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!
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?”
“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.
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).
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:
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!
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
July 2021’s short story of the month (better late than never).
“Clarice,” said her teacher.
“Clarissa,” she said, correcting her teacher. Names were important. For years, she’d been embarrassed about her name and wished it were something ordinary. But then something happened that changed her mind. That day was always at the forefront of her mind.
She’d almost made a fatal error. She’d almost been consumed by a dark fae. She shuddered just thinking about the fae’s claws, teeth, and foul presence.
“Clarissa,” Daisy hissed at her trying not to attract their teacher’s attention. “You’re doing that thing again.” Daisy’s brow was wrinkled, and she was a shade pinker than normal. Something was wrong with Clarissa, but she wouldn’t talk to Daisy about it.
“I’m fine,” Clarissa whispered back. She faced forward. She couldn’t afford to get detention again. Her parents would be furious.
Mr. Smith glanced in their direction. He pressed his finger to his lips but didn’t let it stop his lecture. Mr. Smith tried not to glance too frequently at the girls, but this town was getting to him.
He was starting to believe in magic, and he had a sneaking suspicion that these two girls were… well, for lack of a better word, witches. All he knew was something was going on that defied explanation, and the more he looked into the strange occurrences, the more he saw a pattern. A pattern that included the families of both Daisy and Clarissa.
As soon as he finished his lecture, he wrote the assignment on the board and reminded the class that this was independent work, no asking their neighbors for help. Some reminders he needed printed on signs he could wave around every few seconds, including “no cheating.”
The rest of the period was uneventful. Mr. Smith sat at his desk waiting for the students to turn in their assignments and leave. Clarissa lingered, waiting for everyone else to exit. Daisy hesitated at the door but decided against saying something to her friend and went to her next class.
Clarissa cleared her throat as she stood a few feet from Mr. Smith’s desk. He was gathering the assignments and trying to tidy the stack into something neat enough to stuff into a folder.
“Yes, Clarissa, what is it?” he asked.
“Please make sure to get my name right,” she blurted out and then dashed out of the room.
He just shook his head in confusion and considered it another one of those weird teen outbursts that happened from time to time.
During their lunch break, Daisy and Clarissa sat in silence eating. Daisy kept looking up at Clarissa between bites, but she didn’t know what to say. She knew something was wrong. It’d been going on since spring break. Clarissa overreacted to everything. Who cared if Mr. Smith called her the wrong name? It was no reason to draw attention to yourself. Daisy’s philosophy was to stay under the adults’ radar as much as possible.
Sean plopped down across the table from Daisy and elbowed Clarissa as he took items out of a brown bag.
“Don’t,” Clarissa said, sliding away from him a few more inches.
“Sorry,” Sean said holding his hands up in mock surrender. He raised his eyebrows and looked to Daisy.
Daisy shook her head and mouth, “No idea.” She shrugged.
“So,” Sean said trying to break the awkward tension created by Clarissa’s outburst. “Big plans this weekend?”
Daisy shook her head again. “Not really. Clarissa and I were thinking about going to the movies on Saturday. Do you want to join?” She reached across the table and stole a few of Sean’s Doritos.
Clarissa didn’t mean to snap at her friends, but ever since Mr. Smith had called her the wrong name that morning, she’d felt like a dark cloud was following her around.
She closed her eyes and wrapped her arms tightly around her body. Maybe if she counted imaginary sheep, she could calm down.
“What are you doing?” asked Daisy barely above a whisper.
Clarissa opened one eye and looked at her friends. They were both staring at her wide eyed with raised eyebrows.
“Sorry,” she said letting go of herself. “I’m…” She didn’t even know how to finish that sentence. “I’m not feeling well.” She looked down at her lap trying not to let her friends see the tears filling her eyes.
Sean slid closer to her but didn’t reach out to touch her. “Hey, we’re here for you. You can tell us. What’s wrong?”
Clarissa nodded and wiped the tears away. “Okay, but not here. Not at school. Can you guys come over today after band practice?”
Her friends nodded in unison.
Daisy and Sean arrived at Clarissa’s house together. As they were walking up the sidewalk, they couldn’t help but speculate about their friend.
“What do you think is going on with her?” asked Sean.
“I honestly have no idea,” said Daisy. “Whatever it is though, it’s nothing good. I’ve never seen her like this.”
Clarissa’s mom, who never stopped cooking or baking, handed them each a piece of pumpkin bread and a cup of tea before letting them head upstairs to find Clarissa.
Clarissa ushered them in and shut the door. She cast a spell that soundproofed the room. Daisy and Sean exchanged a look because Clarissa never used her magic unless she felt threatened.
She sat down on the floor with them and folded her legs.
“Okay. I’m going to tell you what’s been bothering me, but you can’t tell anyone. Not your parents, especially,” Clarissa said staring them down. “Swear it.”
They both nodded and said almost in unison, “We swear.”
In the back of her mind, Daisy made the promise, but she also knew that if her friend was really in danger, she would break that promise.
Clarissa swallowed and began her story. “I know you won’t believe it. I still can’t believe it sometimes. Even though I have waking nightmares and see it everywhere I look, I can’t believe I…”
June 2021’s short story of the month (sorry it’s late)
It was like an echo from the past, or a dream that he was only just now remembering. He recognized everything about the room, even though he was sure he’d never been there before. He knew the paintings on the walls, could name the artists who’d painted them. The only thing that puzzled him was who was he? He couldn’t remember his own name.
A door creaked behind him.
“Who are you?” he asked the man and woman staring at him.
They quickly glanced at each other, and some secret passed between them. He didn’t know what the look meant, and the secret was apparently not his to know.
They both watched him but when they noticed him looking back, they quickly averted their eyes. They were frowning, and both had wrinkled brows.
The man was the first to speak. “We were afraid this would happen.” The man stepped toward him and stuck out his hand. “I’m Charles, but my friends call me Chuck.”
He shook the hand being offered to him and as he did, something nagged him. He knew this man. At least, he thought he did. And the woman. He knew them both. They were a set. No, that was the wrong word. They were a couple.
He shook his head in frustration. He rubbed his hands on his face. It was like all the information he needed was there but behind a curtain or hidden behind a panel he couldn’t quite unluck.
“Do I know you?” he asked.
Chuck nodded. “Yes, both, my wife and I,” he said pointing to himself and the woman, “we know you very well. We’ve all been friends since we were children.”
They looked at him expectantly, but he wasn’t sure what they wanted.
“That’s good. I guess. Can you tell me who I am?” he asked.
Chuck and his wife exchanged another one of those looks that meant something inexplicable to him.
“Well,” Chuck answered with hesitation, “we can, but we’re not supposed to.”
It was his turn to wrinkle his brow. He was confused and frustrated by this point.
“What do you mean you’re not supposed to?”
Chuck’s wife spoke up this time. “We’re supposed to let you remember for yourself. It’s one of the rules you’ve always emphasized about time magic.”
Chuck shook his head as his wife spoke. “Annie, we’re not supposed to tell him anything.”
She glared at Chuck. “Seriously, Chuck. He’s our friend. We can’t let him wander around not knowing who he is or how he got here.”
Chuck threw up his hands in frustration. “I don’t make the rules. He does.” Chuck pointed at him and stomped around in a small circle. “Perhaps we should notify the Elders.”
“No,” he said, but he didn’t know why. He didn’t want them to notify the Elders. There was that nagging feeling again. He knew even though he couldn’t recall the context of it, that he would be in a lot of trouble if the Elders were called on his account.
Chuck stopped his pacing. “So, you remember that?”
“Why don’t we take him to our house tonight?” suggested Annie.
Chuck pulled Annie aside and whispered to her. “We don’t know what he was doing or when or where he went. He’s been missing for nearly five years. That’s the longest he’s ever been gone before.” Chuck paused and looked at his friend, who was definitely listening in. “We knew this would happen one day,” he said in defeat.
Chuck marched out of the room. He said over his shoulder, “Fine. Let’s go. Come on, Reggie.”
Annie motioned for him to follow and let out a sigh of relief.
As he was following Annie out to their car, he asked her, “Am I Reggie?”
She smiled at him. She just nodded as she opened the car door for him.
He couldn’t sleep that night even though their guest room was comfortable. He crept down the stairs and into their kitchen. He hunted for something to eat, but for some reason, he couldn’t think of what the food items were called and he couldn’t remember what things he liked and didn’t.
He was standing staring at a package of bread when he heard footsteps behind him.
“Can’t sleep?” asked Annie. She took the bread from him. She placed two slices in a device and went around the kitchen gathering other things.
She motioned towards the counter. “Sit on one of the barstools.” She pointed again. “I’ll make you some toast. With butter and jelly. Just the way you always eat it.”
He paused as he was sitting. She kept letting information slip about him. Whatever “rule” there was about not telling him things, she didn’t seem to think it mattered.
He let her make the toast. She placed a plate and a cup in front of him then sat next to him at the bar and watched him eat like a mother fawning over a child.
He had a million questions for her, and he had no idea how to get the most information out of her before she would clam up.
At this point, he didn’t really feel like he had anything to lose.
“Why can’t you tell me things? And why can’t I remember anything about my own life?” He didn’t look at her when he spoke because whenever she made eye contact with him, she looked at him sadly.
“I shouldn’t,” she hesitated and glanced over her shoulder towards the stairs.
“Please,” Reggie begged. “Tell me something, even something small.”
She nodded. “Okay. I can’t imagine what it’s like to not know anything about your own life, not even your own name.” She sighed. “Okay, but it might be best if I don’t give you any specifics about yourself. I’ll explain why you don’t remember anything, but no details.” As she finished speaking, she shook her head. “No details,” she repeated.
He looked at her waiting for her to decide.
“It was always your rule, not mine,” she added.
Several minutes passed and she opened her mouth to speak a couple of times, but she didn’t say anything.
“Okay,” she said again. “You can’t remember who you are because it was the cost of whatever spell you cast.”
Reggie looked at his hands in confusion. Somehow he knew she wasn’t lying.
I don’t know how or why I’m so far behind with everything right now. I haven’t been that busy, but I’ve just been spending too much time having fun instead of writing. At this point, I need to finish 3 short stories this month!
Well, let’s get this horse pointed in the right direction… here is August’s short story prompt:
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…
Complete the Story
I also need to back track and write a story for June and July.
Here is June’s prompt in case you missed it:
It was like an echo from the past, or a dream that he was only just now remembering. He recognized everything about the room, even though he was sure he’d never been there before. He knew the paintings on the walls, could name the artists who’d painted them. The only thing that puzzled him was…
Complete the Story
And here’s July’s prompt:
“Clarissa,” she said, correcting her teacher. Names were important. For years, she’d been embarrassed about her name and wished it were something ordinary. But then something happened that changed her mind. That day…
Complete the Story
I can do this! The story for June is basically done, just needs some polishing, but the other two haven’t left the station.