Friday, May 25, 2018

Flashback Friday! Death Among the Daffodils

 Flashback Friday is a monthly meme that takes place on the last Friday of the month.
The idea is to give a little more love to a post you’ve published on your blog before.  Maybe you just love it, maybe it’s appropriate for now, or maybe it just didn’t get the attention it deserved when you first published it.

Thanks to Michael d’Agostino, who started it all, there is a solution – join Flashback Friday!

Just join in whenever you like, repost one of your own blog posts, including any copyright notices on text or media, on the last Friday of the month.

I'm still on my mystery kick, and just found another nice cozy mystery in exactly 1000 words (well, including the title).  Watch out for what lurks under the surface in a peaceful little town...


Death Among the Dahlias

“That’s a job for the police.” I said it with all the conviction I could muster, but Marta brushed my objection aside.

“The police in this town haven’t solved a case in years. And they aren’t going to start with this one.”

I’d known she’d argue, of course. Marta always has an answer to my efforts at sanity. We’ve been best friends since about 10 minutes after I came to this town six years ago, and she’s talked me into more crazy stunts than I managed in the whole 45 years before that. But this one took the cake.

“Why on earth wouldn’t they investigate a murder? And how am I supposed to do it?  I don’t know thing one about police technique or chains of evidence or any of that!”

“How hard can it be? Chief Roberts solved a case once,” she said, undercutting her earlier argument. “Remember? That time when someone stole his car?”

The police chief’s ’51 Chevy received quite a bit more love and attention than his wife, who had turned to gardening for her comfort. But for all that—

“He bungled the evidence and the perp got off.”

“Of course he did. It was the Mayor’s son, and they’ve been playing golf together for decades.”

I nodded, because she was right.

“And you’ve solved other mysteries around here,” Marta drove home her argument.

“Locating a missing purse and a runaway dog aren’t quite the same as solving a murder.” I was already planning how to approach it, though. “So who’s been killed?” I hadn’t heard, and even though I’m usually the last to know things, that seemed odd. Word of a murder should have been all over town in about 3 minutes.

“Mrs. McGillicuddy.”

“Who?” I didn’t know anyone by that name. Then, “Oh!” I glared at Marta. “Isn’t that your neighbor’s cat? You can’t murder a cat!”

She had the grace to blush, but protested, “Someone killed the poor thing, and Karl is very upset.”

I could believe that. Karl Haalverson grew prize daffodils, dahlias, and delphiniums. And he doted on his cat, though he didn’t talk much to his neighbors. Leave it to Marta to be the exception.

“It probably got hit by a car. Or died of natural causes.”

“Someone laid it out on his porch on a bed of cut flowers.”

“Probably they found the animal dead and were trying to be nice about it.”

“I don’t think so. They used his best dahlias. The ones he was cultivating for the flower show.”

I was running out of protests. Even if the cat died of natural causes, someone was using it to threaten poor Karl, who was harmless despite a  neighborhood tendency to think his reluctance to talk meant he wasn’t all there.

“He thinks it’s Mrs. Patel,” Marta added.

“Just because she’s Indian,” I began. Marta knows how to yank my chain, and the small-town narrow-mindedness of this place sometimes gets to me. She let me run on a minute about prejudice and hate.

“She’s his main rival for the flower show.”

I shut up. That made sense. I still didn’t believe she’d done it. Mrs. Patel was an inoffensive widow of about 75 years, and her own flowers were remarkable. She treated them much the same way Karl Haalverson treated his cat—lavished love and good food on them, and talked to them more than to her neighbors.

 “What about Kathy Fields? She’s been trying to unseat those two for years.”

After ten minutes, we had a list of seven people who might have a grudge against Karl. It made me wonder who all might resent me or Marta, given how very much more involved we were in town activities. I turned my mind away from that thought.

Marta led me down the street—she lived a block over from me, which is to say, halfway across town—to see the scene of the crime.

“Karl’s locked himself in his kitchen and won’t come out. I said I’d take care of things.”

I didn’t answer. I was staring down at the still form of what had been a magnificent marmalade cat, and to my surprise I was crying.

It was only when I worked up the courage to touch the corpse that I got myself under control and began to see clearly again, literally and figuratively. I examined the injuries thoroughly before gently lifting the animal and laying her in the basket Marta had brought for the purpose. We’d see later where Karl wanted her buried. Then I looked at Marta.

