Every now and then, you meet someone through random chance, and that person becomes a huge part of your life, both personal and professional. That happened with KJ when I joined twitter a few years ago and she was like my own littler personal guide into the writing world that hung out there.
Since then, we’ve become good friends who talk often, and that’s why I’m so excited to share with the world that her book Bloodflower has finally come to fruition and will be available on September 7th worldwide! I say finally because this book has truly been a labor of love. She has been working on this book for years, has gone through more editing rounds than I can even count! That makes this book one that holds a special place in my heart. So without delay, lets get to the beautiful cover!
Born into a world of futuristic technology, ecologist Jàden Ravenscraft wields starship fuel like magic but she’s losing control of her power. Marked as a dangerous weapon, she’s trapped in hypersleep for 4000 years and wakes in the backwoods of a terraformed moon. Now she’s determined to find her reincarnated lover and escape back to the stars before her power takes control… or she is found.
Because one life is not the end.
The man she loves has lived more than twenty lives without her, and Jàden’s alone in a world of swords and sorcery. When exiled prison guard Captain Jon Ayers shields her from an attack, Jàden seizes the chance for safety and human connection. Using her magic, she ties her energy to Jon, forging a bond to keep him close to her side.
But Jon is hunted by mercenaries for the pendant he carries, a key to the gateway between worlds, and their bond stirs a desire neither can ignore. Jàden is faced with the hardest choice of her life: between Jon and her reincarnated ex. Saving one lover will destroy the other, and the wrong choice will land her in chains she can never escape.
You can find all the important likes like preordering or adding it to your bookshelf right HERE!
It’s no secret that I love Writer in Motion. I’m still very new to writing. I loved it as a kid (in like middle school) until puberty hit and I just lost all interest in most things due to crippling dysphoria. Once I transitioned, I fell back in love with both reading, and writing. But as a new writer it’s hard to tell whether anything you’re putting on paper is really worth the time and effort and heartache and everything else that comes with writing.
But the like a year and some change ago, one of my writer friends that I’d met a few months prior started this new project and I instantly fell in love. I didn’t do any writing that first time because I had a lot of other things going on in my life and didn’t have the time to dedicate to it. I was just a casual observer/cheerleader.
But there’s really something special about watching your piece of work evolve so much over a few weeks time span. I remember that first time thinking Yeah I’m definitely not as good a writer as these other people!
But when the second time came, and with it, the opportunity to give it a go, I jumped in head first and was met with so much love and cheering from other people that my confidence in myself as a writer grew tremendously.
The whole purpose of this is to show people like me that we have good writing in us, it just has to be coaxed out with some revisions and friends to help along the way. Without this group of people, without this hash tag, who knows if I’d ever have the confidence to actually show my writing to others. You’ve read my first drafts! They’re very rough!
But I’ve learned that everyone’s is. No one ever just sits down and shits out perfection on their first go. But we might put something down on paper that’s worth latching onto. Feeding, and caring for, molding to be better. And through multiple revisions, it can come out as something beautiful.
That’s really what I love about this project. The confidence to keep going over my work, and to find that little nugget of goodness that’s worth investing in. To bring that sparkle out of the whole load of garbage it came with. That’s really what writing is. All of us are storytellers, but those stories need honing before they can become great.
So I’ll keep doing this project every chance I get. It’s a great way to keep me writing, keep my circle of writer friends growing (love you Kay & Nicole!!!) and hopefully one day achieve that dream I lost so long ago, and only recently found.
Separately, I want to talk just a tad about my own piece this time, It’s Watching. I mentioned in week 1 that I was super excited about this story, that it didn’t feel like a complete dumpster fire like Wrapped Away did. Interestingly though, that didn’t make it any easier.
I thought maybe there would be less fixing I had to do, less issues to iron out, less everything compared to last time, but the opposite was true. Because I had something I knew was a great start, and something I loved, all the flaws in it became much harder to fix.
With this piece, I went over it at least 10 times over my self editing weeks finding new words, new ways to say things, and it never felt good enough. Not because it was bad, but because I knew I wasn’t doing it justice. Then my wonderful CPs came along and really knocked it out of the park. With their help, I think I got most of my vision on paper. By the time Jeni got to my work, it was like 90% line edits from a rushed draft from a heavy work week, and barely any actual story work needed to happen.
Which was great! Except that I lost sight of that because of a second rough week at work in a row. So here’s my second pitch for the day. If you’re struggling, take a day off. Give yourself the freedom to say “I’m in a rough spot, I need a mental health day.” and then go do something you love to get you back in your zone. I wasn’t able to due to being on call, which delayed my week 4 draft, but it eventually got done and I’m happy for that.
The story still isn’t perfect. It probably never will be. But it’s really great, and I’m super have to have written it, and seen this project through to completion. Maybe one day I’ll pick it up again and change that final line to something stronger like Jeni suggested. Now just wasn’t the right time for that change.
Maybe one day that’ll become a scene in a larger story. I think there’s a lot more to Mackenzie that doesn’t get told in this story. In my head, I know she’s already trapped in the forest. She has been for some time. That’s why when her brother shows up, he’s aged. But I don’t think that comes across, and if I turned this into a larger piece of work, I could really explore that.
Maybe one day. Until then, thanks for being here for this journey, and I’ll see you next time!
So I’m actually a week late on getting this posted, but over the real week 4, I had a really rough time at work that ended with me sending an email to my boss in the middle of the night taking a few days off for mental health. Here’s your friendly reminder to people to never be afraid to take a mental health day or three. Even if the optics aren’t great (I didn’t realize it was a US holiday weekend when I took the time off). Mental health is important and everyone should always take care of themselves.
With that out of the way, I’m going to jump right into the story, and you can find my closing thoughts on my piece and the growth of it in the next post, coming later today!
“You need to get off Twitter, see reality for a change.”
My twin brother Jack’s words echoed through my head as I watched the sun set behind the mountains in the distance. The sky was filled with deep blues and purples, but the colors struck fear, not comfort. I needed to get back to camp. I wasn’t even sure when I left…or why. I hated the outdoors. Those colors meant it was almost nighttime. I was alone in the woods, and officially lost.
Nighttime was my worst enemy.
Every minute closer to total darkness, my heartbeat raced faster. The dread told me I’d be spending the night in the woods. Alone. The forest, once too hot for comfort, was now cold enough to see my breath. The change felt instant.
That’s when I noticed how quiet the forest had gotten. No wind rustling leaves, or crickets chirping, nothing indicating that the forest was full of life. It was silent.
With no idea where to go, no path to follow, I decided my best course of action was down. Just keep going down. Stopping briefly to drink some water, I said a silent thank you to Jack for packing the bottle. I only took a few small sips, not knowing how long I’d need to make it last.
The silence was deafening. It felt like I was staring at a perfectly still lake in the middle of a storm. Completely unnatural, and yet…it was happening.
“Hello?” I tried yelling out. My voice cracked with nerves, but I still managed to make it loud enough that something should have moved.
Instead, the sound just died.
“Anyone?” I screamed. Again, nothing made a sound. It was like the forest was stealing my voice along with all the rest of the sound. How could this be happening?
Mist covered the whole forest, obscuring the moonlight, and making it impossible to see more than a few feet in front of me. Jack, planning ahead again, had also packed a flashlight. Did he know I’d get lost? With a flicker, the light came on, cutting through the mist like a warm knife through butter.
But it only brought more dread. In front of me was a pair of deep red eyes.
I froze in place, and my stomach dropped like I was on a roller coaster. As quickly as the eyes were there, they were gone. Was my mind playing tricks on me? The air became cold again, and the hair stood up on the back of my neck.
The eyes were gone, but I could still feel them watching.
I turned and ran as fast as I could. I didn’t hear anything, but whatever was out there was following, no matter where I ran. My heavy, labored breaths told me I needed to slow down. I tried to believe that the chilled air and the eyes and the silence weren’t real. That didn’t help me feel like I could slow down though.
When I finally stopped and looked around to see if I recognized anything, I found myself in a clearing near what looked to be an abandoned campsite. When did I end up here? I wondered. I didn’t remember leaving the woods.
It looked exactly like where we were camping, but things were off. There were four logs for people to sit on, but they weren’t arranged in the nice circle we had put them in. The place where a fire once stood was replaced by a flat blackened patch of earth that had been stamped out long ago. Empty soda cans were strewn about, and the trail leading to the creek nearby was now overgrown with weeds.
“Mackenzie?” A soft, deep, voice behind me said. Turning to see who was there, I couldn’t find anyone.
“Don’t sit down Mackenzie.” The voice came again, this time from all around. In front of me, a young man who looked like he was just a few years older than Jack appeared. Brown hair and a bag that looked exactly like mine. Rainbow pin and everything. His sunken eyes stared at me with an expression filled with sorrow.
“What?” was all I could get out.
“The forest knows you’re here, Mackenzie. You’re not safe. You have to keep moving. If you stop, the forest will catch you and never let go,” the young man urged. He reminded me of Jack, I thought, even though there was no way he could be. Still, something inside me was nagging that he could be Jack.
I headed towards the edge of the clearing, pausing only to take one last look at the old campsite. No one was there anymore. Did I imagine that man? Following his advice, I started off again, back into the woods.
Moving like my life depended on it, I tried to be careful about things like tree roots or rocks that would cause me to trip. But, the mist kept me from seeing the small cliff. Without enough time to stop, I fell and landed with a loud thud and the sound of a crack coming from my arm.
I tried to scream, but the sound disappeared as I lay on the ground, my breath freezing in front of my face.
“Keep moving, Mackenzie, or the forest will find you and keep you. Forever.”
Before I could process the words, the red eyes appeared in front of me.
I was trapped. A cliff behind me, the eyes in front.
I had nowhere to go. Without any options, I stood, pain screaming in my arm. Feeling the pounding of my heart, I took a quick deep breath, gathered my courage, and charged. If the forest wanted me, it’d have to take me fighting. Screaming, I ran straight for them. “Mackenzie!”
Breaking through the tangle of branches where the eyes were, I stopped running to get my bearings. No eyes in front of me or behind.
Instead, I was in a large clearing, complete with the same four logs, a campfire, and Jack holding a Dr Pepper. Holding my arm in pain, I ran towards Jack. I had found my way back. Somehow.
This week was really tough for me. Not because of the critiques or the story, I just had a really hard time at work, and the last thing I had energy for was being creative. But even through the hell that was my life for the last 6 days, I managed to find a few minutes here or there where I could actually sit down and write.
My wonderful critique partners Kay S Beckett and Nicole Vane gave me the best feedback ever. It was a nice mix of positives and improvements, and I really tried to take what they said and bring to life the best story I could, hidden under my own self edits. They helped show me some places I was severely lacking, and other places where I was making a comical amount of repetition. I’m so happy with having them, and I think I did this story justice.
My story last week came in at exactly 1000 words, and there were so many comments similar to “if you have the words, build on this description”, and when everything was all said and done, I was closer to 1100 than 1000. So began the cutting, and rewording, and condensing, to make everything come in at a nice, under budget, 995 words. There’s so much more I want to be able to say in this story, and hopefully with the editor critiques coming up next week, and no word limit, I’ll get to stretch those word counts again and make this story fully what I’m seeing in my head.
I love the 1k word limit, but goodness, some cuts feel like the best of a bad choice, where everything is important. But even with all the cuts, the additions I made have definitely made this a stronger story. It’s more in line with my original vision, has more description, and drops all pretenses of being MG. My character might be in middle school somewhere, but that doesn’t really matter anymore. It’s all about how much anxiety and dread I can evoke in the reader at this point. Full on horror, and it’s awesome!
“You need to get off Twitter, see reality for a change.”
My twin brother Jack’s words echoed through my head as I watched the sun set slowly behind the mountains in the distance. They sky was filled with deep blues and purples, but the colors struck fear, not comfort. I needed to get back to camp, I’m not even sure when I left…or why. I hated the outdoors. Those colors meant it was almost nighttime. I was alone in the woods, and was officially lost. Nightime was my worst enemy.
Every minute closer to total darkness, I could feel my heartbeat race faster and faster. The sense of dread told me that I’d be spending the night in the woods. Alone. The forest, once too hot for comfort, was now cold enough to see my breath. The change felt instant. That’s when I noticed how quiet the forest had gotten. No wind rustling leaves, or crickets chirping, nothing indicating that the forest was full of life. It was silent.
I started to wander aimlessly. With no idea where to go, no path to follow, I decided my best course of action was down. Just keep going down. Stoping briefly to drink some water, I said a silent thank you to Jack for packing the bottle. I only took a few small sips, not knowing how long I’d need to make the water last.
The silence was unsettling, unnatural.
“Hello?” I tried yelling out. My voice cracked with nerves, but I still managed to make it loud enough that something should have moved. Instead, the sound just died, like it didn’t go anywhere.
“ANYONE?” I screamed. Again, nothing made a sound. My voice was as silent as the forest around me.
Mist covered the whole forest, obscuring the moonlight, and making it impossible to see more than a few feet in front of me. Jack, planning ahead again, had also packed a flashlight. Did he know I’d get lost? I didn’t remember how I got out here. With a flicker, the light came on, cutting through the mist like a warm knife through butter. But it only brought more dread. In front of me was a pair of deep red eyes. I couldn’t see what they were attached to, but they looked like something out of an old painting of demons.
Freezing in place, I felt my stomach drop like I was on a roller coaster. As quickly as the eyes were there, they were gone. Was my mind playing tricks on me? The air became cold again, and my hair stood up on the back of my neck. The eyes were gone, but I could still feel them watching.
I turned and ran as fast as I could. I didn’t hear anything, but whatever was out there was following, no matter where ran. Heavy, labored breaths told me I needed had to slow down. I tried to believe that the chilled air, and the eyes, and the silence weren’t real.
Looking up to see where I was, I found myself in the middle of a clearing, with no trees for at least a hundred yards in any direction. When did I end up in a clearing? I thought. Right next to me, I saw what looked like an abandoned campsite.
“This looks like where we camped…”
Four logs, a long since burnt pile of ashes, and empty cans of soda. “Dr. Pepper, just like Jack likes,” I thought as I inspected the area.
“Mackenzie?” A soft, deep, voice behind me said. Turning to see who was there, I couldn’t find anyone.
“Don’t sit down Mackenzie.” The voice came again, this time from all around. In front of me, a young man who looked like he was just a few years older than Jack appeared. Brown hair and a bag that looked exactly like mine. Rainbow pin and everything. His sunken eyes looked at me, with an expression filled with sorrow.
“What?” was all I could get out.
“The forest knows you’re here, Mackenzie. You’re not safe. You have to keep moving. If you stop, the forest will catch you, and never let go,” the young man said with a sense of urgency. I headed towards the edge of the clearing, pausing only to take one last look at the old campsite. I didn’t see anyone there anymore. Did I imagine that man who reminded me of Jack? Following his advice, I started off again, back into the woods.
Moving like my life depended on it, I tried to be careful about things like tree roots or rocks that would cause me to trip. However, the mist kept me from seeing the small cliff. Without enough time to stop, I fell and landed with a loud thud and the sound of a crack coming from my arm.
I tried to scream out, but the sound disappeared. Laying on the ground, I saw my breath freezing infront of my face.
“Keep moving Mackenzie, or the forest will find you, and keep you. Forever.”
Before I could process the words, the red eyes appeared in front of me. I was trapped. A cliff behind me, the eyes in front. I had nowhere to go. Without any options, I stood up, pain screaming in my arm. Feeling the pounding of my heart, I took a quick deep breath, gathered my courage, and charged. The eyes were red, and evil. I knew for certain that I was done for. If the forest wanted me, it’d have to take me fighting. Screaming, I ran straight for them.
Breaking through the tangle of branches where the eyes were, I stopped running to get my bearings. No eyes in front of me, or behind. Instead, I was in a large clearing, complete with the same four logs, a campfire, and Jack holding a Dr. Pepper. Holding my arm in pain, I ran towards Jack. I had found my way back. Somehow.
Last week I posted my completely unedited rough draft of my story from the writing prompt. There was a lot I wanted to work on, a lot I needed to learn about my characters, and a lot I needed to expand on. And I was already “over budget” on my word count by 38 words. So this week has been really challenging, but rather than go over everything at the start, I want to jump right into the story and then talk afterwards!
“You need to get off Twitter, see reality for a change.”
My brother Jack’s words echoed through my head as I watched the sun set slowly behind the mountains in the distance. I was trying to get back to camp, but got turned around somehow. I’m not even sure why I left camp, I hated the outdoors. Phone’s weren’t allowed on this trip either, or I’d have been back already. The sun finally fell below the ridge, leaving me alone on an empty ridge with no sign of a camp fire in the valley below. I was officially lost.
My anxiety rose as it set in that I would be spending the night outside. Alone. Shivers ran down my arms as a cold chill set in the air, and the forest got quiet. Without Jack, my brother, to guide me back, I felt helpless.
With one last glance at the forest below, I turned, and started walking. Without a plan, I wandered aimlessly, following branches that looked interesting enough, hoping that they could lead me back to camp. I stopped to briefly to catch my breath and drink some water.
My brother had left a water bottle in my backpack[ I think this is going to be Jack’s backpack. I’m pretty sure he’s the guiding force to help her out of the forest, and he knew she would get trapped tonight. Or….his future self did. But for now, I’m leaving it this way and we can fix that in the 3rd pass of edits.], and I was grateful for his foresight. I sipped the water gingerly, not knowing how long I’d need to make it last. Only then did I realize how quiet the forest was. There were no animals rustling, or crickets chirping. No leaves blowing in the wind. It was silent.
“Hello?” I yelled out into the vast quietness. Nothing called back, or moved from its spot. “Anyone?” I screamed. Again, nothing made a sound. It was like my voice wasn’t traveling anywhere. Like I was as silent as the forest around me.
The moon provided a small amount of light, but the canopy of trees blocked most of it. Jack planning ahead again, had also packed me a flashlight. Did he know I’d get lost? Did he even know I’d wander off? I didn’t remember wandering off. With a flicker, the light came on, and shot through the forest, illuminating a single pair of eyes in front of me.
I learned in school about the fight or flight reaction, but I did neither, freezing in place as I felt my stomach drop like I was on a roller coaster. As quickly as the eyes were there, they were gone. Was my mind playing tricks on me? The chill in the air grew worse, and I could still feel the eyes watching me.
A sense of dread overcame me, so I turned and ran as fast as I could. I didn’t hear anything, but I could still feel whatever was out there, watching me, no matter how fast or far I ran. After a few minutes, I had to stop and catch my breath. Gym was never my best class. Focusing on my breathing, I tried to believe that the chilled air, and the eyes, and the silence weren’t real.
I looked up to see where I was, and found myself in the middle of a clearing, with no trees for at least a hundred yards in any direction. Scanning the area with my light, I saw what looked like an abandoned campsite.
“This looks like where we camped…” I said to myself. Four logs, a long since burnt pile of ashes, and empty cans of soda. “Dr. Pepper, just like Jack likes,” I thought to myself as I inspected the area.
“Mackenzie?” A soft voice behind me said.
I spun around to see who was there, but no was was. I had to be losing my mind. Not only was there no one there, but even if there were, they wouldn’t know my name.
“Don’t sit down Mackenzie.” The voice came from behind me again. I spun again and saw a young man who looked like he was just a few years older than Jack. Brown hair and a bag that looked exactly like mine. Rainbow pin and everything. He looked at me, with an expression filled with sorrow.
“What?” was all I could get out.
“The forest knows you’re here, Mackenzie. You’re not safe. You have to keep moving. If you stop, the forest will catch you, and never let go,” the young man said with a sense of urgency he didn’t have before. I grabbed my bag and headed towards to woods again. At the edge of the clearing I took one last look at the campsite. I didn’t see anyone there anymore. Did I imagine him? I didn’t know why, but I felt an urge to follow his advice.
I started into the forest, moving like my life depended on it. I was running so fast I didn’t see the small cliff, and fell. I landed with a loud thud on the ground, and the crack of my arm.
“Ahhh!” I screamed out, but the sound disappeared. I felt the chill of the night creep upon me, sending the hair on my arms into the air.
“Keep moving Mackenzie, or the forest will find you, and keep you. Forever.”
Before I could process the words, eyes appeared in front of me. I was trapped. A cliff behind me, the eyes in front. I had nowhere to go. Without any options, I stood up, pain screaming in my arm. I paused briefly to gather my courage, and charged at the eyes. They were big, and yellow, and I knew for certain that I was done for. But I charged anyways. If the forest wanted me, it’d have to take me fighting. The eyes were mere feet away now. I screamed as I ran straight for them.
Breaking through the tangle of branches where the eyes were, I stopped running to get my bearings. No eyes in front of me, or behind. Instead, I was in a large clearing, complete with 4 logs, a camp fire, and Jack holding a Dr. Pepper. I had found my way back. Somehow.
There’s at least 4 different colors (ignoring the rough draft black letters) in my self edited draft, as shown above. I made A LOT of changes. I think they all help the piece get at what my goals were for this week.
Learn how Mackenzie gets stuck in the woods
Learn who the man who helps her out is
Better show when the forest is closing in
Fix my grammar and typos
I think there’s enough hints dropped that the man who helps Mackenzie out is her brother. I don’t really think it matters how he knew she was trapped, or the mechanics of how he was helping him. It’s like Inception, where these people can go into dreams. All that’s really important is that he is able to, not the how. I also love that he feels some guilt or sorrow that she’s gone. I’m sure any brother would grieve the loss of his little sister, but Jack seems to feel some guilt for her being gone, and I think that allows for the leap to “Jack helped her out of the forest”.
I also think I did a lot better job of showing when the forest is closing in. The deafness, the cold, the eyes showing up. All of that indicates that whatever force “the forest” is, is closing in on her. I also think that clearly defining those attributes a few times helps give it some added tension and stress when they start happening each time, especially as Mackenzie starts to learn what they mean.
As for how Mackenzie ends up in the forest…I’m not sure it’s actually relevant anymore. I think the better question to answer is “Does Mackenzie know she is already trapped in the forest?” I tried showing this with her lapses in memory, the appearance of her brother who is older than she remembers him, the abandoned camp. All these things that indicate Mackenzie isn’t actually experiencing things correctly, and that she is already trapped in the forest. I think this adds a bit of mystery and dread to the story. The idea that she’s already trapped and doesn’t even know it terrifies me, because how are you supposed to get out of a situation you don’t know you’re in?
Ultimately, with the help of Jack, she’s able to face her fears and break out of the forest’s grip, which creates this really great ending to the story. It creates an actual growth arc for Mackenzie, and I love the message of facing your fears head on.
Next week is Critique Partner week, which I am SO excited for. I know that bringing in 2 new voices to the story, new eyes on it, will show where things are over told, or missing. I cant wait to see what my CPs have in store for this piece to make it even better!
The prompt has been revealed, reactions have gone up on blogs around twitter, and we’ve made it to the first official post of #WriterInMotion 2020, the rough draft. Really, this rough draft is what this project is all about. To display the growth of the work that spawns from the prompt. I’m incredibly excited about this piece, and to see how it grows. But first, some thoughts.
You’ll notice immediately that I took the prompt to a near literal level, with a setting in a forest. But it’s not just a setting, it evolves into something much deeper, something sinister. I really love to write MG stories, but I’m not actually sure this one falls into that category. I have in my head the idea of who Mackenzie is, but (at least in this draft), I’m not sure there’s anything that actually says “Hey! I’m a MG story!”. In fact, I may have gone too far off the deep end of horror. In my defense, I spent all weekend watching horror movies to get in the headspace for writing this. So I may have overdid it a little, but I still love it anyways.
With that in mind, I’m not married to the idea of it being MG, but I will try and squeeze some more elements in, in future drafts. There’s also a ton of other work to be done. I haven’t decided if I need another character, one on this journey with Mackenzie. So that’s a goal this week. I need to dig into who Mackenzie is, learn about her, and take that info to the reader. Right now it feels like she’s just a name on a paper, in a situation. I also really need to figure out what motivations the antagonist has. That may not end up on paper because it’s horror and sometimes that’s just how evil things are. But for my own sake, it’ll help build a better story.
I think that if I can bring out more of Mackenzie’s personality, it’ll find its way squarely into MG ground. For now though, that’s up in the air! Last year at this time I was sure I was sitting on a pile of hot garbage. This time, I feel like I’m in a much better spot. There’s some major details that still need to be worked out, but I can see the promise in this piece. I can see how much it can grow and become something more. Because of that, I’m super excited to share this with you, I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed drafting it!
“You need to get off Twitter, see reality for a change.”
Those were the words that brought me out to the cliff I was perched on, watching as the sun slowly set behind a mountain in the distance. I knew I was supposed to get back earlier in the day, but I got turned around somehow. Of course, there wasn’t any phones allowed on this trip either. There was no sign of a campfire from my view high above the valley, which meant I had no direction. I was officially lost.
The chill of the air begin to sink in as the realization hit that I wasn’t going to find camp tonight. Shivers ran down my arms thinking about the warm fire, what my parents were thinking, or my brother Jack. He’d say “Mackenzie, how’d you get lost? You hate the outdoors.”
I knew I had to act fast or I’d be lost forever. I gave one last glance at the forest below, turned, and started walking. There wasn’t really a path that I was following, but at some point I started seeing branches that sorta looked like they were pointing me back towards camp. I had to have been following them for a good 20 minutes without even realizing I was doing it.
I stopped to get some water, thankfully my brother had let me borrow his backpack with a water pouch in it. I didn’t have to stop, it gave me moment to stop and listen to the sounds of the forest. It was strangely quiet. There wasn’t any animals rustling, or crickets chirping. It was absolutely silent.
“Hello?” I yelled out into the vast quietness. Not a single animal called out to let me know it was there. It almost sounded like my voice moved a foot or two in front of me, and just stopped. “Anyone?” I screamed out as loud as I could. No birds moved, not a single sound came back to me.
At this point, the sun was completely down, the only light was from the stars. Of course we would end up camping on night without any moonlight to help. I pulled out the flashlight I had in my backpack. With a flicker, the light came on, and shot through the forest, illuminating a single pair of eyes in front of me.
I froze, staring at where the eyes were, but now there was nothing there. Was my mind playing tricks on me? The hair on the back of my neck stood up as a cold wind blew past me, drawing my focus away from the eyes. When was the last time I’d felt any movement of the air? It was like the sound, there was just nothing.
I turned and ran from where the eyes were, as fast as I could. I didn’t hear anything, but could still feel the presence of whatever was out there watching me, no matter how fast or far I ran. After a few minutes, I couldn’t run any further, and had to stop and catch my breath. I focused on my breathing in hopes that I was imagining the chilled air, and the eyes, and the silence.
After my breathing returned to a semi normal state, I looked around at where I was. I had found myself in the middle of a clearing, with no trees for at least a hundred yards in any direction. There was however a tree stump just a few feet away. I went to set my things down on it, and saw that it wasn’t just a single stump. I counted 6 stumps, all lined up in a circle. They were surrounding what looked like the remnants of a fire long extinguished. “Mackenzie?” A soft voice behind me said. I spun around to see who was there, but there wasn’t anyone. I had to be losing my mind. Not only was there no one there, but even if there were, they wouldn’t know my name.
“Sit down Mackenzie.”
The voice came from behind me again. Still, no one there. Before I realized what was happening, I found myself sitting down. In front of me sat a man who looked like he was in his 20s. He had on a backpack that looked just like mine, and the expression on his face screamed sorrow.
“How do you know my name?” I asked.
“The forest knows you’re here, Mackenzie. You’re not safe. You have to keep moving. It doesn’t matter where, but if you stop, the forest will never let you go,” the young man said with absolute certainty.
I didn’t have time to question it, I grabbed my bag and ran. I got to the edge of the clearing, taking one last look at the campsite. There was no one there anymore. I don’t know who that man was, or how he knew my name. But something inside me screamed I needed to follow his advice.
I started off into the forest running like my life depended on it. For all I knew, it did. I ran so fast I didn’t see the small cliff, and fell. I landed with a loud thud on the ground, and the cracking of sticks beneath me. But those sounds almost instantly vanished. I was in pain, and the forest was going to catch me.
“Keep moving Mackenzie, or the forest will find you, and keep you. Forever.”
I heard the words, but before I could process them, the eyes appeared. I was trapped. A cliff behind me, the eyes in front. I had no choice. I stood up, screaming from the pain shooting through my shoulder from the fall. I charged at the eyes. They were big, and yellow, and I knew for certain that I was done for. But I charged, preparing for impact with whatever creature owned the eyes. They were mere feet away now, I shut my eyes and screamed as I ran straight for them.
I stopped moving, opened my eyes, and saw Jack, the campfire, my parents. I turned to see where the eyes had been, but all that was there was the woods behind me. I had found my way back to my family. Somehow.
The time has come! After a month of #WIMGames and almost a year since the last one, there’s a new prompt, and a new short story just waiting to be pulled out of my brain. Which, given the state of 2020, any sort of creativity has been sorely lacking in my apartment, and this is just the kick that I’ve been needing to get some words on paper.
Over the next 5 weeks, we’ll see a story start in a woefully hilarious state grow and evolve into something magical, something beautiful, and something that couldn’t have been dreamed of at the start of this process. And that’s exactly what this process is about! Putting our heart and soul out on display so that it can get better, and we can improve as writers. I hope anyone reading this will join in the process! You can find us on the #WriterInMotion hashtag and it’s open to anyone and everyone who wants to join can!
Anyways, I’ve spoken too long without actually showing the prompt, so lets fix that!
If you’ve spent any amount of time on Reddit’s popular or all feeds, you’ve probably run into the subreddit /r/WritingPrompts. I’ve always felt like those prompts are so…restrictive. Or they’re like Jean-Ralphio from Parks and Rec, where they never know when to stop. They come up with this interesting idea and then specify it down to where there’s no real creativity allowed. But wow! Look at this image. There’s nothing but creativity hiding in those pixels.
From the bold yellow cabin to the faded mountains in the background. The colors are so varied and the setting so unique. With something like this, a story could go any direction, and I’ve certainly got about 10 different ways I can take this one! I’ll keep those ideas hidden for now, let them marinate for a few days. This time next week, meet me back here and I’ll have a rough draft posted!
Day 2 (August 2nd)
So I couldn’t get much sleep last night, which gave me a lot of time to think about this prompt some more. Last year I wrote a fun spooky story set in a haunted mansion. This year, my mind keeps taking me down the path of a spooky story set out in the woods. But I’m not sure if that’s being too literal to the prompt. I’m also not sure if I can make that story happen in 1000 words, because that whole idea, of being trapped out in the woods, or lost, and the possibility of something supernatural being out there too…that’s a big story!
But my mind keeps coming back to that spot. I might be destined to write that story, and this is just a scene within something larger. I’m lost in thought about the possibilities of this prompt, and all the wonder that could come from it. I’m still not sure where exactly it’s going yet, but I have 91 words written, just in case I do go down this path.
To get myself in gear for the idea of a spooky story, I’ve curated a list of horror movies that involve the woods, or witches, or other supernatural beings, and will be spending some time with those this week (no possessions/demons/etc unless it meets another criteria too). I’m hoping that seeing some of these other stories, while not MG, will help me nail down what’s been done, and what direction I could go. Definitely a lot more work to do before more words go on paper, but I am confident we’ll have a great draft with a ton of potential come Saturday!
Recently, I received a call from my coworker who said that he had managed to get SQL Server stuck in Single User Mode. That’s obviously not an ideal situation. When in single user mode, there can be only one connection to the server. Hence the name, ‘Single User Mode’. The engineers over at #Microsoft are getting crafty with their naming schemes!
He started to describe to me the situation that had occurred, and how things had gotten to that point. The background he gave boiled down to this:
Performing a migration of SQL data to a new server, on a new domain, to hold data in relation to the Exchange migration he was performing.
In that process, he’d accidentally deleted the directory that the TempDB was stored in.
The deployment engineer he was working with from the software vendor recommended starting the DB engine in Single User Mode so they could re-point the TempDB location to a new spot. (I don’t actually know if this is possible, and am totally going to run it through my test lab in the near future!)
Afterwards, tried to start the service and couldn’t get back in. Therefore, SQL is stuck in Single User Mode.
Wow, there’s a lot to digest there. I’m not even sure you can truly get “stuck” in single user mode. It’s just a flag on service start. That’s another thing to look into! He said, “I started the service with net start MSSQLSERVER -m“. That’s interesting to me because he is saying “I started the service manually, with an extra flag”. That means if he ran net start MSSQLSERVER on its own, it should start in Multi User Mode. He said that they did restart the server & service a few times. So clearly that’s not the answer. Weird, but okay.
This is the point that I get logged into the server to see what’s happening with my own two eyes. It’s easy for things to get lost in translation. So my goal is simple. Verify that the service is in fact running, and if so, verify it’s in Single User Mode. If so, figure out why.
Logging into the server, I head into the configuration console. MAYBE by starting the service with the Single User Mode flag, SQL Server is “smart” enough to modify the settings and ensure that it continues to run in Single User Mode until specifically being taken away. Maybe.
Nope, I see no -m in there anywhere. The next thing to do is attempt to start it up and see what happens. I have my doubts at this point that it’s a Single User Mode issue, because he said that they were trying to fix the fact that they removed the directory structure for TempDB.
Starting up the service, I wasn’t met with an error, but the service wasn’t started either. It just died out somewhere along the way. Off to the event viewer to see if there was anything interesting happening there!
There’s lots happening when you start up a service like SQL Server. But the interesting logs are obviously the two errors. This one gave me the exact problem. SQL couldn’t open the TempDB file.
Here’s the thing about the TempDB. It’s temporary. It’s even named TempDB! Of course it’s temporary. Look at Microsoft go! Two useful names in a row! Anyways, TempDB is a unique system database in several ways. One of which, is that it is dropped and recreated every time the server or service is restarted. The Microsoft article about the database even says as much. TempDB is re-created every time SQL Server is started so that the system always starts with a clean copy of the database.
That makes this an extremely simple fix! Recreating the directory structure (D:\TempDB in this instance) allows SQL Server to build the database on startup, and they were back up and running.
So the long story short is this, if you ever find yourself in a situation where you’ve accidentally dropped the wrong drive on a server, or deleted the wrong directory in windows, and this is caused the loss of the TempDB, all you need to do is recreate the file path that SQL Server expects to exist, and it’ll handle the rest.
So I’m a little late posting this, and that’s totally on me. I underestimated the amount of time I’d spend working on revisions. Even after having read the comments from my amazing critique partner KJ Harrowick, I thought it was going to be a simple “move this around, change this, boom! Done!”
It did not turn out that way. As soon as I started making changes, I feel like my characters lost some of the charm I loved about them. Everything felt weird and off, and I got frustrated and set the computer down for way too long. That’s all my fault, but I think that the story is better off now, even without some of the pieces I loved. Besides, there’s always next week to finish polishing and make sure that everything is perfect.
So with all of that being said, please enjoy Wrapped Away!
Why did I ever think this was a good idea?
The words ran through my head like bunnies chasing each other around in the yard.
“Five more minutes. Five more, and we can go back outside.” I sank back into my nook behind the couch of the upstairs room. “How did we get wrangled into this again?” I asked Alice, who was sitting next to me inspecting the wall that created the nook we were in.
“Truth or dare.” Alice glared at me, “This is your fault Sammie. I didn’t want to play, but it’s your birthday party. Now I’m sitting here hiding from a mummy!”
“I can’t help that Ariel came up with the idea to sneak into the old creepy house down the road.” I said, as lightning lit up the room from outside. “Plus, it couldn’t be a mummy. They don’t exist.”
“Of course they exist. They’re in museums, and Egypt. They’re laying in glass cases, or being buried under pyramids. They’re literally everywhere.” She said sarcastically.
“Exactly. They’re everywhere that isn’t here. We just saw a shadow from the lightning.” I said reassuringly, trying to convince myself more than her. This definitely wasn’t the dare we thought it was going to be. It was supposed to be a simple 30 minutes, proving how brave we are, and coming back to the party as ultimate victors of the game. Instead, it turned into a nightmare with us fighting to make it to the end.
“I’m going to check out the clock, it feels different than everything else.” Alice said.
“What do you mean it’s different?” I asked, chasing after her. As I walked through the room I noticed how nothing was new. There were old records that my grandma would listen to laying on a table, covered in a thick layer of dust. They had to be 100 years old at this point. I nearly tripped over some warped floorboards on the way to the clock, and a chair had tons of stains and holes ripped in it too.
“At least the floor is hard wood. Think of all the bug eggs that could be hiding in carpet. That would be the worst.” I said, trying to lighten the mood.
“Ugh! Sammie, that image was not what I needed right now.” She said standing near the clock.
“Why is everything pointing at the clock?” I asked. The chairs all faced it, like it was the tv in my living room.
“Look at this, there’s no dust anywhere on this clock,” she said, ignoring my question. “There aren’t footprints leading to it either.”
Suddenly, the clock began to ring. Loud, deep notes emanated from the clock.
Before I could take a step back, the clock itself began to slide away from the spot it was resting.
“What did you do?” I shrieked at Alice
“Nothing, I swear!. It just started started moving,” she screamed back, never looking away from the spot the clock used to stand. Lightning flashed again, lighting up a large hole in the wall. Not very deep, but tall enough that a person could fit into it.
Another flash of lighting illuminated what hid behind the clock. Standing before us was the shape of a body, wrapped in dusty, torn, stained cloth. I stood there, mouth open, trying to take in what I was seeing. Before I could scream, IT groaned a loud, guttural, noise. Alice and I bolted as fast as we could towards the door.
Alice was always faster than me in gym class, so when she passed me, it made sense. I’d be the one to die here in this old haunted house at the hands of a mummy.
“It’s chasing us!” She screamed as she went by. I didn’t dare look behind me, for fear that my legs would turn to jelly and then I’d really be done for. Alice began to toss anything she could reach behind her in an attempt to slow It down. First was a record off the entertainment center, then a large lamp shaped like a mermaid. It was so gaudy looking, that I’d throw it too, even if there wasn’t a mummy chasing us.
“Stop! You’re hitting me, not It!” I yelled, but Alice continued to throw things as fast as she could. We ran down the hallway and several small porcelain figurines came flying by my face, forcing me to duck. Judging by the sound of the mummy behind me, it wasn’t as agile as I was, which gave me some confidence that maybe we’d make it out of this house. I rounded the corner sharply, and relief fell over me. Alice was standing just outside, with the door wide open.
“Hurry, It’s behind you!”
“I know It’s behind me! Would I be running away if it was in front of me?” I shot back. Passing through the doorway, the rain felt like freedom and safety all rolled up into one. Alice slammed the door behind me, and we heard a crash. The mummy must have run right into the door.
“Hopefully it doesn’t know how to use a door handle” she giggled. The relief of surviving an actual mummy was too much to contain and I burst out laughing with her.
“Come on, lets go find Ariel. She needs some payback for this dare.” I said, taking off towards home.
We rushed home, where I was expecting to be greeted with cheers for our bravery and success. Instead, we found a house with no lights on.
“That’s weird, why would they go to bed without us?” I asked, staring at the second floor window that marked my room. “Let’s go wake them up.”
We snuck back inside and made our way upstairs. Opening the door, I wasn’t greeted by friends asleep on the floor. Instead, it was the same old, dusty cloth we’d seen in the hole in the wall.
Y’all! We’re here! We’re at the point where the story starts actually coming together! It’s not just a rough draft that can’t be edited anymore. In fact, editing is the name of the game this week. All those problems surrounding my story are ready to get cleaned up.
Goals I had for this week were fairly straightforward.
1) Narrow the focus. I felt like the story found its footing about halfway through, which meant going in and back filling that focus for the beginning of the story. 2) Discover more about the characters. Sammie and Alice felt flat. I didn’t feel like there was any personality with them. They were just a couple strangers thrown into a weird situation. 3) Bring more descriptors in. I know this is a limitation of my drafting ability. I can’t put descriptions into it. I’m always just trying to get the story out, not make it visual. So getting in what the setting looks like, why it’s a creepy house, what’s off and what’s not. All of those are things that felt lost in the original draft, but were still extremely vibrant in my head.
Those were my major goals, and I think I accomplished at least some of them. It’s definitely more focused. Just like the draft, we jump right into the action, but this time, I knew what was coming. That made it easy to craft a world around the presence of a mummy hidden away that the girls would find at some point. It freed up precious words (have I mentioned how hard it is to stay under 1k words???) to be used in showing the world, the room they are in, and I think the story is a lot better for it.
This week wasn’t without challenges though. I’m still unsure on some things. Namely, why are the girls hiding behind the couch to begin with. I left in that they’d seen a mummy, but that’s never shown. Is that a problem? Should the readers see that? Is that something for another scene in a larger manuscript? Or is it enough that they think they saw a mummy, and are hiding? I don’t really know the answer to these questions yet, but hope to find them in the next few weeks.
The girls also have more personality this go around. A LOT more. Sammie is a sarcastic, sassy young girl now. Alice and her clearly have a rapport that works well between the two. They feel like they’ve been best friends for a long time, which is exactly what I was hoping for. Overall, the dynamics feel more alive, and that definitely helps to improve the story.
Finally, I also found a name for the story. I wanted to convey the fact that we’ve got mummies running left and right, but still keep it sort of hidden as well. So without further ado, I present
Why did I ever think this was a good idea?
The words kept running through my head like bunnies chasing each other in the yard. Constantly moving and always there. Like an hour ago, Alice and I took off to go to the old creepy house down the road. Things seemed fine at the time.
“Well…this didn’t turn out like we thought it would.” I said dryly, sitting behind a gross moldy couch. I was staring at a wallpaper that looked like it was older than Mom. The white had long ago turned to yellow, and the stripes had faded from some dark color to a dull grey. There were cracks in the seams, and it was torn in places. What I wouldn’t give for something bright and cheery.
“There’s no way we just saw a mummy. They don’t exist.” Alice said, sounding like she was trying to reassure herself more than me.
“I mean, they exist.” I said, glancing at her sarcastically.
“Well of course they exist Sammie, but not like, in real life. They’re in Egypt, or museums, or somewhere else that isn’t here. They’re off doing mummy things like laying in glass cases, or being buried under pyramids.”
“Right. They totally can’t be here. In this house. On this night.” I responded reassuringly.
I turned around to survey the room I was in again. It turned out the gross wallpaper and couch weren’t unique to this spot. There were no doors on the “entertainment center”, if you could call it that. The only thing it held of any actual entertainment was some old records that were probably from the 40s or 50s. Even then, that’s really only entertainment for our grandparents. Everything seemed to have a layer of dust too. The floorboards were warped in more than several spots. “At least the house has wood floors? Think how much more gross this would be if it was carpet.” I said, trying to lighten the mood a little.
The only nice thing in the room was a grandfather clock that had to be standing at least 6 feet tall. The gears inside it still turned, and the clock continued to tick along. The clock face read 11:58 PM. Mom would definitely not be happy if we were caught out. We were supposed to be in the basement having a slumber party, but one game of Truth or Dare later and here we are, trying to prove how brave we are.
I sank back into my nook behind the couch. “Two more minutes, then we can go back outside.” Alice sat up a little, looked at me, then turned around to look out into the room.
“I’m going to look at the clock. It’s weird.”
“We have two minutes and you’re going to look at the clock? Come on Alice, lets just wait out our time thinking of some dare that tops this to give Ariel. She deserves it after this.” A few seconds go by without a response. I looked over, but she was already halfway across the room. “Alice! Seriously?”
The room lit up from a bright flash of lightning, followed almost immediately by loud thunder that scared me out of hiding. I ran over to Alice who was inspecting the clock. “Look, there’s no dust on this. But there’s no footprints on the floor either.”
I stood there staring at the steps we left in the dust leading to the clock.
The hands on the clock all moved smoothly into place, pointing straight up. Midnight. Suddenly, the clock began to move. Like, more than the normal moving parts. The whole thing began to move to the side. “What did you do?” I shrieked.
“Nothing! I swear. It just started moving.” She screamed back, never looking away from the wall. I raised my flashlight to look at the spot where the clock used to be. A hole had appeared. It wasn’t very deep, maybe only two feet. In that small notch in the wall was a problem. A big problem.
Standing there completely still was a body wrapped in cloth. Dark, torn, gross cloth. We stood there, mouths open, trying to take in what we were seeing. Before we could, IT groaned a loud, guttural noise. We both turned to run.
Alice quickly overtook me. She was always faster than I was. “It’s chasing us!” she screamed as she passed. She started to grab anything in arms reach to toss behind her and slow it down. First it was a record off the entertainment center, then it was a lamp next to the door.
“Stop! You’re hitting me not it!” I yelled, but she continued to throw things as fast as she could. We ran down the hallway and several small porcelain figurines came flying by my face. I had to duck to dodge them. Judging by the sound of the mummy behind me, it wasn’t as agile as I was. I rounded the corner and saw freedom. The front door of the house was open, with Alice waiting to shut it behind me, already drenched from the storm outside.
“Hurry! It’s behind you!” She yelled.
“I know it’s behind me! I wouldn’t be running this way if it was in front of me!” I yelled back. I passed through the doorway, and Alice slammed it quickly behind me. We didn’t stop to question if it knew how to open doors, running towards the other side of the hedge where our friends were waiting for us. We turned the corner, but weren’t greeted by friends. They weren’t there.
Confused where they could be, we walked home, hoping they’d ended up there. We walked downstairs where the party was, but all the lights were off and no one was home. I flicked the light switch on, and froze. There in the middle of the room was a body wrapped in old rags lying on the floor.