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Free Fiction Friday: The Burden of So Many Roses

The road to popularity at Fremont High School is paved with rose petals.

Or, to be exact (and I usually am), petals from three-dollar roses.

This year, I have a three-part plan to conquer those roses:

1. Money (Christmas, babysitting, minimum wage from the Sub Shoppe)

2. Handwriting samples (AP World History projects, chemistry lab, Spanish class)

3. Selection of boys (valedictorian, quarterback, swim team captain)

They’re all going to send me a rose on Valentine’s Day—even if they don’t realize it.

The problem? Girls from the cheerleading squad run the rose booth. I must make sure no one sees me take more than a few notecards. But a sweater with big pockets and a little misdirection work wonders. I slip in before school and give Sienna my biggest smile.

“For my best friend,” I say, a lie, of course.

One, that rose is totally for me. Two? Maybe next year at this time, I’ll have a best friend—or any friends, for that matter. First, I must tread the rose-petal path.

“Aw,” Sienna says. “That’s so sweet. Some girls don’t get any roses.”

Not that Sienna would know. She’s never been one of those girls. The thing is, everybody knows that girls buy for each other. It doesn’t make you popular. It doesn’t make guys think you’re hot. All it does is make you look desperate. I will not be that girl. Not anymore.

That night, I neglect calculus in favor of perfecting Marcus Hanson’s blocky boy letters and Toby Preston’s lazy scrawl. In the end, I spend fifty-four dollars for eighteen roses. I can always stash a few in my locker if lugging around so many roses turns out to be too much. On Valentine’s Day, I choose a pink sweater. When I walk into school and see Sienna wearing a similar style in a similar shade, I know it’s perfect.

This day will be perfect.

All morning, roses flood the classrooms. It’s a record sale, the principal announces over the PA system, with the proceeds going to Operation Smile. We are, she tells us, a most generous group of young people. Some more than others, I think.

More roses arrive, but by the time class ends, not a single one is for me. Next class. I’ll practically drown in all the roses. But by lunch, I trudge to the cafeteria empty-handed. Sienna, at the cheerleading table, has a stack of roses—red and pink and creamy white. She plucks one from the pile and hands it to a freshman girl passing by.

Oh, to be Sienna. To have roses to spare.

During chemistry, the collar of my pink fuzzy sweater chokes me. My armpits produce massive amounts of sweat. I blow an easy pop quiz. Then, I have the best thought.

All my roses will arrive during last class! I’ll stagger to my locker under their weight. When I pass Sienna, she’ll give me a secret smile, the sort only shared by girls who struggle under the burden of so many roses.

When the last bell rings, I stay rooted in my chair, convinced there’s been a mistake. Not a single rose! Mrs. Meyer clears her throat, then asks:

“Are you okay?”

I nod, but I’m not okay. I’m out fifty-four dollars. The path to my locker is strewn with other people’s rose petals. My books make my arms ache. I dial the combination, but don’t lift the handle.

“Hey, Emily.”

I turn. Toby Preston stands to one side, pink-cheeked and adorable.

“This is crazy,” he says. “But back in sixth grade, I never gave you this.” He pushes an envelope at me. “It was stupid, because we had to give everyone a valentine, but I didn’t want anyone to know I liked you.”

I hold the valentine like it’s made of spun glass. This is better than a rose.

“Would you like to go somewhere?” he asks. “Coffee shop, maybe?”

Oh! Even better. Who needs roses anyway? I nod and open my locker for my coat. Out spills a rose. Then another. They tumble out, cover the linoleum, bury me up to my ankles.

Toby’s cheeks blaze red. His Adam’s apple bobs once, twice, so hard my throat aches in response.

“I guess coffee’s out of the question,” he says. Before I can stop him, he sprints down the hall.

A custodian helps me clear away the roses. She loans me a pair of work gloves, but the thorns find my skin. One pricks my cheek, and I can’t stop the blood tear that rolls down my face.

“Seen this before,” she says after I shove the last rose to the bottom of the dumpster.


“It happens. Every few years or so.”

What happens?” I want to know why and what it all means.

Her eyes are kind, but she shrugs. “I think that’s up to you.”

I leave school empty-handed.

A block from home, I spot a little girl at a bus stop. In the center of the road sits a smashed shoebox. Red construction paper hearts flutter in the wind. Tires grind Red Hots and conversation hearts into powder. Her sobs fill the air but do nothing to stop the cars from plowing through her valentines.

“They’re all gone,” she says, “I don’t have any left.”

Neither do I. Then I remember Toby’s valentine. I pull it from my backpack. The wind nearly steals it, so I hang on tightly. Then I wonder if I can let it go.

“What’s that?” the little girl asks.

“It’s yours.” I kneel at her side and hand it to her.

“Oh! It even has my name on it! Right here. It says Emily.”

“See? It was meant for you.”

She skips down the sidewalk, clutching Toby Preston’s valentine to her chest. I turn for home. Only when I reach the front porch, do I feel it.

I am one rose lighter.

The Burden of So Many Roses was first published in Kazka Press as part of their monthly contest. The theme was an undelivered Valentine. And it’s one of those Valentine’s Day stories for when you’re not feeling Valentine’s Day.

I was thrilled when Toasted Cake picked it up for the podcast. Tina’s narration is, as always, amazing.

Miss a story? Check the titles here.

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Filed under Free Fiction Friday, Reading, Stories for 2020

Free Fiction Friday: The Secret Life of Sleeping Beauty

Sending you over to Cast of  Wonders for my short story The Secret Life of Sleeping Beauty, along with a few other stories that put a new spin on an old tale.

