Congrats, River! I’ll be sending that out ASAP! Thanks to all who participated. Happy reading!
2020’s the year to learn about what’ll happen after the apocalypse, and you’ll have no better chance than now – Lethal Impact, an anthology of post-apocalyptic shorts, is nearly here!
Lethal Impact officially releases on 30 September, 2020! I have no idea how to get universal links, but here’s one to American Amazon!
But yes! Come one, come all, and have some fun! And, what’s more, I’ll give away a couple prizes (ebooks of both Lethal Impact and Dark Divinations, a publication that includes another of my shorts) to a randomly selected person who comments on this post before next Tuesday, October 5th! If you’ve already bought a copy, I’ll earmark you for an ebook copy of anything I publish next. 1 person will win both books, and one person will win just Lethal Impact. Sorry, not going to do paperback right now because Amazon’s a butthole and I don’t want to present a different reward for international people.
Still not sure you’re interested? Well, let me give you a little… somethin’ somethin’ right here, right now. Behold: the opening passage of my little contribution to the apocalypse, A Little Less Conversation.
“Would you like to mate?”
I gulped. I couldn’t let him – it, her, whatever – know I couldn’t mate with a psychopathic slug even if I wanted to. After I thought a couple seconds, I answered, “No.”
The human fleshbag in which my supposed boss resided lifted a brow. Nothing salacious, nothing even sensual, just a motion to show his piqued curiosity and mild discomfort. “You performed your job adequately, and I have had the correct hormonal injections to perform my part. It’s time you were rewarded for your troubles.”
“No. I don’t want it,” I responded. I fished around in my human brain, looking for answers to satiate his confusion. “Is there any reason I must accept payment for services rendered?”
“Why would you not?” He tapped his ballpoint pen, likely stolen from the human who’d previously lived in that husk, onto a pad of paper. “It takes a lot of nurgles to infest an entire planet, and a zertig like you needs to birth a lot of nurgles before you can be promoted to a remelp like me.”
I swallowed, said nothing. The silence lasted a long time, longer than a normal human would have accepted, but the remelp wasn’t bothered by it.
After a while, his demeanor darkened, his eyes squinted. “You’ve been around those pesky humans too much, haven’t you?”
“Yes,” I answered. It was true, and this way I didn’t have to tell him I was one of those vermin. “The humans don’t interact the way we do. Their relationships are marred by unique feelings which I have difficulty grasping. I wish to understand these concepts prior to the encephalization of Earth’s nurgles.”
He lifted a chin. “Ah. You want to birth your nurgles in mid-flight on the way to the next planet.”
Good enough. I’d be long dead by the time they left for the next planet. “That would be a fair trade, yes.”
“I’ve never heard of this happening before. Everyone wants to birth more nurgles. But I suppose it is a loss I can cope with – you are our primary spy amongst the human resistance faction, and birthing nurgles would remove you from that role. Use your clever emotions to bypass their defenses. Convince them to come out of hiding so we can finally rid the planet of those meddlesome people.” He scribbled something with his pen and motioned for me to leave, so I obeyed his directive and exited the office.
That’s right, Covid-free fun, right here on the internet. Good luck!
Some of you may have been alerted on Twitter that I got a second story accepted into an anthology released by Dragon Soul Press – and it’s here on Kindle and paperback preorder!
In this post-apocalyptic anthology, nothing matters except survival.
In a world full of humans pitted against each other, how can there be anyone left to trust?
This book contains 16 stories by different authors, of which yours truly is one, about post-apocalyptic struggle.
As more marketing shenanigans for this book starts happening, you’ll start seeing more from me!
You’re not going to miss this party – join in if you have the chance!
Come join Emz and the whole cast of authors at the Facebook Book Party! Readings, Games, Prizes, Fun, Trivia! This Saturday, May 23rd, 2020 starting with a WatchParty @ 1pm PDT and a Facebook Party @ 2pm PDT Dark Divinations Edited by Naching T. Kassa Authors: Stephanie Ellis, Michael Fassbender, Alan Fisher, H.R.R. Gorman, Ash […]Dark Divinations Party – Facebook, Saturday, May 23rd
The time is nigh, my friends, to speak of horrors and things… unseen.
