This was a close one. I wrote the story in one sitting on the 25th (links were due on the 22nd, but I know the organizer :D).
My next goal is to write up an idea and a reading sample for a semi-open call of a German publisher before the end of May. We’ll see how that will go. I’ll try to keep you posted.
Now, enjoy the story and remember to visit the other participants’ websites too. And leave a comment!
“Are you coming to the dance club tonight?”, Elsbeth asked Vinny as they sat cross-legged on the flowery duvet on Vinny’s bed. “It’s going to be girls night, and you so love to dance.”
“I’d be all alone.” Vinny shuddered. She’d never gone anywhere without at least one family member around. The very idea scared her. What if the others didn’t like her? What if she needed help? Safety lay in numbers.
Elsbeth laughed. “It’s an evening of dance and merriment. There’s nothing to be afraid of.”
Vinny lay back and stared at the white ceiling of her room with her heart thundering in her chest. Elsbeth had gone so many times already, but whenever asked, Vinny had declined. Somehow it seemed her duty to agree this time, but that didn’t make the decision any easier. Even the green and yellow wallpaper didn’t calm her nerves like it normally did.
“Can’t Joe come along?” She knew Elsbeth liked Joe.
“He’s got two left feet.” Elsbeth slipped off the bed and opened the wardrobe. “You could finally wear your new dress.” She pulled out a white dress with black polka dots. The body fitting top and the wide skirt with its seven layers of underskirts were Vinny’s pride and she’d never had a chance to put it on so far.
Breathing deeply, Vinny nodded. “Okay. I’ll come. But promise you won’t leave me alone.”
“I swear.” Elsbeth grinned from one ear to the next, and her teeth gleamed in the sunlight falling through the yellow curtains.
The dance hall smelled strongly of straw which was no wonder since it used to be a barn. The familiar scent calmed Vinny’s nerves somewhat.
“See, it’s not as bad as you thought.” Elsbeth dragged her deeper into the throng of people. “Let’s show off your dress.”
Vinny found it hard to follow her. Too many people milled around, and soon Elsbeth was lost in the sea of faces. The full moon was already up, and the music was loud enough to wake the dead, and everyone seemed to be determined to move to the rhythm one way or the other. Aside from the DJ’s table and a hastily constructed counter where drinks were sold, the room was bare. As far as Vinny could tell, it was better that way. Hundreds of teens her age swayed on the dance floor—although Vinny wasn’t sure how they could tell the area for dancing from the area for socializing.
“Hello. Beauty.” Warm breath caressed her ear. “All by yourself on a lovely night like this?”
She flinched and turned, finding herself nose to nose with a young man slightly older than her. Jared was the head of her school’s soccer team, and she’d dreamed of him for at least two years. His eyes held a glitter that made her already wobbly legs shake. His smile created dimples in his long, handsome face. Vinny’s heart raced, even though the scent of dog, drifting off of him, didn’t suit him at all.
“My friend …” She tried to look around, but the young man had already grabbed her arm.
“I’ll show you the ropes until he shows up.” Jared nodded toward the bar. “Care for a drink?”
Ignoring her answer, he pulled her along, waved at the barkeeper, and handed her a cocktail glass with something that smelled of lemon with a tangy note to it.
Vinny closed her eyes for a moment and let his flirting wash over her. It felt so good. If it hadn’t been for her exceptional sense of smell, she could have fallen for him. But so … this had gone on long enough. She opened her eyes again, breathed deeply to gather her resolve, and said. “Sorry, but I don’t drink anything but plain water. I will leave now.”
The smile on Jared’s face faltered, but then returned full force. “Naturally I will accompany you, lovely lady.” Grabbing Vinny’s arm, he headed for the rear exit, a small door set into the wall behind the counter. His fingers dug into her arm.
Vinny allowed him to pull her along and used the time to scan the dance floor for Elsbeth but she was nowhere in sight. She should have known better than to trust her promises. Elsbeth always meant well but she just didn’t understand how hard it was for Vinny and her family in a town of were-wolves.
Once through the door, Jared turned and pushed her against the barn’s wall. One arm raised over her head, the other still holding her arm, his face closed in on Vinny.
Albeit reluctantly, she turned her head sideways to evade his kiss. “I’m quite sorry,” she said. “But I am not interested in dating a wolf.”
“Not even an alpha?” His eyes grew darker. “You’re beautiful and your smell is so enticing.”
His pheromones hung in the air like a heady perfume. Vinny’s heart raced and she wanted nothing more than to throw herself into his arms.
“I can feel that you’re a were too.” He stared into her eyes without coming any closer. “Don’t you feel it too?”
Vinny couldn’t answer. Her blood roared in her ears and the need to share the night with another were, burned in her blood. If only it hadn’t been full moon.
“Be mine tonight,” Jared’s whisper filled her senses. “And I’ll be yours forever.”
Vinny didn’t manage to speak. The change she had suppressed for so many years finally had overcome her. A loud moan escaped her lips as her bones melted and reorganized themselves.
Jared stood back, his eyes wide with wonder. “You’re a …”
“A were-cow, yes.” Elsbeth stepped out of the door, aiming a handgun at him. “And if you harm even a single hair on her body, I’ll pump a round of silver bullets into you.”
“Why would I harm her?” Jared didn’t even look at Elsbeth. “She’s perfect. Beautiful and perfect.”
Vinny saw the adoration on his face and for the first time ever, she felt she might belong after all.
He groaned as the change came over him, too.
Vinny’s heart danced as his body settled into that of a strong, healthy bull. Side by side, they walked away into the night, leaving behind a girl with a gun and an open mouth.
I have always been awed by cats even though I don’t tolerate them in my house. I just don’t like the way they climb over tables and clean kitchen surfaces. Also, I grew up with dogs and have no idea how I’d go about training a cat not to seek the highest vantage point. It’s their instinct. But that’s okay. I can admire them from afar or when they belong to someone else. And in fiction of course.
There are so many great stories with cats out there. They can be found in all kinds of stories which seems logical considering the fact that cats always show up in unexpected places. And although I’m a dog person (mostly), cats have invaded my fiction too. You can read one of them in a bundle with ten stories from varying genres all with cats which will be available for three weeks only.
But the best thing is that you get to decide how much you pay. For as little as $5 (or the equivalent in your currency plus applicable tax) you’ll get four full novels: Unfair Magic by Bonnie Elizabeth, Delectable Mountain Quilting by Debbie Mumford, Otherside by Barbara G.Tarn, and The Task of Auntie Dido by Ryan M. Williams. If you’re willing to spend $20 or more, you’ll get four more bonus novels/novellas (The Fates Trilogy by Kristine Grayson, Bookshop Witch by T. Thorn Coyle, The Inheritance by Katharina Gerlach (me), and Big Eyes by Dean Wesley Smith) and two short story anthologies (Unexpected Cats by Annie Reed (exclusive to this bundle!), and The Year of the Cat: A Cat of Fantastic Whims by Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith).
Oh, and if you decide to get our stories, please do let us know how you liked them. You can do that on Amazon, B&N, Goodreads, iBooks, or any place else that allows you to post your opinion.
Here’s what Dean Wesely Smith has to say about the bundle (excerpt only, read the full post on the bundle’s website):
Every type of story imaginable, a writer has put a cat in it.
And yes, I (Dean) am no exception to that rule.
And neither is my wife, writer Kristine Kathryn Rusch. In fact, in this bundle, Kris has added in her Fates Trilogy, three of her fun fantasy novels in one bundle written under the name Kristine Grayson. Yes, all kinds of cats.
For those of you who don’t know, Kristine Kathryn Rusch is a USA Today and New York Times bestseller with almost 200 novels and hundreds and hundreds of short stories to her credit.
So when I started to put together this fun bundle, after getting the bundle from Kris, I got a book from German author Katharina Gerlach, who goes by the name Cat. Not kidding. She had a wonderful book titled THE INHERITANCE that is a fantasy retelling of Puss in Boots. A really fun read.
Cat has published almost thirty novels and books, mostly in English, and has had her stories picked up by major magazines and anthologies, including I must say, my magazine, Pulphouse Fiction Magazine.
Staying with fantasy books for the moment, Barbara G. Tarn writes mostly fantasy novels and short stories of all types. She sent in a novella titled OTHERSIDE where a cat turns into a man through a magic steampunk world portal and it gets even crazier from there. Really fun.
I also got from writers two different paranormal mystery novels that have cats. The first novel is from Bonnie Elizabeth titled UNFAIR MAGIC which is in her Familiar Café series. Bonnie not only writes about cats, but she lives with cats as well.
The second paranormal mystery I got was from T. Thorn Coyle titled BOOKSHOP WITCH. This is in her Seashell Cove Paranormal Mystery series. Thorn is a prolific writer of both fiction and nonfiction.
Moving from paranormal mystery to straight cozy mystery, Debbie Mumford offered up DELECTABLE MOUNTAIN QUILTING which is in her Kristi Lundrigan series. Debbie is known for writing mostly fantasy, paranormal romance, and science fiction as well as cozy mystery under her Debbie Mumford name. She also writes science fiction and fantasy for young adults under her Deb Logan name.
Now taking cozy mystery even one step farther into the cat world, Ryan M. Williams gives us THE TASK OF AUNTIE DIDO in his C. Auguste Dupin series. And this book is from the cat’s point of view. Great fun and it works completely as a cozy mystery. Ryan works as a full time librarian.
I added a novella into the mix called BIG EYES. The novella is in my Pakhet Jones series. Pakhet is a superhero in the world of cats, existing in the Poker Boy universe. And yes, in this novella, Poker Boy makes a couple of guest appearances as Pakhet and other gods and superheroes struggle to find out who is attempting to kill cats with a powerful new weapon. For those who don’t know me, I am a USA Today and New York Times bestselling writer of over 200 novels and many other books. I also edit the popular cross-genre magazine Pulphouse Fiction Magazine.
Now, a bundle called CATTITUDE would not be complete without two books full of cat short stories. So I contacted Annie Reed, a writer of immense skill and a cat lover bar none. She just happened to have a collection of cat stories called UNEXPECTED CATS which are tales of fantastic felines. Annie was nice enough to hold publication on the collection so that it could be exclusive to this bundle. I have bought a story from Annie for every issue now of Pulphouse Fiction Magazine. That’s how good she is.
And to round off the bundle, a year ago Kris and I edited THE YEAR OF THE CAT, twelve volumes of nothing but cat stories. So I thought it would be great fun to put in one of those titled A CAT OF FANTASTIC WHIMS.
And remember, when you grab this fantastic bundle that will only last for three short weeks, toss in a little for our charity, AbleGamers. A fantastic cause.
I hope you enjoy all the great cat stories in this bundle. I sure had a wonderful time putting it all together. – Dean Wesley Smith
Looking at the year I feel positively SciFi. 😀
Being buried in tax papers, I was glad that someone reminded me of the quarterly bloghop. This story is a little darker than usual. Blame it on the weather or on my mood. I still hope you’ll like it. You’ll also get free short stories from the other participants. As usual there’s a list at the end of this post. Enjoy and leave a comment!
The Beauty of Rainstorms
Frozen in my bay window seat I seek solace in neat rows of books, well placed trinkets, and carefully arranged furniture whenever lightning illuminates them.
I flinch at every earsplitting thunder-crack, remembering the earth-shaking explosions, the sirens, and how – secretly shivering with fear – Mother used to read to me in the bomb shelter’s gloom. Her voice was all that kept panic at bay. Her words painted pictures in my head, so vividly I no longer smelled the dust hanging in the air.
I don’t want to think of our flight. The waves’ thunder, the salt on my lips and skin, the burning thirst – worse than hunger – and the scared gazes of men, women, and children are burnt into my soul. Although I cannot know the number of boats like ours that were swallowed by the ocean, I feel their once living cargo in my heart. A stone of the beach we landed at still lies on one of my shelves. It gives me strength when my heart can no longer bear the burden of my fear.
Now, I’m a mother myself and I read to my own daughter. During thunderstorms I sometimes hide in her bed, sucking in the scent of diapers and milk. Then, she’ll close her tiny arms around my neck, and I know the world won’t end – like it didn’t end in the bunker, like it didn’t end on the ocean.
If only my sweet daughter would be here with me now. Her room is endlessly far away, and my legs don’t obey. The storm’s chaos and noise paralyses me. Like a laughing giant, it plays with my memories, my fate – one of many – as if to prove how unimportant one human life is. And still, I’m here, even though I I sit and stare silently at my orderly room, fighting panic.
The door opens and my daughter bursts in, delighted by every kaboom. Her laughter against the giants’ grumbling. My living whirlwind careens through my sanctuary and hugs me with all her strength. While she holds me, she talks about everything and nothing until I finally relax.
Maybe with her it’s possible to rediscover the beauty of rainstorms.
Luckily someone reminded me of the quarterly bloghop, and I managed to write a story for it. Naturally, it is slightly spooky. It’s Halloween soon, after all. You’ll also get free short stories from the other participants. As usual there’s a list at the end of this post. Enjoy and leave a comment!
I hated the morning’s blinding light in my eyes, but welcomed it nonetheless for I must have missed the alarm. I just couldn’t afford to arrive late at work again, especially after the scary dream of how I had prepared for work. The details were fading, but I remembered the tube station and lots of people running my way.
My mouth tasted like something had died on my tongue, but I had no time to brush my teeth and wasn’t in the mood for coffee.
I left the house in a hurry. As I walked swiftly towards the tube station, I wondered if I’d locked the front door. I wasn’t quite sure.
The air smelled of lilacs that filled the tiny front gardens of my neighborhood. When was the last time, I’d noticed? Again, the sun blinded me.
The tube arrived just as I jogged up the last few steps to the raised platform. I entered behind a stocky man in suit and tie. Thankfully the car was nearly empty, but I still remained standing. There were always one or two people who ignored the unwritten rule of not looking directly at others. Some even wanted to talk, and that was something I abhorred this early in the morning.
My gaze traveled over the few people spaced out in the car. Some were reading, some used earphones and had their eyes closed, and a young girl, probably a teen on her way to school, looked in my direction. Her gaze went past me as if she hadn’t seen me at all. Perfect.
I got off at my usual stop, although I had trouble with the electric doorknob. It only did its duty when the schoolgirl pressed it. Maybe it didn’t like the sweat on my hands.
My throat constricted the closer I got to the office building where I worked. Hopefully I wasn’t too late. I needed the job to pay off the mortgage. I took the stairs to the third floor to avoid co-workers and my boss and managed to reach my place in the cube farm without anyone noticing. The scent of coffee hanging in the otherwise fetid air was particularly strong this morning.
Relieved I sank onto the ergonomic chair that came with the gray table and the computer in the cube and leaned back. I’d have to water my plant soon. It looked slightly droopy.
“Have you seen Finlay?” My boss’ voice sounded too close for comfort, so I bent over my keyboard and pretended to type although the computer wasn’t even running yet.
“Nope, not yet.” The voice of the co-worker in the next cubicle sounded annoyingly happy. “Maybe he’s late. There’ve been delays on the tube lines in his direction.”
“He’d better not.” The boss sounded annoyed, so I ducked even deeper. “Tell him to see me as soon as he shows up.”
My gaze wandered to the clock at the wall over the door to my boss’ office. Impossible! It was nearly time for lunch. A bright light reflected from the clock’s glass, and I had to close my eyes.
I stood in front of the Sludge Maker, as my co-worker called the coffee machine in the tiny, nondescript kitchen with its gray cupboards and counter top, and pondered whether I should pour myself a cup or not. I didn’t really like the stuff this machine produced.
Wait a moment. I’d forgotten to punch in. Leaving the Sludge Maker behind, I hurried toward the timer. Just as I left the kitchen, one of my co-workers entered. It was the petite brunette from the far corner that I’d admired secretly. And she didn’t see me.
Before I could step aside, she passed right through me. What the …
“Folks!” The boss’ voice rang over the low hubbub of the office and any noise died immediately. My co-workers stood up to better see him. I, too, turned toward him. Behind me, the petite brunette looked out of the kitchen. Her gaze tingled in my neck, but I didn’t turn. It was too creepy to be watched by a ghost.
“I am sorry to inform you,” the boss’ voice sounded strangely strangled, “that your co-worker Finlay Harper has passed away in the hospital after having a heart attack on the tube this morning. We will prepare …”
Not hearing the rest of what he had to say, I could feel my mouth hanging open, but my mind was too numb to do anything about it. Dead? I was the ghost, not the brunette? But … but … but …
A light, as bright as the sun—if one was stupid enough to look into it—appeared right in front of me. A dog barked. The scent of lilacs, cut grass, freshly brewed coffee, and rolls drifted toward me, and my father’s voice called, “Come on, son. What are you waiting for?”
Between the 12th and 19th of July, many German regions experienced heavy flooding. In many places, it rained more than 150ml per square meter in only 24 hours. Hundreds died (firemen, men, women, and children), many more lost their homes, their possessions, their livelihood. The country was in shock even as help began to get organized.
