It's almost time for the 2014 "30 Days, 30 Stories" Project!

Look for details for this year's project soon!

Last year's project was great! We had a fabulous selection of work. To read (or reread), click HERE for the first story.

And remember to leave a comment! We *LOVE* comments!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Thank You for Another Successful "30 Days, 30 Stories" Project


To the authors who were brave and shared their work, to the readers who took the time to comment, to the readers who took the time to read, we thank you!

See you next year!

Friday, April 29, 2011

30 Days: "Tombs of Terror" by T. Lynn Adams

This is an excerpt from my YA thriller, Tombs of Terror. Sixteen-year-old Jonathon Bradford, a bilingual American, has been taken hostage by the Shining Path terrorists of Peru. In this scene he again crosses paths with Severino, a 17-year-old Peruvian teenager. (Tombs of Terror is published by Bonneville Books, an imprint of Cedar Fort. Copyright 2010. Reprinted with permission.)

Sitting on a burlap bag filled with dry beans, Jonathon wrapped his arms around his knees. Ropes cut into his wrists and bound his ankles together. From beyond the storeroom door, he could hear men laughing and talking. Sometimes he heard his name being said, other times he heard “Americano.” He knew they were talking about him, and he wondered what they were planning to do. He also wondered if he would ever see his family again.

The door to the storage room opened, and Severino entered, followed by another man. Though Severino had traded his rifle for a mug, the man with him carried an automatic rifle. Severino moved across the room while the other man stopped to stand guard just inside the doorway.

The Peruvian teen stopped in front of Jonathon. Gray steam curled and floated up from the mug in Severino’s hands, swirling in front of his face. “I brought you something to drink.” Severino took a deep swallow of the steaming liquid before passing the mug to Jonathon’s tied hands. His actions were deliberated—the drink had not been poisoned.
Despite the ropes binding his wrists, Jonathon managed to cup his hands around the heated mug. The warmth of its sides felt good. In the chilled storeroom, his entire body shook with cold. Peering down at the thick drink, he felt the warm steam encircle his face. The scent of chocolate and oatmeal drifted up into his senses, and Jonathon’s stomach growled.

Severino heard it. He squatted by Jonathon, checking the ropes on his ankles. “You better drink while it is still warm.”

Jonathon lifted the mug to his lips. He blew across the surface, letting more heat escape to warm him, before tasting the mixture with a slow sip. The creamy chocolate drink filled him with sweet warmth. As he swallowed, he felt it slide down his throat and into his stomach. He took a second swallow.

A hard jerk on the ropes ensnaring his feet caused Jonathon to spill some of his drink, scalding his damaged hand. “What was that for?”

Severino watched him with annoyance. “No reason.”

Jonathon sucked the thick, hot liquid off his hand but a burn mark remained. Looking at Severino, Jonathon’s anger welled but he knew he needed to control his response. “So what are you going to do with me?”

Straightening, Severino shrugged. “That is a group decision.”

Still fighting for control and not liking the answer, Jonathon’s eyes narrowed into a frown. “And what is the group planning to do with me.”

Severino gave a taunting smile. “We haven’t decided yet but when we do, you will definitely find out.”

Jonathon drew back to throw the liquid at Severino, but the Peruvian reacted quickly, reaching out his hand to cover the mug and stop his motion. “Don’t,” he warned. “That is your only food .There will be no more. I suggest you drink it and not waste it on me.”

Scars and calluses crisscrossed Severino’s brown hand. Dozens of wounds, in various stages of healing, marked the brown flesh. Jonathon’s anger melted into shock as he saw a lifetime of damage. No American hands he knew looked like that. He lifted his gaze to Severino’s face. For a moment, the two stared at each other, as if peering into each other’s thoughts.

Severino withdrew his hand, breaking away. “You have seen our faces and where we meet. That makes you very dangerous to us.”

“I won’t tell anyone, I promise.”

A sour laugh escaped Severino. “That type of promise is only kept when people are scared.” His expression hardened and he leaned closer. “Are you scared, gringo?”

Jonathon looked at Severino but could not answer. He was scared, terrified.

Severino’s voice remained low, ominous. “Because you have seen us and know our faces, some want to kill you. They say that would be best. What do you think? Do you think it would be best for us to kill you and let the authorities or the wild animals find your body?”

“No.” Jonathon’s response was a swallow of fear.

“Still others want to use you to make us rich. They want to collect a huge ransom.”

Jonathon grasped at that option. “Tell them to call my dad. He’ll pay.” Fear fed his rapid words.

“Can he pay five million dollars?”

Hope dissipated. “Five million dollars?” Jonathon’s voice managed only a whisper. “But he doesn’t have five million dollars.”

“You mean you are not a wealthy American? I thought all Americans were rich.” Sarcasm filled Severino’s voice.

“No. Only a few Americans are rich. Most of us are poor.”

Now Severino laughed out his disdain. “Poor? You don’t know what poor is. Even a poor American is wealthy to a Peruvian. To you, being poor means you can’t eat at McDonald’s for lunch. Here, being poor means you eat from the garbage dump for lunch, and there are a lot of poor people in Peru! You mocoso!”

Jonathon lifted his head in anger. “I am not a brat.”

“That is right. You are a spoiled brat, mocoso engreido. In fact, you are so spoiled you are rotten!”

Now Severino lowered his voice to a whisper, anger hissing through his quiet words. “I told you to stay in bed, but you didn’t listen. You didn’t think I was worth listening to. You thought I was an ignorant, uneducated Peruvian.”

The comment surprised Jonathon, and he sensed something more. In silence he mouthed back his own rage. “You never told me why!” Near the door, the guard did not hear them.

“I told you ‘Evil’ would find you and it did.”

“You never told me the ‘Evil’ meant terrorists.”

“What did you think the ‘Evil’ was, mummies from your tunnels? At least those mummies are dead. These terrorists will make you dead whether you dad pays five million dollars or not .Because you did not listen to me, you just walked into your own funeral, you imbecĂ­l.”

Stunned, Jonathon could not answer.

Straightening, Severino moved away from the prisoner and toward the door. As he drew alongside the guard he turned back and laughed out loud, raising his voice. “You got yourself stuck right in the middle of the Shining Path. You walked right up and knocked on their front door, and they let you in; but they won’t be letting you back out.”

Thursday, April 28, 2011

30 Days: "Everything" by David Hulet

“I really like pizza,” Eliot said, chomping down on a piece of pepperoni.

“Uh, okay?” Ben scrunched his face. “That was sort of random.”

“No. I think pizza--” Eliot stopped to stare intensely at the slice in his hand. “--Pizza explains everything.”

“Is this pizza drugged?”

“No, stupid.” Eliot laughed, shoving him a little. “I’m serious!” Eliot insisted.

“Okay, what about pizza explains everything?”

“Well, take the pizza when you first open it. It’s full. It’s round. You have the whole thing to eat. At the beginning of life, you have everything to look forward to. The smells, the tastes; I mean, there’s a whole pizza!”

Ben wasn’t convinced. He still thought Eliot was being loopy.

“Then once you eat a couple of slices, it looks like pac-man.”

“Pac-man?” Ben snorted. “What does pac-man have to do with anything?”

“Pac-man is like a legend. An iconic representation of all things fun. And it was one of the first video games. Look at where we are now because of that pellet-eater!”

Ben reached for another slice. “Well, now there’s only half a pizza. How’s that representative of ‘everything?’”

“Because half a pizza looks like a smile. And when life is half gone, you’re old enough to look
back and see everywhere you’ve been and realize how much has happened. At the same time, if it hasn’t been good, you’re young enough you can make changes and get on track to get that smile; there’s half a pizza left, after all.”

“Half a pizza... or a pirate hat.” Ben stated sarcastically, turning the pizza box around.

Eliot rolled his eyes.

Ben continued. “Okay, smartie-pants, what about when there’s only one slice? Let me guess. It represents you’re about to kick the bucket, but there’s one good morsel left?” Ben shook his head. “That’s depressing.”

“No, no, no. When there’s one piece left, it like a spike or a stake. You’ve got one last shot at revenge before it’s all over.”

“That’s dumb. One slice is the shape of a triangle. That means it’s like the Triforce. Link’s
ultimate achievement. He saved the world! You know Zelda was the best game ever made. Now that’s everything explained!” Ben congratulated himself.

Eliot shook his head. “I’ll give you the triangle bit. But not for another game. We already
explained those. An upright triangle is representative of spirit, divinity, fire, life, prosperity and harmony. And the reversed triangle is denotative of mother earth, water, rain and grace. Triangles are often used for God and the holy trinity. When upright and downward triangles are put together, they form the Star of David, symbolizing balance and knowledge.”

Ben stared at Eliot in surprise. “Are we still talking about pizza?” Eliot just smiled. Ben nodded his head. “This is pretty crazy, but I like it.” He thought for a moment. “Hey, I got one.” He turned his slice of pizza around and took a few bites out of the crust. “If you bite out the middle, ad nibble the edge, it sorta looks like a heart. That’s what everything is all about, right? Love?”

Eliot nodded. “Now you see what I’m talking about. Pizza explains everything.”

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

30 Days: "Satan's Bad Day" by Emily Simmons

Satan’s Bad Day
By Emily Simmons
Satan woke up Thursday feeling out of sorts.  He didn’t get out of bed for breakfast but picked at his bowl of Lucky Charms until the marshmallows got soggy and turned the milk an unnatural blue-gray color.  
Hector arrived with the day’s schedule.  “Good morning!  And how’s the Lord of the Underworld today?” Hector opened the window; the rotten-egg odor and the screams of the souls drowning in eternal torment in the nearby lake always brightened the day.  He spied the devil’s uneaten cereal and listless expression.  
“Boss, what’s the matter with you?  You look like your dog just got reincarnated.”
“Nothing.  I don’t know.  I don’t feel like myself today.” Satan sighed deeply.
“Well, I’ve got today’s schedule and it’s guaranteed to cheer you up.” Hector took the cereal bowl and put it on the bedside table.  “There’s going to be a riot in Manila this afternoon.”
“Meh.” Satan looked out the window.
“Meh?!  You love riots!”
“Been there, done that, got the commemorative plate.  What else do you have?”
“A refugee boat from Cuba is going to sink and there’s only three life jackets on board.  It’s going to be chaos!” Hector grinned widely, anticipating the grisly scene.
Satan shrugged his shoulders.  “What else?”
Hector glanced at the clipboard in his hand.  “The usual – urban unrest, drug warfare, domestic violence.  The Hate-o-Meter is running pretty strong lately – must be an American election coming up.”
“If that’s all you’ve got, I’m going back to bed.”  The Father of Lies fluffed his pillows, then snuggled into them, pulling the worn comforter around his shoulders.
Hector had never seen his boss look so depressed.  He decided to pull out his big guns.  “Wait!  I’ve got a project I’ve been working on and it’s almost ready.  We could do a trial run today.  It’s called the Wheel of Havoc – spin one wheel to determine the disaster and the other wheel to pick the place.  So we can finally have a tsunami in Tulsa, or a blizzard in Bermuda.  Isn’t that great?!”
“It’s okay,” Satan said, his voice muffled by the pillows.
Hector frowned.
“But I don’t care.  In fact, I feel sorry for them.”
“Sorry for them?  Sorry for who?!  Since when does the Prince of Darkness feel sorry for anyone?”
Satan sat up in bed and looked at Hector. “For all of them.  For the refugees and the rioters and the Bermudans who will have no idea how to drive in the snow.  It’s weird, but I feel bad.”
“You are bad.”
“You know what I mean.”
“Boss, don’t talk like that.  You’re Beelzebub, the Master of All Evil! You wreak misery and despair!  You destroy faith and crush hope!  It’s what you do!”
Satan sat back against his pillows. “Maybe I’m just having a bad day.”
Hector jumped on that.  “Yeah, a bad day, that’s all this is.  You know what you need?”
“A shrink?”
“A vacation!  You’ve done nothing but work, work, work for centuries.”
“That’s true, I guess.”
“So get out of here!  Take the weekend off and by Monday you’ll be ready to stick it to those mortals again.  Plus it’ll give me time to put the finishing touches on the Wheel of Havoc.”
Satan looked wearily at his assistant, then reluctantly heaved himself out of bed.  “All right.  I’ll be at the summer house if you need me.”  He walked slump-shouldered from the room.

On the Strip, humans hurried from one air-conditioned casino to another, but on the gritty back streets of downtown Las Vegas, the Son of Perdition strolled with the August sun beating on his face.  The 110 degree heat should have warmed his spirits, but he felt as sad and confused as he did on arrival three days ago.  Sin City was one of his favorite places on Earth but the sight of old ladies dragging their oxygen tanks around as they deposited their retirement pay into slot machines didn’t make him giggle with glee like normal.  The depraved men and debased women spending Sunday afternoon in a strip club didn’t make him gloat at his masterful perversion of nature.  Instead, his stomach felt heavy and his heart felt sick.  Was this more than sympathy he felt for these humans who had so easily fallen prey to his temptations?  Was this guilt?
Satan sat on the steps of a building and put his head in his hands.  How could he go back to Hell and continue leading the souls of men to their eternal doom if he felt sorry for them?
“Something I can help you with?”  A man with solid gray hair and a face that was both hardened and kind looked down on Satan.  Here was someone who had seen life.
“I’m okay,” Satan sighed.
“Are you sure?  People I find sitting on the steps of my church are usually here for a reason, even if they don’t know it.  Looking for a Gamblers Anonymous meeting?”
“No, I’m just…having a bad day.  But I’ll be okay.”  Satan stood and started to walk away, but the man stepped in front of him.
“Wait.  Sit with me for a minute.  It’s my job to listen to people and I bet you’ve got a lot on your mind.”
Satan hesitated. “I’ve never talked to a priest before.”
The man smiled.  “Pastor.  Call me Pastor Mike.  And I won’t bite.”
Against his better judgment, the Tempter found himself sitting on the steps and pouring out his problems, albeit vaguely.  
“…and now I’m feeling lost, I guess.  The job I’ve done for ages isn’t fulfilling and I’m starting to question if I’m even doing the right thing with my life.”
Mike nodded.  “That’s a hard place to be.  Tell me, is this job something that used to speak to your soul?”
“Yes, totally.  I used to jump out of bed in the morning to see what was on the agenda.  Now everything feels rote and mechanical.”
“Your heart isn’t in it.”
“Exactly.” Satan nodded.
“How’s your relationship with God?”
Satan thought for a second.  “Well, we’re on speaking terms, but I don’t think He’d invite me over for dinner, if you know what I mean.”
Mike laughed.  “And do you think you are doing what God wants you to do with your life?”
“Absolutely.”
“Then my advice would be to stay the course.  It sounds to me like you’re more bored than anything.  Liven things up a little bit.  Add some variety.  The job has gotten stale and made you question your purpose.  I want to tell you that God has a purpose for everyone.  You have a role to play in God’s kingdom – we all do.  Maybe it’s not fun right now, but if you can focus on the important part you play in the lives of those around you, you’ll get that spark back.  And if I can paraphrase Paul, ‘…all things work together for good to them who are called according to his purpose.’ You’re a lucky man to know God’s will for you – now you’ve got to do it.”
“I have an eternal role?”
“Yes, you do,” Mike said.
“I make a difference in the world?”
Mike looked the Destroyer in the eyes.  “The world needs you.”
Satan smiled. “It does, doesn’t it?”
Mike smiled back, satisfied with himself.  It felt good to help people get their lives back on track.
Satan stood.  “Thank you, sir.  I better be off.  I’ve got work to do.”
“Go with God, son.”
Satan turned to walk away, then turned back.  “Do you have a card or something?  I want to send you something special when I get back to work.”  Pastor Mike handed Satan his card.
Chuckling, Satan walked away, his steps feeling lighter than they had in a long time.  He pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and hit speed dial.
“Hector, it’s me.  I’m heading home early.  Warm up the Wheel of Havoc – I’m ready to do some damage.”

Monday, April 25, 2011

30 Days: Poetry by Brooke Wilson


Sometimes I Run
Sometimes I run
not to get in shape
but to get away from all the shapes
in my life.

Sometimes I run
and I race my shadow
but I always let it win
because if I came face to face with my shadow
after all these years of chasing
what would I say to it?

Sometimes I run
until time slows down
stops
goes backward.
And I don’t want to stop running
until time has gone back far enough
to where hugs enveloped you
and cares were lighter than a robin’s egg
and death
was just a rumor
vacationing in a far-off land.

Sometimes I run
to wrap myself in the cool green mist
and soak up as much fresh life as I can,
to store for later.

Sometimes I run
until I feel the blood pound in my head
and my muscles scream
and my lungs burst
and it feels so good
to know for certain
that I am
painfully
wonderfully
beautifully
alive.


It Began with Ivy
It began with the ivy
curling up the side of a church
in a small abandoned parking lot.

It began with the rain
landing softly on the two faces,
cleansing the ivy.

It began with two hands.
Ten interlocked fingers
growing together gently.

It began with the dance,
more beautiful than music,
quieter than the rain.

It began with hope.
Braided fingers twirling in slow circles,
fresh water kissing their faces.

It began with whispers
from an inclination, feeling, need,
conviction.

Eventually, the entwined fingers
and cooled wet faces
danced on from the parking lot.

But the church,
and the ivy,
and the hope
Are there yet.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Guest Post: Plotting a Storyline

I wanted to share yet another guest post with all of you that will help get those juices flowing as we come to the end of the 30 days/30 stories. I’ve been touring award-winning author Renee Hand this month and asked her for some insight on how she crafts her storylines for her two award-winning series. Here is what she had to say.

Plotting a Storyline with Award-winning Author Renee Hand

I can honestly say that I have no specific, technical, brain-zapping method in plotting my storyline. 

I have been writing for over 25 years and believe me when I say that you can get super technical when it comes down to your writing, but if you focus on all of the technicality, how are you supposed to write, hhhmmmm? So here it is, plain and simple. 

Mysteries, which is the genre I consistently write in, has several parts. Most of these elements apply to your basic story as well. These are the things you need to have an idea about when you start your story.  If you have this as your guideline, you can improve and develop it from there. 

First, you need to gather ideas. What is your story going to be about? What genre? Where is the story going to take place? So on and so forth. 

Next, you must think about your main and minor characters. You need to figure out names, ages, how many characters you will focus on, and so on. Some characters will develop as you continue along. 

The plot of a mystery is that there must be a problem and the main character(s) must solve it. Is something or someone stolen, missing, or kidnapped? You must have a list of clues, with one being the case-cracking clue; remember I am talking about mysteries here. You can throw in a red herring if you like, or a mislead. 

You must have rising action. Your story needs to build up to the climax-where the conflict of the story comes to a head. You should have an idea on how your story is going to end, though in all actuality, your ending will most likely change as your story develops. 

Remember that the climax of the story is not your ending. The ending must have a good resolution to the problem and be satisfying to the reader. My advice is to relax when writing. Don’t worry about so much and let your ideas flow.   

There are so many rules and methods in writing that we could literally suffocate ourselves with them. Don’t worry about them at the very beginning. Get your ideas down on paper. Once down, develop them from there. 

Remember that proofreading, revising and editing are great times to become more technical about what you should and shouldn’t have. 


Renee Hand is an award-winning author, educator, tennis coach and various other things. Hand has been writing for over twenty years and has six publications. She also writes for various chronicles and newsletters, as well as reviews for various authors of children´s books on her blog, http://thecryptocapersseries.blogspot.com

You can find out more about Renee Hand’s World of Ink Author/Book Tour at http://storiesforchildrenpublishing.com/ReneeHand.aspx.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

30 Days: "Looking Back" by Sarah Southerland

"Looking Back"
by Sarah Southerland
(based on a true experience) 


            “Wh—” I cleared my throat. “What are we doing here, Dad?”
            My dad glanced around him, then looked over his shoulder. “Your mom said she’d meet us here.”
            Why would Mom meet us here? My visit wasn’t over for another week and a half. I looked around us too. “But she’s not here.”
            Dad’s eyes darkened. “She said she’d be here,” he scowled. He pushed an empty soda can across the parking lot with his dirty shoe and looked at his watch again.  And again.
            Twenty minutes late, he shoved his hands in his pockets. “Listen, pal, I gotta take off. Your mom will be here. Wait here until she shows up. Don’t talk to no one.”
            “But—”
            He glared at me.
            “Alright,” I mumbled.
            He pulled open his wallet and shoved a crinkled five dollar bill at me. “Use this if you need it. Don’t talk to no one. Wait here.”
            “Alright.”
            Without another word, he took off. He never looked back. I sat down on the curb along the motel parking lot and waited. And waited. And waited. I didn’t talk to anyone. There was no one to talk to. I didn’t have a watch. I didn’t know how much time was passing. I tried counting the cars passing on the street.
            After the 40th car, the motel manager told me to get off his property. He had cigarette dangling out of his mouth and two days worth of a beard. He stunk like my dad did.
            I moved to the sidewalk by the dumpster. I sat on the side near the road so the stinky manager couldn’t see. I slumped down and kept counting. I must have fallen asleep after the 97th car. When I woke up, the sky was dark and I was very cold. I pulled my hoodie tighter around me and hugged my knees to my chest.
            “I thought I told you to get lost!” I heard someone yelling.
            The manager was back.
            I scrambled to my feet and tried to explain. He wouldn’t listen. He yelled at me until someone called the cops. Then the cops walked him inside, yelling all the way about the teenage trash in the neighborhood ruining his business.
            The officer asked me a lot of questions. I felt the wrinkled five dollar bill in my pocket. I tried to smooth it out with my fingers and answer the questions without getting anyone in trouble. I couldn’t answer the questions and keep counting the cars. I saw the officer’s watch: 9:27. The clock in my dad’s truck said 1:38 right before I climbed out. I thought we were getting a drink. I thought I still had a week and a half left with our visitation.
            The officer gave me a blanket and let me sit in the back of his patrol car to warm up. I thought of all the times I had seen my dad taken and away and tried to imagine how he felt. He was probably too wasted to even know. I watched the clock on the dashboard slowly move. 9:48. 9:49. 9:50.
            A lady with a white government car showed up at 10:15. She took me to a children’s shelter to spend the night because they couldn’t find my mom. She thought I had a week and a half left on my visitation too.
            I never saw my dad again.
            He never looked back. 


Author's Note: I teach a writing class every Thursday morning in a Youth in Custody facility near my house. Every week I hear the life stories of my teens and they break my heart. This was the first story I heard that I knew I had to put into words. I did change the info (because I didn't know all the info), but the essence of the story is the same. I wish I could say it's a "Happily Ever After" story, but it's just too soon to tell.... 

Friday, April 22, 2011

30 Days: "Pirate Picnic" by Anji Sandage

By Anji Sandage

Arrrg! Captain One-eyed Zack was in a terrible mood. He had gotten up on the wrong side of his bunk again. “Round up all those smarmy scallywags in the hold!” Captain Zack hollered, “and have them walk the plank!”
“But sir, you already had them walk the plank yesterday sir!” Red-beard Roy, Captain Zack’s first mate, pointed out to the beach where their ship was anchored. Half a dozen ragged men were sitting in the sand twiddling their thumbs and looking wide eyed and frazzled.
“Well, so I did.” Captain Zack growled. Then he brightened momentarily. “Round them up – they can walk the plank again.
The men on the beach grumbled. “Aw, I jest got me-self dried out Cap’n” one of the men complained as he got in line with the others.
Just as the captain began to snarl a response, Red cut in. “Ain’t you gettin’ tired of that Capn’? They a’ready walked the plank 12 times this week.” His eye twitched nervously.
“Arrrgh! Right you are mate!” Captain Zach scratched his chin thoughtfully with a gold dagger. Red’s eye momentarily stopped twitching, and he sighed heavily.
“Then we’ll throw them to the sharks!” Captain Zack roared triumphantly. The men who were now climbing back up the side of the ship paled.
Red’s eye began twitching again. “But sir, there are no sharks here. Besides, who will swab the deck?”
“Right you are again!” Captain Zack wheeled around to face the men who were cautiously climbing back over the side of the ship. “So, we’ll swab the deck first. Then we can go find some sharks!”
The ragged sailors hurriedly grabbed their mops. None of them bothered to point out that the deck had already been swabbed several times that day already.
Red-beard Roy pulled at his straggly red beard. “Ay Captain. We’ve been waiting in this here cove for a week and no sign of a ship to plunder, and no wind to fill the sails.”
Captain One-eyed Zack growled in agreement.
Maybe what you need is some relaxation. Let up on the scurvy blokes a bit? What say ye, Capn’?” Red’s eye twitched.
Captain Zack whirled around. Red jumped. “What do you suggest then, matey? A picnic? Har Har Har!” Captain Zack roared with laughter.
“Why n-n-not Capn’?” Red stammered, his eye now twitching violently. So far Captain Zach had not made him walk the plank. He laughed nervously. “A picnic could be just what you need.”
“WELL THEN WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR!?” Captain Zach hollered.
Red-beard Roy nearly jumped out of his skin “y-y-yes sir, a picnic it is then, sir!”

He ran over to where the crew was swabbing the deck. “Stow your swabs gentlemen!” Red hollered. “Capn’s orders!”
The sailors stopped mopping.
“To the sharks, then?” asked a pirate known as Hangnail Harry.
“We’re having a picnic. On the beach. Capn’s orders Harry. So go to it lads!” Red growled. He may have been nervous around the captain, but he was still a pirate to be feared.
It wasn’t long before there was a hearty spread, with pickled herring, salmagundi stew, honey cakes, and Jugs of ale all around. Buzzard-toe Joe stoked a huge fire while Rotten Pete organized pirate games, like catch the cannon ball, hangman, and pin the hat on the pirate. (Cross-eyed Carl talked him out of using real pirates and daggers to pin the hats onto.) After the games, Peg-leg Larry and Toothless Tom pulled out a harmonica and a banjo and soon there was dancing around the fire.
Of course Captain One-eye jack won at hangman and got to fire the cannon for ‘catch the cannon ball.’ The next day he was like a new pirate. The wind kicked up and they set sail for new coves and ships to plunder. When they came across a small fleet in the early afternoon, he was even very polite (for a pirate), and while plundering he only took a few prisoners to replace those of his crew lost playing hangman and he didn’t make anyone walk the plank.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

30 Days: "Deer Visitor" by Anna Culp

Deer Visitor
by Anna Culp

A deer came to my school today.
The big cafeteria window was open, and she hopped right inside.
She strutted down the lunch line, and all the cafeteria workers howled.
The deer just stared at them all while they wildly waved their ladles and spoons.
I thought maybe she was hungry. I held up my last tater tot. She sniffed it, but turned up her nose.
By then, my teacher, Miss Lyon, had started squeaking. My class stampeded out of the cafeteria. That was no way to welcome a deer to school.
The deer followed us into the hallway.
I thought maybe she was thirsty. I showed her how to push the water fountain. She sniffed the water, and snorted.
Miss Lyon stomped, and her squeaking got higher and higher.
The deer stretched her neck to peek across the hall at the classroom. Inside the classroom, my class buzzed with whispers.
Miss Lyon squeaked so high I only understood now. That was no way to treat a deer friend.
I gave my sorriest shrug to the deer, and dragged my feet in my slowest backward walk. Miss Lyon squeaked so high that I don’t even know what she said.
And then I thought of it: maybe the deer wanted to read. I ran to my desk as fast as I could and grabbed my favorite book. I slipped it out the door just before it slammed shut.
[narrator child peeking out the little door window]
The deer scooped up my book in her mouth, nodded, and strutted away. She hopped out the cafeteria window with my book.
I hope she returns it when she’s done.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

30 Days: "Angel and Iron" by Julie Daines

Angel and Iron
This is a day of celebrations. It is my birthday, and it is my wedding day. I rejoice in neither.
They tell me that now I’m fifteen, I am old enough to marry. They are wrong. They also tell me our two kingdoms must unite. I am to be his second wife. His first wife died in childbirth. I have never met him.
My handmaiden fits a veil of netted, snow-white silk atop my head, securing it in place with a silver crown. I enter the great hall with my face covered. He waits for me, standing before the priest.
I walk slowly, keeping my head high and shoulders straight. I clasp my hands in front of me to hide the trembling. He is twice my age. A great warrior. Perhaps if he were not so great, I would not be here now, marrying this man to spare my people war.
I take my place beside him. He turns to me, lifting my veil with a flourish, sending it high over my head. It floats down my back silently, like the fall of angel wings. His eyes are the color of raw iron, partly brown and partly grey. They catch and hold my gaze, digging deep as the mines from whence the iron came. I don’t want this man to know me. I look away.
The priest says his part. A gold band slips onto my finger. My husband leans down to kiss me. I close my eyes, lift my mouth, and brace myself. His lips touch my cheek. He laughs so softly, it is nothing more than a breath on my skin.
A cheer rises from the crowd. He grasps my hand and lifts it. His skin is rough and worn. We dine together, at the head of the table. He keeps my goblet filled. When the music starts, he leads me onto the floor. I curtsey to him, then we move to the song of the harp, performing the steps of the wedding dance.
“You’re beautiful,” he says.
You are very old. I don’t say it. “Thank you, my lord.”
His iron eyes are on me, watching. Perhaps this is how he became such a fine warrior—observing with patience the movements of others. I feel him stripping away my barriers, exposing my weakness without saying a word.
I turn, moving with the music in a circle around him.
“You are unhappy?” he asks.
“No, my lord.” I try to smile, but I’ve forgotten how.
“I can see that you are. Why should you not be? No girl wants a stranger for a husband.”
No, indeed. But if I let the words out, I fear the tears will follow. I stare at his boots.
“Maerwyn.” He says my name. “Come with me.” He takes my hand and leads me from the great hall, towing me up the narrow, stone steps. Up and up to the top of the keep. Then out into the fading light.
To the east, the mountains. And beyond them, my home. To the west, an endless ocean. The sun is setting and the horizon is on fire, as if the sea itself is burning.
“This is my favorite place,” he says, leaning on the battlements.
The breeze lifts my veil. I want to raise my arms and fly across the water, gliding away with the gulls toward the flames in the west. “It’s beautiful.”
“Maybe someday, you will come to love it here as much as I do.”
I look up, studying the brown and the grey of his eyes.
He smiles at me. Perhaps he’s not so very old. He’s strong, and still handsome.
“Yes, my lord.”
I try again, and feel something pull at the corners of my mouth. My memory has returned. I’ve managed a smile.
© 2011 Julie Daines

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

30 Days: "Rooster Tail" by Lana Krumwiede

ROOSTER TAIL
By Lana Krumwiede

Danny Oldham had a rooster tail, which would have been fine if he were a rooster. But for a ten-year-old boy, a rooster tail was a bad thing. It was what Danny’s mom called the hair that stuck straight up at the top of his head.


Today was picture day and Mom was fussing with Danny’s hair in front of the bathroom mirror.


“What’s that smell?” Danny said.


“Special hair gel,” Mom said. “We’re going to fix that rooster tail and get a great school picture this year.”


“Smells like coconut.” Danny scrunched his nose. “I hate coconut.”


“We’ll send it out in all the Christmas cards.” Mom said.


“Coconut?” Danny asked.


“No, silly. Your school picture.”


Danny’s shoulders slumped. He picked up the bottle and read out loud. “Ultra Strength Hair Gel. Cool Tropical Scent.” Geez Louise. This coconut gunk had better work.


At school, Danny’s teacher gathered the school-picture order forms. “We’ll go to the photographer right after lunch,” she said.


Hopefully Ultra Strength meant after-lunch strength.


When Danny went to the restroom during Science, he checked his hair in the mirror. So far, so good.


When he passed the library, Danny glanced in the big glass window. Rooster tail under control.


At lunch, Danny sat with his best friend, Mayank.


“I’ll be glad when school pictures are over,” Danny said.

        “I know what you mean,” said Mayank. “The girls are checking their hair every minute. It’s driving me crazy.”


Danny frowned and swallowed his milk.


Mayank handed him a pudding cup. “This will cheer you up. Isn’t butterscotch your favorite?”


“Thanks,” Danny said. Before he could even open the pudding, the lunch monitor dismissed their table. Danny stuck the pudding cup in his pocket. He’d eat it after school.


Danny’s teacher took the class straight to the photographer. All the girls crowded around the mirror. The boys got in line.


Finally Danny had a chance to take a quick look in the mirror. Hooray! Hair gel had conquered rooster tail!

       Just to make sure, he touched the place where his hair usually stuck up.

       BOI-OI-OING! Rooster tail was back.


Danny tried to smooth it down, but the gel made his hair stiffer than ever. Now he had an Ultra Strength Rooster Tail.


“Next?” said the photographer.


Only three kids stood in the line ahead of Danny. He checked his pockets. He had no comb. He had no brush. He had no Ultra Strength gel. All he had was butterscotch pudding.


“Next?” said the photographer.


Danny lifted the corner of the pudding cup’s foil lid, scooped out a butterscotch glob and smeared it thick on the rooster tail. It was almost the same color as his hair.


“Next?” said the photographer.


Danny checked in the mirror. No rooster tail. Now just stay that way for about ten seconds.


“Next?” said the photographer, nodding to Danny.

        He eased himself onto the stool.


“What’s that smell?” said the photographer.


That’s Ultra Strength Hair Pudding, Danny thought. Cool Butterscotch scent. Danny smiled and laughed at his own joke.


CLICK!


Three weeks later, Danny took home the best school picture ever.