books-and-other-published-work/. If you’ve read any of my books, please drop a short, honest, review on the site where you bought it or on Goodreads or BookBub. It’s critical to help me promote the books to other readers. Thanks in advance.

Thank you for reading my blog. Like all of the other work I do as an author, it takes time and money. If you enjoy this Monday blog and the Friday free story and the recipe I put up on the 25th of every month, consider donating to https://www.paypal.me/ConniesRandomThought. I appreciate any donation to help support this blog.

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Blue Light: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Blue Light by Randy Cockrell

Neville picked furiously at a bit of cuticle, not really noticing he was doing it until he’d picked so hard the bit of skin peeled away and left a sore, bloody mess on his fingernail. He swore mentally at himself as he stuck the offending digit into his mouth. Now that was going to be sore for days. Then corrected himself. He didn’t really know, now, did he, what might hurt and what might not.

He glanced around the waiting room. No one seemed to notice his mishap. Matter of fact, they all looked, men and women, as nervous and pre-occupied as he felt. Neville took a deep breath and wiped the now, not bleeding finger on the side of his pants, then folded his hands in his lap to keep from further picking. The raw wound stung, which actually helped him keep his mind off of why he was in the waiting room.

It had all started weeks ago in the company cafeteria. He sat with his co-worker Jim. “Hey, buddy. Have a seat. We’re talking about the alien’s new offer.”

Neville greeted the others. “Hey Sam, Bill.” He put his tray down and sat. “What new offer?”

“It was in this morning’s news feed. They’re offering to cure diseases. All kinds.” Sam made a circle, pointing at all of them. “Anything you can think of. Arthritis, heart disease, lung trouble.”

Bill piped in. “I saw that too. Migraines. Can you imagine? My wife’s been fighting migraines her whole life. She said she’s contacting them as soon as they opened for an appointment.”

Neville scratched his chin. “Really? Anything? Is it safe?”

Jim picked up his sandwich. “Must be, right? Otherwise would the government allow them to do it?”

“Hard to say.” Neville speared a bite of his salad. “Who knows what kind of deal was made when they landed ten years ago.”

Since then, of course, he’d thought it over and obtained an appointment for himself. He’d been suffering from neurological problems for years. All kinds of steroids, physical therapy, he’d been through it all without much relief. If he could get rid of the pain, it would be worth it, he’d finally decided with his wife, Joi. So here he was. Finally, it was his turn.

He followed the human nurse into the back. “Seems like a lot of people are taking advantage of the offer,” he said to her back.

“Oh yes. A great many,” she responded as she stopped at a door. Go on in. The doctor will be with you shortly.”

Neville went into the little exam room. There was a chair for him. A stool for the doctor, a standard medical scale, blood pressure machine and cuff on the wall, and a couple of nature scene pictures facing him as he sat down. In a few minutes a human doctor came in. “Mr. Kirchner?”

“Yes. That’s me.”

The doctor checked his electronic pad. “I see from your records you’ve been suffering from this for years.”

“Yeah. No one’s ever really fully identified the problem or fixed it.”

The doctor tapped the screen a couple of times. “This is just what you’re looking for then. We’ll get you in right away.”

“Um,” Neville glanced at the blood pressure cuff. “No weight check? Blood pressure?”

“Not necessary.” The doctor tapped the screen and smiled at him. “We’re going to sit you in a chair, facing panels of lights. They’re hot, I’m not going to fool you. But not to the point of burns. Then, after a few minutes under the lights, you’ll find that the pain will be gone.”

Neville’s hands twisted in his lap. “Will an alien be there?”

“No. No. It’s all set up for us to run. Simple, really.”

Neville sighed with relief. He didn’t really want to meet an alien. The pictures were scary enough. “Okay then. Sure.”

“I’ll go see if the last patient is finished. The nurse will bring you in.” He left the tiny room.

Neville started picking his cuticles but stopped when the already injured finger flared up in pain. Hot, he thought, but not too hot. Wonder what that means?

He was interrupted by the nurses knock on the door. “We’re ready for you, Mr. Kirchner.”

He followed her down the hall to a room with banks of lights on a wall, a small counter under them, and a chair in front of the counter. “Please have a seat, Mr. Kirchner. Put your hands on the counter, and face the lights.”

“That’s it?” he said as he sat.

“That’s it,” she said as she left the room. “We’ll call over the intercom when we’re ready to start.”

He nodded and waited. Soon, a voice came through the ceiling speakers. “We’re ready to start. Please remain still, close your eyes, the light is very bright. We’ll let you know when we’re done.”

“Okay,” he said, though he didn’t know if the speakers went both ways.

The lights flashed on and he snapped his eyes shut. Boy, they weren’t kidding about them being bright. A minute later, he started feeling the heat. He cracked an eye open but it was too bright. The heat was making his skin prickle. It got hotter. Neville began to wonder when this would be over. His skin felt very tight and uncomfortable. He made himself think of cool swimming pools and lost track of time.

The lights snapped off. “You can open your eyes, Mr. Kirchner.”

He did, and blinked. Neville examined his hands, flexing them, turning them over and back again.

The door opened. “It’s complete. How do you feel?” the doctor asked.

“Different. But I like the way the hands move.” Neville looked at the doctor. The process is really very efficient, isn’t it?”

“Very. We’ve taken over half a million humans already. Best idea the council has had in centuries.”

They shook hands. “Nurse will lead you out the back. Good luck with your new life.”

“Thanks.”

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