Thursday, April 28, 2016

Haunting Memories - #FlashFiction by Sue Coletta

The day my life imploded I was barely seventeen. Many might’ve considered me an adult, but that didn’t make the crushing pain any easier to absorb. She was my whole world, my everything, and when I lost her I knew I’d never be the same.

For weeks I sat vigil at her bedside, covered in welts, hoping and praying she’d pull through. I put on a good front, never let her see me cry. I even secured an ambulance to take her home for her birthday.

Nothing worked. No matter what I did I couldn’t erase the damage he’d done.

I stroked her hand, read to her.

She didn’t respond.

I kissed her cheek, brushed her hair.

Nothing. Not even a blink.

“Mom,” I cried out, “please don’t leave me.” Tears washed my face, my heart shattering like a bullet through stain glass. I turned my gaze to the Christmas lights around the window. If only I could wish her injuries away. Sadly, there was too much damage.

Why did I go out that night? I should’ve stayed home. Alone, she never stood a chance. The stranger snuck through the unlocked window, into her bedroom. Before she knew what hit her, he pounced, leveling a blade to her throat, stabbing in a rage-filled frenzy. When I arrived home the house was unusually quiet. I crept up the stairs, but something — a yearning, a pull, maybe intuition — told me to check on her.

If only I hadn't opened that door.



On the walls, the headboard, speckles on the ceiling. Her lifeblood, her very essence, bathed the room in a mural of lunacy. By some miracle she remained alive. Or was it? Maybe if she died instantly she wouldn’t have suffered so.

Like any good daughter I called nine-one-one, my hands trembling and bloody. A gurgling diverted my attention. “It’s me, Mom. Help is on the way. Stay with me.” I wailed, my words almost incoherent. “Please don’t leave me. I won’t make it without you.” I lowered my ear to her lips.

She whispered, “I love you” as if for the very last time.

The paramedics ordered me out of the room so they could work on her. I stood in horror. How did this happen? Why did this happen? Everyone loved Mom. She had no enemies. Never in her life did she harm a living soul. Hell, she never even uttered a cross word…except for the time she caught me smoking weed out the bedroom window. But even then, she seemed more disheartened than anything else, her judgmental glare shaming me from the inside out.

A week before Christmas she died. Every day after I received a present in the mail, with a note from the great beyond. “Be a good girl. All my love, Mom.” She’d preordered my gifts. But how did she know? Did she sense her time was coming to an end? Did she meet the stranger who’d followed her home?

I collected the gifts, never opened a one till Christmas Eve. That night I sat cross-legged on the floor at the foot of tiny white lights shimmering on the tree. All alone in the world. My father died years before. My brother took off to God knows where. And Mom, well, she wouldn’t be home for Christmas ever again. It’s only me…a tiny dot in an angry, hateful world of agony.

Yet one glimmer of hope taunted me on the horizon…just out of reach. One shred of mercy. One final pardon for my insignificance.

If I could hang on long enough, maybe I’d struggle through. But my body was weakening — so damn tired of fighting, of elbowing my way through the sludge.

I drew the blade up my last unscathed wrist, slashed open my veins. The water crimsoned, a film of old bubbles surfing blood-red ripples. I reclined my head against the tub, closed my eyes. The darkness brought peace, arms wide, welcoming me home. Nothing frightened me here. My soul floated on a bed of wisps, swaying gently, navigating my journey into the abyss. Away from the anger, from the sadness and pain. The haunting memories of yesterdays fading like taillights on an empty hearse, trailing into the blackness, destruction left in its wake.

When I drew my final breath, an image emerged, a devastating truth that consumed my every inch, my very being. The maw of nevermore opened in anticipation, flames fringing the mouth of madness, girded by screams of terror and anguish. The killer who destroyed my life wasn’t a stranger. The face that haunted my dreams, the evil doer who didn’t know hesitation, who didn’t know right from wrong, who didn’t know real life from imagined, the shadowy beast Mom feared…lived inside me.

Member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers, Sue Coletta is the author of Marred and Wings of Mayhem (next to release). She's published in Murder, USA, OOTG Flash Fiction Offensive, her forensics articles are published in InSinC Quarterly, and one of her short stories is slated for publication in the upcoming dark fiction anthology, RUN.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Help your local public library win a book bundle for National Librarians Day!

I was in Kindergarten when I got my first library card. My mom would drive into Scranton and I'd emerge from the library with a stack of books half my height... and have them all read before we even got home.
When I was a kid, I devoured books. I was starved for stories, those escapes into other worlds and other people's heads. I learned strange new words that took me years to figure out how to pronounce but I used them anyway. (Even taught the nun who taught our fifth grade class the word "decapitate". She in turn threatened us with it on a daily basis for the rest of the year. We didn't think she was *actually* serious... mostly.)
These days, I'm adult whose appetite has never abated. And I know I'm not alone.
Recently, I read an article about the first completely BOOKLESS library. This digital library may be the wave of the paperless future--and while I applaud the ability to get more services to more people, to allow libraries to obtain more titles without the physical depreciation or space restrictions, it makes me nostalgic for the days when I was a kid, in the backseat of a Chevy, with a pile of books on each side of me.
Ebooks are a big part of my backlist. They are a big part of just about every author's list. In fact, many publishers are ebook-only publishers.
But I remember when I was selecting a publisher's offer for my first novel. The first round of eliminations, so to speak, involved putting aside ebook-only contracts in favor for the print-and-electronic ones. 
I love print books. I love the tactile sensation of holding an entire world in my hands. I love the look of light on paper, making the words stand out in high rest wonder. I love cover art and the ability to flip the book over to admire it without losing my place. I love handmade bookmarks. I love old book smell.
I like the convenience and the low cost of eBooks. But I LOVE printed books. That's just how I was raised, I suppose.

In honor of National Librarian's Day on April 16, I thought I'd put together a giveaway. I hope you'll take the time to enter and to share it with your reader and writer friends.

Show your local library some love!
I'm going to give away a book bundle to one lucky library... and it's up to YOU to win it for them!
This bundle will have a copy of each of my paperbacks...

poetry, paranormal romance, urban fantasy, victorian historical fantasy
BLEEDING HEARTS (Demimonde #1)
BLOOD RUSH (Demimonde #2)
WOLF'S BANE (Demimonde #3)
(urban fantasy series)
(paranormal romance)
(Victorian fantasy)
(short story and poetry collection)
THE SCENT OF HIS FEATHERS: a collection of dark verses
(poetry collection)

And there is no obligation, no purchase necessary to win. You don't have to work at a library to enter this... it's open to anyone. Just enter the name and location of your local library (US).
Don't forget to enter your email address, too--because the person who enters the winning library will also get their pick of a book, as well. Libraries aren't the only ones who need love, you know. *wink*
poetry, paranormal romance, urban fantasy, victorian historical fantasy
This bundle will be shipped free of charge to one public library in the US.
Sharing is ENCOURAGED! Please Tweet, Instagram, and FB this post to share this with your friends on social media.
Tell your favorite librarian, too.
It'll show them how much you really care. *hearts*
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Ash Krafton is a speculative fiction writer who, despite having a Time Turner under her couch and three different sonic screwdrivers in her purse, still encounters difficulty with time management. Visit Ash at for news on her urban fantasy series The Books of the Demimonde. She writes for New Adult audiences as “AJ Krafton”. Her first release, a Victorian dark fantasy called THE HEARTBEAT THIEF , is now available in paperback as well as on Kindle.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

The Courage To Be Vulnerable

This blog is about vulnerability and how it connects with the creative process.   We’ve all had people in our lives so guarded we rarely see beyond their masks.  Occasionally, perhaps at times of great sorrow, rage, or joy, we get a glimpse, a spark, a piece of something we recognize as genuine.  Many guarded people see vulnerability as a weakness, as leaving themselves without defense and open to attack. I disagree.

What is often thought of as vulnerability is really strength. Sharing our deepest fears and regrets is a courageous and unifying act. Our vulnerabilities, not our strengths, connect us as human beings and help us to avoid the aloneness of never being known. Most of us have made discoveries about a dead loved one and wished we could have known this while they were alive. When I was going through my mother’s things, I discovered a box of poems she’d written. I was 29-years-old, had written poetry my entire life, and had no idea my mother wrote, too. I was stunned. And a bit hurt, as I thought I knew her better than anyone. Why hadn’t she shared them with me? I suspect she was afraid to be that vulnerable. But her fear was misplaced. It would have been a great gift and inspiration to me to hear those poems in her voice.

Readers of my blogs often comment or question the way I go deep into human emotions. They talk about the courage it takes to be vulnerable. And perhaps they are right. Perhaps vulnerable people are brave enough to be honest and true to both their hearts and their convictions. In this era of so many different modes of communication—Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter, Instagram, etc.—we select bits and pieces of ourselves for public exposure—more concerned with our presentation than with our true selves. And while I understand the necessity of a certain anonymity for public media, I can also see the inherent dangers in terms of self-knowledge.

Making any kind of art takes tenacity, a deep need to create, a belief you have something to say and, above all, the courage to say it. Perhaps all good art is an expression of vulnerability and suffering because of the way it opens the mind and heart to newness. For writers, making our characters vulnerable means we give them courage to show up and be seen. It is the most authentic state of being—this place where you are open to the darkness, the light, and all the shades and shadows in between. Being vulnerable allows you to write deeper, more emotional characters. How many times as writers have we gotten rejected by an agent or editor because, “I just couldn’t connect with your character.” Discover your most authentic self. Write about fear, pain, resentment and heartache—dig deep into your own emotions—and your prose characters will come alive. Readers will feel the connection.

One of the most effective ways for a writer to gain sympathy for a character is to expose his wounds. Vulnerability is the gateway to that exposure. Sharing deep fears and regrets can and does make us feel vulnerable, but it is an ultimately unifying act and will connect our fictional characters to our readers. When a person or a character is open, he begins to heal both himself and others. And so I challenge you to have to courage to be vulnerable in your lives and in your writing. Go forth and be BRAVE. 

Susan Clayton-Goldner was born in New Castle, Delaware and grew up with four brothers along the banks of the Delaware River. She is a graduate of the University of Arizona's Creative Writing Program. Susan has been writing most of her life. Her novels have been finalists for The Hemingway Award, the Heeken Foundation Fellowship, the Writers Foundation and the Publishing On-line Contest where she received a thousand dollar prize. Susan won the National Writers' Association Novel Award twice for unpublished novels and one of her poems was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Her poetry has appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies including Animals as Teachers and Healers, published by Ballantine Books, Our Mothers/Ourselves, by the Greenwood Publishing Group, The Hawaii Pacific Review-Best of a Decade, and New Millennium Writings

Susan shares a life in Grants Pass, Oregon with her husband, Andreas, a blue-eyed feline named Topaz, her fictional characters, and more poetry books than one person could count.