Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Jahrra's Journal: Master Hroombra's Book

Hello readers!  Here is the second Jahrra's Journal post for the new year.  Last time we learned from Jahrra that she should stay out of the Wreing Florenn, the massive forest that takes up much of her part of Oescienne.  Although her foster father tried to tease her about the forest containing boarlaques, Jahrra isn't going to take any chances.  Now, for February's journal entry ... :).
-J.E. Johnson

Master Hroombra's Book



Dear Journal,


    I asked Master Hroombra today what exactly a boarlaque is.  I had an idea from what Pada had told me, but I wasn't sure.  Master Hroombra just smiled and pulled out a large, old book, trailing dust through the air like a comet.  I think it is funny when dragon's smile, especially Master Hroombra with all his teeth sticking out.  The yellowed pages crackled and stuck as I turned them, but I almost fell over when I noticed what was on them.  Not words like all the other books he gives me, but pictures.  Loads and loads of pictures of animals and maps and flowers, all colored in!  I asked him where he got it and he told me the elves of Felldreim created it.  It was the most wonderful book I've ever seen!  Finally, I got to a fearsome looking beast and he told me to stop.  The boarlaque, he told me.  It made me shiver.  It was bigger than a bear and covered in brown and gray fur that was all tangled.  It had stripes on its face and giant teeth and claws.  I've decided two things: one, this book of creatures is my absolute favorite book ever, and two, I'm never going near the Wreing Florenn again, Pada or no Pada.

-Jahrra  
* * * * *
Want to read more about Jahrra and her adventures?  Download The Legend of Oescienne - The Finding, the first book in the Oescienne series, for FREE from Amazon.com

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Saturday Shorts: Aiden Elam Part Four - Corpse Hounds

Hello Readers!  I got off to a late start this morning, so this week's Saturday Shorts is going up later than usual.  Sorry about that!  Last week Aiden saw a stranger kill some of the ghoulies in the swamp, this week he encounters something even more terrifying.  Happy Reading!
-J.E. Johnson

PART 4: Corpse Hounds

Bradley and Logan were sitting on the fence when I got back from fetching the basketball.  It wasn't a real fence, just part of one that marked the edge of the yard.  I didn't climb on it too much because it was made out of split rails and it was full of splinters.  Logan was sitting on the top rail facing the swamp, while Bradley was on the side that ran parallel with the horse trail, throwing rocks down into the overgrown canyon below.  I could hear the rocks crashing into the underbrush and when a covey of quail was startled into taking flight, I almost jumped out of my skin.  I had a feeling anything I noticed moving down in the swamp for the next several weeks would spook me.

"There you are!" Logan exclaimed.  "What have you been doing all this time?"

He hopped down from the railing and crossed his arms.  He was the oldest of my brothers and therefore thought he was in charge of the rest of us.  Logan lifted one eyebrow, doing a perfect imitation of Mom when she wanted answers.

"Who cares!" Bradley whined.  "Just give us the basketball already.  Mom will be calling us in for dinner any minute."

My other brother jumped down from the fence and came toward me, swiping the ball out of my hands.  He could have it.  That basketball brought nothing but trouble.

"You coming, Logan?" Bradley asked as he climbed back over the fence.

Logan didn't answer right away.  He was looking at me funny.

"Logan!" Bradley barked, making to throw the ball at him.

"Hang on!" Logan bit back, holding up a hand, his eyes still fixed on me.

Did I have dirt on my face?  Had I torn my pants or shirt?

I tried not to feel self-conscious, but I failed miserably.  Finally, I couldn't take anymore and I dropped my eyes to the dirt below.  I shoved my hands into my pockets, wincing a little as the rough fabric rubbed against the scratches on my skin.

"What happened, Aiden?" Logan finally said, concern overriding the haughty tone of his voice.  "You've got scratches all over you.  And mud.  Did you go down to the swamp."

I looked back up at him, his blue eyes serious.  Okay.  So maybe Logan wasn't all that bad, for a brother.  He might be a jerk to me most of the time, but if anyone outside of our family ever tried to make me feel bad, or if I was hurt, he was the first one, besides Mom and Meggy, to make sure I was okay.  

Apparently, Bradley couldn't take the delay any longer.  Sighing dramatically, he tossed the ball at the hoop and turned back toward us, not even bothering to see if he made the shot.  The ball bounced off the rim and fell back to earth, rolling out into the middle of the lawn before coming to a stop.  He squeezed between the two rails of the fence, half stumbling down the short slope and coming to a skidding halt on the horse path.

"Dude.  Looks like you got dragged through the woods by a pack of coyotes."

I stiffened.  Did I really look that bad?  At least my ankle had stopped hurting.  Both my brothers were staring at me now, so I cast my eyes downward again, pushing around the loose dirt on the ground with my shoe.  The scene from the meadow across the shallow part of the swamp kept coming back to me: the ugly ghoulies, the white dog, the stranger in the green army trench coat with the bow and arrows and glowing skin.

Taking a shallow breath and letting it out quickly, I opened my mouth and said simply, "Fell down."

"I'll say," Bradley commented sarcastically.  "Fell down the hill and rolled all the way to the bottom."

Logan stepped forward, nudging Bradley out of the way.  "Did you fall into a patch of blackberry bushes?"

