J. C. Conway stories available in print publications.
Hearts in Ruin is a contemporary romance about two young archaeologists, Daniel and Andrea, struggling with each other’s conflicting goals and against sinister outside forces at a controversial New Mexico dig. In the following scene, they are attending a formal faculty dinner at Daniel’s former university–the school that founded the site and then shut it down. Tension between Daniel and Andrea has been high, despite (or maybe higher because of) a strong attraction both have been fighting to ignore. The book has been very well received. It was released by Liquid Silver Books as an eBook May 5, 2014, and is now available also in print from Amazon. Following is a first kiss scene that was described by one Amazon customer reviewer as “the best I’ve ever read.”
Later in the evening, Daniel slipped out to the patio for a reprieve—just a few moments of peace. The wide balcony overlooked the east side of campus with the lights of town beyond, backed by the night shadows of the mesa. He inhaled. Even here, amid streets, buildings, miles of surrounding commercial and residential neighborhoods, the scent of the uncivilized desert predominated. Its stillness soothed him.
“So there you are.”
He turned, startled. Andrea stepped into view, stunning in Pamela’s dress. He’d seen her in it all evening, but not in the moonlight like this.
He struggled for composure. He hadn’t expected anyone to join him here, especially Andrea. She was a hit at the dinner, a fresh young woman, as smart as the stuffy regulars, but piercingly direct and good humored.
“Is everything all right?” he asked.
“Sure.” She stepped toward him. “Except my date ditched me.”
“I didn’t think you needed me in there.”
Her eyes glinted. “So, you tired of the crowd?”
He laughed. She could not have nailed it much better. “Let’s just say I’ve already been to enough meetings, dinners, and functions of all kinds with this group to fill a lifetime.”
She stood next to him now at the railing and stared across the campus. “It’s a pretty school.”
He shrugged. “It has its charms.”
A subtle hint of perfume mingled seamlessly with the desert breeze. Amazing. Most of the women inside seemed anxious to disguise or completely cover up the smell and feel of the dry desert environment. But Andrea, who had never lived in the climate or even visited the desert before, chose a fragrance that accepted it and even complimented its arid beauty.
“Not all fake Ivy-League like the U,” she explained.
He smiled. “No. And if you have a thing for adobe and stucco then you can really learn to love it.”
She turned, leaning back against the railing. “The people seem nice,” she ventured. “I don’t really know why you left. Just because they didn’t support the dig? It seems you could’ve worked it out with these folks.”
Daniel could not tear his gaze from her profile and the bare shoulders just touched by soft and inviting golden-brown hair. But he was held by more than that. All of her qualities were admirable. Not only was she fascinatingly attractive, and perhaps even in spite of it, she was brilliant and clear minded, and she loved her work.
“They um…” Daniel’s throat thickened, as if he were trying to talk underwater. There was something about her—something between them that transcended this project, he knew. He’d been avoiding it. He wanted no complications during the dig. But that was only part of the problem. The fact was, he didn’t want to draw her too far into his private quest. He couldn’t do that to her. Not now, not at this critical juncture with her career poised to launch. It was bad enough that she was the project leader, and he hoped she didn’t have to explain that away the rest of her life after he finally published his findings. But why then, if he felt that way, did he recruit her? She was clearly in the running for a post at a good school. This project, once the controversy surfaced, was not a good stepping stone on that path. Did he really think if he kept her role limited that it could minimize the fallout to her career?
It had been different for him. He didn’t work so hard for his opportunities. He had been young when he reached that point. Just eighteen, still a kid. He met Madeline and willingly abandoned most of the career courses Andrea should follow. He was committed to his project. He never saw it as a choice. But how could he lead Andrea down the same path—especially after she worked so hard for so many years to gain a solid foothold in academia?
Andrea’s brow furrowed with contemplation and she turned to him. “I think you should have just stuck to your guns here. They like you more than you know.”
He drew a breath. “Not all of them.”
She lowered her chin. “You’re about as likeable as they get.”
He smiled, and without thinking, touched her hand. She didn’t retreat. The air warmed with electricity. A remnant of his rational mind searched for a response to her statement—a quip, a compliment, a rebuttal…anything. But the futile effort was overshadowed by the sharpening of his senses, an awakening triggered by her presence and warm touch.
She turned to face him squarely. He touched her arm, feeling the impossible softness of her skin. Her hand touched his stomach and slide to his waist. Her expression shifted. Her eyes surveyed his face. Was she searching for resistance or its opposite? He didn’t know. He wasn’t sure he cared. But he could tell that this closeness was something they’d both thought about before.
The moment grew, nearly eclipsing all else. He knew in his mind and heart that if he didn’t embrace her now, the moment could vanish forever. His heart pounded. He did not weigh options. This was not a matter of choice. It was roaring compulsion. He leaned close. He felt the heat of Andrea’s cheek, her warm breath. Their lips brushed across each other. Daniel savored the soft pass once, twice, then opening slightly more and connecting, pressing, tasting and melding. His chest filled with fire. The world fell away. He reached around her, pulling her close. She nestled in, leaving no gap.
He felt no barrier between them. His lips touched her nose, her cheek, the crook of her neck. He returned to her lips and they tasted each other again. Andrea mewed. It felt right to be lost in her touch and her breath. Their chests heaved together. Their embrace softened. Daniel roamed the curve of her spine. She responded with equal, soft passion. He felt the release of a long, satisfied sigh.
They touched foreheads.
He smiled. She giggled lightly.
A rough, “Ahem,” broke the moment like shattered crystal. They weren’t alone.
Eyes widened, they released their holds and turned.
“I don’t mean to disturb you.”
Daniel regained his bearing. William Lassiter and Morgan Hamilton stood near the patio door holding cocktail tumblers.
Copyright (c) 2014, J. C. Conway
Lassiter and Hamilton represent only a part of the troubles Andrea and Daniel face as the forces that divide them strengthen. Ultimately, Andrea must face a dilemma that pits her lifetime dream of developing a sound academic career against her heart and her sense of personal integrity, while Daniel must accept the reality that drives him and the long-term consequences of his actions on others.
Rain… can be benevolent and life giving, can be torrential and damaging, even lethal. Thirteen authors came up with a wide variety of stories featuring rain, put up the umbrella and get reading. Oh and be careful of the next downpour you walk in…
Edited by Dorothy Davies, Rain includes two of my short stories:
“Leaves of the Fall” begins and ends with a rain of sorts. It’s the tale of a young man in search of answers. He finds them. But what he finds is not what he might have expected.
In “Right as Rain,” the Cozen family has a gift. But Liz and her Aunt Jennie disagree about its nature. Will the drought finally end their small town in Podunk U.S.A.? Tommie Cozen says “no,” and convinces the town to prepare for a flood. Liz is dubious, despite Tommie’s knack for somehow always being right. Will Tommie Cozen’s gift bilk the town of its meager remaining cash, or will it save it from demise?
Five flash fiction stories (500 words or less) in the anthology More Tales from the Blue Gonk Café
- There is Always Hope
- Hunt and Gather
- Market Plan
- By the Glow of Inner Light
There is Always Hope–Some shoes are hard to fill. There is Always Hope is the tale of a demon spawn, trying to live up to the reputation of his tremendously evil parents.
Presently partially in first-person point of view, the young demon must dig deep into the past to make new use of an old virtue.
Hunt and Gather—From an anthropological perspective, what is the origin of humanity’s idealized view of the paradise from which it was cast? Is it a species recollection of an earlier era of foraging, or hunting and gathering? Hunt and Gather posits an alien interference in the recent evolutionary past in which the advanced aliens realize the error of having pushed Earth’s humans toward civilization. They return to set things straight; a noble aim that might not hit its mark.
Market Plan–Professor Drake has discovered a vast network of instantaneous intergalactic communications. With Earth’s culture in a decline of vapid consumerism, he argues humanity should reach out and seek rescue from the advanced civilizations of the universe.
Not everyone agrees.
Necessity–Company loyalty is a virtue and a burden. But there are more important things—like life itself, not to mention continuation of the species. Necessity is a 500-word flash-fiction story about an advanced and bright not-to-distant future, in which humanity is mastering the solar system, and its power requirements are readily managed. But something most people don’t know has gone wrong. Horribly wrong.
By the Glow of Inner Light–Philosophical zombies are hypothetical creatures used in thought experiments exploring the bounds of physicalism. Or are they? Ernest is a metaphysical scientist that has invented a way to distinguish truly conscious humans from philosophical zombies. Whether the invention is a success is a question for you to decide. But be warned, how you decide might depend on whether you are a philosophical zombie.
Medicinal Need, In Vino Veritas, Published May 10, 2014 by Thirteen Press, edited by Dorothy Davies
One of three of my stories in the anthology, this one was written specifically for it. It’s a western dealing with a cowboy’s serious injury, and the elixir his trail boss utilizes to manage the problem. It begins as follows:
Luke heard the ricochet and saw the rock spark less than a wink before hot pain seized him.
Ned hooted at Zeke. “That was just the worst shot I ever seen!”
“’Twarn’t my fault!”
“Ain’t nobody else’s!”
Luke couldn’t discern the words or their meaning. The banter seemed just a foolish skit on the far side of a hazy canyon. Only searing agony was immediate—a burning weight imbedded in his chest. He teetered back against the cold stone face he’d been leaning against when the shot rang, afraid now to budge. Any movement would make it worse.
Luke heard Rex arrive, storming from the direction of the wagon. “God damn it! If you knuckleheads spook the cattle I’m gonna dock you both for the day we lose dealin’ with it!”
Luke felt his back slip to the right. Not enough friction against the stone. Oh, God Almighty, don’t let me fall! He tried to press harder. But the effort intensified his distress. He closed his eyes.
“Rex?” he tried. His voice fell quietly to nothing. To be heard he’d need more force. He steeled himself. “Rex!”
Rex’s distant rant halted.
“I’m hit,” Luke managed.
Copyright (c) 2012, J. C. Conway
The bullet remains lodged and must be managed. But it is dangerously close to his heart. In Vino Veritas can be purchased in print or as an eBook. It also includes “Another Wrong World” and “Early Retirement,” two stories previously published and well suited for the drink-themed anthology.
Letters to the Luminiferous Aether, Broken, Published March 28, 2014 by Thirteen Press, edited by Dorothy Davies.
The story. a piece of flash fiction, consists of a short series of letters responding to correspondence from the Garveys, who are apparently in need of some type of assistance. The first letter, and the beginning of the second are as follows:
Thank you for your letter of the fourteenth of May, 1886. We apologize for any delay in our response. It appears your letter was first post-marked on the South Sea Island of East Ramona shortly after the date of writing, but that it was then routed incorrectly through South Asia, Japan, Ecuador, and eventually traveled via steamship to our offices in Virginia just today.
We appreciate the inconvenience that correspondence poses during your travels, and we assure you that we will make every effort to forward our responses in such a way that you will receive them in as timely a manner as possible.
In response to your inquiry, no, we do not have plans at this time to continue our experiments regarding the luminiferous aether. Since the writing of your letter, Messrs. Michelson and Morley have performed a well-publicized experiment, the results of which show, by all accounts, the futility of searching for such an aether.
We do continue to hold our patent, and reserve the right to enforce it, should research prove that the currently accepted conclusions drawn from the Michelson-Morley experiment are false. But at this time, we do not have plans to conduct such research ourselves.
Regarding your request, we accept your kind offer of twenty dollars in support of our research in wireless transmission of electromagnetic energy, and we will, in exchange for that gift, provide to you notice of the first right to invest further in the fruits of that research, should we pursue such an enterprise in the public market.
Paulson M. Jones
Assistant Senior Vice President
Prism Crystal and Brass Company
P.S. I must confess to being a bit of a nautical buff myself, and would enjoy sailing around the world at some point. I understand that you are traveling in what you described as a “light boat,” but would be interested to know precisely the type of vessel to which you refer.
* * *
Dear Mr. Garvey and Mrs. Garvey,
We received your letter dated March 14, 2008. Please be advised that GRMI is the corporate successor to Prism Crystal and Brass Company of New England. The acquisition dates back to 1958. As you requested, we have searched our accounting sheets for a record of an 1888 investment in Prism Crystal of $20.00 in your name.
We cannot pinpoint a precise donation in the specified amount. But we can confirm that our predecessor’s records show a number of donations during the period in which its research was considered the more rational approach to physics.
Nevertheless, our inability to recognize a specific donation at that time does not affect our response to your inquiry. The answer is, no, there is no application or system deriving from Prism Crystal’s research into the now-discredited theory of a luminiferous aether.
Regarding your question about current research in the structure of the void…
Copyright (c) 2012, J. C. Conway
The nature of the Garveys’ predicament becomes clearer, at least to the reader, in due course. This story was first published in Bewildering Stories, and was selected for Bewildering Stories’ Quarterly Review. Author response and corresponding Editor comments appeared in Bewildering Stories issue 284. It is now available in this paperback anthology from Lulu.
Gentle Push, Tales of the Talisman, Volume 9, Issue 3, Published January 2014 by Hadrosaur Press, edited by David Lee Summers.
In the future, mankind has spread to the nearby stars. But then it encounters resistance. Now, mankind is in retreat, and a race of beings is watching the conflict between the anomalous human race and the pressing Akridi horde. The story begins:
I encountered the leading edge of retreating human vessels 20 light hours from Delta Pavonis—a steady column bound for Earth, where they believed we could protect them. My mission would determine if that faith was justified, and if so, for how long.
As I skirted the system’s rocky halo, I spotted the small starship drifting quietly in the mid-outer dust cloud—a tug with strong field generators fore and aft. It was not preparing to flee. I looked closer. Its artificial environment was intact. Its engines were functional. It had a single human occupant, alive and well as far as I could tell.
I hailed it. “Do you require assistance?”
It responded abruptly: “Leave me alone.”
It was my first direct conversation with a human, and not what I expected. I was intrigued. But with no sign of emergency, I continued and found the blue-shifted forward wake of the Akridi fleet one light year beyond: 22,410 heavy ships moving at 0.9 C, including hard-shelled battle cruisers capable of demolishing small moons and misshapen population transports bulging with the next generation of Akridi workers and soldiers. They fired. I spun, outran the weapons, and returned to Delta Pavonis well ahead of the armada. Because of my velocity, my two-day round trip was two years relative local time.
No humans remained on the surfaces of the worlds and the last orbital stations and skyhooks were dismantled. Stragglers accelerated to solar escape velocity. But the small tug still drifted. It still had life support and one occupant. I routed enough power to project me steadily into the ship in as close to a human form as I could manage.
Its occupant sat in a small observation lounge near the engine section. Thrusters were off, but warm. The main power unit hummed at low output.
The two get to know each other from here–to the extent that is possible under the circumstances. And the advanced being learns a great deal more from its encounter that it expected. Tales of the Talisman, Volume 9, Issue 3, is available from Hadrosaur Press directly and from Amazon.
Copyright (c) 2013, J.C. Conway
Love, Death and Overlapping Bosonic Singularities, Mystic Signals, Issue 18, Published May 2013 by WolfSinger Publications, edited by Carol Hightshoe.
The story begins at a deposition. Amy Budge knows the attorney sitting across from her. He does not know her. But he isn’t who he thinks he is. To understand that, and to understand Amy’s dilemma, read the story. As the first scene progresses, the deposition begins:
The court reporter faced Amy and issued an oath. Amy promised to tell the truth.
As if they could take it.
Pat smiled. “I represent Peterson-Meson, Inc., and I’d like to ask you about the Boson Vault Project.”
Amy perked. Interesting. Pat never before mentioned the project. Was that a good sign?
He eased into it. But finally: “—and isn’t it true, Ms. Budge, that your department promised to meet the specifications of the Vault Project?”
“Yes!” she said, sitting straighter. Go ahead. Ask.
He meandered too much with his questions…yes, yes, no, right, not exactly…come on already.
A familiar quiver tickled her core.
She blew a puff of air. Pat thought he had all the time in the world.
He asked another unimportant question, which she ignored.
She leaned forward to command his attention. “Aren’t you wondering if we met the specs?”
She watched his eyes. Not just the dreamy blueness—but the thinking—a teeny little double-take. Good.
“Okay, Ms. Budge—”
“—Did you meet the Peterson-Meson specs.”
She leaned back. “Yes.”
He frowned. “You met them?”
“Yes, Pat. We did.” Chew on that, cute cakes.
He rifled through papers. “Then…why didn’t you deliver?”
Her peripheral vision wavered. Time fleeted. Crap! “Listen—the problem wasn’t performance—it was the project itself.”
“But you admit you didn’t—”
“Look at me.”
Pat glanced up.
“It’s being delivered—as we speak, in new combinations, repeatedly…it’s being delivered.”
He frowned. “How—”
It was about to happen.
“Your Boson Vault fractured the universe,” she blurted. “Whatever or whoever you think you are right now—you’re not.”
“What are you—?”
“No time to explain,” she blurted. “But trust me: it’s a very bad idea to filter and store large quantities of isolated bosons. The vault created four simultaneous, overlapping ‘bosonic singularities’ cracking the universe—”
“One for each Category Chamber.”
“That would be five—”
“Apparently not!” she gasped. “The fifth chamber was empty, which triggered the catastrophic result.”
“I don’t understand.”
Amy drew a deep breath and unclenched her hands. He was trying. No wonder I like him. She connected with him somehow every time they met.
“I don’t either. I’m management. But Hugo is adamant about the null chamber. I do know this moment won’t last—soon you’ll be gone. It rearranges again; trying to settle back to stable.” She felt like a lunatic. “We’ll meet again,” she said. “But you won’t remember. It’s—”
“Are you suggesting reality isn’t fixed?”
Wow, he gets it. Finally.
“Because of the project?” …
Things get strange after that. Mystic Signals, Issue 18, includes 24 short stories, most previously published at The Lorelei Signal or Sorcerous Signals. It is available at Amazon and Lulu for $12.00.
Copyright (c) 2013, J.C. Conway
Bingham’s Deep Woods Fairies, Mystic Signals, Issue 16, Published November 2012 by WolfSinger Publications, edited by Carol Hightshoe.
Carolyn is hunting for fairies. She doesn’t find any and instead becomes lost in the woods. But she’s confident she’ll find her way. Following is an excerpt as she attempt to find her way.
I spun around slowly, still confident. My whole life I was graced with good luck. Grandma always said so.
Everything worked out. Nothing went horribly wrong. I just had to think. Where would it be? How would I know?
Then I caught a glimpse of white through the trees. There! Those are the rocks! I would go back there, climb high, and then I could see.
When I got closer they looked different—probably because I was on the other side now. I climbed. I banged my knee a few times, and it was kind of steep on this side—but no problem. Cold gusts told me sundown was close. I crawled up the rounded boulder near the top, balanced myself, and stood. I saw the sun—low and big and red. And I saw the way back.
Sheesh! I was further than I thought.
I bounded across the rocks—down, over, over, down—straight for the cabin. There was a wide gap. I didn’t slow. I jumped, aiming quickly for a firm landing on the opposite ledge. But on this side, as I leaped, my back foot slipped on loose gravel. I stretched my leg in mid-air. My toes found the landing spot dead center. But it was not firm—it gave, and I was not fully over. I wobbled. I tried to lean, waving my arms like a windmill—as if I could push enough air to right myself. But everything was against me and I fell into the gap.
At bottom it felt like the ground jumped up to slam me. A flash of red and white came and went. And there I was, sprawled on my back on a wet grassy bottom between two tall rocks. I groaned. That hurt!
Then I heard a noise. I looked up. Before I could move—or even flinch—a section of the ledge fell, smashing down on my arm and shoulder with a sickening Crunch! I felt a harsh tingle that went way past mere pain. It screamed: Don’t budge! You’re WAY hurt! Stay still! I was seriously broken.
I closed my eyes. I did not want to see it. I turned my head away, twisting my neck carefully, trying not to move anything else. But ahhhh, no! It didn’t work. I stopped.
I felt tears. Mommy. Daddy. Please help.
But they weren’t there. No one was there. I opened my eyes. The world was blurry. Anybody, please! I couldn’t move at all. I was trapped and alone.
Then I saw something move. …
Copyright (c) 2012, J.C. Conway
Strange and magical things seem to then happen. But does Carolyn understand what they are and what they mean? Or does she have things to learn she could never have imagined? Mystic Signals, Issue 16, includes 21 short stories and poems. It is available at Amazon and Lulu for $12.00.
Flash of Insight, Battlespace, Volume 1, Published July 2012 by The Science Fiction Show and Knightwatch Press, edited by Jason Tudor, Keith Houin & Michael J. Wistock.
This story includes a series of short flashbacks. In the first, Jason Blackwater commands a wing of two-man strike ships racing to intercept a convoy of cruisers and supply vessels at a ward a remote location in space:
“We’re approaching intercept now.”
“All sensors forward. Maximum range,” he commanded. “Arm weapons.”
“This is incredible, sir,” said Max, on his right wing. “Not a single scout or decoy in sight. If they’re out here, they’re just sitting ducks.”
Jason laughed, and then resumed a more serious command posture. “Focus now. I want no rough edges. When you see it—engage.”
He should have known. They’re overconfident, he thought. But all he did was make a mental note to discuss with them—later—the risks of overconfidence.
This mission would be an easy hit. They would be in and out. No problem.
He flipped the safety guard from the firing mechanism, settled his gaze on the sensor screen, and waited—his thumb hovering steadily over the familiar red button.
That moment was the end of the glory days. Between the appearance of a blip on his sensor screen and the time his practiced thumb could drop—and less than halfway through his unnecessary, but traditional command of “Fire!”—his vessel, and every other vessel in his wing, was torn asunder by precise and entirely unexpected beams of plasma that struck faster than the reaction time of the best human fighters in the fleet.
Jason, but only Jason, survived that failure. He floated for days alone in his lifesuit. During that time, he stared at the stars and despaired. He felt grief and remorse. He fought anger and futility. But most of all, as his oxygen supply dwindled in the void, he faced the inescapable knowledge that he had suddenly become utterly and irretrievably obsolete, and one thought echoed through his groggy mind. I’m going to need a new job.
Copyright (c) 2012, J. C. Conway
That fateful mission is just the beginning of Jason’s journey. But is there a light at the end of the dark and dismal tunnel? Battlespace, Volume 1, includes 28 short military science-fiction stories. It is available at Amazon and AOL Shopping for around $10.00.