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Happy NaNoWriMo and other emotions

I got off a to good start with Nano. This weekend killed productivity. I managed at least 1800 words each day, but today I don't think I've broken 1000. I will. I obsess over my word count average. Also, it's Copper and Riona. They can take my mind off things. I may be farther back than I wanted to be, but I am on track and will crush this month.

That is Copper and Silver's theme song. For this novel. I keep defaulting to Riona and she would be made because someone else has the name now. I don't think I will get to that in this book, but maybe the next I can visit him again. He is introduced in a short story. I know, I keep teasing all these short stories, but I haven't decide what to do with them still! 

My husband's uncle died over the weekend which is what threw my Nano-ing off track. Things were needlessly complicated and I'm still coming to terms with his loss. He was such an amazing man and I only got to know him a few years. After losing my father-in-law last year, things have been rough. 

I hate to end this on a downer, so here is a small tease of Copper and Riona from a short story. What? I'm not sharing novel bits yet!

And, yes, Silver is still as hard on herself as ever. She is my tortured soul like no other. 

“Any oath,” I begged. The mud sucked at me and I could not resist. Life mattered little if Copper was taken from me. Eyes closed, I let the rain beat me down.

“Swear.” How bored he sounded. As if the ruination of my soul kept him from tea.

“Riona. Don’t.”

I looked at Copper, calm as he awaited the sun’s jealous rays to shine bright enough, to break through the clouds, and end his life. No begging. Nothing in the strength of how he held himself, staked to the ground with foul-smelling rope, to tell anyone he was hurt.

I knew.

I knew and I swore anyway. Because I’d given him my word. Until I had nothing else to give. So, I swore an oath to ruin what was left of my honor.

 

 

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I'm going out with a bang!

This morning I finished a short story called Darkness in in The Midst of Her. I hope people will enjoy it once I share. I am submitting to an anthology call. If it does not get in I will post it on my blog. It's another witch story. Different witch though. I like witches. :)

Sanguine Road has slowed because my draft zero received feedback requires I put it on hold and think. Part of the problem is there is too much Rufus (character from my Roman fantasy) in Emeric. So, I'm revisiting his character. With only 10 days til Nanowrimo it may be on hold until January.

Because December is blog short story month! And, this year I am doing...dun dun dun...the alphabet! Yes, the alphabet has fewer letters than there are days in the month. This provides some leeway for me as it is a busy month. Each story's central character's name will follow the ABCs. 

I've got ideas slowly forming. 

Nanowrimo this year is going to be a Copper and Riona novel. I am SO excited! Truly excited! I get to do a deeper dive into these characters. And, I'm using Riona's current name, Silver. Why is that her name? Well, because...No...Not ready to spoil that yet! 

Both my short story and Sanguine Road are in Draft 0 mode right now. What does that mean? It means I don't start with draft 1. Because I don't outline. Pantsing is an artform. And a lot of work. LOL My version involves having character ideas, a sliver of a plot, and a setting. I write the draft out and use that to outline a proper draft. Yes, it's more work, but I never outlined in school either. Not until the paper was done. 

I am also researching a new project. I've bought new history books. Eee! So fun! All I will say is it is a medieval fantasy set somewhere in Eastern Europe and involves books. I've a basic plot, unnamed characters, and the beginning of the setting's history. 

Looking forward to all of these writing projects. Especially fixing a little novel called Mad Baron's Doomed Daughter. Because it's been percolating in my mind and I may have the bits I need. 

Happy Halloween!

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This is too painful.

Ugh.

Just...ugh.

Seriously...ugh.

Ok, done with that bit of self-pity.

Over the weekend, I did a lot of thinking, a lot of working on anything but what I should be working on, and talking to the beloved. I am going to shelve my Mad Baron rewrite for now. I keep getting stuck, keep fighting with scenes for weeks, and keep working on...well, see above.

I've completed two short stories for Copper and Riona, started a third, revisited all my open projects, and avoided the word doc open on my desktop. I can either continue to beat myself up over this forever, or I can set it aside until the time is right to take it up again. There WILL be a time to take it up again. I am by no means calling it quits on, to me, is one of the best projects I've worked on until now. 

I just can't keep beating my head against this wall. Disa and Sorvjorn and their delightful companions are still inside my head. I will get them out, but not...not quite yet. I'm working on something entirely different now. I'll share a few tidbits of it down the line.

For now, I am giving myself permission to not feel bad about having a project so close to being done and not being done. Because, if I continue to hit the wall, I'm liable to damage myself. This is all still a process I am learning. I know, in time, I can make Mad Baron as kick ass as it appears in my head. For now, I am going to work on something different with no name. The working title is Juggernaut and it's paranormal romance. 

Fine. Here's a teeny peek. :)

Seven hours ago, the job had been easy.

Now I had three dead bodies, one annoyed vampire, and distant sirens to content with. The simplest solution would be to kill the vampire, but then I won’t get paid. Also, he had the potential to be useful. I checked my reflection in the mirror to be sure my skin was blood free. The clothes were a lost cause, but if I made it across town they were an easy fix.

“This is not what I agreed to, ma cannelle.”

I had to turn to see him. It’s not that vampires have no reflection. They did, but it’s not a true one.

 

 

 

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The State of Affairs

I really need to set reminders in my calendar to write blog posts. Because, in the grand scheme of things, I forget quite often. This last month has been more hectic than normal. Mostly, because of good things. However, there was the week our eldest dog Emma had to be in a cone of shame. She was a cone virgin until this year. It was not her sad, sad face within the cone that was trouble. No, it was the way we had to rearrange the whole living room for her convenience. Because, she discovered early on she could knock everything off any table. Not to mention, she learned what a great cow (read us) catcher it was. I can’t count how many times I felt a plastic cone on my butt as I cooked. Don’t even ask about the time we let her outside wearing it and she began to shovel up the whole backyard!

The Sad, I Will Crush You Face of the P Dog.

The Sad, I Will Crush You Face of the P Dog.

 

She’s doing better now. But, we have the cone. She chews on her arthritis and she’s getting older despite my demands otherwise. So, she’ll see the cone again I figure. Other than knocking things about she handled it fine. She really is so lowkey. Nothing bothers her.

More recently, the beloved has developed a bad tooth. Phah. So, he’s been at half-speed about a week and we have an appointment tomorrow to handle it. Here’s hoping it goes smoothly, because…

We’ll be in Costa Rica next week!

I’m bringing no electronics, but plenty of notebooks. So, while I may not get a lot of writing done as I sip fruity drinks on the beach, I plan on doing a lot of prep work for two upcoming items I want to work on this year. The only bad part about this trip is it is over spring break for the boys and we had plans to take them to WA so Shawn could meet his latest grandbaby. We’re going to try for this summer instead. Which likely means no trip to see my parents. It is not cheap to get four people from the middle of the country to Alaska. Worth it, of course, but that does not make the money magically appear.

How’s the writing, you ask?

Well, I ask myself frequently.

Mad Baron is still a work in progress. A third of the way through this rewrite I am rethinking dropping the third pov. Turns out, she was more important than I thought…But I may be wrong. So, I am going to power through and finish this and get some trusted people to let me know which works better.

I have a sci fi idea. I know, I know, I always have a sci fi idea. I’m going to work on it this year. I might dive into Camp Nano and do it then as a break from other things. It takes place on a mining colony on the edge of the second solar system humanity settled after Sol. It’s sci fi romance with a poly heroine and a hero who loves dogs. Really, I can’t say more! I could, I guess, but I am not going to right this moment!

Last week I finished a second Copper and Riona story. It’s not going up on the blog. For now. Still tweaking it here and there.

So, there’s where I stand! I’ve been pretty social media scarce for all these reason and, well, because sometimes one needs a break! I’ve even begun adding 80s music to playlists. THAT’S how much I’ve needed to unwind.

 

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It's December! Storytime!

Welcome to Day One of my 2016 December project. This year, the stories are not connected. At least, they all aren't. I had several plans, but couldn't quite come up with a way to make them all come to fruition.

So, instead, I'll play it by ear. I'm very good at that! As like last year, I'm writing and posting in a single day. Forgive the typos and such.

Story #1 is...a wee bit gruesome if not explicitly so. I began it, wrote about three hundred words, and walked away. This was when I was in the midst of my depression a few months ago and desperate to write anything. It did help, but I didn't finish it.

Today, I did!

Enjoy! Umm. I suppose. :)

Bloody Work

Sawing through bone was never easy. Mathias wished the job on someone else, anyone else, but always wound up here. The first several times he’d left not only breakfast, but the previous night’s dinner, in the corner. Now, for good or ill, his stomach was hardened to the task.

Not so his conscious who still railed against the work.

A shame, he mused as he broke off the limb and tossed it into the proper bin, about how one could not fill his belly on conscious.

“Mathias!”

His employer’s voice broke through his thoughts. He dropped the saw onto the work table and wiped bloody hands on his overalls. It did little good, but muscle memory is a powerful thing.

“I’ve an assistant for you.”  The words, spoken in a rapid stutter, were barely out of his mouth before he fled the room. His boss disliked the room as much as anyone.

“I’m Roisin.”

She was cute. Any other place and he might not have noticed, but here, knee-deep in his work, he thought her something more. At once he looked away. It would not do to scare her off. Not when she would help. He needed help.

“Right then.” He picked up the bone saw and asked, “Do you know how to use this?”

“I’ve my own tools.”

Roisin approached the table he worked at and stared at the corpse. Fingers stroked the partially removed arm twice. From her belt, she pulled a small knife and before he might warn her it would do no good she severed the arm.

He couldn’t stop himself from stepping backwards. The knife was impressive. It had, as it cut so easily through bone and sinew, looked larger in her hand. A twinge of jealousy flared in his stomach. That sort of knife, it had to be a Gift. Except, how had someone with a Gift wound up here?

“Hey, Mathias? We here to work?”

A startled look at the table showed the body already separated. The pieces neatly tossed into their proper bins. The head bin was almost full. Soon he would have to roll it down the corridor to the chute. There, as he waited for the doors to open, he would remind himself to be thankful for his work. Even if it was terrible, it beat winding up in the chute.

To avoid meeting Roisin’s eyes, he made quick work depositing the pieces into their bins. Pieces. Bone and meat. Fodder for the mad experiments on the lower levels. He called them many things. Never what they were. Never.

A push of the button near the table wound up the mechanism to bring a fresh work. Chains rattled and the whiff of oil and metal warned him there would be the new pieces soon. A wet thud dropped the new piece, limbs splayed and eyes open in remembered pain.

