Happy Late Passover and Easter!

Posted in discrimination, history, indie, indie authors, politics, racism, urban fantasy, writing, young adult fiction with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 20, 2014 by rachelcoles

Hello fellow Indies!

I recently did a Facebook quiz, God those are addictive, about which circle of Hell I would fall into…Yay! I got Heresy. And no one who knows me was surprised. Though I could have done with some nice Lust or Gluttony. Those are always fun. I’m a big fan of those. I recently discovered, after going with my family to San Diego and visiting the Ghirardelli’s chocolate store that no chocolate can escape my event horizon.

I also recently visited a museum in Salt Lake City displaying the Dead Sea Scrolls found at Qumran. Other interesting things were displayed in that exhibit. Among the interesting things I learned, thought already read about some time in the past was that the kohanim of the Temple during at least part of the Roman Empire would only accept coins with…get this…the head of Herakles on them…yep, you heard correctly. The head of a pagan Greek/Roman demi-deity. The Maccabees took the Temple back from those greeks some centuries before that because of the naughty statues of Greek gods erected in the Temple, that some of the priests were secretly worshipping too. Well, at least politicians of every nation throughout eternity are consistent…And finally, though worship of the one God was the official state religion of the Kingdom of Israel, the same way that Islam is the official state religion of Iran, though there are a million other religions practiced too, the ‘peasantry’, like me, just went ahead and worshiped whoever the hell they wanted as they had all along, including their ancient Canaanite pantheistic gods, as observed by the booby goddess dolls found in their apartments by archaeologists. Most of them never gave up worshipping Asherah/Astarte/Ishtar, the wife of El–thunder god extraordinaire, or Jewish Zeus, if you prefer. That’s right. The WIFE of ‘God’. Hmmm. Wherever did she go?

Needless to say, I have a hard time believing in organized religion for religious purposes. I think it’s great for getting together with family. So I do enjoy Seder, for the food and the company, and especially the discussion. To that end, and because I’m a complete heretic, I’d like to share this Exodus story I wrote a while back. A slightly different take on the Exodus than in most Bibles…

Plagues

Dom: Blood

The crimson water trickled out of Miryam’s amphora, as the brutal sun rose in the sky. There would be much suffering today in Miztrayim, among the slaves as well as the free. Though the situation would not be as dire for the pampered artisans and craftsman, most of the unskilled labor slaves she knew couldn’t keep much water. And the only water to be had needed buying. Many laborers would die today in the simmering heat. She looked out across the wavering expanse of scrub and sand toward the city of Ra’amses. The ululating wail of women bounced across the alleys from the city, as everywhere people found the blood water. Even the clean water in the city had been polluted. She sighed and sat down at the water’s edge, not caring that her skirt had fallen in the river. She ruminated as Egyptians and Hebrews ran back and forth, her water jug empty, her face burning in the sun. They were doomed by an incompetent god.

According to her crazy brother, Moshe, God had promised to lead them from bondage, but hadn’t enough foresight to save them clean water in his great smiting of the Egyptian ‘majority’. It was these great planning skills that were supposed to sustain them in the desert should they follow him, as Moshe kept suggesting. He never shut up about it. She sat staring at a gory reflection of herself in the puddle into which she had emptied the jug. A rail thin man, his rib-cage prominent and laced with scars, dropped to his knees next to her and looked at her with cavernous eyes before leaning down and slurping from the puddle with his lips. He sat up for a moment, sated, and then clambered to the river and vomited bloody water onto the rocks. We’re all doomed, she thought.

Tzfardeah: Frogs
The kids ran back and forth throwing frogs at each other. Miryam skirted the guard outpost near the palace, trying not to draw the guard’s attention by staying still too long. She watched the ruckus in amazement, until one of the bare-chested painted guards, swiping at the frogs, decided the kids would make a better target, and strode forward, sword drawn. The children scattered, fearlessly pelting the guard in a rain of amphibians and then vanishing. Kids could make games of everything. And after living under a pall of violence, nothing phased them, not armed soldiers with a hatred of their kind, and certainly not frogs.

At first it had been cute. Yehoshuah, her eight year old son, had brought in a little brown frog, as she pulled the morning bread from the oven, sweating. She hadn’t paid much attention. Another stray thing Yehoshuah was going to adopt and let loose in the little brick apartment.

“Outside!,” she had ordered, and followed him outside to make sure he let the slimy thing go.

It had been a little cute, staring at her with round black eyes, and round little toes. As soon as she got to the door, she dropped the bread tray in astonishment, spilling the bread to the dusty earth. She cursed. There were frogs everywhere, carpeting the road, roofs and every other surface. She turned and looked back inside. Frogs of all sizes leaped and bumped and pushed into her dry goods with abandon, burping and croaking wet little sounds. Shouts began issuing from every house on the block. She took a squelching step, and almost slipped on a bump and the ichor that oozed from the frogs that had appeared underfoot.
“Arrgh!” She yelled, casting a venomous look toward Heaven and stormed into the house just as her foolish brother approached with purpose.

She rolled her eyes. Moshe’s ‘purpose’ was getting ridiculous, an affectation only the privileged could afford. The rest of us have purpose to say alive, she thought. He had grown up in the Palace, adopted by the Princess who had decided that he was too cute to be a laborer, she thought bitterly. While the rest of us sweat and toil and die by bits. Mother encouraged it! She spent more time with Moshe in the palace, than with me and brother Aharon. First-born boys! Think the world owes them!, she thought savagely as Moshe barged in. Yocheved, their mother had convinced him that he had a ‘mission’ to help his people in his position, instead of fucking exotic slave girls. Trouble was, she never really aimed him in a particular direction or defined ‘helping’, so away he went. Now he ‘has visions’. God save us from visionaries! His newest crusade was only the latest attempt at self-imposed ‘redemption’. She faced him with her feet planted and her hands on her hips. It did nothing to diffuse the fierce light in his eyes as he entered, his breath ragged with passion.

“Do you see! Do you see that our God avenges us? Now do you believe me?”

“I believe you’re an idiot with delusions of atonement. Frogs? Really? What kind of idiot drops frogs on people?!” She held her hands out, surveying the chaos.

“Hush your blasphemous tongue! Don’t speak of God in that way! He’ll deliver us from bondage!”

“Us who? Saving you, from perfumed whores and sweet water and slaves with fans?”

“I have never used slaves. My women are willing.”

Miryam snorted.

“I am a Hebrew! I am your brother. Have you no care for me?” He suddenly looked as forlorn as the young toddler the princess had pulled from the rushes, glancing back toward the family who had left him there, hidden. “I gave up all that.” He gestured at the plain tunic and breeches that had replaced the gold-woven linen finery.

She relented, her dark angry eyes softening, “I guess. Thermusthis, your ‘mother’, must be angry. She’s probably wishing she left you in the river.”

He shook his head. “She loves me like our own mother. Why do you expect so ill of her. She is a kind woman. She understands why I must do this.”

Miryam sighed. “Ok. Right, your mission. Here’s a little blast of reality: you live in the palace surrounded by people who aren’t too fond right now of the other side of your family. You need to be more careful or you’ll wind up crocodile food at the bottom of the Nile. Don’t think you’re untouchable just because the Princess wanted a son and ‘saved’ someone else’s. Her Daddy doesn’t think you’re so cute, I will wager you a week of food on that!”

“He will not move against me right now. In fact, he is considering my proposal to release the Hebrew laborers from their contracts, if not all bondsmen of Hebrew descent. He fears us.”

“You can’t possibly believe that. Fear is why people try to destroy us, not keep us alive.” A frog dropped onto her head. She smacked her hand down with a squish, made a face and wiped her hand on her dress. “So He couldn’t have come up with a plague that was less…slimy?” She grinned.

He put a burly arm around her, towering above her by the length of her forearm, and shrugged. “I’m not turning down His help. Things can’t go on this way. Ramses has lost his mind, he’s genocidal.” He looked at her with sharp brown eyes. “I heed your warning. I know the only reason I’m still here is because of Thermusthis. He dotes on her. She watches out for me like a hawk. But now he knows what I am, he is just waiting for an opportunity. I will not give him one.”

Miriam put her hand on the side of his face. Dumb-ass brother! They turned at the sound of retching from one of the nearby hovels, and then looked down at the ground, helpless. Following the blood plague, scores of their already weakened people had died right alongside the Egyptian citizenry, sickened from drinking the poison when there was nothing else to drink. Even the beer had turned. The smell of sick was everywhere. And now this.

Kinim: Lice

She woke up with a raw scalp from scratching in her sleep as though insects had been burrowing beneath her skin. There were the same raw patches all over her body when she whipped aside the clothes from her body.
“Moshe! Moshe! Call Him off! He’ll kill us!” She yelled, but no one answered.

She sat at the side of her pallet with her head in her hands. It took all of her effort to resist squirming and screaming. Something crawled all over her, and she could tell by the shrieks that had become commonplace in the city in the past couple weeks, that her experience was being repeated everywhere. Instead of easing their lot, these plagues were making things worse. The government didn’t believe they were in real danger, and it only made the hatred against her people seem justified. Acenath, her Egyptian neighbor, had faithfully brought food over every week when Miryam’s family hadn’t enough. But yesterday when they had met in the street, there was an uneasiness in the woman’s eyes, and she had pulled her son Kosey to her, subconsciously, as though Miryam would snatch him or turn him into an animal, the child she had helped watch since he was an infant. Acenath had caught herself in her reaction, and gave Miryam a vague apologetic glance and then hurried into their home. The soldier raids had intensified, and three more Hebrew families had been arrested in the past two days. No one would ever see them again. Yocheved remembered when they had been considered ‘Egyptian’, with slightly different customs. And then in the space of a few years, following Ramses ascendency, they had woken up ‘Hebrew’.

“Auuuugh!” Miryam tore her clothes off, baring herself, scratching at her genitals frantically. The infestation was even in her womanhood. She ran and ran until she reached the river and threw herself in.

Arov: Flies

She wiped the bile from her mouth, almost tipping over the stinking pot. The frogs had made the food bad, and fevers had begun throughout the city from the lice. Miryam flopped back on her pallet and wondered how she was going to get up for work. Badness was coming from both ends, and if her mistress was in a foul mood, she’d get beaten for her lovely aroma.
Yehoshuah burst in, darker every day from the field. His wide chocolate eyes took in her condition.
“Eema, there’s something coming! From the desert.” He ran to help her up.
What now? She thought sourly, stumbling to the doorway. There was a thin dark growing line on the horizon. A deep hum vibrated in the air. Dread filled her belly.
“Get inside, Yehoshuah! Now!”
They ran in and Miryam began pulling cloth across the windows sealing every possible crack in the hut. The hum got louder. Miryam grabbed her child and drew him in her arms into the corner behind the pots. He struggled, but stopped and let her cover him, as soon as he saw the fear in her face. Something like a wall of air hit the side of the hut and a droning buzz swarmed around walls that seemed thin as papyrus. Flies boiled in through the cloths she had wedged quickly in the windows. They swarmed over everything, wiggled through her hair as she shielded Yehoshuah, and covered her face against his small back. The buzz drowned all other sound. She coughed out a fly in horror and contemplated that maybe death by the lash or by the guards, was preferable to anything their ‘guardian’ God could provide.

Dever: Cattle Pestilence.

Ramses was scared. The flies had covered everything, a dark plague born in the empty wastes between lands, evidence of an angry god, one that seemed to be gaining in power every day. One from which his own gods, indeed his own divine father seemed unable to protect them. For weeks, Ra, Horus, and the others had been silent. And this new Hebrew god was insane. His followers hadn’t been spared the plagues that had befallen his land so far. This god didn’t seem to care that they suffered, just that they were bonded as slaves when they did it. Their god would rather kill them himself, it seemed. Well, maybe that was the answer. He, Ramses, would kill them all before their god killed the proper Egyptians. He beckoned to the nearby Greek slave, who brought him the scroll he’d ordered. He dictated the edict that on this night, all Hebrews would be exterminated. And then he paused, his hand over the seal. Instead he grabbed the scroll and threw it in the flames of a brazier, a holy fire to Horus. This new god was too unpredictable. Bastard Mo-ses, the sorcerer threatened to call down more plagues if his birth people were not released into the desert. Something in the man’s eyes gave Ramses a needle of fear. One he shouldn’t be feeling as the son of a god. He couldn’t give in to terrorism, but the prospect of loosing the laborers to the desert, where they would die of exposure seemed more and more appealing. That might kill a number of birds with one arrow. But if he released them on demand, he’d look weak. Damn that Mo-ses, and may the Soul Eater devour him after death! He complicated everything.
A slave ran in, his head shepherd, a black wa-Lemba tribesman from the nearby Cushite kingdom. He was sweating and trembling. He bowed before Ramses, his god.

“My god…” he stuttered. He seemed unable to continue.

Ramses fidgeted with impatience. “Finish what you came here to tell me.”

“The, the cattle. They have fallen ill.”

“With what? How many?”

The man kept his head down, shuddering. His voice was muffled. “All of them I have seen. They are dying. It is the pestilence, my holiness. It is claiming them all.”

Ramses kicked him in the face, and then grabbed the sword of a guard and ran him through the gut as he grabbed his bloody nose. “No one threatens me! Blackmail! Trying to terrorize my people will not be tolerated!” He stormed to the palace entrance.

The city was in disarray as people ran through the streets wailing at their misfortune. Dead and dying cattle were wheeled through on carts, the corpses destined for the midden heaps to be burned, so their pestilence wouldn’t poison whatever herds remained. The only meat for the markets tomorrow would be the cured reserves that were supposed to last through the drought. He snapped orders to his ministers to release a portion of the drought provisions from the royal storehouses to see people through the next few weeks until more animals could be purchased from the kingdom of Punt and other allies. That might help quell the panic for the moment. No stores would go to the god-damned Hebrews. They could starve for bringing this on his kingdom.

Shcheen: Boils.

The violence had increased threefold. The Pharaoh had gotten Moshe’s message about releasing Miryam’s people, and instead of complying had decided on a show of strength. Which was exactly what Miryam had expected. A political genius her brother was not. He had spent his entire life embroiled in palace politics, yet people’s reactionary nature seemed to have washed over him like the Nile. The raids had doubled, with every other family, including children declared traitors and enemies of the kingdom. But more disturbing was the civil unrest. She cleaned up the camel dung spattered on the outside of the house from the teenage mob that had gone from Hebrew house to house last night. Four of them had stormed in through her front door, yelling expletives at them. One of them had knocked Yehoshuah unconscious, while the other three held her down and pulled up her dress. Ari, her husband, accompanied by Har-An, Acenath’s husband, had run in from the quarry and struck the young man with his mattock. Two intruders fled, as the mattock felled the attacker who was about to violate her, and Har-An dropped the last assailant with a meaty fist. The two men looked hard at each other. Har-An took his mattock with a deep breath and ended the one still alive that he’d knocked down. Ari grabbed bed cloths, tossed them over the remains. They hefted the bodies over their shoulders without another word and left in the direction of the river. Miryam scrubbed the stains on the floor.
A day later, the Egyptians had reason now to be scared. Following the riots, very few Egyptians were on the streets, and moaning could be heard from the houses Miryam passed on her way to collect water. Of those she saw, every visible piece of skin was suppurating with sores upon sores. These walking horrors stared at her clear face in supplication, begging someone whole to do something to relieve their condition. None of the Hebrews had been affected, it seemed, at least not by whatever affliction this was. Maybe God’s aim was getting better, she thought sourly. Except, she liked most of her Egyptian neighbors. It was having money that made people act like idiots, not the gods they worshipped. And nobody she knew had any, so they were always perfectly nice. After putting down her load of water, she stopped over Acenath’s house next door, with some of her meager food and water. The place stank. Both Acenath and her husband and Kosey were curled on their pallets. Miryam rushed to the child. His face was erupting with pustules, and she could feel the heat from him without touching his forehead. She wet a cloth in clean water and laid it across his forehead and trickled more onto his lips. She did the same for his parents. Acenath just stared at her with dull eyes. Miryam sat with them until she had to leave for her mistress’ home.

