Saturday, December 4, 2010

Thirteen Questions for Rebecca Ryals Russell

Greetings everyone! Please welcome MuseItUp author, Rebecca Ryals Russell. She is an ex-teacher, grades four through seven, and loved teaching English, especially writing. She lives in a 101 year-old Victorian home in Florida. She has a vacation rental business – Florida Black Bear Cabin LLC on her property. She married an Irishman new to the US by six months almost thirty-five years ago and loves him as much as when she first fell for him! They married six months after meeting. She knew by their third date that he was the one. Her daughters hope to follow their romantic beginnings. Her youngest child is ten-years-old from Vietnam. Her next is sixteen and all boy. Her next is nineteen and a freshman at U of F studying Psychology and Pre-Law. Her oldest is twenty-two, and as the ice-breaker first child, finding her way in the world. Rebecca obviously loves and enjoys each of her children!

ksm: Rebecca, thank you for joining me today and answering these questions. It’s great to have you here. My readers are excited to learn more about you and your work. Congratulations on your contract with MuseItUp Publishing.

RRR: Thank you for this opportunity, Karen.

ksm: You know I have to ask this, when and why did you start writing?

RRR:  I began writing at age eight with stories in school. Then I moved on to poetry and stories throughout high school. By college it was newspaper articles, stories, poetry and photography all published in the Broward Community College Literary Magazine for the two years I attended. I also wrote thousands of love songs (met my hubby there). Then I didn’t write for many years. All of my energies went into the classroom, and then my family. Finally, three years ago I quit teaching and wrote Odessa, my book coming out in April. Since then I can’t turn off the spigot.

ksm: Please tell me a little about your book.

RRR:  Odessa is the first book in a five book series written for YA. The book is about eighteen-year-old Myrna Watts who is from Jacksonville, FL, but wakes one morning on a distant planet populated by dragon-demons who shape-shift to blend in with the native population. A cute young man explains her reason for being there which is to fulfill her destiny and make an ancient prophecy come true. She must collect and train six teens called the Vigorios, demon-hunters, who will help the Seraphym win the final battle between good and evil. Throughout Book One, Myrna and several others are chased by monsters and demons while fighting their own inner demons. Myrna must come to grips with her feelings for three men while dealing with the repercussions of a rape two years previous.

ksm: What inspired you to write this book and why did you choose to write a YA Fantasy book?

RRR: I have always loved reading YA lit. You can’t fool teens with sloppy plots or weak characters. Writing for them is a challenge that pushes my writing skills. I also love Fantasy because of the freedom it allows to just let go of reality.

This particular book was born of my need to alert teens to what is happening around us, which is so slow not many notice. ALL of the evil/violence in my series actually occurred and came directly from recent news accounts.

ksm: What research did you do for this book?

RRR: Of course I had to research the news, which was a depressing task. I also have included A LOT of mythology in the creatures, names of the characters, relationships and all of that required research. Plus I have classic Fantasy creatures which had to be researched.

ksm: They say that books choose their authors. How has writing this particular book affected you?

RRR: My kids say I have become more religious since starting it. I guess writing about demons and evil, it’s hard not to think about both sides-the good and the bad. There have been times after writing a scene that I scared myself. I don’t particularly like feeling that someone’s watching through the window or hiding under the bed. But it comes with the story.

ksm: What do you want readers to take from your writing? What do you want them to understand and why?

RRR: I desperately want people to take a look at what is happening in the world. Listen to rock music lyrics, notice the popular movies (Saw, 6 or Them!!) and television programming, read the news. It’s a scary world we live in and it’s gradually getting worse.

ksm: Longhand or typing? Do you carry a notebook with you all the time?

RRR: Absolutely. At least one. I also bought a Netbook recently that I carry and use.

ksm: Do you consider yourself a full-time writer or do you have a day job? Where do you see yourself in five years?

RRR: As of today I am a full-time writer. I still have kids in school and activities so there are plenty of interruptions, but I spend eight to ten hours a day writing or marketing.

In five years I hope to have my series in development for a movie, video game, graphic novel and be working on more series. I love writing and reading series.

ksm: Are you working on any new projects? Can you give us a short preview?

RRR: I’m excited about the YA Dystopian Romance I’m writing for NaNoWriMo. The story is really coming along and the main characters, Izzy and Josh, are terrific. My husband read the first 10,000 words and said it was awesome, and he’s a tough critic.

There are also several middle grade books and a series I’m working on.

ksm: What is the hardest thing for you as a writer?

RRR: The hardest thing is wanting to write but being interrupted or not having time for some reason. Very frustrating.

ksm: Do you have any pearls of wisdom to pass on to aspiring writers?

RRR: Write. Before I started writing I had A LOT of trouble coming up with plots and ideas for future stories. Once I got into the habit of writing daily, I can’t keep up with the ideas and find I have to sort through for the best ones.

My new motto is: Write Often, Write Well

ksm: Can you tell us what your favorite pastime is? (other than writing!)

RRR: Lately I’ve been attending live theatre with my daughter who is attending U of F and is taking a theatre class. It has been so much fun and enlightening.

ksm: If you could do anything you’d like, go anywhere in the world without time or money constraints, what would you do and why?

RRR: I would buy a house on a cliff in southern Ireland where we would live for half of every year. My hubby is from west Ireland, County Clare, and we’ve been over numerous times. I love it there and would totally enjoy writing overlooking the Atlantic.

ksm: Thank you for joining us. How can fans find, follow and friend you?


