Brief Humor & Check-Ins

New Seasons: Writing & Life Updates

We put away the last of our Christmas decorations today, tree included. Out came Valentine’s Day. New seasons; new changes. Sparkly red hearts, red garland, and heart decals. You pack each Christmas item away carefully, holding the ornaments and tinsel, wondering how your life will be different when you go to unpack them in eleven months. Or at least I do. Time is a complicated, strange thing.

Writing wise, I finished a novella recently, titled The Cellar Door. This started as a short story and developed into a feminist horror tale, set in post-war England in the early 1950s. The main character, Alice, popped into my head one day. I saw her standing by a window, half hidden by a brown curtain, looking outside to a dreary, overcast England. She was in deep thought, with shadows flickering across her eyes. Fellow writer and blogger, Mike Nevin, helped me get the English dialogue and speech right for the English characters and provided other valuable (and patient) feedback, including historical photos and documents. Fingers, toes and elbows crossed that a publisher scoops it up and gives it a big hug. If you know of any good publishers or agents wanting horror novellas, let me know.

Exercise wise: I have biked 75 miles so far this month on my indoor bicycle. It’s a goal of mine this year to take better care of myself and this is one way I do it–clear the cobwebs of my mind and body through pedaling. I have an iFit membership which I’ve found marvelous for this introvert. I tend to put on closed captions to follow along with the trainer, and listen to instrumental music.

Music wise: I’ve been listening to a lot of My Chemical Romance (the Helena acoustic is beautiful and haunting) , Taylor Swift (Anti Hero has beautiful vulnerability), Green Day (love this instrumental of 21 Guns), 21 Pilots (Chlorine) and some other goodies (Lord Huron, Sharon Van Etten, whatever I come across). I downloaded a self-care app recently and one goal I picked was to listen to a song I like every day. Voila.

Spiritual wise: I’ve been doing my daily Bible reading and journaling, and catching-up when I miss days. I have a difficult time reading the OT–it’s an honest depiction of the fall of humanity and the cultural context and history sometimes passes high above my head. It’s both frustrating and saddening. Figures like Jacob, Rachel, and Abraham run past me, saying this and that, doing this, not doing that–and I struggle to piece it together in my 21st century mind. But with patience and effort, and God’s grace, I trust He’ll guide me through this. 2022 was a very difficult year for the Saint and I. I am clinging to Jesus’ robes to continue in strength and faith, and to make changes in 2023. He is with me; He is with us.

Hope you are all well and continue to pursue your own writing goals and journey. For any readers in Ukraine, I am thinking of you and continuing to fly your flag. Take care and God bless.

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


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.


Release Day: “Darkness Screams” Horror Anthology (“The Letter”)

Hello cats, kittens and those who wear mittens. Today is the official release day of Fae Corps’ “Darkness Screams” Anthology. My short story, “The Letter”, appears in Whisper Quiet. It’s a story about a young man who is desperately trying to manage an estate after the untimely death of both his parents and (more recently) his younger sister. He receives a misrouted letter written by his sister, several weeks after her death. In it, she confesses to grave mistakes she made in her last months while alive. At a gala the brother holds, an unwelcomed visitor arrives, asking him about the letter. The visitor know too much about his sister’s last days and actions, and warns the protagonist of lasting consequences…Oh, the shivers.

If you’re looking for a spooky ready this Halloween season, the order links are below (physical copy and e-copy). If you give it a read, reviews and shares are free and heartily appreciated.

Happy Spooky Season.

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