Spooky Story Challenge 2018 Link-Up

Spooky Story Flash Fiction

It’s time for another annual Spooky Story challenge link-up!!

Just a quick reminder of the rules:

Rule the Most Important…. HAVE FUN!

Rule the Next Most Important…. as this is a “Spooky Story” Challenge and set in October, your story should be at least slightly spooky.

Rule of Slightly Less Importance…. this year’s challenge is FLASH FICTION style, so your story needs to be UNDER A THOUSAND WORDS LONG! I know, I know, wailing and gnashing of teeth from the epic-fantasy authors’ section… but that’s the way it is, guys. That’s why we call it a challenge!

Rule of Exceedingly Great Importance (I know, there’s no rhyme or reason to the order of these things, I think the Fate Kittens got ahold of my blog – a reference you’ll understand if you go read my short story “Destined for Greatness” in the Paws, Claws, and Magic Tales anthology coming out next week)… make sure you post the link to your story in the Linky-List so we can read your story, and then go peruse the other awesome stories, as well! (If you do not have a blog but want to participate, you are welcome to post the story as a comment (or several, depending on what the word-limit is on my comments, which I don’t know off the top of my head) on this post instead of using the linky-list!

Rule Worth Noting… you are more than welcome to post a story that you wrote previously, so long as you have not published it online anywhere before!

Additional Note… you are absolutely welcome to write more than one story and put it in the link-up!

“The child mentioned a check?”
“I did not!”

(Bonus points to whomever knows from where that quote originates)

NEW THIS YEAR! As I stated earlier, everyone who posts a story will receive a “Minstrel’s Tale” – a short, unpublished extra peek into the world of The Minstrel’s Song. You can pick one from the following choices:  “The Adoption of Kiernan Kane,” “the Fall of Haeronymous,” or the short appendix “Of Kiernan and Leila.” (And if you write more than one story… sure, you can pick more than one prize… because I’m nice like that)

~ jenelle

Word Poem

First of all, last week’s giveaway ended and I want to extend many congratulations to SARAH for winning a paperback copy of Because… Anonymous by Diana Sharples!

Now, on to today’s post…

One of the fun things about being a home-school mom is that sometimes I get to “tag along” on my children’s creative writing exercises. A few weeks ago, my oldest daughter had to write a word poem. The exercise called for her to pick a word, then follow a series of prompts about it to craft the poem. I thought it sounded like fun, so I tried my hand at it. (But instead of picking my own I used her word, because I loved it).

Felicitous Poem (1)

~ jenelle

Interview with Jenna

My InterFiction badge fades to dark and I find myself standing in an apple orchard. I make my way along the rows of trees, ducking my head to avoid low-hanging branches. The apples are not quite ripe, but from what I can see it looks like a good crop will be had this year. Up ahead, I spot Jenna, and approach.

Jenna stands before an apple tree that bends at an awkward angle.  The tree digs into the ground with firm roots.  Despite it’s bent status, it is a majestic tree.  She is trailing her hands along its trunk, and a wistful smile plays upon her lips.  She reaches her groping hands upward, fingering a jagged hole where a branch once perched.  She lowers her head sadly. 

I approach her and introduce myself, “Good afternoon.  My name’s Jenelle, and I’m with the InterFiction Gazette …”

Jenna turns slowly, blinking in confusion.  I take an involuntary step back as I notice the scars around Jenna’s eyes. “F-Forgive me.  I didn’t mean to–”

“You are from where?” Jenna frowns and grips the sturdy stick she carries.  “I didn’t mean to startle you.  I thought you were my sister.” She sighs ruefully.  “She doesn’t think I know that she follows me.”

I clear my throat.  “Um, I didn’t see anyone else around.”

Jenna laughs.  “Oh, she’s here.  Don’t you hear her picking apples? She always picks apples this time of year.” In the silence that follows, I hear muffled thumps that create a background rhythm to the music of the birds.  I strain my eyes, and in the distance, I see a young woman gathering fruit.

“But, the apples aren’t quite ripe,” I say, a bit surprised.

Jenna nods.  “Poppa loves green apple cider.  Mirabel gathers the apples, and Reinhardt helps her to press them.”

“Reinhardt?”

