Deadline approaching for the 2022 WordCrafter Short Fiction Contest & a chance for inclusion in the Visions Anthology

Visions

Just a reminder:

The deadline to enter the 2022 WordCrafter Short Fiction Contest, May 31st. There’s still time to get your submission in for a chance to have your story included in the Visions anthology alongside other esteemed authors, but don’t delay. You can find the full submission guidelines and entry here.

The deadline is fast approaching and will be here before you know it. The winner will receive a $25 Amazon gift card in addition to being featured in the anthology, but you can’t win if you don’t enter. If you write fantasy, science fiction, horror or paranormal short fiction, I want to read your story!


Book Reviews – First Bite: A Limited Edition Vampire Romance Collection

I’m kind of hesitant about vampire stories. I’ve read a few that were crafted quite well, like those created by Anne Rice, which I loved and more than a few with twinkling vampires or other gimmicks which veered from traditional tropes, which turned my stomach just a little. But when I received a review invitation from Jordan Elizabeth for the new anthology in which she has a story featured, I didn’t think twice before saying yes.

The Creative Words anthology, First Bite is a varied collection of vampire romance stories: vampires romancing vampires, vampires romancing humans, vampires romancing hunters, or vice verse, etc…., which might be classified as vampire erotica. While I must admit that horny vampires don’t do a lot for me, but many of these stories were explicit and the erotic portions were tastefully done. But be aware that some of these stories bordered on sizzling.

Several of the stories featured are prequels, leading into the rest of the series, rather than complete stand-alone stories. This may be a clever marketing trick to entice readers into the series, but it may also be frustrating to a reader who is expecting a complete story arc in each offering.

I personally, find this tactic annoying, because just when the author has grabbed your attention and you are really getting into the story, they pull it all away and say, “If you want more, go buy my book.” Seems a little underhanded, doesn’t it? But, I know this is a marketing tactic authors are often using these days. You usually see it in newsletter magnets and freebies, although I’ve not seen it in an anthology before.

But… I loved the unique, (at least to me), story concept for “Vampire Occupation”, by Kat Parrish. Although it ends with “to be continued…”, it left me intrigued enough that I’d like to read more. Apparently the tactic works, annoying or not.

There were no prequels or “to be continueds…” from the author requesting the review, Jordan Elizabeth. I’ve reviewed many of her YA novels in the past, and always find them quite enjoyable, and her story, “October in Elmdale “, was no exception. I was drawn into this story immediately by her skillfully placed hook, and her full story arc kept me riveted to the end, where love blooms around a broken curse.

Also worth mention in this story collection is “Must Love Humans”, by Amada Aggie, a complete story where love is kindled over a bet on a game of billiards; “Immortally Yours”, by Lenore Danvers, a complete story in which the vampire plays the part of knight rescuing a damsel who doesn’t yet know she is in distress, and “Once Bitten”, by Kathleen Ryder, a complete story where lost love is reclaimed in spite of a dark secret.

Only a vampire can cherish you forever.

Hidden among average cities and quaint little towns, monsters hunt unsuspecting prey. Secret predators prowl in plain sight, watching. Waiting. The lost souls they consume never see the beast before it hits. If they did, they’d willingly give in to the intoxication of the vampire’s sex appeal.

Overall, First Bite: A Limited Edition Vampire Romance Collection is a captivating anthology of vampire romance stories for the adult reader. I give it four quills.

Buy Link: https://www.amazon.com/First-Bite-Limited-Vampire-Collection-ebook/dp/B09L356DG1

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Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


BOWLESIAN! – Dr. Julianus Techt’s Five Easy Steps to Building a Better You

Dr. Julianus Techt’s Five Easy Steps to Building a Better You

by Jeff Bowles

You are an absolute horror show. You are a wreck and ruin of a human being. I can’t even stand the sight of you anymore. You’re weak. Feeble. Go on and do it. Go on and rid the universe of your wretchedness once and for all.
Sound familiar?
Hi, friends. Dr. Julianus Techt here. Life got you down? No friends? No significant love interests? No point in living one more excruciating, soul-crushing day? Believe me, I know the feeling.
Congratulations on your purchase of Dr. Julianus Techt’s 5 Easy Steps to Building a Better You. This book, and the accompanying materials and spells companion crate, are each designed with the lowlife in mind. Contained within these pages, friends, are the answers you are looking for. Not happy with the man/woman you have become? Why not simply build a better you? The methods, magics, and matriculations I am about to divulge are time-tested and fool-proofed.
I know exactly what it’s like. I was once in your shoes. My PhD is in world-class suffering. I earned my doctorate at the school of hard knocks. Now I am a new man entirely. Come along with me and discover the secrets to self-love, self-respect, and self-actualization. Your glorious, resplendent days in the sun are just 5 Easy Steps away….

Easy Step 1: Back to Basics

Why is it you hate yourself so much? Why is it you’re so despairingly, disconsolately desperate to become a better human being? Is it because, like me, you’ve let down every last friend, family member, and lover who’s ever cared about you? Or do you, like me, simply find life painful, disappointing, a series of valleys–each deeper and darker than the last–without even a passing glimpse of a single peak or shred of hope?
Ha ha. Well, you were sharp enough to buy this book. So at least you’ve got that going for you.
I want you to imagine what the better you will look like.
Now I want you to open your materials and spells companion crate and make it happen.
Inside the crate you will find,
One (1) man-sized sheet of multi-colored construction paper
Five (5) century-aged cherry wood logs, each weighing approximately twenty-five (25) lbs.
One hundred seventy-five (175) lbs. of premium oil-based plastilina modeling clay.
One (1) ancient scroll of Black Soul-Shard enchantments.
And last, but not least,
One (1) complimentary Pizza Barn coupon, buy 1 slice, get the second half-off.
Arrange your materials and spells in whatever manner that best allows for ease-of-access and attenuation with the life-force powers of the universe and the forsaken black domain of the damnation/animation god, Frülik.
Ready to begin?
Good. I was hoping you’d say that.

Note: Dr. Julianus Techt’s 5 Easy Steps to Building a Better You is, if nothing else, a trial-and-error process. Steps 2-4 will enable you to produce 3 different soul-shard versions of yourself. If at any time you become satisfied with a soul brother or sister, please feel free to skip to step 5, There, isn’t That Better? Similarly, if at any time you feel threatened or are attacked by your soul brothers or sisters, please discontinue use, flee your house or place of residence, and immediately cash in your complimentary Pizza Barn coupon as you await police/emergency medical technician intervention.

Easy Step 2: Frülik

From your kitchen, retrieve one (1) large knife, serrated; one (1) cereal bowl; one and one-half (1 1/2) teaspoons of iodized table salt; one (1) sticky bandage, extra-large; and one (1) lb. of leftover meat to offer as supplication to Frülik, the damnation/animation god.
Retrieve your ancient Black Soul-Shard scroll and refer to enchantment #12 as you perform the following:
Sit down on the floor with your legs crossed. Pour the salt into the bowl and set it in your lap so that it can catch the copious amounts of blood about to gush from the palm of your hand.
This next part may sting a little.
Slice open your hand and hold it over the bowl. As you howl in agony, notice that your blood runs red. This will change as you begin to recite the enchantment, the one which begins,
“Oh mighty Frülik! I offer you my blood and meat! Cleave my astral self in twain! Take from me now that which you desire most!”
Notice that three things occur. The first is that your blood turns black. Don’t be alarmed. This is simply an indication you have just sold your soul for something far purer than you can possibly imagine. Notice, too, that the air around you has suddenly grown approximately 50° cooler. Your breath puffs frost. You snort in the cold like a castrated bull. You should probably be aware that the damnation/animation god, who will be arriving shortly, cannot abide warmth. It reminds him the living still thrive in the world beyond his forsaken realm, and that for him, all hope for love, passion, and earthly pleasures are lost, lost, lost.
Anyway, the last thing you will notice is that a 10-foot tall, bone-armored, entrail-covered, cloven-footed demon god will scratch and claw his way from the cereal bowl filled with salt and your precious blood.
Once he’s standing over you, with the edge of his massive Broadsword of Deepest Lacerations resting precipitously against your neck, he will squeal like a cancerous boar. He will then say something to the effect of,
“Woe unto you! Woe! Your soul is damned to the bleakest pits of horror and suffering! Pestilence! Rotten, fetid, malodorous flesh! I shall feast on your severed scrotum each mealtime for a thousand lives of men!”*

*Please note that based on your gender, Frülik may or may not in fact use the word “scrotum.”

The damnation/animation god will now use his broadsword to cleave your head from your shoulders. Do not be alarmed, this is simply an astral projection of your head and nothing more. Unfortunately, the pain you feel is entirely real and will no doubt haunt you for years to come.
Frülik is consumed by his own lust for spiritual power. He will snort and stomp and pull exactly three (3) individual shards of your soul out through your neck. His desire, of course, is to eat them and thereby enslave you for all time as his personal Concubine of Nightly Anguish.
It is now appropriate to offer him the one (1) lb. of supplication meat.
“Meager vittles!” he will bellow, but he will nevertheless proceed to stuff the meat into his face and forget all about the severed pieces of your spiritual essence hanging from your throat.
Please refer to enchantment #16 on your ancient scroll. Recite and repeat until the damnation/animation god is banished, moaning and cursing your name, back to his profane realm.
“Mighty Frülik!,” you will say. “Return to blackness! Mighty Frülik! A caelo usque ad centrum!”
Once Frülik is gone, and his howls of abject agony and rage have finally subsided, you will feel the urge to pass out and slip into the Sleep of Ages. This is completely normal, a side-effect of doing business with a demon god, and I must tell you, feels rather nice after a nightcap of chamomile tea and vodka.
Before you sleep, pull the three soul shards from the astral wound in your neck and lay them out, as best you can, with the rest of the materials from your companion crate.
When you awaken in exactly twelve (12) days and nights, we will finally create your soul brothers/sisters. Won’t that be fun?

Easy Step 3: The Better You Emerges

Twelve (12) days and nights have now passed. Are we back in the land of the living? Excellent.
Quick, what is fragile, tenuous, rough around the edges, and excruciatingly, mind-numbingly easy to reduce to cinder? No, it’s not Dr. Julianus Techt’s four failed marriages. It’s paper, friends. Simple, well-crafted, infinitely pliable commercial paper.
Your next task is to create a soul brother/sister from the man-sized sheet of multi colored construction paper you’ve retrieved from the materials and spells companiontjngsopjojgs kijipsgmijijithinign ijisrjomoejoig Frülik fhsko
sohoihionofihisniohi Frülik shinjpspsom Frülik shions
Frülik loves Techt
Frülik loves Techt
Frülik luvs Techt
Frülik has Techt
Frülik has Techtmpr
Say goodbye, Techt
Say goodbye, Techgtnikjigjopop

Managing Editor’s Note: And this is the last thing he wrote for the project, people. The police entered his home last week to find the place torn to pieces but otherwise empty. They found on his workstation a single Tupperware dish containing a full pound of rotting meat.
Due to the highly volatile and disturbed nature of this manuscript–and of course, in light of Dr. Julianus Techt’s mysterious disappearance–One-Hill Prairie Publishing hereby suspends all production plans for Five Easy Steps to Building a Better You until further notice. We have also mandated the immediate destruction of all mockup materials and spells companion crates. Our number one priority is to keep the particulars of this project from reaching the public. Can you imagine what’d happen if some poor fool actually attempted any of this?

Post-Script: We realize that working with Dr. Techt these past weeks and months has been trying, and at times, freakishly horrifying. Free mental health screenings and complimentary Pizza Barn coupons to all who apply.

END


Jeff Bowles is a science fiction and horror writer from the mountains of Colorado. The best of his outrageous and imaginative work can be found in God’s Body: Book One – The Fall, Godling and Other Paint Stories, Fear and Loathing in Las Cruces, and Brave New Multiverse. He has published work in magazines and anthologies like PodCastle, Tales from the Canyons of the Damned, the Threepenny Review, and Dark Moon Digest. Jeff earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing at Western State Colorado University. He currently lives in the high-altitude Pikes Peak region, where he dreams strange dreams and spends far too much time under the stars. Jeff’s new novel, Love/Madness/Demon, is available on Amazon now!

Love Madness Demon Cover Final

Check out Jeff Bowles Central on YouTube – Movies – Video Games – Music – So Much More!


BOWLESIAN! – Tumbleweeds and Little Girls

Tumbleweeds and Little Girls

They had the tumbleweed ambassador on the news a month before the big battle. The news guy and news girl said he was intelligent, and then a local representative of the Plains and Wildlife Service translated for him because tumbleweeds can’t talk and must sign everything by rolling and hopping and what not.
“We mean your people no harm,” said the Plains and Wildlife Service guy. He spoke kind of slow and choppy. I guessed he wasn’t actually, what do you call it? Fluent in tumbleweed?
He said, “The war has started, whether you realize it or not. The Prairie Queen has an army of deer, antelope and coyotes. She’s got the power of fire. She murdered our Wizard Father and made her castle from our dead tumbleweed brothers and sisters. The crazy bitch!”
I winced at this last word. I’m only twelve years old, after all. My dad used to talk real rough like that. He used to cuss and laugh and say to me, “Don’t repeat that to your mother, Amie Masterson. I don’t want to fight no little girl.” Then we’d roughhouse a bit. My dad died last year, though. Some kind of cancer. Mom never told me which.
I don’t usually watch the late news. I’m supposed to be in bed. But Mom passed out on the sofa early. I laid a blanket over her and picked the empty wine bottle off its side so it wouldn’t drip on the carpet.
The Plains and Wildlife Service guy said, “Have you not noticed her spot-fires outside your city? We want to kill your precious girls!”
The tumbleweed popped up into the air and spun angrily.
Plains and Wildlife Guy said, “Oh, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. We want to utilize your precious girls. We have no defenses. We need soldiers. The Prairie Queen cannot stand against the wealth of your girls. Or so we believe.”
There was some more talking. I was getting sleepy.
The news guy said, “And of course we know the city has been expanding into the Queen’s prairieland at an exponential rate.”
And the news girl said, “Right you are, Tom. In retrospect, that may have been a huge mistake. Oops.”
And then a commercial for local heating and cooling repair came on. I went to kiss Mom on the forehead. She moaned softly, smiled for a second, and then settled into a noisy, listless snore. Mom is a good mother, but I think Dad dying did some stuff to her. I guess that’s normal. She never used to drink wine.
There was a knock at the door. I was scared for a second, but only because Mom said never to open the door to strangers at such a late hour.
There was another knock.
“Mom,” I said, “someone at the door.”
Mom didn’t wake up. I nudged her, shook her, but still nothing, all snores, drool dribbling from the corner of her mouth. I went to the door, looked through the peephole.
There was nobody there.
“The heck?” I said. I slid back the deadbolt and opened the door.
A tumbleweed sat on our welcome mat. It had a leather glove duct-taped to its scrawny, scratchy limbs. It was kind of a big tumbleweed. The color of autumn wild grass. It leaned in to, like, look in our house.
“Is this because I’m a precious girl?” I said.
The tumbleweed shook.
“And you’re recruiting all the girls and that means me, right?”
It shook again.
“Only thing is I can’t leave. Mom’ll be super pissed. Oops. Mom’ll be super angry.”
The tumbleweed rolled, over and over, until the glove and duct tape came undone and stuck and sat limp and kind of sad on our porch. The tumbleweed wiggled and bent toward the glove.
I shrugged and picked it up. There was a big rock inside. There was also some red dirt. I brought the dirt to my nose to sniff it. It smelled salty, briny, kind of like how I imagine the ocean smells, like vast rotting shipwrecks beneath the waves where porpoises and turtles swim and play.
“What’s this stuff?” I said.
The tumbleweed smashed into my leg. My hand jerked, the dirt flew, a bunch of it went up my nose.
I sneezed.
Someone said, Me entiendes?
I sneezed again. A big cloud of red flew from my nostrils.
Someone said, Ne me comprenez-vous?
“Huh?” I snorted. “S’that even English?”
Oh, English, English! Oh, of course! Yes, how sally of me.
“What? Sally?” I wriggled my nose and wiped allergy tears from my eyes.
Silly! Silly! Of course! Stupid Dumb-Dust. I’m dumb, you know? All tumbleweeds are dumb. Call me Aaron. Aaron Sisymbrium Altissimum. Don’t worry about that last part. That’s my family name. Are you ready to be a soldier, girl?
“Soldier?” I said. “You mean to fight the Prairie Queen?”
That’s precisely what I mean. Time is short. Matters are barbiturate.
“Barbiturate?”
Aaron twitched. Desperate! Desperate! If we don’t stop her now, she’ll kill all the tumbleweeds, and then, girl, she’ll kill all the humans, too.
I looked over my shoulder. Mom was still snoring away on the couch. Wine makes adults snore. That’s something I learned.
Come on, soldier, said Aaron, no more dilly dallying. Don’t you want to make your fellow humans proud?


I learned a lot of things in Tumbleweed Army. I learned how to march, how to roll up into a little ball to protect myself. Learned how to say, “Yes, ma’am!” like I meant it. Most of all, I learned coyotes and deer and antelope were really scary because they could eat the tumbleweeds and break the wizard’s spell and use their shoulder-mounted flamethrowers to burn everything. The Prairie Queen had the power of fire. She wanted to burn it all, burn the world, which I guess included my home and my mom, which is why I stayed.
There was a girl there called Jade. She was an older girl. Really pretty, with deep almond skin and bright green eyes. We’d be in the middle of flamethrower-dodging exercises, and she’d come up to me and look at the way I was darting and dodging around, and she’d say, “Looking real good, Masterson. Looking real sharp.”
The tumbleweeds didn’t do any of the teaching or drilling themselves. They only knew tumbling. They left it to all the thirteen and fourteen-year-olds to teach us everything we needed to know. Maybe they should have asked for the real army, the adult army. Even they seemed weirded out by a little girl army, and sometimes they acted like they didn’t know how they’d ended up with us at all.
If the adult army was looking for us, they never found us, secret and hidden away on the outskirts of the city like we were. Also the tumbleweeds had this special concealing magic. The last thing they had left of their Wizard Father.
Aaron told me, Our Wizard Father was a great man. He granted us intelligence and the freedom we so cherish. But the concealing magic’s fading. We can’t stay hidden from the Queen forever.
I was like, okay, you’re fine, the older girls know everything. They’ve designed this whole thing and know everything there is to know. That’s probably why our uniforms were pink and sparkly, and why our flags carried pictures of Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga, and why even though the cutoff age was fourteen, you could tell they were serious and skilled and were girls on a mission, girls ready to kill.
I missed my mom. I’m not going to lie about that. I missed her so bad it didn’t matter to me she didn’t listen anymore when I talked to her about school, or that I always saw her crying first thing in the morning, or that everything Dad made her promise when he was in the hospital sort of, well, just went forgotten and we didn’t talk about it. I was in that army for four weeks, then we had the big battle, but I never forgot Mom, and I guess she never forgot me, but I couldn’t say goodbye to her just in case I might die, because the tumbleweeds were real, real strict about enemy code breakers and antelope misinformation squads.


One night as I was laying down to sleep in my tent, Jade came and undid the tent flap and she and a few girls brought in a little white cupcake with a single candle flickering and hopping kind of like a tumbleweed.
“What’s this?” I said sleepily.
“It’s your birthday, Masterson,” said Jade.
“My birthday?”
She nodded and said, “Make a wish.”
I wished to kiss a boy, but knew it probably wouldn’t come true because there were no boys for miles and miles. Me and the girls shared the cupcake, but the cupcake was made out of mashed potatoes, because the tumbleweed galley only had potatoes because Aaron told us all you eat is potatoes in the army and we didn’t argue.
“Jade,” I said, choking down my last bite. “Do you think things will go back to normal after this? I mean, after we kill the Prairie Queen and all? Do you think all us girls can go back to how we were?”
Jade thought about this. She nodded. “Yes, I think we can. At least I hope we can. Wizards and Queens and Dumb-Dust, all that stuff shouldn’t exist. I think it only exists because the world needs stuff to make you wonder. You know what I mean? My Dad always says, ‘Boy it really makes you wonder’. I think that sort of thing is really important.”
“Why?” I said.
One of the other girls chimed in. “Because everything would be so boring otherwise.”
“Boring’s not bad,” said Jade. “Boring’s only bad if you get used to it. There’s always people stepping on other people. Trying to take things that don’t belong to them, you know? Because people get used to that, too. Like that spot where our city and their world meet up….”


So there was this spot where our city and their world met up. For miles and miles, our buildings rose high, and interstates ran, and traffic lights blinked red, yellow, green, red, yellow, green.
But on this spot, there were a few loose suburban fingers of little houses that looked nice but that also all looked the same, and those fingers kind of stretched out, and then they ended, and their world was beyond, the prairie world, high grass and rolling hills, pretty wildflowers and peaceful vistas.
The wind could rustle through, and it could carry a dry, dusty scent, and maybe there’d be pollen on the wind, but there were no honking car horns or televisions blaring. People didn’t shout at each other. There were no people. The city wasn’t there yet. Maybe it would be someday. Of course it would be. The city just kept growing and growing and growing, and nobody bothered to ask the Queen if it was okay. Nobody stopped to think it might be a bad thing if the prairie world got swallowed up, got paved over, with houses and restaurants and, you know, post offices and stuff built all over it.
We had the battle on that spot. It was time. No more hiding. Me and all the girls—thousands of girls—we lined up at the fence line of that last wandering suburban finger. The hot mid-afternoon sun beat down on us. Smell in the air like columbines. We came in our pink sparkly uniforms, with our flags waving. The grenade girls all had purple caps. Girls with rifles had big red badges on their chests. There were also film-crew girls, who’d appointed themselves to the rank, who held up smartphones and snapped selfies with the battlefield-to-be in the background.
I was light infantry, just like Jade, and that meant we had no weapons, only pig-tails and three-ring binders, because the tumbleweeds had chosen girls for a reason, and we all figured we’d be even scarier all dressed up for school.
Prairie Queen’s afraid of school girls. Prairie Queen’s afraid of school girls.
We kind of told each other that over and over again, sort of like a, what do you call it? A mantra?
Prairie Queen’s afraid of school girls.
Prairie Queen’s afraid of school girls.
And we said it again and again, and it made us less afraid, even though we knew we might die that day.
The ground beneath our feet trembled. Far off across the field, over the rise and fall of grassy hills, we saw the first ranks of animals and their flamethrowers. The coyotes were the fastest and lightest, and they ran ahead of the herd, belching fire, scorching earth, I guess to scare us. They howled and yipped at the antelope and deer. You kind of figure antelope and deer don’t make noises, but they do. This strained, desperate, sharp kind of screaming noise. And when there are thousands of them—and there were thousands—it comes off like a banshee wail, like a great roaring throat sound loud as jet engines.
I don’t know why, but the sound made us cry. It was so loud. The screaming, the yipping, the flames and flames and flames. I cried like I knew a soldier should never cry. But it was okay, because Jade cried, too. Maybe I felt like running home to my mom, and maybe Jade did also, but she didn’t, she stood there like she was the bravest crying girl in the world, and she called back to us through her tears, “Steady, now! Wait until you see the whites of their eyes!”
And I didn’t know what that meant, because animals don’t have white eyes, but I stood my ground all the same, even though my legs trembled, even though the tears drenched my uniform and my tongue felt stuck to the roof of my mouth.
The tumbleweed commanders came rolling out to marshal our forces. I saw Aaron there with Commander Johnston Salsola Kali.
Commander Johnston waved a scraggly little twig-limb and said through the Dumb-Dust, Today you do your species proud! Today you are not girls, but women! Human women of distinction, finery, and absolute quality. We have no idea how it is you came to defend us, but be not afraid, dear human beings! For though you may die—yes, you may die, yes, yes!—for though that may be so, remember, one and all, that the Queen may take your lives, but she shall never take your Sweden!
In unison, the thousands-girl army said, “Huh?”
Commander Johnston said, Bother! Freedom! Freedom! Freeeeeeedom!
The army roared. Girls fired rifles in the air. They said, “Freeeeeeedom!” Even though freedom wasn’t really the thing, but getting trampled and burned up, but a cry of freedom was enough, and I said it, too.
Jade told us to stand at the ready. We did. She told us to march ahead at the quick step. We did that, too. I think the older girls had watched old war movies before the battle, so everything they were telling us to do was really smart and accurate for what soldiers are supposed to do in battle.
We marched at the quick step. The rifle girls and grenade girls were right behind us. The rifle girls fired rounds over our heads. This was smart because the animals kind of flinched and froze at the noise.
Bang! Bang! Bang, bang, bang!
And anyway, it wasn’t the animals we were after, but the Queen, who, tumbleweed intelligence told us, would be in the middle of her formations, in the mobile command station made of dead tumbleweed bodies all stuck together.
“Double-time, march!” said Jade.
We picked up the pace.
Coyotes snapped and howled at us. The deer and the antelope shot steady burning jets of fire. We began our dodging maneuvers, still in ranks, still in line, but dodging that fire like crazy.
A girl beside me—Kirsten—went down screaming. Our standard bearer went up in flames, but the next girl in line—a film-crew girl—picked up the smoldering flag and soldiered on, still bravely snapping selfies and snagging footage of the whole bloody mess.
And it occurred to me that the world was a crazy place. It made you wonder. Really made you wonder, you know? Girls weren’t supposed to be soldiers. Were they? Were girls supposed to be soldiers? I bent over Kirsten. Girls weren’t supposed to be soldiers, were they? Little girls? Kids and teenagers? I froze to the spot. I tried to touch her. Girls weren’t supposed to be soldiers. She was too hot, too bubbling, too much melted Kirsten. Girls weren’t supposed to be soldiers. They weren’t, were—
Jade slapped me.
“Snap out of it, Masterson!” she said. “The command station! Look, it’s right there!”
And it was right there. It looked like a castle on wheels. Made of tumbleweeds. Thousands upon thousands of poor dead tumbleweeds.
Burn the world! Burn it all!
Nobody else would die! Nobody!
Jade and I and the remnants of our unit—all told, seven girls—we darted in and out of flames and animals. Grenades exploded all around us. Dying things, dying from bullet wounds, dying from the burn.
We mounted the ramp of that mobile command station. We tried to punch through the tumbleweed walls, but the Queen had cast a spell, and the walls were solid as steel.
Jade told us to begin the chant, the mantra. We began it.
“Prairie Queen’s afraid of school girls! Prairie Queen’s afraid of school girls! Prairie Queen’s afraid of school girls!”
The mobile command station rolled to a stop.
“Prairie Queen’s afraid! Prairie Queen’s afraid!”
The animals stopped. Their roaring streams and jets and flames. They stopped their screaming. The coyotes stopped howling and yipping and yapping.
“Prairie Queen’s afraid of school girls!”
And our army stopped, too. Nobody told them what to do if the animals quit fighting. Nobody expected that. The battlefield went silent, all but the wind, and the flickering and popping of little grass fires here and there, and us seven girls, and our chanting, our mantra.
“Prairie Queen’s afraid of school girls! Prairie Queen’s afraid—”
“The Prairie Queen fears nothing!”
The voice boomed and echoed across the field. It was low, brassy, not human at all.
The command station exploded.
I went flying. I hit the ground. The air rushed from my lungs.
Tumbleweed shrapnel bit at me, scratched me up. I felt the pain of it, but I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t breathe at all.
The voice came again. With a kind of wispy whipcrack to each syllable.
“The Prairie Queen fears nothing! Nothing!”
Like the blast of a shotgun, my breath came back to me. I sucked in air like it was a thick milkshake, like the best chocolate milkshake I’d ever tasted.
Hands took hold of me, lifted me, jerked me up. My feet didn’t touch the ground.
“You, girl! Do you think I fear you?”
It wasn’t hands that had a hold of me. And it wasn’t a nasty old Queen hovering inches from my face. I expected a scary old lady. The Prairie Queen was a blade of wild grass. Just a single, tall, stout blade of wild grass, with no face, no mouth, no eyes. Split from her body, willowy grass arms, with little willowy grass hands. She shook me. She said, “What stupidity! What inane musings! To think I could fear this dull creature! This girl. You people. You take so much. I will take from you!”
And then she threw me to the ground and started whipping me with her green grassy hands.
It stung. It slivered and sliced. I started bleeding. The girls just watched. The animals watched. Stunned.
“Help!” I said. “Help!”
“You will not take from me,” screeched the Queen. “You will not take from me.”
She whipped me. Welts and cuts and lacerations and ripping, tearing skin. I curled into a ball, like the older girls had taught us, but the whipping kept coming and kept coming and kept coming.
A little ball of fire started circling her wild grass head. The Queen said, “Burn the wizard. Burn the weeds. Burn your city to the ground!”
The ball grew and grew, and it circled faster and faster and—
Movement in the field.
A tumbleweed rolled and hopped over me and smashed into the Queen. The ball of fire circling her head exploded. The tumbleweed ignited. The Queen ignited, too.
“Masterson!” Jade was moving now. She tossed me a grenade. I pulled the pin and flicked it at the Queen.
The burning tumbleweed was in the way. I rolled behind an antelope carcass.


