Blog Posts

Post 27

Admit it, we’ve all wondered what our pets were thinking at one time or another. They’ll never tell us, of course. But what if they could? Do they see us as all powerful beings? Or do they see us as incompetent fools? Perhaps it is a mix of both.

The following narrative is told from the viewpoint of a pet who probably falls in the humans-are-fools camp. I hope you enjoy his story. He worked very hard on it and has been demanding treats for his efforts.

Prompt: Heavy is the Crown (from the Tale Foundry writing group)

The Care and Keeping of Humans

Keeping one human alive is hard enough. But caring for two? It is exhausting. They are absolutely incapable of looking after themselves. I am not sure how they managed to elude the Shadow Creatures before I came along. But I am here now, and they are the safest they have ever been, though they do not know it.

The pair of them have a terrible habit of sleeping at the same time. I have tried to teach them the error of their ways. My lessons often result in an offering of food at the crude alter they created for me. Humans, as a whole, are incredibly dense. They do not yet understand that I am trying to educate them about the wiles of the Shadow Creatures. But I will not turn away their offering. I will instead use the sustenance to stay awake all night and protect them.

I sometimes wonder if they cannot see or hear the Shadow Creatures. I must often walk with one of my humans to ensure they do not stumble into the enemy’s grasp. My humans occasionally step on me as I clear their path. Such an offense frequently results in an embarrassing thing I believe they call “cuddling” or something equally ridiculous.

I often wish they knew how to better protect themselves from the Shadow Creatures. I am the descendant of a god. I should not have to put all this work into protecting anything. But these two humans make offerings to me in abundance. If I let the Shadow Creatures take them, who will be left to worship me? I shall continue to keep them safe in return for their adoration, even though it is exhausting.

The narrator taking a quick nap after finishing his story.

Post 26

There is something about the phrase “I shouldn’t be here” that invites a writer to pen something sad. We’ve all been somewhere we feel we shouldn’t be. Perhaps we took a wrong turn and got lost. Or maybe we are at an event where we feel out-classed by the other attendees. It could even be feeling like we don’t belong when we are supposed to be wherever it is we are.

This piece was one of the rare ones where the story just fell onto the page without much fuss. I sat down, typed for a few minutes, and the story was done before I knew it. I’m sure I had a plan when I started, but what ended up on the page did not stick to that plan, whatever it was. But I will take a story that doesn’t stick to the plan and is enjoyable to write over one that fights me every step of the way.

Prompt: I Shouldn’t Be Here (from the Tale Foundry writing group)

Darkness

Darkness. Everywhere was darkness. Sheila was certain her eyes were open. Even the hand she held shakily before her face was swallowed by the absolute blackness around her. She was dimly aware she was lying down. Her hands found crisp sheets tucked around her. A plastic tube draped across one of her arms. The incessant beeping that had filled her ears long before she had tried opening her eyes finally made sense.

She was in a hospital bed. That couldn’t be right. She shouldn’t be in a hospital. Only moments ago, she had been on her way to pick up her brother from the airport. Why wasn’t she in her truck? Why was is so damned dark?

Panic rose in Sheila’s chest. She clenched her fists by her sides, trying to fight it down. The persistent beeping quickened. Perhaps it was night. But there should still be light of some sort. Where were all the blinking lights on the machines? Those should show up in the dark at the very least.

Her brow furrowed in frustration and something tugged against her skin. There was something on her face, something that was covering her eyes. No wonder she couldn’t see anything. She must have covered her head with a blanket. Sheila raised a hand to pull the fabric away, but someone grabbed her wrist.

“Don’t… don’t touch your face.”

Her brother’s voice. But Mell was supposed to be waiting for her at the airport. He wasn’t supposed to be here. She wasn’t even supposed to be here.

Sheila tried to speak, but all that came from her mouth was a rasping croak. Mel sighed shakily and twined their fingers together.

“There was a tree, sis. They were cutting to close to the road and—” A sound came from him Sheila had never heard before. “And there was a fire…”

“Dark,” Sheila managed to whisper.

Mel squeezed her hand. “It’s not good, sis. Doc says it’s probably permanent.” He pressed his forehead against her knuckles. “This is my fault. If you weren’t coming to get me… You shouldn’t be here.”

Post 25

I won’t hide it; I love dragons. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’m obsessed with dragons, but a good portion of my personal library consists of books where dragons are important to the story. So when the prompt that brought about this post’s piece came around, it’s safe to say I was a little excited.

Okay, I was a lot excited. Come on, it’s dragons! Who wouldn’t be excited to write a short story about one? There are so many ways a person can write about a dragon. It can be a real dragon, or a figurative one (ex. “here be dragons” on a map – exploring the unknown). Dragons represent adventure and a lot of readers love adventure. I know I’m a huge fan.

Prompt: Here Be Dragons (from the Tale Foundry writing group)

Burn the Holdings

“Why have you called me, youngling?” the great Night Dragon, Gloama, asked as she materialized from the shadows of the trees. “Are the human kingdoms warring again? Have they finally killed each other off?”

Tessa, sitting beside the fire, raised her head from her knees. What Gloama saw on the woman’s face halted her approach.

“Who hurt you?” Gloama growled. “I will see them buried.”

“Tears are not always from a wound, Gloama,” Tessa said, wiping her cheeks with her sleeves.

Gloama encircled her friend and the little fire with her fur and feather bulk. She sniffed Tessa to be certain there were no wounds the woman was hiding from her. There was no tell-tale scent of blood or medicine, but she still smelled pain.

“You are hurt, though,” she said.

“It is nothing, dear friend. Just a broken heart.”

Gloama snorted angrily, sparks fluttering from her nostrils. “That is one of the worst wounds! Who has broken your heart? I will break their bones.”

“No, Gloama.” Tess patted the Night Dragon’s foreleg as it curled around her possessively. “I do not wish anyone hurt because of my silly heart. I called you for comfort. You always knew how to ease my pain when I was little.”

“You are still little,” Gloama said, pressing her snout to Tessa’s damp cheek.

They sat, watching the flames dwindle for a time before Tessa spoke again.

“You were right. The human kingdoms are full of misery, sorrow, and pain.”

“You are looking at them through the lens of heartbreak, youngling,” Gloama said. “Though it hurts me to admit it, there is some good to them. You just need time to heal before you can see it again.”

The great Night Dragon stood, stretching.

“Come home with me,” Gloama said. “You need time to mend your heart. That cannot be done here.”

“I do miss your cave,” said Tessa, finally smiling. With Gloama’s help, she clambered onto her friend’s back.

“But first, we shall burn the holdings of the one who wronged you to the ground.”

“Gloama, no!”

“Please? It will be fun.”

Post 24

The prompt for this story could have resulted in a number of pieces. And, when I began brainstorming what to write, several different options did present themselves. But this story is the one that beat out all the others.

In all honesty, I thought this piece was going to go in a different direction than it ultimately did. I sat down with the intent to write one storyline, and this one ended up on the page instead. Things don’t often go to plan when it comes to writing fiction. But we enjoy the end results anyway, as I hope you will with this piece.

Prompt: Anything for a Smile (from the Tale Foundry writing group).

Really Home

The glow of the alarm clock illuminated Sarah’s sleeping face. It was just enough light that Gus could see the tear tracks on her cheeks. She had told him on the phone she was watching “The Fox and Hound.” She always cried during that movie. But that had been hours ago. Now, here she was, one of his shirts wrapped around her, asleep in his spot, eyes still swollen from crying. The movie had been a cover.

Silly woman, he thought, smiling as he undressed for bed. She would never admit she had cried because she missed him. No, his Sarah was too strong for that. But he knew better. He knew his wife was a beautiful, emotional mess behind her walls.

Gus slipped under the sheets, trying not to jostle his wife too much. He wasn’t supposed to be home for another two days. But he couldn’t bear waking up one more morning without her smile to greet him. The phone calls and pictures weren’t enough. He needed the real thing; the smile that reached all the way to her eyes.

Sarah murmured and rolled over, bumping into his chest. He wrapped an arm around her, tugging her closer, and planted a soft kiss on her temple. Her brow furrowed and she took in a deep breath through her nose.

