Waves

This week prompt was a visual from Leigh Kimmel. It is titled “Wave Motion” and you can see it on this week’s list at More Odds Than Ends. I went back this morning to remind myself and see what I could come up with in response. What popped out surprised me. I love the beach. I mean, I feel a need to walk on a beach on a daily basis, something I have not been able to do except for brief periods of time for the last twenty years. Growing up I was on the beach almost every day. I used to say that I could never live very far from the ocean because otherwise I would feel hemmed in and claustrophobic. Well, adulting and adult life has done the impossible and pulled me away from the beach. Leigh’s picture exposed a great deal of longing I hadn’t been paying attention to. I really need to get to the beach and soon.

This beach was two blocks from my high school. Yeah, I was spoiled. It was a magical place to grow up and I miss it all the time (not that I can afford to move back, mind you…)

Windansea Beach, La Jolla, CA - California Beaches
Windansea Beach, La Jolla, California

The beach has always been a happy place for me. A place where I can rest, relax, let my mind wander and my soul refresh itself. Being near water is good; I live a couple of long blocks from the Schuylkill River now, for which I’m grateful, but there’s something about the ocean that just resonates with me. So, here’s what I came up with:

******

Waves

Waves breaking on the shore, hissing through the sand.

Lapping at my feet and pulling pieces of seaweed back out to sea.

Surfers rising and falling over smaller waves, looking for “that one” to drop in on and ride.

Memories of body surfing and tumbling in the waves.

Big waves crashing down, creating that distinctive beach roar.

Breaking apart over the rocks.

Small waves rippling across a toddler’s feet, eliciting squeals of happiness combined with trepidation.

Waves creating rhythms which keep me grounded and free at the same time.

Light waves sparkling off the water.

Waves of sound from people, dogs, and wind.

Life comes at you in waves.

*******

Feel free to join in the fun over at More Odds Than Ends.

Image by RUBEN EDUARDO ORTIZ MORALES from Pixabay

Gargoyles

It’s been an off week or ten days. Not off in anything bad, just feeling off-kilter. Hubby went into the office for a couple of days last week for the first time since mid-March, which was weird in a “this is not our usual day” sort of way. I haven’t made a lot of headway on Book #2, although I have some ideas and I’m working them out. And finally, I missed sending in a prompt last week for More Odds Than Ends, so I used a spare one this week.

The spare was “Why did the gargoyle cross the road?” I used it to continue the Cursebreaker series (complete series linked above). This is definitely going somewhere and I’m trying to keep up. Once I get a draft of Book #2 out to beta readers I will be focusing on this one for a time. That’s the plan at any rate. So, here’s Cursebreaker Part XII.

******

Jack pulled up into his own driveway. He grabbed the backpack as he climbed out of the car. He let the dogs out and slowly walked up the steps to his front porch. The dogs clustered around his feet as he dropped into the Adirondack chair next to the front door. Putting the backpack on the floor between his feet, he pulled out the bobble head of Greg Leland and stared at it. Jake and Scout both gave half wags and let out small whines.

“I know, I know. I promise we’ll get him out,” Jack murmured, scratching the dogs’ ears. “I just wish I knew what the hell was going on. Why would somebody drop a phone in my car? And, what does it have to do with Greg?”

Captain stood up and balancing his front paws on Jack’s lap, gave Jack a long, sloppy lick up the side of his face.

“Oh, man! C’mon!” Jack laughed, wiping his face. “Okay, okay. You’re right. We’ll figure this all out. Maybe Greg can help out.”

Still cradling the bobble head, he grabbed the backpack and stood up. As he was reaching for the door handle, it opened to reveal Monica with a concerned look on her face.

“Honey? What are you doing out here? I thought I heard voices. Is everything okay?” his wife sounded worried.

“It’s fine, I’m fine. The dogs are fine. I was just talking to them and to myself. Things are getting weirder, but now I’m thinking that somebody may be trying to help out,” Jack smiled and gave her a quick kiss.

“Okay. Well…did you find the doll with Greg in it? Can we get him out?” Monica patted the dogs as they pushed into the house.

“Yeah, I found it and something else happened. I’ll fill you in after I get Greg out,” Jack replied.

He followed Monica back through the house to the kitchen. She pulled out a bag of jerky treats for the dogs as Jack went into the living room. He carefully set the bobble head doll on the coffee table before going back into his office for supplies. Unlike the curse that had bound his brother-in-law and family into a figurine, Jack thought that this one felt like the first three dolls he’d uncursed. He could not have said why, but it just felt more straightforward. I don’t like that I’m getting so used to this, but it does help, I guess.

