Monday, August 4, 2014

Summer Reading is over, and I am so done with it.

Well, my schedule got shot all to hell with the advent of Summer Reading. Have you heard of it? When the kids get out of school, things get lively over here at the public library. We have a series of activities for the children and teens. Those activities are designed to keep our youth learning and engaged over the long summer break, and to keep them reading. This is supposed to keep kids from forgetting quite so much while they are on vacation, and incidentally to keep them out of their parents' hair.

Summer Reading is very good for the children. It keeps them excited and motivated to read and participate in activities over the summer, when they might have just plopped on the couch and watched TV. It is also, however, pure hell for all but the most psychotically enthusiastic librarians. We have one of those, by the way. She's totally awesome.

I am not noted for my enthusiasm in general. Unless, of course, we're talking about betta fish. Somehow Mr. Kitty survived my initial mistreatment and is now flourishing, and two more betta fish have joined my family. The neons, sadly, did not make it.

I digress.

This year at my library branch we did the following for kids and teens:

1-4 special programs a week
Summer reading game boards & prizes
Summer of Learning digital badges
Passport to Success
Feeding lunch to the children.

Yes, really. Lunch. It's fun, but way out of my job description. Except there's this little line at the bottom of the page that says "other duties as required," and I guess that's it.

We signed up 71 teens and 359 children this year. My teen numbers are down from last year, which disappoints me...I'll have to try harder next year, which is a shame, because I'm freaking exhausted already!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The fish keeping adventures continue.

I love our Betta so much that I ended up joining a Betta enthusiast website. It's kind of scary how quickly I fell in love with that silly little fish. He's fun to watch while I'm out at the reference desk, and the kids ask all sorts of questions.

Thursday I'll put live plants in the tank - the plants are in a quarantine tank right now, to make sure there's no snails or other pests before I add them in. The tank will look nice with some real greenery in it, and the soft plants will be safer for Mr. Kitty's fins. He tore his fins on something - probably the plastic grass, which I've thrown out.

Summer Reading is going well. We have a ton of kids and teens signed up. It looks like this year will surpass last year at a walk - and last year was a BIG year!

Fun times. Still too stressed and busy to think of anything imaginative.

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Unnamed Story - Part 5

Oh, there it was, on the floor behind Jonas. A sludge demon too small to even be graded. The little creature was trucking along at a snail's pace, leaving a glittering trail of slime behind it. If it weren't black, it would have looked like nothing quite as much as a gigantic, mobile booger.
"I don't see anything, so they must have already left," Jonas said. "The other invocations weren't as big. Not even humanoid sized. Maybe the demons slipped out with the tenants."
"No, there's one right there," I answered, and pulled the generic banishing rune from my pocket. A quick underhand toss, and the goober went back to the nether, accompanied by a surge of alien disappointment.
"Oh, quiet. I'm not going to shoot something that can't fight back," I said.
"What? I didn't ask you to," Jonas said.
"Never mind," I said.
Jonas shook his head, and began the work of scrubbing the chalk lines off the floor with a rag from his pocket, starting from the inside and working his way out. I stood watch, still wary, and keeping alert in case the third demon showed up.
About halfway through, Jonas stopped. He turned his face up, and sniffed. I copied him, wincing as my ribs protested.
"Do you smell smoke?" he asked.
"Yes. Hurry," I answered.
Hunger boiled in my belly, accompanied by a possessive surge - only the first emotion was aimed at me. Was the gun talking to someone?
"I think we need to have a discussion about who owns who, mister," I said, still scanning the piles of junk for intruders. No source of the smoke was apparent, yet.
Jonas paused, looked at me, and then resumed scrubbing.
The weapon was puzzled by my comment, and quieted for a moment. Then my vision blurred, acquiring an overlay of color. The entire garage floor was laced with trails of green. A red point of light was dancing along the pavement, tainting whatever happened to be in its path. It intersected with one of the glowing green trails. The red turned from a tiny spark to a blinding wash of color.
My vision snapped back to normal. I fought back a surge of nausea, staggering, and then gasped. The faint hint of smoke in the air was strengthening.
"Tess, your nose is bleeding," Jonas said.
"Nevermind that, run!" I shouted.
On cue, fire arrived at the end of the trail of slime. Sparks flew to the concrete ceiling and extinguished, but some of them fell into the cardboard boxes that were stacked in a pile nearby. The dry, dusty fuel ignited.
"Shit!" Jonas exclaimed, dropping his cloth.
I turned, trying to run, and the floor bucked and heaved. Jonas grabbed my arm and hauled me to my feet, hustling me towards the exit. The ground seemed out of sync with my feet, and I couldn't tell where the concrete ended. It was covered in a gray mist.
My weapon muttered an apology, but that didn't help worth a damn. I still couldn't see where to put my feet.

