Pacing Yourself

I can turn out around ten pages a day. That is ten actual pages, not double-spaced comic sans pages, mind you. Sometimes that seems like a lot. A great deal of action can happen in ten pages, or a dialogue with two or three really great lines, or an inner monologue that gets to the heart of some personality quirk or psychological tension.Those days I can whip right though it and wonder where the time went. Then there are days when ten pages can seem to take forever, when I have to switch perspectives three or four times just to slog through it. At the end, though, there is another chapter, so yea me.

Then again, what is that worth? Ten pages in a day? That’s about nine hours at my desk, including time to check email and take care of a few other issues. So it takes roughly six hours, cumulative, to write and rough edit ten pages. As a wage, that is pretty bad. But as a part of the creative process, I wonder how it shakes out? Regardless, it doesn’t seem to matter if I am loving a scene and the words are just flowing along, or if it feels like my fingernails are being pulled out just to come up with another sentence. One workday equals about ten pages. At least I am consistent, I guess. Maybe I should learn to type faster. Anyone know where I can pick up a copy of Mavis Bacon?

If you write, or know of an author that has quoted a page or word number, let me know.

Pitchforks and Torches: Second Alliance Chapter 43

Second Alliance is, admittedly, far longer than I originally anticipated. I don’t know that I had a page number in mind, but it is a fan fiction, and I only started writing it as a practical exercise for myself while editing an original work. Over time, it developed into something much, much bigger. Not just in the sense of page numbers, although with 451 at my last count that is certainly true, but also in the sense of the plot. SA has developed a series of side stories that should all tie back into the main arc in another 20-30 chapters.

Even writing that number makes me feel tired.

As I was going along, not realizing that this was becoming some sort of epic undertaking that would take longer than the cumulative amount of time I have spent growing two children, I thought I was being really clever leaving little clues about this shocking, butler-with-the-candlestick-in-the-library type of reveal that would occur in the middle somewhere. Then I got to that point, and the readers were pretty upset. I think the most generous comment I received was, ‘I didn’t see that coming‘. Which was the point, sort of, but I didn’t realize that all of the other comments – ‘how could you‘, ‘I loved that OC‘, and ‘WHY!!!‘ would almost hurt my feelings. I actually typed out a response to one comment that was basically: chill out and wait for the next chapter, my friend, all will be revealed.

And then I deleted it.

I believe a good story is supposed to be exactly the things that were bothering me in the comments: anticipation, nail biting, tears for those unjustly hurt, disgust for the villain, screaming at the characters ‘don’t go down there!‘ and ‘just tell him!‘.  All of that, and then turning the page as quickly as possible even though it is hours past bedtime and you have to get up early the next day. Unfortunately, the nature of a serial story is that there is no immediate page turning. The next chapter isn’t up yet. It can’t be. I am still crafting the story while you are reading it. Although I try to write a few chapters ahead of what I post, to allow for minor edits and emergencies in case I can’t get any writing done, I still delay a week or so between posts. This is not a full time gig for me. It isn’t even a paying gig. It can’t be – it’s fan fiction. This is a tribute to another creative mind, not my own personal story – no matter how many hours I have spent on it.

Having said that, I get it. I’m a reader too, and I’m the fickle type that can easily move on to something else if content isn’t available on my schedule. Especially if I was left unsatisfied. So, to stem the angry mob, I have decided to go ahead and post Chapter 43 of Second Alliance here, much sooner than I would have put it up on a fan fiction site. If it works well, I may go ahead and publish more of the story here first, more frequently.

Go ahead, turn the page, even if you do have that presentation tomorrow. This will be worth it. Promise.

Finishing What You Start

I took a long, long absence from writing anything of substance. Although I picked up a few pages here and there on various projects, I didn’t really commit to anything. Unfortunately, it turns out that in order to be a writer, one must actually write. Even more distressing, to be an author, one must publish – which requires finishing something.

I know, I was also appalled when I found out.

North Sea Dawn was my first completed full length work, but I don’t want it to be my last. In the interested of completing something, and having invested an inordinate amount of time in it already, I am working on Second Alliance again. This time, I intend to finish it. I won’t ever make money from publishing SA – nor should I as it is a transformative work based on the creativity of another – but I do need to finish it. With that in mind, I have updated another six chapters to the webpage as well as the downloadable formats.  SA deserves to be completed, as much as I need to make myself do it. Hopefully, once I have another project wrapped up, I can successfully turn my brain to a wholly original project.

Then I suppose I’ll have to finish that one, too.

NaNoWriMo: Fourth Post

Chapter 3

“The warrior did not have a weapon.” His eyes were wide with fear. Blood gurgled from his mouth and the puncture marks on his neck, and the woman frowned at him.

“Do not speak. Your suit must remain still to be repaired.” She opened a jar of creamy brown paste and smeared it across his wounds. He had already done the same for her, once the glass was removed. She turned away from him, moving to stand under the air conditioning vent while she tended to her hands. The suit had been burned in a way that she was certain she had not seen before, but still was familiar. The fingers were completely black, and covered in dark purple blisters. The color of dead flesh faded in an ombre pattern across her palms and up her wrists – ending in healthy flesh midway to the elbow. Most of the fingertips were completely gone. There were holes in the suit that revealed her body underneath.

The damage to the human flesh was a nuisance. However, that was not her primary concern. She held her hands up before her, examining the jagged edges of skin. Her claws extended from her real fingers, through the suit where human fingernails would have grown. Two of them were broken. One had been ripped from her body, leaving a torn stump of waxy grey tissue and exposed bone.

Never before had she been injured by a mere human. Even the ring warriors, with their training and weapons, had never drawn her blood. She had fought them many times, in the first years, and even once faced ten of the twelve ring warriors. An army of her kind met them on the battlefield, and many were slain, but she survived with the dark heart’s blood of a ring warrior in her mouth.

This human – this infant girl child – had done that which her sworn enemies had never succeeded in doing. A snarl twisted her lips. She had come to the stinking hot little city to find the ring. She intended to command it and with it the ring warriors themselves. If she could not, she would destroy it. Her ambitions had been thwarted by a fading champion of humanity – one who did not even keep his weapon at hand – and a simple mortal. Such irrational brazenness, such outrageous temerity, would not be borne.

“Do not fear the warrior,” she instructed her companion. “He does not carry his weapon, and he has the faded scent of the decrepit and aged about him. His experience overcame yours, but his strength is greatly diminished. When we meet him next, rip out his throat and be done with it.” She dipped her hand into the jar again and rubbed the stinging oil into her damaged suit. The suit would be repaired in time, but her claw might never grow back. Her reflection in the window bared its teeth at her. “Leave the mortal to me.”

Project Nordic Diner – Day 3

NaNoWriMo asks authors to write a novel in a month, the pace is brutal for me, but I am forcing myself to write and edit each day.  I’d love to hear any suggestions to stay motivated, or how your own project is going if you are participating!

Chapter 2


It was hours later before she could think of anything except broken bits of frozen skin. The cold pressure of fear in her chest had dissipated and she found herself sitting on her couch, an afghan draped over her shoulders, despite the still heat in the apartment. For a moment she wondered if she was late for work, if she had just woken from a terrible dream and any minute her phone would begin ringing. The second shift waitress would be on the line, cursing her for not showing up. The tiny efficiency was filled with the soft, hazy light of early morning. She shrugged off the blanket to stand.

Elsa let out a whimper when pain shot through her neck and shoulders. She felt as though she had run for miles, her legs were trembling, and her head ached as though someone was shoving red-hot needles through her eyes and into her brain. Kitchen towels had been wrapped around her forearms. She sank back onto the couch and closed her eyes, trying to will the pain away.

“Here, take these,” someone pressed pills into her open palm. “I have a glass of water for you too, it’ll help with the muscle cramps.” Elsa let out a deep breath through her nose, trying to remain calm.

“I hope I am dreaming, I hope that a homeless guy didn’t break into my apartment and give me drugs,” she whispered. She opened her eyes, and her sense of injustice was gratified, again. Kurt stood, with his shaggy hair and filthy clothes, at the end of the couch. The blood had been washed out of his beard, but his shirt was still torn. His sleeves had been pushed up over his elbows, revealing the beginnings of unidentifiable tattoos. “How did you get in here?”

“I used the key in your backpack.” He handed her the water, his face unreadable under the dark blonde facial hair. After examining the pills to verify that, yes, they were just aspirin, she took a long drink. Suddenly she felt parched, she downed the whole glass in a few gulps and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. “Would you like more?” He didn’t wait for a response but took her empty cup and stepped three paces to the tiny galley kitchen to refill it. The old trunk she used as a coffee table creaked quietly when he sat on it, but held together under his bulky frame. He watched her face while she drank her second glass, more slowly this time. Elsa tried to concentrate on not thinking about what had happened to her. She failed.

“Oh, god.” She couldn’t hold back a whimper and her stomach roiled. The glass slipped from her fingers to thud on the thick rug. Images of the window shard, protruding grotesquely from the woman’s back, assaulted her. “You killed those people,” she whispered frantically. “That guy was going to break my kneecaps and you killed them!” She pressed her hands against her stomach, trying to still the queasiness.

“Why would they break your kneecaps?” Kurt asked in an even tone.

“I couldn’t tell them where to find the guy they were looking for. I didn’t even know who they were talking about!” She felt tears gathering in her eyes and a panicky feeling growing. She knew she was overreacting, she didn’t even make sense to herself, but she couldn’t seem to help it. Reason and logic were smothered by rising hysteria. “They were probably drug dealers, or assassins – christ, that guy looked like he killed people for a living – and now the diner is trashed, and you killed two people, and I’m going to be fired, and I never finished making the pies!” She ended in a near wail. Her breath was coming rapidly and she could see black spots in the edges of her vision, forming a dark halo around Kurt’s face. He pushed her head between her knees.

“Take a deep breath,” he said. She struggled to do that and ignore the burning in her neck and the pounding of her pulse. “And another.” His cool fingers began to rub circles on the back of her neck, easing the pain in her shoulders and head. “They were looking for me.” At his calm declaration she struggled against his hand briefly, but he held her in place. This is a bad movie, she thought frantically, this is a bad movie and I’m going to wake up any moment. “and while they didn’t recognized me, they would have probably tried to torture us both to find me.”

It crossed Elsa’s mind that a lot of homeless people were veterans. Kurt might have been having flashbacks, might have been dangerous. Might still be dangerous. She stared into his face, searching for a sign that he was unstable, ready to break her neck or pet her – Lenny style – before wandering off with his shopping cart. There was no telltale sign of insanity. Hazel eyes, a warm caramel brown with a thin ring of green around the pupil, stared back. Clear. Calm. Completely sane. “Why were they – are you really homeless?”

He chuckled briefly, and then let her up since her breathing had returned to normal. “They are looking for something they think I have – or at least, they think I know where it is.” He watched her for a few moments, rubbing his beard absently.

“And so you killed them? To protect this…whatever?” Elsa leaned back against the knobby orange upholstery, convinced, if not of Kurt’s truthfulness, then at least sure that he didn’t intend to hurt her.

“I fought them for that reason, yes.” He leaned forward, placing his hands over hers. Elsa was again struck by how clean and cool they were, almost cold. “But I did not kill them. I very much doubt they were still on the ground by the time we got here.”

“Not on the-” Elsa pulled her hands away from his, her eyes wide with rapidly rising disbelief. “You stabbed that guy in the neck…with a fork, a fork!” She stood again, thankful that the pain in her head had subsided to a dull throb. “I’m no doctor, but I’m pretty sure all that blood on the floor was a bad sign.” Elsa shivered, remembering how deep the metal tines had stuck in the man’s neck, how ragged the skin looked around the holes. She pressed her hand against her stomach, feeling sick again.

“And it would have killed anyone else, any normal person.” He sat placidly on the blanket-covered chest, watching her pace across the small room. His tattooed forearms rested on his knees, his expression inscrutable.

“But that guy wasn’t normal…is that what you’re saying?” Elsa faced the window, watching a freight train a few blocks away. She wished she was there, on that train, going somewhere a hundred miles from her shabby apartment and the man who complimented her pie and paid with lint covered change and then stabbed diner customers with eating utensils. Diner customers with crazed, unsettling smiles that made her feel sick just remembering them. “Do I want to know why?”

“Probably not, and to be honest, it may be safer for you if you don’t.” Kurt leaned forward, clasping his hands between knees earnestly. She couldn’t look at his face, but stared at his hands. They were calloused on his fingertips and palms, but his nails were neatly trimmed and clean. “I’m sorry that this happened in your diner, and I’m sorry you got hurt.” He pushed himself up and smoothed his sleeves down to his wrists, covering the dark whorls of ink and breaking her quiet study of him. “Trust me when I tell you that those two were long gone by the time the police arrived.”

“Police,” Elsa snorted, “I doubt anyone called it in, and patrols are not exactly regular in this neighborhood.” She shivered again, sending another spasm of aches through her back.

“That’s probably for the best. If a single officer had tried to arrest those two, they would have torn him apart.” Kurt folded the afghan neatly over the back of the orange couch. “They would have needed to hole up somewhere to recuperate, but they’ll be looking for me again tonight. I’ll lead them away from you, but you should probably call in sick for a few days. And I wouldn’t recommend continued employment at the diner.”

“Recommend?” A bubble of inappropriate laughter rose in her throat. “I’ll be lucky if I only get fired! I could be held liable for the damages, not to mention all that blood on the floor.” A short cackle escaped, “Ha, recommend! I needed that job, I need both my jobs – unless you also recommend living on the streets – like you.” Suddenly the humor drained and the reality of the situation sank in. Her eyes flashed with blue anger. “They weren’t looking for me, it’s you they wanted. You led those crazy people to my diner and killed them in front of m-”

“I didn’t kill-”

“Shut up!” Elsa yelled. She could no longer tell if her trembling was from the strange cold that had seeped into her bones or fury. Her life had been orderly. A small life – plain, simple, boring, and poor. He was trying to make it bigger. Make her life larger with danger and information and other things she didn’t want to know or experience. She wasn’t nice to people, didn’t help people. Kept her head down and her eyes on her own goals. Then she had met Kurt. She had been nice – she lied about having to throw out the pie. He was going to ruin everything. The shaking might have been fury, or it might have been fear. Elsa chose fury. She marched across the room and poked him in the chest, hard. “They followed you there, and now I’m hurt, and I can’t go back to work, and my boss may sue me, and I have to worry about two psychos following you to my apartment!” She poked him on every ‘and’.

“I didn’t-” he tried to placate her, but that fueled her sudden anger.

“I gave you free pie!” she all but screamed. Finally he closed his mouth, watching her cautiously.

“Two for a dollar, and I thought you were going to throw it out,” he said seriously.

“Shut up,” she said, more quietly. Breathing hard through her nose she stared him in the eye. Her arm fell back to her side. “I don’t know you, I don’t know those people and I don’t want to.” She closed her eyes and let out a deep breath. “If you had left sooner, they would have…hurt me…so thank you for that.” He nodded, slowly, when she opened her eyes again. He would have spoken, but she cut him off with an upraised hand. Her pulse thundered through her forearm, sending sharp stabs of pain into each wound. “I’m sorry you’re in trouble, and I hope things work out okay for you, but I don’t need your advice and I would appreciate it if I never saw you again.” Kurt nodded and retrieved a battered knapsack near the door.

“Please be careful,” he said, turning the deadbolt and opening the door.

“You should go,” she responded flatly. The door closed behind him softly and she listened to his retreating footsteps as she turned the locks. When she couldn’t hear him anymore she slid down the wall. Exhaustion swept over her and she curled up on the floor, wrapping her arms around her knees and crying herself to sleep.

Project Nordic Diner, Day 2

Although it is the third day of November, it is only my second day of posting the novel I am writing for NaNoWriMo. Hopefully, I can keep up the pace!

Back to Prologue

 

Chapter 1

Elsa brushed a strand of limp black hair back into her braid and gave the Formica table a final swipe with the dish rag. The diner was empty. Despite advertising “hot food, 24-hour service”, the cook had gone home at 2:00 a.m. after the bar crowd had left and by 2:30 the diner was as empty as the street outside – although not as hot. August was always miserable this close to the river, but a month of unusually frequent downpours had left the humidity somewhere around a thousand percent. Even in the hours before dawn, the temperature hadn’t dropped below ninety in weeks.

She tried to ignore the way her thin cotton shirt stuck to the sweat between her shoulder blades while she moved behind the counter and began to refill salt and pepper shakers. It was her favorite shift to work, especially in the heat. No customers, no coworkers, just her in the diner. Her friend Scott said the silence bothered him, but wasn’t all that quiet, not to Elsa’s ears. The refrigerated display case, full of slices of pie and glass bowls of gelatin salad, hummed with a steady pulse. A low-pitched growl vibrated in the ceiling – the air conditioner valiantly struggling against the heat. Elsa could think in that quiet, or just give in to the mind-numbing repetition of her tasks.

The rhythmic twist-pour-twist-slide of glass shakers and salt was interrupted by the tinkle of the bell over the door. Elsa looked up in surprise to see a man in a stained long-sleeved thermal shirt and what might have once been khaki slacks enter the diner. He wore scuffed steel toe work boots; his belt looped through a utility knife and a canteen. His dark blond beard had been trimmed close to his face, perhaps with a pair of garden shears, and his hair hung in uneven, greasy locks to his shoulders.

“Kurt?” Elsa asked, unsure if this was the same homeless man who had come in several times during the winter. He rarely had more than enough money for a cup of coffee, but refills were free. There were never any other customers when he came in so Elsa always let him stay as long as he wanted.

Light brown eyes, the color of warm honey, crinkled at the corners as he nodded. He didn’t smile, but hooked his thumb towards the door, “Is it alright if I leave my stuff next to the bike rack?”

A quick glance confirmed that a grocery cart, one rear wheel replaced with a too-large rubber wagon tire, was parked to the right of the front door. A dirty tarp was loosely lashed over the top as protection against rain and greedy eyes.

“Not a problem,” Elsa said, gesturing at the empty tables, “take any seat in the house.” Kurt loped unevenly to the end of the counter, near the hallway leading back to the restrooms, and took a seat with his back to the wall and one eye on his cart. “Do you want coffee tonight, or something cold?” She screwed together the last salt shaker and wiped off the counter.

“Water, please, as much ice as will fit in the glass.” A handful of change, along with several tufts of lint and a piece of string slid across the counter.

“Water’s free,” she said, ignoring the pile of change and turning to pack a plastic glass with tiny ice pellets. Privately, she thought he might not need so much ice if he would wear a short-sleeved shirt. But then again, most homeless people had concerns that overrode dressing weather-appropriate. When she set the glass down in front of him, Kurt was laboriously counting out the change.

“Dollar oh-two, is that enough for pie?”

Elsa studied him, they both knew how much the pie was. The price hadn’t changed in the five years she had worked at The Boxcar, and it wasn’t $1.02. His unlined face didn’t look hopeful, or sad. It didn’t beg or prepare to talk her into a half-slice or a free meal. Elsa hadn’t spoken with him much in the few times he had been in, but now she wondered how old he was and why he lived like he did.

“You’re lucky, I have to throw out the day-old slices at the end of my shift. At least this way we make some money on them. I’ll give you two slices for a dollar. We’ve got apple, cherry – I don’t recommend it, the cherries were a little too tart, key lime, and two kinds of pot pie, chicken and beef.  What’ll you have?”

“Beef and apple please.” Kurt counted out a dollar and swept the rest off the counter.

“You want those heated up?”

“The beef, not the apple.” She felt his eyes follow her as she disappeared into the kitchen and scooped a generous helping of the pot pie onto a plate. While it heated, she wrapped up the remainder and put it back into the walk-in refrigerator. As an afterthought, she snagged a gallon of vanilla ice cream on her way out, leaving it on the counter to soften. When she slid the plate and a napkin-wrapped fork in front of him, Kurt’s face relaxed. The steam smelled like seasoned beef; chunks of soft yellow potatoes and bright green peas spilled out from under a flaky crust. He took his first bite, groaning when the thick gravy hit his taste buds. He crunched on a slice of carrot and closed his eyes.  Elsa waited until he had swallowed.

“Need anything else?”

“This is the best pie I have ever eaten,” he responded seriously.

Elsa grinned, “Thank you, I hadn’t tried my hand at meat pies before, but I thought it turned out okay.”

“You made this?” his eyes widened slightly in surprise and he took another liberal bite.

“I make all the pies, the morning shift just bakes them. It saves the diner a ton of money – they were buying all their baked stuff before, and it costs a fortune.” Elsa carried a tub full of shakers around the counter, setting them out on tables while she talked. “I already made the custard pies for tomorrow, but I’ll do a few fruit pies before I leave at six.” The diner was quiet again, except for the hum of the pie cabinet, the growl of the AC and the scrape of fork on plate. By the time she was finished preparing the diner for the morning shift, Kurt had polished off his dinner. “I’ll grab that apple for you before I get started in back.” She whisked away his plate and returned with apple pie, smelling of cinnamon and other spices, and a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

“I don’t usually stay in the city during the summer – it’s too hot,” Kurt commented, ignoring the pie to tackle the rapidly melting ice cream. “But I might change my mind if the food is always this good.” Elsa looked up from the work table in the kitchen where she was rolling out crust. Through the order window she could see the entire diner, and Kurt at the counter. If she was honest with herself, she worked the night shift because she didn’t really care for people. They talked too much, too loudly, usually about nothing interesting or important. They complained about problems that weren’t really problems: my golf game was terrible, these pants make me look fat, the sage we painted the living room is really too green. The homeless man seemed to be a rare exception.

“Where do you usually go?”

“The mountains,” he said, not looking up from his pie. A forkful of apples and pastry paused in mid-air, then he shook his head without saying anything else. That was the end of the conversation while Elsa made pies – first peach, then blueberry – and Kurt finished his dessert and drank his water.

“Thanks for the-” he started, and then the doorbell tinkled again. Surprised, they looked up in unison to watch a man and a woman step into the diner. They were both tall and neatly dressed. The man was blonde and muscular, his white button-down rolled up to his elbows and tucked into dark slacks. His shoes were polished to a glossy shine and his hair was gelled back into a stylish wave. The woman wore a white skirt, mid-thigh, and a sleeveless blouse made of some silky material that emphasized her breasts and the toned muscles of her arms. In contrast to the man’s light tan, her skin was dark, a rich chocolate color that somehow looked cool and refreshing in the heat. Her hair was cut close to her scalp, tiny white ringlets cupped her head and managed to be beautiful and startling at the same time. They were both smiling, revealing straight pearly teeth, like an ad for toothpaste. Kurt clamped his mouth shut and remained on his stool.

“Can I help you?” Elsa asked, emerging from the kitchen with a frown. Judging from their clothes, they were lost. The Boxcar was not in a wealthy, or even particularly middle-class, part of town.

“Where may we sit?” the woman asked, still smiling. Elsa’s frown deepened. She had another pie to finish. The early breakfast crowd would start trickling in around five and the weekend cook was notoriously late, so she would need to start the food and…well, maybe they just wanted pie and coffee. She would charge them full price.

“Anywhere you like, I’ll be with you in a moment.” She watched them claim a table in the center of the diner, alternating between surveying the walls and watching the door. Elsa grabbed a pad and pencil from under the counter and tucked her hair behind her ear. As she passed by, Kurt grabbed her elbow. His hand was surprisingly clean and felt cool on her skin.

“I’ll just sit here for a bit, if that’s okay,” he said in a low voice that wouldn’t reach the couple. She nodded and he withdrew his hand, allowing her to move on. She could feel his eyes on her back as she approached the table. The couple looked up expectantly as she approached.

“What can I get for you?” She poised her pencil, but when no answer was forthcoming she pointed to the menus on the table. “If you need more time to decide, that’s fine, but the grill isn’t hot so-” she glanced up and her words caught in her throat. Smiles, with lots of teeth and shiny whiteness, greeted her. It was wrong. Elsa couldn’t describe the feeling that overcame her any other way. She didn’t think they had ever stopped smiling. The woman was focused on the window, but the man was staring at her. His pink lips were stretched wide, in a friendly, non-threatening way. But his eyes were hard and cold, the gray color so pale it almost disappeared against the whites. No wrinkles formed at the corners of those eyes and his forehead was smooth. Elsa felt the hair on the back of her neck prickle. “It, ah, isn’t hot, so the grill items are, ah, off the menu.”

“I take it you don’t get many customers at this time of night?” the woman asked, still watching the street. Her voice was smoky, reminding Elsa of a black and white film star.

“No, ma’am,” she said, without thinking, and then, hastily, “just our regulars.” The man’s eyes flicked to Kurt, slouching at the counter, then back to her face. She was thankful Kurt had stayed, it made her uneasy standing next to the couple – she wouldn’t have wanted to be alone with them. Which seemed ridiculous, but logic couldn’t debate the certainty that she was safer with the questionable, one-name homeless man than the well-dressed couple.

“Oh, we had hoped to meet someone here. Someone who comes here often. Have you worked here long? Perhaps you would know him.”

“I’ve worked this shift for three years, so if he’s a night owl I probably know him.” Elsa shifted, taking the opportunity to put more space between herself and the smiling man. Too late, she realized that put her closer to the woman. A slender, dark arm shot out and grabbed her wrist over her plastic glove, stained with blueberry juice. Elsa had to fight the urge to pry her fingers off.

“Then you must know who I mean, a good looking man. Quite tall and fit – like my friend,” she gestured with her free hand to the blonde man. Elsa was struck by how long her nails were. They looked false, but they were not painted. They curved out a half inch from her fingertips. Rather like claws, she thought distantly. She tore her gaze up, only to be caught by the woman’s eyes. Unlike the man, she was smiling there too, but her humor was cruel. A horrible thing was about to happen, Elsa was sure, and the woman was looking forward to it. “Do try to remember.” Her fingers tightened on Elsa’s wrist.

“I, ah, don’t know that anyone like that has been in here in a long while.” She felt herself perspiring, a bead of sweat trickled out from her hairline and down along the edge of her jaw. Her stomach was jumpy.

“I know he comes here,” the woman said, and her voice fell to a whisper. “His trail is faint, but I can smell it.” If possible her smile grew wider. “Let me help you remember.” She half-rose out of her chair and reached her free hand towards Elsa’s other arm before she could pull away. Elsa’s instincts were screaming at her to run, but her eyes remained locked on the woman. Time slowed down, and seconds stretched into hours as dark chocolaty eyes bored into her. Elsa felt as though she was being pulled out of herself, her head hurt and her eyes burned. She tried to jerk back, but her body would not obey. She thought of the pie she had just made, and the wagon wheel on the shopping cart outside. Her nose was flooded with the smell of hot exhaust from the bus she had taken to work, her mouth was filled with the baking soda flavor of the cheap toothpaste she used when she woke up.

Fear blossomed, pressing against the inside of her chest with an icy weight. The cold spread; tendrils of wintry panic wrapping around her. Hot liquid trickled down her cheeks. She couldn’t hear anything anymore – only a loud, heavy tick-TICK-tick from the man’s expensive watch. From the corner of her eye she could see him rising, muscles shifting and bunching under his shirt. “Where is he,” the woman whispered through her smile, her hands sliding up Elsa’s arms past the purple-stained gloves. When their skin touched, the moment exploded.

Trying to make up for the lag, time compacted and a million actions happened in an instant. The woman stopped smiling, her eyes opened wide and she screamed in surprise and pain. Elsa tugged furiously at her arms, but couldn’t break free. She tore her gaze away to look down. Long, curved nails dug into her pale skin – dark blood welled around them and dripped onto the floor. The man surged toward Elsa, his smile gone too. His mouth stretched wide and too many teeth were bared in anger. Before he could reach her Kurt hit him in a flying tackle. A growling, twisted knot of clothing and fists crashed into a booth near the window.

Cold fear seeped along her limbs, blocking out the pain in her arms. The woman in white screamed in rage. She stretched her neck towards Elsa, sharp teeth bared. Elsa wanted nothing more than to get away, for the woman to let go. Something broke inside of her, and she let out a scream of her own as cold rushed down her arms and out of her wounds, leaving an agonizing trail in its wake. The woman stood in the center of the diner, her hands hanging limply at her sides, fury in every line of her face. Strips of dry, dead flesh clung to Elsa’s arms. Blood and necrotic skin flaked from the woman’s fingers, cracking and breaking like ice when they hit the floor.

“You,” she whispered furiously. The front window broke with a loud crash as Kurt slammed the man against the frame. The stranger grappled, snarling and struggling to wrap his hands around Kurt’s neck. Elsa’s eyes shot back to the woman as she grabbed a diner chair and slammed it against the floor, breaking it. She gripped a twisted piece of metal in her ruined fist. The diner echoed with a ripping sound and the crack of breaking glass. The woman tipped her head back, opening her mouth wide to scream but there was no sound.

Elsa stared in shock at Kurt, the woman crumpled at his feet. Five jagged inches of plate glass protruded from her back.

“We should leave,” he said. Elsa didn’t respond. His shirt was torn at the collar, and his beard was matted with blood that ran from his nose. She glanced at the window, where the blond man hung over the frame, his lower half outside, Kurt’s pie fork embedded in his neck. “Now,” he said, taking her hand and leading her out of the bright fluorescent lights of The Boxcar diner and into the sweltering darkness of the summer night. Elsa stumbled after him, unable to shake the image of the woman, the dark skin of her arms contrasting sharply against her white skirt, frozen flesh falling off her hands and onto the clean linoleum.

National Novel Writing Month

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is November, and in an effort to push myself to write on a regular basis I am going to participate this year. After all, half of being an author is actually writing. I’m told it is also a key factor to finish a story, novella, or novel as well. So let’s do this – together.  I’ll post what I write here, and hopefully by the end of the month there will be an entire novel here. It might be rough, but it will be complete.

If you are a writer, you can participate as well. You can write on your own, or sign up to be part of the NaNoWriMo community. If you are a reader, or maybe not quite ready to commit to writing every day for a month, you can support authors you do know.

Come on an adventure with me, and my new characters. My NaNoWriMo project, Nordic Diner, starts now.

Prologue

“It is here,” she said with conviction.

“You are sure?” Her companion questioned as he dragged a black plastic bag from the van.

