Thursday, October 19, 2017

"The Witch of Mistletoe Lane," Part 2

(read part one of "Witch" HERE)

Part 2 of 4

We didn’t stop running till we reached the school yard. The swings and teeter-totters for the elementary kids looked like the most benevolent place in the universe. Jimmy collapsed on the merry-go-round and sobbed. “I’m doomed. I didn’t know it was her cat. Ah, God, I didn’t know.”

“You’re not doomed, Jimmy,” Tyrone said, sitting beside him, fingers clasping the metal bar between them.

Jimmy ignored him. “Colton, you know. You saw what happened, and now my dad’s in a wheelchair, and it’s my fault. Ah, God!”

I couldn’t argue. I just stared at the deep wallow that hundreds of feet had dug around the merry-go-round and listened to him sob.

“My mom’ll be next. She’ll die of the plague or something and I’ll have to go live with Grandpa. I hate cows!”

“What’s he talking about, Colt?” asked Adam, looking sicker than ever. I told him and Ty about the rock Jimmy threw all those years ago.

“I never had my tonsils out,” cried Jimmy. “I don’t want to go back to the hospital. The food’s terrible and those nurses treat you like meat, then they hand you a balloon like everything’s gonna be okay, but it’s not. I’m doomed.”

I sighed. “Well, this time we’re all doomed together. Maybe the curse will just stick to us and not bother our families. We can die heroes.”

Adam finally caught on. “Cursed? Ah, shit, man, we’re dead.”

“You think she’ll eat us?” asked Tyrone. “My Auntie Tisha said the witch had a sister who used to live with her. But they fought and the witch poisoned her and fed her to them cats.”

“Nobody’s gonna eat us, Ty,” I said, though my tone lacked conviction. “Y’all come sleep over at my house tonight. We’ll go to church in the morning and pray that the curse don’t take hold.”

“What about Trev Reynolds and the others?” Tyrone asked. “We gotta bring ‘em a cat, or they’ll kill us before any curse will.”

I had to puzzle that one out. “We’ll sleep with the slingshots.”

“We only got two!” cried Adam.

“I got a BB gun,” said Ty.

“Okay, go get it, and be at my place by dark.” I’d rarely felt so exhilarated. All we needed was an Ennio Morricone soundtrack playing in the background. On top of dodging bullies and waiting for the shootout, we’d been cursed to boot. Life couldn’t get more adventurous in Saint Claire.


We sat in a solemn row on the front pew of the Calvary Baptist Church and prayed like we had never prayed before. The preacher kept eyeing us during the sermon, suspicious of our sudden devoutness, but for once we didn’t have any pranks in mind. In fact, we were a bit delirious. None of us had slept too well. Near midnight, Adam swore he heard Randy’s truck growling past the house, and the streetlight shone through the oak tree on our front lawn, casting a shadow across my wall that at 2 a.m. looked just like the witch’s wild black hair.

After church, the four of us shook hands. “Well,” I said, “I hope to see y’all on Monday. If I don’t, well, no crying at my funeral. Hear?”

“Gotcha, man,” said Jimmy. “Everybody stay low. Keep in touch.”

We parted ways. I can’t explain the sorrow I felt when I considered that I might never see those guys again. Peering in the rearview mirror, Dad saw me moping and asked, “Guilty conscience, kiddo?”

“Nah, I just don’t feel too good.” At first I thought it was just a lie, to get out of explaining the curse, but the more I thought about it, the more I really did feel queasy. The certainty struck me that a tumor was growing in my guts. I was sure it was already the size of a baseball.

My little sister scooted as far from me as the car door allowed. “Don’t you puke on me, Colton Brisby!” Melissa crossed her index fingers to ward off the evil of invisible germs.

“Ain’t gonna puke on nobody, big baby.”

Mom turned around in the passenger seat and frowned. “I’ll pick up some Pepto when I go in for the milk.”

“No, Mom, I’m fine.” How to explain that I was dying and Pepto Bismal wouldn’t help? We pulled into the lot of the grocery store, and Dad kept the car running while Mom and Melissa went in. I squirmed in the backseat for a minute before deciding that sitting still thinking about it was a bad idea. I hurried after Mom and offered to push the cart. She looked at me like I’d lost my mind, then smiled and humored my moment of selflessness. She put a bottle of Pepto in with the milk, the box of Rice o’ Roni, and several bags of Halloween candy. When she hurried ahead, I discreetly put the Pepto back on the shelf and pressed at the achy place in my stomach where the tumor was sucking the life out of me.

At the checkout counter, ol’ Mrs. Beals dropped our stuff into plastic bags while she ooh’d and aw’d over how big Melissa and I had gotten. Melissa rolled her eyes, because Mrs. Beals told us that every Sunday. I thanked Mrs. Beals, polite as I could, hoping to earn God’s favor. Then at the next counter, I glimpsed a flutter of fingers that snagged my attention like a grub on a hook. A woman flashed some hand signs just like the witch. A little girl who could only be her daughter, flashed more signs in reply.

Like a bolt a out of the blue, I realized. “She’s deaf!”

The woman across the way straightened and looked at me as though I’d given her the finger, then wrapped a protective arm around her daughter. My own mother pinched my arm, like she did when I misbehaved in church. “Shh, what’s wrong with you? For goodness’ sake.”

My face burned, and I slouched out of the grocery store. Climbing into the car beside me, Melissa said, “That’s Erin. She’s new in my class this year. She’s mostly in special ed though. Some of the boys made fun of her at first, but they got sent to the principal’s office. I think she’s real nice.”

I’d rarely felt more like a complete idiot. Such was our terror that none of us had recognized the obvious. The witch wasn’t cursing us. She was probably cussing us out in sign language. She probably wasn’t a witch at all, and there we were running scared from a deaf woman. Brave cat hunters, indeed. Damn.

By the time we pulled into the driveway, my tumor was gone.

First thing Monday morning, I gathered Jimmy, Tyrone, and Adam outside Mr. Jamison’s classroom and told them the good news. “You mean we’re not gonna die?” asked Tyrone.

Adam sighed and sagged against the wall.

Jimmy crossed his arms and looked disappointed. “Deaf or not, I still think she’s a witch. My dad’s still in a wheelchair.”

“He fell off a roof, Jimmy,” I said. “That could happen to anybody. And lots of people have their appendixes taken out. It don’t mean she cursed you.”

“Like hell it don’t.” Sulking, he went in to class.

Adam came to attention and fled in after him. A crowd of High Schoolers approached. Books that weighed a ton looked small under their arms. In their midst, Trev Reynolds pointed at Tyrone and me, and those cool snake eyes promised retribution for disobeying his order about the cat.

A crowd of cheerleaders tagged along behind, giggling and fussing with their makeup. Elizabeth McDuffy fluffed her red hair and looked just like a model in a Pantene commercial. I swear her green eyes met mine, and I felt ten feet tall. I couldn’t act scared in front of her. Instead, I stuck out my chin and pointed right back at Trev Reynolds. He threw back his head and laughed. “I’m gonna smear you into the pavement, Brisby. You and all your little girlfriends.”

Tyrone grabbed my finger and hauled me into algebra.

For third period, Mrs. Demitri took her English class to the library, where we had to choose something to read for the end-of-semester book report. I hated book reports more than long division. I even hated them more than the cafeteria food, which is saying a lot. We browsed through the achingly dull novels, groaning and fighting the urge to flee the building. I curled my lip at titles like The Good Earth and To Kill a Mockingbird and almost settled on Shane, because my dad liked the old Alan Ladd movie, but a little farther along, the word “witch” caught my attention. I slipped the book off the shelf and gave it a suspicious look-over, expecting to find a trick lurking inside. The Witch of Blackbird Pond. Hmm … award-winner, skinny, and look at that! The author’s name was Elizabeth. Couldn’t go wrong with that. While the librarian stamped the date on the inside for me, I began to regret my choice. I didn’t need a reminder of the witch. My tumor might be gone, and my family was surely safe, but I remembered the way that black cat hobbled home, and the look on the witch’s face as she scooped him up. I felt sick now for a whole new reason.

“We have to go back and apologize, guys.” We gathered around one of the tables whose scarred plastic chairs were always too small.

“Apologize? For what?” asked Tyrone.

“The witch?” asked Jimmy. “Are you crazy?”

“No way!” Adam said. “I’m never going back there.”

“Shhh!” hissed Mrs. Demitri. I sat back in the tiny chair and sulked. I didn’t want to go to the witch’s house by myself, but it seemed I had no choice. Searching the shelves in the reference section, I found a book on sign language. With the few minutes left of third period, I practiced making the letters and a few other signs. All the while, I knew I was putting my life at risk. The witch was said to have fed her own sister to her cats, after all. After what we did, she might decide to turn me into Meow Mix.