“You ever see one you knew?”

The question was never asked of him. Never. Everyone either did not want to know, or feared the answer.

“Not for a long time.”

She worked the left side and he the right. Her knife allowed her to move faster, but he was experienced. His one benefit was he knew the layout so took less time transporting to the bins. Although it was not quite full, he stopped before the head bin.

“Come on. This is full enough. I’ll show you how to operate the chute.”

Roisin wiped her knife off with a clean rag and sheathed it before following him into the hall.

The head chute was at the far end of the hallway and neither spoke as they walked. Their boots clanked on the metal floor and the scent of flesh, singed, rotted, or fresh clung to his clothes and skin. Inside the bin, sightless eyes stared up. Rumor was, they were going to start requiring the removal of eyes. Even his stomach, hardened from years of work in the cutting room, roiled at the thought. Still, he knew if they demanded it, he would do it. Too many nightmares about the chute closing on him kept him compliant.

“It’s pretty simple. Heads here, then torsos.” He gestured. “Left arms and then left legs. Followed by right arms and right legs.” Mathias remembered being surprised they had gone left right and not arms legs. “You push the green button and wait.”

Usually it did not take long, but sometimes the chute wouldn’t open for several minutes. Never long enough to leave and come back despite the open buzz being loud enough. This time, it took seconds, and soon he was shoving the wheeled cart onto the metal platform. It clanked into place and the door slammed shut. If he listened, he could hear the clunk of gears as it descended in short hops.

“What about the bin?”

“It’s replaced in the cutting room.”

“Oh.” Roisin was quiet until they were right outside the door. “Do they watch?”

“No. Bruce is supposed to monitor the cameras, but everyone knows he’s too sensitive.”

“But not you?” she asked as they walked inside.

“Not any longer.”

“What do you do if you see someone you know?” She pushed the button for fresh work, and noted the new head bin along the line with a nod. “It’s what worries me the most.”

“It’s not- It’s not them.” The words forced themselves out as the body hit the table. “You just have to tell yourself it’s not them.”

They worked in silence for the rest of the shift.

#

Roisin beat him to the room the next morning.  He was surprised. No one was in a hurry to get to the cutting room. Even he dragged his feet along the walkways and elevators to get here and sign in to work.

The humming under her breath was disconcerting. How did she find music in here? All he found was a stench he pretended to be used to, and a gnawing despair. She even looked out of place. Her shorn head had signs of black hair growing back in a fuzzy layer. His own blond hair had stopped growing already.

His staring must have attracted her attention because she looked up as the knife sliced off the leg of a now completed work.

“Hey, boss. Hope you don’t mind I started early.”

“I’m not the boss,” he mumbled as he hurried in and let the door slide closed behind him. The bone saw waited and he forced himself to pick it up as she pressed the button for a new body after disposing of the last. “I was surprised to see you here, is all,” he felt compelled to say.

“Well, they only let me out for work.”

He stepped away as the body hit the table.

Roisin looked up at his movement with a grin. She watched him as she sliced up the body with no assistance. Piece by piece, she added them to bins barely removed from empty.

He tried to force himself to move closer, but he could not. Everyone knew about those locked up other than work. Crazies and dissidents and those two steps away from-

“The table. And the chute.”

The fact she completed his sentence aloud only worried him further.

“You have a Gift,” he whispered.

“Yes, I do.” She sounded bemused as she glanced down at the small knife. “Not that it has done me much good. Did you tell anyone?”

“No!” he shouted even though there was no threat in her voice.

“Good. Because I’m going to need a favor tomorrow.”

Mathias only stared.

“It’s ok, Mathias. It’s a thing you’re quite capable of doing.”

He doubted it.

The rest of the day, he could only watch her work, humming and slicing as if she carved a turkey for dinner.

#

He did everything but beg for a different assignment the next morning. Even the sludge pit would have been better, but the boss wouldn’t do it. His pleas were waved off and a stern warning sent him scurrying to the cutting room.

To Roisin.

And her Gift.

Again, she waited for him. This time, she was undressed. Worse. She laid on the table, the Gift gleaming beside her.

“Roisin,” he hissed, but she only turned her head to grin as she stopped humming.

“Excellent! We’ve no time to waste. You’ll have to toss all of me into the same bin. I know it’s against the rules, but I have to be sure.”

“Sure of what?” Terrified steps into the room nearly ended as she stroked the knife with her fingers.

“Sure I can get back together. It only hurts me a little.”

“Roisin. No.”

She sat up and he felt a tug of arousal because it had been so long since he’d seen a woman naked and alive. Horror kept his body in check. Roisin glanced behind him at the closed door.

“We’ve not long. I bribed the boss to ignore the cameras. Even though we know he already does. He thinks we’re going to have sex.” She kicked her legs in the air and grinned. “I would. If we had time. But we don’t. Head first, please. It hurts less that way.” She paused and her brown eyes trapped his breath. “And, this is most important, so listen. I need my Gift in my hand.”

Lying back on the table she began to hum once more.

“Roisin…”

“I need this, Mathias. I’ve been waiting a long time for someone like you to take this job.”

“Someone like me?”

“Someone who remembers being human.”

“I am human.”

“No, you’re not. But that doesn’t matter now. Please.”

“What do you mean it doesn’t matter?”

Roisin sighed and sat up once more. “Look, if I promise to explain everything later, will you do as I ask now?”

“How can you do anything later? You’ll be dead!”

“No,” she answered before lying down again. “Not for a long time to come. We have to do this now. I can’t wait too long or they won’t listen to me.”

“Who?”

“The ones from yesterday. Maybe some from the day before. I don’t know since I did not do them all. Please, Mathias.”

It was the please. She was pretty, and naked, and crazy, but she said please like she only asked to bum a smoke. Eyes closed, she hummed as he wrapped his hand around her Gift. The slick metal was cold under his fingers and he clutched it tight as his shaking hand brought the Gift to her neck.

Her smile never left. The humming continued until he was done and as he fought the urge to vomit he remembered to give her back the Gift. Her fingers wrapped around it on their own and he jumped.

Piece by piece, he carried her to the chute at the far end of the hall. He saved her head for last, cradled it no less gently than he had the rest of her. The chute took forever, but when the metal door clanged open he set her inside, piece by piece once more.

As the door closed, her lips puckered and she began to whistle. His startled gaze met her eyes as she blinked them open. It was too much. He fled the hallway, the work center, the entire level. Let them dock his pay. Let them do what they would.

He’d been touched by a Gift.

His only choice was to flee.

The tunnel to the outside was long, and sloped downward steeply. The outside would kill him, uninhabitable it was said, but Town and Ship made him ill. How long he journeyed down, he did not know. Only that he would eventually find out and be done. They did not stop people from the outside. There was no need. Instead, they paraded their corpses along the promenades for all to witness folly.

He cranked the door open, prepared to meet death.

“Sorry, he’s busy.”

Roisin grinned, Gift in one hand, and the other outstretched to take his, she hummed. If the door had not slid closed behind him, he would have turned and left, despite knowing he could not make the climb back.

“Come along, Mathias. We’ve work to do.”

“Work?”

“Your own Gift, yes. We shall make better use of it than they ever did.”

And they did. Although it was no less bloody, it was truly more satisfying.

 

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In Totally Expected News...

I am the worst person possible to be helping eldest plan his first middle school report. Because, alas, for him my approach does not work for him. So, I had to sit down and help him with organization. I do not organize. Even in school I sat down, yes, at the last minute, and wrote. My brain doesn't work unless there is total chaos within and without.

I was not the best student in the world. ;) I got good grades, but I was not a good student. Me and traditional schooling are oil and water. Hence, the lack of college graduation. I grew bored, then annoyed, then stopped going.

So, what does all this have to do with writing? Specifically, my writing? Well, it means this:

I am planning the FOURTH attempt at a beginning for Mad Baron's Doomed Daughter. The first was wrong. The second not much better. The third seemed to work, the people who read it said it worked, it did not work. The shred of doubt was always there. But, I had nothing else.

Now, I think I know what to do. The beginning is the weakest part of the story. In my opinion. The few other opinions garnered didn't quite say that, but I sensed dissatisfaction. So, I will work on Beginning Number Four which will require twisting a few things around in the full draft. Scenes will need to be moved or removed as with the new beginning they will be unneeded.

I think I am excited. ;)

It's hard to say.

Work... Sheesh! :D

I cannot start until I finish reading and offering sage advice to someone else who entrusted me with her ms. (Is NEEDS MOAR B00BS a valid critique? How about NEEDS MOAN PEEN?) I'm not going to say either. I'm asking for a friend. A pervy friend. Not me. I am not like that at all! Just ask the beloved!

Ahem. Where was I? Ah, yes!

New beginning. Which means wip will sit on hold for a bit. Which is ok as I am still researching books. There's no title for the new project. The draft is called Juggernaut. The plot is there, the characters are getting fleshed out, but the pacing will require more research. Thank goodness my Nook is loaded and ready!

 

 

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Current project and what nots

So, I was working on Adelaide and Jasper's book. And, I love these guys. Only...they're not FUN. Not like I want to be writing right now.

So, I am working on Lucy's book. Lucy's book is bloody and sexy and she's super snarky so she's right up my alley. It's like when I couldn't get going on something to read until I settled back into the Johannes Cabal series and he is the sort of character I adore. :) Cannot wait for the next one.

Right now, I am reading several things. Most of them recommendations from the husband. He reads more than me these days. Not by a LOT, but still...

I always love my wip at the beginning. :) By the 2/3s mark, I'll hate it. LOL This is normal for me. I'm super eager to keep writing and get further into this story. First, I have to survive the next couple weeks. School starts in a week.

Eldest son is in middle school this year. OMG. He has orientation tomorrow.

To close out. A snippet. :) Enjoy! (I hope!)

After the door closes, and I hear the click of a lock, I realize I still have no lunch. I don’t need the food, but I should be hungry. So, I stand once more and walk to the door. No one answers my knocks. No one responds to my calls for food either. So, I throw myself onto the floor by Noah and his charges.

If they watch, I hope they enjoy the show. Because I have lions killing giraffes, zebras engaging in love affairs with elephants, and monkeys doing a little of both. My best friend says my obsession with sex and blood is trite, but he spends his life hiding with polar bears.

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In Shocking News...

Yesterday I was contemplating what to work on and for some reason I pulled up a recent project I'd tossed into the archives to languish until I knew what to do. Yes, I am speaking about Widowed Witch of the West.

The first draft is done! 91k words of garbled mess, but done! I won't be looking at it for awhile. In fact, I may not look at it again until I find fresh eyes to give me an opinion. Because I think I know what is wrong, but I'd like to see someone else's opinion. So, interested in beta reading a mess? Because I'll happily brace myself for scorn and ridicule. ;) So long as it is helpful.

Finished, even with the series finale of Person of Interest *sniffle* and time to level my secondary character to 30 in The Division. Will be posting up some thoughts on the POI finale later today. It will be spoilery.

To close out, here's one of the final scenes in WWotW. Aoife cannot catch a break, but she does catch the hot marshal. :)

“The crown.”

“Is of no concern to us. Your kind have always bickered. We will stand not in your path, but neither will we assist.”

“And if I become the monster I believe myself to be?”

“You will be dealt with.”

“You would- would make him do such a thing?” It would break him.

“Indeed, witch queen.” Sarcasm it could manage. “A compelling reason to hold your more bloodthirsty desires in check.”

“I don’t need a hostage to my impulses.”

“Don’t you?”

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She is a right pain.

The hero of my current wip is to whom I refer. Aoife Mccrae has dodged and pushed and forced me to do some massive rethinking every step of the way in this story. A few of those dodges I'm not going to mention because they're, hopefully, surprising plot points! Or, at least entertaining ones.

Now, all of my heroes toss me about some. I don't mind. This time, it's made this ms SO SO SO hard to finish. I've been trying to type The End on the first draft for almost a year. For me, that is a very long time. First drafts usually take me 6-8 months.

I think I worked so hard on The Mad Baron's Doomed Daughter there was too much of it left in me when I started Widowed Witch of the West. Aoife's been fighting some of my decisions and she's totally correct. Only, now when I do get to type The End it's way more of a beginning than normal. I do a lot of editing and adjusting as I go so my first draft is pretty close to a final one. Other than finding all of those pesky grammar errors I can't purge myself of no matter what.

This time, I'm going to have to take what I know from the end and be sure it threads all the way back to page one.  I've done this some already when I had the lightning strike of character motivation two months ago. I've redone my playlist for this book and have gone with a strictly Aoife-based one instead of a story one. It's really helped me get my head where it should be for her.

Also, this has gotten a tad bit darker. Like, umm, death under cow corpses darker. Well, cow corpse. Only one. The next version might be darker still.

Still only the one cow corpse.

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Promises to myself.

I keep saying I will finish Widowed Witch of the West and I keep putting it off. It's not that I don't love the characters, but the story feels a bit meandering. Editing this is NOT going to be fun. Not that I can work on that until I finish the first draft.

So, I hereby declare I WILL finish the first draft by the end of the week. Barring something catastrophic like aliens or comets or mole people. The usual stuff.

If I do that then I can write sci fi. Yay! I want to write sci fi NOW. I've got a story in mind already. Maybe two. Definitely one. So, if I can stick to my schedule YOU get a brand new short story to read in a couple of weeks.

Back to work! The stars, and aliens, and limb loss awaits!

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My Type of Guy

I read a fair amount, not as much as I want to, and I write...not as much as I should. ;) I also play video games. Oh, and I have been married for 14 years. Shocking! All of these things have one particular thing in common.

I gravitate towards the good guys. I have no intentions of going Rogue in Division. If I have a choice between two options in a game I always go with the one I find morally acceptable. Even though it is "just a game."

The types of characters who often wind up sidekicks are my favorite. You know, the character in the book who stands by his/her best friend and has a funny line and encouraging word always? SWOON. And, yea, I totally root for them to get the guy/girl even though I know it won't happen. Because, they are almost always the good guy. The nice guy. The dependable guy. Oh, and sometimes the dead one depending on the type of book. A GOOD death is as satisfying for me as a hea for my favorite character. Please note: A GOOD DEATH. Do not get me started on Wash. Hated how he died. In my head canon he does not die at that point.

So, the anti-hero trend....the dark brooding alpha male...these do nothing for me. Criminals? Nah. Nice guys* next door make my heart flutter. Which is why, I admit, the last two times I've watched Star Wars I've ignored the parts between when Poe is gone and he returns. Lovable X-Wing fighter than he is and always shall be!

Which is my the heroes in my stories almost always have that one thing in common. They are the good guys. Because, well, good guys make me hot. And, the way the world is somedays, a lot of days, it's nice to be able to write about people who do the right thing and get rewarded for it. Escapism? Hell, yea. What's wrong with that?

So, there you go! Fair warning. No brooding love interests here. And, yes, adorable husband IS one of the nicest people I've ever known. Considering the pure chance of our meeting I count myself lucky every day. :) 

*Guy does not necessarily refer to a male. I never limit my options on hotness! :D

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At that point...

The point where I realize I need to move on and get back to work. As I've mentioned, we had a family thing. My father in law died this month. It was a relatively quick thing, but it resulted in my mother in law being laid off as she had to be home to care for him these last couple months. Between helping her out, deciding how much and when to tell the kids about their grandfather, and helping Shawn stay on course so his work (the job that pays all the bills) doesn't suffer I've gotten behind on everything. Which, fine. I'm always going to put my family first even if I lose a month and a half of work. In the end, I'm going to believe my priorities were correct.

We're slowing normalizing with things the way they are now.

So, it's time to quit playing quite so much of The Division and other video games and get back to work. Want to know how I know it is time? Because half the time we play now I am busy writing backstory and adventures for npcs. Clearly, my brain desires more work. Who am I to argue with my brain when it finally engages?

This all, of course, led to my spending the morning sorting out this annoying bug on the computer. But, it seems to be as sorted as it can be and my music plays again so I am calling it a win and moving on.

Now to finish sorting out Aoife's motivation and wrap up her story.

 

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PRO-crastination

Blog posts come more frequently when I am not feeling like doing what I should be doing.

For shame!

Now that I've worked the kinks out of WWotW I am itching to get to the end and write. Because, the ending I see so clearly now is:

A. Hot.

B. Bloody.

C. Life altering for all involved. Especially those who have none when I am done. ;)

D. Magically Epic.

Except, no one else will SEE the ending if I don't fix the plot first. Darnnit! I tinkered today, but mostly made notes to use for tomorrow. Except! Tomorrow is my birthday! So, the odds of my being good and working are slim. So, FRIDAY! I have a list of scenes to make changes to and will get those done. If I get to work I can have the basic changes done by the end of the month and finish the first draft. Too exciting!

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The Problem With Music Based Inspirations

 

So, I have a very aural muse. She throws ideas at me with each new song. Worse, she waits until I am nearly done with a project and listening to a song for the millionth time to rear her damned head.

Which she did.

Yesterday.

Which is why forward momentum on Widowed Witch of the West is on hold as a new project. Undone as it is, now it is squarely a go back and fix project. An editing project.

Mostly, it is me, screaming at that damned muse because she could not have told me this before now??? The muse in question only smiles, by the way, an unrepentant musical sinner. I still love her and want to lay words at her feet in adoration. Just...maybe not today.

A very wise friend has always said not to edit until a project is done, but in this case I can't take that advice. Because the ending wasn't coming to me anyway. I was stuck with about 10k words to go. I knew what had to happen to get to the ending. Final boss battle, get ready, FIGHT! The boss battle in question refused to materialize. I wrote a little, tinkered with other scenes, anything to keep from diving in to finish the story.

Now I know why. Aoife's motivations through the whole book are wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. What I thought she was doing was not what she needed to do. The ending that wouldn't come stayed away because I was telling the wrong tale.

SIIIIGH

It could be worse. I could have anything other than a self-imposed deadline. Said deadline being the end of summer. Although, truthfully, I should shoot for later. Too much going on, but suffice it to say I'm dealing with shit while helping others deal with their own shit and sometimes it is so overwhelming I just want to spend the night playing Destiny with the beloved. Some people drink their problems to silence. I shoot mine with magic powers and guns. :)

TLDR: Back to the drawing board in a way. I don't mind. Knowing the story is going to be stronger is encouragement enough. Now if my muse will shut up and let me get this done before suggesting other changes.

In the meantime, here's the unrevised opening scene.

 

Aoife was in the bath, scrubbing the blood off her arms, when she heard someone call her name. The maid seated nearby, busy reading the latest dime novel, looked up questioningly. Aoife nodded and exhaled loudly. She’d recognized Mrs. Nardovino’s voice so she was either in trouble or about to be handed another assignment. Either way, her leisurely bath was over. A last careful scrub of her fingers was going on as Mrs. Nardovino came into the room.

“Dear, I called you. Did you not hear?” Mrs. Nardovino had never lost her Italian accent despite living in New York for the last five decades. In a way, Aoife was heartened. Despite the headaches her own accent caused she liked the link to her homeland. Even if she couldn’t see herself going back to live there.

“I was finishing up. The sluaghs went into labor. It was messy. Please, say I do not have to midwife sluaghs again. If that is why you are here I implore you to bother someone else.” Aoife hated working with them, but she was the only Irish witch in residence and, apparently, that meant she had to do it.

The maid brought a heated towel and Aoife stood to wrap it around herself. She would leave, she swore, if there was more midwifery waiting for her.

“No, dear. Please, perhaps this would be better in my office. I will make tea. You can join me once you’re dressed.”

Mrs. Nardovino was embarrassed by nudity. Aoife was not and would use it to her advantage. Although, not often with the headmistress. She’d been too kind to Aoife in her time here. The maid helped her dress and when wet hair proved too heavy to pin up, Aoife simply had a green ribbon tied around the straight black locks.

 

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Life Sometimes Kicks Your Rear

Sometimes things hit you and you're all, "I can deal." Then four more shoes drop and you realize a celestial spider is raining footwear on your parade. Damn that spider!

I've had several family emergencies hit lately and it's sapped my will to do much of anything. Still, the kids need clean clothes, as do I, and everyone including the dogs insist on being fed. So, I move a little more slowly with household chores. I do get them done. Eventually.

Now, to be fair, most of the stress has fallen on my husband. He is a rock and will endure and still be the freaking adorable smart ass I married, but...well, that's the main source of my stress. Worrying over him. It's always been that way. I may stress over outside situations, but nothing compares to worrying over him or the kids. Well, the dogs sometimes top them all, but if you've met my dogs you understand why. My dogs are adorable! ;)

The dog part may not be true.

It may be true.

I refuse to say.

Here's where I stand coming up on the end of the first quarter of the new year.

1. Mad Baron's Doomed Daughter is undergoing another round of outside eyes. I still hate XXXXX (in case they read this blog I don't want to taint their opinion) and will rewrite it no matter what feedback I get.

2. Widowed Witch of the West languishes with about 10-15k to the finish line. So close, but I so totally despise every word (thank you, stress inducing celestial spider) it is hard to work on it. I have a goal to finish the first draft by the end of the month. I WILL NOT work on anything else until this first draft is finished.

3. I kind of really want to write the next book in my historical romance series. Working title, Circe's Promise. Because I am on an Odyssey kick. There's a cyclops in book three! Book four is a real Odysseus kind of tale.

Truthfully, with all that's going on, I may not write anything else new this year after WWotW is finished. Instead, I might focus on reworking several existing projects. Like Tesia's book. I also might not.

Right now my focus is on finishing WWotW. I will do it!  Because not finishing it is not an option. I've only ever started and left one novel unfinished and I don't mean to make it two!



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Tesia Teaser

See what I did there? No, well, fine! I've spent the week reworking this short story. It is not perfect. Because, again, was meant to be internal document type thing. I like though, so may as well share! I don't normally do this type of thing for a project, but I was leaping back into first person so wanted to get into the mc's head. The easiest way was to write this backstory for her. This is not first person. Because I was not in her head yet.

Tesia changed so much from my original inception of the story. She started as a dream, something I rarely use when writing, and then I had two scenes I wrote before even starting the novel.

Oh, and she was a pain in the ass. I had a love interest planned and then she liked someone else. (The life of a pantser is always a roller coaster.) Then, I heard a song and she informed me the current love interest was nice and all, but she had other plans. ARGH! Of course, I love where the novel ended up.

And it all started here. After the dream. I have one book done and I want to do a second. It is on the list. 

1999

 “Tes! Tesia!”

Her name echoed around the barn, but Tesia didn’t come out from the stall she’d hid inside. The voice grew closer as she huddled down under the blanket she’d stolen from her brother’s horse. It was no less scratchy than the hay she’d piled around herself, but at twelve the straw and blanket fort was the best she could do so quickly. They’d found her in her closet and even under her bed.

“Tesia!” came closer.

Tes clapped a hand over her mouth to stifle a whimper. Was that them? Were the coming to get her? Tesia felt them near waiting for her to make the mistake of looking out of her fort.

“Won’t do it,” she whispered to herself and froze. Had they heard? She pulled the blanket down so it was atop her.

“Tesia Faustina Jaskolski! You come out right now!”

Oh, thank God! It wasn't them. It was her mom. Her mom sounded furious so she didn’t pop out. Even though, more than anything, she wanted to feel her mother’s arms around her.

“Tes.”

The voice came from the same stall she hid in now. Despite her best efforts at fort building her mother found her instantly. The blanket was yanked off and it captured her flyaway brown hair and created a halo around her face. Blinking brown eyes sat under heavy eyebrows as she stared at her mom with unconcealed fear.

“Mom,” she whispered before she threw herself against her mom despite her angry face. Tesia didn't know how long the anger remained as she buried her head in her mom’s shoulder to sob. It wasn’t until her mother hugged her back that she began to believe things might be ok. Even then she felt them watch her while they hovered out of sight. They waited to grab her. Tes dared to lift her head and look around. A flicker of grey from the corner of her eye sent her back to hide against her mother’s shoulder with a sob.

“Mom, please.” They drew closer. “Mom, don’t let them get me.”

Her Mom did nothing and they continued to stalk closer. Her mother began to whisper, but Tes realized it was not to her. Most of the words made no sense. In truth, she did not even know if they were words.

Well, not all of them Some of them were words she was not supposed to say, but did when no one else was around. Forbidden words felt different on her tongue. Tesia loved the illicit thrill of it all even if she was not brave enough to say them when anyone else might hear. Even as she thought illicit words the fearfully cold, eerily beautiful creatures grew closer.

Tesia, they both called and she tried to pull away from her mother to run again. Surely she could find someplace they wouldn’t catch her? Her mom’s arms tightened around her when she tried to get free. Tes reeled at the betrayal. How could she do this to her own daughter? Let these things get her?       

We are not things, they said and their voices echoed inside as they burrowed into every part of her brain. No, deeper than her brain. It was like they poked into her very being, her soul. She felt them root out her secrets and shames and felt their displeasure at each and every one of them. Tesia’s sobs grew louder, but it did not deter them.

We are glorious, whispered into her head, but she didn’t believe it for a second.

We are glorious, thundered inside her head and Tesia screamed. She kept screaming even after their cold displeasure was soothed over. Something stopped it and despite feeling them inside, whatever these terrifying, glorious creatures were, Tesia was able to put a wall up between her and them. Inside the walls she huddled in fear as she heard something else.

Tesia, remember you’re not just your mother’s daughter. The voice wasn’t one she recognized at first. Then, as the walls were torn down by the fearsome creatures, Tesia remembered the voice.

“Granny Janka!” she screamed out loud. “Help me!”  Except Granny Janka was gone, run off by the things in her soul.

We are glorious, the creatures insisted. Tesia wondered if she should agree with them like she did with her mom. It was easier to just agree with adults.

So, she tried a tentative, You are glorious.

It didn’t work.

The pain flared back to life. Tesia felt like her head was going to explode before blissful blackness overtook her. In the blackness she saw two points of light that grew brighter until her head did explode.

  2004

“Tesia, I don’t think you should be going out with him.”

Tesia stared at herself in the mirror with a frown. Her hair refused to do what she wanted. Her mother kept talking behind her, but Tesia ignored her despite the twinge of disapproval she felt forced upon her.

“Tes!” her mom shouted. With a sigh, Tesia turned to face her mother, still hating her hair. “I do not approve of him.” Tes stared at her mother in disbelief.

“Is that supposed to mean something to me?” Tesia asked. Again, there’s that twinge of disapproval. Words accompanied the feeling this time and her head echoed with them.  Words she’s heard for five years, but still fought against even if it led to pain. “Fred’s a nice boy, mother,” Tesia offered despite the twinge of pain. They always knew when she lied.

It was the action that created the most trouble for her. Especially as she lied to her parents frequently. They refused to believe it was almost required as a teenager. Ageless, divine beings did not understand being a teenager.

“I don’t like that boy.”

Tesia left the mirror to go back to her closet. Flipping through her wardrobe she wondered if she should change. Was there time? She was supposed to meet Fred in less than an hour and her mother could go on for twice that long.

“Tesia,” her mother said, in her I’m giving you one last chance to be reasonable tone, “You have responsibilities. You should be training for your work and not messing around with such things. If you spent less time on your grandmother’s-“ her mother began and Tesia knew she was in for it now if she didn’t speak.

“Mom,” Tes interrupted. “I’m sorry. I haven’t been to see Janka in a month. I swear.” She skirted the edge of the truth with the words, but they’re distracted by something now and don’t notice. “Look, if you promise I can go out tomorrow with Sara and the others I’ll study tonight.” If having angels of the Lord in your head taught anything it was how to speak like a lawyer. Wanting to sell the promise she picked up her cellphone and texted Fred. As her mother watched she sent MEET U THERE NSTEAD.

Even with the shortcut through the woods it’d be a close call to get to their meeting spot before Fred got bored and left. Tes was quite aware Fred was not the good boy she claimed. That was the point. Tesia tried to look innocent as she threw herself onto her bed and reached under it for the ebony box hidden away from everyone.

“Tesia, I know it is hard on you, sweetheart. Please understand I did not want this for you. I never wanted this to happen this way.” Her mother had said the words before. At least once a week for the last five years.

Tesia, as always, shook her head to stop her mother. “Mom, it’s fine. I know, ok? Look, can I be alone?” The trick was to not have to open the box. If she opened the box she had to actually stay long enough to appease them. If she stayed any time she’d miss out on Fred.

"Very well, Tesia,” her mother finally said. “Do not overtax yourself in your studies. I shall discuss with your father if you may go out tomorrow.” The final look from her mother was filled with distrust.

“Finally,” Tes muttered. Knowing her mother the way she did there was no bolting out the window yet. Instead, Tesia sat on her bed, fingers tracing the ancient words carved onto the wooden box. She opened it as little as possible because it only invited their attention. With them distracted by something right now she didn’t want them coming back to her. Crossing the room to get her phone she sent another text to Fred.  HEADING OUT C U SOON. Phone tucked into her pocket she stretched out on her back and counted to one hundred.

When she hit eighty the door opened and her mother’s head peeped in. “Do you want to have ice cream?”

“What flavor?” She’d been through the freezer so unless her mother had run to the store, unlikely as it was half an hour away, she should be safe in asking the question.

“Chocolate.”

Tesia wrinkled her nose as she pointed to the dresser. “I’ve got some jelly beans in there if I want something sweet.” She’s not supposed to have food in her room, but her mother wouldn’t give her trouble tonight. It would help explain away any guilt she felt. They latched onto guilt like her dog with a fresh bone.

Again her mother hesitated, but Tesia ignored her. Once the door closed, Tes sprang up and hurried to press her ear against it. After she heard the squeak from the bottom step she turned the lock. Shoes in one hand, she darted to the window and slid it open quietly. Ever since she’d figured out she could drop herself onto the porch roof, Tesia’d been sure the window was well oiled.

*

Her shoes were tossed down first. Bare feet touched down on the porch roof and she grabbed the rope tied to the window to pull it down almost all the way. Quietly inching to the edge of the porch she peeked over until she could make sure no one looked out the window. Dropping down she grabbed her shoes and raced for the tree line. She stopped only long enough to put her shoes on. Tesia’d raced through the woods since she was a kid so there was no need to worry about surprises.

At the old iron fence, she stopped and counted iron bars. When she found the one she wanted she gave a tug to free it and slip inside. The old cemetery was long out of use. Even Tesia’s family had switched to the one behind the church. Once she learned about the busted bar from her brothers this had become Tesia’s private hangout since she first started to sneak out of her house.

“Thought you wasn’t going to make it,” Fred said from the top of a crumbling headstone. He set his feet on the ground and walked over to Tesia. “Would have been a shame,” he said before holding out his arms.

Tes made him wait until she counted to five. Then she laughed before stepping into his embrace. Her nose wrinkled at the smell, he’d been smoking, but she didn’t resist when he tipped her head up for a kiss.

He tasted like cigarettes, but Tesia did her best to ignore it and find the thrill Fred usually caused in her. There’s nothing this time so when he tried to push his hand under her shirt she backed away. “Ugh,” Tes said with a grin. “You smell. I thought you said you’d stop smoking before we met up.”

