Welcome to our January issue!
From the darkest nights of our ancestors’ caves to the longing inside our hearts today, our thoughts live in a place of magic. There are always questions that are unexplainable, whether in our daily lives or our fantastical dreams. This month, our authors explore those places.
The Amuse Bouche Review Team
Feature: Finding the Magic (Renée Gendron) Fiction
Magic (Louise Sorensen) Essay
Intents and Purposes (A.P. Miller) Fiction
Delightfully Mundane Magic (Crystal L. Kirkham) Fiction
Space and Time Books (Melissa “Yi” Yuan-Innes) Fiction
New Year, New Vision (Aedyn Brooks) Essay
Gil’s Miracle (D.W. Hitz) Fiction
Recent Videos from AMBR Contributors (January 2021)
Team Showcase from AMBR Contributors (January 2021)
Flash Fiction Contest from AMBR Contributors (Contest Announcement)
by Renée Gendron (@ReneeGendron)
A loud clatter woke Ciro. He bolted upright in bed and reached for the empty spot beside him on the bed. The spot where Gesine had been last night, scorching his skin with her touch. His pulse hammered his throat, blocking air from reaching his lungs.
“Where is it?” Gesine’s voice chased away the fog of his thoughts.
“What are you doing?” His first words of the day cracked his voice, leaving his throat raw. He looked at his girlfriend, tossing clothes over her shoulder.
“Where is it?”
“Where’s what?” He swung his legs over the edge of the bed, and the cool morning air caressed his skin. He reached down for his trousers, in a pile on the
floor and pulled them on.
“You know how important the presentation is to me. I need the stabiliser.”
The stabilser. The only thing he’d been hearing about for months now. A piece of junk she’d found on an expedition, an artefact that lit up and made the holders’ hand tingle. “I have no idea.”
“How could you?” The words gathered in her mouth and reached a shrill note that made his pet parrot on his perch near the window stir and flap his wings.
“I didn’t touch the damn thing.” He shrugged on a wrinkled dress shirt and turned to face her.
She learned down and looked under her desk. Her grey pants stretched over her bottom, revealing every sensuous curve. Of course, she had to wear that suit, the one that clung to her like a layer of skin.
A low masculine growl started in his belly, but still came out on a puff on air.
“You know how important this meeting is. I’ll present my research. I could get more funding.” She looked over her shoulder at him, and her brown eyes flashed something hot and wicked.
“I didn’t touch it.” But if he had his way, she’d research something else. Something that didn’t require a trek through heavily armed guerrilla-infested jungles to some remote site searching for dusty artifacts no one knew anything about.
She stood, smoothed the front of her silk blouse just enough to stretch the fabric over her lush breasts.
The painful words they’d exchanged last night were still raw in his mind. The distinct aroma of vanilla-hazelnut coffee wafted through the air. He couldn’t stand the stuff, but it was her favourite.
“Have you eaten?” He opened Sam’s birdcage and reached inside, offering Sam a finger. The blue parrot stepped onto the mobile perch.
“I asked, have you eaten?” Ciro raised Sam to his shoulder, and Sam took his place.
“What?” She whirled around the room, pawing over his work desk, and the drawers of each nightstand, and then fell to her knees to look under the bed.
“You’ll think better if you’ve eaten.”
She sighed. A low, slow sigh. One that could fan wildfires.
“Right. Food first.” He walked down the hallway to the kitchen, chopped up some fruit for Sam and poured some seeds into his bowl. Sam fluttered from Ciro’s shoulder to the counter.
She followed close behind, her features drawn in a combination of worry and bewilderment. Her gaze swept the overturned room and landed on her leather briefcase.
“Food first.” He cut off a hunk of butter, placed it in the frying pan, and cracked open three eggs. “Quesadilla or omelet?”
“You’re scrambled enough.” The corners of his mouth twitched, but hers straightened. “What does that thing do again?”
“You don’t listen, do you?”
The muscles in his shoulders tightened, and his chin rose a fraction of a centimetre. That’s all he’d been doing, listening. Listening to her talk about expeditions. Listening to her efforts at securing more funding. Listening to her prepare speeches and presentations about how ground-breaking that rock found in South America was.
An artifact with unknown properties. Generates light without a known power source. Has markings from an unknown language. Needs more time and more funding. Needs more staff to figure things out. Must travel back to the jungle.
Their love? Months ago. Long months spent exchanging text messages and emails and stolen moments of good internet connections through video chats.
Last night’s conversation swirled by his ears, a tornado of needs, musts, missing her.
“Sit.” He plated her food and turned to face her.
She sat at the kitchen bar, two cups of coffee in front of her. Sam squawked his delight at the red grape she held up for him.
Ciro sipped his coffee. Black. Straight. Strong enough to tar a roof. A knot of tension eased in his throat. His gaze slid to the single-cup coffee maker. “When was the last time you saw it?”
“I was rehearsing my speech in the living room.” She pushed scrambled eggs around on her plate.
“You’ll do fine. There’s no one on your team that knows their stuff better than you.”
A weak smile parted her cherry lips. What was it she’d told him? That shade of red made her feel powerful. Strange. It was her smile that brought him to his knees.
“You’re not eating?” She pushed her plate between them.
“I will, after you’ve eaten, and you’ve found your presentation.”
Fine lines curved her mouth, tugging on her lips until a smile reached her eyes. There it was. Sunshine on a crimson horizon.
“They were delicious.” She swivelled off her seat and went to her bag.
“Is it in there?” He strode towards the couch, knelt, and swept his hand under it.
“It won’t be there.” Urgency filled her voice.
His fingertips grazed something. A file. Or papers. Or a book. Something. “There’s something here.”
“It’s not it.” Each word was double-underlined and in bold.
Her feet came into the edges of his vision, and she placed her hands on his shoulders, a gentle tug to ease him away.
“No. It’s just here.” He stretched a little farther, enough to press his fingertips into the paper, press it against the floor, and scrape the page to him. He pulled it out from under the sofa and examined it.
Blueprints for a house. One with a large annex with floor to ceiling windows and glass ceilings to allow the afternoon light in. Three bedrooms, one art annex, and an office for her.
The couch cushions wheezed as she flopped onto it, her hand draped over his shoulder. He stared at the house, inspecting its design. A well thought out design that made use of light and space. Open yet private. Built for work but designed for the comforts of home.
He knelt before her, a thousand questions on his lips, but lacking the courage to ask one.
“I was…” Her sentence trailed off, then she straightened her shoulders. “I was going to present you the designs after I received confirmation of funding.”
He opened his mouth to speak, but she placed a finger on his lips to shush him. “I know you don’t like it when I’m gone for weeks on expeditions. With this house and the space it has, I thought I could work from home more often. Save time on the commute. Spend more time with you.”
He kissed her finger and cupped her hand. No words were strong enough to fight through the emotions choking him. Instead, he leaned forward and claimed her mouth in a tender kiss.
A pink glow filled the room, warming his skin. Startled, he pulled away from and turned his head towards the source. It was the dusty piece of junk stabiliser lying by her shoes at the door.
“We’ve found the magic,” she said, and claimed his mouth in a kiss that turned the glow cherry red.
by Louise Sorensen (@louise3anne)
Because there are many worlds in the Multiverse, Magic is known by many names.
In our world, it’s called Physics. In other worlds, Mathemagic.
Telepathy is the magic that allows the thoughts of one to be known immediately to another, or enables mind control, if one is stronger than the other.
Manifesting, creating something out of apparently nothing, involves getting all the atoms needed to cooperate and coalesce together.
Flying and teleporting involve displacing an atom or group of atoms from one location to another.
I read a little about Quantum Physics, and I’m no wizard, but Mathemagic is a hobby of mine.
My friend Raine practices Mathemagic.
She took her name from the phrase ‘it droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven.’ She said there was no way she could pull off the name Mercy, but liked Rain, as it was twice blessed, and added an ‘e’ on it to make it her own. In her world, she says she needs every blessing she can get.
Her specialty is healing. She can heal broken bones while you wait, share her life energy to stave off death, and even push back old age. She can also float and fly, though she doesn’t like to, throw curses that actually work, though there may be blowback, skip from world to world across the multiverse, and manipulate the physical. She says her magic follows the rules of mathemagic, but she’s such an old hand at it that she does most of it by instinct. No fancy chants or eye of newt required. She says if you’ve got it, you’ve got it. She communicates with me by telepathy and dreams.
My magic is the ability to receive the stories of Raine and others like her, and record them for readers in my universe. I wish I was more like Raine, but she wants everyone to know that everything comes with a cost, and to be happy with what we have.
Some people might call her my muse, but I would call her my un-Muse because she gives me only fragments of her story, and I have to work hard to fit the pieces together. Fortunately, I like puzzles.
Another person I know who has a different kind of magic is Piper. She’s a retired Kindergarten teacher and her health isn’t good, but she discovered the ability to dreamwalk. It was a lot harder than it should have been as there was a serial killer lurking around her, but by using her powers in dreams she saved her world from an alien invasion.
I’ve received the stories of both people and creatures from so many different worlds that I can’t even remember all their names. Most of the stories are small slices of their lives.
In ‘Platinum Jungle Cat,’ catastrophe hits a decrepit old mining ship.
‘A Sadness Runs Through Him,’ is the story of a man who doesn’t die.
‘Miri,’ is the tale of an old lady, who’s the first to try out her daughter’s greatest invention.
And then there’s ‘Darla of Deodanth,’ whose middle name must be Adventure. Two of her tales are out and about, a third is still at home with me.
Lisa and Mike are paramedics in ‘Ragged Angels,’ who encounter more than they could ever have imagined in a series of ambulance calls.
Based on true events, ‘Lucky’ is the story of a little guy who was lost, and then found. He didn’t have an easy time, and neither did the person who found him, but in the end they came to an understanding.
There are many more, but one person who has my attention at the moment is Leela, a young woman who set out for a vacation, and was hijacked in a way our world has only dreamed of, by an AI and a rogue. It was absolutely not the vacation she was looking for. Her story ‘Dragon,’ is still with me.
I used to paint pictures worth a thousand words, but now my magic lets me paint stories with a thousand words. Often many more.
We all have magic. I have a lot of fun with mine. Here’s to you finding yours.
by A.P. Miller (@Millerverse)
Allegheny Mountains, Pennsylvania – 1692
The dying light of the late October day had hues of orange swirling with green. The atmosphere above the cloud cover was sinister and something wicked brewed in the clouds. The wind was sickly sweet like honeysuckle had been imbued with venom.
Michael Knott approached the mouth of Roper’s Forest, taking the warning haphazardly painted on the rudimentary lumber sign in. “Turn Back, Nothing Revering the Lord Lives Here.” A lump formed in Michael’s throat — not for the warning he was about the disregard, but for the time before he’d ignored the warning. Michael’s return trip to Roper’s Forest was to pay a debt for a service he’d contracted in the season prior and the reality of ruin was gripping him with want.
There was no point for Michael to ask for the Lord’s blessing, he’d already forsaken such divine favor the first time he’d traversed through the angry thicket and uncertain path. With a deep breath, he trespassed the signs warning.
By the time Michael reached Juniper Landing, the light of day had surrendered to twilight, the herald of the evening. The moon already stood proud in the night sky and cast its sallow glow over everything unobscured by the trees. The landing was a perfect circle of ground where nothing grew, only sharp rocks jutting from the ground in a perfectly timed geometric pattern.
When Michael was a boy, he’d heard tales that the ground had been perverted for the sake of conjuring entities that sought dominion on the Earth. The townspeople warned their young to avoid the landing if they valued their eternal salvation. In the throes of malicious passion, Michael sought out the landing and those who reveled in its secular comfort.
Sat on the tallest rock was a young woman clad in a sheer dress, her eyes cast longingly to the moon like she craved its affection. Bethesda was her name. Bethesda Eventide, a woman who subsisted on only the sustenance and shelter provided by Roper’s Forest, a woman who needed nothing from the towns or cooperatives that surrounded her exile of choice.
“Have you come to curse me, Michael? Demand that I didn’t uphold my end of the bargain and that you are absolved of payment?” Bethesda asked, her eyes still fixated on the moon.
“No,” Michael said, lowering his eyes. “Your consideration of our contract has been fulfilled. I have come to deliver mine.”
Bethesda turned towards Michael, her green eyes so bright they surely produced light of their own. “Oh, Michael. She hurt you. How wounded you must be.”
Michael said nothing.
Bethesda removed herself from her perch on the rock and took confident barefoot steps to where Michael stood. The corners of her mouth turned down and her brow furrowed. She pitied Michael.
“Can you tell me, did I do something wrong?” Michael asked.
“Of course you did and I tried to warn you. The magic you asked for was simple, but steadfast, as all magic is. You asked for the magic that would soften a woman’s heart to your affections, but your intent was all wrong. You said you wanted unconditional love, but you desired unconditional surrender. You didn’t want a heart to be receptive to yours, Michael, you wanted to enslave a woman’s will,” Bethesda said.
Michael frowned and his gaze lowered deeper. “I am a poor deceiver.”
“That you are, Michael. It would have been better to desecrate your own altar than to enter mine with intent to delude. Magic demands balance and it must have taken exactly what it had given, considering you were in deficit with your intent and purpose.”
“Yes, it had,” Michael said.
“Dare I ask what demand the magic made of you?” Bethesda asked, her concern sincere in her voice.
“Margot recognized she was enchanted and threw herself at the priest’s mercy, demanding to be executed for the heresy that had been committed against her,” Michael said.
“She was given a witch’s execution then?”
“She was. As the pyre was lit, she pleaded for forgiveness from her husband for allowing herself to be ensnared by the entrapments of evil, how she would have never entered my bed had she not been bewitched. As the flames were lit, she screamed prayers and declared her punishment too lenient for her sins. I can still smell her burning flesh,” Michael said.
“And what social sanctions have you experienced?” Bethesda asked.
“I was accused of fraternization with agents of evil. My home was burned and my livestock slaughtered. I barely escaped with my life.”
“But have you escaped with your life, Michael?”
“I suppose not,” Michael said, remembering the terms of their agreement. Bethesda would prepare the ceremony to ensnare the woman and Michael would spend all his time with her in uninterrupted bliss, but the moment their union ended, Michael would return to Bethesda to deliver the offering of his seed and his blood.
Bethesda looked to the Moon again. “Was there any time when you felt the woman was yours?”
“It was brief, but yes. In her eyes, she looked upon me the way I always wanted to be looked upon, like she had given herself to me completely. In that second of surrender, she realized what abject horror she had been party to and left my bed with not long left to live,” Michael said.
“Balance. Perfect balance,” Bethesda said with a sigh. “Hopefully the offspring you father will carry the generational lesson you have learned. When they see the ashes of your effigy, I will tell them about your lesson with reverie.”
“That is a kindness I don’t deserve,” Michael said.
“Intent, Michael. I intend to spread love and kindness through this world, that is the balance to your deception,” Bethesda said.
“The only request I have: make my end the one Margot thought she deserved.”
by Crystal L. Kirkham (@canuckclick)
When it comes to magic, a lot of authors tend to reach for the fantastical side of it, but sometimes magic can be an everyday thing. It’s one of the things you can have fun with when considering a magical world.
When writing Feathers and Fae, I enjoyed creating a bit of “mundane magic” in the everyday of the world of Mythos, a place of all thing magical. So, without further ado, a snippet from chapter two of Feathers and Fae:
The sun was shining high in the sky before they wandered out of their rooms to the public house below. Last night, they had seen a few creatures that had caused Kami’s eyes to widen, but they had all been at a distance. Walking into the public house, they were faced with a lot of oddities eating a late morning meal. Emmett noticed Kami’s hesitation when she saw the collection of creatures in the room. He grabbed her by the elbow and guided her to a seat in the corner, doing his best to block her view of the other patrons.
“Relax. Think of them as your strange cousins.” Emmett pushed her into a chair at an empty table as far from the other customers as possible.
“It’s covered in hair and nine feet tall.” Her eyes flipped from one exotic creature to another. “And that thing over there looks like a reject from one of my worst nightmares and—”
“Relax, she is a yeti and he is leyak,” Emmett explained, trying to speak to her in the most soothing voice he could manage without drawing any attention to himself.
“Its lungs are dragging on the floor.”
“It used to be a cannibal of the human variety. It’s probably been a long time since it had the chance to feed on real human flesh so if I were you, I would keep my voice down,” Emmett growled. Kami opened her mouth to say something, but decided it was better to say nothing and closed her mouth again. “Good. Most of the creatures that you’ll find in towns and civilized areas are just that—civilized. So, don’t worry.”
Emmett sat down in the other seat and glanced at the leyak from the corner of his eye. They weren’t usually found in Mythos since they were technically the undead. It should have been in Immortui—the realm that belonged to such creatures. Although, it wasn’t entirely unheard of for the undead to find their way into Mythos. Emmett couldn’t help but wonder that if the leyak was in this realm, could its queen, Rangda, be here as well? That was not a thought he relished, but he didn’t think a creature like that would ever be able to crossover.
“What can I get you folks?” Their server looked like a female version of Dyff. He could only assume that this woman was his wife or a relative of sorts. Either way, it was apparent that they were of the same species. She waited patiently for one of them to speak.
“Eggs scrambled and topped with cheese, bacon soft, shredded hash browns with onions and mushrooms and topped with more cheese. A large mug of blue mountain coffee, medium roast. Oh, and toast. Dark rye toast with extra butter.” Emmett thought a little more about his order. “Could you throw in a stack of pumpkin pie pancakes with maple syrup and a bowl of fruit as well? Kami?”
Kami looked at him like he had lost his mind. Emmett suppressed his laughter at her confusion, but he couldn’t stop his grin from spreading. “This is Mythos—the realm of all things magical. I’m pretty sure they could make anything your stomach desires.”
“Anything? Anything at all?” Kami asked.
“Pretty darned near anyway.” Their server grinned. “We’ve got an incredible kitchen witch working for us. You should see the things she comes up with on her own. I swear some of those ethnic fusions are to die for, although if you’re not careful that could happen. Not every species can eat the same thing.”
“Well then,” Kami smirked. Emmett knew she was about to take full advantage of the situation. “I’ll have an order of Belgian waffles made with a touch of cinnamon and served with a side of maple berry compote and a large bowl of whipped cream. Bacon, lots of it, extra crispy. A pitcher of fresh squeezed navel orange juice. And throw in a side of chicken fried steak with that. Cream gravy, of course. And ummm….”
“And that will probably be more than enough,” Emmett laughed. “Thanks.”
“Sure enough. I should have it all in about fifteen minutes. Holler if you need anything else.” She waddled over to the kitchen to give their order to the kitchen witch. True to her word, their table was heaped with food in a short time. They dug in with gusto; both aware that they had no idea what their future would bring. For all either of them knew, this could easily be their last meal together.
They leaned back in their chairs with bellies bulging and let out contented sighs of relief. Emmett sipped at his coffee as Kami nibbled on another piece of bacon. They polished off most of what they had ordered. Emmett closed his eyes and enjoyed the moment for what it was before anything could ruin it.
by Melissa “Yi” Yuan-Innes (@dr_sassy)
This is one of my most beloved stories. A bookstore was commissioning an anthology. I read up on the plight of independent bookstores and thought, What if we had a sentient bookstore? And magic? By the time I finished the story, the anthology deadline had passed, but I sold “Space and Time Books” to Weird Tales, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine (Australia), and Futuristic Canada. I present the opening here. The whole story can be purchased online at all e-tailers.
Space and Time Books awoke at dawn. This August morning had the grey-blue, cloudy sky of a Turner painting. Though the bookstore had never stirred from Montreal’s Sherbrooke Street, it knew about Turner paintings from osmosis. Each book constantly whispered its words, pausing only when the owner, John Tsui, came to the doorstep. The bookstore concentrated on John measuring out the coffee. The rich smell of coffee, it thought, was worth a thousand words.
John pored over the accounts, shaking his head. The bookstore took no notice; John always grunted before his first coffee.
Nathalie came in, shaking the rain from her umbrella. “Hello, love. What’s the damage?”
“Worse than I thought.”
She read over his shoulder, her fingers laced in his black hair.
He brought her hand to his lips. Her burgundy nail polish harmonized with the oak bookshelves. The bookstore hummed. It liked harmony.
He shook his head. “I can’t do this any more. It’s not fair to you.”
She laughed. “To me?”
“You can’t throw your money away on my store.”
She linked her hand with his. “It is my money. I will throw it away how I like. On this store. On supporting you as you write your novel. On pain au chocolat.”
“Nat, it’s not a joke.”
She stopped smiling. “Neither is this.”
He snorted. “Space and Time Books.”
The bookstore stopped humming. It usually ignored human voices, but this was different.
“Will we still have our Hallowe’en party?” Nathalie asked.
He sighed. “I guess. Our rent is paid until December, and I’ll have to sell off the stock.”
The door’s bells rang. It was a girl with dyed black hair and a boxload of books.
“Hi, Maggie. I’m not taking anything right now.”
“Aw, come on.” She dumped the wet box on the counter. “Nathalie?”
“Well, we have Anne Rice, and poetry…what’s this? The Basic Book of Spells?” Nathalie lifted out a book with a black leather cover. It was warm, and she recoiled.
“Mmm. I don’t think we need any of these.” She looked at John.
“All right, I’ll look around.” She came back with a kids’ book. “Bruno and Boots! How much?”
She stuck her tongue out. “Can I trade for the book of spells?”
John shook his head and showed her a Hallowe’en party notice. “Want to come?”
“Yeah, maybe. See ya!” She dashed into the rain. Nathalie brought out the coffee. They clinked their mugs and kissed, but then the bells rang again.
“Hopeless to get any action here,” John said. He went to help the guy. Nathalie noticed the spell book forgotten on the table and, with a grimace, dropped it in the back room.
The bookstore was perturbed. Finally, a decent owner, books with good vibrations, and now this! Money, the root of all evil. It was a quote from one of the books. The store rounded up some business tomes. They loved to talk and straighten their covers importantly, but the gist was, independent bookstores were closing their doors. Big bookstores were getting bigger discounts, buying up first print runs and returning them, and generally not playing fair.
The Basic Book of Spells lay silent.
“Look at that,” a mutual funds book whispered, spine shuddering. “Someone has to invoke her.”
The bookstore called out, “With the powers invested in me by the books I hold, I invoke you!”
She creaked open. “What is it you want, Space and Time Books?” Dust billowed out with each word.
The bookstore hesitated. “A solution. Money, I suppose.”
“There will be a price. First, you must think of the solution yourself. Second, you may only invoke me three times. And third, you will pay me.”
The next morning, John drank coffee and tried to write his novel about a robot mission. He looked up when a nickel bounced off the door frame and rolled inside.
He handed the nickel back to a little girl. She sniffled in thanks.
A bearded man bought a postcard and left his wallet on the counter. John sighed, called the guy’s number, and left a message.
An elderly woman crept in.
“Can I help you, Mrs. McGarrigle?”
“No, John, I don’t need help.” She whispered, “I won the lottery!”
He could smell the alcohol. “Congratulations! What will you do with it?”
Her face crinkled. “I’m not sure.”
“Well, just tell me all about it afterward.” He put an arm around her.
Her voice was small now. “Could I use your bathroom?”
When he went in later, a crumpled lottery ticket lay on top of the toilet tank. He put it in an envelope for Mrs. McGarrigle.
“It’s not working.”
“It’s not my fault.” The Book of Spells ruffled her pages.
“I mean, you can’t just make other people give him money, he’s too honest.”
“Money has to come from somewhere. It doesn’t grow on trees.”
“I know.” The bookstore couldn’t remember which book had said that. “How about … making me attractive to people, so there’ll be lots of customers?”
She snorted, a snap of pages. “I guess I could try a love spell. I’ve never done it on a building before.”
by Aedyn Brooks (@aedynbrooks)
How many times have you wanted to hit the reset button on your life? Some set New Year’s resolutions and by mid-March the drive, want, need that drove that resolution may have waned. Who wouldn’t want to reset 2020? Am I right?
For me, 2020 provided an abundance of time to decide what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. With zero commute, I’ve been able to roll out of bed twenty-minutes before I start my day job as a data analyst. That extra hour I’d spent in traffic means I can read until midnight…or later. It means I’ve taken few sick days because I’ve powered through not breathing on coworkers. Since I was still of sound mind (I know, debatable most days, but work with me here), I soldiered on. The other day, I calculated I could take every Friday off in 2021 and still have six days of vacation left over. And that got me thinking. What could I do with my life with only working four days a week for someone else?
You see, envisioning possibilities is like someone handing you a magic wand and saying…go for it! Lottery-winning imagining.
Every January I make a vision board that focuses on what I want to accomplish. Some folks go through old magazines and cut out pictures and physically paste them onto construction board. I do mine digitally because I can copy/paste ten times faster than I can looking through old dusty magazines. Not to mention, I can put anything in a search engine and bring up a billion images to select from. My Pinterest account has over 100 boards. Yes, I’m a pinaholic and I’m proud of it. Some people may be discerning on what they save. I save everything that I like. Quotes are a personal favorite. I love wisdom in little nuggets. My 2020 board was full of words. I also picked a word for each month to focus on. Affirmations are like food for my soul. They nourish and center my energy when I get frazzled or stressed.
Aedyn Brooks – 2020 Vision board
What you think about, comes about. If you tell yourself something horrible is going to happen, it will. Guaranteed. You expect the worst. The worst will appear and hurt you. So, I learned a long time ago, if you think positively, your odds of having positive things happen improve significantly.
Back in the mid-2000s, I wanted a new job. I wasn’t being forced out of the one I had, but I wanted a change and shift in my life. A job that brought a significant raise would be better. I started saying several times a day, “A perfect job, for perfect pay, is coming my way.” I applied and interviewed for several jobs, and in the back of my mind, I kept repeating that ditty. There were interviews that I walked out of and thought—nope, this one isn’t for me and scratched it off the list. In the end, I got a new job and a 15% raise, which was unheard of for women where I worked.
If you look at my vision board, you’ll notice that in 2020 I focused primarily on publishing. I wanted to get out of my way, set my fears aside, and finally do what I’d been working toward for five years. As a perfectionist, I had to step boldly into a dimension I’ve never been. Be vulnerable. Yes, it was scary. Yes, I wanted to rethink it a million times. Wise authors told me that my book will still have errors, no matter how many times I read it and they were right. I asked for my readers to send me their feedback and any typos they found. So far, only two errors found. Hallelujah! The world did not implode. I did not get swallowed into the multiverse. The Highlander did not appear and cut me down with his sword. I lived to write another day.
Now, when you make a vision board, you look at all the pieces you want to bring to your life. Don’t focus on the minutia, the steps that go into making each part of your wish list. Focus solely on the end game. The big house on 20 acres. The completed master’s degree. Writing four new novels in one year. After you’ve created your vision board, then you can start thinking of what steps need to be accomplished to get you closer to what I envision for your life. Break them down into quarters, then into months, weeks, and days—if necessary.
I’d written the best book I possibly could and had it professionally edited and proofread. I brainstormed, researched how-to articles, watched YouTube videos, and studied author’s self-publishing checklists. Then I started tackling that list step-by-step. As I’d conquered one step, I’d learn of another thing I needed to do. I didn’t let it deter me. My eye was on the prize. I also set a deadline and even though I pushed it out a bit further than I’d originally planned—I still accomplished my goal. I published my first novel in November 2020.
One significant thing I do that keeps me focused is daily affirmations. These are little anecdotes that you say several times a day. I own several affirmation decks (available on Amazon, Etsy, etc.). I’ll pull a new card each week and I stay focused on that word. I say it when I wash my face in the morning, when I stir my coffee, every time I’m waiting for my work computer to log into an application or save a document. My work computer works through firewalls—and it takes several minutes per document. I can get frustrated or I can stay focused on my positive word of the week. For instance, this week’s word is Joyful. I choose to be joyful in this moment. May I bring joy to everyone I speak to today. It’s also better than negative self-talk or cussing at an inanimate object.
Every year is made up of little moments. Dream big. Visualize your dream. Then take one step toward that dream every day. Before you know it, you’ll be crossing things off your to-do lists, publishing your novel, or getting your dream job. Just stay focused on what matters most to you.
May 2021 bring you all that you hope and work toward. #YouGotThis
by D. W. Hitz (@dustinhitz)
Gil lifted the book from the counter. Its light blue cover was weathered and cracked. There were impressions where text had once been on the front, back, and spine, but all legibility was gone.
He opened it. The first page was blank. The second read Gil’s Miracle.
“What the Hell?”
Susan had said at dinner she bought the book because it seemed to be calling to her. She picked it up at the thrift store when she opened it and saw it was titled Susan’s Miracle.
“How weird is that?” she had said at dinner. “It felt like it wanted me to find it, and it has my name in the title?”
But it wasn’t her name in the title. Gil wondered if this was her being sneaky. Their anniversary was coming up in a week. Was this a gift for him, and she was trying to throw him off the trail when he spotted it in her bag?
Gil hoped he was right. Despite their tenth anniversary being a week away, they were rarely as pleasant to each other as they had been tonight. He even feared she was seeing someone else.
Gil took a seat in his recliner and flipped to the next page. The story began.
# # #
It was a tiny little village on the edge of a sleepy little river. Not many people lived there, but those who did were happy. Their crops were strong and bountiful. Their livestock were plump and healthy. And their wells were full of sweet, delicious water. All except for a man named Gil.
Gil lived in the last row of cottages, just before the end of the village. He lived where the cobble ended, and rough-packed dirt began. His crops were thin and strained. His well was shallow, and its water tasted of earth and sulfur. And his cows and chickens seemed to grow slimmer by the day.
Gil grumbled as he woke in the morning. He grumbled as he tended his fields and his cows. He hated where he lived. He hated the entire village. How did they have it so good, and he had it so poor? He was convinced it was the land. He was the last to move to the village, and his lot, the last one available. He wondered if it was cursed.
Susan, Gil’s wife, on the other hand, was pleasant and affable. Her smile carried her through town with an infectiously cheery disposition. She was so welcomed in town that that’s where she spent most of her time. And Gil was suspicious of that.
It was a day like so many others when the stranger came and changed Gil’s fortune. Gil was in the field, cursing the dry, rocky soil. Susan was off in town, visiting the butcher, the cobbler, and the tailor.
The stranger strode from the hard dirt road and hopped over the fence into Gil’s garden. His long legs swung, spreading his overcoat and kicking up dust as his boots landed.
Gil lifted his head from his curses and greeted the stranger with a sneer. He didn’t like the look of this man. He didn’t like his tall top hat, his clean-shaven face, or his shiny boots.
“What do you want?” Gil snapped.
The stranger smiled. He lifted his hat and set it back upon his head. “Only to give you a hand, my friend.”
“You want to work in my garden?”
“No, no, no.” The stranger took a step back. “I just wanted to pass along a small bit of advice.”
Gil could have sworn he saw a flash of light in the stranger’s eyes. “Advice? I’ve been doing this for twenty years—what do you know about it?”
“Let’s just say, I’ve seen this before.” The stranger winked. “I bet you got the last lot in town, right?”
“I bet all the other lots are greener, with better soil and better water?”
“I bet you feel that it’s cursed.”
“My friend, you’ve been scammed. Your land is cursed.”
“What do you know?” Gil shuffled in his stance. How could this man know how he felt? How could he know there was a curse?
“I have a sense about these things. And I can help you fix it.”
“For a price, I bet? How much?”
“Of course, there’s a price, but nothing you’ll ever miss.”
Gil’s heart sped up. Was there really a fix to all his problems? “So, what is it? How do I fix this?”
The stranger reached into his coat and retrieved a book. It was light-blue and marbled. On its cover, crisp, golden letters read Gil’s Miracle.
Gil pointed. “It’s got my name on it.”
The stranger handed Gil the book.
“What do I do with this?” Gil flipped through the pages with his dirt-stained hands. They were all empty. “There’s no words here.”
“Think of this as a wish list,” the stranger said. “All you have to do is write a story in this book about the man named Gil. Whatever you want to have—write it, give it to Gil, and then it will become yours.”
“Really?” Gil looked at the book. There was no way. He’d heard of curses and magic and strangers bringing blessings, but it could never happen to him. “So I just write a story?”
“Well, there is one more thing.” The stranger gazed at the clouds above. “You’re story must be part of a sacrifice to come true.”
“Of course. You have to give to get.”
“Try this. Kill one of your chickens. Use its blood. Write for Gil to have better crops. See what happens.”
The stranger tapped the side of his head. “You won’t miss a chicken. You’ll have a tasty dinner and have nothing to lose if I’m wrong. But if I’m right, you could wake up the next morning with healthy corn and cabbage and beans.”
“Huh…” Gil’s mind began to revel in the idea of thick, healthy crops.
The stranger turned and walked away. He hopped over the fence and began down the road, out of town. “Oh,” the stranger said, “one more thing.”
“Keep in mind, the bigger your desire for good ol’ Gil, the bigger your sacrifice must be.” The stranger faced away and walked.
“What does that mean?” Gil said.
The stranger didn’t answer. He kept on his way.
When dusk came, Gil and Susan sat down to a chicken dinner. That night, Gil wrote in the book. And just as he was promised, the next day, his corn and cabbage and beans were large, strong, and healthy.
# # #
“What a strange story.” Gil set the book down in his lap. The floor creaked behind him. “Susan?”
Susan’s hand swung in front of Gil. Her manicured fingers gripped a steak knife as its blade plunged into his heart.
Brady Longmore Author Interview – Renée interviews Brady Longmore about his writing, his inspiration, and his process.
T.O. Burnett Author Interview – Renée interviews T.O. Burnett about his writing, his inspiration, and his process.
J.P. Walters & Lily Zayas Author Reading – Renée presents author readings from J.P. Walters and Lily Zayas.
We at A Muse Bouche Review are thrilled to announce our Flash Fiction Contest! Entries will be accpted until the 15th of the month, and the winner will be included in the following issue.
Please see our Contest Page for details, rules, and specifics.