literary

All posts in the literary category

Excerpt: The Guru

Published September 14, 2015 by admin

I know, it’s a new week, but I’m probably sleeping the convention off, and I feel like giving you guys something to entertain yourselves with. We’ll get back to rants and weirdness soon enough, I swear.

Sometimes a story comes from a deep emotional place, and a lot of these times that’s a great big fat well of frustration. I can’t remember the situation this stemmed from, but I felt overwhelmed, trapped in a role. I tend to be fairly protective of those around me, and sometimes I probably overdo it, and sometimes I’m sure this gets exploited…or at the very least, people don’t realized that I’m like any other person and get exhausted. It’s also probably true that I try too hard and allow myself to get exhausted. Anyway, I was going through one of those times and suddenly this character of a little old man doomed to listen to other people’s inane questions when he really just wants to be left alone in the quiet and go swimming or something popped into my head, and off I went. this is just a piece of the story, and oddly I remember finding it a little hilarious, just so ridiculous after I wrote it. I have different emotions about this piece depending on how I feel at any given time, which is still really intriguing to me. Plus, I felt it was important to write this because as a reader, I want to know that I’m not alone in my very human feelings. If I can give that empathy and feeling of not being alone to anyone else, I’ve done my job.

I also admittedly wanted humanize the character of the mystic, because I refuse to believe that a person can’t feel negative emotions at some point in their life.

***

 Down the narrow path to the marketplace he goes, feet treading carefully on loose stones. A mishap could very well make a morning excursion his last habitual task on earth. Yet he always arrives safely in the village below, always goes to the market where he sits on the reed-wood chair. It is the only sign of his status. His wrinkled, dried-fig face could be that of any old man, his worn and ragged robe that of any beggar. He is much more, though his wealth is all inside his head. His appearance and carriage are only proof of his reclusive tendencies, not of who he is.

With slow purpose and movement that resembles a trembling leaf, he sits on his designated chair and waits for the people to come. They will not stop coming all day, even when he leaves to go back to his seclusion. From within each brain, from behind each set of lips pour out questions. Some inventive, but most he hears regularly.

From newly married couples: “What do I do so he doesn’t leave me?” or “Why does she nag me so?”

Young hearts that yearn for their first romance: “What must I do to interest him?” “How shall I keep her?” “What do I do so I do not to interest him too much? Does he love me? How can I make him love me?”

Young parents: “What do I do for colic?” “How do I get him to stop cying?”

Older parents: “Why won’t my child speak to me? How shall I get him to talk?”

Parents who are quite old: “How do I get him to leave my house?”

“What do I do with my life? Who should I be?” ask the young and filled with fear.

“Where do I go now?” ask those who are just afraid. There are the old who want to be proud of their years yet are feeble and filled with questions, for they have nothing left but to think of them. “How can I care for myself now? How can I love, how can I live?”

And there are always the ones that everyone wishes to know. “What is life about? Why is man here? Where do we go next?”

They come from everywhere. New faces show up every day, yet they quickly become old faces with new questions once they learn how accurate he is. He supposes having answers is an addiction, but it is his calling to provide what knowledge he can.

All day long he continues to sit and think and answer. He remembers how as a boy he used to be able to waste a day swimming in the river or walking through the forest. That was before his great gift was discovered. He has desires, too, though no one knows of them. He longs to travel the world, to see cities with tall buildings and deserts where living things have to spend their entire lifetimes surviving. He wants to see deep oceans, lush jungles where there are chirping birds, chittering insects, and the screams of predators. As long as there are no questions, he wants to go there. Silence is what he hopes for most.

At dusk he hobbles up the crooked path, his footsteps swaying between the little trees that try to grow between the rocks. As he flees in his dignified manner the questions of those not content to wait for tomorrow float up behind him, fading to a dull whisper the higher he goes.

“What about the harvest?”

“Am I mad or am I sick?”

“Should I kill my neighbor’s dog if it attacks my cows?”

“Will there be the heavy storms this year?”

Temptation strokes his balding head. “Lie to them,” it whispers in its throaty, beguiling voice. “Make it up and let them fail, then they will leave you be!” Frustration tugs his cottony beard that whispers to his knees. “Tell them where to go! Don’t go down the mountain tomorrow!”

But he is a decent man and casts his eyes to heaven for forgiveness. His throat is too tired to pray.

His hut welcomes him as do his goats. Their irritated cries lift to greet him and even their tone is questioning when he most wants to retreat to his solitude.

“Do you have to be so long?” their baahs seem to say, eyes hard as their foreheads. “Is it dinner time yet? Where were you, Old One, and why do you leave us all day?” He takes the time to milk and feed them. Slowly, tediously he does his chores and it is well beyond twilight when he is finished. He could take on a young boy as a helper or apprentice, send for someone to look after him, but he fears those who would take advantage of a position or the innocent questions of a young and hungry mind.

He eats a simple meal and curls upon his sleeping mat with resignation. He wants so badly to complain and tell someone about his fears, his desires, his pain of knowing

If he only had the courage and callousness to tell those fools to be curious! How he wishes he could tell them to find things out on their own, to learn and be happy with the learning and the knowing! But he is a gentle man graced with a large mind, but a small voice and timid disposition. He has no one to talk to. Not his departed, blessed wife; not his parents who instilled his curious nature; no teacher or friend or mentor.

***

Lost - 400x600

Kindle        Amazon Paperback      B&N Paperback

Various Speculative Genres/Short Fiction: Flash, Complete Shorts, Horror, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, and others

Journey with authors Selah Janel and S.H. Roddey to a world where every idea is a possibility and every genre an invitation.

In this collection of forty-seven short stories, lines blur and worlds collide in strange and wonderful new ways.

Get lost with the authors as they wander among fantasy, horror, science fiction, and other speculative musings.

Shadows can’t hurt you, and sometimes it’s all right to venture off the path.

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WeWriWa: The Other Man (or the return of Mrs. Lederhosen)

Published September 13, 2015 by admin

I feel like I’ve done a lot of genre fiction excerpts this week, so for Weekend Writing Warriors let’s briefly revisit one of my literary pieces, The Other Man! One of the things that got me through such a heavy piece was that I included some hilarious interaction with Andrew’s two children…not that I ever acted like this when I was sent to my room at that age ever…no, not me, not at aaaall…

For more short bits of stories, be sure to check out Weekend Writing Warriors!

***

“Hellooooooo!” Both adults turned at a very high-pitched voice and stared as Miranda sauntered into the living room. She was clothed in three dress-up dresses of contrasting patterns and colors, long evening gloves, a pair of Andrew’s old sunglasses, and her Sunday shoes. A wide-brimmed straw hat that had seen better days wobbled on the little girl’s fair head.

Bethany blinked and looked as if she was struggling to remember which parenting manual dealt with the particular situation. “Miranda, what are you–”

“Oh I’m not Miranda,” the little girl laughed in what was supposed to be a grown up voice. “I’m Mrs. Lederhosen! I don’t know how I got into that silly room, but I just had to get out! If it’s all right with you, I’ll go play with Miranda’s toys!”

Andrew dimly wondered whether he was having an out of body experience.

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contemporary/drama

All Andrew wanted was the typical American dream: a good career, a nice house, and a loving family. Instead, he has a dead-end job, a cramped apartment, and children who remind him of creatures out of a sci-fi movie. He’s also well aware that he’s not the only man who inhabits his wife’s thoughts and daily life. How can he put up a fight when he’s reminded of the competition every time Bethany turns on the CD player? After one eventful evening meal when expectations, disappointments, and secrets collide, life will never be the same.

Excerpt: Across the Universe

Published September 10, 2015 by admin

Today’s excerpt is again from Lost in the Shadows, and it’s one of those stories where the idea hit me hard but it took me a while to give myself permission to write it. I’m not a hard sci-fi writer by any means, but I love the more emotional and literary work of Ray Bradbury. Plus, when I heard a radio report about how the song Across the Universe had been beamed into space, well, I couldn’t not write this. This is also one of those stories that prompted Susan to ask what the hell was going on in my head at any given moment, heh. This is only a small part of the story, but it’s very much a love letter to one of my favorite authors as well as my deep connection to music. In the story a group of select criminals with a generations-old grudge set out to obliterate a certain planet, but run into a rather odd communication signal in the meantime.

***

“Excellent,” Spaulding purred. “I don’t need to remind you all how important this is. Failure is unacceptable. If you fail the Coordinators attempt for any reason and live, I have permission to execute you myself.” It wasn’t an empty threat. Her own strength was that she’d come from a long line of murderers. While that wasn’t particularly atypical on Planet 1312, the Spaulding line had turned it into an art form. It wasn’t that she was sadistic, although she could be, or brutal, though she had been. It was that she knew when to use her gift and how to use it to the fullest ability.

That was the trait every one of them shared. They were the experts the inhabitants of Planet 1312 strived to be. After all, in a society populated entirely by descendants of criminals, it was still important to take pride in one’s worth and strive to be the very best.

Long ago, when Earth had just begun to get a handle on long-range space travel, its first uses hadn’t been for exploration or discovery, but exploitation. With NASA’s influence fading, private corporations had funded the technology in hopes of opening up a new vacation industry, not to mention the opportunities colonization could bring.

First, though, the shuttles had to be tested. Times being what they were, they had ben filled with the overflow from prisons, homeless shelters, and even a few of the more vocal dissident groups had been plucked off the streets to fill space along with a handful of daring, clueless scientists. Family members and friends had simply disappeared from their lives and work one day. Some of their relations had never found out that they weren’t dead, but in a stark metal box hurtling through space.

After a good year of travel, the shuttle landed on Planet 1312. It was further than the shuttle should have traveled, but those that had volunteered (or had been volunteered) to lead the expedition were well-aware that kinks in the system still had to be worked out. It wasn’t until they tried to arrange their return flight that they realized there wasn’t enough fuel to get back to Earth and thesupply logs had been doctored. Only then was the full scope of the plan realized by those stranded on the planet.

They were well out of reach of communication, but the planet was fortuitously habitable if one didn’t mind reverting back to primal instincts. Many died in the following centuries. Those that didn’t never forgot their hardened roots or their betrayal. Miraculously, through luck and sheer force of will, the little society adapted and evolved, eventually regaining some semblance of technology and standard of living. Now, nearly a thousand years later, their descendants were returning home to deliver a long-overdue thank you gift.

The captain smiled a cruel little grin, the only admission of pleasure she’d allow herself during such a serious mission. “And you’re certain we shall meet with no retaliation?”

“We shouldn’t. Our communications and data retrieval are slow, to be sure, but reports over the past ten years indicate that attention is focused inward. All surrounding colonies have been called back to help with the war that’s been going on,” Natalo replied, her lovely face turned stern as she focused on the readouts glowing across her screen.

“If they’re so desperate to destroy themselves, we’ll be happy to help them out,” Kirksan quipped. The others snickered and although the lack of focus irritated Spaulding, she allowed it. It wasn’t like there would be time for celebration afterwards if things went according to plan.

As expected, everyone went right back to what they were doing after their mirth was spent. There wasn’t time for wasted emotions. Anger and a long-taught need for vengeance had followed them all their lives. The story of their civilization and how they would make Earth pay was one of the first bedtime stories they all heard, the first school lessons, even the first Sunday School lessons. There was no room for empathy or titillation, just as it was too dangerous to get too angry or caught up in their eventual upper hand. Their entire planet had only the one ship, the one bomb, the one chance.

“Approaching now. Shall I bring us out of lightspeed, captain?” Godren asked.

“Go ahead,” she replied, her grey eyes as sharp and severe as the rest of her. “Weapons?”

“Locked and loaded,” Kirkan said.

“Any resistance detected?”

“None so far, but I’ll have a better idea in a few minutes when we slow down,” Natalo soothed.

“They’re too wrapped up in their own drama,” Godren muttered under his breath.

“Be that as it may, we cannot assume anything,” Kardra reminded them. They meant well, but they required a firm hand to keep total focus. Luckily she had always had an unwavering hand, whether it was holding a knife to someone’s throat or poisoning the water supply of the neighboring community when they’d kidnapped her brother over a supply battle. “Our systems are barely up to what we remember from Earth’s capabilities ages ago.”

“If they’re so advanced, then why weren’t we spotted and dealt with yet?” Kirkan pointed out.

It was a fair question. Captain Spaulding would have loved to come up on the planet, guns blazing, but a stealth approach was necessary. All they had was the one bomb, some basic laser cannons, and their ramshackle shields. Their speed was still not as advanced as the intel they’d gleamed on Earth’s fighter crafts eight years ago. She’d love to believe the whole planet was not paying attention, that the lunar and martian colonies were truly vacant and unable to warn the arrogant fools. She wouldn’t bet on it, though. The tendency for caution had not only kept her alive, but made her successful. It’s good to expect the other shoe to drop, she reminded herself.

A light on the console flashed and something pinged a tinny, sing-song of a noise. It was a quietly mocking noise.
I knew it, Karda thought, and her fist clenched, her mind swept up in black clouds.

