Edward Owen – Author

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The Million Dollar Mentor

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No human being on this planet was ever born knowing how to do anything except cry. As babies, our survival depends on our ability to get food, shelter and our diaper changed. An argument could be made that crying is an instinctual behavior and not the result of conscious thought. That would mean that we are actually born knowing nothing and all of our behaviors are indeed learned. For the sake of argument (and getting to the point of this post) we’ll go with that premise.

At some point, someone taught you to read (a safe assumption given the nature of our current communication). Unless you were a prodigy, they didn’t just hand you a copy of ‘War and Peace’ and let you go to it. Or even ‘Fun with Dick and Jane’. Nope, most likely they read stories to you first. In my opinion, this is one of the most important things parents can do for their children. The fact that my mother read to me when I was little is the biggest single reason I’m a writer today. I was reading on my own before I started kindergarten. The point is, someone with a skill (reading) showed me how to do it. And I later showed my boys. Once we end up in school, our teachers normally take over this role.

Mentoring has many similarities to teaching. One person is passing along knowledge to another. However, whereas in teaching the student often has little or no ability at all, I would argue that a mentor is one who helps us improve skills we already possess. Let me explain.

If you are unable to write because you do not know how to spell words in the English language, you need to go to school and learn this basic skill. A mentor cannot help you improve a skill you do not have. To be a better writer, you have to be able first to write. Most of us can string words together into a sentence that can be read and understood by others. That’s writing as basic communication. Email messages fall into this category. (Although I have received a number of emails that were so poorly composed that I had to read them several times to figure out what the sender’s message was – and don’t even get me started on text messages.) Writing well implies that there are those who read your words by choice because they elicit some type of emotion from said reader.

If it is your desire to write in this way, I suggest you seek out one or more mentors to assist you in your most worthwhile of journeys. There are a number of ways you can do this. Critique groups are a type of mentor. If they are done correctly, you get the benefit of a wide variety of experiences and opinions. Whether they are online or in person, make sure the critiques are done in a positive and helpful manner. Honesty is crucial but harsh or cruel remarks are uncalled for. If you find yourself in such a group, talk to the leader/moderator. If their response supports this kind of behavior in any way, leave the group immediately and find a new one. (If you are in Los Angeles, CA; Portland, OR or Missoula, MT, look us up: Coffee House Writers Group)

Writing partners can be great mentors if they have some experience. At the very least you can bounce ideas off of them and they can keep you going through the stalls and bouts of writer’s block (I don’,t really believe in writer’s block. More on that in another blog.) Depending on their experience and skill level, they may even be able to help you improve a great deal.

We live in the age of communication. The internet is ubiquitous (nope, you have to look it up ha ha!) and a vast resource. One of my online mentors is Kristen Lamb. If you want to be a better writer, subscribe to her blog here. I have dozens of writer friends all over the world and they are always ready to help. Reciprocate. Offer your opinion and volunteer to be a beta reader. Not only will you be giving the author valuable feedback, you will be learning as well.

One person who has helped a great deal is Arial Burnz, a good friend and the editor for my short story collection, Nightmares and Body Parts Vol. 1 The Karma Collection. Yes, you can buy it. (Shameless self promo, see links on the side, I hope). Arial has not only helped with my writing but my website and the design of my book cover. Yes, it is awesome to have talented friends. In return I helped her and her husband repair part of their house. (Writing and Drywall, that will be the title of my autobiography.) Read Arial’s blog here. (She has a thing for hot Scottish vampires and writes about them.)

Mentors don’t have to have all the answers, just enough to get you over the hump and on to the next level. Pay attention to what they say. Stretch out of your comfort zone. Then pay it forward. My niece is in high school and she is a writer. I help her as often as she asks me to. Maybe she’ll mention me in her Pulitzer acceptance speech. Until next week, Dear Reader, dream of awesome mentors.

Ray Bradbury Challenge #21- Full Moon Fever (Fiona’s Adventures in West Hollyweird)

Today we get to meet someone from Fiona’s past

and another who may well be a big part of her future.hunk 01

 

Full Moon Fever

Fiona leaped over the bar, fangs bared and eyes black as onyx.

“Listen up, Sheamus ’cause I’m only going to say this once. You and the rest of the mutts wanna come in here you either play nice or I’m going to neuter the whole lot of you.”

The shaggy beast rose to its full height towering nearly two feet above her head.

“Oh, come on Fee, is that any way to treat a friend?” The combination of Irish brogue and werewolf growl was so comical it was all she could do to keep a straight face.

