Brief Humor & Check-Ins

The Letter: Horror Story Sneak Peek & Order Info

My short story, The Letter is now available through Darkness Screams: Whisper Quiet anthology. Order links are below, along with a sneak peak of the story. Enjoy and have a Happy Spoopy Season.

Order Links:
Darkness Screams: Whisper Quiet (“The Letter” appears here)
Darkness Screams: Howling Deep

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The Letter, by A. R. Clayton

I set my cup of tea on the tray. It was late, and the day had been long. I had been out in the fields, working alongside the men and women on my estate, harvesting the last of our crops and tilling the ground before everything froze. The servants had been doing a month’s worth of baking and cleaning all week. Everyone would sleep well tonight. Excitement at tomorrow’s gala was ripe in the air. It was to be my birthday—an excuse to clear the cobwebs from our minds and hearts, to celebrate amidst our great sadness of late. My muscles ached, and I stank of sweat mixed with wet earth. My servant was somewhere, preparing my bath.

I stuck my fingers onto some cold beef and chunks of cheese and bread—my impromptu dinner. Food usually distracted me. I set the meal back on the plate and pushed it away, grabbing instead for my wine. Empty. I brought the envelope back out of its cubby hole and opened it carefully, as if holding a glass vial. It had been sent to me from a false address and misrouted several times. I could make out the painfully familiar cursive in the candlelight.

“My dearest Vincent. I write to you this day in low spirits. The horse I had been so afraid of dying has lived—some miracle or another, I do not know how to explain —”

“Your bath is ready, sir,” a voice called from behind me.

I turned round in my chair, hiding the letter with my sleeve.

“Are the preparations finished for tomorrow?”

“Yes, sir—the last shipment of flowers arrived earlier this evening. I will have your suit pressed and ready.”

“That will be all. Goodnight, Adam.”

I folded the letter and put it back in its stained envelope, tucking it away in a drawer. I locked the drawer in afterthought and stood to commence my toiletries.

Were it only as easy to clean the soul, I thought, as it was to clean the body.


“Why, whatever you do you mean, Vincent? Come now,” a woman next to me spoke, swatting at my hand playfully with her fan. I winced—the pointed tip had scratched my skin. “Certainly, there’s bound to be one or two ghosts on your fine estate. I’ve heard your servants whisper about them in the gardens—”

“Child’s play. Tom foolery,” one of the older men in the group spoke. I couldn’t make out his face amidst the pipe smoke, but I knew him to be a retired colonel—Colonel Thomas Williams. “People have been telling ghost stories for a millennium. Nothing for it.”

“Well, I for one would like to see your ghost,” the first woman’s sister spoke next, bowing her curled head innocently. Tara and Sarah—twins in every way. “Wouldn’t our father be surprised to hear of our adventures back home, Henry?” This last remark was addressed to her brother seated beside me. I reached up to rub at my temple as my guests continued chattering around me.

“Let us all go!” an elderly woman was now saying who had overhead the conversation and invited herself to our table. “Oh come now, colonel!” she pouted, plucking at the man’s sleeve. “We need a brave, strong man like yourself to protect us ladies. Henry wouldn’t accompany us if wild horses dragged him.”

The twins turned to each other and giggled. Henry groaned, reaching to pick up his wine glass.

“My lord,” a whisper sounded in my ear. I nearly jumped out of my seat. It was my lead servant, Adam.

“You are needed by a guest, sir,” he spoke carefully, his eyes not leaving my face. I rose in understanding, making my excuses.

Curious what comes next? The story is available for purchase here in the Darkness Screams: Whisper Quiet Anthology. Enjoy and happy reading.

Brief Humor & Check-Ins

“Don’t believe the hype”: Writing Updates, Story Releases, Podcasts and some Music

One of my favorite bands is 21 Pilots. They write a lot of deep, authentic music and advocate strongly for mental health. Sometimes the phrase “Don’t believe the hype” (from one of their songs, The Hype) will come into my mind when I find myself distracted by something in the world. “Buy this product” American society says, or “Join this group; network with this person; this is what success looks like–don’t you want to be like them?” Or “worry about this catastrophic event now”, says the 24/7 news cycle. Sifting through this information overload, trying to sort the gold from the fool’s gold is sometimes an impossible task. “Don’t believe the hype,” I will sometimes tell myself. “Just keep walking. Don’t be distracted.”

I have been walking through a difficult season in my life. It’s involved exhaustion, being extremely overworked and other personal challenges. It’s devoured my time and energy and, a long story very short, enough has been enough. I have been stumbling along with the guy in dusty sandals through the ordeal, learning to lean on him and not myself. He is leading the saint and I to calmer waters, but it’s taking some time to get there. These past few weeks have felt like the last miles in a very long bike ride. Pedaling, pedaling, pedaling. Eyes on the finish line, eyes focused forward, trying not to be distracted by any sideline games and foolery.

Writing wise, I have a few updates I’ve been posting. As a recap, I will be publishing a short horror story, “The Letter” this Fall in an anthology with other authors (preorder link here). My first short children’s story, “The Mermaid and the Yellow Jellyfish” is coming out this December as part of Fae Corp’s Kid’s Week (preorder link will be up later). I hope you’ll check out both and leave reviews. I have another short story I’m waiting to hear back for another anthology, and have been continuing to submit my novel to agents.

A more personal achievement–I donated blood for the 25th time recently. This was a goal I had been working towards for the past few years. If you ever thought about donating blood, I encourage you to check it out. It’s a constant need, as blood has a limited shelf life. Each donation can save up to three lives.

I also wanted to share a podcast I came across recently, for those interested in Christian and Jewish history in context of the Bible. It’s called the BibleProject. Currently, I’m listening to a talk on the 10 Plagues and Exodus. The history, the original Hebrew text and words–all so fascinating. So far, I have really enjoyed their balanced, loving approach to presenting and understanding the Bible and Christianity. I’ve also been on an Egyptian history kick, so all boxes crossed there. Good to listen to while bee-bopping on the rider, or doing some gardening. They’re funny, too.

I’ll end it here with a another song that’s been my jam lately. Stay well and happy writing.

Announcements, Brief Humor & Check-Ins

Exciting Announcement: My First Children’s Book (Cover Tease)

My first children’s book, “The Mermaid and the Yellow Jellyfish” has recently been accepted by Fae Corps Publishing for publication in December 2022. Below, I’ve included a cover teaser that Patti graciously put together for me. The title, and my name, are the actual font used in Disney’s “The Little Mermaid”. (Apparently the font is free for individual and corporate use.) This little Millennial girl, who has artwork of Ariel hanging in her house and who dressed in a head-to-toe Little Mermaid outfit (complete with lunchbox and backpack!) on her first day of Kindergarten, simply CANNOT handle this fact.

Many, many thanks to all those at Fae for reading and accepting my story, and continuing to work with me and answer my many questions. I originally wrote this story a few years ago as a reaction to current events I was seeing in the news. I hope you’ll give it a read and swim through the layers of meaning together with Liza, my mermaid protagonist. Order links and the cover reveal will be shared in the future.

Cheers and happy writing.

-ARC-

It’s the actual font from The Little Mermaid…Happy tears, happy tears.