Life, Writing

Nanowrimo Winner 2022

I have won NANOWRIMO! Woot woot! I just finished writing 50,000 words this month. And now I don’t want to even think about the draft. As a more traditional NANOer, I don’t edit as I write. (I do check spelling). So, here is the first chapter of my very, very rough novel titled Solved by Magic. If you read it, be nice. It’s probably pretty terrible. I’ve never written a mystery novel, so this was an experiment for me.

As always, happy reading and writing today and every day!

Solved by Magic

Chapter 1 When It Rains, They Die

It was raining again. What else could you expect in Seattle? The emerald city was dreary and not doing anything to improve anyone’s mood. The air smelled of damp garbage and a faint whiff of urine.

A person rushed along the sidewalk trying to hug the buildings. Their efforts were in vain though, the rain was on a mission that night. It poured down onto the heads of everyone drenching them and soaking them through.

Their hand slipped as they tried to push the door open.

“Damnit,” they said. They moved the cake from one arm to the other and used their other hand to push.

The door to this building always stuck, especially when it was raining. After stepping foot in the door, they stamped their feet, though it did little good because the mat was saturated. The cake started to slip from their grasp, but they grabbed it with both hands now that they were through the door.

They followed the murmur of voices carrying down the hall.

“Hey,” a brunette said as they entered the meeting room.

“Hey,” they replied. They sat the cake down by what was arguably the worst tasting coffee ever made. Whoever made it each day should be ashamed to live in Seattle. It was against everything the city stood for.

The chairs were already set up in neat rows facing the podium at the front of the room. The floor was tiled and aged, and the walls were do for a touch up. The once white paint was now more of a grey brown. Those gathered didn’t care about the shabbiness of the place. It mirrored the tone of the meetings in so many ways.

Everyone took their seats. Most of them sat in the same place every week. Newcomers were the last to sit, waiting to see where others would stake their territory.

Some of the chairs creaked and squeaked as everyone settled. The meeting was underway. They listened to each person tell their story followed by the others congratulating them and clapping. They were the last to share. Tonight was a milestone for them.

They were celebrating, hence the cake.

“I’m ten years sober today.” They paused and smiled. “It’s been a very long, and a very short decade.”

Some of them chuckled. A few chairs creaked as people shifted around. Some of the new members were growing restless. They hadn’t planned on attending and celebrating someone’s ten year mark. Of those gathered, some were only ten days sober.

“I won’t bore you all with my story. Many of you have heard it too many times anyway.” They looked around and smiled at the familiar faces smiling back at them. “Why don’t we get to the part of the meeting we’re all looking forward to.” They pointed to the back of the room. “I brought a cake. Please, have a piece with the world’s crappiest coffee before you set back out into the deluge of our fair city.”

There was a big round of applause. It felt like it was more for ending their speech than anything else.

“Thanks for bringing a cake, though I feel bad for asking you to, since it was your celebration and all.” A familiar voice droned on while they ate their cake. Others came up to them and shook their hand. All in all, it was a fairly depressing celebration.

As they stood there, nibbling on bits of cake and making small talk, they started to feel uncomfortable. Others began to feel unwell too. First, their head hurt. It was a headache that felt like it might split their skull. They made a quick excuse and went to the restroom.

They sat with kneeling on the dirty and dusty tiles vomiting up the cake and coffee. It didn’t end there. They regurgitated everything they’d consumed that day. And when they were finished with that, they threw up bile.

In that few minutes, they didn’t understand what was happening. As the pain and nausea continued to intensify, they panicked. This kind of pain wasn’t normal. This was the kind of pain you went to the hospital for. As they rested on the floor trying to focus on anything but the pain, others came into the room.

The stalls filled with members puking up their guts. There were murmurs of “what is happening?” and “make it stop.”

In the seconds that felt like minutes that they were sitting on the stall floor, there was a brief moment of clarity.

Something was wrong, very wrong. And it wasn’t just the coffee. Before the pain blacked out everything else, they pulled out their phone and dialed 9-1-1. Unfortunately, they dropped the phone before they hit send.

As several of them succumbed, the rest of the members grew alarmed. Luckily, those falling to the floor weren’t the only ones concerned about the fast acting illness. Another member called 9-1-1 at the same time. Their call went through and Seattle’s finest were on the scene in just over twenty minutes.

In addition the police, ambulances lined up to take away those stricken ill, but they were too late. In the minutes that everyone stood there waiting, desperately wishing there was something they could do, five people died.

Once the police and EMTs were on scene, the remaining members did their best to recount what had happened. The problem was that it all had happened so suddenly. How do you explain something that is outside your own understanding?

As the cops took statements, the crime scene techs arrived and began collecting evidence. With this many bodies, and the sudden onset of the illness, poisoning was suspected immediately. Everything in the building was evidence. The cake was collected, along with the foul coffee.

The longer they stood there being questioned, the more the members realized that they were all suspects. They were told not to leave town and their statements were triple checked. Their alibi was irrelevant. Any of them could have done it.

While they were being questioned, another one of them started to feel sick. He dropped to the floor.

“Someone grab his head. He’s having a seizure.” The EMTs were still on the scene. They did everything they could to help. Everyone else, cops, AA members, and crime scene techs, were useless. Whatever was causing the rapid deterioration seen throughout these people was too fast acting to stop.

The death toll ross to six. After that, the police rounded up all the remaining members up again and escorted them to the precinct. They weren’t taking any chances. One of those at the meeting was most likely the culprit.

The techs went about processing the scene. They gathered the food and coffee and also water samples. They picked up the pamphlets and collected paper cups. Photographs were taken and diagrams were drawn. Everything was labeled and collected according to procedure. They taped off the room and locked it in case they needed to return to collect anything else.

The building super wanted to know when the room could be used again.

“Not anytime soon,” said one of the techs.

The super wasn’t happy.

“Seriously, don’t use this room until we give you the all clear,” said the tech making direct eye contact with the super.

“Sure, sure,” agreed the super.

The tech was pretty sure the room would be used the minute they left the building, but none of them were paid enough to sit around and guard it.

***

As the case proceeded, the cops questioned and re-questioned everyone that had any connection to the building, no matter how tentative. The forensics confirmed what everyone had suspected from the beginning—poison.

In this case, someone had laced the coffee with cyanide. When asked who’d made the coffee, every remaining member had agreed. Victim number six always made the coffee. They wouldn’t have poisoned themselves, would they?

As the days ticked by, little progress was made. The only conclusive fact was that the poison was a very strong form of cyanide. Not something you could just buy. Someone had made it more potent. That seemed to indicate intent. Had one person been the target and the other just collateral damage?

No matter how few leads they investigated, nothing was learned. The cops tried leaning on those who’d been at the meeting, but nothing came of it. No one knew anything. All of them seemed scared.

Following the deaths of their friends, some of them had fallen hard off the wagon. They needed those meetings now more than ever, but at the same, they would never be able to attend one again. Watching their friends die so quickly and without reason scared them for life.

No leads pointed to anyone. The case was going nowhere, but unfortunately, the news wouldn’t let it go. The media frenzy surrounding the story refused to die down. Headlines that predicted deaths were great for ratings. The papers printed stories with headlines like “What if you’re next?” “Random acts of violence on the rise.”

The detectives investigating the case, like every other cop in the SPD, were getting pressure from their boss to find someone, anyone, that could have committed the crime. Six deaths could not go unaccounted for.

The original cops on the case did their best but it lead nowhere, eventually, more urgent cases popped up. The files were kept open, but without any new leads, nothing could be done.

***

After nearly four weeks of nothing happening, the original detectives were called into the office of their captain. She was the meanest person in the department, but also the most respected. She didn’t get to be captain of the west precinct homicide squad by chance. She’d worked hard to get her place, and she fought hard to keep it.

Captain Carol Sayers was an impressive 5’11’ and thin as a bean pole. She towered over most people and wore heels that made her even taller. She liked to look people in the eye when she spoke to them, and she would rather be looking down into someone eyes than up into them.

“Sit,” she said to the two detectives milling about in her doorway. She was tapping a pen on her desk pad and glancing out the window watching the rain fall.

Detectives Rosemary Howe and Rook Wilmot were her best homicide detectives. They had an impressive closure rate, and more professionalism than most of the other detectives put together. The captain wished she could bottle up whatever made these two work so well and spoon feed it to the others.