Other Websites:






Teen Blog:

Email: myrnawatts (at) gmail (dot) com

Zarena.Nuara (at) gmail (dot) com

Seraphym Wars Prophecy Book 1: Odessa, a YA Fantasy novel with Steam Punk undertones and elements of Mythology:

On the primal planet of Dracwald, eighteen-year-old Myrna reluctantly confronts her destiny to become leader of six demon-hunting teens. Battling monsters and demons, the seven chosen Vigorios quest across evil-infected Dracwald toward the island of the Majikals to be trained for the final battle. Only after surviving this battle can Myrna return to Earth and her family. But the love of a warrior demon-hunter, a dragon egg concealed through betrayal and Destiny itself threaten to undermine that goal.

Tag Line:

Demonic influence on the rise, Myrna is recruited against her will to unite six teens as the Vigorios in the war between Heaven and Hell. -- The Seraphym Wars.

Odessa, Book 1 of the YA Seraphym Wars expected release April 1, 2011

Guardian (of the Prophecy), Prequel expected release September 1, 2011

Harpies, Book 2, expected release in 2011

Majikals, Book 3 being written

Zarena, Book 1 of the middle grade Stardust Warriors series expected release July 1, 2011

Jeremiah, Book 2 expected release November 1, 2011

Laman, Book 3 expected release February 1, 2012

Mercy, Book 4 at the publisher for approval now

Stregone, Book 5 being written

Horror Story-Don’t Make Marty Mad expected release October 1, 2011

Although Odessa is not yet available, you can read about it and reserve your copy at the buy page:

Don’t Make Marty Mad buy page.

Unedited excerpt for Odessa, Book One in The Seraphym Wars:

     I shook my head, “I can’t stab a child in the chest! I can’t kill a child!”

     He rested both hands on my knees and said in a firmer voice, “That is not a child. It is a demon. He wouldn’t think twice about killing a child. Or you. Get your sword and go now.”
     Like a zombie I rose and picked up the sword where it leaned against the corner. I carried it to the door of the bathroom where I looked back down the hall at Michael who stood there mouthing “now” and shooing me with his hands.
     I stepped into the bathroom just as she-he slid the curtain open. Twelve-year-old Tien stared at me with wide oddly-colored eyes and long black dripping hair.
     “What are you doing, Myrna?”
     I stepped forward and thrust the sword into her-his chest where I hoped the heart was. I couldn’t imagine how a simple shard of metal could destroy a demon, but I watched in fascinated horror as he swelled and changed.
     The screeching wail that ensued did not issue forth from a twelve-year-old’s throat. It climbed in timbre until the roar was a train running through the bathroom, echoing off the shiny, wet tiles. The demon, no longer able to hold the image of the child, displayed his usual golden scaly skin and horned head with large toothy maw. Claws with long nails scraped at the tiles, shredding them to dust as he thrashed madly, trying to pull the glowing sword from his chest. I wondered why the sword glowed. It hadn’t been doing that when I held it. His barbed tail lashed back and forth knocking down walls between the bathroom and utility where he struck and overturned the washing machine and water began gushing everywhere.
     It seemed to take forever, but eventually the evil creature stopped thrashing and lay still on the floor. I hesitantly stepped forward to retrieve my sword. I was sure at any moment he would grab my ankle. I tugged and pulled on the handle of the now normal-looking sword until it yanked free with a sickening glurg. Black acidic blood oozed from the wound, puddling on the tile floor as it bubbled and ate its way through to the ground.
     “Lop off the head before he disappears,” Michael called from the doorway.
     I raised the sword over my head, ignoring the few drips of black blood that fell onto my hands and brought it down hard on what should have been the demon’s neck. But as the sword dropped he poofed into thin air. The blood began bubbling on my skin and I ran to the kitchen to wash it off before it burned me any further.
     “Well. I guess you’re officially a demon slayer.” Michael sidled up beside me as I stood crying into the lather on my hands. “You’ll have some cool scars as proof, too.” He rinsed my hands with warm water and gently dried them with the towel. “Let me put something on those burns so they don’t get infected.”
     As he applied antibiotic cream and gauze he asked, “Did your sword tell you her name yet?”
     “Her?” I asked. I glanced at the black blood encrusted blade which I had been shining recently. “It’s Tyrannoctonus.”
     “Tyrant Slayer,” he rolled the name around his tongue, “I like it. Now don’t tell anyone else, ever. It gives them power you don’t want anyone else to wield.”

Photos courtesy of Rebecca Ryals Russell and MuseItUp Publishing.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Celebration Time!


Today is the last day of NaNoWriMo! We’ve all raced, sweated and slogged water, food and chocolate on the run - and now, now we are at the finish line with words in tow! Yeah! Don’t forget to validate your word count on the website so you can collect your special prizes. By the way, you can still add to your word count after validation in case you’re waiting to eek out that last little phrase.

Congratulations, NaNo’ers!

This is no small feat!

If you have won by passing 50,000 words, you must be elated! If you have not passed 50K don’t fret – as every writer knows, having some word count is far better than no word count. It’s just that those over 50K now have more work ahead of us in editing, lol!

MuseItUp Publishing Launch!

And at this turning point, MuseItUp Publishing is having our launch party all day tomorrow! Please join the readers group (this is mainstream) to be eligible for spectacular door prizes! It gets even better… we’re having a sale in the bookstore.

Holiday Special: Get 25% off any purchase from today until December 10th.
Use code: HC2010D at checkout in the discount code box before going to Paypal.

Celebration Giveaway!

To celebrate my household skating over the finish line for NaNoWriMo (me and my teens have won!) and to celebrate MuseItUp Publishing’s December Launch, I’m offering a giveaway through the good folks at CNS stores!

One lucky winner will receive a $35.00 gift certificate. All you have to do is join my blog and leave a comment on this blog post. Also, optionally, if you’d like to be on my email list for my writing newsletter, please leave your email with your comment like so: avidreader-at-gmail-dot-com. That way spammers can’t grab your email off the internet and I can send you the newsletter when it comes out. You can join my blog through Facebook on Networked Blogs or through Blogger. Through Blogger you’ll need a gmail account which is fast, easy and free.  If you have already joined this blog, just leave a comment on this post.

This will run from today through Thursday night at midnight and then Molly will pick a name out of a hat which I’ll announce on Friday in this blog post.

As some of you know, I carry my backpack with me everywhere, yes, even to fancy social events. I always have my notebook and pen handy and more often than not, my netbook as well. My teen authors-in-training are carrying notepads and pens with them everywhere in their own backpacks now – it’s becoming a family tradition...or quirk, lol! It’s never too early to encourage a budding writer and CNS has an amazing selection of children’s backpacks if you have a child who would like their very own writing kit - it would make a lovely Christmas and/or Chanukkah gift.

Hope to see you at the party tomorrow for MuseItUp Publishing and for Boston Wrimo’s, I’ll see you at the TGIO party in the Hub!

Write on!

photo credits:

Monday, November 22, 2010

December First Launch!


December 1st is MuseItUp Publishing's official launch!  We have opened two reader's groups.  One is for MuseItUp Publishing, our mainstream house, and the other is for MuseItHOT! Publishing, our erotica house.

The mainstream reader's group includes all mainstream, young adult and tween publications.  The rules are the same, come join us and chat with the authors and staff and be eligible to win a free ebook each month.  For our launch, we'll have door prizes and lots of fun things to do as well as excerpts and chat time with authors in both reader groups.  I suggest registering ahead of time so you'll be all set for the party!

And....ta da... every Monday night from 7:00 to 8:00 EST the Muse Conference chat room is open for Writer's Chat.  Throughout the year we're hosting various workshops as well. 

So plan on joining us in the mainstream reader's group for our December 1st launch!!!  And on Monday evenings for different fun and exciting workshops.

I am hosting a contest here on this blog on November 30th to celebrate the end of NaNoWriMo and Muse's launch, so keep your eye's open for that announcement soon! 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Incidentally, we almost had a turkey couple for dinner...Driving near Blue Hills the other day, I had to stop short for Ma and Pa Turkey crossing the highway.  They looked pretty tasty.  Massachusetts is loaded with wild turkeys.

photo credits:, MuseItUp Publishing

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

NaNoWriMo Trench Tips

For those of you who are safe at home outside of the literary madness known as NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, we are in the swing of it here, blasting into the second week.  I am doing NaNo updates daily on my Facebook author page for those who want to follow the frenzy.  

Today is day number nine. By midnight, each NaNo’er will have 15,003 words written in our new novels. I'm over 20,000 because I'm doing a higher word count so that come January, I will have an entire manuscript to rework.  December I will ignore the whole thing, of course. 

NaNo is such a unique experience.  It's sort of like mountain climbing.  You get all your gear ready, you've taken your safety classes and you're in that chimney climb and suddenly you think, "What the hell am I doing here?!?  Who talked me into this?!"  Or maybe, "If I hear On Belay one more time..."  Ha ha!

You find your weaknesses real fast.  Do you hate Pollyanna?  You will slam the delete button when the pep talk emails come in from the Offices of Letter and Light.  Do you despise those who are happy when you're miserable?  You will seethe at every NaNo'er who is above the necessary word count for the day.  Do you have perfectionism issues?  You may have to sit on your hands in order not to edit what you've written.  I've actually modified this by rereading what I've written and adding words in, not deleting any.  This is still editing, folks.  I obviously have a way to go...

You will also find your strengths fast.  You will be inspired by things you've never dreamed of before.  Every walk in the park and/or grocery store will speak to you about your novel.  Every conversation will contain clues for your next dialogue.  Or perhaps, if you're working on a suspense novel, every drive by the seedy part of town will have you glued to the sidewalks looking for material to incorporate.  I learned a few organizational tricks last year that have me sailing through my chapters this year.  And I learned that although I tend to tell a story "backwards" - don't ask me to explain this, you don't want to know - I found a remedy so I can still write freely but fix the order later.

Writing used to be a mandatory course in every high school curriculum because it helps you organize your thoughts so you can articulate well enough to communicate to someone else.  Sadly, it's missing in most these days.

Here's a few tips from the trenches:

1. Try to stay ahead of your word count even if only by 50 words a session.  This will give you a buffer on those days you'd rather do anything else than write.

2.  Don't be afraid to write in a new genre, or from a location and time period you know nothing about.  Do your best from memory and do your research later. 

3.  Keep a NaNo tip sheet for things that help you get through sticky places because next year you will do this all over again.  NaNo is very addicting!

4.  If you hit the doldrums, hit the forums.  You'll find lots of tips and encouragement there.  But I warn you, they can help you procrastinate!

5.  Date your novel.  I like to think our stories choose us.  It's like sitting down with my sweetheart and catching up with him at the end of the day, maybe watching a movie together.  Love it!

If you have a NaNo Trench Tip you’d like to share, please post in the comments. NaNo'ers need all the encouragement we can get as we continue on this amazing novel adventure.

For info about Sophie, my annoying little internal editor, please visit my grog, Teen Word Factory.

Happy NaNo’ing, everyone!

photo credits:

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

And.... We're Off!

Ladies and Gentlemen, NaNoWriMo has officially begun!

Midnight, October 31st, Molly, Elizabeth and I hunkered down at our various writing places in the house and waited for the minute hand to cross over... 00.00.01  on November 1st we hit the keyboard running!

If you don't know what NaNoWriMo is, (National Novel Writing Month) please go here and find out what literary madness we've committed ourselves to!  Then pray for us, ok?!  ;)

Molly's first word count yesterday clocked in at 1700, mine at 2208 and Elizabeth went way over the required daily word count of 1667 to beyond 13,000...she stayed up all night writing, she was so excited!  Needless to say she went to bed quite early last night. 

My NaNo novel this year is a YA Fantasy.  One afternoon several weeks ago, I swung the mini-van out of a parking lot after an appointment in town right into mega traffic at 3:00 p.m.

That's when I had a vision of a teen whose face had been scarred terribly in battle so that she had to wear a robe to cover herself.  She began to tell me her story and I pulled out my notebook from my backpack to take dictation at the red lights.  I have a lead foot anyway, but I made it home in record time that day, itching to get to my computer. 

I played around with some literary devices and came up with a bland title.  I don't plan anything but I do usually start out with plot points even if I never use them.  Last year I had a list of 25 and went astray by the third one, never to return to the original idea.  C'est la vie!  This year, I started some word count pages early to get some extras in if I have to miss a day - I still haven't gotten to my first plot point.  See what planning does for me?!  I write my tagline first and do character sheets after writing the story - I'd never make it in a traditional writing class.  

For now, for your reading enjoyment, here is the tagline and an excerpt with the new improved title for my NaNo 2010 novel.  NaNo is such a rush!

The Bleeding Doves of Killeen

by Karen McGrath
NaNoWriMo 2010
YA Fantasy

Roseline accepts her father's calling after his early demise; the mantle of leadership for her poor town and with it the weight of the Revolution. The secrets of an ancient order rise to the surface in the whirlpool of war as she trembles in the boots of her ancestors and raises her sword to the wind. The future is sketchy but one thing is certain, the doves are in flight signifying change. Destiny calls to us all but only one will bring a nation to it's knees and raise a world long forgotten in Killeen.

* * * *

She leaned behind the large oak tree, hidden in the background amongst the forest shrub. The King had called for this clandestine meeting and she'd obliged. Reardon moved past her quickly, touching his hand to her shoulder.

"I will handle this now. Don't let them see you."

"Aye. I have your back, my friend."

"I want for more than that."

"I cannot leave them, you know I love you..."

"Shh, if I don't survive, kill them all for me, promise? Every last one, like you did for your father?"

She smiled then allowing her hood to reveal the ragged line across her lips. "Aye, of that you can rest assured. The pleasure twould be all mine. Remember, if they make a threat, glint the sword. The doves are flying high. It is a time for victory."

He walked with purpose toward the men in the glade, with seven others. All swords were drawn on both sides.

"We were told your army is led by a woman, why is she not here? Do you mock us?"

"Nay she is among us but I speak for her now. What will you to say? We will not hear you at arms."

The men immediately sheathed and the leader and Reardon laid their swords on the ground between them as was the custom.

"The King wishes a meeting in the castle. There will be finery. He is for peace, he calls a truce."

Roseline kneeled by the tree and peered through the throng of legs beyond to the tethered horses. The dove sat on one of them; it was covered in blood. There was no time. She glinted her sword to blaze across Reardon's face in the scant sunlight through the trees. He turned discreetly and she gave the signal.

"Tell the King we will not come. Our leader has spoken." He took up his sword. The meeting was over.

"What shall we say her name is?" The man drew his sword as Reardon smiled. Good work, she thought, show no fear. The dove never lied.

"Tell him she is Roseline, the Bleeding Dove of Killeen."

Gasps and murmurs rode through the crowd and Reardon thrust his sword in the air.

"Tell your King he will not defy us or he will suffer at the hand of the Doves. I trust you have work to do, lad," he shouted.

The man flashed angry eyes on Reardon and searched the edges of the clearing. Roseline arose with her sword in the air and her men returned to the forest. She watched from the covering of her hood as the King's men rode off, rage trailing behind them. The dove painted blood in their path.

"Aye, tis trouble they bring and trouble they'll see," she said.

* * * *

Here is my NaNo author page, please friend me there!  Meanwhile you can track my progress either on my author page or here in the upper right hand corner with the little NaNo widget.

Happy NaNo'ing everyone!

photo credit:

Friday, October 29, 2010

No Baby Cthulhus Allowed

This is a free read also published on the company blog last week at MuseItUp Publishing.  I'm stepping outside me genre here with horror but I had quite a bit of fun writing both this and Shadow Trick or Treating last week.  Enjoy!

No Baby Cthulhus Allowed

“Mark, why is your room twenty degrees colder than the rest of this house, I can see my breath in here.”

He stopped clearing off his desk and gave me an exagerated sideways glance. I ignored his cute melodrama although it slayed me every time. Handsome devil that he was.

“C’mon, spit it out, I can’t believe your mom let’s you get away with turning off the heat in here!” I said, feeling the radiator for any sign of warmth. It had to be thirty-two degrees outside and dropping. It was perhaps forty in this room. I breathed out a puff of steam and stomped my feet to get my blood moving hugging my elbows. The moonlight glinted on the frost in the narrow cobbled street two stories below. I blew my breath on the window pane and traced Mark’s name on the glass.

“It’s always like this. C’mere, I’ll warm you up.” He slipped his arm around my waist and I slipped away artfully.

“Later, baby, Ellen and Joe will be here any minute and if we leave them on the doorstep for too long, you know they’ll disappear.” I protested half-heartedly. The door chimes in Mark’s parent’s house were hard to hear.

“I can live with that,” he said winking at me and I flashed him a wicked grin. I looked out over the city from his bedroom window as a wave of lights came on in the twilight, blinking through curtains and drawn shades. The view from the hill at this height was enchanting. Only a few windows were bare giving me a long distance peek into some of the posh living rooms of the old mansions on the East Side of Providence. The history in this part of town oozes out of the bricks and church bells. Secrets, ancient and forgotten beckon just beyond the well-worn steps of the Victorians and marbled gates hidden between them.

“Look, what’s that?” I pointed to a weathered house two streets over. The attic window flamed as if a fire was roaring in the fireplace inside.

“Hmm,” Mark said, hugging my shoulders and holding a film strip up to the bare bulb hanging from the ceiling. “Hey, these are pictures of us at the beach this summer. Oh, that’s Lovecraft’s house, the weird one over there? Yeah. He lived there with his aunts. Weird guy. Died in the nineteen thirties pretty young. They say his monsters killed him…”

“Who lives there now? Or is it a historical landmark?”

“Oh, I don’t know, Mom says the place is up for sale or something. No one’s in there, if that’s what you mean. He wrote all those crazy stories up there you know, right in that room at the very top. The backyard is really creepy. I’ll take you there sometime…” he said, laughing low and bugging his eyes at me. I swatted his hand gently.

“You cad! Is that his room, the one with the fire?” What was taking Ellen and Joe so long?  Maybe it would be nice if they didn’t show after all. A quiet evening watching a movie sounded good to me.

“What fire?” Mark asked edging in to the window beside me.

I looked again; he was right, no fire. It had to be a figment of my imagination. Or the last rays of the sun blazing it’s reflection off the warped panes…but the sun had gone down an hour ago and the full moon was shining bright now. Maybe it was moonlight, I supposed, and turned my thoughts to our party plans.

As I peered into the dusk, avoiding looking at Lovecraft’s house again and feeling the curse crawl down the street, two dark figures scurried to the door below. The doorbell rang and Mark disappeared to let our guests in. We had his parents beautiful home to ourselves for the evening so naturally a party was necessary. Ellen brought the wine and we set appetizers out on the dining room table. Our parents would kill us if they knew, but at seventeen we ruled the world and gave little thought to consequences.

We soon took to eating, drinking and laughing uproariously. Mark was in fine form entertaining us with his crazy jokes and monster impersonations. I put my arm on his shoulder. However cold his room was, it must not have mattered since he was always feverish. It was his metabolism, he claimed. At almost six feet tall and thin as a rail, that was believable.

He ducked into the kitchen to pull the stuffed mushrooms out of the oven while Ellen and Joe sat locking lips on the white velvet loveseat. I opened a music box on the credenza that played a haunting tune, I couldn’t quite place it... I heard Mark swear from the kitchen but Ellen and Joe were oblivious to everything. I thought he burned himself and was about to go to the bathroom for band aids when he came into the living room crawling on his knees. Ellen and Joe slid off the couch to the floor and the room swirled with a thick green smoke that covered everything, blinding me and then it separated into strands and wavered. Then it flowed through the room. Then it shot about in slow motion. What was Mark cooking? Was the stove on fire?!

“Mark?! Mark!” I called to him through the mist falling to my knees to the clear air near the floor. It smelled like sulphur but he wasn’t cooking eggs… The house was burning down and his parents were going to be furious with us. Where was the front door again? As I crawled around the couch, Ellen and Joe got on their knees and the mist disappeared as quickly as it came, into all three of them, through their eyes, ears and mouths.

“Guys, did you see that?!” I screeched at them.

“No, I didn’t see a thing,” Mark growled, snarling and pawing the Oriental rug with his long fingers. His eyes shone with an unholy light and I gulped audibly. Ellen writhed and pounced a little too close to me and Joe nudged her forward. They seemed like… like animals…

“Dear God, what the hell is going on?!” I shrieked.

They came closer and closer, circling me, making strange gutteral noises. They smacked their lips flicking their tongues and there was a clicking sound coming from somewhere. Finally standing up, I dodged one of them and scrambled to the front door but my conscience kicked in; I had to save them. They were… howling. My stomach lurched. I had to do something.

“Shanta kolaman tantook!” I shouted into the wild array of hostile noises. “Shantaloaman kataston deetanto!”

Mark jumped to his feet and ran toward me.

“Shantalovan! Mekanto, statalomato!” He stopped short and shook his head.

“Karen, are you alright!?” he yelled.

Tears streamed down my face as the smoke swirled behind him and fled out the window. He looked normal again and I ran to his arms. Ellen and Joe stood up, snarls ravaging their faces. Mark shot me a look of horror and I pushed myself between them and him.

“Chilanto makan, venatak lo asvan!” I cried out at my friends transforming into the most bizarre things I’d ever seen.

Ellen shook and Joe slumped onto the couch. She fell at his side and green mist poured out of her eyes onto the floor and sped to the windows. Joe opened his mouth and it slithered out of him, too. They shivered for a moment, and then turned to stare at me.

“Karen, are you alright? What the heck are you saying?” Ellen said, fixing stray hairs that had come loose from her head band in the fray. She looked none the worse for the wear. Joe tucked in his shirt, his face turning red.

Mark held me as I stifled my sobs and tried to compose myself.

“You’re scaring me. That is the craziest thing I’ve ever seen.” I buried my face in Marks chest.

“What language are you speaking, we can’t understand you, sweetheart,” Mark said smoothing my hair with his hands.

“Umm, nothing, I was speaking English, what are you saying?”

I relaxed realizing my friends were completely normal again.

Safe, we were all safe, finally.

“Whatever that was, it was cool,” Joe said. “But, what were you saying?”

“Look, guys, I was speaking English the whole time, I don’t know why you didn’t understand me unless that green stuff stopped your ears up…”

Ellen flipped her head sideways and stared at me. “I think I heard you, but you were saying something in another language. I heard you in my head in English. What was it? What green stuff? I didn’t see any green stuff. What have you been drinking, girl?”

