Weekly Writing Challenge

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Third Times a Charm

The story is coming together in my mind. I know where it’s going to end, it’s just a matter of putting my butt in the chair and getting it there. 689 words this week. Pretty good for an hours work. Too bad we can’t do that all the time.

He persisted as was his nature, getting dressed for work, going through the motions of a regular life that was far from routine. Beyond his bedroom window the world continued to follow its own course, seemingly unaware of the drama that was his life. The sound of traffic on third avenue reached his room as he gazed into the mirror, adjusting his tie. He never could get the damned thing to work right.

The thought sparked a memory of Mona reaching around his neck to fix his tie, joking with him about his inability to do something so simple. Can’t even tie a knot, she’d say with a sparkle in her eye as his love for her swelled in his chest until it felt like he was about to explode. Her missed her so much he sometimes wished he would have never pulled the trigger. So what if she killed him, at least he wouldn’t have to live without her.

He pushed away the sorrow, refusing the acknowledge its existence, moving through the small apartment to the tiny living room with a kitchen in one corner. At the door he paused, slipping on a happy face to show the world before opening the door and stepping into the hallway. Out here, in the world, the memories were not as strong, and he found he was able to function. The door across the hall opened and Denise stepped out, pulling the door closed behind her.

She slipped her arm into Nicks. “Good morning stranger, what happened last night?”

“I’m sorry, got tied up in a meeting at work, then my boss wanted to have a couple of drinks.”

“I heard you stumbling in around two, did you get enough sleep?”

“You were still awake?”

“I wanted to make sure you were okay.”

Nick was touched by her concern, had it not been for Denise he might not have made it through those first few months. They’d become fast friends after he moved in across from her and that friendship was slowly evolving into something more intimate. They’d shared a few dinners, and he had slept over in her place twice, but they were far from taking the big step of moving in together. It was mostly a friends with benefits arrangement, but he sensed Denise wanted to take it to the next level.

It was a step he was far from prepared to take. For starters he had yet to tell her the truth about what happened between he and Mona. As far as she knew they were divorced, and nothing more.  He was worried about how she would respond if she knew he killed his first wife in self-defense and he wasn’t entirely sure how to broach the subject with her.

“I’m all right. You want to try for tonight?”

“I’m up for it if you are.”

“It’s a date then, I’ll pick up from Mario’s on my way home, you grab the wine. Some good food, some good wine, we’ll see where the night leads.”

“I know where I want it to go,” she said, tightening her grip on his arm. “The only question that remains, your place of mine?”

“I’m sorry, it’s just so cramped in my place, can’t we eat at your place.”

“Are you sure it’s because your apartment is so small?”

“What do you mean?”

“You’re not hiding anything from me are you?”

“What would I be hiding?”

“I don’t know, the fact you’re still married, maybe you have kids you don’t want me to know about. I don’t know that much about you aside from where you work, and what you do for a living. I don’t know where you grew up, if your parents are still alive, does your ex come around. I poured my life out before you and you’ve yet to tell me where you’re from originally.”

“I’m sorry, it’s just.” He hesitated. Denise was right, she deserved to know more about him and his past. But that past included the death of his first wife by his hand. It wasn’t a subject you simply dropped into polite dinner conversation.

So what do you think about the story so far? Keep in mind this is raw, unedited work.

This week in Horror 2/1/2021

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Family Solstice by Kate Maruyama

The Massey family loves their house. It’s been in the family for generations, and the land on which it sits has been with them even longer. In the summer everyone comes through to visit and the house is alive with family friends, barbecues and lobster boils. But come fall, the mood shifts as all of the kids start training for their turn in the basement.

Shea, the youngest Massey is training extra hard. She’s thirteen and that means this is her year to battle on Solstice. Her older siblings won’t tell her exactly what’s in the basement, you don’t know until you’re fighting it. She’s excited finally to be in the know.

