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Manor Mystery Series-Finale

Here is the chilling conclusion to the collaboration with my lovely cohort Megan. We left poor Abigail tied up in Devonshire Manor with her crazy ex Victor trying to re-kindle their failed marriage. She is surrounded by death with no way to escape and no one to help her. How will she get out alive?

Manor Mystery Finale

Abigail trembled as she watched the brass doorknob turn so slowly she could feel each second stretch. As the door inched open a crack, she squinted to see that Victor’s grinning face was pressed into the cracked door, watching her with one eye and breathing heavily through his grinned teeth. He shoved the door hard open so fast it made her jump, feeling the rope sting into her wrists and ankles. He leaped into the room, dancing and cheerful. Victor sidestepped and waved his way wildly over to the bed.

“You ready to start this marriage over, Abby-bear? Now that Jacob is outta the picture, we can finally be happy again” he took her hand and slobbered kisses on it.

Abby sobbed when she heard Jacob’s name and she tried desperately to pull her hand away from him. He yanked it back causing her rope burns to bleed. The metallic iron scent of her blood permeated the air between them and it seemed to provoke Victor into a bloodlust. He licked at the blood that dripped down onto the hand he had been kissing.

He…he killed Jacob. He’s not ignoring me or missing. Jacob’s DEAD!

“Victor, you disgusting piece of sh—“

“Now, now, now Abby…you keep talking like that and I’ll be forced to tear out your tongue. Hmm, maybe I should have done that when we were together. Would have been a quieter house.”

She noticed he still dressed his policeman costume when he pulled a blindfold from his pants pocket. It became a costume after he was stripped of his badge and title at the precinct three years ago. It should have raised enough red flags for Abigail to leave before the weird behavior, the unprovoked rage that followed. He waved the blindfold in her face, dragging it across her eyes like a pendulum, moving down until it touched her lips and he froze there.

“Those lips Abby…I’ve missed those…”

He bent down to kiss her forcefully, forcing his tongue in between her lips, shoving it as far down as it would go until he pulled back with a drop of blood on his lip.

“I can’t believe you f*cking bit me, you b!tch!”

He stepped away from the bed, his fists balled at his sides while his face reddened almost as dark as the blood he licked from his lip. Abigail watched as the gears turned in his mind and he schemed another way to hurt her. And then he smiled that big, toothy grin that had, at one time, made her happy. All the smile gave her now was a need to vomit.

“You know what? I’m a forgiving man and I can understand these are…stressful circumstances. I know you love me Abby-bear, but you need to think about what you’re doing and how your behavior is hurting me.”

She turned away from him, closing her eyes and turning her wrists fruitlessly in the ropes.

“So who was the man in the closet?”

His footsteps were receding toward the door and then stopped. He rushed back to her and his face was suddenly inches from hers.

I’m not going to let him get away with this. Please, someone help me. 

Victor smiled again, the same toothy grin that make her sick to her soul. He caressed her arm with his fingertip and her body shuddered in response. The bile rose in her throat and burned as she tried to swallow it since she had no place to

“Just a homeless man from downtown. Told him I’d pay for hot meals for a week if he came with me to give a message to my wife.”

Abigail shuddered another time, trying again to recoil from his touch. Immediately, Victor’s smile faltered and he slapped her on the cheek.

“I did this for you—for us. You never would have agreed to see me unless it had something to do with a precious sale. So I had to take action.”

“You’re sick, you know that?” she said. “Why would I ever come back to you? You killed Jacob and Rick!”

He shrugged as if she had mentioned a failed game of pick up basketball. Although instead of stroking her arm, he had grasped on tight and didn’t appear to be easing up.

“Just a miscalculation, your Rick. He was at the wrong place, wrong time. I walked out after that couple left and he knows my face, so I tazed him. Didn’t even mean to kill.”

“You—you didn’t mean to? How is a tazer to the heart a freakin’ accident.”

Abigail felt tears slip down her cheeks and snot from her nose as she imagined what he had done purposely to Jacob, the soft-spoken, red-haired love of her life. He would never kiss her forehead, buy her chocolate milkshakes on his way home from work, tuck in her kids at night. She was alone completely and entirely and Victor cared nothing for her feelings. That was clear.

“And Jake?” she asked, afraid to hear the answer, but she had to know.

“He put up a struggle, but I put a few beers in him…for old time’s sake. He bled out in an alley somewhere in Soho. He had it comin’.”

She screamed at him, her rage almost bursting through her skin. The rope burned as she whipped her arms around trying to break them. Spit flew from her mouth and for a second she saw terror in his eyes. Abigail spent her whole life taking control of everything. Now she was uncontrollable, and it was all thanks to Victor.

He will not leave this house alive if it’s the last thing I do. 

After she stopped screaming, he approached the bed, cautious, but eager. He seemed pleased that she was angry, so full of rage. As if this was his plan all along—to turn her into him.

“Yes, Abbs, let it out. Yell,scream, kick. It feels good doesn’t it?”

He reached out and touched her leg slick with sweat at trying to maneuver around the bed. She lifted her knee aiming for his groin, but he swung off the bed just in time.

“Now now, my fiesty wife. Don’t get too carried away. There’s plenty of time for that later. First, you need some rest. I’ll get you some food.”

 

Victor had only been gone a few minutes, but Abigail had made no progress wiggling or breaking the ropes. No matter how she twisted or shaped her hand they wouldn’t come off. Just as she was about to start gnawing on the rope out of sheer desperation, the doorknob turned on the bedroom door and swung open to reveal the empty hallway. No Victor in sight.

I thought that finicky lock had already been fixed. Maybe…Maybe he forgot to lock it..

Abigail quickly leaned back to the left to her least damaged hand and came face to face with her missing lover Jacob. Only Jacob appeared before her half there, half transparent.

“Jake…what’s wrong with you? Why do you look like that?” Abigail asked confused and hazy.

He just looked back at her with love in his eyes and smiled. “Don’t worry Abigail. I’m here to get you out.”

“But babe, you’re dead. How?”

Victor came back into the room and Abigail’s stomach lurched with fear, worrying he’d see Jacob. He didn’t see Jacob at all. In fact, he walked straight past him and over to Abby, sweetness filling his eyes again. “I’m sorry Abby-bear, I forgot there was no food here. I’ll be right back with all your favorites. This time, it’ll be better for us. Just trust me.”

He pleaded with her in the kindest voice he had, no sickening grin, just sadness. For a split second she realized how lonely he much be, and she planned to use that against him.

“Could you, honeypie, get me some coffee when you’re out. I’m so tired but I don’t want to fall alseep. Two creams and a pump of sugar-free vanilla?”

“Anything to make you more comfortable.”

As soon as the door closed Abby turned to her left and saw Jacob, still wearing the ratted flannel he wore to work everyday. He seemed there, but not really there. She couldn’t feel warmth or smell him when he came up to the bed.

“He’s downstairs now,” Jacob said. “I’m going to untie you, but you’ll need to get downstairs without making noise. I will look out while you get out of here.”

She gazed up at his brown eyes or at least that’s what she remembered them being. They were almost translucent now in the daylight. He waved his hand across the knots and they unraveled like a snake smoothing out its coils. Abigail clutched her right wrist, which was still bleeding, and rolled off the bed onto the floor. She tiptoed to the bathroom and wrapped a towel around it to stop the blood and made her way backwards down the stairs toward freedom.

Jacob, true to his word, glided along past her and waited at the bottom of the stairs looking in the direction of the living room every few seconds. She took her time, letting her barefoot touch each wooden step lightly to test for creaks before putting her full weight on it. There were only a few more steps left when heavy steps clomped toward the front of the house where she was crouch, exposed and unarmed on the staircase.

“Where the f*ck are you going, you slut? Slipping out and running away to who? Into the arms of another man…again! I’ve done everything for you—sacrificed everything for you.”

Rage replaced the sweetness that temporarily resided in his eyes. She felt all of the air in her lungs forced out and a punch slammed into her side and throw her against the banister. Her back hit one of the wooden pole and pain radiated from her lower back down into her right leg, buckling her knees. Abigail fell the remaining steps to the floor below, where Victor was standing over her, thankfully with no weapon in sight.

“That’s it Abby. I can’t wait around forever for you to change your mind. You want to be with Jacob, you can—“

He picked up the lamp on the bedside table and smashed it to the ground. It startled her and she began to shake, more urine trickling out onto the floor. He picked up a piece of ceramic from the floor and raised the arm with the shard to strike.  Abigail clenched her eyes closed in anticipation of the final blow.

The blow never came. A gasp escaped his mouth and she opened her eyes in time to see his mouth twisted into a horrible silent scream. Victor met her gaze, this time his eyes only showing confusion and hurt. He slumped face first onto the wool rug, still wet from Mr. Lahey’s shoes. Abigail stared at the third lifeless body today, watching as blood pour out from the gash that a piece of the ceramic lamp embedded had made into his once lustrous blonde hair.

“Oh god,” she whispered. “He’s dead. I can’t believe I’m free from that psycho.”

Behind Victor, Jacob hovered above in an ethereal glow. He smiled at her as though there was no one else in the room. His angular cheekbones were softened by the glow around him, but if she squinted she could see him clearly enough.

“Jake…how did this happen? How are you here with me now?”

She rose, a little shaky, to her feet, and limped toward him favoring her left leg and holding on to the towel on her right wrist. He floated backward as she moved closer to him, almost like she was chasing him now. They reach the large, heavy front door and stopped.

“I-I don’t know what to say,” Abigail said, more tears pouring down, her makeup almost certainly a watercolor on her face.

“There aren’t any good words for what happened, but know that I love you Abigail. They let me stay to help you out. To rid the world of this evil and give you a fresh start. Just don’t trust so easily this time around.”

Abigail was in shock and couldn’t move toward the door or any other direction. She had so many questions, but this sounded like a goodbye. It was too soon. He came closer to her and mimicked with his arms a comforting hug although she couldn’t feel his arms or body.

“Don’t leave me. I need you.”

The desperation, the love in her voice shone through, and he smiled a dazzling glowing smile that reached all the way to his eyes. This was goodbye for good.

“You will learn to be that strong, confident woman with me or any man. Just trust in your gut next time, not that you have one.”

She giggled at the joke and he smiled at her. Off in the distance, there were sirens calling out to her. And when she looked out the window, she saw the red and blue lights race down the street to her.

“Thank you, Jake.”

He was disappearing from the feet up by the time she turned around, but the smile never left his face.

“I love you, Jake.”

“You too, Abigail.”

And like the mysterious and clever Cheshire Cat, Jake’s smile was the last part of him to disappear before the police broke open the front door to rescue her.

THE END

Thank you for reading our little piece of creepiness.

Let us know what you thought of the twists and turns. Which part was your favorite? Which moment? Did you expect what happened at the end or was it a complete surprise?

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Manor Mystery Series-Part 2

Disclaimer: Gruesome details and profanity in this section

Part 2 of the spooky short story collaboration with the talented and lovely Megan Ireland and myself. We left off with our character Abigail looking for the origin of a strange rot smell in the house she was selling. In the bedroom, she opens the closet and…someone reaches out toward her…….

Manor Mystery Part 2

Once Abigail realized that she wasn’t hurt, she wedged her eyes open one at a time. On the ground before her was the lifeless body of a man.

How did the cleaners miss a dead body?

With the remaining strength she had left in her, she flipped the man over onto his back and bit down hard on her mauve-tinted lower lip to stop from screaming. The dead man’s face had patches of skin eaten away, leaving furry eyebrows over empty sockets without eyes. Even his lips and nose had been chewed to the bone. The only untouched body parts left on him were his hands, which grasped a thick envelope so tightly that it was difficult to remove.

“What the—”

Abigail pulled the envelope free with one swift motion so powerful that she landed on her backside. She got to her feet, smoothing out her clothes another time and sticking one square, acrylic nail under the flap of the envelope.

She opened the envelope with ease and removed the neatly folded piece of paper out from inside. She stumbled backwards from the body and sat down on the bed. The piece of paper trembling in her shaking hands, she looked down to read the words.

“YOU’RE NEXT ”

Her fear paralyzed her and in the second that followed she was unable to run or make any movement. It did provoke a loud, primal scream from her throat and she felt her lace panties soak with warm urine and run down her smooth, tan legs. She ignored the embarrassment as her heart raced inside her chest in full-blown terror. The fear abated long enough given her mobility back and remind her of the logical steps she needed to do next.

So, she went into the bathroom across the hall, cleaned herself up, and returned to the bedroom. Once she was in front of him again, she stared, blocking everything else out of sight, except for the body. The body that mocked her with its hollow eye sockets and rigor mortis limbs.

Get it together, Irving. Rick will be here any minute and there is a dead body between you and your success.

Flipping off her heels and removing her suit jacket, Abigail pushed her arms as far under the body as she could manage. She hefted the still beefy corpse into an upright position long enough to figure out her next move.

Back in the closet or basement?

The doorbell rang in time to answer her question. With one final shove, she launched the body to the back of the closet, slamming the doors seconds later. Her breathing came in laborious bursts as she sprinted to the Febreeze under the master bathroom sink and sprayed liberally towards the closet door before dropping it on the bed and darting for the front door. She stopped and doubled back for her shoes on the floor near the bed.

Abigail ran down the stairs sideways, desperate to keep her balance in her ridiculously high heels as she maneuvered each step with hasty expertise. She peeled off sweat-matted hair from her forehead and neatened the strands before opening the door, trying hard to mask her heavy breathing and appear collected.

When she opened the door to Devinshire Manor, Abigail’s cleaning guy was not standing there waiting for her with his bucket and his comical tool belt of supplies. She scanned both sides of the road for his van, which she finally found parked five houses down almost out of view of the manor. Relief flooded her body as someone familiar finally came to help her with the horror upstairs.

She clomped over to right side of the wrap around porch where a few wicker rocking chairs had been set up next to a matching table. There was a slight movement out of the corner of her eye and she ripped her gaze away from the cleaning van and found someone sitting in one of the chairs. Not just someone, Rick with his spiked black and a tattoo of Celtic knot work that wrapped around his bicep, was slumped in the chair. While Rick didn’t appear to move at her presence, the rocking chair was moving gently back and forth in the still air.

“Rick, thank God you’re here, but there couldn’t be a worse time for you to be relaxi-”

But Rick didn’t look at her or even blink as she spoke. In fact, he wasn’t moving at all. The rocking chair eventually slowed and his head swung to face her as if his neck had no bones and wobbled at the slightest breeze.  After jumping what felt like several feet in the air, Abigail inched closer despite her heart pounding rapidly through her chest and adrenaline coursing through her veins, and found two holes in his shirt and matching blisters on his skin right where his heart would be. They were starting to ooze blood and plasma down his chest, and she yelped when her foot accidentally bumped the chair and Rick’s body leaned forward into her.

Abigail pushed him back wildly but she wasn’t strong enough and the body swung towards her again after her initial shove, she screeched and lurched backward toward the house and shutting the door. With her back pressed against the door the image of Rick’s lifeless gaze were ingrained into her mind’s eye, the images of his dead body even worse when she closed her eyes.

“Two dead bodies in one day. How does one person find two bodies in the same day?”

I should just call the police, obviously I’ve done nothing wrong.

Abigail sank to the floor, her hands shook as they fumbled for her cell phone in her blazer pocket. When she grasped it, she whipped it back to her, choking down one last sob before dialing 9-1-1.

“This is 9-1-1, what is your emergency?” a soft-spoken woman answered on the other line.

Clearing her throat, Abigail put on a smile for no one and told the woman the dead body of her cleaning man was outside on the porch. Her voice was the one she used with her clients. The fake, everything-is-all-right voice she used to calm her children. She used it to try and calm herself, but the paranoia of the first body upstairs in the closet sent a wave of panic through her so strongly that bile rose in her throat and threatened the antique wool rug.

You are a strong, confident woman. You can…

“Ma’am…Ma’am. We’re sending a patrol car to you now. They’re 30 minutes out. Please remain calm and do not leave the scene.”

“Yes, yes, I understand,” Abigail replied and pressed end on the call.

Abigail pulled herself up for what seemed like the millionth time that day, and smoothed out her blazer. The note from Rick’s hand flopped out and onto the floor stark white against the dark reds and browns of the rug. When she retrieved it, she fought back the tears stinging in her eyes as she continued to picture Rick’s rocking corpse. Her hands shook so violently that she barely opened the folded slip of paper.

Accidents happen, Abby-bear.

That’s what you told me when you f*cked my best friend.

Thank God you miscarried or you would have had his kid.

This is YOUR fault.

A knock came at the door, tearing her away from the note and sending a jolt of adrenaline through her body. She peered through the half moon window of the door and saw someone dressed in a police uniform, back turned to her. Their cop car was parked right in front of the house, but the lights weren’t on.

Wow, they got here fast. Although, I expected them to have lights on and sirens or something. Weird.

She jerked open the door as quickly as possible, stuffing the note and her phone into her blazer. The cop didn’t immediately turn around, so she tapped the slightly taller person on the shoulder.

“Thank God, you’re here. I’ve been—.”

“Don’t tell me you suddenly became religious, Abby-bear,” the cop said, his voice deep and grating, but familiar to her ears.

He turned to face her and she almost lost her balance. Her ex, Victor, was standing in front of her—tousled blonde hair tucked up under the police-issue hat, blue eyes that had so long ago been kind and sparkling, now were cold and dull.

“What the hell, Vic-“

Blinding pain interrupted Abigail before she could finish her question. Victor had punched her so hard she saw stars for a brief second before darkness and unconsciousness took over. When she came to, she was strapped to the bed and alone in the master bedroom. Abigail pulled on her wrists, but the ropes only dug in more burning her skin as she twisted around in what turned out to be solid knot work only a sailor could appreciate. She tried escaping her binds still for another 10 minutes before resigning herself to defeat. Suddenly, she jolted against the mattress when she remembered that the corpse from earlier was still hidden in the closet.

Did Victor really kill that man too? How was I even married to the nutcase?

Abigail glanced uneasily in that direction only to find the door wide open and nothing inside. She couldn’t even really smell anything off at all anymore. Her heart raced faster as she scanned the room for her captor, and quickly wet her dry lips with her tongue.

Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap….TAP, TAP.

The comically melodic tapping at the door startled her so much that tears began to spill from the corners of her eyes. Her breathing slowed so that her ears could take in every tiny sound as the fear radiated through her ears.

I just wanted to sell the house. I don’t want to die today. 

“Abby…Oh Abby, I’ve missed you so much, I’ve been waiting for so long…” Vic spoke, pressed up against the other side of the closed bedroom door and breathing heavily as he pawed at the wood.

To be continued….

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Karma from the Closet Floor

I received a submission from January’s prompts and it is my pleasure to share another piece by my wonderful friend Rona. She was featured first on my 12 Days of Blogmas series with a winter-themed piece you can read here after you’re done reading her latest piece published below. It is a joy to see your friends prosper, but I’ve had the chance to see Rona grow even in a few months with her writing. It is my honor to share her work on my humble spotted page.

The prompt Rona chose from the January selection was: Use these three things in a story: nail polish, a VHS tape, a book of spells.

Karma from the Closet Floor

Lydia looked down at her nails in disgust. Three of them were broken and all of them had chips in the new coats of nail polish. This divorce was now wreaking havoc on her manicure.nails

Sighing, she leaned against her bedroom wall where she had been sitting on the floor. She was surrounded by chaos. There were boxes were strewn in disarray, several large garbage bags sat near the door, and piles of clothes covered her bed. She’d been going at this for a week now, sorting through the rooms of her small house and it seemed like a never-ending task. She had no desire to continue living in the house; its ghosts were a constant, painful reminder of recent events. By putting off the inevitable for so long, she was forcing everything to be done in order to move out. The new owners would be arriving less than three weeks.

Fifteen years of marriage were piled high for her to sort, pack up, or discard. When Jacob left, he merely rolled out with a suitcase. He didn’t want the house, none of the furniture, appliances, dishes they had accumulated together. And, as he so eloquently phrased it, he didn’t want her either. He was leaving it all behind.

Tears threatened to spill from her eyes again. Lydia didn’t think she had enough bodily fluids left to cry anymore, but that didn’t seem to be the case. If she was honest with herself, it wasn’t so much him that she was crying over. While she had truly loved him in the beginning, Jacob had become an insensitive bastard in the last year. The truth was, it didn’t really come as a surprise that he was leaving her for some simpering blonde, a sycophant with whom he had been cheating on her for months. Things had been going downhill for a quite a while, but divorce meant failure to her and so she stuck with him long after she should have let it go. No, it was simply the slap-in-the-face rejection; it was the message a cheater sends to their partner. You’re not enough. You can’t be what I need. You aren’t good enough for me anymore. You’re a loser. Each phrase, an emotional, selfish slap to her self-esteem.

Lifting herself, albeit begrudgingly, to her feet, Lydia went into the bathroom to blow her nose on some toilet paper. She caught a brief glimpse of herself in the mirror and shuddered. All her renewed crying  had turned her face in a puffy, blotchy mess.  She tried to ignore the lump forming in her throat, threatening to cause another waterfall of tears and turned off the bathroom light.

cheesecakeMaking her way into the kitchen, she opened the refrigerator with the hope that some sustenance was what she needed to help revive her spirits. She was greeted by the sight of a few bottles of water and two pieces of cheesecake. Just what she needed! Grabbing the pan of cheesecake and one of the bottles, she made her way into the living room where she sat on her couch. It was one of the only places in the house that still had an open space.

Biting into a forkful of creamy bliss, she made a mental inventory of what still needed done. Most of the house was packed up. She had made multiple trips to Goodwill. So many in fact, that they greeted her by name and she felt she had provided enough items for them to open another store. She had dragged bag after bag of trash to the curb. She dreaded the round of cursing that was sure to ensue when the trash man came tomorrow, but she had at least done the courtesy of calling them and warning of the mountain waiting to be hauled away.

All that remained really was her bedroom. Their bedroom. God, how many nights had he come home to her after being with that nasty little skank and she had been clueless? How does a person do that? Go fuck someone else and then come home to your spouse and lay there as if nothing had happened? How deep a level of selfishness must there be inside to be so callous?

Sniffing and biting into piece number two of cheesecake, Lydia thought of the other day when she came across their wedding album. Flipping through the pages, she had remembered every moment of the day. The sight of Jacob’s smiling face as he held her hand to his lips, her adoring gaze at him, their bodies framed in a heart shaped matte in the final photo, had sent her into a rage. Betraying asshole! She had grabbed a pair of scissors that she had for the packing tape, and proceeded to cut up almost every single picture. She only saved the ones that had her parents in them, both gone now due to a horrific car accident. She cut just Jacob out of those. She did the same to her wedding footage, still on a VHS tape. She pulled out the ribbons of tape and cut them.

Somehow she had to pull herself together. She had always been an independent person. She had married for love, not to be taken care of. Yet here she was, feeling completely helpless and useless.

“What the hell happened to you?” she whispered out loud.

Lydia got up and threw the now empty pan and dirty fork into the sink, and the water bottle into the trash. Taking a deep breath to clear her thoughts, she went back to the bedroom. As she picked up clothes from the closet floor to be boxed up, she uncovered two books that had been buried under one of the piles.

bookShe remembered tossing them there as she went through her stacks of books, debating on whether or not to keep them. One of them was a book of spells, something she had purchased when she had been going through a curious Wiccan phase. She had stopped reading it when her long-dormant, childhood Baptist guilt surfaced and hid it away in a drawer to collect dust and age. The second was an empty journal book. It had been given to her as a white elephant exchange gift, and while she had never written in it, she had kept it anyway for unknown reasons.

Taping up and labeling the last box of clothes, Lydia then turned to the trash bags and began to haul them one by one to the curb. My God, the pile was huge! There were at least 25 bags. She stopped counting at 25 at least. Hopefully she would sleep through the trash man’s tirade in the morning.

Returning to the house and locking the doors, Lydia took a long and well-earned hot shower. The water helped relax her and in doing so she began to form her game plan to get her life back on track. As an independent book editor, she wouldn’t have to face an office full of people during her emotional healing. She could work on herself from the comfort of her home.

Pulling the covers down to crawl into bed, she again noticed the two books. Taking the book of spells, she decided that it wouldn’t hurt to finish it. Maybe she could even find a spell or two to help Karma find Jacob and his blonde sooner rather than later. The thought cheered her and she set it on the night stand.

The journal was another matter. Getting under the covers, she turned it over in her hands wondering what to do with it. She thought for several moments and then reached out to the top of a box near the bed, and grabbed the sharpie she had been using to label everything. Opening the journal to page one, she paused and then carefully wrote:

Each day I will find

Another piece of me

Remaking the person

I used to be.

For the first time in weeks, she smiled.

 

 

Happy Reading and Writing!

Thanks again Rona for sharing your work with us!

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Read It Out Loud! Tips for Public Reading

Public reading for a writer can be a time of great excitement or intense terror depending on the writer and the stage of experience. Last weekend (04/27), I had the pleasure of reading at Biddle’s Escape in Wilkinsburg, Pa for Saturday Night Stories. I have Samantha Barrett to thank for this opportunity because I absolutely love every opportunity to practice reading aloud because it is one of the important aspects of being a writer. Sure the whole writing a book thing is necessary, but how do you build a following with your readers if you can’t show them who you are?

By reading in public, of course! If you had asked me to read my work aloud before enrolling at Carlow University, I would have said “keep on trucking.” The fact is that the publishing industry has passed the publicity torch unceremoniously to the author. We are now plagued and at the same time blessed with the chance to hold the future in our tiny, ink-stained hands.

The cost, however, is that each writer must be willing to entrust the audience with their secrets. The stories aren’t secret because they can be published. Instead,  the author is sharing the intimate way they know the characters, the voices he/she has given them in private, and the joy that comes with being proud of one’s writing. For this particular reading, I was tasked with the “assignment” so to speak of reading up to 25 minutes. One of the most important points to remember when choosing a piece for your reading is that it is okay to go under your time (as long as it isn’t too much under). It is not acceptable to go over. This does not leave time for questions and takes away from other readers. Simply put—keep on or under your time so that you can show the best aspect of you in that short time. Practice timing yourself before hand in front of your friends or in my case, your cat:

See! She totally pays attention!

