Are You Ready? Choose | February Writing Prompt

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Challenges Met:

-Writing Prompt: He pointed me toward the opening in the tree. “I’m sure you’ll be pleased. It’s surprisingly large on the inside.”

-YA Fantasy

-Mini Game: Gory read & Scene about individual vs society

He pointed me toward the opening in the tree. “I’m sure you’ll be pleased. It’s surprisingly large on the inside.”

I suppressed the shakes starting in my fingers and the backs of my knees. Our village leader wore his ceremonial cloak with the hood pulled down over his eyes. Only his mouth remained, and it hinted at a smile.

It didn’t matter how worried I was about this. I had to do it. This was my chance to enter society as a full member.

Or I could fail and leave. Even if I didn’t want to.

“You’ll be fine.”

The air around me pushed me toward the dark opening, and I took a few uneven steps. My hands gripped the rough bark around the entrance and my feet moved me past it. Closing my eyes insintcively, I embraced the blackness with my heart beating in my throat.

As I walked further, a light braced my closed lids, cracking them open.

The inside of the tree spread wide, shadowed around the edges so that I found no walls.

“Holly,” a soft voice wafted into the space, but it wasn’t the village leader.

“Y-Yes?”

“Are you ready, Holly?”

“I—I don’t know. Ready for what?” I turned in a small circle, searching for the voice.

“To choose.”

I sucked in a hard breath and let it out slowly. “No.”

Musical laughter filled the cavernous space.

“I don’t know what I’m choosing.” I knew it wasn’t as simple as wanting to stay or wanting to go, but I’d not been allowed to ask my friends after they went through the ceremony. Each full member was moved into their own space and their new lives, and I was left behind to wait and wonder.

“It’s different for everyone, Holly. As soon as you say that you are ready, your test will begin, and you will have to choose.”

This was not helpful.

“You will not be able to choose anything that is not true to who you are. Do not worry.”

I hated it when people told me not to worry. I always did. I couldn’t stop it, and them telling me not to only made the anxiety spike hard in my chest.

“Are you ready?”

No.

“Yes.”

The lights flared outward and revealed the walls all around me. Jagged sharp things lined them. Weapons. Every tool on those hooks were used as weapons. The dank smell of old blood choked my windpipes, and I coughed hard.

A small figure stepped out from the shadows, then another, and another.

They were the size of eight-year-olds, but they weren’t children. Each of them had a different complexion, features, and shape, but their eyes were all the same black orbs. The lack of whites in their eyes disturbed me enough to take a step back.

“I don’t understand.”

“We are a threat to your village. We will burn your homes down, kill your family and friends, and steal their souls. Could you end us if you had to? No matter what we look like?”

That tightness in my chest twisted and contrasined my lungs.

No. Not this.

“If you’re not willing to fight for your community, are you willing to fight for yourself?”

The voice seemed disembodied, even with the three children hovering out of reach. Their mouths didn’t move, but they watches as my hand fluttered to my chest to coax new air in and out.

“Choose.”

All three moved forward at once, and I backed away until my shoulders clattered into the weapons behind me. I took a long stick with pointy ends and held it like a bat. When they got too close, I swung it, missing them by feet.

I didn’t want to do this. I’d never hurt another creature, not even a bug! I couldn’t slay three strangers. Especially not children.

But they kept advancing.

My fear froze my muscles. I couldn’t even swing again as they neared.

“No. Please don’t make me do this.”

Finally, the children’s faces changed, cracking smiles with sharp, sharp teeth.

Still just out of reach, they paused before they sprang. I swung again. Missed again. And those teeth tore into arms and right leg.

Hot blood poured with the pain, and I screamed.

In motion, I tried to throw them off, pushing with my stick without wanting to slice or stab.

Their teeth sank deeper, their fingers turning into claws that opened my flesh.

I screamed.

Sharp pain pierced my gut, cutting my screams to a gurgle.

Help.

Help.” My voice quavered into nothing.

“Choose, Holly.”

How could I? The decision was already made.

I dropped to my knees into the puddle of my blood that was quickly cooling and congealing.

Breathing was hard, and I couldn’t swallow. Something slithered from my middle and plopped into the mess.

Lights flashed, and my vision dimmed.

Choose.

Watch the companion vlog where I play several rounds of my new mini game!

Pick ’em Clean. Pick ’em Dead | January Writing Prompt

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Challenges Met:

-Writing Prompt: Magic is forbidden by order of her father, the king, and punishable by death. How will she hide the fact that she can suddenly talk to animals?

-Scene about Revenge

Melanie’s hands shook so hard that she couldn’t open the door to her bedroom.

No. No, no, no, no, no, no.

This wasn’t happening.

She struggled with the doorknob again, putting her entire body into it. The door squeaked open, and she nearly fell into her room.

With her heartbeat pounding in her ear, Melanie couldn’t tell if she closed the door quietly or not, but she managed to open the window on her first try.

A rush of cool, morning air bathed her hot face.

This was not happening.

“My lady, what has you so flustered this beautiful morning?” The voice came from above her.

She shut down, nearly falling to her knees. “What do you want from me?”

“Me? Nothing. You seem to be in want of something, however.”

Melanie finally peered up into the tree’s limbs outside of her window. A blue robin tilted its head and blinked a black eye at her.

“How are you talking to me?”

“I’ve always been able to talk. You’ve never talked back before.”

Melanie fell into hysterical laughter, tumbling into hyperventilation.

How did this start? Animals were talking to her. And she understood them.

Shaking herself, Melanie stumbled to her feet and reeled toward the bathroom and the promise of a warm bath. No animals in there to talk to her while she wrangled back her sanity.

Hot water splashed into the bottom of the tub with full force. 

She knocked bath bombs and salts and oils inside, anything that would help soothe her. Stripping out of her day dress, the scents brewing in the room sent her through another dizzy fit.

Slipping into the tub numbed the magic that threatened to overtake her several times that day.

Everything settled, sending Melanie off into a light sleep.

When she woke, her peace lasted only so long.

The cold water seeped into her skin. Thankfully, the day had been warm, so she didn’t freeze. 

Dark skies greeted her by the open window, and the songs of the birds carried eerie words to her through the archway.

Pick ‘em clean. Pick ‘em dead. Pack their bones in for our beds.

Grab the grubs. Grab the worms. Isn’t it lovely when they squirm.

Melanie shook it off, closing the panes.

Even the gross imagery of the song couldn’t deter the low grumbling in her belly. Dinner was far over, so Melanie snuck down to the kitchen to eat the leftovers and scraps. The cold meats and roasted vegetables made for an easy meal, but the full slice of blueberry pie was a genuine treat. She couldn’t find any fresh cream. It in no way diminished the bliss the sweets caused.

A glossy cat jumped to the table across from her, and Melanie stiffened before taking another slow bite of pie.

“Give me a piece of that crust, girl. No berries.” A purr underlay her voice, and the feline blinked her round yellow eyes at Melanie.

“I have a mouse in my room. Find it, and kill it for me.” If the cat wanted a treat, she could earn it.

A few slow blinks turned her head. “Deal. Crust now.”

Melanie broke a chunk off and set it on the table for her.

After a couple of breaths, the cat took the crust in its fangs and hopped off to disappear out of the room.

“You’re welcome.” 

Peering around, she finished the last of her pie and abandoned her dishes in the sink.

Mice squeaked across the hall as she exited, squealing about cheese and crumbs and dust.

Melanie ignored them. If she simply let their chatter fall into the background, no one would be the wiser.

She could manage this. A full belly helped the stress. Made this mess seem more manageable.

Once she shut herself in her room again, sleep was the only other salve. Maybe when she woke up, this will all have been a nightmare.

But at the end of the bed, on the foot of the coverlet, sat a dead mouse. The one that had been surprising and making her squeal for days.

Perhaps, talking to animals could have its perks.

So long as it didn’t get her killed.

Check out my companion video:

All the Shit I Didn’t Do in 2021 | My Year in Review

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Check out my video companion for this blog. I get to rambling and drop a few f-bombs, but I was alone for too long at work, so there you go.

Here’s something I’ve learned during 2021: I need to stop trying to reinvent the wheel.

Seriously. Every year, I lay out my goals and think I’m going to smash them like I never have before.

Sometimes, I’m able to do that, but 2021 was all over the place for me.

The project I planned to have finished in January took me until July.

Editing has taken me far longer than I hoped.

Freelance editing took over for a while, too.

And fighting for my former business took my will to do anything creative for far too long.

I’m really excited for my 2022 reset, but before I can truly get there, we need to talk about how my goals went in 2021.

2021 was split up thusly:

Write: Project Graves 2, Loving Them Both, Wooing the Alpha, Ry & Eli, Brad & Shy, Anthemos, and four Lishky shorts. That totals at about 266,000 words.

Edit: Wooing the Alpha, Project Graves 2, Sister with the Stolen Pocket Watch, four Lishky shorts, and an Earth anthology.

Market via Bookbub, reviews and swaps, reading addiction, kickstarted, a/b ad testing, enchanted quill, and consistent content.

Build a cookbook, BP: Resurrection, a Broken World companion, followers, stores, courses, and freelancing clients.

Learn how to HTML, my camera settings, how to use insta stories, how to use a saw, how to build ads and promote sales, and how to use discord and tik tok.

Launch Wooing the Alpha, Project Graves 2, Lishky LLC, and editing videos.

And finally my fitness goals were to do one pull up, fifty push ups, ten-thousand steps a day, under 200, increase flexibility, increase hydration, and working out three days a week.

A lot of these are similar to 2020. Just to be honest with everyone. And I laugh at myself for thinking that I could get over 250,000 words in 2021 just because I did in 2020.

Circumstances change, y’all. That goal was so far beyond realistic, that I simply have to scratch my head at past me and move on.

My accomplishments in 2021 are as follows:

I wrote 87,043 words. This includes marketing and outlining along with my actual fiction words. Y’all, it’s not a lot, although I can see how it might be for some. I hit January strong before working at Starbucks drained the life out of my life. Waking up at 3:30 am took its toll on me. And that kind of job is a lot more physical than I remembered from my early twenties.

I survived it, but my writing dropped off drastically as I petered through months at that job.

However, Starbucks was not the cause of my least “productive” writing months. June, when I transitioned jobs, hit me hard with only 2,636 words total. September and October, however, were abysmally low at 843 and 457.

Now, to keep from being so grumpy about this fact, let me explain that I was focused on a very different part of the writing process. I was editing large chunks of my series, which I did finish in 2021. Well, the writing anyway. I’m still digging my way through the last half of book fourteen.

Editing take a lot of work, y’all. As does reading it aloud to my mom and husband. And not at the same time.

I also did a lot of other administrative stuff to prepare for Wooing the Alpha’s release for 2022. Book one is out, and I have almost everything set for the entire year where that’s concerned.

I also got to write and publish a handful of Lishky shorts and promote them via a free service. I watched my books sell in November and December, and I’ve never been prouder of the work I put in. My husband was right all along, I just had to get myself to do it.

I didn’t touch any of the other projects except for some loose outlining that I hope to make up for in 2022.

Thanks to tips from Starbucks and my new job, I finally have enough to buy a BookBub ad, which will happen in 2022. I did plan out some reviews for this year as well, booked some promos, and produced semi-consistent content. I’m still trying to manage that as a part of my every day, but it’s difficult sometimes. I did, however, find that some of the promos I’ve been using aren’t serving me, so I have to let the idea that they’re helping me go.

I was able to build two things off my list: followers and freelance clients. Although I work for a company in a freelance capacity. The editing work I get is enjoyable and relatively easy for me, so it’s been a nice extra income to get us out of some debts and worries. I hope it will get me the down payment for a house in 2022.

Last month, December, I edited over 250,000 words. 104,000 of them during Christmas week. It’s helped me realize that I can be an editing badass if I need to be.

Y’all. I didn’t learn a damn thing on my list this year. I learned other things, so it’s not a complete loss, but I didn’t make the progress I’d hoped in this section.

I launched my Lishky LLC, which is called Dirty Little Love, LLC, officially. I also launched her website and am doing well with her stories so far.

My fitness is still up and down. I work out three or four days one week and none the next, and it’s not a great cycle, but it’s better than being back at zero. I have to remember to take my small victories and run with them, even if it’s not that far.

Something I didn’t have on my list was one of the best things about 2021: I gained a new writing buddy, one of my old colleagues at the university we worked at. Hint: neither of us work there anymore. We meet once a week to talk and write, and it has been fantastic. I didn’t know how much I missed simply drafting with another writer and getting to talk shop. Most of all, her friendship has been amazing. I think we give each other confidence, and that’s the best.

What can I take away from all of this listing and planning and reviewing? These successes and failures? 

I need to slow down in 2022. A lot of writers are saying this, but I need to focus enjoying the craft and the work. I need to spend more time with my family. I need to recharge more (especially after I read 145 books last year, but that’s a whole new set of stats that I won’t dive into here). And most importantly, I need to stop trying to reinvent the wheel and simply decorate mine the way I like it.

How did you do in 2021? What are you plans and goals for 2022? Let me know in the comments below!

The Snake and the Cigarillo | September & October Writing Prompt

Challenges Met:

-Gothic Tropes (disease, superstition, dreams and nightmares, eroticism, darkness, isolation, madness, witchcraft/magic/occultism, the aristocracy, death/afterlife, church/corruption, frame narrative and confusion, loners/outsiders)

-Literary Tropes (eye color denotes personality, dysfunctional family saga, childhood memories with water, someone died, title is a metaphor, purple prose, kill of the mentor, alcoholism, old professor with young student, it was all a dream, dogs bark in the distance).

-Set in the Present

-Writing Prompt: A walk through the woods helps me relax and release tension. The fact that I’m dragging a body behind me should be irrelevant.

A walk through the woods helps me relax and release tension. The fact that I’m dragging a body behind me should be irrelevant.

Tiffany had been such a bore anyway. No one in the family will miss her much. Besides, she was only a third cousin, twice removed. Whatever that means.

Well, what it meant was that she thought she could fuck my brother and get herself written into the will.

Yeah right.

Dogs barked in the distance as I paused to draw on my unlit cigarillo. The amber taste hit my palate with notes of nutmeg and oak. I’d light it once I burned and buried dear, old Tiffany. Couldn’t have anything tying her death back to me now.

Might have to smash up her pretty red mouth, too.

Her body snagged on a root, and I gave her arm a good yank before it popped out of socket. It twisted her unhelpfully, so I grabbed her foot and tugged her on. The brush, branches, and slowly-crisping leaves crunched beneath poor Tiffany’s dead weight.

I suppose nature would have to take one for the team. It was a good cause after all.

Tiffany was a waste of air before she grew breasts. And she only got worse after. All of those low-cut shirts and skimpy swimsuits, long sweaters with no pants—and likely no panties. Summers were always hell with her, screeching and giggling and flouncing around.

I dropped her and puffed on my cigarillo.

Water pushed her to be a silly twit, and it was always my strength. Jumping off the tree swing into water, splash fights, races, and tanning on the shore. I was no pale beauty. I was the tan goddess, and summer was my time to shine.

All of my brother’s friends would follow me around and gawk. Some of them were easily led out to the corners of the lake behind the docks for a make-out session and a quick hand job. It didn’t stop when my brother caught us. Instead, he’d make eye contact as he watched, his own hand moving over himself under the water as his friend groped my breast and I moaned against their skin. He was there the first time one of them slipped their hand under my bottoms and sank their fingers into my pussy.

When Tiffany showed up, I became old news. 

I couldn’t put up with that forever.

Picking Tiffany’s foot again, we trudged for the last few hundred feet to a nice hidden spot with wide, flat rocks that wouldn’t burn.

Unfurling a plastic baggie with a piece of chalk, I drew a circle around the dark stone and marked a pentagram in the center: a great means of pushing suspicion away from me. I’m a good, Christian girl after all.

Tiffany rolled into the center, and she lit up nicely. Especially since I soaked her shirt in cheap vodka. After she started to burn, I tucked dry leaves and twigs around her to keep her going.

That cheap shampoo laced her burning hair with coconut.

Become more of a cliche, cousin.

I tossed the chalk and baggie in the blaze with her and finally lit my cigarillo, and a wave of relief came with it. Fine tobacco and leaves coated my mouth and tongue and lungs with satisfaction.

Get your hands on my family’s money now, Tiffany.

Check out my companion video:

The Black Cosmos | August Writing Prompt

Challenges met:

-Wolf

-Good versus Evil

-Gory Read

-Trope Play (Sci Fi)—nano tech, interspecies romance, mutants/body mod, dystopian, air leak

Jamie shot upright in bed as the station shuttered. That wasn’t good. Space didn’t have bumps unless it meant impending death. Although, sometimes, it meant immediate death.

His heart pounded hard, and his shaky limbs met the cold, metal floor. The carpet didn’t help as much as he wished. Not with his overly hot and sensitive skin.

Body aching to sprout fur and claws, Jamie pulled on his worn uniform pants and the jacket without the shirt. That was wet and soaking in his utility sink—blood thanks to the damn mutant that got loose in the bottom floors of the station.

Bing.

His door opened to Getty, one of the few female humans left on the crew. Those big blue eyes always swam with a jumble of emotion, unless she was ready to tear into him. She could be unbelievably clear when she was man enough to throw out threats. Now, fear and frustration and something else human mingled there.

“Section twelve-b and thirteen-f are leaking, and the mechanics and engineers are kicking chickens. I can’t get anyone down there to help me with the real problem in eight-h, so strap up and let’s get after it.” Getty let her gaze dip to his unzipped jacket and his burnt caramel skin before it bounced away. Her human colloquialisms were what paused him.

“I’ll be less than a minute.”

She nodded, and Jamie laced up his shoes and strapped on his gear, most of which were long-range weapons since he didn’t need anything for close proximity. Not with the claws he could unleash in a swipe.

Getty looked him over again.

“Ready.”

She stomped off, light and stormy, and the standard clean soap masked her sweet and earthy scent. Something distinctly Getty. He could find her in any room, regardless of how many other beings packed into the space.

People swarmed when they hit the lower floors.

“Are you going to fill me in?”

Her dark blonde hair flew through the artificial gravity as she pegged him with a look. “Does it look like I know what’s going on? All I know is that an alarm went off in eight-h, and that’s my sector. Do I need to tell you anything else?”

“I mean, it would be helpful.”

Her aggravated sigh made Jamie smile to himself.

They dropped another few floors via the stairs this time, and she bounced like a pixie, although he’d never say so. 

Getty tapped on the security pad to eight-h—her birthday—and pushed open the door with a whoosh.

Jamie grabbed her by the shoulder to stop her entrance.

“What the hell?”

“You came to get me, and you didn’t do that to follow you into danger.”

“I—”

“Let me go first.”

That stopped her, and her arms crossed over her stomach.

Jamie took the lead, stepping into the dark hallway, lined with doors. His moves were slow and steady, and he could feel Getty at his back. Her warmth was nice and new.

Knocking had him turn left at the end of the junction, and Jamie held a hand out to her, claws extending without his command. She paused, gave him some more space, but didn’t allow him to leave her behind. He liked that about her. 

Animal musk and perversion filled the air, and Jamie’s wolf genes sprouted hair along his back. Something had gotten out, and since Getty worked with clones, mutants, and body modifications. What she did with them all, other than create new tools for fighting the rebellion.

Jamie braced before the attack and met the solid body of a mutant. It was a mix of reptile and bear and human, making it sturdy, fast, and deadly. But they weren’t as smart as him. Didn’t have the training, only the instincts.

Fists and teeth and claws clashed. Pain erupted in Jamie’s shoulder and left side.

The beast fell in less than a minute.

Getty whimpered behind him. “Try not to kill them all.”

“Only if I have to.” Jamie’s growl vibrated in his voice before a snarl tore through him.

She pressed her hand over his ribs and frowned at him. “It’s just a med patch.”

The cool relief of localized pain killers distracted him from the buzz of the nanobots mending his injuries. He grumbled his thanks.

Another wave hit the station, and they had to be under attack.

“If it’s the rebels, we should redirect them.”

“And do you have a plan for that?” Getty folded her arms across her stomach again, and Jamie wanted her to touch him again instead. Even if it caused him pain.

“I do.”

#

With the mutants and other modified weapons redirected. Jamie escorted Getty back to her room, grip firm on her arm above the elbow as she stomped beside him.

“You are not very good at covert.”

“I do not want to be stuck in my room when I can be helpful.”

They turned the corner to her hallway, and he tapped her room open with a simple command before shoving her inside.

Her eyes widened with surprise when he followed and the door closed behind him. “And I don’t want to worry about you while I’m out there.”

“Like my room is any safer?” Getty poked him in the chest, and her sweet, earthy scent mingled with her sweat. That jumble of fear and anger and something else in her eyes again. 

“Yes. Being in a room you can lock down is safer than running off to meet the rebels.”

She huffed and poked him again. “You are so unbelievably modified male.”

Jame took her hand on the last poke and turned her into the wall. Her fear amplified, but the anger slipped away.

Getty’s mouth parted as she panted into the small space between them. She hadn’t made him, but she had studied and worked beside him for more than a year.

“You are mad that I want to protect you?”

Her face tipped up to challenge him, her nose brushing his with a spark of heat and ice. “Yes.”

Fucking maddening. Her mouth was so close that he could easy dip the inch to kiss her, and she seemed to be daring him to.

Jamie’s breath came hard, fighting back the wolf in him. He didn’t want his claws to come out.

The station rocked again, and she gasped, hands finding purchase on him.

He seized her mouth.

Her soft little moan made him press in tighter, and Getty kissed him back, fingers sinking into his hair like she might climb him.

Groaning, Jamie wished they had the time to make the most of this, to lift her in his arms and wrap her legs around his waist. To explore the desperate and hot need that went deeper than he’d let himself acknowledge before.

When he finally pulled away, her fingers twisted in his shirt. “You think I’m going to stay behind now, and you’re fooling yourself.”

His snarl only made her smile, her hands smoothing down the front of him. 

“Give me your laser, and let me watch your back. I promise to not go running off on my own.”

Jamie unhooked his two lasers in their holsters and attached them to her utility belt. The intimacy that pulsed between them with every small move and touch charged him with protective instincts.

Getty’s gaze glowed with determination. “Let’s go save our home.”

Her pat had him moving again, opening her door, and scanning the hall before he stepped out. She followed, and they made their way to the lower sectors, where most of the commotion seemed to take place. 

The dead lined the floor, and he hated every step over them, his claws out and nose tracking the scents home to their satellite and their people. Jamie jumped out as two engaged in close combat. An engineer in red and an invading rebel in black made his moves easy, extorting an opening the other man could not, and slicing his claws through the man’s middle. Red and white guts spilled from the black cloth.

The engineer jumped back, trembling before he saw Getty. Nodding, he disappeared into a corridor that bleeped and buzzed with error codes.

Let him take care of their station. Jamie had the enemy.

Each new corner seemed to hold a victim to his claws and teeth, speed and strength. He sprayed blood across the walls, and spilled innards across the floor. His pile of dead bodies began to match the ones he’d stumbled upon to begin with.

He was so sure he’d conquered them all, when he heard the soft, whimpering cry behind him. Getty’s eyes were round and clear, but blood dribbled from between her lips and down her chin until she collapsed.

A rebel wiped her blood clean on his black uniform. “You don’t have to fight for her anymore. She doesn’t have to control you or tinker with your parts anymore.”

Jamie roared at him with the rage of loss.

“Take your freedom, or take your death.” The rebel slogan.

“I will take your life for hers.”

The man blinked and shook his head, sad and resigned. “She had her claws deeper in you than I thought. Damn corruption at every level.”

“Getty was not corrupt.” She was the most innocent of them all. The sweetest. The human. And this man murdered her for the sake of some ideology that wouldn’t trickle down to the lower dregs like him any better than the ones in power now.

And he’d die for it. Jamie would see to that.

