“Magic Isn’t Real” – A Short Story

Good morning! Today I’m going to share another microburst short story that I wrote recently. I am contemplating expanding this short story into a novel-length story. If you think I should, let me know when you’re done reading it!

“Now Lanie,” my grandma said, “I need you to remember that magic isn’t real. Promise me you’ll remember, no matter what happens.” I watched as she winked at me from behind her glasses.

            “I promise,” I said, then she tucked me into bed and left the room. A little while later, I snuck out of the bedroom and downstairs, where my grandmother was reading loudly from a large brown tattered book. On the kitchen counter, I watched bottles of liquids float just above the countertop, dumping themselves into a large pot on the stove.

            Magic.

            I knew it.

            What I hadn’t understood that night was why my grandmother didn’t want me to know it was real. I had kept my promise since then, of course. I hadn’t talked about magic or tried to do anything magical since that night in her kitchen when I was thirteen. That was the night my grandmother disappeared. I had watched her make a bubbling concoction on the stove, and then she had poured the liquid into small vials. She loaded them into what could only be described as an old treasure chest, keeping out one vial, then locking the chest and swallowing the key. Afterward, she drank the vial and disappeared.

            I never told anyone what I had seen that night. I ran back to my bed and cried for hours. When I woke up, nobody was home. Mom and dad came to get me; the police searched for grandma, but she was gone, and they asked me a bunch of questions. As they searched the house, not one person touched the chest. Even my parents ignored it. My grandmother’s house was locked up, and nobody ever went back.

            Until now.

            Today is my twenty-first birthday, and I am about to enter the house once more.

Today, I accidentally set my hair on fire, falling out of bed. Strange things tend to happen around me. A few weeks ago, I dreamed I was eating pancakes. When I woke up, my kitchen was making stacks of pancakes without anyone in the room.

            I have always had magic, but I don’t know how to use it. Grandma was supposed to teach me, but then the revolts happened. During the revolts, witches and warlocks were murdered in the name of the law for being different. My parents murdered them under the protection of police badges.

            What would they do to me if they knew?

I’ve always been too afraid to find out, keeping my abilities hidden and not using them, hoping they would go away. Instead, they keep getting stronger.

Today, I was determined to get answers.

Standing outside the dilapidated house, I wonder if it will look the same. Will the chest still be sitting on the table, untouched and unseen?

I take a deep breath, slide the key into the lock, look around me one final time, and push the heavy door open. Stepping inside, I am pummeled by the smell of dried lavender and dust. I wandered around the house, breathing in the stale air and remembering my childhood.

On the table sits the heavy old wooden chest. I inspect it, trying to figure out why nobody else could see it. On the surface, it looks harmless, but when I place my hands on it, the chest starts to glow, slowly warming to my touch and emanating light from the metal panels holding the structure together.

A low humming accompanies the light, slowly increasing in volume until the entire room is rumbling. Then, with a loud POP, the chest unlocks itself. I slowly lift the lid and gasp.

Inside, there are four vials. I think back to the last time I was here. I watched my grandmother load dozens of vials into the chest, yet only four sit on the bottom. There is a note, which I read.

“Lanie,

Drink one. I’m waiting for you.

Love,

Grandma”

I don’t think about it. I put the vial to my lips and swallow. My stomach churns immediately, and the world starts to shimmer. I close my eyes to stop the spinning.

When I open my eyes, I’m in a tall glass chamber in the center of a large room filled with people. All around me, curious eyes inspect me. I panic and scream, but nobody lets me out. There isn’t a door anyway.

An older woman steps forward and stands in front of me. I recognize my grandmother immediately. She watches me, waiting for something. She holds out her hand to the glass. I reach out, but the glass does not move. She raises her eyebrow, and I get the feeling I have to move the glass, but I’m not sure how. I look around, watching the crowd eye me with growing suspicion.

This is a test, and I am failing it. I panic.

I stop moving and close my eyes. Maybe I’m dreaming. If I were dreaming, I could move the glass.

