Erin Ritch

Author, Mom, Founder of No Wyverns Publishing

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Category: Fiction (page 2 of 6)

Dark Cupcakes…eat them if you dare.

dark-cupcakes
Happy October 1st! Autumn is by far my favorite season – I love the crisp air, the layered sweaters, and…Halloween! It reminds me of one of my favorite short stories that I released last year and today felt like the perfect time to resurrect it.
So pour yourself a hot a drink and enjoy Dark Cupcakes…I just don’t recommend eating them.

The crisp, fall air made Amanda feel like baking something special. Something really special. Standing at the kitchen counter, she brushes her dark curls out of her face and sips on a steaming mug of coffee. Outside, the cool winds are stirring. She contemplates her ingredient list. She had almost everything, except for that one last ingredient that had to be at its freshest in order to make the recipe complete.

 

  • Flour
  • Sugar
  • Eggs
  • Salt
  • Chocolate
  • Pumpkin Pie Spice
  • Blood

 

Nothing made her happier than baking. Her eight to five job paid the bills, but as she drives home at night over the damp, dead leaves, she dreams of the hushed lights of her kitchen. Her neighbors found her a bit strange. There were pots clanking at all hours of the night and the smell of burnt sugar emanating through the open windows. Sometimes they called the landlord, complaining of the smoke detector going off for hours at a time. As if she didn’t even hear it. And in fact, Amanda usually didn’t. Because for her, baking was like casting a spell and nothing could distract her from that.

 

Her cup of coffee finished, Amanda was ready for the outdoor chill. She surveyed her mixing bowls and measuring instruments lined up in a row on the counter, ready for that last ingredient. Her coat smelled like pine and she breathed in the aroma heavily, smiling. Remembering the last encounter she had while wearing that coat. Breathless running through the woods, her heart pumping from the thrill. She held up her coat sleeve. But that blood stain really would just not come out.

 

“Morning, Charlie!” she calls to her letter carrier, passing the lanky, shaggy-haired man in the terrace outside her condo.

 

“Ms. Clarke,” Charlie acknowledges. His shifts the bag on his shoulder. This woman and her baking magazines, he couldn’t forget her name even if he wanted to. He pulls out an armful of her mail. “I have your magazines.”

 

Amanda grinned. She steps a bit too close, smelling him. Watching his neck as he swallows. “Wonderful!” she exclaims, reaching over to unlock the front door to her condo. “I’m in a rush, would you mind just dropping those in the kitchen?”

 

Charlie pauses. “Well, that’s not really allowed.” First, it would be dropping off magazines. Then it would be moving furniture. He’d been down this road before.

 

“I’ll make you one of those cupcakes you love you so much,” she whispered, as though if anyone else heard she was making cupcakes then she’d be overwhelmed with requests.

 

Charlie pauses again. “I suppose…”

 

“Thank you so much! Just lock the door behind you. Bye, doll!”

 

Then she was gone, sprinting down the terrace walkway with the rapid clicking of her heels, disappearing out of sight. Charlie sighed and looked down at the dozen magazines he had been carrying around all morning. Sprinkles of rain started to dribble on his head.

 

“Fine,” he said to himself, stepping through the open doorway. He glanced behind himself one more time and quietly shut the door.

 

Sometimes he imagined what the inside of the homes on his route looked like. He got small glimpses into his customer’s lives from the mail they received. Some people were obviously in debt, receiving thick envelopes of credit card statements. Others had shopping addictions, their daily mail riddled with enticing coupons. And then there were the magazine subscribers, like Ms. Amanda Clarke. Old school, overcharged customers who were still willing to pay for the written word and a bunch of pictures. He was about to buy her an iPad just to save himself on his chiropractor bill.

 

Amanda’s house was not much different than he expected. Smelling heavily of perfume, it was a single woman’s paradise filled with candles and wall decals with cute yet inspiring messages like “Live, Laugh, Love” or “Home Is Where The Coffee Is.” Charlie shook his head, stepping into the kitchen. It was impressive, the walls lined with shining stainless steel pots and pans, impeccably organized spices, and a bright red refrigerator. With finality, Charlie drops the stack of magazines on the nearest counter, knocking over a measuring cup and sending a piece of paper fluttering to the floor. He retrieves it and examines the writing beneath the window light. An ingredient list.

