Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Paula's Prompts: Wednesday Words

On November 1, 2017, P.T. Wyant posted her Wednesday Words prompt, involving a lonely writer, a windy night, and a ruined dinner.

Yes, we were doing NaNoWriMo at the time. The experience is still fresh in my mind. This is why I'm using our 2017 NaNo badge as the image for this story. :)

The wind howled through the trees outside her window, the perfect accompaniment to the mournful tapping of the writer’s fingers against the keyboard. 

Once she would have shared her ideas online with a group of like minded novelists, struggling to put their thoughts into words. 

Everyone had drifted away, returning to their own respective projects. Many of them had releases coming out, which they were busy promoting and treating. 

All the while, she struggled with the same manuscript. 

She’d withdrawn from the community, trying to immerse herself in the pages of her story. 

While she did so, member after member of her former associates lost touch with her. 

She missed them, but she had work to do. This monster of a book needed finishing. If only she could create a working draft!

She kept finding scenes which needed revision, which she’d rewrite entirely. Again and again. Followed by again. 

Why couldn’t she make it work? She could feel the potential throbbing within this story, the groundbreaking promise in the plot she envisioned. 

The characters shrank away from it, participating with an awkward reluctance. If at all. They themselves didn’t seem happy with it.

What was she doing wrong?

The smell of burning meat and vegetables wafted from the oven, bringing her back to reality. 

Oh, yes. She’d put her dinner in, only to forget about it. 


Monday, December 11, 2017

Secondary Characters Speak Out: Quartz Interviews Claude

Quartz: What? Had you forgotten me already? That fool of a scribbler who created me almost did. Such a shame…I’m not going away that easily. 

Claude: (looking down his long nose) Are you here to speak of yourself, dwarf? Or to interview me?

Quartz: (grumbles under his breath) I’m not sure why I bothered. (louder) Here we are, at the Forbidden Cauldron, or K.S. Trenten’s Facebook Author Page, depending on which of these bloody social media you’re currently using. Quartz, unappreciated secondary character of Fairest is here, talking with Claude, another unappreciated secondary character from our scribbler’s upcoming release, At Her Service. 

Claude: (somberly) No one appreciates what I do for the country or for my Lady Ariella. She could have been a queen, if she’d let me handle everything. 

Quartz: Eh, you can’t trust a queen. Not ever. Nor a woman who wants to be queen. It seems to me your lass has some sense in her head if she’s thinking twice about it. 

Claude: (nostrils flaring in outrage) What would *you* know about it? You are no queen!

Quartz: (undaunted, beard bristling) What of it? Neither are you!

Claude: (taking a deep breath) I might have become a queen, if circumstances were different. If my scribbler had written a different backstory for me. Or any backstory. 

Quartz: Yes, well, she’s unreliable like that…wait a minute, you’re a queen? (inches away) You don’t know Oriana by any chance?

Claude: (blinks) No, I’ve never met her. Should I?

Quartz: Well, maybe not. We’re in completely different universes even if we both have the same publisher. 

Claude: Hmmph. (lifting his chin) I can’t imagine this Oriana is much of anyone if I’ve never heard of her. I’ve heard of *everyone* remotely important. 

Quartz: (making a hrrumphing sound) Right. You’re so well connected, you’re a secondary character. 

Claude: (widening his eyes in outrage) Don’t underestimate the importance of a secondary character! We see things, notice things, and move the plot forward in ways the main character cannot comprehend! 

Quartz: We do? (it’s his turn to blink and consider the other’s words) Actually, we do, don’t we?

Claude: Don’t ever depreciate your value as a secondary character, dwarf. Not ever. 

Quartz: (mutters) You manage to say encouraging things in the most irritating way…all right, you’ve got a point. Maybe your lady has one, eh?

Claude: Whatever do you mean? 

Quartz: Your lady. Think about it. Think about her. She might have bloody good reasons for not wanting to take the throne. Think about them. 

Claude: (mutters) And her name is Cinders, not that I’d exactly call *her* a good reason…

Quartz: Maybe not. Is this Cinders her only reason? Think about it. 

