Soon. Very soon.

So much has happened since I last updated.

There’ve been fires.

There’ve been earthquakes.

There’ve been hurricanes.

Has anyone checked the volcanoes? I feel like someone should check the volcanoes.

That has been a whole lot of bad news.

The good news is that, while it has taken longer for me to get my act together than I’d hoped, I am finally on the verge of getting my new collection published! Woo hoo!

I’m using 23 of the 26 stories I wrote for this year’s AtoZ blogging challenge. They’ve all been fully edited and polished to a high shine.

Plus, I wrote 3 entirely new stories to replace the ones that weren’t working for me.

Plus, I’m including a couple of stories that previously appeared on this blog that fit the watery theme.

Plus, I wrote 3 additional bonus stories, especially for this collection.

So this collection of flash fiction will be coming in at a whopping 31 stories! That’s one story a day for a month, regardless of the month!

And… I will also be putting out a print version! This will be my first title with a physical copy, so I’m pretty excited.

In conjunction with the new collection going up, I’ll also be posting my 2 previous collections at additional retailers instead of just Amazon. Nothin’ against the ‘Zon, but it hasn’t helped me to be exclusive so I taking the wide-market plunge. As soon as I have links for those, I’ll add them to my book pages. If you’ve been waiting with baited breath to buy on Nook, Kobo, iBooks or elsewhere… first, go brush your teeth. Then watch this space for information on when they’re available.

All these things should be happening within the next week or less. Potentially significantly less.

I’ll post again when it’s all out there.

Freeman–Blog Hop July 2017

It’s that time again! I hope you enjoy not just my story, but the stories of the other writers involved in the hop!

Freeman

Martin sat peeling the jenfruit, silently waiting for whatever would come next. People he didn’t know had been coming and going. He heard the commotion elsewhere in the house. He was told to wait.

He’d only been a freeman for a short time, but it was enough to know how these things worked. He wouldn’t interfere. He would only wait.

“Go outside. Take a walk.” Charel’s voice sounded stern, but her face held traces of a smile. “You do no good just sitting here. Your nerves may as well be poison in the air. Go. Go…”

Martin stood, gathered the sections of purple jenfruit, and went without a word. He knew better than to argue with Charel, even though he had no place to go.

Outside, Martin paused in front of the building. Charel told him to go, but as a bondman he’d never had the right to simply wander. Finally he chose a direction and began to walk, eating wedges of fruit as he did.

As he passed the park he heard children laughing. The sound drew him closer. He’d never been around children—not since the collective anyway, and that was not the same. It was so strange to see these little ones running and playing, their mothers watching close by.

A little one in a red romper ran up to him and squealed. At a nod from his mother, Martin handed over the last of his jenfruit. The boy stuck it in his mouth as he ran off, purple juices dripping down his chin.

They live their freedom not having earned it. I paid for mine, yet still I’m bound.

He started walking again, so caught in his own thoughts that he didn’t realize where he was until he looked up.

His bond yard looked as it always had. Bondmen lifted and worked and hurried. Some he recognized, but none paid him any attention. No bondman would look at a freeman unbidden. Certainly not during a laboring day.

Martin was surprised to feel emotion rising in his chest. He did not miss this labor. Those men were no longer his brothers. And yet…

He leaned forward, hands on the fence, as he watched a pair of grimy hands cutting a board held in place by strong arms dripping with sweat. Martin had known who he was in the bond yard.

He turned and walked quickly back the way he had come. He no longer belonged in this place. He suddenly wanted to be no place but back in that kitchen Charel had shooed him from.

He didn’t run. Freemen don’t run. But he wasted no time. If he was told to go again, he would refuse—that was his right, now.

The door opened to a silent room. It surprised him considering the earlier activity. Is something wrong, he wondered. He stood frozen, not knowing what to do.

Then Charel was there, tugging at his sleeve. “Where have you been, Martin? Gemma is asking for you.” The woman smiled now, showing every crease in her worn face. “It’s time for you to go in.”

Martin let himself be led to his wife and freeborn son.

Copyright Notice: Please note that I fully assert my right to be associated as the author of this story, and while it is complete, it may not be finished. This story may be subject to alteration at the author’s discretion. Please do not copy, quote, or post this story or excerpts anywhere in any format. You are, however, free to share the link with anyone who might be interested.

