Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Christmas Cookie Tour Book Event

This Saturday, Nov 25th
11 am – 2 pm
Mount Pleasant Public Library, Mount Pleasant, PA

I’ll be joining other area authors at this Cookie Tour stop.

Going to be in the PA Laurel Highlands this weekend?  Come say hi and get a book or three.

There’ll be cookies!

The Borough of Mount Pleasant’s 4th annual Cookie Tour supports local businesses.  Tour starts at 10:30 am.  Get tour information, map, and a chance to win a $100 Visa card at the Gazebo in Veterans Park (corner of Diamond [PA 819] and Washington Streets).

See you there!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Halloween Flash

Letter to Nowhere

By: IE Castellano

Agostus Hoverall
Hillside Village Cemetery
Hillside Village, USA

1 November 2017

Haunt Council
Congress of Ghosts and Ghouls

Re: Mountain Top Inn

To whom it may concern:

The Mountain Top Inn accommodations have been quite unsatisfactory.  I have had the worst Halloween in three centuries during my visit.  This so called hotel needs to be stricken from the logs immediately.

In the rooms, the beds have too soft a mattress, allowing one to fall asleep easily and stay slumbering throughout the night.  Precise controls keep water at a constant warm or cool temperature regardless of fiddling.  The wide corridors lack tables, mirrors, vases, or other items, which could fall in front of, on top of, or behind guests as they traverse to and from their rooms.

Common areas have plenty of coffee cups, snacks, and scalding beverages.  Chairs and tables abound.  However, guests only look at their phones at all times.  They do not look up.  They do not see me, let alone pay attention to my haunting ways.

Consider this letter a formal complaint.  I fully expect the Haunt Council to send me elsewhere next Halloween.

Eternally yours,
Agostus Hoverall
Agostus Hoverall

Monday, October 2, 2017

Best Laid Plans

A view of the lake

I attempted a writing weekend earlier last month (September).  It went…

Since it was a beautiful fall-ish day, my hubby-to-be and I packed our writing and a picnic lunch and traveled to a county park.  We found an empty pavilion and spread our stuff across the tables.  After eating, we strolled while collecting our muses.

We sat on a bench near the lake.  Puffy, white clouds dotted the clear, azure sky.  A breeze rustled the partially turning leaves.  My mind tried to turn over the story for picking apart.  My tummy sabotaged it all.

Writing didn’t happen.  At least not at the park.  Later that evening, I did break out my pen and paper.  What I discovered was that the story idea I mulled would not work as a short story.  It wanted to be longer, much, much longer.

“Oh, but, IE,” you say, “had you’d planned your story in an outline first, then you’d know it would take more words than what you wanted it to be.”

Well, yes and no.

I do plan out my stories.  All of them have some sort of outline, a goal.  However, I never really know how my main character (or characters) want to get there or if I’ll even stick to the script until I begin writing.  Sometimes, I need to write a little to know.  Sometimes, a lot.  Sometimes, the whole thing.

In this instance, I wrote a page.  My main character didn’t want to do easy or tidy or short.  He wants to explore all angles, speak with as many other characters as possible.  He like details, no matter how small.  Then, he thinks long, complicated thoughts.  It took me a page to get into his rhythm.  And then, I knew he couldn’t be confined by 3,000 to 5,000 words.

Another story will have to do.  I wrote a quick synopsis for a new one.  Maybe I’ll get it written.  Maybe I won’t.  The latter seems to have seeped inside my brain lately.  I missed my deadline for Dreamweaver (The World In-between, 6) with spectacular success.  It’s coming along, just much more slowly than I would like.  Unfortunately, it won’t be released until next year.  Not what I planned, but, sometimes, the outline gets thrown away and something better blossoms.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Ode to the Blank Page

*THE* Blank Page

Blank Page

Oh, blank page
why, oh, why
do you taunt me so? 

Do you not know
I have things
things in my mind
words that must pour out
out from my fingers?

If they stay
my mind may
explode all the words.

Then the words
would leave me
and may never return
not in the same manner

Allow me
if you please
blank page
I implore you
let me splatter
splatter the black
across your white.

These words
in this order
across and down
down the page
and perhaps
to the next.

Blank page, we may never
be friends
deep down
you have a desire
to not be blank
let my words
fill this space
and be blank
blank never more.


Saturday, July 1, 2017

Flash Fiction for Freedom

This year, my writers’ group wrote flash fiction or poetry or whatever for July 4th about freedom and liberty.  The writings get framed and displayed in the local library.  Since, although it’d be a fun trip to the country, visiting my small town library isn’t in your summer plans, I’ve posted my flash here.

They Came

By: IE Castellano

I was a small child when I witnessed their ship land—war torn and ragged.  These people emerged from malfunctioning airlocks not all that different than us, only where it mattered.  They knelt in the soft dirt, crying.  When they rose, they asked for sanctuary—a place to start over—a place to live their lives in peace.  Their elders had seen peace.  Their young knew it not.  They relayed stories of war and ravaging, of death and destruction.  They wanted better—to provide a future for the next generation.

We sympathized.  We offered them the chance to make new lives on our planet.  However, we also gave them a counter offer—help repair the ship and provisions to leave, if they preferred.  They chose our hospitality and stayed.

They kept to themselves, but they sent their children to our schools.  I cultivated friendships with them, or so I thought.  My “friends” learned our ways and enjoyed what our planet afforded them.  They grew to know two lives—ours and theirs.  We encouraged them to keep their home traditions.  They responded by sharing with us.

I wish I could say that our lives were richer because of them.  I wish.  But, I can’t.

I don’t remember when it all went wrong.  It just did.  There was no one big thing.  A series of little, inconsequential issues led to—boom—knives in our backs and guns to our heads.  The more I reflect, the more I realize that we were not intolerant.  They had this plan all along.  From the moment they landed, they set their scheme into motion.

They took over everything.  Squished our freedoms like bugs caught in a stampede.  Many of us kowtowed to their demands.  They killed us anyway.  Our blood washed the streets.  Those of us who assimilated became their slaves with short, albeit, gilded chains.  Those of us who bow to no master, they hunt.

A couple of my childhood “friends” found me.  They knew exactly where to look.  Ironic that I kneel in this same soft dirt on which they came.  Because we’re “friends,” they’re giving me another chance to embrace enslavement.  I’d rather die.

The barrel parts my hair.  Their cold authority presses right where my head and neck conjoin.  One soft squeeze and I will purify the ground of their tears.  I’ll die as I lived—free.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Hope, Now in Paperback

What exactly is a Wood Listener?

Beyond being able to communicate with the trees, no one seems to be able to tell Hope what a Wood Listener does, nor can anyone tell her why someone wants to steal her Listener magic and leave her for dead.

The fifth book in the epic fantasy series shifts the focus from Berty to his niece, seventeen year old Hope, as she comes into her own, magically speaking.

Since she first crossed the portal ten years ago, Hope learned to straddle two worlds—the mundane modern world and the magical world in-between the portals.  As the only Wood Listener in centuries, she struggles to find her place in life.  Unbeknownst to her uncle, her parents, and her innocent friend trailing her, Hope stoles into the magical side only to find her place fraught with danger.

Hope (The World In-between, 5) now has a paperback edition available (in addition to the hardcover and ebook editions) where they sell paperbacks (Amazon and Barnes & Noble).

Also available at Kobo, Google Play, Apple, and Smashwords

Friday, May 5, 2017

Weavin' the Dream Home

A blue Victorian similar to the one at 727 Oak Street

While Hope (The World In-between, 5) gets ready for its paperback debut, Dreamweaver (Book 6) plows forward.  The beginning of the sixth book in the epic fantasy series takes place in a dream world modeled on Berty’s world—the day Silvia introduced him to the world in-between the portals—however, he has no memory of the past ten years.  Like in Book 1 (The World In-between), Berty goes to 727 Oak Street to interview the mysterious Silvia.  Unlike Book 1, Berty’s brother, Jon, magically appears to aid his journey.  Or does he?

