The Waves At Midnight


The screams died down faster than you would think; the icy water took most of our sacrifices before the drowsy demons woke to notice the men struggling against the tide. Here and there, a marked warrior swam back toward the ship, but none reached it, and the priests did not have to scrape their clawing hands off the timbers.

When the demons did come, the sea boiled gently, and the few survivors were brave. The demons dragged them fast and deep. Afterward, the Death Lamp caught just a trace of blood on the waves.

It was a good sacrifice, and by every known portent, it seemed to be accepted. The priest declared the blood valid quickly, and the sailors weighed anchor almost before the words were out of his mouth.

We had turned back.

We should have made it to port before the bars stopped serving, and we would have celebrated with abandon. A good sacrifice, and another year of calm waves and sleeping demons.

The cabin boy laughed, and no one noticed.

The cabin boy laughed. A simpleton, admiring the trail of bubbles in the ship’s wake.

A simpleton, who fell overboard, reaching for the moon’s reflection on the water.

By the demons’ breath, the fool kept laughing, until the water around him boiled. The demons were on him in a second, but half satiated from the sacrifice, the monsters toyed with him.

On board, the priests and augurs scurried to dream up answers. The portents had been so clear… so positive. The demons had taken the sacrifice. The transaction was complete.

Surely, what happened–what was happening–to the cabin boy was a misunderstanding. Perhaps, they thought, the sea-demons thought the simpleton was one final offering. He certainly thrashed enough.

Again, the ship sailed homeward. This time, there was no celebration, and the high Priest stood beside the Death Lamp, searching the water behind us for the demons, or their boiling breath.

Time stopped, or time sped faster, and the assembled priests and the silent crew barely breathed in the darkness. No one could see the ocean outside the light’s narrow beam, but we could all hear the waves whispering against our fragile ship. We could hear the splashes, and the ripples. We listened for what we could not see, and imagined what we already had seen.

Every man on board counted heartbeats. How long had it been? How far had we gone? How much further to land and the safety of home?

They counted.

And the wordless night held them. That was not a bubble. Just a splash. Not a bubble. No. Just the ship cutting through the waves. Just…

A slithering, leathery body, sliding, slithering along the hull.

A second, screeching, not loud, but indescribably shrill, and yet watery, like a razor blade being sharpened on an endless and grainy strop.

The Priest made his decision, and fast. “Throw them overboard.” He gestured to the cluster of sailors closest to the edge.

The captain raised his revolver… cocked it… aimed.

And the men did not move. Better a bullet than boiling in the waves.

But the Captain could not shoot; the demons demanded a healthy sacrifice. The sailors knew that.

“They’ll follow the ship. They’ll hound us all. And the blood won’t stop. Not without a clean sacrifice.” The Priest rallied and coaxed, but the men stood firm. “Don’t you have wives? Children? ”

“Cowards!” The Captain bellowed, but he didn’t move.

The demons would have taken any of us, or all of us, and maybe they would have been content, but no one moved. No one thought about moving.

The ocean all around the ship was boiling. No one could mistake the bubbles for anything else. And the demons’ scales raked across the ship’s sides. We only had one thought between us: how many? How many? There could be one, or thousands.

A moment of distraction. The Captain forgot the helm, and the ship split open on the forgotten rocks. The force threw men and priests off the deck and into the water; it threw me hard against the crags.

The demons had their sacrifice. I dropped my head, and uttered the true sigh of relief: It wasn’t me. Chance had me on solid ground.

I stayed there, until morning, relieved and exhausted, and ashamed to be alive.

And in the darkness, I heard a new sound. Quiet, next to the men’s screams, and even calm, against their thrashing, but getting closer I heard the splashing of demons at play. As gleeful as the dancing of water sprites, and as terrible as death. And something else, that could only be described as laughter.

The demons were laughing.

I trembled in terror and understanding. Whatever happened there, that night, the demons liked it.

With my compatriots dead, I watched the last of the demons frolic in the surf just off shore. Now, and then, their scales caught the beam from the light house above the rocks. And for a while, they seemed to move steadily along a course that would take them out to sea. Then, one of them turned back, rose up onto the land, and lumbered toward the lights of the village.


You are Here–> Karen Lynn The Waves at Midnight

Sherri Conway Ants

Elizabeth McCleary Over James Henry Wilcox Dead Body

Canis Lupus The Picture

Peg Fisher All In the Fall, a Fractured Fairytale

Bill Bush Trapped

Benjamin Thomas Autumn Cascade

Crystal Collier Emily’s Ghost

Viola Fury 911

Juneta Key All Hallows’ Eve

C. Lee McKenzie Beautiful

Erica Damon Penance’

J. Q. Rose Sorry

Elise VanCise Lady In The Woods

Barbara Lund Spooky Space

Angela Wooldridge Quiet Neighbours

Katharina Gerlach Australian Dream

A Quick Picture, and Quicker Quandry

img_20161026_145429.jpgDon’t you think that–regardless of race or creed–that if you have the word “Mobile” written in giant letters across your side, you should occasionally uhm… move?

I’ve been waiting to see this chapel move for several years, now.

It just sits there.

At some point, it should strap down its candles and its crucifixes and Move. I want to see how it’s done.

Or we can wait a few more years, and then upgrade to an Intermodal chapel. Then, you’d have all the trains and freighters covered, too.

And Approaching That Last Minute

Today, I finally got a serious start on the short story I’m working on for the blog hop. I hate to say I’m pushing the last minute here, but it’s been one of those weeks/months/years. I’ll probably finish the story during my early-morning writing session tomorrow, and throw a little spit-polish on before I post it.

Actually, this is the second story I’ve gotten out of the current blog hop, so I’m not doing too badly. If you want to read a different Halloween story, Mrs. Willoughby’s Heart is up, right now.

Oh, yeah… and in case I haven’t mentioned it, lately. Story Time Blog Hop on the 27th of October with the amazing and ingenious Juneta Key hosting. We have a great lineup of writers, this time around, so be sure you drop by to read the stories for the Halloween edition. They’re free… for now, anyway.

I think you’ll find mine is particularly terrifying. I was working on it at a new coffee house, where the barista scammed me into drinking a cup of something with “Earthy undertones.”

As it turns out, “Earthy Undertones” is posh for “Tastes Like Dirt.”

My characters suffered for that one.

Things to Do in A Small Town In Autumn, or Gratitude for the Internet

So, here I am squeezing in a blog post mid way through my walk home. Stopped to get a Coke and do some typing.  Summer keeps reappearing around here, and the trees are starting to turn some real colors.

I’m not much of a small-town girl, but the scenery has some definite perks.

Seriously… Get me the hell out of here!!! Or at least airlift in some entertainment.

So, I have NaNoWriMo coming up around the corner, and the team is coming together in ways I wouldn’t have expected. I think I have about ten pages of buddies. I added my profile to the links and follows page in the left menu bar, so you can buddy me on Nano and Follow me on Twitter and stalk me in whatever other ways strike you.

Recently, the thought that I might be writing a young adult or even **gasp** middle grade novel for Nano fluttered  through my mind. Of course, it immediately fluttered back out, when I realized my characters grow up at some point in the novel, and I’m not even sure I read middle grade books when I was in middle grade.

Two and a half days until the next Storytime Blog Hop.

I’d better get on that.

NaNoWriMo Tech

So, the first time I did NaNo, it was on a borrowed computer–something in a basement computer lab–and a thumb drive. One big, long Microsoft Word file, with little bits and pieces added in as the month progressed.

And it worked. That was the first novel I’d ever finished, so that’s a plus.

But it wasn’t terribly well organized. And when I started to revise it… Well… Uhm… I have to say again… it wasn’t well organized. I finally made it through the revision several years later.

I’ve done NaNo on a laptop, and on a desktop, and in YWriter… software specifically for writing novels. YWriter helps with organization, more than anything.

And this year?

I’ve decided to do NaNo on paper.

Not just to be retro, of course. I’m still working on that organization thing. I have just a little bit too much…. Hey, look, a duck!… in me. I am working from the idea that if I write on a piece of paper… on ONE piece of paper… I will wind up with more coherent chunks than I do, if I have say a notebook or a computer at hand.

Montessori style novel-writing. Write ONE topic on ONE piece of Paper. Fill that Piece of Paper, and get another Piece of Paper.

Right now my method seems to be more false starts, and aesthetic fresh sheets of paper than actual writing–at least, until I get some steam.

I am moving toward cleaner drafts.

Or at least, I’m going to succeed in finding another method that doesn’t work!

Either way, it’s something.

Dreaming Alone

If everybody around you is quitting their job–the job you have yourself–that could be a sign. I’m not going to have a lot of company left by the end of the year. And I’m not so sure that I shouldn’t be leaving, myself.

I was raised with a high degree of… Let’s call it the Stability Imperative. Why by happy, when you can have a steady job, a steady date, a steady routine and… stability?

Creative endeavors, and dream-chasing… well, that’s supported after the fact. After you succeed, of course, and it turns out you were right, you can become a successful writer or dancer or painter.  Or after you are dead.

My family will engrave “Dared to follow her dreams” on a tombstone.

They just aren’t going to pat a dreamer with a pulse on the back.

They’re capable of bragging about the cousin who danced with Martha Graham, or the one who wrote a Book, and in the same breath, looking at the one who’s still fighting to get there, and telling her to go sell insurance.

Wouldn’t it be easier?

Quiet secret? I never felt like I belonged quite as much as when I was dating the engineer. Housewife with a hobby. They can understand that. Even if things don’t line up quite right, and it was all just an ill-fitting part in a community play.

No, I never belonged, at all.

Some Days, It’s ALL About the Pie

Today, I have been–among other places–to the happiest place on Earth… Yup, that’s right. Marcon Pies in Washington Kansas.


You can tell the pies are good, if there are people camping outside the kitchen. Every pie should have groupies. These pies deserve them.

I like my pies a little tart, and Marcon does that really, really well. They do things with gooseberries. (Yup. Plural. Gooseberry and Gooseberry sour cream.) And their sour cream raisin is phenomenal. If you like things tart, you know how hard that is to find. This is it.


This pie was baked today. (It will likely be gone by tomorrow, but let’s just focus on the fact that it was baked today.)

They also make the most amazing, light, flaky crusts I’ve ever had in my life. (Sorry, Grandma.)


That would be the gooseberry, if you’re wondering.

For those of you who like your pies a little more on the kinky side, here’s the topless sugar-free chocolate.


(If you like yours topped, there’s meringue and whipped cream, but not sugar free.)

Throwing Away The Classics

I ran into this post–which talks about why not to give children a particular book– on Carol Nissenson’s Blog the other day and despite the post’s title, it took me three or four read throughs to figure out exactly which book she was talking about. The Secret Garden. One of the books I read as a child, and enjoyed. And probably would have handed over to the next generation without a second thought. The truth is, my initial response was something more along the line of “What is she talking about?” than “Oh, she’s right.”

But she is right.

It took me a while to think of the negative stereotypes she was talking about. But, of course, they didn’t make as direct an impact on me as they would have on other children. And, in time, my memory glossed over them.  So, I went back to Padma Venkatraman’s interview, and kept reading.

Oh. Yeah. That. Well, yes.

Leave a comment and tell me if you knew right away what scenes she’s talking about, or if it took you a second.

Revisiting old stories… old songs… old anything and consciously thinking about the messages in them has been a recurring thought lately.

For instance… Pretty Woman (the song, not the move)… It’s street harassment, but kinda catchy, and you can dance to it. Still… Should little girls’ brains be marinating in the idea that you’ll hurt a stranger’s feelings if you don’t smile at him?

Return to Sender… A stalker classic. No amount of pelvis shaking is going to change the fact that the woman in the song is giving Elvis a clear NO! and his next step will be… to show up on her doorstep. Not a great example for little boys.

And The Secret Garden? Well, damn it, I liked the Secret Garden. But moving forward… I liked a lot of books. And I still want there to be time in childhood for kids to discover their own favorites. I don’t think every childhood needs to be a blow-by-blow replay of my own to be a good childhood.

The Great Hierarchy of Children’s Books

  1. Books Recommended by A Parent, Teacher, or Librarian. In my family, this included Caldecott and Newbery winners and nominees, and a large number of dog stories. Books received as gifts from any of the above. And things on school reading lists. That recommendation–the moment when someone actually hands a child a book and says “Read this”–is a high level of approval. And not all books deserve that seal of approval. This is the pinnacle of all children’s books.
  2. Books Not Recommended, but Still Enjoyed by Parents, Teachers, or Librarians. These would be the books of no particular social value (or detriment) that your mother is willing to read to or with you. Your parents aren’t holding them up as anything special. You probably brought them home, yourself. Good for you.
  3. Books That Annoy the Shit Out of Adults Not actually harmful, but your mother is not willing to read them to you or with you because she just doesn’t like them. Because, at some point, you’re old enough to read that to yourself, if you really want to read it. My family? Well, this would be any Ramona book.
  4. Books That Will Result in a DISCUSSION. These are the books that will need some parental guidance. The ones where your parents seriously disagree with some of it, or where clarification will be necessary. The family medical encyclopedia. That thing about the circus sideshow. And anything where the expectations in your family are dramatically different than what’s shown in that book. For instance: The Secret Garden is really old fashioned, isn’t it? Wow, that child is horrible.
  5. Books That Will Result in Someone’s Career Ending There weren’t a lot of books that fell into this category, when I was a kid. (We’re a fairly information-positive family.) In one notable instance, however, a really lazy grade-school teacher decided that a movie about World War II would be just as good as a more formal lesson. Her career ended somewhere during a scene with a couple f—udging* on the porch.

I believe that books can move up or down the hierarchy of children’s books without any actual censorship or book-banning taking place. I don’t think I owe a recommendation to anything, and I certainly don’t think I should recommend everything to children. Plenty of books I read myself–and enjoy, and recommend to adults–that I wouldn’t recommend to a ten year old or a six year old.

Most of the books I read, I wouldn’t recommend to a young child.

And if I do recommend a book, I want it to be good–not just enjoyable, but good–a step in the direction I believe the world should go. I want it to be something that represents something I can stand behind, and something that will give that child–and the children he comes into contact with–a better life.

*If you know how to use euphemisms, thank a teacher.


Working at Work

The secret really is the earphones. I can’t emphasize that enough. They’re the only reason I’m sitting here working on Work, and not… for instance… laughing at the really punny joke co-worker’s  kid told her. (There is currently no music in my  headphones.)

My brain is stuck somewhere in the middle of a subplot that was stuck, and which is now snowballing down hill at breakneck speeds.  I had the beginning of the subplot, and the end… and then, I ran into the place where I actually needed the middle (that I didn’t have.)

I still don’t have a clear vision for the NaNoWriMo story, but the characters still seem to be working out okay. Now, they just have to do something.

I invited a child (via the Responsible Adult) to join in  with the Young Writers’ Program. I think she’d be a natural for it. Her Responsible Adult thinks she already reads too much.  I know all those words, but when you put them in that order… it just doesn’t make sense.

I suspect that’s a no.

Good Taste, Sensitivity, and Writing

I’m fiddling around with the first traces of an idea. Something I might write for NaNoWriMo, if I can work out where the plot starts by then. I’m actually fairly excited about the idea. No, I won’t tell you what it is, but it does seem to have planted itself pretty firmly in my head.

The problem–if I can call it a problem–is that the idea centers around one of Humanity’s tragedies, and then adds a little bit of sci-fi-y, supernatural-y something. It’s the kind of story that needs to be written very, very carefully in order to avoid coming across as either preachy or callous.

I know that from experience. I have my own little corners of history that I’m protective of. Things that happened that resonate with me, that I don’t want touched. And there are certainly plenty of stories I’ve quit reading because they de-emphasized the serious part of the true story.

On the other hand, now and then, there’s a story about those same times that is actually… good enough. Good enough to make people think. Good enough to make them feel.

And I’m debating whether I have the skill to do a “good enough” story or not.