“I’m pretty sure she was hit by a car. So it’s not murder.”

“Thank heavens for that. But who laid her out here, and why?”

“It might have been meant to make Karl feel better?” I didn’t really believe it. I bent over again and picked something out of the nest of flowers. A few were stained with blood, and I shuddered despite myself.

Marta studied the button I was holding out. “That’s from Agnes McDonald’s sweater. She drops buttons wherever she goes.” We looked at each other, confused. Marta said it. “Why would Agnes hurt Karl? She grows tomatoes, not flowers.” And won first prize every year, too.

“Maybe she really was being helpful?” Somehow I couldn’t believe it. Agnes wouldn’t cut Karl’s best flowers even for this. I stared at the pile of flowers a while longer. Some had been ripped up by the roots, destroying the whole plant. I ran over the list of suspects in my mind, until I found the answer. Someone who would destroy the flowers and leave the false clue.

“I know who did it,” I said.


“Oh, come on. Who stands to benefit from ruining Karl’s flowers and turning people against Agnes?”

We both gazed down the street at the one house where flowers and vegetables competed for space in the painfully neat garden.

Mrs. Roberts’ garden.

No, the police would never solve this crime.

I'm sure Karl Haalverson's daffodils look a lot better than this. His fence, too.

©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2018
As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Spotlight: Once, by Ronel Janse van Vuuren

Damsels in distress, curses, echoes of faery tales and tragic love affairs swirl together in sixteen stories found in a dragon’s lair by a curious half-fae.

Unexpected changes to reality causes more than one damsel to turn into a strong, independent woman who takes charge of her own life.

A collection of short stories about Faerie and the fae that live in the human realm. A few of the stories had won competitions and all of them had enchanted readers.
Learn their secrets and enter the realm of the fae…

Title: Once... Tales, Myths and Legends of Faerie
Author: Ronel Janse van Vuuren
ISBN EPUB: 978-0-6399476-2-4
ISBN Paperback: 978-0-6399476-3-1

Out today!
Available on most online retailers.
Also available in Afrikaans as “Eens…”.

Mortals cannot perceive the veil unless they are invited to – or extremely gifted. For centuries, Man and Fae have been kept apart, for nothing good ever comes from them mixing. The collection of The Adventures of Saphira the Faery Dog is proof of this.

Still, there are magical creatures that side neither with Man nor Fae.

Dragons are such creatures. They hold the knowledge of both worlds. Some even collect it in the written word, keeping it safe in their lairs.

An inquisitive half-fae once broke into the lair of a dragon known to hoard books. The knowledge she found was too much to keep to herself…

Here are a few tales, myths and legends from Faerie. Some may sound remarkably similar to legends held by mortals, while others are…  well… as otherworldly as the fae themselves.

About the Author: 
Ronel Janse van Vuuren is the author of New Adult, Young Adult and children’s fiction filled with mythology and folklore. Her dark fantasy stories can be read for free on Wattpad and on her blog Ronel the Mythmaker. She won Fiction Writer of the Year 2016 for her Afrikaans stories on INK: Skryf in Afrikaans. Her published works can be viewed on Goodreads.

Ronel can be found tweeting about writing and other things that interest her, arguing with her characters, researching folklore for her newest story or playing with her Rottweilers when she’s not actually writing.

All of her books are available for purchase on Amazon.

Connect with Ronel on:
Ronel the Mythmaker:

And now... a special interview with the author!

NL: When did you start writing? Did you always know you wanted to be a writer, or did you stumble into it later in life?

Ronel: I’ve always written a couple of stories to entertain myself, but I seriously started writing ten years ago. In that time, I’ve learned how to write properly, created entire worlds, did a lot of research into several folklore creatures, realised in which genre I want to write, and found my voice.

NL: What are your books about and who is the audience?

Ronel: This book, “Once…”, is a collection of short stories about how Faerie changed and the impact on the mortal realm when magic and fae infiltrated it. There are a few original stories steeped in folklore and a couple of fairy tale retellings with a Dark Fantasy twist. My intended audience is New Adult, but I’ve had readers of all ages for the Afrikaans version “Eens…” who bought it for themselves and enjoyed it enough to pass it on to their children and parents.

NL:  Do your stories carry a message?

Ronel: Absolutely. Dark fantasy is all about examining the human condition, looking at the consequences of actions and decisions, and how the beliefs we hold can change the way we see our world. I think “Rumour Has It”, “New Divide” and “Castle of Glass” depict all of this from different points of view about the same moment in Faerie history very well.

