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Danielle Miceli

🥧 November 30th, 2019 🥧


  • What's New: Rescheduling My Cover Designer, 2nd Annual Gratitude Giveaway
  • Writing Update: Editing Milestone, Indian Shampoo Results
  • November Reads: Critiquing Short Stories, Flash Fiction (#FantasyQueensFall Results)
  • BONUS CONTENT: “The Huntress Moon Gathering,” by Aleksei Koji
What’s New?

November did not go according to plan. My vacation to the Bahamas left me depleted rather than replenished. My husband has been on paternity leave, yes, but he threw out his back toting the baby around on said vacation, and has understandably needed my help watching Caleb, which derailed the dream of full writing days. Factor in finalizing the winners and shipping off prizes for the #FantasyQueensFall flash fiction competition, and then the Thanksgiving holiday...and my productivity was NOT where I’d hoped it would be this month. I’m not going to lie, I definitely cried about it more than a few times.

But that’s okay. December is a new month. My husband’s back is feeling better (thank goodness). We’ve got a few weeks before another holiday haze can sweep in. And all those hard times, the frustrating days where nothing went according to plan, made me more and more grateful for my incredible support network. The family members who have stuck by me are my everything, and the friendships I’ve made with all of you, my writing tribe, are priceless. 💕
  1. Rescheduling My Cover Designer: The unexpected productivity setback forced me to do something I’ve been dreading all year. The small handful of you who have been with me since the beginning might remember one of my first ever secret newsletter tidbits: I’ve had my novel’s cover designer and interior formatter booked for a year and a half now. At the time, it was the earliest availability my dream designers had, and I jumped at the chance to secure a slot. I thought, if anything, it would be too much time, and I’d end up waiting on my cover with my finished, edited manuscript.

    But then, as you all know, I had my first child, and both the pregnancy and stay at home mom life destroyed my intended timeline. My cover was scheduled to begin production on January 6th, 2020, but I stubbornly held on to the idea that maybe, miraculously, I could still make it work, until just a few days ago. I dreaded sending an apologetic email to my designer like I dread calling doctor’s offices to make appointments. Only the stakes were so much higher--what if it was too late to reschedule within any reasonable time frame? What if the only option was to cancel and find another designer?

    Luckily, just yesterday, I received an extremely understanding response. I should be able to re-book my slot at a later date in 2020, and I am so insanely relieved. But now the question is, how do I ensure that I can actually make this new deadline? How much time do I need to allot, given my new SAHM schedule?

    I don’t know yet. This is an issue I’ll be tackling in December: re-charting my publication journey, realistically, given my current trajectory. I need to plot it out like a story. If that’s something you’d be interested in, my step by step roadmap between where I am now and publication, I’d be happy to share the results in a future newsletter.

  2. 2nd Annual Gratitude Giveaway: This time last year, I hosted my first ever giveaway on Instagram. I hadn’t hit any particular follower milestones (I believe my account had just over 400 followers), but I was thrilled with the connections I’d made. So many real friendships, and even partnerships, grew out of my IG interactions last fall, so I wanted to give something back to the community out of simple gratitude.

    I like this tradition. I like the idea of hosting an annual giveaway as a way to end the year with a “thank you.” There’s absolutely nothing wrong with celebrating and appreciating follower milestones, but this method just works better for me personally. It’s pure coincidence that this year, the giveaway coincides with my IG account passing the 1k marker, and it’s okay to be happy and shocked (really, really shocked) about that, too, even if it’s not the focus or point of the event. 🥰

    So keep your eyes open toward the middle of December if you follow me on Instagram! I’m not yet sure what I want to give away, but I’d like it to be something special. As always, suggestions are more than welcome! 

Writing Update

While November has been a bit of a dumpster fire in many ways, I still managed to make some solid progress on my book earlier in the month. For a glorious five or so days, I did hit my goal of editing a chapter a day. Which led me to something I’ve been waiting on for quite some time now...

  1. Editing Milestone: My novel is finally below 300k words!!! 😱🎉 If you’re new here, that’s a goal I’ve been reaching for since I first launched this newsletter a year and a half ago. My novel clocked in at a whopping 355k+ words when I completed the first draft, and now, using only my own self-edits and the feedback of a single alpha reader, I’ve cut it down to 298k words. The best part? I still have 19 chapters left to trim, so the version that goes out to beta readers in the new year should be even closer to my ultimate goal of about 250k words! I may not have edited as much as I hoped this month, but I’m ecstatic to exit the realm of 300k monster manuscripts.

    I hope it goes without saying that this is not to put down huge, epic books! It’s simply more difficult (but not impossible!) for a debut author, indie or otherwise, to market such a massive tome. So cutting all these words that my story genuinely doesn’t need is actively making my life easier, which, now more than ever, is a cause for celebration. 😅

  2. Indian Shampoo Results: A Now, for the real reason you’re reading this, THE SHAMPOO FROM INDIA HAS LANDED IN GOOD OL’ NEW YORK. AND IT CAME WITH A FACE WASH.

    For one final time, I will direct the confused souls who have missed the unfolding of this epic quest to its origin. Click here if you’re a new subscriber and want to know the background information for this story.

    Alright, so here’s my verdict. When I opened the package, my husband Nick and I both looked at each other. “That smells...strong,” he commented, in that decidedly neutral way of his that makes me instantly suspicious. But he wasn’t wrong. The packaging reeked of bitter, unadulterated coffee grounds. It was the kind of sent that wasn’t unpleasant, but it took a moment or two to adjust to. I did not take this as a great sign.

    I tore through the paper (which was printed all over with, “The Man Company” 😂), opened the bottles, and inhaled deeply. The patchouli came through a bit more, softening the smell, but it was hard to imagine it on a person. I wanted so badly to fall in love with it. The scent was striking, but far too bold. Duke Milandre would not want to smell like someone who just bathed inside a coffee pot. He’d want the scent to be an intriguing, subtle nod to his morning staple, the sort of thing you wouldn’t notice unless you got extremely close.

    I looked at my husband, gravely. “You know what you have to do, right?” To his credit, he didn’t complain. He didn’t remind me that he’d already bathed. He somberly accepted the task at hand and hopped back in the shower to use both the shampoo and face wash. I paced outside the bathroom. Caleb continued to bang on his toy xylophone, oblivious to the very adult struggle taking place before him.

    Nick emerged from the bathroom and dutifully presented his head. I can only imagine how silly the scene must have looked. I grabbed his curls and sniffed his entire head with a clinical expression, my brow furrowed, asking him questions while he compared the scent of the lather to the finished result. I subjected his face to a similar scrutiny. Caleb continued to play his xylophone.

    I finally sat down, feeling relieved, and...delighted? The scent is way too strong on its own. But applied to the skin, it was gentle, interesting, and earthy. I’ve always pictured the Duke Milandre’s natural scent to be an earthy one, because he spends so much time outside in sun-baked leather armor, smelling like steel and sweat. I feel like this sort of bath salt would absolutely compliment his natural musk.

    So, in conclusion...YES, I think Duke Milandre would absolutely favor a mixture of coffee grounds and patchouli oil in his bath salts! It ticks all the boxes: While strong in the bottle, once applied, I couldn’t smell it until I was close enough to touch Nick’s skin and hair, which is perfect. The scent was enticing, unique enough to keep me leaning in for more, decidedly masculine, and earthy. It’s everything I’d hoped it would be, and now Nick is going to have to use these products. But sparingly, since I don’t know if we’ll be able to repeat this lengthy process to get more any time soon...😅 Thanks again to Nick’s extremely patient and non-judgmental overseas co-worker for making this possible!

November Reads

This month, I only had the opportunity to read shorter works. I critiqued two short stories for fellow contributors to the Project Winter Solstice anthology, with a third lined up to look at this coming month. And of course, I was reading flash fiction horror pieces on a daily basis, scoring entries in the competition I hosted on Instagram, #FantasyQueensFall. 🥰

M.M. Nguyen placed third with her story, “Of Fluff and Blood.” It follows the abduction of a little girl named Emma. Her escape is aided by an animated, talking teddy bear, which manages to be simultaneously creepy and endearing. It kept me guessing on every page, and the twist at the end is both haunting and satisfying.

L.T. Olsen placed second with her tale, “The Ritual Sacrifice of Mildred Brockwell.” This story blew me away; I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the author expands it into a longer piece one day. Mildred, the protagonist, is a strong, fierce witch, who refuses to go down easy when her coven turns on her. The writing is powerful, the setting immersive, and every word was a treat to devour. You can read her story in full on her website!

Aleksei Koji’s “The Huntress Moon Gathering” placed first. The story is both poignant and chilling, mingling a sense of dread with an arguably positive emotional release at the end. Even the minor characters shine, and the pacing maintains anticipation throughout the piece. You can read his winning submission below!



Congratulations once more to everyone who entered the #FantasyQueensFall flash fiction competition! It’s such an intimidating, vulnerable process, submitting your work to a contest, so whether you placed or not, I hope you’re proud of yourself for putting your work out there. My fellow judges and I thoroughly enjoyed reading every single entry. 🥰

Without further ado, the featured flash fiction piece:


The Huntress Moon Gathering
By Aleksei Koji

Deep truths can’t hide from the diner lights. Folks can make up their little lies, tell stories to impress a date. Countless trivial half truths can slip past unnoticed, but if you walk in hoping to hide something vital, good luck to you. 

Everything about the stranger sitting at the diner counter was an illusion. She was dressed casually, to try to blend in. She ordered a piece of pumpkin pie, nothing else, even though her belly rumbled. Heavy make-up covered a bruise on her neck. She told the waitress she was just passing through, but it was clear she was on the run. 

Magnolia, the owner of the diner, brought the young woman coffee even though she didn’t order any. The look on the stranger’s face suggested she needed it. Magnolia had a feeling the woman was not going to sleep tonight. It was hard to tell when she had last slept. Her hazel eyes were tired and had seen too much hardship in their twenty odd years. At first the woman didn’t notice the coffee, but then the aroma hit her nose. This coffee was not gas station slog, Magnolia had made a pot of the good stuff. The woman brought the brew to her lips and looked up at Magnolia, who hadn’t moved. 

“Thank you,” she said with a damaged raspy voice, almost as if she was whispering a secret. 

“You want some fries? I got extra, still warm,” Magnolia offered, her voice weary. It had been a long day on a body that wasn’t getting any younger. She should have just let this slightly broken woman be, but she had a soft spot for this sort. She had been in her place before. 

The stranger relented and Magnolia headed for the fryer. With hesitation, the woman risked stealing a glance behind her. An old couple was in a booth in the corner having an intense yet mostly quiet argument. A heavy set trucker ate his soup with great focus and intention. Something not quite real was trying to stay out of her field of vision. It was an ethereal pale figure in a tattered old dress, feet bare and caked in dirt. With unsteady gait it walked past the booths towards the back room of the diner. The stranger felt compelled to follow. 

Following the figure from the bright diner into the back dining room caused her eyes to blur. The space was only lit by a red exit sign and the gentle glow behind a partly closed door. Once her eyes adjusted, the stranger realized that the woman in white was gone. Just then, she heard the rough clang of the front door being opened with far more force than was necessary. She knew immediately who was busting into the diner. She could feel his anger invade the space. 

With uneven fearful steps, she retreated to the dim of the unused room. Reaching for a door that might lead to some sort of escape, she stumbled into a hallway that quickly led to stairs going down into near complete darkness. She half fell down the stairs. By some miracle she managed to stay upright as she wrapped her fumbling hands around an old brass doorknob.


The stranger’s name was roared from upstairs like thunder just as she forced the old door open. The ancient hinges scraped across hardwood. These floors had seen a great deal of history, but it had been years since anyone had crossed their surface. Gloria, the stranger, stepped into a vast room filled with family relics lit by moonlight and an eerie blue glow. It had once been a general store over a hundred years ago, but now it was just storage for the family who owned the diner. She navigated the shadows to dust covered windows. 


The booming voice cried out again, desperate and furious. Gloria wiped away years of grime to reveal a view of the river and a full moon in a cloudless sky. The river was nearly right outside the glass, its strange glowing water marching south slowly. She couldn’t tell if the voice was still upstairs or outside now, but it didn’t matter. She had to escape, she had to keep running. 

Crisp fall air hit tear stained cheeks as she found the door out to the boardwalk. She didn’t realize she had been crying. Old planks of heavy wood chased the river as far as the street lights illuminated. Figures loomed around in the ethereal glow of the river. A flutter of hope rose up in Gloria as she realized she had the numbers to secure safety. She called out for help. 

Several figures turned when she cried out. The light from the moon and the river seemed to be drawn in by their darkness, like they were living shadows. Gloria reached for the closest figure, a woman wearing only rags who had a fresh gash across her dark face. Her skin was so cold it stole Gloria’s breath away. She stumbled away, meeting the woman’s eyes that were suddenly glowing blue like the river. Beyond those eyes a different shadow emerged at the top of the stairs down to the boardwalk. He was taking the stairs two at a time, cursing out at her until he stopped dead in his tracks. He could see the specters too. Gloria was glad she was not going crazy or else he would already have had her. 

Gloria turned in place like a top’s final spin, fear and adrenaline surging through her as she tried to find the best way to escape. The only way out of the boardwalk was in the direction of the one who chased her. Her eyes stopped at the river. Without hesitation, she dove into its blue waters. She knew she might drown, but in that moment she welcomed the release if it meant escaping her husband. 

