Flash Fiction Wednesday: Hidden Blessings

“Drat.”

The ancient Honda sat on the side of the road, stalled, lifeless. Elyse rested her head against the steering wheel.

“Not again. Seriously?”

With a sharp inhale, she pulled her coat tighter and stepped out of the car, taking care to lock the door. The scent of crisp night air and gasoline hung heavy, as she stepped away from the car.

Two miles. That was how far her apartment was. The distance to a snug bed and something hot to drink. If she made it. Which, at the moment, didn’t seem likely. She grumbled against the chill and tucked her stray charcoal hair deeper into her scarf, mittened hands safe within the pockets of her coat.

Why did it always end like this? A crap day with an even crappier end. Did God hate her or something? There was absolutely zero good that could come out of this.

On she trudged, around the corner, into the bright lights of the Mini-Mart. Her best friend was on vacation – somewhere tropical – and she had no other friends to call. Thus was the life of an introverted writer who preferred to keep others at a distance. Elyse ground her teeth. Again, really?

The bell over the door rang as she entered, her fingertips at her teeth so they could help extricate her hands from their wooly home. Coffee. The smell of leathery coffee filled her lungs. Coffee would make this whole thing so much better. Then maybe she could make it home, take a hot shower and forget this day ever happened.

“Won’t that keep you awake?” a voice said from beside her.

She whirled. It was the man who lived on the floor below her. At least she thought he was one floor down. He was on the elevator all the same times she rode. He’d moved in exactly one year, two and half months ago. She’d counted because he was kind – always carried in the groceries for the old lady on the ground floor – and incredibly good-looking. Her arms began to sweat and her heart raced as he gave her a smile.

“Um, yeah. I’ll be fine. My body’s used to it.”

“Hmmm.” A dimple appeared in one cheek, those baby blues like the twinkling lights of her Christmas tree.

She sighed.

“Fancy meeting you here, by the way,” he said with a chuckle.

Elyse cleared her throat. Holy jalapenos. The hot guy who lived downstairs spoke to her! “Erm, yeah.” She licked her lips. Why hadn’t she worn make-up today?

Awkward pause.

“So, headed home?”

She managed a pitiful grin. “If I make it there… car broke down.”

He bit his lip, his smile even broader than it had been before. “Well, that’s good news.”

Her eyes widened. “Excuse me?”

The man held out one arm. “For me, that is. May I give you a ride, Elyse?”

Cheeks warm and spirits lifted, Elyse accepted. Maybe this day wasn’t so bad, after all.

 

©Laura L. Zimmerman 2016

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Photo cred unsplash by Josh Wilburne

Extra, Extra! Read all about it! Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Headed to Almost an Author!

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Big news! I’m so excited to announce that I will be joining the Almost an Author team as the Fantasy / Sci-Fi monthly contributor! Woo hoo! Each month I will write a short blog post on the craft of writing in the Fantasy and Science Fiction genres. I’ll be sure to post a reminder to check out the blog on the date it goes live. Don’t forget to stop by the website and look around – there are a ton of great things to learn!

Happy writing, friends!

Flash Fiction Monday: Legends

“Good luck, Sarena!” Freyren said.

He held his tanned back straight as one hoof pounded the brambled ground in anticipation, a gentle smile on his lips. Those centaurs loved anything that had to do with adventure.

The sweet scent of blackberries followed me as I took flight. “Thanks, Frey!”

His son, Brayden, was just my age and had begged his dad to see me off. But lessons and responsibilities kept him away. Frey would surely tell my friend every detail when he got home from his afternoon rounds spent in the forest.

I stretched my wings long and wide while I floated close to the dirt, and moss, and bugs that tried to stay hidden. The smell of earthworms and newness filled my lungs as I soared in the shadows from the thick trees. Mother would yell that I wasted fairy dust just to fly a few yards forward, when my feet could’ve done the job. But I’d only come-of-age a month ago, the power to fly and use fairy dust now a reality. My fingers itched to grab another pinch so I could make some flowers grow.

A snap of a twig and I whirled in fright. “Oh, Rain. You’re so quiet, you scared me!”

I placed one hand across my chest, the weight of my new charm necklace heavy against my hand. That was one more thing I’d earned on the day I came-of-age. The third gift – a revelation – would come today. My heart skipped a beat.

The unicorn stuck his head out from under a collection of leaves and neighed. I giggled. Not many Wood Folk spoke his language, but I understood enough to get by. Rain had come by to wish me well. And to remind me not to run out of dust and land face first in the creek beside the wood. Which may have happened the first time I attempted to use the stuff, although I preferred to keep that part a distant memory.

I flew over and brushed a clump of silvery mane from his eyes, a quick kiss to his nose. “Stay right here and I’ll be sure to give all the juicy details, as soon as I’m back!” He grumbled something else and I threw my head back in laughter. “You promise?” Another grumble, another kiss.

“Tavia!” my mother’s voice rang through the trees and foliage.

The swallow stalled in my throat. This was it! It was time to see if the legends were true.

“Wait!” I breathed, as I flew to the tree above, where she sat. “Lorian. I didn’t get to see her yet today! She’ll want to send me off with a blessing, too.”

My mother huffed, a flutter to her wings. “We’ve no time, Tavia. The Gathering begins in ten minutes. You’ll have to visit the lake once we’re finished. Besides, the merfolk have their own rituals to attend today. I’m sure Lorian has a line of mermaids waiting to usher her into adulthood.”

Adulthood. My belly twisted in circles. Thirteen hardly seemed like an adult, despite the rules of The Forest. I had turned thirteen, and was now full Fairy. Lorian faced her thirteenth tomorrow. What would it be like when Brayden came-of-age next year, with the Centaurs?

“Come, Tavia. We must finish what has begun.”

My mother swept off the branch, I trailed close behind. Needles pricked at my fingers and toes. What if I hadn’t used enough dust? A wibble and wobble would be so embarrassing in front of the others my age, also come to see The Forbidden.

On we went, past the caves that marked the end of our territory, over the water that separated our world from Theirs. These were lands I’d never seen before. Lands I was destined never to see again. Not for a while, anyway. Not until my own offspring came-of-age and it was my turn to lead them on this journey.

Fairy blood pulsed in my veins, my wings already fatigued from the length of the flight. They would grow strong, one day soon.

“Up ahead!” my mother said with delight. “I see them!”

We fell in line behind the rest of the Fair Folk – the parents and those that had come-of-age. I recognized a few but truly knew none. Another swallow got caught in my throat.

“We move together as one,” Elder Sprine said. “Remain in the trees and settle onto a branch as quickly as possible. Once there, be sure not to make any sudden movements, so as not to attract attention. We will stay for thirty minutes only, then I will signal for us to leave in unity. Remember, any sign of danger and put up an alarm. We will retreat without question.”

I nodded along with all the other newly minted adults. The parents remained stoic, albeit amused. This was such a big deal for us Fair Folk, I didn’t want to be the one to screw things up. I made a mental checklist: fairy dust at my fingertips, stick by my mother’s side, listen for the signal to leave. Stay hidden. Got it.

A minute later, our group had risen above the horizon, each with our own branch on which to rest. The sound of music and laughter echoed across the field. A scent I didn’t recognize drifted by, sweet and assaulting at the same time. I narrowed my eyes. Tents and bright colors and strange ribbons wrapped around a pole. A Spring Festival, they called it.

My mother leaned in to whisper. “So what do you think, Tavia? Do you believe the legends now?”

I exhaled, unable to contain the excitement that welled deep within my core.

“Humans. Humans are real.”

 

©Laura L. Zimmerman 2016

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Photo cred pixabay 

Book Review: THE CROWN by Kiera Cass

Finally! I’ve been waiting to read/review this book forever! (Okay, slight exaggeration.) I stumbled upon this series last August, when I needed some books on CD to listen to while I had a long drive to and from the ‘Write His Answer’ Writer’s Conference in Philly. I ended up grabbing the collection of short stories that is a companion to this series (‘Happily Ever After’) and was hooked immediately! I devoured the first 3 full length novels in the series and was thrilled to find out Ms. Cass had just released book #4 (The Heir – read that review here) – which is technically book 1 in this spin-off series! That is, until I read it and realized I’d have to wait another year to get my hands on the final installment. (Ack!) But, let me tell you, it was worth the wait! Read on to find out more about ‘The Crown’ by Kiera Cass! 

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Synopsis:

When Eadlyn became the first princess of Illéa to hold her own Selection, she didn’t think she would fall in love with any of her thirty-five suitors. She spent the first few weeks of the competition counting down the days until she could send them all home. But as events at the palace force Eadlyn even further into the spotlight, she realizes that she might not be content remaining alone.

Eadlyn still isn’t sure she’ll find the fairytale ending her parents did twenty years ago. But sometimes the heart has a way of surprising you…and soon Eadlyn must make a choice that feels more impossible—and more important—than she ever imagined. Continue reading

Flash Fiction Friday: Pool Shark

7:03 a.m. Unit 202

“There’s a shark in the pool.” Gracie’s clear blue eyes held fear, her mouth set in determination.

“There can’t be a shark in the pool, sweetheart,” her mother said, a stray piece of auburn hair stuck against the sweat of her neck, an electronic tablet in one hand.

“Honest, ma. There is! I saw it!” The girl bit her lip.

Her mom looked up. “Honey, if this is your behavior, I won’t let you swim this early anymore. You may be alone in that pool, but that doesn’t mean you get to invent fantastical stories to get out of going to school. I thought you were old enough, now that you’re in sixth grade. We live in an apartment complex, for Pete’s sake. You just caught a glimpse of one of the neighbors.”

“But ma –“

“Shadows. That’s all you saw. Now go get dressed or you’ll miss your bus.”

Gracie’s shoulders sank and her feet moved in obedience.

 

10:49 a.m. Unit 111

“Hey Frieda, have you seen Thor?” The hunched old man shuffled into the bedroom of their 900-square-foot abode. “I let him out an hour ago but haven’t seen him since.”

Frieda snored on the extra firm mattress covered in forty-year-old sheets.

The man harrumphed and got back to scrolling Facebook. The dog would turn up sooner or later.

 

4:19 p.m. Unit 161

“Mom! Mom!” A mass of black curls covered the boy’s head, his chest rose and fell in quick succession. “Come quick! I saw something in the pool! I think it might be a shark!”

“In a minute. I’m watching ‘Ellen’. Go swim, Billy.” His mom picked up her glass of unsweetened iced tea and took a sip. Her gaze never left the T.V.

 

©Laura L. Zimmerman

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Photo cred Unsplash by Tim Marshall

Flash Fiction Wednesday: Enchanted Wonderland

A rustle of leaves and pained whine of an animal rumbled from the stretch of bushes on the lane.

“Don’t be a baby, Paige!”

I jumped as Lacy stepped over the rotted fence, her shiny new combat boots now splattered with mud.

“The Gingerbread House is just up ahead!” Damien said as he waded through knee-high grass.

My swallow was dry like sandpaper. How had I become the third wheel on this excursion?

Lacy glared with her steel-blue eyes, so I crossed into Enchanted Wonderland Theme Park with a sigh. Abandoned before we were born, this place had become a thing of ghost stories.

“Awesome!” he yelled. “Think I should take one of these home?”

An oversized Gumdrop was in his hands, a silly grin on his face. My jaw dropped at the sight of the children’s playhouse. Caved in roof, broken glass, door hung at an angle.

He squealed and dropped it. “Blah! Bugs!” His hands rubbed his jeans with a show of revulsion. Lacy giggled.

A hollow howl, neither human nor animal, sounded in the distance.

My stomach flipped. “Maybe we should –“

“Ohmygosh, don’t be a spoil-sport,” she said. She crossed her arms over her chest.

“Fine.” I dipped my head and followed them as they flirted. My worn chucks dragged just as much as my enthusiasm.

“Sweet! We found the lake!” he said, his brown curls tossed in the breeze.

Sure enough, there sat Wimbly the Whale – or Wimpy the Whale, as the kids at school called him. The ones who’d been brave enough to sneak in.

Now a faded shade of ocean blue, the poor statue sat motionless in the water, a large hole in one side, tail disconnected from his body. Off to the side bobbed a group of mud-brown swan paddleboats, their sparkly white sheen a thing of legend.

That same empty howl echoed closer. I jumped, a shiver down my spine.

A rusted car with no tires sat along the Antique Car ride. Bumper cars overgrown with weeds and mold scattered around the grass. A monstrous dragon, tumbled on his side, arms broken off. The graffitied castle, spires crashed inside. Teacups with chipped paint, a Pumpkin House with holes in the rind. Every part of the park was straight out of an eternal nightmare.

I glanced up. Where were Damien and Lacy? A guttural cry sounded from behind the dilapidated Tram Station, and I froze, heart in my throat.

“Boo!” The two screamed, as they jumped out.

“Lacy!” I yelled, my jaw set. My hands curled into fists as I searched for words.

“Oh come on, Paige. It was just a joke.” She rolled her eyes.

Movement behind her caught my eye, but the two continued to giggle.

“Did you bring Brian along? Is he hiding back there?”

“No, it’s just us.” Damien still laughed.

Brow tensed, I gulped. “Then what’s –“

An inhuman figure surged. Lacy screamed. Damien ran.

Ancient ghosts had awoken from their grave. My world went black.

 

©Laura L. Zimmerman 2016

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Photo cred pixabay

 

Flash Fiction Monday: The Dance

Ella brushed a third layer of Fire-Engine-Red across her lips, then glanced in the mirror of the vanity and giggled. I shifted in the hard seat and twirled a loose string from my shirt.

“Are you sure you won’t join me at the dance tonight?” she said from her stool, her heavily mascaraed eyes on her own reflection.

“I… we’ll see.” My teeth nibbled the inside of my cheek, a skip of my heart at the half-truth.

She ran the brush through her blonde hair as the waves fell back into place. “You really should tag along. Dylan and Tom will be there. The boys you met at my house last week?”

Heat crept across my chest. “No. I’ve never met them –“

“Sure you have.” Her body circled in her seat, a cock to her head that said not to argue with her. “I remember quite vividly. You were over for a swim when the two came calling.” She fanned herself and looked off into the memory. “I was beside myself with the whole thing. The house wasn’t properly dressed for two such gentlemen and my swimsuit entirely inappropriate for a young man to see. Thank God I had my robe.”

My lip twisted in and I nibbled once more.

She gave me a glare. “Honestly, Sylvie. Can’t you entertain the idea of a night out? This is the biggest dance of the year. How do you expect to marry if you stay cooped up inside?”

I opened my mouth to reply, but caught the hope in her eye.

“Just think about it.” She stood, excitement on her face. “A whole evening with nothing to do but dance!” She held her arms out as she spun, her nightgown in a flutter with each turn.

“Ella, I –“

“Oh, pfft!” She stomped her foot. “Just because you’re a fuddy-duddy doesn’t mean I have to be! I don’t care what daddy says! I want to go!” She flopped back onto her chair. “Now come help me with my hair before it gets too late.”

In obedience, I crossed the room, my fingers hesitant on her golden locks. The comb parted her hair with precision and my belly ached at the sight of the inch-long white roots. Time to re-dye.

Without warning, her shoulders drooped and her chin bobbed. “On second thought, maybe I should take a nap first.”

One hand under her arm, the other across her back, I helped her shuffle to bed. Tingles filled my hands and toes when I kissed her goodnight and clicked off the lamp.

I stopped by her dressing table and glanced at the tattered invitation as I ran my fingers across the letterhead dated sixty-years-ago.

“Goodnight. I’ll be back to visit tomorrow,” I whispered.

Then I left my grandmother to slumber in the nursing home with dreams of a dance from her youth.

 

©Laura L. Zimmerman 2016

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Photo cred pixabay

Book Review: A Time To Die by Nadine Brandes

Anyone who has spoken to me in the past week has heard about this book. All good things, of course. *wink*

A Time to Die (Book 1 of the Out of Time series) has been in my ‘To Read’ pile on Goodreads for months now, ever since I had Nadine Brandes edit one of my manuscripts. (She did a fantastic job, BTW. Check out her editing services here.) I knew that if her books were even half as good as her professional editing skills, then they were something I would want to read. And of course, I was right! Her writing surpasses most fiction I’ve read over the past few years, and I’m super excited to share this book review with you! If you like YA and you like Dystopian, then this series is for you! 

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Synopsis:

How would you live if you knew the day you’d die?

Parvin Blackwater has wasted her life. At only seventeen, she has one year left according to the Clock by her bedside.

In a last-ditch effort to make a difference, she tries to rescue Radicals from the crooked justice system. But when the authorities find out about her illegal activity, they cast her through the Wall — her people’s death sentence.

What she finds on the other side about the world, about eternity, and about herself changes Parvin forever and might just save her people. But her Clock is running out. Continue reading

Flash Fiction Friday: Trapped

Scarlett sat up, a cushy bed of pink ruffles and faint scent of floral perfume around her. One hand swiped against her tired hazel eyes.

Where am I?

Two blinks later, she placed her bare feet against the carpet of the unfamiliar bedroom, pushed the flimsy covers aside. She stopped and wiggled her toes.

What is this?

It certainly wasn’t carpet. A strange fabric covered the floor. She twisted her upper lip and buckled her pale brow as a chill ran down her arms.

“Hello?” she said. Silence greeted her.

Strange. There isn’t a single window in here. 

Her belly turned in circles as she tentatively stepped into the next room. A nursery. Odd, considering she didn’t have a baby brother or sister. At seven, she was the youngest in her family.

Still no window in this room, either. She reached out to topple a pile of alphabet blocks, but they didn’t budge. At least not individually. The entire pile of blocks fell over in one large lump, glued tight tight tight, like her lips when her best friend, Stella, told her to keep a secret.

Who’d want to play with glued together blocks?

Her head shook as she stepped out of the room, down the darkened stairwell. An odd earthy smell hung there. Wood shavings sat along the edge of each step and she ran a hand along the banister, rubbed dust between her fingers.

No, not wood. 

“Where am I?” she said a little louder. Still nothing.

She padded the rest of the way down. Her fingers fell on the front door handle but it twisted around without a nudge. So she walked into the first room to her left. The dining room. A large table was set with dishes and food, every chair perfectly settled beneath.

If it’s dinnertime, where is everybody?

Jaw set in defiance, her hands found her hips. Scarlett’s eyes narrowed and fell on the turkey leg in the center of the nearest plate. Her belly rumbled.

A quick pluck of the welcome sight, while her mouth watered and teeth prepared to grind against soft flesh – only to sink into a painted peg leg. Ouch! Her eyes stung while she spit and coughed.

What…? 

Nothing about this slab of wood was real! A disappointing prospect, as she gazed at all that remained to be consumed. She sighed. No wonder no one showed up for the meal! Scarlett tossed the offending matter to the side and stomped into the next room. It was time for some answers.

A window! 

Her nose poked clear through the empty square in the wall, no window pane to separate the void. Breath caught in her throat and her eyes grew large as saucers at what she saw.

“Melody!” a voice boomed. “Time for supper!”

The giant-sized girl on the bed dropped her dolls and swept past the dollhouse. The one that held a very tiny and bewildered girl named Scarlett.

 

©Laura L. Zimmerman 2016

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Photo cred. unsplash by Jordan Sanchez

Flash Fiction Monday: Paradise

The ocean breeze tossed sand across my skin, the particles thick in the stickiness of the sun-lotion I’d just slathered on. I ignored it. Too much relaxation called my name to bother with a few grains of earth.

“Good morning, Sadie,” I said.

A plate of hour old bacon sat on the make-shift beach table. Sadie wouldn’t mind that it was hour old. She ate in peace, for now. Her stomach would grumble again soon.

I rested my head back, the umbrella tilted over my chair so my body escaped the sun.

“Have a good night?” I said, without a glance up.

No response.

The azure sky held a single cloud. Just one. Alabaster and puffy, not a care in the world. Just like my beachside paradise. I filled my lungs with salty air and settled another notch into my utopian home, a grin ghosted on my lips.

A paperback sat at my feet, one corner folded over. My heart squeezed, a tingle in my fingertips to pick it up and learn the fate of my beloved main character.

I blinked slowly. Maybe later. Everything about the now called to me.

Trevor bounded from our house, a hailstorm of sand tossed as he jetted toward the water.

“Be careful!” I yelled, but he didn’t hear. He never did.

In the distance, a lone dolphin emerged and dipped below the waves. Just one.

I closed my eyes. There was no reason to watch the water. No boats approached, not a chance of a visitor on my private hidden island. This place was mine. My secret.

Sadie barked to Trevor. The two dogs ran down the beach, in search of new adventures. I smiled.

My paradise, my friends. My home. What more could I need?

 

©Laura L. Zimmerman 2016

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Photo cred. pixabay