Our Twitter handle Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG. Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience, or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.
Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience, or a story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say. Remember, the question is optional! December 6 question: Book reviews are for the readers. When you leave a book review, do you review for the Reader or the Author? Is it about what you liked and enjoyed about your reading experience, or do you critique the author?
I review for the reader. I appreciate when reviews help me decide if a book is worth my time to read and whether it will give me my reading fix. My TIME is precious and I am selective where I spend it. I don’t won’t to waste it reading something I won’t enjoy or get my reading fix.
Reviews in retail are for the reader, not the author, although the author can use what is liked and/or disliked or mention to help improve their stories. There is a place for critique, but reader reviews is not it. The review is about the reading experience (although how good the writing is affects this, but should be relayed in how it affected the reading experience, not what the author did wrong so much).
The review should tell if the book is something I will enjoy reading or not—sharing your experience allows the reader to make an informed decision/selection. Mistakes are not so important to me as GIVING me a GREAT immersive story—give me that and I can overlook A LOT and I will continue to read the author. Suck me in–Pull me in and make me CARE about your characters and I am there and happy.
I had some tech issues and did not get the story finished that I planned to share today, so sharing an older one you may or may not have seen before. It is my free story when you sign up for my newsletter.
It had been a year since Ava, my twin, had died and I had taken up the quest to find The Boon a fabled artifact that granted a return to life without consequence.
The Boon had been Ava’s passion. She died to recover the ancient scroll that told the story along with a map with the warning that whosoever possessed the artifact drew Death to them.
Eleven months and thousands and thousands of miles had led me to this moment but not without incident.
I had escaped Death three times not because I faced him, but in my grief and anger, I became reckless in relentless pursuit of my mission.
The scroll said the artifact was buried with an Egyptian oracle of Anubis in a place long forgotten.
I slipped out of base camp once all had settled for the night and made the final track by myself. I guarded the scrolls changing my hiding place often never sharing them. Ava’s passion consumed me grief fueling my determination.
The wild trail twisted and turned until I arrived at the mountainside. I spent an hour hacking at overgrowth to uncover the crack, angled in such a way, to make it almost invisible to the naked eye.
Just inside the entrance a few feet, I encountered a sandstone stairway leading almost straight down. I gripped my light tighter.
Down, down and down.
I looked up. I could no longer see any hint of light above me. I kept going. I had to take several breaks, pressing against the wall to fight the feeling that if I leaned forward too far, I would continue to fall forever.
I arrived at the bottom chamber. A sarcophagus sat in its center in a circle of light. Not what I expected. I dropped my backpack.
Two hours later, I had managed to move the lid enough to peer inside. A single object lay within. I stretch, managing to pick it up.
A deep voice spoke behind me, the expanding vibration shaking me to the core. “Do not touch that.”
My breath stuttered as I gripped my chest and vision wavered. A dark silhouette stood just on the edge of the light.
“You scared me to death. I didn’t hear you come down.” He stepped forward. I could see his frown and the concern that laced his face. Eyes so deep and full of emotion for a moment I felt the pain as if my heart had shattered forever.
“It is not your time.”
This he said as we both looked down at my still lifeless body holding a heart-shaped stone box next to the crypt.
According to the scrolls, the gods ripped Death’s heart from his body placing the immortal organ in a special container in compassion for the task they had given him, so he would be better able to bear the sorrow of the world.
I knelt by my body. I still could not reconcile that I lived, and Ava had died. “So, it was Ava’s time?”
“No Jazz, it was your time. Ava made the choice.”
Grief gripped me. I found the artifact. In spirit, I touch the metal heart. “I choose Ava.” Silence.
“Nooooo.” I sat up holding the artifact. “I chose Ava.”
I screamed for death until I was hoarse, but The Boon was already spent. I lived.
“Doors stuck, shelves fell, and don’t get me started on the landscaping.” Albert pointed at the scratches still marring his cheeks. “I thought paint a little and rent it out.”
“It’s a Tudor Revival,” nice, solid pre-Depression construction. “And you know I worked on my Dad’s team, so I can do restoration.” I even had all Dad’s tools in my trailer.
He guffawed in my face. “Jenny, it’s a ruin by a swamp. No one’s lived there for decades, kids just go there to see the ghost lights and get drunk.” Much like he was.
He poured himself another. “Tell you what – you fix it up by month’s end, and I’ll sell it to you for a dollar.”
“A dollar? That’s it?”
He shrugged. “And back taxes, but that ain’t much. And Lynette has to agree.” Lynette had been a friend since grade one; she’d also turned me on to Albert’s latest ‘get rich cheap’ scheme. It was sell or take a bath on those back taxes.
I knew to the dime how much I had in the bank.
I could do this.
We shook hands and he gave me the keys. “Twenty days.”
The outside was ivy and ornate flourishes.
The inside was a place you hid from zombies.
It took me all day to unjunk the place; trash, cigarette butts, empty bottles, unmentionables. I expected dead animals, but even the cabinets were sans vermin. The City of Port Goode wanted to raze the property and make it a gas station or something, but the house had good bones under the rotting flesh. Hardwood floors, casement windows, carved baseboards: the builder had loved this place and it showed.
And under all the slime and grime, the bathrooms… <sigh>
I checked the living room fireplace then built a fire. Cot, sleeping bag, wind up clock and a good book.
Outside, fireflies played in the moonlight. I didn’t get much reading done.
The next day…
Windows stuck. Drawers tried to brain me. My tools moved from room to room, and the power went off – twice! – when I took a drill to a wall. Food rotted and my water smelled funny. I got wallpaper to come off in rotten sheets – thankfully, there wasn’t any carpet anywhere – but the stairs threatened collapse.
I fought back: bleach, wood, nails, and elbow grease. After the first time, I was hauling the trailer with me to get supplies, which ate gas but let me get more at a contractor’s discount. Worked until I was working by lantern and falling over.
And I woke up the next day and…
The zombies had been there and partied. Hard.
So I got up, and started all over again.
It was Monday.
I wanted this place. I loved this place. I needed this place. I’d spent ten days and most of my money.
Dad always said I was too stubborn for words.
I got up – stepped in the obligatory puddle – and rolled up my sleeves. “Listen to me, house. I’ve got ten days to put you right, or they’re going to make you into a parking lot.”
The fireplace belched soot, the pantry door crashed open, and a hippy dressed in leaves popped out, pointing a stick at me. “Get out, stubborn human!”
I didn’t throw the clock at her. “Look, Lady, I don’t know who you are, but I’m fixing this house. It doesn’t deserve to be torn down.”
“My house!” she waved the stick – and kudzu ate my cot.
“Ok,” Palms out, I backed off until the door behind me shut and locked itself. “You don’t want help keeping this place…”
“Keeping?” She frowned at me. “Not ‘gutting’? Not ‘painting white’?”
I shook my head hard. “No! Fixing! Keeping! Restoring!” When she hesitated, I went all in. “I love this place. I’d love to see it back how it was, beautiful, nice…”
She lowered the stick slightly. “Talk, human.”
I spent the morning explaining building codes and eminent domain. Then I got more done in the rest of the day than the previous ten. Bye wallpaper, hello wood paneling – almost everywhere wood paneling, though I got my bathroom.
Every time I went out for supplies, she examined everything I brought back. “Stain, finish, OK, but no paint!”
I lowered my head. “Your house, your rules.”
That got a nod and I got back to work. Almost fell off the roof twice, but there was this tree branch…
The city did it’s inspection three days before deadline. The house ‘barely passed’, but I had the papers in hand when I called Albert.
He was there inside an hour.
“Here, all nice and legal.” I had the new deed all filled out for his signature.
He slid the papers back at me and leered. “I’ll rent it out to you, Jenny. Won’t be that much.”
“That wasn’t the deal, Al.”
The lights went a little dim.
“You have that in writing?” He fondled my new wooden walls. “They’ll look good with some white paint.”
The fireplace spat soot again and the leafy woman stepped out of the pantry, pointing her stick. “Sign papers, man!”
“What is this, Halloween?” He spat on the wood floor. “What are you going to do if I don’t?”
Albert always was a little slow on the uptake.
Lynette signed next to Albert’s scrawl, and I handed her my last dollar. “Place looks like it suits you, Jenny. Your Dad would be proud.”