I focus on breathing slowly, calming myself. MOVE! I think, focusing on the cylinder. I hear a gasp, then clapping. I open my eyes, and my grandmother’s smile fills my vision. I surge forward and wrap my arms around her.

“Lanie! I knew you could do it!” she whispers.

“Where am I?” I ask, pulling away from her embrace.

“This is the outer realm.” She says, gesturing around us. “Everyone here came the same way. We are all the magic that is left in the world.”

I look back at the space where the cylinder has reappeared behind me. “What if I couldn’t move the glass?” I ask her.

“You would return to the human world very sick and confused.”

“Oh.”

“Don’t worry about that now.”

“What happens next?” I ask.

Grandma takes my hand and pulls me into the parting crowd. “I believe it’s time for me to train you, my girl.”

What did you think of Lanie and her world of forbidden magic? I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

Until Next Time,

Cathy Marie Bown

Don’t forget to grab your copy of A Covid Christmas Story, out now. Find it here!

“First Christmas” – A Short Story

Today, I want to post a short story I recently wrote featuring two characters from my upcoming novel, tentatively titled Second Chances. The novel will be a contemporary romance. I hope you all enjoy this sneak peek into my creative brain. Please let me know what you think!

The dark green fir tree stood more than twelve feet tall, towering over the crowd gathered around, waiting patiently for the tree lighting to commence. Everywhere you looked, men and women snuggled together, bundled up against the cold as their children inched closer to the front of the crowd, eager to be the first to see the Christmas lights.

Annie knew that Christmas was Britney’s favorite time of the year. That had never been a secret. But Britney hadn’t attended a public Christmas event outside of the museum in years. Bringing her into town for Milwaukee’s annual tree lighting ceremony in front of City Hall felt like the perfect opportunity for Annie for the couple to make their first public appearance as lovers.

While the entire staff at the museum where Britney and Annie worked as curators knew the women were officially an item, they hadn’t done anything to scream it to the rest of the world. When the museum director, David, asked Annie to capture photos of this event for the upcoming newsletter, she happily accepted and started planning an entire day of events for the pair. She knew Britney wouldn’t hesitate to agree to come along. The day had been perfect so far, and Annie was grateful that things had worked out so well.

This morning, both women had gotten dressed in skinny jeans, ugly Christmas sweaters, and tall black boots. Britney had gathered her thick brown hair into a high ponytail secured with a pretty red sequined scrunchie. Annie had carefully spiked and gelled her short purple hair, then slipped several bright green bobby pins in to hold back her wispy bangs.

Annie hadn’t told Britney where they were going, but Britney trusted her completely, so she didn’t ask any questions. When they had arrived at the winter carnival, Annie had nearly exploded from the huge smile on Britney’s face. Everything about her was glowing, and Annie was so happy she was responsible for it.

The day had been an absolute whirlwind of excitement. First, the women had tasted a variety of seasonal coffees and cocoas while munching on donuts and chatting with the baristas at a trendy coffee shop downtown. Each of them had kept enough distance between them to fit an entire person, but Annie’s goal was to surprise Britney with a kiss under the mistletoe before the day was over. Brit was “newly out” and nervous about public displays of affection, but Annie wanted to shout from the mountaintops about their relationship.

Baby steps, she kept telling herself. Annie would focus on baby steps toward that end goal. She didn’t want to spook Britney or cause problems in the new relationship. Despite the ten-year friendship and roommate history between the two, everything felt brand new now, and Annie wanted to be cautious.

After the coffee shop, the pair had explored the holiday displays inside the Mitchell Park Domes for a few hours, taking in all of the plants, decorations, and colors contained within the three massive sun-filled domes. For lunch, the women tried a new fusion restaurant. Britney hated the food, but they had a great time anyway. The rest of the day was spent walking the streets downtown, stopping to shop whenever the urge struck them. As the sun started to descend, they took their packages back to the car, then found a nice spot near the Christmas Tree. Annie took a bunch of pictures of their adventures all day, positioning Britney in many of them to share with her school tour groups. As the sky darkened, the crowd around the tree started to grow. Vendors with push carts ventured into the area, selling hot dogs and festive drinks.

