Writing

So Long, Farewell…Until Fall 2016!

Posted by on Feb 10, 2016 in Writing | 0 comments

So Long, Farewell…Until Fall 2016!

So long, farewell. 2015 was a crazy year. SO many firsts for me and so many bookish things happened in my life. I went to ALA. I released my first full length novel. I released another horror anthology. I wrote more than I ever have in my life on personal, collaborative, and fun projects. I read more than ever. I have exciting news and details to come, I pinkie swear it! As we kick off the new year, one thing became obvious to me… With the release of my debut novel HARROWED, the release of my newest anthology HALLOWEEN NIGHT: TRICK OR TREAT, the announcement of my new call for subs for a YA pizza anthology (yes I’m serious because pizza), my lifestyle and body-positive blog the Shine Bright Gang debuting (you can download the first magazine for FREE here or read it on Issuu), and my ever amazing horror blog The Midnight Society growing leaps and bounds, I realized something…I need a break. I want to be able to truly enjoy 2016 and get back to my roots, writing when and what I love, when I want to write it. Seriously, I am the worst at that. I hate saying no. Sometimes, it’s hard for us writers to admit we need to step away from a project. Running Pen & Muse alone has been fun. Believe me. I love being able to do whatever I want and talk about writing and fun things. But it’s also been tiring. So I’ll be taking a break until later in 2016, when I plan to come back refreshed and hopefully spilling over with good news and fresh new ideas, thoughts, experiences, and more. I’m still ever-dedicated to you authors, future writers, editors, and publishing industry professionals and I’m thinking that 2016 just might be our most exciting year yet! All of our writing articles and resources are still available to you. I wish you the best year in the world and I’ll see you lovelies in the fall! Oh, and for you Camp NaNoWriMo-ers, I wish you the best of the holidays and if you are NaNo-ing like I am, I WISH YOU ALL THE WORDS.   I will be posting writing tips, talks, and tricks over at my personal blog or you can just say hi to me on Twitter or spy KJ at QueenofInbound.com! I love hearing from you amazing writers and readers, and I’m always happy to talk writing, pizza, and everything inbetween....

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Night Harvest: The Girl In The Tree by Colleen Britton

Posted by on Oct 30, 2015 in NightHarvest, Writing | 0 comments

Night Harvest: The Girl In The Tree by Colleen Britton

Welcome to the Night Harvest. For the entire month of October, we’ll be featuring scary stories and illustrations from talented authors and artists around the globe. I hope you stay awhile. After all, the Night Harvest is quite a scream. You can see the live list of participants and their posts dates on this link.   Follow the buzz on twitter using the official hashtag #NightHarvest. Oh, and don’t forget to scroll to the bottom of this post for a giveaway!     The Girl in the Tree by Colleen Britton   The trees cast no shadows with the setting of the sun, a wan, white disc that was neither bright nor warm. Mist wove through the trunks and beaded on the fingertips of the branches and along the apple skins. It was the eve of November, and the harvest was about to begin. A girl sat in the crook of a tree, kicking her feet and blowing on cold hands. Her breath whistled through her fingers like the cry of a mourning dove. She wore her hair in two braids over her shoulders, and her clothes were a rumple of patchwork. A coarse cloth bag hung at her waist. A lantern hung from the branch above her. It glowed brighter and more brilliant as darkness descended, casting a golden pool on the beaten grass beneath the tree. Shadows appeared, crawling out from unseen places. But the girl was not afraid. She was waiting. She had been waiting an entire year for this night, just as she had waited every year, for many years. The people in the village beyond the trees used to wait, too. Once, they would have lit fires and sang songs in a language they no longer remembered. But not now. Those days had long since passed, and the memory of the girl was passing, too. Swinging her feet, she could almost taste the crackling smoke of the ancient bone fires. The first to come arrived after vespers. A hulking shape that appeared in the darkness and settled just beyond the lantern light. It was a hut, if you could even call it that, on chicken feet. The feet scratched at the earth, then settled down like a hen over her nest. After a moment, the ragged cloth over the doorway twitched, and a withered crone stepped nose-first into the night. “Good evening,” said the girl. The crone narrowed her birdlike black eyes. Skirts dragging on the wet grass, she approached the tree with the help of a knotty walking stick. The girl knew better—this woman needed no help. She stood, chewing her gums, scrutinizing the apples on the tree. “It’s a fine harvest this year,” said the girl. She thrust out her hand. “What have you brought me for one of my apples?” The crone screwed up her face, working her jaw as if she would speak. She did not. Instead, she opened her palm, and from thin air, produced an egg, its shell black and cracked. The girl took it, and shook it next to her ear. Something rattled inside and uttered dark oaths in a gravelly voice. “I accept,” said the girl, slipping the egg into her bag. The crone pushed her open hand toward the girl, clutching her fingers expectantly. “Of course, of course,” said the girl. She reached up into the branches of the tree and picked an apple. Its golden skin seemed to glow in the lantern light. “Take this,” she said. “Use it as you will.” The crone snatched it from her with lightning quickness. She snuffled it with her long nose. Apparently satisfied,...

