WEP October Contest Theme “Voodoo” any feedback welcome!

Chickens don’t do it for me. By Dixie Jo Jarchow

One after another, through the dark swamp, the few of the faithful slid into his hut like shadows passing the bright moon. Could the Hougan help her son? Could the Hougan ease the pain? Should they move or stay, Hougan? His once bright golden eyes, the mark of the High Priest, had faded to the pale yellow of a peeled potato.

He did what he could for those few who sought him out in the old ways, comforting the people who still kept to the sacred path.

He didn’t do all that much, he admitted to himself as he half listened to the man before him. His role was mostly to give advice. The powerful magik that was the cornerstone of their religion was in short supply for the poor, The younger people ignored him and made their own way without the comfort of Voodoo.

The pain of age crawled down his back and he wondered what the people would do when he was gone. Would they travel to the larger port city for a Hougan? It would be expensive and he doubted any other priest would accept their meager offerings as he did. During the day, he worked the fields as any other man did to make his living. He supposed it was hard to see him sweating under the beating sun and then imagine him as a conduit of the powerful magik during the full moon.

The man before him grew silent. It was time.

With a quick practiced motion, he twisted the chicken’s neck from its body.

The old man in front of him shook as the blood spattered his face. Not the slight vibration of a chill but the bone shaking rattle of the believer. He left a few coins and slipped out with the chicken. Supper tomorrow, the Hougan thought.

He waited but no one claimed the spot. That must be it for tonight. It was good; he was tired.

The Hougan sighed and began the laborious process of getting up. Pain was eating him from the inside. It could be put at bay only so long before it took him. He wouldn’t have to worry about a successor for long. It was sad but not many would be disappointed.

The old ways were slipping away like the shadow of a bird high in the sky.

A cloud walked past the moon, plunging the hut into darkness. The Hougan paused, waiting for it to pass but the moonlight did not return and a dark mountain in the form of a man with burning eyes appeared in the seat. The Hougan could see precious metals glinting on his gleaming arms and legs.

“Are you a true believer?” The voice like the scraping of stones.

“I am,” he whispered, a tear jerked down his face.

The man pulled two smokes out of the darkness and handed one to the Hougan. “So few really do believe.”

The Hougan’s hand shook as the thing lit both smokes and handed one to him. The sweet smoke curled around them. The Hougan’s consciousness began to float like fine ash as the powerful drug took hold of him.

“What we need,” it drew in the smoke, but never released it, he noticed, “Is a new, powerful Hougan. Someone to bring the sacrifices back and restore respect to its proper level.” He leaned towards the Hougan and the air compressed between them. Fear clutched at the Hougan’s chest and his breath wheezed.

“I do miss a good sacrifice,” his laughter was like a rumbling storm before the rain. “Chickens just don’t do it for me.”

The Hougan thought about his life as he floated above his seated body. He’d had a good woman who bore him a daughter but no sons. “My daughter,” he whispered.

“Yes, the one who ran away. I’ve kept a watch on her for you. She’s one of my favorites. You’d like to see her one more time and know that she’s fine? I can do that for you, for one of my true believers.” The thing nodded. “She’s everything we could have hoped for.”

A cold wind ripped through the hut. Not the wonderful cool breeze in a stifling heat but a searing cold rapier that bit the skin.

“Why, here she is now.”

Another darkness moved through the door. Slim and quick with long swirling hair the color of night. The Hougan wept as he caught a glimpse of her fierce golden eyes and ebony face just as the knife plunged down.


Deadlines, baby

Okay, I missed the August WEP contest deadline but I’ll get better. They have more contests, like the October one that is either Voodoo or Deja Vu. I have found to be frequently telling my tribe that I need deadlines to write, so this site is perfect for me.

InsecureWritersSupportGroup.com. I just need that terror of the deadline to keep actively writing. Join me, o lazy ones.

