Seven Seven Seven… I Got Tagged.

I got tagged.  I guess I’m it.  Eve Gaal (on Facebook) tagged me to do a seven-seven-seven.  I have to post seven lines from the seventh page of a work in progress, and then tag seven more people to do the same.  Of course, I don’t just work on one thing at a time.  I am presently working on the next season of Avalon, a middle-grade book titled The Golden Door where I shredded the ending, and I am trying to finish Amazons, Book 3 so I can move on to the next story in the Elect series, Junior Year.  What to choose?  The Lady or the Tiger?  In this case, I think I will go with the tiger.

I am sure you know I write young adult (middle grade/new adult) science fiction/fantasy adventures.  The following passage is from Amazons, Book 3, the paragraph at the start of page seven is conveniently seven sentences long

 

The Tiger filled the computer screen before the tiger nose poked out from the screen and the tiger began to push its way into Steven’s bedroom.  Steven ran.  Millie and Archie screamed.  When enough of the tiger mouth squeezed into the room, the tiger roared.  Millie ran.  Archie added another scream before he followed.  By then, the tiger’s front paws were free of the computer and its mouth drooled on the keyboard in anticipation.

 

No snappy dialogue, but something to chew on.

Now to tag people.  I’m going to double up because I am not sure everyone I tag will continue this madness, and Mark Richard Hunter (already tagged) is a buzzkill (his word) and has opted out of putting people on the spot…  So here goes:

  1. Barry Parham (may be already tagged) and KB Cash because if he isn’t writing something, he should be.
  2. Paul Wonning and Gary Wonning, because Paul at least has Mossy Feet
  3. Timothy Hurley and Tom Kizzia, because after Paul and Gary, the left coast needs equal time. Besides, I am not sure what Brother Tom is working on after Pilgrim’s Wilderness so I am being nosey.
  4. Anthony Vicino and James Harrington, a couple of writers from WordPress so this thing can expand out of control.
  5. Rosanne Dingli and Lucy Pireel, because this thing needs to go international
  6. Rai Aren and Rodney Johnson, though I don’t know what either may be working on
  7. Cheryl B. Dale and Graeme Smith, a couple of friends from my former life on the Writer’s Digest forum.
  8. And because I can’t count, I want to add a couple of good friends from Writer’s Mayhem, though most of the Mayhemen have already been tagged. Lena Winfrey Hayat and Will Schaduw, because if William Kendall won’t do it, maybe his Schaduw will.

Honorable Mention:  Jeff Yeager, because maybe he can figure out how to do this for less…  No, I’m not sure how we can do less than free fun…

While you are at it, look these people up, read their works and enjoy.

MGKizzia

a a happy read 6

Weekly Roundup for January 10, 2014

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For Friday, 1/10/14

Goal: 2,000 word per day, six days per week or roughly 10,000 to 12,000 words per week

This week:  10,700 word.  woo-hoo.

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            I gave one final review this week to The Hole in the World, a young adult fantasy which is ready to make the rounds.  At the same time, I have begun to track the use of names.  I mean, how many Bobs and Bills or Marys and Sarahs can I honestly write about?  More about the name game in a future post.  Meanwhile, here is  the story of The Hole in the World, and a snippet from chapter 1.  Enjoy …  

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            Duke Gregor and Princess Tanis make a hole between two worlds to escape the encroaching Empire, and in this strange new world, in our world, they find themselves adopted by the good people of Hardway Virginia.  You see, Tanis is pregnant, and it is Christmas Eve, and there just has to be room at the inn.

            Eighteen years later, the Empire sends an army to bring them back.  The Duke and the Princess reluctantly surrender when their eight-year-old son is taken captive, but they say nothing, because what the Empire does not know is there are two older siblings. 

            Now Davi and his sister Kyla need to go to that other earth. They need to rescue their parents and little brother, and more. They need to raise the armies in the East because the Empire is preparing to go to war. To succeed, Davi and Kyla are going to need help.  Fortunately, in eighteen years the family has made plenty of friends.  But what can even the United States military do in a world where magic rules and dragons are real?

            The Hole in the World is ready for print.  Somewhere, deep in the archives of this blog, is the beginning of Chapter 1.  The following is the middle of the first chapter, but I feel it is sufficiently independent to be worth the read …

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            “Put her on the couch.”  Virginia Robinson shouted.

          “No, the bed.  The bed!”  Mary Elizabeth McBain shouted as well.  Darcy Lewis pointed to the bed, but said nothing.  Her hand was on her phone.  Sheriff McBain was lucky to get the woman through the door without banging the woman’s knees or dropping her altogether.

          “Bill Cullen!  You’re a slob!”  “Get it clean.”  “Pull back the covers.”  The women all yelled.

          “Where’s the Doc?”  The Sheriff spoke over the din as he set the woman as gently as possible on the sheets.

          “Ungh.”

          “I’m calling!”  Darcy yelled at the phone.  “Taylor!  Pick up your cell!”

          “Boil water!”  Mary Elizabeth shouted.

          “What for?”  Virginia Robinson asked.  She pulled up a chair and sat beside the bed to hold and pat the woman’s hand.

          “I don’t know.  You’re supposed to.”  Mary Elizabeth looked confused. 

          The woman on the bed mumbled something in a strange language and Sheriff McBain ran back to the garage.

          “Where is this place?”  The man in the garage was dressed in chain mail and sported plenty of sharp weapons.  He looked all around the inside of the garage, but lingered on the electric lights.  He touched his horse, a familiar comfort in a strange land.

          “You.”  The Sheriff pointed at the man as he came out from the house, but he explained to everyone.  “His wife is saying something and we don’t understand.  I think she is calling for him.”

          “Come on.”  Tashi took the man’s arm.  Tom Robinson and the Sheriff followed. The others watched except Mister Beasley who still sat, held tight to his cards and sweated.

          “Ablus!  Ablus!  Gregor, te na pecosta deek nas.  Ablus.”

          “Tres gan dees,” Gregor answered as he came into the room, still looking, still wary of his surroundings.  He was glad to see Tanis being properly cared for.  He imagined there might be a price later, but he could not worry about that at the moment.

          “Gut daimen chee,” the woman said.

          “Yes,” Gregor answered in English.  “I still remember my tongue as well.”

          “This is good,” the woman also answered in English, and she smiled, satisfied.  “Ungh.”  She started another contraction while tires squealed outside and a car door slammed.  Doc Lewis bounded in as Tashi pushed on the medieval man’s chest.  She did not imagine her little self could move the mountain, but the Sheriff and Tom Robinson each took a hand and pulled and the man did not resist.  He knew men were not welcome at the birthing.

          “Bill Cullen.”  Bill met the man at the door with his hand out.

          “Duke Gregor of Galistra.”  The man took the offered hand.

          “Feels human enough.”

          “Hush!”  Tom Robinson pushed his glasses firmly up on his nose before he extended his own hand.  “Tom Robinson.”

          “Pleased to meet you,” the Duke said.  “I have known dark skinned men before.  When I was young we traded in Istallia and all along the Boran coast.  That was before the days of Empire and the rise of Emperor Kzurga.”

          “Well, Mister Duke,” Bill Cullen patted the man’s back in a friendly manner.  “Now that Doc Lewis is here, I’m sure Missus Duke will be just fine.”

          “Sheriff Ian McBain.”  The Sheriff put out his hand.

          Gregor paused and rolled his tongue as if tasting something.  “Law enforcement,” he said as he took the offered hand.  Then he thought to see to his horse.  The saddle and equipment were already removed, and a big man was rubbing the horse with a brush found in one of the satchels.

          “Ugly Bird.”  The man held out his hand.  “Fine animal.  Hard ride?”

          “Uh?”  Gregor became confused again.  He knew the words, but he could not imagine a man bearing the name Ugly Bird.  “Yes, and thanks.”  He patted the horse’s flank once again for reassurance.  “Where is this place?  Where am I?”

          “Cullen’s garage.  That’s me, Bill Cullen.  Hardway Virginia, USA.”

          “Definitely an illegal alien,” Tom mumbled and fiddled again with his spectacles.

