“If you are willing to do something that might not work, you’re closer to being an artist.”
—Seth Godin

These Writing Myths Will Keep You From Getting Published

This guest post is by Jeff Elkins. Jeff is an author and the founder of of ShortFictionBreak.com, which is now open for new story submissions. Jeff is the author of the short story collection B-More Stories. You can follow Jeff on Twitter (@jffelkins).

A little over a year ago my writing changed. Before then I maintained a personal blog where I would occasionally rant about some wild idea or share a story about my kids. I didn’t think of myself as a “writer.” My blog was simply where I shared thoughts too long for Facebook.

Writing Myth Edgar Allan PoePhoto by Alvaro Tapia (Creative Commons)

Then on a whim one night, I decided to take the Story Cartel online course. As part of the course, participants were challenged to write a short story. I hammered out a fun tale that had been taking up space in my head for a few weeks. Immediately upon finishing the first draft, I was hooked and began to dream of what it might be like to be a “real writer.”

The Myth of the “Real Writer”

I envisioned luxurious hours sipping coffee and listening to Sinatra, while gleefully thumping out stories on my laptop. I believed there was no way writing a short story would ever take me more than an hour, two at the absolute most.

Also, in my imagination, there was no editing. I would never need to edit anything. Rather, I would rip the first draft out of my typewriter and hurl it over my shoulder to the frenzied mob of publishers pushing and shoving one another to see who could get their fingers on my brilliant ideas first. After savoring the page they would demand more, but I wouldn’t give it to them. In my mind I would instead respond in a 1930’s-Cagney-New-York accent, “Now listen here, see. I’ll give you more pages when I have time, see. You need to wait, see.” Then they would weep and cry in despair as I strutted away, offering only a confident, maniacal laugh in reply.

Needless to say, those writing myths were quickly debunked.

Debunking Writing Myths

I found a good short story takes me a week.

Any music with lyrics is a complete distraction.

I have to edit everything at least four or five times. Even after all those rewrites, I am rarely satisfied with the end result. Rather, I’m exhausted and can’t stand to look at the piece anymore. That is when I know it’s done.

I do drink a lot of coffee and often laugh manically, but not because there is a crowd of publishers clamoring for my next story.

Writers Need Relationships

I have been fortunate in one way. As I said, before I started writing seriously, I’d been blogging for over four years. When I finally did finish a story, I had had supportive community in place, ready to give me feedback and encouragement.

Most new fiction authors I’ve met do not have this. They slave away on a story and then have to work equally as hard to find a place to share it. With nowhere else to turn, they attempt to launch personal blogs, only to discover how difficult building a platform from scratch can be.

The web is noisy and increasingly designed to be skimmed. Building a strong readership from nothing is a little like prospecting for gold: you get a nugget here and there, but the struggle drives you to grow a long beard, wear overalls, and scream threats at strangers through a fog of grumpy-insanity.

A Place to Share Your Stories

I want to help. I want to give writers a place to post their stories while they build their own platforms. To this end, I and some friends of mine are launching a new blog. It’s called ShortFictionBreak.com. It is a space designed to give authors a place to share their work and receive feedback and encouragement.
We’ll be accepting submissions from anyone with a story. Send us your work and we will post it. There are no hidden strings attached. We aren’t making any money off the site. It is simply a digital space for you to share your fiction with the world.

If you like the idea of ShortFictionBreak.com and want to share your work routinely, we’ve got space for regular contributors. We’ll give you your own “author page” and when you publish your book, we’ll post a link to it so readers can find you.

To find out how to submit a story or become a contributor, head over to ShortFictionBreak.com here.

If you are a reader who likes our idea and wants to help us create an amazing space where writers can share their work, go over to ShortFictionBreak.com and subscribe so that when authors post their stories there is someone in the crowd listening. On the right hand side of the page, click the the button that says “Follow” to subscribe.

What writing myths did you believe when you first started writing? 

PRACTICE

Today’s practice is a two for one: First, make a writer’s day by sharing his/her work. Find a piece of writing (not your own) you think hasn’t gotten enough attention and share it across your social networking streams. Second, dig up a short story you’ve written but wish more people had read. Share it out across your platform or go to ShortFictionBreak.com and submit it to be posted there.

About Jeff Elkins

Jeff Elkins is a writer who lives Baltimore with his wife and five kids. If you enjoy his writing, he'd be honored if you would subscribe to his free monthly newsletter. All subscribers receive a free copy of Jeff's urban fantasy novella "The Window Washing Boy."

  • Really enjoyed your post and your writing style.

  • Sunny Henderson

    Loved the Cagney bit. LOL! Lots of maniacal laughter up in here, too.

  • For the practice here is my work, I’ll find another work as well! Part 1:
    I
    had propped my legs up on the pillows as I lost myself in a story where, once
    again, the most handsome prince was saving the day. Tears welled up eyes as I
    took in every word of that first kiss. How perfect, to get the man of your
    dreams in the end. Beauty and the Beast had become one of my favorite stories,
    I could only imagine how I would react if I was proposed to every single night.

    “Penny!
    Seriously, you’re going to be late to class again! Get out of that ridiculous
    book. You’ll never be a successful siren if you can’t even show up for a beauty
    class. And Lord help, Penny, I’m glad you bothered with eyeliner and mascara,
    but would it kill you to put on some lipstick? Why paint a portrait and not
    even bother to finish it? Penny, are you even listening? Put that book down.”

    “Mother,
    oh my gosh. Could you be more ridiculous?” I looked up at my mother who was
    standing over me with her perfectly manicured hands on her hips and a scowl on
    her face.

    “I
    allow you to have this library under the condition that you fully participate
    in the proper siren training.” She began to walk in a circle around me, taking
    in the vast amount of books I had collected. “If you can’t hold up your end of
    the deal, then these books have got to go.”

    “No,
    Mother. I’m fine. I just lost track of time.” I got up from the large pillows
    in the center of the cave and placed the book back on one of the carefully
    carved shelves. I had worked hard on this library and I wasn’t about to lose
    it.

    “Well,
    get over here. Let’s get you ready for beauty class,” my mother said as she
    motioned for me to come stand in front of her by the full length mirror she had
    put in the library without my consent, along with an elaborate vanity table,
    covered in tubes of lipstick, eyeshadow palettes, and bottles of hairspray. I
    walked up to the mirror and she immediately began to re-tease my thick brown
    hair. I winced as she brushed backwards to create volume.

    I
    never truly gave any notice to the comments other sirens made about favoring my
    mother until I gave myself a moment to actually look in the mirror. As I stood
    there, I began to realize that I looked exactly like my mother. Long, scaly,
    bird legs with perfectly painted claws. Those legs grew into a small waist and
    full breasts, which were covered by pink silk draped over one shoulder and
    fastened around my hips. My long hair hung straight most of the time unless
    Mother came after me with a curling iron. My brown eyes were lined in black and
    laced with long thick, eyelashes.

    “Your
    blush is much too dark for your complexion and Lord help, what have you done to
    your eyes? Honey, I mean really.” I knew exactly where this was about to go.
    “You are the daughter of one of the Three—the three great sirens—the teachers
    of our ways and the main singers of the cliffs. Don’t you want to be one of the
    Three one day? I have a reputation to uphold, dear. You have to look your best
    at all times. Every siren on this island knows you belong to me and I can’t
    have you running around looking like a fool.”

    It
    was such a pain, and as far as I was concerned, I could use the time my mother
    forced me to waste with getting ready, for reading, or alphabetizing my
    library. Being the daughter of a legendary Three was a real pain in the butt.
    God forbid I made her look bad. “Mom, seriously. I can do this stuff in my
    sleep. It’s boring. At least I’m not running around like Becca. She had on
    bright blue eye shadow all the way up to her eyebrows yesterday—attack her. At
    least I actually put this stupid stuff on every day.”

    “Don’t be ugly Penny. If you’re going to make fun of her blue
    eye shadow you follow it with a ‘God love her.’ You know better than that.” She
    had finished my hair with sticky hair spray and was now taking in my smeared
    mascara and eyeliner. “You best fix this mess before class.” She pulled a
    compact from her cleavage, opened it, and began dabbing at my face with a
    sponge.

    “Seriously,
    Mom? You have makeup on your person?”

    “Trust
    me, sweetie, when I need to do a repair job, I have the necessary tools to get
    it done.” She smiled a perfectly bleached smile, only enhanced by her blood-red
    lipstick that matched the red silk that draped her body. She always put me in
    pink, which I hated at first. I would much rather wear a light blue, maybe even
    a purple. But pink? However, every time I tried to change the color, she
    through a fit that was definitely not worth listening to. So, I wear the pink.

    She
    finished her attack and then stepped back to admire her work. “Gorgeous. Just
    like her mother. Now, get your butt to beauty class, and take it at a run.”

    “Run?
    Why? I’m not even that late!” I protested, but she had already begun to push me
    out the door and away from my stories of perfect princes and first kisses.

    “Penny,
    do you want to eat all the fish you want? Then keep your pudgy claws on those
    rocks. Get moving!” She yelled after me as I left the cave.

    The
    sun was bright and warm on my skin as it rose in the sky over the ocean. The
    island was not large, but not so small that there wasn’t enough room for the
    sirens to live happily. Beauty class was done on the far end of the island,
    down near the beach. All sirens had their favorite areas, the rocks and cliffs
    being the most popular.

    Thelia,
    who taught beauty class, liked to stay near the beach, claiming the salty air
    was good for the complexion. As I approached class I could hear her already
    reviewing everyone’s faces to see how well they had done on their own.

    “Nice
    of you to join us, Penny,” Thelia said as I took my place at one of the many
    vanities that surrounded Thelia’s main table.

    Each
    vanity had a large mirror and every piece of makeup one might need for a full
    hard day’s work. Cups full of different sized brushes sat by the mirrors while
    at least 30 different shades of lipsticks, blushes, eye shadows, and eyeliners
    were lined up like small armies across the table. My table had concealer,
    powder, liquid foundation, and eye shadow primers set off to the side, which
    had been chosen specifically to match my complexion.

    Thelia
    walked up to me and tilted my chin up with her hand. “What are you laying down
    first?” She asked, her golden hair pinned up on top of her head.

    “Moisterizer,
    then primer, then liquid, then setting powder,” I said, bored of the
    conversation already. It was something I did every single day. I felt as if
    this tedious process was one I could do with my eyes closed, despite not truly
    wanting to.

    “Everyone,
    I’d like you to look at the contouring Penny has done on her cheeks. Also, see
    how she’s used a highlight up under her eyes? Penny, tell the class why using
    this technique is important,” Thelia said. She turned and walked back to her
    table in the center.

    “Of
    course Miss Perfect is the one who gets the stellar review,” whispered Molli, a
    leggy redhead who sat at the table next to me. Some of the other sirens within
    earshot giggled.

    My
    cheeks burned with embarrassment as I turned away from the girls and toward
    Thelia to answer. “It’s important because it lifts areas that appear dark or
    sunken,” I mumbled.

    “And
    what happens if you use too much concealing cream or the wrong type of brush?”
    she asked not looking up from where she was making notes with a bright purple
    pen.

    “If
    you use too much then it will cake and if you use the wrong brush then it won’t
    blend properly and lines will be obvious,” I replied, shifting in my chair.

    “Well
    look at that. She’s brilliant,” a voice whispered from behind me.

    “Must
    be from all the books she keeps her face in all the time,” whispered another.

    My
    hands began to shake as I turned around to face Liza, who sat behind me and to
    whom I knew the voice belonged. “Sadly, not even books have the ability to show
    you that no matter how much makeup you cake on over your face, you’re still
    ugly enough to kill a sailor on sight. Guess there’s no singing class necessary
    for you, Liza.” I turned back around to face my mirror, my heart pounding and
    my body pumped full of adrenaline.

    I
    heard a few gasps and giggles before I put my attention back on Thelia who was
    now standing in front of her table giving instructions to the rest of the
    class. Her golden skin making the bright purple of her drapings pop. “Okay, now
    go ahead and use the wipes at your desk to completely remove all of your
    makeup. I want to not only see your removal and cleansing techniques, but I
    also want to see how you put down a base to properly build from.”

    I
    spent the rest of the class purposefully using the wrong brushes just so I
    didn’t have to listen to Liza and her army of evil friends for the rest of
    class. Instead I was just corrected by Thelia, her tone more annoyed each time
    she told me the brush I was using was too fluffy.

    Once
    class was over I walked back up the beach to get some lunch in the dining hall
    that overlooked the highest cliff. The dining hall was a large square area
    shaped by tall columns with long green ivy running up them to create a canopy
    overhead. Many different sirens reclined on pillows set against rocks while
    they ate different types of fish, fruit, and vegetables. Molli, Liza, and a
    group of other girls from my classes were on the far end out of earshot, but
    kept glancing over, making it obvious they were talking about me.

    Sighing, I turned away from them and
    looked out over the sea. I saw a tall ship out in the distance and listened to
    singing that floated in on the wind. This was never something that interested
    me. Why bring the sailors here just to kill them? I knew it was what we did,
    what we were made for—my mother had answered that question dozens of times. But
    why? What if on one of those ships were a handsome sailor? Like the one that
    met the mermaid. I really loved that story. I smiled as I thought of stupid
    Liza being the sea witch that causes all of the trouble for the mermaid—a fat,
    ugly, sea witch.

    After
    lunch I made my way down to the bottom of the rocks and to the Ship Detritus
    Shop. Whenever a ship crashed on our rocks, Sylla collected the items that
    washed up on shore and sorted them. As I drew closer I could smell rain in the
    air.

    I
    walked into the small stone shop and made my way passed shelves and aisles full
    of things ranging from curlers, to blankets, to different fabrics of many
    colors. “Penny!” I heard a familiar voice cry from the back. Once I reached the
    last shelf, I could see Sylla standing behind a tall stack of worn, wet books.
    “These just came in, though I still don’t see why you want them so badly,” she
    said with a shake of her head. Sylla was one of the older sirens on the island.
    Her silver hair pulled half up with the rest framing her wrinkled face and
    spilling over her shoulders and onto her gold drapings.

    “I
    just love the stories,” I said as I lifted each book up and examined the title.
    I loved the rush I felt every time Sylla found new books. With no one wanting
    or having any use for them, I never had to worry about sharing.

    “How
    annoying is she? I mean seriously, it’s like she never does anything wrong,” a
    voice said from the front of the shop. Sylla had moved on to going through
    other wet items and so I quickly grabbed as many books as I could carry and
    shoved them into a large seaweed braided bag that Sylla saved for me.

    “I
    know, like how do you not know which brush to use when you are putting on the
    main eye shadow color. She’s supposed to become one of the Three? Please.” I
    knew that voice—Liza. I couldn’t do this anymore. I was so sick of listening to
    them talk about me like I wasn’t there. Liza and I used to be best friends when
    we were little. When we started classes everything changed and I immediately
    became the loser outcast that no one liked.

    “And
    did you her see her today at lunch? No one will even…” suddenly the voices
    stopped talking and another one I recognized spoke.

    “Ladies,
    how are you?” My mother said. I breathed a sigh of relief, glad she was there.

    “Great,
    Miss Lucy,” was the general reply before I heard my mother’s claws clacking to
    the back of the shop.

    “Sylla,
    sweetheart, how are you?” Mother said when she reached where we were standing. She
    smiled sweetly, and put her hand on my shoulder.

    “Just
    fine, Lucy, yourself?” Sylla asked looking up from her work only for a moment.

    “Wonderful,”
    Mother replied. “Are you okay?” She turned to me, a concerned look on her face
    and walked with me to the doors of the shop. We passed Liza and her friends
    going through the shelves of assorted nail polishes, their eyes following us.
    Thunder clapped and a light rain began to fall as Mother and I left the shop.

    “I’m
    okay, Mom,” I said. I shifted my heavy bag of books from one shoulder to the
    other and watched the grey sky rumble overhead rather than her examine me.

    “I
    heard about what happened in beauty class this morning. Want to tell me why you
    purposefully used the wrong brushes when you, Thelia, and I all know you are
    better at contouring than most adult sirens on this island? So, what’s going
    on?” Mother said as she swiped a piece of my bangs behind my ear and raised her
    eyebrows at me.

    “Just
    didn’t want to listen to it today,” I said finally looking at her. Thunder
    creshendod over our heads. “Better get going to the cliffs, Mom. Those ships
    aren’t going to crash by themselves.”

    • Angela

      That is absolutely brilliant!!!!!!

    • Ann Stanley

      I really enjoyed this story. It’s a lovely twist on an old tale. It didn’t go where I expected it to. The narrator has a wonderful teen voice.

    • Sandra D

      I love your writing. This is a great short story. And during part 2 I was just completely compelled. The darkness of the mother along with the girl’s desire to love went amazingly.

    • Thank you all!

  • I have no idea what was going on with the format there…Part 2:
    She smiled and gave me a quick hug. “Don’t you dare be embarrassed for being
    special. Those little trolls can’t help it that their contouring makes them
    look a day older than God. They’ll learn soon enough. Even Elvis knew when to
    bow out.” She kissed me on the cheek, and I was sure she’d left a big red lip
    print on my skin, before she rushed off in the direction of the cliffs. I
    smiled as I watched her go, feeling better than I had a few moments before.

    The rain began to fall harder now and the thunder became deafening. I tucked my
    head and began jogging back toward my library. I could just barely make out the
    singing coming from the cliffs. Thelia and Lyona must already be there. I still
    didn’t understand the draw of singing to ships in the pouring rain, but
    whenever I brought it up I was given a perfect eye roll from Mom.

    Another crash of thunder made me pick up the pace, as I shifted my bag to my other
    shoulder and pushed my hair off my face where it was wet and stuck. Passing a
    few other sirens running across the rocks to escape the downpour, I soon
    reached the cave. As I got closer, glad to soon be out of the rain, I saw
    something that made me stop. Draped across one of the larger rocks by the
    entrance of my library was a man. He looked to be unconscious, blood was
    smeared across his cheek and looked to be coming from his head. Oh crap, what
    do I do? For a moment I stood in the rain at a loss, blood pounding in my ears.
    His shirt was white and now see through and sticking to his skin, his muscles
    large and tight. His hair was blonde and sticky with blood, but as I took a
    closer step, I could see he was breathing—and Lord help if he wasn’t gorgeous.

    Thunder crashed and brought me out of my thoughts. I stepped behind the rock and put myhands underneath his armpits, lifting him up. He had to weigh 8,000 pounds. I
    ended up pulling and tugging as the rain continued to fall, trying to be
    careful to keep his head out of the water. Pull by his armpits, and then tug at
    his feet. I had turned him sideways and was slowing getting closer and closer
    to the opening of my library. Pull, tug, pull, tug, pull, tug. On and on it
    went until my lungs felt like they were on fire and I had him in the center of
    the library on top of my pillows. Out of breath, I ran back out and grabbed my
    seaweed bag of books from where I had left them soaking on the rocks outside.

    I wiped the smeared mascara from my eyes and cheeks, dumped the book out onto the
    floor, and once the candles were casting light throughout the room, I grabbed a
    cloth from the vanity littered with makeup, and placed myself next to the man.
    He was still unconscious, and taking slow ragged breaths. As I patted the cloth
    to his head I took in his face. His skin was golden and his face looked as if
    it had been chiseled perfectly, like the princes in my storybooks—strong jaw
    line covered in scruff. A small dark brown mole was under his left eye and a
    vertical scar barely an inch long was next to his right. His eyelashes were thick,
    long, and curly and his nose had a slight bump in the ridge as if it had once
    been broken. Color was returning to his full lips as he began to warm back up
    after being in the ocean. Once I had gotten all of the blood out of his hair I
    sat back, trying to take him all in. He was just like from my stories—washed up
    from the sea just for me.

    I got up only for a moment to get a blanket, cover his wet body, and sat back
    down beside him. His shoulders were broad and his chest wide, wet shirt still
    clinging to him. His shaggy blonde hair was beginning to curl as it dried. What
    would happen if I kissed him? What would it fee like?

    The rain had calmed and the thunder quieted, but my heartbeat seemed to replace it
    as I continued to stare at his lips. Should I actually do it? It could be like
    in my stories. I took a deep breath and shook my hands out, then leaned down
    towards him, closing my eyes. Okay, Penny, you can do this. Maybe if you kiss
    him he’ll wake up?

    “Penny! Singing class in five minutes! Don’t make me come down there, I just had a
    pedicure and I’m not fixin’ to mess it up on these rocks!” My mother’s voice
    sang in from outside. Oh, God. I suddenly lost all butterflies in my stomach
    and instead had to swallow hard to avoid puking all over my new prince.

    “I’m coming, Mom!” I jumped to my feet, taking one last long look at the man
    sleeping in the center of my library. “I’ll be back soon,” I whispered as I
    rushed out of the mouth of the cave.

    Despite the raging storm ending only moments earlier, my mother was standing higher up on the rocks, hair perfectly curled, and face painted like a portrait—red
    lipstick boiling. “Oh, Lord take me now! Penny, what have you done?” She cried
    when I reached her. My chest tightened. Did she see him? How did she know?

    “Well I…”

    “We have to fix this mess on your way to singing class,” she said pulling her
    compact out and dabbing at my face with a sponge. My makeup—she was freaking
    out about my makeup. “I tell you what, you’re going to send me to an early
    grave and you know what? You put my in a skinny vase, don’t put me in some fat
    thing!” She licked her fingers and started rubbing underneath my eyes.

    “Seriously, Mother, I have to go!” I said walking away from her and toward singing. I had
    to calm down.

    “Fine, get to class. I see you later this afternoon,” she said putting her compact back and turning to follow me up the
    rocks. I headed to singing class with Lyona, knowing there was no way I would
    be able to concentrate on singing Bel Canto with my prince lying in my library
    waiting for me to return.

    For the rest of the evening I couldn’t think of anything else but the man in my
    library. I began placing myself in every single story I had read, imagining the
    different outcomes of how my prince and I would end up together. In one, I
    kissed him and he woke up from a deep sleep that he had been put under. In
    other, he rescued me from a tall tower, guarded by a fire-breathing dragon.

    Sleep didn’t come easy that night, as I tossed and turned in my bed. All I wanted was
    to get back to my library and check on the man. I had wanted to after singing
    class but Mother insisted I have dinner with her and then go home to practice
    giving myself a manicure, even though it was something as simple as walking.

    That night I had a dream. I dreamt of sitting on top of the cliff in the storm
    singing to the ships out on the horizon. I was with Liza and Molli, who were
    both singing next to me, but off key. Lyona kept fussing at them to sing
    sharper, to attack the notes. “Attack! Attack! Attack!” she kept repeating.
    Lightening began to strike and I saw the boat suddenly appear much closer to
    the cliff. The waves slammed into it sides, breaking it to bits on the rock.
    Liza and Molli giggled but Lyona kept screaming at them to attack the notes of
    their song.

    My throat was getting sore as I sang over them and looked down at the ship, men falling onto the rocks, blood
    pouring from their bodies. Then, my eyes locked onto a man that was on the far
    left of the rocks, pulling himself from pieces of the ship. It was my blonde
    man I had rescued from the sea. He looked up at me, mouthing something I
    couldn’t understand—fear in his eyes.

    “Attack! Attack! Attack!”

    “Penny, pay attention!” my mother fussed as she put her hands on her hips and narrowed
    her eyes.

    “Sorry,” I mumbled as I put my focus back on my mom who, unfortunately, being one of the Three, led the killing lessons. I was trying hard to pay attention to what she
    was saying, but my thoughts kept floating back to the gorgeous, unconscious man
    in my library. I had gone to check on him this morning but he was still out
    cold. I poured a tiny bit of water into his mouth, making sure he stayed
    hydrated. I had brushed his lips with my hand when I did…those lips…

    “Now, the trick is to constantly keep their focus on you. Whether you’re singing or
    not, this is important, because my dears, if their eyes are on you, then they
    aren’t on the water,” Mom said as she sashayed back and forth in front of the
    class. I could tell that something was going on with her. She kept cutting her
    eyes at me during her lecture. All eyes were on her as if the rest of the girls
    hadn’t heard anything more interesting in all of their lives.

    “Miss Lucy, can we go over what exactly we do when they hit the water? What if the
    men haven’t died by the time they reach the rocks?” Liza said from the middle
    of the group, she loved to suck up to my mom. I had the feeling Mom was just
    really annoyed by her.

    “You kill him sweetheart,” my mother replied with a toothy smile.

    “How?” Molli spoke up, trying to get more attention than Liza.

    “Well darlings, that’s the beauty of it. You can do whatever you like—whatever suits
    you. Now, don’t try a technique you know you aren’t particularly comfortable
    with. Remember ladies, if you can’t spell ‘hippopotamus’, write ‘dog’,” my
    mother continued to walk back and forth, her scaly legs perfectly moisturized
    and her blood red claws clicking on the cliff. “Now, break up into small groups
    and begin practicing your best finishing technique. Let’s go ladies.”

    Everyone in the class paired off and began acting out different maneuvers on one
    another. Some pretending to snap necks, some crushed skulls with rocks, some
    worked slowly from the bottom up, pretending to break each bone as they went.
    Those girls were always the ones that creeped me out. Being the odd number of
    the class, I stood off to the side watching, trying to figure out a way to fake
    a stomachache so I could get out of there.

    “Penny, come on sweetie, let’s pair up,” my mother said as she approached me, her voice was sweet… her eyes were anything but.

    “Come on, Mom. You know I don’t like doing this stuff. I don’t even like going to the
    killings and watching ya’ll,” I protested. This was my typical speech, so I had
    a pretty good idea as to what her response would be, I was surprised when I was
    completely wrong.

    “Darling, do you feel like telling me why there is a large blonde man in your library?”
    She said through a gritted smile. I froze. “Come now, let’s practice,” she said
    as she began to step forward and run through typical combat moves.

    “Um…I’m sorry, Mom. I found him,” I said, half heartedly blocking her punch. My hands
    were starting to sweat. “Wait? Why were you in my library? That’s my space!”

    “Wrong, you are my daughter. You’re space is my space. And would like to tell me why in
    the hell he is still alive? Have you lost your mind? Need I remind you who you
    are? Who I am?” she said. Her words were ice cold and full of anger but the
    smile never left her face.

    “Mom…”

    “Do not speak. I do not want to hear you speak. He is a man. You will kill him,”
    she said, blocking my kick.

    “No!” I shouted, stopping the fake fight.

    “You keep your voice down, young lady. Don’t you dare talk to me that way,” she said
    stepping closer to me and lowering her voice. A few of the sirens closest to us
    stopped and glanced my way when I shouted. “Great job, Ella, keep going,”
    Mother said with a wave in their direction. They went back to practicing.

    “Mom, I am not killing him. I feel like he’s here for a reason. We don’t have to kill
    every man we see. What’s so bad about them? In the little…” I attempted to
    argue but she put a hand up.

    “This is not a fairytale, Penny. You have no idea what you are talking about. I did
    not kill that man because you need to learn. You need to learn what you are. Do
    not talk!” she said as I opened my mouth to speak. “I am your mother. You will
    do as I say,” she said. I had had it. I was so angry that tears had already
    started to run down my cheeks as tried to hold her stare—I just couldn’t do it.
    I stomped away from her and down the
    cliff back towards my library. I was going to see my prince and she was not
    about to stop me. Just because she was one of the three didn’t mean that I had
    to be. I hated constantly getting picked on for no reason other than being good
    at things that I didn’t care anything about.

    As I got to the bottom of the cliff, the rain started again; thunder began to
    rumble. I just wanted to see him. I was definitely going to kiss him. I was
    going to have my prince and my mother was not going to stop me from getting it.

    Determined, I rounded the corner and walked into the mouth of the cave only to stop when I saw that the pillows were empty, the blanket tossed to the side. Oh crap, where
    did he go? I began to look around widely, praying against everything that my
    mom hadn’t gotten to him before I did. Why would she kill him then tell me to
    do it? That didn’t make any sense? But surely, she wouldn’t have left him
    alone.

    Suddenly, something incredibly heavy crashed into me from behind. Stunned, I fell to the
    floor, smashing my nose onto the floor of the cave. I felt warm liquid begin to
    run down my face. I turned around and saw the man, standing over me, his
    sparkling blue eyes were wild with fear. “What are you?! Where am I?” He
    screamed as he stared at my legs. “You’re a freak! What are you?”

    Instinctively I touched my long, scaly bird legs. A freak? He was the one that looked
    different. “No, it’s okay. I saved you from the water,” I said as I got up and
    raised my hands in surrender.

    “You stay away from me! Don’t touch me!” He backed further away from me, his bare
    feet scraping against the floor of the library.

    “Please, you’re okay,” I said as I reached out to touch his face. He slapped my hand
    away and lunged at me. Knocking me to the floor, he put his arm over my throat,
    cutting of my air supply. My eyes bulged as my lungs screamed for air. What was
    he doing? Didn’t he know this wasn’t how this was supposed to go?

    His eyes were fierce and he shoved his arm harder into my throat, the pain making
    my stomach churn. My arms began to search for something, anything to grab. I
    had to get him off of me. I had to breathe! My left hand closed around
    something hard and I picked it up slamming it into his temple as hard as I
    could. He fell over with a surprised “oh” and I had just enough time to
    scramble to my feet, gasping for air.

    He came at me again but before he could get another hand on me I ducked under his
    arms, raised back up, and putting both hands on either side of his head, I
    twisted his head to the side with as much force as I could muster, hearing a
    satisfying snap. The prince fell to the floor, head lolling to the side, and
    eyes wide open as if he was surprised he had ended up down there.

    My chest heaved as I gulped in air, my hands hung at my sides. Then I heard
    clapping. I looked up and saw my mother leaning on the side of the mouth of the
    cave close to the mirror, a huge smile on her painted face. “ Oh, darling, I
    knew you could do it.”

    I crossed the room to my mirror and stood in front of it, staring at my
    reflection for a moment. Picking up the comb from the vanity, I lifted up a
    piece of thick brown hair from the crown of my head and began to tease my
    curls. I only had a few more minutes before beauty class and I still needed to
    clean the blood off of Beauty and the
    Beast.

  • Sandra D

    This website has a story I really enjoyed to read. I don’t want to repost cause I don’t know if that would be a copyright violation or not. The post is the second one from the top. It’s called Tend the Garden.
    https://wordpress.com/read/blog/id/68541432/

  • Pingback: Posts I loved this week | Taylor Grace()

  • Stacy Smith Aannestad

    Is there any kind of place like this for novelists? I couldn’t write a short story to save my life. ^_~

    • Jeff Elkins

      The Story Cartel – storycartel.com

      • Stacy Smith Aannestad

        Thanks, Jeff! I’ll check it out.