Listen to Periphery, Narrated!

Post-place-holderI am a big fan of the Twilight Zone television series. I’m not sure when I first watched the show, but I have an early memory of reading a book with several short stories based on episodes of the show. I watched them off and on for years, and when I got a DVR I filled it up with episodes. I even used certain episodes in my social studies lessons when I taught fifth grade. I just love the show!

I’ve been a longtime listener to The Twilight Zone podcast, hosted by Tom Eliot. Last summer, Tom announced a contest, where a listener-submitted story would be narrated for the 100th episode. The contest is what inspired me to write “Periphery”. It was my attempt at writing a Twilight Zone episode of my own.

I’m happy to announce that “Periphery” is one of two stories that was selected for narration! Tom does an amazing job of narration, and hearing his wonderful voice tell my story was a fantastic experience. You can check out this episode at the link  below, and I’d encourage you to check out the rest of the episodes if you are a fan of the show.

Episode 100: Listener Stories


New Short Story Available on Kindle!

peripheryI know, I know… where’s the NaNoWriMo book, Marc? Well, I was making really great progress with the second revisions. Then I reached a spot where I had sort of written myself into a corner. It was a boring part to write, and I am certain it would have been boring to read, too. So, I decided to make a significant change to the middle third of the story. That meant a major rewrite of about 8,000 words or so. I was kinda bummed by this and it got very, very easy to put it off.

However, I just finished reading Stephen King’s “On Writing”, and one suggestion he has for getting stuck is to stop and work on something totally different. The Thing from the Drive-in is a funny, fast paced sci-fi adventure. What sort of writing would be  a good palette cleanser?

How about a tense, eerie story about a man who keeps seeing bugs in his peripheral vision?

“Periphery” was an absolute joy to write. I had to flex a totally different set of muscles, for sure. It’s just under 5,000 words, and is available for 99 cents on Amazon for Kindle and most reading devices. Check it out and let me know what you think!

NaNoWriMO 2016 – Final Update

book-textbookNovember has come and gone, and thus NaNoWriMo 2016 has also come to an end. I started the month with the beginning of what I thought would be a short story. I set a goal to make it a novella by the end of the month. It’s not quite there yet, but after connecting the dots here and there, and taking the ending beyond the bare bones, I do indeed have something publishable on my hands.

This year, I kept track of my output in a Google Sheet. I wrote 21 out of the 30 days in November. I began with 4,640 words, and ended with 26,078 just before midnight on December 1. That is 4,000 words short of my original goal, but I don’t mind that at all. You can see my progress in the nifty chart below. I love data!

So what next? I did write just a bit on December 1, just to get a bit closer to the end. Now, I’m in the middle of taking a few weeks off. I plan to come back to it over the holiday break, finish it up, and get the edits and such going in order to publish as an ebook by February. I have a con appearance coming up in March, and I would like to get physical copies ready for that if possible.

Here’s a final excerpt from the story, which I’ve decided to call “The Thing from the Drive In”. Enjoy!

Then, a deep bass rumble filled the air, and a spiraling burst of light shot out of the marble, heading over my shoulder. I turned as the dazzling lights zipped in an arc across all the rows of parked cars. On the movie screen, the scene changed, showing a closeup of the Thing that Time Forgot. The Thing opened its gigantic maw, filled with huge, razor sharp teeth. The horn on its snout glowed with radioactive green flame. It began to roar just as the blast of light from the marble hit the screen. Thousands of rainbow colored sparks exploded from the surface of the screen, raining down over the first few rows of cars. The Thing let forth a scream of primal fury, but this time, the sound wasn’t coming from the tinny speakers next to the cars. This time, the roar was coming from the screen itself.



