Camp NaNoWriMo Time Approaches


For anyone who’s been on my blog across a November, April, or July, you’ve probably heard me talk about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) before.  This paragraph will be to catch up anyone new to the concept.  NaNoWriMo is a writing challenge that occurs every November.  Hundreds of thousands of people around the world challenge themselves to write a 50,000-word novel from scratch in the 30 days of November.  Whether someone makes it to that word count or not, it’s a month full of crazy inspiration, challenge, and an amazing community.  Camp NaNoWriMo is a similar challenge held in April and July where participants can select their own goal (words, pages, lines, hours, or minutes are options this year).  This gives participants the versatility to say they want to do 500 lines of poetry, a 100-page script, or a 120-minute screenplay.

I am a huge fan of the NaNoWriMo challenge as well as the more versatile Camp NaNoWriMo options.  I love the ability to decide to draft to a word count, challenge myself to carve out a set amount of writing time, or get through a certain page count of revisions.  Granted, I usually want to draft, because that’s the fun part.  This year I’m working on a revision.  I’ll get into more detail on that next week when I talk about my April 2018 Camp NaNoWriMo project.

For now, I’d like to talk about what I’m doing to prepare.  If you’re also doing the Camp NaNoWriMo challenge, or have in the past, please share your own preparation strategies in comments.  My prep work falls into seven broad categories.

Strategy 1: Blocking out time

I’m going through my month and planning out when I have commitments (work, laundry, grocery shopping) and then scheduling in writing time around that.  Sprints during laundry cycles is one example.  Writing on my lunch hour is another.

Strategy 2: Meal planning

I’m making sure that I have plenty of supplies for quick and easy meals.  The last week of March I’ll be making a few big batches that I can freeze.  I’m also planning lunches so that they’re easy to eat while I’m typing.  Sandwiches can take more time to prep each day, but they’re much easier to eat while I work or type, so they make a great option.

Strategy 3: Having all my supplies in order

I’m revising this April, so I’m going to make sure I have all the supplies I need for that pulled together into my writing bag.  This includes a print out of the manuscript, plenty of pens and highlighters in multiple colors, and spare paper.  This is in additions to the supplies that always live in my writing bag: laptop, chargers, mouse, headphones, and emergency snacks.

Strategy 4: Extra write-ins

I host a weekly write-in all year, but for Camp NaNo, I’ll be adding in a few extra days with write-ins.  I love the motivation of being with others working on similar goals, as well as the creative energy that always comes with gathering together a group of creative writers.  I may try out a few locations we haven’t been to before to see if they could be good fits for November.

Strategy 5: Completing other projects/commitments in advance

I want to make sure I have as few commitments taking time away from writing as possible.  That means finishing up the beta reading I’m working on now, and not taking on anything new until May.  It also means finishing any non-writing projects to before then.  I have some jewelry repairs for my grandmother that I need to wrap up before my parents’ summer trip to visit her.  To make sure I’m done in time, I need to have a chunk of it completed before taking a month-long break.

Strategy 6: Managing work stress in advance

April can be an intense month at work for me, so I’m taking the extra time in March to try to make everything as smooth as possible come April.  It means a little extra work here and there, but it pays off in the long run.  Keeping on top of all the smaller tasks that tend to pile up in April will also help when crunch time really hits.

Strategy 7: Spreading the word

I’m letting friends, family, and the internet know what I’m doing.  The accountability of Camp NaNo helps me a lot.  Knowing that anyone I’ve told can check up on me is a great motivator to stay on top of my goal.  It also feels great when someone who isn’t part of my writing community asks how my project is going.  It feels even better when I can tell them it’s going well.

So what strategies do you use to prep for this kind of big adventure or challenge?


Image Prompt 038 Response – The Magic of Dice


I chose the image of the spiral staircase for my prompt this week.  Twenty-minutes of furious writing and a quick copy edit later, I was left with the below.  I hope you enjoy.

The Magic of Dice:

Gemma wasn’t sure where they were going.  Alan and Trish had just said it was a friend’s place.  Gemma wasn’t so sure when they opened the door without knocking.