Fifteen minutes later, he breathed a sigh of relief as Greg Leland appeared out of the bobble-head doll and Jake and Scout went wild with joy. Monica appeared almost immediately afterwards with mugs of tea for all of them.

Greg grinned at Jack. “I knew you’d figure it out. Thanks,” he carefully juggled the mug of hot tea and two enthusiastic dogs.

“Well, thanks for your confidence. I’m glad we got you back,” Jack returned the grin. “But what happened? I mean, I read your letter, but it’s still murky. And, you do know you’re like the sixth or seventh magic worker who’s been cursed into a doll, right? What the hell is going on with you guys?”

Greg’s expression grew thoughtful. “I have some ideas and I want to know what you think. But there are a couple of things you need to know first. There’s a couple of things I saw…” he trailed off.

“Like what?” Jack leaned forward.

“Well, for one, I saw…a…gargoyle. A live gargoyle,” Greg grimaced.

“What?? It takes a hella lot to animate a gargoyle…even more to make it look alive…” Jack frowned.

“I know. But I’m telling you it was alive. It was crossing the road,” Greg stared into his mug.

“Why did the gargoyle cross the road? Which road?” Jack was starting to feel lost. This was getting out of hand. Assuming it was connected to the cursed dolls, which he figured it was because why would anything be simple? He dropped his head into his hands.

“I have no idea. I have no idea,” Greg sighed.

******

Image by sollrox from Pixabay

Puzzles

Hurricane Isaias has hit Philly, so I’m writing and listening to the rain. It’s rather nice. We are now in Week 31 of prompts at More Odds Than Ends. I am still having a hard time believing that I’ve been doing this for more than half the year. And, it’s likely given me the first (and several ideas for the second) book in what would be my second series. I’m very happy and grateful for that. This week ‘nother Mike and I traded prompts. His prompt to me was: Someone had tossed a cellphone with a puzzle piece taped to its back into the car. I was able to work it into the ongoing Cursebreaker saga (earlier entries can be found at the link above). This one picks up right where the last one left off. I hope you enjoy!

*******

Jack pulled up in front of Greg Leland’s house and sat for a minute looking over the front of the house. Nothing seemed out of place, but he still had an itch between his shoulder blades…as if he were being watched. Pulling out his phone, he lowered his head pretending to read something on the screen while his eyes scanned the area. The three dogs in the back seat were quiet.

After a minute, and not spotting anything out of the ordinary, Jack got out of the car, walked around to the curb and opened the back door to let the dogs out. Jake and Scout immediately headed toward the side gate leading into the back yard, Captain close behind. After glancing around once more, Jack followed the dogs to the side gate.

Pulling out the set of keys that had been attached to Jake’s collar, Jack found the one that opened the gate and followed the three dogs into the yard. The fence was high enough that anybody in the yard could not be seen from the street. As that thought struck him, Jack put a cautionary hand on Captain’s head. Captain gave a short, low bark. Jake and Scout stopped their forward movement into the yard and turned towards the big German Shepherd. Jack gestured to the two dogs and they returned to his side. Flanked by all three dogs, Jack walked cautiously into the yard.

Nothing seemed out of place. Dog toys were dropped here and there around the yard, and a small plastic kiddie pool sat just off of the patio. Jack straightened up from a crouch he didn’t realize he’d gone into and continued to scan the yard. Suddenly Scout froze and pointed, eyes trained on the sliding glass doors opening onto the patio. The door was partially open.

Jack lifted his hand from Captain’s head. “Go!”

All three dogs raced toward the door and into the house, Jack following on their heels.

The front door slammed as Jack and the dogs skidded into the entry hallway. Cursing, Jack pushed through the canine bodies clamoring at the front door and pulled it open. The dogs rushed down the front path, but stopped at the sidewalk, whining and looking in all directions. Jack ran to the middle of the sidewalk and looked up and down. There was nobody and nothing in sight.

The dogs huddled around Jack, tails now between their legs. “What’s up guys? What’s going on?” Jack kept staring up and down the street but couldn’t see anything but a quiet suburban street, looking perfectly normal in the middle of the day.

Glancing around one more time, Jack patted each dog. “C’mon guys. Let’s go in and see if we can find what we came for.” He moved back up the walk leading to the front door.

Back inside, Jack carefully closed and locked the front door. He turned in the small entry hallway to orient himself and find Greg’s office. He spotted a small den a few feet down the hall and headed into that. This was clearly an office. A very nice, very big desk, with a closed laptop sitting on it, filled one corner. Behind the desk were four or five rows of shelves. In the place of honor, in the center of the first shelf was a bobble-head doll of Greg Leland in his NASA space suit.

Jack pulled out his camera, pointed it at the doll and took a picture before moving toward the shelves. The digital photo did indeed reveal a human figure trapped inside the bobble-head. Breathing a sigh of relief, Jack reached up and carefully pulled the doll off of the shelf. He wrapped it in a dish towel and tucked it into the backpack he had brought for that purpose.

“Okay, guys. We’re good. Let’s lock up the back and get out of here,” Jack looked down at the dogs. On impulse, he pulled the doll back out and held it toward Jake and Scout. Both dogs sniffed at the doll and whined. “I’m going to take that as confirmation,” Jack muttered putting the doll back into the bag.

He made a quick tour through the rest of the house making sure it was secure and locked up the back. Leaving through the front door, Jack surveyed the neighborhood once again before walking to the car. He let the dogs into the back seat and then moved around to the driver’s side. As he sat down, he noticed an object on the front passenger seat. Someone had tossed a cellphone with a puzzle piece taped to its back into the car. What the hell? Note to self, don’t leave the windows open even a bit, no matter how warm it is…

Jack stared at the phone for what felt like an hour, although it was probably less than a minute, before picking it up. The puzzle piece provided no clues. It was an edge piece…sky blue, with what looked like the tip of a blade of grass. He shrugged and tucked the phone into the backpack without taking the puzzle piece off. Getting Greg out of the bobble-head was the top priority right now. He’d worry about the puzzle piece and the phone after that.

*******

As always, please feel free to join in the fun! What few rules there are (well, okay, there aren’t any rules) can be found at More Odds Than Ends. This is the first group I’ve ever done the prompt thing with, and I’m loving it. This group of people is very encouraging and helpful for the newbie and the experienced writer.

Image by Zoltan Matuska from Pixabay

Write-in Campaign

Here we are. Week 30 of Odd Prompts is upon us. When I first read the prompt I received from Anne Guglik, I commented that it figured that the now-former (yay!) political science professor would get the one about running for president. Since high school, when I told people I was majoring in political science, the first question out of people’s mouths was usually “Oh, are you going to run for office?” No. And, as a matter of fact, I scrupulously avoid actual politics. And God knows I do not want to be president. The only thing I want to be responsible for is how my own day is scheduled, and how much or whether I write. That’s it. But, I came up with this. It’s more in the what is your reaction to finding out you won a write-in campaign for the highest office in the country, rather than a true answer to “what do you do now?”

My prompt: You posted an Op-Ed about something you were passionate about and it went viral. Then somewhat as an online protest/prank you became a write in candidate for President….and you won. What do you do?

*******

“Holy shit! You won!” Derek was shouting, jumping up and down in front of the television.

“Yeah, right,” I responded reaching for another slice of pizza.

He spun around and moved away from the TV. “I am NOT KIDDING!! You fucking won!”

I gaped at the revealed screen. I had 280 Electoral College votes. Just over the majority. Oh. My. God.

My phone rang. The caller ID was a number in Kansas. I hit the answer icon and put the call on speaker.

“Hello?” I know I sounded hesitant.

“Good evening, Ms. Riley. And, congratulations on your win. I’m conceding to you. I guess that op-ed hit all the right spots for voters. I just hope you truly are up for the job.” The voice on the other end was unmistakable. It was Robert Mallory, the Republican candidate for President of the United States.

“Thank you. I hope I can count on your support going forward,” I surprised myself with my relatively coherent answer.

Mallory seemed surprised as well. “Well, yes. I’m happy to provide advice. Congratulations, again.” He hung up.

As soon as the call ended another one came through. This time from the Democratic candidate.

“Well, Ms. Riley, I hope you’re happy. I’m conceding as it looks like you’ve managed to pull of the impossible and win a US presidential election with a write-in campaign. What a joke.” Sandra Bellamy hung up the phone before I could respond.

Derek laughed. “You won! Holy crap! And, what do you want to bet that Bellamy says she had a great conversation with you and wishes you well? But Mallory sounds okay.”

I was still staring at my phone. What in the hell had just happened??

I looked up at Derek from my attempt to disappear into the couch. “What do I do now? Winning was not the goal of this…this campaign…joke…whatever. What do I do?”

Before he could answer, there was a knock at the apartment door. We looked at each other and Derek moved over to look through the peephole.

“Um…Bethany…um…it’s Secret Service…um…” he stared at me as reality started to sink in for both of us. I walked over to the door and opened it.

