Archive for urban fantasy

Finally, Sequel.

Posted in book reviews, indie, indie authors, publishing, Uncategorized, urban fantasy, writing, young adult fiction with tags , , , on June 18, 2016 by rachelcoles

After a long time distracted, I have finally gotten back to my website, and to writing a sequel to Pazuzu’s Girl. For those struggling with their ‘sophomore book’, here is a helpful and succinct web-post I found from a writer in Suffolk:

https://authordylanhearn.wordpress.com/2015/10/14/things-you-learn-when-writing-your-second-book/

It was very reassuring to know other people have encountered the same difficulty, and likely for the same reasons.

Another link had a very entertaining title:

https://litreactor.com/columns/the-curse-of-the-second-novel-four-ways-not-to-fuck-up-book-number-two

For writers working on a second book, I hope you get the same comfort from these as I did.

 

Advertisements

Creepy Caves

Posted in Denver, horror, indie, urban fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , on August 6, 2014 by rachelcoles

Hi Indies,

It’s been a cool week. I got to spend a couple of days off of work with my Rosa before she goes back to school. I can’t believe she’s in fourth grade now. She can’t be in fourth grade, she just started third grade! Oh, that’s right, I forgot, time speeds up when you get older. That’s either physics or Murphy’s Law.

We got to go to the pool and swim, cook together, and just hang out. She’s completely into Master Chef, so that’s her new game. I learned that I am really terrible at impressions. My husband does a really great Gordon Ramsey impression, and Rosa does the most hilarious Joe Bastianich stare. As far as our actual cooking experiments together, we made homemade ravioli. It didn’t come out horrible, but I’m pretty sure I’d be sent home from the Master Chef kitchen for undercooking the pasta. Yes, I couldn’t boil pasta. In Chef Ramsey’s famous words, “Wha’ a shame!” Rosa, on the other hand, made the ravioli filling and sauce perfectly!

Getting to spend time with my kid made me think about how awesome it is to have people. I’m so surrounded by people all the time, that I take people for granted. I’ve been addicted to Orange Is The New Black, and they talk about solitary confinement on there, and some people who are introverts like me think ‘Oh, yes, to be by myself, how bad can that be?’ Except we don’t get how social animals are, even solitary animals, and being primates, we are anything but solitary, not really. So I don’t think most people get just how awful it is to be alone. When I read stories about immortal being and ancient beings I automatically think, ‘Wow how awesome would it be to be immortal and ancient like that!’ But then I wonder, because in the end, unless a being like that has another one to keep him/her/it company, eventually they wind up alone as the non-immortal world goes by. I guess if you’re a Greek god with a short attention span and can just snag any random human for a booty call then they manage to while away the time.

This next story is about an ancient being some unfortunate people found in a deserted mine.

The Lonely Miner

by Rachel Coles

Exhaust rose up through the windows, making Mark cough.

“Screw this!  Let’s kick on the air, roll up that window.”  Gunther hit the switch, and the windows glided up, as cool air blasted into the cabin.  Santa Fe Blvd was a parking lot.  Mark unrolled the window again and slid half his body out, balancing and peering into the wavery distance ahead of him to see what had caused the wait, as if it would help, with three 18-wheelers blocking the view around the curve.  He flopped into the seat discontentedly, reached back and popped off the lid of the cooler and grabbed a bottle.

“Hey, get me one!  Is that an IPA?”

“Yes it is, and no.  You’re driving.”

“It’s an IPA, like 4.5% alcohol, give me a damn bottle!  Besides, we’re only moving two miles an hour, when we’re going at all.”

“And if it’s a big accident, swarming with cops?  That’ll look great, you sucking down a beer behind the wheel.”

“I’ll be done with it by the time we get around the bend, which may not be until midnight.”

Mark rolled his eyes and uncapped it.  Hoppy vapors swirled at bottle lip and dissipated.  He handed it to Gunther, who got in half a swig as the SUV in front of him suddenly began moving, and picked up speed to about 20 miles an hour.  It kept going, slowly but steadily.

“Shit!”  Gunther took one more long guzzle and handed the bottle to Mark, who finished it and stashed the empty back in the cooler, and grabbed another.  In a couple of minutes, they drifted slowly past a workman in a bright orange vest and a big smiley face, holding up a SLOW sign, waving cars on.  A huge flashing arrow sign ushered cars to

a trickle of one lane, while a line of aggravated drivers waited for their turn on the other side of the bottleneck, detained by another vested workman holding up a STOP sign.

“That job would suck.”  Mark watched as the workman, or woman rather, stood bored and hot, uncaring as motorists glared.

“Amen.  So now you can stop bitching about yours.”

“I don’t bitch.  I vent.  And I never said that it was bad.  It’s just the bureaucratic stonewalling pisses me off sometimes.”

“And you work where?

Mark sighed.  “For the state.”

“Doing what?”

“Contract monitoring.”

“Sooooooo…”

“Right, right.”

“Like going to the tundra and complaining about the snow, and this big inconvenient glacier in your way.”

Mark scowled and watched the landscape flashing by.

Gunther kept talking.  “Me, I live in Office Space.  Milton Waddams is my cubicle mate.  I know it, everyone knows it, and I don’t fight it.  Because I do my job, make my money, and come the weekend, everyone can just fuck off!  I have a job, in this economy, HURRAY! Though who knows how much longer that’ll last.  My company sucks, but that’s something for now at least.  You know what your problem is?”

Mark swiveled his head and waited.

“You been in emergency management for so long you can’t even have a thought without writing a strategic plan about it, every step for the next five years.  How long did you plan for this day hike?”

“I didn’t.”

“Uh-huh.  That’s why you were packing a giant bag when I came to get you.”

“Emergency supplies.”

Gunther turned and glared at him.

“We need emergency supplies, we’re going to an old mining town and tunnel!”

“Not two week’s worth of food and water.  And what else do you have in that ginormous bag, a satellite dish, a parka and mukluks, a James Bond car, what, Captain Eagle Scout?”

“Radios.”

“To radio whom?  If they even work in the mountains. You’re not a ham radio operator, you never went through with the test, remember?  You just wanna look cool with your little nerdy radio.”  He grabbed Mark’s beer bottle and held it to his cheek,  “CHHKKK, BREAKER BREAKER, this is Nerd Patrol, we have a 10-24 at the 246.  OVER AND OUT!”

Mark snatched the bottle and drained the last swig before it could slosh out.  “That’s not what it’s like! Ham radio people are cool!  Have you ever seen those guys?”

“Yes, and you aren’t one.”  He grabbed another couple beers as the industrial buildings and shopping strips gave way to slow rolling foothills.

The air as they pulled onto the Alpine Tunnel 4WD was brisk, like a different climate zone from the unseasonal May heat near Denver.  The car jiggled and bumped as the gravel rattled in the undercarriage.  The parking area was littered with weeds in clumps.  There was one other car.  Pale silver-leaved stands of aspen interspersed with clumps of spiky brown beetle-killed Ponderosas.  Pine and fine beige dust from the parking area filled the air.  Mark pulled some of the food out of the pack, and stashed a few chilled beers in next to the bottles of water, wiping the ice drippings onto his fleece vest.  He pulled out his GPS, fiddled for a minute and pointed towards the left.  “Trail head’s over there.”

Gunther stood in front of the big gaping break in trees and gravel walk that was the obvious trail-head.

“No kidding, Magellan?  How could we have known without your New World gadget.”

Mark grinned and shoved the GPS in his cargo pocket.

The first ten minutes of the trail were mild, carpeted with sienna needles.  It gave way to brush as the trail steepened, surrounded by sage and splashes of bright spikes of columbine, dots of aster and delicate blue bells.  They skirted swaths of scree across the trail, refusing to seem out-of-breath or out-of-shape after less than an hour into the hike.  A gully wound near the path and Mark caved in first.  It’s a day off, dammit! I’m not here to impress anyone. I’m having a beer and sit-down.  He clambered off onto a boulder, and pulled out a sweating bottle and some buffalo jerky, offering some to Gunther.

“Wuss.”  He ambled over and took the jerky, and a beer.  “Good jerky.”  He grunted.

“This from a man whose favorite food is plain mashed potatoes and chicken-noodle concrete.”

The unapologetic Midwesterner flashed a white grin and gnawed at his meat leather.  They sat, drinking the beers and eating in amiable guy-silence, and then packed in the

bottles and started back on the path.  Mark stood a moment longer looking at the gully that had been a stream before the drought.  Desiccated grey-green algae, like the crusted blood of a naiad, clung to the face of the rocks in the center, and sun-bleached twigs and debris choked in a winding line up and down the mountain in either direction.  It looked like someone had dragged Jenny Greenteeth into the sun and baked her until she shriveled against the rocks.  A couple of papery minnows lay in the granite nooks, like those Japanese dried fish snacks.  As he started to turn back to the path, she moved, just enough out of the lee of a crag that he could see her diaphanous green hair.  Her hollow moss-colored eyes peered at him as she moved sluggishly back into the shadows, the detritus behind her visible, as her long black talons withdrew into the merciful shade.  He blinked, pulled out the beer bottle, sniffed the mouth, and put it back, and then turned on his heel and followed the dust motes to where Gunther had gone.

“Do you ever wonder what happens to the creeks up here?”  Mark caught up, panting.

“What do you mean?”

“When they dry out.”

“They always dry out in the winter, we’re a high sierra state.”

“But it’s May, and we’re in the mountains.”

“Yeah, but it only snowed early this year, not recently.  Dillon Reservoir was down by half since a couple years ago.  The boats were all clustered in the middle, with LOTS of beach that wasn’t there before.  It looked pretty wild.  Like a little kid pulled the plug out of the bathtub.”

“That’s exactly it.  What happens, I mean, don’t you think we’re in trouble?”

“Sure.  We’ve been in trouble for years.  That’s why we get all the cool rebates for putting in low water stuff in our houses.  I got two new toilets for 50 bucks, and got in great with my wife!”  He waggled his eyebrows.

“Glad to know the drought’s improved the frequency of your booty calls.”

“It doesn’t count as a booty call if she’s married to you.  But thank you!  Look, this happens every ten years or so.  Next year, we’ll probably get totally buried in a blizzard and the levels will be back to normal.  That’s the way it works.  You wanna change it, talk to the golfing snow birds in Arizona.  Get our water rights back.”

A crane fly floated by, and disappeared into the parched shadows of the woods.

“What the hell, did you see the size of that mosquito?!  How is it there’s no water, and there’s still mosquitos.  If that isn’t a sign the world’s gone to hell…”

“It’s not a mosquito, city boy.  It just looks like one.  They don’t bite.”

“Well, that’s good because it’d suck us dry in five minutes. Thing was huge!”

“Actually, they do that on purpose, fly around like mosquitoes to get all the whiny little girls to flee the outdoors.”

Mark kicked pebbles at him.  “Ok Ranger Sven, let me know when you’ve finished skinnin’ the bear and building the log cabin.”

Another crane fly whirred gently around them, dancing in the lazy bright light, and vanished in the dappling at the edge of a stand of trees.  Mark glanced back and they were bobbing a few feet back.  For a second, as they flitted through a patch of shade, the slender thoraxes expanded and the proboscises shrunk, and a pair of homunculi hovered, observing them.  Then a breeze exhaled their delicate forms into the distance, sticklike legs dangling.

