Book Launch: Secret’s End

We’re pleased to announce that our author K. D. Blakely will be launching the fifth book in her Chimera Chronicles at the end of the month: Secret’s End.

We’ll do a cover reveal next Friday!  In the meantime, here’s a little background on the book, and be sure to look for it on launch day, September 27th!

Genre: Fantasy, the last book of a five book series

Target Audience: Middle Grade/Young Adult – Main Character, Kat Taylor, is sixteen and seventeen in this last book of the series.

About the Book:

What happens when Secrets End?

Things are going from bad to worse.

Someone needs to make a record of what’s happening, and I guess that’s me, Katherine Alice Taylor. This journal could be vital, because it feels like something is trying to stop me and my friends.

The magical world of Chimera is being ripped apart. Wild magic, caused by two conflicting spells, is destroying that realm. And now, it’s leaking into our world.

The blue lightning storms and corrosive fogs in Santa Ramona are escalating, and we have to act soon. No matter how dangerous it gets.

I don’t really expect anyone else to read this. Not if I have anything to say about it. But I need to write it down. Just in case something goes wrong.

If the five of us fail, someone else will have to set things right. Too much depends on it.

Stonehenge Story Starts: Alien Linguistics (Results)

Stonehenge Stories Icon 4Welcome to this week’s stories from our writers. We have two stories that were inspired by the prompt: A language class for aliens.

I hope you enjoy!

Cheryl Mahoney

I enter into trance-state and my mind lifts up out of my body, as easily as words might leave my mouth.  I sense the glimmering forms of my companions around me, as they too rise from their bodies.  We swirl together in greeting and acknowledgment and encouragement, but swiftly we turn to our mission.

            Together we stream up and away, soaring across the stars.  Distance is more a suggestion than a fact while in trance-state, and intention counts for more than lightyears.  Time, too, feels nebulous in this form, so I cannot tell you how long we move in the blackness of space, stars shining around us, curling and swirling together for company amidst the immensity.  Soon enough but not too soon we reach our destination, a small blue planet around a yellow star.

            We descend, scattering as we enter into this planet’s influence, as we reach the level of its inhabitants.  I quest for the nearest intelligent creature, slip into its mind, and begin my learning.

            That first one is hazy because I knew so little, could understand so little.  And that first one is special, because it was the first time my mind had met the mind of another not of my people.

            I go searching for identity and find many words.  Mother.  Doctor.  Human.  Woman.  Protestant.  American.  Daughter.  Friend.  I will visit many minds, explore many identities, before I understand what each of these words means.

            I explore.  I visit mind after mind, each one different, each one teaching me something new.  Each one adding to the words I understand, the human concepts I gather.  I learn the word “human” quickly, delight in having a label for this species I am coming to know.  I learn “humain,” “maanav,” and “rén de” too, and I delight in them all.  I do not bother trying to categorize words into languages until after I have gained many more of them.  I simply slide between minds and soak in what they offer.

            I learn simple things easily, things like bird and tree and house and table.  I slip into a child by the ocean and learn about sand, waves, ice cream and castles.  I slip into an old man sitting by a window and learn about sunsets.  I slip into a father caring for young and learn about macaroni, green beans and chocolate.

            I grow my store of words until I can describe the world outside with some proficiency, and feel pleased by my advancement.

            Other kinds of words are harder, though.  Words to describe worlds inside are sometimes brighter and bolder than any other, and sometimes hazy and nebulous and difficult to catch.  And they change from mind to mind, so much more than the outside words do.

            I visit many minds to learn words like “truth,” “honor,” and “fear.”  Slowly I come to match such words to my own people’s understanding, come to tease out the difference between how a human regards “joy” or “pain” and how my own people do.

            I spend a long time trying to understand “love.”  Humans spend so much time thinking about it, it is obviously greatly important to them.  And yet it takes so many shapes as I drift between minds.  At first I think it is like what I feel for my bondmate.  Then I think it is what I feel for my hatchlings.  But it is also like what I feel for my companions on this mission.  I think for a time that “love” is a warm feeling between humans, less precisely defined than my own people would have done—but then I slip into a mind that uses “love” to describe a feeling so entwined with pain, with criticism and doubts, that I grow confused again.  “Love” seems to be a Big word for humans, a single word that contains multitudes.

            Sometimes I think I glimpse one of my companions behind a human’s eye, feel a whisper of thought across the distance between us.  But there are so many humans on this teeming planet that these encounters are rare, if not purely imagination.

            Sometimes I leave one human and do not go immediately to another.  Sometimes when it all becomes too strange or too confusing, I rise up towards the stars again.  There I drink in the quiet, the space—and often I meet one or more of my companions there, our minds touching as we share what we have learned, offer each other company on our journey.  Mostly I meet my bondmate, when I rise up to the stars, not because we planned it but because our connection draws us together.  Our minds meet and mingle with special warmth as we soar together far above the Earth.

            We learn and explore and visit mind after mind for a long, long time.  The experience is confusing and exciting, and then familiar, and then finally sad.  I finally begin to feel it is too much, too long—too hard to learn so much about humans and to share nothing back.  To visit, and never be seen or felt or known.

            But the Guardians who planned our journey planned well.  I am only just beginning to feel that sadness when our allotted time comes to an end, when distant bells call us back at last to our own bodies.  We leave the Earth, and together we fly back, so quickly, to our own forms.

            I settle back into my body like returning to a beloved nest I have left absent too long, fitting in with only the slightest breath of strangeness, with much more comfort and ease and familiarity.  I open my eyes just as the door to my sleeping capsule unlocks and opens.

            I stretch, turn to look for my bondmate beside me and smile to again see familiar eyes looking back at me.

            Our captain’s voice comes through speakers into the room, into all the rooms where my companions are awakening.  The words are in English, a human language, and after all this time that does not even seem strange.

            “Our ship has just passed the orbit of the fifth planet, and we’ll be reaching Earth shortly.  Please prepare yourselves for first contact.”

            I smile again.  Time at last to put all these new words to use.

 

Karen Blakely

He was going to save her. In spite of herself.

Lenny wasn’t sure how Jill had fallen in with that lunatic fringe. It felt like one day they’d been perfectly happy, and the next they were arguing about her teaching English to a bunch of “aliens”. But not other country types of aliens. No, she meant outer space type aliens. Yeah, ET’s. How Jill could believe some bunch of LARP geeks were really aliens was beyond him. They’d argued about it incessantly, then only two weeks later, Jill was gone. And as she’d left, she’d told him he was a close-minded, self-important idiot.
It was all the fault of those geeks!
He’d almost written her off. Then he realized they must have brainwashed her. That was the only thing that made any sense. And that meant it was up to him to save her.
Over the next two months he grew a mustache and dyed his hair. Then he started following her, trying to figure out where the geek meetings were taking place. He’d dropped nearly twenty pounds with all the walking he’d been doing; more in the past two months than in the past two years. He was sure she wouldn’t realize he was…checking on her.
He’d finally managed to figure out where the weirdos were meeting. Today he would finally sneak in and, if necessary, show her how stupid all of this was. Then she’d thank him, and they could be together again.
Several people were already seated when he stealthily entered the room and slid onto one of the seats in the back. Jill was talking to some Jason Momoa wannabe up at the front of the room and didn’t notice.
Lenny looked around and barely bit back a sneer. What a bunch of losers. None of them looked quite right. Their hair was too long or their clothes too big. A few had even chosen colors that clashed so badly he couldn’t bear to look. Several of the others were wearing sunglasses inside the dim room, like they were trying to look cool. Or maybe they were just trying to block out that shocking pink and orange Hawaiian shirt that – guy? girl? – was wearing.
Jill’s phone beeped and she clapped her hands. “Alright everyone, let’s get started.” She pushed at something in her left ear and grinned. “How was it last week? Did anyone have any successes with speaking English that they’d like to share?”
There was a strange rumble of sound from around the room.
What the hell? They really were freaks! They were chirping and grunting and making low pitched grumbles. And Jill was up there nodding like it all made sense.
“That’s great!” She beamed at them as if they’d said something interesting. “How about any failures? Is there anything we need to work on for next week?”
Again, there was a strange swell of sound around him while Jill nodded as if these geeks were making sense. And he’d had enough.
Lenny leapt to his feet and shouted, “What are you all playing at?” He swung his gaze to the front and met Jill’s startled eyes. “And you, why are you going along with this? You’re too smart to be involved in this craziness.”

A few others climbed to their feet, various expressions from confusion to scowls to alarm aimed his way. A few even looked angry. Well, let them.
One, tall and so thin he was nearly skeletal, pointed a long finger at Lenny and said, in heavily accented English, “Why is this one here? What does it want?”
Jill was glaring, but not at the skinny guy. She was glaring at him, as if he was the problem. “Lenny? What are you doing here?”
“I’m here to save you from all this,” he shouted, trying to make her understand his concern. He waved his hands around the room. The others were all staring at him now. And from the looks on their faces, they weren’t happy with this interruption. Well, too damn bad. He infused as much sincerity as he could into his voice. “I just want you to see how ridiculous this is and to come home with me, where you belong.”
Her eyes narrowed. Uh-oh, he knew that look. “I belong anywhere I want to be,” she spat. For a moment he was sure he could hear her grinding her teeth. She placed her hands on her hips and leaned forward. “And right now, I want to be here.” She glanced around the room, noticing the agitation being displayed. She shook her head, a flash of worry clear in her eyes even across the room. “Lenny, you need to get out of here before you cause—”
Whatever Jill had been about to say was drowned out by an angry roar from the Jason Momoa look-alike. He surged to his feet and stood up straight. And grew. And grew. Several others dove out of the way as chairs were knocked in every direction by his…its…expanding body. Its face lost any semblance of humanity as its clothes were torn apart at the seams.
That was no Jason Momoa. It was some hideous creature, shaped more like a giant octopus than a man. The room filled with that same strange rumble of sound as the vocalizations of the others added to the clatter of furniture. Then a long tentacle whipped out from the creature’s back and ended up less than an inch from Lenny’s nose. The tentacle was tipped by a short, sharp spike which waved back and forth in front of his face.
Lenny stared at it mesmerized, like watching a poisonous snake poised to strike.
Jill was shouting something he couldn’t make out. It certainly wasn’t English. Lenny gulped and broke out in a cold sweat, suddenly sure he was about to die.
Murdered.
By an alien.
Then very, very slowly, that tentacle pulled back, and finally disappeared somewhere into that misshapen body.
Jill sighed loudly in the sudden silence. For a moment she stood there, white and shaking. Then her face tightened in anger. She screamed, “You are such an asshole, Lenny. Just. Get. OUT!”
And Lenny did.

Stonehenge Story Starts: Open Gate (Results)

Stonehenge Stories Icon 2Welcome to this weeks stories from our writers. We have two stories that were inspired by the following prompt: Open Gate

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I hope you enjoy!

Cheryl Mahoney:

The gate was open.  The gate was never open.  I stopped on the path and peered through the gap in the wrought iron gate.

            I had been walking past this gate going to and from school for years, ever since I was small enough for Mom to walk with me.  I had never seen it open.

            It marked a strange patch of otherness in our ordinary neighborhood.  It was all boring suburban houses, boring suburban lawns.  And the Church.  With its gate.

            There were other churches in the area—the Catholic church and the Lutheran church and the synagogue.  But when we kids talked about the Church, we always meant this one.  The abandoned one.  The big grand gothic one—“gothic” had come up as a term in history class last year.  It loomed gray and solemn above the neighborhood, tucked away behind its worn stone wall, with its one iron gate.

Everyone said the Church had been empty for decades.  No one seemed to know exactly why.

I took a cautious step forward, edged one foot in its sneaker between the spread wings of the open gate, onto the stone path beyond.  The world felt colder—because of the shadow of the arch, obviously.  We’d learned about that in some science class, properties of light or something.

Supposedly the high schoolers snuck into the Church at night, as a dare.  I wasn’t sure if it was true.  But maybe someone had come in during the day, and left the gate open behind them.

Which created an opportunity.  If I wanted to take it.

I couldn’t keep hovering here on the threshold.  Someone could see me at any moment.

With sudden decision I ran forward, through the gate and down the path, only slowing down when I was nearly to the great stone wall of the nearest outcropping of the building.

With this new vantage point I noticed for the first time that the grass seemed strangely neat, for a place no one ever went.  Our front lawn got raggedy enough to bother my father after just a couple weeks, if no one mowed it.

Maybe the gate was just open because a gardener had come in, to keep up the lawn.  That was kind of dull, though.

I turned slowly in place on the path, looking around at what the walls had always hidden before.  And I saw that the Church had a graveyard.  It wasn’t a cemetery, like where Grandpa is buried, with all its long, straight rows of flat markers.  This was a graveyard, like I’d seen in movies, with standing-up tombstones and even some above-ground crypts.

I had wandered a few steps closer when I saw it.  One of the crypts, small, shaped like a coffin and just big enough for one body.  The end was broken off, stones scattered a few feet away around it, churned up grass beneath them.

I slowly began to edge backwards.

Because sure, I knew that sometimes old stones broke apart on their own.

But it had just occurred to me that, possibly, the gate wasn’t open because someone had gone in.

What if it was open because someone had gone out?

 

Karen Blakely:

The gate creaked slowly open.
It was my 18 th birthday, and for some crazy reason it felt like I was being offered…something.
I’d stared at that gate every time I walked by for the past, what, fifteen years? It had always been closed
and I’d never seen the slightest hint of life beyond it. The gate hid most of a large stone building; too
pretty for a warehouse, but too large to be a home in our miserable little town. Several things caught my
attention over the years: Gates that were always locked, a building where nothing ever moved and no
lights ever showed, grounds that looked like someone spent the entire night sweeping and trimming and
keeping everything immaculate.
Even stranger, most things seemed to instinctively avoid the place. That old saying, as the crow flies,
didn’t work there. Birds circled away from it. Squirrels never entered the grounds. Dogs and cats and
people crossed the street without seeming to notice. And when I asked about it, most people acted like
they’d forgotten it even existed.
It might have been a hospital or sanitarium in the distant past, but there was no way to be sure. There
were no records of the place anywhere. I know, because I’d checked it out on all the sites I could find. I
was known as Rook132 in a few groups that liked to speculate about strange places. I’d found it listed on
one of them as #MysteryHouse22, but everyone agreed there was a disturbing lack of information
available. It didn’t even show up properly on Google maps; there was too much pixilation to be sure how
big it was, or even if all of it was intact.
Mom always said I was too curious for my own good, like a dog with a bone who refused to let go of
things. I thought that particular feature made me thorough, but Mom always said it made me obsessive.
Unfortunately most of my friends agreed with her, about that place at least. They were far more
interested in video games than in a creepy old building.
But there was something about that gate and the structure hidden beyond it that grabbed my
imagination and wouldn’t let go. I’d tried to climb the fence a few times when I was younger. The last
attempt had landed me in the emergency room with a broken leg when I was twelve and Mom had been
furious. Not that I could blame her. It happened right before what would have been our summer
vacation, and it happened when I was trying to — major Mom stink-eye — TRESPASS.
I didn’t mind the chewing out I’d received from her and Dad so much. But the harassment from my
friends, who couldn’t believe I’d done something so stupid, was harder to take. I got tired of being
reminded to be grateful I broke my leg and not my hands for the next three months.
After that, I didn’t try to get in again. But I’d deliberately walk down that street to stare at it and
wonder. Just what was beyond that gate?
And now it had opened, right as I walked by. On my birthday. And I was struck again by an
overwhelming feeling that it had opened for me. To let me inside, so I could finally appease years of
gnawing curiosity.
I warned myself that it was still trespassing. It was broad daylight, and someone could be watching me
even now. I glanced around quickly, but didn’t see anyone near me. I hesitated and tugged out my
earbud, hoping the resulting silence would make my decision easier. Was I really going to go in there
and check it out?

Well, I’d never be able to live with myself if I didn’t. And if someone caught me, I’d apologize and get the
heck out. It would be embarrassing, but certainly not as bad as breaking my leg all those years ago. Was
I going in? Hell, yeah!

Chase76: You hear about Rook132?
Quark42: What happened?
Chase76: Disappeared.
Quark42: You sure?
Chase76: Yeah. It’s in the Castle Rook papers, big time.
Quark42: He kept asking about #MysteryHouse22, right?
Chase76: Yes. He’s the fourth similar disappearance by my reckoning.
Quark42: Fourth? Why haven’t I heard that?
Chase76: The town hasn’t put it together. Four guys in forty years doesn’t get much attention.
Quark42: But Castle Rook’s a little town. How many coincidences will people take?
Chase76: The whole town lives by #MysteryHouse22 and they don’t ask any questions, remember?
Quark42: All four disappearances are the same?
Chase76: Yes. All male. Between 17 and 19. All missing near their birthday. Alone and on foot when they
disappeared. None mentioned being harassed or afraid. And after investigating, the town
determined foul play is probable.
Quark42: Wow. What do you think happened?
Chase76: It’s the house. My brother was the first of the four that disappeared, so I’ve spent the past
forty years putting the pieces together.
Rook132: You need to stop! I never understood Jason’s fascination with that place before. Now I see
he’d been listening to your crazy conspiracy theories. You’re talking about my son as if he’s
dead, but I refuse to give up hope. And I hold all of you responsible for what happened. If you
hadn’t filled his head with nonsense about an old building, he’d never have been on that
street. Whoever took him wouldn’t have seen him there, and he’d still be home with me.
Rook132: You talk like the building took him. Well, I blame you people for what happened, not an old
abandoned building.
Chase76: Lady, believe what you want. Just stay far away from #MysteryHouse22.