Authors You Should Check Out: Paul Bennett

You know how, with some folks, you just can’t seem to get their names right? Such is the case with Paul Bennett. I kept wanting to call him Steve. Or John. And then, once I got the first name right, I kept wanting to call him Paul Anderson. And EVEN THEN, I kept misspelling his last name. Benet? Bennet? Benett? Benette?

I’m sorry, Paul. I really am.

At any rate, Paul was one of the last writers to join our band of merry misfits. But his impact was huge. Check out Paul Bennett (or Benet. Or Bennet. Or whatever).

How was the experience of writing your stories for The Covid Quarantine Cantina?

It was a great experience writing for the COVID Quarantine Cantina. Several of my partners had a great idea for our group of writers to band together to provide some much-needed entertainment and distraction during a very trying time. Not only did it encourage us to dust off our writing skills and produce some quality stories, but it also allowed us to interact and build friendships with others living across the country. In addition, it was beneficial to our writing productivity by providing us with deadlines to meet. No one likes deadlines, but they do have a way of making sure the work gets done.

Of all the stories you wrote, which was your favorite?

I found writing a Halloween-themed story to be the most challenging, but that challenge also produced my favorite story. It turned out that after The Visitation was published on my blog, I was overwhelmed by the number of people who contacted me to tell me how much they could identify regarding the haunting they experience from their past sins, but also their thankfulness for God’s forgiveness.

How has the Covid Pandemic affected your life?

As a physician, COVID-19 has brought many challenges, but I have to be honest when I say that, during this time, God has given me a peace like never before. More than ever, I am convinced that I will not leave this world one second before He intended and that while I am here I am to go out into a fearful world to humbly, but courageously share His love.

What are you working on right now and in the near future? What can we look forward to?

Right now, my writing projects include writing the sequel to my novel, A Fall of Sparrows, as well as continuing to publish short stories on my blog. I will also soon release a previously unpublished novel of mine, Amalric, which is a historical fiction novel set  in Germania in the year 16 AD.  My plan is to release this novel, one chapter at a time, onto my blog. 

See more of Paul’s work, as well as each of the Fondue Writers, in our now-almost-a-year-in-publication book, The Covid Quarantine Cantina:

Authors You Should Check Out: Kathy Kexel

When Joe Courtemanche came up with the idea to write a story a week with just me, him, and Jamie Greening, we planned to write for two or three weeks and call it quits. That’s how long this pandemic thing was going to last, after all. Right?

Those were simpler times.

When it seemed like things might last longer, we decided to add a few friends. Kathy Kexel was the first of those friends. I remember telling her, at one point, she reminded me of my mom. So here is, from my perspective at least, the mother of the Fondue Writers Club (And Bar & Grille and Laundromat).

How was your experience writing your stories for the Covid Quarantine Cantina?

I was an interloper, in a sense. I saw Joseph Courtemanche’s plan for writing COVID related flash fiction. I asked if he was interested in a story from me and sent him a sample. He accepted. 

I expected to write just one piece and was a bit overwhelmed by the challenge of one story a week. I couldn’t begin to imagine multiple, very different stories on the same topic, but the challenge provided sufficient motivation. 

Of all the stories you wrote, which was your favorite?

That’s a hard one. I rather like Side Effects, but then I think it would be cool to be an elf maiden. 

What is your favorite story from each of the other authors?

Joseph Courtemanche: Lavinia Did It. (I was never a Downton Abbey fan until the last two seasons)


Rob Cely: In Memoriam. The simple reminder that gathering together with other believers is a necessity, no matter what the risk.


Derek Elkins: Them Ole Pandemic Apocalypse Blues. That story is just plain fun. Besides, the Weinermobile has its origins in Wisconsin. 


Jamie Greening: Academia. Having worked in academia at bot state and private universities, I can only testify to the truth of it.


Paul Bennett: Song in October. It’s hard to choose just one of Paul’s because they all are suffused with hope and light.


Joe Shaw: Special Deliveries. Proof that Shaw does have a heart. (Shaw sez: All lies and false propaganda!)

What are you working on now?
Janelle is about to meet motorcycle repairman who is also a lapsed preacher going by the moniker of Biker Rev. Then there’s that group of medical students on a medical mission trip in a fictional “Stan” country that get trapped when Islamic fundamentalists overrun the capital city and the only airport. Besides that, I have sporadic entries on my blog. And now that my sewing machine is out of the shop, I have a quilt for my grand-nephew to finish and a curriculum for children’s church to write.

Where can readers reach you if they want to read more of your stuff?

Woolgatherings on Facebook 

KathyKexel.WordPress.com

See more of Kathy’s work, as well as each of the Fondue Writers, in our now-almost-a-year-in-publication book, The Covid Quarantine Cantina:

Authors You Should Check Out: Derek Alan Elkins

We’re coming up on a year since we published our collection of Quarantine-Themed short fiction: The Covid Quarantine Cantina. And I thought it would be a good idea to take a moment with each of the authors from that book so we can see what they’ve been up to since last we spoke.

Today’s author hails from Kansas City, I believe, and has what looks like an MS Paint-themed icon for his Facebook Profile. It’s Derek Alan Elkins.

How was your experience writing your stories for the Covid Quarantine Cantina?

I’m not much of a self-motivator, so I enjoyed the forced motivation that the writing provided.  I love the act of creating new stories, but I get distracted easily with movies and video games.  Plus, I really enjoyed the camaraderie with the other authors. 

Of all the stories you wrote, which was your favorite?

I’m a big fan of fantasy in all its forms: horror, science fiction, sword and sorcery, etc.  I love stories that cram a ton of creativity into the story.  The story of mine which I think was most creative was “The Farmer, The Demon, and the Canyon of the Four Winds.” 

If you can…can you name your favorite story from each of the other authors?

Joseph Courtemanche – “God’s Rules”  Got to love a twisted and depraved mind.  Courtemanche leaves it all out on display in this story.

Jamie Greening – “Academia” It was tough picking one of Jamie’s stories, because I am fond of science fiction.  But this one comes with enough twists and turns to shove it into first place.

Joe Shaw – “The New Family on Beecher Street” I love a good analogy and this story is one big, beautiful analogy.

Kathy Kexel – “Secrets, part one through three”  Janelle…that’s all I need to say.

Rob Cely – “The Unessential” Rob’s got a big heart for the outcasts and this story puts his big heart on full display.

Paul Bennett – “An Acre of Peace, parts one and two” It’s a simple story with layers underneath.  Paul is awesome at those bean dip kind of stories.

How has the Covid Pandemic affected your life?

I’m an introvert, so I have seriously enjoyed working from home.  I could get used to this kind of life.

What are you working on right now and in the near future?

I’ve got the iron in a few fires these days.  Up front and close to the chest, I am working on a stage play about a girl that falls in love with a superhero, only to find out that the superhero was all in her mind.  The story revolves around reality and if our beliefs mirror reality or if they reveal something else.  I’m also working on several movie scripts, the most prominent is called “A Steamworx War”.  The movie is set in a steampunk world and concerns a Steampunk version of Charles Dickens investigating the kidnapping of scientists by a mastermind to start a war.  I’m also about 60 pages into a novel I’m writing called “Shadow Apprentice”, a follow up to “An Introduction to Shadow”.  The sequel is set in a world where people called Awakened fight monsters, called Fallen, hiding within the bodies of normal people.  I’m also starting a podcast this weekend called “Creative Diarrhea” with my son and a friend. Each week, we’ll be brainstorming something slightly weird like craft projects involving a dead hamster and how many weasels would it take to kill a T-Rex?  Should be mildly diverting. 

Where can readers reach you if they want to read more of your stuff?

I have a website, where I occasionally blog and stuff:  derekaelkins.com, also, I have books and short stories on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

See more of Derek’s work, as well as each of the Fondue Writers, in our now-almost-a-year-in-publication book, The Covid Quarantine Cantina:

The Crickets Sing

Hey folks. It’s Free Flash Fiction Wednesday yet again, and this week its: YOURS TRULY! If you fell out of the rotation when the Covid Chronicles stopped, we’re glad you’re back. We’ve slowed down a bit, with the still-somewhat-quarantined-and-still-just-as-crazy authors doing one story per week. If you missed the first three, please check out Joe Courtemanche’s story, Mulroney’s Mariachis, from July 8; Jamie Greening’s, Jack and Robin Go Swimming, from July 15; and Kathy Kexel’s , The Guardians, from July 23.

No money expected. It’s all free for you and always will be. If you are so inclined, please visit our various websites to see what merch we DO have for sale. Regardless, we hope you enjoy our stories, and we hope to see you back next week. Until then, here’s …

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The Crickets Sing

A baby blue, 1974 Ford pickup truck drives past the parking lot at James Teague High school in Greenwoods, Ohio, blocks around once, then parks in the lot facing the ball fields and the disused tennis courts.  The Mill Creek flows just beyond the fields. Seven thirty on a late spring evening. Sunset in Southwestern Ohio. The crickets sing to the oncoming night with a red sun swelling just above the horizon, casting an amber hue on the present and long shadows into the steadily accumulating past.  

And old man lights a cigarette, reaches his wrinkled hand behind the steering wheel, and turns the truck off. He sits back and sighs.

A young, thin man with dirty blond hair and a large bruise on his forehead slumps in the seat next to him.

“Come on, now,” the old man says. “Time to get up. There’s work to do.”

The truck’s passenger stirs, unsure of his surroundings. His eyes register the dashboard, the windshield, and the fading yellow-orange dot of the sun beyond, then turns to see the old man in the driver’s seat, pointing a gun at him.

His eyes flash open. He struggles, but the too-tightened seat belt holds him back. Several passes of thick rope bind his hands to his legs in tight knots. Hogtied is what some in the rural parts of Southerwestern Ohio might have called it, but the passenger isn’t concerned about the taxonomy of binding techniques at the moment. It’s hard to be when you have a gun in your face. Anyway, his Boy Scout days have long since passed.

“Mmmm Mrrrmmmph!” the passenger mumbles, his mouth filled with gauze and covered in duct tape.  He coughs as the cigarette smoke fills the truck’s cabin.

“Don’t worry, son,” the old man says in a slow methodical cadence. “I’ll take off that tape off so we can speak, but I need to know you won’t scream.”

“You see, when people scream, I get nervous. And when I get nervous, my friend here,” the old man motions with the gun. “He gets scared. And when my friend gets scared, bad things happen.”

The passenger sits back, stops protesting. He is the perfect picture of calm; all except his eyes.

“Good,” The old man says. He takes off the tape, and they stare at each other in silence, their faces burnt orange from the sunset.

“You already know why you’re here,” the old man says. “I just need to hear you say it.”

The passenger stammers, frightened. “Sir, I don’t know what you’re talking about. I … I … I think there’s been some kind of mistake.”

“This was no mistake. “

 “I don’t even know you who are! If you want money, I’ll give it to you. Whatever you want, it’s yours! Just LET. ME. GO!”

“Shh Shh Shh Shh.” The old man presses the gun against the passenger’s temple. The young man calms down again.

Through the trucks windshield, we can see kids playing in the park next to the baseball fields. Spring in Ohio is slow in coming but, once it gets here, it hits will full force. Everyone comes out to enjoy the warmth after a long winter. Especially the kids.

“She was fifteen,” the old man begins, “but I knew her since she was born. Her momma had a tough pregnancy: pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes. All that. We were scared she wouldn’t make it, but she did. My daughters are all strong women, why should my granddaughter be any different?”

“She took this world by storm. When she was little, she was a firebolt with big, red hair and a wide, beautiful smile. She smiled with her whole face. Eyes lit up like the sun comin over the hills to light up the valley. Magnificent!”

“She had a certain way of looking at you. Unafraid. So full of LIFE. Like she was just waitin’ for the next adventure to knock on her door, take her by the hand, and show her something new.”

The old man pauses, lowers his head. “She was too trusting. She got that from me.”

“She went missing in August.”

The young man started to squirm, testing for weak spots in the rope, hoping the old man does not notice. He is unsuccessful in both endeavors.

“Stop it, son. There’s no way out for you. I’m too good.”

The old man continues.

“They found her body in the Mill Creek, just over there beyond the football field. See that little break in the trees, just past where all the kids are playing? Look over there.”

The passenger does not look. He stares at the old man. The old man stares back.

“Police said someone caved her head in with one of the rocks from the creekbed. But, before that, they said she had been … violated. Many, many times.”

The old man lights another cigarette.

“They were unable to get DNA samples, and there was no evidence to go on. But, people tell stories. Rumors have a way of spreading, ‘specially in a little town like this. Those rumors led me to you. And now, here we are.”

“Mister,” the young man says, “you got the wrong man. I don’t know nothin’ about none of that. I haven’t touched any little girls. I got a wife and two kids of my own at home. I go to church. That ain’t me.”

“Hush now,” the old man says. “I been watching you for a while. Your wife left you two weeks ago. Took the kids, too. Probably a good thing the way you are. As for church? You ain’t been. Reverend Mordecai over at Westside Christian says he remembers you from high school, but he hasn’t seen you in years. He told me to let know you he’s praying for you. If I see you, that is.”

The old man takes a drag from his cigarette. “Looks like he didn’t pray enough.”

“So, what now?” the young man says. “Are you going to kill me?”

“No, son. This is your chance to confess.”

“Confess?”

“Sure. Confession is good for the soul! You and I already know it’s true. I just need to hear you say it. But I don’t have all day. So I’m going to count to five. If I get all the way to the end and I’m not satisfied with what you have to say, my friend here will take care of business for us.”

The young man struggles harder, but the ropes hold. “You’re crazy, man. I didn’t do nothin’.”

“I figured you’d say that, so I brought along some extra motivation. Look out there on the soccer field. See those kids playing?”

Two middle school girls soccer teams ran on the red sun drenched field, fighting tooth and nail to claim victor for their school. The Purple team scores a goal against the Red team. Half the crowd goes nuts.

“See number 12?” the old man said. “In the Red jersey?”

The young man squints.

“Look closer.”

The young man’s eyes grow wide and frantic. “That’s my daughter! What the hell? What did you do to my daughter?”

“Nothing, yet. But if I get to five, I’m going to shoot her first, to pay you back for taking my granddaughter. Then, it’s your turn.”

The old man levels the gun at the young man and waits patiently.

“You’re insane, you know that? I didn’t touch your granddaughter. I haven’t touched anyone. You can’t do this! I’m innocent! This is absolutely insane. I ain’t sayin’ nothin’. Nothin’.”

“Your choice … One.”

“What the…”

The young man starts screaming, pulling against his ropes so hard they draw blood from his wrists and left welts in his ankles and legs. “Help! This crazy old man wants to kill my daughter. He wants to kill me! Somebody Help!”

“They can’t hear you. No one can … Two.”

The young man bashes his head against the passenger side door and the window but nothing comes of it. The ropes are too tight. The window remains intact. The hog farmers of Ohio would be proud.

“I’m gonna kill you. You hear me? I’m gonna tear these ropes to shreds, then I’m gonna come over there and smash your head against the steering wheel till your skull caves in. I’m gonna laugh when I do it.”

“Interesting you put it like that,” the old man says. “My granddaughter died the same way. Did you laugh at her when you killed her? … Three.”

The young man hyperventilates, taking in deeps gasps of air in quick succession, but it isn’t enough.

“Aliright. Alright. Alright. I did it. You got me. Now, will you let her go?”

“Nice try, buttercup. I don’t want a fake aplogy. I want the real thing.” The old man looks at the kids playing on the field, smiles, and returns his gaze to the young man in the passenger seat.

“You’re running out of time fast,” The old man says, shifting to point his gun at the kids running on the field. Someone scores a goal. The crowd cheers.

“Four.”

The young man’s heaves turn into sobs. He wails.

The old man waits, patiently. He smiles at the young man in agony, then turns his attention to the soccer field, pointing the gun at the players.

“Five,” The old man says.

“Wait! Wait, please. I did it.”

“What was that?”

“I. DID. IT. Okay? I did it. I did it. I did it.” The young man composes himself. “I did it and I’m sorry. Is that good enough?”

“How? Did you choose her or was she random.”

“Random,” the young man says. “I drove past the school on the way home from work one day. I have this white van. No windows. A painting van. I keep shackles and a mattress in the back. I’ve been doing this a long time. I didn’t mean to kill her. I never killed none of them before. But this one was…”

“She was strong,” the old man says.

“She fought back. Jumped out of the van and ran. It was dark by then, and she didn’t know where she was going. She slipped down the embankment next to the creek, tripped over a rock, knocked herself out a little.”

“If she hadn’t slipped, she might have made it, right?”

“Right,” the young man says.

There is a tense quiet in the truck. The old man closes his eyes, picturing that scene, seeing his granddaughter jumping away and running to safety. The young man wonders what would have been – prison, perhaps; a life much different from what he planned. But a life, definitely, and the opportunity for something beyond.

Dreams of neverwhere. Wisps of forgotten memory carried away into the darkening spring air.

“But … I caught up to her. She screamed again, so I grabbed a rock and … and I finished her.” The young man lowers his head. “Is that enough?”

The game has ended. The players and their parents laugh, show each other pictures on their cell phones, tell stories. Then, get in their cars and slowly make their way out of the to the next thing. The sun slips over the horizon and night begins to unfurl across the Mill Creek, the back fields of James Teague High School, and the parking lot where a baby blue, 1974 Ford Pickup truck sits motionless.

“Thank you,” The young man says.

“You’re welcome,” the old man says.

A shot rings out into the night. Three seconds later, another shot. Darkness overtakes the creek, the field, the truck, and the school. The truck does not move.

Outside, the crickets begin to sing.

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Thanks for taking the time to read this story. Join us again next week for a new release from the Free Fiction Wednesday Club, where one of our award-winning authors will sneak into your brain and extract the things that move you, scare you, excite you, and make you feel love. While you wait, please chek out some of the other authors in our tribe. Joseph CourtemancheJamie GreeningKathy KexelDerek ElkinsRob Cely, and Dr. Paul J Bennett. Most of us have some sort of books and other things for sale. We’d appreciate your support if you’re willing.

The Guardians – by Kathy Kexel

It’s Free Fiction Wednesday again. This week, Kathy Kexel brings a story about love. But not necessarily how you might expect it.

Check out The Guardians.

Thanks for sticking with us, folks! Please also consider visiting some of the other Free Flash Fiction authors: Joseph CourtemancheJamie GreeningKathy KexelDerek ElkinsRob Cely, and Dr. Paul J Bennett. Most of us have some sort of books and other things for sale. We’d appreciate your support if you’re willing.