Dreaming Big

If you read some of my latest posts, you know that I am currently working on book 3 in my YA fantasy series. I am really excited about finishing an entire trilogy.

However, I’m also gearing up to start a new and arguably more nerve-wracking writing project.

I want to write a book and have it traditionally published!

I want to do this for several reasons; some of them are complicated and I don’t think I’ve fully worked them out in my head yet. But, here is where my thinking currently is:

  1. I want to walk into a bookstore and see my book on the shelf.
  2. I want someone other than my sister (though I do appreciate the support) to buy my books.
  3. If I could have one thing in my life, this would be it.
  4. I think at the end of my life, if I don’t at least try to get published, I will regret it.

That last one is the biggest reason why I want to try. I don’t want to regret never trying or putting in the work to get published. It still might never happen, but it can’t happen if I don’t try.

So, if you are reading this and you know of any resources, or have any advice for me, please feel free to comment or message me.

I’m nervous excited!

Happy reading and writing today and every day!

Creature in the Woods

April 2021’s short story of the month (late but finally done)

He had hunted and hiked and led backpacking trips through these woods for twenty years, and he had never seen an animal track like that. At first glance, it resembled a bird. But it was too big. Way too big. He estimated its length to be close to eighteen inches from toe to heel. Did ostrich feet even get that big? And why would there be an ostrich in the woods? They didn’t even live on this continent. He took a picture of the track with his hand placed beside it for comparison. He would share it online. Someone would know.

After his daily hike checking to make sure the trail markers were still visible for others, he uploaded the photo online with the caption “What bird could this be?”. He asked anyone to comment.

He waited five minutes but nothing.

The next morning before school, he checked his post; no one had commented yet.

“Settle down everyone!” he said to his unruly fifth period students.

Most of them slumped into their desk chairs and stopped talking, but they still shifted their belongings around loudly. He waited while they tested his patience. It was always this way in fifth period; he suspected it was because they had just finished lunch and were hyped up on sugar.

“Ok, now that I have your attention. Let’s continue our discussion on our local flora and fauna.” This was his favorite unit to teach each year. The students actually seemed more enthused with things they could personally relate to.

The next forty-five minutes went by quickly as he showed them slides of the various trees found in the local forests. Class was coming to a close, and he wanted to keep them excited until the next meeting.

“Over the weekend, consider taking a hike on the marked trails. You never know what you’ll see in these woods.” He clicked the mouse, and the photo he’d taken yesterday appeared on the board.

Most of the students chuckled thinking it was his attempt at teacher humor.

“Nice one, Mr. Smith. What did you do, track Big Bird?” asked a student. His fellow classmates laughed along with him.

He let them laugh, and as he looked around at their smiling faces, he noticed one student wasn’t smiling. In fact, she had a look of terror on her face. She was noticeably pale, and her mouth hung slightly open.

He knew better than to call on her. Daisy was new this year, and she was painfully shy. But she was having a very strange reaction to the photo.

The rest of the school day was uneventful. As he was packing up his things, he couldn’t help but think back to the reaction Daisy had when she saw that photo. Maybe it was just shock. He knew she’d been home schooled; she just wasn’t as jaded as the rest of his students. They’d assumed it had been a fake, a product of photoshop or something.

He left the school and went to the trails. He usually enjoyed his afternoon hikes; the clean clear forest air melted the stress of being a high school teacher away. Today though, he kept searching the ground around him hoping to see another track like yesterday. By the end of his hike, he had a knot in his neck and shoulder muscles from looking down so much. When he got back to the car, he rode home feeling worse than when he’d left school.

Eating a microwave dinner while he booted up his computer was not helping his mood. He almost dropped the plastic tray when his email popped up. He had hundreds of emails relating to his post.

People from all over the world were contacting him. Some wanted to know how he’d faked such a realistic footprint. Others gave him suggestions for what it might be, none of which made any sense for where he lived. The discussion was rife with debate. He ignored all the comments except for one.

The poster’s name was DaisyChainIRL. She wrote, “Looks like a harpy track to me. LOL. Weird post dude?! Totally faked!”

