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 Library

I grew up using the library, and the bookmobile that stopped outside our apartment complex once every few weeks or so. I’d check out as many books as they’d let me, and then make sure to get them all back on time so I could borrow some more. I was an avid reader even as a child, and I went through books like water. Days when we could go to the library and just browse were always my favorites. We were very poor for a good chunk of my childhood, so buying books wasn’t an option. I loved and was grateful for the books I got as Christmas and birthday presents.

When I got to be old enough to work, I started buying books. I still used the library some, but my schedule wasn’t always conducive to getting books back on time, and increasingly, the library didn’t have what I wanted to read. I hate to say I outgrew it, but that’s really kind of what happened. Aside from making extensive use of several libraries for research papers in college, I pretty much stopped checking out fiction as soon as I was making enough money to buy books for myself. I spent a lot of time in used bookstores in college, buying stacks of books for fifty cents a piece, sometimes less, occasionally splurging for more. And then when I could afford to buy paperbacks new, that was always my preference. I’m not fond of hardbacks – they’re impossible to hold with one hand in bed.

Needless to say, the last time I was at the library, it was to attend an event. And given our propensity to buy new paperbacks as soon as they’re out (or ebooks, in some cases), I don’t see myself making good use of the library anytime soon. But I’m glad it’s there, should I ever need to use it, and for countless other kids going through that manic reading phase that would be far too expensive to support with actual purchases.

When was the last time you visited your local library? Was it to check out books or were you attending an event of some sort?


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.

Bookish Gifts & Weekly Writing Prompts

The Holiday Pact CoverI think we can safely say the holiday season is well upon us now, and many of us are probably trying to figure out what to wrap up for our loved ones (or the office gift exchange). It’s not always easy to get readers a book, especially if they’re the sort (like myself) who buys books year-round. But there are lots of great book-related items out there that readers will appreciate, depending on their individual tastes.

Mugs, teacups and coffee or tea are pretty much a sure bet for a reader. Find a nice book-themed mug and fill it with the reader’s favorite bean or leaf (or cocoa, even), and you can’t go wrong.

Bookmarks are always fun for those who still read print books (which quite a few of us do). Something funny, witty or just aesthetically pleasing will be a very useful hit.

Blankets, slippers and fingerless gloves are all great choices for the cooler or cool-weather reader in your life. Cozy warmth with the ability to still turn pages easily? No brainer. When paired with a “day off” coupon so they have some time to snuggle in and read, even better!

Print book readers might appreciate a beautifully designed pack of bookplates, while digital readers might like a new cover for their ereader or phone. Speaking of e-reading, who wouldn’t like a gift certificate from their preferred online store?

Is the book always better? Almost, but no harm in seeing the movie anyway – who doesn’t like something to compare and complain about? Gift a reader the movie version of a book they like or have been meaning to see/read. Maybe even both the book and a DVD, so they can easily compare.

And of course time to read is at the top of every reader’s wish-list, so if you can figure out how to give them some of that, well, that will certainly be the best gift your reader could ever hope to receive.

There’s still plenty of time to shop, and I’ve bought several of these items as gifts for this year. What will you buy the readers in your life this Christmas?


Want to write? Pick a prompt!

  • Weekly Prose Prompt: Pick one of the ornaments on your tree (or another object, for those who don’t celebrate Christmas), and write a story about how it changed hands at one point. Was it handed down? Stolen? Gifted? Re-gifted? Found? Be creative.
  • Weekly Poetry Prompt: Write a poem about an ornament or object that reminds you of someone now gone.

Reading Westerns & Weekly Writing Prompts

The Biker's Wench Cover BSB News

I know the quarterly newsletter is late – my apologies. What with NaNoWriMo and trying to get things organized for potential holiday releases, I kind of got a little behind. Look for this quarter’s newsletter sometime in December, and hopefully there will be some fun announcements included!

Reading Westerns with Grandpa

When I was a kid, my parents would send my sister and I to my grandparent’s house for a week or two every summer. We also spent a lot of Thanksgivings and Christmases there and Grandma & Gramps were early-to-bed/early-to-rise rural sorts, which meant a lot of reading time for moi after they were sleeping. Still being young and not having my own money yet, I often didn’t pack enough books to get me through my whole time there.