The two sat quietly waiting for the captain to be the first to speak.

“You know about the poisonings that happened a month ago,” Sayers said.

They both nodded. How could you not know about it? The whole precinct, every department, kept talking about it. With no suspects and no leads, the news had resorted to blaming the SPD for the deaths.

“Well, today is your lucky day. It’s your case now,” said the captain.

Both detectives shifted in their seats. “We don’t want to step on anyone’s toes. We thought the case was Moore and Stevenson’s?” asked Wilmot.

“Not anymore,” replied the captain getting to her feet and coming around the desk. She sat perched on the side facing them. “They aren’t making any progress.” She paused and sighed. “We need fresh eyes. A new lead. Anything really. We can’t let six deaths go unexplained.”

“Of course,” said Wilmot.

“Plus, the media is determined to bring it up as much as they can. We aren’t looking very competent right now.” Sayers studied the two as they sat there. They studied her back, not in a challenging way, but in the way that capable detectives did. They observed and put pieces together. Hopefully this puzzle wouldn’t be outside their capabilities. “I want you to work on this case and nothing else until you’ve exhausted everything. Go over everything again. Requestion all the witnesses. Until I say otherwise, this is your only case.”

They nodded at her and left her office without asking any questions. Rosemary had a feeling this case would get dropped on their laps. The really tricky ones usually did. She hated cases like this. It was the kind of case that needed solving but didn’t want to be solved.

prompt, Writing

November 2022 Prompt

It’s NANOWRIMO! You should be writing! (Just kidding. Only be writing if you want to).

Well, it’s only the third day of NANO and things are going well for me. This year, I’m writing something I’ve never written before–a mystery novel!

It’s fun to be trying something new, but also daunting. I’m enjoying it so far. Unlike fantasy writing though, I’ve had to look stuff up. (Gasp). I’m not world building or creating my own magic. This time, it’s about solving a crime (and a little bit of magic).

Anywho… whatever you’re working on this month, I hope it’s going well for you.

If you’re here for the short story prompt of the month, you’ve finally found it!

November’s short story prompt:

It was just ridiculous enough to be true. Then again, she could be making the whole thing up. It was just so hard to imagine Diane’s father, the respectable banker who never left the house without a suit and tie, actually…

Complete the Story

This one sounds like it might be leading somewhere salacious…

Happy reading and writing today and every day!

Life, Writing

Current Status…

How is every one this month? I hope you all are doing great. I am super busy.

In exciting news, I have finished editing my fourth novel!!! Now, I am finalizing some other things (synopsis and query letter) before I start querying next week. I’m super excited and nervous! Wish me luck!

In other news, I am prepping and doing all the things I try to get done before NANOWRIMO starts. I don’t write extensive outlines, but I write out a very rough outline of the book from start to finish. I try to create the names for the main characters too (otherwise I get hung up on naming people and can’t seem to write).

As you can see, once again, I am participating in NANO, and this means next month is basically all booked for me.

I am a little behind at this point in the year as far as writing and some other personal goals go but I should be able to get caught up soon. Gotta keep trying, right?

Anyway, if you are participating in NANO, good luck!

Happy reading and writing today and every day!

Life, prompt, Writing

October 2022 Prompt

How is everyone doing? I’m once again trying to play catch up. I went on vacation the last week of September, and then when I arrived home, I was sick within two days. Since then, I’ve been in bed, watching tv, blowing my nose, and wishing I was writing. My head has been too foggy for editing though.

In happy news, I’m feeling much better today. Yesterday I made myself work on editing a bit. I’m a little behind on my list, but hopefully in the next few days I can catch up. And hopefully then I’ll also have time to get caught up on my short stories.

Anyway, I hope whatever you are working on is going well! If you are here for the prompt, look no further:

The doctors had never seen anything like it. She was a perfectly healthy little girl who just happened to have two hearts. The only explanation they could offer was…

Complete the Story

Happy reading and writing today and every day!

Life, Writing

Here are a few of my favorite (writing) things…

Writing and editing is a long, tough process, and I’m sure many of you know that as a writer, there is always room for improvement. And there is always room to learn a new skill. And sometimes you need to brush up on old ones.

Even though, I studied literature in college, that doesn’t mean my writing is anywhere near perfect. It just means I can analyze fiction (a mostly useless talent outside of academia).

