Special #December #Podcast Series! Blondie Shares #TwelveDays of #MiddleGrade #ReadingRecommendations: Wings of Fire: The Dragonet Prophecy by Tui T. Sutherland

Welcome back, my fellow creatives! I’ve always been thrilled to see how much my three little Bs love to read, but it makes my heart melt to hear my daughter Blondie say she wants to do a podcast with me to share her favorite books. When I said we could make a little “12 Days of Christmas” style series in December, Blondie whipped through her books and picked twelve for us to study. She even designed our banner with her favorite fantasy creature. x

So here we are! I’m blessed to have such amazing kindred spirits in my life, and I am so very blessed to have a daughter who loves storytelling as much as I do.

On the second day of Blondie’s Books, my daughter gave to me:

Wings of Fire: The Dragonet Prophecy by Tui T. Sutherland

What does a reader experience in those opening pages, and what lessons can a writer take away in studying but a few paragraphs? Let’s find out!

If you do not see the audio player above, you can access the podcast here.

Why did you pick this book, Blondie?

Well, at first I didn’t touch this series. When I did, I stopped at the second book. How wrong I was! As I look back, I can’t believe I did that! It has now become one of my favorites and I hope it can be yours too. You really should read this series!

Stay tuned for more storytellin’ and carol-singin’!

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!

Special #December #Podcast Series! Blondie Shares #TwelveDays of #MiddleGrade #ReadingRecommendations: How to Train Your Dragon by @CressidaCowell

Welcome back, my fellow creatives! I’ve always been thrilled to see how much my three little Bs love to read, but it makes my heart melt to hear my daughter Blondie say she wants to do a podcast with me to share her favorite books. When I said we could make a little “12 Days of Christmas” style series in December, Blondie whipped through her books and picked twelve for us to study. She even designed our banner with her favorite fantasy creature. x

So here we are! I’m blessed to have such amazing kindred spirits in my life, and I am so very blessed to have a daughter who loves storytelling as much as I do.

On the first day of Blondie’s Books, my daughter gave to me:

How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell

What does a reader experience in those opening pages, and what lessons can a writer take away in studying but a few paragraphs? Let’s find out!

If you do not see the audio player above, you can access the podcast here.

Why did you pick this book, Blondie?

I picked this book because I really enjoyed the series, (all 12 books) and I’ve always demanded that my mother should read it! So I thought it would be perfect for this podcast series. The only reason I read this book at first at all was because I LOVED the movies! Boy, was I surprised that the book was super different! Even if it is different from the movies, I strongly encourage you to read the rest of the book! (By strongly encourage I mean DEMAND) Cheers! -Blondie

Stay tuned for more storytellin’ and carol-singin’!

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!

#ProudMom #Writer Moment! Blondie Shares Her Latest #Dragon #Fiction.

Featured

FORWARD: Hello, guys! I know you’ve been waiting for The Four Realms 2, but I’m still working on it. In the meantime, I’ve come up with a new several part series that I think you might like. I called it: THE ELEMENTALS. I based this off of the Wings of Fire series by Tui T Sutherland. I’m hoping to actually publish it someday, but anyway, let us begin.

-Blondie the Dragonmaster

PROLOGUE

Long ago, before Earth even knew it was Earth, there were dragons. Tens of thousands of them, soaring through the sky. There was also magic. Sorcery and wizards still existed in that long forgotten age. Humans were hidden at the time, kept away on a misty island. But like I said, there were dragons. They were advanced, these dragons. They had wars, hated, loved, defended, studied, and used magic. The strongest magic-wielding dragons were called the Elementals. They were named Forest, Water, Air, Fire, and Cosmos. They protected the land from wars and harm as best as they could, and became the greatest dragons ever to live.

Then, out of the forests, there was rebellion. The foxes, lead by the vicious sliver fox Ashenfur, captured the kingdoms, one by one. Their dragon citizens were not killed, as you might expect, but they were captured and controlled by unknown fox magic. Almost all dragons were brainwashed to Ashenfur’s army and added to his multitudes. The Moon, Cloud, and Ocean Dragons went into hiding. The Elementals fought the best they could, but, with some freak sorcery, their essences, and magic, were trapped into five stones. These stones have been hidden long ago into temples and secluded areas so Ashenfur and his league don’t ever find them. Just before he died, Cosmos sent me a foretelling of dragons to come and save us all. I only hope this prophecy is true, or we will be forever in ruin.

Written by Swiftclaw, Moon Dragon that foresaw prophecy

Chapter 1

“Here they come with the babies.” “Oooh! I’m so excited!” “Keep it down, okay?” “Sorry, Blizzard.” Two dragons stood on the edge of their cliff, their home. Moon Dragons flew towards them, in their claws five little dragons. Blizzard the Snow Dragon huffed. “Eat us out of cave and cliff they will.” “Aw, come on, Blizzard!” Gila the Desert Dragon said. “You raised me just fine! I’m sure they’ll be just as easy.” “One of you was enough. But five…” he sighed. “I wish I was back in Queen Pine’s army. Tearing through foxes like no one’s watching.” He touched his scar on his side, then wincing. “If you were still in Queen Pine’s army, you would be brainwashed like everyone else. And you wouldn’t’ve found me.” Gila said. Blizzard grumbled. “Just promise you’ll help.” “I promise!” The Moon dragons landed, dropping five bundles on the rock floor. “These little runts are in the prophecy?” Blizzard said disapprovingly. “Blizzard!” Gila said. “They have the strongest magic in all the continent. We’ve sensed it.” One of the Moon Dragons said. “Keep them safe until they are fully grown.” “Yeah, I guess.” Blizzard said, squinting at the baby dragons. “Take care.” The Dragons took off into the sunset. “How did I come from a general in Queen Pine’s army to a mother?!” Blizzard sighed. “Come on, Blizzard! I’ve already set beds!” Gila shouted from the cave. Blizzard snuffed and picked up the bundles. “Someday these dragons will grow into basically second Elementals. The way I see it, our world is doomed.”

10 YEARS LATER

“Quit it Inferno!” “I quit when I want to!” “Please stop, you guys!” “SHUTTUP!” Blizzard roared. “Gila, I told you to take them hunting!” “Sorry, Blizzard, I forgot. I was finding a new cow fondue recipe with Boulder and Comettail.” said Gila. “Well, take them!” Blizzard snarled. “We do need cows for our fondue. C’mon Inferno and Rainbow. You look like you need a break.” “Thank goodness! I couldn’t find out the daily news from Mr. Willow if they kept fighting!” Rainbow, the multicolored Forest Dragon said. “WHO THE BLOODY HECK IS MR. WILLOW?” Blizzard said. “He’s the tree by the creek, of course!” Rainbow said. “The…tree?” Blizzard whispered. “Yeah! He makes the funniest jokes!” “I hate living with magic dragons. I hate it, I HATE IT!” “Now, now, Blizzard,” Hurricane the Ocean Dragon said, “If you didn’t live with us magic dragons, the prophecy wouldn’t’ve been fulfilled!” “Learn too much from that fluffhead Gila, you do, hybrid.” Blizzard sighed. “Why do you keep calling me hybrid?” “You have a weird sky blue color, unlike the Ocean Dragons, abnormally large wings, likewise, but you have gills, so you’re an Ocean Dragon.” Blizzard explained. “Furthermore a freak hybrid.” Hurricane looked down at the stone floor. “Hmmph.” she said. “It’s the truth, Hurricane. Can’t avoid it.” “Allright!” said Gila, rubbing his claws together. “Let’s hunt!” Commettail, the Moon Dragon with a unusual white tail tip, gulped. “What if a cow kicks me and I die?” he shivered. “Aw, shuddap, you lily-livered runt.” Blizzard said. “You’re ten times the size of a puny cow.” “But I read-” “Enough!” Blizzard exclaimed. “Gila, just take them BLOODY HUNTING.” Gila nodded and flew left into the forest, past the sparkling ocean in front. Five dragons followed suite, into the wilderness.

“Mr. Willow says there’s a cow patch up that way.” Rainbow said, pointing further west. “Who cares what bloody Mr. Willow says? He’s a tree!” Inferno, the Fire Dragon, spat. “Wait, Inferno,” Boulder, the Stone Dragon, said. “I see a herd of cows down there.” “Hmmph. For a mistake, you have a remarkable sense of direction.” Inferno said. “Hey! Gila!” “Now, now,” Gila said, “We can’t be quarreling amongst ourselves on a hunt. Hunts are all about teamwork.” “But that’s what Blizzard calls Boulder. A mistake.” “I don’t care what Blizzard thinks of Boulder.” “But Gila,” Boulder said as they landed in a meadow, “Why does Blizzard call me a mistake?” “Weeell…” Gila started, “There was supposed to be a Thunder Dragon here for the part of Air. Well, Thunder Dragons don’t give up their hatchlings that easy. The Moon Dragons accidentally found a Stone Dragon instead, and brought him here.” Gila explained. “That was you. Blizzard was going to quickly snap your neck, but I stopped him.” he sighed. “Can we stop telling Boulder’s sob story and catch us some cows?” Inferno said. Gila sighed and trotted to the clearing, Boulder following close behind.

“I caught a cow the size of a Thunder Dragon!” Hurricane said as they soared back. “Oh yeah?” Inferno sneered. “I caught a cow the size of this entire continent!” “That’s slightly impossible,” Comettail said, “No cows ever grow that big, and you wouldn’t’ve been able to-” “Whatever, Comettail. You’re no fun.” Inferno huffed. “Carry it.” Comettail whispered. “Here we are!” said Gila. “Hey, Blizzard! We have some cows!” No answer. “Blizzard?” Gila whispered. “He probably went back to join the army.” Hurricane joked. “He wouldn’t. Stop being silly in a VERY SERIOUS SITUATION.” The six dragons searched the entire cave, looking for the Snow Dragon.

“Claws up, you filthy reptiles.” “Ashenfur!” Gila hissed. “He found us.” “Indeed I have.” Ashenfur smiled in a charming, deadly manner. “Now claws up, and it won’t be a slow death.” “Never, you dirty-” Inferno started. “SHH.” Gila hissed, covering her snout. “What did I hear?” Ashenfur said, “Oh nothing. These must be the Elementals! What an honor!” he said in mock awe. “Oh, what a shame I have to kill these famous dragons.” He leapt toward them, snarling, all charm gone. Ashenfur collided with Gila, wrestling in a tangled ball. “Run! RUN!” Gila yelled though clenched teeth. “What are you waiting for? LET’S GET THE HECK OUT OF HERE!” Inferno said, taking off toward the forest. Rainbow, Boulder, and Comettail reluctantly followed her. Hurricane stayed behind, gazing at the fight. “I’ll catch up!” she said, and bolted towards Ashenfur. Snarling, the gray fox turned and saw Hurricane barreling towards him. They soon were locked in a fight heading towards the cliff. “HURRICANE! WHAT ARE YOU BLOODY DOING?” Gila yelled. Hurricane slashed at Ashenfur’s left eye, leaving a bloody gash. Ashenfur yelped with pain and sliced Hurricane’s side. She cried out and tumbled off the cliff into the ocean below. “NO!” Gila roared, charging at the silver vermin. Ashenfur tripped him and he was soo hanging off the cliff. He chuckled. Gila looked next to him on a stone pillar and there was Hurricane, alive and clutching her side. He gasped. “I guess the joke’s on you.” Ashenfur cackled. “I had hoped she would die, but I guess she could be the last thing you’ll see.” Ashenfur roared with laughter. “You, you, coward, you!” Gila growled. “Isn’t it perfect?” Ashenfur said, giggling, as he sank his fangs into Gila’s claws. Gila roared in agony as he plummeted downward, sinking into the depths.

“NOOOO!” Hurricane cried, and dove in after him.

TO BE CONTINUED

I hope you enjoyed it so far! I’ll be posting part 2 next month. If you have any questions or ideas please comment them! And stay tuned for my podcast with my mom!

Isn’t Blondie a wonder? Every time she asks to share her writing here, my heart skips a beat. It is going to be a beautiful December. x

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!

We’ve Been Magicked Away in this #Podcast: Jack Hughes and Thomas the Rhymer by @Paul_JHBooks

Welcome back, my fellow creatives! We’re back with more beautiful brews from fellow indie authors of the writing community.

Let’s finish the fall with another magical tale written by a lovely soul and support in this indie author community. It’s time to sip from Jack Hughes and Thomas the Rhymer by Paul Andruss.

What does a reader experience in those opening pages, and what lessons can a writer take away in studying but a few paragraphs? Let’s find out!

If you do not see the audio player above, you can access the podcast here.

I had a wonderful time interviewing Paul Andruss last year–click here to check that out! He also has a blog where he shares his thoughts on writing and reading, including a podcast where he speaks more about his book. Be sure to stop by and say hello!

Aaaaand December is right around the corner, so that means…

Yes yes yes! Blondie’s got a stack of books ready for us to taste over TWELVE podcasts. She’s also started a new story that she wants to share with you. Bust out that Proud Mom Happy Dance!

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!

Let’s Set Sail Upon Magical Seas in this #Podcast: Voyage of the Lanternfish by @Virgilante

Welcome back, my fellow creatives! We’re back with more beautiful brews from fellow indie authors of the writing community.

After a couple rounds of wartime fiction, it is time to partake of something more magical, more fantastical. Who’s up for a bit of monsters and mayhem? I am! So, let’s try Voyage of the Lanternfish by C.S. Boyack.

What does a reader experience in those opening pages, and what lessons can a writer take away in studying but a few paragraphs? Let’s find out!

If you do not see the audio player above, you can access the podcast here.

I had a wonderful time interviewing Craig Boyack a few days ago–click here to check that out!  Please be sure to visit his blog for fun writing insights, updates on his writing life, music playlists, and more.

The indie goodness is falling around us like the autumn leaves. Stay tuned! 

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!

#AuthorInterview: C.S. Boyack of @StoryEmpire Discusses #Character Voices and #Writing #SpeculativeFiction

Featured

Happy November, my fellow creatives! I hope you’ve found time to explore some fun music and story prompts during this year’s NaNoWriMo.

I’m always happy to cheer you on–especially this year, as I’m recovering from COVID. Thankfully our symptoms are mild and we are pacing ourselves carefully. Be thankful for every healthy moment!

In the meantime, I’m happy to have an author interview with someone I’ve followed for some time in the indie author sphere but have never had a chance to interview until now. My friends, please welcome Craig Boyack!

What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

This won’t have anything to do with the written word, but it was still powerful. All of my elders went through World War II in some fashion. They would quote statements made by the leaders of the day, and as a child, you knew they were important. Some of this carried through the Kennedy years, but then Nixon came along and everything changed.

Have you read anything that made you think differently about fiction?

Hopefully, everything. I love how new things evolve that capture our imaginations. Things like Steampunk or Cyberpunk come along and get us thinking a new direction. Urban fantasy is another take on this concept.

What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?

Wow! Tough question. I’d have to say none, to be honest. It isn’t like I can actually visit Jurassic Park or Diagon Alley for real. This has to do with the kind of stories I write.

My wife and I visited New Orleans a few years ago. Two of my novels had scenes there, but the visit was after the fact. We took a midnight Voodoo tour with a guide that was quite fun. Got to visit a couple of Voodoo shops along with Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop. Decent place to visit for someone who’s written pirates.

What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?

This has to be the hardest question here. I spent many years reading the “appreciated” novels. I worked my way through Jaws, Mountain Man, Clan of the Cave Bear, Jurassic Park, Harry Potter, etc. I didn’t read many that didn’t draw popular attention. I also read a lot of classics.

These days, I mostly read work by friends. All of them are under-appreciated. Such is the life of an indie author.

‘Tis the life of an indie author, indeed! I love that you and several other amazing writers have come together to create an inspiring and educational site for fellow creatives. Can you please tell the tale of the genesis of Story Empire and how this collaboration has benefited your writing life?

Story Empire is something I’m quite proud of. It all started when Mae Clair and I were talking about doing some mutual promotion for the Halloween season. She wanted to bring in some others to share the effort. We never did do that promo, but created the blog instead.

Our goal is to share things we’ve come across with other writers. We don’t charge, and people are allowed to disregard something that doesn’t fit their style. It’s a great place to discuss the topic of the day. We’ve been around long enough that it’s become a good resource for authors. I find myself pointing out the search tool in recent posts, because there is quite a bit that could help a struggling manuscript.

As a personal benefit, I get to hang out with some incredible authors and hope some of their talent rubs off on me. These people are genuine friends and we chat frequently about all kinds of things.

You have been publishing indie speculative fiction since 2014. In these past seven years observing the publishing industry, what would you say is the most unethical practice that needs to change?

I get disappointed by how many schemes are out there charging for promotion that doesn’t work. There doesn’t seem to be anything that charges less than the promotion might bring back, and most of them are losing propositions. We all want more readers, and are willing to spend a reasonable amount on promo. It seems there is no magic bullet to make that happen.

Would you say publishing your first book, Wild Concept, changed your process of writing? If so, how so?

I hope I’ve changed. I leave these older books online as artifacts of my journey. To be honest, they’re a little rough around the edges compared to what I produce currently. Still, Wild Concept, has an intriguing main character, and a decent theme about prejudice and controlling influences.

The process is much the same. Use my weekends to hack out as much as I can. Spend weeknights trying to repair the speed writing I did. Repeat the process.

I’ve taken up some changes, like storyboarding and working ahead, but the process is largely the same.

I love how your characters have also inspired you in unique ways beyond their stories. Lisa from Wild Concept, for instance, had her own voice on your website for quite a while, and she even interviewed characters from other novelist’s stories. She’s since retired, and that’s okay, but that series must have been fun for you both. What other collaboration and/or marketing strategies would you recommend to your fellow creatives?

Lisa Burton will always be with me. She still shows up on the blog when I have some spare time to dedicate. She still poses for posters to advertise my new books, and goes on the occasional blog tour.

Lisa Burton Radio was a ton of fun, and it moved books for indie authors. The best part is that it was free. Eventually, I started begging authors to participate to keep it going. I decided those authors had to have skin in the game, too. If they didn’t put some effort into my free promos, why should I. Those hours are best spent elsewhere.

I would encourage authors to try something different. Lisa’s posters are still quite popular, and they give someone an image for Pinterest. They look good on social media. Since there is a link to my work, it does nothing but help me.

As one who’s a big fan of writing music, I got a big kick out of the playlist you share in correlation with your Hat series. Firstly–do you struggle writing while people sing? I always get muddled with my words when someone else is singing words. 🙂 Secondly–do you prefer to build the music playlist before you begin drafting, or does the playlist grow as you write?

I’ve often considered taking the playlist down, and haven’t updated it for a while. I think it has three likes in two years. Music inspires me like nothing else. I like to reference it in my stories.

Having said that, I can’t write with it either. Even instrumental pieces steal my focus. These days, I have an extensive playlist on my phone. I listen to that during my commute, and it entices the Muse to ride along.

Speaking of the Hat series, you recently published the fourth book of the series earlier this year. What inspires your selection of supernatural villains for Lizzie and her transdimensional hat to face?

It comes from things I’ve enjoyed over the years, but I take effort to put a new spin on them. If I write about a popular movie-class monster, readers automatically know what I’m talking about. I’m not afraid to create my own, but those can be a lot harder to sell. When my vampires turn out to be rodeo cowboys, I think readers are pleasantly surprised.

You have a fair amount of novels as well as short story and microfiction collections. Can you share a bit of your process in working out whether a story requires a few hundred words or a few hundred thousand?

Process? What process? I believe a story should be as long as it needs to be. Obviously, I put some thought into it, but if I wind up with a short story instead of a novel, I’m not disappointed. I will say, The Hat Series consists of short novels on purpose. My reasons are two-fold.

First, I like to have something for everyone. If all a reader has time for is a bit of micro-fiction, I like to have something available. Short novels are a good market for me.

Second, because of the style of comedy, I’d rather leave readers wanting more than wear them out with it. That way they come back next year to see what the characters are up to. Lizzie and the hat bickering are funny, but there is a chance of having it go on too long.

Let’s face it–we all have that writing Kryptonite. Mine strikes me down in the form of a phone call from my sons’ principal. What’s yours, and how do you overcome it?

It’s hard to complain about it, but I need solo time to write. Someone else watching television, music in another room, even company will stop me cold. I find that I get what I need, and make room for all the other things. Sometimes we just have to put it aside and take life as it comes.

Speculative fiction can be a tough gig. You have to ground readers somehow, but you also want to push the limits of the suspension of their disbelief. How do you balance leaving readers to work things out with taking care of the reader and guiding them by the hand through your story-worlds?

That is tough, and you have to understand that every reader is different. I want to net as many happy customers as possible, but have to allow for a few to escape. Some tales require more work than others. Science Fiction, or Fantasy come to mind. Since The Hat Series is more Urban Fantasy, I don’t have to dedicate as much space to world building. We all understand parking garages, roundabouts, and food trucks.

What would you say are common traps many aspiring writers fall into, and how can they avoid them?

The biggest one I hear about is writer’s block. I took steps years ago to combat that. The Muse serves me well. I get more ideas than I know what to do with. If I find myself dwelling on one, I write it down. They start in the Notes app on my phone.

If they want to grow, I usually start a rudimentary storyboard. I add to this over time, and eventually, they start looking like finished outlines. I never find myself lacking for something to work on that way.

Thank you for inviting me over. I love that our community supports each other, and I try to return the favors.

Thank you so much for chatting with me this fall, Craig! I hope your writing adventures are as magical as the season ahead. Stay tuned to my podcast–I’ll be highlighting one of your books!

~STAY TUNED!~

Blondie promises to collaborate with me this December! What is she going to give us? I’m honestly not sure, but I’m really excited!

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!

Now the #Witches Chase Us in This #Podcast: Begone the Raggedy Witches by @Celine_Kiernan

Welcome back, my fellow creatives! October has come, and with it the joy of reading tales deliciously eerie on chilly autumn evenings.

So let us break for a wee spell from the lovely indie fiction to venture down paths dark and mysterious. I’ve got some fun frights recommended to me by other neato book reviewers as well as some spooky stories by authors I’ve not had a chance to taste before. Today, the witches chase us on in Begone the Raggedy Witches by Celine Kiernan.

What does a reader experience in those opening pages, and what lessons can a writer take away in studying but a few paragraphs? Let’s find out!

If you do not see the audio player above, you can access the podcast here.

I was honored to interview Celine back in 2018 about her art and writing. I hope you can take a gander at our chat–and at more of her books, too!

Stay tuned–one more sweet scare is on the way. x

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!

#WriterProblems: When the #Worldbuilding Slows the #Storytelling

I certainly hope so, Mr. Bradbury, Sir.

Hello, my fellow creatives! Wisconsin’s a stubborn one where changing seasons is concerned. One wakes to chilly frost and clouds of breath, but by afternoon one’s ready for shorts and squirt gun chases round the yard. It won’t be long, though, before Autumn paints our forests, and the smells of smoke and harvest fill the air, air perfumed by the Autumn People…

But let us speak of them a smidge more next time when we dare to listen to music of the monsters. For now, let us speak of a crafting quandary that I’m sure many of you have fallen into over the years: When is the worldbuilding too much?

I found myself deep in this muck when working on a short story for my university’s literary journal. I shared the first part of it last month when I discussed local urban legends (well, more like “rural” legends) like the Hodag and the Janesville Doll, but I’ll share it again here so we can focus on the craft angle.

BLUE HOUSE DARE

You stand outside Blue House with a chocolate bar in one hand and a pocketknife in the other. I’m behind the light pole, where the attic window’s light cannot reach. I try to tell you how important it is that The Doll shouldn’t see you first, how the attic light itself is how The Doll touches the world beyond Blue House, but you don’t care. You’re new here. You have something to prove here. I do not.

Cam and his gang go quiet from their hiding place under the Sunderson Porch. Everyone knows the Sundersons have the only house older than Blue House because of the fire back in 1887, so anyone brave enough to watch a Blue House Dare always hides somewhere on or near the Sunderson Porch. That half a dozen juniors can squeeze themselves under there is beyond me. All I know is I will not fit with them and that you should have said No.

You think we’re stupid for being afraid. I saw it in your face when our bus stopped for the stop sign outside Blue House this morning and everyone—everyone—went quiet except for you. Sure, you thought it was something you said at first, but then you noticed us all looking away from Blue House.

Don’t look, I whispered. Never look at Blue House from a bus. It looks for eyes.

So of course you looked with your bright green eyes.

Why? You didn’t even whisper. It’s just a shitty house with garbage in the windows. Is that—fuck, what is that?

Only after the bus turned onto School Street away from Blue House did anyone else say anything, let alone breathe.

There’s, like, this eyeless doll in a noose at the top window. The hell is up with that? You asked, and laughed. One of Cam’s gang was sitting in front of us—the shock of white hair above the ear marks all of them. His glare shut you up quick enough.

Stories move quickly through a small school in a small town. Maybe if you had moved in next door during summer, I could have prepared you better. But your family didn’t arrive until yesterday, and they sent you out this morning assuming small town equals safe town.

Idiots.

Let’s pause here.

380 words so far. My intention was to treat this story as flash fiction, which meant I was already nearing the halfway mark of my word limit. So far, I’ve got characters, setting, and conflict–yay! I had started in action, and the flashback gave me opportunity for a bit of context before returning to the action…but wait.

Part of me really wanted to see a history behind Blue House. The setting felt isolated, a single puzzle piece to an Any-where. Could this be an Any-where sort of town like the Janesville Doll, or did there need to be something more here, something dark and sticky beneath the surface?

Oooo, let’s try dark and sticky, I think. Let’s explore the history a bit. Perhaps…oh, perhaps this is a land quite unlike ours, perhaps something like a modern fantasy land with cars and things, but magic, too….rather like the story-world I fixed up in The Final Tampering of Madame Midsomer, a short story I enjoyed creating a couple years back. I’ve always loved the idea of a collection of stories set in a world. A chance to meander, as it were, and see how a single world creates so many unique experiences. This could be such a tale, one sharing the world with Midsomer! That would take some worldbuilding….

You walked into the cafeteria with long strides, pissed and arrogant. Maybe you figured everyone would look up to you, The One Who Wasn’t Afraid. But they weren’t. No one would look you in the eye when you approached the tables except for me and Cam. But I made sure to grab you and sit as far away from Cam as possible. Not that anyone else dared sit by us anyway. They’d all written you off for dead by then.

What are you doing here? Dumb question. I had to make more sense. Seriously, what is your family doing here? Failed there, too, but you humored me.

It’s so stupid. Dad was up there in Dragonlord Manufacturing until he pissed off the top boss, fuck all if I know how because he just tells me to shut up and pack up, we gotta go to Finis Gate. You slice up an apple and pull a chocolate bar out of your pocket, pairing a square with a slice to pop in your mouth. Mom makes videos about fixing houses so she just grabbed the crappiest place here to live in. ‘Cept for that shit Blue—

You laughed when I stabbed the table with a knife. Must be a normal thing to do at Capitalis schools. Don’t talk about that place or what’s in it.

But what IS in it? Y’all act like I burned cats alive.

IT is…Finis Gate’s penance. I had no choice. I had to rush the details while Cam made his way over. Five generations back, a witch birthed a son during a Hunter’s Moon. You know the saying about kids born under a Hunter’s Moon: they’re born for Death’s Hunt.

No laugh from you that time. Yeah.

Kid kept talking to the dead and scaring everyone. Town threatened the witch to leave Finis Gate or else, but she wouldn’t. Neighborhood kids taunted him from the sidewalk, like, showing him how they’d hurt him if he ever left his house. People just figured the witch would take her boy and leave to get away from the crap, but—

Cam nicked a bit of chocolate away from you. You didn’t like that, either. The witch-boy hung himself in the attic instead. He stuck that chocolate into one cheek of his mouth and folded his arms as he leaned against the windowsill by our table. Witch Wrath. It’s a bitch.

Some extra Bradbury, just because. 🙂

Notice how the first part (ending with “Idiots”) began in the present and then moved into a brief flashback. The new addition after “Idiots” adds plenty of worldbuilding, sure. It has a sense of the fantasy realm to it, what with “Dragonlord Manufacturing” and a town’s acceptance of a curse from a witch long dead (they think). It shares a sense of history for why the Blue House is feared and a source of its power. The scene also deepens the conflict between the new kid (“You”) and Cam, which can further justify following through on such a dangerous dare.

However…oh, however. This addition added another 400 words. On average, flash fiction can’t exceed 1000 words. I barely have enough space to finish the story, let alone flesh out this world. And there’s another major problem with this draft, too: pacing.

The story has spent far more time in flashback than in the present. The pacing of the story was set in those first couple of paragraphs in the here and now, but afterwards we spent hundreds of words not in the now, but in the past that’s already done and gone. And with only 100 words left to return to the present, the story itself will feel incredibly lopsided. Ergo, the pacing of the story is completely off-balance.

Time to try again. Let’s rewind ourselves back, back to the narrator calling the new kid’s parents Idiots.

Do we go back to the present then and there?

I’d like to, but we’ve not seen the new kid actually take the dare. We’ve not seen the wager, and the present action is due to that “Blue House Dare.”

So, we must venture into another flashback, but it must be brief.

The story of your laughter got Cam’s attention. Of course it did. Cam’s used to getting off on scaring littles with the legend of a witch’s blind son who was so ridiculed by the town that he hung himself in the attic. He’s used to getting kids so scared of that Blue House that at least one will piss himself on the next bus ride passed Blue House. He’s not used to an audience his age, let alone getting mocked in return.

Because you just had to laugh. You dipshits are scared of a doll and some lights?

Cam pointed to his own shock of white hair. We thought it was shit, too. Until we faced The Doll.

It bleaches your hair. Nice.

It fucking claws for your eyes, you douchebag.

And not whatever freak lives in the house?

No one lives in Blue House but the witch. Take the Dare and find out.

I pried you two apart, not that it did any good. Fuck off, Cam, not everyone’s gotta throw themselves at the witch to prove something.

But apparently I do, you said, so bloody sure of yourself.

Idiot.

191 words. I managed to get the witch in, though the Why and When have been removed. That bums me out, but when it comes to worldbuilding in a flash fiction structure, one just cannot say All The Things. One has to leave some things a mystery. And while this is a flashback, it is a quick-moving dialogue between Cam and the new kid. It sets the dare in motion. It shows the new kid’s cock-sure attitude, which also helps us know why the kid’s standing in front of Blue House. And the pacing no longer lags in history, but instead quickens in the snap-exchange between two teenagers.

And best of all, we now have a little over 400 words left to us to return to the present and get back into the action. That is a far, far better balance of past/present than before!

Let’s return to the now, shall we? And best be clear about the now-ness, too. A connecting detail will help.

You toss your candy wrapper to the ground and open the pocketknife. The click silences the crickets and whispers across the street. You look at the half-dead maple Cam told you about and the worn knot where his gang each took their first step on the climb upwards. He didn’t mention that the maple’s been half-dead since the 1887 fire, too, like so much of this forsaken town. The only living branches are those that touch Blue House, so those are the ones you climb.

I can’t watch you. I can’t.

Something is moving in Blue House.

Not in the attic. Not, at least, from what the dim, angular light shares on the sidewalk. The Doll’s shadow barely, just, sways, from the noose, like it always does.

No, Blue House itself, something moves in its walls away from the shuttered windows. Behind the dead vines and chipped paint there is—I hear it—an inhale.

Or it’s from me because your foot slipped, I don’t know.

But those shutters, it feels like they’re the eyes, not the eyelids, watching me, Cam and everyone. Like they’re glaring at the Sunderson Porch for having survived the punishing flames that destroyed everything else. I’m too damn close, but I cannot, will not, move, let alone shout at you to get the fuck down and live, dammit.

You slide yourself along the branch running parallel to the attic window. The pocketknife blade glints the cursed light.

I stare at you, beg you with my eyes to please come down don’t DON’T.

You wave like this is all some lark.

A damned lark.

The sound of your body scraping along the branch grates my ears. The attic light’s got your legs. You tap the windowsill with the tip of the pocketknife and grin at me.

The Doll’s shadow stops swaying.

I shake my head, shake it hard, shaking it like it’s going to come off my shoulders you have to GET OUT but if I talk, will the witch hear me? I don’t know I’ve never seen anyone TAP the windowsill let alone TOUCH THE GLASS. I even hear Cam crawl out of his space and hiss, Stop! STOP!

You laugh. Why? It’s open. You slip in.

The attic light flickers off.

Never have we seen the attic window dark. We cannot see The Doll. We cannot see you.

Cam and I stare and strain for something, anything.

Anything but silence.

The attic light flickers on.

The window is closed.

And The Doll looks upon us all with bright green eyes.

End of story. 997 words.

On the one hand, I feel good about it. If you have any input on making this tale more awesome, please let me know! I kept it under 1000 words. The story has a clear ending, complete with return to the new kid’s “bright green eyes.” (Pretty proud of that, to be honest.)

And yet I feel a smidge disappointed. Not a lot, but still. I had wanted this sleight of hand with the witch and the new kid. When I wrote that addition about Finis Gate, the Dragonlord Manufacturing and the witch’s son, I imagined the “Hunter’s Moon” saying to create some sort of connection between the doll and the new kid, one that could be turned upon Finis Gate in an epic final reckoning.

But epic reckonings are rather hard to put into 1000 words. (At least for me.)

I lamented to dear school friend and fellow indie author Anne Clare. Being the wise soul that she is, Anne had the solution. “Well why can’t you have it both ways? You did the flash fiction for your university. Now do the longer version for something else.”

See, this is why writers need friends. 🙂

OF COURSE! In order for the story to be flash fiction, the conflict and worldbuilding had to be as minimal as possible. Since the conflict of the dare is the driving force and not the world, the interactions of characters had more priority than the worldbuilding of the town. As a regular short story, though, I’ve got another 500-1000 words at my disposal to provide more worldbuilding and history while also re-tooling the motivations of the characters. How curious that one story-start could travel such very different paths! Have you ever found yourself at a crossroads of storytelling? I’d love to hear about it!

And so, my fellow creatives, I am looking forward to traveling through Finis Gate and learning more about this witch of Blue House. May your own journeys down story-roads lead you to unexpected detours…or, perhaps, past less traveled places you mark on your maps for later.

~STAY TUNED!~

It’s been a while since we talked about music! And I’ve some more chatting with indie authors to share, as well as that long-awaited discussion about humor writing. I’m not avoiding it, promise.

(Well maybe a little because I feel so very inexperienced in discussing it, but consarnit, one must rise to the challenge!)

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!

There Be a Cantankerous Granddad of a #Dragon on this #Podcast: Picky Eaters by @sjhigbee

Welcome back, my fellow creatives! We’ll continue tasting the wares of fellow indie authors I have gotten to know in this beautiful community through the years.

I’m sure many of us can relate to dealing with bratty children at some point in our lives. (Or, we are raising those little buggers and are surrounded by them EVERY DAY. But I digress.) Let’s take a sip from flavors both relatable and fantastical in the brew Picky Eaters by S.J. Higbee.

What does a reader experience in those opening pages, and what lessons can a writer take away in studying but a few paragraphs? Let’s find out!

If you do not see the audio player above, you can access the podcast here.

If you’re ever in the mood for fascinating book reviews in mystery, science fiction, and fantasy, do check out S.J. Higbee’s kickin’ blog!

Be on the look out for more sweet indie goodness in the autumn podcasts to come! 

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!

Not all #Fantasy #Adventures Begin with White Rabbits on this #Podcast: Following the Green Rabbit by @ChrissyH_07

Welcome back, my fellow creatives! We’ll continue tasting the wares of fellow indie authors I have gotten to know in this beautiful community through the years.

I’m thrilled to share a bit of fantastical flavor with you today! Let’s take a sip from Following the Green Rabbit by Chris Hall.  

What does a reader experience in those opening pages, and what lessons can a writer take away in studying but a few paragraphs? Let’s find out!

If you do not see the audio player above, you can access the podcast here.

If you’re ever in the mood for unique serial flash fiction and poetry, do check out Chris Hall’s delightful blog!

Be on the look out for more sweet indie goodness in the autumn podcasts to come! 

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!