Writing/Articles

Daily Writing Challenge #8

Welcome back readers! Just another day in the pandemic that we’re all going through, but my motivation today is that I have Savoy’s pizza preordered and so I excited knowing I have a great dinner on the way! Here’s todays Daily Challenge prompt below, based off the image of a bonfire with friends:

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“Bond-Fire”

On a late August afternoon, Matt walked through the back fenced door into the small backyard, and smiled to himself at all the faces already sitting around a lit bonfire pit. Peter, Tony, and the three other guys they were living with had all sent out a mass text telling everyone who was back at school to come over to their place and have a reunion, and Matt had no idea so many of his friends had returned. 

Eden was the first to notice him walking, so she squealed with joy and rose up out of her lawn chair. Her blunt bangs bouncing in tune with the clap of her flip flops, Matt’s mood continued to rise as she jogged over to wrap him up into one of her signature bear hugs. 

“Oh my goodness! It’s so great to see you, Matt!” Eden gave him a peck on the cheek, and everyone else’s greeting could be heard over the crackling of the fire. “Come, come! Sit next to me, I’m sure we can pull up a chair somewhere.”

“Right here, bud.” Peter gestured to a chair he’d grabbed that’d been resting against the house. “Happy to see you, can I get you a beer?”

“No, I’m fine, but thank you.” Matt sat down and smiled around the fire. “I missed you guys, it’s great to be back.”

Jared grinned from across the circle. “You look like you got plenty of sun, Bedbreaker.”

Matt chuckled. “That’s what being a lifeguard will do to you.”

“So that’s why you’re so blond.”

Madison flipped her long hair over her shoulder as she peered over while sipping on a WhiteClaw. “No way, he totally got some highlights.” She got up to get a closer look at Matt’s scalp, and he squirmed in his seat when she made a satisfied noise in her throat. “I knew it.”

Matt groaned. “Nice to see you too, Mads.”

“Love you, boo.” Madison tossed him an air-kiss before she went back to her chair next to Jared, who’s grin only widened.

“Don’t worry, I think you look pretty neat,” Eden said with a wink.

“I see it now,” Peter said. “But you look good, bud.”

“Well, now that my hair has gotten enough attention, how about we change the subject,” Matt suggested. “Like, favorite summer memory?”  

~~~

I know, I know… it’s not much to go off of. I used some familiar characters I’ve created from my “When In Doubt” project (check it all out above on the main menu), and believe me, there were plenty of similar scenes like the image above when I went to college.

I thought some small plot or conflict would come to me as I started writing, but it just didn’t happen, so I can admit that today’s daily wasn’t all that much of a success. It happens, and I told myself that I’d post the less successful days on here too to maybe show others that not every day is a successful writing day, and there’s nothing wrong with that! To be honest, I’ve been working on my 2nd Draft of my WIP, and my focus was more on that.

Danielle, my cowriter and friend doing these daily’s with me, and I have another prompt for our next short story, and I should have it written later tonight and posted soon!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Writing/Articles

Daily Writing Challenge #7

Hello readers! Welcome to the seventh day of this daily writing prompt I’m doing with my friend from work, Danielle, and today we did something a little different: We each created a basic character for each other to work off of with the following information: Name, occupation, and social class. Here’s what Danielle gave me below:

  1. Elswyth
  2. Blacksmith
  3. Commoner

From just that information given, we had to create a story around the character, so here is mine below:

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Image courtesy of newsroom.posco.com

“Forged in Deception”

The finest steel must go through the hottest fire, and those have been the words Elswyth has gone by ever since he’d begun his apprenticeship with Gondlyn Wachovic, perhaps the greatest craftsman and blacksmith the kingdom of Cresthaven has ever seen. 

“Those swords ready for molding?” Elswyth asked his master as he looked inside the furnace at the claymore’s they’d been tasked to commission recently. 

“Aye, can you get started on that, lad?” Gondlyn nodded his head towards the front door, where three figures blocked the way, barely allowing any sunlight past their silhouettes. “I got some business up front to take care of first.”

Elswyth wiped sweat from his brow, and pushed his chestnut hair out of his dark eyes, darkening his skin with coal. He put on thick welding gloves, his welding mask, and grabbed a sledgehammer. One of the large swords was already placed on an anvil; the one his master was about to forge, and began to pound away to give the weapon a more defined shape.

The labor had been something to get used to, especially the heat, but Elswyth has never been exceptional at anything other than his crafting. He did carpentry before becoming a blacksmith’s apprentice, but wanted something that felt more substantial to him where he felt like he was making a bigger difference for the good of the whole realm, and not just the locals who adored his handcrafted furniture. Luckily, Gondlyn had been looking to take someone on under his wing, so when Elswyth had visited the shop one day to have his carving tools sharpened and learned about the opportunity, he’d decided then and there to take him up on the offer. 

Lately, there’s been a small group of men in cloaks that had been showing up more times than any other customer, and usually their visits required closing the store momentarily with Gondlyn taking them back into his private office. Elswyth was never allowed to join in, and usually just got a dirty look or two from them; silently telling him to mind his own business. Knowing his role, he learned to keep his head down and continue his work. He knew the Captain of the Guard, Sir Charles Hainswright, was the client looking to purchase new swords for him and whom he’d considered his top men. 

Not too long later, Gondlyn came back to join Elswyth and work on the claymores. The cloaked men were already gone as if they were never truly there, but left a look on Gondyln’s face that sent a chill down Elswyth’s spine despite the blistering heat emanating from the furnace. It was a look that he’d never seen cross his master’s face before. What did those men want?

Elswyth took off his mask. “Sir, who were those men?”

Gondlyn ran an absent-minded hand through his scraggly beard, his pale eyes miles away. When he still didn’t reply, Elswyth dropped his sledgehammer and walked over to tap him on the shoulder, the air getting chillier by the moment. 

Gondlyn jumped back as if brought out of trance. “Wha?…Oh, sorry El. Just thinking about the next supply run, and what else I need.” 

His master chuckled at himself, but Elswyth wasn’t buying any of it. 

“Is everything alright, sir? What do those men want?” 

Gondlyn sighed, and he glanced at his office door as the lines of his face deepened. “Nothing you need to worry yourself about. Tell you what, I need to go into the market and pick out a few things. You mind watching the shop until I get back?”

“Of course, Sir.” There were so many questions on Elswyth’s mind, but knew his master wasn’t going to answer a single one of them. He knew he’d have to get any answers on his own. 

Gondlyn left in a hurry, and Elswyth waited a few moments after he heard the door close. Sure enough, the man returned in a huff, forgetting his money pouch like usual, and barely nodded a farewell as he left once again. 

Now, Elswyth snuck into the back office, and made sure to wipe his darkened hands on his work trousers. Inside, nothing seemed out of place or strewn about; Gondlyn may be scatter-brained here and there, but one thing he always made sure of was that his workplace was tidy without hardly any piece of parchment or tool out of place. Nothing was on his desk, but then again, whatever those men wanted surely wouldn’t be left out in the open. None of the cabinets hid anything out of the ordinary; just a lot of documents keeping records of all transgressions and specific orders from all their clients. 

After peeking at everything twice, Elswyth was about to give up when he remembered about the secret compartment right where one was to sit in a chair. 

Eyeing the door one last time, Elswyth sat down on the chair he’d crafted for Gondlyn almost a year ago, and pushed the secret compartment open and another stack of parchment lay wrapped between a thick, woven cloth and tied with black twine. 

What lay within the wrapping was something Elswyth would never have imagined. He couldn’t believe his master would be a part of something quite like what was drawn out on the pages of parchment, and all the infamous names of noblemen that were somehow involved. This alone could get them all hanged for unspeakable crimes it’d be committing. 

Elsywth’s blood ran cold, and his heartbeat was rapid while his hands shook in terror. What should I do? Do I go to the guard? Request the presence of the king? Who else can I trust with this? 

Elyswyth shot out of the chair as movement at the door caught his eye. Gondlyn stood there, peering down at the diagrams in his hands. He walked into the office, carefully closing the door and locking it behind him, all the while there was murder in his eyes. 

~~~

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Personally, I was pretty happy with how this daily turned out! The idea popped into my head almost immediately after I read the word “blacksmith” when Danielle sent it to me, and from there, these short stories just flow out of me! Are they any good? I don’t know, no one’s really said much about them or reached out and commented, but whatever! I enjoy doing it, and that’s all that should matter. I’m trying to tell myself that one shouldn’t do anything just to seek out glory, and I’ve always just been someone who needs acknowledgement from others in order to feel happy. I know I will end up being happier if I learn to veer away from that way of thinking

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Writing/Articles

Daily Writing Challenge #5

Hello Readers! Here is my next daily writing challenge, and my friend and I switched it up this time around when she selected a song for our prompt! It’s a catchy, bouncy, and whimsical song performed by Celtic Woman, and I even embedded a Youtube video for anyone to listen!

I was inspired when I did some research and read the lyrics about one urging their lover to join them on a quest, and was told in Tolkien’s Elven language. It inspired me to think about two traveling Elves, and went on from there. Enjoy below!

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Two cloaked travelers entered through the thick wooden doors of a pub near the river in town as soon as the sun had completely set. It was a calm summer night, but there was an air of tension between the two figures as they went straight towards the bar. 

The heavy-set barkeep looked them both up and down while he wiped down a glass mug, his expression revealing nothing. “What’ll it be, boys?”

Dior, the younger of the two, peered over towards his companion. “I don’t think we need anything. Do we, sir?”

“Actually, we’ll take two ales, and we’ll both take the special if there is one tonight, kind sir,” Raegel replied with a small smile. He placed a few coins down, probably more than what his order was worth, but the barkeep nodded in confirmation before he turned away, a little pep in his step. 

Raegel decided to lower his hood and even on the dim lighting, his silver-white hair gleamed like starlight as it fell almost halfway down his back, and he swiped a few strands behind his elongated ear. Dior followed suit, and his eyes darted around their entire setting, not missing a single face or possible danger. 

“Where did your informant say to meet again?” Dior whispered to Raegel. 

The older Elf sensed an uneasiness about his companion, which was uncommon for their kind. An elf always exuded calm confidence in any situation. Dior was almost adolescent when compared to him; his aqua eyes were filled with naive wonder and his golden-amber hair was only half his own length. He knew he was beginning to advance in his years, but Raegel knew he still had a lot to teach his apprentice currently sitting next to him up by the bar. But first, their mission. 

“They made sure to keep it as brief as possible,” Raegel answered. He gestured for Dior to turn in his seat so they faced opposite directions. “They couldn’t risk any information being revealed, which based off the information they could share with us tonight, only proves how necessary it is to take these precautions.”

Dior frowned. “So we have absolutely no idea what they’ll look like?” 

“Remain calm, the letter they sent informed me they’ll make a signal when they make themselves known,” Raegel calmly assured Dior, noticing the returning barkeep with his hands full. “In the meantime, breathe and enjoy yourself. there’s no need to be impatient.” 

“Here ye go boys, just what ye ordered,” the barkeep set two bowls of a warm soup in front of them, then placed the full mugs of ale down next, not spilling a drop. “Pleasure to serve, it’s not every day we see yer kind around these parts.”

“Suppose that means business is usually in abundance,” Raegel commented.

The barkeep chuckled. “Ye could say that. Usually elves only visit Shirewood on serious business, I always forget yer kind need to eat too.”

Raegel made it a point to sip his bowl of soup. Not too bad, but he’s had better. “Not as often as most, but we need sustenance just like any living creature.”

Dior turned around on his stool. “Luckily, we are just passing through, so there’s nothing to cause much concern..” 

“Right, right, well happy to have ye here tonight.” the barkeep nodded. “Let me know if ye need anything.” 

The two elves both politely thanked him before he walked down the bar to serve other patrons, no doubt to wager on why the two of them were in their small riverside town in the first place. It must be an uneventful area for the two of them to receive this much attention. 

Raegel took another sip of his soup before he turned back to Dior. “I quite liked the man, I wouldn’t have minded continuing our exchange with him, like how he referred to me as ‘boy’ even though I’m most likely three-hundred his senior.”

Dior didn’t even bother eating his meal. “If he’s not our informant, then why waste our breath?”

“Because our presence already draws much attention, as I’m sure you’ve noticed.” Raegel paused as Dior once again eyed the room and felt everyone’s stares while none of the conversations ended. “Why draw more attention to ourselves? It looks quite suspicious if two elves come into a bar, and don’t even bother to purchase a meal or refreshment, don’t you think?”

Catching the subtle dig, Dior finally lifted his spoon to his mouth. “I see your point.”

Raegel chuckled, and could sense the newfound relief wash across the room after. “There’s no need to rush these meetings. I know you have many years left, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take the time to enjoy these small moments from time to time.”

Dior took a large gulp of his ale, his shoulders dropping just an inch. “Yes sir, I just detest remaining in the dark on any of the information we need. You know how important this information is, and how much our Queen requires this information.” 

“Our informant should have arrived already,” Raegel assured Dior. “Now, we simply wait for a signal.”

A curvaceous woman stepped up onto a small stage towards the back, and a small troupe of musicians began to strum their instruments. The woman immediately joined in and sang a song about two lovers; one urging the other to join them on a journey, of the ancient sun, and to seize the day. It was a campfire song that Raegel remembered from his younger days, before he became a soldier, and he’d lost his first love. He was impressed at the perfect elven pronunciation the human woman sang, so he turned his head to give her his full attention. 

On stage, she smiled as she continued on, and even got most of the other patrons to gather around and joyously dance along; she even joined after a few other patrons gestured for her. Her smile was infectious, and her hair shimmered as it caught the light of a nearby oil lamp. 

Still seated, Raegel watched over the whole scene with a mix of nostalgic joy and melancholy. He took a deep breath at the memories the song brought back to him. All the while, Dior finished his meal, then his eyes returned to scanning the pub as it began to fill up as the night grew late.

When the woman’s eyes met his own, Raegel knew that instant that he’d found their informant. 

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Writing/Articles

Daily Writing Challenge #3

Hello readers! Here’s my third writing challenge during the pandemic; it’s a short story based off the image above. This one is about of a man named Roman and him trying to survive in unfamiliar territory. Nothing too trigger-worthy for me to mention going in, hope you guys enjoy!

“Frozen Isolation”

The fur of the bear he’d had to kill was the only thing keeping him alive. 

Just inside a sloped stone window of an abandoned structure, a burly man named Roman huddled closer into the corner, peering out into the crisp, pale landscape. Other than the many layers of snow and the brisk wind reminding him he was somewhere out in the frigid north, he had absolutely no idea where he was. For three days now, he had managed to set up a small camp within a mile or two off the road.

Roman coughed and reached for his leather canteen, but groaned in agitation as nothing poured out. His limbs ached as he wrapped the mass of fur tighter around himself, made sure the laces of his boots were tightened, and slowly rose up to head out back into the frosted wasteland. 

The trees surrounding the grounds carried many winding branches; twisting and intricately laced like a spider’s web. While immobile and calm for now, the possibility of him becoming trapped prey didn’t ease Roman’s mind. No, he made sure his eyes captured everything he could during his stroll, and slowly squatted down to fill his canteen up with a handful of clear snow. He decided to go back to the indentation he’d left the last time he traveled outside his fortress. 

A crunch in the snow behind his left shoulder had Roman twisting around, muscles tense and his heartbeat rapid. His ears rang with the high pitched scream, and his adrenaline spiked. He was ready for the unseen predator poised to strike, nothing but madness and hunger in its cruel eyes. 

Roman almost pissed himself when a small shape jumped out of the snow. A single rabbit made a brief appearance in midair before its white fur helped blend it back into its surroundings; the perfect hiding spot out in the open. 

When his heartbeat returned to normal, Roman couldn’t help but remember how exhausted he truly was. Tired of the ache of every inch of his body, especially from the bump on his skull. He was tired of constantly jumping at every inch of movement at the edge of his vision, every sound heard that wasn’t his own, and resorting to portioning out any food he’d been able to hoard around.

Roman wanted to go get home to his old bed. 

He wanted to shoot that damned critter in retaliation, but he’d left his bow and arrows back inside, and there was no way he was going to use his spear and risk being empty handed for even just a few precious moments. Besides, he knew he didn’t have the energy to throw it fast enough to actually catch the little pest, plus he still had some venison thanks to his coat’s former owner too. 

Roman reminded himself to think of some traps to possibly set up later. 

Back within the safety of the decaying stone structure, he tried to recollect his memories of three days ago: the neigh of his horse, the felt of his saddle, the laughter of him and his companions, the wheels of the wagon trudging through the snow, and of course  his immediate hatred of the cold from exposure for the first time in his life.

The last thing Roman remembered was always the same: a large, white shape with six legs falling from the trees much like the ones just outside, silent as if it hadn’t even been really there. It latched onto the side of someone’s steed, the piercing screech when it bared its daggers for fangs, then the red stark against the white of the land, right before everything went dark.

The bump on his head throbbed, and Roman could no longer concentrate. Just like every other time. 

The long night was fast approaching, and Roman still had to make a fire to warm up his dinner for the night. He was relieved nothing had wandered by and attempted to fight him over his stash of food, but based off the last couple of days, he shouldn’t count on his luck to hold out, just to hope enough that someone would come to rescue him. Someone, and not something. 

The long night always came faster than it normally should up in this frozen sea of snow and crooked trees, and Roman hated how the cold always got more grueling than it already was.

He pleaded with whoever would listen above that someone would take notice of his troop’s absence by now, that they’ve sent out rangers or some sort of search party to investigate. Hope was a bigger weapon he had in his arsenal than either his spear or his bow, but soon enough that wouldn’t help keep him alive either. Hope that whatever put him in this mess wouldn’t return for more blood.

As Roman’s small fire warmed his feet, and the cooked venison filling his gurgling stomach, he peered out that large slanted stone window, out into the black depths of the frozen wilderness,  and waited for whatever came for him first.

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Horror, Mystery/Thriller

My Review: A Time for Violence: Stories with an Edge: Edited by Andy Rausch and Chris Roy

*Kindle Edition*
Publish Date: May 1st, 2019
Number of Pages: 268 Pages
Publisher: Too Close to the Bone
Genre(s): Mystery/Thriller, Horror, Crime

Total Star Rating: 3.25 Stars

Whether we like it or not, violence has always been a part of our society; we as humans can’t help but resort to it. The reasoning behind why can be incredibly varied: to save your family, to simply steal money, an act of love, or bitter burning of revenge. There’s probably countless other reasons as to what could possibly motivate us to turn towards our more unpredictable and darker side, but this is a collection of short stories that call that notion into question in an interesting array.

While it mostly stays within the mystery/thriller genre, there are some additions of stories of war and even the supernatural/paranormal and horror genres in order to keep the mix more lively and interesting. Theres also a mix of characters that many others wouldn’t see anything they’d possibly have in common except for, obviously, them giving into their brutal and maniacal urges to hurt, to maim, to kill, and to get away with it unscathed.

I will say it quite a bit in this review, but I don’t normally turn towards short stories or compilations of them, and I will get into that later on, but when someone reaches out to ask you to look through it and give an honest review, how can you say no? Crime stories are fun for their lack of predictability, their edge, and especially when there might be an interesting social commentary to linger in your head and overtake your thoughts after you’ve closed the pages. It does, however, leave a lack of character development and usually resorts to using cliché characters in general. They’re not bad stories, and it’s obvious that the authors that contributed to this work all know their craft on a highly experienced level.

I was not familiar with any of the works of any of the authors included in this anthology, but I wanted to switch it up and keep it that way: I didn’t do any prerequisite research on the book itself or any of the writers, and I stayed off Goodreads to see what others wrote; the only thing I did was adding the title to my “To Read” shelf. Sometimes, it’s fun to do that sort of thing where you don’t rely so much on other’s ratings and decide to give it a shot in the dark. I admit, I do that a whole lot now, but with how many titles are out there, how can you not? I’ve got to get picky.

Anyways back to the actual review…

What It’s About:

It’s hard to do this section based off the fact that it’s a collection of short stories. That, plus the fact I don’t want to give too much away, all I can say is they’re all violent stories combined together for a crime/horror themed collection. The more noteworthy stories, at least in my honest opinion, to include are the following in no particular:

  1. Blood Brothers: by Richard Chizmar
  2. Guest Services: A Quarry Story: by Max Allan Collins
  3. Santa at the Café: by Joe Lansdale
  4. Scab: by Wrath James White
  5. The Sweetest Ass in the Ozark: by Andy Rausch
  6. Waste Management: by Chris Roy

What I Liked:

  1. The Variety! There are quite a lot of different style of stories to be told that are all included; I’d say that there’s got to be something that just about anyone could find within that they’d really enjoy! My personal favorites among the many short stories was a story about a 5-person domino-effect crime story by Joe R. Lansdale involving a guy dressed up as Santa Clause, and an African-American man who considers himself a human scab by Wrath James White. Personally, it reminded me a bit of Jordan Peele’s horror flicks, Get Out and Us: African American-centered horror, and with a slight social commentary aspect to add on top.
  2. The Dark Humor! Along with all the murder and thrills as sharp as a knife, there is some humor alongside to (maybe) soften the blow. A lot of it is considered pretty dark humor, which isn’t for everyone. It takes a certain person to not only get some of it, but to also enjoy it.
  3. The Character Studies! This kind of goes with the variety factor I mentioned above, but I felt like there’s a bit of a question of character and their moral compass that plays with you too as you read the stories. You want to think your an upstanding member of society, not wanting to weave away from what the social norm is and that criminal activity is pretty black and white. Some characters are family men, but others are mobsters, criminals or Police Officers. An example where it’s questioned is actually the very first story: Blood Brothers by Richard Chizmar. Without giving up too much information, it presents the timeless questions like: How far are you willing to go to protect your family? What are you willing to sacrifice? It even brings up a good question of if killing for the best of everyone you love is really all that much of a crime?

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. It Was Hard to Connect to the Stories…It’s hard to really get into a collection of short stories, because as soon as you feel like you really connect with the story or maybe even the characters; it’s over before you know it, shut off abruptly. I guess you could say I prefer one long story where you can develop a deeper connection with the characters and grow along with them within the story as they develop. That’s very difficult or near impossible to do with stories like these.
  2. A Hierarchy of Interest…Some stories are just a whole lot better than others, plain and simple, straight to the point (no pun intended). I wouldn’t say some are awfully written though; I’d say it’s more that I just didn’t connect to them. Some were also pretty predictable compared to others, which probably didn’t help. I would say out of the 28 stories included, only a small select few really grabbed my attention, which is a major bummer.

Conclusion:

A fun, diverse set of crime/horror-genre short stories that are perfect for those who like that sort of thing! they’re gritty, their humorous, and they’re not something I normally go for when it comes to picking out something to read, but I still had some fun nonetheless. I find it difficult to get into a collection of short stories because of the disconnect with getting into the story and its characters, but maybe its something fun to read on your kindle or nook device when trying to kill time before a doctor’s appointment or on your lunch break at work!

I also would like to add that I received a free version of this book in exchange for an honest review!

Thanks For Reading!

— Nick Goodsell