Friday, November 27, 2015

No Regrets #FridayFlash

Snow blew in flurries, the cloak whipped back from her shoulders. With a gasp, she clutched it back close around her body. This was no day for a woman to be out, much less a country to be at war.

The weather made her job harder as blood stained snow crunched under her feet. The wind howled drowning out some of the faint cries of the men who needed her aid. A chill ran up her body as an icy hand clutched at her ankle under her skirt.

She looked down and swallowed softly, the young face half torn and bloodied by his enemy. His coat was blue a Union soldier. She was told to pass them by, they only had time for their own today.

Sarah pulled her foot from his loose grasp and started to move on.

The Yankee attempted to rise as he reached that trembling hand out. “Please…”

The plea tore at her soul as her mind replayed the doctor. His arthritic finger shaking in her face at dawn this morning with warning their supplies were dwindling. “To hell with that ole sawbones.”

Sarah turned back and knelt beside the young blue coat. “Easy, now. I’ll do what I can.”

He lay back in the snow, soft white mixed with blood, soot, and gunpowder. Carefully she tried to find his wound. By the way his face squinched and scrunched as he moved there was something far worse than the cuts and scrapes on the side of his face.

The poor boy was already blue enough to match his coat in the winter air. She tried not to open his coat too wide and lose what little warmth he had. His body shivered hard as she found the cause of his great discomfort.

She drew her fingers back from the wound and saw the blackened blood. Her heart sank lower. This ‘man’ couldn’t be more than sixteen, too young for wars against brothers. Far too young to die.

Sarah ad seen the cantankerous physician diagnose many soldiers with a wound like this one. The blood stained black meant the Federal’s internals had been damaged. All they could do was make comforts, take his last words.

Heaviness filled her for not the first time today. Sarah buttoned his coat back and gave the young man a gentle smile.

His eyes held the knowledge of his future. His hand trembled, flakes of ice fell from the digits as they wrapped around hers. “Write my mother, tell her I was brave.”

Sarah nodded once as the snow began to fall again. “What is your name, where does she live?”

He blinked snowflakes from his eyes as he took a ragged breath. “Thomas Lee Brunell. My parents live in Boston, George…..” He had to pause as his body heaved and coughed speckling his lips with dots of red.

Sarah smoothed back his hair and tried to calm him. “Shh, be still now. I’m sure your ma and pa are most proud of their brave son.”

Thomas gave her a smile, for a moment it softened those frightened hazel eyes. “I was, I fought well. I have one regret, I never kissed a girl.”

She smiled softly at the surprise in his pained expression. Many men have made confessions and requests as she tended them. None were so innocent as young Thomas. “Do you have a girl you’d like to kiss?”

Thomas gave her a slight nod, and tapped his watch. She opened and held it up for him to see the photo inside the lid. “She’s lovely, Thomas.”

“Her name is Sarah.” He paused to gather strength. “She’s waitin, for me.” It was plain in his expression he realized he wasn’t going to get that kiss with the pretty girl in the picture. His regret.

Her heart clenched for the young man. She brushed his cheek gently with her fingers. “My name is Sarah.” She pressed a soft kiss to his lips and felt him smile with the delight.

His grip tightened for a moment then the fingers uncurled from her hand. Sarah looked down at him, “Don’t leave me, Thomas.”

The hazel eyes were still, but there was a sweet grin on his face. Her breath caught as she placed his hands on across his chest. Sarah stood and gathered her meager bag of medical supplies. Sarah moved to the next call for help.

Now and then, she would glance over as the snow covered the young Federal, he had passed with no regrets. If she survived this war, Sarah swore to live without regret. The memory of a bittersweet kiss to remind her. 

Monday, November 9, 2015

How to win NaNoWriMo: Realistic Goals, determination and a bottomless pot of coffee

Writing 50,000 words in 30 days might seem daunting. There will be days mid-November it feels that way.
A writer questions their sanity level on accepting such a wild notion of writing an entire novel rough draft in a month. It can be done if the writer is determined.

It takes a special kind of dedication to the craft of word spinning to stick to daily goals and make the novel a priority. This becomes hard when life happens and shakes up a writer’s daily routine. That is where making goals for your writing and novel become important.

Sure, the goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 crazed days. However, that’s the big picture and the thought of the number 50,000 can make the head spin. (no pea soup, just head spinning) To ease the panic of “OMG I’m behind on my word count!” Make realistic NaNo goals that will fit your average day.

Have a word count goal for each day. NaNo suggests at least 1,667 words per day. Maybe you work long hours and can write each day but not that much. That’s okay. Your realistic goal might be 800 words on a workday and 3,000 on days off. Don’t be afraid of falling behind. Most everyone is going to fall behind at some point.

That’s where that determination comes in. If you fall behind don’t panic or give up on winning. You can do it. Just adjust those daily goals, brew a pot of coffee and challenge yourself a bit more to grab time to write those words.

We can do it; we just need realistic daily writing goals, a strong determination, and a bottomless pot of hot coffee. (Preferably a Mocha Peppermint or Red Velvet Latte heavy on the whip cream. Yum!)

I’ll see you in the winner’s circle. I’ll probably be a lil tipsy on the caffeine: D If you would like to add me as a NaNo Buddy: flsandcastle

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Trials and joys of writing guest post by Rhonda Walker

Hello readers! It’s great you could join us today. Today’s feature is a guest post by children’s and inspirational author Rhonda Walker. She’ll be talking about her upcoming release Wesley Out West and her reading and writing journey.

So pour a cuppa and prop up your feet to enjoy the read. Make sure to enter the Rafflecopter contest at the bottom of the post for your chance to win a personalized autographed copy of Wesley Out West and a cute Wesley plushie!

Trials and joys of writing by Rhonda Walker

Willie Out West (2013, WestBow Press) was my first published children’s story. It was so well received that I am re-launching an updated version, Wesley Out West (2015, JLB Creatives Publishing) is in a smaller size and contains an educational supplement for parents and teachers. If you read Willie I know you will enjoy Wesley even more. The “Fun Facts” and photos of the real sea mammals are educational and enjoyable for children and adults alike. The book size is more comfortable for young children to hold and carry, and the response thus far is widely encouraging. Enjoy.

I always loved books. In seventh grade I walked every day to my little New Mexico town’s library, checking out the maximum number of books. I returned within a day, replacing those books with more. I also used my allowance to purchase every juvenile book of interest: the Hardy Boys and other popular series. I found Nancy Drew boring. During my eighth grade summer, Mother took me on a weekly trek (30-miles one way) from our mobile home in a New Mexico desert mining community into the town of Grants. There, I devoured all of the town library’s westerns (Kit Carson, etc.), mysteries (Ellery Queen, Perry Mason), and stories about Geronimo and other Native Americans.