“So whose place is this?” Gemma whispered as she followed them inside.

“Gary’s,” Alan replied.

“The DM guy?” Gemma asked.  Gary ran Dungeon & Dragons campaigns at the local comic and games shop.  Alan had been trying to talk her into one for ages.

“Yeah,” Alan replied.  “He knows we’re coming,” he added.

“And why are we here?” Gemma asked.

The light was on in what looked like a living room.  There were two closed doors on the right hand wall and she could see what she thought was a kitchen through a doorway at the far end of the room.  To the left of that was a spiral staircase.

She’d never actually seen one in real life, so she peered down when they got closer.

“I need to pick up some dice he ordered for me,” Trish said.

“And he said he had a game to show us that you might like,” Alan added.

“Which kind of game?” Gemma asked.  She liked the board games better than the role playing games.  She just wasn’t that good at being anyone but herself.

“He didn’t say, but he said you’d appreciate the art if nothing else,” Alan replied.

Trish started down the spiral stairs.

“It is a basement?” Gemma asked.  “Or is this a split level kind of deal?”  They lived on a mountain, there were a lot of split level houses.

“Sort of both,” Alan replied as he followed Trish down.

Gemma wasn’t sure how something could be a slip level and a basement.  She held onto the railing as she slowly made her way down the winding wooden steps.  There was black no-slip stuff on each stair, but she still wanted a hand-hold in case she missed a step.

The lower level seemed to be all one big room.  The bit that was under the kitchen held a large table with eight chairs.  There was a sliding glass door in the middle of the wall behind it.  The entire room was lined with shelves holding board games, books, and the occasional figure or sculpture.

It actually took Gemma a minute to see Gary because he was tucked away in a corner at a desk between two shelves.  There were more shelves mounted on the wall over his desk.

“Hey, Gary,” Alan said.

“Hi guys,” Gary replied.  “Just let me finish this,” he added, continuing to type.

Trish was looking at the books on a shelf two down from Gary.  Alan just hung back a little behind Gary.  Gemma figured he was close enough to be noticed but far enough away to not read Gary’s computer screen.

Gemma glanced at the shelves.  She might as well browse while she was here.  Gary was purported to have the best gaming collection in town, possibly in the county.

She didn’t even recognize a single board game on the first shelf.  She wasn’t a complete neophyte, so she’d expected to recognize at least a bit of what was here.

“And, save,” Gary said before swiveling around in his chair.  “Sorry to keep you waiting,” he said.  “I’ve been trying to come up with a good end for that campaign forever.”

“No worries,” Trish said.  “You said the dice came?”

“Right here,” Gary said, getting up and moving to a self on his right.  He grabbed a small box and offered it to her.

“Awesome,” Trish said, holding the box up to the light.  “These will work great.”

“Glad you like them,” Gary said.

“You mentioned a game you wanted to show Gemma,” Alan said.

“Definitely,” Gary said with a laugh.  He walked across the room to a shelf near the table and the glass door.  “Come look at this,” he said.  “I want to know what you think.”

Gemma followed Trish and Alan over to the table as Gary set the box down and pulled off the lid, which he handed to Alan.

Gemma stopped next to Alan to look at the lid.

The background was some kind of generic forest or jungle.  A lot of green and just a hint of tree shapes.  In the middle of all that were three figures.  One in plate armor, one in a dark robe with a full hood that hid their face, and one that looked like it might be a woman in a dress.  None of the art was particularly spectacular.

“So what is it?” Gemma asked.

“I don’t know,” Gary replied.  “That’s why I wanted to show it to you.”

Gemma frowned as she moved to the table.  Why would she have any insight?

Gary had been emptying the box while Gemma looked at the box art.  There were three glass vials with cork stoppers, three squares of what looked like silk in green, black, and red, a yellowed piece of paper Gary was still unfolding, and three metal twenty-sided dice.

“Where did you get it?” Trish asked.