He sat back in his chair and scratched his head. It couldn’t be Daisy from his class. But, if it was, and she had gone out of her way to find his picture online and comment on it…

He didn’t know what to think. He read her comment over and over again. He stopped reading the whole thing and just read her first sentence. Could that be why she had looked surprised in class? Did she think it was a harpy track?

This was crazy. Harpies weren’t real. But, who would have gone out of their way to fake a giant bird track on a trail that almost no one hiked but him? Either way it was crazy. It was fake or it wasn’t. If it wasn’t then it was a track of something living.

His mind was racing and racing and going places that made little sense. He stopped letting his wheels spin and researched harpies on the internet.

Most of what he found was written for fantasy novels and roleplaying tabletop games. He even found some very elaborate cosplayers in harpy costumes.

He tried searching for “real sightings of harpies” and it mostly brought up results for Loch Ness and Bigfoot sightings. That’s apparently the reality he was now looking at. Was he actually suggesting that a harpy was real? And not only that but there was one living in the woods near town?

And then something else occurred to him. If it was real, and it was a real harpy track, how had Daisy known that?

Something bigger was going on here than he could understand at this point. He needed to ask Daisy, but he didn’t want to message her. That was severely inappropriate for a teacher. He could ask her after class tomorrow, but he had a feeling she would claim she was just being a teen or something equally flippant. He knew she knew something, but how could he find out more?

Maybe he didn’t need to.

He’d lived in this town his whole life. He basically maintained the trails on his own, just like his parents had before retirement. He knew everything about these woods. He could find a harpy.

If it was out there somewhere, he would find it.

Update on Novel #3

This point in the year is usually when I sit down and assess how my yearly goals are going. One of my goals this year, as you might have guessed, is to finish and publish novel #3 in my YA book series.

So how is it going?

It’s actually off to a great start. At this moment, I’m a little over 50,000 words into the story, and I’m not finished with the second part yet. If you’ve read my other two books, you may have noticed that both were broken into three parts. This book is also sectioned that way.

This story is also going to be the last part of this trilogy. I may come back and write more stories in this world later, but I think I’m going to work on a different project after this. (I’m also going to work on getting published the traditional way. Wish me luck).

I don’t plan to abandon Jamie and her friends forever, but I want to work on something I’ve been brewing for a while now. When I do return to Jamie’s friends, I’m thinking about writing a story from a different character’s point of view. I think the story of Zak and how he became a unicorn hunter at such a young age would be fun. I also want to write about what went down when the two worlds collided. And then there are the Sisters of Rising Magic. (So many options…).

Anyway… back to novel #3… I’m not quite 2/3 of the way done, and this one is tying up many stories and ending with something epic (no spoilers). That being said, this book will probably be a bit longer than the other two. I want to give Jamie and her friends an ending they deserve.

When I wrote the first two books, I wrote the first 2/3 of each book in about the same amount of time it took me to write the last third. Even though I always start my book knowing how I want it to end, I work carefully and slowly on the end to make sure it makes sense how it got there. For me, the last third needs to be solid.

With that in mind, I am rereading the first two thirds right now and making sure details connect the way I want them too, and then I will write the last bit. I’m very excited about the last third (no spoilers… but it’s gonna be good).

If you haven’t read them yet, there is definitely still time before book #3 comes out… Check them out by clicking the titles below:

Unicorns Are Really Vampires

Black Market Unicorns

Happy writing and reading today and every day!

Magic Doesn’t Fix Everything

March 2021’s short story of the month (super-duper late)

“Maybe the doctor was wrong,” Annie said, though her voice cracked revealing her disappointment.

I ran my hands through my hair, trying to calm myself. “He wasn’t wrong.” I didn’t want to have this argument again. I tried to steady my nerves, but it wasn’t working. My hands were shaking, and I was dripping sweat. Lately my anger was getting the better of me, and I needed to find a way to not let that anger out at home. It was just too much at once.

Work was becoming increasingly difficult. Being a water mage was always stressful during droughts. It was like the world was blaming all the water mages for manipulating water and droughts were our punishment.

For the record, we didn’t cause the droughts. People did, normal people, magic people, all people. Mages were not at fault for the damages to the environment, not entirely. Everyone had a share in that blame.

