October 2023 Fiction Project Turning Leaves - House is Watching You

October 2023 Fiction Project: The Witch House – Oct 21

This year’s October fiction project is a short middle-grade horror novel. The working title is “Turning Leaves,” but that will probably change.

Here are the rules (which I am making up as I go along!):

  • Write every day.
  • Write about a thousand words every day.
  • Write words the same day the characters would be writing them, for the most part (that is, Oct 1 words in the story = Oct 1 words in real life).
  • Don’t plan ahead.
  • Don’t quit.

I don’t have an outline or even a plan.

It’s been a while since I wrote middle-grade fiction. This should be fun.

October Fiction Projects to Date:
2017 – October Nights – General flash fiction short horror-ish stories.

2018 – Tales of the Normal – Twilight Zone-style surreal stories.


2019 – Crime du Jour – Short crime stories.


2023 – Turning Leaves – Middle-grade horror.

Website – And sign up for the newsletter to get updates about the final ebook!

Turning Leaves (Working Title): October 21 - Manifestations

Miss Emma

If you are a good reader and are reading very carefully, then you may have started to make some guesses about what a witch is.

Let me give you some more hints!

When you think about a witch, you’re probably thinking of someone who says a few words, mixes a few ingredients, and waves a magic wand.

Those types of witches are all very well and good. Their magic spells help bring good luck to the good and bad luck to the bad. They work with charms and potions to heal bodies and minds, help life grow the way it’s supposed to, and generally keep the universe working in good order.

But they are not the only type of witches.

I am one of the other types of witches.

What are we?

It’s not easy to explain.

You almost have to be my type of witch to understand it.

(Jayla’s stepfather certainly doesn’t understand it!)

When a witch starts to wake up, she—most witches are she but certainly not all!—has a choice to go one way, or another way.

Some witches like to say that the two ways represent a choice between good and evil. But that’s just silly! Just because a witch chooses to limit her power, that does not make her good. And just because a witch chooses to expand her power, that does not make her evil.

How powerful a witch is depends on how she sees her power.

The witches who see their power as part of themselves, like electricity stored in a battery, a power that flows through the universe, or an emotion that comes out of their heart, those are the witches who have limited their power.

It’s still a lot of power, though, compared to people who aren’t witches!

The other type of witches, well, we see ourselves differently.

Have you ever gone swimming for so long that you felt like you were still swimming even after you got out of the water and went to sleep later that night?

Have you ever gone into a creepy old building and felt like the whole building was watching you?

Have you ever lay in the grass, watching the clouds, and suddenly had the feeling that you were a tiny bug stuck to a very large planet, turning quickly through space?

Then you know a little bit of what it is like to be a witch who embraces her power.

We stop being people and start being something more like a place.

We are the waves in the water, and the water, too.

We are the creepy old buildings.

We can look like people, too, but the people part of us is fake. When people see me as Miss Emma, it’s like they’re seeing a puppet that’s covering my real hand.

I started out very small, though.

As a book.

October 21 – Jayla’s Journal (Real)

My mom is a witch.

And Lola and I are probably witches, too.

Stepdad Dave tried to explain it yesterday but I don’t think he did a good job. I still don’t understand.

He said that the black smoke that I can see is my power.

And that Ghost Cat is a manifestation of my power.

And that I have had power for a long time, according to my mom and dad.

When I have ideas, they can become real.

Not all the time. But sometimes.

I have to be careful.

Ghost Cat was an idea of mine, an imaginary friend that I made up when I was little and I wanted a cat and my dad said no.

Making the note fall out of Paige’s pocket. That was an idea of mine.

And wishing for a friend who would not be in danger from me, that was my magic, too.

Lola existed before I came to this middle school.

But she wouldn’t have met me and been my friend if I hadn’t wished for her.

That’s what Stepdad Dave said. I forced her to be my friend.

She might be a witch. But even if she is, she isn’t as strong as me.

I’m the one who’s the real problem.

Stepdad Dave told me all this. Then he reached a hand down into the cardboard box where one of the copies of Lola’s parents had been stored, pulled out a piece of transparent dried goo, then closed his fist around it. The dried, hollowed-out goo broke into pieces lighter than snowflakes. Some of them fell back into the box. Others floated around like ghosts in the laundry room in Lola’s basement.

“Your father died fighting a witch,” he said. “He was killed and replaced while he was out of town on a business trip. The witch he was fighting replaced him, then had the copy killed in a car accident.”

“Why?” I said.

He ignored me. “You witches have to be careful what you wish for. Your mother wished for someone to help take care of you after your father died. We got married because she wished it. She wished so hard that before we knew it, we were married. Her grief over your father’s death made her more powerful. It made her try to control everyone around her.”

I asked, “Is that why you’re fake?”

Lola gasped and put her hands over her mouth. We were both near the door of the laundry room, as far away from Stepdad Dave and the scary boxes as we could be.

Stepdad Dave didn’t get mad, though. “No, I’ve been this way a long time. I had an accident with a witch a long time ago. My real self is in Seattle, looking for Lola’s parents and her sister right now.”

“Oh!” Lola said.

“But that’s not what’s important,” Stepdad Dave said. “The witch here is draining everyone’s strength. Your mother is forgetting that she wished me into marrying her. And Lola is already split from her real body, just like I was.”

“What about me?” I asked.

“You’re a very strong witch,” he said. “I think she wants to separate you from your mom and Lola so you have to fight alone.”

“Why didn’t anyone tell me I was a witch?” I asked.

“Because you might have decided to turn evil. Little kids aren’t always good.”

“But now?”

He shrugged. “I’m only telling you because I have to. Your mother is losing control. If you panic, you might hurt her.”

He stood up, then brushed his hands against his pants. More flakes of dried goo flew into the air.

“Witches shouldn’t fight witches, Jayla. If your mom tries to fight you, don’t fight back. Okay? Promise me that.”

I thought about Mom standing over me in the dark, blackness in her mouth. What would I do if she tried to hurt me with that darkness?

I couldn’t hurt my mom.

“Okay,” I said.

October 2023 FIction Project Turning leaves - Library Book

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