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 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.

Day 23 with a cat.

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Today’s Story-a-Day prompt is for a list. Julie shares her inspiration here. I decided not to overthink this. (I can’t overthink everything!) This list isn’t for my work-in-progress Astrophilia. It’s for another story all together.

Things to Remember for the Weekend

-three tickets (two roundtrip/one one way)
-reservations (make sure room has fridge)
-call dog sitter—confirm dates
-pack:
one or two (?) suits
stockings
dress shoes
hiking boots
jeans
urn or box of ziplocks
-Ask J— Will there be enough room in suitcase?
-valium
thank you notes?
-take a book to read?
-RECONSIDER. CALL DAVID!

Day 22!

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Today’s Story-a-Day prompt asked us to explore settings and to use all the senses. Well, I’ve given it a shot.

For Astrophilia

The governor canceled school to celebrate the cleanest air in a decade. The mechanics and engineers had discovered new parts for the massive air towers, and the result was a near blue sky.

Not everyone rushed outside. A few souls didn’t want to be reminded of what they’d lost and would be lost again. A few others eyed the gray-blue sky and suspected a plot to depopulate the district. It had happened before. But some, especially the children, set their air masks on their hooks and rushed into the streets and nearby fields.

Miracle June broke away from her friends to walk across the burned out plain. She didn’t how far she was allowed to go, but she’d go until someone called her back. The yellow grass came up to her knees. She’d dared more than most, going out in a skirt and indoor shoes, wanting to feel as much as she could. The blades swiped her knees, not quite sharp enough to draw blood but leaving thin shallow scratching her skin.

Several yards into the wide open space, she knelt and broke the yellow blades of grass in her hand. The smell of burnt toast drifted upward and she inhaled. The air hurt a little, unfiltered, hinting at cold and chlorine. But she was outside and breathing without a mask.

The torn blades of grass in her hand were already black and she wiped the remains on her skirt. The blackened grass left streaks on the brown, pleated wool, but she didn’t care about her school uniform today. Miracle June stretched out on the ground, the yellow grass breaking under her.

The hard grass jabbed her shoulder blades, back, and calves. She smelled the sick soil, her red hair looping and snagging on the yellow stalks. One strand of hair caught in her mouth. She tasted her cheap shampoo along with the almost taste of clean air. Breathing in as deeply as she could, her shoulder blades pressed harder into the ground. The thick clouds moved like oil slicks. What would it have been like to see a bird? Miracle June made herself imagined a bird like she’d seen in films soar across the sky.

Staring upward she then tried to imagine the stars. Who had been the last person to see stars in the night sky? She raised an arm as if reaching for something above. Her arm now perpendicular to her frame, she worked her fingers as if she could pinch a far off star.

The sirens began. Reluctantly, Miracle June sat up. Dirt and grass stuck in her hair. The smell of the grass would follow her for days. Looking back at where the street ended and the city buildings began, she understood why her mother didn’t want to take part in this day. Her mother remembered a handful of constellations that Miracle June could only day dream about.

Her classmates and everyone who’d ventured outside without their masks now trudged back to the shelter of their buildings. The wind shifted and picked up trash on the ground, tumbling paper scraps and old cans further into the city. A headache bloomed behind her eyes and she coughed. Even on these official mask-free afternoons, the body paid.

Her mother greeted her at the apartment door. “What did you do out there?” her mother asked, her anxiety revealed in her fingers tapping on the metal door frame.

Miracle June breathed in deeply again, in the apartment’s controlled environment. “I imagined birds in the sky,” she said. “And above them stars.”

“Oh good heavens, Mira. Why would you do that?”

“Don’t worry, mom. I don’t think I’ll do it again.”

Thanks for reading!