Winner, Winner NANOWRIMO!

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a week now.

On Monday, November 22, 2021, I won NANOWRIMO 2021! For those of you who don’t NANO, what this means is that on Nov. 1, 2021, I started writing a new novel. The goal is to write 50,000 during the month. I did it on the 22nd! I ended up with 50031 words. It came out to about 132 typed pages on MS Word.

The novel is titled Mages of the Lake. I honestly don’t think I’ll work on it for a while, if ever again. It’s a story that I need to do more world building for. I had a basic idea and ran with it. I’ll need to do some serious thinking before I revisit it. It was still fun to write. And I’ll never say that I won’t finish. You never know.

In January, I’m actually going to start a new book again! I know, I’m crazy!

I learned a lot from this writing process though. I learned what works for me and what details are needed for the types of fantasy stories I like writing.

Anyhow, since I don’t think I’ll ever publish it, I thought I’d at least share it on my blog. It’s rough (be kind). I’m only going to share the first chapter. It’s also unedited (part of the nanowrimo process).

Happy reading and writing today and everyday!


Excerpt from Mages of the Lake

Chapter 1: Time Warped

Whomp!

Melania stopped in her tracks the second she heard the sound. She knew that if she kept moving, there was a good chance she would walk right into a time mage reappearing in this timeline. She also knew that most likely the time mage that would be reappearing near her was her best friend—Jasper.

Jasper often popped in and out of her life. They’d been best friends their whole lives. And even if his family disapproved of her, no one controlled a time mage.

“Hey there, Mel!” Jasper yelled less than two inches from her face.

She winced and turned her head away from him.

“Sorry! Am I yelling?” he asked.

She nodded. Whenever he rejoined the timeline, there were side effects. This time he apparently couldn’t gauge the volume of his voice. In the grand scheme of things, yelling was one of the milder effects he’d suffered from.

Mel hefted her school bag up onto her shoulder. It was slipping due to the sheer number of books she was carrying that day.

“Off to classes?” Jasper whispered.

Mel smiled at him and shook her head. “Yes,” she answered. “Tell me all about your trip later.” She stepped around him and began hurrying once again through the courtyard.

She was going to be late again. She would get in trouble again.

As she crossed the cobblestone courtyard, she couldn’t help but notice there was no one milling about. All the other students were already where they should be—in class.

Mel hated being late. It was a sure-fire way to draw even more unwanted attention to herself. She paused before she pushed open the large wooden doors. Taking a deep breath to calm herself, she stepped in.

“Nice of you to join us,” said Magus Aten. She was standing right inside the doorway.

“Very sorry, Magus,” Mel answered. She kept her head down as she slipped into her seat. The seat that had been her’s since she was five and started attending classes for those mages who still hadn’t discovered their elemental connection. After all these years, she might have found comfort that it was still her’s, but it was part of the constant reminder that she was still without magic. At eleven, she was the oldest child in the class by three years.

Lessons began like they always did. The class stood and recited Lacuston’s motto.

“Mages of fire, water, air, earth, and time dwell here and remain here. Those outside of magic will never belong, and we stay here to protect magic.” The class sat after they finished the two sentences they said every morning.

Magus Aten cleared her throat as she tried to hurry the students into settling. She pushed the end of her long brown braid off her shoulder and straightened the white robes that every air mage wore. Her blue eyes scanned the room as every student sat quietly at their desks. They barely looked to be breathing.

The first day of the new school year was always nerve wracking. Each year began with the students eager to learn and study, but quickly devolved into the students trying to force their magic to choose an element.

“Welcome class. As we begin this school year, let me remind you that we will conduct our monthly tests on the day of the new moon. Do not try to perform the ritual of choosing yourself.” Aten paused and slowly made eye contact with each student. She knew there were still a couple who would try anyway. Last year, a student had badly burned himself by performing the ritual without supervision. His element was clearly fire, but he could have discovered that without permanently scaring himself.

As if on cue, all the students looked towards Mel. Over the last summer, she’d tried ten separate times to complete the ritual of choosing.

“Any student who attempts the ritual without proper permission or supervision, will need to go before the Elders. Their punishment will be decided at the time, but Elder Tempus said that banishment is a possibility. Especially if the student is a repeat offender.” This entire speech was directed at Mel.

Mel stared at her desk, but she felt every word cut her like a knife. Banishment! They wouldn’t. She couldn’t believe they would even threaten that. No one left Lacuston. They were barely allowed outside the walls.

As lessons droned on, Mel recited them almost word for word in her head. She’d heard these same lessons every year for six years now. She wanted to be a mage. She didn’t even care what element—she just wanted to be a part of the magical world she’d been born in to.

Growing up in the magical city of Lacuston, children were expected to attend lessons together until they claimed a magical element. Most children chose an element that aligned with one of their parents. In Mel’s case, her father was an earth mage and her mother was a fire mage. Most people expected her to follow in her mother’s footsteps because they were similar looking. Both were lithe beings with long orange hair. She even had her mother’s green eyes.

No matter how many times she’d tried though, no element would claim her. She’d literally tried it with all five-earth, air, fire, water, and time. Nothing worked. Magic didn’t want her. She was the only eleven-year-old who wasn’t assigned to an element. Turning eleven over the summer had been terrifying for her.