“Nevermind. Maybe we should just have some more wine and play a board game, huh? I think I’ve had enough excitement for awhile. Mark, is there a decent movie on tonight?”

“Well, we can always take a walk to Lovecraft’s backyard tonight, that should be a hoot,” he offered.

NO! I mean, I’d rather sit here with you guys and hang out. Are there any appetizers left?” Anything to stay away from that house. The curse had come from there, I was sure of it.

“Yes, help me get the other batch from the oven?”

Once in the kitchen I recovered more and tried to piece it together.

“Mark, do you believe in Lovecraft’s monsters?”

“No, he was a weird old guy. Crazy as the day is long. Do you?”

“Nah, I believe in monsters but I don’t think they were his. I think he just saw things. Scary things.”

“Yeah, maybe that’s why my bedroom is so cold. Spirits like to play around with humans sometimes.”

“Yeah. Well, they can’t get in here now.”

“Karen, did you see the looks on Ellen and Joe when they got up off the floor. What were they doing on the floor? They snarled. I saw something sort of drain out of them, did you see that?”

He had no clue he had been acting the same way moments before.

I ran to his arms and lifted my chin to look up into his clear brown eyes. “Kiss me quick, baby. I don’t want to lose you again.”

“Again? What do you mean again? You’re not going to lose me, ever!”

He flashed me his best smile then and gave me that cute little sideways look. The melodrama was thick and a welcome comfort at that point. Mark was back and green smoke be damned, we were going to have a good night anyway. I was more than a little relieved we all returned from the edge of hell, and not too sure how it happened, but I’ve heard Lovecraft was never as lucky.

This is a true story. The names have been changed to protect the innocent. H.P. Lovecraft’s stories were a mix of horror, fantasy, sci-fi and weird fiction. He claimed there is a world beyond us where beasties live that are incredibly evil. I don’t think he was entirely wrong.

Photo credits:

Monday, October 25, 2010

Free Reads!

Here is part three and the conclusion for this short story, Shadow Trick or Treating.  Check back on Friday for my memoir story about H.P. Lovecraft!

Shadow Trick or Treating
Part Three

Mom killed a Shadow Man? They Trick or Treat for children?!

I motioned for my sibs to come out and they climbed out of the gutter dragging their candy bags in the grass. Michael lost a shoe somewhere and Ava’s trousers were covered in mud. We’d find it in the morning, I told him and promised Ava I’d hide her from Mom seeing her muddy pants, evidence of the gutter.

“It’s ok to go in,” I whispered. “Mom got the one guarding the house.” Ava gave me a funny look, but then she always did that. There was movement in the trees near the back door, but it must have been the wind. We bolted to the comforting light of the back porch. Mom got there when we did, coming out of nowhere. I didn’t even hear her turn off the car but I wasn’t thinking much about it then.

“Look! Here’s that Shadow Man.” Mom kicked a big black pile of cloth on the porch and we stood there in shock. Was it really dead? It looked like it moved a bit so we ran screaming by it.

“We’ll just leave it outside for the Shadow Men to pick up.” She said laughing.

Maybe she was making it up but sitting at the kitchen table in the kitchen light, we wanted to forget we had seen them at all. I didn’t want to know how she killed it, I was scared enough. We counted our loot and I got my share for standing watch on the rich street. Three Baby Ruth’s from Ava, Two O’Henry’s from Michael and a pile of Tootsie Rolls and gum balls. It wasn’t anything near what they got on that street but it was good enough for me. I didn’t want to go Trick or Treating again for a very long time.

As we chomped our candy, Mom leaned over and asked for a candy bar.

“Doesn’t dear old Mom get some, too? After all, I killed one of those creatures. “

We laughed…nervously.

“Aw, Mom, there’s no such thing as shadow men. They’re ghosts. We know you didn’t kill one, that’s just one of Dad’s old tarps for the tent. You don’t have to kid us.”

“Is that right?” She asked grinning. She made us all some hot chocolate and put us to bed but before saying prayers with us, she ducked into her room for a minute and came out with a top hat on.

We laughed again…more nervously.

I slept through the night, walking to four hundred houses wore me out, I didn’t even dream.

Mom chuckled over breakfast. “Darn old shadow men invade my neighborhood on Halloween, I don’t think they’ll do that again.” She left to get something in the basement, I forget what it was she said she needed. I didn’t think anything of it…then.

We guffawed when she was out of hearing range. Mom had really lost it, we told each other. Only kids see Shadow Men, right? Since when do grown-ups play kid games? Me, my brother and my sister looked at each suddenly, my brother’s mouth forming a perfect circle. I knew what they were thinking, was it a game? It was Mom who told us about them in the beginning, way back when...

We ran to the porch to see if the tarp was there. It wasn’t. Had the Shadow Men come for the body? At least we didn’t have to call the cops to come get it. We traipsed back to the table to finish breakfast when Michael dropped his fork on the floor and ran to the pantry to get another one. When Ava and I heard the ting on the floor of another fork falling, we ran after him. He was staring out the back window. We joined him in time to see Mom dragging the tarp and the body out to our garbage bin. I suddenly became aware of four little hands clutching my arms, two on either side of me. We couldn’t move, not one of us. We could only stare in shock.

I noticed her scarlet mouth first and then her flattened nose. Her skin was unnaturally white and her hair blew away in the November wind. She dropped the body and ran after the wig. For a moment she twirled her hands around each other in that weird sort of way. I could almost hear her say something in that high pitched language and make those slurping noises through the window but I must have imagined it. Then I saw the fangs, millions of them like curved jagged combs in her gums, on the top, and on the bottom. One leg flopped out of the tarp and the Shadow stuffed it back in but not before we saw Mom’s favorite shoe on the foot.

Michael regained his speech first. “We’ll pretend, ok?” he pleaded. “We’ll just pretend we don’t know and maybe it will go away. I mean, if we don’t say anything, it has to pretend to be our mom, right?”

Sheesh, little kids… “How long do you think it will do that before it eats us? You heard it, this is Shadow Trick or Treat for them. Look what it did to Mom. You can stay but I’m outta here. Grab the candy and run!” I yelled.

All I know is I ran way past the seven blocks we were allowed to go in the neighborhood. At one point I turned around and my sibs almost knocked me down running into me. Not bad for little kid legs, keeping up with me racing the wind, that’s for sure. Never mind carrying those bulging pillowcases, too. I figure that much candy will keep us for a week or two before we have to go home, we can keep watch from under the William’s porch. Maybe by then the Shadow Mom will be gone... that is, if they haven’t taken over the neighborhood.

Beware the Shadow Men!

photo credits:

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Free Reads!

Here is part two for your reading enjoyment.  Part three will publish tomorrow at noon.  This one's for the Tweensters although I love a good mystery/horror story no matter the ages!

Shadow Trick or Treating
Part Two

Then I heard them...

They were right in front of my bush on the sidewalk… and they were whispering.

Up close they didn’t look that scary, maybe I could reason with them if it came to that. I was just about to step out of the shrub when I caught my name in the middle of their gibberish, then my brother’s and my sister’s. I froze. My legs refused to move. I peeked through the leaves to see what was happening, holding my breath and willing my heart to slow down.

One spun his face toward me, his beady eyes flicking all around like an insect. He had no nose, and just a small slit for a mouth. Then I heard something that made my insides clench and my hair curl. One spoke in English. To this day I don’t know if they really did or if some sound warp made me able to understand them.

“Where did the tall one go?” one of them said, his voice high and fast.

“I don’t know but she left the smaller ones alone. Heh, heh, heh. We can pick off the runts now.”

“Did she go home?”

“The guard hasn’t seen her yet and he’s right outside her back door.”

“Well, no mind. Let's get the little ones and eat them behind the Temple. Then we’ll find her.”

They smiled viciously, their mouths turning scarlet in the street light. My blood pounded in my veins, I was sure they could hear it. I had to get to Ava and Michael. I had to find them immediately!

The Shadow Men hovered over the sidewalk twirling their hands together and making slurping noises. I swore I saw fangs when they laughed, fangs that looked like the fine teeth in a comb. I choked down my cries of terror. If they found me now, my siblings didn’t have a chance, that was certain. They floated over the curb in a weird little dance. I bit my fist stopping my screams.

I scanned for lights in nearby houses but Halloween suddenly seemed long over. Folks were going to bed. It had to be ten o’clock. If we were any later Mom would be searching for us in the car soon, that is, if the guard back at the house hadn’t gotten her already.

Finally they moved along and I crawled out from behind the bush. I watched carefully until they were about half a block away and I ran to Rochambeau Avenue and one block up and one block over to head Michael and Ava off at the middle pass. I hung behind a large maple tree trying to catch my breath in the dark. Ten minutes dragged by and I didn’t see them. Then I heard rustling and giggling. I spotted them a few houses down. The Shadow Men were just beyond them hiding behind some cars.

The kids went inside one of the houses; thank God, they were safe for a moment. The Shadow Men positioned themselves ahead at the next house, waiting for them in the bushes. Once Michael and Ava got their next treat, they were toast.

My siblings came out to the street and ran to the next house. The Shadow Men loomed out of the shrubs and opened their black arms. I whipped a rock down the street in the opposite direction which scared the heck out of Ava and Michael so they screamed bloody murder. Lights came on in a few of the houses and the ghouls faded into the shadows, snarling. Someone called out and my sibs said they were ok. They ran up the sidewalk and I stood out from the tree so they could see me. I put my fingers to my lips. They halted and almost dashed the other way until they realized it was me.

“Shadow Men, over there,” I whispered. “They’re after us.”

They shook in their hobo suspenders, their little faces red from carrying their overstuffed candy bags. What a haul. I begged them to ditch the bags but they refused. Each one had to weigh more than each of them, we’d go faster if we left the bags but no…

“We got the leftovers,” Michael said proudly.

Ava hid hers behind her back; it was a losing battle to get them to drop them.

I whispered the plan quickly. We threw more rocks and the neighbors came out. The porch lights snapped on stopping the Shadow Men from following us. We saw them fidgeting in the shadows and licking their scarlet lips. They smiled at us twirling their hands in front of them.

We dashed around the block and down the back road behind Rochambeau. Once we hit our row of houses, we ducked into the backyards we knew like the back of our hands and hid behind the garbage bins. The shadow men were in hot pursuit but they lost sight of us and split up. We squatted behind the bins moving our lips in silent prayer. And gorging on chocolate bars for extra energy, whipping the wrappers in the trash.

We waited between our house and the William’s when I realized the guard might still be at the back door. Then we heard the car start in the garage. I made Ava and Michael huddle in the cellar window gutter. Good thing they were small, they just fit with their candy bags. Their heads barely cleared the ground. I circled around to the door of the garage.

Mom caught me in the glare of the headlights.

“Where the heck have you been? Where’s your sister and brother?” She was ripping mad but I was so relieved she was alive. “Do you know it’s eleven o’clock at night?” Of course I knew it was night but I wasn’t about to tell her that then.

“There were so many houses. Ava and Michael are in the back yard.” I didn’t dare tell her they were in the window gutter, Dad’d punish us all for sure.

“Well, go get them and get in the house right away. And just step over the Shadow Man, when you walk in. I had to kill one. Why they insist on coming here for Halloween I’ll never know. Children are not candy, they can’t just come to our house and expect us to give away our children…”

“What? Yes, m’am,” I said scurrying through the back yard. Mom killed a Shadow Man? They Trick or Treat for children?!

Part three tomorrow at noon!

photo credits:

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Free Reads!

Hey everyone!  I'm recuperating from the writing whirlwind at the Muse Online Writer's Conference.  It was spectacular. I presented the workshop Sacrificing Your Novel to the Editor Gods? which I plan to available as a PDF on this blog soon.  I took some great workshops on author promotion, making book trailers, and quick plotting.  All of this is excellent info at any time but especially now, just before NaNoWriMo starts November 1st.  Any one else doing NaNo this year?  Please friend me!  My id is Karen McGrath. 

I've also been hostessing at the company blog for Muse for our Masquerade Festival in October.  I posted a number of ghoul things, lol, and here is one of my free reads for the Tween Set.  The next installment will publish tomorrow so stay tuned...

Shadow Trick or Treating

(the real reason parents accompany their children on Halloween nowadays...)

Instead of the usual sheet with holes cut for eyes, I decided to wear black and a pointy hat Mom picked up from the local drugstore. The better to hide from the Shadows, I thought. My siblings were far more inventive with hobo outfits. The big day was here. We drooled for hours waiting for the sun to set and the moon to rise. Candy time!

We slipped the cases off our pillows and lined up at the back door for last minute instructions from Mom. Don’t go past Hope St., don’t go in the other direction past Main St. And only one street on either side of ours, Rochambeau. I tabbed it in my head. Seven blocks east to west, three streets north to south, counting both sides of the streets at ten houses a block, it was a little more than four hundred houses altogether! Maybe I should have grabbed another pillow case, just to make sure I could carry all the loot.

“And visit the William’s…” Mom was saying bringing me back from candy heaven. “They want to see your costumes. If anyone invites you inside their house, be polite but don’t wear out your welcome and stay together. I won’t be able to find you in the dark if you get separated.”

“K, Mom, bye,” we called.

“Watch out for the Shadow Men,” She yelled. Yeah, yeah, stupid legend. I saw one once but he ran when I yelled. That was two years ago. Supposedly they came here every Halloween but you know, that’s just one of those grown-up tricks to make you go home on time.

I walked a lot faster than my baby sister and brother, leader of the motley pack that I was at twelve years old to their eight and nine. They beseeched me with dirty hobo-smeared faces as soon as we got out into the night.

“We’re going to the street behind the Temple. Do you want to go?” They asked, eyes shining with candy greed. Granted, Mom’d never know.

“Yeah, let’s go!” I said, racing to the first house next to ours.

The William’s loved our costumes and told us to stop in on the way back home to show them our haul and have a cup of hot chocolate. We said yes, but the minute we hit the streets again, the idea vaporized as thoughts of chocolate danced in our minds.

“Look, that house has no outside light but the living room one is on. Whaddya think?” Michael called.

“Yeah, ring the bell.”

We breathed heavy. I felt the sweat through my grease make-up. No answer. Drat… We trudged to the next house. No light. The next one, no light. The next one, a score – a handful of jawbreakers, yes! And a popcorn ball each, gross.

The next one had a light, too. We fidgeted, banging on the door. My tunic was itchy.

“Trick or Treat!” we screamed in unison as loud as we possibly could. A nice old lady handed us each an Almond Joy bar and we drooled into our pillowcases.

“Are you goblins?” she asked in that baby voice all kids hate.

She acted surprised that we weren’t. What is it with adults anyway? She even had her glasses on. We scrambled by some other kids pushing us on the way down the path to the sidewalk again. My brother fell in the leaves and the older kids laughed. Ava kicked one of their shins before the nice old lady distracted them with her goblin question. We heard the snickers.

Our regular route took hours it seemed and my feet hurt. By the time we got back to the Temple, our half way marker, most of the neighborhood kids were long gone, there were just a few teenagers running around boo-ing at stray kids. Michael was panting and Ava whimpered but we pressed on. We dragged ourselves to the extra street. This was where the rich people lived where the candy was always better.

Then I saw them.

Just out of the corner of my eye, mind you.

Three of them in long black trench coats and top hats, faces whiter than the moon. They floated along and I held my breath. They spotted us and ducked behind some trees.

“Look you two, we should go home. The shadow men are here.” I whispered huddling them together.

“What?” My brother asked incredulously, his eyes like saucers.

“Yeah, keep it down, they’ll hear you! They saw us and hid in the trees, maybe they left. I don’t want them to catch us.”

“For crying out loud, they’re ghosts, they can’t touch us,” my sister said, stomping her feet.

“I’m not so sure… and I don’t want to find out. They’re probably out ‘cause everyone will think they’re kids like us. They can get away with it, you know? I never heard of them actually taking a kid but we better hurry home.”

My brother shook in his sneakers and my sister pouted.

“Alright,” I said giving in. They’d never agree to call it a night. “I’ll wait here in the bushes for you, ok? If they follow you, I’ll run around the other block and meet you at the end and we’ll take the other way home, got it? If you don’t see me, come back here and get me before you head home.”

Two little hobo faces nodded quickly with gleaming eyes. I saw candy dancing in their eyes, I was sure of it. And I was left alone to guard.

“You guys owe me.” They double scout promised me extra M & M’s before I let them take off.

They looked both ways and tore into the new street. I found a small bush and set up camp behind it. I would have loved some of that hot chocolate from the William’s right about then. The wind whipped through my hair and my sweaty tunic making me colder by the minute. I hunkered down rubbing my sore calves that felt like aching lead weights.

Then I heard them...

Part two will publish tomorrow at noon so stay tuned!

photo credits: