What If My Writing Isn’t Good Enough?

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This month’s question:  What if my writing isn’t good enough?

 

This group (also endearingly known as IWSG) is all about insecurities; and gosh, I have a boat-load of them!

 

Where even to begin?

 

I’ve battled with insecurities all my life, and they’ve filtered over in to my writing life.

 

You’ll never be good enough. 

You’re worthless.

Don’t bother even trying.

 

There are so many ideas running through my head.  And I have written many of them…but, they usually die (or get placed in the trash).

I have published several items (all short ones) so that is something, I suppose.

 

But…

 

I keep feeling like I’m missing something.

Or, there is a story somewhere within that needs to be written and then released to the world.

 

But…

 

In the past, in my previous work life, I had this nasty habit of self-sabotaging myself.

Not allowing myself to experience success of any kind.

And this is quite prevalent in my life as it is in my writing life.

It’s like I feel like I don’t deserve it.

 

You’ll never be good enough.

You’re worthless.

Don’t bother even trying.

 

 

A lot of this stem from childhood abuse.  Others from a progressive disability.

Excuses, I suppose.

But they’re the Goliath in my life, and I’m the puny boy with no sling-shot or weapon of any kind.

Just a pen.

 

 

I’ve heard that a pen holds power.  I just don’t have any faith in the holder of this particular pen.

 

Am I good enough?

Will I ever be?

Do I even bother trying?

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Favorite Friday: Ray Bradbury (on leaving behind a legacy)

 

“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there.

It doesn’t matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.” – Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

Writing: Daily Word Count (Poll)

Stephen King in his famous writing book, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, has this to say about his daily word count:

“I like to get ten pages a day, which amounts to 2,000 words. That’s 180,000 words over a three-month span, a goodish length for a book — something in which the reader can get happily lost, if the tale is done well and stays fresh.”

Wow…that’s a lot of writing!

What about you?

Writing: Should I Find a Niche?

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For this month’s IWSG Blog Hop, my question is this: As a writer, should I settle with a “niche”?

I discovered writing by “accident” at the age of eleven, and been writing on and off ever since.  In 2007, my first (short) story was published.  Now that I’m a full-time homemaker, I write almost every day.

Yet, I haven’t decided which form or genre or niche to settle on.

I’ve dabbled in poetry,  screenwriting, essays, journaling/memoir, serial fiction, flash and short stories and have written in almost every genre (except for historical fiction).

What’s my problem?

I enjoy writing all of them.

I’ve been told that I should write whatever my heart and soul desire.

So, why am I so conflicted?

Although I have published many forms of writing but they’ve all been “short” (meaning under 10,000 words), I still have hope to publish a novel one day and that’s my dilemma.

If I write and publish a book in a particular genre, does that mean I’m stuck with that genre in the foreseeable future?  Or, can I jump around from one genre to another? My main concern is confusing my readers especially if they enjoy reading only that particular genre and not the others.

Or, perhaps I’m making a huge mountain out of a molehill?

 

 

Author Interview With Jeanne Blasberg

Today we have a very special guest, Jeanne Blasberg, as she tells us a bit about herself and her DEBUT novel! 

 

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’ve kept a journal all my life and have always loved to read. My favorite book as a child was Harriet the Spy. Being an only child who spent a lot of time alone, I got scarily close to emulating Harriet’s spying ways.

My passion is fiction, but my early professional life had me writing business case studies and articles on the retailing industry. My first serious pursuit of creative writing involved memoir and essays based on personal experience, but I always knew I had a book in me.

Once my three children moved out of the house, things got quiet and my mind could slow down. I used that time to write and study the craft. My husband and I also love to travel, and I blog about it on my website. In the last nine months I have been to South Africa, Uganda, Patagonia, the Canadian Rockies, and Iceland.

 

What aspects of your life led you to writing the kind of stories you write?

I have always been fascinated by family dynamics. What is spoken and often unspoken between siblings (which I can only imagine, having always wanted to be a sister) and how bonds strengthen or deteriorate between generations are things I think about.

I have also witnessed (as well as read and thought about) the way behaviours get passed down from generation to generation, especially painful ones such as addictions and secret keeping.

 

 

You have a new book coming out soon. Tell us about it.

EDEN is the story of a family matriarch in her late seventies who, after the death of her husband, decides to introduce her family to the daughter she gave up for adoption fifty years earlier. The setting is their grand summer home, built by her industrial tycoon father, in a fancy summer community on the coast of southern Rhode Island. The chapters describing the days leading up to the Fourth of July weekend, as relatives arrive, and our matriarch prepares to make her announcement, are alternated with chapters revealing the 80-year history of the family. Four generations of women are introduced, each with secrets of their own.

 

What inspired you to write it?

The idea was born after my husband discovered he had a brother who had been given up for adoption. In getting to know this newly discovered brother and having conversations with him and his wife, I understood something about how the mystery around his birth had been bound to his self-identity. I related to this immediately. The product of a hasty marriage, I was ten years old when I did the math on my fingers to figure out I was a mistake, something a could never quite shake. I never stopped thinking about the different choices our mothers had (or didn’t have) and also the residual effect on the children.

 

How do you get into the minds of your characters?

I spend time meditating or quieting my mind and then I think about the scene I am writing until I just know how a character would react. Sometimes, I get it wrong and in the editing process I think “no, no, no, that’s not quite right.” My characters are evolving and so getting it right sometimes requires writing an entire first draft and then going back to refine them. I understand my characters so much better when I know the ending.

I often think about my characters when I’m out in the world. I might notice a woman’s clothes and think that is something Becca would wear. Or overhear a conversation and think that is something Camilla would say.

 

In your opinion, what are some of the biggest obstacles facing female writers today?

Maybe the same obstacles face men as well as women, I’m not sure. I am a debut author and don’t feel I have a very knowledgeable opinion on this topic. But the one thing I have noticed in the process of launching EDEN is that there are a lot of books being released each season and there are a lot in the genre I am writing…. By Women For Women.  Is the obstacle one of continually feeling relevant and original?  I have found the communities of women authors that I have become a part of to be extremely helpful and supportive. So whatever issues we have as a gender, there is a big movement around taking them on!

 

Any additional comments or advice you’d like to add for our readers?

Here are 5 good writing tips for a satisfying writing life:

1) Consistent routine, for 8 out of 10 people morning energy is best – take advantage of that time and don’t give it away

2) Meditate – unclutter the mind

3) Find a community of writers and hold each other accountable

4) Be generous – with yourself and others

5) good writing has a lot to do with intuition – trust it

 

Click on the image to order the book

Synopsis of the book: “Becca Meister Fitzpatrick―wife, mother, grandmother, and pillar of the community―is the dutiful steward of her family’s iconic summer tradition . . . until she discovers her recently deceased husband squandered their nest egg. As she struggles to accept that this is likely her last season in Long Harbor, Becca is inspired by her granddaughter’s boldness in the face of impending single-motherhood, and summons the courage to reveal a secret she was forced to bury long ago: the existence of a daughter she gave up fifty years ago. The question now is how her other daughter, Rachel―with whom Becca has always had a strained relationship―will react.” 

 

Jeanne can be found at the following sites:

Author’s Website

Twitter

Facebook

 

Story Sunday: Journal of Life

 

January 15th

Where to begin? Because of so and so, and of something that happened, I’m to start keeping a journal of my thoughts and feelings and whatever else I care to share. WTH.

Okay, let’s start from the beginning. My name is Carla Jones. I’m twenty-five, and I live with my parents. Eh, that sounds like an opener for one of those Alcoholics Anonymous sessions. I’m not an alcoholic, but I am a screw-up.

Damn. That sounds pretty harsh now that it’s out there. But this is what my shrink wants to read, so there you go.

I lived a fairly normal life, I guess. Grew up in a small town in the mountains. Mom was a telephone operator for many years before switching to being an administrative assistance at a local community college. Dad’s a salesperson at a hardware store.  I have two sisters. Trish, the eldest, moved out of the house when she was eighteen. She joined the Navy. I hardly ever see her. Mandy, the baby, is off to college, studying power engineering. She’s the brains, like Dad.

Me? I’m the oddball. The one with all the problems.

Heck, I’m not even related to these people. Not by blood anyway. You see, my parents tried to have another baby after Trish was born, but nothing happened after four years.  So, they adopted me. Mandy came along as a complete surprise three years later. That left me, a brunette with blue eyes, sandwiched between these blonde-haired, brown-eyed individuals. Yep, like an oddball.

We lived next to Mom’s parents (Dad’s parents died when he was a boy).  Nana and Papa to Trish and Mandy, but not to me. They made that well known as soon as I was old enough to understand. I was to call them Pat and Dave.

Ugh.

Trish and Mandy were always into sports. I tried, but I was deemed too klutzy to play on any team. So, I turned to running. I never competed, though. All that hardcore training and competing in meets or races never interested me.

I never excelled in anything in school. It’s not for the lack of trying…it’s just that I really didn’t care. I studied just enough to pass the exams. That’s it. Mom and Dad never really pushed me. They pretty much let me do my own thing. They rode the other two daily, though. They accepted nothing less than As or Bs from them.

When it came time to head off to college, I had no clue what to major in. I wasn’t interested in science or math or business. I ended up picking a major in Communications with a minor in Creative Writing. I had always doodled with poetry and wrote in my journal, so why not take them one step further, right? Boy, my Dad was not happy with that. I asked, what’s wrong with being a writer or a journalist?   He said that those weren’t respectable fields. So, in order to appease him, I switched to a major in Kinesiology with a minor in Athletic Training.

I got as far as sophomore year before dropping out. I sucked in science classes and ended up failing them.

I refused to move back home—didn’t want to endure the daily scorn from Pat and Dave or the disappointed looks from my parents. Instead, I moved to a small city an hour from home and got a job working as a writer for the city’s newspaper. I rented a tiny, run-down apartment downtown that robbed me of over half of my monthly salary. I had no furniture, slept on an air mattress, and ate meals on the grungy carpet.

I guess I got too carried away with my sudden independence, or perhaps I was just overly desperate to be accepted for who I was. The people I ended up hanging out with liked to smoke pot. Personally, I hated pot, but these people made me feel like I was a somebody, like I actually mattered, so I just went with it.

Anyway, I ended up getting caught with some weed and was sent to jail. Lost my job and my apartment. Dad bailed me out and took me back home. Not sure what he did, but he somehow got the charges against me reduced so that there was no court or jail time for me. However, the judge ordered me to see this shrink, and since I liked to write, this same shrink gave me this ridiculous journal assignment.

 

 

January 29th

I’m writing this from my hospital bed. Actually, I’m in a psych ward within the hospital. The day after I wrote the first entry to this journaling assignment, Dad and I got into a big fight. Apparently, I’m a hardship to him and Mom, and it’s starting to affect their health and job stability. I guess I just lost it. I yelled at him saying something like, well, if I’m such a hardship, perhaps I should just remove myself from their lives.

I ran into the only bathroom in the house and locked myself in. I grabbed a shaving razor and proceeded to slash the top of my hands. Freaking out, Mom called 911. From there on, everything’s just a blur. I remember waking up in a hospital room, strapped to the bed. My whole body felt bruised. Mom was sitting beside me, crying.  Dad, well, I haven’t seen him since that night. She said that it took three people tackling me to stop me from continuing to slice my wrists. I don’t remember that part, but she was right, both of my wrists are bandaged up. The top of my hands are also bandaged, so I can barely write this stupid entry.

This stupid assignment. Stupid shrink. I hate him. I hate them all.

 

 

February 3rd

I’m still here, in the psych ward. It seems that I’m not ready to be released yet. Or rather, my parents aren’t ready to take me back home. Either way, I don’t give a rip.

 

February 7th

Mandy visited me yesterday. She said she was worried about me. She then turned around and told me how angry she was with me. How could I be so selfish to have hurt Mom and Dad. I told her to get out of my face. I don’t need this from her or from anyone for that matter!

 

 

February 12th

Why is everyone against me? What have I done so wrong to be treated so? Pat stopped by for a few minutes. Long enough to tell me that my own parents were seriously considering having me permanently committed. She went on to tell me that she did some research on my biological parents. My mother gave birth to me at the age of 13. She had been raped by her 16-year-old cousin who then committed suicide shortly afterward. Pat said that I should never have been adopted and that I’ve been nothing but a heartache to Mom and Dad.

After she left, I just lied down on the bed and cried.

 

 

February 15th

The shrink told me that I was actually starting to make progress and that I should continue to journal. Whatever.

Today, I wrote my first poem in months. It’s called “Alone.”

Heart is the bridge to

one’s soul, break it in

pieces and it will

strand you, immerse you

with unspeakable loneliness

You know what? After writing this, I felt better. Purged. Does that make any sense? I’m looking back over it, and am wondering…where did this come from? Am I really that pathetic? Do I really feel that way?

The answer is yes.

 

 

March 2nd

It’s been a while since the last entry. I have a good reason. Well, make that twenty-five reasons, as that’s how many poems I’ve written. I’m somewhat amazed at how dark and desperate some sounded. I thought about rewriting a few so they don’t make me out to be some kind of psychotic bitch, but I didn’t.

I worked up the courage and gave some to the shrink to read. I felt certain that he would definitely have me permanently committed after reading those particular ones (that would just please the family wouldn’t it?). I was stunned when he said that they were really good. Then he had to ask if I had thought about submitting them to places to have them published.

Seriously?

Hmm…

 

 

March 27th

I’ve been released from the hospital/psych ward. Since I’m no longer welcome home, I’m now living in a halfway house of sorts. I’m working part-time as a dishwasher at a college. It’s nothing glamorous, just a no-brainer, tedious job. I did something last week that scared the crap out of me, though. I submitted a few of my poems to four literary journals. Shrink seems confident that one of these places will publish my work. I have serious doubts. I mean, who would want to read my stuff? They’re just stupid poems. Nothing special about them at all.

 

 

April 30th

I’m in disbelief. I received word yesterday that my poems have been accepted by Julienne Literary Journal to be published. Oh. My. God.

I think I may have even hyperventilated because I found myself on the floor breathing hysterically with a bag over my face. All those poor people at the post office. God bless them for not freaking out on me.

 

 

May 16th

Good news keeps rolling in. Apparently, Dad has been working with a judge to try and get my criminal/drug/psych ward incarceration expunged from my record since it was my first offense, and guess what? As of this morning, I’m a free woman with a clean record! I’ve a feeling that my shrink may have had a hand in this even though he vehemently denied it. I know better.

This will be my last entry for the journaling assignment—the psych sessions are ending. As I read through the earlier entries, I hadn’t realized just how full of anger I was, and rightfully so, but I’ve learned that I no longer need to be. There is so much more to life than holding on to the feeling of anger because people refused to accept me as I am. No more. I want to live my own life the way I feel is best for me. I no longer need to rely on others to help me feel worthy. I can do that for myself. Writing poems and journaling have shown me that. They became the keys to unlocking my true soul.

*First published with GFT Press March 2016

My Own Battle With Mental Illness

Doll Hospital is an art and literature print journal on mental health

Just a little blurb this week about an essay I have published with the current issue of Doll Hospital Journal.

In the essay,  In Search of Hope, I recount my struggles through various losses and disabilities that brought me close to suicide as well as my battle with anxiety and depression.   Mental illness also runs in my family.

What helped me through all these?

Writing, and the love for my family.

For those of you struggling with mental illness, just know that you’re not alone, and to never give up!

*To read this digital issue, click on the Doll Hospital’s image on top and this will take you to the site to download the item.  It will ask for $5.00 but this is only a suggested donation amount. 

Author Interview: Judy Walters

We have a very special guest today!  Please welcome Women’s Fiction author, Judy Walters! 

Tell us what first drew you to writing.

I’ve always written, since I was a little girl. I always knew I wanted to be a writer.  It’s just something I’ve always done, and I don’t know why, but I don’t feel complete without my writing.

What do you write?

 Women’s Fiction, stories about common people struggling with uncommon situations, many of my novels have some kind of medical twist.  

You were an editor in your previous life. How much has the publishing industry changed since you left?

I was an editor a long time ago — I stopped working in publishing about 19 years ago, right before my younger daughter was born. At that time, and people will laugh now, my office was just setting up email and I was afraid I would never learn how to use it!  

What seems to be the recurring theme(s) in your stories?

I like to write about families struggling with unusual but not unheard of problems. In A Million Ordinary Days, a woman is struggling with Multiple Sclerosis, and that struggle extends to her family. Other books I’ve written focus on families struggling with Autism, adoption, and infertility.

You have a new book coming out soon. Tell us about it.

My latest book is called A Million Ordinary Days, and it’s due out March 14. It’s the story of one woman’s fight against Multiple Sclerosis to try to live a normal life both with her career — working with pregnant teenagers — and raising her teenage daughter.

Which do you prefer: traditional, self publishing, or both?

I’m not one of those people who strongly prefers one way or another. Both are valid ways to publish. All of my books have been self published so far, but if I ever had the chance to have the traditional publishing experience, I think that would be great, too.

In your opinion, what are some of the biggest obstacles facing writers today?

One of the biggest obstacles is the ability to get published. People with wonderful novels can’t find publishers and feel uncomfortable or unsure of self publishing.  People who had great publishers lose their contracts for a variety of reasons and then don’t know how to publish their next books.

Allison Wheeler is fighting a war inside her body, a war with Multiple Sclerosis that she doesn’t want to acknowledge and certainly doesn’t want other people to see.

As Allison’s health deteriorates, she tries desperately to hold on to all that is important to her – her family, her career as a social worker for pregnant teens, and most of all, her independence. As her ex-husband and two daughters rally around her, they’re fighting their own demons – Glenn, in a new relationship, is afraid of shifting the comfortable companionship that he and Allison have built since their divorce fifteen years back. Melanie, whose sad past haunts her, is an adult realizing that adult life is not all it’s cracked up to be, and Hailey, a junior in high school, is debating how she can go off  to college knowing that even though she desperately wants to spread her wings and fly, her mother may be too ill for her to go. Just when they all think they’ve made peace with their lives, they must readjust to a “new” normal – or risk losing everything they’ve struggled to hold onto.

Release Date: March 14th, 2017

Want more info on this book?  Go to Judy’s website

Published!

Click on image for the digital issue

 

I’m pleased to find out that two of my poems (Longing for Home, and Seekers) have been published in The Hungry Chimera Literary Magazine 🙂

To read this issue, just click on the image above.  The digital issue is free.  If you’d prefer a print copy, it’s $15.00.

They are accepting submissions for the next issue.

Story Sunday: The Hunt

Milky Way Over Two Inlets Lake, Minnesota

Milky Way Over Two Inlets Lake, Minnesota

 

It came from space in a fiery cluster of molten steel, shattering the solitude that covered the blue water below as it plunged deep into the cold darkness. There it would lie dormant, to be stirred by life that flourished both in the water and above.

 

The sun was a hazy object in the sky as dense mist hovered over the gray water of Lake Champlain. The cries of the sea gulls overhead were the only sounds heard other than the low droning noise of the 21-foot boat’s engine as the water splashed up against the hull of the Coast Guard’s navigational vessel. Anna Mae Hart leaned her petite body against the railing as her short brunette hair flapped in the brisk breeze. Her green eyes studied the dark dot of an island ahead that could barely be seen within the wall of white haze. She reached into her jacket’s pocket and pulled out a stick of gum and placed it onto her tongue.

Chewing heartily, she studied the sky for a moment. The sun was already a crimson color in the early morning hour which signaled another hot day in the North Country. As a native from Georgia she welcomed the steamy days while the locals moaned and fretted. She liked it here even with the cold, hard winters that plundered the northern state for well over seven months at a time; it was the quietness and the slowness of life that enticed her to stay.

For most of her thirty-four years of life, she had known nothing but instability and chaos; she came from a dysfunctional family, and as soon as she graduated from high school she joined the Navy and spent the next nine years traveling the world, and was trained in skills and knowledge shrouded with secrets never to be revealed to the common people. By the time she turned thirty Anna wanted a normal life. It was during her visit to upstate New York where she met Darren LaMonde and his family. After a short time, he offered her a position with Division 15 for the 1st District Coast Guard as a Patrol Specialist. She accepted it without hesitation, and never looked back.

“Looks like it’ll be another scorcher.” Darren was saying as he stood behind the wheel in the center of the boat. His dark mass of hair flew in every direction in the wind. He was handsome even at the age of fifty-six with no signs of gray or wrinkle. His hazel eyes were dark as they studied the lifting mist.

“You call this a heat wave? Oh, pl-lease.” Anna smirked as she continued to stare out across the lake to the island ahead.

“I don’t get how you like this humidity. It just saps all the energy right out of me.” Darren throttled the engine down as they quickly approached tiny Green Island, one of the 70 plus islands of the lake.

“Sweetheart, you just weren’t raised right.” Anna drawled in her thick southern accent and then chuckled as she leaned further into the railing as the boat gave a gentle lurch forward when Darren put the engine into reverse. They slowly drifted up to the wooden dock where there was also another boat for the Plattsburgh City Police Department.

This was the one part she disliked about her job; having to deal with dead bodies from time to time. Darren had called her around 4am to relay that a body has been reported and the police had asked for their assistance in the investigation.

As soon as the boat was aligned against the short dock, Anna jumped out and anchored the boat. Quietly they walked off the dock and down a graveled pathway towards a small cabin that was nestled in the trees. Suddenly, Anna stopped.

“What is it?” Darren asked in a whisper.

“I’m not sure.” Anna strained to see through the fog. “I thought I heard something.”

They continued until they reached the rustic cabin where they were met by two individuals dressed in dark clothes. The tall, stocky black man was the first to speak as he held out his hand. “I’m Lt. Jean Picaur, and this is Dr. Madeline D’Louverne, a member of the crime scene unit.”

The older woman was taller and thinner than Anna. She took Anna’s hand. “We’re glad you both could come out so quickly.”

“We came as soon as we heard.” Darren said. “What do we have?”

Picaur and the doctor exchanged a look as they stepped aside.

“You better come inside.” Picaur spoke as he opened the door and led them into the building.

It was a two-bedroom cabin with a large living area in the center. The small kitchen was on one side, and the bedrooms on the other side. As Anna studied the largest room she could see stark evidence of struggle everywhere. The back door’s window was smashed. The couch in the living room was overturned. There were dried blood and mud splattered on the walls and floor. The kitchen looked as if it was hit by a hurricane with utensils and dishpans scattered all over the floor and countertops.

Anna then saw a distinct trail of blood that ran from the kitchen floor over the carpet of the living room and into the den where it ended at the desk. She walked over and stood over the desk that held an older computer model; there was blood splattered over the monitor and across the keyboard, and a single bloodied handprint near the mouse pad with no mouse. The computer had been turned on. Anna assumed that it was being checked for evidence.

“Jesus H. Christ!” Darren exclaimed as he glanced at the shocking sight spread before him.

“This isn’t your ordinary homicide.” Anna spoke as she looked directly at Picaur.

The officer met her gaze and slowly shook his head. “No.”

“And we were called here why?”

“To help us sort through evidence.”

“O-okay.”

Darren turned to the Lieutenant and asked. “How many were staying in this cabin?”

Picaur pulled out his Blackberry and glanced at the little green monitor and answered. “There were two couples staying here for the weekend. They were from New York City. University students.”

Anna took a step forward. “How many bodies were found?”

“Only one.”

Darren looked over at Anna before turning to Picaur. “Then what happened to the others?”

“At this point we’re assuming they’re also dead, but without any bodies we can’t be certain.”

Dr. D’Louverne replied with an even tone. “We do have some evidence that seems to point the time of death around 11pm Saturday. The body that was found was one of the women who we think was the last survivor to die.”

“Not a domestic homicide then?” Darren questioned.

“No. These kids were not killed in a conventional sense.”

“Dr. D’Louverne seems to think they were killed by something … not human.”

Anna’s eyes widened slightly as she turned to the older woman. “Animal?”

“I can’t make a determination at this point. We were hoping you would be able to offer any insight.”

Anna turned and studied the officer intently, without replying.

“I’ve seen your record, Ms. Hart. You have a background in Marine Biology and various classified military experimentations.” Picaur stated.

Darren shook his head. “You’re saying that some marine creature came out of the water and killed four people in a matter of days?”

“In a matter of hours actually.” Dr.D’Louverne corrected. “I’m saying we’re not sure at the moment.”

Anna looked around the cabin once more. “Okay. Show me what you got.”

Dr. D’Louverne sat down at the computer and brought up a blog site on the internet.

“The deceased, Shelli Watson, blogged on this site regularly. She recorded their last hours.”

The doctor, with gloves on hands, worked on the keyboard until she leaned back. “You can start here.”

Dr. D’Louverne then stood up, stepped aside as Anna took the chair. She accepted a pair of latex gloves from Darren and pulled them on over her hands. She then read one of the postings.

“July 7th, Friday, 7:45pm. Whew! We finally made it after driving for God forever long, all 7 hours of it! We spent another 2 hours at a lakeside boating store trying to find a boat we could afford to rent. Lisa and Mark are making dinner, spaghetti I think; and Dru, not sure where he took off to, probably out exploring the island. I can’t believe we’re actually spending an entire weekend on a tiny little island in the middle of a lake, not an ocean, but a fresh water lake! Dru and Mark have been dead set on going out on the lake to fish, and hopefully also catch a glimpse of the local legend monster, Champ. Lisa and I keep telling them that those were only stories to lure tourists to the area, but boys will be boys. While they are doing that, we’ll be out on the beach sunning ourselves. Well, I’m being paged …”

Anna, using the keyboard, advanced to the next posting.

“July 8th, Saturday, 8am. The guys are off on the lake, fishing and looking for Champ. I keep telling Dru, in vain I know, that he wasn’t going to find anything. Oh well. Lisa and I are now off to relax for the morning.”

“Sounds like typical 20-something kids to me.” Darren commented.

“Yeah.” Anna replied with a nod. “Next post.”

“July 8th, Saturday, 12:35pm. The guys came back all excited. Dru claimed he got a picture of Champ. Lisa and I didn’t believe them, not until they showed us the picture. It doesn’t look quite like the pictures I’ve seen online of Champ, but it is definitely something. I’ve included the link here in case anyone was curious to take a look. Feel free to comment on what you think of it.”

Anna tabbed until the link was highlighted and hit the enter key. A picture filled the screen. Darren leaned over Anna’s shoulder and they both studied the picture. It was slightly blurry but there was a definite dark form rising partially above the surface of the water; the boat filled the bottom of the picture as one of the men had taken the photo looking across the lake towards the mainland. Anna studied this form. The sun was directly overhead, casting shadows on this figure, which obscured any clear view.

“What do you think?” Darren asked.

Anna shook her head slightly. “Not sure. Shelli was right. This doesn’t fit what we know about Champ. This doesn’t look like any amphibious being I’ve seen before. This here looks like a head.” She ran a finger along the profile of the form. “Champ is much more rounded. This looks like an arm, and a hand, or more like claws …” Anna leaned closer to the monitor. “To me it looks as if this creature was swimming towards their boat.”

“And perhaps followed them back here to the cabin.” Darren said blandly.

Anna exited out of the picture and continued to read.

“July 8th, 2pm. A strange thing has happened. Our boat’s gone. Mark swore he tied it to the dock. Now we’re stranded. Grr! None of our cells seem to be working now. Odd. We have no choice now but to wait until someone shows up to get off this island.”

Picaur then spoke up. “When we arrived there was no sign of their boat.”

Anna gave a quick nod and read on.

“July 8th, 6pm. I’m freaking out. Dru’s gone. Lisa’s hurt bad. There’s something out there trying to get in. I want to go home now. I’m so scared.”

“Someone that was wounded had been on the couch.” Dr. O’Louvern pointed to the torn, upturned furniture. “I found dried human blood.”

“There were also tracks around the cabin. They are unlike any animal prints I have ever seen.” Picaur added.

“Let’s see what happened next.

July 8th, 8:30pm. There’s still no sign of Dru. I can still hear him screaming in my head. He had gone into the woods to find Lisa while Mark stayed with me. Then I heard Dru screaming, and Lisa came running back a few moments later. She was covered in blood. And her right arm was completely gone! My god. What is happening here?”

Anna leaned back in the chair, rubbed both hands on the back of her neck. “This creature’s intelligent. It stalked them, watched and studied them. Waited. Dru was the first to die. Lisa was allowed to get away. Kind of like a cat and mouse game.”

“Like a predator hunting its prey.” Picaur muttered. “Would this be anything the military’s responsible for?”

Anna glanced over at the big man and eyed him momentarily before she answered. “No, this creature was not created by the military, or by any other country that I know of.”

She turned and focused on the monitor for a moment. “Nor is this any marine specie I have ever encountered before. This is either specie we’ve never seen before now or …”

Anna looked up at Darren as he asked. “Think this has anything to with the meteor shower we had several months ago?”

She shrugged her shoulders. “I’m not sure. Perhaps.”

Picaur took a step closer. “What are you suggesting?

Anna nodded. “I still have some connections in the military and I inquired about this meteor shower we had here a few months ago. I was told that an unidentified object exploded just above the earth’s atmosphere. Pieces of it rained down and landed in this lake. Nothing was ever recovered. Not too long afterwards people began reporting strange sightings of a creature that wasn’t Champ. Fish and other water life became scarce.”

She paused to glance over at the closest window before she met Picaur’s dark brown eyes. “The point is that this creature didn’t appear until after the so-called meteor shower, and as far as I know it never killed … until now.”

“Perhaps the guys did something to provoke it.” Darren suggested.

“That is a possibility. Okay, the final posting.

July 8th, 10:40pm. I can hear it scraping around outside. It’s growling. Mark is standing watch by the back door. God, I don’t want to die. Please, anyone who’s reading this send help. Please! “

They were quiet for several moments before Anna stood up and peered over at the back door where the window was shattered.

“It came through the window.” Anna began. “Killed Mark on the spot. It then came after Shelli. Shelli fought and died hard. Then it killed Lisa, or perhaps she was already dead.”

“How would it have gotten out?” Picaur asked.

Anna walked over to the back door and studied it for a moment. “It simply just opened the door and walked out.” To demonstrate she turned the door knob and the door slowly swung open on its own. She then stepped out and onto a small deck. “Doc, shine your laser light over here.”

Dr. O’Louvern did just that. “Blood. It goes down the steps and into the woods.”

“This is where we go as well.” Picaur said.

When Picaur and Darren started down the steps Anna reached out and touched Darren’s arm. “Wait. The sun’s gone. Looks like a storm is coming.”

Darren peered up at the sky and sure enough, the sky was now covered with dark clouds. The wind, now cooler, had picked up in intensity. He looked over at Anna. “You’re thinking it’s still out there?”

Anna’s eyes were focused on the moving shadows of the trees as the wind whipped through them. “Yes.”

Everyone stood still for several moments as they listened to the howling of the wind and the rain started to splatter on and around them in big drops. Just then, Picaur gave a shout as he stomped to the other side of the deck.

“God damn it all! The boats are gone!” He bellowed.

Darren moved besides him. “Both of them?”

The women came to look as well and saw that both vessels had simply vanished.

“We should get inside.” Darren muttered.

They quietly went back inside the cabin with Picaur being the last one in as he shut the door behind him. He ran his fingers through his wet hair and said almost in a whisper. “So, now we’re the hunted.”

“It appears that way.” Anna replied. “We need to be ready. The doors need to be secured.”

Darren gave a nod as they worked together to drag the ragged couch over and leaned it against the back door. The other door they barricaded with the heavy oak coffee table.

Picaur took a step back to study what they had done. “These probably won’t hold it back for very long.”

“No.” Anna answered as she checked her weapon to be sure it was fully loaded. “But it should buy us enough time to respond.”

They all suddenly froze when they heard large branches outside cracking and snapping.

“The winds have died down some.” Darren whispered.

“The creature?” the doctor asked in a shaky voice.

For the next several moments, they stood completely still as they waited. The silence in the cabin was eerie. Anna held her breath as she strained to listen for any sound from the approaching creature. She heard nothing until suddenly, a loud bang slammed against the back door as the couch literally shot across the room, smashing into both Darren and Dr. D’Louverne as they flew across the living room floor.

Before either Picaur or Anna could react, the officer yelled out as a claw-like hand reached inside and grabbed one of his feet and pulled him effortlessly outside into the rainstorm and fog. It happened so fast the creature and Picaur were nothing but a blur to Anna.

Next thing she knew, she stood alone.

* * *

The wind had died down as the fog settled heavily over the island. Rain came down in large droplets. As she stood in the doorway, Anna stared out in disbelief. The fog was so thick she couldn’t see beyond the deck. As she looked back into the cabin, she saw both Darren and Dr. D’Louverne lying on the floor, still breathing. They were alive. For now. She listened for sounds but could not hear anything above the pouring rain. It would make no sense to go out into the storm, blind and practically deaf. It would be suicide, not to mention foolish. Picaur was most likely dead. Her responsibility now was to the injured inside.

Anna stepped inside and went to close the door but saw that the hinges were damaged, so she left it partially ajar. She needed to get them off this island; however, she had a feeling this creature didn’t intend to let any of them leave alive. This left her with only one choice. She must find a way to kill it.

* * *

Darren moaned as he tried to sit up, but Anna, as she knelt beside him, pressed him back down. “Easy there, cowboy.” She spoke gently. “You have a head injury and I don’t want you moving too quickly right now.”

He met her eyes that held no emotion. “Picaur?”

She shook her head. “I don’t know. He’s gone now. The doc is fine. She’s over there sitting up with a broken arm.”

He turned his head gingerly to see Dr. D’Louverne sitting on the floor, with her back against the kitchen’s counter. “Did you see how fast it moved?”

“I did. I saw a glimpse of it too. It’s bigger than I thought, about seven feet tall.”

“It was standing?”

“Yeah, like a human, yet it’s not human. I’m not sure what it is.”

“So, now what, partner?”

Anna was finished with his head bandage as she stood up. “You and the doc are going to try and get a message to the mainland to send help. We still have power, for now.”

“Done.” Darren slowly sat up and leaned against the wall. “What about you?”

Anna avoided his eyes as she looked away, “I’m going hunting.”

“Bullshit!” Darren attempted to stand up, but intense dizziness threatened to overwhelm him so he sat back down. “Anna, I’m not letting you go out there alone against that thing.”

This time she met his panicked gaze as she laid a hand on his shoulder. “You are in no condition to help. I need to buy you two time to get help out here.”

He shook his head. ” No talking you out of it, is there?”

“Afraid not.”

“Help me up. Shit.”

As she placed her hands under his arms Anna helped Darren up to his feet. As he stood he leaned against the wall until the dizzy spell passed and he was steady. “You come back, ya hear? Or else the chief will have my sorry ass.”

Anna smiled at her partner and friend. “I come back in one piece and you owe me an extra week’s vacation.”

“Deal.”

* * *

With the loaded gun in hand, Anna stepped down off the deck. The rain had stopped, but the fog remained dense. She slowly made her way towards the woods where her instincts told her she would find the creature. It was mid-day, but with the thick mist that hung over everything it felt like dusk. The woods ahead of her were dark and full of shadows. She swallowed hard, and knew that any of the shadows could be the creature. As she moved into the trees she felt pressed by the overwhelming sound of silence where even her shallow breaths sounded too loud.

Anna glanced at the fir needle-riddled ground; she could barely make out the path. Then something shiny caught her attention as she bent down to inspect. It was Picaur’s badge. Picking it up she turned it over a few times in her hand, and fought back the hot tears that threatened to spill from her eyes. She slipped the badge into her pants pocket and continued onward. She was on the right path. It was only a matter of time now.

The narrow path led her up a steep incline and deeper into the fog. She could barely see inches in front of her. Then, somewhere behind her, she heard branches and dried fir on the ground crackling and snapping. For an instance, Anna froze as her heart pounded in her chest and she could hear the blood roaring in her ears. It was coming directly behind her. She must act now or die, like a coward.

She was no coward.

When she heard the low growl, Anna swung around, dropped down to her knees, aimed and fired into the fog. The bullet found its mark as she heard the creature screeched, and then came loud crashing sounds, and then silence.

A voice. She heard a voice. It sounded like Picaur! Cautiously, Anna stood back up and jogged towards the source of the sound. As she looked down the hill, she spotted a figure on the ground.

Anna quickly ran down the fir covered path to the figure of Jean Picaur as he sat on the ground, leaned back against a dead tree stump. He had an open gash in his left thigh, but he was alive.

“By the devil, Anna, it’s you!”

“Yes, sir.” Anna answered with a smile as she knelt down beside him.

He placed a bloodied hand on her arm closest to him. “I thought I was a goner.”

“Don’t thank me yet, lieutenant.” Her eyes scanned around them. “I only wounded it, and I’m sure it’s really pissed now.”

He gave a solemn nod. “Gotcha.”

With her free hand, Anna pulled the man up to his feet as he leaned heavily against her.

“Alright there?” She eyed him closely.

“Just feeling woozy.”

“It’s from the blood loss.”

One step at a time they slowly made their way back up the hill and down the other side towards the cabin. Overhead the sun was now visible as the fog began to retreat.

“Thank goodness the sun will be out soon.”

“Not soon enough.” Anna barely whispered as they came to a sudden stop. She focused ahead. They were close to the cabin now as she could barely make out its outline beyond the tree lines. To their left was Lake Champlain. Just ahead on the path, she saw the dark shadow of the creature as it stood between them and the cabin.

Anna couldn’t quite make out the body other than it was tall and lean, but she saw the eyes. It was like tiger’s eyes, red and black. Its face was human like but scaly and greenish like a reptile that held no nose, only two slits. The mouth was as wide as the width of its head, and as it seemingly grinned at them the mouth spread open to reveal razor sharp teeth of a carnivore. The growl that escaped from its body sounded so deep and low it resonated through her body from the feet up to her head.

She’d known fear and death, and had faced predators, but nothing like this. All she wanted to do was curl up on the ground and whimper.

“Holy mother of God!” Picaur exclaimed in a hoarse voice.

“Don’t move.”

They both stood, unmoving, as did the creature.

“What is it waiting for?” the officer breathed in a whisper.

“For us to make the first move.”

“Jesus, we’re dead.”

As she kept her eyes on the shadowy form ahead, Anna tightened her grip on the gun.

“Do you still have your gun?”

“No, I dropped it by the deck after it grabbed me. I-er-can see it from here, on the ground.”

“Still loaded?”

“Yeah.”

“When I count to three, I’m going to give you my gun. You keep it busy long enough for me to get to your gun, and we’ll blast it to hell.”

“Beats just standing here.”

“One-two-THREE!!!”

In one movement, Anna placed the gun in Picaur’s waiting hand and dashed to the right. The officer instantly began firing as she ran as fast as her legs would go. She could hear the creature hissing and growling somewhere nearby. She didn’t know exactly where it was anymore. Her focus now was the gun on the ground, as she bounded forward, dodged low branches and leapt over rocks and fallen trees.

The deck was now only a few feet away, but so was the roar of the creature. Anna took a deep breath and jumped high up into the air and flew for the gun that lay on the hard, bare ground. As she landed on her side, she felt the air whooshed right out of her lungs with a loud thud. She wrapped her hand around the gun, rolled over onto her back just in time to see a flash of white teeth, and fired. Then there was nothing.

* * *

Her head roared and spun as she slowly became aware that her body was on the cool, wet ground. She opened her eyes to see both Darren and Picaur standing over her; both wore wide grins on their faces.

“Damn, girl! You gave us a scare!” Darren cried.

Anna tasted blood as she carefully stood up onto her feet. Her eyes scanned around her.

“Where is it?”

Picaur sat down on the steps of the deck as he spoke. “You shot it point blank in its face. I don’t know how the hell you got the shot off; it was practically on top of you.”

“So, I shot it. Where did it go?” Anna asked again.

Picaur looked over towards the lake. “It crawled into the water. It was wheezing and bleeding. Then it was gone.”

Anna, steadier now, walked to the edge of the shore. She could see its blood on the rocks and sand. It was a black-red color, and lots of it.

Darren and the hobbling Picaur came and stood on each side of Anna as they studied the water. Everything was still. Calm. The fog was completely gone and the sun shone brightly.

(Published in Piker Press August 24th, 2009)

Story Saturday: Jewel

black hooded figure

 

She hurt all over. Inside and out.

She wore no shoes against the jagged rocks on the trail, and no jacket against the skin-biting cold of the late autumn air. She had run away so quickly there was no time to grab anything.

The pain in her chest throbbed as she tried to ignore it. She hated feeling this way. It was a nagging reminder of all she had lost.

She stumbled on as she kept her back to the destruction that lay behind. Black smokes rose to the sky as the putrid smell of burnt flesh permeated her nostrils. Bile burned in her stomach as she covered her cracked lips with a dirt-streaked hand.

Images and thoughts tried to force themselves into her mind, but she shook them away. No, she couldn’t face them now. They would break her into a million of pieces, pieces that she could never put back together.

A snarled tree root suddenly snagged a foot as she tripped and fell to her knees with a whimper. The impacted skin burned, and something warm trickled down that foot.

She brushed the once golden-brown-now-mud-caked hair away from her pale face, and stared down at herself. The left pant-leg now torn which exposed her ankle completely. There was a gash on the top of her foot where blood oozed from. As she sat on the icy, hard ground, she debated with herself on whether she should bother to continue. With an injured foot, she’d either be an easy prey, or die from an infection.

Stifling back the urge to scream, she pounded the earth with both fists. Hot tears blinded her as her teeth ground together.

Life was so unfair! What had she done to deserve such a cruel fate? What?!

The snapping of nearby branches startled her as she sat up and peered ahead. All she saw was a thick canopy of dark hardwood trees. A moment later though there were several shadows moving within them.

The predators have found their prey.

“N-no!” She rolled over on her knees and stood up. She then scanned around but realized that it was too late to run. She reached down and grabbed a sharp-edged rock.

And waited.

Ignoring the burning pain, she faced the wavering shadows as they neared. Her nails dug into the rock as she fought to steady her panting.

Would death come quickly for her? Or would they take their time as they tortured her?

She tried to swallow but discovered that her mouth had become parched as she licked her chapped lips, and tasted blood.

The awning of the trees closed in as roaring filled her head. With her other hand, she pressed against her temple.

She couldn’t pass out now!

The sound of a horse’s neigh roused her back to full consciousness as she turned towards the source, and sucked in her breath.

The high stature of the animal clopped towards her. Its brown coat shiny with sweat and rain water. A figure sat on it, draped in a long, black coat. Her eyes moved up the muddied black boots, black pants, and finally to the face which stayed hidden behind the hood.

“State your name.” A deep male voice spoke.

Her body began to tremble, but she forced herself to stand tall and steady. “I’m called Traviata.” Her words barely came out in a hoarse whisper. Her hand gripped the rock tighter.

The hooded figure turned its head towards the smoke-laden sky above her. “State your crime.”

“Crime?” Vivid memories of her past life filled her mind. “The only crime I’ve committed is by being born!” She couldn’t hold the pain and rage back any longer as she threw the rock, and it smashed against the back of the black figure. The explosive movement caused her to fall forward as she landed hard on her knees and hands. There she stayed as she allowed the tears to flow freely down her face.

Unmoved, the low voice asked again, “Your crime?”

Without raising her head, Traviata answered, “For being me. That’s my crime.”

“You were forced out of your home?”

“Yes, by my own family!” Her chest heaved. “A-abandoned. They burned the house and my cats!” She needed to get it all out. “Why? For what? For not being like them, normal? For choosing my own path and not theirs?” She shook her head. “Why? I don’t know why — they couldn’t accept me as me. And somehow that became my crime.”

Several moments of silence passed as she continued to stare down at the gray earth. She expected pain to come at any time. She prayed that the end would be swift.

The leather from the saddle creaked, and then a loud thud sounded when a pair of boots hit the hard ground.

“Traviata.” The tone now soft, kinder.

She hesitated before glancing up. The figure now stood before her, exposed. The golden-brown eyes that adorned a youthful face squinted as a smile spread across his lips. He held out a hand to her. “Stand, please.”

Traviata exhaled and then reached for the hand. The man pulled her gently up.

“You are a jewel. Rare and precious.” His face radiated benevolence behind the smile as he continued to hold her hand. “Come with me and leave your old life behind.”

She blinked at him, and then smiled back.

(first published with Piker Press December 15th, 2014)

Story Sunday: The Pocket Watch (Flash Fiction)

the-pocket-watch

 

Rob gripped the steering wheel as he watched a brown leaf roll across the gray hood. His haggard face covered with salt and pepper beard helped conceal the white scar across his right cheek. He stared ahead as he half-listened to the car radio.

“The President is expected to address the nation tonight for the final time.” The radio garbled. “Before leaving with his family to an undisclosed location.”

He leaned over and changed the stations.

“CDC still have no answers as to what is causing the flu-like pandemic, nor are they any closer to an effective vaccine or treatment…”

Another station.

“With the death toll skyrocketing across the country and hospitals completely overwhelmed with the sick, medical personnel are urging everyone to stay indoors in hope of slowing down the spread…”

Yet another.

“Ten more police officers gunned down by looters as they struggle to protect the civilians still in the downtown area…”

The radio went silent when Rob opened the door. He didn’t bother to close it as he staggered into the expansive cemetery. Shadows lurked everywhere yet his own moved with each faltered step. His shoulders slumped forward as he buried both hands deep in the pockets of the ragged trench coat.

He passed rows and rows of old and broken stones until he approached a mangled oak tree. He stooped over a particular headstone, half-buried in yellowed grass. He pulled his right hand out and pressed it on top of the cold stone.

Julie Lerne
Born March 3, 1972-Died November 12, 2010

Craig Lerne
Born April 15, 2008-Died November 10, 2010

He bowed his head, eyes closed. “Jules…three years, Jules.”

He stood still for several moments. A dark lock of hair fell over his left eye as his lips quivered. Rob then deliberately reached into the right pocket, and pulled out a pistol.

“I’m so tired of just surviving.” He mumbled as he shifted the weapon to his left and then back to the right hand. “Everyone’s gone.” He pressed the trigger back. “I don’t want to be alone anymore.” And raised the gun towards his temple.

He suddenly paused midway when the branches of the nearby tree swayed and creaked. A breeze swept over his thin body as his hazel eyes searched each and every stone.

“Jules?” His voice shook.

Everything grew still. Including the shadows.

Rob sucked in a trembling breath as he extended the free hand into the left pocket, and extracted a tarnished, gold-colored pocket watch. He used the thumb to flip the lid open.

“7:15.” He whispered.

He blinked several times. There was something engraved in the lid as he continued to stare at it.

Safe haven
79 S 30 W

A smile slowly spread across his lips. “Dad, you son of a b–” He chuckled as he snapped the lid shut, and dropped the watch back into the pocket.

Rob leaned against the headstone as he pushed the trigger back down.

“There’s something I need to do, Jules.” He muttered with excitement. “I’ll be back to…” His voice trailed off when he turned around.

Crack!

A piece of wood slammed against the side of his head, and he instantly slumped to the ground. As he lied in a heap, his eyes remained open.

They saw nothing.

A murky shadow moved across the earth and enveloped the body, and lifted the watch out of the pocket.

“Whatcha got, Jim?” A scrawny girl in a tattered dress appeared next to the corpse.

The male teen’s crooked smile revealed two missing front teeth as he grasped the ticking object in his grimy hand. “Lunch!”

 

(First published with Asylum Ink on April, 11th 2014)

Q&A with Author Alison Morton

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I’m so excited to have a very special guest here with us today: Alison Morton who is the author to the alternative history series called Roma Nova.  Be sure to check out her sites below! 

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’ve been fascinated by the Romans since I was 11 and that’s a while ago! In between normal life events – earlier career in various sectors, marriage, raising our son, running my own business – I spent many of my vacations clambering over Roman Europe.

These days I live in France with my husband, write thrillers, cultivate a Roman herb garden and drink wine.

What aspects of your life led you to writing the kind of books you write?

I have a masters’ in history, six years’ military service and I love a good thriller.  And I’ve always believed that a woman could run things as well as any man.

After the novel writing bug was triggered by a terrible film, all these came together and resulted in the Roma Nova thriller series.

What’s your favorite part about being a writer?

Two things: firstly, the research and the way you become diverted into looking up stuff totally unrelated to your work in progress and secondly, receiving an email or review from a reader who totally gets what you are trying to say in your books.

alison-morton-in-rome

Tell us more about your books.

They’re adventure thrillers set in a modern Roman society run by strong women (Roma Nova). Of course, our heroines are fallible and of course they have strong love interests, but it’s the women who lead the action and call the shots. While the books are thrillers, there are no dripping body parts. 

The first one, INCEPTIO, starts in New York when an ordinary girl, Karen Brown, is hunted by a government enforcer. But in steps an attractive Roma Novan spy who helps her escape. But Karen finds it isn’t just gratitude she feels towards him.

She discovers her Roma Nova heritage and her true name. Her new life in Roma Nova is shattered a few months later when the government enforcer crosses the Atlantic and comes after her. He has a very personal reason to pursue her …

inceptio-book-by-alison-morton

What are you currently working on?

I’ve just sent the sixth book in the series to the copy editor and that will be out this April. Now I’m developing a novella, also set in Roma Nova.

How do you get into the minds of your characters?

I close my eyes and let them have conversations with each other. And sometimes I let them run around in my head acting out scenes. It’s important to establish each character’s separate personality from the start. Many people find it helpful to write out character profiles. Stories, whatever their setting and purpose, are all about people in the end.

What’s your favorite traveling destination?  Any place you haven’t visited and would love to?

Rome is my absolute favourite – impressive in so many ways.

In 2015, we visited the US and Canada for seven weeks seeing the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Washington DC, Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, Beverly Hills, New York, Chicago, Niagara Falls, Quebec and a lot else! Last year I did ten trips to the UK to speak at events as well as two here in France. In March I’m off to the London Book Fair and then to Dublin, Ireland to speak in June. That’s plenty of travel at present!

What do you see in the future for women in general?

I think we’ll keep nudging towards a more egalitarian world, but there’s a long way to go. We must continue to stand up for a truly equal place in the world and chisel away at ingrained and subconscious acceptance of stereotypes that surround us.

Any additional comments or advice you’d like to add for our readers?

If you’re a writer keep writing and be persistent. Make your work the best it can be – no compromise! If you’re a reader, the best thing you can do when you read a wonderful book is to leave a review.

Social media links

Connect with Alison on her Roma Nova site

Facebook author page

Twitter:  @alison-morton

Goodreads

Alison’s Amazon page

alison-morton-books

Author Interview: James Dorr

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*Today we have a special guest interview with short-story writer, poet, and author, James Dorr!  Enjoy!  Be sure to check out his links below too.

If you were to introduce yourself to a group of strangers, what would you say?

I’m James Dorr.

I’m a writer.

I write short fiction and poetry, mostly dark fantasy and horror, but also occasional science fiction and mystery.

Yes, I do see a difference between horror and dark fantasy, dark fantasy, to me, incorporating elements of the supernatural while horror is more a description of the readers’ reaction, evoking feelings of fright or unease. So there can be psychological horror as well as such things as dark mystery, dark science fiction, dark romance, even dark humor. Comedy is similar, in this case evoking laughter or at least a chuckle (whereas “horror” as a word is derived from “horripilation,” a physical bristling of body hair as when one has “goose bumps”), so there can be comedy-mystery, humorous science fiction, etc. But then I write cross-genre work as well.

Tell us what first drew you to writing.

I think, in general, I felt a need for self-expression. When I was younger I thought I might be a painter or graphic artist, or something in the visual arts, even perhaps something like a cartoonist (as an undergraduate, for instance, I became Art Editor on my college’s humor magazine, as well as illustrating for other publications). But I seemed to have more talent for describing things in words, rather than lines or colors, to tempt the reader to visualize things for him or herself, and for more than just the visual impression – to try to evoke other senses as well, to feel a thing’s texture, a speech’s music (I might mention I also lead and play tenor in Renaissance recorder consort), to see for a moment within a different character’s mind .

Or maybe it’s just an urge to show off.

You have a new book coming out in 2017. Tell us about it.

On a far-future, exhausted Earth a ghoul – an eater of corpses – explores the ruins of one of its greatest cities in hopes of discovering the one thing that made its inhabitants truly human. This is the premise, the quest that introduces us to the 16 stand-alone chapters of Tombs: A Chronicle of Latter-Day Times of Earth, about half in fact already published in various venues as complete short stories, loosely inspired by a pair of quotations from Edgar Allan Poe, of the most poetic subject being the death of a beautiful woman (which also informs, in its way, my previous book The Tears of Isis) and of the boundaries between life and death being “at best shadowy and vague.” If these statements be true, and in an already dying world, can love be a power to even transcend death?

What inspired you to write it?

For Tombs the stories, at least the first of them, preceded the book, yet they seemed to “want” to come together, rather like the stories in books like Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club or Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles. That is, even if complete in themselves, they seemed to be part of something bigger, in this case a sort of future history of a people already aware of its approaching doom, if not in this lifetime, at best in no more than a few generations. That’s far enough, then, that one needn’t despair, to strive to live only in the moment, but nothing that one accomplishes is going to be long remembered either. Yet legends still are, somehow, created – perhaps through some larger need of humanity – and these are the legends presented here. Ones that, in having created this world, I felt myself compelled to discover.

What seems to be the recurring theme(s) in your stories?

That’s hard to say, because I’ve published several hundred stories, at least as many poems, and in several genres and combinations of genres. One thing I seem to come back to, though, is the idea of love as a redemptive quality, which I think informs a number of the Tombs stories too. Then in my 2013 collection The Tears of Isis, while assembled from stories for the most part already written, I tried to adhere to a theme of beauty and art being in some ways at odds with intimacy and life, opening with a poem about the Medusa seen as a sculptress who, whether through art or through her myth, turns men into statues. Does the artist’s model then, of necessity, become an object, but in that way gain a kind of immortality? And then there are vampires, in a different way preying on life but becoming immortal themselves, leading to a series of flash stories I’ve been working on (two of them published recently in Daily Science Fiction) depicting the “casket girls” of New Orleanian legend, who allegedly brought vampires with them from France in 1728. And then, thinking of that as an urban legend, I’m fascinated by people’s beliefs, of myths and even fairy tales, a number of which I’ve also worked into stories or poems.

How do you get into the minds of your characters?

That’s something that I think gets easier with practice. I’m thinking right now though of an expression, that you shouldn’t judge a person until you’ve walked a mile in his boots, and I think that’s a key. Imagining yourself as different people and learning to empathize, both in life and in art. So I try to imagine a major character’s previous life – one of the “casket girls, above, for instance, as a child growing up in Eighteenth Century France (and, yes, researching Eighteenth Century France too), then the hardships of a voyage at sea, the not knowing what to expect ahead, the hopes and fears — and then placing that character in the new situation the story presents them with. What would I do if I were that person, as modified by what I’ve “learned” of their past?

And then not to “tell” what the character thinks, or at least not too much, but to try to show her or him in action in such a way that the reader can sympathize with that person too. (In short, to see through my character’s eyes instead of my own, to hear with its ears, smell with its nose, taste with its tongue, feel through its emotions, think with its brain, and do my darnedest to make sure you, the reader, do so as well.)

In your opinion, what are some of the biggest obstacles facing writers today?

Nowadays a main one, I think, may be what happens after a book, or a story within a book, gets published. In the past the publisher took the responsibility of getting it into bookstores and into the hands of reviewers and doing at least a minimal amount of advertising. Now, however, writers are much more on their own. And of course there’s self-publishing too, but even with a traditional publisher it still comes down now to promoting oneself – how to prevent the book you slaved over from just being buried under the crowd of other books coming out at the same time?

This is one reason I thank you, Carrie, for being willing to interview me here, to introduce myself to your readers (as in turn, hopefully, some of my readers will see this here and stay around to see more of your work). In this way we all can help one another and, on the same token, I’d like to urge readers, if you come across a book you enjoy, please consider writing a review, even if only in a sentence or two just saying you liked it, and sharing it in places like Amazon and Goodreads where people will see it.

Any additional comments or advice you’d like to add for our readers?

Perseverance. Don’t quit your day job. Those are the clichés, but they’re still true, that most writers aren’t going to make much money until they’ve been at it for some time, if even then. But the real advice I would give is to enjoy what you’re doing, as well as to strive to do your best.

Follow your bliss, to repeat that cliché. Be proud of your work, but be practical too — if an editor advises you to make changes, take it seriously. But remember it’s still advice, especially as you gain more experience, and the one you must please, ultimately, should be yourself.

Biography:

Born in Florida, raised in the New Jersey, in college in Cambridge Massachusetts, and currently living in the Midwest, James Dorr is a short story writer and poet, specializing in dark fantasy and horror, with forays into mystery and science fiction. His The Tears of Isis was a 2014 Bram Stoker Award® finalist for Superior Achievement in a Fiction Collection, while other books include Strange Mistresses: Tales of Wonder and Romance, Darker Loves: Tales of Mystery and Regret, and his all poetry Vamps (A Retrospective), as well as, forthcoming, Tombs: A Chronicle of Latter-Day Times of Earth, a novel-in-stories from Elder Signs Press in spring-summer 2017. He has also been a technical writer, an editor on a regional magazine, a full time non-fiction freelancer, and a semi-professional musician.

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“The city had once lived, blazing with light. The books all described this. The Ghoul-Poet sat in the midst of a heap of them, pages torn, rotting, spread out all about him. This was a library, the pride of New City, or rather a square that had faced the library, that had received this avalanche of thought — words embossed on parchment — that cascaded down when the library burst, its walls weakened by age. It was a treasure trove, this mountain of dreams and abstracts, histories and myths. Some true, some perhaps not.”

These, then, were the legends of the Tombs, the vast Necropolis and its environs . . .

. . . of corpse-trains that plied bridges crossing the great river, bearing the City’s dead, braving attacks from flesh-eating ghouls

. . . of ratcatchers, gravediggers, grave guards, and artists

. . . of Mangol the Ghoul, of musician-lovers Flute and Harp who once played back a storm, of the Beautiful Corpse

. . . of seas filled with monsters, a mass-death of animals, secret tapestries teaching children about a past great war, the dangers of swamps

. . . a city consumed by a huge conflagration, a woman frozen for thousands of years

. . . a mission by airship to rescue a man’s soul

. . . a flower that ate memories. . .

These are just some of the wonders, the horrors, to be found in the pages of Tombs: A Chronicle of Latter-Day Times of Earth, scheduled to be out from Elder Signs Press in Spring-Summer, 2017.

Getting Out of My Own Way: Building a Writing Life By Samantha Bryant (Guest Blogger)

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I’ve had it pretty easy in my writing life. Grammar and syntax come naturally to me. I had great English teachers who praised my creativity and encouraged me. My mother was a reader who indoctrinated me early in the joys of fiction, with the help of a great library. No one suggested that writing wasn’t a good career choice, or that I needed to be more practical. I’ve had support out the wazoo.

So far as a crucible to forge a writer in, my childhood was a good one.

Many writers have had more to overcome—unsupportive or outright abusive families, second languages, mental health issues, political persecution. All that is to say that I know I have very #firstworldproblems when it comes to my writing life.

See, I was always going to be a writer. Ask people who knew me in first grade. It’s always been on my agenda. An assumption, like being a mom and a teacher. A given.

As I grew up, I used to talk about writing a lot. I’d get all dreamy and imagine my future career as a world-famous novelist. But it was always a hazy dream, filmed through Vaseline so you couldn’t see the harder realities of it: the actual work. It was “someday.”

But I wasn’t doing anything to make it happen.

Sure, I wrote. Once in a while. When I felt inspired. When I was in the mood, or when one of my ideas was just so tenacious there was no escaping it. But I didn’t take myself seriously as a writer, and neither did anyone else. Why would they? It was like I thought some big publisher was going to somehow just find me and pay me to write without my ever having proven I could even do it. A fantasy discovery scenario. Not a career plan.

Then, I was turning 42, which Douglas Adams taught us is the answer to life, the universe and everything. It was my crisis moment. I told myself it was time to give writing a serious attempt. There was a lot less “someday” left than there once was.

The obstacles in my writing life were all internal. Setting priorities, finding focus, making time. I was my own worst enemy, putting my own dream last on the list of things I would spend my days and hours and years on.

That’s when I committed to a daily writing habit. It was a game-changer for me.

It was harder than that might seem. At age 42, I was in the middle of a teaching career and a marriage. I was parenting two daughters and a dog, maintaining a house and household, fighting the battle of the bulge, and trying to have some kind of social life. There were a lot of pulls on my time. And I’d made a habit of many years of giving my time away.

But, I started to insist on writing time. Slowly, over the course of a few months, I renegotiated my contract with life, and made sure there was room in it for writing. I gave up things that I could: television, social opportunities that I didn’t want badly. My initial goal was 250 words per day. Just one page. And I struggled to put down that many words. It took me two or three hours some nights. It was hard and frustrating.

But I am stubborn. And it got easier. Soon, I could write 250 words in half an hour. I learned that the words didn’t have to all be keepers. That sometimes, I had to write garbage to get it out and get to the good stuff underneath. I learned that if I could just get something on the page, I’d be able to make it better in the next pass, but that I had to give myself something to work with.

Now, I can’t imagine a day without writing. I write somewhere between 800 and 4,000 words a day, depending on other life demands. A day when I only write 250 words is a day that was full of lots of other life—parties, sickness, travel, or something—and a decision I made about my use of time.

My family notices when I haven’t written. They see me getting grumpy and say, “Hey Mom, did you write yet today?” the way other families might suggest you get a sandwich, take a nap, or take your meds. It’s that important to my equilibrium.

And because I’m writing every day, I’m getting better at it. I have flow. I’m finishing things, revising and polishing and publishing things. People are reading them. Some people even like them. This summer, I sent my third novel off to my publisher. I get to say things like “my publisher.”

So all this is to say, if you want to be a writer, you’ll have to write. Look at your life. Figure out what’s in your way (even if it’s only you that’s in your own way). And find your way around those obstacles. You can’t ever get there if you don’t start the journey. And it’s quite a trip!

 

 

 

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Samantha Bryant is a middle school Spanish teacher by day and a mom and novelist by night. That makes her a superhero all the time. You can find her Menopausal Superhero series from Curiosity Quills on Amazon, or request it at your favorite independent (or big box) bookstore. You can find her online on her blog, on Twitter, on Facebook, on Goodreads, on the Curiosity Quills page, or on Google+, and now on Tumblr.

Interview: D. Denise Dianaty

*Today we have a special guest with us- D. Denise Dianaty! 

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Tell us a bit about yourself and what you write.

Well, when I think of ME, I think, “I am an artist.”  It isn’t just something I do… it’s who I am, bone deep.  I’ve always enjoyed singing. I have a nice little church voice. My mother thought it was more and saw in me a chance to realize her dream of a Country Gospel star. So, I began college at a Christian college studying music, specializing in Voice.  I was miserable. The only class I passed was Drawing and Painting.

The elective… LOL

As a visual artist, writing always seemed sort of second nature to me.  It was a kind of companion to my art.  Many of my drawings and paintings inspired or were inspired by poetry. I’d sit down, for example, writing out notes about a painting I was planning, and poetry would be result.

 

How long have you been writing?

Once upon a time, I kept scads of journals and sketch diaries under my mattress. When we moved, my mother found them and was deeply offended by them.  She destroyed them with fire in the BBQ grill.  I didn’t share my writing for over thirty years. I convinced myself it was all just very bad, rather pathetic poetry.  As my mother called, “wallowing in self-pitying drama.”  But, I didn’t stop writing. I just hid that part of me away for a very long time.  I didn’t share my art much either. It did see more light of day than my poetry. Art classes in school kept that part of my creative expression alive.

 

Why do you prefer to write short stories/plays/scripts over other forms?  What are you currently working on?

Every year in junior and senior high school (middle school and high school for you millennial readers), it was an agreement, I’d take chorus or voice for mother, and she’d let me take Art for my second elective.  Oooo! TWO electives in school? Generous, eh? I had drama club in high school too! And Home Ec as well as Vocational Office Education. School used to actually teach you stuff to get a job with and included entire classes of art and music. WOW! Radical thinking, right? LOL  Anyway, a couple of years ago, a writer friend of mine who’d occasionally tried to convince me that I was a poet, introduced me to the idea of writers’ forums to test the waters to see if there was anything to the idea.

I went to look for them online and found http://WritersCafe.org .

After around a year there, I’d gained enough confidence to start composing a partly autobiographical book of my poetry to self-publish.  I also tested my mettle writing fiction. I published the book of poetry on Amazon. Then, the first short novella I wrote was very well received on the Cafe. It seemed everyone who read it was telling me I should publish it. So, I did.

Sigh.

I’m glad I published both books. And, even though I’ve had little sales, I’m working on a couple more.

It’s like…it’s like I had been gagged for nearly forty years. When the gag was finally ripped off…well, it’s like that verse in “Fight Song”:

And all those things I didn’t say

Wrecking balls inside my brain

I will scream them loud tonight

Can you hear my voice this time!

No one is ever going to silence me again while I breathe.

 

Do you have any advice for writers trying to get published for the first time? 

My best advice for writers is to remember that “Writers write always. Great writers read… then write.”  And don’t ever let anyone silence your voice.

 

Who is your favorite author?  Why?

My favorite writer is and always will be my brilliant friend who helped me take back my voice. She is the sister of my heart.  I do have other favorites, primarily Georgette Heyer, Lois MacMaster-Bujold, Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, Emily Brontë, Oscar Wilde, Edgar Allen Poe, Charlotte Browning, Omar Khayyam, Arthur Guiterman, and more.

 

You moderate/run various groups like We PAW Bloggers and Pandora’s Box of Horrors; what inspired you to start them?

WE PAW Bloggers was begun by Pryde Foltz. She made me admin and turned her primary focus to WE PAW on YouTube. WE PAW Bloggers is a group focused on driving readers to our larger bodies of work. That, and the protections of date stamping and/or copyrighting that are automatic parts of blog sites and writers’ forum sites, is the reason the group requires sharing external links our writers’ accounts.

Pandora’s Box of Horrors began on the Women Writers, Women Bloggers (WWWB) group. There was this post, around Halloween. Someone started a list of horror words. I think it was me who had the idea to turn those horror words into the basis of a horror short story contest. I created the Pandora community page for that contest. This year, I ran the Challenge 2016 and found that a community page wasn’t meeting the group need for a place to interact as I’d hoped. So I created the Pandora’s Box of Horrors group page. After this year’s challenge is wrapped up, I’m going to shut down the community page run with the group page.

 

You’re also passionate about various issues. Tell us about them.

Most of the issues I’m most passionate about are social issues and this current election cycle.  I got started engaging on social media after reading an article about self-promotion as an author.  See, I have a problem with naked self-promotion. I just can’t get past feeling like a braggart.

The article – I can’t recall the name or source now – suggested authors “create a relevant presence” by engaging intelligently in social media. “Activism in writing” was advised in another, very similar article – again, I can’t recall the source now.

Most of my blogging lately has been issue related, rather than pure writing for the sake of the creative art of writing.

 

 

*Want more?  Here are her various sites:

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Writerly News

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Hard to believe that we’re heading down the final stretch of 2016.   The holidays are just around the corner.

Yikes.

Speaking of holidays…have you noticed that several stores have put out their Christmas decorations already???

Let the craziness begin.

I’m glancing at my remaining writerly agenda for the rest of the year, and it looks to be a busy one.

Awesome.

I learned that two of my poems will be published in a literary zine; and a nonfiction piece with another zine.  My novella, Tomorrow Falls (part one), is currently being published with Piker Press in weekly installments.  I’m working with various places as a contributor/interviewer/poetry consultant.

In November I plan to participate in National Novel Writing Month to write the second part for Tomorrow Falls.

Whew.

What about you?  How’s the rest of the year looks for you?

Spilled Raisins and Paper Shreddings by Amy Bovaird

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*Today I love to introduce to you a very special lady-Amy Bovaird, best-selling author of Mobility Matters: Stepping Out in Faith.   She’s here to talk to us about her struggles and challenges with a progressive disease, and how she uses her faith and humor to persevere.

 

I was delighted when Carrie asked me to write a guest post for her blog back in the spring of this year. But first I was traveling and then I was working frantically to finish my new book, Cane Confessions, The Lighter Side to Mobility. It wasn’t until now that I had time to write the post. I’m grateful for Carrie’s flexibility and to have the opportunity today to share my story.

As someone losing her vision and hearing, I face many obstacles each day. The only constant is that I will continue to lose more vision and hearing. The variables change at different intervals of this disease I suffer: what I now know to be Usher Syndrome, the leading cause of deaf blindness in the world.

There are three types of Usher Syndrome: A, B and C. The first begins with hearing loss early in life, the second type is adolescence and the third, the type I have is discovered later and is characterized by a late onset of progressing hearing loss.

Vision loss is a challenge; hearing loss is a completely different challenge. Neither is like being born deaf or blind. Thus, the progressiveness of Usher is the biggest hurdle of all. One never quite adjusts because the losses are ongoing.

Probably my biggest struggle came about eight years ago when I faced using a white cane. To me and many others losing their vision, using a cane shouted “I am blind,” louder than any word. For some reason, being blind is viewed typically as a weakness or deficit by both society and the person who faces the cane.

I overcame the obstacles attached to using a white cane through my faith. Strangely enough, God used a completely blind mobility instructor to help me overcome my fears and to bring “blindness” into perspective. It’s only as negative or restrictive as the person facing it, permits it to be. This wowed me!

Now, it’s not what others think about me that challenges me. As a child of God, I believe have great value and that God has a plan for my life. If I hold to this truth, that becomes my constant and the changing visual and hearing perspectives are manageable. Instead of being overwhelmed with the frustrations I face every day, I look for the humor in these situations.

Once I dropped a box of raisins and no matter how many times I bent over to pick them up, I would turn back to the floor and see yet another raisin or two I missed. By the fifth time, it seemed I had gotten them all (but I found another a week later that I missed). That same day, I knocked over my paper shredder. I groaned as I bent to sweep the shred into a dust pan. Again, no matter how many times I tried to sweep them all up, I still found stray pieces outside my line of vision. It’s teaching me patience. These spilled raisins and paper shreddings represent my everyday difficulties, whatever they may actually be. It could be not seeing the top of a trash can, or like today, not seeing the recycle bin at the local grocery store though it was nearby. Humor and patience help me face up to the everyday vision hurdles.

Losing my hearing takes even more patience. With moderate to severe hearing loss, I am easily frustrated and have cried a few times. I hate to keep admitting when I can’t hear a person, especially after three or four attempts. One of the ways I cope is to pretend I’ve heard. But sometimes that gets me into hot water! God is working on my heart to bring about more honest communication and to let my pride go.

We all experience aggravation but ultimately, we choose how to cope with them. What has helped me in recent years is looking at positive role models of those who live with Usher Syndrome or Retinitis Pigmentosa (ongoing vision loss). I also journal and talk to others. I try to live a life of gratitude and appreciation for the acts of kindness others show me. Humor and it. Laughter helps me keep to continue picking up the spilled raison and paper shreddings each day. Most importantly, I’m learning to trust God’s plan for me, even when I can’t see or hear what’s coming around the bend.

 

Bio

As an international traveler and teacher, Amy was diagnosed several years ago with a dual disability—progressive vision and hearing loss due to Usher Syndrome—but continues to enjoy running, hiking and traveling. Amy is an accomplished public speaker on a variety of topics based on her life experiences and also volunteers with local and national animal rescue organizations. She has written two books: Mobility Matters: Stepping Out in Faith (© 2014) and Cane Confessions: The Lighter Side to Mobility, to be released in November 2016. She blogs about the challenges she faces as she loses more vision and hearing, shares the lessons God reveals to her through her difficulties and manages to find humor around almost every corner.

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