1000 Short Stories

The Battle Begins

Written By: Bonnie Jean Schaefer - Oct• 31•12

Ever had one of those days where you stop to examine your life and realized you’re not who you want to be or doing what you want to do?

That day came for me on 10-11-12, my 35th birthday.

I’d been looking forward to this birthday for years.  It landed on such a cool date and was a milestone year that marked the midway point of my fourth decade of life.  My younger self figured that by 35, I would be married with a houseful of kids, making a wealthy living as a famous author and be an Ironman-level athlete who was fit enough to swim, bike and run long distances with ease.

But when the time came for me to look in the mirror and evaluate my reality, I realized what a vastly different life I was living than the one I imagined for myself.

In reality, I’m single, have never been married and thus have no kids.

In reality, I eek out a living working at Starbucks, and the only novel I’ve published didn’t exactly break any sales records.

In reality, I can’t even complete the marathon portion of an Ironman race without mentally and physically falling apart in the latter half of the run.

In reality, my Big Dream score was 0 for 3.

Unacceptable.  Unacceptable because I’m capable of so much more than I’ve settled for.

The good news is I haven’t settled when it comes to love and relationships.  I’m not looking for a perfect man, just one who’s perfect for me.  And I’ll keep looking until I find a man who believes in God, shares my core values and can challenge me to be a better me.

The bad news is that I have settled when it comes to my career and athletic goals.  My failures to accomplish my dreams as an Author and Athlete have left me fearful, doubtful and ashamed of myself for missing my goals.

As an Author, I did write and published a novel.

But with my inconsistent and doubt-ridden writing habits, it took me nine years to complete a publishable draft of the book.  Then, due to both my inexperience and lack of confidence, I had no effective marketing and sales system in place to promote it, so the book flopped upon its debut in 2008.

It’s still available for sale in online bookstores, but that’s just a constant reminder of my epic failure to live my dreams as a bestselling author and profitable publisher.

As a result, I have been ashamed to tell people about my book and learned to associate me and novel writing with colossal failure.

Believing I was a failure at writing novels left me with little motivation to write.  The dream was still alive and burning within me, though, so I kept at it and spent the next four years sporadically fiddling with the sequel to my first book.

I managed to complete a draft but didn’t see the point in continuing with a story that was doomed to fail like its predecessor.

In the meantime, I attempted various forms of writing and even made some money as a freelancer writing sales letters, articles and non-fiction books.

But writing for other people wasn’t my dream.

My dream was to tell and sell stories.  I needed to find a way to live that dream.

To give myself practice with storytelling and publishing, I embarked on a mission in January 2012 to write 1000 short stories over the course of the next 20 years and publish the stories on a blog, 1000ShortStories.com.

I discovered I thoroughly enjoyed writing short stories and loved being able to crank out story after story week after week.  I wasn’t getting paid a dime for these stories, but for the first time in my life, I began to feel like a real writer and believe my writing dreams were possible.

Yet the dream of publishing a novel and launching that novel to bestseller status still eluded me.  So in May 2012, I took a break from short stories to work on my second novel once again.

Only I still associated writing novels with disappointment and failure.  I lived with an unspeakable fear of that novel, afraid to follow through with it only to see it flop and me fail again.  So after struggling with that story for three months, I finally put it aside.

I was eager to get back to short stories and came up with an idea for a series of longer short stories in a completely different genre than I was used to writing.  Instead of being 10-12 pages, these stories would be around 50 pages and would take me three weeks to write instead of one.

That was a brilliant plan, but three weeks has now turned into three months.  And at 75 pages, the story is only a quarter of the way finished.  This slow progress has frustrated me and left me wondering if I’m ever going to finish.

I would have more confidence in my ability to finish if I could trust me to follow a diligent, disciplined writing system.  Only I can’t seem to rely on me to write as much as I plan.

How can I call myself an Author when I don’t write for a set amount of time day after day and finish the stories I start?

And even if I do develop a system that allows me to finish the stories I start, how can I call myself an Author when I fear the marketing and sales process?

My birthday evaluation was starting to depress me.

So I turned my attention to my identity as an Athlete.  Here, at least, I have experienced some success in the world of running.

In most of the half-marathon or shorter distance races that I have run, I’ve hit or exceeded my goals.  I’ve even taken home a handful of age-group winning trophies.

It’s the mighty marathon that has beaten me in all four of my attempts at those 26.2 miles.

With my unhealthy eating habits and weak mental game, I struggled with the last half of each race and never once finished in the time I set for myself.

The last marathon I completed at Myrtle Beach in 2009 marked my worst performance despite being the easiest course.  I realized around mile 16 that I wasn’t going to hit my goal.  That realization shattered my spirit and destroyed my willpower to fight through the fatigue and finish strong.

I thus learned to associate marathon running with disappointment and failure.  I even promised myself in those last miles that I would never put myself through the 26.2-mile torture again.

Unless I had someone else to train with.  Because running with someone else might just create that sense of competition and camaraderie that I needed to drive me forward toward the finish line.

Since I had no running friends at the time I made that personal pledge, I’ve had no reason to face my fear of the marathon.

That changed on Sunday, October 14, days after my disappointing review of myself on my birthday.

Some friends of mine, a married couple whom I’ve been running with over the course of the past year, have been tinkering with the idea of tackling their first marathon.  I told them I would run with them if they decided to go through with it.

I didn’t like the idea of training for and running another marathon one little bit and hoped they would never hold me accountable for that promise.

My hopes were dashed when I had a text message waiting for me after work that Sunday night:  my friends had signed up for the Myrtle Beach marathon and offered to register me as well before the registration fee increased the next day.

It was too late to reply and get signed up before the midnight deadline.  This made me happy.  I could use the heftier registration fee as an excuse not to register.  It was a perfectly valid excuse since I’m not exactly flush with cash.

But when we chatted the next day, she offered to get me registered and just have me pay her back when I could.  I didn’t want to borrow the money, but I also didn’t want to back out of doing something I said I would do.  So I told her to go for it.

When she texted later confirming I was registered, my heart sank and a wave of dread washed over me.  All I could think was:  what have I done?

Not only was I registered for a marathon, I was registered for the Myrtle Beach marathon, the scene of my last and greatest running disaster.

It took me several days to accept my fate.  I knew that in order to get through those 26.2 miles on February 16, 2013, I was going to have to spend the next four months in training.

That’ll all I wanted to do—just get through it.  I decided I wouldn’t set a time goal for myself and perhaps pace with my friend, who runs a little slower than me.  That would give me a reason to not challenge myself.  That would protect me from failing to achieve my marathon goal again.

I wanted to help my friends give their best performance, though, so I began researching training plans on Wednesday, October 17.

From my previous marathon efforts, I knew what to expect:  running three to five days a week with progressively longer long runs every other week leading up to several 20-milers before race day.

But I didn’t find what I expected.  What I found as I surfed through the Runner’s World website excited me, sparked my competitive spirit and made me want to train for this marathon.

It was the “Way of the Renegades” headline that grabbed my attention.  I don’t like the idea of conforming, being normal and following the crowd, so if there was a plan out there that would allow me to be different and train in a renegade-type way, that was the plan I wanted to follow.

And the more I read about the renegade plan of the “Hanson brothers,” the more I wanted to adopt it as my training regimen.

Under this plan, I would be running six days a week, including Sundays.  That I didn’t much like since I have always taken Sundays off as my day of rest.  But since I wanted different results, I was willing to change the way I train and take Tuesdays off instead.

What I did like about the plan was the philosophy of its founders:  “Running a marathon is about pace.  Our program teaches your body and mind how to run your goal pace, no matter how tired you are.”

Interesting.  Before, I just saw the marathon as a distance to be conquered.  Now, I was starting to see it as a challenge to teach my body and mind how to run at the pace I wanted it to run over whatever distance I chose.

To do that, I was willing to buy into their “cumulative fatigue” concept and run the high weekly mileage the program demands.  I was also willing to put in the effort required to complete the speed workouts, the marathon-pace tempo runs and the long runs.

The consistent, balanced approach between these different types of runs resonated with me, as did the longest long run topping out at a mere 16 miles.  Since I hated running those 20-milers in previous training experiences, I loved reading these lines:  “There’s nothing magical about a long run of a certain distance. The most important factor is quality total mileage, week in and week out.  It’s a formula that holds true for beginners, elites, and everyone in between.”

Now that I had a training plan I could get excited about, I needed a realistic finish time to shoot for.  Four hours and twentyeight minutes was my fastest marathon finish time, so I didn’t think I was physically capable of finishing in four hours, my dream goal.

Nevertheless, I plugged that four hour goal into the running calculator on the Runner’s World site just for fun to see what kind of splits I would need to run to achieve that goal.

The numbers the calculator spit back at me caused my heart to skip a beat or two.  Because the 5k, 10k and half-marathon split times it showed were almost identical to my 5k, 10k and half-marathon finish times I’ve posted over the last few years.

I was capable of finishing in four hours; my own experience was my proof.  To aim for any goal beyond four hours would actually hurt me because I would know I wasn’t pushing myself to be my best.

So at that moment, I decided to invest heart, mind, body and soul into not only completing a marathon but completing it in four hours.

I was suddenly glad my friends had chosen the Myrtle Beach marathon.  I needed to face my fears, return to that course and replace my miserable memories of that run with positive ones.

But there was something more important at stake than my identity as a marathon-running Athlete:  my identity as a novel-writing Author.

