Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Chains That Bind Excerpt - Intro Scene

This excerpt is from The Chains That Bind, book 3 of the Runespells series. You can pre-order Fluffy Bunny, book 2, with the code: PREORDER2017 for an additional discount. Too Wyrd, book 1, was published in 2016. Both books are published by Black Rose Writing.

"I still can't believe I let you talk me into this."

Joseph glanced over at me from the driver's seat. "You needed a break," he said. "The online business, two kids, your mother. And you never really got a chance to recover from that crap last year."

I shrugged. "It all worked out."

Joseph snorted. "You need a vacay, so that's what you are getting."

"Yeah, but hiking?" I smirked. "I like nature and all, but I also like room service, massages and central air."

"The Appalacian Trail is one of the greatest nature excursions in the world. A few days hiking through Maine to Vermont will give us the opportunity to camp in the most gorgeous forests on the planet."

The grin froze on my face. "Wait. Camping? You didn't say anything about camping. At night. Outside."

Cold, numbness began to creep along my cheeks and I struggled to keep my breathing even.

Joseph patted my hand, his eyes on the road. "It's August. Even this far north it only gets down to the upper 50s." He shot a glance at my face. "We won't freeze to death."

And just like that the world ended.

Featureless faces swam in my vision, covering Joseph's concerned expression as the Hands held me under the water. My breath came in gasps and ice flooded my veins like waves in the arctic. My legs, back and arms tensed, every muscle clenching.

I felt a sharp pain in my toes, toes that were no longer there. I reached for the lava-rage deep inside, but the cold was too strong. Tears leaked from my eyes and my head felt full and empty at the same time, making me dizzy. My stomach heaved weakly and I struggled not to vomit, thrash, scream, run...

"Nicola!"

Strong hands grasped my shoulders, shaking me gently. My head began to clear. I clutched at Joseph's arms and let him pull me into a firm hug, the pressure doing something to my autonomic nervous system that shorted out the panic response. At least a little bit.

My new therapist said I had PTSD, and I was being triggered. I'd heard of triggers before, and I'd been half sympathetic, half-frustrated by many of them. I'd had no idea.

It was literally as simple as Joseph saying "freeze to death", and the world was no longer safe, fun, exciting, or even just comfortable. It was the terror. It was the panic. It was the helplessness and the need for adreniline-giving rage that just wouldn't come.

As the tension broke, I bawled in Joseph's arms.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Fluffy Bunny Excerpt - The Meditation Scene

This excerpt is from Fluffy Bunny, book 2 of the Runespells series. You can pre-order it with the code: PREORDER2017 for an additional discount. Too Wyrd, book 1, was published in 2016. Both books are published by Black Rose Writing.

I stood in a lush forest. Each tree represented an event in my own life, and the verdant life around me showed how full my experience had been. Each tree towered above, but I also knew that the roots stretched far below the earth beneath my feet. I stepped into a tiny clearing among the trees.

The green grass grew thickly except for a section at the center of the clearing. I moved my feet to the edge of the grass, where the green blades gave way to packed brown earth. The bare ground surrounded a gaping hole nearly four feet across. It was so deep that nothing within it was illuminated by the dim forest light.

I stared down at the hole. It was my subconscious mind down there in the darkness. Everything that I didn't let myself know about myself was down there. All the suppressed feelings, dark desires, hidden agendas, and unnamed sins were crawling in those shadows.

I'd stood at the edge of this hole before, several times. It didn't matter. It was familiar, but there was no confidence or comfort in the familiarity. No matter how often I looked into my heart and soul, I found new pain and more secrets to face down.

It was my own mind, but I could never defeat the monsters down there.

I took a deep breath and stepped to the edge of the hole. I straightened my shoulders and clenched my jaw. And I jumped, feet first, into the darkness.

****

I fell into the pitch black darkness.

At first, it was a little jarring, like a jolt of nausea shooting through my gut. But then, I just kept falling.

I could feel the air moving around me as I fell. I knew I was moving quickly. If I had reached out, I would have scraped my hand on the walls of the hole I was falling so quickly through.

After a few minutes, I was bored with falling, and yet I was still falling, like Alice into Wonderland. Except no horrific re-imagining of that place could compare to what I knew was waiting for me. Or what I suspected, at least.

I felt the air change as the tunnel gave way to an enormous cavern, and I knew the falling would stop soon. I landed in a heap on the rock, falling sideways when the uneven crust undermined my balance. I felt the rough surface of the rock scrape on my skin.

I was naked. There were no clothes to hide or protect my body in my own mind, after all.

I stood up carefully, getting my bare feet stabilized on the gravelled surface. I took a few breaths to orient myself in the empty space of the cavern.

I held out my left hand and willed energy into it. A small sphere of cold, blue light appeared, showing me a tiny area of huge rocky mounds set at different heights in the floor of the cavern.

I remembered this, and I nodded. This is how it had to be, then. I began climbing across the stone-studded floor, sliding down to lower rocks, clawing my way up the higher ones. The blue light stayed close to my left shoulder, freeing my hands.

I panted as the unusual exercise went on and on. I paused on one high rock and pushed the blue light up as high as I could, trying to see farther. But the glow only showed the next rock over.

I sighed and kept moving.

Rock after endless rock scraped my hands and knees, grating my shins. My throat was dry and my hair stuck up all over from the wind of my fall and the exertion of my climbing. I leaned for a moment against the latest rock after sliding down it.

I was tired. I didn’t want this.

Mercy’s words rang out in my mind: The first time you are tested in your conviction to that honesty to yourself, and you just lay on your bed.

I frowned and heaved myself up the next steep rock. “Fuck ‘em all,” I snarled.

A sound roared out in the darkness. I gasped and lost my grip, falling off the rock I was trying to climb. My right foot struck the stone, banging the toes that were missing in the physical realm. I bit down on my tongue to suppress a cry of pain. A second roar rang through the cave.

I backed up until I was pressed against a stone that rose up just higher than my head. I stared into the darkness. I felt more than heard a movement to my left, and I turned toward it. A scattering of gravel to my right jerked my attention that way.

I heard growling and snarling on the rock behind me and the fear creeped down my legs, turning them to jelly. I fell to my knees and pressed against the rock, holding the light high, desperately trying to see... anything.

As I got used to the constant roaring and snarling, I could hear a voice underneath the bestial sounds. I strained to understand the words, but my attention faltered each time I detected movement in the blackness around me.

I struggled to focus, pulling away from the panic of my fear reactions. I tried to simply acknowledge and accept each movement, each growl, rather than making the effort to know what caused it.

This was a common theme in my Dark Night meditations. I wanted to know. Know what made the noise, know where the creature was, know how it moved, and on and on. But everything here was me. And my fears of the creature were my fears of what I wasn't facing.

It wasn't knowledge that I was lacking. It was acceptance.

So, I tried to accept what was happening. I focused on my breath, breathing through each scattering of gravel, each scrape of claws on stone. I breathed through the flicker of movement to my right, the movement of air behind me. I stopped jumping at every sound and detected motion. I just breathed.

As I relaxed into the fear, accepting the fear without panicking, I heard the voice more clearly. It sounded young, though I knew that the sound itself was only an illusion.

What I was hearing was simply my mind's way of understanding the message. Even though I could hear words, I knew it was just my interpretation of the feelings of accusation that the voice was really projecting.

“Bad, bad, bad, bad,” it chanted.

I allowed my thoughts to stretch out, reaching towards the voice. I didn't put words into the thought. I spoke to myself in symbols, feelings, and only sometimes words, and I was dealing with deep, hidden parts of my mind. So I didn't ask a question when I responded, I just sent out the feeling of a question.

“I am bad,” the voice said. “You are bad. We are bad."

I sent the feeling of “what” to the voice.

“Nooooooooooooo!” the voice cried, denial slapping at me.

A scaled face lunged at mine, snapping jaws just inches from my nose.

The voice snarled at me. “You did this! I did this! We did this!”

I doubled over as feelings of anger and guilt mixed with flashes of memory. I felt the tears falling down my cheeks. The voice was talking about what Zaro had done.

What I had let him do.

I looked up as the voice rose in a keening wail. Every sorrow I'd ever experienced was in that sound and I wept harder, sobbing loudly.

“We allowed this! To us. To them!” the voice cried out in anguish.

I nodded. By not stopping Zaro, I had let him continue using the women in the Center. Not just me.

No. Not using. Abusing.

“You don't know you saved her,” the voice bit out, accusingly. Remorse and understanding of my own wretchedness pulled me down, and I saw a face flash through my mind.

I gasped. Lupé.

I'd never thought to ask if my intervention had prevented Zaro from taking her, too. Even though he'd told me it wouldn't.

“I failed! You failed! We failed!”

Despair and hopelessness filled me. The voice howled in pain, and I could hear the creature thrashing itself on the rocks beyond my light. I felt each blow in my mind, like a memory of being beaten.

“You let him!” the voice wailed. “I let him! We let him!”

I lifted my head and let my voice join the keening cry. Feeling the self-hate and shame run through me. I howled out my worthlessness and tore at my own flesh and hair with my fingers.

The anguished cries ripped my voice apart, and I finally collapsed, weeping with hoarse moans. The light faded out as my will crumbled.

I heard the creature approach, slithering across the rocks. I struggled to control my breathing. I knew what I had to do, but that didn't make it any easier to do it.

Gravel scattered as I scrambled to my feet, stepping on sharp stones in the darkness. I sniffed and tried to stand up straight, but the mourning had left my muscles liquid and unstable.

I closed my eyes and focused on the sound of the creature moving, closer, closer. It felt like it took forever to come within reach, and I held myself still to be sure I wouldn't startle it away.

Finally, I could feel the mood shift in the cavern, just a subtle change in the emotional pressure. It was time.

I opened my eyes and called up the light once more. Standing before me was a horrible-looking creature, slimy and scaly, dripping with tangles of long hair. Spikes stood out along its body in asymmetrical, random places, interspersed with gaping sores that oozed bright yellow-green pus streaked with red blood.

The creature's mouth was skewed to one side, so it looked like a clay model that had fallen on the floor and not been fixed. Teeth of all shapes and sizes jutted out of its jaw at odd angles. Its stubby tail had skin torn off in patches along its length.

One deep red eye sat on top of its head, like the eye of a frog, but with the odd rectangular pupil of a goat. The other eye was pale orange and sat low, to one side of the nose, and seemed to have no pupil at all.

It wheezed every breath with a mucousy rattle, and an odor of rotting meat and diseased shit surrounded it, wafting towards me with every micro-gust in the air.

I gulped down the bile that rose at the sight of the creature. It was everything horrible and disgusting in the world. I felt repelled by it at every level of my being. I stared at the creature, willing myself to do what I had to do. There was only one way to be rid of it.

I stepped forward.

The creature flinched and snarled, tensing up as if to spring. I hesitated, letting it get used to my new position. It slowly relaxed, and I stepped forward again.

This time, it didn't flinch as much. It watched me with its mismatched eyes and relaxed from its half-crouch. The next step forward, it barely moved, though its eyes flickered from my face to my hands to my feet and back.

I held my hands out, palms forward, slightly away from my body, showing it that I had no weapons. The next step, there was no flinch at all. Instead, the creature made a low moaning noise that sounded like the first part of the sound of vomiting.

I forced myself not to cringe at my visceral reaction to the creature's whine. I held the gaze of its sickly orange eye, willing it to stay calm, and stepped forward again.

I was now inches away from the creature. If either of us moved, we would brush against the other. I tried not to think of the pus and slime coating the matted hair, scales and open sores that covered its body, so close to my bare skin.

I spread my arms wide, and the creature tensed. Before it could react, I stepped forward and wrapped my arms around it.

It struggled to get away, thrashing in my arms. It snarled and snapped at my face. Despite its greater size, I was stronger, and I held on tight.

The creature whined its vomit-like sound and I could feel the wetness of pus and slime smearing across my body, dripping down my legs and off my arms. It panted, wheezing and hacking mucus in my face.

The battle seemed to take hours. Slowly, it weakened, its struggles becoming less intense. I laid my head against its body and began singing a soothing, wordless tune.

I felt the body in my embrace shrink in on itself. My hands met behind its back and I cradled the creature, rocking it in my arms.

I was covered in the pus and goo and every breath was a struggle not to gag on the smell. But I sang to the creature, and I pushed love energy through my arms towards it. And I cuddled it as it shrank down.

I lost track of time, and it seemed sudden when the change happened. In a blink, I was no longer rocking the shrunken body of a filthy beast. Instead, my arms held a little girl of about three or four years old.

She was naked, like me, and her body was covered in gashes and deep purple and yellow bruises. Scars crisscrossed her skin and her dark hair was tangled and matted. Her voice croaked with sobs as she cried out her pain in my arms. I rocked her and sang to her, patting her back gently and stroking her hair, sending love from my heart to hers.

Eventually, her crying stopped and she slowly sat up. I smiled at her and wiped the tears from her cheeks. I pushed at my will to soothe the bruises and cuts from her face.

I waved my arm and there was a shallow hot spring, glowing with a golden healing light. I led her to it and picked up the soft cloths at the side of the pool. I eased us both into the water and bathed her, gently, carefully, soothing away her wounds with the magic of love in my heart and my will.

When we were cleaned of all the remnants of the creature she had been, I sat her in front of me and combed out her hair, singing a song that we remembered from another life.

Clean, combed and dry, I wrapped her in a warm blanket and held her close. Then I began to speak, with words and with the language of emotions and memories.

“I'm sorry,” I said, softly. “I failed you. I failed Ella and Maria. I failed Lupé, and so many others.

“I'm so sorry, but I am also not the only one who failed. I am not the only one who harmed others. I will take responsibility for my failings. I will make reparations to the best of my ability. But I will not take on the burden of other people's guilt. I will not take responsibility for other people's actions.”

I squeezed the girl who was both my own inner child and the embodiment of my faults and weaknesses, abused by the hurts that had been visited on me and the hurts I had visited on others, and I loved her without judgment. I held her and accepted what had been done.

As the child fell asleep, I took a deep breath. Accepting what had been done didn't mean forgiving or forgetting. It didn't mean pretending it had never happened, or walking away without demanding restitution. It didn't mean I wouldn't make Zaro pay for what he'd done.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Too Wyrd Excerpt - The Chase

This excerpt is from Too Wyrd, published 2016 by Black Rose Writing. You can pre-order book 2 of the Runespells series, Fluffy Bunny with pre-order code: PREORDER2017 for an additional discount.

My lungs started burning and my muscles were getting that not-quite-there, mushy feeling. I was headed a little bit right, overall, so the next corner I went left. Apparently, the cop's sacrifice had slowed the monsters down quite a bit. The sound of their chase was much farther back now.

I ran past a dead-end alley before it clicked. I stopped dead and ducked into the passage, stumbling as the smell of rot and piss hit my nose. There was a dumpster sitting a little askewed at the end of the alley and I slipped behind it and squatted down, huddling in the shadows. I hoped that the dark, smelly surroundings would throw off the creatures.

I closed my eyes and concentrated on slowing my breathing. I ignored the drip-drip to the left of me and the distinctly moldy scent teasing my nose with a sneeze. It was just like meditation; in - mind goes blank, out - I'm not here. Over and over; in - mind goes blank, out - I'm not here. Mind blank, not here. Mind blank, not here. Mind blank, not here

I felt my consciousness go to the other, the place of visions and mindfulness. My awareness slipped into that place of there/not-there, where I could hear and see and smell, but as if watching a movie. It wasn't me present in that stinky darkness; my knowing was completely objective. My breathing slowly moved from the panting gasps of an out-of-shape runner to the deep, controlled breaths of one just this side of asleep

I heard the creatures approach the alley with scraping claws and wet, snuffling growls. They went past the mouth of the alley, and a sliver of relief pierced my objectivity. I heard the noises stop just past the alley and my heart tripped over itself. The light pad-click of clawed feet came closer. I could hear the sniffing of the creatures searching for me

I clung to my detached state, willing the darkness around me to cover me like a cloak. Not here, not here, not here, my mind cycled through the mantra, projecting the image of my physical form becoming just another shadow behind the trash bin

The padding footsteps stopped in front of me. My eyes opened, slowly. I kept my mind distant, and my feeling was of curiosity and the small anxiety one feels for a beloved fictional character in trouble. I could see a sliver of the creatures, mostly still hidden by the dumpster. Their oddly colored skin of gray and blue and purple faded into the shadows of the alley. Their eyes glinted red and yellow when they caught the faint light. Their teeth stuck out prominently, shining with spit and the deep red of blood

They were tall, nearly 8 foot, I would guess. And the first thing that came to mind when searching for a label for the creatures was... demon. These were creatures of fire and torture, taken from the imaginings of hundreds of Christian painters and writers.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Too Wyrd Excerpt - Mercy's Big Reveal

This excerpt is from Too Wyrd, published 2016 by Black Rose Writing. You can pre-order book 2 of the Runespells series, Fluffy Bunny with pre-order code: PREORDER2017 for an additional discount.

Mercy was watching us with a tension that seemed to say she didn't trust us to remain calm. The idea of her being so worried about Joseph and me getting violent struck me as really funny, and I started giggling. We went back to our previous seats, Mercy stopping to throw the deadbolt and chain, while I threw my head back and let the humor drain the rest of the tension from my gut.
I noticed Joseph looking at me with a concerned expression, but I just waved him off and turned to Mercy. "Okay, now spill."
She took a deep breath and began. "I am not human." Joseph snorted. "I realize this is a bit obvious now, but I want to be absolutely clear in what I'm telling you."
I exchanged a glance with Joseph. By his expression, he was wondering the same thing I was: alien or paranormal creature? And did we need to invest in silver or wooden stakes? We turned back to Mercy.
She took a deep breath. "I'm a Valkyrie," she said, pushing in out in a rush.
That was it? I reached up and scratched an itch on my forehead. I saw Joseph in the corner of my eye rub a spot on his chin. We both kept watching Mercy, who looked back and forth from Joseph to me. I shifted my seat on the bed. Joseph brought his feet up to sit cross legged. The silence stretched out. I chewed on the inside of my lower lip.
Finally, I broke the silence. "So..." I said, trying to think of something to say. The myths of the Valkyrie were pretty vague, with some saying they were kind of half gods and others saying they were spirits of dead warrior women. Lots of speculation and theory, but little fact. "Does that mean you are dead?"
Mercy drew back. "What? No! I'm not dead! Valkyrie are spirit warriors. We are kind of like extensions of Odin's will." She shifted in her chair, still watching us closely. She hestated another moment before continuing. "That's all? You aren't going to freak out?"
I laughed. "Probably not." I caught her confused look. "You gotta understand something. We get people coming to us all the time claiming to be stuff."
Joseph nodded and ticked off the more common ones, "Dragons, fae, werewolves, aliens, unicorns, ogres..."
I jumped in. "And don't forget the whole I'm the queen of this group or that group. And, yes, we've heard 'I'm a Valkyrie' a few times." I paused and rubbed the side of my chin. "Haven't had much in the way of proof before, though." I shook myself out of the mental wanderings that I felt my mind going towards. "The point is, me and Joseph may not swallow this stuff hook, line and sinker, but we do try to take such claims seriously. A couple of times, we've even gotten proof that the claims were as real as can be expected."
"Which means," Joseph said, "we have had deep dark long conversations about how likely these things are. And what it would mean if these different creatures showed up."
"Valkyrie may not be human, but we've gotten to know you as an individual," I pointed out. "And you fought off those demons."
"And demons are much scarier than warrior women who aren't trying to kill us," Joseph finished.
Mercy gaped at us. I don't think she was expecting the reaction we'd had. "I thought I'd have to... I don't know. Calm you down. Keep you from running off..." She trailed off.
I frowned. "Running off would be pretty stupid of us, at this point, what with monsters and gun-toting detectives after us."
Joseph snorted. "The gun-toting detective is only after you," he pointed out. "I only have to worry about drooling creatures from the nether realms." He stopped suddenly, as if he realized what he'd just said, and shuddered.
I forced a laugh, trying to break the mood. "You just aren't as lucky as I am," I teased. "Only the really popular kids get dragged into interrogation rooms, don't you know."
Joseph smiled, but it didn't quite reach his eyes.
Mercy shook her head at us. "You guys are so weird," she said. "Your world is being turned upside down and your reality is being shaken, and you just... deal with it."
I grinned at her. "Well, it helps that we were crazy to begin with." I turned to Joseph. "Let's get a gooey pizza and a lot of really sugary soda. And breadsticks. With garlic. Cuz nobody's copped to being a vamp, but I'm not rulling it out." I eyed Mercy and Joseph playfully as Joseph grabbed the hotel phone book to check out the pizza places.
We found a local pizza dive and order several cheesy pizzas with a selection of toppings, though Joseph and I stood strong against Mercy's criticism of adding cream cheese to pepperoni. Apparently, being a demi-god doesn't mean you have good taste in pizza.
While we waited for our order to be delivered, Joseph and I sprawled on one of the beds while Mercy sat cross legged on the other, and we took turns quizzing her about Norse gods.
"What's Odin like? And does Loki look anything like Tom Hiddleston?" I asked. I like to get the important stuff out first.
Mercy smirked. "Loki is blond and bearded, so... No. And Odin is... funny but serious. And so very wise. You can see the weight of understanding on his shoulders, but he still thinks that puns are hilarious." She shook her head. I could tell she was thinking of some memory of bad word play or something. "He cares so much, but he doesn't really know how to show it. He's like an old school father who was never taught how a grown man can play with the kids, but he wants to..."
We were silent for a moment, each lost in our thoughts about that.
Joseph spoke up first. "So, Ragnorok is really a thing, right? It's going to happen, just like in the stories?"
Mercy tilted her head to the side. "Sort of. Odin didn't tell the whole story, cuz he knew there would always be someone trying to start it, or thinking it was happening and trying to stop it, or trying to be a part of it. So he gave the general run-down and he told the gods what would happen to them, but he didn't give all the details about Midgard." She shrugged. "Also, it's more complicated then that. The Norse gods are real and the creation story for them is completely true."
I frowned and glanced at Joseph. He had a thoughtful scowl on his face.
Before either of us could speak, Mercy held up her hand. "But..." she said, waiting until she had our complete attention. "The same is true for the Greek gods." She paused. "And the Orisha," she said, referencing the gods of Yoruba, an African religion, and Santeria, a belief system in the Caribbean similar to Voodoo. "And any other religions or pantheons you can think of, and all the ones that haven't yet been imagined. And several that have been long forgotten."
My face scrunched up as I tried to follow what Mercy was saying. It wasn't something new for me to hold the belief that all religions were equally valid. Of course, that was easier when there really was no proof that ANY of them were any more real than Santa Claus. At that point, I realized that, before the night was over, I was going to ask if Santa was real. A part of me felt a sense of defeat about that.
"So," I said, drawing out the word as I tried to organize my thoughts into some kind of coherence. "What does that mean for science and the big bang theory and all that?"
Mercy nodded. "That is also completely true."
"But, how?" Joseph asked.
Mercy sighed and looked down at her hands. I could tell she was trying to figure out how to tell us. I suddenly remembered a few months back when Ella had asked me about some protesters we had driven past on the street. They were across the street from a cemetary holding signs condemning a teenager who had commited suicide after being bullied for being gay. I remembered the feeling of understanding so much about the situation, the social backdrop that had caused it, the complexities of the protesters' beliefs... and I had balked at the conversation. Ella had asked why they were holding signs. It had been a simple question, but the answer was anything but simple. I remembered thinking that this was why parents told their kids babies came from birds or vegetables, and I remembered struggling with my promise to always be truthful with my child.
I pulled my focus back to Mercy, and I sympathized. I drew energy from the memory of love and compassion that my conversation with Ella had brought out. I directed it at Mercy, lifting her energy and encouraging her mind to find the best way to communicate. I held this for several seconds before she raised her head and straightened her shoulders. She took a deep breath.
"You know how a movie works, right? Making a movie isn't just what the people do. It's also the set built by the crew. It's the sounds added later. It's the CGI and the wires and the explosions. It's the stunt people and the makeup people, too. A movie isn't just a camera following people around, right?" I nodded. "That's how the world works. What you see, the actors, is science. The gods are the crew behind the scenes, pushing, pulling, correcting and sometimes adding in a CGI thing that adds to the end result."
"Whoa," Joseph said. "I kind of understand that."
Mercy continued. Each pantheon contributes to the whole thing, but instead of the makeup crew working all together, they are actually gods from everywhere working on the same thing."
I nodded. "Like art or nature or war?"
Mercy smiled. "Exactly. There will be a Norse god working on this over here and that over there. So the crew isn't divided by job but by pantheon."
I glanced at Joseph. "You realize what this means, don't you?" Joseph raised his eyebrows in question. "These means you're Jim Carrey." I grinned, knowing he would understand my movie reference. He rolled his eyes at me.
We turned back to Mercy. "So all these gods - and science, too," Joseph said. "They all work together but kind of not."
Mercy nodded. "That's why you have things that are just so complex that it's hard to figure them out."
I nudged Joseph. "Like weather and evolution," I suggested. Mercy nodded. "So, pretty much stuff that we explain through chaos theory mathematics."
"That would also include human interactions," said Joseph.
"Human interactions, god interactions," I said. "Is there much difference, really?"
We looked at each other for a moment, then turned to Mercy. She shrugged. "Not that I can see," she said, holding up her hands in a shrugging motion as a knock sounded at the door.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Too Wyrd Excerpt - The Breakdown

This excerpt is from Too Wyrd, published 2016 by Black Rose Writing. You can pre-order book 2 of the Runespells series, Fluffy Bunny with pre-order code: PREORDER2017 for an additional discount.

The footsteps had barely faded away before Mercy and Joseph turned on me.
"What the hell!" Joseph said. The shadow that was him stepped forward.

I gasped, feeling the hope that had begun to grow whither away.
Shadow Mercy nudged him aside. "What were you thinking?" she demanded. "You can't help him find the sigils!"
I backed up until I hit the wall. "I know that," I said. I flinched at the whine in my voice, and I struggled to hold myself together. "But..."
Mercy cut me off, closing in on me. "You are supposed to keep them from getting the Runespells, not hand them over!"
I felt smothered, feeling the anger and desperation pressing up against me. I struggle for breath.
Joseph jumped in, stepping closer. "You just gave him carte blanche to kill us all!" he pointed out.
I pressed myself against the wall, my protests dying in my throat. My hands grasped at the wall behind me, searching for a lifeline.
"What happens when you don't find them?" Joseph asked.
A dark red filled my vision, covering the shadows in a bloody hue. A rushing roar filled my ears, muffling the sounds of Joseph and Mercy. I was about to have a full-blown panic attack.
"What happens when you do find them?" Mercy demanded in a muted voice.
"I don't know!" I screamed, throwing my arms out to drive them away. "I don't know, I don't know, I don't know!"
I stepped forward and shoved one of them back with both hands. The shadow - Mercy? - staggered away. I snarled at them both. "I don't know if I can find them. I don't know what happens if I do. I don't know how to stop this. I don't know how I'm going make this work. I don't know!"
I rounded on the other shadow. It backed away from me, stumbling and falling in the darkness. I didn't care. All of my self-control was gone.
"I know he was hurting you," I choked out. I could feel the tears streaming down my face. "I know he won't stop. I know he wants the sigils. I know he will kill us all. And I know," I gagged on the words, swallowed convulsively and forced them out. "I know that I won't be able to handle another death on my hands."
I turned and hit the wall with my fists over and over, screaming wordlessly until my voice gave out. Each strike, a desperate plea for forgiveness through suffering or a strike against those who would hurt those I loved. Who had hurt those I loved. I kept pounding at the wall, screaming a hoarse, voiceless cry. A thick ache built up in my throat.
In my mind's eye, I saw Keith lying in a pool of his own blood. I saw Joseph's head snap with the impact of a fist. I saw Mercy cry out in pain from wrenched arms. I saw the unnamed police officer rent apart. I saw a crowd of strangers ripped limb from limb. I saw the pained, screaming face of my baby, Ella, surrounded by the flames of Armageddon.
My hands gave out, falling limply to my sides from the pain. I stepped back to kick the wall, tripped and fell with a jolt that sent shocks of pain up my spine. I paused a moment before I launched my body at the hated wall, beating at it with palms, arms, legs and even my head. The jolts of pain radiating up my arms and through my head were the only lifeline I had to feeling... anything. There was only desperation, and it filled me. I had to do something, but the only thing I could do was beat myself against this wall. So I did.
Time ceased to exist. The only measure of life was the rhythmic thumping of my body against paneling. My ears were filled with the roar of waves that never quite crashed.
My body dragged across the floor away from the wall. My flailing arms no long struck anything solid, and they dropped limply to my sides. My head lolled backed and I felt my torso being held up. I collapsed against the thing holding me, struggling for breath between the barking sobs and wheezing croaks.
I don't know how much time passed while I lay there, weaker than I'd ever felt in my life. I only lay there and wept until the tears stopped falling. Then I wept without tears.
Slowly, the roar in my ears faded away, and I could hear the sounds of Joseph chanting a healing song and Mercy murmuring over and over, "It's okay. You're okay."
I latched on to their voices, letting them draw my soul back from the terrible darkness that had overtaken me.
The feeling came back into my body. I felt the deep, agonizing ache in my head, and the lesser aches in the bones of my arms and hands. I could feel my fingers start to twitch with the pain, spasming uncontrollably. I felt the pains along the back of my throat from sobbing and screaming, and the periodic jerking of my legs, working out the abuse I'd put them through.
I drew a shuddering breath, rolled over and vomited a glob of mucus, drained from my sinuses into my stomach. I rolled back into Mercy's arms and closed my aching eyes. The sweet sounds of my friends voices lulled me into a deep, dreamless sleep.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Too Wyrd Excerpt - A Dance with the Devil

This excerpt is from Too Wyrd, published 2016 by Black Rose Writing. You can pre-order book 2 of the Runespells series, Fluffy Bunny with pre-order code: PREORDER2017 for an additional discount.

I stopped and closed my eyes, trying to stop the frustration that wasn't working anymore than my earlier calm had. I stood with the heels of my hands pressed against my eyes, keeping back the tears of frustration. Then I felt the world tilt.
His scent surrounded me, warm vanilla with the spice of cinnamon and nutmeg. It overwhelmed my nostrals, immediately calming my anger. I let my head fall back on my neck. The deliciousness of his smell trickled through my nose and down my throat until I could taste him on my tongue.
I went numb. Not the kind of numb where you can't feel, but the kind where you don't have the will or desire to move.
"You don't deserve this, Nicola," his voice rumbled in my ear. His warm, sweet breath tickled my ear and brushed against my neck. "You had a good life, a simple life."
His deep voice lulled me, filling my head, pushing away all thoughts.
"This was forced upon you."
"Forced," I murmured in agreement.
"You deserve peace."
"Peace," I whispered. Longing bloomed in my chest for my child, for a single peaceful moment with Ella.
"Happiness," his voice rumbled. "With your daughter."
I could see Ella in my mind, laughing, dancing.
"Leave this chaos for someone else to take care of," the voice continued. "For someone who wants to be a hero."
I smiled at the memory of Ella's smile. So much like her father. I felt a jolt in my gut, and the smile faded from my lips. Keith had wanted to be a hero. He was dead now. He'd been killed. A tear fell from my eye. I could feel his finger touch my cheek. My eyes fluttered open and I glimpsed a strong hand. The tip of one perfect finger held a tiny piece of amber. My eyelids were too heavy and I let them drift shut.
I felt his arm around my waist. Who was he that held me? I couldn't remember. I couldn't think.
"You don't want to be a hero," his voice said, tantalizing me, drawing me in.
His lips moved against my neck, right on the sensitive spot under my ear. I tilted my head to allow him access. My limbs felt heavy, impossible to move. Like the moments after the demon threw me against the wall.
The jolt ran through my gut again. I lifted my head and struggled to open my eyes.
"No," I murmured.
"No, you don't want to be a hero," his voice affirmed.
I relaxed into the surity of his comment. His arm tightened around my waist, holding me securely. His other hand was at my breast. He gently pinched my nipple and pleasure arced through my body. My thoughts fled and my awareness narrowed to the skill in his fingers. His lips brushed against mine.
But that wasn't right.
I struggled to stand upright. I reached for my thoughts. I grasped for the logic that was my confidence, my skill.
My "no" wasn't an agreement with him. My "no" was for him.
His arms and hands and lips tried to draw me back in. I struggled to block out the sensations in my reaction to him, the reaction of my body. I was a creature of the mind, of thought. And I had told him "no."
Because I had not given him permission to touch me with such familiarity. I latched on to this thought, my ability to keep my wits returning.
Skill or not, this man was groping me. And I had no idea who he was.
My eyes popped open and I bent the astral world around me to transport my body away from his grasp.

****

I stared at the beautiful man in shock. His face slowly curved into a smile and he clapped his hands approvingly.
"I had heard you were strong of mind," he said in his voice of melted chocolate. "Not many can break free of my temptations."
I tried to speak, but my throat was still tight. I cleared it and tried again. "Who are you?"
He smiled smugly, his perfect expressive eyebrows arching into an inverted v as he shot me a look of pure sin. "Can't you guess my name?" he asked.
I shook my head. This was a game, and one of symbolism. I could feel the brush of the double-entendre in his words on my mind. I mentally reviewed the conversation and his actions. A look of sin. Break free of temptations. Can't you guess my name... I rolled my eyes as the answer hit me. "Seriously?" I asked. "Isn't quoting sympathy for the devil a little trite?"

He threw back his head on his perfect neck and laughed, a deep harmonic sound. He clapped his hands together like a child. "You, my dearest Nicola," he said, running his gaze down my body suggestively, "are a perfect delight!" He bowed. "I am he. Lucifer, Satan, the Devil, Father of Lies, Prince of the Devils, any number of names."
He waved his hand dismissively at the list of titles. His gaze locked on me, a smile teasing his lips. "I much prefer 'Tempter'."
I narrowed my eyes. "I'm sure you do," I said. "What do you want with me?"
He laughed. "You are not as fearless as you act, my dear," he said. "But you do act the part well." He straightened and became serious. "I am here to tempt you into my... bed." His eyes gleamed with lust and desire.
I snorted. "Not gonna happen, Lucy," I snapped.
He shrugged and turned away. "It matters little to me, but I can help you get out of this little pickle you are in."
I considered his words. No doubt he was going to offer me an easy way to reneg on my unwanted mantle of hero. And it was tempting, without question. But it was also against every moral and honorable fiber in my body. I wanted to abandon my quest, but I would never be able to go through with it. I had some ethics, such as they were. "I don't want anything to do with your little pickle, thanks," I told him, smirking at my witicism.
His face contorted beautifully with a momentary rage before he regained his poise. He stared at me for a moment, then broke into an unpleasant smile. "You will regret your choice," he warned.
"And my little dog, too," I said, with a sneer.
The world tilted again throwing me to the ground, and he was gone.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Resume Weaknesses in Characters

As an author on social media, I encounter a lot of posts by other authors. Many of them I pass on by but some of them are quite interesting. Then there are those that are odd.

I recently came across a post that was asking about weaknesses and main characters. This is an interesting topic because it delves into characterization.

I noticed that one of the responses was what I can only describe as a resume weakness. It was the kind of weakness that you give in response to an interview question asking what your greatest weakness in the workplace is.

I have to call this a cheater cheater Pumpkin Eater. If the greatest weakness that your character has is that they "try too hard to save people" or they "work too hard" to support their family, that's not a weakness. That's a virtue.

A real character weakness is one that makes the character somehow flawed, not a better person. If your character's weakness is actually a virtue, that does not make them more real, and it doesn't make them more relatable.

Resume weaknesses do not improve characterization. They do not improve your character as a relatable person. They do not make your writing better.

They do turn your character into a Mary Sue. They turn your character into an idealized version of whoever you are trying to characterize. And they make your character into someone who isn't as relatable.

No matter how hard we try to turn our weaknesses into subtle virtues, weaknesses are weaknesses. Flaws are flaws. And characters are people that should have both weaknesses and flaws, as well as virtues and nobility. Otherwise there just a cardboard cutout of a character.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Two Reviews of Too Wyrd - This is a good one!


Too Wyrd, by Sarah Buhrman
Some books just get you. They just catch you right - and Sarah Buhrman's first book in her Runestones saga does that with me. 
It's the story of single mother Nicola - who discovers her sister is mixed up with a cult and sets out with her best friend Joseph to try to rescue her. The kicker? Nicola's also a heathen witch. And it turns out this cult actually could bring about the apocalypse. 
Plunging headlong into a world of urban fantasy, with Norse gods and the possible coming of Ragnarok, this is a great ride of a tale. It kinda slows up a little bit in the first third, but then rushes onward towards... maybe... the end of the world? 
Nicola is a great character, brittle with the authorities investigating the supernatural shenanigans but passionate in her friendships, and a reluctant heroine, drawing on her own strength even with the cost that using magic imposes upon her. 
If you're a fan of urban fantasy, this is squarely in the genre - with a great female lead character, and a swirl of magic and mythology. Honestly, I enjoyed this more than Jim Butcher's Dresden series - definitely a world worth discovering. 
AI Rating: 5/5
- Leo McBride

You can also find a video review by Diane Morrisson HERE!