The city’s current mayor, Agnus Johnson, was joined by his family and Santa Claus around eight p.m., and the official tree lighting ceremony commenced. Annie had to leave Britney’s side to take pictures and capture the event. On the left side of the tree, Santa greeted the children, asking questions and smiling merrily. On the right side, a small group of identically dressed carolers emerged, situating themselves in two rows. The mayor greeted everyone, made a statement, then joined Santa in plugging in the tree. The carolers erupted in an upbeat rendition of “We Wish You A Merry Christmas,” and Santa waved joyfully to the crowd.

As soon as the lights were on, she was back at Britney’s side, slipping her hand into Britney’s, where the other woman grasped it firmly and pulled her close. Annie pulled Britney into her, both women facing the tree, and they admired the scenery around them.

Brilliant white twinkle lights glowed softly, glittering off of the large red and green glass balls dangling evenly throughout the massive Christmas tree. A white picket fence had been constructed to surround the tree, with green swags of evergreen boughs draped along each fence panel. A thin layer of beautiful crystal-like white snow on the ground complements the wintery scene perfectly.

After a while, the crowd began to disburse, moving slowly away from the tree. Annie held Britney, waiting for the other woman to move first. When Britney finally did, she didn’t pull away as Annie had expected. Instead, she turned around and wrapped her arms around the taller woman’s neck. Annie could see several tiny tears pooling in the shorter woman’s eyes and felt a prickle of moisture at her own eyes. Britney looked into Annie’s eyes, and all they could see was love. Slowly, Britney raised herself onto the tips of her toes and pressed her lips to Annie’s, ending the perfect day with a perfect kiss.

I hope you enjoyed this story! Until next time!

Cathy Marie Bown

Don’t forget to grab your copy of A Covid Christmas Story, out now. Find it here!

A Covid Christmas Story Sale!

Happy Holidays everyone!

As we approach the busy holiday weeks, I just wanted to take a moment and share a HUGE sale on my book. For a very limited time (Until Jan. 1, 2023), A Covid Christmas Story e-book is FREE on Smashwords!

Click here to buy your copy!

When you’re done reading it, feel free to drop me a comment or e-mail telling me what you thought about the book. Love it? Hate it? Tell me what you think! I want to hear the good and the bad!

Spread the word and help me get this book into the hands of readers everywhere!! How many free copies can we give away? That depends on you!

Let’s give Amanda and Josh a bigger audience for their first Christmas!

You guys are the best!

Until next time,

Cathy Marie Bown

Happy Thanksgiving!

I know I’m a day early, but I will be with my family in Missouri tomorrow, so I won’t be online if I can help it. I do plan to take some amazing pictures to share when I returen! Be on the lookout for a photo dump soon!

As we think about Thanksgiving, I just want to express my own gratitude for a few things in my life.

First, I am thankful for my family. I love my family and I am so glad everyday that I get to spend with them that they are my people. I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

Second, I am thankful for my writing community. SNHU MFA writer’s community and Moms Who Write (a facebook writer’s community) keep my own writing habits in check and demonstrate every day that I am not alone in my writing struggles.

Third, I’m thankful that I was able to put aside all of life’s drama this year to publish my book, A Covid Christmas Story, found here. I had so much fun writing the book and have loved every review and criticism I’ve recieved. I put it out into the world now it is up to everyone else to determine its worth.

Fourth, I’m thankful that I have the means to travel to Missouri for the holiday. It took a little rearranging of schedules and some financial sacrifices, but it is going to be amazing.

And, finally, I am grateful for my support team that constantly provides assistance with Katarinah, from Head Start to Hannah and all of the caseworkers who I never mention but I know by first name and face (which for me is BIG). I would not be able to cope without their assistance and support.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend with whoever you call family.

Until next time,

Cathy Marie Bown

I Voted!

Today’s the day when we MUST make our voices heard. I don’t care if both sides of the political atmosphere are garbage. This is the day when you decide who takes the least from you. It’s sad that this is what politics are in this country, yet the sad reality doesn’t stop the gears from moving. If you don’t vote, you have NO RIGHT to complain.

Our country should be PROTECTING our daughters, not endangering them and treating them as nothing more than breeding cattle. If you don’t like it, that’s too bad. I know for a fact that I am not alone on the pedestal when I scream that OLD RICH WHITE MEN have become the enemy of everyday citizens.

As a middle-aged white woman, I have less right to complain than many of my fellow Americans. But I stand for everyone when I say the way this country is moving is wrong. If they take away our right to abortion, they WILL take away our rights to freedom, and that affects everyone. You are a fool if you think the GAY population and minorities aren’t next. Everyone’s freedoms are on the chopping block when one category of citizens is targeted.

Keep in mind while you are worshipping celebrities and influencers that they play a role in this too. Men like Elon Musk use women as breeding factories because they have money. If you sell your soul for money, you can’t take it back. Women like Amy Coney Barett are a disgrace to women across the globe and should NOT be allowed to speak for the rest of us.

Let me make this very clear for anyone who might be confused. IF YOU WANT AN ABORTION, NOTHING AND NOBODY SHOULD STOP YOU. If you can buy a gun simply because you want one, you should be able to get a medical procedure. The Kardashians can change their ENTIRE BODY with surgery; you should be allowed to have an abortion, REGARDLESS OF WHY YOU WANT IT.

Nobody should have to JUSTIFY their reasons. PERIOD. It’s nobody else’s business why.

If you don’t like my attitude, please don’t follow me or talk to me. My life will be better without the negativity and hate.

Now, I will get off of my soapbox and back to my regularly scheduled life. I voted. You should too. Our grandmothers already fought this battle, and it’s a shame we have to fight it AGAIN.

Until Next Time,

Cathy Marie Bown

Be sure to check out my recent book here! As we get close to the holidays, let Josh and Amanda Michaels fill you with Christmas cheer, pandemic drama, and plenty of surprises!

NaNoWriMo and GO!

I’ve been debating whether I would participate in NaNoWriMo this year or not. For those not familiar, it stands for National Novel Writing Month. The idea is to write an entire 50,000-word novel in one month, 1667 words per day. I’ve participated for the last two years and have not been successful. However, I loved the challenge.

So, I’ve been going back and forth with myself, and I finally broke down at zero hours and enrolled in a project for the event. I am embarking on this journey with an entirely new work that has been eating at my brain for a bit now, tentatively called “The Last Visit.” Readers, beware, this one is going to be a tearjerker!

I want to succeed. However, I know the odds of me completing this novel in one month are about the same as if I were to win the PowerBall. (Considering I haven’t even bought a ticket, it’s not very likely at all!). Instead, my goal is just to get as far as I can in the month, then I will have a fantastic platform to keep working on through the holidays.

And, speaking of the holidays…here comes a shameless marketing plug!

I’ve created a special page for A Covid Christmas Story, complete with links to retailers and a synopsis. I plan to add the first chapter to the page in the very near future. I’m still working out a few kinks in the website to make the page visible, but the link is here if you want to check it out!

https://cathymariebown.com/a-covid-christmas-story/

And now, a picture of my beautiful granddaughter playing in the fall leaves!

Until next time,

Cathy Marie Bown

It’s Publication Day!

Happy November, readers!

Today is the official publication day for A Covid Christmas Story!

Below are the links for the book

Landing page for most retailers: https://books2read.com/u/3nX2l9

Amazon Order Page: https://smile.amazon.com/s?i=stripbooks&rh=p_27%3ACathy+Marie+Bown&s=relevancerank&text=Cathy+Marie+Bown&ref=dp_byline_sr_book_1

Please note if you order from Amazon, I am charging $19.99 for the book. There are already booksellers who have bought copies and are reselling them at a higher rate for their profit, not mine! Buyer beware. That isn’t me!

