Excerpt: Lettuce Prey by Alex Westhaven

Lettuce Pray CoverAbby tossed her apron in a garbage bag under the sink as someone knocked on the door. She checked her watch.

“Right on time,” she murmured as she went to let them in. Swinging the door wide, she smiled.

“Welcome, you two! I’m glad you came. Have a seat right over there. I’ll get drinks.” She scurried into the kitchen and checked to make sure everything was in order. Filling the stemware with a light champagne, she carried the flutes to the table.

“Thanks for having us, Abby. Damn decent of you,” Dominic said, the woman at his side nodding.

“You’re both welcome. It’s the neighborly thing to do, don’t you think?” She waited for both of them to nod, and then picked up her glass.

“I propose a toast,” she said, holding the champagne high. Dominic and the bitch did the same. “To unhappy endings that bring much happiness.”

Her guests looked at each other briefly, then shrugged. “To unhappy endings,” Dominic repeated, taking a sip, the girl mimicking him.

Abby took a sip as well, and then set her glass on the table.

“I have a lovely pork roast for you tonight, along with some cider cooked cabbage and a fabulous salad. Apple pie for dessert! Now…” she glanced back to the kitchen and decided that instead of making the decision for them as she’d planned, she’d let them do it. It was the least she could do.

Really.

“What should we start with? The main course or the salad?”

“A salad sounds nic

 

e,” the other woman said. “What kind of dressing do you have?”

Abby grinned and shook her head. “Sorry. It’s a secret recipe from the restaurant. But it’s very popular. To die for, you might say.”


See what happens next!

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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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Final Poem, Blog Schedule/Survey, Newsletters

It’s the last day of April, and also the last day of National Poetry Month! I have to admit, I didn’t read a poem this week. The weather was nice, the sun beckoned, and much yard work (and a little inside cleaning) ensued. But poetry isn’t something that needs to be relegated to one month of the year, of course. And with that, I give you one of the poems my alter-ego, Alex Westhaven wrote last year (raw and unedited, so excuse any mistakes):

Lovely Weather
by Alex Westhaven

Isn’t the weather lovely?
Said the grasshopper to the bee.
It is indeed, replied the bee,
and buzzed off toward his hive.

Isn’t the weather lovely?
Said the grasshopper to the ant.
Can’t stop to chat, replied the ant,
carrying a leaf on his back.

Isn’t the weather lovely?
Said the grasshopper to the fly.
Putrid scents are the best, replied the fly,
and the garbage is perfectly ripe.

Isn’t the weather lovely?
Said the grasshopper to the frog.
Hop along or I’ll eat you, replied the frog.
You’re just the right size for a bite.

Isn’t the weather lovely?
Said the grasshopper to the bird.
In one bold, heartless crunch,
the bird got himself lunch.

Lovely weather, indeed, said the bird.
******************
Thanks for celebrating National Poetry Month with us!

In other news, I’m curious about a few things regarding blog readership. I have statistics, obviously, but I’d love to hear from readers personally as well. If you have the time, I’m interested in your answers to the questions below. Feel free to comment here with your answers, or via direct message/PM on social media, or you can email replies to brazensnake@brazensnakebooks.com as well.

1. How often do you read the Snake Bites blog?
2. What would you like to see covered on the blog?
3. Is one blog post once a week perfect, too often, or not often enough for your personal tastes?

That’s it – just those three little questions. I’ll look forward to your responses!

If you’re a newsletter subscriber, it may be a day or two late this week. But it will hit your inbox no later than Friday!

That’s all for this week – until next time, happy reading/writing!


Monthly Writing Prompts:

  • Prose Prompt: A man running to catch a train/bus/cab drops a red rose. A woman picks it up, and finds a note wrapped around the stem.
  • Poetry Prompt: Using different color rose petals, write a poem in which the narrator picks a petal each stanza (sort of a “loves me, loves me not” rhythm/theme).

Stories and poems for each month should be submitted by the last day of that month to brazensnake@brazensnakebooks.com. The following month, one poem and one story from the previous month will be chosen for publication here on the blog, and also in our monthly newsletter. Authors will receive a flat fee of $10 per poem or story we choose to publish. Items submitted must be original, unpublished works, however we only ask for non-exclusive rights to post the work here on our blog for one year, and in one monthly newsletter.

Moths, Stones, & Writing Prompt Deadline

In case you missed it, the latest by Alex Westhaven, The Dry Rain, is out and available now in digital format! You’ll find links and a long excerpt over on the book page – and because yours truly had a very busy weekend, the story is just 99 cents for one more day. Around 11pm (MST), it will go up to its regular price of $2.99. Or if you happen to live in the Netherlands and are a Kobo Plus member, you can borrow the book for free!

The print version will be available within the next couple of weeks or so. Sooner, rather than later, if all goes well.

I’ll be adding more BSB books to the Kobo Plus program within the next week or two, so if you are currently a Kobo Plus member, look for many of our books to be available for borrowing very soon.

Next up is next month’s release of The Time Stone by Marie Yoch! I’m currently working on cover art and getting the manuscript scheduled for formatting. Release day isn’t until March 23rd, but there’s still much to be done before that day. It’s a fun little novel, and the start of a whole series that will be set up in the first book. More on that as release day gets closer.

The monthly newsletter should be in your inbox this Thursday, March 1st. The day before that is the last day of February (28th), which is the deadline for this month’s writing prompt submissions. Did this month’s prompts inspire you? Send in your stories by Wednesday for a chance at $10 and publication on our blog and in the April Newsletter!

Until next time, happy reading and writing…


Monthly Writing Prompts:

  • Prose Prompt: Write a story about something quirky a character does only on rainy afternoons.
  • Poetry Prompt: Write a poem about rain, water-based or otherwise.

Stories and poems for each month should be submitted by the last day of that month to brazensnake@brazensnakebooks.com. The following month, one poem and one story from the previous month will be chosen for publication here on the blog, and also in our monthly newsletter. Authors will receive a flat fee of $10 per poem or story we choose to publish. Items submitted must be original, unpublished works, however we only ask for non-exclusive rights to post the work here on our blog for one year, and in one monthly newsletter.

Release Week, Excerpt, and February Writing Prompts

It’s release week! This Friday (Feb. 23rd), The Dry Rain by Alex Westhaven will finally be available in digital format. The print version may take a little longer, but it’s coming soon as well. Here’s the blurb:

The earth has a bug problem – one large enough to potentially threaten humanity. But in the small city of Whiskey Creek, Oklahoma, the population has only one thing on their minds: staying alive while the Dry Rain evolves into something much more sinister.

And here’s a short excerpt to wet your appetite (so to speak):
The road was still visible, but there were plenty of maggoty worms trying to answer the proverbial chicken-crossing-the-road question, which meant plenty of bug guts squishing beneath the tires and making the road slick, as if it were raining hard. Poor Bess bellowed her displeasure, and Will figured it was the smell bugging her as much as the trailer slipping back and forth despite the slow pace he was keeping.

“I think maybe we should have stayed put,” May said, one hand clinging to the door while the other held tight to the edge of the seat. “This is almost as bad as that snowstorm we drove through last winter. Except visibility is better, as long as you don’t care about dividing lines and such.”

Will tried to stay relaxed, though his neck and shoulders ached from keeping the rig on the road.

“We’ll make it,” he said, adjusting his grip on the wheel and shooting her what he hoped was a reassuring smile. “Shouldn’t be too much further. Just gotta keep going straight and stay away from the shoulder.”

“Look out!”

*********************
I hope you’ll pick up a copy first thing on Friday! It will be available for 99 cents next weekend only, and then on Monday the 26th, the price will go up to 2.99.

If you’re a writer – or want to be, have you checked out our monthly prompts yet? The deadline for submissions is just a week and a half away…better get writing!


Monthly Writing Prompts:

  • Prose Prompt: Write a story about something quirky a character does only on rainy afternoons.
  • Poetry Prompt: Write a poem about rain, water-based or otherwise.

Stories and poems for each month should be submitted by the last day of that month to brazensnake@brazensnakebooks.com. The following month, one poem and one story from the previous month will be chosen for publication here on the blog, and also in our monthly newsletter. Authors will receive a flat fee of $10 per poem or story we choose to publish. Items submitted must be original, unpublished works, however we only ask for non-exclusive rights to post the work here on our blog for one year, and in one monthly newsletter.

The Heart and the Triangle, and Writing Prompts

The Minister's Maid CoverWednesday is Valentine’s Day, in case you missed the swath of pink, white and read hearts all over the place lately. I was thinking about love triangles the other day, and how there always seems to be one, even if one or two of the people in the triangle are unaware of the other’s feelings. It seems like every time two people get together, someone is left out in the cold, either unintentionally or knowingly, and I think maybe that’s why so many of us have trouble with romance stories involving love triangles and the heart-breaking choices that have to be made to get to the end of the story. It’s hard enough to live it, much less reading about it over and over in fiction.

There can be only two, to paraphrase The Highlander.

Of course three or more people can certainly form cohesive relationships, but it’s a very difficult thing, I’d imagine. It’s hard enough for two people to forge and maintain a lasting relationship, and adding even one person into that mixture of longing and emotion is far easier in fiction than it is in real life.

Maybe that’s why we like to read and write about such relationships. To understand them, and figure out how one might work, in case we’re ever in the not-so-unique position of being attracted to two people at once. I have a hard time writing threesomes, mostly because I have a hard time believing they can work long-term (for life, I mean).

In any case, hearts and triangles are nearly the same shape, and I wonder if there’s ever been a relationship that didn’t leave someone on one side or the other out in the cold. In my experience and from what I’ve observed, there’s always an odd man or woman out (sadly enough).When She Cries Cover

I do think I have written one story where there’s a threesome that works. Unfortunately, I can’t remember which one it is/was (job hazard)! But in light of the holiday, I’m giving away a free download of one of my campy but fun Fantasy Ranch romance novels: The Minister’s Maid. You can download the PDF for free until Friday, and I hope you enjoy the story (which isn’t quite what it seems once you get into it)…

And for those of you who aren’t currently in a relationship, and might be feeling a bit bitter about all this lovey-dovey stuff, please enjoy a free download of When She Cries, by my somewhat more sadistic alter-ego, Alex Westhaven.


Monthly Writing Prompts:

  • Prose Prompt: Write a story about something quirky a character does only on rainy afternoons.
  • Poetry Prompt: Write a poem about rain, water-based or otherwise.

Stories and poems for each month should be submitted by the last day of that month to brazensnake@brazensnakebooks.com. The following month, one poem and one story from the previous month will be chosen for publication here on the blog, and also in our monthly newsletter. Authors will receive a flat fee of $10 per poem or story we choose to publish. Items submitted must be original, unpublished works, however we only ask for non-exclusive rights to post the work here on our blog for one year, and in one monthly newsletter.

The Art of Covers & Submission Deadline Weds.

How much impact does a book’s cover have when you’re browsing the shelves (physical or digital) for something to read? We’ve all heard the old adage to “never judge a book by its cover”, and yet, we all do, even if it’s merely a subconscious note in the back of our mind.

I was thinking about this as I worked on the cover for Alex Westhaven’s new book coming out next month. I could have gone gray and white with it, which might have been lovely in print, but not so great for an ebook or audio cover set against the normal white background. And I would have had to keep all the covers in the Insecticide series within the same color scheme, so readers would know the books all go together. Due to those two things, I decided to go the opposite way, with bright, bold covers that draw the eye in and hopefully make readers interested enough to open it up and see what’s inside. I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out! Feel free to let me know what you think in the comments…

Are you a newsletter subscriber? Look for the Brazen Snake Monthly in your inbox on Wednesday!

There’s still a couple days left to submit your prompt-inspired stories and poems for the February 28th newsletter and blog. Here are the details, and the prompts are below:

Stories and poems for each month should be submitted by the last day of that month to brazensnake@brazensnakebooks.com. The following month, one poem and one story from the previous month will be chosen for publication here on the blog, and also in our monthly newsletter. Authors will receive a flat fee of $10 per poem or story we choose to publish. Items submitted must be original, unpublished works, however we only ask for non-exclusive rights to post the work here on our blog for one year, and in one monthly newsletter.


  • Prose Prompt (1000 word max for submissions): At the end of a certain rainbow, there is a door, and beside it a black pot full of gold keys. The person guarding it is most definitely not a leprechaun…or is he/she?
  • Poetry Prompt (500 word max for submissions): In like a lion, out like a lamb? In like a lamb, out like a lion? Write a poem about a lion, a lamb, and a magical kind of breeze.

Coming Soon – Insects and Adventure

Are you ready for some new reading material? We’re ready to help you out with that! We have two new books coming out in the next two months – The Dry Rain is an Insecticide novella by Alex Westhaven, and The Time Stone is the first book in a debut young reader series called The Stone Scavengers by Marie Yoch! The two books couldn’t be more different, and that’s just the way we like it around here. If you’re into adrenaline and moths gone out of control, you’ll want to grab a copy of The Dry Rain as soon as it comes out.

If you’re intrigued by the idea of a twelve-year-old girl on the hunt for a set of stone talismans that could help her find out what happened to her missing father, then you won’t want to miss The Time Stone just in time for spring reading!

The Dry Rain will be available on Friday, February 23rd in digital and print formats.

The Time Stone will be available on Friday, March 23rd in digital and print formats.

Stay tuned for cover art, back cover copy and excerpts!


January Writing Prompts

Prose Prompt (1000 word max for submissions): At the end of a certain rainbow, there is a door, and beside it a black pot full of gold keys. The person guarding it is most definitely not a leprechaun…or is he/she?

Poetry Prompt (500 word max for submissions): In like a lion, out like a lamb? In like a lamb, out like a lion? Write a poem about a lion, a lamb, and a magical kind of breeze.

Submit your work to brazensnake@brazensnakebooks.com by January 31st, and your story or poem could be published right here on the Snake Bites blog and in our February newsletter! Flat fee of $10 paid to the author for non-exclusive publishing rights.

Free for Halloween, NaNoWriMo, & Weekly Writing Prompts

Jack CoverBSB News

Happy Halloween! Yes, the post is a day late this week, but it’s Halloween, and it seemed like a good day to give away a free book! So, if you click on one of the links below, you can download a copy of Jack by Alex Westhaven completely free. A little something to get you in the mood for tonight’s festivities…

Download PDF file  | Download Epub file | Download Mobi file

 

National Novel Writing Month

Of course if you’re inclined to write a book like so many of us are, Halloween doubles as the night to make sure your sugar stocks are filled for the craziest writing challenge of the year, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo – Na-No-rye-mo) that starts on November 1st. Fifty-thousand words in thirty days, it’s the quintessential way to get a novel draft down quickly and in a kind of kamakazie fashion. It’s also a great way to establish a daily writing habit, even if you don’t reach 50k by the end of the month.

I’ve got part of a loose outline done for my NaNo novel this year, and I’m really excited to get started on it. I’ve been planning this book since last fall, letting the story marinate in my head while I worked on other things, and it’s so ready to be written, it’s not even funny. I’m just hoping that putting so much thought/advanced planning into it won’t jinx me, and make it harder to get down on paper.

I don’t often start NaNo with much of a plan though. Normally I just stick a couple of characters in a situation, and start writing. The characters tell me the story as I write. This is the most planning I’ve ever done, so I’m curious to see if it will make it easier or harder to reach “The End”.

Do you participate in NaNo? Ever wanted to write a novel but just couldn’t get moving on it? Check out the web site at nanowrimo.org – maybe this is your year! My username there is “outofwords” – feel free to connect!

 


Wanna write? Pick a prompt!

Prose Prompt of the Week: While walking through the woods, your character stumbles over something hidden under a pile of leaves. What is it, and what does your character do?

Poetry Prompt of the Week: Write a poem about trick-or-treating…from either the trick-or-treater side, or from the perspective of handing out candy.

 

Excerpt: Lettuce Prey by Alex Westhaven

Lettuce Pray CoverLettuce Prey by Alex Westhaven

He was feeding the bitch cake. Off his own fork.
Bastard.
Abby Mars peered through the small portal window in the swinging door that separated the kitchen from the dining room. Her ears burned with anger as she watched her boyfriend with another woman. Not just any woman, but a fat cow three sizes bigger than the unfortunate top she’d managed to stuff herself into. What she’d done to make Dominic fall for her was anyone’s guess, but he could have at least had the decency to tell Abby.
Who did he think he was, anyway – bringing his new fling to her restaurant? Did he think she wouldn’t notice just because she was a sous chef, and rarely made it out of the kitchen?
She looked down at the flat stomach she worked so hard for, draped in a stark white jacket. She loved food – there wasn’t a dish out there she wouldn’t try at least once. But she watched her portions, she was on her feet all day, and three times a week she went to the gym. Dominic appreciated it, or so she thought. Watching him feed the fat girl another bite of chocolate cake made her want to grab the nearest knife and slash his cheating throat.
But she wouldn’t. Not here, anyway, where anyone could see and hear. She’d bide her time, plan her revenge, and then they’d die together.
She turned away from the window and strode back to her station. Salads were her assignment today – chopping, dicing, mixing, dressing. The knife flew under her fingers, making a satisfying clunk every time it hit the cutting board. Over the next hour, she forced herself to focus on her job rather than her crumbling love life. She told herself there was no point in worrying about it just yet. Plenty of time for that when she was safely back at the apartment, flinging Dominic’s things out onto the front lawn. Her lips curved up slightly at the thought. She’d call a locksmith after work and have him meet her at the house. Then she could just relax and lick her wounds in peace.
When her shift was finished and her station cleaned, she made the call and went home, fitting her key into the lock one last time.
It wouldn’t turn.


Revenge is a dish best served lukewarm in this Death by Veggies short story from the author of When She Cries. But is getting even worth all the work and clean-up? Abby Mars is determined to find out…

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