Signed Copies Now Available

Author with books

Due to recent clamoring demand by my fans, signed copies of both of my books are now available!

Here’s the page that tells you what to do, but really, it’s simple.

Go to paypal. Tell me in the comments which book(s) you want. Who should I make them out to? Don’t forget to include your address! Send me money. Sit back while I scramble to the post office and get them in the mail to you.

How easy is that?

Blinded Now Available – In Trade Paperback

Blinded Cover

More good news! Blinded is now available on Amazon in trade paperback. So if you’ve been waiting to hold this story in your hot little hands, here’s your chance.

Heart, hand, and sword – that’s what I promised Jules.

I was nineteen years old. What did I know? 

Sure, I’d noticed Jules was slightly unusual. Like she always knew where I was and how I felt. Yeah, it was odd, but it was also kind of romantic. One day, I’d even caught her fighting telepathically with Nick, her trainer. Not that I was surprised, because she was different from other girls – and who wouldn’t find something to fight about with that guy? Frankly, the only one who needed training was him, starting with manners and ending with butting out. But Jules made it clear they were a package deal and that was that.

Then a creature from Nick’s past attacks Jules. She won’t rouse from sleep, her coma a reaction to a magic spell. It gets worse. She pulls me into her dreams – old memories that reveal her secrets. I fear Jules might be alone in them forever unless we find a way to remove the magic dagger wrapped around her wrist.

There’s only one thing I can do.

Get in the car with Nick and pray we get help in time…

With a length of 272 pages, the trade paperback version is now available at Amazon for $12.99.

Thank you for your support and happy reading!

News Update: CampNaNoWriMo Winner!

Camp NaNoWriMo, August 2012 Session

I have done the unthinkable. I signed up for the Camp NaNoWriMo August 2012 Session the day before it started yesterday, I met the goal of writing 50,000 words in less than thirty-one days. I finished with a day to spare. Yay, me!

For those of you unfamiliar with this particular camp, Camp NaNoWriMo is a writing challenge billed as “An idyllic writers retreat, located smack-dab in the middle of your crazy life.” In other words, it is a completely  voluntary online writing challenge where the “Campers” set a goal of writing 50,000 words in one month. Yes, that’s only ONE month. And I signed up on July 31st, silly me!

Nifty writing stats? They’re right here.

And best of all, I hit a secondary goal I set for myself. With the exception of one technical fencing scene to be completed (you knew there had to be at least one, right?), the rough draft of book two of The Tenderfoot Series, Blinded, is complete!

I have one more surprise to add. Because I started the Camp NaNoWriMo challenge with 30,000+ words already down, and the rough draft came to 74,000+, I was short words. To meet the full 50,000 word goal, I took the liberty of beginning book three of The Tenderfoot Series, which is titled Riposte. I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am about the conclusion to Jules and Andrew’s story. If that’s whose story it is…

*****

News Update: The CampNaNoWriMo Halfway There Update

Camp NaNoWriMo, August 2012 Session

Remember that crazy person who signed up for the August Session of Camp NaNoWriMo? She’s still here and on her behalf, I am checking in with a status update report on her progress.

For those of you unfamiliar with this particular camp, Camp NaNoWriMo is a writing challenge billed as “An idyllic writers retreat, located smack-dab in the middle of your crazy life.” In other words, it is a completely  voluntary online writing challenge where the “Campers” set a goal of writing 50,000 words in one month. Yes, that’s only ONE month. And I signed up on July 31st, silly me!

Yesterday was Day Sixteen of the Thirty-One month challenge. So where do I stand at the halfway mark? A pretty good place it would appear! According to my daily progress here, I am ahead of target. When I started on August 1st, Blinded stood at 30, 367 words. As of today, 61,017 are down, which means I have written a grand total of 30,380 words since August 1st. Yes, that’s write, I wrote 30,000 words in sixteen days! I’ll let you do the math on that, although the link above breaks out some pretty nice stats.

I feel pretty good about the challenge. I’m not surprised the words are coming – they came like this for Tenderfoot – I just find it remarkable that the house is still standing and the kids have made it to school, with lunches even. Sure, we’ve all had to make sacrifices. For example, I have given up cooking for the month of August. Oh, wait… that’s not a sacrifice! My family prefers take out or frozen/pantry dinner, not that you’d believe me now when I say I am a great cook. Meh! Meh, I say!

And that’s the latest. There’s a quote from my favorite vulgarian author (I warned you!) Chuck Wendig that I like to keep in mind: “I am a writer, and I am done fucking around.” 

Bring it August 31st! I’m ready for you!

News Update: CampNaNoWriMo!

Camp NaNoWriMo, August 2012 Session

I have done the unthinkable. I signed up for the Camp NaNoWriMo August 2012 Session the day before it started. Am I motivated? Am I ambitious? Did I watch wayyy too many hours of the Summer Olympics last weekend? Yes, yes, and yes!

For those of you unfamiliar with this particular camp, Camp NaNoWriMo is a writing challenge billed as “An idyllic writers retreat, located smack-dab in the middle of your crazy life.” In other words, it is a completely  voluntary online writing challenge where the “Campers” set a goal of writing 50,000 words in one month. Yes, that’s only ONE month. And I signed up on July 31st, silly me!

That’s why I am writing this post AFTER I have met my daily goal of 1,620 words a day. Naturally, I will have to write more than that per day given the “crazy life” obstacles each day will present. Tomorrow’s goal shouldn’t be hard to meet, but various weekend commitments will pose some nice hurdles. You know, just to get me warmed up for the challenge of making my goal the three days my family will be out of town at a water park. Sploosh.

My plan is to draw on inspiration and caffeine. Lots and lots of caffeine. I will be sucking downs barrels o’ Diet Coke. As added incentive, when I have 30,000 words in the bank, I get to order Camp swag from the store to hang on the inspiration board that resides above my home pc. One nice thing is that I was assigned to a cabin of six other “Campers.” So I can see how they are doing and meet some new people while foregoing a daily slathering of sunscreen and mosquito blood donations.

So wish me luck in my endeavor to add 50,000 words to the existing 30,687 that currently make up the manuscript that is Blinded! You can check my daily progress here.

Flash Fiction: Sanremo

A drawing by Emily Tupper, age 8

Flash Fiction

A flash fiction response to a challenge issued by Chuck Wendig at terribleminds.com.

I came close to not completing this week’s assignment to write flash fiction where a historical character is featured as the protangonist. Of all people, I became stuck on Alfred Nobel, founder of the Noble Prizes. Why? Because I discovered a contradiction about him which is not widely known.

In the last year of his life, Nobel wrote a play called Nemesis. He was 83 years old, a man of the world, richer beyond rich, never married, with no children, and yet he put all his efforts into writing a play. Ans his was not the first to tell this story. Clearly, he had strong motivation. What was it?

The story itself is about Beatrice Cenci, a girl from 15th century Rome who killed her father in conjunction with her family and a lover. This event was a scandal in Rome, partly because it was well-known that her father was horribly cruel, and also because Pope Clement VIII took possession of the wealthy estate upon their execution. Whatever the truth was (documents now suggest she gave birth to a child before her execution), her story has resonated for centuries with playwrites, painters, and the man named “The Merchant of Death” in a premature obituary.

I’d like to believe that Nemesis (Crazy fact #654: it was written in Swedish and Esperanto and has never been translated into English), while called a “lurid parade of torture, rape and incest that features a drug-induced vision of the Virgin Mary, a conversation with Satan and ends in a 40-minute torture scene”, says what Nobel’s six annual Prizes do not; justice is blind and life is cruel. The story of a 22 year old unwed pregnant murderer who became a symbol of injustice against the Roman aristocracy must have spoken strongly to the man who invented dynamite, created a better cannon, and manufactured all types of weapons to be used for war. With the premature announcement of his death several years prior, Nobel got a look at his future legacy and did not like what he saw. Nobel made a change to his will. His vast fortune now funds awards for five categories of science with the most prestigious award handed out for promoting peace among men.

With this flash fiction I found a way to tie Alfred Nobel and Beatrice Cenci together. Enjoy.

*****

Oh, the night. It was dark and stormy and the wind blew beneath the pane of window glass in the bedchamber, the faintest whistle of a warning.

Alfred sat up in bed, alarmed. He had a thought that maybe he wasn’t alone but perhaps that was sticky residue from the nightmare. Months, it plagued him. He hadn’t had a single night of good sleep since he’d begun the writing of Beatrice Cenci’s tragedy. In a way, he wasn’t surprised. Her story grabbed like the memories of a long lost lover, always open, always waiting. She’d teased Percy Shelley, Hawthorne, Artaud, Caravaggio, and Reni with arms long rotted away to bone and yet those ephemeral appendages gathered artists in to examine over and over the horror of her life and death. Alfred wondered not for the first time, if it was the horrifying death she suffered under sentence from the Pope after a lifetime of ills born at the hands of her demented father which enticed wonder or if was the promise of maidenly youth waylaid?

The shutters blew open with a crash, freed from their position latched within. Alfred felt a chill and reached for the bedcovers before he changed his mind. Instead, he reached for the oil lamp. His hand shook as he lit the small flame. He set it upon the bedside table and eased back against the pillows. It was then he saw the figure in the corner.

“No! It can’t be!” His insides coiled and twisted. There, next to a bound leather copy of the play about her on the other side of the room stood Beatrice herself, a fearsome apparition of his imagination.

Her eyes slowly closed and opened in acknowledgement as he took in the sight before him. She looked kindly toward him, waiting. While her corporal visage was youthful in appearance, her filmy gown was tattered and dirty. Shadows flickered across the room. Bright life blood stained the once-soft linen. Then the room grew chill and he watched the color of the stains change from a visceral glistening red to decrepit aged discolorations.

“Why? Oh, why have you come?” He would have fallen prostrate before her on the floor if his body allowed but at age of three and eighty, it was enough of an effort to clasp his hands together begging for mercy.

“You summoned me from my grave in San Pietro and I have come.”

At this, Alfred began to shake. He thought of himself as a man of science although the misprinted obituary some years before alleged he was a man of war, a “Merchant of Death” no less! The thought of it still made his blood rise. Yet neither war nor science could explain how a ghost came to stand before him.

Hastily he apologized. “I had no intent to disturb your eternal rest. In truth, I do not know why you are here.”

“Listen to your heart, dead Alfred. Does it still beat?”

The wind picked up as Alfred fumbled for his neck. But as his hands rose to the base of his throat, he knew the answer. The time had arrived. A moan escaped his lips, a rattle of death’s recognition.

It was then he felt light of body, like youth streamed through the now-collapsed veins. Alfred crawled from his deathbed invigorated. In the distance there was a sound like one of his cannons had fired into the lake. Surely it was only thunder but he chuckled roundly as his neighbor’s peace was disturbed a final time.

He caught sight of the figure again, now robed in a clean colorful dress. The high color of youth blossomed in her cheeks. She was beautiful.

“If I could stay just a moment longer, there is one more preparation I would kindly take.”

Beatrice nodded. Alfred crossed the floor, his bare feet gliding lightly across the tile. From his chest of drawers, he procured the letter etched with the name of his solicitor. He set it next to the still corpse on the bed. A moment later he tucked the bound copy of his play beneath the other curled up hand.

He turned. “I’ve worried every last stop, turn of phrase, and detail down to the dramatic conclusion where the Pope executed you before a Roman crowd of guilty denizens. I hope my version paid homage to your spirit and beauty.”

Beatrice’s ghost smiled at that. “A labor of love on my behalf is sweet payment for the life I was denied. If only I had escaped cruel Death to raise my own child…” and as her voice trailed off, Alfred realized of what she spoke. She had left behind a child! How had he not come across that in all his research? “Worry not. It’s a secret that will have its turn in the light of day, much like the revelation of your six prizes.”

“I hoped as much,” he said, shaking his head. Thunder rumbled in the distance. The rain stopped.

“Come, Mr. Noble.” Beatrice held her arms out and Alfred succumbed to her embrace.

Flash Fiction: Oh, The Humanity

Drawing of Elizabet by Emily Tupper, age 8

Flash Fiction

A flash fiction response to a challenge issued by Chuck Wendig at terribleminds.com.

The assignment, which I gamely accepted, was to mash any two of the following sub-genres together:

Southern Gothic
Cyberpunk
Sword & Sorcery
Femslash
Black Comedy
Picaresque
 

Obviously, this is quite a list to choose from! I did my homework and narrowed it down to Sword & Sorcery and Black Comedy. Then I imposed my own criteria which is to continue writing backstory for my book Tenderfoot.

While I was able to use the swashbuckling sword action component from the one, I’m afraid only the “black” in “black comedy” transferred successfully into the story.

Let me know what you think in the comments. Is there a smidge of offensiveness in the ending comments made by the trolls about humans or do I get token points good only at Chuck E. Cheese for trying?

*****

Once upon a time, among the schists of Dålsland, lived an un-baptized Troll named Elisabet. She was the second to be named Elizabet for the first, her sister, died upon birth. She and her many surviving brothers and sisters grew up in a cave beneath a great granite mountain.

One evening Elizabet was out tending to the animals at the nearby farm when she heard beautiful music coming from the family’s home. Elizabet crept close to listen. It was the most wondrous thing. It touched something inside of her that nights of stomping with her kin deep in the caves did not. There were many beliefs about sharing the land and sea with humans, all of them cautioning against involvement. Elizabet thought long and hard as the melodies of humming fiddle strings echoed in her head. In the end, she slipped on a human skin and set out for music school in Uppsala.

After several years, Elizabet felt she had learned what she could about the fiddle. She tied up her beloved instrument in a cloth bag, thanked her human teachers, and set out for home.

By this time, the human skin fit well. It was Elizabet’s mistake to travel in it at night for when she came to the river near the Ironworks, a troll sprang from beneath the stone bridge. Caught, she continued pretending. To her amazement, he was a beastly thing. Standing tall and broad shouldered with long tangled brown hair, his bulbous nose was overshadowed only by his big sharp teeth when he growled at her. This shocked Elizabet, but not in the way he intended. It was as if she was seeing a troll for the first time, finding it ugly and vulgar. Had her human skin ruined her eyes?

He drew close. “Lo! Do you think you are to cross this bridge? Not without payment, my pretty!”

At a distance of several steps, Elizabet found his stench overwhelming. And yet she was not afraid. This particular troll bore a resemblance to her mother’s kin. “I seek only to return to the  granite mountains of Dålsland. If I play you a folk tune, will that be fair payment?”

The troll scratched his great forearms and thought. “Yes, that will be fair.”

Elizabet gathered her skirts and sat down on the stones that lined the edge of the bridge. She carefully unwrapped her fiddle. Moonlight reflected off the glassy surface of the river as she played her favorite song about a waterfall. The troll sat quietly. When the tune ended, the music of night filled the silence. Elizabet wrapped up her fiddle and stood to cross.

“Wait! I cannot allow you to leave.”

“But what of our deal?” There was something in the way his gargantuan nose twitched that set her to worrying. Had her kind always looked this repulsive? She stepped forward. Distracted, the troll looked behind him. Elizabet saw her chance. She ran. Her thin leather boots slapped against the rough stones as she sprinted across the bridge yet he quickly caught her. In the blink of an eye, he slung her over his shoulder like a bag of turnips.

“Careful! My fiddle!” She cried. Kicking as hard as she could in the frail human skin, she failed to wrest herself from his grip. He carried her down the grassy embankment toward his lair. Elizabet thought as to reveal herself as a troll but the fear of being brought to judgment before the Troll King for living among the humans stopped her. At that moment, the clattering of horse hooves on the bridge startled them both. The troll rolled her off his shoulder into the grasses growing against the arch.

“Keep quiet!” He bounded onto the bridge.

Seeing her chance, Elizabet fled. The hawthorn bushes would provide shelter until she could disappear into the forest. From there, she could drop the skin and her once-hidden knobby troll feet would carry her away. When she reached them safely, she dared to look back.

To her surprise, the horse was gone. In its place on the bridge stood a handsome man. River water streamed from his wet clothes and coal-black hair. Time slowed as he drew back his sword and thrust it into the troll in one powerful motion. He wiped the sword clean on the fallen body then casually rolled it over the side into the river. Staring at where she hid, the stranger called out, “Dear Fiddler, will you play a tune for me?”

Crouched in the thicket of thorns, rivulets of blood ran down Elizabet’s fragile weeping skin. She held still, waiting.

And then he said, “I had hoped…” The swordman’s voice trailed off in the quiet splashing sounds of the river.

Elizabet did not return home until after her son was born. Worried the Troll King would learn of  her human dalliance with the shape-shifting water man, she knew she must protect her mongrel Fae child even as her heart was cleaved in two. She lucked upon a suitable human family who played music. And so it came to pass early one morning, Elizabet placed her beloved baby with coal-black hair side by side with their tow-headed baby and tucked both in. And yet Elizabet couldn’t bear the emptiness of her arms for a moment. She snatched up the tow-headed child and fled in haste, leaving her Changeling safely behind.

Then Elizabet sadly shed her human skin once and for all, burying it with her violin in the forest. At last she arrived home. She lied to her kin, and told grand stories of running with the reindeer up North. Then she revealed the stolen baby. The troll children gathered close. They were so curious, they poked and prodded until the baby scrunched up its pale face and cried. Elizabet shivered deep in her troll heart when one of the children giggled, “Who would want to live with such noise?” to which one mother replied, “Oh, the humanity!”

Flash Fiction: The Backahasten

A scary white horse with fangs

Flash Fiction

A flash fiction response to a challenge issued by Chuck Wendig at terribleminds.com. Crime fiction + gun porn = a challenge that pushed me out of my comfort zone.

The Backahasten is a creature borrowed from Scandinavian folklore. It is briefly mentioned in my book Tenderfoot and a featured villain in my next book, Blinded. Marta is the great-grandmother of Jules Jennings from Tenderfoot.

This flash fiction is historical. What that means, dear readers, is that I spent 15 hours researching early 20th century Swedish life, military, and guns (including the translation of Swedish text to English) and 3 hours writing. I tried to make it as accurate as possible. If I got anything wrong, blame the internets. Enjoy! 

*****

There’s something there by the edge of the shore. Through the spindly trees, it looks to be the bloody remains of some unfortunate animal, crushed and torn apart.

I walk down the slope to get a better look. Could it be what I think it is? And then I see something move in the reeds. I freeze. To my disbelief, an enormous white horse emerges from the lake before my very eyes. Water streams off of its larger-than-life body as it climbs onto the shore. Then it looks up at me.

Devil be damned, it’s a fearsome thing. The withers of the horse are easily as high as the top of my head. Wet mane clings to its massive neck which twists forcefully as it shakes itself dry. Bits of dark green lake vegetation stick to its body, as pronounced against the white coat as the brown spot on the right front leg. The wet tail flicks back and forth like a cat preparing to pounce as it lifts hooves larger than a cabbage, each step deliberate, powerful. The creature is so big it’s a wonder the thing can move at all. At twenty meters, the beast opens its mouth to reveal teeth no horse should have. Fangs. Then it advances.

Not quite believing my eyes, I lift the Swedish Mauser 96 rifle and aim it directly at the beast.

A Backahasten.

My blood runs cold. I’d have one shot, maybe two before it made pulp of me too. I check the bolt action. It clicks and slides easily into position. As always, the wooden stock fits comfortably in my hand. I hold my ground, staring down the shiny barrel to the sight. Between hunting and time served for Sweden, the gun is like another limb. This time, it needs to be.

Silently, I curse. I should have known when I spotted the bloody mess of fur and jagged bone down by the water’s edge. It looked identical to the remains of that little girl ten years ago on these same shores, a horrifying scene I would never forget. There was intense mutilation of the girl’s body, as if someone deliberately intended to destroy it. Around what was left, blood pooled in giant hoof prints. This inexplicable death was worse than anything I saw serving conscription in the Vaxholm Coastal Artillery regiment. In the end, we identified Elsa Lindstrom by her shoes. Her killer was never found.

When the police union sent me from the new police academy in Uppsala to Varmland, the other men joked my primary duty would be rounding up lost pigs.

 But then this.

There were no suspects, for whom among us would do such a thing to a child? The only clue came from Marta Karlsdottir, age twelve, a friend of the dead child. She saw Elsa playing with a white horse and described it down to the dark round mark on the front leg. But even if I found said horse, what was I going to do, arrest it? And after a few days, Marta refused to speak further. The child was scared, as she should be. She was a witness to an unsolved crime. Whomever perpetrated this act still walked among us.

There was talk in Varmland. At first, I ignored the village chatter. After a while, I realized the low comments I heard when I entered the blacksmith’s, the sawmill, and the bakery were all the same. Beware the Brook Horse. It will drown you in the lake. Tales of the creature and its prior victims repeatedly endlessly. To my surprise, the child’s death was readily accepted. But one thing caused consternation among the villagers. Why did it stomp little Elsa to death? Why didn’t it drown her like the others? I dismissed the gossip that passed for folklore outright. It was all superstition. And yet, with so little, my only hope was to catch the killer during the next attempt.

Here before me was a matching scene, ten years after the father gathered what was left of his precious child and buried her in the church yard. There was no doubt in my mind, her killer and this horse were one and the same.

 Sunlight glints off the upside down brass disk on the right hand of the stock into my eyes. I shift it, watching. I no longer need to glance at the disk to plan the shot – after all these long years, I still know this rifle better than my own wife’s face. I bet my life on the stamped articles of faith: torped, overslag, the triangular mark above the “2” for a 6.52 millimeter bore. How many hundreds of times had I polished the receiver stamped with the year “1907” or the smaller disc of my dear regiment KA1? The stamp of crowns across the weapon applied by “J.V.” were an oath, an oath of the precision of Swedish-built weapons. This was a fine straight-bolt rifle with no strek, no rust in the bore, and it shot as true as any firearm could. Today, it would have to.

Through the metal sight, I line up the cross between the creature’s ears and eyes. I picture the brass round nose bullet originally destined for a buck when I left to hunt this morning. One shot. The palm holding the smooth walnut stock begins to sweat. I curl a finger around the trigger, waiting.

The beast freezes. Its head swings to the side as if to get a better look at me. The enormity of its jaws is breath-taking. The fangs are hidden now but the look is sinister. With the smallest of movements, I set my sight to the spot between the questioning eye and the flickering ear. I fire.

To my surprise, the beast suddenly rears back and gallops down the slope. And with that, it ducks into a stand of spindly trees, putting obstacles between itself and my bullet. I can barely make it out as it runs. And then I hear the splash. The horse is in the lake.

I lower the rifle to rest the metal buttplate against my foot. The Backahasten sinks quickly beneath the surface of the water. For as long as I stand there, it never resurfaces.

The sun starts to set. At last, I turn to leave.

It’s in the foliage covering the ground on the hill just above that I spy a single blue Forget Me Not. I pluck the delicate flower between first finger and thumb. As I pass the church on the way home to kiss my wife, I stop in the graveyard to leave it with the dead.

*****

Flash Fiction: A Deathbed Photograph

Flash Fiction

 A flash fiction response to a challenge issued by Chuck Wendig at terribleminds.com 

Based on a recommendation Chuck provided in his “250 Things You Should Know About Writing”, I am taking new character Mike Halen (introduced in my next book “Blinded”) for a joyride in a short story. Kill two birds etc. In less than 1,000 words, Andrew’s new roommate has developed a tasty complexity. Thank you Chuck.

Jules and Andrew breezed through the double glass doors ahead of me, almost instantly separating in different directions. She fixated on a stall of quilts while he cut to the right, wandering lost among other people’s flotsam. The repurposed big box building held as much junk now as it did when it was a Wal-Mart.

I couldn’t help but notice the distance between Jules and Andrew. Usually you needed a crowbar to pry them apart. I spent a lot of time being that crowbar.

“Hey, Andrew!” He stared at a table stacked with old toys and books. They sat under a sign that read ‘$1.’

He lifted up a mid-century Fisher-Price toy still bright with color. “You ever have one of these?” It was first produced when I was two hundred and ten years old. Andrew didn’t know that. He thought I was some dumb farm boy from Iowa. They all did.

“Yeah, man! I used to chase the chickens around with that thing!” I pretended to chase chickens as I clucked and flapped imaginary wings. Like always, Andrew laughed at my idiotic joke. Humor made him soft.

He turned away to pick through more stuff, moving from table to table, stall to stall. I kept an eye on Jules as she followed. You never knew when the perfect opportunity might present itself. It was simply a matter of waiting when you had all the time in the world.

“Mike! This has your name written all over it.” Andrew gestured at a Jim Beam decanter. These littered every flea market in America. This one featured the 100th anniverary of baseball. I could give a shit about baseball, but participating in organized college sports was a sneaky way to blend into the group. The benefits? The outfield wasn’t too much work. Plus, I got a kick out of the astonishment on people’s faces when I jumped barely high enough to catch an impossible out-of-the-ballpark hit.

“Dude, I need that like I need a hole in my head! Look at all this stuff!”

He set it back down, grinning. Suddenly, Andrew stopped and looked around. He tracked Jules with his eyes, visibly relaxing when they settled on her. Of the three of us tracking her, he was the only one who had not a clue about the others. How long would it be until Nicholas, Jules’ Guardian, told him? The window was closing. I enjoyed myself, maybe a little too much, with the teenage Humans. Time to get down to business. In the meantime, I had to be careful not to blow my cover. If Nicholas saw through me, the charade would be over. Faith. Last time, the execution was flawless. The second would be also.

I savored the details of my plans for Jules as we wandered around gazing at the remarkable collection of cast-off debris. I couldn’t believe people wanted it. Give me a pasture on a lake, a never-ending supply of fresh hay, a couple of villagers to terrorize, and I was happy. Why did Humans need massive amounts of things to feel O.K.?

At last, Jules joined us, linking her arm through Andrew’s. While his attention was preoccupied by a display of mid-century drinking glasses, I winked at Jules, allowing myself the slightest of leers. Her eyes widened. She looked away, hands tightly gripping her purse. I really shouldn’t have but I couldn’t help myself. Her fear fed me on cold dark nights.

At long last, we arrived back at the entrance to the flea market. Andrew asked, “You ready to go?” Jules nodded.

Then something caught my eye. I’d overlooked a box of black and white photographs in the last stall.

“Just a minute.” I quickly flipped through them. These were old – easily over a hundred years – and the kind I liked. Bless the Victorians and their dour faces. It was easier to see the hardness etched by life’s tragic disappointments when they didn’t smile like chimpanzees. One in particular was outstanding. A deathbed photograph of a Victorian child in a coffin. Her pale skin was offset by the dark following hair around her angelic face. Excellent!

“Mikey! Get a load of Jules!”

I turned. “Jules?” I fought for breath. Could it be? How had I not noticed before?

A moment later I inhaled, breathing in the sight before me. She stood in front of the quilt stall, her hair tucked into a white bonnet. I stared. One skinny arm reached up to touch the ribbon at her throat, and she blushed. Yes, it was her! Heart of my heart, core of my soul, the girl who chose Nicholas stood before me. My Lovely. My Lovisa.

It took every ounce of control to not rush forward and clasp my arms around her. Ten generations removed and stripped of modern frippery, Jules was the reincarnation of her grandmother.

It was then that my heart beat again. One long slow pulse. The sound filled my ears like a tidal wave. In that moment, I was fifteen again and in love. Eons of bitterness fell away like layers of onion peeled back. I felt naked. I felt alive. The plan morphed. This time Lovisa would be mine.

“Stare much, Halen?” Andrew slapped my upper arm. “Are you all right?”

Was I all right? My laugh sounded slightly hysterical above the new rhythm of my thumping heart. It was an unexpected second chance.

I waved the tintype. “Can’t you tell? I found what I was looking for!”

Stuck In A Box

For Blinded, my next book about the story of Jules, Andrew, and Nick, there were several goals I wanted to accomplish. One of my main goals was to place the story in a setting that would cause maximum conflict between Andrew and Nick. They had a few confrontations in Tenderfoot and I really wanted to push this and blow their relationship up. It started with “What if Nick and Andrew were stuck together for an extended period of time in a situation where they had to work together?”

I decided to do this because Nick and Andrew have a tense relationship that swings between truce and nuclear war with Jules thrust into the role of referee and mediator. The conflict between them adds surprise and complexity to the story. Plus for me as an author, it’s fun!

When I started planning Blinded, I had an idea of what material I wanted to cover but I needed a setting that would allow me to trap Andrew and Nick in a box. That meant it was time to bounce ideas off of someone, in this case, my coworker John. (Alas, he has moved on. The day job will never be the same.) In our last brain-storming session, we suggested crazy ideas to each other to see what stuck, then shot them down as fast as we could. The rest of the day jobbers can’t help but listen in and offer suggestions once they see how much fun we’re having!

Here’s the list of ideas we considered:

  • Bank vault
  • Cave after an avalanche (And how many rescue people would this involve?)
  • Submarine (Not a Bond movie)
  • Ferry
  • Train
  • Cage (Tempting, so very, very tempting)
  • Plane/private jet (Nick and his endless resources)
  • Closet
  • Building falling down (Too depressing)
  • Basement
  • Roof
  • Prison/jail (Another interesting idea)
  • Shipping container
  • Locked room (Couldn’t figure out how you’d keep Nick in a locked room. He has skillz.)
  • Boat
  • Elevator (Pretty sure I’ve seen that movie ten times)
  • Drawbridge
  • Island
  • Ski Resort on mountaintop
  • Ski lift (Too cold, they’d freeze to death)
  • Car

Ultimately, the car won in the form of a road trip. This way Nick and Andrew have the option of getting out but choose not to, even though they really, really want to! <insert evil laugh here> While the road trip thing has been done before, it adds a sense of urgency to their quest that a jail or elevator does not.

If you missed the post on where the gang is headed, check out my personalized map on Google. If you want to know why they are working together, well, you’ll have to read Blinded this Fall!

As an aside, writing exercises with a large number of participants help the afternoon go by with a smile!

Fighting Time

Writing requires enough time to string together the ideas that make up a sentence, a paragraph, a page.

This is tough to do between phone calls at work and parenting at home. Somehow I’ve make it work. Sleep has been downgraded to near last on the list. It shows when I greet the alarm clock with a curse, near every morning.

I love my day job. I get to work in a nice building with interesting, friendly people and assist people with a variety of VOIP phone issues. It feels great to hear a customer describe an issue that I know I can assist in resolving. It feels even better when they thank me. Best of all are the moments when all is right with the network and I get that narrow window to throw a sentence or two down.

But I am fighting time. There’s not enough of it. Ever.

After an unexpected two week TENDERFOOT detour, BLINDED has moved forward. Chapter 5 will end soon, 15k words stuck down, and my (everything but) merry band of characters have crossed the Indiana state line.

My fingers are limber. The three day weekend is upon us. I might win this round.

The Bad Guy in Tenderfoot: Who is it?

When I began writing Tenderfoot, I had three characters. Jules – the narrator, Andrew – the love interest, and Nick – the man of mystery. They established their personality traits fairly quickly. Nick’s voice was the most challenging to pin down, in keeping with his ‘difficult’ nature, but with a little work, they had voices. Then I diagrammed the possible relationships between the characters until I settled on the ones Tenderfoot was written around. But that left one question: who was the bad guy?

Since the basis of the story is Jules’ discovery of her paranormal abilities, she couldn’t be the bad guy. Andrew, the athlete who dreams of earning a spot on the Olympic fencing team? Nope, that would be unfair to the readers. What about Nick, the campus rock star who annoys the living daylights out of Jules, a freshman on campus trying to find her bearings? That sounded great! Except for one thing. I, the author, developed a soft spot for Nick and couldn’t pull the trigger. (Whoops! That’s okay, I don’t feel bad about it. Nick has that affect on people.) The position Nick’s character occupied was the natural choice for a villain. With it filled, I was left where I started. Who was the bad guy?

I kept stumbling over this assumption about Nick until I found a way to use it to my advantage in Tenderfoot. Why not Nick? He’s pushy, he crosses lines, and he doesn’t apologize for doing so. But what if he had a reason for his behavior? What if all his actions were tied to one goal? What if that goal had something to do with a… bad guy?

In writing Jules’ story, the bad guy makes a single appearance. Like any good villain, this one, a Backahasten, serves his purpose. He’s menacing, he presents an obstacle to the main characters, and you never know if he’s right around the corner.

The best part about the bad guy? He’s back for Blinded, the sequel to Tenderfoot! I can’t promise the readers will meet him more than once, (although it’s possible since the book is in progress) but I will leave you with this: the bad guy’s story will finally be told.

Music Currently Inspiring Blinded

If only I could listen to every song and write nonstop for 13 days!

I cannot write without music.

TENDERFOOT was written on: 3 computers, loose-leaf paper, notebooks, napkins, and a receipt. (It was a really great idea!)

TENDERFOOT was written at: my one hundred year old tiny cherry desk with the finish rubbing off underneath my wrists, in the back of a minivan with the kids bouncing around, in my brother’s apartment in NYC, on vacation in upstate NY, and at work in between phone calls.

The constant? Music. iPhone.

Here’s the playlist currently inspiring BLINDED:

6/29/11

  • Rebelling Voices by Marmalade Sky (Nice guys from Bristol btw!)
  • Dig by Incubus
  • Pyro by Kings of Leon
  • Hurtful by Erik Hassle
  • Tokyo (Vampires & Wolves) by The Wombats
  • Ruby by Kaiser Chiefs
  • Under The Sycamore Tree by Death Cab For Cutie
  • Everyday (Coolin’) by Swizz Beatz

5/26/11

  • Still Need You by Language Room
  • Broken Jaw by Foster the People
  • Many of Horror by Biffy Clyro
  • Colours by Grouplove
  • We Used to Wait by Arcade Fire
  • Take Me Out by Atomic Tom
  • Julie June by A Silent Film

Blinded Update

Update – working hard on BLINDED. Okay, maybe just working on it.

And when the brain (or hands) cramp, there are always other things to do.

Like take typing tests. I average 72 wpm with bursts over 80 wpm when I know what the heck I’m typing. Take that multitasking – I can type some unknown passage from Aesop’s Fables and hit the commas and caps and blasted hyphens all while glancing at the type-o-meter to watch it jump. One of my coworkers commented on my typing speed, so of course, I had to go find out. I type at twice the “average” speed, whatever that means.

Back to BLINDED.

Word count until Andrew thinks “Son of a bitch!” = 1,198 words.* I’ll let you guess who he’s referring to!

Typing Tutor III. I think that was the program my parents bought for me in the 5th or 6th grade. That was on the Apple IIc. Or the Commodore 64. See? I’ve been typing for so long the computer I “learned” to type on is forgotten. Actually, I didn’t learn to type with it. I concentrated on playing Bananarama ad nauseum while I designed game levels on Lode Runner.

Word count until the mythical War Horse makes an appearance = 757 words.* Elof got tired of waiting. That horse, he’s miffed he got sidelined in TENDERFOOT. He doesn’t respond well to slights.

When did I really learn to type? I’d like to pretend it was when I typed up my (bad) high school novel written during a year long creative writing class where most of the kids passed notes or did homework. But no, I don’t think it was there.

I believe I learned to type when I signed up for service with GEnie, an AOL competitor for about 20 seconds, in 1993. My handle was “Bearcub.” I made a general nuisance of myself, at $3 an hour. Yes, it was the internet Dark Ages. However, it was also a great test of imagination, wit, and typing skills to keep up with the authors and fans hanging around. No point frolicking in ascii if you are 4 or 5 lines behind everyone else. Note: They call them “msgs” now.

Word count until Jules screams, “Don’t fight!” = 4,286 words.*

*Word count subject to change once it has been revised nine times.

Themes

I’m 1500 words into BLINDED. Already, a major theme of trust vs. faith has popped up. I can’t wait to develop it further.

When I wrote TENDERFOOT, I wasn’t able to articulate the major theme until I’d revised the story several times. Then one day it was clear: loss vs. discovery. Over and over, Jules experiences the give and take of losing something yet discovering something else. I think her life experience gives her voice a bittersweet edge. The audience hears this in her thoughts and gut reactions. She’s a girl who has survived. She also has a little more experience in saying goodbye than the average person. That was something I pulled from my own experience as an American living abroad. The adventure of living in another culture (discovery) vs. giving up everything or everyone that you know (loss.) Jules has moved twice internationally. Her third move, to college, becomes the third time she says goodbye and leaves her former life behind. But this is the first time she gets to make the choice for herself. It puts a responsibility on her that she is not comfortable with, yet must accept. Jules recognizes she had to make this choice while begrudging her own sister for staying close to home.

This being a story of paranormal fiction, Jules’ loss and discovery is larger than herself. It is a change that sets off a wide-reaching chain of events.

Blinded – May 1st!

As promised, I began page 1, chapter 1 of BLINDED last night!

The outlines are complete. Outlines, you ask? Why yes, this book has two outlines. TENDERFOOT was told in chronological order with some flashbacks and summaries thrown in. I wanted to challenge myself and try something new for Book 2. And my little idea requires two outlines!

With the opening paragraphs written, I’m off to throw a little action into page 2!

Good News!

First page, first chapter, Tenderfoot. This is why all writers must learn to edit!

 

The writing for BLINDED, the second of four books in the TENDERFOOT series will begin by May 1st.

Based on how long it took to write and edit TENDERFOOT, I anticipate the release of Book 2 by November 1st, 2011.