I’m hoping to have a new page on my website up soon dedicated to this book, where I will post permanent links, photos, and updates as the books make their way out into the world.

I love feedback, good or bad, so if you give the book a chance and want to tell me what you thought about it, send me an e-mail at cathymbown@gmail.com or on any of my social media links found at the top of this post! I can’t wait to hear what you think!

Until next time,

Cathy Marie Bown

Pumpkin Patch Fun!

I’ve failed to keep up with my fall uploads here, so let’s do a fun Pumpkin Patch Photo Dump!

Just a pumpkin lovin’ selfie!

Above is my granddaughter playing around. Below are my boys having some fun with the apple cannons.

My youngest boy trying to pick the perfect pumpkin…

And next up…some fun on the slides.

The weather was beautiful, the pumpkins were amazing, and the children had a blast each time we went!

We can’t wait to do it again next year!

Until next time,

Cathy Marie Bown

Don’t forget! My book, A Covid Christmas Story, releases TOMORROW! Get your copy here! https://books2read.com/b/3nX2l9.

A Little Fall Baking

A few weeks ago, I bought a new kitchen toy for myself, a Dash Mini Pie Maker, like the one you can find here except mine is pumpkin orange.

Of course, I had to give it a Pre-Thanksgiving run to see how it works. I read a lot of online reviews before firing it up, though, so I was prepared for a few of the common problems. I played around with a lot of time variations, sometimes leaving the device open for short periods in the middle of cooking and rotating the pies during the process. It took me eight pumpkin pies before I found a combination that produced a fantastic mini pie.

My first attempt, while still in the device, looked beautiful. Things quickly went south though, after I pulled it out. The filling wasn’t quite finished cooking and the crust lost all structural integrity over the next hour as I continued to experiment. That first pie was easily the worst pie I made.

The First Four Attempts

As you can see in my pictures, the next few pies weren’t really sucessful either. The only positive that came from them was ruling out possible timing methods. Each pie got me one step closer to a successful and delicious pie.

The Last Four Attempts

Now, Pie number 6, above, was an interesting failure. I accidentally cut the crust with the wrong side of the pie crust mold, resulting in a crust that was way too small and looked weird. Pie #8, the bottom right pie in the picture above, was the closest to perfection I achieved in this trial. I achieved those results by cooking the pie for 4 minutes with the lid closed, rotating the pie, leaving the pie to cook with the lid open for ten minutes, and then closing the lid and cooking for another 5 minutes. While the edges look burnt, they didn’t taste bad.

I’m looking forward to more experiments with this adorable little kitchen tool and I’m so glad I bought it. Look for more pie experiment posts in the next few weeks as I play around with apple, peach, blueberry, and cherry. And, obviously, there will be more pumpkin pie on the horizon, since that is my favorite kind of pie!

Until next time,

Cathy Marie Bown

Proof Copy Approved!

Today, I approved the proof copy of the paperback version of A Covid Christmas Story. And, while I don’t feel romance in the air, I couldn’t be happier with the way the book turned out.

If you are looking for the book, you can find it here. Hopefully, it will be available on Amazon soon as that is one of the last retailers to accept the preorder. If that is where you plan to purchase it from, hang in there! It should be available soon. If not, I’ve been assured it will be available on November 1, 2022, for release day!

Part of me wants to throw a party that day. The other part of me wants to curl up on my bed and hide from the world because I don’t feel like celebrating anything anymore. But, I am trusting my daughters and my family to not let that day pass by without at least a few phone calls and maybe celebratory tacos. There’s always a reason to celebrate when tacos are involved.

Well, that’s all for today. I’m home with a sick toddler so I don’t have a lot of free time. I just wanted to update everyone on the status of this project.

Until next time,

Cathy Marie Bown

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