Barad: Hail

The thatch roofs were burning and collapsing. And the ones that weren’t alight were being pulverized by fist-sized hailstones along with any fool who tried to save them. Lightning cascaded down in three different places as she watched. El, the storm-God of the Hebrews was doing what He did best. Miryam flinched as she peered out the window in time to hear the punctuated squawk of a chicken that had run in panic, and see a puff of feathers stained red. Acrid smoke drifted in and a strand of fiber and gray ash floated in midair. She bolted upright, the fire was close. She peered as far out as she could without getting beaned by hail. A conflagration was three houses away, and Acenath’s roof was starting to catch from the drifting embers of other fires. A woman ran down the street, trailing smoke and fearing fire more than the physical assault from the black sky. Everywhere people were yelling, covered in welts and bruises as water for the fires was handed in from the river. Miryam grabbed a partly full water jug and hoped for the best as she ran to Acenath’s house, climbed to the roof and doused the growing flame. Hailstones slammed into her, and she fought to keep moving and tried to block blows to her head with one hand holding the jug. Apparently there was no special shield for Hebrews out in the open. Brilliant. Maybe their reprieve from the boils and sores had just been luck or different food or something. Acenath ran out, covering her head with her hands, but a carbuncle blossomed above her eyebrow as an ice ball pelted into her. Having survived her illness, she wobbled on her feet, looked up at Miryam and ran back inside. A moment later, she emerged, climbed to the roof and handed Miryam a full jug of water.

“You!” Acenath called back into the chaos on the street, to anyone. There was no husband to help her now. Har-An had not survived. “This fire will be yours if it spreads! Help me!”

Water came, by Egyptian and Hebrew hands scratched and shredded by the pounding hail. Within a few minutes, her fire at least was out. Lightning cracked into a house down the street, sizzling the water in their cistern, and making Miryam almost lose her hold. People melted back into whatever shelter they could find. As Miryam slid down, she noticed sparks landing in the thatch on her own roof. Acenath did too. Tendrils of smoke curled up and then extinguished. A hailstone almost took off Acenath’s nose as she stared, then shook her head and grabbed Miryam’s arm and ran into her own house.

“Maybe your house would be safer,” she said sourly to Miryam. “But I can’t leave Kosey here by himself.”

“I’m fine, Mum! I’m almost a man.”

“Just because you’re the man of the house doesn’t make you a man yet! And you shouldn’t be out of bed!”

The boy sat up, sores healing on his face. He rolled his eyes.

Miryam shook her head. “I’m as confused as you are. Trust me.”

“Your house didn’t catch fire.”

“Yet. Day isn’t over yet.” Miryam reminded her.

Acenath glared at her a moment, then burst into laughter, slapped Miryam on the shoulder, right on a bruise, and handed her a cup of weak beer, and piece of bread. “Thank you, friend. I never thanked you for helping us before either. I almost lost my Kosey…Har-An…” Her huge dark eyes filled with tears, and she choked. Miryam put her arm around the tiny younger woman’s shoulders, and played with Acenath’s long black braid. Tears dripped down Acenath’s cheeks, but the lines in her face relaxed a little.

The boy bit down on his trembling lip, and put his arm around her other shoulder and gave the women a very manly look. “Mama, it’s ok. I’m fine. And I’m almost as tall as you, see. I can handle man’s matters.” He stood above them and extended his skinny chest. The women looked at each other, stifling smiles.

“Yes, well as far as my height, you didn’t have far to go.”

He looked crestfallen for a second, then grinned. Miryam snorted and went to the window, rubbing at her numb fingers. The hail had stopped, and the lightning flickers receded into the distance. “Clearing up,” she said. But their quarter of the city as far as she could see looked like it had been through a battle, with debris littering the street and smoke from fires dotting the buildings here and there.

“Why does your god hate us so much?” Kosey’s voice came from behind her. Miryam turned to his clear amber eyes. Acenath watched, quietly chewing on a crust.

“I think he’s just angry with Ramses.”

“Because Ramses is a donkey’s b–?”

“Kos!,” His mother yelled, glancing at the door fearfully.

“But you said–”

“Do you want to get us killed, boy?” His mother went to the door and peeked out.

Miryam stared at her. Acenath shook her head at Miryam. They both let out a long breath.

Unabashed, he continued, “Then is it because he hates Hebrews? We don’t hate Hebrews. Yehoshuah’s my friend.”

Miryam ruffled his hair. “I know, boy. We weren’t spared most of this either. Maybe I just haven’t kissed His Heavenly …rear-end enough. I’m not very good at worship, regardless of the god. At least you have more than one to choose from.”

“That just means more…rear kissing,” Acenath muttered. She gave Miryam a relieved smile.

Miryam kneeled by her and took Acenath’s and Kosey’s hands in hers. “I will never be your enemy.”

Acenath wrapped her arms around Miryam. Kosey huffed in relief. “So I can still hang out with Yehoshuah? He has the best snail collection.”

“Ok, what?”

“Nuthin.” He coughed, and darted out the door to find his friend before the women could stop him.

Arbeh: Locusts

Ramses stared at the growing cloud on the horizon. The city had weathered sandstorms before, but the tremor in his belly spoke of something far worse. He gave the orders to cover whatever structures might be damaged by the storm, and sent runners from region to region of the city, warning his citizens to shelter in their homes. Except none went to Goshen, where one of the oldest neighborhoods of Hebrews still resided. All work in the city was ceased. One of his foreman, a Canaanite from the outlying area arrived, out of breath. His guard stepped forward to block the man’s rushed approach, but Ramses waved them back, and motioned the worker into his presence.

“My Lord,” the huge man kneeled. Even through his almost black complexion, his skin was blanched with worry. “It is a plague from the Hebrews! It must be! They have called locusts, my Lord! They have called Pazuzu, demon of the wastes. Their god works with demons!”

Dread froze like a stone in Ramses belly, even as he rolled his eyes at the mention of foreign gods. El, Pazuzu, god or demon, it made no difference who or what had brought the locusts. Non-Egyptian gods and superstitions did not belong here. He snorted in derision. “Your heathen gods do not interest me. This is sorcery, and they will pay.” He decided on mercy today and dismissed the man to see to his own business. The swarm would be upon them in minutes. He sent runners to the fields to gather what could be carried to the grain houses, but the swarm descended as he watched. Large flitting forms blotted out the sky and settled on the fields and roofs, as he retreated to the inner courtyard. Within minutes they had edged impossibly in through every crack. The long coppery bodies were like no locusts he had ever seen. They were three times the size, their paper wings twitching even in rest, and making their outlines blur as though they flickered in and out of the living world. And then the sound of their mandibles filled the halls with scratching. He ran at them, crunching them under foot, stomping and sweeping around with his arms. With each stomp, their bodies held his weight for far too long before collapsing into mush. And as he swept some away, he could see gnaw-marks everywhere there was vegetable material, including wood. Pazuzu. Demon of the wind, demon of empty places. The name echoed along his nerves as he stared at the creatures. But it is a foreign god! Osiris, Lord of the Harvest, why are you suffering this foreign god to invade your land and torment your loyal followers?
When he arrived at the grain houses, the keepers were in a frenzy. They lit huge fires of aromatic woods before the doors to smoke the insects out, but the golden swarm seethed through the grain. Ramses sent away all available servants to fetch the priests and bring the finest animals from his personal herd to sacrifice to the gods that he had somehow offended. As he waited, he stood before the fire, and gazed at the sky towards his Heavenly Father. Why are you doing this to me? My first job as a god is to lead my people, and now I cannot even feed them. Our meat rotted on the herd, our stores from our allies are depleted, and now there will be no grain. By the end of today, my people will be eating sand. Why are you not intervening, Great Ones?

Choshech: Darkness

Two days after the locusts, the hunger in people’s eyes matched the hunger of the swarm that had enveloped them like a bronze papery rain. Incidents of robbery increased as the most desperate, young, and angry people broke. Just when Miryam thought it couldn’t get any worse, a black fog fell that wasn’t like fog. It was like a miasma poisoning the air, smelling like rotten eggs and making it hard to breath. Torchlight could only be seen a couple cubits away. Miryam didn’t think it was night, but no glow from the desert sun penetrated the fog. By her estimation, it had been late afternoon when the cloud descended, and her sense of time told her that evening now fell. Acenath, Kosey and Yehoshuah huddled on the extra pallets she’d set out in the crowded center of her apartment. She lost track of time, but Ari should have returned home from the quarry by now. Shrieks and blood curdling screams issued out of the dark and everyone looked at each other with wide white-rimmed eyes. It had seemed very close, but it was impossible to tell from what direction. The boys flinched and then recovered. No one spoke, but Kosey, older than Yehoshuah by two months retrieved a sickle from a hook on the wall and stood by the door.

“We are cursed. This land is cursed,” Acenath said.

“Maybe it’s just us,” Miryam replied quietly. “If this is caused by our god, as my brother believes, than this will follow us into the desert if we leave.”

“But your god will protect you. He will not curse you. He is only angry with us, with my people. That’s what everyone says.”

“What if everyone is wrong.”

No one said anything for a long time. The only sounds were furtive shuffling outside the walls and periodic bouts of screaming, somewhere outside.

Makat B’chorot: Slaying of the First Born

Ari had returned from the quarry, where they’d hunkered down until the strange fog had passed. But the sight of him alive did nothing to quell Miryam’s anger for the next few days. Her fist slammed into Moshe’s nose as soon as he barged in her doorway three days later. “That’s what I think of your stupid crusade!” She rushed him and kicked him in the long shin, flailing at his chest and clawing at his face. He grabbed her and shoved her back. She stumbled across the sleeping pallets and jugs and fell. Otherwise, he ignored her as though she hadn’t even spoken or moved against him. His eyes were burning with anger. Something else was in his eyes, fear. “Slaughter your lamb. And cover the door lintel in its blood. Do it now.”

She stared at him and sneered. “I’d ask if you’d lost your mind, but that seems redundant.”

He grabbed her and hauled her to her feet by her dress. “Do you want Yehoshuah to die? Do as I say!”

She slapped him across the face. “So now you’re threatening me?”

He slumped. “No. Death will come tonight to all Egyptian heirs, and there is little time left. The sun has set.” He pointed to the horizon outside the window.

“Moshe…What did you do?” She swallowed hard.

“Nothing. I know things. I know you never believed me. But, it is El. I…” he wiped the blood trickling from his nose and looked down. “I told you, I know things.”

She sighed and sat down, gazing at her god-touched brother. That was what some people said. That was what the rest of her family believed now. They’d scoffed at him at first, his wild eyes, his rich pompous mannerisms. But he didn’t look pompous now. He looked scared, and tired. He sat down next to her, and touched her face. He took her numb left hand in his and frowned.

He pleaded and bowed his head. “Miryam, please. I know you think I’m crazy–”

“I don’t know whether you’re crazy, or a sorcerer. And I’m not sure which is worse. Har-An died because of these curses. He is our neighbor and friend. Don’t you care? Doesn’t our god care about the innocent?”

“I’m not a sorcerer! How could you think that,” he spat. “Ramses refuses to listen to God and let us leave.”

“To go where, exactly? Into the desert? You have been outside the city, right? Here’s a flash of insight: There’s no water out there.”

“He will take care of us, we are His Chosen.”

“He’s doing such a superb job so far! I couldn’t keep anything in my belly for three days, I nearly died, and that was before He nearly burned my house down, and killed my friends! I like them and I don’t care what their parentage is, and I don’t want to follow any God who does!” Her voice had risen, until Yehoshuah covered his ears and ran next door.

Moshe’s face was sad. He didn’t call her out for blasphemy or any other such nonsense. At least he was learning. He just stood, and touched her face and left. The torchlight increased. She shivered. Death will come to all Egyptian heirs, her shiver became a shudder. Me and my temper. What does that mean? In her belly, she knew the curse would happen, but she didn’t know how. Yehoshuah was still next door. Yehoshuah. She grabbed a long knife from the table and marched outside to the tethered lamb. Ari was coming down the road as she slit its throat. Blood spurted all over her hands, and into the bowl she’d set under it.

“What are you doing, woman?” Ari ran to her. “That was the last lamb we’re likely to have! The ewe’s too old for more!” he wrenched the knife from her hand.

The torches and rushlights went out. The night in the street was black and there were no stars. Something dark and massive gathered in the shadows, all around them. A ruckus of yelling came from Acenath’s house, and several other houses on the street. Yehoshuah ran out as Acenath’s panicked voice shrieked from their house. He was panting and clutching his throat, and then he collapsed into a seizure at the feet of his parents. Miryam screamed and wrapped her arms around him, as tendrils of darkness reached from the shadows. She thrust the bloody bowl at Ari. “Splash this over the door, now!” her face brooked no argument. She hauled Yehoshuah inside, and Ari did as he was told. He entered, but before he could utter another word, she ran and shoved him out the door again. “Go put some on Acenath’s home. Cover every door you see! All our Gyptian neighbors! The curse is coming for them!”

He powered past her and dropped to his knees next to Yehoshuah, his only son. The gory bowl spilled liquid into the dust of the floor. Miryam wrapped her arms around her son’s heaving shoulders. He leaned over and vomited onto her feet, but he was breathing. Her and Ari grabbed him and held each other and sobbed.

“Eema, Abba, you’re crushing me.” Yehoshuah pushed at them, fighting to sit up, his face a nauseous green. Kosey, Mama, Kosey is sick–”

Miryam grabbed the bowl, but only a spoonful of liquid remained. She ran next door and smeared it on Acenath’s door with her hands. It left a dark smudge. There was sobbing inside. She rushed in. Acenath was clutching Kosey, screaming and shaking him. He was prostrate on the ground. He was deep purple under his dusky skin, and silent. Darkness filled the room as flashes of light flickered here and there in the air like a thousand fiery eyes, and wisps of smoke wrapped around the two in the center of the room like giant dark hands. Miryam’s heart almost stopped, but she dove for the dark mass which parted and surrounded her with a roar, like an inferno. Tiny red eyes surrounded her in a million wing-like puffs of feathery smoke. She held her sticky palms out around her and yelled defiantly at the top of her lungs, “I am a Hebrew! Stay away from this boy! He’s mine, Demon!”
She covered him with her trembling body, still brandishing her bloody palms. The smoke creature blinked its thousand malevolent eyes and withdrew silently from every crack and crevice in the room. The room was dark, but it was gone. Acenath sobbed and laid her head on Miryam’s shoulder. Miryam could feel the faint throb of the boy’s heart pick up speed. He took a shuddering breath. Acenath kept sobbing. Miryam laid back onto the floor and stared at the ceiling.

The line of refugees wound into the desert as far as Miryam could see. Acenath hefted her pack and ushered the boys in front of her.

“You don’t have to come if you don’t want. Though I’m glad for the company. The order was only for us to leave,” Miryam said.

The younger woman shrugged and glanced back at her half-empty house. “You claimed my child in fosterage. The least I could do is help you raise him. My man has gone on to the afterlife without me. There’s nothing here for me now.” Her eyes teared for a moment. She stared at a wiry young man walking past to join the trail. “Maybe a Hebrew man won’t be too bad.”

Miryam grinned, and shoved Kosey’s face around as he turned to stare at his mother. There were empty huts up and down the dusty streets, some Hebrew, some Egyptian.

“We need to pick up the pace before Ramses sends the army to hurry us up.” Acenath commented as she followed the slow winding throngs of people.

Miryam snorted, “Hardly our biggest worry after last night.” She tugged her bag over her shoulder, sighed and began walking.

End Story

 

Whenever someone tells me that ‘such and such’ are enemies, I have to wonder about regular shmoes like us, the Hebrew and Egyptian equivalents of Joe from the Seven Eleven. How many of those Egyptians were our enemies, and how much political maneuvering did it take between the government and dissenters to cultivate that hatred so far into the future that we still celebrate plagues and suffering thousands of years into the future? It’s definitely a good thing to celebrate freedom and the winning of freedom, I just wanted to take a step back and look at this from a different perspective…Discuss…

 

Back for VD Day!

Posted in blogging, Denver, horror, indie, mythology, urban fantasy, young adult fiction with tags , , , , , , on February 14, 2014 by rachelcoles

Hi Indies,

I’ve been away for a while, failing to manage the work-life balance…Never been good at juggling. But I’m back! And while I used to scorn VD Day (yes, pun intended, from someone who used to do infectious disease surveillance) as syrupy Hallmark yuck, I’ve at least come to appreciate that it is a great excuse for a date with my husband at great restaurants. All holidays are all about food sooner or later. Food=love. Restaurants pull out all the stops on VD Day, with new menus etc. And my husband and I are both foodies. So yay! I can appreciate that level of capitalism at least, if it includes Second Breakfast, Elevensies, Luncheon, Afternoon Tea, Dinner, and Supper…

And I have a VD Day story to share, full of kisses. Always beware when a horror writer tries to cover a Valentine romance story…

Kisses

by Rachel Coles

 

Terry tried hard not to kick the side of the automatic door as it opened on an explosion of scarlet and bubble-gum satin and lace. The menagerie of heart bedecked stuffed animals crowded the aisles like a cupid-struck taxidermist’s fantasy, and Terry’s worst nightmare. The stacks of chocolate boxes waited, like Gretel’s witch in her candy house, to tempt her into a sugar feeding frenzy that would use up every drop of insulin in her diabetic body for the rest of her life. Valentine’s Day sucks! Fuck Valentine’s Day! she thought, as she savagely shoved the grocery cart ahead of her. It nearly careened into a stand of skimpy thong underwear with curly “I Love You” script littering the tiny triangle of fabric.

She tossed packets of lettuce and other veggies in her cart haphazardly, and then buried them under bags of chips and other snack food. Two minutes and counting, she thought as she reached for the rice cakes around a portly woman blocking the entire aisle with her cart. If I don’t get out of here soon, I’m going to shoot these people, she vowed. Two days until Venereal Day. I’m not going to survive this time without multiple homicide.

The woman giggled and grabbed a third box of frosty angelic white Valentine’s Day Little Debbie cakes. “Oh, I just love these things! I buy out a whole shelf every Valentine’s Day to decorate for everyone I know. I put messages on the top. They taste so much better than those chalky candy hearts, don’t you think?”

“I’m diabetic.”

“Oh, well, no cakes for you, then!” She waggled a puffy finger at Terry. “I bet those rice patties would decorate up nice. Lots of room to write, ‘I wuv you’ on those! You can whip up a batch of sugar free frosting in a jiffy with that Splenda now.”

But I don’t love you, I hate you, and your little teddy bear too. “Thanks.” Terry grimaced, pulled a box of angel cakes into her cart and ran.

***

Her one-bedroom apartment smelled like stale cigarette smoke again, and her lungs tightened a little as she entered. She left yet another message with the landlord about changing out the ratty carpet that seemed to emit a growing smorgasbord of nasty scents every week.  She took a puff of her nearly empty inhaler and opened her lap top and email. There was a message from her mother. When she opened it an e-card popped up and waited for her click. I’m a masochist, she realized as she clicked on it. It literally exploded in a shower of animated hearts and dancing bunnies singing something that she didn’t catch because she slammed the computer lid closed. Now it was probably broken. Another expense she couldn’t afford, but she didn’t care, as she sat, shaking in anger and staring at the empty space above the computer. That’s it, I’ve had it.

She stormed into the bedroom and grabbed the picture of George, her late husband, by her bed and went into the kitchen where the grocery bags were still sitting in the middle of the floor. She grabbed the angel cakes and opened a package and stuffed one of the treacle-sweet cakes in her mouth. She nearly gagged as she inhaled sugar glaze and crumbs, but she swallowed a giant gulp as she flung open one of the kitchen drawers and grabbed a lighter. It still had fluid, thankfully. She put the rest of the box of Valentine’s Day cakes in the sink, poured lighter fluid on the box and then lit them up. As she watched them burn, she put the picture of George next to the blaze, propped against a soap bottle. It was three years to the day that he had died in the car accident. He stared at the blaze with his playful blue eyes.

“I curse Valentine’s Day. To all the gods of Heaven or Hell, I offer this sacrifice of Little Debbies. May it and everyone who chases love and smothers people with kisses and hearts on that day be damned. May they be followed and haunted like I am, every time they look at one more stupid card or one more stupid fluffy bear with a stupid message on it that doesn’t mean anything except ‘Give me money.’  Fuck all you people! I’m done with you!” She swallowed the last dregs of cake, and looked at George. A tear rolled down her face and she swiped at it and flicked it into the fire. “You were the only one for me. You never gave me a card, and I never needed one with you. Fuck you too for dying on me.”

The smoke alarm blared, and she jumped. She grabbed the fire extinguisher and doused the flames and half the counter in foam. She put it down just as there was a pounding at the door. She went to the door and opened it a crack.

The landlord’s squinting eyes peeked through above the chain. “What’s going on in there?”

“Nothing,” she said as smoke drifted around her head and through the crack.

He sniffed. “Like hell. What you been smoking in there?”

“Nothing illegal. You going to replace the carpet?”

“Not if you’re smoking in there!”

“Then bye.” She shut the door almost on his nose.

He called her name outside the door for a minute, threatened to evict her, which she knew he couldn’t do, and then there was silence.

***

Sweat leaked onto the sheets in rivulets as she sat up with a start. The bedroom was dark, but she could see a shadow at the foot of the bed. She grabbed the baseball bat from under the bed and leaped at the form. Then she tumbled over the edge and fell to the floor, as she swung the bat. The momentum twisted her body in the air and she landed on her back with a thud. She stared up into empty space, expecting a gunshot or the slice of a knife from the intruder, but none came. She sat up, trembling with adrenaline, and looked around in the darkness. No one was there. She stood up shakily and climbed back into bed. She left the bat beside her near her pillow. What a horrible dream, she closed her eyes and willed her heart to stop racing. After an hour, she drifted back into dreams. They were filled with shadowy images and talking teddy bears.

At dawn, she woke up to pee. In the faint light, the tall shadow was back at the foot of her bed. She leapt up again with a shriek, bat in hand, but this time, the growing dawn illuminated the figure. It was a man. She got the impression of maturity, if not advanced age. His eyes were dark in his gaunt scar-pocked face, and his hair was long, black, and tied back. He wore a thigh-length tunic and leggings. She couldn’t tell the color of his clothes in the gloom. And then he vanished.

“What the hell!” She jumped off the bed and ran to where the figure had been, but no one was in the room. She ran into the hallway, and living room. Her door was still chained and locked, and the windows closed from the inside.

She sank down onto the worn mustard yellow couch and put the heels of her hands in her eyes. Then she got up and went into the bathroom to look at the side effects listed for the Celexa she’d been taking. They didn’t include hallucinations. She popped two pills and got ready for work.

***

“You look like shit.” Donna swung her head around the door of the stinky core room refrigerator.

The smell of something rotten wafted past her and almost made Terry gag. “Is anyone ever going to clean that?”

“It’s the exec department’s turn, according to the chart. We filled in for them last time. I’m not doing it again.” Donna wrinkled her nose. “I ain’t their mama. And stop changing the subject. Why you look like shit?”

“Bad dreams.” She edged around the stocky African American woman and wedged her lunchbag in on top of the mound of other bags.

Donna put her hand on her hips, displaying her elaborately painted nails. “Are you still going on about Valentine’s Day? You do this every year! Girl, you got to stop with that! Find yourself a friend with benefits, if you have to. You goin’ to drive yourself nuts. It’s just a national excuse to get candy and diamonds from your boyfriend. Work it! Or what about a girlfriend?”

Terry scowled at her.

Donna held up her hands. “Hey, I’m not biased. Whatever gets the job done.”

Terry glared around the room at the shiny foil hearts the ‘Cheer Committee’ had hung from the ceiling. She couldn’t even tear these ones down, let alone light them on fire, or she’d be branded a spoil sport at work, which translated into ‘not a team player’. She left the core room to go back to her cubicle.

Donna caught her look and followed her. “Hey, I thought you were seeing somebody about that, about you know, anxiety. You okay?”

Terry didn’t say anything for a few minutes, just stared at her computer screen. “It’s not that.”

Donna plopped onto the floor, pulled the cardboard divider across the entrance to the cubicle and whispered. “Well what is it?”

Terry looked up over the top of the divider and sat back down. She sighed, “I just had a bad dream. About a guy in my house. Nothing big.”

Donna’s eyes widened, “Shit, you check to make sure it wasn’t real? What if someone’s casing you out. That’s creepy.”

“To steal what, my million year old laptop?”

“No, your skinny White ass! What if he’s a rapist?”

“Thanks, I feel much better now.”

“You got to be careful in that neighborhood, woman!”

“It wasn’t like that. I—I could see, he wasn’t…real, and he wasn’t, like, from now. There was something about him, like he was dressed for another time.”

“So maybe you got a Ren Fair rapist.”

Terry rolled her eyes, and cracked a smile.

Donna grinned. “Feel a little less crotchety now? Why don’t you call the police about this guy? I got a date on V night, maybe he could bring a friend. He’s got some hot friends too. Once you go Black, you never go back, that’s what I’m sayin’. And I don’t like you sitting in that crappy apartment when you could be out eatin’ lobster and steak! The restaurants all have great deals on V Day!”

Terry nodded. “I’ll think about it.”

Instead of getting to her day’s debt collection cases, she stared at the screen and ruminated. How long before I get a call from someone like me? Her bills were piling up, the growing medical bills, and the funeral still had payments left, and interest. She’d footed the cost of that, since George’s parents were dead, and he’d been an only child. Every time she looked up on the screen, she could almost see her name, though her accounts weren’t for a lush department store.

Her thoughts strayed from her bills to the mysterious man. He wasn’t a rapist. He’d had no sexual intent in his face. Instead, his eyes had bored into her as though he wanted to talk to her. She shivered and picked up the stack of files for the day.

***

When she opened her eyes in the middle of the night, the dark figure was there, in the light cast by the closet bulb. She drew breath to scream and grab her bat, but he spoke first. His voice shivered through the air, a vibration of something harder than human vocal chords. He did not speak in English. She realized with a shock that the speech sounded faintly like Latin. Before she could wonder any more, the man advanced and touched her arm. She swung the bat, but it went through the man’s image. The pressure on her arm had been no more than a static electric buzz. When he spoke again, she understood his speech.

“You summoned me.”

She backed against the wall behind her bed, grabbed the blanket and pulled it up to her chest.. “Who are you? What are you? I didn’t summon anyone!”

“You called a curse. I exact the curse.”

She stared at him in horror. You mean yesterday? That was just, I was pissed. It didn’t mean anything!”

He gazed into her eyes. His own eyes were dark rheumy wells from which a nightmare peeked. “The curse had intent. You did mean it. All things that are meant persist. I will show you.”

She fell into those eyes and a scene unfolded in her mind.

George laughed and shoved her into a pile of crackling leaves as she swung the rake at his ruddy face.

“Look what you did, bozo! Now I have to rake it all up again.”

This only made him laugh harder. “Aw, I’ll help you babe! If you can dig yourself out!” He buried her under the two bags of leaves she’d set aside for the trash.

“Aghhh!” She burst out of the pile and chased him around the back of the small stucco house, grabbed the back of his shirt and yanked.

He whirled around and pulled her down with him into the pile of leaves she had collected in the back . And then his mouth was on hers, his hands sliding into her jeans. “Screw the leaves.”

“You mean ‘in’ the leaves.” She grinned and rolled him under her.

Terry relaxed into the memory and sagged against the wall, but the memory changed.

George stared up past her. His crystal blue eyes were blank. The tubes sticking out from under the white sterile sheets didn’t shift with movement. The lines on the monitors showed her that there was no one home in his head. He looked like a man-sized doll. She sunk down beside his bed, tears dripping onto the chrome bar, and realized that no matter what she said to this body, it wasn’t him. And unless there really was a beyond, he would never hear her.

“Fuck you! Who the fuck are you!” She hurled the pillow at the phantom, followed by the bat. A brief image appeared in her head of a gaunt prisoner kneeling before a burly man dressed in a tunic with a gold border. They stood in sand as the prisoner was bent to the man’s sandals in a Roman-style coliseum. The prisoner spat at the man’s feet, before he was yanked back by a soldier holding his long dark hair. The soldier swung his sword and opened the neck of the prisoner. Blood spurted across the sand as the prisoner collapsed. The soldier swung one more time and the head separated from the body.

Terry gasped and stared around the empty room. The man was gone.

***

Terry tried to keep the coffee from spilling all over the counter as she poured it into her travel mug. Her wrist shook, even when she braced it with her other hand. There had been no more sleep after her nocturnal visitor. She tossed her Metformin in her mouth, grabbed her coat and headed out to the car.

It was 9:00 before she made it to work. She slunk to her cubicle. As she pulled her chair out to sit down, a cascade of perforated mini-cards slid to the floor onto her computer mat, with the penned names of most of her office mates. On her keyboard was a mini box of chocolates. Everyone in the office knew she was diabetic. She growled and pulled the wrapping off the box, and opened it. There were four filled chocolates inside. One of them leaked nuclear pink fluff. She sighed and tossed the box in the trash can, gathered up the cards and displayed them carefully around the desk so that the senders’ feelings weren’t hurt seeing those in the trash can too. The folded paper notes took up most of her work space. One note was from Donna. In her neat curly cursive it said, “7:00 tonight, my place. We’ll go from there. Leron’s got a friend. Javeed, he’s yours. Dress to the nines.” Terry put her head down on the keyboard and closed her eyes.

She was interrupted a moment later by her annoying neighbor, Kendall, in the next cubicle.

“Happy Valentines Day, Terry! You got a hot date tonight?” His snaggle-toothed grin appeared around the wall of her cubicle, while he teetered on the edge of his chair. “I do!”

“I think Freud would have something to say about that kind of relationship with your mom,” she replied, not in the mood.

“Oh, Haha. It’s not my mom! I’m just helping her out with the mortgage, that’s why I moved back! I told you already!” His fair face flushed pink. “Boy, you’re in a shitty mood. You get dumped?” he shot back.

Terry opened her mouth to reply and then noticed a motion behind his head, a tiny shape that flitted from view as she stared at it.

“What?” Kendall ran his hands over his greasy thinning brown hair. He looked down at his shirt for stains.

Terry realized she’d been staring with her mouth open. “Sorry, just thought I saw something behind you.

He swiveled around to look behind him, and then turned back to peck at Terry again.

“You’re a grump, you’re like the scrooge of Valentine’s Day. Have a chocolate! It’ll make you feel better.” He flipped her a chocolate coin,

The coin he threw her fell to the floor after bouncing off her shirt. “I’m diabetic, asshole.”

He popped one in his mouth. As his mouth closed on the chocolate, a finger of gray reached up from under his clothes and tried to snake between his lips, but withdrew as he bit down on the sweet morsel. “It’s okay, they’re sugar free. I remembered you.”

She blinked, astonished first, that he had thought of her, and second, that he clearly hadn’t noticed the creature that had just tried to enter his mouth. “Uh, thanks!”

She turned back to her screen and put her head back down. I’m losing my mind, I’m seeing things now. I gotta get back to work before the boss comes by too.

A minute later, a string of drool seeped from the corner of her mouth onto the gel pad as she slept.

It had been a year now, since George had been buried. She sprawled face-down in the queen-sized bed that she’d wrestled into the tiny room. It was one of the only things she hadn’t sold with the house. It smelled like him. Her arm lay across the dip on his side, worn down by his butt. She crawled into his spot, curled up, and cried.

When she looked up from the mattress, the sheet beneath her was covered in filth and blood, and looked like stone. She scrambled to her feet. A soldier stood beside her. Chains in his hands clinked as he finished removing them from her wrists. He addressed her in a desperate tone. “Can you help her? She will never find a husband to look after her if you don’t cure her.” She blinked at him, trying to get her bearings in the strange dream. She felt herself say, “Bring her to me. If it is the will of God, her sight and hearing will be restored.”

The soldier went around the dark corner behind them and pushed a mousy teenage girl forward. He guided her so she would not stumble. Her eyes stared before her. She didn’t acknowledge anything around her. But her pupils were wide and dark. The girl saw.

“Leave us, jailer. I must speak with her alone.”

The rough man nodded and left.

When the sound of his feet faded, Terry-in-this-other-body spoke quickly. “I know you see, girl. And I know you hear me. Why do you trouble your parents so with this false sickness?”

The girl scowled and said nothing, only stared ahead.

“Do you wish to stay in your father’s house forever? And what will become of you when he dies? How will you earn a living? If you remain ‘sick’ your father may yet find you a husband, but it will not be a man of quality. Is this the life you wish? Think on it, the next time he brings home a match.”

The girl frowned, and was silent. Her father’s footfalls began around the corner at the far end of the hall. She screwed her eyes shut and then opened them wide, looking around her. She yelled, “Father! Father, your prisoner’s god has given me my sight back, and I can hear you coming too! I am cured!” She ran to him and threw her arms around him as he rushed around the corner.

He stared wide-eyed at her, and then at Terry in the dream. “Valentine!” he exclaimed.  He stalked to her and put his hand on her neck and leaned to her ear, as he gazed toward the entrance. The roar of the crowd in the coliseum filtered in through the heavy iron and wooden doors. “I cannot save you from Claudius. But when the time comes, I will be quick, and I will see to your family, if you have any.”

The coliseum faded, and the voice of the jailer resolved into the voice of her boss, Thomas, as he stood in her cubicle. “Long night? I can’t really have you sleeping on your keyboard, so if you need to go home, just take a sick day.”

Her eyes flew open. “Oh crap, I’m so sorry, Thomas! I’ve just been having trouble sleeping.” She swiveled to face him, overshot in the spin and almost threw herself off the chair. And then she stared at him. There were a few gray blurry forms crawling on his cheeks. He just nodded, and walked to his office, calling over his shoulder, “Sick day is fine.” She kept staring after him. Before he got in, the department slut, Brenda, sauntered up to him, dressed head-to-toe in hearts and wearing a pink feathered tiara with red plastic heart rhinestones. She wore a red shirt that said ‘Mighty Aphrodite’ across the front. Terry wouldn’t have been surprised if the same words were plastered on her red pants across her ass. Dagmar Department Store’s own Holy Whore wrapped her arms around him and planted a loud sloppy kiss in the middle of his cheek.

Terry blinked and her mouth dropped open. As Aphrodite’s pink pearly lips left Thomas’s cheek, gray matter oozed from her lips and slid across his face to his mouth as Terry watched. The gray shapes. They came from the kisses. Did they only come from Venereal Girl, or was it anyone’s kiss? Then she shook her head and rubbed her face. This is insane. None of this is real. Kisses do not come to life as little gray life forms. I’m still dreaming. Oh, who cares! At least it’s something to think about other than the dreams. And well, good! Creepy things running around on V-Day. How damn appropriate. And not less creepy than some people on V-Day! She pointedly stared at  Brenda from around the corner.

As Thomas detached himself and walked into his office, she meandered after Brenda, waiting for the floozy to give her another opportunity to observe the kissy creatures. She only had to wait about three seconds until another co-worker encountered Brenda in the hall between the cubicles. Terry watched as Brenda plastered a wet one on the man’s cheek. As before, a gray amoebic shape seeped out from between their lips and oozed across the man’s face and probed around his mouth. She watched Brenda a couple more times before veering into another hallway toward the water fountain, to avoid looking like a voyeur.

As she sipped the water, a young man and woman, interns, wandered by to the snack machine. Gray shapes teemed across their faces and upper bodies, like moving plaques of mucus. She stared at their backs while water dribbled down her chin. If they were the embodiment of kisses, she was going to be celibate for the rest of her life. But what were they, and what were they doing? They seemed to be reaching toward people’s noses and mouths as though they would crawl inside. If so, what happened when they got there? She shook her head and returned to her desk.

***

At about one-thirty, just after the Oh-God-I-Ate-Too-Many-Carbs-For-Lunch hour, a commotion began on the other end of the floor. Terry heard a siren’s blare come closer and then die just downstairs. She saw flashing rotating lights reflecting off the ceiling and went to the window. An ambulance was parking outside. She wandered down the hall as EMTs came up.

She didn’t want to disturb them in their mission, so she asked a fellow gawker, “Do you know what’s going on?”

The woman shook her head, “Not really. Guy stopped breathing, I heard.”

“What, like a heart attack?”

She shrugged, her pale blue silk shirt shimmering with the motion. “I don’t know. I hope he’s okay.”

“Who was it?”

“Jim Fenton, from financial. Do you know him?” She spared a glance for Terry. “Finally, someone else not decked out in red or pink.”

Terry shook her head. “No, don’t know him. Kind of chunky, tall guy with the kinky red hair? I’ve passed him in the hall a lot. Hope he’s ok.”

“Me too. He’s got three kids! My husband went college with him a long time ago.”

Terry opened the door back into the cubicle jungle, and indicated the woman’s clothes, “By the way, welcome, fellow hater.”

As she passed Kendall’s desk, his Space Invaders screen saver was pinging, and the soft buzz of his snore fluttered past his nostrils. A soft finger of gray seeped into his open mouth. As she stared, horrified, the rest of the small mass followed and disappeared into his mouth. She thought about shaking him awake. Even if this weren’t strange and wrong, the boss could walk by, and as irritating as Kendall was, he’d done that favor for her enough times.

But she stood, transfixed. Nothing more happened for a few moments. But then his chest started hitching, as if he were having trouble breathing. His brow creased, and his eyes flew open as he clutched his throat and began coughing. He whooped and sucked air as though he’d been choking.

Terry grabbed his water bottle and handed it to him. “Kendall! Are you all right? What the hell was that?”

He shook his head, his hands trembling as he took a frantic swig and then gulped more air. “I think maybe my sleep apnea’s gotten worse. It’s never gotten me like that during a nap though.” His eyes betrayed fear.

“I thought sleep apnea was only when you’re lying down?”

“Guess not.”

She stared at him while he downed the rest of the bottle.

“I gotta get back to work. Thanks, Terry.”

“For what?”

“Being there.”

“Uh.” She backed around the corner into her cubicle and just sat for a minute. She shivered and rubbed her arms. A freezing chill slid down her spine as she thought of the gray shape slipping between his teeth. It had been the kiss. She knew that as certainly as she knew that Jim Fenton hadn’t stopped breathing because of a heart attack. She stood and peered over the sea of cubicles. Some of them clicked with the sound of keyboards, or rustled with papers moving. But what about the ones that were silent? How many innocent after-lunch snoozes would turn into the quiet choking she had just seen?

This is the curse, my curse. She sat down. It’s real. What the hell do I do? How can I tell people that they’re being choked by kisses?

She rolled her chair to the edge of the wall and poked her head around. “Hey, Kendall!”

Kendall looked at her, a swizzle-stick poking from his mouth.

“I know this is going to sound weird, but don’t let anyone kiss you, got it?”

“Right. Hot date, remember?”

“Tell her you’re a gentleman, pretend. That hot date will turn into many hot dates, trust me. It’s the new thing, for men to be chaste for the first few dates.”

He squinted at her. “Yeah, what makes you think that it’s supposed to be more than a fling?”

Terry looked him up and down and raised her eyebrows. “Do you ever want to move out of your mama’s house?”

“Ouch.”

“Listen to what I’m telling you then.”

He rolled his eyes and sighed.

“And Kendall? Be careful. Don’t fall asleep again with your mouth open.”

“I get it. I snore.”

“Damn right. Women hate that.”

She rose again, and went all the way out to her car. She got in, though no one was in the lot to see her talking to something invisible. “Whatever the hell you are, call off the curse. I never meant for people to get killed. I don’t want people to die. Call it off!”

A breath of air blew her hair, and a figure appeared in her rear view mirror on the back seat. She whirled around. A man sat. His neck dripped with blood, though his head remained on his shoulders. It was the man from her dream.

“Valentine. You’re Saint Valentine, aren’t you? You were killed by Rome for marrying people in the first church. I heard of you.”

His hollow dark eyes drilled into her. “No. I am merely a Christian. I did not refuse my God at Claudius’ feet, or show loyalty to the Roman gods. Some people thought I could heal them.”

“Did you?”

“Perhaps I healed some people of foolishness, or anger, or other kinds of pain than that of disease. The disease of the soul.”

“Why did you come to me? Will you take back the curse?”

“I cannot. Only you can.”

“I don’t know how!”

A sharp rap at the window jolted Terry around to stare out of her driver side window. Donna stood there.

She cupped her hands and peered in. “Hey Girl, what are you doing?”

Terry turned back around. The back seat was empty. Damn!

She opened the car door. Donna backed up and let her out.

“Donna, listen. You have to help me. I screwed up. You’re not going to believe this, but I think I started something really bad, and it’s going to get a lot worse before the day is over.”

Donna’s eyes widened. “What are you talking about?”

“I…I made some kind of a curse, a Valentine’s Day curse. I was really pissed, and thinking about George, and I think I called something here that isn’t supposed to be here. Well, I know this sounds crazy, but kisses have been coming to life, and choking people when they fall asleep!”

Donna’s black eyes stared at her, flat. “Okay, girlfriend. I think you better check up on that medication of yours.”

“No! The guy in my apartment last night was a ghost, a really old one. It was Valentine, the Roman Christian saint guy. He said I summoned him with the curse. What do I need to do to get you to believe me?”

“I’m not sure. Are you listening to yourself?”

“Kendall, he almost choked while I watched him. I saw what slid into his mouth! You can ask him about the choking at least.”

“That oily guy next to you…choked on kisses. Whose kisses, Miss Thing? He lives with his momma.”

“Hers! I saw Brenda kiss Thomas and this gray thing came out of her mouth when she did it. And the same kind of thing crawled into Kendall’s mouth when he choked.”

Donna sighed and leaned back against the car behind her. “You nuts, woman. But I think, I guess it’s possible. My crazy grandma would believe you anyway. She always believed in weird things down in that Florida swamp.”

“What does she believe?”

“That thoughts you speak can come to life. If you speak bad thoughts, bad wishes, you make ‘em real. That’s sorcery.”

“I didn’t mean it. How do I take it back?”

Donna shrugged. “I didn’t talk with her much about that stuff.”

Terry sagged against her own car.

“You really think you made a curse, huh? Okay, well, what you want me to do?”

“You believe me? You’ll help me?” Terry gazed at her.

“I believe that you believe, and I guess anything you come up with isn’t much crazier than she used to have me do. But I ain’t slitting the neck of no chickens!”

“Do I need chickens?”

“What do I look like, a voodoo priestess? How the hell should I know?”

“Well, can you think of anything your grandma used to do?”

Donna sighed, “You owe me for this, girl. I’ll get some info from her. But I got to call her, crazy bat! That’s why you owe me! I’ll come to your house after work.”

***

Terry spent the rest of the day roaming the cubicle halls and socializing wherever she saw a drowsy person. She generally made a pain in the ass of herself asking inane questions and speaking loudly to jar everyone out of any chance of sleepiness. She introduced herself formally to about ten different people in other sections. Since she was a classic introvert, it was exhausting. But there were no more calls to 911 that afternoon.

A half hour before quitting time, Thomas strode to her cubicle, just before she zipped off on another round of Wake Up.

“Oh, nice to see you at your desk. Decided to do a little work today?” he cleared his throat.

His face and head were swarming with kisses. Either Brenda or some other employee had been very busy, or he was having an affair. None of my business! She reminded herself. “You don’t have to be snide. I’m just trying a new program.”

He leaned against her wall and crossed his arms, and then almost toppled onto the floor as the flimsy wall moved back from his weight. “New program?”

“After Jim Fenton had his incident earlier, it occurred to me that not enough of us know each other. So I was introducing myself. Business might flow better if we all knew each other. You know, synergy.”

He stared at her. She tried to keep her attention focused on his eyes and not on the gray moving blobs. “Nice buzz word. Are you on something? You seem to be having trouble concentrating.”

“Nope.”

“You’ll have to work on Saturday to make up for the time you spent on your new program.”

“Okay. Give your wife a big smooch for me. Happy Valentine’s Day!” Dickhead!

He turned around and headed back to his office with a wave.

***

On the way home, the radio news reported that there were strange incidents of respiratory failure during sleep, throughout Phoenix. Especially affected had been hospitals, day care centers, kindergartens during the nap periods, and adult day cares. The Maricopa County Department of Public Health had been notified and engaged in the investigation. The public service message urged anyone with sleep apnea or other sleep disturbances or disorders, to call the health hotline.

As she passed pedestrians, or stopped at lighst and peered into other cars, the kisses teemed everywhere. They crawled through people’s hair, probed gray wisps of matter into people’s ears, and danced tentatively around people’s noses, and mouths as they spoke or inhaled. One afflicted man sitting on a bus bench, scattered kisses across the pavement and garbage can near him, as he sneezed. But they swiftly slithered back to congregate around the holes in his face, shadows waiting for an unguarded moment to sneak in.

Donna waited in the parking lot of her complex when she pulled up. Her face was clear of the creatures.

Terry asked through the window, as she parked the car, “Why don’t you have any kisses on your face? Mostly everyone else does.”

Donna’s eyebrows rose in surprise, then she recovered. “Because I don’t want no one else’s nasty-ass mouth all over me, unless they plannin’ on going all the way. And then you better give me a nice dinner and chocolate! Otherwise, stay the hell away from me and keep those germy lips to yourself. I don’t know where they been.” She stared at Terry. “You really can see that shit, huh?”

“Yup. So do we have everything we need?”

“Yeah, everything that you’d want to do in an apartment with a deposit, anyway.”

They went up to the apartment. Terry closed the door behind Donna and followed her into the center of the living room.

Donna she pulled out pink valentine cards from her red leather handbag and pinned them around the walls of the room. In the blank center spaces of the cards, she drew a symbol with the strawberry stinky marker Terry had seen on the whiteboard at work. The symbol was an elaborate crowned heart with a staff and curlicues coming from the sides.

“Oh V-Day cards, really? Come on!”

“Shut up and let me work!”

Once Donna was done with her drawing, she pulled three silver rings off her fingers and gave them to Terry. “Put those on. But I get those back after, bitch, those are mine! And go get a piece of your jewelry that’s nice.”

Terry went and got a bracelet that George had gotten her.

Then she laid a pink cloth in front of the television. On it she put a couple of packages of Little Debbies, unwrapped.

“God, those things are everywhere,” Terry moaned.

Donna gave her an irritated look and pulled a long bottle of Irish Cream out of her bag, laid Terry’s bracelet on the cloth next to the cakes, and poured the cream on the cakes. Finally, at the head of the cloth, she laid a picture of a Madonna.

“What is all this?’

Donna nodded to all the symbols. “Grandma says you might have offended Erzulie. You’re just pissin everyone off today. She’s sort of like our version of a love saint. You’re a lot like her, actually.”

“No, I’m not. I’m the opposite of a love spirit, I hate this shit.”

“Yeah, but Erzulie is said to never get her heart’s desire: love and regret. You two will get along just fine.”

“Bite me!”

“You want my help or not! I should be gettin’ ready for my date, but I called that fine African man and put off my own shit, for you.”

“You’re right. Sorry. What now?”

“Well, I ain’t no voodoo priestess, so don’t expect results. Maybe you should ask Erzulie for help. And no whinin’. It’s called prayin’ respectfully. How long’s it been since you prayed?”

Terry thought for a second. “Long time. Every time I pray, I’m in my own head, someplace I really don’t want to be anymore. I just…went round and round.” She sighed, kneeled and gazed at the picture of the Madonna.  Her face must have betrayed her dismay.

Donna interrupted, her voice gentle now, “Well, now there are other things in there with you, so you ain’t alone. Look, I know you had a rough time. Maybe this is what you need anyway. Just focus on what you want. What you want most? What’s in your heart?”

A tear slid down Terry’s face. “I want George to be alive.”

“Ain’t nobody but Jesus can help you with that, girl. Not until the end time. What do you want that somebody listenin’ can give you?”

“I don’t know.” She looked at the picture of Erzulie/Madonna. Tears streamed down her face now. She closed her eyes.

“Yes, you do.”

A scent of delicate perfume wafted through the room. It smelled familiar, but she didn’t think she had smelled it in a long time. Her own voice sounded strange, as though it came from a long way away. And the tone was different, a husky contralto that came out once when she had met George and was three sheets past the wind. “I wanted to say goodbye.”

The last evening light in the city faded into night. As dark fell, emergency response sirens blared to life in multiple places in the city. Terry didn’t hear them.

Valentine stood in the dim hospital room. The florescent light from the medical displays cast a washed-out light across his ghastly figure, making him look even more corpse-like. Next to him lay George, unmoving and white against the sheets. His flaxen hair silky against the pillow. “Why do you keep showing me this?” she screamed at the gory phantom.

“You wanted to say goodbye.”

“Not like this, he can’t hear me!”

“Not if you don’t talk.”

She sunk down to her haunches by the bed, sobbing. Then she slowly rose and stared into his face. His eyes were closed, and his face unlined by everyday cares, the cares of normal life. She wiped her face, leaned over and kissed his cheek, not caring what weird creatures came out of it. “I love you. I miss you.”

Something was behind her. She whirled around. It was George. He was smiling and his blue eyes were as mischevious as ever. Her jaw dropped open, and she swiveled back to the bed. The figure on the bed was gone.

“What—How did you…Oh God, George!”

He grinned. “Hi.”

“Are you real?”

“Real enough.”

“Are you in Heaven?”

“No, I’m here with you.”

“You know what I mean!”

“I know. There’s not much time, Babe. Only a moment.”

She put her hands on either side of his face and kissed him deeply on the lips. He kissed her back, and then pulled away, his eyes sad. “I’m sorry I had to leave. I have to go again. But I love you too, always will.”

She swallowed hard. “I know. See you next time around, maybe?”

He faded into the darkness, and his teeth flashed in a wide smile. “I’d chase your ass through the universe.”

The room was empty, except for the dark solemn figure in the corner.

“What about the curse? What do I do about that?”

“You lifted it.” Valentine said as the wall became visible through him. “Thank you.” Then he too was gone.

The room was dark, and Donna sat next to Terry, shaking her head. “Do you want me to get you some insulin or something?”

Terry felt something moist. She looked down on a pile of sticky crumbs in her lap. She’d eaten all the cakes covered in liquor. The bracelet twinkled on her wrist. She held her picture of George in her hands. “What the fuck?”

“Do you remember anything? Grandma says that when people are ridden, they don’t remember it. Erzulie likes sweets.”

“Well, I remember everything. Besides manging on enough sugar for a year, did I do anything weird?”

“You had a conversation. It sounded like there were a couple people in the room, and one of ‘em was George. For a second it looked like there was a couple people in the room too, scared the shit out of me. One of them was right next to you. I almost grabbed a knife from the kitchen, but one, I was too scared to move, and two, for a second, it looked like it might be George, and I didn’t want to interrupt.”

“Thanks.”

“So, is the craziness over now? No more kisses running around killin’ people? Can we get on with our lives?”

Terry nodded. “I think so.”

“Good, maybe we can still catch a V-Day burger at the diner. You coming?”

Terry shook her head.

“Oh no, Miss Thing, you are not gonna start that moping again. That’s what got us into this mess in the first place!”

“No. I’m not. I’m okay now. I just need to clean up.”

“All right, well, you meet us there then?” Donna grabbed the bottle of Irish Cream, stashed it back in her bag, pulled the rings off Terry’s fingers, and propped open the front door.

Terry nodded. “Give me an hour.”

Donna tapped her nails on the lintel and left. Terry returned to the altar, picked up the picture of George and sat for a while, smiling.

***

The diner was bright with florescent 50s colors as Terry found the table and sat down in the booth with Donna and Leron, and a tall muscular man. He spoke with an African accent that rolled off his tongue like music.

“I’m Javeed.” He extended his hand, politely.

“I’m Terry. Wow, Donna was right. You’re really hot.”

He grinned. “And you are also as lovely as she said.” His smile had a mischevious glint that reminded her of George.

End

Comment and link to your page if you have a VD story you want to share!

Halloween Story! Trick or Treat!

Posted in blogging, horror, indie, indie authors, mythology, urban fantasy, young adult fiction with tags , , , , on October 31, 2013 by rachelcoles

Hi all,

It’s time for my favorite holiday of the year. I had to decide between that and Thanksgiving. I love Thanksgiving because of the food, friends and family. But what’s not to love about Halloween! When else can you dress up like a horror character and not be a kook, not that that ever stopped me anyway! And if you do it right, you get tons of food too, all of the sugar-blast-in-the-face variety. Today, for Halloween, I’m posting a ghost story. Enjoy!

Undead Bucket List

Jerrod watched as the doctors, nurses, and assistants swarmed around his body, inserting lines, pushing various liquids, and checking various bodily signs. They were all saying the same thing. He was dead. For the moment, everything seemed surreal and dreamlike, and he didn’t feel much of anything. So he just kept watching.

He heard the nice young red-haired doctor that he’d fantasized about yell, “Clear!” and jolt his body with the AED paddles. With nothing else to do, he perched himself on a wheeled table nearby and tried to stay out of the way, until the frenzy subsided.

The steady tone of the monitor continued, and Red-haired Doctor frowned and after a few more tries, put the paddles away. She put her hand on Jerrod’s neck, at his non-existent pulse. “Time of death, Oh-one-hundred hours. This sucks, he was one of my favorite patients.”

“He was a horny bugger.” A dark-haired nurse with an olive complexion snorted.

“Yeah, but he was a cheerful horny bugger. All the way to the end. You gotta appreciate persistence.”

Most of the staff who were cleaning up the equipment nodded, or shook their heads and crooked a half-smile before they dispersed.

Red and the nurse who had called him a bugger stayed for another minute and gazed at his body, after paging the pathologist in the morgue.

“He was stubborn. If anyone could have beat that cancer with the treatment, I thought it would have been him. He was too much of a pain in the ass to die.” The dark haired woman put her hand on Jerrod’s foot and gave it a squeeze.

“I know. But it was experimental. We don’t even know if he got that treatment or if he was on the traditional meds. It was a double-blind study. I guess we’ll find out soon. Not that it matters now.”

Jerrod hopped down from the table, a move that would have had him panting and sagging to his knees a month earlier. He stuck his chin out over their shoulders and looked between them from one to the other.

He wondered if they would be able to hear him in the death-dream. “Can I get something to eat? I’m starving. Even that nasty cream of wheat you got here would be nice. A beer would be even better.” Neither of them twitched at his presence.

“He used to tell me he’d marry me, once he got out of here because he loved hummus. I told him, ‘I’m Punjabi, not middle-eastern.’ And so he’d say, ‘That’s okay, you can make me curry instead. I need some spice in my life!’ And then he’d make a kissey-face at me.”

“That has never been more true than now, doll,” Jerrod grinned.

The red-haired doctor broke into a horse-whinny laugh, accompanied by a sudden burst of laughter from the Punjabi nurse.

“I’ll have to inform his family,” the doctor said. “This is going to be a crappy morning.” Then they both grew silent, nodded at him, and returned to their shifts.

He stood alone, staring at the body that had plagued him with infirmity for the past few years. He reached out and touched his own foot as it lay motionless on the table. His hand went through it. The foot looked real enough though, as though the man on the table that was supposed to be him would start wiggling it. He didn’t. He looked asleep. Is that what I look like when I’m asleep?

            But there was an emptiness to the cast of the face, like no one was home. The body was just an object. He realized in that moment, somehow, that it wasn’t a dream. The body was his body, or had been. And he was not going to wake up from this.

He sat down again on the table. The shock and grief never came though. He had regrets of course. Who didn’t? Having more sex, eating more ice cream, telling his incompetent manager to fuck off. But there hadn’t been anything he could do about those things when he was alive, so now, at least he didn’t have to sit in a slowly collapsing body, like sitting in a house where the roof was falling in and the walls were molding.

Well, I’m not in hell, like Lila said I’d be. And I don’t see no angels, so I must be here on Earth still. What the hell do I do now?

He walked out onto the ward and stood as people ran right through him.

Okay, that mystery is solved. I’m invisible and not solid. He waved his arms around and started singing “Get Your Motor Running” at the top of his lungs. No one held their ears or told him to be quiet. So they didn’t hear him either. He saw a chocolate cupcake on the counter with a bite out of it. He figured at this point that undead people who couldn’t get attention couldn’t be choosy, so to further the experiment, he went to lick the frosting off. His tongue went through it without any frosting sticking. The cupcake looked the same as it had. Oh, crap. I was afraid of that. Maybe I really am in hell.

He confirmed his suspicions by walking up to a pretty medic and grabbing her boobs. His hands went through her shirt and she ignored him and kept filling out paperwork. Yup. In hell. What now?

Dead people were supposed to take stock of their lives at some point, so he meandered back into the room with his body, stared at it and waited for some revelation. None came. So he wandered through a few other rooms. People sometimes had revelations in hospitals, didn’t they, on the brink?

In one room, a car accident victim surrounded by his family talked about suing the teenager who had been slammed into his car. She was somewhere in the hospital too. The driver who’d caused the wreck had run. But he blustered along to his relatives and the lawyer on the phone about the girl. So what if she wasn’t the initial driver, her car should have been farther from his, so she was partly responsible, right? And those bills weren’t going to pay themselves.

God, was I that much of an asshole when I was in an accident ten years ago? His spirit sunk a little as he wondered again if this really was hell, and these were the damned souls. But the nurses and doctors still seemed nice, and the young women as pretty as always.

In another room, a middle-aged woman yelled at her son over the phone to stop being useless, and then moaned about her aches, and demanded more pain medication. Then she resumed her tirade over the phone. “Honest to Christ, James! I let you live in my house after school, for five more years, and this is how you act toward me? Ungrateful piece of garbage! I should have known that all you want is my social security check and my pain pills!” A muffled voice issued from the cell, and she yelled right over it, “That’s not the point! I couldn’t work because of the pain, but I still get your father’s check, and rightfully so! That bastard never treated me like anything but a whore. So I worked for that money, and you’re not getting it!”

Jerrod tiptoed from the room. No one had heard him so far, but just in case she was special, he sure didn’t want to start with that one. He wondered what God, if He/She/It existed could be trying to show him, other than the recollection that people were total snaky bastards, at least when the outside world wasn’t looking.

In the next room was a young woman. The doctor had just left. She started crying and wrapped her arms around her shoulders. He bent close and looked at her chart. Stage 4 breast cancer. After a brief flash in his mind of the ‘Save the Tatas’ bumper stickers he’d always admired, he stood back up and saw the tears streaming down her face. She sighed, and he wished for a second that he could slip into people’s minds. Maybe he could with practice, just like on Ghost. He screwed up his ghost face in concentration, but all it did was make him feel like he had to poop, which was strange because he had no colon. His own experience with cancer had shown him that at this stage, excising her tatas hadn’t saved her. Nothing would. He sat by her bed for a little while as she cried, and wondered what he could do to get through to her. At least this was something he knew a little about.

“It’ll be okay, girl, uh, Gia.” That was her name from the chart. “It really will. Dying wasn’t so bad. In fact, I feel great! No pain. Now I just have to figure out what to do next. So if you don’t mind, I’ll sit here with you for a spell. I don’t have anywhere else to go. And maybe you could talk to me. I’m listening…If you want to do it naked, that’s fine with me too.”

She didn’t hear him, but she sighed and wiped her face, and she looked toward him. Her tears dried up and she looked a little better. “That’s my girl. It’ll be okay.” He rested his hand on where hers appeared to be. His fingers went through hers, but he left them there anyway, half in and half out of her palm. She laid back on the pillow and closed her eyes. In a few minutes, she was asleep, and her creased face smoothed. He stood still for a long time.

***

            In the morning, she stirred, and he moved. He realized he had been sitting there all night, motionless. And he wasn’t even cramped. At some point, his thoughts had wandered. They were a jumble of memories from as early as five years old to now. But everything seemed clearer than it ever had in life. Yesterday, he’d had trouble remembering what he’d eaten for breakfast. Maybe because it was always accompanied by jello and mush for that last stretch until the end. Not much to remember there. But now he could remember each grain in the mush, and each flop and wobble of the jello body on the spoon, as though he were seeing it now.

He drew his attention back to more enticing pastures, as he watched the still-attractive young bald woman reach across her bed to the nighttable for her phone. It was one of them new-fangled smartyphones. She tapped it into life but didn’t talk on it. Instead a screen popped up with a keyboard that she typed on. It was a memo. The heading was Bucket List.

She began typing bullet points of the things she wanted to do before the end, under the heading: Hate Disney, Kennedy space center instead, see shuttle launch???, eat ossobucco in Little Italy, New York, want to have sex with Egyptian guy from The Mummy, want to eat a new flavor of ice cream every day, want to see brother’s new baby, and say goodbye, want to ride a Ducati motorcycle down the Autobahn, want to do a striptease at a club and have all the guys want to put money in my g-string…

The list went on, and if he hadn’t already felt bonded to this young woman through her similar ailment, he sure did now. “Ossobucco, oh Honey, if I were alive, I’d take you myself. That and the striptease, I’d love to help you with. If you change the Ducati to a Harley, you’d have a deal on that one too. A Bucket List. Wish I’d made one of those sooner,” he said to the air.

“You still can. Don’t you have somewhere to be? Family you can haunt?”

Jerrod leaped and turned around.

There was a bald man around his age, with rheumy blue eyes, standing in the doorway.

“Who are you, and where did you come from?”

“I’m Daddy. Can’t you see the family resemblance?” The man rubbed at his bald head and glared at Jerrod. “Stop staring at my daughter like that or I’ll send you out the window. I can touch you, you know.”

Jerrod swallowed on an absence of spit. “How can you see me?”

“Because I’m a ghost, you dumb redneck. Just like you.”

“But I didn’t see you earlier.”

“This is a hospital. Did you think you’d be the only ghost around?”

“I didn’t see anyone else.”

“That’s because you were stuck in Bitch One and Bastard Two’s rooms, watching them make everyone else’s lives miserable. Fortunately for us, they aren’t likely to cross over any time soon…unless someone murders them.”

“I was only in there a few minutes.”

“No. Go look for your body if you don’t believe me.”

He ran down the hall, and this time he noticed other spirits everywhere. Some of them were milling around aimlessly, others followed people around, still others hovered over people in the beds. Along the ceiling of the hall near his room, he noticed darkness in one of the corners. It was not black, but gray. It was so gray and devoid of any color that the air seemed to be sucked into it. He caught the briefest glimpse of eyes from the center. They blinked, and the fog around the entity began seeping through the air toward the people going in and out of the double doors. As they passed through the fog, the color drained from their cheeks and eyes and a bewildered expression crept across their faces. Then they shook it off and kept moving.

He ran past the gray octopus ghost, wondering what it was. As he passed, a freezing chill gripped him, and the milky eyes latched onto him. He felt numbness spread through him, and the gray eyes began dissolving his memories. He broke away with a jolt, and then ducked into his room and prayed it hadn’t followed him.

Then he noticed that the place he was now wasn’t his room anymore. There was a young gay man and his partner whispering to each other. The chart indicated that they’d occupied the room for a week.

He sucked in air that didn’t exist, held his breath and looked out the door. The octopus was still there. And there was no way back to Gia’s room except past it. So he kept his cheeks inflated and his head turned away as he ran past it again. When he had been a kid, he remembered hiding under the covers, convinced that the creeping fingers under the bed couldn’t grab his feet if he was all covered up. And if he couldn’t see them either, he’d be even more invisible. His no-lookey trick seemed to have worked and he burst in on Gia and her dad. Gia was typing away on her text thing. Her dad looked up.

“Well?”

Jerrod shook his head. “I don’t understand.”

“You were in here a while.” He regarded Jerrod intently. “I didn’t thank you for what you did for Gia the other night by the way. Just stop looking at her like she’s a stripper.”

“But that’s on her bucket list.”

“I don’t care, I’m her father, and you’re my age.”

“How long was I remembering, sitting here?”

“A week or so, give or take. I see you ran into the Grays. You look a little pale around the gills.”

“There are more of them? What the devil was that? Was there an octopus in the hospital?”

“It was once a person.”

“What happened?”

“It got lost. Half the buggers you see around here are headed that way.”

“What do you mean lost?”

“They never figure out what to do with themselves. I’m here for Gia. Folks who have families have it easier sometimes. They wander away and find them. We can follow them around forever, helps us stay together.”

“How long have you been following them?”

“For them, it’ll be nine years next week. Where’s your family? By the way?”

“I’d chased a lot of them off, I guess. My son came to see me, but not my sister. Or my ex-wife. My parents were dead a long time ago across the country, and I have no idea where they are now.”

“Well, maybe you better get moving on your own bucket list. Don’t you think?”

“I doubt they’ll be interested in having me around. They didn’t even stay to see me gone. They checked in, and then went back to their lives.” He slumped down against the wall, realizing how much that hurt. Losing his body didn’t. It was that no one he cared about had noticed.

The other old geezer came and sat next to him in silence for a few minutes. “Tell you what. If you behave yourself, you can stay here with us until my daughter joins us. In the meantime, you figure out what you’re going to do next.”

Jerrod nodded. “Thanks. How about I help her with her wishes?”

“The ones without sex.”

“Of course. What about the ones with food? And the space shuttle launch?”

“If you can find a way to arrange that, I’ll give you a kiss myself. I think a motorbike ride might be a tad more realistic if it were around here. The Autobahn might as well be outer space.”

“Well, sir, you’ve got a deal. I don’t know how to arrange it, but it seems like a few pints of Ben and Jerry’s shouldn’t be out of reach.”

***

            Gia shifted in her sleep with her laptop on her legs. Her blog page was still up. The two ghosts peered over her shoulder at the text.

“So here I am. This is the end of the road. I guess I was an optimist, and I really thought that everything would work out if I just hung in there. Well, I’m probably radioactive enough to power a nuclear plant for a year. A head of hair, no tits, and lots of chemicals later, and the cancer won. I wish I could be more cheerful, but at this point, what difference does it make? As you know, my boyfriend ditched me last year because the process was too hard for him, and I’m done making excuses for him, and done taking crap.

On the up side, I guess I can eat anything I want now without worrying about getting fat. So the first thing on my list is ice cream, every flavor, pints and pints. I want to be Augustus Gloop in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, without drowning myself prematurely in a sea of chocolate syrup, of course. And then, before I get too huge to fit on a bike, I want to ride a racing motorbike, preferably a Ducati. I suppose going to Germany to ride it, is out. But maybe old Route 66 will do.  Cuz who cares about speeding tickets, woohoooo! Suck my road dust, coppers! Maybe I can ride it right into Little Italy and get a nice Italian dinner.

Also before I get too huge, I’d like to screw the mummy guy from The Mummy, if you’re listening Mr. Actor out there. Free sex from a still reasonably attractive girl in a punk-rock, shaved-head kind of way. Free sex and no strings attached, but you’re not getting my X-Box in my will, so don’t even think about it. Finally…I’d like to watch the shuttle launch, so I can imagine myself on it. I mean right there.

When I was a little girl, I dreamed every night of looking back at the Earth from orbit, and seeing how little we were and how big the galaxy was beyond that when I turned the other direction, away from Earth. Knowing everything is so vast, it kind of helps, you know? Sometimes, being insignificant next to a freakin star is kind of comforting. Makes me think that all those atoms and quarks and bosons and whatever else they’ve named, that they are alive somehow, and that we all just get recycled. Maybe next time, I’ll be a star, literally. That’d be cool.

Anyway, that’s how I want to say goodbye. I’ll probably only get to do all those things in my head, except for the ice cream. A trip to King Soopers isn’t really a tall order for my mom. But, maybe if I aim hard enough with my thoughts, after the last blog you hear from me, you’ll hear about a new star discovered somewhere in a nearby galaxy. That’ll be me. Signing off for now, Gia.”

Jerrod wanted to cry, reading her blog. “I like this kid, Pops. She’s a smart cookie. What is your name anyway?”

“Mick Slater. Yeah, my girl was always special. If this hadn’t happened, maybe she would have made it to space. She was planning on joining the Air Force, and she was going to go for engineering or physics once she got her GI bill. My wife can get her the ice cream, and the Italian food. But if it were my last act as her Dad, I’d get her that view of the shuttle, or space.”

“I’ll do whatever I can think of. Her list is mine.” Jerrod looked at Gia, asleep, and decided that if he had to hunt down the ghost of Neil Armstrong to help, he would.

***

            An hour later, neither of the men had any idea how to put Gia close to space. And hunting down Neil Armstrong’s ghost didn’t seem any more likely. Jerrod wandered out to the nurse’s station to try for food again, or make himself heard, while Mick stayed with his ailing daughter.

There were more sweets behind the counter, crème rolls this time. He put his fingers right through the sticky glazed brown frosting. He hung his head and concentrated on the taste of the crème and chocolate glaze on his fingers, as it melted with his touch. When he looked up, his hand was right through the roll and part of the counter.

I’m not going to be outsmarted by a bunch of  Ho-hos! He stared at one of the nurses as she picked up a roll and took a bite. He thought about being in her mouth and tongue, and tasting the sweet that way. He didn’t get a rush of white creamy sugar, from her taste buds. He didn’t see from her eyes, or find himself in her head. But he felt an echo of flaky, waxy chocolate and smooth crisco cream, as the taste faded in the back of his mouth.

As with Peeps, he realized that they didn’t taste as good as he remembered from life, but he stood still in shock as it sunk in that he had taken something, some experience. Maybe he couldn’t communicate to the living yet, but he could get something from them. And that meant that he was half-way there. What if that bridge could go both ways? What if just as he could taste the ho-hos a nurse ate, a ghost could share an experience too? But if they couldn’t actually taste anything except through the living, how would that work? Square one.

Then as she devoured another ho-ho, and he tasted it, the memories of his childhood sugar treats came back to him, the marshmallow fluff, the pixie stix, the spun sugar Easter eggs, all the things that he thought tasted great at five years old, or seven or ten, but the vivid memories betrayed his fondness for them now. They hadn’t been so great, just like the ho-hos Nurse Pleasantly Plump was eating now.

When he was halfway back to Gia’s room, the idea struck him as he sifted through memories trying to find a one of good Halloween candy. Ghosts had memories. Hell, that’s probably all they were, strung together with a personality and old habits. That was what he had to share. Well, not him, he didn’t have any memories that a young woman like Gia would be interested in, but maybe someone else did.

He blazed into the room to find Mick crouched by Gia’s bedside, a frown marring his features, matching the one on hers. She was repeatedly pushing the pain medication button. Apparently, it wasn’t doing much good anymore.

“I hate this. I hate seeing her like this. I’d love to talk to her again, but I don’t want her to come over like this. I’d rather see her get married, give me some grandkids I can spook. Join the military and go into space. Anything but this. Everyone says you should never survive your kids, but I didn’t and I still have to watch her go like this.”

Suddenly, the loneliness of the Grays and the lost looks of some of the other ghosts around here didn’t seem like much of a mystery. And even the ones who had families didn’t always want to hang around them, like him, so they hung around where they died instead. Jerrod pictured what kind of ghost the cranky abusive woman from the other room would make someday. He felt sorry for her son. And he recalled suddenly, that there had been no other ghosts in that room. No one wanted to be around her, alive or dead.

He continued, putting the revelation away for later. “I found something. I tasted ho-hos when I pictured myself in the nurse’s mouth. It wasn’t like possession. It was just kind of vicarious. I wonder if it would work in reverse? If we could picture something and send those thoughts or tastes or whatever.”

“Yes.” Mick let go of Gia’s hand. “I do that sometimes with Gia. When the pain is really bad, when she’s crying. I sometimes put thoughts in her mind of our fishing trip when she was eight. She loved fishing. Never caught anything but boots, weeds and other fishing lines, but she’d get so excited when they nibbled. That was one of the happiest times I remember.”

Jerrod’s jaw dropped, and since he was a ghost, might have dropped through the floor if someone had been watching. “You knew about this?” His voice was incredulous. “And you didn’t say anything? If you already had the manual, why didn’t you share that with me before I went out again and started trying to lick the nurse’s food?”

Mick’s face sagged, and Jerrod noticed the strain, how drawn and faded the man’s face seemed. He was exhausted. “I didn’t think of it. I’ve been a little busy.”

Jerrod shook his head. “No, I’m sorry. You’re right. Well, what now? She wants to see a shuttle launch. I never saw one, except on television. You?”

He shook his head. “I’ve never been much of an advertiser, but maybe it’s time we start recruiting help. The odds are against us that someone’s been to Kennedy, but many heads are better than two.”

***

            “You’re out of luck.” A droopy-jowled ghost named Ted muttered as he looked out Gia’s room at the far corridor, where a gray hung from the ceiling, perched in a corner like a great transparent spider. “Old Kaleb saw a launch once, but he’s nearly a goner. He’s more like one of them now.” He nodded toward the Gray. He used to be pretty well-off, traveled everywhere. Took the wife and kids on vacation all the time. Lost a bunch of investments in the crash after 911. He couldn’t take living like a normal person and working for a living, so he offed himself. He kind of screwed it up, so it took him a while to cross over here. His wife and kids visited, until he died, but he never recovered after crossing. He’s always been a little…off.”

Mick stared out the door at the Gray. “Where is he?”

“In the basement, the morque, with the other weird ones. There’s a lot of Grays down there. Nests of them.”

“I don’t care. I’ll go talk to him.” Mick’s eyes burned and his face grew brighter.

“I ain’t coming with you, not past those.” Ted backed down the hall away from the Gray-haunted corridor.

“I’ll go with you.” Jerrod said quietly.

“Who’ll stay here for Gia?”

“She’s not going anywhere right now. Hey Ted?” Jerrod chased the man before he disappeared down another hall. “Be a man right now. At least stay and watch the girl.”

Ted looked uncertain and then nodded and cautiously followed Jerrod back to Gia’s room. He took up a post by her bed. “Okay. I’ll secure this area then.”

“Brave soldier.” Mick replied drily.

“Thank you.” Jerrod glared at Mick. “He’s here, so let’s go.”

***

            Ted was right about the nesting Grays. After they scooted past the one in the corridor, and edged past three more on the way down, by the ICU, they arrived at the morgue. It was a dim cold unpleasant place, and there were a hell of a lot of unhappy ghosts. The temperature was below what it should have been, even aside from the refrigeration. Grays lined every corner of the rooms, and hunkered along the ceilings of the hallways, watching and stewing in whatever strange thoughts crossed their minds. Their dull white eyes sought Jerrod’s attention, pulled at him, but he steeled himself from looking at them.

The pathologist bustled about, bopping and dancing to a tune he was playing on Pandora radio. The sound seemed to fall muffled into a well, muted by the soft filaments surrounding the Grays. Ghosts that appeared halfway-Gray hunched along the floors, ignored by the pathologist. Jerrod stared at him in wonder. He seemed unaffected by any of it. But he also seemed unaffected by the bodies he autopsied. He was lost in his own thoughts as he measured and peered at organs, engrossed in his work and the music.

“How do we find this guy? I don’t know what he looks like, aside from the description Ted gave, which was kind of vague. He said he won’t even look like that anymore.” Jerrod ventured.

Mick looked nervously around the main examining room. “I don’t like these odds. We don’t even know if he’s here. Just Ted’s assumption. But Gia’s running out of time. Ask and ye shall receive.” He cupped his hands, and spoke into the room. “Is Kaleb here? Kaleb, any of you Kaleb? We need your help.”

Some of the ghosts ignored him, some of them watched with hollow eyes in almost transparent faces. Some had filamentous material oozing out of their orifices, and they scuttled toward the two men on limbs that had become gaunt and spindly. One reached out toward Jerrod’s foot. He drew it back in alarm before the creature could touch him. “This is nuts. What was I thinking? How are we even going to communicate with these people…or whatever they are?”

The creature that had reached out to him tried again, and Jerrod jumped. It looked at him with its hideously deformed visage. Jerrod could feel the emptiness in its eyes, and he avoided looking, but it scuttled after him. It made a noise when he retreated. It was a groan. He looked. For the moment, its eyes were no longer empty. Its face was intent. It had been trying to get his attention. And Jerrod noticed that it was a he, or had been. The creature’s cloudy eyes were full of floaters and film, but Jerrod could see the man’s former humanity, and that he was struggling for another moment to maintain it. He and Mick looked at each other.

“Are you Kaleb?” Jerrod avoided the eyes still. But the creature shook his head, and extended one of his arms toward the dark right corner behind the examining table. Then his eyes went blank again and he crept toward Jerrod in a way completely unlike his earlier purposeful communication.

Jerrod dodged the reaching limbs, and went to the other side of the table where Kaleb was supposed to be, the last place in the gloom he wanted to be. It seemed backwards. He was a ghost. Weren’t people supposed to be scared of ghosts, instead of him being afraid. But he was. Terrified.

He could feel Mick next to him, but neither of them took their eyes off of the mass of fibers floating in the corner like a cobweb wafting underwater in the deep ocean. Within the half-cocoon, a spindly insubstantial body rested. The eyes that peered out at them were almost devoid of humanity.

“Oh, you have to be kidding.”

“I’ll talk to it. She’s my daughter.”

“Talk to what? There’s nothing there that can help us, I don’t think. It can’t even remember being human…if that’s even Kaleb. I’m not sure what you’re going to get out of that, except being turned into something from the phantom version of War of the Worlds. I’m sorry.”

Mick turned to Jerrod as the half-Gray phantasms scuttled and bumped around them and crab-clustered in the corners. His haggard eyes were tormented, not the same eyes as the seasoned spirit who had calmly introduced him to the weird world of afterlife, earlier in Gia’s room. “She’s my kid! I don’t care how this ends. I told her when she was a little girl, on those fishing trips, that I’d bring her the moon if I could. Well, I’m going to do just that.”

“But she’ll be able to talk to you soon.” As soon as the words left his mouth, Jerrod knew it had been the wrong thing to say. Apparently being a ghost didn’t improve social skill.

“Then it’ll be too late. I’ll still have failed her.”

“But if you disappear here, then she’ll lose you all over again!” Jerrod almost yelled. His words fell into a room that despite the loud rockabilly music, seemed too quiet, listening.

“If that happens, take care of her for me, okay?”

“Stop being a stubborn jackass!”

“Promise me.”

Mick approached the creature that had been Kaleb. He stared into the depth of the gray mass, into the milky eyes. Their look sucked the remaining color from Mick’s appearance. He shivered and started talking to it. “Kaleb, I need your help. I need you to remember. I need a memory from you, you selfish bastard. Snap out of it and do something for someone else for a change!” As he spoke, his color drained and he sank to the ground, weak. His phantom limbs thinned until they were skeletal. But he kept talking. “ I heard about you, you chicken-shit asshole. You couldn’t take living like the rest of us, so you abandoned your wife and kid. Well here’s your chance to make good. You’re going to help my kid!”

The Kaleb creature had been staring at him. The cataract lenses bore into him, sucking him into the grayness like an insect being wrapped in sheets of web. But as Mick yelled at him, the milky eyes unfocused and closed and then opened, roaming the room. They blinked as though trying to clear fog from the creature’s thoughts. Then the eyes started to clear slightly. They were the dull eyes of a drunkard, but they were no longer whitish-gray. They were muddy brown, and belonged to an addled man, twenty years older that he should have been. Only the eyes had changed.

Mick scrambled back and closed his eyes and kept hollering at the creature. “This is your chance to be something useful. You lost a bunch of money, who cares! You had a family! I got a daughter. She needs to see something good before she crosses over to here, or to wherever she’s going. She needs to see the space shuttle. Like you did. Remember? You were happy. Remember that, the shuttle? You couldn’t just have bought that!” He rasped from the ground.

“Hey Kaleb,” Jerrod chimed in. “The shuttle launch! It must have been amazing! You were one of the only people in the world ever got to see one of those.” Jerrod could feel the soft nudges of the other ghosts against him as they began to crowd in on him. He closed his eyes, refusing to leave.

And suddenly the air vibrated with energy from great fires coming from the tail of the rocket in front of them. The huge metal tube rose into the sky, a few fragile humans invisible in its tin can hull. He saw the deep blue of the sky and knew that beyond it was the velvet black of the abyss and the fires of the myriad distant stars. The rocket would stretch toward them until the people inside could see them unobscured by oxygen.

Jerrod opened his eyes in shock and a strange vision faced him for a few seconds, where the Kaleb creature had been. It was a ragged man’s face formed roughly from the lumpy whitish substance of the spidery mass. But his eyes were fully human. He gazed at Jerrod and Mick, nodded once slowly and then his eyes closed.

Jerrod didn’t wait to see what would happen next, he grabbed at Mick with both hands. It was like trying to haul a bag of loose cement powder. Mick’s form ran around his fingers like quicksand. But slowly Mick rose from the mire of the surrounding ghosts, and fled for the exit with Jerrod at his rear.

***

            Gia’s face was sallow and drained as she lay on her back. Her arms were too weak to hold her smartphone anymore and but she had it by her. The annoying music of Angry Birds penetrated the room as she moved her fingers against the screen and smiled. Hers was truly an alien generation, Jerrod thought as he watched the dying young woman. Her mother hovered at the foot of her bed to make room for her friends who helped her to finish her internet game. Several pints of specialty ice cream were scattered about with chunks scooped out into a bowl in front of her. Dabs of ice cream decorated her pale dry lips. She licked them with a true beaming grin that for a few seconds took years away from her face, so she might have been sixteen again. Next to her bed, on the other side of her, a life-sized cardboard stand-up of the actor in The Mummy glared down at her with his sultry eyes. Someone had inked a speech bubble next to his mouth, “I must have you Gia, my Anaksunamun!”

“Thanks, guys! You’re all dorks.” She snickered until she coughed, and then rolled over and looked at the cut-out. And her friends grinned back at her and squeezed her hands, maintaining their smiles until her eyes slowly closed in sleep. Then their mirth faded. They looked at each other and filed out while she slept.

Mick sagged by the side of the bed, still recovering, as Jerrod sat by him. He put his hand on Mick’s hand, with the strange sensation of resistant magnets. Mick put his hand on Gia’s face. His thin fingers floated through her. She didn’t move or give any indication that she knew the men were there. The two men closed their eyes and pulled up the memory of the rocket shooting into the intense blue sky, the heat from the blast even from a mile in the distance, the long silver gleam with a fiery tail as the rocket shot toward the stars. As they imagined sending the memory into Gia’s head, her heartbeat fluttered and the brain waves on the monitor rose in jagged wild peaks, and she smiled.

***

            Jerrod stared at the young man in front of him as he popped open another beer and chugged it and then put it on the pyramid. A dirty coverall smeared with a day’s worth of grease from cars and the logo for Rick’s Auto on the breast, was strung from a kitchenette stool of the tiny apartment. Sitting on the table underneath the beer can pyramid and underneath a bag of weed, was a textbook about how to score well on the SATs. The spine hadn’t been cracked. Scattered around the room, intermixed with posters of girls on shiny cars, were images of the ocean, more specifically of life in the ocean, shots the young man sitting in front of the Playstation, had taken with an underwater camera and scuba gear that sat packed in the back of the crowded closet. There were scattered application packets from a couple universities lying around, brochures for marine biology programs. Mick and Gia gazed around them at the mess. Gia grinned and reached for the bag of weed under her father’s glare. Then Mick’s face shifted to amusement as her fingers went through it, and he just stood and enjoyed her frown. “Oh, have fun with that, Sweetie.”

“I’m dead, give me a break! It’s not like I’m breaking any laws! You gotta be shitting me!”

Mick just smiled.

Jerrod looked into the face of his son engrossed in the video game as he ignored the practice tests that were soaking up beer on the table.

“Hi, Sam. Get off your sorry ass, and pick up that study book.”

THE END

Pop the Thriller video into the DVD player, delve into your own bucket of horrors, and write your own story to tell at a campfire!

Indie Author Club: Topics–To Free or Not to Free! And New Release!

Posted in blogging, book reviews, economy, indie, indie authors, urban fantasy, writing with tags , , , , , on October 4, 2013 by rachelcoles

Hi fellow indies,

Today’s Author Club topic is something all authors ponder, at least those that have control of their wares. Is it a good idea to do giveaways, and give free books?

As an author with a book out in a small publishing company, my two cents is that giveaways are great promotion tools. Of course, I’m not a financial person. Does it actually increase sales directly? I have no idea. I never really sat down and did the math. But if you are a small author, I think it’s a great way to get your name out there. Maybe I’m still in college student mode in which my ears prick up when I hear the word ‘free’, especially in this economy. But there’s another reason too. I guess that, especially with this economy, I just want people to be able to read, and now, many people are not buying anything they don’t absolutely need, let alone books. As an author, I want the ideas in my books and my words to be out there to affect someone in some way, hopefully in the way it was intended in what I was writing. But in general, overall, I want people reading, period. Literacy and continued reading is as important for adults as it is for kids. I think our minds start to wither without books, particularly stories. And if making them free is the best way of stimulating people to read, then I can be part of a reading revolution. No one is burning books yet, as was imagined in Fahrenheit 451, but people are finding less and less time in their over-worked lives to take that time or space for themselves to be affected, to engage in literature of any kind, even graphic novels. Authors can be a part of preserving whatever it is that reading stories gives humans, food for the soul maybe. So giveaways are as exciting for me as they are for the recipient of books. The only reason I haven’t done more of them is because I’m scatterbrained and haven’t organized them, or been present online enough lately to take part in them. But I will make sure that changes soon.

And now, speaking of taking the time to read new books, I have a new release to reveal by author Suzy Turner–Forever Fredless! The name alone is priceless, and worth a look!

fredless_promo

Forever Fredless by Suzy Turner

SYNOPSIS

Kate Robinson has spent the past two decades yearning to find her soul mate, the boy she found and then lost during a family holiday.

Shortly after her twenty-eighth birthday, however, she inherits a fortune from an old family friend and becomes something of an overnight celebrity. Can her new-found fame lead her to him after all this time?

 

EXCERPT

Thank God for anti-perspirant, I thought as I sat on the couch and waited for the countdown to begin. I clutched at my hands until they were white and looked across at the two people sitting opposite, both completely at ease in front of the cameras.

Five, four, three, two, one…

‘Welcome back to this morning’s edition of Good Morning GB,’ announced Ireland Rothschild, the blonde-haired, blue eyed darling of morning TV.

‘I’m here with Fergus O’Reilly and we’ve a special guest with us this morning. None other than Britain’s love-struck multi-millionaire, Kate Robinson.

Welcome, Kate,’ she said with a dazzling smile aimed more towards the camera than at me.

As my cheeks began to heat up, I was so grateful to the make-up artist, who had insisted on caking on the foundation before the show had started. In fact, I had so much make-up on that I was hoping once I’d removed it, nobody would recognise me when I headed to the airport in my now rather stupidly chosen car. I couldn’t exactly blend in driving a pink Mini could I?

‘Good morning,’ I whispered shyly.

Fergus grinned back at me, tilting his head as if he was about to speak to a child. ‘Now, tell us, Kate dear, how does it feel to never have to worry about money ever again?’ he asked, his toothpaste advert  teeth twinkling beneath the heat of the studio lights.

‘Erm, well, I guess it’s… erm, kind of… erm,’ I felt so bloody stupid. Great time for my brain to stop working. ‘I – erm. Great,’ I nodded. ‘Great, really great.’ Idiot.

Ireland glanced across at her grey-haired colleague and pouted before nodding. ‘Tell us how you knew this man. This,’ she glanced down at the iPad on her lap and continued, ‘Samuel?’

I cleared my throat and lifted my head, feeling like my brain was back in action. ‘He was a very good friend of the family, some years ago,’ I answered.

‘Just a friend? Why did he leave you all his money and his property?’ asked Fergus.

‘He didn’t have any family and I guess you could say that my mother and I were the closest he ever had to a family.’

‘Isn’t that lovely?’ pouted Ireland. ‘You certainly are a lucky woman. But what about your mother? Didn’t she receive any of his inheritance?’

‘No,’ I said before swallowing hard. ‘My mother lives a rather… nomadic lifestyle, in Africa. She doesn’t want any of it. All she asked of me was to donate a sum to charity which, of course, I have done.’

‘She lives in Africa? A nomadic lifestyle? That sounds intriguing. Perhaps we should interview her one of these days,’ laughed Ireland and Fergus together.

‘Have you splashed out on anything since receiving your inheritance back in June?’ they asked, leaning forward eagerly awaiting my answer.

‘Yes I have actually. I bought a car and a new house.’

‘Well good for you, Kate. But now, most of us are curious about this boy you lost. Tell us about him?’

Oh no. Why did I agree to this?

Taking a deep breath, I knew I had no choice. Several articles had been printed since the one in Liberty; everyone wanted to know more and nobody was going to leave me alone until I told them everything.

‘He was just a boy who I had a connection with when I was much, much younger. It was at Skegness. At an afternoon disco for kids. I was dancing and I felt someone touch my back and when I turned around there he was.  The most beautiful boy I’d ever seen,’ I said, stopping and smiling as I reminisced. ‘It was one of the happiest memories of my life.’

Sighing, I continued, ‘We just looked at each other and it was like everything else just disappeared into the background. We stood staring, for what seemed like ages. I could barely move. And then, almost as soon as it had begun, my dad appeared and took me away. I couldn’t do anything as we walked to the car. I looked around for the boy but he was gone. And then, just as we were driving away, I turned around in my seat and there he was. He had a daffodil in his hand. I always assumed he’d gone to pick it for me, but that’s just a childish fantasy, I guess. The whole thing is probably nothing but a childish fantasy, really.’

Ireland was very carefully dabbing at her eyes with a tissue, pretending to be moved, while Fergus smiled sadly.

‘What a beautiful story, Kate. I don’t believe for one second that this is a childish fantasy. It’s romantic and beautiful,’ Ireland said.

‘Now, tell us, Kate. Why did you call him Fred?’ asked Fergus.

Smiling, I explained about the Right Said Fred song, just as the music began in the background.

‘What a wonderful tale. Thank you, Kate, for joining us today. It’s been a pleasure having you with us to share your story,’ said Fergus.

‘Thank you,’ I whispered before the camera moved back to Ireland as she straightened her skirt and looked alluring. ‘Do you remember this moment in time?’

she asked. ‘Are you the elusive Fred? We’d love to hear from you. You can contact us at…’

Before I could hear anything else, I was ushered off the couch and back behind the scenes where Jo stood, waiting patiently for me, with open arms.

 

PURCHASE LINKS

AMAZON: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00FKX5LBK

SMASHWORDS: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/363504

(more coming soon)

Suzy Turner Author Pic

AUTHOR BIO

Suzy Turner has worked as a journalist, assistant editor, features editor and magazine editor. Early in 2010 however, she began writing full time and has

since completed six books for young adults (the Raven Saga and The Morgan Sisters series) and one chick lit novel, Forever Fredless.

Although Suzy is a Yorkshire lass at heart, she left her home town of Rotherham, UK, to move to Portugal with her family when she was ten. The Algarve

continues to be her home, where she lives with her childhood sweetheart and husband of 15 years, Michael, and their two neurotic dogs and a cat who thinks

she’s a princess.

 

For more details about Suzy and her books, visit:

Website: http://suzyturner.com

Chick Lit Blog: http://www.fictiondreams.com

YA Blog: http://suzyturner.blogspot.com

Facebook Page: http://facebook.com/suzyturnerbooks

Twitter: http://twitter.com/@suzy_turner

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/suzyturnerbooks

 

Check out Forever Fredless!

And now, see what other author’s thoughts are on free books and giveaways!

1. Laura A. H. Elliott 2. T. R. Graves, Author of The Warrior Series
3. Suzy Turner, author of The Raven Saga 4. Rachel Coles, author of Into The Ruins, geek mom blog
5. Gwenn Wright, author of Filter 6. Liz Long | Just another writer on the loose.
7. Ella James 8. Maureen Murrish
9. YA Sci Fi Author’s Ramblings 10. A Little Bit of R&R
11. Melissa Pearl 12. Terah Edun – YA Fantasy
13. Author Cindy C Bennett

And swing by the Indie Author Club for what’s new!

Indie Author Club: Toni Lombardo’s Journey

Posted in book reviews, indie, mythology, publishing, urban fantasy, writing with tags , , , , , , on September 27, 2013 by rachelcoles

Hi fellow indies,

Last week’s topic from the Indie Author Club, I’m catching up, was about Pinterest.  Unfortunately, though I have a Pinterest account, I have not taken the time to figure out how to use it yet. I’m still at the stage of the circulating Facebook post that reads: “All these Mums who are on Pinterest, making rainbow spaghetti and homemade playdough…I’m all like, ‘I had a shower and kept the kids alive–Go Me!” So, I can’t really comment on Pinterest. It looks nice. It’s probably useful to people who are more savvy at things that take greater than 3 seconds to figure out.

First, I’ll mention my own recent experience writing. I’ve been working on a sequel to Pazuzu’s Girl for a while. I got obsessed with making progress on it. As a result, I stopped feeling that excitement about getting lost in the story, that writer’s buzz that can keep me up until 3 in the morning when I know I have to get up at 6. I discovered that sometimes, it’s good to take a break. The Denver Fiction Writers, a group that I am part of in Denver, has regular short story challenges. Someone comes up with a prompt, can be visual, or verbal. And we write a short story having something to do with that prompt, and submit it for people to read at a designated date in the future. This time, maybe because I hadn’t done one in a while, I had a blast, and rediscovered my excitement, and the reason I started writing. It’s cathartic. This particular story, The Littlest Fury, was inspired both by upcoming Halloween, and by the recent invasion of a horde of Littlest Pet Shop toys in our house. Best part about the book, my main character gets to wreak vengeance on corporate inside-traders and child-abductors…and I get to get out of Colorado for a little while, though Hades is not usually on people’s list of vacation spots. Though, with the summer’s wildfires and the recent floods, it’d be hard to tell the difference, caught between the Phlegethon and the Acheron. That story will be posted up on Halloween on this site. Come have a read!

So without further ado, I bring you another post from Toni Lombardo, aspiring writer and beta reader extraordinaire, featuring her ideas on creating characters, in her own words:

I’m back, and as promised, I will be writing about a writer’s relationship with characters.

Now this topic is one T.R. Graves and I have discussed a lot!  Although some writers will disagree, it is very, very important to connect with your characters on an almost supernatural level.

LET ME TELL YOU HOW IT WORKS (for me).

My characters and I are one, although they are far more experienced in life than I am.  Let me walk you through my basic day.  I wake up, usually from a dream either about friends of mine or my characters.  There have been some dreams about my characters that I have woken up from that made me pause and question who I am.  In some of my dreams, I become my characters.  And, I know that sounds like I should be locked up for psychiatric help, but that is the life of a writer (#itsawriterthing).  I go to work with my characters lingering throughout my thoughts.  Leave me alone for five minutes and I’ll be in my book.  I will be interacting with my character and them with me (or maybe not so much, we will get to this later).  I go through my day thinking up conversations, replaying scenes, really, really trying to get to know the subtleties that hide inside my characters.  Let me tell you, it works.  Give me a situation or opinion provoking something and I could tell you in detail how each of my characters would feel about it or do, better than I could say for me.  My day goes on, I write, and eventually I go to sleep thinking about my characters, playing out more scenes.  Side note: sometimes I am working on a different book and characters from one of them will be like, that right there sounds more like a _______ comment than _______.  They are always right (right here I almost wrote write.  I swear writing really is engrained in me.  I always want an opportunity to use the word or write the word ‘write’).

More than that though, I really love my characters.  They are a part of me.  I don’t know what I would do without them.  They are like Anne (my muse and BFF) I would be so, so very lost without them.  There are times where I don’t know how to react to a situation and I say to myself, “What would Jake, or character x do?”  Most of the time that works.

I’M NOT THE ONLY ONE! YAY!

There are a lot of writers who are like me, even ones that write for screen.  March 2010 I met Lee Goldberg (Monk), Paul Wagner (Documentaries), and Hugh Wilson (Bay Watch) to name just a few writers.  They were on a panel talking about screen writing and characters and everything.  It was awesome.  Hugh Wilson was talking and said, “You write and a character says something and everything changes.  That is almost spiritual.”  This couldn’t be truer.  My characters have flipped my story inside out more than once.  Plus, I have to add this made me feel more normal!  Here is this widely known and hugely popular writer, who gets it, who has the spiritual connection with his characters.

Nola Sarina (Gilded Destiny, Jaded Touch, plus an upcoming co-author Wild Hyacinthe) agrees with my stance and like me lets her characters take over, “Sometimes, during revision, writing from scratch gets a sharper voice than re-wording what’s already there.  I like to step away from a story for a while and then let the character tell me the story again from his fresh, enlightened perspective – allowing the character to grow with my style.”

I talked with Nola extensively one day about this and wrote something to her, that I want to share on here (it is only slightly edited to make sense for the blog post): “I promise you, I have looked up from writing and looked to the left and said, ‘but this is my book.’  I hear laughter. And I just sit there in protest until I let Devon have his way. The book and characters take life…we are their way of becoming known, it’s not the other way around. We don’t make them known, they makes us known. I think they are their own wonderful breed that we must take dictation from because I have fought him and it turned out horribly, and when I listen to him, it is flawless.”

There are many other writers out there that go through this, it is normal, don’t medicate!  There are some writers who don’t and that is okay, “to each his own”.  And then there are some writers who refuse to admit that they do this, because they are afraid of how they will be received.  To those writers, don’t worry, allow your characters to take charge and scream it from the mountain and we here will welcome you with open arms and similar war stories.  We love meeting our own people!

BUT, BUT IT IS MY BOOK!

I know your book is your baby, but so are your characters.   And your characters are living the story so if they stop you or you get massively painful writer’s block, then your characters are trying to tell you something.  The book I am writing, (Devon’s book) at times I have fought with my characters or Devon and wanted something specific to happen or not happen because I am the writer and it is my $*&%$@&@* book!  I have felt my characters leave me, until I give in and let them write the book and write what happens to them (basically what I said to Nola in my quote earlier). They are ALWAYS right, always!  It is obnoxious.  Like sometimes to the point where I want to punch my characters, because it is my book and I should have control, but no, they took life and took over.  My book would be nothing or horrible if I didn’t listen to them.  After all they know themselves the best; we can pretend we know them as well and 100%, but we don’t.  We may never, and that is okay, really it is.  I don’t think we are ever really supposed to know our characters, because then writing wouldn’t be magical.  It would be boring and a task.  Eventually we will get to know them quite well and almost 100% but there will always be that magical percent that adds the beautiful mystique that hold us hostage as writers.  I mean, really think about it, do you really know yourself?  Do you really know anybody?  And I am not talking like knowing their favorite color or birthday or food.  I mean really knowing someone.  There are always buried deep secrets that we won’t admit to ourselves, let alone other people.  And if we do that, why do we demand we know our characters?  They deserve privacy too.

ON A CLOSING NOTE

When you are writing and editing and thinking and plotting, take a step back.  Take a step back and put your character into a completely new situation.  You don’t have to physically write it, but really, really think into the story, make it as real as the story you are writing, tell people about it if you have to get opinions (this is what it takes to write a book).  Because based on your characters reactions to the new situation or terrible situation (let’s face it most of us are sadistic and torture our poor loves.  We need to though, if people wanted to read happy books about rainbows and butterflies, they’d be in the children’s section not YA and others) you will learn so much about them.  How they breathe, what position they sleep in, how they smell, their favorite shower gel, laundry detergent, cologne/perfume,  how they feel, how they feel things themselves.  How they feel—I can honestly describe my characters down to the touch, how their embraces feel, what their arm feels like when relaxed and touched or tensed and touched, what their hair feels like, the sound of their voice, the sound of their breathing awake versus sleeping, ugh I could go on and on and on.  These aren’t things that necessarily need to make it into the book, but they need to make it into our hearts and brains to make the story work.  Back to my point, throw them into an unscripted, unwritten plot and see how they react, because it will grow them and you and you will learn them even more, and that will make your story worth reading and re-reading and sharing.

My next post will talk about the importance of music while writing.

Peace, Love, and Inspiration

Keep writing and remember

#itsawriterthing

Quote: “When I write, I go to live inside the book. By which I mean, mentally I can experience everything I’m writing about. I can see it, hear its sounds, feel its heat or rain. The characters become better known to me than the closest family or friends. This makes the writing-down part very simple most of the time. I only need to describe what’s already there in front of me. That said, it won’t be a surprise if I add that the imagined worlds quickly become entangled with the so-called reality of this one. Since I write almost every day, and I think (and dream) constantly about my work, it occurs to me I must spend more time in all these places than here.” - Tanith Lee

 

For this week, check out the other indie authors and see their tips for Pinterest!

1. Laura A. H. Elliott 2. T. R. Graves, Author of The Warrior Series
3. Suzy Turner, author of The Raven Saga 4. Rachel Coles, author of Into The Ruins, geek mom blog
5. Gwenn Wright, author of Filter 6. Liz Long | Just another writer on the loose.
7. Ella James 8. Maureen Murrish
9. YA Sci Fi Author’s Ramblings 10. A Little Bit of R&R
11. Melissa Pearl 12. Terah Edun – YA Fantasy
13. Author Cindy C Bennett

And check out the Indie Author Club website for more news on upcoming books and contests!

Colorado Flood Relief

YA Indie Carnival: On Twittering Methods?

Posted in indie, urban fantasy, writing, young adult fiction with tags , , , on September 6, 2013 by rachelcoles

YA Indie CarnivalHi fellow indies,

Today’s topic for the YA Indie Carnival is on the silliest-sounding and almost the favorite pastime of many many people: Twitter. I am not proficient at Twitter, in any way. But even I have to admit the usefulness of short blips of information that can be viewed by whomever you want, little data squirts that take very little time, energy, or bandwidth. Twitter is ultimately the best way of forcing verbose people to be succinct and select what information to share. And due to the size limitations, matched only by texting, it may also be responsible for destroying the grammar of the human race.

So there are a few opinions out there among Twitter wizards about what the key things are to twittering successfully: simplicity, getting lots of followers.

Like Facebook, it seems as though some people measure their success at twittering by how many followers they have. And logic would dictate that the more people with a line on your feed would lead to broader exposure, and the greater likelihood that your sage words will be seen and quoted. I can’t argue with that. However, I don’t know that more followers correlates with actual exposure. I follow a lot of people, but they don’t all show up on my feed. Like Facebook, which followers I see seems to be determined by a magic algorithm that will only reveal itself if I chant a heavy metal record backwards, and sacrifice a goat at the full moon. And that’s if I get on Twitter more than once every two weeks. There may be lots of followers but how many of them are watching their feed at all? That’s just something to consider when you mentally tally your exposure.

As for keeping it simple, I think that should be the rule with everything, literally everything. I don’t want to have to need a master’s degree in engineering to read the directions for putting together a wooden cabinet from IKEA. When I review grants for work, I don’t want to have to wade through miles of paper on the details of this or that person’s resume who will be working on the grant project. One thing we always tell people who are applying for grant money is ‘Answer the questions that are being asked.’ And that requires keeping it simple. As for Twitter, I think there is no choice but to keep it simple if you want to be understood. Twitter is the ultimate tool, in today’s mile-a-minute lifestyles, for people who don’t want to devote more attention span than a few seconds at a time. That being said, I don’t always have even that much attention span, to send or receive tweets. I love the meme that was going around Facebook a while back that said, ‘Oh, you cooked a three course meal and made the napkins into swans. I took a shower and kept the kids alive…probably.’ I use I use Twitter when I can, because it is very helpful sometimes for making good connections and finding services. But I’m not consistent.

If anyone has any other comments or tweeting tips, please share!

And see what our other tweeting indies have to say:

1. Laura A. H. Elliott 2. T. R. Graves, Author of The Warrior Series
3. Suzy Turner, author of The Raven Saga 4. Rachel Coles, author of Into The Ruins, geek mom blog
5. Gwenn Wright, author of Filter 6. Liz Long | Just another writer on the loose.
7. Ella James 8. Maureen Murrish
9. YA Sci Fi Author’s Ramblings 10. A Little Bit of R&R
11. Melissa Pearl 12. Terah Edun – YA Fantasy
13. Author Cindy C Bennett

Tune in next week for another author spotlight, and check out the YA Author Club!

YA Indie Carnival: Author Spotlight Blog, and New Releases!

Posted in book reviews, indie, publishing, romance fantasy, urban fantasy, writing, young adult fiction with tags , , , , on September 1, 2013 by rachelcoles

YA_Indie_CarnivalHi indies! Hope everyone’s enjoying the last days of summer on this lovely Labor Day weekend! I’ve been away lately, recovering from  pinched nerve down my right arm. Contrary to my doctor’s advice, I can’t lie and tell everyone that I got it fighting a bear, or terrorists or aliens. No, I got it in the stupidest of all possible ways: sleeping wrong. If I needed any other middle finger from fate to tell me that I’m getting old…aside from a hairdresser at Floyd’s barber shop asking me, when I pointed out the old rock poster on the wall, ‘Who’s David Bowie?’ Really?

But now that I’m back, this week we have a plethora of new material for indie readers.  First I want to introduce a new writer on the scene, in her own words: Toni Lombardo.

Hello there blog readers! Toni here, I am going to talk about myself now.  Hope you don’t mind.

Okay, so first off I am a twenty something (21)  and striving to be a writer!  I am currently(ish)  a student at a community college (although at the moment I am taking a break from school)  and my plan is to major in meteorology.  Of course I’ll have to transfer to a four year.  In some moments I want to major in English, because I am in love with words (a good thing for a writer, right?) .  I would like to teach an elective class in a preppy school to do with the appreciation of old timey writers (Stoker, Melville, Shelley, etc.) and introduce the kids to modern day writers who I think are fantastic such as John Green (The Fault in Our Stars) , Jay Asher (Thirteen Reasons Why) , *clears throat* T.R. Graves (not kissing up, she is actually really great, like go read her books now!) .

I have been writing since I can remember.  I wrote short stories or was forced to by teachers, but I always enjoyed it and nine times out of ten exceeded the length required or well wanted (sometimes they weren’t happy) .  My dad also made up stories for me when I was little, I hope to one day publish and anthology of them (I do attribute that to my love of the plot) .  I actually sat down to write a book when by hand when I was fourteen? Maybe? But I gave up on that book (I will one day reapproach that book, but for now the characters and I are not mixing…it’s not my fault blame them)  to write what I wanted to publish as my first.  I started that book when I was fifteen and finished it when I was sixteen and went onto the next.  I am on the third in the series and am currently rewriting the first book.  I was young when I wrote it and afraid of words like sex, so I would dance around the word.  Plus other things I wrote in it are just cringe worthy and embarrassing.  Trust and believe if a writer says their work is cringe worthy it is…we are our biggest critic yes, but if we can make ourselves cringe it is pretty correct to believe that the reader would wonder what the heck the writer was thinking.

I spend my days working at a clothing store.  I love it.  I work with kids ranging from size 6-20.  I love working with the girls who aren’t societies standard of ‘beauty’.  It’s great because you can see the kid coming in so self-conscious (because they are a size 16 not 12 like their friends)  and leave smiling because you told them they are beautiful and helped them pick out clothes and raved over how amazing the kid looked and sometimes the kid even hugs you.  I know this sounds like I am saying ‘oh look at me.  I’m so great.  Blah, blah, blah.’  That is not my intention.  Today’s society is so messed up, these kids are so self-conscious at such a young age, and they are getting bullied.  Their parents telling them they are beautiful is one thing, when a someone else makes a big deal about it the kid feels good.  I think it’s a thing everyone should do.  Encourage people, because one day you will need it.   Okay enough about my job.

I also spend my days plotting up stories and plot twists.  I like listening to music and sometimes it even inspires or curbs scenes. I like going to the gym and reading, it is where I get most of my reading in.  In one day at work…working on stock in the back room, five new book ideas came flooding in.

I have one dog, a Beta named Platelet in one tank with a snail, eight goldfish all named after characters in my books and a Plecko and a snail in another tank that is huge.  I have the plecko and snails to help keep the tanks clean.

I’d like to write more often and I need to.  It is the best and worst thing in the world, if you are a writer you will understand that sentence; if you are not a writer ask one that you know.

I use Twitter and Instagram and Facebook to interact with writers and friends and share stuff about my books and from time to time excerpts!

I hope to change the publishing world by introducing them to new styles of writing!  And once you get to know me you know I don’t just dabble in things, I jump in whole heartedly with both feet, and most of the time without a safety net.   I am beginning to blog under the supervision and guidance of Graves (I just love her) .  Please come back bi-weekly to join me on my journey of publishing and writing on my blog series called Toni’s Big Six Journey.

It can be found here: http://yaauthorclub.blogspot.com

Listening to: Wishing Well by Ben Moody: All for This

Quote: “Just know, when you truly want success, you’ll never give up on it. No matter how bad the situation may get.” – Unknown

 

Spotlight Interview Questions:

 

1) What is your all-time favorite book and why?

“The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green (TFIOS) .  It is just perfect.  I cried on every page and went hysterical at Chapter 21.  I re-read the book within two months and re-experienced all that beautiful pain (readers of this book will get it #nerdfighter) .  Also, I bonded with my IBBF (internet best friend forever)  over this book.  We’ve known each other for a little over two months as of 7.12.2013, but it is one of the greatest friendships I have had.  So, beyond being a great book it brought me a great friend.

 

2) Is there an author you could be compared to or popular fictional characters your book’s characters could relate to and why?

Oh gosh, this is a biggie.  I don’t really know.  I have my own style, but some of my darker pieces, like “The Tale-Tale Heart” which is a re-doing of “The Tell-Tale Heart” by E.A. Poe for a final English paper, have been associated to Poe.  I’m actually about to start a second mirroring piece of his, that T.R. Graves is up-to-date about.

As far as characters…People are going to think TFIOS for some of my characters, because I talk about the book ALL the time and it is a book about kids with cancer.  But my book is about a kid or two with cancer but there is more of a story to it than that, just like Green’s.

 

As far as my characters relating to other characters…oh I don’t know, never thought about that.  I’ve read books with characters that reminded me of mine, but never really thought about it that way.  I think Devon would like Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.

 

3) Can you give us your favorite quote from one of your books and explain it?

“If you don’t know, you do not deserve to know!” –Devon

Oh my, how can I explain, Devon?  Okay so in this scene Devon just found out something in his family. Sorry for being vague, don’t want to give away plot points. He is really struggling in his life at the moment and this news was just devastating.  Like a lot of teens Devon struggles with the idea of self-harm and when his brother is talking to him he (Devon)  hints to wanting to hurt himself, and when his brother doesn’t get the hint he says the above quote possibly angrily.

 

4) What types of things/people/music inspires you and makes you want to keep writing?

Things that inspire me to write…I don’t know.  Sometimes I just see something, okay I was in a store the other day and saw a beautiful all glass frame, free standing.  I saw it and instantly knew it belonged to a character in one of my W.I.P.s, and when I got home it was already done the character would have it in their house.  So it is just kind of random, if I see something and it attaches to a character, I say it inspired me.

 

People- My best friend Anne is who I write for along with a few other people.  Anne is my muse and my ‘first reader’.  She keeps me going when I don’t want to write and pushes me to finish projects. So she inspires me as well as Graves, Green, Asher, and others.

 

Music!!! Ahh, such an inspiration!  Don’t want to say too much here because this topic is going to be a whole blog post for me!

 

What makes me want to keep writing—my characters.  I get a points where I miss them and I physically feel missing them, I feel pain of sorts.  Sometimes just thinking and plotting and writing notes just does not suffice, so I write to subdue the longing for interacting with them.  And I love writing, so that helps.

 

5) Describe your typical writing day or week.

They are random.  I write whenever and wherever.  At one point I was writing (more than this at home)  every Friday night at the bar in Red Robin, where one of my friends works.  I would buy an unsweetened peach tea with EXTRA regular syrup and she kept me in well supply.   It was a great writing environment and the support was great!

 

6) Is there a food or drink do you have to have when you’re writing?

I love, love, love peach tea, but I can’t have too much caffeine otherwise I can’t sleep.  So at one point it was that, but now….yeah, it is still that, I just can’t have it all the time.

 

7) Can you tell us what you’re working on right now (& possibly provide an excerpt & cover) ?

Sooooo many things! The book I am working on to get published first is Life’s Not a Fantasy I have a cover idea, but no cover yet!  An excerpt? Sure!  Here is the introduction.  It is written by Devon:

 

It wasn’t ever supposed to be like this.  Our family was always so torn apart, even before what I’m, about to write.  Dad was out fighting for ‘our safety’ but was never home…he was a ‘lifer’.  Mom chose her favorites and clung tightly to them, and I fell to the bottom of that spectrum.  I was okay with it though.

I was always the ‘untypical typical’ teenager, meaning I was or still am the loner.  I’ve done my fair share of stupid things, but more on that later.

He, Cameron always held us together.  He was our rock.  He could make or break our family and now his name resonates with pain.

How can one name ruin everything?  How can one name bring so much pain?

It’s been days, moments, but his name already feels like a curse.

Thanks for reading!  Hope this was entertaining.

Keep writing!

***

Left

Next on our indie tour for Labor Day…drum roll please, I’d like to reveal a new release by talented writer T.R.Graves, author of the Warriors of the Cross series, which will also be putting out a new online game soon!

 

Left (Still Standing, #1) by T. R. Graves

A naive Baylee loves Colt, her boyfriend of four years, more than she ever thought possible. After a little snooping, she’s convinced she’s well on her way toward hearing an once-in-a-lifetime proposal and starring in the wedding-of-the-year event. Instead, she’s blindsided by a very public breakup and the crushing news that Colt is marrying someone else… someone more befitting him and the role his father expects him to take in his law firm.

 

Baylee may have spent years resenting Ariana, her mother, and her suicide, an intolerable show of weakness in Baylee’s opinion, but after Colt leaves her just short of the altar, Baylee sees the world through her mother’s eyes. She sympathizes with Ariana’s actions and realizes that some things—soul-deep aches—can irreparably damage you and make moving on nearly impossible.

 

At least that’s how she feels until she meets Ryker. With his help, Baylee discovers there is life after Colt, and she prepares to move on by pulling herself up by the bootstraps, holding her head high, and standing on her own two feet. Unfortunately, a new jealous and hateful Colt has his own plans for her, and they are plans no one—especially Baylee—ever saw coming.

 

Pre-release purchase link: Smashwords

 

Left (Still Standing, #1) Kindle Fire Giveaway:

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Goodreads 5 Book Paperback Giveaway:

Goodreads Book Giveaway

     

Left

by T.R. Graves

Giveaway ends October 01, 2013.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win

***

Finally, another new book coming your way to chew on when you’re supposed to be working: Forever Fredless by Suzy Turner!

 

Forever Fredless by Suzy Turner

Kate Robinson has spent the past two decades yearning to find her soul mate, the boy she found and then lost during a family holiday. Shortly after her twenty-eighth birthday, however, she inherits a fortune from an old family friend and becomes something of an overnight celebrity. Can her new-found fame lead her to him after all this time?

Forever Fredless will be available from online bookstores from October 2013.

For more details about Suzy and her books, visit:

http://suzyturner.com

http://suzyturner.blogspot.com

http://facebook.com/suzyturnerbooks

http://twitter.com/@suzy_turner

http://pinterest.com/suzyturnerbooks

***

If you want to check out other authors in the YA Indie Carnival, visit their links and our author homepage!

1. Laura A. H. Elliott 2. T. R. Graves, Author of The Warrior Series
3. Suzy Turner, author of The Raven Saga 4. Rachel Coles, author of Into The Ruins, geek mom blog
5. Gwenn Wright, author of Filter 6. Liz Long | Just another writer on the loose.
7. Ella James 8. Maureen Murrish
9. YA Sci Fi Author’s Ramblings 10. A Little Bit of R&R
11. Melissa Pearl 12. Terah Edun – YA Fantasy
13. Author Cindy C Bennett

Have a great Labor Day, and don’t fight any bears…or terrorists…or aliens!

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 756 other followers

%d bloggers like this: