Wow, February just flew by. Like, zoom! Once again, it’s time for the IWSG question o’ the month. IWSG is a great resource for writers. and hosts a monthly blog hop. Give them a look here and join the conversation:
March 1 Question: Have you ever pulled out a really old story and reworked it? Did it work out?
Why, yes I have! There were a few months when I was deep into edits for my second novel and had no new material for my twice-monthly critique group, so I unearthed a few old short stories lurking in my hard drive. Their style and content was quite different from my usual MO: instead of women’s fiction and cozy mysteries, these were Twilight Zone-esque speculative fiction.
How did that work out? I got enthusiastic feedback from my group members, most of whom write sci-fi and fantasy. The experience was a good reminder that I am capable of writing in a variety of styles and genres, and that doing so is good exercise for my writing muscles. Here’s a sample from the middle of The Vengeance, the tale of a little girl whose fear and anger at a bully manifests in a surprising way.
Miss Craft kept her promise. She stood at the school yard gate and watched as Katie quick-stepped toward the bushes, a thick patch of scratchy junipers where generations of kids had burrowed tunnels and hidden from teachers. Kids talked about the ‘cave’ inside there, but Katie had never worked up the nerve to peer inside.
As she passed, she heard scrabbling and whispers.
“Katie!” a voice hissed from inside the thicket.
Katie jumped, then looked back over her shoulder. Mr. Cricks, the principal, was talking to Miss Craft. The teacher glanced at Katie and waved her on, then turned to her boss.
A strong hand clamped onto Katie’s arm, yanking her inside the bushes. Another hand, cold and clammy, pressed over her mouth. Sharp twigs scratched her face and bare legs, and her backpack caught fast on a branch. For a moment, there was a tug-of-war between the backpack and the hand, but eventually Big Joyce won, and Katie was pulled into the “cave.”
Deep-green junipers arched overhead, leaving just enough room for the shorter kids to stand. Big Joyce had to hunch over, which only made her look more menacing. Katie whimpered and wrapped her arms around her shivering little body. Snarky Kelly and the other toadies grinned at her like hungry dogs waiting for a treat.
Big Joyce glowered. “Thought you could just walk on by, huh? Told you I’d be waiting for you, bitch.”
Katie could only stammer. She’d never heard a third grader say the B word. But that didn’t matter now, because she was going to die here, in the bushes.
Big Joyce yanked off Katie’s pink headband. “Nice bandage,” she sneered. “Want another one?”
“Naw, she wants more. Lots more bandages,” Snarky Kelly yapped.
“Yeah, cover up her ugly face,” Skinny Wanda crowed.
“Stupid little …Katie,” Dumb Laura chimed in.
The pack of toadies and their queen encircled Katie, blocking any chance of escape. Everything seemed to slow down, and Katie’s vision became watery as she swayed on rubbery knees. The cave smelt cool, and damp, and earthy–and a little bit rotten…
Joyce twirled Katie’s pink headband around her thick finger. “Think I could choke her with this?”
The toadies snorted and cackled.
Just behind Joyce, Katie saw a movement on the ground, as if water were flowing from the wall to pool around Joyce’s feet. Katie shivered, feeling colder and colder.
“Look at her shaking. She’s gonna pass out.”
“Hey,” Kelly asked the others, “can you really die of fright?”
“Let’s find out,” said Joyce, and lurched toward Katie. But her feet didn’t follow. They were stuck fast in the clear, thick goo oozing up her scabby legs.
“What the hell?” Joyce looked down, screamed, and toppled forward, taking Katie down with her. The toadies scattered, scrabbling out of the bushes like rats. Kicking hard, Katie managed to wriggle free.
The goo thickened as it expanded, sucking Joyce in. It reached her waist, then her chest, then her shoulders, making slurping sounds as it swallowed the squirming child. Joyce bucked and thrashed, her clawed hands scrabbling in the dirt, her eyes wild. The goo flowed up to her neck. Joyce gasped, her face purple, her mouth wide–but no sound emerged, for now the goo had filmed her face, stopping her screams.
Joyce fought a long time, her motions jerky, then sporadic, and then she was still, floating twisted inside the blob. The thing shivered, slid like a great slug back toward the wall, and then extended a thread of clear slime toward Katie. She scrabbled backward like a crab, “No! No please!”
The thing paused, then slowly extended its—what?—tentacle?—and gently brushed Katie’s leg. She braced herself for pain, but it felt cool, gentle. And though it made no noise, somehow she heard it say, “You’re welcome.”
It slithered back under the wall and was gone.