Project REUTSway Challenge #2: The Ugly Dead – Introducing, this week’s TOP LOOKS!


Thank you to all who participated in the second challenge of Project REUTSway 2013!

With your help, we managed to hit 400,000 words in less than 14 days and effectively, collectively DESTROY NaNoWriMo’s word count requirement.

BUT WAIT. We’re not going to stop there, oh no. We’re going to keep RIGHT ON running with all of this fabulous creativity, until we’ve got ALL the twisted fairy tales we can handle…and more! (Not to mention the most epic word count in all of NaNoWriMo.)

Please stay tuned for the next challenge, which will be even more SINFULLY FABULOUS than the last. Project REUTSway Challenge #3 will be announced Sunday 11/17 at 9:00am EST.

While you wait, you can nosh on this week’s TOP LOOKS:


Project REUTSway Challenge #2: The Ugly Dead – TOP LOOKS

(In no particular order, posted in their raw & unedited form)


There were too many reminders of her in their grand house by the sea.  He could no longer sit on the sweeping porch to watch the waves crash onto the rocks without having the memories overcome him, threatening to drown him in his aching for her.

He saw her auburn hair in the deep colors of the sunset and her green eyes in the hillside.  If he stayed to the interior of the house, he caught flashes of her in the corner of his eye: reading in the chair by the fire, stirring the pot on the stove, and singing her favorite tune on the piano.  Her smell, lemons and lilacs, lingered in the hallways and followed him around the house.  He hadn’t even been able to re-enter their bedroom out of fear that he would never emerge.

During one inconsolable night, when Jack had succumbed to his grief, he started searching through their belongings, just to have something of hers to hold onto, he found a leather pouch at the bottom of the trunk that lay at the foot of their bed.  Jack had given this pouch to Ariella on their wedding night, making her promise not to open it until their children were grown and gone and they were ready for their next adventure.

Those same children had proven to be such a joy and distraction, that Jack himself had forgotten his gift, and it seemed Ariella had as well.  But now, Jack cried tears of joy because he finally had the answer to it all.  The end to all the sadness.

He turned the pouch upside down and emptied it into the rough palm of his hand.  He now held three magic beans, and unlike last time, he knew of their worth and their power.


Project REUTSway “The Ugly Dead” Top Looks – Excerpt from “Jack and the Zombiestalk” by Tara Creel



The ballroom is magnificent, chandeliers glittering in the light like diamonds. Everyone is dressed in their best; the men in their tuxedos and the women in their gowns, looking beautiful and sophisticated, like they belong. They’re royalty, the best of the best, and you are a part of that now. And you’re better than any of them. They all know it. He knows it.

It’s nearing midnight when he kisses your hand and leads you outside. He puts his coat around your shoulders to keep you warm and loops your arm through his. The wind is not so harsh with the coat and his arm makes you feel safe; you would go anywhere with him. You consider the crisp air and the stars romantic; you look at the sky like you half hope it will snow.

You still can’t believe that he invited you to the Christmas ball; you, pretty though you are, with your blonde curls and bright blue eyes, are only a maid. You work for a respectable family, who treat you poorly but give you a place to sleep at night. Why would he invite you to the ball? But he did; he saw you shopping in the market as he was coming home, was captivated by the beauty you possessed and followed you home. There was an invite at your door barely a week later.

Now here you are, in a dress that took a month to make because your Godmother, the only family you still have, refused to let you miss your chance to dance with the one who presented an opportunity to be amongst fine guests as though you belong. And here you are, strolling along the manor’s garden with him, the lucky one. Out of all the other girls at the ball he could have asked to walk with, he wants you.

You let that thought sink in, allow yourself to smile.

When he asks you what’s so funny, you giggle and shake your head; you tell him that you’re happy. He doesn’t doubt your reasoning. He’s happy, too, he says.

He leans in just as you turn to face him properly, catching your lips with his own. You gasp and he moves back, barely; it’s only enough to speak, so close that his breath tickles your skin and causes you to shiver for an entirely different reason. He was going for your cheek, he murmurs to you. But a real kiss was what he wished for.

Your heart flutters in your chest, beating faster and faster as your nervous excitement grows. He’s perfect, the man you have dreamed about your whole life; maybe he will love you, maybe he will take you away from the family you loathe and spend his days with you, maybe you will have a happily ever after.

Maybe… maybe… maybe… that’s all you can truly say.


Project REUTSway “The Ugly Dead” Top Looks – Excerpt from “Beautiful Nightmare” by Sam Hardy



Never was there a stepsister more insufferable than you, Mayumi. The way you used to cry every night for your sweetheart Ronin to take you away made my ears bleed: “Woe is me. I’m too beautiful and wonderful to live in a hovel like this. Boo hoo.”


Shut up Mayumi. Your nails are not so lovely that they can’t afford to get dirt underneath them. My nails are just as dirty. Gouging the eyes out of newts for my mother’s spells isn’t my idea of fun either, but you don’t hear me complaining. No, I can’t complain because my windpipe is severed thanks to you.


It didn’t hurt, in case you care. Mother struck swiftly and silently. In fact, I slept through the whole thing. When the first light streamed through the window in the morning, I opened my eyes, eager to see your dead body lying next to me as Mother and I had planned. Imagine my surprise to see your side of the bed empty and my blood soaking through the mattress. My hair is one big scab of dried blood. I’ll have to wash it if I have any hopes of being presentable.


I have to give you credit for being more clever than I thought. Saving up all of your meager brains for one trick was a good use of them, I suppose. I’d like to bash those brains out of your head. Don’t I deserve a handsome samurai like Ronin as much as you? What makes you so special besides your poppy-red lips, fair skin, and your long eyelashes? I’d rather be plain-looking and smart than pretty and sniveling like you.

It’s that robe you were always wearing that caught his eye anyway. I know your mother wove some kind of love spell into it before she died. All of those gorgeous blue and violet flowers all over it. If only you’d let me borrow it when I’d asked nicely. It isn’t fair that you have pretty clothes from your mother while I have to wear these old, filthy rags.


I’m almost ready to come find you and rip that robe from your puny body. Only a few more passes of this needle and I’ll be whole again. You have no idea how hard it is to sew your own head back on when you can’t reach the back of your own neck.

After I strangle you with your own belt, I think you’ll have some idea.


Project REUTSway “The Ugly Dead” Top Looks – Excerpt from “Sweetheart Ronin” by Suzanne Morgen


Yellow stars abbreviate the vapors of fog and their cold breath while men stomp gleaming boots. A mother whispers to her daughter, “Stand still and look up. We are not cattle.” A small child clings to her father’s legs. He wraps one of her curls around his fingers and prays for her. Stifle your cries, look in their faces. Remember that what they believe does not make it so.


Stories of lives turned into numbers inked into arms.  All they know is the freight rail cars wait for them and when they board life becomes one long night. Someone takes a stranger’s hand and then they are all linked. It is not enough. An old woman fights the terror in her bones passed down from her ancestors and can’t find the room to breath. A door opens and the grey light and shouts stun them into moving again. A hand snaps under the heel of a shoe and they only gasp for clean air, for the freedom of muscles unbound.


A White Angel lifts his arms to him and the girl wants to look into his face but someone pushes her into a line. Right. Left. Left. Right. The father shouts his little girl’s name, reaches for her dark curls as a soldier forces her to the left. The White Angel smiles kindly.


“Shoot them both,” he says.


Bang. Click. Bang.


Even the bare trees hold their breath as the bodies are dragged away.


In the silence, the White Angel’s herald is made clear—left is death.


Project REUTSway “The Ugly Dead” Top Looks – Excerpt from “Thirteen Petal” by Tonia Marie Harris




The soft plea had his gaze falling to the small girl once more.  He reached out to caress the chubby hand still shifting about but held back.


The woman took his hand.  She took it without hesitation and pulled it forward until the baby latched onto his finger, gripping tight.


“I will, lady.  I will watch over her.”  He had voiced the promise without realizing he had, but the universe heard his vow and shuddered.  He was bound to keep the girl unto her natural life’s end.

The serenity on the woman’s face melted the anger before it fully formed.  A feeling, unlike he had ever known, warmed him.  “Sleep now, my lady,” he whispered as he dropped the veil and the sounds of the mortal world erupted around them.


She kissed the baby’s small head.  Then she rested against the pillows.  “Thank you.”


Sephtis watched as she closed her eyes and relaxed.  He brought his powers forth, and they washed over her like a gentle wave, filling her body with a shimmering blue.  He lifted her soul away to ferry it where it belonged.


A tear trailed down the woman’s cheek.  It twinkled as it hesitated on her chin before falling into the baby’s eyes.


Project REUTSway “The Ugly Dead” Top Looks – Excerpt from “Love of Death” by Mandy Springer


Project REUTSway PSA: If you weren’t chosen for this week’s Top Looks, don’t worry! You’re still in the running for the final anthology, provided your story met all of the posted submission guidelines. Likewise, if you were chosen for the TL this week, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be a finalist overall.

Keep creating! Keep writing! As they say, it’s still anyone’s game!

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  1. Djinnia
    November 17, 2013

    Oh thank you for choosing mine. I appreciate it.

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