“Gus?” she whispered. “Are you really home?”

“I’m really home, sweetheart.”

“Good.” She snuggled closer and her breathing evened out as she went back to sleep.

Gus looked down at his wife’s face. Even though she wasn’t awake anymore, it was there; the smile he would do anything to keep seeing.

Post 23

We’ve all met someone who doesn’t know how to do something we think is easy. Sometimes, it’s hard for us to wrap our heads around. How could they not know how this works? Or how have they gone this long without having to use one of those before? Sometimes, what they don’t know to do is understandable, especially if technology is involved. There are things computers can do I still don’t know about. But that’s not going to stop me from getting frustrated when someone hits adulthood and doesn’t know how to cook their own macaroni and cheese.

The prompt that brought about this piece (once again from the Tale Foundry writing group) let me pour some of that frustration out. Yes, some of this is loosely based on personal experience. You can’t write emotion into a piece without it stemming from a little bit that you’ve felt yourself. But this piece is purely fiction. There is exaggeration involved.

Something I would like to address before I hand you the story: this piece contains the consumption of alcohol. I do not support turning to alcohol when you are upset. Everything in moderation and all that. But, in the spirit of “write what you know” I know what my own limits are. Therefore, I know what the main character’s limits are. Every character is their own person with their own flaws.

Now, on to the prompt: So THAT’S What It Does.

Three-Cider Kind of Night

Tanya held the cold bottle to her temple, trying to ease her headache. Henry set another bottle on the bar and slid it to her.

“Two-cider kind of day?” he asked.

Tanya nodded, groaning.

“Just don’t drink them too fast.”

“One’s for holding, one’s for drinking. Both are for my head.”

Henry nodded and wiped at imaginary stains on the countertop. He knew his friend. She rarely drank. When she did, she was upset. He had time to listen to her troubles.

“How does someone make it to their 30s without knowing how to fill a kitchen sink up with water?” Tanya burst out.

Henry blinked. He hadn’t been expecting that to be the underlying reason for the rage seeping from Tanya.

“Or how to get ice out of an ice tray? Or how to unclog a toilet? Or how Windex works?”

He decided to hazard a guess. “New room-mate?”

Tanya put her head down into the crook of her elbow, moaning. “Yes, and I’m stuck with her for a year. Stupid no-break lease.”

“Didn’t you vet her before she moved in?” Henry reached for a glass to polish.

“Stacy highly recommended her,” Tanya said without looking up. “I’m never listening to Stacy again.”

“When did she move in?”

“Last weekend.” Tanya picked her head up. “At first it was just tech stuff. You know, what does this remote do? How does this DVD player work? Those I can understand. But, when I asked her to do her own dishes, she complained that the water wouldn’t stay in the sink.”

“I take it the sink wasn’t leaking.”

Tanya drained half the bottle she wasn’t holding to her head. “She hadn’t even plugged it. When I showed her, you know what she said to me?”

Her friend waited patiently.

“’Oh, that’s how that works,’ she said,” Tanya all but wailed. Both bottles clinked down on the counter. “I can’t live with her for a year, Henry. I’ll strangle her the next time she says it.”

Henry set a third cider on the counter. “Sounds like it’s a three-cider night.”

Post 22

Surprise, surprise! This piece is the result of yet another Tale Foundry writing group prompt. But this one’s slightly different than the last few have been. In order to submit your piece to the writing group, the word count for your piece must fall between 250 and 350. Depending on how excited you are about the story you’re writing, keeping between those two numbers is hard to do. I usually end up about 20 to 30 words over on average. But this piece rolled in at 651 total words.

So I got out my imaginary red pen and started pruning. When I thought I was done, I took a look at the word count again. I wasn’t even close to being under the maximum word limit. So I snipped some more, looked for places where I could make one word do the job of three, and tried to ignore the sinking feeling that I just wasn’t going to be able to fit this one inside the word count.

After much imaginary red ink and a few tears, I brought it in at 349. But so much of the flavor was gone. It was like my story had gone for a simple haircut and came out bald. So while the Tale Foundry family got the heavily edited, unseasoned version, you get to read the full story. All 651 delicious words of it.

