Posted in Stories, writing

Short Story: Bloom

Jeremy sat with his knees drawn up to his chest, staring at his grandmother’s garden. He heard the screen door creak open and then a sigh from her. “What’s wrong, muffin?”

He shrugged. He didn’t want to say it, but he knew he couldn’t lie. Something always kept him from uttering even the tiniest lie.

His grandmother settled next to him. Her hair only had a few grays in it, the only sign that she was fifty-five. Otherwise, she looked almost young enough to have just been his mother.

For a moment, they were quiet before she inhaled. “You know, I never could get those daffodils to survive long enough to bloom.”

“They need dryer soil and more sunlight,” he said. He knew that from talking to them.

“Do you want to help me move them then?”

Maybe. It would give him something to do, something to keep his hands busy so he wasn’t brooding.

But he wasn’t sure he wanted to either and shrugged.

“Is this about your parents?”

Annoyance and anger sparked up. “They don’t want me,” he said.

“Jeremy, they—”

“They gave you papers saying that you could make any choice you wanted or needed to. They don’t even know what school I go to. They didn’t know I’d joined the debate club. Most of the time they just send me to go get dinner on my own when they have a date night or some stupid trip and I have more of my things here than I do at home. I didn’t even pack anything this time. They’ve been home less than a week and they already decided they had to go somewhere else. They don’t want me.”

His grandmother paused a moment and inhaled as she looked at the garden before she looked back at him.

“It’s a little harder to explain,” she said.

“I don’t need it explained,” he answered and poked at a knot in the wooden railing next to him. “I figured it out. Why do they even bother taking me home if they’re just going to turn around and drop me off again anyways?”

“Because they do love you,” his grandmother replied and Jeremy snorted. “That’s something you do need to understand. They do love you. They’re just…”

“They like the idea of having a kid but not the work.”

His grandmother sighed and looked down at her hands, where they were callused and scarred from years of work.

“You know, I had your mom when I was barely eighteen,” she said. “And I tried so hard to make sure she had every opportunity.”

“I know,” Jeremy said.

“But, for whatever reason, she had you when she was barely eighteen herself. Some kids aren’t ready to have children, and as much as I don’t want to admit it, your mom is one of those kids.”

“She’s not even here.” Jeremy put his head down. “And she hates the weird stuff I do.”

“That weird stuff is magic,” his grandmother said. “You and I both know that.”

“Yeah, but try telling either of them that. I get told I can’t have magic because that would make me a Caster and I’m not supposed to be a Caster.”

“People are supposed to be a lot of things.”

“Like supportive parents,” he muttered it to himself mostly, but his grandmother chuckled.

“Yes,” she agreed. “But they aren’t always what they’re supposed to be. And that means that even when they’re not expected to be something, sometimes they are.”

Logically, it checked out and Jeremy knew it.

And yet, it still burned him. He knew what the plants were in need of, could feel the power in streams and the occasional windstorm.

Rather than answer, he grunted and put his head down.

His grandmother chuckled. “I’ve got to get those daffodils moved,” she said. “Do you want to help?”

“I don’t know,” he said.

“That’s fine. I have cookies cooling inside if you decide you don’t want to help, and I’ll be down in the garden if you do want to.”

He had to smile as she stood, going down the steps. “Thanks,” he said.

“Only for you,” she said and kissed his head. “Don’t eat too many cookies. I’m making chicken casserole tonight.”

 “Spicy chicken casserole?”

“I could be talked into it, but it does take a little bit of work and I really do want daffodils this year.”

He laughed and jogged down the steps. “They just need a little more sunlight,” he said. “I know the perfect spot for them.”


by A.J. Helms

If you enjoyed this short, you can find more on my short stories page, or by checking out my published books. Thanks for reading!

Posted in Stories, writing

Short Story: Where Fate Ends

The horses snorted a little as the cart drew to a stop and Briom glanced at the boy next to him. There was still a chance to change his mind, he realized.

Reminded of why he was doing this, Briom’s resolve hardened. “We’re here,” he said.

His face serious for being only eight, Davise slid out of the seat easily. Briom waited a moment longer before he joined the boy on the ground. There were only three steps up to the door, but he was careful, waiting for Davise to go up them first. He knocked, the fine material of his thick cloak opening to reveal the heavily embroidered belt he wore and the thick chain around his neck.

It took a moment for the door to open, though the face behind it didn’t look even remotely surprised. Her dark brown hair had been pulled over one shoulder, and one brow quirked up.

“Hello,” Briom said.

“Well come in then,” Liria said and stepped back.

He motioned Davise in first, and then followed. Liria shut the door behind them. “Mind the glass,” she called and lead the way to the back. “I just put the kettle on.”

Most of the front room was taken over with shelves dedicated to books, but the central shelves were full of detailed glass sculptures. He marveled at these for a moment before stepping through the short door and into the kitchen. “Go, sit,” Briom said and patted Davise’s back gently to encourage him to do so.

Liria smiled. “There’s a cushion on the one in the middle,” she said.

“Thank you,” Davise said politely, and moved to that one, climbing into it and smiling as he settled into it.

Briom couldn’t but smile at that and inclined his head at Liria. “You look good,” he said.

“You mean I look better than the last time you saw me,” she said.

“That’s—well. It’s been a few years.”

“Briom, you haven’t seen me since I was a teen,” she said.

A rare laugh escaped him. She was right and he had to shake his head. “Yes,” he agreed.

“Who is she, Papa?”

He looked over and smiled a little. “This is your Aunt Liria,” he said. “She’s got magic, just like yours.”

Davise’s eyes widened. “You mean with the ice?”

“Indeed!” Liria said. “Specifically, it’s called cyclical magic, and our particular kind deals with the magic of winter. More—ah, forgive me. I’m rambling.”

The kettle whistled and Liria turned, moving to pull it off. “Let me make it,” Briom said and Liria looked at him and he smiled. “It’d be an honor.”

Her gaze narrowed slightly but she nodded. “Very well,” she said.

He smiled a little as he made the tea. He kept careful track of the cups as he added the sugar, he knew his son would like, and a dose of something extra. “Do you take sugar, Liria?”

“Oh, no, I can’t stand the stuff,” Liria said. “Some rather unpleasant memories associated with sugar.”

His son frowned a little as the tea was set in front of him. “What do you here?”

“Oh, for Reverie? Not too much. Mostly just teach.”

“Mostly?”

“Yes, mostly. Occasionally I’m a little bit of a merchant, storyteller, mediator.” Liria considered it. “That list of titles really has come down. Disappointing.”

“What do you mean it’s come down?” the boy asked.

“Oh I used to have dozens of titles. Let’s see, there was being a scholar, and a professor, tiny bit of a thief but really that one I’m not terribly proud of, adept, messenger, traveling merchant, adventurer in generally.”

“You’ve gone on adventures?”

“Oh plenty,” Liria said and sipped her tea. “Let me see, where to start?”

Briom was silent, letting Liria entertain his son with a story. As she told it, Davise began to nod, tired from the travel and from the additive in his tea.

It was only when his head nearly hit the table and he jerked awake that Briom chuckled. “Bed, I think.”

“Are we sleeping in the carriage?”

Briom didn’t answer right away, only glancing at Liria, who inclined her head slightly. “No,” he said. “We’ll stay here the night.”

Liria smiled as Briom stood, coming over to guide the boy over to the small room off the kitchen. The bed was made, he saw and Liria pulled the covers down. “Sleep well,” he murmured as Davise tumbled into bed.

He stepped out again, closing the door softly and resting against it for a moment.

Liria’s hand was gentle on his elbow. “You know by leaving him here, he won’t be able to leave. He will be Reverie’s next protector.”

“I know,” Briom said and turned away. “But our father is sickening, and I can feel it sinking in. You said you never found a way to break the curse on the home.”

“No,” Liria said and turned away, going to the kitchen table. “It’s worse. There is no curse on the home.”

“What do you mean?” Briom said.

“It’s not a curse, it’s the price of magic,” Liria said. There was a tiredness in her voice as she said it. “Magic extends its price until fully paid. Someone who owned the home before our father used a spell at which point likely killed the original spell caster. Since the spell was cast, the price needed to be paid, if there was no familial or emotional connection to carry out the cost then it would have settled into the area.”

“Then if we moved the family home it would no longer affect us?” Briom asked.

“That’s where things get tricky,” Liria said. “The Baron made it our family home, and when he did so, it could very much mean that the price of that magic will follow our family no matter where they go.”

Briom sighed and had to sink into a seat. “Can you—you’re an expert in magic. Isn’t there something you can do?”

“Unfortunately, not. The price for magic can’t be changed. It’s nonnegotiable, and situations like this are exactly why any magic user needs to be so careful with their spells,” Liria said.

He put his head in his hands with a groan. The silence fell around them for several moments before he exhaled and looked up at her.

Liria was right, he hadn’t seen her in years, though he was grateful she hadn’t mentioned exactly when he’d seen her last. Though watching as she fought their father and a powerful binding spell was something that still haunted his nightmares.

“I can feel it,” Briom said finally and looked up at her. “Father’s gotten sick, so a lot of his responsibilities are mine and I can feel it. Like some lurking beast around every corner. It’s…it’s not like Father yet, but it’s there.”

Liria nodded slightly. “Well,” she said. “If this is truly what you wish, then I’ll look after him, but I do hope you know what you’re dooming him to. He will be Reverie’s next protector.”

“I’d rather doom him to a long life at the edge of this miserable forest than a short one as the next Baron of Storms,” Briom said.

She smiled slightly. “I suppose that’s that then,” she said. “Well, the other bed isn’t much, but I suppose I can at least offer it to you for the night.”

“No, I need to be going. He should sleep until about midmorning.”

“Then I’ll wake you with the dawn,” Liria said.

Briom looked at her. “You can’t be serious,” he said.

“I’m really not much of one for jokes. Outside the realm of my talents, really. Lies, half-truths, stories, those I can all tell. Jokes really do escape me.”

He was silent for a long moment before he nodded. “Very well,” he said. “But I won’t rob you of your bed.”

“Oh hardly,” Liria said. “I’ve known you’d bring your son to me for years. I have two guest beds and I have mine. You’re just going to have to make do with the second guest bed, that’s all.”

“How long have you known?” Briom asked.

“Oh, let me see, I think…twenty six years now?”

“He’s only eight,” Briom said.

“Fate has a funny way of working out like that,” Liria said.

Briom frowned. “You’ve had your fate read?”

“Multiple times, actually. This was just one certainty that never changed. There are others.”

“Like what?”

Liria smiled, a little sadly. “I’ve already told you,” she said. “He can’t be Reverie’s protector if he’s the Baron of Storms, and he can’t be the Baron if he’s Reverie’s protector.”

The realization of what she was saying punched his gut. “He’ll become protector when you die,” he said.

“Yes,” Liria said. “That’s years from now. I have a few adventures left in me and you have your fate to live out still.”

“Do you know my fate?”

“I’m many things, but a Fate Reader I am not. If you want to know where your fate ends, that’s something you’d have to ask someone with a different kind of magic than what I or your son possess. Neither of us can tell you.”


by A.J. Helms

If you enjoyed this and would like more to read, you can find more on the Books page and the Short Stories page.

Posted in Stories, writing

Short Story: Potion

The café saw a steady stream of people throughout the day. Seeing one particular girl come up to the counter though, Oceania had to smile.

“Hey, Allison. Your mom know you’re drinking coffee?”

Allison shook her head. At twelve she’d started into that awkward and somewhat disproportionate stage of gangliness that might eventually give way to grace.

“I’m not looking for coffee. I kind of had a potion-related question for you.”

That was surprising. Her older brother worked on a magic protection team, as did her father. And Allison’s mother wasn’t exactly without her own magic. Potion-related questions coming from her directly were unusual.

“Alright,” Oceania said and leaned on the counter so she was level with Allison’s face. “What’s the question?”

“Is there a potion that could reveal magic?” Allison asked.

Oceania knew dangerous and stupid ideas when she saw them. There was a whole record and at least a couple of police officers that knew her and her bad ideas quite well.

“Depending on what exactly you need, maybe,” Oceania said. “What’s the situation?”

Allison considered it. “Uhm,” she said. “I…have a friend,” she said. “And she has magic. She thinks she does at least. She should. But, she’s not seeing it yet.”

Dangerous and stupid flashed all over that idea, but Oceania could see the possibilities.

Either she lied and told Allison there was no potion. Allison then had the chance to go looking for something else—a spell or a charm or who knew what else she might find. Alternately, Allison might accept it, and the disheartening realization that she would just have to wait until her magic decided to reveal itself.

Or, she told her the truth and had to fend off any attempts Allison made to get a hold of that potion.