The frigid water of the river nearly knocked all sense from her as she struggled to get her head above the surface. The current was not swift, but it was strong and deep. She could feel it trying to pull her under. She fought against the inevitable gravity of the massive river. The strange glow was all around her, drowning out the shore and the night sky in hypnotic shades of blue and white. Gloria was pretty sure she was experiencing the final moments of her life until something grabbed a hold of her. 

She struggled against the grip at first, thinking it was her husband. As the surprisingly strong arm started to pull her from the water, she saw it belonged to something else entirely. A woman wearing a pioneer dress was helping her out of the water, her grip even colder than the river. She had one eye that glowed blue, the other long missing from her skull. Her steady gaze was an anchor for Gloria and she grabbed onto the wood of the boardwalk to help break free from the river’s spell. 

One foot was able to make contact with a wooden post  and she kicked off it to get further out of the water. She had her arms on the boardwalk now, the pioneer specter still helping to pull her up. Another hand grabbed hold of her, this one rough and hot like fire. The rage filled face of her former lover came into view. The face that she had fallen in love with so many years ago was now twisted by hate, eyes burning with dangerous intention. She pushed hard against it as he pulled her to her feet. 

Gloria knew what was coming next. His hands would find her neck and he would take her life right here on this boardwalk with living shadows as his witness. The river would have given her release, but her husband had never liked to share. If anyone was going to take her life, it was going to be him. She closed her eyes and tried to summon up the last of her fighting spirit. Her body started to kick and struggle against him. She could hear herself screaming like a primal spirit. His hands never reached her neck. 


He cried out for her. His voice was different now, not fueled by anger. She opened her eyes in surprise. She had never heard what it sounded like when he was scared, but the terror in his tone was unmistakable. Many of the ghostly figures were on him now, pulling at his body, tearing at his clothes. The distance between them was getting larger as the large man struggled against the growing hoard. Some instinct inside of her still wanted to reach for him, but she buried it deep as she watched with wide eyes. 

With a sudden surge, the man charged forward, breaking from the spirits’ grasp. He charged at his wife like a wounded terrified animal. Gloria tried to get out of the way, but he struck her with his shoulder. Both of them tumbled into the river. She felt her husband’s shockwaves hitting the water. They spun in the water together, the pull of the deep current welcoming them. Gloria got her head above the surface even though it felt as if she was upside down. The spirits had gathered on the boardwalk to bear witness, dozens of women long dead. The screams of her husband could be heard behind her and then the current pulled her under. 

Her body crashed into what must have been the bottom of the river, the pressure of the water holding her against earth and vegetation. Gloria held her breath, hoping for another chance to taste the night air above the water. Suddenly, the weight of the river was lifted from her body and the loss of gravity made it feel as if she was being pulled up to the stars.  She groped around, fingers gripping dry grass as if her life depended on it. For a long moment that was all she could think to do, hold her breath and hang on for dear life. 

When her lungs started to burn and she couldn’t hold it any longer she opened her mouth, expecting a rush of fresh water. Instead Gloria screamed into the open air. She opened her eyes and discovered she was in a field of grass, no river in sight despite her clothes being drenched. With shaky legs she tried to rise from the grass and saw the boardwalk was still there. The lights of the town of Tanglefoot still glowed, yet the river was gone. 

A flashlight beam bounced across the grass until it landed on her confused face. The flashlight belonged to Magnolia. Her face wore the same tired yet focused expression that she had at the café, as if this was just part of the job. 

“There is no river,” she said, anticipating the question on Gloria’s lips. “Well, at least there hasn’t been a river in a long while. An earthquake took it east.” 

The two women stood there in the wild grass that had grown up from the riverbed. The land was protected as a historical landmark. In the distance, Gloria was sure she could see the fading blue glow of the river she had nearly drowned in. The river that had soaked her clothes. 

“The locals say the river comes back on the full moon. Other things come back too, especially on the Huntress Moon,” Magnolia offered as an explanation. 

“But my husband...” 

“Lady, he ain’t nobody’s husband anymore,” Magnolia said, looking southward where they would most likely find the body mysteriously drowned.  “Come on, let me get you some dry clothes and fix you up something nice to eat.” 

The two women walked towards the boardwalk, now empty. The moon hung in the night sky ahead of them. 



Caleb tax:
Caleb in a cardigan.
Caleb snoozing in a cabana.
Caleb and Nick pouting.


Upcoming fantasy author, new mom, D&D addict, Gemini, Slytherclaw, lover of raw dough, wants to be your friend. 💗

Copyright © 2019 Danielle Miceli, All rights reserved.

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