For the rest of the day I practiced the signs under my desk, though I forgot half the letters by the time the bell rang. After fetching my sister from the front of the Elementary building, I hurried home. Melissa got mad at me for leaving her half a block behind, but I didn’t listen. I blew through the house at top speed.

“Where you going?” Mom called after me.

“I’m s’posed to meet the guys. At the cow pond.”

“Do your homework first!”

“Ain’t got any.”

“Since when?”

I was out the door and on my bike before she could stop me. The temperature had dropped throughout the day, and the sky was a gloomy gray. My fingers were numb by the time I reached Mistletoe Lane. Swinging off my bike at the end of the street, I stared at the horror of a house as if inside death was waiting for me. Step by pained step I approached the gate. It banged in the north wind. The sign announced, “The Witch is In.” Brown leaves rattled in the branches of an old oak, and a calico cat slunk away through the jungle of weeds.

My hand managed to reach out and still the swinging gate, but for the life of me, my feet refused to enter the avenue between the leering jack o’ lanterns. The heavy front door opened, and the witch stood behind the screen, hands flashing. My brain went blank, and I forgot the signs I had practiced. Finally, she made a swatting motion, as if I were a fly, bidding me get away from her gate. In truth, I felt about as small.

Closing my eyes, I recalled the picture on the page that had mattered most, then made a fist and drew a circle over my heart: sorry. With my thumb and forefinger I made like I was preening a whisker on my face: cat.

The witch stopped flapping at me, and her mouth opened a little in surprise. It was working! I shaped the letters of my name: C-O-L-T-O-N.

Slowly, as if she expected me to start throwing tomatoes, she stuck her hand around the screen door and spelled S-E-L-S-I-E. When I didn’t start laughing or chucking rocks, she gave me the flat palm that means “wait” in every language. She disappeared inside the house for a good long while, then came back carrying a brown paper bag, the kind Mom packed our lunches in when we could’t stand the cafeteria food a day longer. Selsie sidled up the sidewalk, overweight and smelling warm and musty and barely able to look me in the eye. She might have been as old as my mother. Hands that badly needed lotion extended the bag over the gate. I stared at it, the old scolding racing through my head: Never accept candy from strangers! But it was almost Halloween, the only time we were allowed to break that rule. And how old was I anyway? I took the bag, and Selsie retreated, wild hair blowing like a tumbleweed in the wind. I waited till I’d ridden back to the intersection before I peeked inside the bag. I don’t know what I was expecting, fried baby fingers or blood-colored lollipops, but the sight of those enormous peanut butter cookies still warm from the oven made my mouth water.

I peddled fast as I could to Jimmy’s house, which was only two doors down from mine. He came running when I called and listened to my tale, looking as astonished as the toads who don't see the bicycle wheel coming. “She seemed scared of me, but nice. She gimme this.” I held up the paper bag.

“What is it?” Jimmy edged away, expecting something to spring out and latch onto his face.

“Cookies. You want one?” I offered one to him. They were cooling off already.

“No way, man.” He started backing up the wheelchair ramp. “They might turn you into a frog or a mouse, and her cats will eat you. Look, my dad’s calling. I got homework to do. Talk to you later.”

Confounded, I walked the rest of the way home, carried the paper bag up to my room and sat on my bed, staring at the cookies. Could Jimmy be right? Mustering my courage, I nibbled an edge. And sighed. Crunchy but melt-in-your-mouth good. I waited for the change to happen. No warts. No croaking. I took a bigger bite. Had to be the best cookie I ever ate. By the time I finished the first one, an old bedtime story returned to haunt me. A little boy named Tom ate a magical jelly bean, but it wasn’t until the next morning that he woke up and found he’d shrunk to the size of a cockroach. He spent the next several pages battling dust mites under his bed before the magic wore off and he returned to normal. Maybe I’d wake up the same way, or maybe I wouldn’t wake up at all. I ate every cookie Selsie gave me, telling myself what a sweet death it would be.

All I got was a stomach ache and a scolding from mom and dad when I didn’t eat my supper. They banished me to my room for the rest of the evening. Those kinds of silent martyrdoms were unavoidable at times, but well worth the trouble.

