Erin Ritch

Writer, Blogger, Mom

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Category: ghost story

Short Story Collection Volume I – published!

Yay! After much compiling, formatting, and proofing…my first collection of short stories is finally published!

Ta da!

I am so excited to have these stories out. I am a lover of short fiction, my first story ever published online was a piece of flash fiction. As the description says, they are “tales of fantasy, science fiction, and the obscure.” Some of the work has appeared previously on this blog over the years, while other stories are new and unpublished.

For the cover design, I wanted to incorporate the new-and-improved No Wyverns Publishing logo. The background text is a loop of the titles of the twenty-two stories contained in this book. I plan to publish more anthologies of short fiction in the future that will use this same layout…eventually becoming a box set! (Oh, the plans…the plans…)

 

Here is an excerpt from one of my favorite stories included, “The Last Machinist.”

I have searched countless years, scouring the globe for an object that probably doesn’t even exist.

Jen-Li stared at the wrinkled page of her sister’s last journal entry. It trembled in the whipping wind that invaded the abandoned living quarters, howling as it broke through the cracked windows. The room was so cold. Bitter and lonely, as though resentful for being left in such a state. A thin layer of dust covered the overturned furniture and broken dishes like downy, providing just enough protection against the raging elements outside.  Removing her gloves, Jen-Li traced the sentence with her finger, leaving a muddled smear of letters in its wake. She wiped it again for the last time so that it would belong to her alone. So that this idea that her sister pondered became nothing but a blur, just like the stain of runny ink on her fingertips that would eventually wash away.

“What does it say?” Terra asked from the doorway. Her small frame was swallowed by her heavy coat, transforming her into a bulky, short stump of a ten-year-old. Her blue eyes shone fiercely from the depths of her fur-lined hood. She could read her mother’s body language too well.

Whisking the withered journal in her arms, Jen-Li closed it with a loud clap. A cloud of dust sauntered up to her face, burning her freckled nose as she hacked on the taste. The sound seemed to startle the frozen room as another wave of dust trickled from the ceiling and into her damp auburn hair.

“I wanted you to stay in the mech,” she said, peering out the frosted window glass as she replaced her gloves. Her mech was still there, motionless and protected beneath the ancient fir tree on the edge of the abandoned drive. She looked up at the splitting beams of her sister’s last known dwelling place. “This place is falling apart.”

“Did Aunt Nina find it?” Terra pressed. Her voice sounded on the precipice of panic.

“I don’t know,” Jen-Li replied sharply before she caught herself, realizing that her own voice sounded strained. That was not her job, not her duty as Terra’s mother, to sound afraid. That was not who she was. That was not the tone of this journey that had taken them from the warmth of home to this wasteland. Jen-Li recovered and joined her daughter in the entryway.  “But we will find out.”

 

Intrigued? I hope so! The e-book is priced at only .99 and the print version at $4.99 – both available at Amazon!

Complete the Story…”The Gray Man’s Street”

Now that Myth is locked in and launches in LESS THAN A WEEK (*breathe*), I’m allowing myself some time to actually watch TV and not feel guilty about it. I used to follow many, many shows but now it seems the only ones I make time for is Game of Thrones or Big Brother. (I feel this sentence sums me up very well.)

Then I learned about a Netflix series called Stranger Things. It quickly became my latest obsession, it reminds me of The X-Files and Twin Peaks with all sorts of paranormal goodness. And it’s set in the 80’s?? You have me hooked, Netflix. Hooked. I may only be three episodes in, but I love the story and style of the show in general.

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It got me inspired to try one of the story prompts from Complete The Story, a gift from my husband for my birthday, intended for moments precisely like this where I want to write a quick, easy story. I wanted to write a story that happens in the world (or world similar to) that of Stranger Things.

 

 

 

Erin Scribble

 

 

This is a really fun book, there are literally (tee hee) story prompts for every situation you can think of, with only a single page commitment.Unless you’re like myself, that is, and quickly spilled over into three additional pieces of paper.

 

 

 

 

 

So I hope you enjoy…and if you love the paranormal and haven’t watched Stranger Things yet…go watch it!

 

THE GRAY MAN’S STREET

(Words in bold are taken from Complete the Story)

They were safe, for the time being. But it was no time to let their guard down. Slowly, Samuel opened the car door, trying his best not to make a sound. He looked both ways down the street. All he could see was darkness with occasional pools of light beneath the bleary street lights. He returned inside and locked the door, checking it twice.

“Did you see it?” Melanie whispered. A small trickle of blood traveled down the side of her face. She had experienced the worst of the impact, her light frame tossed like a rag doll as they spun across the street.

Samuel wiped his hair out of his face. He became aware of the condensation building on the windshield. He hoped it wouldn’t draw attention.