I nodded.  Technically, I hadn't, but agreeing with their assumptions was easier than trying to tell them the truth.  There were two things wrong with that.  First, they wouldn't believe me even if I could tell them the truth, and secondly, it was physically impossible for me to do that.

"Better get you inside and show Mom," Logan said, taking charge in his big brotherly way.

He draped an arm over my shoulder and started leading me back up to the house, Bradley trailing behind grumbling about missing out on playing basketball.  Despite my nervousness about the ghoulies and the strange green man, a warm feeling welled up from somewhere near my heart and spread out to my fingers and toes.  Suddenly, I didn't feel so scared anymore because I had a big brother to look out for me.  Usually, I only hugged Meggy or Mom or Dad, but as we walked back into the house, I reached out my hand and grabbed onto the hem of Logan's shirt.  Okay, it wasn't really a hug, but when I glanced up at my brother's face, it looked like he was smiling just a little.  I did my best to return the expression.

***

The look on Mom's face when we stepped back into the kitchen was one of horror.

"Aiden!  What on earth happened to you?"

"The basketball rolled down the horse trail and Aiden went to go get it," Bradley offered, his innocent tone spiced with just a pinch of guilt.

Bradley had mastered the art of appearing angelic when faced with possible punishment.

"By himself?" Mom asked, her voice hardening.

She stood there like an angry hen, her fists pressed against her hips, a dish towel hanging from one of them.

I scowled.  Well, I tried to scowl.  I couldn't tell if it was actually working.  I understood that Mom was extra protective over me because of my autism, but I should be able to go after a stray basketball without someone accompanying me and holding my hand the entire way.  And then the images of the ghoulies flashed into my mind and I bit my lip, dropping my eyes.  Okay, maybe I shouldn't go wandering down into the swamp by myself, even with my brothers a few dozen yards away.

"He didn't go very far and we were watching him from the fence the whole time," Logan insisted.

That wasn't entirely true.  If they had been, they would have seen me fall and would have come after me.

"I don't care," Mom said, straightening back up and reaching out to take my hand.  "Who knows what's down there.  People used to dump their trash in that culvert all the time before the Land Conservancy got involved and cleaned it up.  There might still be some residual toxins in the soil or rusty shards of metal hidden under the bushes."

Mom threw the towel over her shoulder with her free hand and started tugging me down the hallway to the bathroom.  She lifted me up onto the counter and ran warm water in the sink, then pulled out some hydrogen peroxide, bandages and antibiotic ointment.  She cleaned my cuts with warm water, pouring hydrogen peroxide over them just to be safe, then patted them dry and added the ointment and bandages to the bad ones.  There were only a few since most of the scrapes had been shallow ones from the blackberry brambles.

After patching me up and wiping away all the dirt, she took me to my room and helped me change into a clean set of clothes, grumbling the entire time about how I shouldn't wander off by myself or let my older brothers boss me around.  I simply stood there in silence as Mom tugged on a clean T-shirt and a fresh pair of sweatpants.  It was embarrassing having your mom dress you when you were seven, but dinner would be ready soon and unless I had a half an hour to get through the ordeal by myself, someone had to help me.  Pushing buttons into buttonholes and tying shoes were especially hard for me, so most of my pants had elastic bands and my shoes fastened using Velcro.

By the time we returned to the living room, Dad was home and checking on the dinner.  When he turned to Mom to ask about it, he took one look at the expression on her face and clamped his mouth shut.

"Dinner will be ready in ten minutes," she snapped.  "You can wait that long, or better yet, next time you can be the one to make it for all of us."

Dad backed away with his hands raised.  "I was just going to stir the vegetables in the pan.  The boys said Aiden had fallen down outside."  He cast me a quick look, probably checking for more deadly injuries than the scrapes that were now covered in bandages.  "Are you okay, Aiden?"

I nodded my head vigorously.  I was fine.  If anything was wrong with me at all, it had nothing to do with the physical injuries, but everything to do with the mental ones from all the ghoulie sightings in the past few days. 

Once everyone was convinced that I wasn't going to drop dead anytime soon, we started getting the table ready for dinner.  Mom sent Logan to tell Meghan dinner was ready, and Dad was getting the twins latched into their high chairs.  To my great relief, dinner went on like it always did with Bradley telling us all about school.  Apparently, one of the girls in Logan's class had a crush on him and was always following him around the playground.  Upon hearing this, Logan turned bright red and tried to jab Bradley with his fork.

Dad quickly diffused the situation and Logan retaliated by informing Bradley that having a girl like him was better than having all the girls in his class avoid him because he still picked his nose, in which case Mom stepped in with a quick lecture about what was appropriate to talk about at the dinner table.  Jack and Joey didn't have much to say, considering they were still practically babies, but they laughed and seemed to enjoy everyone else's conversation.

While all this was going on, I slid my eyes in my sister's direction.  Meghan was being quiet, more so than usual, only picking at her food and eating very little of it.  I felt my stomach clench in unease.  Her eyes were distant and her skin wasn't glowing as much as it usually did.  Now I would have Meggy to worry about on top of everything else.

After dinner, Dad helped Mom get the twins ready for bed while Bradley and Logan reluctantly started their homework.  Meggy disappeared into her room.  She probably had to study, too.  High school had lots of homework, she had told me once.  I decided to head to my room, too.  I didn't feel like coloring while my brothers worked at the table and we weren't allowed to have the TV on if anyone was studying.  Instead, I curled up in my bed and read one of my chapter books.  After a while, I set it aside and turned off my lamp.