Mom found me bleeding on the sofa the next morning. There was a collection of wine bottles in our living room. And also a bunch of notebooks and pens and candy wrappers. And also pizza boxes because adults like whole pizzas and whole bottles of wine. That’s something I learned.
Mom was drinking from a fresh bottle, sort of stumbling down the hall. She spotted me and said, “Oh my God, Amie?”
“Hi, Mom.”
She dropped the bottle. Wine splashed our white carpet. She flung herself at me and started kissing me all over and crushing me.
“Ow!” I said. “Ow, Mom! I’m hurt. I’m bleeding.”
“Jesus Christ, you’re bleeding!”
“I know.”
“Band-Aids! Hydrogen Peroxide!”
Mom patched me up as best she could. We both agreed I should go to the hospital, though. War’s like that I guess. Sometimes people die. Sometimes they have to go to the hospital.
I watched the television as she fawned over me and poured peroxide over all my wounds. It bubbled and itched and burned. I still watched TV.
The Plains and Wildlife Service guy translated for Tumbleweed Commander Johnston. I didn’t need him to, though.
Commander Johnston said, This day, this VQ day, this victory over the Queen, we shall remember it always, just as we shall remember and honor anew a bond of brotherhood between weed kind and humankind. Let it never be said your people backed down when all free folk everywhere fell under the flaming, fiery yoke of prairie oppression.
“It’s absolutely crazy,” said my mom. “It’s crazy you girls had to do this.”
Commander Johnston said, Your girls are our heroes. We don’t know why you sent them to us. All we know is we’re glad you did.
At this, Plains and Wildlife Guy paused, and, loud enough for the studio microphones to pick him up, he said, “What do you mean? You specifically said girls. Precious girls. You took them from us before we even—”
Commander Johnston quivered. No, the girls were your idea. You’re the ones who kept saying girls, girls. We asked for pearls. Thousands of precious pearls. As a means of currency. You know, to buy the aid of Southeast Asian mercenaries.
Plains and Wildlife Service Guy looked into the camera. He shook his head. He sighed and rubbed his temples.
Regardless, said Commander Johnston, it was the bravery of two—one weed, one girl—who gave us our victory, who stopped the wicked Queen and her lust for death and destruction. Aaron Sisymbrium Altissimum. Amie Masterson.
My mom paused.
We owe our lives to you.
And then they showed the moment. The moment I don’t think I’ll ever forget. Aaron went rolling and hopping. It was Aaron. It was his death all over again. He smashed into the Queen. They both ignited. Jade threw me the grenade. I flicked it, rolled away. The screen went white for a moment. Big boom. And that was the end of the war.
“Dear God, Amie.” My mom’s voice was soft, barely above a whisper. “You did that?”
I nodded, staring at the screen, watching the replay, feeling all those grassy whip lashes again and again, feeling that impact, the way it hit the antelope carcass. Smell of gunpowder. Shrapnel in my leg. Antelope meat in my hair and in my mouth.
“You did that?” my mom said again.
“I did. I did do that.”
“But you’re just a little girl.”
I put my hand on hers. Squeezed it.
“Mom?” I said.
“Yeah?”
“Too many wine bottles. Less wine, okay Mom?”
Mom hesitated. She nodded and said, “Okay, less wine.”
“And Mom?”
“Yes, honey?”
“It was my birthday last week.”
“I know.”
“Can I have a cake? A real cake? Not a potato cake.”
“What’s a potato cake?”
“It’s what you eat on your birthday when you’re in the army. Don’t you know anything about the army?”
Mom stared at me. She glanced at the TV, the footage, the whipping, the fire, the explosion. She shook her head.
“No,” she said, “I guess I haven’t the slightest clue.”

THE END


Jeff Bowles is a science fiction and horror writer from the mountains of Colorado. The best of his outrageous and imaginative work can be found in God’s Body: Book One – The Fall, Godling and Other Paint Stories, Fear and Loathing in Las Cruces, and Brave New Multiverse. He has published work in magazines and anthologies like PodCastle, Tales from the Canyons of the Damned, the Threepenny Review, and Dark Moon Digest. Jeff earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing at Western State Colorado University. He currently lives in the high-altitude Pikes Peak region, where he dreams strange dreams and spends far too much time under the stars. Jeff’s new novel, Love/Madness/Demon, is available on Amazon now!

Love Madness Demon Cover Final

Check out Jeff Bowles Central on YouTube – Movies – Video Games – Music – So Much More!


Anthology Release, Winner Announcement and Pre-Call for Short Fiction Submissions

Last week saw the release of the 2021 WordCrafter paranormal anthology, Where Spirits Linger. I was pleased with he stories that are featured in this anthology. I had worked with three of the contributing authors in past anthologies, but two were new to me, including the winner of the 2021 Short Fiction Contest, Christa Planko, who sent in a wonderfully eerie piece of flash fiction, “Olde-Tyme Village”, which gives me goosebumps.

For the release, we ran a book blog tour and giveaway, which I feel was a success, resulting in a few more book sales. The winner of the WordCrafter “Where Spirits Linger” Book Blog Tour giveaway was Cindy Georgakas, who commented on Miriam Hurdle’s blog stop The Many Showers of Blessings. Cindy, if you will contact me at KLBWordCrafter@gmail.com to let me know your format preference, (epub, mobi, or pdf), I’ll be pleased to send you your free digital copy of Where Spirits Linger. Congratulations!

If you didn’t win this time, I hope you’ll drop in on our next WordCrafter Book Blog Tour. For now, you can purchase your copy of this original anthology here:

https://www.amazon.com/Where-Spirits-Linger-Lynne-Booth-ebook/dp/B09GNZJVJ5

I want your Visions

Now that Where Spirits Linger has been released, it’s time to gear up for next year’s contest. There were only six contributing authors in this year’s anthology, but next year I’m hoping to be able to include more, so I am planning to broaden the scope of the theme for 2022. In the past, WordCrafter anthologies have had paranormal themes because I’m a sucker for a good ghost story, but for 2022, I plan to broaden that out to include the fantasy, science fiction and horror genres. For Visions, your story can still have a ghost if you like, but it won’t be required. I’m announcing this ahead of time because I want you to have time to limber up your fingers and your minds, and send me your very best stories. What I’m looking for in the 2022 WordCrafter anthology are thought provoking stories that will stay with readers long after they close the book.

WordCrafter will be open for submissions beginning on January 1 through the submission deadline of May 31, 2022. The winner will receive a $25.00 Amazon gift card and their story will be featured in Visions. All finalists will also receive an invitation to be included in the anthology, which offers a small royalty share for your story contribution. My submission guidelines are pretty simple, but they are different from last year, so be sure to read and follow them carefully. Submit your story with a cover letter to KLBWordCrafter@gmail.com with “Submission: [Your Title] in the subject line and pay the $5 entry fee in the PayPal box on the submissions page, which will go up January 1st, 2022, when submissions open.

Visions: Submission Guidelines

Submission Dates: January 1st, 2022 to May 31st, 2022

Genres: Paranormal, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Horror

Word Count: up to 10,000 words

Rights: First Anthology Rights and audio rights as part of the anthology; rights revert to author one month after publication; publisher retains non-exclusive right to include in the anthology as a whole. 

Multiple Submissions: Yes

Simultaneous Submissions: No

Submit: MS Word doc or RTF file

If you don’t know what standard manuscript format is, review, for example, https://www.shunn.net/format/classic/

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Paid Writing Opportunity – Call for Short Fiction Submissions

I recently embarked on the journey toward yet another degree – an M.A. in Publishing at Western State Colorado University – and I am studying under the prolific bestselling author and founder of WordFire Press, (and inductee into the Colorado Authors Hall of Fame), Kevin J. Anderson. For one of the publishing projects that must be completed for graduation is a cohort produced anthology. This will be the third year that the publishing cohort at Western has been headed by Kevin, and the third anthology that they have published.

Each of the previous year’s cohorts have produced an outstanding anthologies featuring stories by reputable author names, as well as new discoveries. You can see my review of Unmasked, last year’s anthology, here. The first year, Monsters, Movies & Mayhem received the Colorado Book Award. Both of these exceptional anthologies are available from amazon, your favorite bookstore, or buy direct at wordfirepress.com/gpcw.

This year’s cohort worked hard to develop the theme and guidelines over the past two weeks, and I’m really excited about this anthology. One of the cool things about this opportunity for writers is that it pays per word, if your story is chosen. Since I am a part of the publishing team, I’m not eligible to submit, but all of my readers are. I strongly encourage you to check out the guidelines below, get the gears turning and crank out an original story to submit for this year’s anthology. Feel free to share with anyone who might be interested.

Tips for getting your story accepted: Read the submission guidelines and follow them.

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MIRROR, MIRROR:

Modern Myths

Executive Editor: Kevin J. Anderson

When you’re alone with your reflection, are you prepared for what you see?

A prince in disguise? A monster revealed? An alien race?

Mirrors can be truth-tellers, wish-granters, face-concealers, illusion-makers, even monster-summoners. Maybe the mirror shows an evil twin, or an echo of the life that should have been. Or a portal to another world. 

What happens when it shatters?

Once upon a time, no one knew the phrase “Once upon a time.” You’ve read the classic stories. Now write the lore you’ve always wanted to read. Explore this creative challenge from your own unique perspective informed by your roots, culture, and background. We want original fables, folklore, and fairy tales for an eclectic anthology showcasing a new dawn of an old artform.

Imagine a canon of diverse characters for today’s readers to love and loathe. Gaze into the mirror, whether literally or figuratively—classic or genre-bending, grim or whimsical, as long as it is new and fresh.

We are looking for original short stories (prose poems will also be considered) to include a mix of fantasy, science fiction, horror, magical, and romance elements. Must be appropriate for a “PG-13” audience. Please, no copyrighted characters. Previously unpublished stories only. Women, BIPOCs, LGBTQIA+, neurodiverse individuals, and other minorities are strongly encouraged to submit.

Length: up to 5000 words (firm limit)

Rate: 6¢/word on acceptance.

Rights: First Anthology Rights and audio rights as part of the anthology; rights revert to author one month after publication; publisher retains non-exclusive right to include in the anthology as a whole. 

Due: We are open to submissions from August 30 through October 15, 2021.  

Submit: A Microsoft Word or RTF file in standard manuscript format to 

https://wordfirewestern.moksha.io/publication/2/3/submit

If you don’t know what standard manuscript format is, review, for example, https://www.shunn.net/format/classic/

One submission per person, please. NO SIMULTANEOUS SUBMISSIONS. 

Edited by Kevin J. Anderson with an editorial team provided by Western Colorado University Graduate Program in Creative Writing, Publishing MA students. Anthology made possible by a generous contribution from Draft2Digital.

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Shadowland: Not just another horror anthology

Shadowland

Buy Link: https://www.amazon.com/Shadowland-horror-anthology-Under-Book-ebook/dp/B08P569SY1

Shadowland is the latest release in the Box Under the Bed horror anthology series, compiled and edited by bestselling author Dan Allatorre. Pick up any of the anthologies in this series and the reader will not be disappointed, but the collection of tales featured in Shadowland may have outdone those which came before. From the creative minds of Dan Alatorre, Betty Valentine, Roberta Eaton Cheadle, Christine Valentor, Jessica Bakkers, MD Walker, and Alison Marushka, each story is creatively crafted to fit into the premise of the anthology as a whole, like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle fit precisely to do their part in the creation of the picture as a whole. This anthology has the potential to be made into a television series, with each individual story becoming a single, or even multiple episodes.

The mysterious and eccentric Dr. Aumental teaches a very special class, where students are excused from their other classes and sent on all expense paid travels to research dark folklore and legends as subjects for their term papers. The research takes students to the far reaches of the globe, searching for the truth about voodoo magic, demons, spirits of the dead, the cave dwelling Hojimaa, Hookman mythology, the monster under the bed, phantom cannibals, the Jersey Devil, and more. Any legend lurking in the shadows is fair game for the investigative skills of Dr. Aumental’s selected students. Certainly, this class must produce some very unique term papers, but why does the professor go to such lengths and what does he do with the information they contain?

Each of the dark tales in Shadowland easily stands alone on its own merit. Together, they form an anthology collection that goes beyond a common theme to help fulfill an overall premise that leaves itself open to endless possibilities. I give this horror anthology five quills.

Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


“The Wolf Leader”: An origins story of sorts

The Wolf Leader

The classics were written in another era and literature was viewed differently than it is in modern times. The language, although often lavish and eloquent, can also be pretentious and difficult to decifer. There are some sixteenth century words that are just plain confuddling to my twentieth century brain. Over the past year, I’ve tried a few times to read the classic authors. After all, their works survive them over centuries, and set the historical standards of contemporary literature. But I couldn’t get through The Call of Cthulhu by H. P. Lovecraft due to all the pretentious purple prose, and although I finished the first story in The Mysteries of Edgar Allen Poe, I had to put it down or risk dying from sheer boredom. While clearly a predecessor to murder mystries which came later, such as Sherlock Holmes, I found Poe’s style too dry to be considered entertaining.

With The Wolf Leader, by Alexandre Dumas, I did not find this to be the case. In spite of a few words which required defining, I had no trouble following the flow of the Dumas’ story. Alfred Allison did a fine job of translating this classic novel and Jonathon Maberry does the literary world a service by bringing it back into print. Dumas’ style is more along the lines of a Don Quixote, silly but entertaining type of story, than the borishness of Poe’s Detective Dupin, or presumptious fluff and verbage of LoveCraft’s Chtulhu Mythos.

The Wolf Leader is a Faust meets The Wolfman story. Contempory werewolves have grown well beyond what Dumas envisioned, but in his work, one can see the origins from which they sprang. Thibauld is a peasant shoemaker, angry at the injustices he feels he has suffered under the hands of French burgious land owners, who makes a deal with the devil, or in this case, the black wolf, to have all of his wishes granted, for the price of one hair per wish. Each time he wishes for something, one hair on his head turns fiery red, and his wishes seldom turn out as he intended. Instead of being rich and loved, as he had desired… well, you can see where this is headed.

The reason we can foresee what’s to come in the tale described above is that we are familiar with the story of Faust, so we might read it and think it a bit tropish with the ‘deal with the devil’ thing. There are no silver bullets or full moons in this tale, but Thibauld does eventually take the form of the black wolf and there is a lot of howling, so it may even be the first werewolf story ever penned, as Jonathon Maberry points out in his introduction. As such, it could could be the trope setter for an entire genre.

How many quills do I give to a classic work of literature? I’m not sure I’m qualified to rate this work which has survived the centuries. The very fact that is has survived speaks volumes more than any opinion I could ever give.

Buy Link: https://www.amazon.com/Wolf-Leader-Alexandre-Dumas/dp/1680570935/ref=sr_1_1?crid=114AEZE3A6ZPK&dchild=1&keywords=the+wolf+leader&qid=1609757995&s=books&sprefix=The+Wolf+Lea%2Cdigital-music%2C200&sr=1-1

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Announcing the WordCrafter 2020 Stay in Place Virtual Writing Conference

SiP Header

We’re all tired of staying at home during this recent crisis. It seems like everyone has been affected in different ways, but no one has gone unscathed. Our world has changed in recent times. We, as authors and lovers of the written word had many of our in-person writing events – conferences, conventions, and book fairs – cancelled due to the appearance of COVID 19. To to emulate all those events we look forward to each year and are missing out on now, and to chase away some of the boredom of social distancing and isolation, WordCrafter presents the 2020 Stay in Place Virtual Writing Conference on Tuesday, April 28 from 8 am to 8 pm.

This is a unique event, the first of its kind, and one you won’t want to miss. Free presentations and author takeovers will be occurring on the Facebook event page, and interactive workshops and panel discussions will be offered for a minimal fee on the Zoom platform. Interactive panel discussions and workshop session can be accessed individually for $5, or an all access pass to all interactive sessions can be purchased for $50. Tickets can be purchased on the Facebook event page. Watch for your Facebook event invite from me or one of the many wonderful authors involved with this conference. Send me a message through my WordCrafter page or through the event page if you have further questions, or if you would like a half an hour author takeover spot to promote your own work.

This has been a huge undertaking to organize and set up an event such as this one, but I haven’t done it alone. Without my 22 talented presenters, this event couldn’t happen. We have a great line-up, with international bestselling science fiction and fantasy author Kevin J. Anderson presenting the keynote on the interactive platform.

Kevin J. Anderson

And that’s just the beginning. Take a look at the talent that has lined up for presentations, workshops and panel discussions.

Mario Acevedo

Award winning and national bestselling speculative fiction author Mario Acevedo will be offering a presentation – “The Power of Motivation: What Your Characters Do and Why”

Alatorre Bio

USA Today bestselling multi-genre author Dan Alatorre will be a member of the interactive book marketing panel discussion.

Chris Barili - B.T. Clearwater

Multi-genre author Chris Barili will be presenting “Writing in the Face of Adversity” and giving an interactive workshop on “Writing Across Genres”.

 

L.D. Colter - L. Deni Colter

Award winning fantasy author L.D. Colter will be offering a presentation on “Short Fiction”.

Candido Bio

World builder and speculative fiction author Kieth R.A. DeCandido will be offering an interactive workshop on “The Business of Writing” and he is the moderator for the media tie-in interactive panel discussion.

DeMarco Bio

Award winning novelist Guy Anthony De Marco will be a member on both the short fiction and world building interactive panel discussions.

Anthony Dobranski

Fantasy and science fiction author Anthony Dobranski will offer two presentaions, “How to Swim Upstream: Not being in the mainstream of your market/genre” and “Working with Others: How to direct others in a project”. In addition, he will offer two interactive workshops. “Business Class Tarot” and “The Savage Horror of Writing Back Cover Copy”.

Jason Henderson

Author for young readers, Jason Henderson will be presenting “Story Ideas and the Choices You Make” and moderating the interactive book marketing panel discussion.

Kevin Killiany

Media tie-in author Kevin Killiany will be a member on the interactive world building, media tie-in, and short fiction panel discussions.

L. Jagi Lamplighter

Award winning young adult fantasy author L. Jagi Lamplighter will be on the interactive panel on world building, and moderate the interactive short fiction interactive panel discussion.

Lawless Bio

Award-winning science fiction author J.R.H. Lawless will be a member of the book marketing interactive panel discussion.

Jonathan Maberry

Award winning and New York Times bestselling multi-genre author Jonathan Maberry will be a member on three interactive panel discussions: short fiction, world building and media tie-ins.

Bobby Nash

Award winning multi-genre author Bobby Nash will deliver a presentation on “The Importance of Promotion”, as well as being a member of both the media tie-in and book promotion panel discussions.

Nye Bio

Science fiction and fantasy author Jody Lynn Nye will offer a presentation on using humor in science fiction and fantasy writing, “Bringing the Funny: how to apply humor to your writing” and she will be a member of the world building interactive panel discussion.

Ellie Raine

Award winning fantasy author Ellie Raine will sit on both the short fiction and world building interactive panel discussions.

Art Rosch

Award winning multi-genre author Art Rosch will offer a presentation on “Creating Villains We Love to Hate”.

Sean Taylor

Award winning multi-genre author Sean Taylor will offer a presentation on “Visceral Story Beginnings”.

Vandenberg Bio

Science fiction author and marketing expert Alexi Vandenberg will be joining the book marketing panel.

Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer

Award winning poet and author Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer offers a livestream presentation “The Gateway to the Unknown: A Poetry Thought Shop”.

Rick Wilber

Author and educator Rick Wilber will be a member of the short fiction interactive panel discussion.

Dave Wolverton - David Farland

Award winning and New York Times bestselling science fiction and fantasy author Dave Wolverton/David Farland offers a”Promoting Your Book BIG” and he is a member of the interactive book marketing panel discussion.

You can find a full schedule here. I do hope all of you will join us for this unique writing event. It’s the first of its kind and we could be making history. You can be a part of it, too. Join us.


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Are You Up To The WordCrafter Challenge?

Ghost Miner

I wanted the 2020 WordCrafter Short Fiction Contest to be a challenge, to motivate authors and writers to reach outside their comfort zones and write a short story in a genre they maybe hadn’t tried yet. But, from the low number of entries received thus far, I’m wondering if I didn’t scare a lot of writers off when I named the genre as paranormal western.

It’s one of those combination genres that have risen up in recent times, also called weird westerns, that has both elements of western and elements of paranormal. I presented it as western ghost stories, because the old west has plenty of potential for ghosts. (Mark and Kym Todd’s Wild West Ghosts is filled with the stories of many real life characters whose ghosts are said to haunt the west today, if you’re looking for inspiration.)  However, I fear our friends abroad may be shying away because they just don’t know a whole lot about the American western frontiers.

While westerns usually take place in the American west, they don’t have to. The movie Quiggly Down Under, with Tom Sellak comes to mind, taking place in the Australian Outback, but with plenty of western elements. Every country has its own frontier history that helped to shape it, some may be still developing their frontiers. So, let me re-itterate, a western does not need to be set on the American frontier, but it does need to have some of the elements of the western genre. Man (or woman) against the elements, man (or woman) fighting for justice in an untamed landscape where the only law may be what he (or she) can manage to dole out. Western characters lead nomadic lifestyles, carry guns, ride horses, drink whiskey and face their own mortality, sometimes on a daily basis.

Weird westerns tend to use these elements, but they add elements of the paranormal or speculative fiction. I’ve reviewed a few and found their authors to be quite creative in combining the two genres. Chris Barili’s Hell’s Butcher series features a gun toting Marshall who is tasked with keeping all the outlaws in hell and tracking down any who happen to escape into the realm of the living. In DeAnna Knippling’s Chance Damnation is a paranormal western fantasy, where hell breaks through and wreaks havoc on the western frontier. And a book that I’m reviewing this month is Death Wind, by Travis Heerman and Jim Pinto, tells a tale of ancient Indian legends come to life. (You can catch my review of this book on Friday, March 20th).

So, with this in mind, I’m asking each of you to re-consider entering your own paranormal western short in the 2020 WordCrafter Short Fiction Contest. It’s only $5 to enter, and the winner will be featured in the resulting anthology and receive a $25 Amazon gift card. Other entries may also be included in the anthology by invitation, so get those entries in to me by April 30. There’s still time, and you can find the complete submission guidelines here: https://wp.me/pVw40-49e


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