Camp Update: How’s it going, Kate?

Hi, reader-peeps.

Galavant- I have a dragon
Yeah, this isn’t HTTYD, but it’s relevant.

Time for a Camp NaNoWriMo update!

Well, this is starting like many of my other NaNo events.

I write for a few days and then realize “This ain’t working”.

I think a lot of different things can contribute to the “This ain’t working”. Sometimes it’s me just being stuck early on. Sometimes I don’t know what I’m doing (yes, I used to be an extreme discovery writer. yes, this is very annoying.). Sometimes, it’s a problem with the story. The story is boring, too complex, it’s somehow in a genre i don’t like, it’s plot driven instead of character driven, etc, etc, etc.

19 Fun facts about HTTYD (gif-fest OC) - Imgur

This time, I think there are a lot of things contributing to “this ain’t working”. Very little of it is the story’s fault.

  1. This is an old story. This was my first NaNoWriMo story, in fact. And this is a story that I can’t let go of. Or rather, it’s characters I can’t let go of. But I think I’m putting too much pressure on myself in writing it. Because I want to get it right. I want it to be a good story.
  2. I’m scared. This was also the first story that ever got a real critique on it. I remember some of that critique. It’s not something I want to relive. I’m scared this story is just as messy as it was at first or that it will be. That it will scream that I haven’t learned as a writer.
  3. On the one hand, I have my mom loving this story to death, like I do, and wanting me to write it. On the other, I have my CP, who I have been lowkey hiding exactly what I’m writing because I feel slightly ashamed/embarrassed that I keep coming back to it instead of finding something new.
  4. This story may be too emotional for me right now. I’m tired. A couple different things are really stressing me out right now. I feel like I am being pursued by a bear, exit stage left, and can’t catch my breath. I’m not sure I want to write this level of emotions right now.
  5. I’m lazy. I see that this story might be hard so I get scared and back off. (Okay, not really. I hope. I’m worried that I actually am doing this.)

A lot of this boils down to “I care too much about what other people think”. And that’s a problem I’m not sure how to fix.

Image result for hiccup how to train your dragon crazy and weird gif

I’m sick of setting stories aside. But this has been part of my normal writing process for years. If I’m not feeling the story, I put it down.

But I wonder just how much of my concern for what other people think has leaked into my writing process. I write every day because I don’t want to look lazy. I see word counts go up, up, up at a rate of 10k a day and I look down at my own word count of 200. I see those people who write 10k do other things besides write and they are happy. I write 200 and feel like it took all day and feel like I am complaining too much or am asking for too much help.

Image result for hiccup how to train your dragon crazy and weird gif

 

When did writing become a “I have to do this” vs. “I want to do this”? When did I stop writing for the joy of writing and start writing to “have written”? When did my world become so fast paced around me and I felt the need to keep up and my stories aren’t keeping up?

Why do I care so much about story structure? I used to be a die-hard pantser and now I freak out if I don’t know what to do next. Like at all.

I don’t know. It’s entirely possible that I’m just freaking out because it’s a good week to do that.

 

I’ll be fine.

This story is not being thrown out. As I said, I can’t let go of it. But it might go on hold for a while longer. Or I might come back today/tomorrow/in a week/a month when things are calmer. Or I may work on it in bursts for the next five years, one scene at a time.

My CP suggested writing short stories for a while. I think I’m going to do that. Use up some plot bunnies. Finish some stories. Not feel like I’m failing someone. I want to get back to a point where writing stories is for fun and I’m not worried what other people think (well, not too worried). I want to write something crazy and weird and not care that it’s crazy and weird.

Image result for galavant dragon gif

 

 

Hopefully your Camp or even just your writing is going better than mine. How is it going, btw? Let me know in the comments!

Kate out.

 

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Kings and Queens and Pawns

I wrote a short story after having an idea after midnight last night. Hope you enjoy.

~Kate

~~~~~~~

The chessboard was set. The two advisers, wizards both, called their kings.

The kings were young. Too young to be wearing their crowns. And yet, they were at war. A war they had inherited from their fathers.

“All we have to do is play this game and whoever wins, wins the war?” King James asked. He was so young, his adviser mused. Early teens. His crown was lopsided.

“That is indeed correct, your Highness,” the adviser said. A sense of dread settled in his stomach. “This is how wars have been fought for many, many years. Consider it tradition.”

“Whose tradition?” the other young king asked. He was called Fred, short for Fredrich or something complicated. He was maybe a year or two older than James and though his crown was on straight, he had pimples and his voice had broken twice in the war meeting earlier that day. He was young too.

“The whole of this continent fights their wars in this way,” the other adviser said. He sounded like he was looking forward to this. Like he lived on bloodshed. “However, there is one thing Lord Claudius has wrong. You do not play the game. Your queens play it.”

“Oh!” King James said. “That’s even better!”

“It is rather,” King Fred said. “We don’t even have to do anything.”

“Indeed!” King Fred’s adviser said. It was a lie. Before Claudius could open his mouth and say that, the adviser shooed the young kings away, then set to work enchanting the chessboard.

“Are we doing the right thing, Malco?” Claudius asked. “I feel like we should tell them what they are really doing when they do this.”

“No,” the adviser said, purple tendrils of magic coming from his fingers. “The war must end. They must not know that they are putting their kingdoms to death. Aren’t you going to help me with this?”

Claudius rolled up his sleeves and let loose his magic, which appeared as sand-colored tendrils. “But cannot we not come to a peace agreement? Must blood be shed?”

“Yes. Yes, it must. If only to win the war. We are long past peace agreements.”

~~~~~~~~~~

Lucy was a young queen. She was barely fourteen. She and James had been married for only a few weeks.

She didn’t want to be queen. Or at least not so soon. She hadn’t expected to be queen until she was at least 17.

Then James’ father had died in battle and he had to become king. And he needed a queen.

He also needed the war to be over and his crown adjusted to fit him. He needed to be able to finish being a child before he was forced to be an adult. He needed a pair of fuzzy socks so he could keep his feet warm and slide across the ball room floor.

Only two of those things were possible now, though she supposed he could still have a pair of fuzzy socks. Lucy sat in the chair that had been set for her at the chessboard. The chessboard looked strange. Too shiny, somehow. Too sparkly. It was just a wooden chess set.

Perhaps it had been polished.

Her opponent entered the room. Queen Anna was older than Fred—nineteen, from what Lucy had heard. They had also been married for almost half a year.

Unlike Lucy, Anna had been not married into the royal lineage, she was the royal lineage. Fred became king just for marrying her. Anna also had confidence right now, something Lucy very much wished she had. But Anna was also pregnant and it showed and Lucy did not envy her in that.

Anna sat down at the chessboard in the chair opposite Lucy. She smiled a little then looked at the chessboard. “Have you ever seen this done before, Lucy?”

“Not a war won with a chessboard, no. I have played chess before, though.”

“Are you good at it?” Anna asked.

Lucy realized that Anna was trying to make her nervous. “I’m good enough,” Lucy said, sitting up a little straighter.

At that moment, James’ adviser Claudius and Fred’s adviser came into the room.

Claudius smiled at Lucy, though his smile was not a happy one.

Fred’s adviser cleared his throat. “Your Highnesses, we need not tell you how to play chess. You know. This war will end today and it will be thanks to you two. Queen Anna, you have the first move. Now… you may begin.”

Anna moved a knight first, making him leap over the pawns. Lucy moved a pawn.

Just then there was a loud shout and the sound of thunder. Lucy jumped and looked toward the window. She started to stand up to investigate the sound, but Claudius made her sit back down.

“I’ll look into it,” he said kindly. “Don’t trouble yourself.” He walked to the window.

Anna moved a pawn. Lucy moved another pawn. Again there was a shout and the sound of thunder.

Lucy looked at Claudius. He smiled and said, “Just some rogues outside the castle walls, my Queen. And it looks as if it is beginning to rain.”

Lucy turned back to the board. Anna’s knight captured one of Lucy’s pawns. Lucy’s bishop captured Anna’s knight.

Blood-curdling screams were heard and there was more thunder.

Lucy got up from her chair before Claudius could stop her and marched to the window.

The fields outside her castle walls were covered in squares, with soldiers and knights and holy guards inside the squares. Most of the people were in neat two neat rows on opposite sides, except for a group of soldiers and a holy guard in between them.

The fields were red underneath the groups. Red with blood.

Lucy glanced at the chessboard then back out the window. Everything was the same. Everything in the squares outside and on the squares of the chessboard lined up exactly.

She was playing chess. It was not just a game.

Anger boiled up inside her. “Why didn’t you tell me, Claudius?” she demanded.

“Malco told me not to,” Claudius replied. “And we needed this war to end, you Highness.”

“The knight I captured… that was a group of men who are now dead?”

“Yes, your Highness,” Claudius said. He sounded absolutely ashamed of himself.

Lucy took a deep shuddering breath. Her hands clenched into fists. “What happens when one of us captures a queen?”

“The captured queens will be dying but will live to the end of the game,” Malco said. He spoke like this made everything okay.

“You didn’t know this is what we were doing?” Anna asked.

Lucy looked at Anna and the bump where a baby was growing. Lucy could not capture Anna. That would put Anna and the baby to death.

But could Anna trust Lucy to show her the same courtesy?

Probably not. Was it worth it to possibly die for one’s kingdom?

“Do James and Fred know?” Lucy asked.

Claudius hesitated a moment too long. That confirmed it in Lucy’s mind.

She sighed. Would she really be willing to possibly die so that a war could end?

“Come finish the game, Lucy,” Anna said. “Let us get it over with.”

Lucy walked back to the chessboard. She sat down. Anna moved a pawn. Lucy looked at the game. It was too shiny because it was magic, of course.

Lucy swallowed and reached out hand to move her bishop and capture a pawn. But she stopped before she touched the piece.

“What happens at checkmate?”

She looked at Claudius and Malco. Neither of them said anything.

A lump rose in Lucy’s throat. “The losing king dies, doesn’t he?”

Claudius and Malco looked at each other. Claudius looked back at Lucy and nodded.

No. No she couldn’t do this. She couldn’t risk putting James to death. She couldn’t kill Fred and leave Anna and her child, if they survived, without a husband and father.

Lucy looked at the board. What choice did she have? What could she do? The game could not be ended without a checkmate.

Or could it?

Lucy swiped the board off the table.

Anna, Malco, and Claudius all screamed at once. “NO!”

There was a great flash of light. An explosion.

~~~~~~~~~~

Claudius pulled himself out of the wreckage. He was alive but only because he was a cursed wizard.

He rubbed his sore shoulder—a chair had landed on top of him– and looked around him.

The room was a mess. The queens lay dead on the floor, still too pretty and young to have this to be their fate.

Malco also lay dead, not far from where Claudius himself had been. The man had been no real wizard and he had been a traitor besides. His goal had been to get rid of Fred and Anna so that he may take the throne. Malco had died a quite appropriate death, killed by the game he had made unfair.

The game had been rigged in Lucy’s favor. Claudius had known that. If only Lucy had known, too.

Claudius picked Lucy up; the poor child was definitely dead. He carried her to the throne room. On his throne, James sat somewhat flopped over. He too was dead.

Claudius set Lucy in her throne and sat James upright. With his magic, he covered them and their thrones in stone, giving them a memorial.

“Here lie a young King and Queen, taken long before their time,” he muttered to himself as tears escaped his eyes. “Rest in peace, James and Lucy. I hope there are fuzzy socks and wood floors to slide on in your afterlife.”

Stuck On You– A Short Story

I go down to the dock at night. The water is dark. There is no moon tonight.

The salty sea spray hits me in the face like a kiss. A very salty kiss. Okay, that was nothing like a kiss. That was like getting hit in the face with salt water.

I’m waiting for him.

He said he would come to the dock. He said he would reveal himself. My secret admirer.

I have a hunch that it’s Josh, the other intern here at the aquarium. He’s a nice guy. Quiet. He spoke two whole words to me the other day.

They were “excuse me” as he reached past me to get something on the shelf.

Yeah, that shouldn’t count.

But it would make sense that he has been the one sending me messages. He just can’t get up the nerve to talk to me. So he sends messages to me at night.

In Morse code.

Okay, maybe I am jumping to conclusions. It may not be Josh. It could be Tucker.

Gosh, I hope it’s not Tucker.

Not that I don’t like Tucker. It’s just… this would be a prank to him. He wouldn’t seriously do this. Like that one time he paid for an advertisement for a fake contest. The contestants were supposed to do their best Donald Duck impression. Winner won one hundred dollars.

They were supposed to call me for the contest and do their best impression to me. For a week, I answered my phone and heard Donald Duck.

And then there was the time he rigged a trapdoor over the walrus tank…

I shudder at the memory and get back to thinking about my secret admirer. It started with a simple four dots and two dots.

Hi.

Over the past few weeks the message has turned into dot-dot, dot-dash-dot-dot, dash-dash-dash, dot-dot-dot-dash, dot, dash-dot-dash-dash, dash-dash-dash, dot-dot-dash.

I love you.

My message to him was the same.

We talked every night. The ocean is our passion. We both love crab meat. The sunset is the best and most beautiful time of day.

I sigh with happiness.

I look out over the water again. I see something come out of the water.

My admirer told me to brace myself. To expect something very unexpected.

I’m practically giddy as I watch this thing come out of the water. Is this it? Is this him?

No. It’s an octopus.

A very big octopus comes up out of the water and pulls itself onto the dock. I back up several steps.

This octopus is bigger than me.

Once up on the dock, it looks at me and doesn’t move.

I don’t move, either. I think about calling the animal rescue people who work with the aquarium.

The octopus starts slapping one of it’s tentacles on the wood.

It’s going to hurt itself. Definitely time to call animal rescue.

It keeps hitting.

Suddenly, the sound sounds familiar.

Dot-dot-dot-dot, dot-dot.

Hi.

There is no way.

I kneel down on the dock and knock on the wood. I ask him if he can understand me.

Dash-dot-dash-dash, dot, dot-dot-dot.

Yes.

I still can’t believe it, but the next question I tap out is asking him if he is my secret admirer.

Dash-dot-dash-dash, dot, dot-dot-dot.

Yes.

Dot-dot, dot-dash-dot-dot, dash-dash-dash, dot-dot-dot-dash, dot, dash-dot-dash-dash, dash-dash-dash, dot-dot-dash.

I love you. 

My admirer is an octopus that knows Morse code. He reaches out one of his tentacles and sets it on my cheek, one of the suckers on my face.

A kiss.

I can’t decide if I’m disgusted or just in love with him, too.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Hi, reader-peeps!

Happy April Fool’s Day!

Hope you enjoyed my Kraken-romance story, inspired by this video by Maggie Stiefvater.

DFTBA!

 

 

New Year’s Short Story Challenge 2015–The Results

We came, we wrote, we conquered.

We wrote stories, edited, and published them all within 24-hours (more or less). We proved that, despite time restriction and other obstacles of life, we will finish what we start. We will write.

I present to you, the “winners” of the New Years Eve Short Story Challenge and the stories they wrote. If you can, read the stories and leave a comment.

Lullaby by Shim

Deserter by Lana

How Having Braces Saved the World by Alicia

Ash by Liam

Untitled Short Story by Kim Plasket

Also Untitled Short Story by Turtleberry Press

What Matters More by Anna

Romanian Reds by Amanda

Wings of Ink by Lily

Payphone by Molly

Housesitting by Katie (me)

Well done, everyone who participated.

I will be reading the stories I haven’t gotten to yet very soon.

That happened to me
DFTBA!

 

 

 

 

A Short Story– Housesitting

HAPPY 2016!

I wrote a short story last night. I started at about 9, finished at about 2, and edited today. According to the challenge rules, I have until about 9 PM to post it, but I’m not going to wait that long.

So! Here’s my story. Feel free to critique and please enjoy Housesitting.

~~~~~~~~~~

Evan had no memory of Aunt Madge. He had last seen her when he was three years old and that had been 14 years ago. So it came as a bit of a surprise when Evan’s mom told him that Aunt Madge wanted him to housesit for her.

Persuaded by his mother (and the eventual monetary reward for a job well done), Evan was dropped off at Aunt Madge’s house after school by his friend.

When they got there, Evan stared at the house for a minute. The house was tall with several tower-like things, black, and it just looked… creaky.

“I wouldn’t go in there, dude,” Jack said, sitting in the driver’s seat. “Looks freaking haunted.”

Evan shook his head, though he did agree. The place did look creepy. Too bad Mom had already called Aunt Madge and said that Evan would indeed be housesitting.

“Is your aunt a witch?” Jack asked.

“No!” Evan cried. “Of course not.”

“How do you know? You haven’t seen her since you were little. I bet she has a big bubbling cauldron,” Jack said.

Evan sighed and opened the passenger door. “See you at school tomorrow.”

“Unless you get turned into a frog…” Jack said.

Evan shot his friend a glare and rolled his eyes. Then he slammed the car door and began to walk up the long driveway to the house. Yeah, the house looked a little weird, but… it was just old, right? No way that it was really haunted or anything ridiculous like that.

When Evan was close to the house, but still in the driveway, two people came running out of the house. One was a man who was wearing what looked like Gandalf’s grey robe and grey hat. Evan had to do a double take before he realized that this guy was no Gandalf—too young and no beard.

The other person to come flying out the door was short woman wearing spectacles perched on the end of her nose and judging by the amount of wrinkles on her face, the woman was no spring chicken. She wore a black dress and a black pointy hat.

The woman’s face lit up when she saw Evan. “There you are! And I was beginning to think that you might not get here in time!” She shoved a folded piece of paper into his hands. “I wish I had time to explain the instructions to you, but Claudius and I really have to go and get to our convention, so I made you a list and it’s very clear but you must read all the instructions and read them very carefully or very bad things will happen and…”

A car honked. Not-Gandalf sat in the driver’s seat of a blue pickup truck that looked like it was going to fall apart any second. He looked impatient.

The woman sighed and turned back to Evan. “Well, I’d best be off. Do be careful. Best of luck, young man.” With that, the woman grabbed a broom that was sitting up against the house, and tossed the broom into the truck and shut the tailgate. Then she went to the passenger’s side and climbed into the vehicle. Evan watched as the truck left the driveway and went down the road.

He turned toward the house. So, the house looked creepy, Aunt Madge wore a black pointy hat and had just thrown a broom into her truck. All of which struck Evan as very witch-like. But Evan shook that off and unfolded the piece of paper he had been given.

It was quite a list.

Best to get started right away. He looked at the first item.

  1. Collect eggs from the phoenix. Her name is Ashlyn.

Evan blinked. Phoenix? Like a firebird? Like those flaming birds that were supposed to be mythical?

Why—or rather, how—would Aunt Madge have a phoenix?

Evan took a breath. Oh well. It didn’t matter. If Aunt Madge had a phoenix and she wanted him to get eggs from it, then he would locate the phoenix and gather eggs.

There. There was a… chicken coop kind of thing. Kind of back behind and beside the house. Evan walked to it. It was a big chicken coop and he went inside.

That phoenix needed a big chicken coup. She was as big as an ostrich and golden like the sun. Her feathers gave off a glow and she preened a bit as she sat on her giant nest. Evan swallowed and hoped that she was a vegetarian.

“Hi,” he said quietly as he came closer. The phoenix cocked her head and made a squawking sound. “I’m just here to get some eggs,” Evan said. The phoenix cocked her head the other way.

Evan reached out his hand and moved it closer so he could grab the eggs out from under the phoenix. The phoenix pecked him.

“Ow!” It didn’t really hurt but Evan had said ow, anyway. He glared at the bird and tried again.

He got pecked again.

This happened three more times before Evan decided to try a different method. He reached into the feeder and grabbed a handful of feed. He tossed it away from the nest.

The phoenix got off the nest and went after the corn. Evan rushed to the nest and scooped up the two eggs that were there.

The eggs were only about the temperature of the sun.

Evan almost dropped them. He shook his hands. How to get scalding eggs into the house… he saw an egg basket in the corner. Perfect.

Using the edge of his shirt as a makeshift potholder, Evan grabbed the eggs and put them in the basket. Then he left the chicken coop.

Well, that was done. He smiled and walked back to the house. When he got to the door, he looked at the second item on the list.

  1. You will have to sing to Ashlyn. She likes songs by Adele.

Oops. Oh well. Evan had gotten the eggs. There was no point in going back and singing now. He looked at the next item.

  1. Knock on the door three times and speak the password (which is “pickled herring”). Gerald should let you in but you have to give him two phoenix eggs.

Who was Gerald and why wasn’t he doing the housesitting? Evan knocked on the door three times.

“What’s the password?” a voice questioned in a way that could only be described as barking.

“Pickled herring!” Evan called, feeling silly.

The door opened. A cocker-spaniel dog sat on the other side of the door and panted at Evan. Aunt Madge hadn’t mentioned a dog.

The dog looked quite friendly and seemed to be smiling at Evan. Evan reached out his hand for the dog to sniff. The dog licked his hand and continued to pant and smile and look like it was waiting for something.

Evan didn’t have time to play with the dog. “Gerald!” Evan called. “Gerald! It’s Evan! I’m house sitting for Madge.”

No one showed up.

Huh. Well, maybe he’d run into Gerald later. Evan tried to step into the door. The dog barked at him.

Evan tried to step into the door again. The dog growled. What was wrong with that dog?

And if Gerald wasn’t around, who had asked for the password just now?

“Gerald?” he called again.

The dog barked.

Evan noticed the dog’s collar. The dog wasn’t still growling, so he bent down and looked at the collar.

The collar said ‘Gerald’. Who the heck named their dog Gerald? Well, Aunt Madge, obviously…

Then who had asked for the password?

Never mind. Maybe he’d imagined that. Evan gave the dog the two phoenix eggs. The dog started rolling the eggs away with its nose. Evan shut the door and walked into the house.

***

The next couple chores went without a single hitch. They were fairly simple things, though there was still a bit of a magical twist to them.

Evan had to water the plants, including musical dianthus flowers, Lillian-of-the-Valley (the flowers insisted on being called by the correct name), and rocks. He wasn’t sure why the rocks needed watering, but they seemed to like it because they started talking after they’d had a whole watering-can of water. They started gossiping about tulips.

Evan left the rocks to their chit-chat and got the mail from the mailbox that’d only open if he sang the second verse of “Blank Space” to it. He set the mail on the table and looked at the next item on the list.

  1. Make an omelet out of three more phoenix eggs and go feed it to Persephone (she’s the dragon in the basement).

Wait a minute. There had only been two eggs from the phoenix before. And Evan had already given them to Gerald.

Evan quickly glanced at the last thing on the list.

  1. Take Gerald and Alistair for a walk. Don’t let Alistair get out of his tank or he may decapitate you and/or practice his defenestration technique.

Okay, so… Evan could hypothetically take Gerald and whatever Alistair was on the walk while he went to get more eggs from the phoenix. There’d only been two eggs before, but maybe this was why Evan was supposed to be singing Adele songs to the firebird before.

So, he should be able to go back and sing to the phoenix and she’d lay more eggs and then he could make the dragon an omelet and then go home, right? Easy as pie.

Evan grabbed the two dog leashes he’d seen by the door. Now. Where was Alistair and what was he? And why would you walk something that lived in a tank?

Wasn’t “defenestration” the act of throwing someone out a window?

Evan spotted a fishbowl in the living room. He looked closely at it and didn’t see anything in it except a goldfish. How was a goldfish supposed to decapitate him? Or throw him out a window?

Maybe he was supposed to just carry the fishbowl on the walk. Or maybe he was just supposed to move the fish to a different part of the room. He’d done weirder today.

“Gerald!” Evan called. “Come here, Gerald!”

The dog came rushing into the living room, nearly flying. It stopped in front of Evan. “Time for a walk? Time for a walk, human?”

“Yes, it’s…” Evan stopped. He looked at the dog. “Did you just speak to me? Are you the one who asked for the password earlier?”

Gerald looked like he’d made a mistake, kind of shocked and ‘oops’. “Um… bark?”

Evan sighed. Okay, the dog could talk, but nothing had been weirder than singing Taylor Swift to the mailbox. Evan reached out to clip the leash on. Gerald took off running.

“Hey!” Evan shouted. He leapt up off the floor. In doing that, he knocked over the fishbowl.

The water and the fish spilled onto the floor. Evan grabbed the fishbowl and ran to the kitchen sink to refill it. When he came back, the goldfish was gone.

Suddenly, Evan felt something cold and slimy slip down the back of his t-shirt. He yelped and started twitching. Whatever it was started to bite him, too. He struggled to get it out of his shirt. It wasn’t until it was too late that he realized how close to the window he was. The window opened by itself and though he struggled to upright himself, Evan fell through it.

The window had been on the first story of the house, but the fall out of the window was still painful, since Evan landed in a rosebush. He glanced up at the window to see a goldfish lying on the sill and somehow managing to smirk at him.

As Evan pulled himself from the rosebush, he smelled something hot and smoky. Was something on fire?

The chicken coop was in flames.

Maybe that’s why he was supposed to sing to the phoenix.

Evan found the hose and turned it on then ran to the chicken coop, trying to remember all the words to “Rolling in the Deep”. He practically screamed the song as he sprayed the fire.

It took a while and maybe Evan should’ve called the fire department instead, but he got the fire out. The phoenix was okay. She had even laid more eggs in that fire.

Evan looked for a phone number or some other contact information on the instruction list. Nope. No way to get ahold of Aunt Madge if there were questions or an emergency.

“Hello!” someone called.

Evan looked up. A girl about his age was walking toward him. She was kind of pretty and he wished his clothes weren’t smoky and torn.

The girl smiled. “I’m Aubrey. I’m looking for Ms. Tikal. She lives here. Well you probably knew that.”

Evan’s mouth dropped open. “Wait. I think you have the wrong house. My Aunt Madge lives here. And her last name isn’t Tikal.”

“Uh, no,” Aubrey said. “Ms. Helen Tikal is an…um… eccentric lady. She has a phoenix and a dragon and a possessed goldfish and she cosplays as that one lady from Harry Potter a lot—the one Maggie Smith plays in the movies. Actually, I’m pretty sure she was heading to LeakyCon for the weekend. She hired me to housesit.”

Evan looked at the house number on the front door. Oh. Lovely. He was at the wrong house entirely.

Just then, Evan’s cell phone rang. He reached into his pocket and answered it. His mom was freaking out.

“Where are you? Aunt Madge has been waiting on you for two hours!”

Evan sighed and told his mom that he was on the way and that he’d explain when he got home. After he hung up, he turned to Aubrey and handed her the list he’d been given.

“Read all the instructions before you start,” he said. “Seriously.”

New Year’s Short Story Challenge 2015!

Last year, a couple of friends and I put together a short story challenge for ringing in the New Year.

I’m happy to tell you that we are doing it again and that this year, I’m hosting.

Elsa (left) and Anna (righ.

So, what is this challenge?

Basically, you will write a story on New Year’s Eve and then post it on your blog sometime within the next 24 hours.

As my friend Liam put it when he hosted the challenge last year, “Any who wish may take the hours leading up to midnight, December 31st, and write a short story.  Only two requirements here: when the new year appears, you are writing; and sometime the next day, that story is published.The goal here is to write and publish in a short period of time.  This means you aren’t going to be able to edit much.  You’ll have about twenty hours to edit (if you don’t sleep), so you’ll want quality over quantity.  Eighteen thousand words won’t help you if it’s a repetition of your grocery list.  Instead, keep the story short and easy to edit, and don’t stress about the outcome.  It’s a challenge, not a competition, and the important thing is writing and publishing.”

And now, for the FAQ:

What are the time limits?

You must publish within 24 hours of starting the story. If you start at 8PM on New Year’s Eve, you must have the story posted by 8PM on New Year’s Day. You could starting writing now and publish it tomorrow, but part of the appeal of the challenge is for this to simultaneously be your last story of 2015 and your first story of 2016. It doesn’t matter how much time you spend writing it or editing it. That is up to you.

