Friday, October 31, 2008
Nightfall in G Flat
by Cheryel Hutton
The Tivoli Theatre was old, almost as old as Tala herself. There had been more than one extensive remodeling over the long years the building had stood, of course. Still, the ancientness of its structure appealed to Tala.
She arrived late, so that the majority of patrons would already be seated. The human's sharp smell assaulted her anyway, but it was better than if they had been moving around. Less distraction, fewer problems. Her seat was in the back of the room, as was her preference, and she lowered herself into it.
Tala closed her eyes and allowed the music to wash over her in waves. Closing her mind as well, she shut out the extraneous sounds and the sharp metallic smell from all around her. She wanted to drown in the music, to be pulled under to a place where dank darkness and sewer smells didn't exist. A place where blood was a metaphor, and not an everyday reality.
The smell woke her from her self-induced state. At first she thought it was another of her kind. But no, it was human. Different though, different enough that the smell broke through the sharp taint of blood that permeated the theatre.
She tried to restrain herself, but seemed compelled to turn and look at this creature.
Human male, and to all appearances nothing more. Dark hair, cut a bit short for her taste. Standard black tuxedo. Guessing from his appearance, he would be in his thirties. His gaze was locked on the orchestra, and his expression denoted enjoyment. Beside him sat a human female. Rich warm blood pounded through the woman's pale body, and Tala found herself inhaling its metallic perfume.
She must control herself. This was not the time, nor the place.
Tala looked away-and met the eyes of the human male.
There was a connection. She felt drawn toward him, and not in the way she was drawn toward most humans. There was no hunger, no thirst. This was another desire altogether. A desire she hadn't felt in centuries.
She heard his heart pounding, saw blood was coloring his cheeks, sensed his maleness was inflamed.
She slowly licked her lips, aware the action was having a strong effect on the man. She smirked. He wasn't so very different after all.
And then he smiled.
Suddenly her body was reacting in a way it hadn't in almost 400 years. If she didn't know better, she'd swear her blood was pounding in her veins. But that was impossible.
Using every bit of self-control she had learned over her long existence, she turned back toward the front. The orchestra was playing Liszt. Normally, the sound of her favorite composer was enough to allow her to slide into a meditative state.
Tonight, though, tonight she felt a part of her consciousness catch and pull toward the human sitting twenty feet from her. She wasn't happy with this development. But in some odd way she seemed to be enjoying the concert even more than usual. As if some switch had been flipped, the music seemed sweeter, more melodious.
Just before the last piece ended, Tala slipped out of her seat and moved toward the exit. A stray glance told her the man was watching her, and she allowed herself a smile. He'd no doubt dream about her for a time.
The few people in the lobby parted before her without realizing they were doing it. And she slipped out into the darkness. Night, her kingdom. The moon was a tiny sliver, so the night was almost pitch black. She smiled. It was better when it was thus.
She turned into a dark alley, and followed the familiar route toward the other side of town. Too familiar. She needed to move on soon.
In the dark alleys and garbage strewn corners of the money deprived section of the city, she took her dinner. She would have loved to take it from the haughty theatergoers, but that would cause unnecessary complications. So she fed on those less fortunate. It took a while. She hadn't caused the death of a human in many years, but taking a little from several sources took longer. Still, she preferred the high road.
Around 2 AM, satiated and calm, she found herself wandering back toward the theatre. Not sure why, it simply seemed the thing to do.
Long before she arrived, she knew why. The scent carried on the breeze, and curiosity grew in her. She approached the corner of the building. "Show yourself," she said into the darkness.
He stepped from the shadows. "I knew you'd come."
"Couldn't tell you, I just knew."
"What are you?"
He took a step toward her. "I think the better question is what are you?"
She smiled. "You already know. I am a blood drinker."
"I have been called such." She moved closer to him, breathing in his scent. The tuxedo was gone, replaced with a pair of jeans and a sweater. "You are human, but somehow more."
"What makes you say that?"
"I smell it."
"I smell blood on you," he said.
"I must eat to survive."
"You survive by taking human lives."
"No. I do not kill. Most do not even know I have tasted of them."
"A moral vampire, well, what do you know."
"If our kind were not moral, there would be none of yours."
A slow smile spread across the human's face. "You're a spitfire, aren't you?"
"Spunky, strong willed."
"I like that in a woman."
"I am not a woman."
"Oh yes, you are." He pulled her toward him and touched his lips to hers.
His warmth enveloped her. Heat, not only from his body, but from some long untouched place inside her own, allowed her to feel warm for the first time in four centuries. And she gave herself to him, pulling at him, feeling his hands touch her as no being ever had.
Then she pulled away. "We should not."
"It is dangerous."
His laugh was deep, and resonated within her. "I'm not chicken."
"You do not know what you are doing."
"You're gonna bite me?"
"I might not be able to control-"
"I can." He pulled her against him, and again she was caught in his heat. It made no sense, yet somehow she believed him.
They moved as one into the shadows, where he pulled the straps of her evening gown down and touched his lips to her breasts. She moaned and pulled him closer. He leaned her against the brick wall of the theatre and kissed her hard and deep. It was pitch black, but he--like she--appeared able to see perfectly. When they united, it was like nothing she had ever dreamed could be possible. Her body writhed in ecstasy. Never, not in all her years, had she felt such pleasure.
Darkness had deepened into the rich velvet that comes before the warning streaks of light began to appear. Tala knew the time with the human was over.
"I must go," she whispered, and turned.
"Sleep well," she heard, as she journeyed toward home.
Back in the safety of her basement bedroom, she berated herself for her involvement with a human. No matter how odd he was, he was still human--and therefore dangerous. It had been an insane thing she had done. As powerful as she was, she knew humans had destroyed many of her kind. There was even a breed of human that lived for nothing but to harass and destroy blood drinkers. These humans were not so much human as animal. They were cruel and obsessed. It was even rumored they had no soul.
She was fortunate, and must never be so careless again.
Still, in spite of all her inner lecturing, when darkness again gathered, she found herself longing to travel to the vicinity of the theatre. She fed and started toward home, only to find herself going instead toward the center of town.
She didn't really expect the man to be there, but still she went. It seemed impossible not to go.
She saw him moving toward her from five blocks away--and was convinced he saw her also. Extraordinary this human. She wasn't afraid, but still the strangeness of the situation set off a warning bell somewhere inside her.
Then he touched her, and all she cared was that the human's hands were creating sensations in her she had believed long lost. Swept up in a hot wave of passion, Tala lost all sense of herself. The giving and taking of pleasure was all there was. And she gave herself over to it.
Hours later, she leaned against the wall of a building and basked in the warmth that seemed to surround her. "You are one strange human," she told the man.
"My name is James," he said.
"Mine is Tala. In the language of my people, it means wolf."
"Beautiful," James whispered."I must go now," she told him.
"I know, my darling Tala. Sleep well."
She hesitated, but knew she must get to safety before sunrise.
For almost a month, she was drawn every night to the center square of downtown. And every night, James waited there for her.
The moon was bright on one beautiful night, and Tala gave in to her most treasured desire.
"Come home with me," she found herself saying."I'm honored," he said.Together they journeyed to the house she called home. There, in the darkness of her basement bedroom, they continued their coupling in spurts throughout the day.
As the sun began to dip behind the hills, Tala woke from a dreamless sleep to find the human curled beside her in the bed. She smelled his blood coursing through his veins, and was quite surprised at her lack of interest. She was thirsty, yes, but not for him.
His eyes opened, and he smiled at her. "Good night, beautiful."
"Good night, James."
She slid from her bed and went to the sound system in the corner. Soon music swelled and filled the room. "I know you like classical."
James smiled. "Schubert. Impromptu #3 in G flat."
"Night's coming, I smell it."
"You smell it? I did not have that ability when I was human."
"I think you know, I'm not your average human."
Pain touched her, but still she spoke. "You are one of them, are you not? A Hunter. One of those whose sole existence is spent in destroying my kind."
His eyes closed. "Yes," he whispered. "I am a Hunter by birth."
"Are you going to try to kill me?"
"No." His gaze met hers. "I have never killed a vampire."
She laughed then. "You are lying."
"No, I'm not."
"Hunters kill blood drinkers. That is their entire reason for existence."
"And you are a Hunter."
"Therefore, you must kill blood drinkers."
He stood. He was wearing no clothes, and yet his expression seemed more naked than his body. "I'm not your usual Hunter."
"Then what are you!"
"I'm a man. A man with a conscience. A man who doesn't feel the need to hurt another creature." He stepped toward her, holding out a hand as if to give her a gift. "And I love you."
"You have a soul," she whispered.
He shrugged. "I suppose."
"I don't know what to think."
He took another step toward her. "Look into your heart, see what it tells you."
"I have no heart."
He touched a hand to her chest. "Yes, you do."
She closed her eyes for a moment, then looked into his face. It was irrational. But she believed him.
"I wish for us to remain together," she told him.
"It's dangerous for you. The Hunters hate me."
"I am not chicken."
He laughed as he pulled her into his arms.
For a time they gave themselves to the pleasure of closeness.
Finally Tala's hunger pulled her back to the presence. "I must eat," she told him.
"I will go with you."
She studied him. "You are human, there is no blood drinking for you."
He smiled as he touched her cheek. "I don't believe I really want to watch you bite people, but I do want to spend time with you. And I need to find food of my own."
"If you wish, you may accompany me."
As Schubert continued to play, two shadows walked together into the night.
Originally published in The Romance Place, October 2005
Copyright by Cheryel Hutton, all rights reserved.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
As the story goes, Ernest Hemingway once wrote this 6-word tale to settle a bar debt. It’s an extreme example of Flash Fiction, which The Free Dictionary defines as “fiction characterized by its extreme brevity, as measured by its length in words”
It’s also called Sudden Fiction, Microfiction, Micro-Story, Postcard Fiction, and Short Short Story.”
Ernest Hemingway’s story is extraordinary because it truly is a story. It has a beginning, a middle and an end -- all in six words. There's the mystery of what happened to the baby. Was it born? Why were the shoes never worn? Did the baby just go barefoot? Or does this story hint at some tragedy?
I’m hoping I can challenge you to tell a story with just six words and that you’ll post it in this blog’s comments field.
To get you started, here are 13 examples from “Not Quite What I Was Planning,” a book of six-word memoirs published by the SMITH magazine.
1.“Cursed with cancer. Blessed with friends.” Hannah Davies
2.“I’m just here for the beer.” Alex Vournas
3. “I answer to the name Mom.” Lynne Chesterman
4.“ Life has gone to the dogs.” Ted Rheingold
5. “Memory was my drug of choice.” Pea Hicks
6. “Unhappy joke writer hugs her chihuahua.” Jessica Salmonson
7. “Still here despite logic and likelihood.” Elisha Marshall
8. “Didn’t fit in then; still don’t.” Bob Fingerman
9. “Buried gold long ago. Can’t find.” Maureen Barnes
10. “Put my whole self in, shook about.” Melissa Delzio
11. “Came out. Went in. Came out.” Earl Adams
12. “Saw the sky and started walking.” Mark Sundeen
13. “Lucky in everything else but love.” Eliot Sheridan
Now for your opportunity: Please share a story using only six words.
Having problems? If you’re not sure what to write, go to www.sixwordmemoir.com to see SMITH magazine’s ever-growing collection of memoirs. Or check out “Not Quite What I Was Planning,” a fun book to read, full of profound, silly, thoughtful, provocative life stories all in a sentence or two.
To start you off, here’s mine: “Sons in school. Time to write.”
And here’s a writing buddy’s: “Ex missed curve. Insurance pays off.”
View More Thursday Thirteen Participants
Monday, October 27, 2008
Right, Tessa thought. Stab a vampire through the chest with a grapevine stick and live, or stand here like an idiot until one of the blood suckers gives you a killer hickey. Literally. Great choices.
Then Vlad the bartender, enraged over the spillage of his top shelf ’69 Keith Richards pinot noir, charged her. OK. Choice made. She raised the stake.
And he laughed at her. He backhanded her arm, knocking the stake from her grasp. Then he reached for her and she knew her days as a living, breathing human being were over.
But he never touched her. Van Helsing spun him around and a swift punch to the face sent him sprawling.
“You chipped my fang,” the vampire growled, cupping his mouth. He slowly rose to his feet. “You’re going to pay for that.”
“Put it on my tab.”
Damn, there was something so sexy about a guy who could joke and face death at the same time.
The vampire launched himself at the slayer just as VH pulled another grapevine stake from his coat. The vamp grabbed the stake and they wrestled with it between them. Tessa couldn’t believe what she was seeing as the vampire effortlessly tossed VH, sending him flying across the restaurant and crashing into a table for two. She glanced around at the other vamps watching the show, their fanged grins white in the candlelight.
Vlad advanced on VH, the stake raised in his fist. “Let’s see how you like a tree shoved through your vital organs.”
Tessa couldn’t stand by a watch the man die. She grabbed up her fallen stake, then raced across the room and tapped the vampire on the shoulder.
“Excuse me, but I’d rather you didn’t stake my date.” And she plunged the grapevine stake through his heart.
Vlad the bartender looked down at his chest in shock, then he went up in flames like a roman candle.
VH jumped to his feet and wrapped his arms around her, easing them both back as the other vampires advanced.
“Got any brilliant ideas?” Tessa asked.
He pulled out two more stakes, handing one to her. “Sorry, I don’t happen to have any wine bottles on me. These will have to do.”
“Well, seeing as I’m getting the hang of this vampire slaying thing…” She raised her stake at the nearest vamp.
Then one by one, the remaining vamps simply vanished.
“Where did they go?”
“Now that their distributer is ash, high-tailing it back to Napa would be my guess. Most of those fancy B&Bs there are run by wine vamps.”
“Nope. Looks like I’ll be hunting them down in the Golden State now.” He turned, his eyes intense on her face, as if he just realized he still held her in his arms. “Good staking, Buffy.”
“Thanks. It was my first. And the name’s Tessa.”
“Well, Tessa. You certainly have a knack for spearing wine vamps. Thanks for saving my hide.” He leaned down and kissed her on the cheek. “I could use somebody like you at my back.”
He hesitated and she knew he read the desire in her eyes. Damn, were all vampire slayers this hot? Then he moved in closer and brushed his lips along her jaw. “And by my side.”
She sucked in a breath as tingles pricked her skin.
He pulled her tight and nuzzled her neck. “And under me.”
Tessa’s entire body quivered. “You’re not going to bite me, are you?”
He pulled back and smiled the sexiest grin she’d ever seen. “Only if you promise to bite me back.”
Sunday, October 26, 2008
* She is a secret werewolf who needs Harry's help.
* Her car broke down and she's a secret shifter, but maybe not a wolf.
* Miss Sandie thought she hit a dog, but it was a shifter and it bit one of her tires flat!
Do you sense a theme running in these suggestions? Yep -- Miss Sandie, according to my readers, is likely to be a shifter herself at this point. (And I think a similar suspicion might apply to anyone who showed up at this juncture because of the timing.) The way I doled out the narrative so far lend themselves to a paranormal or story twist at this point.
The first scene was where we met Harry and learned a few tidbits about his situation, like the fact that he's a werewolf and who's been going to Miss Sandie's for lunch in hopes of avoiding other local shifters, who would presumably avoid a prissy tea shop. We gleaned a very basic idea of how shifters coexist with humans--they live in secret. By the end of the scene the tension was ramped up when the very shifters Harry had been hoping to avoid invaded his sanctuary.
Scene two was all about the confrontation between Harry and Bianca, who was dead set on Harry as the new pack alpha. Because her goal involves pack politics, this allowed us to find out more about shifter life and how Harry differs from the traditional werewolf. He's an "independent" but he still loves eating steaks and having room to run.
Because the second scene was higher tension, the third scene was lower tension--world/scenery building with some time in Harry's thoughts, filling in blanks about how he got mixed up with the local pack. But an element of tension was still threaded through the piece, hopefully keeping the scene from being boring, what with Harry's looming deadline with the pack ritual. And then, he sensed something that wasn't quite right on his property.
So when we run into Miss Sandie at the end, I do think it makes "story sense" to assume there's something unusual about Miss Sandie's arrival at Harry's garage at this particular juncture.
But Miss Sandie is going to have to wait until next Sunday night for her secrets to be revealed! Thanks for staying tuned thus far.
SURVIVAL OF THE FAIREST--Available now, Samhain Publishing
Saturday, October 25, 2008
She stared out at the ocean, longing to escape but she knew this wasn't over. Not by a long shot. Oh, she could walk along the beach for as long as she liked, but ultimately, she'd have to return to her new home. Damia shook her head in disgust.
Stupid! Sleeping with Trevor Falcon had to be the most brain-dead thing she'd ever done. She let herself be lulled by lust last night. Damia kicked a rock. No, not lust. She knew it hadn't been something as fleeting and simple as mere lust. At least it not on her part. She loved him, and loving him was even more idiotic than making love to him. Especially after she saw him kiss her sister, Lori.
"Damia, are you going to come inside or turn into a popsicle out here?"