Which is how I discovered Westerns. My grandpa was an avid reader, and his favorites were old western dime-store style novels. I worked my way through most of the books on his shelf, and became intimately acquainted with the likes of Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour. I’m still not all that fond of L’Amour – he’s a bit too wordy/descriptive for my taste, but I can still pick up a Zane Grey and enjoy reading about small-town drama and romance in the romanticized old west.

Gramps died just recently, and I’ve been thinking a lot about how best to honor him and my memories of what he shared with me. I think it might be fun to write a story or series of Westerns that draw loosely from his own life experiences, or the ones I know about, anyway. Not old west stories, but modern stories to share the lifestyle and values he loved – modern westerns, as it were, with a bit of added flair (he would have liked that).

Have you read a western, old or new? What kind of books did your grandparents share with you – anything you wouldn’t normally have read?


Wanna write? Pick a prompt!

Weekly Prose Prompt: It’s high-noon in your fictional town, and there’s gonna be a duel over the boundary line between two nearby ranches. The town has outlawed traditional weapons like guns/knives, so what will your characters duel with? And who wins?

Weekly Poetry Prompt: Write a poem about a cowboy on a cattle drive.

Death by Veggies & Weekly Writing Prompts

Jack CoverHow do you like your horror? Grotesque and bloody, psychological and clean? Somewhere between the two? Alex Westhaven is our resident horror/thriller writer (also, an alter-ego of mine), and does her best to balance a little bit of the grotesque with a lot of the cerebral when it comes to getting that adrenaline rush going. Her shorter horror stories are perfect for a bright lunch hour or dark before-bed snack, which you already know if you’ve tried the Death by Veggies series.

Fun Fact: The Death by Veggies series was inspired by a conversation overheard in a bar. Several post-sober people were having a rousing (and rather loud) conversation about how much one or two of them hated vegetables, and how one was absolutely certain that if he/she ate even one, he/she would simply *die* right there on the spot. Another mentioned something to the effect of that being a great way to murder someone, but by then, Alex was already scribbling down the titles to several DBV stories (a couple of which haven’t been written…yet).

In any case, if fun little horror stories are your thing, do check out the DBV series. They’re all stand-alone stories, so you can read them in any order (though this month, we think Jack is probably the appropriate place to start), and they’re all available in print, ebook and audio, so there’s a format for every reader.

And if you have read one or more already, leave a comment and tell us your favorite!


Wanna write? Pick a prompt!

Prose Writing Prompt of the Week:  Pick an obscure, non-poisonous vegetable and make it the catalyst for a murder.

Poetry Prompt of the Week:  Write a poem about your favorite vegetable.

Heroes, Villains, & Weekly Writing Prompts

Lettuce Pray Cover

Heroes vs. Villains: Which Perspective?

Do you have a preference for heroes or villains when it comes to who tells a story? Alex, our featured author for October, often tells a story from the villain’s point of view, exploring the motivations and “humanity” (or lack thereof), of characters who see things from the darker side of the spectrum.

I think it’s far more common to tell stories from the hero’s perspective, where we can really empathize with the main character and put ourselves in their shoes to “relive” the story they’re recounting.

And of course there are books with an ambiguous hero/villain. Often the same person, the hero is plagued with the desire to step outside their mundane life and do things that may not be directly in line with their own moral code.  The struggle comes from within, and the side that wins is anyone’s guess right up until the end.

Personally, I like both approaches. I like trying to see things from the bad guy’s perspective, and learning what motivates him or her, but I also like following the hero through whatever journey he or she took for that particular story/trip.

But I think an ambiguous hero can really be fascinating – the interplay between two halves of of a single personality is really interesting, and the end result is generally quite surprising.

Do you have a favorite perspective to hear from when you read? And if you’re a writer, do you have a favorite perspective to write stories with?


Wanna write? Pick a prompt!

Prose Writing Prompt of the Week: A woman goes into a bar and threatens the bartender with something in her pocket, but she’s stopped by a person having a drink at the time. Write the story from at least two different perspectives.  

Poetry Prompt of the Week: Write a poem from the perspective of a squirrel gathering nuts for the winter. 

News, Post Changes, & Weekly Writing Prompts

BSB News

Flash 52 Cover

Did you catch the prompt-inspired poems and story last week? If not, you can check them out here:

Prompted Poetry: Tea? 

Prompted Prose: Phone Bump

Scroll down for this week’s writing prompts…

Topic of the Week: Writing Practice & Post Changes

Are you enjoying the writing and poetry prompts we’ve been posting weekly this year? Have they inspired short stories, poems or maybe even longer novel ideas? Have you been reading the stories and poems we come up with most weeks?

I like prompts. I think it’s good practice to just grab a topic – any topic, and run with it, creatively speaking. I think it’s good for the mind to be turned loose on something, and to make that topic into something all its own. And it’s a good way to practice writing techniques too – more description, less description, character backstory, exploring motivations…you can do and learn a lot with just a single story prompt.

Alas, it takes time to write these little practice pieces, and National Novel Writing Month is just five short weeks away. I know I have a few drafts I’d like to finish before November 1st, and perhaps you do too. Or maybe you’re outlining that novel you’ll be writing in one single month.

In light of the busy-ness going on around here and my desire to spend my writing time on my current drafts, we’re going to discontinue posting the prompt poems/stories on the weekends. There will still be prompts posted every Monday for those who might find them useful, but we’ll no longer take submissions based on those prompts – at least for the next few months.

Instead, we’ll showcase an excerpt from one of our books every Saturday, to give you a taste of what our authors have to offer. Maybe you’ll find a new series to love, or character to intrigue you? I’m looking forward to picking out the excerpts – a peek between our covers, so to speak. I hope you’ll enjoy reading them too!


Wanna write? Pick a prompt!

Prose Writing Prompt of the Week: What would happen if a young teen followed a stray dog who was acting funny to a hidden space behind some rocks near a river?

Poetry Prompt of the Week: Write a poem as if you’d been trapped in an underground bunker for six months after an apocalyptic-type of event.

Write a 500 – 1000 word story based on the prose prompt and/or a poem using the theme of the poetry prompt, and email it/them to brazensnake@brazensnakebooks.com by Friday night at 11:59pm (MT). Poems will be posted on Saturdays, Prose on Sundays. Happy writing!

News, Time to Read, & Weekly Writing Prompts

BSB News

MacKenzie Saves the World Cover

Carol took the challenge to write a poem about the weather last week – and she did an excellent job too, methinks! Have you read it? Go check it out! 
Prompted Poetry: I Am Canadian

Want to join us next week? Scroll down, grab a prompt and write a story or poem to submit! I’ve already got something in mind for each prompt this week…

Topic of the Week: Time to Read

I haven’t been doing very well at making time to read lately. It’s been busy, and I have been writing, but at the end of the day (or the middle, or the beginning), it seems like I have trouble finding the time to work in a chapter or two. This isn’t good…both because my to-be-read pile is bursting at the seams, and because in order to write, you really need to read. Refill the well, so to speak.

Plus, I really like reading. I miss it when I don’t get to do it. And I get a little irritable when I can’t make that mental escape too.

Unfortunately, we all get busy, and I’m working on making time to read on a daily basis. The best time for me is late at night, when I won’t get interrupted. And reading right before bed tends to relax my brain and make for an easy transition to sleep. But lately I’ve been getting back to my writing office late, which means I’m writing later and allowing that to take over my reading time. Not good!

This week, I’m going to work hard at sticking to my normal schedule so I can take that reading time back. I’m also going to look for a few other times during the day where I might be able to fit a chapter or two in between things. I read in all different formats (except audio), so I can read print at home, and use either my kindle or (more conveniently) the kindle app on my cell.

How do you make time to read? Do you read when you first wake up, or before bed? Or do you sneak it in during waiting times and lines during the day? Does your preferred method of reading make a difference in how/where you read?


Wanna write? Pick a prompt!

Prose Writing Prompt of the Week: Someone is reading a book on their phone while walking on a city street. They bump into someone who is less than sympathetic…at least at first. How does the meeting end?

Poetry Prompt of the Week: Write a poem about having a cup of tea with someone you…don’t exactly like.