“Don’t play that ‘friend’ crap with me. I’m serious as a silver bullet. I know a guy who’ll give me two-fifty each for ‘wolf nads …” Fiona grabbed Sheamus’s crotch and extended her nails. “And I won’t use a knife either!”

The werewolf howled. Fiona released her grip and he crossed his legs.

“Damn lass, who pissed in your O-neg this morning? Fine and dandy, we’ll be on our best but cut us some slack …”

“Oh, no, don’t you even think about blaming this on the full moon. You can’t handle it then report to lock-up. I got customers waiting. We good?” Fiona bounced back across the bar without waiting for an answer. It was like this every month. Damn lychans … their cycles were worse than human females. The three hulking ‘wolves slunk to the back of the room with their tails between their legs.

“Brandon, can you clean up the mess out here, please?”

“S’up, Fee-dog?” said a grotesque figure at the end of the bar. The skin of the face was drawn tight over the skull which sported a skateboarder’s skully. The figure wore a sagging pair of jeans. Fiona rolled her eyes.

“Really? Doncha think two hundred is a little old to dress like a teenager?” she said.

“Aw man, don’t be dissen my cred, Fee. My peeps think I’m da bomb.” Brandon adjusted his hat.

“Yeah? Just how much cred does an unemployed zombie have these days?” Fiona snatched Brandon’s beanie and stuffed it in her pocket. “Dress code violation” she said over his protests. “You’ll get it back after your shift. Get busy.”

The bar was packed with customers all clamoring for drinks. Fiona was a blur, mixing, pouring and serving all manner of refreshments. A few even had small creatures immersed in foul smelling liquids. It was a fair bet that most would kill a human. By the time Brandon had cleaned up the shattered table and chairs she was caught up with all the orders.

“FEEEEOOOOOOOHHHNAAAAA!”

The cry reverberated across the club and caused Fiona’s fangs to extend to their maximum length. She looked through the crowd as a flamboyant woman in a flowing purple robe approached the bar. Several waif-like men and women following in her wake.

“Dahling, the place is a smashing success. It seems you’ve found your calling,” she said pushing several customers aside.

“What do you want, Claire?” Fiona made no effort to hide her fangs.

“Now, now, dearie, is that any way to greet your friends?”

“Lately my ‘friends’ have become pains in my ass,” said Fiona. “Good news for me since you and I aren’t friends by any definition of the word and I can be blunt. What the fuck are you doing in my bar?”

Claire’s smile vanished and her fangs slid into view.

“That attitude is exactly what landed you in this cesspool in the first place, Faeleneus.

Fiona bristled at the use of her family name.

Sensing her adversary’s ire, Claire smiled around her fangs.

“I’m guessing nothing short of a stake through the heart will change that.”

“You’re right, Claire. A stake through your heart would make me downright giddy.”

“In your dreams,” said Claire with a wave of her hand as if dismissing the matter. “I’m here because the Council wanted you to know that you’re no longer on your own.”

Fiona paused in mid pour and studied Claire’s face trying to get a read on her. It was a sure bet that any news she had to share would not be good. At least, not for Fiona.

“And what does that mean, exactly?” she said as she finished pouring the drink.

“It means that another clan member has been relocated to West Hollywood.”

“No fucking way! There aren’t enough humans here for one of us.” Fiona’s eyes turned black with rage. “And when you say ‘relocated, what you really mean is banished. I hope she’s ready to starve to death …”

Claire cut her off in mid rant. “Oh Fiona, you always were such a drama queen. She is a he and his name is Ricardo.” Claire motioned to someone across the room. A shadow pushed through the throng and materialized at Claire’s side. Dark eyes, sallow skin and a mane of raven hair adorned the most gorgeous man Fiona had ever seen, undead or otherwise. She clutched the front of the stainless sink with such force that her fingers dimpled the metal.

“Ricardo, this is Fiona. She’s a dear friend of mine.”

The man extended his hand. Fiona did the same and felt her knees buckle when he touched her. Sexual energy rolled off of him like a string of tsunamis. If she had had any strength at all she would have jumped over the bar and torn his clothes off.

“Ricardo, it is a pleasure to meet you.” Pleasure was an understatement.

“Good to meet you,” he said. “Wow, Claire didn’t tell me you were like so totally hot.”

Fiona’s heart fell. “How long have you been turned?”

Ricardo laughed. “Dude, it’s been like two months. What a freakin’ rush, right?”

Claire’s Cheshire cat grin ignited Fiona and she crumpled the edge of the sink.

“Well, you kids have fun. I have places to go and people to see.”

Claire turned with a flourish and left Fiona alone with Ricardo.

“So, you wanna hook up later?” he said.

… to be continued

Ray Bradbury Challenge #20- The Price of Freedom

There is a good chance that this story will end up as a longer work. The idea actually started while listening to Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song”- “We are yours, Overlord…”  That started the wheels turning. Comments, as always, are welcomed and appreciated.

sword warrior

The Price of Freedom

Jamry was bleeding and his body hurt. That was the good news. It meant he was alive. The bad news was, unless he found someplace to hide and soon, he wouldn’t stay that way much longer. His options were not particularly good. The carrier had hit a mine and lay on its side belching black smoke into the morning sky. That was sure to attract one of the Overlords’ patrol ships. He was surprised they weren’t here already.

Sidmar had not been so lucky. The blast had driven the controls up into her skull. She was dead before the vehicle stopped moving. Jamry didn’t have the luxury of mourning her death. She had chosen the life of a soldier. An early, violent death was almost a certainty in their line of work.

Traveling the open road was the most direct route but it left him exposed and vulnerable. He would have to travel through the jungle. It would be slow but would allow him to remain hidden. The shadows between the trees held a danger all their own. Jamry smiled at the thought. Most of his youth had been spent cavorting through the eternal twilight beneath the deep green canopy. It was his second home. He made sure to leave a trail that the hunters could find with some effort, but not so obvious that it would cause them suspicion.

After he had put a respectable distance between himself and the wreck he stopped to tend his wounds. He had left enough blood that his pursuers would assume his injuries to be worse than they actually were. Leaves and roots with amazing medicinal properties grew in abundance. Within a short time his body was dotted with blue and green poultices. By tomorrow they would cover only minor scars.

Jamry retraced his steps and climbed the trunk of a towering tree, taking care not to disturb the bark or the branches on the way up. His uniform adjusted to blend with his surroundings and he focused so his skin did the same. He would be invisible from above or below. Now he would wait.

The hunting party moved like smoke through the labyrinth of growth that choked the jungle floor. Jamry did not hear them as much as sense their presence. The jungle was a living thing and the change in its voice told him he was not alone. The first hunter was hardly more than a shadow as its blurred form passed beneath him. Jamry counted four figures as they clustered at the end of his trail. It was hardly fair; the battle would be swift and decisive.

He slithered like a creature born in the canopy, keeping the trunk of the tree between his body and the hunters. The tempo of the sounds around him remained steady as his feet touched the carpet of leaves covering the ground. He peered around the tree. One of the hunters was within arm’s reach. Jamry could see only a vague outline, but it was enough. His short blade pierced the thin armor, found its mark and the hunter slumped to the ground. Jamry dragged the body behind the tree as it wavered for a moment before coming into view. He had seen hunters up close before. Bred by the Overlords for the single-minded purpose of finding and killing his people, they were an abomination. He felt no more remorse at killing them than he would one of the flying pests that inhabited the jungle.

The remaining hunters noticed their missing comrade and moved toward Jamry. He pulled his long blade from its scabbard and waited until the first hunter passed him. His blow severed the enemy’s head from its body. It rolled across the ground, still encased in its helmet. The other two brought their weapons up and fired but the energy beams missed and burned through the foliage behind him. With only two adversaries left, Jamry took his time.

His blade again bit into enemy flesh, this time cutting off the arm holding the weapon. Blackish-blue fluid sprayed from the limb and the hunter fell to its knees clutching the stump with its remaining hand. Jamry pivoted toward the last hunter but his strike was late. The hunter dodged the blade and slammed the butt of his weapon into Jamry’s ribs knocking him to the ground. Jamry rolled out of reach of the hunter and in a single motion pulled his short blade from its sheath and threw it, burying the point in the hunter’s throat. His enemy fell forward and lay still in the leaves. Jamry ran his long blade through the soldier’s back, flipped the body over and retrieved his weapon. He dispatched the last remaining hunter in similar fashion, cleaned their blood from his knives and slipped unseen into the depths of the jungle.

The Overlords had invaded his planet and the war had raged for a millennium. Jamry was the fourth generation of soldier in his family. Today the losses were heavy for his enemy, but his side had paid a high price for them. Neither the transport nor a soldier of Sidmar’s skill were easily replaced. The Overlord’s would produce more hunters but would pay dearly in terms of energy and materials. Some of them would surely kill many of Jamry’s people before they died. It was unlikely that Jamry would live long enough to find a mate and his family line would die with him. That was regrettable but it did not slow him from his mission. Freedom from their enemy would not be purchased in his lifetime but he was willing to pay his share of the cost.

Blessings by Design

My apologies for the lack of posts. The web series project has pushed itself to the forefront of my schedule, demanding my attention. I have managed to keep up with the Ray Bradbury Challenge. You can read yesterday’s offering here.

by design

Given that yesterday was Thanksgiving it seems only right that I show thanks for the blessings in my life. There are two types according to me (yep, because this is my blog). Blessings that come from the Supreme Being (as you believe), the Universe, Nature or the random kindness of strangers. IMNSHO, there isn’t a lot we can do about this type of blessing other than enjoy and appreciate them. The second category are what I call Blessings by Design. Let me explain.

One of the greatest blessings is my family. I had nothing to do with choosing my parents or brothers (some would argue otherwise but we aren’t going there today). Random blessings from on high. I also had no control over the fact that my wife showed up in the nightclub in which I was working as a DJ. Another happy accident. I did have the good sense to take her to breakfast after my shift was over. And a year or so later ask her to marry me. Blessing by design. (That she took leave of her senses and said yes is another happy accident.) It is sort of a corollary to the saying, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”

It’s not always easy to see the opportunities to bring about blessings. What appears to be a stroke of luck one day can become a reversal of fortune the next. However, don’t dismiss your trials, tribulations and challenges too quickly. The term ‘blessing in disguise’ often applies to these situations. Keep your head up, your eyes peeled and your mind open. What we perceive as mistakes are more often than not a simple course correction by the Universe to get us back on track and/or teach a lesson necessary to the journey we are taking.

I am a firm believer in the philosophy that what you put out into the universe comes back to you. Helping others is a sure way to have the Fates smile upon your life. It isn’t something you can orchestrate with any amount of precision and it isn’t guaranteed, but it can set the wheels in motion. It also fosters an “attitude of gratitude” that is both motivating and contagious. For more on that subject please read Kristen Lamb’s blog on being thankful.

As a former engineering student and contractor I know that very few projects are completed successfully without some type of plan. You cannot build a house without blueprints (and building permits – and a huge roll of red tape to tie them all together. Sorry, had a flashback.) Life is by far our biggest project, yet most of us don’t plan much more than where we are going to have dinner and go on vacation, myself included. (I blame my ADD but that’s only part of – Hey! A cat video!) Okay, I’m back. Look for opportunities to bring blessings on you and the important people in your life. The Force is saying “Help me help you” (obviously a Jerry McGuire fan, and yes, my inner geek is showing.) It’s that time of year to appreciate what we have and help those who have less. Have a blessed week, whether by accident or design.

Until next week Dear Reader, dream of all your blessings and be thankful.

Ray Bradbury Challenge #19- Blood Hunt

I’m not one to write about vampires too often. I think in some ways the genre has been over exposed and diluted to anemia (pun intended). However, one must write as the muse dictates, even if she is a drunken wench with a face full of donut crumbs.

Today’s post is a departure from my previous RBC short stories. First of all, it exceeds a thousand words (1314 to be exact). It just didn’t respond well to being edited. Second, I am introducing you all to Fiona, a female vampire who has been banished to West Hollywood, CA. There is a good chance you will be reading more about her in the coming months. As always, comments are welcomed and appreciated.

#19 Blood Hunt

Fiona

Fiona, fangs with an attitude

Fiona slid her tongue over her lips and savored the last few drops of blood. It had been a long time since her last meal. So long in fact that her appetite was was still pushing her to feed. That was going to be a problem. There was a dire shortage of potential victims in West Hollywood as gay men were immune to her pheromones. She had seduced a few lesbians out of sheer desperation but even the most butch among them didn’t have as much testosterone as fourteen year old boy. The blood gave her energy but the male hormone kept her eternally young. Without it the wrinkles would start and that was positively unacceptable.

After removing his head, Fiona dumped the body of the UPS driver into the trash chute. The last thing she needed was some fresh-fanged apprentice following her around like a lost puppy. A quick shower eliminated any remaining evidence. She hadn’t hit the gym circuit in a while so spandex was the order of the day. A vigorous workout would stimulate her pheromone production. Coupled with the tight, revealing outfit she was wearing she would draw any straight man to her within minutes.

‘Body Beautiful’ was one of the premier twenty four hour fitness centers in the Hollywood area. At well over a hundred and fifty years old, it was a safe bet Fiona was by far the oldest member in the club’s history.

And I don’t look a day over twenty-five.

The thought roused her appetite and she had to make a conscious effort to keep her fangs retracted. With any luck she would be putting them to work well before sunrise. She clenched her jaw at the idea of crawling into her crypt on an empty stomach. Hunting would be that much harder with crow’s feet.

The late crowd was beginning to fill the place up as Fiona walked in the door. She climbed onto one of the treadmills near the window. It was the best place to watch members entering the club. It also afforded any interested men a great view of her ass. She set the machine for a medium level workout and focused her mind on the energy in the room. So far all the readings were weak. There were several minds focused on her but the auras were decidedly female.

I hope it doesn’t come to that. I need a MAN!

Fiona was feeling that itch that only hot, rambunctious sex could scratch. Her need to feed had been so great that she had barely gotten her last meal undressed. No, tonight she would most certainly be playing with her food.

She had been pounding out steps on the treadmill for nearly an hour with no male prospects anywhere in sight. Not that she was getting tired, she could keep going for days. Only the sunrise would stop her. Her hunger was putting her on edge and she didn’t want to rush. She was ready to call it quits when he walked in. The sexual energy rolled off him so thick she had to close her mouth to hide her fangs. He couldn’t have been any more than twenty and hadn’t gotten laid in quite some time, if ever.

A virgin? Oh, wouldn’t that be a treat!

He was awkward and a bit clumsy, bumping into several members and tripping once on his way to the treadmills. He climbed onto the one next to Fiona’s and gave her a lopsided smile. She smiled back and his face went flush to his hairline. All that blood amped her up another couple of notches.

If I don’t get him out of here soon it’s going to get ugly.

Fiona stopped her treadmill and turned to the young man.

“I’m heading out. Would you mind walking me to my car?”

He turned to be sure she was talking to him.

“Um, yeah, sure.”

“I’m Fiona.” She held out her hand.

He took it as if he expected it to turn into a rattlesnake.

“Oh, I’m Steven.” and after a pause he added, “Nice to meet you.”

Fiona turned and headed for the door. His aura was strong and very male. She was sure his attention was focused on her rear end. Out of habit she had parked in the alley behind the gym. When she got to her car she turned and Steven nearly ran into her.

“Thank you for walking me out. A girl can’t be too careful these days.”

Fiona traced her fingers up his arm and slipped them behind his neck. As she pulled him forward he  stiffened, pushing her away.

“Something wrong?” It didn’t make sense. She could almost taste his arousal.

Steven pulled her arm away from his neck.

“I’m sorry, I just can’t do this,” he said as he stared at the ground.

“Let me guess, you have a boyfriend?”

His gaze snapped up to meet hers. “What? Oh, no, I’m not gay. I love women.”

She ran both hands over his chest and slid her fingers between the buttons to touch his skin.

“Glad to hear it.” He was tall enough that she had to stand on her toes to reach his mouth. It was wet and delicious. His tongue responded to hers with a fierceness that took her by surprise. He wrapped his arms around her and squeezed her so hard she was glad she didn’t have to breathe to stay alive. She ran her free hand up his thigh to the bulge in his crotch. Even through his jeans it filled her hand.

Oh my God! I might have to turn this one!

Fiona pushed back and reached up to undo his shirt. The material pulled tight and the buttons popped off in her hand. His chest began to rise and expand; his arms grew thick and muscular. His carotid pulsed just under the skin and her appetite bested her desire. Her fangs thrust from her gums and she sank them all the way into his neck. The warm liquid flowed into her mouth but the taste caused her to jerk away coughing and choking.

“What the hell?!” Fiona turned back to Steven and found herself staring at a broad, scale covered chest. His arms turned to massive wings, his head elongated with a mouth full long teeth and a powerful tail swished out behind him.

“A dragon? The only straight guy I’ve seen all day and you’re a fucking dragon?”

A deep, booming voice resonated from the beast’s throat.

“I did warn you, demon. Now, you will die.”

Flames erupted from the dragon’s mouth and engulfed Fiona’s car. If she hadn’t possessed the speed of the undead, she would have ended up as so much barbeque. She hadn’t made it to a hundred and sixty three years by fighting battles she couldn’t win so she kept running. For all its size and power, the dragon was slow on the up take. By the time it was airborne, she was in her condo on the other side of town.

“Son of a whore!” Fiona raged at the expense of several figurines and a vase, all of which ended their existence against the living room wall. “Not bad enough that I’m banished to the land of fruits and nuts, and can’t find a decent meal, have slayers on my ass every other day and have to work some menial job to keep a roof over my head. Now there’s a dragon here, too? Shit! They’re like fucking roaches – where there’s one there’s a damned dozen.”

Her hunger returned full force goading her to move. She dumped the spandex and slithered into a slinky red dress that covered just enough to keep her out of jail. It was only three-thirty a.m., still plenty of time to find a man and redefine the term ‘happy meal’.

… to be continued

Ray Bradbury Challenge #18 – Road Kill

Inspired by my quest for a good fake blood recipe … and my warped little mind. As always, comments are welcomed and appreciated.

#18 Road Kill

 

There is a certain artistry in the way blood oozes from a small cut. The droplets kiss the blade ever so softly as they push free of the confines of their veins and capillaries. Cut deeper and a crimson torrent rushes from the laceration, responding to both the body’s pressure and the force of gravity. The life fluid inside the human body is not the thick, viscous fluid shown in movies. It’s specific gravity is only slightly more than water, roughly the same as milk. It flows freely, seeking its own level and seeping into cracks and crevices with ease.

To remove all of the blood from the average adult of a hundred and fifty pounds is a painstaking process, especially if one wishes to keep the subject alive for any length of time. A balance must be struck between too much blood loss and wounds clotting shut. Our bodies are wonderfully designed to keep us alive. A true artist like myself respects this and strives maintain life while pushing the boundaries of their craft.

The rate of respiration is dropping. The heart and lungs struggle to oxygenate the tissues but they are fighting a battle that has already been lost. I have successfully removed all four limbs while maintaining the heartbeat. Of course, simple amputation would have been far too easy and not nearly as painful. I ask you, where is the art in such heavy handed tactics? No, I started with the fingers and removed one knuckle at a time. I let only a small amount of blood escape before cauterizing the wounds. When at last the hands were merely stumps, they were taken, tendons and muscles carefully sliced and separated. Forearms at the elbow, then the upper arm at the shoulder. That is quite a challenge, removing a ball and socket joint and making sure all the blood vessels are firmly sealed off. The legs were done the same way. The mere size of the bones and muscles dictates a long, arduous procedure.

My early attempts at art were horrific. Most of my subjects died before I made a dozen incisions. The internet has been a wonderful source of knowledge and my surgical skills have improved by leaps and bounds. Most of my ‘pieces’ survive for three or four days now. Sadly, the end is near for my latest creation and I will need a new, blank canvas on which to paint.

 *****

A lonely stretch of road and a woman with car trouble. This is but one of many situations that aids me in my search for new subject material. When the nice young man in the white van stops to offer assistance, she is far too grateful to be suspicious. His arms are tan and his smile genuine and disarming. A quick peek under the hood reveals a broken fan belt. There is no way it can be fixed here, the nearest parts house is ten miles away. Cell phones are useless as well. Yes, the story plays out nearly the same every time. He is only too happy to drive her into town. She hesitates for a moment, then climbs into the passenger seat. She rummages through her purse as he puts on his seat belt. Before he can put the truck into gear a stinging pain shoots through his neck. His arms and legs go numb. He turns to look at me and I smile. The van is a lucky break for me. He is tall and broad shouldered. Getting him to my studio will be a challenge but the thought of taking that beautiful body apart one piece at a time fills me with boundless energy. He stares at me, his eyes filled with fear and questions. Answers are forthcoming and the fear? More than justified. As I drive toward home, I whistle a happy tune from my youth.

Ray Bradbury Challenge #17- The Silence is Deafening

This story came from my idea file. I think it will make good novel, a twist on the post-apocalyptic tale in the vein of Stephen King’s “The Stand”. I’ll probably work on another title. If you’re not familiar with the Ray Bradbury Challenge, my friend Arial Burnz explains it here.  As always, comments are welcome and appreciated.

The Silence is Deafening

It’s getting harder to hide from them. I’ve heard that losing one of the senses makes the others stronger. The way they sniff the air makes me believe this is true. They also get around in the dark better than I do and light attracts them like bugs. If they ever learn to be quiet, I’m screwed. Right now they stomp around like cattle on coke. I can usually hear them coming from a mile away. They learn fast. It’s only a matter of time before they figure it out. There aren’t many of us left, not nearly enough to fight them.

Today is March fourth, exactly six months since the world went to hell. I was one of the few unaffected by whatever it was that changed about ninety-five percent of the population. Lucky? I’m not entirely sure I would use that word. If I didn’t have such a hard time sleeping I’d be one of them. I don’t know exactly what happened. I went to bed with my ear plugs in and when I woke up the world had gone deaf. A few scientists managed to broadcast some information about an energy wave that hit Earth that night but the transmissions stopped after a few days. Three weeks later there wasn’t any electricity on anywhere. Society fell apart in less than a month.

At first those of us who could still hear tried to help them. There just wasn’t enough of us to hold things together. Then they changed. I don’t know whether that energy messed with their minds or going deaf made them all crazy. They don’t speak but they are communicating somehow. The strange part is they can tell that we’re not like them. I saw a woman pretend she was deaf and move around like they do. A hoard caught her and tore her to pieces right in front of me.

I have a stockpile of weapons but even if I killed a thousand of them a day there would always be more. My only hope is to find other survivors. I found a motorcycle with a small trailer so I have a way to travel. I’m getting out of the city and heading north. Maybe the winter killed some of them off in Wyoming or Montana. It’s worth a shot. I really miss having someone to talk to. The days are long and the silence is deafening.

Ray Bradbury Challenge #16- Blood and Dirt

This story started as a teaser only, no story. I finished three paragraphs before I figured out where the story was headed. Sometimes our sins come back to haunt us and not always in the way we expect. Are you looking over your shoulder?

Blood and dirt. To James, they were signs of a job well done. It was almost a shame to wash his hands, but then such stains would invite questions he’d rather not answer. Someone in his line of work avoided undue attention. It had a nasty habit of ending careers.

The florist delivery van had been pure genius. What woman wouldn’t open the door for man holding a large bouquet of flowers? They had cost him almost a hundred dollars, but considering the fee he was receiving from his client they were a minor expense. The van had allowed him to transport her across the city unnoticed. If ever it was discovered at the bottom of the lake, any forensic evidence would be obliterated.

The loamy soil in the Wisconsin woods had been easy enough to dig but it would be frozen solid in another month. By the time anyone thought to look for her out here, there would be several feet of snow covering the ground. He had buried her deep enough to prevent any animals from digging up her body. No, Sasha Antonavich now existed only in the memories of her friends and family. And the conscience of the person who paid to have her killed. Her memory would fade from James’s mind in a day or two.

He flipped through the file one more time. There were several pictures of her that had been supplied by his employer and a few more taken by James himself. He was almost tempted to keep the one of her tied to the bed. Her body exuded a raw sensuality that women seemed to possess for a short time in their lives. He would never actually do something so reckless but the thought excited him. Breaking the rules, even his own, had always held a certain fascination for him. His survival instinct got the better of his emotions and the nude photo was burned with the rest of the documents. The ashes blew through the dead leaves as if he were performing a cremation ritual. He paused as the scent of burning paper blended with leaves, loam and newly turned soil. The moment passed – he strolled to the edge of the lake and scrubbed his hands in the icy water until they were numb and red.

He had stashed a motorcycle in the trees and the ride back to town was brisk and invigorating in the chilly night air. He left the bike in an area of town where its disappearance was a given. It was a short walk to his hotel where he arrived without incident. The small receiver in his pocket indicated the room was empty but he slipped his Glock from its holster as backup. Once he was safely inside with the door locked he allowed himself to relax enough to enjoy a hot shower.

As he stepped from the bathroom dry but quite naked he picked up his shoes and stopped. On the carpet was a small clump of dirt. Impossible. He had changed clothes on the way back, the coveralls and boots disposed of in a dumpster behind a restaurant on the highway. He picked up the offending lump of soil and held it to his nose. It gave off the same earthy odor as the dirt in the woods. It must have dropped from his boots and lodged on the sole of his shoe. He carried it into the bathroom and flushed it down the toilet.

He pulled back the covers on the bed and slipped between the cool sheets, sliding the Glock under the pillow as he did so. His hand brushed against a piece of paper. He pulled it out and stared at it, unable to swallow the lump rising in his throat. It was a picture. The picture. The one of Sasha lying naked, tied to her bed. The one he had watched burn to ashes in the woods. He stumbled to the bathroom and ripped the picture to pieces, his hands shaking. Two scraps fell to the floor as he tried to drop them in the toilet. He leaned over to pick them up and his legs gave way. His head hit the wall tile as he crashed to the floor. Blood trickled through his hair into his eyes and the room began to spin. Struggling, he grasped the pieces and off the floor dropped them into the bowl. He pulled down the handle and listened as the water carried off the evidence of his crime.

State police, open the door!”

James was rousted from his sleep, still sprawled on the bathroom floor. The pounding on the door reverberated through his skull. He dragged himself upright and slogged his way into the bedroom. He grabbed his robe and trudged to the door. With the latch released he swung it open. Four uniformed state troopers stood facing him with their guns drawn.

Sir, is there anyone else in the room?” said the officer closest to the door.

Um, no, just me. What’s the problem?”

I need you to come out here sir. We got a report of screams coming from this room. I also need you to explain the blood on your head.”

That was crazy. There hadn’t been anyone else here. There must be some mistake.

I slipped in the bathroom and hit my head. I assure you I’ve been here alone all night.”

Then you won’t mind if we take a look around.” Three of the officers pushed their way into the room as the first one led him out onto the sidewalk.

James watched as the men opened drawers and his suitcase. He was thankful he had found the picture.

As he relaxed, one of the troopers called out, “Hey Captain, we’ve got something,” and marched toward the door.

What is it?”

The trooper held up a small evidence bag. “Found this all over the floor, even in the bathtub. Looks like a mixture of blood and dirt.”

 

 

Everything You Wanted to Know About NaNaWriMo …

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NaNoWriMo

And Were Smart Enough NOT to Ask a Writer

Now that you’ve recovered from that sugar coma, you’ll be happy to know that today is November 1st. All Saints Day (the reason Halloween was started), last Friday before fall elections (Black Friday?) and the beginning of NaNoWriMo. If you’ve heard the term and wondered what sort of strange code your friends were speaking (yes, you just smiled and nodded and hoped no one would ask you about your own experience) what they were talking about was National Novel Writing Month (just NaNo if you want to be uber hip). Every November for the last thirteen years writers from around the world have cranked out 50,000 words or more in 30 days. For the arithmetically challenged, that’s 1,667 words a day. If you type 20 words per minute (remember, you’re composing)  it will take just under an hour and a half a day to meet your goal; barring writer’s block and your failure to turn off your inner editor. Actually, very doable for most writers.

I participated last year for the first time and hit just over 53K words by the end of the month. Yes, I have a full time job which includes a forty five minute commute each way to Los Angeles. This time last year I was still on a five day work week. That means I had an hour and a half of free time (except when it was my turn to drive the vanpool) plus my hour lunch break. My laptop was an ever-present fixture and that hasn’t changed much.  Regretfully (kind of) I am in the middle of  several projects this year and can’t sqeeze NaNo in to the schedule. I’m hoping to plan better next year so I can jump into the fray once again.

First of all, if you are a Morkplotter (one who outlines before they write) you have the battle all but won. Last year I spent most of October outlining my novel, “Death in the Middle of Nowhere” in Scrivener. If you aren’t familiar with what I consider the greatest piece of software ever written read this post. By the time November 1st came around all I had to do was fill in the blanks. Just so you know, I am by nature a pantser, meaning I normally write by the seat of my pants as the words come to me. Even if a hard core outline makes your muse whine like a corral full of Kardashians, jotting down the major plot points, story arc and character sketches (which even pantsers should be doing anyway) will help keep your story on track.

One last thing: Be bold, be brave, be ready to write the biggest cowpie of your literary career. NaNo has nothing to do with writing well, only with writing and FINISHING! Turn off that little voice telling you to change ‘that’ to ‘which’, correct your spelling errors (those red squigglies aren’t going anywhere) and rewrite that chunk of dialogue. Honestly, this is the way you should be writing anyway. If nothing else, NaNo will help you stretch your writer’s muscles and get you further down the road to becoming a better writer. Do it. It is an awesome experience.

FOR THOSE ABOUT TO DIE WRITE, WE SALUTE YOU!

Until next week Dear Reader, scary NaNo dreams.

Ray Bradbury Challenge #15- The Trouble With Teens and Halloween

A challenge within a challenge this week: a 100 word short story. The idea was simple and the conflict universal. I do have to admit that some of this is rather vicarious for me as I have three boys and no girls ( a fact for which Goldilocks continually blames yours truly) but I have heard the stories from my friends who are so cursed blessed. The Holiday season is here and NaNaWriMo is fast approaching. More on this amazing event on Friday. Thanks for stopping by, comments always welcome. Happy Halloween.

 

“It’s not fair! Mrs. Horner said yes.”

“Well, your mom said no. Pick something else.”

She sighed as her daughter stomped to her room, slamming the door. It had been easy when she was little. Baby vampire, mini zombie … even a giant bat one year. But now at thirteen, every year was a bigger battle than the last.

“What’s got her all worked up?” Her husband said.

“She wants to go to the Horner’s dressed as … an Angel!”

Flames shot from her husband’s eyes. “No demon of mine is going to parade around in such a sacrilegious costume!”