#AtoZChallenge: Week 2 Roundup

Woohoo! We’re halfway through the April A to Z Challenge and it’s been a roller coaster of a week, filled with Gothic tales of intrigue, bite-sized delights and villainy.

I’ve fallen a bit behind on my reading, but I still managed to discover a few great blogs this week! Please do give them a visit.

Into Another World It’s an A to Z of villainy over here! A daily rundown of some of the meanest baddies to grace the silver screen, along with some choice quotes and a little glimpse at antagonists in the every day.

Atherton’s Magic Vapour: You sir! You seem like a connoisseur of fine tales! Perhaps, madam, I can interest you in a Gothic mystery filled with suspense and intrigue? No? That not enough for you? My, you are a tough customer indeed! How about I throw in some lovely black and white illustrations and a vial full of Atherton’s Hilarious Humor, guaranteed to make you laugh until your sorrows evaporate? Excellent! You won’t live to regret it!

A Rose Is A Rose Is A Rose: Tales of wicked people and wicked deeds, at just 55 words apiece!

The Armchair Explorer: Discover brave new worlds from the comfort of your armchair! A quick book review for every letter of the alphabet!

 

That’s it for this week. It’s a short list, but that just gives you more time to explore each blog!

My roundup from Week 1 can be found here, and those blogs are still absolutely awesome, so you should definitely be checking them out!

#AtoZChallenge: Week 1 Roundup

Well, my second year participating in the April A to Z Challenge is off to a great start. I believe last year,  was already lagging behind in my daily posts but I’ve been ahead of schedule this time! Fingers crossed I can keep that up.

There’s a break every Sunday (except the last one of this month) to give your fingers a rest – or give you a headstart for the next month! I figured I would take this opportunity to do a little roundup of some amazing blogs that I came across this past week.

So, for your weekend reading pleasure, I submit to you: The A to Z Roundup, Part 1.

Madly In Verse: Nilanjana Bose, who I’ve come to know through our participation in the WEP challenge (and who is both a brilliant writer and all-round awesome person) provides a handy guide to Arabian culture and clears up some common misconceptions.

Iain Kelly Writing: Do you like a good mystery? A thrilling whodunit? Then check out Iain Kelly’s serial murder mystery about a crafty killer and the cop hot on his(?) trail.

True North Bricks: Who doesn’t love LEGOs? This fun little blog by a Finnish-Canadian LEGO fan is a visual treat for adult collectors and a trip down memory lane for those that grew up with the colorful bricks.

Sorchia’s Universe: Another serial story, this time in the realms of Gothic fantasy and magic. Warring families, uneasy alliances and dark visions abound.

Wolf of Words: A blog about a lover of film and pop culture that really resonates with me.

Space, Time & Raspberries: Follow the saga of a poor chap named Elliot, who’s just trying to find his way through the world in search of adventure. As a bonus, you get to read the previous year’s A to Z entries as a companion piece to each chapter!

 

 

Of course, this is a very narrow list. There are hundreds of people participating and I’ve only been able to visit so few of them. As the weeks go by, this list will be updated and expanded.

Once you’re done checking out the above blogs, I’d recommend heading over to the A To Z Challenge site, where you’ll find plenty more to choose from!

13 Tales of Terror: Plots For Sale

Marty wasn’t having a good day.

He had just found out his job was nearing its expiry date, and his love life had already crossed that threshold earlier that morning. Katie didn’t see their relationship going anywhere so she’d gone away instead.

After an excruciating few hours at his desk making small talk with people he’d rather not talk with at all, it was finally lunchtime and Marty could have a few moments to breathe. He didn’t really have much of an appetite that day, so he went for a long walk instead. He could still hear Katie’s voice echoing in his head, telling him that he really needed to buy himself a new life.

Marty kicked a can across the street in frustration, which was about the time he realized that he had no idea what street he was on. He stopped and looked around. None of the street signs were familiar. Neither were the buildings. His office was nowhere in sight, nor any of the office blocks that surrounded it. How far had he walked?

“Plots for sale! Plots for sale!”

There was a man standing on a street corner, perched on top of a small box. He was old, though Marty couldn’t guess at his age. His hair, or what little of it he had, was iron gray, as was the scraggly beard that covered his face. He was dressed in what seemed to be maroon wizard’s robes, tattered and possibly covered in dust. Marty tried not to pay too much attention to him.

“Plots for sale! Plots for sale! What would you like, sir? A thriller to set your heart racing? A little romance to make you dance? Ah, perhaps what you need is a good mystery to solve!”

Marty looked around, puzzled. It was clear the old man was talking to him. After all, he was the only one there. It didn’t make any sense. How did he end up on this strange street by himself? Where was everyone else?

“Come now, sir, don’t be shy! I have so many plots to sell! A new life awaits you with just the turn of a page!”

A new life?

“Right this way, friend!”

The old man waved a hand in the direction of a derelict bookshop. Before Marty could blink, the man was standing next to him and steering him toward the storefront. He wanted to protest. He had to get back to work. He had to find his office. He had to get back to his life. Or did he?

As Marty mulled over the direction his life had taken from the moment he woke up that day, he allowed himself to be led into the dingy bookshop that smelled like musty old paper. Maybe he could pick up some sort of self-help book.

“Well, sir? What will it be?”

The old man’s eyes shone as he displayed his wares, books spread out across rows and rows of dark wooden shelves. The shop was a lot larger than it looked from the outside.

“Perhaps you’d like to purchase a spy plot, full of suspense and intrigue?”

Marty opened the book that the man thrust into his hands. The pages were blank. Marty looked up to ask the shopkeeper about it but he wasn’t there. In fact, the shop wasn’t there. Marty was in an elegant casino, dressed in a sharp dark gray tuxedo. There was a high stakes poker game going on, and Marty was playing one of the most notorious arms smugglers in the world. The fate of several nations would depend on the outcome of the game. Keeping his cool but nervous on the inside, Marty turned over his cards…

“Well? What do you think?”

Marty was back in the bookshop and the old man was eyeing him hungrily. He looked down at the book; there were words in it now. It was describing the plot that Marty had just lived.

“I see spy stories aren’t quite your thing. Perhaps something more in the science fictional realm?”

Marty opened the next book he was given. He was in a satellite that was orbiting a dying world. As the leader of the last remnants of an alien race, Marty had some difficult decisions to make about where they would go next. They wouldn’t last off-world very long. He had to find them a new home. A new planet. He looked at his astronomical charts to determine their next course of action. And that’s when the missiles hit. They were under attack! Marty knew he had to do something, but another round of missiles knocked him off his feet…

“No? Is this not to your liking either, sir? My oh my…you are a tough customer.”

The old man stroked his chin, thinking for a moment. “Well, my friend, I think I have just the book for you.”

Marty’s head was still reeling from the last story, but he was curious about what else the old man had in store. Maybe the next plot would be the one for him.

“Ahh, here we go,” the man said, handing Marty a heavy leather-bound tome. It was devoid of any dust, and seemed almost out of place in the old shop. Marty ran a hand over the cover, relishing the feel of it. He opened it up, hearing a soft sigh escape from the book’s spine. Like the others, it was blank.

But this time, Marty wasn’t sucked into a spy story or a science fiction adventure. He wasn’t sucked into any kind of story at all. There was nothing around him except blank space. He heard a loud thump from somewhere in the distance.

“There, that’s better. Poor fool. You’ve wasted your life, wasted the potential story you could have told. But perhaps someone else will be able to use this plot, and to tell a better tale than you were capable of.”

Marty could do nothing but stay frozen in place as the old man placed the book back onto its shelf. He was nothing more than a blank page now, doomed to stay that way until someone wrote their story.

Story A Day Challenge – Day 8: Collaboration

There were two writing prompts today. The first was to write a story involving conflict. The other was to write a story that contained the following: a black-and-white cat, a pot of gold, hair curlers, a terrible storm, a chess game, and a cow. I decided to combine them.

“Twas a dark and stormy night.”

“Really? That’s what you came up with. The old ‘stormy night’ opening. That’s how you plan to start your story.”

“Ugh. Fine then. ‘There was a terrible storm brewing -‘”

“Did you major in clichés? Is that what’s going on here? We’re sitting down to write the World’s Most Trite Tale?!”

“Well I don’t see you making any suggestions.”

“We need to think outside the box.”

“Bravo. What an innovative plan. Did you write your thesis on Meaningless Phraseology?”

“Shut up. At least I have a plan.”

“Which really gets us no closer to a story.”

“What story are we writing anyway?

“Haven’t we been over this? It’s a murder mystery with splashes of horror!”

“That’s ridiculous. What we want is a fantasy comedy.”

“What?! Nonsense! We’re doing a horror mystery, just like I had in mind!”

“No, we’re doing a mystery comedy.”

“That’s just….fine. Tell you what. You tell your story and I’ll tell mine, and we’ll see which one’s better.”

“Fine. It’s a waste of time, though, as it’ll definitely be mine.”

“We’ll see about that.”

“Go on then. What’s the deal with your story?”

“Well, we know it takes place on a stormy night. Because I just said it did. I don’t care how cliché it is. It’s going to have a storm. A big one!”

“Alright, fine. We have a storm. And then what happens?”

“There’s a murder.”

“Oh – come on – really?! A murder on a stormy night? That’s Murder Mystery 101, man! That’s pretty much the only thing that happens on stormy nights!”

“Will you just let me get on with the story?”

“I don’t even – fine. Continue with your Tale of Unbelievable Triteness.”

“There’s a terrible storm raging. Rain is falling from the skies like bullets from God’s machine gun.”

“What the – ”

“Lightning streaks across the night, accompanied by booming thunder. The heavens themselves are at war! And amidst this epic battle of the gods, one small mortal has a dark purpose to fulfill. A purpose that ends in….MURDER!”

“Well that’s certainly the loopiest description of a stormy night I’ve ever heard, I’ll give you that. So this guy, or girl, wants to kill someone. Is it a rich old widow? Or an eccentric professor? Oh, let me guess…before dying, the professor spells out the identity of his killer using a series of cryptic clues that must be deciphered over the course of 500 pages!”

“Would you like to make a contribution that doesn’t involve just taking up space?”

“Very well then. Let me show you how it’s done.”

“Oh, please do.”

“Hmmph. Now, there is a murder that takes place in this tale – ”

“You just stole that from me! And after all of your complaining!”

“Look, I’m not writing about a murder on a ‘dark and stormy night’ with divine machine guns, alright?” Fantasy comedies can have murder too.”

“Oh, of course they can. Alright, so your murder story is completely different from mine. Let’s hear it.”

“For starters, the victim’s name is Belvedere Thimblegardner, billionaire and collector of unique artifacts. On a trip to Ireland the previous year, he had been on the lookout for supernatural trinkets and came across a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Belvedere added it to his collection without a second thought. Leprechaun gold? Now that was something to hang onto. And who knows, it might even aid him in capturing an actual leprechaun to put in his menagerie!”

“Leprechauns. Yeesh. Ok.”

“Anyway, the owner of the pot is a leprechaun by the name of Finnwick Paddywick, who is understandably distraught at losing his gold. Leprechauns rely on their gold, you see, because it brings them luck.”

“I thought that was four leaf clovers.”

“Yes…four leaf clovers…AND gold. The gold enhances the power of the clover, so without the gold, the clover is mostly useless.”

“That seems like a needlessly complicated system. Why can’t he just want the gold because it’s gold?”

“Because that’s not how it works!”

“Why don’t you figure that out while I continue with my story. In a derelict apartment block nestled in a part of the city that never really seen better days, murder most foul has been committed. The victim is one Hans Fezmueller, the building landlord. He’s been stabbed to death while watching TV, his crimson blood staining his dirty white T-shirt and his green couch. There are no other traces of blood, no bloody footprints or fingerprints, and no murder weapon to be found. No disturbance at all. Well, not quite. The window of his apartment is open, and underneath the window sill is one single clue: a broken pink hair curler.”

“A hair curler? So he was killed by a disgruntled housewife?”

“Well, we don’t know that. That’s the mystery.”

“It’s a housewife, isn’t it?”

“Well, yes, but it’s the investigation that’s the real story.”

“Hmm, fascinating, yes. Belvedere Thimblegardner lies dead in his gargantuan mansion.”

“Oh, so we’re going back to your story now?”

“He appears to have been beaten by some sort of blunt object. A golden scepter lies nearby, a relic from a Hungarian vacation. It’s covered in blood. Belvedere is lying on the floor by two lavish couches facing each other. Between them, an unfinished game of chess. However, the white king has been knocked over. Detective Mooweather is most puzzled by this unusual scene.”

“Detective Mooweather?”

“He’s a cow.”

“Your detective’s a cow?!”

“Yes. Clarence Mooweather, Cow Sleuth. And his trusty sidekick, Professor Rufflebaum.”

“And what’s he, a sheep?”

“A cat, actually. A black and white cat with mismatched eyes.”

“Huh. That’s actually not bad. Animal detectives.”

“Yes, animal detectives! I told you my story would be great!”

“It’s got potential, I suppose. So who’s the killer? The leprechaun?”

“No! That’d be too obvious. It’s..uh..well, I haven’t really gotten that far, to be honest.”

“Can the killer be a ghost?”

“What?”

“Yeah, the ghost of a disgruntled housewife. Perhaps a former Mrs. Thimblegardner…who was a literal gold digger!”

“And what would a ghost want with gold?”

“Luck, of course. Maybe it’s a misguided attempt to change her luck and resurrect herself.”

“Gold isn’t really a time travel device, you know.”

“Couldn’t it be?”

“Hmmm. Well, I guess. Maybe we’re onto something here.”

“I know, right? We’ve got a horror-mystery-fantasy-comedy!”

“Why not throw in some romance while we’re at it?”

“Don’t you dare!”

“Relax, it was just a joke.”

Malcolm smiled. After months of agonizing over what story to write, his ideas had come together at last. He quickly started typing before his mind erupted into chaos again.

Frightful

“Why does it have to be a dark and stormy night?”

“Atmosphere, son. This is a horror story, after all.”

“What happens if we turn off the storm generator?”

“We did. Once.”

“And?”

“We ended up living in a romance novel.”

“Oh god…”

“There are horrors no man should experience.”