Despite the global calamity, right now, those problems seemed to pale in comparison to my home life. But I couldn’t deny that the stress from one wasn’t making dealing with the other more difficult. My wife and I were having a rough time.

“This is the third specialist we’ve seen. All of them have said the same thing.” I kept looking at my hands, avoiding making eye contact with her. I knew she would be tearing up, but she needed to accept the truth. “We can’t have children because you are barren.” I didn’t mean for it to sound so cruel, but she needed to hear it.

I looked up just as she was getting to her feet. She left the room slamming the door. I could hear her crying. She cried loudly and openly without trying to calm herself. I didn’t know someone could cry for that long without stopping.

I said it and I meant it, and I was right. Still, I wish I could take it back because there’s no way I can make it up to her, no way I can ever make her feel like she isn’t failing as a wife.

We’ve been trying for years to have a baby. Last year we decided to consult a doctor about it. We went through the tests to determine the problem. After the first round of tests, my wife didn’t believe it when the doctor said she had zero chance of getting pregnant.

I didn’t like the way the doctor talked to her, so I’d agreed to get a second opinion. After the second doctor said the same thing, though with a much better bed side manner, my wife still didn’t want to believe it.

We’d fought so many times after that. For months, if we were home together, we were either fighting or silent. Eventually I’d agreed to see one more doctor.

Today had been the final straw. The doctor we’d seen was not only a trusted and expensive OBGYN, but she was a mage, like us, with healing magic. She literally specialized in helping magic families create stronger magic bloodlines. I knew my wife would listen to her.

The crying finally stopped. As Annie came into the room, she said, “It’s not my fault.” Her face was splotchy, and her eyes were bloodshot.

I quickly went to her and wrapped my arms around her. “It’s not your fault.” Even though I said it to comfort her, the words felt hollow. I knew it wasn’t her fault, but I also knew my family wouldn’t accept that.

I am the oldest son of an extraordinarily strong line of water mages. I’d broken with tradition to marry Annie, a time mage. If my family found out about this, they would be furious.

As I stood there with my arms around Annie, I could feel her anger and sadness pouring like waves out of her small frame.

I was being incredibly selfish. I knew she was blaming herself and feeling like a failure, and all I could think about was how my family might react.

I needed to do better.

I pulled away from her and looked her in the eyes. “What do you want to do?” I asked.

She shook her head. “I don’t know.” Her shoulders sagged and she turned to walk away.

I stepped in front of her. “Whatever you decide, I’m in. All in. You don’t have to figure it out today. Take your time. Think about what you want.”

She nodded and sighed deeply as she walked past me to head upstairs.

The weeks after that day became a blur for me. I was at work longer and longer hours. There were too many droughts worldwide for the number of water mages we currently employed. We were doing what we could, but it wasn’t making that much of a difference. Sometimes nature had its own plans and we just needed to accept it.

At home, things were not great. Annie barely got out of bed and she said very little. I didn’t want to push her.

I wasn’t sure how much longer I could keep living in what felt like a holding pattern no matter where I went. Something needed to give.

As I came into the house, something was different. I could feel it in the air.

The smell of roast and potatoes hit me in the face as I walked through the foyer. I turned the corner and saw Annie setting the table. It was set just for the two of us. There was a centerpiece with candles and freshly made rolls. She even smiled as I took my seat.

“How was work?” she asked.

“Ummm…” I was trying to act like nothing was wrong, but this entire scene was such a stark contrast to the person I’d been living with for so long now. “It was about the same as always.” I shrugged.

“Hopefully it will get better soon,” she said as she took a dish out of the oven.

I couldn’t wait any longer. “Annie, what is going on?”

She shook her head. “Let’s eat and talk about it after dinner.”

“I think maybe we should talk about it now,” I said.

She stopped what she was doing and turned to face me. “Okay. I suppose that’s a reasonable request.” She stood up a little straighter and said, “I’ve come to a decision.”

“That’s great. What have you decided?” I asked hoping for the best, but honestly, I was prepared to fight.

“We’re going to adopt.” She continued to prepare dinner.

I sat there dumbstruck. I didn’t have a response to her decision. It was a perfectly reasonable idea. I just didn’t know how to feel about it.

May’s Short Story Prompt

Let me start my post today by saying Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there. It’s a tough job sometimes, but worth every second.