“Nothing,” he said finally. “I don’t know what direction it took off in. It was so…fast.”

“Let’s keep going! Please!” Melanie begged.

“Shh!” Samuel snapped. “We can’t! The engine, I’m not sure it will start. I’m not willing to risk-“

“I see it!” Melanie squealed, sobbing into her hands.

A figure appeared at the end of the dim headlights, crawling on its belly towards the car. It was the creature that hit their car, a flash of gray that forced them into a spiral. They had injured it, too. Samuel knew from the cry it made at impact. He fumbled with the keys and tried the ignition. It ticked but failed to spark to life.

“C’mon…” Samuel urged, pumping the limp accelerator.

The figure crawled closer. It wasn’t an animal. It wasn’t a man. But it had eyes and it met Samuel’s gaze without flinching. And without fear.

“Get it in the back seat,” Samuel shouted, unbuckling Melanie’s seatbelt  and helping her over the seat. “Stay down!”

“What are you going to do? Shouldn’t we run?” she sobbed.

Samuel tore through the contents of the glove box, watching as the creature bumped against the headlights. He saw a glimpse of slimy gray skin, stained red with blood. Dark eyes drew up to meet Samuel’s gaze as it thumped atop the hood of the car.

“Back!” Samuel shouted, pointing his father’s flashlight in the creature’s eyes. It howled and dropped to the side, scratching and fumbling with the locked door. Samuel held onto the door. “No!”

Then there was nothing. The air was so quiet that Samuel could hear the far off bark of his dog, probably watching for him from the living room window. Melanie tried to muffle her sobs from the floor of the backseat. Samuel carefully lifted his fingers from the door, one at a time. In a breath, the door was ripped from the vehicle and thrown into the woods.

Samuel!”

“This song is the best! The absolute best, turn it up!”

Todd nodded and increased the volume of the car radio. He accelerated, trying to keep up with the beat of the music. Tiffany hummed with the music, settling back into her seat. She watched the twilight treetops flash by, a blur in her sleepy state.

“Is that Samuel’s dad’s car?” Todd shouted as he turned down the music. He pointed to the vehicle ahead of them, overturned on the side of the road.

“Oh my gosh…” Tiffany gasped, sitting up. “It totally is! And I bet you Melanie is with him, too.”

“Should we stop or something?” Todd asked with a shrug.

“Are you crazy? That’s all on them.”

“But maybe we should help-“

“Just let the Gray Man do its thing,” Tiffany yawned, settling back into her seat. “And turn the music back up!”

“Dear Andromeda”

 

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telegram final

“The Fire in the Sunrise” by Erin Ritch

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Image credit Steve Brand

 

It has been a long, long drought. Some say it has been as long as they can remember, but I know better. Because I remember the day I first saw that dry earth burn. It was the night of my nineteenth birthday and that fire burned forever on the horizon, until it faded into the sunrise and they became one. The wind gathered the ashes and choked us until we couldn’t breathe and some never did again. Now, on this evening and this sunset, I am six and twenty. My name is Tulie and the earth is still burning.

“Shh,” I whisper to Graham, my brown bull steer. He lazily looks up as I stroke his smooth coat then bows his head again. Some people say he is no use, just a bag of old bones. But he is my one companion. We are standing in the field outside my house, where the dry grass has learned to live another way. With seven years of no rain, everything has learned to live another way. The sun breaks through the clouds one last time and lights the grass with a hot amber hue. Graham flicks away a stubborn fly with his tail and the wind whips the grass around him. Now the sun has almost completely set and the long night will start. And they begin to appear, there on the mountain crests.

I have come to call them “shadow creatures” or “dark people,” but truly I have no idea what they are. They started one night in the darkness, as I slept peacefully in my house alone. I was awoken by Graham, baying loudly from his field. The doors of my house rattled and a great wind slammed the front door open. It was then I saw them, dark silhouettes against a black, burning sky. Figures that looked human, yet not. Voices that sounded real, yet unreal. I screamed and they fled but they came back, night after night, only to leave at the break of every dawn.

I barely remember sleep. I know I sleep at times, but not enough to register or make a difference. No one in town knows what these creatures are nor are they interested in helping me. The world has become a place where everyone is on their own; surviving is hard enough without helping another to survive as well. So we continue on, casting strange glances. As I said, Graham is my only companion. And my house hasn’t burned down yet, so we will fight to stay, night after night.

Try as I might, Graham will not leave his field. I can tell the time of day by the way the shadows cast against his body, like a living sundial. Luckily, the dark people seem to have no interest in him. So I bid him goodnight as I always do, with a hug around the neck. In his eyes I see the only softness in my world and I ask him to live just one more night, every time.

I have become braver as the months have gone by. I used to lock myself in my house hours before actual darkness fell. But that became miserable. Then I would wait until sunset and watch the dark people from the safety of my kitchen window. I observed them and realized they were slow and methodical. Finally, I am able to stay outside until night has completely taken over and those dark people are only steps away, inching closer and closer. One day, I may try to reach out and touch them. But not tonight, so I wave one last goodbye to Graham and lock myself inside. Then the attacks start.

Tonight, the bangs seem more aggressive than usual. Funny how I am classifying the aggressiveness of bangs, yet it has come to that. First, they started out as little taps. Trying it out, seeing if I would react. Now, the bangs are like anvils being dropped from the heavens. I cover my ears but my teeth rattle at each drop. The dark people’s garbled voices make my stomach tie in knots, shrieks in the night that drive my imagination wild. I sit down on the ground with my back against the front door in case I need to flee, my arms wrapped around my knees. My long skirts are filthy from the ashy dirt covering the wood floors. Try as I might to sweep it up, the dust never goes away.

Yes, tonight is different. The bangs that usually ring through the night have stopped. I lift my head from where I had buried it between my arms. Silence. It is so silent I think I can hear Graham’s steady chewing of dry grass out in the field. I wait for a long time, breathing heavily through my mouth until it grows dry. I begin to feel safe in the quiet of my house and dream of the tea that I used to drink to calm myself to sleep. I crave that normalcy more than I realized and begin to crawl into the kitchen, my skirts picking up more and more dirt along the way.

Unfortunately, the one window I left unboarded was the one over the kitchen sink. I couldn’t bear to cover it, I had too many dreamy memories of dishes in the milky sink and the afternoon view out that window, light gleaming off the clean glasses. But now, that window was my terror as I imagined dark faces on the other side, waiting for me to see them. But that tea called to me and I stood quickly at the sink, pumping water furiously into my tea kettle, refusing to look up.

I had become expert at starting a fire safely and cleanly in my little stove. I was respectful of fire. I knew I needed it, though it was burning all around me, destroying everything in its wake. Slightly less tense now that I was away from the window, I start my small fire and let it heat the tea kettle. Before long, it begins to whistle and I slide into the kitchen for my tea and strainer.

Instinctively, I gather my apron over my face as the kitchen window glass shatters in front of me. Graham begins to bay loudly, now very audible through the open window. I drop to the ground and slide up against the counters, fumbling for anything in the darkness. Loud thumping begins again on the roof, a dozen scattered footsteps. I shriek as dirty water dumps down my chimney, extinguishing my small fire and knocking over my tea kettle. A cloud of damp ash floats into the air and for a quick moment, I see their figures darting around the room.

“Leave!” I scream louder than I ever had before. My hot tears wash the ashes from my stinging eyes as I struggle to see.

With a furious rush, the house is still again. I leap to my feet and quickly throw a blanket over the broken window, not really believing it will help but at least its something. Graham laments for me outside, helpless in his field of straw. I am drenched with dirty water, my skirts and petticoats heavier than they already were. But I won’t dare move from this place until sunrise and the dark people leave again.

I am not sure if I fall asleep or if time truly moved that strangely. But slowly, a warm glow begins to fill the living room, exemplified by the yellow blanket hanging across the kitchen window. For a moment my stomach drops, fearing it is the fires that have finally reached me. But then I hear Graham’s morning song, his signal to me that light is on the horizon. Telling me that night is almost gone. I reach for my teapot and hold it against my chest. Someday I will make that cup of tea. Someday, they won’t stop me.

Cautiously, I open the front door. I know it is safe because small slivers of light begin to stretch beneath the wooden door and touch my fingertips. The warm air blasts me in the face but I don’t care. I watch the dark people retreat into the horizon, strange flickerings of shapes that go in and out of focus. And for a moment, I think one turns back and looks at me. And I wonder what I look like to them and if I am their dark creature in the night.

“I can’t figure this place out. For the life of me, I can’t,” John admits, shaking his head as he lights up a cigarette. He stops and stares at the abandoned house they have been hired to disassemble for scrap.

“Really? C’mon,” Ed chides, grabbing the cigarette and dousing it in the grass. “Haven’t we put out enough fires today?”

John continues to stare at the empty house, outlined against the setting sun. The overgrown field surrounding it is dry and bare, scattered only with trash and the parched bones of old farm animals. The rest of his crew have left for the day, complaining of the heat and strange sounds coming from inside that ruin of a house.

“Maybe the stories are true,” Ed sighs, taking off his hat and wiping the sweat away. The day truly had been especially hot and he was grateful for the thought of his air conditioning back in his car, parked only footsteps away.

“Ah, now you c’mon,” John chortles, but pauses. “You say a girl burned here? For real?”