Here are three things to keep in mind when you’re working on your own writing:

  • 1. Practice makes perfect.
  • 2. Sometimes you need to go back and review things you thought you knew.
  • 3. Have someone else read your work!!!! I cannot stress how important this is.
  • 4. Take some time to learn or study the craft of writing. Every year I read one or two books about writing. It’s nice to read what other writers have learned throughout their careers too.

In addition to practice being the best method of improvement, there are some other things that I use to help with my writing and editing process.

Here are a few of my writing/editing tools:

  1. Autocrit.com
    • This website allows you to submit your writing and it checks it for everything! It’s nice, but it’s still just a program. It doesn’t make up for reading and editing by humans.
  2. Understanding Show Don’t Tell
    • This book by Janice Hardy is a great resource for understanding the show don’t tell concept. When I first edited my own work, it was something I struggled with. It’s a challenging concept if you don’t know how to recognize it.
  3. Ready, Set, Novel!
    • This book was created for NANOWRIMO. I love it! I like to use it when I’m brainstorming a new project. The exercises are practical and build on each other. You can go from something very basic to a detailed outline in no time.
  4. Complete the Story
    • This book is page after page of story ideas. I use it to write my short story every month. It’s also where the original Unicorns Are Really Vampires (my first novel) idea started.

As always, happy reading and writing today and every day!

Life, prompt, Writing

September 2022 Prompt

It’s a new month, and that means it’s time for a new writing prompt!

If you’re looking for something to write about, look no further:

“As a young girl, she learned how to juggle fruit: apples, oranges, sometimes pears. There was little risk, little drama, and people smiled politely and then moved on. But they started paying attention when she started juggling…”

Complete the Story

This month is all about editing for me. I am working through my new novel before I start deep editing. I’ve finished my first round of edits, and now it’s time for the real work. If you’ve ever edited something as lengthy as a novel, you know what I’m talking about. It’s an even harder process when you edit yourself. I always have someone else read my work too, but before it goes to them, I go through it about four times. It takes months. And here we go…..

My plan is to start querying in mid-October, maybe November. Wish me luck.

Happy reading and writing today and every day!

Life, reading, Writing

Hauntingly Beautiful

One of the many hauntingly beautiful Lego statues made by Nathan Sawaya

One of my favorite elements of storytelling is the combination of horror and beauty. It shows up in books, movies, and art. And I don’t know why, but it captivates me.

If you don’t follow what I’m talking about, here are some examples that have a hauntingly beautiful feel to me:

  1. The Virgin Suicides (movie)
  2. Follow Me to Ground (book)
  3. Spirited Away (movie)
  4. Pan’s Labyrinth (movie)
  5. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (book or show)
  6. Lily and the Octopus (book)
  7. The Night Circus (book)
  8. Poems and Short Stories of Edgar Allan Poe
  9. Guernica (painting)
  10. Lego art by Nathan Sawaya

These are just some of the many examples of storytelling that for me have this distinctive element. I’ve been wondering lately… what makes these stories fit this description?

I think there is an element of sadness and/or tragedy that comes through in these works. And that sadness is combined with horror and/or violence in a way that leaves a lingering feeling of beauty.

What do you think? Maybe not everyone gets that same impression from these things, but I do. Not gonna lie, the hauntingly beautiful is one of those ideas that I am instantly drawn to.

Happy reading and writing today and every day!

Scene from Spirited Away
short story, Writing

Flying Bison aka Blimpies

August 2022’s short story of the month

The boy woke up before dawn. The horses were restless. Something wasn’t right. He rose and tiptoed quietly down the hall, careful not to wake his mother. She was exhausted after last night’s attacks. With the help of their neighbors, his mother had fended off the vamp-wolves again. Their attacks had been increasing lately, and his mother was up many nights protecting their homestead.

He paused outside her door and waited until he heard her deep snores. He let out a silent sigh of relief and walked down the hall. He slowed only as he descended the stairs. They didn’t creak, but he didn’t want to run down them stomping either.

Morning light was spilling into the living room. He grabbed a cookie on his way out the kitchen door. He didn’t have to think. This was his morning routine. He tended the horses first. They had four of them. One mare and three of her offspring. He gave them fresh water and hay. He filled their feed bins.

