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February 2024: Storytime Bloghop

Since I missed out on the Bloghop in autumn for the first time ever, you’ll get not one, but two #free #stories on my blog today. You’ll find even more if you follow the links below the stories.

As to my writing, I haven’t done any aside from this short story. However, I have turned one of my short stories into a comic. It’ll still take a little while but I’ll be publishing it soon, hopefully before Easter. After all, it’s about the Easter Hare. I’m contemplating publishing it as a bilingual comic with the original short stories added. If this sounds like a good idea to you, please let me know in the comments.

And here’s my story:

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What If

“What if there really were dragons?” Sitting on the ground in front of her French windows, Jane looked into the summer sky that dwarfed the grassy plain beneath where her father’s horses grazed. The sun was sinking rapidly. Another day nearly over. She sighed and tried to focus on something else. “Would they come and eat our horses?”

“Of course.” Her older brother Tom lifted his hands over his head, curling his fingers into claws. “And they’d eat you too!” He raked her back with his claws. They didn’t draw blood but they still hurt.

Jane knew better than to cry, but she couldn’t suppress a moan.

“Oh, little sissy, did that hurt?” Tom kicked her. His shoes were hard and they touched old bruises.

Jane fought her tears valiantly and didn’t make another sound. She watched Tom strode through her big pink and green room. The friendly floral wallpaper, the white feathery light fixture hanging from the ceiling, and the meticulously made bed were such a contrast to his nastiness.

Tom went to her writing desk, grabbed her diary, and grinned. “One day I’m gonna add something that gets you into real trouble with Dad.”

As if she’d ever put anything into that diary that didn’t align with Mom’s and Dad’s rules. And she’d trained herself to write so sloppy that he hadn’t yet figured out how to emulate her writing. So that rendered his threat useless.

For now.

Jane lowered her gaze, blinking away tears. Staring at the fluffy white circular carpet on the parquet floor with a sad expression often convinced him she was sufficiently subdued. Today too.

With her diary in his hands he turned to leave. “Room control is in ten minutes. I’d clean up if I were you.”

The door slammed behind him, and Jane looked around in panic. Was anything wrong? Did he bring in dirt? There wasn’t even a grain on the ground, so that wasn’t it. But there had to be something. She got up and searched the room in greater detail. Her heart raced as she examined every square millimeter of the room. Why couldn’t it be smaller? What had he hidden that didn’t belong?

When she lay on the ground, she saw two red lights in the darkness under the bed and let out a relieved sigh. He’d brought one of his robots. Well, she’d put it into the corridor and leave it there. That way he wouldn’t get her into trouble. Mom and Dad didn’t ever scold him for being untidy.

She shimmied forward and reached for the red eyed thing under her bed.

It hissed. Keep your fingers away from me or I’ll bite them off.

The voice sounded right inside her mind. Jane sat up and bumped her head on the bedframe. “Outch.”

Her gaze shot to the door. Had someone heard? Despite her fear of whatever sat under her bed, she peeked again. “Look,” she whispered, trying to add urgency to her voice. “I don’t care who or what you are. You need to leave right now. My parents will inspect my room in just a few minutes.”

So? They can’t hurt me. The voice sounded sullen and a little defensive.

“But me.” Jane forced the words out. Of course it wouldn’t mean anything to the creature under her bed. After all, they weren’t friends and only friends stood up for their friends, she’d heard. She couldn’t tell. She’d never had friends.

Well, it’s not like I want to be in a human’s dwelling. The scratching of claws on wood seemed to fill the room with a noise so loud that surely her parents would hear. Only inches away from her face, an emerald snout with countless gleaming white teeth grew out of the dark. It was big but not scarily so, and the red eyes seemed to look at her without malice. And Jane was good at detecting malice.

Someone chucked my egg under this, the head jerked toward the bed, so I hatched here. Are you stuck too?

“In a way.” Jane heard voices coming up the stairs and looked around frantically. “You need to hide.”

I need to leave.