NaNoWriMo 2016 – First Update

writing-1209121_960_720I wrote most of the words in my two books during NaNoWriMo, the first in 2013-2014, the second last year. This year, I am continuing the tradition. This time around, I’m actually writing fiction for NaNoWriMo, which his more appropriate since it is supposed to be about writing a novel, after all. I’m finishing up a fun tale I started in April. On Halloween, it sat at 4,640 words, and now, before I begin writing today, the 12th, I’m at 9,425 total words. My goal is to hit 30,000 words by the end of the month. That is short of a novel, in the novella range, I guess, but if the story fits in that space, it fits.

Here’s an excerpt from the new story.

My bed never looked more inviting. I took off my jeans and threw them on the floor, then walked over to the small black and white TV set I got for my birthday and turned the knob. A rerun of one of my favorite episodes of Stellar Warlords was on. It was the perfect thing to fall asleep watching. I didn’t even bother changing into my PJs before turning back the covers and propping myself up on my pillow.

Captain Schattmore of the Spacestar Thunderhawk was stuck on a desert planet with his arch enemy, the Martian Emperor Lar’sonis. Schattmore was one of the coolest heroes in all of science fiction. He was smart as well as strong, and had a predilection for alien women in skimpy outfits. (I wouldn’t mind if my future wife had purple skin and antennae if she was as pretty as Lunetta Ludbaalaup from Galaktika-III.) The head Martian bad guy, Lar’sonis, was a perfect foil to Captain Schattmore. Lar’sonis had four arms ending in claws, a slitlike nose, and enormous glowing red orbs for eyeballs. He wore a suit of high tech armor with all sorts of futuristic gadgets on it.

In this episode, though, aliens had sent these two mortal enemies to a strange planet where they had to fight one another without the benefit of any of their technology. No phason pistols, no communicatrix, no force field armor, nothing. Of course, the planet was full of all sorts of dangerous stuff, like rock slides, a mutant lizard, and atomic solar flares. The Captain and the Martian Emperor had just realized the importance of working together before I slipped off into a deep, dreamless sleep.

Thank You for Your Compliance


Here’s the Pop Culture League Challenge for this week.

Aliens Among Us

“If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn’t turn out well for the Native Americans.” –Stephen Hawking

What a fun quote! I decided to treat it as a full on writing prompt. Here’s what I came up with, around 2000 words or so. I’d love to hear what you think! Comment here, or contact me @marcallie on Twitter.


Thank You for Your Compliance

A Short Story by Marc Allie

Alex rolled left, barely dodging a deadly phazon missile. His alien opponent, piloting a saucer-shaped spacecraft, dove past Alex’s tri-rocket warship before breaking away for another attack. Brow furrowed in concentration, Alex jammed his control stick left, then right, before firing off a volley of three laser bursts. The first two projectiles went wide left, but the third hit true. The enemy saucer exploded into a blinding flash of white light. Alex smiled and checked his score at the top of the TV screen. He had almost surpassed his previous record, and still had two lives remaining.

Just as the next wave of aliens began their attack, a knock sounded at the front door. Alex’s mother yelled from the kitchen. “Honey, can you answer that? My hands are all sudsy.” Alex sighed in disappointment, dropping the black and orange joystick on the thick shag carpet before walking over to open the door.

Three people stood on the welcome mat, the bright porch light shining down upon them. Two of them were men, both in black suits and ties. The third figure was a woman with brown hair pulled back into a tight bun. She wore a frilly white blouse with large shoulder pads, and a knee length black skirt. A clipboard was in her hand, while the two men held walkie talkies. The man in the middle, the tallest of the trio, grinned at Alex.

“Alex Guest, I presume?” The man’s smile never wavered as he spoke. Alex nodded, then yelled back into the house for his mother. The four of them stood in uncomfortable silence as Alex’s mother came to the door, wiping her hands on a kitchen towel.

The tall man spoke again. “Ah, you must be Mrs. Guest! It’s so good to meet you both. My name is Agent Johnson. These are my associates: Agent King,” he gestured to the man on his left, who nodded solemnly, “and Agent Lewis.” He smiled widely at the woman, on his right. She smiled back at him, showing almost impossibly white teeth, before they both turned back towards Alex and his mother.  “We’re with the CIA.” Agent Johnson reached into his jacket pocket and produced a laminated white card.

At first Alex couldn’t quite make out the words on the card; they seemed fuzzy, indistinct. He blinked, then the badge came in focus. There was a head shot, name, and a fancy logo. Everything seemed to be in order. It looked exactly like government I.D. badges he had seen in the movies.

“Listen, Mrs. Guest. We are here today to talk to you about a very exciting opportunity for Alex. May we come in?” His mother looked at Alex with a hint of indecision on her face. Then she cleared her throat and invited them inside.

Mrs. Guest quickly ushered the visitors to the overstuffed brown leather couch. She dashed off to the kitchen for refreshments while Alex took a seat in a recliner across from the couch. The wide grins on the tall man and woman never wavered. The shorter man wore no expression at all. All three were staring right at Alex.

Alex took a closer look at the odd trio as they waited for his mother to return. He hadn’t noticed it outside, but all three had waxy, shiny skin. Their eyebrows were very thin, and groomed so smoothly that he couldn’t see any individual hairs. The one called Agent Johnson moved his head left and right, surveying the room without blinking. His eyes came to rest on the wood-grain video computer system in front of the TV.

Johnson spoke as Alex’s mother entered the room bearing a tray of four glasses. “Alex, I see you have been playing computer video games! That one is Stellar Warlords, am I correct?” Alex nodded as his mother gave each guest a glass and a straw. None of the agents even spared her a glance. Agent Johnson continued, eyes still centered on Alex. “Thank you for the refreshment. You are very good at Stellar Warlords, aren’t you, Alex?”

Alex shifted in his seat. “Yeah, I’m not bad. I actually sent my high score in to Computer Games Magazine a few months ago.” Alex reached into a pocket on the recliner and produced a copy of the magazine. He flipped to a well-worn page and pointed. “See, here? I’m one of the top ten players in the United States!”

Agent Johnson didn’t even glance at the magazine before replying. “We are quite aware of your abilities, Alex. In fact, that is why we have come. We are here today to talk to you about a very exciting opportunity. We are offering scholarships to an elite military academy for the best and brightest young video game players across the entire American States.” The tall man was still smiling. Alex wondered if his cheeks were beginning to hurt.

Agent Johnson continued talking to Alex’s mother, giving her details about the scholarship, explaining that skill in video games was an indicator of future potential in military service. Alex listened for a while, but then his attention shifted to Agent King. The short man leaned forward, head turned, watching Agent Lewis take a sip from her straw. Then he grabbed his own glass, and began to take a drink himself. He moved the glass to his mouth before wrapping his lips awkwardly around the straw. His cheeks twitched slightly, but the level of lemonade in the glass never changed.

Alex refocused his attention on Agent Johnson’s conversation with his mother. “Yes, Mrs. Guest, this is a very exciting opportunity. Only the best and brightest have been selected. Alex is in an elite group. And of course there is no expense for you whatsoever. It’s all taken care of by the federal government. All we require is your consent.” As soon as the agent stopped talking, he grinned immediately, his teeth as stunningly bright as those of Agent Lewis. Agent King didn’t share the same odd smile, instead sitting as expressionless as ever.

Agent Lewis moved her hand to her ear and produced a pencil. Alex hadn’t even noticed the pencil before; it must have been stuck in her hair. She placed the pencil on her clipboard, smile never wavering, and spoke for the first time. “We have just a few questions for you before we go. You don’t mind to answer a few questions, do you?” Her voice was saccharine sweet, like a teacher talking to a class of preschoolers.

“No, no, we don’t mind at all,” Alex’s mother said. Alex felt a bit differently. The whole situation struck him as strange. It seemed far-fetched that the CIA was recruiting kids who were good at video games. What was with these weird agents? They seemed like strangers from another country. They reminded Alex of the foreign exchange student that had been in his fourth grade class. He didn’t understand things that everyone else knew, like playing kickball.  These agents didn’t seem to understand how people acted, either. They made Alex nervous.

Agent Lewis spoke in her sing-song voice. “Tell us about the rest of your family. Where is Mr. Guest? Are there any other children?”

His mother didn’t respond immediately, her eyes swelling with tears. Alex spoke up instead. “Dad was a Navy pilot. He, uh, died. In a training accident, two years ago. I’m the only kid, no brothers or sisters.” The entire time Alex spoke, Johnson and Lewis never stopped grinning. Agent King swiveled his entire head to look at his colleagues, then opened and closed his mouth repeatedly. He reminded Alex of a goldfish.

“Very good, very good,” Agent Lewis sang. She scribbled a few notes on her clipboard without looking at it, eyes fixed on Alex. “You probably play Stellar Warlords with your friends, Alex, don’t you? Are any of them as good as you are?” She never blinked. “We’d like to talk to your friends about a very exciting opportunity, also.”

Alex responded as his mother wiped a tear from her cheek. “I take turns playing with my buddy Lou sometimes, sure. Lou beat me a couple times, but never got a score high enough to send in to the magazine.” The female agent scrawled halfheartedly on the clipboard.

“Lou is your friend’s name? Is Lou a male or a female? And where does he/she live?” Alex was taken aback at the odd question. He glanced at his mother, and saw a flicker of unease cross her face. There was something wrong with these people, with this whole situation.

Smiles and silence filled the room. Agent Johnson, still grinning, crossed his legs. One black pant leg came up. Alex could see part of the agent’s leg above his black sock. The leg was pale gray and hairless. A thin green tube ran out from under the sock. Alex watched as the green tube pulsed and quivered. The throbbing green tube made him feel sick to his stomach.

Mrs. Guest stood and spoke, her voice stern and forceful. “Lou is a boy, and he lives next door. Why do you need to know that?” She put her hands on her hips. “What’s with you people? You ask about my poor husband and don’t show a hint of remorse or compassion at his death?” Her eyes got shiny again. She pointed a finger at Agent Johnson. “I’m beginning to think you aren’t really with the CIA at all.” She raised her voice. “Russians, maybe, is that it?” She looked over at her son. “Call the police, Alex, something’s not right here.”

Agent Johnson stood as Alex jumped out of the recliner and ran across the living room. “Mrs. Guest, I think we have everything we need. Thank you for your compliance. We appreciate it very much.” He smiled again, this one bigger than ever. “Let’s thank them for their compliance, agents, shall we?”

Alex rounded the corner, standing next to the phone, as Agent Lewis sang “Thank you for your compliance!” He turned and saw the female agent rise to her feet, the clipboard dropping off her lap. The clipboard wavered like a mirage for a split second, vanishing before it hit the floor.

Agent King and opened his mouth in a round “O” shape. The noise that came forth wasn’t a voice at all. An unearthly warble filled the room, as if a flock of birds had crash landed on a xylophone. The two men stood up as Alex grabbed the phone, jamming 9-1-1. There was no dial tone. The buttons made no noise. Heart pounding in his chest, Alex let go of the phone. It flopped back and forth on the cord.

Mrs. Guest cried out as she turned and ran towards her son. Agent Johnson rotated his head, a bit too far for a human, looking at the shorter agent. “No, no, Agent King, that won’t do. THANK YOU FOR YOUR COMPLIANCE! Try it again.” Alex’s mother wrapped her arms around him. He was shaking with fear. He buried his face in his mother’s neck. They held each to each other tightly.

Agent King’s mouth opened again. “Angku oryerk ahmylizz. Angku oyer kahmpliamnzzz. Kahmpliiiaants.”