A sigh escaped and she turned. “Carlyn!”

It took her older brother a moment to come out. “What’s up Alley-Cat?” he offered a high-five to Allison, who grinned as she accepted it.

“She’s got a question she needs answering. I’m taking a break.”

“Alright,” Carlyn said. His gaze narrowed slightly. “I’ll cover the front for you.”

“Thanks. Come on you. I know I got a yogurt in the back with your name on it.”

Allison followed into the tiny office they referred to laughably as their ‘break room’. It connected to the back patio, but Oceania stayed inside, pulling a yogurt from the fridge and putting it in front of Allison with a spoon.

“So, this friend of yours. Is she good at sports? Maybe kind of outgoing?”

A nod was Allison’s answered. “She’s on the same softball team I am.”

“I’ll bet she also wears number thirty-six too. I’d be surprised if her jersey doesn’t say Jacobs on it the same way yours does.”

Eyes widened and she ducked her head. “How’d you know?”

Oceania laughed as she sat down. “You aren’t the first kid in the world to wonder if they’ve got magic or why it’s taking so long to show up. And you’re most certainly not the first one to think there’s a spell or potion or something else magic to solve your problem. My main question is what set you to fussing about your magic.”

“If I have any,” Allison muttered and stuck the spoon in her yogurt with a scowl.

“Maybe you do, maybe you don’t. Not what I’m looking for just yet. What happened?”

A hefty sigh escaped, pulling Allison’s shoulders even further down.

“One of my friends found out she had magic,” Allison said. “But—no one else in her family does. She just thought she was lucky up until Ricky Thames kept picking on her and she sort of accidentally cursed him.”

“She cursed him?”

“Not like a big one—and the teacher called out the protection team to fix it. She just made his zits spell out mean words.”

“And that got you to thinking?”

“She’s got to go to practices and do extra lessons for it now,” Allison said and pushed her yogurt away to lay her head on her table. “She’s months younger than I am and no one around her mas magic. I’m almost thirteen and everyone in my family has magic and I don’t.”

Therein lay the problem. Oceania already knew Allison was one of the tallest in her class. Not always easy, but understandable when your father was a werewolf.

Less understandable was how she couldn’t seem to work visions how her mother could, and never sported fang or fur in place of her hair and bright smile.

“Hate to break it to you, but there could be a lot of reasons why you don’t see your magic yet.”

“Like something wrong with me?” More of the core fear revealed itself and Oceania laughed.

“Honey, unless you’re out there hurting people for fun or to make yourself feel better, there’s nothing wrong with you,” Oceania said. “And that comes from a whole lot of experience in that department.”

“What do you mean?”

“It’s called being a late bloomer,” Oceania said. “It just happens sometimes. Hell—er, heck.” Allison giggled at Oceania’s slip-up. “Heck,” she repeated. “Carlyn and my Dad didn’t even think the weird stuff I was doing was magic for the longest time. They kept brushing it off as ‘Oceania’s weird luck.’ It literally took me bringing a dead plant back to life right in front of them before they clued in. Sometimes magic is small.”

“How small?”

“Small in all the best ways. Maybe you’re just extra good at helping a friend feel better. Maybe you bake really well, or you never lose things. Magic ain’t always some big to-do.”

“Then how am I supposed to know if I have it or not?” Allison protested. “Isn’t there something you can do to at least show me that much?”

Oceania tipped her chin up a little. She did have a nice little magic revealing potion—mostly something she used to make sure money hadn’t been altered, and occasionally when she thought someone was poking around where they shouldn’t be.

“Before you dive off that end, do you really think that’s the best idea?”

“Of course it is! How could it be a bad idea?”

“I do believe your mother is a prophet.”

“Yeah,” Allison said.

“I’d be surprised if she hasn’t explained the limitations of what she can and can’t see.”

“Well, she can only see what might be. It’s hard to see things that will be because they’re flexible about when they happen,” Allison said. “And she can see what’s already happened.”

Oceania nodded. “That’s all stuff she can do. What about what she can’t?”

Allison was silent. “She can’t see her own fate,” she said finally.

“Why do you think that is?”

“I guess…I don’t know.”

“Because magic or not, somethings are better off not being messed with. Let’s say you could see your own fate. So you’d know in the next few minutes what would happen to you—good and bad. That includes stuff like getting hurt or losing something you value.”

“That doesn’t seem too bad,” Allison said.

“Not right away, but look at the bigger picture. Let’s say you know you’re supposed to argue with a friend on a particular day. So you just avoid them that day.”

“They’d understand once you explain, right?”

“Which means then everyone knows you can see the future in detail,” Oceania said. “And that means your friends get curious and they start asking you questions. Now, maybe you’re lucky and those questions have mostly good answers, but what happens when you see things like car accidents, or someone getting ill, getting hurt, all the bad stuff in life?”

“You could stop it.”

“Could you?”

“Well…you’d know when it’s going to happen,” Allison said but frowned. “But…if you tell someone something bad is going to happen, they won’t like it.”

“No, which means that argument you so cleverly avoided happens anyways—but now you’ve got a bigger problem on your hands because trying to stop something else bad from happening means you’ll only make that original argument bigger. Or, let’s say you stop a friend from getting in a car, and they avoid being hit by a drunk driver. That other driver is still drunk and he’s still a danger to others.”

“Someone else would get hurt.”

“Someone who you might not know. More than that, by letting that driver stay out on the road longer, the accident could be worse. Rather than injuries, it could mean killing someone else.” Oceania said. “Your mom calls it What May Be for a reason.”

“Because every choice we make affects what happens next,” Allison muttered. “What’s that go to do with knowing if I have magic or not?”

“What happens when you find out you do have magic?”

“Then I wait for it to finally show itself.”

“Kind of like you’re supposed to be waiting for it to show itself anyways?”

Allison paused. “Well…I guess.”

Oceania nodded. “And of course, since you know you have magic, you wouldn’t want to know what kind of magic it is?”

“Well…okay, that’d be nice to know too.”

“But see, you know you have it and maybe you know what kind you’re supposed to have. What’s stopping you from trying to use that magic before you’re ready?”

A long pause stretched before them, heavy and uncomfortable. “I could really hurt myself,” Allison said finally.

“More than that, buttercup. Magic appears when you’re ready for it.”

“But what if I’m never ready for it? What if I just don’t have it?”

“Then obviously you never needed it to start with. You’ve got a phone.”

“A phone isn’t magic.”

“No, but it lets you call your friends, and your family, doesn’t it? It lets you store photos of memories you want to keep, and share those same photos with the people you care about the most. You don’t need magic for the important stuff, and magic comes with its own downsides. Your friend, you said she had extra practices now?”

Allison nodded. “She’s taking them on Saturday and Sunday.”

“So I’m guessing she doesn’t have a lot of time to hang out on those days,” Oceania said.

This time, the widening of Allison’s eyes came with a slight pursing of her lips, as if she’d just realized something.

“She couldn’t come to the movies with us on Saturday because she had practice,” Allison said.

“Do you think she enjoyed knowing all her friends were watching movies and laughing with each other while she was stuck learning about something she has no choice in?”

A headshake.

“So while you’re fretting about maybe you do, maybe you don’t, she’s probably got some worries of her own about how all this magic is going to affect her life now.”

Squirming in her seat, it took a moment before Allison hung her head. “I guess I didn’t really think about it. I’m used to having magic in my life. It feels weird to try and think of it as anything but normal.”

“Oh it’s plenty normal. Sometimes it’s just so small it gets lost in all the other stuff out there. Rainbows are magic. So are kisses from pretty girls and laughing with your best friends. And sometimes, finding a penny on the street is all the magic you ever need.”

Allison nodded. “I…I still want to know, but I guess I’ll have to wait.”

“Sounds like a smart idea to me,” Oceania said and reached over to grab a lip balm tube from the side of the office desk. “You’ve been picking at your lips again. Put some of that on and go eat your yogurt.”

Smiling, Allison took it and dutifully applied it to her lips. As she did, the balm shimmered, almost a little like crystals.

“Thanks,” Allison said as she stood, picking up her yogurt and the spoon.

“Of course. I’d say you’ll probably get your answer here soon—but you’ve got to be patient. No more poking at it. It’ll show when it shows.”

“No more poking, I promise,” Allison said and waved as she headed back towards the main dining area.

Oceania sighed a little as she stood, heading to grab the bussing cart.

Instead, Carlyn stopped her. “What exactly did you give her?” he asked.