Happy reading (and listening)!

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Free Fiction Friday: The Burden of So Many Roses

Sending you over to Toasted Cake Podcast again for one of my own stories.

I first wrote The Burden of So Many Roses for one of Kazka Press’s monthly contests. The theme for this one was an undelivered Valentine.

I was thrilled when Toasted Cake picked it up for the podcast.

And yes, it’s a Valentine’s Day story, but I think it works if you’re not particularly feeling Valentine’s Day this year.

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Weekly writing check-in: it’s cold enough to freeze all the words

It’s so very cold here, so very, very cold. And it’s going to get colder before it gets warmer.

So we’re just going to bundle up here, read and write and hope for the best.

In actual writing news, I’m making progress turning the novella into book two of the series. This isn’t a super speedy process, but it seems to be working, and I’m pleased.

I also have some samples to review for the audio version of Coffee & Ghosts, and I’m so excited. I can’t wait to get the entire series into audio format.

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Free Fiction Friday: We Have Always Lived in the Barbie Dream Castle

Sending you over to Toasted Cake Podcast this week for a must-listen.


I love this short story by Megan Lee Beals and feel strongly that everyone should give it a listen. Add in Tina Connolly’s pitch-perfect narration, and you have the perfect treat to start your weekend.

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Weekly writing check-in: chapters and podcasts

As I mentioned last week, the draft of The Trouble with Necromancers was finished, minus giving it some chapters. I’m happy to report I have done just that and sent the manuscript off for editing.

Then I jumped right into organizing the expansion of the novella The Trouble with Doppelgangers into an actual novel. There are several threads I can weave into the narrative. I created a book map for the existing story, looked at where I could expand or add, and brainstormed three major plot threads.

In this coming week, I will tackle … well, I’m not really sure what I’ll tackle. Something related to the novel, I’m certain. It’s a check-in with a cliffhanger. You’ll have to come back next week to see what I accomplished.

Even though it’s 2019, I’m still rounding up some of my favorite things from last year. I didn’t discover podcasts last year, mind you, but I truly embraced them in 2018.

My favorite writing-related podcasts of 2018:

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Weekly writing check-in: the one with the New Year and talking ghosts


newyearOh. Well. Look at all those rejections.

Here’s the thing: while I knew I had rejections this week (obviously), the number didn’t strike me until I counted them up for the weekly check-in.

That’s the magic of sending things out on a regular basis. It’s not that you’re suddenly immune to rejection or it’s somehow fun for you. You just sort of … forget about it. You take the story that came back, find a new, appropriate place to send it, and log the new submission.

Because logging new submissions is fun.

In other news, despite the holiday, I finished up the short story I was working on, did some more brainstorming on episode #3 for Coffee & Ghosts, Season 2, and some played around in Photoshop.

In really cool news, Ghost in the Coffee Machine is out in audio from The Drabblecast. It was so incredible to listen to this. I love audio stories to begin with, and they did such a wonderful job. It also got me all excited to work on more Coffee & Ghosts stories.

Writing Work:

  • Short story revision
  • Coffee & Ghosts Season 2, episode 3 brainstorming and outlining
  • Photoshop tutorials


  • Gretel and Hansel
  • The Perfect Canvas
  • Straying from the Path (reprint market)
  • Knight in the Royal Arms


  • Gretel and Hansel
  • The Girl with the Piccolo
  • The Perfect Canvas
  • A Most Marvelous Pair of Boots
  • Knight in the Royal Arms


  • None


Ghost in the Coffee Machine … in audio! Head on over to The Drabblecast and give it a listen (or find the podcast on your phone). It has sound effects! Music! And some very nice artwork as well. I couldn’t be more pleased with the production. They did a tremendous job.

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Filed under Audio Books, Promo, Publishing, Weekly Writing Check In, Writing

Weekly writing check-in: the one with the Girl with the Piccolo

So, this week came with a very nice surprise. The Girl with the Piccolo made the list for Best of Cast of Wonders for 2014.

Plus, I made a submission. A new one! At long last. So, there’s that. I also worked on the print layout for Now and Later. It’s a little bit trickier than a novel layout since I need to build a table of contents, apply a different “master” to each short story, and so on.

Writing Work:

  • Writing ~ 9,207 words (Five more words than last week. That’s crucial, people, crucial.)
  • Print layout for Now and Later


  • Steps to Goodbye 


  • None


  • None


  • None


Filed under Audio Books, Publishing, Weekly Writing Check In, Writing, YA

Weekly writing check-in: the one with the talking Valentine

So, I was very excited to see hear The Burden of So Many Roses in audio in time for Valentine’s Day. I figured it would go live right about that time, but it was still a nice surprise.

Otherwise, just a touch over 9,000 words this week. No subs or anything. I’m itching to switch to short fiction for a while, but my stories keep morphing into longer things (current project word count: ~70,000 words). Maybe once this current story is done. Maybe.

Writing Work:

  • Writing ~ 9,202 words


  • None


  • None


  • None


rosesThe Burden of So Many Roses is live for your listening pleasure. Generally, I have a tough time reading/listening to my work once it’s out in the world, but Tina is incredible. Go give her a listen. I couldn’t be more thrilled.

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For Valentine’s Day: The Burden of So Many Roses in audio

Just in time for Valentine’s Day! The Burden of So Many Roses is now in audio over at Toasted Cake.  Having a bad day? Well, have a listen. It could be much, much worse.


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Filed under Audio Books, Promo, Publishing, Reading, Writing, YA