I Need Your Input

I’ve created several worlds in various genres. I enjoy each of them, which makes it difficult for me to choose which one to expand to a full-length book. So I am turning to you, dear readers, for help.

Which world/storyline would you like to see turned into book form? Please take a moment to click on the poll below. Your assistance is much appreciated.

 

The poll will be up for a week and I will follow the winner, with updates along the way. If you aren’t familiar with some of the stories, each can be found in the sidebar.

Thank you for your help.

J. Milburn

Cognitive Reflection Picture Writing Challenge #25: Explanations

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A thin beam of light pierced through the blind, penetrating Kahtarina’s consciousness. She squirmed and moaned. “Ban!” She sat up, waves of dizziness and nausea causing her to grab the nearest wastebasket. She finished heaving and groaned at the symphony of drummers playing thrash metal in her skull.

She grabbed her head, unfamiliar bandages rough under her fingers. Her eyes widened and she glanced around the room. A monitor with a steady beep…beep sat beside the strange bed she occupied. A tug in her forearm drew her attention, revealing a needle stuck in her vein. She traced the tubing back to an IV-stand behind her. “Where…?”

Further study revealed a well-worn couch along the pea-green wall. Water-stains marred the corner where wall met ceiling, and the baseboard looked to have mold growing right above the dark brown carpet-line. This is no hospital room!

She ripped the IV out of her arm, ignored the vehement protest of her aching body, and stood, shuffling over to the door. She twisted, pulled, and pushed, but the door refused to open. She hurried over to the window, stumbling and barking her shin against the edge of the bed. “Verrek!

She clawed the flimsy plastic blinds off their rods to see iron bars running the length of the pane. She pressed her face as far as she could between two bars to see outside.

The weather seemed much nicer than what she remembered in Amsterdam. People walked along the streets with only light jackets to protect against the breeze, if they wore any protection at all. She watched a couple at a small café hold hands. The man leaned across the table and kissed a girl in a white dress. Where the hell am I?

Memories scratched and scrabbled to find purchase in her mind, to no avail. The pain held them at bay, allowing only small flashes to penetrate its lines. Scruff…running…Anna? What happened to me?

The door handle jostling turned her around, and she pressed her back against the barred windows, eyes frantically searching the room. They settled on the IV-stand, and she dashed over, hefting the cold metal in her hands. The knob turned and the hinges squeaked as it opened. “Kahtarina?”

Kahtarina ran toward the door, swinging the improvised weapon in her hand. She only caught a glimpse of rimless glasses as she felt the impact of metal against arm. “Ow! Merde!” The thin man tumbled to the side and she bolted out the door. “Kahtarina! Wait!”

She ran into a corridor painted the same sickly green as the bedroom, adorned only with a nightstand that held a flowerless vase and large vanity mirror hanging above.  The wall changed into a thick wooden railing that ended in a staircase a few feet away. She started toward her escape route, but a strong hand grabbed her shoulder, pulling her back. “Will you wait a minute?”

Kahtarina thrashed and screamed, throwing her head back and stomping in hopes of breaking her attackers foot. “Let me GO!”

The man wrapped his arms around her and lifted her off the ground. She tried to rake his shins, but met little success without shoes. “Henry Pleasant! HENRY PLEASANT!”

Kahtarina ceased flailing at the name, but still pulled against her assailant’s grasp. He let her go and she stepped away, turning to look at him with suspicious eyes. “What about him?”

Her captor readjusted his glasses her struggles knocked askew. He swept his hand back to indicate the bedroom. Kahtarina’s gaze hardened and she crossed her arms, foot tapping and head shaking. A rueful smile swept his face. “Fine. I’ll tell you here.”

His voice jogged her memory, allowing recent events to flood her mind. “You! You spilled my hot chocolate on me, then chased me down the street! Who are you?”

He held up his hand. “I’m reaching for my badge, okay? Don’t freak out like you did the last time.”

“I didn’t freak out,” she muttered, as he pulled out a black leather wallet.

He flipped it open to show a badge and I.D. card with his picture on it. “My name is Jacoby Rabin, and I’m with INTERPOL.”

Kahtarina’s posture didn’t relax. “Why did you kidnap me?” she spat.

Jacoby cleared his throat and tugged the collar of his shirt. “Uh…about that. Sorry. Although, it was less kidnapping and more placing you into protective custody.”

A questioning eyebrow arched, and he continued. “You know Henry Pleasant.”

She nodded. “He’s a scumbag that cheated on his wife.”

“With you.”

She sighed and threw up her hands. “If you know so much, why are you asking me. Wait…how do you know so much?”

“INTERPOL monitors certain people with…special skill sets that we suspect hire out for…certain jobs.”

Kahtarina frowned at the cryptic response. She closed her eyes as she parsed through Jacoby’s words. Her eyes snapped open as the meaning hit her. “He hired someone to kill me?” Knuckles whitened as her fists clenched. “That klerelijer!”

“The one he hired, Kurt Berlitz, was in the pub that day. He knew your schedule, and I believe he did something to the hot chocolate mix, as he knew the barkeep kept it specifically for you.”

“So you bumped me on purpose?” She sighed, shoulders slumping and hands hanging limply at her sides. “This is just too much.”

Jacoby took a tentative step forward. “I understand this can be…overwhelming. Why don’t we go downstairs and I’ll make you something to eat. We’ll talk.”

She shuffled after him down the stairs, an ache of a different kind coloring her eyes.

***

For Cognitive Reflection’s Picture Writing Challenge #25. The photos posted by Moi at Cognitive Reflection help me move the story of the Pleasant Family along, indeed they got there start there and have nestled in quite comfortably 🙂 Catch up with what’s happened so far by clicking Drama: Pleasant Family.

Hope you enjoy this installment.

Happy Reading and Writing!

J. Milburn

Cognitive Reflection PWC #24: Not So Chance Encounters

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Kahtarina shuffled through the snow, avoiding the bicyclers slushing along the walk. Just another beautiful day in Amsterdam.

She hurried into the pub on the corner. “Usual, Franco,” she told the bartender as she slapped her coat and shook snow out of her hair. A steaming mug of hot chocolate appeared on the counter. “Thanks.”

She scanned the room as she let the cup warm her frozen hands. The Netherlands played Turkey in a qualifying match for the World Cup on the telly. Hooligans, decked out in white, red, and blue, some wrapped in flags, cheered or argued every play. A lone man, salt and pepper hair cropped close, sat in the far corner of the bar, sipping a coffee and staring out the window.

Kahtarina sighed.  Anna’s late as usual. She raised her mug. Before the sweet heat could caress her lips, a black leather jacket bumped into her. Her beloved chocolate turned on her as it cascaded down her front, sending a shudder of pain through her body. “Klerelijer!”

She rounded on the perpetrator, a thin man with a five’o clock shadow and rimless glasses. “I-I’m so sorry, miss,” he sputtered as she glared.

She snatched a napkin from the bar and scrubbed her shirt. The man glanced around, noticing several of the hooligans crowd closer around him. “Um, ma’am?”

Kahtarina glanced up and her hand gave a small wave. The hooligans backed off, grumbling. “Uh, thank you?” Leather jacket’s finger pushed his glasses higher. “I’m Jacoby, by the way.”

He winced when she cut her gaze back to him. “I don’t really care who you are,” she said, turning her attention back to her ruined clothes. “Franco, tell Anna I’ll call her later, if she ever shows up.”

She shrugged her coat back on as she headed for the door. Jacoby surveyed the room reflected in the mirror behind the bar. He scurried after Kahtarina when he noticed the lone man staring at his back, eyes hard. “Wait up!”

Kahtarina turned at his cry, eyes colder than the weather. “What do you want?”

He reached into his jacket, and she caught a glimpse of a gun-butt hanging from a shoulder holster. Her eyes widened and she bolted, feet thumping down the treacherous road.

“Wait!” Jacoby yelled. He pounded after her, more careful of his footing. He frowned as Kahtarina hit an icy patch, her feet flying out from underneath and back of her head meeting the asphalt with a crack.

He slid to a halt beside her, cursing. He pulled off his gloves and placed two fingers on her neck, breathing a sigh of relief when her pulse ka-thumped against his fingers steady and strong.

Jacoby slid one arm under her knees and one around her shoulders, groaning as he strained to lift her. A peek down the road revealed the man with salt-and-pepper hair walking toward the two of them.

Adrenaline surged and he struggled to his feet. He swayed and slid to his car, depositing Kahtarina in the back seat. The man following them shouted and started running.

Jacoby started the vehicle and stomped on the gas, showering the stranger with snow as he escaped.

***

This is for Cognitive Reflection’s Picture Writing Challenge. This is another part in the saga of the Pleasant Family.

See part one here, part two here, and part three here. Hope you enjoy and stay tuned for more!

Happy Reading and Writing!

J. Milburn

Cognitive Reflection #23: Sense and Siblings

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Kayla squatted on the edge of the bank, washing her hands in the cold lake water while allowing the serenity of colors from the view to paint her soul. A trick of the lighting cast the mountains into a shade of blue that captured her current melancholy and broadcast it for God and the world to peruse. I can’t believe Dad would cheat on Mom like that and just leave usWith a girl only two years older than me, for Christ’s sake. That’s just creepy.

Ragged breathing, tinged with a slight wheeze, announced an intruder who broke into her reverie, leaving her canvas a half-formed jumble of conflicting shades. Kayla sighed and forced her lithe runner’s frame to rise. Inventive invectives muttered from behind lifted a corner of her mouth in true humor. “You know, if I’m what you said then you are as well, seeing as how we share the same mother and all.”

She turned to stare at a portly young man, three years younger than her twenty. “And wouldn’t it be ‘daughter’ for that? I mean, you are her only son, Chubba-Bubba.”

Henry Pleasant II, Hank to the public, Deuce to his friends, and often Deuce-stain to his sister, glared at Kayla. One of the hands clutching the knees of his pants raised up, rigid middle digit extended. “My, my,” Kayla said. “So articulate.”

Hank snorted and shrugged out of the hiking pack digging into his shoulders. The lifted weight allowed him to straighten his back for the first time in hours, and he moaned in relief. He strode to the edge of the lake, brushing past his sister, and knelt. Taking water in his cupped hands, he buried his face in them to scrub away the day’s worth of sweat and grime that marred him.

Kayla sat tailor-style next to him, projecting a façade of calm. “You know, fish poop in that water.”

Hank paused for a moment. “Still makes it cleaner than your room.” He eyed the water for a second, said “Screw it,” and leaned back to sprawl on the bank. “Why did you want to come out here?”

Kayla’s finger submitted itself for chewing to her mouth. Hank’s eyes narrowed as he recognized the nervous habit she’d held ever since toddler-hood. “Spit it out, Kay.”

“I’m going to go look for Dad,” she breathed out in a rush. Her neck twisted, hiding her face in the deepening gloom.

Quiet reigned, broken only by the soft rustles and chirps of Nature. Kayla brushed back a lock of her bottled-blonde hair to peek at Hank. To her surprise, he just laid there, hands behind his head and watching the stars shimmer into existence. “Hank?”

“I heard you. Why?” He struggled into a sitting position. “Why go after him, Kay? Mom already has investigators out searching for him.”

“Because I need to know why. Why he cheated on Mom. Why he hid all of his money from her, leaving her in such a mess. I need to know…” Her voice trailed off as tears escaped the carefully-constructed trap she’d set for them.

“You need to know why he hates us so much.” Hank scooted over next to his big sister and eased an arm around her shoulders. She sank into his offering, allowing the poison of the last couple of months to drain onto his shirt.

When the sobbing dissipated into sniffling, Hank said, “I’m coming with you.”

Kayla jerked up, eyes wide. “You can’t! You have school and Mom needs you, and…”

Hank chuckled. “And you need me to cover for you, right?” He gave Kayla a playful shove. “This isn’t you sneaking out to some party, doof. You need me.” He puffed out his chest and thumped it. “After all, I am smarter than you. All the tests said so.”

Kayla rolled her eyes, but thought about his proposal. Hank saved or invested almost every dime he’d earned or been given, amassing quite the fortune over the years. Her face flushed as she thought of all the money she’d blown on parties and shopping, always assuming there would be more whenever she needed it.

She reached over and mussed his dark brown hair. “All right, ‘genius,’ you can come with.”

He grinned, transforming him back into the boy she once thought she knew. “Great. Can we set up and eat something now? I’m starving.”

“You mean ‘Kayla, dear sister, will you do all the work while I sit and watch helplessly, completely unable to do anything that doesn’t involve calling on servants.'”

She laughed and walked to the tree-line as his hands sank into his fleshy sides in mock indignation.

***

My contribution for Cognitive Reflection’s Picture Writing Challenge #23 and another entry in the saga of the Pleasant family. To see the previous two installments click here for part 1 and here for part 2. Hope you enjoy!

Head on over to and join in the fun. The only “rule” is to use the photo in creating your story or poem.

Happy Reading and Writing!

J. Milburn