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Sunday, March 22, 2015

Progress! On Writing the Macabre

One of my newer short stories, "The Interview," has just been accepted by OMDB (Over My Dead Body), a quality online mystery/crime e-zine. OMDB reviewed my DYE, DYEING, DEAD novella last year and I'm excited to see some of my fiction in it. Tentative publication date is April.

I sent out two more stories tonight, one to a UK publisher. This makes seven stories that are still out, making the rounds.  I'm learning patience.

My newer stories are morphing more into the gothic, horror or "strange/macabre" story realm, which is fine with me. Actually, I've been writing them, but didn't really realize it until recently when I put my HALLOWEEN THIRTEEN macabre short story collection together. I've been a fan of Poe, classic ghost stories, Alfred Hitchcock, Night Gallery, Twilight Zone, etc. since I was a wee tot. Nothing much has changed in that area.

A recent trip to a local abandoned family cemetery has me thinking about more ghost stories. Stay tuned!

Photo courtesy of the Williamson County Historical Museum

Happy reading!

bobbi c.
http://bobbichukran.com






Monday, March 16, 2015

Miss Essie and the Green-Glittered Tiara--A New Story!

A new story written just for my readers for St. Patrick's Day 2015. I suppose you can call it "magical realism." Introducing a new character to the Nameless, Texas family--Miss Esmeralda Wofford, AKA "Miss Essie."

Hope you enjoy the story, and feel free to share it with friends, Romans, countrymen and the gardeners you know and love--you know the drill.  After a few weeks, it will be removed and published on Amazon for the Kindle.

For more "Nameless, Texas" stories, please check my Amazon Author Page




Miss Essie and the Green-Glittered Tiara
A "Nameless, Texas" story


by Bobbi A. Chukran
http://bobbichukran.com      
Copyright ©2015


Miss Esmeralda Wofford loved holidays—holidays of all kinds. She didn't care whether it was one of the big ones, like Christmas, or the smaller ones—she saw them all as an excuse to carry on and have some fun.  At her age, which was between 59-years old and dead, she was just old enough not to worry about what her neighbors thought about her anymore.  She'd quit doing that back in her 40s.  According to her daughter Lee-Ann, that was one of her failings.  Miss Essie liked to think it was one of her strengths, one of her better traits.  "Too many folks think they have to act like the Pope," Miss Essie said to Lee-Ann.  Although, being a Southern Baptist, Miss Essie wasn't quite sure what the Pope did, but she was sure he was a devout man who would never wear things that embarrassed his children. Although, she did wonder about that pointy hat.

"There goes Miss Essie," her neighbor Beulah Sproule, said, snurling up her nose like she'd smelled a skunk. "Carryin' on like a blamed fool, swannin' all about town in that damned tiara."  Beulah always spoke in a loud voice to make sure the object of her ire overheard her.

Beulah Sproule wouldn't know a bit of fun if it bit her on the ass, Miss Essie thought then tittered behind her hand.  She loved saying word like "ass" because she knew that in general, old people weren't supposed to say words like that. She got a small thrill out of doing things that old people weren't supposed to do.  Although, she wasn't quite sure who made up those rules.  She'd like to meet them someday, and give them a piece of her mind.  She made a mental note to use several cuss words when she did.

Miss Essie had been overjoyed when she saw the St. Patrick's Day tiaras the weekend before at the Wal-Marts.  Nameless, Texas didn't have very many places to shop, and the Wal-Marts was where everyone went to buy their necessary evils like Fleet enemas and glass measuring cups. And optional decorative pieces of ornamentation like tiaras.

The tiaras were bright green, fashioned with three giant cardboard shamrocks all across the top, and were covered with green glitter.  If Essie's sister Myrtle had seen it, she would have called it gaudy.  Essie just thought it was lovely.  Sparkles always caught her eye. And green was her favorite color.

Miss Essie was especially fond of anything with glitter on it, and if it was a bright color, even better.  She'd picked up the tiara in the store, glanced around to see if any of the clerks were watching (they never were at that place) and she slipped the tiara over her short cap of white hair, to make sure it fit.  It did, so she wore that tiara all around the store, just to gauge the reactions she might get.  After shopping for a few other needed items like spring Oreos with blue centers and Little Debbie cakes with sprinkles, she quickly made her way to the check-out counter.

