Category Archives: Other Notable Authors

Updates on other works of renown within the independent publishing world.

Zombie Flash Fiction: On Domestic Soil

This piece was written as part of a promotional contest for J. Whitworth Hazzard, who prepares to release his four Dead Sea Games books within one print compilation. The flash fiction contest is judged by Miranda Kate. See the link below to read the other entries.

Returning_Home,_New_York_Times,_1919

“Returning Home” 1919, New York Times

On Domestic Soil
by Marissa Ames
486 words

We returned from the Great War, certain no worse horrors existed than we’d witnessed in Europe. Dead French children, lying in pieces after German invasions, could not compare to American children, walking in pieces after the Spanish Flu.

Ten months we waited in Nantucket. Olive drab wool hung from bodies that had been strapping before the draft. Farm boys and dockworkers, we had obeyed Woodrow Wilson and defended the world. We swore we could see Lady Liberty from the coast if we squinted. We wanted to kiss our mothers, for the war was over. Ten months, because of a pandemic on domestic soil.

We only knew what the dots and dashes told, brief code testifying of a plague ravaging young bodies. A flu threatened to exterminate New York before the next decade. It took fathers and mothers, and boys too young for the draft. It would take us as well if we left Nantucket.

For ten months, the officers wouldn’t let us rest. We trained like Germans on the Western Front, building trenches out of bricks and wood. They claimed the next war would not be in the countryside. Our bayonets stabbed straw dummies. Aim for the head, they said. Always the head.

The dots and dashes stopped. A final four words: All dead. Feeling sick.

We boarded the ship home, clutching scarred bayonets. Ghost ships drifted in Long Island Sound. Sailors shuffled on deck, ignoring our hails. The officers refused to stop. Dead, they said, though the sailors still walked. Bodies floated in the East River, bloated and stinking. Still they twitched and swam.

New Yorkers roamed Times Square, all dead. Rotting hands clutched newspapers, as if the bodies remembered they still had jobs to do. Women shuffled through the streets with dried blood on their hobble skirts, testifying that hobbling for fashion had been their downfall. Bowlers and fedoras tumbled in the wind, kicked by the mindless ambling of corpses in spats.

With khaki cloth tied around our mouths, we slunk through the streets. Keep quiet, the officers said, until safe within the trenches. Keep your bayonets ready, else you fall the same way as did the previous platoon.

That platoon had not known what to expect, the officers said. The dots and dashes never mentioned an appetite for flesh, or inhuman speed despite rotting limbs. We found pieces of the previous platoon, leftover after the dead had eaten their fill. Those pieces walked or crawled, draped in olive drab, searching for more flesh to consume.

Within trenches built before that platoon fell, we whispered and prayed. For our mothers, we said. For President Wilson, and the United States. An attack developed by an enemy more human than our former patriots would give us the advantage. Strike hard and fast, the officers said. Aim for the head. Always the head.

We raised our bayonets high, to defend the world before the next decade began.

 

Soldiers from Fort Riley, Kansas, ill with the Spanish Flu

Soldiers from Fort Riley, Kansas, ill with the Spanish Flu

Did you enjoy this story? Read the other entries, contest rules, and information regarding the Dead Sea Games books HERE!

Like my story? Kickstart the zombie apocalypse by publishing Dead Sea Games.

Want to write like me? Personal coaching and critiquing by Miranda Kate.

Book Signings and Renaissance Faires

Who says Reno doesn’t have culture?

This Sunday, I’ll be signing books at the Nevada Opera Renaissance Faire, alongside local authors Jean Booth and Kurt Winans. Also available are books from award winning authors who write with a fantasy edge: A.D. Trosper, Hannah Steenbock, Katie Jennings, LaDonna ColeNatalie Gibson, and Sophie Moss.

Would you like free signed books? Read on to find the secret buzzwords!

Nevada Opera’s Renaissance Faire

An Artown Event

  • Sunday, July 6, 2014
  • 10am to 9pm
  • Wingfield Park (on the river)
Ren faire color

Banner by Blue Harvest Creative

An excerpt from Vassal, available September 20th, 2014:

Aislin marched arrow-first into the hall. The sun, now peeking full into the window, danced along the high points of the men’s faces. They reacted the same as all men did when facing Aislin’s bow. Their somber expressions became dubious, and they retreated a step.

Darrion demanded, “What do you want?”

The same husky voice rasped, “We seek wheat and rye.”

Immediately Darrion replied, “We have stores to share, if you are needy.”

Aislin’s arrow sagged. She didn’t often feed beggars, for she rarely had ample food for her own fief. “What do you—No, we don’t. We have to plant.”

