Here’s Lookin’ At You, Kid (Will Scarlet’s Kiss & Tell)

“From the stage that brought you Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre,” Allyn-a-Dale proclaims before the curtain, “here’s Ever On Word’s original talk show, Will Scarlet’s Kiss & Tell.”

Will Scarlet's Kiss and Tell logo

The curtain rises, the studio audience applauds, and Will Scarlet himself walks smiling and waving onto the bright, cozy set.

“Hullo, everyone! Let’s jump right into it, shall we?” Leading by example, he hops into his armchair. “Allyn, who is our guest character today?”

As the guest enters from the other side of the stage, Allyn says, “One of his authors describes him thus:

Stolen away as a toddler by a corrupt necromancer and raised as her near-nameless drudge, Kid had nobody to rely on but his own self, until even he and his body began to grow apart. Now this unaging soul roams the earth at will, seeking out the delights of the world of the living before his grown alter ego remakes it all in a more deathly image.

“Welcome, Kid!” Will greets the child bouncing in the air above the chair across from his own. “So glad you could join me. First things first – has anyone ever told you that you look like a young Allyn-a-Dale? ‘Cause it’s uncanny!”

Soul of Kid

As seen on the “Dark Siren”-related Pinterest board, “Bones, Souls, and Hellgates

The adorable boy giggles. Everything about me is uncanny. I’m the bodiless soul of a necromancer! But of course I look like a little Allyn. And of course my body looks like him grown-up. That’s the inspiration behind our characters – from some silly hypothetical scenario Danielle and Tirzah spun out over the phone. Allyn was the Dark Siren, and his younger self was his soul, and I think the knights of Camelot were a team of superheroes, and you were a lovesick maniac.”

“Sounds about right. Getting back to your story proper, what was it like growing up as a forced-labor assistant to a practitioner of death magic?”

“No fun at all,” Kid pouts. “All Mistress Barbara ever did was boss me around. I never got to play outside. I never got to make any friends. I never got to experiment with her books of spells… although I did that anyway, whenever I could do it without her noticing. She wasn’t overly careful about keeping her things warded; or herself, for that matter. Killing her was easy.”

“Um.” Will glances at the camera. “Is this a confession to a murder? Because let me remind you that this is live blog-TV, and I don’t know if I—”

“Oh, it wasn’t me,” says Kid, wide-eyed. “It was my body. That was the night we split, you see – so he could become a more powerful necromancer.” He slumps into his chair – (literally, his ghostly form has sunk partway through the cushions) – muttering sadly, “Souls get in the way.”

“Aww.” Will frowns sympathetically. “So your body hasn’t been much of a friend to you either, huh?”

Voice dropped to an eerie, melodic pitch that sets Scarlet shivering, the soul intones, “The Dark Siren is a friend to no one but death. But,” he goes on more brightly, “I meet other nice people, from time to time. Like the living skeleton I found in Millennium Park! I like her.”

“That’s good. What about ice cream?” Will asks, in pursuit of cheery, death-free topics. “Do you like that?”

Kid pulls a face. “I’m a soul. I can’t eat.”

Will draws back, aghast. “Not even soul food?!”

“Not even corpses,” Kid sighs. “Though those are fun for other things.”

“Haaa, well,” says Will, disconcerted, “there’s time for one more fun thing before we say goodbye. Tell me, what is the biggest, deepest, darkest, most mortifying and/or hilarious secret involving your co-authors, Tirzah Duncan and Danielle E. Shipley?” A spirited smile. “Or would you rather kiss me?”

“I’ve already tattled on them once,” says Kid, jumping out of his chair. “Kiss me! I’m starved for physical affection!”

“I’ll bet,” says Will, placing a kiss on (and almost through) Kid’s cherubic cheek. In return, Kid’s lips pass through Will’s nose, while his little arms fling around Will’s neck.

“You’re nice, too,” Kid approves. “I hope the Dark Siren doesn’t kill you.”

“Same,” says Will, fondly ruffling the space Kid’s hair does and doesn’t occupy. “Hey, Allyn, how ‘bout a word from our sponsor?”

“Today’s Kiss & Tell segment,” says Allyn, “is brought to you by The Dark Siren’ by Danielle E. Shipley and Tirzah Duncan – available now as part of the Arcane Arts Anthology!

arcane-arts-cover

Necromancy killed her body, and necromancy saved her soul. Now all this living skeleton wants is for necromancy to leave her the hell alone. But with a disembodied child-spirit hanging around like a too-catchy tune, and a dread dark-artist preparing to sing the world into its final unrest, our heroine’s left with only one real option: Face the music.

“Thank you, Allyn,” Will says. “Thanks to you, too, Kid! And thank you, my beautiful audience. Remember, authors – if your characters would like to appear on the show, simply follow the guidelines provided here, and we’ll get them on the schedule. ‘Til next time, lovelies: Scarlet out!”

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Young Autumn (Part 3)

A piece of flash fiction, as lightly adapted from an inter-author character interaction with Tirzah Duncan.

Part 1

Part 2

<<<>>>

III

 

T: The questions won’t keep forever.

She decides to let one out, and searches for the rightest one.

She began to ask, why me?

But then she felt she knew enough of the answer, somehow.

 

D: I expect she knows as much of the answer to that as he does.

 

T: One question after another seems wrong for the moment, so—

“Ask me something?

I feel like something should be asked, and preferably answered,

But I can’t find it,” she explains.

 

D: He blinks. “Are you comfortable?”

 

T: “I think so,” she answers.

“There’s a tension of sorts, but it’s a comfortable one.”

 

D: “Are you content?” he asks next.

“For us to be what we are –

Whatever we are –

Indefinitely, and perhaps forever?

Or do you feel the need for more?”

 

T: “I… don’t know,” she says honestly.

“I’m content in it now. I can’t speak for indefinitely.”

 

D: He nods. “I am content for now, too.”

 

T: Her mind brushes on the boy she left behind,

And she wonders what, if anything, ought to be told to him.

It seems that something should, but she’s no concept what.

 

D: “What do you suppose he’d like to know?” he asks.

 

T: She opens her mouth, closes it again.

“I don’t know.”

She looks up at him. “You might actually know better.”

 

D: “He’d want to know of any good feelings.

He’d want to know you don’t feel alone, lonely, broken, bereft.

He thinks he wants to know everything, but that’s less than true.

He doesn’t want there to be unhappy things to know.”

 

T: Her lips twitch, skew sideways. “Yeah.”

 

D: “So any good you can tell him, you should.

As for the rest… Well, you have me for that, now.”

 

T: She watches his face,

Feeling over what he said more than thinking over it.

“Is this— what is it, to you?

‘Cause damned if I know what it is.

It’s not simple, is it?”

 

D: “Possibly simple. Certainly not straightforward.

It may not have a name. Not in this day and age.

One saw such things more, in times gone by.

There were more ways of bonding.”

 

T: “Well.” She muses. “I guess you’re my… exception.

My exception to good sense.”

She grins. “You were that from the time you were my idea.

Every sensible person needs one of those, aye?”

 

D: A smile glints in his eyes.

“We keep the sensible from stagnating.”

 

Epilogue

 

D: “All right. Hungry now. Ready for dinner. Will you join me at table?”

 

T: “Sure. Let me finish my class, first? We’ve been out of time.”

As in outside of it.

 

D: He nods. “I’ll wait.”

 

T: “Thanks. Should just be half an hour.”

She kisses his cheek, that feeling right,

And slips back into time and reality.

 

Her head swims at the sudden scene change,

But it’s no worse than standing up too fast.

A deep, slow breath,

And she’s taking notes again.

Funny, how quickly her brain can snap back to practical.

 

*Confusion* *Feelings*

*Questions* *Relationship stuff*

Oh math okay

Young Autumn (Part 2)

A piece of flash fiction, as lightly adapted from an inter-author character interaction with Tirzah Duncan.

Part 1

<<<>>>

II

 

D: Enough dash-about energy gone to be a boy again and take her hand for walking, as first intended.

 

T: There’s a helluva tingling in that.

In the breath-recovering relative stillness, the great question mark presses upward,

Wanting to turn into actual questions,

But she pushes it back down, because this is too nice to be spoilt by thinking about it.

 

D: Piles of the Autumn leaves burn.

He likes the flames, the light, the smoky smell.

 

T: It feels right. Delight, heat, and question all seem mirrored in the environ.

 

D: Some leaves, newly turned, flutter and fall from overhead.

He plucks one from the air,

Tucks it behind her ear.

 

T: She thinks him beautiful.

Not wrong, and not that she’s been blind,

But also not a thought she’s had so wholly before.

 

D: He thinks her… a delicious Red Apple.

Not to consume, but to delight in.

 

T: No questions, no questions, no questions.

It’s hard for her to keep her practical, straightforward, investigative side down,

But she really, really doesn’t want to be bothered with it just now.

 

D: His free hand’s fingers dance in the air, playing afar with the fire’s sparks.

They take on shapes suggestive of butterflies and dragons.

 

T: That’s better. She lets herself be rapt.

 

D: “Do you ever stop to notice,” he says, gaze on the pieces of blue between the boughs overhead, “what a fantastic young-adult cliché we look, right now?”

 

T: Her lips twitch.

“I’ve been working not to think about it,” she says, meaning more than simply that.

“But wasn’t that true from the first moment of

‘You be a human girl, I’ll be a Fey boy’? So it’s your fault.

Only thing I did wrong was have red hair and blue eyes.

I haven’t even bitten my lip.”

 

D: “Oh, never think I blame you! Though the red hair really is a bit much, Apple, did you have to.”

 

T: “That was all Da!” she protests.

 

But it is cliché, right down to the being confused about how I feel about all this, she thinks, cheeks blushing in embarrassment as well as frustration that such feelings are common to the point of overdone.

Feels like all of YA fed her a line.

<<<>>>

To be concluded on Friday.

Young Autumn (Part 1)

A piece of flash fiction, as lightly adapted from an inter-author character interaction with Tirzah Duncan.

<<<>>>

Prologue

 

D: “Spring is wet and green.

Autumn dying. Winter bleak.

Summer… full of life. Rich with life.

I could not choose between them.

Thinking on it, though, I would walk in Autumn.”

 

He departs, and makes a place to be magic.

 

I

 

D: “Apple,” he calls to her mind. “Will you walk in Autumn with me?

Because life is short, and you are pretty?”

 

T: She laughs, pausing time,

And stepping straight out of her self in class into the Autumn woods.

 

D: “Be human,” he tells her. “Be a girl. And I will be Fey and a boy.

Above all, we will be, and be together.”

 

T: She smiles at the words, so fey themselves,

And something in them sits right in her heart.

There’s a lot else spinning around in her mind, a lot of confusion and second-guessing.

But she shakes all that away, for the moment,

To play along with his words.

 

D: He wants to take her hand and walk.

He wants to take the shape of a wolf and frolic, roll and tumble through the leaves.

He wants both, but can’t have both, not in the same moment.

 

T: Which first, then?

 

D: The wolf. It better fits the antsyness.

 

He frisks near and away, tongue lolling like a too-pleased dog.

 

T: She almost snatches his tail a lot,

And stumble-tumbles into leaf piles and underbrush more often.

Can’t. Stop. Giggling.

 

D: He whirls, leaps,

Comes down with paws on her chest, knocking her down.

Lands atop her, boy-shaped,

Laughs and licks her cheek.

Dashes away again.

 

T: Face flaming, still laughing, she up and runs after him again.

She doesn’t play like this on her own. It’s in her,

Her childlikeness and her silliness,

But it takes someone else unlocking it.

(Her father can access some part of it, but the boy she left behind was the only one to open it up this much.)

 

D: (She’s the only one to do this to him.)

T: (Some sort of mutual play-unlocking connection, then.)

D: (Seems so.)

 

He eventually lets her tackle him.

Leaf-rollin’, leaf-rollin’, barky laughter.

 

T: It feels a strange sort of playing to her, half innocent, half… thrillingly more-than.

 

She drops handfuls of leaves on his head.

In this moment, there is no fear, no suspicion.

There is delight, and heat, and…

Question. Uncertainty, but nowhere directed.

It might be any number of questions, if inspected,

But now it just hems the heat and adds to the thrill.

 

D: He butts his big furry head against her, tail a-wag.

For the moment, everything feels perfect.

<<<>>>

To be continued on Wednesday.

Ex-Specter the Unexpected (Will Scarlet’s Kiss & Tell)

“From the stage that brought you Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre,” Allyn-a-Dale proclaims before the curtain, “here’s Ever On Word’s original talk show, Will Scarlet’s Kiss & Tell.”

Danielle whipped up a logo for me, because she is awesome first class.

The curtain rises, the studio audience applauds, and Will Scarlet himself walks smiling and waving onto the bright, cozy set.

“Hullo, everyone! Let’s jump right into it, shall we?” Leading by example, he hops into his armchair. “Allyn, who is our guest character today?”

As the guest enters from the other side of the stage, Allyn says, “Author A. F. Stewart describes her creation thus:

Rob Parker is the town of Ashford’s paranormal expert, aka the town crackpot, and resident expert on the local ‘White Lady/Weeping Woman’ ghost sightings. Tall, brown hair, brown eyes, fiftyish with that ruggedly handsome, good old boy vibe, and an infectious grin. Can also be stubborn, and doggedly pig-headed when pursuing his paranormal investigations. Saw his first ghost at the age of twelve, on a stretch of road between Ashford and the neighbouring town of Maynard Mill, on what the locals dubbed the Haunted Highway. This sparked his lifelong interest in ghostly phenomena. He has one of the largest ghost sighting data bases in the country, and often consults with various paranormal investigative groups. For a day job, he co-owns the local pub eatery, called the Branch and Crown.

“Welcome, Rob!” Will greets the man now seated in the chair across from his own. “So glad you could join me. First things first – this ‘Weeping Woman’ ghost of yours… is she hot?”

Rob smiles. “I’m not really into that whole undead romance thing, but yes, our ‘Weeping Woman’ is quite the looker. Dark hair, pale skin, the wet look.” His grin gets a bit wider. “She had all the guys chasing her when she was alive. Now, though… her caterwauling might be a bit off-putting, and well, she’s a bit homicidal, so that’s not the most attractive quality.” He shrugs. “But I don’t judge, if you like that sort of thing.”

Will flaps a dismissive hand. “Pfft, if I let myself get discouraged by everyone who kind of wants to kill me, I’d never get anywhere. A bit of danger’s half the fun, I say! But I know the possibility of a gruesome death doesn’t do it for everyone, so let me ask: What is it about ghosts that so deeply fascinates you?”

Deepening his voice, Rob intones, “You mean besides the fact the dead still walk among us?” He lifts an eyebrow and wiggles it. “Really though, it’s the reasons they stay that intrigue me. What kind of powerful emotions keep a soul tethered past their time? Souls not passing on, or over, or whatever, are messing with the very forces of nature. Heady stuff, that. I can’t help but be fascinated.” A pensive look passes across his face. “Especially after that first ghost. She was so sad. She kept wandering that road trying to get home to her family, to make amends. Of course, her family was dead for fifty years, and she wasn’t ever going home.” He grins, just a bit. “First time I ever crossed over a spirit though, even if she didn’t much like the idea at first. That got the blood pumping, to be sure.”

“I’ll bet it did! Man, I can’t believe more people aren’t clamoring to get in on the excitement with you! Then again, lack of belief is pretty much the trouble, isn’t it? Based on the whole ‘town crackpot’ thing, I’m guessing not a lot of your neighbors take your hobby seriously. Why do you think it is that people are so skeptical of the paranormal?”

Rob snorts. “Most folks don’t want to know the truth. Too afraid. They’d rather ride around in their nice little cars to soccer practice or the gym, pretending there ain’t a world of crazy out there.” He shifts his gaze to just beyond Will’s shoulder for a second, then back to his host with a shake of his head. “Can’t say I blame them. Ghosts ain’t the only thing out there, and some of it is mean. Folks might be better off turning a blind eye. They’ll sleep more sound at night.”

Will shrugs dubiously. “I suppose there’s an argument to be made for blissful ignorance. Kinda just sounds like a shortcut to unpleasant surprises, though. Not knowing an arrow’s coming for you won’t save you from a punctured lung. Possible case in point: I heard something about an ongoing missing persons investigation going on in Ashford, right now. In your semi-professional opinion, is there a ghost somewhere at the bottom of this, or nah?”

Rob’s eyes flash, anger swirling, and his jaw tightens. “Ain’t no question about that. That ghost’s involved up to her soggy eyeballs. Not that I can make certain folks see reason on that front. But sooner or later, it’ll hit the fan.” Rob sighs. “Hope it doesn’t end like that case last month in the next county, though. Never saw that poor soul again. Least in this world.”

Will suppresses a shudder. “Well, here’s hoping the right people see the light before it starts beckoning the wrong souls into the hereafter. One last question before you spirit away, Rob. Tell me, what is your author A. F. Stewart’s biggest, deepest, darkest, most mortifying and/or hilarious secret?” He flashes a lively grin. “Or would you rather kiss me?”

Rob grins back. “Well now, considering that particular author’s fondness for killing off her characters, there’s no way I’m spilling her secrets, or making her ticked off at me.” He reaches into his pocket, takes out a breath spray and gives himself a spritz. “So pucker up, Will!”

“Boo-yah!” Will jumps up from his seat, takes Rob in his arms, and plants a passionate smackeroo on his lips. “Hey, Allyn,” he draws apart long enough to call behind him, “how ‘bout a word from our sponsor?”

“Today’s Kiss & Tell segment,” says Allyn, “was brought to you by…

THE WEEPING LADY by A. F. Stewart (“Beyond the Wail: 12 Grave Tales of Love and Loss”): Eva Douglas must face her mother issues, past and present, when the disappearance of her sister forces a confrontation with a terrifying ghost.

The Weeping Lady 3

“Thank you, Allyn,” Will says. “Thanks to you as well, Rob. And thank you, my beautiful audience. Remember, authors – if your characters would like to appear on the show, simply follow the guidelines provided here, and we’ll get them on the schedule. ‘Til next time, lovelies: Scarlet out!”

To the Wail and Beyond

What is it about fear and the unknown that pulls so passionately at the human heart? Perhaps we are drawn not to the darkness itself, but to the resolution, the overcoming of what we most deeply dread. After all, the more terrible the struggle, the greater the victory when it comes at last. Presented in this anthology are twelve remarkable stories of the darkness that overshadows us, and the resolution that may be found beyond them. They are stories of fear and oppression, but ultimately stories of hope, stories that will take you BEYOND THE WAIL.

It’s the final day of the blog tour for “Beyond the Wail: 12 Grave Tales of Love and Loss”! – the latest anthology from Xchyler Publishing, featuring my own “Date Due”, my bestie for life’s “Of Mice and Monsters”, and the works of a whopping ten other word-slinging types.

As one of the authors included in the collection, I’ve not bothered to write up a review of my own. But my main character in “Date Due” gave a running commentary of the book for the Halloween-y “Fortnight of Fright” blog hop, and our reading tastes may share some overlap here and there. Check it out at your leisure!

Here and now, however, the spotlight’s on fellow author F.M. Longo, the man behind the anthology’s “Shrine of Mirrors”. One quick Q&A with F.M., comin’ atcha!

Beyond the Wail, Banner

What is your preferred writing genre?

Mystery – because everything I write turns into one. Actually, you can create a mystery in any other genre – paranormal mysteries, romantic mysteries, historical mysteries.

How does writing impact other parts of your life?

It’s the other parts of my life that impacts my writing. I have a solid hour between 4am and 5am every morning to write. After that, I may get 5-10 minutes a couple times a day to add a few lines to my work in progress.

What are some of your other published works?

My earliest published works date to the mid-1980s, and were computer science topics such as “Generating Square-Roots using Newton’s Method,” “Approximating PI with a Buffon’s Needle Simulation,” and “Principles of Parsing Computer Languages”. After that, most of my articles were on photography and music, and then, in the early 2000s, about 100 articles on the history of food.

What is your advice to writers?

Find your own voice. If your writing sounds like you speak, then you’re there. If it sounds like someone else is speaking, go back and rewrite it. Don’t change your voice because it’s more marketable, or closer to what a specific market is looking for; find the market that matches your voice.

What’s up next for you?

I began a new short story series, this time set in contemporary Tokyo. It falls into paranormal territory and, yes, they’re mysteries. There’s two stories so far, and I haven’t gotten around to polishing them up for submission yet. Soon.

Beyond the Wail, The Authors

About F.M. Longo:

F.M. Longo grew up surrounded by books. He started his own personal book collection at the age of seven, filling his shelves with The Hardy Boys and Tom Swift, Jr. It wasn’t long before he read his way through the entire works of Christie, Queen, Sayers, Gardner, and Wolfe. He started working in commercial kitchens from the age of fifteen, but he traded his whites for a blue pin-striped suit when he started working in Lower Manhattan, developing financial and communications software for banks, brokerages and other Wall Street companies. He later went back to the kitchen, working as the banquet chef for a large resort, and later, as the executive chef and general manager at a fine-dining restaurant. He is also an accomplished jazz drummer, playing professionally for many years. Now retired, he advises non-profit groups in his area on publicity and advertising. Originally from Stratford, CT, where his four children and seven grandchildren still reside, he currently lives in Woodbury, CT.

Facebook ~ Twitter

Beyond the Wail, Availability

Prizes!

Prizes!

If you haven’t already (or if, what the hey, you wanna do it again), grab an e-book or paperback today! Also, it’s the last day to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway and potentially win awesome stuff. So go get ‘em, tiger!

If you’ve missed the other stops on the tour, worry not: I’ve got your schedule hookup below. Peruse as you will. And to any and all who have thus far read “Beyond the Wail”, THAAAAANK YOU. Double thanks if you drop a review somewhere! ^_^

<<<>>>

Saturday, Oct. 10 = Danielle E. Shipley (that’s me!)

http://afstewartblog.blogspot.ca/

http://johnmolsen.blogspot.com/

http://ninadarc.wordpress.com

*

Sunday, Oct. 11 = Alex McGilvery

http://tnicolepayne.blogspot.com/

http://scotttarbet.timp.net

http://www.ash-krafton.blogspot.com/

*

Monday, Oct. 12 = T.N. Payne

http://www.songsofmann.org

http://authorsarahhunterhyatt.blogspot.com

http://melissamcshanewrites.com/

*

Tuesday, Oct. 13 = Ginger C. Mann

www.lkmcintoshwriter.com

http://janasbrown.com

https://fairiesandpirates.wordpress.com

Beyond the Wail prizes 2

More prizes!

*

Wednesday, Oct. 14 = L.K. McIntosh

http://rampantgames.com/blog/

http://scottywattydoodlealltheday.blogspot.com/

www.terraluft.com

*

Thursday, Oct. 15 = Jay Barnson

http://www.amandagaelic-writing.com/blog/

https://creativityfromchaos.wordpress.com/

*

Friday, Oct. 16 = A. F. Stewart

http://blog.talesbyjulie.com

http://amindwandering.blogspot.com

http://holdingamoonbeam.tumblr.com

*

Saturday, Oct. 17 = Amanda Banker

http://beyondthewailblogtour.blogspot.com/

https://galacticavoice.wordpress.com/

http://semishort.blogspot.com/

*

Sunday, Oct. 18 = Julie Barnson

https://inkcaster.wordpress.com/

http://darcnina.wordpress.com

http://invicticide.tumblr.com

*

Monday, Oct. 19 = Sebastian Bendix

Beyond the Wail prizes 3

Ever more prizes!

https://jaurelguay.wordpress.com/

http://dandifluff.com/

http://originiquequanimity.blogspot.com/

*

Tuesday, Oct. 20 = Tirzah Duncan

http://amharte.com/

http://afstewartpromotion.blogspot.ca/

*

Wednesday, Oct. 21 = F.M. Longo

https://everonword.wordpress.com/ (you are here!)

http://thecultofme.blogspot.co.uk/

http://cobblestonescribe.com/blog.html

Beyond the Wail prizes 4

FURTHER PRIZES, OH MY GOSH.

Truly Strange Reviews: “Of Mice and Monsters”

Welcome to the Stranger Than Truth Club Minutes, featuring conversations between me and my closest group of friends – one, my IRL bestie, the rest… a little reality-impaired.

“But what we lack in so-called reality,” Will Scarlet inserts, “we make up for in awesomeness!”

Fact, that.

The way of it is, the Stranger Than Truth Club takes people from all walks of life, universes, times, and species, and brings us together through beautiful, ever-evolving, cross-plane friendships.

I wish I could give you a glimpse into our insightful, loving, hilarious, open community. Unfortunately, I can only give you transcripts of our idiocy.

And so without further ado: Truth is stranger than fiction. We are—

Stranger Than Truth 02

Tirzah: I wrote a story – “Of Mice and Monsters” – published yesterday in “Beyond the Wail”, a paranormal anthology! In my words, my story is about Benjamin, a man who, “troubled by ghosts within and without, struggles to become the man his girlfriend needs instead of the monster he is.” But what are my own words worth? I thought. Wouldn’t it be infinitely more bizarre and confusing— I mean, awesome, to let the Stranger Than Truth club tell it like they see it? And so, beginning with the beginning…

<<<>>>

Of Mice and Monsters: “There is a man who twists the necks of caged mice. There is a coward who fancies himself a warrior. There is a man who squeezes little songbirds in his hand, listening to the helpless cheeping, and supposes himself a bullfighter, a breaker of wild stallions. This is the man that preys on small women and makes them smaller, that crushes a bruised flower until there is naught but the scent; for that helpless scent is incense to his assumed godhood.”

Will: There is a man we are not inviting to hang out with us.

Tirzah: We’ll invite all sorts in here but, yeeeeah, that’s probably not one.

<<<>>>

Danielle: So, Lute, what stood out to you about this story?

Lute: I wasn’t in it.

<<<>>>

Allyn: I wonder what fate befell the mouse. It says its life went downhill. …How far?

Tirzah: To the bottom, I expect.

Allyn: I feel I should speak a eulogy.

<<<>>>

Bruno: Props to Tina for knowing Italian food is king.

Sy: Even if she has trouble making herself eat it. Even if she thinks Olive Garden is representative.

Tirzah: I love how you all immediately hit on the heart of the story. Italian food ambassador – that’s what I was going for.

<<<>>>

Arthur: I, for one, would really like to see “Macbeth: A Comedy”.

<<<>>>

Bedivere: There’s something to be said for Benjamin’s snark-voice. In between him being unbearable, that was fun.

Will: That’s what they’ll be saying about you.

Bedivere: I’m sure that’s what Lancelot’s already saying about me.

<<<>>>

Galahad: It’s reassuring that there was a part of Benjamin willing to stand up to the monster inside him. It may be that not everyone has that, or ignores it to the point where it becomes ineffectual.

<<<>>>

Gawain: Why did she shorten her name to “Tina”? It was what, Margareta?

Tirzah: That’s a mystery I’ll admit to never having solved. Maybe it was her middle name?

Sy: Sir Gawain in da house, comin’ atcha with the DEEP questions!

Straight Outta Camelot

<<<>>>

Lancelot: I suppose congratulations are in order for the wordsmith, since I can’t so much as think about this story without choking on cheap jasmine perfume.

Tirzah: *sensorialy artisanal bow*

<<<>>>

Rosalba: Are you actually familiar with any of those Armored Nights songs, Tirzah?

Tirzah: Actually, I made them up.

Will: Wait, they’re not a band??

Tirzah: Nope. I guess with them being in there with all the actual, legitimate references, it made it look legit. Should I preen?

Danielle: I’m just over here thinking how frustrated I’d be if I tried looking them up on YouTube.

<<<>>>

Edgwyn: One of course feels dreadful about the baby. But then, it’s not as if Benjamin will be ready to behave like a father for a very long time. One hopes he’ll get there eventually, though.

Tirzah: Could be.

<<<>>>

Dalvin: Not to blame Tina or anything, but I just feel like, if there weren’t people like her, the monsters like him would starve.

Bedivere: You mean, when someone says something you don’t like, just smack the hell out of ‘em, and the monsters will be like, “never mind”?

Dalvin: Yeah. Draw a line. Set boundaries. It’s as simple as that. Except… *sighs, glancing at her mother* …I guess it’s not that simple for everyone.

<<<>>>

Sy: Even in my days as a thief lord, I hated that sort of cheap and shoddy emotional manipulation. *shakes his head* I guess I don’t understand the motivation, either. I’d rather be powerful than feel powerful any day. That’s the problem I have with men like that: They feel small, so they find someone smaller and cut them down further still. And I’m like, do you even lift, bro? If you feel small, work on yourself! Not that I’m against cultivating emotional dependence, but—

Danielle: A-a-and that’s the end.

Beyond the Wail, full spread

For more info on the antho, click the pic to check out its page on the Xchyler Pub site!