Thursday, July 25, 2013

Flash Friday # 53: Surviving Elsewhere Part 1: The Journey (Serial)

      The first I knew my life would take a turn for the worst was when I awoke to find my cousin Maggie standing over my bed.

I yelped -- first because she'd disappeared right after her fifteenth birthday three years ago, and second because in the hot summer night I only wore my underwear. I grabbed the sheet while sleep fled.

"I've seen you in your underwear, Mark," she whispered and laughed softly.

"We were five." I clutched the sheet up to my chest.

"True." Her eyes flickered left as though she saw something else.

I sat up. She'd changed; far more than the blue hair and metal wings folding down on her back. Steadier. She held a staff with a glowing orb, lighting the room with magic. I had no doubt she had reached safety.

Maggie had spent most of her life looking over her shoulder, worried her holier-than-thou parents would find her. They didn't approve of schooling outside of the bible or the friends she made there and they definitely didn't approve of her Aunt Peggy's half-breed bastard son. Even so, she'd been my best friend.

Her parents were hypocrites. Her parents were caught robbing from church funds a couple weeks after Maggie disappeared. They'd been show and no belief.

"What's it like?" I asked, waving towards the magic light.

"Elsewhere is . . . strange," she said, her eyes staring at the wall behind me. "I don't have much time. Take this. You're going to need it."

She dropped an old, metal compass into the palm of my hand. The arrow didn't point north.

"What --" I asked as she backed away. The wall behind her was no longer solid.

"Always keep the compass with you. Edmond says there will be trouble, but we don't know when. Just find me when you're ready. Be careful."

She turned and walked through the wall to somewhere I couldn't clearly see. The wall returned to the colorless expanse lit only by moonlight. I thought it had been a dream except I had the compass in my hand. I trusted Maggie. I kept it with me all the time.

And two months later, I was running for my life, hoping the compass would show me the path to Elsewhere.

I still had the gun in my hand when I crossed the old footbridge over the Driftwood Creek, the water high after a late summer storm. I thought about jumping, but feared I wouldn't die. Death was better than being caught. So I threw the damned gun instead and then ran again. I could hear shouts growing far too close.

Tommy Creston was dead. No doubt about it. I'd put two bullets in his chest and then looked from him to the bloody body of Mary Hale. Both of them dead. Since Tom was the county sheriff's son, there wasn't going to be any hope for me. I felt sorry for Mary, though. I thought I should have done something different.

I ran straight for the hills, pulling out the compass and heading whatever direction it pointed. The shock hadn't hit me yet. I raced over the footbridge and into the trees, down deer paths and through brambles that tore at my arms.

Sheriff Creston and his men drew closer. They'd spread out and I could hear the odd echoes of their voices along with the sounds of dogs baying as they caught my scent.

How far did I need to go? The gateway to Elsewhere was in the hills above town, but it moved, being magic. We'd heard about the gate all our lives; the link to a place of magic and danger. Once you crossed over, you could never really come back again. Oh, you could step back through for a little while the way Maggie had -- but she was different now. She couldn't live among humans. You changed when you went to Elsewhere and remained for more than a few hours.

If I could get across and hide, no one would take more than maybe four hours to try to find me. Only the really desperate wanted to go Elsewhere and never come home. I'd miss mom, but she'd married and took in her new husbands' four kids. Even after four years, I still felt like a stranger living with them, me with my Japanese eyes and dark hair. I was going to move on after graduation anyway. I just hadn't thought about never coming back.

If Maggie hadn't come to me . . . I still would have tried to reach Elsewhere but without the compass --

I looked down. The arrow pointed straight right. I charged through another line of bushes, my shirt catching so I had to yank it free, leaving cloth and blood behind.

When I looked up, I saw the gateway. I took a step forward, my heart pounding. The sign glittered in the shadows, the letters bright and beautiful, even though the sign hung half off the pole; a lost place on the human side.

Welcome to Elsewhere

This side of the gateway stood in afternoon light, forest shadows and the sounds of birds and dogs growing closer. The other side looked murky and gray. I hadn't asked what to expect. I paused, breathless and wondering what --

Sheriff Creston charged through the bushes so fast he ran into me. I sprawled across the dirt and rocks and by the time I rolled over, he had his gun pulled and aimed. I hadn't realized how much he looked like his son until then.

"I don't have the gun," I said, holding out my hands.

"Yeah. A shame I didn't know that at the time," he said. "But they won't question me."

The gun steadied and his finger twitched --


The shout came from behind me and it was a heartbeat before I realized everything had stopped: the bird flying from the tree, the breeze blowing through the leaves . . . The bullet hanging no more than a foot from my face . . . .

999 words

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Friday, July 19, 2013

Flash Friday # 52 -- The Throne of Obsidian

     Everyone assumed Prince Calis died with his father when Argonis the Pyromancer, who had hidden his essence in a torch brought into the room, set the room ablaze destroying everything except the fabled Obsidian Throne. They never found his body, but many had leapt to their deaths as the fortress sailed over the hillside. Kragis, the Royal Mage, died fighting someone far more powerful than him. With Kragis gone, no one could stand before Argonis.
Long considered a bastion of safety for the people below, the flying fortress became became a place of evil. People ran from the shadow passing over them.

The throne survived because mere fire couldn't damage the volcanic rock. Argonis took the seat within the day, and the land of Trydin bowed down before him. Those whom he suspected of any ill thought died in a fiery blaze.

Argonis grew more suspicious each day, seeing dislike in every face. The sudden deaths grew more blatant: a clerk here, a family of servants there . . . an entire village where he'd never set foot.

Argonis didn't sit comfortably on the hard, stone throne.

Draken knew he would die in a fiery blaze as well. He did his work with the Royal Guard and hated protecting the monster on the throne, though that sometimes kept others safe from the pyromancer's wrath.

The Keep had settled for a few weeks at the capital, stocking up on supplies, which meant Argonis ordered everything taken without pay. No one dared complain.

"We can't live this way.".

Draken glanced to his right, startled to hear the words in a place where people hardly dared whisper at all. He saw no one. His mind playing tricks on him? Had he thought the words, rather than heard them?

"Will you help to free us of the monster?"

The words were far too clear this time, and not his voice. He stopped, there in the shadow between two booths. "Show yourself."

The old man did -- a lowering of a glamor for a moment so that their eyes met, then he pulled it back up. Dangerous if Argonis sensed the magic. "I must be careful. Argonis wouldn't be happy to know I'm here."

"He's outlawed all magic."

"Oh yes, of course he has. He knows his weakness. Come with me."

"I can't see you."

"I'll take your arm."

He could have refused. Instead, he let an ephemeral hand guide him to treason -- or so he thought until he found himself in a small hovel, the faint light from the window showing both the old mage and another man who stood by a table.

"Calis?" Draken said softly. He knew the shape of that face, and even though this apparition leaned heavily on a crutch, he still looked like the prince. "It can't be --"

"Draken," he said and offered the hand free from the crutch.

He shook his head. "It can't be. I won't be part of something that is no better --"

Calis waved his hand, silencing him as he had so often . . . before. "Kragis shoved me to the window and dropped me out, wrapped in magic. It lasted as long as he lived, which was not, quite, long enough. I survived the fall, though. Locan found me."

Draken shook his head, certain this had to be the work of Argonis, preparing to kill him for treason --

No. If Argonis wanted him dead, he'd just kill him. That's what he did. Argonis didn't trust the Royal Guard, but he couldn't do without them to keep at least some semblance of calm in the fortress.

Argonis was starting to bring in his own people, though. None of the guard would be safe for long. Draken had to take a chance.

"What can I do?"

"Good man," the mage said and slapped him on the shoulder. "We have to be fast. We dare not let you fall under any more suspicion."

They would only have once chance to pull this off. Before long, Argonis would have his own people in place and Draken knew what his fate would be. He'd been trying to find a way to escape, but Argonis found everyone who tried to get away. So he had to be daring instead.

He dragged Prince Calis through the fortress and into the throne room; it was no show. Calis couldn't walk and he'd put up a fight. He threw the prince at Argonis's feet and the pyromancer leaned forward from the throne, staring at the ragged heap at his feet.

"What is this?"

"This is Prince Calis," Draken replied and kicked at the fallen man.

"Impossible! I killed them all!"

"I worked with the prince," Draken replied. "He thought he could trust me."

"And he couldn't?" The pale grey eyes looked into his face. "So I should?"

"Depends on how well you intend to pay me."

Argonis stared and his hand twitched.

Calis threw the rock he'd been holding clinched in his hand and it shattered at the same time Argonis began to cast a wave of fire. Draken threw himself over the Prince and hoped --

The fire brushed over the top of them and burnt like hell, but it didn't kill them. After a moment's shock, Draken leapt to his feet and found Locan, who had been linked to the rock, standing beside Argonis, holding tight to the pyromancer's neck where lightning played across the skin. Argonis's eyes grew large with anger -- and power grew in his hands. He was going to win --

Draken drew his sword and stabbed him through the heart. The sword melted in his hand, but it was too late for Argonis. He died in his own fire.

Calis had the throne destroyed, refusing to sit on something touched by such evil. They tossed the pieces, and the ashes of Argonis, to the wind. Draken, Locan and Calis brought the land back to order, and forever after the people saw fire as the sign of evil; mistrusted and trapped in hearths.

The End
997 words

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Thursday, July 18, 2013

New Release: Waiting for the Last Dance


Marisha had to face the truth when her best friend drove the car that purposely hit Gian -- the boy next door whom Marisha had secretly loved for years -- and put him in a wheelchair. 

Now, a year later, the pain of that time is triggered again by an unexpected death and questions Marisha never thought to ask. What really happened on that dark night of the accident and why is she suddenly a target of someone's rage?
Waiting for the Last Dance  is a young adult contemporary mystery that takes place in the last days before graduation, a time when Marisa should be looking to the future and college.  Instead, she's drawn back into the bitter days of a year before, when two people she cared about were torn from her and everything changed.

This book is available for half price at Smashwords during July.  Smashwords offers formats for Kindle, Nook, Sony, Kobo and more, including PDF.

Waiting for the Last Dance

Monday, July 15, 2013

Merry Go Round Tour # 24 -- Online Writing Communities

   Now here is an interesting subject for me. As the owner of Forward Motion for Writers, my view of Online Writing Communities is a bit different from that of people who are just members. My personal 'wants' may be the same, but trying to organize and encourage others to help their fellow writers is not always easy.

What do I think makes a good online writing community? One in which the people help instead of lecture and one in which the people write and not just talk about writing. A writing community should also focus on writing and not the latest scandal or flamewar. FM fits that bill pretty nicely, but it's hard work to keep the site moving and on focus, especially when there are some who try to work against what I feel is the better choices for the site. We actively encourage people to write in order to write better. It not enough to just to study how to write a good line -- though that's important too -- but you also need to write to learn how to make a story flow.

It's also hard to encourage people to add posts to the site to help others because, honestly, scandal and flamewars are far more fun then discussing some point of writing interest. Helping other writers in any long term way is a major project. It takes commitment and more than a blithe statement about someone's ego in a flamewar.

It also takes an understanding that people work in different ways. You can say 'this works for me' but you cannot say 'this works.' There are amazingly few absolute rules.

But those are all the odd things about sites and they don't address the real core. At this core has to be a group of people who are willing to share what they have learned and discuss writing. We live in an age where the lonely writer, locked in a dark room with a single light and pounding out their magnum opus in poverty and solitude is anachronistic. Writers are no longer solitary creatures without social skills; they interact with others in ways that can sometimes be counter-productive because it is so easy to drop into the Internet and start chatting when you should be writing. To counter that, FM has chat rooms where people write, chat for a bit, and write more. It works for a surprisingly large number of people who like to share their writing-time with other writers. 

At the same time all sorts of social media can save them from problems later. Learning about bad practices, things not to do for both traditional and indie writing can save a considerable time. There is a lot to learn out there, and what took some people years and years before the Internet, is now just a few clicks away. The downside is that there is so much bad information that you need a way to sort through it.

That's where the larger sites come in handy. If you can get a group of solid people you can trust in one place, then you have a good chance of finding out what is trustworthy. At the very least, you'll find good questions and answers.

We don't have to stand alone. That's the best part of community. Support comes in many ways, from help in finding answers to sharing the joy of finishing a first draft --and all the way to publication. That's one of the best part of online communities. You get to share story-related stuff with people who understand and who don't go glassy-eyed and fidget while you talk.

Well, at least not where you see.

If you want to get to read about nearly twenty other writers, check out the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour. Be sure to read tomorrow's post by Sharon Kemmerer

Sunday, July 14, 2013

JulNo Decision

    I have decided that I'm just going to coast through the rest of JulNo. As much as I would love to push and get 100k or more, I don't have the energy or the ability to focus that well. I am not stopping writing, of course (I wrote on the day of the heart attack and the day after!), but I am not going to shove everything else aside in order to do so. I'm already over 50k and I imagine I'll have another 20k or more, even writing slowly. That's good for this month.
I want to relax. I am looking at various fun things to do that I've been ignoring -- art and music, mostly. I've been sitting with a half finished new web page for ages. There are a lot of odds and ends that have gotten shoved aside while I scrambled to get other stuff finished. This is the time to rethink what I want and turn my attention there.

Of course I want to write. I have a fun new fantasy novel going and I've started a new Devlin novel as well. This week I will have posted 52 Flash Friday pieces in a row and now I think I'll do a flash serial. At least that way I'll know what I'm writing about each week!

And I want to do some fun stuff other than writing. Sounds like a good plan to me.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Flash Friday # 51 -- Sunrise to Sunset

    The sun rose over the horizon; not like a day on earth. This sun rose only once every ten thousand years. Ice melted in the sudden glare and the natives awoke again.

By early morning, a thousand years later, they had climbed from the caves into the land rich with mud and food. One generation after another lived and died, pulling themselves up from the darkness.

The urge to build came at midmorning. Mud had begun to dry, water to form into pools and seas. The creatures -- multi-legged, large round heads -- scurried across a landscape rich with bios. They built walls of mud brick, intricately designed curves and circles, marking out clan from clan. They tended fields of rich purple moss and yellow fungus. The people lived well, resting in the shadows of their buildings, and never fearing more than the darkness of places they dared not go. Dark and death became synonymous, and even the darker shadows of buildings were lighted with more windows.

Cities rose along the shores of lakes and seas. By afternoon, five thousand years after the sunrise, they were strong and prosperous, generations born to civilization.

But some already whispered that the sun would be swallowed and their lives of perpetual sunlight would be gone again. Adventurers found caves they claimed had birthed the ancestors. Priesthoods rose, studying the sun, claiming there was more beyond the One Light.

And as the sun began to set, more and more of the creatures began to believe. Grandparents, seeing their own deaths coming, told the multitude of newly hatched about the darkness that would devour their world.

But for a while, the light still held. For a while, the children of the sun lived their good lives and ignored the coming of the dark as best they could. It would not be their lifetime and they tried not to mourn for the loss of all they loved. They would not see it.

And so they held on, the long morning drifting down and down, until they had no doubt. By eight thousand years, shadows were growing long. Fear became an aspect of everyday life.

And after fear came the madness.

The sun fell farther to the horizon, and as each generation measured the degrees of life left, they went mad with frustration and fear. Nothing they could do to save their world. Nothing they could do to save anything here, and towards the ends, hordes of the Children of the Light tore down what their ancestors had built. The winds of the long dark had started to howl around them, like the shouts of all those who had already gone to the shadows, come back to grab them. They killed and died and lived in such terror that none could believe there had ever been anything good before them.

Some found their way far deep into caves where florescent rock gave more light than the long shadows of sunset. Here they finally found peace, curled up among the gases that fed them through their skin. Those did not see the final light disappear over the horizon as their doomed brethren did. Nor did they see the glory of the stars sweep across the sky, a nebula right with colors standing where the noonday sun had once stood. Those few who lived that long died in the harsh winds that wore away the carapace that had protected them from harsh sunlight.

All gone to wait the long night and begin again.

Five thousand years later, a shuttle sat down on the edge of what must have been a wide sea. The scientists conducted experiments and some even donned their own self-made form of carapace and went out to walk along the shore where nothing more than some microbes existed, locked in eternal cold.

Nothing here, they decided at last. Too harsh a world for terraforming, and thousands of years from seeing a sunrise again. A bleak, forgotten place, numbered and abandoned. No wonders to find here.
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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Heart Attack


I've been thinking about how to approach this post for over a week now. It seemed as though everything was over-the-top for a while. There's also been the added problem that I just have had trouble sitting down and writing.
Well, actually, I've had trouble staying awake, but that's the new drugs. I'll get used to them. Or I'll sleep a lot.
Between about 11:30 pm on July 2nd and until nearly 12:30 am on July 3rd, I had a heart attack. It wasn't until then that the pain started to recede thanks to the nitroglycerin drip. Anyone who has been on this drug (and this is my second time)knows that the nitroglycerin gives you horrible headaches, but you'll accept that in trade for the other.
The heart attack came out of nowhere. I was on line chatting when a horrible, incredible pain hit both my shoulders and all the way down both arms. I told the people I was heading next door to Russ. We thought at first that this was a pinched nerve, but he soon had me in the car (going for a ride to see if that helps, he said. I wasn't tricked, but I said nothing.) We went to Emergency.
Shots and IVs helped. They had to do the IV in my left wrist because I have small blood vessels and they couldn't get it into my elbow. Wrist is bad because it hurts worse if you even move your hand a little.
Russ stayed with me the entire time, getting as little sleep as I did. He only went home once to get his laptop (which I used to briefly check in at Forward Motion so they knew)and remained in the chair by my bed. I am so glad to have him back home these days!
The next day they did a heart cath. I've had one before, where they go up through the groin and you have to remain flat on your back for hours afterwards to avoid bleeding. The 'flat on your back' part is the worst of it, to be honest. The cath itself is no problem at all. And I had a pleasant surprise -- they can do them through the wrist now and it turned out they found a good spot on my right wrist. Much better than the last time!
And the end report is that this was an atypical heart attack, not brought on by any of the usual problems. The truth is that I was born with an odd heart which has extra vessels that go in and out at random. One of them seems to have sealed off, and coupled with high blood pressure (yeah, working on that again), caused the heart attack. There were enzymes in my blood stream which showed that there was a real problem, but it did not require a stent or any other physical intervention.
As attacks go, it was not as serious as it could have been because there was no lasting damage to the heart and the main 'real' vessels are all clear and working fine. The bad part?
No clear idea of why it happened. My blood pressure was up during the heart attack, but not nearly as high as it has been in the past. I was not doing anything much at all (which, yes, could be part of it -- we're working on the exercise part), but there was nothing emotional or strenuous that set it off.
Yeah, this part is kind of scary. If there was nothing that really set the heart attack off, then it could happen again at any time. I have to hope that the drugs, exercise and weight loss does the trick. I also have to not focus on what might happen. My body is adjusting to new drugs, some of which make you very tired, so that's been a bit of a problem. Tired gives you more time to do nothing but think, which isn't always good. I'm getting more used to the change and working on focusing my energy again. The heat here has been making me miserable, too. The car AC is out, so anytime we have to go out (doctor's appointments and such), then I'm miserable. I get hives when I get too hot, so I'm back on allergy pills. Yeah, let's throw something else into the mix!
I have written every day. Writing is what I do for relaxation. It's my escape, and even though I haven't been doing as much of it as usual, and I'm finding trouble getting past the drugs to focus on words, I'm still writing. I'm finally not as sore as I was and I'm hoping to get past the tired part soon -- but I'm writing, so not all can be bad.

Friday, July 05, 2013

Flash Friday # 50 -- Plot Bunny Panic (Drabble)

The Chief Plot Bunny knew there was a problem when a half dozen minor plot bunnies panicked. Soon there were a dozen more -- and then so many panicked plot bunnies that he could barely understand them.

"Where do we start?"

"Where do we end?"

"We won't survive JulNo!"

The Chief Plot Bunny finally untangled the mess, which wasn't as bad as he feared. She was in the hospital, but between tests and more tests she asked for her Nook and jotted down story ideas.

"We're not lost, my brethren. Rest easy. She'll be home tomorrow. This is not The End."

100 Words (Drabble)

(This Drabble -- 100 words exactly --was written the day after I came home from the hospital. I had a heart attack, but lucky for me we caught everything early and my plot bunny friends can stop panicking and get back to work!)
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