Jenna shifts her weight from one foot to the other.  “He’s a physician,” she says shortly.  She raises her right hand toward her face then abruptly lowers it.  “He’s kind and helps us.  I get angry at him sometimes, but that’s only because he can’t help me to–” She blinks rapidly and turns back to the tree.  “Where did you say you were from?”

“The Inter-Fiction Gazette.  We love interviewing new people.  Would you mind if I asked you a few questions?”

Jenna frowns.  “I suppose not, but I’m not very news worthy.” She laughs. “Now, the boy I met last year? He’s much more–” She abruptly stops talking and turns back to the hump-backed tree.  “Yes.  I will answer your questions,” she says.

“Wonderful!” I grin.  “Will you start out by telling me a little about yourself?”

Jenna nods.  “I live near this orchard, about a stone’s throw away. But, I used to live in town.  My father’s a merchant.  We owned many lovely things.” She bows her head.  “But, we had to leave our home after my mother’s death.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” I reply earnestly. “May I ask if she was ill? D-Do you mind explaining about your–” She pauses.

“You can say it if you want,” Jenna says a bit sharply.  “You want to know about my blindness.”

Jenelle clears her throat.  “I-I didn’t mean to offend–” 

“You didn’t,” Jenna says softly.  “I don’t appreciate people being afraid to mention it.  At least you didn’t cluck at me like the villagers do!” She laughs and turns back to her tree.  “Ill-bred hens,” she whispers through clenched teeth.  Softly, she says, “Our house caught fire, and my mother was killed.  I was burned very badly. It was a fire that I cau–” She abruptly turns back to face me. “What is your next question?”

I bite my lip, deciding whether or not to follow up on that particular thread, but then decide to try a different tack. “What are some of your goals and dreams?”

Jenna’s taut features relax.  “I always loved to read,” she murmurs. “I cannot do that now, but I would love to find a way to learn again. I’d love to somehow teach children how to read.  And, I’d love to travel somewhere mysterious, somewhere where I’m known for more than my loss of sight.  I’d like to meet the boy again, the one that Poppa claimed was a–” She sighs.  “I’d just like to be seen as an ordinary person.”

I nod, wincing a little.  “Are you certain you don’t mind answering these questions?”

Jenna raises her head and smiles.  “I don’t,” she says.  “It’s nice to talk to someone new.”

I chuckle at that.  “Will you tell me about your world? My readers are not from here and they would love to learn more about this place.”apple-693995_640

Jenna smiles broadly, the first self-assured smile of the meeting. “Floraine is a beautiful place,” she murmurs reflectively. “Especially in the spring.  Mother used to say that the fragrance of spring is the fragrance of love.  Tecoptra guides us and helps us. Poppa says that if it weren’t for Tecoptra, we’d be in worse shape than we are.  We have Flower Masters and Flower Mistresses here.  They care for plants and trees.  Sometimes, flora can be a bit unruly. It’s alive here, you know.” She smiles.  “Sometimes, I think this tree wants to speak to me,” she whispers conspiratorially.  “But only Flower Masters or Mistresses can understand their language.  There are Fauna Masters and Mistresses, too, but we don’t hear as much about them.  Flower Masters have magic to deal with plants, but it is the only magic they possess.  I have heard talk of enchanters and enchantresses, but they are very rare.  As for daily life, we tend to our land.  I help my sister Mirabel in the garden and with household chores around our cottage.” She laughs ruefully.  “I remember the first time I had to iron a dress.  I’d been used to servants doing that work.  I burned both my hands.” She bites her lip.  “Mirabel won’t let me near heat anymore.”

“Ouch. I’m a bit afraid of irons myself. I can’t imagine doing it if I couldn’t see what I was doing,” I exclaim. “What are some things you enjoy doing for fun?”

“Oh! I love climbing trees,” Jenna says.  “This used to be my favorite tree to climb, but the boy I met that day broke the branch.  He said he could make the tree let me go, and–” She sighs.  “I love sledding on winter days, and I love helping Mirabel make peppermint drops.” She reaches into the folds of the frock she wears and withdraws two pieces of candy.  She pops a piece into her mouth and proffers the second piece toward me.  “They’re my favorite sweet.  Would you like one?”

I take the candy, a bit hesitantly because sometimes fictional food just tastes downright weird, but as the burst of flavor hits my tongue, my skepticism falls away.  “It’s delicious!”

Jenna smiles.  “Do you have any more questions?”

I clear my throat.  “I have one, but you don’t have to answer it if you don’t want too.  If you could change anything about your life, what would it be and why?”

Jenna turns back to the tree and fingers its rough bark.  “I need to get back to the cottage,” she says.  “I need to help Mirabel start supper.” She turns around and trails the stick she carries along the ground.  She begins to walk, the stick brushing the ground in front of her to help her avoid obstacles.  “Thank you for talking with me.”

“I’m sorry if I offended you,” I say softly.  “I know that was a stupid question.  I would want to see again, too.”

Jenna whirls around, her scarred eyes wide with surprised anger. “That’s not what I want!” she says harshly.  “I would change the day of the fire.  I would fix it so that my mother would still be alive. I wouldn’t have killed her.  And, I would help the boy that the villagers wounded.  I would keep him safe, even if Poppa did say he was a beast.” She turns around and walks away from the tree.  After a moment, she turns back around.  “I’m sorry,” she says softly.  “Please come back here sometime.  It’s nice to talk to someone.” She smiles slightly.  “But next time, let’s talk about you.  I’d like that.” She raises her hand in a gesture of farewell and shuffles away.

I’m left with a sense of sadness — not pity! — this character has a strength I’m sure most of her friends and family cannot see, but there is a bittersweet tang to her story, kind of like the gentle aftertaste of the candy she shared with me, and I can sense that she has more trials to face before she gets her happily ever after. I hope she does get her happily ever after… I can’t wait to get back to my world and grab a copy of her story to find out!


If Jenna’s story intrigues you, you can read more about her in Blind Beauty and Other Tales of Redemption, a compilation of short stories by Meredith Leigh Burton. The book is available on Kindle and Paperback, and the Audiobook is coming soon!

Ms. Burton also has another Snow White retelling releasing next week — Oct. 25 — as part of the Magic Mirrors release. This novella, The Princess and the Invisible Apple Treecurrently available for pre-order for just 99 cents, is one I’ll be reviewing as part of the blog tour for the release, and I can already tell you that you DO NOT want to miss this one!

https://www.amazon.com/Princess-Invisible-Apple-Tree-ebook/dp/B07H2NY5JN/

About the Author

Meredith Leigh Burton is a voracious devourer of fairy tales. She is a motivational speaker, writer and teacher. She attended the Tennessee School for the Blind and Middle Tennessee State University. She received a degree in English and theater. Meredith hopes to convey through her stories that those with differences can contribute much to the world. She resides in Lynchburg, Tennessee.

Ms. Burton recently had an article about her story published in an online journal. In the article, she talks a little bit about the inspiration behind the apple orchard in this particular story, as well as her view and tips on writing descriptively. It is a great article and I highly recommend it!

~ jenelle

Interview with Anonymous

BA cover frontThe diner is like a blast from the past in the middle of an Atlanta suburb. Oldies play through a crackling sound system outside the place, where a few cars have pulled up to menu boards. I expect a roller skating waitress to appear any second. I walk up to the door and enter, glancing about. The interior is small, but there are a few booths. The music is much louder in here. Sitting in one of the booths, dressed in plain, dark clothes, is the young man I am here to interview. I take a minute to study him. Noah’s dark hair is a bit on the longish side, and something about the way he is sitting seems cautious, like he’s keeping an eye on everything going on around him. One of the waiters, another young man with… green hair? Hm. Interesting. He wears glasses and baggy clothes is attempting to hold a conversation with Noah in between bussing tables. The ease of their interaction, as Noah nods and grins at something the other boy just said, tells me that this is not an uncommon afternoon for them. However, teenage characters can be a bit high strung, so I decide to approach carefully.

Noah looks up as I wander over.

“You the reporter?” he asks.

I give him an easy smile. “Yep. Is the food here any good?”

“I’ve only had the coffee.” He shrugs and points two fingers at the Styrofoam cup in front of him. “It’s adequate.”

I don’t usually like coffee, but I’ve discovered that in the FictionVerse, “coffee” can taste like anything I want it to, so I order a cup and settle myself into the red and gray vinyl booth and flip open my notebook. “So, tell me a little bit about yourself, Noah. I believe you’re somewhat new to this area? How are you liking it?”