I stuck the paperwork and the tax receipt in my purse. “Thanks. It was lots of work – more than you’d know. But this place grows on you.”
“It just might. But what’s with the rock sculpture in the living room?”
“Oh that?” I gave her a smile. “Donated by a local artist.”
“It’s so… disturbing. What did she call it?”
About the Author: Chris Makowski
Chris was born in the Pacific Northwest and lived briefly in Hawaii before being reared in New England. After traveling up and down and back and forth from coast to coast, he was dragged kicking and screaming in the bonds of matrimony to the State of Texas and has been mostly residing there ever since with his wife and son.
STORYTIME QUARTELY BLOG HOP JANUARY, APRIL, JULY, OCTOBER
Welcome to Storytime Quarterly Blog Hop (January, April, July, October).
This short flash fiction is part of Apocalypse, Signed, Sealed, & Delivered series world. I write a lot of crossover in my Grumpy Old Gods short stories with these characters and world. You may remember Elliot from my story in our Stormdance Publications anthology, Grumpy Olds Gods Vol. 1, my story, ‘Playing Hookie’.
This is an ongoing series world. You may encounter Elliot again in my upcoming story for Grumpy Old Gods Vol. 6 releasing March 2023. Hope you enjoy this fun little moment in time in the ASSD World and Grumpy World. Be sure and check out the other fun stories by authors around the globe in the list at the end of the story, and leave us comments. We love hearing from our readers. Read with joy as Holly Lisle says.
THE PRANCING ROAD HOG MOTORCYCLE CLUB HELP WANTED. APPLY INSIDE.
Rhea gaze lingered on the one rearview mirror, on the motorcycle farthest from the door lined up with ten more out in from of The Prancing Road Hog. She checked her hair one last time, opened her purse, pulled out her lipstick, and then decided against it dropping the tube back in.
Maybe I shouldn’t have gotten all dolled up in my best dress and red heels to apply for a bartender job. Why didn’t I bring a jacket?
Admittedly, she was thinking about the bar’s owner with the red hair and sexy southern creole accent when she got dressed earlier.
A jacket would have toned down the whole look, making it more professional-instead of trying to impress a potential non-date.
Dang it. She needed this job.
Her severance pay from the last job was about gone. Next month’s rent might be late if she didn’t do something soon. Bartending was a temporary solution. She had worked bars in college, and the tips were good. She could do it again. Except… her bad choice in attire might jinx her chances.
Didn’t matter. She grabbed an application by the door as she entered, and hopped up on a bar stool, and noted the current bartender was at the far end serving other customers. When he looked her way, she waved the blank application at him.
He raised his voice so she would hear him. “I’ll let Elliot know you are here.”
She had the application finished by the time the owner of the bar came out to greet her. Her face felt hot. She willed her heartbeat to slow down taking deep breaths.
He leaned over with his face on his hand and nodded at the paper. “Why ya filling dat out, cher? I thought you had an office job closer to downtown Miami?”
“I do, did. I was a toy designer for Tattooed Toys, Inc.” Rhea sighed. “Disney did a takeover bringing in their own team. They gave us all severance packages and let us go.”
“Sorry for dat.”
Rhea shrugged. “It’s been six months. There is not a lot of demand for toy designers in this area. I’d have had better luck relocating to the north pole where there is higher demand and no Disney.”
“It’s a lot warmer in the Sunshine State.”
“Which is why I’m here and not there. I don’t do cold well.”
The idea of going back to her family with her tail between her legs sucked. The thought of all the ‘told you so’ made her cringe. She did not want to spend her life collecting naughty children. “I can’t afford to move to the north pole even if I wanted to, and I don’t.”
“And you’d rather bartend after working an office job?”
“It’s better than going home or working retail.” She batted her eyes and leaned into the bar. “I may not have dressed for it, but I have done the bartend thing before. Besides. You need help.”
“You’re more likely to start a riot in that dress, than help.” Elliot gave her a faux leer.
Rhea’s shoulders slumped. “I wanted to make a good impression. I need this job.”
“Oh, you made an impression, cher,” Elliot said, his grin growing wider. “A lot of eyes are turned this way.”
Before she could respond, three teens, dressed like gangbangers, swaggered into the bar. Her naughty kid sense swung into high gear. This close it was hard to ignore. She swiveled in her seat focusing on them, flicking her tail like a cat ready to pounce.
“Rhea?” Elliott said drawing her attention back to him. He leaned over the bar eyes pointedly on her flicking tail. “I may be, mostly human, but I come from a long line of wizards and seers. You do know that I can see through your glamor, right?”
“You’re a Krampus, so settle down. I’ll handle the kids.”
“I wasn’t going to do anything. It’s just instinct.” Those boys were up to no good. She sensed it. Her nature wouldn’t ignore it, but she did have a choice on what action she took. “It’s been years since I’ve allowed those urges to rule me.” Rhea faced the bar again. “Guess that means I don’t have the job, huh? Can I get a drink?”
“No, you have the job. Just don’t go carrying off my underage clientèle to the Underworld. This is a club. We serve sodas too.” Elliot chuckled, grabbing a glass making her a Peppermint White Russian. “Your favorite.”
“I did.” Elliot was watching the boys as they found an isolated table under a special edition poster of Mount Doom signed by the cast of Lord of the Rings.
Rhea watched Elliot. He knew the boys were trouble too. “They are not all human you know?”
“I do know. Can you start work tomorrow at noon?”
“We have a dress code. Jeans and a handmade ‘Middle-Earth” t-shirt. You can pick your size and color from the selection we have in the back room before you leave.”
“Got it boss.”
STORYTIME QUARTERLY BLOG HOP JANUARY, APRIL, JULY, OCTOBER
“…Years later, on late night shifts on boring runs, the crews of ships would whisper tales of Jamie Stewart – and sometimes, when all hope was gone, the ghostly figure of the Siren’s Embrace would appear.” – The Ballad of Jamie Stewart circa GD 5914
James ‘Jamie’ Stewart, Captain of the Siren’s Embrace, looked down, teeth grinding. Seven ships, armed to the teeth were minutes away from his ERV 454 scout ship. He knew as soon as they started closing in that this was it – there was no escaping this one with clever tricks.
Their current mission was to escort a beautiful, mysterious guest of the Council to her home planet – and to return with three ships full of rations one could only get dirtside. Her name was something incomprehensible, and he’d never even heard of the planet – not in twenty years on every type of ship known to man or mechanical.
She’d boarded his tiny recon vessel on the arm of high command and had kept her own company during the flight.
The rest of the crew was as tried and true as any in the fleet; men and women he’d nearly died with dozens of times, and the finest in the galaxy to his way of mind. If someone had betrayed them, she was his first bet.
He turned to her as she entered the cabin as the proximity alarms blared. “They were waiting for us.”
“If they were, it was none of my doing, and there is nothing you can do about it, Captain.”
His hand circled her arm. “I could kill you.”
“I very much doubt that.” Her eyes took on a strange glow.
The captain released her, hand going to the weapon at his hip. “What are you? Some kind of new assassin?”
She snorted delicately as the hailing light blinked on the console. “New? Hardly. I am old. And I was never an assassin, though I was considered something of a patron of them for a time. Goes with the territory, I think.”
“What are you? And why go to all this trouble to capture one vessel.”
“You are mistaken Captain. This is no plan of mine. In fact, I would assume that someone in your high command sold you out.”
She stilled. “Perhaps because I chose you. You reminded me of someone I knew long ago. Jealousy is a powerful motivation.”
“Look, I need whatever information you have, and I don’t have time for riddles. We have approximately three minutes before they blow us to smithereens, or worse, board us. I don’t have to tell you what they do to prisoners.”
“No, you do not. I cannot die, but neither can I, in this form, whisk you and your people away. I am a mere memory of what I was once, but by my nature I am unending, and so, here I sit – endless.”
He took a breath. “You are an alien.”
She shrugged, unconcerned; her voice was like broken glass in the sun – beautiful, sharp. “I am alien to you, human, though I lived on your homeworld before your kind crawled out of the mud.”
He shivered. “Well, unless you have some kind of mojo that can help, prepare to end here. I don’t care what kind of alien physiology you have, it’s not going to survive a blaster hole through the hull and depressurization. If we surrender, we’ll be tortured and then slaughtered to a man, and I don’t plan to go out that way. As soon as my crew gets into position, we’ll – “
She looked pleased for some reason he couldn’t fathom. “Go out in a blaze of glory?”
He swallowed, anger and pain flooding him, then looked up defiantly. “Yes. We might be no match for them, but I’ll be damned if I go down without a fight.”
She smiled, and it was terrifying. “Then, perhaps, you and I can come to an agreement.”
It was madness.
Utter madness, and he called himself a fool a dozen times as he opened the hailing frequency, cursing himself for clinging to something like hope on the word of some mad alien.
The worst that could happen is that he and his crew would die without getting a shot off. In the end, they’d be dead in a few minutes in any scenario he could logically expect – well, unless they surrendered, and then they’d be tortured for information before they were tossed into space like yesterday’s rations.
He pasted a smirk on his face as the faces of the commanders of the seven cruisers appeared on screen. “Sorry it took so long – I was, well, occupied.” He nodded toward the woman who claimed to be an ancient goddess as she lounged in his chair, like a gorgeous cat.
The commander of the largest dreadnought glared from behind a truly impressive mustache that made him look like an Old Earth walrus. “How dare you…”
Stewart grinned. “Oh, I dare quite a bit, as often as I can get away with it. But enough of that. I assume you had some reason for intercepting a diplomatic mission?”
A tall, skinny commander that looked like the weight of his medals and gold braid might overbalance him at any moment adjusted his glasses and intoned, “The subjects of High Queen Ramase do not recognize the sovereignty of your pathetic little planet; therefore you cannot have diplomatic arrangements with other systems. Furthermore, your class and marking have been identified as belonging to a ship that was sited in several insurrection – “
Jamie felt his eyes blazing. “It’s not insurrection if you are invading our planet and claiming it for your own – that’s called defense, or didn’t they teach the definitions of Basic language to you at that subpar brainwashing system you call an academy?”
The skinny commander’s eyes opened in surprise – and then obvious rage. “You insolent porcine byproduct!”
He walked over to the console and flipped his shields off, and then forced his body into a casual leaning pose he didn’t feel in the slightest. “Please. If you lot were any dumber, they’d have to hire Wenverian Crustaceans to help you cheat on your exams.”
Even if this didn’t work, it was almost worth dying to see the Ramsae commanders turning purple with rage. The skinny commander gave him a deadly smirk. “Fire all weapons.”
Stewart gave him a shark-like grin. “Go to hell.”
Minutes, or maybe hours later – he took in a deep breath, as if waking from a deep sleep. The woman (goddess?) sat on the floor with his head in her lap in the cockpit of the Siren while the wreckage of seven ruined ships floated serenely in the darkness of space.
Her voice was thick. “You are awake.”
He blinked. “And even more surprising, I am alive.”
She dimpled. “Hmm. This was nothing. You should have seen the things I could do when I was worshiped properly. Your desperation and faith allowed me more power than I’ve had in eons.”
He shuddered. He had made a devil’s deal to win an unwinnable situation. “My crew?”
“Teleported to their homeworlds, with a vague memory of you sending each of them off before this fight. Each of them has enough credit to make a good life for themselves, just as you requested.”
He nodded and tried to sit up. She held him down, smiling with teeth slightly too pointed and eyes that were never human. “Will you keep your word Captain?”
“I will. If you help me free my homeworld, protect my people, then I will Captain this vessel and live as a ghost – bearing your symbol in battle and dedicating my kills to you. No man will know that I live, until the war is over, and then my life will be forfeit.”
She patted his cheek and slid gracefully into the Captain’s chair. “Don’t look so glum. A forfeit isn’t an end Captain. You are about to win unwinnable war – and when you time is done, you will find that eternity spent with a goddess is not a fate worse than death.”
He stood at the console, turning his ship to the homeworld of the empire had oppressed his people.
He’d trade his own life for the people he loved a hundred times with no regrets. If that meant dying he was fine with it.
If it meant living, he could do that too.
STORYTIME QUARTERLY BLOG HOP JAN, APRIL, JULY AND OCT PARTICIPATE LIST
Read speculative fiction from authors around the globe. Flash Fiction from 500 to 1000 word quick reads. Leave us comments we love hearing from you.
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