"Why, isn't that pretty?" the checker girl asked.  "I'll bet your little granddaughter is going to love wearing that."  Miss Essie frowned then said, "I'm sure she will."  She knew how to pick her battles.  And the checker girl at the Wal-Marts was not the place to wax eloquently on how adults should learn to have a bit of fun.  After the checker girl scanned it, she slipped the tiara back on her head, the price tag flapping in the wind, and walked out of the store, her head held high.

Although it was only the day before Saint Patrick's Day, that didn't stop Miss Essie from showing off her new tiara on her jaunts about town.  The ladies at the Nameless Public Library smiled when she walked in, because they were used to Miss Essie's weekly Monday afternoon visits.  She always checked out an old romance novel to occupy herself during the upcoming week.  This week, she chose a frontier story named LEATHER AND LACE.  She hoped it had some juicy bits in it.  She couldn't stand to read a boring romance unless it had some juicy bits. Otherwise, why bother, she thought?

"Don't you look fine today!" librarian Laura Belle said, smiling and wishing that she had the guts to wear something like a glittery green tiara to work. She knew the kids she worked with at Story Hour would love it if she did.

The teen-aged volunteer, Sally Dorrell, stared and her jaw dropped when Miss Essie walked in.  She couldn't think of a word to say.

Poor child, Miss Essie thought. She's still of the age where she wouldn't be caught dead in public with something like this on her head.  I'll bet she's afraid one of her friends would see her, twitter about it and it would be all over school in ten seconds flat.

Miss Essie liked to walk from her home to the library and back, to get some exercise and fresh air.  She didn't take her old 1956 Chevrolet out unless it was absolutely necessary.  No need wasting gas while her two legs were still working. Week after week, except when it was too cold or too hot, Miss Essie made the almost one-mile walk to the library.

Occasionally, afterwards, she'd stop off at Do-Lolly's Diner, at the edge of downtown, for a bowl of soup, saltine crackers and a small bowl of banana pudding for dessert.  She loved Do-Lollys because it was normally a friendly, warm kind of place. And their food was like her mama used to cook back home in Ft. Worth. She thought the coffee tasted like coffin-varnish, but she needed a jolt of caffeine that late in the day.

This Monday, as she walked in, the dull roar ceased for a moment, and all went still.  Essie looked around, found an empty booth and slid in, smiling at everyone as they stared at her tiara. "How y'all doin' today?" she chirped.  "It's a wonderful day out, isn't it?"  A few of the regulars murmured their howdys.

Miss Essie smiled again and pointed to her head. "If anybody else is interested, and from the attention I’m getting, it looks like you might be, they had more of these tiaras down at the Wal-marts.  Only $3.99, too.  I thought it was quite the bargain, considerin' how much glitter they put on it."

Embarrassed, the diners looked down at their plates, and pretty soon the clack and ping of cutlery on old china plates commenced.

Over in the back booth, a few ladies of the Nameless Garden Club clucked their tongues and shook their heads. "What is that old fool up to NOW?" Mrs. Pepper Smythe, president of the club, asked.

"Good lord, would you look at that!" Her sister exclaimed.  After a bit of tsking and clucking, they turned their attention back to their garden salads with fried chicken strips on top.  With low-fat ranch dressing, of course.

Miss Essie finished her soup, smacked her lips loudly, paid her bill, leaving exactly 25-cents tip for her server like she always did, and tottled back out into the sunshine.

Usually nothing much happened on Miss Essie's jaunts into town, but since this was early spring and many things were changing. It had been a long, cold, wet horrible winter and Miss Essie turned her face up to the sun, like a sunflower.  She hadn't gone too far before she noticed something buzzing around her ear.  She flicked her hand at it, shooing it away.  Probably an old fly, she thought.  "Shoo!" she cried. "Get away from me, you nasty thing!"  Miss Essie never could abide flies since she learned that they regurgitate the last bite they ate before taking a bite of something new.  She kept an old cat, Mr. Bodiddles, inside her house because that cat was a goin' Jessee when it came to catching flies.  That cat would sit quietly for hours, watching the flies in Miss Essie's kitchen window, then SWOOP! he was up on the windowsill snappin' that fly up in his mouth and gobbling it down.