          “You didn’t call an ambulance and you explained to Darcy?”  Ugly Bird looked at the Sheriff.

          “No ambulance,” Sheriff McBain confirmed.  “But I’ll be daft if I know what to do with them.”

          “Heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains,” Bill Cullen finished his introduction.  “Stupid slogan.  The Chamber came up with that thirty years ago.  Didn’t matter.  No one comes here.  Skyline drive is thirty miles that way.”  He pointed out into the dark.

          “I still think it was a good idea.”  There was a voice from the table.

          “Oh, yes,” Bill said.  “The old weasel is Mister Beasley, owner of Beasley’s Hardware here on Main Street.”

          “You play poker?”  Mister Beasley asked.   He had nearly crumpled the cards in his hand.

          “Give it up Mister Beasley,” the Sheriff said and Tom and Bill laughed.  “We know you got a winner.  Just take the pot.”  Mister Beasley nodded and started to do that, but Ugly Bird interrupted.

          “Full house.”  Ugly bird turned his cards face up.  “Trays over sevens.”  Mister Beasley set his cards down.  His full house was jacks over nines.  He grinned when he raked in the chips.

          “Christmas cookie Mister Duke?”  Bill held out the plate.

          “Gregor.”  The man insisted and he took one snowman shaped cookie gingerly in his fingers.  Bill picked up a Christmas tree and took a big bite.  Gregor tried his, and did not complain.

          “Eats human food, too,” Bill Cullen pointed out.

          “Where’s Galistra?”  Sheriff McBain figured it was time for some questions as the men began to settle once more around the table.  Gregor sat in the Doc’s chair for the moment, after he took off his various weapons and set them down.  He set them on a stack of old tires and took the seat where they would be near to hand.

          “Tanis?”

          “Don’t worry about her,” Bill said.  “Doc Lewis is the best and Darcy, his wife, is an RN.  And Virginia and Mary Elizabeth are there, too.  They’ll take good care of her.”

          “Virginia takes good care of me whenever I’m sick,” Tom pointed out with a look at the Sheriff.

          “I don’t get sick.”  Sheriff McBain countered.

          “The brown woman.”  Gregor tried to understand.

          “Black or African-American,” Tom said kindly; but Gregor shook his head in wonder.

          “And the one with the strange eyes?”

          “Tashi.”  Three men spoke at once.

          “She’s from Japan, I guess,” Tom said.

          “I thought she was Chinese,” Mister Beasley interrupted.

          Tom shrugged.  “Anyway, it’s a long way from here.”

          “So, where is Galistra?”  The Sheriff asked again to get back to the point.  Gregor imitated Tom’s shrug.

          “A long way,” he said.

          “Just north of the reservation.”  Ugly Bird retook his seat.  “No, really.  It’s the first train stop on the way to El Dorado.”

          “How did you get here?”  Tom ignored the joker and touched Gregor’s hand.  Gregor paused before he answered, but at least this was a question he could answer.

          “The Priest, his Eminence, Marchant of Baria conscripted the monks of Ghosh from the monastery on the island in the sea of Ghosh.  They made a hole in the world, a space, a door between Baria and this place.”  Gregor waved his hands to animate the vision.  “I don’t know how.  I know Anise, the witch of the forest observed from a distance but did not interfere.  Maybe she knows how.”  Gregor shrugged again and closed his eyes to better focus on what he was saying.  “Before we could get through, we were attacked by the Emperor’s minions, though they have a treaty with Baria as with Galistra and most of the eastern lands.  The Empire generally leaves us alone, but I guess our escape was enough to abrogate the treaty.”

          “You were attacked?”  Tom asked in a soft voice.  Everyone leaned forward, even if they did not understand everything about the story.

          “Vergeshim.”  Gregor nodded.  “Man-wolves.”  He wondered if they would understand.

          “Werewolves?”  Ugly Bird asked and Gregor nodded again.

          “Werewolves.  And the monks were not fit to defend against such.  To my shame, we ran.  Three followed before the door closed.  I believe I lost them, though, when we got to the black road and the high light without fire.”

          “I got werewolves running around the countryside?”  Sheriff McBain widened his eyes and began to sweat like Mister Beasley.  “Tell me you’re joking,” he pleaded, but somehow they all knew better.

          Tashi came out and pulled up a chair.  She appeared all bubbly and grinning.  “Mister, um,” She interrupted.

          “Mister Duke,” Bill spoke up.

          “Gregor,” he said and smiled for his nurse.

          “Is your wife a witch?”  Tashi asked.

          Gregor’s face contorted for a moment.  He raised his hand to strike Tashi on the mouth, but stopped his hand just as suddenly.  “I’m sorry.  You don’t know, but no.  Her art is most favorably given by blood of the royal line.  She is the Princess Tanis, heir to the throne of Aven, an island in the eastern sea and one of the few kingdoms still independent of the Emperor’s thumb.”

          “Oh,” Tashi said.  “Because she is floating about two inches off the bed, and glowing.”

          “Tanis.”  Gregor started to get up, but Tashi stopped him again.

          “She’s only four centimeters.  We have time to wait.”

          “Courage,” Ugly Bird said.  “I remember when Two Faces, my daughter was born.”  He laughed at a private thought.  “I thought I would have a bud while I waited.  Labor was eight hours and I was stinking by the time the baby was born.  God is my witness I will never do that again.”  Ugly Bird lost his smile.  “’Course, my mother says that is why Two Faces married a drunk.”

          There was a howl outside.  They all heard it. 

          Gregor whipped out his sword a moment faster than the Sheriff could pull his revolver.  Ugly Bird jumped to grab the horse.  Bill Cullen ran for a tire iron.  A wolf, bigger than any wolf ought to be, crashed through the glass front of the bay door.  A second followed.

          Tom Robinson’s chair slipped as he tried to push it back.  He was lucky not to crack his head on the concrete.  Tashi screamed, and so did Mister Beasley.  One wolf got beheaded in one stroke of Gregor’s sword.  The other got three bullets from Sheriff McBain’s gun and collapsed. 

          “Only two,” Gregor shouted, still crouched, ready for an imminent attack.

          Bill Cullen came back with his tire iron and thought quickly.  “Inside,” he shouted.  “Lights out and go to the windows.  Look for movement when I turn on the outside lights in the lot.”

          “Right!”  Tom got up.  Tashi ran back inside the house.  Gregor and the Sheriff followed her.  Ugly Bird stayed with the horse but managed to pull a wicked looking knife from somewhere.  Bill clicked off the garage lights and waited a minute to give his eyes a chance to adjust before he threw the breaker that turned the lights on all around the building.  He heard the women scream, shots fired, and then silence.

          Tashi ran back into the garage as Bill clicked the inside lights back on.  “Mary Elizabeth got it with a kitchen knife, and then her husband shot it,” she reported.  “Gregor is with Tanis.  Virginia stopped screaming.  Doc Lewis and Darcy are examining the creature.”

          Mary Elizabeth came out as Ugly Bird and Bill dragged the two dead beasts back out of the bay and on to the lot.  She sat down beside Mister Beasley who was wringing his hands like a man in prayer and sweating more than usual.

          Tom and the Sheriff dragged the one out of the house and tried to get as little blood on the carpet as possible.  Gregor wiped his sword clean and returned it to its’ place.  Virginia helped as they loaded all three dead bodies in the back of Bill’s pickup.  Bill got the shovels.  McBain followed in the police car and brought Tom, Tashi and Gregor.  Ugly Bird stayed with the horse, and Virginia stayed with Mary Elizabeth who was terribly traumatized by the whole thing. 

          There was a deep ditch in the woods out behind Mister Beasley’s store.  It had a few old tires, a broken toaster and other odds and ends dumped in it over the years.  It took time to empty the space, not the least because of the cold, but then the bodies went in, a mass grave, and the ditch was finally filled in with dirt and gravel.  It was long, hard work, but when it was over, Bill thought to say a word.

          “And may God have mercy on their souls.”

          “Amen.”  Tashi, Tom and the Sheriff spoke in unison.

          Gregor said nothing, but nodded.  They still looked like wolves, even in death, but no one doubted that they had once been men.

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          Back in the garage, Bill got the cardboard out and Tom found the duct tape.  Mister Beasley spoke to turn his mind from the wolves.  “One thing you better learn up front if you’re going to stick around here, Mister Duke, duct tape fixes everything.”

          “Amen.”  Tom and Bill spoke together, and Ugly Bird snickered.

          “I should stay here?”  Gregor wondered what they were suggesting.

          “Where else you gonna go?”  Bill asked.

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            Happy writing …

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Weekly Roundup: December 27, 2013

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            I am so glad I have a couple of practice weeks, and the goals I have set don’t begin until after January 4th(January 5th is Sunday, the first day of the week).  Last week, I surpassed 12,000 words of fiction for the week.  This week, I was lucky to reach 4,000 words, and on three different stories.  Christmas, you know; a reasonable excuse – though admittedly an excuse, not a reason.  I guess I have to be prepared for such weeks.  Sunday the 29th I begin with a clean slate, and in case you have forgotten, I am aiming at 2,000 words per day or roughly 10,000 to 12,000 words per week.  So we will see.

            This week I added about 1000 words to my MIB story, 2000 words to Avalon, episode 3.5, and about 1000 words to The Golden Door, a middle grade book that is long overdue to be done.  Avalon, Season Three is something I want to get finished so I can start posting the series in the new year.  Unfortunately, I got nothing done on Forever: On the Road, a continuation of the wanderings of the Storyteller through the Second Heavens, subtitled, “Anatomy of a Storyteller.”  It imitates an exaggerated, third person memoir with all the names and dates and exact places hidden to protect the innocent, if they exist.

            The Golden Door is a magical story for middle grade reading.  Follow: 

            Mom said the big, inexplicable golden door showed up in the middle of the living room the same time Dad mysteriously vanished from his sick bed.  The golden door may be the family’s only hope of finding their Dad, but after a week the unmovable door remained locked.  Now starting summer vacation, the young people have chosen to ignore it.  Until David finds it open.  There is another world through there.

            The following bit sets the story of The Golden Door in motion.  It is a bit over 1500 words.  I hope you enjoy it

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          David paused at the door to his parent’s room.  The bed was empty and made.  Mama said it was the strangest thing when Dad disappeared.  One minute Dad was there, and the next he vanished, like into thin air.  “Like he went invisible?”  David had asked.  Mama could not answer because her back was turned at the time.  She did not actually see him disappear.  She heard scampering like little feet, but then he was gone and all she could do was cry.  In fact, that was about all she could do for the first few days, that and stare at the golden door in the living room which showed up at the same time.

          David turned the corner to the living room – just a step away in their run-down ranch house.  He looked at the golden door, solid gold in a silver frame.  It reached to the ceiling, and stood in the middle of the room with no visible support of any kind.  Chris said it was only a solid gold slab with a handle and ignored it.  David wondered how it stayed upright.  He imagined a good knock would send it falling flat-side to the floor, and what a terrific crash that would be! 

          A scratching sound came from his parent’s room.  James heard something when they got off the school bus for the last time that year.  David turned to Doritos and chocolate and left the scratching sound to his younger brother James.  Chris said he checked when he got home.  He thought Mama went out and accidentally shut Seabass the cat into the windowless, walk-in closet; but when he looked, the closet was empty and Seabass was asleep on Dad’s pillow.  The closet was empty when James looked as well, and no one could figure out how that stuffy walk-in closet could have a breeze to blow coat buttons and zippers and empty hangers against the wall.

          “Mama would never allow the clothes to be hung in a way where they might scratch the paint,” David pointed out.  The boys left the closet with yet another unsolved mystery, but this time David heard the scratching with his own ears.  Since James was busy, and Chris wouldn’t let him use the game stuff, and Beth knew nothing about the scratching in the closet, that left David to try the door.  He hesitated at the handle.  David was not the bravest twelve-year-old, but he thought that maybe this once he might look.  Besides, Seabass the cat was no longer on the bed, though how the cat might have shut itself into the closet was beyond him.

          He opened the door quickly.  The late afternoon sun shot into the space, and he called the cat, but nothing happened.  He did not look any further.  He was afraid to look too close, so he shut the closet door again and returned to the living room where he sat on the couch and stared at the golden door for a long time.

          Seabass came to sit beside him.  Catbird, the big golden retriever yawned and got up from where he had slept against the sliding doors to the back yard.  That spot was no longer attractive once the sun dipped behind the trees and cast the whole back side of the house in shadow.

          David petted Catbird’s contented golden head with one hand while his other hand stroked Seabass’ soft fur.  They stayed that way for a time, until David abruptly stood.  Both animals looked up, startled by the sudden movement and sudden loss of attention.  David clenched his teeth.   The fact that the door had been locked all week did not matter, except in the back of David’s mind where he hoped the door was still locked.

          “Ga!”  It was unlocked.  David peeked and closed the door again with another “Ga!” significantly louder than the first.

          James heard.  He was finished with his letter writing and decided he better find out what Davey was all stirred up about.  He went next door and tapped Chris on the shoulder.  Chris took a couple of taps before he looked up and lowered his headphones.  A piece of sandwich dangled from his mouth.  He honestly wasn’t listening.

          “Come on,” James said.  “Come on.”  He had to say it twice before Chris got up.  Perhaps Chris was still not paying attention, but at least his feet were moving.  Half way to the living room, they heard it again.  “Gaaa!”  It was deliberately shouted down the hallway.

          “The call of the excited Davey.”  James spoke under his breath as they arrived and David shouted something at his brothers that they could all understand.  “It’s unlocked!”

          Chris immediately turned to get Beth and almost bumped into her as she came barreling out of her room.

          “I heard,” Beth said .  “What’s in there?” 

          Chris shrugged.

          “I looked,” David grinned and his eyes were as wide open as they could be.

          “What did you see?”  Beth was miffed that she had to ask twice.

          “Gaa!”  James answered for his brother.  He shrugged as if to say, “What else?”

          Beth looked perturbed, but David giggled.  “Gaa!”  He nodded in agreement with James. He was still grinning as he pointed at the door.

          Beth shoved Chris forward.  Chris put on the brakes.  While they stared each other down, James stepped up and looked for himself.  He opened the door a mere crack.  “He’s right.  It’s Gaa,”

          Beth frowned, swung the door wide open and almost said “Gaa!” herself.

          Green grass stretched out before them in a world that was bright with late afternoon sunshine.  They heard the faint roll of the sea somewhere, but they could not see it through the door.  They smelled the fresh air and the aroma of growing grain which they could barely make out off to their right.  They felt a touch of the cool breeze that wafted through the meadow on a lazy afternoon in late May.  The grass looked freshly cut, or grazed.  Beth judged it was grazed from the dress of the two people who stood some hundred yards off down by the grain.  It was hard to tell exactly because those people had their backs to the door, but they looked medieval in dress and the grain looked like early grain, barely up to their knees after an April planting.

          “Creepy,” Chris breathed.

          “Cool!”  David yelled.  To be sure, yelling was David’s normal volume.  “Look at the castle.”  It was up on a hill, well beyond the people.  There were more towers and spires than any of them could count including some that reached right up into the clouds.  The castle walls looked formidable enough to withstand any army foolish enough to assault them.  A clear stream came from somewhere inside the castle grounds and wound lazily down the hillside, around the occasional clump of trees, until it reached the meadow.  By then it was a very small river which found the sea somewhere behind them.  Beth looked behind, but all she could see was the kitchen.

          The scratching came again, and this time it was definite and pronounced.

          “Did you guys leave Seabass trapped in Mom and Dad’s closet all afternoon?”   Some scorn entered into Beth’s voice, but before the boys could answer, she stepped around the corner.  Chris shook his head.  David pointed, but Seabass was gone from the couch. 

          They found the cat under the couch, shivering and afraid.  With James’ help, David got the cat out and then held the beast securely in his arms as overweight, gregarious, love everyone Catbird, the golden retriever began to growl.  Beth screamed and the boys heard a tremendous crash in their parent’s room.  Beth made it to the bedroom door, slammed it shut, and while she held the door knob she poked her head around the corner to the living room. 