See! She totally pays attention!

Also, the clothing you choose is just as important. Sure, we were in a casual coffee house, which normally means clothing can be as well. Nope. Think again. You should dress how you want your readers to see you. My goal is to show I’m put together and professional when reading to prove to my readers it is not a struggling artist that creates good writing, but one that is intent on success through their work. It can be achieved with one swift motion—dressing like every reading matters. To your future readers, your public readers are their introduction to the unpublished work and getting to know you as an author.

Finally, work on your presence in front of the audience by keeping mind the following and GOOD LUCK:

Smile. Smile. Smile. Smile even when you think you are because chances are, you aren’t smiling enough. Be happy that you can share your work with others it is a special moment to be cherished.

Take deep breaths and relax. Let your confidence show a little. It’s okay to show off while reading and be humble afterward.

Wait at the podium or microphone for the applause to be done. Bask in the limelight while you can. The applause is meant to show appreciate, and leaves time for people to ask questions. If you run off the stage, no one will have the chance to ask interesting, thought-provoking questions.

Always check to make sure everyone can hear. What’s worse than an author you can’t understand—one you can’t hear. Speak clearly and loudly for the people to hear the piece you have striven to perfect for them.

Slow down. Take your time and savor the words in your mouth. As you will see in the video of my reading below, I rush through the first section of my short story, and you can’t hear it as well as when I get into my “groove” towards the middle. It is better received if the audience can ride along with you through the story rather than try and catch up as you race ahead.

So, I leave you my darlings with the video of my reading. The short story is called “Stone Bridge Angel.” I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed reading and writing it.

Happy Reading and Writing!

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What is a Story? Don’t Worry, Claire Keegan Answers

During my residency in Dublin with Carlow’s MFA Program, I had the pleasure of meeting Irish short fiction author, Claire Keegan.  She presented the most unique perspective on writing for her fiction workshop, and I fervently wrote down every word.

Claire Keegan-Irish short story author

She began the workshop by asking the students what should be the easiest question to answer: what is a story? I was speechless. I thought I knew what a story is enough to answer, but I reluctantly stayed silent.

Other people suggested plausible answers, but none were acceptable for our fiery guest speaker. She graciously provided her vision to us. Although her opinion isn’t the only one, the strength behind the words moved me.

She passionately described writing stories as a temporal art. You cannot live in the past while writing. One human truth is that we are irreversibly moving forward into the future, and our writing should match that.  If you think visually of the incision, especially for a short story, you can understand where the story can begin. For Keegan, a story is an incision in time in which the author shows the character in a situation, where they desire something they don’t have. Conceptually, her answer has so many good points, and I attentively listened to her every word because it made perfect sense.

Our passionate speaker proceeded with what perspective she believed should be used in a story. What other perspective than that of the character?! By looking through the eyes of the character, the reader understands everything he/she is experiencing. Keegan explained very simply that thinking about your story through your character allows you to know what their desires are and to write about that.

Now onto the most important part of any story–DESIRE! What every human being has bubbling inside them, desire is the fuel for anything we do. Naturally, it should be the driving force for the character in your story. As an author, how do you know what desires to choose for your character?

Well, Keegan has the answer. “Desires comes from what we have seen.” Seems like common sense for us to want what we have seen, but it’s difficult to change  our way of writing to accommodate her strict guidelines. Keegan insisted that giving pictures to the reader will help guide them through the incision in time that you have decided to write about.  She said, “Readers will follow your pictures as long as you provide them. Give them the time, place, and person so they know who/what to follow.”

Her sense of character and time presented the students with an opportunity to realize so much more about our work. After the workshop, we had the pleasure to hear Keegan read from her long short story, “Fosters,” and all of the advise she had given was shown in her writing. She effectively painted a series of pictures of a young girl in a specific time, and kept my attention throughout the entire reading. There was never a moment in her reading that I was not captivated by Keegan.

A story for me is no longer something abstract, and difficult to describe. Now, I have a vision in my head of what a story can be if I use the tools that Keegan provided at the workshop.  I hope some of her advice can help you with your writing as it has with mine, and I encourage you to look up Claire Keegan’s work. It is as powerful and fierce as the author.

Happy reading and writing!!

 

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Milestone Achieved: I Finished “Somewhere”

All of the excitement of two of my colleagues being published has inspired me not only to give them some promotion on my blog and inspiration to finish my short story, “Somewhere”.

