Thursday, December 26, 2013

Flash Friday #75: Surviving Elsewhere, Part 23 -- The Job


The cold wind blew sharp around us. I heard the dragon move and kept my eyes closed, waiting --

Waiting --

Waiting. . . .

The sounds the dragon made were not as loud now. The wind died and the cold lessened. I shivered and slowly lifted my head to see the dragon disappearing into the snow.

He hadn't killed me.

I looked at where Davis and Maggie stood, staring at the dragon and apparently as surprised to still be alive.

"What happened?" I asked softly, half afraid to draw attention.

"Time to go." Davis tapped Maggie's arm. "Time to go quickly."

"Yes," she agreed. Her voice sounded soft and hallow, as though she were not really thinking about the words.

Davis caught me by the arm, pulling me to my feet. I hadn't thought about Edmond until then. He shifted under my shirt and stuck his head out the collar.

"Is he gone? Can we go somewhere warm now?"

"If the dragon had killed me, Edmond might have been hurt," I said aloud. My voice sounded too high and I was shaking, though more with reaction than cold now. "I'm sorry Edmond. I didn't even think about you. I --"

"Why would the dragon kill you?" Edmond said, startled.

"You didn't -- didn't you hear what he said?" I asked. We were starting to walk away, though I kept looking over my shoulder and nearly tripping. "He showed us when I came into Elsewhere. He said the wrong must be righted."

"Yes?" Edmond said, and still sounded confused.

"I thought --"

"What makes you think you are the one in the wrong?" Edmond asked. He twisted his head, looking around at the other two. "You don't get it."

"No, we don't," Maggie said, looking at him now. She seemed a little more aware. I hoped we were soon going to be out of North Street. "What did you see that we didn't?"

"We saw the same scene. Who was the one doing something wrong there?"

"I had killed his son--" I began. "That must mean I did wrong --"

"No. You killed the creature that had taken over his son," Maggie said. Her voice sounded stronger, more assured. "You saved them, even if they don't know it. But Sheriff Creston -- he tried to kill you for his own reasons. He was the one in the wrong."

"But he isn't the one in Elsewhere," I protested. "The dragon --"

"The dragon didn't kill you. He was perfectly capable to killing us all," Edmond said. He sounded oddly calm when I was still trying to deal with the idea that I had even met a dragon, let alone survived it. "He didn't. We are not the problem, but we are sent out to make it right."

"But Creston isn't here!" I protested.

"He was," Edmond reminded me. "What makes you think he didn't come back after the wolves chased him off.

"I --"

I stopped and thought about it. I knew the Creston family -- everyone in town had since he was Sheriff. His wife had filed for divorce last year and moved away. Tom and the sheriff had lived alone. He'd gotten bad-tempered; everyone said so. But we were a small town and there wasn't much in terms of crime.

But I had also heard that he wasn't going to be re-elected next year.

I had killed his son.

Maybe he didn't have any reason not to come back and hunt me.

I had barely noticed that the snow was less underfoot, but when I looked up, I could see the edge of North Street and the warmth beyond. Even with my mind still in turmoil, something primeval called to me in seeing that warmth. I walked faster, moving from the cold ghostly snow, through a slight edge of fog, and then out into the warmth.

I got Edmond out from under my shirt with only a couple more scratches, but he was happy to be down on the ground and gave an exaggerated stretch of the type only cats can do. By then Davis and Maggie had come out as well and we stood basking in the sun while snow changed to water and dripped from us. There was a fountain not far away, a few others gathered there, though the moved off when we went closer.

"What are they worried about?" Davis asked.

"Dragon," Edmond replied. "We reek of dragon magic right now. It'll wear off eventually."

Maggie nodded and sat down on the edge of the fountain. She looked exhausted. This had been as hard a few days on her as it had on me, in fact. Davis looked bothered, but I couldn't decide what about just now. We had survived. If Edmond was right, I wasn't the real problem.

But then again, why did the dragon call us in there, if not to kill me?

"We have just been given a job, haven't we?" I said.

"Yes," Davis replied. He finally sat on the edge of the fountain, there by Maggie. "If the dragon wasn't calling us to deal with the problem himself, then he clearly means for us to handle it."

"Because Creston followed me in," I said.

"Because you and Maggie both are related to the place from which Creston came," Davis added. "It's not a single, simple answer, Mark. You were already acting in favor of Elsewhere when you killed the beast."

"True," Maggie said. She frowned this time. "I've never heard of that happening before. I didn't know it could work on humans."

"It can't," Edmond said. "But then Mark isn't all human, so --"

"What?" I squeaked.

Edmond looked up at me and shook his head. "Tell me you knew."

"He didn't," Davis answered. "But I did when I treated him."

"But -- but --" I said.

"Oh! His father!" Maggie all but shouted.

"And now we need to find out who is father is," Davis added. "Because I get the feeling not knowing is going to be dangerous."

I stared in dumb disbelief.


1000 words
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Friday, December 20, 2013

Flash Friday #74: Surviving Elsewhere, Part 22 -- Lord Ice


(Link to Part 21)

Maggie took an unsteady step backwards as the sound of something huge moved closer. The ground trembled and the buildings around us shook. A few started inching themselves away, as though they thought about running and then decided it was not going to help. I thought I could hear the whisper of their worried voices as they trembled, bricks clicking.

Icicles fell from the edges of roofs like deadly spears. I moved closer to Maggie and Davis and saw how the trolls watched my every move with narrowed eyes.

So, I was wrong. They were after me. That didn't make me feel any better.

Edmond was trying to twist his way out of the troll's hands. He stared into the snow with his ear's back, but he didn't hiss. In fact, I had the idea that all my companions wanted to make themselves invisible right now.

The air grew considerably colder, which I had not expected. I yelped and wrapped my arms around my chest. Maggie looked my way, her eyes wide.

"Go," she said softly. "Go now. I'll try to talk to him."

It would probably have been wise to run. I didn't. I shook my head, my teeth chattering. I probably couldn't have run far without falling over and curling up anyway since I had never felt so cold in my life. When I looked down, I saw that frost had covered my arms. Edmond had a dusting of gray as well and he had begun to shiver.

Davis put a hand on my shoulder and I felt a wave of warmth wash over me.

"Thank you," I said, but softly. Even the trolls were starting to look worried. And the ground didn't just tremble now, it jumped. "We need to get Edmond and go."

"We couldn't go fast enough," Davis replied. The surfer dude looked odd here in the midst of this frozen hell. Snow coated his hair and clothing like white ash. His magic at least kept him -- and me -- warm, though. "I can't imagine what Ice wants with us."

Maggie glanced our way and nodded agreement. The trolls, though, were looking distinctly worried. Edmond had been reduced to meowing softly.

"Give me the cat," I said, trying to sound as though I could be some sort of threat.

The troll backed up a half dozen steps and then unexpectedly threw the cat at me. Edmond flipped through the air with a yowl and I leapt forward to catch him, but I slipped on the icy street and landed on my back, my head hitting the not nearly soft-enough snow. I couldn't move.

Edmond landed on me.

After I stopped seeing spots in front of my eyes, I found Edmond standing on my chest and looking me in the face. "Thanks, Mark. I might have broken something if I had hit the street."

"Ugh," I said.

Davis helped me up. I held on to Edmond who was trying to bury his nose under my arm. He shivered and so did I. I didn't think any amount of magic could help us now since the air itself felt like breathing ice. The wind came next and nearly knocked me back down. I wondered why we weren't retreating before this gale now that we had Edmond, but both Maggie and Davis had turned into the wind, eyes squinting as they looked for something.

They didn't have to look so hard.

And they could have mentioned I was about to meet a dragon.

I noticed movement; the creature was so huge I couldn't take in the full meaning of what I saw until the head lowered and fixed me with a dark blue-eyed stare. The wing's moved and nearly brushed on buildings that leapt away barely in time. Their movement created a gust of wind. Snow blinded me and a horrible, primeval fear of something huge and dangerous being close by would have gotten me to run in sheer panic if I could have moved at all. Flight or fight wasn't an option. Moving at all wasn't an option.

Edmond had taken one look at the dragon and somehow got himself completely under my shirt. I suspected I would have claw marks in interesting patterns, but I couldn't feel them yet.

The dragon's blue and silver scales glittered in the wane light of winter as snow piled up around us, though the wind he brought brushed it away almost as quickly. I could not see the full body with the crystal snow swirling around and my eyes watering from the cold. Huge, my mind said. I would not imagine another word.

It stopped. I saw cold blue eyes blink and narrow, as though noticing us was

"Lord of Winter, King of Ice," Maggie shouted into the wind. "We greet you with all respect!"

The dragon lowered his horned head, staring at the three of us with an expression that could only be disdain. Cold breath brushed against me and ice froze in my hair.

"Trouble in the land of the fae," the dragon rumbled, his breath a stinging frigid fog of the coldest winter. "Remember."

His word was magic so strong that I could see the exact moment before I came into fae: Sheriff Creston stood at the edge of the gate, his gun raised and aimed at me. I didn't need to relive this moment. I could see Creston's face, a mask of rage and anger, but no sorrow.

I wanted out of the memory, but the scene stayed, branded into my mind by the words of the dragon. Edmond gave a little mew of despair and I heard Maggie gasping for breath. They must be sharing the moment as well. And Davis? He hadn't been there.

"The wrong must be righted," the dragon said.

The scene faded slowly. I went to my knees, bowed my head and expected to die before I took another breath.

To Be Continued. . . .

970 words
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Friday, December 13, 2013

Flash Friday #73: Surviving Elsewhere, Part 21 -- North Street

(Link to Part 20)

We didn't slow as we headed down a narrow street, really no more than an alley, and rushed across a square with a fountain spraying rainbow colored water. People -- and things -- scattered and I saw feathers, fur and perhaps even scales as we rushed past.

At the next corner, Maggie stopped long enough to catch her breath and talk to a window which repeated the news about where the others were going. She gave me a nod. "We don't want them to get too far up into North Street," she said. She patted me on the arm and then started running again.

Davis simply grunted and started out after her. I took another gasp of breath and followed. Davis, I was glad to see, had slowed down to keep with me. I was paranoid. I expected the colorful walls around us to grow arms and grab me. Having seen two huge buildings walk away, I didn't think this was such an unreasonable fear.

I worried about Edmond more, though, even while I wondered if this wasn't an attempt to lure me into some sort of trap. Or were they after Maggie or Davis? Had people toyed with me in order to get to either of them? From what little I could see, Maggie must be important to this place.

"Hey!" I said loudly.

They came to a quick, stumbling stop, both looking back at me with worry, doubtlessly looking for a new danger leaping out at us. I lifted my hand, indicating calm, while I caught my breath again.

"May be after one of you two, not me," I finally gasped. "Be careful."

Davis nodded. "He's right. Careful Maggie."

They slowed, though not by much. I wondered where North Street was and how long before we found it. Or were we on North Street already? I couldn't tell. I didn't ask.

When we did finally reach North Street I knew it, though. We stepped around a corner and ahead of us stood a street clothed in snow and ice, the wind escaping with enough cold so that we saw our breath while it dragged frigid fingers across any exposed skin.

I would have stopped except for three things: I could see movement not far ahead, I heard Edmond yelling (and not polite words, I thought), and my two companions dashed forward into the snow without pause.

I had hoped that this being Elsewhere, the snow and everything would be magical and not really as cold as I imagined it to be.

No, actually, this was worse.

I thought ice was forming on my skin and dragging down into my lungs. We had some snow most winters at home, but never anything as cold as this. I started to slow and probably would have fallen if Davis hadn't caught hold of my arm. The snow fell like a white veil over the world

"We need -- get to them before go farther north!" he shouted above the sudden roaring of the wind. "It'll just get colder the farther we go!"

"And we don't want to go to the Ice Dragon's realm!" Maggie shouted. She had dropped back to us too, taking hold of my arm as though she feared I would get caught by the wind and fly away. She was keeping her wings tight to her body, and I thought they looked like an extra cloak over her shoulders.

We trudged forward, snow already sticking to my tennis shoes and freezing my toes. I shoved my hands under my arms the way Davis did. I pretended it helped.

We could see tracks leading, but they were not human ones. These things had huge, flat feet with claws which dug into the snow. We were coming up fast on them, too, because I could hear the sound of their huge feet crunching ice. I could also hear Edmond hissing.

I think it must have occurred to all three of us at almost the same time that this might not be the best course of action, for the three of us to charge straight into the trouble ahead. We slid to a stop and I grabbed Davis who almost went down to my knees. We could hear the things ahead of us still, but now I noticed what I must have caught subconsciously; they were stamping their feet in the snow, but they were not moving.

Maggie signaled Davis to go off to the right. She took my arm and nodded ahead. I didn't argue. I didn't even argue when she marched right up to two of the biggest, hairiest creatures I had ever seen. I could barely see their faces through the thick long silver hair, most of it coated with ice and snow. They stood at least eight feet tall and five feet wide, with arms that reached well past their ample waists.

One of the two held Edmond in both hands, his arms stuck out ahead of him and the black cat twisting and hissing until he saw us.

"Oh, there you are," he said, immediately calmer. I didn't know why. The things huge paws could crush the poor cat. "Tell this furball to put me down."

"I think that would be a wise thing to do," Maggie said. She brought her staff up, the light bright.

"Why?" the creature holding Edmond asked, his voice reverberating through the snow. "Because you said so, little human?"

"Because you really don't want to make me angry," she said and sounded so assured that I took a step away from her in worry.

"Would you use such power for a cat?" the thing demanded.

"I have used it to save lesser creatures from danger," she answered and lifted her hand. "What makes you think you are immune?"

"Because our master sent us," he replied.

"I think you better go now," Edmond said, looking up the street.

Something very large was heading our way.

997 words
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Friday, December 06, 2013

Friday Flash # 72: Surviving Elsewhere, Part 20-- Omens

(Link to Part 19)

We started across the grass at a leisurely walk. Not a care in the world, right? I almost threw myself flat on the ground when a bird flew overhead and started to apologize before I saw the other three had reacted almost as badly.

This did not help my paranoia.

"What do I need to do?" I finally asked. The silence was driving me crazy already. Besides, the stretch of green that had looked like a small ribbon from the air was far wider than I expected. We were probably at least an hour out from the city sill.

Maggie dropped back to walk with me. Edmond forged ahead, clearly glad to be on the ground again. I knew how he felt.

"Mark, something odd is going on," she said at last, a hand on my shoulder. "I don't know what it is. There is no reason why you should have drawn this much attention just by crossing into Elsewhere."

"I -- I killed someone, you know," I said softly.

"Yes, I know. I'm sorry Mark -- but I think you did the right thing, as difficult as that may sound. If Davis is right, and there is an infestation of weres on the other side, that's going to be a huge problem. However, there are other things you should know. You are not the only one who has killed someone and then ran to Elsewhere. Many of them didn't have as good a reason as you did, too. That can't be the reason this is happening."

"Then none of it makes sense," I said, sounding as frustrated as I felt this time."

"There's the other problem. It may not make sense. Things like that happen in Elsewhere, but rarely with such persistence. Have you heard of anything like this before, Davis?"

"Yes, I have. But I'd rather not discuss is now. I don't want to give either of you a wrong idea," he said and smiled. I thought it looked a little strained. "It may not be as bad as it looks."

It might be worse, I thought. That was what he wasn't saying.

The land was not completely flat. We went up and down over several small hills. I could see a few cottages off to the sides now and then, but we didn't get closer to anyone at all.

On such a fine day, I would have expected to see more people here. It was a lovely walk; the best I'd had since I arrived. However, the farther we went with no one around, the more worried I became. This had to be an omen of trouble. But there was another one and I didn't really want to mention it.

After another few minutes, though, I did.

"Where's Edmond?" I asked.

"Oh, he won't be far," Maggie answered. "He never goes very far. Edmond!"

He didn't answer. Maggie frowned and hurried to the top of the next little hill. Davis looked at me, worry clear in his face. I hurried on, and caught up with her as she scanned the land ahead of us. The city was finally much closer. I wasn't sure that was good.

"Edmond!" she shouted again. I hoped to see his little furry head pop up at the next hill. Nothing. "Edmond!"

We started to run. Davis caught up with us and pushed a little ahead. The next hill was a little taller and steeper than the previous one. We topped it and I could streets leading into the city from here. I thought I saw people moving, a bare hint of a shadow, disappearing behind the first building.

"Edmond!" Maggie shouted, frantic this time.

And we heard a distant yowl. There is no sound quite like that of an angry cat. Maggie looked around, frantic now.

"I saw someone there, I think," I said, pointing towards a short long building. "Going behind there."

"Come on," Davis said. He was already moving ahead of us.

I took a moment longer to look around, but I saw nothing more but pretty colored buildings and stone streets. I hoped I had been right because the other two were already running in that direction. We weren't far from the city, at least. We reached the first of the stone-lined roads and I could hear sounds ahead of us, but I still couldn't see anything. And when we went around the first building I had no idea where to go next. Shadows clung here, and odd plants grew along the edges of the buildings -- but nothing moved.

Maggie rushed over to a street lamp and hit the pole several times. "Which way did they go!"

A light brightened in the lamp. "Ow!"

"Sorry, sorry." She stopped and rubbed the pole softly. "I'm just very upset."

"No reason to take it out an a poor lamp!"

"That's true. I apologize, I truly do. Can you tell me, though, which way they went?"

"Lots of people go --"

"Please. The ones with the cat."

"Oh, the ones who took Edmond? They went up North Street. They shouldn't have hurt Edmond. He's pretty nice for a cat. And he doesn't go banging on poor lamp posts."

"I apologize," she said and her hand flickered with a little rainbow set of lights that flew up into the lamp. "Thank you."

"Oh! Pretty! May I keep them?"

"As long as you like," she said with a little smile.

"I shall be envy of every lamp!"

We were already heading away. I looked back to see the lamp flickering with colors.

"North Street," Davis mumbled. "We're going to find trouble."

"Not a surprise," Maggie said.

They didn't give me a chance to comment before they took off running again.

To Be Continued. . . .

961 words

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Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Sign up for the 2014 Two Year Novel Course

Below is the information for the 2014 Two Year Novel Course.  In order to take part, you must be a member of Forward Motion ( which is a free site.

The sign up for the Two Year Novel Course (2YN) is now live. This free course is 104 classes (one a week) and will take you from original idea through publication. The classes have been updated to reflect the trends toward Indie (self) publishing.

What you need for the course:

You need an idea you want to take from the very basics all the way through the steps from expanding the idea, world building, creating outlines, writing, editing, polishing and publishing. This is not a fast class and you will have all the time you need to develop each step. For people who enjoy NaNo, the class structure is set so writing can take place in November (and longer), with a fully-fledged story idea in place. However, this is not aimed directly at NaNo so don't worry if this doesn't appeal to you.

Only people who are serious about writing a novel and who are willing to try different methods of work should sign up. This is two year commitment to your work. Not everything that I present will work for you (or for every novel you write), but you should be willing to try new things as a writer, and you might find ideas that will help you expand your writer's toolbox.

The on line version includes:
1. Weekly class post
2. Question and answer section
3. Member's Only area to post your weekly assignments and get feedback from other members of the class.

The course is free.

To take part, post to this thread. When the private boards are set up and we're ready, I'll give you access to the classes. The first class will be posted in early January, 2014.