It was easy to see myself running and putting in the disciplined miles necessary to reach my goal because I’ve been a disciplined Athlete for as long as I can remember.  I’ve always loved practicing just as much as the game-day competition no matter the sport, and this marathon training plan was simply tapping into that passion of mine and helping me rise to a whole new level as an Athlete.

What I found difficult as I sat in my room that Wednesday night was seeing myself putting in the writing hours necessary to achieve my writing goals because I haven’t been a disciplined Author.  I’ve had no training plan to follow and no definite goals that I believed in to shoot for.

What I’ve believed is that I am a failure as a novelist.  But that’s not true.  I just haven’t yet found a way to write and publish a great story, then market it effectively.

And whether I want to admit it or not, my current writing project is a novel.  So despite my fears and insecurities surrounding my novel-writing and publishing abilities, I must pursue my goal to write, publish and sell a novel once again.

It just so happens that February 12 (the Tuesday before the marathon) marks the 14 year anniversary of the day I realized my writing dreams were possible; I have thus chosen that day to launch the book I am currently working on.

Excellent!  I now had two challenging goals to pursue, and the deadlines for both goals occurred in the same week:

  • Author Goal for February 12, 2013:  Find a way to write, publish and sell a book.
  • Athlete Goal for February 16, 2012:  Find a way to finish a marathon in 4:00:00.

Pursuing these goals in two differing life roles simultaneously would help me maintain a balanced lifestyle.  Because I know me.  If I was just pursuing my bestselling book goal, I am likely to shorten or skip my workouts, indulge in way too much junk food eating and thus experience a steady decline in my overall health and fitness.

If I was just pursuing my four hour marathon goal, I am likely to ignore my writing, run obsessively and thus experience a steady decline in my overall confidence as a writer while remaining stuck in my current enjoyable but less than ideal career role as a barista at Starbucks.

And what better way to keep track of my progress and ensure I maintain that balance than by

creating an Author vs. Athlete Challenge?

I could earn points each day for hitting the respective goals for each role.  Because I’ll want the race to achieve my goals to remain competitive and dead even, I won’t want one role to score more points than the other and will have to hit both my Author and Athlete goals each day.

The points would also help me keep track of how well I’m doing in the process of achieving my overall goals and indicate whether or not I’m taking the small, daily actions necessary to accomplish my dreams.  I could even blog my progress at BonnieJeanSchaefer.com every day to help keep me accountable.

As eager as I was to start the newly developed contest, I didn’t want to start on a Thursday.  So I decided to begin the 17-week Author vs. Athlete Challenge on Monday, October 22, 2012.

To clarify who I was at the starting line, who I wanted to be at the finish line and what I would need to do in order to reach the finish line, I summarized the Challenge in the following way:

Find a way to write, publish and sell a book.
Publication Deadline:  February 12, 2013 

Starting Line on October 22, 2012

  • Inconsistent writing habits
  • No faith in ability to sell books
  • Fear of the daunting novel


Leap of Faith

I can write, publish and launch a book to bestseller status.
Process for Reaching the Finish Line

  • Develop and follow a disciplined writing routine.
  • Develop and implement an effective sales system.
  • Use running time to pray and envision success.


Writing Rules

  1. Follow your training program.
  2. Write before you run.
  3. Journal daily to track your progress.
  4. Focus only on writing when writing.
  5. Hit your deadlines.


Point System

  1. Diligence Points: focused writing sessions that last for the scheduled amount of time earns you a point.
  2. Productivity Points: hitting the daily average words per hour goal earns you a point (starts in week 6).
  3. Promotional Points: developing marketing materials and/or promoting the book earns you a point (starts in week 10).



Finish Line Objectives for February 12, 2013

  • Consistent, productive writing routine
  • Confident in marketing and sales skills
  • Faith in my identity as a novelist
Find a way to finish a marathon in 4:00:00.
Marathon Race Day:  February 16, 2013 

Starting Line on October 22, 2012

  • 2-3 runs/week at 8 or fewer miles per run
  • Lousy eating habits (junk food, fast food)
  • Fear of the mighty marathon


Leap of Faith

I can maintain a strong, steady pace throughout a marathon and finish in four hours.
Process for Reaching the Finish Line

  • Develop and follow a disciplined running routine.
  • Develop and implement a healthy eating system.
  • Use running time to pray and envision success.


Running Rules

  1. Follow your training program.
  2. Pray and envision success when running.
  3. Journal daily to track your progress.
  4. Eat well and stay hydrated.
  5. Manage your pace.


Point System

  1. Diligence Points: running sessions that last for the scheduled amount of miles earns you a point.
  2. Productivity Points: hitting the daily average pace per mile goal earns you a point (starts in week 6).
  3. Nutritional Points: following the eating/hydration plan earns you a point (starts in week 10).



Finish Line Objectives for February 16, 2013

  • Consistent, effective running routine
  • Nutritious, healthy eating habits
  • Faith in my identity as a marathon runner


I’m not sure what the journey to the finish lines hold, but I look forward to becoming a better, stronger, more disciplined me along the way.

Let the battle begin.

Lightning and Smoke

Written By: D.K. Drake - Sep• 27•12

Story #4 of The Dragon Collector Short Story Series (Click to Read Story #3, The Unexpected Guests)

“Unbelievable!”  Braced on Storm’s back and pushing the horse as fast as he could get him to go along the river that ran through the ranch nestled near the foothills of the Columbia Mountains, Javan yelled his frustration to his best friend.  “I hope I haven’t waited my whole life for those crazies.

“That man put one too many ‘greats’ in front of grandfather to sound sane, and if anything, that girl is my sister, not my mom.  There’s no way she’s old enough to have a 15-year-old son!”

She knew about his eyes, though.  He’d hated his eyes since he was three and the kids in his preschool class wouldn’t play with him because of his “scary eyes.”  So he wore his dad’s dark sunglasses everywhere he went.

That lasted about a week.  The only way Mama Sandra could convince him to take off the shades was to get him colored contact lenses.  His eyes had been a boring brown ever since.

Maybe Esmeralda had been one of the preschoolers in his class.  Maybe that’s how she knew about his eyes.  Still, that didn’t explain why she showed up today claiming to be his mother.

“Storm, if they were my family, I’m better off not knowing where I came from.  I’m better off running away with you.  So let’s ride!”

Javan prodded the horse with his heels, encouraging Storm to quicken his already fast pace.  Soon they would be off the ranch property and into the mountains.  He knew the area well.  He could easily hideout over the weekend.

He would return on Monday and hope the Kaesemeyers were gone.  Or he could just stay lost.  Start over somewhere else.  New high school.  New football team.  New girls.  Except the whole food, shelter, clothing and caring for a horse without any money to his name could prove problematic.

“We’ll figure something out, Storm.  Just keep rid—whoa.  What…is…that?”

Apparently Storm didn’t care to stick around to study the giant grey scaly creature with pointy wings and a spike on the top of his massive head lurking in the water just ahead of them.  Instead, Storm stopped in his tracks and reared back, throwing Javan onto the bank of the river.

By the time Javan stopped himself from rolling into the cold river water, Storm was gone.

The creature remained.  Javan’s initial reaction was to describe it as a dragon, but he wasn’t insane.  Dragons didn’t exist.

Whatever this creature was called, it spanned nearly half the width of the fifty-foot wide river and stood with the top of his body showing in the twelve-foot deep water.  Its long neck swiveled its head in Javan’s direction.  Its nose was the size of Javan’s head and was almost close enough for Javan to touch.  He didn’t.

He also wasn’t sure if he should stay flat on his stomach and wait the creature out or jump to his feet and take his chances with an all-out sprint towards home.

The creature lifted his head and snorted a lightning bolt into the blue afternoon sky.

“Staying put,” Javan decided.  If he was going to die by a bolt of electricity from the mouth of a monster, it wasn’t going to be while running.  Running was the one activity he hated most in life; he certainly didn’t want that miserable feeling of forcing one foot in front of the other at an unnaturally fast pace to be his last memory.

Silverspike, stop staring the kid.  The ground rumbled as a similar creature landed a few yards away from Javan.  Only this one was smaller, spikeless and sported round wings on its grey scaly body.

I don’t trust him.  Silverspike splashed the water with his long, pointy tail.  Something’s wrong with his eyes.

“Really?”  Javan smacked the ground.  “Even these bizarre creatures know about my eyes.  Why do I even bother with these color contacts anymore?”

No way.  The land-based creature crouched to Javan’s level.  You can hear us?

“Of course.”  Javan cocked his head toward the creature, half-expecting it to open its mouth and bite his head off.  “I mean, I can usually sense what animals are thinking.  Can’t everybody?”


“Oh.”  Javan gulped.  “Well, it is a little weird that I can understand you so clearly.  That’s definitely new.”

“You can understand the dragons?”  The human voice of Kenton—who arrived on the back of Izzie, one of the ranch horses—joined the conversation.  “You can hear their thoughts?”

Javan winced.  Like his bright green eyes, his way of communicating with animals made him a freak.  So he preferred to keep his peculiar communication skills between him and the animals.  “It’s no big deal.”  At least it wasn’t until Kenton’s description of the creatures sunk in.  “Hold on.”

Javan rolled over and slowly stood.  “These guys are dragons?”

“Dragon Stalkers to be exact.”

“Dragon Stalkers?  Are they stalking me?  Do they want to eat me?”

“Relax, kid.  This here is Skylark, a Noon Stalker,” Kenton said, pointing to the smaller dragon.  “And that is Silverspike, a Midnight Stalker.  Skylark only eats around noon, and Silverspike only eats around midnight.  It’s just past four o’clock, so you’re good.”

“That makes absolutely no sense to me.”

Skylark chuckled and puffed a cloud of smoke in Javan’s face.  Sorry, she said.  I tend to smoke when I laugh.

“It will make more sense once we get you to Zandador.”

“To where?”

“The Land of Zandador.  Where you’re from.  We had to hide you on earth to protect you.  Now that you’re old enough to fight for the throne, you’re needed.”

“The throne?  You want me to be king or something?”


“I was joking.”

“I’m not.”  Kenton, still sitting on the horse, crossed his arms.  “The current king needs to be overthrown.  The only way to overthrow him is for a Collector such as you to collect all four Dragon Stalkers by the end of the year.”

“Dude, stop talking.  The more you say, the crazier you sound.”

“It only sounds crazy until you step through that portal and experience life in the dragon dimension for yourself.”

“Portal?  Dragon dimension?  Now I know you’re crazy.”  For the first time in his life, Javan actually wanted to run.  But with Kenton in front of him, the dragons beside and behind him and Esmeralda approaching on horseback, he was stuck.

“Thanks for taking off without me, Kenton,” she said as she trotted up…on a calm Storm.  “So glad we’re in this together.”

“You’re riding Storm?”  Javan couldn’t believe his eyes.  Storm was letting someone else ride him, and he wasn’t even fidgeting at the sight of two dragons.  “I’m the only one he ever lets ride him.”

“Now we have something in common.”  Esmeralda gracefully slid off the back of the horse and walked up to Javan.  “I assume he’s told you by now why we need you back in Zandador.”

“He mentioned something about overthrowing a rotten king by collecting dragons.  As fun as that sounds, I think I’ll pass.”

“The people need you, Javan.  The dragons need you.”  She put his hand on his cheek.  “I need you.”

In that moment, he almost wanted her to be his mother.  But she wasn’t.  They had the wrong kid.  “Look,” he said, pulling her hand away from his cheek, “you’ve made a mistake.  I’m not the guy you need.  I’m only 15.  I can’t even make the starting lineup on my JV high school football team, so there’s no way I can take on an evil king and win.  You people just need to go back to wherever you came from and leave me alone.”

Javan hopped on the back of Storm, but Esmeralda grabbed Javan’s ankle before he could ride away.  “Three days,” she said.  “Come with us for three days.  See the land.  Meet the people.  Then make your decision.  If you choose to return, I’ll bring you back myself and promise to never contact you again.”

“Three days?”

“Three days.”

Javan took a deep breath in and slowly exhaled.  Having a tale of adventure to share at the start of school sure would help increase his cool factor.  And he needed all the help he could get in that department.  “You promise to bring me back if I don’t want to stay?”


“Okay, then,” Javan said.  “I guess we’re going to the Land of Zandador.”

To find out what happens when Javan journeys to the Land of Zandador, visit Amazon and purchase the Kindle book today.


The Unexpected Guests

Written By: D.K. Drake - Sep• 20•12

Story #3 of The Dragon Collector Short Story Series (Click to Read Story #2, Second String)

The last thing Javan wanted at the moment was to answer questions about football or girls.  So despite his miserable mood, he forced a smile and a jovial attitude as he entered the living room from the back porch door.  “Yo, Mama Sandra!”  He toned down his voice when he practically ran into her upon opening the door.  “Oh.  There you are.  Whatcha need?”

“I need for you to meet your guests.”

“My guests?”  That was odd.  He never had visitors.

“Yes.”  Sandra closed the door, put her arm around Javan’s shoulders and introduced him to the two people staring at him across the room.  “This is Kenton and Esmeralda Kaesemeyer.”

The young woman in the yellow sundress seemed strangely familiar, yet he knew they had never met.  She was a touch shorter than his 5’5” height and had the same jet black hair as he did.  Only hers was braided, slung over her shoulder and hung just past her waist.  With her perfectly tan skin and angelic complexion, she didn’t appear to be a day over 14, but something about her penetrating blue eyes made him believe she was much older than she looked.

The old man in the button-downed beige shirt, brown pants and leather boots seemed an odd companion for the woman.  He was a good six or seven inches taller than Javan and hid a wild batch of white hair under a black cowboy hat.  Javan couldn’t shake the feeling that the man was sizing him up.  For what, though, he didn’t know.

“Hi.  Nice to meet you.”  Javan lifted his hand and offered a wimpy wave.  He turned to Mama Sandra.  “This was fun.  Can I go ride Storm now?”

“No.  Your guests have something important to discuss with you.”  Mama Sandra walked him to the couch and sat him down in front of the two standing Kaesemeyers.  “I’ll be in the kitchen if you need me.”

He bounced back up.  “What?” He whispered through gritted teeth into his mother’s ear.  “You’re going to leave me alone with these two?”

“You’ll be fine.”  She pushed him back into a seated position and walked out of the room.

Silence followed Mama Sandra’s exit.

Javan stared at Kenton, willing him to speak.

He didn’t.  Instead, Kenton stared at Esmeralda.

She wasn’t speaking either.  She simply stared at Javan, making him squirm and reinforce his focus on Kenton.

After what seemed an eternity, Kenton’s deep voice broke the silence.  “Oh, just tell him who we are and why we’re here so we can get on with this.  Moments matter, and we don’t have enough left as is.”

“Patience!”  Esmeralda turned her attention to Kenton, giving Javan some needed relief from the intense stare down.  “He needs to understand what we’re asking of him, and that’s going to take time.  It has to be his choice whether he comes with us or not.”

“He has no choice.  He’s coming with us, and we need to leave.  Now.”

“Whoa!”  Javan jumped up.  “I don’t know what kind of family dispute you have going on here or how I got in the middle of it, but I agree with the girl.  I have a choice, and my choice is to stay right here.  Goodbye.”

Javan stepped between them, but she grabbed his arm and looked into his eyes.  “When I said goodbye to you 15 years ago, you had the most beautiful emerald eyes.  You’re hiding them now, though.  Why?”

Javan tried to swallow, but his mouth was too dry.  Could it be?  Was he really looking at his birth mother?

Impossible.  She was entirely too young.  And the man was entirely too old to be his father.  Who were these people?  How did she know about his eyes?

“Listen, I don’t know who you are, but you’re freaking me out and you need to leave.”  Javan walked over to the window, opened it and whistled.  Storm would be in to rescue him in thirty seconds flat.

“We’re leaving,” Kenton said, “but you’re coming with us.  I’m your great-great-great grandfather, and this is your mother.  You, young man, are the last of the Collector Bloodline and the only hope the people and dragons of Zandador have left.”

“Collector bloodline?  Dragons?  Zanda what?”  Javan laughed.  “And you, old man, are crazy.”

Just then, the door flung open and Storm charged in.  Javan used the couch as a springboard, leaped onto the rearing horse and rode bareback toward the hills.

◊             ◊             ◊

“Great,” Esmeralda said.  “You did it your way, and he ran away.”

“No need to sugarcoat the truth.”

“I wasn’t going to sugarcoat–”

A breathless Sandra ran into the room, interrupting the conversation.  “Did I just hear a horse in my house?”

“Yes,” Esmeralda said.  “Wait.  That door was closed, and nobody opened it.  How did that horse get in here?”

Sandra shook her head.  “That Javan.  He’s always teaching that horse to do the strangest things.  Apparently it now knows how to open doors.”


“Oh, yes.  That kid has a way with animals I have never seen before.  He was riding our dog before he could crawl, riding ponies without a saddle before he could walk and taming the wildest of horses—including that Storm he just rode out on—by the time he was five.  He’s got a true gift, but it comes so naturally to him he doesn’t even realize it.”

Kenton and Esmeralda looked at each other.  They silently agreed that this was a better-than-expected development.

Maybe Javan really was the one of whom the prophecy spoke.

The Dragon Collector Short Story Series continues with Lightning and Smoke

Second String

Written By: D.K. Drake - Sep• 13•12

Story #2 of The Dragon Collector Short Story Series (Click to Read Story #1, The Dragon Collector)

“Second string, coach?”  Javan marched into his coach’s tiny office and slammed his helmet into the chair in front of Coach Benton’s desk.  “Again?”

The short but stocky coach with the buzzed hair, tight shorts and loud whistle dangling from his neck looked up from his clipboard and sighed.  “Javan, you were fantastic in tryouts, and I know you’ve worked hard to put on some muscle in the weight room, but let’s face it: you’re still a stick of a kid.  I’m afraid you’ll get hurt if I put you in the starting lineup.”

“I can take a hit,” Javan argued.  “I’m tougher than I look, and I know I look like a skeleton with skin the biology teacher uses as a prop in class.  But my leanness makes me agile.”

“Sorry, Javan.  Gavin is just a little taller, a little stronger and a little quicker.  Until he’s ready to move up to varsity, he’s our starting quarterback.”

“And I’m just second best.”  Javan kicked the desk, startling his coach.  “Story of my life.”

Before Coach Benton could respond, Javan snatched his helmet and stormed out of the office and into the locker room where he changed out of his practice gear.

One thing.  That’s all he wanted.  One thing he was great at.  One thing he was better at than everyone else.  One thing that made him stand out.  One thing that made him important.  One thing that made him someone.

