May is over. Stories are not.

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Story-a-Day May 2017 says goodbye, but the stories remain. So, now what? I want to keep writing and I want to be read. The publishing part sometimes feels as realistic as winning the lottery on the same as discovering the wardrobe into Narnia.

Other than posting these story efforts, I haven’t really been blogging. Maybe I should just officially stop all together and work on my newsletter. Or scrap the newsletter? Self-publish or find an agent? Self-publish or keep sending stories out to journals?

One minute I’m confident in what to do. The next I’m overwhelmed. In any event, I think I’m going to delete a lot of things.

I’m trying to add the newsletter sign up to this page. I know some people hate newsletter. Who needs more email, right? But some people never read blogs. Ultimately, I have to figure out what works for the stories.

My currently published novel is here. My art is here.

Thanks for reading.

AND MAY IS OVER!

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Yes! The last day! And the prompt was to write about a writer. Well, I didn’t want to write about myself and I didn’t start writing until late in the day. Like, 9 pm. Having not given myself a great deal of time, I did what I could. I revisited an earlier story to make it a little easier. But whatever, right? BECAUSE I’M DONE!

Thank you for reading. Really, thank you.

Mrs. Fellinghast kept inconsistent hours. The fairgrounds remained open 364 days a year, but she wasn’t always watching over things. Her trusted helpers took care of the tickets and the crowds. She took care of the things only she could.

On this late Friday evening, she unlocked the entrance to a tent few visitors ever saw. Her fair had several tents like this, there on the edge of the lights but never catching anyone’s eye. In the sunlight they seemed like mist and at night they seemed like tricks of moonlight, like gossamer curtains brushing the grass and hanging from the stars.

But when Mrs. Fellinghast unlocked a tent, it became as real as anyone walking by with a ticket.

In the middle of the tent sat a grand, old desk, and a behind the desk sat a man. His hair was wild like a white wave coming from his skull, and his eyes behind the bronze glasses were wide. He was old or he was young. It was hard to tell in the gaslight.

It might take a visitor a few minutes to note the chain from his ankle to the desk.

He didn’t speak to Mrs. Fellinghast first because the wise never did.

She strolled over to the desk and looked down the papers there. His scrawl filled pages and pages, some pages more yellowed than others. “Hello, dear,” she said. “How is your beautiful bright mind tonight?”

He still didn’t speak. He kept his pen stopped, a hair’s breadth above the page.

“I need a very particular story, dear,” she said. Why, I’m sure it is one you’ll enjoy.” She picked up a page and read the story set across it. A smile played at showing itself on her face. She did love his stories, almost forgetting her life before they’d arrived in her world. It was true she’d promised to let him, the writer, go one day, the day his stories began to bore, but that day never came.

Mrs. Fellinghast had told him so. “One boring story, and you’ll be free.” And he wrote and wrote and wrote. His stories unfolded in the real world, or the almost real world of the fair. If he wrote it, it came to life.

All he had to do was write one soul a boring life. But Mrs. Fellinghast didn’t take chances. Every morning and every night she made the writer a cup of tea, her own special blend, just for him. And is this black tea, unknown to him, she mixed in orange extract, crushed cinnamon, and a dark, thick dose of pride.

So no matter how often the writer told himself to write one boring story for her, he never could bring himself to do it.

“I need a story,” she repeated.

The writer waited.

“It’s about a young woman who lives not far from here, and she has tickets to the fair.”

He nodded. He took a clean sheet of paper from a desk drawer and prepared to write.

“She’s going to want to visit the future,” Mrs. Fellinghast continued. “And you’ll write her a very grand adventure. Make it grand, my dear. Make it one of your best. Give her some passion and fire. She has the heart for it, I know.” Music from the fairgrounds drifted in through the slim opening in the tent. “And in the end make her give her life for a cause. I’ll let you choose the cause, all right?” She smiled and patted his arm.

Mrs. Fellinghast turned to go and the writer cleared his throat. “Oh yes, of course,” she said. “Her name is Minerva Baines, and she’ll be here soon. Get to writing.”

A minute later he was alone again, locked in his tent, writing. His pen moved as if possessed.

Day 30! It’s almost over!