David McCabe’s novel, Without Sin is insightful and brutally honest historical fiction of the deep Southwest. Take a tour through the mind of young prostitutes seeking freedom:

http://myemail.constantcontact.com/Without-Sin—A-Novel.html?soid=1109620549010&aid=15QteE9RHWY

Colin O’ Boyle’s Episode 1: Two Plus Two Equals Five (The Chronicles of Professor Jack Baling) follows Jack Baling on a journey of mad science proportion.

http://www.amazon.com/Episode-Equals-Chronicles-Professor-ebook/dp/B007Q3LV0W/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1333419305&sr=1-1

I know both authors personally, and can assure your money will be well spent, and entertainment provided.

Onto more good news, I have finally finished my short story, “Somewhere,” about a young woman who finds herself trapped in her own mind while suffering from a coma. The only way to survive this deadly sleep is for Sophie to live key memories of her past and future to change what may come to pass. It’s a mysterious insight into the world of a woman who must change her ways or stay in this coma forever.

Can she handle the future Fate has predicted for her?

Sounds exciting right? I might have oversold the piece a bit since it still has tons of revisions ahead, but I have high hopes. I finally completed the main story, and have done revisions to 3 out of 4 parts.  After weeks of hard work, I have found that I hate ending stories. It’s not that I can’t end the story. I simply don’t like to do it. I’m afraid that I’m doing it wrong.  I haven’t had a lot of practice with only two completed short stories under my belt, but this is probably the hardest part of writing at the moment.

Contrary to my essay writing, which is easy for me to conclude, I don’t want my story ending to disappoint. If I have done my job at all the ending decides whether my reader gets the overall story or if I leave them wanting too much more in a standalone piece.  It may take some practice, but any advice I could get on the subject would be greatly appreciated!

I am hoping to hear a response back from my mentor tomorrow with revisions and chances to improve. I will post part 3 and maybe part 4 if the outcome is positive. I hope I can nudge my readers to take a look at part 1 and 2 in my fiction section, and then give me some feedback when 3 is added.

Happy reading/writing!

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I’m Baaaacccck!

My short hiatus is over, and I am glad to be back in the game. It was a grueling two or three days that I was forced away from daily routine to write 10 pages of fiction for school. I think I would like to recant my statement that school was going to be easy. Even when we don’t meet and only have 8 assignments for the practicum, it’s still tough as balls!

It was rough trying to write 10 pages when my story is coming to a close. If I was writing a novel, I could pump out 10 pages easily. However, I am notorious for putting too much unnecessary detail in my story. This is even more important not to mess up because short stories are meant to say a lot in less words.

On the plus side, the due dates allow me to add significant length to my story without compromising my insane imagination. I feel like I benefit most from having someone give me a specific amount of writing by a certain time to avoid my chronic procrastination. Instead of wasting weeks only writing a few pages, it allows me to get more content out with a goal in mind. I think the process of having someone constantly expecting a certain amount of writing for you makes you a better writer.

It’s not going to be easy when I’m on my own with no deadline other than the imaginary goals I make for myself. This is mostly because I never follow my own due dates, but also because I don’t have someone nagging me to get it done so they can critique it. The importance of a critique fuels me to write my story in a better way than I would have. Sometimes as a writer, you begin writing a story that is more for you than for potential readers. It has those boring parts that only mean something to you personally, and the story has holes only your experiences can fill. If you know you’re going to have someone read your story, it must evolve to an universal story that can apply to more people without sacrificing the integrity of the story. It makes my writing more than a hobby if I can entertain or influence readers other than myself.

So far, I feel good about the progress I’ve made with my writing. While i wait to hear the verdict from my mentor, I’m keeping my head high. Even if she hasn’t seen a change in my writing, I know I have. I can’t make every reader happy, especially one who has been writing for so many years. The useful skills she provides are vital to my development, but the truth is simple. You’re not going to please every reader with your style. Since I’m just grasping my style and purpose, there is room to be molded. However, the fundamental aspects that make my writing unique, won’t be changed no matter how many times I’m told about it.

You see, the magic of writing is that once you have a good set of skills, creative license allows you to make decisions other writers wouldn’t make. This idea appeals most to poets who can defy normal sentence structure. Yet, fiction writers have been changing their personal format since the beginning. It makes our job truly amazing that we have the opportunity to bring our story to life exactly how we see it. Whether or not a publisher wants to sell it is a completely different post all together.

I’m off to my next assignment. Happy reading and writing!

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