Garden and Zoe: Monday Blog Post

ZoeMeme001

Newest News:

Zoe Ohale rewrite is DONE! Whew! It took a lot of thought and some shifting around of chapters but it’s done. I’m now working on my cover and my “A” Team is going to get to select which of the draft covers will be my release cover. If you’d like to be in on the action, respond to this blog and let me know your name and email address. Do it in the next day cause I’m finalizing those covers and getting ready to release. Cover reveal will be to the “A” Team first, then the newsletter subscribers, then here on the blog. Want to be in the know first? Comment on this blog to join the A Team.

The fair again took up a lot of time last week with all of the coordination required to get everything “on the table” at that same time. I’m also attended the Book Festival volunteer thank-you luncheon so that took up a few hours of my time as well.

I met with my editor at the local paper, Pete Aleshire of the Payson Roundup. I’m now an official “stringer” with the paper and filled out the paperwork to get paid for my hiking stories in the new Trails book the paper put out. It is not, unfortunately, on Amazon. But if you’re going to be in central Arizona and like to hike, let me know, I’ll send you a copy for $5 plus shipping. Nine of the hikes in the book were written by me. Photos for those hikes are by my hubby, Randy Cockrell, and our hiking friends Randy Wilfong and Jim Hadder. The photos are mislabeled as being all by my husband. But I know who took them!

Giveaways:

Summer Giveaway

The Red Hot Summer giveaway ends on Labor Day, just 5 days away, so you’re running out of time to get in on the fun. You can find the Rafflecopter link above on my website. You do have to sign up to Rafflecopter but after that, you’re free to click away. I have links to it on my facebook and twitter pages, too. This giveaway I offer a free ebook, Mystery at the Fair, or for second prize, a $10 Amazon card. Over a hundred prizes from 50 authors plus a grand prize of $150 Paypal Cash. It’s not hard to enter, there are multiple ways to enter, and it doesn’t cost you anything. You could easily win a prize. If you haven’t entered yet, enter today and every day but hurry, only 14 days left!

Instafreebie September 18- 20th, 2016

Instafreebie September 18- 20th, 2016

Starting 1 September, I’m involved with a group doing a promotion on Instafreebie. I’m starting on 1 September by selling Mystery at the Fair for just .99. I know. A whole ebook for ninety-nine cents! The main promo for free books is going to be September 18-20th. There will be a lot of authors involved and we’ll be cross promoting the books so you get the best selection of cozy mysteries we could put together. Hashtags will be #instafreebie, #mystery, #freemystery. More details as they come out. But check for us on Facebook and Twitter as well.

Shout Out:

Author LeeAnn Jackson Rhoden

Author LeeAnn Jackson Rhoden

I missed shouting out my author interviewee for August 24th, LeeAnn Jackson. You can go back on the website blog page and find the interview. You’ll want to pick up her links and check out her books for sure.

Garden News:

AugGarden007

Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes. Paste, Early Girl and Cherries. Then there’s the zucchini. Lots and lots of zucchini. We eat them at just about every meal. I didn’t make the zucchini pizza yet, instead I’m going to blog late (August 25th) on Chicklets in the Kitchen with Peach Shortcake. I’m still eating through my peaches too! How’s your garden doing? Are you enjoying an abundance of something? Do tell.

Where Will I Be?:

The wonderful people at Dog-Eared Pages Book store (http://www.dogearedpagesusedbooks.com/) were nice enough to put a few of my Mystery at the Fair books on their shelves. If you’re in Phoenix, stop by the shop and say hi to the nice people there.

FallFest2016

9th annual Fall Festival in Pine, AZ. October 8th and 9th. http://pinestrawberrybusinesscommunityaz.com/fallapple.html. I’ll be there all weekend as part of the local author book signing. My hubby will be there as part of the chili cook-off at noon on Saturday. There are also crafters and a very excellent antique show scheduled, not to mention music and food!

Want more details about this event? Click here for more information.

Newsletter Sign Up:

Click here to sign up for my newsletter. I’ve put sign-up prizes on both the regular and the Brown Rain newsletter sign-ups. That’s right. If you sign up for my newsletter you get a free story from me. Be prepared for fun and contests! Click on the video link for a short video from me. Hear what I’m working on. Join my “A” Team! I’m getting ready to share some things on the Zoe Ohale book. I’d love to see you there.

Newest Book Release:

Kindred Spirits Ad

Kindred Spirits released on March 14th! I’m pretty excited about it. You can buy it and my other books at: Apple, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, Gumroads  or Chatebooks today! You can also see all of my books on www.ConniesRandomThoughts.com. If you’ve read any of my books, please drop a review on the site where you bought it or on Goodreads. It’s a big help to me in the book rankings each vendor uses to promote the books on their sites. Thanks in advance.

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Kindred Spirits Release Day: Monday Blog Post

Draft front cover: Kindred Spirits

Draft front cover: Kindred Spirits

Hoo! I’m releasing the third book in my Brown Rain series, Kindred Spirits, today. I mentioned last week that I’m doing something different this time. Usually I put the book up for sale, mention it once or twice and call it a day. This time I’m really get some excitement going. I’m actually promoting the release. I’ve made up little meme cards and posted every day. I’ve started a giveaway. More about that below. I’ve created a video of all of the meme cards and quotes I’ve made and put it on YouTube. Here’s the link. Please share it with all of your friends, family and significant others. Note that the cards have links on them. Not clickable, unfortunately an  issue with jpeg files, but I encourage you to check out the links. Every link discusses something in the book. I hope you find the information both informative and fun. The book is up on Amazon, paperback and Kindle, and Smashwords and GumRoad for the other ebook formats. Soon it will be out on the other ebook sites and up on chatebooks as well.

