Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Farm

Jack Wilson bought the farm today.

That’s what he said right before he died.  The strange thing was that he was really happy to die.

No, he wasn’t suicidal.  In fact, he was anything but.  He really cared about the men under his command as the company’s senior NCO.  He genuinely wanted to make sure as many of them as possible got back home safely.  He just didn’t care what happened to him.

Jack and I had been friends since elementary school back in Medford, Massachusetts.  We hung out together right up until college.  I became an officer through Navy ROTC.  Jack enlisted and we both ended up in Korea, as part of a joint command when the war started.

We were part of a recon unit that operated remotely piloted vehicles or RPV’s that took off from ships along the coast and could fly over the head of the enemy silently, without the noise of a helicopter rotor or a jet engine.  We sometimes fired Hellfire III missiles from the drones to take out high-value targets or heavy concentrations of insurgents.  Jack’s job had been to go into the field to retrieve downed drones before the North Koreans could get their hands on the technology. 

Jack’s parents had died a few years ago, he had been an only child and had no immediate family.  Add in that, thanks to his mother and the after-effects of her horrific divorce, he had been an agnostic since grade school and no one could really blame him if he’d lost all hope.  He didn’t, though and I knew the reason. 

The day after Jack died in the ambush set near the wreckage of one of the drones, I sat in the command building that had once been a police station.  As the company commander, I had the unenviable task of getting the company past his death.  He’d been a tough NCO but also one who genuinely cared about those under his tutelage

As I sat there behind that desk and thought of Jack’s last words – “I bought the farm” -- I thought of the one reason why he’d say such a thing -- Suzette Lincoln. 

I hadn’t thought of Suzette in more than 10 years, but it appeared Jack had thought of her a lot.

She had been a school mate of ours back in Medford and Jack had this crush on her. But, Jack was a jock who was supposed to stay away from a plain Jane like Suzette, with her mousy black hair and her average figure that blossomed much later than the other girls. 
She hung out with us – me and Jack and my girl at the time Alicia – only because we all lived on the same block.

I knew she desperately wanted friends.  That was because her dad was an inventor and so eccentric that most of the neighborhood laughed at him.  The kids rarely went to Suzette’s house because we didn’t know if her dad was going to accidentally blow it up like he’d doe to his garage.

So, we maintained the status quo until our senior year.  Suzette pined for attention and Jack hid his affection.  When we were all together, he pretended not to pay any attention to her.

That was, until she began missing school.

I was shocked when I found out that Suzette had a mutant cancer strain.  Medical science had done wonders in the previous 20 years to wipe out cancer.  I thought God really had it in for some people.  Being an avowed agnostic, Jack disagreed with me and chalked it up to fate.

Jack really changed after that hard news.  We all did in a way.  Suzette was an outsider to us, someone hanging on our coattails, but she was a classmate.  We all thought we’d live forever.  We weren’t supposed to die.  There were things we still had to do – graduation, class reunions, weddings, college.  And why did it always seem to happen to the nice ones? 

It was like he’d changed overnight in his sleep.  I missed him on the bus home from school one day in the fall of our senior year.  Lo and behold, when I reached our street, I saw him laughing with Suzette on her porch.  She blushed a little when she saw me looking at the two of them.  Down deep inside, though, part of me was both glad and sad to see her like this.  Glad that she was finally opening up and sad that it had to happen when she was so sick.

Thanks to modern science, she was able to keep her hair and not get nauseous from the new chemotherapy.  That allowed Jack to spend more time with her.  He helped her with her small garden, a precursor to the farm she’d always dreamed of.  He volunteered his free time with her at the hospital helping other patients whose cancers had not yet been conquered by medical technology.  He grew into a man those seven months.

I still remembered their drives.  He’d take his grandfather’s rebuilt Pontiac muscle car and cruise around town with Suzette, showing her off to everyone.  They’d both wear their parents’ old leather jackets and would be laughing like no one else in the world mattered.  They’d look so odd together -- her with a full head of jet black hair despite being sick and him with some fuzz on top of his dome because he’d promised to shave his head if we won the state football championship.

I don’t know how Jack got through graduation.  He should have broken down, but he kept it together.  We all sat in that auditorium watching Suzette make her Valedictorian speech.  It was on three-dimensional video because she’d suddenly taken a turn for the worse right after final exams (she’d been having so much fun with Jack that she’d kept news of her relapse secret from all of us).  I was never one to cry, but I felt myself close to losing it that day.

The funeral for Suzette that June was the largest I’d seen in Medford in a long time.  The entire graduating class, plus most of the school staff and half of our neighborhood crowded the street of her church.  Jack had the honor of making the eulogy.  I wrote it for him, based on his words.  He delivered it flawlessly, which surprised me since he was an agnostic who hadn’t been to any kind of church since his parents’ messy divorce.

I didn’t see him much after that.  He spent a lot of time at the hospital, continuing to volunteer like he’d done with Suzette.  Then, he became withdrawn and was always at Suzette’s house, talking to her dad.

One day as I came back from an errand, Jack called me over to Suzette’s house.  He wouldn’t explain; he just motioned for me to follow him, so I did.  We went to Mr. Lincoln’s basement where even my furtive imagination was stunned by all the advanced computers and technological equipment.  Jack led me over to a machine that looked like an old DVD/CD-ROM player connected to an advanced EEG monitor.  He handed me a pair of what looked like ear buds attached to oversized sunglasses, while he took another pair for himself.

“Come on, let’s talk to Suzette,” he said.

I knew people reacted differently to death, but I’d never expected Jack to go off the deep end.  He was insistent, so I followed his lead and put the contraption on.  He started talking about how Suzette and something her dad had built.  For my part, I thought of some vague Peter Cushing and I seemed to recall that Cushing’s character was Frankenstein.

Jack pushed some buttons and it was like my whole world changed.  One minute, I was in a laboratory; the next, I was on a farm.  The sun was shining brightly and we were in a field of tall green grass that swayed with a cool, gentle breeze.  I heard some cows moo and when I looked ahead, I saw a large red barn in the distance.  I thought I might have been hallucinating until Jack tapped me on the shoulder and pointed.  I looked and I saw someone leading one of the cows.

It was Suzette!

She turned to us and waved.  I was stunned.  I started to wave but then my vision blurred, I became nauseous and had to rip the glasses off.  When the world stopped turning, I opened my eyes and saw that I was in the basement again.

I noticed that Jack didn’t appear to be in any discomfort.  He had obviously been using this device for a while, enough to be trusted with it.  He’d walked right into the lab without Mr. Lincoln being home and hadn’t set off any alarms.

“It was Suzette,” Jack said, his face giddy and flushed.  “You saw her yourself, so you can be a witness.  Mr. Lincoln hooked her up to this machine just before she died.  She’s in a better place.  She’s in Heaven.”

Maybe Jack had found God again.  If Suzette had imparted that to him, I was more than glad.  But, I was worried more about his mental condition.  Suzette was gone, yes, but he still had a full life ahead of him.

“Jeez, Jack, it’s one of those new encephalographic recordings the Catholic Church is up in arms about,” I told him.  “They use them for terminally ill patients so that their loved ones will see them in better days.  But, the government hasn’t approved them yet because they make you wanna' puke.  Probably never will.  You could get into big trouble for using this, man.  So could Mr. Lincoln for creating it.”

“So what?” Jack snapped.  “Why can’t they understand?  She’s in a much better place.  I just had to know.  She’s on the farm we both wanted to own.  She’s there now and I’ll be there, too.”

I gasped audibly and looked at Jack.  I’m sure my expression was one of horror.  Jack suddenly grinned and slapped me on the back hard enough to make me cough.  He led me out of the basement.

“Don’t worry, Jeff,” he said, wearily, along the way.  “Suicide’s a sin, remember?  I just see this as something to keep me going.”

I didn’t tell anyone about the experience.  I didn’t need Jack cracking up on me if I brought down any condemnation on him.  What he saw wasn’t really Heaven, but if it kept him sane then it could be whatever he wanted. 

“Heaven’s what you want it to be, Jack,” I said to cheer him up.

Jack and I talked a few more times after that but I never mentioned Suzette or the machine again.  We eventually went off to college and then graduate school, occasionally trading phone calls, e-mails and a few letters in which he sounded sullen.  We didn’t see each other again until the war found him as my senior noncommissioned officer.  He looked good, as if the war had somehow propped up his flagging spirits.

I brought myself back to the present and looked around.  I was still alone with my memories.  I thought of Jack’s encephalograph.  They were commonplace now, especially because of the war.  Was his the same as Suzette’s?

I didn’t know if Heaven would be like Suzette’s thought patterns.  Then again, I wasn’t God and maybe Heaven really was what a person made it.  Maybe that thought had kept Jack going all these years. 

I had to admit I really didn’t know much, but there was one thing I did know.  All puns aside, I knew Jack.  And I knew where he’d be now.  On a farm with eternal sunshine, tall wavy grass, a giant red barn, some cows and, most importantly, the only girl he’d ever loved.

Gregory Marshall Smith

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Copyright © 2010 Gregory Marshall Smith

All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, locations, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination, or have been used fictionally. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, locales, or events is entirely coincidental. No portion of this work may be transmitted or reproduced in any form, or by any means, without permission in writing from the author.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Interview with Erin Quinn

Interview with Erin Quinn Author of The Mist of Ireland Series

By Shannan Albright

I want to thank you Erin for taking the time out of your very busy schedule to do this interview. I like so many of your fans find your work rich and compelling. Your characters are alive, complex and truly unforgettable.

Hi Shannan, thank you so much for the interview.  I really enjoyed meeting you at AZ Dreamin’ Reader’s Event.  It was the highlight of the day!

~ Do you have a particular methodology that you use when you begin a novel?
Methodology is too big scary of a word for me. I get shivers every time I think of it.  I come at each book differently, I think.  Sometimes I have very crystal clear ideas about certain scenes or certain characters and I build from there.  I usually spend a few days with paper and pencil, scribbling ideas.  I find stepping away from the keyboard often jumpstarts my creativity and gets me thinking in a less linear manner which I think is necessary in the creation stage.  For me, each time is new and different and I’ve yet to find one single approach that is “my way.”
~Why do you feel so drawn to writing paranormal historical romance?
Wow, great question.  I love the idea of the unknown which brings me naturally to paranormal.  Things that go bump in the night, shadows that take on substance, things that can’t be explained—it all intrigues me.  I also love history and the idea that it repeats itself.  I think that has been a theme in my books almost from the start.    Time, in Erin’s world, is not linear and death is rarely final.  Historical novels make a terrific backdrop for those ideas and so it just seems to go hand in hand for me.
~Which book is your favorite and why?
Of my own books?  Wow, that’s like asking which child I like best.  J  Okay, to date I have to say Haunting Warrior is my favorite Erin Quinn and Echoes is my favorite Erin Grady title.  Why?  I felt with Haunting Warrior that Rory’s story just had to be told and the more time I spent with him the more deeply in love I fell.  I loved the flavor and feel of that story and the redemption that Rory found.  Echoes challenged me in so many ways that I can’t even begin to describe them.  It tells a historical story as well as a contemporary one and weaving those dual plots together was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  I was pleased with the outcome and Echoes went on to win the coveted WILLA award for historical fiction as well as final in many literary awards.  Haunting Warrior, by the way, is also racking up the accolades.  It’s a Readers Crown finalist, a Booksellers Best finalist and a Golden Quill finalist.
~ What inspires you in the creation of your characters? How do they develop?
I don’t do the extensive character sketches that many writers do.  I find them tedious and I get bored with them.  I usually have a few ideas about who and what my characters are when I begin, but the rest, I learn as I go.  I find the actions of the characters draw the picture of who they are and give the story spark.
~How and where do you write? How many words a day is enough? Is writing about routine for you?
I still work full-time so my writing time is squished into very small chunks.  I write 3 days a week, mostly in the hours between 8am-noon.  When I focus, I can turn out about 10-15 pages of first draft per writing session.  I have a spreadsheet with page goals on it and a timeline for how long I have to finish that first draft.  The second draft is usually the most difficult but that’s where I turn on the editor (I hate that bitch) and really go through the story looking at the plot.  It’s at this point that I start sharing with my critique partner too so I’m getting feedback from my own internal editor and from her.  I have yet to find a workable system that allows me to forecast the time it takes to get through the second draft.  If anyone has a system they use for this, please let me know.  It’s usually during this draft that I curse a lot and cry even more.  I always feel like I’ll never manage to pull the story off.  Third draft is where I look at prose, emotion, pacing.  Fourth draft I’m looking for the mistakes (scenes that were cut in round two but threads of them lurking in later chapters, etc).  By the fifth draft I’m usually so insecure about the book that I’m certain my career will end as soon as I send it in.  All of this BEFORE my editor even gets a hold of it.  No wonder I’m neurotic, right?
Influenced?  I would say Stephen King was a huge influence on me.  The man is a genius.  He made us fear dogs, hotels, proms, cars, small towns, soda machines, fire, clowns… (well, I already feared those, but still).  There were many, many romance writers in there that also influenced me but none with the same impact as King.  When I started out, my goal was to write a book that made you scared to turn out the lights while at the same time, made you fall in love.  I’m not a horror writer by any stretch, but I do like to make things dark and it’s just not a story without romance as far as I’m concerned.
~ What books or authors have most influenced your own writing?
~What advice would you give new authors?
I just wrote an article on advice to new authors ( if you’re interested) and in it I say, forget about the business when you start your book.  Don’t worry about who’s going to buy it, read it, review it or represent it.  Don’t worry about anything but telling the story you want to tell.  You can worry every ounce of creativity out of yourself if you try to write and sell at the same time.  Do one and then worry about the other.

~ What do you like to do when you’re not writing? Do you have any hobbies?