Just a few days later, I was contacted by a fellow writer I knew from Facebook. She needed a publisher for a charity anthology she was planning, and since I own my own, tiny publishing company, I agreed. Then, the stories began t pour in and they varied so much in genre and target audience, that we decided to split them into 5! themed anthologies.
Since my grandson also is at home right now, kindergarten holidays, I’ve been to busy to breathe. BUT I managed to prepare one more publication for you. The German version of this book has been out for a while. I had this scheduled for much earlier, but never got around to creating the necessary files.
So without further ado, here’s my newest release: The Witches of Greenwitch (it’s on Amazon first, the other retailers will follow asap). And this time you have the choice between eBook, paperback AND hardcover (although the print versions will take a little longer to trickle through the system). Here’s what the story is about:
Can a book-rat haunted by memories escape a determined hunter and save the world she only recently discovered?
Orphaned by an accident, Melissa lives with her aunt and uncle, and reluctantly accompanies them to a holiday at the Baltic Sea. Luckily she brought along a book in which to immerse herself instead. But when she discovers a magical stone, it transports her to Greenwitch, a world that could have been the setting for one of her fantasy novels.
As she searches for a way back, she must cope with giant spiders, stuck-up unicorns, and other legendary creatures. Meanwhile a skilled hunter is tracking her with a handful of trained fighters, and he will stop at nothing to get her magical stone.
Melissa must learn to control the stone’s power to re-balance Greenwitch, or her pursuer and his allies will invade the worlds like locusts and eliminate all magic. Is Melissa strong enough to stop them?
If you like magic, unicorns, and dragons, enjoy Melissa’s adventures. But if you suffer from arachnophobia, don’t touch this book!
As promised, here’s the quarterly bloghop story. You’ll get a free short story from me and more by the other participants. As usual there’s a list after my story. Enjoy and leave a comment!
The crystal at Eleanor’s window broke the light of the setting sun into rainbows that danced over her white walls. She squinted to read the letters of the newspaper article even tough she knew the text by heart.
“With squealing tires, the bus crashed through the barrier, headed for the long drop at the end of the half finished bridge. Driver and passengers were either deathly silent or screaming for their lives, when out of nowhere, a masked girl in her early teens and dressed in a multicolored spandex suit appeared. She flung her hands out, palms up, and a rainbow grew from the tarmac in front of the out of control Greyhound. The bus rolled over the colorful bridge to the other side of the river where it finally came to rest. By then, the girl was gone.”
“But Grandma, why didn’t she stay?” Billy always asked the same question. At five years it was hard to understand why one wouldn’t stay to get the reward one deserved.
“I wonder why she chose to save the bus.” Eight-year-old Walter pushed his glasses up. “Surely there were many other people she could have saved. But I guess this rescue was more spectacular. It did get a lot of media attention, didn’t it?”
“I’m quite sure that neither sweets nor marketing were on Rainbow Girl’s mind when she decided to help.” Eleanor patted the boys’ brown curls, reached for the purple bowl with the colorful chocolate eggs, and let them chose.
“I wonder why she stopped saving people,” Walter said with his mouth full. “Let’s say she was somewhere between ten and twelve when she started, she was barely seventeen when she stopped.”
Now this was a good question for someone who hadn’t been in love yet. Eleanor smiled her approval. Time would teach him that barely noticed miracles often had far greater impact.
“Maybe her mom scolded her and she didn’t dare any longer.” Billy reached for a second sweet, looking askance at Eleanor. She nodded – approving the sweets, not his theory.
“Why do you keep all these articles anyway?” Jessica lowered her book, a pained look on her face. “Those stories are nearly sixty years old, and not one appearance of Rainbow Girl has been proven beyond a doubt.” It seemed that as the oldest, she had made it her duty to stop believing.
“She was real enough for me.” Eleanor picked a piece of chocolate and unwrapped it. “Keeping the articles is bringing back my youth. None of you will understand this for a long time yet.” She savored the bittersweet flavor of the semi-dark chocolate. It tasted like life.
“Will you read us another one?” Billy looked up at her with the biggest, brownest eyes a child had ever had, melting Eleanor’s heart. He would become a heart-breaker for sure.
“I’m quite tired, dear.” Her age and the cancer were nothing that could be healed with a rainbow here or some glitter there. “Maybe your sister will. What do you think, Jess?”
“Grandma!” Jess put her book aside and swiped a strand of her long, brown tresses behind her ear. “Those stories only put stupid ideas in their heads.”
“You’re reading lies already, and you seem to enjoy them.” Eleanor pointed to the fantasy novel on the small table beside Jess. Had she been this contrary as a teen? “There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
“Shakespeare has been dead forever. What does he know?” Jess got up and held out her hand to Billy. “Let’s get dinner ready, boys. Mom will be home soon.”
“Aww.” Billy slipped from Eleanor’s footstool and took Jess’ hand with slumped shoulders.
“Well, I wish she were real.” Walter kissed Eleanor on the cheek and followed his siblings. Just before the three of them left Eleanor’s little realm, a rainbow slid over Jess’ dark hair, causing a multicolored corona around her head.
Smiling, Eleanor leaned back, closed her eyes to her personal pool of rainbows, and allowed the warmth of her love to flood her fragile body. It was good to know that the magic had only skipped a generation.
I’ve helped my good friend William L. Hahn to bring this baby to live. The print version (for saving paper) is 764 pages long, but kindle inists it’s over 950. So you’ll get high value for your money. I suggest grabbing a copy if a) you love epic fantasy, b) you love looooong books, and c) if you prefer complex plots with many, skillfully interwoven story threads and intriguing characters.
After two millennia of peace the relentless war between Hope and Despair flares again. With the innocent in peril, can raw unproven heroes resist immortal foes?
Treaman lives for the thrill of adventure. Guiding a group of enterprising companions, he’d put his life on the line for any of them. But when the adventurers become lost in a land tainted by the growing curse of Despair, he fears his leader’s mission is destined to end in failure and death.
Solemn Judgement will never see his homeland again. Brought to unfamiliar shores, Solemn burns any chance of return along with his boat and his father’s body, before setting out to seek his purpose. But the determined young orphan has no idea that acquiring his education could unleash the ultimate evil.
As Treaman and Judgement separately trek to seemingly inevitable doom, a prince seeks to rescue an old alliance, a mysterious fighter in black slays monstrous foes with his bare hands, and a broad cast of characters unwittingly play their part. All are hanging onto a slim sliver of Hope for their future. But even their combined might may not be enough to stop the ruthless march of a powerful necromancer and his tide of undeath …
In a world that only dreams of heroes, can they rise up against oppressive forces and prevent the Lands of Hope from descending into foul darkness?
Harbingers of Hope is an epic fantasy novel that will leave you breathless. If you like expansive worldbuilding, fierce magical battles, and monstrous enemies, then you’ll love William L. Hahn’s sweeping tale.
Read Harbingers of Hope to stand up and fight today!
Here’s my newest release. From 19th of April on, you can now get the third fairy tale retellings bundle on Amazon (Yes, this time it’s even in KU). It will also be available at the other retailers in 90 days. If you haven’t read the tales yet, go and get them:
Today, you’ll also get a free short story from me and I hope you’ll like it. As usual there’s a list of more participants of this BlogHop after my story. Enjoy and leave a comment!
A Day to Remember
The first of April was the first sunny and warm day of the year. Of course the family decided to eat on the terrace. The sky was blue as my baby nephew’s eyes with small white clouds sauntering slowly across it. Birds were singing everywhere, not just in my parent’s garden, and the apple, cherry, and pear tree lifted clouds of white and purple blooms toward the sun.
I loved the day – until my gaze fell on two small red spheres in the midst of the cherry flowers. Cherries? At this time of the year? Impossible! It had to be something else. I set down the pile of plates I’d been carrying to the outside table, turned, and walked closer to the tree.
My jaw dropped. An elephant the size of a small car sat on one of the branches. It’s light gray skin merged perfectly with the flowers. When it turned its red eyes to me, I stumbled backward.
“Folks!” I called. “Hey, folks! You gotta see this.”
“What’s it?” My brother called back. He was just distributing the plates I’d abandoned.
“There’s a bloody elephant in our cherry tree!”
“Yea, sure.” He laughed and kept working. “Nicely played though.”
His kids came running, wanting to know where the elephant was, but when I tried to point it out to them, it was gone, no matter how much I tried to find it again. The kids were rather disappointed.
“That wasn’t a very funny April Fool’s joke,” the eldest, my ten year old niece, said.
“I’d so wanted to see the elephant.” My youngest niece hugged me. “I’m sorry it’s gone now.”
I watched them race over the bloom-covered lawn, avoiding clusters of daffodils and spring snowflakes as well as the sagging crocuses and snowdrops without even trying.
When I turned to glance at the cherry tree a last time, the elephant reappeared as it opened its eyes. Did it really turn invisible when it closed its eyes?
“Neat trick, ey?” It winked at me.
It took me a full minute to regain my wits. Then, I asked, “Why?” And when it didn’t answer, I expanded on the question. “Why did you do that?”
It giggled. It was the strangest sound I’d ever heard, a mix between a blocked trumpet and the squeal of a mouse.
The elephant spread its big ears and jumped off the branch, floating in the air above me. With its trunk, it patted the crown of my head. “April Fools!”
It flapped its ears, and soared into the sky, vanishing in but a heartbeat. And I stood there, staring after it, wondering how it knew where to fly with its eyes closed.
More participants of the BlogHop and their stories:
This omnibus contains the retellings of The Hut in the Forest, Hänsel and Gretel, and Sleeping Beauty. Of course, it also contains the originals of those tales in case you don’t know the story, plus three bonus stories going along with each retelling. To round off the bundle, I included a brand new, never before published bonus story based on The Brave Little Tailor and its original. If you haven’t read my retellings yet, you should try them:
A hunted mechanic, lovers torn apart, and a beauty sleeping away her life must discover the truth or die trying…
Once upon a time there was magic. But even in fairy tales, time does not stand still. From mechanical gadgets to steam-driven machines, new inventions clash with old powers.
A young mechanic must evade execution after discovering the Hut in the Forest, slave traders are hunting Hänsel and Gretel, and Sleeping Beauty has to break the curse before it kills her. Will magic be their salvation? Or technology? Or will both only create more havoc?
Find out how your favorite fairy tale characters survive in a world where technology suppresses magic.
I also started a new project that might be of interest to you. A friend of mine sent me three books she very much loves but that have suffered badly over time. They were all partially ripped, one was missing pages, and one was even slightly moldy. I’m doing my best to restore them. You can follow my efforts on my Facebook Page or on Instagram (the accompanying texts are German, please don’t be put off by that; FB has a translation button that works reasonably well).
In the first step, I dried the books (in my oven for 3hrs at 70°C), then took them apart to look at the damage. I’m now at the stage where I reinforce the fold of the paper-sheets with a thin paper so I can start sewing. If you’re interested in my progress, head over to FB or Insta and follow me there.
Pst, it’s me again. You can now get my fairy tale retellings in four bundles with really cool covers. Each omnibus got a brand new, never before published bonus story. If you haven’t read the tales yet, go and get them:
Today, you’ll get a free short story from me. I was asked to include: Valentine or Love or Anti-Love, Cat, Grimoire and Fire. I hope you’ll like what I came up with. Again there’s a list of more participants of this BlogHop after my story. Enjoy and leave a comment!
Heart of Fire
Going to the Witch Hunt Remembrance Fire with Gregory had been Jackie’s desire since she’d been allowed to go the first time at age thirteen. Two years later, her biggest dream was about to come true.
Fighting her elation, she’d put on her best black dress—the one that looked least sun-bleached—and even found a purple scarf with matching stockings that would go with it. Unfortunately there wasn’t much she could do about her squished witch’s hat or her sturdy boots. With the family finances like they were, she had to wear what they could afford.
How had Gregory noticed her? Normally, he only hung out with the in-crowd. It didn’t matter. He was going to take her along as his partner, not any of the other girls.
Wrapped in a wide, black cloak she’d inherited from her gran—one of the last True Witches—Jackie waited for her beau. Her heart beat frantically when the limousine stopped in front of her house.
But no one opened the door for her, and when she climbed inside on her own, the long interior room with the dark blue velvet seats was empty. Even the tinted glass between her and the driver was closed. She’d never felt this lonely. The disappointment gnawed at her heart.
Just as she was about to step back out, the limousine drove off. The door closed with a thud, and Jackie fell into one of the soft velvet seats.
The sound came from one of the hidden compartments near the front of the long room, and the order was indisputable. Wrapped as tightly into her cape as possible, Jackie opened the small door, ready for a furred fury to attack anyone in sight. She’d never been particularly good with familiars.
But the cat—a black tom with white front paws—just walked out, tail held high and meowed again as if to say, “What took you so long?” It turned and stared at Jackie.
A few heartbeats later, the limousine stopped and the door was ripped open.
“There’s tonight’s princess!” Gregory’s voice was like honey and made her knees wobble.
The tom mewed in disdain, scratching the extended hand before Jackie could grab it.
“Yikes, why did you bring that monster?” Gregory sucked at his fingers while Jackie climbed out of the limousine.
“He isn’t mine. He was locked in a compartment.” Why did she have the feeling she had to defend herself?
Gregory grunted and took her upper arm. None too gently, he pulled her on the path uphill, toward the bonfire. As tradition demanded, it burnt in a ring of stones on top of an airy hill next to a spring. All four elements combined were the token that the witch hunts would never return. By the elements, the last few True Witches had made peace with the None Talented a century or so ago.
Jackie was looking forward to dancing around the fire. When the flames died down, those whose powers had already manifested would jump through the flames, the others would wait to jump the glowing embers.
Jackie loved the flames. In her family most members were fire witches. She breathed in the aromatic scent of smoking wood. It seemed to be calling for her, but no. It was just the dratted cat, hissing at Gregory.
Only when they neared the groups of teens dancing around the flames did she notice that no adults were around.
Where were the supervisors? She would never have gotten permission to come if the school hadn’t promised to bring in supervisors. And Gregory’s grip on her arm was beginning to hurt. Just as she was about to turn to head home—even with Gregory by her side she wasn’t ready to face the school bullies without adults nearby—two heavily built young men approached. Thank the Mother, Gregory has brought his bodyguards to protect me. Jackie relaxed as they stepped beside her.
“You’re sure about this?” Gregory asked someone behind Jackie.
“Witches take up to fifteen minutes to catch fire.” It was Dina’s voice, and it seemed to douse Jackie in ice water.
Gregory nodded to his bodyguards. Four strong hands grabbed Jackie’s arms. And before she could so much as protest, she flew into the heart of the fire.
The heat and the smoke from the burning timbers stung on her skin and made breathing hard. She teared up. Tendrils of fire seemed to wrap around her arms and legs, prolonging the flight. Hot air whipped up her hair and made it dance.
Meow! The tom jumped after her, and they hit the white hot coals throwing up a shower of sparks. Jackie fell forward and her hand landed on a searingly hot pebble. Still her fingers closed around it instinctively. To examine it, she blinked away her tears. They dropped onto the hot stone with tiny hisses, their vapor licked up by flames and carried away by the hot air.
Then the pebble changed. It expanded, grew rectangular and flat and softened to the touch. The corners turned to gilded metal. A grimoire? Only the rare True Witches owned one.
Jackie was so excited, she didn’t notice the fire’s discomfort any longer.
“I knew it,” the tom said. “From the moment I set my eyes on you, I knew you’re a True Witch. One of the few that can balance all four elements.”
“You can talk?” All of a sudden, Gregory, Dina, and all the others were farther away than the moon.
“How else do you expect me to teach you?” The tom sat down and began to lick his up-stretched hind leg. “Aren’t you going to punish them?”
“Now, that sounds like a really good idea.” Jackie grinned and pulled the fire to her. Flicker by glow by flame, it came to her, climbed her legs, spread over her body, her face, her hair, and her arms. Like a living torch, she stepped off the bonfire.
Gregory turned paler than the white sand of the sea, and if not for his bodyguards, he would have dropped where he stood. They carried him downhill as fast as they could. Following them, Dina screamed like a banshee as she ran. Most of the other kids fled too. Only a few reached for blankets and the fire extinguisher valiantly.
Before they could do anything, Jackie sent the flames back to the bonfire.
“All the better for us,” she said to the stunned helpers and pointed to the long table covered with delicacies. “Let’s party!”
The tom stalked off the bonfire and sat beside her. “I’m quite proud you didn’t hurt anyone.”
“They’ll be running home to mommy and daddy, wailing about murdering me.” Jackie spoke with a new spark in her voice. “Let them get themselves into trouble for a while.”
“I knew, you’d be the right kind of witch for me.” The tom lolled his tongue and it looked just like he was laughing.
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