“Fiction in A Flash Challenge!” Week #2. Image Prompt: Join in, have fun, and let loose your creative muse.#FictionInAFlash @pursoot @IARTG #ASMSG #WritingCommunity.

Flash Fiction best header

Hello everyone and welcome to week #2 of my  “Fiction in A Flash Challenge!” Each week I’ll be featuring an image and inviting you to write a Flash Fiction piece inspired by that image in a genre of your choosing.  Maximum word count: 750 words.

Please put it (or a link to it) in a comment or email it to me at My email address. by 4pm on Thursday, June 4th. Subject: Fiction in a Flash Challenge. If you post it on your own blog or site, a link to this page would be much appreciated.

I’ll be sharing all entries received, and, my own contribution here on Thursday, June 11th.

I do hope you join in! Have fun, let the creative muse loose!

And now …The image for week #2.

Flash Fiction park bench in the fall


I hope the image inspires you and I hope to see you stop by.

Contact me at …

My author page on AMAZON.

On Twitter.

On Facebook

On Goodreads.

By Email.


“Fiction in A Flash Challenge” Entries for week #1.@gmplano @pursoot #IARTG #WritingCommunity.


Hello everyone and a warm welcome to the entries for : “Fiction in A Flash Challenge” Week #1.

Flash Fiction best header

Last week I set the following Challenge:

Hello everyone and welcome to my new “Fiction in A Flash Challenge!” Each week I’ll be featuring an image and inviting you to write a Flash Fiction piece inspired by that image in a genre of your choosing.  Maximum word count: 750 words.

Please put it (or a link to it) in a comment or email it to me at My email address. by 4pm on May 28th. Subject: Fiction in a Flash Challenge. If you post it on your own blog or site, a link to this page would be much appreciated.

I’ll be sharing all entries received, and, my own contribution here on May 29th.

AND Here’s the prompt image …For #Week 1.

Flash Fiction MEERKATS FOR 1st post

This entry comes from Gwen Plano.

“A Visit to The Zoo. By Gwen Plano.

George … George! Come out here.

Why would I want to do that! I’m trying to rest.

Ya gotta see this.

Whatever it is, I’m not interested.

Come on, George. There are strange creatures out here, and they are all staring at me.

Can we eat them?

No, they’re pretty big. They might eat us, though.

Good grief! And, you’re still out there?

I think they’re in a cage. I don’t think they can reach us.

Alright, alright. I’m coming. This better be good.

Look … over there. What do you see?

I don’t know for sure. They have eyes, and they have hands and feet.

Watch … watch. When I move, their heads turn to follow me. Did you notice that?

Yeah, weird for sure.

Hey, look what happens when I just stretch out and show them beautiful me.

Wow, that got a reaction!

Why don’t you try something?

Okay. Let’s see what they do if I stand on my hind feet.

Hey, I think they like you more than me.

Do you think they can talk? They’ve gotta have a mouth, don’t they?

I don’t know. I don’t even see a nose, so maybe they don’t breathe.

They gotta breathe, they gotta eat. Unless …

Unless what?

Maybe they’re some kind of alien. What do you think?

Aliens? Why would aliens be interested in us? What do we have that they need?

Well, for starts a mouth and a nose.

Come on, George. Seriously, what do we have that they don’t?

Beats me.

George, look at the little alien. He’s tugging on his face, but the big one stops him.

Woe … I think I know what they want from us.

You do? What is it, George?

They want to be free like you and me.


Take a look at Gwen’s blog.

Reflections on Life … Blog.

Author Page: Gwen Plano on Amazon

On Twitter.

Gwen Plano on Facebook.


And here is my take on the image.

“Chillax”. By Suzanne Burke.

Flash Fiction MEERKATS FOR 1st post

“Merkle? Merkle! Man, what are you doin’? Aren’t you meant to be on watch?”

“Whoa. Chillax, Max! I got this.”

“You’ve got this my ass. I mean look at yourself. All laid back like you don’t have a care in the world. Where has all that frenetic energy and perpetual state of angst disappeared to, my friend? Just so you know, bro, some of the elders have been asking.”

“Sit yourself down alongside me and take a load off those tiny feet.”

Max checked frantically around several times then hurried over and sat perched anxiously on a rock nearby. “Just for a moment.” He glanced at his friend. “You’ve changed since you came back from that 3-month retreat. It’s like you’re on a whole other continent, or something. Did something happen while you were there? You can tell me. I won’t say anything. My lips are sealed.”

Merkle chuckled and poked his friend in the arm, “Max you’re the gossip master of the entire waterhole! Even Harriet Hyena can’t keep up with you.” He spluttered and laughed again. “You’re in serious need of a relaxing intervention, buddy. I can help you with that.”

“Please explain intervention?

“It’s simple. You just need someone to sit you down and ask you what the hell you are doing with your life, and where do you think your life is headed?”

“Why would they ask that? Has someone said something? Who was it? Was it Margaret?”

“See now, that’s precisely what I’m talking about! Your paranoia is off the charts, my friend.” He hunched forward and rested his elbows on his knees. “I’m parched. You want to join me in a drink?”

“Of water?”

“Not exactly.” He held it out to his companion. “Try it. You’ll love it.”

Max took a nervous sip and then another, “This tastes weird, but I like it.” He gulped down the last mouthful.

“Give it a minute, you’ll like it even more. I guarantee it makes that acid-reflux and nervous dyspepsia disappear. ” Merkle smiled and waited.

“So, what’s it made of?”

“Mostly mushrooms, and a little cactus juice.”

Twenty-minutes passed in silence, broken by Max as he reached out his hand and grabbed at the air, “Those sunbeams are singing.”

“Uh-huh. So, what are they singing?”

“A song.”

“Cool.” Merkle nodded sagely. Then busied himself preparing the next phase of the intervention.

Max sat and happily hummed along to the sounds only he could hear.

Merkle finished his preparation, lit it and inhaled it deep into his lungs, held it in, then expelled it with a sigh of satisfaction.

He handed it to his friend.

“I don’t smoke tobacco.”

“It’s not tobacco.”

“And it’s 100% organic too?”

“Doesn’t matter, man. We’re omnivorous.”

“Oh, yeah.”

Hours passed with the two friends interspersing the silence with deep and meaningful gasps of insight and wisdom.

They roared laughing at anything and everything.

The riotous colors of sunset made them cry at its perfection.


Max lay back in the darkness gazing up at the sparkling ceiling above them. “This intervention stuff is amazing. You learned all about this at the retreat?”


“So, I’ve been to both of them over the years, but, man, we never learned anything like this! Which one was it, Botswana, or southern Namibia?”

“Nope. They put me up on the wrong flight. We flew over the biggest waterhole I’ve ever seen. And the place was filled to the rafters with humans. I really got to like a few of them.”

“Could you get there again, I mean maybe I could take a look at it, just out of curiosity.”

“I’m not sure exactly how we would get there.”

“But you do know the name of the place, don’t you?”

“Yeah … it’s a place called Amsterdam.”

“So, how did you get back here?”

“I boarded some plane they call Astral! And zap! Here I am. What do you think about that?” … Max?”

He listened carefully to the sounds of the night, then smiled in the darkness as he heard Max hurrying back to the den with a cry of alarm. “Everyone wake up! You’ll never believe what Merkle just told me!”

Merkle rolled another joint and laughed delightedly. “Man they’re gonna think I’m having a breakdown. Then I’ll get sent on another 3 month retreat. This day couldn’t have gone any better. Bless your predictability, Max.”


Thanks so much for stopping by. I look forward to your comments.

The next “Fiction in A Flash” image prompt will be posted on Friday, May 29th. I hope you’ll join in the fun.

Contact me at …

My author page on AMAZON.

On Twitter.

On Facebook

On Goodreads.







Book Review: “In Search of McDoogal” by Mae Clair @maeclair1 @storyempire #IARTG #WritingCommunity

Hello and welcome to my book review of “In Search of McDoogal” By Mae Clair.

book cover in search of mcdoogal

Meet Mae Clair.

bio pic mae clair

A member of the Mystery Writers of America and International Thriller Writers, Mae Clair is also a founding member and contributor to the award-winning writing blog, Story Empire. She has achieved bestseller status on both Amazon and Barnes & Noble, with several of her novels chosen as book club selections.

Mae writes primarily in the mystery/suspense genre, flavoring her plots with elements of urban legend and folklore. Married to her high school sweetheart, she lives in Pennsylvania and is passionate about cryptozoology, old photographs, a good Maine lobster tail, and cats.

Discover more about Mae on her website and blog at MaeClair.com


book cover in search of mcdoogal


In search of something ugly…

All Brady Conrad wants to do is earn a few merit points with his artist girlfriend, so he volunteers to cover her gallery when she leaves town. What should be an easy day of sales goes belly up when he mistakenly sells a cherished painting.

With the clock ticking toward Vanessa’s return, Brady has less than a day to track McDoogal down. He coerces his friend Declan to tag along for moral support. How difficult can it be for an investigator and the director of a renowned institute to find a single painting in a town the size of a postage stamp?

Neither Brady nor Declan counted on a suspicious sheriff, rival baseball teams with a longstanding grudge, or a clueless kid trying to win his girlfriend with all the wrong gifts.

McDoogal is smack in the middle. But Brady’s biggest dilemma isn’t the disastrous hunt. It’s confessing to Vanessa her painting is the ugliest thing he’s ever seen.

My Review: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐A wonderful addition to this talented author’s repertoire.

I’ve been a fan of author Mae Clair since I first read the Hodes Hill series.

This genre is new to her and she has nailed it. Comedic writing is difficult at best, and this author has the talent to make it look easy. Her comedic timing is perfect.

The wonderful characterizations of the focused duo of Brady and Declan make them clearly visible. Their snappy banter and camaraderie born of comfort in each other’s presence make them both intensely likable.

I enjoyed the fast pacing as Brady and Declan set out to retrieve a painting and avoid the consequences of Brady needing to fess up to his new girlfriend that he messed up badly when left in charge of her gallery, The journey these two close friends set out on had me laughing out loud. A case of anything that can go wrong … did.

Mae Clair had gifted us with a marvelous cast of characters, and a read that left me smiling long after I finished reading.

Top-notch all the way.  A wonderful addition to this talented author’s repertoire.



Contact Mae Clair:


Amazon Author Page:

Mystery, Suspense & Urban Legends | BookBub | Newsletter Sign-Up

Website & Blog | Goodreads

Thanks so much for joining me today! I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

NEW: “Fiction in A Flash Challenge!” Join in, have fun, and let loose your creative muse.#FictionInAFlash @pursoot @IARTG #ASMSG #WritingCommunity.

Flash Fiction best header

Hello everyone and welcome to my new “Fiction in A Flash Challenge!” Each week I’ll be featuring an image and inviting you to write a Flash Fiction piece inspired by that image in a genre of your choosing.  Maximum word count: 750 words.

Please put it (or a link to it) in a comment or email it to me at My email address. by 4pm on May 28th. Subject: Fiction in a Flash Challenge. If you post it on your own blog or site, a link to this page would be much appreciated.

I’ll be sharing all entries received, and, my own contribution here on May 29th.

I do hope you join in! Have fun, let the creative muse loose!

And now …The photo.

Flash Fiction MEERKATS FOR 1st post

I look forward to seeing you!

Now have fun!






Short Story” “Just Before Dawn.” #RRBC #IARTG #WRITINGCOMMUNITY

Just Before Dawn

Short Story: “Just Before Dawn”. May 5th, 2020.

Tracey awakened screaming. She gulped in lung-fulls of air forcing herself to focus on her breathing; struggling to remain calm knowing the consequences if she lost control altogether.

The chill in the air caused her to shiver on this mid-fall morning. A glance at the digital clock confirmed it was 4:00 a.m. Tracey reached for her iPhone and checked the temperature, 35 degrees was tolerable. She flicked on the fireside and set it on low, and moved into the kitchen, pleased to discover she’d prepared the coffee last night. She poured a large mugful, heaped in the sugar, and grabbed her Marlboro.

The sitting room offered comfort and she flicked on the table lamp and settled herself down with the nicotine and sugar hitting her system and bringing with it the pleasure of treasured memories. The days before the uprising had been filled with warmth and laughter. Her husband Kyle was a quiet man prone to overthinking, but he had a wicked sense of the ridiculous, he made her feel safer than any other person ever had, dead, or alive.

Memories of that last morning together forced themselves into her reality. They’d been seated right here on the sofa, with a mug of steaming coffee each and their ever-present cigarettes. Kyle placed his arm around her shoulders, “You snored last night.” He’d said with a smile.

Tracey grinned up into his face, “I snored? I could have done far worse after that spicy Thai curry you made for dinner!” the thought caused her to giggle and Kyle had laughed with pleasure. “You’re wicked. You know that, right?”

“I’ve had the best teacher sex can buy.”

The warm banter had continued for a few minutes before Kyle had grown still and Tracey watched the process evolve and waited on his thoughts.

“Troubles coming, honey, and it’s coming soon.”

“I know. Folks are angry. That’s not a recipe for calm.”

“They’re angry with good cause. The police have been too heavy-handed dealing with the long ques for food. That guy died last week, and they’d said it was accidental even though the video showed clearly that it was no such thing. The use of excessive force was abundantly apparent. People are hungry and they’re watching their children cry with the need for more food. The lack of freedom has finally broken them.” He grew silent again and then half-whispered, “It’s happening everywhere right across the country. You need to be prepared. I want you to promise me that you remember everything we discussed in preparation for this time coming. Tell me you have?”

“I remember. The bug-out kit is fully prepared, and I have another ready as well in a different location.”

Kyle expelled a sigh of relief, “Good, that’s good, honey. So, what do you have me doing this morning?” he gave her his smile.

“We need groceries. I’m sorry, I know the lines are long but the coffee’s low, we’re out of toilet paper and milk, and a few other essentials and I want the makings of an omelet for dinner if you can get them.”

“I’ll head off soon as they open, make me a list … you know I’ll forget something if you don’t.”

Tracey had nodded in agreement. “I’m impressed when you make it to the supermarket at all. Last time you came home with a tank full of gas and the morning paper instead of the groceries you’d gone out to buy.”

Kyle’s face burned and he shrugged, “Perfect is boring. You hate to be bored.”

Tracey laughed with pleasure, “You know me so well.”


6:00 a.m.

Tracey watched from the deck as her husband carefully backed the SUV down the steep driveway. She gave him a wave of farewell and stood watching until the car disappeared from view. It had begun to sleet, and visibility rapidly became obsolete. Another cup of coffee beckoned and then she’d focus on dressing and preparing for her day.

She showered and pulled on a warm black tracksuit and runners then headed into her home office and logged on to her laptop. Her diary confirmed she had five clients to call this morning. The pro-bono case was causing the most concern, her client stood to serve a life sentence for murder.  He had insisted on pleading not guilty despite the pile of evidence stacked against him. She lit another smoke and began re-reading and cross-checking every incident.


10:00 a.m.

Tracey checked the clock for the hundredth time since 8:00. She grew concerned that Kyle had been distracted again and lost all track of time as he was prone to do.

She began calling his phone when 9.00 o’clock rolled around and her calls all went instantly to his messages.

When 1:00 p.m. came she was becoming frantic with worry. What if there’d been an accident? He could be hurt and undiscovered even laying in a ditch somewhere. After all, the road would have been slippery with the sleet that had begun just as he left the house. Her thoughts spiraled and she watched the clock and waited. At 5:00 p.m. she rang 911 … the number constantly rang out. “Fuck! What the hell is happening?”

She hurried across to the television and flicked on the news channel, the pandemonium she witnessed caused her to run for the bathroom as she threw up.

She fixed herself a stiff bourbon and sat again fixated on the scene unfolding in front of her.

What seemed to be hundreds of screaming people were gathered on the downtown streets and the Police cordons weren’t holding. Sporadic gunfire rang out and the screaming intensified. The news anchor struggled to make himself heard. “News update this hour, if you’ve just joined us here’s an update … At approximately 6:00 A.M this morning large groups of people began forming in long lines outside police headquarters, they were somber and silent in the beginning.”

Tracey concurred … the film showed exactly that. There was an urgency about these folks, but so far, no overt aggression.

She longed for a glimpse of her husband and prayed she wouldn’t see him at the same time. Kyle was caught up in this to be sure, but she hoped that he was still in the car and sitting watching carefully in the backup of traffic that must have ensued.

She ran to the wall panel and made her decision. Thanking God that Kyle had seen ft to take preventative measures of security. They were a good thirty-minutes-drive from downtown and this property was in an isolated pocket not seen from the road. That was a bonus. Tracey pushed the controls, initiating the movement detectors that would shoot out flares and a loud alarm if the boundaries of the properties were breached, by car or on foot.

She’d activate the surveillance drone soon.

She stumbled briefly as she ran into the bedroom and retrieved the bug-out backpack from the closet. Dressing hurriedly in clothes suited to the outdoors, she then placed the loaded shotgun on the coffee table where she’d be sitting. The monitor was now sitting alongside her laptop. Tracey checked the contents of the bug-out kit and nodded with contentment. She had everything she’d need for a week at the outside. She hoped her abysmal hunting skills would never be needed. Now all she could do was wait.


11.00 p.m.

The late evening news bought with it tales of loss on a huge scale and flashes of heroism. The police had been overrun and as every city was currently experiencing this coordinated nationwide attack there would be no backup coming, at least until the government stepped in and sent out the National Guard and declared a curfew, she was surprised that that hadn’t happened yet. Grateful in many ways for the delay, as many more lives would be lost under martial law.

Kyle’s words echoed into her consciousness. “The President has lost control, hon. It’s too late to implement the measures to prevent what’s surely coming. People no longer trust the politicians. That will cause a revolt. It’s simply a matter of time.”


Three months later:

Tracey stood watch in the late spring air. She was grateful for the people she’d taken in. Grateful too that she hadn’t shot them as they approached with their hands raised in surrender. Two women and three children aged from just four to fifteen now lived with her. Their company and assistance had kept her sane. She could smell the venison cooking and her stomach rumbled in anticipation, it had been a while since they’d eaten red meat and they all craved it. She bagged enough bush-turkeys to alleviate their hunger, but this meal would be special. Kyle would be proud of how her hunting skills had improved.

She moved the binoculars and ran her eyes across the ridgeline, a flicker of movement caused her to stiffen. There was someone out there, too close for comfort. Tracey ran inside and alerted the others to prepare before she exited the building and set out on foot, dodging in and out of the shelter of the trees and grateful, they’d now grown their spring camouflage.

There it was again, moving slowly down an unseen path and stopping frequently. She homed in the sights and captured the intruder in them. A man by the height of him with a hoodie pulled down over his head. He carried a weapon. Tracey ensured her shotgun was ready.

The male moved closer and Tracey raised the gun, “Stop right there and go back where you came from. I have my shotgun pointed at you and I won’t miss. Place your weapon on the ground now!”

The main did as he was ordered and raised his hands in supplication.

Tracey moved closer. “Okay. Now go.”

“I guess you’re angry about me being late, honey.”

Tracey screamed in joyous recognition of Kyle’s beloved voice, and she ran towards him and was swept up in his arms and held there safe at last.

“So, you got distracted again, huh?”

“Something like that.” He laughed softly.

“Coffee’s hot.”

“I love you.”

She placed her fingertips against his mouth. “I’ll let you show me how much later. But baby you really need to take a shower first.”

“I guess it’s worse than snoring in bed, huh?”

“You got that right.”

Their laughter lifted and echoed around them as they walked back to their home to face an uncertain future. Yet both content in their understanding that whatever may come they’d stand and face it together.

Knowing in advance that the darkest hour was just before dawn.