The fight wasn’t a fair one. Not for the man. Not this close up. Jamie’s claws pierced his flesh as easily as the man’s weapon opened Jamie up.

Once the man’s arms stopped swinging, the rise of his chest sputtering and failing, Jamie tore him open to scatter his insides around in a fury. Until his own breath labored and the pain hit in full.

Crawling to Getty, he stroked her pale cheek, spreading gore across her perfect face, and he curled around her as the black cosmos swooped in to claim him for a final time.

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Save the Monster Under the Bed | July Writing Prompt

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Challenges met:

Prompt: “Every child has a monster that lives under their bed. Society’s coming-of-age ceremony is to kill that monster. The time has come for you to be an adult.”

Toolbox: Allegory

Fan Fiction: Ezra from The Year of the Witching

I wrung my hands, spreading sweat and fear across my palms. Fifteen was old for the ceremony, but I’d put it off for so long. My excuses were growing thin, but I did not want to do this.

It had nothing to do with becoming an adult. That was long overdue. Yeah, I get the irony.

But the ceremony was to kill the monster under my bed. I couldn’t do it.

I knew my monster─Ezra─and I liked him. A lot.

Tomorrow, I had to venture under my bed or lure him out and slaughter him. Murder him.

Tonight, though, I could still find a way to save his life.

Strapping the sword on my back and packed on my supplies before I pulled up the bed skirt and slid under the frame into the darkness.

Musty, wet rock hit me immediately, but slowly, a warm, sweet scent bloomed in the space as I stepped forward. I cracked the pink glow stick, the color Ezra preferred, and I waited. Although I’d been down here more times than I could count, I never ventured too deeply into the darkness alone.

Warm wind brushed my skin, and Ezra’s brilliant blue eyes appeared in the soft pink haze.

I smiled up at him.

“You’ve returned.” He took the pink glow stick and my hand and led me through the dark. 

I followed because I trusted him. And he led because he trusted me.

The soft quiet of home disintegrated into an absence of sound that made my skin crawl. My grip squeezed him, and Ezra squeezed back.

You’re okay. This is my place, and you’re with me.

It was the magic that kept others from finding him. Others like me who hunted and killed him and his kind because of what they were and where they lived.

We slowly made it to his home, which was homemade furniture and soft places to sit or lie down. Ezra collected books, but I couldn’t see much else. His soft lamps provided a circle of light, and the rest bled to black.

He offered me the chair by the table with a smile. “I’ve got your favorite.”

I sat, grinning in a knowing way.

Pulling a bowl from the dark, Ezra presented the gleaming treat to me. “An ice cream sundae with walnuts and marshmallow sauce.”

It was my favorite when I was six. “How did you get that?”

He shrugged and set it on the table before me. A spoon appeared for me, and I dug in.

Mom didn’t make me many of these treats anymore.

Ezra sat beside me. His attention tightened the fear in my chest.

My spoon faltered, and I looked him in the eyes. “They want me to kill you tomorrow.”

“I know.” He urged me to finish eating.

With a huff, I took another bite. It wasn’t the first time I’d told him. Wasn’t the first time he’d brushed me off about it. “Why won’t you let me save you?”

“You’re not supposed to.” His even tones belied the sadness in his blue eyes.

“Why does that matter?” I threw the spoon, but he caught it. Anger billowed out of me. “Why must I do everything I’m supposed to? Everything I’m told? Everything everyone else has ever done and decided that everyone must do? Why can’t I make my own decisions?”

“Because you are not an adult yet.” Ezra placed the spoon by my bowl again.

“And that means what I want doesn’t matter?” I stood abruptly, unable to soothe the injustice of it. To reconcile myself with Ezra’s acceptance of it. “That means your life doesn’t matter?”

He took my hands, his warmth smothering the fire threatening to burn me alive. “Becoming an adult means doing things that you do not wish to because you need to. It is an obstacle you must conquer, or you will forever be a child.”

“But why does it have to be this?” Why couldn’t it be something else?

“Because you don’t want it to be.”

Internal thunderstorms threatened me with tears.

“Everyone knows their monster before they must slay us. In some way. None wants to complete the ceremony. Out of fear. Out of pride. Out of rebellion.” A tug made me acknowledge the pointed look he gave me.

“I am afraid. I don’t want me to be the reason you’re gone.”

With a sad smile, he sat me down. The ice cream hadn’t melted. It never melted down here. Why was that?

“I won’t be gone,” he whispered in my hair before he planted a kiss atop my head.

“Slay means kill. Dead. No longer living. How can you not be gone after that?”

Ezra patted my hand.

“How old are you?” Something beyond the fear of his death knocked my heart around.

“Old.”

“And how many times have you been slain?” My hand squeezed around the spoon.

“Many times.”

A renegade tear plopped down my cheek.

Ezra wiped it away.  “Few get to see me as you do.”

I sniffed back the rest of my grief. “But I won’t get to see you anymore, will I?”