NL: Thanks for telling us about your book! Now tell us, what is the best thing about being a writer?

Ronel: Creating worlds, playing “what if?” and talking to my fictional friends.

NL: Yeah, we all like having a good reason to listen to the voices in our heads! Do you draft your books longhand or compose at the keyboard?

Ronel: Longhand. I find that there are fewer distractions when the computer is switched off – no quickly checking emails or updates, no playing around with inspirational images, etc. I then type it and store the original manuscript in a binder…

NL: You talked about doing research for the book. What’s the weirdest thing you’ve had to research for one of your books?

Ronel: I research a lot of folklore, most of it weird, so let me think… Probably the protein value of worms and if they’re a good idea for breakfast. The main character in “The Ashiest Princess” has them for breakfast every morning. Not all that odd: worms are a staple food in many communities.

NL: Well, the birds have worms for breakfast... Do you use a detailed outline before you start writing, or... ?

Ronel: It depends on the story. Some stories insist on being written before I can think about it – it’s like they’re already in my head, just waiting to be written down. Afterwards I do an outline and create a proper plot. Other stories insist on meticulous outlines and research.

NL: You live in South Africa. Since most of my readers are in the US or England, tell us a bit about that!

Ronel: Well, we have sun all year round which means I have to keep the curtains closed in my study or I’ll never get any writing done!

Once everything is dry in the winter months, a few crazies believe that they should burn everything down. It usually starts with a veldfire – and last year it ended with someone setting fire to my property (I live on an agricultural holding with horses, chickens, etc.) that we were lucky enough to stop before it destroyed everything.

There are horrible things in my country – like the endless attacks on farmers – but as long as you keep your head, stay alert and don’t act foolishly, there are so many things to enjoy and savour. We have gorgeous botanical gardens that are open year-round, each season brings its own beautiful plants and temperatures. If you’re an ocean person, we have the warm Indian Ocean on one side and the cold Atlantic Ocean on the other, and that wonderful sight where the two oceans meet and clash. We have forests, deserts, nature reserves, different biomes and animals to visit in their – mostly – natural habitat. You can turn every weekend into an adventure.

There’s so much more to say, but that will take an entire post ;-) In one of my stories in “Once…” I used the desert and forest elements, so it can almost feel like you’re in South Africa while reading “The Fae of Bremen”. Or you can run over a veld (field in South African terminology) with “The Field Mouse”.

Thanks for having me, Rebecca.
 Thanks for coming by! Your description of the country does make me want to visit, especially to watch the two oceans come together. 

Once... is available today, so check it out!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

#Fi50 Heads Up!

Thanks to a lot going on this weekend, we seem to have forgotten to post our usual heads-up for Fi50. So here it is.

Fiction in 50 is a regular feature in the last week of every month and I invite any interested composers of mini-narrative to join in!
fiction in 50   image Fiction in 50 NEW BUTTON

What is #Fi50? In the words of founder Bruce Gargoyle, "Fiction in 50: think of it as the anti-NaNoWriMo experience!" Pack a beginning, middle and end of story into 50 words or less (bonus points for hitting exactly 50 words).

The rules for participation are simple:

1. Create a piece of fictional writing in 50 words or less, ideally using the prompt as title or theme or inspiration. Bonus points for hitting 50 exactly.
That’s it! But for those who wish to challenge themselves further, here’s an additional rule:

2. Post your piece of flash fiction on your blog or (for those poor blog-less souls) add it as a comment on the Ninja Librarian’s post for everyone to enjoy. 
And for those thrill-seekers who really like to go the extra mile (ie: perfectionists):

3. Add the nifty little picture above to your post (credit for which goes entirely to ideflex over at or create your own Fi50 meme pic…
and 4. Link back here so others can jump on the mini-fic bandwagon.
At this time, I haven't been able to find a source for a free linky-list, so it's just comments. I recommend posting your basic blog link below, with the day you post your Fi50 story. You can also add a link in the comments on my story, posted the next-to-last Sunday of the month. Feel free to Tweet using the #Fi50, though I'll not lie: the Ninja Librarian is a lousy tweeter.

The May prompt is: 
"The End is in the Beginning."
You can use the prompt as a title, or not. Really, there aren't many rules, other than 50 words or less.