(continued in Part 3 -  NEXT WEEK)

"The Witch of Mistletoe Lane" copyright 2011 by Court Ellyn. No part of the story may be copied or reproduced without written permission of the author.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Weekly Poem: Autumn, Part 2

No more of springtime hopes, sweet and uncertain,
Here we have largess of summer in fee­
Pile high the logs till the flame be leaping,
At bay the chill of the autumn keeping,
While pilgrim-wise, we may go a-reaping
In the fairest meadow of memory!

from "By An Autumn Fire" by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Thursday, October 12, 2017

"The Witch of Mistletoe Lane," Part 1

Wow, it's been two years since I've posted my Halloween story throughout October. Time to drag it out again. A new installment each week, posting the last part on Halloween itself.

The novelette first appeared in the free Halloween anthology Past the Patch in 2011. Just to be clear, it's NOT a horror story. Writing scary is not my forte. But it is one of my favorites, so I'm happy to share it.

Part 1 of 4

Every autumn, the clatter of leaves somersaulting along sidewalks reminds me of the October I met the witch. The small southern town of Saint Claire didn’t have a lot to boast about but the worst football team in the county, the annual watermelon festival, and Ag shows that brought the fattest pigs and beefiest steers to Main Street, where they showed their appreciation by crapping in front of the cafe, the antique store, and the True Value hardware that still sold hard candy from glass jars. Unbeknownst to the folks outside our insular world, Saint Claire had its very own witch, too. Mothers all over town scared the devil out of us kids every time they warned us to steer clear of the rickety old house that lurked on Mistletoe Lane. My own mother joined the hype. “Colton, you leave that place alone. I see you anywhere near it, I’ll bust your hide.” To which I inevitably replied, “But why, Mama?” She’d only respond with the look that meant, “You better do as I say.”

The first time I found myself outside the witch’s gate was a complete accident. Jimmy Harden and I rode our bikes to the cow pond on his grandpa’s place, hoping the fish liked the taste of the grubs on our hooks. They did, as it turned out, so we kept tossing our lines in till almost dusk. Realizing the time, we tied our stringers full of half-grown bass to our handlebars and hustled back to town. We were in such a hurry to avoid a wupping for being late to dinner that we turned one street too soon. Jimmy hit his brakes; his back tire left a black streak that must’ve been a mile long before he came to a stop. Pulling up alongside him, I stared in horror at the crumbling gingerbread house. I’d only ever seen it from the corner, in passing, as Mom hit the gas to get through the intersection fast as she could. Now that I was getting a good look at the place, I decided she’d been right all those years. It was a wonder anyone could live there at all. The house was scary as hell, staring back at us in the manner of Hamlet’s skull, pondering our demise. Weeds grew thick as jungles inside the leaning picket fence, and a pair of arborvitaes hid the front fa├žade like hands thrown over a face too hideous to endure. White paint scrolled from the eaves, the wood underneath dry and gray. A couple of upper story windows boasted holes big enough for birds to fly through. The whole place reeked of cat piss.

To me, the creepiest part were the tattered Halloween decorations left over from years past. Though it was June, plastic jack o’ lanterns lined the walk to the front door. They used to be orange, but had faded in the southern sun to a whitish yellow, just like skulls of beheaded children. One of those ridiculous “crashed witches” was nailed to a giant catalpa tree near the rusted mailbox. Her broom had lost its broomcorn and was just a plastic stick that made a likely perch for blue jays. On the front gate hung a weather-beaten sign that read “The Witch Is In.”

Scared the witch might be watching, I backhanded Jimmy in the shoulder. “Let’s get outta here.”

Jimmy grinned in a way that said he was contemplating mischief and swept up a chunk of gravel from the ditch.

“No, man!” I cried.

He chunked it with his Little League arm; it sailed right through a window. Clink, clink, crash, went the glass.

We hightailed it for home, scared out of our minds and exhilarated at the same time, but Jimmy soon came to regret chucking that rock. The next week, his dad fell off a roof and broke his spine. He’s been in a wheelchair ever since. Then Jimmy came down with appendicitis that nearly killed him before his mom got him to the hospital. We never openly blamed these things on the witch or told our parents about the rock he threw, but he and I knew. That was when we were nine or ten.

The autumn I met the witch in person, I was thirteen, suffering through the tortures of Junior High and wet dreams about Elizabeth McDuffy, the Freshman cheerleader with green eyes and hair the color of autumn itself. It was Saturday afternoon, and the week before Halloween. A handful of jocks led by our star running back, Trev Reynolds, were conducting the yearly cat round-up. It was an unspoken tradition. Though all of us Saint Claireans knew about it, we openly denied its existence. For the whole month of October, the town’s cat lovers locked their pets indoors to protect them from the annual purging. It was the vagrant alley cats and their unwanted litters that satisfied the grotesque human desire for destruction. Me and Jimmy, along with Adam Laughton and Tyrone Banks, weren’t invited to take part. The secret ritual belonged to the cool older guys, not green, virginal junior high boys. We could only stand back and watch Randy Tillman’s black pickup truck painted with orange flames roar past just like a dragon. Piled into the cab and in the bed, our heroes hollered and cussed and displayed their trophy: another plastic grocery sack writhing with an irate cat.

All we had was our bikes, bigger and better ones now that we were older, but we were still unable to catch up. At Jimmy’s urging, we tried. We pumped those peddles as fast as our scrawny legs could go. Our war cries sounded less inspiring, because our voices were cracking and we kept choking on the dust kicked up in the pickup’s blazing wake.

Out on county line road, Tyrone hit a pothole and flipped over his handlebars. We stopped to shovel him off the asphalt. “Ah, hell, Ty,” Adam complained. “We’ll never catch ‘em now.”

Tyrone’s hands were bleeding, so was a gash on his leg where he’d caught the jagged edge of a peddle. He groaned and cussed, and Jimmy said, “Shut up. I hear something.”

We listened. Rrreeeeow! A cat in distress!

Up ahead, the road crossed Tallulah Creek. A dirt trail, no more than twin lines of red earth veered off the main road and plunged out of sight. We tossed our bikes into the ditch and followed it to the creek bank. Tyrone hobbled fast as he could, dragging his bleeding left leg. Randy’s black truck crouched at the end of the trail, silent and sleeping. The jocks clustered under the bridge, struggling with a manic beast. Rrreeeeow! it shrieked. The bridge amplified the protest. I imagined a creature the size of a panther, but when the hunters tugged the rope and hoisted up the noose, all I saw was an ordinary alley cat, orange and white. Her teets were heavy. She had babies somewhere. Jimmy, Adam, and Tyrone cheered with the big guys as the cat kicked and scratched at the noose around her neck. I watched, mesmerized and feeling like I might throw up. The cat was so scared it dropped feces, and the big guys jumped back, squalling and cussing as if the cat had done it as a purposeful act of revenge.

It was then that a couple of the jocks noticed us and chased us down. Trev Reynolds grabbed me and Tyrone by the scruff. Joey Osborn, the coach’s son, caught Adam by the shirttails. Jimmy stopped halfway up the trail and measured his options. Ditch his friends or help them out. He was a beefy kid by now, but nowhere near big enough to stand up to these guys. He crossed his arms. “We just wanna see!”

The rest of the brave and bold hunters saw that they’d been caught, and some began to panic. “Ah, man, they’re gonna tell Coach!”

“He’ll kick us off the team,” said Randy Tillman.

Joey Osborn said, “You dumbnut, we are the team! What’s he gonna do?”

“My dad’s the Baptist preacher! He’s gonna kill me.”

“They won’t tell,” said Trev Reynolds. He had eyes like a snake, real cool and mean. They looked straight at me, then at Tyrone and Adam. “We’ll beat the shit out of ‘em if they do, and they know it.” He jabbed a finger at Jimmy, lingering a safe distance up the hill. “You! Get down here.”

Jimmy craned his neck, likely hoping there was some kind of help coming along the road. No luck. He did as he was told and crept back down under the bridge. Trev Reynolds grabbed him by the shirtfront. “We’ll let you see, but you gotta get us another cat. All of ya! Go find us another cat and bring it to the dumpster behind Al’s shop. We’ll meet you there. If you don’t show, we’ll find you and hang y’all up instead.”

Over the crowd of taller heads, I saw the cat. Her eyes were popping and her tongue stuck out of her mouth. She no longer struggled. Three others hung from rafters under the bridge.

Reynolds slapped me upside the head. “You gonna cry? Go with your girlfriends, Colton Brisby. Yeah, I know who you are, and I know where you live, too. Go get that cat.”


“Ah, shit, we’re dead. We’re dead!” groaned Adam. We walked our bikes back to town, our enthusiasm as withered as nuts dunked in ice-cold water. “We shouldn’ta listened to you, Jimmy.”

“Did they mean one cat for all of us, or a cat apiece?” asked Tyrone.

“Ah, shut up, man, we’re friggin’ dead.”

“Quit whining!” Jimmy bellowed, and Adam shut his trap. “We’ll stop by my place and pick up an arsenal and catch as many cats as we can. Then they’ll let us be.”

Our arsenal consisted of the pair of slingshots that Jimmy and I used to shoot frogs at his grandpa’s pond. He held mine out, but I shook my head. I didn’t want to shoot a cat, not after watching that alley cat strangle to death. But what’s a guy to do when his friends look at him like, “What the hell’s gotten into you?”

“Hey, I want it!” Tyrone grabbed the slingshot and practiced aiming with it. The rest of us loaded our pockets with bright steel shot and took off before Jimmy’s mom could ask what trouble we were up to.

The first cat we found was slinking around behind the police station. “We can’t shoot that one,” I said. “What if Wade comes out and sees us. He might arrest us for cruelty to animals or concealed firearms.” Saint Claire was so small we only had three town cops; Wade was the police chief.

Jimmy shook his slingshot in my face. “Not very concealed, is it, dimwit.”

“Well, for brandishing weapons inside city limits, then.”

Jimmy rolled his eyes. “How ‘bout jaywalking? We been jaywalking all over town, stupid. Everybody does it, and nobody gives a shit.”

“Jaywalking don’t hurt nothing, dumbass!”

Adam, at least, saw my reasoning. He broke up the argument before fists started flying. “C’mon, let’s find a different cat.”

We searched and searched, and the longer we searched the more Adam panicked. By late afternoon he started looking downright sick, trailing along behind, holding his stomach. We’d raked the town and finally found ourselves on the northern edge. Past Seventh Street, there wasn’t much but cow pasture.

Tyrone stopped cold and cried, “There’s one!” A giant beast slunk through the tall grass in the roadside ditch, on the prowl. He turned those malevolent yellow eyes on us and darted off. “It’s a black one, too! Get it!” Tyrone wasted three good shots trying to hit him on the run. Jimmy took slow, careful aim, leading the cat by a few inches. Then the stupid animal paused in the intersection to glance back at us. Jimmy let fly. The steel ball lit a bright streak across the breeze. The cat yowled, spun, looking for the source of its pain, then took off like a bullet. We loosed our war cries and gave chase, leaping fences and flowerbeds and scrambling over cars parked in driveways. For a while we thought we lost it, but it darted out from under Mrs. Stein’s garden shed, a dozen yards away. We were nearly on top of that poor cat, when it turned onto a dilapidated street. I stopped so fast that I nearly ran out of my Converse shoes. Mistletoe Lane. And that black cat was limp-running straight for the witch’s house. The guys seemed to realize all at once, and stopped in the middle of the street. Panting and sweating, we stared at a shadow moving across a window. The front gate was propped open and the ragged ol’ sign said, “The Witch Is In.” The cat hobbled through, leaving a bloody paw print every time it stepped with its back foot.

A strangled, gurgling scream came from the house. The screen door banged shut and a woman ran up the sidewalk between the faded jack o’ lanterns. Except for the green skin, she might’ve been the twin of the Wicked Witch of the West. Long chin, hook nose, bony fingers, everything. Her black hair was a wild mess of frizz, and her eyes bugged out of her face, full of madness. She scooped up the wounded cat and cradled it like a baby, cooing and whimpering in a strange, ungodly language.

The four of us backed away slowly, but she looked right at us, and her free hand flicked and snapped out some symbols. Jimmy wailed, “No! Nooooo!” He turned and fled. The rest of us weren’t two paces behind.

(continued in Part 2 -  NEXT WEEK)

"The Witch of Mistletoe Lane" copyright 2011 by Court Ellyn. No part of the story may be copied or reproduced without written permission of the author.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Weekly Poem: Autumn, Part 1

Autumn Movement

by Carl Sandburg, 1878 - 1967

I cried over beautiful things knowing no beautiful thing lasts.

The field of cornflower yellow is a scarf at the neck of the copper sunburned woman, 
       the mother of the year, the taker of seeds.

The northwest wind comes and the yellow is torn full of holes, new beautiful things 
       come in the first spit of snow on the northwest wind, and the old things go, 
       not one lasts.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Sand Into Sandcastles

This meme spoke to me today. Wow, this is so what I'm currently doing. Rough drafts are often soooo gross. Something is off, what is it? Does this character work? What's the point of this story? What happened to this scene's focus? Do I break the chapter here? This dialog sounds dumb. Too much detail? Not enough? How the hell do I fix this plot hole? Ugh!

Hair-tearing rough drafts. Got one going right now, and it often feels like a slog-fest. Too much world-building. Too many info dumps. Rushed action. And how the heck am I supposed to get these characters from Point B (managed to get them there safely from Point A) to Point C?

I have to remember: IT DOESN'T MATTER. It's a rough draft! Just write it. Trying to make sandcastles before all the sand is in the box will prove frustrating and stifle the frenzy of creativity.

Relax, breathe, and just write. The pile is ugly, and no one but myself gives a ....

Monday, October 2, 2017

A Change of Seasons

A big summer with lots of changes afoot. First, seven years of working on my novel project came to a close. First anchor raised. Second, on Saturday night I closed LegendFire's doors, after 8 years of caring for the community. Second anchor raised.

Tough changes but good ones. There are times I definitely feel adrift in unsteady waters, without a compass or land in sight. Scary, depressing, exhilarating.

Third, I turned 40 this September. Very little that I had hoped for or imagined about my life has turned out. Terrifying.

Right now all possibilities are on the table. So much freedom is overwhelming and a bit daunting. Attempts to write new things have been hit and miss. My brain is fighting for rest, and I try to be gentle and grant it. But I can't just wait for new inspiration to strike. Been playing with a story about my tragic bard. Submitting his first adventure. No luck so far. Almost but not quite a couple of times. It's a novella, though, so no surprise. There just aren't enough markets for fiction that length.

Also trying to become involved in a couple of other writing forums. None will feel like home, I'm afraid unless I'm willing to dive in all the way and get my hands dirty with discussions and crits. ... Betting I need time away from that sort of thing, too. Nothing wrong with a vacay to recharge the desire to help humanity and seek help in return.

In the meantime, lots of prayer, lots of Bible study, lots of meditation and refocusing about life.

So seasons change. The trick is to find joy in the shifting colors.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Book Release: Fury of the Falcon

At last. The fifth and final volume of the Falcons Saga hits Amazon today. Find it HERE. The print version will be available in about a week, once I receive and finalize the last proof.

How long have I been waiting to type that announcement?

Looks like I started blogging about this massive project back in 2011, but it's been in the works far longer than that. A long, rough haul. Closure is a good feeling. The possibilities at this point are endless, and I'm optimistic.

I thought I had many words to express over this event, but after five volumes at 150k-220k words apiece, my words are pretty well dried up at the moment. A little silence may be in order. My characters don't mind. They're tired too. But, my, what a ride.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Long Haul Ends...

It's over. Six years and five books later, the Falcons Saga is complete. I finished the edits today and I've sent the file to my proofreader. But the labor is finished. All that remains is correcting errors found in the final reading and formatting everything for upload.

I can't believe it. It's here. The moment I dreamed of for more than half a decade. Freedom. Freedom from this story, from these characters, from this weight on my shoulders. Closure. Finally. I'm overwhelmed with both joy and sadness. In truth, I'm astonished, and I don't know how to feel.

But that's normal, I guess. Now, someone please tell me what to do with the rest of my life. All possibilities are on the table. I'm facing a wide-open sea with no destination in sight. Kinda scary. Kinda thrilling.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

National Poetry Month - Kick Off

What's better than an entire month dedicated to the celebration of poetry? At LegendFire we have a month's worth of poetry-writing activities planned, with new prompts daily. That means, it's really bad poetry time.

Today we were asked to learn a new poetry form. I had never written a cinquain before, but it looked simple enough to try on a limited time schedule.

Here goes:

passionate, woven
inspiring, convicting, changing
from synapse to revolution

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Progress Diary: End in Sight

Project: Fury of the Falcon, Book 5, Falcons Saga

Entry #22

Wow, I haven't blogged at all this year??? Whoops. Time flies when you're writing. I can't remember the last time I've been so focused. Er, college? The past three or so weeks have been like viewing the world down a tube.

I am so close to finishing this six-year-long novel project that my head is spinning! Like, literally, one chapter and a bit to go. I survived writing all those deaths and the endgame nightmare, and now I'm tying up the final details. What do I include? What do I omit? It's difficult balancing the pacing -- moving the ending along but not letting it feel rushed. Editing this may be a nightmare. But that's for later.

Getting Carah on her way and closing the entire story is all that remains. Can hardly believe it. Makes me lightheaded thinking about it.

One more week? Two?