Undecided

It’s only 10 days till November. I am still undecided if I’m going to participate in NANOWRIMO this year. I love NANOWRIMO! and not doing it leaves me feeling sad. But, this year just doesn’t seem to be the year for it. What do you think? Are you participating?

I have so many things I would like to get done in November, and if I do NANOWRIMO those things will get put on the back burner. I just don’t know! (Picture me with hands thrown up in the air simmering with frustration).

Honestly, I’ve always thought NANOWRIMO should be in January or something…

Hope everyone is having a good month! Happy reading and writing!

October’s Short Story Prompt

I swear September was yesterday… This month is flying by for me.

It might have something to do with the fact that I spent all last week in pain and finally went to see a doctor yesterday. He thinks I hurt my rotator cuff. I was folding laundry and BAM, instant pain that has not gone away. Who gets hurt folding laundry? Seriously. This is a sign of two things. One, I’m getting old. Two, folding laundry is dumb.

Anyway, I am working on getting things done now that I have real pain meds on board. So, here is the prompt for October’s short story of the month:

She was the new girl. The one who sat in the cafeteria at lunch alone. Maybe she was from the next state over. Maybe she was from another country. I wanted to know everything about her: her mother’s name, her favorite movie, if she had brothers, sisters, what she…

Hope everyone is having a better month than me! Happy reading and writing this month!

Trouble, Trouble, Trouble

September 2020’s short story of the month

She kept pacing the living room, back and forth, back and forth, not saying a word. It would have been easier if she had just come out and told us how disappointed she was, announced our punishment, and sent us to our rooms. But she wanted us to apologize, or explain, or something.

Finally, I couldn’t stand the silence any longer and I slammed my fists on the table. “It’s not fair,” I said with all the righteous indignation a ten-year-old could muster. “It wasn’t my fault. It was her idea,” I added, pointing at my sister Angela.

“No way,” Angela said, shaking her head back and forth. “It was her fault,” she added, pointing down the couch to our youngest sister Tilly. (Her name was actually Matilda, but she hated that name).

Tilly stuck her hands in her armpits and also shook her head. “Nope. No way,” she said.

I knew what was going to happen. I was going to get blamed. I was the oldest; I always got blamed. Dad jokingly would call me a ring leader, but not this time, it wasn’t even my idea.

********

Earlier that day

It wasn’t looking good. It was raining, and our aunts were visiting, which means we were stuck inside with our boring cousin Malcom. Malcom was the biggest tattle tell in all of creation. We could never do anything fun with him around.

So far, we couldn’t get him to leave us alone. He followed us like a puppy, except he was a stinky whiney annoying puppy.

“Why don’t you stay here in the library with Malcom?” I whispered to Tilly. “You guys can read books and color and baby… I mean, maybe, you’ll have fun.” I was trying to convince Tilly to give up her day so at least Angela and I could have fun. She wasn’t falling for it.

“No way,” she said, shaking her head. “I want to go with you two.” She crossed her arms and planted her feet. There was no way I was changing her mind.

“What about you Angela?” I looked at her pleadingly.

“No.” Angela shook her head and had the same stubborn look that our mother always did when we weren’t going to change her mind. “Why don’t you hang out with him, and Tilly and I will go off to play in our room?”

“No way,” I said. “He’s a baby.”

“That’s why we don’t want to play with him either,” said Angela.

Malcom was younger than any of us. He wasn’t actually a baby, but he was a snitch. We could never use our magic when he was around. He always told our mother. And the day was wasting away. We rarely got a whole day without our mother supervising us, and spending our free day with Malcom was unbearable. And that’s when I got a wonderful idea.

“What if we make it so that he can’t leave this room?” I asked.

“What?” asked Tilly and Angela at the same time.

“We magic the room. We can lock the doors. Or freeze him. Or stick him to the floor. There are lots of ways we can do it.” I smiled from ear to ear. I was so proud that I’d thought of a way around our cousin problem.

My sisters, however, didn’t look happy. They both had furrowed brows and were looking at me like I was crazy.

“We can’t use magic on him,” said Tilly.

“We could get in trouble by the council,” added Angela. “It’s forbidden to use magic on other casters without being licensed.” She shook her head.

They were right. We would get in more trouble than we could handle if we magicked our cousin.

“Okay. Do you two have any better ideas then?” I asked them. I started tapping my foot impatiently. We really were wasting our whole day with this.

“What if we just tell him he has to stay here?” said Angela.

“He won’t listen to us,” I said.

“We can say his mother said he has to stay here,” added Angela.

It wasn’t a horrible plan, but it might not work. We had to do something though.

“Okay. Here’s what we’re going to do.” I leaned in and lowered my voice so they would move closer. We were in this together. “I’ll tell him, and then we leave quietly. No bolting. He’ll suspect. Once we are out of the room and down the hall, we’ll make our way to the foyer and then we’ll run to our room and lock the door.” I paused hoping they were taking it all in. “And, if he comes knocking, we don’t answer.”

They nodded in agreement.

Within five minutes, we were in our room with the door locked. We went straight to work building the best rainy-day fort out of every blanket and sheet we could find. We used magic to make them float exactly where we wanted them. We spent the rest of the afternoon in that fort casting light spells. We each would summon a tiny ball of light no bigger than a firefly and send it floating throughout the enclosed space. By the time our mother caught us several hours later, the blanket tent was filled with twinkling orbs bouncing off the fabric and our noses. We were lost in fits of giggles and happiness, and we didn’t notice when our door opened and our mother’s shoes clacked on the wood floor.

And that brings us back to the living room. Our mother and her sisters finished their luncheon and discovered Malcolm climbing a book shelf in the library with no one watching him, and incidentally, my mother had tasked me with his care earlier in the day.

Our mother stopped pacing. She turned slowly to face all three of us.

“You’re all in trouble. It doesn’t matter whose idea it was. It doesn’t matter who said what. It doesn’t matter who locked the door.” Her voice was getting louder and higher the longer she listed things.

She looked in my direction and said, “I expected better from all of you.”

She clearly meant me. I sunk further into the chair.

“Malcom is family. We treat our family better.” She resumed glaring at each of us in turn.

September 2020 Prompt

I have been working on my novel again, and it’s on track to release later this year!

I’m still working on my short story of the month though, and I managed to get caught back up to where I should be at this point in the year. (It’s all coming together).

Here is the prompt I am using for September’s story:

She kept pacing the living room, back and forth, back and forth, not saying a word. It would have been easier if she had just come out and told us how disappointed she was, announced our punishment, and sent us to our rooms. But she wanted us to apologize, or explain, or something. Finally, I couldn’t stand the silence any longer and I…

Complete the Story

If you haven’t been following me that long, let me explain how the short story of the month works on my blog. Generally, I post a prompt, and then, by the end of the month, I post a story using that prompt. However, this year I’ve added some additional challenges to push myself. The story needs to be at least 1000 words, and the stories are all taking place in the same “world.”

In fact, so far, the stories are all taking place within the same family, over several generations. The family is magical, and despite that, they have normal family drama, just like the rest of us.

If you want to write a story using the prompt, please do!

Happy writing and reading this month!

Time Magic

August 2020’s short story of the month

Always the same old lines whenever she came home for the holidays, like her parents were rehearsing a play over and over and never could get it right. Yet they didn’t seem to notice how much they repeated themselves. Her father would sit down to dinner and say how much he missed her, he couldn’t wait to hear about where she was living now, and he had a story or two to tell about her nieces and nephews.

Mary was sure he meant well, but that same old small talk turned into criticism in her mind. Saying he missed her meant she didn’t visit enough. Asking about her new job was really his way of saying she was unsettled, and the icing on the cake was finding a way to mention her nieces and nephews. She knew exactly why he always brought it up.

She was his oldest daughter and unmarried without any children. Who would inherit her gifts if she never had children? Did he really think she didn’t dwell on those things constantly? Her mother never failed to voice her disappointment.

Magical families tried to arrange marriages to keep the bloodlines strong and powerful. Even then, some children inherited more of the gift than others. It was completely random. Having a parent with strong magic didn’t guarantee children with the same, but in her case, her father was one of the strongest casters of his generation and she had inherited magic even stronger than his. She could manipulate all the magical elements, and even more rare, she could affect time.

Her gift was so rare that even the council of mages who ranked casters had made her prove her gifts over and over again before they would believe it. A mage who could affect time hadn’t been born for over three centuries.

Unfortunately, she was in her thirties and wasn’t married yet. Her parents had been fighting with her about it for a long time now, but something was different this visit. The normal prattle of her father was even more chipper and upbeat. Her mother was bustling around the kitchen and kept looking over at her and smiling. Something was up.

Mary was nursing her cup of tea and not really listening to her dad’s chatter. She heard a noise outside. She didn’t turn to acknowledge it because neither of her parents did. If she heard it, they definitely had. They knew someone was coming. What was going on?

