Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Cyber Monday Lasts All Week

Here at Rampant Loon Press, this week may begin with Cyber Monday, but it’s just a prelude to Book Release Friday. To celebrate, we’ve decided to make a whole pile of ebooks absolutely free, but only for this week. These great deals include:

Monday, November 27, 2017

11/3/17 Friday Challenge: And now, it's time to vote.

We’ve heard from a few folks that it’s hard to find and read all the current Friday Challenge entries, and really hard to vote for your favorite, especially if you’re reading this site on a cell phone. Therefore, to improve accessibility, here are direct links to the six stories currently in the running for the 11/3/17 Friday Challenge, as well as a direct link to the voting widget.

» “The Han ‘Nasty,” by Chris J. Naron

» “When the Pillows Have Eyes,” by J. Verostka

» “A Toothsome Tale,” by James Westbrooks

» “Un Poêle Français,” by Mimosa Longfellow

» “iGene,” by Chris Bailey Pearce

» “Sofia’s Weekend,” by Lucrezia Ferri

Direct link to the voting widget:

Please note that you can vote for more than one story, and you can change your vote right up until the time the poll closes on Thursday, December 7th. So don’t hesitate to vote, even if you aren’t absolutely certain of your choice or can’t choose between your two favorites. Also, please note that there is a time lag between the time you vote and the time your vote shows up in the tally, so don’t panic if your vote doesn’t show up right away.

While we’re on the subject: we’ve also had quite a few inquiries as to just what exactly the rules are for the Friday Challenge. You’ll find the Official(ish) Rules at this link, but be advised that we reserve the right to make arbitrary changes to the rules at any time. For example, for the 11/3/17 Friday Challenge, we decided to make the Grand Prize a $25 Amazon gift certificate, just to make things a little more interesting.

Semi-finally, we’ve had a few people ask when the next Friday Challenge will begin. Actually, it’s running right now, it’s open to entries for another ten days, and you’ll find everything you need to know at this link. In fact, thanks to the miracle of tagging, you’ll find everything we’ve posted in relation to the Friday Challenge at this link.

And finally: what made the original Friday Challenge so good was that there was a lot of discussion of the stories submitted, before the rendering of verdicts. We had a lot of give and take; a lot of sharing of opinions and pointing out what worked well, and what didn’t. Fostering this discussion is the entire point of the Friday Challenge—so please, if you have something to say about a story, SAY IT, either in the comments on the individual stories or in the comments on the wrap-up post. How else are the writers going to improve if you don’t tell them what you like or don’t like about their stories?

I have my own critiques of each of these stories, and I’ll share them the day after voting closes, when we announce the winner—and the topic for the next challenge.

Until then, kind regards,

Saturday, November 25, 2017

11/3/17 Friday Challenge: Entry #6

Fiction: “Sofia’s Weekend,” by Lucrezia Ferri

Several months ago, my health insurance carrier offered me a deal too good to pass up. PremCare offered me a $600 per month reduction in my already ridiculously high premium if I would allow them to install the new Total Toilet™, a state-of-the-art “smart” device designed to make management of chronic health conditions easier for the patient and caregiver. Once installed, the Total Toilet would analyze everything I put into it and stream the results directly to my doctor at the clinic.

Six hundred bucks a month was money I sure could use, so I agreed. PremCare arranged everything, from the Total Toilet delivery, to installation, to Wi-Fi hook up. What PremCare did not disclose was the constant shaming and nagging that came along with the TT.

What a crock.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Black Sunday, and Naming Rights Still Available Saturday

As long as everyone else is going berserk over “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” sales, we may as well jump in and mention a few special deals of our own.

First off, in the run-up to the release of THE RECOGNITION REJECTION on Friday, December 1st, we’re selling the Kindle edition of THE RECOGNITION RUN at a special book-release sale price of $0.99.


Secondly, we are now taking pre-orders for THE RECOGNITION REJECTION, also at the special book-release sale price of $0.99.


I have got to come up with a better-looking “BUY IT NOW” button. Maybe I can get one from Squelch Design, the nice folks who let us use their big blue “Follow us on facebook” button in exchange for a promotional plug.

Thirdly, we have a whole pile of free e-book deals coming up next week, beginning on Cyber Monday and ending on Book-Release Friday. Which books are we going to be giving away free? Well, you’ll just have to come back on Monday morning to find out.