It took me a long time to fall asleep that night, what with my own busy thoughts and the garbled, sleeping sounds floating over from my twin brothers' side of the room.  Eventually, I drifted off, the undulating shadows cast by Jack and Joey's fish tank filling up the room like dancing demons.  When I opened my eyes again, I was lying on my back, the brilliant sunlight filtering through the canopy of bright green leaves above.  I squinted, and  lifted up a hand to rub at my eyes.  To my surprise, I wasn't clumsy or slow about it.

Taking a breath, I rolled over and got up onto my knees, surveying this unfamiliar place I'd found myself in.  Tall eucalyptus trees surrounded a meadow carpeted with brown leaves and small patches of poison ivy.  To my left was what appeared to be a stream bed, choked with long, lanky stems of reeds and cattails.  A cool breeze shifted the silvery green, sickle-shaped leaves above and beyond the snaking river of emerald bog plants was the slope of a hillside covered in oak and more eucalyptus.  I swallowed, my mouth dry and tasting like dust.  I knew this place.  I was in the swamp behind my house.  In the very meadow where I'd seen the green man kill the ghoulies.

Suddenly, my skin prickled with anxiety and the faint blue glow to my skin intensified.  Were there more ghoulies around?  Why was I here?  I should have been asleep in bed, safe inside my house.

Before I could contemplate anything more, a low, rattling growl froze the blood in my veins.  I stayed absolutely still, my heart galloping like a race horse.

The growl was joined by another one and the snapping of twigs and rustling of brush answered my question.  Yes.  There were more ghoulies around.

Slowly, I turned my head.  I shouldn't have.  Three monsters, all close to the size of that white dog I'd seen the other day, emerged from the shadows cast by the brush-clogged edge of the meadow.  They were so much bigger and so much more terrifying than the other ghoulies I'd seen before.  They were bone-thin, like greyhounds that had starved to death and then been buried for a few weeks.  The breeze picked up again, this time blowing in my direction, and their smell hit my nose like a slap: dead animal flesh, mixed with rotting eggs and scorched hair.  The ghoulie closest to me peeled back its mud-black lips and snarled.  Long, wicked yellow teeth lined its jaws and deep within its throat, a fire burned, like the throat of a dragon I'd seen in a movie once.

I gagged in reaction to their stench and forced down a sob, then stood all the way up, intending to run.  But then I realized I couldn't run.  I had a hard enough time keeping my feet in front of me while I walked.

One of the rotting hounds threw back its head and bayed, a long, low call that brought to mind images of battle fields and loved ones wailing over mass graves.  I cried out and turned, not caring that I wouldn't make it very far.  I had to get away from these things, even if the only way to escape meant dying once they tore me to shreds.

To my utter surprise, my feet obeyed my mind and I went tearing across the meadow, intending to head toward the place where I could cross the swamp.  I didn't make it very far before one of the ghoulies leapt forward, coming to land to my right.  It snapped at me and I screamed, changing directions.  Another one was right behind me, and the third somewhere on my left.  I ran in the only direction I had left: straight ahead and deeper into the woods.  I only hoped that I'd find a tree I could climb as I made my escape.

Cold sweat poured down my back and my lungs burned as I pushed myself, faster, farther, as the three ghoulies chased after me.  Their howls sent goose bumps all over my skin and made my heart skip a beat, but I kept running, leaping over fallen logs and sliding down small slopes covered in leaves.  At some point, I stumbled out onto another trail.  If I turned right, I could head out to the road that dead ended before reaching the crossing point over the swamp.  That was my better option.  Taking a few deep breaths, I turned in that direction, only to have one of the ghoulies bound up onto the trail, its black claws skidding against the packed dirt.

I cried out again and pulled up short, nearly tripping this time.  Never in my life had I been able to run so well or so fast.  The monster growled at me, panting.  A half-rotten tongue lolled from its mouth and the fire in its throat flared in time with its breathing.
The other two were on the slope above the road, eyeing me carefully.  They weren't going to let me go out to the road.  Whimpering and trying hard to keep the tears in my eyes from falling, I turned left and started sprinting down the trail.  The ghoulies followed, herding me like a sheep.  The road curved sharply to the left and then I could see the bottom of the culvert.  It was dry this far back, but I could clearly see where the water might run through in the rainy season.  I hit the sand, desperately searching around for a new direction to turn.

On the opposite side, the trail picked up and continued to wind through the eucalyptus trees.  To my left, the wide, sandy canyon floor continued on, only blocked by the occasional fallen tree or patch of willows.  To my right, the walls of the small canyon rose up on either side, the passage blocked by a crisscrossing of dead eucalyptus trees that had fallen into the culvert over the years.  It reminded me of a pathway into a haunted mountain in one of my brothers' video games.  A cold, unnatural gust of air rolled down the canyon, freezing my sweat-slicked skin.  There was no way I was going to go down that way.

Making up my mind to head back toward the place where I started, I turned left.  Before I could so much as take a first step, one of the ghoulies jumped in front of me, snarling and flicking its whip-like tail.  I tried to dart around it.  Maybe I could lose them if I ran off-trail.  My attempt at escape failed again when a second monster blocked my way.  The third one joined in and they had me cornered.  I could either run directly at them, or turn and run up the culvert.

"No!" I rasped, the tears now streaming freely down my face.  "No!"

They paced toward me, snapping at me when I didn't move.  I took a step back, then another.  They sped up.  Swallowing my paralyzing fear, I turned and bolted up the canyon.

It's just your fear, Aiden, I told myself as I wove between the eucalyptus trunks.  Just your fear.  You must overcome it.

The walls of the canyon drew closer together and the angle of the dead trees became more steep.  Ahead of me, the dirt path became an eroded wall.  I had come to the end.  I turned around to face the ghoulies - to face my fate - but something to my right caught my eye.  To my utter surprise, there was some sort of cave in the side of the canyon wall, its black throat yawning wide.  Tendrils of roots and strips of dead eucalyptus bark dangled from the lip of the cave like gruesome beads hanging from a doorway.

Before I could ponder it much further, another icy gust of air poured from the hole, along with the bone-chilling clack of dry bones striking together and the squirming sound of maggots roiling in rotten meat.

The bile in my stomach rose.  Something was coming.  Something so terrifying I could feel it on instinct alone.  Behind me, the rotten hounds grew restless, their growls turning to yips, but before me the black cavern seemed to yawn wider, drawing back as if it was about to spit something awful from its depths.  The hideous sounds grew louder and the air colder.  The wind stirred my hair and all I could do was stand there, frozen in fear, with my fists clenched at my sides.

Before I even got a chance to see the hellish thing that was coming to kill me, everything went blank.



*****
Thank you for reading this third installment from Aiden's point of view!  Hopefully I'll have the next installment up soon.  In the meantime, discover the Otherworld with the first book in the series, Faelorehn.  The ebook is free on AmazonBarnes and NobleiTunesKobo and Smashwords!  The audio book edition is also available from AudibleAmazon, and iTunes.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Guest Author Post: JoAnne Myers

Hello Jenna and thank you for this interview. I will be awarding two people who comment their choice of one of my books.  The choices are, Murder Most Foul, Wicked Intentions, Twisted Love, The Crime of the Century, Flagitious, Loves, Myths, and Monsters, or Poems About Life, Love, and Everything in Between.

Author Note: 4.5*  Review for "Flagitious"  from Manic Readers.

Review: Interesting stories and I have to say I read this book in one hour. I would definitely say Flagitious is filled with suspense, intrigue and violent situations that will keep readers guessing until they turn the last page.

Reviewed by Fran from Manic Readers on January 16, 2015

 When did you first have the thought you'd like to write a book?  I have always been able to write. I prefer to write and read action packed books.

 What was your path to getting this book written and published? What type of research did you do?  I scoured the Internet seeking a publisher. I really did not want to go the self-publishing route. I also gathered my information for the stories from newspaper clippings, and the Internet.

 Where did the idea for your story come from?  These stories are based on true cases.

 Did you face any blocks while writing the book, and if so, how did you handle them? If not, what's your secret?  I researched lycanthrope for the story, The Tarot Card Murders, and artificial insemination for “The Other Couple’s Child.”

 What did you learn from the writing process? How time consuming writing and self-promoting is. Writing is though, very gratifying.

 What are some of your favorite books and why?  I love Black Beauty, and Charlotte’s Web, because they are so enchanting and sad, but have happy endings. I read books by Aphrodite Jones, and Gregg Olsen, because they concern true crime

 Would you like to try your hand at writing a different genre?  Which one and why?  I started a children’s book many years ago, but never finished it. I would like to return to that genre.

 If you were not a writer, what would your dream job be?  I had many dreams while growing up. I wanted to be a stewardess and fly to exotic places. I wanted to be a jockey because of my love of horses. But I think I would have studied art more aggressively, and been a canvas painter.

 What aspect of writing gives you the most trouble?  When to end the story. It

Who is your favorite hero/heroine?  That is easy, James Bond. Who doesn’t love a brave, handsome and daring man.



Blurbs for “Flagitious” a four crime/mystery anthology

“Too Solve His Mother’s Murder”

After his Air Force career was interrupted by his mother’s untimely murder, Steven Moore, returned home. Met with a cold reception of lies, secrets, and threats, he is determined too find Wanda’s killer, even at the cost of his own life.  Was Wanda a victim of the legendary Hatchet Man? Was this loving and devoted mother killed because of her shady past, or for her inheritance?  Between finding the truth and falling in love, Steven stops at nothing, too solve his mother’s murder.

“The Other Couple’s Child”

Charlotte had it all. A loving and devoted husband. Supportive family and friends, and a house full of beautiful children. Everything was perfect for this Super Mom, until a medical procedure turns her life upside down, and spirals into a child abduction case. Time is running out. Will police arrive in time to save Charlotte and the other couple’s child?

“3381 Market Street”

Katherine Sims, a young widow working for a brokerage firm in a small southeastern town, is tired of the excuses concerning Charlie’s absence. She knows something terrible must have happened to her favorite nephew with the sad blue-eyes. After exposing the killer, Katherine’s life is turned upside down and she finds herself fighting for her life. Filled with maniacal suspects, a Satanic Cult, and danger around each corner, this story depicts one woman’s courage too avenge a child’s murder, while finding unexpected love.

“The Tarot Card Murders”

New Detective, and ex-navel man, twenty-six-year-old Nick Difozzio, returns to his small county determined too abolish crime. Not until death knocked on his door, did he know the face of evil. Will the decorated veteran destroy the Lycanthropes, or will he succumb to their murderess desires and become one of them? He took an oath too protect, honor, and uphold the law, but can he defy the lust, riches, and power offered, or are the ‘dark forces’ stronger than his will?

Excerpt from “3381 Market Street”

 Hearing the verdict, prisoner Jessie Ellis went berserk. Whipping out a pistol previously concealed under the defense table by a friend.
The small sand-haired man with dark eyes, jumped to his feet. Firing two warning shots into the ceiling of the century-old building, with his free hand, Ellis seized his defense attorney, Yolanda Stamen, for a human shield.
 "AHHHHH!" a woman screamed from the gallery, and fainted.
"Get back! I ain't goin' to no prison," the thirty-eight-year-old father of eight shouted, pressing his weapon tightly to his attorney's head. "I'll kill her . . . right here and now . . . I mean it."
            Immediately, the courtroom went wild. Jurors and spectators alike ran from the gun-wielding, just-convicted baby killer.       
Ignoring her pleas, Jessie shoved his hostage ahead of him down the hallway. In the lobby, again surrounded by officers, Jessie shouted, "You bastards! I'm not kiddin'." He waved his gun at the mob. "I'll blow this bitch away. I want that cop car and I want it now."
Shaking his head, the tall slender green-eyed prosecutor said, "Jessie, you'll never get away with it. You have no escape. Don't make them kill you. Hand over your gun." Despite Greg Langdon's brave words, his shaking outstretched hand revealed his inner fears.
            Ignoring every warning and still clutching his attorney, Jessie slid his way through to the front door. Once outside, he found more lawmen waiting, guns fixed.


Author Bio:

JoAnne has been a long-time resident of southeastern Ohio, and worked in the blue-collar industry most of her life. Besides having seven novels under her belt, JoAnne canvas paints. When not busy with hobbies or working outside the home, JoAnne spends time with relatives, and volunteers her time within the community.

JoAnne is a member of the International Women’s Writing Guild, Savvy Authors, Coffee Time Romance, Paranormal Romance Guild, True Romance Studios, National Writers Association, the Hocking Hill's Arts and Craftsmen Association, The Hocking County Historical Society and Museum, and the Hocking Hills Regional Welcome Center.
  
JoAnne believes in family values and following your dreams. Her original canvas paintings, can be found at: http://www.booksandpaintingsbyjoanne.com

Other books by JoAnne:

"WICKED INTENTIONS" a paranormal/mystery anthology
"LOVES', MYTHS' AND MONSTERS'," a fantasy anthology
"THE CRIME OF THE CENTURY," a biography true-crime
“POEMS ABOUT LIFE, LOVE, AND EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN”
"TWISTED LOVE," a true-crime anthology
“MURDER MOST FOUL,” a detective/mystery

Contact JoAnne:


Email: joannemyers@frontier.com

Website: Books and Paintings by JoAnne

JoAnne’s Blogs:

Jo Anne’s Postings: https://joannemyers.wordpress.com/


Books and Paintings by JoAnne Blog: http://www.booksandpaintingsbyjoanne.com/page2

JoAnne’s WordPress Blog:

Buy links:

Amazon Kindle:


Paperback:


*****
Thank you, JoAnne, for visiting my blog and sharing your work with us!  I wish you all the best luck for your future endeavors.  Readers: don't forget to comment for your chance to win one of JoAnne's books!
-J.E. Johnson

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Saturday Shorts: Aiden Elam Part Three - The Green Man

Hello readers!  Two weeks ago in Part One of Aiden's adventures, Aiden recalls an encounter with 'ghoulies' (faelah) at his school.  Last week, he describes a memory from the day before, a memory some of those familiar with the Otherworld Trilogy books might recognize.  In this installment, Aiden is recruited by his older brothers to fetch a stray basketball down the horse trail behind the Elam home.  What Aiden discovers, however, is something (or someone) unfamiliar to him, but perhaps more familiar to those of you who have read Faelorehn.  Once again, beware of the typos and Happy Reading!
-J.E. Johnson


PART 3: The Green Man

Wednesday was the slowest day ever.  I didn't go to school because Mom and I had the appointment with Dr. Sellers in the middle of the morning and she said that since it would take us a while to get done with the appointment, we might as well stay home.  She had called the high school the day before to get a substitute teacher, so I got to spend the morning with my mom.  We watched cartoons and Mom helped me put together my Halloween costume.

Unlike Bradley and Logan, who had picked out their costumes weeks ago, and Jack and Joey, who were too young to care what they were for Halloween, I was a little more particular about what I dressed as.  I never liked the costumes at the stores, so I always had Mom or Dad or Meggy help me make something.  This year, I wanted to be a super hero from one of my favorite comics, but I wanted to make it a little different by adding a cape and a mask instead of a helmet.  I had my old green sweatpants and sweatshirt (since green was my favorite color), and while we had been shopping for my older brothers' costumes, we had stopped by the bath aisle where I'd found a nice, big, bright green towel to use as a cape.  With a little bit of glue, glitter and paint, Mom was now helping me finish up my mask.

At ten o'clock we left for the doctor's office, my mask drying atop a paper plate on the kitchen table.  Dr. Sellers was really nice and she always gave me a sucker when we left, especially if I had to get a shot.  Today I didn't need a shot.  She mostly talked to my mom and then scribbled something on her clipboard.  On the way out, my mom picked up a bag from the lobby.  The new medicine I was going to try.

"Dr. Sellers says you can start taking this tomorrow," she said as we returned to the car.

I nodded somberly, my mouth too full of lime sucker to say anything.

When we got home, it was lunch time, so Mom made us some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and I drew and colored in my sketchbook while Mom did some work on her laptop.  Later that afternoon, we had to pick up Logan, Bradley, Jack and Joey, and by the time we returned home we were all bursting to get out of the car.

I looked for Meggy when I walked through the front door.  It was after three, so she should have been home, but she was probably in her room studying.  Meghan studies a lot, but most of the time I think she just likes the quiet of her bedroom.  It can get pretty noisy with all us boys running around the house.  Sometimes, I wish it was just her and me, and then I feel bad for wishing it.  I love all my siblings, but I think I'm more like Meggy when it comes to quiet time.

The twins had scattered all of their toys over the living room floor and Bradley and Logan were on the side of the house where the basketball hoop was attached, practicing their shots.

I padded across the carpet, sidestepping a herd of plastic triceratops and an army of small, dark green soldiers as I aimed for the sliding glass door in the kitchen.

"Outside," I said to Mom as I passed.

"Okay, honey," she responded as she chopped vegetables and tossed them into a frying pan.  "Be careful.  You know how competitive your brothers can get."

I nodded and with great effort, heaved the door open and then slammed it shut behind me.  The only reason Mom let me go out with my older brothers alone was because she could check on us through the glass door every now and then.

Outside, the air was crisp and cool, but the sky was a clear blue above.  Bradley and Logan were playing a one-on-one game and as soon as they saw me Logan said, "Good!  You can get the ball for us when it goes out of bounds.  And you can make sure it doesn't go down the hill, okay Aiden?"

I nodded and crossed the concrete, plopping down on the edge of the low retaining wall to watch them.  I was perfectly happy with this task.  As much as I'd love to play basketball, I knew I wasn't nearly nimble enough to be any good.  Most likely, I'd trip over my own feet and cause everyone else to fall over me.  Nope.  Basketball wasn't my thing.

Logan dribbled past Bradley, shoving him aside and making him stumble.  He sped toward the hoop, tossing the ball a little too hard.  It slammed against the backboard, then bounced off the rim and headed straight for me.

"Get it, Aiden!" Logan cried.

I felt my eyes widen and I stood, stretching my arms up as far above my head as I could.  I guess I moved too slow because the ball bounced right over me and went flying down the hill onto the equestrian trail behind our house.

Both Bradley and Logan threw their heads back and groaned.

"You were supposed to stop it!" Logan pointed out.

I glared at him.  Well, at least I tried to glare at him.  I wanted to tell him that I had been trying to stop it.

When I continued to stand there, Bradley threw his hands up in the air.  "Aiden!" he complained.  "Go get the ball!  It's your fault it went down there."

I looked up at my older brother, wanting very much to punch him.  I didn't like it when he bossed me around.  I hated it even more when he blamed things on me that I had no control over.

Logan turned to Bradley and said, "Don't be stupid.  He won't be able to find it.  It went too far down the trail.  I'll just go get it."

Bradley made another whining sound, but I wasn't paying attention.  Sure, I didn't like being bossed around or blamed for things, but neither of those was worse than people thinking I was helpless.

Screwing up my face and mustering all the energy and concentration I could, I shouted, "No!" then, "Get ball."

Without waiting for my brothers to consider what I had said, I spun on my heel and crawled through the fence, almost tripping over the plants growing on the small slope that led down to the trail.  I would show both of them I could do something as simple as find a lost basketball.

Plucking dead leaves and tiny, broken twigs from my hair and clothes, I stumbled out onto the wide dirt path.  The local horse owners used this trail a lot, so the sand was soft and deep in some places.  And there were 'road apples' everywhere.  That's what Bradley and Logan called the horse poop.  They thought it was so hilarious and sometimes they threatened to throw them at me when I didn't do what they asked.  Fortunately, I stayed inside most of the time.  Having big brothers was such a pain.

Sidestepping a nearby pile of road apples, I headed farther down the trail, following the large, basketball-shaped divots in the sand until I spotted a small groove that indicated which direction the ball had rolled.  And my brothers thought I was an idiot.  I bet they didn't know how to track a basketball.

I took my time locating the ball, mostly to get back at my brothers for being rude.  It wasn't hard, since it was so nice down in this canyon, what with the tall eucalyptus trees creating plenty of shade, their sickle-shaped leaves rustling in the breeze far above my head.  On the left side of the trail, the hillside fell away about fifty feet down into the swamp below.  Small shrubs and young trees dotted the slope and made it pretty much impossible for anyone to cross, unless they wanted to end up full of blackberry thorns and stinging nettle welts.

Fortunately, I spotted the basketball only a few more yards down the path.  It had rolled pretty far, almost halfway down to where the trail curved to the left to cross the shallowest part of the swamp.  I was glad I didn't have to go down that far.  The tree branches curved overhead and made it dark and spooky, and it just didn't feel right even from far away.

I stepped onto the dead grass tangled along the side of the trail, zeroing in on the ball, its bright orange color standing out like a disregarded safety vest.  The basketball had wedged itself between a tree stump and a pile of dead brush someone had piled up to make a fort.  It was a few feet from the path and I had to climb through the shrubs a little to reach it.

Placing my foot on a large branch, I leaned forward, my tongue sticking out of the side of my mouth and my fingers stretching toward the ball.  I heard the crack before I felt my weight give out underneath me.  The branch, which had looked sturdy, was really rotten in the center.  I pitched forward, the ball breaking loose as well, and the both of us crashed halfway down the hill.  I landed in a small clump of overgrown shrubs beneath a willow tree, the ball stuck between me and the ground.  I tried moving, but my ankle hurt and something sharp dug into my shoulder.  Taking a careful glance to the side, I realized the pain was caused by a blackberry branch that had come loose from the main plant several feet away.

As I lay there, I reflected in silent misery on how I'd been so proud of myself for being smarter than my brothers.  Now, I was hoping they'd come looking for me soon.  I tried getting up, but my ankle twinged a little and I rolled back onto my side.

Just when I was about to give up and start screaming to get Bradley and Logan's attention, I heard something rustling in reeds somewhere in front of me.  I rolled over again, trying not to make my ankle worse, and blinked out over the swamp.  Most of the marsh was clogged up with reeds and cattails, with only a few pools of blackish water visible from what I could see.  A small patch of the plants had been shoved aside and smashed flat, giving me a clear view of the shore on the other side.

The opposite shore was littered with dead, brown eucalyptus leaves, the trees from which they'd fallen spread out just enough to create a meadow of sorts.   A clump of poison oak, the leaves going red for the autumn, crawled up each of the trunks of the trees like scarlet lace.  Beyond the meadow were more trees and shrubs growing thick and crowding the side of another slope.

As I studied the view, that rustling sound from earlier returned, this time accompanied by a strange growling.  Immediately, I became completely still, not daring to even breathe or blink.  I knew that sound.  Whatever was moving on the opposite shore was a ghoulie.  Would it see me stuck under the tree?  Would it try to come after me this time, now that I was helpless?

Before I could think much more about it, the ghoulie pushed free of the reeds and scurried up onto the dry land, shaking itself like a wet dog.  I didn't see why it would.  It's not like it had any fur to keep dry.  Instead, a scattering of coarse hairs, like those on a pig, stuck out from a hide that looked to be the same shade and consistency as dried tar.  It had a long snout complete with bright white, pointed teeth that didn't fit all the way into its mouth, and a tail as long and thin as one of the reeds growing in the mire.

The ghoulie had pulled something out of the water and was now pinning it down with clawed feet and tearing at it with its teeth.  I narrowed my eyes, but the only thing I noticed about the object was that it was red and brown.  Some small animal, most likely.

Just when I was certain the ghoulie would finish its meal and move on, another one came charging out of nowhere, slamming into the first with enough force to knock it off its feet.  The first ghoulie tumbled into a patch of poison oak, the dead animal still clutched in its teeth as the other readied itself for another attack.  The creatures were a good thirty yards or so away, and blocked somewhat by the water and the reeds, but I wanted to get out of there as soon as I could, just in case they smelled me or sensed me somehow.  I jiggled my foot experimentally and was relieved to find the pain in my ankle wasn't nearly as severe as it had been ten minutes ago.  Maybe I hadn't sprained it after all.

Before I could roll over and start climbing back up the hill, something unexpected happened.  As the two ghoulies circled one another in a game of tug-of-war with the dead thing, a long, thin object came darting through the air and lodged itself into the first creature.  The monster screeched, the sound a combination of hard chalk grating against a blackboard and a rabbit screaming.  I ground my teeth together as goose pimples popped up all over my skin.  Another one of those long sticks came flying from the right and I realized what they were: arrows.  The second arrow struck the other ghoulie in the face, and as it added its own cry of pain, it turned its head in my direction.  I felt my face pale and my stomach turn over.  The arrow was sticking out of the monster's sunken eye, the flesh smoking where the arrow shaft touched it.  It staggered for a moment longer then collapsed to the ground.

Some more rustling on the slope announced something else approaching.  Oh no.  Were there more ghoulies out here?  Instead of an entire herd of monsters, a huge white dog burst free of the brush on the other side of the meadow, coming to a stop next to the dying ghoulie.  I gaped in complete surprise.  He was big enough for me to ride, if he was my dog, and he was all snowy white except for his ears.  They looked like they were dark red or brown.

Just when I thought I couldn't get any more surprises today, the branches of the far oak tree parted and someone stepped out into the meadow.  It was a man, I think, because he wore dark green pants and a long, olive green trench coat, the kind guys in the army sometimes wear.  The coat was hooded and the man had the hood pulled over his head, so I couldn't see his face at first.  In one hand he carried a bow, almost as tall as he was, and there was a sack of arrows flung across his back.  He approached the meadow cautiously, his boots making barely any noise against the leaf litter and fallen branches.  When he came within ten feet of the dead ghoulies, he held up a hand and the dog walked over to his side.  The gloves he wore were the same color as the jacket and the fingertips had been cut off.

I swallowed hard.  Maybe he was one of the strangers Mom and Dad had warned me about.  They told me that some people lived away from others, and that some of these people were dangerous.  They had always told me that I should assume they were all dangerous, just to be safe.  I scrunched up my nose, trying to decide whether this stranger was dangerous or not.

After scratching the dog behind the ears, he moved closer to the ghoulies and got down on one knee.  I wanted to shout out and warn him that the ghoulies were not natural and that they might still hurt him even if they were dead, but then an even more profound thought occurred to me: only I could see the ghoulies.  If he had shot them and was now looking at them, he could see them too.

The man reached out and pulled one, then the other, arrow from the dead monsters.  He wiped the arrow tips on the ground, then, without even looking, returned them to the quiver on his back.  As he started to stand, he reached up and pushed the hood back from his face.  I couldn't really see it from where I hid under the bushes, but his hair looked dark and he was really tall.  Taller than Dad.  Taller even than Kevin, our neighbor down the street who played basketball for the high school where Mom worked.  He was bigger, too, almost like a Viking from one of Bradley's warrior encyclopedia books.  I couldn't see his eyes at all, even when he turned his head as if to survey his surroundings.  Panicking a little, I buried my face in the leaves, inhaling dust and the scent of damp mildew.  My heart was thundering in my ears and my ankle began to ache a little.  Had he seen me?  I hoped he hadn't.  I was wearing Bradley's old camouflage zip-up sweatshirt, but something about this stranger told me he might be able to see me even if I had buried myself under all the leaves.

Eventually, I heard a light whistle and the sound of movement across the water.  Gathering up my courage, I lifted my head just enough to peek out with one eye.  The stranger and his white dog were gone, and where the ghoulies used to be there were only two black piles of ash.

Before he got the chance to come back, I squirmed around until my head faced uphill once again and, using one arm to push the basketball ahead of me, I crawled back up the hill.  Once out on the horse trail again, I spun around, wincing a little because of my sore ankle.  It didn't hurt that bad, but it still bothered me a little.  Besides my ankle, the tops of my hands were a little scratched from the blackberry vines, but at least I hadn't fallen into a patch of poison oak or stinging nettles.

"Aiden!" I heard someone call out.

I jumped nearly five feet, my heart staying airborne even when I landed back onto solid ground.

"Aiden, let's go!  It's almost dinner time and you know Mom's gonna make us do homework after!" 

It was just Logan and Bradley, finally looking to see what had happened to me.  There was no way I could tell them, even if I wanted to, about what I had seen and heard.  They would just assume I had tripped and fallen, like I sometimes do.  As much as I hated the way my autism often made me slow to react and unable to talk clearly, in situations like this, it was probably for the best.

I finished brushing off the dead leaves and sticky, moldy dirt and scooped up the basketball.  Without glancing back down at the swamp, I turned toward home, praying that there were no more ghoulies and no more strangers with huge dogs.

Yet, while I hurried back up the trail, the events of the last several minutes spun around in my mind like a colorful pinwheel in the wind.  Who had that man been, and why was he able to see the ghoulies?  Where had he come from?  I had never seen him in our neighborhood before, and I was good at noticing new people.

As I turned to climb up the slope leading into our back yard, I thought about one more thing that unnerved me about the Green Man, something I hadn't even noticed at first because he was all covered up by that coat.  When he had pulled his hood back to look at the ghoulies, his skin had been glowing, just like mine and Meggy's.

*****
Thank you for reading this third installment from Aiden's point of view!  Hopefully I'll have the next installment up soon.  In the meantime, discover the Otherworld with the first book in the series, Faelorehn.  The ebook is free on AmazonBarnes and NobleiTunesKobo and Smashwords!  The audio book edition is also available from AudibleAmazon, and iTunes.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Jahrra's Journal: The Wreing Florenn

Hello Readers!  As some of you may have noticed, I recently created a new page dedicated to all of my Jahrra's Journal entries I'll be posting in the coming year (hopefully more than just a few ;P).  I started this up a few years ago and then got distracted by other writing endeavors.  I had previously posted five entries to Jahrra's Journal (which you can view here: http://www.jennaelizabethjohnson.com/p/jahrras-journal.html), and my goal is to post a new one at least twice a month.  If you haven't read the previous entries to Jahrra's Journal, I suggest you read those already published on the Jahrra's Journal page first.  Thank you and happy reading!
-J.E. Johnson

The Wreing Florenn

Dear Journal,

It’s been two whole days since I’ve written in my journal!  I’ve just been so busy helping Pada with the apple orchard that I’ve forgotten to write everything down before bed at night.  Well, today we took a day off and walked along the edge of the Wreing Florenn looking for wild herbs and berries.  Pada says that terrifying beasts live in that dark forest, and that we have to make sure to be finished with our walk before dark.  I asked him what lives in there and he said that he thought he saw a boarlaque once.  A boarlaque!  I grabbed his hand and said we had to leave right away, but he only patted my head and told me that boarlaques stay away from elvin folk and that the other scary things living in the forest only come out at night.  I was so scared I hung on Pada the whole time, even though we never actually went into the forest!  Tomorrow I get to go back to Master Hroombra’s, so I’d better get to sleep or Mr. Dharedth just might leave without me tomorrow morning.

-Jahrra

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Want to read more about Jahrra and her adventures?  Download The Legend of Oescienne - The Finding, the first book in the Oescienne series, for FREE from Amazon.com