No Trespassing

notrespassing

No Trespassing

A loud splash interrupted the checker game between Frank and Ben. A creature covered in grayish green scales raised its head from the water, and a plaintive cry filled the air.

“Looks like Bessie is wanting dinner,” Frank said.

“Yup. You want to flip for it?” Ben pulled out a coin.

“Not with your coin. I keep losing.”

“Fine, we’ll use one of yours.”

Frank brought out a quarter. “Call it.” He tossed it into the air.

“Tails.”

The coin hit the ground, heads up. “Shit. Which one should I choose?”

“Give her the whiner,” Ben said.

Frank walked to a shed and dragged out a man. “Sorry about this, but the sign said ‘No Trespassing’. Nothing personal, you understand, but we like our privacy.”

“Wait! No! You don’t understand. I have a story to file. My editor…” He spotted the reptilian head watching the shore. “Oh my god! It’s real! I thought that kid was joking.” He dug his heels into the ground, trying to wriggle free.

With a grunt, Frank tossed the man over his shoulder and walked to the end of the dock. “Here you go, Bessie.” He tossed the man into the water.

Before the man could gather his senses, Bessie swam over, neck stretched out to nab the tasty morsel.

A scream filled the air, then silence. A few bubbles popped on the surface.

“How many are left?” Ben handed his friend a beer.

“Three.”

“Stupid tourists. Don’t they teach people how to read any more?” Ben cracked open a beer.

“Since I fed Bessie, you can feed the others after sundown.”

“With the whiner gone, it will be a pleasure.”

They returned to their game, smiling when a loud burp reached their ears.

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Old House

Old House

Old memories die hard and they never fade away. Memories written in blood and anger stain the souls and the place where they were created. The Angleson’s house is such an example. That place has been on the market for twenty years now and no one wants to lay claim to it. I can’t say I blame them. One night Old man Angleson cracked and killed his entire family. Eight gentle souls taken in a fit of unbridled rage brought on by drink. The hardest part was watching him hunt down the kids as they tried to hide, whimpering in the darkest corners they could find. The old man knew all the hiding places, since he grew up in the place. No one escaped and when it was over, he left the house and turned himself in. When the police arrived to process the scene, there wasn’t a dry eye among them. They left and men came to remove the furniture and belongings. Then nothing. On occasion, I see the spirits of the children playing in the rooms in happier times and I miss that. I wish someone would buy the place and bring a bit of joy and life back to the house. It’s so lonely with no one here. The emptiness and lingering fear keep the living away from me.

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Morgan and Lady Raven

Morgan and Lady Raven

Morgan sat at the table, candlelight illuminating the journals before her. Cail nudged the inkwell closer. “You should be writing instead of staring at the page. You know Lady Raven wants you to keep a journal.”

“I know, but after reading through Dmitri Basarab’s journal, hiding under a rock is a better choice. Listen to this:”

I have finally found a jeweler to work with the pieces of fire-stone I possess. I need nine pendants with each piece of stone carved into the shape of a dagger. One for myself, the others for the inner circle.

The shadow dagger has been made. We tried it out two nights ago; it worked as the instructions said it would. A gateway formed, and two Shadows entered our world. I allowed them free rein in the hamlet to the north, and when they were done killing the occupants, their ranks had grown by thirty. I sent them back across the Veil to await my summons.

Membership in the circle will be passed down from parent to child. After much thought, I believe allowing a woman to belong to the circle is a wise course of action.

“What about it? We both know Dmitri, the bastard is evil. Look at how many villages he has overrun. The ones who break his laws or don’t pay their taxes are sacrificed.”

She drained her beer and slammed the tankard on the table. “The hamlet he talks about is where I lived. Only I survived, thanks to Lady Raven.”

Cail hopped to her shoulder and rubbed his head against her cheek. “It’s been twenty years, Morgan. You need to let go of the past.”

“Easier said than done, my feathered friend.” She stroked his back. “The Shadows attacked while I was in the garden digging potatoes. My father was in the barn, and mother was in the house preparing stew. I heard screams coming from a neighbor’s house, and my father went to investigate. He came running back, grabbed my arm, and pulled me into the house.” Tears blurred her vision. “Moments later the door crashed inward and soldiers entered, followed by three Shadows.”

#

The Shadows advanced while soldiers blocked the exit, Run! ran through her mind, but Morgan froze, her body trembling. The human-shaped Shadow stopped before Morgan, its red eyes boring into hers. An aura of cold surrounded her and she shivered. The creature plunged a tendril into her chest; an intense pain coursed through her; replaced by an icy burn. Darkness invaded her vision.

A sensation of spinning and falling clouded her mind and when sight returned, Morgan stared. Ordered rows of columns marched into the distance. Across from her stood an archway of black stones, the center glowed with a silvery light. She turned and found another portal, this one constructed of white stones, brightly aglow. A slight pressure on her shoulder made her jump, an undignified squeak escaping her lips. A raven limned in silver perched there.

“Where am I? Where are my parents?”

“You are in the Court of Passage, Morgan Byrne,” a woman’s voice replied.

The air wavered and a tall, beautiful woman with a raven on her shoulder stood before her. Morgan’s heart raced, and she blushed, as thoughts she normally kept locked away surged through her mind. “Who are you?” She blushed at the thought in her mind and pushed it down.

The woman smiled and rested a hand on Morgan’s arm. “Let’s move off to the side so we can talk.”

Morgan followed the woman. They stopped and watched a group of Shadows escorting Shades away from the arches. “What are those things? Who are those people?”

“Like you, the Shades are those who have recently died. That group was killed by the Shadows. Like the one that attacked you.” The woman waved her arm, and a silver light surrounded them. “The light keeps the Shadows at bay so we can speak freely.”

“Who are you?”

“I am Lady Raven, and the Court of Passage is my domain.”

She shook her head. “I don’t understand.”

“You were killed by the Shadow, however, your spirit is strong, and you refuse to give in to their taint. Normally, once a person dies, they cross the Veil to the Court of Passage, escorted by a raven. From there the Shade passes through the black arch to the land of the dead.” Lady Raven lightly rested a hand on Morgan’s arm. “I have the power to restore a person to life.”

“And the cost?” Morgan kept her gaze averted so she could think and not have her body react to the woman beside her.

“You know about the fire-stone that fell from the sky?” Morgan nodded. “When it arrived, the stone thinned the Veil between the living world and the Court of Passage. The Veil acts as a barrier between the Court and the living world. The arrival of the stone weakened the Veil and Shadows now enter the living world to kill people and increase their ranks.” The woman sighed. “However, the stone has another effect; it can also be used to banish and help prevent Shadows from crossing into the real world. Those that own pieces of the stone can summon the Shadows or banish and block them from crossing.”

Morgan glanced away. Her heart sank when she recognized two Shades escorted by a Shadow. “Those are my parents!”

Lady Raven nodded. “I can give you the ability to cleanse their spirits and send them to their final rest.”

“What do you mean by ‘cleanse their spirits?’” The silver glow surrounding the Shades of her parents weakened as she watched.

Lady Raven held out a ring. “When a human is killed by a Shadow, they become tainted. If the body or spirit isn’t cleansed, the Shade turns into a Shadow, and they cannot pass on to the land of the dead.”

“Tell me what I need to do.” Morgan faced the woman.

“Will you accept the offer to enter my service, to fight against the Shadows, and those who summon them? Will you accept this ring and become the founder of the Raven Council?”

With a sigh and a nod, Morgan held out her hand. “I accept your offer, Lady Raven, and willingly enter your service.”

The woman placed the ring in the young woman’s hand. “Place the ring on your right middle finger.” Morgan did. “Concentrate on the ring, Imagine a silver glow like that which surrounds us.”

It took a moment, but Morgan succeeded, and the glow of the ring matched the surrounding shield. “Now what?”

“I will drop the protection and allow the Shadow and Shades to approach us. You will need to surround the three with the light from your ring, then say: ’By the order of Lady Raven I banish you to the Spawning Ground.’ The Shadow will disappear, but the Shades will stay. Next, you say: ‘By Lady Raven’s love, go to your rest.’ The Shades will then pass through the black stone archway.”

Morgan followed the woman’s instructions.

When the creatures were a few feet away, Morgan expanded the light to surround them. The Shadow froze in place and howled in anger. “By the order of Lady Raven I banish you to the Spawning Ground.” The light from the ring flared, and the force sent Morgan down on one knee. The Shadow disappeared.

She regained her feet and faced her parents. “By Lady Raven’s love, go to your rest.” The flare from the ring was gentler, and she remained standing. Two ravens flew over and landed on the shoulders of her parents. They smiled and made their way to the black stone arch. A moment later they were gone.

“Well done, Morgan. I believe Lady Raven has made the perfect choice,” said the raven on her shoulder.

Morgan turned to stare at the bird. “It talks?”

“I am not an ‘it’. My name is Cail and the two of us are bonded through the ring to death and beyond.”

Lady Raven smiled. “Let’s return to the living world, Morgan. Time for you to begin your new life.” She rested a hand on Morgan’s shoulder, and the four walked into the glow of the white stone arch, and disappeared.

#

At the table, Morgan sighed and picked up her pen. “Cail, don’t let me get distracted. I have too much to do, and thinking about the past serves no purpose.”

“It’s something you need to write, my friend. You have put that off long enough.” He hopped over to a bowl and ate a few berries.

“I know. Still hurts when I remember my parents disappearing.” She sighed, dipped the pen into the ink, and wrote.

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Turmoil

Turmoil

The whistle and explosion shook Billy to his soul.

“Incoming!” He hit the ground, hands covering his head.

He belly crawled toward safety, seeing the foxhole ahead. More whistles and explosions filled the air, but the safety of the foxhole eluded him.

The loudest explosion rattled his teeth, his body curling up, hands clamped against his ears.

“Makeitstopmakeitstopmakeitstop!”

A hand caressed his shoulder, quiet words cutting through the turmoil. “It’s all right, Billy. You’re home, you’re safe. The fireworks is over.”

 

Anna Dobritt, 2019

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How Amazon Destroyed Publishing. Or Did It?

Nicholas C. Rossis

Typewriter | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's book Then, Amazon came along and turned everything upside down. Including typewriters!

In my previous post, How Amazon Destroyed Barnes & Noble, I explained how Amazon (alone) could not be held responsible for the bookstore’s troubles.

This post addresses another common complaint, that Amazon has destroyed publishing.

Again, things are not as black and white as that. Yes, Amazon is a shark. But it was the publishing industry which made blunder after blunder, allowing Amazon to take advantage of their mistakes.

Let’s take things from the start.

A Brief History of 20th Century Publishing

As Kristen Lamb points out in her must-read post, Goliath has Fallen & What This Means for Writers, publishing worked in a pretty standard way for over a century. Writers would take their books to publishers. If their pitch was successful, the publishers would then sign them on, publish the books, and distribute…

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How Amazon Destroyed Barnes & Noble

Nicholas C. Rossis

Woman reading | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's book What B&N should be like (in my dreams)

I apologize for the click-bait title. I only used it because I’m fed up with that claim, especially now that Barnes & Noble were sold on June 7 to a hedge fund after years of trouble. Everyone seems to be blaming Amazon for that, instead of placing the blame squarely where it belongs: the disastrous decisions of Barnes & Noble’s management.

But let’s take things from the start.

Barnes & Noble Troubles Ran Deeper Than the Amazon

After years of trouble, Barnes & Noble were sold to Elliot Advisors, a hedge fund. I’m mentioning the name because it matters. A lot. (more on that later).

According to the New York Times:

Barnes & Noble has been decimated by the strength of online booksellers like Amazon and struggled to make a profit. The company has closed more than 150 stores in the…

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A Heavenly Toasters’ Relaunch

Nicholas C. Rossis

A Heaven for Toasters | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's bookThe more observant among you may have noticed that I have been quietly experimenting with the cover of A Heaven for Toasters. I removed the kissing couple and used a single man, curious to see if that would make any difference to sales. To my surprise, it did, albeit a small one. When coupled with a promo, however, it led to some 30 sales last months.

So, I considered the experiment a success and commissioned a proper cover with a man in the style of Vaant, one of the best-sellers in the book’s genre. Will this lead to increased sales? Perhaps. The experiment continues.

I will also leave the book at $0.99 until mid-June, when I’ll raise the price back to $2.99.

Also, and to celebrate the relaunch, I decided to publish it on my blog in its entirety, along with my short stories! Here is Chapter 1…

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Search & Destroy!

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Search & Destroy!

Sidling through the densely packed words, you close in on your target, red pen or delete button at hand. You know you can’t hesitate when you take out the target. The word you aim for must go! DELETE! Another unnecessary word bites the dust.

I’m currently doing a major edit of my manuscript. Going through it literally line by line, asking myself what needs to go, what needs to stay, what can be rewritten to make it tighter, allowing a smooth flow. I used Hemingway Editor for the first run through of each chapter. The program highlighted the adverbs, hard to read sentences, passive voice instances, and spelling errors. Took a few days to get this done, but I found the task worthwhile. When making the changes to the manuscript, I made other changes to continue the flow of the words.

A wonderful man by the name of Randall Andrews, the head honcho at Writers World read the first chapter. He pointed out where things needed to be improved. I am guilty of using Laundry Lists. Lots of them.

Here’s an example:

Before

“I like working there. Sherry phoned me yesterday saying she’s bringing a new box of books purchased at an estate sale. Who knows what treasures she found? Besides, you own the shop. I’m doing my part looking out for your interests.” Jen drank some coffee. “Don’t forget, there’s the party at Lyta’s and Nicole’s tonight.”

“That’s tonight?” Ravyn drained her mug, setting it on the table at the foot of the bed. Like every morning, Ebony jumped onto the king-size bed and curled up in the middle of it. “Looks like Eb is making sure I don’t go back to bed after you leave.”

The master bedroom held a king size bed with lots of pillows, two dressers and two nightstands. Three framed reproductions of old maps hang on one wall. On the east wall are two framed photographs.

After

“I like working there. Sherry phoned yesterday. She purchased a box of books at an estate sale. Who knows what treasures she found? Besides, you own the shop. I’m looking out for your interests.” Jen finished her coffee. “Don’t forget the party tonight at Lyta’s and Nicole’s.”

“That’s tonight?” Ravyn drained her mug. Like every morning, Ebony jumped on the bed. “Looks like Eb is making sure I don’t go back to bed.”

If an item isn’t relevant to the story, don’t include it.

The comments supplied by Randall I’m applying to the rest of my work. Time-consuming, true, but I want my writing to flow.

Another program I have is Smart Edit. This cost more than Hemingway Editor, but with more options you can turn on and off. Another interesting feature, you can export the reports for reading at a later time. Here’s some of the items it checks for: Repeated Phrases and words, adverb usage, clichés, and suspect punctuation.

What else do you need to look for when doing a major edit of your masterpiece? One that comes to mind; to be verbs. Here’s the list: am, are, is, was, were, be, been, being, become, became. Use the search option in your word processing program. If an above word is highlighted, read the sentence where it’s found.

Example:

Before

I haven’t been able to find anything on my parents.

After

I haven’t found anything on my parents.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some instances when you can’t avoid using a ‘to be’ verb. It’s all right, don’t worry about it. There is such a thing as over-editing.

In reading through what I wrote, I came across another word I frequently used; thought. ‘She thought it over’, ‘they thought it over, and ‘he thought it over’. I couldn’t believe how many times I used that word. Again, the delete button comes into play. Sometimes rewriting a sentence to get rid of the word.

Look for ways to spice the writing up. Avoid weak adjectives, like the following.

Before

She’s not too smart

After

She’s ignorant

Before

This is very big

After

This is huge.

Keep an eye out for misused words as well. The one that annoys me when reading other books is the use of ‘reign’ instead of ‘rein’.

Once you finish this task, read back through the manuscript. Read it out loud to see how it flows. That’s another way to see if it flows.

Editing is a lot harder than the actual writing of the book, but changes you make show you care about the story and your potential readers.

Here are a few other words you should search for and get rid of.

Saw
Looked
Glanced
Heard
Listened
Tasted
Smelled
Felt

May the words ever flow!

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Shado and the Sausage

 

Shado and the Sausage

“Ronne, let’s go out and do something. You’ve been working on those journals for the past three days.” Shado hopped onto the desk and pecked at a pen
She leaned back and stretched her arms above her head. “I know, but there’s important information in these.”
“Let’s go to the park or something. It’s a beautiful day outside.”
“All right. We’ll go to the park for a couple hours. I can always bring a book to read or something.” She gave the raven a hard look. “Stay away from any shinies you might spot. Your collection is large enough.”
“All right.”
The mouth-watering aroma of sausages and onions altered Ronne’s course. She made her way through the crowd to the Sausage Stand, pulling out her wallet along the way. Shado rode on the top of her pack, greed filling his eyes.
*Don’t forget the mustard on mine,* he sent to her.
*I won’t forget. Extra mustard and no onions. Just the way you like it.* Ronne gave her order, accepting two sandwiches and a bottle of pop. She made her way to a shady spot away from the crowds near a tree and some bushes. *Wish I had a beer with this.*
Shado hopped to the ground and waited. *Hurry up! I’m starving.*
*Didn’t anyone teach you to be a little patient?* She set the sandwich on the ground.*Enjoy, bird.*
Before Shado could take a bite, a brown streak bolted from the bushes, grabbed the sandwich, and ran across the grass. Shado gave a shrill call and took flight after the thief. The dachshund weaved through the feet of people and Shado had to climb higher to follow the scoundrel. *Ronne! He stole my sandwich! Do something!*
Ronne wiped the tears from her face from laughing. *I’m not chasing after a wiener dog that stole your sausage. I’ll buy you another one.*
The dog dashed under a car and began to growl when Shado landed. When the raven poked his head under the car, the thief snapped at him. *Why isn’t this dog on a leash? I thought dogs in this park are supposed to leashed!*
With a shake of her head, Ronne opened the bottle and took a drink before she began to eat. *He might be a stray. Is he wearing a collar?*
Shado peeked under the car. *No collar and he does look a bit thin.* He shook his head and took to the sky. *People who don’t take care of their pets should be locked away.* He returned to Ronne and settled at her side. *Hurry up and eat, so you can buy me another sandwich. This time I want you to stand guard until I’m done eating.*
*Sir, yes, sir!* Ronne finished her sandwich. *That was good.* She returned to the cart and bought two more sandwiches and a small bag of chips. *Coming to the park was a good idea, Shado. I’m glad you suggested it. Good food and wonderful entertainment.*
*Watch it, Ronne. I may forget myself next time I fly over you.* Shado ate the sandwich as fast as he could.
She settled back against the tree and pulled out a book from her pack. *While I read you can look for shinies if you like.* Ronne glanced at the bird over the top of her book. *Try and keep out of trouble, this time.*
Shado pecked at Ronne’s shoe before taking to the sky to see what treasures he might find.

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Writing Quotes — C.K. Webb

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