He wanted throwing a football to be that one thing.  He thought about the countless hours he spent this past spring and summer in the weight room and on the field while Gavin sat on his butt playing video games.

Javan was sure his hard work would pay off, that his persistence would beat out Gavin’s lazy talent at the start of their second year of high school.  But none of those extra hours of practice got him anywhere in football.

Or with Julianne.

He still couldn’t get that image of his Julianne kissing that egomaniac Gavin when the roster was posted at the end of practice.

Well, she wasn’t exactly his Julianne.  In reality, she barely knew his name.  She was the popular volleyball player who went for the guys who came in first, not invisible second stringers like him.

It didn’t hurt that Gavin, with his blonde hair, dimples and athletic build, actually looked like a star quarterback.  Javan, on the other hand, sported a thin, lanky frame with lousy skin.  Pale skin that always burned, never tanned.  Facial skin that seemed to stay in a state of perpetual acne breakout.

The only cool feature about him was his ragged jet black hair that dangled just above his intentionally boring brown eyes, covered the tips of his ears and brushed the back of his neck.

If he revealed the true color of his eyes, though, Julianne would certainly notice him.

No, he thought, shaking the idea out of his head.  He’d rather be a background geek than a front and center freak any day.

Disappointed with football and heartbroken over Julianne, Javan traded his football helmet for his bike helmet, unlocked his bike from the bike rack outside of the gym and pedaled the five back road miles home as fast as he could go.  Classes didn’t start for another two weeks, but he was already anxious to be done with the school year.

The August heat in Montana wasn’t brutal, but it was hot enough to have him drenched in sweat by the time he rode under the iron arches of the Rickman Family Ranch.  This was the place he called home, but even here he was a second place kid.

Nobody knew who or where his parents were.  But unlike the other parentless kids who came to stay here, he wasn’t eligible for adoption.  His parents claimed they would be back for him.

That was fifteen years ago.  He had stopped believing in their return the day he turned double digits.

The couple who owned the ranch and raised him treated him like their own child, but he never really belonged.  He was always second to their biological children, the three older girls he called his sisters.  He knew the truth, though.  They all did.

Javan bypassed the main house and rode straight to the barn behind it.  He propped his bike just outside of Storm’s stall.  The sight of the black stallion eased the frustration that had been building up all day.  “Good to see you, buddy.  I hope you’re ready for a long ride.  We’ve got a lot to talk about.”

He reached for the latch on the stall door but was stopped by the sound of his own name.  “Javan!  I need you up at the house.  Now!”

Javan closed his eyes and dropped his head.  “Figures.”  He shook his head, then looked up and rubbed his horse’s neck.  “That’s Mama Sandra.  Better not ignore her.  We’ll ride later.”

Storm snorted his displeasure.

“I agree.”  Javan looked to his right and left.  No one else was around.  “Tell you what.”  He unlatched the door and led Storm to the front of the barn.  “Stay here.  Don’t move until you hear me whistle.  Then you know what to do.  Right?”

Storm shot Javan that wicked horse’s smile only Javan would recognize, neighed and batted his head up and down.

“Good boy.”  Javan laughed and walked up to the house to obey the call of the woman who raised him as her own.

◊             ◊             ◊

“There he is.”  Tears filled Esmeralda’s eyes as she watched Javan walk across the yard to the house.  “There’s my boy.”

“He looks nothing like me,” Kenton said, standing at the window beside her.

“There are quite a few generations between you and him.”

“I guess growing up in this dimension didn’t help.”

“Shh.”  Esmeralda elbowed Kenton and nodded toward the plump gray-haired woman waiting for Javan at the door.

“Right,” he whispered.  “Staying on script now.”

“Good.”  Esmeralda dried her eyes and cleared her throat as Javan ascended the five wooden steps leading to the back porch.  She didn’t want his first impression of her to be of a weeping woman who croaked when she spoke.

She wanted him to recognize her.  Hug her.  Forgive her.

But as she would soon find out, reuniting with him was not going to be that easy.

The Dragon Collector Short Story Series continues with The Unexpected Guests


The Dragon Collector

Written By: D.K. Drake - Sep• 06•12

Story #1 of The Dragon Collector Short Story Series

Her eyes flew open the instant the icy hand smothered her mouth.  She reached for the knife hidden under her pillow, but the intruder’s other arm latched onto her wrist before she could touch the handle.

“If you want your freedom,” the man whispered in her ear, “don’t fight me.”


Esmeralda froze, and not just because an obnoxiously strong bearded man had her pinned in place on her bed.  That was a factor, but as a slave in the palace of the Dark King, freedom was not a general topic of discussion.  Any mention of the word got one whipped, as attributed by the scars on her back.

The man spoke again.  “Can I trust you to stay quiet?”

Esmeralda studied his hazel eyes.  At least she imagined them to be hazel.  It was difficult to tell in the small windowless room in the middle of the night.  Regardless of their color and despite the lack of light, she could see a sense of urgency in the man’s eyes.  That she trusted.  So under the pressure of his hand on her face, she nodded yes.

“Good,” he whispered.  “In a second, I’m going to move my hand, pick you up and carry you out of here.  All you have to do is stay quiet.  Deal?”

She nodded again.  He slowly moved his hand away from her mouth.

She wanted to ask for some clothes and shoes.  Being hoisted around while wearing only her white nightgown was not her ideal escape outfit, but the idea of freedom was more enticing than her fashion choices.  Besides, her only choice was that same drab brown dress that every other woman in the castle was forced to wear day in and day out. So she remained silent.

With seemingly no effort, he picked her up and tossed her tiny frame over his right shoulder.  Her long, silky black hair swept the floor as he carried her out of the room and down the long hallway to the windy staircase.

She was expecting to travel up the stairs; they went down instead.

“We’re going down?”  She started beating his back with her fists.  “Why are we going down?  The dungeon is not exactly my idea of freedom.”

“Quiet!” he hissed.  “We’re not headed to the dungeon.”

“There’s nothing else down here.”  She tried to wiggle off his shoulder, but his grip on her legs was too tight.

Down the stairs they went.

She was beginning to think she had been captured by some lunatic who liked to carry women around the castle in the middle of the night for fun when they at last exited the dizzying staircase, traveled down a creepy hallway and entered a huge oval room.

The sudden burst of light forced her to cover her pale blue eyes.

As the stranger set her on her feet, she began the painful process of blinking to let her eyes adjust to the glowing room.  When she could finally see, her eyes were drawn to the brilliant yellow circle on the floor in the middle of the room.  It was surrounded by a rainbow colored three-foot high wall with all kinds of fancy buttons on top of it.

“Where are we?” Esmeralda asked, wandering toward the wall.  She stopped halfway there, turning her attention to the stranger instead.  “And who are you?  Why did you bring me here?  What is going on?”

“I don’t have time for long explanations; the guards will be here any minute.  I can explain my presence here, but not yours.  So I need you to stop asking questions and listen.”

Esmeralda crossed her arms, cocked her head and stared at the stranger.  Turns out she was right.  He did have hazel eyes.  Just like her Dartez.

Actually, a lot about this man reminded her of Dartez.  His hazel eyes.  His bushy hair.  His wide, solid shoulders.  His tan skin.  His deep voice.  Only this man was much older.

“You’re Vince,” she said, summoning every ounce of hatred she’d built up over the last sixteen years.  “You’re the family traitor.  You’re the reason I was brought here.  And you’re the reason Dartez was banished.”

She charged at Vince and pounded the chest of her husband’s grandfather.  The tears cascaded down her cheeks as she landed blow after blow.

“Enough!”  He grabbed her wrists and pushed her away.  She kept trying to hit him anyway.  She wasn’t successful.  “I did what I had to do back then, just like I’m doing now.  This time my loyalty lies with family, not the king.  You have to bring Javan home and enter him in the competition for the crown.”

Esmeralda went limp at the mention of her son’s name.  No one was supposed to know his name.  “I can’t.  He died the night he was born.”

Vince dropped her wrists and squeezed her shoulders instead.  “Don’t lie to me.  I was there that night.  I saw my son carry that very live baby boy away on the back of my grandfather’s dragon.”

“You’re mistaken.”  Esmeralda had been protecting this secret too long to divulge the truth now.  Besides, it wasn’t time.  At 15, Javan was still too young.  “My son is dead.”

“Your son is the only hope the people—and dragons—of Zandador have.  I work for the king.  I’ve seen his plans.  If no one challenges him and he is allowed to rule for another hundred years, he will wipe out the dragons and their territories and enslave the people in ways you can’t even begin to imagine.”

“Only a handful of dragons remain, and he already controls every aspect of every person’s life throughout the Great Rift.  There’s nothing to fear other than more of the same.”

“That’s where you’re wrong.  At least now you can think for yourself.  Soon that won’t be an option.”

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t have time to explain.”  He picked her up, carried her to the yellow circle, plopped her down and backed away.  “You have to get to Javan.  You have to enter him in the competition.  And he has to win.  He’s the one of whom the prophecy speaks.”

“My son is the answer to the prophecy?”

“I knew he was alive.”  Vince smiled and started pressing buttons on top of the wall.  “I’m sending you to my son Ravier.  Since he helped you hide Javan, I’m sure he’ll be able to help you find him.  You have six months to find him, train him and help him collect all four Dragon Stalkers while uniting the Bloodlines.  Good luck.”


Vince pressed one final button, transporting Esmeralda out of the castle.

The Dragon Collector Short Story Series Continues with Second String