“Good evening Ms. Riley, I’m Agent Jeffrey Stanwick, Secret Service,” the tall, blond man held out a badge. I took it gingerly in two fingers and looked at the badge and accompanying identification card. Derek peered over my shoulder. Yep, Jeffrey Stanwick was most certainly a senior agent with the Secret Service. I handed both badge and ID back and then moved my right hand over to my left arm.

“Ow!” the hard pinch startled me and had the intended effect. No, I wasn’t dreaming. I had just been elected President of the United States through a write-in campaign that started as a joke. I guess I better start calling some people. God help us all.

*******

Please join in the fun over at More Odds Than Ends. What few rules there are, are listed on the front page. Prompts and responses can take any form you’d like (although we’re trying to keep ‘nother Mike away from interpretive dance…)

Image by Andreas Breitling from Pixabay

Astronaut

My Week 29 prompt at More Odds Than Ends from Unstagehand was the photo above of astronaut Leland Melvin and his two dogs Jake and Scout. According to this story, he snuck the dogs into the photo studio at NASA and the dogs are now a part of his official NASA portraits. I kicked this around for several days trying to figure out a story. In the end, it worked its way into the Cursebreaker series. I’m still not sure where this series is going, but as soon as I make some serious progress on the second Academic Magic book, I will start working my way through the adventures of Jack and the cursed dolls.

And, here’s what I came up with. I hope you enjoy it.

******

Jack stared at the photograph. It showed a smiling African-American man wearing a spacesuit and two obviously happy dogs climbing into his lap and licking his face. He looked down at the two dogs sitting outside his office door. The dogs in the photo. There was no doll, just the two dogs who had arrived a couple of minutes ago, with one carrying the photo. He turned the picture over. There was a short note on the back.

Hi Jack,

I hope that Jake and Scout have found you. You need to go to my house and find the bobble-head doll of me. It’s on the shelf above the desk in my office. The house keys are on Jake’s collar.

Jack bent down and looked at both dogs. Yep, there were the keys on one collar.

“Okay, you’re Jake, and you must be Scout,” he greeted both dogs. Small tail wags acknowledged his greeting. He returned to the note.

I had a contract with Armina Grove and Camilia Sharpe. Yes, I read it. No, I did not break it, but they showed up on Tuesday and accused me of breaking the contract. They then left, promising to return. I put this note together and the keys on Jake’s collar. I have spoken with other magic workers and I think I am prepared for whatever they try next. In the event I am not, you are reading this note.

“Well, Greg, you were not prepared. At least not enough. And, I’m not sure that even two spaceflights could prepare anybody for a revenge-seeking witch,” muttered Jack.

Thank you for your help. I’m confident you can figure this out.

–Greg Leland

Jack ran a hand through his spiky black hair. Another magic-worker, another curse, no doll. At least no doll yet.

“C’mon boys, come in,” he waved to the two dogs. Captain’s tongue lolled out and his tail wagged in greeting. Jake and Scout trotted into Jack’s office. He closed the front door and crossed the small room to the other door and walked into his living room.

“Monica!” he called up the stairs. “I’m going out. Over to Greg Leland’s house. Captain’s coming with me.”

“What happened? Another doll?” Monica came down the stairs.

“The doll is apparently at Greg’s house. His dogs showed up just now with this,” he showed her the picture, “and house keys. The note on the back says there’s a bobble-head doll at his house that I need to pick up. I’m going to take all the dogs with me. It shouldn’t take too long. I’m going to grab the doll and come straight home.”

******

The entirety of the Cursebreaker series (so far) can be found here and at the top of the page.

My prompt, the opening lyrics from Bowie’s “Heroes”, one of my all time favorite songs, went to Cedar Sanderson who managed to work it into The Perambulating Hatrack. Pretty damn clever is that Cedar.

Return to Sender

This week, Week 28, at More Odds than Ends, I was gifted with the following prompt from ‘nother Mike. He always comes up with intriguing prompts. The envelope had no return address, and held only some dried flower petals. After letting it rattle around in my brain for a few days (OK, almost a week), I figured out a way to put it into the ongoing saga of the freelance cursebreaker, Jack McKnight. If you want to catch up, the previous installment is here, and the entire series is here.

******

Jack returned to the living room to find Rob turning an envelope over in his hands.

“What’s that?” Jack asked, setting his notes down on the table.

“I don’t know. I just found it in my pocket,” Rob sounded puzzled.

“Is it something you shoved into your pocket right before you answered the door?” Jack could feel the hairs on the back of his neck standing up.

“Nooo…should I open it? It’s sealed.” Rob looked up from the envelope and held Jack’s gaze.

Jack glanced back at Monica and the others. His wife seemed to feel his eyes on her and turned her head in time to catch his eye. Jack gave a small sideways gesture with his head toward the kitchen. She raised one eyebrow and turned back to her sister-in-law and niece.

“Let’s go into the kitchen and get some hot chocolate…kicked up for us,” she winked at Julia as she herded everybody, including the dogs, into the kitchen.

Jack turned back to Rob. “Let’s put that in a circle and check it before we try anything,” he murmured.

Rob nodded and the two men moved into Jack’s office. Jack pulled the throw rug off the circle he had created with inlay in the wood floor and placed the envelope in the center of the circle. He raised the shielding around the circle and nodded to Rob. His brother-in-law closed his eyes and drew a deep breath. Jack switched over to magesight as well. Both men stared at the legal-sized envelope for a minute or so.

Jack glanced up at Rob. “I don’t see anything off, do you?”

“No, I don’t. I guess let’s see what’s inside,” Rob still sounded wary.

“I’ll open it. Regardless of what it is, it’s probably not keyed to me, so my opening it shouldn’t trigger anything that we may have missed,” Jack responded.

“Okay. Good idea. I’ll keep an eye out,” Rob said.

Jack lowered the shields around the circle and picked up the envelope. Nothing happened so he stood up and backed away from the circle. He turned the envelope over, carefully slid his thumb under the seal, and opened it. Jack pulled the envelope open wider and looked inside. He turned it upside down over his hand. Several dried rose petals fell into his palm.

“What are those?” Rob stared at the petals.

“Dried rose petals. Does that mean anything to you?”

“I do use them for some things. But I haven’t ordered any in a while…I get them from…oh, hell,” Rob raised his eyes to Jack. “I get them from Miranda Hawley, another witch. I remember her saying something about Armina Grove and Camilia Sharpe…about…rivalries?” His voice rose on the last word turning the statement into a question.

“Oh, hell is right. Somehow you got in the middle of a rivalry. I’m going to check in with my other clients and see if they did any business with Miranda Hawley,” Jack sighed. The last thing he wanted to do was get between pissed off witches. But there had already been one death. He couldn’t, in good conscience, ignore this.

*******

I’m getting an inkling of where this story is going. I promise, once I do, I will be writing the whole thing out and turning it into a book. My prompt, The massive thunderstorm brings rain, hail…and a small creature (you decide what) to your doorstep. What is it and what are you going to do? went to Cedar Sanderson. I have a feeling she’ll figure out a way to work it into The Case of the Perambulating Hatrack.

In the meantime, if you’d like to join our jolly little prompt-writing crew, just head on over to More Odds Than Ends. Everything you need to know on how to join in the fun is right there.

Image by Frank Magdelyns from Pixabay

El Camino Real

My prompt for Week 27 at More Odds Than Ends came from Leigh Kimmel: The song “Sausalito Summer Nights” by Diesel is the story of a trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco. The Wikipedia article mentions that Sausilito is north of San Francisco, in a context that implies that the songwriter mislocated it as being south of San Francisco. In fact, the lyrics clearly mention crossing the Golden Gate Bridge to get into San Francisco. Why does the narrator of the song go east around the Bay to get to San Francisco instead of heading north on El Camino Real? Visiting a friend in Marin County on the way? Wanting to avoid the possibility of getting stuck in Silicon Valley traffic with a car prone to overheating? Some other reason? Tell me the story.

Just reading the prompt sent me back in time to the hundreds of times I’d made the drive from LA to SF in all sorts of weather and at all times of the year (including the Wednesday of Thanksgiving week…never again!). Single file over the Grapevine in a blinding snowstorm guided by the flashing lights of the CHP car leading our convoy. Bright sunny days that led to stops at Fort Tejon at the top of the pass. Flying down the north side of the pass and gaping at a truck in the emergency stop gravel hill. Getting stuck in Los Banos because my engine froze due to lack of oil (there was a leak) and spending four hours in the Burger King waiting for my friends’ mom to drive down from Sacramento and pick us up so we could get back to LA. Telling my dad that I left an hour or so earlier than I did because I didn’t want to get lectured on driving too fast. I think that drive up I-5 is a rite of passage for every California driver.

I had to look up the lyrics to the song and sure enough, it mentions trouble on the Grapevine and implies taking the long way around to get to San Francisco. Combining my memories of the route and the lyrics, I give you this:

******

El Camino Real

“But, it’s the El Camino Real! The Royal Road! Don’t you want to travel the royal road?”

“No, it’s 101 and it’s not nearly as interesting as you think. We’ll go up 5 and then over to 580 and across the Richmond bridge. That will give us a straight shot to Stinson Beach without having to go through the City.” Like a lot of locals, Brian capitalized the word “city” when he was speaking about San Francisco.

