Michaele Jordan and “Farewell, My Miko” in Visions

Visions

https://josephcarrabis.com/2022/10/02/michaele-jordans-farewell-my-miko-now-in-visions-anthology/

Thanks to contributing author Joseph Carrabis giving us a taste of the stories in the new Visions anthology from WordCrafter Press. Follow the link to learn more.

Pre-order now: https://books2read.com/u/49Lk28


Janet Garber and “The Treatment” in Visions

Visions

https://josephcarrabis.com/2022/10/01/janet-garbers-the-treatment-now-in-visions-anthology/

Thanks to contributing author Joseph Carrabis giving us a taste of the stories in the new Visions anthology from WordCrafter Press. Follow the link to learn more.

Pre-order now: https://books2read.com/u/49Lk28


Day 3 of the WordCrafter “Refracted Reflections” Book Blog Tour

Refracted Reflections Book Blog Tour

Digital Giveaway

For a chance to win a free digital copy of Refracted Reflections, just leave a comment to show you were here. Follow the tour and comment at each stop for more chances to win. Three copies will be given away in a random drawing.

On today’s tour stop, we have a guest post by contributing author Elisabeth Caldwell, who talks about the inspiration for her story. Her’s is a unique tale about that starts off the anthology with a bang. So, without further ado, I’ll let her tell you about the inspiration behind “The Mirror Guardian”.

“Mirror Guardian” Inspirations

Several years ago, I was in the shower washing my hair and noticed multiple dark strands of hair wrapped around my hands and fingers. Everyone loses hair when they wash it. But this was too much hair. And it kept happening. After multiple visits to various doctors, a dermatologist declared I had female pattern baldness. I would never recover the hair I had lost, but minoxidil would, hopefully, help slow the balding process.

Terror struck me, and my mind raced. What if the medicine didn’t work? How much hair would I lose? How fast would it fall out? If I lost too much hair, what would I do? Would I shave my head?

Night after night these thoughts kept me awake, and I started to try to envision what it might be like to be bald. How would people see me? Would they look at me or avert their eyes? How would I see myself? Would I be afraid to look in the mirror? Would I bravely go out in the world? Or would I hide myself away like a princess in a tower? Would a prince come to save me? Or would I be strong enough to save the prince?

I was organizing my bookshelves right around the time a friend forwarded me the call for submissions for mirror-themed short stories, and I came upon my favorite fairytale book that I had saved from my childhood. These were the same fairytales I had read to my daughters – daughters who are now teenagers barraged by social media full of air-brushed beauty. My girls scroll through image after image of seemingly perfect people leading seemingly perfect lives and are saddened by their own imperfections.

I am old enough to know that no person and no life are perfect.

 Sitting with that worn and weathered book in my hand thinking of Maid Maleen who sat for seven years in a tower waiting to be rescued, I realized my girls deserved a fairytale of female strength. I wanted to give them a heroine who didn’t fit the traditional mold of beauty. Who didn’t let everyday conceptions of what she should be and how she should act define her. A heroine whose beauty shone like moonlight on her bare head. A heroine who didn’t sacrifice her happiness because it was expected of her.

And from this came Kella. I hope you enjoy her story!

About the Author

Elizabeth Caldwell grew up a Philly (and suburban Philly) girl with thick glasses and her nose buried in a book. When she was 12, she fell into the yellowed pages of one of her grandmother’s Mary Stewart novels and has been obsessed with reading and writing ever since. She sees fairies in the trees, mermaids in the ocean, ghosts peeking out the windows of sprawling Victorians in Cape May, and a story behind every couple that walks by holding hands. She writes poetry, short stories and novels.

Elizabeth lives in Bucks County, PA with her three vibrant children, a husband who is her soulmate and best friend, and one very sweet, albino corn snake. She practices law by day, writes by night and daydreams every chance she can get.

About the Book

Refracted Reflections: Twisted Tales of Duality & Deception

Refracted Reflections: Twisted Tales of Duality & Deception

Refractions and Reflections…

A reflection can be revealing or deceptive. What stares back at you when you glance into the mirror?

A prison, designed to trap you and take away all that is dear to you?

A portal to another dimension? Another time?

An evil twin, luring you to the other side?

Your loved ones with a fond farewell?

A distorted version of yourself? A person you no longer even recognize?

A protective savior?

Do you dare to gaze into the looking glass?

Will what you see save you…, or haunt you forever?

If you liked Gilded Glass and Once Upon an Ever After, you’ll like Refracted Reflections: Tales of Duality & Deception.

Purchase Refracted Reflections at your favorite book distributor here: https://books2read.com/u/3kPyxn

Thanks for joining us today for Day 3 of the WordCrafter Refracted Reflections Book Blog Tour. I hope you enjoyed meeting Elizabeth and learning more about her outstanding story. Follow the tour for a chance for a free digital copy of this exceptional anthology, Refracted Reflections: Twisted Tales of Duality & Deception, or pick up your copy at the link above. Below are the links to the previous stops, in case you missed them:

Monday – September 19 – Introductory post on Writing to be Read 

Tuesday – September 20 – Guest Post by author Ligia de Wit & a review on Carla Loves to Read

I hope you’ll join us again tomorrow on Roberta Writes, with a guest post from Valerie B. Williams about the inspiration behind her story, “The Tinker’s Gift”. Until then, Happy Reading!

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Book your WordCrafter Book Blog Tour today!


Wrapping up to the WordCrafter “Once Upon an Ever After” Book Blog Tour

Once Upon an Ever After Book Blog Tour

Thank you all for following the WordCrafter Once Upon an Ever After Book Blog Tour. We’ve had a great tour, with two reviews, my interview with Robbie Cheadle, and guest posts from five of the contributing authors. We had a great group of authors contributing to this anthology and I want to thank authors Sarah Lyn Eaton, Roberta Eaton Cheadle, Olivia Merchiston, Linsay Elizabeth Gilbert, and A. E. Lanier for sharing their story inspirations. If you missed a stop, you may still visit it through the links below.

Tour Schedule

Monday – August 22 – Opening Day Post – Writing to be Read – Intro. & Guest Post – Sarah Lyn Eaton

Tuesday – August 23 – Patty’s World – Review & Guest Post – Robbie Cheadle

Wednesday – August 24 – The Showers of Blessings – Guest Post – Olivia Merchiston

Thursday – August 25 –Roberta Writes – Interview w/ Kaye Lynne Booth

Friday – August 26 – Zigler’s News – Review & Guest Post – Lyndsay Elizabeth Gilbert

Saturday – August 27 – Closing Post – Writing to be Read – Guest Post – A.E. Lanier

Digital Giveaway

For a chance to win a free digital copy of Once Upon an Ever After,
just leave a comment to show you were here.

Follow the tour and comment at each stop for more chances to win.

Three copies will be given away in a random drawing

Today, we’re wrapping up the WordCrafter Once Upon an Ever After Book Blog Tour with a guest post from contributing author A.E. Lanier, who wrote “The Fourth Spire”, a haunting tale of knowledge lost. It’s a thought provoking tale of a burning library within a castle spire with a genuine fairy tale feel.

Excerpt from “The Fourth Spire” by A.E. Lanier

The Fourth Spire

Like most bookish people, I love a good library. Whether real or fictional, I like the idea of many books gathered in one place, the physical monument to the pursuit of knowledge, the fantasy of actually getting work done. 

There have been many wonderful libraries–both real and fictional–in my life. I adored my local library as a child and ,like many people, was fundamentally changed by the library in the 1991 Beauty and the Beast. But my favorite library growing up was the one from Avatar the Last Airbender. A single tower reaching up out of the desert, hiding floor upon floor of mystically curated information, briefly discovered before vanishing below the sand once more–buried forever.

There is a romance to the destruction of a library. It feeds into the idea that there were things we once knew and never will again. The hope that perhaps we can relearn, tinged with understanding that the struggle between loss and rediscovery will cost us. It is nostalgia and a love of books and lost places all tied up in one.

“The Fourth Spire” came from my fascination with the aesthetic of the burning library. I wanted to explore what was valuable in mourning the destruction of a library and to consider whether there was something dangerous in romanticizing it. It was, in many ways, a question I was asking of myself. 

I am the kind of person that watches an action film and winces harder when a scroll is burned than when an unnamed character is killed. At the end of the day, neither the character nor the scroll is real. But the scroll feels real in a way the character does not. And I sometimes find that impulse within myself disturbing. Books and artifacts are valuable and important, but I will mourn an unknown book in a way that I will not mourn an unknown person; its possibility is somehow more tangible to me. 

“The Fourth Spire” is about that tendency to appreciate books more than people. And about the ways in which the knowledge we have lost is often more captivating than the knowledge we still have. I am not certain the story provided answers for me, but then I’m not entirely convinced I was looking for them. Certainly, it provided a feeling. A set of questions. And what more can we ask, really, of a burning library?

A.E. Lanier

A. E. Lanier is a writer, educator, and chronic overthinker living in Central Texas.She enjoys caves, silent reading, and other people’s cats. Her work has appeared in The Arcanist and Daily Science Fiction.

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About Once Upon an Ever After

This unique and imaginative collection of eleven thought provoking fantasy stories will delight readers who enjoy stories of wishes gone awry.
What happens when…
A woman desires to carry on her family’s legacy, uncovering a long-buried curse?
A not so perfect witch casts a spell to defy age and preserve her relationship with her handsome shapeshifting familiar?
A time traveler longs to be the savior of knowledge lost?
An incompetent delivery boy becomes an unlikely savior of forgotten artifacts?
A magic mirror yearns for a different question?
A tiny story witch desires to share her stories with the world?

Spells are cast, unlikely alliances made, and wishes granted, sometimes with surprising outcomes. You’ll love this anthology of modern myths, lore, and fairy tales. Once you read these twisted tales, you’ll be sure to be careful what you wish for….

If you liked Gilded Glass, you’ll enjoy Once Upon an Ever After: Modern Myths & Fairy Tales, short stories with thought provoking themes, captivating characters and diverse cultures, from humorous to horrifying, from the legendary past to possible futures and back to the here and now.

Once Upon an Ever After: Modern Fairy Tales & Folklore

You can get your copy of Once Upon an Ever After at your favorite book distributor through the Books2Read UBL here: https://books2read.com/u/mKdWGV

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Book your WordCrafter Book Blog Tour today!


Welcome to the WordCrafter “Once Upon an Ever After” Book Blog Tour

Welcome to the WordCrafter Once Upon an Ever After Book Blog Tour, where we’re launching Once Upon an Ever After: Modern Myths & Folklore with guest posts from contributing authors about their story inspirations, reviews and an interview the anthology and WordCrafter Press with me, Kaye Lynne Booth. So, stick with us by following the schedule below, to learn more about this mystical new anthology and its authors. Check back daily, as I’ll be adding the links as they go live.

Tour Schedule

Monday – August 22 – Opening Day Post – Writing to be Read – Intro. & Guest Post – Sarah Lyn Eaton

Tuesday – August 23 – Patty’s World – Review & Guest Post – Robbie Cheadle

Wednesday – August 24 – The Showers of Blessings – Guest Post – Olivia Merchiston

Thursday – August 25 –Roberta Writes – Interview w/ Kaye Lynne Booth

Friday – August 26 – Zigler’s News – Review & Guest Post – Lyndsay Elizabeth Gilbert

Saturday – August 27 – Closing Post – Writing to be Read – Guest Post – A.E. Lanier

Digital Giveaway

For a chance to win a free digital copy of Once Upon an Ever After, just leave a comment to show you were here. Follow the tour and comment at each stop for more chances to win. Three copies will be given away in a random drawing. (Yep. I literally draw the names out of a hat.)

This anthology was by invitation only, which means I invited the authors because of specific stories, which caught my imagination. The result is a unique collaboration with a wonderful group of authors who have been an absolute pleasure to work with.

Today’s guest post is from contributing author Sarah Lyn Eaton, who wrote the story “Old Roots, New Soil”. Her story grabbed ahold of me and stuck in my head because of the imagery of the spooky old apple orchard her words created for me and because it involves a mysterious curse which is pretty cool. What more could you ask for in a modern day fairy tale?

Finding Roots

I originally wrote the story that appears in this anthology for another submission call, looking for folk tales and modern fairy tales based on some kind of mirror imagery. My brain tends to jump outside of, but stay near to, the box and I began to consider what kind of folk magics my ancestors might have practiced, may have believed. The inspiration for this story was rather close to home.

I grew up in between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. Generations of my family lived in the area and that’s where my roots are. Our family genealogy is a project my dad worked on when I was a kid, and now we do it together. Over the years I have sought out information on the history of the places our ancestors lived, how they developed and evolved. What were their industries? Their environmental impact?

This is similar to the way I layer a character and where they came from and what circumstances they find themselves in when the story opens, and where they need to get to.

On my father’s side of the family, we have mostly been on this soil since the Mayflower, if not those first 50 years of migration to the new world. And my mother’s side of the family has lines that go back that far. But she also has more recent migrations from Germany and Ireland. And one of the German names caught my eye, that of my great-great-great-great maternal grandmother Wilheminia Wernersbach.  

In 1836, George Arth, 35, and Wilheminia Wernersbach, 37, emigrated from Germany with sons Adam, 7, Jacob, 3, and George, 3 months. The emigration card did not list a destination. I believe they were in Antwerp for some time before coming to America. When Wilhemenia brought her sons to America, George Arth was not with them. In 1850, when they are first on record in Pendleton, NY her son Adam, my great-great-great grandfather had his own family plot, right next to her own. In fact, she saved up money to buy a third plot on the other side, so that each son would have his own land, but they would still be together.

I thought about their story and let my brain wander. I wondered what it was like for this woman to bring her children to a new world, and then all the way to the other side of New York that was still being developed. What of this land did she find strange? What of her land might she have brought with her? What customs would have been a comfort to her? What guardians might she have called on to protect her family? How might they have made their living in a new place?

When you do a lot of genealogy and you can get beyond the lists of names and dates and you start to retain details, you start to notice family patterns emerging. Generational patterns that the people toiling every day, trying to get to the next one can’t see. And sometimes you can see how trauma gets passed down, and sometimes even transposed, like in the telephone game of passing messages down a line of people, to see what it becomes at the end.

How can you undo something you can’t understand? How do you combat a family legacy that was kept hidden from you? And what if you found yourself crossing an apple orchard, about to open the door to a dark part of your family’s past?

And that was the seed that formed the first breath of my story.

Sarah Lyn Eaton

Sarah Lyn Eaton is a queer pagan writer and burn survivor. She is a life-long Star Wars geek who spends her free time rock hunting, or venturing into the woods with her camera. Her stories have been published in the anthologies Brave New Worlds, Upon a Twice Time, Unburied: A Collection of Queer Dark Fiction, Of Fae and Fate: Lesser Known Fairy Tales Retold, On Fire, and Dystopia Utopia. In 2021, Sarah Lyn was awarded The Speculative Literature Foundation’s Working Class Writer Grant.

About Once Upon an Ever After

This unique and imaginative collection of eleven thought provoking fantasy stories will delight readers who enjoy stories of wishes gone awry.

What happens when…

A woman desires to carry on her family’s legacy, uncovering a long-buried curse?

A not so perfect witch casts a spell to defy age and preserve her relationship with her handsome shapeshifting familiar?

A time traveler longs to be the savior of knowledge lost?

An incompetent delivery boy becomes an unlikely savior of forgotten artifacts?

A magic mirror yearns for a different question?

A tiny story witch desires to share her stories with the world?

Spells are cast, unlikely alliances made, and wishes granted, sometimes with surprising outcomes. You’ll love this anthology of modern myths, lore, and fairy tales. Once you read these twisted tales, you’ll be sure to be careful what you wish for….

If you liked Gilded Glass, you’ll enjoy Once Upon an Ever After: Modern Myths & Fairy Tales, short stories with thought provoking themes, captivating characters and diverse cultures, from humorous to horrifying, from the legendary past to possible futures and back to the here and now.

Once Upon an Ever After: Modern Fairy Tales & Folklore

Today is the last day of pre-order for this wonderful new anthology. Once Upon an Ever After goes live tomorrow. You can get your copy through your favorite book distributor with the Books2Read UBL here: https://books2read.com/u/mKdWGV

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Book your WordCrafter Book Blog Tour today!


The release party you won’t want to miss

Gilded Glass: Twisted Myths and Shattered Fairy Tales

Gilded Glass is scheduled for release on July 19th. This is a fantastic anthology of Twisted Myths & Shattered Fairy Tales which will stay with you long after the cover closes.

A mirror is far more than meets the eye. When you gaze into the gilded glass, what do you see—and what looks back at you?

A beautiful woman hiding an ugly secret?

A malevolent king who delivers a fate worse than death?

An urban legend who will becomes an unlikely ally?

An alien gladiator with reflective armor?

A monster to the rescue?

A goddess?

A distorted version of yourself?

Dare to gaze into these 24 original tales of sweet deceptions and cursed truths by Sherrilyn Kenyon, Jonathan Maberry, Alan Dean Foster, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Michaelbrent Collings, and more.

Edited by international bestseller Kevin J. Anderson and Allyson Longueira and their Publishing graduate students at Western Colorado University, Gilded Glass: Twisted Myths and Shattered Fairy Tales offers stories with diverse roots, characters, and cultures, from frightening to funny, from once upon a time to far-flung futures and back to the modern day.

Deals are made and wishes granted. Friendships forged and enemies vanquished. You’ll love this anthology of modern myths, lore, and fairy tales, because everyone enjoys a happily ever after…

…or do they?

Stare deep into the gilded glass.

What you find might haunt you.

You can pre-order a copy of your own on the WordFire Press website here: wordfirepress.com/gpcw

Virtual Release Party

Join us on July 20th, at 6 p.m. MT, for the virtual book launch and help us send this exceptional anthology of modern myths and fairy tales off right. Meet the editors of Gilded Glass, and special author guests as we celebrate the release of this collection of science fiction and fantasy stories from both new and established writing talents.

In addition, there will be opportunity to learn more about all of the Western publishing cohort’s exciting solo projects. See how we’ve revived the classic works of masters of the past to be enjoyed in the future.

You can learn more about this terrific event on the Facebook event page and find a link to the livestream event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/4958121874299623/


Celebrating Graduation with July Book Releases

Well July is finally here and the time I’ve been waiting for, when I will have completed all the requirements for my master’s degree in publishing, is fast approaching. I’ve worked long and hard to earn this M.A. in publishing and now comes the time for the payoff. There’s a few really cool things about earning this degree that I’m really excited about – one of which, is that this time, I actually get to walk commencement in cap and gown. Although this was offered at the time I earned my M.F.A. in Creative Writing, they held commencement in May and it would have required an additional trip to Gunnison, Colorado which I was unable to make at that time, so I had to decline. But, this time around, they are having commencement at the end of the summer residency, which makes a whole lot more sense, and makes it possible for me to graduate proper.

I’m also excited about the release parties which are associated with the books released by our cohort. This includes the release of our class project, Gilded Glass: Twisted Myths & Shattered Fairy Tales, and my solo project, Wired Tales: The Best of the Early Years 1926-27. The first is a virtual release party on July 20 and you are all invited to join us. The second release party will be in person the following week, on July 27, which will be weird after two years of pandemic precautions which have kept most interactions with the public virtual. Wierd, but exciting, too. If you happen to be in the Gunnison area, it would be great to see you there, too.

So now, let me tell you about the two fabulous books which I had a hand in publishing.

Gilded Glass: Twisted Myths & Shattered Fairy Tales was our class project. We ran a call for submissions, which you may have seen right here on Writing to be Read, and then read through a slush pile of over 600 submissions to choose eighteen to twenty of the best ones to include in the anthology. And thanks to a grant from Draft2Digital, we were able to pay professional rates for the chosen stories, create and send out contracts, and handle all the edits for assigned stories. I was assigned a story which I fought for, during the selection process and it was great to get to work with the author I had championed. I was also assigned one of the big name authors KJA solicited stories from for this anthology. I admit, it was a little scary to edit the story of an award winning and best selling author, but it was also exciting. We all collaborated on the cover image and back cover copy, and the final result is the Gilded Glass anthology.

Gilded Glass: Twisted Myths & Shattered Fairy Tales

A mirror is far more than meets the eye. When you gaze into the gilded glass, what do you see – and what looks back at you?

A beautiful woman hiding an ugly secret?

A malevolent king who delivers a fate worse than death?

An urban legend who will become an unlikely ally?

An alien gladiator with reflective armor?

A monster to the rescue?

A goddess?

A distorted version of yourself?

Dare to gaze into these 24 original tales of sweet deceptions and cursed truths by Sherrilyn Kenyon & Madaug Hishinuma, Jonathan Maberry, Alan Dean Foster, Kristine Katheryn Rusch, Michaelbrent Collins, and more.

Edited by international bestseller Kevin J. Anderson and Allyson Longueira and their Publishing graduate students at Western Colorado University. Gilded Glass: Twisted Myths & Shattered Fairy Tales offers stories with diverse roots, characters, and cultures, from frightening to funny, from once upon a time to far-flung futures and back to modern day.

Deals are made and wishes granted. Friendships are forged and enemies vanquished. You’ll love this anthology of modern myths, lore and fairy tales, because everyone enjoys a happily ever after…

…or do they?

Stare deep into the gilded glass.

What you find might haunt you.

Gilded Glass will be released on July 19, 2022 and is now available for preorder through your favorite book distributor here: https://books2read.com/u/bwKZ8Y

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Weird Tales: Best of the Early Years 1926-27 was my solo project, which I compiled and edited in collaboration with Weird Tales editor and award-winning author, Jonathan Maberry. For this project, I read through all issues of the iconic Weird Tales magazine for 1926 & 27 and chose the stories I felt were the best ones, or at least representative of the magazine for those years. Then I compiled and edited them, (or at least proofread them, you don’t really edit the classics), and set the book up for publishing. I didn’t have choice of cover design, as this was one of two volumes published this year and they wanted them to be consistent in design, but I did get to choose the three covers to be featured, as well as original illustrations for the header images, and I got to write the back cover copy myself. The result was the republication of some classic short fiction by some of the early masters of science fiction, horror and fantasy, from before genre fiction was a ‘thing’.

Weird Tales: Best of the Early Years 1926-27

Spectral visitations…

World-conquering spiders…

An ancient feud with an enchanted forest…

Demonic paintings…

Zombies, mummies, vampires…

…and more.

Founded in 1922, Weird Tales is an iconic publication of fantasy, science fiction, and horror stories. Weird Tales is the forerunner to today’s pulp and speculative fiction genres.

Within these pages you’ll find some of the best of the classic stories originally published in Weird Tales during the years 1926 and 1927, collected into a single volume. Featuring stories by legendary authors such as Seabury Quinn, E. Hoffman Price, Greye La Spina, Edward Hamilton, Frank Belknap Long Jr., H. Warner Munn, August W. Derleth, A. Merritt, and H.P. Lovecraft.

Weird Tales: Best of the Early Years 1926-27 is scheduled for July 12, 2022 and is available at your favorite book distributor here: https://books2read.com/u/bx1e8k

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For Kaye Lynne Booth, writing is a passion. Kaye Lynne is an author with published short fiction and poetry, both online and in print, including her short story collection, Last Call and Other Short Fiction; and her paranormal mystery novella, Hidden Secrets. Kaye holds a dual M.F.A. degree in Creative Writing with emphasis in genre fiction and screenwriting, and an M.A. in publishing. Kaye Lynne is the founder of WordCrafter Quality Writing & Author Services and WordCrafter Press. She also maintains an authors’ blog and website, Writing to be Read, where she publishes content of interest in the literary world.

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Join Kaye Lynne Booth & WordCrafter Press Readers’ Group for WordCrafter Press book & event news, including the awesome releases of author Kaye Lynne Booth. Get a free digital copy of her short story collection, Last Call and Other Short Fiction, as a sampling of her works just for joining.


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!


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!


A Challenge and a Review: Dead of Winter

“Winter Comes”

The Challenge

This post is a response to a challenge issued on Teagan Riordain Geneviene’s blog, where she challenges readers to create a piece of art in the medium of your choice, inspired by her book, Dead of Winter: Journey 1: Forlorn Peak.

Recently, I’ve been dabbling in Japanese and English syllabic poetry, and I knew that I wanted to create a poem for this challenge. The image and poetry above is my response to Teagan’s challenge. It is a Shadorma poem, an form of syllabic poetry which may have originated in Spain, comprised of a sestet, or six-line poem with a syllabic count of 3-5-3-3-7-5 (Word Craft: Prose & Poetry, by Sally Cronin). Although no where have I found that Shadorma can appear with images to add meaning, like the Japanese Haiga poetry, I’ve found nothing that says it can’t, so I have featured mine with the image above.

They both create a feeling like what I felt after reading Dead of Winter, so might actually serve as a different type of book review. I think the poem could easily stand alone, so maybe that’s okay.

Dead of Winter

Buy Link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08RBBVRGX?tag=relinks-20

My Review

Dead of Winter: Journey 1: Forlorn Peak, by Teagan Riordain Geneviene is a brief little tale that sets the stage in a world where strict control prevents the protagonist, Emlyn, from revealing her gift of seeing and communicating with the dead. In this short tale, Emlyn receives a warning of what’s to come in the rest of the series. “Winter is coming…”

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