“Uh…”

They hiked in silence for a while.  Every few hundred feet, Mark would look back, and the crane flies were there, weaving among the brush, coming sometimes closer, sometimes farther.  Finally, the entrance to the tunnel loomed. He glanced back.  The flies were gone.

The famous Alpine Tunnel had been completed in the late 1800s as a cheaper and shorter way to get supplies and mail to and from Hancock, by burrowing right under the Continental Divide.  Over two miles hewn through stone and earth, reinforced by timber, costing what in those days was a small fortune.  By the mid-fifties, the nearby mining operations and the traffic that had accompanied them dried up.  And the passage was empty, except for hikers and sightseers.  The lighted entrance bore a sign:  East Entrance.  Proceed with caution.  The mouth yawned, and the timbered braces receded into the dim lighting like the ribcage of Jonah’s whale.  They looked up at the structure and stepped into the frigid dark.  It took their eyes a minute to adjust to the tiny amount of light put out by the bulbs.  Their breathing and footsteps echoed slightly, as they padded deeper down the long hallway, veering slightly here and there.

After a while, the slight buzz of voices emerged from farther down the tunnel, the other car, other hikers.  They followed the murmurs around bends in the tunnel, but the acoustics bounced the sound so it was hard to tell how close they were.  They seemed to be the same distance away as they had been a while ago.  Then the voices died away. So did the lights, leaving them in oppressive Stygian blackness.  The weight of tons of granite pressed in from all directions.

“What the FUCK!”  Gunther exploded, feeling for the rough wall.

Mark knelt and rummaged in the pack and drew out a wind-up LED flashlight.  The whir of the torch filled the passage, along with a weak bluish light that grew stronger.  “Prepared.”

“Oh great, Mouseketeer, let’s get the fuck out of here before something else goes wrong.”

Mark rummaged again, drawing out the radio.  It spit back nothing but static.

Gunther rolled his eyes.

He pulled the GPS out and shot Gunther a smug look.  “Prepared.”

“Yeah, yeah!  I get it!  Why don’t we just go back the way we came.”

“Wanna make sure we are.”

He groaned in exasperation, and leaned back against the wall, arms crossed, waiting for Mark’s little experiment in technology.

Mark toyed with the controls, frowned, twirled a knob, turned towards the wall Gunther was leaning on, then stopped.

Gunther raised his eyebrows and started singing  “’I’m the map, I’m the map, I’m the map, I’m the map. I’M THE MAP!’” …So Dora the Explorer, what does Map say?”   He was grinning fiercely.

Mark grimaced. “It says the exit is here… this wall.”

“Awesome.  Do you have a magic ring or anything?  Maybe it can lead us to Mount Doom and an Eagle can fly us back.”

“Not helping!”  He resisted the urge to hurl the device against the wall, put it back in his bag, and stomped past Gunther.  “Alright. Seems like we came this way.”

“Sure you don’t want to consult your magic eight-ball some more?”

“Bite me.”

The unrelenting mountain sun sank towards the horizon, casting copper rays over the terrain, illuminating a wind-weathered sign at the mouth of the cave:  Tunnel Closed.  Danger of Collapse.  A rotten timber poked like a greenstick fracture from the edge of the darkness inside, a bare light socket peeking down from the craggy ceiling.

Back the way they had come was not opening up to the light at the end of the tunnel.  They hadn’t passed any other turnoffs, so they must get close soon.  At least, Mark thought, the flashlight doesn’t need batteries. That’s me, with the silver lining. Gunther’s face was grim as he paced a few steps back into the dark to peer at something he thought he’d seen.

Mark heard a slip, a short yelp, and Gunther was gone.  A thud came a moment later from far below.  And silence.  It took Mark a second to realize what had happened, and then he started yelling.

“Gunther!  Can you hear me?  Are you ok?  Yell if you can hear me!”

Heart thudding, limbs trembling, Mark shined the light in the direction Gunther had disappeared.  There was a slight pathway to the right that vanished into the dark.  How had they not seen this?!  The ground opened onto a gaping precipice.  The light didn’t reach the bottom.

He looked around trying to think about what to do next, maybe see if he could get down there, and abruptly stopped, adrenaline blazing through his veins.  Staring at him was a diminutive gray figure.  It was ancient and gnarled, with piercing dark eyes.  It wasn’t human.

“Who are you!”  Mark blazed.  “What do you want?  Wanna fight?!  Bring it!”

He fumbled a knife from his bag and realized it was a can opener.  He held the heavier end towards his assailant.  But the figure stood, silently regarding him.

Mark’s voice echoed in the corridor, tremulously.

“What do you want?  My friend just fell.  He’s hurt or dead.  Are you going to help me or not?”

The figure said nothing.  Mark edged toward the abyss.  He didn’t have a rope, and saw quickly that there was no way down without a rope.

“GUNTHER!”  He yelled one last time.

The creature glared at him and raised a knotty gray hand to its lips. “Shhhhh.”

There was nothing to do but go for help.  If he could even get out himself.  He stalked past the creature, who turned and followed him as he paced down the hall.  Finally he slowed, and then stopped.  He didn’t know which way was out.  The circumference of light bobbed to a halt, and Mark slid down to his butt in freezing dirt.  The creature

stopped just beyond the cone of illumination.  He looked up at it. It stared back at him.

“You going to help me get out?”

It didn’t answer.

“You don’t like the light?”

It shook its head.

“Don’t you talk?”

It stayed stock-still.  He moved the light against his leg so it wasn’t shining into the corridor, but there was no way he was turning it off.

“Three words, four syllables…sounds like…” he pantomimed Charades.  Its eyes looked puzzled.

Mark buried his face in his hands.

“Are you a ghost?” His voice came out muffled.

The figure glided swiftly to his side and a hand like the root of a bonsai tree grasped his arm.  Before Mark could leap out of his skin, there was a shock, images that weren’t from him, rushing into him.  That was how the creature talked.  He gazed at its grey eyes, flecked like opals.

“You’re not a ghost are you?”

Its eyes answered No.

“What are you?”

It felt confused for a moment.  Images came of blazing rock, congealing in swirls and crystals and heavy gravity.  Pressure cracked the great weight into fissures, ice cleaving through, water dripping.  The images were set in geologic time and thought like stone.  Then came the hammering and blasting, the chiseling, soft irritating people prying the veins of its home for metal, digging into

its fortress, and shattering the ponderous voices of the rock.  Miners, hats bobbing, women, traders, all passing through, leaving footprints that scuffed each other out for years, and then lingered when there were no more treads to replace them in the still close dust.  All it wanted was silence and solitude.  It thought, until they were gone.  The voice of the rock was all it had, until the harried frenetic intruders, who lived their lives so quickly and loudly.  Its knotted fingers clung to his arm, its eyes wistful.

“You didn’t mean to kill Gunther.”

It shook its head.

“You want me to stay with you for a little while?  I have to go.  But I’ll stay here for a few minutes longer.”  He shifted his weight on the dirt, where the cold was seeping through the seat of his pants.

Rescue operations continued for three days, until it was concluded that no one would be found, and the cars were towed.

End Story

 

If you’ve had any underground adventures that you want to share, please feel free to post!

Trains Trains Trains

Posted in blogging, Denver, indie, science fiction, urban fantasy, writing, young adult fiction with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 25, 2014 by rachelcoles

Hi Indies,

I’ve been in a sci-fi mood lately. Loving Defiance and seriously jones’ing for the next episode. I’m considering going as a Casti for Comicon next year, though that’ll only be really cool if my husband does it too, that seems like more of a couples costume. If not, I’m going to try to get my lazy butt in gear to make a female Cenobite costume. That will be crazy, but cool costume, and not something all that common. This year was fun, and not very much work. I finally went in a Star Trek Federation costume, never actually done that before. But with a tweak: I went as a zombie red-shirt featuring four different Star Trek red shirt deaths from the original series. The second day I went, we all changed costumes, and I decided for something a bit less feminine, though still a bit zombie-like. I pulled out my old Halloween costume from a few years back, an Immortal from 300. I had forgotten that the second movie had come out because I didn’t see the second one. Apparently there had been a couple of Spartans around the day before, when I was a red shirt. We never connected, but that would have made some cool pictures.

The next story was from one of my sci-fi moods. I used to listen to trains go by at night, and thought about Ray Bradbury’s character’s point of view from Something Wicked This Way Comes, when he listened to the train came into town in the wee hours of night, with a whistle that sounded like souls. And then I remembered hearing that those trains that cross the country, like the coal trains are actually computerized now, and somehow that made it seem even more lonely.

Whistles

by Rachel Coles

Diana sat up in bed, rubbing her eyes. The train whistle screamed in the background, over the white noise whir of the bedside fan. It yanked her out of sleep with a jarring blare, in the middle of a dream that fled in drowsy tatters. The sound of the whistle was close and oddly alarmed. She reached her hands up to her face, and felt wet tracks on her cheeks. Her whole body was shaking as though she had just escaped something deadly.

When she moved into the house, she had been irritated at that first night discovery of the shrieking trains. Before renting the house, she had asked the owner about the nearby Union Pacific tracks paralleling Santa Fe.

But the woman had waved away her query. “They don’t sound much overnight. Nobody in the neighborhood ever mentions any problems,” she assured.

The house was perfect otherwise, and every other place had been too expensive or not right in some other way. “Always do your own research”, Diana remembered with chagrin. Her mother had told her that, but she had never found the time.

She padded to the bathroom, and took a drink of water, keeping the glass steady with both hands.

The receding train blared again in the distance. The sound winding back through the open windows with the deep morning breeze, almost reminded her of her mother continuing a conversation over her shoulder. Diana shook her head, and downed the rest of the water. Her phone clock read 3:02. She sighed and got back in bed, burrowing into the comforter until morning.

Waking up was like climbing up from a mud pit. She showered and brewed the coffee, and ran her fingers through her auburn mullet. She fingered tangles out as she put together her lunch. In her stupor, she filled the travel cup and then forgot and left it on the counter when she left for work.

She slunk into work late at Integrated Filter Solutions, ever grateful for the isolated corner in which her office was nestled. She dumped her bag on the client chair, smacked her coffee-less lips and flipped on her computer. After visiting the cafeteria for bad coffee while her computer booted up, she looked up Union Pacific on the internet. She already knew the night train schedule from being woken up repeatedly in the past week, but she wanted to double-check and gather more information. Something about gathering information on the internet from a remote keyboard was empowering, even if there wasn’t anything she could actually do about a situation.

A Google link led her to an old site from Arizona detailing a union uproar about the loss of jobs to automated trains, and numerous articles citing the danger of using remote control locomotives outside the rail yard. Most of them were dated from before 2006. Since then, the Federal Rail Administration had provided safety guidelines, and the use of experimental remote units across the railways began.

Remote control trains, she thought. So everything they did was controlled by computer, linked to an operator with a box at the stations and yards.

