Aug 14 2017

Ellie’s Head: A micro-novel

Ellie’s Head was originally written back in 2009 as part of a contest to write a ‘Facebook Fictionette’ back in the days when posts on Facebook were limited to 420 characters and spaces. The contest rules were that each participant had to write a piece of a story that would fit within that limit each day for 14 consecutive days, and that by the end of the 14 days, it had to be a complete short story.

I decided to up the ante on myself as a challenge. I forced myself to write each day’s piece as a standalone chapter, a complete moment in a scene with all the elements of a scene (dialogue, characterization, action, rising tension, etc.). As a bit of a precision writing and editing practice, I determined each chapter would not just fit within the 420 character/space limitation — each would be exactly 420 characters/spaces.

And so that how I wrote Ellie’s Head in 14 days, one micro-chapter at a time. It was a fun exercise and a fun contest among writer friends on Facebook, and I stumbled across it the other day and gave it another read for the first time in years, and I still like it. So I decided I’d just share it here and hope enjoy!

ELLIE’S HEAD
by
ROBB GRINDSTAFF

CHAPTER 1

Ya see, we was just hanging out under the bridge, looking for someplace warm. Not causing any trouble. Not looking for any. Last thing we needed was trouble. Ellie had passed out in her tent with some guy. No one any of us knew. He gave me the creeps, but when Ellie’s got her mind set on a bit of lovin’, ain’t no talking her out of it. Didn’t occur to me she might not wake up. He was long gone. Never got a good look.

CHAPTER 2

Cops was all over the place, asking us questions we didn’t know no answers to.
“Didn’t you hear nothing suspicious? Didn’t she scream?”
“She always screamed,” Jake said. “Ellie was a screamer.”
A young officer over by her tent puked.
“Ain’t you never seen a headless torso before, rookie?”
“It’s not that, Captain,” the rookie replied, wiping his chin. “It’s the smell.”
Seems when a head is cut loose, the bowels do too.

CHAPTER 3

“Can we tell Ellie goodbye?” Jake asked the captain as the coroner’s team loaded a black body bag into the van.
“Sure.” The cop spit on the ground and waited a beat. “Did you want to speak to her body or her head?”
“Her head,” I replied. “We should tell her we’re sorry to her face.”
“Okay. As soon as we find it, we’ll be sure and let you know. Apparently her lover wanted a souvenir.”
“Or maybe a little head,” Jake said.

CHAPTER 4

“The cops ain’t a-lookin’ for no homeless hooker’s head,” Jake said the next day. “Why don’t we look for it?”
“Where you gonna look? And if’n you find it, they gonna think you the one that hid it to start with.” The last thing we needed now was to find Ellie’s head. We was better off if it stayed hid. Or if the fool that took it got caught, or tried to sell it on eBay or somethin’. It’d be worth more’n Jake’s, anyway.

CHAPTER 5

Jake would walk up and down the riverbank, checkin’ dumps ever’where, determined to find Ellie’s head. He wouldn’t talk to me, just come back every evenin’ all glum.
Third day, however, he comes runnin’ outta breath.
“I seen it. I seen it.”
I refused to go with him. He comes back half hour later looking glum again.
“So it wasn’t a head?”
“It was a head all right.”
“Well, where is it?”
“Weren’t Ellie, so I thro’d it back.”

CHAPTER 6

“What’d you do that for?”
Jake never did have no sense. He kicked the dirt with his worn out Converses, duct tape holding the soles to the uppers.
“But you said if’n I found Ellie, them cops would think I’d done it. If I found a different head, they’d really suspect me, don’t you think?”
I guess he had a point, and he didn’t have those very often.
“Jake,” I said, “seems we got us a serial decapitator living amongst us.”

CHAPTER 7

I tried to think of some plan to catch the killer, or at least make sure Jake and I weren’t nicked for it. But it’s hard to think when you’re deep into the Mad Dog and Jake is hummin’ old show tunes, a particularly irritating habit.
“If the cops find that head, could they get my fingerprints off it?”
“You tossed it in the river?”
“Yeah, but it’ll wash ashore again.”
“S’okay. Fish probably nibbled your prints off by now.”

CHAPTER 8

“Jake Camden, you in there?” The captain’s voice busted into my tent and split my head in half.
“Wrong house. Cardboard box, over there.” Crunching boots faded across the gravel while Jake waited in his boxers and black socks.
“Don’t talk without no lawyer,” I yelled.
“Mind your own bid’ness. He’s not under arrest. We just wanna talk.”
Jake pulled on clothes and sat in the back of the cruiser lookin’ guilty of something.

CHAPTER 9

I fretted over Jake most of the day. Boy was so simple, he’d admit to murder if they promised him ice cream. He’d confess to being homosexual if they threatened to take it away. He’d go down for Ellie’s head even if he han’t nothin’ to do with it. Boy was too meek to kill a spider. Always take a stick to brush it away so’s not to hurt it.
Then, there he was in front of me, grinnin’ like they let him eat the ice cream.

CHAPTER 10

“Well, what did they say?” The tape had come off one of his shoes, so it flapped like a cartoon dog mouth and scooped up gravel when he kicked the ground.
“They ask a lot a stuff that make no sense.” Weren’t much that would make sense to Jake.
“Like what?”
“If Ellie had anyone who would want her dead. And they asked about you two, if you had a thang.”
“What did you say?”
He grinned. “I had to remind ‘em you’s both girls.”

CHAPTER 11

A week passed with no more heads lost or found. Cops didn’t come round no more. They’d moved on to more important crimes and Ellie was long forgot. Not many in the world ever knew she existed, so can’t rightly say they’d forgot. Jake stapled his shoes back together as we sat on the riverbank, said he’s movin’ to the shelter when it gets below freezin’.
“I suspect that’ll be by tonight, so you better git.”
“You cryin’?”

CHAPTER 12

Two months had passed, the air gone bitter, when the rookie cop stopped by.
“You the one who goes by Mike?” he asked.
“Why you hasslin’ me? I’m two weeks clean so I can see my kid at Christmas.”
“I got news. Ellie’s head and body have been reunited.”
“Won’t help to sew it back on.”
“No, just in the same freezer drawer. Captain said you might want to say your goodbyes before they close the case and dispose of the remains.”

CHAPTER 13

The clean smell of death in the morgue made my legs rubber.
“This is her drawer,” Rookie said, “but you don’t want to look. She’d want you to remember her the way she was.”
She was a heroin-addicted whore living under a bridge. Not sure that’s how she wanted to be remembered, either. I rested my hand on the vault and left it closed.
“I’m sorry you’re dead, Ellie. Hope you’re someplace safe and warm. Well, not too warm.”

CHAPTER 14

“We’re still trying to find her kin. She has the initials ‘M.A.’ tattooed on her buttocks. Any idea who that is?”
“No, ‘fraid I don’t, Officer, uh …”
“Dill.”
Officer Dill led me out of the morgue and into the gray metal cold outside, where death didn’t smell so clean.
“Mike, if you need anything, anything at all, let me know. And call me Tommie.” He held out his hand. He had a firm but soft grip.
“Mikayla. Mikayla Adams.”

END

“Ellie’s Head” was published in the short story anthology Summer’s Edge by Elephant’s Bookshelf Press in 2013.


Jun 5 2012

Desert short story trilogy released

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The Sonoran Desert in the American Southwest is a place of extremes and contrasts, of beauty and death, of independent spirits and lost souls, of fresh starts and exiles.

SONORAN DREAMS: Three Short Stories from Exile, published June 2012 by fiction writer Robb Grindstaff of Phoenix, Arizona, is a collection of stories in three different genres, all set in the Arizona desert, each featuring characters in exile of one form or another.

Available now in all e-book formats, currently on Amazon for Kindle SmashwordsBarnes & Noble for the Nook, Kobo, and soon on Apple iBooks.

 The trilogy features the award-winning horror story, Desert Rain, selected by readers and editors of Horror Bound magazine for its ‘Best of 2008-2012′ collection.

 

SYNOPSES
Cordelia lives alone in a shack miles from civilization, somewhere no one can find her except for a very determined suitor. Raymond shows up every twelve years to consummate his marriage to the bride he’d claimed at her birth. Every twelve years, Cordelia fends off his unwanted advances—by killing him. The smell of death precedes his arrival each time, unless the sweet scent of a freshly fallen DESERT RAIN masks his approach.

Denny has lost everything in the recession. His business. His Scottsdale home on the side of a mountain with swimming pool and four-car garage. His ambition. His wife. With nothing left to lose but his sanity, his life, or maybe his injured foot, he heads out on a hundred-mile DESERT WALK in search of Hope.

When the sun goes down and the scorching heat cools to an uncomfortable swelter, bored teenagers gather to spend the DESERT NIGHTS out by the power lines, drinking beer, hooking up, arguing over the best rock bands of all time. Maybe shoot at some rattlesnakes and jackrabbits. Nothing could possibly go wrong here.

WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING
“Robb Grindstaff is a master storyteller!” —Maria Grazia, editor, Horror Bound Magazine

“I don’t think there is any genre Robb Grindstaff can’t conquer. Some writers excel at characterization, others at plot, and still others are best known for their unique prose style. Robb is a triple threat, and any book with his name on it is bound to be a great read. —S.P. Miskowski, author of Knock Knock

Robb Grindstaff has a wicked sense of humor, a keen eye on the human psyche, and impeccable timing. His prose crackles and doesn’t waste a syllable. These stories turn the desert Southwest of Cormac McCarthy into a carnival funhouse.” —Pete Morin, author, Diary of a Small Fish

“Robb’s talent for creating real-life characters and bringing us into their lives is extraordinary, but what marks him apart from so many others writing today is how American his voice is—Robb’s writing amuses, charms and yet, when you least expect it, can still challenge and shock.” —Alexander McNabb, author, Olives: A Violent Romance

“Robb Grindstaff’s seamlessly written stories are full of strong characters, rendered with wit and subtlety. Stories unfold gently, judgments are never made, and the reader is left with a story that resonates long after the book is closed. His writing reminds me of John Irving (The World According to Garp; A Prayer for Owen Meany). ” —Phillipa Fioretti, author, The Book of Love

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
After a career in newspaper journalism and management took him from Arizona to North Carolina, Texas to Washington, D.C., plus five years in Asia and around the world, Grindstaff returned to the desert, where he now writes and edits fiction full-time.

He has two completed novels in preparation for publication while writing his third and fourth. His short stories have appeared in various anthologies, print magazines and e-zines. His articles on the craft of writing fiction have published in magazines and websites in the U.S., Europe, and Australia.

His editing clients include traditionally published, agented, and high quality indie authors from the U.S., Europe, Australia, and the Middle East.

For more information, to request a review copy or an interview, or to inquire about book editing services, email robb@robbgrindstaff.com.


Oct 17 2011

Recycled stories

I have an early reader that was published in 2003 and is still in print. I didn’t sell all rights to it. Can I now resubmit it as a short story to a magazine? - Elizabeth, Michigan

Thanks for the question. The answer is: it depends.
It depends on the new publication’s acceptance policy and what rights the previous publisher retains. Every publication is different.
Some want ‘First Rights,’ which means they only accept stories that have not previously been published.
Others get more specific than that. They may only want stories that have never appeared anywhere, in print or online, even if it was only on your website or Facebook page. Some don’t care if the story has appeared online only, but don’t want it to have appeared in print previously. I’ve seen some magazines specify that the story can’t have appeared in a print publication with more than x,000 circulation or distribution.
Other publications don’t care if it has previously appeared in print. The key here is to make sure the rights to the story have reverted back to you, the author.
If you previously sold/authorized rights to another publication, you’ll need to check to see what rights you sold, if there is a set amount of time that they retain those rights, and if those rights have reverted to you or not. Usually that’s not a long period of time if it was published originally in a magazine. However, you mention that the story is in an ‘early reader’ publication or book that is still in print. That might mean the original publisher still retains some rights to it for a set period of time. You’ll need to check with them or check your original contract when you sold the story.
Some publications will want a credit if you republish the story elsewhere (‘This story first appeared in ‘Title of Publication’ by Such-And-Such Publishers in 2003′). Others don’t care.
So you’ll need to check with the publication to which you want to submit to find out their policies for acceptance and what rights they require, and if they accept previously published works. Then you’ll need to check with whoever first published your story to make sure the rights have reverted to you. If your story is in a book that is still in print, that might make it more difficult. Be upfront with the new publication that the story was previously published, when, and by whom.
A previously published story can reduce your options, but you should still be able to find a publication that accepts previously published stories as long as you retain the rights to that story.

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Or, you could dust off your computer and write a new story. You’re a better writer today than you were eight years ago.
At the very least, go through your previously published story to see how you could improve it.

Mar 2 2011

Desert Rain published by Horror Bound magazine

My latest short story – and my first attempt at a horror story – has been published by Horror Bound magazine. Read Desert Rain here.

Have a read and let me know what you think.


Feb 21 2011

Dancing in the Dark – Interview

A short story of mine has appeared in the anthology Dancing in the Dark, a collection of erotica short stories. I don’t consider myself an erotica writer. My story (Stella & Bailey) is more of a humorous look at a potentially erotic situation than actual erotica, but I’m quite honored that editor Nya Rawlins saw fit to include it in this anthology.

Interviews with the authors are here.

Click here to read an excerpt from Stella & Bailey.

Oh, and you can purchase your very own copy of Dancing in the Dark here.