I also wanted to add that as a mother, I know that many of us feel pulled in many different directions at once and sometimes we need to take a minute to find our sanity. I hope you can find that today. And remember, there is no one standard for what it means to be a good mom except doing the best you can. Happy Mother’s Day!

I am doing my best today to get back on track with things that I’ve let slip through the cracks lately. (Like working on my short stories). At this point, I need to write 3 this month. (It can be done…. hopefully).

So without further rambling on my part, here is another short story prompt:

It was just a game, of course. But it was more than that, and everyone knew it. They were from the upscale part of town, and we were from the wrong side of the tracks. Literally. North of the rail line…

Complete the Story

If you come here for the stories, they will be some coming soon!

Happy reading and writing today and every day!

April’s Short Story Prompt

How is it the last day of April already? I swear yesterday was the first!

I am super behind with just about everything this month, so tomorrow I’ll work on getting myself back on track. That being said, I am now two short stories behind for the year!! EEEKKK! I don’t like that.

So next month…. is going to be busy and productive (remind me I said this in a couple of weeks if you don’t hear from me).

Without more stalling… here is the April short story prompt:

He had hunted and hiked and led backpacking trips through these woods for twenty years, and he had never seen an animal track like that. At first glance, it resembled…

Complete the Story

I am really excited to write this story because I love to write about creatures! If you didn’t already know that about me, you should check out my novels: https://amandaniblock.com/my-novels/

Happy writing and reading today and every day!

March’s 2021 prompt

In an effort to actually motivate myself to get things done, I’ve been making myself a list (in my head) each morning of the three things I have to do BEFORE I am allowing myself to play video games or watch tv. Believe it or not, this has been working for me. I’m pretty good at holding myself accountable (sometimes).

Additionally, I’ve been working on some self improvement things in my diet by trying to drink less caffeine. I have given up soda (though about once a week, I have one), and I’ve given up drinking sweet tea too. At first I was having horrible headaches, but I’m doing much better now. I didn’t give them both up at once. I cut out soda in January and once I felt like I had a handle on not wanting it ALL THE TIME, I gave up tea. Now the only caffeine I have each day is in my cappuccino in the morning and one in the afternoon. In addition to drinking less caffeine, I’ve altered my sleep schedule. I’m not going to lie, I usually have a horrible sleeping schedule. I stay up WAY TOO LATE and sleep in way too late. I’ve been working on it for a month or so now and I’ve been doing much better. I try to be asleep by midnight and up around 9. I’ve never been a morning person, and believe it or not, this is a big change for me.

Anyway, that’s enough about me… let’s get down to the real reason you’re here… the short story of the month prompt for March:

I said it and I meant it, and I was right. Still, I wish I could take it back, because there’s no way I can make it up to her, no way I can ever make her feel…

Complete the Story

Now, get writing!!

And as always, happy reading and writing today and everyday!

Numerology

(February 2021’s short story of the month)

He wasn’t sure how he was able to do the math problems in his head like that. He just closed his eyes, and the numbers found their places, like trained dancers, or like magic. It didn’t matter what type of problem or how challenging. He could solve them all.

When he was in grade school, his teachers thought he was gifted, and this meant being placed in the highest math class available. By the time he was in middle school, he realized not everyone solved math like he did. They didn’t just see a problem and know the answer.

He started to guard his secret. He was afraid it meant something was wrong with him. When he was 8, he’d told the cashier that a total calculated by a computer was off by a few cents because of a sale sign. His parents had looked embarrassed that he argued with a grown up. And then another time, he’d told his dad that he’d calculated a tip wrong and had underpaid a waiter. His father told him very promptly that he was only 10.

Not long after that and a few other incidents involving grown ups giving him dirty looks because he knew the answer that was so clearly right in front of them, he started to protect his “math magic.”

That’s what he started to call it, but only to himself. He never said it out loud. He was afraid that if he even whispered the word magic, that it would be taken away from him.