There was an old law in Lacuston, one that hadn’t need enforcing for many generations. If a mage reached the age of twelve and no element had claimed them, they were banished. They were forced to leave Lacuston. It hadn’t happened it so long that no one knew what would really happen if Mel got to that point.

Over the summer she’d been desperate and had tried every time her parents would let her out of the house. It didn’t matter though. She was doomed at this rate. She slouched in her chair trying to figure out when she could try again.

The last time she’d attempted the ritual, she’d been caught by none other than Elder Tempus. Any of the other elders discovering her would have been bad enough, but Elder Tempus openly disliked her. He discouraged the friendship between her and Jasper, his grandson, because Jasper came from a long line of time mages—the most uncommon element to choose a mage. His was an ancestry of strong, pure mages. Mel was not only from a mixed family, but she was still without her own magic.

As Magus Aten continued the lesson, Mel let her mind wander. She knew the lessons by heart. She’d read every text she could on finding the magic within. She wanted more than anything to be a mage.

Before they were allowed to break for lunch, the students stood once again in unison. This time they chanted, “Ignis, aquas, caelis, terras, tempus. Fire, water, air, earth, time. Magic connects us all.”

The class dispersed over the grass and gardens surrounding the side of the schoolhouse. Many of the children sat in groups of two or three and ate their lunches. Mel sat alone in the shadow of the school.

Whomp!

Twice in one day. That was uncommon for Jasper. He appeared before Mel with a mischievous grin on his face. He looked around for Magus Aten.

“She can’t see us,” said Mel. “Here, have some of my lunch.” She patted the ground next to her.

Jasper often disappeared during lunch time to find Mel. He was supposed to stay with the other time mages, but time mages, even from a young age, pretty much did whatever they wanted. It was hard to control anyone who could flit back and forth throughout their own lifetime. Additionally, most time mages suffered from serious side effects by the time they were even teens.

“Plopped right onto a donkey, he did,” said Jasper as he took the half sandwich Mel offered. He leaned against the cool building and chewed loudly. Jasper was always a good eater. Mel’s parents always over packed her lunch, but she never returned home with leftovers.

“A donkey, huh?” Mel asked. She had no idea what Jasper was talking about. Sometimes when he popped in, his mind took a bit to reset itself.

“What?” he asked.

“Nothing. Did you even go to classes today?”

“Course. I just had something else to do too. You know, chickens are the worst.” He finished the sandwich and looked over to see if Mel had anything else to eat.

She handed him an apple without even asking what he was going on about. She waited for a few more minutes. He’d be back with it soon. Food usually helped.

“Thanks for the food,” he said.

“You’re welcome. Where have you been going lately?”

“I can’t really talk about it.” He closed his eyes and leaned back like he was going to nap.

Mel poked him. “Hey. No sleeping. Tell me something.”

“Fine. Fine. You have sharp fingers.” He batted her hand away. “I went to my future. There is something important we are doing there.”

“We?” Mel asked. He didn’t usually mention anyone that he saw in the future.

“I’ve said too much. You know better than to ask me things?” Jasper snored.

Mel shook him. “What’s with you today? You’re weirder than normal.”

“Too many trips. So tired.” He let out a loud single snore.

Mel shrugged. She wasn’t sure what he was going through, but she would let him sleep for as long as she could. He was not only her best friend, but he was also her only friend. He’d actually helped her with her last few attempts at the choosing ritual. As a time mage, he could teleport, so he always managed to disappear before they got in trouble. She didn’t hold it against him. If she could teleport, she would too.

She watched the other kids playing. She wanted magic more than anything, but if she was being honest, what she really wanted more than anything was to fit in. Everyone treated her like she didn’t belong. Even her parents were starting to be part of the “hating Mel party.”

No one was rooting for her to find her magic—no one except for Jasper. She wasn’t enjoying being back in school but seeing Jasper and hearing about the two of them in the future, even if it was vague, made her feel a little better about the day.

The rest of the class was eating their lunches in their little friend groups. In their brown school robes, they were either eating and chatting or some of them, having finished eating, were playing a game of tag. Jasper, in his grey robe, was clearly out of place.

Mel elbowed Jasper trying to wake him.

“Jasper,” she hissed. “You need to wake up. I’m going back inside.”

She’d just seen three classmates in a group headed in her direction. Most of her classmates ignored her, but the three glaring at her made it their mission to torment her. The three of them—Connie, Trevor, and Ashley—were bullies. Connie, only six, was the worst of the three. She was saccharine sweet in front of adults, but the moment only children were around, she was beyond rude.

She insulted everyone. Her favorite past time, other than bossing around her two friends, was pestering Mel.

“Jasper. Jasper!” Mel shoved him.

He hit the ground and opened his eyes. “What’s going on?” he asked. He rubbed his eyes and tried to sit up.

Mel kicked him. Then because he just wasn’t getting the message, she grabbed him and tried to pull him to his feet. Jasper wasn’t a light weight though and she barely moved him. All she succeeded in doing was pinching him a bit.

“Ouch!” he said. “Stop hurting me.” He got to his feet.