On May 1st, the anthology Dark Divinations goes live! And look at that cover – it’s pretty great, if you ask me.
Here’s the teaser which can be found on the book’s webpage:
It’s the height of Queen Victoria’s rule. Fog swirls in the gas-lit streets, while in the parlor, hands are linked. Pale and expectant faces gaze upon a woman, her eyes closed and shoulders slumped. The medium speaks, her tone hollow and inhuman. The séance has begun.
Join us as we explore fourteen frightening tales of Victorian horror, each centered around a method of divination. Can the reading of tea leaves influence the future? Can dreams keep a soldier from death in the Crimea? Can a pocket watch foretell a deadly family curse? From entrail reading and fortune-telling machines to prophetic spiders and voodoo spells, sometimes the future is better left unknown.
There’s tons of goodies for people who pre-order! Horror Addicts is giving away free tarot-inspired cards for those who take the dive and search for their Dark Divination, and you can get a sneak peak on this YouTube teaser:
And, won’t you look at that – one of the authors featured in the anthology is little ol’ H.R.R. Gorman. I wrote a short called Miss Mae’s Prayers, of which I will be releasing a snippit later… mwahaha!
You can pre-order this anthology of Victorian horror here, and you can find the Horror Addicts Patreon here. A Kindle or Amazon link will be on a later post, since those don’t come with pre-order goodies.
This story was continued from Joanne the Geek’s part 1, which you can find here or by reading just below:
One (Joanne’s Part)
One sunny afternoon Jennifer was happily walking along the footpath only to find a crowd of people suddenly run past her in abject terror. Mystified, she managed to stop one of them. They were pale and seemed terrified.
“What’s happened?” she asked him.
“This portal opened up and these creatures from another world appeared. They were huge with long tentacles and large legs like leathery tree stumps.” he exclaimed. Jennifer let him go, and he ran off in terror following the others.
“Right.” she said. Someone had to do something about this, she thought. She strode off home. She went into her bedroom closet and fished out her old battered cricket bat. “I’m going to hit those freaks for six!” She stomped out of the house.
Jennifer walked down the road until she could see a glimmering portal that pulsed with a bright light. Before it were either two or three creatures that were as tall as small office blocks. They had dark leathery skin, massive tree stump legs (as already mentioned), long protruding arms, and their heads were a mass of long writhing tentacles. Jennifer watched them, and instead of feeling scared, she felt angry. She walked towards them until she was sure she had gained their attention.
“Look I don’t know where you freaks are from, but I’m not letting monsters like you take over our world. We’re already have enough monsters here to deal with.” she told them while thinking of the current assortment of world leaders. “So be warned. I have my cricket bat!” She held her cricket bat aloft in front of them. The monsters stopped in their tracks, as if unsure with what they were dealing with.
“Ge dthrth dltyz fkywfhg sdhtu!” the one closest to Jennifer said. As it spoke, from what Jennifer assumed was it’s mouth, the ground shook around them.
“Nope. Didn’t catch a word of that! Go back through your portal now, or I will take drastic steps!” she warned them. The ground shook around her again, as they all seemed to be laughing at her now. “Well I did warn you!” She gripped the handle of her bat with both hands and began running at them. As she ran the cricket bat began to glow…
Two (H.R.R. Gorman’s Part)
The earth, which had shaken as the monster spoke, began to crack beneath her feet. Roots split and shivered as something beneath the ground pushed itself up.
Jennifer rolled to the side and held her cricket bat at the ready. The bat glowed even brighter now and tingled in her grip.
Once the earth had sufficiently broken up and the thing beneath the surface was visible, the monster pointed at it. Its tentacles writhed in a flurry as it said, “Ue kthgyn wysdht dhutyk!”
Up from the earth rose a transparent sphere glowing a faint blue. Two humanoid figures stood inside the bubble, and one flicked his fingers to cause the bubble to dissipate. The man, robed in a smooth, blue cloth and a rosy sash, raised a slim hand against the monsters. The hand glowed brightly.
“Wkusdth grnsthyk pyblsdth, shtrydk sythyd,” the monster said, somewhat morose and pleading. Some of the creepy eyes on the ends of tentacles looked to Jennifer as if begging. The monsters retreated into the portal once more, and the fantastical apparition disappeared.
A thin woman, her ears long and pointed like the man’s, stepped from the bubble she’s appeared in and put her hands in a prayerful position. She bowed to Jennifer, smiled, and said, “Chosen one, we have protected you now, for you will soon do much to save us from those creatures.”
The man stepped off after her and licked his lips. Though he possessed an otherworldly beauty, Jennifer noticed his teeth were all small and sharp. Or was she just imagining things?
“And just who do you think you are?” Jennifer asked. She still held up her bat, noticing it retained its glow…
Thanks for sticking around for this story! If you’re ready for more, I’m nominating Chelsea Owens to keep the party rolling. Will she keep the story going, or will she finish it? HAVE I BROKE IT TOO FAR!?
(If you’re not up for it, though, let me know and I’ll nominate someone else – I just seem to remember you are ok with “finish the story” things).
“So which of you lads can do the best British accent?”
The four young men, scruffy Texans with barely a dollar between them, squirmed in their chairs. A single lamp and a desk several decades out of style bedecked the shabby office, yet the suited Brit in front of them exuded a contrasting air of confidence and expense.
“I do a right good ‘pression of an Englishman, Mr. Epstein.” Dusty Hill cleared his throat. “I’m Dusty and I jolly good like tea and biscuits. Crumpets, scones, God save the Queen.”
“Stop! Oh, that’s terrible!” The man in the suit scribbled “George Harrison” onto his pad of paper, then ripped the sheet off and gave it to Dusty. “You be George and stay quiet. Now, for the rest of you: who’s got the best impression? Speak up, let me hear you talk.”
The remaining three lads gave each other passing glances, waiting for someone to bite. At last, Frank spoke up, “I’m doing me best English impression. Limey boys who love taxes and tea, wot wot.”
“Good enough.” Epstein, pulling back his nice sleeve wrote “Paul McCartney” on his pad, handing this to Frank. “You be Paul.”
“But I’m the drummer-“
“So’s Paul, if you ask Ringo.” The man in the suit cleared his throat. “We’ll just get you boys matching bowl cuts and suits. No one will notice the difference.”
2 MONTHS EARLIER – SEPTEMBER, 1963
“Ah, Brian Epstein.” The man pointed to a seat opposite him, then waved to the waitress to summon a tea. “It’s not every day one gets to chat over tea with an up-and-coming headhunter.”
“Not everyday I get to speak with a veteran headhunter.”
“Liar.” He tossed a card with “Bill Kehoe, Delta Promotions” emblazoned on the front. “You talk with bigwigs and veterans every day. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t have got your lads as far as you have.”
The waitress delivered the teapot and two cups. Brian dropped a cube of sugar in his cup while Bill poured the tea.
Once she left, Bill blew over his tea then said, “Everyone knows you don’t have tea with Brian Epstein without a reason. What do you want?”
Epstein swallowed the hot sip of tea. “England’s a small fish when you look at the consumption of music, and I have a band that can make it in America, where the real money is. I’m sure the Yanks’ll just eat it up. But the record labels are cocking up the deal – I’ve given them five singles plus several deep cuts, and not one bloody record company can put together an album!”
“And what can I do about it?”
“You’ve got dealings across the pond. I want your advice how to get my boys over there, touring and selling music.”
“If I knew how to do that, I’d already be rich. Tell me, your boys get along?”
“Well enough. They’ll stay together if there’s money in it, I suppose.”
“Sounds like they’ll break up soon enough, which works in your favor. Here – I’m going to give you my latest strategy, but only ‘cause my band the Zombies are fighting more often than they’re singing. My band’s more likely to explode than make it big anywhere.” He took a sip of tea. “The problem is the music business in America doesn’t want to support a band without a fan base. You have to tour to get a fan base, and you have to have support before you can tour. Vicious cycle. What you have to do is break into the cycle, any way you can.”
Brian shook his head. “I can’t foot the bill-”
“But that’s the beauty of my system, see. Only bill you have to foot is a couple flights for yourself over there, then the rest of it pays for itself.” He grinned. “You go over, find a few boys that can sing and play – doesn’t matter if they’re similar to your boys – and hire them to pretend to be The Beatles. Give them your lads’ music, set up a couple gigs, and you’ll have teenage girls screaming for your English albums faster than you can make them.”
“That’s lunacy. It’ll be an obvious hoax.”
“No one over there’s seen The Beatles. No one even cares, Brian. What’s more, your real Beatles won’t know the difference. They make music here, be a good little English band, and you make the real money with a fake band.”
“Is it legal?”
Bill Kehoe shrugged. “Well, I haven’t heard it’s not illegal. Just keep your eggs in separate baskets, and you’ll be fine…”
“So John’s got fanmail. What’s to complain about?”
“The bloody cowboy hat.” Paul McCartney reached into his jacket, searching for something. “Some bird in America sent John a photo to autograph. It said ‘The Beatles’ and had our names on it, but the man depicted as ‘Paul McCartney’ was wearing a cowboy hat. I don’t wear cowboy hats.”
Brian picked up the photo Paul lay before him. Sure enough, Frank-the-Paul-impostor wore a cowboy hat over a rangy head of hair in his promo picture. What was worse, and probably the next thing Paul would complain about, someone had faked Paul’s signature on the picture. Brian chuckled and handed it back. “I wouldn’t worry about it. Some group in America has the same band name, or perhaps some bird just got confused.”
“The picture was printed with my name on it, Brian.” He shoved it back onto Epstein’s chest. “You’ve been making money off us for years, keep telling us how we’d make it big in the States if you could just get Capitol to listen. So what kind of deal did you make? What’s going on?”
Brain held up his hands in surrender, innocent. “Look, this is the first time I’ve ever seen that picture. If someone’s impersonating you in the states, I’ll find out about it. It means their record companies are screwing me over, too.”
Paul crumpled the photo. “Good. John and I are coming up with tons of stuff, and we can’t have some impersonator destroying our image.”
“No. Of course not.”
Brian clutched the telephone so tight his fingers tingled. With the cost of the trans-Atlantic phone call, he might as well have booked a flight. “What do you mean, ‘your own stuff?’”
The Texas drawl of Dusty clamored over the call, “You know, our songs. We’ve been singing your boring old Beatles stuff, but we didn’t have time to learn all of it. We had to fill in with something.”
“That wasn’t the deal. You’re being paid to be the Beatles just long enough so I can break the real band over there. It was bad enough you didn’t get the haircut and wore cowboy hats in your photos, but singing ‘your own stuff’ tears it.” He put his hand to his forehead. “Didn’t you listen to the songs I gave you to learn?”
“Yeah, but some of it just wasn’t our style, and we had to learn an awful lot in a short time. You gave us a ton of gigs, Mr. Epstein.”
Epstein pursed his lips and held back his anger for just a moment. “I’m going to cut you loose if you can’t play by my rules. You know who I got interested in your group? Ed Sullivan, that’s who. Now you’ve been good to me, boys, and all the Beatles singles are flying off the shelves. But I could take my boys, the real ones, and you’d be back on the streets. Is that what you want?”
“Now shape up. Get your hair cut, get fitted for those suits, and learn your music.” He moved to hang up, then remembered, “Oh, and George – I mean, Dusty?”
“Let Paul do all the talking.”
John sat calmly on a pillow, anger seething somewhere deep inside him, while Paul reddened and steamed.
“That’s all I ask,” Brian said. “The American market is cracking, I know it. You just have to write something tailored for them. Something with more blues influences, something more rural. You boys are good at this. You can do it.”
“But our songs are great already.”
“Your albums are great, boys, but we’ve got to start thinking of the next album. Hey, George is into that Indian mysticism and whatnot – get together, make an album with international flavor. How does that sound?”
John stood. “You can’t control our creativity. We write what we write, and you are powerless to change that.”
“And people buy what they buy, and you are powerless to stop that.” Brian pointed to each young man in turn. “Come on. You’ve got it in you. Write the songs for me, make an album.”
Paul swallowed. “We’ll see what comes out, Brian.”
John nodded in agreement. “Yeah. We’ll see.”
JULY 3, 1964
Brian read the headline of the culture section in the Daily Mail and coughed on his morning digestive. He pounded his chest with a fist to clear the blockage and, hand shaking, picked up his cup of morning tea to wash down the crumbs.
He took a key from his pocket and shoved it into a desk drawer. There, in a box sitting next to a bottle of fine Scotch and a couple glasses that needed cleaning, sat a row of business cards. Brian sorted through the cards and took out an ivory piece of cardstock. His hands shook as he took the card and closed the desk door, whiskey and glasses clinking as he did so.
His shaky fingers trailed around the rotary dial. “Please be in the office,” he begged. “Please pick up…”
The dial tone hummed twice before the line clicked and a man answered, “Bill Kehoe.”
“Oh, Bill.” Brian wiped the sweat from his brow and leaned forward. Despite the distress in his body, he kept his voice even. “I was just getting in the office, and I noticed the newspaper. Have you seen the article in the Daily Mail about my boys?”
“The Mail? Brian my boy, I’ve seen about it in the Independent. Your boys’ arrival back on English soil is everywhere in the entertainment pages. Good show, I say, good show-”
“You don’t understand-”
“I don’t? Why, it means you’ve cracked the American market and successfully toured the planet! No one’s done that, not even me.”
“Shut up, Bill. It’s you who’s got me into this mess, and it’s you who’s got to get me out.” Brian huffed, looked to the door to make sure his secretary hadn’t heard his outburst. “I made the fake band like you suggested. Problem is they sold like hotcakes, and the American public wanted their image, not the real thing. I couldn’t substitute my real band back in before the Ed Sullivan show, and then it was far beyond too late.”
Bill grumbled on the other end of the line. “You’re saying the boys in the article are the Fake Beatles.”
“Yes. They weren’t supposed to come here!”
“Do your real boys know about them?” The telephone line crackled a bit as he spoke.
“They might suspect, but I haven’t told them anything specific.”
“Oh.” Bill Kehoe coughed on the other end. “What do you plan to do?”
“I don’t know!” Brian reached for a cigarette even though he didn’t like smoking indoors. “I haven’t lost control yet. None of them get out of bed this early, after all. They might even be working on this mystical Indian nonsense, in which case I might have a day, maybe two on the outside, before they figure out the ruse.”
“Then you have a little while to come up with something.” Bill grunted on the other end of the line. “I see three options, Brian: one is to tell your boys what’s going on, then try to hold their money out of reach in order to force them to work with you.”
“It’s not their money in the first place. I’ve done all the work.”
“Will they see it that way?”
Brian paused a moment. “Their contract gives me complete control over their image and brand.”
“So they’ll complain and eat everyone’s profits away in court. You’ve got them by the small and curlies, my boy. Offer them greater royalties for writing, singing, and recording their songs, but let your American boys with their American smiles keep touring. Not a bad deal for anyone, really.”
“What’s the second option?”
“Get all the money you have in cash. Preferably American dollars or Soviet rubles. Then take all you can in a couple of briefcases, go to some third world country, and establish yourself as a king of sorts amongst the savages.”
Brian clenched his fist. “You’re no help, Bill.”
“But I got you rich-”
Epstein hung up the phone before Bill could finish.
JULY 4, 1964
Brian slammed the door behind him. Dusty and Frank roused themselves from where they slept on the Brighton hotel room’s couch.
“Mr. Epstein!” Dusty shouted, his voice still quiet and stuffed from having just awoken.
“What is the meaning of this?!” Epstein fumed. He kicked an empty can of beer out of his way and made a path to the expensive couches. “You were supposed to return to the States after you finished at Brisbane. The real band is here in England, and they weren’t supposed to find out you existed.” He tried to rouse the sleeping band members, but their eyes batted just briefly before they fell back to snoozing. “Get out. My boys will do this Brighton show.”
The closet doors opened. John, Paul, Ringo, and George stepped out. Their faces were bedraggled, their facial hair fuzzy and scraggly like that of poor-kempt young men. “You really think that will work? That anyone will be expecting us?” John asked.
Epstein stammered wordlessly. Senselessly.
“You’ve had this fake band touring for so long that not even our own countrymen recognize us,” Paul accused. “We’re not the Beatles anymore. These dumb yokels are.”
Frank smiled and Dusty nodded in agreement.
Brian clenched his fists. “So you know what’s going on.”
“With that article in the paper advertising the Beatles’ arrival back in England? Of course we knew, you fool.” Paul pointed a finger. “How much money did you steal from us?”
“Nothing. I earned every pound I made.”
“Bullshit.” Paul’s brows furrowed into deep, angry trenches. “We made the songs. We sang the recordings. These bloody yanks jumped around the world however you told them – they did more work than you.”
“Well they bungled that last trip,” Brian cried. He pointed to the Americans on the couch. “You’re fired. I don’t care if you’re popular in the States.”
Dusty and Frank chuckled on the couch. “You can’t fire us.”
“I hired you to be front men, and you’ve frustrated me since day one! I can fire you whenever I please!”
“They don’t work for you anymore,” Paul spoke up. “None of us do.”
“Your contract –”
“Making a second band in our name was illegal, Mr. Epstein,” John said. “The lawyers Mr. Kehoe hired for us back in June agree that our contract was voided as soon as you hired the impostors.”
Brian’s eyes widened. “Mr. Kehoe?”
“Our new manager.” Paul pointed to the door. “It’s you who are fired, Mr. Epstein.”
Brian gritted his teeth and clenched his fists. “That traitor! This was his plan all along – he’s the one who told me to hire the impostors! It’s his fault!”
“Get out of this room.” Paul opened the door and pointed to the exit with an angry finger. “It’s your fault we’re no longer The Beatles. You killed us, Mr. Epstein. You ruined our names and our fortunes, and I never want to see your wormy face again!”
As Epstein turned to leave, he wiped a tear welling in his eye. He stepped over the threshold into the wood-floored hallway. “You could always make a new band. Hell, I’d manage you for free, after everything that’s happened. I wouldn’t make the same mistake again.”
Epstein lowered his head. Taking all his money and becoming a king in some desert island sounded better every second.
The meeting took place in Bill’s office. A beautiful secretary filed her nails at her little desk, ready with a pen and stenographer’s pad if need be. “The song’s a massive hit,” Bill explained. “Not like your Beatles stuff, but we couldn’t expect lightning to strike twice, could we?”
Paul grumbled. “Those silly fake ‘Beatles’ still make money off our songs.”
“But you’re back from the dead as ‘The Zombies.’ Better than ever and 100% genuine…”
I’ll admit, this story was written for a themed anthology about the Beatles. They were looking for speculative fiction including alternate histories, so I gave them one based on mashing together the true stories of “The Beatles” with the even weirder true story of British Invasion band “The Zombies.” Since this story wasn’t chosen for the anthology, I was like, “Wtf am I supposed to do with this now?” and thus you receive this tale. Ta-da!
As far as I’m aware, no one has claimed copyright on the photo. At least this is what it says on Wikipedia…
“This will never do,” Mrs. McGillicutty snapped. She dropped the toad gently back down to into the young man’s pail.
“It’s a simple mistake, but one witches such as I – and you, if you’re willing to stick with your apprenticeship – must learn well.” The woman, whose wild curls had once been a fine jet-black but were now grayed and thick, pointed at the toad. “See the roughness of the skin? The mottled pattern? It’s a toad. In order for spells requiring frog slime to work, you must have a frog.”
The boy rolled his eyes. “So you want me to go back out and look for another one?”
“Well, if you want to make a potion to breathe underwater, you need a frog’s slime. There’s no way around it.” She pointed back to the toad. “If you find another of these, just let it go. The frogs around here are a muddy green, and they tend to live in the ponds.” She turned to her own work, dissecting flowers and carefully removing their various organs to make an aphrodisiac. “Now get on – shoo! The faster you get the frog, the sooner we make the potion.”
Young Chris pursed his lips, refusing to contradict his boss when he left. He shut the door behind him, then sauntered down the dirt path toward the pond. It was another mile away, over by where he’d already picked mushrooms and violets for the witch.
“Stupid witch,” he mumbled to himself. “Should have joined the army and fought the British like father wanted.” He kicked a rock in the middle of the road and contemplated how it rolled, how it couldn’t control its own direction or destiny. He should have followed the advice of the natural world and not tried to kick against the thorns by taking up this unnatural occupation.
Along the side of the road, however, he spotted a bunch of trillium. They were in flower, and the bunch was big enough that he could take several of them and not disturb their future growth. The witch liked these flowers, so he hoped she’d be pleased even if he didn’t find the frog. He dumped the toad out of the pail then collected some of the flowers and continued on his way.
The sun shone brightly, bleaching his hair as he continued down the path. A little ways further, and his eyes caught sight of a spider’s web. He investigated closer, then noticed the little friend of all witches: the black widow. His heart shuddered at the thoughts of the bug’s bite, but he knew the potency of the spider’s bite was something all witches desired. He took a stick, prodded the creature, and eventually convinced her to bite the end of the oak. Sure, the poison would need to be leached soon in order to be made use of, but the witch would know how to do that.
Soon, the young man came to the pond. As if on command, a frog, definitely a frog and not a toad, swam up from the foulest part of the pond and sat on a log. Green algae stuck to its skin.
Mrs. McGillicutty wanted the frog, but the young man looked at the animal and considered it. He’d taken the venom of a spider and a few shoots of a flower – why capture and torture this poor animal? Why waste that time? He scooped the frog from its perch, wiped away a little of the algae, and scooped the slime into one of the wooden gourds the witch made him take on his journeys. The frog was pleased to re-enter the pond, and the boy put the gourd back into his pail.
By the time he returned to the witch’s house, the sun considered setting, and clouds threatened to rain. He knocked once on the door and entered.
The witch looked up from where she stirred a cauldron. “Any luck?” she asked.
“No,” he answered. “I didn’t get you a frog.” He placed the bucket on the table.
“You can just look again tomorrow.”
“I don’t think so,” he answered. “Witchcraft is a woman’s work for a reason: it’s not something a man like me should partake in. I’m not learning anything, certainly not enough to make a living doing something so… foul.”
The witch opened the gourd and examined the slime inside. She shuffled through the flowers and sniffed the stick, discerning what was important about it. “Then why bring me all this?”
“Because I knew you’d like them.”
“And how did you know that?”
He bit his lip.
“You’re learning at quite the right pace. Now sit back – I’ve made us some venison stew, magic-free.”
This was written for Alexander Eliot’s new photo prompt! The prompt isn’t on any certain schedule, as far as I can tell, but I can promise that the photos have been wonderful so far. No rules, just a story.
I took things a little slower in July. Even so, I got a few things accomplished that I’m really proud of, and I wanted to talk about them here and hint to things coming.
Short Story Submissions
I hate this part of author life. God knows I do. I did three (maybe four) last month, and my goal was to get three this month. Well, I wrote three stories, but I only got two submitted because I have no idea where to submit the third one. If you know of a place to submit weird alien stories, let me know.
Still no “yes” from anyone. Hopeful about some of the June ones, but not really expecting anything at this point.
I submitted a story to Dark Divinations. The prompt was a Victorian era horror about divining the future. Since my cultural background was highly influenced by events in the Victorian era, I took an Appalachian approach to it – and I hope they like it!
This magazine publishes Christian stories in interesting contexts. I decided to try a sci-fi story because I bet they get way more fantasy. I hope to stand out, and perhaps that will give me an edge! I also think religiously inspired sci fi is WAY too rare, so this is right up my alley.
An Unexpected Success!
Last year at about this time, I decided that I needed to discover what people liked about poetry. I needed to know what someone meant when they said a passage was “poetic.” I believed that the understanding of poetry would improve my prose if nothing else, and I looked for ways to learn it.
One of my favorite poetry teachers is Colleen Chesebro. Her weekly micropoetry prompt/contest is chock full of excellent hints, tips, and – most importantly – feedback. Even if she must leave a quiet comment one week, I can still look at who she chose as the winner and try to divine why it was considered the best. I can’t imagine how much work she must do to curate such a fantastic contest.
Anyway, I was stunned to find out I’d been chosen as Poet of the Week on July 22nd! My poem, The Woman at 106, was written for Colleen’s first ever photo prompt. What an honor! I am very pleased that my dedication to learning a new craft is showing fruit.
This was my first month of Camp, and I… succeeded?
Basically, what I learned was that I should have dedicated a number of hours to writing rather than a number of words written/edited. Because I tend to go backwards on word count when I edit, I could NEVER reach my goal. However, I think I reached my goal in spirit, so I think that counts a lot.
Will I do Camp again? I’m not sure. I didn’t find it all that much different from a normal month, save for an additional obligation and a few extra cheerleaders. I’ll think about it!