“I’ll take care of this,” Darrion said.

“But we don’t—”

“I said—” He set a hand on her bare shoulder. “—I’ll take care of this.”

Shrugging his hand away, she lowered her bow.

The men stood patiently. One, blond with long hair tied back in a tail at the base of his neck, carried an axe slung on his belt. The other, with a mane of dark, scrubby wool on his face and his chin, carried a one-handed arming sword. They watched Aislin’s bow, but they did not approach.

“The grain is in the barn,” Darrion said. “Allow me to retrieve my boots, and I’ll fill a sack for your journey.” Passing by Aislin on his way back to the room, he whispered to her, “Try not to shoot them.”

Her mouth fell open, and her head turned to watch him leave. One of the intruders shuffled his feet. Aislin aimed her arrow at him and cocked her elbow back. “Don’t move,” she snarled.

Did you catch the buzz word? In case you didn’t:

I’ll be giving a swag bag to the first person who approaches our booth and proclaims, “I seek wheat and rye.” Within Vassal, those words promise trust within a secret and illegal organization. On Sunday, they might win you a signed copy of Minstrel, swords and tiaras for up to 5 children in your group, and a tote bag courtesy of Blue Harvest Creative.

Author Jean Booth is also offering a swag bag. Visit her website for her buzz words:

Please drop by the Renaissance Faire. Listen to amazing music. Visit vendors for some tantalizing food and unique wares. And come see us! We’re offering a free sword or tiara for every two books you purchase, and have many stories to suit your personal tastes.

“What do you like to read?”

Selkie_Spell_Audio_Banner

The Selkie Spell
by Sophie Moss
Seal Island Trilogy #1
Publication Date: November 6, 2011
Genres: Contemporary, Fantasy, Romance
Purchase from: • AmazonNook
Add to Goodreads.

Winner of the gold medal for Best Romance/Fantasy, 2013 Readers’ Favorite International Book Awards.

Synopsis

American doctor Tara Moore wants to disappear. On the run from an abusive husband, she seeks shelter on a windswept Irish island and dismisses the villagers’ speculation that she is descended from a selkie–a magical creature who is bewitching the island. But when a ghostly woman appears to her with a warning, Tara realizes it was more than chance that brought her to this island. Desperate to escape a dark and dangerous past, she struggles against a passionate attraction to handsome islander, Dominic O’Sullivan. But the enchantment of the island soon overpowers her and she falls helpless under its spell.

Caught between magic and reality, Tara must find a way to wield both when a dangerous stranger from her past arrives, threatening to destroy the lives of everyone on the island.

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My Review:

I read all three Seal Island Trilogy books, devouring each one. The audiobook completely lived up to the expectations. Ms. Moss chose a narrator with a soothing voice and a talent for portraying individual characters. I downloaded The Selkie Spell onto my smartphone and listened to excerpts during long walks to and from work. A two-hour walk felt like two minutes as I got caught up in the story all over again.

Whenever I recommend the Seal Island Trilogy books to readers, I always emphasize this: Sophie Moss has managed to do something that many romance writers haven’t yet figured out. She creates male protagonists who don’t push their women around or dominate them, yet the men retain all their masculinity. None of the women are “saved by a man,” but that doesn’t neutralize the potency of the male character. In fact, this is a non-issue. There are no smothering and overly feminist ideals here; it simply is what it is, portraying strong women and strong men within their own story. I wish more writers could figure this out.

Everything about this series is beautiful. From the flowing prose and engaging characters, to the vivid imagery, and even the front-to-back formatting done for Ms. Moss by Blue Harvest Creative. Both print and eBook are stunning and complement the superb writing style that Sophie continues with Wind Chime series.

 

The Seal Island Trilogy

01_Selkie_Spell-(LG-2500-x-1563) The Selkie Enchantress (Seal Island Trilogy #2) The Selkie Sorceress (Seal Island Trilogy #3)

Author: Sophie Moss

Sophie Moss (Color)

Sophie Moss is an award-winning author of four full-length romance novels. Her stories are featured consistently on Amazon Kindle Bestseller Lists. Known for her captivating Irish fantasy romances and heartwarming contemporary romances with realistic characters and unique island settings, her books have appeared twice in USA Today. As a former journalist, Sophie has been writing professionally for over ten years. She has a B.A. in English from the University of Vermont and she is a long-standing member of Romance Writers of America. Sophie currently lives in San Diego, California, where she is writing her next novel. When she’s not writing, she’s walking the beach, volunteering at the local Humane Society, or working in her garden. Visit Sophie at her website at http://www.sophiemossauthor.com.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Soul of the Universe

SotU72logo

At long last, The Anthology Club’s first publication, Soul of the Universe, is available in eBook!

