Dan Alatorre’s Word Weaver Writing Contest
* 2nd Place Winner *
“The Crescent” by Anne Marie Hilse
I enjoyed this story a lot. Anything to do with ‘Nawlins is gonna get my attention, and anything with interesting characters and a good pace is gonna keep my attention. This had all that and more.
I don’t want to say too much, though. I want the work to speak for itself.
Again, this story, for whatever reason, spoke to me.
I hope you enjoy it.
Anne Marie will receive THIS prize package valued at over $150:
$100 FORMATTING package for YOUR eBook or paperback novel, up to 80k, from Select-O-Grafix, LLC (www.selectografix.com)
$25 Amazon gift card, compliments of ME
Publication of their winning piece on this website (today)
signed copies of a multi-book package from several published authors who graciously donated their books to our contest.
A guest blog post or author profile to appear on this site
slightly less massive bragging rights than first place (because that’s only fair)
HERE are some of the AMAZING AUTHORS whose books will be in these prize packages
Allison Maruska, The Fourth Descendant, the Project Renovatio trilogy
With over 550 reviews on Amazon, a signed copy of Allison’s runaway bestseller The Fourth Descendant should be part of any book lover’s collection.
Allison’s amazing Project Renovatio trilogy has captivated audiences around the world. You want to win that, too.
Hugh Roberts, Glimpses
28 short stories that will take your mind on a rollercoaster of a ride into worlds that conceal unexpected twists and turns. You REALLY wanna win that!
Is murder, sex, buried bank loot and legends of UFOs your cup of tea? Or maybe a clueless optimist who “ruins a perfectly good hell” Phillip T. Stephens offers crime, dark fantasy, young adult – and a good dose of humor.
Love letters are a nearly lost art form, but they are the easiest and least costly way to show your partner love and romance. Plus, it’s quick to do! I’m a fan of quick!
24 Romantic Date Night Ideas
Jennifer’s beautiful companion book is a terrific way to round out your romantic evening.
Come on, who doesn’t enjoy a fairy story? Plus, it’s set in Florida, a win-win. Then along comes a primeval nymph, who explains young Abby’s true destiny is to protect the nymphs from evil in an ever-changing modern world.
T. A. Henry, Scripting The Truth
Any story that takes place in post-WWII Britain and has the phrase “She’ll try to do it all while trying to keep the seams on her stockings straight” has to be read. You’ll agree.
and of course, ME
A few folks will be selected to receive a signed paperback of my hilarious sexy romp through Italy. It’s not available in stores yet, so these will be hot commodities. Probably.
A few other folks will win my amazing sci fi thriller The Navigators as a signed paperback or an eBook. Don’t even ask me if I’ll sign the eBook. Just. Don’t.
When I post their stories, I will tell you a little about why they won, and more about how tough the decision process was.
And now, the 2nd Place Winner in Dan Alatorre’s Word Weaver Writing Contest
Anne Marie Hilse
Sorcha’s head swiveled as she navigated the train station, struggling to decipher the signs. She hurried down several hallways and trudged back again when she wound up at dead ends. She finally ducked behind a post and brushed the hood of her cape off her face. If someone recognizes me, I’m sunk. Scanning the crowd, she backed up until her shoes bumped the edge of the platform and steam hissed around her ankles.
“May I help you, ma’am?”
Sorcha whirled toward the voice and flailed her arms for balance before the conductor hauled her onto The Crescent. “Thank you, I’m—oh golly, my ticket.” She delved into her pockets.
“First, where’s your bag?” The conductor followed Sorcha’s finger pointing to her luggage.
“Got it!” Sorcha presented a creased document, printed with her new beginning.
“Miss Sor…hmm…Alden, cabin forty-two is this way. Good choice.”
“Spent most of my savings on it.” Sorcha followed her through the narrow passage and collapsed into a seat. Her grip on the armrest turned her fingernails dusky gray.
“I am, a little.” Try petrified.
“Well, relax. I’ll make sure you enjoy the ride.”
“Thank you…” She squinted at the conductor’s nametag as The Crescent rolled out of the station. “Alexa.” Since when do women work on trains?
Sorcha leaned her head back against the seat and let the pulse of the rails permeate her body. Hope this journey isn’t a mistake, because there’s no back-up plan. She watched small towns and fields zip past in the pre-dawn light and dozed off until bright sun forced her awake. Her legs wobbled when she stood to adjust her slate-blue skirt and white blouse. The graduation gift from her mother gave the illusion that she actually had a figure.
“Looks custom made.” Alexa leaned in the compartment door.
“Bit loose. I forget to eat. No wonder men don’t give me a second glance. Why can’t I look like Greta Garbo?”
“Garbo probably wishes she had your hair.” Alexa smirked. “Long waves with auburn highlights. We should all be so lucky.”
“Please don’t be offended, but how did you get your job?”
“I needed to hide this frizz.” Alexa removed her hat to unleash unruly curls. “I really want to be the engineer. You know, drive the train. Only reason they let me work here at all is my Dad owns part of the railroad.” The conductor offered her hand. “Alexa St. James. Think I’m about to mangle your name but, Sorka?”
“That’s the true Gaelic pronunciation, but my Mum preferred Sor-sha.”
Alexa nodded. “Got it.”
Sorcha’s lips twitched into a smile before she remembered to shake hands. “Sorry, I’m jittery around people.”
Alexa slid the compartment door shut. “Not that there’s anything wrong with it, but why are you traveling alone?”
“For a new job, as a nurse.”
“Never is for us girls.” Alexa shook her head. “Where?”
Sorcha produced the official letter from her satchel and read the final line. “We are eagerly awaiting confirmation of your arrival. The Sisters of the Peace.”
“Ah, New Orleans.”
“Corner of Gravier and Magazine Streets. Sounds so exotic.”
“Been there—” Alexa rubbed a smudge off the window. “I mean, to see friends. It’s the best hospital in the city, but they have strict visiting hours.”
“I’ve never been out of New York. Not sure what to expect.” Sorcha held up a yellow pamphlet. “These travel essays are mostly maps and pictures of the Mississippi River.”
“I’ve visited New Orleans more times than I can count. My father says it’s the land of sinners and devil parades.”
“Not exactly, but every inch of the place is haunted. I’ve seen odd things: people who move so fast, my eyes can’t catch up with them.”
“I don’t believe in any of that.” Sorcha forced herself to breathe.
“You may change your mind.”
“Tell me something less, em, scary?” Sorcha stretched cramps out of her fingers.
“Musicians play in the street in every corner and doorway. You’ll always hear them in the distance, even in your bed at night.”
“I like that.”
“The smells are strong—some not so great. Outside the bars at night it smells like a barnyard.”
“Ugh.” Sorcha wrinkled her nose.
“But.” Alexa held up her finger. “In the morning, after everything is clean, the aroma of fresh baking and coffee takes over. Strong, chicory coffee. You’ve never tasted anything like it.”
“Can’t believe I’m saying this.” Sorcha rubbed her belly. “I’m hungry.”
Alexa cracked the door open to the sound of clinking dishes. “Ooo, I need to get back to work. I’ll show you to the dining car.”
“If it wasn’t included in the ticket, I can’t afford it.” Sorcha dropped her eyes.
“You’re eating.” Alexa pointed down the passage. “I’ll take care of it.”
Sorcha returned to her cabin after lunch and unpacked a box from her New York apartment. Where’s that locket? She sifted through pictures, letters and a pair of ticket stubs from the 1932 World Series. Mum’s guilty pleasure—the Yankees. What was I, nineteen years old? I can’t believe that was only three years ago. Sorcha didn’t realize she was holding her breath until her nose began to burn with the scent of roses. She expected her mother to walk through the door any minute.
“Everything all right?”
“Mum?” Sorcha grabbed the locket and slammed the box shut. “Oh, Alexa.”
“What are you running from?”
“I saw that look in your eyes, back in Penn Station.” Alexa handed her a bottle of soda-pop. “Come on, you can talk to me.”
“I was worried someone would scare me out of this whole trip. I’m not known for courage.” Sorcha wilted into her seat and sipped the soda. “I lost my mother last autumn.”
“Oh, honey. I’m so sorry for your loss.”
“‘It was an accident.” The air thickened in Sorcha’s throat. Tears threatened, but didn’t flow. “The doctors couldn’t save her.”
“And this New Orleans job?”
“Basically a volunteer position that I accepted without thinking. I forgot I even mailed the application.” Sorcha’s eyes wandered to the window. “I’m after honoring Mum’s life and work. Her legacy.”
“I think it’s admirable.”
“Running away from home?”
Alexa placed a hand on Sorcha’s shoulder. “Maybe you’re running toward a new home. Get some rest. Seven o’clock will be here before you know it.”
Sorcha slipped the locket over her neck, buried the chain under her blouse and focused on the hypnotic thrum of the rails. It’s almost time.
Alexa shook Sorcha’s shoulder as the train slowed. “Wake up. It’s six-thirty.”
Sorcha’s stomach flipped.
“Remember what you’re here for—to make your mother proud.”
“Thank you for your kindness.” Sorcha’s gaze followed the train tracks as they curled along the Mississippi River. Even in the fading light of the March evening, vicious swirls and eddies roiled the brown water. Doesn’t look great for swimming.
“We received a telegram that a porter from the church will meet you at the station.” Alexa crossed her arms. “Listen, as much as I love New Orleans it’s not a place to walk alone at night.”
Sorcha’s knees buckled when she stepped onto the station’s platform. She looked down to see tremoring wooden planks under her shoes.
Alexa grabbed her elbow. “Whoa, are you okay?”
“Yes, grand.” Sorcha glanced around the frenzy of passengers, all standing firmly on stable ground. “Too many hours on the train, is all.”
“I think this is yours.” Alexa held out the cape. “May not need it in the South.”
“Oh my, thank you.” Sorcha folded the navy fabric and tucked it under her arm. “It was a gift from nursing school on the night of my pinning ceremony. My security blanket.”
“There’s your porter.”
Sorcha glanced back at The Crescent. The shiny silver and chrome was now cloaked in grime. I’m a long way from New York.
“Bienvenue, Miss Alden, I’m Joseph.” The stout man tipped his cap. “Follow me, Take care you don’t twist an ankle on the banquette.”
“The bank-what?” Sorcha followed Joseph’s pointing finger to the pitted sidewalk. “Ah, got it.”
“Folks ‘round here will help you pick up New Orleans lingo in no time.”
Sorcha trailed the porter from Southern Railway Terminal, navigating uneven banquettes and endless turns on the way to the convent. The New Orleans air clung to her skin like soggy paper. New York is humid in the summer. This is dripping-down-my-face muggy. She dabbed her forehead with her sleeve and stared straight ahead, glad to have Joseph to walk her past the unsavory characters on the crooked curbs. Quite sure I look like an out-of-towner.
Gas street lamps flickered on as dusk surrendered to darkness. Sorcha ran her hand along block after block of whitewashed stone. Everything here is behind a wall. She gasped at her first glimpse into a courtyard. A lush, candlelit garden was tucked behind the scrolled gate. Sounds of bubbling water hinted at a secret fountain amongst the flowers.
“Come along. Miss. I thought I’d lost you.”
“Yes of course, Joseph. I’m sorry.”
“Yes, very, very long.” Instinctively, she touched her locket and followed him to the threshold of a weathered building.
Massive doors creaked on their hinges and a girl in a flowing, white habit tumbled off her bench in the foyer. “Miss Alden—I was afraid you’d changed your mind about coming.”
Sorcha touched her hair and tamed stray ends with her fingers.
“Oh, where are my manners? I’m Sister Ann. I made up a little room where you can get a good night’s rest. Nurses live in the barracks but they’re sound asleep, so you can meet them tomorrow. I’ll send dinner—you must be ready to drop.”
“Thank you, Sister.” Sorcha followed her up the winding stairs.
After almost nodding off in the small bathtub, Sorcha slipped on her nightgown and paused at a keyhole window, drawn to the same garden sanctuary she glimpsed from the street. The steamy air lent a shimmering gloss to the foliage. I smell flowers. Every spring, blossoms sprouted in the tiny gardens of her New York neighborhood, but nothing this intoxicating.
The spicy bowl of soup sent up by Sister Ann stopped her stomach’s growling. Sorcha drifted to sleep with her fingers wrapped around her polished locket, and the breeze of a mysterious city blowing straight in her window.
It has been my pleasure to showcase these amazing writers. Look for interviews and more on them in the upcoming weeks.
Why did it win? What spoke to me?
A grabber opening with some suspense and questions I wanted to know the answer to. I have to admit, each successive paragraph drew me in deeper and deeper. The opening had an air of mystery and tension, but that was quickly replaced by the rapport between the conductor and the MC. Both were likable characters.
Still, questions needed to be answered.
The story moves along well, and there’s a subtle tension that’s intertwined. It’s really good. I want to read more – and I love New Orleans so that’s a bonus.
If you liked this story, please share it on StumbleUpon and other social media so our winners can get the recognition they deserve.
Tomorrow, the 3rd place winner in the Word Weaver Writing Contest:
Do You Trust Me by Annette Robinson
If you would like to sponsor our July 2017 Word Weaver Writing Contest and get this kind of exposure for your book or a product or service beneficial to authors, please contact me.