This is the third short story where the main character from my WIP (work in progress) takes center stage. I’m not sure if this scene will ever make it into a larger piece. It certainly doesn’t belong in the WIP. But it did help me get to know my main character a little better, and that’s worth something.

Prompt: Better the Devil You Know

Marsh Devil

The necklace hung heavy around my neck. I hated it. It was full of magic-stealing silver. But it was necessary if I wished to get close to the Nain. Silver took away more than just my magic, it took away what I was, including my Black Shuck scent. To the Nain, I would smell like any other human.

I took a sip from my glass and tried to remind myself to sit in a lady-like fashion. I hated dresses. And heels for that matter. I longed for the night to be over so I could toss the stupid necklace in a river somewhere and go for a run on four legs. But there was a Nain to hunt. A run would have to wait.

He had taken three humans in our territory already. The papers were calling him the “Marsh Devil”. It had been enough to interest Stone, alpha of the common werewolf pack; my pack. It was only a matter of time before the Nain snatched a human a pack member cared about. An enraged werewolf, even a common one, could do more damage in a night than one Nain could do in a week. Since I was the only one who had a way to hide my scent, the job of drawing him out had fallen to me.

Stone, pretending to be one of the hotel bar’s staff, brought me a fresh drink and a snack.

“You know I can’t be drinking too much alcohol right now,” I whispered to him as he bent to set the new glass on my table.

“A drink for the pretty lady,” he said, louder than he needed to. “On the house.”

The Nain was here.

“No one’s ever said I’m pretty before,” I said, pitching my voice slightly higher. A human with a lack of self-confidence was like a beacon to Nains. They were easier prey. Tell a human they are beautiful or handsome and they would fall all over themselves to hear it again. I smiled shyly down at my lap as Stone left. I knew some werewolves who were like that, too.

The Nain was watching me from the bar. Even though he was using glamour, he couldn’t hide his predatory nature. I didn’t need to be a preternatural creature to see it. His spine was stiff, like a hunting dog who’d just found a grouse. I swirled my drink and pretended I hadn’t noticed him staring.

“Excuse me,” he said, coming to stand by my low table. “You don’t happen to be waiting for anyone, do you?”

I giggled and blushed. “I wish. I’m alone, as per usual.”

Loneliness. Another bit of enticement for the Nain.

“Would you like to take a walk with me by the river? It’s a beautiful night.” He smiled and added bait of his own. “Almost as beautiful as you.”

“One little walk won’t hurt,” I reasoned. “Alright. Lead on.”

We followed the boardwalk along the river until we were far away from the lights of the hotel. The ground on the shore-side of the walkway turned to marsh. His favored killing ground.

“You humans,” he sighed. “Hunting you used to be fun. Now you’re all painfully ignorant. But killing you? That is something I can still enjoy.”

He stepped in front of me to block my path forward but forgot all about me when he saw the three giant, mud-covered wolves who’d been following us since we had reached the marsh.

“You think you’re the only predator out here?” I asked, closing my eyes and reaching for the necklace clasp at the back of my neck. Once undone, I tossed the horrid thing to the ground and took a deep breath as I became fully Black Shuck again. I opened my eyes and bathed him in the dull red glow of my gaze. “There are things here that are far worse than you.”

Post 21

This character in the following story might not be familiar to you right away. But, if you’ve been reading through most of these pieces of flash fiction I’ve got slapped on this site, then you’ve met the narrator for this one before. Hooray! Reoccurring characters!

But where did the prompt for this piece come from, you might be asking. Well, what do you know, it’s another Tale Foundry writing group prompt. What a big surprise. I regret nothing.

When I saw the writing group prompt for the week, I knew I had to write this scene. I had originally toyed with the idea of this event happening in the novel I’m writing with this character long before I joined Tale Foundry’s writing group. I thought it was going to play a much bigger part in the novel than it ultimately did. So, on my first round of edits, I cut it. But it’s been in my brain, rolling around, begging to be let out in some form.

Please enjoy the following result of a nagging idea and a well-timed prompt.