“Strawberry yogurt,” Oceania said and looked over at where Allison had apparently joined a friend from school and was now chatting and laughing. “And some Chapstick.”

Carlyn looked over. “Just Chapstick?”

Oceania held up the fresh tube of magic-detection potion. “Looked enough like it to me.”

Posted in Stories, writing

Short Story: Prior Engagements

Romance, Everett decided as he stomped down the altar’s runner, was entirely useless.

He’d spent more than two and half years courting Miss Lavender, and now today of all days, she announced she wouldn’t be marrying him.

Not even to his face.

She’d sent a letter.

The last six months of wedding preparations had to be undone. At least half of what he’d spent was permanently lost. That much he’d expected for some places, especially for the church. They used the fees and money to help keep the church in running order.

The fact he’d had the priests offering their condolences as if someone had died was what bothered him the most.

He yanked the church doors open, striding outside without looking at what lay behind. A yelp and he fell backwards, having collided with someone on their way in.

“I’m so sorry.”

Her voice was gentle and Everett looked up. Her basket had spilled, dried flowers and a few carefully letter papers littering the steps. All the same, she held a hand down to him.

“It’s not your fault,” Everett said. “I shouldn’t be letting my temper get me into a mood to stomp around.”

She smiled as he took her hand. He hardly needed the help up, but accepted. Everett straightened his vest and bent again, scooping up the things he’d spilled when they’d collided.

“Thank you,” she said. “Although, may I ask what has you in such a mood?”

Such a light, gentle tone, like kisses from the air. He had to chuckle, a little darker. “My bride-to-be had decided she won’t be marrying me. I’ve spent most of the day running around and trying to undo all of the wedding preparations. I…” He glanced back at the altar.

It looked like any other day of the week with how it was set now. Three bowls. One each for the land, the sea and the sky. On his wedding day they would have been surrounded by sprays of flowers and ribbons. Their rings would have been blessed in each bowl before they were allowed to place them on their fingers.

Thoughts for another time, Everett decided and turned with a shake of his head. “I am sorry,” he said as she counted her papers. “Like I said, I shouldn’t be letting my mood make me stomp around.”

“For something that heartbreaking, it’s understandable. Just, perhaps, be a little more observant before you run into someone else, please?”

The soft smile on her face melted some of his anger away. “Of course,” he said. “I—I’m so sorry, I don’t even have your name.”

“Blair,” she answered and inclined her head. “And you’re Everett Atoll.”

“Uh—yes. I don’t recognize you.”

“I’d be surprised if you did. My father’s one of your newest business partners. Ashton Carrier.”

Blair Carrier. He’d not only run into a young, gentle woman, but Blair Carrier herself. Masterful writer and champion of charities across the region.

“I’m so sorry Miss Carrier,” he said. “Please, let me make it up to you.”

“Blair!”

That wasn’t her father’s voice but she turned towards it all the same. The man who came up had to be at least ten years older than her. He caught her hand with affection on his face. “Are you alright?”

“Fine, Jacob. A little mishap, nothing more. I just need to see these are handled properly and then we can get back home.”

Everett knew Jacob. He’d been introduced as a family retainer during one business meeting. Doubtless sent to help Blair with her errands today.

Jacob sighed and offered a mocking bow. “As the lady demands.”

Blair laughed and turned, lifting one side of her skirt as she bowed to Everett. “I have some things to see to. If you need help with anything, I’m happy to assist.”

He couldn’t hep but smile. “Thank you, but unless you happen to know someone in need of a white lace dress, I’m afraid everything else is out of my hands.”

“White lace? I might know someone,” Blair said.

“Really?’” It surprised him and Blair laughed.

“I do like having a few nicer dresses.”

“It’s—uh, perhaps I can help you here and show you the dress? It’s at Missus Cleary’s now.”

“I’d love to. Oh, Jacob. I’m sorry.”

Jacob however, held up a hand, a smile on his face. “It matters little and gives me time perhaps to ensure lunch isn’t forgotten before someone else finds a need of your aid for some reason.”

Blair laughed and shook her head before she turned another smile on Everett. “Give me the hour and then shall I meet you at Missus Cleary’s?”

“Absolutely,” Everett said. “Thank you.”

“The pleasure is mine,” she said and offered a little wave. He returned it as his mood lightened.