The fire, which was growing to a conflagration faster than we could move, had eyes. They watched us with malice. Paws swiped at us, and licks of flame snapped at our heels. At times, the fire lifted away from its fuel to reach for us, tearing at our clothing and leaving blisters in its wake.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Summer Reading, and New Fish

Sorry for the long silence. Summer Reading is kicking my butt.

We decided to have a little fun with Summer Reading this year, and get a pet fish in honor of our theme, "Paws for Reading."

I volunteered to take care of the little guy. Little did I know what this would involve.

We started with a pretty blue betta fish. They are beautiful, and don't need much in the way of complicated care. Technically, he's named Nemo - but he was quickly dubbed Mr. Kitty. Yes, it's a strange name, but we're a strange bunch.

Mr. Kitty was soon joined by two neon tetras, which can peacefully coexist with bettas.

That's when the trouble started.

Betta fish are supposed to be jerks, right? They aren't known as Siamese Fighting Fish for nothing. Right? RIGHT? So, when one of the two neons got her back fin chewed off, naturally we would blame the betta.

Nope. He's totally chill. He likes to swim figure eights around the fake grass and sleep on a leaf. Sometimes, he blows bubbles.

The bully was the other neon. Immediately, I scoured the internet. What could be causing the strange aggressiveness? Two potential reasons came to my attention: Too few fish for a proper school, or perhaps an even number of fish - according to some sites, an odd number often works better.

Reassured by fish care sites that the injured tetra would regrow her fins as long as I kept the water clean and dosed the tank with Melafix, I went to the pet store and bought a third tetra.

Overnight, the bully killed the new fish. I found its broken, bitten body on the bottom of the tank in the morning.

Grimly, I took the little murderer back to the pet shop, and replaced him with two new neons.

Peace reigned.

But wait! Why had the water turned cloudy? I was doing small water changes EVERY DAMN DAY to keep it clean for the hurt fish!

I had never heard of the nitrogen cycle before this week. Innocently, in the way of new aquarium owners, I had put my victims into what would turn into a cesspool of their own waste. By sheer luck, I've been doing the right things to keep everyone alive - my big mistake has been vacuuming the gravel.

I STRONGLY recommend reading up on the nitrogen cycle for aquariums before you dive into buying your kid a fish. Brand new, uncycled tanks are a big killer of fish. The simplest resource I found for someone who has a new tank filled with live fish was here. If you're starting up and have no fish yet, this is a more humane solution.

I went back to the pet store to buy ammonia and nitrite testing kits. I'm now topping something along the lines of $60 worth of equipment for $15 worth of fish. It's a good thing that they're pretty.

Now to keep them alive until the tank chemistry settles.

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Unnamed Story - Part 4

Jonas pried open the demon's beak, and I tossed the banishing rune into its mouth. It swallowed, single eye bulging, and then imploded with a loud bang, returning to the elemental plane where it had been summoned from.
I holstered my weapon, who whispered his contentment.
"You all right?" Jonas asked.
"Bit my tongue, and I think I have some bruised ribs," I answered.
"Let's wrap up here, and I'll take you to get something hot to eat. That was some shooting, by the way. New gun?" Jonas asked.
"Yeah, I passed the sixth mastery," I answered. "Master Dan gave it to me as a present. Looks like it packs quite a punch."
Jonas grunted.
"Haven't been able to pass the third," he said.
He would have to let go of his hatred, for that. There was no point saying anything. Our mutual master of Discipline had told him often enough, and I didn't want to spoil Jonas's good mood.
"Our orders indicated the complaint originated in the basement," I said, avoiding the subject. "Let's see what bass-ackwards mistake the summoner made. Maybe our missing tenants will turn up while we're at it. Management is going to want that in our report."
Jonas nodded and led the way. I followed, keeping silent. The stairs sent a jolt of pain through my torso with every step, and only an effort of will kept my gasps inaudible. If Jonas realized how hurt I was, he would try to send me out, and he wouldn't make any extra effort to find the missing people.
We found the summoning circle in what had once been an underground garage. It had been converted into a storage area when magic came and the inevitable horde of imps made vehicles useless. I could still smell the tang of oil, but it was overpowered by cold concrete and dust.
The apartment manager had cordoned off spaces for the tenants using ropes and orange traffic cones. Clutter abounded. Old cardboard boxes vied for space with bicycles, musty furniture, and an assortment of random junk.
Someone had shoved the belongings out of four sections, swept the floor clean, and drawn their invocation using white chalk. I looked it over. The lines were precise, perfectly drawn and without the signs of the smudging or screwy spelling that would indicate an amateur mistake. I turned on my phone and took a picture, recording the inscription for study.
"Tess," Jonas said, his tone uneasy. "Is it just me, or are there three invocations in that thing?"
My weapon was in my hand without conscious thought. Free of the muffling influence of his holster, he roared in my mind, furious and possessive.
His ire didn't appear to be aimed at me. I spun on my heels, searching for the target of his anger. My ribs screamed with the motion, making me falter, and I pressed my free hand against my side. That didn't help, so I used it to steady my gun, instead.

The weapon hummed in my hand, dragging at my attention. I couldn't spot his target. A nudge, almost a tugging feeling, turned my head toward my partner.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

How to Destroy Your Child's Love of Reading

Summer break is about to begin. The kids have less than a week until they're free of classrooms, and schoolbooks, and homework. For a few, precious months, they'll be able to do as they like with their time.
One lingering bogey remains: Required reading.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for kids doing something over the summer, and reading books for pleasure is right up there with "optimal things kids should do to retain knowledge and improve vocabulary."

But let's face it: Required reading sucks!

There's something horrible about having a vacation with something hanging over your head. If the kids have savvy parents, they'll get taken to the library right away to get the book (or two, or three), and the kid will be stuck reading a few pages a night for the rest of the summer. Sometimes they'll even like it, and read the book in one huge gulp right away, then spend the next two months forgetting about it.

Usually, though, they come to me in the last week of summer vacation with a list of books that were written 20 years ago, and are out of print. They'll be difficult to find, but somehow I'll dredge up something for them, and they'll spend a few miserable, frantic evenings trying to read a book they didn't want and aren't interested in.

I actually have no problem with requiring the kids to read something over summer. As a matter of fact, having them write a mini book report - maybe one per month - seems like a fantastic idea. The kids forget so much over summer break. A little brain exercise isn't going to hurt them, and they need to understand that sometimes you have to do things you don't want to do.

What I have a problem with are the reading lists and reading levels. Lexile levels, AR categories, and all those other sorting gimmicks are just that - gimmicks. They've been developed to give parents and teachers some kind of tool to guide them, and "incidentally" make money, because these tools and other things like them come with a slew of quizzes and evaluations. NOTHING IS FREE, people!

Reading lists throttle children's choices down to a few that have been judged "worthy" by some higher authority. They are often out of date and irrelevant. I have come across a few that have had nice choices in them, but those aren't common, and they still restrict the child to a miserable few - implying that books that aren't on the list are unacceptable. I've seen parents refuse to permit their child to check out books that weren't on the child's required reading list. I haven't seen it just once or twice, I've seen it happen over and over, both during the school year and in summer.

What does this tell the child?
"Those books you want are unworthy, unacceptable, dirty, simple stories for stupid children. Therefore, you are a stupid, simple child who cannot make his own choices about what he should like."

Yeah, that's going to encourage him to read for pleasure.

Lexile levels are the most common "sorting" tool that I've been presented with, and let me tell you - they are bizarre and inconsistent, and too often used as a bludgeon to force children to read harder and harder material, far beyond their grade level or emotional tolerance.

Much like with reading lists, parents frequently refuse to allow their child to take books outside of the roughly 50 point window that is "acceptable" for the child to read. Unlike with reading lists, the policing more commonly comes from the child. By the time they've hit Lexile levels in school, they've learned that their own instincts on what they should be reading are inadequate. The cycle has hit full swing - reading is never for pleasure any more. If the book does not fit the assignment, it is discarded.