She was always amazed how fast that cat would snatch up those flies.  "He's a fly snatcher, all right," she remarked to the postman once when he witnessed the cat snatching up two flies at once.  "That's why I keep him around, nasty old cat," she explained, giving him a well-deserved pat on the head.

Essie walked a few more blocks, and before long, there was more buzzing and whirring near her ears.  She flapped her wrist at it, knocking her tiara to the ground.  "Well, would you look at that!" Miss Essie exclaimed.  That green glittery tiara was covered with bees! Being a gardener, Miss Essie knew that bees were her friends.  She had never killed a one of them.  She was even loath to kill other flying things like wasps--other than flies, that is.  Even the yellow jackets that everybody else hated, Miss Essie let be.  She could never be sure if one of those flying creatures would be the ONE that would end up pollinating her heirloom Mr. Stripey tomato.  She had grown one from seeds over the winter and it was just starting to bloom when she planted it in her garden. She just didn't want to take the chance.  She'd had a problem with pollination the year before.  Miss Essie had read about the whole bee collapse THING, and was worried. So she tried to co-exist peacefully with the winged creatures in her garden.

Using her foot and flapping her hands, she shooed the bees off the tiara, picked it up and replaced it back on her head.  All the flapping was to no avail. She picked up her pace, and by the time she got home, the sound of the buzzing and tiny whirring wings was about to make her dizzy.

Seeing the writing on the wall, Miss Essie carefully removed the tiara, thought for a moment then planted it in the dirt right beside her Mr. Stripey.  The bees, seeing they had it much better in the garden than they'd had on an old cardboard tiara (even one covered with green glitter), finally flew off and busied themselves in the rosemary and nectarine tree that had just started blooming the week before.  And as Miss Essie watched, one fat one buzzed over and bumped at her Mr. Stripey.

Miss Essie stood for a minute in the garden, and watched. "Welcome to your new home," she said, her cheeks flushed.  She felt a bit embarrassed whenever she watched any pollination actually happening, and finally turned away.  She wondered if she could bring more bees home the next week.  Perhaps if the tiara was red, she could gather more of them?  No, she decided, she'd attract hummingbirds that way.  The bees definitely liked the green glitter. Perhaps if she covered the tiara with a bit of plant pollen, or honey?

Miss Essie slowly climbed up into the big old white rocking chair on her back porch, in the shade, and slowly started rocking.  Rocking and thinking about the miraculous power of green glitter.



END

 Copyright ©2015 by Bobbi A. Chukran



Saturday, February 28, 2015

Testing

It seems that some of my blog posts are showing as black text on black. This is just a test.

Friday, February 6, 2015

The Catalyst -- An Original Poem by Bobbi A. Chukran

 For Freebie Friday, I offer for your entertainment an original poem reprinted from my first collection HALLOWEEN THIRTEEN--A Collection of Mysteriously Macabre Tales. Enjoy! Bobbi C.


Catalyst – A Poem

Anyone who lives with cats has observed this strange behavior.



The olde folks say that when the silvery light of the harvest moon
strikes the edge of the oak grove at just the right angle
Something from the roots of the pin oaks
slithers out and comes to life.

They say that when that Something from the roots
comes alive, it snakes its way into the
local feline population and bewitches them
like some primal bizarre fairy tale,
and their eyes gleam like rubies
and they go insane for about four hours in the
middle of the bright moonstruck night.
Their backs arch and their rat-thin tails bush up
as big as evergreen trees and this frightens them
so that they bush up even larger.

They go seeking fresh meat dripping with warm blood,
even those who usually turn up their
nose at anything but their everyday kibble,
their eyes big and dark and luminous
in the moonlight their howls will
raise the hair on the back of your neck.

The males seek females
and the young and frisky chase the old
until they fall down in a heap from exhaustion.

Hissing (oh, you've never heard such a noise!)
and growling and general caterwauling
can be heard all the way to the far side of the village
during those nights when the harvest moon
alights the edge of the grove.

At dawn the Thing slithers back
to its womb of roots and soil and stones
to await the next emergence
and the cats skulk back home,
blink their dilated eyes in surprise
at the sunlight,
curl up,  and ease their heads down
on their paws and wait…
wary and watchful,
for the next harvest moon.



Reprinted from HALLOWEEN THIRTEEN--A Collection of Mysteriously Macabre Tales
Copyright ©2014 Bobbi A. Chukran

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!


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

-------------

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.