Links

perpetualbloghop

I hope you’ll take the time to read the other stories in this Hop. These are some great writers and wonderful people. And if you like what you read, I hope you’ll consider joining their lists too. The world is a richer place when there are more stories to tell.

Please note, if you find links that don’t work, try again later. Sometimes it takes a little time to get the gremlins worked out.

  1. Freeman by Elizabeth McCleary **YOU ARE HERE**
  2. Hell’s Play by Juneta Key
  3. The Token by Eli Winfield
  4. Moshe by Chris Makowski
  5. To The Moon And Beyond by Fanni Sütő
  6. Surprise by Katharinia Gerlach
  7. In A Picture by Erica Damon
  8. The Past Tastes Better by Karen Lynn
  9. Revealing Space by Barbara Lund
  10. The Rose Tender by Raven O’Fiernan
  11. The Last Sleeping Beauty by Tamara Ruth

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Cover Poll–Flashes of Splashes

I am finally getting to the “almost done” stage of my new flash fiction collection, and I realize I haven’t mentioned it much here.

It’s mostly based on the stories I wrote in April for the AtoZ Challenge, but everything has been edited and cleaned up, and a few of those stories have been tossed out entirely. The title I finally landed on is Flashes of Splashes, referencing the water theme running throughout the book.

Here’s where I need your help… I’ve been messing with cover designs for about 3 weeks, and I almost can’t think anymore. So, here are 6 covers currently in the running (5 that I like, one I’m less thrilled with). Please indicate which ones you love and/or which ones you hate. What would make you pick up the book? What would make you avoid it entirely and why? Feel free to give your opinions in the comments, or shoot me a private message if you don’t want to leave one publicly. Image names are beneath the images. And I just realized I didn’t update the title style on the Dancer image, so consider the two different title/subtitle styles as options on any of these, if you wish.

To inspire you, I’ll post the final-ish versions of the re-covers for New Skin and Flashes of Magic in another post.

Dancer

Mermaid

Rain Girl

Umbrella Man

Umbrella Bricks

Umbrella Yellow

A to Z 2017–Z is for Zamboni

[Edit: September 21, 2017. This story didn’t make the cut for my collection, Flashes of Splashes, so I’m leaving it here in its original form.]

 

In just barely under the wire. This was a fun month and I even like most of the stories I got. Woot! I hope you enjoy this final installment in the 2017 A to Z Blogging Challenge.

Z is for Zamboni

Clean smooth ice is a thing of beauty. Nothing finer in all the world.

And there was no finer machine to properly groom a sheet of ice than a Zamboni Ice Resurfacer.

That’s what Frank knew. His daddy not only passed down the family trade of Professional Zamboni Ice Technician, he also named his only son after the man who invented the machine that bore his name—Frank J. Zamboni.

The world never knew a prouder Professional Zamboni Ice Technician than Frank Zamboni Ignazio.

Frank arrived well in advance of the day’s activities at the Smith Valley Ice Rink. There was no finer time to resurface ice than at the crack of dawn. No finer place than Smith Valley.

Well, maybe the Johnsonville Ice Arena. Calvin Bigalow did not deserve such a prestigious ice grooming position. The man didn’t understand the true beauty and importance of the job.

Frank shook off the thought. He didn’t need to get himself upset over things he couldn’t control. Today marked his 3rd year as the sole Ice Technician for Smith Valley, and he planned to celebrate with an extra lap around the rink and maybe a Slurpee later in the afternoon.

A few minutes before 5:30 AM, Frank let himself in through the back entrance of the rink. After switching on the overhead lighting he opened the storage room that held his beloved Zamboni.

After filling the ice making tank with clean water, he started the machine and headed toward the main ice.

Normally, he would have started an immediate counter-clockwise circuit of ice resurfacing. This morning, however, he found his way blocked. A small man in a red suit with a black vest and red bowler hat was standing on the ice in black and white wing-tipped shoes.

“Excuse me,” Frank said. “Sir? You can’t be in here. The rink doesn’t open until Nine. And you can’t be on the ice with street shoes. Only proper ice skates are allowed.”

“Son of fire,” the man in red intoned. “You have violated your calling.”

Frank huffed. The man wasn’t moving off his ice. “Sir? I really need you to step aside.”

The man didn’t move. “Frank Ignazio,” he said, “crystalline water maker. Your true identity lies elsewhere.”

Frank started to get irritated. Checking that his Zamboni was properly braked, he climbed down to confront the man directly. “Mr. Uh… do you have a name?” He didn’t wait for an answer. “You have to go. I have a job to do and you are in my way.”