Write a 500 – 1000 word story based on the prose prompt and/or a poem using the theme of the poetry prompt, and email it/them to brazensnake@brazensnakebooks.com by Friday night at 11:59pm (MT). Poems will be posted on Saturdays, Prose on Sundays. Happy writing!

Weekly Prompt Poems: I Am Canadian

Poetry Prompt of the Week: Write a poem about the weather…include at least three different types of weather patterns. 


I Am Canadian
by Carol R. Ward

I awake to the fog
coating the world
like a blanket of white
that’s just been unfurled.
The tops of the hills
rise above the white mist
like islands alone
that the sun has just kissed.

Then out comes the sun,
burns the fog all away
and keeps getting stronger
for another hot day.
The temperature’s rising,
where will it stop?
The humidity’s climbing,
it’s over the top.

Then all of a sudden
along comes the wind –
it blows the clouds over
and shuts the sun in.
The temperature plummets,
the day grows quite dark –
we cancel our plans
to eat in the park.

Please tell me these flakes
of white that I see
are seeds from the birch tree –
what else could they be?
A warning of frost
is in place for tonight
and I wonder if tomorrow
will be green or be white.


Check back next Saturday for more poetry! And check the writing prompt on Monday’s blog too, in case you might be interested in writing something to submit for this weekly post as well…

Weekly Prompt Stories: A Scrap, a Shirt, & a Shirtless Man

Prose Writing Prompt of the Week: Let’s solve a mystery. While walking down the street, your character finds: a scrap of fabric stuck in a rose bush, a torn shirt in the gutter ten yards away, and a shirtless man lying on a lawn several houses down the block. What happened?


They Never Listen
by Carol R. Ward

Lanie shut the front door behind her with her foot, juggling the two bags groceries in her arms and dropping her keys on the small table near the door.

“Hey, a little help here would be nice,” she called. “Gordon?”

With a sigh she continued on to the kitchen where she just made it to the counter before the heavy bags slipped from her grasp. Grumbling under her breath she put the groceries away. She folded the reusable grocery bags neatly and placed them in a drawer for next time.

“Gordon?” she called again once she was done. “What did you do, fall asleep?”

Padding out of the kitchen she checked the couch in the living room first, then went down the hall to the bed room. There was no sign of him. They were supposed to be going out to dinner. Where could he have gotten to?

As she was leaving the bedroom she glanced towards the en suite bathroom – well that didn’t look right. Going over for a closer look she gasped aloud. It looked like a war zone. The tub was partially filled with water, a few small islands of bubbles floating on the surface. Water was everywhere – the walls, the sides of the tub, the floor…

Several towels were crumpled on the floor. A couple looked like they’d just been pulled from the towel rack, but the one she picked up had blood on it.

“Oh, Gordon, you didn’t! I told you not to.”

Leaving the towels behind, Lanie followed the faint trail of water out of the bathroom and towards the back door. As she expected, the door was slightly ajar. There was no sign of Gordon in the back yard and she rounded the house towards the street. Her eye was caught by a scrap of white, fluttering in the neighbor’s rose hedge.

Plucking it free she realized it was from the shirt Gordon had been wearing earlier. “Damn it Gordon, you never listen, do you?”

Lanie glanced up and down the street. There, about ten yards further up, it looked like the rest of his shirt lying in the gutter. She went over and picked it up – it was torn up pretty badly and there was blood on it.

“If this is how bad his shirt is, I hate to see what Gordon looks like.” She felt a flash of sympathy, after all he’d probably thought he was doing her a favour.

She continued up the street, a little worried about what she might find. There didn’t seem to be any blood on the sidewalk and she took that as a good sign. Maybe it wasn’t as bad as she thought. There, several houses up, was that a body laying face down on the lawn?

Lanie hurried over. “Gordon?”

With a grown he rolled over onto his back. She winced at the bloody furrows on his chest and arms.

“Are you all right?”

“No,” he said.

She looked around. “Where’s Princess?”

Gordon slowly pointed upwards.

Lanie looked up into the tree above them. There, looking down at them, tail swishing angrily, was a small white cat, wet fur making her seem even smaller.

“There’s mommy’s little angel,” Lanie cooed. “Come to momma.”

The cat moved closer until she was able to reach up and pluck her from the tree. Lanie cradled her in her arms and turned back to Gordon.

“Don’t think this gets you out of taking me out to dinner,” she told him.

“But I’m injured!” he protested, making an attempt to sit up.

“It’s your own fault,” she sniffed. “I told you not to try and bathe Princess. You never listen.”

###

Headlights
by Jamie DeBree

Karen took a deep breath as she stepped out of her apartment expecting a whiff of fresh morning air. Instead she got a big, choking taste of her new city-life: cigarette smoke, skunk, sewer gas and open dumpsters. Chasing it quickly with a sip of hot coffee, she noticed a bit of white fabric stuck fluttering in her new neighbor’s rose bush. It shined in the sun, and she frowned, reaching down to feel it.

As she suspected, the satin was smooth and cool, and certainly not something one would expect to find torn as it was. Had a bride run this way last night, tearing her beautiful gown? A prom queen or debutante, perhaps? White satin wasn’t really an everyday kind of thing, and she carefully detached the piece from it’s prison, wondering if she’d ever find out what happened.

A few houses down, she caught another glimpse of white fluttering in the breeze, only this time it was fluttering in the gutter. Frowning, she looked down, and saw that it was more of the same white satin, but not a dress or skirt. It was a button-down shirt, almost certainly custom-made and not cheaply at that. The bead work on the front suggested a female wearer, but that wasn’t terribly surprising. Karen couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen a man wearing satin, aside from the ubiquitous suit-pocket handkerchief.

The shirt seemed special and she picked it up carefully, checking for any mysterious stains before committing more than two fingers to the task. When she finally stood and held the shirt up in front of her, she could see where a piece had torn from the bottom right side – and the swatch she’d freed from the rose bush matched perfectly.

She would bet money that somewhere nearby there was a very unhappy woman trying to remember what happened to her very expensive custom shirt, and she tucked it over her arm. She’d post it online after work and see if anyone recognized it. It was a long shot, but maybe the owner would see it and want it back.

Her heels clicked heavily on the sidewalk as she continued toward work, and considered what could possibly have happened to get the shirt off the woman with only a small tear. Thank goodness there was no blood, but was the woman possibly in trouble? Maybe she should alert the police. There was no evidence of anything aside from a woman losing her shirt though. And that wasn’t necessarily a crime – although with a shirt like this, it kind of was.

Coming up on the left just before her bus stop, she spied a man laying face down on his lawn, wearing only a pair of jeans with rhinestones on the pockets and a large snake tattoo that covered the majority of his back. He was just starting to stir as she drew near, and pushed off the ground with a groan.

“That was some night,” he mumbled, shaking his head as if to clear the cobwebs. Karen kept walking, figuring it was smarter not to engage, but when he saw her, he called out.

“Hey! Just because you tore that off me last night doesn’t mean you can just take it! I paid good money for that shirt!”

Karen stopped and turned to look at him. “This is your shirt?”

He nodded, pushing to his feet and stumbling toward her. “You should know. That was some party last night, wasn’t it? I was so wasted. Thanks for letting me snooze on your lawn. I hope I didn’t get too crazy after…you know.” He reached out and took the shirt from her – she was too shocked to resist. Pulling it on over those broad shoulders, he quickly buttoned it across his chest, and Karen wondered why she’d barely noticed his nipples when he was bare-chested, but now that they showed through the light fabric, they seemed…more ‘out there’, so to speak.

He grinned, noting the direction of her stare. “All the ladies seem to like that. Headlights out – gets ’em every time. I’d let you have another lick, but I’ve got to get to work. Sorry darlin’. Call me for your next party?”

Karen couldn’t think of a single thing to say, so she just stood there as the strange man leaned in, kissed her on the cheek, grinned and walked away.

Her parents might have been right, she thought as she forced her legs to move toward the bus stop again. The big city just might be too much for her to handle.

Later that day, she reached into her purse for something and her fingers brushed the bit of satin she’d found stuck to the bush that morning. She remembered the man and his ‘headlights’.

###



Check back next Sunday for more free flash fiction! And check the writing prompt on Monday’s blog too, in case you might be interested in writing something to submit for this weekly post as well…