Time to Carol the Bells with Another Flash Fiction Challenge!

Welcome back Bookbrainers! Glad to see you’re all here and fired up after a week off for me to rest my weary brain and take care of some light (read: Heavy) cleaning at home last week. I am feeling ready to jump back into things with another crack at the flash fiction challenge world!

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I’m feeling pretty excited about this since lately I’ve been feeling more geared up to write, but have been slacking hard in the writing department (more on that in a later post). So here we go all you fantastic people out there!

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For this month’s challenge, I’m going to be writing a Christmas themed story, but YOU get to choose the genre that I’ll be writing in! Below is a list of genres to choose from.

Crime/detective

Fan Fiction

Fantasy

Folklore/Myth/Tall Tale

Historical Fiction

Horror

Humor

Science Fiction

Suspense/thriller

Western

Comment either here on the blog, on the Facebook page, or on the Twitter page (where I’m also going to attempt to create a poll for the first time), and between all these places the genre that gets the most votes will be the one I’ll be writing a Christmas story in!

You can vote only ONCE per site for a total of three votes if you’re really feeling enthusiastic. I will close the voting at noon on Friday December 15th so you’ll have plenty of time to vote!

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Now get out there and vote!

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A Time to Be Thankful

Welcome Bookbrainers! Thank you for taking the time to stop and visit during this holiday weekend (for those of you in the United States). As I sit down to enjoy all my favorite comfort foods, spend time with my amazing family, and do some shopping, I wanted to reach out to all of you to talk about what I’m most thankful for.

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Other than the obvious (family, friends, health, and all of you amazing-ass Bookbrainers!), I’m always thankful for books. Not just books I get to read or ones I want to write, but every book and places that have them and people who read them. As cheesy as it sounds, books will always be the closest to real magic in the world. Books change minds and lives in ways that other mediums just can’t.

What sticks with me most (and please forgive me because I can’t remember where I read this and I don’t want to take credit), is that I once read that reading is being able to read someone’s mind through both time and space. I can read a book written by someone who died hundreds of years ago in a place I’ve never been and doing this, I can read their thoughts, know their feelings, understand their lives, and make friendships that will last until I am gone.

Now I understand that being able to read and have as many books as I do is a privilege that I’ve gotten through luck of the draw. There are people out there who are not as lucky. There are people who struggle in life for food and clean water, for education and a chance to reach for more. For many years now I’ve been a HUGE fan of an organization I mentioned on the blog before (link to old blog here) called Worldbuilders which was created by my favorite writer Patrick Rothfuss. Every year starting in the middle of November they start their annual charity event where they raise money for those in need by donating everything to an organization called Heifer International.  They basically raise money to educate and provide lasting and permanent change to people’s lives. They don’t give a man a fish, they teach him to fish then give him a pole, tackle box, and a boat.

As of my writing this Worldbuilders have already raised over $206,000 with 15 days left to donate. Now here’s the fun part!

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There are three ways to donate! You and buy items that you think are cool from The Tinker’s Pack which has memorabilia from all sorts of geeky stuff there. You could also head over to their auctions and bid on REALLY cool stuff! Or the last option is to directly donate where you can either just donate the money OR you can choose to be entered into a lottery for a chance at literally thousands of cool prizes!

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There you go guys! A chance to help books and people make a positive difference in the world just when it feels like we could all use a win. Take care everyone!

Good Times in the Video Game World

Happy weekend Bookbrainers! I hope all of you are doing well as we get closer to Thanksgiving (for those of you in the US). For this week I wanted to take some time to talk about two men who have been a source of entertainment for me for quite some time. They’re Shaun and Craig, hosts of the Youtube channel GameAttack.

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What is GameAttack you ask? It is a Youtube channel where Shaun and Craig play videos games, hang out, and just be generally awesome humans. I’ve been watching their videos almost daily since the channel launched almost a year ago and before that even when they were on a channel called ScrewAttack that Craig founded years ago. The cool part is for Shaun and Craig this isn’t just a hobby, this a job since their entire livelihood is funded by the tens of thousands of fans who donate to keep them running. I love watching these guys when I get a chance, and I think a lot of that comes from the fact that they remind me of all the years I spent hanging out with my friends playing video games, something I sadly don’t really get the chance to do anymore.

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I know some of you out there (mostly those of you who don’t play video games) are wondering why I would want to spend my time watching people play video games instead of you know….just playing video games? That answer is simple. Why do you watch sports? BECAUSE IT’S FUN AND ENTERTAINING! If society can accept millions of people watching, but not playing, sports…why can’t it be the same with video games?

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(Oh wait! It already is a professional sport!)

So if you want to check out GameAttack follow any of the number of links I’ve posted here! I recommend giving them a watch if you enjoy video games! Now if you excuse me this TV wont watch itself!

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Looking Under the Hood

Happy weekend Bookbrainers! I hope all of you are doing well. I want to…*sniff* thank you for all the love and support I’ve gotten for the last flash fiction challenge I did. It was super fun to write and I really enjoyed it!  But this led to an interesting conversation. I was talking with a friend of mine about the story when he said…

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“What is your writing process?”

Now this was a great question that’s not easy to answer. The two main reasons this is hard to answer is because the process changes for the kind of writing I’m doing (short story, poem, a novel, etc.) and that the process is both visual and mental. So to answer this question I’m going to talk about short story writing specifically (though some does apply to novel writing) and mostly just the visual aspect of it, but also some of the mental.

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(Did that make sense? GOOD! Moving on then!)

Step One: To come up with a story there is no better way to describe it as casting my imagination out and seeing what I catch. Often I take something solid like a picture, or a topic, or a question and play with it in my head. And as I think and toss around ideas, eventually something clicks (almost audibly) and there it is. An outline of a story. But at this point it’s like looking at a forest from Google Maps. I can see the whole thing, but no details…yet.

Step Two: Now that I have an idea of a story, it’s time to zoom in on the forest and find the best path through it. At this point I sit down and bullet point out the entire story from start to finish. First A happens, then B, then C, then D, etc. until I reach the story’s end. During this phase I fill in all the gaps and mentally flesh out the characters and find out more about who they are and how they fit into their story.

Step Three: Take all my notes from Step Two and toss them aside.

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Step Four: Now that I’ve tossed my notes aside I sit down and write my story. While I write I have everything from my notes in my head, all the ideas, plots, characters, images, and I follow what I wanted for my story. The reason I toss the notes aside during the actual writing is because (for me at least) the words are a living thing. I have final say over them and I control them, but at the end of the day the story and its characters are a living breathing thing on the page. If I try and force it to fit into an outline that I created that just doesn’t feel right as my fingers dance around the keyboard, then all I’m doing is creating shit writing. A story needs room to organically grow and change as it needs to to become the best version of that story that I’m capable of telling.

Step Five: Revision. This is where I go back over the story and read it as a whole for the first time to myself. Here I’m not focused on anything other than things like, “Is that sentence worded well? Can it sound better?” or “Does this make sense? Will the reader follow and understand what I’m saying and what I mean?” After all that if there’s time (I’m looking at you flash fiction challenges!) then I actually pick through and make sure the editing is as clean as possible.

And there you have it Bookbrainers! That is honestly the best way I think I can describe how my brain processes and writes stories. Is there a LOT of other things that go into writing? OH HELL YES! But to be fair I’m not going to get into the depths of how to best use active sentences or how to establish characterization or techniques of imagery. That kind of skill with writing are things that for the most part I use reflexively on my first drafts and actively on all the others. If you want more on that depth of writing I’m sure I’ll touch on a lot of it eventually here, otherwise look into some good books on writing if you want a more, “How To,” guide. Or read a lot. Reading is awesome!!!

Delay In Your Regularly Scheduled Program

Hello Bookbrainers! I’m sorry that the blog is late this week, but I just wanted to pop my head in and let you know that there is no “official” blog for this week due to it being Jamie’s birthday! So instead of working on the blog I’m celebrating her birthday. Next week I will resume the blog as normal!

Have a great week Bookbrainers!

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Flash Fiction Challenge 3! Nightmare Rocket Launch!

Happy Halloween Bookbrainers!!! As all of you get ready to enjoy a fun filled weekend of costumes, drinking, and trick or treating, take a minute to enjoy my Horror Flash Fiction Challenge!!!

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“Night Visitor”

Matthew’s eyes snapped open. He could feel the hair on the back of his neck rising as he laid in bed. He listened to Brittany’s breathing as she slept next to him and tried to figure out what had woken him. He had a vague memory of dreaming about when he was a kid and their dog had reached up onto the counter and pulled a whole roasted chicken to the floor and snapped and tore at it.

Matthew shook his head trying to clear away the sleep and to listen again for whatever it was that woke him. He knew that most likely it either Emma or Owen in their bedrooms deciding to play with their toys instead of sleeping, but had to be sure. Matthew listened again, but heard nothing other than Brittany’s breathing.

Matthew slowly pulled back the covers, and being sure to disturb Brittany as little as possible, he slipped out of bed and stood on the cold wood floor. There were no curtains yet on the windows and moonlight streamed in and lit the room. Matthew carefully stepped around the piles of boxes and the bed and walked into the kitchen. He could still smell the pizza from dinner as he walked into the living room and peaked into another door to the first bedroom.

Matthew looked in the room and saw Emma sleeping, mostly, in her bed as her left leg and arm hung free in the air. Matthew stepped around the dolls and books scattered over the floor and gently tucked her back under the covers. She made a quiet pouting noise in her sleep as he did this, then rolled over and began to snore like a bear.

Just like your mother, Matthew thought smiling at Emma and backing carefully out of the room.

Matthew then walked to the other door in the living room and looked in. Inside he could see Owen sleeping in his crib surrounded by an army of stuffed animals.

Soon he’ll need a new bed, Matthew thought turning back into the dark living room and heading for the kitchen.

As he walked quietly in the dark, Matthew couldn’t shake the feeling that something had woken him. The hair still stood up on the back of his neck and that feeling that lives in his gut that warns him of danger was churning.

The children are fine. Brittany is fine, Matthew told himself as he stood in the kitchen. Everything is

Matthew’s mind stopped. It was there. A faint sound coming from outside. He quickly went to the window and looked out into the back yard. The moonlight cast everything in silver shadows as he looked out. The leafless, short, apple trees along the driveway looked oddly menacing; the cornfield looked worse.

The house and yard were located on a corner at a, “T,” intersection of two roads in the middle of miles and miles of farmland in Duck County, Wisconsin. Matthew had loved the seclusion of it, knowing that the only neighbors for miles lived in the cemetery across the road. Looking out now past the rows of corn to the cemetery across the road on the opposite corner, Matthew was much less in love with his choice of neighbors.

At first Matthew couldn’t see anything in all the shadows. He could hear what sounded like low grunts and scraping of something against stone. Then he saw movement. It was faint, but Matthew knew that he could see someone in the cemetery kneeling next to a headstone.

A little late for grieving, Matthew thought watching the figure, probably drunk.

Wanting to get a better look, Matthew went to the back door and slowly turned the deadbolt back, turned the knob, and pulled the door open. The door made no noise as it opened. Matthew eased his left foot onto the back porch to peek around the door to the cemetery. As soon as he put his weight down though, a faint creaking of the wood filled the night like thunder.

Instantly the figure in the cemetery stopped all movement and Matthew could see their head snap up towards him. Matthew froze in place, hugging the doorframe to his chest and only half his face peeking out. He prayed that the shadows would hide him and that the moon wouldn’t give him away. Matthew watched as what must have been a bald man raise his head up and move it from side to side. The image of Matthew’s dog as a child before it snatched the chicken jumped to the front of his mind. Matthew clenched his eyes and forced the thought away. When he opened them he could see the man concentrating again on the grave before them.

Matthew felt his stomach fall away as he watched the man. He could see the man digging out the dirt with his bare hands and toss it behind him. He could hear the sound of the man scrapping away the stones and earth and realized that it was the sound that woke him.

What is wrong with this guy? Matthew thought to himself, trying to push his fear away. He must be on something. I should go see if he’s alright.

Matthew carefully moved fully onto the porch and then down the few steps onto the gravel driveway. Matthew moved with extreme care to avoid making noise, and was able to get onto the gravel without making a sound loud enough to distract the man again. Slowly Matthew made his way closer to the man, careful to pick his footing so as not to make too much noise on the gravel.

What are you doing? Matthew thought to himself, this is just some guy digging up a grave with his bare hands…okay so that’s pretty messed up, but I’m sure he’s just drunk or high or something. I don’t have to be this worried.

Matthew continued to walk closer and closer to the man, trying to get a better view of him and what he was trying to do. Matthew was about thirty yards away when he heard a sound that made him stop. The man had reached the coffin. He could hear the scrapping of the man’s nails on the lid as he scratched at it. A moment later Matthew saw the man’s arm reach back and thrust forward and with a crack the lid of the coffin broke. In the same motion the man drew back his arm holding the skeletal arm of the resident of the coffin. He then drew it across his face, seeming to savor the scent, then with both hand snapped the arm in two, drew it to his mouth, and began to suck on the shattered ends of the bones.

Matthew felt like he’d been shoved forcefully under the surface of a tub of ice water. Vomit burned his throat, but he held it down as his foot instinctually took a step back, crunching into the gravel. The man’s head snapped up again at the sound. He locked eyes with Matthew, his eyes appearing to glow faintly in the shadows.

Shit! Matthew thought, it was the only clear thing in his mind that had been thrown from the life it knew.

The man dropped the bones he was holding into the grave. Never taking his eyes off Matthew, he then stood up and slowly walked around the hole he had dug into the ground to the edge of the road. Here he was bathed in moonlight and Matthew could see him clearly for the first time. Matthew didn’t feel the warm urine soak his pants as he stared in horror.

The thing in front of Matthew could have been a man, but everything was wrong. His arms hung down too long and his hands, which ended in long clawed nails, came down to his knees which were bending backwards like a birds. Matthew could practically see the cords of dense muscle covering its thin frame under its gray parchment like skin. His eyes were hollow and sunken into a skeletal face contorted in a hungry evil grin. As Matthew watched the thing opened its mouth, its jaw extending down further than any human’s could, and exposed its sharp glistening fangs to the moonlight and licked them with a long, thin tongue that hung past its chin.

Matthew screamed wildly, feeling his throat tearing with the strain, as he turned to run back to the house. His legs twisted under him and he pitched forward landing hard onto the gravel and cutting his face. Matthew’s body scrambled to get up, his legs pumping mechanically to try and propel him forward. Just as Matthew started to find his feet and scramble up, he felt an iron vice clamp down on his ankle and drag him back. Matthew looked back as he screamed and saw that the thing had grabbed onto him and was pulling him towards it.

No! Matthew’s mind screamed, and he kicked out with his other foot landing it right in the thing’s face.

Matthew could feel the bottom of his foot cut open on the thing’s fangs as its head rocked backwards and it let go of Matthew’s other leg. Matthew immediately scrambled to his feet and ran across the gravel driveway, ignoring the searing pain in his foot. As he ran, Matthew could hear a guttural yowl behind him and the thing running after him. His chest hurt from the frantic pounding of his heart as Matthew reached the steps to the porch. Matthew could see that the back door was still open and there was Brittany standing there, her eyes wide in shock and terror.

“Run!” Matthew shouted as he charged towards her, practically feeling the thing’s hot breath on the back of his neck.

Brittany moved back just as Matthew came through the door and threw it shut behind him turning the locks. Matthew looked out through the window in the door to see if the creature was behind him, but there was nothing there. All Matthew could hear was the beating of his heart and this heavy breathing, but in the back of his mind he knew Brittany was shouting something.

Where is it? Matthew thought frantically.

“Matthew!” Brittany shouted, finally getting Matthew’s attention.

“Are the kids safe!” Matthew shouted moving to the window and looking out, still not seeing the creature.

“Yes, I just checked on them,” Brittany said, “Who was out there? What’s going on?”

Matthew could hear the children crying in their rooms and was starting to feel light headed from the blood seeping from his foot. His heart was still pumping madly, but he was calmer now and trying to figure out what had happened.

“I’m not sure,” Matthew said looking at Brittany, “There was a…a thing or maybe a man out there. It was dark. I’m not sure what I saw.”

“What happened?” Brittany asked turning a lamp on to give some light, her eyes then bulging to see the puddle of blood trailing from Matthew’s foot.

“There was…” Matthew started to say, but was interrupted by the shattering of glass as the window behind him exploded inward and two long gray arms reached in and grabbed Matthew, sinking their claws into his shoulders, and jerked him screaming into the night.

Matthew felt the pain in his shoulders and the motion backwards through the window, but when his head struck the ground outside everything became dim and distant. He could hear Brittany screaming from far away as he felt himself dragged over the ground into the cornfield. As the darkness swallowed him, Matthew thought about his dog again, so much so that he thought he could even hear the snapping and tearing.

Flash Fiction Winner!

It’s been a long week in our nation’s capital and now that I’m home I’m already getting ready to run out of the house to go to a wedding…but I needed to give all you fine Bookbrainers the answer to what you’ve been wanting…Where is the flash fiction horror story going to take place???

Answer?

In a house next to a cemetery and a corn field! A big thank you to our winner for this challenge, my badass sister, Jenna!

I’ll post the story next Friday! Until then stay spooky Bookbrainers!

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