Win a holiday for a little girl with cystic fibrosis!

Hidey-ho, y’all,

Today, I bring you a guest post from my friend and fellow Kindle All-Stars writer, Tony Healey. Tony’s got a great, easy way for you to help out a little girl with cystic fibrosis. Well worth the minute or two! Here’s Tony to tell you more:

TONY:

At the beginning of this year I released a charity anthology, featuring the work of 16 fantastic writers and the artwork of the legendary Bruce Pennington, with all proceeds to go to The Cystic Fibrosis Trust (we’ve not hit enough for a donation yet – but we’re getting there). [Editor’s Note: This is Edge of Oblivion, the anthology I told you about here.]

The original inspiration for that collection of stories – and for doing something to raise funds for CF in the first place – is a little girl called Tilly.

She has a chance to win a free holiday with her Mummy and Daddy next year, but she needs your help. It’s very easy and will only take 2 minutes of your time.

Step 1. Click this link: http://havenholidays.offerpop.com/campaign/649927/entry/4270902

Step 2. LIKE the Haven Facebook page (you can always UN-LIKE it later).

tilly1

Step 3. Scroll down on the FB page and hit the VOTE button.

tilly2

That’s it!

Of course, if you wanted to be super-duper cool you could also share the above link and get your friends to vote too. In fact, here’s the link again in case you want to do that: http://havenholidays.offerpop.com/campaign/649927/entry/4270902.

I’d like to see Tilly reach 1000 votes and take first place. I’ll also be promoting this via my Official Facebook Page, too, which is: https://www.facebook.com/fringescientist?ref=hl.

Thanks for your help and support. Let’s win this brave little girl a holiday.

So there you have it, folks! Go place your vote for Tilly and help send her and her family on a lovely vacay!

Writers’ Blog Hop: 4 Writerly Questions (also Dr. Seuss)

Hidey-ho, beloved inklings!

Did you miss me?

Don’t answer that. ; )

In case you hadn’t noticed, I’ve been rather absent from my blog for the last two months. This is due to three things. Attend, my dears, and I shall tell you them.

Thing One

When I have a spare moment for writing, I devote that moment to (working title:) The Writing of Legends of the Light-Walkers 3, The First Draft: The Draftening. That is not the working title. I just made that up.

More on this later.

Thing Two

Last week, my parents celebrated 50 years of marriage. This is mind-blowing and cramazing and I love them for it. I feel that in this world of hook-ups and hang-ups and h-something-something-alliteration, people like my parents are a ray of hope to those of us who haven’t gotten to the big FIVE-OH (or even the big TWO-OH) yet. Plus, they’ve gone through a lot to make it this far, so all the hats (and possibly other various accoutrements) are off to them.

50years

To show my love and appreciation, I threw them a party (and this is the Thing Two that took up potential blogging time). Cousins and aunts helped, and without these cousins and aunts, I couldn’t have accomplished half of the party prep and the party itself wouldn’t have been half as nice. I spent much of the prep time — and some of the party itself — overwhelmed with gratitude at the loveliness of all of these women who came together to help honor my parents. It was truly a blessing.

With Apologies to Dr. Seuss: Thing Three

I’d thought several times about surfacing from novel-writing and party-planning just long enough to pop in here and say hi. But then Judy Dunn, fellow writer and blogger, contacted me and asked me to join in on a Writers’ Blog Hop. I agreed and then decided to make the blog hop post my “hey how’s it goin’, y’all.”

Hey! How’s it goin’, y’all?

If I’m not mistaken, that brings us full circle. So, woot and cetera.

Writers’ Blog Hop: 4 Writerly Questions

In Judy’s own blog hop post, she answered four writing questions that the previous blogger? hopper? (hoppah!) had asked her. So I get to answer those same questions (AND PASS THEM ON TO THE AB-FAB WRITER ANNOUNCED AT THE END OF THIS POST SO CHECK HIM OUT DO IT DO IT DO IT OR I’LL SEND ELVES TO TATTOO “I’M A NERD” ON YOUR FOREHEAD DON’T TEST ME).

*ahem*

Without further ado or adon’t, here are Les Quatres (4) Questions Writerliques:

1. What am I working on right now?

My current project is the third novel in my Legends of the Light-Walkers series. (The first two are here.) Everything you need to know about LLW3, you can find here. For blog-hopping (blopping?) purposes, I’ll just say that this is probably the biggest writing project I’ve ever taken on, it eats my lunch when I take my eyes off it for the splittest of seconds, and I love every ridiculous minute of it.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

LLW3 is different in that it is the pseudo-urban fantasy prequel to epic fantasies LL1 and LL2. Yes, I’m sorta switching genres mid-series. Except not really. The whole LLW series is meant to be epic fantasy. That’s always been THE BIG IDEA. But for certain things to happen in LLW1 and LLW2, the story of LLW3 has to be told.

The story of LLW3 is the story of Rafe Skelleran — who just happens to have been born in Oklahoma City, OK. That’s not exactly an epic fantasy setting. So when we meet Rafe, he’s still not-so-happily ensconced in his downtown OKC apartment. He crosses over into my epic fantasy world (readers will know this as Rethana’s universe) in…um…a chapter that’s now Chapter 3, I think. But he starts out here. So that’s sorta where the urban part comes in.

Bear with me, y’all. It’ll all come out in the wash, I promise.

3. Why do I write what I do?

Because I gotta.

Next question?

; ) Just kidding. But no, really. These stories are in my head, and if I don’t write them, I get surly and depressed and start oil-painting deepsea anglerfish mermaids (READ: fishtailed girls with ginormous jaws and spiky teeth) and lots of things in black. And then I get accused of demon-possession and nobody has any fun anymore. So I write my stories to make things better for ALL of us. You should thank me.

Really though, do come see the anglerfish mermaid sometime. She’s a cutie.

4. How does my writing process work?

Well, there’s coffee.

Next question?

Yeah, yeah. ; )

I used to be mostly a “pantser”: Flying by the seat of my pants, I dived into Telling The Story with little to no preparation, and it was magnificent and brilliant and exciting until I stalled out and dropped like a stone at around 10,000 words. KABLOOEY.

Nowadays, I still pants it a leeeeetle, but only after I do a lot of prep work. Great Scott, I know that sounds like a major paradox. Here’s how it works:

  • I write out a short synopsis — just the basics of what I think will happen. This is MC. This is what MC wants. MC does this. This is Antagonist. This is Antagonist’s goal (in opposition to what MC wants). Antagonist does this. And so forth.
  • I write out a Mock Table of Contents, and I let myself be ridiculous with it even if the story isn’t primarily comedy. For instance:

1. “Also, I Can Kill You with My Brain”
2. Down the Rabbit Hole; Dude, Your Ward Is Screwed Up
3. Take Me to Your Dream Weaver (a la REO Speedwagon)
4. Dude Is Janky, Let’s Kill Him
5. Girl’s Got Skillz (Or: Come Here So I Can Hit You with a Rock)
6. In Which the Spirit of Robert Frost Is Channeled. Word.
7. Sanctuary! Also, Get the Hell Outta My Head
8. Most Everyone’s Mad Here; Et Tu, Jael?
9. …

You get the picture. That, by the way, is the Mock ToC for the third Legends of the Light-Walkers novel. For keen observers, there might be a teensy-weensy spoiler or two in there. But for the most part, the Mock ToC means nothing to anyone but me. Each chapter title is just a note-to-self on what’s supposed to happen in that chapter. None of these will appear in the final draft.

  • I also do a character list, with 300-word descriptions for the protagonist and antagonist, and 100-word descriptions for at least two supporting characters. The other supporting chars just get a bullet point each. I’ll jot down notes on the big event (what catapults the MC into the story), the conflict, the obstacles, the climax, and the denouement. None of this has to be very long; it’s mainly just notes I’ll use for reference if I get stuck while writing the first draft.

I might do a long synopsis and also list what happens scene-by-scene in each chapter, but that depends on how tedious I’m finding the process at this point. I do write better when I’ve done some of this pre-writing, but if I start feeling bogged down with the pre-writing, I move on to the actual writing of the story. Boggy feelings don’t go well with creativity.

HINT: This is where I turn from a plotter back into a pantser. MIGHTY PANTSER-MORPHIN’ POWERS, ACTIVATE.

Oooooh, I know what this is called! This is plot-pantsing. PLONTSING. I AM A PLONTSER, Y’ALL. I think I just invented a term. Check me on this, people — but I bet you heard it here first. (If you didn’t, don’t you dare burst my bubble.)

In the actual writing-of-story process, I just write as fast as I can without (much) editing, so as to get the first draft out in “one” fell swoop. That fellness might take two years to swoop all the way, but if that’s as fast as I can go, then so be it.

After Draft 1 is done, I let it sit at least 6-8 weeks before looking at it again. I then read it all the way through without (much) editing. Then I release the Inner Editor in all her full and glorious wrath and edit and revise and rewrite until Draft 2 is finished. I wash, rinse, repeat until I have Draft 3. Nowadays, that’s likely as far as I’ll go before handing it over to an editor. (I’ll let beta readers take their shots starting with Draft 2). I think the most drafts I’ve ever had on one novel was six.

This is now WAY longer than I’d intended it to be, so I think I’ll go home now. : )

Please check out my fellow wordnerdssmiths in the Writers’ Blog Hop!

judyfinal Judy Lee Dunn writes to release her true stories in the hope that they will help her readers learn how to navigate life and live to tell about it. Her blog was named a Top 10 Blog for Writers in 2011. She has written everything from marketing and sales copy to grant proposals, children’s books, magazine articles and news stories. Judy has finally settled on her true passion, creative nonfiction. She was a contributing author for Seasons of Our Lives: Winter and is currently writing her first full-length memoir, Out Tonight. Judy lives on Anderson Island in south Puget sound with her husband Bob. In her spare time, she likes to read early 20th century novels and feed gourmet meals to stray cats.

 

 

tonyhealey Tony Healey is the best-selling author of the sci-fi series Far From Home. He was a contributor to the first Kindle All-Stars short story anthology, Resistance Front, along with award-winning authors Alan Dean Foster, Harlan Ellison and 30 others. In January 2014, he published the speculative fiction and horror anthology Edge of Oblivion, with all proceeds going to charity.
Tony’s post for the blog hop will be available for your reading pleasure on May 12th.

Dancing on the edge of oblivion: podcast and pubbed!

I got into a pod, and somebody cast it. Or something like that.

Hey cuties,

As I promised last week, Hulegaard Books’ interview with me is now live and awaiting your eager-to-listen ears! Again, I am indebted to David for the opportunity and for his mad interviewing skillz that kept me from feeling nervous and resulted in my sounding like I have an inkling of a conceptual hypothesis of what I’m doing. So listen, enjoy, give feedback, share the podcast with EVERY SINGLE PERSON YOU KNOW, and so forth. It’s there for your ravenous consumption.

Suddenly, I feel a quote from Arrow‘s “Felicity Smoak” coming on.

felicity-smoak-arrow

 

“It feels really good having you inside me. And by you I mean your voice. And by inside me I mean my ear. I’m going to stop talking right now.”

 

 

So there’s that. Go listen.

EDGE OF OBLIVION Anthology and Its Proceeds

Here’s a quick recap of the Writerly Goings-On that I’ve got my bangerang switch flipped and my verge swung over:

WHAT: EDGE OF OBLIVION, a brand-spankin’-new speculative fiction anthology
WHO: Editor Tony Healey and a kaboodle of fabulous independent authors
WHERE: on Amazon
WHEN: NOW
HOW: with a click of your mouse and a small amount of cold, hard cash, baby
WHY: because you’ll be getting some great quality reading EN-TER-TAIN-A-MENT and, even better, the money you spend on this book will be donated to the The Cystic Fibrosis Trust; READ: you’ll be helping sick kiddos.

EDGE OF OBLIVION cover art by Bruce Pennington and Keri Knutson.

EDGE OF OBLIVION cover art by Bruce Pennington and Keri Knutson.

Just for fun, here’s a list of the authors and their stories:

  • The House On Lantern Lane by Bernard Schaffer
  • Still by Simon John Cox
  • The Tunnel by David K. Hulegaard
  • Dinner by Jeff Provine
  • Jingle, Jingle by Keri Knutson
  • The F*cker Out Of Space by Tony Healey
  • The Torch Singer by Nathan Yocum
  • Box 2013 by Brendan Swogger
  • Remotely Viewed by David Cederbaum
  • A Taste For Eyes by Jay Wilburn
  • How We Left The Desert by RJ Astruc
  • Bloodline by Kevin Duncan
  • Higher Order by James Wymore
  • The Last American Mortal by Michael Shean
  • The Mercy and the Schadenfreude of the Soulless by Courtney Cantrell
  • Angel Eyes by William Vitka

Read and hear more from the Edge of Oblivion authors:

BONUS:

Lots of excitement around this project, y’all. Jump in and join the fun! The water’s great!

#MANifeellikeawriter

So, I got interviewed: Of Podcasts and Podpeople.

UPDATE:
PEOPLE! Anthology editor Tony Healey has given the word, and the word is TODAY!!! Speculative fiction anthology EDGE OF OBLIVION is live at Amazon, which means you can buy it! And read it! And review it!

So go do that. NOW. Or I’ll send my Black-Ops-ian team of evil elves to tattoo “I’m a nerd” on your forehead.

BUY IT NOW.

*grins at you maniacally*

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, read this:

Hile, beloved inklings! I hope you’re all staying warm and cozy out there to whatever extent warmth and coziness are possible and comfortable for you. (I assume you’re all the out-there type of people, otherwise you probably wouldn’t be reading this. And some of you likely prefer cold over warmth, which is just WEIRD. Buncha supermurgatroid alien podpeople. Sheesh.)

Anyway. If you’ve been paying attention — which I know you have, because that’s just the sort of dear, attentive lovelies you are — you know that what little writing time I’ve had lately, I’ve devoted mostly to writing and posting short stories. This means that there’s been a dearth of non-story posts around here. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Unless you guys don’t WANT free short stories to read. Which would be REALLY WEIRD and also somewhat DISASTROUS in blog-traffic terms.

But then, since I still haven’t been able to get Google Analytics to work with my blog, I have no idea what sort of traffic I’m getting or not getting, so that point is pretty much moo*.

Edge of Oblivion cover art by Bruce Pennington and Keri Knutson

Edge of Oblivion cover art by Bruce Pennington and Keri Knutson

ANYWAY. One of the things that’s been going on outside of short-story-penmonkeying is that I’ve been getting ready for the upcoming publication of my short story “The Mercy and the Schadenfreude of the Soulless” in Tony Healey’s anthology EDGE OF OBLIVION (EoO). See the pretty, pretty cover art?!

“The Mercy and the Schadenfreude of the Soulless” is, as I’ve mentioned before, a Grace & Jack story. If you follow that link, you’ll find a plethora of info on those two crazy lovebirds.

But there’s more info coming up! One of my fellow EoO authors, David Hulegaard, is doing a series of podcast interviews with the rest of us. David asked me to come on the show, and in spite of my nerves regarding public speaking, I said yes.

Of course, there was nothing for me to worry about. David put me completely at ease with his excellent writerly questions and his engaging interview style. We had a blast, and I’m hopeful that this won’t be my last Hulegaard Books Podcast. It was that much fun. : ) He sent me a preview — or is it a prelisten? — and I couldn’t be more pleased with how it turned out. David made me sound like I know exactly what I’m doing. BANGERANG.

So far, besides me, David has interviewed anthology editor Tony Healey and authors Brendan Swogger and William Vitka. Those interviews are excellent, and I highly recommend you go check them out here (Tony) and here (Brendan and Vitka).

The anthology itself, EDGE OF OBLIVION, officially launches this coming Monday, February 3rd. (EGAD, it’s almost February. WHAT?!) I’ll be posting more then! In the meantime, get your appetites in gear for hearing me talk about: Grace & Jack, how one juggles motherhood and writing life, and how writing short stories is like foreplay.

(Yeah, I really said that. And I let someone record me saying it. Oy vey.)

If you don’t hear from me sooner, have a great weekend!

________________________

*”It’s like a cow’s opinion. It just doesn’t matter. It’s moo.” –Joey Tribbiani

________________________

Did you go buy the anthology?

EDGE OF OBLIVION in US Amazon store.
EDGE OF OBLIVION in UK Amazon store.

*continues grinning maniacally*

Works-in-Progress Update and Getting Naked

Sci-fi novel Elevator People

First draft still in-progress. Still one to two chapters away from completion. I spend more time thinking about why I can’t finish the story than I do trying to finish the story. Which is a stupid way to spend my time. But there you have it. My theories as to what my problem is:

(a) I don’t want to kill off the character who’s probably gonna die in the last chapter.
(b) I’ve been spending too much time on social media, and it’s rotted my brain.
(c) The antagonist kicks the bucket too soon, and that’s made me lose momentum.
(d) Part of me thinks I should slog through and finish the first draft as-is, then go back and fix the problems.
(e) Part of me thinks I should fix everything I can fix and then finish the story.
(f) I keep wanting to play with sparkly new story ideas for my Legends of the Light-Walkers universe.
(g) I have ennui.
(h) ALL OF THE FREAKING ABOVE.

Dash it all.

Sci-fi short story “The Mercy and the Schadenfreude of the Soulless”

Yes. That is the actual title.

My beta readers have finished the story, and their response has been overwhelmingly, blush-elicitingly positive. Which, of course, makes me panic that these two people, whose opinions and clear views of life I generally trust, are, just in the case of my story, wholly blind to reality and deceived as to the merits of my story. Which makes me an angsty, ego-driven writer, I suppose, but then, what else is new?

Tonight’s blog post is, apparently, brought to you by Courtney’s Penchant for Commas. You’re welcome.

Anyway, edits on TMatSotS are going well, and I plan to have it done and turned in to Tony by the end of the week. BANGERANG.

Advice

Especially in the shower.

Especially in the shower.

My latest Works-in-Progress Update (Sci-fi stuff!)

Hile, my lovelies!

It’s been a while, I think, since I’ve regaled you with anything seriously writing-related. At least, I think it’s been a while — and since I can’t remember for sure, that tells me I’m right. This might be circular logic, but I’m not sure about that either, so let’s just move on.

Here’s an update on my three latest/current writing projects:

1. I am still plugging away at my soft sci-fi novel Elevator People (working title). I am approaching what should be the final chapter BANGERANG ZOUNDS CAN I GET A HALLELUJAH?!? I love this story, I love the characters, I love it all, but I will be SO everlastingly glad to be done with this first draft. BRING ON THE EDITING, says I! But no, first they have to climb a staircase, then they have to cross into the Prime Dimension or whatever, then they have to talk to The DUDE Dude, and then they have to decide if their story ends here or not. All of that should take fewer than 10,000 more words. I’m excited.

2. Work continues on the Grace & Jack sci-fi short story for Tony Healey’s charity anthology. It’s surreal and poetic and I’m enjoying immensely. Getting into Grace’s head is always a weird experience, and I kinda like those. So.

3. In the space of a few days, I wrote another Grace & Jack story entitled “At the Funeral of a Marriage”. Josh read it and said those two confuse the heck out of him, which means I did my job. ; )

All of this proves that the BLURGLEMAMJUFLOOBELSCHNITZEN is receding, which pleases me no end and affords me copious peace of mind. So yay.

danceswithtesticles

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve also put together a post full of fantasy/sci-fi inspirations, including ent larva, elves made of ice, and something I shall now call Dances With Testicles.

These come to you directly via the weirdness that is my brain. Click through if you dare. ; )

At the Funeral of a Marriage

Hile, beloved inklings!

I come to you today with entertainment. Skip the next four paragraphs if you want to bypass the preamble and just get straight to the opium.

Over at writer Chuck Wendig’s blog, you’ll find a flash fiction challenge containing ten random words as prompts. Mr. Wendig issues such challenges on a regular basis, and this is my first time to answer one.

My story is a bit longer than Chuck’s suggested wordcount (1700 vs. ~1000), but that’s just what the story wanted to do. If you follow my blog and/or my writings, you might remember my talking about “Grace and Jack stories,” my incomplete series of short stories about insanity, love, choice, and cross-dimensional time-travel. (Check here for more info.) Today’s story is one of those.

You might also remember that I’m writing a story for Tony Healey’s charity specfic anthology. That story is also a “Grace and Jack,” but that story is not this story. This story is a good way for me to get into the characters’ heads, and it fits in great with the “Grace & Jack” timeline. So, without further ado or adon’t, here’s the story:

Random words provided by Chuck Wendig:

Funeral, Captivate, Deceit, Brimstone, Canyon, Balloon, Clay, Disfigured, Willow, Atomic.

“At the Funeral of a Marriage”

a Grace and Jack story

by Courtney Cantrell

August 10, 2014

A month after the ballgame, I remember my sister’s words and consider divorcing my wife.

Beneath me, the bike’s engine roars its defiance and its despair as I race the setting sun to the horizon. It’s summer, late evening. Everybody’s either tucking their kids in or at the bar. The highway is mine. Out in the arroyos, the coyotes are my only witnesses, and they don’t give a damn about any challenge my bike and I might issue.

It would be like a funeral, our divorce. A solid, traditional funeral with lace veils and stopped clocks and mourners in black. I should list the clocks first, because they’re the most important. I would want to stop the clocks because right now, I don’t know when our marriage died, and I would want to know.

The bike and I approach a sharp curve and I lean into it, feeling my momentum in every atomic particle of my body and wishing I could just surrender to it. A different kind of funeral, then. But I don’t want to go there–that’s too much Grace.

In my mind, Grace and I stand at the open grave of our marriage and look down into it. The corpse doesn’t get a casket; it just lies there desiccated on the cold ground at the bottom of a hole. Grace and I excavated that hole together: she with her insanity and her refusal to accept my love for her, and I with my weariness. Exhaustion isn’t dull or blunt the way people think. Exhaustion is a sharp tool that digs hard and fast, more effective than madness ever could be. My wife and I might have conspired to murder our marriage, but it was my weariness that delivered the killing blow.

So Grace and I stand at the gaping hole, looking down at the shrunken corpse of our marriage, and I say to her, “You still captivate me,” because it’s the truth.

Grace turns her face toward me, but I can’t see beneath her veil of black lace. Her eyes might still be assessing our dead marriage. “You’re not usually into that kind of deceit, Jack.”

My bike takes me across a bridge spanning a deep canyon, and I wonder what lies at the bottom and if it’s cold. The conversation in my head is different from what I expected. Maybe the disinterest of the coyotes isn’t the only thing that can dry my tears.

“I’m not lying,” I tell the Grace in my mind. “You do still captivate me, and I am still deeply in love with you.” Since this is the Grace in my mind and not the real Grace back at our small house, I can be brutally honest. “I don’t care if you’re crazy. I love you. I don’t care if you do believe you’re responsible for someone’s death. I love you.”

My foot gets heavier and heavier on the accelerator.

“I don’t care if you do imagine you can hop dimensions and time-travel to try to fix that mistake. I love you.”

The wind makes me squint, and I find that the coyotes were not successful.

“I don’t care if you do drink yourself into oblivion so you can stop thinking. I love you.”

Maybe the high speed will tear the pain out of my chest and I can leave it behind on the pavement of the highway like roadkill.

“I don’t care if my sister is right and staying with you is stupid of me. I love you.”

The wind and the bike are a universal roar in my ears. But at the graveside of my marriage, all is silent. The stillness spreads, embiggens, balloons out into my hearing until even the sound of my own rushing blood disappears.

The first mourner steps up beside me. It’s Frannie, Grace’s medieval-fair-ing mother who has always liked me but has trouble loving anyone in jeans and a T-shirt. Frannie tosses a long-stemmed flower into the open grave. The purple petals smell like brimstone. Do bad marriages go to hell when they die?

“But this wasn’t a bad marriage,” Frannie says. In my mind, she turns and looks at me. “It wasn’t bad. It was just fragile.”

Grace lifts her face to the sky. “Fragile does not mean good.”

Frannie goes away, and my sister takes her place. In a black silk blouse, black skirt, and black cowboy boots, Reese looks like the country-Goth version of the Grim Reaper. Even her blond hair hides underneath a black bonnet with feathers. Reese drops a clod of dirt into the open grave and addresses Grace.

“Lunatic,” says my baby sister. “You should have died before you ever married him. At least then he could get on with his life.”

Grace lays a gentle hand on Reese’s arm. “Sometimes, death isn’t the end. Sometimes, death is just the clay and we use it to mold something worse.”

Reese goes away, and a man with hazel eyes takes her place. At first, I think a shadow lies over his face, although I can’t tell what might cast it. Then he reaches up to brush a strand of long, brown hair out of his eyes, and I realize it’s not a shadow. The right side of his face is disfigured with burn scars that turn his skin purple. None of this is real, it’s all in my mind, but my bike swerves out of control for a moment anyway. The scarred man is only in my head, but I know I should speak to him before he speaks to me. It’s the only sign of respect I can give him.

But as I fight to force the bike back into the right lane, he beats me to the punch. “Where is your honor?” he asks.

For once, Grace is silent.

My arms are trembling. I should pull over, let the adrenaline rush away to wherever adrenaline rushes go after they hit and pass. I should sit at the side of the road in adrenaline’s wake and then maybe push the bike the 40 or 50 miles back home instead of turning the engine back on.

Instead, I press the accelerator a little harder and face the scarred man at the graveside of my marriage. “I don’t know where my honor is,” I say.

He smiles a little, and the scars pull one side of his mouth into a grimace. It hurts my heart. If I were an asshole, I’d think the effect of the scars comic. Then again, I did marry this man’s wife, so I guess I’m an asshole anyway.

“She wasn’t my wife when you married her,” he says.

“I wanted her when she was still your wife.” I already know I can counter his every argument. “I loved her when she was still your wife.”

“But you did nothing until she wasn’t my wife anymore.”

I make a bitter noise that even I don’t recognize. “Only because you died first.”

“She wasn’t responsible for my death.”

“Tell her that.”

“You tell her enough for us both, Jack.”

“Why are you here?” I ask.

Finally, the scarred man looks down into the open grave. Before I can stop him, he leaps into the pit, right beside my dead marriage. “You pay homage to the dead,” he says. “Especially when the dead is someone you respected in life.”

I realize that he holds a shroud in his hands. He unfolds the shroud and drapes it over the dried-out husk. A knot forms in the pit of my stomach as the scarred man leans forward to pull the shroud over the sightless face.

“Don’t,” I whisper.

The scarred man stops mid-motion and stays that way, leaning over my dead marriage, prepared to lay it to its final rest. “Are you sure I shouldn’t?”

“I don’t know,” I whisper to the wind.

“Or would you rather I applied this?” He reaches into his pocket and pulls something out. It’s two wide twigs bound with a third thinner twig into the shape of a cross. He grips it in his right hand.

“Every grave must have its marker,” he says. “But this is a marker of resurrection. The wood of the willow infuses the essence of love. So what shall it be, Jack? The comforting death shroud, or the cross of love and life?”

My gaze drifts from the grave up to my wife’s face behind her veil. “Tell me what to do, Grace. Tell me if it’s worth it. What do you want?”

For a moment during which my entire universe trembles on the brink of oblivion, Grace remains silent and still. My lungs shudder and my heart skitters. But then Grace lifts the veil from her face and her eyes to my gaze. Her eyes are so dark, they infuse me with light. Her smile makes me want to touch her, but there’s a canyon between us and I fear that something worse than coyotes inhabits it.

But Grace smiles.

Grace smiles at me.

“I want the truth, Jack. The truth is all I’ve ever wanted. I know there’s nothing in you that would deny me the truth.”

Though I don’t want to, I look away from her and down into the grave where the specter of her first husband awaits my answer. The scarred man raises his eyebrows–again, a caricature of deformity, but I do not want to laugh. My mouth won’t work, but apparently my glance at his right hand is enough. He nods, then turns to lay the willow-twig cross upon the forehead of the dry corpse.

In that moment, the scarred man disappears. At the bottom of the cold grave, my dead marriage open its eyes and stares into my soul and says, “Remember me.”

I slam on the brakes so hard, I think I might go over the handlebars and catalyze a funeral after all. The screech of my tires is loud enough to trigger an answering, indignant chorus of coyote wails. But the beasts no longer matter. I slide to a stop, almost laying the bike down. But even if I broke an ankle or road-rashed my leg, that wouldn’t matter either.

Grinning like a loon, I turn the bike around and ride home to Grace.

Writing Prompts for Sci-Fi and Horror

Hile, writers all!

Remember last week when I told you about my friend and fellow indie Tony Healey’s call for sci-fi and horror short stories? Remember? REMEMBER?

If you don’t remember, I hope you’ll click on the link and peruse and ponder Tony’s invitation. This thing is gonna be a blast, and I can’t wait to see how it all comes together!

What? Oh, yeah. I’ve told Tony to count me in. Yes, I know I keep talking about blah blah writing time is limited blah. (Tell me if you get that reference; I’d love to hobnob.) But I’m thinking a deadline (October) might spur me on to finishing my WIP and getting a fairly decent short story together.

I’m thinking I’ll do a Grace and Jack story. Those two are always up for some sci-fi, and Grace pretty much put the spec in specfic. So we’ll see what I can cook up.

In the meantime, Tony has graciously provided a fabulous list of sci-fi and horror writing prompts. I think they’re all helpful — each one triggered in me a hey-I-can-do-something-with-this. But of course I do have some faves. Here are a few of them:

From Tony Healey’s “Some Writing Prompts”:

What is your favourite SF movie? How would you have made that movie even better?

What is the most effective Horror novel you’ve ever read?

Why did it work, and where did it fall down? How would YOU have tackled it?

What scares you? What keeps you awake at night? [Courtney’s note: I especially like this one, as I take it to mean more than the typical monster-under-bed, spiders, creepy-crawlies stuff. I take more as, you lie awake in the night wondering about the potential horrible death of your spouse or your kid and how you would handle that. Throw in something supernatural, and there’s a huge potential for horror there — more of a psychological nature than the creepies, which I think is infinitely scarier.]

Take the worst SF or Horror movie you have EVER seen. …How would you have made it…(to quote Court) CRAMAZING? [Also: Hey, I got quoted!]

Read 2 SF stories. Do the same for Horror. What did you like? What didn’t you like? How did they approach their subject matter?

A few things to think about.

A few things to think about, indeed! Click through to read the rest of the prompts and get to thinkin! And then get those fingers writin’ or typin’. There’s a specfic anthology to make!

ANNOUNCING: #Specfic #Horror #SF Short Stories Wanted!

Best-selling Far From Home Series author Tony Healey has put out a call for short stories. He’s publishing an anthology for charity in November and is taking submissions in speculative fiction, horror, and sci-fi. Here are the details from Tony himself:

TITLE: TO BE DECIDED

AGENDA: Charity anthology of Speculative / Horror / SF short stories with 100% of proceeds to go to The Cystic Fibrosis Trust

WHAT I’M LOOKING FOR: One short story per person in the speculative, horror and SF genres no longer than 10,000 words. They can be previously published work, provided you have the rights to allow me to reuse them. For unpublished new work, it should be the best you can get it, although all new stories will go through an editorial process.

EXPLANATION: I am looking to put together an anthology of speculative, horror and SF stories to raise funds for The Cystic Fibrosis Trust.

As this is a charity anthology, I cannot offer any form of payment. You will be submitting your work in the knowledge that it will be used to raise money for a charitable cause. However, you will be able to publish your story elsewhere, independent of the anthology. And, if the anthology is as successful as I hope it will be, you will gain free promotion of your own work from its sale.

I am in contact with an artist I have admired for years, who worked on numerous famous book covers in the 70’s. I’m hopeful that he will allow me to reuse a piece of his for the front cover.

I will be contacting several well known authors, both traditionally and independently published, to see if they will be willing to either contribute a new piece of fiction, or allow me to reprint something already published.

Note that in the case of work being reprinted where it has already been published, I will accept it ‘as is,’ i.e. there will be no edits required or requested.

The anthology will be professionally edited, formatted and will have a professional cover. It will be a Kindle exclusive. There will be regular updates on my site www.tonyhealey.com regarding how many copies of the anthology have sold, and how much has been raised.

HOW TO SUBMIT: Email me at tonyleehealey@gmail.com with ANTHOLOGY in the subject line and your story as an attachment. The deadline will be the end of October, 2013 for a January 2014 release.

So, there you have it, folks. Get your short story engines revved up and let those writing fingers fly!

The One Where I Get Interviewed for #KindleAllStars

So, when I mentioned earlier today that Tony Healey at fringescientist.com was gonna post an interview with me “tomorrow,” I was thinking of “tomorrow” in terms of *my* time zone.

Tony, however, is not in my time zone. Tony dwells far, far away in a land called “United Kingdom” — which, of course, means that he’s a couple+ hours ahead of me.

As a lifelong expat-turned-repat-turned-expat-turned-repat, not to mention as an adult TCK*, I really should’ve remembered that.

All of this is to say that, because in his world, it is already November 16th, Tony’s interview with me has gone live, and you can click this link to read it. Bangerang. Comments are, as always, most welcome (and encouraged!). ; )

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*TCK = Third Culture Kid. Someday, I shall explain this in-depth. For now, suffice it to say that I am an adult one of these, and it makes me cramazingly crazy sometimes.
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