“Frank Zamboni Ignazio.”

It finally dawned on Frank that this guy knew his name. “Do I know you?” he asked.

“You are the chosen. The son of fire.” The man’s voice seemed to resonate over the ice. “Come with me and meet your destiny.”

“My destiny? I’m living that already,” Frank said, his voice emphatic. “Since I was six-years-old I never wanted nothing but to drive this here rig and make the ice as smooth as glass. Now, step aside before I decide to call law enforcement.”

Frank swung his arm towards the man in a dismissive fashion. He was shocked and dismayed when the man in the red suit seemed to flare into flame before melting into the ice, leaving a deep, uneven hole in the rink’s otherwise uniform surface.

“Well, damn,” he said, staring at the hole. “Now I’m gonna have to patch that.” He shook his head. “You’d think those demons would learn to leave me alone by now. I can’t think of one single thing that would make me want to go somewhere as hot as they want to take me.”

Frank Zamboni Ignazio, the Son of Fire, climbed onto his Zamboni and set to grooming his ice.

 

Copyright Notice: Please note that I fully assert my right to be associated as the author of this story, and while it is complete, it may not be finished. This story may be subject to alteration at the author’s discretion. Please do not copy, quote, or post this story or excerpts anywhere in any format. You are, however, free to share the link with anyone who might be interested.

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A to Z 2017–N is for Noria

[Edit: September 21, 2017. This story (and its partner, A is for Aqueduct) didn’t make the cut for my collection, Flashes of Splashes, so I’m leaving it here in its original form.]

 

I’ll admit it – this is not close to the best story I’ve written this month. It’s a takeoff on the incomplete A is for Aqueduct story, it continues to be incomplete, and it’s based on a device few actually know the name of. The Noria is a water wheel run by water power (as opposed to animal power), usually for the purpose of raising water to a higher level. Here’s a video showing one working. Cool tech, actually. But this is a fairly weak story in spite of that.

I guess they can’t all be home runs. Especially when there are all too few words relating to water starting with certain letters of the alphabet. sigh

Onward!

N is for Noria

As the wheel dipped and circled, water filled the attached earthen pots and emptied them into a stone channel. The water diverted from the river flowed into the aqueduct that watered the vineyard in the vale on the other side of the ridge.

“I don’t understand,” said Sineta. “It’s so little water compared to the river. I don’t understand why such a small thing is a problem.”

Zaida shook her head. “It is not the amount of water that is the problem. It is the taking. This wheel, this noria…” she scrunched her face, measuring her words before continuing. “My people, we are the water. We give life to the water and it gives life to us. This machine, it takes the life and we are less because of it.”

Sineta frowned, trying to understand. “But we have taken water from this river forever.”

“Not forever,” countered Zaida. “For a long time, yes. But not forever.”

“But why are your people suddenly angry? What have they done with my father?” Her voice broke as tears welled in her eyes.

“When you were taking the water a little at a time, it was different. But the Noria, it takes the water faster than we can compensate for. We are made weak because it takes more life than we can afford to lose.” The fairy turned from the wheel toward Sineta. “I was with my sister trying to stop it, but we have no direct control over the things of men. I was washed down this channel to your farm.” She dropped her eyes. “My sister was less fortunate.”

Sineta’s eyes opened wide as she struggled for words. “I wasn’t… I don’t… Was she killed?” The last came out as a whisper.

“Not killed, no. But her life magic, so much of it was scooped out of her.”

“Can she be healed?”

“She can be restored,” said the fairy. “But none has the strength to do so while the noria is disrupting our flow.”

“Then we have to stop it.” Sineta’s voice was firm, even as her face drooped. “Except I don’t know how. With my father gone…”

“It is settled, then.” Zaida clapped her tiny hands as a grin crossed her face. “I will help you recover your father. You will help me restore my sister.”

“And then maybe,” said Sineta, “we can find a way to get water to the vineyard that won’t hurt your people.”

Copyright Notice: Please note that I fully assert my right to be associated as the author of this story, and while it is complete, it may not be finished. This story may be subject to alteration at the author’s discretion. Please do not copy, quote, or post this story or excerpts anywhere in any format. You are, however, free to share the link with anyone who might be interested.

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A to Z 2017–A is for Aqueduct

[Edit: September 21, 2017. This story (and its partner, N is for Noria) didn’t make the cut for my collection, Flashes of Splashes, so I’m leaving it here in its original form.]

 

Welcome to my first post for the A to Z blogging challenge for 2017.

Those of you who have played along with me before probably have some clue of what I’m trying to do here. For those of you who haven’t, you can check out my post where I talk about it, or check out the A to Z website for full details. And if you are interested, you can participate too… it’s not too late to jump into the fray!

Those who have followed my blog the last two years know that I’m trying to write flash fictions corresponding to the letters of the alphabet. And to add to my level of difficulty this year, I decided I want to try to make all my stories somehow fit with a water-related theme.

You might also recognize that, in grand form, I have a bad habit of writing scenes or story starters instead of true flash fiction. But because I’m on a schedule, it is what it is. The stories that spark something for me will probably get revisited at some point. Some may never get completed. Some probably need to be cannibalized and completely rewritten from the ground up. Just, ya know, don’t hold your breath. Although, I do love feedback. So if there’s a flash fiction (or story fragment) that you particularly like, let me know. I might tag it to get looked at again sooner rather than later. 😀

And now, without further ado, today’s installment.

A Is For Aqueduct

“Idiot girl! Can’t you do anything right?”Sineta hung her head and let the tirade flow over her. She knew her mother would apologize in the morning, but that didn’t change the hurt from her words tonight.

Sineta hung her head and let the tirade flow over her. She knew her mother would apologize in the morning, but that didn’t change the hurt from her words tonight.

She wanted to explain, to describe the being she had seen. The thing that startled her and made her drop the basket.  The thing that seemed to giggle and hide as soon as anyone else came near. But she knew her mother would not listen. Her mother never listened, especially when her mother had been drinking her father’s strong, fortified wine. So Sineta kept her head down and her mouth closed.

The wine had been disappearing faster than usual lately. Her father had gone down the mountain to the coast with a cartful of barrels. He was supposed to return before the spring pruning. That was six weeks ago and father still hadn’t returned. The vineyard looked wild and unkempt. Their laborers had been ready to work, but mother would not let them touch the vines without father’s assessment. So the vines were unruly, the laborers had gone by ones and twos to find employment elsewhere, and Sineta was left alone to be shouted at by her drunken mother.

Sineta didn’t notice that her mother was done yelling until she heard the bedroom door slam. That meant peace, at least for the rest of the evening.

She stooped to retrieve the basket she dropped earlier, picking up the produce that had scattered across the kitchen’s plank floor.

As she placed it in the center of their round table where it could not fall again, she froze. Though the window was closed and latched against the evening breeze, the bright blue curtain rippled distinctly in the corner of her vision.

Heart thudding, Sineta turned. “Is someone there?” Her voice was barely audible in the still evening.

Had she still been holding the basket it surely would have fallen again when a tiny face with delicate features peeked out from behind the rough-spun cloth. When a voice like tiny bells spoke, Sineta’s own legs could not hold her and she sat down hard on the floor.

* * *

“I didn’t mean to startle you,” the voice said as Sineta opened her eyes. Small brown eyes surrounded by a wild cascade of black hair inserted themselves into her view of the ceiling. “I’m sorry you fell.” Tiny hands tugged with surprising strength to help Sineta back to sitting instead of sprawled, haphazard, across the age-worn planks of the floor.

“Who are you? I saw you before, didn’t I?”

The tiny woman—not a child, Sineta could tell that much—nodded. “I’m what you might call a water fairy,” she said. “I wouldn’t call me that, but you couldn’t pronounce what I would call me, so that will have to do.”

Sineta blinked. A fairy?

“I need your help,” the fairy continued. “I was accidentally brought here by the aqueduct that supplies your vineyard.”

“Oh no. I’m so sorry!” Sineta was genuinely concerned for her.

The fairy shook her head. “I’m alright,” she said. “But my people are not pleased.” A frown marred the smooth skin of her forehead.

“I fear that they may have disrupted your father’s return.”

**Find a followup to this story in N is for Noria.

Copyright Notice: Please note that I fully assert my right to be associated as the author of this story, and while it is complete, it may not be finished. This story may be subject to alteration at the author’s discretion. Please do not copy, quote, or post this story or excerpts anywhere in any format. You are, however, free to share the link with anyone who might be interested.

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What’s coming up?

I say this entirely too often around here: I need to be more consistent in what I’m posting.

