Friday, May 26, 2017

Remembering veterans on Memorial Day

I have lots more fiction coming here, as well as over on my YouTube channel

We should take a break now, however, to give thanks to all veterans as the U.S. heads into the Memorial Day weekend. 

I will freely admit that I never served in the military. This wasn't a deliberate choice on my part, really, but rather a default one. 

I came of military age as the Cold War was winding down, but before the war on Islamic terrorism heated up. My parents were able to help me with college costs, so I did not have a pressing financial need to take advantage of the military's educational benefits.

I sometimes regret that I did not serve. To serve in the U.S. military is to put yourself on the line for freedom, and yes, against the bad guys--whether we're talking about the communists of the Cold War, or the jihadis of the War on Terror. That is no small thing; and anyone who interrupts their life for two or four or twenty years to stand on the line for freedom deserves our gratitude. 

So on this Memorial Day, let's not forget to thank the vets who are still with us, and remember the ones who aren't. 

Best wishes to all presently serving U.S. Armed Forces...and perdition to their enemies. 






Thursday, May 25, 2017

Short fiction on YouTube: "Thanatos Postponed: a short tale of terror"

My story "Thanatos Postponed: a short tale of terror", is now available on YouTube (for free, of course) in a single-video format. 

I had previously released the story in a 13-video playlist. This consisted of an introductory video, and a video for each "chapter". 

It occurred to me that for short stories that consume less than an hour of listening/reading time, many viewers may prefer a single video to a playlist with multiple videos.

I combined the videos using YouTube's video editor, and barely squeaked in below the 1-hour video length limit, at 59 minutes, 16 seconds!

My goal is put as much of my fiction as possible on YouTube. I've been been reading existing novels (like Eleven Miles of Night and Blood Flats), as well as new projects like The Eavesdropper. My YouTube fiction experiment continues!



Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Adolescent emotions and fear

12 Hours of Halloween is a coming-of-age novel. It is also a novel of supernatural horror. 

Three young friends—two boys and a girl—set out for “one last Halloween” on Halloween night, 1980. 

Thanks to a curse (explained in the novel), the suburban landscape around them is transformed into a dreamscape of supernatural terror. 

(If you would like to read a sample of 12 Hours of Halloween, please see the book’s Amazon description page. You can also listen to readings from the book on my YouTube channel.)

As chance would have it, I was in junior high in 1980, too. 

The main character of the story, Jeff Schaeffer, is not a stand-in for me. (I make it a rule never to make my stories too autobiographical.) But he does struggle with many of the same conflicts that I remember from that age: the chafing against parental rule, bullies, and, of course…a deep, unrelenting, and sometimes disconcerting fascination with the opposite sex.




Oh, those days…

Adolescence is a time that we tend to remember, even as we age. (In case you didn't do the math implied by the above information, I’m now in my late forties.) 

This shouldn't surprise us. Adolescence is a time when the whole world seems to change—even as we’re changing so entirely. 

And while the change never really stops, there is probably no period in our lives that rivals adolescence in terms of the scope of personal change. (With the possible exception of our final days, of course.) 

No wonder we remember the period so vividly. 

Another thing I recall about adolescence: Feelings are very intense when you’re between the ages of 12 and 19. This is where the terms, “adolescent drama” and “teenage drama” come from. 

There is plenty of adolescent drama in 12 Hours of Halloween, even amid the characters’ battles with the ghosts, vampires, and homicidal creatures of a supernaturally transformed suburbia. 

To find out what it’s all about, listen in on YouTube, or get the Kindle version of the book from Amazon.




Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Corporate/workplace conspiracy thrillers galore

Do you like corporate thrillers? Workplace conspiracy thrillers?

You've come to the right place.

My ongoing serial, THE EAVESDROPPER, continues over at my YouTube channel.





The plan is to serialize THE EAVESDROPPER on YouTube first, and then publish the book in ebook and paperback form on Amazon.

If you're enjoying THE EAVESDROPPER and would like to try something similar from me, you might check out my earlier corporate thriller, TERMINATION MAN.

TERMINATION MAN is a novel about a corporate business consultant with a unique specialty: He goes undercover in workplaces, and manipulates "problem employees" into compromising situations, where they will be forced to resign.

There is a lot more to TERMINATION MAN, of course: the snake pits of office politics, a dash of sex, and even a murder mystery. (You can read a sample on the book's Amazon description page, and then download a larger sample to your Kindle.)

If you've been looking for a thriller in a cubicle farm near you, start by listening to THE EAVESDROPPER, and then try TERMINATION MAN.

Oh, and one last thing...TERMINATION MAN is presently enrolled in Amazon's Kindle Unlimited program, so you can even read it for FREE if you're subscribed to the service.

And even if you're not, the Kindle book is priced dirt cheap. So what are you waiting for?




The neighborhood haunted house

From my YouTube channel. In this reading of 12 Hours of Halloween, Jeff, Leah, and Bobby observe strange lights coming from the windows of the Shipley house, which has a reputation for being haunted.




I was therefore not especially surprised to see that the windows of the Shipley house glowed with an odd purplish light. As we drew closer, I could see exactly what Leah was talking about: All of the windows were covered with drapes and shutters; but the light behind them sent shifting shades of violet and amethyst radiating outward. 
The Shipley house was active tonight—I suppose that we should have expected as much.
The house was presently vacant, after all. Whatever forces did hold sway there would be emboldened by the absence of the living. And needless to say, the unique presence that was terrorizing us tonight (the “curse” as the three of us had now generally taken to calling it), had exposed and awakened whatever spiritual entities ordinarily lied dormant around the neighborhood.
Consider Elmira, for example, and the malevolent presence in the pin oak tree that had been so intent on keeping her captive—or holding her back, at the very least. How many times had I passed by that house, riding my bike on summer days, or riding in the back seat of my parents’ car? But I had been completely unaware that either Elmira or the pin oak tree had existed at all. 
Likewise, the Shipley house had never assumed a prominent place in my imagination. I suppose I avoided the house by default—but no more than the other kids in the neighborhood did. It was simply my custom to pass by it quickly. Where reputedly haunted houses are concerned, there is no point in taking unnecessary chances....

Monday, May 22, 2017

Can you trust your workplace mentor?

In Chapter 3 of the  corporate conspiracy thriller, THE EAVESDROPPER, Frank Joseph meets with Sid Harper, his manager and workplace mentor.

But can Frank trust Sid? This is a question that will be explored in future chapters of THE EAVESDROPPER. Until the book comes out, catch all of the action over at my YouTube channel.






I was finally getting back to work when I felt a hand clap my shoulder. My first thought was Donnie. (He had still not returned from whatever excursion he had gone on after our sort-of confrontation in the men's room.)
I turned around, looked up, and saw Sid Harper instead. 
As I've said, Sid was the manager over our group. (Sid, in fact, was one of the senior managers in the entire purchasing department.)
Somewhere back in the last century, there developed a stereotype of what the corporate senior manager should be. I can say without exaggerating too much that Sid Harper fit this description. 
In his late forties or early fifties, Sid Harper was tall and broad shouldered, with the trim build of an ex-athlete. Most women, including women decades younger than him, would have described him as handsome. He had that perfect square chin of the classical heroic figure. There were small traces of gray around the sideburns of his black hair, which had not yet begun to thin.
Now, if you think that I was jealous of Sid Harper, you'd be wrong. Yes, I was indeed in awe of him, to a certain degree. But more than that, I was  immensely grateful for what he had done for me. Sid had taken an interest in me early on, perhaps recognizing that I was determined to make the most of my job at Thomas-Smithfield. He had encouraged me and helped me along where he could. 
And, of course, Sid had been responsible for my recent grade promotion—the promotion that had driven Donnie and Bethany so batty with jealousy.
“Got a few minutes to talk?” he asked me. “I’d like to go over the McDonnell bid. If you can spare the time, that is.”


Saturday, May 20, 2017

Adventures with toxic coworkers

In Chapter 2 of THE EAVESDROPPER, Frank returns to his desk, only to be confronted by coworkers who obviously don't have his best interests in mind.





I started back toward my desk. (As I had told Donnie, I really did have work to do.) The third floor of the building—like the rest of the Thomas-Smithfield headquarters building—was arranged in an “open office” configuration, which, I believe, had been originally popularized by Japanese companies. Or maybe it was based on the older American concept of the “bullpen”; I’m not too sure. In any case, the office was set up so that the average employee had minimal privacy. 
Each person had a desk, surrounded by low cubicle walls, which never blocked either the view or the sounds of one’s colleagues. The managers had offices, of course, but they were in a different league.
The entire third floor was allocated to the company’s purchasing department, and we were subdivided into groups and sub-groups, based on the suppliers we handled. Donnie Brady, Bethany Cox, and I formed a sub-group. Needless to say, I was the odd man out...




THE EAVESDROPPER


What if you overheard three of your coworkers plotting a murder?

Frank Joseph was content in his job as a purchasing agent at Thomas-Smithfield Electronics. Then he overheard a conversation that not only changed his life, but put him on a collision course with homicidal colleagues and mobsters. 

The EAVESDROPPER is a workplace conspiracy thriller that will keep you guessing to the end.

Listen now at my YouTube channel


Bullies in the workplace

In this video, the hero of THE EAVESDROPPER, Frank Joseph, contends with a case of workplace bullying. 

To catch upcoming episodes/chapters of the THE EAVESDROPPER, please visit my YouTube channel.





