Thursday, December 29, 2011

Fragile Bones excerpt

I hope everyone had a wonderful Holiday last weekend. Going into New Year's weekend, here's a little excerpt for you:

“You would've killed me.”
I bit my lip. He said it so easily, but I thought I heard a whisper of guilt or maybe it was my imagination. “I don't want to see any more. I've had my fill of your past.”
“It's not our decision. But I agree. It's getting too dangerous. I'll be looking for you. In my past, after that moment, I constantly looked to the shadows, searching for you. I remember.”
I stood up. Sickness sank into my stomach like a hard knot that refused to pass. Things had gotten too strange. Everything I knew about Michael, everything I'd come to depend upon changed. I'd told him so many times I trusted him, but I couldn't help but wonder if that were completely true. The memory of the devil's face cast a shadow over the light.
“I don't know how I'm going to deal with this,” I admitted.
“I tried to tell you before.”
“I know, but imagination can't conjure the truth of experience.” I pushed through the door. “I can't breathe.”
I scuffed across the church and climbed the stairs to our room. Our room. Our bed. I wanted to puke. How many times had Michael warned me? Yet I didn't want to believe it. Not really. I sat on the edge of the bed and closed my eyes. I opened them again. Behind the darkness, a vision of those glowing eyes and blood, thick and black, dripping. I looked at my hands. The dried blood still on my fingertips seemed to flow down into my palm, pooled there, and continued to climb up my arms. I tried to wipe it off, but it leaped onto my other hand until the sticky gore painted both hands and arms.
It wasn't me.
But it was.
I curled in on myself and fell into the mattress.
One truth made the whole episode worse: I was jealous. Jealous of that pitiful young man in the alley. For a few minutes, he'd felt the raw, savage lust of the unchained monster. I fantasized what it might be like; wanted it more than anything. Michael cleaving away the unwanted parts of me. The part that raged. The part that cowered. The filthy parts, the fragile parts. Maybe then I could stand beside him worthy of that position. I wanted to partake with him.
Though he denied it, I knew that fear haunted him. How could he not be afraid? Years might have distanced him, but the memories lingered. Refreshed anew by our visits to those places. Images uncovered and once more open to the light of day. Questioning oneself is never comfortable. All the 'what ifs' overwhelming any sense of self. Though, I couldn't imagine Michael ever lost himself to such lines of thinking. He resisted.
Laughter boiled up and tangled in my throat; strangled me. It came out in coughing staccato beats.
The shock faded away and left me cold and empty. The murderous impulses threatened to fill that space. I clenched my hands until skin split under my nails. How easy it would be. Willingly enslaved by that singular pleasure. Those eyes, familiar, yet so alien, would forever chase me. I saw what I could become. That same look had probably graced my face when I murdered that man such a short time ago.
Oh, how sweet that power sang along my every nerve.
The warring feelings tore at my insides.
I wanted to feel myself again.
But who was that? The tender victim? The untamed killer? The young man who overcame both those things?
Whatever had fetched me away from my former life believed in me. Michael believed in me. Why couldn't I believe in myself? I was weak. I couldn't master even my simple impulses, how could I hope to conquer those greater things that gripped me?

You can get it here in paperback and for kindle:
or here on Smashwords: (use coupon code NB26F for 53% off.)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Running Scared

"Prompt You or your MC has to do something physically vigorous. Take us through the reaction of their bodies and mind as they complete this task.

Just to make it a little more interesting, I would also like a little setting thrown in there.

Word count limit: 300 (it's a tight fit, but I'm betting you all can do it :) )"

Whew!! Talk about trimming! I shaved almost 200 words to get right at 300 exactly! Phone it in, it's a miracle. lol Kidding aside, these exercises really make you look at every single word to gauge its importance and impact to the story.

Night swaddled the sky in a gown of velvet darkness. Enfolded the streets in swirls and eddies of light and shadow. With it, the loud barks, croaks, and hoots of the wild echoed off the sides of hulking, bulky monsters - eyes lit with the inner fires of flickering fluorescents. Or incandescents. Silhouettes crossing LCDs playing fake realities.

Six blocks. Knees high, stride long; arms pumping. My sneakered feet hitting concrete with audible thumps. Eyes scanning ahead for cracks and buckles. I couldn't afford a fall. I wished for the moon, but it hid its face from my plight.

Sweat gathered on my brow. I went off my pace for a breath to wipe salt water away from my eyes.

Four more blocks. Breath stuck in my lungs, rattling. Refused more air. Like if old Jim, the really over-weight guy on the next block, sat on my chest and cinched a wide belt around my ribs. Air came and went in great huffing, panicked gasps.

Suffocating. No way I would make it.

Two blocks now. My joints screamed; long disused from sitting hours on the couch playing videos games or at my desk mesmerized by the web. Knees popped. Hips stuttered. Each pounding step, my ankles would surely shatter.

Vision pin holing. Steps faltering. Nothing but the slow motion huff, huff of rattling lungs and thump, thump of pounding feet.

Half a block. Almost there, I thought in the back of my mind - the detached part that watched in abstract third person. Labored breath, slipping joints, incinerated muscles - black, fear driven flight.

My house loomed. Gloomy creature with half lidded eyes.

I leaped with final desperation onto the porch; turned toward my pursuers, half crouching. But they were gone.

I stumbled, wheezing, but relieved, through the door to safety.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Six to Nine

"Today's prompt is going to focus on a random word generated Prompt-and-Share centering on plot. The rules will be a little more strict, please adhere to them, they are there for YOU to learn how to work your creativity within certain guidelines.

#1 -At least one character
#2 – A conflict AND a resolution
#3 – Give us a setting
#4 – Your story must include the 3 random words chosen
#5 – No more than 500 words please
#6 – Have fun with it! Today’s random words thanks to


Not sure if I adhered to the rules very strictly, but at past 1am, this is all I got. 386 words.

"Eddy said to observe the number six when it strikes midnight," Mel said.

"Whaddya suppose that means?" Sam scratched at the beginnings of a pubescent beard.

"I dunno, but doncha think that antique grandfather clock is kinda creepy?"

"Nah." The older boy refuted it, but he kept glancing sidelong at the distinctive piece that seemed to take up the entire room.

In fact, the imposing clock, brooding in the cheery front room, looked much like a stately gentleman overlooking, with pompous disapproval, the frequent comings and goings of the tight knit trio of long time friends.

"Is it supposed to be haunted or something?" Mel asked, hugging her arms tightly about her midsection.

"I guess so, but you know Eddy's constantly joking around. He's probably trying to scare you." Sam elbowed her arm. "Besides, it's hours til midnight"

Mel forced a laugh. "Yeah. You're probably right." She adjusted the wire framed glasses on her nose. "Where is he anyway? He should've been back by now."

"We should've went with him. You know if Casey's working, he'll loiter."

Mel rolled her eyes. "I think I saw her car on the way home from school."

Before Sam could say anything, Eddy's mom emerged from the hall, her footsteps drummed the wood floor in a quick staccato beat. "Hey kids."

"Hi, Mrs. Sellers," they both said in unison.

"Did Eddy hijack the car again?"

"Yeah, he went down to the corner store to get a two liter," Mel said. "But he's taking his time."


"Yep," Sam confirmed.

"Figures," Mrs. Sellers shook her head.

"I guess we should go ahead and leave," Mel said. "We'll catch him later."

"Before we go," Sam said. "What did Eddy mean about the clock?"

Mrs. Sellers laughed. "About the six?"

"Uh huh."

"I inherited it from my uncle recently. It’s pretty old, so some of the numbers are a little loose and I haven't gotten around to fixing them yet. When the old thing chimes, the reverberations jostle the numbers and the six will sometimes invert or fall off completely. Did he try to make it into a ghost story?"

"Sorta," Mel said.

"I won't tell him I told you." Mrs. Sellers winked then strode to the kitchen.

"We're so getting him back," Sam said.

Mel grinned, walking toward the door. "For once."

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Sage Advice

"We all know how important the first sentence is to any story, it grabs the reader and pulls them in. We've been taking the first sentence of famous novels and writing our own little stories with them. Today we are gonna steal from F Scott Fitzgerald's, The Great Gatsby .

In 500 words or less, write a short story/flash fiction starting with this as your opening line: In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since."

I don't really have much to say about this other than I feel I've written better. However, part of this exercise is in the process and practice of writing under specific conditions that will hopefully, over time, increase quality.

So with that in mind, 480 words:

In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since.

“Don’t bury a hatchet in a pile of shit.” I recollected his stern, serious face imparting his oft perplexing wisdom.

At 42 years old, I still couldn’t figure out what the hell he meant by those cryptic words any more than my 12 year old self. Wide eyed as if I’d received the secret to life itself, but too afraid to ask for what it meant other than the obvious.

I had my theories, of course. Dismissed them one by one as experience taught me all the really important life lessons. If you fall, get back up. You reap what you sow. Don’t put the cart before the horse. Those truisms that resonate throughout time and circumstance.

I glanced over at Dad. 83 years wore a body down. The man I knew from my youth faded into the skeletal figure hooked up to all the wonders of modern medicine. Wires and tubes sustaining him even against nature and the body’s will. The subtle, yet incessant beeping, a testament that his heart still beat. The soft buzz and whirl and breath of mechanized life creating a helpless cyborg of the person who I always thought invincible.

A marrow deep sorrow cloaked me in a blanket of melancholy so heavy I couldn’t even mourn the loss of such a great man. Tears and sadness could wait until later. I stood and went to the window. The view below offered nothing but the coarse, monochromatic gravel roof of a lower level. The sky above, however, nearly radiated with the purest azure I’d seen in a long time. Or maybe it’d been too long since I noticed.

I turned away from a day so perfect it seemed to mock my heavy heart. I returned to the uncomfortable wood and vinyl chair and reached for Dad’s frail hand.

“Dad,” I started. My eyes focused on the space of nothing between us. “I don’t know if you can hear me, but I my whole life…” I swallowed. Closed my eyes.

“Son?” A mere breath of a whisper I almost didn’t hear.

I half stood and bent forward, not believing he’d roused.

“What did you mean?” I asked urgently. “What did you mean by ‘don’t bury a hatchet in a pile of shit?’ I have to know.”

He wheezed and coughed, grimacing; his eyes pinched. I leaned in closer and realized he was laughing. I waited until he settled. I thought for a moment he’d fallen back asleep, but his cloudy eyes reopened.

“What it means…” He took a rattling breath. “…is don’t bury a hatchet in shit.”

“That’s it?”

Only the long steady beep of a flat line replied.

I shook my head in wonderment. Still the same, even at the very last.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


The prompt:
"Today we are going to work on a sense I learned from taking the free writers course on F2K. The sense of the unknown.
We are going to keep this one short, 300 word count. Focus on a conflict and a resolution, but give us a sense of the unknown. Like wondering what's behind that closed door, if your character doesn't know, neither should we. What lurks in the dark? Who is hiding in the closet? What will their husband do on their anniversary this year - provide a sense of the unknown!"

300 words doesn't leave any wiggle room; I'm normally fairly verbose... almost to the point of being purple. ;P All I had to start myself off with this was one word that popped into my head while I stared at the blank doc.  

The stagnant night air clung to sweating bodies milling in confusion at the sudden darkness. Outside, the inconstant wind ruffled the snapping canvas, weaving that fabric’s musty scent with too strong perfume, perspiration and something else that smelled off.

“Jamie!” I shouted above the loud swell of panic that jostled me from all sides.

My heart beat a fierce tempo. My stomach twisted in knots. On the other side of the huge vendor’s tent, a piercing scream cut through the rising chaos.

For a moment, dead silence. Not breath, nor movement. Nothing for that eternal instant.

Then hell happened.

A tsunami of flesh pushed against me. I stumbled, caught myself on a tangle of limbs and clawed my way back upright. A body went down. Another. Lost under a hundred trampling feet. A scream tore from my throat as I was carried forward.

I choked on air so thick I could almost swallow it. The press of slick skin crushed my bones and the heat held under the thick lid of canvas turned us all into the contents of a giant pressure cooker.

Then I was out. Spilling onto the ground as the ones behind spurted from the narrow, cut slit as I had. I crawled from under heavy bodies and stomping feet. Struggled until I somehow pulled myself away, off to the side.

Flat on my back, I stared up at the midnight sky so perfectly clear in the absence of light. Grim sounds of terror faded away into the distance. Breath stuttered as I drew it in. Tears flowed into my hair.

I learned later that Jamie went down with the first surge. It could’ve been me. Should’ve been.

They say a transformer blew. I’m not sure what I believe anymore. I still hear that scream on quiet nights when sleep eludes me.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Make a wish.

Today's Prompt:

"Everyone has a birthday right? Well, of course they do. So when is your character's birthday? Do their characteristics match their zodiac signs? Take your character through one of their birthday celebrations (Or tell a story about your own), whether it was last month or twenty years ago. 500 word count limit pretty please."

Since I'm working on The Winter of the Birds, (the sequel to The Summer of the Frogs), I decided to use Claire as a guinea pig for this prompt. :) 462 words.

The thing about birthdays is people use them to mark the passage of time. And time, for me, is irrelevant. It doesn’t flow in a straight line, but splits in a brilliant bursting of many singular possibilities creating infinite universes as each moment skips along.

Though this reality tied me to it most securely, if I closed my eyes, I could see everything. As one might look down into a pool. Or at a shattered mirror on the floor.

But I humored them. The ones that could see and the ones who couldn’t. Mom, Sebastian, Gerald, Tommy, Andy, Mara. All of them.

And me too.

Honestly? No way I was going to pass up a chance at cake. Not when two layers of chocolate-y goodness had my name all over it.


It said, “Happy Birthday, Claire!” in my favorite color of green across the top of rippling chocolate icing. The letters framed by a circle of ten white candles that flickered waiting for me to make a wish.

I laughed and smiled as they sang and I blew out tiny flames, then danced around the table, skipping like a child in our small eat-in kitchen while Mom cut the cake into neat triangles. Twirling between my brother and my beloved. Bouncing in figure eights with my friends as poles. They laughed along with me. Happy, I think, that this latest batch of drugs seemed to be working.

When the cake was eaten and everyone long gone, I lingered at the little square formica table. Hesitant to release the festive mood that filled our usually somber house.

My brother, Sebastian, touched my shoulder on his way by. “Good night, sis. Happy birthday,” he said again before trotting up the stairs to his room.

I smiled a crooked smile and heaved a sigh. Pushed away from the table and stood for a moment looking around for all the tiny pieces of evidence of my birthday party. The leftover cake under a tent of plastic sat on the counter. A bit of red and blue paper peeked out from the trash can. Plastic forks in the sink that Mom would later wash and put away.

My gaze landed finally on Tommy who stood patiently, as always, in the shadows waiting for me. I reached out a hand which he took.

“Happy birthday,” he said and kissed the back of my hand before releasing it.

“Thank you.” I said. “But do you have to go?”

“You know I do.”

I frowned and crossed my arms. Looked away so he wouldn’t see me scowling. I huffed and turned back to him once my face straightened out. He was already starting to fade away.

I swallowed hard and smiled bravely. “Next time?”

He nodded and was gone.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Just One Drink...

The lovely Nina Pelletier hosts a prompt and share flash fiction circle on Google+. I hope to participate more frequently this next year. For the prompt on Friday, Dec. 2nd:
"You or your Main Character went out the night before, they remember having one drink, and then nothing else. You or your MC wake up and need to piece together where they are and how they got there."

This was my contribution, (553 words):

I woke. Coughing, choked on the frothy phlegm that spewed up from raspy lungs. Bitter contents from my stomach swirled with it into a potently foul mixture. I folded over and gagged. Steam rose off my too hot skin and from the mucus-y puddle at my knees. A foaming crystal pond on a land of black asphalt. The angry glare of a red street light created rhodolite gems from the bubbles.

I closed my eyes. Leaned into the side of an unforgiving building. Bricks, course and biting, chewed into my bare skin. Chill air sucked the heat away; I shivered. To such a low place I'd arrived. But how? I hugged myself. Nails dug into my arms. Jaw clenched around another wave of futile nausea.

I groaned and squeezed myself more tightly. What the hell had happened? My brain, sluggish, refused to divulge anything. I squinted into the red lit darkness. Halos and strings jumped around dimly shaped objects. Nothing looked right. Where was I?

Panic like the creeping of an easy tide swelled under my skin. Clamped like brutal hands, finally, around my throat. I struggled to stand. Bits of my skin scraped between brick teeth as I clawed my way up to wobbly feet.

"Need help?"

I turned. A shadow monster offered an outstretched hand. I backed up. Nearly fell. The shadow stepped to the edge of the light. I blinked. Blinked again.

The light behind me soaked into eyes that reflected nothing. Soulless pits of endless night. I shook my head. I tried swallowing, but gagged again.

A grin split the shadow face. Gleaming teeth like a neat row of blades. Growing larger as the figure neared. I pissed down my leg. Too scared for humiliation.

"Let's get you home.” It grabbed my arm and pulled me further down the alley. "I can't believe you got so fucked up with just one shot." The creature from the deepest parts of hell, twisted and coalesced as we broke free from the dark. Transformed in an instant into a face I knew well.

I laughed. A hoarse cackling that bounced down the corridor of hungry teeth and hell-spawned shadows. Bursting out into the open where the open sky gathered sound and cast it back in echoes, mockingly.

Just one shot. "No," I sputtered. Slumping finally into a warm cavern of plastic and glass. My head lolled to the side. "Not just."

The familiar face boiled and melted away. Revealing again the demon beneath. I slipped further down as my numb limbs refused to submit to my commands.

"Shit," the demon spat. Venom dripped off dagger teeth. "Someone fucking drugged you! Son of a bitch!" Words like the ringing of metal on metal.

My heart wild in my chest. Beating. Beating. Becoming all I could hear. Fire scalded along every tiny vein. My skin sizzled. Air, shards of glass down my throat until there was nothing left to breath. My arms leaden; I could only clench my hands in a final desperate panic. True dark robbed my vision; I tried to see, but there was nothing. Just the unbearable heat of a thousand fires burning in my gasping lungs, in my swelling eyeballs and finally in the spectacular burst of an exploding sun in my brain.

Just one drink... and I was dead.