He learned to hide his secret by writing out most, but not usually all, of the steps to solve a problem. He didn’t need to do it, but sometimes when he wanted to show off, he would just blurt out an answer in class. His teacher always glared at him. One time his teacher asked if he was cheating somehow. He was being questioned even though he’d written out his work. The teacher had never seen a student not miss a single problem the entire school year, even the problems that were bonus questions using math they hadn’t been taught yet. He just mumbled through the meeting and said, “I’m just good at math. Math makes sense to me.” He shrugged, and the teacher didn’t bring it up again.

The next year in school, he had the same teacher, and he knew he should be careful, but there was a new girl. He couldn’t help himself; he kept showing off by solving the problems fast in front of the class without writing out any steps. The teacher sat at her desk with her arms folded across her chest tapping her foot. She clearly thought he was cheating somehow.

Number Magic

He did everything to try and get Daisy’s attention, but she never looked up at him when he stood proudly at the front of the class. He always glanced to see if she was looking, but normally, she was just writing out the problems herself.

Walking home from school after another day of showing off in math class, he was surprised to see Daisy sitting on a fence on the route he walked. She usually walked home in the opposite direction. He looked around as he drew nearer to her to see if maybe she was waiting for someone walking behind him.

The only students behind him were not even in their grade. He hefted his backpack higher and tried to stand taller as he walked past her, but he didn’t say anything.

“Hey, Sean,” Daisy said hoping off the fence.

She knew his name. And she was saying it out loud. She was waiting for him. He tried to appear nonchalant about the whole encounter but inside his stomach was filled with butterflies and there was a voice in his head yelling, while he imagined himself running a victory lap, while simultaneously fist bumping himself.

“Hey. You’re…” he said trailing off, “Daisy, right?”

“That’s right. I was wondering if you were out of your mind?” She was glaring at him, and if looks could kill, she was repeatedly shooting him with laser beams.

“I… I… wait. What?” he stammered. He couldn’t look at her when she was staring at him like that. She was intimidating and powerful. Why did he think that? He wasn’t sure, but he knew it was true.

“I asked if you were crazy.” She was tapping her foot and waiting for him to respond.

“I’m honestly not sure what you are talking about?”

She took a step closer to him and looked around to make sure no one was within hearing range. “You can’t use your magic like that right in front of normal people. Didn’t your parents teach you better?” She was whisper-yelling.

“I’m sorry, what are you talking about?” He took a step away from her.

“Your magic.” She rolled her eyes and took a half step back. And then she was whisper-yelling again, “You know… that thing you do in math class. That magic. Whatever it is, you need to stop doing it in front of everyone. You’ll get reported to the council.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” He was staring at her now. She was clearly crazy. Did she think magic was real? What was this council she was talking about?

Daisy stared at him without blinking for what felt like forever but was in reality only a matter of seconds. “You really don’t know?” She peered at him now, squinting her eyes and leaning closer to ascertain the truth.

He leaned away. He liked the attention, but she was being really weird. “I have no idea what you’re talking about. Magic isn’t real. Is this some kind of prank?”

“Would you like to come to my house for dinner?” she asked.

That was unexpected. “Sure. I’ll text my parents, so they won’t worry.” He smiled at her.

This was going better than he thought. As they turned and walked the opposite way of his house, he asked, “What was that all about? Were you trying to freak me out or something?”

“It’s nothing,” said Daisy. “We should do our math homework at my house while we wait for dinner. My mom is really good at math.” She kept walking.

February 2021 prompt

I am so behind this month… but I’m trying to get back on track. I don’t know what the deal is. I think it’s the weather. I just don’t feel like doing anything. I’ve spent way too much time watching tv lately.

In an effort to get things back on track and not start March off behind, here is this month’s short story prompt:

He wasn’t sure how he was able to do the math problems in his head like that. He just closed his eyes and the numbers found their places, like trained dancers, or like…

Complete the Story

Just like last year, my short stories each month will be connected; however, this year I’m starting with new characters and a new world. If you missed the first story, click the following link to get caught up: Magical Lineage.

In addition to being connected, I try to write a minimum of 1000 words for each short story and my goal is to post it by the end of the month.

If you want to write a story too using the prompt, I would love to read someone else’s take!

Happy reading and writing this month!

Magical Lineage

January 2021’s short story of the month (sorry it’s late)


I sat down next to her on the couch. It was time to start telling the truth. But I couldn’t just dive into the heart of the matter, so I started with the little things. I told her that her father and I had loved her from the very first time we saw her, and that we couldn’t imagine having any one but her as a daughter.

