Summer Siren–Blog Hop July 2018

I think I cut this one just a little too close for comfort. As of Monday afternoon, I had no story and no ideas. So I picked a title which became my prompt. Here’s the product of my last-minute, mad dash to complete a story.

I hope you like it.

Summer Siren

Halia scowled as dark clouds gathered over her island home. It was summer, and she wanted to be on the cliffs, watching as beautiful men on their beautiful sailing vessels skirted the reefs that ran below the surface of the deep blue water. In her dreams a sailor with golden hair, ruddy skin, and deep blue eyes beckoned to her. He sang songs of the sea and told tales of distant lands.

Halia watched for him.

Longed for him.

She knew he would come to her. She knew.

Neso did not approve. The matters of men are their own affair. The love of men leads only to despair. The rhyme was her sister’s mantra. Halia didn’t care. She saw the ships and their sailors and she was drawn to them, certain that their journeys would take them to exotic destinations far away. She liked to imagine what it would be like to go on an adventure across the sea.

“Maybe,” she had mused to herself on more than one occasion, “my blue-eyed sailor might some day come share tales from across the water. Maybe I could go with him. Maybe he could love me.” Desire bordering on desperation filled her soul.

She knew it was an empty wish.

Still, she watched the waves.

This day, what she saw surprised her.

It was not a sailing ship large enough to carry cargoes of silks and spices and wine. It was a smaller boat, a mere skiff by the looks of it. Not a vessel fit to be traveling this far out to sea.

Halia ran along the strand of sandy soil to a rocky outcropping. From that vantage point she would be able to see the boat more clearly.

More importantly, anyone on the boat would be more likely to see her. With the wind beginning to whip, she knew the tumbled boulders of her shoreline would be all but invisible. A ship large enough for fifty men would easily be grounded on those rocks. This tiny boat could be smashed to kindling.

She climbed until she could haul herself onto a broad, flat ledge. The heat of the stone soaked into her bare skin in spite of the storm that now threatened. A wall of grey rain loomed in the distance.

And there it was. A tiny white boat bobbed between waves that revealed and hid it in turn.

On its deck a single man worked to control the bobbing vessel. She could see his golden hair and his ruddy skin. And despite the wind, she could hear a deep, baritone voice ringing out clear and piercing.

Come to me, my bonnie lass
Come across the sea
For though I sail ten thousand leagues
Ever I’ll return to thee, my love
Ever I’ll return to thee

She knew in her heart that, could she see his face, she would fall right into his deep blue eyes.

Her toes curled against warm granite as the rain began. “I’m coming, my love. You have found me!” Her heart leapt and Halia followed.

***

“Halia? Halia!” Neso cried out for her sister as she picked her way along the rocky beach. Tears welled in her eyes as she chased a faint hope that her foolish sibling might have taken shelter in a grotto against the morning’s storm. She’d heard the song herself, so she knew. Her sister was lost forever.

Halia had answered the call of the siren.

 

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. Summer Siren, by Elizabeth McCleary **YOU ARE HERE**
    2. The Birch Tree, by Juneta Key
    3. The Zoning Zone, by Vanessa Wells
    4. Secrets, by Elizabeth Winfield
    5. Team Building Exercise, by Samantha Bryant
    6. Another Time, by J. Q. Rose
    7. Suds and Sclaes, by Eileen Mueller
    8. Beginning Again, by Karen Lynn
    9. Under the Bridge, by Katharina Gerlach
    10. Black and White, by Bill Bush

Hare–Blog Hop April 2018

Welcome, once again, to the Story Time Blog Hop. I hope you enjoy this round’s offering. Don’t forget to check out the links to the additional stories below!

Hare

Clementine changed as quickly as she could and slipped out the back of her hut. It wasn’t the best night to be out, what with the rain and all. A definite chill hung in the air despite the coming of Spring. Fortunately, the fur that now cloaked her would protect from the elements. Besides, the Elemental that sought her, a vengeful wood sprite, would never recognize her as a hare.

She honestly didn’t even know what that sprite was so upset about. There were plenty of trees. How was she to know that particular tree was so important? Sprites don’t hang out shingles to announce their presence. All Clementine knew was that it was old and gnarled and looked like it would make fine firewood.

It had, too. She was right about that.

She supposed her own home might as well be firewood now, too. That sprite, nasty fairy, had called on the wind to circle her house. Near enough knocked the blessed thing down. Near enough destroyed or swept away all her notes and papers. Near enough dashed Clementine’s hopes of ever being more than a simple shape shifter.

At least she was still that. The angry sprite had surely meant to kill her. There was fire in her eyes—never a good sign on a wood sprite, touchy as they could be about fire near their trees. So before the sprite’s wind could catch her scent, Clementine had shifted to a jackrabbit. Low and fast, she’d slipped out and watched from nearby bushes as her house collapsed and was torn apart.

She nibbled on a sprig of ivy and pondered what to do.

A rustle in the nearby underbrush caught her attention, putting her on high alert. She paused only long enough to sense movement before she began to run for her life. A fox darted after her and was close on her heals.

Bare moments passed before Clementine started to feel the fatigue of the chase. Taking the form of a rabbit didn’t give her the speed or stamina of the creature. She’d been a hare numerous times, but never for long enough to build the proper muscles.

Lucky for her, she had enough of her own human wits about her to head for a nearby clearing. As soon as the open sky hung above her, she leapt. Strong, feathered wings spread to her sides and she flapped moonward.

Her transformation happened none too soon; she felt the fox’s breath on her feet as her eagle’s body lifted into the sky.

Strong.

Free.

And vengeful. In this guise, she resented the fox that wanted to eat her. She looked down and saw it with her enhanced vision, still skulking warily at the edges of the thicket. It probably wondered where it’s meal went.

With another screech, she dove toward the little fox that had seemed so large just moments before. She got closer and reached, but her talons just missed catching her hunter-turned-prey. She climbed toward the moon again as the russet fox disappeared back into the shadows. No fresh meat for this eagle. Not this night.

She rose above the trees, now, enjoying her flight. It was easy, as a bird, to forget the troubles below.

Before long, though, she needed to return to the ground. Human life called back to her and she knew if she didn’t answer soon, human sense would escape her and she’d be left in this form. Clementine circled once again, closing in on the location of her own secluded homestead. She spotted an opening in the trees and descended, alighting with surprising grace beside a fallen log.

As she began to change back to human form, recognition came. Not a fallen log, after all. Cut. A tree she herself had felled.

The tree belonging to…

Oh no!

She felt the magic a moment too late to avoid the wood sprite’s trap.

“You!” The sprite, appearing from the surrounding darkness, approached her frozen form. “Witch! You destroyed my home!”

Clementine struggled against invisible bonds, to no avail. “And you, Sprite, have surely returned the favor. Let me go!”

“It’s my duty to protect these woods, witch.” A dark smile spread across the wood sprite’s pale face as she stepped closer. “Today, they are protected from you.”

 

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.

Hare, by Elizabeth McCleary YOU ARE HERE
The Widow, by Vanessa Wells
A Snow White Morning, by Katharina Gerlach
The Letter, by Juneta Key
Trick or Treacle, by Angela Wooldridge
Sugar in the Raw, by Karen Lynn
Inferno, by Fanni Soto
Tae, by Barbara Lund
Interstellar Student Exchange, by Raven O’Fiernan
The Ghost Fighter, by Bill Bush

And then…

Well, here I am. Two and a half months later.

NaNo was a bust. I wrote about 5000 words before tossing my hands up in disgust. I know I should not do these things… a finished terrible story is better than no story at all. sigh

Anyway, so I flaked out for the remainder of November. Plus most of December. This blog ignored Christmas. And New Year’s.

However…

Starting on January first, I have written at least something every day. Not always big. Not always good. But words on the page.

And I’ve already reached “The End” on three short stories so far this year. No kidding.

Two of them are currently marinating and will need revision in order to be fit for public consumption.

The third? It’s a flash-ish fiction (a wee bit over 1000 words) that will be appearing right here for the next Blog Hop on Wednesday, January 31. Woo Hoo!

So, yeah. I wish I hadn’t not done more at the end of 2017. But I’m pretty happy about where I am so far in 2018.

Sanctuary–Blog Hop October 2017

I actually wrote this story a couple of years ago. I had intended to find somewhere to submit it, but never did. So here it is for your creepy enjoyment.

Fair warning… it is considerably darker than my usual fare and some may find it unpleasant or offensive. It’s horror, after all. Sue me. 😉

Sanctuary

He pushed through the entryway, his face hot with exertion and fear. Dear God, he was getting too old for this. Already exhausted, he blinked sweat from his eyes as he struggled to swing the heavy oaken door closed behind him. The grate of the hinges belied the frequency with which the door’s mass was moved. When he finally turned the lock, he allowed himself to collapse against its reassuring, worn surface. His breath came in ragged gasps.

The dark of the night is when the affliction of this city was illuminated most clearly, the unholy dead rising from their graves. And he—he alone—must hold them at bay.

“Bishop?” His heart raced at the voice. He hadn’t realized he wasn’t alone. “Father, is something wrong?” The Abbess had always unsettled him, more so since the creatures had come. He wished he understood why.

He took a moment to compose himself; tugged his frock into place, wiped at his forehead before noticing the grime on his sleeve. “All is well.” He couldn’t bring himself to say more. Despite his unnatural dislike for the woman, he had no intention of subjecting her to his terrors. God gave him this burden. The visitation. The instruction. He would continue to bear it alone. He knew in his heart the dead could not harm him. Surely God would protect his chosen? He only wished his experience… well…. He shook his head. These past months had been a nightly trial.

And yet he stood. That was something.

She rose, gliding toward him across the ancient stones of the floor. “Come,” she said. “I will bear you up.” She maneuvered to his side. “My lord has strengthened me.” She gave him her arm which he accepted without thought, relaxing slightly onto her surprisingly sturdy form. She smelled of soap and orange blossoms, but that was overlaid with something more foul. The creatures, he thought. Have they followed me here? But, no. It had always been safe here.

The linen of her sleeve was rough against his fingertips—his long years had calloused neither heart nor hands. She brushed his hand with her own—he was glad to note he was not trembling overmuch as she guided him into the Nave, tracing steps he had taken countless times before. She guided him toward one of the long, hard pews that would be filled with supplicants come morning.

Discomfort pricked at him. Has God not set me apart? A voice full of certainty whispered in his mind, insisting that he must not acquiesce to this woman, no matter how slight the circumstances.

She grimaced as he dropped her hand and took a step back. “Not here!” he said too forcefully. He saw something in her eyes then that increased his disquiet. Frustration? Anger? His own anger flared then. After all his years of sacrifice, he would not be judged so casually. He pulled back his shoulders and stepped aside. If he could face the non-living, he could face this lone woman. “Give me the strength, Lord.” He whispered it quietly, not wanting her to hear his weakness.

A chill ran through him. The Presence. I still walk in favor. But what kind of favor leaves me battling the dead?

She smiled at him, but he did not return it. Was there falsehood in her meekness? His own uncertainty rankled as much as anything. He drew a breath, flinching at the fetid scent that still lingered, and walked past her toward the front of the cathedral. Her footsteps echoed a few paces behind. Reaching the dais, he paused, not trusting his strength, but unwilling to be weak. He did manage the stairs, albeit slowly.

He trailed a finger along the edge of  the altar—the place he’d sacrificed so much. Finally he turned, leaning on the cold marble, and stared at the Abbess. She climbed toward him until she, too, leaned on his sacred table.

“Woman!” He gasped at her brazenness. “You presume too much.”

The corners of her mouth played into a cold smile. “You,” she said, “have no idea what you are dealing with.”

He growled. “You are the one who doesn’t know!”

“I know dead men walk.” She leaned closer. “I know not every resurrection is sacred.”

His head spun as realization crashed in on him. How long had she known? His prayers were what was important. His dedication. His authority. He would not tolerate her insolence.

“I WILL NOT BE OVERCOME!” he shouted. Spittle foamed at the corners of his mouth; his eyes wide. Wild. Staring.

He felt every one of his endless years in that moment. Tearing his eyes from her, he let his vision stray to the image of Adam holding an apple, the serpent coiled at the feet of his temptress.

He knew, then, the truth of it.

“You.” He jabbed a finger toward her even as his voice lowered. “You caused this. You brought in this evil.” The bitter taste of bile rose in his throat. Oh, God! Why did you not reveal your path sooner? A single bark of laughter escaped him, the sound entirely without mirth. “I will send you to settle your own kind.”

“Good.” The smile the Abbess showed him chilled him to the bone, even as he rounded the altar to settle his hands at her throat. “My Master will be happy to see us both.”

Insensate, he tightened his grip around her slender neck. Choked laughter rolled out of her.

The Bishop’s screams echoed in what was once his sanctuary.

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. Sanctuary by Elizabeth McCleary **YOU ARE HERE**
  2. Till Death Us by Fanni Sütő
  3. The Cloud by Karen Lynn
  4. Data Corruption by Barbara Lund
  5. Wish Granted by Kami Bataya
  6. The Witch of Wall Street by J. Q. Rose
  7. Grim Reapers on a Field Trip by J Lenni Dorner
  8. Unwelcome Vistors by Bill Bush
  9. A Writer’s Morning by Katharina Gerlach
  10. Unverified by Erica Damon
  11. Tito’s to the Max by Chris Makowski
  12. The Boon by Juneta Key
  13. Recommended Reading @ Raven O’Fiernan

 

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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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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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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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Update on my procrastination skills, and other events of note

alarm-clock-590383_1280Yeah, so, procrastination.

About that.

It’s still a thing that I do. (For evidence, note that here it is something like 3 weeks after saying I’d post an update in a week. Ha!)

HOWEVER, that is not to say there has been no movement on that front.

I did do a little bit o’ plotting. Not much. Not enough. But some.

Blog Hopperpetualbloghop

Also, I wrote a flash story – one that I really like! I’m participating in the Story Time Blog Hop again this month. It’s a quarterly thing, and being October, all the stories will probably be leaning toward ghost stories, Halloween, paranormal… typical haunted fare.

But these are my friends, so don’t expect ordinary. Never expect ordinary. 😉

Expect to see that story as well as links to the others on October 26 at 6PM. (We are a global group, so we try to make things drop right at Midnight UTC. I’m in the -6 timezone, so I post 6 hours early.)

Advent CalendarKat's Advent Calendar

I’m also planning to participate in my friend Cat’s Advent Calendar again this year. I’ve done this a couple of times in the past, and it has always been a lot of fun.

As soon as I have sign-up info for that, I’ll post it here. To get the stories, you’ll need to join a mailing list… but it’s a list ONLY for the Advent Calendar and Cat never spams.

For that collection of stories, the theme this year is Winter (but not necessarily Christmas). As usual, most of the authors participating will likely have some kind of bonus in the form of an additional story, a traditional recipe, a fun desktop background… something unique. You won’t want to miss out!

NaNoWriMonanowrimo_2016_webbadge_participant-200

Between the Blog Hop and the Advent Calendar, is the annual event known as NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month.  For those who haven’t heard of it, writers (anyone, really) are invited to try to write 50,000 words in November. That works out to an average of 1667 words every day.

50,000 might be a short novel, but by most classifications, it’s a novel. A whole novel (or maybe a good start on one) in 30 days is a pretty significant challenge. With my afore mentioned habit of procrastination, I have never managed to hit that 50,000-word goal. But I’m giving it a shot again this year. (My username there is pearannoyed, so if you’re participating too, feel free to connect!)

The story I’m planning is actually an extension of what I wrote for the Blog Hop. So if you drop back by on the 27th and read that story, you might have motivation to cheer me on for NaNo. Maybe. If you like it.

 

That is, I think, all I have on the table at the moment. If anything else comes up, I’ll let you know.

OverWhelmed – Blog Hop July 2016

“Pipes and piper were both lost. Rumor is, he angered the gods. Nobody has crossed the Whelmed at Taskeen in near 50 years.”

water-195926_1280Mazzie stood staring at the torrent that passed below her. “If you need to get across,” the barkeep continued, “you’ll have to head upriver to Seldin and cross on the bridge, or down to Vens where the port master will take you around.”

Her fingers twitched, just shy of the pane, but she knew she couldn’t press her hands and nose against this man’s windows. She was no child. Not anymore. Forcing her hands to her sides, Mazzie turned away from her view of the river to face the bartender. “A room then?” Her own weariness sounded hollow in her ears. “Somewhere I can figure out what to do next?”

“No rooms here,” said the man as he rubbed a glass with a cleaning towel. Mazzie noted that the glass was pristine and dry. Cleaning the barware must be more habit than necessity tonight. “City doesn’t allow libations to be sold by innkeepers. Lucky for you,” he continued as he placed the polished glass on a shelf and laid aside the towel, “I know the owner of the best Inn in town.” He tossed a brass token that Mazzie snatched from the air. “Show that to the proprietor of The Piper’s Palace on Riverside. Tell Belford that Alford says hello.”

**

Mazzie wasn’t exactly sure how she ended up standing in this town, in this inn. She just knew it was a bad few days. Her flute was stolen. Then she was fired from the troupe. Can’t pay if you can’t play. Sorry for your loss, Mazzie. On your way now. But her mentor… he promised a job if Mazzie could get there. Gave her directions. Cross the Whelmed at Taskeen, he’d said. And now here she was. Stranded in this dead-end town and no way across.

“Well now,” a familiar-sounding voice interrupted. “What can I do for you, miss?” A face nearly identical to the one worn by the bartender at The Piper’s Public smiled at her, eyebrows raised.

It took a moment for Mazzie to find her voice. “I… I… “ She snapped her mouth shut, embarrassed by her stammering, and took a deep breath. “Alford said you could rent me a room.” She fished the token from her pouch. The brass coin clicked as she placed it on the counter. “How much will it cost?”

The innkeeper allowed his eyes to linger on her face for a long moment. “I’m afraid your money is no good here,” he said.

Mazzie closed her eyes and sighed. “If you don’t have a room, can you tell me where I can get one?”

“I have rooms,” Belford said, a smile finally spreading across his weathered face. “But if my brother gave you his chit, you can’t make me take your money.” He placed a finger on the token and slid it back across the counter, then set a large brass key next to it. “You keep that coin,” he said, indicating the token, “and any silver you have too. Your room is upstairs and down the hall. Number seven. Come back down once you’re settled. I think we can help.”

**

The large copper washtub full of hot, scented water that she’d found in her room did wonders for Mazzie’s mood. How did he get it set so fast? She still didn’t know what her next step would be, but at least she would face it with her travel-weary muscles soothed and wearing a clean set of clothes. Her silk trousers were usually reserved for performing, but without her flute…. She may as well wear her best.

Back downstairs, she found the brothers sitting in a room open to the river. “Thank you both for everything,” Mazzie said. “I’ll repay your kindness. Somehow.”

One of the men waved a hand dismissively. Alford or Belford? “Tell us about your flute. That can be your payment.”

“How do you know about my flute?” She tried to choke back the surprise in her voice. “Not that it matters. My flute was stolen.” She fingered an invisible flute, remembering. “He said I should cross here, a job would be waiting. A new instrument, maybe. Clay must have been wrong.”

“Do you play?” asked one of the brothers. Mazzie thought it was Alford. “You’re a musician?”

“I did. Mostly the simple flute, but he taught me one tune on his pipes. He left me with the troupe though. Now the troupe left me too.” She slumped sadly, staring at the water. “I may never play again.” The river almost sounded like the piper’s tune in her ears.

One of the brothers pressed a box into her hands while dark eyes looked at her from expressionless faces.

Unbidden, she opened the lid. Within lay a set of pipes drawn from dark silver and chased with gold. “These are just like the ones Clay played,” she whispered, confused.

“Cleford. Our brother. He played the Piper’s Pass. Until he left.” Two heads shook. “We were so angry.”

“Play for us. Please?

“Play?” Surely they didn’t mean for her to play such fine pipes.

In spite of her apprehension, Mazzie lifted the pipes. They were heavy but felt right in her hands.

“He only taught you one tune?”

She nodded and began to play. The melody was haunting and sweet, suggesting waves and sorrow and love lost.

The final notes still hung in the air as Mazzie turned to see the waters of the Whelmed piled up.

Shocked, she ran to the banks and stopped, agape at the man who stood to the other side of where the river once ran. Her mentor, Clay.

He was the image of his brothers.

“Mazzie,” he called. “Daughter.” He lifted a hand. “Will you come?”

As her feet padded softly across the dry riverbed, she finally understood.

Mazzie ran over the Whelmed to welcome her father home.

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.

Enjoying this post? Join my mailing list to get content as a weekly digest in your email, plus extras that you won't find on my blog!

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.

Elizabeth McCleary – OverWhelmed  ** YOU ARE HERE **
Viola Fury The Day The Cat Got Out
Karen Lynn Dragon Smoke and Wind
Katharina Gerlach Lobster One
S.R. Olson Malakai’s Gift
Wendy Smyer Yu Into The Light
Emily Plesner Time Stops When I’m With You
Barbara Lund Separate Space
Shana Blueming A Melting Heart
Juneta Key Don’t Drink The Water
Angela Wooldridge Midwinter
Lee Lowery All Aboard