“No.” He sat again beside me to watch me eat my sundae. “But at least you can know that I’m not gone. Not really.”

My spoon found the half-eaten mound of ice cream, and I did my best to eat it slowly. To savor every bite and every moment in between. This was the last of my childhood.

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I Won Camp NaNoWriMo | Final Update

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Check out my writing vlog where I read Cycle Eight to my mom, finish my final story for the month, and prep a new cover!

Week five, our final week, went so well! Granted, my numbers are down a bit again, which makes me so thankful I had gotten so ahead during the first half of the month. 

Stats aside, I was able to read Cycle Eight to my mom in one day. We powered through it since he was an asshole and neither of us liked him. Too bad he plays such an important part of her development. The great outcome was getting feedback on if he was too triggering or not. So far, the consensus is that he straddles that abusive line well.

I also finished my second Lishky short for the month. This one feels a bit all over the place, but that might just be my current mental state. I’ll know more when I read through and edit it. I also have my new cover for it…almost. I’m getting mixed feedback on my choices, below. Got any advice?

I’m also not such a fan of the blurb I have for it, too. At least I have something to work with though.

Finally, I was able to create the first part of the physical compendium for two of my betas who prefer physical copies. My husband should get his tomorrow, so I’ll post a pic of it on social media. I expect it to be a chonker.

Anyway, let’s look at my final numbers:

Week Five | July 25-31

Minutes Logged: 550/630

Minutes Ahead: 160 (Whoo!)

Words Written: 2,101

Since it’s the end, let me give you some overall totals:

July 2021

Minutes Logged: 2,950 / 2,790

Minutes Ahead: 160 (Whoo!)

Words Written: 11,020 / 7,750

This makes me so happy. I love when I can complete all of my goals for a month, especially for a nanowrimo month. 

Let me know how your writing went this July in the comments below, and I’ll see y’all soon with more writing challenges and fun prompts.

We Published A Book! | Camp NaNoWriMo Week Four Update

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Hello, lovelies.

Check out my writing vlog where I edit Cycle Eight, draw on our sales board at work, and publish a new ebook.

It’s week four, and I’ve finally done it. I wrote those damn blurbs. You heard me! I wrote four of those little fuckers. Next week, I’ll workshop them with my betas.

That’s one massive weight off my shoulders and a big old checkmark on a goal for the month.

I’ve also managed to finish my edits of Cycle Eight, which means I will be reading it to my mom next week. Maybe this time I can capture some of that audio for the vlog, but that means I will also get that goal checked off my list before the end of the month. Woot!

All I have left is to finish the other short that I’m halfway through writing and keep at my habit of 250 words a day. Because let’s be honest, although my numbers meet the requirement, I haven’t been consistent, and that’s not okay.

Or maybe it is because I edited and published one of my Lishky shorts during one hell of a week.

Oh, yeah. I had to sit on the phone with the IRS for three hours one morning. The bonus being that I talked to a very helpful human being who fixed what she could for the moment. And I had SO MANY errands last week. It was nuts.

I’ll take the whole week as a win.

So, let’s look at my final numbers:

Week Four | July 18-24

Minutes Logged: 595/630

Minutes Ahead: 340 (Whoo!)

Words Written: 1,418

These numbers aren’t the best, but the goals are getting checked off. Funny how that works. Must be the buffer I gave myself last week.

Onward and upward! Time to kill the last week of camp nano.

Let me know how your writing is going this July in the comments below, and I’ll see y’all next week for another update.

Reading Smut to My Mom | Camp NaNoWriMo Week Three Update

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Hello, lovelies.

Check out my writing vlog where I reward myself for finishing Wooing the Alpha, get my first vaccine shot, read to my mom, and write a shit ton of smut.

Week three has been productive in different ways. I’m almost finished with the first draft of one of my Lishky shorts, I made a new cover, prepped my website for a new release, wrote a blurb (but not for Wooing the Alpha), and am nearly finished reading Cycle Seven to my mom.

Plus, I’ve logged a hell of a lot of minutes! Now, let’s see if I can wrap up all of my goals, like editing cycle eight, finishing another short, and getting those damn blurbs done.

So, let’s look at my final numbers:

Week Three | July 11-17

Minutes Logged: 955/630

Minutes Ahead: 375 (Whoo!)

Words Written: 3,284

I finally feel like I’m getting my butt back in gear. Writing’s coming easier because I’m keeping to my daily habit, which is exactly what I wanted. However, I have noticed that I’m more willing to give myself a break when I get ahead…like the day I wrote 1,499 words, so all I did was edit the next day. Yeah, I need to cut that out and keep to my daily goal no matter what.

Let me know how your writing is going this July in the comments below, and I’ll see y’all next week for another update.

The Reincarnation Wheel: My June Writing Prompt

“Sorry, but you don’t meet our requirements for a heavenly afterlife. Here’s a paper of other heavens you can try and hells if none of those work–sorted by least painful. You can try the reincarnation wheel, but tries are limited, so be careful,” said a tiny, elderly man with Mr. Magoo glasses amplifying his dark eyes.

The paper he dropped in my hands was lengthy and the variety of heavens and hells boggled the mind: food heavens, art heavens, sexual heavens, adventurous heavens, magical heavens, and library heavens, or suspension hells, burning hells, cold hells, sharp hells, annoying neighbor hells, and children-filled hells. They were all odd and too focused.

If I couldn’t stay in the large, ever-changing heaven, I might take my chance at the reincarnation wheel. It meant another try at that ultimate afterlife. I wouldn’t live forever.

But there were no indications of the reincarnation options. That fluttered low in my stomach.

I nodded to the Mr. Magoo gatekeeper. “I’ll take a chance at the reincarnation wheel.”

His hands clapped together, and the list in my hands vanished.

“We offer you one spin, and you get what you get.”

My muscles shook with fear and anticipation. “Okay.”

A wheel materialized from nothing, each option slivered so small that I could hardly make them out: human, ape, elephant, lion, rat, snake, guinea pig, worm, snail, spider, octopus, carp, eagle, pigeon…every animal on Earth was there. The range sucked a few hard breaths into my lungs.

“Whenever you’re ready.”

I stepped forward and spun the wheel with a good amount of force and watching it twirl for ten full seconds before it slowed. It ticked by with caterpillar, salmon, flamingo, frog, koala, ameba…tick, tick, tick.

Platypus.

Tick.

Dolphin.

Tick.

Sparklemuffin.

Tick.

Ant.

I sucked in a breath and let it out just as quickly.

Clap.

Darkness enveloped me, vision pixelated, but the scent of dirt swallowed me whole. I crawled up a path, following a familiar scent up to the surface. Grass and dew greeted me, and I marched on.

I chased my brethren toward candies and breads and cheeses…a tantalizing scent of buttered meat turned me off course, under a leaf. I trudged through shrooms and fungi to get to the giant morsel.

My exoskeleton itched, burned, and I chewed on the meat before returning to my hill, my family, and circled until I found myself out in the grass and underbrush again.

The moist air soothed the ache, but compulsion sent him to a place I couldn’t put my antennae on.

This became my days, home, food, and circling out to the damp and warm climate. My jaw ached as I bit and chewed. Then, my jaws clamped down, my body shook, and pain ripped through the top of my skull before everything erupted.

I blinked back at the gate.

“Sorry, but you still don’t meet our requirements for a heavenly afterlife. Did you want to try another spin of the reincarnation wheel?” asked the tiny, elderly man with Mr. Magoo glasses amplifying his dark eyes.

“Yes.”

The wheel reappeared, and I gave it another good shove, dazed by the pain of my short life.

Giraffe.

Tick.

Anglerfish.

Tick.

Wolf.

Tick.

Cow.

Fuck.

My legs wobbled, a warm tongue lapping across my head and shoulders. Fresh milk found my tongue as I suckled a teet.

Rough hands pulled me away, spread my legs, and handed me off.

Stuffed, I stood in a tight pen, chain around my neck, head through bars to keep from moving, and time slowed. My muscles ached.

Days and nights and meals ran together. I sat and ate and stood and slept, crying from the pain. Crying for my momma. Crying for it to end.

But it didn’t for a long, long time.

Fat and weak, I wobbled as they let me free of my chains and pain hit me in the back of my head. Dazed, I half-felt them dragging my limp body, tie up my hind legs, and hoist me into the air.

Burning and sharp, my throat split open, and I gurgled against the blood gushing down my mouth and eyes, into my lungs. My heart cried as hard as my soul

“Sorry, but you still don’t meet our requirements for a heavenly afterlife. Did you want to try another spin of the reincarnation wheel?” asked the tiny, elderly man with Mr. Magoo glasses amplifying his dark eyes.

Gulping back the possibilities, the last life made me gun shy. 

“This will be your last chance.”

One more time wouldn’t break me, and it could be the life I needed to find my way into heaven.

“Okay.”

The wheel popped up before me, and I spin it with all of the gusto I could manage, but I still felt weak.

Options clicked by. Human long past. I should have known the chances of getting a second life as a human were astronomical.

Lobster.

Tick.

Coyote.

Tick.

Iguana.

Tick.

Cockroach.

I skittered across the dark, flat plane, a light flicked on, and I dashed away, finding nooks and crannies, and a means of escape. Light meant death.

Dipping and dodging, I found my way to the street only to hide under a bin as screams and the thundering of people moving too fast had me hunker down and wait.

Something didn’t feel right, and it wasn’t simply my new life.

I crept back out when the noise settled. 

A whistling sounded, and the sky was a mix of darkness and light.

Something slammed the earth, and I hunkered down as air rushed over my shell.

The mushroom cloud blooming into the sky sank what I had of a heart.

Cockroaches are the only thing that would survive a nuclear blast. 

How true was that, actually?

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