We made our own Fairy tale.

Once upon a time there was a little girl. She was much like other little girls in the late era of leg warmers, spandex, temperature changing tie-dye clothing and cell phones the size of and weight of a brick. She lived in a far away place where snow fell nearly half the year (or so it seemed) and summer was haze sunflower yellow sun, laughter and magical pony tails.

She had blond hair like her mother and blue eyes like both her mother and father, a single dimple which her father, the King, often said she was given to her by her father’s father–a distant Lord whose demons had long since caught up to him before the little girl had a chance to remember his smile. She dreamed strange as well as wonderful things, sang to the birds, danced and talked to a man in the moon she insisted was there. She told stories to anyone who would listen, cried deeply over the smallest things but laughed just as quickly after. She was given everything she could need or want and never saw the patches in her father’s coat or her mother’s struggle to make sure food was on the table and the princess had all she needed for her tutoring as well as lessons.

When winter came, she was warm. She smiled to see the brilliant hand of winter stretch sparkling-white-blue strong; endless places slumbering under the coat of white. She made men out of it on the castle grounds, shrieked after friends in games of toss-the-snow as well as tag and knew no sadness. She bruised her knees in the grass during summer, ran through fountains in the afternoon and ate frozen things that tasted sweet, sharing them with her friends.

She knew love, this little girl. The love of a father, of a mother, of an aunt and grandmother. She was happy.

And then one day the little girl was not so little anymore.

Winter became less about snow-men or throwing it and more about grades. Summer became a relief in between lessons. And then one day the little girl was a young woman and she realized the cruelty fellow young men and women her age held in their hearts. At first, she seemed heartbroken. Then as time wore on she began to reshape herself in the image of those cruel children. She no longer laughed or played winter or summer but slouched in shadows, was sneered at for being different and sneered at those different from her.

She remembered as a little girl the stories she told. One day the young woman found a musty old place filled with books. Tales written about fantastic places that might have never existed, or perhaps they did and the world–like dreaming dragons on their gold–had forgotten about it. She took as many of these as she could get a hold of and filled her head again with these words. Tales about men in shining armor, dragons and witches, fair folk, elves, and most of all–stories of love. Love between two people that was as beautiful; no one screamed at one another or hurt each other…Or if they did, they always came back together more adoring than before. Stories of great triumph over sorrow, stories that filled the little-girl-grown-odd-young-woman with hope.

Then, she noticed boys.

Then, a boy noticed her.

The young woman drew further and further away from her parents and from the real world. Her head, as they (whomever those stuffy, gray suited ‘they’ people are) say, was in the clouds. The boy and the girl did not find a happily-ever-after, abruptly it turned into what the young-woman thought to be an aching hole. Her parents watched with great sadness their sweet little girl turn into a hungry-for-attention, hollow reflection of what once-was. They ached to tell her to come home and to realize everything would be alright. But she didn’t listen.

She always had her stories, however. She drifted far from her friends and her tutors. She left the kingdom of her father and mother coldly. She dreamed of better things, turning a blind eye to all the paths open to her and sought to fill the strange, open wound in her middle with anything that the road would hand to her. A dangerous thing, for outside of the kingdom were dark things. Dark men and women who used her instead of helped her, who took instead of gave and eventually left her–empty handed and confused in the dust of the road behind them.

The young woman grew into a full grown woman, bitter and chipped obsidian jaded. She did many things to drown the voices of the sweet little girl, the hopeful young woman. She took many paths that were twisted, confusing and wrong. She lead herself down them, let herself be led down them, or unwittingly followed the sweet talk of wolves to find herself down them.

One day she found herself bedraggled beyond help standing at a great cliff. A divide that split down the great kingdom she had traveled in for so long, there was nowhere else to go but down. To the rocks below it or worse. There was no where left to turn. The choices she had made in her life had lead her here. She had made so many mistakes that behind her, even the darkest of paths closed to her. She began to feel herself despair. Until she noticed a tired man on the cliff with her.

He had kind blue eyes and dark, dark brown hair in waves. He too, looked tired but when he smiled at her, just a tiny smile, such a little smile– she felt something lurch inside of her.

“Do you like stories?” he asked her wearily, the sound of his voice startling her.

“I–” she blinked. “Yes. I do. Do you know any good ones?” She hesitantly asked. He nodded, then found a place to sit down. Slowly, she crept near him then sat down too as he began to tell her stories. Great tales about men in shining armor, men in dusty robes with wrinkled smiles, stories about love and hope. Beautiful things that moved her from inside. She begged him to tell her more stories, until his throat was raw and his smile was easier. Then she told him stories. Stories about dragons gleaming in sunsets, proud elves, magic that wove amazing things between people. Stories she had long forgotten but always knew. She told them to him until her voice was hoarse and she could no longer speak.

They had forgotten about the great cliff. All they could see was each other. They fell in love.

But their story didn’t have dragons in it, it had cats. The man didn’t wear a suit of armor from metal, but business attire during work days as per the dress code. She was not a princess even though she had a tiara and the only time she wore a dress was at a wedding of a friend’s a long, long time ago. The magic wasn’t the kind that felled great mountains or protected whole nations–it was the the sort of magic that makes the heart sing when his hand sought her cheek or shoulder in the dead of night. The sort of magic that starts no bigger than a spark and grows into a copper-penny sun warming the middle of your chest a decade later when they looked at one another and realized it had been forever together and neither could imagine life without the other.

Their battles were small, fierce, quiet–often silly–but fought bravely. Their laughter was true. Their lives woven irrevocably together.

He had saved her from that cliff, so long ago. When she looked down at the rocks and though that is all there is left. When she thought there was nowhere else to go. And at night sometimes she hopes that she had saved him from it, too.

Together they wrote new stories in a note book with wrinkled, yellow paper stained with coffee, smelling faintly like her cotton candy perfume and littered with cat hair.

Together, they proved to the world and themselves that when you write them yourself, fairy tales and happy endings do come true.

–And that they really were rather silly together.

I love you Shawn.
Thank you for saving me.
–Mel

Do you know what grows Under the Stairs?

Despite what people tell me, I don’t feel like a writer.

There are stories in me that muck about swirling and whirling and flicking their tails at me from the surface of my mind-water. But they’re awfully fickle. Hard to grab onto. Most often when I think I have a story to tell something in my life pulls me away from it–either my own self-doubt or something else shiny that is far easier than writing. (I’m sorry, but writing is hard. Please ask all the very talented writers who force themselves to do it everyday because they have too or no food for them.)

My real want is that I wish to tell people things.

I want to express an idea or an emotion, a memory or some event in such a way that people understand. They can tap the screen or the paper and go, holy crap! That’s me–I’ve been there! Or, wow, that sounds so real. I would have done that.

But I set out to make it a personal goal never to call myself a writer. Or a poet. Not intentionally and never, ever seriously.

Last November as I logged into an art site I usually put my photos, poems, scraps of writing up for the world to view…Or not view as they please. I opened a little note someone I’d never seen before sent me.  I have said it before and I will say it again: movies often use this stop-time effect. The main character has something happen to them that is either so awesome or so awful, everything around them becomes muted in sound, Gaussian blurred in color and slow-motion in speed as the main character’s heart rate skips to a thunderous roar and their mind scatters a thousand miles a minute. That was me at that moment, when I opened the note and saw someone write: Would you be interested in submitting a story to be edited and perhaps, published?

My first thought to that was: HURRR HURRR HURRRRRRRRRRRR ME WRITE WERDS FER U?

And after an hour and a half staring at that letter I texted my husband and wrangled my best-far-away-online friend so that I could panic and hyperventilate all over them both. THEY WANT ONE OF MY STORIES, I cried. IT’S NOT EVEN ONE OF MY GOOD ONES, I moaned. WHAT IF THEY DON’T LIKE ANYTHING I SEND THEM? I gasped. And my husband and friend, shining lights of common sense as well as calm said, “Just submit it, idiot. The worst that can happen is they say ‘not this one,’ and you can try again.”

Oh. Right.

So I sent in my first story.

I realized too late that I had used the lyrics of a song I do not own the copy rights to when writing this story and sadly, they had to reject it. I admit that my mood would have nose-dived into the pool of woe after that if it wasn’t for the fact the editor asked me, “Do you have any other stories you want to submit?” Which fishtailed me back into my mature, structured state of OH MY GOD WHAT DO I DO WHAT DO I DO WHICH STORY SHOULD I PICK WHAT AM I ON FIRE WHO IS THAT OH GOD WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE. Then the click of the keys jarred me; a bell stroke from the cathedral of ides, an echo from a story I had long forgotten.

Sixteen fingers, I thought.

That was a gamble because the story, while beloved by Stacey (HI STACEY) and several of my blogging friends, it didn’t seem to get as much attention or commentary as other stories of mine. I had worked on it, personally editing it for almost a year off and on–finding all the horrible mistakes I always make and striving to make it flow a little better. At over a 1000 words, its a big story to chew through. Keeping someone’s attention through a piece with little dialogue or action….I didn’t know. I thought it would be boring. I sent it in after nearly finding myself in tears over a Queary letter: what was it? I’d never heard of it before. How do I write it? What should I put on it? How do I write about my achievements as an ‘author’ when I didn’t have any? After hours of staring at a blinking cursor, I chose the path of honesty and then sent the story off.

A week later, the only edits I was asked to do were to fix some spacing issues.I was sent a contract to sign, poured over it with my husband and found it relatively sound. I signed that and sent it all in.

Then I did something that I believe more authors know about that I do–I waited. I waited. I wondered. I doubted. I worried. I began to think that maybe they wouldn’t take it anyway. Maybe it really wasn’t good enough. Maybe you were being a little over confident and a whole bushel of arrogant to think that story was half as good as you believed? When that little voice became louder and louder, gnawing away at my resolve? That’s when I pushed the idea of all of this further and further away. I set it aside, stuck my head in the mental-sandbox of my life then went on with it.

In early January I received a draft copy of the publication with my story in it and a tentative release/print date.

The deliciously bitter sweet irony of it all is that I do not think I will ever have the talent to properly express the feeling of having been approached for a story, and being published for the first time. Where and how big or how small doesn’t matter–it’s your words on paper or in a file some where. It’s yours and people you have never met are reading it. Not only that? But the other stories are amazeballs. I feel like I am out written, out done and wonderfully so by such a talented bunch of new writers it’s not even funny. (Okay, maybe I could make it funny, but I am still riding on the warm glow of they like me? They really like me?!)

So instead of trying to tell you about what I am feeling, I will just flap my little muppet arms a little more and show you this instead.

Under the Stairs

Under the Stairs, 20 short story collection.

Two children open a forbidden door under the stairs…
A barkeep shuts his doors one night every year for a special party…
Do you really know the Muffin Man…
A boy’s chance to save the world rests in the hands of a dismissive pterodactyl…
Big troubles come to a wizard when he loses his hat…
A former police officer decides to face the events of his past…
A woman’s relationship with her husband causes her to face a disturbing truth…
A time when the end is really the beginning…

The short story collection Under the Stairs was an idea born in response to Flash Fiction Month on a popular art and literature website. This collection contains 20 stories of various genres written by authors from around the world. Each story is under 2000 words in length and is sure to keep the reader entertained.

Available for Digital Download: Under the Stairs, Divertir Publishing
And as a Paperback from Amazon. com: Under the Stairs paperback @ amazon

Stories in this collection:

Under the Stairs (M. Jarboe)
A Night Off (Dave Rudden)
Hot Stuff (Stephanie Jordan)
The Trolly Thief (Rachel Worsley)
Catch (Verena Sandford)
Rob Meets Pterodactyl (Helen Harvey)
Sixteen Fingers (M. Pence) <–That’s me OMG OMG OMG OMG WEEE!

Baking Through Suicide (Matthew Taylor)
The One Star (Gwin Pearce)
The Forgetful Wizard (George Lasher)
The Gardener (Megan Kennedy)
Midnight Dreams (Lillian Leader)
One-Way Ticket (Elizabeth Harvey)
Swap (Morgan Lane)
Matthew Lucas Davis (Jennifer Childs-Biddle)
Truth (Verena Sandford)
La Petite Sirene (Alex Fox)
A Parley with the Wasps (Elizabeth Layne)
Sex, Guns and Lies (Natasha McNeely)

The End (Lisa D. Keele)