I stayed pretty on par this month with my June month, and for right now this feels more sustainable than my “post every day” schedule. Sadly, there wasn’t a late-July Carrot Ranch prompt, but hopefully y’all didn’t hate that blank spot! I did a lot of prep for later months, though, and I think I’ve come up with some great surprises for the beginning of 2020 (no promises, though! I need to make sure I have enough material to actually do it justice). I’ve also nearly gotten all my 2019 reading done (1.75 books away)!
Here’s a few of my favorite blog posts from the month:
- The Woman at 106 – Double Etheree Poem
- The Founding of Pewabic – Historic Flash Fiction
- Stormrise – Haiku
- Independence – Historic Poem
- Reading List – This was an indie book month, so check out what I’ve read!
Some Things from Real Life
This month has been full of IRL things. I went on vacation (day trip one weekend to Battleship North Carolina), worked a LOT (good Lord), and had to go help my mom when she came down with gout.
Aaand because of the gout, my mom is now convinced it’s time to retire, and I could be looking at her showing up at my door any day now ready to move in. She doesn’t really plan things out sometimes, so she could come unannounced. I love my mom, and I do think she should come live at our house at least until she sells her own house (which is 3 hours away), but I also don’t really want to share it long-term right yet. Am I selfish? I feel like I am. I’m also worried that she hasn’t saved up enough for retirement, and I’m not old enough to have that much savings built up (I’m not 30 yet – I have old parents, in case you’re wondering about that).
Anyway, I hope I’ve done right by my mom, but I worry I’ve not.
June was a big month for me. I wanted to share with y’all a few things that I’ve done and maybe get out some hints as to what’s coming next.
Short Story Submissions
If you remember back in May, I decided to submit a short story somewhere in order to start feeling better about getting rejections. I sent a story to a quick turnaround journal and, of course, got rejection #1, just like almost everyone.
This month, I wanted to do a few more submissions, so here’s what I did:
Chew On This Anthology*
I submitted a short story to a horror anthology about eating scary things. It’s southern gothic and all kinds of weird. I hope the editor for this anthology likes the more psychological, Twilight-Zone style of horror.
*Also, this was submitted in May but I’m not sure if I told everyone here.
Three-Lobed Burning Eye Magazine
A weird looking magazine seeking weird-sounding fiction. I submitted my short story “Disco Demolition Night” because I think it’s basically gold but, unfortunately, is in a really weird genre. If you have ideas for what to do with historical fantasy, let me know! I write too much of it for my own good.
Across the Universe Beatles Spec Fic
Like I said above, I write too much alternate history or historical fantasy for my own good. This anthology specifically wanted a story about the Beatles, and I had an idea that I hoped they’d like. Well, it was rejected fairly quickly, so you’ll be seeing it on the blog soon because I genuinely don’t think a Beatles themed fanfic will see much success elsewhere!
Jolly Horror is making a horror-comedy anthology about cursed items. I wrote a story and submitted that. I really enjoyed the little tale, so we’ll see what the editors think. It’s still historical fantasy, le sigh.
This month on the blog, I slowed things down. This will probably be the pace here for a while, because it’s more manageable. Hopefully the reduced post-load will give me time to develop more professional outlets like publishing short stories or finishing new long works.
Here’s a few of my most popular posts from the month you can check out!
- With a Splash – Flash Fiction about gangsters!
- Remember the 80’s – Poem (also probably my personal favorite post this month)
- A Foetal Wish – Flash Fiction from the perspective of a fetus
- Information Superhighway – Poem about the internet!
- Reading List – I wanted to share this since it links to all my book reviews
Some Things from Real Life
Well, I’ve kept writing things other than the blog – and, since I decided to do fewer posts this month, I used my time well! I finished the novel I’ve had in my wheelhouse for quite some time. It’s not ready for alpha readers (I want to have a swing at editing it myself first), but hopefully at the end of July I’ll put it out there for people to take a peek at. It may be the craziest thing I’ve ever written.
As well, I finished what I believe are the last edits of The Mercury Dimension. When I feel confident enough and have a short story credit or two to my name, I plan on querying with it.
What are some things you’ve done this month? Let me know in the comments! Maybe we can commiserate about the writing life or trade an alpha read! I’ll tell you about the story I finished, American Chimera, if you’re interested.