Noah turns his gaze toward something apparently more interesting on the floor beside our booth. A slight tremor in the table tells me his knees are bouncing. “It’s different,” he finally says. “Lots of traffic here. Bigger school.”

“You’re from a smaller place, then?”

His lips part in a silent chuckle. “You could say that. Is this going to be online or something? I mean, they told me you were a reporter. I thought it was for the school paper. But you’re…”

“An adult.” I smile at his awkwardness. “This will be a blog post. Why? Are you afraid someone might see it?”

More table jiggling as he tugs at his lower lip. Then he drops his hand to the table. “Tell you what. Call me Rhys instead. Rhys Le Guin. Yeah, I lived in a small town. Nothing at all like this place. Rural. Farms and stuff. And now… we’re here. Not exactly by choice. And that’s probably all I should say about that.”

Hiding out from someone or something? Easy to see that a change of subject is in order if I want to get anything more from this kid. I decide not to bother explaining that this article is going to be published in a different world and the odds of anyone he knows ever reading it are extremely non-existent. “I see. Well, Rhys, what are some of your hobbies and interests?”

Noah sits back in his seat and gives me half a smile. One dimple. Head cocked just slightly. This kid might be running from something, but he’s still got some moxie. And his smoky blue eyes tells me he’s probably a heartbreaker… when he’s not as nervous as a feral cat.

“Superheroes,” he says. “Comic books. I’m an artist. Or I want to be. Course, my father said that’s a waste of time. He was this big time jock when he was in school, and he still thinks he’s Mr. Stud. If anything I do isn’t fueled by testosterone and adrenalin, it’s a big disappointment to him.”

As he talks, he rakes a hand through his hair and I catch a glimpse of a freshly healed wound. Little pinkish marks on each side suggest the injury required stitches. I frown in concern. “Ouch, what happened there?”

Noah/Rhys quickly finger-combs his hair back over his forehead. “Skateboard accident,” he says too quickly.

A pang flits through me. I suspect he’s lying. But I’m not here to get to talk about his apparent dysfunctional family, although a part of me wishes I could help him. Someone should help him, anyway. Maybe I’ll have a chat with his author! I clear my throat and lean toward him. “The reason I wanted to talk to you is… I heard you were involved in some detective work at your new school. Cyber bullying and threatening notes in lockers. What can you tell me about that?”

His eyes widen. “Are you a cop?”

I wave my hands and shake my head emphatically. “No. I just interview interesting characters.”

He takes a swig of his coffee and winces. Reaches for the retro glass sugar dispenser. “Okay, so there’s this girl. Really gorgeous girl. She’s in one of my classes. I tried to talk to her at her locker, and she found this note. She blamed me for putting it there but I would never do that. Notes are for dweebs. Socially awkward or hopelessly smitten dudes. Thing is, though, it wasn’t a love note or anything. It was like this tortured haiku and kind of threatening. She got pretty upset about it. So I decided I’d try to find out who put it there. The whole thing kind of grew from that. I don’t have any proof—like, I’m not a cop with all the forensic tools at my disposal—but I have a feeling the notes are just the beginning.”

“How so?”

“Well, there was this girl who committed suicide before I came here, and we—me and Simon. That’s him over there with the green hair. Anyway, we think there’s a connection. We’re not so sure now that it was a suicide. A lot of things are looking pretty sketchy.”

I tap my pencil on my notebook. “That sounds serious. Don’t you think that’s a matter for the police?”diner-1237077_640

“They’re convinced it was a suicide. Don’t worry, I’m not going to do anything stupid. Whatever we figure out, we’ll tell the police.”

“Sounds like you might have what it takes to become a detective. Do you have any ideas on what you’ll do next?”

“Clear my name, obviously. And then go back to being incognito. You’re gonna say my name is Rhys, right?”

“Um, sure. Let me change the subject slightly, if you suddenly found a million dollars and were allowed to keep it… what would you do with it?”

He winces at me. “Slightly? Is this a trick question? Um, I’d definitely move out of the crappy trailer where my mom and I are living. And then… maybe get a car and go to art school somewhere, far away from North Carolina.”

