Category Archives: Taking Risks

The Tod Chronicles: Book 4

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@Richard_Kadrey Prompt

The Tod Chronicles Book 4

I. The Dangling Participle

It was the best of Tods, it was the worst of Tods, it was the Tod of wisdom, it was the Tod of foolishness, it was the Tod of belief, it was the Tod of incredulity, it was the season of Tod Light, it was the season of Tod Dark, it was the Tod of hope and despair, Tod had everything before us, and Tod blew it all to hell.

“Thanks, Tod. And your stupid monkey thing too.”

That became the call of the people. The saying could be found on a huge, I mean huge, number of things. Cups, mugs, t-shirts, bumper stickers for your Space Vehicle, pencils, coasters (for drinks, not going up and downsy things), and it could even be found tatooed on certain parts of the body by those who were most miffed. Coke had to recall a wee bit over twenty billion bulbs of their product that had ‘Tod’ on the label.

Noone in the Acronym Research and Study Services knew who came up with the saying. TTAYSMTT was not the most graceful combo. It sent Ms. Belfar, acting head of ARSS, into a convulsive state upon its first appearance on a sign being dragged behind an FL 42U FE sky drone (otherwise known as a Fluffy).  TTAYSMTT, spoken, was a mouthful. Some headway was made when it morphed into TattysMit. The cool kids gave it the tweak it needed,  and “Ta-Tay!” became the flavor of the month and a half.

Ms. Belfar recovered soon after. She went into the Medial Circumference a wreck and came out engaged to Mr. Frank Bloom, the Circumference Custodian, and all around Dandelion Master. They will be hyphenated and brought to union by Commodore 71 on 210988 at 1500 hour of the clock, EST. The BB’s are registered only at acronym friendly stores.

“Ta-Tay!”, I mean Tod, was not happy about any of this. He wasn’t happy about what led to all of this: he was badly injured by the Man-Eating Space Ducks but, surprisingly, he survived; was eaten by a planet (whose name can’t be named due to legal issues) and summarily spit out by the (un)said planet; and finally escaping the clutches of a Galactic Orb Buster (Mrs. Belfar-Bloom was quite pleased with GOB) after infiltrating the GOB in three different disguises, and eventually vanquishing the intergalactic foe with the help of his quasi-simulated girlfriend Anouk and Darth, the stupid incontinent monkey thing.

Even with all this surviving stuff going on, Tod wasn’t happy at all at this point in his life. He definitely didn’t think he would survive this latest muck up. Just about everyone left alive hated him. Anouk and Darth weren’t quite sure at this point.

He had one job, and he incontinated all over it.  Push a lever here, press the three strobing globes in the correct sequence, and put Metal to the Peddle©™®. One job: the safety of the known universe.

If only he had a Spork ®.

How he messed up, partially atoned for the cataclysm that followed, lost his love then got her back again, and why that stupid Darth hid an ulterior motive in his bowls, are all part of this Narrative In Space (the NIS series, ARSS approved). It’s become my job to lead you on as the Narrator of the narrative.

Who am I?

I’m Jim. Welcome to my world.

Stupid Tod.

**Jim Notes: In case you missed that last three of The Tod Chronicles NIS series, the following blue letters below with jaunt you to their destination:

No Tod, You Just Lie There While I Fight The Man-Eating Space Ducks With A Spork

Mars Blows

Tinker Tailor Soldier Tod (Yanked off the shelves due to secretive thingies being worked out) 

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Author’s Note:

The above pulp cover prompt was “altered” by Author Richard Kadrey. He has been posting, on Twitter, reworked/photoshopped covers of old pulp(ish) novels, changing them to show off his brand of humor. I just thought it’d be fun to write a few story posts from Mr. Kadrey’s. So, yes, this is my writing, not Mr. Kadrey’s.

Richard Kadrey is a writer, photographer, comic book writer, and an all-around interesting guy. His fiction straddles the Urban Fantasy, Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Cyberpunk worlds, and he’s pretty darn good with it all. I fell in love with his writing starting with his first Sandman Slim novels. Gritty, sometimes violent, often full of whimsey, and really worth reading. He’s not just another pretty face.

You can check out more fun covers by following him on Twitter @Richard_Kadrey.

To get into his body of work, visit his website: Richard Kadrey

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Prologue: The Tod

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Prologue

The Tod

Mars was a sterile,  fairly abusive, planet. Everything was covered in this orange moss, spongy in some places, hard as rivets in the majority. Mars was the last place anyone on the crew wanted to be but the pay was decent. Not enough to buy a Micro Space, but enough to eat and get zoned out. Tod and the gang wanted more. They just needed to find something exrtaordinary that might bring in a hefty bonus that the company keeps dangling in from of them.

It had not been easy from the countdown. It just got worse from there.

The transport had a hell of a time finding enough flat to land on. Took awhile, since the majority of Mars was a land of craggy crags. It wasn’t easy.

They had broken three Scrambler units while collectings samples.  The fourth Scrambler made it the farthest before it, too, went to join Scrambler Heaven. Tod, Dave, and Hal had to push and pull to get it back to the ship.

Tod had found something unique. Well, he thought it was unique: a perfect round globe, white. No seams. It was lighter than he expected.  Dave and Hal argued if it was or wasn’t. Tod out-stubborned the two of them and made a deal for sharing rights, if it did turn out he was right. They all grumbled as the pushed and pulled the Scrambler.

Internal suit systems were supposed to regulate a lot of things to keep them safe and comfortable. His cooling unit broke down right after they got over the first hump of a hill. Sweat was pouring off of Tod, even more so than almost getting eaten by the man-eating space ducks.

Jim, his ex-captain, saved his life but made that life a living hell.  The mission on Anates was semi-successful, but no matter what Tod did-not even saving Jim’s life from the Duck Princess-was good enough. He was expelled from Rogue Fleet with no pension. He had to find a job, and fast.

Damn Jim, that passive-aggressive noodlehead. Tod was glad to be done with him.

He did miss Debbee though.

Which brought him here, a Basura Hauler. He’d spit if he wasn’t in a contained space. Tod commed the others if they needed a break. Both enthusiastically agreed-a first.

They secured the Scrambler the best they could and settled in. They sat together, leaning against their sampler. No one talked, trying to conserve air. They’d already used a lot, but they two more hours, give or take. Plan was to get as close to the pick-up, pin the Scramble down, and get out of the suits to refill the air tanks. Tod also needed his coolant system checked out.

Tod had been nodding off a few times, waking up with a jerk each time. The jerk, though, was not voluntary. He commed the others: neither answered. Getting up, Tod saw the depressions in the moss that Hal and Dave made. Just no Hal and Dave.

He looked around, called them again. A great big NADA. He went to the Scrambler, checking to see if they went inside for some reason.

When Tod opened the back of the Scrambler there was no sign of Dave or Hal. Just the unique, to him, white globe.

They had put in a crate. There was no crate now. The thing was floating in the middle of the space, turning colors in a slow rotation. Black, orange, green, and then…red. It began to pulse with the globe emitting light. Red light. Tod started to back up, thoughts of getting away, running as best as he could in the suit.

The crags under him shifted in a jerky motion (“Ah that’s what I…”) when his inner thought was cut off. A hole opened up under him so fast he had no time to do anything to save himself.

As he continued falling, he looked up and saw the hole seal up instantly.

“MARS BLOWS!!!” Tod yelled as he continued his descent.

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Author’s Note:

I get a kick out of prompts. Right now, creatively, I need these jumping off points. That’s what you’re seeing here on Tale Spinning. I have a few projects of my own I’m procrastinating with that I hope I’ll finish and try to do something with them. We’ll see.

The above pic is one of them, created by Author Richard Kadrey. He has been posting, on Twitter, reworked/photoshopped covers of old pulp(ish) novels, changing them to show off his brand of humor. I just thought it’d be fun to write a few things from Mr. Kadrey’s posting: so, yes, this is my writing, not Mr. Kadrey’s.

Richard Kadrey is a writer, photographer, comic book writer, and an all-around interesting guy. His fiction straddles the Urban Fantasy, Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Cyberpunk worlds, and he’s pretty darn good with it all. I fell in love with his writing starting with his first Sandman Slim novels. Gritty, sometimes violent, often full of whimsey, worth reading. He’s not just another pretty face.

You can check out more fun covers by following him on Twitter @Richard_Kadrey.

To get into his body of work, visit him at his website: Richard Kadrey

 

Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed this.

The Once and Future Gigolo: Chapit Youn

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@Richard_Kadrey Prompt

The Once and Future Gigolo

Chapit  Youn

Click. Taptaptaptap taptaptap. Taptaptaptap taptaptapp µëæΩ∩.

Ding

“Hey, hi. How…”

Qo’ reH jIHvaD contact jatlhqa’ pagh pIHoH jIH!

DingDing

“OK. Be that way.”

Click. Taptaptaptap taptaptap. Taptaptaptap taptaptapp øǧBH99.

Ding

“Hey, hi. It’s…”

Great! Now I am a Master of Alien Language!Wow, I'm writing in Alien Language !Graduate School in Alien Language here I come !Wow, I'm writing in Alien Language !Wow, I'm writing in Alien Language !Alien Language will be great for my resume !Yes ! Now I can get a job because I know Alien Language ! Great! Now I am a Master of Alien Language!Wow, I'm writing in Alien Language !I'm doing my homework in Alien Language !Great! Now I am a Master of Alien Language!Wow, I'm writing in Alien Language !I'm doing my homework in Alien Language !I currently hold a Degree in Alien LanguageGreat! Now I am a Master of Alien Language!Graduate School in Alien Language here I come !I currently hold a Degree in Alien LanguageAlien Language will be great for my resume !I currently hold a Degree in Alien LanguageGraduate School in Alien Language here I come !

Graduate School in Alien Language here I come !Graduate School in Alien Language here I come !Great! Now I am a Master of Alien Language!Graduate School in Alien Language here I come !Great! Now I am a Master of Alien Language!Alien Language will be great for my resume !Graduate School in Alien Language here I come !Alien Language will be great for my resume !I currently hold a Degree in Alien LanguageWow, I'm writing in Alien Language !Yes ! Now I can get a job because I know Alien Language ! Great! Now I am a Master of Alien Language!Alien Language will be great for my resume !Yes ! Now I can get a job because I know Alien Language ! Alien Language will be great for my resume !Yes ! Now I can get a job because I know Alien Language ! Graduate School in Alien Language here I come !Graduate School in Alien Language here I come !Yes ! Now I can get a job because I know Alien Language !

Wow, I'm writing in Alien Language !I'm doing my homework in Alien Language !Graduate School in Alien Language here I come !I'm doing my homework in Alien Language !Wow, I'm writing in Alien Language !I currently hold a Degree in Alien LanguageYes ! Now I can get a job because I know Alien Language ! Graduate School in Alien Language here I come !

DingDing

“Damn.”

Click. Taptaptaptap taptaptap. Taptaptaptap taptaptapp 8675309.

“Hey…”

37194421_10160600408095076_7018920346367557632_n

DingDing

“Huh? Damn Damn Damn!”

Click. Taptaptaptap taptaptap. Taptaptaptap taptaptapp MÓOÞNŒG±O.

Ding

“Hey, hi. It’s me. How…”

 

“Do not EVER contact me again, or I will kill you.”

“But…but, Dale…I…”

“Don’t you “but Dale” me, Jackson. Flash and I have…had…have an open relationship, but you took it way too far, like you always do.”

“But…but…”

“Yeah, first emptying his credit account and then telling Flash about our weekend at Ganymede’s Pleasure Dome-and in such detail-dumb move. Really dumb.”

“Dale, please…”

“NO! Enough. I don’t care how drunk you were, or hopped up, or whatever. I’ve had enough of ‘Supernova’ Jackson. And…I’m not the only one. You can’t diddle around the dome and not hear what’s going down. Everyone knows. Grok that?”

“Oh.”

“Yes. ‘Oh.’ Done. I’m done!”

DingDingAPOZZ↓¥MÜ

The last image he had of Dale signing off was her hand slamming down on her own panel. Jackson’s screen blanked out, followed immediately by a harsh electrical rip that flashed across the screen, frying the control panel.

“Damn,” he said, his chin hitting his chest as his eyelids closed, gritted shut.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jackson was on his back, sometimes a favorite position but not this time. He had spent the last cycle replacing his control panel and was on the finishing touches. One touch almost finished him.

“哎他妈的!!!”

Self-soothing his index finger in his mouth, Jackson pulled himself out from under the console. He levered himself into his chair and pressed the mauve button.

Nothing happened.

Pressing it again had the same effect. And again. Banging the panel with both fists and kicking it from his sitting position yielding the same results. Deflated, he laid his head down, feeling the coolness of the Ti-Strength plas pressing against his forehead.

The control panel clicked on.

“OK D.R. Let’s take this home.”

“Of course, Supernova. Sit back and relax, and leave the interplanetary thrust to me.”

“Thanks, D.R.”

Jackson settled back, letting the chair’s field envelop him while his ship cycled through it’s various G’s to take him where’s he’s gone before in one piece. It gave him time to think of what has been going on lately. Dale’s dust off hurt the most. They’d been off and on for a long time, suiting both their needs as needs arose. The others…yeah, the others. He shrugged.

But Dale…

He subvocalized to D.R. to pump him with Traz to get him into a REM sleep. Best way to let the light years slip by. His mind fought the drug at first, racing through the faces of so many of his…of his..of…og hoz…

Supernova Jackson doesn’t snore.

At least, no one has ever accused him of that. Other things, but not snoring.

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Author’s Note:

I get a kick out of prompts. Right now, creatively, I need these jumping off points. That’s what you’re seeing here on Tale Spinning. I have a few projects of my own I’m procrastinating with that I hope I’ll finish and try to do something with them. We’ll see.

The above pic is one of them, created by Author Richard Kadrey. He has been posting, on Twitter, reworked/photoshopped covers of old pulp(ish) novels, changing them to show off his brand of humor. I just thought it’d be fun to write a few things from Mr. Kadrey’s posting: so, yes, this is my writing, not Mr. Kadrey’s.

BTW: The first three answers Jackson got to his commcalls are actual SciFi languages. There’s no prize, except for the privilege of being right;  I’d love to see if anyone can get all three. Go for it.

Richard Kadrey is a writer, photographer, comic book writer, and an all-around interesting guy. His fiction straddles the Urban Fantasy, Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Cyberpunk worlds, and he’s pretty darn good with it all. I fell in love with his writing starting with his first Sandman Slim novels. Gritty, sometimes violent, often full of whimsey, worth reading. He’s not just another pretty face.

You can check out more fun covers by following him on Twitter @Richard_Kadrey.

To get into his body of work, visit him at his website: Richard Kadrey

Rock Liebster, Mon Amour

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So, once again the fickle finger of fate favors flash fiction here on Tale Spinning. I want to thank Dear Kitty. Some Blog for thinking what I do here is special enough to be granted this nomination. This is the second time (see Tale Spinning April 15, 2018) I have been nominated for the Liebster in the past few months. I had received this nomination a couple of other times over the years, and it doesn’t get old. Harder to come up with questions and people to nominate, but…c’est la prix.

The rules of the Liebster Award, as per Dear Kitty and the person who nominated her are:

1. Acknowledge the blog which nominated you.
2. Answer the 11 questions your nominator asked.
3. Nominate 11 other bloggers.
4. Ask them 11 questions.
5. Let them know you have nominated them.

Slightly different than the rules I received for my April 15th posting, but carry on I shall.
#1: thanks again, Dear Kitty.
#2 Her Questions; My answers:

1. What was your first job? Working in a Chinese Restaurant, filling up the Smorgasbord Table, doing To Go orders. Yes, many customers asked me if I was Chinese.

2. What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten? Don’t become an Elf.

3. Favourite season and why? Vindaloo, cause I like it spicy. Oh, season, not seasoning.  L’automne.

4. Favourite TV show? Right now, iZombie. Way too many others. I’m a TV junkie.

5. When did you first travel alone and where did you go? Shortly after my divorce; San Fransisco.

6. Why did you start a blog? Bordom, and the need for a challenge.

7. What did you want to be when you were a kid? Not lonely, and at the same time being left alone. Complicated even as a kid.

8. Would you rather travel into the future or the past? Neither. Alternate Universe.

9. Do you have any siblings? Nope. I’m an only, for good or bad (see #7)

10. Can you cook well? Yes. Medium and Medium Rare too. Not a big fan of Rare, or Raw.

11.  What is the next thing you plan to learn? Whatever comes my way that I know little or next to little about.

As to #3, nominating 11 other bloggers: nah. Last time I did, only two out of seven followed through. If you, dear reader, want to take this on, please be my guest. Yeah, it’s cheating/lazy, but I have been writing my tuchas off the past few weeks and I be bushed.

Being even lazier, I’m reposting the questions (#4) I came up with on my previous Liebster post. I thought they were pretty good; hopefully, we’ll get more than two answers this time around:

Please be aware that “…and Why?” is invisibly attached at the end of the majority of the questions.  Lazy, remember?

  • If you could write in any writers voice besides your own, whose would it be?
  • What literary genre holds NO interest for you?
  • What song with a strong narrative still touches you?
  • What fictional character do you wish you were?
  • Savory or Sweet?
  • What does “The Stuff Dreams Are Made Of” mean to you?”
  • You stumble upon a magic rock. Picking it up, you discover something underneath. What is it?
  • Have you had an inexplicable experience? What was it?
  • What fiction book would you recommend to me?
  • What movie or TV show do you love but hate to admit it?
  • What does writing mean to you?

If you pick up this challenge from me, please just let me know, alongside the accolades you wish to bestow upon me. Money is good too. BTW: this takes care of #5.

I’d love to read your answers. OH, and please don’t cop out with the “I would never” or “I’m fine with” answers. Instead of saying “No” to the question(s), try a big resounding “Yes” and stretch that creative muscle!

P.S. Please copy, paste, and follow the rules on your own blog. Doesn’t really work if you answer the questions in my comment section. Kind of defeats the purpose. Deal?

PPS: I really want either a Katz’s Pastrami sandwich right now, or a real Chocolate Egg Cream. They don’t go together; it’s one or the other. Or bed. Bed sounds good too.

Ta.

A Dominie Dismissed (#FF Prompt)

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Sitting atop of the drystone wall, one that followed the rise of the uplands, gave the Dominie a perfect view. The morning air had been clear but crisp, making the Mackintosh a necessity. The land beyond was wild and open, the sparseness of humanity and its dwellings is what drew him in, accepting the job without a second’s thought.

Until he had been dismissed.

Unfairly, in his mind.  The village was small, unto itself, but the one-room schoolhouse was full of children. All the neighboring small villages and farms, nestled in their own little valleys, didn’t have enough to justify separate schools with a separate teacher, each demanding their own pay. They pulled their resources and congregated their children in the small building. It had lasted many generations.

After he signed the contract and arrived, he placed his one bag in the back of the building that would serve as his bedroom. Meals would be provided on a rotating basis, provided by parents of the children who would be attending. He never got a satisfactory answer why the old schoolmaster left and the position opened up. They were, one and all, a closed mouth bunch, and only at the monthly council meetings was there any real discussion about the state of things.

He had some issues and resolved to bring them up at the next meeting. Walking the land near the school, one of the things that bothered him was the rushing stream that wended very close to the building itself. Clumps of trees created, as he saw it, hiding places; he knew children well enough.

So, on the second month of his stay, he brought up the problems with the stream. During their lunch breaks, the children scurried off to home for meals. Upon returning, though, many came back with their trousers or hems of their skirts, and shoes, sodden through and through. The whispers and laughter of the students spoke of how this one or that “slipped” into the stream. Some few returned with their entirety drenched.

He was afraid that, with the speed of the water, the slippery rocks, the tomfoolery of some of the students, that it was only a matter of time until someone got seriously hurt. He suggested fencing in the school, high enough so the students couldn’t climb over. This was outright laughed at and dismissed; the opinion being it would mar the landscape. He then added: “Well, what about fencing around the perimeter of the stream?  It could be made to blend in with the flora of the land.”

Explaining what flora was did nothing to dissuade the council. The most galling comment made sent his temper ablaze: “We’ve always had it this way, without any incident. There’s no reason to change what has always been and worked.” He held his tongue to this, but the fire that bloomed on his cheeks told them all what he thought.

Weeks passed, and word had gotten to the children what their headmaster had asked for. Things escalated from there, more and more students came in sopping wet. On top of that, clothing was starting to get damaged, torn and ragged. The parents were starting to complain, and, of course, the blame was being placed on their Dominie.

The gossiping got brutal. Meals were becoming hard to come by, if at all. He had stored away some food, but nothing that would keep him fully fed and healthy. The looks he got when he walked the village or entered the pub, got to be too much for him. He spent more and more time in his room at the schoolhouse.

This would have gone on for a long time if the death had not happened.

One of the students, William, did not return from lunch. All the others were very quiet when they returned, heads down, no joking around, no whispers. Many were wet, as usual by this point, but there was so much more mud spread around.

Worried, he started asking them about William. No answers were forthcoming. His anger built from their silence, he verbally lashed out at them, causing many of the girls to start crying, and a few of the boys as well. Ordering them to wait in the schoolhouse, he dashed off to the stream.

It didn’t take long to find William’s body. He was face down in the stream, the water rushing past him. His pants were caught on a tree root that had broken through the soil; otherwise, his body would have been washed away. Wading in, he picked up William and brought past the copse by the stream.  He placed him on the ground, surrounded by the many fallen branches that the students obviously broke off and played with. Looking up, he saw that he children had disobeyed him again and were standing outside, watching.

Turning the body over, he let out a gasp that was loud enough to frighten many of the children. William’s head was bloodied. He assumed his head fell on one of the rocks, but any evidence of that was washed away.

He sent one of the older boys to fetch William’s parents, and another to the pub to find members of the village council. Time seemed to stand still while they waited, but once the villages-all of them- showed up, everything was chaos.

The children finally started to talk. They blamed their headmaster that he had ranted about the stream, their coming in wet all the time, on and on. One boy said the headmaster pulled William out for giving him lip and brought him to the stream. Almost all the children began to agree with this story.

No matter what he said, the villagers turn on him. Rocks and fists were thrown, people screamed and, wailing, began to beat him bloody. They finally let him be.  The head of the council stopped them before they killed him. He bent down, looked into the headmasters swollen eyes, and spat in them. He was told he was dismissed, to leave the village immediately, otherwise…

Once he was able to stand, partially, he went and gathered up the few belongings he had. He left, not looking behind, but…

Not going all that far.

A few weeks passed as he nursed himself, deep in the woods, where it was unlikely anyone would venture. He ate what he could capture, drank from an offshoot of the stream, and got stronger. During this time, his body was healing, but his mind…not so much. His anger grew to a bonfire blaze.

When he was able to, he began damming up the stream. He moved medium sized rocks into position until he was strong enough to roll larger ones in place. The water stopped rushing down its run, pooling over onto the sides.

Creeping back, he made sure he wasn’t seen. He watched the children all march into the schoolhouse. Behind them: the head of the council. They had not had time to find another to take his place, and that made him smile.

In his pack, he had his kit. In that, were the tools he needed. He had been gathering thistle when he wasn’t building the dam. Once the schoolhouse doors were closed, he made his way, making sure he stayed out of view of the windows.

Placing the thistle in bunches around the perimeter of the building came first. He went back to drag over a thick branch near where he had laid William’s body.  This, he shoved through the door handles.

With that done, he scurried around, lighting the thistle as fast as he could. Once all were ablaze, he ran out of the area, up the rise, and settled down a top of the drystone wall. It gave him a perfect view. He watched the building burn, heard the screams, saw villagers swarm the area, heading to the stream for water that was not there, and watched many collapse on the ground, crying, wailing, beating their chests, suffering.

He spat on the ground before him, got up, and walked away.

No one dismisses a Dominie.

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Debs Carey was one of the people I interacted a lot with during this past AtoZ Blog Challenge in April. She and her writing partner, David, have been inspirational and friendly above and beyond the norm. They asked me to be on the lookout for the Sunday prompt on Fiction Can Be Fun, which is where their story of espionage and magic intertwined and I got captured in reading. Check it out.

The prompt was: pick a new release of an old (out of copyright) book at Project Gutenberg. Then head over to the Recent Books section. Pick one that you like the look of. The title of your chosen book forms the title and prompt for your story.

If you click on the link about at Fiction Can Be Fun, you’ll find others who have joined in on this prompt fest. Give them a try. I know I will.

Oh, and the other thing was, we were supposed to keep it at around 500 words(ish). Um…my ish is pretty big. Sorry Debs, but…no one dismisses a Dominie.

Reflections of the 2018 #AtoZ Blog Challenge: The Abysmal Dollhouse

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A-to-Z Reflection [2018]

For all the information you could ever want about the AtoZ Blog Challenge, Click:  Blogging From A to Z Challenge.

This was my fifth AtoZ Blog Challenge:

The rules are simple: During the month of April, you commit to writing 26 blogs, each day based off the run ot the alphabet. Up to you how you do that. Blog hop around, read and comment on other blogs, build a community. Don’t sleep. You had to sign up through the AtoZ main page. From that, most people chose and announced their Theme (more below): I signed on late, missed that, and, well…I had no idea what I was going to do up to two days before it started.

Yes, I am that unorganized.

I actually had another idea that I thought would be funny, but when I realized the main character I wanted to use was verbotten, the idea lost all its allure. Quelle dommage. That had me in a bit of a spin; I asked on Tale Spinning if anyone wanted to see me continue some previous storylines that I liked, or should I try something new. I got two: TWO, and only two, requests. Hence, The Abysmal Dollhouse.

I have written TAD stories since 2012. Almost always positive comments. A few followers suggested I should add more to the oeuvre and publish it. Hemming and hawing, procrastinating, all my usual excuses for not committing fully added up to one fact: I didn’t.

Scared? Insecure? A rough number of years on so many levels? No motivation? Creativity and passion just drained away?  Lump them all together and I just never carried it through, letting the ideas pretty much just lay there, occasionally bursting forth. Definitely not often enough. Tale Spinning was pretty much an empty space for the last couple of years.

In actuality, boredom with my life, and myself, kicked me in the arse.

I’m what is known as a Pantser: I don’t prewrite, rarely have an outline, especially for continuing series that I like, and only have a basic idea that I use as a jumping off point. When I started off this round of TAD, I just thought I’d continue on my “Monster of the Week” stories, letting the letter of the day create my title, which then started my writing for the day.

One thing I do do (hee hee. Oh, sue me) is take a little bit of time for research. In this case, I just went online and found a whole bunch of Weird, Murder, or Haunted Houses around the world. I chose a number of places that I thought would be great prompts for every day of the challenge. Didn’t use even half of what I found, this go around.

Something happened that changed in me really early on in the process: I started creating a backstory/mythology for the series and began to drop hints and clues about the backgrounds of The Unfolding Doll and the Shopkeeper. Yes: I started to shed my pantsing and began-gasp!-planning. Not 100%, still no outline, but things were starting to gel and I got much more invested in what I was writing.

I look at it this way: X-Files had many episodes of Monster of the Week, with episodes of their mythology scattered here and there. A MOTW episode could still give us more background info on Scully & Mulder while kinda sorta avoiding the BIG story. Character development and whatnot. That’s how I was viewing all this.

Then the next change happened: I got some new readers, who commented, questioned, told me what they liked, and I felt they were really invested in what was going to happen next. I had that in 2016 with that year’s storyline (link at top of the page), but not to this extent. It kind of added to the challenge for me; it definitely altered my thinking on the storyline.

The ending may seem rushed (it was) but I had dropped hints and clues in many of the stories. It’s hard to fill in all the details when I was trying to limit the daily posts to around 1,000 words. Many people will skip a long posting, and I know I lost potential readers for that reason. Nothing I can do about that. I’m sure many will pass up this reflection for the very same reason. Quelle dommage, part two.

For those who might have missed the main posting where I dropped a lot of clues, go to the “I” posting: In The Absence Of…

A couple of more things: please bear with me.

One thing I’m “frustrated” with are the posts that I thought I was being witty with. Alas, alas, alas.  Too gimmicky? Too obtuse? Spot on? No idea: no feedback. Jabber Wonky was my attempt to play on the Jabberwocky poem in Alice in Wonderland (which gave me the reason to rhyme what goes on in The Child’s mind). I used some of the verbal tomfooleries in the piece, more as an homage; In Quoth the Riven, I think it was pretty obvious. I actually wrote following the path Poe’s poem took. One of my favorite pieces by him.; Orchestra! Curtain! Lights! was my wink to one of my favorite things-animation. It’s the opening lyrics from “The Bugs Bunny Show” theme song. My story has nothing to do with Bugs & Daffy, but Orchestra! was my jumping off point for the tale.

I did not blog hop as much as I was hopping to. I always say I’ll do more, and I did, this year, but I fall far short of others. My apologies. I did happen to come across some wonderfully written blogs along the way and picked up some new blogging friends. I’d like to thank (in no particular order): David, Debs, Sharri, Ms. Wolf, Iain, Jo, Jacqui, Varard, and Melanie. If I’ve forgotten anyone, please forgive me. As to previous readers/bloggers: thanks for sticking with me. Roy: didn’t make that many mistakes this time around, eh?

Special thanks go to Arlee Bird for starting this whole thing, and to the hosts who share the duties. It’s been a blast of a month. Next year? When the time comes, we’ll find out.

Thank you, everyone.

Unfettered Essence: The Abysmal Dollhouse (#AtoZ Blog Challenge)

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** New Readers to this challenge: This is a serialized, continuous work. Please start with the first piece, Abysmally Yours. The AtoZ Blog Challenge began April 1st; ends April 30th. Thank you.

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Unfettered Essence

The Abysmal Dollhouse

The Shopkeeper withdrew to her back room, sans light, sat in her padded chair, and stared into the darkness. What she had done should not have been realized. She had inserted herself into an action that was not her function, her purpose. She was Guardian, Guide, Teacher, Rescuer…Mother. The balance of chaos and order that she maintained, the weighing of those who were drawn to the shoppe, to them she was Judge. But, Executioner? That was not her role to take on.

Until just now, when she lost herself.

With an abyss dwelling sigh, she levered herself out of her chair. Lightly stepping, she stopped at the threshold to the shoppe. Her eyes went to where the Muirhouse and its new companion were displayed; they were there, a low placed mournful weeping coming from the house. The shack, to its side, vibrated in sudden violent bursts, subsided, and then start again.

She thought the Unfolding Doll would still be fixed in place by the dollhouse. It was not there. Instead, moving just her eyes, she espied the doll in its shadowed corner, more an outline than a full figure. The Shopkeeper knew without actually seeing the Unfolding Doll that its black button eyes were on her. Her composure had reset before she left the back room. She swore to herself that she would not let that happen again.

She tidied up her dress and apron and walked into the shoppe proper. Choosing a direction, she went from dollhouse to dollhouse, stopping to inspect them, to feel its wants, needs, pleasures, pains, and in some cases, its madness. She walked around without her tools: both the duster and the broom left in their places by the front counter. If the Shopkeeper had not been so distracted. If.

Each dollhouse she touched. Each one grabbed a tiny bit of her emotional essence, sated and satisfied with the tidbit. The Shopkeeper gave it freely, not drained or diminished, but removed. She gave, they took, they remained silent.

Stopping near her counter, she went to her knees, touching Mike’s house, the Singleton household, and the Derasar. The pleasure of these was returned to her with her giving. Opening a sliding panel at the bottom of this display case, she brought out a replica she had vowed never to display again. She set it down on her front counter.

The Shaded Radiance Emporium, gaudy in decor, twinkled its fairy lights from the fading sunlight that hit it just so. The fake Persian rug was accented by the fake Chintz draperies. The chairs and tables were spool-turned furnitures, meant to give a Victoriana elegance, but falling far short. The roundtable in the center of the room was covered in brushed purple velvet that hung 2/3 of the way down, covering the middle pedestal.  Long strands of colored beads blanketed the two doorways on either end, and the two windows were overtaken with blackout curtains.

A bemused chuckle left the Shopkeeper as she sat down in one of the chairs. She looked at the beaded doorway facing her and waited. Soon enough, the clattering of the beads announced an entrance, much like the door chimes that tinkled in the shoppe. A crystal ball was carried in, but not placed on the table, but off to the side.

“That’s not for you. That’s to come. You, for you, cards.” The older woman, covered in unmatched layers of different colors and patterns, settled her many skirted self into the chair opposite the Shopkeeper.

A croup-like cough came from the older woman, drawing out a large deck of cards from a hidden pocket. “You swore you would never return here. You swore, but I knew. I knew you would have to come to see me. You will still have to see me again, one more time.”

The Shopkeeper sat silent, staring at the woman, then looking at the cards. She did not wish to show that that last statement bothered her more than her being in the Emporium at present.

“You still won’t talk to me. That is fine. The cards will tell us what we need to know. What you need to know.”

She shuffled the cards, placed them face down, and the Shopkeeper cut the deck. The older woman repeated this two more times. On the Shopkeeper’s third cut, the Mystic took the cards and began to lay out a pattern.

Without turning her head, the Shopkeeper knew that the Unfolding Doll was still watching her from across the shoppe.

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The AtoZ Blog Challenge

During the month of April 2018, the challenge requires that we write 26 posts, starting with the letter A on April 1st (yes, it’s not an April Fool’s Day joke) and ending with Z on Monday, April 30th. A week or so later, there will be a reflection post that will wrap up this experience, for me as well as my readers.

*I’ve decided to reblog past Abysmal Dollhouse stories on Sundays since we’re not required to write those days. The reblog will not correspond to any specific letter. Just thought you might enjoy some of the previous entries that I’m fond of.

This Is Not My…: The Abysmal Dollhouse (#AtoZ Blog Challenge)

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** New Readers to this challenge: This is a serialized, continuous work. Please start with the first piece, Abysmally Yours. The AtoZ Blog Challenge began April 1st; ends April 30th. Thank you.

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This Is Not My…

The Abysmal Dollhouse

4:00 p.m.; The scond day
Vorpal Knife; Time to slay.
Following the jogger, unawares,
He caught her midstep by her hair.

A yelp, a shock, but she did fall
No other sound was made, none at all.
The Vorpal Blade went snicker-snak
As she lay on ground, on her back.

Looking up, grabbing his hand
Fading fast, muscles not in command
He brushed it away, with such ease
Nothing would delay, not her pleading “please!”

Three jabs fell, precise, deep
Life force ebbed, the blood seeped.
Oblivion attained, Vorpal Blade sheathed
One more to come, one more to cleeve.

*** *** *** ***

Broom in hand, the Shopkeeper worked her way through the shoppe. She had a determination to her, but she fought it. The strength of the Unfolding Doll’s monomania was poisoning the energy that ran through the dollhouses and their “guests.” Their chants for more ebbed and flow, whether someone entered the shoppe or not.  The Wall of Death wailed, new skulls replacing ones that crumbled, their stories gone to dust.

The Shopkeeper was on edge. This had happened before, but never to this degree. “Drastic measures” ran through the Shopkeeper’s mind. Measures she had never attempted, but she talked herself into hoping this would prove a possible solution. She wouldn’t know until she tried.

With a commanding “HUSH!” and a twist of her broom, silence returned. The houses ceased; in fear or anticipation, the Shopkeeper did not care. It was done. Now, the real task fell on her shoulders.

She gingerly walked over to the Muirhouse. She had stirred others away from this house, in a sense starving it of its malevolent ethos. The hope was that its spirit would be a draw, bringing the one who had helped damn her to this shoppe. The one who took away the one dear thing in her life, leaving a terror in his wake. The strongest connection was within the Muirhouse, and whatever means possible…

The Shopkeeper reined herself in. She closed her eyes, taking deep breaths in, slowly letting them out. She rolled her neck, trying to ease the tautness. Opening her eyes, fixed on the dollhouse, she realized that acting in a Machiavellian way was not her nature. She was feeding off of the deep well of the Unfolding Doll, and that just would not do.

Bringing her broom horizontally, heart high, the Shopkeeper gripped the handle, spreading her fingers over as much width as possible. Her left foot went straight towards the Muirhouse; her right was turned towards the right, second position. She adjusted her balance. It would do no good to teeter during her casting.

Concentrating, focusing, controlling her breaths, she began. Words did not form through her lips, but the pattern became a swirling concordance that wove through her. Mixed in were the command words: “Tell Hime To Come!” It would variegate itself, taking on a new configuration every third repetition. By the end of the third set, the Shopkeeper had salt laden sweat sting her eyes.

Closing her eyes, she stopped, gave her inner voice freedom of appreciation, and finally lowered her broom. Her knees buckled and she would have fallen flat to the floor if not for her firm hold on the broom.

And the hands of the Unfolding Doll, bracing the back of the Shopkeeper’s upper arms. Slowly, she slid down to a sitting position, the Muirhouse displayed just behind her head. The Unfolding Doll walked backward, but only a few feet instead of its usual retreat into the shadowed corner. Its button eyes were not on the Shopkeeper but on the Muirhouse.

Without looking, she knew she had failed. The power of this dollhouse was strong; the Unfolding Doll rarely ventured near it, let alone enter. The Shopkeeper somehow knew it wasn’t fear that caused the avoidance. It was so much deeper than fear.

She swiveled around on the floor and slid open the cabinet door underneath the dollhouse presentation surface. Staring into the darkened space she made out the minature that she had never wanted to display. Her inner fight on going this far was as exhausting as what she had attempted with the Muirhouse only moments ago. Glancing over her shoulder, she saw that the Unfolding Doll had crouched, staring into that darkness. The Shopkeeper noticed that its knife was back in its hand.

Reaching in, letting out a deep sigh, the Shopkeeper brought out the dilapidated Wood Shed. Chains were affixed to one wall. It was moldy, in need of a thorough demolition, tossed in a roaring fire, its ashes scattered by the wind. She knew all this, yet she still took it out of its crypt and, standing, placed it alongside the Muirhouse.

A shriek pierced the entire shoppe, one that did not stop until a chant began, coming from Muirhouse. The sound moved from room to room, loudest by the windows, echoing down the hallways. The shriek stopped by the back door, by the kitchen. From the window grew a chant: “burn it, burn it, take an ax, burn it, burn it.”

Gathering her broom in her hands, and her resolve set, the Shopkeeper drowned out the incessant wail from the dollhouse.

“You will be quiet, and you will listen!” she said, voice clipped and harsh. “You will call out to him. You will draw him here. Call him with your harshness. Call him with your cruelty. Call him with your anger, despair, rejection, jealousy, hatred. Call to him; bring him here. You will call to him to come here…or the Wood House will have a new tenant. Muirhouse looks like it would burn nicely in a fireplace.”

The house was silent, but a shaking of the windows, the creaking of boards, spoke volumes.

The Unfolding Doll had sidled up alongside the Shopkeeper. Their attention was solely on the house. They stood there, staring, for three minutes. Finally, the force of the Muirhouse tumbled, and a tinny voice could just be heard.

The house called: “Child. Come.” Like a beacon on the Lighthouse, the beseeching continued at regular intervals.

The Shopkeeper made her way to her counter, deposited her broom, and trudged into the back, not turning on the light.

The Unfolding Doll stood sentinel over the Muirhouse and its Wood House.

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The AtoZ Blog Challenge

During the month of April 2018, the challenge requires that we write 26 posts, starting with the letter A on April 1st (yes, it’s not an April Fool’s Day joke) and ending with Z on Monday, April 30th. A week or so later, there will be a reflection post that will wrap up this experience, for me as well as my readers.

*I’ve decided to reblog past Abysmal Dollhouse stories on Sundays since we’re not required to write those days. The reblog will not correspond to any specific letter. Just thought you might enjoy some of the previous entries that I’m fond of.

The Candy Striper: The Abysmal Dollhouse (#AtoZ Blog Challenge)

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** New Readers to this challenge: This is a serialized, continuous work. Please start with the first piece, Abysmally Yours. The AtoZ Blog Challenge began April 1st; ends April 30th. Thank you.

The Candy Striper

The Abysmal Dollhouse

The old man took his time entering the store. Stooped over his cane, his face drawn and blotchy. His cap was low on his head; it was easy to tell that the only hair on his head came from his ears.  His glasses were thick, even with the progress in the eyeglass industry. The Shopkeeper took this all in, waiting for him to cross over into the shoppe. The door chime tinkled a little longer than usual.

She smiled at him. “May I offer you any assistance?”

“If it’s OK with you, I’ll just look around. Yes?” he asked. She nodded. “Good. Thank you. This is a very…interesting shop you have.”

“Thank you. Please let me know if you need any information…or help,” she offered one more time, and one more time he refused.

The Shopkeeper went to stand behind the main glass-encased counter. She had to shush a few of the Dollhouse’s pleas of “Mine, mine, mine,” excusing their desperate cries as just noise from outside when she noticed the man’s raised eyebrows.  He turned to look out the window; what he could see was the same empty street he had been ambling along. He smiled, shrugged, and began to look around.

The Shopkeeper studied him. He was gaunt, with sunken eyes, hollow cheeks. She noticed that every few steps a grimace would mar his face. He was short of breath, and occasionally he wheezed.

He examined many of the Dollhouses, reading the legends neatly handwritten on their display placards. He made a few small grunts if he bent over too far on some, a harsh rasp escaping his lips.  The Shopkeeper noticed a sharp, horrid look on his face as he stood in front of the Conservatoire d’épouvante Maison De Poupée. She hurried over to his side, grabbing her broom along the way.

The Unfolding Doll was approaching him from behind, out of the corner shadow, knife in hand. The Shopkeeper spoke a few warding words under her breath, placed her hands in a pattern on the broom handle, and brought the broom down, separating the space between the doll and the old man.  The Unfolding Doll stopped in its tracks. It canted its head to the right, button eyes focused on the Shopkeeper.  It brought the knife up to waist level, but let it drop. Gliding backward, The Unfolding Doll oragamied itself into the shadow in the corner. All this happened in the few seconds it took for the man to get his composure back.

“I would like to show you a special Dollhouse. I think this is one that would be of interest to you,” she offered to the man. This time, he allowed her help.  He followed her to the opposite wall, nearer to the front windows. She stopped him in front of a double-floored straight line designed dollhouse.  The man stared, took a step back like he wanted to retreat out the door, but The Shopkeeper went over and opened the front of the Orange County Hospice.

He stared; just…stood there and stared. The beds lined the long ward, separated with colored drapery.  Some of the beds were occupied, chairs as well. At the end was a large picture window, sectioned off by a frosted glass wall. It was exactly like the one he had just left, unsettling him so that escaping from there seemed preferable.  His aimless walking led him here.  It was sterile clean, bright and open. He hadn’t been ready-not yet-to surrender when he had left the hospice with such heaviness. This…this was different.

He noticed a young girl walking towards him, a closed book in her hands.

“May I sit with you, Charles?” she asked. “I looked for you at your bed, but John in the next bed told me you were out here in the sunroom.” She looked out the window as she sat. “Such a beautiful day, isn’t it?”

Charles nodded at the Candy Striper. She was wearing her candy cane red and white striped pinafore, a natural smile on her face that continued into her eyes. He looked at the book she was holding.

Her smile broadened. “Yes, I have your favorite. I borrowed it from my brother. “She began to read; Charles found himself relaxing and settled back into the chair.

They traveled together over the clouds, hand in hand, flying with Michael, John, Peter, and Wendy…Wendy Lady. The adventure took him to Never Never Land, fighting pirates, living in a hollow tree, saving Tinkerbell’s life. He relished the reading, the escape into a world he loved, and in this… he forgot how much pain he had been in before.

Charles had nodded off at some point. A deep snore woke him up. The candy striper was still there, but the book was closed, bookmarked for a future read. Her smile was addictive, a similar one he felt beginning on his face. On the small glass-topped table in front of him was a tray of delight: baked goods, and all ones that Charles loved.  Chocolate Eclairs, Napoleons,  and a large mound of chocolate covered Rainbow Cookies that he and his father had loved. “Take what you’d like, Charles,” she said. He sampled and ate, and was more than sated. It had been a long time.

When he patted his stomach and sat back in the chair, Anne, the Candy Striper, tilted her head back to the ward. “Mr. Roman says he could beat you in a wheelchair race. Are you up for the challenge?” she asked, the excitement in her voice was evident.

“You bet. I am ready for any challenge!” he exclaimed. Anne helped Charles to his wheelchair, Mr. Roman already waiting.  They nodded at each other, wrapped their hands around the tops of the wheels.

“Ready! Set!…” called Anne.

The Shopkeeper approached the dollhouse and closed the front. She smiled as she heard laughter and friendly shouting noises from within. “Good,” she said out loud, moving back to her counter and picking up her duster. She was speaking to the shadowed far corner. “Good. This one will never be yours.”

The Unfolding Doll was surrounded by shadow. The knife in its hand glinted of its own accord. It could wait, as its wielder could wait as well. Both thirsted for the Shopkeeper but knew this was not the day. The Unfolding Doll crept from the far shadow into The Serpent House, the dollhouse closest to its corner, to play.

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The AtoZ Blog Challenge

During the month of April 2018, the challenge requires that we write 26 posts, starting with the letter A on April 1st (yes, it’s not an April Fool’s Day joke) and ending with Z on Monday, April 30th. A week or so later, there will be a reflection post that will wrap up this experience, for me as well as my readers.

*I’ve decided to reblog past Abysmal Dollhouse stories on Sundays since we’re not required to write those days. The reblog will not correspond to any specific letter. Just thought you might enjoy some of the previous entries that I’m fond of.

This story is an edited version of one that appeared here on October 22, 2011. If you want to read & compare the two, click on this link: Candy Stripe Ward: A Tale of the Abysmal Dollhouse. 

I rewrote this more to fit my current voice with The Abysmal Dollhouse. Not a major reworking, but one I am happier with. Hope you like it.

Real Neat Blog Award: Peachy Keeno

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So, second time in two weeks, I have a blogging award. Never heard of this one before, but it was created by Dear Kitty: Some Blog in 2014.

I was nominated by someone new (to me) who I discovered, again, through the 2018 AtoZ Blog Challenge. The blogger behind A Creative PTSD Gal is busy busy busy. She writes from the heart, and it has been a pleasure to discover her. Two blogs, a whole big family, life…and she does it. Not everyone can. Since she writes a bit more personal items, I don’t think it’s in my wheelhouse to go deeper into her reasons. Check out the above link and I think you’ll be pleased you did. Thank you for the nomination. I hope I can remain neato keeno.

Here come the rules:

The Rules:

  1. Display the award logo: DONE
  2. Thank the blogger who nominated you and post a link to their blog: DONE
  3. Answer the questions of the one who nominated you: See Below
  4. Nominate 5-10 bloggers: See Below Below
  5. Ask them 7 questions: See Below Below Below

PTSD Gal’s Questions for MOI:

  1. What is the most difficult part of your artistic practice? I try not to write during the day because of interruptions (phone calls, mail, meals, life). I usually like starting about 11:00 pm EST.
  2. What has been the most difficult thing to date that you have written about? My one man play based on my father. He was a survivor of Auschwitz.
  3. Do you limit yourself to edits? Not sure how to answer this one. I hate editing, but I know it has to be done. I’ve gotten better as I’ve aged, like a fine cheese.
  4. Snack or no snack when writing? Beverages always; snacks only when my taste buds cry.
  5. What or who encourages you to keep posting to your blog? Right now, I push myself. It keeps me from negative things.
  6. What did you want to grow up to be when you were little? A scientist &/or a comic book writer.
  7. Do you have a writing buddy? (Dog, cat, fish, snake etc…) Nope. I’ve got dust. Does dust count?

Bloggers I nominate are:

Seven Real Neat Questions:

  1. What car would you own if money is no question?
  2. What author would you like to sit down with and pick their brains?
  3. What is your favorite story about Winter?
  4. If you had to “Kill Your Baby” (talk to Stephan King) in a book/story you’ve written, who are you most sorry you had to do in? If you haven’t, who should get the axe?
  5. What book have you read more than once?
  6. One of these is real: Magic (Paranormal) or UFO’s. Which one, and why?
  7. What is YOUR favoriteist blog posting from your blog(s)? Please copy and paste your link here