 

CHAPTER 1


Donnie Brady and I were both standing before the mirror in the men’s room on the third floor of the Thomas-Smithfield Electronics headquarters building. I was doing my best to ignore his presence, but I knew that he wasn't going to let me off that easy.

“So,” he began, “All that sucking up you’ve been doing has finally paid off.”
Donnie was about my age, give or take a year or two. We were both in our early thirties. The main difference between us was our relative sizes. I was five-ten and weighed maybe a hundred and sixty pounds soaking wet. Donnie was six feet, three inches tall. His frequent gym workouts were apparent even beneath the white fabric of his button-down oxford shirt. He usually left the top button of his shirt unbuttoned and worse his tie loose. His neck was that thick.
“I’ll take that as a congratulations on my promotion,” I replied. Truth be told, Donnie Brady made me more than a little uneasy—even before everything happened. He had always given off the aura of a hoodlum in business attire. But I wasn't going to back down; I was determined not to let him rattle my cage.
Donnie noisily expelled a puff of air out through his lips, a universal expression of sarcasm. 
“More like you’re just a big suck-up,” he said. He stopped checking his hair (although he was often disheveled, he was simultaneously vain about his appearance), and took a step closer to me. 
Donnie now towered over me, and I couldn't ignore the disparities in our heights, sizes, and physical strengths. I had thought that concerns about bullies were twenty years behind me, in the distant memories of junior high. Well, you just never know what aspects of childhood are going to come back to bite you in early middle age, do you?....

Eavesdropping and corporate politics

From my YouTube channel: The Prologue of my new serial project, the workplace conspiracy thriller, THE EAVESDROPPER.

THE EAVESDROPPER is being serialized (in video/audio format) on YouTube. It will be be subsequently published as a novel on Amazon, in Kindle and in paperback.




PROLOGUE


My name is Frank Joseph. What follows is the story of what happened when I eavesdropped on a conversation at work one day. 
I was a purchasing agent at a company called Thomas-Smithfield Electronics. 
Yes, a humble purchasing agent. I spent most of my day in a cubicle, hunched over a computer, often with a phone in my ear. I attended meetings. I did my best to finesse the intricacies of corporate politics. 
A typical boring desk job, you might say.
Well, that typical boring job almost got me killed. Or to be more precise, what I overheard one day at work almost got me killed.


Before I tell you what happened, let’s talk a little bit about eavesdroppers and eavesdropping, shall we? We all claim to look down on those who eavesdrop. 
And yet, we all do it. Be honest—if not with me, at least with yourself. 
This is especially true in office settings. The cubicle farm that has become the fixture of modern corporate life encourages eavesdropping.
Sometimes you simply can’t help but listen in on a discussion that doesn't concern you. (This is largely because, corporate politics being what they are, any given discussion very well might concern you—or it might even be someone talking explicitly about you.) 
Of course, many of the conversations we overhear in passing, both intentionally and unintentionally, are indeed inconsequential: People talk about their weekend plans, their preferences in food and entertainment, a fight with a spouse or a significant other. People talk to pass the time, especially at work. 
Most of this stuff simply floats in one ear and out the other, forming the white noise of the modern workplace.
But every once in a great while, you overhear something that really does change your life. Sometimes people reveal the darkest of intentions when they think no one is listening.
And that’s what happened to me. 

The right thing for the wrong reasons

From my YouTube channel: Reading #45 of 12 HOURS OF HALLOWEEN. Jeff reflects on his near fatal encounter with the hideous tree, and wonders if he did the right thing for the wrong reasons:






For a while after that Leah walked on ahead of us, and I walked alone with Bobby. 
He had been unusually silent after the incident with Elmira and the tree, and I thought I knew what was bothering him. He was downcast, avoiding direct eye contact with me even as we walked along shoulder-to-shoulder.
Our plan was to continue walking down Applegate Drive, and then we would turn right onto a street called Farrow Lane. Farrow Lane would eventually lead us back home.
There was to be no more trick-or-treating, of course. The streets were practically empty, anyway. Every once in a while we would pass a cluster of trick-or-treaters. But I noticed a pattern: If I looked away from them for any length of time, I would find that they had vanished when I looked back at them. 
Leah, Bobby, and I were walking through our neighborhood, and yet we were walking through someplace else, too. It was as if we were constantly shifting back and forth between two worlds. 
“You beat me back there,” Bobby said without malice. His tone suggested that I had just bested him at some childish game, like pick-up basketball or arm-wrestling.
“What are you talking about?” I asked. My question was somewhat disingenuous. I did know what Bobby was talking about; and yet I wanted to hear him explicitly affirm it. Leah was still walking a few paces ahead of us, but I wondered how much of our conversation she could overhear.
“You know darn well what I mean, Schaeffer. I panicked when that tree—became whatever the heck it was. To tell you the truth, I was even afraid of that freaky girl. I saw the other side of her head, and it scared me.”...