Tag Archives: fiction

The Claw Foot Tub

The claw foot tub was smeared with blood. It pooled on the floor. The sides were streaked crimson, running pale where rivulets of water diluted it.


For this week’s Red Writing Hood prompt, we’re inviting you to truly scare us. Here’s what you’ll need to do: Compose a post in the form of a text160 charactersYour text must elicit or express fear.

This is excerpted from my latest short story. Click the Requiring of Care button on the right sidebar for details.


The Seven Sisters

The Seven Sisters, constellation

Image Courtesy of Pinterest. Click Image for source info.

England is fading away into the dawn as the Physician and the Captain flee England. For more of this story, read here.

Isaac stands at the stern, hands braced on the rail against the pitch and roll of the Channel’s current; England fades to a rolling line, then slips away under the gray sea like Atlantis. He wonders if it is lost to him now, and his daughter with it. The crew is watchful, but not active, as dawn breaks. He and his Captain are the only passengers on this ship.

“Dr. Lowe? Isaac?” her low voice and her touch on his arm are simultaneous.

He answers without turning.

“I didn’t know you knew my name. We never discussed it… before.”

“I saw it sewn into your satchel when you were brought aboard the Siren,” she explains, joining him. “I thought it best we maintained some distance at the time.”

Her careworn hands alongside his on the rail kindle a fire under his skin that the sea air does nothing to cool.

“If I am to be Isaac,” he asks, “who are you to be?”

Motion in the lines and rigging tugs at the ship. The crew calls. Isaac watches her body shift with the vessel’s heaving even as his overcompensates.

“Rose O’Leary Marquez de Navarra.”  Her eyes meet his, gray and steady. “You may call me Rose.”

“Rose, then.” He falls silent, watching her watch the water. Across the back of her neck a cluster of small stars are tattooed onto her skin just below her now close-cropped hair.

“It’s true, then,” he muses, “all pirates are tattooed like the Painted Prince.”

Her hand flies up to cover the constellation.

“It is the Pleiades. The—“

“The Seven Sisters,” he finishes. “I know the story.”

“One for each of us, and I the only one not gone to Heaven, nor likely to go. And our brother now years gone, as well.”

This week, we’d like you to write a piece in which a tattoo figures prominently. Fiction or creative non-fiction. There is a lot to think about: why someone would get one, what they chose, when they got it, what message does the tattoo(s) send? You will have 300 words with which to play.

1242 High Street

This is from the opening paragraphs of a new story, coming to your e-reader later this month!

I clutched the newspaper listing against the steering wheel as I drove.

Crisp air and cicada song drifted in through the windows of my Honda. The Victorian residences of High Street gave way to larger estates, secluded from view by hedgerows and crumbling walls. The occasional turret or whimsical cupola was visible between the trees.

A placard announced the correct number. The patinated bronze numbers glinted dully in the sun.

The stone and iron gateway marking the entry wore its lichen with a sort of bitter dignity. Thick stands of pine and bony birches flanked the stone and dust driveway–flying buttresses of greenery.

When the house came into view, I brought the car to a crawl. A vine-choked gothic revival mansion rose up out of a rocky outcropping in the landscape, deeply shadowed by ancient oak and ash trees. Sunlight dappled the lawn and gilded the statuary in the formal gardens. I could just see the shining tips of marble wings off to my right.

The Honda’s tires crunched over fallen catalpa pods as I came to a slow stop under the porte-cochere. Their funk mingled with the scent of rotting oak leaves and wet fir needles on the air.

Good writing plants the reader’s feet into your story.

Good writing is also concise.

So when you’re trying to decide where to spend your words – where to use the most imagery and details and senses – I say setting is where it’s at.

What do you see? What does the air feel like? Smell like? What are you stepping on? Who else is there with your character or you? Time? Weather?

In 200 words.

Let Them Think What They Will

Val caught her heel between the flagstones in the empty plaza. Her ankle twisted. When her knee struck the ground, her leather folio tumbled, the artist renderings and spec sheets fluttering out as it opened—she was helpless to stop it. The pain was stunning. Her hip struck the stone; her nerves sang in agony.

Running steps behind her forced her to push herself up, to look behind her.

The man who dropped to his knees next to her spoke quietly with a touch of an accent.

“Are you alright?”

Val blinked and shook her head. To speak would have been to unleash the tears balancing on her lashes.

He took her hands, pulling her up to sitting. She winced, breath hissing between her lips. He turned her palms up, running his thumbs over the heels of her hands, dusting the debris from her skin. His eyes were amber, his lashes impossibly long, his features severe.

Setting her hands down again, he stood. He bent to retrieve her things, gathering them with a practiced shuffle-tap and placing them inside the leather folio before offering to help her up.

Val took the offered arm and stood, smoothing her skirt as she did. She wobbled slightly and swore roundly. Her now broken Fendi pump had cost her as much as a full month’s split of the rent. She’d been enchanted by the impossible stiletto heel and the bow, not to mention that they were named for her—d’Orsay. A good luck charm for this, the meeting that would decide her future with the firm.

Some luck, she thought darkly. Her skirt was damp from the stones, her hair loosened from its pins by the fall and the misty air.

“This is remarkable,” the man said, touching his fingertip to the asymmetrical curves on the rendering. “Almost as if the artist was inside my imagination.”

“It’s… for a client,” Val stammered. She stuck out a hand. “Valentine Dorsay, Foxe and Dean Associates.”

“Valentine,” he repeated, taking her hand and squeezing gently. “Aubrey Finch.”

Val swallowed.

“Aubrey Finch?” she asked.

“We can’t have met. I’d remember.”

Val held back the urge to smooth the slight crease between his eyes as he struggled to place her. “This,” she said, picking up the rendering of the staircase, spiraling whimsically through fourteen feet of space, “is for your house.”

“For my—“ Realization dawned; his smile was radiant. “Foxe and Dean. Of course.”

“We’re both going to be late,” he said, checking his watch. “Shall we?”

He offered her his arm; the gesture should have seemed old-fashioned. Val put her hand on his arm and promptly stumbled on her broken heel.

Aubrey held her steady, but his gaze traveled down her leg, past her skinned knee to the offending shoe. He gestured towards the nearby row of wrought iron benches. Val hobbled with him, sitting gingerly.

Aubrey leaned down and began untying his shoes. Val watched him untie them both, then remove the left one, along with his sock. He tucked the sock inside the toe of the shoe before moving on the right one.

“What are you doing?” Val asked.

He smiled up at her. His warm, luxurious eyes, compelling in such an austere face, sparkled merrily.

“You can’t walk in those shoes, so we’ll both go in to this meeting barefoot and let them think what they will.”

Images courtesy of Pinterest. Click either image for source info.

This week, we want you to be inspired by pictures. Write a piece – fiction or creative non-fiction – based on your reaction to either of these photos. Or both.

You and Me

Username: GangesSky
SWF ISO SM for something real.
Headline: You and Me

Pink Floyd asked the question, “Is there anybody out there?” Of course they also coined the phrase, “How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat?” So it’s not all deep thoughts over there.

I like Pink Floyd. If you assume that defines me? Scram. No, really. Scram.

If you were stranded on a desert island, you’d bring a cast iron pan, a Radio Flyer wagon, a jaw harp, two bandannas, and a Ginsu knife.

I respect the Oxford comma. If you touch the arch of my foot just so? I will moan like a porn star. Rodents are not pets. I want to look like Lauren Graham, but the truth is I’m more Janeane Garofalo in The Truth About Cats and Dogs. I hated that movie.

You are taller than me, which isn’t hard to accomplish, and please? If you suffer from a Napoleon complex, it’d better be Dynamite, not Bonaparte, because I have no time for that bullshit. Five-foot-six or better, gentlemen. You have been warned.

I read somewhere that an interest in politics is only more interesting to a potential date than a book club membership or business networking strategies. I’m not like the other girls. Let’s talk immigration reform and debt ceiling, sugar.

I am a fan of Tom Stoppard and e.e. cummings. I think Dickinson is overrated and T.S. Eliot was a genius. I play the cello. Badly. I think modern art sucks.

I’m not interested in your money. To quote the straightforward if not eloquent Beyoncé Knowles, “I buy my own diamonds and I buy my own rings.” On the other hand, if you bring me daisies, I’ll probably cry. Don’t do that on the first date–I’ll be wearing mascara.

Let’s have fun this week. We want you to write a personal ad for your character, like one you would find on a dating site. The ad should tell us about your character, but should not be a laundry list – and no cliches about walks on the beach.

The Invitation

This one takes us back to before Sam and Will reconnected. For more, read here.

“Will?” Erik knocked on the door jamb. His younger brother stood at his desk; he could just make out the cream linen envelope in his hands.

“Will?” he repeated. Will turned to him, holding the thick invitation as if the contents were poison.

Carefully, Will opened the flap, gingerly pulling the folio out.

“She’s marrying that guy,” he said, scanning the words.

“So it would seem,” Erik replied, coming into the room. He took the invitation from his brother.

“You haven’t seen her since high school. Honestly? What do you care?” Erik asked.

“I don’t,” Will said, tossing the sheets of card stock on Erik’s desk. “I don’t care.”

“Maggie and I are taking the kids to the farm later. There are new lambs,” Erik offered, shuffling the everything back into the envelope and tucking it under his laptop. “You want to come?”

“Did you know I kissed her once?”

Erik stopped. Turned.


“Couple months after your wedding. She came to a hockey game with Marnie and some other girls.”

He sat against the desk. Erik perched on the arm of his chair.

“I showed off for her. She wouldn’t talk to me after that whole thing with the party at her cousin’s friend’s house, so when I saw her there with Marnie—“

“You acted like a jackass?”

Will laughed.

“Yeah. I played like a gladiator, nearly got my head knocked in. After the game, Marnie dragged her down to the ice, and I invited them to come out with us. We were going back to one of the guys’ parents’ house.”

“This is my wife’s niece we’re talking about, you know?” Erik reminded him with a wince.

“She never knew how pretty she was,” Will mused. “Anyway, we piled into Jay Briggs’—remember Jay?—his big old Suburban.”

“You partied with Jay Briggs?” Erik asked, incredulous.

“I partied with a lot of guys, Erik.”

“Jay Briggs who plays for the ‘Leafs?”

“Yeah,” Will chuckled. “He can’t hold his cheap beer.”

Erik held up a hand.

“Don’t ruin him for me. He can fucking skate.”

“Anyway, Marnie hooked up with some guy, and I found Sam alone in the kitchen. She seemed a little lost; I went over. We ended up talking out on the deck. I kinda forgot she was only a freshman, totally out of her element.”

He reached out to trace the envelope corner peeking out from under Erik’s computer.

“I offered to walk her home. Jayne and Mike lived about a mile away from the Briggses if you cut over Stanwell’s Orchard. She let me, but she was so quiet. It made me crazy. We got all the way through the orchard. It was freezing and there were about a million stars and I just kind of kissed her.”

Erik looked at him, eyes a little wide.

“She pulled away, we walked another few steps. Then she turned and threw up all over the side of the road.”

Erik laughed. A smile tugged at Will’s mouth.

“She was all woozy after that,” he went on. “I carried her the rest of the way home. I left her on the sofa. I didn’t know what else to do.”

Will pulled his hand away from the invitation.

“Marnie told me the next day that Sam was quietly wasted that night. I felt like an asshole. I kissed a drunk fifteen year old.”

“You were what? Seventeen?”

“Newly eighteen. Still. You know Marnie says she didn’t remember me walking her home?”

“So she doesn’t know?”


Will pushed away from the desk.

“Now she never will.”

This week we’d like you to explore romantic heartbreak. For you fiction writers, here’s a chance to really delve into the psyche of your character. For you non-fiction folk, well, maybe it’s into your psyche you must delve. We all remember that first love, just like we all remember when our hearts broke for the first time.

The Event, Part II

“Where are my manners? Samantha, I believe you two are fairly well acquainted.” Lucy asked, lips curving into a vicious smile. “Will, this is my date, Craig Honoré.” For more, read here.

Sam felt Will’s arm around her waist. Sam couldn’t take her eyes off of Craig. She’d thought his power over her was gone, but her clammy hands and pounding heart spoke otherwise. He paid no attention to Lucy, but let his eyes roam over Sam. She fought the urge to gag as a hint of a smirk played around his perfect mouth.

“Jesus Christ, Lucy,” Will growled.

Craig chuckled. Lucy stayed silent.

“I’m guessing from the cool welcome, Samantha hasn’t spoken very well of me,” Craig said easily, offering Will his hand. “You know how women get after a breakup.”

Will let go of Sam so suddenly she stumbled. She caught her balance in time to see Will grab Craig by his lapels and shove him back against the street lamp. Craig’s head clanged on the steel.

“If you so much as look at her again, I’ll—“

“WILL!” Lucy and Sam screamed together.

A crowd was gathering around the them. Will pushed back from Craig, leaving the taller man leaning against the post. Sam put a tentative hand on his shoulder. She could feel his anger beneath her fingers. He blew out a breath.

“Lucy, I suggest you find another date. This one’s not welcome,” he said quietly. “Come on, Sam.”

She followed him inside, turning back once to see Lucy watching her, looking quietly triumphant.

The crowd around the bar was oblivious to the scene out front. Will ordered a Makers Mark for each of them. He downed his in two quick swallows; Sam sipped, letting it burn away the taste of bile rising in her throat.

Will set his glass down on a passing waiter’s tray and scanned the room. Sam watched him, afraid to look, to see Lucy or Craig amongst the blur of faces.

He was about to speak when they were approached by a slim young man in a gray suit jacket and tailored, snug jeans. He carried a business card, which he flicked out from between his first two fingers.

“Freddie Bluth,” he said. “Who’s your agency?”

Will took the card, his brow creasing.

“My what?”

“Your agency,” Bluth repeated.

“William Dryer,” Will said, offering a hand. “And this is Samantha Ellis. We represent the Atkinson family.”

“Shit,” Bluth moaned. “My boyfriend told me the new model was going to be here; that he was bringing a dark-haired date. Forgive me, but I saw your ass and assumed you were going to be the new face of my denim line.”

The younger man blushed furiously.

“What?” Will asked. The look on his face made Sam giggle. The release of tension raced through her veins and the giggle burst into full-throated laughter. Helpless tears rolled down her face while Will and Freddie Bluth stared.

“This is why I don’t do meet-and-greets, I always fuck it up,” Freddie said, looking between Will and Sam as she tried in vain to regain her composure.

“I’m sorry, but you’ll have to excuse us,” Will said, taking Sam by the arm and guiding her towards the entrance, leaving Freddie Bluth standing by the bar alone.

Focusing on Will as he dialed his phone gave Sam the chance to recover. She sucked in the crisp air as they left the building.

“We’re finished here. Can you bring the car back around?” he asked. He disconnected the call, dialed again. “Iris? Yeah, it’s Will. Something’s come up. Call Miss Atkinson, she can stand in for me at the dedication.”

“We’re going?” Sam asked.

“I’m not waiting for a third thing to happen tonight.”

Jeans. They can evoke so much emotion in us: the hot jeans we wear on a date, the skinny jeans we can finally fit into, mom jeans we vow never to wear, the comfy jeans we’ll never throw out.

The assignment this week is to write a piece – fiction or creative non-fiction – in which jeans play a prominent role.

I don’t know if the jeans played a prominent role, but they did inspire me towards the somewhat absurd turn of events that lets Will get Sam out of there after the whole Craig/Lucy debacle.

The Event

The summer is over, but Will has invited Sam to join him in New York on business. For more, read here.

Sam watched Will finish tying the black bow at his collar as she slipped a hammered gold cuff around her wrist.

The doorman had buzzed them only a moment ago. Mr. Dryer? The car is here.

Ed’s New York apartment perched over Fifth Avenue. When they’d arrived, the blush-tipped leaves and fading green were spread out beneath it like a quilt. Now, with night fallen, the Park was a glowing trail map, the city reflected in the reservoir. Will moved through the rooms as easily as he did his cabin on Left of Paradise. Sam resisted the urge to tuck a stray curl behind her ear and beg out of the party.

“Ready?” Will asked. Sam nodded.

The car sped them downtown; Sam watched the lights fly by with her cheek pressed to the cool window like a child.

“Explain this event to me again?” she asked.

“Ed is permanently loaning part of his collection of Joseph Cornell boxes to the New York Academy of Art,” Will began.

“You came to Vermont to buy one,” she said.

“Very nearly a year ago,” he answered, taking her free hand on the seat between them. “The one I bought that week is going to be on display tonight.”

“I loved that,” she said, shifting to face him.

“So, I’m representing his estate, since he’s too ill to travel,” Will finished. “I’m the face of E. Atkinson, Inc.”

He shot her a toothy smile. She couldn’t help laughing.

“I have no idea why I’m here,” she said as the giggles subsided.

“I want you here,” he said. “I asked. You said yes.”

He squeezed her hand.

“It’s very simple, really.”

The car stopped outside the NYAA building. The driver opened her door and helped her out of the car. She tried to be subtle about shimmying her cocoa shantung shift into place. Marnie had dressed her, and she still felt a little like an impostor in the dress and Marnie’s gold gladiator sandals. Taking in the clusters of beautiful people loitering outside, Sam silently thanked her best friend.  At least her clothes would fit in.

“You’re beautiful,” Will whispered in her ear, dropping a pink and gold chinoiserie wrap over her shoulders.

She shot him a grateful glance and took his hand.

“You know, I never could do the whole bed-head, up-do thing very well.” The voice was smoothly venomous behind them. Will’s grip on her hand tightened; he turned first.


“Will,” she said. “What a pleasure.”

Sam turned to face Lucy. Ed’s daughter was all bronze skin and golden hair and scarlet satin in the street lamp’s pool.

“You look surprised,” Lucy said to them. “I’m his daughter. I have every right to be here.”

“That you do, Lucy,” Will nodded.

A tall man came around the corner, whistling O Susanna and tossing a set of car keys with one hand. Sam dropped Will’s hand. The air around her seemed to thicken and pulse in time with her heart.

Lucy reached for the man’s arm as he joined them in the light. Dark hair and emerald eyes.

“Where are my manners? Samantha, I believe you two are fairly well acquainted.” Lucy asked, lips curving into a vicious smile. “Will, this is my date, Craig Honoré.”

This week, with Labor Day and the end of summer rapidly approaching, we asked you to write about a season of change for your character or you. It can be literal or metaphorical.

Lucy and Violet

They pulled Lucy from the ground, arms smeared in soil; her fingers unfurled revealing the tiny bones of a human hand. “Violet,” she moaned.

This week’s assignment will require the fewest number of words ever: we want you to write a story – your choice of topic – as a tweet.

That’s right. One hundred and forty characters. Not words. Characters.

The Physician’s Escape

Just after the Physician discovers the Captain in the Earl’s study. For a more complete version, read here.

“We have to leave immediately,” he says urgently.

Morgan, little more than a boy and newly hired as his valet, rubs sleep from his eyes even as he pulls on his outer clothes.

“Saddle Calyx and pack the saddlebag for a three-day journey,” Isaac says, his mind racing towards escape.

“Sir, am I to accompany?” Morgan yawns, dressed and trailing Isaac.

“No, Morgan, and you are to tell no one of my departure. You will wake up tomorrow as surprised as anyone by my absence.”

“Of course, Sir,” the young man replies, disappearing into his master’s rooms as Isaac nudges open the door to Sirena’s.

Her bed is empty, and he races down to the ground floor, finding the door to Felicity’s morning room open.

The sight of her, kneeling next to the Captain, her sleep-tousled curls tinted violet in the bluish light, stops his heart. Will she see her own pale skin and Titian hair reflected back in the skeletal and grimy features of the woman who sleeps on her aunt’s settee?

“Sirena,” he whispers, voice breaking softly.

“Papa,” she replies without turning, “she’s very dirty, and her hair. Did she have lice?”

He cannot help a small laugh. She is so young yet. Of course she doesn’t see.

“Where did you hear about lice?” he asks, crouching next to her.

“Miss Miller said if I wouldn’t wash and comb my hair like a civilized child, I should get lice and be forced to shave it all off with your straight razor,” Sirena says earnestly.

“Miss Miller is right in all things,” he assures her. “Now, back to bed.”

Sirena kisses him. The jig is up. Morgan may lie for him, but he cannot ask his daughter to do the same. Felicity will know before breakfast that he had a dirty red-headed woman in the morning room in the wee hours of the night. There is no more time to lose.

“Who is she, Papa?” Sirena asks from the doorway. Her small face looks tenderly back at the Captain. She doesn’t know, he reminds himself.

“No one, Sprite,” he says. “Good night.”

As her door closes above, Morgan appears.

“Calyx is saddled, Sir.”

“Back to your bed, Morgan. You’re a good lad.”

“Sir,” the boy nods, practically asleep on his feet.

“Captain,” he says in her ear, having no other name for her. She doesn’t stir.

“Captain!” he insists. She makes a soft sound in her throat but doesn’t wake.

Since the moment the Earl and Lieutenant Jennings left them in the Earl’s former governess’s room, he has been reacting on instinct. They were left alone, but not for long. The guests had gone down to dinner, keeping the household occupied, but he had been sure that Felicity would note his absence. His decisions to trade the gray and reeking linen shirt and filthy trousers on her body for a woolen dress stolen from the Earl’s housekeeper, to carry her down and out through the servant’s entry to the Earl’s home, and now to flee London weigh heavily as he thinks of Sirena.

It is a difficult ride to the Thames. Far easier, he finds, to book passage to France on the turning tide.

As the ship groans and heaves away, the Captain’s eyes finally flutter open. There is a flicker of hope and recognition in their depths and he realizes that he has, as much as he can, already brought her home.

You must begin your story with the words “We had to leave immediately” and end it with “And then we realized we were already home.”

The middle part is up to you.

I’ve taken some liberties with the opening and closing lines, but I think they retain the original intent.