The best experience the kids are getting by the time they hit middle school is neutral, if they've been repeatedly hammered with reading lists and Lexile levels. They do not read for fun, and they will continue to not read for fun once they're out of school.

As a society, we complain about the education system and the literacy rates of our children. We fear how the current generation is reading less for enjoyment than the previous ones, and rightfully so.

Making the child afraid every time he picks up a book is not the answer.

How about we let the kids make their own choices? I'm not saying we need to get rid of To Kill a Mockingbird, or anything - by all means, have a few gems that they'll be required to read throughout their school career - but by and large, let them pick their own books! Let them do their book reports on what they want to read, and evaluate them on the quality of the report, not whether the book was at least 110 pages.

The vast majority of kids aren't going to deliberately cheat an assignment by reading a baby book, and if they do, the reading level they chose is the least of your concerns. That kid has other, more serious problems.

Kids will pick up more vocabulary words by reading at or below grade level, and they'll have fun doing it, too. They'll build positive emotional ties with books, because reading won't be a struggle every time. The establishment of success will encourage kids to explore other, harder books.

Want your kid to stretch? Have them pick out something that looks interesting, and read the first page aloud to you. If they stumble just a little bit, the book's perfect. If they breeze through it, encourage them to find something a bit bigger, and remind them that if they want that easy book, they can have it, too.

Let them read comics. Comics are fun.

We don't need reading lists, AR levels, Lexile scores, or any of that nonsense. All we need is a bit of parental involvement. Take five minutes with them at the library. Read them a story at night.

Make them happy when they pick up a book. Problem solved.

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Unnamed Story - Part 3

At the sound of our voice, the whole mass of tentacles jerked and retreated. A basketball-sized eye peered out of the door to 213, and then disappeared. Sloshing and crunching noises, followed by a thud and a squeal, echoed through the hall.
"Shit," I said.
Dinner, the gun whispered.
"You don't think it ate them, do you?" I asked.
"Maybe," Jonas answered. His indifferent tone reminded me, again, that the well-being of the residents wasn't high on his list of priorities.
There was no point in dithering. I moved from the potted plant to the opposite wall, pressing my back against its surface. Weapon pointed at the ceiling, I inched sideways until I was a foot away from the open door, and then stopped. Jonas was close behind.
Inside the apartment, something slurped. I peered through the doorway, sure that the creature would hear the sound of my heart beating or the breath that whispered through my mouth one slow inhale at a time.
The demon was staring back at me.
I grabbed for the banishing rune in my pocket. My sudden motion must have startled the demon, which shrieked and flung a half-dozen tentacles at me. Two wrapped around my waist, pinning my arm to my side, and two more wrapped around my legs. The last pair reached up towards my gun arm, but when demonic flesh touched enchanted metal, the rubbery limbs sizzled and jerked away.
A sudden, hot burst of excitement from my gun, and then I was pulling the trigger. I didn't so much aim as point and click at the seething mass of black, rubbery limbs that were wrapped around my body.
I missed. I couldn't believe that I missed, but a hole the size of a dinner plate in the floor attested to it. The demon screamed and crushed me in his grip, clutching and twisting me like a rag doll. White streaks crawled through my vision.
My partner tore after the still-shrieking demon, chasing it into the apartment. My knees buckled and I fell to the ground, landing next to the severed, steaming ends of the tentacles that I thought I'd missed. Saltwater was leaking out of the wounds like air from a punctured tire, and the iron grip around my body slowly relaxed.
I took a breath, tasting blood, and pushed myself to my feet. My gun was still clutched in my right hand, humming with satisfaction. Thuds and squeals echoed from the interior of the apartment. There was no time to waste; Jonas probably had the creature well in hand, but he couldn't banish it.
The rune was inscribed on a smooth, polished glass sphere about the size of a silver dollar. It fit perfectly in the palm of my hand. I fished it from my pocket, switching my gun from my right to my left hand in the process, spat out some blood, and went to find the fight.
"Little help, here?" Jonas asked.
He'd ripped a twitching tentacle off the demon's body, and was punching the demon every time it tried to move. His blows left noticeable purple marks on the demon's body. I was starting to feel sorry for it; the poor thing had never stood a chance, and Jonas was being particularly ruthless.

"Open it up," I said.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

My Writing Process

Looks like I'm running a little late this week. My apologies!

My Writing Process Blog Tour

I was asked by author Clarissa Johal to participate in this blog tour. Check her out - she has a lot of interesting stuff going on over there!

1) What are you currently working on?

I'm working on the sequel to Silver Bound. It's tentatively titled Silver Burned. Our heroine is facing a bloody conflict to reclaim her territory, and not all of the demons she's facing are coming from the outside.

2) How does your work differ from others in the genre?

Let's look at my main character: Samantha has a lot of bestial traits. She doesn't always think like a human, and favors brute force over more subtle (and effective) solutions. She's purpose driven, with very little need or desire for introspection. One of her larger character flaws is that she doesn't stop to think about the consequences of her actions. She isn't so much impulsive as she is direct, and she tends to smash at problems until they stop twitching. In short, Samantha is a bit of a brute. I thought her nature would be a fun change after reading about so many main characters who wiffle waffle, especially about romance.

As far as world building - well, I think a lot of what I've put together has been done before, but not in this combination. We've read stories with different kinds of weres, and all sorts of explanations about why they don't overrun humanity. We've seen mages and magic fluctuations before, along with all of the other fantasy creatures that sneak about in my world. We've even read stories where people change (what I call snapping) at puberty. What makes my Earth unique is how I've used those ideas in combination, and how nasty the results are for the people who have magic in their blood. It's better to be human.

3) Why do you write what you do?

I write what I want to read, and I read two genres: Urban fantasy, and regency romance. I couldn't write regency to save my life, so here I am.

Also, I got tired of how urban fantasy seems to be getting taken over and blended with paranormal romance. Paranormal romance is fine enough, don't get me wrong, but why does almost every female protagonist feel the need to tie themselves in knots over a man, or two, or three? Can't we find something else to worry about? Like the giant, thorny problem that's staring us in the face, perhaps? Isn't that enough?

Sure, we all want to get laid, but there's no need to get bent out of shape about it. Handle your business, girl!

4) How does your writing process work?

I'm an unabashed pantser. I've tried outlining, and it just doesn't work for me. My characters do what they want. Sometimes I can steer them in a different direction, and sometimes I can't. The most outlining I can do is to decide on a general, overarching sequence of events and the desired conclusion to my current manuscript. Everything else is in flux until it's on paper.

By and large, I can't write at home. I have three cats, a husband, and a roommate. Something's always going on, and someone always wants my company. It's nice to be needed, but hectic.

When I want to write, I go somewhere other than home. Sometimes I stay late after work and write while I'm off the clock, and sometimes I'll go to a local business. If I do use a business, like a coffee shop, I scout it out first to make sure it isn't too crowded, because I don't want them to be inconvenienced by me taking up a table. I buy something about once an hour.

First, I read over the last few paragraphs that I completed in the previous session - not too much, but enough to get me in the mood and remind me of what I was doing.

Second, I jot down a few notes detailing what events I want to have happen during the current session. I can usually write notes for 1-2k worth of words before things get sketchy.

If there are things going on around me, I put on headphones. The music I listen to has to be energetic, strong enough to drown out any background noise. In general, I'm listening to dubstep or industrial, and I try to avoid anything that's easy to sing to, or I'll be distracted by the words.

Some people say that music helps them focus. For me, it's a method that I use to remove other distractions, so instead of getting bombarded with things from all sides - that child's squeaky shoes, the sound of the coffee grinder, the big truck rumbling outside, birdsong, that couple's conversation, those students and their dating problems - I just have one sound that yanks on my attention.

I can't face a window, or I'll stare at it. I can't face the room, or I'll watch people moving around. I can't even face a wall that has art on it, or I'll ponder the posters. Everything that I do is to isolate myself, as though I've locked myself into a closet in public.

Writing with ADHD is hell. I'm not on medication, although I've pondered going back to that, especially when things get really bad. Some days are worse than others. My coworkers might think it's funny that sometimes I end up running laps in the office instead of working, but I don't. The only thing that saves me is that I love what I'm doing, so I keep coming back.

The next participants should be posting soon! Check out:
Jess Haines

Friday, May 23, 2014

Amazon & Hachette

Regarding Amazon's latest shenanigans:

Large corporations are designed to be sociopathic. They must not only make money, but make MORE money every year to satisfy investors. If they do not, they will be killed. This is why I do not believe that money equals free speech—a corporation very rarely has the well-being of any human on its agenda. A corporation isn't human. Amazon is reacting to the desires of its shareholders in a very predictable fashion.

Some companies - those with conscientious management that kept control of their company when and if it went public - manage to walk the line between profits and the well-being of the employees, suppliers, and neighborhood that gives it business.

Most can't do that. Maybe the shareholders hold too much power, or maybe the CEO never cared in the first place. Maybe it was evil before it ever went public, and the company owners were only interested in getting the fastest profit possible.

A company might not be a person, but it is an organism. It kills its competitors and uses its allies in order to survive—and it will survive at any cost. The best are a pack of hunting wolves, keeping the economic ecosystem in balance (even if it means less “deer” to hunt). The worst are a fatal virus, burning their hosts into a husk before moving on.

I don’t like what Amazon is doing, but I’m not going to tell people that they should buy everywhere, because I try not to be a hypocrite. My book is for sale through Amazon, and I’d like it to do well.

As consumers, we should do our best to be informed, and shop our conscience. If you don’t like what Amazon is doing, find other sources that fill your needs. But there’s no need to be guilty if you find that the huge discount they offer means you keep coming back. I’d rather you buy your books through Amazon than not buy them at all.

The Unnamed Story - Part 2

Tuesday 5/27 I'll publish my post for the My Writing Process blog tour, whether I've found a second person to tag or not! In the meantime, please enjoy a second helping of The Unnamed Story.

Of course the gate was locked, with no apartment manager in sight. Jonas hit ageing hinges with a spinning kick. Sparks flew, and I backed away. He slammed his boot into the metal a second time. The gate groaned and buckled. On his third strike, it gave way with a shriek of tortured metal, falling to the ground.
"You know," I said, "Right over the entryway, there's a key box for the Fire Department. I could have opened it."
"Waste of time. Let's go," Jonas said.
"Demon first, or summoning circle?" I asked.
"Remember that one time in OC?" Jonas answered.
I did. The rust demon we'd been after had eaten away at the structural integrity of the building so much that when we'd eliminated his summoning circle, the whole place came down around our ears. We'd had to dodge chunks of concrete on the way out, and while we were running for our lives, the demon had taken advantage of its escape to eat everything metal on the block, from manhole covers to horseshoes. It had cost the city millions, and our insurance adjuster had been pretty upset. Fortunately, we hadn't been liable.
"Demon first," I said.
Jonas was faster than me, and his enchanted boots and gloves would give him an edge if he turned a corner and came face to face with our quarry, so he scouted ahead. I followed, drawing my weapon and releasing the safety. The strange, living warmth and eager shiver of metal and plastic in my hand both enticed and repulsed me.
The weapon felt hurt by my discomfort.
"Shh, you know I don't mean it," I whispered, stroking the barrel with my free hand.
A distant sense of hunger answered me; the discontent murmur of something alien whispering in its sleep.
"I'll feed you soon," I answered.
My stomach cramped.
"I'm hunting your dinner right now," I answered, keeping my voice as quiet as I could.
The weapon rewarded me with a pulse of excitement and pleasure, and I shivered. I'd only been issued the new gun a week ago. It - he, actually, since the weapon had a definite masculine feel - had been awarded by my master when I had passed a series of brutal exams that proved my ability to utilize demonic artifacts without corruption.
Artifacts weren't supposed to have feelings, or a gender. My last gun hadn't talked back to me, and I wasn't sure I liked the experience.
Jonas halted, dropping to a crouch and looking down the hall, using a large potted plant as cover. I caught up, and then sank to the floor next to him. The hall ahead was filled with a tangled nest of tentacles, and stank of saltwater. Chunks of plaster had been ripped out of the walls, probably by the demon's suckers as it moved around. The way we'd come was clear. Open doors and ravaged scenery suggested that the demon had come from the other direction.
"Looks like it's taken up shop in 213," Jonas said.
"Where the fuck are all of the residents?" I asked. "Have you seen any of the people that are supposed to be living here? I haven't."

"Don't know," Jonas answered.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Unnamed Story - Part 1

It occurred to me that a certain segment of the population might think there's something political in this. There isn't. It's just a story, and I've been having fun with it. I have no intention or desire to bring politics into anything, thank you very much, so please keep them to yourself.

The Unnamed Story: Part 1

The atmosphere changed when I crossed the border between Downtown and the Pits. The scent of pollution and the sound of traffic receded into the background; magic was too strong and erratic to risk any sort of modern technology. Horses and mules clopped around on cracked pavement, moving with a kind of hyper-aware tenseness, as though ready to bolt at any moment.
It isn't that machines don't work in magic zones, it's the imps. They adore heat, and their little bodies gum up the works of anything that gets too hot. Take the standard internal combustion engine, for example. Imps absolutely love engines. The moving parts will kill the stupid critters, of course, which means the engine ends up filled with stinking purple goo. Expensive as all hell to clean, and finding tiny body parts for days afterward is pretty distressing. Except for the head and skin color, imps look so human.
My partner and I hustled through the Pits on foot. Our instructions led us to an area that at first glance looked normal, minus the broken glass festooned all over the city street.
“1543 Second Street,” I said, checking my notebook. “This is it.”
Right on cue, a tentacle writhed out of one of many shattered windows of a three-story apartment complex, and I swallowed.
“You've gotta be kidding me,” my partner Jonas said.
The thing was matte black, scars and octopus-like suckers glistening and pale gray against rubbery skin. It quested around, feeling the hot Los Angeles sidewalk until it found a battered fire hydrant. With an excited quiver, the tentacle wrapped itself around the device and yanked it out of the cement. Water gushed upwards in a torrent. The tentacle doused itself in water and then retreated. Moments later, several more tentacles burst through neighboring windows, rushing for the artificial geyser.
“According to the complaint, one of the tenants summoned a Grade-1 water demon into the basement. Could be worse, could've been a fire demon. There are several hundred legal residents living in this building,” I said, swaying back on my heels while I surveyed the monster.
“How many illegal ones?” Jonas asked.
I shrugged and stuck my little notebook where it belonged, back in a weatherproofed interior pocket of my jacket. The tentacles retreated into the ravaged apartment building, leaving nothing but broken glass and fountaining water in their wake.
“Doesn't matter," I said. "Management only released two banishing runes to me, one calibrated to water and the other generic. We'll send this puppy back to the Nether and get out quick.”
Jonas scowled.
“Stupid and shortsighted. If it was up to me, we'd have this place cleared of illegals in a week,” he said.

My partner stomped towards the apartment entrance before I could answer. I shrugged again, following him. At fifteen thousand clinks a pop, banishing runes weren't cheap. Deporting every single illegal demon resident would bankrupt us. We'd had that conversation before. Jonas would pepper every demon and mixie with banishing runes if he thought he could get away with it, whether they had papers or not.

Monday, May 19, 2014

A New Beginning...

Well then...

I've started this blog more or less on a whim, so the content and appearance of Crimson and Sugar will probably change quite a bit before I get settled with what makes me happy.

Why Crimson?
My stories tend to have a certain premise: Bad things happen. I'm not all that interested in stories that are driven by the main character's questionable decision making skills. Oh, sure, sometimes people make bad choices, but for the most part, if the fur is flying, odds are some villain has decided to impose his idea of reality on innocent people, and it's up to my heroes to stop him.

My heroes aren't always nice people.

I've tried writing sweet and fluffy romance. I've tried. I love reading the stuff! Good, clean regency romance is my drug of choice when I'm not writing. But, something in my personality isn't letting it happen. Maybe I'm getting my aggression and disillusionment with humanity down on paper instead of taking it out on my coworkers, or something. That's as good a coping strategy as any, right? Beats drinking myself to sleep. Cut me some slack - I work with the public.

Why Sugar?
I like sweets. Sometimes I bake cookies.

My goal is to make for some entertaining reading on your lunch break a couple of times a week. I have a rather fun, unnamed story that I'll be sharing with you. When it's complete, I'll polish it up and make the entire manuscript available to download for free. Yes, free.

The downside? I won't be able to pay for it to be professionally edited, so you might have to grit your teeth and accept the occasional typo or peculiar phrasing. It's a free read. Deal with it.

If I'm not sharing The Unnamed Story with you, I'll be posting whatever's on my mind. Guest posts -- specifically by librarians and authors -- recipes, why I didn't make my word count goal this week, or maybe how Silver Burned (work in progress, sequel to Silver Bound) is progressing.

DISCLAIMER: Silver Burned is a working title, and subject to change.
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