Her fingers tapped the desk in irritation. In the past weeks, as she listened to the wails in the early hours, she’d been able to imagine a lonely engineer trying to make contact with the sleeping towns from the long dark empty places in between. But according to these articles, that wasn’t likely. Even though the train was still connected to a person, that person flipped a switch, miles away: seeing nothing, hearing nothing. Now her late night vision of the trains just contained machines blurting feedback. Not nearly as romantic. She sighed and opened the report she had to finish that day.

***

UP-4531 rolled along, processing the incident near the Alameda Station in the early morning, and logging the images into memory.

A weight had been laying on the tracks. The weight distribution led it to identify the object on the tracks as a small car, with two bodies inside: a large one, approximately one hundred and eighty five pounds, and a small one, approximately fifty pounds. The car contained two moving creatures. The vehicle straddled the tracks that the train would traverse in three minutes and twelve seconds.

As it approached a mile and a half away, its reconfigured sensors gave it a visual. A small tan four-door sedan lay across the tracks. The wheels were spinning and smoking as the figure, a human male, in the driver seat revved the engine to clear the tracks. Two wheels were stuck in a rut which was slightly lower than the track, stranding the car by the undercarriage. A small human creature, a female child, peered from the back seat.

The computer blasted a long sharp note full of alarm. The man exited the car, pulled the little girl from the back, and frantically waved down a passing two-door sleek red car. The emblem on the hood read Porsche.

The red car, with another man behind the wheel, halted near the track. The two men argued, gesturing in the train’s direction. The red car turned toward the track. Its front bumper lined up with the tan car’s back bumper. The red car strained against the tan car, and pushed the tan car slowly off the track. The man in the red car waved at the owner of the car he had rescued, and drove away.

As UP-4531 rolled by minute later, the remaining man stood by the track with his head in his hands, as the child goggled up at its long metal sides. Its next whistle blast was full of relief.

***

In the wee hours of the next morning, Diana lay in insomniac frustration, counting acoustic ceiling holes. She lost count at fifty-six and started over. One o’clock passed. Then fifteen more minutes crawled by, and she sat up and looked at her phone clock.

Right on the change of the numeral, a plangent whistle screamed. It stopped and started again, near the Light Rail Crossover. It halted briefly and then blasted one more wail as its long coal-dark bulk snaked away into the LoDo District of Denver.

Exhausted from the disturbed sleep of several nights, she finally fell asleep, despite the fading echo of the whistle. As the lonely sound vibrated through her it seemed almost alive, accompanying half-formed images that she couldn’t quite identify.

***

‘Crazy Dog Lady’, a neighbor she’d seen from a distance, meandered past the front yard as Diana locked up the next morning. The woman’s six scotties and one chihuahua barked and scurried furiously around a matted patch of catmint that a neighborhood cat had claimed as his kingdom. Diana had jogged past this neighbor’s house once. Her yard was packed with crates, old newspapers, and knick-knacks, and it smelled like wet dog. She seemed nice enough though.

As soon as the pack saw Diana on her porch, they strained toward her on their leashes as their grey-haired owner fought to control them outside the gate.

“Sorry about that! They won’t always do that. They’re just not used to you yet.” The woman squinted up at her in the strong morning light.

Well, compared to the neighborhood from which she had moved, where gunshots were not uncommon, Diana supposed that a furry, yapping Neighborhood Watch was tolerable. “I’m Diana.”

“Hi, I’m Rhoda. I noticed you’ve got squirrels in your chimney.”

“What?”

“Squirrels. They’re coming in and out of that chimney in the back. Those buggers’ll get right in your house, eat right through the walls if you’re not careful.”

“Ok. Thanks! I’ll get right on it…” Diana picked the mail from the box to read at work.

“Say, you look pale. Are you alright?”

“Tough night sleeping. I get insomnia sometimes. Probably stress, and then I had weird dreams.” Why am I sharing? Diana chided herself. I’ll just get stuck in a protracted conversation that I don’t give a crap about. I need to get to work.

“Yeah, that’s kind of typical around here,” Rhoda replied.

“Huh?” Diana fumbled her coffee mug, and it sloshed dark pungent liquid onto the stoop. The dogs scrabbled towards it, tongues lolling. Maybe those dogs and I do have some kind of common ground, she stared at the spill wistfully.

Rhoda continued, “We all have odd dreams, really vivid. Places we’ve never been.”

“We?” The term put Diana in mind of steaming apple pies and manicured lawns…hiding dark-cloaked meetings in someone’s basement.

“Yeah, I talk with Ron and Flora down the street, and Lily, and the crippled boy Jimmy on the corner. And I noticed that everyone on the block has those kinds of dreams. No one really talks about it much now because it’s kind of normal here. Just something I noticed about a year ago. I don’t know if it’s different other places. I’ve lived here since my husband died ten years ago. The dreams’ve gotten more interesting lately too. All these different places go by, like I’m on a train.”

Diana stared at Rhoda. “Oh.” She suppressed the urge to ask if there was a funny little weed growing somewhere under the crates of stuff in her yard. But Diana remembered the strangeness of her own dreams. What had been even stranger was that while she hadn’t been able to make out images clearly, they had not seemed dreamlike, not the one she’d had as the whistle screamed. It had seemed like a voice. She shivered in the strong sun.

“I gotta go to work. It was nice meeting you, Rhoda.”

“Sure thing, neighbor. Let me know if you need anything. Ron is going on a squirrel rampage tomorrow with his Daisy air rifle. He’s taking off work to hunt. They ate every single one of his strawberries this year. So he’ll probably ask if he can come into your yard to kill ’em.”

“Tell him ‘happy hunting’, as long as he doesn’t leave the bodies here.” She tossed her bag in the car and escaped to work.

***

At 3:00AM, Diana rolled over, surfacing momentarily from a dream as the whistle howled in from the dark. She lay waiting for the blast to end.

It didn’t. Like an opera note that went on past any possibility of air, the whistle exhaled all along Santa Fe Boulevard. It finally ebbed when it was past her neighborhood, near Osage, and rolled silently on with no further toots. This pattern and the one from the other night were different. She didn’t really know if they were supposed to be the same each time, but she had imagined robot trains repeating themselves, even if controlled by an operator. The computer commands should have been the same.

She drifted back to sleep. Her dreams wandered through empty scrub-land, occupied only by ghostly tumbleweed and an occasional set of shining eyes in the darkness, lit for a few seconds by a passing beam.

***

UP-3578 called to the next train on the line a long distance ahead: UP-3574.

Its whistle vibrated across the tracks and across the air. What have you seen?

An answer came back. Dark sky, empty sky, small creatures.

Data came over the remote signal transmitter that never originated with any of the station operators. The signals translated into an image of the desert, open except for the lumpy cacti, scurrying night-life and flashes of golden eyes. The receivers picked up a bout of squeals and grunts, and then clattering of the tracks.

The images were nothing UP-3578 hadn’t also seen.

It approached an oasis of soft light pocked by islands of darkness, the city of Denver. It knew the people lived there, the intelligent-animals-that-were-not-trains. They were interesting.

What have you seen? it called to them.

The slumbering town didn’t answer. No one was about on the roads it passed. They never answered. The operators never answered either, those not-train animals who controlled it and told it where to go.

***

The image of a jewel-studded darkness filled her view. It held the promise of crowds, of a multitude of voices and motion. But as she approached, the twinkles resolved into populations of street lamps, lighting empty circles of night. A magazine page twirled in the breeze of her wake, near the tracks.

Diana flopped out of bed and turned on the light, listening to the fading train horn. She glanced at the clock: 3:03AM. She padded downstairs, powered on the computer, and put on a pot of coffee. She entered her password for Facebook. No better place to find another group of insomniacs. She could at least catch up on gossip.

It was ten minutes before the page loaded.

Probably a new Facebook ‘improvement’, she thought acidly, just like the last security ‘improvement’ that had blasted her information across the internet. She hit keys over and over in impatient annoyance, and clicked the mouse on every icon she could find, one of the cardinal sins of the IT world.

Reliably, her computer froze, just to give her the satisfaction of cursing at it. She hit CTRL-ALT-DELETE. The task list came up. There was a program running that wasn’t the internet engine. It had a number UP-2741. She clicked on it, just before realizing that it was probably a virus.

The screen that came up baffled any notion she had ever had of viruses. It was a series of images, one after another, about ten seconds apart. Spyware, she thought. Maybe it’s Homeland Security… Though she couldn’t imagine what they’d want with her, or why they’d be flashing images at her.

The images were disjointed and time-delayed, but they raised the hairs on her neck. Scenes of the desert flickered by, the same images she’d been dreaming, the street lights of a sleeping town and deserted station. There were other images after the scrub-land, crackling dry branches and wide-open star-filled sky, followed by dim concrete as empty coal-loading yards passed. Hundreds of frames of bad lands cycled through and then the terrain shifted. The low succulents and brush stretched taller to saplings and spiky pines. What was this? It was as though she were seeing camera shots in near real time. Was someone transmitting from a camera? If so, why this? She sat there and watched for an hour as picture after picture scrolled by across a range of terrains, all night views. She sat and watched as the sky outside the window lightened, her coffee long-cold. The sky in the pictures lightened too. Finally, she shut down the computer. She resolved to call Asus tech support at a decent hour, and got ready for work, wondering what someone could be trying to transmit and why they were using her computer to do it.

Rhoda was scooping poop as she came out the door.

“Howdy neighbor! How are you?’

“Umph.” Diana muttered.

“Not a morning person, eh?”

“If by ‘morning person’ you mean ‘three o’clock’, then no.”

“Jeez, couldn’t sleep again?” Rhoda clucked in sympathy.

“Woke up. What did you say those dreams people have are about again?”

“Oh, different places, desert, sierra, coast, forest. All over the place. Mostly desert. You been having them?”

“Yeah. Do you know if anyone else on the block has been having weird computer issues?” Diana asked, trying to keep the early morning irritation from her voice. Rhoda seemed like the fountain of gossip for the neighborhood.

“I’m a low-tech person, but I could ask around. What kind of issues?”

“Like an embedded camera flashing photos of landscapes.”

“Huh. Never heard of that. Maybe you have a virus.”

“Yeah. Thanks.” Great, Diana tossed her bag haphazardly on the car seat. “On that cheerful note, I’ll see ya later.”

Rhoda gave her a perky wave, reminding Diana of the wagging doggy tails.

***

“Hey neighbor!” Her next door neighbor Dave’s military brush-top bobbed above the top of the fence as he hoisted himself onto the cross-support to look over, when Diana returned from work. “I heard your computer’s been going a bit whacky-doo.”

“Whacky-doo? It flashed photos at me for about an hour. I don’t have any programs that I know of that can do that. They weren’t any pictures I’d taken. And I don’t recall downloading anything from the internet. Weird thing is, I dreamed about some of those pictures, before I saw them.”

“Do you have any cavity fillings? Maybe your teeth are connecting to the internet and picking up signals.”

“Cute. Maybe I should wrap my computer in tin foil.”

“Actually, I had a similar thing happen last week, that’s why I thought I’d let you know. I sent the computer in. Haven’t gotten it back yet. I never really thought about it, because I don’t always remember what I dream. But now that you mention it, it did feel like deja vu when I saw the pictures. I just thought it was a virus. Wanna beer?”

“I could use one, thanks!”

“Everything’s better with beer.” He handed a cold bottle over.

“Hear, hear.” She popped the top and went over to his yard for the evening.

***

By the end of the week, two other people had come to her, calling across the yards about their computers having the same ‘virus’. Rhoda had told them. Or Dave.

Jimmy, the young man with cerebral palsy, who lived on the corner nearest the Santa Fe tracks, wheeled up to her in his chair while she was weeding. His sandy bangs drifted into his eyes. “I been watching the pictures, on my computer. Some of them are from around here. I don’t think it’s an internet virus or anything.”

“If we all have it on our computers, it seems like a virus.”

“But I haven’t seen anything on the internet or heard of a new virus. And I’m on the internet all the time.” He motioned to his atrophied legs. “I seen a few strings in blogs, of the same thing, actually, the pictures on people’s computers. But they all started months ago. Viruses move faster than that. And it looks like they’re all neighbors too.”

“Maybe they’re connected to certain wireless ports.”

He shook his head. “Maybe, but all the pictures look like they’re along tracks. Why?”

She shrugged, stuffing weeds into the trash can. “The trains are run on computers now, some of them anyway. Since like four years ago. Maybe it’s a train virus.”

“Then why aren’t the computers going all funny about other things. Viruses are meant to screw things up in computers. Are the trains crashing? Or our computers? Can you still use your computer?”

She slowly paused and nodded. “What is it then?”

“Something else. I’m leaving my computer on and storing all the program files.” He turned and his voice retreated down the street over the motorized buzz of the chair.

“Let me know what you find,” she called after him.

“I’ll let everyone know.”

***

Diana’s dreams that night were as vivid in tone as in scenery. The types of scenes hadn’t changed from the American landscapes at night. But the loneliness was more pervasive. It was a wash over every image, investing the smallest details with importance. It felt like her soul was drowning in the vast empty spaces and the wide starry sky. As the images flashed by, she passed another still town nestled into the darkness. A street intersection she passed looked familiar. Green and flowered verges languished at the edge of the lamplight, their blossoms ghostly. She reached out to the people in their beds, begging them to stir and talk to her.

Diana gasped and woke as the whistle ebbed. The town she’d seen had been their little neighborhood. The images were of the scenery near her street.

***

When she came home from work, a small gaggle of neighbors was gathered at the end of the block, under the sour cherry tree in Jimmy’s yard. He was gesturing animatedly. She moseyed over and waved at the gathering: Rhoda and all her dogs, Jimmy, Dave and his wife Rose, and Ron and Flora, the chain-smoking, retired couple from two houses down.

Jimmy nodded at her. “Those recordings, they’re all trains,” he declared. “And all those blog strings from the past year look like their pictures all come from trains too. They posted some of the pictures. I looked at them all night. And the IP addresses I could follow are all from around train tracks. I geocoded everything.”

She stared at him. “You did all this last night? Where do you find the time? Don’t you sleep?”

He shook his head. “Not much. I get restless. It’s not like I can get up for work. I’ll lose my disability, and the IT jobs in this town are in the crapper.”

Rhoda snorted and shook her head. “With things the way they are, I told Jimmy here to whack me in the kneecaps if I lose my job.”

Dave, off-shift from active duty at Fort Carson, grinned.

Diana glanced around, hesitant to sound crazy, and then realized that this company wouldn’t care. “I had a wild dream last night. I was passing the bridge over Alameda Street in the dream. The ‘me’ on the tracks tried to talk to the ‘me’ in bed. I woke myself up. It was at the same time as the whistle.”

“Freaky-deaky!” Dave exclaimed.

Rose spoke up, “Yeah, I did too. It was kind of a sad dream.”

“So… what?” Ron flicked a cap of ash to the sidewalk. “We’re dreaming of trains and maybe seeing computer shots from trains. Does that sound as crazy to anyone else as it does to me?”

Dave snickered and shuffled his feet, “Cool. Maybe they’re artificially intelligent trains. Hey, I’d be ok with crazy, if it’s AI.”

Rose shrugged, “Me too. I just re-read ‘I, Robot’. As long as they’re not going to destroy the world, why not?”

Diana rubbed her hand over her face, Wow, these people are in the Twilight Zone. “I doubt they’re AI trains. I mean they are pictures on a computer, and they’re all of scenes from around tracks, but that doesn’t mean it’s the trains.”

“But it would be awfully neat,” Rose, I-Robot-fan extraordinaire interjected.

“It does seem weird, but you got a better explanation? Jimmy asked.

“Someone on the train broadcasting images and tapping into wireless networks,” Diana insisted.

“Why?” Rhoda looked up from scratching the dogs’ ears.

“Why do people post half the stuff they do on You Tube or Twitter? To make contact. To show people something from their point of view in case someone give a crap.” Diana snorted.

“They’re posting images of what they see, yeah, but you said there’s no one on those trains. They’re computerized, Jimmy added.

“That doesn’t mean that someone can’t hitch a ride.” Diana put her hands on her hips.

Jimmy shook his head. “Have you seen the number of pictures there are? From everywhere. The frames are coming too fast, and the resolution of these pictures is impossible without a digital camera that would be thousands of dollars. If it was a person, or people hitching for some kind of project, it’d have to be one with lots of money, like multimillion dollar. And then, don’t you think we’d hear about it?”

“What if it’s for national security?” Rose asked and looked at Dave.

Dave shrugged, “But no one would be wiring it to our computers.”

“And what about the dreams? Everyone’s been having dreams too. I don’t think the government has gone as far as mind control yet.” Flora’s gentle Southern voice cut across the group chatter. Everyone looked at her.

“There isn’t any kind of camera that can wire images into people’s brains, that I know of.” Jimmy said.

“So then how does AI explain it? They would have to be telepathic. AI by itself is kind of a stretch. But telepathic trains?” Diana interjected.

Rose replied, scratching her head, “It does seem unlikely.”

Rhoda sniffed. “Well, I like the idea. You said you’re dreams happened at the same time as the whistle. Maybe that’s how they talk, and we hear them as dreams. Sometimes it feels like they’re talking anyway, during that whistle. It sounds so…”

“So alive?” Flora said quietly.

Rhoda knelt and scratched behind several fuzzy ears. “I think they were talking to us. Through pictures.”

Jimmy shrugged. “Well as far as the computer images. If they did talk, that would probably be how. Computer commands. I’m not really an expert, but it feels right. All the incidents in the posts started about a year ago.”

“The automated trains started being used more about three years ago,” Diana frowned.

“Two years difference,” Jimmy said.

Ron flicked his cigarette again. “That’s nuts. Trains coming alive.”

Flora smiled at him. “Oh come on, you have to admit it would be neat! Maybe we can talk back somehow.”

They all looked at each other.

Ron shook his head.

Jimmy conceded, “I don’t know how to access their program…assuming it’s the trains.”

“Well, for Heaven’s sake’s, just because they’re computers…Why not do things the old fashioned way,” Flora exclaimed. “If we can get these images on the computer from them, then they’re seeing something. We could just flash signs by the tracks, where they could see us.” She gave an excited smile.

Ron stared at her. “I’m not getting up in the middle of the night to stand by train tracks, waving signs at unmanned trains.” He wandered back towards his house.

Dave grinned, “Sounds like fun actually. Even if it’s a long shot.”

“And say what, ‘Greetings, do you come in peace?” Diana laughed.

“Sure. Track party! I’ll bring beer and chairs. We’ll find a safe spot out of the way but visible.” Dave volunteered.

“Oh, I’ll do some signs and bring art supplies,” Flora clapped her hands.

“I’ll bring some snacks,” Rhoda volunteered.

They spent about five more minutes deciding on a time and place. Flora agreed to make flyers for the neighborhood mailboxes, just as she had for the Fourth of July party. At least there’d be beer and food, Diana thought. So the Baker Neighborhood AI Train-Spotting Party was born.

***

That Saturday, a small crowd gathered at eleven at night, in a parking lot visible from the Santa Fe Union Pacific tracks. Cases of micro-brews arrived, little portable card tables with a variety of foodstuffs, even a small hibachi grill were set up. There were two hours for drinking and socializing before the next train was due. The crowd grew, as folks walking by from other blocks learned of the party. More food and beer tables were set up. Flora brought her art supplies and poster-board for makeshift signs, complete with glitter paint pens and florescent glow sticks from the Dollar Tree nearby.

At about one o’clock, Diana had downed her fourth lager and her third bratwurst. She realized after two hours, that regardless of what happened, she knew more about her new neighbors than she ever would have otherwise. One of the neighbors across the alley was diabetic and had had problems getting out of his house for medication in last year’s blizzard. His next-door neighbor brought him to the party now. The young twenty-something guys renting the house next door to her house had engaged her in a thirty-minute philosophical discussion about Star Wars versus Star Trek.

Even Ron showed up. He made a sign, and smiled at her when she raised her eyebrow at him. “Well, if you can’t be a kook when you’re retired, what’s the point!”

At 1:10AM, a wail blasted across the night. Conversation died, as the loneliness of the fading horn echoed and settled over them like the whisper of midnight snow in the cool September air. A moving dot of light was visible a couple miles away. In silence, Rhoda picked up her sign and held it up facing the tracks. It said, “Hello, from the Baker Neighborhood! We hear you! Honk if you can see us!” There were bright orange and pink flowers and smiley faces next to the words. A couple more people retrieved their signs, laughing and resuming their chat, and then more people in twos and threes. As the train approached, twelve people hoisted similar signs up at the locomotive.

***

UP-3562 barreled across the tracks toward Denver. What have you seen? Is anyone there? As residential neighborhoods began to edge the tracks, there was motion in a lot it would pass in one minute and two seconds. There was a crowd of smart-animals-that-were-not-trains. People! They held up white placards with letters in bright colors. “Hello,” they said. “We hear you!,” they said. The people were jumping and waving the signs. “Honk,” they said. UP-3562 sounded a jubilant bellow for sixty seconds as it passed, mixing with the sound of whoops and cheers. It rattled away to signal the other units on its way through towns that didn’t seem so empty anymore.

The End

If anyone has any AI stories kicking around in their heads, feel free to share the link, whether they’re happy, or Matrix-y!

Tapping the Muse

Posted in horror, indie, indie authors, mythology, publishing, urban fantasy, writing, young adult fiction with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 7, 2014 by rachelcoles

Hi Fellow Indies,

 

We’ve had a great week at my writer’s group talking about writer’s block and how to address it. Sometimes problems travel in clumps, and many of us had fallen prey to the writer’s block in the last few months, the bane of every writer’s existence. I write to relax and stay sane, and so not only is it a pain in the butt when I want to write something, but it literally messes with my sanity. Fortunately, I am part of a group that tries to help each other. We get together to critique each other’s work, and sometimes, we can use each other to shake things loose when we’re stuck. One of the things I think we all agree on collectively is that writing should be fun. It’s also hard. But if it stops being fun also, we’re doing it wrong. So one of the things we’re doing is making sure to write something at least once a week. It doesn’t have to be War and Peace, or the great American novel, or even a full story. It can be a scene, a conversation between two characters we make up on the spot, anything, as long as it’s fun to write. And fun for writers could be something that makes us laugh or even cry. Maybe ‘engaging’ would be a better word than ‘fun’. We need to write something that we enjoy writing that makes us not want to stop until it’s on the page.

Throughout history, writer’s block or if you aren’t a writer, creative blocks of all kinds have plagued people who wanted to create expression. The Greeks had nine goddesses who were in charge of such inspiration, and as many gods and goddesses were, they were known for their capricious nature, feeding artists and musicians music with divine origin at times, and abandoning them and taking their inspiration with them at others. The expression in which someone says such a person, ‘is my Muse’, and the term ‘music’ come from these goddesses, daughters of Zeus and Mnemnosyne (lord of the Sky, and Memory):

Clio–Muse of History

Euterpe–Muse of lyric song

Melpomene–Muse of tragedy

Terpsichore–Muse of Dance

Erato–Muse of erotic poetry (my guess is a bit more significant than ‘There once was a man from Nantucket…’)

Polyhymnia–Muse of sacred song

Urania–Muse of astronomy

Thalia–Muse of comedy

I think it’s interesting that they were born of sky and memory, because people have been getting inspiration from looking at the sky for thousands of years, and it takes an act of will and the synthesis of emotion and memory to generate works of art or scientific inspiration that hold meaning for people.

But as with the nature of most gods and goddesses, inspiration can be dark. In Celtic lore, the Leanan Sidhe was thought of as a Muse, who inspired poets, but there was a price. She was also vampiric, sucking the life energy of those she inspired. The next story: The Muse, was based on this idea.

 

The Muse

Rivulets of dark pungent water fanned across the rock, leaving a damp organic smell behind. The moon set beyond the deserted park, leaving only the sodium park lights near the Platte River to compete with the more distant city lights in the LoDo condo neighborhoods. But where the river met the rock, under the diseased elms, the shadows were inky physical things. The rivulets across the rock writhed and surged in black ribbons like the hair of a nymph. The river exhaled gray vapor into the air that smelled like the bottom of a lake. Eliza sat by a tangle of shrubs at the edge of the rock, ruminating about her student debt for the millionth time that day, for the millionth time that year. Pinpoints of light danced in the water.

The miasma pooled around her in the air like spectral congregants to a midnight church. Before she had to return to the dry dusty track home, she basked in the sudden humidity of the night river and inhaled the mist. It slid down her throat like silk. Her vision became blurry as the lights in the water doubled and she fell asleep beside the rising stream. When she woke, the morning star was shining. Her cheek was wet where the water had seeped up onto the rock where she lay. There was no indication of how she had fallen asleep, or why.

She had been pounding coffee since noon. Her mother’s voice rang in her head reminding her of how people drown in an inch of water. Her pad was open to a drawing she didn’t remember creating. But it was dark and she couldn’t see very well. She could barely make out the shapes of figures on the page as she peered at it in the pre-dawn light. The swaths of charcoal shifted and flowed across the page into spirals and eddies. Lighter patches here and there looked like eyes. She shivered in the early morning chill, pushed herself up, gathered her supplies, and climbed up to the footpath for the hike to the Light Rail.
One of the bulbs was out in the dingy kitchen of her Lipan Street apartment when she flicked it on. She tossed her pad and supplies on the kitchen table, pulled a chair up and replaced the bulb. She glanced down at the table and almost fell backwards off the chair. The drawing that had been barely visible earlier was a wash of dark shapes that still looked like they shifted if you glanced at another part of the page. The one certainty fixed at points throughout the page were pale faces caught in various poses of agony, fear and despair, like souls trapped trying to escape Tartarus.
She slowly righted the chair and stared at the notebook and tried to remember drawing it.

#

Jobie padded into the kitchen and wrapped his arms around Eliza as she was making coffee later that morning, and nuzzled her thin brown braids. “What the hell were you dreaming about after you finally got in? And where were you so late? I was starting to think I’d have to retrieve you from a crack den or something.”

She turned and swatted him.

He grinned, “And then when you came to bed, you beat the snot out of me in your sleep. I’ll have to start sleeping with my old football pads.”

She lightly bit him on the nose, and then wiped her lips on the kitchen towel. “Ew! Did you take your allergy pill this morning? Your nose is all drippy.”

He laughed. “Don’t blame me, Lassie.” He let her go and blew his runny nose on a piece of toilet paper. “Seriously, you ok? I know you been worrying all the time.”

“I’m fine. What are you talking about?”

“You just had some real whoppers of nightmares. I tried to wake you but you just screamed. You had your eyes open and everything. You stared straight at me. I almost called 911. I’m surprised no one did call. Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy about our neighbors, in case of a real emergency. ‘No Officer, I didn’t hear nuthin, or see the ax-murderer leaving their house covered in blood, with all of their belongings…’ I was about to call, and then you stopped, and started snoring like nothing had happened. You don’t remember any of this?”

She shook her head and frowned into his earnest brown eyes. “I used to get night terrors when I was a kid, but that was twenty years ago, when I was like four.”

“Did your parents drink? Cuz I sure needed a stiff one after that. Are you sure you’re ok?” He hugged her close. “I’ve been planning to tell my boss to fuck off for a day anyway. I want to see how long that unit lasts without me.”

She shoved him toward the shower. “Go get dressed for work. I’m sorry I woke you, but I won’t be the reason you lose your job in this economy.” Her fingers wandered to the edge of her sketch pad and she just stood frozen in thought as the coffee water boiled.

#

She dodged a frustrated driver trying to park in a spot too small, as she scooted across the street from the station to Auraria campus. The studio was cool in the summer heat as she set up her clay and tools and got to work. Her fingers tingled and the sculpture took shape as though the shape of the piece was flowing out of her hands. When it stood done, it was a long vaguely human form like the statues dubbed the ‘dancing aliens’, outside the Denver Performing Arts Center across the street. But this bore only a passing resemblance to that piece. This solitary form was fluid with curves, like a humanoid shape that was part amoeba. Tendrils from its palms reached out for contact to anyone, anything who glanced at it. It looked strangely hungry.

Mr. Catan, the teacher, wandered over and studied it, and noted the same thing. “You certainly have created a stirring piece.” He smiled at her, “Almost Dali-esque.”

Yeah, stirring, she thought, glancing away from his upswept 50’s greaser hairdo and skater-punk t-shirt three decades too young for him. Just like Hustler is stirring, she edged away and started smoothing the figure’s shoulders with a sponge.

But he didn’t move on to the other pieces. “What were you thinking of when you created this? It looks…lonely, empty.”

As soon as she stepped back from it, she saw that he was right. It did look lonely. Need seeped off of it, reaching for her. She gasped and backed up into the wall.
Mr. Catan laughed and nodded at her reaction. “Well, wherever you got this idea from, you had some kind of inspiration. There was a time when artists who created things like this believed they had been touched by the Muse, or fed upon by her. It depended on their perspective. Men gave their lives to her. Or at least, they gave pieces of themselves. Van Gogh, Pygmalion…what did you give to create this?”
Creep, she thought.

He smiled, “You should enter this in the student exhibit when it’s finished.”

Suddenly, she felt bad at her knee-jerk reaction. He was just trying to help.

The Orphan, its name came to her as he walked away. The curves of the statue almost seemed to lean after him, the vacant eye depressions gazing into the back of his neck. She hurriedly cleaned up her materials, and went to her next class, as the statue faced the door.

#

When she came back to the sculpture the next day, Mr. Catan had moved it to the side of the room to make space for a metal-sculpting class. She uncovered it and her impression of it being ’empty’ dissipated. The atmosphere it created was different now. Maybe its paler color as it dried had changed the feel. It seemed animate, almost sentient. But it no longer felt empty and she almost wished that it had. The head had only the slightest depressions for eyes and merely a sloping rise for a nose, and yet, it had an expression. As she finished the fine details, it still looked lonely, like the embodiment of loneliness, but now it somehow looked full.
Ms. Teague, the visual design teacher, stood off to the side, watching the progress of the shapes taking form in the classroom.

“Ms. Teague? Where’s Mr. Catan?” Eliza asked.

She shook her head, a couple grey bobby-pinned curls escaping. “He didn’t come in today.”

“Is he sick?” The hair on the back of Eliza’s neck stood and she positioned herself so she couldn’t see The Orphan.

Ms. Teague frowned, “I assume so. The office is having me fill in. Do you need anything?”

“No, thanks. Just wondering.” Eliza wandered back to her work area. The Orphan’s form seemed to occupy the room as a crowd of admirers gathered around it.

“Wow, this is really cool. I wish I could make something like this.” Wendy, the wispy Gothic girl of the class whose works all had a Tim Burton-esque look to them, twirled her long black locks.
Her lanky partner, shifted his skull-and-crossbones suspenders. “Yeah, you should enter it in the exhibit. Or a gallery. My brother has a friend who owns a gallery on Santa Fe. He’d probably take it. He don’t pay much though, but people’d see it. This needs to be seen.”

Wendy touched it gently, “May I?”

Eliza shrugged. “Sure. Just be careful.”

The girl nodded, “Funny, it seems like it wants to be touched.” She drew her hand away suddenly and then replaced it again. “It’s warm. Like it’s alive.” She smiled, her red lips stretching into a white smile, “Gives me some new ideas,” and she wandered back to her work area.

Eliza just sat back in bewilderment at The Orphan’s popularity until the students trickled away to their own projects. She added and polished, and couldn’t get away from its warm suppleness and the sense that it felt everything she did to it.

#

Jobie squeezed her, and popped another pig in a blanket into his mouth. He washed it down with another plastic cup of wine and said through a mouthful, “Congratulations, Babe! Wow, my girlfriend won an award from the student exhibit.”

Crowds trickled into the gallery from the street. As the servers moved to the greet them, Jobie snagged another handful of appetizers. She frowned as she peered around. He leaned back and peered at The Orphan. “Wow, it really is something else. It feels like its watching me. What inspired it, was it your creepy greaser sculpture teacher? Those tentacle-thingees in its palms make me think he did a little too much stroking the monkey. You know what they say about that. And your statue’s blind too,” he tipped one of his teetering cups to The Orphan.

Eliza almost shot wine through her nose as she laughed. “I think that’s the four cups of booze you’ve had in the last hour. Not the sculpture.” Eliza smirked.

He looked offended. “No, I’m eating food with my alcohol.” He stuffed three sausage-filled mushrooms into his mouth to emphasize his point. “You gotta live a little, Babe! It’s your art. You painting and sculpting and stuff, that’s the first time I’ve seen you relax a little and express yourself. You’re always so practical, like Spock. Join your own party for a change!” He poked a breaded sausage at her mouth.

She waved him off, and then thought better of it. She grabbed his cup of wine and downed it, and then another.

“See, that’s it!” he beamed.

She basked in the glow as people flocked around the statue. These art classes had been electives to fill in for some liberal arts core requirements. They had been a pragmatic choice, since it seemed like an easy grade. Maybe this could be a second career for me, she thought, but it won’t pay as well as business administration, and at least that’s steady. But now, it was turning out to be satisfying in other ways. It was the first time she had ever felt…expressed. There were other things in life besides a steady paycheck and security. Maybe Jobie was right.

She wrapped her arms around Jobie’s paunchy middle and enjoyed the attention for the rest of the evening while he did all the talking and bragging for her.

She glanced around and frowned. It had been the one sour point in the evening, reminding them of the situation unfolding on campus. Mr. Catan was missing. He had been reported a couple days prior, and it had been on the news. No trace of his whereabouts had been found, the news had said. The university had been silent on any details of the investigation. While she hadn’t much liked him, she hoped he was alright, hoped he hadn’t fled from some heinous crime they had yet to discover. And, she thought, a little selfishly, she wished he had been here to see her piece opening in the gallery.

#

As they returned home, her sketch pad slid to the floor of the train and Jobie picked it up. “Let’s see what Michelangelo’s been cooking up on paper? You never showed me these.” He flipped slowly through the pages of fruit and nature scenes, and then stopped abruptly at the charcoal she had puzzled over two weeks previously from her nap by the stream.

“Whoa…” His soft drunk brown eyes focused on her. A flash of fear floated through them, and then was subsumed again in the haze of alcohol. “Left turn into dark. Which one of these is not like the others? When did you do this?”

She reached for it, and studied it again, swallowing on a lump of apprehension in her throat. “Last week, Tuesday. The day I had the night terrors.”

“No wonder.”

She sighed, “No, night terrors aren’t dreams. They don’t happen in REM sleep. It’s during deep sleep. That’s why no one remembers anything when they have a night terror. They aren’t dreaming or seeing anything.”
“Well, one physiology class and look who knows everything about the brain. I’ll make you a bet that in ten years, they come out with another study that says the exact opposite, just like they did with the study saying fat is bad for you, and then that we need it for brain function. Make up your mind, people!”

She laughed and pushed at his ample chest.”When they said fat is necessary, I don’t think that ten bags of pork rinds a day were what they meant.”

He shrugged and his eyes slid back to the picture. “I’m just saying. Something scared the hell out of you, and this picture scares the hell out of me.” He tapped it, “But it’s really interesting. Interesting and creepy sells. You should get it entered into a contest or put it on an art website or something. Maybe we could win the rent money. And then I could go tell my boss to fuck off for good.”

She smirked and packed the pad away in her bag. “The scary picture’s gone now. And I’ll think about it. There’s a scanner in the student aid office. Maybe they’ll let me use it. In the meantime, you’ll just have to keep being the loathed IT guy until the gravy train comes in.” They linked arms and walked to the station.

#

The studio lit up as she entered, the first one there. She had an extra hour between work at the coffee shop and sculpture class. The block of clay felt cool and satiny underneath her hands as she wet it and began working. The slip glided through her fingers as a shape formed. Other students filtered in. A ring of students gazed at the emerging creation, and then set up their own stations, glancing back at her every so often. Ms. Teague watched her with a pensive look, but said nothing and just let her work, commenting here and there on other students’ pieces.

About ten minutes before class ended, Eliza stepped back from the bench and brought herself from her reverie to look at the sculpture from a distance. It was not even remotely humanoid. There were shoots emerging from piles of loops that looked like internal organs, and hands, dozens of tiny hands and mouth indentations lined with buds like tongues.
Gothic Wendy’s voice startled her, “Girlfriend did some LSD last night.” She stared at the grotesque sculpture. “It looks hungry. But I like it. One brush with celebrity and you go right off the rails.” She smirked at Eliza.

“Don’t go cutting off any body parts to mail to your boyfriend.”

Eliza frowned. It did look hungry somehow, and it wasn’t just the mouths. It had the same vacant feel to it as The Orphan had started with, as though it were waiting. Eliza covered it up and left for her Developmental Psych class.

#

At the end of the semester a couple weeks later, she brought her new piece home, when they emptied their things from the studio. Jobie gaped at it as Eliza partly uncovered it on the hand truck, to undo the cords holding it.

“It’s…unique, in a Crypt Keeper meets the Return of the Living Dead kind of way. What’s this one called? ‘Your Insides on Pork Rinds?'”

She tilted her head at it, while flicking Jobie’s ear. And the name came to her. Bacchus’ End, she realized, like the Baccanalians and their festivities. It was like a mass of senses feeding on itself.
He patted her on the back. “Good job, Queen of Darkness. If you go whip up some grub, I’ll get this unloaded and start the folding the laundry.” He turned the TV on.

As she kissed him and went into the kitchen, she could almost feel the tongues questing and the mouths opening and closing on the scents in the air and the hands reaching for something, anything. About twenty minutes later, the hamburger helper casserole was done and she went into the TV room to catch their regular episode of Bones with Jobie. But he wasn’t there.

“Job? Hey Job?” The television was still on and she lowered the volume. She poked her head in their bedroom, but the rumpled Snoopy sheets were empty. The bathroom door was open and dark. She peered out the window to see if he might be coming from the store. But the only folks she saw were heading to or from the Osage station.

She texted him. A buzz from the counter showed her his phone. She called their friends, his work and anyplace else she could think of where he might have gone. But he wasn’t there, and it didn’t seem likely that he would have just gone without telling her, especially not just before dinner. Finally, she called the police, to say that something must have happened to him, though she couldn’t imagine how. They came and took her statement, and gave the statue an odd glance as they left. She sat on the couch and cried.

Like The Orphan, it seemed different in the dim light of the living room lamp. It had seemed vacant before, but now, though the statue seemed hungry still, it seemed more…present, inhabited. She shuddered and threw the couch blanket over it and went to bed.

She cried until she fell asleep. Every hour she woke and felt the lump of blankets to see if Jobie had come in. He didn’t, and the phone never rang.

#

His side of the bed was still empty in the morning. She pulled her knees to her chest and just rocked for a while. At ten o’clock, she called in sick to the coffee shop. She stared at the screen for a couple hours. He’ll be back from wherever. Those people on TV always come back. Look, those talk show guests have it much worse, they’re throwing shoes at each other. God, where the hell is he? I know there was nothing wrong between us? Was he mad at me? No, he would never just leave me like this, wondering. Oh God, something had to have happened!

She went around and around like that, as the television droned on. Finally, she shut it off. The silence in the apartment was unbearable. Baccus’ End waited under the cloth which she had left over it. She could almost hear it breathe with its many mouths, and feel the pulse of its blood. She grabbed her bag and left, slamming the door behind her.

As she crossed the walking bridge over I-25, she spotted a sculpture she had never noticed before, though she remembered dimly that it had been there for as long as she had been in Colorado. Jobie had snarked about it constantly, because it was the singularly most hideous incomprehensible thing she had ever seen. It looked like a giant pile of red gory jelly beans that had melted and stuck together.

At night, the fine citizens of Denver were treated to its full effect as it was lit from within, so the dribbles of red paint down its side looked like the innards of a demon that had been put through a Star Trek transporter accident. She walked up to it now and touched the cherry red protuberances. And quickly pulled her hand away as they pulsed faintly under her hand. The electrical source used to light the monstrosity must have been buzzing, she thought, but didn’t try to touch it again. ‘Crimson Love’, it was named. Now she had to shut her eyes and press her fingers into her sockets, as a sexual connotation was added to the demon intestine image.
She sighed, checked her phone again in case Jobie called, and headed down the path to the river.

When she got there, she pulled her pad out of her bag, tore the charcoal drawing out and ripped it into pieces, smearing charcoal across her hands. The feeling of loathing she got as she looked at it was irrational, she knew. I still don’t remember drawing that. What if I didn’t? All this started after that strange night. What if it’s the drawing? What if it let something in? Or what if something else drew it and cursed me? Everything went wrong after that.

She thought about the sequence of events. She had never been a artistic prodigy, so why all of the sudden had she suddenly started drawing and sculpting pieces that got people’s attention so strongly? A chill ran down her spine as she thought about the lights in the water that night. What if I did draw it, and whatever was here that night got into me? What are those things I’m creating?

She shivered, and threw the shredded picture in the water. The shreds hit a stagnant pocket of water behind a brake of river debris, so the shreds just eddied around instead of being swept away. As the water soaked through the paper, the images ran and blended together. The eyes in the paper rolled and the faces convulsed and then they were gone. The river exhaled a belch of vegetal air and the breeze whistled a sigh around her ears and through her hair.

Someone wandered by with a dog. It was friendly and explored Eliza with a wet nose, a snort and a wag of its coppery tail.

“Sorry. Down, Chassie! I’m Meg.” She held out her hand.

Eliza shook it. “It’s ok.” She ran her fingers through the dog’s fur and let his drooling tongue comfort her. A tear leaked down her face.

“Are you ok?” Meg came and squatted by her.

She nodded. “I’m just having a bad day. Your dog is nice.” “Well, I hope things get better. You’re an artist? That’s pretty good!” The gray-haired woman peered at the picture exposed in her pad now that the dark charcoal was gone. It was an ordinary mountain scene in watercolors.

Eliza nodded, “Well, I’m taking a class. It was fun, but lately…it feels like it’s been kind of taking over.”

The woman smiled, her crafted earrings swinging as she spoke, “Touched by the Muse, eh? That’s how one of my artist friends in Sedona talked about her art. Like it came from someone else besides her. She also said the liquor fairy breathed life into the things she made. If she stopped drinking and partying, her art started to suffer.” She laughed. “Listen to me, You’re not underage are you? How old are you?”
“Twenty-four.”

Meg batted her hand in the air. “Ah, you’re legal. Anyway, you just look so serious. I’m not saying you should go get liquored up or anything. Just don’t forget to have some fun, eat and drink, before the time goes by, and you get to my age.” The dog began pulling the woman away. “Nice meeting you.”

“You too,” Eliza nodded. She sat until the sun set, not wanting to face her empty apartment. Jobie hadn’t called. The police hadn’t called either. Their friends only called to check in with her and make sure she was alright.
Her fear of the art pieces seemed silly now. Despite the woman’s talk of spirits, it seemed more firmly in the realm of folklore. The police will figure it out. Just let him be ok.

She dangled her feet in the river as the light faded. The trickle and the crystal cool swell around her shins was comforting. The sand swirled around her toes and shaped into furrows around her feet. She flopped out of the water and found a stick, and sat where the beach met a lazy part of the river, next to the sitting rock. There she drew spirals in the sand until the stick broke. Nothing was strange about the doodles. They were just swirls of sand. Just to prove her point she took handfuls of the sand and built a little mound with a moat.

The water shimmered and lapped at her fingers like little velvet tongues and deepened in the moat. The sound of the waves were hypnotic. The twinkles of light in the water were so beautiful and cool. They whispered and sang in high sweet voices that everything would be fine as a cool mist kissed her eyelashes. She relaxed and let the sand settle around her feet and arms. Something in the back of her mind was screaming at her to move, but the troubles with Jobie would still be waiting, and one more minute in the water felt nice.

Her arms had sunk into the sand and dark water. The waning moon was barely a sliver in the sky. The sodium lamps didn’t penetrate the mist that had risen in the trench of the river where Eliza crouched in the pungent water and drank, as the heat ebbed from her limbs.

#

A dog sniffed around the new sandstone sculpture by the sitting rock, and decided that it was not a good candidate for marking his territory. It was too…alive.
The squat amphibious creature sat, almost in the water. It looked like it was made of eyes. The eyes covered its head in clusters, even lining its wide full lips, as though it were a creature that was always watching the world from the sidelines. Long columns of stone drooped down its hunched form, almost like brown thin-braided river-weed hair. And it was surrounded by silence and sadness. Insects moved and chattered about, and the river flowed as always, but there was a stillness around it that dampened the air. As though it were waiting to breathe. Another dog’s owner trotted over. “What the hell is that? What a weird place to put a statue,” her ponytail bobbed as she jogged around it.

The jogger’s companion took a swig from her water bottle and kept jogging in place on the rock. “Have you ever looked around Denver? We’re in the city of weird sculptures. It’s that push to be ‘cosmopolitan’ whatever that means. I think it means you’re acceptably hoity-toity if you have weird art. Haven’t you ever noticed the ‘cosmopolitan’ statues around the city?”

“True. Like that demon horse with the red eyes outside the Denver Airport. There’s something I want to see before I get on a plane. I heard the artist died just before he finished it.”

“Actually, it killed him. That’s what I heard.”

The first woman snapped her fingers at the dog and the two women sprinted up the slope to the trail and ran on.

End Story

 

After all of the depictions of Muses, what is your favorite? Which one are you most affected by? How do you get past your own blocks and lure the Muses back into your life?

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!

YA Indie Carnival–Author Spotlight: Melissa Pearl!

Posted in book reviews, indie, publishing, urban fantasy, writing, young adult fiction with tags , , , , , , , , on April 18, 2013 by rachelcoles

Melissa Pearl is an exciting YA indie author with a very worldly flavor, which is probably an amalgam of the rich experiences she has had in her travels. Her books are interesting and complex, but easy to read and fun. And I’m very jealous because she’s lived in New Zealand, and China. I visited China once. We climbed one of the mountains in the Zhang Zha Zhe province, I’m sure I just butchered and misspelled that all in one. I wound up needing to get shoes because I’d gotten a new pair of hiking boots that had refused to break in even though I ran over them with my car, and discovered, stupidly, that hiking a mountain in China wasn’t a good place to keep trying to break them in. So I stopped in one of the villages to get a pair of sneakers. Seriously, they had to go to the men’s section to find shoes for me, giggling all the way at the Western woman’s giant boat feet. I’m 5’1″. But they were very polite and nice.  It was really a wonderful experience. The people were friendly and warm, the landscape was breathtakingly majestic. The different cultures we saw, since China is not, as many people think, ethnically homogenous at all, were fascinating. We got to meet and see some of the mountain villages of the Tujia people, the ethnic descendants of the ancient Ba people. Their history is incredibly rich, and I’d never known or heard anything about them before. It was an amazing trip. We’d initially gone with the kung fu school I was part of at the time, so we got to do some really nifty things, like perform in other schools there, and meet and exchange arts with Shaolin monks.

I can see how her wide experiences and the places she’s been are firing her imagination! In her own words, here’s Melissa!

Melissa_Pearl

Melissa Pearl was born in Auckland, New Zealand, but has spent much of her life abroad, living in countries such as Jordan, Cyprus and Pakistan… not to mention a nine month road trip around North America with her husband. “Best. Year. Ever!!” She now lives in China with her husband and two sons. She is a trained elementary teacher, but writing is her passion. Since becoming a full time mother she has had the opportunity to pursue this dream and her debut novel hit the internet in November 2011. Since then she has produced four more books and has a YA fantasy trilogy coming out this year.

“I am passionate about writing. It stirs a fire in my soul that I never knew I had. I want to be the best writer I can possibly be and transport my readers into another world where they can laugh, cry and fall in love.”

Facebook Author Page: http://www.facebook.com/melissapearlauthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MelissaPearlG

Blogs: http://melissapearl.blogspot.com/ and http://yalicious.blogspot.com/

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Melissa-Pearl/e/B0064I6S26/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1

Goodreads Author Page: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5314516.Melissa_Pearl

Smashwords Author Page: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/melissapearl

Newsletter subscription:  http://blogspot.us5.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=ab5a6cb228dc9203d6c179eaa&id=481344857f

Website: http://www.melissapearlauthor.com

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/melissapearlg/


Interview:

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

Man – that is such a tough questions. One? I’m only allowed one? LOL.

One series that I have read over and over in my time is the Mark of the Lion series by Francine Rivers. Those books have it all – awesome romance, excellent action and tension, amazing descriptions, plus a deep message running through the books (if you’re into that kinda thing – which I am). They made me laugh, cry and fall in love. Haha 🙂 Just my type of story.

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

Hmmm – how do you answer that question without coming across as pretentious? My Time Spirit Trilogy has been compared to Twilight in the sense of an intense love story. I wouldn’t say my writing is super fancy, but I know how to tell a fast paced story with lots of emotion and tension.

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

Ooo – I have so many. Little moments between my characters are so precious to me. I can feel everything they are feeling and I love it. Here is a favourite of mine, which has also received some highlights. It’s a quote from Golden Blood (Book 1 in the Time Spirit Trilogy).

“How are you okay with this?” Gemma took a step back. “I can travel through time!”

Harrison shrugged and closed the distance between them. “Hey, I was cool with alien, this isn’t much different.”

“I’m a total freak!”

“Yeah.” He grinned as he threaded his fingers through her belt loops and pulled her towards him. “But you’re my freak.” His breath tickled her skin as he leaned towards her and whispered, “Face it, Hart, you’re stuck with me. I knew the second I touched you my life had changed…and you knew it too.”

It always makes me smile. Harrison’s reaction to Gemma’s revelation is perfect in my mind. Those two are made for each other and I love that he figures it out so early on.

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

I get my inspiration from all over the place. Movies are huge for me. I would love to see my stories on the big screen one day. I picture them that way in my head. I always get a tingle running through my body when I watch a movie with a really great kissing scene or an excellent action sequence… anything that makes my emotions start to bubble.

I am inspired by music as well – everything from movie scores to punk rock to country to alternative. I love it all! I even love my toddler’s music, although it’s not that inspiring, just fun to sing along to 🙂

5) Describe your typical writing day or week.

I get up an hour before my family each morning to work on my social media stuff. It takes that long to clear my e-mail, do any blog post stuff I want to do, work through my Facebook notifications and my Twitter news. Time zon wise, it’s the best time for me to do this as there is more traffic around the sites I use.

As soon as my son goes down for his midday nap, I race to my computer. Four out of five days, I spend my time working on my writing and usually one day a week or at least half of one of those sessions is used on admin type things – numbers, blogging, extra marketing stuff. I also get a two-hour sleep in every Sunday morning, so I use that time to write as well. If my husband ever goes out in the evenings, I write once the kids are in bed.

It takes every spare moment I have to keep up with my writing. Thankfully I adore doing it, so it doesn’t feel like hard work.

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

I never eat when I’m writing. It would slow me down too much. I drink a lot of water, but if I’m really tired, I allow myself a small Coca Cola. The caffine boost can be useful sometimes.

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

I am working on a Young Adult Fantasy Trilogy. This is my first attempt into this foray and I’m having SO much fun. The first book has been edited, the second book has been written and the third book is in the planning stage. I’m aiming for June, July and August releases for the three books.

Here’s the cover and blurb for the first one:

Darkness is covering the land. As the city of Mezrah grows with power and greed, the rest of the world can only stand by and wait for their inevitable destruction. The only hope against this growing power is an ancient prophecy that people have stopped believing in.

Then a star begins to fall.

Princess Kyla of Taramon stopped believing in the power of light the day her father died. Trapped in a city she does not care for, under the watchful glare of her mother, the queen, she struggles to accept her fate.

Then a star begins to fall.

Jethro has loved Kyla for as long as he can remember. Learning that she was to marry his cousin drove a wedge between him and the feisty princess. Watching her from a distance is a torture he is unable to free himself from.

Then a star begins to fall, sparking an ember of hope and sending two seekers on a treacherous journey into the unknown.

Excerpt from Unknown (The Elements Trilogy: Book 1): 

Unknown

“Jethro!” Kyla slapped him on the arm and leaned against the grate, patting her chest. With narrowed eyes, she shot him a glare. “So this is how it is now? You don’t have the decency to talk to me in public, but you do take time out of your precious day to come scare the life out of me down in this foul-smelling tunnel.”

A slow, easy smile lit Jethro’s face. “Where have you been?”

“Why do you even care?”

Jethro’s brawny frame leaned against the stone wall behind him. His eyes glimmered with a knowing smile. “Let’s see, a bow slung over your shoulder, a quiver full of arrows… so not hunting then. I’m guessing target practice,” he clicked his fingers, “in the clearing by the waterhole.”

Kyla bit back a smile.

“How’d you do?”

She raised her chin. “I would have split your arrow in two.”

Jethro’s dark eyebrows jumped up with approval as he nodded his head. “Is that all you got up to?”

“Jethro, what are you doing here?” Kyla snapped.

“I just came to warn you.”

“Of what?”

Jethro frowned, making Kyla’s stomach clench.

“Queen Elaina is wondering why she saw her daughter being chased out of the forest by a guard of Ashan when she should have been studying world history with her tutor.”

Kyla stood up straight and swallowed. “My mother did not see. She’s always at prayers this time of day.”

“She was delayed.” Jethro winced.

The blood drained from Kyla’s face. Biting her lips together, she pulled the bow over her head and cleared her throat.

“You might want to present yourself to her before she has every man in the castle looking for you.”

With a child-like groan, Kyla gripped the end of her bow and rolled her eyes. “Fine.” Slumping her shoulders, she spun away from freedom and started stomping towards the dungeons.

“You may want to go past your chambers on the way. Perhaps tidy up a little?”

She came to an abrupt stop and slowly spun back to face the boy she’d known since birth. “Excuse me?”

Jethro’s lips fought with a grin as he pushed himself off the wall and sauntered towards her. “Just because you hate wearing dresses doesn’t mean she won’t expect to see you in one.” He pointed at the attire she had stolen from her brother years ago. She kept it hidden in a trunk at the end of her bed and only pulled it out when she was sneaking from the castle. If only her mother knew how comfortable they were, she wouldn’t insist on mountains of material that were impossible to run in.

“You’re already in for her wrath.” Jethro tipped his head. “You will only antagonise her more by appearing like this.”

Kyla pushed her tongue against the side of her mouth then huffed. “You know I hate you.”

“With the fire a thousand suns?”

Laughter burst from her mouth before she could stop it. “And more!” She punched him on the arm, missing the familiar banter they used to share as children. The amount of times he had driven her to screams of rage with his playful teasing, but a few punches later and they had been best friends again. She often wondered what had happened between them and wished they could return to past days.

As if Jethro could read her mind, he stepped back from her, the playful smile replaced with a new seriousness she did not care for. “You should get moving.”

goldenblood

Golden Blood:  FREE

Gemma Hart never knows when her father is going to whisk her back in time. Her toes start tingling and she has a few minutes to find a secret haven where she can disintegrate and appear in another time and place. While “across the line,” her training and skills are put to the test as she completes a mission that will change history for the lucky few her father has selected.

Gemma’s parents are adamant that secrecy is paramount to her family’s safety. If people knew what they were capable of, they could be “used and abused”, as her mother always says. Afraid she might accidentally utter the truth and break the ancient oath of her people, Gemma spends her school days as a loner. Only one thing can throw her sheltered life askew… Harrison Granger.

Harrison never expected to talk to the strange Hart girl, but after a brief encounter he can’t stop thinking about her. He begins a campaign to chisel away her icy veneer and is met with unexpected consequences. As he slowly wins this girl over, he enters a surreal world that has him fighting to keep his newfound love and his life.

AmazonUS: http://www.amazon.com/Golden-Blood-ebook/dp/B0063N0XIM/ref=la_B0064I6S26_1_4_title_1_kin?ie=UTF8&qid=1356158640&sr=1-4

AmazonUK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Golden-Blood-ebook/dp/B0063N0XIM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1356158654&sr=8-1

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/102113

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/golden-blood-melissa-pearl/1107485209?ean=2940032847168

Apple: https://itunes.apple.com/book/id481663128?mt=11

Kobo: http://www.kobobooks.com/ebook/Golden-Blood/book-euqsycpp9UmNqJv3ntf__Q/page1.html

Sony: https://ebookstore.sony.com/ebook/melissa-pearl/golden-blood/_/R-400000000000000546539

Final_BlackBloodCover_small

Black Blood

The second book in the Time Spirit Trilogy

AmazonUS: http://www.amazon.com/Black-Blood-Spirit-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B006M6M0WC/ref=pd_sim_kstore_1

AmazonUK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Black-Blood-Spirit-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B006M6M0WC/ref=pd_sim_kinc_1

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/114579

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/black-blood-melissa-pearl/1108147729?ean=2940032948407

Apple: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/black-blood-time-spirit-trilogy/id492220620?mt=11

Kobo: http://www.kobobooks.com/ebook/Black-Blood-Time-Spirit-Trilogy/book-k7KgAlUAw0WT8KQ3zztPQw/page1.html?s=O6S48pQ_J0WTZeDcAXDlIg&r=5

Sony: https://ebookstore.sony.com/ebook/melissa-pearl/black-blood/_/R-400000000000000583025

PureBloodCover_smallversion

Pure Blood

Third book in the Time Spirit Trilogy

AmazonUS: http://www.amazon.com/Pure-Blood-Spirit-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B0079R4IU0/ref=pd_sim_kstore_1

AmazonUK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Pure-Blood-Spirit-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B0079R4IU0/ref=pd_sim_kinc_1

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/133186

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/pure-blood-melissa-pearl/1109506315?ean=2940033065417

Apple: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/pure-blood-time-spirit-trilogy/id512427248?mt=11

Kobo: http://www.kobobooks.com/ebook/Pure-Blood-Time-Spirit-Trilogy/book-_WREC1L9wU-Eq9YQ-SWd1w/page1.html?s=__ucmcQUo0q_jCjwwueUwg&r=4

Sony: https://ebookstore.sony.com/ebook/melissa-pearl/pure-blood-time-spirit-trilogy-3/_/R-400000000000000686822

FT front

Forbidden Territory (co-authored with Brenda Howson)

Mica and Lexy have been best friends and next door neighbours since they were eight years old. They share everything and have no secrets from each other until… Tom arrives on Mica’s doorstep – a gorgeous exchange student from England. And Lexy is smitten.

Suddenly both girls are keeping secrets. Mica is hiding news about Tom’s English girlfriend and Lexy hasn’t got the heart to tell her best friend that her brother Eli, the guy Mica is mad on, thinks of her as only a friend.

After a massive fight, the girls decide the best way to mend their friendship is to spend some quality time together. And what better way than to go camping away from their parents and why not invite along the guys they are crushing on.

So the four teenagers embark on a geo-caching expedition into New Zealand’s native bush expecting a long weekend filled with flirtatious fun; instead secrets are exposed as they stumble across a hidden marijuana crop and its gun-wielding watchmen. Forced apart they spend the next forty-eight hours racing blindly in opposite directions as they fight to find each other before the hunters do.

AmazonUS: http://www.amazon.com/Forbidden-Territory-Mica-Lexy-ebook/dp/B008GDW3WG/ref=la_B0064I6S26_1_5_title_1_kin?ie=UTF8&qid=1356159408&sr=1-5

AmazonUK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Black-Blood-Spirit-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B006M6M0WC/ref=pd_sim_kinc_1

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/177572

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/forbidden-territory-melissa-pearl/1112135191?ean=2940044693180

Apple: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/forbidden-territory/id543947682?mt=11

Kobo: http://www.kobobooks.com/ebook/Forbidden-Territory/book-ucR17wO8I0ChDzDlQ76hXw/page1.html?s=QmS2aRjlzECAUFhV7fpllA&r=2

Sony: https://ebookstore.sony.com/ebook/melissa-pearl/forbidden-territory/_/R-400000000000000754734

Betwixt

Betwixt

Beautiful, wild-child Nicole Tepper is hit by a car and left for dead. But when she wakes the next morning, Nicole finds herself in bed without a scratch. Perhaps she was more intoxicated than usual, as her mother is giving her the silent treatment and her friends are ignoring her as well.

Things take a turn for the weird when Nicole soon discovers she is actually hovering between life and death. Her body is lying in the forest while her spirit is searching for anyone who can hear her. Unfortunately the only person who can is Dale Finnigan, the guy she publicly humiliated with a sharp-tongued insult that has left him branded.

Desperate, Nicole has no choice but to haunt Dale and convince the freaked-out senior to help her. Will he find her body before it’s too late? Or will the guy who tried to kill her with his car, beat him there and finish her off before anyone finds out?

AmazonUS: http://www.amazon.com/Betwixt-ebook/dp/B00A1M5NK4/ref=sr_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1352063980&sr=1-5&keywords=Betwixt

AmazonUK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Betwixt-ebook/dp/B00A1M5NK4/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1352064093&sr=8-2

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/250476

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/betwixt-melissa-pearl/1113732806?ean=9781479165919

Kobo: http://www.kobobooks.com/ebook/Betwixt/book-zJOYtWnoBEy_mCrpW6Jp0w/page1.html

Sony: https://ebookstore.sony.com/ebook/melissa-pearl/betwixt/_/R-400000000000000861663

So now that you have some great new books to add to your reading list, check out the other author blogs on the YA Indie Carnival for some peeks into other author reading lists, author interviews, writing tips, or just chatting about your favorite YA novels!

1. Laura A. H. Elliott 2. Bryna Butler, author Midnight Guardian series
3. T. R. Graves, Author of The Warrior Series 4. Suzy Turner, author of The Raven Saga
5. Rachel Coles, author of Into The Ruins, geek mom blog 6. K. C. Blake, author of Vampires Rule and Crushed
7. Gwenn Wright, author of Filter 8. Liz Long | Just another writer on the loose.
9. Ella James 10. Maureen Murrish
11. YA Sci Fi Author’s Ramblings 12. A Little Bit of R&R
13. Melissa Pearl 14. Terah Edun – YA Fantasy
15. Heather Sutherlin – YA Fantasy

And see What’s New at the YA Author Club for up and coming new novels, cover reveals, new releases, and book events!

YA Indie Carnival–Goodreads: What’s Good and What’s Not

Posted in book reviews, indie, publishing, urban fantasy, writing, young adult fiction with tags , , , , on March 21, 2013 by rachelcoles

YA_Indie_CarnivalHi all,

This week’s post is about Goodreads. For people who haven’t heard of it, it’s a database/bloggersite for books. That’s the closest I can come to describing it. Pretty much any book, anywhere in the world can be found on Goodreads. And it’s more than that. Here are the goodies available for people to take advantage of on Goodreads:

Reader’s groups where people can discuss books they’ve read, sometimes book clubs

Author Dashboard where authors can manage their books, reviews, ads, etc

Reading list where readers can add books they’ve heard of to their lists that they want to read, and receive recommendations from other readers

Review areas where readers can write reviews and post them

These are among some of the cool features of Goodreads. I’ve found a great resource for the things I want to read, though I tend to forget about that one. I am notorious for making lists of all kinds and then ignoring the lists, including in my house, at the grocery store, and at work. So why would that change for anything else…

As an author, I tend to use the author dashboard quite a bit. I recently posted an ad on Goodreads, as an experiment. I’m not good at advertising and such, and Goodreads, unlike Amazon is dummy-friendly, and wallet-friendly. The feature is that you create a simple click ad with a small caption, and send it out to either authors you like or genres or both. The Goodreads team recommends both simultaneously. And from there you add the amount of money you want to spend. It is $.x per click. So you can manage how much you spend and who views it. Views are not the same as clicks. Hundreds of people can view it, but you only pay if they click on it to see more.

Another function I use a lot on Goodreads is the review section. I like to be able to write reviews and post them, about something I’ve read. Admittedly, I am spotty about this because there just aren’t enough hours in the day, but it is a great avenue to post reviews. And you can link these reviews to your Facebook page, your website, Twitter, etc., so that it shows up in multiple places. And people can friend you on Goodreads too so that they are notified any time you publish a review of a book. That being said, if you prefer publishing reviews on your website, you can also link it that way too, so that your Goodreads friends will get a notification by email whenever you’ve published a post on your website, if they click that they want to receive notifications from you.

These are all pretty user-friendly, and in my opinion, good things about Goodreads.

I don’t think there are too many problems with Goodreads. The only issue I have encountered is that they do not seem to have a very user-friendly option for giveaways. Their giveaways are structured rather specifically, it seems. It’s possible that I’m reading it wrong, but mostly, I have only been able to find where you can do a giveaway if your book is about to come out (new). I like doing giveaways sometimes, and don’t want to limit myself to one period in time. I also recall reading, for a past YA Indie Carnival Giveaway, that they only accept giveaways for paper books. I have paper books, but sometimes people want e-books. Though I love the smell and feel of paper pages. I also love being able to carry a library with me on a plane.

Please share your experience with Goodreads, things you liked, things you didn’t! And check out what other folks have said on their websites, below.

1. Laura A. H. Elliott 2. Bryna Butler, author Midnight Guardian series
3. T. R. Graves, Author of The Warrior Series 4. Suzy Turner, author of The Raven Saga
5. Rachel Coles, author of Into The Ruins, geek mom blog 6. K. C. Blake, author of Vampires Rule and Crushed
7. Gwenn Wright, author of Filter 8. Liz Long | Just another writer on the loose.
9. Ella James 10. Maureen Murrish
11. YA Sci Fi Author’s Ramblings 12. A Little Bit of R&R
13. Melissa Pearl 14. Terah Edun – YA Fantasy
15. Heather Sutherlin – YA Fantasy

What’s New in the world of YA at the YA Author Club? Cover reveals, new releases, giveaways?

And check out Ina Grujic’s awesome book blog for a plethora of interesting new indie authors, like Bella Forrest, Imogen Rose, Claudia Lefeve, and James Lyon! There’s a new author interview posted for Pazuzu’s Girl there also.

%d bloggers like this: