The Christmas Journey (A Short Story)

I’d like to share a very special, and very personal short story with you. I wrote The Christmas Journey more than a year ago, but I was not ready to release it into the world. I wrote it after losing my beloved Grandmother, and now, after re-reading it and editing the story, I have a lump in my throat. I really debated on whether or not to publish this piece. But, after some considerable thought, it felt right when I pressed that publish button. It’s yours now, dear reader. I hope that you enjoy it.

 

THE CHRISTMAS JOURNEY

The Christmas Journey

 

On a quiet, snow-filled, Christmas morning, a nine-year-old boy and his red wagon set out on a journey to find his father in H

eaven. Along the way he encounters obstacles that prevent him from reaching his destination, including the supernatural forces of good and evil that make him question his faith. But for every obstacle, his trusty red wagon contains just the thing he needs to overcome the challenge.

THE CHRISTMAS JOURNEY is a 23 page short story. While safe for all ages, some scenes might be somewhat scary for children 7 years old or younger. This is a Christian-theme short story.

Available now at Amazon for $1.99

~~ Keep Reading for an Excerpt ~~

CHAPTER ONE

 

IT IS A TINY, muffled squeak on a rocky, snow-covered dirt road that announces the boy’s arrival. The snow is fresh, as if it just fell, and the boy’s footsteps are the first to make a solid impression. The four black squeaky tires of his old red wagon follow suit, leaving their own pencil-thin tracks.

Even though this snow is new, it blankets layers of snow and ice that lay serene. It has been a while since someone has come this way. The boy appreciates the pristine view before him: the quiet road, though picturesque, is disturbingly undisturbed; small cottage-like houses, void of any human activity, bookend each side of the road silently; oak trees, majestic, earthy, and proud—like a formation of aging soldiers standing at attention—line a natural path as if to lead one into a secret kingdom. But all of it, every single thing, leaves a pang in the young boy’s heart.

Surely this isn’t the way, he thinks to himself as he views, beyond this still-life lane, a white-dotted forest in the distance. There, he thinks. There is where I must go.

He pauses, shivers, tucks his mittened hands deeper into his coat pockets and witnesses a hazy white sun decorating the tops of those evergreens far ahead of him.

It is Christmas morning, and the dawn greets him like an old friend.

The boy searches for Heaven and once, a long time ago, his father told him a story. And if it is true, this is how it starts.

CHAPTER TWO

THE SIGN SAYS BROOKFALLS in old, fading letters. This is the right place. He grips the wagon’s handle, reassured by its presence, and walks down the center of the road, never veering too much to the left or the right.

As he looks up, he notices that the lights in the houses turn on simultaneously.

The cold bites into his cheeks as he steps into the town’s city limits. And he feels it. The change, the eerie calmness; as if the air around him starts to think on its own and knows that a stranger has entered.

The air shifts and howls.

The boy is momentarily confounded as a snowy structure slaps together before his eyes. What is this magic? A snow windstorm forms ten feet in front of him.

Don’t be scared. You expected this.

The leafless trees rustle; the solid oak trunks groan like a group of angry men. The boy tries to catch his breath, but the wind steals it, and, for some reason, his eyes focus on the small puffs of smoke twirling out of a nearby chimney.

The wind seems to attack him like a flock of birds. Coming. Swiping. Threatening. But the snowy formation goes around and behind him, as if he were in the way, not the intended target. The boy spins around and watches as his small footprints disappear, as if the air means to erase his entrance. After another moment and a few more threatening-like swipes around the boy, the entire snowy structure dissipates and dies. Tiny plops of snowballs fall lazily to the ground and all is quiet again.

The boy takes back the breath the air stole.

I can go back, he thinks. Then he shakes his head. No. I must go on as my father intended. This is the way to Heaven.

When he turns around again, he nearly runs into an elderly man with shocking white hair and red cheeks, swaddled in a green plaid coat. His colorless, gnarly knuckles grip a walking cane.

“What brings you to town?” the old man asks in a croaky voice.

Interview with Kelly

Interview with Kelly Washington

 

How do you discover the ebooks you read?

 

I’ll ask my friends and my family and my co-workers what they’ve read lately. I’ve gotten many great recommendations this way. Luckily for me, my sister is a huge reader and we have the same tastes, so she often recommends books.

The second way I discover books is through magazine book sections – People Magazine being first and foremost. However, a lot of what they review is mainstream, traditionally published novels and non-fictions books. Unless it really appeals to me, generally I will not pick up a novel that has been over-reviewed.

The third way is GoodReads. I’ll preview author pages, covers, and other “lists” on the GoodReads pages and discover a lot of great works. I think that GoodReads is hot in the young adult market and getting it right.

 

Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?

 

I might have been ten. I remember writing a Gothic tale about a brother and sister. I want to say that they went to visit a distant relative who, as it so happens, lived in an old, castle-type house. I’m sure ghosts and creepy family members showed up, but, in truth, I don’t remember much other than that.

 

What is your writing process?

 

I have a day job (I work for the U.S. Army and I’m also a Veteran), so I only write on Saturdays.

I’ll have a general idea of how a story starts and how it ends, but everything in the middle is ad-hoc. What I mean by that is that I’ll sit in my chair and write for twelve hours straight (no joke) and throw as much stuff as I can in front of my characters. As long as I have goal in mind, I’ll get them there, but, in general, it might not be pretty. Now, this doesn’t necessarily apply to my erotic romances. The only thing I want to get in the way is their partner’s body parts. 🙂

 

Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?

 

Oh, yes. My mother is an avid romance reader. Think bodice-ripping romance books! I grew up with thousands of these books in the house. The first story that I read that I remember and that had an impact on me was one of those “rape” romance books where the woman (gorgeous, but down on her luck or mistreated by a relative) happens to be near a navy dock at the wrong time and spotted by a handsome Captain or some such character. Naturally the man mistakes her for a prostitute and proceeds to “take her by force” only to realize–too late!!–that she’s a virgin. How or why she forgives him and falls in love with the man is beyond me, but it was one of these books that I read at, maybe eleven, and it’s twisted my mind ever since.

 

How do you approach cover design?

 

Up until recently I was rather clueless. I knew a good cover when I saw one, but creating one was another story. I love looking at physical book covers — YA has some of the best covers out there, hands down — and searching GoodReads and other online retailers for covers in my genre. I do create my own covers using Pixelmator and they’ve turned out pretty good, I think. I always have the customer in mind. The cover does say a lot about a book and it needs to have the right colors, fonts, and appeal. Romance covers, in general, will have a couple on them (in an embrace) and science fiction covers can vary wildly. My latest series (Reclaimed Souls) is a mash-up of romance, action-adventure, fantasy, and science fiction. So I went more in the fantasy, science fiction direction versus a couple on the cover.

 

What are your five favorite books, and why? (I’ve embedded links to the versions that I own and read)

 

1) Jane Eyre. I think I’ve read this book almost a dozen times. It never gets old. At heart, I’m a Gothic Girl. There’s always a wife in the attic. Always!

 

2) Their Eyes Were Watching God. An amazing, amazing book – if you can get past the dialog. The prose in this book is so stunning, so beautiful, that I wish I could find another like it.

 

3) Emma. Cute, clever, romance. It’s easy to read. Plus, it’s funny.

 

4) Pride and Prejudice. I’m sure you’re sensing a theme with Jane Austen here. 🙂 I just think this story still resonates with every generation.

 

5) Persuasion. This should probably be #1 above because the letter that Captain Wentworth writes to Anne always brings tears to my eyes.

 

What do you read for pleasure?

 

Romance, hands down. Mary Balogh, Joanna Bourne, Jane Austen, and other Regency-era romances where the heroine and hero find ways to thwart Regency society rules and fall in love. Romance authors write some of the funniest dialog out there. Also, I like to read stories about “mismatch” couples. Servant falls in love with the titled lord. Billionaire falls for the janitor. I suppose, when it comes down to it, I like to see how their differences prove to be what makes their love work out.

 

What is your e-reading device of choice?

 

Kindle

 

What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?

I haven’t marketed it, but mostly because I do not have the resources to do so. So, what do I do? I write the next story… and hope that my audience grows.

 

Describe your desk

 

Mostly clean. I use a Mac laptop with an additional (larger) monitor, keyboard, and mouse attached. My desk is in the dining room. The only luxury I have is a nice chair. Since my butt sits in this chair for up to fourteen hours, I had to get a good chair. Oh, I also have a little heater near my feet. My feet are always cold.I listen to music (anything from Thirty Seconds to Mars, REM, Flook, Tom Petty, to Garbage) while I write. Next to my monitor is a picture of my son’s first grade picture. His two front teeth are huge right now, but it is adorable and I love looking at him when he isn’t already in the room distracting me (which happens a lot).

What do your fans mean to you?

Everything. There would be no reason for me to write unless someone out there reads my words. Once I’ve written something and published it, it’s no longer mine. It becomes someone else’s thoughts, feelings, laughter, tears. I cannot tell my readers how to feel about the book or even what it means. Readers will read it the way they want to, feel the way they want to, and either like it, or not. In the same vein, I will always write what I would want to read. I do not follow trends or fads. One of the stories that I’ve written (A SINFUL WIFE) is, in my opinion, one of my best stories – ever. But it wasn’t easy to place in a “virtual” bookshelf because it wasn’t a clear-cut genre. So I love it when a reader picks it up and tells me that it was an odd, but good story. I like those emails.

What are you working on next?

I have a long list of short stories that I need to get to. Some of them are odd, which might have a hard time finding a home, so I might save them for a collection of short stories. Also, I have two novellas that require editing, so I’ll be working on those in early 2014.

What inspires you to get out of bed each day?

Well, I have a day job, so I have to get out of bed everyday to go to work. 🙂 But, my family inspires me and I want to be a great mom to my son and a great wife to my husband. It would be tough to tell the kiddo that he has to go to school if I’m a slow-poke in the mornings. Also, coffee. Coffee inspires me to get out of bed each morning.

When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?

Well, Doctor Who is about to boot-up again; so I know that will keep us busy on Saturday nights. In general, we like to camp and hike.

 

The Pale Waters (Reclaimed Souls Vol. 1) Cover Reveal and Chapter Teaser

The Pale Waters

Amazon

Smashwords

Welcome to The Continent on Earth II, a post-royal revolutionized land filled with robots, beasts, humans, and half-humans, and ruled by the mysteriously absent and secretive Dark Prince Roland Rexus. The Continent is a place where a dark stain spreads, the sun no longer shines, where the rain is black, icy, and laced with metal shrapnel, and where souls are collected and owned like prized possessions. Rahda Plesti, a Class Zero citizen and an unorthodoxly trained assassin, descends upon the capitol city of Skyscraper City with one goal in mind: kill the Dark Prince and end the monarchy. But because of a secret she carries, Rahda finds that things do not go as planned as she discovers what Roland keeps hidden. She’s in the midst of war she doesn’t fully understand with consequences that not only impact Skyscraper City, the Dark Prince, and her own soul, but the entire continent as well.

BEFORE

“I wait for the Queen who will restore, who will reclaim, who will make me whole. Come, I breathe life into you, but first, I must take it all away.”
Goddess

PREFACE

“Prophecy says the last daughter of the last high priestess will reclaim the continent. I both fear and pray for this truth.”
Fernley Sevradan

CHAPTER ONE

Skyscraper City is not usually this empty. It’s a little too eerie for what I expected this morning, which is a busy, bustling city inhabited with the odd mixture of royalty, vagabonds, personal pleasure servants, half-humans, and mechanized robots weaving in and out of the dirty crowds.

“But not today, Rahda,” I say to myself, clutching my meager belongings even closer to my body as I look around. Darkness moves in as the daylight fades.

Nothing feels right, not since I left my mentor yesterday and journeyed here. Turning in the direction I just came from, I observe the tall trees that lie south and the mountain range that naturally divides the continent in half. I can almost see, in the distance, where the Old City sits in relation to the rest of the mountain range.

A pang thumps my heart. I want to go back, but I know what’s expected of me, and I must continue on.

I briefly hesitate before I enter through the metal gates, the doors of which have long been removed, that separate the Dark Prince’s Skyscraper City and his Palace from everything else.

I glance up at half-built silver buildings. Even though their surfaces are coated with dried charcoal dust, the glinty material still reflects the gloomy, ashy-gray sky and the weak yellow sun-rays that barely break through the dense and permanent gray clouds.

It’s been a while since I’ve entered Skyscraper City, and even though the name is fitting, I’ve always thought of the place as Gray City. Dreary, rainy, and savage.
A fierce wind picks up, whipping my wool and metal fabriskin robe angrily at the black boots laced up over my calves. I jog left, out of the dry, dusty street, and duck under a shabby, pockmarked awning. I inspect the bright green signs that, in the Patroxi half-alien language, along with detailed pictures, advertise food, clothes, sexual favors, and drugs.

Ah… a Patroxi convenience store.

The wind picks up again and this time, a clap of thunder crashes overhead. Stepping out from the awning, I glance up and see the swirling gray-black clouds. Any second now, it’s going to pour.

Commotion in the Patroxi convenience store distracts me from the coming storm. The patroness, a tall, thin Patroxi half-alien, with thick black and orange braids and attired in a sheer fabriskin robe that leaves nothing to the imagination, shoos me away from underneath her awning.

“But the storm!” I shout at her in her own tongue and point skyward. Dear Goddess, I think. I don’t want to be caught in it when it comes down.

“No human step inside,” the patroness says in broken English as she looks me up and down with a scathing, black sneer. Her slim, gleaming fingers pluck something from the belt underneath her thick robe: an amber-colored blade. Without much of a warning—though I sort of expected it—her long arm swings at me and I easily jump back, away from the awning and into the street.

The Patroxi business owner looks up, and I watch as her features darken. Her face shifts, uncoagulates, turns translucent, and then hardens into some sort of mask-like shell, almost like a battle helmet.

Overhead, another crack of thunder vibrates my insides, and I attempt to reason with the patroness.

“Be gone,” she hisses at me in her own language, waving her small weapon around.
She sheaths her blade, unhooks the awning, and brings it flush against the metal wall. I hear a series of locking sounds coming from the inside just as the first acidic drop hits my shoulder. Then another. The black droplets scatter in front of me, splashing into the dust. Bits of black ice smack, smack, smack the ground. The wool and metal fabriskin robe should protect me against the rain.

Goddess, I hope so.

An electric charge fills the air around me, and I pull the robe’s hood over my head. Looking into the city, I can see the topmost part of the Palace Skyscraper blending into those dark clouds. I’m nowhere near my destination. Even if I sprint, I won’t make it before I’m drenched. Waiting may not work, either, since storms around here can last days.

I don’t want to meet him looking like a pathetic dog.

Who am I kidding? It’s rumored that the Dark Prince has returned to the continent, and even though he’s the reason I came back to Skyscraper City, I doubt I’ll see him. Without much choice, I run deeper into the Gray City as rain strikes me, thunder rumbles, and silver ribbons of lightning flash overhead like a trifecta of ominous warnings.

***

AVAILABLE NOW!

THE PALE WATERS is available now for $2.99. You can buy it now from these e-tailers:

Barnes and Noble

AMAZON

SMASHWORDS 

KOBO

Apple iBookstore

Happy Halloween

Tonight the kiddo and I drew up a few scary carrots. Not pumpkins… CARROTS!

Right… I know what you are thinking.

Happy Halloween

Um, why are you angry?

 

Carrots aren’t exactly scary.

But what if they were?

What if they were VERY angry!?!?

In my opinion, eyes without pupils are freaky looking!

 

 

 

 

Here was our inspiration:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Check out this story. It is adorable, the artwork is VERY good, and I like how it ends!

HAPPY HALLOWEEN, FRIENDS!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Book update:

All four books in my LOVE ME series have been written, and edited by my fab editor (hi Susan, Love you!), and I’m working on polishing the 4th book. I’ve renamed the entire series (you’ll have to wait and see!), created the covers, and expect the first book to be published in late November 2013.

The Returned, by Jason Mott (A Review) (2.5 Stars)

 

All over the world people’s loved ones are returning from beyond. No one knows how or why this is happening, whether it’s a miracle or a sign of the end. Not even Harold and Lucille can agree on whether the boy is real or a wondrous imitation, but one thing they know for sure: he’s their son. As chaos erupts around the globe, the newly reunited Hargrave family finds itself at the center of a community on the brink of collapse, forced to navigate a mysterious new reality and a conflict that threatens to unravel the very meaning of what it is to be human.

The premise of this story is utterly fantastic and I read, recently, in PEOPLE Magazine that Mr. Mott’s debut novel was film/TV optioned by Brad Pitt’s company. This is a good thing because I think the film adaptation will be better than the actual book itself.

I wanted to love this book. I wanted to like this story.

     But I didn’t.

((Spoilers Ahead))

Nothing really happens — And So Much Could Have. This Could Have Been A Great-Great-Great Book.

I felt that Mr. Mott didn’t want the book to be about religion. And it wasn’t. I felt that he didn’t want it to be Political. And it wasn’t. I felt that he wanted it to be a quiet book about a couple in their 70’s that lost their 8-year-old son, Jacob, 50 years earlier who, suddenly, appears on the doorstep with a Government Agent. I have no doubt that parents and loved ones wish for this very fact each and every day.

The plot was great. Execution… well…

I wanted fireworks. I wanted questions. I wanted answers. But not much really happens. Harold Hargrave (Jacob’s dad) doesn’t want the boy. “He isn’t my son” but his wife, Lucille, does.

I kept thinking: Jacob is still eight. His parents are in their 70’s. If I were Jacob, I wouldn’t want to stay with them. They would be strangers to me. But, I digress. This isn’t my main issue with the story.

The Government Agent (Martin Bellamy) gets to know the family, because, you know, there’s a stack of paperwork to fill out. No one asks Jacob how he returned, why he’s returned, or what he knows. And if it is asked, it’s so glossed over and not answered, that many of the scenes do not add to the story whatsoever. Do you want to know what I’ve would have done instantly? I would have dug up that boy’s grave to find out if a body was still there.

Instead Harold Hargrave avoids the boy about as much as Lucille never lets Jacob leave her sight (which made sense, all things considered about this death). And Jacob’s a good boy. Always yes, ma’am this and yes, sir that. But that’s it. Jacob Hargrave # 2 doesn’t have a personality (except his love for candy). No character. Even when Jacob and Harold are locked up by the Bureau of the Returned, it’s just accepted by every single person in the world, Lucille, and the town of Arcadia. It’s nice, however, that Lucille is able to bring them food and fresh clothing. So, there’s that.

A couple of individuals (Fred Green and a few other misfits) have heartburn about The Returned, but their anger doesn’t seem real. It’s mostly juvenile-style actions they take against The Returned (the Wilson family sort of comes out of the blue in the story with zero introduction before that Church scene), and the Hargrave family.

Even Colonel Wallis (once the military roles into town) seems like a menacing guy without much substance behind it. There are a few military-style interrogation scenes that could have ramped up the tension.

Near the end, as violence comes into play, I had hoped that the ending would be explosive (figuratively speaking) in that, once all is revealed, the quietness of the book would make sense; that it was lulling me into a false sense of security. But it ends just as quietly as it begins. There is one part, however, when Jacob Hargrave’s “soliloquy” finally comes at the end, that a couple of things made sense about the river, music, and why the boy might have gone to the river on the day he died, and I was like: “Aha – this should have been closer to the front of the book, not at the end.”

After I finished reading and placed the book down, I was let down by the novel. Was the story about love, parental love, and the love Agent Martin Bellamy had for his own mother?

Yes.

Was it about The Returned?

No.

We never find out why they returned, how they returned, and, after everything ends, why they’ve disappeared into thin air. I felt zero resolution from start to finish.

Was the story about fear? Fear of the unknown?

Yes.

The reaction by many of The True Living was caused by fear. For the few months that The Returned were back and living on this Earth, they were not treated as equal citizens, rounded up, and some, killed.

My disappointment with the book is that I hoped and expected a different kind of story. It wasn’t that story.

If you enjoy quiet, slow-building novels, then I would recommend The Returned to you. If you enjoy fast-paced, tension-filled, suspenseful narratives with an edge to them, then you may not enjoy The Returned.

 

 

Doodle Saturday

Any day is a doodle day when I have the kiddo next to me and my Paper53 app up and running. I’m not the greatest doodler, but my son thinks I am, so it is no wonder that most of my doodles are for him, on characters he reads, or subjects he likes (like Ironman).

Marc Brown’s “Arthur” visited our house!!

 

To the left you’ll see Arthur, Marc Brown’s famous children’s series. The kiddo loves this series (we do, too) and so I drew this up for my son (whose name is Christian).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next up is the Froggy series.

Jonathon London’s “Froggy” came to our house!

 

We’ve recently discovered the Froggy books by Jonathon London. Just adorable, funny, and the kiddo likes the scraps Froggy gets into. So a couple of days ago I drew this right after we read “Froggy Goes To Hawaii”. As you can see by the shirt, it is a vacation book.

That’s it for today. I might have an excerpt from my LOVE ME series up today. I’m hard at work on book four!! FOUR!! I’m at 109,000 words right now (in total). I think my brain is seeping out because I can’t believe I’ve written 109,000 words this year.

Thankfully I have hot coffee to fuel me. Coffee, I love you.

You know those good intentions you planned…?

My fabulous editor, Susan Gottfried, recently sent back some edits and I’m about to start working on re-writing the parts she (rightly) dinged me on. Susan is a great editor and I completely recommend her. Make sure to check out her website to see what she edits.

Anyway, my intent was to do a complete edit of her edits over July 4th Holiday, but another story captured my attention and I put the edits aside and continued to work on my LOVE ME series (currently writing book 4). However, good intentions can’t make me productive. ha! My mind was torn between both stories: the one I needed to edit and the one I needed to write.

So what did I do? Poured myself a glass of wine (um, maybe several glasses) and read THE HERO AND THE CROWN by Robin McKinley. Which, if you haven’t read, you should!

Not a bad way to go when every plan you, well, planned fails. Not a bad way to go, at all.