He knew he was getting overly snippy with Madison, but he was the one doing all the driving and he sure as hell didn’t want to get stuck in that Silicon Valley rush hour traffic. It would add at least two to three hours to the trip. And, then going through San Francisco…the stuff of nightmares traffic-wise.

“Well, I think you’re cheating me out of the wonders of California. This is my first trip and all I’ve seen is Disneyland and the interstate,” Madison pouted.

Brian sighed and made sure his tone was softer. “Not exactly accurate, but I know, babe. But if we do it this way now, when we leave Stinson Beach, we can go back through Sausalito and then over the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco.” She was right. He was returning home, but this was her first trip to California, and he had promised to show her as much of the state as they could afford in terms of both time and money.

They had flown into Los Angeles and spent a few days there going to Disneyland, Venice Beach, Santa Monica and Hollywood Boulevard. This morning they had pointed the rental car north and headed up to the Bay Area. There was a brief issue with the radiator on the Grapevine but since that was a common problem on that stretch of highway there were water stops about every quarter mile, thus easily fixed.

Brian wanted to show Madison something other than the primary tourist spots of LA and San Francisco, so he’d decided they would spend a couple of days in Stinson Beach and then go into San Francisco, hence his roundabout route and leaving the “Royal Road.”

“Besides,” he went on, “we can spend a night in Sausalito this way and you can sing that song you like so much while we stand on the ferry dock and look at the lights of San Francisco.” She did smile at that.

Madison would get her Camino Real on the way back to LA. Brian planned on taking Route 1 down the coast over the course of two days. He was going to pop the question on the beach in Cambria. He had made reservations at a B&B and planned for a wine-tasting as well.

He reached over and squeezed her hand.

She squeezed back. “I love you, too,” she smiled. “And I trust you on your choice of routes,” she gave him a haughty look and a wave that was meant to convey royal privilege.

He laughed. “I love you! And, thank you so much for your trust milady!”

****

Fiona Grey got the prompt I sent in: Nessie, the Loch Ness monster, decides she’s done playing coy and lets a boat full of tourists see her. How does that end? and she did a very cool piece with it. Head on over and check it out!

Thanks for reading and please join us over at More Odds than Ends. We’re a bit crazy and silly, but a lot of fun as well!

Cursebreaker

This is Week 26 for Odd Prompts from More Odds than Ends. This week I was given: A visceral memory (yours or fictional as you prefer), brought to mind by a scent, taste, song, etc. from Fiona Grey. My prompt was, The noise woke me up. I looked out the bedroom window to see two fully armored knights rolling a stone into my back yard. The stone had a sword protruding from one side. What is going on? and it went to Leigh Kimmel. Head over to both of their places to see what they’ve done with current and past prompts.

This rattled around in my head for a few days and finally came out as part of the next installment of what I’m provisionally calling Cursebreaker. This is the first time I’ve managed to make one piece follow directly from a previous piece. Previously I wrote them in a sort of chronological order, but not one directly after the other. I’m working on putting the pieces together into a coherent whole. So, to that end, I present the next part in the life of Jack McKnight, Cursebreaker.

Previous installments can be found here. Our protagonist has just freed his brother-in-law and family from the confines of a figurine.

*******

Monica hugged Rob hard before reaching for her sister-in-law and niece. After Monica moved on, Jack and Rob exchanged a long stare.

Jack finally spoke. “I’ll get you…us…a drink. Let’s sit down and figure out what happened.”

Rob nodded. He looked over at the cluster of his young daughter, two dogs, his wife, and his sister. “Yeah. They seem to be handling things. You got any whiskey?” he turned to Jack.

“You know it.” Jack pointed at the couch. “Sit. I’ll get it.” He walked over to the small liquor cabinet in the corner of the living room, grabbed two low ball glasses and the bottle of good Scottish whiskey he kept for special occasions. Or, as in this case, emergencies. He was pretty sure Rob would want it neat. He certainly did.

Walking back to the sofa, Jack glanced over at Monica and the others. Bruno was hovering over Sophie, seemingly reluctant to let her get too far away, while Ralphie lay in Julia’s arms occasionally reaching up to lick her chin. Sophie sat on the floor and leaned against Bruno. Monica and Julia were deep in conversation.

Jack handed Rob his glass and sat down in the chair next to the sofa. Rob raised his glass to his face and inhaled the peaty aroma of the whiskey. He smiled.

“This takes me right back to when we all went to Scotland, what, ten? twelve? years ago. Monica and Julia were shopping, and you and I bought a bottle of this, and headed out of town to one of those old seventeenth century bridges over the river and drank half the bottle. I can feel the stones under my hands, the sun on my head. That was a great day.” He took a sip and smiled.

“Yeah, we got lucky with the sunshine. Remember it rained almost the whole time we were there. But it was still a great trip,” Jack raised his glass in a salute to his brother-in-law and took a sip himself.

Jack let the smokey liquid slide down his throat before looking up at Rob. “Dude. What the hell happened? Who cursed you and why did they curse Julia and Sophie too?”

Rob took a deep breath and let it out. He followed that with another sip of whiskey. “It was two witches, Camilia Sharpe and Armina Grove. I had asked them to help me strengthen my working circle. Witches have a stronger connection to the elements than sorcerers do, and I figured if they helped me repair the circle, the combination of magic would make it stronger. We had a contract, and yes, I read it over very carefully. I know I didn’t breach any part of it. But about a week later the two of them showed back up claiming I had broken the contract. Before I could say anything, they cursed the whole family. The last thing I remember is seeing one of them holding up that stupid figurine. Next thing I know, we’re standing here.” He paused. Another sip. He looked up at Jack. “That’s all I got. How did we get here?”

Jack mirrored Rob’s pull on the glass of whiskey. “Bruno and Ralphie brought you. I should tell you, you are the fifth or sixth magic worker cursed into a doll and brought over by their dog that I’ve seen in about three weeks. What the hell are you guys doing? Is this a new trend or something? Or is somebody out to get rid of magic workers?”

Rob sighed and stared into his glass. “I wish I knew. There were a couple of rumors, but I didn’t pay much attention to them. You know how clique-ish the magic community is…”

“Tell me about it,” Jack responded. He tried to keep the bitterness out of his voice. Freelance curse-breakers like him were treated like a necessary evil. Not seen as true magic workers, even though they were the ones who got to undo all the b.s. curses that magic workers tended to throw around. He took a deep breath and willed himself to calm down. Rob wasn’t like that. This wasn’t his fault. A wet nose pushed into his hand and Captain nudged him until Jack was forced to pat the big German shepherd on the head. He smiled and delivered the requested ear scratches, feeling better immediately.

He smiled at Rob. “Yeah, you guys are worse than high school. Let me go get my notes from the others and let’s see what we can put together.”

Rob nodded and tossed back the last of the whiskey. Before he went into his office to gather his notes, Jack grabbed the bottle and put it on the coffee table in front of Rob.

******

Thanks for reading! If you’d like to join in our Odd fun, just head on over to More Odds Than Ends. The instructions are posted right there and the one rule is to have fun!

Image by cromaconceptovisual from Pixabay

Big Changes

I resigned my faculty position at the end of May. Today, I finished cleaning out my office. Walking out of the building today, I got a little verklempt and teared up. I’ve joked that this is the end of an era, but it really is. My senior year of high school we were asked to write down where we saw ourselves in ten years. I wrote (which I rediscovered at my 10-year reunion) that I would have a PhD in political science and be teaching at a university. At that point, (my ten year reunion) I had just started my MA program. Four years later (took me three to finish the MA while working full-time, and then I took a year to apply to PhD programs) I started my PhD. I finished that and started teaching full-time in 2000. I went through two visiting positions before I landed the tenure-track position. Got tenure, and now I’ve resigned. Twenty years of teaching, 17 at the same place. All told, this job was my goal for 40 years!

It really is the end of an era and it’s the end of what I thought was my dream career. I love teaching, I really do. So, I know that will be a big loss, but one I am prepared for. I like research, but I found that I don’t like being pressured to do research on someone else’s time line. I also don’t like having to “stay in my lane” research-wise. Meaning, I like branching out and wandering through different areas. But, that is not the academic way. Small loss. Generally, I despise committee work (the “service” part of the trifecta of research, teaching, service requirements), so no loss there.

Two years ago, I had a sabbatical in the spring semester. I started out going full-bore into a new research project that looked really interesting (I still think it is, and I think there’s something to my thesis), but after a strong start, I basically lost interest in pursuing the necessary background research. I started reading lots and lots of fiction…urban fantasy, swords and sorcery. All the things I have always loved reading since I was a little kid (starting with the color fairy tale books…Red Books of Fairy Tales, Yellow Book…) And, I started wondering if I could write a story myself. So, I started. That first draft was horrific. Really bad. But, I was hooked. I read “how-to” books, how to describe, how to create characters and character arcs, how to reveal necessary background information and on and on. I rewrote and rewrote and rewrote.