“The shop,” Gary replied.  “Marshal found it in the back and sold it to me for a dollar.”

“Is it even a game?” Gemma asked as she picked up one of the vials.  It felt like real glass.  She touched the black square and was pretty sure it was real silk.

“We weren’t sure,” Gary replied.

“The dice imply game,” Alan said.

Gemma picked up one of the dice.

“They’re heavy.  Probably solid metal,” she said.  Gemma gently rolled the die across the table.  It made a satisfying noise against the wooden table.

The cork popped out of the vial in Gemma’s hand and began filling the room with smoke.

“What?” Gemma managed to ask before the smoke got too thick.  She tried to set the vial down on the table, but it seemed stuck to her hand.

“Guys?” she called, hoping someone was okay.

She heard coughing, and then a strange ringing, and then nothing.

“Guys?” she asked again,

“I’m here,” Alan said.

The smoke began to clear around them.

“And where is here?’ Gemma asked next.

The walls had vanished, and so had the table for that matter.  There was grass beneath her feet, wind moving her hair across her back, and she though she heard an owl.

“I have no idea where here is,” Gary said, still holding the folded paper.

“Well, it’s not your apartment,” Gemma replied.

“Trish?” Alan asked.

There was no answer.

The fog continued to clear.

They were in a forest clearing.  And there was no sign of Trish.

How my Reading Gets into My Writing


I’ve been reading a very interesting book, The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity by Esther Perel, about infidelity, fidelity, relationships, and our constructs of love and monogamy.  I’ve found it incredibly thought provoking.

While I have no experience with affairs, I am married, and we’ve been together for a long time.  This book has given me a new lens to think through my own relationship and be thankful about how atypical we are, especially for a pair of high school sweethearts.

One thing that really resonates with me about the book is how multifaceted, complicated, and downright messy it all is.  There are so many layers to any relationship, but a marriage (or any other long-term committed relationship pattern) has even more clinging to it that may not even be visible to those involved.  For many, there are a heap of assumptions that go along with marriage.  Assumptions about roles, rules, and commitments, many of which have never been explicitly stated by either side.  And worse yet, these might not match between partners.

That’s one place that I feel quite lucky.  My husband and I have talked about these things.  We know what we expect of each other and the relationship.  We know what the boundaries are and what the commitments are.  This has allowed us to weather a lot of things that had the potential to pull us apart or damage our relationship.

Outside my own relationship and life experience, I think this book has given me a lot of things to think about as a writer as well.  There are often romantic plots or subplots in my writing.  This has given me more facets of the relationships to plan, think through, and develop as an author.  Yes, affairs are a topic that I could delve into through fiction, but I find myself thinking more about the last section of the book.  In “Part IV: Ever After” Perel has a chapter titled “Monogamy and Its Discontents: Rethinking Marriage.”  This chapter talks about ways that some pairs (or triads, quads, or more) are rethinking what commitment and monogamy mean for them through relationships with different boundaries.

I find the idea of a committed relationship that goes beyond the couple fascinating.  The emotional interplay and the wealth of possibilities within it, is something I’d like to explore intellectually.  And for the record, this doesn’t have to be about sex either.  That’s something Perel addresses early on in the book.  It’s about intimacy.  Intimacy can be physical, yes, but it can also be emotional.  It’s the emotional interplay within a committed relationship that I find most interesting as a writer, regardless of the count of individuals in that relationship.

Reading a book like this leaves me with a lot of food for thought, and that inevitably translates into fodder for my fiction writing.  I find nonfiction to be just as important and inspiring as fiction.  In fact, almost everything I read will somehow find its way into my writing, directly or indirectly.  Whether it’s an idea about a character, a way of thinking, a strange twist, or just a particularly inspiring description of a scene, I’m always learning from what I’m reading.

Have you found inspiration in an unexpected book?  I’d love to hear about where others find their ideas while they’re reading.

Image Prompt 037 Response – Name Confusion


I selected the image of the statue near the Firth of Tay in Dundee, Scotland for my prompt this week.  I’ve done a twenty-minute sprint and a quick edit.  I hope you enjoy.


