The Antagonist’s Turn

Photo Courtesy of Unsplash

My last post was my entry to the Fall Writing Frenzy contest. The protagonist of my little story was a young girl helping her mother see the leaves change color “one last time” after her mom’s cancer came back.

So, today I saw this Twitter post by Kaitlyn Sanchez, one of the sponsors of the contest:

I need a good writing challenge, so I decided to come up with a story from the antagonist’s POV. In the case of my original Fall Writing Frenzy story, the antagonist isn’t a person. It’s a disease. Cancer. Yikes.

Challenge accepted! Here’s my story, which I also kept to the word limit of the original contest.

The Day I was Beaten

People hate me. Wait, that’s not a strong enough word. People despise me. I get called “the C word”—as if my name is too evil to speak. There are T-shirts and bumper stickers proclaiming “Cancer Sucks”—and worse, believe me. But, I have to keep this clean for kids.

Not that I normally watch out for kids. I mean, I grow uncontrollably fast in their tiny bodies just as easily as I grow in adults—another reason I’m so despised.

One recent autumn day, I felt ‘death ray level’ loathing directed at me by a little girl riding in a convertible with her parents. The family was saying goodbye. Making memories to cherish once my work in her mother’s body was done.

But they don’t know what I know.

Exactly 24 years later, that little girl—all grown up—will receive the Nobel Prize in Medicine for curing cancer. She’ll dedicate that award to her mother, and hold up a small shadow box containing a leaf. Her father will lead a standing ovation at the ceremony, with a lone tear rolling down his cheek.

That’s what I know. That autumn day was the beginning of the end for me.

Fall Writing Frenzy 2020

Photo Courtesy of Unsplash

I decided to throw my hat into the ring for the wonderful Fall Writing Frenzy Contest again this year. For those who don’t know, you pick an image and write a story for kids in 200 words or less. Mine is sad, but it’s the one that poured out of my beleaguered 2020 soul.

I hope it speaks to you in some way. Thanks for stopping by, and thanks to the amazing Kaitlyn Sanchez and Lydia Lukidis for sponsoring this contest. And a huge thanks to all the donors!

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Mom’s Last Wish
2020 Fall Writing Frenzy
199 Words

“I want to see the leaves change color one last time,” Mom said in July when we heard her cancer was back—and worse than ever.

I swallowed hard, but couldn’t form words.

Dad walked over and took Mom’s hand. “We’ll make it happen. I promise.”

So we took Mom home, and kept her room filled with flowers, music, art—and as much laughter as we could manage. For me, laughter was the hardest part.

One early morning in October, Dad gently shook me awake. “Let’s give Mom her wish.”

A red convertible glowed against the sunrise.

I gawked, and Mom smiled. Dad said, “I figure we should do this right.”

As the morning fog burned off the highway, Mom looked between us. “It’s beautiful. This will go in our favorite memories album. Whenever we feel sad, we can flip to this day.”

I closed my eyes, memorizing the wind on my face, and the smell of damp air. But what if I can’t remember everything?

At the slightest touch against my arm, I opened my eyes.

A lone leaf—swirled yellow and orange, had dropped from above.

A tangible keepsake of Mom’s last wish.

Now, I’ll never forget.

Middle Grade Mystery

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Book Mail from SourceBooks Kids

I recently won 3 mysteries written for kids in a Twitter chat with middle grade mystery writer, Lindsay Currie. Currie’s latest book Scritch, Scratch releases in September from Sourcebooks. In addition to Scritch, Scratch, I also received The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane by Julia Nobel and Coop Knows the Scoop by Taryn Sounders.

I enjoyed each of these titles immensely. They might have even motivated me to attempt a MG mystery novel of my own, but I really should revise all of the drafted manuscripts I have hanging around in my computer files first! If you’re a teacher, librarian or parent and know kids who would enjoy a mystery, I recommend these titles. Each book is quite different from the other two, so I’ll break them down a bit for you.

Scritch, Scratch is a mystery for sure, but it’s also a straight up ghost story! The main character Claire begins the story with familiar enough middle school angst–an annoying sibling, embarrassing parents, the new kid at school usurping her bestie, etc. However, things take a drastic turn when a ghost follows her home from assisting her father with one of his humiliating (to her, anyway) ghost tours. No spoilers, but this ghost is scary! Claire realizes that the only way to stop him from keeping her awake at night and terrified during the day is to figure out what he wants from her–and then do it. Even if she’s not sure she can. At heart, the story is about friendships and families, but has the added bonus of highlighting little known tragedies in Chicago history. I’ve visited Chicago a couple of times, but didn’t know any of these stories.

The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane is set in a boarding school in England, which piqued my interest immediately. I vividly remember reading the Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for the first time (as an adult) and discovering the whole world of houses, headmasters, common rooms, dormitories, detentions, and “skiving off” assignments. Those regular mundane parts of British school life were new to me, and I found them almost as magical as the actual magic at Hogwarts. Wellsworth isn’t a magical school, but it has plenty to hold a reader’s interest. The main character Emmy, gets sent to this school after the fall term has already started. For someone who was “the new kid” at school a few times myself, I really felt for her. Emmy makes a couple of loyal friends who help her unravel cryptic clues about her father–who disappeared when she was 3. This book is the first in a series, but I was happy to see it wrapped up and didn’t leave readers hanging.

Coop Knows the Scoop doesn’t have ghosts or boarding schools. What it does have is a small Georgia town called Windy Bottom, which becomes a character of its own. Coop and his friends are as surprised as anyone when a long-buried body is excavated on the town’s playground. But Coop never imagines his own family will get caught up in the drama and small town gossip surrounding the mysterious discovery. The town’s quirky cast of characters all become potential suspects in the investigation, but Coop and his friends are out to prove the police’s main suspect wouldn’t hurt a fly.  They walk a fine line “helping” with the investigation, even after they’re forbidden to interfere again. Saunders drops enough clues to the killer’s identity for astute kids to figure it out before the end, but doesn’t make it too easy.

Kids have always enjoyed mysteries. As a kid, I loved Encyclopedia Brown, Boxcar Children, Nancy Drew, and other mysteries. It’s great to see new MG mysteries being published for a new generation of readers. Kudos to these authors! Happy reading.

Witch Missy

Happy Halloween Everyone. I wrote this 100 word story for the 9th annual Halloweensie contest on Susanna Leonard Hill’s website. Click the link to check out contest rules. 🙂 Enjoy!

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“I’m a witch,” Missy chants—red curls poking messily from her black pointed cap. “I need a wand.”
She snaps a twig from a leafless branch. Perfect.
Her costumed group reaches a spooky darkened house.
Missy stops.
A friend tugs her arm. “We only stop for lit porch lights.”
Cobwebs litter the deserted porch. Owls screech.
Missy shivers.
“Come on.”
Missy ignores.
“We’re leaving.” They really do.
Missy stares.
A nearby chorus of “Trick or treat!”
A cauldron! A real witch’s house! It could hold potions.
Missy moves.
Inching closer, squinting.
Then…
“MEOWWW!!!”
Missy screams.
The cat dashes.
Missy laughs.

The Empty Spot

amazing-beautiful-breathtaking-cloudsHappy Fall Y’all! This is my entry for the Kidlit Fall Writing Frenzy contest.

The Empty Spot

196 words, Image 5, Picture Book category

This used to be our spot. On dark nights when the moon was full, we’d dash past Rachel’s feet and scurry up this tree. Full moons were always the best—especially when drifting clouds made it look like cheese. Sometimes, on nights like this, we would reminisce about the pranks we’d pulled or the ham we’d snitched from Rachel’s sandwich when she left it unattended for a minute. She loved us anyway. Even when she called us “her little stinkers.” Some nights we just sat, and rubbed our necks together.

 

I remember the day Rachel brought us home from the rescue in a cardboard box. She’d only planned for one cat, but ended up bringing us home together. Last week he stopped eating. When Rachel walked in the door with the empty carrier, I’d paced and paced. “I’m so sorry,” she’d said. Where was he? When would he be back?

 

Tonight, I sit alone. One, in a spot made for two. My purr is stuck somewhere in my chest. I wonder if it will ever come again?

 

I stare at the same moon. I sit in the same place. But nothing is the same. Not anymore.

 

Halloweensie Contest Entry

Happy Fall Everyone! I came across this fun writing contest on author Susannah Hill’s website. See rules here. Basically, it asks for you to write a short Halloween story in 100 words or less. It took me exactly 100! You also have to include any variations of the words cauldron, shiver and howl in your story. My entry Surfside Halloween is posted here. Happy reading, and if you’re so inclined…writing! 🙂

Surfside Halloween

On my first Florida Halloween, my mood was foul. When I heard the night’s plans, I let out a howl.

This night was for shivering, costumes and hayrides—not shorts or flip-flops, and definitely not high tides.

Halloween wasn’t about surf and sand—but trick-or-treating, with candy in hand.

This felt more like a trick than a treat; a cauldron of disappointment, despair and defeat.

When the full yellow moon revealed glowing eyes, I jumped back in fright, and yelped in surprise.

A tiny black kitten rocketed ’round the bend. I’d lost old traditions, but gained a new friend.

 

Beach pumpkins
Photo from website pleasureinsimplethings.com via Pinterest