I finally had a version that I felt confident sending out to beta readers. I got positive feedback, incorporated the suggested changes…and voila! I uploaded it to Amazon the other day. I was so excited I was vibrating. I’m still jittery. I’ve published non-fiction in academic journals, and that was pretty cool. But this is different. This is a part of me out there. It’s very exposing, but a hell of a lot of fun! As I said in the previous post, there are a number of people I owe a huge debt of gratitude to. Both for the writing advice and the encouragement to just write. The outpouring of support from my friends when I announced that the book was live on Amazon has been amazing as well.

My author page on Amazon says that I consider myself to be a “recovering faculty member” and that is true. I quit a job I couldn’t get fired from and I feel like I broke out of prison. It’s crazy. Scary, too. I’ve jumped…this has to work! And, I have every confidence it will.

Today is our wedding anniversary, so I took the day off. Plus I’ve been told (and experienced in the academic side of things) that it’s a very good idea to reward oneself for a job completed. Monday, I will get back to plotting the next book in the series.

So, here’s to changes big and small. Go out and make those changes that appeal to you. Have a great weekend!

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Odd Prompts – Week 24

It’s been a busy and somewhat chaotic week to ten days. I missed last week’s prompt for a variety of reasons, and almost missed this week’s (here I am Tuesday morning writing it. Last week I started cleaning out my office at work. We’ll finish that up on Friday. Seventeen years at this university. Twenty years as a faculty member. Definitely the end of an era for me. But, Having mostly shed the office, my last physical tie to the university, I finally feel like I can give my full attention to writing. It’s a relief and nervous-making. No more excuses. All the time in the world to write. So, write!

Since I missed last week altogether, I didn’t get a prompt assigned to me. So, for this week’s prompt, Week 24 at More Odds Than Ends, I used a spare: In the back seat of the bus, there was a huddled pile of clothing. Then it moved… This led me back to Jack McKnight and the string of dolls and dogs that keeps showing up at his house. Who is cursing these people, magic workers, into all these dolls and why? What is the connection between these individuals? Why does every doll come with a dog? I have no more clue than Jack does. I’ll be sitting down today and tomorrow to try to figure it out. In the meantime, it taking the bus can bring interesting adventures and maybe one was meant to take the bus that day:

******

Jack grimaced as he moved toward the back of the bus. There was a reason he didn’t like public transportation. Too many people treated the buses they were meant to be destroyed. Seriously. A pile of clothing on the back seat? Who the hell leaves clothing on a bus?

He shuffled back trying to make room for the people crowding on behind him. Not only public transportation, but public transportation at rush hour. The fun just never ended. He was mildly grateful that there was an empty seat, even if it was next to the pile of abandoned clothing. Truthfully, it was probably available because it was next to the pile of clothing. He had a long ride ahead of him and a seat, even a less than desirable one, made it a bit more bearable. He sat back and pulled his book out of his backpack.

A small movement at the edge of his peripheral vision caught his attention. Did the pile just move? Jack glanced around at the other passengers. Nobody seemed to have noticed. Or, more likely, they were purposefully ignoring the pile.

The last few weeks had involved a series of cursed dolls showing up at his office, so Jack didn’t put anything past the universe these days. He turned to look at the pile. Yep. Did it again. Shit. He pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket and gingerly picked up the piece of clothing closest to him and pulled it back. A small black nose poked out of the pile followed by a pair of dark brown eyes and the rest of the small Jack Russel terrier. The dog gazed soulfully at Jack and whined softly. Oh, for…Jack picked up the rest of the clothing and sure enough there was a doll lying next to the dog.

As he shifted through the rest of the clothing pile it occurred to him that the clothes were clean and lying in a pattern that suggested their owner had simply vanished like somebody in a story about the Rapture. Had this person been cursed while on the bus?? The dog whined again. Jack dug into his backpack and emptied out the plastic grocery bag. He put the clothes into the bag and stuffed them into his backpack. Then he picked up the doll and put it in on top of the bag of clothes. He carefully closed the backpack leaving an opening through which he could see the doll’s face. He still wasn’t completely sure that the person stuck in the doll needed air, but he didn’t want to take any chances.

The dog was wearing a harness with a leash attached. The harness had a small metal name tag that read “Sampson.”

“Okay, Sampson. We’ll figure this out and take care of things. I promise. I guess I was supposed to take this bus home,” he picked Sampson up and put the little dog on his lap. Curse-breaker and dog settled in for the rest of the trip home.

******

Looking for a fun challenge? Head on over to More Odds Than Ends (MOTE) and pick up a spare prompt! Have a prompt to contribute? Submit it to oddprompts at gmail dot com. If you contribute a prompt you will receive one assigned to you. It’s a creative and fun way to challenge yourself.