“Come on. Look!” Mel pointed over her shoulder without looking.

Jasper peeked around her. “Right. Let’s go.”

They rushed away without actually breaking into a jog. They didn’t want to draw the attention of the other students. Connie loved an audience; it would only make her worse.

Rounding the corner of the schoolhouse, they smacked into Magus Aten. Jasper was in the lead so at least Mel was spared the berating she would have gotten if she’d been the one to actually hit the magus.

“What are you doing here Jasper?” the magus asked. She crossed her arms over her chest and glared at Jasper. She was the only person brave enough to scold a time mage.

“Just dropped by for lunch,” Jasper answered. “Bye Mel!” He waved as he teleported away.

The magus didn’t say anything. She just kept glaring at Mel.

“Sorry, Magus. I’m going to go to my seat and read now.” Mel didn’t look up or make eye contact She scurried past the magus and kept her eyes glued firmly on the ground.

Back in her seat, she pulled out her primer. She read the passages on how the elements could be manipulated. She spent the longest studying and re-reading the pages on fire magic. She wanted to be a mage more than anything. She would settle for any element at this point.

She slammed the book shut. She was going to retry the ritual of choosing again. And this time she was going to try for fire. She figured she had the best chance with it since her mother was a fire mage.

She would try alone this time. She didn’t need Jasper, plus she didn’t want to risk getting him in trouble.

She would wait for the next holiday. Every holiday, the town would be distracted and attending whatever festival it was the season for. It was the perfect time to sneak into the ritual courtyard. No one would even know.

And if somehow this time she managed to claim an element, she was sure everyone would be happy for her. They would understand why she had to keep trying. She only had a year left.


“How was school today?” Mel’s father asked when she came in the door.

She shrugged and threw her bag on the floor in the foyer. “Same as every year.” She slumped on the couch next to her dad. “Where’s mom?” she asked.

“Running some errands.” He didn’t look up from the newspaper.

They sat there in silence for a few minutes. Mel feeling exasperated and frustrated couldn’t take the silence anymore.

“Magus Aten said that if anyone attempts a ritual of choosing without supervision, they could be banished.” She looked at her dad hoping for a reaction, but he didn’t even stop reading.

“That’s nice.”

“Dad, you’re not even listening to me.” She pulled the paper down in the middle forcing him to look at her.

“What?” he asked.

“Did you hear what I said about being banished?”

“Who’s banished?” Her dad fluffed the paper returning it to its normal shape but folded it up so he could pay attention to Mel.

“No one got banished. Magus Aten said students could be banished for trying the ritual on their own.” She searched her dad’s face for the shock that she felt. She didn’t find any shock or surprise. “You knew?”

“The thing is Mel,” he tried to be kind, but he didn’t know what to say to her. “Completing the ritual on your own is dangerous, even if it works, you can be badly hurt in the process. It’s best to wait for the official dates.”

“But I can’t wait.” She threw her body dramatically on the floor doing her best to mime a defeated being.

Her dad rolled his eyes and nudged her with his foot. “Don’t be so melodramatic. Get off the floor.”

She felt a slight breeze as the front door opened. Her mother came into the living room carrying cloth bags of groceries. Mel looked up from the floor to make sure that her mother saw her current condition. She planned on being dramatic and trying to get attention from her mother, but she changed her mind when she saw her mother.

Her mother had a bandage on her hand. Her entire right hand from fingertips to elbow was wrapped.

“What happened to you?” asked Mel.

“The fire got away from me today,” her mother said and then went into the kitchen to put things away.

Mel got off the floor and without being told helped her mother put things away.

“How was school?” asked her mother.

“Don’t ask,” her father answered, joining them in the kitchen. “I asked and she ended up demonstrating how to be a bear rug on the living room floor.”

Mel rolled her eyes as she continued putting things away.

When everything was where it should be, Mel excused herself to go outside while her parents made dinner.

As the door slammed behind her, her mother let out a sigh and leaned against the counter.

“You okay?” asked her husband.

“What are we going to do, Arjan?” her mother asked blinking tears out of her eyes.

“Hey, don’t be so worried, Kalinda. She will discover her magic.” He wrapped his arms around his wife and held her gently. “She has to,” he whispered.

“But what will we do if she doesn’t?”

“I don’t know,” he answered still holding her in his arms.

She pushed him away. “Don’t give me that. She is eleven. This year is her last year. If she doesn’t…” Kalinda shook her head. She couldn’t even complete the thought; it was too painful.

“I’m not trying to be dismissive. It’s just that no one has been cast out of Lacuston in hundreds of years. Our daughter will find her magic. I believe it. You need to believe it too.” He studied his wife. In the last year, she hardly smiled anymore. She was worried. He knew why; he was worried too. What parent wouldn’t be at this point?

Outside, the sun was shining, and a slight breeze moved the air peacefully through town. Mel stopped and put her face in the air, letting the air fill her lungs.

Lacuston was the only city on the island surrounded by Lake Circumio. The lake was enormous. And since the mages of Lacuston never left their town, they never truly appreciated the beauty of the lake. Their city was self-sufficient for the most part, and what they couldn’t grow or raise on their own, they imported through a nearby harbor town, Navalia.

