Day 18. The hero says no.


This is the first thing I’ve written which I know will never be in my novel’s final draft. Today’s prompt from Story-a-Day is to write a refusal. Stories begin because a protagonist accepts the quest, the call, the challenge. But what if my main character said no? What if she refused the inciting incident? The story would end before it started, of course. But it is an interesting insight into the character, her fears and doubts. For me anyway.

So, in the alternative history, Miracle June says no to the call. It makes me a little sad.

Thanks for reading!

Miracle June didn’t believe the letter. She couldn’t have been chosen. It made no sense. But everyone knew the contents of the letter. People stared at her in the market. Her coworkers asked to see it. Her mother had cried without explaining if her tears were of happiness or horror.

“You’re going to see the stars,” her mother said. “I always knew you would.” Her voice shook.

“How could you know that?” Miracle June asked.

Her mother got up from the sofa. “I’m going to send a message to your sister. She’ll want to know.”

“Mom,” Miracle June said. Of all the people on Earth, of all the people who had applied, it made no sense she should’ve been selected. It was mistake, and if she boarded that, how long would it take them to realize? Then what? She’d be sent back. “Please don’t tell Rarity.”

“She’s going to be nothing but happy for you, sweetheart.” Her clicked on her computer. “You can’t take those things she said too seriously. You know how stressful life at the convent is right now for her.”

“That’s not it,” Miracle June replied, folding the letter and placing it on the coffee table. She wouldn’t argue with her mother about what Rarity had said. Her mother always chose to believe Rarity meant well, but at the moment, none of that mattered. “I’m not going to go. See? There’s no point in telling her because I’m not going to accept the position.”

“What?” Bless Far turned away from the computer. “Say ten prayers to the Pleiades, Miracle June. You do not mean that.”

Miracle June stood. “I can’t leave you alone. With Rarity a the convent, I can’t go running out into the stars.” The stars. How beautiful they would be to see! But she had no business on a starliner. Starliners were for girls at the top of their class. Girls with important parents and dazzling talents. Not even that. Starliners weren’t for girls but for women who knew what they were doing. She may have graduated from the training program and manage to keep a job for over a year, but she was at the bottom of the instructor pool, where she belonged. “And I’ve got a good job already.”

Her mother opened her mouth to argue, but Miracle June cut her off. “And there’s Val. He’s talking about marriage. I can’t just leave him. It’s a ten-year contract. I can’t ask him to wait that long.”

“Oh, I’m sure he would. Of course he would. You’re a beautiful girl.”

Miracle June sighed. Her mother believed that as determinedly as she believed Rarity Vaine never meant the brutal things she said. “It just doesn’t matter. The Sovereignty doesn’t need me. They have a universe of people to choose from. Okay?” She took two big steps forward to stand in front of her mother and take her hands. “I want to be here with you. I don’t want to get mixed up with the Sovereignty. That’s nothing but trouble, and you know it.”

Bless Far’s eyes watered. “All right, sweetheart. If that’s what you want. Really sure.”

“Of course I’m sure,” Miracle June replied. She took a deep breath. “I’m happy here.”

Story-a-Day May is coming!


Story-a-Day May is coming! I’d forgotten that I gave up last year. I must have blocked that out.

Well, I’m going to try again. And this time, I have ideas. I prefer to think of each year as a collection of stories with a kind of theme. So, this year the theme is time travel, and I want my time travelers to be somewhat unexpected. Meaning characters who don’t often get to time travel in stories. Or at least, not the stories I’ve read and know about.

Every story might not deal with time, but an overarching theme usually helps me come up with ideas. I’ve been tossing around ideas for a title for this year’s series of stories. We’ll see what I end up with once the month begins.

I’m excited for the stories to begin!

Who’s with me?

Story-a-Day May! Not even halfway…

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When I started Story-a-Day May this time around, I planned to write a series of stories. But I seemed to have gotten sucked into a longer storyline! Because that’s what I needed, right?

Anyway, slowly but surely my characters set out on their journey.

When Millie-Marie appeared at the edge of the square, she had a bloody nose and disheveled hair. She carried a small shoulder bag and a hefty looking stick. Her eyes met Ida’s, and she waited, stock still, for several heartbeats before marching across to the clock tower.

Ida said nothing. She nodded at the stick.

“Old Mortar took issue with me leaving,” Millie-Marie said. “He tried to relieve me of my bread and wages.”

Ida raised an eyebrow. She hadn’t considered Millie-Marie would say anything to either boss, least of all Mr. Mortar.

“It’s all right. He looks a right sight better than he’s looked in years,” Millie-Marie continued. “Looks a lot more graveyard.”

“Did you tell him where you were going?”

“I don’t know where we’re a going. How I gonna tell?”

Ida patted her coat pocket. “I’ve got us tickets on the overnight train.”

“The train?”

Neither girl had ever been on the train. Only one train worked and that was the overnight, and it didn’t always run. The governor didn’t care about much townspeople making their way anywhere. He had a private car and permits for every checkpoint. One of the last journalists asked him about the state’s plan to fix the train system. “Trains?” the governor laughed. “People are going to be expecting unicorns next.”

But the governor’s wife took on the cause. She was expected to have a cause after all. And she had a great ribbon cutting ceremony for the new overnight train. The questioning journalist disappeared a short while after and a few souls took to wearing unicorn on their lapels. Someone, no one knew who, spray painted unicorn on the side of the train. By then the governor’s wife was dead and the white scrawl remained on the side of engine, darkening with rust.

“How in blue blazes you get tickets?” Millie-Marie asked. She pulled a stray lock of hair from her face. “You don’t even got parents!”

Ida couldn’t help but grin. “Best you don’t know yet.”

Millie-Marie rested a hand on her hip. “Listen up, Miss. Princess Pants. I done beat a grown man with a stick and helped myself to a week’s worth of bread and cheese because you asked me to see the world. Don’t you go telling me it’s best I don’t know. I best damn well know everything.”

Ida took Millie-Marie’s rant in stride. “Course, I’m going to tell you. But if you don’t know, you can’t tell if we get in trouble.”

“You think I’ll blabber?”

“I just don’t want you to get in trouble.”

Millie-Marie shook her head. “I don’t ruined the boss man’s good eye. I already in a heap of trouble. Listening to you. Now you get yourself sorted, and you tell me how you got train tickets.”

A loud clatter echoed across the square. The vendors were closing up their stalls. Ida wasn’t ready to tell the whole truth even though she wanted Millie-Marie’s trust. And images of Mr. Mortar’s eyes pushed into her thoughts. Lots of adults who managed to live as long as he had possessed damaged senses—failed hearing, partial blindness, numbness in the limbs. Only the very rich avoided such plagues, and even they had trouble. “I stole the tickets, of course. I’ll tell you the details when we’re on the train. But we’ve got to get going or we’ll miss it.”

A hint of suspicion clouded Millie-Marie’s face, but she nodded. “That story’ll do, I guess. I’m already in deep here. Can’t never go within a horse ride of Mr. Mortar. He’d have me strung for sure.”

They both shuddered. Ida picked up her own bag and slung it over her shoulder. Her hand trembled slightly. “All right, Millie-Marie. Let’s go catch that train.”

Millie-Marie laughed. “I’m not sure I believe this train exists. I never have seen it, you know. I heard a couple grown ups tell about it, but I never laid eyes on it. What we gonna do if it’s a fairy tale?”

Ida shrugged and headed down the nearby alley. “Walk,” she replied. “Catch a unicorn.”


Thanks for reading!

Story-a-Day May! Day 10.

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I wrote yesterday but was too tired to think. And while I’ll willingly share rough drafts in much of their rough and tumble glory, sometimes I have to say no.

I’ve written a little this evening. I was exhausted after work today, and maybe I can get enough sleep tonight if I walk away from the computer at a decent hour.

But here’s what I managed to write today. I took some of the scene I tried to write yesterday and redid it. It’s still rough, VERY ROUGH! But thanks for reading anyway.

The clock tower no longer told time. City officials said the gears came to a halt after the Workers Rebellion twenty years back. The trains failed to run, leaving the needed parts undelivered. The Clock Master joined the rebellion and no one else could see to the needs of massive machine. No one seemed interested in fixing it, and Ida thought of it as nothing more than a landmark about as significant as the non-working petrol station at the end of her street.

Ida leaned against the tower wall, near the plaque declaring it a monument to those who stood for tradition and against the rebellion. People didn’t read the plaque. Not even Ida read it as she stood there idly waiting for Millie-Marie.

A few city officials argued the city clock stopped turning when the governor refused to pay the engineers and staff who kept the clock tower and most other municipal offices in working order. The clock tower could work again if the governor released the funds and apologized. Ida knew nothing about this. She’d have needed a bit of time to remember who the governor even was.
Citizens believed other stories. Ida’s mother had repeated a rumor she claimed not to believe but that she couldn’t stop talking about. The clock tower ceased telling time when the governor, or his henchmen perhaps, threw the Clock Master into the gears. The Clock Master, Ida’s mother assured the children, hadn’t joined the Rebellion. He’d lead the damn thing until crushed at two minutes to twelve.

Ida’s classmates had sometimes dared each other to sneak into the tower and crawl into the works. “You’ll see the Clock Master’s bones jammed in the teeth,” said one boy Ida never particularly liked.

“I heard they used the blood of unwanted children to grease the gears,” she’d replied. She’d never heard such a thing, but she couldn’t resist adding bloodshed to a story. Her embellishments had made her mother laugh.

“That why you missing so many brothers and sisters?” the boy asked.

She pushed him. “Am not.”

“Uh-uh. Your mom’s had so many kids, she’s been selling them for body parts.”

She’d kicked him in the shins. “Go to the tower and bring back a bone if you’re so clever.”

Now, Ida leaned against the tower and its shadow fell over the marketplace. Few people ever looked up at the tower’s worn face. Ida didn’t believe any of the stories. She believed what her father had told her. One day the great clock quit. The gears came to a stop and the Clock Master vanished. Perhaps he never existed. Once in a while someone wondered out loud about fixing the old thing, but the town needed more fresh food brought in and more armaments at the wall. Who argued for wasting resources on a timepiece? Who even cared about time?

I haven’t even figured out what genre this story is going to be. Hmm…

Story-A Day–What do you mean it’s only been a week?

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Wrote a little. I’ve got to get my characters on the road…and then what happens? No idea!

Tomorrow, vacation time is over. We’ll see how the writing goes… (And I’m saving the research for June.)

In the meantime, here’s a bit of what I wrote today. Thanks for reading!

Ida sometimes wore a hat with a veil if she went anywhere they didn’t know about her tears. She wore it know to avoid attention because no one paid much attention to veils anymore. So many wore them to hide scars and depression and honesty. Few people wanted to look anyone in the eye.

She found Millie-Marie cleaning out the stable. Her hair, which she usually kept down and flowing romantically for the mourners, was pulled into a tight ponytail. She’d already washed the makeup off her face and changed her floral dress and shoes with jeans and work boots. The horse would be brought back soon, and she’d take care of all its needs.

“Whatcha need?” Millie-Marie asked without looking up. “I gotta muck out this stable before there’s hell to pay.”

“You want my help?” Ida asked.

Millie-Marie snorted, not hesitating even a second with the metal pitchfork in her hand. “You and your bucket of tears ain’t no help with straw and manure.”

“You know I can’t stop the tears.”

“It a wonder you never dry out.” She shrugged and set the pitchfork against the wall. “But anyways, I can do this in my sleep.”

“Do you sleep?” Ida wondered about this. She’d heard Millie-Marie never slept. They’d all been born with something askew, and while for her it was endless tears, for Millie-Marie it was endless wakefulness.

“No. But I still got no time for your chatter. So off with you if you ain’t got something useful to say.”

Ida took a deep breath. “Let’s get out of here. Now. Tonight. Let’s save the world.”

Millie-Marie, who was about to pick up her broom, stopped. “What the blue devil are you talking about? You lost your soppy-headed mind?”

Ida grinned. “No, ma’am. I’m as clear headed as I’ve been. We’re going to die, and you know it.”

“Everybody gonna die,” Millie-Marie replied.

“You know what I mean. We’re not getting old. We’re getting sick. Like everyone else. And soon enough some other girl will be here mucking out this stall.”

“More power to her. I don’t ever want to shovel manure again.”

“Millie-Marie,” Ida said, taking a step inside, the toes of her shoes at the edge of the pile of dirty straw. “You want to stop because you’re dead?”

The stared at each other.

Ida held out her left hand. “I got the tremor. On the way to the graveyard it started.”

“Oh, Ida…”

“And I’m not hanging about this place waiting to take orders from Crick Mortar and waiting on my siblings. I’m going out into the world and you should too.”

The front gate creaked. The funeral procession, the hearse and the horse, were coming back. “I don’t got the tremor yet,” Millie-Marie replied quietly. “It might be years.”

“Might not.”

The procession came closer. “I’m running home to get a few things. If
you want to come with me, meet me at the clock tower in a hour.”

“What about money?”

“What about it?”

Millie-Marie sighed. “Ida Ravenstar, you get the craziest ideas.”

“The end of the world does that to a girl.”

See you next time.

Story-a-Day May! Day 5

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I skipped yesterday. Well, i didn’t time travel or anything. I just mean I didn’t write an actual story. I did write. I rewrote several scenes for my novel! And I’m glad I did. But I don’t know if it qualified for Story-a-Day.

In any event, I wrote something new today for my A Night in a Graveyard and Other Stories of Immortality. I don’t really know where these stories are going, but nothing usual there.

So, here’s a very, unedited draft of a beginning (for what it’s worth).

As the end of the world came closer, people gave up their rituals for the dead. A few hardy souls held to tradition, but they found themselves at funerals several times a day. Not everyone possessed enough tears or compassion.

But Ida Wayward Ravenstar had been crying and never stopped. So, the day she came of age, she put her tears to use. Someone had to earn and her parents were dead. Most everyone’s parents were dead by this time. Her older brother was nearly dead, his soul clinging to life in spite of his addictions and foolhardiness. “Don’t look for sense or fairness in who life blesses, my little love,” her mother used to say. “You’d have more like finding a puff squirrel that can make tea.”

Now the five Ravenstar children needed to count on themselves. Thomas Courage, 19, scavenged for trash and bits to sell down at the recycling yards. Or he did when he wasn’t sitting in the trash with needles in his arms. Clarence Mighty, 14, worked in the apple fields. On a good day he could bring the bruised apples home. Apples were the last fruits to grow, the News declared. And one day they’d be gone as well. But a bright red apple was worth it’s weight in gold, and a job in the orchard hard to get. The job made Clarence the lord of the house, not that he was much for lording over others. Mostly, he demanded someone else make his bed, a flimsy cot under the window. It was the one the chore he couldn’t abide.

Ida’s younger sister, Nellie Peacemaker, 12, managed to get a job even though the law said she was supposed to be in school. Everyone laughed at that. The government might as well have ordered them to fairyland for the likelihood of it. Nellie worked delivering messages. She was quick and exceptionally small, the gift of being premature and malnourished their mother said. “Be grateful.” Nellie could scramble under barbed wire and through gaps in fences. Security cameras recorded her image as a shadow and she barely made a sound on the gravel when she ran. She was also very good at keeping secrets, and everyone in the neighborhood trusted her. She never delivered a message to the wrong person and she never spoke out of turn.

The youngest of the five Ravenstar children, Frances Zeal, 8, didn’t have work. She was good at finding flowers in hidden places, cracks in sidewalks under shadows, in alleys behind garbage cans, and the rich ladies who managed to survive in the graceful, dilapidated houses would always buy these tiny blooms. The money from a real flower could feed the children for a week, but such gems were hard to find. Frances could always find them, but she could not make them grow.

Ida, 16 and a fountain of tears, found work at the Mortar and Crow Funeral Home, a sprawling metroplex of offices, viewing rooms, temples, prayer rooms, crematoriums, and financial services, boasted a full range of mourners for hire. A family could hire grandmothers in black, some who wailed and pulled their hair and some who prayed quietly at the grave. Whole families could be chosen to tell pre-written stories of the deceased, burnishing tales of generosity and bravery. There were young women who would throw themselves on the ground, dressed in flowing black dresses, proclaiming their undying love. Ida did none of that. She specialized in following the funeral procession, her long hair streaming, silk flowers woven in, and tears steadily streaming down her lovely young face. Aside from her ability to cry from sunrise to sunrise without effort, she could recite any prayer or poem for the dead.

Ida Wayward Ravenstar was a vision of heaven, speaking like an angel, and many a funeral goer fell in love with the sight of her.

“Mother would die if she knew what you were doing,” her brother Thomas said one day as they sat together on their sagging, ratty sofa.

“She’s dead already,” Ida replied. She ran a brush through her hair. “And she’d want us to eat. Francis might be able to go back to school if I keep working.”

“You work for murderers,” he said.

Ida stood to check her reflection in the tarnished mirror on the opposite wall. “They just bury the dead. Someone needs to.”

“They do everything they can to keep us dying,” he continued. “They stopped the building of the new hospital. They bought the drug companies and stopped development of new drugs. Death is where the money is and they make sure of it.”

“Rumor is all that is.” She wiped away the tears she couldn’t stop and placed her brush on the shelf. “You’re one to talk with those needles you keep jabbing yourself with.”

He looked down at his lap.

“You don’t want to give Mortar & Crow money? Then stop bringing about your own funeral.”

Thomas tugged at thread twisting out from the seam of his jeans. “Don’t give me a funeral, Sis. Leave me in a ditch like the rest of the poors.”

“We’ll do such thing! You’ll have a proper funeral and I’ll walk behind your coffin and say the best prayers. Of course I will.”

“We all know we can’t afford that.”

“It’s what we’ll do! And I’m done talking about it.” She flounced out of the room to the kitchen, where she’d scrounge something to eat. Clarence had brought home a loaf of stale bread and a few slices of cheese, and she hadn’t had her ration yet that day.

Thomas listened to his sister in the kitchen where she’d sit alone at the table crying those endless tears over bread. “You’ll find no body to bury, Sis,” he whispered. “That’s one promise I can keep.”


Thanks for reading!




What Do They Want?


An important question when writing a story is what do the characters want?

I know what the main character, Hannah Robinson, wants. But the others? I’m still thinking about that.

And who is the antagonist? An individual? The Asylum itself?

I can’t move forward until these answers are resolved in my own mind.