I carried my love for reading to college and majored in English and elementary education. These classes opened a door to children’s literature that will never close.  I read almost 300 children’s books in one semester. I thank God for blessing me with a passion for children’s literature, the desire to write children’s stories (there were so many bad books, I just knew I could write better), and the desire to develop whatever ability I possessed.

In 1976, I wrote two grammar stories which, amazingly, found their way into a textbook for first graders. However, I had little faith in my ability and gave up after one failed attempt to publish. I published two women’s inspirational articles and edited several women’s church newsletters during the succeeding years, but nothing else. 

Years later I set out to discover why certain women of faith remained strong in spite of unbearable and continual trials in their lives. For two years, I interviewed women; thus was born my first book, “Beyond the Shadow is Tomorrow: Stories of Women of Faith,” published by WestBow Press in 2013. I encourage all Christian women looking for strength and encouragement to read this book. The book still brings great reviews from those seeking answers and encouragement while going through rough times, and it is still for sale through my web site or e-mail.

“Icing, Locusts & Life” is about to be released by JLB Creatives Publishing, and I am so excited. The reviews are already coming in on this inspirational book for men and women.  I encourage readers to reach out and embrace the world and its wonders. Every day is icing on the cake of our lives, no matter how bad our circumstances or how hard it is raining. Every day I have a choice to make when I get out of bed (or even if I cannot get out of bed). It is how we choose the icing of our days, light or dark, which determines how we meet the locusts that visit the beautiful fields and gardens of life.

My life is challenging, fantastic, miracle filled, and troubled—sometimes all at once. There are memories of the blessings of family and friends mixed with my own success and failure. In spite of everything a long life can deliver, I find reason every day to be grateful that God provides abundant blessings. Even with the traumas of illness, embarrassing personal failures, and sadness beyond words, there is one thing that is good: I am still alive to see it dawn a better day.

I have more children’s stories on my desk, and my first novel is begun. No one knows tomorrow’s outcome, but today has been good. Tomorrow will be white icing, no matter what the day brings.

Be blessed. What color is your icing?

About Rhonda Walker
EVERY DAY IS ICING ON THE CAKE OF MY LIFE. It is challenging, fantastic, miracle filled, and troubled—sometimes all at once. There are memories of the blessings of family and friends, successes, and failure. I live daily in grateful awareness for a God who provides abundant blessings, especially during times of embarrassing failures.

I discovered my passion for reading early in life (right after the ark anchored on a mountain top.) In 1979, when my daughters were young, I returned to college. There, English and education professors taught me some needed writing basics and opened the door to children’s thinking. In truth, though, I began writing for myself in 1975, and my style was already developed. God blessed me with a passion for reading, the love of writing, and whatever ability I possess.

With training, skills, and God’s help, I fulfilled a long-held dream of writing stories for young readers. Several years ago, two of my grammar stories were published in a Scott Foresman textbook for first graders, and plans are under way to put those stories and others into a grammar-series book. I write stories to encourage enjoyment and learning through reading.

Follow Rhonda around the web
Blog: The Word Asylum

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Stop by for more about Wesley Out West and great reads for ages 1 to 100!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

5 ways to pad your NaNoWriMo word count without cheating

The daily word count writers need to reach is 1,667 words. That doesn't seem like an unreasonable amount of words to write in an entire day. (Are they crazy? )  But there are days that life will interfere with our lofty noveling goals. Try one of these tricks when your fingers start to slow.

1. Sprinting
Meet up with other Wrimos in person or online and see who can write the most words in a set amount of time. Most sprints are 10-20 minutes long. This is great for a tweet-up. You'll be amazed at how many words you can get down with a couple hours of sprinting. Not to mention the fun! 

2. Long Lost Friend /Relative
If you feel your scene is dragging or you just can't get those words out. Try having your character run into an old friend or relative while their out and about. Or even a phone call from them. You can add tons of words as they reminisce about old times or that Thanksgiving when Aunt Mable's cat ate the stuffing. Even if it's something you may edit out in the next draft it will breath some new life into your muse and pad that count! 

3. Disaster Strikes
A hurricane heading in, a freak F5 tornado, earthquake, flood, a 3-10 car pile up. Any one of those can add at least a couple of pages worth of wordiness. You have the before, during, and effects after that might even bring out some qualities you didn't know your characters had. 

4. Kill'em
Let's face it. Death is wordy. Not matter how or who gets bumped off you've get at least 4 scenes off a corpse turning up. The death itself, the discovery, the aftermath, and the funeral, lots and lots of words. 

5. Use Your Senses
You have 5 senses taste, touch, scent, sight, sound. Every single environment your characters walk into, or crash into in some cases, holds each of these elements just waiting for you to detail them. A car crash could have the scent of smoke and gasoline in the air. They would see broken glass, dented and crushed cars, hear someone crying for help or a siren approaching, maybe a car horn. Taste blood from a gash, or if gas is thick in the air it will leave a taste on your tongue. They may feel the ache of injury or the rough edges or the broken plastic of the dash. Talk about filling the pages, just let your nose guide you.... literally.

These are my favorite tricks for padding my word count without cheating. Now, let's stop procrastinating and get back to that novel! 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Author Chat with Rhonda Walker plus a Rafflecopter giveaway!

 Hi! So glad you could join us today for a chat with Rhonda Walker, author of children’s and inspirational an personalized autographed copy of Wesley Out West and a plushie Wesley!
books. We hope you enjoy the chat…and be sure to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway at the bottom of this post for a chance to win

Before we begin, here is a bit about Rhonda Walker:
EVERY DAY IS ICING ON THE CAKE OF MY LIFE. It is challenging, fantastic, miracle filled, and troubled—sometimes all at once. There are memories of the blessings of family and friends, successes, and failure. I live daily in grateful awareness of a God who provides abundant blessings, especially during times of embarrassing failures.

I discovered my passion for reading early in life (right after the ark anchored on a mountain top). In 1979, when my daughters were young, I returned to college. There, English and education professors taught me some needed writing basics and opened the door to children’s thinking. In truth, though, I began writing for myself in 1975, and my style was already developed. God blessed me with a passion for reading, the love of writing, and whatever ability I possess.

With training, skills, and God’s help, I fulfilled a long-held dream of writing stories for young readers. Several years ago two of my grammar stories were published in a Scott Foresman textbook for first graders, and plans are underway to put those stories and others into a grammar-series book. I write stories to encourage enjoyment and learning through reading.

What inspired you to begin writing children’s books?

Reading more than 300 children’s books in a college class convinced me there were so many bad books, someone had to write better ones, and I knew I could do better than many of the ones I was forced to read. In the process I became enamored with reading the fun books.

How did you get the idea for Wesley Out West?

I was looking at animals and saw a walrus sitting in a zoo. I thought about them sitting on ice and wondered if they got bored, and what if they had houses (like Eskimos). The story took off from there. I grew up in New Mexico, so I sent him on an adventure far away

Do you have a writing process/routine or just write when the muse hits?

When I get an idea, it is usually from something I see. I usually envision how it ends, and I see a scene or two in between. Then I have to fill in what happens in the blank spaces.  Sometimes I wake from a dream with an idea and think about it the next day. Usually I “see” the ending within the next day or two, or often I have another dream that reveals the ending. My first novel came in 3 dreams over a month. Dream 1: the girl, very young; #2: growing up;  #3: her name. I saw much emotion in the dreams, and she quickly became a part of me. You will meet her sometime next year, I hope.

Are there any books or authors that have inspired you?

Actually, I grew up reading mysteries and westerns: Perry Mason, Hardy Boys, Louie L’Amour, biographies about Western & American heroes. It wasn’t the author as much as the word pictures they drew that pulled me in and inspired my soul. Today I admire Janet Evanovich, Nora Roberts (writing as J.D. Robb), Clive Cussler, Catherine Coulter, Iris Johansen. For so many years I loved Mary Higgins Clark, and only recently have I turned more to Fern Michaels in that genre. My two favorite southwest mystery writers are Tony Hillerman (his death was tragic for me) and J.A. Jance. Come to my library and you will find a wall of many authors, but these will be my largest collections.

My favorite children’s books are Rain Makes Applesauce. Both of my daughters had me read the book over and over. One of them can still quote parts of it today. I never get tired of Where the Wild Things Are. The Dr. Seuss series has so much to offer in the way of learning opportunities and rhyming charm that adults still quote entire sections of the books. These standards became such because they offer visual and verbal gifts to the child that add to the child’s memory bank in a way that encourages that child to want a rerun of that experience.

What did you do before becoming an author? Is there something from your job that has helped you as an author?

Many things…some successful, some not. Some not because I wasn’t doing what I love.
I spent many years as secretary, then executive assistant; I served as Service to Military Families Caseworker for American Red Cross during the Vietnam War; I owned a small retail business of sports embroidery and sports charms; I was a legal assistant for a number of years. I have a BA in English and elementary education and am certified to teach English and elementary school through 8th grade; I substituted for a time. I believe each of these experiences helped me better understand life and how each person sees the world from a unique perspective. Lawyers have perspective on life that is uniquely different from the school secretary or janitor. And the soccer mom priorities are not the same as those of a just-returned-from-war soldier who lost his best friend.

Did you learn something about yourself or writing while writing Wesley Out West?

I learned a lot about the mammals in my book. For instance: an octopus will turn red when it becomes frightened. Didn’t know that. It was a learning experience for me.

Tell us about three things in your writing space? What memory or importance do they hold to inspire your writing?

I write near windows to remind myself that there is a world out there to keep me from withdrawing into my own little world of the computer.

I have a small hot air balloon hanging from my lamp to remind me to stay light and
think of happy things. Hot air balloons always make me feel better.

I keep pictures of my family where I can see them to remind me I have love, and I have
notes from some who have read my books and took time to say they appreciate my efforts. I can’t tell you how much that means to me. On days when I feel I’ve wasted my time and energies on a path with no future, their words give me courage to keep on.

You have another upcoming book, Icing, Locusts, & Life. Can you tell us a little about it?

Every day is icing on the cake of my life. When I get up each day I have the choice of deciding to make the day a good, bright day (regardless of whether the sun shines or not), or cover my emotional cake with the dark icing that the locusts of days past have destroyed. During our lives, locusts appear, as explained in The Bible: Joel 2:25. However, the prophet also tells us that God will repay us for the days that the locusts have eaten, and I lean upon that promise to build the life that I live today and
hope for the life of tomorrow, whatever that life brings me on earth and hereafter.

 Tell us why parents should buy Wesley Out West for their child’s library?

I am really excited that we are including something unique in Wesley. In addition to the wonderful colorful illustrations that stimulate a young child’s brain, we added a supplement for parents and teachers at the back of the book. There is a “Fun Facts” section for each mammal in the book, along with a photo of the mammal. This allows the parent/teacher a learning opportunity in addition to providing the child a fun story.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to write books for children?

Writing is not just sitting down and telling a story. Well, it is; but it is also a matter of telling a story that is age appropriate, easily understandable, and of length appropriate for the age. I found out the hard way that the illustrations may be great for first graders, but the language is more graded for 3rd graders. The 1st graders lose attention by page 3.

My best suggestion is: read 300 books. Seriously. Go to your children’s library and start reading every children’s book at every level. When you find a level you feel is at a level you think might be the most comfortable writing at, start reading again, at that level.

Then take a few writing courses online. While not “kiddie lit” oriented, my very favorite writing course is The Write Practice. Joe Bunting does a fabulous job of sending out information and giving out exercises following his hints each week. I’ve learned a lot from his weekly exercises. I highly recommend you get hooked up with anything he does.  Fabulous.

If you join LinkedIn on the web, there are groups you can join that are specifically children lit oriented, and you can easily find courses about writing for children.  

Although there are generally no such things as first-time writing wonders, there are exceptions to this rule. One exception to this is Janice Spina, who began her writing success as a child. If you go to my web site,, you will find her guest post. She is the exception and does great stories. But even she still learns by taking seminars. I am sure she would be happy to give anyone pointers. Her contact information is on any of her books and, I believe, on her guest post.

Good luck to each of you wanting to write. It is not an easy one-step process, but it is worthwhile and very fulfilling once you get started. I wouldn’t trade it for anything…well, most of the time. J

Thanks for stopping by! For more about Wesley Out West and other fantastic books for all ages, be sure to visit

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Jackaby a supernatural Sherlock Holmes

What do you get when you cross the supernatural with a Victorian private investigator? Jackaby written by William Ritter.

Jackaby is a YA supernatural mystery that will keep you turning the pages, filled with fun and wonders. In the beginning, you’ll meet the lovely Abigail Rook, newly arrived in the seaside town of New Fiddleham. The young woman is determined to make her way and find adventure in this new country.

As she sips the pint offered by the kindly barkeep and thinks about the journey she’s had up to this point a strange fellow enters the tavern. Here’s where we meet R.F. Jackaby for the first time and are absolutely hooked into the book.

Jackaby is a cross between whimsy and serious. From the moment he began deducting Miss Rook being a new arrival, where she had disembarked and described the two fairies that had taken up residence in her hat and coat you knew you were on your way to adventure.

I couldn’t help envision Johnny Depp as Jackaby, he would be perfect to play this quirky detective with his overfull pockets and insight into the parts of the world not all of us can see.

Abigail becomes Jacaby’s assistant as the series of murders begin. The pair must discover the supernatural killer before he strikes again. As Abigail is introduced to the Otherside by Jackaby she meets some interesting folk… a ghost, a woman who fishes to feed a bridge troll and a duck named Doug.

The pages will keep turning as you’re drawn in and even laugh out loud at times. The book jacket describes Jackaby as Doctor Who meets Sherlock Holmes. I would have to agree, it holds the same whimsy and suspense with a dash of Victorian flair. Loved it and would recommend you pick up a copy at your bookstore or library this week! A great supernatural adventure for Halloween week! 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Be a Book Rebel Banned Books Week 2015

September 27th thru October 3rd celebrates those books that some thought too dark, too racy, naughty language or thought to be just plain unsuitable for bookshelves. Hundreds of books are challenged each year by readers who believe they're doing the right thing.

But... is it right to censor readership? Is it right to say Alice in Wonderland is unsuitable, or Harry Potter? Yes, those are just two of many books that have been and still are brought up for challenge to be banned. Gone with the Wind, To Kill a Mocking Bird, The Color Purple, Lord of the Rings, The Call of the Wild, The Great Gatsby, Lord of the Flies, 1984, are but a few of the classics that have come under attack. 

No one should have the power to say, "you can't read that." Some of the books on the banned book lists have influenced presidents, inventors, great thinkers of our time and more. What could we have missed out of our lives if these great individuals hadn't read a banned book that made them think about something or see something more clearly. That's why I am a book rebel, I read banned books! 

So this week I challenge YOU to read at least one banned book from one of the lists on the bottom of this

page during Banned Books Week. Then bling out your social media with banners and avatars showing that you're a book rebel. You'll read any book you ding dang want to! 

Want to know more about Banned Books Week? Just visit Show the world you are a book rebel with some ALA Banned Books merch such as tee-shirts, bookmarks, posters, and even socks! The funds benefit the American Library Association.

My reading list for Banned Books Week 
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause

Now go forth book rebels and READ BANNED BOOKS! 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Autumn Signs

Quiet was the day, the only sounds being the rustling of trees in the wind, the soft crunch of leaves underfoot. Autumn the season of change had begun.
These woods have changed since his first walk through them so long ago. Saplings now become tall trees, their leaves turning golden as they fall to the earth.  The sun peeked through the wood setting the trees a glow.
The hollow of a pine filled with acorns, a woodland creature’s winter store. Soon the mild temperatures would turn into bitter cold winter. Snow replacing yellow and orange leaves on the branches.
The sound of a heavy branch falling caught his attention. His heart sped as he stepped off the trail to inspect. Such paranoid caution had kept him alive for so long.
Creaking of wood in the stiff breeze led him to the source. A large oak, trunk blacked and split from a summer storm. Lightning had carved a dark line down the thick trunk to the roots.

As his fingers traced the scared bark it felt like a sign, a sign of dark days ahead. With a sigh, he turned back to the trail perhaps he can pretend the earlier peace of his walk was never disturbed. Change was coming but not yet, he would enjoy the quiet autumn day.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Is good or bad in your character's DNA?

It’s been a busy couple of weeks trying to get everything back on track between all of the real life craziness that buzzes through. I’m working on a novel I love, a western titled Outlaw Born. I want this thing to get finished so the world can meet Ben Mason.

Ben is a complicated fella. He’s grown up hard and tried to be what people think of as a good man, despite his family legacy. There’s a darkness that runs through his blood thanks to his outlaw father.

The idea is based on an old argument. Can DNA dictate whether a person can be good or bad? Does your family history or bloodline really affect the outcome of your life or is it a series of choices that an individual makes?

For Ben, it’s been a series of struggles to deny his papa John Mason’s dark legacy. He wants to be a good man, a good husband, and father, but… that’s just not in his cards. As I write his story I wonder if some of his decisions re influenced by that dark legacy not just his anger, loss and the situation. Would a truly good man really make these choices? Is he still a good man even though he’s taken this path?

I’m enjoying his journey though he might not be. (Sorry Ben) I can’t wait to see how it ends and the answer to his struggles… if there is one.

That brings me to this week’s goals
1. Write every day
2. Write one article a week
3. Blog at least 3 times a week
4. Start brainstorming for NaNoWriMo (it’s never too early for NaNo Planning ;)

Last week’s goal update
1. Write every day: Check! Something was written every day even if it was just a sentence or two in the chaos of goings on.
2. Write one article:  Tanked! I have one started but not complete.
3. Blog 3 times: Um nope. Tanked here too. I got one complete post in then nada. *hangs head.

That should keep me busy and out of trouble… well busy anyway J I’ll leave you with a little excerpt of Outlaw Born WIP.

*scene set up: Ben, a union solider has been wounded in battle and is recovering in the field hospital*

Outlaw Born Excerpt
He took her hand to make sure he had her attention. “In my coat… a letter… Ellen Mason, my wife…“ He couldn’t say more though he tried.

Sarah placed a gentle hand over his to reassure him she had heard. “Save your strength. You can post the letter when you’re on your feet again, Lieutenant.”

His eyes slipped shut once more.  Ben’s dreams drifted from sweet memories of his wife and son to horrible nightmares.

Ben woke with a gasp; it had felt more like a vision instead of a dream. His wife and son trapped in fire. He could feel the heat of the flames as he reached out to them. “Ellen… Joseph…”

Sarah sat up in the chair next to him. “Lieutenant Mason, just lay back, your fever broke, you’ll be alright now.”

It ached to take a breath, recognition set in and so did the ache of his heart. It had just been a dream but he had waked back to the nightmare of war.  “How long have I been here?”

The nurse gave him a gentle grin as she checked the wound. “Four days, not so long.”

Ben sighed as he took the offered sips of cool water. Not so long, but it felt like an eternity. He couldn’t shake the nightmare; it had been a long time since he’d gotten a letter from home.

The nurse left him to assist another. The soldier next to him rose from his cot and took the nurse’s chair. The older man clutched his arm to his chest careful of it as he sat. Something about the old man put Ben on edge.

The man grinned and offered his only hand. “Jorge Wilson, Boston.”

Ben shook the hand, “Ben Mason, New Mexico.”

Jorge looked at him for a moment as if he seemed familiar. “New Mexico… I knew you had a familiarity. Benjamin Alexander Mason, Johnny’s boy?”

Ben’s expression went blank almost cold. “No. No John’s on the tree.”

Jorge chuckled. “No sense denyin’. You got your ma’s eyes. I remember you hidin behind her skirts in the saloon.”

Ben glared at him and forced his weak body upright. He reached out and gripped the man’s wounded stump. “You remember nothing, old man. The laudanum has you seein things not there. No, John Mason in my tree.”

The old man’s eyes widened with the sharp pain as he gave a brief nod. Ben let go and leaned back, his breath came in pants with the effort. He didn’t want to hurt the old man, but the past needed to stay as dead as his father.

What do you think can a man be influenced by DNA or a dark legacy or is it the choices he makes that sets him on a course of good or bad? Or can a man do bad things and still be good? And don't forget to stop by the other ROW80 bloggers on the hop. 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

8 Sentence Sunday: Outlaw Born snippet

Finally getting back into a writing groove and Ben Mason has been demanding attention to his story. I'm joining other Weekend Writing Warriors in sharing an eight to ten sentence excerpt of our WIPs. So here is a snippet from my work-in-progress Outlaw Born.

Orphaned young and raised by a preacher's family Benjamin Mason became a good man. He wanted to forget and erase his real father's legacy of blood and violence from their name for his own son.

Then tragedy struck. The law wouldn’t give him justice, so he would take it. After all, wasn’t he born to be this kind of man, an outlaw filled with hell and vengeance in his blood? Ben Mason is outlaw born.

8 Sentence Excerpt
The battle felt as though it had gone on for days, instead of hours. The day had faded into dusk when they heard the Confederate officers recall their men. Once Johnny Reb is out of sight, the men cheered. More for the joy that they still took breath than for the victory.

Ben surveyed the damage. He was thankful the cannon had dulled his hearing. This night he would get a reprieve from the cries of those fatally wounded, as they called out for someone to take their final words home.

Ben took count of his men as they began to emerge from the trenches. Their numbers appeared reduced, but most were still with him.

To read other great Weekend Writing Warrior excerpts go HERE

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Thursday, July 23, 2015

Keeping the plates spinning and new goals

Have you ever seen the plate spinners at a circus or carnival? They start by balancing one plate on a thin long stick, then making it spin. Then they pick up another and another balancing and spinning all these plates on sticks.

Sometimes one will warble and the spinner has to very carefully adjust to make sure it stays spinning and even or… CRASH and the show’s over. Writing and life can feel like that. There’s a plate on a stick for everything we need to do and all the projects we have waiting to be written on.

They warble and sometimes crash to the ground. The key is to not worry about picking up all those shattered pieces. That plate fell, it’s broken beyond repair so just kick the pieces out of the way and put a new plate in its place.

As writers we know that not every project is going to go smoothly, there might be several plates that fall shattering our plots and a bit of our determination as that novel is written. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad book or that it’s not worth your time. It just means that we have to make adjustments. Change the plot, setting or character. Maybe even let the manuscript set for a day or so, then dive back in with a refreshed muse.

Life can interfere with those projects too. That’s been my biggest hurdle as of late. RL making all those plates warble and tip, more than a few have crashed to the ground. Instead of worrying about all that broken china, I’m going to put new plates on my sticks and get them spinning. All the glass on the floor is from yesterday, it doesn’t matter anymore. It’s a new day and a new set of plates and a chance to keep them spinning with a new set of goals.

So my ROW80 goals for this week are:
Write daily. Word counts are out the window for right now. Even if it’s only a paragraph that day, it’s forward progress through the RL chaos.

Write one article. I need to work on picking up the pace of some of my freelance work. Consistent paychecks can help keep some of my plates from warbling so much lol.

Write three blogs. Gladiator’s Pen is in need of new content. I don’t want to have a huge gap again in posts. I know it drives me batty when I subscribe to a blog and then… they stop posting. My apologies for making any of you nuts too J I’m going to try and prevent any more long lapses.  

There we have it a set of goals and all the plates spinning with a few minor warbles but mostly balanced…. For now. :)

What do you do when your plates start warbling and crashing? How do you keep your write life balanced with that real life stuff? 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

4 tips to break through writer's block.

When it hits writer's block can feel like a Rubix Cube. An unsolvable puzzle that makes you want to give up and see what series is next on Netflix to marathon.

There is only one way to break that block and solve the puzzle. Write. That's right, you have to write your way through it, around it, over it or under it. Instead of giving up and watching all nine seasons of X-Files in one sitting on Netflix, try one of these ideas to wake up your muse and get back to the story. 

Get Nosey
We all have looked in someone else’s medicine cabinet, so why not your main character?  Write about what they find in there. It could be mundane everyday stuff, something tawdry, or a hidden secret.

It doesn’t have to be a medicine cabinet. He/she can look in a drawer or the glove box in a car. Just open something up and take a long gander at what’s inside. You will be quite surprised at what he or another character is keeping stashed away. Somewhere, hidden in the back of the junk drawer of your character’s boss’ desk is way back on track with your manuscript.

Lost and Found
A lost object is another great way to trick the muse into walking around that block. While searching for lost keys, phone, cigar clipper, or the hamster that escaped his cage you can find all sorts of things to fluff your plot. Use it to explore a bit more of your character’s personality, or, that of another character helping in the search.

All else fails have disaster strike. It’s amazing how much a lightning strike or freak tornado ripping across the front lawn can get the creative juices flowing again. In real life, these things can come out of nowhere so why not use a cyclone to drop a house on your writer's block.

Background Check
Open a new doc and pick any character but your hero/heroine. A background character such as the guy in the parking garage, the waitress with the great smile, someone who is mentioned but really isn’t a player in your story.

Now take that person and write a page about them. What were they doing before meeting your MC? Do they have a cat or is she slinging hash until she’s discovered as the next Marilyn Monroe? Once you’ve gotten a few paragraphs or a page you can go back to your WIP, you’ll find your muse is now ready to take off again.

Writer’s block can be a wall that falls in front of our muse. Looking up it seems impossible to get over that wall. Put your fingers on the keyboard and write until that wall crumbles.  When it does the sun will shine, the forest animals will surround your desk in song…. Okay, not really but you’ll be celebrating with your muse as the story picks up speed again. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Hungry: Friday Flash

A deep rumble woke Ben. He sat up and looked around the loft of the stable thinking he’d been caught by old man McKeen.

The rumble came again only louder. It wasn’t the old geezer tossing him out, it was Ben’s stomach. Four days, it was four days ago his mama had left him at the station.

She left him behind, telling him to sit and wait. She would be right back with the tickets. They’d go to Virginia to live with his aunt. Mama never came back from the ticket booth. Her carpetbag was gone. All Ben had was his small pack and the Bible she gave him.

Dawn was breaking. He needed to get out before the old man really did catch him. Quietly Ben made his way to the street and around the backs of the buildings. Maybe he could find a scrap of something. Anything he was so hungry.

His insides felt like they were shriveling up as he stopped at the rain barrel by the inn. Cupping his hands he took a few long drinks to try and fill the void.

As he splashed water on his face a scent drifted down the alleyway. Ben’s stomach clenched with hunger as the scent filled his nostrils with one of his favorite things in the world.

Fresh baked bread was somewhere close, very close. He sniffed at the air and turned down the alley. He followed the smell, stomach growling loud enough to make the stray dog napping in the shade raise his head.

Ben stopped at the window there they were. Three fresh baked loaves of bread. The steam was still rising off the tops. His tongue licked along his bottom lip as he took a step forward to get a deeper breath of it.

Something hit him on the back. Mr.Grove the owner of the inn shook the broom he’d just walloped Ben with. “Get, you urchin. Take your filthy self back to the gutters.”

Didn’t he recognize him? His mama had done some work at the in. “Mr. Grove, sir… “

Before Ben could finish the broom was raised again. He raised his little skinny arms and ran back down the alley.

The innkeeper satisfied the boy was gone went back to sweeping the stoop.

Ben sat behind a barrel and rubbed his lower back. He could still smell the bread. It made his mouth water. If he didn’t eat something soon he’d turn to dust and blow away.

He tried to drink some more water to fill his gut, but, that only made his stomach groan and ache worse. The bread smelled so good.

He could feel it in his hands warm with a crispy crust and soft fluffy inside. It would melt in his mouth as he took a bite.

The sound of the inn’s back door closing made him open his eyes. Mr. Grove had gone back inside. There wasn’t anyone in the alley.

He crawled on his hands and knees to sit under the window so he could smell the bread. His belly ached to the point of tears now. Ben was so hungry. He could take it. There were two more loaves. They surely wouldn’t miss one.

No, he couldn’t take it. He didn’t have no money and stealing was a sin. Ben’s mama always told him to be good. Be a good boy and grow into a good man. He couldn’t do that if he stole. That would make him bad.

Lifting his face up he could feel the warmth from the fresh loaves. If he didn’t eat soon he wouldn’t make it past the age of eight to become any kind of man.

Stomach tight with hunger Ben raised his arms up and grabbed the edge of the cheesecloth. Slowly he pulled it toward him.

Mrs. Grove called out to her husband startling Ben. He jerked his arms back and hugged his knees waiting for the innkeeper to come back with the broom. Nothing happened.  Mrs. Grove went back to humming.

Sitting there had become torture, he didn’t want to make his mama angry. What if she came back and found him with the stolen bread. She’d have his hide for sure.

Ben looked up at the loaf. It had been four days since he saw his mama last at the station. She wasn’t coming back, no one was going to help him. He had to help himself.

He stood stomach aching and growling as his breath panted with fear and excitement. Before he could change his mind again Ben reached out and grabbed a loaf of bread. He took off running as fast as he could behind the buildings.

Turning a corner he ran to the ladder of the livery loft and climbed up. Hiding behind a stack of hay bales he hugged the loaf to his chest. It was still warm and smelled so good. He was panting still from his run. Waiting for someone to catch him.

When there were no shouts he began to relax and looked down at the bread. Ben licked his lips as his
fingers dug into the crust and it apart. Steam flowed out as he pulled a hunk of the soft white fluff into his mouth.

Tears rolled down his face as he ate. His belly hurt from not having anything this solid in so long then it started to feel full. That feeling was the best thing he’d ever felt. He wasn’t a good boy anymore. Maybe he wouldn’t be a good man but he wouldn’t be hungry again.

Monday, July 13, 2015

OneWord/60 Seconds: Scanned

He scanned as much of the dark room as his eyes would allow. He felt it, the weight of its presence. He thought they were finished with him these visits were over. There would be no more lights, no more experiments. It moved from the shadow toward him large black almond eyes held no comfort. It wasn’t over, it would never be over. is a website for getting the muse warmed up. Each day you get one word and sixty seconds in which to write what it inspires.This is my entry for today's One Word. What's yours? For more of my past One Word entries, check out my One Word Profile EliseV.
Your turn, 60 seconds. Go!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Credence in a Cure

Virginia kept an eye on her son. She could tell when a fit was about to erupt on her poor boy. He was far too young to have such a terrible illness. One she feared he was nearing the end of.

Water sloshed and sizzled as it boiled out and dribbled down the side of the pot to the stove burner. Virginia turned to push the run down automaton out of the way when Toby began to cough and wheeze harder and louder than before.

She rushed instead to the boy. “Mother, the pot!”  

The old woman rushed in from the porch as quickly as an old woman could rush. She pushed the pot to the cool back burner. “Not so much of a mess, it’s mostly steam now.”

The old woman looked over at mother and child. Virginia was in an attempt to make Toby take that horrible medicine. She didn’t see that it did her grandson any good. In another few moments, he would have another great fit. The space between these bone-rattling cough spells were getting closer together.

She refilled the pot and pulled it back over the flame to boil again. The old woman wound the automaton back into motion. “This old clunker needs to be replaced, Virginia.”

Virginia smiled as she tucked her son back under the warm blanket. His body calm for now. “Then we might have to replace you. The old clunker just needs a couple of parts replaced.” She glances over at the woman adding ingredients to the pot. “The meal one that is.”

The boy laughed which started another fit, this one worse than the one before. Virginia started to pour another spoon full of syrup, but the bottle was empty. “Mother, sit with him, please. I have to run to the cellar for a new bottle of medicine.”

The old woman sighed that swill was worthless. “We could try another of the old remedies. That last one helped for a day.”

“No, those silly superstitions don’t ever work. He needs real medicine. Just sit with him and I’ll go down to look for it.” Virginia sighed as she walked down the cellar stairs.

The old woman looked at the automaton. “Don’t make a mess of it this time.” She shook her finger hard at the clockwork machine and made her way to her grandson’s side.

The small breath the boy took in rattled and wheezed. He looked up at his grandmother, his eyes filled with a knowledge. The knowledge he might not see the sun tomorrow.

It broke the old woman’s heart. He was one of the few joys left in her limited days. He couldn’t leave this world before an old crone like she. Toby’s dog, a shaggy thing that always tracked dirt even when there was no dirt to be tracked, leaped up on the bed to lay next to the boy.

The old woman looked at them both the way the boy absently scratched the old mutt’s head. Would it work? It was a silly old tale, but some silly old tales could bare some truth in them. She looked at the cellar door and listened to see if Virginia was still rustling about for the last bottle of foul liquid that never really made anything better.
The old woman hurried into the kitchen and buttered two pieces of bread. She carried them back over and sat on the side of Toby’s bed. The dog’s nose perked up smelling the fresh baked slices.

The old woman grinned softly at her grandson. “I’m sorry, Toby.”

He looked at her strangely as she pet his head. “For what, gran… Ow!”

She kissed his head as she put the strands of hair she pulled from the boy’s head between the slices of bread. “Now feed it to the mutt and say what I whisper in your ear while you do.”

His granny had always been a strange woman, maybe age made her even more so. He sat up a bit more as he listened to her whisper into his ear then offered the dog the odd sandwich and repeated the rhyme. “Eat well you hound, may you be sick and I be sound."

The old woman grinned and kissed his flushed cheeks as she tucked the covers around him. “That’s my boy.”

Virginia closed the cellar door and sighed. “Found it. Mother I wish you wouldn’t reorganize things so much.” She hurried over at the sight of the dog and made a sweeping motion with her hands to shew it off of the bed. “Go on, furball back to your own bed.”

When she looked down at the boy he was fast asleep and seemed to be in a peaceful rest. “He looks so comfortable. It’s been so long since he’s looked this way.”

“He’ll feel better in the morning, I’m sure of it.” The old woman patted her daughter’s shoulder and gathered her skirt to rush to the kitchen as she scolded the automaton for allowing the soup to burn.

Virginia sat close to her son and picked up a book, she was too tired and worried to eat anyway. The dog gave a whimper and what sounded like a cough. She turned and looked at it, then shook her head as she turned back into her book.

The next morning she woke to someone tugging on her sleeve. “Mama, I’m hungry. Can I have eggs with cheese for breakfast?” That small voice a little hoarse but strong sank in and Virginia’s eyes flew open.

Her son stood next to her chair, his cheeks a healthy pink, his eyes bright. The weariness of illness gone, his hand was warm, not cool and clammy. His grip on her hand was strong, not weak. This couldn’t be, could it?

She hugged him tight until he wiggled free complaining as little boys down when they want to be man of the house.

The old woman set a platter of biscuits down on the table and smiled softly when the boy ran over and climbed into a chair. He was well again.

Virginia wiped tears from her cheeks as she started to sit at the table. The freshly turned soil in the yard, at one end of the dark earth, was a stick the dog’s collar dangled from it. She turned to the old woman. “Mother, what did you do?”

She looked at her grandson dig into the food. The first time in so very long he has eaten more than a few spoonfuls of soup. The old woman gave her daughter’s shoulder a squeeze. “Be thankful one of us remembers some of those silly old superstitions.”

Part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge for the letter C. Visit the site for the linky list to visit more great and creative blogs as we journey through the alphabet this April. 

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Bells of Wesley

They stood together on the balcony of their hotel room that overlooked the large city. Dirigibles carrying their
passengers floating through the sky in the distance. Sarah grinned. “What a spectacular view. I’m looking forward to seeing the sights.”

Jonathon slid his arm around her waist with a mischievous expression as he kissed his wife. “I have all the sights I need to see right here.”   

She laughed and wiggled away. “You saw plenty last night and if you want to see more tonight you’ll take me out, Sir Jonathon Adam Hargrove.” She picked up a brochure. “Take me to the Franklin Wesley Gallery first.” 

He smiled. How could he not indulge her? Her life was about to be cut short. “Where ever you wish my dear.” He kissed her taking a long drink of her essence.

When they part she blushed feeling a touch dazed. “We should order breakfast.” Sarah walked over to the bell rope and started to tug when Jonathon rushed over.

His hand closed over hers to stop the pull. “We should go out for breakfast. You wanted to see the city.”

When Sarah moved away to fetch her coat and hat, he slowly put the rope back into place as he watched the bell. When it lowered back into place without so much as a ting he sighed in relief.

His eyes stay on the bell for a moment as he moved away from it to help Sarah with her coat.

When they stepped outside the paperboy stood on the nearby corner. He rang his hand bell and called out the headline. “California becomes 31st state of America.”

The moment Jonathon heard that sharp ting and tang of the bell he started to tremble. “Sarah, this way, away fr..from that.”

She looked at him, for a second her husband looked as though he’d seen a ghost. “Are you alright?”

“Yes, yes, the café is just this way, my darling.” He guided her down the walk away from the boy and his bell. He attempted not to show too much haste in his efforts.

Sarah noticed he finally calmed when they had gone far enough the ringing was washed away by the sounds of the city streets. It was a very odd behavior for him, he was the calm in their marriage. She was always the emotional one. She dismissed it with a shake of her head.

Thankfully they reached the café and Jonathon opened the door and the tiny bell at the top tinkled to let waiters know patrons had arrived. He froze in place; his hand trembled on the door handle.

He backed out the door still holding Sarah’s hand. She followed him; she didn’t understand his reactions to these places. He didn’t act this way back home. Maybe the city was too much for him. He’d lived his entire life in the small country town they grew up in. “Jonathan what is the matter?”

He shook his head and wrapped her hand around his arm and started to walk her down the sidewalk. “Nothing, everything is fine. That café didn’t seem… clean. We’ll find some place better.

She wanted to protest but didn’t as she gripped the side of her skirt and lifted to keep from tripping as he moved so quickly away.

They turned the corner and his pace started to slow to a stroll, which Sarah was grateful for. She looked up and smiled seeing the great church with its stained glass and tall bell tower. “How beautiful, may we go inside? I love church glass.”

He paused his walk and followed the line of her sight. “Perhaps later, aren’t you famished for breakfast, my darling?” He would be able to distract her thoughts during the meal into other locations.

“Oh, but we’re here now. I’m sure it won’t take long.” She gripped his hand and dragged him up the steps to the doors. “This chapel must be very old, perhaps medieval.”

His voice was tight as he stood before the great doors with large round glass windows with images of Christ in them. “Perhaps. I think it would be better if we came back later, Sarah.”

She opened the door herself since he didn’t seem to be feeling himself much less gentlemanly. “Nonsense, we’ll get caught up in some other exploration. Jonathon, you are acting very strange today.”

She went inside, his hand still caught in hers which gave him no choice but to follow.

His throat felt tight and he eased his hand from hers to keep from venturing further into the building than just over the threshold. When Sarah looked back to him, he gave her a tight smile. “Go ahead, darling. I will… wait here.”

She cast him back a vexed expression then turned away to explore and look at the glass.

The longer he stood there the more his skin felt as though it were going to melt from his bones. It was hard for him to look at anything for too long it made his eyes ache. He had a great need to rush outside and back to the sidewalk away from all that these ancient stone walls held.

He saw his wife had finally started to walk back toward him. She stopped to speak to a priest then carried on to him. It wasn’t Sarah, Jonathon’s eyes followed but the priest. He saw the man in his long black cassock disappear behind a door. There was a small brass plate on the door, inscribed… Bell Tower.

He reached out to Sarah in an effort to urge her to walk faster. “Sarah, let’s go.”

She sighed and looked at him. “What has gotten into you?”

He opened the door and they started to step through when the first tone rang through the building, echoed by the tall open ceiling. It was a deep rich bong of the largest bell in the tower, followed by two higher pitched rings. The sounds began to loop growing in strength.

Jonathon trembled at first, then began to hug himself and crumble trapped in the threshold of the old church. His body shook as he cried out, the sound of a man as he went mad.

Sarah dropped to her knees beside him. “Jonathon… my love what is…”

Her breath caught in her throat and she scooted backward away from him against the wall. This just couldn’t be she’s been so weak and ill through their marriage, surely her eyes had played a cruel trick. This vision couldn’t be real.

One of the parishioners fetched the priest to help the wailing man. He started to kneel down to try and ease the man’s suffering when he saw the eyes. Solid black pools of the deepest darkness known to man. The priest felt his soul tremble as those eyes gazed into his own. He crossed himself and lifted the gold cross that hung over his heart.

Jonathon turned his head away he can’t stand any more assaults. “Get away.”

The priest stood and ran to the alter. He grabbed the aspergillum and ran back to Jonathon. The priest began to recite prayers to protect those present and rid his church of this horror as he flicked the aspergillum.

Drops of Holy Water fell upon Jonathon. He cried out in terror and agony as the bells continued to ring. He couldn’t take any more his body arched, mouth opened wide as if to scream. Instead something else slipped out of the body. It was smoky, the scent of sulfur filled their nostrils as it flew out the door and out to the street.

The priest watched as the demon melted into the cracks. He knew it wouldn’t be last dark soul the Bells of Wesley would terrorize and he said a long prayer of thanks for that. 

Part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge for the letter B. Visit the site for the linky list to visit more great and creative blogs as we journey through the alphabet this April. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A Ship by Any Other Name

Photo by Elise VanCise. One of the original Hart Line Steamers. 
Hamilton signed deeply and stretched as he sunned on top of the crates. It was a quiet morning on their journey. That thought triggered something, it was too quiet. He sat up and looked at the old steamer’s top pipe, not a single puff of smoke.

At least the water was calm as glass. “Jacob, didn’t you notice the engine’s kaput?”

Jacob sits up from his nap on the bow and cocks his head to listen. “Damn, when did she fail?” He points his finger. “And don’t go sayin I let’er down you didn’t notice either.”

The other man sighs and hops off the crates and opens the engine doors to have a look. “Just grab the tools and let’s have a look. At least the water is calm today and not trying to tinker about in here with rolling waves.”

Jacob opens a hatch on the deck and pulls out the tool box. As the hatch falls back into place he heard a hard knock against the bottom. He opens the hatch to see what tipped over, but nothing was amiss. He’s been at this job too long, now he’s hearing things.

He set the box next to Hamilton who was checking valves. “You know Ham, this tub has given us one issue or another every time we’ve been out. I’m beginning to think that old tale is true.”

Hamilton paused to raise his brow and look at his partner. “What old tale?”

“You know, the name Amelia. You never give a vessel a name ending in the letter a. It’s bad luck.” He pulls out a ratchet to tighten one of the valves that seem loose. 

Hamiton scoffs. “I never pegged you for a superstitious nit.” He adds a bit of grease to the piston. There’s another large knock on the bottom of the boat.

Jacob looks at the other man. “Did you hear that?”

Ham shook his head. “Hear what? The only thing I’m interested in is the sound of this old girl belching to life. Turn her over will ya.”

Jacob goes back to the helm and pressed the button. After a couple of tries, the engine gives a sputter and puff of smoke as it comes back to life. Jacob let go a breath he didn’t realize he was holding. He put his hand in his pocket and gave the rabbit’s foot a pet for their fortune.

The steamer rocked side to side as if it caught a rough wave. The men grabbed hold to keep their footing.
looked around. The engine couldn’t have caused that. “Let’s get her moving.”

Jacob pulled the leaver to slow ahead. The steamer groaned a bit like she’s stuck on something then moved forward. Once they’re underway, he added a bit more speed. His heart pumped with a faster pace as well. “What in hell is going on Ham?”

The other man shook his head. “It’s nothing probably just one of those great whites. You know they love the coastlines.”

Jacob nodded, but his gut knotted and twisted all the same. The deck lurched under his feet again as the bow tipped upward then down. There were more knocks now against the sides of the hull now. Like something wanted aboard and were pounding the sides to come in. Or push its way in.

Hamilton slid from one side to the other as the steamer rocked again. He gripped the railing to keep from falling over the side. His mind froze in shock with what his eyes took in as they fell over the edge.
He crossed himself with a trembling hand. “Dear God in heaven.”

Tentacles writhed against the hull of the steamer. The vessel lurched again. One of the large tentacles slung over the bow and began to wrap around.

Jacob cried out in fear and ran to the back of the steamer to jump into the water for a possible escape. When he had climbed the top of the rail a large mass rose out of the sea.

Smaller tentacles writhed in the air; they dripped water and ooze on Jacob and the deck. The mass shifted and an eye as large as the man before it opened.

Hamilton yelled. “Look out, get back Jacob.”

Jacob tried to rush backwards but slipped in the muck dripped from the beast onto his back. It wouldn’t have mattered, it was too late. One of the smaller arms whipped down, wrapped around the man’s leg and dragged him into the air.

The beast shifted again, this time it opened a large beaked mouth. The beak was razored with sharp teeth and a serpent-like tongue flicked out to sample its find. Jacob struggled in its grip.

Hamilton made his way to the helm. He pulled a revolver he’d fastened there in case of pirates. He wished this were pirates. aimed and held his breath as he fired into the mass of the beast.

The beast only twisted now angry. Tentacles launched out of the water and latched onto the steamer and began to rip into the deck and hull. The smaller arm that held Jacob hovered above the great beak. The beak snapped shut then opened wide for its morsel.

Hamilton cried out as his shipmate was devoured. There was no escape the beast had the steamer tight in its grip and it was too large to attempt to abandon ship. He knelt and began to say his final prayer.

Three weeks later….
Old man Gimley sighed as he lit his pipe holding the weathered chunk of wood. He walked down to inspect a new steamer for the Hart Line.

The foreman stepped off the steamer to greet his supervisor. “Afternoon, Mr. Gimley. What do you have there?”

Gimley looked at the wood and sighed. “Confirmation of what happened to our missing ship. They found a bit of wreckage, no survivors.”

The foreman shook his head. They’ve had a run of bad luck lately. “The Amelia? That makes four in the last eight months. The Nina, Susana, and the Mina all lost. Mr. Hart is not going to be pleased.”

Gimley nodded as he handed the chunk of wood to the foreman and stepped aboard to begin his inspection.
The foreman turned to the boy in the sling painting the name. “Change that name Tucker.”

“To what sir?”

“Whatever you like just make sure there is no a on the end!” The foreman looked at the wood in his hands and the battered letters on it. Maybe some superstitions have a bit of truth to them. “Poor girl, you and the others were cursed from the start.”

Part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge for the letter A. Visit the site for the linky list to visit more great and creative blogs as we journey through the alphabet this April.