I am a bookworm to my core.  I like to read when I have free time.  Strike that—I love to read.  I probably read about 3 books a week.
~What book are you reading right now?
One that I’m not enjoying so I’m not going to tell you the title.  But I just finished Madeline Hunter’s latest series which was delightful regency.  I’m looking forward to reading the next of Ilona Andrews Magic series, just finished Nalini Singh’s Kiss of Snow (love her psy/changelings).  I’m lucky enough to be a pre-reader for Kathryne Kennedy and finished her latest in the Elven Lords series and it was fabulous.  Love Gini Koch’s kick-ass Alien series.  Can’t wait for Jennifer Ashley’s next in her Highland Pleasures (Mackenzies) series.  Sylvia Day has a new series coming out that I’m looking forward to.  I could go on for hours, ha ha.
~ How much of yourself is present in your writing? Do you look back and find that characters possess a little of your own self in them?
I wouldn’t say they possess a little of myself but they definitely possess a lot of what I would be if I could be someone else.
~If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be and why?
Honestly?  Wherever my children are.  I live in Arizona right now and I would love to go someplace cooler, but I will never leave unless my kids do.  I couldn’t bear not being near them.
~What is a guilty pleasure for you and why?
Hmmm….I’m not really sure.  I’m not one for self restraint so if I want to do it, I do it and I usually don’t feel guilty about it either.  Lol.  You might say I live large.  Friday nights can find me at Happy Hour, over indulging.  I’ve been known to awake Saturday with a wee bit of a hangover.  Sunday mornings find me sleeping in and dreading Monday.  Would my addiction to movie popcorn count as a guilty pleasure?  I LOVE movie popcorn and I’ve been known to go to the theater to buy the popcorn and bring it home.  I mix it with peanut M&M’s and diet Pepsi (which of course negates the calories) and I’m in heaven.

~Can you tell us what events you will be attending this year?

Wanted to mention that I’ll be at RWA Nationals this year.  I’m giving a workshop called Set it in Emotion on Wednesday, June 29, 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM if you’re interested.  I’ll also be at the literacy signing and at the Berkley signing.  In addition, I’ll be at RomCon this year in Denver—hosting a cocktail party and on several panels.  It should be a blast!

Erin Quinn and me at Arizona Dreamin

I wish to thank Erin Quinn for such a wonderful interview. Meeting her was the highlight of my trip to Arizona Dreamin.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Restricted Zone

Content advisory: violence.
This is a short story that ties into the world of the Judgment series.

The few seconds Lyric stood frozen, staring at the struggling young vampire, cost her. He was dying. And her mistake held potential death for her and the year old baby squirming in her arms.

Choking on a sob, she jerked her gaze from the juvenile who still writhed on the sidewalk to the half dozen men who’d butchered him.

Why in God’s name had she left the relative safety of the Open Zone and gone into the Restricted Zone of downtown Seattle? She wasn’t na├»ve and knew the danger, and yet here she stood.

“What’s the problem?” A large redheaded man demanded. He held the dripping murder weapon, a huge knife with a serrated blade.

“Hey,” an accomplice said. “She’s one of them.” He leered at her. “A damn fine looker, too.”

Her heart launched into her throat and climbed upward.

Now they all focused on her.

Behind them the juvenile’s struggles had lessened and he lay crying weakly.

Reality shimmered around Lyric and an odd buzzing filled her ears. She fought the light-headedness that threatened a blackout. Her hold on her daughter tightened involuntarily and the baby sputtered and let out a wail.

The baby’s cry snapped her back to her senses. She spun and fled. The men, whooping and shouting, enjoying themselves, ran after her. She silently cursed the nature of her species where the females only had a fraction of the speed and stamina the males possessed. She didn’t have much more advantage than a human woman.

Throat on fire, her side aching, she powered on to outrun her pursuers. The weight of her daughter, Lyric’s large purse, and the overstuffed, ridiculously heavy diaper bag which bounced against her with each stride were taking a toll. She glanced over her shoulder. Oh, Jesus. They were closing the distance. She ran harder.

She didn’t want to die, but her baby’s life was more important, and these butchers wouldn’t spare a child. Especially when humans considered her kind nothing more than intelligent animals. To them, killing her and her baby would be the equivalent of dispatching unwanted, feral dogs.

She glanced back again. The men were gaining on her. A moan came out of her. She wrapped the baby closer and lurched into the darkness of an unlighted alley and called on the last of her strength.

She made it almost to the far end when her foot landed badly and pain shot through her ankle. With her forward momentum, her balance was thrown. A little shriek tore out of her when she lost the battle with gravity.

Rissa. Somehow she protected the baby’s head with her hand and twisted until she took the brunt of the fall. Her head struck the pavers and everything shimmered.
With rage firing through his veins, Mikhal jumped from the fire escape and landed in a graceful crouch, cutting the humans off at the end of the alley. Killing them wasn’t enough. He wanted to make them suffer.

The men stopped and glanced among themselves.

“Well,” Mikhal said and motioned with his hand. “Bring it on, motherfuckers.”
But apparently they only wanted to bring it on when a female or juvenile was involved. They backed up as a group.

“What’s the matter,” Mikhal asked. “Afraid to take on someone capable of defending their self?” He smirked. He would thoroughly enjoy dismantling them.

Mikhal waved them on. “Come on. How about you try knifing me? You seem to like that.”

No one moved.

“Bunch of cowards. Aren’t you?” he snarled.

The men exploded into action.

The first one to reach Mikhal had the knife. His sharp eyes picked out the dark stains on the carved handle. The large man behind the weapon came at him with the blade ready.

Mikhal grabbed the human’s wrist and twisted savagely. The crunch of bone was loud and satisfying. The knife fell and Mikhal kicked it away. He yanked the bastard up close, and with his sharp nails, ripped downward, shredding clothing and flesh.

A shriek tore out of the human. Mikhal slashed his claws across the man’s throat. Blood spurted in an arc, spraying both of them. Mikhal threw him to the pavement.

As the man dropped, a blond avenger took a swing at Mikhal with a metal bar. It connected with his shoulder and he grunted. Snarling, he grabbed and ripped the bar from Blondie’s hand.

The blond, backed away. Mikhal advanced. Another man came forward to aid Blondie. The second man pulled out an electronic vampire control device. Mikhal smirked and went for him first.

The disabling device didn’t even come close to making contact, not that it would have mattered. Mikhal knocked the souped-up vampire tasar from the human’s grasp. Then he grabbed both men and brought them together with skull crushing force. Their heads cracked like over ripe melons. He released them and both dropped like stones.

He grinned at the remaining three men who were busy conferring among themselves.

With a roar he sprang forward. One of the men screeched like a young girl and piss covered the front of his pants. He stood frozen and Mikhal landed on him with a bone breaking impact. The force of his engagement sent them spinning around before they went down onto the pavement.

The other two rushed forward to help their comrade. A blade sank into Mikhal’s back. He barely felt it, and he didn’t falter. As the human withdrew the blade and stabbed again, Mikhal grabbed the downed man’s head with both hands and yanked. The head came free of the body with a wet, grinding sound.

The man who’d stabbed him fell away and dropped the knife. Visibly shaking, he grabbed his remaining companion’s arm and dragged him backward.

Mikhal grinned, showing his fangs. “What’s the matter? Never tangled with one of us who can fight back? Yeah. I know you pieces of shit only prey on females and children. That’s your style.”

The men spun and fled. He let them run. They exited the alley. Then he went after them. They split up. He followed the closest. The bastard looked back then lurched off the sidewalk into the street. Back peddling, he staggered into the path of an oncoming car. Tires squealed. The man missed being clipped by inches. He ran.

Mikhal waited till the human reached the other side and then went after him. Mikhal raced through traffic, ignoring the horns and curses. Ahead of him the man ran with what little he had left. Which was nothing. Mikhal leaped, and landing on the human’s back, took him down. He jumped off the man and turned him over. “I want you looking at me when you die.” He sank his fangs into the bastard’s throat.

A woman screamed. Several people scurried away. Feeding on humans was a capital crime. But then everything he’d done to the men were crimes that carried the death penalty for his kind. Humans could murder them, but they weren’t permitted to fight back. Hate burned through him. Though none of it mattered. Not now.

The man stopped struggling. Then his actions ceased all together. Mikhal had taken enough to do the job. He stood and wiped his mouth, glaring at a few gawkers, daring them to interfere. He had one to go and his work would be done.

He took a long calming breath. His back was wet with cold blood, but his wounds didn’t hurt. He turned and raced back the way he’d come.

He stopped where the men had separated and lifted his head, drawing in a long inhalation, searching for the man’s scent. He picked it up and ran in the direction the human had gone.

 Fifteen minutes later he turned down an alley. The man’s stench hung thick in the air. He tracked the scent unerringly to a metal door. He ripped it open and entered a warehouse. The darkness was thick, but his vision was perfect. The man huddled in the far corner, hunkered down beside a stack of pallets. If he thought he was hidden, he was mistaken.
Lark regained consciousness slowly. The first thing that registered was that Rissa was gone. She struggled into a sitting position. For God’s sake, how long had she been out? Thick fog filled the alley, and she couldn’t see more than a dozen feet in front of her.

“Rissa?” Where was Rissa?

A dark figure came through the fog with Rissa tucked in his arms. He lifted his head and light-headedness almost felled her again.

Long dark hair spilled over his massive shoulders. Lyric stared into his beautiful blue-green eyes. Eyes she knew so well. Her mate’s eyes.

 Tears welled and dripped down her cheeks. She was dreaming or hallucinating. Mikhal was not there. He had been murdered six feet from their dilapidated front porch when she was nine months pregnant. He’d died in her arms as she wailed her sorrow and pain.

She had cleaned his broken body and wrapped him and paid another male to bury him. And she had cried for him almost every day since. He was not there. Mikhal was dead. And she was… alone.

“No. I’m here,” he said. He stroked Rissa’s cheek. “She’s so beautiful. She looks like you.” He stopped before her and held out his hand. She took it and he pulled her onto her feet.

“How?” she asked and released his hand. Her mind swam with the impossibility.

His mouth tightened, then he said. “I refused to go on without you. You and the baby were my entire world.”

“So you came back to be with us?” Her heart thudded.

“No. I couldn’t do that.”

So it was just a lie? She was only going to see him for… Minutes? A few hours? “No! You can’t leave me again.”

“I’m not leaving you. I came for you. And our baby.”

Her lip quivered. “I don’t understand.”

“We’ll be together forever now.”

And as Lyric began to comprehend, a dim light cut through the deep fog at the end of the alley.

With Rissa tucked in his arm, he offered his other hand to Lyric. When their hands locked, she said, “Those men?”

“They won’t harm anyone else.”

She nodded.

“Come. It’s time to go,” he said.


He gave her a little smile, the one that had always undone her. “Into the light. Where there are no more Zones. No more restrictions. You’re free, Lyric. You and Rissa. Free forever.” He tugged gently and she followed.

~ Nickie Asher ~

If you missed any of our previous posts and would like to catch up, you can purchase the Digital Digest Volume I anthology as an ebook for only $.99.

Copyright © 2011 Nickie Asher

All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, locations, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination, or have been used fictionally. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, locales, or events is entirely coincidental. No portion of this work may be transmitted or reproduced in any form, or by any means, without permission in writing from the author.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Patron Chronicles - Part 1

The following work of fiction is an epistolary, a story told entirely through letters. The Patron Chronicles were inspired by C.S. Lewis’s ‘The Screwtape Letters’ and documents the age-old conflict between good and evil. This is an ongoing series.

The Universal Compliance and Violations Department

Dear Mr. Hazelsplat;

It has come to the attention of The Universal Compliance and Violations Department that you are in grave violation of section 6, paragraph 6.6 of the Eternal Humanities Pact, which states:

No entity from the upper or lower realms shall interfere in the natural progression of life in humans under the age of eighteen.

From our records, you’ve racked up numerous transgressions concerning a human named Edgar Pinyon. At age fifteen, Mr. Pinyon falls well within the
Minor’s Act and is therefore protected from all outside interference.

This means you!

Please cease and desist!

Had you been unknown to me, and had this been your first pact breach, I would end the reprimand here. But this is not the case, as we both know. You are a consummate liar and a conniver. If you think to subtly convince young Pinyon to embrace the dark ways by virtues of drugs, sex, and rock n’ roll, you’re in for a rude awakening.

I’m keeping my eye on you and will not give you a moment’s peace until I am certain the young man is free from your toxic influence.
And please do not try to use the excuse, The Devil made me do it. As he well knows, tampering with the underage has been illegal for eons. Ignorance of the law is no excuse.

Please refrain from further manipulation or The Universal Violations and Compliance Department will be forced to take action. Consider this your formal warning.

If you wish to contest the allegations, please submit your statement to me within the next seven days.


Esseus Apollomae
Violations and Compliance Specialist
7th Level

Dear Esseus,

You can’t imagine my surprise upon receiving your letter. It did my heart good to know that you haven’t changed a smidge over the past three centuries and are still wound as tightly as the day we met.

I noticed you’re now a level seven pencil pusher. Congratulations. Either you have diligently climbed the heavenly bureaucratic ladder or puckered up and kissed some serious ethereal ass. No matter, you were always far more ambitious than me.

That brings me to the reason for this letter. Reassurance. I assure you, my dear Esseus, I have neither purposely nor did accidently partake in the corruption of one Edgar Pinyon.

There was no need to. That freewill your boss insists on has produced more desired effects and has served me better than any of my attempts at meddling ever could have. Even you can’t be so dense as to not realize the freewill of a teenager nearly rivals that of God himself.

Arrogant and all encompassing, teenagers act and believe they are the center of the Universe. If the sun rises, it’s for their benefit. If somebody falls ill and disrupts their plans, it’s a personal attack. Always the victim, they believe that surely no other human in history has endured such heavy burdens or suffered such grievous affronts.

When they love or hate, it’s with such single-minded focus that not even my skilled influence could sway them from their course. Though a huge blow to my ego, I must admit, I’ve yet to figure out the illogical and erratic thought patterns of the pubescent humans. They are as confounding to me as your do-gooder ways.
I will admit to being entertained by Edgar Pinyon, but merely as an observer, not a participant. If I had been involved in his affairs, I wouldn’t have found satisfaction with his mere transgression of cheating on his biology test.

No, I would have urged him to steal the test and make copies. My insidious suggestions would have urged him to sell the test to other students for a tidy profit. You would have recognized my delicate touch in the way Pinyon went beyond simply passing the test to actually profiting from his deception.

I would have whispered that there was no need to provide the answers when he had the test. As you and I both know, teenagers will spend ten times the effort trying not to do something they’re supposed to. A fortunate flaw in their character, and one I begin exploiting at the stroke of midnight on their eighteenth birthday.

With my influence, Edgar would have reaped more benefits with the least amount of effort. The situation would have been flawless, a refined ballet of deception and manipulation. Not some foot-pounding line dance performed by a group of unwashed, uncoordinated, beer drinking lumberjacks.

That’s, my dear Esseus, is how I would have controlled the situation.
And since you brought it up, let me take a sentence or two to boast about my position in Hell. The Devil rarely tells me what to do anymore. I have proven my effectiveness and he trusts my judgment in such matters. Perhaps one day you will enjoy the same freedom from your boss.

So, as you can see, Apollomae, your accusations and fears are unfounded. Relax in the knowledge that your rules and regulations are effectively keeping the young population safe from my nefarious hands.

Consider this my official reply to your allegations. I hope we can do this again real soon. Don’t be a stranger.


Demon Extraordinaire and all around great guy

5th Circle
of Hell

Please return August 11, 2011 for the next installment of The Patron Chronicles.

Boone Brux
Paranormal Fantasy Author

If you missed this month’s issues, The Digital Digest Volume I is available through Amazon.

Copyright © 2011 Boone Brux

All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, locations, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination, or have been used fictionally. Any resemblance to actual person’s living or dead, locales, or events is entirely coincidental. No portion of this work may be transmitted or reproduced in any form, or by any means, without permission in writing from the author.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Daria's Dating Dilemma, One

Daria’s Dating Dilemma, Part One

DATING IS HELL. I stared at my computer screen. I was supposed to be working on my weekly report, but the words just popped up. It was true I guessed. When it came to dating I'd been cursed. Not any real curse, just my own clumsy nature. I was jealous of those girls in the movies with easy grace, the ones in real life whose social calendars were full, and everyone with a love life that did not require Energizer. My social calendar did okay, but the events usually meant nights with all my not single friends and a blind date.

They mean well, couples always assume their single friends need a hand. Maybe they think we have a disease, they say single with the same tone as flu. I had a debacle of a setup last night. I guessed he was Clary's choice, all muscle and no brains.

David claimed to work as a model but didn’t remember who he worked for last. He also mispronounced Gucci, an unforgivable sin in my book. Hey, a girl needs standards. I tried to be polite, for my friends’ sakes. He took my friendliness as an invitation. I'd been trying to make my exit at the same time. The combination resulted in him having a bloody nose and me wearing a stained shirt I’d spent a week earning.

I should’ve known better. The way my dates ended I should've worn Goodwill, but I remained forever hopeful, ever the optimist. Most of my closet had been destroyed as a testament to my optimism.

An idea formed as I thought about the damaged gear dating had claimed from me. A dark idea, a way out of the purgatory of dating hell and into the bliss of wedded status. My current social adventures wouldn’t lead down the aisle unless the state of Ohio unexpectedly allowed me to marry my Turbo Rabbit.  A nice thought, but not likely to happen so something had to change.

If I started writing down my misadventures, a pattern might emerge. The list could be my own personal tracking device, an experiment to find out what didn’t work. I mean, if I knew what didn’t work all the remaining options must work… right?

The idea stuck in my head and I became determined to see it through. I emailed the brief notation to my laptop and stole a mini notebook for my purse. I would need to make notes when I dated or hit the town. I remembered whipping out a computer on a date did not equal a turn on. His name was George and he’d been attractive in a suit. Not so attractive in jeans and a shirt, but I would learn this lesson later.

“Daria, are you free tonight?” I should have walked away when he hadn’t let me answer. George was a big shot in a different department and much whispered about in the ladies room. I’d been curious, sue me. “Good, there’s a benefit tonight I need to go to and most everyone has a date. I need someone to come with me… dress for cocktails and I’ll meet you here at six o’clock.”

He’d left me stunned speechless while I tried to think of how to juggle my to-do list. Granted, most people would have told me to stand his pompous ass up, but well, ever the optimist, remember. I had three reports due the next morning and a presentation to finish.

I raced home, picked out a simple cocktail dress with Manolo Blahnik strappy heels, and threw my hair up. I applied a little more makeup while trying to finish the presentation. My eyes tracked the clock, but time ran out before I completed my task. I grabbed my big bag and figuring I could get some work done in the taxi, packed my netbook inside.

By the time I’d pulled up to the office building, I still wasn’t done. When I noticed the classy black sedan waiting, I forgot about work. I climbed out of the taxi as gracefully as I could, which means I probably flashed the bum on the sidewalk, and walked over to the man leaning on the sedan.

“Is this for George Banks?” I asked the person I assumed to be the driver.

“Who?” He had a gruff accent and a rough look. My brain screamed mob for some reason and I backed into the stairs skinning my knee.

George eventually showed in another taxi, waving me in from his comfortable seat. I slid in as he looked me over and almost asked if he wanted an appetizer from my menu.

“You clean up well.”

“Um, thanks.” I couldn’t return the compliment. He wore jeans and a t-shirt, both stylishly distressed but certainly not cocktail attire. “What kind of benefit is this?”

“Some boring one. I got picked to be a model and this is my getup for the night.”

I nodded. So if he worked the crowd as a walking billboard, what the hell was I supposed to do? I nodded appropriately as needed but I still tried to find a way out of the dilemma I found myself in. Work definitely ranked more important than standing around watching a guy model.

I resigned myself to the situation. Then, I congratulated myself on bringing my netbook. Finally, I hoped the end of the night would be worthwhile. He was adorable so maybe I would finally get lucky. My optimism bit me in the butt.

Later I’d regret my decision to stay. He showed me off until he needed to leave for the show. As soon as I gained my freedom, I slinked away to a far table and pulled out my netbook to work. I managed to finish my presentation, but I hadn’t paid attention to the time or the show. George marched over none too happy with me.

“You weren’t watching at all were you? Were you?! I can’t believe it. You know how embarrassing it is to have your escort disappear? I had to walk off the stage alone!”

I blinked at him. “Excuse me?” My supposed participation was a surprise to me. The end of the night idea had been ruined by his designer hissy fit. I packed up my bag and walked away. “If you expect a girl to do something, you should clue her in first…”

And that was the end of George. He didn’t even visit my floor at the building anymore.  He probably feared I’d told everyone about the fiasco. I hadn’t uttered a word to anyone, also too embarrassed by the events.
I paused in the elevator and pulled my pilfered notepad and a pen from my bag. The unscheduled reminiscing provided my first rule.  I flipped the cover open and wrote in my neat script

1. No work on dates and no dates at work.

It made sense the rule would work both ways and since dates at work were not allowed anyway, why not add the rule. As I walked past the ever present bum on the sidewalk outside, I slid him the usual dollar and wrote another gem.

2. No more flashing the bum outside work.

Sure I hadn’t flashed on purpose and only the once, but better safe than sorry. I decided the rule was worth writing as I walked the short distance home. Walking was easier than hailing a cab at this time of day and I wore my comfortable shoes. A lady walked by with her fancy boots and a hidden pained look on her face. Would I want to be like her anyway?

A handsome man bounded up to her and kissed her soundly, mindless of the walking crowd parting around them. I sighed in my unending hopeless romantic way. Yes, I very much wanted to be like her. I took a quick glance down at my own outfit. How would I feel if my Mr. Right stumbled upon me the way I looked right now?

3. No more comfortable shoes. I should always dress like Mr. Right will walk out of thin air.

I smiled and tucked my notepad back in my bag. I walked with my head held high. Not bad, a few hours into my new project and I’d already discovered three truths. Next up, Mr. Right. My phone interrupted my thoughts. Wonderful, the caller id said Maggie…

“Daria.” I answered in my standard greeting; always worried someone would forget me.

“Daria, darling…” I hated the way she drawled my name, making the word sound like diarrhea. She was lucky I let my best friend marry her. I should have kidnapped him and mailed him to Florida. “You must come. Pat will be sooo happy to see you.”

I pictured her having her nose stretched while she spoke and missed the details. Crap. “I’m sorry, distracted by the crowd. Come to what?”

“You’re always so flighty, child. Our place, tomorrow night, six o’clock. Honestly, darling, I don’t know why I bother to find you dates.”

One, she’s two years younger than me and two - I did not want any piece of her date for me. Maybe Pat helped pick him? My optimism reared its ugly head again and roared. I thought about my new project and the insight gained from another date. I sighed dramatically into the phone.

“Yes, I’ll be there.”
Please return for the continuation of Daria’s journey on August 26th, here on Digital Digest.
If you missed any of our previous posts and would like to catch up, you can purchase the Digital Digest Volume I anthology as an ebook for only $.99.

~Jennifer Feuerstein~

Copyright © 2011 Jennifer Feuerstein
All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, locations, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination, or have been used fictionally. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, locales, or events is entirely coincidental. No portion of this work may be transmitted or reproduced in any form, or by any means, without permission in writing from the author.