“Art school, huh? I’d love to see some of your work sometime. Hey, last question: If you could ask your author to change just one thing about your life, what would it be and why?”

“Author? Hey, I write my own stories. Maybe I didn’t see all this happening to me, but I’ve seen what letting someone control you does to a person. So getting away and living my own life, not being controlled or controlling anyone else… yeah. That’s what I’d do with that million dollars you mentioned, for sure. But if I could change something right now? Like snap my fingers, and it’s done? I’d make my dad a better person, not a drunk hanging onto his glory days. And maybe I’d have a dog. And a relationship with a girl that lasts more than a few weeks. I think I’d like to be in love with someone. Like, really in love. And not with a girl who thinks I’m a stalker.”

The door to the diner opens with a blast of late summer heat. The boy who walks through it is well groomed and dressed, but smirky. He’s holding his cell phone up, almost like he’s pointing it toward us. Noah looks away from the newcomer, his lip raised above his gritted teeth.

“Problem?” I ask.

“Todd McCaffrey,” he mutters toward the window beside him. “AKA Mac the Hack. I should go. Sorry.” Noah—AKA Rhys—rises, leaving his coffee on the table, and strides toward the guy, Todd. He shifts aside at the last instant to go around him, then disappears into the sunlight outside the diner.

Yep, I was right about teens being high strung.

Todd stands there, still smirking, still with his phone elevated toward me, and I have the distinct feeling that Noah and I had our picture taken.


Well, that was fun! I am intrigued by this character and would love to learn more about him! How about you? Well, you’re in luck! Because the author is offering a giveaway of a paperback copy of Because… Anonymous to one lucky winner!

Unfortunately, due to the ghastly amounts of gold dragons charge for flying over large bodies of water these days, this prize can only be shipped within the United States. No international shipping available, we apologize for this inconvenience, but recommend you take your complaints to the great dragon overlord… just… make sure he’s in a good mood, first!

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Diana L. Sharples is an award-winning author and illustrator who lives in north Georgia with her husband and daughter. She is a graduate of the Atlanta College of Art (now Savannah School of Art and Design). Her first novel, Running Lean, won numerous pre-publication awards and was published in 2013 by a division of Harper Collins. The following year Diana was diagnosed with breast cancer, and her career was derailed for a while as she went through treatment. But she kept writing, and came back in 2018 with a total of five new novels, including the sequel to Running Lean, called Running Strong. Her “Because…” books are her first foray into indie publishing. The character, Noah Dickerson, was a secondary character, a bad-boy Romeo, from Running Lean, who refused to leave his author alone until she let him have his story. He now has three. And in 2019 there will be a fourth, in which Noah will finally have one of his wishes come true.

Follow Diana’s writing journey around the interwebs – and make sure you check out her awesome artwork, as well!

WEBSITE

FACEBOOK

TWITTER

~ jenelle

Know the Novel Blog Link-Up

My dear blogging friend, Christine, is starting up a new writing-related blog linkup!!! So of COURSE I had to participate! If I’m writing a blog post ABOUT my WIP, that counts as working on my WIP… right?

Like Beautiful Books, this will be a 3-part linkup series, one for each of these last three months of the year. Each one will feature ten questions you can answer on your own blog (or anywhere else on social media if you’d like!). The questions will be focusing on different parts of the novel/your writing.

1. What first sparked the idea for this novel?

The first idea for this story came way back in 2005, and it actually wasn’t my idea at all. Derek had this idea for a world and a set of characters and he set about creating an origin story for the world, as well as drawing a map. I was teaching full-time, and the dream of publishing my first series was still this somewhat nebulous thing. I had released my first book already (The Dragon’s Eye – which I retitled King’s Warrior and republished 7 years later), and wasn’t entirely certain I was ever going to write anything beyond that first series.

But Derek kept offering me this world he’d built. I kept resisting the idea, worried that if I wrote it differently than he’d pictured it, it would hurt his feelings, or that he would want to change things I’d written (I wasn’t super good at taking criticism or edits back then!) Finally, he assured me that he had no desire to write the story himself, and that I could change whatever I wanted.

Quite a few of the characters he created remain in the story – though their backstory has changed and morphed quite a bit from that original idea. The world map has stayed pretty much the same, as well. And Grayden has not changed, either!

2. Share a blurb!

I don’t have a blurb for the 4th book yet (which is the one I’m working on), but here’s the blurb for book 1: The Orb and the Airship:

The life of an airship pirate is harder than it looks… 

Especially when a member of your crew decides to stab you in the back. Marik just wanted a simple job. Sure, piracy may be a life of glory and riches, but it’s also a life of complications. So when he is hired to steal a lightly defended airship, it seems like a great opportunity to make some easy money.

Or, you know, a trap of some sort.

3. Where does the story take place? What are some of your favorite aspects about the setting?

The story takes place in the world of Turrim on the largest continent in the world. This continent consists of seven different countries. Each country is quite distinct from the others, the people groups and cultures in each country are distinct and unique from one another, as well.

On one side of the world is the Igyeum: three countries ruled by a tyrannical warlord. He rules by fear and strength, and is planning his conquest of the countries that are not already under his rule.

On the other side of the world is Telmondir: three countries which have formed an alliance and disbanded their monarchies in favor of a Council with leaders from each country working together to represent their people. While the countries are still separate, they share and trade with one another and they are building one military, because they fear the warlord and his army.

In the center of the world is the great forest… a country devoid of any population. Strange things have happened within the forest, and few who have ventured inside have ever come out again.

My favorite thing about this world is how varied it is. The settings are very different from those of Minstrel’s Song, and many different cultures from our own world have been researched and woven into the settings in this world and story to give it a richer, deeper feel. I’m very excited to introduce readers to this realm!

4. Tell us about your protagonist.

Marik is an airship pirate.

Do I need to say more?

Okay, I’ll give you a bit more, but I don’t want to spoil anything. Marik’s past is a bit murky to his crew, but they trust him implicitly. He’s always led them true and taken care of them, bringing them into the crew from their various pasts and sheltering them from their own ghosts, while never revealing his own. All they know is that he harbors a great bitterness towards the Igyeum, and that while his main goal is to provide the essentials for himself and his crew through piracy, a secondary objective of vengeance is always simmering beneath the surface of everything Marik does.

(I have quite a few other protagonists, but we’ll just stick with Marik for now)

5. Who (or what) is the antagonist?

The main antagonist is the man who is the true power behind the Igyeum warlord. Though he has worked in the shadows and kept his true nature and powers secret, his time behind the veil is quickly drawing to a close.

(I have other antagonists, as well… but it’s hard to talk about them without spoilers)

6. What excites you the most about this novel?

Just writing it has been a blast. I think what excites me the most is just how vastly different it is from Minstrel’s Song. (Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Minstrel’s Song and always will!) But it’s always been one of my goals as an author to be like a Timothy Zahn or a Stephen R. Lawhead… an author capable of writing multiple, distinct series that aren’t linked together in any way, and Turrim Archive is just another step on that journey I’ve set for myself. I’m quite pleased it’s turning out so well. I hope readers enjoy it for its differences! (And I hope they notice and appreciate the little similarities, as well)!

7. Is this going to be a series? Standalone? Something else?

Turrim Archive is slated to be a 5-book series.

8. Are you plotting? Pantsing? Plansting?

I’m a pretty steadfast Plantser. This story is getting plotted quite a bit, but I always like to leave room for the characters to roam about freely and change direction on me if they need to. The unexpected is what makes the writing journey fun, and I would hate to ever lose that element of the process.

9. Name a few things that makes this story unique.

Airship pirates + automatons + wizards + high fantasy elements + genetic manipulation

10. Share a fun “extra” of the story (a song or full playlist, some aesthetics, a collage, a Pinterest board, a map you’ve made, a special theme you’re going to incorporate, ANYTHING you want to share!).

Here is the original map that started this entire endeavor!

Aelon Ere

The shape of the map has not changed since its initial creation, but I’ve filled in a lot of the details. The names on the map are NOT the names of the seven countries… they are names of the people who founded each of those countries. I can’t say more because: spoilers!

I also recently created my very first character-aesthetic board! (They’re all the rage, right now, so I figured I should try it out) – I present to you: MARIK!

Marik Aesthetic

I know I focused on Marik in this post… but two of my other extremely important characters are Grayden and Wynn. I thought I’d finish up by sharing a snippet of one of their conversations for you to enjoy….

1Line Wed - Found

~ jenelle