Fred stepped closer and tried to flatten her resistance with his cocky, charming grin. “Aww. Come on, Tesia. You were late and I was bored.” He grabbed the sleeve of her shirt to tug her back to him. “I missed you so much,” he said before his hands tried to get under her shirt again.

Tesia frowned and tried to jerk away, but his hands tightened on her. “Cut it out, Fred,” she warned before yelping when his fingers tightened more painfully around her arm. “Not amused.” Fred pulled her closer and she didn’t fight because she felt them stir in her head. “Come on, Fred,” Tesia said. “You had your fun. Now lemme go. I’m so not in the mood for this.”

Fred kissed her again and Tes tried to get away, but he had both his arms around her. “Tired of the games, Tes,” Fred said as his hand shoved down the back of her pants. “Always teasin’ me and meetin’ me places you could put out, but you never do. I know you want to.” Tes was so stunned by his words he managed to shove her to the ground. When she felt the rough edge of a fallen tombstone scrape her back she kicked at Fred.

“You’re an idiot, Fred,” Tesia said as she managed to get away and scramble to her feet. His eyes narrowed as his lips turned down grimly. Tes backed away. She felt her heartbeat speed up even as she tried to keep it down.

“You’re scared,” Fred mocked as he kept following her. He made her take careful half-steps in the dark. “Nothing to be scared about now, Tessie.” 

She was scared, but not because of Fred. A bitter wind blew up from nowhere and fallen leaves and bits of stone flew around the cemetery. A piece of stone hit her cheek and she cried out as it embedded itself under her left eye. The wind grew stronger as Fred’s eyes widened and he looked around with alarm.

The vessel must not be harmed, whispered in the wind.

“What the fuck!” Fred yelled as he ducked a branch heading for his head.

The vessel must not be harmed, was repeated as Tesia saw twin flashes of light in the windstorm.

“No!” Tesia yelled into the wind. “I’m not harmed. I’m ok. He didn’t mean nothing. Please.” She didn’t know what they’d do. She’d read enough in the books locked in the wooden box to know what they could do and she didn’t want to be a witness to any of those things. “I’m ok,” she cried out again, but it didn’t matter.

The vessel shall not suffer the touch. There must be an Answer.

By now Fred’s eyes were white and he’d begun to tremble. Larger pieces of debris smacked into him, knocking him about in the wind. A blinding light that Tes hoped for a second was headlights left her unable to see. When her eyes cleared she stared in disbelief.

The cemetery was a shambles. Tesia cried out as she lifted a hand and found the piece of stone stuck in her cheek. She pulled it out and shoved it into her pocket. Looking around she screamed at what she saw. Fred, what she believed was Fred, stood before her, arms up to ward off something about to strike his face.

He is cleansed, danced in her ears and Tesia continued to stare in disbelief at what stood before her.

His clothes were still clothes, but his body was no longer flesh. A shaking hand touched his face and came away covered in a fine white powder. Sniffing her fingers, she recoiled when she almost put her tongue to her flesh.

“What did you do?” she whispered. Tears streaked her cheek and she touched Fred again. He’d been an asshole, that familiar twinge of disapproval at the name calling passed almost without notice, but he wasn’t this much of one.

The unclean shall not touch our vessel. They shall not harm our vessel. Our duty is to the vessel. Her duty is to the greater good. The vessel must not be harmed.

Tesia wanted to scream at their answer, but she didn’t. It would do no good. “But what do I do about this?” she asked the beings lurking in her head. “Someone will come looking for him.” The answer was given and she recoiled from it. “No,” she said, but they would not be denied. She’d never gotten away with telling them no.

The pain from her disobedience was welcome as it distracted her from what they wanted her to do to Fred. Her resistance did not last long and she gave in as tears blurred her vision. Several minutes of shoving made Fred’s body rock. When it finally went over she covered her eyes. The smell opened them again and she ran a few feet away to drop to her knees and lose her dinner. Heaving, trying to breathe through her mouth, she ran.

Disobedience, they whispered, has consequences for all involved.

Her hands shook so bad she was unable to get the bar back in place. So, she left it and raced for home. It was impossible to see through the tears and she tripped over rocks and roots she’d normally leap over with a laugh.  There’s no laugh in her now. They’d stolen her laugh. They’d stolen her life. The thought was out before she could stop it and Tesia fell against a tree as her head exploded in shards of light.

We are a gift. We are glorious.

Through the pain she made her way home, but she couldn’t stand the thought of climbing back to her room. Instead, she stumbled in the back door, a mess of blood, bruises, and vomit to be stared at by her parents. Her mother sat down the phone as her father turned off the small tv in the kitchen.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered. They were the only words she could managed as her parents helped her up the stairs. Her mother put her in the shower and Tesia grabbed her tight as she continued to whisper, “I’m sorry.”

After the shower, her mother tucked her into bed. Her father came in a few minutes later as all the lights shone down on her. He took the box and put it away under the bed. As he turned off the lights she started shivering again, but he replaced the electricity with warm, scented candles that seeped into her body and calmed her.

“Tesia,” her dad said as he sat on the bed. She pulled her hands from under the quilt made for her by her grandma Janka. On her palms he traced a sigil in sweet smelling oil.

Thank God, there’s that twinge of disapproval, but farther away, for her father and his mother. Without grandma Janka and her father she was sure the angels would have made her mad by now. Tonight, her father’s magic kept her safe from them. He sat with her until she fell into an uneasy sleep. When she woke several hours later the room was empty except for the scent of low burning candles.

“Never again,” Tesia swore aloud. “I’ll find a good man or none at all.”

There would be no more deaths on her hands.

There would be no more dancing with trouble and seeing how far she could push those tethered to her soul.

She knew now there were limits. Unfortunately, she’d learned that through Fred. In the fading light of the candles she felt her grandmother watch over her, keeping the angels at bay. In their distant, disapproving watchfulness she knew they witnessed her oath. The thought nearly comforted her, but as her eyes closed she saw Fred again. His whole body was not turned to salt, only the outside. When he’d fallen, he’d crashed into wet, fleshy pieces.

Tesia whimpered at the memory and spent the rest of the night staring, wide-eyed at the ceiling to try to forget what she’d seen.

 2009              

The service had ended a couple of hours ago. Tesia was happy to be left alone in the church for a few minutes before her brothers brought the car around. The temperature outside was dropping again and with the rain already coming down that meant a long drive back home. A long, uncomfortable drive back home. As she sat at the front of the church she divided her attention between the flowers overpowering everything with their smell and the wooden cross hanging behind the altar.

It still didn’t seem real. Tesia had thought when her mother had died she’d never feel this lost again, but the accident that took her father sent her into a tailspin. For a week she’d fielded visits from family and friends offering condolences. Her fridge was stocked with food, most of it she had no interest in touching, but she’d still have to empty and clean and return the containers.

The state trooper who’d responded to the call had shown up at the farm in person to deliver the news. Not that Tesia had needed him. Her father had shown up when she was making dinner after getting off work early. Her hand still ached from the burn she’d received that night.

Tesia hadn’t truly noticed the burn as her father stood silently before her. He hadn’t said anything. He hadn’t needed to say anything.

Bill, a nice man she’d dated briefly after graduating, had knocked tentatively at the door. Tesia, red-eyed with a wet towel wrapped around her hand had answered. Bill’s family had lived in the area a long time and his mother had known her granny so he didn’t ask how she knew. He’d sat with her until she called her brothers and he’d driven her to the hospital on the icy roads to see her father. The call from the hospital had come as they were navigating a particularly nasty corner on the way into town.

All of that was a week ago, however, and now she had to deal with the aftermath. Her brothers, Jarek and Casimir had arrived yesterday. Too late to have been of help, but plenty early enough to have gotten on her nerves. Their relationship had been strained since Casimir had run off to attend college in Colorado. His leaving the state had been the nail in her coffin. Tesia closed her eyes, waited for the familiar twinge of disapproval, but it didn’t come. They’d been suspiciously quiet the last week.

Despite the wind outside, Tesia stood from the pew and buttoned up her coat. She slipped out the side door and went around the back to the cemetery. A twinge of guilt pierced her when she pretended not to see Daniel still hovering nearby.

No one was there and she was thankful. The fresh dirt drew the eye like nothing else could. Tesia ignored the cold and the knowledge her brothers would be looking for her soon. Sinking down beside the grave she laid her head against the headstone.

She’d paid extra to be sure it was ready by the time they buried him. It matched the one made for her mother a few years ago. It also bore a striking resemblance to the one on the other side of his plot where her granny had been laid to rest. The same symbols, carefully write in granite, protected him in death. Her mother’s stone has no such symbols. She’d never want such heathen things haunting her in the afterlife.

“Your forehead will freeze there if you’re not careful,” she heard behind her and Tesia opened her eyes before lifting her head. Unshed tears finally fell as she saw her father stand at the foot of his grave. He didn’t get closer; they wouldn’t let the dead get closer. Even if the dead were family.

“Maybe,” Tesia said as she cried. “But the company would be better.” Ever since they’d arrived she’d done nothing but argue with her brothers. The same thing had happened at her mother’s funeral. Only then her father had been able to smooth things over. Now there was no one and she’d found she didn’t care.

“They’re still family, Tesia.” There was no chiding in his tone. “I know it’s hard,” her father continued when she had no response for his words. “I’m sorry,” he said and Tesia wrapped her arms around herself at the pain she heard in his voice.

Looking up again she couldn’t make him out as clearly as the first time. Their time grew short. She struggled to find words, but they refused to come.

“It wasn’t your fault,” she managed to get out finally. “Do you get to be with mom?” The question’d haunted her for as long as she could remember. Her mother had once carried the same burden as her; given up only when her second child had reached maturity. The fact that child had fled before the mantle settled upon him didn’t matter.

Her father, however, had been trained by his mother in other magics. Was his witchcraft keeping him from being with his beloved wife now they were both dead? Tesia wasn’t sure she truly wanted to know the answer.

“He’s not cruel,” her father said. Tesia wasn’t quite sure, but that thought she buried down deep so they didn’t hear even a hint of it. “She’s unable to come, Tesia. It’s not in her blood. But if you have need of me your granny will let me know. Trust her.” As she watched he faded further, almost invisible now. “Tesia, do not despair. I know there will be trials to come and you will feel alone, but you’re not. Remember, Tesia, He does love you. Don’t lose faith. There are whispers, I wish I could say more. Be vigilant. Trust in God, but more importantly, trust in yourself.”

