Friday Excerpt: Sprouted

Sprouted Cover“We were out walking, and Andrea here saw your roses. She has a question for you.” He turned to the little girl and nodded. “Go ahead.”

“I was just wondering if I could have one of your pretty flowers for my room. The pink ones remind me of my mom.” The little girl raised her eyebrows, big green eyes staring hopefully.

Amelia’s heart melted. “Of course you can, my dear. Let me just get my pruning shears and a damp paper towel to wrap the stems in while you carry them home.” She went to the kitchen and was back in two minutes, joining the girl and her father on the front sidewalk.

“The pink ones, you say?” Amelia asked. An enthusiastic nod from the little girl, and Amelia was on her knees. She cut one large, open bloom and several smaller blooms just beginning to open. Wrapping the ends, she secured the damp paper towel around them with a rubber band and presented the small bouquet to Andrea.

“There. I bet your mother will love those. Is she waiting for you at home?”

The girl’s eyes turned sad. “She doesn’t live with us anymore – she died. We’re going to visit her at the cemetery.”

Amelia blinked back tears. “I’m sorry to hear that your mother’s gone already. I hope the flowers bring you both joy. Did your mother grow roses?”

Andrea shook her head, dropping her gaze to the ground.

“We have one of her bushes left,” the dad said, putting a hand on each of the girl’s shoulders. “Unfortunately, I’m not very good with plants, so I’m afraid it’s just barely limping along. I’m sure it needs something, but I’m not sure what, exactly.”

Amelia started to stand, and the man helped her up. “If you can wait here for just another minute, I’ll be right back with something that will make your roses grow like gangbusters.” She followed the front path where it branched off toward the side of the house. Opening the cellar doors, she grabbed the flashlight that always sat just on the top step and went down into the cool dirt room. She retrieved a small jar and took it back up to the yard, handing it to the man.

“Now this is pretty potent stuff – I make it myself. Just sprinkle a third of a cup around the base of the plant once a week or even every two weeks, and water it in well. That’s all you need to do and your roses will be looking great in no time.”

Andrea smiled and clapped, as well as she could with the cut flowers in her hand, and the man smiled.

“How much do we owe you?”

Amelia shook her head with a slight laugh. “Oh nothing at all. It’s on the house.”

She waved at the man and his daughter as they walked away down the sidewalk. How lovely they’d been to chat with. Perhaps they’d stop by again some day and let her know how the rose bush was doing.

With a wistful sigh, she went back inside and started to make breakfast, hoping she would still have enough time to dispose of Number Four and replace the jar of fertilizer she’d just given away.

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Friday Excerpt: MacKenzie Saves the World

MacKenzie Saves the World CoverCall me Josh, please,” he said, leaning forward until she had no choice but to look at him. A mistake, as she knew it would be, because that handsome face of his should require some sort of license to carry. “May I call you Kenzie?”

She shrugged. “Normally only friends call me that, but I suppose since it’s on my sign…”

Well hopefully you’ll consider me a friend eventually. And yes, my sister has issues with comic books and what she calls ‘low-brow’ entertainment in general. As for girls like you…that’s my fault, I’m afraid. The women in my family are brought up to be smart, but to stay in their place. If they step outside the boundaries at all, they’re dealt with swiftly and harshly. The last time I brought a woman home who refused to respect what the family expected from women, they ate her alive – out of jealousy, I presume.”

Kenzie shook her head. “That doesn’t make any sense. They choose to put up with those constraints. It’s just…wrong, on so many levels.”

He bobbed his head noncommittally. “Technically, yes, it’s a choice. But presumably, you were raised in an environment where you were encouraged to make that choice. The women in my family – our social circle, really – are raised with the knowledge that if they step too far out of line, they’ll be ostracized from all their family and friends, and cut off from the life they know. If you think about it, it’s not an easy thing to just give all that up when you can find ways to play along and still remain in the life you’ve always known. And everyone does it, to some extent. I’ll bet even you respect some social or familial boundaries just to stay in your family’s good graces, don’t you?”

MacKenzie considered that as the car rolled to a stop outside the luxurious Fairchild mansion. The driver opened Josh’s door first, which annoyed her more than it should due to their current conversation. As she turned to get out, Josh was there, holding out a hand to help, and she took it, feeling a jolt of awareness at the touch of skin on skin.

Of course that’s why he got out first, she realized. To help the poor, helpless female who had to be kept in her place. The thought stuck with her like a grain of sand rubbing the wrong way as he crooked his arm and she took it naturally, as if she couldn’t walk herself up to the door.

I can feel you thinking,” he whispered, grinning when she frowned up at him. “And maybe you are playing right into the same old outdated patriarchal moves that smart girls such as yourself should know to avoid. Or maybe…” he stopped, pulling her to the side of the door as another couple walked past and through the door, both giving them an inquisitive look as they went past.

Maybe I just wanted you close,” he said, his penetrating stare making her weak in the knees. “Maybe I was using those social niceties to touch something forbidden, even if just for a few minutes.”

MacKenzie was speechless. She stared, trying to decide how to react if he wanted to strip off that mild-mannered-businessman persona and fly her off to his ice-caves or something. Would it make her a horrible sell-out to her gender if she did?

Did she even care?

A loud, irritating squeal sadly characteristic of said gender broke the spell, and they both turned to see Mandy flying toward them at top-speed. How she did that on four-inch heels was anyone’s guess, but MacKenzie braced for impact as her friend ran up and pulled her into a hug.

You’re finally here! Say thank you to Josh so we can go – I have about a zillion men I want you to meet so we can make fun of them later, and the caterer made some canapés that are to die for, and Mom is having a fit that they aren’t the recipe she wanted. Thank God for that, since her recipe sucks.” Mandy wiggled her fingers and grinned at Josh, grabbed MacKenzie’s hand and pulled her through the door before MacKenzie could say anything at all.

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(Coming soon to print…)

May Writing Prompts/Call for Submissions

May Prose Prompt: Someone is trapped in an old root cellar. There’s food, and a water source (a well pump, or drip, or something), but no way to escape.

May Poetry Prompt: Write a poem about warmth.

Stories and poems for May should be submitted by the May 31st, 2018 to One poem and one story will be chosen for publication in an anthology at the end of the year, and also in our monthly newsletter. Authors will receive a flat fee of $20 per poem or story we choose to publish, plus one print and one ebook copy of the year-end anthology. Items submitted must be original, unpublished works, however we only ask for non-exclusive perpetual rights to publish the work in one monthly newsletter, and in the 2018 year-end anthology.

Prose submissions are limited to 1000 words max, and poetry submissions to 500 words max.

Blog Changes, GDPR and Monthly Writing Prompts

Happy May! Spring is springing up everywhere, and change is in the air. Or on the blog, as it were.

Effective this Friday, Snake Bites will be changing formats. Instead of weekly discussion posts, there will be a weekly excerpt from one of our titles or coming titles posted every Friday, along with occasional special event posts for things like new releases, sales and the monthly writing prompts/submissions call. I think this will suit the general blog readership better, and those who are interested in a more newsy, month-in-one-place format can subscribe to the monthly newsletter.

If you are a blog subscriber, you need do nothing at the moment, though our subscriptions will be changing later in the month to include new options (you’ll be able to choose which types of posts you want to receive, or all of them), and to become compliant with the new GDPR laws in the EU. The newsletter subscription will also be updated, and subscribers will need to renew your subscription at that point.

Thank you for your patience while we update these things, and I hope you enjoy the new blog format!

The Monthly Writing Prompts will be posted tomorrow in their own post.

Happy reading/writing!