It was forbidden to go outside the city walls, and only the mages who worked in Navalia were allowed there. Mel never understood why, but it was absolutely forbidden for any of the children to go to Navalia.

Of course, Mel’s favorite place in the whole of Lacuston was atop one of the wall sections that was no longer patrolled. At one point in time, the walls must have fully surrounded the town, but over time and through neglect, there were sections that were completely gone. The sections that remained were patrolled, but there was one section that faced to the west and was perfect for viewing the sunset. It wasn’t patrolled because it wasn’t that wide, and it was disconnected from the rest of the wall.

Mel made her way through town to the wall. Before she began climbing, she searched around to make sure no one was nearby. There wasn’t usually anyone in this area because this part of the wall bordered a large unkept garden, but now more than ever, she decided to err on the side of caution.

She used the stones to gain access to a tree that grew towards the wall. She reached a branch that stretched out to the wall and shimmied her way along it till her feet could swing around and step down.

Once on the wall, she crawled under the branches and past the leaves until she was on the other side of them, completely out of the view of anyone in town. From her current position, the only people who could see her would have to be breaking the rules too.

Pop!

Jasper sat down next to her. “Got any snacks?” he asked.

“Sorry, no.”

“That’s okay. You’re not going to believe what happened to me after lunch.”

They sat with their legs dangling over the side of the wall facing the forest. On this side of the town, the trees were too thick to see the lake, but they could still smell the water on the breeze.

“Tell me everything.” Mel pulled her legs up so she could sit with her legs folded in front of her.

“I got yelled at,” said Jasper smugly.

“Why do you seem happy about it?” she asked.

“I got yelled at by Elder Aquas.” As he spoke, he wiggled his eyebrows up and down.

Mel rolled her eyes. Jasper had a crush on Elder Aquas. Most men and a fair number of women thought Elder Aquas was gorgeous. She was thin and tall, with long legs. She wore her long curly hair down and wild. She had perfect almond skin. Like all water mages, she wore blue. However, unlike the other elders, she didn’t opt for robes. As the youngest of the town’s elders, she opted for a more contemporary wardrobe. She usually wore sundresses in various shades of blue made of sheer ethereal materials.

“She was standing this close to me,” Jasper added holding his hand a few inches from his face. He let out a deep sigh.

“She’s old enough to be your mother, weirdo,” Mel said.

Jasper sighed again. “She’s so pretty.”

Mel rolled her eyes again. “Please stop. You and every other man in town need to stop flirting with her. Besides, she’s an elder. She’s so powerful she could think you into oblivion.”

“No way. I’m a time mage.” He got to his feet and put his hands on his hips doing his best superhero pose.

“Why is my only friend such a complete crazy person?” Mel asked the universe.

Jasper’s face clouded over. “Speaking of which. Did I say anything to you today that was particularly strange, even for me?”

“Nothing like you haven’t said before,” she lied. She knew he let something slip earlier. She also knew he could get in trouble for discussing the future with a non-time mage. If his grandfather, Elder Tempus, found out, he’d be furious.

“That’s good,” he said sounding relieved. “How was school today?”

“I’m seriously going to hurt the next person who asks me that.” Mel gathered little pebbles from around where she was sitting and tried stacking them. Her piles never got more than a few high, but she kept at it.

“Sorry. Your parents are worried, huh?”

“Yeah. I guess.” She kicked the pebbles as she got to her feet. “I don’t know. Sometimes they act like they don’t even care about what’s happening to me.”

“What’s happening to you?” Jasper asked.

“Nothing, and that’s the problem.” Mel took a couple of steps away from him, getting nearer to the edge. “Maybe I should just climb down this other side now and banish myself before they get around to it.”

Jasper snorted. “You’re so dramatic. You’ll find your magic.”

Mel eyed her friend suspiciously. Maybe he knew something he wasn’t saying. Maybe he’d seen something in their future. He couldn’t tell her, but if he seemed confident, then she might still have a chance.


As the sun was setting, they climbed down the wall. They never risked being up there at night. The animal sounds from the woods made them nervous enough during the day.

As they dropped off the tree, the few moments of joy they had from being on the wall were stolen from them. Waiting in the garden with a very annoyed look on their faces was Elder Tempus and Elder Aquas.


November 2021 Short Story Prompt

November is flying by for me! As many of you know, I’m participating in NANOWRIMO again.

So far, I’m maintaining a 2,000 word a day pace. (Cross your fingers that I can continue at that rate). If you’re also participating in NANOWRIMO, let me encourage you to not give up. No matter what, write every day and keep pushing forward!

If you, like every one who writes/creates, have doubts, just remember that Sharknado was made into a movie. (Don’t get me wrong, I love dumb shark movies). Just imagine pitching that movie idea. Whatever you’re writing is worth writing too!

In other news, I’m working through my editing list as well for book #3 of the Magical Realms Series. (It’s getting closer to being done!)

And if you’re just here for the prompt of the month:

“The day was scorching hot and bone dry, the air smelled like burnt toast, and everyone’s nerves were on edge. Only Zeke was calm. He patrolled the perimeter, making jokes about…”

Complete the Story

Happy reading and writing today and every day!