Claude: It’s all I ever do…(he does look a little pensive)

Quartz: While you’re doing that, is there anything else you want to say? Our scribbler has got places to go and things to do…as usual. 

Claude: At Her Service will be appearing in Once Upon a Rainbow 2. Come and read our story. Bask in my lady’s beauty, grace, and wit. Try not to be put off by her eccentric tastes. 

Quartz: Eccentric taste in our lads, lasses, and those who aren’t either is one of those quirks we secondary characters learn to put up with. (pats Claude on the shoulder) At least you survive the story. 

(Claude doesn’t look appeased). 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Paula's Prompt: Wednesday Words

On October 25, 2017, P.T. Wyant posted this picture prompt for her Wednesday Words at

This Tale of Navel/The Shadow Forest was my response.

No one could see the faint gleam of their two forms under the shadow of the tree’s branches. 

Not that the tree was truly there. The darkness could take on any form it desired. 

Desire. The pair had never forgotten theirs, no matter how faded and ghostlike they became. 

“He’s coming.” She communicated this through the shivering wisp of her being, while she rested her hands in her companion’s palms. 

Yes, she remembered having hands. The ones she remembered, which twitched at the end of her arms might once have been her own. Or they might have belonged to the girl she’d just met, who’d wandered off the path into her waiting arms. 

You were what you devoured in the Shadow Forest. Memories of whom she’d once been disappeared only too easily. Such emptiness drove her to fill the void over and over. 

Especially when other travelers were so tasty. Impossible to resist. 

This was one of the reasons the two of them had to find their lost one. The shadow who’d taken vital parts of them and disappeared. 

“At last.” Her companion’s translucent hands slipped through hers, fading in and out. “We shall find him. He cannot hide from our hunger.”

“His own desire must be strong,” she warned. 

The air quickened around them, everything growing sharper, more distinct. 

Someone was opening a Door. Someone tasty, with thick, juicy memories which shaped them into a form strong enough to exist in reality. 

“His desire must be strong enough to open a Door.” She breathed in the scent. 

Yes. He was among those gathered on edge of reality, between shadows. He truly was coming. 

“Our desire is just as strong.” His hands gripped hers. For a moment, they were solid. “We want him. No power in the darkness can stop us from having him.”

She shivered in appreciation, wanting to believe his words. 

Alas, there were many creatures walking the myriad paths, lurking behind the trees stronger than the two of them. 

Strong enough to devour them in turn. 

One of those creatures was their prey. He’d done it before, consumed part of their precious memories, leaving them to drift aimlessly off the path.

If they weren’t careful, he’d do it again. 

“He’s been outside, living in a real world as a human for too long.” She uttered this wish, knowing it was more of a wish than a truth. “Such a foolish child to forget those he’s left behind to starve.”

“Foolish, indeed.” Her companion stayed solid, gripping her hands. “We’ll get him this time.”

“We’ll get him,” she repeated, willing to herself to believe this. If she could believe, she’d get stronger by virtue of her faith. 

This was how power worked in the Shadow Forest. What she willed and believed in were the keys to possessing that power and wielding it. 

She just had to hold tight to that belief and not let it slip away. If she wavered for a second, her belief might take form and fall away. Whatever it became would be devoured by other shadows. 

She’d learned this the hard way, yet she and her companion had survived thus far. 

It wasn’t enough for them to simply survive. 

They had to have someone worth surviving for. 

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Seven Tricks Freebie Story

On August 30, 2017, P.T. Wyant offered up a prompt for her Wednesday Words at It involved a sausage, some nails, and the full moon.

The sausage made me think of Seven Tricks, my Mouse Prince/Nutcracker holiday release. I wrote this story in response, before burrowing it away for after Seven Tricks's release.

I think Mousetrick, my mischievous rodent of a protagonist would approve. :)

This is dedicated to P.T. Wyant for inspiring me and to Nine Star Press for giving Mousetrick a chance to scamper into your homes.

Time for Cracktooth to share a little from his perspective. :)

The king came home, only to find his sausage had been eaten.

“You dared to devour my dinner!” He pointed an accusing finger at the guilty, grease spattered countenances of his wife and daughter. 

“You told us to!” Prissipat’s blue eyes shone with unshed tears. “You even sent a mouse to give us the message, knowing I hate mice!”

“I sent a mouse to give you a message? The king’s eyebrows weren’t as fierce as Cracktooth’s uncle’s, but they were impressively hairy. Especially when they worked up and down in a display of fierce displeasure. “What sort of nonsense is this?!”

“Well, that’s what the odious this creature claimed…” the queen began, only to falter at her husband’s expression. “Not that I believed him.”

“Mice,” Prissipat muttered the word through gritted teeth. “I can’t believe we listened to that vermin. They’re not be trusted. Not ever!”

“No, they’re not,” Cracktooth agreed, struggling to keep the amusement out of his voice. “They played quick the trick on us.”

“Well, I’ll trick them.” The king rumaged into one of his trouser pockets. 

There had been a time when kings had servants to carry all their necessities. Not any more. 

This king had been reduced by a lack of weath to carry things around himself. This mean he had to wear trousers with pockets.

It was something he never failed to complain of to Cracktooth whenever he had the chance. Such utterances with accompanied by many a reproachful glance. 

Cracktooth was, after all, one of the king’s servants. Well, a relation of one. If he was truly loyal to his monarch, he should carry his monarch’s necessities for him. Not force him to wear trousers with pockets, making his king go to all the trouble of keeping track of his possessions himself. 

The king didn’t dare complain about it directly to Dousselmause himself, even if the magician was in the king’s service. Bad things happened if you complained to a magician. Ill fortune had a way of finding you, or worse. 

A magician might listen to your complaint and do something about it. His response would bring you little satisfaction and no happiness. 

Cracktooth suppressed a shudder. He remembered only too well how his uncle had once answered his own complaint about being too big, too clumsy, and not having enough space. 

Douselmause had changed all of that. 

For a while, Cracktooth feared his transformation would be permanent. Instead, he’d simply had several of the worst days of his life being small in a world which was huge and terrifying. 

Also wonderful. 

Cracktooth felt his face heat up. He reached up a hand, almost expecting it to be a paw. He could almost smell warm fur, hear the rustling of paper, while a tail twitched with an almost seductive grace. 

Get those thoughts out of your head, he told himself, slapping his cheek. Smooth and hairless. 

It was almost a disappointment. 

What was he thinking? He was a human again. It was a huge relief in more ways than one, being human again. 

“Ah, ha!” The king’s crow brought Cracktooth back to the here and now. 

The king withdrew a handful of nails from his pocket. 

They glittered in his palm like metal teeth. 

“Papa, what are you doing?” Prissipat stared at the metal things in her father’s hand with more than a little disgust. 

“Dear, why are you carrying nails in your pocket?” The queen wrinkled her nose. “You haven’t been drinking with the carpenter again, have you?” She narrowed her eyes in suspicion. “Or that pretty apprentice of his?”

“Err, of course not!” The king’s guilty blush suggested otherwise. “I just had, um, important business with the carpenter. King’s business.” He poked a nail with his finger. “Items like these can be useful. Especially at times like this.” He grinned, exposed stained teeth. “If someone plays a trick on you, I say trick them back.”

He scattered the nails across the floor, moving so they landed in various places upon the ground. 

“Papa!” Prissipat said in an injured tone. “Mama and I are wearing slippers! Those things will poke our feet!”

“If we step on one of those sharp objects-“ the queen began in an irate voice. 

“Ah, but you can move around them or step over them.” The king tapped the side of his bulbous nose with sly malice. “A mouse will not be able to avoid these nails with such ease.”

“Especially if he returns to the kitchen to steal more food.” Prissipat smiled. The expression looked even uglier on her face, coupled with her dimples and full lips. 

Such a smile didn’t suit her. 

Cracktooth swallowed a sigh. 

What had happened to the beautiful princess, who’d once taken his breath away?

If only Prissipat would smile truly from the heart, perhaps he’d catch a glimpse of her. 

Lately, all Cracktooth saw was her ugly face. 

“Oh, perfect!” The queen bared her teeth in smile no more beautiful than her husband’s or her daughter’s. “Such a prank is perfect for the foul little creature.”

Creature, not creatures. Everyone was blaming the young male mouse with the fine, black fur for the theft of the sausage. Never mind that his queen had spoken to them first. 

The male mouse was probably acting on her orders. 

Cracktooth closed his eyes, trying not to remember fur, anxiety, and a frantically beating heart. How terrifying it had been to be so small, in peril of things you could easily avoid as a human. 

Like nails. 

Cracktooth raised his eyelid to study the glint of metal on the ground. 

Such a prank was too much retaliation for a single sausage. The magician’s nephew shifted his glance to king’s thick middle. It wasn’t like he was going to suffer overmuch from missing his dinner. 

The mice were probably hungrier. They’d taken quite a risk, tricking the humans. 

It was too high a price to pay for that trick. 

Cracktooth waited until the king, the queen, and Prissipat left the room, still chortling over the damage the mice would suffer if they returned. 

The nails glittered in the moonlight. 

He bent over and started picking them up. He gathered each and every one of them in the palm of his hand. 

The cold gleam of the orb shining in the night sky reflected its light upon the metal, making them easy to spot. 

It felt like the moon itself was watching him. It was too full, too bright. He shivered, while picking up the last nail from the ground. 

Oh, it was a fine time for magic, a night like this. His uncle loved such moonlight. 

“What are you doing, Cracktooth?” A deep, disapproving voice cut through his thoughts. 

He who lets his thoughts drift toward Dousselmause summons his presence. His uncle had once boasted (or warned him) that he was drawn to such mental wandering.

Cracktooth turned to face his uncle, his hand full of nails. 

“Just cleaning up a trifle.” Cracktooth tried to make his tone as careless as possible. “Nothing to concern you.”

“You call acting against our king’s will a trifle?” Dousselmause raised his eyebrows, knitting them together in an expression more fierce than their monarch could ever master. “It does concern me, nephew, concerns me deeply to see you thwart his vengeance.”

“Since when are you concerned with the theft of a sausage?” Cracktooth laced every word with scorn. “Surely there are matters more worthy of your attention.”

“Nothing concerns me more than my nephew’s well-being.” Dousselmause softened his voice and dropped his eyebrows. “It isn’t healthy to risk your king’s ire for a pair of mice.”

“What can I say? I find myself much more sympathetic than I once would have been.” Anger, which had simmered within Cracktooth’s belly for too long trickled into his words. “Who’s to blame for that?”

“You may be right.” The rest of fierceness dropped from Dousselmause’s eyebows, causing them to droop. “Magic has consequences. Now I must pay for what I did to you.” He removed something from his coat. 

“What’s that?” Cracktooth eyed the contraption of wood and metal which his uncle laid on the table. “Another mousetrap?”

“Not just any trap. It’s the means to showing our regard for those who dared to steal our king’s supper.” Dousselmause fixed his glittering eyes upon his nephew’s. “The seductive scent of any cheese I put in this metal jaw will be irrestible.” 

“Surely there’s a way to resist.” Cracktooth picked up the trap and tried not to shudder. It was easy to imagine the metal slicing into fur. 

Particularly sleek, dark fur.

“Only by taking seven steps backwards will a mouse free himself from its spell.” Dousselmause gazed at the trap with a measure of malevolent pride. “Tomorrow, these traps will be everywhere. Anywhere a mouse might scamper.”

Fear dried Cracktooth’s mouth. Once more, he thought of that dusky fur glistening with blood. 

No, he couldn’t let it happen. 

He was no longer a mouse himself. It shouldn’t matter. 

He closed his eyes, only to see that black mouse, whiskers trembling, as he raised his muzzle to face humans so much bigger than himself. 

That mouse didn’t deserve such a fate. 

“What will you do with this information, Cracktooth?” Dousselmause reached out to snatch the trap out of his nephew’s hands. “Remember. I’m watching you.”

Swift as the shadows cast by the moon, the magician disappeared. 

Cracktooth shivered. 

He stared at the platter of cheese, which had been left on the table. 

His uncle’s threats were never idle. He would be watching him. 

Tomorrow, the traps would be everywhere. 

Crackooth bit his lip and eyed the cheese. 

It didn’t matter. He had to find that mouse and warn him, despite the risk. 

Monday, November 27, 2017

Seven Tricks: Madam Mousenip Squeaks

Hello, humans. I’m Madam Mousenip, queen of all who scurry within the warren behind Grandfather Clock. 

I’m here to speak of my pride and folly. The only mouse worthy of being our people’s prince and future king, if not for certain…perversions. 

I’ll let him squeak for himself in this blurb…

“Some say a mouse king has seven heads. Hah, trust a human to get our legends wrong. A mouse prince must perform seven tricks before the twelve days of Christmas are up. It’s how he wins his crown, but I’ve got my whiskers set on something else. A stiff beauty with a magnificent jaw, waiting for me under the holiday shrub. I caught his scent in a dream, which I’ve been sniffing after ever since. Scamper with me through my adventures and misadventures, dodging traps, cats, and giants, while I win a steadfast nutcracker’s heart.”

I’m sure you can all smell the folly and the perversion for yourselves. (sighs) It gets worse, though. You’ll see in this excerpt from his story, Seven Tricks…  

Some say a mouse king has seven heads with seven crowns. In a way, this is true. A mouse prince must play seven tricks before the twelve days of Christmas are over. If he doesn’t, he cannot claim his throne.

“You must prove your worth before I acknowledge you as my heir,” Madam Mousenip said to me in the shadow of the enormous ticking tower. “Only by succeeding at seven tricks will you possess what you desire.”

She herself had become our sovereign through seven capers of her own, earning the name Mousenip for delivering tiny bites, which left cheese looking unscathed and humans whimpering. She’d nipped a human princess once. The bite turned the girl’s face into something so beautiful her people fainted at the sight of her. That was Madam Mousenip. Kind even to hideous giants.

I flicked my whiskers in humble acknowledgement of the Mouse Queen’s words.

In truth, winning the throne was what she desired, not I. What I wished for was a bit more romantic and complicated.

I’d had a dream involving our coming Christmas, but it wasn’t of me ascending the throne, oh no. I’d dreamed of an endless supply of tissue, scattered about the giant shrubbery humans insisted on covering with baubles.

Not that the shredded paper was what I desired, although there was enough for all my subjects, saving the king-size portion for myself.

No, what I wanted was the exquisite creature standing half in and half out of a giant box left open on the floor.

Wooden was he, keeping his arms and legs stiff and motionless in his bright red coat and green trousers. Wispy white hair stuck out of the crown on his head and square chin.

Ah, he had to be a prince of some sort. Perhaps a prince of the wooden dolls? Some of the humans kept such poppets as toys or slaves. Not much of a royal title.

The beauty bared his teeth at me in a seductive show of defiance. Never had I seen such an enormous, toothy jaw. The scent of roasted nuts wafted from his mouth, making my nostrils flare with hunger.

I crept up to this still, defiant beauty.

He didn’t move, or acknowledge me, even when I was a paw away from his face. The strange prince just stood there and grinned.

This infuriated me. Who was he grinning at, if not myself? Was he mocking me?

I nudged him with my snout.

He rocked on his stiff wooden legs but didn’t budge. The creature stood like a human being, but no human possessed so broad and beautiful a mouth as he. Nor did they smell so deliciously of roasted nuts.

“Maybe you’re a giant nut yourself,” I said in the way of mice, which sounds like chittering to anyone without the talent to understand our speech. “Do you taste as good as you smell?”

I sank my teeth into his hard shoulder.

His head turned very slowly. He regarded me with wide hungry eyes. The strange prince dropped his jaw, only to close it on my snout.

In a moment of intimacy, we bit each other.

I awoke with the taste of bitter sawdust in my mouth, mixed with the salty residue of nuts.

You can see the sweetmeat of a trap he’s bitten into. To read about his complete folly, go here….

What’s a mouse queen to do with such a pervy Nutcracker loving prince? For all his faults, he was my heir. 

I’m not happy setting him aside for another one. Certainly not Cheesecurd, however much he might want the job. 

It’s enough to make any mouse queen’s whiskers sag. Especially right before the holidays. (another sigh)

Any suggestions?