Saturday, April 30, 2016

Too Wyrd, Excerpt, Part 2

Part 1 is here.

Okay, I shouldn't laugh so much. But really? Ragnarok? The end of the world and the death of most of the gods according to the Norse pantheon and its texts?
Joseph stared at me until the hyena cackling had subsided. “You done?”
I wiped the tears from my eyes and nodded. “Yeah, for now. But come on... Ragnarok? That's a battle between the gods. Humans, when they are involved, would be nothing more than cannon fodder, with or without witchcraft.”
Joseph shrugged. “I'm not arguing that he is being rational or anything. I'm just telling you what he said.”
“Yeah, but there's something else to it, something that makes you take it seriously, or you wouldn't be sitting here telling me about a mythological battle of the future, and the man who would be Sergeant Major.” I stood up and grabbed his glass and my empty bottle. I gestured with the glass and he nodded. I stepped inside to get the refills, calling through the patio door. “So what takes this from psycho circus with optional admission to a crazy train running us down at the crossing?”
I heard Joseph move to stand in the doorway. “I don't know. It's mostly just a gut feeling. I think he's up to something more than just the impossible parlor tricks he's been pulling. I just don't know how to figure it out.” He sighed. “And I don't think me confronting him will give us any answers. Keith has always had that slick as goose-shit feel to him.”
I came out of the kitchen with fresh drinks and stopped. Joseph had that look on his face. He was going to ask me to do something, and I wasn't going to like it. “So you want me to talk to him.”
“You could be just the thing to throw him off balance. Besides,” Joseph scrambled to make his case before I shut him down, “you are the only person I know who can read anyone at anytime. You have a gift and it could give us the information we need.”
I walked slowly back to Joseph, handed him his drink and sat down. He sat back down in his seat and let out a sigh. He was sure he'd convinced me. But I still had a case to make. “Why?”
Joseph choked on his swallow of wine. He coughed a few times and choked out his words. “Why what?”
I smiled innocently, knowing Joseph wouldn't buy the innocent part. “Why do we need the information? Why do we need to know? Why should we get involved?” I cut him off as he started to break in. “What is the worst possible scenario? And how is it our fucking problem?”
Joseph stared at me, and I got a sinking feeling. He hadn’t told me everything. He hadn’t told me the thing that I would see as the most important.
“Muriel disappeared from her usual hang-outs about four weeks ago, and rumor has it she'd joined Keith's army before she did.”
I stared at Joseph, wanting to disbelieve. But, no, that was exactly the kind of thing that my step-sister would do. “Crap.”
“I know.”
“You are sure she’s gone?” I sighed when Joseph nodded. “How can anyone be so oblivious?” I lifted my drink to my lips, fighting the urge to gulp it.
Joseph snorted. “How should I know? Your little step-sister can find the only broken chair in a room.”
“Truth.” Without taking my eyes off the bottle I was drinking from, I reached out to give Joseph a fist-bump. We missed. “So, Muriel is missing and probably involved in some deep shit. If she wasn't such a damned innocent, I'd let her sink. Well, if we were a hundred percent certain her deep shit was this thing with Keith, at least. Maybe then she would learn a few things.”
I saw Joseph nod his agreement from the corner of my eye.
I considered the situation from as many angles as I could come up with. Best case scenario was that we were wasting time and we'd leave Muriel to putz around with a fraud until reality set in. Worst case was that Keith could really pull out the big guns and drag her into something that was way over her head.
I looked at Joseph. He glanced at me expectantly. “Is this just about building an army, or do you think Keith is turning to the dark side?”
Joseph shook his head. “I don't know. I hope not, but...” He shrugged. “I just don't know.”
“Fine.” I heaved a sigh. Tracking down Muriel might take a few days. I'll need to get some stuff in order before I just take off. I can finish my current orders and get those mailed off. Ella can visit grandma for a week. I'll just tell her I'm checking out a workshop possibility. I can be back in Indianapolis on Monday.”
Joseph nodded.
I was able to pull in a few workshops and seminars through nearby festivals and conventions, which boosted my income from the online sales of magically charged herb and oil blends, and video-conferenced Tarot readings. I would have to set up my sites to let customers know I was away for a while.
I stood up. “You want the guest bed?”
Joseph gave me a questioning look. I grinned and led him into the living room. I tugged an ottoman towards the wall.
“I got an inflata-bed that plays dead as a foot stool.” I popped the top off of the ottoman and unfolded the bed platform. I tugged out the plug and jammed it into the wall socket. A soft buzz filled the room.
Joseph chuckled. “Beats staying at a hotel, I guess. Let me go out and grab my overnight bag.”
As he walked out the front door, the smile fell from my lips. I closed my eyes, hoping that this was just a dream. Muriel was my responsibility by default. Her father, my step-father, had died a few years ago. Her mom had fallen off the face of the earth a few months before that. I was the closest thing she had to family, and family duty was a sacred duty.

I opened my eyes, resigned, when Joseph walked back into the house.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Too Wyrd, Excerpt, Part 1

I knew better than to answer the phone when the Animaniacs ring tone was playing. Yakko, Wakko and Dot tried to warn me that what followed would be “totally insane-y”, but that song indicated a call from my dearest friend.
“It's about Keith, Nicola,” the smooth, bedroom voice said.
“Seriously, Joseph?” I did not want to hear about the ex, certainly not at 10 o’clock at night on a weeknight. I wanted him left in the past, six years past, where he'd put himself by denying his child. “What about him? Does this have something to do with Ella?”
“Just answer the door.”
I stalked to the door, still talking into the phone. “It would be exactly what you deserve if I was naked right now.” I flung open the door to find Joseph grinning at me. We both put our cell phones away and stepped into each other’s arms for a hug.
Joseph held me at arm’s length and raked my body with his eyes. “Not naked.”
I craned my neck to look up into his face, more than six inches above mine, and saw the fatigue in the tension around his blue eyes; that worried me. I forced a grin and rolled my eyes. “Like you'd even appreciate my naked awesomeness, gay man.”
I stepped back and lead him into the house. “Come on. You want something to drink? Water? Red wine? Hard black cherry lemonade?”
Joseph gazed around, taking in the practical arrangement of furniture and portraits of my daughter covering most of the wall behind the sofa and in the hallway. I couldn't blame him for being a little nosey; he had never visited me at home before. Living so far away from each other made that nearly impossible.
“Red is fine.” He nodded to the most recent picture on the wall, Ella's dark brown hair framing her tan, heart-shaped face with honey-colored eyes sparkling. “She looks good. Happy.”
My eyes narrowed as I poured a glass of red wine for him. “She is. Happy.” I was always sensitive to comments like that. Being a single mom was filled with little digs and insults, even though most of them weren't intentional.
I grabbed a hard lemonade for myself and gestured for him to go through the sliding door onto the patio. We sat in the overstuffed patio chairs and I dropped the drinks on the low table between us. “You gonna tell me what this visit is really all about? It must be good for you to leave the city.”
Joseph sighed and rubbed his face with his hand before reaching for the wine and taking a long drink. He'd never been a heavy drinker, so I took that as a bad sign. “I'm not really sure. I wish I knew what was going on, but this... It just doesn't make any sense.”
I took a sip and a deep breath. “Well, tell me what you've got.”
Joseph sipped his wine again. “A couple weeks ago, I heard a rumor about Keith.”
I nodded. Joseph was a kind of neutral entity in the Indianapolis Pagan Community. He kept his nose out of drama and his ears open, so most of the stuff that went on came to his attention quickly.
“I blew it off at first, ‘cause it was so… out there. But people kept talking. I figured there might really be something to it, but I never thought it could be what I'd heard.” He looked at me. “They were saying he was invincible. And that he could show people, prove it. They said he could stand in a fire and come out with no burns. He could be sliced with a knife and not bleed. They said he couldn't be killed.”
I cocked my head to the side, considering this. If Joseph was telling me these rumors, there was some truth to them. Neither one of us was the type to believe in stuff like that without proof, Pagan or no. We didn't just buy into the whole fireball-and-lightning kind of thing. “So, you checked it out?”
Joseph gulped down the rest of his wine. “Yeah, I did.”
“And?”
Joseph stared at his glass for a long moment, then he reached into his pocket. “I got vanillas.” He waved a pack of cigarettes in my face. “You want one?”
I raised an eyebrow. I'd quit smoking nearly a decade ago, though vanillas were the one exception to that. “I don't know how you get that kind of contraband snuck into this country, and I don't want to know.” I reached for the smoke and grabbed his Zippo lighter, too. “Why are you avoiding telling me what happened?”
Joseph sighed and lit his own cigarette when I returned his lighter. “Because it's one of those things that makes you wish you were a normal, mainstream, Sunday-Christian, non-magic using, non-magic knowing human.”
Both my eyebrows went up this time. “That bad, huh?”
Joseph nodded. “I crashed one of his events. I slipped in with a group of initiates from the Golden Cauldron and hung out in the back. I don’t think Keith saw me, but I caught most of what he did.”
I shifted in my chair, waiting for Joseph to drop the bombshell. With as much as he was avoiding saying what happened, it had to be pretty serious.
“I swear on Hecate, I saw them cut him. They took a big machete or something and cut through a watermelon – to show how sharp it was – then they hacked at his arm. And nothing happened.” Joseph rubbed at his face again. “There was no bruising, no blood, no scrapes, nothing.”
I chewed on my lower lip as I considered this.
“And before you start picking it apart, Nicola, that's not all,” Joseph interrupted my thoughts. “They set up a big fire, about 5 feet across. The flames were going at least 3 feet high. He stepped right into it.”
Joseph leaned forward, his gaze boring into me. I could feel his need for me to believe him. “I saw the coals in the center break under his feet. You could walk around the whole thing and see him surrounded by flames. In a sleeveless shirt and shorts.” Joseph swung his face away from me, like he couldn’t stand to watch my reaction, and stared into the stars overhead.
I finished the cigarette in my hand and tossed the butt into my cold, freestanding fire pit. We sat silently for several minutes, sipping our drinks. I went through every possibility, but I couldn't think of one that either Joseph would not also consider or that he hadn't discounted with the details of his story.
Finally, Joseph took a deep breath and sat up. He looked at the dead cigarette in his hand and tossed the butt at the fire pit. He pulled out another smoke and lit it, dragging deeply a few times.
I shifted in my seat. “Okay, so Keith gets to be superman, or whatever. Even if that's the case, so what? Why do I need to know this? People get to show off their special skills all the time. That's why there's so many Tarot readers, healers and such at the fests.”
Joseph rolled his shoulders as if to relieve tension. I remembered it as a sign that he was about to drop a surprise in my lap. “He says he's starting an army of magic-users. He's recruiting for a battle.”
“A battle? Against who? Al Qaeda?”

Joseph glanced over. “He says it's for Ragnarok.”

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Welcome!

If you are here, you are probably an avid reader of fantasy, urban fantasy, sci-fi/fantasy and similar works. You may even know me from Facebook, Twitter or other social media sites.

I am a writer, pure and simple. And in this blog, I will be exploring the art of writing more. I will post excerpts of my works-in-progress (WIPs), musings about the writing process, and much more.

This will not be a blog about the technique of writing, per se. There are thousands of those out there, and I find it difficult to explain how I write, for example, good dialog. I just... do.

I appreciate all forms of feedback, and I welcome conversations on story structure and plotting.

So, sit down, pour a cuppa, and let's chat.