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Under the Full Moon

October 2021’s short story of the month

NIGHT OF THE FULL MOON

The moon broke through the clouds, and the four of them stood there, frozen, waiting for something to happen. They were in the middle of an open field, and it was as if a spotlight had been trained on them. Suddenly, without warning a shrill scream filled the air.

Daisy, Sean, and Clarissa turned to see Mr. Smith still frozen in place.

“Run,” the teens yelled in unison.

They didn’t wait to see if he followed. They hoofed it as fast as possible for the nearest tree line, but Daisy and Clarissa knew that even the trees would be little protection against such a creature.


TWO DAYS EARLIER

“You’re not going to believe what I overheard my mom and dad talking about,” Daisy said as she plopped into a seat. The practically ancient desk chair creaked as she dropped in.

“Easy on the furniture, Daisy,” said Mr. Smith walking down an adjacent row to the front of the classroom.

“Sorry,” Daisy mumbled, yanking her bag over her head and dropping it loudly on the floor.

Mr. Smith shook his head and sighed. Daisy was one of his best students, but she moved about like a wrecking ball.

Daisy waited for their teacher to be out of hearing range before she continued.

“Anyway,” she hissed barely above a whisper. “As I was saying, you guys aren’t going to believe what I heard my parents talking about.”

“What?” asked Sean. He was still new to their friend group, and he felt like he needed to be engaged in whatever Daisy and Clarissa talked about, even if he wasn’t really interested.

Clarissa turned around to join the conversation.

“Well?” Clarissa asked. “What are you so worked up about?”

Daisy crooked her finger and motioned for her two friends to lean in. “They said there is a harpy in the woods right outside of town.” She opened her eyes wider. Her face was pasted with a mischievous grin.

“So?” asked Sean. “Why are you so excited about it?” He really didn’t get girls sometimes. What was so exciting about a harpy? Daisy and Clarissa had grown up as a part of the magical world. He’d only recently learned that he too had magic. Seeing a magical creature didn’t seem like that big of a deal to him.

“A harpy,” Daisy hissed. “Can you imagine?”

Sean poked Clarissa when Daisy turned around to put her books on her desk. He didn’t say anything but when Clarissa looked at him, he raised his hands in confusion.

Clarissa shrugged. “It’s just one of those things that Daisy likes. Think of it like a collection. She is trying to see as many magical creatures as she can. She has a notebook that she writes in all down in and keeps track of dates and stuff. She’s weird like that.”

Mr. Smith only caught a part of their conversation but when he heard Clarissa say “magical creatures,” he tried to eaves drop some more. The students stopped talking though and settled down as the rest of the class showed up.

He gave the class an assignment to keep them busy. While they worked, mostly in quiet, he made notes in his own journal. He was keeping track of every time someone in town mentioned magic or anything magic related. He’d lived in this town his whole life, but it wasn’t until Daisy started attending his classes that he’d began to notice something else was going on and no one was talking about it. No one except for a handful of random teenagers.

At first, he assumed the kids were talking about a game or show, but the more he listened, the more he understood they were talking about the real world. And then as if to confirm his suspicions, he’d started finding strange tracks in the woods. He loved hiking and had been pacing the trails around town since he was a boy.

He knew there was a magical creature in the woods. He was going to find it and learn the truth that was being kept from almost everyone. If magic was real, people had a right to know. Why shouldn’t everyone know about it?

He wrote in his log: D, C, and S mention m.c.

As soon as he started paying more attention and actively tracking the secret chatter of those around him, he’d discovered that certain people talked about magic quite frequently. They didn’t even hide it really. Most people probably assumed, like he had, that the people were talking about something fictional.

Mr. Smith was determined to prove that it was real.


NIGHT OF THE FULL MOON

“We should go hiking on that trail behind the high school,” suggested Daisy.

“What? Like, now?” asked Clarissa. “It’s dark.” She went back to painting her fingernails.

“Yes, now. I’ve read about harpies. On nights with a full moon, they go hunting. Tonight there’s a full moon,” Daisy said as she sprang to her feet and yanked her curtains open.

“I’m in,” said Sean.

Clarissa’s mouth fell open.

“Don’t look so surprised. I’m curious.” He really was. Ever since class a couple of days ago, Daisy had talked about nothing but harpies. Sean wanted to see one for himself.


Mr. Smith saw some teens walking along the tree line as he was sitting on the bumper of his jeep changing out of his hiking boots. He’d stayed later than he meant to, and it was much darker than he expected. There was a full moon, but it kept getting covered by clouds.

As he watched, he counted three distinct silhouettes. He tied his boots and followed them.

They weren’t even trying to walk quietly. The three of them were making so much noise that he was able to catch up to them and trail them without any of them noticing.

“What are you going to do if you see it?” Sean asked.

Daisy tapped the pocket on her chest. Her journal was safely tucked away inside. “I write about it,” she said wistfully.

“That’s it?” asked Sean. “I don’t get it.”

“Don’t try to make sense of Daisy,” said Clarissa. “She’s been doing this since we were kids.”


Mr. Smith couldn’t believe what he was hearing. The kids were yammering on about magical creatures as if they saw them all the time. He distinctly heard them mention fae, leprechauns, and mermaids. Were they all real? How did they manage to stay hidden?


“Stop shouting,” said Clarissa.

“Tell me what’s going on,” yelled Mr. Smith.

A look passed between Clarissa and Daisy. Daisy shook her head.

“What are you talking about Mr. Smith? We’re just hiking in the dark. We’re not looking for anything,” Clarissa said.

“I don’t believe you.” He was so mad he couldn’t speak. His ears felt like there were drums inside of them. He needed to calm down.

The teens didn’t move. They weren’t sure what was going on. They saw Mr. Smith was following them as soon as they started to cross the field. Now he was yelling about crazy things.


They didn’t stop running once they hit the trees.

“Go, go, go,” said Daisy. “Harpies will eat people.”

“What?” yelled Sean. “Why did we go looking for it then?”

“What about Mr. Smith?” asked Clarissa. She was worried they were going to get in trouble. They’d lead a human to the harpy, even if it was an accident. The Magical Elders frowned on humans knowing about the magical world.

They collapsed in a heap once they found the parking lot.

Getting to his feet, Sean pointed at Daisy. “You’re going to get us all killed. From now on, no more.” He stomped off.

“No more what?” asked Daisy.

Sean didn’t get a chance to answer. Another scream filled the air. This wasn’t the harpy. There was a distinctive human quality to it.

Prepping for NANOWRIMO 2021

It’s that time of year again.

The time when I decide whether or not to join NANOWRIMO.

And like the last three years, I’m in.

This year though I’m starting something completely new! Which is exciting and terrifying.

If you follow me, you know that the last three years I’ve worked on my series: The Magical Realms Series. (Third book will be out soon!)

But my next project is not a part of that world.

I’m excited to be working on something completely new, but it’s also a lot of work to world build.

This time I’m using a different process than last time. I’m actually planning a little bit before I just jump in. In the past, for NANOWRIMO at least, I’ve been what is called a panster. Meaning, that I don’t really plan and I write the story by the seat of my pants.

This year I’m trying for a combo of pantser / planner. I’m planning characters, some of the bigger plot points, and I even made a map of the world.

I’m looking forward to Monday and this year’s NANOWRIMO!

Happy reading and writing today and everyday!

I’m using part of this book to plan.

October 2021’s Prompt

Happy Spooktober!

This is a busy month for me. I am trying to keep my blog going, edit my third book, and prep for NANOWRIMO.

Editing is going well, but I may be getting to the point where I need to send it to my editor. A fresh set of eyes might be good at this point.

Blogging is… well, you’re here, so good.

And prepping for NANO is new for me. I’m not normally a prepper, but I’m trying something new this year. I’ll keep you updated on how it goes. I’ve just started prepping today, so it’s very, very new to me.

If you’re here for the prompt for the month:

The moon broke through the clouds, and the four of them stood there, frozen, waiting for something to happen. They were in the middle of an open field, and it was as if a spotlight had been trained on them. Suddenly, without warning…

Complete the Story

I’m excited about this one! It’s October and the prompt has a moon in it! This seems like good karma to me!

Happy reading and writing today and every day!

Men Are Allowed to Cry

September 2021’s Short Story of the Month

After my father’s stroke, he started crying all the time. He cried about everything; sentimental commercials, pop songs on the radio, or saccharine movie endings. It was like he couldn’t stop crying. It was such a contrast to the man he’d been before that I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to interact with him. 

Growing up he’d been stern, and my mother was the one who my brother and I went to when we needed comforting. The one and only time I’d seen him cry before the stroke was when his dog of fifteen years passed away. He didn’t even cry or get choked up when my wife and I announced we would be adopting a baby because we couldn’t conceive one. He’d just nodded. 

The first time he broke down in the car was on the way home from the hospital. After being there for several days, I knew he was relieved to be released, but I didn’t expect him to cry. Having a stroke was terrifying. I didn’t say anything. I thought he was most likely just happy to be alive and out of the hospital. 

The second time it happened later that day as we were sitting in my living room watching tv while my wife, Annie, prepared dinner in the kitchen. I was busy reading an email from my boss about the work I would need to catch up on the following week. A commercial for the Humane Society came on, and my father burst into tears. They weren’t subtle silent tears. He was balling, the crocodile tears leaving streaks on his face. His nose was snotty, and he reached for a tissue all while trying to stammer out, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me.” 

I just shook my head. I didn’t know what to say. 

Over the next week, it kept happening. On Saturday, my brother arrived at my house around lunch time. We’d decided it was better, for now at least, for Dad to stay with one of us. We would have to trade off until work slowed down for me. Flood season was always a busy time for a water mage. 

My brother walked up the path to my porch. He didn’t speak but arched an eyebrow when he saw me. 

“I’m guessing since you’re standing out here waiting for me, that you want to tell me something without the rest of the house hearing it.” He stuffed his hands in his pockets and rocked back and forth slowly waiting for me to speak. 

“So, about Dad…” I didn’t know what to say. I felt like I was tattling on the man who’d been such a fierce figure in my life. I know my brother felt the same. “He’s been different since he got out of the hospital.” 

“What do you mean?” my brother asked. 

“He’s just not himself.” I still couldn’t say it out loud. It was too strange. “He keeps…” 

“Come on, out with it. What could be so hard to say?” My brother was always the more impulsive of the two of us. 

“It’s just that. He keeps crying.” I finally said. 

“Crying?” He looked at me like I was losing my mind. “Dad? Our dad?”

I nodded. 

“Well, he’s been through a lot.” He stopped rocking. “Our Dad?” he asked again. 

“Yeah. I know. It’s weird. Everything sets him off. Tv, music, reading, you name it. I just wanted to let you know so when it happens you won’t be concerned.” 

“Well, it’s too late for that, I’m concerned now. Our dad doesn’t cry.” He paused and opened his mouth like he was going to say something, but then stopped. 

“Yeah, I know.” I clapped him on the back. 

The next day, I was casting spell after spell working with my team to try and redirect some troubling weather formations, when I got a call from my brother. Nothing we were doing was making a difference. Sometimes mother nature had her own plans, and nothing we did could change her mind. 

“Let’s take a break,” I told my team. 

I called my brother back, and he picked up before it even rang once. 

“Chuck,” he said, “you have to let Dad stay with you. I can’t… I just can’t handle him like this.” 

“Calm down,” I replied. “It’s only been one night. It couldn’t have been that bad.” 

“It was. He’s not the man I remember. I know it’s sound dumb, but I can’t be around him when he’s like this. It’s too much for me.” He paused only for a moment before he said, barely above a whisper, “It’s like he’s a broken man.” 

“Don’t be that way. The doctor did say that what Dad went through might cause more changes over time, including his personality. Near death experiences change people.” 

“It’s too much. Our dad doesn’t cry.” 

“You can handle this. Give it a few more days at least,” I told him before hanging up. 

I went back to work and finished my day, but I kept playing that conversation over and over in my head. 

On the way home, it was like it was on surround sound in my head. All I could think was, “Our dad doesn’t cry.” Over and over. I didn’t know what to do with those words. I felt the same as my brother. What was wrong with us? Our dad had almost died; he was entitled to cry. 

I don’t know if it was the song on the radio or what, but a tear fell slowly down my cheek. I wiped it away, but it was followed by another. What was wrong with me? Was I losing my mind too? Why was I crying? I needed to pull myself together, if only the radio would stop playing such sappy music. I jabbed at the radio knob, and the car was filled with silence and the sound of me sobbing. 

I turned off at the next ramp and parked my car in a space away from prying eyes. I cried, and I cried. 

TBR Pile

I just wanted to take a minute to tell you all about something new I tried this month.

Let’s start with this is the pile of books that I own but haven’t read. (To those of us who read a lot and talk about it online, my TBR pile).

My TBR pile

I know! It’s ridiculous. I just love books. I feel like it’s never money wasted.

Counting all the physical books and e-books I own, I have roughly 160 books that I own but haven’t read. (For me that would take about 4 years, so still doable in my lifetime for all you haters). However, I have a tendency to read only the newly purchased ones. In order to make myself read some of the older ones, I put all the books in a spreadsheet and used a random number generator to choose my reading for the month of September. This is what I ended up with:

September’s TBR pile

I usually pick 4-5 books at the beginning of each month to read. And in the fall, I tend to choose only 4 because NANO is coming up and I spend more time writing this time of year.

I enjoyed every book this month! It was nice to read a variety of genres too. I ended up with a YA adventure novel, a true crime book, a thriller, and a mystery. I recommend trying this for anyone trying to tackle their TBR pile.

Next month I’m choosing the pile with a theme, but in November, it’s back to the random number generator and I can’t wait!

Happy reading and writing today!

September 2021’s Prompt

It’s September! I love this month! And I’m working very hard to get the draft of my third novel sent to my editor by the end of this month! (Wish me luck!)

If you’re here for this month’s short story prompt:

After my father’s stroke, he started crying all the time. He cried about everything: sentimental commercials, pop songs on the radio, or…

Complete the Story

Now go get writing!

Happy reading and writing today and everyday!

Earth Magic

August 2021 short story of the month

When he tried to express himself with words, he could never get it right. But with his hands, he could shape things, mold things, and make things. He had discovered that gift as a young boy when he fell in love the first time.

He was only six, and despite his young age, he fell in love with Cheryl. She was his nanny, and much to his liking, she was younger than the previous ones.

She always played the games he liked, and she sang him to sleep. But the reason he fell in love with her was that she made cookies with raspberry jam on them.

He drew her pictures that she proudly displayed in the toy room. He sang her songs that she learned by heart and sang back to him.

She began working for his family in the spring, and she joined his family as they spent the summer at their beach cottage.

It was the best summer of his life. They would spend all day at the shore. Some days he swam, and others they would build elaborate sandcastles.

One afternoon in addition to himself and Cheryl, there were some young men loitering at the beach. They were loud and Cheryl seemed distracted by them. She kept smiling and looking in their direction. It never occurred to him that he was her job, and she really wanted to frolic with people her own age.

One of the beachgoers approached. He was smiling from ear to ear.

“Hi there,” the newcomer said to Cheryl.

The child watched the exchange between Cheryl and the young man with interest. How could he get Cheryl to bat her eyelashes and smile at him like that? He knew Cheryl loved him too; she had too.

Cheryl talked and flirted for several minutes with the young man. At the end of their conversation, she made plans to meet him later.

“It’s a date,” she said as her new friend walked off to rejoin his cronies.

The rest of the day the child was inconsolable. Nothing cheered him up. The lunch wasn’t the food he wanted. The sun was too hot, and the water was too cold. He wasn’t tired and didn’t want to nap. He didn’t want those stories read to him. And no, he didn’t want a song.

The next few days Cheryl was distracted and prone to daydreaming. Sometimes she didn’t even answer when he asked one of a thousand questions.

He was losing her. He knew it. He needed to do something that would impress her and win her heart back.

As the days passed, he couldn’t think of anything. What was he supposed to do? He was only six.

He sulked and fussed with Cheryl even though he wanted her to like him.

Summer started to wind down. After that first date, Cheryl sometimes took days off.

On the days she returned, the child was always at his worst. He couldn’t help it; he knew he was losing his tenuous hold on her.

He needed to do something, anything, to win her back.

One day, near the end of summer, he was made to stay near the house. The sky was an unsettling shade of grey, and the clouds were unfriendly.

He was allowed to go outside, but he had to stay in the yard. He walked in circles around the house. Cheryl sat in the back prepping vegetables for supper.

After walking around the house so many times, he was creating a path in the yard, he stopped to play in the dirt. He was not within eyesight of Cheryl. She would have stopped him. If he got dirty, he would have to be bathed before dinner.

He dug a hole about the size of a dinner plate and dug down and down until he had a nice little pile of dirt. He intended to keep digging. He was trying to get as dirty as possible. The more dirt, the more time Cheryl would have to pay attention to only him.

As he reached his hand into the hole to scoop out another handful, the texture of the earth was different. The dirt he’d already removed was a chocolate brown color with little grey pebbles throughout.

This new layer was stickier somehow and the color was lighter. He had to push harder to move it out of the hole. Once he had a handful, he held it up to examine it.

It even smelled different.

It was clay. He’d seen a pottery studio on one of their walks through the beach town. The sign in the window said the pottery was made from locally sourced clay. And he’d found some of his very own.

He scooped out more and more until he had a pile in his lap. Then he closed his eyes and pictured one of the vases he’d seen in town.

He wanted to make Cheryl a vase. She would like that. She liked flowers, and if he made a vase, she would think of him every time she put fresh flowers in it.

He moved his hands around the clay molding it the way he imagined it should look. In his mind, he was making a beautiful curvy vase.

When he opened his eyes, he was disappointed. It was still just a pile of clay.

His brow furrowed. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes again. He had to make a vase. He was desperate. The summer was almost over.

When Cheryl hadn’t seen the boy for several minutes, she walked around the yard until she saw him playing in the dirt. She didn’t want to disturb him. He looked so content.

She would have to give him a bath before dinner, but it was worth it for the few minutes he was not behaving like a brat.

She went back to prepping vegetables on the back porch. After some time had passed, and it was nearing time to take the boy in, he appeared holding the most beautiful vase she’d ever seen.

“Where did you get this?” Cheryl asked.

“I made it,” he said proudly, sticking his chest out.

Authors I’m in Love With…

I want to take a few minutes to write about a few authors I’m currently in love with. I read a lot, and I go through periods where I read some authors or genres more than others.

There are some authors that I gravitate towards again and again. Here are a few I recommend:

  1. Christina Henry
  2. Naomi Novik
  3. Jasper Fforde

Christina Henry

The first book I read by her was Alice. It’s part of a series she’s written titled the Chronicles of Alice. It’s a retelling of the Alice in Wonderland story, but it’s unlike any other version that I’ve read. It’s dark and gritty. The magic in Henry’s Alice stories taints and warps those who use it. If you like stories set in wonderland, you’ll enjoy her stories. (They’re not for children). To my knowledge, there is one more book and a collection of short stories set in Henry’s version of wonderland.

I’ve read other books by Henry, and I’ve never been disappointed. I also highly recommend The Ghost Tree. Henry’s stories tend to retell stories we’re familiar with, but in macabre versions with dark, twisted magic.

Naomi Novik

She’s been writing for a while, and I haven’t read everything she’s written. However, if you haven’t read Uprooted or Spinning Silver, you should. Her fantasy stories are beautiful.

Spinning Silver is a book I recommend to everyone.

Jasper Fforde

I can’t say enough about how much I love Fforde. His Thursday Next series is one of my favorite series of all time. He also wrote the Nursery Crime stories. His books are funny, satirical, and unbelievably clever.

He writes a lot of other books too. If you haven’t read anything by him, I would start with the Thursday Next books. Other books by Fforde that I recommend are Early Riser, The Constant Rabbit, and Shades of Grey. (Despite the title of Shades of Grey, it is not like 50 Shades. It’s a dystopic novel.)

These few words don’t really do these authors justice. I love them all (and many others) but seriously, you will not be disappointed by these three.

Happy reading and writing today!

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