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!

I See Red-Headed People (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—” He performs a double take, startling at the belated realization that the chair across from his own is already occupied. “Who-o-o have we here?”

“The creation of author Ginger C. Mann,” says Allyn. “Namely—”

“Betty,” the pudgy, older woman interjects. “My nieces and nephews call me Aunt Betty. But you, handsome… you can just call me Betty.” She bats her eyes coyly at her host.

Ever the professional at rolling with the punches, Will flashes a hospitable grin. “Betty it is! So glad you could join me. First things first – is popping up onstage unannounced right under the nose of security your only gift, or are you a woman of many talents?”

Betty tosses back a head full of thick, red hair and flashes a toothy grin. “I am a br-ILLIANT organist, and I am also a Montessori teacher – or, I was. Then, my husband Timothy died, and the whole world came after me. Every bank in town wanted a piece of my property, my money, my flesh…” She stops talking suddenly and looks over her shoulder as if she hears something. “I’m in the witness protection program,” she whispers directly to the camera. “Don’t tell anyone!”

“I have no doubt our international audience’s lips are sealed,” Will assures her. “Mum’s the word, hey, Allyn?”

Allyn’s voice wafts in from off-camera. “Did you say the banks want your flesh?”

Betty nods emphatically. “It was just fine, just fine, until the day the underworld opened up and spit zombie bankers all over Nacogdoches, Texas! No going out after that happened, not even to play my organ at the Baptist church. I just stayed in that house as long as I could and…” She checks a watch on her wrist, then digs in her purse for something. “I think it’s past my medication time.”

“I was just thinking something similar,” Allyn is heard to murmur. Will waves for him to shush, blinking in bemusement all the while.

Setting down her purse as if she has forgotten what she wanted from it, Betty carries on. “Well, when the zombies took over my house, and the vampires kicked me out of town…”

“Vampires be like,” Will tuts sympathetically.

“I called my niece, Beverly,” Betty continues. “Haven’t seen her for twenty years, but she took me in. So kind of her.”

“I’ll say. Three huzzahs for family you can count on in your time of need! How are you enjoying your stay with your niece so far?”

“Her place is so full – she has three kids! – she put me in a spare room that she made out of a giant pantry. Cute little room, all stringer lights and mirrors in there. But the mirrors work just a little too well.”

Will cocks his head. “How do you mean?”

“I’m seein’ that the place is,” Betty whispers behind her hand, “oc-cu-PIED! I’m roomin’ with a ghost, Will Scarlet, a ghost that lives in my family’s haunted house in Lake Charles, Louisiana.” She pauses, staring at the host, to let this sink in.

“Good Lord,” cries Will. “Zombie bankers, vampires, ghosts… You, Aunt Betty, are positively plagued with the paranormal! The ghost hasn’t tried to eat you or run you across state lines, has it?”

Shaking her head, Betty whispers again, “The ghost likes me, and it follows me around.” She looks over her shoulder. “Everywhere. But my family don’t believe me. Can’t say why.”

A second cough – this one from off-camera – suggests Allyn may be in possession of a theory or two.

“Everyone’s a skeptic,” says Will, with a supportive pat for his guest’s hand. “It’s clear you’ve got a lot to deal with, just now, so I won’t keep you haunting this stage much longer. Just one more question, if you would. Tell me, what is your author Ginger’s biggest, deepest, darkest, most mortifying and/or hilarious secret? Or—”

“Ginger?” Betty’s eyes blink as she snaps back to attention. “Oh, you mean the tall woman who is always walking up behind me and listenin’ in? She’s not so bad. We sit out on the porch together, and sometimes she plays duets with me on the organ. Occasionally, she plays with my students. She’s behind me now, in fact. She’s become a friend of sorts, but she’s awfully shifty. Must be what happens after a person dies.”

“Wha—?!” Will startles half out of his chair. “Ginger?! But I thought—”

“Oh right, I forgot to mention that – she’s dead. Dead people are the only ones who actually ‘get’ me, you know. Some of them are hanging out right here, Will Scarlet. My own social club. There’s a banker, an author, a railroad worker, a banjo player.” She whispers behind her hand, “Kinda wish that one would go on ‘into the light,’ know what I’m sayin’? Then there are all of the little kids that want me to teach them somethin’.”

A hair curler flies across the set, followed by another one. “Jimmy! I told you not to throw those things at—” She turns to Will. “Excuse me, you know toddlers, they love hair curlers.”

Betty steps off-camera for a moment. From off-set, her voice drifts in, “And put them back in your bag. We always put our work away. Maria Montessori said—” From the other direction, the sound of a filmy drum track simulates a foxtrot. “Carly! I’m not available for your lesson now, pipe down…!”

She wanders back on set, her thick red hair sticking up at odd angles, looking bewildered. “Oh, hi,” she says to Will Scarlet, “I don’t believe we have met. My name is Betty.”

“Um…” says Will, nonplussed.

With a look of recognition, she snaps her head up hard enough to make the loose flesh on her neck jiggle. “Oh, right! Well, I don’t want to go bragging, but I see folks nobody else ever sees. And I think they like it. Some days, I wish they didn’t. You are awfully understanding too, Mr. Will Scarlet. I mean, it’s like I’ve known you forever. Wait, when did you say you were born? Or did you…” Betty peers at Will Scarlet with increasing curiosity. “Where is your body buried, Mr. Will Scarlet?”

His eyes pop wide open, his face gone white behind a strained smile. Allyn,” he hisses out the side of his mouth. “How the devil does she know I’ve died?”

“Admit nothing,” Allyn hisses back. “Change the subject.”

Will’s focus whips back to Betty, blurting, “Would you like to kiss me?”

“I’ll gladly kiss a man as good looking as you, Mr. Will Scarlet.” Betty’s eyes turn sideways, and she cranes her head to look behind Will Scarlet. “But up until now, I think my student was busy with you. Why don’t you take the curlers out of your hair first?”

“Curlers? What curl— oh.” Having turned toward the live-streaming monitors, Will belatedly notes that his golden-red locks have been somehow rolled into a set of lime green hair curlers.

“On second thought…” Betty puts on a fresh coat of fire-engine red lipstick. “You look great to me. Pucker up!”

“Puckering up.” Will sweeps Betty into his arms, swings her ‘round, and dips her low, calling over her head, “Allyn, how ‘bout a word from our sponsor?”

“Today’s Kiss & Tell segment,” says Allyn, determinedly ignoring anything else taking place on this stage, “was brought to you by Ginger C. Mann’s ‘The Poltergeist and Aunt Betty’ – included in ‘Beyond the Wail: 12 Grave Tales of Love and Loss’, launching tomorrow.”

Beyond the Wail, full spread

“Thank you, Allyn,” Will says. “Thanks to you as well, Betty …and, um, Betty’s ghostly coterie. 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!”

Open Journal: Countdown Coma

By the time this post goes live, it’ll be October. For me – this year in particular – that means a lot of things.

It means birthdays – my sister’s (Oct. 1), my other sister’s son’s (Baby Nephew hits 1 year old on the 16th!), and my own (Oct. 30th. I’mma be old. *ducks fruit thrown by the 30-and-over crowd*).

It means adding to my publication list – the “Beyond the Wail” paranormal anthology (Oct. 10th), “The Story’s End (Book Seven of The Wilderhark Tales)” (Oct. 13th), and I’m pretty sure another anthology with a story of mine is set to come out in the neighborhood of Halloween, too, but I’m still waiting on the details for that, so everybody stand by.

It means leaving the country – first for a European river cruise with my bestie (is this the real life???), then onto my temporary/permanent residence in Germany, where I will be aforementioned bestie’s (and her husband’s) butler.

I’ve already proved I’ve got the chops! …The only qualifications are looking suspicious during a murder case, right?
I’ve already proved I’ve got the chops! …The only qualifications are looking hella suspicious during a murder case, right?

Boy, do I hope my boxes ship there safe and sound. *freaks out at the prospect of the post office losing HALF MY STUFF*

There’s soooooo much on my horizon that all I can really feel is tired. And stressed (but that’s pretty much a given, for me). And all kinds of out-of-it. Thank God I had the foresight to do most of the planning and prep for my “Story’s End” launch party well in advance, ‘cause I’ve got precious little get-up-‘n’-get-‘er-done left, at this point.

Part of that’s to do with all the editorial work I’ve been doing on Xchyler Publishing projects, lately – hardcore author-brain activity on stories not my own (weeeeeeird), all in between packing for my move and having to do stuff like eat every day.

“That last item isn’t actually supposed to be a chore,” Edgwyn reminds me gently.

Yeah, but it is for me.

So much to do, still only twenty-four hours in a day, minus sleep.

“HA.”

I sleep more nights than not. Hush your face.

“Sleep nights,” Will Scarlet jumps in. “Meaning that whole nocturnal thing didn’t work out, for ya.”

Nah, not for long.

Nocturnal pros:

– Nighttime doesn’t mean bedtime

– Watching Netflix during the hours least plagued by interruptions from family members and tech glitches

Nocturnal cons:

– Daytime means bedtime

– Missing out on hanging with Baby Nephew during the day*

*(Which, I mean, also happens when I’m juggling a dozen looming deadlines at once… and/or marathon phone conversations with the bestie)

– Everyone else in the house is awake, so don’t expect any peace and quiet

What I’d really like is a sleep schedule that doesn’t require sleep, but my body repeatedly yells at me that this is unfeasible. So my new plan has been to basically stay up until I can’t keep my eyes open, then crash.

Edgwyn crosses his arms, his expression his approximation of stern. “That sounds suspiciously like your semi-suicidal plan for life in general.”

Things will be different when I get to Germany. My plate will be much cleared. Heck, I’m even thinking about a blogging break.

“But… but…!” Will cries. “You don’t mean my Fridays?”

You mean like today? <_< Not really bothered about ‘em, dude. Mind you, I don’t plan to disappear from Ever On Word entirely. I’ll still drop in when the mood strikes. ‘Cause I mean, I’ll be in Europe. I intend to have Experiences. I’ll want some kind of record of that. And call me nutty, but I don’t expect I’ll feel much like taking time out of, say, exploring the Black Forest to help you draft frivolous skits.

“Humph.”

“It’s for the greater good, Will,” Edgwyn reminds him. “Who is it who keeps saying the girl needs a vacation?”

Will flaps a hand. “Oh, some hot stud in red. His name escapes me. Wanna call him Will Something, or Something Scarlet…”

Well, the vacation draws nearer. Just a matter, now, of getting through the month…

My wall’s stripped half-naked in the name of art relocation to my future space. Future Me thanks me. Present Me responds, “Blergggh.”
My wall’s stripped half-naked in the name of art relocation to my future space. Future Me thanks me. Present Me responds, “Blergggh.”

A Delightfully Grave Announcement

Ladies, gentlemen, and assorted rogues! It is with great pleasure and no small amount of authorial pride that I present to you the first look at my latest anthology project with Xchyler Publishing.

Aaaand cue the vid!


 

Beyond the Wail: 12 Grave Tales of Love and Loss”, featuring me – not to mention my best friend, Tirzah Duncan. First soul sisters, now anthology sisters, too. It’s a Christmas miracle! …Or, given the book’s release date of October 10th, nearer to a Halloween miracle.

In celebration of the book’s cover reveal, I’m likewise revealing the related Pinterest board that I’ve been assembling since before I even knew for sure that my own uncanny short story had made the cut. So here – have a little library magic, courtesy of “Date Due”.

Also! It’s only a matter of time until we start sending out advance reader e-copies of the book. If you – yes, YOU, sir/madam/your rogue-ship – would like an early read of “Beyond the Wail” for the low, low price of an honest review, give me a spine-chilling shriek of woe! I’ll die of fright. Or hook you up. One of those. ;D

BEYOND-THE-WAIL-front-web

The Triple-7 Challenge: “Losers Weepers” Edition

I have been nominated by the always-excellent Samantha Chaffin (a.k.a. my “Best of Luna Station Quarterly” anthology sister) (a.k.a. Batman) to take part in the 777 Challenge.

THE CHALLENGE: SHARE 7 LINES FROM PAGE 7 OF YOUR MANUSCRIPT + TAG 7 BLOGGERS.

Losers Weepers

Challenge accepted! And as one good anthology shout-out deserves another, I’ll be gleaning my excerpt from the short story to debut in Xchyler Publishing’s newest paranormal collection this fall.

The book’s title: Soon to be determined.

The book’s theme: “Losers Weepers”.

My short story’s title: “Date Due”.

In this snippet, our narrator – the keeper of a very unusual library – begins to suspect the significance of the dates embossed on her books’ spines, and so sets out to conduct an experiment.

A bit of rifling through the rooms dredged up a fat spiral notebook, pristine but for the first page-and-a-half, which I summarily tore out and discarded. My kitchen clock read eleven thirty-five. The darkness outside the window read P.M. The date on the wall calendar and the spine’s golden date were twenty-five minutes apart. Back down to the basement and through the door. Library book perched on my stuffed chair’s left arm, notebook and pen in my lap, and the minutes counting down in my head, I sat before the fire and waited.

At the stroke of midnight, I wrote.

This is a test.

And that’s all you get for now, dearies! Stay tuned for more anthology news in the weeks to come. In the meantime, here’s tagging 7 of my fellow “Losers Weepers” antho authors:

A. F. Stewart

Alex McGilvery

Ginger C. Mann

Julie Barnson

L.K. McIntosh

Tirzah Duncan

T.N. Payne

(And any readers who weren’t specifically tagged but want to play anyway, jump in! Link up in the comments so I can hop over for a looksee at your 7 lines. ^_^)

Deshipley, over and out.

The Other Burdin (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, “When asked to send a character over, author Alexander responded thus:

Let’s go with Hartnet. He could use a little love. Poor guy’s got it rough having Ty as a sibling.

“Welcome, Hartnet!” Will greets the man now seated in the chair across from his own. “So glad you could join me. First things first – where in the world do you get off having a studlier jaw than me? Like, seriously.”

Hartnet shifts in his chair, absentmindedly rubs a hand across a day’s worth of stubble on his jaw. “Good genetics, I guess,” he says with a small laugh.

“Hmmph. Well, anyway,” says Will, “subtly” re-angling his face to give the camera a better view of his bone structure. “Your brother Ty is the ‘retired’ demon hunter, and you’re the cop. But you’ve got some demon hunting experience, too, am I right?”

“I can definitely hold my own.” Hartnet sits up a little straighter. His jaw tenses. “Growing up in the greatest demon hunting family of all time, I definitely picked up a few tricks and survival habits. I even get to put them to use against bad guys from time to time. After dealing with an Azreal or even a Jinn, some punk hopped up on this or that isn’t so intimidating.”

Will nods. “Right. Totally. I have no idea what an Azreal is, but if it’s anything like an air spirit or a river siren, then I’m perfectly happy to leave it to the professionals. Moving away from business to your personal life, now, how would you describe your and Ty’s relationship? And how does it feel, knowing your little brother to be in constant danger of death by demons or alcohol poisoning or who knows what?”

“Ty’s a bit of a conceited jerk. He only thinks of himself and his own perspective, everyone else’s opinion doesn’t matter for much. He’s kind of the spoiled rock star, reality television show of the demon hunting world. Did I mention I’m adopted?”

“Don’t believe you did, no. But hey, the blood you chose is thicker than the water you’re born into, right? Family’s family, bros are bros?”

Hartnet stares off at the lights. He inspects the back of his hands for a moment. “Yeah, I mean, I’d give my life for Ty, but there are times I think he’d ask for it. That might be his problem. Maybe he’ll grow out of it.” Hartnet shifts a little more in his seat.

“Well, hey, buddy,” says Will, leaning over to pat Hartnet’s knee. “Here’s hoping he will. Now, one last question before we wrap up the interrogation, officer. Tell me, what is your author Alex’s biggest, deepest, darkest, most mortifying and/or hilarious secret?” He smiles devilishly. “Or would you rather kiss me?”

“Sorry, there, but I keep all my kisses for a special lady back home. She’s always got her mind on me. Anyway, if I were one to go around giving away secrets, everyone in the world would know that every night Ty sings ‘I Will Survive’ by Gloria Gaynor to help himself fall asleep. Oops…”

“Haha, does he really?”

Hartnet winks, stands up, and exits the stage.

“Looks like duty’s call won’t wait. Play him out with a word from our sponsor, won’t you, Allyn?”

“Today’s Kiss & Tell segment,” says Allyn, “was brought to you by Alexander Nader’s ‘Burdin’s End’:

Ty Burdin, the retired demon hunter who just can’t stay retired.

In the final installment of the Beasts of Burdin trilogy Ty has found himself roped into working for the Agency, a top secret organization with the sole purpose of eliminating all demon activity, yet again. Demon hunting is a full time job, but luckily Ty has managed to work his way down to a ‘consulting’ position in the Agency after a few disagreements and a couple dead superiors.

Ty’s part-time position becomes far more hands on as the demon activity in his region cranks up to eleven. Demons are crawling out of peoples’ minds and into the real world at an alarming rate and it’s up to Ty, once again, to step in and save the day. First step: get over last night’s hangover.

“As a bit of bonus material,” Allyn continues, “our author’s review of the book is as follows:

Gosh, some people’s attitudes are miserable. And not one healthful coping mechanism to be seen. Of course, narrators are rarely known for spreading sunshine and dishing up entertaining sass both at once. And if I can only have one or the other, odds are I’ll go with the sass.

Burdin's End

Despite his efforts to remain retired, Ty Burdin can’t seem to go more than twenty-four hours or so without hunting and/or being hunted by an unpredictable variety pack of demons. His small circle of loved ones (so… basically just his cop brother Hartnet and secretary/fictional biographer Nora) seem content to take Ty’s life at the beck and call of the Agency for granted, but Ty moans and drags his feet every step of the way. His unrelenting backtalk hurled at his boss Helstrom – or, in lieu of an audience, in his own head – made for some good out-loud chuckles (the man really does have a way with words, provided every third word or so can be a vulgarity), though his passive, self-destructive wallowing did start to get old, after a while.

Then I got about three-quarters of the way through the book, and I was just like, whoa. No. Holy cow, but no. I just want Ty to get up, shake himself off, and get his act together. Can I have that? Will Nader give me that? Or is he going to revel in this twisted turn of events like the evil author in me wouldn’t blame him for one bit?

If you think I’m about to spoil the answers to any of that, you’re one scotch bottle shy of a Burdin liquid lunch. In parting, I’ll say only that, 1) the ending went by a little quick for me; 2) it sounds like some positive change may be on the horizon for whoever survives this latest wave of deadly demon activity; and 3) um, no offense to Hartnet, but I may be Team Helstrom now. The guy’s in his own class.

“Thank you, Allyn – and Danielle,” Will says, then calls offstage, “Thanks to you as well, Hartnet. 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!”

Happy [Belated] Book Birthday to THE ARTISANS!

This time last week, while the next Wilderhark Tales title was debuting its face, an entire BOOK went out into the world! …with me having been under the impression it wasn’t supposed to launch until today. Welp, no matter. Never too late to put the word out about a book! So ladies and gentleman, if you’d be so good as to direction your attention to…

Artisans, TheThe Book: “The Artisans” by Julie Reece.

Genre: YA Paranormal

Blurb: They say death can be beautiful. But after the death of her mother, seventeen-year-old Raven Weathersby gives up her dream of becoming a fashion designer, barely surviving life in the South Carolina lowlands.

To make ends meet, Raven works after school as a seamstress creating stunning works of fashion that often rival the great names of the day.

Instead of making things easier on the high school senior, her stepdad’s drinking leads to a run in with the highly reclusive heir to the Maddox family fortune, Gideon Maddox.

But Raven’s stepdad’s drying out and in no condition to attend the meeting with Maddox. So Raven volunteers to take his place and offers to repay the debt in order to keep the only father she’s ever known out of jail, or worse.

Gideon Maddox agrees, outlining an outrageous demand: Raven must live in his home for a year while she designs for Maddox Industries’ clothing line, signing over her creative rights.

Her handsome young captor is arrogant and infuriating to the nth degree, and Raven can’t imagine working for him, let alone sharing the same space for more than five minutes.

But nothing is ever as it seems. Is Gideon Maddox the monster the world believes him to be? And can he stand to let the young seamstress see him as he really is?

My Thoughts: **ARC received in exchange for an honest review**

Raven Weathersby has a good voice on her – smart and detailed, with a healthy amount of teen attitude in the mix. Particularly in a spin on a fairy tale where the Beauty trades in her freedom for confinement in the Beast’s castle, one could expect the book to take the road often traveled in young-adult books by isolating the heroine from any fleshed-out relationships beyond that between her and the male lead. To my pleasant surprise, however, a generous portion of Raven’s story includes interactions with a number of non-romantic loved ones – the alcoholic step-dad she’s burdened to care for, the duo of best friends who have her back throughout the arrangement with her captor, even her oversized cat. I appreciated this solid contribution to the rounding out of Raven’s character, which made her feel more authentic to me than her “beastly” counterpart, Gideon Maddox, for whom I had trouble getting past the shiny veneer to the heart within.

Augmenting the book’s fairytale component was a Southern Gothic ghost story, complete with eerie spirits ranging from pitiable to ghastly. Some of the scenes were so effectively horrific that I physically cringed and squirmed, for which I give props to the author despite my dislike for being too strongly crept-out. The ghost element added an intriguing layer and elevation of the stakes in a story which might otherwise have had more difficulty holding my interest for the length of the novel. And the mystery that arose regarding Raven’s origins, left partially unexplained at book’s end, has me curious to know what’s coming in the projected sequel.

HSYRT? (Hey, Should You Read This?): If you’ve got a taste for a spooky, contemporary take on a fairytale favorite, you may find “The Artisans” to be tailor-made for you.