An excerpt from Dreamweaver (The World In-between, 6) Chapter One Dream Home

Something moved in Berty’s peripheral vision.  When he looked towards the opened door, the old woman had gone.  “Where’d she go?”  He stepped closer to the door.  “Hello?” he called.  Crossing the threshold, he stepped under a brass chandelier.  He stopped himself in the foyer to let his eyes search for the woman.  Unfortunately, they found nothing beyond wood paneled walls, a staircase, and beveled glass doors partially concealed in their pockets.  “Hello?” he called again.
“I don’t think anyone’s here,” said Jon, following him into the house.
“She couldn’t have just disappeared,” said Berty.
Jon shrugged.  He stayed in the foyer while Berty entered the room behind the beveled glass doors.
Eight tall-backed chairs protected a dining room table, free of its cloth.  He strolled around the table, pausing in front of a not-so-Victorian, room warming, stone fireplace.  He imagined the red headed woman sitting across from him as they sipped coffee.  His mind’s eye pictured a delicate cloth covering the wood tabletop.  When he found a swinging door in the back of the room, children’s laughter filled his ears.  He envisioned two girls and a boy running through the door, lapping the table, and through the swinging door again.  Smiling, he pushed the door into a small butler’s pantry.  In a few steps, he found the kitchen.  The redhead walked from the table to the old-fashioned range.  His arms reached for her.  She was only air—a figment of his imagination.
Through another door, he reached a wood paneled hallway that led back to the foyer where Jon waited, muttering to himself.  The first door on his left brought him to a cozy sitting room with book-stuffed shelves and a roll top writing desk.  In front of a window, he pictured a Christmas tree whose top hit the tall ceiling.  Under that tree, the same three children tore off bows and wrapping paper.
When he returned to the hall, Jon nodded to him.  He entered the second door.  In the more formal sitting room, he imagined having drinks with his parents, Jon and Teresa, and Matt with a woman who was definitely not Rachel.  The redhead returned with a tray of snacks.  She placed the tray on a table, then caught Berty’s eye.  He wanted to dive into her pools of brown and kiss her smiling lips.  When she faded, he wanted to tell her to wait, to come back, that he loved her.
Finding himself alone with the couches and tables, he rejoined his brother.  “Find anything?” Jon asked.
“Not the old woman,” Berty answered.  He kept his imagination to himself.
“What do you want to do?” asked Jon.
Pulling his cell phone out of his pocket, he said, “Going to speak to my editor.”  He hit call next to the office number, but nothing connected.  His eyebrows scrunched.  The top corner of the screen showed no bars.  He walked towards his car.  Still no bars.  “I can’t get a signal,” he said.  “What about yours?”
“I don’t have my phone on me.  Don’t exactly need it here,” his brother answered from the porch.
He walked out to the middle of the street.  Nothing.  Returning to the porch, he asked, “Have you seen her?”
Jon shook his head.
Berty sat on the swing tucked into the side of the porch that began its wrap.  He studied Jon leaning against the railing—casual and familiar, as if he knew the porch well.  “I’d feel weird searching upstairs,” he told his brother.
Jon said nothing.
Any earlier anger ebbed, but he still wondered if his brother and father conspired.  “Why are you really here?”
“So, my big bro wouldn’t be alone,” said Jon.  His head tilted.  “If I keep telling you this is a dream, will you eventually believe me?”
Berty rolled his eyes.
“We’d like you to wake up now, Berty.”
His hands raked through his dark hair.  “If this is a dream, how are you in it, telling me to wake up?”
“Fair question,” said Jon.  He took off his glasses, looked at them, then placed them back on his face before continuing.  “It all hinges on you remembering what really happened from the time you arrived for this interview until the time you fell asleep.”
“Uh-huh.”  He did not know what to make of his brother’s tale.  Looking at the empty space on the swing, he imagined the redhead sitting next to him.  When she leaned against his chest, his arms wrapped around her.  She felt like home.  He kissed her dark red hair, breathing in the aroma of summer berry pie.  Who was she?  His eyes flicked to stare at his brother, who, in turn, watched him.
“What?” Jon asked him.
Did Jon know her?  Why did the house affect him so?  Jon knew something, but held back.
“What?” Jon asked again.  “I can see your mind turning.”
How could he be sure that Jon was not also a figment of his imagination?  “I can’t believe Mister Hunter would send me on this interview,” he told Jon.  “The lady is obviously off her rocker.  Since I can’t call anyone, I’m going to head out.  Wanna ride home?”
Jon gave him a weird smile.  “Sure.”
Rising, he said, “I’m just going to stop at the office first.”
Berty dropped his messenger bag in the back seat of his silver sedan.  Joining his brother in the front, he turned the key in the ignition.  Nothing.  He turned it again.  No sound from the engine, not even a grinding noise from the fly wheel.  “Great.  Now, the car won’t start.”  Out of the corner of his eye, he caught Jon’s smirk.  He banged the steering wheel.  “What?” he asked his brother in clipped tones.
“I’m no expert, Berty, but I think you’re meant to be here,” Jon answered.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
Jon removed his glasses, looked at them, then placed them back on his nose.  “Somewhere deep inside, you know you’re dreaming and you’re telling yourself what to do.  Listen to yourself.  Go back inside the house.  Explore it.  Maybe… maybe, there’s something there you’re supposed to find,” he said.  His hand covered his mouth, stifling a yawn.  “I’ll be back later.  Unless, of course, you’ve decided to wake up between now and then.”  He disappeared.
Staring at the empty passenger seat, Berty shook his head.  “That,” he said, pointing, “did not happen.”
After running his hand through his hair a few times, he retrieved his bag then marched back towards the house.  By the time he reached the porch, he half convinced himself that his brother’s appearance was a figment of his imagination.  The front door stood open.  He could have sworn he closed it.  “Hello?” he called into the house.  No answer came.  He stepped over the threshold, closing the door behind him.
He knew no answer would come.  The empty house felt like it waited for someone.  For him?
Having already explored the first floor, he climbed the stairs.  He said, “Hello,” a couple of more times to reassure himself that he was alone.  Children’s laughter echoed in his ears as he peered into bedrooms.  The final bedroom looked to be the master with its large four poster bed and sitting area near the stone fireplace.  The relief design on the stone caught his eye.  He examined the stag in a woodland scene depicted in the fireplace.  It felt significant.  Why?  He sat in one of the wing chairs in front of the fireplace.
Through the windows, sunlight streamed onto a dresser with an attached mirror that rested against the opposite wall.  He could see himself studying himself in the mirror.  His back.  A tattoo.  Why would he get a tattoo?  He shook his head.
Across from him, he imagined the woman with those brown eyes sitting in the second wing chair.  She smiled at him.  He wanted to reach for her hand.  Who was she?  How could he meet her?  He almost heard her laughter.
Perhaps, the house was haunted.  Perhaps, it was all in his mind.  “Ghosts aren’t real,” he told himself.
His eyes rested on the soft looking mattress.  Thoughts of that woman with him in that bed flooded his mind.  His cheeks flushed while other parts of his body tingled.  He rushed out of the room.
Opening a door, he found a back staircase with flights up and down.  He galloped down, then entered the kitchen.  Trying to shake thoughts and calm feelings about that woman, he crossed the room to the back door.  It led to a porch where he surveyed a good-sized, private lawn that stretched beyond a two-story detached garage.  For a second, he wondered if it housed a car he could borrow.  He immediately dismissed the thought, but decided to check anyway.
Berty entered the garage through a side door.  Instead of cars, it held carriages and horse tack.  Curiosity brought him up the stairs that ran along the wall.  Upstairs, he exasperated, “Really?”  His eyes scanned bows, swords, axes, and other weapons from centuries past.  “What’s the point of all this stuff?”  He glanced at a golden field out of a small window.  When he walked to the window to get a better look, a green lawn sprawled to a woodsy boundary.
“Having fun yet?” asked Jon behind him.
He spun.  His brother examined a sword on one of the racks.  “You’re back.  How’d you know where I was?”
Taking the sword off the rack, Jon turned it over in his hand as if admiring it.
“You don’t even know how to use that,” said Berty.
Smiling, Jon answered, “Sure I do.  Pointy end goes in the other guy.”  He chuckled, then returned the sword to its holder.
Tilting his head, Berty scrutinized his brother.  Why did Jon not act like Jon?  Or maybe he did.  Maybe Jon was also a figment of his imagination—a figment who spoke and interacted with him.  Maybe Jon’s words were supposed to help him understand everything.  He wanted to take advantage of his brother’s appearance.  “Question,” he said.  Ignoring the junk in the room, Berty walked towards the stairs.
Jon followed him down the steps.  “What’s up?” he asked.
“I keep,” he began, but paused when he stepped outside the garage.  Berty glanced at the lawn—still green.  “Does golden grass or a golden field mean anything to you?”
Jon froze.  Expelling a breath, he ran up the steps to the porch and held the back door open for him.  “I think we should sit.  Inside.”  Once Berty entered the kitchen, Jon continued, “I’ll explain what I can.”
Shutting to door securely behind them, Jon ushered him into the sitting room where Jon took a seat across from his brother.  Jon removed his glasses, rubbed between his eyebrows, then replaced them.  “Okay.  So,” he started, then adjusted his glasses on his nose.  “This is a dream.  But not just any dream.”  His eyes darted into the hall.  “You fell asleep after walking through the Field of Gold.  In fact, you’re perched over the field.”  His palms pressed his knees.  “I think it might mean you’re remembering.”
“Remembering,” Berty repeated.
“Real life.  Before you fell asleep.”
Berty’s thumb ran along his jawline, stopping at his chin.  “I keep seeing this woman.  She doesn’t say anything or stay around like you do.”
“I’m not in…  Well, actually, I am.  I’m not a product of your mind.  Describe her.”
“Brown eyes.  Dark red hair that’s cut super short.  Beautiful smile.”  An automatic smile swept across Berty’s face.  “Who is she?”
“This is good.”  Jon sounded excited.  “You’re fighting.  You’re trying to break free of this dream.”
“Then, I know her?”
“Very well.”
Tingling ran through his body.  “Good.  Can you tell me her name?”
Jon bit his lip before answering, “Silvia.”
“The woman I was supposed to interview?”
“That’s how you met,” said Jon.  “Ages ago.”
Both hands raked through his dark hair.  Silvia—the woman he loves.  The children he kept seeing throughout the house—theirs?  He wanted to bombard his brother with questions.  “If this is a dream—”
“Which it is,” said Jon.
“How do I—”
The doorbell rang.