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I didn’t follow today’s prompt. I liked the prompt, but I didn’t have any ideas. Or rather, I started writing and ended up with this! Which may be a mess, but I’m okay with that. I had to try something different-ish.

So, thanks for reading. We’re almost to the end!

Many dark holidays and creatures took hold of the world after the Days of Blight and Ruin. The naysayers shook their heads, of course, but most survivors agreed the time had come for strange deeds.

In what used to be called the Kingdom of the World was a pit. The pit went deep into the earth and could have held a mountain if the citizens had the wherewithal to fill it in. Only the most debased lived near the pit. Toxins curled ceaselessly upward and a sickly orange glow light up its mouth at night.

But the pit, which had formed in the early devastating days, demanded care. That’s what many survivors said and even those who didn’t believe didn’t have the heart to risk pretending the pit and its occupant didn’t exist. For there was, all knew, a terrible beast thrashing and pawing in the dirt and waste, and no one wanted it to escape.

The people marked the Day of Appetite. Days of giving and romance and independence had faded into history, and people who remembered them were avoided or mocked. Nothing mattered as much as doing one’s part for the Day of Appetite.

Citizens who could make the pilgrimage traveled to the pit. Those who couldn’t sent their offerings. And most people couldn’t travel. Injury, illness, and poverty kept most everyone near whatever ground they’d managed to hold onto. Even those with healthy bodies and actual bank accounts were reluctant to leave their plots and fortified houses. They sent emissaries they could trust but wouldn’t miss if they failed to return.

The powers that be made sure everyone contributed to the day. It was the only way to prove one’s loyalty to the security of the Kingdom. What would happen if the beast freed itself? No one wanted the answer to that question. they couldn’t survive the beast again and they knew it.

The holiday proved so successful in keeping the beast sated, the people agreed to celebrating not every year, but every month, and then every week. It didn’t take long before the day went on and on without end, people always coming to feed the appetite of the beast.

They brought gold, of course. The beast loved its false light and warmth. They brought mirrors for the beast was easily distracted by itself. They brought what had been deemed luxuries in the old world that the beast still believed in. But most of all, they brought applause and cheers.

Nothing soothed the beast like the sounds of its own name called again and again in the dark wasteland outside the pit. The beast slowed its frantic gnawing and grasping at the sound of cheers and claps. The crowds that came were music to its savage ears. They loudly proclaimed their devotion and it didn’t even matter if their hearts were in it. The beast couldn’t tell the difference no more than it could tell the difference between the bones of its victims.

Yet even as the holiday came to be every moment of every day, it was’t enough. The beast grew, and so did its pit. The pit expanded, filled with offering and the engorged beast. The pit grew and fields and landfills and cities crumbled and slid within. The people, the worshippers, sincere and false, fell, crushed under the garbage and gold in equal measure.

The day finally dawned when there were no people left to clap and cheer. The beast desperately clawed at the sides of its prison. It clawed and clawed, desperate for sound. All was silent and dark except for the cries of the beast.

And they say, dear children, that world has shriveled and disappeared from view. All that remains is the ever hungry cry for adoration you can hear on a dark, lonely night.

But where did the beast come from, mummy? asked Neeshell the oldest with three great big eyes and green silk hair. The other children wanted to know too.

Their mother stared off into space, considering her answer.

Little Tomay burrowed close to his mother. How could a beast like that even be born? he asked.

Their mother scratched Tomay behind his left horn. They aren’t born, sweethearts, she explained. They are made.

Can we make one? Neeshell asked, putting her arm around her sister, Clee, whose eyes drooped with sleepiness.

Good heavens, their mother said. No. Definitely not.

Why not? asked Tomay. He stretched out his back legs.

Because you’re loved, she replied. Then she insisted they all go to bed. She tucked them in and kissed each one goodnight. Turning off the light, she stood in the darkness, listening.

Day 29. Are we there yet?

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I think I’m ready for June! I gave today’s prompt a shot, but I’m tired and feeling out of ideas. Several stories want more attention. They want to be finished! This evening I’m going to work on replenishing my brain.

In the meantime, I scribbled a few words so that I can feel as if accomplished something other than staring at my computer screen.

Millie Ann Hartigan stayed up too late once again reading nonsense on the Internet. The night before, she’d spent hours learning about secret lives of rabbits, taking time to read every comment on a page arguing rabbits in England were actually magical creatures. Tonight she followed a thread about the existence of time travelers.

She’d started the evening by reading a reputable essay on a reputable site about the physics of traveling into the past versus the future, but she was now reading an interview with a woman in west Texas who claimed to have served a time traveler breakfast in bed. Millie checked the clock. It was 3 a.m.

Millie leaned back against the headboard and sipped her wine. As a teenager, she’d read hundreds of sci-fi novels, her favorite always being about people visiting another time. How amazing it would be to step out of her own time and into another? She’d often debated with herself about whether to go to future or to the past.

The past would probably kill her. Plagues and witch hunts and other dangers. If she were a healthy white man or invisible, she’d go to the past. Maybe to the Victorian era when the dresses were so pretty. Or Japan when it was still closed to the world. What would it take to survive back then? Most likely she’d be like a squirrel running into traffic. No, she’d stick to museums and PBS documentaries.

She clicked over to see if her friends were up to anything at 3 am, but no one had posted anything. She scrolled through headlines of doom and hyperbole. The future might not be any safer, she reasoned.

Yawning, Millie determined to turn off her infernal laptop and go to bed, but then the next headline caught hold of her common sense and kicked it aside. Hack Time Travel! These easy steps will leave you stunned. She clicked.

And that’s how a short while later, she had her laptop on her kitchen counter and was searching through her cabinets. She couldn’t believe her luck. She had all the ingredients listed in the article as well as the right kind of batteries, random bits of wire, and mirror big enough to walk through. She poured herself another glass of wine and went to work. By 4 a.m. almost everything was in order.

The instructions had final pieces of advice. You’re visiting another universe in time, dress carefully. First impressions count in every timeline! Looking at her tee-shirt and boxer shorts, she sighed, questioned her sanity, and went to put on a pair of jeans and tennis shoes. She the long mirror into the kitchen and propped it against the counter. Muttering to herself, she dropped the wire connected to the batteries into the gray mixture simmering in the Pyrex bowl and put the other end of the wire to the mirror. “If this doesn’t work,” she said, looking at her reflection, “I’ll drink another bottle of wine to forget how stupid I am.”

Then her image wavered. A second later, it blinked out. She saw nothing of herself or her kitchen. She picked up her laptop and read the instructions again. At the bottom she noticed for the first time very small print. Portal destination may vary. Results guaranteed for one trip only. “Whatever.” She set the laptop top down and reached out her hand, which disappeared into the mirror.

Millie stared. Half believing she was dreaming, she stepped into the mirror and vanished.

Thanks for reading!

Day 28 and another day closer to the end!

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Today’s prompt was to tell a Cinderella story. So, I started like I usually do with a character and not much else. But little ways in, I realized that this was going to be a long short story and not finished today. Right now the story has no time travel or witchcraft. Not yet! Maybe it won’t. We’ll see.

Thanks for reading.

Della Farsoon bit into the overly sweet donut and hoped none of the adults would suggest she go outside to play with the other children. Last Sunday, Mrs. Quiffmore had spotted Della standing alone in a corner sipping punch, and the mother of five had ordered the sixteen-year-old to go out with the others. The only teenager of the group, Della had dragged her feet outside in the muggy air and spent the hour sitting on a swing.

Ten-year-old Ricky Teamark had told Della that if she wasn’t going to swing, she should find somewhere else to take up space.

“Shut up, turnip face,” she’d said. “I can sit or swing as I damn well please.”

Ricky went inside and told she’d called him names and said bad words.

This Sunday Della hoped her days of being sent out with the children were done now she’d revealed herself to be a bad influence. She licked the bits of honey glaze from her fingers. The adults were busy talking about famous TV minister coming to lead a week of sermons. Their talk of how to find enough chairs and tables was easy to ignore.

Bored, Della eyed the remaining donuts. No explicit rule stated only one donut was allowed per congregant, but a second donut meant risking a lecture on gluttony from Mrs. Quiffmore. She shrugged. She was probably doing the woman a favor, giving her someone to lecture before all those words blew up in her head.

Della took the second donut and ambled over the dining hall doors. No one noticed when she wandered into the vestibule. She sat on a cushioned bench against the wall and took her book from her purse. Within minutes, her donut polished off, she was lost in a novel of murder and mayhem. She didn’t hear footsteps of the young man walking in from the hall.

“Hey, Diana! It’s you,” he said.

Della almost dropped her book. “Della,” she corrected him. “Hi Mark.” She had his name right, of course. Even though he’d been gone for a year, she wasn’t likely to forget Mark Hackman, local golden boy, practically a prince in everyone’s eyes.

Grudgingly she made room for him and he sat down, but she went back to her book.

“Your dad sold me my first car,” he said as if she’d been waiting for him to speak.

Della looked up from the novel in her lap. “That’s nice.”

“Gave me a good deal. You should see the car I traded it in for. It’s a beauty.”

She sighed. “What brings you here?” she asked. Last she’d heard he was winning football trophies somewhere. Or maybe it was basketball? Baseball? He’d gotten so many trophies in his life, she was sure even he couldn’t keep track.

“Concert tickets. I bought my girlfriend tickets to the Finn Girls.”

Della sat up straighter and her heart pitched forward. Of course he had tickets. Tickets had sold out in five minutes months before. “Have fun then,” she said, wishing she had tickets to the Finn Girls. She had all their lyrics memorized and their pictures cut from magazines and taped into her journal. She’d have had their posters on her bedroom wall if her parents allowed such idolatry.

She flicked the pages of her book, wondering whether it was worse being stuck listening to him or going back into the dining hall and being stuck listening to the adults. At least he couldn’t order her about.

“My girlfriend’s sick though. Throwing up like crazy,” he said.

“That’s too bad.” Was he still dating Cassie Quiffmore? She narrowed her gaze at his beautiful profile. Cassie was pretty and all, but surely he could find prettier girls in college.

“Anyway, you want her ticket?” he asked. “I don’t want the ticket to go to waste.”

Della stared. What was he really saying?

“You don’t even have to pay me the full price for the ticket. I’ll let you’ll have it for a fraction of the price. A hundred bucks and it’s yours.” He patted the shirt pocket over his heart.

Her voice almost escaped. “I don’t have a hundred dollars.” If only she could see the Finn Girls. But her parents would never allow it anyway. Her heart pitched forward again. Genie was her favorite. She played drums and wrote most of the songs. Genie Finn understood.

“You can’t get a hundred dollars?” Mark asked. “I thought your dad was loaded. Like, he owns that dealership and Southgate Plaza, doesn’t he.”

Della stiffened. “I don’t have a hunded dollars.”

“Concert’s Tuesday night.” He stood.

“Why me?”

He looked down at her.

“We aren’t friends, Mark Hackman. Our parents aren’t even friends. You date Cassie choir girl because she’s pretty and not the least bit interesting. Why would you give a damn about me going to a pop concert?”

He laughed. “I can’t go with another guy. C’mon. Get real. Cassie told me to sell you the ticket.”

That made no sense to Della.

“Just so you know,” he continued, “Cassie called you Della the Dork.”

“Everyone’s called me that since third grade.”

“Yeah well…” He patted the ticket in his pocket. “She said you’d want the ticket and she doesn’t care if you sit next to me.” He walked away, and reaching the main doors to the church, he called back over his shoulder, “Call me!”

Day 27! Almost to the end!

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Today’s Story-a-Day prompt was to write a non-traditional love story. This probably doesn’t qualify, but it is what I wrote.

For Time Travelers, Witches, and Saints: A Compendium of Lesser Known Time Travelers and Other Terrors.

Agatha Omerez wants company to travel with through time. A time traveler, She has access to all the technology ever created and she takes the best from various points in history. Building another life takes patience, but after several failures, her robot says hello and looks into Agatha’s eyes.

“Hello, Lou,” Agatha replies, proud of her work. Lou doesn’t look perfectly human and isn’t meant to. Anyone would recognize Lou for a machine. But Lou is definitely human-like, able to tilt its head to show it is listening and to run for its life to show it cares.

The robot blinks. Of all the things Lou can do, one thing it can not is talk. So, it nods at Agatha and blinks again.

“Welcome to the world,” Agatha says. “I hope you find it suitable for your needs.” It isn’t that she wasn’t able to give the robot a voice. She understands the technology. She wasn’t able to decide what she wanted. Lou has no gender. Maybe from a certain angle, some people might conclude Lou a female robot, but that requires a certain way of seeing.

A voice needs tone and rhythm. What should Lou sound like? What voice does Agatha want following her on adventures? A voice would make Lou too human. Agatha reaches over and tightens a screw in the robot’s shoulder. Lou looks down and watches. “When I find the right voice, I’ll give it to you,” Agatha says.

Lou’s shiny eyes blinked.

“Now,” Agatha begins, knowing she doesn’t need to tell Lou what she is about to say but feeling compelled to explain herself to those big shining eyes. “You and I are going to travel together through time, even to times before most of your body parts existed. But I’ve planned for that, so it shouldn’t be a problem.”

Lou nods and looks down at itself.

“Your job is to help me whenever I need help.”

Lou nods again, and light on Lou’s chest flickers.

“It gets lonely out here,” Agatha says, “and I need someone to talk to. I’m just not sure yet if I need someone who will talk back.”

The lights come on again in the sequence Agatha programed. It means yes, I understand. More lights. What’s next, Lou asks through the light display. I’m hungry, the lights signal.

“Hungry?” Agatha ask. That makes no sense. One reason for a robot companion is to not worry about food supplies. One of them going hungry somewhere in time is problem enough.

I’m hungry. To see. The stars. Lou seems to consider. More life. Lou taps the panel of lights. Hungry for more.

This time it is Agatha who blinks. What had she programmed into the machine? “Okay,” she replies, promising herself to check Lou’s programming. This is her first robot, after all. There are bound to be mistakes.

Hungry.

But more immediately, this seems like a problem that can be fixed. Or at least tested. With a click, the doors to the room open and outside is a city park. Not that far away, children scream playing tag while parents watch and other park visitors stroll by. No one takes any note of the open doors. Agatha excels at invisibility design.

Lou peers out into the world. The flickering lights speed up. Lou’s wide shiny eyes look in every direction, pausing on the children and then on a dog running off leash into a flock of pigeons.

Agatha waits until the flickering lights slow down and shut off save one. “How are you now?” she asks.

Almost full, Lou’s lights answer.

Agatha takes Lou’s mechanical hand in hers, and Lou continues to watch until the sky darkens and the people begin heading home.

*

Thanks for reading!

Day 26 and Letter Writing

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Today’s prompt is to write a letter. So, here we are. Thank you for reading.

To whomever finds this,

I hope you are well, that you know the way out, that things are different now. Could my sister and I walk with you? Would you help us? Perhaps not. It’s unreasonable to ask since we haven’t even met.

But you’ve made it this far and have taken the time to look in the hiding places, the cracks and crevices. This means either you have all the time in the world, nothing is after you, and you’re just curious about this strange old place. Or you’re much like us and have nothing but time because you can’t go forward or back. You’ll find out soon enough the choices. I’m still not sure how much I want to influence you.

Are you the sort to be change your mind because of what someone like me writes? Do you listen? I didn’t. My sister listened but only to me, but she was always silly that way, thinking I knew best because I was older. She always wanted to tag along and usually I said no. Usually I shouted at her to go away. When you tell someone to go away, why don’t they listen? I’ve never been a little sister, so maybe that’s why I don’t understand.

I’m wasting your time and I don’t even know how much time I have to write. You don’t even know how much time you have to read. But I’m sure if you’re reading this, you’ve made a mistake. You’ve taken a wrong turn, ignored the signs, forgot the time. That’s the only way you end up here unless things have really changed. Would you even know? Do you know your history?

Why am I even writing when I don’t know the secret or the code? I don’t know where the key can be found or where the knives are hidden. You’ll need both. Trust me. Trust me unless you find me. Then I make no promises.

I’ve no right to ask, of course, dear reader. No right at all. But if you’ve kept reading, maybe you’ll keep searching. Only a hero would find this, isn’t that right? If you can’t save me, save my words. Maybe I’ll know.

Bye. Or hello. I’ll leave that up to you.

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And if you’re so inclined, my novel is here.