She does know that whatever happens in the basement every December 21 makes it possible for the Masseys to spend the rest of the year enjoying their home and all that it brings. It is her family duty.

But something about this year is different. Mama’s extra quiet this fall, and the house is breathing early.

Beyond Rainbows by L.C. Mortimer

Tiffany Erickson is nobody special.

She’s just an ordinary person trying to live an ordinary life, but that’s nearly impossible when you live in a world ravaged by the undead. She roams through the free realms, hiding and living in the shadows of the impossible cities, until one day, everything changes.

A lost child.

An unimaginable note.

A plea for help.

Tiffany has a choice to make, but no matter what she chooses, she’s about to discover that she can no longer stay hidden in the shadows as the world rots away.

She has to fight, but it could cost her everything.

Outside by Artyom Dereschuk

The town has been evacuated.

Strange beasts roam the streets outside.

Our only choice is to wait for the rescue… But will it come?

Yuri – a young man from a backwater Russian town – wakes to find the doors to his crumbling apartment complex welded shut… from the inside.

Before anyone can make sense of it, something not from this world kills a postman stranded on the other side of the door. And when the town’s old evacuation sirens begin to blare, Yuri and everyone else in the building realize an impenetrable door could be the least of their worries. In fact, it could be the only thing standing between them and the otherworldly creatures roaming the now deserted streets outside…

Someone in the building knows what’s going on. Now, it’s up to Yuri to figure out who it is, what they know, how these events are linked to their town’s past, and how to lead everyone to safety – before the threats lurking outside find their way in.

Fridays 5 1/29/2021

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January 29, 2021

If you could ask any author, living or dead, one question, what would it be?

William F Nolan:

A: Bradbury said that he wanted to be buried on Mars in a Campbell soup can in the “Bradbury Abyss”. I’d ask Ray Bradbury if he found his way home to Mars.

Bio: William writes stories in the science fiction, fantasy and horror genres. He is best known for coauthoring the novel Logan’s Run, with George Clayton Johnson. He co-wrote the screenplay for the 1976 horror film Burnt Offerings which starred Karen Black and Bette Davis.

Scott Nicholson:

I’d like to ask Mark Twain what he thinks of the 21st Century. I am sure he’d have a grand time making sport of Facebook!

Bio: Scott haphazardly trades words for magic beans and uses “haphazardly” as often as possible while decrying the overuse of adverbs. He had 105 rejections before his first story sale and over 400 before he sold a novel. He hasn’t learned much from his mistakes but thinks he’ll probably improve with practice. If nothing else, he’s become a better liar.

Rick Hautala:

A: I’d ask Shakespeare not where he got his ideas, but how he developed them … or I’d ask Hawthorne why he seemed to be depressed all the time …

Bio: Rick arrived on the horror scene in 1980 with many of his early novels published by Zebra books. He wrote and published over 90 novels and short stories from the early 1980s on. In 2011 the Horror Writers Association awarded Rick and Joe R. Lansdale the Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement. Sadly, on March 21 of 2013 we lost Rick to a heart attack. For me personally he was a writer who was always willing to help those of us starting out, and though I never met him personally I counted him among my friends.

Craig Saunders:

A: Joe Hill…when’s the next book coming out!? haha – I love Joe Hill, since reading Heart Shaped Box.

Bio: Craig Saunders is the author of around fifty novels and novellas, including the Amazon bestseller ‘Vigil’. As ‘Craig R. Saunders’ he penned the seven-book fantasy saga of the world of Rythe, beginning in ‘The Outlaw King’ and culminating with ‘Beneath Rythe’.

Jo-Anne Russell:

A: I must say, this is one of the hardest questions I have ever had to answer. To choose only one is torture. However, it would be Ray Bradbury, and I would ask him;  “What is it like on the other side?”

Bio: Jo-Anne Russell is a horror writer, and publisher, living in Edmonton, AB, Canada. Her stories have appeared in anthologies by Brazen Snake Books, Static Movement, Wicked East Press, and Hidden Thoughts Press, just to name a few.
Her taste for the macabre has provided her imagination with a feast that fuels her writing and creativity. If you like horror, the bizarre, or you just don’t like to sleep at night, give her books and short stories a try.

Calling all authors of horror, sci-fi, and fantasy. If you’d like to participate in Fridays 5, follow this link.

Fridays 5



Weekly Writing Challenge

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I managed another 490 words in the hour I allotted myself. A couple of things emerged in my mind while writing. The first is the emotional aspect. Honestly I can’t wait to finish the first draft and get into the rewrites where I can layer in those emotions. Some came through but nowhere near as powerful as what they can be.

The second thing to emerge is a possible title. Third Times a Charm. You’ll see why when you read this segment. Has anybody else tried following along? If so leave a comment, I’d love to read what you’ve come up with.

Without further adieu I give you part two. Tell me what you think, but please keep in mind this is raw work with only minor editing.

Third Times a Charm contd.

He’d had many of them over the past six months, his nights filled with dreams of Mona coming at him with a butcher’s knife. Stalking him while he slept, a ghostly killer lurking in the shadows lying just beyond view. He knew it wasn’t possible for her to be there, but the knowledge never lessened the terror he felt in her presence.

There had actually been a time when they loved one another, when they were first married and the future was bright ahead of them. He remembered looking forward to a long happy life at her side. They hoped to have kids but after her second miscarriage they decided it would be best to put aside that dream. There would always be the option to adopt, and they had even gotten to the point of starting the paperwork.

But Mona was persistent, she wanted to try one last time before they threw in the towel. He was hesitant, not wanting her to go through all that again, but she persisted and in time he relented. Third time’s a charm she always said, and at first it seemed like she might actually make it this time. Each time before she lost the child in the first month. On her last try she made it to the second trimester before everything went south.

The day was permanently etched into his memory. She had a morning appointment with her doctor and he had his own appointment with a new client at work so he wasn’t able to go with her. Maybe if he had things might have turned out differently. But it still wouldn’t have changed what happened.

Nick didn’t know about it at first, but later, after everything happened, he found out she lost the baby in the doctor’s office. Like many expectant parents they read everything they could find about their growing child. By week sixteen their baby was able to blink, the heart and blood vessels were fully formed, and their fingers and toes had fingerprints. It was at that point it really began to sink in they might succeed, that it was true, that sometimes the third time was a charm. 

Mona even got to the point of considering baby names, she bought several baby naming books and pored through the pages every day in search of the perfect name for her miracle child. She was so excited and some of that excitement found its way to Nick who started looking forward to having a newborn in the house. They’d gone through so much disappointment already he was afraid to hope. Worried that by doing so fate would intervene. He even let his guard down and allowed himself to be dragged along by Mona’s happiness. 

Too bad it didn’t last.

The memories followed him as he started his day. A cold shower did little to alleviate the weariness that consumed him, and coffee couldn’t even begin to touch the fatigue.

End Segment!

This week in Horror 1/25/2021

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Creepy Nightmares by Bryce Nealham

A place can get cold, dark and lonely when terror comes to visit.

Creepy Nightmares presents a collection of strange, dark and mysterious short horror stories that are so chilling that they will no doubt keep you up at night.

This book of short creepy stories contains three terrifying tales of horror and suspense beyond your imagination.

Here is a horrifying peek into the shadows of pure fear…

A true story of a mother and her two daughters being terrorized by something unseen and evil that lurks in their new home. Creepy noises, objects moving around the place, tall dark figures appearing out of nowhere and discoveries in the basement that someone tried to hide.

Another true story of a family who just moved into a remote piece of farmland. They quickly discover that at night, large wolf-like creatures roam the fields on the hunt for something to eat.

A tale of a teenager who wanted to spend one last time in the cabin his father bought for the family before he died. However, on the last night the teenager would be terrorized by something stalking the property…trying to get in.

The Big Book of the Masters of Horror by Assorted authors

If you were looking for the Holy Bible of the horror anthologies, consider yourself lucky, because you just found it!
Cosmic horror, supernatural events, ghost stories, weird fiction, mystical fantasies, occult narratives, this book plunges you into dark domains and brings you face to face with surreal monstrosities.

This collection of the greatest mysterious dark tales gathers together more than 100 authors and more than 1000 short stories (!), which makes it truly unique in its kind.

Be aware that this book includes a big amount of stories that appear for the first time in digital print.

Night Terror by H.C. Townes

Blake, a small town firefighter, meets the woman of his dreams on the most tragic day of his life. He soon finds himself head over heels for this mysterious woman. However, he quickly learns true love isn’t all he thought it would be.

Weekly Writing Challenge

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January 20,2021

For Christmas last year my wife gave me a complete set of Rory story cubes and I was inspired to get back into trying to write short stories. I’ve always been a long form writer, able to create novel length works much easier that I can create short stories. Every so often I come up with a good one, but in most cases my shorts need a lot of work.

A couple of years ago I started a weekly writing challenge on my blog. The intent was to create a story whose title started with a letter from the alphabet. The rules were simple. Every week I’d allow myself one hour to write the selected story with the goal of writing at least 250 words. Whatever I accomplished in that hour I would share on my blog that Wednesday. Raw, unedited, and would continue doing so until the story was done.

I managed to finish all the way up to E before real real life forced me to shelve my plans. This year on January 1st, I retired. I still work three days a week but I now have time to jump back into my weekly challenge. This time instead of limiting myself to the alphabet, I’m going to use the Rory story cubes to create each story.

Monday I rolled the dice and came up with the following.

Character roll:  Planting. Burying. Running. Walking.

Opening: Carrying a box.  Turn.  Pushing a button, elevator possibly.

Middle: Two people agreeing, thumbs up, shaking hands. Something broken, something fragile. Throwing a ball, catching a ball, playing sports.

End: Jumping from one level to the next, jumping down. Headphones, listening to music, overhearing a conversation, eavesdropping. Knocking on a door, pounding on a wall, looking for something.

After some thought here are the first 380 words of the yet to be titled work.

Nick was asleep when the sound disturbed him, a crashing rumble that drove him awake and he sat up in bed looking around the cramped bedroom.  Her perfume filled the room provoking the last image he had of her. She came in low across the bed, staring at him with a murderous gaze, the tip of the butcher knife in her hand drawing a line in the sheets. She was going to kill him, he was sure of it, and he rolled away, off the side of the bed. He yanked the drawer of the nightstand open. She lashed out with a furious cry, the tip of the blade passing over his shoulder, igniting a burning line of pain as his hand closed around the butt of his pistol. He bought it to protect them from intruders, unaware it’s eventual use would be to defend him from his wife. The same women he’d sworn to honor and protect, to give his life to, was trying to kill him.

The memory faded into the dark recesses of his mind as he reached out for the nightstand and turned on the light. A soft yellow glow filled the room, casting the small dresser into deep shadows. It was then he realized someone was in the room with him, watching him from the deeper night gathered at the far edge of that small pool of light.

“Who’s there?”

He slid open the drawer of the nightstand and removed his revolver. The police had given it back to him after he was cleared of any wrongdoing in his wife’s death. In the shadows near the window, he saw what looked like a person standing with their arms crossed over their chest.

“Mona?” As soon as he said her name he knew it couldn’t be right. No way she could be there with him. She was dead and buried, her new residence at Parkview cemetery courtesy of the weapon he held in his hand.  

The lid of the toilet slammed down, and he jumped back as the shadow at the window faded into the night. He rubbed his eyes and swung his legs out of bed, noting that it was now a little past three am and it was going to be another sleepless night.

End segment!

So what do you think?

If you’d like to follow along and do the challenge yourself by all means you’re more than welcome, and I’d love to read what you’ve written. If you’d like to grab your own set of story cubes they’re available here.

New in Horror

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January 18, 2021

Masquerade: A Supernatural Thriller

The first in a series of Beth Harper books, Masquerade is a dark supernatural thriller set in a remote North Yorkshire village. Following a whirlwind re-location for a live-in job at the local inn, Beth quickly realises the whole village is thoroughly haunted, the people here fearful and cowed. As a spiritual medium, her attention is drawn to Scarsdale Hall nearby, the enormous stately home dominating what is undoubtedly a wild and beautiful landscape. Built of black stone with majestic turrets, it seems to drain the energy from the land. There is, she feels, something malevolent about it, as if time has stopped.
With the help of her spirit guides and the gift of astral travel, she will soon face the most daunting task of her life. Why is she being shown images of expressionless children gripping the bars of fairground wheels, forever going around and around? And why are the lines of women and children walking to Scarsdale Hall each day, silent and grim-faced? Barely a word is spoken here. There is no joy, no life…
Past and present are as entangled as a box of ribbons, her task being to unravel the darkly disturbing truth laid down centuries before. But are the embedded secrets too horrific for those involved to ever admit, even to themselves? As the enormity of the task unfolds and Beth is pitched against one of the most powerful families on earth, she considers this may be too much for her. Ultimately, however, this is her journey, too. And she will be pushed to the limit of her abilities. Besides, as her spirit guide, Billy, says, ‘They’re still doing it…’

The Ticking Ghost by Phil Miles

Somewhere in London, a device lies hidden. It contains a virus whose means of contagion is unique, astonishing… and devastating. For now, the virus is secure. But soon the device will activate, and its deadly payload will be unleashed.

The key to finding it lies on a remote Scottish island, in an empty house at the end of a pier. Drew Turner, a talented but volatile detective, has been tasked with discovering this vital clue. Accompanying him is Megan Mallory, a prickly MI5 operative. They must work out their differences and work together if they are to avert the imminent catastrophe.

But the house at the end of the pier is not as empty as it seems…

Three Cold Hours by Jonette Blake

POISON IN THE POND
Karen Malcolm believed her terrible ordeal was over. Instead, it plunged her into a supernatural nightmare where even the monsters are afraid of the dark.

THE UNHEARD
When Jenny Abercrombie finds out what really happened all those summers ago, she will have to choose between believing her sister’s side of the story, or believing the ghosts who want revenge.

STRANGE LEGACY
Elijah Brooks discovers something sinister is behind the disappearance of stagehands at his Wild West recreation show: a strange legacy that has been in his family for generations.

The Bayou by Arden Powell

Small-town Louisiana, 1935.

When Eugene was twelve, a girl from town disappeared. Everyone said the gators must have got her when she strayed too near the bayou. No foul play, just a terrible accident. But Eugene can’t shake the conviction that Mary Beth’s death had something to do with the man who used to haunt her—the man no one else could see.

Now, nearly two decades later, there are more dangerous things than gators in Chanlarivyè. People are disappearing again, and this time, no one can find the bodies. As the town’s unease grows, charismatic fugitive Johnny Walker arrives on the scene, shedding bullet casings and stolen bank notes in his wake.

He tangles himself up in Eugene’s life and awakens memories Eugene thought he had laid to rest years ago. Memories of the mysterious man who followed Eugene into his dreams, and memories of the bayou—and of the horrifying entity that lurks beneath the water’s surface, slowly seeping into the town like a stain.

Welcome

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Welcome to my new digs. With the start of the new year I took early retirement which will give me time to dedicate to providing new and interesting content. I’m still working on getting things organized so be careful where you step, don’t want you stirring up any of the ghosts that hang around. Check back often, I’ve got a whole slew of things I want to do here. I’m going to start talking about the books I’ve read and the movies I’ve watched. I’m revamping my short story challenge, and will be sharing potions of my work in progress.