They also have an anthology contest

Change of Heart for WEP August Challenge

The sound was unmistakable. Even though Tali never heard a car hit a person before, she knew what it was. She turned as one small gym shoe, white as a sunflower seed, arced into the air. The tiny, boneless body windmilled after the shoe. The child had been behind her in the crosswalk.

It could have been Tali, a few seconds earlier, walking home from high school with her heavy book bag. Just stupid luck it was the next kid. Another proof that her life was worth something. The good Lord intended her to make a difference. Maybe be a physician like that woman in the movie in class today.

The little sista was almost sure dead. She should go check, though. Before she would make her legs move, the squealing of metal tore the air as the car hit an SUV.

A man’s body rammed through the windshield like a spear and landed on the sidewalk right in front of her, almost on her shoe. A long ragged gash in his chest filled with blood and Talia’s vision narrowed to a point while her stomach flipped. She gritted her teeth and shook herself. Maybe this was the Lord’s test to see if she could be a doctor.

The man’s chest had a deep fissure from the collarbone to the belly button. His guts glistened and pieces of white bone were scattered through the hole like dice. The seam filled endlessly with blood. He was probably gonna die but she would maybe keep him alive until the ambulance came.

She knelt in the broken glass and pressed her hands together as if in prayer, on either side of the rift to close the opening. The blood bubbled up like warm bread dough pushing through her brown fingers. The shattered glass from the windshield bit into her knees, but she kept pressure on to hold the two ragged edges of the wound together.

People gathered and established their own periphery on the grass on the other side of the smoking car. Probably didn’t want to get involved in anyone else’s business. People were like that and that was okay. Being a hero wasn’t for everyone. Blood covered her hands, but she kept on the pressure.

Everyone stood there, stupid, but not her. If she was meant to be a physician, this would be the moment that decided her future for her. Her arms ached with the strain of keeping the pressure on. Whatever she became, gonna get there by hard work and scholarships. Not gonna get a baby in her like some of the girls. She wasn’t having any of what those boys were selling. She’d had enough to last a lifetime. Yeah, her brown eyes were nice and her hair was soft. It was gonna take more than sugar to derail her life. She’d had a rough enough start without adding to it.

At seven Tali was in charge of herself while her mama slept from second shift at the grocery and third cleaning hotel rooms part time.

A dark man with a whispery voice like crinkling paper, lived down the street and had a nose for children who weren’t under anyone’s watch. He’d found her fast enough and told her he’d kill her if she told. Those three years were a nightmare she relived every night of her life.

He’d disappeared one day when she was ten. It was her best birthday present ever even if it weren’t on her birthday. Was it only five years ago? Tali never told anyone, not even her mama. What could anyone do to fix it? Now, she was old enough she could help herself.

The blood from the man’s chest seemed to be slowing. Tali wondered what was wrong inside his body. Was it his heart? The sweat ran into her eyes as she struggled to keep him alive.

She’d vowed to make a difference in someone’s life, the way she always prayed someone would appear back then to rescue her. Saving this guy would be the start of making her mark in the world.

She pushed all her weight into keeping his wound closed, heard him grunt in pain.

“Hold on, help is coming,” Tali muttered. Sirens wailed in the distance.

“Thank you,” the man whispered.

That voice. Tali’s hand slipped off him in the blood. Her breath caught deep in her gut and she couldn’t hear anything as if her ears were muffled in a pillow. The searing pain in her chest brought her right back to being seven years old. His voice, that whispering rasp, was in her nightmares every night. The shaking began and she couldn’t keep her hands still. Blood flowed out of his wound like a river overflowing its banks.

Tali took a deep breath. She wasn’t that girl anymore, vowed to never be afraid like that again. She wiped her bloody hands on the clean sleeve of his shirt and stood up. Maybe her gift was to make it so no little girl had to be afraid like that. She brushed the glass off of the knees of her jeans.

Maybe he deserved to live for some reason in God’s big plan. Wasn’t her call. God would save him, if she wanted to. She was just a kid walking home from school. He’d cut that little sista’s life short and put a sliver of terror right through her heart that she’d never get out.

