#AtoZChallenge - Prodding Mat

Well that was a unanimous vote!
What did you all think about voting with the google form? I'm going to try it for a couple more days at least, but if y'all love/hate it let me know.

Amy enjoyed her soup and bread and reveled in being, however peripherally, involved in the productive chaos of the kitchen. She watched in awe while Mat efficiently peeled potatoes, the maid brought in so many baskets of vegetables, and loaf after loaf of bread was lined up to cool. At one point Mat caught her watching him and flashed a toothy smile. Once he got the potatoes into a massive pot, things seemed to come to a lull, so Amy called out, "Mat, can I ask you something?"

Always working, Mat brought over several birds that needed plucking and sat next to Amy by the hearth. "What is it, love?"

"Well, I've noticed... There's a very strange man in the Palace. He wears all white, with even white cloth wrapped around his head. I feel as though he is following me and odd things happen when he's near. Do you know who he is?"

A funny look crossed Mat's face, something between confusion and amusement, "Surely you've heard of old Blanco?" Amy shook her head and looked down at her hands as Mat continued, "Well, at least that's what the servants call him. I don't know his real name.

"Of course you remember when Prince Leo went away two years ago. You were here with Irena all that time. When the Prince returned from his travels he brought Blanco with him. He was immediately installed as one of the Prince's chief advisors, even though no one knows who he is or where he came from. Many distrusted him from the start. He is consulted on all matters, sometimes even what food we are to prepare here." Mat gestured around the kitchen with a feather-covered hand, sending a couple downy fluffs floating up on heated air from the fire.

"He is an odd man. He only eats meat on Tuesdays, and it must be the whitest white meat from the breast of a chicken. There are servants who say that he has not left the Palace grounds since he arrived, and some of the chamber maids say they feel odd when he comes near. Though they may be suffering from fear more than anything else." He chuckled, "I think he's harmless. Odd, but harmless." With that he lifted his well-plucked chickens and the basket of feathers at his feet, and took them to other parts of the kitchen.

Amy was left with more questions. I was here two years ago to mind Irena? But what does this "Blanco" want with me? 

Quick! What should she do now?
Query Mat further?
Irena! She should Quietly leave to go find the girl, who must be awake by now.

Remember you can vote in the comments OR by using the form below! Let us know in the comments WHY you voted the way you did. Or, do you have any questions about the story? Things you want to know? I'd love to hear :)

Voting has closed for this post! Please visit the Quietly Find Irena post to continue reading :)



#AtoZChallenge - bOOty warmin'

Good choice, everyone :) We're on our second day of chilly rain and snow here in Colorado, so I'm totally happy to write about someone basking in a fire's warmth.

Amy scooted around the massive kitchen, in search of warmth from the hearthfire. She tried to stay out of the way of the bustling staff but accidentally bumped into one of the maids.

"Watch out there, miss! Whatcha doin' here anyway?" she huffed, balancing a basket full of vegetables on one hip.

"I'm just... I got wet and I'm very cold. I just want to sit by the fire," Amy stammered.

"Shouldn't you ought to go to your rooms and put on some dry clothes?" the maid asked with a critical eye at Amy's drooping finery. Amy shook her head. Better to not be sent wandering through the palace. "Well, get to it then," the maid said with a dismissive gesture.

Amy finally made it over to the hearth, and was pleased to find a small clean handwoven rug sitting on the stones. She arranged herself upon it and sighed gratefully as warmth touched her back.

After seeing her dead father courtesy of a genie, being turned into a ghost, magically transported through a mirror and narrowly escaping capture by a painted man, Amy's chills were as much about her strange situation as they were about the rain. As she warmed, she found the homely busy'ness of the kitchen to be quite comforting. Here was something she could understand - something familiar that made sense.

What am I doing here? she thought, What is this place, and who is that man in white? What does he want with me?

"Hello, love," a man in an apron said, smiling, "You look awfully far away. Let me get you some soup."

"Mat, that's Irena's maid," the woman from earlier said, "Mind your manners."

"I know that," Mat said, "I've seen her in the garden with Irena. Our little Princess is a handful, isn't she?" Mat handed Amy a mug of warm broth and a chunk of bread.

"She is!" Amy said, sipping thoughtfully. "This is lovely. Thank you." He smiled at her and returned to his work. Amy felt herself warm a little inside. If she could find friends, perhaps she could get her footing in this strange place, and maybe figure out how to get home.

All the stories she had read, at least about the British upstairs and downstairs, said that the servants always knew everything about what happened in a Palace. Perhaps her new friends could tell her something?

What avenue of inquiry should she Pursue?
Ply the maid for information about her role in the palace.
Prod Mat to find out if he knows anything about the man in white.

So I've noticed that I am getting way more visitors than comments, so we're going to try something new for a couple days. I've embedded a form that you can use to vote! The only required fields are your name and your vote. The rest is optional (If you're here for A-Z please fill in your site/blog so I can come visit). You are, of course, still welcome to use the comment section if you prefer. I'm just trying to maybe capture some of my visitors who aren't 'bloggers' :)

Voting has closed for this post! Please visit the Prod Mat post to continue reading :)


#AtoZChallenge - Navigate to find warmth

Hi everyone! I'm back. :) My surgery went well and the healing is coming along nicely. Feels good to not be laying on my couch! Didn't Dan do a great job the last couple days? He spoiled you with extra long posts and a dinosaur. Here's hoping I can live up to the high standards he set this week!

Did y'all see that we're offering A-Z Survivor t-shirts? The co-host team is pretty excited about the shirts, so if you might be interested you should definitely check them out.

For anyone who is just tuning in, this is an interactive fiction adventure. You read the bit of story, and then vote in the comments below to tell us which of the options you want Amy to do. To go back to the beginning, start reading at the letter A. And then don't forget to vote when you make it back to this post!

Amy took a moment to steady herself before navigating the palace gardens. She looked down at the fish statue. Rain scattered across its scales glistened cheerfully, lending the statue the appearance of having just leapt out of the sea. She ran her finger down its back to send rivulets trailing merrily down the pattern of scales and then lifted her head to survey the cobbled yard. Three gates led in different directions from the courtyard. One appeared to point down toward the sea, another off to the right in directions unknown, and the third back along the windowed wall of the ballroom.

The third led back in the direction of Irena, and also.. The kitchen garden! Which must be close to the kitchen, and hopefully a hearth. Amy hurried through the gate, arriving in the familiar juniper garden. Here again she paused. The smell of the garden had changed. Whereas earlier the tang of the sea cut through the woodsy smell of the trees, now the rain added a clean dirt smell to the mix. There was no breeze, so the humid garden's smells welcomed Amy into their familiar embrace. She inhaled appreciatively and continued on.

She kept the windows of the ballroom to her left while hugging the side of the trail, thus tracing the outside of the palace while staying safely out of view. Eventually she reached a clearing that she recognized, and headed in the direction of the kitchen garden. It's a good thing Irena didn't nap out here! She'd be soaked!, Amy thought.

On the far side of the garden was a small servants' door. Amy picked her way through the garden path past various vegetables and herbs (also particularly fragrant and colorful after the rain) and her stomach rumbled as she caught the scent of fresh baked bread. She pushed open the door and was greeted by a bustling kitchen.

What should Amy do?
Ask one of the cooks for some of the Onion sOup cooking in a vat next to the hearth,
Test her authority and Order them to give her some bread,
Or walk in and warm her bOOty by the hearth.

Remember to vote in the comments below to let me know where you want the story to go tomorrow!

Voting has closed for this post! Please visit the  BOOty Warmin' post to continue reading :)


#AtoZChallenge - Move to the Windows

I had a minor surgery Monday, so am away from blogging for a couple days. My super amazing and generous co-author Dan Keidl has offered to continue the story for you all while I heal up, so this post is written by him with my blessing and curiosity as to what he'll come up with!
Hoping to be back tomorrow,


The prospect of seeing the rain was too alluring for Amy to resist, so she set down her glass of water and got up to go to a window. She hoped not to attract any attention as she stepped away, but as she moved farther from the dance floor she got the feeling that more and more of the party-goers were turning to stare at her, wordlessly.

Halfway to the windows, she nervously looked around, and was alarmed to see that the ballroom had grown even dimmer and more empty. Only a small number of people remained, and even those had a sort of ghostlike un-present quality to them like... like paintings.

Paintings. The idea seemed pertinent, but she couldn't put a finger on why. Her sense of wrongness remained, however, and as she turned and walked the rest of the short distance to the windows, she chewed on the idea. At last she reached a window near a small servants' door, after what felt like minutes, and she could see the rain pasting the windows in sheets. It was a downpour of cool water, so intense that the warm inside of each pane was misting.

The furious purity of the rain outside made her feel free, and in a flash she remembered what she had so nearly forgotten: The prince was no prince; he was a painting, a replica, an imitation. The hall was empty, the chandeliers dormant, the phonograph a poor substitute for an orchestra. She whipped around to confirm her suspicions, and as she did, she witnessed the last of the enchantment faded away.

Around the painted prince the circle of fawning noblemen evaporated abruptly. Surprised, he turned his head to look straight at her, the peculiarly bright white eyes driving into her across the distance. A gasp escaped Amy's lips as he turned his body and began to walk towards her through the dark ballroom with purpose, his strides impossibly long, his pace insidiously quick. He seemed almost two-dimensional now, a flat facade for his illustrated enchantment, and he moved across the ballroom floor and between the tables in a way that a normal person could not.

Deathly afraid now, Amy backed up against the wall by the window in panic, her heart as cold as the driving rain, as the painted prince advanced upon her. Desperately she half-turned and tried to open the servants' door, feeling the wrathful eyes of the prince and sure that he was nearly upon her. After three violent shakes of the handle, the thick door flung open and she was drenched by the onslaught of vengeful rain. Without any hesitation she hurled herself through.

She leapt into a cobblestone courtyard, surrounded by walls and tall trees and a gateway leading around the keep in each direction. Her beautiful dress was drenched instantly and clung to her, hindering her movement. She made it halfway through the courtyard to a statue of a fish and slipped, falling to the ground. She was sure the fall had cost her, and turned back to look at the door into the keep.

A man stood there in the doorway, radiating anger, but he dared not come directly out into the rain. It had already soaked him where he stood, and Amy could see the paint dripping off him. In moments the painted prince was gone, leaking into the cobbles, and the stark figure of the man in white remained. He plainly realized his ruse was past recovering and after one final look, he grasped the door's handle and heaved it shut, disappearing from view.

As if awaiting that signal, the intensity of the rain lapsed until it was no more than a sprinkle. A few rays of sun peaked out from behind the gray clouds as if in reassurance. It mattered not; Amy welcomed the relief of the rain, and had to take a minute to process how nearly she had come to succumbing to the man in white's illusion.

How will Amy proceed next?
Navigate to somewhere warm to wait out the rainstorm.
Never let an enemy out of her sight: Peer through the windows into the ballroom.
Nothing is as important as Irena; find a way outside the keep to the garden entrance.

Make sure to vote for where you want the story to go below in the comments so we know what we're writing about for tomorrow.

Voting has closed for this post! Please visit the Navigate to Find Warmth post to continue reading :)

It's been lots of fun writing for you. If all goes according to plan, our dear AJ should return to helm the story once again with the next passage. I'm pleased to have had the opportunity to regale you!


#AtoZChallenge - Lulling Through Dance

I had a minor surgery yesterday, so will be away from blogging for a couple days. My super amazing and generous co-author Dan Keidl has offered to continue the story for you all while I heal up, so this post is written by him with my blessing and curiosity as to what he'll come up with!

If you haven't been there yet, check out my L post over at the main April A-Z blog. It's a dance party! :)
Also, I'm the featured gamebook writer at Lloyd of Gamebooks today, so head over to give Stuart some love!


Cautiously Amy accepted the hand of the painted likeness of Prince Leo, allowing him to draw her out into the center of the empty hall. Her sense of danger abated as she tried to think of what she was supposed to do. It seemed to her that she had probably never really danced before, though she had a fuzzy inkling in her brain that perhaps she had been present when a tutor had introduced Irena in the basic steps of some popular dances. Trying to remember the occasion made her feel confused.

Sensing hesitation through her hand, the painted prince paused and asked her, "Is everything all right, Amy?"

Not wishing to seem out of place, Amy shook her head slightly, dispelling her doubts, and responded, "Yes, your highness. Shall we?"

She curtsied in what she hoped was a sufficiently elegant and respectful fashion, and the prince bowed. No sooner had they completed their respects than he had swept her up in his arms and stepped them both into the dance! The music from the phonograph across the ballroom seemed to swell to fill the space, becoming a rousing, extravagant song. The chandeliers above burst into warm, merry light.

Amy's confusion vanished, and she found herself enchanted by the boisterous music, the bobbing, swaying and dipping of the dance she was being led through, the happy conversations of all the many party-goers around them, the closeness and warmth of the handsome prince, his dark hair and beard tousled by his momentum, his eyes shining peculiarly...

The rest of the dance passed in the blink of an eye -- or else Amy was too swept off her feet to really process it all properly -- but she found herself at last being led to a table by the dance floor and supplied a glass of water by a helpful servant. Some indistinct noblepersons crowded around the prince, offering Amy a moment to herself.

Now that she was seated and refreshed, and released from the heady motion of the dance, she found herself able to focus a little more clearly. At once the room seemed a little dimmer, the music a bit more tinny, and the crowds somewhat more sparse.

"How very strange!" Amy remarked airily to a pair of bystanders, who turned to regard her but said nothing. As Amy's gaze swept away from them they vanished like mist, though she did not notice. She could hear the rain beating against the tall arched windows quite insistently in the back of her mind, though the ballroom still seemed quite bright and joyful. Though she was having a wonderful time, she found herself missing the rain somehow.

Something very peculiar seemed to be going on. Amy could not reconcile the notions in her head with the evidence of her eyes. Taking proper stock of the situation seemed to be in order.

What should Amy do?
Make her way back to the majestic prince and make known to him her concerns.
Mingle with the masses and explore the ballroom.
Move to the windows so she may see the rain.

Make sure to vote for where you want the story to go below in the comments so I know what I'm writing about for tomorrow!

Voting has closed for this post! Please visit the Move to the Windows post to continue reading :)

Also, I appreciate all your warm hospitality! I drew you a dinosaur as a thank-you.
(This is in no way a foreshadowing for the story!)

Have you seen my email subscription link at the top of the page? This month I'm offering a FREE e-book novella written by me and Dan to all new subscribers! Opt in to keep in touch with my writing process/progress, and receive your free novella :)


#AtoZChallenge - Keep Watch

Happy Monday everyone! I hope you had a lovely weekend.
I am having a minor surgery today, so will be away from blogging for a couple days. My super amazing and generous co-author Dan Keidl has offered to continue the story for you all while I heal up (though I'm sure the story could get quite interesting if I wrote it on painkillers!). He, like me, has no real idea where the story is going because it is completely determined by what y'all tell us to write. Looking forward to seeing what you all come up with :)


Amy wanted to be sure little Irena's nap was undisturbed, so she led her back up the short marble stairway to the door they'd come out before, the young child's sandals slapping against the stone stairs. The flapping subtly altered pitch as they both stepped onto the oak flooring of the foyer. Hand in hand they walked down the hallway, and through the very first door to their left, Amy discovered a wonderfully ornate sitting room. Polished dark wooden chairs and couches with green velvet cushions were interspersed with lovingly carved endtables hoisting gas lamps made of brass, unlit. Old suits of armor, in need of dusting, stood on display in the corners. Large paintings of a regal-looking man and woman -- most likely Irena's mother and father -- hung on one wall, and on the opposite a tall arched window let in the light from outside, which was quickly growing darker as clouds rolled in.

As Amy cast about for something with which to light a lamp, Irena wordlessly padded up to a large circular armchair, plopped down on it, and proceeded to stretch her arms over her head in an exaggerated yawn. By the time Amy hit upon a small box of long wooden matches, the child had swung her legs up, lay her head down, tucked her knees in against her chest, and fallen fast asleep.

"Sleep tight, little Rain," Amy said, feeling a certain rightness about the nickname. Turning a table lamp on low, Amy lit it with a match and replaced the glass. In the dim orange glow she found an old, rich green blanket which she draped carefully over her sleeping charge. Actual rain began to patter lightly at the arched window as Amy stood back to admire the sleeping child's gentle breathing.

Amy's ears perked, and she swung her head around as she realized she could faintly hear music. Leaving the safely sleeping child for a moment, she stepped out of the sitting room to better pinpoint the source. A haunting melody, the kind of tune one might hear at a formal dance, drifted down the hall, and Amy was drawn to it.

She found a set of double-doors, the music plainly coming through them. As Amy stepped through, nervously pushing at the folds along the front of the rich dress she wore, she found herself in a vast ballroom. A number of chairs were arranged in a semi circle on one end, as if to seat a chamber orchestra. However, at the center of the empty chairs stood a short circular table upon which rested an antique-style phonograph, complete with an almost comically-oversized copper horn, and it was from this that the music played. Tall windows like the one in the sitting room lined one wall, and in the dim light coming in, she could see a proud figure standing.

He was wearing a dark blue uniform like what Amy fancied a prince or king would wear. His left arm was behind his back, while his right held the lapel of his jacket. He turned his head to face her, and Amy was struck by the resemblance he held to the painting in the room where Irena was sleeping.

As their eyes met, he held out a hand to her across the room, and she walked to him to accept it. As she closed with him, though, a few paces away, she got a sudden sense of wrongness and awkwardly stopped. She regarded him more closely, and was struck again by the too-perfect resemblance to the man in the painting.

"Prince Leo?" she said, remembering the name of Irena's father. He inclined his head slightly in acknowledgement. As he made that gentle motion, her vision swam and she got an impression of him, perfect as a painting, colors dabbed on to mimic life, like he wasn't a real person but the image of one adorning canvas.

White canvas. The man in white.

Her blood ran chill through her veins, but Amy knew that if she revealed the ruse, she would be in terrible danger.

"Won't you join me for a dance?" the figure asked, his mouth barely murmuring the words above the music.

What will Amy do?
Lull the painted man into complacency by accepting the dance.
Lunge away and flee the ballroom.
Lure the painted man into telling Amy his secrets.

Make sure to vote for where you want the story to go below in the comments so I know what I'm writing about for tomorrow! Thanks!

Voting has closed for this post! Please visit the Lulling Through Dance post to continue reading :)