Name Confusion:

Bailey sat on the little step at the base of the sculpture by William Longair that looked out over the Tay.  He faced the water, taking comfort in the noise of people walking behind him.  It was a beautiful day, so there were plenty of people out walking beside the firth.  That’s why he’d picked the place.  It was outside and usually had a small crowd within shouting distance at the furthest.  He knew meeting someone he met online was a risky thing under any circumstances, but he was at least doing it in public where he should be safe and in reach of help if needed.

Not that he thought he’s need it.  He hoped Ashley was everything she claimed to be online.  They’d met on a sewing forum and bonded over cosplay they’d both done.  Ashley hadn’t sent any pictures of herself in any of the costumes, but then, Bailey had only sent one and hadn’t told her it was him.  In between talking about sewing tips, maker skills for props, and what not to try to wear to an American Convention, they’d talked about books, movies, and music.  It was amazing how much they had in common.

Bailey glanced around, seeing if anyone was approaching.  Then he glanced at his watch.  Still early.  He’d picked two in the afternoon on a Saturday because he knew the crowd would be here.  He also got off work at one, and he wanted to be early.  He liked to have the lay of the land before meeting people, strangers or not.  Bailey was always early.

At two, Bailey got up and stretched, walking the short distance to the low wall along the water and back to the statue.  He wanted to be close enough to be obvious, so he stuck close to the statue.  He was looking out at the crowd now, just people-watching as he waited.

There was a slender man with ebony skin walking across the space toward the statue.  Bailey smiled to himself as he looked down at his hands.  He’d always wondered what it would be like to see his pale, freckled, white skin against the skin of someone with such a different complexion.  The few boyfriends he’d had where all Scots like himself, so there wasn’t much contrast involved.

When the slender man stopped beside the statue, Bailey looked up again.  He glanced back out at the crowd wondering what was taking Ashley so long.  He didn’t even see any women walking alone.  He glanced at his watch again, then glanced sideways at the slim man on the other side of the statue.  He was looking down at his phone, scrolling through something.  He had great bone structure, his cheek bones looking sharp in the bright afternoon light, and his hands looked strong with long fingers.

Bailey looked down again.  If he found someone’s looks alluring, he tended to stare as he mentally tried costumes out on them.  There were a lot of good ones for that man, but he didn’t want to be caught staring at a stranger.

“Excuse me,” the man said, walking closer to Bailey.  He had a light tenor with a hint of an accent that wasn’t British.

“Yes?” Bailey asked.

“If I’m mistaken, please forgive me, but are you Bailey?”

“Yes,” Bailey said slowly, frowning.  How did this random guy know his name?

“I’m Ashley,” the man said, holding out his hand.  “I wasn’t sure you were who I was meeting.  I was expecting a woman actually.”

Bailey burst out laughing.

“So was I,” he said, taking Ashley’s hand.  His skin looked nice against the rich darkness of Ashley’s.

“I get that a lot,” Ashley said, his hand sliding away from Bailey’s.

“We never really talked about anything that could give us away, I guess,” Bailey said.  “And you don’t run across that many guys who sew.”

“It does seem to be a bit rare here,” Ashley said, slipping his phone into a back pocket.  “It’s nice meeting another man who enjoys the hobby as much as I do.”

“Likewise,” Bailey said with a grin.  He’d come here to meet an online friend so they could maybe be real life friends or work on a project together.  It didn’t matter that Ashley was actually a guy.  Except that Ashley was kind of hot, but Bailey could ignore that.

“We didn’t really discuss what we’d do after we met up,” Ashley said.

“I didn’t really have a plan,” Bailey said.

“Would you mind finding somewhere I can get lunch?” Ashley asked.  “My morning got a little out of hand and I didn’t have time to eat without being later than I was.”

“Sure,” Bailey said.  “Have something in mind?”

“It’s so nice out, why don’t we just swing through the Tesco and then we can find somewhere to sit and talk?”

“Sounds great,” Bailey said.  Part of him wondered if Ashley was as nervous about meeting a stranger from the internet as he was.  The town’s only major grocery store and the outdoors were some of the safest places to be if you were a little unsure of your company.

Image Prompt 036 Response: Melon Pope and College Friends


I chose the image of the impromptu sculpture at a wedding for my twenty-minute sprint.


Melon Pope and College Friends:

Jacob leaned back in his chair and smiled as he watched his friends having a blast on the dance floor.  It had been months since they’d all seen each other, and he’d enjoyed the chance to talk over dinner and before the wedding.  He’d managed to twist his ankle hiking two weeks before, so dancing wasn’t in the cards tonight, but the music was good, and everyone was having a good time.

“You aren’t getting all maudlin over here by yourself are you?” Kyle asked as he settled in the seat beside Jacob.

“Nah,” Jacob said.  “Just enjoying the music and everyone’s goofy dance moves.”

“Yeah, none of us is winning any awards there, that’s for sure,” Kyle said with a laugh.  “How’s the ankle holding up?”

“Doing alright,” Jacob said.  “I managed to keep my weight off it during the ceremony, so no big deal.”  He’d been Michael’s roommate through most of college, and they’d remained close since graduation, so he’d been one of the groomsman.  Michael’s brother had been best man, and Christy’s sister had been maid of honor.  Jacob always thought it was nice when people asked their siblings.  It meant they were close with family.  He envied that a little some days.

“You going to the after party tomorrow?” Kyle asked as he shifted the plate in front of him.

“There’s an after party?” Jacob asked.

“Well, I say party, I mean brunch,” Kyle said with a snort.  “Everybody’s meeting at that knock off IHOP place on the main drag at about eleven.  Michael and Christy will be there and we’ll all have a chance to say hi and send them off on their honeymoon.”  Kyle started collecting things as he talked.  Jacob didn’t think much of it, Kyle was always doing something with his hands.

“Yeah, that sounds doable,” Jacob said.  “As long as I leave by one I’ll get home before dark.”

“You afraid of the dark?” Kyle asked as he store the carved honeydew melon from the centerpiece.  It was made to look like some kind of plant like not-quite sphere.

“Of course not,” Jacob scoffed, smacking Kyle on the shoulder for suggesting it.  “I just prefer not to do all the windy mountain roads in the dark if I don’t have to.”

“Oh, yeah, you’re living up near the university still, aren’t you?” Kyle replied.

“Yeah, at the top of a mountain,” Jacob agreed.  He loved it there.  He worked on campus as the tutoring coordinator, and he had one of the best views in the county from his apartment.  He’d really lucked out when he found the place.

“It still cost a fortune to live anywhere nice?” Kyle asked as he started folding a napkin.

“It’s not as bad unless you want to be walking distance to campus,” Jacobs replied.  “I’m on the other side of the mountain, so it’s not as exorbitant.”

When Kyle was done with the napkin it looked a bit like a really tall pope hat.

“That’s good,” Kyle said.  “I know you’re not making bank working for a stat school.”  He carefully placed the napkin hat on the melon then stuck two of the decorative toothpicks in the side like little arms.

“It’s not about the money for me,” Jacob replied.  He loved what he did.  He got to work with the tutors, the students, and faculty and staff.  He also had access to the campus library.

“I know,” Kyle replied, snagging two fake rose petals off the table and tucking them in the napkin hat.  They looked a bit like eyes.

“So why are you making a melon sculpture?” Jacob asked.  Kyle not being still and fidgeting with things was normal enough.  Jacob hadn’t seen him make found art while doing it before.

“I get bored,” Kyle said with a shrug.  “Besides, he’s kind of a cute melon pope.”

“Melon pope, huh?” Jacob asked.  “So is that a pope of melons?  Or a pope of the religion that worships melons?”

“Yes,” Kyle replied, grinning full out.

“Dork,” Jacob replied fondly.  Kyle was one of the goofier members of the college group.  He was always going off on bizarre tangents and coming up with hair brained pranks for them to pull on each other.