Is there a specific wordcount?

Nope. Write however many or few words you want towards your story.

Is there a writing prompt?

No writing prompt. Which is part of why I am posting this now and not on New Year’s Eve. Plan as little or as much as you like, the 24-hour challenge doesn’t start until you start writing. If you need a prompt, the internet is literally crawling with them. Pinterest is a good place to look. (I have a prompt board that you guys are welcome to look at and be inspired by.)

Is there a prize?

No. This isn’t a contest. There won’t be any judges or anything. But if you would like a critique on your story, say so somewhere in your post and I (and hopefully others) will give one. If you don’t say that you want a critique, than I will just read and assume that others will too without criticism.

Are there content restrictions?

Please keep it to a YA level of content. If you feel that your story needs elements beyond a YA level, please give a content warning at the top of your post.

I have a blog.  Where should I post the link so others can see it?

Please comment here, on this post, with a link to your story. After a few days, I’ll round up all the links and post them in a new post so that everyone can have easy access to the stories.

I don’t have a blog.  Where should I post the story so others can see it?

If you don’t have a blog and still wish to participate, let me know and I will give you my email so you can send me your short story. I will post it in this currently blank Google Doc. No one can edit the document except me and I will not touch your story other than copying and pasting it there. If you don’t want to do that, I recommend something like LiveJournal or creating your own Google Doc and then posting the link to it in the comments.

This isn’t enough time to write anything good.  Why can’t we have more time?

As last year’s host put it, “There are absolutely no stakes.  We’re all writers in various stages of development— posting your work only opens it up to a new audience.  You might have your pet project that you’ve been working on for months or years, but I’m not asking you to publish that.  Just write for a couple hours and publish the result, for fun.  If nothing else, it proves that yes, you do write fiction and yes, you are kind of serious about it… So… no time for editing because it doesn’t matter whether it’s perfect or trash.  Have fun.”

Can I write a poem?

Yep! Just stay within the time constraints.

How do you write a short story?

Again, I am going to quote last year’s host on this one.

“Approach it the same way as every other story, but restrict yourself to fewer characters and locations.  Arrive in the story late, get out early.  Make sure your stories have a sense of setting quickly— magic and creature attributes, as well as places, have to be introduced early (“sketched, not photographed”, Maggie Stiefvater says).  If you have a romance, figure out how to show that chemistry quickly, in a lovers’ shorthand of sorts.  Characterize people quickly so we can get to action rather than hear their backstory.  (Much of this comes from Maggie Stiefvater, in her collection The Curiosities.  Well worth a read if you want examples of amazing short fiction.)”

I hear plagiarism is useful.  Can I—

Absolutely not.

And that’s about it! I’m really looking forward to this and I hope you’ll join us! If you have any other questions, that I didn’t cover, let me know in the comments.

Now… TO THE PLOT BUNNY CAGE!

DFTBA!

 

My Scorpio Races, Chapter 2– Beach Training

I entered a roleplaying/fanfic version of the Scorpio Races. This is based on the book by Maggie Stiefvater, The Scorpio Races. It’s  on Tumblr, but I’m posting the fanfic stuff here for you guys, too.  Here is the link to the info and the account hosting if anyone is interested. Enjoy!

~~~~~~~~~

I found out today that Miraculous likes to eat fingers.

I made my choice. I am going to race Miraculous and I am going to get over my fear. I told Sean Kendrick this. And then he told me that he didn’t have time to train me.

But he said he would send someone to the beach to help me.

So, here I was, not quite on the beach because I have better things to do this morning than get maimed by any other cappall. I get a few weird looks. Even though it’s more socially acceptable for girls to enter the Scorpio Races (Kate Connolly’s fault), there still aren’t many girls here on the beach and I don’t think anyone expected a timid church-mouse like me to be there at all.

I try to ignore the looks. I’m just standing here, holding three bags, and trying to look normal while I wait for whoever Sean is sending and Miraculous.

I get a strange surge thinking about the water horse. I don’t know if it’s excitement or nerves or both. Either way… I might throw up.

Before I get too nauseated, I hear someone call my name. I see a man coming this way, leading a gray cappall behind him. My cappall. My Miraculous.

The man was about my age, maybe a bit older. He smiles and holds out his free hand. “I’m Mal.”

I shake his hand. “Beth. Which I guess you know. Um…” I look at Miraculous. He actually seemed a lot smaller yesterday. He’s very still right now and he’s staring at the ocean.

Mal clucks, “We’ll have to train that out of him. Or at least try to.”

“Looking at the sea?” I ask.

Mal gives me a look that is almost condescending. “You don’t want him longing for the sea during the Races. Or any time, really, but especially not during the Races. Today’s training is all about getting you used to him and making sure that charms work. You brought the things Kendrick told you to bring?”

I nod and hold up the three bags I brought. One bag had daisies, bells, red ribbon, a chunk of iron, and, though heaven forbid we need it, holly berries. Basically all the charms any rider might need. Another bag had some raw meat I’d bought from the Grattons, which was trying to leak. And the third bad held my lunch.

I feel not quite confident, but I would have to get this over with sooner or later. “Can I touch him?”

Mal nods. “He’s your mount. Get that chunk of iron and hold it. I just want you to hold it, just in case. And if I were you, I’d rub his shoulder, not his nose.”

I have no intention whatsoever of rubbing Miraculous’s nose. That is just a little too close to his mouth for my comfort.

Miraculous’s grey coat feels like wet sand, the kind of sand that gets pulled out from under your toes as the sea comes in and out in waves. I feel the sea in him and how he wants it. And then I want it, too. I want the sea and to go into the briny water. It is calling me.

Suddenly, Miraculous rears and screams. That scream is something out of my deepest memories that I didn’t want to ever think about. I see his teeth. I stifle a scream of my own and trip over my own feet trying to get away.

I scramble to get off the ground before Miraculous decides I am a snack, tears streaming down my face. I keep tripping.

            Oh God, why? Why did You send this monster to me?

A minute later, I realize the screaming has stopped. Miraculous is calmly eating a brown paper bag. He’s very still again.

I realize that someone’s arms are around me, holding me tight to settle me. I turn and see Mal. He looks awkward and lets me go.

“Why are you not holding him?” is the first thing I ask.

Mal glances at Miraculous. “You trace a circle in the ground and spit in it. It confines them somehow.” He takes a deep breath. “And I’m glad it works on Miraculous. And the iron works, too, thankfully. He makes me nervous. I’ve never seen a cappall that can be so very still like yours.”

Like yours. Miraculous is mine. And he makes a person who works with cappail uisce everyday nervous.

And somehow, I still want him.

I stand up. Mal stands up, too. People are staring at us.

I think I need a break. For lunch and prayer. Lots of prayer.

I look around for my lunch bag. It’s not where I left it. Only the bag of meat and the bag of charms are left. Where is the third…

I look at Miraculous. That brown paper bag he was eating was my lunch.

Mal seems to have realized what happened. He’s grinning, trying not to laugh. “What was in that bag?” he asked, rubbing Miraculous’s flank.

I take a breath and grin at the appropriateness at my lunch choice, or rather, my water horse’s lunch choice.

“Chicken and cookies.”

More specifically, chicken fingers and lady fingers.

My Scorpio Races, Chapter 1– Beth and Miraculous

I entered a roleplaying/fanfic version of the Scorpio Races. This is based on the book by Maggie Stiefvater, The Scorpio Races. It’s  on Tumblr, but I’m posting the fanfic stuff here for you guys, too.  Here is the link to the info and the account hosting if anyone is interested. Enjoy!

~~~~~~~~~

I am terrified of horses.

When I was little, I had a nightmare about a horse eating me. It stuck with me for the rest of my life, because around here people get eaten by horses a lot. That’s the trouble with Thisby.

My name is Beth. I don’t know my last name. The story goes that I was found on the beach when I was a baby. My parents were most likely eaten by one of the cappall uisce.

Most people say it was a miracle I wasn’t eaten.

No. I just got eaten later in a dream, which made living here a nightmare. I stay away from the stables. I stay away from the beach. The only places that feel safe are the little shop called Fathom & Sons and the church.

At least, they used to feel safe.

I spend a lot of time at the church. I’m not forced to, I just like praying. Especially around the time of the Scorpio Races. And besides, it’s not as if I have many other ways to spend my time. I don’t really have any friends who are under the age of twenty.

I must have felt really lonely that cold October morning when I went to the church. I had somehow gotten it into my head to pray for a friend who was close to my age. And I also prayed for something to do besides pray and help out at the shop. I felt a little bad for this, but God understood what I meant, right?

The church was pretty much empty. Since it wasn’t Sunday, this was understandable. But not even Father Mooneyham was around.

But someone must have been around. After I’d been on my knees with my eyes closed for a few minutes, I heard someone loudly breathing and I heard footsteps of at least two people coming into the church.

If I hadn’t stayed up so late the previous night (it was a good book) and if I hadn’t been so engrossed in talking to God, I probably would have noticed how wrong the breathing and the footsteps sounded.

I wasn’t aware anything was going on until I felt hot breath on my face and my shoulder was nudged and the air suddenly smelled strongly like the ocean and dead fish.

I opened my eyes and found myself face to face with a cappall.

I almost screamed. But the last thing I needed was this thing startling and deciding to eat me. I bit my lip and tried to think clearly.

I couldn’t think.

I forget about the charms I always carry with me just in case. I’m a religious person and believe God will protect me, yes, but I also believe in common sense and I know that these things are sometimes calmed by the red ribbons and stuff. Sometimes.

But the cappall doesn’t do anything. It just stands there, staring at me.

I stare back because I really don’t know what else to do.

I hear a quiet gasp. I hear a whisper, “Go get Sean Kendrick.” I don’t take my gaze away from the big grey water horse.

I hear footsteps. Father Mooneyham is suddenly standing beside me. He whispers, “Just what have you been praying for, Elizabeth?”

Sean Kendrick comes to get the cappall out of the church. No one knows how it got inside in the first place.

While he’s taking care of it, I tell Father Mooneyham how I prayed for a friend and something to do.

He raises his eyebrows, looks at the water horse then back to me. “The Lord works in mysterious ways. Elizabeth, I believe God sent this creature. And that He wants you to be in the Scorpio Races.”

A million protests come to mind. Why would God want me to do something so dangerous?

Sean Kendrick interrupts my thoughts. “What do you want me to do with this cappall?” he asked.

He’s looking at me. I open my mouth but before I can say anything he adds, “He’s really gentle. And he did just come up to you.”

The words are out of my mouth before I can think about them. “I want to race. I want to race him.”

Sean smiles and nods like a proud older brother. “You sure?”

I nod again. I stand up and slowly walk forward. I reach out a hand then pull it back. What if the horse just snapped it off? Isn’t there some kind of ritual or something before you can pet a cappall?

Sean’s smile fades. “We’re going to have to work on that fear of yours. If you aren’t confident, you are pretty much dead already.” I duck my head and he adds, “I’ll take him to my stables. Take a day and think about this.”

I nod then watch as Sean leads the stallion away.

Thinking the word ‘stallion’ gives me chills.

I’m thinking about naming him Miraculous.

Roommate

Matt was pleasantly surprised to find Alex was home. It meant that Alex could bandage his cuts and he wouldn’t have to do it himself.