Finally, Black Sunday is of course the 1975 novel by Thomas Harris (better known as the creator of Hannibal Lechter), later made into a movie, in which Palestinian terrorists attack the Super Bowl by the incredibly clever means of convincing deranged ex-Navy blimp pilot Michael Lander (played by Bruce Dern, Hollywood’s go-to guy for crazy in the 1970s), to take a weaponized Goodyear blimp on a suicide dive into the stadium. Really.

Oh, the humanity.

Understandably, Harris stuck to writing about Hannibal Lechter after this book.

11/3/17 Friday Challenge: Entry #5

Fiction: “iGene,” by Chris Bailey Pearce

“Ow!” Ben rubbed the red spot on his wrist.

Mike raised one dark, bushy eyebrow, but said nothing.

“I swear, the thing bit me. See?” He shoved his hand in Mike’s direction.

“Well, what did you expect?” Mike glanced at the green and silver Individualized Genetic Event Normalization Educer on Ben’s wrist and took another sip of his mocha latte. “You muted it and dimmed the display. Turn it back on and see what it’s telling you.”

Thursday, November 23, 2017

From the SHOWCASE archives...

SHOWCASE #10: November 15, 2013

A few people have emailed to ask why I stopped running these From the SHOWCASE archives... posts. The short answer is that these posts were part of a clever plan to drum up interest in SHOWCASE Volume 1, which we were planning to release on December 1st, with SHOWCASE Volume 2 to follow on December 15th and Volume 3 in January. However, with the sudden shutdown of Pronoun.com, we’ve had to go back to the drawing board and start over on this project.
In the meantime, though, in honor of the American national holiday of Thanksgiving and all its trimmings, we’ve dug deep into the archives and pulled out SHOWCASE #10, better known in-house as the “Food Trilogy,” which features:
» “An Indelible Feast,” by Alex Shvartsman
Adria’s is the most expensive restaurant in the world, because they can serve diners nearly anything—with just one small exception...
» “Stanhope’s Finest,” by Natalie J. E. Potts
“I am a survivor from the Meso-Air crash, requesting rescue from Sydney, Australia. I need urgent medical assistance. I think I might have eaten some poisonous crabs. They were green with red dots, and oh my God...”
» “Allegory at Table Seven,” by Jarod K. Anderson
Rounding out this week’s Food Trilogy, the story that asks, what happens when the impossible meets the unbelievable over a nice Greek salad?
» Badger & Vole Review: THOR: THE DARK WORLD
Which seems like an apt lead-in for Badger & Vole Review: THOR: RAGNAROK, which will be appearing on this site Any Day Now.
» “Appliancé,” by Bruce Bethke
I’d actually forgotten this one was out there, but in light of the current Friday Challenge, this seems like a fortuitous rediscovery. This story was part of our short-lived Learning Experiences series, in which we reprinted previously published stories along with the author’s account of just exactly what he or she had to go through to get the story published. In retrospect, this was an interesting idea, and perhaps worth reviving. What do you think?
Finally, for those who recognize that this national holiday is not merely about getting stuffed, but also about football, we offer this bonus feature for dessert:
» “Jesus Leads the Jets to the AFC Championship,” by Pete McArdle
Bon appetit!

11/3/17 Friday Challenge: Entry #4

Fiction: “Un Poêle Français,” by Mimosa Longfellow

Mrs. Lavender Goldman was glad to get a new stove. Her old one was covered in marks of burnt lasagna, old coffee, and sticky syrup. She had bought it three years before at a flea market for cheap, but the man who sold it to her said it was eight years old. Her husband was tired of coming home to burnt meals, so he told Lavender he would get her a new stove. He didn’t make much, being a reporter, and Lavender didn’t work, since she was busy taking care of their twelve-month-old son. Jacob Goldman, Lavender’s husband, said he would get her the best, newest stove there was. Together they saved up all the money they could.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Friday Challenge: A Quick Update

This time around, we’ve made a few changes. We considered putting all the stories out in one great big anonymized mass, as we did last time, but decided they’d be easier for readers to handle if we published one new story daily, and better for the writers if we included the author’s bylines and bios right up front. We also decided to put the polling widget up right away (at the top of the right column), because you can change your vote(s) right up until the poll closes on Thursday, 12/7/17.

In case you’re curious, all authors are being paid our standard word rates for their stories, as the sliding scale we used last time wasn’t fair to the third-place author. In addition, after further discussion, we decided that the author of the story that wins the reader’s poll will receive a $25 Amazon gift certificate.

Hope this clears things up for you.

Update to the Update: We’ve learned that the polling widget is not accessible in some web browsers, particularly those found on smart phones. If you can’t see the polling widget in the upper right corner, here’s a direct link to it:


11/3/17 Friday Challenge: Entry #3

Fiction: “A Toothsome Tale,” by James Westbrooks

“Ow!  Damn it!  Damn it!”  My wife dropped her fork and slapped her hand to her cheek.

I held my own fork halfway to my mouth and stared at her. So did the people at the table beside our booth. “What’s wrong?  Did you bite your tongue?” I asked.

“Owww!  I think I broke a tooth!” she said with a grimace. I could tell that she was rolling something around with her tongue. I leaned over the table and put my finger on her chin.

“Open up,” I said. “Let me see.”

“Wait.  Wait,” she said, and held her napkin up to her mouth. She spat into it and looked down. Mixed in with half-chewed barbecue was a piece of tooth and a bone fragment. She hissed in pain and anger. A waitress arrived at our table and asked if there was a problem.

“I’m afraid there…”  I began.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017


Releasing December 1st: 

by Henry Vogel

Book 2 in the award-nominated Recognition Trilogy

The official release date is December 1st, but if you pre-order the Kindle edition now you can get it for the special introductory price of just $0.99 USD. Learn more at this link:


But wait, there’s more!

(I’ve always wanted to say that!)

If you aren’t already reading this series, we’re making Book 1, THE RECOGNITION RUN, available for a limited time at the same special price of just $0.99 USD, or free for Kindle Unlimited Subscribers.

“Struck from the template of classic space opera, this tale of intergalactic adventure hits all of the right notes. It has a likable hero and heroine, nasty villains, a plot full of intrigue and unforeseeable surprises, and a colorfully rendered outer-space backdrop against which its well-paced events unfold. Vogel’s prose is perfectly suited to the story he has to tell—one in which he must give voice to a score of different characters and move quickly from moments of quiet intimacy to scenes of brisk and frenetic action. His simple, direct storytelling style gets the job done.”

—The Publisher’s Weekly BookLife Prize Critic’s Report


P.S. Coming in April 2018...

The adventure concludes in Book 3, THE RECOGNITION REVELATION!

11/3/17 Friday Challenge: Entry #2

Fiction: “When the Pillows Have Eyes,” by J. Verostka

I was still standing at the end of my first week, if a bit battered and worn. I had used everything in my stash of traditional medicinals—bottle, box and broadcast—to do it, but I had survived. Six of us had started and four remained. Lisa, the only other woman, had turned in her notice Thursday morning. Maybe she didn’t have the voice of her newly-ex ex in her head, telling her she’d never make it in such a high pressure firm, to keep her going. Well, I sure as hell did.

I told the door not to open to anyone and the curtains to draw over the windows, and the Home did as I asked. I always thought condo was kind of a sleazy word. I liked coming home to a place that called itself Home. Even the elevator’s soft voice made you start to relax. I kicked off my heels. I left them and piece by piece, my suit, hose and shapewear where I dropped them for the Home to pick up off of the plush, rose-colored carpet. My body thanked me with every breath.

A quick, hot shower unknotted my shoulders and I could smell the chicken pie that I had requested for dinner while still at the office. I loved having a Home that did for me the work I used to do for him. With the carafe, the remote and the last of the cake already waiting for me and an extra-sized towel between my bottom and the upholstery below and my lap and a hot plate above, I snuggled down for a long Friday night’s streaming. Something steamy; I wanted nice dreams.

¤ ¤ ¤

The following afternoon, I was still trying to figure out who wore hostess gowns—whatever they were—when I rang the bell.

Monday, November 20, 2017

11/3/17 Friday Challenge: Entry #1

Fiction: “The Han ‘Nasty,” by Chris J. Naron

Friday November 17, 2017

“So, the thing is, Gandhi was much more interested in poop than in peace.”

And with that, my afternoon World History Survey class ended. None of my students seemed convinced that as a thinker and a progressive hero, Gandhi was overrated, but I gave it the Chino Community College try every semester anyway.

Behind me a faintly familiar voice said, “You inspired me, at least.”

I turned to find a face I recognized even if I couldn’t place a name to it. Maybe if I had a hand-held Hubble. Truth is, I never could remember names of students, even the ones currently enrolled. I knew this kid had been a good student, though.

“Hey…man,” I stammered.

“It’s okay if you don’t remember me. I only had you that one semester, and I barely participated. I’m Brian Han.”

Brian Han. Yeah, I sort of remembered.  I’ll give him the routine.

“Good to see you, Brian. What have you been up to since we parted ways?”

“I finally got my brother to back one of my projects. A project you inspired.”