I always have the best intentions to post regularly and be witty, creative, and interesting. And, as someone once said, “How’s that workin’ out for ya?”

Ahem.

Obviously, it’s kinda not.

That said, I do have some specific goals at the moment and for the rest of the year, so here I am to talk about them. Yay.

A to Z Blogging Challenge

For the last couple of years, I’ve had a lot of fun participating in the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Basically, you write/post on your blog every day during April. Sundays are an off day unless one is needed to hit the 26 total posts required to round out the alphabet, as is the case in 2017. As I’ve done before, I will be endeavoring to post a flash fiction story daily throughout the month of April.

As I’ve done before, I will be endeavoring to post a flash fiction story daily throughout the month of April. I will NOT, however, do what I did last year and try to make all those stories scenes of one larger story. While I was really happy overall with the idea I got last year (an Android raises a human boy for a science fair) the story I ended up with is such a disjointed mess that it will probably take a near-complete rewrite to pull it together into something useful and cohesive. So yeah, not doing that again. Two years ago I went in with no plan and ended up with a near-even split between sci-fi, fantasy, and magical realism stories. I will be going in with no specific plan again this year.

If I try to give myself some direction and create a theme, I’ll let you know.

Camp NaNoWriMo

April is also the month of the first 2017 Camp NaNoWriMo event. Unlike November’s full-blown NaNoWriMo, Camp NaNoWriMo allows for flexible goal setting. It also lets you have smaller groups, or cabins, of like-minded writers cheering each other on. It’s a great introduction to the NaNo lifestyle, as well as a way to build some accountability if you’re challenged in the completing things department.

My goal for April’s camp will be a combination of the above-mentioned AtoZ challenge and the continuation of my in-progress revision of last year’s AtoZ mess. What that looks like for goals is roughly 13,000 words of new fiction (500 words x 26 flash stories) PLUS about four lessons completed on my HTRYN revision. I don’t know that there’s a good way of distilling the revision down to a word count, so the 13,000 is probably all I’ll put on my NaNo page, but I’ll be working on both so feel free to poke me and ask for an update if you’re curious about my progress.

Story Time Blog Hop

This has become one of my favorite ongoing challenges over the last couple of years. Some other author friends and I each post a story on our blogs four times a year, with links to all the other authors participating in the hop. It’s a way to get a few words out for our own fans, and maybe introduce our followers to other authors they will enjoy.

The upcoming Blog Hop will take place on April 26th, right in the middle of the AtoZ Challenge, so that day’s post will be doing double duty. That makes it easy. Except I need to have that post ready a week in advance so the links can get all sorted out ahead of time, that adds a layer of challenge.

The fun part about the Blog Hop, though, is that we are open to other authors participating. So, if you write speculative fiction (fantasy, sci-fi, horror, paranormal, magical realism, etc.3) and want to participate, let me know and I’ll get you the deets. Or you can click here and discover the details for yourself.

On Beyond April

So beyond April and all its deadlines breathing down my neck, I do have some other things planned for the year, although the specific goals are somewhat more nebulous at the moment.

  • Finally get a novel written. Preferably before my next birthday since this will be the half-century milestone for me. The full-spectrum goal is to plan, structure, write, and publish a long-form work of fiction. But “write a novel” is good, all-encompassing shorthand.
  • Write, polish, and submit at least 12 short stories. The intention was to do one a month throughout the year. That hasn’t happened – I’m currently three behind. *insert eyeroll here* But there is still plenty of time to fulfill this goal… I just need to get started.
  • Read. Specifically, read as many books on the writing craft as I can get my hands on. I currently have roughly 90 such books in my personal library, either on a shelf or on my Kindle. Clearly, getting them into my hands is not a problem. I’ve actually read about 12 so far this year, according to my GoodReads log. That comes out to about 4 per month. I’ll be pretty happy if I keep up that pace. And then, duh, apply what I learn, because isn’t that really the point?
  • Complete the revision that I mentioned above. Right now I have a roughly 13,000-word incomplete mess of a story written haphazardly during the 2016 AtoZ Blogging Challenge. I’m not sure yet if I’ll be expanding the story into a full-blown novelette, or paring it down into a more focused short story. I’m still trying to figure out what the story wants to be, and I’m using Holly Lisle’s How To Revise Your Novel to get through it, step-by-step. Because I expect the end result to be significantly different that the original draft I did here on the blog, I plan to leave those posts live so people can see where it started and what it becomes. At the moment you have to hunt through the AtoZ tag to find the pieces of the story. If… No. When I get the revision done and either sell the story somewhere or self-publish it, I’ll make sure I pull those posts together in one location to make it easier to find them.

Anyway, that’s about it for now.

What… isn’t that enough for you?

Reflected – Blog Hop January 2017

“I want this. I can do this. Nobody can stop me.” She stared at unblinking eyes. Hard eyes. Dark eyes. She focused so intently on those eyes that everything else seemed to fade.

The effect was ruined as a grin crept across that face.

Alice leaned toward her own reflection. “You’ve got this,” she reassured herself one more time.

She’d always known if she played her cards right she’d be in a position to make changes. Now here she was.

She squared her shoulders as she turned from the mirror, then flicked off the light and left.

rainy womanAlice took the number 10 cross-town bus and walked the remaining six blocks to her destination. She was glad for a few minutes in the rain-washed air—her confidence had slipped a little as she bounced along on the less-than-pristine city bus. Staring at her own bulbous reflection in the driver’s security mirror had her questioning reality.

Her thoughts tumbled end over end as she walked, and she wished she didn’t feel like shrinking. But fear didn’t stop her. Her glossy Oxfords swung out rhythmically, followed closely by the pin stripes of her trousers. The slight reflection in the wet pavement of the sidewalk followed her precisely, clicking along at an identical energetic gait.

When she reached 1832 Duchess Avenue, she paused to again check her image in the wide brass trim beside the door. She looked warped around the edges, but not overly flushed from her walk. Good.

Alice tugged at the heavy glass entry and stepped inside. Mr. White nodded absently from behind the security desk as he tucked away his pocket watch. The affectation didn’t seem out of place considering the man’s tidy whiskers.

A green light dinged on, and she took a deep breath as she boarded the elevator. She counted the floors as they passed like a school girl reciting her lessons.

The plush carpeting of the 14th floor absorbed the sound of her footfalls when she stepped out toward T & T Enterprises. The silence tried to make her feel insubstantial, but she shook off the sensation as she approached the receptionist.

“He’s expecting me.” She didn’t wait for an answer from the mousy woman, merely turned toward the gilt-framed mirror on the wall.

She swallowed her nervousness as she eyed her reflection. There would be no going back. She turned when the door opened.

“Alice,” Lewis greeted her with a warm handshake. “You’re early.”

“I’ve made my decision,” she said as he led her past the heavy walnut door into his office.

Once they were alone she spoke in a rush, fearing that any delay might cause her to lose her nerve. “Tell Mr. Hatter I’m going, Lewis,” she said. “Through the Looking Glass. Into Wonderland. I can’t just see the other side and not act.”

From the corner of her eye, she thought she saw him smile.

“I won’t let that woman win. I need to take down the Red Queen.”

 

 

Copyright Notice: Please note that I fully assert my right to be associated as the author of this story, and while it is complete, it may not be finished. This story may be subject to alteration at the author’s discretion. Please do not copy, quote, or post this story or excerpts anywhere in any format. You are, however, free to share the link with anyone who might be interested.

Links

perpetualbloghop

I hope you’ll take the time to read the other stories in this Hop. These are some great writers and wonderful people. And if you like what you read, I hope you’ll consider joining their lists too. The world is a richer place when there are more stories to tell.

  1. Reflected by Elizabeth McCleary **YOU ARE HERE**
  2. Veronica by Jessica Kruppa
  3. Last Stop by Erica Damon
  4. Jesse and Tyler by Bill Bush
  5. The Poisoner of Time by Karen Lynn
  6. New Stork Inc. by Katharina Gerlach
  7. Pocket Heart by Juneta Key
  8. Oh Baby! by J. Q. Rose

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Flowers in the Winter

I first published this flash fiction on my blog as part of the 2015 A-Z challenge. All those stories came down when my 2016 stories started going up. But when my friend Katharina Gerlach invited me to participate in her annual Advent Calendar again, which has a winter theme this year, I immediately remembered this story and decided to write something related. I’m reposting this here to give that one some context. For those who want to know what happens next in this tale, be sure to sign up for Advent Calendar alerts (the link is on the upper right) so you won’t miss any of the stories! Cat doesn’t send spam, and the list for this calendar only gets notifications about this calendar.

You can start opening your surprises on December 1st.

 

Flowers in the Winter

“Georgie, come inside.”

The red-haired girl frowned as her sister tugged on her arm. “Don’t wanna,” she said. “I want frowers!” She pulled her away and crossed her arms with a defiant harrumph.

“Flowers,” Beatrice corrected. “And you can’t have flowers right now. It’s winter. No flowers ’til spring. Nothing green. No colors. Just snow. That’s just the way it has to be.” The older girl’s voice had a tone of finality that Georgie knew meant business. “Remember what happened last time?”

Georgie didn’t want to remember, but she did. The Wardens came and there was lots of yelling. The men in their bright red coats almost took away father. Mother made Beatrice take her upstairs to hide. And it seemed a lot darker than it should have, like being in the wardrobe with a blanket over her head. The memory scared her, especially the words they used—magic and witch and evil. That’s what finally made her decide.

She frowned at her sister’s offered hand for a minute longer, just for good measure. Then she took it with her own and the two walked together down the snowy path and entered the solarium.

“Now,” said Beatrice, “if you’ll behave and just stay inside, I’ll go to the kitchen and get us some cookies.”

Georgie frowned a bit harder before she finally gave in. “Ok. But I want four,” she was emphatic. “The lemon ones. They’re the best.”

“If mother made them then that’s what I’ll bring. If not,” Beatrice shrugged, “it might have to be shortbread.” She tousled her sister’s hair. “Either way, I’ll also bring milk.”

Georgie sat on a bench in the sunroom that overlooked the back garden and pouted. She hated all the cold and ick of winter. She wanted pretty things. But father made her promise, no more flowers. No more colors. Nothing green… at least not until green started happening on its own. Just snow. Cold and wet and boring and ugly.

Swinging her feet impatiently as she waited for cookies, Georgie wondered if flowers were really the problem. Maybe it was just the colors. What had Beatrice said? Just snow.

“Just snow,” she said to herself as she jumped off the bench to smoosh her nose against the glass. “Nothing pink or purple or yellow. Just snow.”

iceflowersGeorgie was still standing with her face pressed against the window and her fingers tapping lightly on the pane when Beatrice came back with cookies and milk.

Beatrice put the tray down with a clink. “Lemon cookies, as requested,” she said. “And also some lavender short bread. And… Oh, Georgie! What have you done?”

“I didn’t make any colors,” said Georgie. “Nothing green. No frowers. Just pretty.”

“More than pretty,” said Beatrice, shaking her head. “It’s beautiful. But if the Wardens find out, we’ll all be in trouble.”

The girls stood side by side, staring at snow and ice that Georgie had transformed into delicate floral sculptures more detailed than any garden.

Copyright Notice: Please note that I fully assert my right to be associated as the author of this story, and while it is complete, it may not be finished. This story may be subject to alteration at the author’s discretion. Please do not copy, quote, or post this story or excerpts anywhere in any format. You are, however, free to share the link with anyone who might be interested.

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Over James Henry Wilcox’s Dead Body – Blog Hop October 2016

Over James Henry Wilcox’s Dead Body

key-252231_1280The large brass circle of keys clattered against the door as Daiyu locked the shop on the edge of China Town. None would come for her herbs tonight. In truth, none came much anymore since her YeYe was gone. Grandfather brought her across the ocean. He taught her his trade. But he couldn’t keep from the drink, and he left her little legacy but his debt. If she couldn’t do this, she would lose both shop and home.

Turning, she settled a heavy cloak across her shoulders. The San Francisco fog and her destination tonight meant she would be more comfortable if she stayed covered. She paused for a moment to breathe deeply. The evening’s wood fires and the familiar scent of spices that reminded her of home mingled with the city’s salt air. Daiyu squared her shoulders and strode up the street.

The click of her low, wood-soled shoes on the cobblestones echoed between the dark buildings that surrounded her. Most people avoided the alleys and byways where Daiyu spent the majority of her time. But she would never fear the dark—she was named for black jade. The dark was a friend that kept her secrets.

Tonight, the dark hid her form as she passed by banks and businesses that would not welcome her in the daylight.

After a quick, twenty-minute walk, Daiyu pulled open the ornate wrought iron gate. Brambles tugged at her wide, silk trousers as she stepped lightly between the shadowed stones. She muttered apologies to the departed. She would never understand this lack of respect for the dead. Then again, what did westerners know about venerating the deceased? Would their dead even care about nettles and vines? Those buried here were not the ancestors who would be called on for guidance.

Most were not.

Finding the grave she sought, Daiyu retrieved a small box of sulfur matches from the folds of her cloak. She cleared a small patch of earth in front of the stone in which she placed a few dry leaves, then struck a match. When the flame rose, she added herbs from a small clay jar and spoke, her brittle words sounding loud in the gathering fog.

“James Henry Wilcox, I call you forth by rightful charge. You will come and give me the answers I seek.”

Her skin prickled and a shiver ran through her. She tugged at her cloak, now stirring in a sudden wind, and repeated her call.

As she spoke the words for a third time, the small fire she had ignited blinked out, leaving only a curl of white smoke against the night’s darkness. “I am here,” said a voice. “Why do you disturb me.”

“I am resuming our negotiation,” she said. A cold smile slid across Daiyu’s features. “I told you, you owe me answers,” she said. “I promised I would haunt you. Here I am.”

The ghost of James Henry Wilcox faded into view like a reflection on imperfect glass. “I thought ghosts were meant to do the haunting,” he said.

“You’d think that, but I’m the one with the unfinished business,” Daiyu replied, crossing her arms. “Where will I find it?”

A suggestion of a scowl crossed his non-corporeal countenance. “Where will you find what?”

“The deed. You promised a guarantee of my home.” She crossed her arms as another chill gust swirled around her.

Daiyu jumped as the ghost of James Henry Wilcox laughed. This was not what she expected, but it made her smile. She liked a ghost with some spirit.

The ghost circled her once and then spoke again. “As far as I’m concerned, you got me killed. I think that makes us even.”

“I took you to where you wanted to go and you got yourself killed. You still owe me what was promised.”

“Over my dead body,” said James.

Daiyu clicked her tongue. “And here we are.”

“Yes,” he said. “Here we are. There’s nothing left that I need. You have nothing to negotiate with.”

“Except,” said Daiyu, “maybe I do.” Her fingers closed on another item hidden within her cloak.

A blurring caused by the shake of a head obscured the ghost’s features momentarily. “How could you?” he said. “I’m dead. I followed you into that den, and now I’m dead.”

“But your sister… she is still alive.” Daiyu finally drew out a photograph showing a sad-looking young woman with vacant eyes. James Henry Wilcox reached right through the picture before remembering he could not take it. “Give me what you promised,” Daiyu said, “and I will take care of her.”

“Take care of?” Worry creased Wilcox’s transparent features.

chinese-998917_1280“I will rescue her. Train her. Teach her what I know. She will be able to summon spirits.” Daiyu paused as realization dawned on the specter’s features, then continued. “She will be able to summon you.”

“I’d be able to see her again? I had hoped,” he said, “but I never thought…”

“You never expected I could actually help you.’

“The opium? Can your skills really overcome that?”

Daiyu stared at him for a moment then nodded. “I can break its spell. You will have what we agreed on after all.”

“Then it is decided,” James said. “I’ll help you get the deed to your building, and you’ll get my sister out of that viper’s hands.”

“Good,” said Daiyu. “It is decided.”

Copyright Notice: Please note that I fully assert my right to be associated as the author of this story, and while it is complete, it may not be finished. This story may be subject to alteration at the author’s discretion. Please do not copy, quote, or post this story or excerpts anywhere in any format. You are, however, free to share the link with anyone who might be interested.

Links

perpetualbloghop

I hope you’ll take the time to read the other stories in this Hop. These are some great writers and wonderful people. And if you like what you read, I hope you’ll consider joining their lists too. The world is a richer place when there are more stories to tell.

Please note: The links should finally be all sorted out. If you find any errors, please let me know!

  1. Elizabeth McCleary – Over James Henry Wilcox’s Dead Body **YOU ARE HERE**
  2. Canis Lupus The Picture
  3. Peg Fisher All In the Fall, a Fractured Fairytale
  4. Bill Bush Trapped
  5. Crystal Collier Emily’s Ghost
  6. Viola Fury 911
  7. Benjamin Thomas Autumn Cascade
  8. C. Lee McKenzie Beautiful
  9. Erica Damon Penance’
  10. J. Q. Rose Sorry
  11. Elise VanCise Lady In The Woods
  12. Barbara Lund Spooky Space
  13. Angela Wooldridge Quiet Neighbours
  14. Katharina Gerlach Australian Dream
  15. Karen Lynn The Waves at Midnight
  16. Sherri Conway Ants

 

 

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