Tap into Your Dark Side with Drabbledark

Drabbledark

It’s fitting that I wrote my very first sci-fi-themed drabble laid up in bed, expecting an alien to burst out of my stomach at any moment.

I’d been up all night, in pain, so I’d called in sick to work. I was wickedly uncomfortable, but I was also at home, so I wanted to make the most of my “free time.” (You can only watch so many hours of Netflix before the novelty wears off.) I didn’t feel well enough to work on a long-form writing project, but I remembered seeing a call for submissions for 100-word stories. 100 words? Yeah, I could manage that.

It turns out I loved the challenge of writing a drabble. It’s an exercise in brevity and succinct storytelling. And if the author can set expectations, then subvert them quickly (who doesn’t love a good twist?), drabbles are rather delightful to read.

In the end, the rumbles in my tummy were a stomach virus (so, basically an alien), and the 100 words I’d written while bedridden were deemed cool enough to publish.

Today, Drabbledark: An Anthology of Dark Drabbles, edited by Eric S. Fomley, is out in the world! You can read my mini sci-fi story, “Survival,” within its pages, alongside 100 other short-and-sour tales of dark fantasy, horror, and science fiction. Despite their slight word count, these stories pack a punch.

If you dig micro fiction and dark plot lines, check out the anthology HERE. It’s a fun one!

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Author Meg Archer on Humanity, Identity, and Hawk-shifters

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Last month, I had the pleasure of reading an advanced review copy of Triskaidekaphilia 3: Transformedthe latest anthology from Pen and Kink Publishing. Today, I have the pleasure of hosting one of the authors, Meg Archer, here on the blog!

I absolutely loved Meg’s story in Transformed. In “Red-tail,” hawk-shifter Ruby Vogel toes the line between a mundane human life and her other, hidden self. As a fly-by-night spy for a mysterious contact, she’s often tasked with trailing people, gathering information, and above all, being discreet. In exchange, she gets paid; no questions asked, no names, no trail to follow in the cool night air. But when she unwittingly gets caught up in a dangerous game, the huntress becomes the hunted, and Ruby has to decide whether she can really keep those two halves of herself separate anymore. Is it worth the risk, to deny her shifter side? Is she a woman who becomes a hawk, or is she a hawk who becomes a woman? Is she both, or neither–or is she something else entirely?

Meg’s writing style is sassy and fun, and this particular story kept me laughing and calm during a particularly rough bout of turbulence while I was on a flight to Phoenix (so thank you, Meg!). And spoiler alert, she’s just as sassy and fun off the page.

Without further ado, here’s Meg!

***

In my short story, “Red-tail,” a young woman walks the boundary between her human self and the hawk who lives inside of her. Or maybe I should say she soars across the boundary. As one of the stories featured in Pen and Kink Publishing’s anthology Transformed (the third in their amazing Triskaidekaphilia series), Ruby Vogel’s story is about how much of the animal we allow to live in our human selves, and how much humanity can survive when we are at our most animalistic.

(And it’s about sex. Can’t forget the fun parts!)

Like most of the things I write, Ruby’s story came to me in a series of images. One lazy, hot afternoon, I watched a hawk spiral high over my house, seeing its head move as it scanned the ground. I pictured a red-tailed hawk, flying out across a city, heading towards the trees, and wondered how it might hunt in those two very different locales. And I imagined a scene near the end of the story, when a character at their most vulnerable would also find their strength.

From those images—both familiar and strange—the rest of the story began to bloom.

In a world like our own, where rare animal-shifters lived relatively isolated lives, trying to fit in with humans, always searching for a balance with their true selves. Ruby, a hawk-shifter, takes on a variety of semi-legal jobs for an employer who pays well and asks no questions. She spies, steals, and waits for the full moon to pull her out of her skin and into her feathers. It’s been a good-enough life, but she wonders if she’s destined to be alone.