She shivered, but not with cold. Trevor's deep voice sent a shot of heat straight through her. Hot moist heat. Slowly she turned to face her husband. Husband? Was he? Really?
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
NEED reassurance for November’s National Novel Writing Month? Tips from Chapter after Chapter will boost your confidence and help you find the stamina to complete that novel you’ve been working on.
In just over a week, November will be here. It’s the month where people aspiring to be authors link up at http://www.nanowrimo.org/, with the intention of writing a novel of some 50,000 words.
For many of us the question isn’t whether we can finish our novel in a month or so, the question is: Can we EVER complete a novel? Period.
Heather Sellers, author of Page after Page and Chapter after Chapter, and an English professor at Hope College in Holland, Mich., believes we can. She encourages, exhorts and lays out instructions to streamline the process for timid or unsure authors such as myself.
Here are 13 tips to boost your writing confidence and proficiency.
1. Write things down. Put words on paper. “Writers write things down.” (Never trust those great ideas of yours to memory.)
2. Set time aside. “There are limits to what you can do in your real life if you want to be a dedicated book writer.” A regular writing routine is a plus.
3. To build on that point. … Give your writing project a significant place in your life and time. “Elevate your writing-life commitment to the level of high importance. No one else is going to do it for you.”
4. Practice. “If you’re not good at making time to sit down and write every day, give yourself a month to learn how to do just that.” It takes some doing in our busy lives, but it’s worth the effort.
5. Try, try again. “There are three magic words when you’re writing a book. Keep starting again.” Don’t let discouragement bring your writing dream to a total halt.
6. Learn writing by writing. “A book project, like a good teacher, gives you a reason, a focus, a motivation that keeps you from getting lost in your head, lost in the pages, lost in serial restarting.”
7. When you’re not typing your opus, plan. To get to the finish line, you must know where you’re going. A footnote: “Writing a book is very much like going on a long trip abroad. You leave the world as you know it.”
8. “Just as children collect their books and lay out their gear the night before school to make the next day’s start a little easier, purposeful book authors also lay out their things, mentally and physically, preparing for the next writing day.”
9. “Writing a book is exactly like traveling to a country you don’t know well. What do you do in bed in a new country before falling asleep? Look at maps. Orient yourself. So, each night, before you go to bed, plant a giant YOU ARE HERE sign in your manuscript and look down the road to see where you might go tomorrow.”
10. Keep in mind: “A good writing session has much to do with the previous writing session and the period in-between.”
11. Don’t worry about being gifted enough. “Talent is desire.”
12. Figure out how to make your writing fun—something you want to do. “Here is a secret to writing a book. Find a way to keep your desire alive and pure.”
13. Be your own best fan. “There’s a part of you (maybe dormant, but it’s there) that is a goofy, hyperactive, wildly enthusiastic cheerleader. Sometimes you have to call on her: You can do it! You want it! Go, Author!”
Of course, Heather’s 13 tips are just some of the excellent suggestions you can glean in Chapter after Chapter if you’re like me and planning to participate in National Novel Writing Month.
If you simply have an idea for a novel you’d like to try, I’d love to hear from you. Tell me what you’re working on or the story you’ve always dreamed of writing.
View More Thursday Thirteen Participants
Monday, October 20, 2008
The bartender vamp backed up, taking her with him. But then he suddenly stopped. Tessa felt a change in him, an awareness that the tide had changed. When she peered into the shadows at the back of the restaurant, she saw more vampires sneaking up behind her would-be rescuer. When had they come back? And it looked like they’d brought friends.
Her modern day Van Helsing smiled, then pivoted, staking the nearest vampire in the chest. The creature screamed before bursting into flame, leaving nothing behind but a pile of smoldering ash. Then all hell broke loose. The bartender shoved her away and joined the fight. The instinct for self-preservation kicked into gear and Tessa dove behind the bar to take cover. From her crouched position, she heard a lot of punching, popping, and an occasional scream followed by a ‘poof’ and sizzle.
Unable to stop herself, she rose from her hiding place and peeked over the bar. VH was surrounded by angry, fang-snarling vampires. He kicked out at three in front of him while one held him in a choke hold from behind. Those odds were not good. Guess wine vamps didn’t believe in playing fair. He needed help.
Yeah, right, she thought to herself. Like you know how to fight vampires.
But she couldn’t just sit here and hide. She had to do something. Grabbing a bottle by the neck, Tessa climbed over the bar and swung it like a baseball bat, cracking the vampire holding VH over the head. The bottle shattered and he dropped like a stone.
“No!” shouted the vamptender. “That was a ‘69 Keith Richards!”
Tessa stared at the thick, red puddle spreading across the floor, so dark it was nearly black.
“Ew! You have Keith Richards’ blood in a wine bottle?”
“Had.” The vamp looked like he was going to cry. “That bottle was worth a fortune. He donated it during the Let It Bleed tour. It was primo stuff.”
“I’ll just bet it was.”
“Here!” VH shouted, shaking her out of her Rolling Stones flashback. He tossed her a grapevine stake. What, did he have a whole vineyard stashed in his coat?
“What am I supposed to do with this?”
“Stab them through the heart with it.”
She looked down at the twisted branch in her hand, the end carved to a razor-sharp point. “You have got to be joking.”
“Not unless you can live with air in your veins instead of blood.”
Sunday, October 19, 2008
The town of Millington sprawled in a narrow valley between two of West Virginia’s ubiquitous mountain peaks. Coal mining country, after the coal played out. Townies had used every available square foot of space before the mountains on either side grew too steep, and some buildings perched on the slopes like goats--goats on stilts, with driveways to match.
Miss Sandie’s Tea Room was uptown, on the high side of the valley, with all the old brick buildings along Main Street. The new developments like the Wal-Mart and small hospital were downtown on River Street, which tended to flood in the spring. There were only two automotive bridges across the Beacon River for twenty miles in either direction, and they were both in Millington.
Harry slipped out the back of Miss Sandie’s on the off-chance Bianca and her friends were in front. He’d driven to town today, but his truck wasn’t going anywhere. He shifted, clothes and all, when he reached a private area a couple hundred yards up the mountain. With easy, animalistic grace, he loped back to his shop, which was eight or so miles up the highway that led in and out of the valley.
What was he going to do about Bianca and the pack? She wouldn’t accept he just wasn’t interested--in her or in being the pack’s leader. He might have a lot of what werewolves considered traditional alpha qualities--strong, smart, business-minded and tended to attract good, loyal friends--but he had zero traditional alpha desires. Most especially, the thought of binding himself to a bunch of quarrelsome, uncivilized, xenophobic wolf shifters gave him shudders of horror that caused his thick, grey pelt to twitch and his ears to lay back against his skull.
No, not even in wolf form, when he was at his most natural, did he have any interest in leading a pack of his kind.
Harry sniffed when he got close to home and could tell Bianca had been around but wasn’t here currently. He could scent his cats, some small wild game, the metallic whinge of his garage, and something, someone...else. He wasn’t sure who, but it was a two-legs. Might be a human.
Might be a shifter in human form.
Either way, the scent wasn’t immediately familiar, and he knew everybody in Millington. The unknown person wasn’t confined to the public area--his driveway and garage. In fact, he could detect traces of the individual back here in the forested area of his property, where his game trail to town began.
Intruder! The thick hair along his spine ruffled as he growled deep in his chest.
With some difficulty, he resisted the urge to mark the perimeter and sneak up on whoever was on his property. If it was a two legs, he could handle this situation better in human form. A tourist with car trouble could conceivably have been searching for the mechanic. All the way near the edge of the woods on what was obviously private property, marked by multiple No Trespassing signs.
Or maybe the intruder was looking for things to steal.
He should have posted Beware of Wolf signs instead.
Harry slunk into a thick stand of pine and shifted. He didn’t enjoy wriggling out of the pine thicket in his two-leg form, but it beat shocking the hell out of any prying eyes. Not to mention violating the rule all shifters bided--no clues for the humans. Not even thieves.
Slipping his pocket knife into his hand, Harry broke through the forest cover and approached the back of his house and shop. His home, a two story mountain cottage, nestled back from the main road far enough that passers by couldn’t see it. The garage was closer to the highway.
A lot closer. There was no reason in the world some passerby had any business poking around this far from the garage. As for people he did know, their presence here was questionable.
He didn’t like this one bit--not when the local pack was in disarray. Not when Bianca had been threatening to force him into a pack bond.
Harry peered all around the property warily, listening, scenting. Nothing out of the ordinary. In human form, he’d lost the hint of the trespasser. He rounded the side of his house and noticed a tiny, stubbed off car in the gravel parking lot of his garage.
The prowler drove a smart car? Not the vehicle he’d pick for cross-country tourism, not even to save on gas. And using one as a getaway vehicle would be stupider than stupid because they wouldn’t pull thirty miles an hour up some of the mountain roads around here.
He caught sight of a flash of pink near the main road, a glint of sunlight on pale hair.
As quietly as possible, Harry unlocked the side entrance of the garage and peeked through the front windows of the office.
The flash of pink turned out to be the pretty, summer dress of someone Harry knew quite well. Somebody whose scent Harry should have recognized instantly. Somebody who had an important place to be at this time of day, and it wasn’t his garage.
Harry rolled up the bay door closest to the smart car, and his guest started at the sudden noise. She held her hands over her heart, and in them was a large, patent leather pocket book.
“Miss Sandie?” Harry called out. “What are you doing here?”
So what's Miss Sandie doing there? Your guesses? Cuz I have no idea!
SURVIVAL OF THE FAIREST--Available now, Samhain Publishing
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Trevor opened his eyes, smiling as he stretched his arms over his head. Incredible. Satisfying. Mindblowing.
He'd known months ago that bedding Damia would rock his world, and he'd been right. It was that more than anything else which had caused him to choose Lori as his fiancee. He knew he'd be able to end things with Lori, even after a year and a day. But Damia? No, he'd never be free of her. Goddess, falling asleep with her wrapped in his arms last night had felt...right. Trev turned onto his side to enjoy the view, frowning as the empty bed at his side registered.
Was she showering? No. No splashing water. He lifted his gaze to the bathroom door. He growled as he noted the wide open door and dark room. Her pillow showed a dent where her head had rested, but when he ran his hands over the sheet it was cool.
Trevor sat up and looked around. His clothes dotted the floor, but her's were conspicuously absent. He jumped out of bed. Surely after such an incredible night, she wouldn't have left...would she? He paused before running out the bedroom door in search of his wife. Something told him he needed clothes, so he grabbed his trousers from the floor. He tugged them on and zipped them up before looking for Damia.
Her room was empty and her clothes were missing. Damn. He refused to believe she could be gone because explosive love-making like they shared last night was rare. Maybe she was eating breakfast? It was her normal routine to stumble to the kitchen to drink coffee and nibble on toast. He prayed to the Lord and Lady he would find her in the kitchen.
Trev pushed past the swinging door, hoping against hope he'd find Damia. He found a woman waiting for him, but it wasn't his wife.
"Trevor, dear. How are you this morning?" She lifted her coffee cup in tribute, though her sardonic expression spoke volumes.
"I've been better," he sighed, closing his eyes briefly to pray that Damia hadn't yet met his Aunt.
"Oh, we've met. Now I know why you've been so determined to prevent your new wife from meeting me. You hadn't told her about the prophecy."
"Yes. I didn't know that I was letting the cat out of the bag until she went as white as my sweater."
"Trevor, how could you hide something so important? I told you to tell your fiancee."
"Her sister, Lori, was my fiancee. I told her and she stood me up at the altar. Damia was there and she was a Raven, so I..."
"You used her."
"Damn it, I did not use her. I was going to tell her, but..."
"You fell in love with her."
Trevor shrugged unable to deny the truth. He ran his hands through his hair. He needed something to take the ice from his veins. Sybil raised her brows and poured him a cup of coffee, handing it to him. He sipped the hot strong brew.
"What happened last night at the family dinner? I saw you both, but she ran out then you followed."
"Lori showed up and said she was sorry. She threatened to tell Damia and I..."
"Kissed Lori to shut her up and Damia walked in on you and misinterpreted it?"
"Who told you?"
"Men," she sighed, shaking her head. "You forget who I am and what my gift is."
Prophecy. Telepathy. Oh yeah, this was starting out to be a great day.
"Trevor, you need to find your wife and have a talk with her before the prophecy destroys her."
"Her? You prophecied that a lack of connection would destroy me and the family business."
"I said it would destroy you and the future of the family. So tell me, what would would hurt you most? Losing your business or losing your love? And if you lost your love, how desperately might that affect the future of the family?"
His hand shook, spilling hot coffee all over him so he dropped the mug. "Crap!"
Trevor swallowed hard because his bad day had just got worse...
Friday, October 17, 2008
“Can I get some coffee over here?” the sole customer asked.
“Excuse me,” Cheryel, the waitress, told the hulking creature with a face only a mother jack-o-lantern could love. “I have a job to do.” She headed for the coffeepot.”
“What do you mean, you aren’t human?” Maggie, her fellow Otherworld Diner employee asked, from the booth where she and Jody, the third employee still sat.
“She’s Vulcan,” the customer told them. Almost bald, the man looked like the stereotypical mild-mannered, middle-aged man.
“Vulcans aren’t real,” Jody told him.
“That’s right, they’re from Star Trek.” Maggie sounded sure, but her eyes were wide enough to indicate that she was confused, and more than a little frightened.
“Oh, Vulcan’s are real all right.” The customer said. “And they’re the bane of existence for the rest of the known galaxy.”
“I beg your pardon!” Cheryel glared at the man, as she poured his coffee with the skill that comes from much practice.
“Well, you are.” The man’s lips quirked just a hair.
“Yeah,” Pumpkin Head put in. “They do things to people. Like steal spaceships.”
“Borrow.” Cheryel turned her glare on the alien.
“Without permission. That’s stealing,” Pumpkin Head said.
“Not if I bring it back.” Cheryel took the coffeepot and put it back where it belonged before she used it to brain somebody. This was not as much fun as she’d thought it would be.
“So, I take it real Vulcans aren’t logical and stuff like Mr. Spock?” Jody asked.
“Hey, I’m logical,” Cheryel argued.
“And you stole my spaceship,” Pumpkin Head said.
“I left a note telling you I’d bring it back.”
“And I’m suppose to believe some random note?”
“It wasn’t random. It was signed with the Vulcan seal.”
“Like that means anything.”
“You don’t have to insult me like that.”
The bald man’s voice reverberated off the ceiling and had the glassware tinkling in the cabinets. Everybody stopped and looked at him. Obviously there was something odd about the man. Not everybody had a voice that literally sounded like thunder.
“Now that I have your attention,” the man said, “let’s see if we can get to the bottom of this. You say she stole your spaceship?”
“She admitted it.” Pumpkin Head glared at Cheryel.
“Yes, I heard. You say you borrowed his spaceship?”
“I did. I left a note with the Vulcan seal. Standard practice. Anybody with a real brain knows what that means.” Cheryel glared at Pumpkin Head.
“Hey!” Pumpkin Head exclaimed.
“You don’t have to insult the Celerian,” the customer said.
“He insulted Vulcans,” Cheryel said, then turned to glare at the bald man for a while. “Actually, so did you.”
“I said Vulcan’s are the bane of existence for the rest of us. You are.”
“How dare you!” Cheryel felt her face go as hot as the steam from food thrown on the grill. “You...you.... You’re an Umpire, aren’t you?”
“Some kind of law enforcement, I take it. Good. You can arrest her.” Pumpkin Head crossed his arms across his narrow chest and eyed the bald man as if waiting for him to do his job.
Cheryel didn’t waste a glance toward the alien. Her gaze was locked on the bald man. “What you can do is explain to brainless here what the seal means.”
“She stole my spaceship!”
“Stop!” the reverberating voice shook the diner again, and again the bickering came to an abrupt end. “Now that I have your attention. Again. I’ll explain things to both of you. The Vulcan seal means that the ‘borrowed’ item is guaranteed by Vulcan law to be returned, in the same condition in which it was taken.”
“See.” Cheryel glared toward the Celerian.
The Celerian stepped forward as if he were ready to passionately argue his case. “But—“
“I’m not finished.” The voice didn’t shake the place this time, but it was strong enough to bring the discussion to an abrupt halt. “Now, if you’re through acting like a couple of three year olds, I’ll make a rules ruling.”
“Rules? What kind of rules?” Maggie asked.
“The rules of that stupid game that the Vulcan’s play.” Pumpkin Head looked thoroughly disgusted.
“There’s a game?” Jody looked confused. “I’ve never head of any spaceship stealing game.”
“Humans don’t play The Game,” Cheryel told her friend and co-worker.
“Neither do Celerians.” Pumpkin Head lifted his chin well into the air.
“Yes, they do,” Cheryel told him. “They’re listed in the Handbook.”
“Well, I don’t play.”
“Then you shouldn’t leave your ship in the designated Game area.” Cheryel glared hard at him.
“Stop!” It took a bit of shaking for the bald man to get everybody’s attention this time. “My ruling is that the Vulcan has to return the spaceship immediately. The Celerian’s complaint will be duly noted. Two thousand points awarded to the Vulcan.”
“What about my spaceship?” the Celerian Pumpkin Head asked.
Cheryel shrugged, the round was over. “It’s at my house. I’ll take you there. Just give me a minute.”
“I’ll wait for you outside.” She was thrilled to see the Celerian go through the front door of the diner. The bald man/umpire went back to his coffee, and quiet again descended on The Otherworld Diner.
Cheryel turned to the booth where her human co-workers sat. “Sorry, guys for leaving you shorthanded. I’ll be back in as soon as I can.”
“Don’t worry about it. We’re pretty quiet today anyway,” Jody said.
“So, what is this game?” Maggie asked.
“Intergalactic Maneuvers,” Cheryel told the humans. “It’s an old, respected game. The winner each year gets a nice trophy.”
“Good luck,” Jody said.
“What’s that noise?” Maggie asked.
Cheryel spun and ran toward the window where her fears were confirmed. “That lying, vegetable brain. He stole my spaceship!”
“Four thousand points awarded to the Celerian,” Umpire Man said.
Cheryel let out one long, heart-felt, moan.
The end—for now, anyway
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Whenever that happens, I like to read Page After Page by Heather Sellers, a professor of English at Hope College in Holland, Mich. It’s a short, easy read that is part Encouraging Exhortations and part Celebration of the Writing Craft. Although I’ve read the entire book, I’ve never gone straight through it. That’s because it so inspires me, I find I have to quickly return to my latest work-in-progress.
Heather has a PhD. in English/Creative Writing from Florida State University and previously taught at the University of Texas-San Antonio. She’s published multiple books: Georgia Underwater, Spike and Cubby’s Ice Cream Island Adventure, Chapter by Chapter and Page After Page.
So, in hopes of lifting your spirits, I’d like to share 13 quotes from Page After Page:
1. “To write, you need to simply write.”
2. “I have fabulous instincts. So do you.”
3. “Part of being a writer is paying extraordinarily close attention to what is in your mind.”
4. “Everyone starts out as a beginner.”
5. “You already know everything you need to know.”
6. “People who are writers probably used to ‘suck.’ It’s hard to believe, but you get better by staying with it, by not letting your ‘sucky’ work scare you too badly. Keep writing.”
7. “Anyone can learn writing technique. But there’s always a catch. As I said, you have to be able to tolerate your own bad writing. If you’re going to get better, you have to suck.”
8. “You need to sit down every day and write.”
9. “To develop a successful writing life, you must be able to focus and concentrate. Start small.”
10. “Successful, happy writers carry their writing around with them all the time. No matter where they are.”
11. “Ask every writer you meet for insights into the practice of writing.”
12. “Writing is very risky. Not for the timid. But nothing in the world feels better than falling backward off that mountain everyone else is laboring to climb and free-falling out into nothing -- trusting the secrets you know will mean something to someone else, making their climb richer and easier, and their view more thrilling and spiritual.”
13. “If you follow your heart, write only the pieces you alone can write. If you keep your mind open to learning, if you conquer lousy mental habits and self-defeating thinking, revise your work, join writing communities, and submit pieces to appropriate, well-researched markets, you will get published. Let me say this again. You will get published.”
Do any of Sellers’ quotes ring true for you? Which have meaning for you?
Do you have a favorite quote about writing? Please share.
View More Thursday Thirteen Participants
If no inspirational sayings come to mind, I’d like to encourage you to read this book ASAP. It’ll help jump-start your writing. It’s a feel-good book – ideal for people aspiring to write.
Monday, October 13, 2008
“Um, you don’t want me. My blood’s no good. Pretty bad, in fact. I’m anemic. Very, very anemic.” The circle of blood suckers started closing in and with Vlad the bartender at her back, she had no where to run. “My doctor said I should eat more red meat. Take iron supplements. But I don’t. So my blood is very thin. Practically water. No nutritional value whatsoever.”
“Oh, we don’t mind,” the man behind her whispered, low and ominous. “Consider yourself a tasty appetizer before the main course starts straggling in.”
Just then the back door to the restaurant burst, open revealing the shape of a man backlit in the opening. A collective hiss erupted from the vamps and they eased back.
“You won’t be making a snack out the woman. Let her go.”
The bartender pinned her in front of him, his strong arm snaked around her throat. “She came in of her own free will.”
“Doesn’t look like she’s staying of her own free will to me.”
“That’s for her to decide.”
Tessa stared at the man in the doorway. Silhouetted as he was, she couldn’t make out his face. Was he her savior or something worse than the fanged patrons surrounding her?
The bartender’s arm loosened only to have him brush her hair away from her neck. His breath hot on her skin, she felt the graze of two fangs as he scraped them against where her jugular beat a frantic pulse beneath her skin.
Decision made. “Him!” Tessa croaked. “I’d rather go with him.”
The bartender chuckled. “Fine with me. But not before one little taste.”
“Great.” The man in the doorway sighed heavily. “Looks like things are going to get ugly then.”
He stepped into the room and pulled something long and twisted out of his leather coat.
“Is that supposed to be a stake?” Tessa asked, her hopes that he would be any help diminishing by the second. That didn’t look like any vampire impaling devise from any movie she’d ever seen.
“It’s a stake made from the wood of the grapevine. The vitis vinifera, to be exact. It’s the only thing that’ll kill a wine vamp.”
A rush of wind cut through the room and the candle flames danced as the horde of vampires disappeared. Now it was just her, Vlad the bartender and Van Helsing with his grapevine stick.
“Looks like your regulars were the smart ones. So, are you going to let her go or am I going to have to shut you down, permanently?”
“You can’t do this. I have a valid blood license for this place.”
“Valid only for vamps and willing patrons. From where I’m standing, she doesn’t look so willing.”
Good grief. Who was this guy, the health inspector for vampire restaurants? She couldn’t wait to see what the next issue of the dining guide said about this place…if she lived that long.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
“Finally!” Bianca exclaimed when her gaze fell on Harry. He did his best to conceal his flinch and regretted the fact he’d already given Annette the menu because he couldn’t duck behind it.
“I’ll go get your tea,” Annette said. “If your friends want to order anything, maybe you could let them know that around here we tip the waitstaff.”
The three female weres swaggered through the tea room, attracting a good deal of attention from the other diners. The ladies at the table next to Harry bent their heads together, whispering, but thanks to his sharper-than-human ears, Harry could still hear them.
“Those are the ones I was telling you about,” the blondest lady said. “Dating that lowlife who robbed the Webster place.”
“All three of them--at the same time?” one of the other ladies gasped, both horror and delight evident in her voice.
Harry cleared his throat, and when the ladies turned, he nodded his head politely and smiled. Bianca liked to pick fights. Interrupting the gossip session before Bianca overheard it was in their best interest.
Bianca might be a wolf shifter, but when she talked, at least when she was in a good mood, she purred. “Harry,” she said, lingering over the r’s. “We’ve been looking all over for you.”
Harry didn’t want the nice folks here associating him with the other weres. Not that humans knew about shifters, but the local werewolf pack had a bad, and deserved, reputation in these parts. They lived way back on the Hartsell river and only came into town to run their businesses--bar, bike shop, convenience store--and terrorize the populace.
“Well, you found me, Ms. Braxton,” he said to Bianca. “Is your truck giving you trouble?” The pack did bring their business to him, so it was plausible Bianca had engine issues.
“Now, Harry, there’s no need to be formal. We’ve known each other for years.”
Yeah, years of him distancing himself as much as he could from the local pack. They had coexisted in uneasy accord after the alpha satisfied himself Harry wasn’t going to make a play for his territory. But then the skeevy bastard had gotten himself arrested, and a pack needed a leader.
Which was part of what made pack life highly undesirable. Harry didn’t want to be a leader--or follow one.
Bianca slid into the chair across from him while Violet and Gert hovered behind her. The lace-topped cafe table only seated two. Over Bianca’s shoulder, Harry saw Annette peek through the round window of the kitchen door, glance his way, and disappear. She probably wouldn’t come back out here while Bianca and Co. were here. So much for his tasty beverage. Damn, he was thirsty, too.
He did have water. He sighed and crunched some ice, wishing it was Miss Sandie’s delicious fruit tea. “What seems to be the problem?”
“You know what we want, Harry.” Under the table, her boot nudged his calf, inching up his leg. Her long, black hair was pulled into a sleek tail, and her dark eyes were made darker by the addition of a lot of make-up. “The clock is ticking, and the...party is tonight. The night of the full moon.”
