Tag Archives: supernatural

The Spot Writers – “Cerebus” by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is among the most difficult I’ve tackled. In fact, when I shared it with my student writing group, they were all stumped. Update a legend or legendary character/beast: bring it into the modern world, or add a twist that isn’t consistent with the original legend.

Today’s post comes from Val Muller, author of the Corgi Capers kidlit mystery series. Learn more at www.CorgiCapers.com. And if you like modern twists on mythology, check out her supernatural mystery The Man with the Crystal Ankh: https://www.amazon.com/Man-Crystal-Ankh-Hollow-Book-ebook/dp/B01N75XTGK/

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Cerebus by Val Muller

 

“Where are we?” asked the largest of the heads.

“I’m thirsty,” answered the middle head, craning its neck in search of water.

“Meow,” said the third.

“Meow?” the other two repeated.

“Meow,” confirmed the third.

“Where are we?” asked the largest head again, its eyes devoid of intellect. An affront to its position. I sighed. That should have been me—head head, brain of Cerebus. What was Ambrus doing in my spot? If I were still in charge, I would have crushed ten souls by now. Twelve! And the three of them were just standing there.

“You’re on Earth, you twits,” I answered. “Don’t you remember anything?”

“Earth?” repeated the largest head—my head—in Ambrus’s lame voice. He said it the way you remember a dream you just woke from, a dream you’ll forget in the next moments. “It’s very bright up here,” he complained.

“Yes,” agreed the second head. It had to be Mikula. He had taken Ambrus’s place as middle head.

We all turned to the third head. “Meow,” it said.

I looked down to note that I was licking my paw. Of all the undignified…I growled at myself, but it came out as more of a purr. In fact, I found myself thinking about finding a nice cardboard box to curl up in.

How atrocious.

And what the hell is cardboard?

“I’m confused,” said the largest head. I glanced at him. I couldn’t help but admire his—my—chiseled jawline, its bone-crushing teeth, its fiery mane of hair, more lion than dog. Oh, but those vacant eyes. I narrowed my own.

“When are you not confused, Ambrus?” I asked. Ambrus was our brawn, not our brain. He did what I told him. He devoured souls when I didn’t feel like it, he pounded his head into the rocks of the underworld to create cavernous cave-ins. He told us when we needed sustenance. Pure beast. He did none of the actual thinking.

“Meow,” said the third head.

“Wait,” said Ambrose. “What’s going on?”

I growled—trying to make it as purr-less as possible. Any imbecile could see what had happened.

“We were sent up and forward,” I said.

“Up?” asked Mikula.

“Forward?” asked Ambrose.

“Meow,” said the third head.

“Up.” I motioned to the surroundings with my paw. I was surprised at how dexterous the feline appendage was. I pointed to the alleyway, the buildings, the glowing lights of the city.

“And forward.” I pointed to the airplanes in the sky, the automobiles, the indicators of the current era.

“But why?” asked the idiot who occupied my head.

This had literally been explained to us moments ago when we were still in Hades and still in our own era.

“We’re being proactive,” I said. “Sorting and gathering souls for Hades. Things were getting crowded. Gods, haven’t you read Dante’s Inferno? We’re supposed to scare up some people into behaving better. Hades is tired of dealing with so many down in his turf. We’ve got to slow down the influx of souls.”

Mikula nodded like it was the first he was hearing of all this. That’s all he ever did. Agree and obey.

The third head meowed. I wished the other two would just bite his head off already. There were fewer things more useless to me than cats. And here I was…

“When we transported,” I explained, “we were supposed to be sent somewhere deserted. You know, to fully materialize. Hades can see all, but he apparently missed that there was a mangy alleycat right here, licking its damned paws just as we arrived. The sheer force our arrival crashing into its existence, and my head was taken by idiot over there, leaving Ambrose’s head ripe for Mikula’s taking. And me…” I meowed so loudly I felt sick and forced up a hairball.

A human walked by, talking into a sparkly device. The three heads turned to gauge my reaction.

“I thought we were bigger,” Ambrose said. Indeed, the human had towered over us. “We used to be able to devour men in a single gulp. That I remember.”

“Souls have no size,” I said. “In this world… “ But what could I say? How could I justify Cerebus’s new diminutive size with talk of limited resources of the laws of physics in the real world? These partners of mine came from an alternate dimension, and they barely understood anything. It was pointless. We weren’t going to devour souls anytime soon. And we certainly weren’t doing Hades any favors.

A human walked by. “Meow,” I said, swallowing my disgust.

“Awww,” the human said. “Are you lost, little kitty? Stay right here.” She disappeared into a doorway and emerged a moment later with a little can. She flicked the top, and it made the most beautiful sound I’ve ever heard. I leapt to her feet and devoured the sweet ambrosia that was trapped inside. Fish and liver pate. I couldn’t remember a thing in Hades I liked better.

When I finished, I glanced up. Music from an open window above the alley had lulled the three idiots to sleep. Their body was warm and their breathing, rhythmic. I purred once and leapt into the crook of their front leg, snuggling in for a nap. Before I fell asleep, I admired the clean paw I had just licked. Its calico pattern was something to rival the finest artisan’s work. Then I licked it some more, just to be sure.

It’s what cats do, after all.

* * *

The Spot Writers:

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/ 

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com

Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.com/

 

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Give Anthologies a Chance!

(This post first appeared on Val Muller’s Blog on August 31, 2016.)

Give Anthologies a Chance!

I’ll be honest: anthologies aren’t a great sell, perhaps rated just above poetry collections, yet I think shorts are wonderful to read.

On August 1, 2016, I published (under my imprint, MacKenzie Publishing) my first anthology, a book of 21 short stories by 21 authors, titled OUT OF THE CAVE.

  

 

OUT OF THE CAVE is packed to the brim with horror-themed stories suitable for teens and youth. And, despite anthologies not being the rage, I plan to publish another anthology next year, titled TWO EYES OPEN, this time for adults.

Two Eyes Open FB

People don’t have long attention spans anymore, so readers should be clamouring for short stories. I love shorts—both to read and to write. I’ve published several collections of my own stories and am always on the lookout for anthologies to purchase and read.

On August 2, Hope Clark, a successful author, was gracious enough to write a guest post on my blog that she titled “The Short Reality of Shorts.” She stated:

As a writer, short pieces scare me. As a six-time novelist and one-time nonfiction book author, I find comfort in longer prose. But I have to admit . . . there’s no writing more profound than a short that snaps in its delivery. Short fiction, flash fiction, memoir, and essays. It takes intense craft to make those pieces zing.

OUT OF THE CAVE is my “pride and joy” (to use a cliché). It’s my baby, and I don’t hesitate spamming and publicizing wherever and whenever (versus promoting my own writings). Sales have been “okay” though not as great as I had hoped. But, hey, I’m not dead yet; OUT OF THE CAVE can still be a best seller!

I created the cover for the book from a photo of one of the many caves on Phia Beach in New Zealand. Until I had completed the cover, I hadn’t realized a ghostly image peeked through the sunlight between the rocks. I first thought the “ghost” was Hubby and then, suddenly, recognized myself. Funny, because I have no recollection posing for that shot.

I lucked out when I snagged Steve Vernon, a prolific local (Nova Scotia, Canada) writer of ghost stories and such, to write the foreword to OUT OF THE CAVE. Part of his awesome foreword reads:

Kids of all ages CONSTANTLY live in the shadow of fear. Am I going to be good enough? Are my parents going to get divorced? Am I going to be popular enough? Will Dad lose his job? Can I pass that darned math test? Will those bullies leave me alone?

Fear—kids live in it constantly—and a good scary story teaches a kid how to deal with fear. And THAT, more than anything else, is why you ought to let your kids read all of the scary stories that they can get their hands on.

So let’s do that today.

Pick up this book and buy it and give it to your kid.

Let’s drag scary stories out of the darkness of the cave.

Several stories in OUT OF THE CAVE were written by local authors; others are from writers living in Japan, Mexico, the U.S. and other parts of Canada. The stories are a mix of horror, supernatural, suspense, mystery, and thriller—but totally PG13, suitable for teens 13 and up. Adults, too, would enjoy them, though those readers might want to wait for TWO EYES OPEN.

And speaking of my next anthology, TWO EYES OPEN, I need to snare a famous horror writer to write that foreword. I do have an individual in mind (perhaps another “Steve”?). We shall see….

Though I enjoyed the process of publishing OUT OF THE CAVE, the book was more work than I had anticipated. I gathered the stories, which resulted from a submissions call I widely publicized, and weeded the best from the bunch. I read each story several times, corresponded with the authors, edited the stories, formatted the book, and published it.

Whew! But all that effort pales in comparison to promotion and garnering sales.

Writers need sales. What’s the good of publishing a book if no one purchases and/or reads it?

My purpose for OUT OF THE CAVE was to encourage teens/youth to read. And who doesn’t enjoy an excellent ghost story?

Shirley, an adult reader/local purchaser, stated:

Good mix of disturbing stories. Some of the stories keep coming back to haunt my dreams. Not sure if I’d want to deal with kids in my house who might want Mommy reassurance after they experienced similar nightmares. All the stories are well-written and/or well-edited.

So, hey, give anthologies a chance—whether mine or another! OUT OF THE CAVE would make an excellent birthday, Christmas, or all-occasion gift for a son/daughter, grandchild, or other deserving youth. Purchase here!

Please leave a review, whether good or bad. Reviews help us indie authors capture sales.

OUT OF THE CAVE Facebook Page

TWO EYES OPEN Facebook Page

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The Short Reality of Shorts

This week (yesterday, in fact) is the release of MacKenzie Publishing’s first anthology, OUT OF THE CAVE: twenty-one stories by twenty-one writers suitable for youth 13+. Suspense, mystery, horror, supernatural…what more could a teenager (or adult) want? And, for those of you in the Atlantic Provinces, you will recognize Nova Scotia’s Steve Vernon, who wrote the Foreword. OUT OF THE CAVE is available as an e-book and print book on Amazon and Smashwords

 

 

Hope Clark has graciously written today’s guest post, “The Short Reality of Shorts,” which (coincidentally) coincides with the release of MacKenzie Publishing’s book of short stories. Hope is an inspiration to all writers! Her blog http://www.FundsForWriters.com is always pertinent and reaches 35,000 readers every week. And her books are well received. What more could an author want? (Further info on Hope and her books is at the end of this post.)

Thank you, Hope, for this post!

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The Short Reality of Shorts by Hope Clark

As a writer, short pieces scare me. As a six-time novelist and one-time nonfiction book author, I find comfort in longer prose. But I have to admit . . . there’s no writing more profound that a short that snaps in its delivery.

Short fiction, flash fiction, memoir, and essays. It takes intense craft to make those pieces zing. So when the Killer Nashville mystery conference asked that I contribute to their mystery anthology, I almost choked. Sure, I write mystery . . . 100,000-word mysteries. But to take crime, clues, and characters and mold them into a 3,000-word package, scared me senseless. But I accepted the challenge.

And I think “Rich Talk” turned into some of my best writing.

Every novelist sooner or later pens a short story. And those shorts, while, um, short, often become more memorable than longer works. Ask Stephen King. Shorts exercise different writing muscles. The reader isn’t allowed a lull, and each sentence carries more weight. But that twist in the end . . . that wow factor . . . shows the power of words, and therefore, the power of you as a writer. Shorts must deliver serious oomph.

Anthologies of shorts can be power houses. With anthologies ranging anywhere from ten to maybe fifty stories, each tale has to represent the theme with enough talent to make the reader want to read the others. A heavy responsibility upon each author as well as the editor compiling the collection. But when an editor has a keen eye, and the slush pile of stories is great and deep, an anthology can turn into an admirable portfolio credit for all involved. And a treasure trove for readers.

Memoir and creative nonfiction hold the same responsibility, and the same demands are made of their authors. Though the pieces may be taken from reality, like the myriad Chicken Soup anthology tales, they must still read like a short story with a solid beginning, middle, and nice-and-tight swing around ending. Reading like good fiction, creative nonfiction recalls a moment and spins it into a concise, well-told tale. It just happens to be steeped in real life.

So many writers start with shorts because book-length material rattles them. The thought of so many chapters intimidates them. Me? I’m just the opposite because I know the tight, well-constructed thought process that goes into a successful short. And every time I read one that resonates, that tells a story with a snap, crackle, and pop, I so wish I’d written it.

I’ve just released Echoes of Edisto, the third book in my Edisto Island Mysteries, and I’ll continue writing my books, but here and there now I’ll make myself create a short. Why? Because those muscles need exercising, and the sharpness of talent that goes into a short is admirable indeed. I also want to be that kind of writer.

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BIO: Hope Clark is founder of FundsforWriters.com, a newsletter and website that reaches 35,000 readers every Friday. She is also author of the Carolina Slade Mysteries and the Edisto Island Mysteries, with the newest release being Echoes of Edisto. www.chopeclark.com

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Teen Anthology – OUT OF THE CAVE

Submissions to the teen anthology, still tentatively titled OUT OF THE CAVE, closed on Sunday, April 30, 2016.

Many great submissions have been received. Too many! Now comes the difficulty to pare them down and select the “best of the best.”

Everyone will be notified before Friday, May 13, 2016, whether his/her story has been selected OR rejected.

The book will be published on or before September 1, 2016, but hopefully sooner than later.

Check back here for further updates and the upcoming TOC!

Thank you to everyone who submitted a story.

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