Come to think of it, they didn’t usually invite her over without inviting her sisters too. Where were they? She’d spoken to both of them this week and neither had mentioned dinner with her parents.

Her parents glanced at each other, and she could have sworn she saw her dad wink at her mother.

“What is going on?” Mary said, getting to her feet and pushing away from the counter.

“What do you mean, dear?” Her mother tried to catch her father’s eye, but he was staring at his cup of tea avoiding all eye contact.

“You two are up to something.” Mary glared at her parents trying to look pissed, but honestly she was kind of curious what they were up to. It wasn’t like them to be sneaky; subtleness was not their strong point.

“Mary, we are not up to anything,” said her dad smiling a little too broadly.

“Please don’t lie to me.” She looked back and forth between the two of them. “You know I don’t like surprises. Please. Whatever it is. Just tell me.”

They never answered because the doorbell rang. Her mother wiped her hands on a kitchen towel and practically bounded out to answer it.

“Dad…” Mary said pleadingly. “Please tell me what is going on.”

Her dad wanted to tell her, but there wasn’t time. Besides, nothing he could say would change what was about to happen.

“Just remember she is only doing this because she loves you,” her dad answered.

Then Mary did something that she hadn’t done in a long time, mostly because after she cast the spell, the council would always show up to see what was going on. They had a way of knowing when she messed with time, and they had warned her from a very young age to not meddle too much with time. She listened, mostly, but if she was the only mage who could manipulate time, why shouldn’t she use it and learn how the magic of time worked? She reasoned with herself that it was better to be prepared.

She froze time. Without even waving her hands or saying a spell, she stopped everything. She didn’t have to use written spells or devices to cast time magic. How easily it came to her was another reason the council didn’t like it. They didn’t understand it, and they couldn’t stop her from using it. She could manipulate time by just thinking about it.

She left her dad in the kitchen and made her way down the hall to the foyer. Her mother was there, still as a statue, shaking the hand of another woman similar in age. With this guest was a man, also of the same generation, and a younger man.

It was a set up. Of course it was. This was a suitor or some such nonsense. Her mother had gone too far this time. Even though most magical families arranged marriages for their children, her parents had allowed her sisters to choose their own spouses. Her mother had some nerve.

Mary was contemplating how to handle this situation when the strangest thing happened.

“Hello, Mary. It’s nice to meet you,” the unwanted suitor said.

“How are you talking right now?” Mary asked. She looked him up and down. No one had ever been able to break one of her time spells.

“With this,” he said holding up an amulet that had been hidden by his shirt.

“What is that?” she asked, alarm bells were going off by this point. Why had he come prepared to stop a time spell? He obviously knew what she was capable of, but if this was just a potential suitor, why was he counteracting her magic?

Title Reveal

For those of you who read the first book… book two is almost done… it’s time for the big title reveal!

Black Market Unicorns will be available soon in paperback, e-book, and on Kindle unlimited!

Tell your friends!

Happy reading and writing everyone!

This Year So Far…

Usually about midway through the year, I sit down and assess where I’m at with my personal goals for the year. I never really got around to it this year because we moved from Kansas to Washington in June, and everything has been utter chaos until recently.

So, anyhow, let’s see how I’m doing. These are my goals for the year:

  1. Read 40 books
    • I’m doing well on my yearly reading goal. I’ve read 28 books so far, and according to the tracker on goodreads, that puts me two books ahead of my goal right now. Yipee!
  2. Write the 2nd novel in my series
    • Working on this one, slowly but surely. I didn’t work on it from May till July because the move was nuts, but I’m at it again, making slow progress.
  3. Sell the house we own
    • Not yet. Our renters keep postponing their move out. The world is nuts right now, what can you do?
  4. Stop drinking soda
    • I stopped for a while and then started again, and now I’m back to not drinking it again. It’s my weakness!!
  5. Write 12 short stories
    • I am running a bit behind on this one. I haven’t finished my story for August yet, so I’m running one month behind at this point.
  6. Finish the Grimm Fairy Tales SAL
    • This is a cross stitch project I’m working on. It’s getting there, but I’m not caught up. There is a new section released each month, and I’m a few months behind at this point. UGH!
  7. Finish my gift for Mindy
    • DONE! One small victory! (You can see it below).
  8. Finish my flower needlework
    • Still working on this one. I’ve made really good progress on this since I moved it into the living room. I’ve been working on it when I watch tv at night.
  9. Move
    • DONE. This was a big victory and the single most awful move my family has endured.