“I sent my regrets weeks ago.” On fancy stationary, no less. Harry crossed his legs under the table, careful to kick Bianca’s probing foot aside as he did so. “I’m busy tonight.”
“Busy with what, bunco with the grannies?” Violet asked with a snide laugh.
Bianca chuckled for a moment but then snapped her fingers, silencing the other female. “We can’t take no for an answer. I won’t take no for an answer.”
“You’re going to have to take no for an answer.” Harry kicked Bianca’s foot away again, and this time his knee banged the underside of the table. The luncheon ladies, pretending not to listen, jumped in their seats when the silverware rattled. “Excuse me.”
The Millington wolves were classic conservatives in the larger world of shifters. They followed traditional roles and Darwinian survival practices. They lived in packs, ruled by an alpha male and female, and survived in this predominantly human world with much hostility. Odd jobs, disreputable establishments, and borderline criminal activities were their mainstay. Both sides of the borderline, obviously, in the case of the pack’s recently incarcerated alpha. This also meant any ceremonies, such as severing a member from the pack or selecting a new alpha, were tied into the cycles of the moon, even though it had been proven by shifter scientists that werewolves were no more connected to the moon than any other primate.
Tides, yes. Howling at, optional.
Shifters did have some unique biological constraints, but moon madness wasn’t one of them.
Bianca rubbed her hands through her hair and thunked her elbows on the table. “Harry,” she said, in a totally different voice, one that almost seemed rational. “I am begging you. I don’t like to beg. You know what we’ve got to choose from, and they haven’t got...what you’ve got.”
“It’s called a brain,” Harry said, refusing to be swayed. “This being the twenty-first century, the last I heard, all sorts of people have them.”
In truth, when he’d moved to the area and discovered a large pack here, he’d considered moving back to the city, but he was tired of concrete and skyscrapers. He might be a liberal, some said a humanist, but he did like to run free on occasion, and that was hard to do in DC.
“So your final answer is no?” Bianca asked, her eyes narrowing.
“Then I guess we’ll have to kidnap you and force a good time on you,” Bianca said in a way that let Harry know it wasn’t an idle threat. She was desperate, and he knew it.
“You’re welcome to try.” He straightened his silverware and tried not to growl. Not a good time for his primitive side to claw its way to the surface. Human men had to deal with testosterone, too, but when they got pissed, they didn’t sprout fur and fangs. “Right now, if you don’t mind, I want to eat my lunch.”
“I don’t mind,” Bianca said. “We’ll wait. I hate to leave your side for a minute now that we’ve found you.”
He did not want to subject the people here to a wolf-style throw-down. Well, that probably wouldn't happen, but he still didn’t want to fend off Bianca's innuendoes, her threats and her stupid pointy boot. His omelet deserved better than to curdle in his stomach. However, he also knew he was going to have to face Bianca, and by extension the pack, soon.
“I like to eat alone,” he lied. “I’ll be back at my shop by 3. Meet me there.”
“If I trust you,” she said, “and you don’t show up, I might find some other guy to party with. Some nice, normal guy, maybe that kid who works for you.”
“Leave him out of this,” Harry ordered, because his assistant was as human as the day was long.
“If I can’t find you,” she repeated, and let her voice trail off ominously. She rose, and the three of them sauntered back out the door, but he had a feeling they were going to hang around outside until he left.
A pack leader had to be a certain type, and the alpha hadn't encouraged anyone else of that type to hang around, so now they were screwed. They were in a tough jam, but why should he care? The pack’s traditional ways were confining. Delimiting. Prehistoric. Despite the fact shifters weren’t controlled by the moon and could go years without changing form, pack bonds did exist.
They just weren’t necessary for a shifter to have a perfectly satisfactory life.
In fact, Harry had no idea why would anyone would voluntarily choose a bonded pack over independence. Why commit to one group of people, one set of faces, one geographic location, when there was a whole world to see and millions of people in it? There was no way he was tying himself to that kind of existence.
And there was no way he’d allow Bianca to tie him to that kind of existence.
But short of running like a terrified puppy, he just wasn’t sure how he was going to avoid it.
Yeah, at this point, I'm not too sure how ole Harry's going to avoid it, either! Should we find out next week?
SURVIVAL OF THE FAIREST--Available now, Samhain Publishing
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Trevor Falcon gazed morosely into the dregs of his coffee cup. When had this contract handfasting gotten so complicated? It was supposed to be a year and a day then done. Instead, his touchy wife threatened to walk out on him...tonight. Even worse, he didn't want her to go. Ever.
Trev knew he should be at home trying to talk Damia down, but instead he'd run off to his cousin's diner. It was a simple act of self defense, because if he'd stayed at home, Damia would be throwing things at him and all because of Lori.
"Need a refill?"
"Yeah." Trev held out his cup.
"What's wrong cuz, has the ole ball and chain got you down?"
"Very funny, Keith." Trev sipped the hot coffee with a sigh. Keith might be a jerk, but he made the best coffee in the city.
"Well, you only come here when you try to get away for the formality of Falcon life. I'm just glad I didn't end up as head of the clan."
"Somehow I think the clan is grateful too." Trev turned to look when the bell on the diner door rang. Damn, it was her. His wife. His very pissed wife.
Damia pointed one finger at him. "You! How dare you run off! This discussion is far from over!" Lightening flew from her finger tip and nailed the full cup, shattering it. Coffee spattered the floor, the counter, and his pants. He leaped to his feet, lifting the hot wet fabric away from his crotch with a growl.
"What's the idea?"
"I walk in on you in a passionate clinch with my sister and you're mad at me? That's a laugh. I'm packed and my stuff is out in the car, but I wanted to say good bye before I left."
He looked up from his stained pants, panic tightening his chest. "You are not leaving me. We have a contract, Damia."
"You had a contract to marry a Raven woman. Well, Lori's back. Marry her. I'm out of here." Damia turned and pushed on the door but before she could take another step, Trev grabbed her and pulled her close.
"I don't want, Lori."
"You were engaged to her for three months. From the first you had a choice about who you wanted to take to wife. You chose Lori. I'll just make things easy for you both by going home, since she seems to have had a change of heart about leaving you at the altar."
"Once the marriage is contracted, it can't be set aside for a year and a day."
"So we stay married but I'll go back home."
"We have to live together. It's imperative."
Trev wished he could tell her, but somehow he knew it would make her more determined to leave him.
"If you won't level with me, Trev, I'm going."
She tried to pull away but he wouldn't release her. Her warm, soft form melded to his in ways that invaded his dreams at night. She felt just the way he'd imagined. He might not be able to explain, but he might be able to convince her to stay.
He cupped her smooth cheek in his hand and lowered his head to hers. Her wide eyes stared into his then slowly closed as their lips melted together. Trev wrapped his arms around her, deepening the kiss. This was what he'd wanted from the moment he'd set eyes on her, but could he convince her of that before she found out the truth?
Friday, October 10, 2008
And yet this afternoon was quiet—and wrong.
She considered backing out the door, but the Diner had offered her employment and a safe haven when she needed it. She couldn’t leave her friends there to deal with whatever was going on. Besides, maybe it really was just a quiet afternoon. After all, it was bound to happen someday—
“Hey, you there!”
And then, sometimes things were exactly the way they seemed.
The man was huge, had hands the size of small children, and was the color of a ripe pumpkin. In fact, his head could give a jack-o-lantern a run for its money. Oval head. Huge black eyes. Almost toothless mouth the shape of a small Volkswagen beetle—and it apparently didn’t close, even when he was talking.
He took a step toward Cheryel, causing her to back up a couple of steps. “Would you like to try some pie?” she asked, trying to sound calm. “It’s homemade.”
She slid into the bench seat next to her co-worker Maggie and leaned her arms on the table. “What’s going on?” she whispered.
Jody, who was sitting on the across the booth, was the person who answered. “He came in here, told the customers to leave, and then told us to sit down and be quiet.”
“He didn’t make demands? Like for money or food?” Cheryel asked.
“No,” Jody answered.
“I think he’s having some sort of alien migraine,” Maggie said.
“I don’t think he’s an alien,” Jody said, as she eyed the massive creature.
“Oh, he’s definitely an alien.” Cheryel said. “He’s from Celery Prime, just left of Alpha Centauri.”
“You just made that up,” Maggie giggled.
“No, she’s exactly right,” the massive creature said, as he leaned toward them and glared into Cheryel’s face. “And that answers my question.”
“What question was that?” Cheryel asked.
“Who stole my spaceship.” He leaned even closer, and Cheryel could smell the sticky sweet odor of the Celerians breath. “It was you.”
She sighed, there was just no good way to handle this mess. “You’re right. I did.”
There was a gasp from her coworkers as the Celerian took hold of her arm and dragged her out of the booth. “You have many things to answer for, human.”
“That’s where you’re wrong.” She said.
“Wrong? I don’t think so. You just admitted you stole my ship.”
“Yes, but I’m not human.”
The earlier gasp was nothing to the sound that came from her coworkers now. Cheryel stood with her gaze locked on that of the behemoth and allowed the smile to lighten the expression on her face. Now the fun would begin.
To be continued...
Thursday, October 9, 2008
If you like to write, if you dread putting words on paper or even if you’re looking for a hearty chuckle, this is a good book for you.
The chapters are short. The advice is good. The statements are witty. The assignments are fun and the tests you can’t get wrong. Also there are writer’s comments and helpful examples. Joel Saltzman wrote If You Can Talk, You Can Write after a five-year writing block, which he describes as agonizing. He promises, “This book is about getting you to write—with optimism, enthusiasm, and only occasionally wanting to kill yourself.”
Here are thirteen tips on writing from his book.
1. “It’s easier to write than not to write.”
2. Stop fighting yourself, just write. “Dead men float because they don’t do anything to prevent themselves from floating. Same goes for writing. If you don’t do anything to prevent yourself from writing (like throwing your arms up and screaming, ‘I can’t do this!’), chances are you’ll do just fine.”
3. “You don’t have to ‘write” at all. You just have to start talking on paper.”
4. Write what you want. Don’t worry about what other people think. “If you write about something that interests you, it will interest others.”
5. No one can produce ideal writing so don’t try. “Remember: No one can make it perfect. You can’t. I can’t. I don’t even want to.” And guess what folks, you don’t have to be perfect.
6. You can let yourself write badly. “Think of your first draft as a map to buried treasure: all the markers are there, but you still have a way to go.”
7. Again, don’t worry about writing, your first draft well. “Even the best writers never get it right the first time.”
8. Rewriting makes writing better. “The more whacks you take at it—the more you’re willing to work and rework your material –the better it gets.”
9. Don’t worry about what to say. “Remember: If you don’t know what to say, start saying it; keep ‘talking’ on paper until it starts talking back to you.”
10. You don’t have to have all the answers when you sit down to write. “If you don’t know what you’re trying to say at first, it’s okay; it’s the only way you get to say: ‘Now I know what I’ve been trying to say all this time!’”
11. You alone can express your unique personality in prose. You are the expert and the best recorder of your experiences and impressions.
12. Generally you don’t have to worry about grammar. “If you write the way you talk, you’ll probably be right.”
13. Nothing can be great all the time. “All you can do is try your best, then try again—with your next project, and the one after that. Along the way, you’ll develop technique, stamina and—if you’re lucky—the ability to make your next effort better than your last.”
Check out this book, especially if you’re hard on yourself and your writing. It might restore your love of writing or help you get through the prose you’re forced to produce. Or it might just be an easy and enjoyable read. But I bet you’ll like it.
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Wednesday, October 8, 2008
"Well, someone looks grumpy today." Maple floated next to Lacy as she waited for some response. A vision of silver-gray, the older woman wore her hair up in a twist. Her dark nineteenth century dress, covered in a white apron.
Lacy tried to smile at her waitress. "Josh and I had a fight."
"Aw, don't worry, hon. Couples fight all the time." Maple placed a hand on Lacy's shoulder, causing a chill to run through her. Even though the waitress's touch chilled her, it was comforting. "What can I bring you?"
Lacy studied the menu, suddenly feeling hungry. "Just some apple pie and coffee."
"I'll be right back." Maple took the menu and faded from sight.
Lacy glanced around the 'lively' cafe, smiling at a few faces she recognized.
Most of the customers where living, like her, but scattered throughout the booths and tables sat ghosts, chatting away with fellow spirits. Some of them lived at the cafe, others were taking a break from their usual haunts.
Lacy thought back to the first time she'd come to this place. Ashley, her friend from work, had invited her to a 'special place' for lunch. Shy Lacy found it hard to make friends, so she jumped at the invitation.
Excited about her new-found friendship, Lacy hadn't notice where Ashley was taking her until they were almost there. The tiny log cabin, nestle on a quiet tree-lined street, sat so far off the road, most people would drive right past it.
Which, Lacy learned, was exactly the point.
"Her you go, dear." A plate floated down in front of her. The smell of the warm apple pie making her mouth water. "Charlie saw you looked sad, so insisted on an extra dollop of whipped cream."
Charlie was such a kind man. He owned the cafe way back when the main road ran through this part of town. Once the highway opened, the road was forgotten. Charlie died years ago, but he never closed up shop.
"Tell him thanks." Lacy chocked back tears. Sometimes, she felt closer to the beings here than her own family.
The cafe went deathly quiet.
Lacy paused, with a forkful of pie halfway to her mouth and glanced up at the patrons. All eyes stared toward the front door.
She turned in her booth and studied the four men dressed in dark clothes. Large yellow letters that read, NYPI scrolled across the back of their jackets.
Lacy dropped her fork. She didn't know what the letters meant, but she knew who the men were.
Monday, October 6, 2008
What the…? When had the quaint wine and cheese shop gone out of business? What timing. The girls were due at her place in an hour for their weekly chick flick fest and she didn’t have a drop of adult grape juice in the place. She sooo didn’t want to get back in her car and drive all the way to the grocery store.
Tessa glanced at the sign again. “Blood and Spirits now open for business. Hours: dusk til dawn.”
Huh? What kind of place was this? Sounded like some kind of Goth bar.
But the word ‘spirits’ gave her hope. She peered into the darkened windows to see if by chance another wine shop had taken its place but she couldn’t see a thing. The glass was completely blacked out. Not with heavy curtains or with construction boards, but blacked out--as in painted black. That was weird. But she knew they were open. She could hear voices inside, speaking low.
Crossing her fingers that they sold something alcoholic to go, she pulled the door open and stepped inside. There was a collective gasp and then all conversation stopped. She couldn’t see a thing as her eyes tried to adjust from the fading light outside.
“Close the damn door!” someone shouted.
“Sorry.” She let the door slide shut with a click.
As her vision grew accustomed to the dim interior, she could make out tables for dining, a single candle on each providing the only light in the room. Cozy. Romantic.
Okay. And a bit spooky too. There was no one here, even though she could've sworn she’d heard several voices when she was standing outside.
“Can I help you?” a deep, smoky voice spoke from her left. She turned to find a man standing behind a bar, the polished mahogany wood of its surface reflecting the candle glow. Whoa. Backtrack to the romantic mood thing. The guy was drop dead gorgeous, from his wavy black hair to his dark, sexy eyes. Candlelight is definitely his color.
“Yeah, I was looking for the wine shop that used to be here.”
“It’s not here anymore.”
“Thanks for pointing out the obvious.”
He shrugged. “What’s obvious to some can be an illusion to others.”
“Never mind. It’s a Blood and Spirits joke.”
“Oh.” Feeling like she may be the butt of that particular joke, Tessa turned to leave. A hunk he may be, but she wasn’t going to be made fun of.
“Wait, don’t run off so fast. You’ve my first real, live customer…today. What can I get you? It’s on the house.”
“Actually, I was hoping to buy some wine to go. Do you sell it by the bottle?”
“Sure. What kind would you like?”
“A couple bottles of red and white would be great.”
“Sorry. I only have red.”
“Just red? That’s odd.”
“Not really. Most of my regulars prefer it.”
“Okay. Red it’ll be. How about three Merlots and three Cabernets.”
“Don’t carry them either.”
Tessa was beginning to get a bit frustrated with the man, gorgeous though he may be. “Well, what do you have?”
“I’ve got A, B and O neg.”
“What?” A tingly feeling crawled up here spine--and not in a good way.
“Like the sign says, ‘Blood and Spirits.’ I sell the blood and my customers are the spirits.”
There was something seriously wrong with this place. Tessa turned to beat a hasty retreat but found the way blocked by a dozen people, all staring at her. When had they come in? They hadn’t made a sound.
“Ah,” the bartender chuckled behind her back, “looks like the regulars have just arrived.”
Strong hands gripped her shoulders. “Don’t look so frightened, Tessa. They’re a lot of fun once you get to know them. Why, before long, you’ll be one of the regulars just like them.”
A choked scream died in her throat as one after another the ‘regulars’ smiled at her, revealing sharp, pointy fangs.
Sunday, October 5, 2008
This week, and perhaps beyond this week, much of the Diner staff is going to be doing writing prompts, with everyone responding to the following scenario:
A regular customer of the paranormal persuasion discovers his or her diner of choice is no longer a safe haven.
Here's what I came up with. Enjoy!
SURVIVAL OF THE FAIREST--Available now, Samhain Publishing
“Sorry, sweetie, we’re out of porterhouses.” Harry’s grey-haired waitress slid a stemmed water glass onto the table in front of him and flipped her receipt book to the next page.
Out of porterhouses? How could Miss Sandie’s Cafe and Tea Room run out of porterhouse steaks when he was the only customer who ever ordered them?
Harry stared at the frilly, blue-checkered menu as if another werewolf-friendly item were going to appear among the scones and scotch eggs. Miss Sandie’s was his customary lunch spot, but he’d rather fire up the grill himself than settle for a fruit plate.
“Are you sure, Annette? Did Sandie maybe order some T-bones?” He sniffed the air, but he couldn’t detect much beyond the fresh flowers on his table and apple pie that saturated the dining room. He didn’t have the greatest nose in wolfdom, but it wasn’t as dull as a human’s.
“Your friends from earlier cleaned us out.” Annette stuck her hand on her hip. “Sandie doesn’t mind keeping you in steak, Harry, especially not after you fixed her car, but this isn’t a greasy spoon. It’s a tea room.”
Harry eased his chair away from his favorite spot beside the pastry cabinet, but a table of gossiping women blocked his view of the tea room. “Which friends?”
“Your lady friends.” Annette smoothed her lacy white apron and sniffed. “I use the term ‘lady’ loosely, you understand. No ladies I know behave like that.”
He didn’t like the sound of that. He had a number of lady friends, but none of them would have given Annette a sour face. Or ordered steak at a tea room. He liked his ladies sweet, handy with a stove, and one hundred percent human.
“Have you seen them around town, maybe at Wal-Mart?” he asked. Millington, West Virginia, wasn’t big, but it was close enough to Wheeling that they did get tourist traffic. Maybe it was coincidence.
Annette shrugged. “They looked familiar, but I doubt they got those leather skirts up at Wally World. And why anyone would want to wear a spiked dog collar, I have no idea.”
“I don’t know, either,” Harry said. “What are your specials today?”
“The same as every Thursday,” Annette teased him, but she told him anyway.
While she talked, Harry cursed inwardly. Hell and high water. These “friends” had to be Bianca and her cronies. He came to the tea room to hide from the pack and pack politics, but if they’d invaded his sanctuary, he’d be severely put out. It had taken him two years to cultivate Miss Sandie and her staff, trading discounted automotive and computer repairs for steaks cooked just the way he liked them, friendly faces, and the occasional heated bingo session.
No hard-drinking, hard-living pack wolf would be caught dead in this frippy, frilly tea room. He hadn’t thought they’d follow him in here, of all places. But apparently they had.
Couldn’t they just leave him alone?
The alpha female needs an alpha male, Harry. Wolves aren’t made to live alone, Harry. Join the pack, Harry.
It wasn’t his problem their alpha had gotten himself tossed in the state penitentiary for trafficking stolen goods. Contrary to popular werewolf belief, shifters could be just as human as the next human if they wanted, and pack life was a choice, not a necessity.
A choice Harry didn’t plan to make.
“Earth to Harry.” Annette tapped his menu with her pen, distracting him from his sulk. “What do you want for lunch? The spinach quiche is good and we just got in a fresh batch of strawberries.”
“Let me get a ham and cheese croissant, heavy on the cheese and even heavier on the ham, a side of scrambled eggs with that tomato sauce, a plate of scones, a selection of marmalades, and a strawberry and walnut salad. Oh, and fruit tea.”
“Hungry boy,” Annette said.
He handed over the menu and winked at her. “If any of my so-called friends come back, tell them you’re out of steak and save the porterhouse for me.”
The bell above the door tinkled out a merry tune, and she slipped her receipt book in her apron pocket. “Why don’t you tell them yourselves?”
“What do you mean?” Harry swiveled in his chair and watched Bianca, Violet and Gert saunter through the front door, their spike-heeled boots and skintight clothes as out of place in Miss Sandie’s Cafe and Tea Room as Miss Sandie would have been in a biker bar.
So what do you think happens next? Maybe we'll find out next week. And be sure to stick around this week as more Diner staff members dish out some free fiction and fun stories.
Image is from the Whitley Creek B&B: http://www.whiteleycreek.com/queen_of_the_meadow_bloom/2007/03/index.html
Saturday, October 4, 2008
What is the writing equivalent? Prompts. Writing prompts. When you can't think of a good idea to save your life, you look for inspiration elsewhere. Many writer's have had the same ideas and compiled these writing starters into great little books which can get the pipe of creativity open and flowing again.
Let me talk about three of my favorites:
The Writer's Block: 786 Ideas to Jump-Start Your Imagination by Jason Rekulak. This is a small book (literally) but it packs quite a punch cause it's about 3 inches thick. You open it to any page and inside you find prompts, little photos, spark words, quotes from writers and more. It's a fascinating collection of ideas which I've found very helpful and I've used over on my personal blog. I love the diverse ideas and fun pics. My only complaint is there is really no organization to it, so I guess it is best used in a random manner. Need an idea, open the book, and write on the idea you find there.
Another book, very similar in idea is The Pocket Muse: ideas & inspirations for writing by Monica Wood. The book has a larger footprint, more like a conventional paperback book, so it is easier to hold. Again there is no organization to it because it is designed to be used as inspiration for creativity and encouragement for the discouraged writer. Most of the pieces are longer and fewer of them are strictly writing prompts. There is a nice mix of photos, quotes, tips for writers, and prompts.
Finally, I've found The Writer's Idea Book by Jack Heffron. I like this one because the prompts ARE organized in a recognizable pattern. There are four parts: Bending and Stretching, Exploring, Finding Form, and Assessing and Developing. Within each part are several chapters which expand on the overall vision for that section. Maybe because I tend to be a little left brained, I like the organization offered here. I can think about an area on which I want to focus then go there to review prompts and ideas. This is an excellent resource.
So there you have it. Somewhere to start when you're blocked. All three of these books can act like a plumber and get your drain unstuck and things moving again. Purchase them for your reference collection, check them out of your local library, or request them through interlibrary loan from another library in your state or throughout the United States.
Why did I talk about this today? Well, as others have mentioned, next week we are going to offer you a little fiction based on the same writing prompt so you'll get some insight into how each of us approach the same scenario. This should be a lot of fun, so please join us for a couple of weeks of crazy creativity here at The Otherworld Diner!
Friday, October 3, 2008
Okay, let me put that another way: Try something different.
Among writers there’s a team, “refilling the well,” which refers to doing things besides writing—allowing your creative self a chance to replenish and recharge. In other words, giving your muse a vacation. Of course, if you’re under pressure to complete a manuscript, either because of a publisher deadline or just your own need to finally write “the end,” you may feel the last thing you have time for is something else. The problem with that viewpoint is that creativity can be stifled by pressure. Even those of us who thrive on deadlines and pressure can sometimes be plagued by stress induced creativity blocks. The cure? Relax!
There are many ways to refill the well, give your muse a vacation, give your creative self new material with which to be creative. My co-workers have mentioned reading, and relaxing with a good book is an excellent way to refill the well. What you read is going to depend on your own personality. Maybe reading in the genre/subgenre in which you write will be helpful, or maybe reading another genre. Writing craft books may help you, or make you feel worse. You have to decide what’s best for you, and possibly try several different types of books.
But while books are great, there are a world of other choices to give your muse a break and your creative self a boost. Generally the more different from your norm the activity is, the more likely it is to shove you out of your block. Some suggestions are: go to an art gallery, visit a zoo, a museum. Go shopping for a new dress or shoes (even if you don’t actually buy anything); try a new restaurant (if money’s a problem, get a desert, salad, or appetizer). Go see a movie, preferably one you wouldn’t normally have chosen. Go to a bookstore, a craft store, a party story, an office supply store; somewhere maybe you’ve been thinking about going but haven’t had the time. Exercise is always good. Walking, running, tennis; or my personal favorite: the exercise bike (you can combine this with the reading).
Then there’s the water cure. I don’t know the psychological reason for it, but I know from experience and from reading what other writers have said that water seems to trigger a creative response. How many times has a great idea come to you in the shower? Or even while sitting on the toilet? Use that to your advantage. Take a long bath complete with candles and scented water. Or go swimming. Maybe you’d like to sit by the ocean, river, lake, or stream. You might even consider getting yourself a small tabletop, electric fountain, a CD of water sounds, or some other type of relaxing, water-sound type item. In fact, something like that might be a good investment for any writer or other creative person.
So, the next time you find yourself blocked, put the problem out of your mind and do something different. It works, honest!