 

 

Illuminated by the warm glow from the oven light, Amanda sits on the kitchen floor. She is safe and calm in that little circle of light. The outside world no longer matters or exists. Her legs crossed, she is folded over in her lap, chewing nervously on her stained fingernails. The warm heat from the oven soothes her, tempting her with sleep. But she won’t sleep. She has worked all day for this moment, as the combination of ingredients reacts with the heat and builds a perfect little masterpiece. Or so she hopes. Will it rise? Did she get the ratios right? Her stomach burns with hunger.

 

 

It is better for her to be hungry to do the things she has to do. It raises the stakes and helps with the guilt, she has found. She is a huntress, something out of the storybooks from Amanda’s childhood. Those dark figures in long cloaks looking over their shoulder, half concealed behind a tree high atop a hill. Off to do some no good in which the details were left out. Amanda dares look away from the oven to examine the dried blood on her hands. She is shocked to feel hot tears begin to stream down her face. She wipes them away and presses her face up close to the oven again. There was darkness in the details, sometimes.

 

 

It really was a delicious looking cupcake. Dark and velvety, tiny granules of sugar sparkling in the Monday morning light. Charlie stared at it intently, imagining the cupcake would sprout a heartbeat from the amount of blood probably pumping through its chocolate veins. It sat politely atop the mailbox, wrapped neatly in cellophane that was tied with an orange ribbon. A small piece of card stock was tucked into its depths, with the note “For Charlie”  followed by a winking smiling face. Charlie swallowed hard. He didn’t trust that winking smiling face.

 

Glancing up, Amanda catches his eye, watching him from her kitchen window. She nods and acknowledges him with a grin and raise of her coffee cup. She motions for him to take the cupcake and waves, disappearing into the shadows of her house. Charlie picks up the cupcake, being careful not to crinkle the perfectly smooth cellophane. He has just enough room in his pack to nestle the cupcake in between some outgoing mail. He avoids looking at the kitchen window again and tucks his head down, darting into a whirlwind of swirling leaves.

 
Charlie carried around the cupcake in his pack all day. The last time Amanda made him a treat, he consumed it immediately. In fact, he had consumed many of Amanda’s thoughtfully baked goods and he felt sick at the thought of it. He had been contemplating that ingredient list all day Sunday. Of course, it could have been a joke. Or an early Halloween prop. Or even just a list of random words. He unwrapped the cupcake that evening in the safety of his apartment and sniffed it. There was definitely something else there. And he didn’t want to know why Amanda was sharing it with him.

 

 

“Blood?”

 

“Yes, it was on the ingredient list,” Charlie nodded. He brushed his disheveled hair out of his face. He hadn’t slept all night, he imagined that cupcake staring at him through the walls. He began to think he heard it clanking around the kitchen in the midnight hours.

 

Charlie’s friend, Dan, takes a quick sip of his espresso. He stares at the velvety cupcake sitting in front of him on the coffee shop table. He leans in carefully for a quick sniff.

 

“I don’t smell anything except chocolate and pumpkin. Did you try it?” Dan asks, taking another sip. He can’t help but smile.

 

“Of course not!” Charlie exclaimed. He looks around and tucks the cupcake back into his coat pocket.

 

“You realize carrying a cupcake around in your pocket looks strange. Right?”

 

“I might need it for evidence.”

 

“And that’s even stranger,” Dan adds. He sits up in his seat. “Look, if you’re that worried about this chick, just ask to change your delivery route.”

 

“I’m more worried about where this blood came from,” Charlie whispers, tapping the table for emphasis.

 

“You don’t even know if there’s blood in there!” Dan shouts. He looks around at the other concerned patrons and lowers his voice. “This is stupid, just toss it.”

 

“I’m trusting my gut here,” Charlie stands up from the table with a loud screech of his chair.

 

“Interesting choice of words,” Dan laughs. “And where are you going? I thought we were going to the movies!”

 

“Can’t,” Charlie zips up his jacket and pulls his hood over his face. Outside, a storm is banging against the coffee shop windows. “If you don’t hear from me in a few days, call the police.”

 

“Wow,” Dan shakes his head. “I might just call the loony bin and reserve you a spot right now.”

 

 

It was a cold and wet evening. A very, very cold and wet evening. Charlie’s cotton jacket was soaked through and it had been for several hours. The cupcake pressed against his chest, it was melting in his pocket from heat and dampness. Perched in a Rhododendron in the terrace outside Amanda’s condo, Charlie couldn’t help but feel like a bit of a creeper. He had been watching Amanda since she came home from work. He began to doubt his judgment of her. In that warm glow of the kitchen, she looked like a perfectly sweet girl, her dark curls falling in her face as she laughed on the phone or sang to herself.

 

For hours, he saw nothing out of the ordinary. She cooked herself some dinner then disappeared for awhile, coming back to clean the dishes. Then she left again and for another hour, all Charlie could see was the faint flicker of a TV screen in the window reflection. Finally, he got sick of being soaking wet and decided to go home. He felt like a paranoid idiot, what a waste of time. He’d have to be up early for work the next morning and he was really going to regret this. Taking off his jacket to ring out the rain water, he noticed a huge stain on his jacket.

 

“The cupcake. Damn…” he sighed, examining the stain left by the melting cupcake. He grabbed the cupcake and tossed it into the mud beneath his feet. He brushed the remaining crumbles of cupcake off his hands and paused. In the dim light from the terrace, Charlie could see his hands were stained red. Cautiously, he holds up his jacket up to smell the stain. Unmistakably blood.
He starts running, leaving his jacket behind. He runs almost blindly, his hair in his face from the heavy rain. Charlie felt fear, real fear, for the first time in a long time. Was he being chased? He imagines he hears the clicking of Amanda’s heels behind him. Finally, he stops to catch his breath on a street corner, buckled over as he tries to calm the rushing in his head. He jumps as two booted feet appear in front of him.

 

“You alright, son?” It’s a security guard for the liquor store down the street. His slicker is shining from the rain but it might as well be a gleaming suit of armor for all Charlie cares.

 

“Oh, thank God. I thought – “

 

Charlie stops as he sees the security guard staring at the red stain on his shirt. Then down to the red liquid streaming from his hands down his arms.

 

“What have you been into?” the guard asks warily, his right hand reaching under his rain slicker.

 

“It was… a… cupcake,” Charlie whispers breathlessly.

 

Suddenly, a knife appears in the gray rain. Before Charlie can react, an arm wraps around the security guard’s neck and cuts across without hesitation. The man gasps and grabs his neck, falling into the road. Behind him, stands Amanda with a kitchen knife in one hand and Charlie’s jacket in the other. She smiles at him and winks.

 

“Hello, Charlie.”

Icons made by Freepik from www.flaticon.com is licensed by CC BY 3.0

Help “Myth” win at Underground Book Reviews!

This week has been very exciting – Myth was nominated as a Pitch Perfect Finalist at Underground Book Reviews! They are an amazing site dedicated to indie authors. If Myth wins against the four other books in this week’s competition, it will be reviewed and featured on their website! I WOULD LOVE THAT!

So many of my amazing followers and friends have already voted…if you haven’t yet, please do! The link below will take you to their website, but you can also like the post about Myth on their Facebook page – either one counts!

Vote on Facebook here!

 

Vote on the Underground Book Reviews site here!

Book Review ~ “Clockbreakers” by Kate Ristau

I was lucky enough to be able to read a copy of Kate Ristau’s “Clockbreakers”…before everyone else! Hee hee! 🙂 You are all going to love this new series (YES, that is an epic MINOTAUR on the cover!!) and it comes out in just a few weeks!!