When he opened the fourth stall to lay down fresh hay, he saw the blood. It was everywhere. The horses must have smelled it too. This, at least, explained their restlessness. He’d just walked past them out in their pasture. They’d been standing right next to the fence waiting for him. He paused and had to think if he’d sensed anything off about any of them.

He’d been so used to going through his morning without thinking about it that he didn’t trust himself. He walked back out to where the horses were munching away. Nothing appeared amiss.

He shrugged. He’d clean the stall and ask his mother about it later. Maybe she knew where the blood came from.

After the horses, it was time for his favorite chores—tending the flying bison. Their family farm had been raising blimpies for generations. The creatures were docile and gentle despite their size. Every once in a while, he would sneak atop one and ride it. His mother said it was disrespectful. They were not horses.

He loved them. They were about the size of a small hover car when full grown. Their demeanor was friendly like a dog’s. And they weren’t scared of humans. Most people owned one or two, but only certain families knew the secret to breeding them. Their wooly coats made the warmest and softest textiles.

As he loaded the hover cart with everything he would need, he couldn’t help but grin. This season they’d had more younglings than any year he could remember. He loved the younglings. They were so full of joy.

His favorite thing to do was to go out into the field with mints in his pockets. He would give one youngling a mint, and it would start grunting at him. The other younglings would hear the one and come over to see what the commotion was.

Before long, he would be surrounded by them all grunting at him. They were fluffy and round and would bump into one another. And since they didn’t have good control over their bodies yet, they would float off a bit. It was like being in the center of bumper cars bouncing into one another over and over again.

It was easily the cutest thing they did. The adult blimpies would look on without venturing closer. He made sure to always save at least one mint for the elder blimpie. He was their oldest, and his mom didn’t even know his age. She told him that when she was a girl, the elder had been ancient even then.

As he approached the field, something strange caught his eye. The blimpies were pressed up against the door all huddled together. They normally floated about seemingly at random within the dome enclosure.

He searched around by didn’t see any reason for their alarm. His first thought was that he should go wake up his mom, but then he felt ashamed. She needed to sleep. He could handle this.

He restarted the hover cart and drove toward the door. The blimpies parted and let the door swing in and surrounded his cart as he settled it next to their feeders.

Their collective grunts and snorts bombarded his ears. He pushed his way through. The blimpies kept near the cart.

He looked once again at the blimpies all huddled together and turned to search the dome. He didn’t see anything immediately. He heard something in a moment when the herd quieted.

He didn’t know what it was, and he needed the herd to still before he could listen longer. He fed them and despite their nervousness, they ate and calmed down.

As he placed the now empty feeding tubs on the cart, the sound came through clearer.

It sounded like a whimper from a dog. That didn’t make any sense. They didn’t have any dogs on their ranch. Could a wild dog have wandered into the dome? That also seemed unlikely. The dome only had a few doors, and you needed their programed farm equipment to open it. Nothing could just wander into it.

Could there be a breach in the dome? He hoped not. It was expensive to fix the dome and his mom would be furious.

He left the cart and stepped towards the sound. He moved toward one of the boulders in the field. He climbed on top. He scanned the pasture hoping to find the source of the sound and the blimpies’ anxiety.

He heard it and saw it at the same time. The elder blimpie was standing next to something bloodied and whining on the ground.

He approached cautiously and patted the elder as he walked alongside him.

The crying animal was a vamp-wolf. It had been stomped and from the looks of the elder’s front hooves, he’d done the stomping. He’d never heard of a blimpie killing another creature.

Even though that fact would shock his mother, because there was no way he could keep this from her, the more troubling part was that a vamp-wolf was in the dome. There had to be a breach somewhere.  

Life, Writing

Trying Something New

In addition to editing my novel, I am brainstorming for this year’s NANOWRIMO. At this point in the year, I try to gather and read through any unused ideas that I have stashed away. I keep them all in a notebook. Occasionally, I pull it out and write down more, or if I have thoughts about an idea already in the notebook, I add to it.

I haven’t decided yet what I’m going to work on in November, but I’m thinking about branching out and trying something other than fantasy writing. To date, I’ve written four novels, all of which are middle grade fantasy. It’s still what I enjoy writing the most, and it’s what I want to try to publish more of.

However, sometimes it’s nice to work outside your comfort zone. I want to try something new. So…. I’m thinking of trying to write a mystery.

As a reader or writer, what are your favorite mystery writers? What types of scenarios do you like to read about? What do you think is over done in that genre? Or, do you love mystery so much that you will literally read anything by anyone?

I’m genuinely curious. I don’t read a lot of mystery, but every once in a while, I do pick one up. I enjoy them, but I only like a handful of writers. I don’t know why I find it so hard to like more mystery writers. And the even weirder thing is, I love, love, love crime shows. I watch any and all mystery shows I can.

Anywho, hope everyone is having a great weekend!

Happy reading and writing today and every day!

Book, Book Review, reading

This Year in Books… So Far

What have you been reading? And of those, what would you recommend?

This is what I’ve read so far this year:

  1. The Heart Forger by Rin Chupeco
  2. The Orphan Witch by Paige Crutcher
  3. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling
  4. Batman: Three Jokers (comic)
  5. The Haunted Bookstore 1 by Shinobumaru
  6. Dreamcatcher by Stephen King
  7. The Once and Future Witches by Alix Harrow
  8. The Dreaming Volume 3 (comic)
  9. Orlando by Virgina Woolf
  10. Lumberjanes Volume 1 (comic)
  11. Clive Barker’s Next Testament (comic)
  12. Paper Girls Volume 1) (comic)
  13. The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco
  14. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  15. Paper Girls Volume 2 (comic)
  16. Paper Girls Volume 3 (comic)
  17. The Never Tilting World by Rin Chupeco
  18. Paper Girls Volume 4 (comic)
  19. Paper Girls Volume 5 (comic)
  20. The Scorch Trials by James Dashner
  21. Beautiful Chaos
  22. The Ever Cruel Kingdom by Rin Chupeco
  23. Locke and Key Volume 2 (comic)
  24. Locke and Key Volume 3 (comic)
  25. Locke and Key Volume 4 (comic)
  26. Locke and Key Volume 5 (comic)
  27. Locke and Key Volume 6 (comic)
  28. The Death Cure by James Dashner
  29. Beautiful Redemption
  30. The Kill Order by James Dashner
  31. The Fever Code by James Dashner
  32. Redder Days by Sue Rainsford
  33. Armageddon in Retrospect by Kurt Vonnegut

There is still a lot of year left, and I’ll be reading more but not many more. I’m currently editing my own novel, and I tend not to read as much when I’m doing that, simply because of time. And, then November is when I don’t have time to read practically anything because I usually participate in NANOWRIMO.

This year I’ve tried to finish reading a few series that I started ages ago, and I’ve been reading more comics than normal because I discovered that my local library has a pretty great comic selection.

For the novels I’ve read this year, there have been a couple of highlights. Basically, anything by Rin Chupeco. I wrote about this recently: see my previous post about her: Why I Love Rin Chupeco.

The other two books that I would highly, highly recommend are The Once and Future Witches by Alix Harrow and Redder Days by Sue Rainsford. They’re both great, and if you don’t want to know why I think so, stop reading now, otherwise… SPOILER ALERT.

The Once and Future Witches by Alix Harrow

This book is brilliant. I loved every word. It’s historical fiction that incorporates witch lore and women’s rights issues. The use of familiar nursery rhymes and fairy tales interwoven into the storyline is fantastic. It’s so clever. It’s about three sister witches fighting against an ancient evil as well as trying to be non-traditional women in a time when they weren’t allowed to.

Redder Days by Sue Rainsford

I couldn’t put this down. I read it in one sitting. If you haven’t read Sue Rainsford first book, Follow Me to Ground, go read it too. Both of her books are weird in the best possible way. Redder Days is about two children, twins, born in a commune that formed when the world was ending. However, the world didn’t really end, and these two children are brain washed. Every character in this book is a little crazy. This book falls into my favorite category of Literature — The Weird Tale. I can’t explain what it is, but you’ll know it when you read it. This book holds up that standard. Let me also say this, every author hopes they write at least one story as great as the two novels by Sue Rainsford. I will be reading whatever she writes in the future.

Anywho, enough rambling for today. Get out there and have a great day!

Happy reading and writing today and every day!