Monday, April 16, 2018

WEP - The Road Less Traveled


Gran lived at the end of Wildwood Holler in rural West Virginia, on a road that cheered the heart with its pure beauty. Gran was a sweet giving woman, and most of the residents in the area called her “Doc” because of her knowledge of herbal healing remedies. Others called her a sorceress.

Gran was amused by the talk of black magic. The rumors had started after my grandfather died. He had a bad heart, but most of his family blamed Gran, claiming she’d bewitched him.

In his memory Gran only wore black. On her excursions to town for supplies, she’d wear her best black cloak and hat, adding to the mystique. Folks would cross the street to avoid eye contact and, in the lines at the grocery store, they’d back away so she could go first.

The fear of her powers grew after three hoodlums decided they’d pay the witch doctor a visit.

Her log cabin sat at the end of the holler, on a small rise, and her front windows, oval in shape, gave the appearance of glaring orbs. She lived alone and appreciated the view of approaching visitors.

On a windy October day, Gran saw three youngsters and knew they were up to no good. Two of the boys stayed behind, but the third marched to her front door. He knocked but jumped in surprise when she opened it.

“Well, young man?”

“My mum, she’s got a bad headache. She sent me for help.”

“Of course. Tell me about her pain.”

The boy shrugged. “She hurts. She’s gone to her bed.”

“I see,” Gran told him. “Give me a minute.

Gran doubted his need for the remedy, but she couldn’t turn him away. And a headache remedy was simple.

“This is willow bark tea, just brew some for her. She should start feeling better soon.”

“That’s it, tea?” the boy said.

“It has healing properties, I promise.”

He threw a nickel at her and raced back to the others. “Tea, she gave me tea.”

“Let’s test it. See if it works.”

“Don’t we need someone with a headache?”

“It’s either tea or a magic potion. Let’s see what it does to Carol. She’s stupid enough to drink it.”


The boys hurried home and mixed the remedy into Dirk’s sister's usual tea mixture. She drank, but nothing happened. The fact alone pissed them off. “We need to go back. We need proof she’s a witch. Only this time we won’t knock on the door. Jay, draw us a picture of the inside of her place. We’ll go at midnight.”

“But what if she catches us? Turns us into toads?”

“We’ll be real quiet. Dress in black and remove our shoes. She won’t know we’re there. We just have to listen for her snoring. My grandma snores like a freight train, that’s why mom put her bed out on the porch. Once we’re sure the witch is asleep, we’ll find the proof. Make sure your flashlights have new batteries.”

For the next several days and nights it rained. So much so that the boys delayed their adventure until the sun came back out and dried the muddy roads. Halloween night the moon was high, the air cold, and the atmosphere electric. Bravado built up over the week due to the severe weather didn’t fade even though the boys were planning their visit on the spookiest night of the year.

“Maybe we should wait. If she’s a witch, her powers will be at their highest. Won’t they?” Jay asked.

“We’ll get there after midnight. It’ll be the First, and by then her powers will be all used up. It’s perfect,” Joey, the ordinarily quiet of the three assured them.

The boys were so sure of their plan they went straight to the cabin. Tiptoeing up the steps, they opened the door. It screeched against the intrusion. A sound that seemed to form the words, “get out”. The noise had the boys standing perfectly still. Waiting, each drew a deep breath, but Dirk found his courage and motioned. They followed his lead and stepped inside. The room was pitch black. Each of them tried their flashlight. None worked, despite the new batteries.

Dirk immediately lit a match. “Do you see a candle or a kerosene lamp anywhere?” he whispered

As they gazed around the room, a noise quickened their hearts. Suddenly a flash of light caught their attention, and all three of them stared with mouths open.

Gran had suddenly appeared at the door of her bedroom. A green light highlighted her face, and a well-practiced cackle escaped her throat.

The boys took off. Screams, high pitched and full of fear trailed after them. Gran turned off her flashlight, put her emerald green glass coaster on the table and laughed until she cried.

“Happy Halloween, boys.”


I wish that were the end of my story, but those boys got the townspeople all riled up with stories of a magic potion that almost killed their sister. While some called the boy's story hogwash. Others said that it proved evil lived at the end of Wildwood Holler.

Two weeks after Halloween several men visited Gran. Only they didn’t knock on the door. They threw burning torches through her windows. As the cabin burned to the ground, green flames and a horrifying scream chased the true evil back to town. Grown men crying like babies stumbled over each other on the sprint back. The leader of the group was found dead in his bed the next day. They say that terror was still visible on his countenance.

Gran’s body was never found, but now Wildwood Holler is known as Witchwood Holler. A haunted place where floating green lights, the disturbing sound of crazed laughter, and the failure of anything electric to work, continues to scare off the heartiest of the ghost hunters.

980 words / FCA
Yolanda Renee © 2018

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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Explosive Beginnings

I am thrilled to announce that Susan Flett-Swiderski’s latest book EXPLOSIVE BEGINNINGS is now available for PRE-ORDER!

It will be released on April 30th!

I was privileged to receive an advanced review copy, and I’m excited not only to announce the good news but to post a review.

Maybe this time will be different.

Terrible things happen to the people he cares about the most, so it’s safer for Archie Jaworski to simply stop caring. He doesn’t give a flying fandango what anybody says about him, keeps every relationship shallow, and does unto others before they can do unto him.

And then, shortly before he leaves the Army, he spots a pretty widow and her two kids, and all bets are off.

His war hero uncle says he’s not good enough for that perfect little lady, but Archie’s determined to prove him wrong. No matter how many threats his uncle and his fellow officers make to scare him away from their buddy’s widow, and no matter what it takes, he’s determined to meet that family and to seduce that skirt.

What’s more, if she’s a decent cook, he might even marry her.

Archie plans his courtship to the smallest detail, but the one thing he forgets to do is keep his feelings under wraps. He doesn’t mean to care about them, but the allure of finally being part of something normal, something good, is more than he can resist.

Maybe this time, no one has to die.

Explosive Beginnings is a thrilling roller coaster ride through the 1950s, featuring surprising twists and a shocking finish I didn't see coming. Gripping!!!"
Robynne Rand, author of THE MECHANIC NEXT DOOR


Archie Jaworski is not the most likable guy, but he’s had a hard life and he/s taken on the blame for too much pain. He’s surly, and combative and apologizes for neither.

Life continues to conspire against him until he sees Madeline Quinn, then everything changes. Even Archie.
Archie is on a mission, and maybe even falling in love. It doesn’t matter that she has two kids, it doesn’t matter that he’s been warned off. He knows what he wants, and no one is going to tell him he can’t have it.
        But will a real family make Archie whole? The book is called Explosive Beginnings for a reason. Has Archie’s bitten off more than he can chew? I won’t spoil the surprise. I’ll just say that Susan is the one author who can tell it just like it was. She’s an expert storyteller, flawless novelist, and master of the surprise ending.
        Although this is the first book in the Blast Rites Series, it is a stand-alone with a beginning, middle, and very explosive end!
        I highly recommend Explosive Beginnings.

About Susan:
Susan Flett Swiderski grew up in Dundalk, Maryland, where everybody calls everybody "hon"- fishing and crabbing is a way of life, and eating steamed crabs is practically a sacrament. Although she loves her home in Georgia, a part of her heart will always linger beside the shores of the Chesapeake Bay. The rest of it enjoys life with her husband and love of her life (Luckily for her, they're the same person.) and their two spoiled cats Dot and Dash. Strange names, perhaps, but not for a couple of amateur radio operators. Susan and her husband that is. Not the cats.

Susan is also the author of Hot Flashes & Cold Lemonade and has a short story in the anthology Old Broads Waxing Poetic. She’s also an expert at blogging, and you can find her thoughtful prose at I Think: Therefore I Yam


Friday, April 6, 2018

The WEP Team & Our A to Z Contribution

I’m not participating in the A to Z this year there’s just too much going on right now, but as a participant of the WEP I, along with the rest of the team was honored to be asked for a contribution.

J Lenni Dorner offered the team of the  WEP (Write…Edit…Publish) the April 7, or “G” day on the official A to Z site. We choose the term Genre.

The WEP team currently consists of four writers – Denise Covey, Olga Godim, Nilanjana Bose  and me! I hope you’ll check out our post and help us spread the word about the A to Z and the WEP!

The inspiration for today’s collaborative post, is an amazing picture taken by  Celia Reaves  Thanks, Celia, for permission to use the image.

If you'd like to participate in the
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Wednesday, April 4, 2018

IWSG - Struggles

April's Question - When your writing life is a bit cloudy or filled with rain, what do you do to dig down and keep on writing?
My first go to option is to read. It usually always inspires me, but there have been a few too many rainy days, and recently I’ve really had to fight the urge to just walk away. Saying the hell with it all, pursuing another outlet sounds exciting, but I’ve no other talent. Although, there’s always abstract art, would have to be abstract because I can’t draw a straight line. Or music maybe I could take up the guitar again or the drums. I’m sure the neighbors would appreciate that. 😊 At least that’s what I tell myself.
Life does get in the way, health and family issues, and significant changes always take precedence, and all of it influences my writing in one way or another.

I’ve also found that participating in the WEP challenges gives me a deadline to work towards. Deadlines always help push me forward. And if all I’m writing is flash fiction for a while, then at least I’m still in the game.

Currently, I’m trying to get three different projects to the finish line. A short story, a novella, and a novel. All of them are related to my original Detective Quaid Series, and, I’ve been struggling, but hey, it’s a good struggle.

It's time for another WEP Challenge.
Have you signed up?

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

A Retread - Fan Fiction - Lost Laysen

Before writing this blog, I went to the blog site that claimed to have 101 Ideas that would make my blog hot. I went through the list but I was in a hurry, and there wasn’t anything that wouldn’t require time and more creativity than I wanted to give. Oops, did I just say that? I want to post a blog, but I don’t want to have to work too hard to get it done. Yep! I just said that. But you must understand, I just wrote a new “Sheila Murder” for my Murderous Imaginings Blog. The post Brutal Attack took most of the evening and required quite a bit of creativity.
          It’s not as easy as you might think to come up with a new scenario, a new victim, or a new way to end their life. Then there’s the graphics to go along with the story and the most challenging part, the formatting on blogger. Why that is such a task, I’ll never know, but it seems to take forever.
          So there you have it. I’ve spent all my creativity on the Murderous Imaginings Blog and have nothing left for this one. Does that bother you as much as it does me?
          Still, I wanted to post something here on Defending the Pen. It is my primary blog.
          So, I thought I’d post a copy of an old blog. My first attempt at Fan Fiction based on a short story by Margaret Mitchell. Lost Laysen. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
          That’s not being too lazy, is it?

February’s Romantic Friday Writers Flash Fiction Challenge is all about Fan Fiction.
Margaret Mitchell is a favorite author of many of us, and when I came across this short story by her, called Lost Laysen. I could not resist. 

This story was found in an old desk of a former beau, Henry Love Angel, along with other letters and photographs. Henry's son, with the help of Patsy Wiggins, founder of the Road to Tara Museum published the story along with the letters and photograph’s in 1997. This was a very special find because after Ms. Mitchell’s death, and per her wishes, all of her work including notes on Gone With The Wind were incinerated.

Synopsis: Lost Laysen by Margaret Mitchell
Courtenay Ross, a feisty, independent-minded woman, and the two men -- one a cool-headed, well-heeled gentleman, the other a hot-blooded, pugnacious sailor -- who adore her. A tale of yearning, valor, and devotion, Lost Laysen enthralls from its delightful beginning to its unforgettable end.

The scene I wrote is a 'new' ending with the characters of Courtney Ross, and Billy Duncan.
 I hope you will enjoy my tribute to her short story ‘Lost Laysen.’

Please note: This is a work of fan fiction using characters from Lost Laysen, which is trademarked by the heirs of Margaret Mitchell.
The characters were created and owned by Margaret Mitchell, and I do not claim any ownership over them or the world of Courtney Ross and Billy Duncan.

The story I tell here is my own invention, and it is not purported or believed to be part of Margaret Mitchell’s story canon. This story is for entertainment only and is not part of the official story line, nor has it been done for financial gain. 

I am grateful to Ms. Mitchell for her wonderful story about Lost Laysen, for without her story, mine would not exist.

A Fan Fiction Tribute to Margaret Mitchell’s

After days of nightmarish upheaval, tranquility saturated the night. The sea looked like black ink, and the reflected stars appeared as unsinkable diamonds. She stood against the rail. A light breeze billowed her gown. I spoke on approach so not to frighten her. 

“What’s wrong, Little Lady, you seem lost among the stars.” I tied to sound jovial.

I knew the answer but awaited her response. Her sadness was overwhelming, for she was remembering, and worse—regretting.

In acknowledgment, her lips formed a half circle. It was neither a smile nor a grin, and she continued her search of the sky. I recalled the first time we met, the first time I had witnessed her Cupid’s bow mouth curved into a full grin. The day she won my heart, three months ago, when she boarded the Caliban at Yindano for passage to Laysen in the Tongas. Laysen, the island that disappeared under the sea after a volcanic eruption, the very center of hell and she had barely escaped.

The stars blinked wildly as though showing off for her. I watched her scrutinize them and recalled how I found her in that bloody cabin barely alive. Four dead men lay at her feet, her soon to be declared fiancé, Douglas Steele, the devil himself—Juan Mardo, and two of his henchmen. 

Steele died protecting her, and Mardo had been killed by her hand. My own knife, the Amigo mio—Friend O’ Mine, she had put through Mardo’s heart, but she refused to speak of it. She became distant and disappeared to a place I could not follow, but I would not be defeated. 

When she was delirious and called out for Steele, I said words to her I had no right to speak. I caressed her fevered cheek and told her that she had to fight; she had to live for me. I promised my undying love, and while not one word was a lie, I told it all in the guise of Douglas Steele. It worked, and beyond the hopes of all who attended to her, she pulled through. But once she had her senses about her and realized that Steele was gone, she lost her desire for life. She became a shadow, and although I felt her ire, not one word of ill did she utter.

“Let’s go inside, you need to rest.”

 “In a minute.” 

Her dismissal stung, but I feared her mind had muddled and she would jump into those dark waters to join him—her true love. 

We stood with our own thoughts, and then I felt her eyes searching my face. I was not ready for her words. 

“I should’ve died. You should’ve let me go. It was my desire. I ‘m sure, it was... his. You had no right, none! Just as Laysen disappeared, so should I. I killed two men. My lovely heroic, Douglas. He wouldn’t have been here...if not for me.” 

Her body stiffened, her face flushed, and she lifted her chin. “But Mardo, that beast deserved to die; I’ll not regret that, never!” 

Then her shoulders slumped, “But Doug...he deserved so much, so much better than me.” 

No! I cursed under my breath and had to walk away. I ran my clumsy hands through my hair and paced the deck. She could not believe that. I could not allow her to think that! I calmed myself. I had no right, but I put my hands on her shoulders. Her tiny body trembled, but I held her gaze. Her big blue-grey eyes filled with unshed tears, and my heart split in two.

My mind screamed. I love you, lassie, I’m not good enough, but I love you!

I swallowed my pride. “I’ve an idea, a way to get you safely back to your family.”

“It isn’t possible, it’ll never be possible?” she shook her head. “I could never face them.”

“But it is,” I declared. “We tell them you suffered from shock, loss of memory, that you were discovered on an island near Laysen. You’ll never have to share that awful day...ever! Only you, the captain, and I will know the truth. I’ll escort you. Personally, and I’ll do the talking, no lie will ever leave your lips.”

She thought about it. She started pacing, mulling it over. Occasionally she would lift her head and look at me, studying me, wondering I suppose if she could trust me.

“You’d do that for me? Just as you pretended to be Douglas, and promised..." 

She could not even say the word--love. Was it so distasteful? Was I?

"You would lie for me, and then walk away?” She said.

“Ai’ lass, I would. I knew the day I met you; I was in your life to protect you. Never-to own you!”

I had fooled myself into believing she would be grateful, even allowed myself to think that she might love me. I had deceived—a fool.

Soft fingers caressed my weathered face. “My guardian angel.” She smiled, and on her toes, she stretched to kiss my cheek. Exceedingly blessed and agonizingly bereft, I was breathless.

“I couldn’t," she whispered. Her voice grew stronger, as she made her decision. "Living with that lie would end me. Thank you, but no. I’ll face the demons straight on. I’ll honor my Douglas, my heart.” 

Every time she spoke his name, it became more holy. Any hope left within me withered.

“I’ll go to Yindano, and teach as I intended. God allowed me to live and I’ll honor his choice.”

I nodded, grateful, but my heart shattered. Unbearable pain silenced me, because while I knew she was staying—it was not for me. 

She walked away, turned, and in the dull lantern light, I saw tears finally trailing her cheeks.

“God bless, you, Billy Duncan,” her words quickened my ravaged heart.

** ********** **

987  Words / FCA
Yolanda Renée © 2013

Romantic Friday Writers February Fan Fiction Challenge