“Good idea.” She jumped to her feet and ran to the French doors. They were a little hard to operate in summer, but they’d allow the creature, whatever it was, to flee before her parents reached her room. She pulled with all her strength and the right hand wing slowly eased open.

The creature was roughly the size of a grownup. A scale covered lizard with a tail, a teeth studded snout, four stumpy and clawed legs, and skin dangling from its shoulders. It rushed past her, spread emerald wings, and took off into the last rays of the sunset, just as the door to her room opened.

Had that really been a dragon? A real dragon? Jane’s heart thumped in her chest, as much from the surprise as from the knowledge that there was no way she could explain that to anyone. Least of all to her parents.

“Why is it so dark in here?” Despite her words, Mom didn’t switch on the lights. She seemed to be in a bad mood. A bruise had formed on her forehead. The usual. “And who said you could open the window?”

“I guess, you need some disciplining.” The belt slipped from Dad’s trousers with a swish that made her legs wobble. Not again. She stepped away from the open glass door as he stepped forward, rolling most of the belt around his hand, leaving the buckle to dangle.

“I just needed some fresh air,” she whispered, knowing fully well that there was no way she’d be able to escape his wrath. Already tears were running over her face.

“Don’t you remember the rules?” Mom pointed to Dad. “You have to ask your father for permission!”

Dad took another step forward, and Jane backed away some more, crying silently the whole time. “Please. I didn’t mean to. I just … I’m sorry, Dad. Please don’t hit me.” Sometimes, if she cried badly enough and begged enough, he stopped before she passed out.

Something dark shot through the open door, low to the ground and as black as night. Dad screamed as the shadow flew over his body with barely a hand-width of space between them.

The belt fell to the ground and the air suddenly smelled of urine and rust.

A bright flame shot into the air, catching the ceiling right where the light was. The feathers caught and a few seconds later, the whole ceiling was beginning to burn.

The shadow circled gracefully around Mom and came at Jane from behind. She closed her eyes, waiting for the end.

Spread your legs, the voice in her head said. Hurry. Or do you want to burn?

Although extremely surprised, Jane did as she was told. As she spread her legs, something warm and smooth and scaled slipped between them, lifting her off the ground. She opened her eyes, just as the dragon turned toward the open window. The fire was eating rapidly into the house’s wood. Tom stood in the door, staring at her and the dragon like he’d seen a ghost. Mom was dragging Dad toward safety. He seemed too stunned to realize his arm was badly mangled. Blood dropped from the hand that hung limp at his side and his trousers were wet, but he was walking.

As the dragon carried her into the mild summer night, Jane was sure her family would get out before the whole house burned down. She had no idea what the future would bring, especially with a dragon as a rescuer—or friend—but she was more than ready to face whatever the world had to offer, It couldn’t be worse that what she’d lived through already.

She did not look back.

 

Visit the others:
First Real Assignment by Bill Bush
A Whole New World by Barbara Lund
Eye of the Beholder by Chris Makowski
Subject: If You Don’t Hear From Me Again by Gina Fabio
Percival’s Bane: The Demon and The Void by Juneta Key
Rabble Rouser by James Husum

 

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February 2024: Storytime Bloghop
Chris Makowski – fellow author

Since I missed out on the Bloghop in autumn for the first time ever, you’ll get not one, but two #free #stories on my blog today. You’ll find even more if you follow the links below the stories.

Chris Makowski is a family man with more on his plate than he should have. It’s a wonder he can still find time to write. He’s currently revising a story in several volumes that he amicably refers to as “The Bricks”. Truth be told, I can barely wait to read them. Here’s his short story (same universe):

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Eye of the Beholder

“It’s not like there’s ever a dull moment in the PGPD.” I pour Seamus another shot of the good stuff. “Last week started with a bunch of attic B&Es, the guy claims he’s making sure bats aren’t being abused. It ended with a cat ringing doorbells. Honestly, this sounds like a prank waiting for a punchline.”

“Nae, this is beyond the Port Goode Police, Arthur, more than a cat or someone busting into attics.” One swallow, and my informant’s hand shakily begs another. “I tell ye true. Go there. It nae be a prank, and if ye don’ stop it, then…” His head slowly lowers to the table and snores emerge.

I drop two bills on the table and nod at Jake. The bar’s safe enough.

Stolen: one pallet of fertilizer, a display of charcoal briquettes, every piece of chalk out of every school in Port Goode. The whole shebang landed on my desk because my partner is out on medical leave.

Lucky me.

Then again, how do you tell a straight-laced, hard-nosed detective from the great state of Washington there’s a reason we hang horseshoes over our doors?

I spin my keys and drive.

One stop for coffee, and I’m watching a warehouse only held up by old paint and rust. All the windows are broken and the sign has smeared to illegibility.

New gate lock though.

Maybe Seamus is right.

I check my piece. Wrong phase of the moon for silver.

Switch to the iron hollow points.

Near sundown, a rental truck pulls up. A short guy with a red stocking cap pops out and unlocks the gate. Hard to miss the cleaver on his belt. When he pulls in, two more guys – same cap, more sharp objects – jump out and start unloading. Red posterboard. Red cellophane.

When the warehouse door opens, my fingers tingle from all the magic leaking out, none of it good.

I’ve got the right place.

I cross the street, slip in the front door – lock’s broken anyway – call the cavalry …

Radio’s dead. Have to do this alone.

“Hey!”

Sure enough, a pallet of poop, a pile of coal, a pile of chalk, and startled redcaps looking at me – six of them, seventeen rounds means almost three each. I sight on the nearest. “As Paladin of the Pact between the Fae and the Folk, I hereby—“

Out of the shadows she flows, tall as me, with gray skin from toe to end of the leathery wings extending from her back and down her arms. A fire of red hair wraps around her, silver mail protecting her everywhere it isn’t. Her animalistic fur-covered face is a snub nose, long ears coming to a point, and a grin filled with sharp and hungry. The air crackles as her hand finds the barbed whip at her waist.

Redcaps I can handle. A Daughter of the Furies?

“—call for parley.” I quickly hold up my piece and place it on a dusty table. “Arthur Lane, Paladin of the Pact, Detective, Port Goode Police Department.” I swallow, remembering Seamus’ words. “Son of Emma Adelaide Harper and Asher James Lane.”

She hisses but waves the redcaps back. “Melantha, Daughter of Megaera. My father is unimportant.” Her whip sweeps the ground. “Amuse me, Paladin of the Pact.”

I gesture at the piles. “I don’t understand, your Magnificence—“

“Magnificence?” Her head tilts back with a cackle. “I am done with hiding behind glamour. I tire of you humans celebrating sticky romance and love conquers all – I watch your movies, read your books, all of it lies and nothing but!” She gestures to her redcaps. Three are forming heart-shaped boxes of cardboard and cellophane, and three are making candy out of chalk, charcoal, and – bile hits my mouth. “This time, your people will eat ordure, chew tastelessness, and know your shallow truth. Love is a lie. You are hereby judged and found wanting.”

“The Pact states—“

“He was human!” She spits acid. “He spurned me at a look, for all his words! I gave him the truth and he fled screaming!”

Hellfire and Roses – think Arthur, think – you can’t fight her, you can’t …

No, you can’t. But you know who can. “By the Pact, I call for Trial.”

The whip snaps. “You think to best me in combat?”

“Trial Veritas.” I keep my hands still. “You claim judgment on your evidence. I claim it to be in error.” When she comes close, I’m nodding. “Tomorrow. Jake’s. In a private room.”

“Not. You.” Her talon hovers near my nose. “A human. Unprepared, unspelled, nothing but what he is. Breakfast. When you fail, Paladin, you and yours will destroy Cupid’s Day alongside me.”

“Agreed.” I hold out a hand. Her grip nearly splinters my bones.

Outside, I find a pay phone. “Brian? Lane here. You know that guy we have in lockup?”

***

“It’ll be fine, Remy.”

He’s shaking. “I – I don’t people. People don’t – they don’t…” We gussied him up, but he still exudes nerd, dork, and geek.

I put a hand on his shoulder. “It’s this or a year for breaking and entering.”

Then she is there, covered in a long, brown cloak with two bodyguards wearing red berets.

I rise. “Melantha, your date. Remy Hebert. Remy, Melantha.”

She sniffs the air, but there’s no magic here that wasn’t here in the first place. “Let us finish this, Arthur Lane.”

The cloak falls away. She wears nothing but herself. Bat woman.

Remy’s jaw hits the floor. “You…”

Her lips curl back.

“You – you’re – you’re beautiful … much like Diphylla ecaudata? You must be, I mean…” Stumbling, he pulls her chair out, his eyes glued to her face. “Can I? I mean, you must, but…” Blushing furiously and babbling like a schoolboy, Remy makes an absolute potato of himself, offering her this then that while filling her glass with the fine red wine I chose.

I see myself out.

***

“No idea, Chief. All the stuff is in the warehouse. No. Cash rental. Chalk it up to a prank.” I hang up the phone and make a final note in the case file.

“Send a thief to catch a thief.”

Then I change the first “thief” to “chiropterologist”.

 

Visit the others:
First Real Assignment by Bill Bush
A Whole New World by Barbara Lund
What If by Katharina Gerlach
Subject: If You Don’t Hear From Me Again by Gina Fabio
Percival’s Bane: The Demon and The Void by Juneta Key
Rabble Rouser by James Husum

 

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new release coming up soon

Remember my Kickstarter in January? Well, it’s run its course, nearly every item has been shipped and it’s time to tell those who missed their chance where they can get the resulting book (minus one Kickstarter exclusive bonus story).


(the preview feature will start to work when the book is released, but you can already pre-order)

According to Amazon, it’s 1342 pages of stories (101 short stories to be precise), but the print I’m currently working on will be around 850 pages. On one hand that’s due to the current price changes for paper (yes, everything gets more expensive except for what authors can charge for their books), on the other hand, the book would become too heavy (and Amazon has a weird way of calculating pages too).

I’ll let you know more when Release Day (September 1st) is drawing near. You do know some of the stories since they were posted on this blog first, but most have never been published before. So come and check it out.

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November 2022:
Storytime Bloghop

Behind the scenes, I’ve been very busy the last three months. I’m nearly finished writing an Urban Fantasy novel set in Hamburg, and the Indie Author’s Advent Calendar 2022 is ready. I hope many of you will join in the fun tomorrow. There are truly lovely stories in it this year.

To shorten the waiting time, here’s the Storytime Bloghop (a month later than usual, but everyone was too busy to notice, so please forgive us. Better late then never, right?) I hope you’ll like this blog hop’s #free #story. Remember to visit the other participants too. And please leave comments for us. We love to hear from you. It cheers us up and means the world to us.

 

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Ark-Ship One

“Ark-Ship One, Longoustine. Report to base.” The voice from the loudspeaker crackled. The solitary bluish-gray crustacean on the bridge sighed. Luckily the search for a new home was nearly over, so he needn’t worry about repairing it any longer. His long-range sensors had already caught the data stream of a suitable planet.

“Longoustine reporting. Possible planet found. Commencing scouting endeavor. Requesting full weapon access.”

“The use of all weapons has been approved. Good luck, Longoustine.”

A few seconds later the vessel slowed and found a place in the orbit of the planet. The globe looked promising with its wide expanse of water. A little terraforming would easily submerge most of the land masses.

Longoustine observed the planet from above for four days. They were the hardest days of his voyage since he had to remain on high alert due to space junk. When his data scan was finally complete, he marveled at the results. The planet was perfect except for one minor detail. It held a semi-intelligent species, some kind of ape-like creature walking on two legs, mostly warring against each other. Naturally, their weaponry would not suffice to stop an invading army from his home planet.

Longoustine decided it was time for a peek. Since the planet’s atmosphere was too thin for his breathing organs, he ordered the ship’s transporter to deposit him in the middle of the biggest ocean. What was that? Why couldn’t he breathe? His handheld scanner showed that he was surrounded by water. He should not have difficulties like this. Still his intake valves seemed to be clogged. He used up eight of the ten time intervals he could hold his breath to clean the valves and grab a water sample. Then he reprogrammed the transporter to deposit him in a different ocean. Thankfully he sucked in oxygen.

A strange undercurrent caught him unaware and pulled him along. The more he tried to escape the current, the faster it got. More and more crustaceans appeared around him. Although they were a lot smaller than him they resembled his species strongly. Just when he realized that the tiny creatures around him were not intelligent, they were lifted out of the water and dumped onto a big metal surface.

“Oh look, we caught a lobster!” His universal translator managed to make sense of the garbled noises of the ape-man. “Finally something better to eat then shrimps.”

Longoustine froze. These creatures ate crustaceans? What kind of world was this? Where there more predators specialized on cracking exoskeletons? With a small sound Longoustine activated the transporter and returned to his ship, the ape-man’s perplexed stare burned into his memory. What if there were more dangers on this world than he’d anticipated?

During the next three hours he set up a new scan with very specific parameters. It took the ship a whole week to complete.

The perfect planet he thought he had found was infested with creatures hunting and eating crustaceans. Conservative estimates showed that even if they eliminated the worst species for good, the whole ecosystem would change for the worst. With the ape-men gone and the continent’s submerged, other species would thrive … and most would eat crustaceans. And even if their society could keep the threats in check, the ecosystem was so precariously balanced, all of his computer models predicted its complete breakdown.

Defeated, Longoustine reported his failure, set course to the next planet, and began to repair the loudspeaker.

 

Visit the others:
Midnight At Christmas by Juneta Key
I Do Believe In Faeries by Vanessa Wells
Summoning Spell by Jacquilyn Walker
Passing The Buck by Bill Bush
A Halloween Costume by Jodie Nahornoff
 

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July 2022:
Bloghop

Somehow time seems to get faster the older I get. It’s depressing to see the end of my life less far away than the start. Add in a good amount of Corona bad news, the frightening developments in the two biggest countries worldwide, and the climate crisis, and you might understand why I find it hard to do regular blog updates or eMail letters. It all seems so pointless.

But then I see my grandson. I revel in the way he enjoys every day, accepts every person as is, loves learning new things without a thought about what will come tomorrow. And I have hope. Hope that things might still change for the better. That’s what always gets me back to writing something.

I hope you’ll like this blog hop’s #free #story. Remember to visit the other participants too. And leave us comments. We love to hear from you. It cheers us up no matter what, because it means someone reads what we write. And that’s worth so much in times like these!

 

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New Stork

“Don’t you miss work?” I asked Melinda.

“I like living here with you alone.” My daughter set aside another darned sock. “Not to forget that the inquisition will never find us here.”

I smiled at her to show her how much I love her, but in secret I longed for something more important to do than making a living. I sighed and went back to my spinning. The regular rhythm and Melinda’s breathing relaxed me and the internal unrest subsided until the peace of our evening routine was disturbed, when something heavy thunked against the window of our little cottage. Since it was dark outside we couldn’t exactly see what it was. My fingers stopped turning the spindle, and we both held our breath, fearing the same. But there was no screaming, no pitchforks, and most of all no fire. Slightly relieved but still wary, I called. “Who’s there?”

“Sh-sh-l ivri” The voice sounded muffled, as if it held something in its mouth and was trying to talk around it. Melinda looked at me, and I looked at Melinda.

“I know someone who talks that way,” I whispered. “But this is a different voice.”

Whoever was outside the window bumped against the delicate pane that kept out the winds. If it broke, winter would send its icy fingers into our home, so I got to the door and opened. But not without stopping at the hearth and picking up the biggest knife we owned. I dropped it the minute the door swung open and revealed a roughly human sized dragon with red scales and a bundle of cloth hanging from its maw. When he saw Melinda standing behind me, he took the bundle out of his mouth and moved his jaw from side to side to loosen the muscles.

“I don’t understand why the boss insists on carrying it in my mouth,” he said and handed the bundle to her. “Special delivery for you. New Stork sends their congratulations. You’ll find a welcome bonus packed right in.”

With shaking fingers Melinda opened the bundle.

“It’s a boy,” the dragon said needlessly. “Plus a few nappies.”

Melissa’s face mirrored the shock that kept me rooted to the spot. I had to clear my throat several times before I managed to speak. “Why’s Stork sending us a baby? We never ordered one.”

“New policy.” The dragon smiled, displaying more teeth that I was currently happy with. I swallowed, and he smiled some more. “We’ve got a few remnants that need old-style distribution. Your daughter was one of the candidates the boss chose.”

“Remnants? Come in and explain.” I stepped aside. I’d been one of Stork’s helpers for as long as I remembered, learning the midwife’s trade from my mother and passing on my knowledge to Melinda. However, since the inquisition started burning midwifes as witches, we’d gone into hiding. So far successful.

The dragon curled up in front of the hearth, enjoying the warmth of the fire. He puffed a few happy smoke curls before he got to the point. “Stork lost a lot of his delivery crew when the inquisition decided stork deliveries were not real and anyone believing in it was superstitious and needed to be punished. People actually started shooting storks then.” He stared into the flames for a while, and I took up my spindle again. He sighed contently. “Well, as I said, Stork lost a lot of his crew that way, so he decided to go direct with a delivery system designed to work without stork transportation. I helped him set up the system. It took quite a lot of magic to get it working properly, believe me.”

“Direct?” My mind whirred. “Stork-free delivery?”

“Well, the seeds get harvested when they’re still in single cell state, and a magical tube shoots them directly into the mother’s belly. It’s a marvel. It really is.” He preened his claws and looked smug. “And I was a major part in developing that system if I may point that out.”

How could Stork send babies straight to the mothers? Into their bellies if I hadn’t misheard. My eyes widened when I realized what that meant. “If he sends the parcel into the mother, it must come back out at some point, right?”

“Yup, and that’s why he’s inviting you to an advanced training in what he calls ‘birth’. That’s short for ‘binary inter-rump transfer, holistical’, the name of the new technique. We put the holistical at the end because the acronym reads better that way. Stork expects the participants of this course to spread the word.”

Suddenly I saw my life stretching out in front of me – always traveling, helping women through ‘birth’ and teaching Stork’s new delivery method as best I could while evading the inquisition. Ever so often I’d visit Melinda who had to stay behind to take care of her son.

I laughed out loud. Suddenly, life was exciting again.

 

Visit the others:
First Contact by Barbara Lund

Who Can Blame Him by Bill Bush

The Stuff of Nightmares by Sue Abrie

Regarding Dragons by Vanessa Wells

Midlife Ghostwalker: Katje Storm Episodes 1 thru 10 by Juneta Key

 

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April 2022:
Bloghop

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!

 

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Coming Out

“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?”

“No, I—”

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.

 

Visit the others:
Rabid Rabbits Revenge by Jemma Weir
Dragon’s Tale by S. R. Olson
Jory’s Gamble by Juneta Key
The Ballad of Jamie Stewart by Vanessa Wells
Tribute by Lyssa Medana
Moon Flower by Melanie J. Drake
Battlefield by Barbara Lund

 

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More cats than you can handle?

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).

I told you it might be more than you can handle. 😀 So head over to get the bundle right now or read more about the stories and their authors below.

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

*~*~*

Convinced you NEED to check out this bundle? Go straight to the good stuff and enjoy!

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January 2022:
Bloghop

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!

 

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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.

 

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Themed Month October:
Bloghop

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!

 

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Morning Misery

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?”

Without looking back, I walked away from my life.

 

Enjoy these stories too:
The Aftermath of GRIT’s Interference by Bill Bush
Inhuman by Gina Fabio
A Ghost of a Trick, or Treat by Jemma Weir
Storytime Blog Hop Hosted by Juneta Key
The HOA by Vanessa Wells
Voices by Sue Abrie

 

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Themed Month August:
New-Old Release

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!

 

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Liebster Blog Award 2011