So, honestly, things are going okay. I wish I were done with a few more of these, but I’m working on them. I hope everyone else is reaching their goals despite the obstacles of life right now.

Happy reading and writing!

This is the gift I made for my sister.

Battlemage for Life

July 2020’s short story of the month

It felt uncanny, but oddly good, to hear kids running through the house again. I wondered if I could handle being a father, or at least a father figure, after all these years.

I thought about the times when my wife and I fought. It was always about the same thing – she hated my job. When we were young, she’d been attracted to how brave I was. At least, she said she was, but it didn’t take long for her mood to sour.

Being the wife of a battlemage was not what she wanted from life. At some point after the girls were born, she asked me to walk away and find something safer to do, but mostly something that kept me closer to home. She said she was tired of being a single parent.

I got it on some level, but being the dad to three girls was not what I’d expected either. I felt useless when I was at home, like I was in the way. They were so used to me being gone that their routine didn’t include me, and when I tried to “help,” I just ended up messing it up.

If I’m being honest though, it wasn’t just that being home made me feel inadequate. I was addicted to the fight. I tried not to dwell on those times because my wife said she could always tell when I was thinking about my glory days.

As I walked outside to the yard, I took a moment on the deck and breathed in the fresh clean air. There was no smell of sulfur or smoke from fire spells. There was no lingering tang of electricity from magical attacks. It was just fresh plant life and the clean smell of dirt. I could hear children laughing and the murmur of voices in the distance.

As I rounded the corner of the house, I spied my family sitting around a set of tables covered in dishes, food, and party favors. It was all in my honor and I was momentarily overwhelmed by it all. I hesitated.

In battle, I never hesitated. I was always sure and ready for the next attack. Battlemages didn’t usually serve very long at the front, but there were a handful of us old timers who kept coming back for more. I shook my head and tried once again to keep my mind from wandering.

As I joined my wife, our three daughters and their husbands, and my many grandchildren at the table, they all got quiet. After I took my seat in the place of honor, they all rose and started clapping. I shook my head.

This was my retirement party. I was done being a battlemage. I would stay home and be a husband, father, and grandfather full time. I should have been happy and relieved. Instead, I was anxious. I didn’t know how to fit into home life with all of these people who kept looking at me expectantly.

********

There were forty pairs of eyes staring at me expectantly. This was my moment. After the last battle, I’d been promoted to commander. I was now in charge of my own tactical unit of casters. I had a full arsenal of fire mages, weather casters, healers, and energy sappers. This was the moment every battlemage worth his mettle longed for – this was my chance for greatness.

I squared my shoulders and stood as tall as I could. “This is it. You all know your roles. Follow your unit leaders and don’t hesitate. Use your instincts. If you need to refuel, make sure you switch out quickly.” I paused looking around into each pair of eyes. I wanted them all to feel the connection, the bond that only battle can instill.

“Make me proud,” I stated as way of dismissal.

They all squared up and walked away neatly into units. The weather casters began to rise off the ground to protect and fight from above.

*********

Their eyes were hopeful and full of pride. They reminded me so much of the young men and women I’d fought alongside for so many years. There was something else though when I looked at my wife and daughter’s eyes, something that I’d never seen in the eyes of my soldiers. I didn’t know what it was.

Perhaps learning to understand these people who love me would be enough in my retirement. I didn’t know what they wanted from me, not exactly.

I cleared my throat and got to my feet.

“Thank you all for coming today.” I glanced at my wife sitting on my left. She looked relieved, as if a huge weight was lifted. I knew why she was feeling that way. I didn’t want to take that feeling away from her by discussing my fears here in front of the whole family. Instead, I said, “I’m looking forward to spending a lot of time with all of you. Especially you little ones.” I raised my glass. “To my grandkids.”

“Here! Here!” Everyone said in unison. They all raised their glasses, even the littles, and drank to family.

********

After a long night of fighting, we trudged into the mess tent. As we sat around the table, no one was eating, most were just pushing their food around the plates.

We’d taken heavy loses. We were no longer a full tactical unit. We’d lost so many that we would be pulled from the front until our numbers could be replenished with new troops.

I looked around at those who remained and not one pair of eyes looked up at me. They were either staring at their food, not really seeing it, or doing their best to hide their tears from their fellow soldiers.

I raised my glass. “To those who died.”

There was a long pause, and I kept my arm raised until everyone was looking at me.

Further away, another voice said, “To those we’ve lost.”

And then another, “To our fallen brethren.”

The chants went up one after another. Before long, the entire mess tent, not just our little band, was raising their glass to the fallen.

Love Letters

June 2020’s short story of the month

After the funeral, I spent the next few days in the attic, reading the letters my mother had written him in the years before they were married. He had never been the sentimental type, so I was surprised to find a whole box of them, carefully bundled. Holding on to something that served no practical purpose was completely out of character for my father.

Even more surprising was how many times my mother wrote to my father about not wanting to go through with their marriage. At first, I felt like I shouldn’t be reading them. They were very personal and not written to me. My curiosity got the better of me though. They were from a time before I was alive, before I was even a thought. They were proof that my parents, with their seemingly perfect life, had personal struggles just like the rest of us. The letters made me see them both in a new light.

The bundles only contained the letters from my mother so I had no idea what he’d written in return, but he must have said something convincing because they’d been married for over 50 years when my mother had passed last year.

I read them slowly and got lost in trying to piece together what must have been going through both their minds back then. By the time I gathered the letters and took them and a few other items out to my car, I was struggling with my mother’s reaction to her arrange married.

Even in this day and age, magic users are paired up and their families arrange their marriage. The idea is to keep the magic genetics strong. One of my own daughters was challenging the traditional way we did things and refusing to get married. She’d already declined three arrangements. Our family was from a long line of powerful users, and when my daughters were finally ready to wed, they’d had multiple offers. We allowed our daughters to meet and choose from the offers, which was fairly progressive of us, but it wasn’t enough for my oldest.

I put the small box of things in my trunk and paused before I got into the car. I gazed at my parent’s house. My two sisters would go through the house later in the week and then we could put it on the market. Soon it would belong to someone else, hopefully another family would thrive in it’s walls. It felt strange to be parentless, even though I was already a grandmother myself. One of my daughters had a baby a few months ago, and the youngest was pregnant, though she hasn’t “announced” it yet.

My oldest daughter, the strongest user in the family, she would probably never have children — or get married. It was such a waste. She’d definitely inherited her father’s power more than the other girls. To think it might end with her was weighing heavily on me lately.

As I drove home in the afternoon light with the wind blowing through the windows, I couldn’t help but think of my mother’s letters again.

My daughter could never see them. It would only further strengthen her campaign to prove that marriage wasn’t necessary. I needed to destroy them. They may have been precious to my father, but they would only lead to more drama if she discovered them.

I waited until my husband fell asleep in his recliner reading a dusty old book. I gathered the bundled letters and made my way to the kitchen. Throughout the evening as I’d absentmindedly cooked dinner and tidied things, I came to a decision about the letters.

I wasn’t just going to destroy them. I was going to use them in a spell.

In the pantry, I gathered the ingredients I would need – rose petals, lavender, and something to bind them… something strong… dark molasses.

My daughter would be furious with me if she knew what I was about to do. I’d raised my daughters to never use magic when they could do something for themselves. And I taught them to never, under any circumstances, try to raise the dead or make people fall in love. Both magics never worked out the way people wanted them to.

I boiled the rose petals, lavender, and honey in water from a mineral spring. I let it boil down some and then placed the letters in the pot so they were submerged in the liquid.

I took a deep breath and cast my spell. I wanted my daughter to fall in love and the love would be unbreakable, no matter what trials came their way.

When I was finished, I opened my eyes and there was a flash of magenta flames from the pot. I watched as the spell rose up and was caught by a breeze coming in the open window.

It was done. I looked into the pot and all that remained were ashes. I tidied up so that there was no evidence that I’d been working a spell. As I was putting the pot back in the cabinet, I was startled by someone clearing their throat in the kitchen.

I stood up and my husband was standing there smiling at me.

“I think it’s time for bed, my love,” he looked around the kitchen thoughtfully. I could have sworn I heard him breath in deeply as he walked out.

I wondered if he suspected something. I didn’t often cast spells with out discussing it with him. He was a much stronger caster than I, but mostly we were just used to discussing everything with one another. After a lifetime of marriage, there wasn’t much we didn’t know about each other. That’s what I wanted for my daughter.

As I closed the window, I looked out at the night sky and hoped that the spell would work. I should have known better though. The truth about love spells is that they are often cast out of desperation and that fear and anxiety get mixed with the hope and longing causing the spell to twist and distort.