Is she the only one of her kind? Are there others who might understand? And if there were, how would she find them?

Is her morality, her ethics, the same as ours? Does she have a duty to humanity, or to her other-self?

What is it like, being a solitary hunter and a social creature, all at the same time?

Who is she, really?

My favorite thing about speculative fiction—whether it’s about hawk-shifters or brave explorers of alien worlds or space wizards with laser swords—is how it is able to make a statement about the here and now while being set in some other world. In my story, I became fascinated by the theme of identity and humanity.

We all have a little of the feral animal within ourselves, I think. From the adrenaline-powered mama bears who lift cars to save trapped children to the sudden steady calm of a pilot bringing a plane down safely under extreme conditions like a crane gliding elegantly down to the water, there are moments when that strange other-sense grips us. Moments when we’re more than what we are.

We can do the things we think might be impossible, and when we are pushed to our extremes, we sometimes are changed by the experience. If that were always accessible to us, who would we become?

In the tilt of a dog’s curious head or the frantic pace of a mouse in a maze, we see ourselves in animals. We’re busy as bees, snakes in the grass, curious kittens…

We see animals in ourselves, too—although that wilder, less constrained nature is sometimes frightening when it stares back at us in the mirror.

In Ruby’s world, one shifter’s advantage is another one’s nightmare. And when she’s confronted by the lengths to which another shifter will go to avoid the change, her perspective shifts and expands. With a romantic encounter that twists and turns as allegiances are revealed, Ruby’s wish to meet others like herself opens up her world in ways she never could’ve predicted.

I hope you’ll check out Transformed and read all of the great, wildly different stories that are alongside “Red-tail.” It was such an honor to be chosen for an amazing collection. A few of the stories in particular moved me and took me on an incredible journey, and I was so impressed by the range of styles, topics, and approaches to this idea of shifting and transformation.

Thank you to Tiffany for allowing me to share a little corner of her blog’s space!

***

About Transformed: Nothing is quite so deliciously freeing as caving to your instincts. For centuries, shapeshifters have personified our impulse to bow to our animalistic nature. From lycans to skin-walkers and everything in between, shapeshifters give us a chance to connect with our inner-selves and celebrate our intriguing differences, our passions, and ultimately our humanity through their necessity of striking a balance between their human selves and supernatural selves.

About the Editor: Charlie Watson is a freelance editor ready to make her mark on the Edmonton writing community. Through her work with various writing and editing groups around YEG who deal exclusively with first time authors, Charlie is devoted to ensuring that fledgling authors have a wonderful experience publishing for the first time.

About the Series: Triskaidekaphilia is the love of the number thirteen. It’s also the name of our anthology series which explores the more shadowy corners of romance and erotica. There will be 13 volumes in total, each of which will be released on a Friday the 13th.

Buy your copy of Transformed HERE!

 

 

Read “No Vacancy” in Issue #24 of Fabula Argentea

No Vacancy pic 2

Today, my short story, “No Vacancy,” appears in Fabulea Argentea’s 24th issue! And to be honest, it’s a story I never thought I’d publish.

I wrote “No Vacancy” years ago. When I wrote it, I was damn proud of it. It was one of the very first pieces I felt was “good enough” to send out to publishers for consideration. Head-in-the-clouds dreamer that I was at the time, I thought this story would be the tipping point for my professional writing career.

But it wasn’t. The rejections started rolling in. And they kept rolling in. And dear God, they didn’t stop. Despite what I thought was a never-ending wellspring of positivity, I found myself doubting my talent, the story, my future as a writer—all of it.

So, when the last publisher on my short list of literary journals and magazines said no thanks, I just…stopped sending the story out. I moved on. I wrote something else. I pushed the whole experience into the back of my mind, the place labeled, “Well That Didn’t Work Out, Did It?”

I was so green then and had so much to learn. I was just dipping my toe into the world of publishing, and I had absolutely no idea how many rejections were in my future (I’ve lost count, you guys). Or how my work would transcend all of those “no’s” from time to time to find some truly beautiful “yes’s.”

A few months ago, I reopened my Word document of “No Vacancy,” read it with fresh eyes, and nearly smacked myself upside the head. How could I have ever given up on this piece? Years later, it was still beautiful. Years later, I still loved it. And years later, my skin had become so much thicker. It was time to revive this piece.

I dedicated time to editing the story, sent it off to a number of publications for consideration, and today, it’s published.

This whole process has been such a nice reminder to never give up on the stories I write that I truly believe in. The stories that contain a tiny piece of my heart between the words. There’s a whole lot of me in this story, to be honest.

I couldn’t be more thrilled that “No Vacancy” has found a home with Fabula Argentea. Alongside each story, the Fabula Argentea editors explain why they chose to publish the piece. Here’s what they said about “No Vacancy”:

“Author Tiffany Brown caught our attention with her opening sentence. From there it only gets better as she masterfully pulls us into her character’s story. It’s a story we can read again and pick out even more of its subtleties. And isn’t that what makes for good fiction?”

If that isn’t recognition and closure for this little-story-that-could, I don’t know what is.

Here’s the opening sentence they reference—and a little extra:

“Bevan arched her back and stared over her shoulder, trying to determine if the patch of skin on her hip was vacant property or a hibiscus leaf that had never been filled in. When her vision blurred, she sighed and walked down the hall to the bathroom, the skin in question vibrating like hummingbird wings.

The cheap fluorescents buzzed and groaned. The old bulbs illuminated Bevan’s skin the wrong way, dulling the vibrant fuchsia, indigo, and lime she wore proudly like war paint. However, the hazy yellow light did the trick. Bevan’s suspicions were confirmed. She’d run out of real estate.

‘Dammit,’ she breathed. Bevan’s hands had begun to twitch earlier in the week, the way they always did when her thoughts turned to color and needles. At the time, she’d resorted to walking to the small grocery two blocks away and submerging her hands in bulk tubs of rice to dull the buzz in her fingertips.

Bevan considered putting on her sneakers, but instead, she picked up her cell phone. ‘Come over,’ she whispered when he answered.”

What follows is a story about identity, love, addiction, and tattoos. I hope you’ll read it HERE (for free!).

And if you’re a writer, I hope you’ll go back and re-read something you haven’t looked at in years. See if you can look past the drafty-ness of it, see the potential, and perhaps, breathe new life into something you previously gave up on.

Bury ‘Em Deep Unearths More Than Monsters

Unwanted Visitors cover image

Fire-colored leaves crackle beneath my steel-toes as I follow Charlie to the back of his pickup. A gust of wind blows up the corner of the blue tarp coverin’ the body, and I catch a peep of curly black hair out of the corner of my eye. My stomach lurches, and my fingers burn. I wanna sock Charlie in the jaw for askin’ me to help him with this, but I don’t.

I don’t hit him, because I owe him. I owe him big.  

‘Course that don’t mean I gotta like bein’ here. “You got a perfectly good backyard, Charlie. Why couldn’t we bury Rooney there?”

“That ain’t Rooney.” Charlie points at the heap under the tarp. “That thing, it belongs here, not in my backyard.” He releases the latch on the back of the truck, and the tailgate bangs open, makin’ the whole bed jump. Makin’ the body jump. My skin prickles as Charlie gets to untyin’ the tarp with dry, bony fingers.

I look around, tryin’ to understand where “here” is. There’s nothin’ but leaves, old oaks, and a big expanse of grassy terrain. The smell of cigarette smoke hangs in the air, though there ain’t a soul around to be doin’ the smokin’. If you ask me, it don’t look like anything belongs here, not even a dead dog.

“Who told you ‘bout this place?” I ask.

Charlie whips back the tarp. I stare at the white wisps decoratin’ Rooney’s muzzle. I expect ‘em to move. I expect to see Rooney’s chest suddenly rise and fall. It doesn’t, despite what Charlie’s told me ‘bout the dog’s habit of comin’ back to life now and again.

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Today, my Lovecraft-inspired short story, Bury ‘Em Deep, is published in Inwood Indiana’s Unwanted Visitors issue!

On the surface, this story is about two men burying a dead dog named Rooney that has this crazy habit of coming back to life. But the real horror of the story lies in the broken friendship of the two men and the animosity between them. Sometimes, you simply can’t bury the past.

To check out the full story, get your issue of Unwanted Visitors today!

2017 Accomplishments & 2018 Goals

new years

Yes, this is how I spent New Year’s Eve 2017, and it was awesome!

Though time is a uniquely human construct, there’s something beautiful about the idea of a new year. It’s like a crisp dollar bill, fresh and full of possibility. I use the turning over of one year to the next to celebrate achievements and either reinforce or set new goals. Here’s what went down in 2017 and what I’m hoping to accomplish in 2018.

2017 Recap

In 2017, I published five pieces: one harrowingly personal essay (Shapeless), my first erotica piece (Begin Again), a politically charged (but funny!) vampire romance novella (A Taste of Revolution), and two horror shorts (He Smelled Like Smoke and The Promise). With this motley smattering of writing, I’ve realized that I’m not comfortable boxing myself into a single genre or style. I’ve embraced the fact that I write what I want to when I’m inspired to create it. And I love that approach. It seems to be working for me.  

I read 45 books this year (hitting my Goodreads Reading Challenge goal – whoo hoo! – albeit just barely). My top 7 reads were (in no particular order:

Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by David Wong bite somebody else

Losing It by Cora Carmack

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

The Dinner by Herman Koch

Joyland by Stephen King

Bite Somebody Else by Sara Dobie Bauer

rocket raccoon

 

Graphic novels I loved reading this year include:

March: Book One by John Lewis and Nate Powell 

Paper Girls: Volume One by Brian K. Vaughan 

Rocket Raccoon #1 by Skottie Young 

 

 

 

I crafted over 100 comic book flowers for my upcoming wedding.

I survived my first hot yoga class (which got up to 106 degrees, thankyouverymuch).

My fiance and I made our wedding bands. Like, mixed-and-melted-down-the-metals-and-cranked-the-metals-through-a-rolling-mill-and-soldered-them-together-and-beat-them-into-circles-with-mallets made them.

I took the stage in an amazing production of The Vagina Monologues. wookie

I learned how to hand stamp metal.

I rediscovered my love for baking pies.

I bought my first onesie and dressed up like Chewbacca for Halloween.

I did a water nymph photoshoot with one of my oldest and dearest friends.

I climbed to the very top of an exceptionally tall indoor climbing wall (six stories!).

I snuggled with an alpaca (which is the perfect way to end a list of accomplishments, right?).

2018 Goals

Read 45 books. I’m keeping this one consistent. Not gonna lie, I read some really short books on December 29th, 30th, and 31st in order to hit my Goodreads Reading Challenge goal. This year, I want to cruise into December confident that I’ll hit my 45-book goal – and then some.

Write one story or piece a month. This one is going to be a challenge. I’ve fallen out of the habit of writing regularly (it’s like I’ve convinced myself I don’t have time because I’m planning a wedding or something!) I lost a little bit of my love for writing in 2017, and I don’t know whether to blame stress, poor planning, a lack of inspiration, a lack of self-motivation, or the monster that hides out under my bed. Whatever the case may be, I want to challenge myself to meet a deadline every month in 2018 to see if I can re-spark my desire to write consistently. Whether flash fiction, a sprawling novella, or a personal essay, I need to write something every month. And I’m going to be gentle with myself. The pieces don’t need to be ready to sell or the best thing I’ve ever written. They just need to be complete.

yogaContinue to cultivate a regular yoga practice. When Bryan and I were living in Phoenix, I was really good about going to yoga at least twice a week. There’s something about yoga that makes me feel incredibly strong and incredibly calm, which I’ve found to be a really powerful combination for me. It’s also a great way to give my lower back and other chronic injuries the TLC they need. I started working toward this goal in 2017, and I’m hoping to build upon it to keep the momentum going in 2018.

Revive my blog presences. My personal blog and the blog I share with my fiance (2geekslife.com) have been grossly neglected. Again, I’ve fallen out of the habit, and I’ve also self-sabotaged a bit. There were times in 2017 when I thought my regular musings were too mundane or too boring to publish. Time to kill that self-doubt and trust that I always have something valuable or funny or thoughtful to say. Time to trust my voice.

Okay, those are the big goals. I’m sure other goals will pop up throughout the year, and I’ll go after them with vigor and an eye for self-improvement and cultivating accomplishment and happiness.

For those of you who create resolutions or set goals each year, I hope you’re off to a great start. I believe in you! Go get ‘em!

 

Get Your Jitter Fix with “The Promise”

Jitter 6

Bite-sized horror stories usually aren’t my thing. I generally regard the horror genre as one to be savored. I love creepy world-building. Take me through the whole damn haunted house, room by room, and point out the curiosities that will make my head spin. I adore stories that are quick to unsettle you, then slowly build toward a terrifying revelation.

There’s a reason why horror lovers devour the huge tomes written by Stephen King or Dan Simmons. Dreadful stories are mini addictions. You keep turning the pages, wanting more and more – sometimes, inexplicably.

My latest horror short, “The Promise,” which is now available in Jitter #6, isn’t a page-turner – literally. It’s micro fiction, a sliver of terror, a quick hit of dread. There aren’t a lot of pages to turn, even if you wanted to (and hopefully you do!).

I wrote “The Promise” to see if I could create something turbulent and atmospheric and terrible and reminiscent of classic monster horror – in less than 1,000 words.

“The Promise” creeped out the editors at Jitter Press enough for them to include it in Jitter #6. Hopefully, it’ll creep you out, too.

The Promise (Excerpt)

By Tiffany Michelle Brown

She’d nearly choked on it that night on the moonlit beach—the sharp, pungent smell of dark promises and fragile desperation. Now, the noxious aroma threaded through her hair as something tugged at the floral comforter covering her toes. Lila’s eyes flew open. Her heart thumped in her chest.

“Mommy, there’s something under my bed.” She could barely hear Brayden’s whisper above the wave of adrenaline that whooshed through her veins. Bad memories poured over her, fresh and shocking as ice water.

This isn’t happening. You were supposed to forget. It’s been nine years.

Lila fought to keep her voice steady, for her son’s sake. “There’s nothing to be afraid of, sweetheart.” The lie was thick on her tongue.

Lila closed her eyes, attempting to lessen the sudden sting building behind them, but an image of her husband, water swollen and drained of color, painted the backs of her eyelids. She grabbed her hair and tugged hard, needing to feel something.

No. What she needed was to keep it together. She needed to comfort Brayden.

Lila swung her legs off the mattress and pulled her sleep-heavy body to a seated position. She made out a tuft of perfect corn silk hair and the glitter of Brayden’s wide eyes in the dim. She extended a hand toward him, and the next thing she knew, her darling boy was wrapped around her forearm, his little body radiating heat, his heartbeat hammering against her skin. A jolt of regret careened through her chest. She gasped, sucking in air, and gagged on sulfur. She coughed twice into her free hand and switched to breathing through her mouth.

Lila glanced over her shoulder at Martin, wondering if she’d disturbed him. Her husband lay still, almost as still as that night on the sand, but here in their master bedroom nearly a decade later, he breathed normally. In, out. In, out.

She thought of their time together—their first date, their wedding, Brayden’s birth, Emily’s birth, their grand renovation of this house. All the beautiful moments they’d accumulated together.

She’d had to save him, right?

…Read the rest in Jitter #6!

RAVENOUS is alive!…(Kind of…)

Ravenous cover

Happy Friday the 13th, kiddies! In celebration of this spooky, spooky day, Pen and Kink Publishing’s RAVENOUS, edited by the lovely Ariel Jade, is now available.

If you’ve ever craved a sexy inside look into the love lives of vampires, this is the collection for you!

About RAVENOUS:

Dark. Brooding. Tortured. Sexy.

Vampires are a mystery, morphing through history from maligned villains to sparkling saviors and back again. They can be the ultimate bad boys, the supreme seductresses, or the evil monsters. They fascinate and repel us at the same time. What other creature can steal into your bedroom in the depths of the night to stalk or protect? What other ancient being is so accessible yet so powerful? What other enigma is desired as much as feared?

Cross the threshold into a world of insatiable heroes and voracious heroines. RAVENOUS explores saucy, sexy, and sweet tales: of forbidden vampire/vampire hunter love, vampire threesomes in space, kink as only a vampire could enjoy it… and so much more.

Edited by Ariel Jade and with contributions from Wendy Nikel, Jaap Boekestein, Sara Dobie Bauer, Violet R. Jones, V. Hummingbird, Dale Cameron Lowry, R. Michael Burns, and Tiffany Michelle Brown.

Don’t forget to bring your garlic–just in case.

Yep, you read that right, I have a story in this steamy book, and it’s one that I’m incredibly proud to have written. “A Taste of Revolution” is a very…complicated love story, full of fairytale influence, politics, sexy memories, and undead bloodshed.

About “A Taste of Revolution:”

Jules Hammond thinks the vampire way of life in the Republic of New Vampyrium is a crock of shit. Her brethren are ruled by a pair of nihilistic tyrants, quarantined in what was once Romania, and forbidden to prey upon humans. Even worse, Jules could be staked and beheaded for voicing her disdain in public.

In the underground safety of her lab, Jules spends her nights synthesizing artificial blood infusions, talking a lot of political smack, and longing for freedom.

When a chance encounter with a gorgeous vamp from her past—now the crowned prince of the Republic—ignites lustful desire in Jules, she’s both twitterpated and confused. As she struggles to reconcile her overwhelming and exceedingly annoying feelings for Prince Fabian, Jules is offered a dangerous opportunity to free the vampire race from the clutches of its depraved monarchy.

Who knew the fate of bloodsuckers everywhere would depend upon a blue-haired blood chemist with rage for days and budding feelings for a man who represents everything she hates.

Here’s an excerpt to get your (undead) blood pumping:

“She turned suddenly and crushed her nose into a very broad, very firm chest. Jules stumbled back, groaning, blinking hard to keep surprised tears at bay. Her fingertips found the bridge of her nose and inspected it. Nothing seemed out of place.

‘Are you okay?’ said a sultry, masculine voice.

If Jules had a pulse, it would have quickened substantially. She looked up at an angular jaw, searing blue eyes, and a round head of perfectly coifed brown hair, familiar from Prince Fabian’s television appearance only an hour before. And there was that roguish smirk, the one that looked so good on camera—and even better in person.

Jules gulped and then sent a message to her thighs that no, it was not okay that they were quivering right now. Not for Prince Fabian. This guy represented everything wrong in the vampire world. And yet, he was so pretty, so appealing in flesh and blood, that Jules wanted to throw her legs around him and nibble his ear right there in front of everyone.”

And that’s their first meeting. It gets real…interesting from there on out. There are motorcycles, and Gothic castles, and first kisses, and some brutal battle scenes, for good measure.

Enter Pen and Kink’s Friday the 13th giveaway to try to snag a free copy, or purchase the book on Amazon.

I hope you love “A Taste of Revolution” as much as I do. Happy reading!