“Always,” Kyle replied.  “You going to be at home in June?”

“Yeah, the tutoring center still runs in the summer.  I don’t get the same breaks the students do.”  Jacob didn’t mind.  He liked having a full time job year-round.  It sure beat having to wait tables or do the retail thing over the summer like he used to.

“I’m coming back for a conference.  Thought we could get together while I was there.”

“Of course,” Jacob replied.  “I work eight to five, but I’m free in the evenings.  Send me dates.  Hell, if you’re having to foot the bill you can sleep on my couch.”

Kyle laughed.  “Thanks, man,” he said, patting Jacob on the shoulder.  “Work’s paying, so I’ve got a pretty nice hotel.”

“Good on you.”  Jacob was glad Kyle was doing well.  It wasn’t always easy to make it as a researcher, but he seemed to like the company he’d landed at, and he was actually getting to do research and development stuff like he wanted.

“I’m looking forward to another chance to hang out,” Kyle said.  “I miss you lot.”

“Amen,” Jacob replied.

2017 Writing Year in Review


2017 has been a rollercoaster year.  In my wider world, the political landscape has been oversaturated with scandal, controversy, and fear.  In my financial world there have been a lot of ups and down, but we’ve managed to keep our heads above water.  In the world of my little two-person family, there have been a few very major lows as well as a few major highs, the top of which has been my husband’s graduation.  I’m not going to get into details on any of that.  I’m just going to look at the rollercoaster my writing has been on this year.

Writing has always been something that was as much about me, and what I needed to work through emotionally or grapple with intellectually as it is about telling a good story or sharing my work.  A lot of what I write never sees the light of day for that reason.  This year, I haven’t had as much time and energy for writing, so I’ve done less writing than I would have liked.  There’s been a lot of stress in my life and a lot of demands that have to come before my writing.  This is where most of the rollercoaster has come into play.  One month I may have too little time but another month I may do better.  Overall, it has been a reasonably productive year.

One of the things I’ve tried to focus on this year is the revisions for the second book in my Swords and Shields series.  This book has already been three years in the making.  I had a rough draft before releasing the first book, Strong Fort Spathí, but the revisions have taken a long time.  Part of this is because I enjoy drafting more than I enjoy revision.  Part of this is because this book has needed a lot of work.  It was originally far too long, so I played around with breaking it into two books, but that didn’t work with the plot and character arcs, so I combined it all again.

One of the things I’m worst at with revision is cutting, but I tried to be very intentional about what I kept and what I cut.  I managed to shorten the book by about half as well as tighten up the plot and completely rework the second half.  I still need a better beginning, but I almost always do.  The beginning is usually the last thing I finalize.

I sent the book out to beta readers in October, and I began to get responses back in mid-December.  So my goal for January is to get through all the feedback they’ve given me and really work hard on the next draft.  From some preliminary discussions with my beta readers, it’s going to be a lot of work again.  This includes potentially reworking the cast of characters in some major ways.  I’m looking forward to the challenge.

Outside of that, I’ve done a little drafting here and there on some fanfic as well as a few original pieces.  I’ve been trying to decide how the vampires in my world function and introduce them in a book related to the Wiccan University in the series.  I’ve made two attempts, neither of which I’ve finished and neither of which I’m particularly happy with.  I think I will be able to take the good elements from the two drafts and come up with something that will actually work.

One thing that’s been different this year compared to past years, is how long I often go without writing.  Usually, the longest I’d go between writing sessions would be a few days, possibly a week.  This past year there were a few month-long stretches of no writing.  I think this is partially because I hadn’t been reading enough.  As odd as that may sound, reading a lot and reading often, helps me replenish my creative energy.  To write well, you have to read extensively, especially in the genres you write.

I’ve been reading a lot more lately, which should help with my writing productivity.  I also wrote every day in November, which is always a good kick start to my writing habit.  NaNoWriMo is an important part of my year.  I’m looking forward to getting back together with my fellow WriMos for write-ins come January.

All that is to say that it’s been a heck of a year.  I’ve accomplished a few things I’m proud of, I’ve made a lot of progress on my next book, and I’m going into the new year with a plan to get more writing done.  I hope that things in my wider world will settle down a bit, and I’ll be able to focus more on my writing.  That’s my major goal for next year.

How was your past year?  And do you have any major goals for the new one?  Any writing specific goals?  I’d love to hear what everyone else is striving for.

Image Prompt #035 – Mother’s House


I selected the image of the house on King Street in Boone, NC for my image prompt piece this week.  I did a twenty-minute sprint and then a brief edit for typos, spelling, and grammar.  I hope you enjoy it.


Mother’s House:

Kayla stood on the sidewalk looking up at the old house.  The stone steps that lead up from the sidewalk, that dated back to the 18th century, were worn but perfectly intact.  The concrete steps the family had added over the years were cracked and crumbling.  The walk up looked intimidating.

It was late fall, which didn’t help the place look any less like the haunted house the locals supposed it to be.  The large bushes beside the stairs were just a tangle of sticks and twigs, and only a few stubborn orange leaves clung to the trees higher up the hill.

Kalya began to climb.

She’d gotten a call from her mother’s priestess.  She hadn’t been coming to coven meetings or rituals.  No one had seen her for three weeks.  There were still lights turning on and off in the house, but no one answered the door when the priestess went by to check on Kayla’s mother.

Kayla stepped carefully on the concrete steps, keeping to the right edge, where they were more solid.  The path at the top of the stairs was mostly dirt now, with a few bits of grass trying to encroach.  When Kayla and her sisters were still at home, they’d laid out new gravel every couple years to keep the path safe and clean and free of weeds.

There were more concrete steps closer to the house.  These were in better repair, but from that close, Kayla could see that the house wasn’t in the best shape.  The once blue paint was gray and peeling.  The green shingles looked a little worse for wear.  It all looked clean enough though.  That was a good sign.  Her mother wasn’t the type to redo things until they needed it, but she did like keeping things tidy.

Kayla walked another mostly dirt path to the house itself, taking the two steps onto the porch quickly.  It was a habit from her teen years when going up them quickly and at just the right angle meant that they didn’t creek and give her away when she was sneaking in late.

Glancing to the left, Kayla spotted her mother’s old blue pickup truck.  This didn’t mean her mother was home.  Generally, she preferred to walk as much as possible.

Kayla reached up and knocked on the front door three times.  She waited and then range the bell once.

There was no response from within, no stirring or sound, so Kayla did it again.

Only after knocking and ringing the bell a third time did Kayla pull out her keys.  When she and her sisters moved out, they’d agreed that they weren’t allowed to just barge in.  They had to knock and ring three times before they could.  Her key still slid into the lock and turned like normal.

The front door swung inward, revealing the dimly lit entry hall.

Everything still looked as tidy as her mother preferred to keep things.

“Mom?” Kayla called out.  “You home?”  Kayla checked the living room, dining room, and kitchen first.  “Mom?” she called again as she headed to the stairs.  “You didn’t answer so I let myself in.”

Upstairs was similar to downstairs.  Everything appeared in place except for Kayla as she moved down the hall.  When she reached her mother’s room the door was closed.  That wasn’t typical unless her mother was asleep.

Kayla knocked gently on the door.  “Mom?  You in there?”  Still no response.  “Mom, if you’re in there, let me know.  Otherwise I’m coming in to check,” Kayla announced through the door.  Her mother was starting to worry her.

“I’m coming in,” Kayla called far louder than strictly necessary.

Opening the door to her mother’s room, Kayla didn’t immediately step inside.  There was a lamp on at the bedside table, and she could hear water running.

“Mom?” Kayla called again.  “It’s Kayla.”  She slowly moved toward the bathroom, terrified that she would find her mother laid out on the floor with a head injury.

What she found, was an empty bathroom with the faucet running.

Kayla reached out and turned off the water, plunging the house to an eerie silence.