Brother? Why does that seem…loaded?

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Friday Challenge: 11/17/2017

We got a really nice response to the 11/03/17 Friday Challenge: so much so that we’ve decided to make an arbitrary change to the rules. (Is that in the Official Rules? “We reserve the right to make arbitrary changes to the rules at any time.” If not, it will be by the time you read this.)

Instead of posting the top three entries and then asking you to read them and vote, we’re contacting the authors, as we’d like to just plain publish the top entries, and then run a reader poll to select the best of those, the winner to receive some sort of as-yet-undetermined bonus.

Frankly, I think this will be a lot of fun. I’m really looking forward to trying it.



Now, as for the 11/17/2017 Friday Challenge: back when we worked to maintain our listing on Duotrope, we found we didn’t really need a calendar. We could pretty tell which month it was by the kinds of unsolicited stories that showed up in our slush pile. In January, we saw lots of stories with no real ending that were clearly the first chapters of the novels the writers had started and failed to finish during NaNoWriMo. In March, we saw lots of submissions from students in creative writing classes, who had clearly selected the option of writing a story over writing a term paper. In June, we saw lots more of the same, only this time with a cover letter proudly announcing the author’s graduation with a BFA or MFA in Creative Writing. From late August through the end of October we saw lots of horror stories that were coming in far too late for us to use in the October issue, and beginning about mid-November...

Well, there’s no way to put a happy face on it or make it dance with sugar-plum fairies. Beginning in about mid-November, we began to see an avalanche of awful Christmas stories. “Santa Claus: Serial Killer.” How many times have we seen that one? “Alfie, the Union Organizer Elf.” “Vampire Rudolph, Terror of the Christmas Skies.” And I long ago lost track of how many almost-funny quasi-technical monologues we saw that explained exactly how Santa managed to make that fantastic 24-hour delivery run with a tiny sled pulled by eight reindeer.

In the past, that was one of the absolutes in our submission guidelines: Absolutely no Christmas-themed stories! But this time, I thought, just maybe, just this once...

Okay. (And I know I’m going to regret this later.) The floodgates are now open. Go ahead. Get it out of your system. What we’re looking for this time is your absolutely worst Christmas-themed SF/F story. What is that story that jumps into your mind every time you go to the mall and suffer the saturation bombardment of holiday music? What is the one line of some insipid Christmas carol that really sets you off?* What is the most ridiculous must-have toy ever to be inflicted on parents? What is that hideous story you have hanging around in the back of your mind in exactly the same way that that godawful Christmas sweater your aunt gave you is hanging way in the back of your closet?

Now, go write a short, preferably funny (and I define “funny” quite loosely: those who know me know I have a particularly mordant sense of humor) story that let’s it rip, and send it to:

submissions@rampantloonmedia.com, Subject line: 11/17/17 Friday Challenge

Given that for most of us next week will be spent in an orgy of gluttony followed by a tryptophan coma, the deadline for this one is midnight Central time, Thursday, 12/7/17.

Have fun!


* For me, it’s the line in Mel Torme’s Christmas Song: “Tiny tots with their eyes all aglow.” I keep flashing on Village of the Damned.

Friday Challenge: Quick Update

Yesterday turned out to be a rather clinic-intensive day, so we’re running a bit behind schedule. At last count we received eight entries for the 11/3/17 Friday Challenge, and we’ll be going through them this afternoon and deciding whether there’s a clear winner or if we should run a reader poll.

In the meantime, rather than rename it the Saturday Challenge, we’ll be posting the 11/17/17 Friday Challenge in about an hour.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Friday Challenge Deadline Reminder

Just a gentle reminder here that the deadline for the 11/3 Friday Challenge is in a bit over 48 hours. We've received five entries, as of the last time I checked. For the particulars of this particular challenge, see the foregoing link. For general rules and such, see this link

Oh, these posts always get more attention if I include an image. Okay, how about this one?

Stupefying Stories: Progress Report, 11/14/17

It’s been a challenging week here at Casa di Calamari. With the abrupt and unexpected shutdown last week of Pronoun.com, we have in one blow lost our distribution into the Nook, Kobo, Google Play, and Apple iTunes stores, as well as into the OverDrive and Bibliotecha library sharing services.

This in itself is not an insurmountable problem. The lion’s share of our sales have always been through the Amazon Kindle store, and we still have direct access to the Nook, Kobo, iTunes, and Google Play stores, should we decide to go back to doing that. It was just a.) nice to have a single point of control for all our non-Amazon distribution (especially given that Apple has made an art form of being difficult to work with), and b.) really nice to have the ability to distribute ebooks for free, which is something Amazon makes not quite, but very nearly, impossible.

The problem is, our primary marketing strategy for the rest of this year was based on being able to release a series of free ebooks—beginning last week, actually—in hopes of spurring more interest in the rest of our titles.

Sigh. Dammit. Back to the drawing board.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

About The Friday Challenge

Because so many people have asked for official rules, submission guidelines, and all that sort of stuff for The Friday Challenge, here they are. (And they're also on a permanent link at the top of the right column.)


The winner of the 10/13 Friday Challenge, with a decisive 62% of the votes cast, is “Flowers for Momma,” by James Westbrooks. Second place goes to “Queen of the Prairie,” by Aaron Bradford Starr, and third to “Let the dead bury the dead,” by Kersley Fitzgerald.  If you’d like to read any or all of these stories, you can do so at this link.

We’ll have more to say about the entries we received and what the judges had to say about them in a bit, or perhaps tomorrow. At the moment I’m still cleaning up the mess left by Facebook’s still-unexplained server error yesterday, which locked us out of our own Facebook page for most of the day.

Friday, November 3, 2017

The Friday Challenge: 11/03/17

With a few hours left before the poll closes--

(Memo to Self: make the deadline midnight Thursday for all future Friday Challenges)

--it looks like "Flowers for Momma" has jumped out to a commanding lead in the 10/13 Friday Challenge. However, there is a tight battle for second place between "Queen of the Prairie" and "Let the dead bury the dead" and that race remains too close to call, so unlike the TV networks, we're not going to announce the results just yet. If you haven't yet read these three stories, there's still time for you to do so and then vote for your favorite. Winner to be announced after the poll closes.

¤     ¤     ¤

Meanwhile, as promised, here's today's new Friday Challenge.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

From the SHOWCASE archives...

Fiction: “Martian Rules” by C. R. Hodges

Eternal fame, top hammock, and a shoe contract all came down to five used drinking straws clutched in the oversized mitt of a slightly inebriated Irishman. We consumed half my stash of medicinal whiskey celebrating the landing and arguing over Mick’s self-proclaimed Martian Rules. “Down a shot. Pray or don’t pray, as ye see fit. Choose.”

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. There had been a ninety-seven-page international treaty sequencing the precise order of Martian egress—bureaucratic gibberish for who walks on Mars first—by our international crew. But when Texas seceded, the treaty was voided, and my shoe contract too. I had seethed about my ill fortune until my young son had told me, “It’s okay, Papi,” on our biweekly video call.

That was the last time I saw him, clutching an overstuffed bear with a red bandana around its neck, blowing me a kiss.

[...read the rest of the story...]

¤     ¤     ¤

C.R. Hodges writes all manner of speculative fiction, from ghost stories to urban fantasy to science fiction. Twenty-six of his short stories have been published in markets such as Cicada, On the Premises, and EscapePod, and he is a first-prize winner of the 2016 Writer’s Digest Popular Fiction Awards. When he is not writing or playing the euphonium, he runs a product design company in Colorado, where he lives with his wife, dog, and no ghosts that he knows of. His online haunts include https://crhodges.wordpress.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/C.R.Hodges.Author/

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

From the SHOWCASE archives...

Of the 170-some stories we published during the four-year run of SHOWCASE as a quasi-independent production, this one remains one of my all-time absolute favorites.

Fiction: “Dragonomics,” by Richard J. Dowling

Unlike most of his brethren, the dragon Slagadune slept with both eyes closed, for he could smell any intruder foolhardy enough to stumble into his cave. A single blast of his blazing breath would turn the hardest steel to ash and melt skin and bones to butter. What’s more, dragonfire was not the only weapon at his disposal…
And so he snored comfortably through the night, curled atop his mountain of gold.

Until, that is, just after the witching hour, when an unmistakeable stench made his nostrils flare, and snatched him from his sleep, and he woke already knowing that into his domain a familiar creature had come. More than one, in fact, as the odour was overpoweringly strong. Sure enough, six pairs of beady eyes shone through the gloom like gems.

“Dwarves,” he rasped. “Come to steal my gold have you? Slagadune shall steal your souls.”

[...read the rest of the story...

¤     ¤     ¤

RICHARD J. DOWLING is a writer who hopes to bring a smile to the faces of life-forms throughout the galaxy and in all dimensions. Born in England, he currently resides in Spain and, for the moment, is happy living on Earth. You can reach him at his facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/RichardJDowling