She just sat there glaring at me with that smug teenage face full of angst. She wanted me to say it. For some reason I didn’t understand, it was like she was trying to draw it out of me by sure force of will. She didn’t give up until I told her the truth, no matter how much it hurt both of us to finally say it.

One week prior

I didn’t like the idea of Daisy-May going to school. I mean, Daisy. She had asked me all summer to stop calling her Daisy-May. She was starting high school and she wanted to go by Daisy now, just Daisy. I told her that her name was Daisy-May, like I always did when she mentioned it, but after the first dozen or so arguments and the sighs that tugged at my heart strings, I relented and started calling her Daisy. Her father called her sweetpea or princess or sweetheart, and she never challenged him about it.

I needed to accept that Daisy and I were now standing on two sides of a battle that I didn’t want to be in. She was a teen and growing up, and I, her still cool and very hip mother, was in fact neither hip nor cool.

Until this year, I’d taught Daisy at home. The schools were decent enough in our neighborhood, but I knew my Daisy was a special kid, and I wanted to teach her myself. Until this summer, she hadn’t asked to go to public school, but once it came up, I knew she wouldn’t back down.

Her father and I had several fights about it. Finally, I decided I couldn’t argue anymore. We enrolled Daisy in school, and today was her first day at public high school. I figured she would come home and tell us all about her new friends, that we would not approve of, but say nothing about.

I wasn’t prepared for what she asked when she walked in the door that afternoon. The whole day I wandered around the house cleaning things and picking up things, but there wasn’t much to do. By lunch time I was lost and alone in my own house.

I tried to read a book but ended up re-reading the same sentence over and over and finally gave up. I tried to watch tv but nothing held my attention. I ended up daydreaming and not accomplishing anything for the rest of the day.

Daisy came in the door and the smile I spied as she came up the walk, instantly disappeared the moment she looked at me.

“Why is my magic different than yours and dads?” Daisy asked. She didn’t wait for an answer. She went up the stairs making it a point to stomp each and every step. She stomped down the hall and slammed her door.

I just stood there until my husband came home a couple of hours later. I didn’t say anything to him. I burst into tears. He wrapped his arms around me and hugged me.

“Did something happen today?” he asked.

I kept sobbing.

“It couldn’t have been that bad,” he said. “She just went to school.”

I tried to collect myself and through sobs that I couldn’t get under control, I managed to say, “She knows.”

“Knows what?” he asked. All he had to do was look at me to know what I meant.

The next day Daisy went to school. I spent the day lost in my house again. When she came home, she asked the same question, but I didn’t answer. I just shook my head and she stomped off to her room.

That continued for the whole first week of school. On Saturday morning, she sat down at the table and I placed a plate of waffles in front of her. She sighed and went to the living room and slumped with folded arms.

At first I kept moving things around in the kitchen, but I could feel her staring at me the whole time.

I sat down next to her on the couch. It was time to start telling the truth. But I couldn’t just dive into the heart of the matter, so I started with the little things. I told her that her father and I had loved her from the very first time we saw her, and that we couldn’t imagine having any one but her as a daughter.

Then I launched into a lecture on how magical powers are inherited and that magical families would arrange marriages to increase the chances of having children with multiple forms of magic. These children were usually stronger casters than those who could only control one element.

And then she asked the question I’d been dreading since she was little when her powers first manifested. She had earth magic. My husband used water magic and I had time magic.

“Am I adopted?” she asked, punctuating each word to drive home her point. She already suspected the answer, but for some reason she wanted me to admit it.

I couldn’t say the words. She didn’t feel adopted. She was ours. She’d always been ours. I didn’t know how to explain it to her. Because she wanted the truth.

I looked at her and didn’t just see the almost fifteen year old sitting next to me. I saw her the day we brought her home, only a few days old. And I saw her covered in icing on her first birthday. I saw the first time she fell and skinned her knee. I saw the time she chopped her hair and we had to chop the rest to even it out. I saw her face from only a week ago when she was nervous excited about her first day of school. And then I saw her now. She wanted to know who she was.