“Hey, Al. Say, would you mind…”

Alex looked up from his studying, revealing that he had a black eye as well as a swelling bruise on his jaw. Matt sighed. “For gosh sakes, Al. Did you get into another fight?” Alex shrugged, which meant yes.

Matt and Alex had been roommates for the past 11 months. And it wasn’t a bad set-up. They were both specializing in genetics. They were both relatively neat people, they took turns cleaning the apartment, and they were both allergic to cats. But Alex… when he wasn’t in the class room or in the apartment, he got into fights. At least, that’s what Matt assumed happened. Alex never specifically said and he never denied Matt’s guesses.

Matt just shrugged it off, usually, and helped Alex with bruises and cuts, but he wished he knew what was really going on. It was beyond him how such a nice, quiet guy like Alex managed to get into so many fights.

“You were saying?” Alex prompted softly.

Of course, Matt had his own secrets, too. “I need you to take care of a nasty cut, if you don’t mind. I… fell. And landed on something sharp. Glass, I think.”

Alex smiled and nodded, then stood up and went to go get the First-Aid kit. Matt pulled off his shirt–the cut was on his shoulder. He winced; having superpowers didn’t mean that wounds didn’t hurt.

What hurt worse was having to lie to Alex about this. Yes, he had fallen. In a way. More accurately, he had been thrown through a window by his nemesis, the evil Rigor Mortis.

It had been a pretty good fight up until that point. Matt, under the guise of Light Speed, had gotten a few punches in. At one point, he was pretty sure he had even broken Rigor Mortis’s left foot. But then he got thrown through a window. And when he got back to the fight, Rigor Mortis had disappeared. He pushed through a crowd of reporters and people, both grateful and ungrateful, and walked to the nearest (but well-hidden) place he could find to become Matt again.

No one could know Matt and Light Speed were the same person. Especially not Alex. It was too dangerous.

*****

Alex looked at the gash on Matt’s arm and tried not to show how bad it was on his face. “You need that stitched up.” he said quietly.

Matt nodded and sat down on the couch. They wouldn’t go to a doctor for this. Matt never went to a doctor for his wounds, even when he had broken three ribs. Alex figured that was because Matt was scared of doctors and wouldn’t admit it. Alex didn’t want to go to the doctor because then there would need to be information given and then… well, radiation poisoning didn’t look good on the medical records.

It’d happened when Alex was 15 and helping his uncle with some science experiments. Something got knocked over and then exploded and his uncle died. Yeah, it was a big mess.

Alex shook away the memory and started stitching up his best friend’s shoulder. The past didn’t matter. Only the present. He concentrated on the job, mentally blocking the thought that Matt was in pain and that he was causing it. Matt hid his pain well, but Alex knew what was going on in his mind. He’d been in this exact same position before with Matt stitching him up.

Stitching job finished, Alex put the First-Aid stuff up. They needed more bandages. When he got back to the living room, Matt had turned on the evening news.

Same old stuff. It was depressing. Always reporting on the latest antics of “Rigor Mortis” and how many people had been injured and how “Light Speed” had swooped in to save the day.

No one got it right. No one had ever gotten it right.

He wasn’t Rigor Mortis. He wanted to be called Rigorous. He hadn’t planted that bomb in the orphanage. That crazy girl who called herself Vendetta had. He had found out about the bomb, tried to move it, and had the bad fortune of someone getting it on film.

And then he accidentally dropped it.

No one had gotten killed, but a few kids had been seriously hurt. And then he got blamed, like always. And then he ended up having to fight Light Speed again. That only ended when he had thrown Light Speed and then made a run for it. That was after the “superhero” had broken a bone in his foot.

Alex winced. It still hurt. It wasn’t a serious break, so he could probably just ignore it until after Matt was asleep. Then he’d wrap it up and it’d be fine.

But what hurt worse was having to lie to Matt. He wish that he could tell Matt that, yes, he got into fights, but good fights. Sort of. And that he was a… well, everyone assumed he was a villain. But he wanted to be a hero. He tried to be a hero. The media had twisted everything. He could save a kitten from a tree and the 6 o’clock News would say he kidnapped the kitten. Or that it was part of an evil experiment.

He couldn’t tell Matt that he was Rigor Mortis. Not until things were made right.

~~~~~~

Hey, reader-peeps! Hope you enjoyed that. There wasn’t much editing done to it, but I’d still appreciate any feedback you may have. 

DFTBA!

 

Poems?

So, every now and then, I get inspired to write a poem. The poems I write are usually haiku, because syllables are easy to figure out and haiku doesn’t rhyme.

Well, last night, a plot bunny came and nudged me and said “Why don’t you write a rhyming poem that’s form is based on Annabel Lee?”

Stupid rabbit actually had the wrong poem (and I still don’t know what poem it actually meant)(If anyone thinks they might know what poem the plot bunny was thinking of, could you let me know in the comments?), but I did write a poem of my own last night. It’s sad and I’m not sure how good it actually is (I am no judge of poetry), but here it is for you to enjoy, my readers.

 

Many months he’s been at sea,

He’s not able to talk to me.

I sit alone in our tree.

Without my sailor, just I.

I watched him get on the ship

Streams of tears, they would not quit.

Could this be the end of it,

My sailor love and I?

My sailor’s ship has come back!

I run to the harbor, I can’t keep back.

Of love and kisses, there’ll be no lack

Between my sailor love and I.

I arrive at the dock, but there’s wrong.

Instead of being filled with song,

A sadness echoes through the throng.

My sailor will tell me why.

But where is my sailor dear?

A man arrives beside me here.

And then he confirms my worst fears.

My sailor love has died.

The horizon is red on the sea.

I sit alone in the tree.

Never again will it be

My sailor love and I.