Allusionary Assembly

The Writing of Kerry E.B. Black

Responding to this week’s 99 word challenges

Much is afoot at the wonderful Carrot Ranch! It’s the final week of the Writing Rodeo, and what an exciting contest it’s been! I hope you’ve tried your hand at wrangling some words to participate in these challenges! Although I posted the link in a different post, here it is again:

Speaking of challenges, Charli Mills has posted a new essay and issued a new challenge. Tell a camp fires story in 99 words. Here’s the link:

My interpretation of the prompt is below. What do you think? (I think I’d like to visit a Witching Wood, actually. How about you?)

Witching Wood

Written by Kerry E.B Black

Don’t leave the campfire’s glow this evening. This is a Witching Wood,

I’m warning you, don’t follow breadcrumbs. You won’t like where they lead. In woods just like these, Wolves charm, Bears make porridge of invaders, and witches’ candied houses grow legs and scratch out secrets. With haunting melodies, PIed Pipers and Washer Women lead the unwary on eternal dances beneath earthen mounds. Even the stars themselves conspire to pixie-lead astray.

See, the full moon hides behind grey veils.

Best shiver in the shadow of ancient, bent boughs beside the campfire until sunlight chases the boogies from our paths.

Writing Rodeo Event #4

Care to spin a 99 word western tale about “reaching for it,” and maybe winning a $25 Amazon Gift Card for your excellence? Well, saddle up your wildest words, my friends, and join Carrot Ranch’s fourth Writing Rodeo Event!

Here’s a link for details of this exciting, NO entry fee contest:

Good luck, partners!

Book Review: “A Fair Maiden” by Joyce Carol Oates

When reading one of Joyce Carol Oates’ stories, anticipate beautiful prose telling necessary stories about bleak and terrible aspects of our society. 

Certainly, that’s the case with the novella, “A Fair Maiden.”

Katya comes from an underprivileged background, the youngest child of a selfish, gambing-adicted mother and an absent father. Her “curves” developed early enough to attract the wrong sort of attention from the wrong sort of fella. However, she leaves that part of her life behind when she takes a job as a live-in nanny for a wealthy family summering iat the beach. While out with her young charges, Katya meets Marcus Kidder, a cultured, artistic old man.  Marcus Kidder is very different from every other person she’s met. He speaks gently, seems to read her mind, and declares his undying love for her. Poor, confused Katya is easy prey for anyone who wishes to take advantage of her.

The story is dark. Katya is abused. Repeatedly. And in many sickening ways. 

Male-female dynamics, exploitation of youth, responsibility to family, love for its own sake and not for gain, and self-worth. Joyce Carol Oates explores these themes in her distinctive way. 

The novella is not long, but, even with its open-ended plot points, it leaves a lasting impression.

Book Review: “The Fireman” by Joe Hill

A global pandemic grips the world, and it catches fire. Literally. The infected contract “dragon scale” which impacts and is impacted by mood and stress. Many people spontaneously combusted. Some of those who burst into flame ignited dwellings. Or forests. Or Maine. 

Nurse Harper is adorable, and she keeps her Julie Andrews outlook throughout, despite all of the horrors. The enigmatic Fireman himself is at turns charming, frustrating, and admirable. Throughout the prose, Joe Hill includes references to his father’s work (who doesn’t love a good Stephen King reference?), to J.K. Rowling, and such stars from the ‘80’s as Martha Quinn. (really. I’m not kidding.) And some of the characters develop sort of super powers, which was a lot of fun.

In all, this massive book develops interesting characters and an apocalypse that highlighted the good and evil in humanity. I did feel the “bad guys” were dispatched rather easier than I’d hoped, but in all this is an interesting and readable story.

Writing Rodeo Event 2

If you’re up for a challenge, check out Carrot Ranch’s second Writing Rodeo Event! Colleen Chesebro has created a poetic form specifically for Carrot Ranch, folded in a bit of Cowboy flair, and asks contestants to mold their words into a 99 syllable poem. Think you’re up for the challenge? If so, check this out!

Book Review: “The Final Girls” by Riley Sager

A “final girl” is the survivor of an attack on a group, a trope used in many horror films. This book explores what happens AFTER. 

Quincy bakes to find a calm, and she blogs her finished products, perfect culinary delights photographed to advantage. She lives quietly with her boyfriend, a Defence Attorney. When he visits from his Poconos home, she meets with her rescuer, the cop who shot the madman who attacked and killed all of her friends, a memory she’s suppressed. She ignores requests from the media for interviews. She huddles away from the disdain of her mother who detests the media attention her daughter’s “final girl” status brought. Quincy survives, adjusts, cocooned in a safe world of her devising – that is -Until, one day, Sam, who bears the title of “final girl” from a different attack shows up. Sam, with “survivor” tattooed to her wrist, “dropped off the grid” to escape the media attention thrust upon her. Sam, who seems intent upon disrupting Quincy’s world, forces Quincy to look at the changes the suppressed trauma made to her psyche.

This story is intense at times, action packed and psychological. Quincy’s lost memories slowly return in bits and pieces. Sam is an enigmatic wildcard of an inciting action. Final Girl keeps the reader guessing until the very end.

Book Review: “The Familiars” by Stacey Halls

At its heart, “The Familiars” is a tale of female friendship. In a time when women were viewed with suspicion by the church and many of the menfolk, the Pendle witch trials of 1612 took place. Women could be witches, you see, with powers given by dark forces.

A young, wealthy woman who has experienced several miscarriages (and her husband’s waning affections) hires a midwife she trusts. This mysterious gal comes from an oppressively poor area, but her ministrations seem good natured – that is until the local “witch hunter” employed an odd child named Jennet who pointed fingers at many, including the midwife. The heroine used every asset available to her to try to save the life of her midwife and friend. 

Based on real events, Stacey Halls applies her imagination to recreate the terrifying time in England leading to 17-19 August, 1612. The cover is a lush piece of art which succeeded in enticing me to the story within.

Book Review: “The Whisper Man” by Alex North

“Some investigations stay with you…” 

This complex thriller certainly will! A child is abducted, and the m.o. closely resembles a case from years before. However, the original perpetrator is behind bars. Investigators interpret between-the-lines clues from his cryptic communications. In the meanwhile, a newly widowed man and his imaginative son move into “the scary house.” As the boy converses with imaginary friends and hides from whispers outside his window at night, a malignant force grooms its next victim.  

Raising a child is the most difficult and important thing in the entire world. At its heart, “The Whisper Man” explores this truth while dealing in thrills and horrors.

My 99 Word Response to the latest Carrot Ranch weekly challenge

Charli Mills and the good folks at sure have a lot going on this Spooky Season. They’re harvesting words in their Writing Rodeo with weekly challenges (which I hope you’re entering!) while continuing the weekly writing prompts. This week’s involved kid gloves.

Let me know what you think of mine, please? I love hearing from you all! And as always, if you participate, let me know so that I cheer your accomplishments.

Without further ado:

1863 Revisited

Written by Kerry E.B. Black

Henry scoffed, an ugly, guttural dismissal. “Sure, you saw a ghost.”

Clara swiped tears from blazing cheeks and stormed to her car. 

“Come back,” he called to the thinning taillights, “maybe Casper would like tea.”

Chill breeze brought wafts of rotting peaches, and he pulled his jacket tight. 

“Did you offer tea, Sir?” A translucent woman dressed in antebellum finery, from her lace-edged cap and upswept hair, to the hem of her hoop-defined skirts, tapped a tasseled fan in her kid-gloved hands. “But my name’s Amanda, not Casper.”

Henry beat a hastier retreat than General Lee’s exit from Gettysburg.

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