Making a difference in the world was important, Tali picked up her heavy backpack. Not everyone could be a hero. Only those who were strong. She was strong, she realized. Strong enough to make the hard choice and do the right thing. 951 words.

An interview with Christine Schimpf

If you could change anything in your last book what would it be?AChristmasKindOfPerfect_prc5369_680

The timing and submission process. Since I independently published my first two books I didn’t have a clue how long the traditional publishing process would actually take. Now, I have a complete and thorough understanding and can time my submissions more appropriately.

How much of a factor is your faith in your writing?

It’s the start, the middle, and the end of my writing. In my conversations with God I throw a couple of ideas around until I sense which topic holds the most importance. If I get lost in a scene and it’s not working for whatever reason, I take my dog, Rudy, out for a long walk. By the time I return home, the scene is clear, in fact, there are times I’ve actually went from a stroll to a fast walk to a run to get back to my computer and hammer out the details that appear as vivid as a movie in my head.

What is the biggest challenge in writing?

Letting the work go and calling it “done”. When you take an idea, give it the characters with their problems and goals, create a setting and other characters, weave the faith statement – the whole point to the story – throughout the scenes, work in cliff hangers and conflict and joy and an ending and then begin editing and polishing over and over again. It’s extremely difficult to let it go and present the story to the world. It almost feels like losing a best friend.

Any advice to new writers?

One of the best steps I took as a young writer was to join a large critique group through a community college. It allowed me to bring in my story, chapter-by-chapter, read it aloud and listen to feedback. By doing this, although a little scary at first, I grew as a writer and as a person who could deliver a sound critique.

Anything on the horizon for you?

Actually yes. In September, I finished a romantic novella entitled, A Perfect Fit, a spin-off romance from A Christmas Kind of Perfect. The story steps into the life of a young woman who typically chooses the wrong kind of man until she turns the decision over to God. But it’s not always easy letting go, even of behaviors that hurt us.

Presently, I’m working on A Perfect Ending another spin-off romance from A Christmas Kind of Perfect with intentions on finishing that work by summer 2018.  This story peeks in on a woman with a professional career. Her intentions are to keep moving forward and achieving more and more success until God places her in an unexpected situation and turns her world upside down.

A peek into Christine’s new release, A Christmas Kind of Perfect

Conrad Hamilton thought his life would be easy. A great job running his own construction business, living in his hometown in Door County, Wisconsin, with Lila Clark by his side. He planned on marrying her as soon as she returned from her Chicago internship but it never happened.

Lila never expected to become a successful writer nor did she plan on spending the last decade in New York. But she did.

Can the magic of Christmas turn two hearts back to one another again or is it too late to capture that special kind of perfect?

Chapter 1

Lower Manhattan, New York

Lila almost tripped over her suitcase as she swept into her apartment. Hand to chest, she willed the panic to subside. It seemed that everywhere she went lately, she saw a tall, broad-shouldered man who reminded her of…him. Her first love. He was even showing up in her dreams.

Taking a deep breath, she locked the door and kicked off her high-heels. She dragged the suitcase to her bedroom and quickly unpacked as if by doing so she could set memories from ten years ago back in the closet of her mind where they belonged.

It hadn’t mattered where her book signing was or that she’d been out on the west coast working on the movie versions of her books, Conrad haunted her.  

Ah, the mind of an author was a terrifying place at times. She’d been working too hard. At least that’s the excuse she gave herself. Settling into more comfortable clothes she headed to the kitchen.

Lila walked to the window of her apartment cradling a cup of chamomile tea sweetened with honey. She watched the street traffic below, which reminded her of a busy ant colony. How she wished the city would sleep, if only for one night. Oh, the blessed silence. She’d walk for miles. Better yet, she’d run. Although Lila feared the attempt wouldn’t be easy. Like so many other activities she used to enjoy doing, she’d abandoned running since moving to the Big Apple years ago.

She padded over to her favorite chair, a chaise longue in dire need of new fabric, and snuggled in like a fat cat finding its spot. The chair stuck out compared to the eclectic-themed room, but Lila refused to reupholster the piece despite the persuasive arguments from her friends. In an odd sort of way, Lila drew comfort from the inanimate object. They shared the same flaw—an inability to fit in with their surroundings.

Lila’s bones ached. Now that she was back in the city, her life would return to normal. She’d hibernate for the next few weeks and start outlining her next book. Ugh. At this point, she’d much rather clean her uncle’s morning catch of fish.

Goodness, what had made her think of her uncle? He’d died years ago.

Reaching for the remote, she flicked on the receiver. Sounds from an acoustic guitar filled the room. Ooh, much better. She placed her emptied cup near her phone on the end table, leaned her head back on the cushion, and stared up at the ceiling.

Her smartphone buzzed. Ahh. The phone always seemed to ring at the worst of times, scaring her half to death. The clock had barely moved five minutes, and she’d bet her last chocolate donut that her agent Andrea was calling with another idea for a book tour. Lila swiped the call through. With tired eyes and a worn-out spirit, she forced a pleasant tone. Sounding irritated was not how Lila wanted to present herself. “Hello.”

“Hi, I’m calling for Lila Clark.”

Lila’s heart stopped as if she’d skidded on ice and slammed her vehicle into a fire hydrant. This wasn’t Andrea. She recognized the sing-song melody in the caller’s voice, so reminiscent of someone from the past. Was her memory going as well as her stamina?

Website: www.christineschimpf.webs.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/authorchristineschimpf

Blog: www.christineschimpf.blogspot.com

Twitter: www.twitter.com/ChrisSchimpf

Contact: cschimpf57@yahoo.com

Cranberry 1


Can I rant? I’m in several writing groups and what sticks out to me most is that people won’t shut up and accept comments.   These are people’s opinions of your piece that you asked for so listen.  Don’t explain why. Just realize that it made them stop their reading for a moment.  So, write down their comments and reflect on it and maybe change something later.

So step 4, stoicism. Shut up and listen to the people who might just buy your book. They are the ones who can really help your writing. 

Building your brand Part 3

Part 1 was the decision to go whole hog and then develop your tagline as a writer that kind of sets the mood for your journey.

Part 3 isn’t so easy. Writing better, more complex stories. While writing well is always the goal, committing to learning to write better isn’t.  It’s tough. I already have a toughened ego from years of being edited and rejected. Now, I have to learn to open myself up further to accept instruction, take it to heart and use it to write better. 

I’ve purchased probably 50 writing books and have kept about 10 close to my heart ad writing area. After I got my first three published, I went back and looked for the deeper meaning or things that didn’t apply to me then but now had special meaning for me.

When I found out my editor used a writing program to catch the more mundane problems, I bought the program. One is AutoCrit, another is ProWriting Aid and a third is Grammerly. They all have a free option where you can’t put in as many words as the pay version but you can certainly slog your way through them to see if they might help. (They will.)

Mine catches such things as vague or abstract words, over used words, sticky sentences, too many pronouns, etc. Things I don’t want to think about as I write the first draft. 

Do you stand out in a crowd? I think it’s always the writing and the story and the characters but once you get close, branding is the edge to set you up for success. 

Part 4 Stoicism in the face of Criticism

Part 2 Your tagline

I read about this as I was working on a tagline for my upcoming release, working title, “The Christmas List.”  A tagline for a novel is a 10-15 word phrase that gives an emotional snapshot of your novel. An Author Tagline is different. It encompasses the type of novels you create so readers can quickly see what you’re about. Here’s one of the places I looked at for research:  


It’s all about sticking in someone’s brain long enough for them to click the “BUY” button.

How to find your tagline as an author? Pick 2-5 words that you want readers to associate with your message. I write clean romance that’s light-hearted, occasionally all out funny. 

“Sweet romance that makes you smile”.  

I’ll try that for a while. It will go on my new cards, my new website (soon, master, soon) and wherever else I can stick that puppy.  I showed you mine, now you show me your tagline.