Audio shorts

So, my friend Russ is getting into voice work.

This is great on a number of levels. He never has time to read as much as he’d like, and prefers audio books. He’s not alone.

I loved audiobooks when I used to commute. A great audiobook is, in some cases, better than the read version. There’s nuances and inflections that you might not have even imagined with your eyeholes. To have someone read these things aloud not only exposes certain angles of the prose, it also provides a flavor you might not always get when reading silently. Take for example, Stephen Briggs narrating any Terry Pratchett novel. Or take the audiobook of THE DIAMOND AGE.

Reading aloud is also one of the go-to suggestions when editing your own work. Your brain picks up things your eyes miss when you hear the words aloud.

The last and best part was that Russ chose one of my own short stories to read, my most recent one, in fact. This story.

You can check out his fledgling voice narration here.

worststory: A dot matrix printer as big as the moon

THE UMBRAL WAKE is coming along and should be up for preorder soon if you’re interested. In other news I am writing things. Which is maybe not really news, but some days getting words out there is like pulling teeth for me. It’s easy after a few million words to start feeling like you are just spinning your wheels writing the same crap day in day out.  So sometimes I spend time on reddit. That’s where I found /r/worststory.


Worststory is a subreddit where people provide the most terrible idea for a story and challenge people to write it. So a writing prompt grabbed me and I went with it. A dot matrix printer as big as the moon appears in orbit, driving everyone mad with its noise.


I figured what’s the point of writing it if I don’t share it.

Direct link here if you’d like to upvote and feed me karma:


Otherwise, enjoy.

Ginny was concerned. Not because of the fact that it was there, but because nobody seemed to be asking the right questions: How did it get there? Why can we hear it when it’s in space? Where did it get the paper?

The neighbors were to first to be effected as far as she knew. The Barkers had been usually pretty quiet, for the most part, an elderly couple who read their newspaper and sometimes drank lemonade out on the porch. Gerald drove an old MG which he babied for as long as Ginny could remember. Margaret liked to crochet.

When the tapping began, most people ignored it, listening to the news with mild curiosity, and taking to heart the news that despite the noise, the orbital object was really nothing to be worried about. Pictures had begun to arrive on the news feeds and aggregators–a large, blocky shape with a round nodule at one end. It was feeding on something wide and flat. Scientists estimated it was somewhere around the size of North Dakota. And there was the noise.

Thump! Thump!

And of course, the biggest realization of all. That we were not alone.

The tapping was thick, ponderous, like a jackhammer in slow motion. It wasn’t a consistent sound either, hammering an almost random pattern, making the birds panic and crash into windows, causing deer to run into traffic and whales to beach themselves, causing insects to sometimes be unusually active at night.

Thump! Thump! Thump! Thumpity-Thump!

Ginny began to lose sleep.

As did the Barkers.

It’s funny, Ginny thought, how when something completely unusual happens, people seem to react in two ways: adapt and accept it as the New Normal, or blame something, anything, anyone.

In the case of the Barkers, she guessed Margaret was maybe a little of both. Maybe it was just one more thing to break the camel’s back.

Thump! Thump!

“DON’T TELL ME YOU DON’T SNORE!” The screams soared over the picket fence and into Ginny’s living room window. “YOU SNORE LOUDER THAN THE ORBITAL! YOU SNORE LOUDER THAN A BEAR!”

“And how would you know what a bear snores like?” Gerald said, his voice almost a whisper between Orbital thumps on the night air.


Thump! Thumpity-Thump!



“Margaret… Margaret! Put that down! Don’t be daft!”

There was a moment where Ginny thought maybe she had listened to him, putting down whatever it was, a moment where maybe the Barkers would go back to the New Normal the way they all had. But it was the gunshot that got Ginny to put her coat on.


The night air was humid, the Thump! Thump! Thumpitty-Thump! of the orbital just loud enough to be heard, too deep to ignore. It rose in the evening sky, a second, boxy moon, its form swallowing a full quarter of the night sky. Ginny almost stopped there on the driveway just to stare at it, until she heard the sobbing.

“I’m sorry! I’m so sorry!” More sobs followed, obscuring the words as Ginny pushed the door open.

Gerald lay there on the floor, bathed in the glow of the TV, his eyes open, mildly surprised as he stared up at and beyond the ceiling.

“I’m sorry!” Margaret called, one hand on her mouth, the other hand hanging limply at her side. The gun hung from her finger, swaying just to the point of slipping. It fell, hitting the floor with a clatter, and Margaret looked at the door, at Ginny.


“Margaret…” Ginny took a step inside, her throat closing on itself in fear as Margaret looked form her, to Gerald, to the TV.

CNN was on, the banner scrolling below, the anchor speaking about the Orbital, what it could mean.

“I don’t know why I did it,” Margaret said. “I just…”

Her voice trailed off then, her eyes fixated on the screen. Ginny turned too.

The thumping had ceased. A cameraphone pointed at the sky showed the giant sheet had emerged from the other side, slowly rotating into view. Ginny didn’t wait for the TV. She didn’t want to see it on TV. She wanted to see it for real.

Outside the sheet glowed like snow against the purple sky, the stars a backdrop to the image slowing working its way into view.

“What… what does it mean?” Margaret asked, her voice almost rising to a hysterical pitch. “What is it?”

Ginny knew. She’d known what it was for years. She took Margaret’s hand and whispered in her ear.






Irregular Creatures

Chuck Wendig asked for some submissions for his blog under the prompt of  “irregular creatures” and this is my entry at 900 and some odd  words.

Jon was nervous.

It wasn’t because he had been out of practice so long, or because he hadn’t spoken to a person face to face in five years. It was just plain old nervous energy. He checked the mirror, checked his clothes, checked his pants–

Shit.The pants didn’t match his shirt. Why didn’t he notice that before? He had paid good money for them too and now they looked almost pea green next to the emerald shirt. He removed them in disgust and tried on another pair.

Brown… he looked at the time. Brown would have to do. Rose would be here any minute.

He had been shy about using the dating service at first. It wasn’t until his best friend, Bobinator1982 had sworn by it, that he had even considered something so extreme.

“I am telling you,” said Bobinator1982, “She was fucking hot.”

“I don’t doubt it,” Jon had said, the cold glow of the screen reflecting off his glasses. “But did anything come from it?”

“Oh hell yes!”

Bobinator1982 went on for another fifteen minutes describing his date with Hillary, in detail, from dinner to her cup size, color of panties, the hair style (above and below the belt). It was more than Jon had really asked for, but Hillary sounded amazing and if Date-2-Go was really that good, if he could even do half as well as Bobinator1982, Jon would consider himself lucky.

“This isn’t an escort service,” Jon said. “Right?”

“No. No way man. It is totally legit. I had no idea that I could even meet someone so amazing.”

So Jon signed up, installed the plug-in, the addons, the mobile app. He had paid the $200 fee up front and waited, tapping nervous fingers on the desk while the software installed. He made a profile, made an avatar, made a link to his various online profiles, complete with stats, equipment, swords–Jon had a kickass rogue in Silhouette Nights, so it only made sense to lead with his best foot forward. Jon listed his preferences: gender, race, appearence, financial stability.

He had been slaying werebeasts in the Upper Golden Valley when she contacted him.

“You’re Jon?”

“I am.”

The conversation went from awkward, to nervous laughter, to some harmless, but promising flirts and winks.

“I’m not looking for normal,” she said. “I’ve dated normal. I don’t want that anymore. I want excitement. Someone who can show me things I haven’t seen before, an irregular creature who lives a life worth living, not some schmuck with a boring career and a standard house.”

“You would like my house,” said Jon.


“Yeah.” And then he described it.

“I’ll be over at ten,” she said and disconnected.

Step 1 was over and done with before he had even given it a second thought. Maybe Bobinator1982 was right. Maybe this service was totally worth the money. They already had so much in common.

As he looked around his house, he had a pretty good feeling Rose would be impressed. He had designed it himself and to very specific and whimsical specifications. Not everyone had an indoor pool, or a game room, or balconies overlooking the ocean.

That isn’t to say that it hadn’t cost him. But money was never a problem for Jon anymore. Slaying monsters in-game was just something to kill the time. He was honestly bored.

He strolled through his courtyard that separated the gaming room from his dining area. Maybe he should start the tour with the game room. She was a gamer–obviously!–so maybe the game room made sense, or was that just too redundant?

Five years since he had spoken to a woman face to face. Well, there was the bank clerk downtown. He saw her every day practically. You didn’t get to be a man with Jon’s wealth and status without talking to your banker regularly about investments, stocks, porfolios. It took time and patience, but most importantly, he hadn’t been helped by anyone. Jon was a self-made man.

But his patience was sure being put to the test tonight as he stared up at the full moon, fighting back his nerves. It had been a long, painfully long time.

He heard the hooves outside his front yard and nearly ran to the door, forcing himself to walk. Can’t be too anxious!

Rose knocked. He opened the door and held his breath. She was a knockout.

She stood six feet tall with hair so blonde it was almost white. It rippled down her shoulders, over her pauldrons (Etherial pauldrons! So hard to get!) Her eyes were large, blue as seas and wide-set under long lashes. Her tiny elfin nose rested above pouty red lips–like a rose, he thought.

“You’re a troll!” she laughed, but not cruelly. “I never thought I’d date a troll!”

“Well you said you wanted an irregular creature.” He flashed his tusky smile at her as a golden trinket dangled from one elongated tooth. “Want me to show you around?”

“Actually,” she said, twisting a finger by her dimpled cheek, “I need some help with the Goblet of Amarrians quest. If you think you’re up for it.”

“Honey,” he said slyly, “I was doing that quest when you were level 2.”

She laughed again, perfect white teeth shining as brightly as the claymore strapped to her back. Jon whistled and a silver dragon appeared with saddles for two. There would be time for pillow talk later during the nightly server maintenance. There would be time to meet in real life when the game got boring… if the game ever got boring.

For now, they were off on the best date of Jon’s life.

(c) Marlan Smith 2011