          “Run!” 

          The boys just stood there.

          Catbird began to dance and bark his head off at whatever was behind the door.  Seabass tried to wriggle free to follow Beth’s instructions, but David held the cat tight.  Chris stared with his mouth open.  James had the good sense to step through the door and on to that green meadow.  That movement broke the spell; that and the sudden crash against the bedroom door from the inside which almost made Beth lose her grip and which was punctuated by a loud crack.  The wood door was ready to give way.

          Chris grabbed David to keep him from running down the front hall and out the front door.  He shoved David after James.  Then he grabbed Catbird by the collar, and carefully, because the dog was agitated beyond belief.  He nodded to Beth as he dragged the dog toward the golden door, and only paused when he got to the place where the door and rug met.

          “Come on!”  Chris screamed at his sister and went through, even as there was a second crash against the bedroom door. 

          “There’s more than one!” Beth screamed back.

          “Hurry!”  The golden door was closing of its’ own volition.  A third crash, and the bedroom door came to pieces, but it held together in sharp and ragged edges long enough to keep back whatever growling, snarling, roaring beasts were trying to get at Beth.  Beth managed a good scream as she ran and dove through the doorway.  They heard the roar of the beast echo in the house before the golden door slammed shut and they were no longer in the world.

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Storyteller: Weekly Roundup December 21, 2013

            Merry Christmas and all that.  The year is coming to a close and there is much to do – so much to do.  The journey continues. 

            BIG on the list is to get my thoughts in order; plans, goals and priorities so I can make the new year successful as a writer.

            Teachers and students know what I am talking about.  Teachers know all about lesson plans, and the necessary information that must be conveyed in a limited amount of time and in a palatable form.  And students need to grasp that information, at least well enough to pass their exams.  It is pointless for the teacher to decide, instead of American History, she would rather be teaching the History of China, or the student to decide they would rather be studying about China in an American History class, because the course is decided, at least for the semester.  Maybe China can be taught and studied next semester.

            Fiction writers have a bit more flexibility in the ability to make mid-course corrections, but need to exercise enough discipline to say no on a regular basis.  Finish this course before starting the next one.  Like any good teacher or student, I can work on from three to a half-dozen courses (stories) in a given semester, and that can give me options and a variety of things to work on, but they all have to be finished, courses completed, before I move on to the next semester.  Now is the time to decide what to work on in the spring and, generally, for the year – to schedule my classes, you might say.

            Likewise, preachers and journalists know what I am talking about.  There is a thing called a deadline that cannot be ignore.  A preacher needs to have the sermon ready by Sunday morning.  There are no extensions.  The journalist has to have the story ready to go when due or lose the article’s timeliness. 

            Fiction writers, again, have a bit more flexibility in making and reaching deadlines.  A preacher might pull out an old sermon for the day and continue to work on the planned idea for a later time.  A good editor might delay a story so the journalist can fill in information gaps or verify sources.  But the work must be finished at some point.  Delay cannot be forever, lest the writer end up with drawers full of half-finished glop.

            Likewise, business people, both small local business people and great big business people, know all about planning and establishing goals and priorities.  Why is this so hard for fiction writers?  I know.  Some feel they can’t write until they are moved by their muse.  Some people believe they need the inspiration to produce true art: the rose colored clouds, the rainbows, the glorious sunsets.  The stars must be aligned.  I like these people.  It means less competition.

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            Earl Stanley Gardner (the Perry Mason mystery author) had a goal of 5,000 word per day, while he was working full time as a lawyer, no less.  That is prodigious.  My more modest goal is 2,000 words per day, six days per week, or about 10,000 – 12,000 words per week.  That is roughly a book every seven or eight weeks (every two months or so).

            Notice that I  plan on one day per week off.  For me it is Sunday.  No reason why it could not be Wednesday or some other day.  The point is to take a day of rest.  I feel it is vital to recharge my batteries and for my mental health; not to say I will ignore any ideas that come my way.  I am never without paper and pen to jot things down.  Only, I won’t sit and focus and type one day per week, and I won’t fall prey to the impulse to “get it while it is hot.”  Frankly, if the idea is a good one, it will still be good on Monday morning.

            So 2,000 word per day.  I will be reporting here on how I do, starting in the new year, and sharing a bit of work, leaving myself open to whatever internet trolls (or angels) might think to comment. 

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            Speaking of sharing, though the plan does not begin until January 4th, I spent this last week pouring out 12,337 words on my “Men in Black” story which is presently being saved under the heading “Aidan, Jesse and Bankar.”  Here are the first three paragraphs, probably chapter one:

            Aidan Clark saw the light in the night sky when he started his pick-up.    He noticed it was growing, and certainly no airplane.  He sat in the driveway and wondered if it was a meteorite or a piece of a satellite crashing to earth.  Maybe it was a whole satellite  It would have to be a big piece to burn so long.  Curious, he could see the light growing, but he could not hear it.  He felt sure he ought to hear something falling like that, zooming through the atmosphere.  He kept waiting for the meteorite, or whatever it was, to burn up or break up in mid-air.  Probably too big to disintegrate, he thought.  He judged it would hit his cornfield.  He could see the flames.  It was damn big.  Holy shit!

          Aidan gunned the truck and spun out into the road.  There was an explosion behind him, and he found himself down in the embankment.  His face hurt and his nose started to bleed, but he did not exactly remember hitting his face on the steering wheel, or smacking the windshield.  All he could think of was his home and his parents.  He got out, stumbled to the roadway, and dropped his jaw. 

          Scant feet from where he stood, there was a ravine a quarter mile wide.  Whatever it was hit and slid, and cut a deep trench in the ground as it burrowed slowly to where it stopped a mile away, just beyond the main highway.  The thing had to be huge to cut a mile of dirt.  And it took everything with it, including his house and his parents.  Aidan got back into his truck to find a way to get a close-up look.  He felt angry, confused and in shock.  His eyes moistened, but he blamed the cut on his forehead and his bloody nose, though there was not much blood.

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            Feel free to comment.

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Quote of the Week:

“Merry Christmas (Happy Christmas),” said by about a quarter to a third of the human race for roughly the last 2,000 years …

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Storyteller: Weekly Roundup, December 14, 2013

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            Time is getting away from me.  It is that time of year.  I have three weeks to get my thoughts in order for 2014, provided I slide over to Saturday the 4th of January before I begin.  I also have three weeks to post on a variety of subjects which will be touched upon in future weekly roundups.  Wish me luck. 

            For the present, I am making plans, goals to work toward, not carved in stone, but with the notion that every step is a step in the right direction, and (this is important), I am allowed to feel good about every step I take even if it is not as much or as good or as complete as planned and wanted – even if I don’t reach the goal (yet).  I feel it is important to give myself permission to feel good about what I have accomplished.  They are all steps on the journey.

            It is something I am trying to teach my boys.  I have three at home at present, 17, 18, ad 20.  Take a step, any step.  It is better than standing still.  Even if it is the wrong step, you can change your mind.  Changing your mind is allowed.  I would say the beginning of any journey starts with the first step, but I really dislike clichés and platitudes and fortune cookies.

            Do you have plans, goals, outlines, thoughts, things you want to accomplish in 2014, stories you want to write in the coming year? 

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            This post is a big step for me.  I am going to share, at the end of each week, how well I am stepping; what I am doing as far as my writing is concerned, the thing that matters most to me.  I will be talking about what I am working on and maybe provide some samples.  I will talk about agents and queries, publishers and editors, short story submissions, Amazon, Smashwords, CreateSpace, and promotion and marketing efforts, the good, the bad, and the ogre ugly.  It is a big step, because I have never shared this sort of information before, I find it all rather personal, and I don’t know if anyone will find it the least bit interesting, maybe even helpful in your own work, or not.

            This all may turn into three weeks of silliness followed by stories without comment.  It may turn into stories followed by a weekly roundup, probably posted on Friday morning because I’ve been told people don’t read many blogs over the weekend.  Who knows?  We shall see as time continues to get away from me …   

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Question of the Week

At the end of The Lord of the Rings, when Aragorn married Arwen, do you think he asked Frodo to be his ring bearer? 

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Halloween Story II: Enchanted 2.10, Afterword

  Elizabeth went home at ten o’clock and hugged her mom and dad, not without a few tears, and went straight to bed because she had a long, exhausting night.  Jessica met Jake’s mom and dad, who decided Jake was growing up and needed some time to enjoy his last couple of years of high school.  They vowed to work on their own schedules so Jake would not have to always be saddled with his little sister.  Jake said he did not mind, but that made his mom just say, “See?”

Mary, the witch, cast a little spell so when the kids woke up in the morning they would remember having a wonderful time, but the details would be fuzzy.  This was a good thing, because Mike the nerd spent most of the night talking to Jack-o-lantern, wondering if it was made in Japan, and wondering how it worked.  He said the programming almost made it sound like it knew what it was talking about, and he marveled at how they got the words and the mouth to work together so well. 

Blockhead spent the night trying to explain football to Big Tooth, who understood the game, but enjoyed stringing the kid along.  Serena, on the other hand, marveled at the goblin costumes, which is what she thought they were.

“Second best costumes I’ve seen in my life.”

“Second best?”  Marrow was offended until Serena explained.  The Italian dance troop with the naturally hairy legs dressing up as fauns was shear genius, and Marrow agreed.

Thomas “Tommy” Kincaid Junior spent the night trying to impress Sage with his money, his car and his presence, that is, whenever he caught Sage in her big form.  That was most of the time because Cinnamon insisted the girls not take their fairy form in front of people.  Cinnamon took it upon herself to make glamours to disguise as many of the spirits, people and creatures as she could.  They did not really object because they knew they were not supposed to be parading about on Earth in the open like they were.  Sage rewarded Tommy at the end of the night with a little kiss on the lips.  The poor fellow took a long time to get over that.

In all, it was a good night and people did not seriously begin to leave until just before sunrise.  Cinnamon had to make the portal because Mary Procter and Greely Putterwig were fast asleep in their chairs on the porch, and snoring.  Jake walked Jessica home.

“What are you thinking?” Jessica asked when she turned into his arms for a good night kiss.

“I’m a guy.  What do you think I am thinking?”

“Oh.”  Jessica thought or a moment before she said, “OH.  Let’s not go there yet.”

Jake shrugged.  “I was wondering how the Pirates and Indians are making out.”

Jessica smiled.  “See you in school.”  She ran to her front door.

In fact, the Pirates and Indians were tied in the top of the third, nothing to nothing.  They had been playing one night per year for almost a hundred years and only reached the top of the third inning.  But the Pirates had a man on first, and John the Butcher Roberts was at bat.

The bat boy found a skeleton head on the ground.  He jammed it into a complete skeleton and pointed.  “Look, a double header,” which proves conclusively that a sense of humor is not improved by death.

The Indian pitcher palmed the skeleton head they were using for a ball.  He sent in a literal screaming fastball.  The Butcher backed away, and Pusshead, the home plate umpire called it a ball.

“What?”  The Indian catcher protested.  “It went right over the edge of the plate.  You must be blind.”

“Not blind,” the skeleton head ball said.  “He’s an ogre, you know, a moron.”

The pirate on first could not help himself.  While they argued, he tried to steal second  He slid head first, but his body stopped about ten feet shy of the grave they were using for second base.  His hands, however, finished the journey, and as the Indian shortstop went to tag the runner, the hands squirted under the tag.  The pirate got up grinning and ambled up to catch up with his hands.  The occupant of the second base grave stuck his head out of the dirt.

”Safe,” he said.

The Indian shortstop got so angry, he took out his tomahawk and split the skull of the second base umpire.  This, of course, resulted in a bench clearing brawl in the infield which, again, is why after a hundred years the teams had yet to make it past the third inning. 

 

Halloween Story II: Enchanted 2.9, Loving You

All of the creatures and people, with Mary, Jake, Jessica, Elizabeth, Cinnamon, Nuggets the dwarf and Mister Greely Putterwig found themselves back in the pine forest where the adventure first began.  “Time to go home,” Mister Putterwig sighed, but before he could do anything, he was interrupted.

“We got you now.”  It was Marrow the goblin.  Worms and Maggot were with him, as was Big Tooth, the troll.  “You need to take us to Earth or we will tell Lady Alice that you stole a human child.”

“We already did that part,” Mary got right into the goblin’s face and did not even blink.  “Lady Alice has forgiven him now that he has set Elizabeth free.”

“Hey.”  Worms sounded very unhappy.  “Does that mean we can’t go and scare the children to death?”

“You are not going to scare any children to death,” Jake spoke up, loud, but it was from fear.  The goblins were frightful to look at.  “I won’t let you.”

“Me neither,”  Jessica stood right beside Jake, and they both protected Elizabeth between them.

“How are we going to feast?” Maggot asked.

“Quiet.  I’m thinking.”  Marrow frowned and pulled on his chin.

“The portal,” Big Tooth suggested.

“That’s right,” Marrow grinned, which was almost more frightening than his frown.  “You got an unauthorized portal to the human Earth.  You need to let us go there or we will tell Lady Alice.”

“I am sure she already knows,” Cinnamon said.

“No doubt about that,” Nuggets agreed.

“Puts!” Marrow swore.

All that while, Mister Putterwig was opening the way to Earth, but he was not quite finished when they were all interrupted again, this time by the ghost of Thackery James Barrett, Esquire.

“Sir,”  Thackery came up beside Jake and Jessica as if to protect them, and he stared at the goblins.  “You are brigands to be sure.  You should certainly be hanged for highway robbery, but I confess you have the upper hand at present.  Thus I implore you, in the name of Christian decency, let the women and children go unharmed.”

“You’re not a woman or a child,” Marrow responded.  “I suppose that makes you free game, doesn’t it?”

There was a sudden flash of blinding light as the portal between here and there formed. Thackery let out a chilling shriek before the light settled down and Thackery was able to speak with more calm.  “I remember,” he said.  “I remember those very words.  Suddenly a great light appeared beside me.  I was facing certain death, so I ran toward the light.  I heard the gun.  I stumbled into the light.  My God, the man shot me in the back and killed me, and I ended up here.”  Thackery began to weep.  “Gone.  Gonnnne!” He wailed a true ghostly wail and then shouted.  “Abigail.  Abigail.” And he went into the light.  There was silence for a moment before Jake spoke loud and clear to the goblins.

“Doesn’t matter.  I won’t let you eat any children.”  He reached for the cutlass and was a bit unhappy to realize it had vanished along with the Lady Alice.

“What eat children?” Marrow responded with a dumbfounded shrug.

“Do you know the penalty for eating humans, especially children?” Maggot said, and the goblins, troll, and several of the others in that big group from the circle moaned at the thought.

Marrow spoke.  “We just want to scare them so bad they drop their bags.  Then we plan to feast on all that Halloween candy.”

“I want to eat so much I throw up,” Worms said, and sounded happy with that prospect.

“Don’t forget,” Maggot said.  “I claim the vomit.”

Most of the people moaned at that thought.

The portal wavered.

“Hey!”  The goblins yelled, but Mary, Jake, Jessica, Elizabeth and Mister Putterwig went though first.  Everyone else followed and were directed by Mister Putterwig out the back door, toward the big back yard where an old fairy circle was already present.  It wouldn’t take long to put up some lights and get the music started.

Jake, Jessica, Elizabeth and Mary went out the front door and were a bit surprised to find Tommy, Blockhead, Mike and Serena still there, sitting around, nibbling on Elizabeth’s candy.  It turned out to be a bit after seven, and they had been waiting for more than an hour.   At least they were sitting and waiting before the ghost came through the locked door.  They backed up to the yard and the fence, and Blockhead looked ready to bolt every time Thackery wailed for Abigail.

“Watch it!  There’s another one.” Mike shouted.  It did not help being by the street, under the street light, when another ghost came floating up into that light.

“Thackery?”  the ghost called.  It was a woman, dressed in a fine traveling dress and cloak.  She was pretty, even if she did not appear to have any feet.

“Abigail?”

“A very fine and proper lady named Alice said I would find you here.”  The woman ghost said.

“Oh Abigail.  I searched for you for ever so long.”  He flew to her and they embraced.

“At last, at last.” Abigail hugged him before he set his lips to hers in a passionate kiss.  The two faded from sight and were not seen again in this world.  Everyone sighed except Blockhead, who looked relieved.  Then Jessica made a decision.

“Serena,” Jessica said.  “Call Vanessa and tell her the party is being moved to the old Putterwig house.”

“Really?”  Serena looked uncertain.

“Hey, we are talking Halloween party.”  The music began to work its enchantment from the back to the front yard.

“There is that,” Serena said and she got out her phone.

“Tommy,” Jake called.  “I got twenty bucks.  Take Mike down to the supermarket and buy as much candy as they have left.  We got some big kids that are dying for Halloween treats.”

“Keep your money,” Tommy said.  “For the ghost show it’s my treat.  So how did you do that?”

“Holographic?”  Mike suggested.

“You haven’t seen anything yet,” Elizabeth said, and she tugged on Jake’s hand to take her out back.  Fortunately, just then Sage and Thyme, with their mother Cinnamon, all in their natural small fairy form, came to fetch the little girl.  This time, they sprinkled her all over with fairy dust and Elizabeth giggled when she lifted right off the ground and flew with the fairies down the hall and out the back door.

“Serena shut your mouth and get the party here.”  Jessica yelled, while Jake reached over and took her hand.  Jessica stared at their hands for a minute.

“Blockhead, how’s your dancing?” Jake asked.

Blockhead said nothing.  He just began to bounce up and down in a way that showed he had no sense of rhythm.  Serena interrupted.  “Hold it big boy.  Save it for when we get to the dance floor.”  She grabbed his football jersey and pulled him toward the back.

Jessica suddenly turned Jake to face her.  She looked him square in the eyes.  She tried to listen to her thumper, and she said, “I am loving you.”

“Well.”  Jake hardly knew what to say, so he returned the words.  “I am loving you, too.”

“Goody,” Jessica said, like a genuine fairy, and she locked her lips to his.  Jake was surprised for all of a second.

Tommy and Mike came back after a while.  A bunch of other kids from the high school came.  But neither Jake nor Jessica wanted to stop long enough to take a breath.

Greely Putterwig came out of the house, looking once again like an ordinary enough old man.  Mary had pulled up a chair and was quietly knitting, have gotten her needles and yarn from some unknown source, presumably by magic.  She gave the hobgoblin a look that he thought to explain.  He pointed at himself.  “You might call this my un-Halloween costume.”  He chuckled.

Mary merely smiled and patted the seat on the rocking chair beside her.  Greely sat and then stared at the witch for a few minutes before he spoke again. “So,” he said.  “Want to go out on a date?”

Mary stopped knitting and her jaw dropped.

“Then again, we could just get some DVDs and stay in and cuddle by the fire.

Mary’s face turned red, but she did not say no.

Halloween Story II: Enchanted 2.8, Misery and Freedom

The music was contagious.  Jake and Jessica could hardly hold their feet still, even when they were still down the hill and could not see a thing.  Cinnamon could not keep back.  She zoomed ahead, just to check things.  Mary floated along contentedly on her broom.  Jake took hold of Jessica’s hand to help her over a rough spot in the path and neither one wanted to let go after that.  They held on tight when they heard the wolf howling in the distance.

“Wolf, howling at the moon,” Jessica suggested, and she smiled at Jake and he returned her smile.  The moon was still very big and full and low on the horizon so it appeared to have some orange and even red in the midst of the golden light, and the face of the man on the moon was plain as day, also smiling.  Jessica looked shyly down where her hand held his.

Mary perked up her ears and when the howl came again she corrected Jessica.  “Werewolf.”  Jake and Jessica held on tight to each other after that, and Jake fingered the cutlass that rested at his side.

When they reached the top of the path where it let out into the great clearing and the stone circle, Mary was the first to see something, and it did not make her happy.  “Mister Stuffings!”  She raised her voice a bit and there was some scolding in her tone.  “Who is home watching the garden?”

A man turned and removed his hat, except it was not a man since it was made of straw.  “Sorry, Miss Procter, mum, but this is just once a year, if you don’t mind,” the scarecrow apologized.

Mary softened her look and Jake and Jessica knew by then that the witch was really a sweet old lady.  “I don’t mind.”

“Good,” They heard another voice hidden behind the scarecrow.  “’Cause even a doorbell needs to get out once in a while.”

“Jack!”  Jake and Jessica said it together, as Mister Stuffings the scarecrow stepped aside and revealed Jack-o-lantern on the ground, facing the circle.

“Hey, kids,” Jack said, but with the scarecrow no longer blocking their view, Jake and Jessica made no response.  They were already watching the dancers, taking in the music and wanting to get in the middle of it all.  Then Jake saw Elizabeth and shouted.

“Elizabeth!”

Elizabeth heard, turned her head and returned the shout.  “Jake!”  She let go of the fairy hands to run to him, but as soon as she let go, she fell the full six feet to the ground.  The music stopped.  Everyone gasped.  Cinnamon whipped out her wand and slowed Elizabeth’s fall, but since it happened so fast, she could not stop it.  Elizabeth hit the hard ground and scraped her knees and hands, and she began to cry.  Jake ran to her, Jessica right behind, and he held his sister in a strong embrace and cried a little with her.  Jessica hesitated for a second before she got to her knees and threw her arms around them both to join the hug and add her tears.  They had all had harrowing experiences on that Halloween night.

“How quaint,” Greely Putterwig said, as he stepped free of the crowd.  Jack stared hard at the man who no longer looked like a man.  His skin was green, which offset his bloodshot eyes, and the only other color was the two tuffs of white hair around his two pointed ears, just like Putterwig the man had around his not so pointed ears.  This Putterwig was very skinny, with a small trunk that he more than made up for with extra long skinny arms and skinny legs.  He had a pointed nose, a pointed chin, long thin fingers with pointed nails.  His feet were flat and wide and he had thick toes, to keep him from stumbling in the dark, Jake supposed.

“She is my sister,” Jake said.  “You can’t have her.”

Old Putterwig grinned a hobgoblin kind of grin.  “But I have her already.  Elizabeth, come here.”

Elizabeth who turned to watch what was happening, got to her feet, and with a “Yes sir,” she walked over to stand beside the hobgoblin.

“I got her fair and square,” Putterwig said.

“You tricked her.  It doesn’t count.”  Jake protested

“Son,” The dwarf called Nuggets spoke gently to the young man.  “Tricking is the hobgoblin version of fair and square.”

“You said you wished she would just get lost,” Putterwig raised his voice.  “You should thank me.  I am making your wish come true.”

“That’s not right.  I didn’t mean it.  Not like that.”

Oh, son,” Nuggets shook his head.  “You should always say what you mean and mean what you say.  No good will come from doing otherwise.”

Jake was tired of arguing.  He carefully pulled the cutlass from his belt.  “Then I’ll take her back.”  He found a small but strong hand on his hand, and it lowered the sword.

“No son.  That is not how we settle things here.  Please put down the sword before someone gets hurt.”

Jake lowered the sword and did not resist, but he fought his tears as he spoke.  “But what else can I do?”he asked the dwarf. “Elizabeth.”  He touched the cutlass tip to the ground and held out his free arm.  “We need to go home.”

Elizabeth only glanced at Mister Putterwig before she threw her arms out in response to her brother and said, “Jake.  Help me.”  She began to cry once again because her feet would not move.  Then she began to weep, and this was from a pain far deeper than any skinned knees could ever be.  In fact, any number of those in the dance began to weep with her, empathetic as so many of them were.

Cinnamon, a full sized, full grown woman, stepped up between Jake and Jessica and put an arm gently around each.  “Is this what you want, Greely Putterwig, to make this poor child suffer for the rest of her days?”

“No,” Mister Putterwig spoke in anger.  “She will forget.  In time she will forget all about that other place.”

“Bet it leaves a great big hole in her heart.”  Nuggets stepped up beside Jake.

“She will suffer mightily from that hole in her heart, and the empty pain will point at you.  Is this what you want, for Elizabeth to hate you forever?”  Cinnamon stared hard at the hobgoblin until he shrieked.

“You don’t know.  You have friends, and people who love you.  You all have no idea what it feels like to be alone all the time.  Sometimes, I am so lonely I can’t bear it.”  He was the one who was now holding back the tears.

“Why you silly hobgoblin.  I don’t know why hobgobs should be loners and so pigheaded and stubborn.”  Mary stepped up beside Jessica.  “Just look around.  You have a whole community of people who would be glad to be your friends, who are your friends, and some would be very good friends if you let them.”

“Yes.  That’s right.  True enough.”  Words came from every direction.

“Is this what you want?”  Cinnamon gave no quarter.  “For the community to despise you and turn their backs on you?  Did you really steal this child in order to hurt her?”

“No.”  Mister Putterwig shrieked again.  “I don’t want to hurt her.”  The tears came at last, unstoppable.  “I don’t ever want to hurt her.”  He got down on his knees and hugged Elizabeth and cried, and she hugged him right back and cried, too.  Everyone else remained still and silent until Mister Putterwig pulled back enough to say, “Go on.  You are free.  Go home to your mom and dad, and your brother Jake.”

“Really?”

Mister Putterwig tried to smile.  “Really.”  And he watched Elizabeth as she ran and jumped into her brother’s arms and Jake let go of the cutlass completely to wrap up his little sister.  Cinnamon stepped back so Jessica could join the hug and join in their happiness as she had joined in their sorrow.

Everyone was suddenly smiling and happy, and the music would have started again at any minute, but a small golden glow appeared in the middle of the circle, and it grew in size and shape until it turned into a beautiful woman, tall and slim, with long blond hair and sparkling light brown eyes, though sparkling is not usually a characteristic of brown eyes.  The woman was dressed in a full length, a well fitted gown of the whitest white, and she wore a cloak to match where it was hard to tell exactly where the gown stopped and the cloak began.  She wore sandals on her lovely feet, but to be sure, it was never certain if her feet actually touched the ground.  She looked happy, but she also looked like one who might get angry if anything ever made her unhappy.

“Lady Alice,” Mary curtsied.  All around the circle, the people bowed, or went to one knee, or went to both knees and lowered their heads and eyes.  Jake, Jessica and Elizabeth did not know what to think, except that they felt they ought to keep very still and quiet. Poor Mister Putterwig fell to the ground, prostrate and trembling. 

“All settled?” Lady Alice said in a voice as beautiful as the rest of her, but clearly she was not really asking.  She stepped up to Jake and touched his head as she named him  She named Jessica and brushed Jessica’s hair from her eyes like a gentle, loving mother.  She kissed Elizabeth as she named her and Elizabeth positively and literally glowed a rich golden color to match the moon.  “Now the fairy food will no longer affect you, and you are free indeed.”

Lady Alice turned to Mister Putterwig and smiled.  “L-lady,” Mister Putterwig stammered.  “I know I did wrong and I am so very, very sorry.  Please, show mercy.”

“I thought you didn’t care.”

“Careless words  Almost human words. Please.”

“Do not fret,” Alice bent down and lifted the Hobgoblin’s head.  “As my friend Will used to say, all’s well as ends well, but this play is not done.”  Lady Alice stood and smiled once around at everybody.  “There is a last act to this story, but I believe it requires a change of venue.”  The Lady clapped her hands, twice.  All of the people and creatures around the circle remained solid enough, but the Lady, the ground and the trees, the mountain and the hills, the stars and the moon began to fade from sight.

Halloween Story II: Enchanted 2.7, Dance and Time or Thyme

Elizabeth heard the music before she saw anything.  It was bouncy music that wiggled in her tummy and made her want to tap her toes.  One minute she was yawning, but the next her eyes were wide open and her feet were ready to dance.  When she finally reached the top of the hill, she saw big stones set in a big circle and all sorts of people and creatures enjoying the dance.  The musicians, imps or gnomes or dwarfs, or whatever they were, had guitars, mandolins, fiddles, pipes and plenty of drums.  The dancers included elves, all sorts of dwarfs, fawns, sprites, one big centaur who stood back and clapped, and people of so many different kinds, Elizabeth could not name them all, even if she knew what all of them were.  Best of all, there were fairies dancing in the circle, and Elizabeth wanted to run to meet them.

She did not have to run.  Two fairy girls zoomed up when they saw Elizabeth and asked if she wanted to dance with them.  Elizabeth wanted to shout, “Yes!” but she looked up at Mister Putterwig first.  “May I?”  She asked very sweetly.  Mister Putterwig smiled, after a fashion, as it seemed even he was not immune to the music.

“For a little bit,” he said, and then he looked down at her and tried to look serious.  “But then to bed young lady.”

“Yes sir,” Elizabeth said, and both fairy girls got big right in front of Elizabeth’s astonished eyes.  The one who introduced herself as Sage looked to be Jake’s age of about sixteen.  The one that Sage introduced as Thyme looked more like she was twelve or thirteen.  They each took one of Elizabeth’s hands and entered the circle with her.  In a few short minutes, they were six feet off the ground, giggling and laughing, Elizabeth right there with them, holding on, dancing on thin air and circling around the heads of the others.

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Mary Procter was trying to explain and Jake and Jessica were trying hard to understand.  “Time and space don’t always work the same here as on Earth.  Three or four days can pass here, while on earth it is still the same day.  You might be here six or eight hours and find only an hour or hour and a half passed back home.  Then again, Six or eight hours here might be several days back home.  It varies.  It changes.  It doesn’t make normal kind of sense.”

“How long have you been here?” Jessica asked, and Jake understood it was a gentle way of asking the witch how old she was.

“I was born in 1669, and my brother Thorndike was born in 1672.  That was the year my mother died.  Father left me with foster parents when he moved to Salem and started over.  He kept saying he would come for me, but he never did.  He remarried, had other children, and then the trouble all started.  I was twenty-three, and not married when the trouble came.  Everyone knew I was a Procter.  It was no secret.  But when father got arrested in Salem Town, my foster family became afraid for me, especially since they knew I could do some things that were not exactly normal.  We moved to the wilds of New Hampshire, but the word followed us.  I would have been taken for sure and condemned if Lady Alice had not brought me here.”

“Yeah, who is this Lady Alice we keep hearing about?”  Jake hated to interrupt, but he had to ask.

“She runs this place and oversees all who are here.  I say she is as like to a Heavenly Angel as flesh and blood can be.  Sometimes she calls this place her loony bin, but the truth is she loves every blessed creature here, even the nasty spiders.  She says everyone deserves a chance to live.”

“So, you are three hundred and fifty years old?”  Jessica had been counting.

“Witches do live longer than non-magic folk, but not that much longer.  I am around ninety seven, give or take, but I think I still have a few more years in me.  That was what I was trying to explain about time.  Time here and on earth don’t move at the same rate.  To be sure, I might just as easily have lived to ninety seven while on earth it might have been seven or eight years later, like 1700 instead of two thousand and whatever year you say it is.”

Someone knocked on the door.  “Knock, knock.”  Jack-o-lantern shouted.

“Who’s there?”  Mary asked, like it was a well-worn game.

“Cinnamon.”  Cinnamon answered for herself.

“Cinnamon who?” Mary asked, but she was already getting up to answer the door.

“Cinn-a-min, can I come in?”

“Of course,” Mary opened the door.  Cinnamon squirted in and went straight to the table where she stopped, threw he hands to her hips and tapped her foot in the air.  Jake and Jessica looked down and to the side where they did not have to see the glare in Cinnamon’s eyes.

“Waiting right there, huh?”  Jake and Jessica held their tongues and took their scolding gracefully.

“It’s all right,” Mary said.  “The spiders found them and I thought it might be safer in here.  We have just been having some tea and stories.  Would you like some chamomile?”

“No.”  Cinnamon softened at the word, spiders.  “I found Eliza-BETH,” she said, and grinned at Jessica.

“Where?” Jake stood.  He ignored the jibe.

“She is safe.  She is fine. My two daughters have her by the hand and are dancing with her, now that they got over being scolded.  They are supposed to be sleeping you know, but they couldn’t sleep with you making all that noise.”

“I’m sorry.  You are right.  I’m to blame.  I am sure your daughters are good girls,” Jake confessed.

“I was with you until that last part,” Cinnamon responded.

“Posh.  She is joking,” Mary got her shawl.  “Sage and Thyme are wonderful girls.”

“Are we going there?” Jessica asked.  “What are they doing with Elizabeth?”

“Dancing.  It is the Halloween celebration.  I don’t really mind the girls being up tonight.  This night only comes once a year.  We can join the fun, if you like, and we can go anytime you are ready.”

Jake looked at Jessica.  Jessica stood to say she was ready.  “Now would be fine,” he said.

“Wait, wait,” Mary raised her voice.  “Let me find my broom.  I can’t walk up that old hill like I used to.”

Halloween Story II: Enchanted 2.6, Spiders Before the Witch House

Cinnamon sat quietly on Jessica’s shoulder until they came to a place where the forest began to thin.  The path they were on petered out as the ways opened up and the forest kindly let them walk around any number of trees.  Jake looked back, curious.  There was no sign of the wall or the cemetery and he wondered how it might have vanished so instantly and completely.  Jessica did not notice.  Cinnamon began to talk quietly in her ear.

“Are you and Jake loving each other?”  Jessica looked.  Jake had his hand on the cutlass, to keep it from swinging wildly in the woods.  He was looking all around, a wise precaution since this place was so full of surprises.

“I don’t know,” Jessica said.  “We might be.  We could be, I think, but it is complicated.”

“Why is it complicated?  That is a big word so it must be a big reason.”

“Not really complicated.  I had a boyfriend before.  But Jake is different. I don’t know.  I think he is real nice, but I don’t know what he thinks.  He hardly talks to me, and I don’t know what to say to him, either.  I don’t know what to think?” 

“That’s the problem.  You are using your thinker instead of your thumper.”

“What do you mean?”

“For fairies it is easy.  We don’t have room in our little brains for all that foolish human stuff.  When a fairy likes another fairy, she simply says, “I am liking you.”  Then he says, “I am liking you, too.”  and they become friends.  When a fairy falls in love, she goes right up to him and says, “I am loving you,” and he says, “I am loving you too,” and they become lovers.

“But what if he isn’t loving her?”

“That is very sad, and the fairy goes away and cries, sometimes for a whole day, before she can have fun again.”  Cinnamon adjusted her seat to whisper very soft.  “When a fairy truly falls in love, she says, “You are my heart.”  That is when the thumper takes over and the thinker can’t think of anything or anyone else.  And if she is his heart, they become a family.”

“That sounds so simple.”

“Why shouldn’t it be simple?”

“But what if she isn’t his heart?”

“Very saddest of all.  We don’t like to think about that, but then when a fairy says someone is her heart, it can be a father or mother or sister or brother or best friend forever, so it means lots of things.”

“I wish people were that easy.  Human people, I mean.”

“Aha!”  Cinnamon jumped up and Jessica felt the breeze from the fairy’s wings.  They tickled her ear.  “I know where Greely Putterwig lives from here.”  She got excited and spun around several times until she almost made herself dizzy. 

Jessica looked where Jake was looking.  There was a cottage some ways off, down in a hollow in the woods.  It had a warm and cozy glow about it in the night, and smoke rising from the chimney.  There appeared to be roses out front, and a stone walkway that ended at the front door.  Cinnamon ruined the lovely vision with what she said.

“The witch’s house.  Wait here this time.  I’ll be right back.”  And the fairy flitted off, again with such speed neither Jake not Jessica had a chance to protest.

Jake looked at Jessica and she smiled.  He did not know what to say.  “Some Halloween, huh?”  It sounded stupid to his ears.

“I know.”  Jessica took it well.  “A real fairy.”

“And goblins.”  He could go with this for a while.

“Real Pirates.”  She pointed to the cutlass.

“Zombie Pirates.”  He corrected her.

“And Indians.”

“And skeletons.”

“Oh, and an ogre.”

“And a real live ghost.”

“Dead ghost,” Jessica said.  “I feel sorry for Thackery.”

Jake nodded in agreement, but then he ran out of things to say.  Jessica merely looked at him until he felt a little uncomfortable.  He looked away, and this time, he was the one who screamed.  Jessica looked and joined him in the scream.  There were spiders, and they were at least two feet long, not counting the eight hairy legs.  There were plenty of them.  Jake and Jessica were surrounded.

Jake carefully got out the cutlass, though he almost cut himself.  “Put your back to the tree,” he yelled.  Jessica just yelled.  Jake began to swing the cutlass, wildly.  The spiders did not care or seem to notice until the one in the lead was cut through the head.  Blood and guts squirted, and then dribbled out.

“Over here,” Jessica yelled and Jake went to stand in front of her, while the spiders slipped into the long, moon-made shadows of the trees.  They could hear the click-click of their jaws all around.  Jake cut two more when they came close, but there were too many of them.

Jessica felt something drip on her shoulder and looked up.  She screamed again.  One was in the tree, over their heads, drooling.  Jake could not reach it with the cutlass.  Jessica tore off her orange vest and tried to slap it out of the tree,  She could not reach it either, but a green light came from just down in the hallow.  It struck the spider, and the spider fell to the side, rolled to its back and curled up dead.  Jessica screamed again before they heard a woman’s voice.

“I heard ye the first time.”  The woman sounded annoyed.  She was gray haired, a bit plump from age, and lifted her plain brown dress and apron as she struggled up the hill.  She had a stick of some sort in her hand, and the green light was emanating from the stick.  Three more spiders were zapped, like with green lightning, and the spiders decided to retreat.  When the old woman came to stand in front of Jake and Jessica, she took a deep breath, like she was winded from the climb, and then raised her arms and shouted something unintelligible.  The green light formed in a circle around the three of them and their tree before it shot out like a wave made by a pebble in a still pond.  No telling how many spiders suddenly keeled over and curled up.

“Okay.  They won’t be back this Halloween night, but you don’t belong out here.  You better come inside.  Neither Jake nor Jessica had to say “this is the witch from the cottage.”  The circumstantial evidence made that crystal clear.  Jake tried to wipe the cutlass clean and put it back in his belt.  Jessica ventured a small question.

“Your house wouldn’t happen to be made of gingerbread, would it?”

The witch laughed, a healthy human laugh and not the cackle they expected.  What is more, the witch showed a kind little twinkle in her eyes that helped them relax.  “Wrong season for gingerbread.”  The witch almost stumbled on a root, but Jessica reached out to steady the old woman.  “My name is Mary,” the witch said.

“I’m Jessica and that is Jake.”

“Don’t tell me, you are following a little girl named Elizabeth.”

“My sister,” Jake perked up.  “Do you know where she is?”

“Up on the mountainside with Greely Putterwig, the hobgob.  Don’t worry, she should probably be just fine.  I’ll take you there, but after I catch my breath if you don’t mind.”

“Are you psychic?”  Jessica wondered how the witch knew all this.

“No.  Tom the cat came by and told me.  Please, come in and have some tea.  I don’t do much magic these days, at my age.  It takes so much out of you.”

Jessica caught some movement out of the corner of her eye.  It was a perfectly black cat, sitting on the lawn, washing a paw.  Jake had his eyes focused on the jack-o-lantern on the front stoop.  He was just admiring the intricately, beautifully carved features of a very frightening goblin-like face when the face moved.

“Boo!”  The pumpkin face crossed its eyes and stuck its tongue out.  Jake, and Jessica, attracted by the movement, both let out a shriek.  “Did I scare ya?”  The Pumpkin asked.  Jake and Jessica nodded.  “Good, cause the old witch put me here to guard the front door, but if I had a body I could guard it so much BETTER.”

“Oh, Jack.  You are just fine the way you are,” the witch said with a kind smile as she opened the thick oak door,.  The inside of the house let out a warm light and inviting smell.  “Come in,” she said.  “Chamomile tea I think for this time of night,” and the all entered the house.