Wait…it’s February?

I still have a bunch of stuff I was supposed to get done in January….

The last twelve months have been crazy. I suppose life has always been a bit nutty, but my responsibilities keep increasing these days, and I have yet to fully adjust. I’m trying to come up with a schedule that works. I want order! I want solitude! I want perfectly plotted pages on demand! But I’ll settle for a little less chaos.

For those of you who haven’t given up hope that this website will ever be completed (I can change! I can do better! Um, I will tame the unruly minutes and transform them into productive hours!), I updated a couple of pages and added a new one. The latter is an excerpt from The Carys Chronicles: Here and There, the Young Adult Fantasy I’m readying for publishing this spring. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Hey, Author! You Didn’t Finish Your Book!

Last week I read a Young Adult novel, the first in a series. The author ended the the book smack in the middle of a scene. Somebody pushed a button. Or blew a whistle or rang a bell or whatever. The End. Nyah, nyah – gotta buy Book Two to find out what happens next.

Uh, no. I don’t gotta. And I won’t.

I have run across many of these abominations – three or more books hacked out of what should be only one – while browsing through Kindle Books on Amazon. I weed out most of them by examining the reader reviews before deciding whether or not to buy. The few I ended up purchasing, believing I bought a whole book, have left me wary of independent authors I don’t know. That irks me to no end, as I am taking the independent author route myself. If I ever succumb to the urge to publish an incomplete book, however, I’ll do it over at Leanpub, where works in progress are encouraged and clearly indicated.

Although some people don’t mind reading unfinished books, I am not one of them. Give me a proper ending, please. That doesn’t mean every question must be answered. But resolve something. Set it up at the beginning and provide a complete journey for the reader. Once my imagination takes flight, I don’t want to be kicked off the plane (without a parachute) before it lands. Makes me cranky. Leaves me feeling cheated. *frowns*

Hey, Author! I’m spending my time and money elsewhere.

Review: Strings

I intended to mix it up and review something outside the fantasy genre in the middle of last month, but life happened, as is life’s habit, and September slipped by me, tagging October well before I was ready. Time is relentless like that. No mercy whatsoever. Kinda like the Big Bad in Ruthanne Reid’s novella Strings.

Strings centers on Grey, the Fey prince who assisted Katie in The Christmas Dragon. In this tale Grey serves as narrator, and quite the entertaining one. Arrogant, selfish, and more than a little cynical, his commentary proves surprisingly honest when events turn dire, but, fortunately for us, he never entirely loses the snark.

The story opens with Grey playing gigs in bars. His music is magic in the literal sense, and he feeds on the love it engenders among humans, whom he refers to as the Ever-Dying. But his night takes a turn for the (even) less ordinary when a monster comes a-knockin’ at the door of his latest venue. Grey tries to exit before things get crazy, but the crazy comes hard and fast, and before he can extricate himself, he becomes a key player – albeit a reluctant one – in a desperate situation well outside his comfort zone.

Ms. Reid has written another highly entertaining story populated with interesting characters. She has a gift for bringing even minor ones to life. The main players are well-rounded, from Grey and his outrageous charm to the blunt and bald Barry the Bartender to the beautiful, mysterious, and deadly Notte. I look forward to reading the latter’s story in the yet to be released Notte, which, like The Sundered, will be a full-length novel.

Although the 86-page Strings is third in Ms. Reid’s Among the Mythos series, I read it second. The series (so far) consists of linked stand alone stories, so the reading order doesn’t really matter. Unlike, say, Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Definitely must read those in sequence. (He wrote it as one book, and his publisher split it into three.)

I read a free version of Strings on Wattpad. It is also available on Amazon in both print and digital form.

Haiku Tuesday

Stealthy dark water

Slides across the barren plain

Beneath a frail moon

 

A few weeks ago I was frazzled and sick and words refused to flow for me. The prescription I received from Sean Preston over at Reality Blurs went something like this: Write haiku. Write a lot of it. Good, bad, or lukewarm, keep at it until creativity sparks. So, I gave it a whirl, attempting to distill each of my characters into three lines for a total of seventeen syllables. Fun. And effective. Maybe one day I’ll share some.

Today I hit a rough patch and decided to write more haiku. I only managed one, though. A line from the first haiku I ever wrote in my high school poetry class (and, no, you don’t need to know how much time has passed since then) returned to haunt me, and I decided to use it. I can’t remember the rest of the poem, just the one line. Oh, and my grade suffered because my haiku wasn’t pretty or something. Neither is this, but it suits my mood.

What do you think? Love? Hate? Have another offbeat method for priming the creative pump?

There’s No Dancing at the Zombie Zoo

Monday turned out to be one of Those Days. A day during which I spent an inordinate amount of time reminding myself I am a civilized human being with a well-developed vocabulary, not a throwback limited to grunts, growls, and the occasional four letter word. A day during which I reminisced about an earlier era, when the people with whom I shared living space thought twice about waking me, maybe even thrice before determining this hazardous course was absolutely necessary. Then they would engage in whispered arguments over who should be the one to knock on my door. Back then no one dared to disturb my sleep unless Something Really Important required my immediate attention. Alas, that golden age ended years ago.

I tend not to awaken gracefully. Or gratefully. Or grin-and-bear-it-ly. I need at least an hour of preparation before I’m fit and ready to interact with humanity. Unfortunately for me, the world doesn’t wait for my puny needs to be met. Neither does the family.

A night owl surrounded by noisy creatures of the dawn, I once possessed the gift of sleep so profound no alarm clock could penetrate its depths. This wonderful ability lessened somewhat over the years but remained strong enough for me to attain a decent night’s sleep unless someone knocked on my door. Or called me on the phone. Or yelled my name from the kitchen. However, everything changed this month.

First came the call after one in the morning. My dad, phoning from the other end of the house, was having difficulty breathing. Still wide awake at that hour, I had no difficulty staying composed throughout the process of dialing 911, reassuring household members, contacting others, following the ambulance to the emergency facility, filling out paperwork, waiting for tests and results and a diagnosis, seeing my dad transferred to the main hospital, and returning home to inform and provide further reassurance. By noon I’d caught a couple hours of sleep periodically interrupted by phone calls and texts.

Just over a week later, with my dad still undergoing treatment in the hospital, I was awakened out of a deep sleep by a loud thump immediately followed by screaming. My mom had fallen, hitting her head, and blood seeped out of her mouth. The one reassuring element was, when I called 911, she stopped screaming and started yelling at me.

It took me two or three attempts to dial 911 correctly. Then people were coming, and I realized I was only wearing a very old and, consequently, very sheer night shirt. Oh, and it was a school day, so my niece needed to get dressed, too, and eat breakfast and why aren’t you eating your food and what do you mean you can’t eat your cereal because there’s no milk on it when there’s milk in the fridge and you’re right I would’ve yelled at you for taking your butt off that chair and….

My mom didn’t stay put like I told her the 911 operator said she should. No, she crawled off and locked herself in the bathroom. In my defense, I didn’t think sitting on her would help matters. Anyway, between the emergency personnel and the power of prayer, mom made it to the ER, went through the testing and diagnosing process, and was cleared to go home a couple of hours later. The only true casualty was my emotional state. I kept weeping in public, which still irks me to no end.

Yeah, didn’t handle myself well the second time.

As a result of these two life events, my ability to sleep properly has been severely impacted. I jerk awake to little sounds, tiny sounds which never disturbed me previously. Alarms and ringing phones anywhere in the house. People tiptoeing down the hallway. Distant traffic. Even more distant thunder. The microwave beeping. Doves cooing. Rabbits sniffling. Okay, maybe not the rabbit thing, but everything else, absolutely. I recently had a twenty-four-hour liberty, as we called such things during my Navy days, but I couldn’t even sleep while away from the house. Managed to offend my hostess by giving up and driving back early to make sure the two left at home were okay. (No news is good news? Uh-uh. I can’t be convinced.)

So, here I am, kinda-sorta adjusting, working on adapting my writing time around the increased needs of what sometimes feels like half the planet. I sleep sometimes, but never like the good ol’ days. Nights. Whatever. Maybe it’s the heightened noise awareness. Or maybe I’m still freaked out. And not just about crying in public.

Short Story: Enchanted Dreams

I wrote the original version of this modern fairy tale for adults in 2008. As a rehabilitated, former Queen of That (who abdicated the throne a few months ago), I excised a “that” here and there and clarified a couple of passages. The toughest part of the assignment for me was keeping the story down to three typewritten, double-spaced pages. So, for those who write quality flash fiction: RESPECT!

 

ENCHANTED DREAMS

The ambitious young lawyer embraced the beautiful woman and rejoiced. At last, she would be his.

“You bewitch me,” he said.

She smiled her secretive smile. “I can make all your dreams come true.” Her smile widened. “But you must never make me angry.”

He laughed. “Never,” he agreed, then he took her to bed.

In the morning she didn’t look quite as beautiful, but she would do until he could find another. He hid his impatience for her to leave and brewed a pot of expensive coffee.

She intrigued him when she said, “You’ll receive a job offer today. Everything you’ve dreamed.”

The ambitious young lawyer sipped his coffee. “So, you’re psychic as well as gorgeous,” he said.

“Something like that.” She kissed him on the forehead and left.

At night, when she returned to his apartment, the ambitious young lawyer tried to convince himself she was as beautiful as ever.

“You were right,” he said. “How did you know?”

“I’m always right,” she said with her secretive smile, “when I want to be. And I can make all your dreams come true. Just remember, you must never make me angry.”

“Never,” he agreed, then he took her to bed.

Over coffee the next morning he thought she looked rather ordinary, not beautiful at all.   She said, “You’ll receive a house today. Everything you’ve dreamed.”

The ambitious young lawyer’s pulse quickened. “I have big dreams,” he said.

“I know.” She kissed the inside of his wrist and left.

At night she came to his new house, so extravagantly appointed even the three-car garage came furnished with luxury vehicles.

“You’re an amazing woman,” he said.

“Who can make all your dreams come true as long as you don’t make me angry.”

“Never,” he said, then he took her to bed.

The next morning she said, “You’ll receive a special gift today. Everything you’ve dreamed.”

“I can hardly wait,” the ambitious young lawyer said and sipped his coffee.

“But you will.” She kissed him on the mouth and left.

Still waiting when he arrived home in the evening, the ambitious young lawyer saw the pretty twin maids and said, “Now, this is a special gift!” Then he took them to bed.

The woman arrived at his house and found them together. She brandished a sealed envelope like a sword, and he wondered how he had ever thought she was beautiful.

“No more sweet dreams,” she said. “I’m angry.” She tore the envelope in half, threw the pieces on the floor, and left.

The twins, no longer giggling and sighing, retrieved their clothes and departed as well.

The next morning, he awakened to the smell of coffee. The maids came in early today, he thought. After tasting the brew, however, he decided to inform them never to bother again. He would make the coffee himself. He stood to pour out the rest of the foul-tasting liquid, but the room seemed to sway, and he collapsed.

Regaining consciousness with an aching head, he sensed something was very wrong. No light filtered through the drawn curtains. The bed on which he lay felt soaking wet. Naked, he shivered with cold, but when he sought to cover himself he discovered he was sticky all over. He heard the faint wail of sirens in the distance.

He must be dreaming.

Dragging himself up to sit on the side of the bed, he planted his feet on the floor and waited for the dizziness to pass. He groped for the lamp on the nightstand and switched it on. Blood covered his hands, stained his arms, his legs, his entire body. He ran trembling fingers from head to toe but found no wound. Next to his foot an incongruous item lay partially hidden beneath the bed. As if compelled, he picked it up: a bloody knife. The sirens grew louder.

He had to be dreaming.

Gripping the knife, he stood and forced himself to face the bed. Dimly, he heard shouting and the pounding of footsteps on the stairs. He was still staring at the twin maids’ bodies on the blood-drenched bed when the police found him.

“I’m dreaming,” he said as he was handcuffed.

“Right,” one cop said. “Nasty dream.”

Another cop held the halves of a torn envelope in gloved fingers. “Check this out. One of those prenuptial agreements. The man’s name matches the ID we found in the perp’s clothing.”

“And the woman?” asked the first cop.

“Daughter of a cartel boss. It’s her house—would’ve been his according to the prenup.”

“I’m guessing he didn’t sign.”

“Yep. Stupid bastard. She could’ve made his dreams come true.”