Spokane werew’elves – A happy howlidays  story / #BlogBattle entry.

Spokane werew’elves – A happy howlidays story / #BlogBattle entry.

Fresh snow sifted through the forest canopy to dust the sparkling carpet of the previous day’s record twenty-five inches. Low overnight temperatures had created a thick crust on top of the snow making it easier for the pack to get to the designated spot. Stan had chosen the meeting place very carefully. He wanted everything to be perfect for what he had planned.

The Alpha parked his Jeep just off a service road. Normally no one but rangers and firefighters used it, but Sheriff plates came in handy at times. Stan rounded the back of the car and pulled a large bundle and a pair of snow shoes out of the trunk. Time to get to work.

Two hours later, he had everything set. Lifting his nose, he scented the air. Powdery snow was still falling but his nose told him it would stop soon. It also told him his pack was getting near. He checked on his preparations one last time, then cleared the snow off a nearby stump to sit and wait. It wasn’t long before the soft crunching of paws reached his sensitive ears. One by one, pack members began to appear, slipping out of the shadows and into the moonlit grotto. Moving with purpose, they formed a circle around the perimeter of the clearing.

Walt was in charge of bringing their newest pack members, Miranda and Seif, and was set to arrive last. An easy enough task as he lead them in human form while they followed as wolves. This was done on purpose so the two couldn’t pepper him with questions via mind speak. He couldn’t answer them even if he wanted to however because Stan had sworn him to secrecy. Hefting his pack, Walt tightened his snow shoe bindings and grinned in anticipation as he lead them into Riverside State Park. His heart was light; he loved this time of year.

Twenty minutes later the trio entered the clearing and paused at the perimeter the pack had created. Walt stepped through the circle of wolves and motioned his two charges to follow him into the middle where Stan stood waiting. The sheriff, in his street clothes, grinned merrily as he greeted everyone.

“Spokane Guardians, thank you for coming on this beautiful winter night. Tonight we welcome two new helpers into our yearly endeavor.”  He gestured toward Miranda and Seif and the pack reacted with happy yips and chuffs before he continued. “Seif, Miranda, every year our pack adopts families in need and as the holidays approach we collect goods and gifts to deliver to them. This tradition has been handed down, Guardian to Guardian, pack to pack, for hundreds of years and tonight you join our happy band as apprentice elves!”  With his last word, Stan bent over and flipped the switch on a small generator. The pine tree behind him lit up and flooded the snow covered clearing with multi-color light. Bundles of gifts surrounded the base of the tree, as well as one strange pile of fabric with glittery bands. Miranda and Seif, their tongues lolling out in wolfy smiles, stared at the beautiful tableau until Stan began to speak again. “For those of you who’ve done this before, you know the drill. Please line up behind our newest helpers.”

The pack settled in behind Seif and Miranda, chatting happily about their individual holiday traditions while Stan disappeared behind the tree. Walt moved to the forefront to speak to the pack and cleared his throat loudly to get their attention. He was obviously holding something behind his back and Miranda scented mischievous mirth wafting off him. She threw a look at Seif then turned back to eye Walt, tilting her head in question. The old goat chuckled and winked before lifting his voice.

“As the newest members of our Secret Santa Brigade, you two,” he motioned to them, “get to don the honorary head gear!” Pulling his hands from behind his back, Walt approached the duo with red and green striped elf hats with large elastic bands.  He placed one on each of their large canine heads and stepped back. “Behold,” he shouted, “Santa’s newest helpers!” The pack howled their approval, some with obvious laughter, and a few puns were cast to the duo.

Hey, you two look great! You’ve really pulled your ‘elves’ together!

Too bad wolves can’t use phones, you two should really take an ‘elfie’ together!

Good thing we switched to hats. Rudolf noses would have interfered with your ‘elf’factory senses!

While the pack groaned at the puns Miranda and Seif looked at each other and chuffed out wolfy chuckles. They looked ridiculous but it was for a good cause so, grinning, they made a small bow to their fellow pack members. When they turned back around Walt asked them to wait, executed an awkward turn in his snow shoes, and slowly made his way back to the tree where he picked up the strange glittery pile. “All right, come here and let’s get you situated.”

Miranda and Seif padded forward to sit in front of their Beta. He shook out one of the bundles and held it up. It was a large harness with saddle bags attached. In each bag there were several small bundles with names and addresses on them. Moving steadily, Walt attached a harness to each of the 14 Guardians. When he was done they sat chatting amongst themselves as they waited for Stan to reappear.

The time waiting was definitely well spent as far as Miranda was concerned. The Alpha stepped out from where he’d been changing and appreciative sounds emanated from the pack. Stan was now sporting a beautiful old fashioned Santa Suit. The dark red coat that fell to his knees was closed with a sash and trimmed with a light golden fur, as were his thick, black leather mittens and boots. An intricately hand-knit scarf wound around his neck held three small jingle bells at each end. The bells caught the lights and sparkled against his chest. Well over 6 foot 4, with fiery red hair and beard, Miranda thought Stan made an impressive Father Christmas!

Catching her errant thought, Stan smiled. Thank you, Miranda.

You’re welcome. Miranda grinned ruefully. I’m still not used to this mind speak stuff, though.

Neither am I. Seif admitted. But she’s right. You make a striking Saint Nick.

Stan inclined his head to the two of them then the Santa Alpha directed the wolves toward the northern edge of the clearing, across from where Walt had lead them in. A small red sleigh with gold accents and runners awaited them. The Guardians once again formed two lines and Stan moved along them attaching the leads. Miranda couldn’t believe they were going to run around town pulling him like sled dogs, but was so excited to do so! She glanced at Seif and he looked just as thrilled though obviously confused.

How are we able to do this without freaking out the town folk? Seif asked.

People see what they want or expect to see so as far as the town folk go, they’ll just think you all are big sled dogs. The reins, bells, and hats add to the disguise. Plus we’ll be sticking to the shadows as much as possible. Don’t worry, you two. We’ve been doing this for years.

Satisfied by the explanation, Miranda and Seif settled in to wait. When the last lead was connected Stan mounted the small sleigh, picked up the reigns, and with a booming voice called out, “On Guardians, pack members, my family and friends. Let’s make this a merry Christmas for as many folks as possible!”

Before the pack could move, Miranda turned to look back and broadcast a thought to her Alpha. You couldn’t find a rhyme for friends to end that with, could you?

Stan chuckled. Nope, but I did find this.” He pulled his cell phone out of a pocket, ran his finger over it, then held it up and waved it once, sharply. The sound of a cracking whip broke the serene silence and the two new helpers eyes widened in shock.

Are you kidding me with that? Miranda squeaked a split second before the pack’s laughter erupted. She and Seif looked at their fellow Guardians. They’d all been in on this.

“You two should see your faces right now.” Stan chuckled.

Miranda and Seif, now chuckling along, shook their great furry heads and took off pulling the sleigh across the snow, as the entire pack yipped and howled with joy.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you all!

 

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A very humble THANK YOU!

So my first novel, Waxing is Useless has been out for nearly 2 months now. It’s still somewhat surreal that it’s out there, but what’s even more surreal is the sweet, positive comments and reviews I’ve been getting!

To all out there who’ve taken the time to visit the Amazon site and leave a review,

You guys make me feel like this. . .

WIP = Vol. 2 of The Luna Chronicles

WIP = Vol. 2 of The Luna Chronicles

Lilac City Lunacy is in the works!
So I’m about ten chapters in and it’s reminding me why a first draft is called rough. Good grief! I’m struggling a bit, but still enjoying the world of the Spokane Guardians.
I’m digging deeper into my original characters back stories (esp. Hank and his mysterious family tree), introducing new characters, and creating a monstrous new menace!

Miranda and the pack will have their relationships and creativity tested, and their pack history, territory, and shoe sizes expanded. 😉

Stay tuned for more news about “Lilac City Lunacy – Vol. 2 of the Luna Chronicles!

**Mini-spoiler** There may also be a bit of romance involved this time. Crikey!

Happy Howl-oween!

Hey everyone,

I hope you all have a Halloween fun enough to howl about! 

Tail wags & shoulder bumps to you all,

M.J. 

P.S. If you are looking for a good, clean Halloween read, check out my first novel in the Luna Chronicles, Waxing is Useless.  What happens when a middle age soccer mom faces adversity? She grows fur and a tail, of course! **Excerpt below. 

Miranda closed her eyes and tried to concentrate on breathing, but the minute she shut them her other senses seemed to explode. Her heart raced, a bass accompaniment to a symphony of dripping water, crackling ice, a light breeze, and somewhere a few blocks away, tires on icy streets. She could feel every blade of mushy grass beneath her hands and feet. She felt the mud and the slight temperature fluctuations in the wind. Even the moonlight felt like waves of mist against her burning skin.

Lifting her face to the sky, she inhaled deeply. Scents she’d never recognized before sifted into her brain. She identified crocus shoots, compost, and weirdly, earthworms. She turned her face north into the wind. Someone was smoking marijuana in a nearby home. The Kollyers had apparently grilled chicken earlier. George burned it a bit. The chemical floral scent of someone’s dryer stuck in her throat, making her gag. She sneezed to clear her nose and continued to explore the scents of the neighborhood. Wood smoke from someone’s stove and beer and cigarettes from the bar four blocks away. She couldn’t believe what all she was sensing!

Miranda opened her eyes. She had spent so much time analyzing scents that the moon had slipped lower in the sky, and the temperature had dropped even further. She knew it was cold enough to become hypothermic but didn’t feel cold at all.

She focused on her surroundings. She could see everything so clearly! Details she’d never noticed during the day jumped out at her in the dark. Despite the strange new clarity of her eyesight, Miranda was finding it hard to think. Her brain felt foggy. She considered calling for help, but she couldn’t work up the energy to vocalize her need.

Fighting the urge to lay down in the now semi-frozen grass, she forced herself to stand, and swayed unsteadily for a moment before she turned toward the house. She’d taken two lurching steps when something metallic hit the cement floor inside the garage. Someone is in there!

Available soon – Waxing is Useless

Available soon – Waxing is Useless

Hey everyone, I promised a while ago that when my book became available I’d let you know. Well, I finally hit that publish button on KDP and it’ll go live in approximately 72 hours!  Look for it on Amazon, and thanks for reading.

Here’s the back cover blurb. – Cover art kudos to former interviewee, Shannon Potratz .09-21 werewolf_bck_cvr

Stealing an hour with author, Rachael Ritchey

Stealing an hour with author, Rachael Ritchey

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When I downloaded The Beauty Thief over a year ago, little did I know the author, Rachael Ritchey, is local (to me), or that she would be a featured speaker at my writer’s group meeting. When I realized who she was, and which book of hers was still gracing my e-reader I knew this interview had to happen.

We spent a quick hour sipping coffee in a noisy Starbucks. Being the busy mom that she is, it was the only time she had, and boy am I glad she agreed to meet me. Her books are a blend of fantasy fiction, good family values, and swashbuckling adventure. Ritchie, herself, is an intelligent, bubbly, down to earth woman just as captivating as her novels. Keep reading to learn more about author and blog host, Rachael Ritchie.

SnS: Hello, Rachael. Let’s start with a little background. Are you from the PNW, and if not how did you land here?

Rachael: I was born in Sandpoint, ID and spent a short seven years during my childhood in SE Alaska. My family moved back to Idaho when I was 13 and we stayed there until I finished high school.

After getting married and living a couple places, my husband and I settled on the Inland Northwest as a great place to raise our kids. You might say I convinced him that this is the best place to live, but it wasn’t hard. My husband of almost nineteen years not only loves the beauty of this area, but he also still wants to please me! Crazy.

SnS: Sounds like a man in love. How did you meet?

Rachael: We actually met on the internet in 1999. There were no such things as dating sites (that I know of) back then. We met on our GeoCities websites. He was in college in Minnesota at the time, and I was a senior in high school. I had just helped a friend build her GeoCities page and signed her guestbook. He followed that link to my page, which was all about hiking and outdoors stuff. He left a comment on the bottom of my page saying how much he liked all the links and information along with a quote from the Bible: Isaiah 40:81, and a rose.

I thought, “Oh cool, he’s a Christian too!” so I emailed him a thank you for stopping by my website and we ended up emailing back and forth. It started out as once a day, then it was twice, then it was three times a day. After a while I convinced him to stop in northern Idaho on his way back to Tacoma so we could meet. At first he was like, “No, no, no, no. I’m not going to do that.” But finally it worked out and my mom and I met him in Coeur d’Alene. We didn’t date right away though, we were friends first. And the rest, as they say, is history.

SnS: That’s great! So what got you into writing initially?

Rachael: That’s difficult to answer. I grew to adore writing in 6th grade, but I didn’t take the idea seriously until years and years and years later. I started writing about ten years ago, but for various reasons I’d rather not discuss I let fear stop me. I told myself I wasn’t good enough, that I’d never be able to write anything worth reading, that I would never finish. I gave up, but the desire didn’t die.

December of 2013 I couldn’t let it rest any more. I needed to write. I needed to understand the turmoil of my feelings regarding my foster daughter’s uncertain future. The weight of my fear and anxiety had weighed me down so far, I thought everything that made me me would be crushed. As I prayed on the way to church one wintry Sunday morning, a story … more a reminder … slipped through my conscious mind. It stuck with me for a week, and I had to write it down. That short story then had to be made into something longer. Try 90,000 words longer.

SnS: Wow! How many books have you written and what are their names?

Rachael: I’ve written three full novels in a young adult fantasy series called They are called Chronicles of the Twelve Realms: The Beauty Thief, Captive Hope, and The Treasonous. I have another author/illustrator friend who worked with me to create a short 26 page illustrated children’s book version of The Beauty Thief too!

SnS: That’s an amazing accomplishment, especially considering you have four kids!

Rachael:  Thanks. Yes, I have 3 biological kids and we adopted our 4th.

 SnS: That’s wonderful 🙂 So you said you collaborated on the illustrated version of The Beauty Thief. Was that difficult?

Rachael: Yes and no. The illustrator is a friend of mine who is also an author. She actually came to me with the idea. She said, “I have something I want to show you and I’m really excited about it!” So she pulled out this beautiful drawing of Caityn, the main character from The Beauty Thief. I recognized it immediately because my friend is an amazing artist, and her style is perfect for fantasy and fairy tales, so I agreed to work with her.

I know that collaborating can be difficult and sometimes ruins friendships, but we were able to keep communication open and honest, and I trusted her style. We just worked out key points in the story and she came up with pictures for them. She was totally inspired. After the art was completed, I wrote out the completed story, made sure everything lined up and published it.

It was a really easy experience for me, but I don’t think it goes that way for everyone. Sometimes an illustrator and author have very particular ideas about how they want things, so it can be difficult. But I think, if you are honest and keep the lines of communication open – check in with each other before you finalize anything – it can work out.

SnS: Agreed. Now, I have to ask, between family stuff & general life issues how & where do you get your writing done? And do you write in notebooks or on a pc / laptop?

Rachael: I do both. It just depends. With six people in our house I write wherever I can. I write in my bedroom, the basement, in a coffee shop, or at the kitchen table. I do have a desk in the living room that collects things. That drives my husband nuts, but I know where everything is. *LOL* In recent years I’ve written more on the computer, but throughout the first two novels I spent 50% of the initial writing on notebooks. And they’re piled up all over my bedroom … I really need an office.

SnS: So you don’t have a set time to write?

Rachael: Not really. I have about an hour once a week where I get to sit in a coffee shop and write. Then at night, when the kids are in bed. Sometimes I get to write on the weekends or during the day. 

For a while, I did a lot of daytime writing, until the kids began to complain that I wasn’t spending enough time with them; I wasn’t being very helpful. So I pulled it back. I mean, they are only going to be kids for so long.

SnS: Well, in my opinion, that just makes you a good mom & your novel writing even more miraculous! How did you publish your books?

Rachael: I spent the better part of eight months researching the best course of action: traditional vs self-publishing. The more I researched and grew to understand my own desire – getting over my fear and accepting criticism not as dislike of me or my writing but as a path to better writing – I came to the decision that the kind of strange genre writing I’ve done would not be successful at finding a traditional venue. That lead me to self-publishing, along with the fact that I have ultimate creative control over the product and art, I release into the world. I still need help, mind you, but I like the control and responsibility that comes with self-publishing. It’s almost like there’s a little buzz associated with stepping out of one’s comfort zone.

SnS: Yes, and comfort zones are notoriously hard to leave. 

Rachael: They can be, but I think breaking things down into smaller pieces and just taking one step at a time helps. It’s so much better than getting overwhelmed and not doing anything.

SnS: So true. With that in mind, are you pursuing the idea of creating your own publishing company?

Rachael: Yes, as part of my DBA (Doing Business As) plan. Right now I’m only publishing my own books, or those I’ve collaborated on, but later I’d like to publish other people’s books. I’d like to get to the point where I’m able to offer them something for their work and not make them pay for everything. I think that’s going to take me a while. I want to learn more and prove my own abilities first. So it’s down the road, maybe ten or more years from now.

SnS: Where do you find inspiration for your writing? (Nature? Art? Caffeinated drinks? Tai Chi?)

Rachael: Does in my mind count? I guess inspiration comes from whatever around me can bring parts of my stories to life. Like right now, I’m totally finding inspiration for my futuristic sci-fi novel as I listen to an audio book called Life 3.0 and reading another one called The Physics of the Future. For my medieval, low fantasy novels, I love searching Pinterest for castles, clothing, and weapons. I’ve read articles and watched videos about sword-fighting techniques, and I even went so far as to buy a sword to hang on my wall. The sword also serves as a tool for when I want to discover if a certain move I described will actually work. Haha 😉

SnS: What advice would you give to other writers working on their first manuscripts?

Rachael: Hmmmm …. It’s better to know the endgame than not. It’s okay to deviate from any story plans you make in the process as long as they get you to the end and don’t disrupt the suspension of disbelief! If you have to ex machina (god in the machine) your story to get the end you want, either that(those) scenes need to change or the end does…but probably the scenes that are just in there to make stuff happen should come out.

Of course, if that’s too technical, I’d definitely say don’t give up. Keep writing all the way to the end. Read books or visit websites on craft, but don’t read too many. I think that can have the opposite, rather crippling effect than intended.

SnS: I can see how that could happen. Any good ones you can recommend?

Rachael: ‘Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life’ by Anne Lamotte, and ‘Story’ by Robert McKee are good. For me, I find websites like KM Weiland, Kristen Lamb, and Dan Kobalt are helpful. Those are some of my go-to sites for writing advice because they don’t overwhelm you.

SnS: Do you have any works in progress?

Rachael: Yes! I’m planning two more books in the Chronicles of the Twelve Realms series. Along with that there is a prequel in the works that I’m sharing with readers beforehand on Wattpad. And I’ve got a YA sci-fi book in the planning stages, too, so it keeps coming!

SnS: Good news for us fans! You host an event called #BlogBattle – Tell us about that.

Rachael: Ahhh, Blog Battle! My baby. #BlogBattle is a one-word writing prompt. It works best with flash fiction writing because the word limit is up to 1000 (give or take a few) and you have only three or four weeks to write it. Once written, you post your #BlogBattle one-word prompt inspired story to your blog and link it to the battle post. We then add the link to the stories lineup so that everyone involved can find your story, go read it, comment, and share.

Some people are far into their publishing journey, while others are just starting so there’s this great amalgamation of minds that get together, learn from and encourage each other. It’s actually a lot of fun and I’ve made some life-long writing friends because of it. It’s especially great because #BlogBattle started on a lark. A friend challenged me on Twitter one night and after our little war, others wanted to join in. I started hosting it weekly, but over time it became too much for most people to participate in regularly, and I made the mistake of adding extra rules. Between that and my own burnout from running it on my own, I closed it down. BUT it’s back by popular demand and is truly tons of fun. The people are great. The rest is history.

SnS: Speaking of history – If you could go anywhere in time / space to meet an author, who would it be and why?

Rachael: I have so many authors I’d like to meet! So so so many. Lordy, do I really only get to pick one? Uhhh … I think I’d have to say Jane Austen … no, C.S. Lewis … no, Plato … John Bunyan … wait, Martin Luther. I can’t pick!!! Hmm, okay I’ll pick Max Tegmark, the author of the Life 3.0 book I’m listening to right now. I wonder if he could explain things to me in even more simplified terms and answer all my questions about whether or not certain technologies are feasible 250 years in the future!

SnS: That’d be cool. Let’s give a shout out – Hey Mr. Tegmark, if you ever read this please contact Rachael! 🙂  And to you, Rachael, thank you for spending time with all of us at TheSquidandSquirrel.

Rachael: Thank you so much for inviting me here today, M.J. I enjoyed our time immensely and I’m looking forward to another coffee chat sometime soon!

If you would like to learn more about Rachael, or purchase some of her books check the links in the body of this interview and below!

https://rachaelritchey.com/

Read ‘Ismene and Othniel

Find her books on Amazon as well as the following:

Auntie’s Book Store SmashwordsKobo BooksBarnes & Noble, and Apple iTunes.

Follow her on Social Media:

FacebookTwitterGoodreadsPinterestLinkedIn, and YouTube

Read Blog Battle entries at:

https://www.blogbattlers.wordpress.com and on the Blog Battle Facebook page.