So what’s this about a giveaway? I’ve started a giveaway on Amazon that ends March 20th. I have 10 First Encounter ebooks to give away. You could win one! You’ll have to follow my Twitter account but that’s all it takes! Click on this link to enter. https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/402a5ef0fe1e0234

Last week was Author Interview week and Terra Luft (terraluft.com) was my guest. What do you think about the author interviews? Have you found a new-to-you author that you’re checking out?

A friend of mine just gave me some tomato transplants. She always starts way more than she needs. She gave me six plum tomatoes and six unspecified cherry tomato seedlings. About for more of each than I need. I’ll give those away. I will, however, still grow or obtain Sungold cherry tomato plants and some Early Girls. Both of those varieties grow really well for me here in central Arizona. And we LOVE the sungolds. There’s no way I’m going to have tomatoes and not sungolds.

Have you entered the Luck O’ The Authors giveaway? This is going to end at midnight St. Patrick’s Day, just 3 days away. That means a lot fewer contestants over some of the longer giveaways. Go to www.conniesrandomthoughts.com/giveaways to enter the Rafflecopter. Even if you’ve signed up for all of the authors, there are daily ways to win. Check it out!

Another fun thing I found a few weeks ago is called Cover Wars over on http://authorshout.com. I submitted my book cover for Mystery at the Fair even though I knew I was going to revise it. Anyway, here’s the fun part. You can go to the site, vote for my cover or someone else’s every day through Saturday. You get to see some new to you authors and I get a little free publicity for my book. It’s a big win all the way around. Stop by http://authorshout.com/cover-wars/ to vote and/or share this page so that all your friends can vote. You don’t even have to sign up for anything. Just scroll down the page past the covers and vote for me or someone else daily through Saturday.

Speaking of covers and Mystery at the Fair. I’ve been thinking about redoing the cover before Mystery in the Woods comes out. A friend of mine had some time and designed me the best cover ever, and one for Mystery in the Woods! It is so awesome! Can you tell I’m excited about it?  Here it is. What do you think?

Mystery at the Fair New Cover2

I’m continuing to work on Mystery in the Woods. There are only a few more scenes before I finish the first draft. To be honest, I still don’t know who did it. I’m also now writing non-fiction hiking stories for my local paper. Hubby does most of the photography. A friend of mine told me he ran into some hikers on a trail I wrote about a few weeks ago and they were there because of the story in the paper. How cool is that! April is Camp NaNo and I’m plotting out my next mystery book, Mystery at the Book Festival. It takes place the summer following Mystery in the Woods and poor Jean Hays is starting to look like the murder whisperer. In the mean time my novel Zoe Ohale is up for rewrites and edits, then after that, my still not really titled book, All about Bob. I’d like to get both of those out this year!

Where will I be? Here’s the scoop.

April 11th at 3pm Arizona time I’ll be on the January Jones Sharing Success Stories web talk radio show. Have you heard me there? Don’t miss out.

April 16th I’ll be at the Tempe Public Library book festival where I’m on a panel talking about Science Fiction and World Building. I’m looking forward to meeting you there.

June 2nd and 3rd I’m at the Scottsdale MysteryCon, Death and Deception in the Desert. I’m giving a presentation there as well on writing a mystery.  Tickets for both days are only $35. I do hope you can make it to that one.  Here’s a flyer telling all about it.

Mystery Con Flyer

July 23rd is the Payson Book Festival. I’ll be at my table all day, ready to talk to YOU! I hope you can make it as we will have over 70 authors attending as well as music, food, author presentations and workshops. It will be stupendous!

Want more details about these events? Click here for more information.

Click here to sign up for my newsletter. If you are a Brown Rain series fan, I’ve created a list just for you! If you join my regular newsletter, that’s all right too as I’ve put sign-up prizes on both. That’s right. If you sign up for my newsletter you get a free story from me. My next newsletter is being drafted so sign up today. The YouTube video I just made about Kindred Spirits will be in the newsletter. Just a note. I’m going to be sending out newsletters more frequently. Be prepared for fun and contests!

Kindred Spirits released today! I’m pretty excited about it. You can buy it and my other books at: Apple, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, Gumroads  or Chatebooks today! You can also see all of my books on www.ConniesRandomThoughts.com. If you’ve read any of my books, please drop a review on the site where you bought it or on Goodreads. It’s a big help to me in the book rankings each vendor uses to promote the books on their sites. Thanks in advance.

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Wake Snakes: Friday Flash Fiction Post

Port harbour by Kagita ar via DeviantArt.com

Port harbour by Kagita ar via DeviantArt.com

Wake snakes — get into mischief. “So I went on a regular wake snakes sort of a spree, and I went here and there turnin’, twistin’ and doublin’ about until I didn’t know where or who I was,” a man testified in court as to why he was intoxicated, according to the New Orleans, La., Times Picayune of Aug. 15, 1842.  Link to the rest at NPR.

 

Capella jumped from her small boat and tied it off before she scurried down the quay.

Her best friend, Phoebe, was set up for a shell game in the mouth of a tiny alley. “Hey! Where you goin’?” She scooped her cups and the ball into her jacket pocket and folded the tiny table.

In four steps Phoebe’d caught up. “In a hurry?”

“Yep.” If her friend wanted come that was fine but she’d better keep up.

“Who’s the mark?” Phoebe brushed by a sailor staggering along the quay. She slid his wallet into her pocket without missing a stride.

“No one you know.” Capella clenched her teeth.

Phoebe arched an eyebrow. “Personal then. What’s the plan?”

Phoebe was always ready to help. She’d want a cut of whatever could be taken but that was fair. “Some jerk beat ma to snot. I’m gonna find him and make him pay.” Capella accepted that women, especially in a port town and without prospects, sold what they had to whoever would buy. No skin off her nose.

“Last seen?” Pheobe fingered the haft of the knife she kept in the belt at her waist. Capella knew Phoebe had another at her back and a third in her boot. Capella had checked her knives before she left the hovel she and her mother called home.

“Turner’s. Jerk and his shipmates have camped there for the last two days.”

Phoebe spat on the quay. “How many?”

“Six. You’re thinkin’ we need back-up?”

“Yep.” Phoebe eyed her. “Unless you know how to separate him from his mates?”

“I planned to get friendly and get him out into the alley, then deal with him.”

“He ever see you before?”

“Nope. Ma gave me a description. The jack didn’t even pay her the fee. There’s no call for that.”

“Agreed. He needs a correction. We could get a couple of the boys.”

Capella thought about it. It was tempting to call in the boys but things could go sideway’s too easy. She looked at her friend and eyed the table tucked under Phoebe’s arm. “You set up a game on the quay just outside the door. I’ll tell Turner you’ll give him a cut so he won’t bother you. Let them win once in awhile to keep them interested. I’ll chat up the jerk and get him to come out back.”

“I can do that. What are you gonna do?”

“I’ll think of something.”

“I’d feel better if a couple of the boys were there to help.”

“Me, too, but they get side-tracked and next thing they’re robbin’ and beatin’ and…hmmm, maybe that would be the better plan.” She slowed to a stop. “They can keep everything the guy has but my ma’s fee. Where are they?”

“Over at Mally’s.”

“Let’s go.”

It took an hour to get to Mally’s, talk to the boys, get two to come along, and get back to Turner’s. The boys, Zen and Lecki, hid in the alley while Capella and Phoebe started things out front.

The sailors tumbled out of the tavern door and lay their bets. Phoebe smiled and flirted while Turner watched from the door. Capella spotted the jerk and gave him a smile. As soon as he noticed her, she oozed up beside him. “Hey.”

“Hey, yourself.” He slid an arm around her shoulders.

A glance at his knuckles, freshly broken open, convinced her she had her mother’s attacker. “You new in town?”

“Off the Octavia Jones for a few days.”

Capella simpered. “You lookin’ for a good time?”

He leered down her shirt at her breasts. “All the time, sweet thing. What do you have in mind?”

“Three credits. There’s a spot in the alley where we can get some privacy.”

He grinned. “Back in a minute, boys.”

As he turned with her in his grasp, Capella caught Phoebe’s eye. Phoebe nodded and allowed one of the sailors to win. They never noticed the jerk leave.

Turner arched an eyebrow at Capella who gave her head a tiny shake. He wouldn’t tell, but she’d have to pay him off. After wake snaking all over the city in the hot sun, the cool, shaded alley leading to the back of the building, was a relief. At the back of Turner’s she said, “Over here.” She pulled him into a corner of a small storage shed and the building. She backed into the corner and unbuttoned the next button on her shirt. “This what you lookin’ for?” She peered up at him through her eyelashes.

He moved in and grabbed her around the waist. Over his shoulder she watched Zen and Lecki come up behind him. They clobbered him over the head and as he went down, beat him with their fists and kicked him, stomach and back, as he tried to protect his head. Once unconscious, they went through his pockets.

“Ma’s fee and money to pay off Turner.” She held out her hand.

Zen handed her the coins while Lecki took the rest. “Nice doin’ business wit ya.” They tipped their hats and ran off along the back alley. Capella buttoned her shirt and went out front. She nodded to Turner and eased down the quay. She’d come back later to give him his cut.

Phoebe closed the game to the moans and groans of the sailors. “Time for me to move on, boys. Safe journey.”

The girls ducked into a side alley. “You all right?” Phoebe asked.

“Fine. He never touched me. How’d you do?”

“Fifty credits for me, fifty for Turner.”

Capella peeked around the corner. “Time to go. Gotta get ma some meds.”

Phoebe thrust twenty credits at her friend. “Take ’em. For your ma.”

Capella hesitated then sighed. “For the meds. That’s all. You took a risk, too.”

“Thirty credits in a morning is a good day for me. Take Turner’s share.”

Capella nodded. “Safe journey, Phoebe.” She hurried out onto the quay and to her boat. Time to help her ma.

 

Thank You!

999 Words

Find more of the Forward Motion Flash Friday Group here: http://www.fmwriters.com/flash.html

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Freezing the Year: Friday Flash Fiction Post

Sunrise by Randy Cockrell

Sunrise by Randy Cockrell

Mairissa shivered in the dawn light with the rest of the novitiates. The High Priestess chanted at the well at the top of the hill. Mairissa didn’t have a good vantage point from the last row of the gathering but she could see Mother Superior raise the chalice high, a wisp of steam coming from the cup to touch the first ray of the sun. They were supposed to be adding their power to the priestess’s own for the ceremony. Mairissa only knew that she was cold to the bone and wished for a warm mug of tea.

In the dining hall Mairissa’s hands circled her mug of tea, her face in the steam, a bowl of oatmeal in front of her. She had just taken that first, satisfying sip when Sister Yahlin touched her shoulder.

“Mother would like to speak with you.”

The girls around the table sent her silent looks of commiseration. Mairissa was often called into Mother Superior’s office for one offense or another. She wan’t disobedient, but full of life and she saw no reason to be all glum and dumb as she called it, all of the time.

She took a last, defiant sip of her tea and got up. She followed Sister Yahlin to the High Priestess’s office. The sister closed the door behind Mairissa, who walked to stand in front of the Mother’s table. She wasn’t sure why she was here. There was no prank, no missed class time, no shirking of her tasks, in over a week.

Mother looked up from the parchment in front of her. “I missed you this morning.”

“Missed, Mother? I was at the morning ritual, then in the hall to break my fast.”

“Do you know why we had that ritual this morning? It wasn’t a normal gathering.”

“To try and halt the year from freezing.”

“Yes. You learned about it in class. The band of mages called The Aladrin are slowly freezing the planet. They’re mad, of course, but their magic is strong. I know every mind in the convent, Mairissa, and I could not feel yours this morning.”

The girl gaped. It never occurred to her that the priestesses could do that. “But, but I’m just a novice, Mother. What help could I be? I’m only in my third year here.”

The priestess rose from her stool and leaned over the table to stare at the girl. “You have the potential to be the strongest mind of us all. That’s why you were brought here.”

Mairissa shook her head. “My parents sold me. It was a hard year, the crops failed, and there was no dowry for a marriage.”

Mother Superior laughed and stood, folding her hands into the pockets in her deep-sleeved woolen robe. “We paid, certainly. But it was because we could feel you broadcasting for twenty miles around. You had to be brought in before the Aladrin could pick you up. The convent is shielded, girl, protecting you and the rest of us in this fight.”

Mairissa’s head whirled as she rearranged all of her preconceptions. “So this morning?”

The old woman sighed. “We are close. The battle is on the edge. We’ll have another ceremony tomorrow morning. Perhaps we can push back their black magic and bring the year back from the freeze.” She walked Mairissa to the door. “Tomorrow is the shortest day of the year. It will make the dark magic that much stronger.” She rested a hand on the girl’s shoulder. “You, and all of the rest, must focus in the morning or we shall surely freeze this winter.”

Mairissa nodded and left. She spent the rest of the day talking to the other novitiates and even the youngest priestesses. She didn’t know if she believed the High Priestess but at the very least, everyone she knew would understand that tomorrow they had to focus.

In the dark morning the priestesses assembled in their amphitheater, the Mother Superior at the top of the hill at the well. The wind was whipping and tiny crystals of ice bit into exposed faces and hands. Tears formed in Mairissa’s eyes from the cold but she let them run. She was focused on the High Priestess. Every lesson she’d ever had on controlling her magic was brought to bear.

The wind whipped the woolen cloaks and gowns and the freezing air circled her legs. The tears froze on her face. It was as though the mages were doing their best to distract her. She refocused, sending energy to the Mother Superior. This time, it seemed as if the chalice glowed. Mairissa renewed her effort.

The clouds roiled in the pre-dawn sky. The breath of the sisters rose in the cold air and was snatched away by the wind. Tendrils of hair escaped their hoods but still the sisters and even the novices, focused on the chalice. The sky brightened. First one small pale blue patch appeared, then another. Mairissa could feel the others in her thoughts. She linked with them, pushing her power to the High Priestess. More of the sky broke open and the chalice became too bright to look at. Each priestess began to hum with power until every woman and girl there began to vibrate.

The clouds disappeared and the first ray of the rising sun touched the sacred chalice. A wave of light and sound exploded from the High Priestess’s hands and washed over the assembly. The High Priestess slumped and two priestesses ran to support her. They carried her to the front of the assembly. Mairissa wiped the ice from her face, her body trembling with the cold and sudden absence of power. As the sun’s rays touched the women, Mother Superior called out. “The Sun has arisen.”

“The Sun has arisen,” the priestesses cried out.

Mairissa didn’t know for sure that the mages had been beaten back but if not, they’d been dealt a severe blow. “The Sun has arisen.”

 

The End

983 Words

Find more of the Forward Motion Flash Friday Group here: http://www.fmwriters.com/flash.html

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Flash Fiction Friday Story: Invisible Wheel

The Nun by Angelhand via www.DeviantArt.com

The Nun by Angelhand via www.DeviantArt.com

Kostya watched the interplay between the Father Superior and Mother Superior in the Holy Day service. As Fourth Daughter to the Mother Superior, she’d been watching her superiors closely since her first promotion from Acolyte to Sister then Messenger. Today the Daughters and the Sons of both Mother and Father Superior were shooting glares at each other.

Hmm, something going on. She’d been given to the church as a baby, her parents too poor to keep her. In return, the church gave her parents a year’s worth of food. At least her oldest brother would be fed. Now, she was fifth in line for leadership of the women’s church. Her promotion to Fourth Daughter was new and she was still learning the in’s and out’s of the position.

She learned as a child that there were wheels within wheels in the church. Kostya figured out early that she must behave with decorum and study her lessons. A bright girl, she found favor with the teachers and made friends with the smartest girls and boys in class.  On her thirteenth birthday, they offered her an acolyte position. She’d snapped at the chance. What did she know about the outside world? She’d had enough of farming and crops as a child working on the Church farms. Kostya knew she could do better.

As an acolyte she learned the higher maths, studied the church’s history along with the history of the kingdom. It was found that she had excellent management skills and as she grew she was given more and more responsibility for planning larger and larger events. Promotions came almost yearly.

She was sixteen when the First Daughter took her under her wing as a mentor. Kostya served as her secretary, sitting in on high-level meetings of the Superiors and their Sons and Daughters. Once, she was in a council with the King, though he never noticed her. There she learned the King’s court worked much as the Church’s. Something she kept tucked in the back of her mind.

Later that Holy Day she was called before Father and Mother Superiors and the Sons and Daughters.

“Kostya, Fourth Daughter of the Church, rise,” Father Superior called out in his beautiful baritone from the head of the table. He sat on the right while Mother Superior sat on the left. Down each side of the table, the Sons and Daughters faced each other. Kostya rose from her place at the end.

She bowed to the Superiors. “Father, Mother, I respond.” She folded her hands in the long, wide sleeves of her habit waited.

“We have an opportunity, child.” Father Superior intoned.

Kostya noticed frowns on the faces of Third and Second Daughters. The Sons looked bored.

Father Superior nodded to Mother Superior.

“On rare occasions, the King decides to create closer ties to the church.” Mother Superior tucked her hands into her sleeves.

Kostya knew why. The Mother had tremors and tucking her hands out of sight made her less vulnerable to suggestions that she retire due to infirmity. There was nothing wrong with Mother’s brain, Kostya knew. She’d been on the receiving end of dressings down for poor judgment.

Kostya nodded.

Mother Superior continued. “It seems the King has a second son and no suitable princess of the proper age with whom the King wants or needs to make alliances. Therefore, he has indicated we should choose one of you.”

Ah, that was it. No wonder she’d been kept out of recent meetings. “I hear, Mother.”

Mother Superior looked to Father. “We have decided that you will be our offering to the King.”

The Sons all looked thoughtful. Daughters Two and Three shot her glances fit to kill. They wanted that marriage, Kostya realized. Ridiculous. The King’s second son is just three years older than me, ten younger than Daughter Three and fifteen less than Daughter Two. She kept her face serene and bowed. “I serve at the pleasure of our most holy Father and Mother Superiors.”

This was a coup! Freed from the confines of the Church, she would have more power than all of the Sons and Daughters combined. She’d be the personal representative of the Father and Mother to the Court.

“The wedding will be in six months. There are things you must learn before the marriage.” Father Superior tapped the gavel on the table. The meeting adjourned and the men left the room. Mother Superior and the Daughters rose.

“You must learn to dance, suitable clothing must be made, gifts obtained for the King and Queen, the first son and his wife, and for your intended. There is much of statecraft we must teach you, as well.” Mother Superior said from her position at the front of the table. “You will meet with me daily.”

Kostya nodded. “I hear, Mother.”

Second Daughter sneered when Mother Superior left the room. “Don’t get ahead of yourself, girl. You will answer to us, even as the wife of the prince.”

Kostya donned her most humble posture. “You give me great honor, Second Daughter. I thank you for your teachings.”

Second Daughter sniffed and left the room. Third Daughter grabbed her by the elbow, a significant breach of etiquette. “You’re to go to the seamstresses immediately to be measured.” She gave Kostya’s elbow a hidden pinch then hurried away. Kostya knew the Third Daughter was vain and wanted those pretty gowns for herself.

First Daughter remained. “Forgive them, Sister. This opportunity comes along so seldom, it was too much temptation for them.

Kostya had always liked First Daughter. She had a keen mind but a gentle manner. “Thank you, Sister. I rely on your support.

The training was intense; social graces, inter-kingdom policy, memorization of all of the notable families and their social and political status. At the end was the wedding. Father and Mother Superiors performed the rites.

Kostya sipped the wine at the wedding dinner and smiled. She was going to make a wonderful spy.

 

The End

997 Words

Find more of the Forward Motion Flash Friday Group here: http://www.fmwriters.com/flash.html

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Friday Flash Fiction Post: Images of a Black Flame

Images of a Black Flame

I dredged up this prompt from long ago and for some reason, it spoke to me now. I have written a chapter of what seems like a longer work. Do you like it? Do you want to read more? Let me know. If there’s no interest, I’ll let the story drop, never to be seen again.

Chapter 1

Anrak woke with a gasp and sat straight up in her bed. She pulled her russet hair, come loose in her sleep, back from her face and flipped her braid to her back. Deep calming breaths, just breathe. She looked around her tiny room, the embers of the fire close to gone, and tried to reorient herself while her heart beat slowed. The dream had seemed so real.

In the morning, she rose from her pallet and began the day’s work. Breakfast for Master Eddan and herself was first before they began the task of taking down the dried herbs and putting them into jars and boxes.

Eddan came into the main room as Anrak scooped oatmeal into bowls. “I put dried cherries in it this morning.”

Eddan sat at the table and nodded. “I’m pleased.” He eyed her, his face, wrinkled with time, showed concern. “I heard you call out last night. The dream again?”

Anrak swallowed. “Yes.” She sighed. “I wish I knew what it means.”

“Just the image of a black flame? Was it on a table, an altar, in a building, the woods?”

The apprentice rubbed an eye. “There might have been a candle, or that’s just wishful thinking on my part. I don’t understand why it terrifies me.” She scooped oatmeal into her bowl and sat across the table from her master. “It’s as though the flame is alive, can see me.” She stirred the mush around the bowl. “Or that there’s someone near, in the same space with the flame.” Anrak shook her head. “It makes no sense.” She ate a spoonful of the oatmeal.

Eddan stroked his beard, gone white in the twelve years she’d been his apprentice. “I’ve been thinking about your flame. I’ve read through all of my books looking for a reference. It might be time to go to the Mage Council to collaborate.”

“Is that wise?”

Eddan snorted. “They’ll have to get over themselves. They know I was right, it just galls them that I saw the dragon coming before the rest of them did.” He scooped up a spoonful and ate it.

“Good thing you did. Otherwise the land would have been seared from one end to the other. The King was happy.”

“Yes, but I’m concerned that you keep seeing this image and are fearful of it. It could be a portent. That’s why I took you as an apprentice. Your dreams are strong and even as an untrained child, could foresee events. We’ll go today. After breakfast, pack us some travel food, prepare our bags. We’ll go to the council and get some help.”

#

After four days walk, Eddan and Anrak reached the castle where many of their brother and sister mages lived and studied. It was located in the capital city, making it easy for the King to summon them should he need counsel or assistance. They were ushered to the rooms of the head of the council.

“Gar’dyne!” Eddan strode across the carpets strewn across the stone floor like pools of color. “So good to see you.” The two men clasped each other’s arms and hugged in greeting.

“It’s been too long, Eddan.” The mage held his friend at arm’s length and studied his appearance. “You’ve gotten grayer.”

“And you’ve gotten thinner. Doesn’t your apprentice feed you?” Eddan laughed.

“He does, but I don’t always remember to eat what he brings me.” He looked past Eddan. “And this is Anrak?” Gar’dyne walked to her and gave her a gentle embrace. “You have grown into a fine young woman.” He studied her face. “But you have dark circles under your eyes. Are you well?”

She smiled at the kind old man. “I am well.” Anrak looked to her master.

Eddan spoke up. “She is dreaming. We want the council to help us.”

“Come, sit.” He led them to a table and chairs. “Tell me everything.”

#

After the tale, Gar’dyne called for tea, bread and cheese. “It seems to me, this black flame is a symbol, a warning perhaps.”

While they ate, Eddan said, “That’s my thought also. The library here is large, there may be some reference to a black flame and one or more of the council may have knowledge of this image.”

“We’ll meet after supper in the council chamber and tell the rest of the mages. He stood up. “I’ll have Yawo escort you to your chambers. Rest, have a quiet supper and meet us after.”

Eddan shook Gar’dyne’s hand. “Thank you. I feel this is a threat. We should be prepared.”

#

At the meeting of the mages, they hashed over Anrak’s dream. By the time they finished, she was exhausted.

“I don’t know,” Tankal, a middle-aged man whose main talent as a mage was creating flame, whined. “None of us seem to know what this image she dreams of is about.”

“Belsing,” Gar’dyne called out. “You’re the one with the best knowledge of the library yet you’ve said nothing.”

Anrak turned to look at Belsing. At least ninety, he looked as fragile as the ancient manuscripts he studied.

“There might be something, a prophesy, very old. Something about a war with black flames. I’d have to research it.” He scratched his liver-spotted bald head. “I would suggest a dream reader stay with Anrak tonight and view the dream with her.”

“Excellent idea, Belsing.” Gar’dyne turned to a woman that was near his age. “Releh, you’re the best dream follower we have. Would you help us tonight?”

Relah looked at Anrak. “If the young woman gives me permission, I’d be happy to help.”

Anrak nodded. “I would appreciate that service. Thank you.”

“Then it is done.” Gar’dyne clapped his hands. “We’ll reconvene in at mid-morning to discuss what has happened over the night.”

 

End of Chapter 1

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Flash Fiction Friday Story: Chapter 1 from It’s a Question of College

Soccer, Randy Cockrell

Soccer Game by Randy Cockrell

I have a confession, I totally did not get a story done for today. *blushes* By way of apology, I give you the first chapter to It’s a Question of College. Some of you know that I’m writing a YA series called All About Bob. This series is a result of a writing exercise I did over a year ago. It’s still rough, I’ll be editing and rewriting after it’s finished. And if you can think of a better title, I’ll be happy to consider it.

This chapter is over 1600 words, so a little longer than normal. Enjoy.

Chapter 1 It’s a Question of College

Bob ran as fast as he could taking the front porch steps two at a time gasping for breath from the run up the hill where his parent’s run down two-story frame house stood. He’d stopped looking at the neighborhood years ago. Dead grass, mattresses with the stuffing coming out, crappy sofas and armchairs on sagging porches were so normal he didn’t even notice them anymore. He raised the rusty hinged top to the mailbox now only loosely nailed to the wall beside the front door. Shit, he thought as he peered inside. She’s already gotten the mail.

He left the top open when the hinges froze in place and opened the screen door, more holes than screen, to open the front door. The glass was duct-taped along three long cracks radiating from the edges from the last time his father slammed the door in one of his drunken rages. He’d stopped noticing that, too. He closed the door quietly. Maybe his mother was up in her room, sleeping off the afternoon binge. School books tucked under his arm, he stepped softly across the worn carpet to the kitchen.

His mother was in front of the stove, stirring what smelled like spaghetti sauce. He rolled his eyes in his head. Of course today she felt like staying a little sober, he could see the bottle of beer, condensation on the outside of it, sitting on the counter beside the stove. And she’s fixing dinner — of all days. He looked on the kitchen table, there was the mail. Just as he was going to fade back into the living room she turned and saw him.

“Bobbie, didn’t hear ya come in.” She reached for the beer and took a long pull, setting it back on the counter with a burb. “Opps,” she giggled. “Sorry.”

“Uh, yeah. Soccer practice is over.” He took a breath and walked into the kitchen. “You’re makin’ supper.” He did his best to look casual as he went to the table and dropped his books next to the mail. The top envelope was the light bill. He didn’t dare search the pile while she was watching.

“I felt like spaghetti tonight.”

He wasn’t surprised. It was about the only thing she ever made. “Great, Ma. Sounds good.” He went to the fridge and opened the door. Inside was two 18 packs of beer, the kind his father drank, three sticks of butter, half a loaf of bread and two colas. He took a cola and shut the fridge door. “I’ll do my homework while you cook.” He went back to the table, shoved up against the dirty white painted wall, and casually knocked the mail to the floor as he picked up his books. He put the books back on the table and crouched down to pick up the mail, being careful to pick up one at a time so he could skim the return addresses. It wasn’t in the pile. Bob stood and tapped them into a neat stack and put them back on the table.

“Sorry about that.” He got his books and went to his room. The days were getting shorter, he had to turn on the lamp on the rickety desk he’d found three blocks away a couple of years ago with a Free sign on it. The chair was from a yard sale. He traded the owner a yard mowing for it. The books fell on the desk with a thump, causing the whole thing to shake. Bob flopped in the chair a sigh escaping. That was close, he thought as he dug a pen out of his notebook. I thought for sure the report card was supposed to be out today. He did not want his parents to see that card.  He opened his math text and found the page with the homework problems. Math was his hardest subject so he tended to do that homework first.

An hour later he heard his mother shout from the kitchen, “Dinner!”

He had one more problem to do but decided to do it after supper. His stomach was growling. The two hour soccer practice after school burned the peanut butter sandwich he had for lunch away fast. He was halfway through the kitchen when he noticed his father sitting in the end seat at the table. Bob stopped. “Uh, Hi dad. Didn’t hear ya come in.”

“Nose always stuck in a book,” Ted Kowalski snorted. He drained his can of beer and slammed it on the table. “Get me another one, kid.”

Bob got the beer as his mother drained the spaghetti and put it next to his father’s plate. He took the empty and tossed it into the trash. When he was ten he’d learned about recycling in school. That night he’d picked up his father’s empty aluminum can and rinsed it out and set it on the drain board.

“What the hell ya doin’,” his father had screamed at him from the kitchen table.

Bob walked over to his father and explained. He knew his father, a sanitation worker, would understand. Ted reached out and cuffed Bob in the head leaving a red mark across the left side of his face. “Don’t be a smart ass. That recyclin’ is a bunch of shit. Just something to make my life miserable.”

Bob never tried it again, at least in the house. He got a glass of water from the sink and sat down at the other end of the table. His mother, Marcy, sat on the long side of the table, between them. She put the pan of pasta in the middle of the table. No bowl for her. That was one less thing to wash.

After Ted and Marcy dished up their food, Bob put some on his plate. His mother passed him the green can of parmesan cheese. There was only a teaspoon left in the can. Bob sighed to himself. Sighing aloud would only get him a slap. He wound the pasta onto his fork and took the bite. The pasta was overdone and mushy. “Good dinner, ma,” he said as he went for the next forkful. It was food and would fill his belly.

Marcy drank some beer, burped, and said, “Thanks, Bobbie.”

Bob had tuned out his father’s detailed description of his miserable day on the garbage truck, his thoughts were on the report card his mother had. He tried to think of a way to tell them he really wanted to go to college. His soccer coach thought it could be done. Bob didn’t want to work on a garbage truck like his old man. There had to be something better. They were half way through their plates of spaghetti when his mother pulled an envelope out of her sweatpants pocket. “This came in the mail today.” She put it next to Ted’s plate.

Her husband eyed the envelope. “What the hell is it? A bill?”

She grinned at her son. “It’s Bobbie’s report card.”

Bob’s stomach sank. He’d managed to keep them from seeing his report card all last year. Why the hell didn’t she stick to her routine!

His old man put his fork down and picked up the envelope. He pulled the two page computer printout from the envelope. “What the hell is this shit? When I was in school ya got an actual card.”

Marcy giggled, her thin graying dirty blond pony tail swinging behind her head. “It’s all computers now, Ted.”

“Bullshit,” he muttered as he peered at the small print. He flipped the page, read it, then slapped it on the table. “B’s and C’s. I always knew you was stupid.” Ted picked up his beer and drained it. “Get me another one, stupid.”

Bob picked up the empty, dropped it in the trash and got the new one, putting it beside his father’s plate. His stomach was churning the spaghetti as he sat back down. “I’m doing better this year than last.”

He father eyed him across the table. “I don’t remember any report cards from last year.”

Bob kept his face neutral. “No? They weren’t that great. Nothing to remember.” He picked up his fork and twirled spaghetti around with it.

Ted snorted. “I’ll bet.”

Bob choked the rest of his plate of food down. His father wouldn’t tolerate wasted food. Marcy picked up her empty plate and her husband’s. Ted got up and went to the living room after draining his can of beer and getting a fresh one.

“I think you’re doin’ good, Bobbie. Don’t pay him no mind, school was never his favorite.” She rinsed the plates and put them in the sink, grabbed a beer and went to watch TV with her husband.

Bob scraped the rest of what was on his plate into the trash. His father wouldn’t know. He never touched the trash. That was Bob’s job. He rinsed his plate and put it in the sink. Then he dug the left over spaghetti out of the pot and put it in a bowl and covered it with plastic wrap. He rinsed the pot. He left the dishes for his mother. She tried to have him wash them one night a few years ago and Ted exploded. That was women’s work. His son wouldn’t do women’s work. Bob shrugged. He’d prefer to do the dishes. At least then they wouldn’t be sitting there for two or three days.

He picked up  the forgotten report card, tucked it into his shirt and went to his room. His parents had already forgotten about it. Bob would forge their signature and take it to school in the morning.

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Flash Fiction Friday Post: Mean Girl

Preacher's Cave Mouth by Randy Cockrell

Preacher’s Cave Mouth by Randy Cockrell

I wonder at times if my readers are interested in the writing process? I wrote this as part of a 3 day mini-workshop. This is the final step to the workshop, writing the opening scene to a story. What do you think? Do you want to read more? Is the character engaging? Do you sympathize? Comments are open.

Mean Girl

“Don’t leave me!” sobbed Sonia Lizzaro to Kortni Forsythe but Kortni had already crawled ahead, leaving Sonia in the pitch black cave, bugs crawling all over her and with a broken leg besides. She was on her own. She couldn’t even hear Kortni any longer.

Sonia wiped her teary face on her shoulder. She could feel the mud slide across her face. She sniffed and could smell the decay around her. “Serves me right,” she said out loud. The cave was too quiet. She wanted to hear a voice, even if it was her own. “I should have known better to try and save her. She’s picked on me since we were in grade school, why would she change now?”

Sonia steeled herself to crawl through the mud and muck of the cave floor. It was certain that Kortni wasn’t going to help. Her broken leg hit a rock in the dark, sending pain shooting up her leg to her brain. She groaned but kept moving. Chubby and out of shape, Sonia gasped for breath. The mud and cave were cold but she was sweating.

“I should have let that crazy hike have her. I shuld have run back to the teacher as soon as I got up from where he knocked me down. Nooo. Instead I go after them, watching till he left. She’d do the same for you, I though. Ha, what a joke. Who was I kidding?”

She slithered forward, the cave ceiling just inches over her head. “She was so grateful when I untied her. We cleared the rock fall together. I thought we’d be friends. Yeah, friends. As soon as I showed her the direction out she left me. If only that rock hadn’t fallen on my leg.”

Another wave of pain flooded through her. She stopped and gasped. A wave of fresh air hit her face. “Maybe I’m nearly at the entrance,” she told herself. “Come on, Sonia. Get a move on. It’s freezing in here.” She crawled further, raising her head and forcing her eyes wide to catch any glimmer of light.

She screamed and brushed wildly at her face where a bug was crawling. Sonia sobbed with fear and disgust. “Let me out of here,” she wept. “Please, God, just get me out.” Crawling again she counted every arm pull forward. “You can do it. Keep it up. Go ten more.”

It seemed to take forever but after ten sets of ten she saw a glimmer of light. “Thank you, God.” She moved faster not that she could see the way out.

Finally she stuch her head out of the crevice. She wept with joy at the sun’s warmth on her face. Sonia slid out of the hole onto the rock surrounding the cave mouth and lay on the warm rock. She looked at herself after she caught her breath. She was covered in mud and squashed bugs. Kortni’s scarf, tied around the gash in her leg was filthy. “That’s never gonna come clean,” she said to herself.

Sonia pulled herself up on a rock then stood on her good leg. She looked around for a stick to help her walk. She just wanted to go home and get clean. If she never went outside again it would be too soon. She hobbled from rock to tree, finally finding a stick. When she got back to school she was going to tell everyone how Kortni had left her.

Struggling to stagger along, she didn’t hear the brushes rustling. It wasn’t until a shadow fell across her path that she looked up.

“You again,” the hiker grinned. “You look like crap.” He frowned at her. “You took my girl away from me.”

Sonia’s heart fell. The fear and terror of the cave came boiling out of her. “Leave me alone!” she screamed at him.

He laughed then grabbed her arm. “You’ll have to do.” He pulled her back the way she’d just come.

She began to cry.

 

The End

664 Words

Find more of the Forward Motion Flash Friday Group here: http://www.fmwriters.com/flash.html

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