Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Too Wyrd Excerpt - The Chase

This excerpt is from Too Wyrd, published in 2016 by Black Rose Writing. You can order book 2 of the Runespells series, Fluffy Bunny, published in 2017.

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 in 2016 by Black Rose Writing. You can order book 2 of the Runespells series, Fluffy Bunny, published in 2017.

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 hesitated 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 bread sticks. With garlic. 'Cause nobody's copped to being a vamp, but I'm not ruling 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, 'cause 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 cemetery holding signs condemning a teenager who had committed 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 as a knock sounded at the door.