“Oh yeah, on her birthday of all days,” Ed sighed. “It was a dry summer and the fire caught all around these fields here, killed a bunch of livestock that were trapped. The fire burned for days but that damn house survived, though.”

“Hmm,” John lit another cigarette. He squinted his eyes into the setting sun. “It did at that.”

“Dark Cupcakes” by Erin Ritch

 
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 autumn 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 a rapid clicking of her heels, disappearing out of sight. Charlie sighed and looked down at the dozen or so magazines he had been carrying around all morning. Sprinkles of rain started to dribble on his head.
 
“Alright,” 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 had 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 simultaneously 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 judgement 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

Judge a book by its cover

 After returning from a fantastic Willamette Writers Conference last weekend, I’ve been reflecting on the Self Publishing workshop I attended. One of the topics was about the importance and impact of cover design for your books. It made me take a critical look at my current books out there…

The cover of “The County Place” (my first self published book) was designed by my husband, Nick. I love it because, due to the title, we get the setting of the book…but the bottom photo gives the reader that initial visual to build off of.

The plot of this book revolves around three sisters, as suggested by the top photo of the statue. I love this because it’s timeless, much like the different dramas the sisters experience that are recurring through many sibling relationships.

I wish I had a picture of the spine of the book, but you’ll just have to take my word on this. There is a small icon of a cat at the bottom of the spine. The family cat plays an important part in the book…it may or may not be the spirit of the sisters’ deceased mother. I guess you’d have to read the book to find out…

The only downside I can see here is this image would be unclear shrunk down to the size of a thumbnail, which is critical for online searches. Also, I should lose “A Novel by…” We’re all grown ups here, I think we get it.

This is my more recent self published book “Memories Wait Alone“. It’s a historical fiction novella about a man who is haunted by the (literal) ghosts of his past. By the time I got to the cover design, I realized I wanted something simple. I became inspired by image searches from the early 1900’s, but couldn’t find anything suitable that was copyright free.

I remembered this picture of my great-grandfather and it was PERFECT. No, the story is not about him….but that haunted look in his eyes does fit with the main character perfectly. So after a bit of Photoshop by yours truly, voila – cover is done.

I’m on the fence about “A Novella by…” I wanted to be clear this was a shorter book (about 50,000 words) whereas The Country Place was over 90,000.  Not as much bang for your buck…but probably not necessary.

And completely unrelated, other than it does show a book cover – here is my adorable daughter “reading” her new favorite book. Have I mentioned my daughter is going to change the world? She’s off to a great start, already.

GLIMPSED

Image credit Blondinrikard Froberg


I glimpsed into a house, passing by on my evening ride. 


Through the open window, I saw a soft and warm light, welcoming and telling. Telling me all the things in that house and all the quiet secrets of the corners. Dark and dreary or level and light, I began to see them all. I could see a wall of pictures, old memories and long, drawn faces. Gathering layers and layers of dust, building colonies and townships and skyscrapers with the volume of dust at their fingertips. If they could dream it, they could create it. So the pictures built an infrastructure, connected by thin spider webs. Delicate causeways that could collapse at the most careful touch. So don’t touch. Just listen.

Listen to the crunching footsteps. I imagined them walking a thousand miles over the same hallway, back and forth. Back and forth. Wearing roads into the carpet, a left and a right lane. I assume the hallway has an end but to my eye it seemed endless. Maybe those two lanes take you to hell and back. See your potential end then come back and try to fix it. And you better fix it or maybe one day you won’t come back.
I see there is a chair and flashing television. And in the chair is a woman – she is old and frail. I can tell by the back of her white hair and gnarled hand. Her hand that probably touched a thousand foreheads and opened just as many cans of tuna. Hovering over the remote control although she will never change the channel.
And that is what I see. For the next day and the next and the next. Until one evening ride, the television is off and the warm light is turned off. The picture frames are asleep; if the faces could close their eyes they would. But they are lost in limbo where they can sleep yet be aware, twitching at the creaks and cracks of the house. Suspended in that moment of the past yet living in the present.
I see a cool illumination of a white face, there for an instant then gone again. I blink and my stomach lurches. It was nothing. But this nothing comes back for the next day and the next and the next. Always in the center of the room, hand on the headrest of the chair. A gnarled hand, white now with a different kind of pallor. I drive by slower and slower until one day our eyes meet and I know there is no going back.

Because I can no longer just drive by – I must go see for myself. I stop in the daylight and look through the open window. The living room is illuminated enough by the sun that I can see all the things that before I had just glimpsed. The mountains of dust and roadways in the carpet. The forlorn pictures stuck to the wall for ages and ages. And I was right about it all, except there is no white face on the other side of the milky glass, looking back at me. Maybe I had imagined it, exaggerating the things I dream are living in the rooms of strangers. I take one last look and see myself in the reflection of the window glass.