She didn’t look back at him, but continued to stare out across the river. The water looked darker and cooler at night, despite the heat. She knew that in the daytime it would appear brown, thick with the sediment of human agriculture and industry. The heat sucked vapor off of that river, pulling it into the city and smothering the inhabitants with it. She considered that it was a far lighter punishment than they deserved for all of their crimes – for their existence – but also that the discomfort would serve as a prelude to true penance.

Humans. The smell of them coated her nose and seeped into her lungs. She could not get rid of the stench. Even after she removed her suit, after she had scrubbed her skin with ice water and stood in her air conditioned office naked to dry, she could still taste their filth – like meat stuck between her teeth and rotting.

Once she had found it, she would be able to forget about the suits. She would stand with an army before her and watch the humans burn. The tang of mortal blood in the air would be washed away with fire, and she looked forward to walking through their flaking, scentless ash.

“I am sure.” She paused, but could see no reason to not assure him of her knowledge, “A ring warrior lives here.”

“Ring warrior?” her companion asked with faint alarm. “They might-”

“Not they,” she interrupted, “there is only one.” She breathed deeply, repressing the urge to spit out the essence of humanity that made saliva pool in her mouth and sour on her tongue. “The trail is thin, and crisscrosses the city, but a warrior is here.” Her companion returned to his task, lifting a second seven foot long black plastic bag from the back of an SUV and gently placing it on a cart beside the first bag. “Careful,” she reminded him, “this suit will not last much longer. I need a fresh one.”

“Of course,” he responded. He unzipped the second bag and pulled back the opening so that she could see inside. A dark face, with high cheekbones and full lips looked back at her. The eyes were closed, but the color was of no consequence. It smelled. Strongly.

She felt her lip curling back in distaste, “Still alive.”

“They stay fresher that way.” He zipped up the bag again and glanced at her face, noting her expression. “I have heard that rubbing menthol inside the nostrils drowns out the scent.”

“Perhaps,” she said, non-committal. A warm breeze pulled brown hair out of the bun she had fastened it in earlier, and the lock blew across vision. She pinched it between two fingers, ready to put in back in place, but at the slightest tug it came free. A patch of pallid skin the size of a quarter hung from the end, still attached to the hair by the roots. “Prepare the female immediately. It appears this suit has begun to wear through.”

Kindle Worlds

Amazon has developed a new platform for releasing fanfiction. KindleWorlds allows fanfiction authors to submit stories based on characters and canon created by another author, play or screenwriter. The purchase price of each story generates royalties for the original author and the fanfic author.

This is exciting for me, as a fanfiction author, but also a an avid consumer of media. I read and write fanfic because I want more of the characters and worlds that I love. Amazon has not only legitimized fanfiction in a huge way by creating KindleWorlds, but allows fanfiction to benefit the original creator. I hope new worlds continue to be added to Amazon’s shelves. Additional material enriches the experience for any reader, and expands the audience as well. It gives new authors exposure, and pays tribute to creators. Great job, Amazon.

Lending Library

I love the library. Love. It. So when Amazon suggested that I make North Sea Dawn available to their Lending Library, I was ecstatic. Subscribers to Amazon Prime have access to more than 500,000 titles through the Kindle Lending Library. Which now also includes North Sea Dawn.

You can borrow one book at a time. Utilize the store from your kindle device and the option to borrow the book will appear for Prime members. And there is no need to remember to “return” it; the book disappears from your reading list when the lending period is up. If you loved it, you can buy it. If not, you still have space on your Kindle for hundreds of other books. What a great way to try out a new genre – or a new author!

North Sea Dawn Available

North Sea Dawn is now available for purchase on Amazon. I am so excited to have this work, my first original full-length fiction, out there in the world. With you, the reader.

I loved writing this story.  I laughed when the Vikings prepared for war in their boisterous, confident way. I felt terrible for Julia when her brother died and nearly cried writing her acceptance of his death. I was on the edge of my seat as I found the perfect words to describe that anxious, excited, nervous feeling right before the romance – and the worse anxious, excited, nervous feeling right afterwards. I grinned when Eric foreshadowed the Princess Bride by about 920 years. I actually jumped out of my seat when the villain finally got what was coming to him, yelling “take that!”, like a crazy person, at my computer.  I may have squealed a little during a particular, perfectly in-character, confession.

I hope you enjoy reading this even a fraction of how much I enjoyed writing it.

Who am I kidding, I hope you love it – more than chocolate, wine, and a shirtless Thor scene all rolled into one. Ambitious? Yes. But it’s out there. In the world. And that might be the best feeling an author can have.

Click Here to Purchase North Sea Dawn

Go forth, and read.

 

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