Tesia listened, strained to hear what he said as the wind started to blow over his words. “We love you, Tesia. Don’t hate your brothers for their weakness. They can help it no more than you can help your strength.” Tes watched her father fade from sight before she stood.

The thin sheet of ice forming on everything made it hard to cross the cemetery, but she didn’t let it stop her. Kneeling down again she pulled the flower from her coat and set it on the ice covered headstone she stopped before. “I’m sorry,” she whispered in the wind. Her fingers brushed over the name carved on the stone. For five years she’d made the trek to Fred’s grave looking for…something. She didn’t know what. Forgiveness, maybe, for stealing his life. Maybe for the pain his family continued to suffer over not knowing what happened to him?

“Tesia!”

She heard the shout so headed back for the church with a frown. Her brothers waited inside and Jarek shut the door behind her. “Goddamn, but it’s freezing,” he said.

Tesia felt the pulse of anger from the angels. Without thinking she slapped her brother who recoiled from her with narrow, red eyes. “Jarek Jaskolski,” she said in a low voice. “Do not take His name in vain and especially not in His own house.” It was not only the angels’ anger that filled her words. Her anger came from a more selfish place, but she didn’t know if the angels knew, or cared, so long as she was angry at the broken commandment.

Jarek didn’t say anything until Casimir nudged him. “Yea, sorry.”

Tesia knew he didn’t mean it, but she tried to hide her knowledge from them. If they were appeased then, for now, that was all that mattered. She was not up to dealing with their righteous wrath today.

“Come on,” Casimir said as he took her hand. “Let’s get home. Are we expecting people?”

“Wait.” Tes pulled her hand from his and left her brothers to go find Daniel in his office. The door was open and he stood in front of one of the many bookshelves inside. He looked good, as always. Some small part of her wanted to go inside and let him hug her until everything was better. She always squelched such ideas. It was nowhere near time to settle down. Especially not with a pastor.

“Tes?” He smiled at her and left the books on the shelf to cross the room. This close she caught the scent of his shampoo and laundry detergent. He always smelled clean. Even in high school.

A sob rose up and she did not resist when he pulled her into his arms. Neither of them spoke. Daniel stroked her back through her coat and she sobbed against his shirt. Tes finally pulled away when the feel of his hand went from a comforting touch to something else.

It was all her as his hands did nothing new. This just happened sometimes. They were friends from way back, but every now and again she felt a distinct twinge of lust for him. As wrong as it surely was, she basked in the temptation for a moment. Shut the door, seduce him on the overstuffed sofa, and forget everything wrong for a time. Tes stepped backwards into the hallway.

“Thank you. I- I’ll call you tomorrow.”

She felt his eyes on her as she fled the temptation of him.

Her brothers waited by the door and she let Jarek take her hand. Tesia let him lead her from the church, but once outside she pulled her hand away. He’d driven them to the church, but she didn’t want him driving her home. Pulling open the door to the truck she slid behind the wheel and turned the heat up all the way.

“Can’t believe you still drive this,” Jarek said as he dodged the spring in the middle of the bench seat. Tesia ignored him as she carefully got her seatbelt attached. When neither of her brothers did the same she turned to look at them, waiting in silence until they did their own belts. Only once they’re secure did she carefully pull out of the church parking lot.

Twice more they asked questions or made comments designed to get her talking, but Tesia ignored them all. The road needed her attention. It’s what she said when Casimir pushed a few minutes later for an answer to his original question in the church. They were quiet after that and the only sounds to accompany her drive home were the crunch of tires and the heater blasting warm air.

Tesia made the turn off the road onto the long driveway with care. Another mile, she told herself. Then she could leave them to entertain anyone who did decide to show up. The thought of a hot shower and silence comforted her more than any of the words of condolence she received today from friends and relatives. They would not bring the peace Daniel’s embrace had, but neither would they bring confusion.

Unfortunately, she realized, as she pulled the truck into the old barn her father’d always meant to convert to an actual garage, silence wasn’t what was in store. An old, black Cadillac sat idling in front of the porch. Tesia ignored it and the man inside as she hurried to unlock the door and build the fire back up. As she opened the front door, Tesia still shivered, but not from the temperature change. No, it was the angels’ sudden and intense attention that made her body react. The weight of it had her resting a hand on the wall to remain upright.

“Not now,” she begged silently. She could not deal with it now. Three sets of footsteps had her turn to greet the unwanted guest. Tesia’s smile was in place for the family lawyer, but she couldn’t ignore the way he looked around.  As if being there was the worst experience of his life.

“Mr. Nallin,” she greeted as her brothers removed their coats. “I’m surprised to see you here. We missed you at the service.” It left her time to wonder how long he’d been this way and she was proud of the way her voice didn’t waiver when Nallin’s eyes looked into hers. Did he know she knew? It would be easier if he didn’t. “Would you like coffee?” she asked before heading for the kitchen. There was less to break in there and the tile floor was less precious to her than the original hardwood in the living room.

Since she didn’t wait for a reply the other three were forced to follow her into the other room. Tesia grabbed the holy water from the counter before they came in and splashed a few drops onto the heater in the corner before turning it on.

“We appreciate you coming out in this weather.”

Tesia laughed at Jarek’s words. She wished she’d been able to stop herself. Three sets of curious eyes, one a little hostile, turned on her and Tesia smiled nervously.

“Sorry. Just…this weather. You’ve adapted too well to California,” she said and it seemed to be an acceptable answer. Filling the old coffee pot from the kitchen faucet was easy. Getting a few drops of holy water into the pot was harder, but she managed. Tesia sat at the table after turning on the coffee pot. “Is anyone hungry?” she asked.

Casimir opened the fridge and pulled out a pie dropped off two days ago by one of Dad’s poker buddies from the senior center. “Anyone?” he asked and Tesia tried not to watch Nallin too carefully when he answered.

“I’d better pass,” the lawyer said. “I promised my wife I’d lose the extra ten pounds after the holidays.” It’s a perfectly acceptable answer, but Tesia saw the slight twist at the corner of his mouth. Self-satisfaction at the lie received was almost always a giveaway. Tesia tried to stop the nervous tapping of her foot on the tile, but had no success. Hopefully they would write it off as post-funeral nerves. Casimir sat at the table with a large piece of pie in front of him as the others waited for the coffee.

“Is this about father’s will?” Jarek asked. Their mother’s death had been easier that way as well. Everything of hers was left to their father except for a few small things given out to cousins, family friends, and her children. This time was different. Tesia already knew what her father’s will said as she’d been appointed his executor. He’d had her help him decide who got what and in a way she was glad of that now. No surprises for her. Surprises stopped being her friend a long time ago.

“It is,” Nallin said as the coffee pot gurgled to let them know it finished. Tesia forced herself to count to ten in her head before rising. From the nearest cupboard she pulled out four mugs. She whispered a quick prayer over each of them before running her finger around the ring of color on their rims. Once the cups were filled she carried them to the table.  Jarek grabbed one immediately for a long drink.

Nallin was slower, but he reached for a cup. He wouldn’t be able to get out of a drink. That was why she’d brought over the mugs without asking who wanted a drink. Casimir dumped sugar in his, even more than Tesia liked. She opened the door to the fridge to ask, “Milk?” All three shook their heads so she only grabbed the small pitcher for herself. Tes bought herself time as she doctored her coffee, but they were growing restless.

Finally, she took a sip and lifted her mug. “To Dad,” she said sadly. The others at the table lifted their mugs and everyone took a solemn drink. Even the lawyer. Tesia ignored the shout of triumph inside her head as the angels felt the lawyer fall into her trap. Eyes full of fury turned on her as the mug fell from Nallin’s hand and spilled onto the table. Casimir and Jarek shared a surprised look as Tesia sprang to her feet.

“Are you ok, Chuck?” Jarek asked as he reached for Nallin’s shoulder.

“Stop!”

Jarek pulled his hand away, eyes wide as Tesia ignored their guest. From the top of the fridge she pulled down an old tin can. Dumping it out onto the table she selected three pieces of worn chalk and dropped to her knees. “Stay away from him,” she warned as her brothers looked on in puzzlement.

“You stupid whore,” Nallin spat as she started to encircle him on the floor with colored lines drawn in chalk. Under her breath she enunciated words carefully taught her over the years. The chair rocked as Nallin tried to regain control of his body. He didn’t drink much so it won’t take long. The heated water in the air would help, but she needed to move quickly or someone would be hurt.

“Tesia, what are you doing?” Casimir demanded, but Tesia stopped his approach with a withering look.

“Your job,” she told him. Pointing to the coffee on the table she said, “Clean it up before it spills into the circle.” To his credit, begrudgingly given, Jarek grabbed a towel to clean the mess without asking further questions. Once the circles were in place she rose to her feet. “What’s your name?” she demanded of the demon inside their family lawyer’s body.

“That knowledge won’t save you,” the demon snarled as blood leaked from the lawyers’ eyes. Tesia felt her brothers’ shock, but she had to ignore it for now. Without taking her eyes from the demon she took a deep breath. This was always the tricky part and she was still not comfortable with it. Already she could feel the will of the angels trying to force themselves on her.

“Is he in collusion?” Tesia asked as she struggled to let the angels leave her in control. If she found out the lawyer welcomed such a deal there was no stopping the angels. A possession would be easier. It would definitely be neater. Crossing the room without looking away from the demon she opened the cupboard to the right of the sink to take out a green glass bottle. “Is he in collusion?” she asked again as the demon laughed when he saw what she held.

“You cannot stop me with that.” The demon edged a foot close to the circles written on the floor, but he pulled it back quickly before it could cross over. “The lawyer’s body served its purpose,” he finally said as Tesia uncorked the bottle and stood just outside the circle. “It is not so strong it will survive what you intend.” Blood seeped from the corners of the mouth used by the demon before he grinned to show blood-coated teeth.

“Will you be a killer?” the demon asked. “Will you break His commandments to sever my ties from this Earth?”

He meant for the words to give her pause. The first demon she’d faced had done so with those same words. Unfortunately for the fellow in her kitchen he was not her first demon.

“There’s no commandment about making a mess on my kitchen floor,” Tesia quipped despite the disapproval from the angels and her brothers’ continuing confusion. “This will be easier if you tell me your name.” Tesia wasn’t sure those words were the truth, but the angels always said it would be easier and she tried not to even think them liars. Those thoughts never ended well.

“You have no authority over me.” The demon’s words sounded more desperate and Tesia said a quick prayer of thanks for the desperation. A weaker demon meant she might be able to save the body. Chuck, she reminded herself. Mr. Nallin. The family lawyer for the last ten years. A man she knew. It’d never been someone she’d known.