“Close enough.” Agent Johnson raised his walkie talkie. The air crackled slightly, and the walkie talkie seemed to melt in his hand. It reformed into a metallic spider-like apparatus. Johnson pulled one of the chrome leg-things on the device and a thin beam of green light shot out. The beam touched Mrs. Guest and she was gone. In her place was a cloud of hot, pinkish steam that smelled like burnt bacon. Alex didn’t even have time to cry before another green beam shot out. He, too, disappeared in a burst of steam. In seconds, both clouds dissipated, leaving three things standing alone in the shag-carpeted silence of the living room.

One of the things stuck an appendage down its throat. It coughed a wet, barking cough, then withdrew what now once again appeared to be a human hand. “Thank — you — foryour– com-pli-ant-s,” it said. The tall thing adjusted its teeth and smiled. The three of them walked out, heading to the house next door.





Star Trek Haikus – Now Animated For Your Pleasure

animated05After a few weeks off, I am back in the thick of another Star Trek series. This time, it’s the early 70s Star Trek cartoon. Unlike pretty much every other incarnation of Star Trek, I had never seen an episode of the cartoon until I began watching recently. Overall, I am quite surprised with the quality of the show, though admittedly it does show its age from time to time.

It’s very cool to see some of the best concepts from the original series get revisited. An example would be the Guardian of Forever, from City on the Edge of Forever (the best Star Trek episode ever). The second animated episode, Yesteryear, has Spock use the Guardian to go back in time, visiting his younger self in order to fix a time travel mix-up. Tribbles show up again, as well, and that episode was quite entertaining. I really wish we could have traded a lame 3rd season episode for one of these two stories!

I’ve made some slight changes to the Star Trek Haiku page. All of the Original Series haikus are now in chronological order, in a gallery of their own. The Animated haikus are in a gallery sorted by most recent to oldest, and have their own subpage as well. I will also be posting the haikus on Twitter @marcallie if you are into that sort of thing.

There were only 22 episodes of the Star Trek cartoon produced, so this won’t last nearly as long as the first go round. Still, it should be fun! I’m growing to love Star Trek more and more with every episode I watch. I may need to revisit Star Wars soon before my split loyalties are tilted in favor of the future, rather than that galaxy far, far away…


New Shoes

V49142_01On our way back from Michigan earlier this month, we stopped in Effingham, Illinois. We gassed up, grabbed a bite at Steak N’ Shake, and checked out the Nike outlet store. Connor got a pair of new shoes. This might seem insignificant to most, but it wasn’t for him, nor, by extension, for me.

I have to tell you a bit about my father to explain why. My dad didn’t have a great childhood. They were poor, but it was more than that. To hear Dad tell it, my grandpa was a hard man who was quick to get angry. All Dad’s stories are about how his father whooped him for this, or that, or made them work all day weeding in the garden, that sort of thing. Dad didn’t have much when he was growing up. There weren’t many books, toys, or birthday gifts. Clothes were hand me downs. So were shoes.

Dad got a good job right out of high school and eventually moved from the factory floor into sales and then management. He worked very hard, for long hours, in order to provide for us. I think his work ethic was due largely to the struggles of his youth. We never lacked for new clothes, new toys, new books, or new shoes at any point in my childhood.

When I was in junior high, I became very concerned about my appearance, like many teens do. I’d been teased and bullied in elementary school, but junior high was better. I wasn’t made fun of very often and got along well with most people. I may not have been Mr. Popularity, but I was “normal” at last and determined to stay that way. Nice clothes, contact lenses, spending hours making sure my hair looked just right, all of it was to maintain my newfound status.

One day, a classmate of mine who I will call The Creep made a comment about my shoes. The shoes were pretty cool, in my opinion: white leather high tops with a contrasting black stripe.  The Creep declared my shoes totally lame, and made disparaging comments about my family’s gross annual income. Clearly we were too poor to get anything but Wal-Mart shoes.

His comments about my footwear really bothered me. We weren’t poor in any sense of the word. Our shoes (and most of our clothes) normally came from Penney’s or Sears or somewhere like that. This pair, though, was, in fact, from Wal-Mart. I remembered the conversation my parents had before I got them. My feet were growing like crazy, and Dad decided it made more sense to get a cheaper pair since I wouldn’t be likely to wear them long. It was a responsible decision and I had no problem with the cool white and black high tops. But then The Creep made fun of my new shoes, and now I was embarrassed to wear them.

Fall arrived, and with it, the Penney’s Christmas catalog. I set my heart on a pair of new shoes in its pages. They were Reeboks, glorious white leather with red trim. High tops, naturally. They were very expensive, but that just added to their appeal. I longed for the day when I could wear them to school; no one could possibly make fun of my choice of footwear with those beauties around my ankles!

zoomShortly after Thanksgiving, Dad looked over the catalog with me. He pointed out a pair of Adidas sneakers on the same page as the Reeboks. He asked what I thought of the Adidas. I thought they weren’t Reeboks, that’s what, and I let him know it. I didn’t think much of our conversation. Christmas day came, and with it, the longed-for Reeboks. I put them on immediately. All was well with the world. I wore them until my feet grew again, which wasn’t very long. I dearly loved the shoes, and thought of them fondly even after I outgrew them.

However, when I was a bit older, Mom told me more of the story behind those Reeboks. Dad had already ordered, picked up, and even gift wrapped the Adidas shoes from the catalog when he asked me what I thought of them. Seeing how much I wanted the Reeboks, Dad went to the trouble of returning the Adidas high tops and purchasing the more more expensive pair instead.

This news totally shifted my mindset. Before, my red Reeboks were a fond memory, but now, ironically, I was ashamed of them. How could I have been so shallow? The Adidas shoes were almost exactly the same as the Reeboks. The only real difference was the logo and the brand name. Was I so petty, so concerned with what was popular, that I had acted like a spoiled brat? Yes. Yes, I certainly had. That experience changed me. I was no longer worried nearly as much about whether my jeans were Levi’s, or my shoes were Nikes, or whatever. No one who really mattered to me cared about stuff like that anyway. Why should I care about it?

Fast forward again to my adult life. When it came to raising my own children, I was determined that they would not ever be concerned with such trivial matters as name brands. Clothes, shoes, backpacks, school supplies, all of these things were purchased based on whatever made the most sense financially. My wife enjoyed finding things for the boys at garage sales and thrift shops, or factory outlets. My boys never, ever complained about this. Not even once.

IMG_20160720_132552220Back in that Nike outlet store in Effingham, Connor was looking at the shelves full of colorful shoes very carefully. He picked out two pairs. One of them was expensive, slightly more than the price of my Reeboks when adjusted for inflation. The other pair cost about half that. I told him to try them on, and Deana and I watched as he got the expensive ones out first. They were clearly his favorite; he had gone back to look at them multiple times. The other pair weren’t nearly as cool looking. He had pulled them because they were cheaper, and this made me very proud of him.

As I stood there, smelling the new shoe smell, hearing the crinkle of the tissue paper stuffed in the toes, I thought back to my Reeboks. I’d wanted those shoes for the wrong reason. It wasn’t because they brought me joy, but because they fit someone else’s idea of what was acceptable. I also thought back to all the hand me down shoes and jeans and slacks that Connor had worn, without the slightest protest, for his entire life. He’d never had any shoes this nice, this fancy. I’d totally spoiled him when it came to Power Rangers toys and Xbox games and Blu-rays, but not shoes.

Connor stood up, just a smidge shorter than me now. He took a few steps, trying out the feel of the slick gray high tops. I had him lean back on the heel and lift his toe, just like my dad always did for me. There was a thumb’s room for growing. “How do they feel?” I asked him.

“Good, they feel good.” He looked down at his feet with eyes full of hope. I teased him that he would probably run faster and jump higher in them; that’s what new shoes do, right? Connor smiled and sat down to try on the other pair, but I stopped him. There was no need.