Dan Alatorre’s Word Weaver Writing Contest
* 2nd Place Winner *
by Anne Marie Hilse
This story gripped me right away and had me glued to every page. I loved the feel of the story, the questions, the intrigue – and Anne Marie has a great voice that resonates with me.
The characters are interesting (especially the main character) and the story unfolds in such a way as to make me want to keep turning pages.
All in all, it was a story I liked a lot. This story could easily be – well, I don’t wanna spoil anything. I’ll let you read it first.
I think you’re really gonna like it.
Anne Marie will receive THIS prize package valued at over $150:
RUSSELL J. FELLOWS EDITING
EDITING PACKAGE from Russel J. Fellows Author Services for YOUR book! (www.RusselJFellows.com)
PUBLICATION of their winning piece on this website
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)
DON’T FORGET: ALL contestants not winning first, second, or third place will be put into a drawing for other prizes!
HERE are some of the AMAZING AUTHORS whose books will awarded:
Allison Maruska, Project Renovatio. Author of the runaway bestseller The Fourth Descendant, Allison Maruska offers an audio book version of her latest hit, Project Renovatio.
With over 550 reviews on Amazon, The Fourth Descendant established Allison as an amazing breakout author. I read Project Renovatio. It is a brilliant, thrilling YA novel that grabs the attention of readers and holds them until the very end.
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!
Dana Wayne, Mail Order Groom, Secrets of the Heart
Dana Wayne is all about the romance! Mail Order Groom is a historical western romance. Secrets of The Heart is a contemporary romance. Both are amazing!
Curtis Bausse, Perfume Island, One Green Bottle
One Green Bottle, set in Provence, is the first in a series of Magali Rousseau detective stories. Perfume Island is the second book in the amazing series. You’ll love it!
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.
Joanne R Larner, Dicken’s Diaries, Richard Liveth Yet
One reviewer called Dicken’s Diaries “a ‘diary’ with lots of amusing stories and indeed it is a cleverly written, humorous book.” Richard Liveth Yet is Richard III as you have never seen him before! Great stories from a great writer.
Yecheilyah Ysrayl, Renaissance: The Nora White Story
In 1922 Mississippi, Nora White has graduated high school and is college bound, but she is fascinated by the prospect of being a famous writer in The Harlem Renaissance – and decides on a change of plans. Techeilyah will amaze you with this one!
and of course, ME
A few folks will be selected to receive a copy of Poggibonsi: an Italian misadventure,my hilarious sexy romp through Italy (definitely a hot commodity, so to speak) as a signed paperback or as an eBook. Don’t even ask me if I’ll sign the eBook. Just. Don’t.
And now, the 2nd Place Winner in Dan Alatorre’s Word Weaver Writing Contest
by Anne Marie Hilse
Holly glared at the GPS screen. The road she was driving on took a vicious left turn and fell off the edge of the map, into green oblivion. This is a cruel joke after a nine-hour drive. The lawyer assured her it was legitimate. Her name really was in the secret will. I’m hardly the property-owning type, but is a little luck too much to ask?
She dug through her ratty backpack for a real map. Nine freakin’ hours. Shoving aside crystals and beads hanging from the rearview mirror, she spread the paper out on the dashboard. The man at the welcome station gave her attitude when she asked for directions. Even with her worn baseball cap pulled down, spikes of magenta and black hair peeked out. If I had a nickel for every time someone asked if it was Halloween…I wouldn’t be bouncing between dead end boardwalk jobs.
Pushing her sunglasses back, Holly brought the map close to her eyes. Under the crease, was the dotted line of an unfinished road. She peeked over the paper and down the sandy shoulder. An old mailbox nearly hidden by weeds, dangled from a post.
She inched the old Toyota up, stared through gnarled trees and hit the automatic window button. The scent of salt air wafted in as grimy glass disappeared into the door. That’s one sad looking road. Steering along the dirt path, Holly avoided the obvious potholes and winced when her wheels dropped into craters hidden below branches and leaves. When the forest thinned, dirt became a gravel driveway. Stone lions guarded a faded sign.
Only letter I can read is O…probably says Keep Out.
One more blind bend plunked her in front of a shuttered, stone mansion. Peaked dormers ran along the curved roofline with copper turrets anchoring both ends.
Looks like ivy is devouring the entire place.
Holly pulled the attorney’s letter from the glove box, grabbed a jacket and climbed out of the car. The front steps creaked under her feet while she searched the official document for a house number. Aside from a carved gargoyle knocker larger than her fist, the door and porch were barren.
The rusty iron ring groaned as she lifted it. Not visitor friendly. hen the knocker fell, the impact echoed through the old walls like thunder.
“Who are you?” A voice boomed from behind instead of inside, followed by an unmistakable double-click.
With her jacket hanging off one arm, Holly turned around and raised her hands. “Don’t shoot, please.”
“Answer my question.” The man held the firearm steady. “And lose the hat.”
“I’m Holly Hannon. I inherited this property.” She slowly removed her cap and nodded to the letter in her hand. “Here’s the paperwork.”
The man grabbed the letter and scanned the pages. “Well, you’re in the right place. 4242 Broad Lane.”
“That wagon trail is Broad Lane?”
“It was named long ago.” The man lowered the gun. “Are you a Boston Hannon?”
Holly let her hands sink down. “New Jersey.”
“Well, that explains the get-up.” He nodded to her clunky black boots and Comic Con t-shirt. “Did you know Mrs. Victoire?”
“I must be related to her somehow, but this was all a surprise to me.”
“Apparently, the will was complicated. She’s been gone for over a year now.” He rattled through a ring full of keys. “I’m the caretaker. Lots of folks came snooping after she passed away. I locked the place down like a vault.”
“I assumed I could stay here overnight, but…” Holly watched him coax a huge key into the lock. Metal tumblers fell one at a time, before the door swung open into a black hole. “Where’s the cheapest motel?”
“Main electric breaker is in the basement. Wait here.” Footsteps echoed long after he disappeared from the dark foyer.
Holly shivered in the dusty rectangle of light from the front door. Eerie shapes of covered furniture loomed on both sides of the center hall.
The caretaker returned and flipped an old switch. A massive chandelier flickered to life. “Lots of bulbs burned out on that thing.”
Crystals chimed in the breeze while the remaining light bulbs illuminated a grand staircase. On the landing where the stairs divided, the shape of tree glowed in the fringe of gloom.
“How big is—”
“Eighteen bedrooms, four parlors, a library and a grand ballroom.”
Holly slumped her shoulders. “I’m more of a beach shack, sleeping bag kind of girl.”
“First bedroom on the right.” He pointed up the dim stairs. “Water’s on. Never closed up that wing.”
Holly grabbed her duffel bag from the Toyota and kicked the car door shut behind her.
“If you want to eat, there’s a diner down the highway a bit.” The caretaker passed her on the porch. “Need anything else, red phone in the kitchen’s a direct line to the carriage house.”
“Thanks.” She watched him disappear into the evening fog. He never mentioned his name. The snacks in her backpack would have to do. I barely found this place in daylight. She shut the mansion door behind her and fumbled with the lock. Left…right? Neither direction sounded secure.
Holly left the chandelier lit for her first trip upstairs. The bannister felt like velvet under her fingertips, the finish worn by the palms of countless visitors. The first flight ended in a landing where cracks between sheets of plywood allowed the setting sun to glint through stained glass. Odd place for a gnarled tree. A peek over the railing revealed more unlit crystal lamps. Searching for those light switches could wait for tomorrow.
Golden sunlight streamed from the first door on the right, drawing her in like a homing beacon. One step into the bedroom confirmed that this area wasn’t mothballed like the rest of the mansion. A four-poster bed anchored the chamber and antique furniture gleamed in the corners. The mattress was bare, but the pillow top pristine. Not a speck of dust.
Drifting white chiffon directed her attention to farthest wall. Brushing the curtains aside uncovered a wall of glass. She nudged the French doors open to the greeting of crashing surf and heavy ocean air. Fog hugged the rocky beach, just low enough to hide the waves.
Holly turned around to explore the room. The queen-sized bed was placed perfectly to take advantage of the breeze and the view. The remaining walls were solid wood paneling with built-in closets. Pretty fancy. The first two were empty, but the one closest to the bed was filled with linen. Fresh lavender and strong cedar wafted from deep inside. She ran her fingers over crisply pressed sheets. Cotton so fine it felt like silk. She placed a set of sheets on the bed but stopped short of making it up.
Sleeping in a dead stranger’s bed…too creepy for tonight.
Digging through her duffel bag she found a foot pump, a folded air mattress and a set of old striped sheets. With the bathroom light on and her bed pushed in front of the French doors, Holly curled up under a quilt stitched from old t-shirts and passed out.
Dazzling morning sun greeted Holly, but banging from downstairs is what woke her up. She tumbled from her half-deflated bed, ran fingers through her hair and pulled on frayed sweatpants. Sure, I look like hell. She avoided the mirror. Hope I don’t scare caretaker-man. The strong aroma of coffee dragged her down the stairs. Maybe he’s not so bad after all.
She rounded the corner to the kitchen. “I didn’t expect you to…”
The refrigerator light reflected off the silver hair of a stranger, standing in front of a wall of open cabinets and a fancy, perking pot.
“Who the hell are you?” Holly backed against the wall. “Where’s—”
“Gomez?” The man’s face crinkled into a smile. “He let me in.”
“I’m harmless, I promise.”
“I meant, his name is Gomez?” Holly dropped her voice to a whisper. “Like the Addams family? He never introduced himself. I figured…”
“The gentleman was caught off guard by visitors.” The stranger chose two stone mugs. “You must be Miss Holly.”
“Unless someone else is sleeping in this boarded-up mansion…wait, he called me Miss Holly?”
“Yes, and you were the only overnight guest.” He poured her a cup of coffee, added a drop of cream and pointed to a letter on the marble counter.
“You received this, too?” Holly shuffled across the tiles to read the envelope. “Captain?”
“Retired. Ryan James.” He picked up Holly’s hand and shook it heartily.
“Nice to meet you. The lady who named us in her will…are you her son?”
“No, and I’m pretty sure I’ve never met her.”
“Me, neither.” Holly grabbed the mug, sipped, groaned, and took a gulp. “Pretty bizarre.”
“This place is monstrous.” Ryan nodded to unexplored corners of the kitchen. “I’m sure we can split it and come out ahead.”
“This coffee is…how did you know cream—no sugar?”
“The Air Force taught me coffee brewing long before I saw a plane.”
The next few hours were spent with Gomez, pulling plywood off doors and windows. The entire ocean-facing side of the mansion was glass and balconies.
“You’re pretty impressive with those tools.” Ryan watched Holly work the claw end of a hammer.
“For a girl, you mean?”
“No.” Ryan crossed his arms. “I meant for anyone.”
“Got a little experience.” Holly tossed plywood shrapnel onto a growing pile. “I helped rebuild New Jersey after Superstorm Sandy.”
“I know that was downgraded from a hurricane, and I’ve seen my share of those, but the news coverage was heartbreaking.”
“People lost everything…and then the fire. It’ll never be the same.” Holly closed her eyes and stopped talking. She let her hand fall to the pitted doorknob of the breakfast room door and gave the wooden frame a shove. Autumn morning light and fresh salt air replaced any trace of mustiness in one great gust.
“This was Mrs. Victoire’s favorite room. God rest her soul.” Gomez whisked the sheet from a white painted table, decorated with blue scrolls and flowers. “She sat here for sunrise every morning, rain or shine.”
“Windows are old.” Holly ran her fingers up the wavy glass. “Do we need to replace all this?”
“No way.” Ryan flipped his phone open and snapped a picture. “We charge extra for the historical value.”
“Those photos could su—stink. Let me get my I-Phone.” Holly rushed up the dim stairs, checking for texts and emails on the way back down. “Hey Gomez, I want to know why there’s a tree in the—” Sounds of rummaging and coughing stopped her in the kitchen. “Hello?”
“Come on, Holly. You’re missing the before and after.” Ryan burst through the door and froze at her scowl.
Holly pointed at her eyes with two fingers, and back at the library.
Ryan grabbed a heavy flashlight from his canvas bag. The pair crept around the corner to find the intruder on a sliding ladder, wiping dust from a ledger with a lace handkerchief.
“What are you going to do?” The voice had a nasal accent. “Beat me death for looking at a book?”
“Who the hell are you, now?” Ryan straightened up. “Does everyone just waltz in here?”
“Now you know how I feel.” Holly pointed to a familiar paper in the stranger’s pocket. “I’m gonna puke.”
“I assume we’re all here for the same reason.” Hopping down from the ladder, the newcomer flipped chocolate brown hair over his shoulders, offered the crisp letter to Ryan and his hand to Holly. “Decision, decisions.” He crossed his arms and held his hand out for Ryan instead.
Holly plucked the document from his long fingers, flipped it open and rolled her eyes. “Widmarck Lacaze.”
“You Americans pronounce everything like traaash. It’s Laca—zay.” He pinched his fingers to accent the last syllable. “You may need some practice.”
“Holly Hannon.” She slapped the letter back into his outstretched hand. “Spelled exactly like it sounds.”
“Since we’re family, you can call me Marck.”
“There, you’re wrong,” Ryan said. “We have no idea how we’re connected to Mrs. Victoire.”
“Well, then I’m very pleased to meet you Mister…”
Holly intercepted Marck before he could latch onto Ryan’s hand a second time. “Not Mister…Captain James.”
“I think this calls for a celebration.” Marck snapped his fingers and spun around. “Champagne, anyone?”
“Shall I just fetch some from our stocked bar?” Holly patted library furniture, still covered in sheets.
Marck ignored her, strolled out to his car and returned hauling a cooler and an armful of grocery bags. “Never go anywhere without my portable cocktail hour. Where’s the kitchen?”
Ryan pointed down the hall. He and Holly followed behind and watched while bags were unpacked, bottles arranged in the double door refrigerator and crystal flutes lined up on the counter.
“Instant elegance.” Marck popped the champagne cork and poured bubbly like a professional. “A toast to our new partnership?”
“It’s barely eleven in the morning.” Holly hesitated before picking up two sparkling glasses and handing one to Ryan.
“It’s almost six pm in Paris, and with champagne…who cares.” Marck raised his flute. “Bonne chance!”
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?
There was an air of mystery and suspense right away in this story, and a sense of foreboding. The Main Character feels like someone I can identify with.
But there was also an inner conflict the character was wrestling with. A realistic, what am I doing thought, combined with let’s see what happens.
I wondered along with the character, and I wanted to know what was going to happen! That, for me, is hugely important. Making a reader want to/need to/have to read on to find out what happens, that’s the whole goal of the writerly game. In this story, Anne Marie did it very well.
This story could easily be included in our scary anthology. Let’s see what happens.
For now, join me in celebrating this moment with a very talented author, Anne Marie Hilse.
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:
Mind Games by Heather Hackett
If you would like to sponsor our October 2017 Word Weaver Writing Contest and get this kind of exposure for your product or service, please contact me.