She vanished into the church and Everett gave himself a little shake while Jacob beamed after her. “She is a marvel,” Jacob said and inclined her head. “I’ll see to it that the cost of the dress is covered for Miss Blair.”

“It’s already paid for,” Everett said and turned. “I’m happier that I don’t have another reminder of my prior engagement hanging about. Perhaps I should have mentioned it was a wedding dress.”

Jacob chuckled as he followed Blair inside. Everett watched over his shoulder a moment longer before he shook it off. He’d get rid of the wedding dress—perhaps offer to have some alterations added so it wasn’t as clear what its intended purpose had been.

Besides, he decided, it was only Blair Carrier being the kind young woman she was known to be. It wasn’t as if Everett would be foolish enough to romance another woman.

Not at least, so soon after his prior engagement.


by A.J. Helms

If you enjoyed this, you can find more of my works by visiting my books page or picking up a copy of my newest release, Crimson and Gold for Kindle.

Posted in books, writing

The (Almost) Launch Post

Back in September when I first started looking at publishing Crimson and Gold, there was an entire list of questions to answer. From the cover to the formatting, did I have everything I needed? There were also questions about whether or not I should do pre-orders, blog tours, ARCs and so many other little things it felt almost like I could easily drown in all the uncertainty.

Writing books is hard. Editing them is harder. Publishing is harder still.

I am however, incredibly happy to announce that all of the pre-launch chaos is almost over. Crimson and Gold officially releases on January 15. I know I’m not the only one wading through posts on how to do a book launch or how to create buzz for a story, so I’m hoping my experiences here will help anyone else with questions.

Building the Plan
The first place I started was figuring out what I needed to do to get ready to launch. That involved digging around on the internet and finding out what others had done for their launch plans. There were a few things I noted were key components.

  1. Time.
  2. Marketing
  3. Preparation

All three of these are things I knew I had to put into my own plan, which is why for something decided on in September of 2019, the end goal wasn’t feasible until at least January 2020.

Preparation was the biggest factor for how much time I needed. I needed time to make any final edits and to format the text. Additionally, I needed time to write any posts related to the launch. There were also several weeks of work to go into creating the cover.

Because Crimson and Gold is just over thirteen thousand words, I opted for fairly light marketing, utilizing just my twitter and the blog. I went back and forth on whether or not to open pre-orders (more on that a little bit below). Although that certainly reduced the amount of time I needed between deciding to publish and actually clicking the button, there was still a lot of work to go into it.

Behind the Scenes
A lot of the work going into launch day was technical work and learning as I went. Cover creation required not only editing and processing an image but also adding a few new skills to my repertoire of digital art. Learning those skills added several hours to an already lengthy process.

There was also formatting. Once the final edits were made, I needed to add in an appropriate table of contents and make sure it would properly transfer over to an e-book. That was likely the easiest portion of the entire process to complete.

I also had to upload both the manuscript and cover files, check those for errors and make any necessary corrections. Namely my initial cover wasn’t saved at the proper size, making it too small to upload.

All of that took up the months of October through November. Because I wanted the cover reveal done in December, I had to make sure that was completed and ready to go and became the primary reason the cover wasn’t revealed until the 30th. Before I could reveal anything I needed the cover and I needed a description.

The countless hours already put into writing and editing the story had to shift from checking word choice and grammar rules to trying to talk about the story and manipulating photos.

What’s Next
Officially, Crimson and Gold is launching on January 15th. I spent a lot of time debating about opening pre-orders. Ultimately, I decided on yes. It made things a little easier since it meant I could set the date and forget it, not needing to worry that anyone looking for the book wouldn’t be able to get it right away.

Beyond the 15th however, things get a little murkier. I’ll still need to do promotion and marketing. There’s plenty more to learn ahead.


CRIMSONANDGOLDREVEALCOVERCrimson and Gold available January 15th, 2020. Pre-order it here! You can also check out my other works here.

Twelve years ago, a wolf attacked Scarlett. Twelve years ago, Grandmother Rose chased off the man behind that attack.

Now, Ethan is back and Scarlett is the one responsible for defending Fairvale.  Doing that means finding the fairy spring and the only person who knows how to find it is the woodcutter, Carter. Carter has is own reasons for not getting involved with fairies and wolves. If Scarlett can’t find the fairy spring, Ethan gains control over some of the most dangerous creatures in the entire First Kingdom.

The same creatures he used to attack her twelve years ago.