Women's Work by Jean Marie Bauhaus

New Release: Women’s Work

Women's Work by Jean Marie Bauhaus

My first new release of 2019 is out and available pretty much everywhere e-books are sold!

Women’s Work is a short story duo featuring two tough heroines that have captured my imagination, and I hope they’ll also capture yours. Here’s the official description:

A woman’s work is never done, and rarely is it easy — a sentiment that’s keenly felt in these two quick tales of urban fantasy and horror from Jean Marie Bauhaus.

In The Box, retired monster slayer turned single mom Keely Brewster hides out in a small town where she hopes to raise her little girl in peace. But leaving her old life behind proves harder than expected when a mysterious package shows up on her front step.

In Night Driving, Mae always loved driving at night. But this particular drive might be one of the most important of her life. And for her violent husband, it might be the last.

Enjoy these haunting creations from the mind that brought you Eucha Falls, Midnight Snacks and the Restless Spirits series.

Click here to get your copy!

Midnight Snacks and Other Short Stories Now Available on Kindle Unlimited!

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KU subscribers and Amazon Prime members rejoice! Or at least give each other a high five. All of my short indie fiction is now back home on KU. Grab them all here.

“But wait, Jean,” longtime readers might be thinking, “didn’t you just take them all out of KU at the start of this year?”

Yes. Yes I did. But now I’ve moved them back, for reasons. If you want to know those reasons, you can read all about them right here, along with what I eventually plan to do for the benefit of non-Kindle readers. The short version is that after a year-long experiment with global publishing, I feel like Amazon and KU is the best home for my short fiction, at least for the time being. Which means I plan to publish more shorter works there in the near future, so if you like shorter fiction, and especially if you happen to like MY shorter fiction, that’s a good thing! High fives all around!

“But I don’t have a Kindle / I’m not enrolled in KU!”

You don’t have to be left out — you can install the free Kindle app on your smartphone, tablet or PC and read Kindle books to your heart’s content (true fact: I gave my actual Kindle device to my husband because I like the smartphone app better). And if you’re not in KU, you can purchase these books at the regular retail price (or if you’re a Prime member you can borrow them from the Prime Lending Library). Also, like I mentioned in the other post linked up there, eventually I’ll collect all of my shorts into a paperback edition. More high fives!

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Happy Halloween! I Brought Treats!

 

 

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Okay, confession: these treats are recycled. We’re in the middle of getting ready to move and I don’t have time to run to Target and pick up new bags of candy make new content. But these old treats are still yummy, I promise!

Here’s me last year doing a Halloween live reading of my short horror story, Snack Machine:

 

And here’s me narrating two creepy pieces of flash fiction:

 

 

These are all featured in my short story collection, Midnight Snacks. Click here to get your copy. It also includes my horror novella Eucha Falls, which is available as a free standalone wherever e-books are sold. And if you like those you’ll also like my creepy story about a witch’s ghost, Weather Witch. Get it here.

But wait, there’s more! Before you go, be sure to check out my Restless Oklahoma and Stuff I Think You’ll Like blog tags for more spooky reads and recommendations.

And finally, here’s a Halloween tip: If you’ve got more candy corn than you know what to do with, try mixing it into your popcorn. We tried this the other night and it was the perfect mix of sweet & salty — and I’m not even a fan of candy corn. But that was a big bag o’ deliciousness.

Happy Halloween, folks. I hope you’re enjoying it this year. As for me and mine, we’re going to take a break from packing and prepping to enjoy our favorite monster movies and candy. What Halloween traditions are you enjoying this year? Shout it out in the comments!

Short Story Preview: The Box

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Here’s a sneak peek at a brand new flash fiction, the entirety of which will go out in my newsletter this Sunday. To read this and other stories that are exclusive to my mailing list, sign up here!

The box sat on the dinette table, a silent threat to everything Keely Brewster had worked so hard for. She sat and regarded it as she sipped her chamomile tea—it was supposed to keep her calm, but it wasn’t doing the trick. Maybe if she added a shot of bourbon—and mulled over what she should do. It had just shown up on her doorstep, all brown and nondescript. No postal marks, no return address, nothing to provide even a hint of where it had come from or who had placed it there.

The first thing she had done, after searching the yard and scanning the street for any sign of its deliverer, had been to get on her hands and knees and put her ear against it. There was no ticking, although that didn’t necessarily mean it wasn’t a bomb, of sorts. The enemies she’d left in her wake weren’t the sort to deign to use such backward human means as a mechanized explosive, although that didn’t preclude them from paying off a human assassin to get the job done.

A magic bomb, on the other hand, would be much harder to detect, and have much more far-reaching consequences than simply blowing Keely to bits.

The white-haired lady from across the street—Keely had only moved in last week, and hadn’t yet had time to learn any of her neighbor’s names —came out to walk her equally white-haired Scottish terrier. She stopped to stare questioningly at Keely, still down on all fours inspecting the box, prompting her to get up and, very carefully, bring the box inside, where she’d set it on the table before making herself a cup of tea.

Sipping and contemplating, she considered the list of people and other beings who would happily see her dead or dismembered. It was too long to count. After all, she’d killed countless of their kind. Some wanted revenge, some what they would call justice. Others just wanted to remove her as a threat to their existence. Nothing personal.

The former she could understand. The latter she wished would understand that she no longer posed them any threat. She was done with that life. She just wanted to raise her daughter in peace. Let someone else deal with all the monsters for a change.

More important than the question of who had sent the package was knowing how they had found her. She’d changed her name, her looks, her entire life so she could run to ground in the smallest nowhere town she could find that still offered her daughter a decent education. She’d done every possible thing to cover her tracks. This was supposed to be the end of running. A chance to put down roots and give her girl a normal life.

Whatever that meant.

She glanced into the living room, at the toys scattered among stacks of still-unpacked boxes, and thought of having to load those boxes back in the Jeep, having to pack those toys and explain to her little girl that the new best friend she’d already made at school was someone she’d never be able to see again, not even to say goodbye. She finished her tea, longing even harder for that shot of bourbon and lamenting her decision to quit drinking.

There was only one way to find the answer to these questions. She had to open the box.

***

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The Gift: A Restless Spirits Christmas Short

The Gift: A Restless Spirits Christmas Short

She’s baaaack! Sarah Collier returns in this mini-prequel to Restless Spirits that sheds a little more light on the enmity between her and Joe.

The following is a sneak peek at this new short story, the entirety of which will be exclusively posted in my newsletter on Christmas Eve. Sign up here to be sure you don’t miss it!

 

The Gift: A Restless Spirits Christmas Short

Joe Bentley carried his daughter down the stairs, watching her face light up with wonder as the Christmas tree came into view. The Collier children were already stationed around it, tearing into packages and squabbling over who got the best Santa presents. “Merry Christmas, Joe!” Mr. Collier, his employer, raised a mug in greeting from the settee in the parlor. “There’s coffee in the kitchen. Go on in and help yourself.”

Joe set Clarice down and whispered in her ear. “You go on and watch the other children. And mind your manners.”

“Yes papa!” She took off like a shot as soon as her little feet hit the floor. Turning toward the kitchen, Joe smiled as he heard her say, louder than necessary, “Merry Christmas Mr. Collier!”

“Merry Christmas, Clarice!” he boomed back, just as loudly, amusement plain in his voice.

Mrs. Collier was coming out of the kitchen just as Joe was heading in. She was carrying a tray loaded down with a coffee pot, mugs and a plate piled high with cookies. “Oh, Joe! Good. Here, will you take this into the parlor? And help yourself to a cup. I’ll be in in another minute.”

“Yes ma’am.” He took the heavy tray from her and turned back the way he’d come.

“And don’t let those children touch anything at the back of the tree ’til I get in there!” she called after him before disappearing back into the kitchen.

In the parlor, he set the tray on a little table beside the settee before settling into a chair on the other side of it. He helped himself to a cookie and a cup of coffee, keeping an eye on Clarice while he poured. She sat a little distant from the other children, knees pulled up to her chest underneath her nightgown. She watched, enraptured, as the others opened their gifts, most of her attention fixed on little Sarah, the Colliers’ only girl.

Sarah knew it, too. A flame-haired tomboy who usually preferred balls and fishing gear to dolls and frilly things, Sarah also knew that Clarice adored all that ladylike stuff. Sarah’s own preferences didn’t stop her parents, especially her mother, from foisting girly things on her. Usually she’d complain, but seeing the longing looks from Clarice, Sarah made a big show of how much she loved each and every item–and also of placing it far away from Clarice before moving on to the next present.

Joe did his best to swallow his dislike of the girl along with a bite of ginger bread. She was only a child, barely older than Clarice, and it wasn’t her fault that she was the youngest and the only girl and that her parents and brothers doted on her so. And didn’t he dote on Clarice just as much? That she was such a sweet child and not at all spoiled was more a testament to how much of her mother was in her than any particular fathering skills Joe possessed.

A fog of sadness tried to settle over him at the memory of his late wife. He wished she could be there to see how well their little girl was growing up. Of course, part of the reason he doted so much on Clarice now was to ease his guilt over how much he’d neglected her in the beginning, driven so out of his mind with grief that he’d held that precious, innocent baby to blame for her mother’s passing. It wasn’t her fault Martha’s constitution had been too frail to endure childbirth. Once he’d come to his senses, he’d sworn to Clarice that he’d never stop making it up to her. And that was a promise he intended to keep.

Watching her now, he wished he’d given her the rag doll he’d picked out for her before they’d come down instead of saving it for later. It had to be torture for the girl to watch the other children open presents when there was nothing under the tree for her. He was debating whether he should go get it when Mrs. Collier came bustling into the room with another tray. He and Mr. Collier both stood as she announced, “Hot chocolate and gingerbread for the children!” She set the tray on a sideboard and went to join her husband on the settee.

“It was right kind of you both to include Clarice and me in your family’s Christmas celebration,” Joe said as the three of them took their seats.

“Nonsense. You two are gettin’ to be just like family. And I wouldn’t have missed seeing that angel’s face on Christmas morning for all the world.”

Joe smiled and nodded. “Even so, we sure do both appreciate it.”

“Not as much as we appreciate the help you’ve been to us,” Mr. Collier said around the pipe in his teeth. He took it out and used it to point toward Joe. “Speaking of which, if you turn around you’ll find a token of our appreciation propped up there in the corner.”

Joe turned and spied a brand new fishing rod standing in the corner, tied with a big red bow. He looked back at the Colliers. “That’s too generous. I can’t accept that.”

“Sure you can. The boys got new rods, too, and we can’t have you joining us on fishing expeditions with that old broken down reel of yours.”

Joe grinned as he got up to inspect the rod. “Well, if you put it that way.” It wasn’t top of the line, but it was a far cry better than anything he could afford on his farmhand wages, made of polished bamboo with a shiny new reel. He had mixed feelings as he looked it over. Good manners wouldn’t let him refuse it, and truth be told he couldn’t wait to take it fishing. But it also made the lace handkerchief and tin flask he’d picked out for each of the Colliers seem woefully inadequate by comparison. Still, he swallowed his pride and focused on his gratitude. “Thank you,” he said. “You’re both too kind.”

“We hope you put it to good use,” said Mrs. Collier. Before he could promise that he would, she called to Sarah. “Why don’t you hand out those gifts there in the back?”

Sarah frowned. Joe couldn’t tell if it was from puzzlement or because she was being torn away from her presents and put to work. But she got up and went around behind the tree. Sorting through some boxes there, she handed one each to her brothers before grabbing one for herself. As she settled down and started tearing the paper off, Mrs. Collier, her voice filled with exasperation, said, “Sarah, you forgot one!”

She shrugged. “That wasn’t any of ours.” She kept tearing at the wrapping paper before squealing with excitement. “A baseball glove!” She held it up admiringly before shoving her hand inside, clearly genuinely excited about this gift and not just putting on a show for Clarice.

“I know you’ve been wanting to play with your brothers. Now you can.”

“Thank you, pa!” She ran over and threw her arms around his neck, looking so happy that for a moment Joe forgot the bad feeling he usually got from the girl.

“Clarice,” Mrs. Collier called, “why don’t you have a look at that last package behind the tree?”

Joe looked at her, surprised. “You didn’t.”

“I didn’t do anything,” she said with an air of innocence. “It was all Santa Claus’s doing.”

“Mrs. Collier, I can’t let you–”

“Hush,” she said, and it was already too late. Clarice had already found the package and brought it out where all could see, holding it reverently in her little hands. It was a box half her size, wrapped in bright red paper. She set it on the floor and just gazed at it in awe. “It’s so pretty, papa,” she said, her voice barely more than a whisper.

Joe could no more refuse the gift for her than he could live without his own head attached. Relenting, he said, “Well, go on and open it.”

Slowly, taking pains not to tear the paper, she worked to remove it from the box. Joe glanced over at the Colliers to see the amusement on their faces, but instead his gaze landed on Sarah, perched in her pa’s lap, watching Clarice with an intensity that made it clear she’d forgotten all about her beloved baseball glove. The look on her face sent a shiver down his spine. He quickly turned his attention back to his own girl, who had managed to open the wrapping at one end.

“Here, punkin, let me help.” Joe got down on his knees and slid the box out of the wrapping, then placed it before Clarice. She glanced up at him with pleading and hopeful eyes, so he went ahead and pried the lid off the box. As he lifted it away, the look on her face made it worth all the extra odd jobs he planned to do around the place to pay back the Collier’s generosity.

It was a doll. A fine porcelain doll, with real hair, blonde and curly like hers, and a dress finer than anything Clarice herself had ever worn. It made the rag doll Joe had gotten for her look like, well, just a bunch of rags by comparison. With a gasp of delight that seemed to come from deep in her little soul, she scooped it up and hugged it tight.

“Why does she get a doll?”

All eyes turned to Sarah, who had dropped her glove and now glared at Clarice, her face flushed as red as her hair.

“Because Santa decided she’d been a good girl all year,” Mr. Collier said, trying to make light of the situation.

“But why didn’t I get a doll?”

“You don’t play with any of the dolls you already have,” said Mrs. Collier. “You’ve complained every time we’ve ever gotten you a doll.”

“But none of ’em looked like her!” Sarah pointed at Clarice’s doll. “It’s not fair!”

“Sarah Jane, don’t you talk to me about what’s fair.” Her mother pointed at the pile of toys and new clothes that belonged to her. “Look at everything you got this morning! And Clarice only has the one present! You’re being ungrateful, not to mention rude to our guests.”

“They ain’t our guests, they’re hired hands.” She pointed at Clarice. “And she ain’t even that!”

Mrs. Collier got to her feet. “That is enough!” She pointed emphatically at the stairs. “Go to your room!”

“But–”

“Right now, young lady!”

Sarah closed her mouth and stalked away toward the stairs, glowering at Clarice with a look of pure contempt as she went.

“I am so sorry, Joe. I don’t know what on earth’s gotten into that girl.”

“Probably too much sugar and not enough sleep,” said her husband. “All she needs is a nap and a good breakfast, then she’ll be right as rain.” He looked down at the baseball glove and stooped to pick it up, frowning at it in disappointment. “I sure thought this was what she wanted more than anything this year.”

“It was,” Mrs. Collier said. With an exasperated sigh, she shook her head. “Please don’t pay her any mind, Joe. Nor you, Clarice. You enjoy your dolly.”

“I will.”

“What do you say to Mr. And Mrs. Collier?” Joe prompted her.

“Thank you for the doll, Mr. And Mrs. Collier.”

“Don’t thank us,” Mr. Collier said with a wink. “That dolly came from Santa Claus.”

“Well then, we’ll have to write a thank you letter to Santa, won’t we?”

She nodded emphatically, still hugging her doll.

Mrs. Collier reached over and patted Joe on the arm. “You two should head on up and get dressed. Breakfast will be on the table in half an hour.”

“We’ll be there,” Joe promised as he scooped Clarice into his arms. “Come on, punkin. Let’s go put on our Sunday best.”

“Yes, papa.”

Joe carried her and her new doll up the stairs. The second flight of stairs leading up to their rooms on the third floor sat at the other end of the hallway. To get there, they had to pass by Sarah’s room. The door was opened, and although Joe tried not to look, he could feel eyes on him as he went past. Glancing over, he saw Sarah sitting on her bed, glaring at them with pure hatred.

Looking straight ahead, Joe hugged his girl a little more tightly and picked up his pace.

***

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Short Story: The Cellar

Last week wasn’t a great week, especially for writing fiction. Pretty much every authoring or book marketing thing I’d planned to do past last Monday got devoured by runaway freelance projects . . . and this week is shaping up to be more of the same (actually this week’s getting off to a really rocky start thanks to eating something that didn’t agree with me during last night’s big sportsball game. Yay Broncos? Bleah).

In related news, I’ve gone and reactivated my Patreon page. By now you’ve no doubt heard of Patreon and have at least a vague idea of what it is and how it works, but in case you need the prompt, basically it’s a place where I will post exclusive fiction and other content on a regular basis and you can subscribe to read all of it for only one dollar per month, or however much your heart directs you to pledge. The purpose of this is to allow me to do more of what I was made to do — write fiction — and still be able to help pay the bills while doing it. If eventually enough people pledge to become patrons of my work, I’ll be able to cut back on freelancing (or possibly eliminate it altogether) and work full-time writing books and stories and creating content y’all want to read (while I’m sure some of you are absolutely riveted by articles like this and would love to see me spend many hours each week researching, writing and revising them instead of writing fiction, I kinda hope you guys are in the minority on that).

Currently the plan is to start posting every piece of fiction I write from here on out to my Patreon page for patrons to read. This will include beta (i.e., rough and unedited) versions of my novels, and exclusive short stories. Everyone who pledges will get to read that stuff, and provide feedback if you so choose. Higher levels of patronage will get extra perks, like discounts on books, signed copies and other goodies.

To kick things off, I’ve posted in its entirety the short story I wrote last fall entitled THE CELLAR (the same story I was calling “Cellar Witch” here on the blog while I was working on it) (oh, and the last time I tried to run a Patreon campaign I posted my short story SPOOKED, which is included in my collection MIDNIGHT SNACKS. It’s still there, so that’s actually two stories you’ll get to read if you sign up. And I’ll begin posting chapters of my current WIP later this week). Here’s a preview of that story. Hope you enjoy it.

***

THE CELLAR

by Jean Marie Bauhaus

 

“There’s a witch buried in the cellar.”

 

I looked over at the doors in the ground that opened into the storm cellar, then back at Randall. I’d only known him for about three days, but already I had figured out he was often full of bull. “Nuh-uh.”

 

“No, really,” he said, his face earnest. “You can ask my dad if you don’t believe me. He’ll tell you.”

 

I hadn’t met Randall’s dad yet; just his mom when she’d brought us a basket of cookies on the day we moved in. I had no idea whether Randall’s dad was as prone to making stuff up as Randall, but this was the first time he’d suggested that I verify one of his stories with an adult, so he must’ve been serious.

 

We were parked at the end of my parents’ driveway, straddling our bikes and munching on leftover welcome cookies. The cellar sat in the middle of the big, grassy yard, about fifty yards from the double-wide my parents and I now called home. It looked innocent enough, surrounded by puffy white dandelions, the metal doors gleaming in the late spring sunshine. My mom had been relieved when she’d seen it. This was tornado country, and she hadn’t been thrilled about the prospect of living in a mobile home, even though it was only supposed to be temporary, until our real house was built. The cellar promised us safety.

 

“How’d she get there?” I egged him on, eager to hear what kind of wild story he’d come up with this time. A wiry, freckled kid, tall for his age, Randall was the first kid my own age I’d met there, and with summer vacation just starting I figured it’d be three more months before I had a chance to make more friends. I’d decided it was better to go along with his stories rather than risk being friendless all summer.

 

His face lit up at the question. He gobbled the rest of his cookie and wiped his fingers on his shorts, then scooted his bike closer to mine and leaned forward, resting his arms on the handlebars. “There used to be a house here,” he said in hushed tones. “A two-story farmhouse, built there, over the cellar.” He jerked his chin toward the cellar doors.

 

“What happened to it?”

 

He held up a finger. “I’m gettin’ to that part. So anyway, this lady lived here, all by herself. This was a long time ago, before we were even born. Way back in, like, the ‘Eighties. Her name was Juanita Crabtree. People would come to her for herbal remedies and stuff. They didn’t have Whole Foods or places like that back then. My dad says she probably also sold pot.”

 

“So she was a hippie drug dealer,” I said, and shrugged. “That doesn’t make her a witch.”

 

“No,” Randall agreed, leaning even closer, “but then one year animals started dying. Cats and dogs at first, showing up all mutilated, and then cows. People got real scared, thinking there was a satanic cult around here doing animal sacrifices. And then a little kid went missing, and people really freaked out.”

 

A chill ran down my back, and I was suddenly glad we were in broad daylight, and not sitting by a campfire where this story would’ve been more appropriate. Randall might be full of it, but at least his stories were entertaining. “Did they find the kid?” I asked.

 

He shook his head. “He’s still missing. But around the same time, a bunch of other kids got sick with some mystery illness they couldn’t identify. A couple of babies died. And then someone found the missing kid’s shirt down there by the creek.” He nodded in the direction of the creek bed that edged our property. “It was all caked with blood.”

 

“That’s when her customers started coming forward, talking about stuff they’d seen in her house–pentagrams, black candles, tarot cards, that kind of stuff. This one lady said Juanita had offered to pray with her for her bad back, but the prayer wasn’t like any kind of prayer she’d ever heard. The lady got scared and left and never went back there again.”

 

My baloney detector was still going off, but I was too into the story to care. “So what’d they do?”

 

“The sheriff’s department got a warrant and brought dogs out to search her property. They found some weird stuff. Bird skeletons, cat skulls, jars full of cow’s blood. And that’s not even the scary part.”

 

“What is?” I realized I’d leaned closer.

 

Randall looked around, as if to make sure we weren’t being watched. Seemingly satisfied, he leaned back in. “They found a bunch of dolls, tied up all weird, with these little bags around their necks, filled with teeth, bones, hair . . . that kind of stuff.”

 

I shivered, and glanced uneasily over at the cellar. “Did they arrest her?”

 

“Yeah, but they had to let her go ‘cause they didn’t have enough evidence. So the people decided to do what the sheriff couldn’t.”

 

He stopped, then leaned back and stretched his arms. I got the feeling he was telling this story the same way he’d heard it told, pausing to let the drama sink in. When he didn’t start talking again right away, I took the bait. “What did they do?”

 

“A lynch mob came after her. They were gonna hang her–from that tree over there.” He pointed to the tall oak towering over the double-wide, where my dad had told me we could build a tree house later that summer.

 

“Did they?” I asked, not taking my eyes off the tree, trying to guess which limb had been used for the deed.

 

“No,” he said, and I let out the breath I’d been holding. “When they came, about forty people all together, she met them on the front porch and told them she could control the weather. She said if they didn’t leave, she’d call down a tornado to carry them all to hell.”

 

“What did they do?”

 

“They didn’t leave. Instead they dragged her off the porch and over to the tree. She was kicking and screaming the whole way, calling out words in some weird language nobody could understand. But that wasn’t all. As they strung her up, she called out a curse on the property so that nobody else would build here. She said, ‘A child must die so the house may stand.’” He repeated this last part in an ominous, creaky old-lady voice.

 

“Then a storm hit,” he continued, “and baseball-size hail started to fall, hitting people and knocking them out. They tried to gag her and finish hanging her, but she got away and tried to run for the cellar. Then somebody shot her.

 

“That’s when the tornado hit.”

 

He paused again for effect, and I leaned back on my bike and regarded him with skepticism. “You’re making this up,” I said. Despite the risks to my social life, I couldn’t let such a fantastic whopper go without comment.

 

“I’m not,” he said, his eyes wide and sincere. He raised his right hand. “I swear. You can look it up online. It was in all the papers, how a freak storm hit without any warning and a tornado only destroyed one house.” He pointed over at the cellar. “That house.”

 

“Yeah, right,” I said, but all the bravado had gone out of my voice.

 

“I told you, look it up! Anyway,” he went on, dismissing my unbelief, “most of the people were killed, but a couple of survivors managed to make it into the cellar right before the tornado hit. One of them was a friend of my dad’s uncle. They never found her body, and he told the sheriff that the storm must’ve carried her off, or maybe she’d survived and got out of town. But it was him that shot her, and then they buried her down there.”

 

I sat back and gripped my handlebars, taking a deep breath and letting it all sink in. “That’s a hell of a story, Randall.”

 

“I know,” he said, “but that’s not even the freakiest part.”

 

I steeled myself and asked, “Then what is?”

 

“People have tried to rebuild on this property three times since then, on top of the old foundation. Every time, as soon as the house was finished and the families moved in, a tornado would hit and tear it all down.

 

“The first time, it was a retired couple, and they were both killed. Then a young family built another house here, but not long after one of the kids died of some mystery illness. They moved soon after that, and another childless couple bought the place. Guess what happened after that?”

 

I didn’t answer; the question seemed rhetorical anyway, ‘cause Randall went on without pausing. “After that another family put a house here, this time with teenagers. Another tornado hit, and only the dad survived. He tore up the old foundation so that nobody would build on it again.”

 

I looked over by the cellar, at the area where the foundation must’ve been laid. The whole reason my parents had bought this property was that they planned to build there eventually. “So you’re basically telling me I’m gonna die.”

 

His eyes went wide, as if that thought hadn’t even occurred to him. Then he waved his hand as if to dismiss everything. “Nah,” he said. “I’m sure it’s all a coincidence. I mean, I don’t really believe in witches or anything like that. Do you?”

 

“Of course not,” I told him, but that didn’t ease the queasiness I suddenly felt.

 

“Anyway, I’m thirsty,” he said, changing the subject. “Wanna ride down to the gas station and get some pop?”

 

“Yeah, okay,” I said, grateful for something to take my mind off of the cellar. “Let me go ask my mom.”

 

***

 

The weather forecast predicted severe weather later in the week, so my dad decided not to waste any more time getting the storm shelter ready. After supper, we drove twenty miles to the nearest Walmart to stock up on supplies.

 

I hadn’t given Randall’s story another thought the rest of that day, but as we drove back home, it was starting to get dark, and I knew my dad was going to make me help him put everything away in the cellar. My heart sped up as I remembered everything Randall had said, and suddenly I really didn’t want to go down there, especially at night.

 

I didn’t dare tell my dad that, though. He’d just stopped treating me like a little kid that year, and I didn’t want him to start again. Instead I reminded myself that in just three short days Randall already had a track record of making stuff up. I told myself that tornadoes are way scarier than some old dead lady anyway, witch or no witch, and the cellar would keep us safe.

 

But when my dad parked the truck in the driveway and told me to grab a case of water and follow him to the cellar, I froze. I was still sitting there, trying to slow my heart and untie the knots in my stomach, when he startled me by pounding on my window. “Let’s go, sport!” he called, Walmart bags gripped in one fist and a cot in the other.

 

I took a deep breath, then opened the door and got out. I took my time getting the water from the back of the truck and crossing the yard to the cellar doors. By the time I got there, light flooded out of the open doors, and I could hear my dad humming an old Metallica song. Shaking my head at my own stupidity, I descended the steps and set the water on the dirt floor. As I stood back up, I couldn’t help wondering if that was the spot where she was buried.

 

“Sport!” Dad called. When I looked up I got the feeling he’d had to call out to me more than once. His face was covered with concern. “You okay, son?”

 

I shrugged. “I’m fine.”

 

He studied me a minute, then said, “You sure about that?”

 

I opened my mouth to say yes, but something made me hesitate. If Randall’s story was true, wouldn’t my parents have known about it before they bought the place and moved us here? I decided I needed to ask, but I had to do it in a way that wouldn’t make me sound like a ‘fraidy baby. So I just said, “Randall says there’s a witch buried down here.”

 

He laughed. “Randall. Isn’t that the kid who told you his dog is thirty years old? In human years?”

 

“Yeah,” I admitted. “I know he’s full of sh–crap,” I corrected myself as my Dad raised an eyebrow at me. “But he swore that we could look this stuff up. He said she cursed a bunch of kids and made them sick before a lynch mob finally killed her.”

 

Dad paused from arranging candles and batteries on a shelf and looked at me. “When was this supposed to be?”

 

“Back in the 1980s.”

 

“Ah.” He nodded knowingly as he took out his pocket knife to cut the zip ties that held the cots closed. “When you’re a little older, remind me to tell you about a little something called the Satanic Panic.”

 

“What’s that?”

 

He pointed the knife at me, along with a stern look. “When you’re older.”

 

Great. He was already talking to me like a little kid again. Still, I pressed on. Keeping my voice light, like I thought it was all a big stupid joke, I relayed the rest of Randall’s story.

 

“So did you look it up?” He asked as he arranged the cots along one wall.

 

“Nah,” I said, trying to sound like I didn’t believe it was worth the bother. I left out the part about my mom being on the computer doing her homework all day, even though that would’ve been an excellent opportunity to drop a hint about getting my own laptop for my birthday.

 

With everything apparently arranged to his satisfaction, my dad sliced open the shrink wrap on a case of water, took out a couple of bottles and handed one to me. He sat on the end of the middle cot and scanned the dirt floor. “So where do you think she’s buried?” He looked down at his own feet and stomped a boot on the floor. “Here?”

 

I stared at his boot and swallowed, hard. Then I did my best to laugh it off. “Nah,” I said again. “Like I said, Randall’s full of crap.”

 

Dad nodded, a look of approval on his face. Then he pointed at me with the hand that held the cap. “You remember that before you come and wake me up asking me to check your closet tonight,” he said, then took a drink.

 

“Dad, I’m not a baby.”

 

He grinned, and stood up. “I know. I don’t always like it, but I know.” He ruffled my hair, then jerked his head toward the stairs. “Come on. We’ve got time for a round of Sorry before bed.” Before I knew it, he was headed up the stairs in front of me. “Get the light,” he called over his shoulder.

 

I should’ve been right behind him, but my feet froze to the ground the second I realized he was leaving me down there on my own. I looked around, and suddenly the same cellar that had seemed innocuous and even kind of cozy while my dad was there looked sinister and unwelcoming, with stark shadows cast at creepy angles by the naked light bulb overhead. The area underneath each of the cots was dark, and I imagined (didn’t I?) something moving under there, deep in the shadowy space.

 

My heart sped up and suddenly my feet were all too eager to move. I reached up and yanked the light chain even as the rest of me was already moving toward the stairs. I thought I could feel something on my heels as I shot up out of the ground, but it was only my paranoia. When I turned to close the doors, nothing was there. Just a gaping, dark, empty hole.

 

I closed the doors, strung the chain through the door handles, and forced myself to walk at a calm pace as I headed back to the house.
***

Read the rest right now on Patreon!

Happy NaNoWriMowe’en!

NaNo-2015-Participant-BannerIt’s one more sleep till Halloween, one of my favorite days of the year–and only two more sleeps till one of my other favorite annual events: NaNoWriMo!

I’ll be participating this year, although not in the traditional sense, which I suppose makes me a “rebel.” I’ll be writing an as-yet undisclosed project which has already been started. I’d be writing it anyway, so I might as well join in the Nano festivities and take advantage of the community aspect while I can. I’m not so much going to worry about hitting 50 thousand words by the end of November; I plan to take Sundays (except for Day One) and Thanksgiving Day off, so that means I’ll actually only have 25 days to get there, and I’d have to write 2,000 words a day on average. Juggling that much output with my current steady freelance writing gig seems a little unrealistic.

My primary goal is to finish the first draft in two months, so if I can hit a word count somewhere between 35 and 40 thousand by the end of the month, I’ll consider it a win. That means at least  1,400 words per day, which is slightly more manageable.

Will you be doing NaNoWriMo this year? I go by jeanjeanie over there, so make me your buddy and say  hi!

In other news, I finalized and submitted my short story The Cellar last weekend, so now I’m just waiting to learn its fate. There might be more news to tell you about in the not-too-distant future, and it might be something pretty exciting, but that’s still in the “wait and see, need more info” stage at this point, which is kind of driving me batty. If it works out, though, it’s going to be quite an announcement, and well worth the wait.

Kickstarter Update & Other Newsy Bits

Welp, guys, the Kickstarter is winding down, and barring a last-minute miracle, it doesn’t look like Ghost of a Chance, or any other sequels to Restless Spirits, is going to happen–at least not in the foreseeable future. I hate to throw in the towel early, but with four days left on the clock and only nine blessed backers, I think it’s time to get real and start thinking about what’s next. Of course, if you’d like to try and prove me wrong and make this book happen, it’s not too late to pledge.

In related news, the other day I did this interview with the blog Mameway Corner, wherein I talk a little about the Kickstarter and a lot about Restless Spirits, my process and other writerly things. And in case you missed it, a while back I did another interview for Scott Roche’s blog.

In completely UNrelated news, yesterday I finished the first draft of my short story project that I code-named Cellar Witch. I can’t recall if I’ve mentioned that here but if you follow me on social media you’ve no doubt seen me mention working on it a time or two. Or fifty. It stands at a little under 10,000 words, which is just under the maximum word limit for the anthology I plan to submit it to for consideration, so it’s going to need some trimming.

So I’ll be working on that while I wait to see if that Kickstarter miracle happens. Next week, after the campaign ends and the dust settles, I post another update here about what happens next.

Free at Last!

I have a laptop again! Thanks to my dear friend Erin Palette‘s quick thinking and organization efforts and the generosity of her Facebook network, I am now the proud owner of a 2005 HP tablet/notebook device. Yes, 2005, so it’s not exactly state-of-the-art, but it’s fine for writing, blogging, surfing, and light graphic design work. And it converts into a tablet — I think this was one of Microsoft’s early attempts to beat the iPad — so that’s fun. At any rate, it has liberated me from my husband’s desk and having to wait my turn on the desktop PC, so I am beyond thrilled and grateful.

And now I can get back to work on the whole author-publisher endeavor. Which I have already done by adding to the short story I’d begun before my old laptop’s screen burned out. And I also redid my Patreon page, where you can read said short story, which is a mash-up of a local ghost story and a terrifying dream I had a few months ago.

I’ve also been working on the outline and story world for the novel I talked about in my last post. I’ll start drafting it once this story is done — although I would like to write one more short piece for the collection I’m planning to publish around Halloween, so we’ll see how that goes. At any rate, pretty much everything I write from now on I plan to post as I go on my Patreon feed, and you can read it all for a measly $2 monthly pledge. Plus you’ll get other stuff too. Because I appreciate your willingness to toss a couple of bucks my way to help me do what I do, and I promise to make it worth your while.

In other news, Matt just had a birthday on Saturday. We spent it with my mom and her sister, who took us to a burger joint my mom used to frequent back in the 1950s. That was the best burger and onion rings and chocolate malt I’ve had in a very long time. Actually, it was the only burger and rings I’ve had in quite a while, and probably the first malt I’d had in about two decades. But it was delicious. At any rate, it was a lovely day.

NaNoWriMo Prep and a Cover Reveal

shiny_web_copyI managed to accomplished two (TWO!) writing/publishing-related things last weekend: I broke through my block and figured out the main plot arc of the next book in the Damned series (and also what book three is about, and that it’s up to four books now instead of being a trilogy); and I came up with a cover for Shiny, my steampunk cyborg fairy story (previewed here), that I’m (mostly) happy with. This is probably not the final final version (I’m not 100% sold on the main font, thanks to the “y” looking too much like a “g”), but it’s close. At any rate, I’m aiming to have it ready for release in December, after Nano is out of the way.

Speaking of Nanowrimo, I had originally planned to do a series of posts throughout this month covering the whys and hows and wherefores of participation in the month-long writing marathon, but I’ve been too preoccupied and overwhelmed with getting my web design and marketing business back off the ground and, frankly, I just don’t have a lot of steam left. What little steam I do have, I should probably save for writing my novel.

The short version is, for those who still question the sanity of Nanowrimo and whether or not they should give it a try, is that I recommend doing it at least once, if you have any book-length writing ambition whatsoever. The primary reason I recommend it is because it’s basically boot camp for learning how to keep a deadline. It forces you to learn how to make yourself write when you just have a few free minutes here and there. If you’re someone who thinks you can’t possibly write unless you have a big, solid block of uninterrupted time to “get your head in the zone” and “find your inspiration,” much like I used to be, this is a valuable and necessary lesson to learn.

2013-Participant-Vertical-BannerAs for me, I still need to relearn that lesson from time to time, which is why this is going to be my seventh year (it would have been my 8th, but I took last year off). After so many attempts–some of which were successful, some of which gave me books that were eventually good enough to publish, some of which produced manuscripts that are best left forgotten at the back of my hard drive–I’ve also figured out that the way Nano works best for me is to use it to write a discovery draft, a “draft zero” that’s somewhere between an expanded outline and a full-blown manuscript. That’s why I’m not going in with a detailed outline. As mentioned above, I do have the main arc worked out, so I’ll know what direction I need to move in, but I’ll basically be pantsing it and figuring out the details as I go.

I am a little doubtful of my chances for success this year, because as I said, I’m not running on a full tank of gas and my day job is still pretty busy. But being that it’s a sequel, I already know the characters, so I don’t have to spend time figuring them out and trying to find their voices. That should help things flow more smoothly. At any rate, I’m not going to put too much pressure on myself to “win.” As long as I get a good start on my next novel, regardless of whether I reach 50,000 words, I’m going to consider it time and effort well spent. And I’ll probably be working on this manuscript for the next six to 12 months, regardless of how far I get in November.

At any rate, it’s only two days away! Which means that Halloween is tomorrow! Which means that my big Halloween book sale is about to draw to a close! Which means you should totally go snag all of my books for 99 cents each before the price goes back up at the close of October 31st (or when I remember to go raise the prices back up on Friday)! So go now!