September 2020 Prompt

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

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

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

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

Complete the Story

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

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

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

Happy writing and reading this month!

Time Magic

August 2020’s short story of the month

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Title Reveal

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

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

Tell your friends!

Happy reading and writing everyone!

This Year So Far…

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

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

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

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

Happy reading and writing!

This is the gift I made for my sister.

Battlemage for Life

July 2020’s short story of the month

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

********

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

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

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

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

*********

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

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

I cleared my throat and got to my feet.

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

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

********

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then another, “To our fallen brethren.”

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

Love Letters

June 2020’s short story of the month

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting back on track…

I am running terribly behind with just about everything.

We are mostly unpacked with just a few lingering boxes of things I’m not sure if I’m going to unpack floating about. Things are starting to settle for my family. We enrolled our daughter in school, and we’re starting to learn the lay of the land. That being said, it’s time for me to start getting back on track with things. I need to write three short stories at this point (June, July, and August’s).

With that in mind, I’m going to try and get caught up in the next few weeks so that by Septemeber, I can get back to my normal posting schedule.

I’ve already posted June’s prompt, but it was so long ago, I will re-post it now:

After the funeral, I spent the next few days in the attic, reading the letters my mother had written him in the years before they were married. He had never been the sentimental type, so I was surprised to find a whole box of them, carefully bundled. Even more surprising was…

Complete the Story

For July, here is the prompt I never got around to posting because of the move:

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

Complete the Story

And finally, the story prompt that I should be writing for August:

Always the same old lines whenever she came home for the holidays, like her parents were rehearsing a play over and over and never could get it right. Yet they didn’t seem to notice how much they repeated themselves. Her father would sit down to dinner and say…

Complete the Story

It’s a lot to write in the next few weeks, but here we go…

Happy reading and writing everyone!

June’s Prompt

It’s been a long month… I am behind (obviously) with some of my side projects… My family is moving on the 2nd of July, so planning and getting thrings ready has been my full time job right now.

Anyway, that’s no excuse to not write… Without further ado (and more excuses), here’s June’s short story of the month prompt…

After the funeral, I spent the next few days in the attic, reading the letters my mother had written him in the years before they were married. He had never been the sentimental type, so I was surprised to find a whole box of them, carefully bundled. Even more surprising was…

Complete the story

Now, get writing!

Only kidding; you do you.

Happy reading and writing this month!

Dad, Follower of Merlin

May 2020’s short story of the month

Present day…

It was odd to be in a room full of people who all seemed to look up to my dad like he was some kind of hero. A part of me wanted to see him through their eyes just for a moment. I tried to picture him as one of the Followers of Merlin. The Followers were some of the most powerful magic users in the world, and they were treated like rock stars in the magical world. Was that really how these people saw my dad?

Dad was just… Dad. He wasn’t a hero or even all that powerful. He wore socks with his sandals, and he sang oldies while he washed dishes. He wasn’t anything special.

As I moved from group to group, listening to the stories being told by the Followers, I started to see my dad in a new light. He hadn’t always been Dad. Before my sisters and I were born, and before he’d settled down with Mom, he’d been an active member of the Followers.

I stopped roaming and listened to one member tell the story of how he met my father.

“He was the fastest caster there,” the story teller said to the group around him. His anecdotal evidence resulted in a lot of head nodding and smiles. Apparently, the rest of this group had similar encounters with my father at some point.

A woman standing on my left chimed in with, “His fire bolts were hot enough to burn a tree in a matter of seconds.”

Again, there was a round of nodding.

I walked off trying to understand what I was hearing and reconcile it with what I knew of my dad.

Just that morning, my father was making pancakes and he used magic to make them into scenes from fairy tales, but that was the first magic I’d seen him use in almost a month.

My mother didn’t encourage any of us to use magic for day to day tasks, even my dad. I just couldn’t understand why the person everyone was talking about would give all that up to be a dad.

Finally, the hall lights flickered, which meant it was time for the ceremony.

I stood next to my dad while the Head of the Followers gave a speech introducing my dad and his accomplishments. Throughout the entire speech, I couldn’t help myself; I kept looking at my dad trying to see him how these people did. I just couldn’t see it.

********

Many years ago…

He chose his battle armor carefully that day. He was leaving for the front with a conclave of users. He shouldn’t be excited about going to war, but he was. He wanted the glory. He wanted the fame. He wanted to show his meddle. This was his moment.

His grey caped billowed around him as he marched proudly down the hall to find the others. His belongings were all ready packed and waiting. He could feel it in his bones; this was going to be a great time in his life.

*********

A few weeks after his arrival at the front…

He opened his eyes but couldn’t make himself get up. He was weary, so unbelievably weary. His bones were tired. He wasn’t sure if he had the will to attend to his watch that night. He just wanted to rest.

“On your feet,” the shift sergeant yelled.

He didn’t move. He stared at the ceiling.

The sergeant stepped closer to him and whispered so the others wouldn’t hear, “Come on. Get up. Everyone is tired. This is what you signed up for.” He looked down at the wizard with sympathy and moved on to get the others up.

********

A few months after that night…

“Come on men! We are finally making them retreat. Don’t lose hope now. Show me what you got. Put everything out there. Don’t try to conserve energy. Hit them with everything you have!” He was shouting as he paced in a circle in the middle of a group of weary wizards who’d been too long at battle.

This war was supposed to be over in matter of weeks, but it was trailing on and on. He’d joined for glory and fame. There was no glory here at the front, only death and blood. He’d lost count of the number of troops and wizards that had rotated through his conclave.

“The important thing to remember is that we’re winning.” The sergeant walked up behind him and placed his hand on his shoulder.

“Let me take it from here,” he whispered.

He just nodded and stepped aside. Pep talks were not his strong suit. Others followed him because his name was spreading like a wild fire. He was a war hero. A hero who wouldn’t leave the front even though he’d fulfilled his duty to crown and country. He stayed and continued to fight.

He knew what the troops were feeling. He remembered those days when he could barely move day after day. Somehow, he had managed to push through those feelings and keep going.

********

Sometime between present day and his last day at battle…

He paced in the hallway and could hear the screams again. He wanted to help but there was little he could do in this situation.

The screaming continued, broken up by sobbing. He could hear people moving about and at one point, something metal dropped onto the floor.

After what felt like ages, a door finally opened.

The midwife who popped her head out said, “You have a daughter.”

He smiled and stopped pacing. He sat down on a bench and felt weary down to his bones, but there was something else there too. He felt hope and saw a future that didn’t ask him to be anything more than what he was.

May’s Prompt

May is almost half over, and I still haven’t posted a prompt. Like many of you, days are running together right now. Not leaving the house means weekdays and weekends have no difference to them. My kid never goes anywhere but to my computer desk and her room. Still, can’t complain; just a little worn down like many of us.

If you are looking for something to write about, here is May’s short story of the month prompt:

It was odd to be in a room full of people who all seemed to look up to my dad like he was some kind of hero. A part of me wanted to see him through their eyes just for a moment. I tried to picture him as…

Complete the Story

Happy reading and writing this month!