Archive for writing

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

NaNoWriMo: What Do You Get Out Of Writing?

Posted in blogging, horror, indie, indie authors, mythology, urban fantasy, writing, young adult fiction with tags , , , on November 20, 2014 by rachelcoles

Hi Fellow Indies,

A little more than halfway through NaNoWriMo, only a week and a half to go! I’m participating informally in NaNoWriMo, which means I don’t really follow the website, but I’m using this month to buckle down and make sure I write at least a little every day. For National Novel Writing Month, Webucator has asked authors to talk about their writing journey, and what tidbits of knowledge they have gotten from it. So they had a few questions:

 

What were your goals when you started writing?

 

I’m not sure I really had a goal when I started because I wasn’t that organized. I guess I would say that if wishes were ponies, I’d write a bunch of novels that went best-seller and had movies made from them. But having statistics as part of my day job and knowing the odds, it wasn’t really an expectation. I just aimed for getting published, and having as many people as possible enjoy the book. So I’ve written the one novel so far, and have gotten a few short stories published. I’ve written on and off for the past few years. I wrote a fan fiction novel when I was in my twenties. And then when I got married and had a child, I didn’t really write much. Then one day, my daughter, who loved scary stories, exclaimed that she was bored with the library selection of scary stories for kids. She wanted us to make up our own. So the first story we came up with together was about shadows that moved. Well, I took that idea and fleshed it out, and wrote it down. When it was done, however, it really wasn’t a children’s story. It was called Orphans of Lethe. I submitted it to a few horror magazines to see what would happen, and The Horror Zine wanted it. That was the beginning of my adult writing career, kicked off by my awesomely cool little girl.

 

I started writing more horror stories. And then I couldn’t stop. After about six months, I joined a critique group because I realized that I needed other eyes to look over my work besides my busy husband. The first time that NaNoWriMo rolled around, which I had never heard of before, they encouraged me to participate. Aside from the Babylon 5 fan story which turned into a novel-length book, I’d never even tried to write a novel before. I remembered a short story written by Clive Barker, one of my favorite authors, about a demon who is trapped in a house with a man he is supposed to corrupt, but instead the man winds up driving the demon crazy. I started imagining demons having to deal with everyday exasperations, and somehow, out of that came a story about a well-known demon, Pazuzu, trying to raise a teenage daughter in Denver. I might have been envisioning my own future a little. I remember what I was like as a teenager. So I finished the novel a couple months after NaNoWriMo, and decided to try to get it published. I edited and edited. And got rejected and rejected. And then my husband tipped me off to a friend of his who had said that Journalstone is interested in the kind of stories I liked to write. I sent it off to them, and a month or so later, it was accepted and published as Pazuzu’s Girl.

 

What are your goals now?

 

My goal now is to keep writing, get another novel written, maybe a sequel, and get another novel published, and more short stories as well. I would like to win a few short story contests, which I’ve never done before, aside from once when I was in high school. I think part of the key is to make little short-term goals. If I think too much about long term goals, I might get intimidated, and then writing wouldn’t be fun.

 

What pays the bills now?

 

I am a medical anthropologist. I work in public health, specifically in emergency preparedness and response. So I help prepare for and respond to incidents and disasters. Most of what I do is program evaluation, trying to establish that positive outcomes are occurring from preparedness and response. But I also serve as a duty officer to coordinate response for spills and other public health-related incidents in Colorado if something occurs after business hours. In the event of a disaster, we also rotate shifts being liaisons for the state emergency operations center.

 

Assuming writing doesn’t pay the bills, what motivates you to keep writing?

 

Writing doesn’t pay the bills. That would be lovely. Though even if my novel and future novels became best-sellers and could support my family, I think I would keep my day job at least part time, because I do feel good about what I do in responding to emergencies. I used to want to serve in the military. But people who have to take medication for asthma are excluded from serving. So when something bad happens, I feel like my job gives me a way to help. But I don’t ever want to stop writing again as I did after graduate school. It really opened up my life a lot. After I started writing short stories and sharing them with my husband, he told me that he felt like he was seeing a whole new side of me that he hadn’t seen before, and really felt closer to me because of it. I’m a bit of an introvert, which is not uncommon among writer-types, I imagine. I spend a lot of time in my own head, and I’m not always good at verbal communication about what’s in there. I feel like writing is a way to let the world get closer. On top of that, I am a bit of a stress-monkey, and I am really bad at meditating. So, I feel like writing helps to relieve at least some stress. It is often very cathartic. When I am sad, my characters can be sad, or I can write a funny scene to cheer myself up. When I am aggravated, or downright pissed off, lots of aggravating people can die horribly in my story, and I can shut my computer feeling like a boxer feels after punching the stuffing out of a bag. And when I’m happy, I can share that too, I can spread joy and warm fuzzies. Despite being a horror fan, I do have a few warm fuzzy stories. And I do have to say, when something gets accepted for publication, it’s the best feeling in the world. It’s like crack. It makes me feel like the story really reached people and was worth writing, even if I don’t get paid. Somewhere, the story made an impression on someone and made them think. The sharing of ideas and emotion is really what writing is about, communication.

 

And optionally, what advice would you give young authors hoping to make a career out of writing?

 

I would say that the best thing they can do is not get discouraged by rejection. In some ways, it is a statistics game. If you are a decent writer, someone somewhere will like your stuff. You just have to play the statistics game and keep submitting. Just like the lottery, you can’t win if you don’t play. When we sold our house, we were told by the real estate agent that since it was a decent house in a not-terrible neighborhood, it was just a question of getting enough people to see the house that eventually, someone would walk through the door and find that the house was the right one for them. I think that in this day and age with such a huge market, the same process applies. You just have to be patient, and persistent. Also, I have found it helpful to make sure writing stays fun. After I got my novel published, I got into a bit of a writing funk because I was suddenly worried about what other people would want to read instead of what I wanted to write. I became too self-conscious as a writer and I started second-guessing everything I wrote because suddenly, it was serious. That’s not a good approach. I had to stop obsessing about the novel and what to do next, and start writing just for the fun and not think about whether or not it was publishable.

 

Good luck to all my fellow writers out there, and hope you have a fun and productive NaNoWriMo!

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?

Happy Late Passover and Easter!

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

Hello fellow Indies!

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

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

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

Plagues

Dom: Blood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miryam snorted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kinim: Lice

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

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

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

Arov: Flies

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

Dever: Cattle Pestilence.

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

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

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

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

“With what? How many?”

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

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

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

Shcheen: Boils.

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

Barad: Hail

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

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

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

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

“I’m fine, Mum! I’m almost a man.”

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

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

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

“Your house didn’t catch fire.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Because Ramses is a donkey’s b–?”

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

“But you said–“

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Ok, what?”

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

Arbeh: Locusts

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

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

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

Choshech: Darkness

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

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

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

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

“What if everyone is wrong.”

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

Makat B’chorot: Slaying of the First Born

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

End Story

 

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

 

Indie Author Club: Toni Lombardo’s Journey

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

Hi fellow indies,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’M NOT THE ONLY ONE! YAY!

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

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

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

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

BUT, BUT IT IS MY BOOK!

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

ON A CLOSING NOTE

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

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

Peace, Love, and Inspiration

Keep writing and remember

#itsawriterthing

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

 

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

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

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

Colorado Flood Relief

YA Indie Carnival: Book Length

Posted in book reviews, indie, publishing, romance fantasy, science fiction, urban fantasy, writing, young adult fiction with tags , , , , , , on June 3, 2013 by rachelcoles

Hi fellow indie writers and readers!

Had an exciting weekend! It was the Denver Comic Con weekend, and we dressed up! Got to show off the costumes we’ve been working on for months. My husband and I went as Stilgar and Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohaim. PUT YOUR RIGHT HAND IN THE BOX! THERE’S BACON IN THE BOX! RESIST THE BACON! No, there wasn’t any bacon in the box, but you need to adjust the motivation for your current applicants to the Sisterhood.

295664_10201150679831196_1255722956_n

And our daughter, the cutest…I mean scariest weeping angel! I have discovered that while you can’t blink, if you put on iCarly, you can distract this one. But make sure not to leave out spaghetti or chocolate milk. It attracts weeping angels.

944348_10201153230254955_1394871498_n

Now that the insanity of Comicon is over, today’s topic is book length! How long should your book be?

The short answer for me is: However long it needs to be to feel done.

I don’t know how long books are supposed to be. I’ve read books that were very short that were page-turners that were amazing and left me satisfied. I’ve read books that were like War and Peace length that felt like they breezed past because they were so well written. And I sometimes feel as though long series with complicated arcs are like that. They don’t seem like separate books. Perhaps they are only separate for the sake of physical publishing limitations, but it is really a seamless story from one book to the next: such as with the Hyperion series by Dan Simmons. Some ideas are so sweeping, they need a lot of space to tell. On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve read, or tried to read books that felt like I was reading a library after only a few pages. They filled up my attention span with three pages of description about the main character’s baroque button on his velvet shirt against his well-sculpted chest.  For that kind of detail or attention to the characters’ appearances, I have porn.

How well the story is told is, to me, more important than its length, knowing how long it needs to be to really tell the story fully without being repetitive or getting lost in the weeds. That’s not easy to do. I just kind of wing it. I’ve had both situations happen to me in writing where I started off spare, and then realized when I was almost done that a character thread was missing, or I hadn’t given enough detail or backstory. So I go back and add whatever I feel is missing. On the other hand, everyone falls prey to repetition, so I’ve also written pages and pages, then gone back and realized that what I was trying to say could be said in a couple paragraphs rather than three pages. Or I’ve realized that the bit that I was putting in, while interesting to me in terms of the character’s backstory, was slowing down the rest of the flow, and wasn’t really necessary to move the plot.

I think the best advice I’ve gotten about length is: Write the book. Don’t even think about the length unless you are going to submit to somewhere that has a limit and needs to fall between a range of words. And then, go back and see if the length needs to be dealt with in editing, or not. Read through it and decide whether it tells the story you want it to tell. That will let you know if you need to add or take away.

But see what the other indies have to say at the 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 16. Melika Dannese Lux, author of Corcitura and City of Lights

And here’s what’s new at the YA Author Club!

Colorado History Museum

Posted in history, politics, world events, writing, young adult fiction with tags , , , , , , on May 13, 2013 by rachelcoles

Hey fellow indies! It’s been a few weeks since I’ve been on. The Indie Carnival is in the process of coming up with cool new discussion topics, which will include information on how to get onto Net Galley, a site where writers can find reviewers and vice versa! And more Indie Author Spotlights are coming up soon.

In the meantime, I wanted to point people to an amazing experience I had at the new History Colorado Center. It’s our history museum that was recently opened, or at least renovated and put in a new building with new exhibits. It was designed as a classroom in motion, so it’s not like a regular museum in many ways, which makes it great for kids (or adults with ADD).

There are sections on the first Colorado town, with working displays of things that the kids can play with, and character actors of snake oil salesman doing their schtick and pretending to sell you everything from arsenic to laudanum. Hilarious! There’s a ski jump simulator. This one I could only look at for about one second before I had flashbacks to the Blair Witch Project. There was a mine simulation complete with a rattling mine car ride, a storytelling tommyknocker, and a blast simulator. My daughter and her friend loved that display because it allowed them to push ‘dynamite sticks’ into the wall in a kind of mining version of Simon Says, in the right sequence, and set it off. Once they pushed the blaster plunger, a computer screen simulated what would happen, and whether or not they did it right, or just buried themselves. This sounds gruesome, but the kids were all giggling and jockeying for their chance to blow stuff up. After the kids got done, it was their daddies’ turns. Men and explosions…

As you’re leaving that area, there’s a computer game very much like WWF throwdown, except it’s between various well-known Colorado figures, such as Molly Brown, etc. This cast of characters also included ‘the brown cloud’ that used to hang over Denver before we cleaned up the pollution, and the terrifying red-eyed Sleepy-Hollowesque blue horse that everyone is subjected to upon entry into Denver from the airport. The Blue Horse Throwdown even had the horse shooting lasers from its eyes (which we all secretly knew it did, in our nightmares anyway).

But by far, the most powerful display to me, was of the Granada Japanese internment camp. I never knew this existed in Colorado. I had heard of the internment camps before, in history, and also from one of my nerd icons George Takei (Sulu from the original Star Trek). He spent part of his childhood in one, and sometimes talks about it. But hearing about it over the internet, even from someone who was there, or learning about it as a passing footnote in history class is nothing like what I saw. That’s the nature of the internet, and the nature of classrooms and history books, I suppose. They still maintain a distance.

There was no distance here. You walked through a room no larger than your living room at home, where several people spent half their lives after giving up most of their belongings and whatever futures they had on the outside. As you looked at their belongings donated by some of the folks who had been there, there were voice-narrated stories told of what it was like, or letters that they had written.

It’s been two weeks since I’ve been there, and this is the first time I could talk about it. Because I realized when I was standing in that room that this was a concentration camp. In Colorado. It wasn’t called that. It was called a War Relocation Center. But it required people to give up their homes, their jobs, and move themselves and their families to a strange place built like a camp, one room for many families with cots for beds, strangers who someone on the outside thought were alike because of their color, descent, culture. No, they weren’t gassed. They weren’t shot, or tortured in the same way as the Nazi versions. But they had to live with the realization that they were asked by their fellow citizens to give up everything because they spoke a certain language and looked a certain way, and that the country they belonged to and were loyal to, didn’t trust them. I heard that in the story this teenage girl told, it was her valedictory speech at her high school. It was, in the literal sense of the term, a concentration camp. In America.

When that hit home, as I was sitting at this young girl’s desk, I started bawling. Thank God I was the only one in the display at the time. I don’t mean a couple sniffles. I mean cover-your-mouth-and-go-into-a-corner-hoping-nobody-sees-you-until-you-can-calm-down kind of bawling. Of course people did filter in, and chickenshit about showing emotion to strangers as I am, I faked a sneeze and left, which I’m sure fooled no one.

George Takei recently showed a photo on Facebook that shows him outside the internment camp he was in as a kid, with a sign “This Place Matters’. It does. It’s incredibly instructive to me to really understand that there were concentration camps here in the U.S. That we did discriminate based on color, creed, etc, and not in the distant past, less than a hundred years ago. But one thing that really got me was one of the last things the girl on the recording said was that America had made a mistake, and that she believed America would correct it someday. She still had faith, she still believed. Wow.

Kinda put things into perspective for me. I’ve been bitching about a lot of things in politics.  I’ll never be a politician. I have no editor between my brain and my mouth. Generally not a useful trait in a politician. But this experience made me think about how I deal with the current climate. Man, this little girl didn’t lose her hope, she never gave up even after we’d just taken everything away from her, and stuck her and her entire family in a tiny box because she was Japanese.

As a writer, this was one of those Holy Cow moments that stay with you, and you hope make you a better (or at least less bitchy) person in addition to hopefully a better writer. So here’s my advice as a writer for today, at least what I found. I’ve lived in Colorado for ten years and never knew this existed here. It was right under my nose, these people’s lives. The message I got that day was ‘Look around you.’ There are stories everywhere, some which really need to be told, and aren’t, not much.

See what stories there are to tell in your own state or town. And if you happen to be in Colorado. This is a site worth visiting.

http://www.historycolorado.org/museums/history-colorado-center

http://coloradopreservation.org/projects/current-projects/granada-relocation-center/

The only way I know how to communicate to any significant degree, is through writing. I imagine that as this keeps seeping into my brain, it will work its way into my stories. I hope I can do it justice.

 

 

 

 

sdfd

%d bloggers like this: