New Site and Feeling All Right!

Hey, Hey everyone, hope you are enjoying the new site. There are a lot of things that need tweaking still, but just owning my domain makes me feel like I am moving forward. While moving things around I remembered that the original intent of my blog was to tie my writing into my experiences with running, well I haven't been doing that. Still running though and my goal for 2014 is, in fact, still 500 miles.  I will do a full update soon, but for now here is the short story I submitted for another 24 hour writing contest.

Here was the prompt: 

He walked among the market stalls, pretending to ignore the whispering and giggling women. His relaxed demeanor, handsome features, and ready smile meant no female in the town missed his weekly sermons and the church's coffers were overflowing of late.
Feeling a touch on his sleeve, he turned and his smile disappeared. Looking first left and right, he angrily spat, "I told you to never speak to me again!"

She blinked, her long lashes brushing her cheeks, and said, "But, I need to talk to you." Leaning closer, she paused, and lowered her voice. "You see, I'm..."

And what I wrote: 

Isaiah 34:14

Isobel watched him from behind the fresh fruit stand, heart racing and temper flaring. With his arrival into town earlier that year, the new priest promised to bring wealth to the city and homes for the destitute. She had always been inclined to dislike any person that took favor so easy. The congregation grew weekly, as did the whispers.

Albeit, he was handsome, but he preened at his reflection in the polished silver of a nearby shop. His vanity made anger burn at her neck, until she was distracted by a beautiful woman trailing slightly behind him. The stranger’s almond eyes were a slash of black against ivory flesh, and though streaked with gray, her hair flowed like spilled ink over her shoulders. Likely, she was another wealthy widow hoping to confess her sins in the confines of his elaborately furnished office.

The young cleric paled when the woman made herself known. The crowds of the bazaar helped keep Isobel hidden, but their loud conversations masked whatever harsh exchange occurred between the man and his, presumably, scorned lover.

Isobel crept closer.

“You see, I’m here to collect my debt.” The woman’s words were melodic and threatening.

A sheen of sweat covered his normally confident face, “There is only so much I can do without gathering unwanted attention.”

He glanced over his shoulders and Isobel shrank back behind the protective awning, out of his line of sight. She knew that man had been up to no good from the moment he blew into town and swept the women off their feet. When Isobel had aired her worries to her sisters, they scoffed at her immaturity and said that she would understand when she was older. But she was not so naive to think they met up for prayer when they snuck out in the middle of the night.

“That is not good enough.” The beautiful woman reached a hand up and brushed his cheek, only a slight tremble gave his sins away.

“As you wish. Follow me,” he relented.

The dubious couple began walking and Isobel followed in the shadows like a church mouse. The sun had set and she struggled to keep up, stumbling upon deep ruts in the dirt. They left the town square, passed humble shacks, and crossed a recently plowed field, until they entered the forest.

After walking straight uphill for twenty minutes, Isobel was ready to give up. The moon glowed fat and orange for the harvest, as if to help light her steps in dark of night, but she wouldn’t be able to keep the pace much longer.

As fear began to seep in with the autumn chill, a light flickered to life up ahead. She walked until she reached a clearing where the flames of a fire licked the sky. Distracted by curiosity, she forgot about the priest until he grabbed her and cupped her mouth, muffling her screams.

“I’ve got her.” He said calmly, as he dragged Isobel kicking and screaming towards the fire. “Thought she was so sneaky. Think you could catch us in the act, did you little bird?”

Isobel’s eyes rolled like a feral horse as she searched for help, praying he wasn’t corrupt enough to hurt a young girl. As naked as a babe, the woman stood waiting for him in front of the flames that blazed twice her height. Isobel bit the priest’s hand and stomped his foot, forcing him to release her. He cursed the Lord’s name in vain.

“Leave her be,” the woman said in a flat tone, “she’ll learn the ways soon enough.”

The heat reflected in his eyes as he moved toward the woman, and his hands fumbled with buttons. Isobel flushed as he his mouth kissed all over the woman’s body. She turned away.

At first she thought it was a trick of the shadows, but soon it was clear they were not alone. Dozens of women stepped from the trees that circled the couple. Each was dressed in a long cloak that hid their face, but did nothing to cover the swell of their body, ripe with the fruit of womb.

Isobel returned her attention to the lovers, wondering if she should warn them, but there was no need. The beautiful woman was fully aware of the company. She grabbed a handful of the man’s hair as he knelt in front of her, and pulled his head back, forcing him to look into her eyes.

“Your time here has come to an end. You have served your purpose, and our town will continue to prosper.” The woman held an arm out to gesture to the surrounding crowd. “We thank you for your sacrifice.”

A knife Isobel had not seen was brandished, and in one swift movement, drawn across his neck. His body crumpled forward and twisted so his face was directed at Isobel. 

The blood pulsed out from the garish wound, soaking the earth. Isobel stared into eyes frozen wide with shock.

A smile spread across her face, as all the women cried out to the night. The men never did last long in their town.  

Happy All Hallow's Eve Eve!

Okay so I haven’t even posted since I mentioned submitting my story, which boggles my mind. And also this week is November! Well it’s been so long that the results came out today and I got another Honorable Mention! (http://www.writersweekly.com/contest/fall13winners.html) I told myself that I had to do at least as good as last time, and I did so that’s good. I just know that I could have tried a little harder. But, just like when I was in school, I have a way of talking myself out of editing because I am convinced it’s going to be filtered too fine and lose what makes it me. That’s rubbish. Revise, revise, revise. So next writing contest I am going to take my time instead of writing it and tossing it out there like a hot potato. In other news, I will not be blogging again most likely until December. As you know November is NaNoWriMo and I take it very seriously (for a MS nobody will ever read). Although, I did just read a "pep talk" by one of my favorite authors Rainbow Rowell and she said her novel Fangirl (that I literally just finished this week) was her 2011 NaNoWriMo novel. She talked about never leaving the bubble of your writing – I get that.  So that gives me hope. Gathered, she had two novels published at that point, but details.

Here's the thing. After November I will have written almost 5 complete MS. That is awesome but also totally ridiculous. I want to tell myself no more writing until I start revising but writing is the thing that keeps me alive so that is just not an option. But I do need to reevaluate my priorities. I need to start editing. To be honest, I'm thinking of Mara again. She is my first love and I can’t ever seem to get her out of my brain. Sure, it was my first MS and it is pretty painful to read, but that story is so much what I like to write. My other MS feel like experimentation in genres, but Mara feels like me as an author.

Anyway, I will try and at least do an update at some point this next month. But until December first I live on the chant, 2K a day!!

 

Current Song: "Normal Person" by Arcade Fire

The Warmth

Happy Fall! The smell of chile roasting hangs in the air, the breeze blows cooler, and even though the day still burns hot, fall has arrived here in the sunny Southwest.

In honor, here is my submission for WritersWeekly.com’s 24-hour Short Story contest, Fall 2013.

I don’t think it is as strong as my submission for the summer context, but I’m happy to chalk it up to experience.

Enjoy.

 

The Warmth

 

She would have opened her eyes immediately, if not for the sand caked on her face. It crusted in the corners of her eyes, her nose and mouth, collecting like flies to rotting flesh. Her hand reached out for someone who wasn’t there.

The shock of being alive energized her as she wheezed a giant breath in. She propped herself onto shaking arms as great, rattling coughs heaved through her body. Her lips were as cracked and flaking as the desert floor surrounding her. Her clothes were torn and stained brown, but she was alive. Running her hands through her matted brown curls, she pushed her malnourished body to stand.

Her sister’s absence left her half empty.

Endless miles of heat shimmered off the hard clay ground, blurring on the horizon like waves so she couldn’t tell where land ended and sky began. She turned in a circle, noticing the few cacti and bushes cast almost no shadow. She would have many hours of daylight for her journey home. Willing her legs, she took one labored step after another until her body was finally able to move like it did before. Grains of sand filled her shoes and rubbed in between her toes as she trudged.

Hunger ripped apart her belly. The exposed areas of her flesh were red and angry from the relentless sun. There was not even a wisp of white in the blue, not even a hint of a breeze. A slight smile lifted her lips, they would be so happy to see her.

She just needed to get higher.

A shuffling to her left grabbed her attention. An ink black scorpion froze when her eyes spotted it only a few feet away. Its barbed tail poised in the air, while vicious pinchers clicked loudly in the midday heat. She blinked at it, sparing no energy to be alarmed, it scurried away into the shelter of a pale green sagebrush plant.

The sun was much lower on the horizon by the time rocks and pines replaced the sand and brush. The air already warned of dropping temperatures. It would not be long until the cool relief plunged into unbearable chills. It mattered little what happened to her body, so long as she could reach the cabin. The image of her sister’s smile warmed her enough. From their petite frames and pale skin, to their deeply slanted eyes, her sister was almost identical, only two years younger. Even their birthmarks were reflections of the other when they stood cheek to cheek.

The forest grew dense and a branch reached out to snag her. As she unhooked her shirt, she noticed a small white scar on her side in the exact spot. Chills shook her body as she climbed, but she kept moving. The setting sun cast a hauntingly beautiful glow through the leaves of changing trees. Her body moved slower than expected so that too soon even the sun was gone and only faint moonlight gleamed a hint of the ground ahead of her. She could be blind-folded and still find a way back to her family.

The relief of seeing the cabin’s weak halo of light was so intense she fell to her knees. A groan must have escaped her lips, because shortly after, her sister’s sweet trill rang through the air, calling for their mother.

A moment of panic enveloped her until she saw her sister run out to her with open arms, her white gown streaked after like a flash of wings. Tiny arms wrapped around her neck and she sobbed into her sister’s hair surprised there were any tears left to cry.

A disturbing twinge of deja vu pulled at the back of her mind in warning. She had been so anxious to be home, so eager to get back to her sister, she thought of little else on that day’s journey, but now that she was here harsh memories came flooding back.

She moved to get away, but what was once a comforting embrace from her sister was now a stiff arm to hold her in place.

In the doorway her mother’s silhouette held tense, with a long, thin object in her hand.

“Back so soon?” She asked with flat sarcasm.

Unable to find her own voice she stared blankly at her mother, who’s agitation was visible even through the darkness. The woman moved out of the doorway and the blade of an ax glinted in the porch-light.

“Your father’s sin.” Her mother muttered mostly to herself. Her eyes were wide and white, rolling like a threatened horse and her once brown curls twisted wild and silver.

The girl looked up into the eyes she had longed to see, but her sister avoided her gaze.

“Maybe not this time momma? Not right away?” The younger girl’s pleas disappeared into the night.

“Hold her steady now.” Her mother stood undeterred as the blade of the ax sliced through the air.

# # #

She reached out, still half asleep, hoping she’d find her there. Her hands found only scorched earth. She stood up brushing sand off her crusted, bloodied clothes. The heat was unbearable, though comforting in an unsettling way. She glanced to the nearby mountain range with a sense of purpose.

Her heart ached with loneliness as she started her long journey home.

Current Song: "The Warmth" by incubus

On the Radio

Before I start this week’s blog I have to obnoxiously brag about a mini victory - yeah I’m one of those writers now. I didn’t win anything per se (though in my mind it is a huge win) but I did get an honorable mention in the Writer’s Weekly 24-hour short story contest. http://www.writersweekly.com/contest/summer13winners.html

I know it is not much in the grand scheme of things but it was just the little kick in the butt I needed. So Yay!

This is a short story that popped into my head while browsing through Reddit and hearing this little clip I will place at the end. I highly recommend waiting to listen to it until after you read, as to not  sway your imagination.

The party had been a dismal failure. As always Angeline spent more time visiting with the Mr. Whiskers, the  house cat than she did socializing with her peers. It wasn't her fault she found the cat more entertaining than the drunken party-goers. Her best friend had dragged her along but rolled her eyes and insisted on staying when Angeline warned it was time to go. Driving along route 15, her guilt gnawed. She should not have left her friend behind. College party attendees weren't known for their wise decision making skills, and her best friend was already slurring her words as she waved goodbye. Of course Angeline hadn’t had a sip, her mother would smell it on her breath like a shark smells blood.

A glance at her cell told her she had plenty of time to make it home before curfew but only enough battery power to last a few more minutes.  Knowing she'd be unable to live with herself if anything happened to her friend, Angeline decided to turn back, hoping her mother would consider her loyalty while doling out punishment. Then reality set in and she debated what tree to chose a swatch from. The long, flexible branches of the Willow which tended to sting longer, or the hard cracks that came from the oak but tended to leave marks longer.

She drowned out the nagging dread by turning up the radio, senses assaulted by an obnoxious pop station commercial telling her to "turn it up." Her ancient boat of a car required a three-point turn to reverse direction on the scarcely lit back road. She took her time with it, the last thing she wanted was to crash into the ditch. Her arms ached with the effort to turn the creaking steering wheel - this hunker was ten years too early for power steering...or power anything. She was lucky to have FM radio.

As she straightened out, she spotted a dirt road heading East that she didn't see the first time past, or ever that she could remember. Knowing so many of these roads connect to others she figured she could save herself a good twenty minutes by taking a short cut. She briefly thought about verifying with her GPS but it was more important to conserve the little battery she had left and chances were this road wouldn't be mapped anyway.

The old car bumped along. Squeaking shocks and grinding gears drowned out only by the radio and the wind blowing through her hair. A song she already heard at least four times at the party started and she rolled her eyes. As she moved her hand towards the dial to change the station the song hummed into a fit of static. She pulled her hand back and clarity returned. It wasn't the first time the rust bucket's radio played tricks. She smacked it once on top, then turned it off and back on three times all without taking her eyes off the dusty trail. That usually did the trick and sure enough the crappy pop ballad returned.

The road narrowed a bit, encompassed thickly on either side by corn fields that seemed to grow taller the further she drove. Worried that she may have accidentally turned onto private property and imaging an angry farmer barreling after her with a shot gun, she slowed down to decide what to do next. As always when she felt lost, she turned down the radio. Her hand didn't make it to the volume nob when something odd happened.

The static returned but this time so deafeningly loud her shoulders shot up to protect her ears. The white noise was overlaid on an electronic beeping; an aural cacophony equivalent to nails on chalkboard. She fumbled at the knob though it had no effect. Even smacking the console several times did nothing but cause her to swerve. Soon the shrill static relented but its replacement was far worse. The silent summer night was filled with a crackling rendition of Pop Goes the Weasel, as if played on an old record player. A song that brought her so much joy as a child blaring from the horn of an ice cream truck now haunted and sent shivers up her spine. Heavy dread scratched at her chest. The car's engine died, the lights shut off, and the car drifted to a slow clunking stop.

"No, no. Not now." Her shaking hands tried and tried but the engine wouldn't even turn.

Somehow the radio still played, glowing as though alive. The children's tune changed to a methodical beeping, somehow ancient and familiar sounding like the dusty fax machine at the library had squawked from time to time. She strained her neck to listen to the sounds that came between the beeps. Drowned out whispers, ancient chanting and humming all on top of each other. Her heart raced out of control.

Her phone! It had been tucked safely under her leg this whole time. She pulled it out and let out a loud sob as she watched the light of life flicker off. It flashed a warning sign to charge before the screen went black.

Another sob forced out of her when the noise on the radio changed yet again. A small girl’s voice, far away at first became clearer as though she walked toward Angeline. She was speaking in a harsh foreign language she recognized as German.  A few words she remembered from a class taken in high school jumped out at her. The girl was saying numbers. Over and over in a saccharin voice, jarring against the scene that surrounded. The voice repeated a seemingly random sequence of numbers for what felt like a very long time.

"Zehn. zwei. Sieben. Drei. Vier. Funf. Sechs. Acht. Neun. Eins. Neun. Vier. Zehn." On and on the young girl repeated as Angeline pulled at her hair. Just as she began clawing at the radio to rip it out, the voice stopped.

Everything around her went silent. Even the warm, summer air shifted through tall stalks of corn without making a rustle. She let out a sigh. Then she giggled at her own school girl foolishness.

Turning the key in the ignition, her engine struggled to life. It whined as it strained against an invisible force.

“Come one. Come on.”

She slammed her hand against the dashboard when nothing happened.

The voice returned, and without thinking she glanced towards the radio, only it wasn’t on. The car was little more than scrap, but the girl’s sweet voice chimed through the air. It came from beside her, through the crops. It called sweetly still reciting numbers with a purpose Angeline could never guess at.

Faster than she ever though possible she rolled up her window. The voice stopped once again. She sobbed, wishing she had never left her home in the first place, praying her mother would help her.

The silence calmed her until the sobs transformed to sporadic sniffles. She tried the car again. It turned! Miracle of miracles the engine hesitantly sputtered to life.

She put the car into gear, cheeks still wet with tears and relief relaxing her shoulders.

Then she heard the numbers again, only this time the cooed softly from the back seat.

Too terrified to turn her head, Angeline stared straight ahead as ice cold fingers brushed through her hair and tickled the base of her neck.

“Drei. Zwei. Eins.”

A stout, fat police officer surveyed Angeline’s car off route 15 the next day. The car managed to wrap itself almost completely around the thick trunk of an oak tree and reeked of alcohol. Angeline’s body was found several yards away.

"Damn these kids. Don't their parents teach them better?" His voice, gravely with pity cursed as he bent down and examined her body, knowing he'd find no pulse. In the distance the car radio finished an irritating pop ballad before silencing forever.

Creepy link taken from Reddit.

http://m.soundcloud.com/brian-rickman-1/star-interference-8-26-13

Okay, Okay it was a prank. Still creepy no?

Current Song: Natalie Merchant, “Life is Sweet”

24 Hour Fiction Contest

I submitted my first short story to a writing contest! YAY! Here is the contest (now closed): http://www.writersweekly.com/misc/contest.php

The prompt seems to be gone now so I’ll put that first. I actually found the prompt a little difficult, maybe because I went in expecting less rather than more. They delivered a whole scene. Either way it was fun!

Holding the sleeping infant on her shoulder, she gazed peacefully at her surroundings. Tourists wandered in and out of stores, an old man was setting up his easel by the lakeshore, and a child's balloon escaped into the breeze. A moment later, she looked up as shouts startled her and the baby. Everybody was running in her direction...

And here is what I submitted.

A Mother's Love

Anna scrolled through her phone’s contacts desperate to find an eligible name she may have missed.

“Damn.” She muttered as tears prickled her eyes.

Absentmindedly she rocked the stroller back and forth in the crook of her nicest heels. Her cuticle was raw, but she continued to gnaw as she watched the waves tumble to the lakeshore before receding. A boy screamed as a girl released his balloon into the air.

“Anna?” a man’s voice shook her from internalizations.

“Gary! Hi.” She stood to casual-hug a man dressed in khaki shorts, a Hawaiian shirt and Birkenstock's.

“You doing okay?” His brows crinkled with concern.

“Not really. I have an interview in-” she glanced at a watch with a strap worn thin. ”Twenty minutes and my sitter just backed out. I have nobody to watch her.” She gestured to the stroller that Gary eyed curiously.

“Where’s your interview at?” Gary craned his neck to see inside the stroller, but Anna knew the pink blanket blocked his view. It was weird to her how many perfect strangers tried to look at her baby. Only minutes ago she shooed away an elderly woman who was determined to get a peek.

“Across the street.”

“I can watch her.”

Gary hesitated on the word “her.”

Anna was taken aback by his offer. Gary was an acquaintance at best. He was a regular in her circle of friends, but she nothing about him.

“Her name is Cecilia, and I couldn’t ask that of you.” Though even as she said it, Anna felt desperation clouding her views on absolutes. She could never leave her baby with a complete stranger. But that was before. Before she was two payments behind on almost all her bills. Before she had been a single mother.

“I was just going to sit here and read for a while. It sounds like she is sleeping contently and if anything happens I will cross the street and come get you.”

Anna glanced her watch again. She couldn’t believe she was even considering this. What sort of mother leaves their child with a man they hardly know? Desperation had backed her into a corner.

“I don’t know. Don’t take this the wrong way but I hardly know you.”

He nodded like he seemed to understand. Half his mouth pulled up into a crooked grin while Anna studied his face for some clue as to the man beneath.

“Okay. I can’t believe I’m saying this but okay.”

Her mind flashed to a vision of horror as it often had in the last two months. She saw Gary holding her precious Cecilia, smiling down lovingly as she cooed in his arms. Around him tourists shopped and children played. An old man was down at the shore painting and a rickety easel. Then suddenly the air would change and the hairs on Gary’s arms would stand straight up. Seconds later the streets would be crowded with screaming people running right at them. Before he could even react a giant wave would crash down on Gary and her sweet Cecilia.

Anna counted back from ten and took a deep breath the way the doctor had instructed before Cecilia was born. She researched online that a lot of new moms envision horrific what-if scenarios.

Gary put a hand on Anna’s arm, “Only if you’re comfortable with it.”

“Right. No, I’m fine. She just ate so she’ll probably just be sleeping. Just leave her in there. Don’t try and take her out.” She sounded sharper than she meant, gently she added. “I just don’t want to wake her.”

He smiled and nodded.

Anna began the long walk across the street. With each step the weight of her choice pulled at her, as though she were attached to Cecilia by a rubberband and would come snapping back at any moment.

She made it to the other side when she realized the mistake she made. He could kidnap Cecilia. He could hurt her or worse. She turned back towards them, but heavy traffic blocked her view. She couldn’t see her baby. Panic seized her chest. Her silk top clung to the sweat dripping down her back. She was a horrible mom. She needed to get her baby, to hold her once more, and feel the familiar weight pressing in her arms. She was on the verge of chaotic tears when traffic cleared and she saw Gary with his back towards her. His hand reached into the stroller.

“No!” she screamed, running across the intersection and barely missing a car that came to a screeching halt.

Gary sat up slowly, the pink blanket clutched in his hand. He turned to Anna as she came running up. His face lost all its jolly glow, now showing only ghastly terror.

“I told you to leave her alone!” Anna screamed and grabbed the blanket to cover her baby back up.

Gary struggled to find words, “This is not okay. You need help.”

She did not hear him.

“My baby.” Anna picked up the swaddled form and clutched it close to her chest. Rocking on her heels, she caressed the boney bundle.

“Listen to me.” Gary stood up and pulled his cell out of his pocket. “I’m going to call the police, they’re going to help you.”

She gathered her belongings as quick as she could. The eyes of the other patrons watched her. Judged her. She ignored the small gasps and whispers as Gary’s hushed baritone reported her. She pushed the stroller away, walking first then running.

“Anna come back!” He yelled after her.

She wouldn’t let them take her baby. She couldn’t lose her, not again.