Shalom stepped off the bus and gazed up and down the small
stretch of her old hometown in Maine, which held only a convenience store, gas
station, and bar. If it weren’t for the bar, there would be no bus stop this close to home, so she
should consider herself lucky. But she still had four miles to go. Shalom
glimpsed the telltale red truck peeking out in the lot behind the bar, bright
against the gray sky, and her stomach knotted. The last time she saw it, her
cottage had burned to ashes. Along
with her mother.
Ben had been the one who stopped Shalom from running into
the flames. Maybe she could’ve
saved her mother. The rational
part of her brain knew it had been too late, but casting blame was easier than
holding the entire weight of guilt on her like a log in her backpack.
She shifted from foot to foot while considering her
options. Ben had loved her mother.
Each time he spoke to her, his faced betrayed his true feelings. He would drive
Shalom without asking questions. Other neighbors would ask, “Did you come all
this way from New York City alone? Where’s your guardian? Did you run away? Just
what do you think you’ll do out there on the edge of the forest with your home
As she took a step towards the store across the street,
drizzle prickled her nose and cheeks. Tendrils of chill had already wafted
through the gaps inside her thin jacket. It would be a long way to walk in the
Before she mustered courage to take the last few steps, Ben
stepped out from the store. The bells on the wreath jingled as the door closed behind him. A beard covered most
of his weathered face, just like she remembered. He glanced up at the dreary sky before he saw her. She waited for him to notice her, just
a few feet away. His head came down and his eyes widened. He reached her in two strides.
“Shalom, you cut your hair. You look just like… your mother.”
She touched her the edge of her bob nervously and nodded.
Ben’s eyes sparked with questions. But he didn’t ask them,
just like she knew he wouldn’t.
Instead he exhaled in a whistle and said, “You want to go home, don’t
She nodded again.
He turned towards his truck, and she followed.
After a year away, stepping into the truck was both familiar
and foreign. She’d missed it.
They drove. The only sound was the squeak of the windshield
wipers. The air thickened with
questions unspoken. Any town gossip?
How was Ben since the fire? Was he keeping an eye out on the land she'd inherit in six years?
The only hue besides gray was the crimson of the hood and
the green still clinging to the wintry fields. Shalom covered this length of
road thousands of times, many of them in the very truck she sat in when her
mom’s beat up old car broke down. Did Ben ever start the car? Did it still run? If it didn’t, Shalom figured he
tinkered with it until the car hummed to life again.
Ben's truck passed the familiar trees just where Shalom’s
property began. She wished it were
summer, so leaves would cover the skeleton-finger branches. If it had been a
rainy day like this one on the day of the fire, perhaps her mother would’ve
survived. Ben turned right. The truck lurched back and forth over the tiny dirt
road leading to her house. The garage stood alone. As it loomed closer, its disrepair became starker. Had a year weathered it or was it the new
perspective she had viewing it?
Before the fire consumed her mother, the tiny home had been their refuge.
Ben stopped in front of the garage. Shalom mumbled a thank you before jumping down. Her feet tread on sacred ground. Time and weather had taken most of the evidence of the home and fire away, but her mother's spirit still lingered like fog. Shalom crouched down and grasped a clump of mud, imagining herself as a little girl clasping her mother's hand.
She stood up and wiped her hands together to clean them. Ben's truck waited, idling. She stepped inside. He didn't say, "Where to?" He didn't have to. He put the truck in gear and drove away.
One of my favorite bloggers, Michael Offutt, is a talented writer and illustrator.
He has an EPIC blog tour going on now. He’s offering a free short story. You can also win bookmarks and signed books. You can even win a $50 Amazon Gift
Card! Read on to find out more.
The tired clichés that I break in Oculus by Michael Offutt
There are many clichés in fiction, so I set out to break a few of
them in my writing. I do kind of wonder if it will annoy readers or not. Thus
far, the reception has been great. Anyway, I’ve compiled a list of things that
I tried to do differently with Oculus.
Here they are:
1)All jocks are
stupid. In Oculus, Jordan is a jock,
yes, but he’s also incredibly smart as well as loving.
2)All gay guys are
really promiscuous and sleep around. Jordan is happily monogamous with his
3)All gay guys are
effeminate like Kurt in Glee. Not true.
The only difference between Jordan and a straight guy is who he sleeps
with at the end of the day. That’s
just his identity, and he’s comfortable in his own skin.
4)Every Excalibur story has basically been told.
Not true. I think by the time I get done, people will say, “I never thought of
this angle on the whole Excalibur
If you would like to check out more about my books, please visit my
6 signed copies being given away tour wide, open to international shipping
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Link to grab code
Also each stop can give away a bookmark, also open to international shipping. Please choose a winner and send me the name, email and mailing address.
Autumn has arrived in
New York, and Jordan Pendragon attends his first classes as a freshman at
Cornell. Born with a brilliant mathematical mind, he balances life as a
research assistant with that of a student athlete.
But Jordan also has a
quest. He must find the Black Tower, a monolithic edifice housing a thing that
defines the very structure of the universe. Jordan believes it is buried
somewhere in Antarctica under miles of prehistoric ice.
October finds Jordan
earning a starting position with the Cornell hockey team. But a dark cloud
gathers over his rookie season. Unexplained deaths, whispers of a cannibal
cult, a prophecy, and a stone known only as the Oculus, cast a shadow over his
athletic ambitions. It is the start of a terrifying journey down a path of
mystery, murder, and to a confrontation with an Evil more ancient than the
Michael Offutt writes
speculative fiction books that have science fiction, LGBT, and paranormal
elements. His first book, "Slipstream" has received some critical
acclaim and was published by Double Dragon in the spring. The sequel,
"Oculus" came out in November 2012. He has one brother, no pets, and
a few roots that keep his tree of life sufficiently watered. By day, he works for
the State of Utah as a Technical Specialist. By night, he watches lots of t.v.,
writes, draws, and sometimes dreams of chocolate.
Michael Offutt graduated
from the University of Idaho in 1994 with a Bachelor's degree in English.
He keeps a blog and
would appreciate a visit or two even if all you want to do is say hi.
I’m excited and
proud to be a part of this anthology,
especially because the journal is
late 2011, Jessica Bell and Dawn Ius founded Vine Leaves Literary Journal to
offer the vignette, a forgotten literary form, the exposure and credit it
vignette is a snapshot in words, and differs from flash fiction or a short
story in that its aim doesn’t lie within the traditional realms of structure or
plot, instead it focuses on one element, mood, character, setting or object.
journal, published quarterly online, is a lush synergy of atmospheric prose,
poetry, photography and illustrations, put together with an eye for aesthetics
as well as literary merit. The annual print anthology showcases the very best
pieces from across the year.
the haunting prose of Theresa Milstein and Carrie Mumford, to the controversial
and quirky work of H. Edgar Hix and Greg Belliveau, the pathological effects of
cigarettes and apple seeds, ice sculptures and mental illness are explored. We
meet a lovable old man named Joseph and find out how the good old washing
machine can change one’s life. Oh, and how could we forget a mention of the
mother with the scissors?
vignette merges to create a vivid snapshot in time and place. Prepare for big
stories in small spaces, between and beyond the words.
one at a time.
them. Savour them. Live them.
When Jessica invited me to submit to the first
issue of Vine Leaves Literary Journal, I didn’t know what a vignette was, but
(after some research) that didn’t stop me from writing one.
It wasn’t accepted.
Undaunted, I wrote another.
It was accepted.
I was excited to be a part of the second issue
of the online journal in April 2012.
When I read it and appreciated the quality of the chosen pieces, I was
proud to have my name amongst such talented writers. I was even prouder when it
was chosen for The Best of Vine Leaves
Literary Journal 2012.
Lynda Young is visiting my blog today to tell you why writing short stories benefits you as a writer. Her short story is part of the gorgeous anthology above.
8 Benefits of Writing Short Stories
by Lynda R. Young
Thank you, Theresa, for having me here today. Since my short story, Birthright, appears in the recent release of the Make Believe anthology published by J. Taylor Publishing, I thought I'd talk about the benefits of writing short stories.
1. To hone our craft.Because short stories are short compared to novels, they don't allow for rambling text, a gaggle of characters, or oodles of backstory. As a consequence, they help us to be concise in our language and focused on weaving a tight tale. This skill is necessary in all our writing and will reflect in our novels.
2. To refresh our creativity. When a writer has been slaving over a novel for a few months, a year, or more, creativity can take a beating, especially when that writer is entrenched in the editing stage. Taking a break to write a short story can inject life back into our creative minds without losing a lot of time from our novels. I wrote Birthright because I needed a break from my manuscript and came across the call for submissions for Make Believe.
3. To explore a concept. I came up with a great idea for a novel, but I wasn't sure about the world I wanted to set it in. So I wrote a short story purely to explore the concept of the world before I delved into the novel.
4. To build a resume.Building up a body of work gives confidence to agents and publishers. Short stories can help us do this because they are quick to write and easier to get published than novels. A strong resume of published works shows we're serious about our writing career, and it shows we have at least some experience with publishing and deadlines.
5. To expand our platform. Editors, agents, and publishers are looking for writers with a strong platform—yes, even for fiction writers. In other words, they want people who are visible, who have credibility, and have proven they can reach a target audience. Most of us will turn to social media for this platform, but I feel we shouldn't stop there. The more we get our name out there, the better it will be, and short stories are a great delivery system for getting this done.
6. To give us valuable industry experience.It's one thing to read about what happens when a piece is accepted for publication, it's quite another to experience all the processes—the structural edits, line edits, copy edits, marketing requirements and other hodgepodge that goes along with getting published.
7. To bolster our confidence. Confidence is a writer's best friend. The simple act of finishing a project is enough to boost that confidence and short stories allow us to do that.
8. To top up that flailing income.Writing doesn't pay well for most of us, so anything we can do to add to the dribble of income is worth considering. Sure, the first couple of short stories we write and publish won't gain us much, if anything, but as we write more, the coins start to trickle in. Soon you'll be able to afford that stationery set you've always wanted.
Can you think of other benefits of writing short stories?
Why do you, or don't you, write short stories?
What do you like about reading short stories?
About Make Believe: An anthology of fantasy short stories, some set in fantastic worlds, others set in more familiar surroundings, all intriguing and well worth the read (in my humble opinion). Purchase links:
About the Author:
Lynda R. Young lives in Sydney, Australia, with her sweetheart of a husband who is her rock, and a cat who believes world domination starts in the home. She writes speculative short stories and is currently writing novels for young adults. In her spare time she also dabbles in photography and all things creative.