Everyone’s breath in the little cabin caught and stopped.

The console pinged again.

“What is it?” the captain barked, straining to keep the tension out of her voice. Coolness and calm. You are the leader. Though if their whole society had worked so hard and so long only for them to be shot down now…
“It’s just a comm message,” Natalo reassured them. As one, the crew of the unnamed ship exhaled. “It’s that transmission we intercepted a while back. It’s finally coming through on our hunk of junk system.” She paused, scrolled through the readout, and hit a few keys. “Would you like me to play it? It looks fairly antiquated.”

Spaulding paused and considered. It would take their system a few minutes to fully slow and get into attack position and even antiquated information could prove useful. “Ready the obliterator. Lock in the coordinates and continue deceleration,” she ordered before addressing Natalo. “Go ahead. At the very least it will give us something to listen to while the obliterator is primed.” The crew followed her commands with utmost precision.

She was proud that her voice sounded as composed as it did. In less than thirty minutes, we’ll be dead and our names will be sung in future war anthems. Our faces will be painted in the Hall of the Brave in the capital. She said nothing of this or the sudden rush of violence and pleasure that their long-awaited victory gave her. If only I had time to spill blood one last time before the end…that would make it all perfect. The calloused fingertips that had strangled their share of the opposition felt fuzzy and awkward from the rush of adrenaline. Looking around the cramped space proved that although her crew was trying to keep poker faces in place, they were squirming and fidgeting from their own excitement. Although they kept on task their faces held the same hungry, feral feeling Captain Karda Spaulding felt echoing through her.

Natalo opened the comm frequency and cued up the signal they’d recorded while still in deep space. For a moment there was silence, then static. “I don’t know how great the quality will be,” she admitted. “It’s ancient and our systems aren’t the best—oh,” she breathed, then snapped her pouting lips shut tight. Her shoulders hitched and chest heaved a few times before she reigned herself back in check.

Patyn and Kirksan sat up straight with sharp intakes of breath. Even Godren drew himself to attention, as grizzled by hard living as he was. Spaulding herself let out a sharp gasp, as though the sound was a dagger blade that sliced straight into her soul.

Music. Of all the things to intercept, it was music.

Lost - 400x600

Kindle        Amazon Paperback      B&N Paperback

Various Speculative Genres/Short Fiction: Flash, Complete Shorts, Horror, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, and others

Journey with authors Selah Janel and S.H. Roddey to a world where every idea is a possibility and every genre an invitation.

In this collection of forty-seven short stories, lines blur and worlds collide in strange and wonderful new ways.

Get lost with the authors as they wander among fantasy, horror, science fiction, and other speculative musings.

Shadows can’t hurt you, and sometimes it’s all right to venture off the path.

***

Reminder: I’ll be at the Imaginarium Convention all this weekend, so come on out to Louisville to meet me and some other amazing authors! I’ll even sign Lost in the Shadows for you right there!

Also, you have until Sept 17 to enter the Night Owl Book Reviews contest – be sure to check around my blog for a hidden entry word…(pssst, go look at my books!)

WeWriWa: The Other Man

Published August 30, 2015 by admin

I’m trying to get back into this, because there are so many excellent authors putting out little snippets over the weekend and I miss them. Be sure to check out the full weekend writing warrior list, too! Today’s sentences come from one of my older releases, the literary drama The Other Man. Andrew’s disenchanted with how his life has turned out and overwhelmed by his young family, yet it seems far easier to blame it all on someone who doesn’t even know he exists…his wife’s favorite singer.

***

Still, the thought that he was kissing her with that voice in the background made Andrew squirm.

Xander Jackson. He was the bane of Andrew’s existence and the singer didn’t even know it. At times Andrew would catch his wife staring into space with a dreamy smile and he always knew the look was not because of him. She hadn’t been a groupie or met her favorite of favorites; she’d never even been to one of Jackson’s shows. Andrew knew very well that he was the only one she’d ever given herself to. Perhaps it was the feeling that his claim, his territory was being threatened. Maybe seeing the perfect face with the smug pouting smile reminded Andrew of how unsuccessful he was in comparison. Perhaps the sultry croon easily pointed out how un-exciting he was. Perhaps the guitar was always ready to show him just what he hadn’t done yet in his short life.

***

This jealousy causes things to unravel fast during an eventful dinner conversation. Curious? Feel free to check out the e-book!

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Mocha Memoirs Press

contemporary/drama

All Andrew wanted was the typical American dream: a good career, a nice house, and a loving family. Instead, he has a dead-end job, a cramped apartment, and children who remind him of creatures out of a sci-fi movie. He’s also well aware that he’s not the only man who inhabits his wife’s thoughts and daily life. How can he put up a fight when he’s reminded of the competition every time Bethany turns on the CD player? After one eventful evening meal when expectations, disappointments, and secrets collide, life will never be the same.

Holly and Ivy

Published December 6, 2014 by admin

So I do enjoy holiday fiction. I love reading it and I might, just MIGHT have a soft spot for Christmas chick lit and romances (Shut up. It’s December stress). I also love writing holiday fiction. Now, some of this can get…fascinating, especially the pieces that are in Lost in the Shadows. Candles is a story about a makeshift family surviving the zombie apocalypse and trying to stay sane while keeping Christmas Eve traditions alive. There’s also a story about reincarnation and astral travel that may involve the little drummer boy.

Compared to those, Holly and Ivy is pretty tame and normal. I actually got the idea from a writing prompt exercise in like August, though it’s also based on one of my favorite holiday songs and probably owes a little to Hans Christian Andersen in a really backwards way. The story took hold and wouldn’t let me go, though, and soon I had something unique (for me) and special. Not only does it incorporate the holiday feel I love to read about, but it also doesn’t shy away from the fact that sometimes unfortunate things happen during the holiday season. Some people are cynical or burnt out or whatever. Sometimes you need a little kick in the pants, a little magic to help you out.

Sometimes you need a friend who’s a dryad.

When Holly’s life falls apart, she moves back with her parents and has to fight through fear and lack of motivation. When she takes a walk out to the Christmas tree farm her family owns, she’s suddenly shoved face to face with the imaginary friend that isn’t so imaginary – the dryad Ivy. While Holly’s grown up and been burned by life, Ivy remains innocent and eager to cast humans in the role of ignorant murderers. Even she is concerned about her human friend, though, and offers Holly a trinket that could change everything for the thirty-something…but it will change the dryad’s own future, as well.

***

“What do I do with it?” I asked. I told myself I was just playing along, suspending reality to make Ivy feel better. Although if that was the case then perhaps I should have really examined the fact that Ivy was real and not me suspending reality to make myself feel better.

“You hold it now until it gets to know you. You keep it safe in your possession and it shall bring you ease and grace,” the tree sprite giggled.

“And that really works?” No matter how I tried I couldn’t hide my skepticism.

She turned up her pointed nose. “How else would I have survived so well with murderers on the loose? It’s worked for a good long while.” I raised an eyebrow as a sly grin spread just a little too far across her face to make the smile look human. “Do you remember when I snuck to school with that sapling you took for show and tell?”

The next smile didn’t hurt quite as much as I traced the delicate edge of the tiny plant with the pad of a finger. The petaled head shivered and softly brushed against my calluses.  “I thought everyone was going to have a heart attack when you burst out of the thing and started singing to everyone! Mrs. Robinson finally played it off as the whole class playing a trick on her. We had to go without milk time for a week.” I’d gotten in so much trouble with my parents for lying in school and saying that I had a magic plant. Given that I was adamant that I’d been telling the truth, it was a hell of an ordeal for a six-year-old.

“’Twas so much fun!” Ivy paused mid-pirouette. It was downright disgusting that she could hold the arabesque for so long and not even wobble or suffer a leg cramp. “Though I would not want to live in such cold halls all the time.” She paused and took a long breath, much longer than I or any other human could possibly inhale. Before my eyes her skin became greener, infused by the crisp clean air. “You need to be in the trees, Holly. Mortals refuse to understand that they must live where things grow. Now that you’re home, let’s play!” She leapt over my head and landed effortlessly beside her home tree, staring at me expectantly.

Maybe it was being back home or maybe it was just being back in the good fresh air, but her suggestion made me giddy. It suddenly sounded like the exact prescription I needed, the one thing I’d been missing through all those frustrating years. My fragile mind and heart demanded an escape. They couldn’t take any more disappointment, any more expectations or responsibility, and they especially couldn’t take any more reality. I nodded and tucked the strange clover deep in my pocket. The breeze had dried my tears and the heavenly scent of grass and pine put the sudden urge to run in my feet. Suddenly the heavy air and the blazing sun didn’t matter so much and my anxieties were willing to take a momentary backseat to the chance to goof off for an afternoon.  “Are you sure you’ll be okay?” I hesitated, hand still at my pocket.

Ivy flashed a bold grin and stretched up on her toes; her fingers wiggled over her head, making her resemble an odd, scrawny plant. “With you here? Of course! Just remember to come look after my tree when the murderers come around the winter harvest time. You can even help me choose which tree will be my final home so you’ll know where I’ll be.” The words were no sooner out of her mouth when she tore off, dodging branches and bark as quick and swift as a deer. I groaned as I pulled myself to my feet and tumbled after her, muscles screaming at the sudden exercise. Still, I found myself laughing the entire time

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After losing her job and her boyfriend, Holly returns to her parents’ farm. Embarrassed and hopeless, she doesn’t expect to bump into a forgotten childhood friend that wasn’t supposed to exist. Ivy is not only a dryad, but she lives in the pine trees Holly’s family grows to sell at Christmas. As the old friends reconnect, Ivy not only shares her strong oninions, but gives Holly a charm that will change both their lives. As days melt into weeks and the seasons change, Holly’s life magically turns around. Christmas not only brings surprises, but a choice for the human woman. What’s more important: stability, success, and love, or keepinga promise to an old friend?

 

Prose: Obsolete Words

Published November 25, 2014 by admin

I’ve been working on a few projects lately, and that always gets me thinking about the process of writing. I love words and how they fit together, the imagery they conjure, the emotions they evoke. Words are magic…sometimes literally, like in this case.

This is another little bit from Lost in the Shadows, a little vignette meant to make your mind wander rather than a complete story. The use of incantations and information as gateways to other paths has always intrigued me. Of course knowledge is power, but what if that was completely literal, what if even reading or thinking the wrong thing led you down a path of real, physical danger or destruction?

This one also came about because of a prompt I was given: obsolete words. I love reading about what definitions of some words start out as vs. what they are now, why things used to be spelled a certain way or gifted with a certain meaning during medieval times, all of that. This was a really quick little thing originally written for the Mocha Memoirs Press blog, because I try to meet my obligations and it’s hard to come up with interviews for every month of the year. Plus, I like rising to the challenge of prompts, whether they’re visual, musical, or a phrase thrown my way.

***

Karyn started to open the giant, antique volume laid out on her bed, but Gavin stopped her. “Don’t,” he warned.

“Why? It’s just an old book,” she pointed out, shrugging slim shoulders as her fingers stroked the scroll work on the leather cover.

“That’s just the point,” he hissed, dark eyes fiery and intense. He was only five years older, but his status as mage in their secret community made him seem ancient in times like these. It also gave him a chance to throw his ego around. “You have no idea what these things contain. If you crack that cover, read what’s inside…if those words hit the air, hell, even if they don’t,” he babbled, running a hand in his dark hair.

“It shouldn’t matter,” she sniffed and pulled the volume closer to her. “It was in Gram’s closet and no one claimed it. I’m the only one she has left. Ownership goes to me.”

“That doesn’t mean you know what you’re doing!” he practically shouted. “One glance at the wrong kind of phrase…you could unleash all the powers of the unknown without even trying, “Karynia.”

She grimaced at the use of her full name; at least he hadn’t mentioned her title and made it worse. “Aren’t you curious? Or maybe you just want it all for yourself.” He’d been getting cocky lately. For all his knowledge and wisdom, his arrogance very nearly got their little suburb found out by the rest of the Woodhaven population.

His face tightened. She’d either ticked him off or hurt him, it was hard to tell. “You come from an old line.

“I’m just trying—”

“To look out for me. Whatever,” Karyn sniffed.

“Words have power, Karynia,” he whispered, leaning towards her across the mattress. That close, she could smell a delicate mixture of cologne and sweat; he’d gone running that morning, of course. “Especially old words,” he whispered, glancing down at the cover. “Especially obsolete ones.”

“It’s not like I’d know what I was reading,” she pointed out.

“It doesn’t matter,” he insisted. “Words like that…they slip through your eyes and ears, slip into your mind, yank your soul and have their way with you. You’re merely the vessel to give them what they want. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you shouldn’t crack the cover.”

Up close it was impossible to ignore the sharp planes of his face, the furrow between his brows when he was stern and focused. It was so different from the few times that he laughed and his face lit up like fireworks, dancing over his face and otherwise serious demeanor. She bit her lip and sat upright, twisting her fingers. When Gavin glanced down at her hands she quickly moved one  to her hair and twirled an auburn strand around her right forefinger, the finger that wore her grandmother’s ring that designated her as ruler of the little band of outcasts in a modern world.  The silver with its carved knots and runes glittered under the lamplight in the small room. Gavin reached for her hand and she quickly pulled it away.

“You’re so skittish. You can’t be that skittish if you’re going to be a leader. Not about anything,” he rebuked, but there was a sly, teasing glitter in his eyes. Suddenly, she’d had enough. Enough of his know-it-all attitude, enough of his always being around but never really establishing if he was there to help or harass her, enough of the way her stomach tightened and danced every time he came into view. Her stubbornness reared and she lifted her chin in defiance.

“Oh yeah? I’ll show you skittish,” she snapped and slapped the book cover open.

“Wait—“ Gavin gasped and lunged forward, grabbing her wrist. In that moment his eyes inadvertently flicked down, down to the mattress covered by the polka-dot bedspread, down to their joined hands…down to the ancient, slithering script on the page.

And then it happened. His body tensed and he shook fiercely. His mouth snapped shut in a thin line, spittle leaking out the edges as white foam.  His beautiful chocolate-brown eyes rolled back in his head, his hair falling across his face. A low whine came from him and his head tossed from side to side.

“Gavin?” Karyn whispered and tried to take her hand back.

The mage’s hand tightened on her thin wrist as his body snapped and relaxed. Slowly, his head raised up. Eyes darker than chocolate, dark as ink, burned up at her through the long tendrils of his hair. The smile that curled his lips was not arrogant so much as triumphant and cruel.

“You should have listened, little priestess,” he laughed. The voice was not his, but the ancient sound of words that hadn’t been whispered, viewed, or even thought about for thousands of years. His face morphed into something unfamiliar and dangerous as he slowly tugged the gasping woman across the bed, right over the book’s pages, which were mysteriously blank.

Coming Full Circle

Published July 10, 2014 by admin

So I realized that in my ramblings about Evillecon and all that in March, I left out a huge part of that weekend.

We all know I love books, but I really have a mad addiction to libraries. I’ve loved them ever since I was a kid. I still remember the very first library trip I ever went on in Illinois that was converted from an old house. My parents checked out There’s a Nightmare in my Closet for me and I made them read it over and over, amazed that I could hold a book I didn’t own as long as I promised to bring it back. I was actually accidentally locked in that same library years later. Like all kids, I freaked the hell out until I realized that I was in a library, then attempted to read as much as humanly possible in like ten minutes. My mom was with me and managed to get the librarian to come let us out, so my fun time didn’t last too long (This also leads to a tangent thought that it must run in our family that kids get themselves locked into places because family mythos also involves quite the tale of The Sibling getting stuck in a bank vault, but that’s another story…)

By the time I lived in Indiana, I was old enough to go to the library on my own, and I went All. The. Time. Not gonna lie – I was one of those kids that walked through the awkward forest and got hit by every falling leaf on the way through, so it was the perfect place to escape and dream, all the while pretending I really wasn’t learning anything. When I was dealing with bullies or family stress or school pressure or a thousand other stupid little things that don’t matter now but hurt a lot back then, I ran and hid in the shelves. I went back and forth between levels, partially because of the younger sibling, but partially because sometimes I needed a break from heavy stuff. It’s a habit I still invoke from time to time.  I realized I hated the teen books most of my friends liked there, got turned onto nonfiction there, devoured the entire music section there, read way too many Star Wars titles there, listened to my first Bowie cds there, and discovered folklore there. I still remember a book of Irish ghost stories that shook me up and I  came across two major influences there: Women who Run with the Wolves, which I’ve read countless times and probably inspires some of my more emotional fiction, and the collection of Cinderella Stories that I reference in Olde School. That book would not have been written had it not been for the Alexandrian Public Library, so it was a thrill when they let me come back and do a signing. I remember seeing Stephen Kellog there, and Nancy Carlson, Gary Paulson, Tales and Scales, and local storytellers. Those people were magic-makers to me, people I wished I could be when I thought that I was limited to what I was at that moment.

However, I totally snuck into Mt. Vernon a few days early just to orient myself and banish any residual emotions and ghosts. As I’ve alluded, since I hadn’t been back in like fifteen years, there was a lot of memories and emotions welling up. As grateful as I was to spend time with all who I visited with, it was important to me to have some private time on my own terms, to go through all the changes in front of my eyes and reconcile them with what was in my heart and in my head. Life has changed considerably between now and the Bronze Age, and it was good to walk the hills where I use to sled and dodge tomb stones, drive by the cemetery I learned to drive in (I swear that isn’t like a total life theme), meander the streets…

and yeah I totally snuck in and stalked the local library. The playground is way better now than when I was there, but everything else is just the same. It’s crazy. It even smelled the same, from the little annexes to the kid’s area with the walk-in train engine. The only thing that’s really different is the giant Arthur statue I helped make as a kid is gone, which is probably for the best. It was strange walking the stacks…I felt like  a ghost. I half expected to see fragments of memories running by me, playing out some distant time which had already taken place. I actually remembered where most everything was. No, seriously. The only things I couldn’t find were the music books, and that’s because the nonfiction sections were rearranged.

swbooks

These books have not moved in fifteen years. Seriously, my teen paws were all over these things. I don’t know why I found that so funny, but it really amused me, especially since I have a somewhat different opinion of the EU than I did as a kid. I immersed myself in that series as a teen, though, wanting to will myself into a hero that could face everything head on and win within three hundred pages until the next adventure.

rockstarbook

 

This book was new when I was like nineteen, twenty. I was so pumped when it arrived and I POURED over it. The only book that would have been better was a hardback collection of Rolling Stone interviews where I read my first David Bowie interview and decided that he was well and truly IT. All the sheet music I used to borrow for school events are still there. All the series I used to love – still there. Like I said, I felt like a random ghost walking the aisles and getting strange looks.

oldeschool flyer

 

Yeah, never thought I’d see this coming when I was ten.

meandflyer

I totally texted this to everyone I could that evening.

I love libraries. To me, they’re filled with countless portals to countless possibilities. You can learn anything, find things that make you feel harder than you thought you could. Maybe I’m a romantic at heart, but there is something important about these meeting places that are slowly being forgotten. I get the internet and buying books online have their uses, but to have a place to escape among other people who are also looking for something more than themselves in simple pages…there’s power there. There’s possibility. The Alexandrian is where countless bound stories intersected with my personal one, and I’m all the richer for it (except for all the money I’ve spent on overdue fees through the years, though that was well spent in the scheme of things).

I was extremely lucky to have people that I grew up around and were influenced by come to see me. Since most of the librarians who moved me aren’t there any longer, that was also what I was most nervous about. Let’s face it – no one is who they are a year ago, let alone fifteen  years ago. I’m not the loud but shy egocentric I was at nine, I’m not the naive idealist I was at fifteen, I’m not the embittered but determined girl of eighteen or nineteen. I’ve seen a lot of life since then, yet I’d also forgotten that everyone else has, as well. It’s amazing how places stay as time capsules in your mind, so it was just as big of a shock to me to see that everyone else had moved on, as well (I know, that’s vain of me, to think I’m the only one with any sort of a life, but it’s easy and convenient to forget these things, isn’t it?).

In some ways it was a relief to see that people had grownl up as well, that I wasn’t a total outsider. That theme was reflected in visiting my old college campus, as well, and staring at some of my mentors across desks again. Strange how different it feels when the pressure of grades and graduation is off, but it can also leave one fumbling for things to say.

Sure, we may not understand every part of each other, but the willingness to come together and catch up and to see what I’ve been up to, the willingness to listen…that was amazing at that library signing. Okay, so I’m no Gary Paulson. I’m not JK Rowling or Neil Gaiman. I never claimed I was – I’m me. I want to be myself as an artist, and I want people to embrace my work because it is from me. The utter outpouring of love, joy, and curiosity – it was what I’d needed after some heavy thinking holed up in a motel a few nights before. In a lot of ways it’s made me turn and face myself and accept that I’m more capable than I’ve allowed myself to believe. It’s freed up a lot of headspace to move on and see what happens next – all the while not forgetting that I’ve got people to catch up with when I roll through town again.

I was nervous as hell all through the event, but the fact that people were there and willing to see this part of my life was empowering. It was necessary. And for a brief moment I almost saw the gangly, pimply, awkward kid running around the carpeted aisles or poking around at some after school activity or trying to carry a gigantic stack of books that was way too tall for her.  It was one more chapter in the story of me, and that is the power of libraries.

library signing

 

library talk

 

A huge, huge thank you to those that came – even if it was just to say hello. And for those that didn’t get the chance…I’ll catch ya next time, eh?