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Henry folded up the packing box and looked around the kitchen. He couldn’t help a little pride showing on his face at having finally finished. That was the last box. They were finally all moved into their first house as a family.

Teresa had gone out to pick up some dinner, Chinese, from a take-out place that one of their new neighbors had mentioned, and some celebratory wine for later that evening. Henry imagined how, once their daughter Gabriella was asleep, that the wine might lead to Teresa and he revisiting the conversation they’d started that morning, about christening their new home; surface by surface and in varying degrees of undress.

Henry was pulled out of his daydreaming revelry by the sound of Gabriella’s voice coming from down the hall. Gabriella was precocious, as four-year-olds can be. Teresa had mentioned that their little one had seemingly entered into the imaginary friend stage of childhood that some kids do, as she had heard Gabriella talking to an empty room on more than one occasion since they moved in.

Henry smiled and walked down the hall toward his daughter’s room, wishing to see such a precious moment for himself. Gabriella’s imagination astounded him sometimes, with the stories she would make up and the questions she would ask. He paused at Gabriella’s closed bedroom door and listened.

“I don’t have toys like that,” she said, matter-of-factly, “but I have a dragon named Hocus that you can play with.”

Henry’s smile widened.


Henry thought maybe he could hear some rustling papers, like Gabriella was coloring with her new friend. “The girl’s my mom and the boy is my dad.”

Henry suppressed a giggle at the cuteness of the situation.

“No, they’re nice. They wouldn’t do something like that.”

Henry’s smile slightly faded.

Gabriella’s bedroom beyond the closed door went quiet. Henry began to smell a strange scent and he quickly opened Gabriella’s door.

His little girl looked up at Henry from a small pile of papers surrounding her and smiled at him.

“Hi, Daddy, are you done?” She got up and walked over to Henry, hugging his leg, “Can we play a board game now?”

Henry carefully took a small step back so that he could look down at her. “Gabriella, what is that smell? Did you get into your mother’s perfumes again?”

Gabriella’s smile folded up into a look that showed she remembered once getting into trouble for playing in her mother’s things without permission and she gave Henry a quick “No.” Then she tilted her little head to the left and sniffed, followed by a tilt to the right and sniff. “What smell, Daddy?”

Henry sniffed the room but the smell was gone.

“I –” he sniffed again to be sure, “never mind. I heard you talking to someone, though, and thought –” Henry stopped himself. He actually didn’t know what he’d been thinking or why he’d gotten so unnerved.

“Oh,” Gabriella said, “that’s the boy who lives here. He plays with me sometimes.”

“Gabriella, you know that it’s just you, me and Mommy living here.” Imaginary friends, to Henry, had suddenly become less precocious than, say, scary. The idea now made him feel that Gabriella was unsafe.

Gabriella seemed to weigh this statement for a second, her little girl’s mind allowing the truth of the situation.

“Well, he used to live here before we did, I guess. Maybe he still has a key?”

Henry didn’t respond. He was the adult, after all. No need to frighten his daughter with what he felt, particularly since he couldn’t explain these sudden scared feelings.

“He lives in our house with his mom. He said his dad used to be here, too, but now he can’t find him.” Gabriella continued as she dug out the Candy Land box from beneath a stack of books and toys, “He told me his mom has bad dreams in the daytime.” The feeling of fear crept back over Henry as he looked down at the pages on the floor where Gabriella had been sitting. They were awful images of dead bodies taken from countless magazines and newspapers. All of the terrible things that humans can do to one another, splayed on the floor like a mosaic of horror amidst his daughter’s Elmo and favorite Barbie.

“Daddy,” Gabriella asked, her face scrunched up quizzically as Henry felt the panic overwhelm him, “how come boys can turn blue?”

* * * * *

Teresa poured the wine again, refilling first Henry’s glass and then her own. Their Chinese food sat untouched on the dining room table, where she’d placed it upon returning home to Henry’s stack of death and gore pages.

She sipped her wine. All thoughts of a night of carnal pleasure with her husband, the night’s previous intent, had disappeared – the images of death had taken care of that – but seeing Henry so scared when she got home, the story he was telling, had caused her to drink the first glass too quickly. Her nerves were settling now and she wanted to keep a clear head.

“Gabriella had these?” Teresa asked as Henry returned from getting their daughter to sleep in their bed. Somehow their room had felt safer.

“It’s like I said,” Henry began, taking a healthy swig from his wine glass as well, “I heard her talking to someone and went into her room. She was looking at these on the floor when I came in.”

“Did she – I mean, is it possible she found them stuffed into one of the closets? Someplace we must’ve missed when we bought the house?”

Henry took a deep breath and exhaled. He finished his second glass of wine with a gulp. “I dunno. Maybe.”

Teresa took another sip of wine, letting her better logic overtake her wilder imaginings. Her rational mind slowly explaining away the This Is What You Should Do rules of every crappy horror movie she’d ever seen as nonsense. Henry seemed to be calming down, too.

“Gabriella was just so . . . creepy! The way she nonchalantly asked me about this kid being blue,” Henry shivered.

“I thought about that part, too,” Teresa said, “and I’d bet you anything it’s because we let her watch Avatar with us. Our last night in the apartment, remember?”

Henry smiled and cocked his head back in a sigh. “Avatar! I hadn’t even thought of the connection.” He finished off the wine bottle into his glass as he and Teresa gave over to giggles of relief.

“Kids do that,” Teresa laughed, “make those kinds of weird connections in the stories they make up. Pulling stuff from all over the place. If you’d asked her, I bet the boy had a tail.” Henry continued to laugh, albeit quietly so as to not wake Gabriella. “I mean, I don’t blame you,” Teresa continued, “for freaking out. Those pictures are awful and we should pitch them in the trash right now, but I think she just found them somewhere and didn’t understand them. We’ll talk to her about them in the –”

It was right then that an odor, the smell that Henry had first smelled in Gabriella’s room, overwhelmed the dining room.

“Oh, God,” Teresa said, covering her nose from the strong scent, “what is –“

Then, from their bedroom down the hall, from the master bath, they could hear the water blast on from the bathtub faucet. The sounds as if it were filling came down the hallway and it hit Henry, what the smell was.

What he’d smelled in Gabriella’s room earlier.

The overpowering scent now.

It was bubble bath soap.

The kind you use for a child’s bath.

“Mommy!” Gabriella screamed at the exact moment that the doors began opening and slamming shut all around the house.

Teresa toppled her chair over, hopping out of it. Henry knocked the table aside as both parents raced down the hall toward their bedroom.

The door was closed. The sound of the bathtub filling up was the only sound from behind it.

“Gabriella!” Teresa screamed as Henry kicked at the door to open.

“Teresa,” Henry kicked again and again, “it won’t – Gabriella!” he pounded on the door.


The bedroom door opened.

The room was turned topsy-turvy; anything in it scattered or broken. Henry and Teresa ran in, scouring for any sign of Gabriella amidst the strewn clothes, bedclothes and broken lamps, only to come up empty-handed.

“Henry,” Teresa said, pointing to the closed bathroom door.

They couple went over to the door and turned the handle.

The bathroom was filled with steam, but they could each make out Gabriella sitting on the toilet with her legs drawn up to her chest. She was staring toward the bathtub. The shower curtain was drawn closed.

“His mommy was so scared, but,” Gabriella said, turning wide-eyed to her parents as Henry ran to her, “he can’t breathe.” Her eyes brimmed with tears.

Teresa let her hand fall gently from the top of her daughter’s head as her eyes looked toward the shower curtain.

Legs shaking, Teresa walked toward the bathtub.

She drew back the curtain.

This year for my October Friday flash pieces I’m doing homages to my favorite four Stephen King horror novels.

Last week was The Shining, which you can read here if you like: 217

As always, I hope you enjoy.

*     *     *     *     *

The dog couldn’t have known how his day would go, playing in the field as he was.  There was sunshine.  There was field.  There was rabbit.  Rabbit was fun to chase.  Rabbit was always fun to chase.

The bat flew into the small cavern’s wall.  Again.  Up was down, it seemed, and the bat thought the glimmering ray of sunshine streaming into its domain might possibly taste of red-heat-pain-shiny.

It wasn’t so much that the dog particularly wanted the rabbit, not really.  It was just so cocky with its bounce and dart and weave, its fluffy cottony tail and – oh! almost got it.  So close.

The bat twisted its head quickly, back and forth, the froth building up around its mouth like an overzealous child learning to brush their teeth.  It looked to its fellow bats, squinting its beady eyes in confused hate.

This rabbit was a quick one, the dog must give credit where it’s due.  Terribly fast.  But he thought he would wear it down eventually.  And then, once the rabbit was tired – when he caught it and won, the rabbit would lie down (the dog would flip it up in the air once or twice to make sure it was sleeping) and then he would bring the rabbit to his boy.  He loved his boy, more than a nice steak bone.  Well, just as much.  No, no, more than a steak bone.

The trembling. . .the red-heat-pain-shiny noise that the bat heard in its ears/head/wing/heart was BARKBARKBARK and it trembled and could not stop trembling.  The cave vibrated, the bat felt, with waves of thumping.

Oh no you don’t – dang it! – that rabbit bunnied its way down that hole.  But that wouldn’t stop the dog, no way.  Well, he’d just follow in and. . .nope.  Hole’s too small for that.  Well, the dog figured he’d just have to call the rabbit back.  This was no fair, after all, no fair at all for a chase, running where the bigger dog couldn’t run.  So he barked and he barked.

The fever rose up then in the bat.  Restlessness in all of his company.  Annoyance at the noise.  NOISE.  “Get the noise” the bat thought, “make it stop” thought the company.  And the bat knew that to stop the noise it must bite and scratch.  It followed the swell of bats that attacked in the dark, attacked the noise.  Maybe the bat could lose the trembling red-heat-pain-shiny in the blood.

The dog heard his boy calling him home and was happy to heed the call, trying his best to lick and groom his aching nose, his face.

Those funny-looking mice played too rough.


This year for my October Friday flash pieces I’m doing homages to my favorite four Stephen King horror novels.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

*     *     *     *     *

“Enjoy your stay!” the clerk says, handing you your room key.  Is it odd that the chipper tone of his voice in no way matches the haunted, hollow look in his eyes?

No matter.

Thanking him with a nod you gather your overnight bag and head for the lift.  As you wait you feel a chill run down your back, goosefleshing your arms.  Well, it is Colorado.  There’s bound to be a nip in the air.  You can pull a sweater out once you’re in your room.

The lift arrives, doors sliding open to reveal its operator standing attentively.  You look up and stifle a gasp.  For a second, merely the quickest flash, you would have sworn that the man’s face was. . .wrong, though you can’t explain it beyond that.

“Going up?” his game show host smile painted on.

You enter the lift, shaking the fading image of his jagged, tilting face dismissively from your mind.  You tell him your floor as he closes the lift’s doors, his eyes looking forward.

You feel the presence of others now, like the lift is overcrowded; forcing you to share space, share breathing air – arm to arm and crotch to butt.  Only there isn’t anyone else there but the operator.

The chill goes up your back again.

You hurry from the lift as it opens, unable to find the nerve to look back at it.  It must be the mountain air.  Making you think childish thoughts; seeing things, feeling things that aren’t there.

You’ll feel better once you’re in your room.

The hallway is a long one, the only sound the soft wooshing of your steps on the carpet.  Not a soul around.  Well, maybe souls but none inside a living body.

Stop it!  Why did you think that?  What a creepy thing to ponder.

Your hands give an involuntary shudder.  It’s because you’re so chilly, so unaccustomed to this climate.

Mountain air.

Wait, was that –

The peephole of that room as you walked by. . .the way the light from the other side of the door moved, blinked, like someone, someone inside that room was watching.

Watching you.


Ridiculous.  You’re being silly.

You quicken your pace anyway, all but running until you get to your room, slide the key in the door, turn it and shut the door behind you.

You realize that you are gasping – completely out of breath.

Shh-hhh.  Shh-hhh.  Shh-hh.

Just relax.  Slow it down.  Close your eyes.  Breathe in, breathe out.  It’s okay.  There you go, getting back to normal.  You’re just tired is all.  A good night’s rest will do you.  There we go.


There’s a second faint sound now, isn’t there?  It’s music playing; big band.

Now a New Year’s Eve countdown, and

Shh-hhh.  Shh-hhh.  Shh-hh.

That’s not your breathing.  It’s not –

Shh-hhh.  Shh-hhh.  Shh-hh.

Something, something coming from the bathroom.  Water sloshing.  Is someone there?

Shh-hhh.  Shh-hhh. Shh-hh.

Is someone there?

I drink my tea amidst an endless stream of noxious revelry, pantomiming the back-slapping and chest-bumping that tends to accompany such occasions so as to not reveal myself to this party of do-gooders – these Fix It Folks, of which I’ve inconveniently found myself embedded.

Any fool paying attention could see that my smile doesn’t reach my eyes; my hypocrisy’s line in the sand, it seems, that last inch of which I cannot give.

Oh, how I hate them.

*     *     *     *     *

2B began a dancing spin, a whirligig of emotion, across the room, letting her blue Solo cup fly empty from her hand as her long, silver hair twirled around her head in thick, chaotic tendrils.

“This calls for something stronger than tea!” she laughed, grabbing 5B – they hadn’t the chance to learn each other’s actual names – by the hands, forcing the younger girl to drop her cup as well and join in the dance.  “3B, don’t you agree?”

The young girl, 5B, twenty if she was a day, with her deep, dark, purple Kool-Aid hair, laughed, “It’s like a nursery rhyme! ‘3B, don’t you agree?’, ‘3B, don’t you agree?’!” and the two spun in quick circles, round and round.

3B, dark-skinned and thin in his white cotton undershirt and blue jeans, smiled at the two women and then finished his tea; refilling his Solo cup from the gallon jug that 1B was sharing with them.

“Appreciate the sweet tea, ma’am,” he said, walking over and refilling 1B’s cup before replacing it in her refrigerator.

1B returned his smile, “De nada.  Have as much as you like.” Her arthritic hands didn’t seem to be bothering her as much tonight.

4B, a slightly overweight man in his late 30s, came in through the open apartment door swigging the last of his tea.  “That’s it, folks, we’ve done it.  The dimensional gateway linking each of our realities is closed, save for the tunnel that will return us to our individual reality’s Apartment B.

2B and 5B stopped spinning to listen to 4B’s message of all clear.

“So, now, you’re saying a spatial chronoworm – did I get that right?” 2B asked.

“A giant spatial chronoworm, yes.” 4B explained, putting his cup down on 1B’s coffee table, avoiding the Asker and Folks magazines that were splayed out there.

“Right, a giant spatial chronoworm, sorry, ate through the walls of each of our apartments in an attempt to. . .I admit, this is where you lost me.”

4B laughed, “I’m impressed that it took you until there to get lost.  And it wasn’t your apartment walls, so much as your reality’s walls, but that’s neither here nor there.  Spatial chronoworms tend to. . .”

*     *     *     *     *

Admittedly, I miscalculated with the worm.  It quickly got beyond my control, obstinate creatures that they are.  There’s just no telling which way or when that they will go.  The fact that I needed to rely at all on these, these, pedestrian nobodies!  I should kill them all is what I should do.

They’ve served their purpose.  All is safe now; I ought to just wipe them out and be about my business.

Oh, should the Confederation of Scoundrels ever catch wind of this, I don’t know what would happen.  I’d be out every penny of union dues, that much is certain.

Not to mention my parking space.

A Birthday Story #2

This tale, just like last year’s, is a little too long to be an actual flash, I know. Once again I wrote a story as a birthday gift for my wife and asked for any and all outside prompts via social media before writing anything. The list that came from that was: The Oregon Trail, Wonka’s Fizzy Lifting Drink, giant atomic robo-chimps, Kiya and Roxie (our pets), robots, two turntables and a microphone, snow, Steve Guttenberg, a princess in a boat, a baby, and couch circles.  This is what came of it.

Hope you enjoy.


A Birthday Story:

A Roxie and Kiya Adventure

Once upon a time there was a gray tabby cat named Roxie and her little sister, a mixed husky/shepherd dog, named Wakiya (though everyone called her Kiya for short).  They lived together with their adoptive parents and had many adventures independently of one another.

This tale, however, is of an adventure that they shared.

You see, our story begins on a cold, winter’s night; a Thursday, if memory serves.  A blanket of snow covered everything for miles around outside.  Roxie was asleep in her spot, curled up on her parents’ bed and dreaming of days gone by.  (Roxie was a retired ninja assassin, you see, so it’s best that we not dwell on the specifics of her dreams so as to keep things PG here.)

Kiya, for her part, was in her usual spot: right outside the closed bedroom door, nose pressed against the crack under the door.  Kiya loved her sister too much, one might say, as she always wanted to nibble her, hence the closed bedroom door.

“Roxie?” Kiya asked from under the door.

“Go away.” Roxie responded, her paw over her eyes.

“It’s just that –”

“I’m asleep.” Roxie meowed.

“If you could just let me”


“grab you and maybe flip you around”


“– only a little! – I think that I”


“could get over this.”

And so it went.  Kiya, with the single-mindedness of any good dog, stayed at her self-appointed post by the door while Roxie tried to sleep, ignoring her little sister’s exasperated sighs.

Until the robots came.

The sisters heard the lasers firing outside first, then the clomp-clomp-clomp of the robot army making its way down the road outside.

Kiya barked and then ran to the window.  Then she barked again.

“Stop that!” Roxie yelled from the bedroom, looking out her own window while she was at it.

“But that’s how they know that I’m ferocious,” Kiya explained through the wall, “and also that squirrels are out there.  Grrrr, squirrels!”

Roxie hopped down under their parents’ bed and grabbed a hidden cache of weapons.

“Whatcha doin’?” Kiya asked from under the door.

“Never you mind.”

“Aww, just tell me.”

“I must prepare to defend the house while Mother is away.”

“Daddy’s gone, too.” Kiya explained.

Roxie had a hard time acknowledging any people beyond their mother.  She knew a guy lived with them in the house, too, but she preferred to think of him as an indentured servant, referring to him only as the Fat Man.

“Hurrumph.” Roxie said, pulling a pair of katana swords from her case.

“Wait,” Kiya said, “I’m coming too!  I can help.” And she scampered down the hall to her kennel.

“I’m opening this door now, Kiya,” Roxie said, her paw on the handle, “and I am quite well armed.  If you even so much as open your mouth near me I’ll…Kiya?” she peered outside the cracked door.  Kiya wasn’t to be seen.

Roxie could hear the robot armada destroying houses all around the neighborhood.  She threw the door open and slid silently down the hall toward the front door.  Suddenly, the chairs from the kitchen table flipped over and Kiya jumped out wearing her blanket like a cape.

“I’m Bat-Hound.” She growled in her extra gravelly Christian Bale voice.

Roxie looked at her and rolled her eyes.  “What is that on your blanket?”

“That’s a giant atomic robo-chimp.” Kiya stated, matter-of-factly, “Giant atomic robo-chimps are cool.  And since we’re going to fight robots you need a giant atomic robo-chimp to fight them.  The robots.  Can I bite you?”

The pair slipped out the front door (doors were quite easy for Roxie to work, you see) and made their way toward the robotic commotion.  Kiya stopped to pee multiple times and once Roxie even had to double back to collect her from the window of the neighbor’s house where she was watching Willy Wonka.

“Aw, but it’s the fizzy lifting drink scene!” Kiya whispered.

“Let’s go!” Roxie commanded.

The robot army was destroying all in its path and they were a mere six or seven houses from the sisters’ house.  Roxie drew her swords while Kiya peed again.

“Snow peeing is not happy peeing.” Kiya said, making Roxie recall, fondly, how she’d staved off, alone, an alien invasion two summers ago in the case of the couch circles.  (Similar to crop circles only they appeared in abandoned malls.  They’d been from a race of fat aliens who’d been gaining sustenance from our television signals only to become angered at the forced diet of reality TV, which to them tasted like unsalted, unbuttered popcorn.)

Roxie grabbed Kiya by the ear and pulled her head close to her mouth.

“Ouch!” Kiya complained.

“Listen!” Roxie whispered through gritted teeth, “Those things are almost to our house.  They seem to be following the Oregon Trail regardless of what’s in their way.”

“What’s the Oregon Trail?” Kiya whispered back through gritted teeth in a mimicky sort of way.

“It was on PBS the other day and – it doesn’t matter!” Roxie yelled, letting Kiya’s ear go, “I’ve got an idea but I need to make a call.  Can you stall them for a second?”

Kiya stood up straight and tall, puffing her chest out.  “No problem!”

And she ran out into the street to face the metal horde while Roxie slipped into a neighbor’s house to use the phone.  As she punched in the number, she heard Kiya outside.

There’s a destination a little up the road, from the habitations and the towns we know.  A place we saw the light’s turn low, jig-saw jazz and the get-fresh flow.”

“Is that –” Roxie wondered, “is she singing Beck?”

Kiya did a little soft shoe as the robots marched closer.

Where it’s at!  I got two turntables and a microphone.” She danced in a slow circle.

Suddenly, what looked to be a flying row boat piloted by a small, green baby with red hair came from behind the army of robots.

“I am Princess WafflePixie and I demand to know who you are to think that you can stop my army of robot minions!” the baby looked to be close to throwing a tantrum.

“I’m Kiya and I’m a pretty girl.” Kiya barked, “My momma said so.”

“Today is your last, Kiya!” Princess WafflePixie shouted, “Destroy her!”

“Not so fast.” A voice said from behind Kiya.

“Steve Guttenberg!” the robot army yelled out in unison.

“Steve Guttenberg!” Princess WafflePixie yelled from her flying row boat.

“Squirrel!” Kiya yelled and ran toward a nearby tree.

It turned out that Roxie had been owed a favor from Steve Guttenberg for a job she had done a long time ago.  And, as everyone knows, Steve Guttenberg is like Elvis Presley to the robot world, so Princess WafflePixie was forced to surrender once her army refused to cause anymore carnage.

Once the day was saved, thanks mostly to Roxie (though Kiya helped a little), the sisters returned to their positions at home with their parents none the wiser as to anything out of the ordinary having taken place.

Ya know, outside of the surrounding neighborhood being all but decimated.

NaNoWriMo Excerpt 5

Here’s Molly, Juniper’s grandma and the last of the key players of Monsters in the Park.  I also included a little bit about Timber Haven itself, since this will likely be the last excerpt.

Again, not edited.

As always, hope you enjoy.


Molly looked down at the sheet of paper.  It was her handwriting, she knew, but she couldn’t remember writing the terrible things.  They had just been on the sheet when she came out of her daze by the window.

Underneath, in the Pitch, where the hair and the vomit and the refuse of the world go, there stands a lone tower.  At the top of the tower is a green, smokeless flame, a signal to Ancients who no longer see, nor do they care to, if they yet live.  Acknowledgement of such a realm is unnecessary to such as they; better to forget the Pitch than to allow its existence to sully their paradigm.

But that does not serve the denizens of the Pitch.         

No, it does not.

Oh yes, there be Pitchborn among that rabble, castoff from reality and forced to grow as rot does beneath a fallen branch.

The tower serves merely as a reminder to the Pitchborn that they are unwanted, and for that, they hate it.  They have their hate and their hunger.  For all Pitchborn know hunger.  It is what sustains them in the Pitch, in the Everdark.  It lets them know they exist, in a reality that would rather they did not.

Molly’s hands were shaking as she finished reading it a third time.  She could hear Juniper seeing Jake out.  She’d come into the kitchen soon.  Molly hid the note she didn’t remember writing in the pocket of her coat and began to set the table for lunch.  Somehow she had made tuna casserole.  It sat, still piping hot on top of the stove.

Another tuna casserole.

What was wrong with her?

*     *     *     *     *

Molly had lived in Timber Haven all of her life, which is to say she knew a thing or two about options one had, avenues in which to figure out things that wouldn’t make sense anywhere else in the world.

Once, when she was fourteen, Molly had gone away to a camp in New Hampshire in an effort, she was told, to find her way.  She hadn’t felt lost, necessarily; certainly no more so than any other kids her age, but she’d gone anyway.  No fuss, just packed her bag and boarded the bus as instructed.

When she arrived at the camp, she discovered that growing up in Timber Haven had skewed her understanding of normal.  Other kids did not, in fact, speak Fairy (which is speaking your own language while thinking about what honeysuckles taste like.  An easy dialect, Molly always thought) nor did they know or care about the connection between warts and toads (never pick up a toad who’s on a quest) or that saying the phrase “graham cracker crust” really quickly and correctly at 9:03 on a Sunday night lets your Shade know where you are. (Which nobody wants to have happen at nighttime.)

In Timber Haven these are well established facts that every Old Town Havener knows by heart before they even start grade school.  Molly lived in New Town now, sure, but it didn’t mean she couldn’t wander her old haunts seeking guidance when the need arose.  And Molly had to admit that it was long past time she figured out what was going on with her blackouts.  She was healthy physically, she knew, she’d just had a physical, so that only left something was wrong with either her mentally or it was related to living in Timber Haven.

She wasn’t prepared to deal with something being wrong with her mind, not with Juniper to look after, so Molly’s only other option was Burning Elk and his hoodoo being able to find a way to sort her out.

Molly wound around through the familiar streets and paths of Old Town, down past the Fell Hotel and into the Village.  She found herself enjoying the sights of handcrafted tables and colorful scarves; the smells of stout whiskeys and aged cheeses, the fires burning and the endless chatter of haggling going on all around her.

Molly stopped at Burning Elk’s tent to find nobody there.  Just a sign hanging from a wire that read Gone.  Molly looked around when she heard someone calling her name.

“He is not here, Molly” came a voice from the tent next door, “he is gone down to river to speak to it about his brother.”

“Oh, okay, Pela.” Molly said, ignoring the confusing element of the statement, instead asking, “Did he say how long he might be?”

Pela had looked to be a woman in her mid-thirties ever since Molly, herself in her late fifties, was a little girl.  Whatever gypsy magic kept Pela young seemingly had no effect on her disposition toward Molly, though, as she had disapproved of her ever since a fairly innocent indiscretion with Burning Elk in Molly’s teenage years took place.

“No,” Pela said, absently fingering a purple scarf from a collection at the tent next door, “he did not.  What is it we can do for you?”

“I,” Molly began, not sure how to explain anything, “No, I’ll just come back by later.”

Pela looked up from the scarves, “You are having troubles.  Troubles you wonder if my dziad can assist you with.” Pela started picking over a table of jewelry. “He cannot.”

Pela only threw Polish at Molly when she was in a particular nasty mood, and Molly had no interest in listening to any more.  She had come for help from Burning Elk, not to be lorded over by his petulant wife, partner, whatever she was to him.  But then Molly noticed that the more annoyed she got with Pela, the more she felt like a fog was lifting.  She began thinking more clearly, more like herself.

The quickness of it forced her to sit down on the ground.

“Are you okay?” A man walking by asked.

“I really don’t know.” Molly replied.

NaNoWriMo Excerpt 4

So I figured I’d use these excerpts to introduce the key players of the book (except the first, which was the prologue). First was Juniper, arguably the most prominent player in the ensemble cast, followed by Jake.

This one is Slow, short for Winslow, a teenage runaway who has found his way to Timber Haven and one of the first people he meets is an eight-year-old in need of a save.

Hope you enjoy.


Slow was getting a kick out of this strange little girl, talking a mile a minute about energy and the sun and mold.  It was like he was playing catch up after missing a year’s worth of Science in school.  Back when Slow had attended school.  He’d dropped out at fourteen, determined to take his guitar playing on the road and make it as a bluesman.

He just hadn’t reckoned on being so hungry all the time.  Busking didn’t pay nearly as well outside of the bigger cities, but he’d made it to Timber Haven after six months of trying to get there.  Timber Haven was where the secret to the music was, or so he’d grown up hearing.  The key to all of his dreams could be just around the corner.

Slow and Juniper came into a park under a big metal signpost that read Kings Park in iron letters artistically crafted with little iron birds around them, with a crown between the words Kings and Park that had red stained glass in place of rubies.  The grass was immaculate, thick like shag carpet but cropped close.  As they walked, Slow and Juniper crossed a chess set topiary with detailed bushes standing three feet high, trimmed to look like chess pieces, except the King pieces, which looked like bronze statues.

“This park is amazing.” Slow said, accidently interrupting Juniper’s science talk in his appreciation of their surroundings.

“What?  Oh, yeah, Kings Park is neat.” Juniper agreed.  She was used to people getting sick of talking about science long before she did.

“Why is it called Kings Park?” Slow asked.

“Well,” Juniper began, “some adults say that it’s named for a rich family who lived here in town, the Kings, but the real reason is much better.”

“So what’s the real reason?” Slow asked, inspecting a bush cut like a knight.

“Um…I’m not sure you’d believe me.” Juniper said, inspecting a rock she’d accidentally kicked, flipping it over in search of fossils.

“Try me.  I’ve got a pretty open mind.” He said, turning to her.

“Okay, I guess I’ll tell you.” Juniper stood back up, leaving the rock as there hadn’t been any fossils, “But you can’t stop being my friend if you think it’s freaky.  Other kids do that all of the time, but since you’re a big kid, you shouldn’t.  Deal?”

Slow was certain that Juniper was the most fun person he’d ever met in all his fifteen years.

“You got it, Juniper, deal.”

“This park was built in celebration of the kings of old.  The Ogre kings and Fairy kings; the kings of Man and Serpent, Hound and Sea; for every king that ever was and ever will be.”  Juniper finished with a flourish of her little hands.

Slow sat his guitar case down and clapped his hands.

“Bravo!” he cheered to Juniper, “That was great, kiddo.  Did you memorize that from somewhere?” he asked, recognizing a performance when he saw one.

“That was just how my friend Story told it to me.” Juniper smiled.

“Salutations upon our meeting at cross promenades, Ms. Soot!” said a man in a purple suit and bowler hat, sitting on a little bench beside the chess topiary, “and how does this splendorous Saturday find you?”  The man stood from the bench with a bow, asking the last with a tip of his hat.

NaNoWriMo Excerpt 3

I admit it, I’m way behind on this book.

I’ve a dozen excuses (the election, seemingly everyone I know being born in November – a fact I’m not certain has always been the case or if it’s just to distract me) but the truth is, this challenge is hard!

Guess they couldn’t call it a challenge if it was easy…

Anyhow, here’s the next teaser.  Let me know what you think of the progress if you like.

Thanks for reading.


Jake knew he was supposed to go home.  Tod had said so, and Jake was very afraid of his older brother.  Afraid of the yardstick that his brother called his Corrector.  It was wrapped in duct tape on one end so Tod could grip it, wielding it like a sword.  The other end had thumb tacks pushed through it, perfect for gouging Jake with.  His back had just healed from all the damage done over a month ago (Jake had made the mistake of eating a Pop Tart that his brother had wanted) by Tod and his Corrector.

Jake knew he was to go home, but something along the way had distracted him.  He heard something moving, out there in the trees; following him.  At first he thought it was the bear again, out to eat him.  But he couldn’t see any bear, and the moving that he heard was slighter than what Jake figured a bear might make.

Scared of nearly everything by nature, Jake made to run home again.  But that’s when he saw it.  Or rather, saw its teeth, gleaming at him from the dark between the trees.  Sharp, crooked, jagged things; flashes of silver glistening through the filth of its mouth.  It snorted, whatever it was, and seemed to Jake like it was about to charge after him.  He ran like the devil himself was after him, taking off just as the creature did.

He’d made it about twenty feet when his pants fell down around his ankles.  To be fair, they were Tod’s old hand-me-downs and had probably been handed down before Jake was really of a size to use them, but there he was, just the same.  Sprawled out with his underwear showing as the thing with the dirty silver teeth came for him.

A horn blared at Jake.  As though waking from a daze, he looked from the car back to where the creature had been, but it was gone.  No teeth, anywhere.

“Get out of the road!” the man driving the car yelled, as he swerved to the right and drove away.  “Damn kids!” he added.

Jake got to his feet and pulled his pants back up, holding them up snug with one hand while the other kept the sun from his eyes while he searched the woods.  Nothing.  He didn’t see the creature anywhere.  He ran for home anyway.

“I’ll draw that monster,” he thought.  “And I’ll tell Juniper about it and she’ll have a trick to catch it and we’ll be rich and not live with Tod no more.”  Which was typically what Jake daydreamed about.  Not necessarily about drawing monsters or being rich, but about living with Juniper in her house with her grandma and playing in the junkyard with her.

And not living with Tod anymore.

Jake heard a low growl coming from behind him.  He ran faster.  The growl got louder. Jake thought he could feel hot breath on his neck.  He started to cry.  Jake’s mom had never really been warm to him, so when he cried, it wasn’t for her.

He wished Juniper was with him now.  She’d know what to do.

The growling grew angrier.


NaNoWriMo excerpt 2

So far, so good.  I’m trucking along and on target as far as word count goes.  I’m not in love with writing this way, not editing as I go along, but I can’t argue that it makes for results as far as progression goes.  Here’s the second excerpt.  Sorry it’s not edited.

The novel is about Juniper Soot, a character born from a birthday gift for my wife.  If you’re interested in reading her origin tale, it’s here.

Otherwise, here’s this week’s excerpt from Monsters In the Park – A Timber Haven Novel

*     *     *     *     *

The mailman hadn’t, in fact, delivered the mail yet.  Juniper sat on the steps of the front porch with her face in her hands, holding up her head by her cheeks.  It was a rough day to be an eight-year-old, bound to the authority and timetable of adults as she was.  Juniper continuously popped her head up over her grandmother’s shrubs to try and catch the mailman coming, figuring on running to meet him if he had her package, only to return to her mopey perch when he wasn’t there.

It had taken three months of penny-collecting and a birthday to save for it, and then begging Molly to use her credit card online and mail off for it after that, but it would all be worth it once Juniper got her package.  It was a kit to make her very own miniature Tesla coil, one that would tie her Nikola Tesla costume completely together for the upcoming yearly Halloween costume party at her school.  She had the wig and fake mustache already, and Molly had a bunch of old clothes upstairs in the attic where Juniper found the perfect suit to wear.

All she needed was to build the coil, and she’d be set.

If the mailman would only arrive.

“Maybe he is stuck in a ditch,” Juniper pondered, “with a great big log rolled over on his leg that a bear pushed over accidentally while it was trying to get honeycombs from an old beehive.  And he doesn’t dare shout out for help, on account of the bear being right there lapping up honey, and the bees are buzzing about, sensing his fear of the bear, and of them, and looking to sting him.”  She hopped back up and worriedly looked down the road.

“Poor guy.  He’s probably trying his hardest to get here with my package, hardly any concern about his own self.”  She squinted as hard as she could, but she still didn’t see him coming.

It could be said that, while Juniper maybe didn’t play pretend very often, she could certainly follow a line of thought to its inevitable conclusion.  Even when that conclusion involved hungry bears and angry bees.

Juniper heard a rustling behind her.  Spinning, she caught Jake Steadherd peeking through the bushes at her, his great big googly eyes too large for his six-year-old head.

“Jake, what are you doing here?  Can’t you see I’m busy waiting for the mailman?”

Jake came out from behind the bushes, looking at his feet.

“I wasn’t doin’ nothin’ wrong,” he told her, albeit guiltily, “just seein’ what you was doin’.”

Jake had a rough time on the playground at school, earlier that year.  A bigger boy was teasing him about his eyes, and teasing had turned to pitching rocks at Jake.  Not at all unfamiliar with being bullied, Juniper had seen fit to help Jake out by running up and telling him that his teacher was looking for him, which wasn’t true, of course, since Juniper didn’t even know who Jake’s teacher was, but it made everyone scatter just the same.  (Juniper wasn’t one to stand up to bullies so much as outmaneuver them.)

Jake, who had never had anyone really look out for him before then, would now occasionally show up at her house to see what she was up to.

“Well, like I said, Jake,” she said, talking more slowly to him and not meaning to, “I’m waiting for the mailman.  He’s bringing me a package that I ordered special for the Halloween party at school.  He should be here already, but I think we can forgive him being late, what with the bear and bees and everything.”

Jake’s eyes went wide and he hid behind Juniper.  He looked down the street and wondered if that dark patch behind the tree line in Mrs. Willis’ backyard was a giant bear, stalking him and Juniper after having eaten the mailman in a gulp.

“Jake,” Juniper asked behind her shoulder, “what are you doing?”

“Shh! I’m hiding from the bear.” Jake whispered.

“Jake!” a voice yelled from the street.

Juniper and Jake jumped.  Three boys rode their bikes and skidded sideways into Juniper’s yard.  The biggest of them, Tod, was Jake’s older brother and if there was a wickeder boy in all of Timber Haven, Juniper didn’t know who he was.  At fifteen, he had already been in more trouble than any three adults Juniper knew.  His friends were each a year younger than him.  Curtis was a huge kid, husky.  He snickered at anything Tod said like it was humor of the highest quality.  Bobby was the third, quiet, with sad eyes.

These three boys were the entirety of the reason why Juniper distrusted teenagers across the board.

“I wasn’t doin’ nothin’–” Jake began his standby line.

“Shut it.” His brother interrupted, “Get home, now, before I bounce a rock off your melon, Owl Eyes.”  This made Curtis snicker.

Jake, having forgotten the all about Juniper’s bear at the sight of something he feared more, ran toward home without so much as a goodbye glance at Juniper.  He pulled his too-big pants up high as he ran away.

Tod turned his attention to Juniper.  He smiled a mean, toothy smile.

“What’s up, Junkyard?” he asked her, causing Curtis to snicker again. “Where’s your grandma?”

Juniper took a step back up toward her front door. “Sh-she’s inside.” She said, looking around, silently pleading anyone to come along.

“You haven’t ever told nobody nothin’ about us, right, Junkyard?”  Tod asked, setting his bike down, “Remember what we said would happen.”  He stepped over his bike toward Juniper, moving like a big cat hunting prey.  “Do you need another lesson?”

“A reminder, I think.” Curtis said, snickering at what he saw as wit and dropping his own bike to the ground, too.

“Let’s be quick, guys.” Was all Bobby said.

Juniper ran up onto the porch and around the side, hopping over the rail as fast as she could.

NaNoWriMo Excerpt 1

I guess, if we decide to show excerpts as a way for fans, friends and family to keep us honest/motivated in this thing, we do so here.  But don’t quote me.  I’m not going to do daily excerpts or anything, just periodically.  So anyhow, here’s today’s work thus far.  A prelude to the novel, as it were.  Hope you dig it.

October 31, 1988

Rodger pulled the car over to the side of the street, checking his mirrors before putting it in park.  A sea of young trick-or-treaters roamed as far as he could see.  He turned around to his young daughter, Meghan, who was dressed as a princess in the back seat.

“Okay, hun, do you have your flashlight?” Rodger asked as a group of kids dressed as Ghostbusters went by, chasing another kid who was dressed as a ghost.

“Yes, Daddy, I do.  Can I get candy now?”

“Yes, yes.  Now, you know the routine, kiddo, right?  Up one side and then down the other, back to me, staying on the sidewalk at all times except for when you cross at Mrs. Swenson’s house, yeah?”

“I know, Daddy.” The princess moaned, annoyed, “I will I promise.” Meghan’s little hand reached for the door handle just as Rodger unbuckled her seatbelt.

“Take it easy,” Rodger said, “there’s plenty of trick-or-treat time left.  Here, don’t forget your jack-o-lantern.”  He passed the orange bucket out to Meghan as she delicately straightened the white frill of her princess-pink dress.  “Feels like you’ve got a ton already!”

“Thank you, Daddy!” Meghan said, grabbing her bucket and making off for the first house on the street, mindful to let a couple of older kids who were dressed as Raggedy Ann and Andy pass in front of her.

Rodger watched as his little girl walked up the sidewalk toward the house and he smiled.  He loved the autumn, and Halloween most of all.  The orange and browns of the trees moved in time to a gentle wind; the dark green of the bushes complimenting the affair.  It was unseasonably warm, Rodger noted, taking out his book of crosswords as Meghan began walking toward the next house up the street.  One really didn’t need a jacket, Rodger said to himself, agreeing with his earlier assessment of letting Meghan go trick-or-treating without her coat.

“But Daddy,” she had said, working Rodger over.  He was such a fool for Meghan’s Daddy, “my coat will wrinkle my gown, and princesses don’t have wrinkled gowns.  And we can’t see breaths.  See?” She proceeded to exhale sharply.

And with that, Rodger’s princess had gotten to trick-or-treat without her coat.

Meghan waved to him from the second house’s porch as she waited for an answer to her knock, smiling her biggest smile.

Rodger waved back and then looked down to his crossword.

“Michael Knight’s co-pilot.” Rodger read aloud, “Six across.”  Rodger had an annoying habit of clicking his pen as he thought on his crossword.  Cli-click.  Cli-click.  Cli-click.  Onlookers, as evidenced by an unseemly incident at the DMV last year involving a can of Coke and Rodger’s paperwork during a two hour wait, found it maddening.  Cli-click.  Cli-click.  Cli-click.

“K.I.T.T.!” Michael shouted, as he wrote in the answer feeling very proud of himself.

And so it went.  Answer after answer, making his way through the crossword.  STAIRWAY followed WIZARD; TEA came after PRESIDENT, on and on until Rodger turned the page to start a third puzzle.

That was when her absence hit him.  When time caught up and he knew she should be back by now.  Rodger just knew, he had a feeling, that something was terribly, terribly wrong.

He looked up, quickly, eyes darting from one side of the street to the other, distinguishing all the other children on the street between those who definitely weren’t his child and those that could be.

“The pink dress,” Rodger said, getting out of the car and speaking to nobody and everybody around him, “I should – th-that should be easy to see out here in – Meghan!” he shouted, running down the street.


He turned to another group of children.  So many damn kids around, why couldn’t he see his?  “Have you seen my little girl?  She’s about this tall, brown hair.  She’s a princess?”  He could see he was unnerving them, hysteria creeping into his eyes.  They shook their head in unison, afraid of the man who was losing his mind.  “MEGHAN!”

Rodger ran toward the last house he had seen her at, running through yards, jumping bushes.

“Meghan, my little girl, she’s a princess.  Have you seen Meghan?” he asked of everyone, anyone.  Could no one help him?  He reached the end of the street, Mrs. Swenson’s house.  He leapt to the porch and pounded on the screen door.

“Mrs. Swenson!  Mrs. Swenson!”

“Land’s sakes, Mr. Wallace, I’m here!  What’s the matter with you?” a woman in her sixties asked through the screen, wearing a worried look.

“It’s Meghan, Mrs. Swenson, my little one.  Has she come here yet?”

“Y-yes,” Mrs. Swenson answered, removing her glasses as she did and looking to a spot behind Rodger.

Rodger spun around to see what she was looking at.  It caught his eye almost immediately.  There, in the street, tipped over with candy strewn all around it, was a jack-o-lantern.  Frantic, Rodger ran, stopping just short of reaching it.  He could read the bottom of the jack-o-lantern.

Meghan Wallace.

Rodger fell to his knees in the street as a crowd of children and other adults began to gather around him.  Their hushed whispers and nervous murmuring becoming something else he had to sort through to find his daughter.  But he couldn’t find Meghan.  Couldn’t see her.  Rodger could feel something letting go inside.  He focused on her name, scrawled with a black marker on orange plastic in her handwriting, and he screamed.

The buzzing of the crowd.

The sirens in the distance.

The colors of autumn.

All muted by a father’s anguish.