Tesia resisted the urge to look behind her when she heard a noise. Sometimes when they were desperate a demon would pull out the same old tricks to distract. “If you believe that you don’t know who you’re dealing with,” Tesia informed him as she carefully pours a small amount of thick liquid into her palm. It heated the skin, but she ignored the sensation to focus on the demon. “I am the Holder of God’s Gift,” she intoned as the demon’s struggles grew more frantic.

Blood seeped from the body’s eyes and mouth as she watched.

She rubbed the oil into both of her hands as she stepped within the circle. The demon’s look of triumph faded as she placed her hands on his head. The soft scent of herbs was a sharp contrast to the scream of pain from the demon. He looked frantically around as best he could and cried out, “Please help me! She’s killing me! Please!” Tesia, long used to the antics of demons about to be removed from their host, paid him no mind, but her brothers were not so immune to his cries.

“Tesia,” Casimir said as she felt him move to stand behind her. “Are you sure you know what you’re doing?” The doubt in his voice angered her, but the angels’ warning came after she’d already taken a calming breath. Doubt and anger were emotions demons thrived on and to let either in now would be disastrous. Jarek didn’t voice any concerns he might have, but she felt him hovering.

“Yes, Tes,” the demon said as she felt the angels grow more agitated at the time she took to finish the job. “Do you know what you are doing? Poor Chuck here doesn’t think you can save him. He thinks he’s going to die. He has for some time.” Under her hands she felt the demon jerk the body around. Chuck’s head snapped back and he let out a moan of despair.

 “I don’t want to die.” Tesia wasn’t sure who spoke. Not that it changed anything.

Her hands burned now as they touched the demon’s head and she wasn’t able to hold back the angels any longer. “There is no death, but eternal life if you have faith in our Lord. Do not despair, Charles Alexander Patrick Nallin.” Tesia hated when they speak through her. Thankfully it was not that often. “We are the protectors. We are the power of your Lord made manifest on this Earth.”

Tesia knew when they gathered their power to expel the demon and she said the words in her head that her grandmother had taught her. The angels disliked her interference with their power, but an uneasy truce had been reached in that regard.

“Have faith,” Tesia whispered to Chuck before the angels took her voice once again.

“Out, demon,” they cried from her mouth. Tesia felt the struggle as the demon resisted the surge of heavenly energy that poured through her hands. She’d witnessed exorcisms done by those without an angel, or two, on their shoulder. It could be done. All it truly took was an unshakable faith. Tesia, in times like these, was thankful for the angels because she’d never called her faith steady.

“In the name of God,” Tesia said, her words echoed by the angels. “By the power he grants all those living to resist evil, I command you to return to the Pit. In the name of Jesus Christ we ask mercy for Charles Alexander Patrick Nallin. Be gone, demon, and trouble this man no more.”

The demon howled and Tesia felt the body under her hands twitch and jerk as the infernal creature struggled to hang on. His resistance grew weaker and there’s a joyous shout from her and the angels when the demon tore free and was gone.

“Call 9-1-1,” Tesia yelled as the lawyer’s body jerked and fell to the floor. This too she’d done before. “Someone bring me the jar atop the fridge,” she said as she loosened the lawyer’s tie and pushed the chair out of the way. The chair crashed to the floor as Jarek handed her the jar. From the jar she pulled out a soft cloth that reeked of the fragment oils it had been left to soak in.

The angels were not interested now that the demon was gone. Thankfully, they offered no arguments when she whispered her grandmother’s spells to try to strengthen Chuck’s body. In the background she heard Casimir on the phone stammering about what happened. Growling in frustration she broke her spell and told him, “We don’t know. Maybe it’s his heart? He’s breathing, but not responding to our voice. He just fell over.” Casimir repeated the words and Tesia shoved him from her mind again to pick up her spells. The herbal floral scent from the jar filled the room and washed away the last of the demon’s scent. As she wiped a corner of the clothe with care over Chuck’s face she whispered for healing and caught the soft flare of power that combined her will with the prepared oil.

Casimir continued to talk to the dispatcher, but Tes was too deep in the spell now to help out. Jarek would have to pick up the slack. Tesia basely felt Chuck’s body respond to the spells and she had no way of knowing if his mind would return. If not, they’d likely chalk it up to a stroke and leave his family to deal with the aftermath. Tesia hoped if his mind was lost then it was truly gone and not locked in the torment the demon had trapped him in before. As her own mind came back to the room she felt the first sting of pain on her palms.

Ignoring the pain, she rocked back on her ankles and rose to her feet. “The jar,” she said as she sank into her chair.  Jarek picked it up to set on the table, but when he got to close it she stops him. Another square of clothe from the jar was pressed against her palms. The burning on her skin stayed, but grew no stronger. This made it easier to keep more tears from falling.

“Tesia,” Jarek asked quietly as Casimir remained on the phone with the emergency dispatcher, “What happened?” The absurdity of the question made her laugh. Jarek’s look of alarm made her laugh harder.

From outside she heard sirens coming closer and she left the answering of the door to one of her brothers. Rising from the chair she walked out on to the back porch. Ignoring the bite in the air, she sat on the battered couch and listened to the EMTs rush in to see to Chuck. They were out of luck if they needed anything from her. Sleep crept over her brain with a welcome respite from the day.

*

Snow fell when she woke and through the wall of windows she saw nothing but the white blackness outside. Someone had covered her with her favorite quilt as she slept and the woodstove radiated heat to drive away the winter night’s chill. As sleep abandoned her she realized she was not alone.

“You had us worried,” Jarek said as he handed her a mug. Tesia struggled to sit up and claim the mug with a mumbled apology.  Jarek sat as he told her, “Casimir’s packing.”

“Not so surprised,” Tes said before the rich scent of chocolate and cinnamon lured her towards the mug. She peered into it with a smile. “You remembered.”  Jarek said nothing and she was thankful for the silence. The snow fell outside and other than the occasional pop from the wood stove it was quiet. “I miss you,” Tesia whispered to her brother as she tried to hold back tears. “Now I have no one.” She knew they wouldn’t move back and she wasn’t able to leave.

He is with you, echoed in her head and Tesia did not even try to explain the difference. We are with you. It was the first time Tesia’d ever heard an ounce of comfort in their voice. The vessel should listen more carefully, they scolded and she smiled.

“Tesia? Are you ok?” She looked at her brother and read the worry in his eyes.  So, she shifted her mug to her other hand so she could touch his arm.

“I’m fine, Jarek. How’s Mr. Nallin?” The question was the one she was most afraid to ask. Jarek sat in silence which was all the answer she needed.

“It wasn’t your fault,” Jarek finally said. “We got a call a couple hours ago. He died at the hospital.”

Tesia let the words sink into her brain without a response. To buy herself time she drank her cocoa and watched the snow. The dark outside made her nervous, but she wasn’t sure why. At Jarek’s nervous look her way she let out a heavy sigh.

“I know it wasn’t my fault,” she told her brother. “It was the demon’s. Maybe it was Mr. Nallin’s. I don’t know and it doesn’t matter.” The hard note in her voice startled her brother, but Tesia saw no reason to temper her words.  “I have a duty.” The porch was oppressive all at once and she wanted to be alone.

So, she stood and wrapped the quit around her shoulders. “Thanks for the cocoa.” The feeling in the pit of her stomach that it was not smart to go outside was ignored. The backyard was dark and cold, but not so cold she wanted to go back inside. Tesia sat on the old picnic table her grandfather had built and sipped her cocoa.

Someone was coming. She had no idea who, or what, but she felt the land still in anticipation. The family’s protections served as wards over the farm and should keep anything bad from intruding.  

“Witch daughter,” whispered on the wind and Tesia forced herself to look around slowly despite the rapid beating of her heart. She found no one, nothing, within view, but gave into the pull of the voice to follow it to the edge of the yard. The woods were dark despite the full moon. That darkness blossomed within the bare branches and flowed to where she stood. Tesia whispered a prayer and wove it into a spell for protection. In the blackness a point of light appeared and flickered out.

“Witch daughter,” the wind whispered again. Tesia refused the force of the words and stayed her distance from the darkness. The angels were quiet. It almost felt as if they hid from something, but they’d never done that before. What was held in that dark that angels of the Lord hid from it?

“There is a line, witch daughter,” the darkness told her. “You dance upon the line, toying with His plans as if it is your right.” Unable to look away from the light that danced in the darkness Tesia found herself unable to speak or move.

The vessel does as she should, argued her angels as their presence suddenly flooded Tesia with the strength to move. Her feet took a step backward, away from whatever hides in the woods. The vessel was Chosen for our purpose as is right.

Again the wind picked up and Tesia shielded her eyes from the debris whipped up from the ground. “The witch daughter must be taught,” the wind howled. Tesia barely managed to stifle her scream as the cold wind tore at her body before it sank deeper.

“Help me,” she whispered to her angels, but they did nothing. It reminded her of the day she was twelve and the angels first appeared to her, only worse. Tesia had thought the pain of that day was unendurable and the worst thing to happen to her, but she was wrong. The cold wind buffeted her very being and not even her spells helped. Driven to her knees she was barely aware of the snow as it seeped into her clothes. The physical pain, at least, gave her something to hold onto. She used that to help get on her feet and back away from the pain the creature on the wind seared into her soul.

“In the name of God,” Tesia whispered, putting as much power in the words as she could pull from the sleeping land under her, “Begone!” She hurtled generations of power at the being in the woods. She felt shock from the creature before it vanished.

What has the vessel done? they asked fearfully as Tesia turned from the woods. There was no answer, not when it took all her strength to get back to the house. Without a word she made it to the fire in the living room, blessedly empty of family, and sat down before the flames, thankful for the warmth.  Only when she was able to feel all her fingers again did she stand.

Hearing nothing from upstairs she went to the kitchen to gather what she needed. The angels’ demands for information she ignored for now. Tes opened the windows and shivered at the cold. Despite the cold she laid the quilt over a chair and stripped. Only long practice let her force out the right words through the chattering of her teeth. With a piece of chalk, she drew a circle around herself on the kitchen floor as she chanted the spells her father and his mother had taught her.

The angels had no choice but to be within the circle with her. Tesia continued to ignore their demands for information. Not until she pulled on them for additional power did they understand.

The vessel must not.

She ignored their warning. Not even the prickle of pain that came with their objection stopped her. Tesia’s chants grew louder as she wove in prayers learned at her mother’s knee to the spells of her father.

The vessel must not.

“He was taking you from me,” Tesia whispered after finishing her spells. In the circle there was nothing now but her and the angels. Not even the cold of the night would break through her spell as she closed her eyes. “I don’t know what or who that was,” she said as she felt the spell start to weave between her and the angels, “but I won’t let that happen again.” She opened herself up to the angels completely. She felt them root through her whole soul, even the places she’d kept private before. Nothing was hidden from them now.

“If I am bound to you,” Tesia said as she allowed herself to be overwhelmed by their presence, “Then so are you bound to me.”

An air of finality rang in her words and Tesia fell into a light too strong for her to bear as the spells bound the three together beyond what was already in place. As she crumpled to the floor within the circle of power a pair of lights flickered to either side of her.

She knows not what she does, one said as they stared at her still form.

They both thought of what had visited the farm that evening. If it were possible to doubt their destiny they surely would do so now.

He must have seen this, one offered finally. Tesia shivered on the ground and with a pulse of power she never felt the angels pulled her quilt to the circle and laid it over her.

The vessel must not be harmed, they said together. As they roused Tesia and urged her upstairs to her bed they worried amongst themselves without her knowledge. Brooding through the night as they watched Tesia sleep it w’s not until the first rays of light came through her unclosed curtains that one said Did He know and send Sariel to stop this? It followed this up with Why do I question His knowledge now?

If angels could sigh the other would have. The only answer given comforts neither of them. We are of the vessel and the vessel is of us. We can only trust in His plan.

Tesia woke not long after the less than comforting words and they retreated to hide their doubts from her. The vessel must never doubt their faith in His plan.

 

 

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Options are confusing!

I haven't updated in awhile. I meant to last weekend and last weekend was crazy. As crazy as this entire week turned out. Which means I let my head get spun around too much to get much done. I have one of those weeks a few times a year. Thankfully, I can recover!

I can't even blame social media for my lack of accomplishments this week as I was mostly off those as well. Basically, I had a hermit week. I played Fallout 4 some, read more than I have lately, and caught up on housework. Somewhat. With two dogs and two kids it's never truly caught up.

Mostly I am fighting conflicting projects! I WANT to work on one and need to work on the other. I am being good and doing what needs doing, but it's no fun. ;) Not when the other characters keep popping up with new scenes I need to write NOW! Widowed Witch of the West is only about 20k from being done, but until I get this unnamed short story done I am not going to address the conflict between the handsome US Marshal and the cursing witch. And let's not forget the- oh, well, that's a secret. ;)

I should get back to work! On the short story.

Here's where I left off the last time I worked on WWotW. Now you see why I am anxious to get back to this first draft!

~~~

“Do you want to get dressed first?”

Oh, right. She was naked. Aoife looked down at herself and wondered if she should put something on. Then again, he’d seen her naked. They’d, well, she figured once a man had been inside her maybe being naked in front of him was not a big deal.

“Does it bother you? My being naked?” It only bothered her a little, but she wasn’t going to let him know. No, she was going to be a modern, independent widow.

Had she drawn the curtains in the entryway? And the kitchen shutters. Were they closed? Maybe she should put something on.

 

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Looking back, peeking ahead

2015 gave me a lot. Here's a short list.

1. Fallout 4's Maccready. My current video game boyfriend. (I still love the previous ones, especially Baird from Gears of War.) No one who knows me is going to be surprised I especially love the funny, smart ass characters. I have always loved the funny, smart ass characters. Heck, I married one!

2. Poe Dameron. Have you seen The Force Awakens? Loved it! And Poe is my absolute favorite character. My kids asked who it would be and I told them to guess and they never did. Shawn, the beloved, did because he knows what I like.

3. The end of the Pennyroyal Green series by Julie Anne Long. Even though I absolutely loved the series. And I did. Do. That said, The Legend of Lyon Redmond was the way a series should end. (Also, sometimes, she responds to comments I make in response to her posts on fb. Do I sound too stalkery? Because, I swear am not, but I still squee when she does it.) 

4. Avon's FanLit contest. My first writing contest. I met great people through it. Helpful, awesome, supportive, talented people. Check out their pages on my Links page.

5. I submitted two different projects to two different publishers. Big step. 

6. Blog content. So much blog content! I'm glad I could do a little filling in so the first year of my blog was not empty. I still am not good at short stories, but I've had more practice and think I am getting better. It also gave me plenty of fodder (As if I needed more!) for new novels.

Here's to 2016 and what I'm going to do.

First, I've put Widowed Witch of the West on hold for a bit. I've lost the book somewhere and I write and then get stuck and then think I've sorted it out and write again, but it comes in fits and starts. So, I'm worried about pacing. And, I can't figure out where it's at or what I am doing. So, despite advice from a very talented writer friend of mine I am setting it aside undone. It is 3/4s done so I will be coming back to it. Just...not for a bit.

Instead, I've started a new project tentatively titled Fixing Broke. I had an idea this morning. I've written one chapter. I may wake up tomorrow or the next day and think it crap. Who knows? That's the fun of writing! (That is the fun, right?) 

Once this is done I'm going to either do a second project or dive into deep edits on something I finished, but want to fix. 

So, three novels this year. That's the plan. Maybe two. Depending on the route I go. 

Mad Baron's Doomed Daughter may bravely seek further rejection as well. Not right away. A month or two down the road. 

A couple of months from now I'll probably have a whole new idea about what I want to do this year. 

In the meantime, happy new year! 

 

 


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31 Days - Day 1

“Couch. Jory Couch.”

The teacher’s voice grated through the high pitched laughter in the room. Twenty heads swiveled around to the stern man in the bad suit. A narrow-faced, freckled boy with ginger hair raised his hand. Marcelina, seated at a table in front of him, twisted around to identify this boy. He caught her staring and stuck out his tongue.

Boys!

The teacher’s voice droned on and Marcelina snuck a peek down at the new crayons in her lap. How she wanted to draw! When would they get to the drawing part?

“Mencher! Marcelina Mencher, raise your hand now!”

Marcelina shrank down in her chair. That tone of voice was familiar. Even if the person using it was not known. Her hand rose with a trembling slowness she knew, even at five, gave her away.

“You must pay attention, Marcelina.”

She nodded her head meekly. Everyone was staring. Most importantly, her new crayons were scattered on the floor. The colors, still bright, were no longer warming. Would she be allowed to pick them up? Rather than ask, she slid down in her chair and onto the floor under her table. The teacher said something, but she ignored him. Her other brother, Siemowit, had proclaimed from the lofty heights of third grade that kindergarten was for babies. Marcelina had hit him with her small fist and proclaimed herself no baby.

Then she’d been sent to bed with no piernik.

Once the crayons were in her hands she looked at the shoes of her classmates. Everyone had new shoes. They shone with the proclamation that no one had worn them before. New feet, new laces or buckles, and no scuff marks. Marcelina slid her own secondhand shoes off.

It was not as if they’d been used much, but that was why she hated them so. The shoes had been Zuza’s. Zuza, who had died two years ago when she was Marcelina’s age. Sometimes she still heard her parents crying when they thought her asleep. Her brothers pretended they were not sad, but everyone was sad.

Marcelina was the last. The youngest. But now, sometimes, she felt like she’d be doing everything twice. Because her parents would not think to themselves, “Today is Marcelina’s first day of school.” No, they would think, “Zuza’s first day would have been two years ago. Today is for her as well as Marcelina. Because Marcelina must live for her sister as well.”

It was a disturbing thought for a girl of five. Especially since, if pressed, she could not put it into words. Only feelings. It felt as if she must live for two. Be both daughters of the Mencher family.

The shoes were a constant reminder so she kicked them away. Her legs were strong and so the shoes skidded across the thin carpet and landed under another table. Against another foot. Marcelina was caught when a ginger-haired boy ducked his head down and grinned at her.

Because she could not talk, hiding as she was, she didn’t put the grin into words. Not the way her oldest brother would talk about his girlfriend’s smile or hair. Or other things when he also thought her asleep. It made her stomach feel funny, the boy’s grin, and so she grinned back.

Her eyes grew wide when he tugged off his shoes. He slid out of his chair and landed softly on his butt. Marcelina clapped a hand over her mouth to quiet her giggle. His shoes was kicked across the carpet. Not as well. She had to stretch her arm out to reach them.

He wore tennis shoes. They were white and she stroked the new footwear in wonder. Someday, in the far future it seemed, she would get shoes of her own. Not Zuza’s. When she looked up from the shoe he mimed putting it on.

Did he want to trade? But, he had boy shoes! And her shoes, scuffed Mary Janes of brown, were girl shoes. He slid her first shoe onto his foot. She tried his on with a bounced excitement. They fit! So, she slid his other shoe on. He was wearing hers! Marcelina had to keep from laughing.

She did.

He did not.

Strong fingers closed around her arm and Marcelina squeaked. The teacher, Mr. Vilhjalmsson, pulled her up to her feet. Jory stood as well and she thought that brave.

“Miss Mencher, what were you doing?”

“I dropped my crayons.”

“Jory has girl shoes! Jory has girl shoes!” The chorus was picked up by the class before Mr. Vilhjalmsson stopped them with a clap of his hands. Marcelina rubbed her arm where he’d held her. It didn’t hurt. It was the thought of being caught.

Would her parents be called? They would be disappointed. Zuza would not have been caught. She would have been a good student. Marcelina began to sob, unable to stop the overwhelming sense of failure she’d created in her head. Zuza would be looking down from Heaven. Mad. Upset that Marcelina could go to school and fail when she could not go and thrive.

The kids fell quiet, teasing forgotten as Marcelina held their attention. Twenty heads watched as Marcelina threw up her breakfast while still sobbing. Then the shrieking began and everyone raced away from her.

Everyone except Mr. Vilhjalmsson.

And Jory, but he only stared raptly at his brand new tennis shoes. No longer white. 

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NaNoWriMo

November is here. I've written 2k words on my project, The Widowed Witch of the West. I wanted to get a bigger start, but we spent the day with the kids doing stuff. I want a nice big start because once Fallout 4 comes out I'll be splitting time.

Switching from a short story a day to a full novel is a little trying, but I expect to be back in the swing of things real soon. For now I'm letting the scenes meander a bit. It can be fixed in editing and I may find something else to use in there. Plus, I like this character so I am letting her take control for a bit. The Oracle wants to stretch her wings, haha, and pester Aoife and since they're stuck on a train I may as well let her.

At least, I let her today. Tomorrow I'll rein her in. I want to get to the heist tomorrow. What heist? You can find out once the book is done.

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