Prompt: You are Cordially Invited

The Veriticus Meeting

The invitation was still on my kitchen table when I returned from work. I’d hoped it would disappear and I could claim I never received it. Stuff got lost courtesy of the postal service every day. Unless the Wulver sent someone to ask me about it, no one would smell my lie if I said it never arrived. I scowled at the embossed card and picked it up. I couldn’t lie to the Wulver, even with an ocean between us.

I hated planes. Stuffed into a metal tube with cranky or terrified humans was not enjoyable. The last trip I’d made for a Veriticus Meeting, my seat had been too close to the bathrooms. Even though it was seven years ago, I wasn’t eager to re-live the experience of knowing which stewardess had admitted a passenger to the Mile-High Club. Though, I would have known no matter where I was seated.

I threw the card down. The timing couldn’t have been worse. There were still bodies to find, no thanks to Garret Cain. On top of that, a rogue werewolf had made his presence known in my pack’s territory. There was too much to do. Dropping everything for the better part of a month didn’t appeal to me or my wolf.

Perhaps I should pay Garret Cain a visit. The detective in charge of the case wasn’t making any headway getting the locations of the remaining bodies from him. The jail had a reputation for being haunted. If the demon dog of St. Joe County showed up in his cell, it might speed things up.

I rummaged in my fridge for leftovers. There hadn’t been time to eat at work between sniffing for bodies and worrying about the Veriticus Meeting. My pack mates could manage one trespassing werewolf for a few weeks. At least, I hoped they could. So, the only real issue was cracking Garret Cain.

My inner wolf settled as it accepted the plan I made while the microwave heated up my food. It looked like I would be attending the Veriticus Meeting after all.

Post 20

This was a fun one. The following piece is not a super believable one, but I had fun with it all the same. Why isn’t it believable? Oh, you’ll see.

The prompt for this piece of flash fiction came from the Tale Foundry writing group. Honestly, this was one of the rare times where I saw the prompt and immediately knew what I was going to write. Usually I’ll have a couple ideas bouncing around in my head before I settle on one. But with this one, my brain said “Nope, we’re doing this one.”

Now, my piece did get read on the Tale Foundry Twitch stream, which you can find for your viewing pleasure on the Tale Foundry Scrapyard Youtube channel. My short story rolls in at the 55:56 time stamp. But I would highly recommend listening to all the other great stories that are also featured in the vod. They are wonderful!

So, without further ado, the prompt for this piece is: Moth to a Flame.

Fourteenth Floor

Run. Hide. If she could beat him up all 14 flights of stairs, she could slip into one of the study-rooms and throw on the dark hoodie she kept stuffed in her bag. He would pass by, thinking she was someone else. Of course, he could always take the elevator. But there was only one of those while there were two stairwells. Dinah had learned the hard way how easily he could trap her if she took the elevator.

She took the steps two at a time. Any distance she could gain on him was better than nothing. She heard the door, now a few flights below, slam shut as someone else began the climb. Dinah resisted the urge to peek over the railing. Instead, she forced her legs faster.

“Sweetheart, wait up! I got something for you.” His voice echoed up the cement walls.

Panic threatened to take the air her lungs needed to make it up the last few flights. Dinah shoved it down, telling herself that he couldn’t run up stairs as fast as her. She had to believe that if she was going to make it through the top door.

He had gained on her by a flight before she pushed through the door of the fourteenth floor. Dinah wove through the small crowd of people in the twisting hallways till she found an empty study-room. Closing the door behind her, shutting out light from the hall, Dinah dug in her bag for her hoodie. Struggling to pull it on, she scrambled under the table.

Dinah stuffed the end of a hoodie sleeve into her mouth in an attempt to quiet her gasping. She could wait him out. He would think she went down the other stairs, or that she had taken the elevator and he would go back down. He would think he had lost her. She would be safe here.

The light blinked on as the door opened. A chair pulled out from the table and was replaced by a kneeling man.

“There you are, my little spark,” he said with a grin.

Post 19

Origin stories can be fun. We all want to know more about our favorite characters. The following story is, in a way, one of those. The main character is actually the heroine of a novel I’ve been working on for… a long time. Sometimes the best way to know your characters is to write backstory for them, even if you’re not going to use it in the bigger project.

I’d been wanting to write about her beginning for a while, but I wasn’t sure how to go about it. Then the Tale Foundry writing group (yes, again) came up with a prompt that opened up an opportunity for me to explore an origin option. Perhaps I’ll return to it one day and expand on it. But, until then, please enjoy this piece!

Prompt: What’s the Catch?

The Gift of the Morrigan

A twig snapped in the forest. The sound was close, but too far from the light of our fire for us to see what had caused it. Helgi struggled to stand, hauling himself up with the haft of his spear. If he kept his weight on his strong leg, a stranger wouldn’t know his other was lame.

“Who’s there?” he called into the dark.

Three cloaked forms stepped into our ring of light. I crouched behind Helgi, a hand tucked behind my back, reaching for the knife hidden under my tunic. If they meant us harm, our best hope was that they discounted me as a threat. I was weak, small, and female, but I was quick of hand and foot.

“Oh, you needn’t fear us,” one of the women said as they lowered their hoods. She looked down at me with a comforting smile. “Take your hand from your blade, child. We have come to offer you the help you seek.”

“How did you know we needed help?” Helgi asked, hands tightening around his spear.

“The smell of desperation, grief, and death is thick around you,” said the youngest of the three. She inhaled deeply. “The last is my favorite.”

“Hush, Babd. You will scare them away,” the third hissed.

I straightened and stood beside Helgi.

“We come to offer help,” the first stated again. “Seven years of peace and protection for what remains of your people.”

“The De Danann never offer anything without something given in return,” Helgi said. “We have nothing to give you.”

“But with the gifts we offer you, you can do much for us in the future.” Babd gave us a predatory smile. “Once seven years have passed, you will be able to protect them on your own.”

“I’ll do it,” I blurted out.

“Blaithe, no!” Helgi staggered as he turned toward me.

“The ability to protect my family, our clan, on our own? To finally be useful? Even if it costs my soul, their safety is worth it.”

“Not quite your soul,” the first of the Morrigan said. “But close enough.”

Post 18

The following story is a mash-up of inspiration from a song and Tale Foundry’s writing group prompt. Music plays a big part in my writing process. It can help get me in the right head-space to write certain scenes or it can help immerse me in the world I’m trying to create. Honestly, I’m very rarely able to scribble something down without music being involved. Sometimes I come across a song that begs for a story to be written on top of the story it’s already telling. When the Tale Foundry writing group picked this particular prompt to write for, I finally gave in to this song. It was so perfect; how could I not?

If you would like to listen to this story read aloud, you can find it on the Tale Foundry Scrapyard Youtube channel. I highly recommend you listen to all of the stories in the vod, because there’s so much talent showcased by some amazing authors. But, if you’re only going for this one, it shows up at the 43:12 timestamp.

Alright, enough putting it off.

Prompt: Come Sail Away
Song: “Loreley” by Blackmore’s Night (you can listen to it here).

Love of the Loreley

The wave-smoothed rocks, normally so colorful, no longer hold joy for me. I stumble across them on my way to the water, only stopping once my feet find the drop-off. Here the stones are slick. Once misstep and I could sink beneath the gentle waves. Just like you. But this is my shore, and these are my rocks. They know the touch of my feet and will not betray me.

The letter you sent found me too late. Or perhaps that was your intention. You did not want me to follow you across that dark deep until you had prepared a place for us. A home. Something that should be made together. You would return for me one day.

I waited on this shore, even though your abandonment made my heart ache. For months I waited before their messenger found me, intent on telling me my bruised patience was useless. You had come to your senses. You had taken a wife; a woman they sent for you. Your new home was complete.

They were so smug when they brought me news that you were returning. You and the woman who had taken my place by your side. I released the storm that had been growing inside my heart. The anguish, the sorrow. It spilled from me until I was empty.

You were lying on my shore in the morning, brought to me by the night’s tempest. Now you are safe. Safe beneath my smooth, colored rocks and the waves that brought you back to me. But still there is no joy here.