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“Clockbreakers” by Kate Ristau

 

Synopsis:

On her eleventh birthday, Charlie receives a key to go back in time. But before she blows out her candles, she rolls her wheelchair right into Ancient Greece with her best friend Maria and her former best friend Trent. She’s a Clockbreaker on an action-packed adventure with a mission: to save her father, and perhaps even save the world.

My thoughts:

A wonderful adventure for both kids and adults that you will NOT be able to put down! (I had many a night where I told myself just five more pages!) The heroine, Charlie, is a witty young girl who, like every eleven-year-old, wants everyone to stop treating her like a child. When she and her friends are thrust into adventure, Charlie rises to the occasion despite the challenges in her way. Ristau does an amazing job of weaving Greek mythology into this story, leaving the reader (like myself!) curious to know more. Clockbreakers will play out like a movie in your head…and I’m ready for the sequel!

Basically…get ready to be hooked!

About the author:

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Kate Ristau is an author and folklorist who writes young adult and middle grade fiction. In her ideal world, magic and myth combine to create memorable stories with unforgettable characters. Until she finds that world, she’ll live in Portland, Oregon with her husband, her son, and her dog.

Find out more about “Clockbreakers” and Kate’s other amazing work at kateristau.com!

Goodreads Giveaway for Myth!

Today starts my week long Goodreads Giveaway for a copy of Myth!

Go ahead, enter through the link below! I want you to!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Myth by Erin Ritch

Myth

by Erin Ritch

Giveaway ends September 14, 2016.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Updates and the NW Book Fair

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It’s been a great week…Myth has been released into the universe and I’m gearing up for tomorrow’s NW Book Festival. If you’re going to be in Portland, come see me at booth 50. Thankfully, the weather will only be in the low 80’s, so I shouldn’t melt into a puddle. (Please bring ice cream just in case.)

A few updates on Myth – both the e-book and the print book are live! Did you catch my interview over at Nya Reads? What a great site, I loved her interview and her readers!

And to celebrate the launch, I’m also running Myth on a promotion with Story Cartel! If you haven’t seen their site before, check it out! By downloading books (for FREE) and leaving reviews on the author’s Amazon/Goodreads account, you get entered in a drawing for awesome prizes. Basically, everyone wins – what’s better than that? It only runs a few weeks and Myth is already in the tops of the popular books!

That’s it from me, I’ll be back next week with an update on the festival. Stay cool out there!

“Myth” release date announcement…and e-book pre-orders open!

Myth ebook cover Flat

Cover illustration by the talented Char Houweling

I can’t believe this day is finally here but…my Young Adult Fantasy book “Myth” has a release date of 7.25.16!

Get your e-book pre-orders here!

If you know me and my writing, then you’ve probably heard me talk about this book at least a hundred times. What started as notebooks full of handwritten pages has turned into a novel. It’s traveled with me from Oregon to Vancouver B.C. (where those handwritten notebooks were almost stolen – thank you, nice Canadian thieves, for leaving them in my parent’s car), then to California (where I packed them with my valuables when we were almost evacuated from fires), then back to Oregon, tucked safe atop my bedroom dresser.

Where it sat. And sat. And the paperclips of notes between the pages grew rusty with age. It sat some more until one day I needed this story again. And those characters were still there, dutifully waiting in the place I had left them.

That was August of 2014. So I picked up where I left off, writing “Myth” while working full time. I’d write on my lunch breaks. I’d write after my toddler went to bed or on my days off. I don’t know how many ideas I’d repeat to myself over and over during my commute between home and work – don’t forget it, don’t forget it until you get home and jot it down. It went painfully slow but at least it went.

I was able to scramble one edit through the finished manuscript before taking it to a writer’s conference in August of 2015. I pitched it to several agents and editors, all who displayed interest. But then “Myth” had to sit and wait again. So it sat and sat, waiting for the response from those “interested” agents that eventually arrived, if at all.

Now it’s 2016 and this story is tired of sitting and waiting. When I started No Wyverns Publishing, I knew I’d have total creative control over “Myth.” And while that’s stellar, it’s also a lot of work. You need to get as much feedback as you can. You need to hire and seek out help from professionals. You need to edit and revise and edit again (then again. Oh, and again). It also helps to be married to a brilliant book format expert and all around problem-solving-genius.

But guess what? I wouldn’t have had it any other way. It takes a lot of patience to write a book. Unfortunately, I’ve had to say ‘no’ to some things and drag myself to the computer when I just wanted to go to bed instead of editing until 1 am. But through it all, I couldn’t put this story down and never tired of it and I hope readers feel the same way.

It’s going to be an exciting and busy summer and I have twenty emails to write about this announcement. But right now I’m going to sit back and reflect on how far this book has come. It’s survived theft and fire and age and I can’t wait to share it with everyone.

So that’s the story of how “Myth” came about…but what’s the book about, you ask?

Shogun Saban dreams of becoming a woodsman like his grandfather; to fly between the trees and listen to their stories. But his father wants to keep him rooted on the ground and far away from his childhood friend, a girl of the sea named Madigan who can control the elements.

Beyond their little corner of the world, an evil has sprouted and is quietly spreading; corrupting its victims and marking them with eyes full of shadows. When it reaches their sleepy hometown of Shrunken Hollow, Shogun and Madigan search for the origin of the darkness – but the answer lies in an old myth about a place that only exists in dreams.

With the aid of the forest and the sea, Shogun and Madigan must unravel the myth before the darkness takes over their world – and themselves.

 Thanks to everyone that helped me with this book, got excited with me about this book, put up with my pickiness, waited while I “just need to finish this last paragraph,” or just offered a “that’s awesome!” We did it!

The of Summer ’16

I’m excited to say I am thisclose to finishing the third draft of “Myth” and the artwork for the cover is looking amazing. The release of “Myth” will be timed perfectly with the two book fairs I will be attending this summer. I’m really looking forward to bringing No Wyverns Publishing to these events and meeting/networking with other authors. Oh yeah, and selling books!!

Here’s where I’ll be this summer!

 

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www.nwbookfestival.com
Saturday, July 30th, 2016
Pioneer Square/ Portland, OR
Booth # 50

I’ve been assigned the booth near the Starbucks…man, did they figure me out or what! 9 Bridges is an organization of writers based out of Portland. I signed up for this festival immediately once registration was open back in January! No Wyverns Publishing will have our own table there. I’m really excited about the other authors that will be at this event as well. It’s in the middle of summer so I’ll be well-hydrated…oh yeah, and also well caffeinated.

 

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www.bobsbeachbooks.net
Saturday, August 20th, 2016
1747 Hwy 101/ Lincoln City, OR

Finally! I’ve been wanting to join the Northwest Author Fair for several years now, but due to limited space and the popularity of the event, I haven’t been able to get in until now! Again, the list of authors that will be here are amazing…and I get to spend the day at the coast. Sign me up!

I’ll be selling/signing copies of all three of my titles at these events – “Memories Wait Alone”, “Quinn Family Adventures” (with its brand new cover!) and “Myth.” I can’t wait but I have a lot to do before then…so its back to editing and…oh yeah, more editing. Cheers!

New cover for The Mayan Ruins!

 

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Illustration by Matt Smith!

I’m super excited to reveal the new cover for

The Quinn Family Adventures: The Mayan Ruins

For the last few weeks I’ve been working with an amazing artist, Matt Smith, to create an illustration to replace the existing cover. We decided the old cover was halfway there…it had a bit of “textbook” feel to it due to the photograph.

Out with the old!

Out with the old!

It was a really fun (and easy!) experience to work with Matt on this project… and I think he created an illustration that really captures the adventure of the story! (If I had drawn it myself, you would have seen stick figures holding a map.)

Check out more of Matt’s work at Smith vs. Smith – I love the weekly comics he posts and he also does commission work, such as this book cover! I also follow his Instagram account, where you can see his comics and process videos!

Now I really feel like this book is wrapped up and complete…and the plans for the next book in the series are on the horizon!

Complete book jacket design!

Complete book jacket design!

“Ripples” (Star Wars Fan Fiction)

The sun rose again on Dagobah, as it always does. I see the ripples it makes in time, revolving around the atmosphere, day after day, year after year. Through the treetops, the light fights for entry. One ray at a time it breaks through and somehow is enough for this old world. These ancient trees have no plans of going anywhere. The other creatures are forced to grow around them and intertwine into layers of organisms and this is repeated a thousand times over this deserted planet. Deserted, except for me and that cave.

I close my eyes and inhale the hot, musky air deeply. I hear the darkness crying for me, summoning me to its arms. I will not give it a name. I will not give it that. The cave is simply darkness. I have grown accustomed to its whispers, echoing down the long and twisting corridors of the labyrinth. I am not surprised by its tricks or reasonings, its lures or promises. I look down at my cup of soup and see the ripples in its liquid. And then I hear the scream.

There are very few creatures of significance on this planet. We mind our own business, they and I. But I have been here long enough to recognize their calls and that scream is not known to me. I set down my cup as the scream rings out again, an echo down the long cave walls. I do not know if this is another tale the cave has created to lure me. But I cannot risk the price of not knowing.

I stand before the entrance. Not hesitating, but observing. Listening. I feel the ripple in the Force, the choking fear of the creature inside. It is not meant for that evil cave. It will be swallowed whole and spit out into something twisted. My lightsaber cracks and hums to life as I enter. It sputters beneath the moisture that drips from the cave walls like tears, weeping for the thoughts within. I cannot help but marvel at what it has become. I clear my mind and listen, fighting back at the whispers that claw the edges of my consciousness.

Fear, fear, fear. That’s all I sense, it is a beacon in the darkness, attracting not only myself but the other tainted creatures that make this cave their home. I see them wince and avoid the blaze of my lightsaber as I continue further into the pit. Finally, I find the glint of an eye. Two eyes, then a flutter of wings. I approach it carefully, still unsure if this is a ruse of the cave. But it is not. A small bird, young and confused, is caught in a tangle of vines. I dismiss the snakes that have inched towards their prey and they return to their nests for another day.

“Small creature. The same, you and I,” I whisper hoarsely, freeing the small bird. It trembles in my hand and I can sense its small heart on the verge of collapsing.

Turning back, the entrance of the cave begins to close. Vine after vine reach for each other, intertwining into a thick wall. The fears of the bird are manifesting. Unbeknownst to this creature, it is feeding the darkness with its terror. Soon the bird and I are encased within the cave, illuminated only by my burning lightsaber. I reach the wall and try to pierce it but it is stronger than I expected.

“Calm, must you be,” I tell the bird. I know it is Force sensitive, it must be to live on this planet and survive as long as it has. And maybe, that’s what it drew it to the cave in the first place.

A small crack appears in the dried mud between the vines. And another and another, splitting into a dozen different pathways to freedom. Finally, a hole opens up large enough to squeeze the bird through and the wall disintegrates, no longer powered by the animal’s fears. I dust myself off and step through, feeling the lift as the dark cave is forced to release its grip of me, too. I did not let you take that creature, I tell the darkness as it skulks away.

I return my lightsaber to the layers of my robe. Perhaps my soup will still be warm. I smile as I hear the sounds of the bird’s wings flapping in glorious freedom, racing as high into the gray sky as it can reach. The sound grows louder and louder, into a windstorm that cracks through the treetops. The X-Wing plows into the swamp with a loud hiss of its engine. I close my eyes and envision the ripples of water as the cockpit door opens.

 

“The Moth”

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Image credit Brandon Towne

Some call me the butterfly of the night. But I am nothing like them. I had to knit myself in the darkness, the damp morning hours slowing my progress. I have to hide from the dawn, my bright coat attracting every predator in the revealing sunlight. But unlike my cousins, I know secrets. I gather them while I flutter against the glass, watching and listening as I tumble towards the light.