Ok, let me back up a little. Just what is The Anthology Club?

Launched in 2013 by Michael Manz, The Anthology Club promotes writers’ careers by producing and publishing anthologies of short fiction from flash to novellas. Senior members of the club propose projects, inviting both senior and junior members to write. Once the project is complete, the club publishes the work and offers it within the major eBook channels.

Royalties are distributed as follows:

  • 15% for the Club, to pay for publication costs, copyediting and formatting, artwork, and publicity for the current and future projects.
  • 5% for the editor of that particular project.
  • 80% is distributed among the contributors, based on the amount of content contributed by each author.

For a few months, The Anthology Club hovered within the limbo of closed beta as the senior members worked out the bugs in the system. When ready, Mr. Manz opened the club out to all writers, with calls for submission spread across the internet.

As one of the original senior members, I have been on board throughout the entire journey. It’s been fascinating. The Publication Agreement was my first ever, and a landmark for me in my career. I’ve had my say in projects still in the works, such as the pirate-themed anthology which still has a few meager weeks left for submissions.

Soul of the Universe paves the way for these other anthologies.

“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” – Plato 

“Here you will find a collection of six stories by four authors that, at first glance, seem to have little in common. We have Sci Fi Adventure. We have Medieval Fantasy. We have Emotional Drama, and we have Steampunk. We even have a Western. 

“Though each of these stories seems to have little in common with its companions, every one of them shares the same genesis. They were all inspired by that same divine spark that gives the universe purpose. They were all inspired by music. 

“Each of the authors in this collection took a favorite song as their inspiration and told the story that no one else could hear. The result is an endlessly entertaining collection of well spun yarns , thrilling adventures, and emotionally engaging drama. 

We hope you’ll enjoy.”

Soul of the Universe contains works by four authors: Michael Manz himself, Michael Walker, and me. And last but not least, the already published and quite bawdy and hilarious Michael Wombat, who has also headed up and edited the project. The artwork is by Kit Cooper, a newcomer herself to the eBook world.

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If you would like to check out Soul of the Universe and support The Anthology Club, you may find it at these links:

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amazon Canada

Amazon Australia

Soul of the Universe on Goodreads

ACLogo_Small_Green

And if you would like to write for The Anthology Club, you may find them online and on Facebook.

The Anthology Club homepage

The Anthology Club on Facebook

Take a moment to check them out! They might just be the writing project you’ve been looking for! And buy Soul of the Universe for some unique and truly entertaining stories.

Conspiring Against Cancer

Some give their lives in the fight against cancer. Sahara, twelve years old, doesn’t suffer from cancer, but she has friends and family who have survived it. Or who still fight the battle. Sahara doesn’t have to give her life, but she’s giving her hair.

baldricks 14

Last year, Sahara W. shaved her head for St. Baldrick’s, a charity that encourages donors to raise funds and shave their heads, to support research fighting childhood cancer. Last year, Sahara raised $500. This year, she strives for $1,000 in donations.

To help her reach this goal, we’d like to offer something in return.

If you donate to Sahara W’s page, you will receive in trade:

  • Your name (pen name, business name)
  • One link (your website, Facebook page, or buy link)
  • One image (shown as a thumbnail, but also linked up to your page)

Donor names will be categorized by amount donated, and the list will be posted on Marissa Ames’ author site, and on our sister site, Ames Family Farm. This list will be shared on all affiliated Facebook pages, and will be regularly Tweeted. Also, other bloggers/donors are encouraged to share this page to further your outreach.

To take advantage of this networking offer, make a non-anonymous donation to Sahara W’s St. Baldrick’s page. Then message me on my Facebook page and share what name, link, and image you would like displayed. I will build the page, and inform you when it’s available to share.

This opportunity is not available for:

  • Pornography
  • Drugs, even if they’re legal in your state
  • Any illegal activity
  • Spam
  • Hate groups, or even hateful comments

All money paid goes straight to St. Baldrick’s!

Thank you! -Marissa Ames

Lara Hays – Oceanswept

I owe a lot to Lara Hays, author of young adult romance, but she didn’t know it until recently.

Last year, I received a Nook for my birthday. New to the world of e-readers, I didn’t know what to download until a friend of mine posted on Facebook about her sister’s new release, Oceanswept. Because of this friend, I felt an instant connection to an author whom I had never met. I downloaded the book and started reading. Two sleepless nights later, I finished it. I brought my Nook to my husband and showed him what this author did, self-publishing her own work on an e-reader and suggested I could do the same. The journey began.

Lara Hays has recently released the sequel to OceansweptUndertow, the second of the Oceanswept Trilogy. She has also released two short stories in the Oceanswept Chronicles: “Stowaway” and “Intruder in the Brig”. These young adult stories feature high romance on the high seas, with swashbuckling pirates and fine English ladies. They are clean books, appropriate for young teens. You can click on the pictures to find the Amazon links to her books.

Oceanswept

 I had the opportunity to interview Lara and loved her answers:

1)Tell me about yourself.
I am a writer, a mother, a wife, a animal lover, an adoption advocate, traveler, and reader. I work full-time as a marketing copywriter. I blog (though the frequency has died down quite a bit) about nothing and everything, with an emphasis on adoption. I adore New Girl and have an long-term and rather illicit love affair with junk food.

Undertow

2)Tell me about the Oceanswept Trilogy.
The Oceanswept Trilogy is a young adult historical fiction trilogy set in 18th century following 17-year-old Tessa Monroe who has moved with her father from England to the fledgling British colonies in the West Indies. Her ship is sunk by a hurricane and she manages to be rescued—by pirates. With a future of slavery in the offing, Tessa joins forces with Nicholas Holladay, a charismatic sailor ready to break free from a life of piracy. Mutiny is in the air. Tessa and Nicholas will either win their freedom or earn a spot at the gallows.

Intruder

An addition to the three-novel trilogy, I have written (and plan to write more) a couple of short-stories that take place in the Oceanswept world with the same characters. These short stories are called Oceanswept Chronicles. They aren’t necessary to the story of the trilogy, but just fun extras.

3) Who is your favorite character, and why?
My favorite character is actually Captain Black. His role is smallish in Oceanswept and practically nonexistent in Undertow, but he is hugely significant in the third book and he is a fascinating character. I also love Nicholas. Who doesn’t? Daring and handsome and brave, but there is a lot to him under the surface.

Stowaway

4) What was the hardest scene to write, and why?
The hardest scenes for me to write are often the transition scenes between dramatic events. Keeping the pace, keeping things interesting and realistic, yet still being able to connect the dots between all the dramatic events to make a big picture.

5) Are any characters or scenes based off of real life events/people?
No, not directly. One of my character’s names is very symbolic, based off a real person and what they mean to me. I have traveled to the Caribbean twice and pull from my experiences with the ocean and the islands. There are a few small things that are based off real events. There’s a small scene in Undertow when Tessa is watching the sunrise and when the sun crests the horizon, she listens to hear the sea sizzle because her father taught her that—even though she knew the sea doesn’t sizzle. My father taught me the same thing and to this day, if I am by the ocean during a sunrise or sunset, I listen for the sound of the sea sizzling.

6) Why pirates?
I love stories about redemption because it’s something everyone can relate too. Pirates—aside from creating an adventurous backdrop—represent “evil” and we have Nicholas and even Tessa to an extent navigating that world of evil and trying to get out of it and redeem themselves. It’s a metaphor that’s popular in many novels, movies, and TV shows. Think of all the vampire stuff that’s so popular now. It’s the same story. Redemption. Plus, I’ve always been fascinated with sailing and with the ocean, so if I am going to spend countless hours researching and writing, it might as well be about something I enjoy!

7) I read Oceanswept and would definitely let my 12-year-old read it. What is your target audience? What would you say to parents who are hesitant to introduce their preteen daughters to the romance genre?
“Romance” is such a tricky word. We automatically think of those steamy bodice rippers at the grocery store. I honestly prefer to classify it as a Young Adult Historical Romance for that reason, but the romance is what everyone loves about the story so we can’t leave that out! My intended audience is females 13+. I leave the + there because I think more adults have enjoyed my books than teenagers! I would tell parents that it is a clean romance. All virtue remains intact. All thoughts are pure! And remember, most all books no matter their genre incorporate love interests and romance in some way. So this is a great way for teens to experience a love-story that is going to be clean.

8.) Is Oceanswept the first book you’ve ever written? Please describe the writing process.
Yes, it is. I don’t even know how many books I have started, but Oceanswept was the first I finished. I think in the past I was too concerned with coming up with a book that others wanted to read, or that would garner critical acclaim or something lofty. This time, I decided to write a book that I would want to read. I got the idea in a meeting and created the entire outline in that meeting. I began writing in my spare time and I was obsessed. Every waking minute that I could spare, I was writing. I finished the first draft in three weeks.

 9) What lessons have you learned from publishing?
Format as you go! If plan A doesn’t work, go with plan B, plan C, plan D, whatever. Don’t give up and don’t let others dictate your dream.

10) What are your future plans for the Oceanswept Chronicles and other books?
I am working on a young adult book right now about a teenage boy whose recently divorced mother purchased a hospice and his new home is living among dying people as he struggles to shape his own life in the midst of a broken family. It is definitely a departure from swashbuckling adventure and teen romance, but I hope my readers will take the leap with me. I have an outline of the final book of the Oceanswept Trilogy and that will hopefully be available in about a year. I am also planning to continue to supply more Chronicles—I don’t know how many of those might crop up. They’re just fun and people love little “director’s cuts” of the stories. So I don’t necessarily have a limit on them. I have even taken requests on what extra details readers want.

Lara Hays

My author website is larahays.com, though I need to be better about updating it.

You’ll get the most updates from me at Facebook.com/LaraHaysAuthor

And you can read my personal blog at pocketfullofprose.blogspot.com

A Hell of a Thing by Lisa V. Tomecek

This story is written for AMMC: A Merry Minion Christmas. You can find the rules here:

Title: “A Hell of a Thing”
Author: Lisa V. Tomecek
eBook: YES

Words: 500

“Come in from the cold, Uncle.”

I look up from the window to see him standing there by the open door: tall and lean and maybe thirty, with an easy smile, stubble, shaggy hair. And flip-flops.

Who wears flip-flops in the snow?

He’s always been like that, my nephew. I suspect I’ll never understand why.

“You look like hell, Uncle,” he says, and means it. I take in the jumble of thrift store denim and flannel and chuckle at the irony.

“I’m fine,” I say. I shrug deeper into my overcoat—black, wool, made in Italy—and heft my coffee. The steam spirals up in the chill. “Just out for a walk.”

“Don’t lie, Uncle. You didn’t walk.”

He frowns and waves a hand at the car that sits idling at the curb. The engine rumbles like a drowsing beast; the parking lights pulse red, wash the icy slush on the streets with blood.

“Come in. Bring your driver, too. We’re sitting down to dinner. Everyone’s there—well, except you.”

I know already. I’ve seen them gathered around the table, watched a long time. The memories of younger days wash over me, and for a moment, I think about it. But—

“No. I’m fine. I have things to do. Business meetings. Paperwork. Hostile takeovers. You know how it goes.”

But I know he doesn’t; he’s never been the corporate type. Still, he lets me play the game, and he smiles that easy smile again.

“It’s been a long time—too long. Everyone would be glad to see you.”

There he’s wrong. There I know better. I shrug and swallow my coffee. It’s bitter.

“Your dad and I don’t get along. We haven’t. We won’t.”

“You could,” he says, “if you tried.”

“I don’t think so,” I tell him. “Sometimes things go too far for making up.”

He frowns again. The falling snow clings to his shirt, lights in his hair. “You know I don’t agree.”

“And you know I think you’re too idealistic for your own good.”

A sudden sadness comes over him. He lifts up his hands, plaintive. “I wish you’d stop this, Uncle. Every year, you show up on the doorstep, and every year you refuse to come in. Just—why?”

I smile. It’s thin, wistful. I taste the spoiled memories. They’re bitter, like the coffee.

“Pride, kid. Pride’s a hell of a thing.”

I turn back to the waiting car.

“Should I tell him you came, Uncle?” he calls after.

I don’t bother to turn back.

“No.”

There’s a long pause, then—

“Merry Christmas, Uncle,” he says quietly, in that way without malice that I’ll never understand.

The car door opens. The heat welling from within washes the chill off my bones. I sit down, settle in, shut the door. My driver leans in from the front seat. His eyes catch the streetlights and glow, molten pools of red. They weren’t always that way.

Neither were mine.

“Where to, Boss?”

“Away,” I tell him. “Anywhere but here.”

Read other stories from this project here:

Three Kings of Armageddon by R.K. Ames

This story is written for AMMC: A Merry Minion Christmas. You can find the rules here:

Title: “Three Kings of Armageddon”
Author: R.K. Ames
eBook: YES

Dedication: To my wife and to my children: Joe and Sahara.

Har Meggido

“Shepherding seven Hebrew girls through the countryside at night? It’s enough to get an old cleric killed, Balthazar,” commented Melchior as he peered up the sheer walls of the pass, a quarter night’s walk outside the ruins of Har Megiddo. The three astrologists ran an unprecedented risk. However, Gaspar had yet to steer them wrong. He swore that the Godling had mandated it.

“Seven, seven, seven years,” muttered Melchior as he waggled a knobby knuckled finger at the back of Gaspar’s bald, clay-colored head. “Seven years since we left Babylon’s milk-laden bosom. I assumed that honoring the Godling would be the pinnacle, yet here we are. Trekking an ankle-breaking pass, pursued by Ehudi of all people. Ehudi the Tracker, Ehudi the Man Hunter.”

“Come now, Melchior,” said Gaspar in his comforting squeak of a voice. “What are our lives compared to the Godling’s desires?” Everything about Gaspar seemed unkempt yet everything was also in its proper space. The cold didn’t seem to affect the Hindu, like it did the rest of the party. Gaspar seemed to sweat confidence and exhale calm.

“Ehudi is a man,” Gaspar muttered reassuringly.  “The Godling is the avatar of a god. A life unthreatened is a life unlived, my friend.”

Balthazar grunted rhythmically as he hoisted white-slipped girl after white-slipped girl up a small ledge.  “Once through the pass we are out of Hebrew land,” he said. “We’ll claim that the girls are slaves. No one will look twice other than to inquire price.”

Melchior watched Balthazar as he handled the girls, his ebony hands contrasting on their bright white dresses. “I do wish one of these wrens would chirp” he grumbled. “The Godling wouldn’t close his mouth, but these ones haven’t spoken since we took them.”

Balthazar quipped, “The Godling said that each one had the power to destroy a nation. I’m not sure I’d want to hear them talk.” He rounded a sharp landing on the stone-hewn staircase that led to Har Megiddo’s first watchtower. At front edge of his vision a shadowy figure waivered, not quite illuminated by the torch it held.

Quick on Balthazar’s heels, Gaspar walked straight into his broad, shirtless black back. He stumbled, cursed, looked up the staircase, and froze. Seven white dresses jostled to accommodate the sudden his sudden stop. All that white, against the dark mountain pass stairway, blinded Melchior.

“Ehudi, I had expected that you would find us sooner,” crooned Gaspar. “It is reassuring to see that Herod’s most loyal hound has lived up to his reputation. All that must be must become.”

A pleasant voice echoed down the stairwell, “Archers have you in their sights. You have nowhere to run. Finish your ascent.”

A single torch, held by a single man dressed in boiled leather, appeared on the landing. Surrounded by archers, the group had nowhere else to go.

Silently, the group filed to the top of the pass and gathered in the atrium on the inside of the watchtower. All in plain robes, trail dust, and sweat that reflected in the bright torch light. There stood men with dour faces and weapons.

The men trained their weapons on the group. “Gaspar,” the leather-clad torch-wielder sputtered around a cleft palate. “Herod inquires as to why you left without saying farewell. He will be unpleased to find that you have taken slaves as well. “ He said out of the side of his mouth, earning a chitter from the subordinate trackers, “Clerics and astrologers? I wouldn’t want to learn what they want with little girls.”

Gaspar, face glowing brighter with each emphasized word, righteous rage sparking a fire in his squeaky throat, responded, “They Are Not Slaves, Ehudi, but inchoate celestial weapons with a god-mandated purpose! The young ones will not be molested! Their divine purpose will not contradicted! They were born on the same night as the Godling. The Star shone for them as well. The Godling and his angels will determine their fate.”

“You have no place to go Gaspar.” Ehudi smirked almost confidentially, arms wide staring into the morning. “The sun’s rising and there is nowhere to hide.”

Mid-smirk, confusion bloomed on Ehudi’s cleft face. Turning to look in the direction that Ehudi stared, conflicting expressions appeared the congregation’s faces. Balthazar registered shock while rapture spread across Gaspar’s.

The sky remained dark, yet the atrium was brighter than a mid-day in mid-summer.

Heads swiveled to the door of the watchtower as a deep bass voice boomed through group’s ears.  White-dressed girls stood in a triangle, shortest in front and arranged thusly. The image burned into group’s minds as seven flower-lipped mouths said in unison, “Hear me and tremble, heed me and dread. The dark night approaches. In the end I will rise. I will destroy. I will blow the seven trumpets. The earth will quake. Its inhabitants will bleed. Its inhabitants will burn. I will lie myself down and when I awake, Har Meggido will be the epicenter of the end of times. I am the harbinger of the Son of God!”

With a flash, the group saw only the residue of the vision on the backs of their eyelids. With a crash the brilliance was gone. Dresses were gone. The watchtower was razed to rubble. With eyelids crushed together, Melchior could only distinguish the smell of dust, burnt ozone, and fresh urine.

In the midst of the billowing dust, a column of pure light settled before the small group. As the light sparkled off the sandstone rubble, Melchior could feel the words in his soul, “Well done good and faithful servants, come ye into the rest of the Lord.” A tingling passed through his body as the sensation of gravity left him.

Read other stories from this project here:

A Nixie Christmas by Theresa Miller

This story is written for AMMC: A Merry Minion Christmas. You can find the rules here:

Title: “A Nixie Christmas”
Author: Theresa Miller
eBook: YES

To my daughter, Katrina Novak, from whose brain the Nixies and Noxies were born. May your imagination continue to make the world a better place.

fairy christmas ball

“D.U.B.S., this is Agent Noreen Silva, I have a situation here.”

The communicator in Noreen’s hand came to life with a tinny gender neutral voice. “Due to budget shortfalls, the office of the Department of Underworld Border Security has been temporarily closed. Please avoid any emergency situations until we reopen.”

“Thom is that you? I really do need to get through to Noxie Command.

“Thom this isn’t funny.

“Thom? Hello?”

Noreen stared at her communicator in consternation. Had Tatiana and Oberon’s squabbling gotten that far out of hand? Reluctantly she trickled the necessary magic into the device to switch it from Communicate to Record and Transmit.

“This is Agent Noreen Silva reporting a disturbance in the Verge. There’s a depression about my height and twice as wide.” She paused, considering. “For the sake of accuracy I must report it’s a bit taller than me; about the height of a regular Noxie or,” she shuddered delicately, “Nixie.

“Since no Noxie worth their dust would mistreat the border this way, I assume a group of Nixies passed through recently. This would be a great time for backup. Agent Silva; going in.”

Noreen hung the communicator on her belt, then put her hands on the soft, springy substance of the boundary and melded into it. Tingles running through the Verge material painted clear pictures for experienced Verge travelers. Today’s picture was all too familiar. Her brother had been here. Like all Nixies he was the offspring of a Noxie father and a Pixie mother. Like all Nixies he had a Noxie’s ability to meld with and shape the Verge and a pixie’s penchant for mischief.

“Must I spend my life cleaning up after him?” Noreen sighed as she followed the familiar trail. She was almost to the Other Side before she found the pocket. She pulled out the communicator.

“Agent Silva again. It’s definitely Nixies. I’ve found their stash. It would’ve taken quite a few of them to stash this many…” She reached out and tentatively prodded the nearest brightly colored box. It crinkled under her questing finger. “Well, whatever they are they’re bigger than socks or spoons and there are a lot of them.”

Noreen pocketed the communicator, hefted the largest of the boxes and, closing her eyes, concentrated on willing the Verge to allow the passage of the strange object. Reaching the edge, she poked her head through, right into the prickly branches of a pine tree. She was sure it was winter in the human realms, but the tree was bare of snow and the air was warm and stuffy.

She frowned. This didn’t make sense. She seemed to be both in a forest and in a house. Things didn’t work that way in the human realm. They just didn’t.

Movement caught her eye. She turned and found herself face to face with a dread beast straight out of her nightmares. The black-furred creature narrowed its yellow eyes and bared its fangs. Noreen jerked her head back into the Verge as the beast lunged for her, claws extended. Its paws passed through the barrier and caught her collar, dragging her back into the human world. She twisted out of her jacket and fell, hitting branch after branch until she landed face down on a softly carpeted floor.

“Mittens, what are you doing in there? Are you in the tree again?” A woman appeared in the doorway. “Get down from th-.” The woman stopped short and put her hands over her mouth, eyes wide.

Noreen froze. How was this human seeing her, especially partially hidden as she was by the tree trunk?

“The presents.” The woman turned. “Bob, the presents. They’re gone!” Quietly Noreen melded back into the Verge.

“D.U.B.S., Agent Silva again. I have a female human distressed about missing ‘presents.’ I know humans are obsessed with the current point in time, but have no idea how it can go missing. If these humans have a way to store bits of time in boxes and a bit of forest growing in the middle of their house, we need to do a sweep for magic in this area. There must be a leak. In the meantime the tree is guarded by a ferocious feline. I’ll have to find a different route. Looks like it’s gonna be an all-nighter. Sure would appreciate that backup.”

It was a long night. When she finally finished pushing the time boxes into the human world she dragged her aching body to a point along the Edge where she could see the tree. The magic must still be leaking in because it was now covered with a myriad of colored lights and glittering pretties.

The woman sat sadly on the floor surrounded by several smaller humans, the smallest of which was crying. Noreen wondered for a moment if she had failed, but then dismissed the thought. Crying was one of the default states of small humans and it always seemed to make the bigger ones sad.

“Shhh,” the woman said hugging the smallest one. “We can still have Christmas without presents. We still have each other.” The small one only wailed louder.

Suddenly a door blew open and bounced off the wall with a bang. The wind blew in a flurry of cold and snow and a human man who was grinning from ear to ear.

“Merry Christmas!” he bellowed, throwing his arms open wide. “Santa must have been extra busy last night. He didn’t have time to bring the presents down the chimney. They’re all up on the roof.”

The small humans squealed, jumped to their feet and ran to follow the man outside. The woman sat there for a moment then reached under the tree. She held up a beautiful little red jacket with a torn collar. She gazed at it a moment. It was too small for any of her children. Where had it come from?

A shriek of pure joy came through the open door followed by the clunk of a ladder hitting the house. The woman looked up with a smile then rose and went to join her family. The jacket fell to the floor, forgotten.

As soon as she was out of sight a small hand reached out of thin air, grabbed the jacket, and pulled it out of sight.

Read other stories from this project here:

Hush Puppy by Lisa Cresswell

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Intelligent Corrine, abandoned by her mother, and artsy Jamie, forced to play football by a redneck father, both dream of leaving their podunk town and never looking back. Their shared love of literature and a dream of a better life bring them together and a romance blossoms between them in a secret place of their own in the steamy North Carolina woods. When Jamie is involved in the accidental death of a white girl, he’s terrified of his abusive father. Corrine takes the blame to protect Jaime, with dire consequences for herself and her dreams of the future. Her life in danger, Corrine’s left wondering if Jamie ever cared about her at all.

You can purchase Hush Puppy in both print and eBook on Amazon.com

My Review:

The first thing I noticed about the book was, of course, the cover. Simple and stunning at the same time. It always amazes me how the book cover people can draw a reader in by just a black and white portrait.

Hush Puppy starts out simple and sweet: a 17-year-old black girl in North Carolina meets a white boy her age and starts a friendship. Corrine’s life is difficult, but it’s not stereotypically tragic. It’s something that many readers can relate to, as is Jamie’s. Corrine handles it well, though. She tackles racism, poverty, absent parents, and peer pressure with admirable grace, usually taking the high road. She’s not a Mary Sue character, though: she has moments when that decision is so hard to make. In the end, she serves as a role model for real girls.

Jamie isn’t quite as strong as Corrine, taking his trials but blaming others for them. At this point, he doesn’t have high hopes for the future. Jamie is right in the middle of the toughest part of his life, and he’s well aware of it. There were a couple of moments in the book where I felt Jamie wasn’t worth the trouble he caused, but apparently the heroine of the book had more faith in him than I did.

The author built the suspense well, writing scenes that kept me expecting something tragic to happen. When nothing happened, I wasn’t disappointed, but I didn’t lose the suspense. I felt the foreshadowing that something WAS going to happen. And when it did, I really didn’t see it coming. Wow. The moment it happened, I couldn’t stop reading. At 1am, I finished the book.

There were a few unanswered questions, though. First of all, when the characters were going through their climactic struggle, Corrine felt that Jamie wasn’t telling her everything. I don’t remember seeing that resolved, where she found out what he hadn’t told her. Also, did Mr. Taft ever do anything to Jamie when the truth came out? Though I was left wondering these things, the absence of them didn’t detract from the enjoyment of the story.

This is something I would let my young adult daughter read. At one point, Corrine almost gets herself into a compromising situation, but she makes the right decision in the end. The author keeps the heroine out of the sex-traps that even other young adult authors seem to be miring their characters in. Since my daughter reads at a much higher level than her age, it’s often difficult to find books appropriate for her. Hush Puppy is. I’d recommend to all my parent-friends.

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Lisa T. Cresswell

Lisa, like most writers, began scribbling silly notes, stories, and poems at a very young age. Born in North Carolina, the South proved fertile ground to her imagination with its beautiful white sand beaches and red earth. In fifth grade, she wrote, directed and starred in a play “The Queen of the Nile” at school, despite the fact that she is decidedly un-Egyptian looking. Perhaps that’s why she went on to become a real life archaeologist?

Unexpectedly transplanted to Idaho as a teenager, Lisa learned to love the desert and the wide open skies out West. This is where her interest in cultures, both ancient and living, really took root, and she became a Great Basin archaeologist. However, the itch to write never did leave for long. Her first books became the middle grade fantasy trilogy, The Storyteller Series. Her first traditionally published work, Hush Puppy, is now available from Featherweight Press.

Lisa still lives in Idaho with her family and a menagerie of furry critters that includes way too many llamas!

You can see Lisa’s author blog here and her Goodreads author page here.