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Night Harvest: Shine On, Harvest Moon by Emily McKeon

Posted by on Oct 29, 2015 in Night Harvest, NightHarvest, Writing | 0 comments

Night Harvest: Shine On, Harvest Moon by Emily McKeon

Welcome to the Night Harvest. For the entire month of October, we’ll be featuring scary stories and illustrations from talented authors and artists around the globe. I hope you stay awhile. After all, the Night Harvest is quite a scream. You can see the live list of participants and their posts dates on this link.   Follow the buzz on twitter using the official hashtag #NightHarvest. Oh, and don’t forget to scroll to the bottom of this post for a giveaway!     Shine On, Harvest Moon by Emily McKeon   The moon rose orange behind the farmhouse. A Harvest Moon, bathing the cornfields in an amber glow. Far off in the distance, laughter and music filled the silence as the town gathered for the annual Harvest Festival. In the cooling night, a breeze kicked up. The sudden wind rustled the cornstalks, making them whisper to the darkness and the great pumpkin moon overhead. “Jerry.” The voice was soft. Brittle. The first words spoken by someone who long ago had forgotten how to. “Jerry.” Inside the farmhouse, Jeremiah Dunne sat at his kitchen table. Across his lap lay the shotgun he knew would do no good. On the table, clutched in his fist, was half a tumbler of whiskey. His own brew from last year’s harvest. “Jerry.” He swigged the last of his whiskey and slammed the glass down on the table. He dared not refill it. He foolishly left the bottle on the counter and would have to stand to reach it. Standing led to walking. Walking led to answering the call. Answering the call led to…something he’d rather not think about. God, he could use another drink. “Jerry.” The voice grew stronger. A child’s teasing sing-song. How had he allowed himself to be trapped, alone, on this of all nights? Because he hadn’t counted. He hadn’t checked the calendar. Because he thought he still had a few more days. Because he and Helen had a fight earlier and she stormed off to join their neighbors at the festival, leaving him to brood alone until the voices started. “Jer-ry.” Married near thirty years with less than a dozen cross words between them. Two hours ago, she got bent out of shape over something he had said. He couldn’t even remember the comment now. That’s how important it was. The fight escalated. Thirty years of imagined slights on both sides. Screaming and yelling until the hound dog over at the Turner place joined in, baying at the top of his lungs. “Jerry. Jerry.” Now the fight made sense. Those words weren’t his or Helen’s. Those hateful words belonged to the Moon. But why hadn’t she answered her phone when he called to apologize? He came to his senses shortly after she stormed off, pie in hand, to join the rest of the town. When he called, her phone went right to voice mail. Not even a ring. “Jerry.” The voice matured, deepened. A young girl calling to him, just past childhood. Helen was gone. Deep down, Jeremiah knew he would never see her again. Divide and conquer, that’s what the Moon did. Split them up so he wouldn’t have her to lean on. Nothing stopped It from claiming him now. The Moon was never strong enough to take him and Helen on together, so It tricked them. He should have anticipated the situation progressing to this stage. Should have seen it coming. Only so long a man can deter the Old Ones before they grapple him into submission with something new. But Helen didn’t need to go. She was never part of the deal. “Jerry.”...

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Night Harvest: White Trash by Lucas Hargis

Posted by on Oct 28, 2015 in Night Harvest, NightHarvest, Writing | 0 comments

Night Harvest: White Trash by Lucas Hargis

Welcome to the Night Harvest. For the entire month of October, we’ll be featuring scary stories and illustrations from talented authors and artists around the globe. I hope you stay awhile. After all, the Night Harvest is quite a scream. You can see the live list of participants and their posts dates on this link.   Follow the buzz on twitter using the official hashtag #NightHarvest. Oh, and don’t forget to scroll to the bottom of this post for a giveaway!     White Trash by Lucas Hargis   It makes sense that I’d die in a thrift store. My breath’s hot and steamy inside my trash bag. It’s clinging to me with all its wetness. Its neon-whiteness glowing in the dark. A black one would sink into the shadows, but even the kind rich people stuff dead leaves into are turning into body bags tonight. Most of me wishes I hadn’t torn these eyeholes. Two of my classmates’ bodies slump against the storefront window. Over by the musty dressing room, the freckle-faced guy who once loaned me his gluestick in Art begged for mercy. They didn’t care. Another limp body’s leaking all over the checkout counter, blood dripping onto a stack of old, cut up magazines. The quiet girl who eats lunch in the library is spilling out from a shelf of dirty shoes. They’re actually killing us. I have to be the last of the Crops, as they’re calling us, to keep breathing. But as silently as I can. And I must fight the urge to rip off this sweaty bag smothering me like some suffocating ghost. If I can do those things, maybe I’ll be the one to survive. As long as the Reapers, as they’re calling themselves, follow their own rules. I’m at the back of the store, camouflaged in the pile of black and white donation bags Mama sifts through to save the best clothes for me. I scrambled, laughing at first, when the Reapers started counting to twenty. At eighteen, I ditched the furniture section because this hiding place popped in my head. Being a trash bag hiding with other trash bags might save my life. There are five Reapers. All wearing masks. I recognized their muffled voices when they locked us clueless Crops in the pitch-black store and explained the full rules. It’s the same group that’s always putting us worthless kids in our place. But they had to be joking about the killing part. Just messing with us. They weren’t. Two of them are silhouetted against the front window. One’s guarding the door, swinging a machete and daring us to try to escape. The other’s poking a pitchfork into the clothes racks. An ax, a familiar pair of scissors, and a sickle are slicing somewhere in the darkness. Behind the two Reapers I can see, the bonfire’s raging in the town square. People are crunching expensive candied apples and squealing on all the rides they want. A few blocks farther, the tip-top of the Ferris wheel. I was heading towards it, gripping the only three tickets Mama could afford, when a gloved hand tapped my shoulder. I pissed myself, just a little, with excitement. I didn’t think, there was no way, I’d be chosen. Not being who I am, on the social scale between a slug and whatever animal has the smallest bladder, living in the Roach Apartments, wearing clothes from the exact thrift store I’m cowering in. The snippets I overheard the popular kids whispering in school sounded fun and mysterious. I pretended not to know the details. But Gavin, whose family stuffs leaves into gold-plated...

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Night Harvest: Wasting Away by Kat Daemon

Posted by on Oct 27, 2015 in Night Harvest, NightHarvest, Writing | 0 comments

Night Harvest: Wasting Away by Kat Daemon

Welcome to the Night Harvest. For the entire month of October, we’ll be featuring scary stories and illustrations from talented authors and artists around the globe. I hope you stay awhile. After all, the Night Harvest is quite a scream. You can see the live list of participants and their posts dates on this link.   Follow the buzz on twitter using the official hashtag #NightHarvest. Oh, and don’t forget to scroll to the bottom of this post for a giveaway!     Wasting Away by Kat Daemon     “Dad, are you sure this place exists? We’ve been driving for over an hour.” My daughter, Maggie, was always so impatient. “Yes.” I leaned forward and patted her shoulder. “Just a bit further.” “The supermarket has pumpkins,” Joe groaned, eyes still set on his smart phone. Texting. I think that’s what they called it. I called it sending broken sentences to his girlfriend. Why would you have to type LOL? My daughter had to explain that one to me. I often found when he tapped those three letters down and hit send, he wasn’t even smiling. Back in my day, you courted a girl properly, and any letters you sent you agonized over, searching for the right words. That’s how I had done it with my Bethany. Different times I suppose. “Amuse an old man, Joey. Picking a pumpkin off of the vine is fun.” Joe raised his eyes up from his screen long enough to glare at me. At seventeen he no longer wanted to be called Joey. Old habits are hard to break, especially at my age. “You and I really disagree on fun, Gramps.” Sadie leaned over and changed the radio station. Loud thumping beats and inappropriate language roared out of the speakers. I sighed. We were listening to Billie Holiday, before she had changed the station. That was real music. What she had put on sounded more like an argument. “Make a left here, Maggie.”“The GPS is telling me to go straight, dad.” “And I’m telling you to make a right. C’mon, amuse your old man.” Maggie sighed and turned right. From her willingness to agree, I assumed she was probably telling herself that this was the last time she would have to “amuse” me. The nursing home attendants would be picking me up in the morning. It was bad enough when Bethany passed, and I had to move in with Maggie, but now… well she had two teenagers to take care of, and without a husband, I suppose I was too much work for her. One less mouth to feed and all. “There!” I pointed to the farm that was growing in size as our vehicle approached. “Blue Moon Farms!” I clapped my hands, pleased that I still remembered how to get here. Not bad for an old guy. “Joey, unplug yourself for a minute so you can take in this place.” “Hold on… texting Adrienne.” “Bah!” I shook my head, there was no reaching him. “Sadie, what do you think?” She pulled out her lip gloss and coated her already pink mouth. Looking around, her eyes didn’t even so much as sparkle with the faintest hint of interest. “Uhh. It’s very… hick.” Maggie pulled the car beside a parked tractor. “Dad, are you sure this place is even open? There’s no one here.” “Good, we’ll have the pick of the patch.” I opened the door, eager to stretch my legs. At seventy-seven, they were stiff, but still working. I needed a cane, but enjoyed walking, and was grateful to be out of the car. With my family beside me, cane...

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Night Harvest: The Soul Maze by Jamie Corrigan

Posted by on Oct 23, 2015 in Night Harvest, NightHarvest, Writing | 0 comments

Night Harvest: The Soul Maze by Jamie Corrigan

Welcome to the Night Harvest. For the entire month of October, we’ll be featuring scary stories and illustrations from talented authors and artists around the globe. I hope you stay awhile. After all, the Night Harvest is quite a scream. You can see the live list of participants and their posts dates on this link.   Follow the buzz on twitter using the official hashtag #NightHarvest. Oh, and don’t forget to scroll to the bottom of this post for a giveaway!     The Soul Maze by Jamie Corrigan   I must have listened to the voice mail a hundred times already since Saturday. My phone hadn’t rang, but right after the first truck rolled into town I heard the familiar chirp. The one that usually indicates Aisha or my parents have called and I’ve somehow missed it. But the growly voice barking out the invitation wasn’t what I expected—and yet it was. My thumb slides over the replay button. “This is it. No more,” I vow again. After this, I’ll wait until nine and walk through the maze, my girlfriend Aisha beside me for protection just in case people are wrong about the legends. “Pumpkin Festival. Center of the Maze. Nine-thirty PM. Don’t be late.” Boop! This time I stick to it and put my cell away. “Lissa, are you still doing it?” Aisha glares at me from the doorway. Her almond eyes are sunken in from days of no sleep. She’s tried to conceal them under layers of makeup, but it’s useless. Not even the added purple to her raven braids can pull attention away from the panda look she’s been sporting lately. “You okay, Babe?” “Lissa, stop dodging.” My hand slides to the spot beside me, “You look tired.” Aisha picks at her nails, a clear sign I’m pushing it. “Lissa, answer me.” “I don’t know. Maybe.” “Sweetie, it isn’t going to say something else magically the next time you listen to it.” “It might. You don’t know how magic works.” Aisha shakes her head and walks over to me. She gently kisses my lips as she sits down on my bed beside me . “Magic,” she says, pulling out her phone, “isn’t why we got the message.” The moment I’d told her about mine I found out she got the same one. While I’m convinced it’s the real deal, Aisha’s not exactly on board. “This has setup written all over.” She pulls one of her tiny braids through her teeth and nips it. After a few seconds of awkward silence, she releases it, saying, “We talked about this, Lissa. You know I’m right.” I don’t blame her after how our old friends reacted when we started dating. The names and shoving were horrible. School’s not exactly our favorite place anymore, but I still can’t imagine them going this far to prank us. It just doesn’t make sense to me no matter how many times she says it’s true. Finally I grasp onto why it’s bugging me. “They don’t know about what we think about the legends, Aisha.” “Idiots don’t have to know you’re into something to use it against you. Lissa, haven’t you watched the news? People are crazy and think their way is the ONLY way.” “But—” “But nothing. We’re not going to this thing.” Aisha stands, keeping her back to me as she adds, “And if you even think you’re going…” I reach for her hand, hoping I can talk her into it one last time. “Babe, seventy-five years. It’s been forever since someone from our county has been asked to be part of the Skeleton Club.” “Lissa, stop.” “And...

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