The Pinnacle of Achievement

One: My first novel is out at beta, and receiving overwhelmingly positive first impressions.

“Unique and intriguing,” “A page-turner,” and “Wow” seem to be the primary responses. It may not mean much in the big scheme, seeing as the comments come from friends, but it feels good. And I do trust their judgment, or I wouldn’t have sent it to them. There was that one reader who said, “I’m confused,” and that’s okay too. (Love you, Lisa!) There’s also plenty of good, meaty critical feedback to help me make it better.

I’m reading it to the kids as well, and that’s fun.

I’ve started some minor revisions, like replacing all the wordy dirds with fake language. It came out rather nicely. In fact, the replacements seem to carry more weight than the original actual swear words, so that I ended up toning it down and removing portions of it to keep it from being too heavy.

When I told Monty, who is among my book’s first fans as well as a valuable beta reader, that I had invented a new swear-word language, his face lit up: “I love it when they do that!” he said. Apparently, Michael Vey does something similar. I guess I’d do well to pick up those books and read them. Monty has all of them.

Two: My Query-Preparations are Going Well

My query letter is more-or-less ready, and I’ve started studying agents. I’ve picked out a few who seem like good candidates. I like what they have to say about what they’re looking for, they’ve got strong, relevant client lists, and have had success placing books at good publishing houses. I’m just beginning to look, so I’ll keep adding and prioritizing candidates until I’ve got a good short list.

Three: My book keeps getting better.

Reading my first book aloud to Monty & Eli is deeply satisfying and helpful. They keep pointing out places it can be better, like the endings to several chapters where they’ve said: “Mommy, take off those last few sentences and just finish the book right at such-and-such sentence.” They’ve been right every time.

We’ve also found places where the narrative slows down and can be tightened. Segments removed, chapters conflated.

 

Four: My Next Book Has Begun

Slave Chip is coming along well. I’ve written tons of back story for the main character, who is fleshing out nicely as someone interesting to read about rather than the cardboard caricature she started out as. I’ve written a couple scenes that might even make it into the book–like the one where she meets a slave trader and he flirts with her in a totally unexpected way.

Five: I’ve Been Asked to Beta Read For a Nationally Best-Selling Author

The last time I beta-read a book, it was for someone at Ernst & Young that I worked with in 1999-ish, and the book was terrible. Just awful. This one is not awful. It’s quite, quite wonderful. The brevity of this paragraph does not do justice to its wonderfulness. It’s just that it’s hard to keep my mouth shut about it and if I go on too long I might spoil Things. So that’s all. Just, it’s wonderful.

Six: None of That Matters

I have a teenage son. That, in itself, is an accomplishment. I mean, he’ll be a teenager tomorrow. It feels good, primally good, to have a strapping young lad for a son.

But if you’re wondering what I mean by the “pinnacle of achievement” in the title of this entry, then I must tell you, it’s None Of The Above. It’s this:

Monty, age 13 (nearly), at the dinner table: “You know, Mommy, I was thinking. You run your own business, and you wrote a book that’s just as good as anything else I’ve read.”

Thanks, son. I appreciate that.

“Well, You’re pretty cool.”

Yup. My teenager said that. That, dear friends, is the pinnacle of achievement.

THIS son. The one who took down his first prey on his first shot and carved it up to stock his grandparent's larder for the winter. Yup. That son.

This kid, the one who just bagged a deer for his grandparents, thinks I’m cool.

How to Write a Blockbuster YA Novel

I am woefully behind the times in my reading. Ask me about the classics, and I’m all over it:

  • Sophocles (check)
  • Thucydides (indeed)
  • Aeschylus (yup)
  • Vergil (certainly)
  • Homer (you bet, and I even know this is out of chronological order)
  • Plato (uh-huh)
  • Xenophon (in Greek, love him–have you read his bit on horse training?)
  • Shakespeare (duh)
  • Milton (of course)
  • Chaucer (in the original Middle English, yes)
  • Too many to list (you betcha)

What about novels, you ask?

  • Mark Twain 
  • Hemingway
  • Jane Austin
  • Charles Dickens
  • Eudora Welty
  • Kurt Vonnegut
  • Heinlein
  • Lovecraft
  • Philip K. Dick
  • Harper Lee
  • Etc. Etc. Etc.

Now ask me about anything written in the past ten years, and, well, look:

  • Hunger Games
  • Harry Potter
  • Um.
  • Twilight (hangs her head in shame…)
  • Uh.
  • That’s it.
  • I think.
  • WAIT! The Magicians. Of course.
  • Yup.
  • That’s it.

twilight poster_9

I can’t un-read Twilight alas, but I can do penance by reading a whole bunch of other recent YA titles. My Amazon bill has grown ridiculous. But that’s okay, because I’m about to get rich. Because it turns out you don’t need to be original to write a blockbuster. All you need is a recipe. And I have the recipe.

Recipe for a Blockbuster YA Novel

  • Take one gorgeous but troubled female teenager who has no idea she’s beautiful, and put her in the center of the plot
  • Mix in insecurity, self-deprecation, and a selfless desire to please everyone at her own expense.
  • Add one gorgeous but troubled male teenager who is inaccessible due to a bad-boy reputation, his community/school role, or his own dark secrets.
  • Mix in a large pinch of “why do I like him?” angst.
  • Add a crisis that throws them inadvertently together, often in close physical proximity, and mix well with breathlessness each time their skin touches.
  • In another container, mix together a large quantity of possessiveness, controlling, and jealousy, add carefully to the male teenager, and disguise it with the sweetness of I Love You.
  • Gradually fold in a good reason why they can’t be together, that inevitably boils down to “I’m afraid I’ll hurt him” (because of her special talent, because the bad guys are after everyone she loves, because she also loves someone else, because she always hurts everyone she loves, or similar–you get to be a little original here if you want, but don’t go too crazy.)
  • Add heat.
  • When plot reaches a full boil, place a decision in the hands of female character–on the one hand, she can be with the boy forever; on the other hand, she can do something selfless that will serve to separate them forever. It’s okay if this one is a stretch, as long as she definitely has to choose and there is no middle option.
  • When she chooses the selfless act, remove story from heat.
  • When male & female settle out separately, leave them in proximity, but not mixed.
  • Cover with a cloth and leave to ferment. Will they end up together or not? That is the delicious finish everyone craves. Don’t answer.
  • Wait for film deals to roll in, along with riches.

Try it and let me know how it goes.

By the way, my WIP doesn’t follow this formula. There’s very little romance, way too many main characters, and not nearly enough teenage angst. They’re too busy trying to not be eaten or tortured to be overly concerned about pimples. Is my book YA? I’m no longer convinced.

Also, I’ll probably die poor.

My 14-Step Process to Writing a Great YA Novel (Or Writing While Parenting Part Four)

YALLFest, Charleston’s young adult book festival, is November 9, and it’s loaded with a long list of top YA authors (including Lev Grossman). And if that’s not enough incentive to get you down there, guess who else will be there? Me.

Even better, unlike those other famous people who are making you wait and show up, I’m going to go ahead and give you my proprietary multi-step process for writing a YA book right now and you don’t even have to leave your desk. I win.

  1. Have a kid. Kids give you an excuse to read young adult fiction aloud every night and to speak proudly about it in mixed company. “I’m reading ‘Harry Potter’ to my kids at bedtime” is SO much more socially acceptable than “I LOVE ‘Twilight!’ I read it over and over again because I love it so much. Don’t you?”
  2. On second thought, don’t have kids just for that. Kids are work. Much easier to just grow a thick skin and love what you love. You can call it “research” if it makes you happier.
  3. If you do have a kid, raise him free range*, and un-school, so you don’t squash any of his native genius.
  4. Or whatever. It’s up to you. But if you do free range and un-school I guarantee your kids will blow you away every day. They might anyway. I wouldn’t know.
  5. Wait till they’re older. If you start thinking about writing while your kids are still little, don’t worry–they’ll squash that right out of you.
  6. When your child reaches the rough age of the character(s) in your planned book, begin writing. Assuming your characters are at least 9 years of age, this corresponds neatly to the approximate time when you start to feel human again after having a baby.
  7. When you get to a tough spot, interview your kid. Spend lots of time on this and record the sessions. Take notes, too. Pay close attention. Ask lots of questions and answer all of theirs.
  8. Be wowed when the boring chapter about waiting for something to happen becomes the interesting chapter about building a viable home out of scraps of tanned skin, a water bucket, and an over-sized plastic bench.
  9. Interview other kids too when you get a chance. By this time, if you’ve done it right, most of the kids in your town will be hanging out at your house anyway, because you’re the free range house and maybe you have Minecraft and enough computers to go around too.
  10. Read some YA.
  11. Write every day.
  12. Listen to your characters.
  13. Listen to your kids.
  14. Repeat. Start with step 7 though, because raising a new kid for each set of revisions on your novel is probably a bit overboard.
Writing with Eli

Writing with Eli

P.S. I don’t love Twilight. I feel like I should actually say that because I said “love what you love” and Twilight is not one of those things. I do think it’s well-written for what it is, though, and I have in fact read the entire series. And she made a lot of money on it, so there’s that.

P.P.S. There are a few other entries about writing while parenting. I called them “part one” “part two” etc. even though they’re only loosely connected. You can read them if you want: Part One, Part Two, Part Three.

Not Writing, Not Updating, Not Sure Why I’m Posting

Y’all.

I have not written in my book in weeks.

Weeks.

I don’t know what to tell you. There’s the fact that our house filled up with people–two separate friends who needed a place to stay are now more-or-less long-term residents in our home. We love them and love having them here, and their moving here also created upheaval. There are other things going on causing upheaval too that will be revealed in time (ahem we might be moving soon).

There’s the fact that my son brought home a newborn piglet who required around-the-clock nearly non-stop care and then died, prompting emergency vet visits and midday funerals and sadness.

There’s the fact that my other blog went mildly viral recently and so I had to spend all this time watching my stats skyrocket over there. Important work.

And the fact that my husband has become a performer and there are performances to attend, and childcare shifts to cover.

And the fact that my business is sucking up about ten hours a day.

All of which is to say that I haven’t been writing because I am making BULLSHIT excuses.

I’m not finding an hour a day to write because I’m not.

Tomorrow. I will begin again tomorrow.

Besides, YALLFest is Nov 9 and I will have SOMETHING to show. Maybe. I hope to meet Lev Grossman there finally. Get a book or two signed. Maybe meet an agent. Anyway. Maybe I’ll have a presentable draft? Odds are… crap. It won’t have been beta’d.

Anyway. Hi. Sorry for not updating in forever. Thank you for your patience. We now return to our regular programming.

Me and books

(Those books in the background? Were written by people who did not let bullshit excuses stop them from writing. None of them was me.)

We’re Done Here: Time for a Verdict

I lied. I told you it was seven (7) and it’s only six (6). So we’re done here.

Actually, I didn’t lie. I just didn’t know.

I had a seventh one lined up. Until last Thursday, I believed there would be seven. Then I started working with the seventh one and NO just no.

It’s bad.

It was my first real attempt at writing a novel, I mean, as an adult. It was the first time I wrote something down and thought, “This is going to be a novel. I’m going to make this into a novel.”

It’s painful.

It opens with a nightmare. A bloody nightmare with no real emotional content.

It proceeds almost immediately into a memory. A boring memory.

It’s trite and melodramatic.

I’m embarrassed that I actually shared it with someone once. Amazing he didn’t tell me to just quit now (thank you, Thomas).

I still like the concept. The idea was to write the story of the prostitute who washes Jesus’s feet in her tears. She gets like three lines in the Bible, and I want to know more. What it was like being a prostitute in New Testament times, how she came to be one. I want to know how it felt when the homeowner told her she was unworthy even to touch Jesus’s feet, and then what she did when Jesus praised her above the homeowner. What happened to her afterward. The story was going to be gritty and real and deep.

I did a ton of research for it. Maybe I’ll write it some day. But not now. What I have so far is too awful and I don’t feel like messing with it to make it un-embarrassing.

Important Point:

Someday I will be a successful novelist. Because I want it and I’m willing to pay in sweat and tears* for it. And once upon a time I was AWFUL. Let that be a lesson to all aspiring writers.

And when I’m a successful, published, independently wealthy author, maybe I’ll publish some of my awfulness so you can see. For now, though, you really don’t need to know.

SO. It’s verdict time. Your instructions.

  1. This is the participation portion of the game. HUGE thanks to everyone who has participated so far. If you haven’t and you want to, now is the time to step up.
  2. Leave a comment here, on this entry, telling me which of the seven six stories you are most interested in reading as a complete work, and why.

That’s it. So simple. The winning story will be chosen as follows:

  1. 10 points for being popularly chosen by participants
  2. 10 points for receiving the most interesting/compelling vote
  3. 80 points for being the one I generally feel most excited about when it’s time to get started

Your vote counts! But only because it will probably have an impact on how I feel!

Seriously, your voice does count. I love all of these story ideas, and want your input.

Oh, and you can read all six by scrolling backwards from the home page or clicking through on their titles here:

The Visitation

The Girl in the Goblin Tower

The Summer I Met Mercy

The Red Girl

Relief: A Place to Back Up (also known as Relief: A Title that Doesn’t Start with “The”)

Slave Chip

Let’s begin! And thank you, truly.

*maybe even in blood. A little blood. Like maybe a pinprick or something. But I’d rather pay in sweat. Or maybe cash if I had any. Wait. Can I pay in rotten apple cores pulled out from under my son’s dresser?

Candidate #6: The Visitation

Just two left. Whew.

The obligatory “if you’re new here”: Read this first.

And the list of previous entries:

Slave Chip, Relief: A Place to Back Up, The Red Girl, The Summer I Met Mercy, The Girl in the Goblin Tower

And the intro to the intro: This one is adult, I-don’t-know-what-genre, help!? it’s kinda tongue-in-cheek but serious too… a modern-day origin myth. A reinterpretation of an old tale. Maybe it sucks. Maybe I’m just tired of my own writing and would benefit from a break. There was something about it I felt worth sharing, anyway. (Shut up Heather and just share the darn thing and let them make their own judgments. Geez.) Here.

The Visitation

She was working in the lab when God arrived, unannounced.

She didn’t notice His Presence at first, entranced as she was by the spectacularly clear images on the screen of her new scanner: A hand-held device that allowed her to watch electric impulses dance inside her volunteer’s brain in real time. Incredible.

The volunteer himself was reading a Mathematics Today and humming cheerfully to himself. She wondered if, with the right tools, she could actually read what he was reading through the lens of his brain.

So absorbed was she in study, that she didn’t hear the door swish shut nor notice the dusty cardboard box He set on the counter. He was right behind her when she turned around, staring at the output screen in her hand.

“That’s an interesting device,” said God. “What does it do?”

“Don’t you know? I thought you were omniscient.”

God sighed. Somewhat dramatically, thought Dora. “The brightest and most curious mind in all Creation, and even you have to make that joke the first time you meet Me,” he said, and sighed again. She hadn’t known God would be such a drama queen.

In fact, He wasn’t at all what she expected, if she had expected Him at all. He did have a beard and a halo, but the beard was thin and scraggly, and His shoulders hunched. The halo was slightly askew and had more dusky brass to it than any sort of golden glow. It seemed almost as though it were rather tired of hanging there and wished it could rest for a bit. God was bald except a few grey wisps, and His face was lined and sunken and void of strong characteristics. The overall appearance was one of vague dishevelment, that of a homeless man with a dented tin of coins next to him making no real attempt to solicit donations.

Of course, that last image didn’t cross her mind at the time, because she had never seen a homeless man. But later, when she stumbled across the first one, she would see him and think, “He looks rather like God. How peculiar.”

At the moment, however, she was mostly concerned with deciding whether God would prefer tea or coffee, and whether an early afternoon Visitation called for snacks. To her relief, God just wanted to know about her equipment, and what kind of work she was doing.

At the end of the lab tour, she ventured: “So, You’re really not omniscient?”

God sighed again. There was patience in the sigh and also weariness. “I can be omniscient,” He said. “But I prefer not to be. It’s hard to explain.” His eyes wandered toward the electron microscope and back again.

Then he smiled distractedly and wandered out the door and down the street. Dora went back to her work.

She didn’t hear from God again until that night over dinner. Buried among the thirty-seven new text messages in her inbox was one from God:

“btw left my box. Dont open pls.”

“Puzzling,” she thought as she put a bite of rosemary-crusted sweet potato into her mouth. She puzzled over it in bed that night as well. She loved to puzzle over things in bed.

What was God doing in her lab this morning? Why was he so … not what she expected? How can God be forgetful? Why would He tell her not to open the box? Surely He knew she wouldn’t—it wasn’t hers to open. What was it anyway?

The next day broke with sunshine glimmering on the early-morning mist. Dora opened her eyes sleepily and smiled. Her smile broadened as she remembered that she had two particularly wonderful things to look forward to that day: In-taking three new volunteers, and further inquiry into God.

The first thing Dora did when she arrived in the lab was to test her equipment in preparation for the first volunteer’s arrival. Then she fixed coffee in her Keurig machine, and sat to review her notes from the previous day. When she pulled a stool up to the counter she saw the box.

There it was, right next to the electron microscope. Interesting. It didn’t look like much. Just beaten up cardboard, tied shut with a piece of twine–superfluous, given that it was also tightly duct-taped on all sides, ludicrously over-sealed.

On one side of the box were a child’s scrawled doodles, and words written in permanent marker the way a box of winter clothes might be marked for storage. In the middle these three words: “Do not open.” The rest of the words were unfamiliar:

“Danger,” said the box.

And: “Contains evil.”

An odd chill passed through her, a sensation as unfamiliar as the words.

Candidate #5: The Girl in the Goblin Tower

If you don’t know what this is, start here. Then you can read the rest of the candidates, if you want: Slave Chip, Relief: A Place to Back Up, The Red Girl, The Summer I Met Mercy. I’ll be here when you get back.

More than halfway done! I feel like I should make a speech.

So, this next excerpt is from a piece I started many many months ago… probably a couple of years ago… and got farther into than any novel I had ever started. I wrote nearly 7,000 words before stopping. I never wrote that much in a story again until my current 85k WIP that is now resting sleepily while we play our game of intros.

The idea came to me in a dream, if I remember correctly, though I often dream while awake so who knows. I was thinking about Sam & Frodo in the tower in Mordor, where Sam rescues Frodo from the goblins (or was it orcs?) who had dragged him from Shelob’s nest. An image flashed across my mind: A stringy-haired girl slinking in a corner of the room after the goblins have fled. Sam is unreasonably angered by her presence, threatens her until she shrinks away, and promptly erases her existence from his mind. Frodo believes the exchange to be a part of his poison-induced nightmare, barely remembers it later, let alone mentions it.

The girl in the goblin tower is, for the purposes of the story of the Ring, unseen. But she sees everything. What is she doing there?

Her story gradually unfolded in my mind, stretching out into a vast line running parallel to the canonical tale of the Ring, just under the surface of its male-dominated narrative, invisible because threatened into submission, and forgotten. I got a bug in me to tell her tale. Here’s its opening.

The Girl in the Goblin Tower

A girl stood hunched at the edge of the wood. She was not much to look at, hardly even noticeable. A skinny wisp, barely four feet tall, with hollow eyes, a longish face, and stringy dark blond hair hanging lankly down her back. Human. She was gazing open-mouthed at the tower.

Varda, for that was her name, closed her mouth and, trembling, stepped forward again. She had a mission, and it was only too like her to forget it in her ludicrous awe.

Between the woods and the tower stood a wall, and within the wall a village. The gate stood open.

She had not known her home was so small and dirty until she saw how other villages were. She found more food in a single garbage heap now than she had seen anywhere in her entire village in weeks. And this village, the one at the foot of the tower, was finer than any of them.

The shops were upright and swept, with colorful fabrics decorating the entrances. The walkways were smooth and the grass green and trim. The people here, like the other villages along the way, were mostly human. But here also were peculiar creatures drawn from the tales: Dwarves, nyads, dryads, maybe even an elf or two.

As usual, no one paid her much attention. Nevertheless, her lips remained parted, ready with a word of obsequy in case she should offend anyone.

The tower jutted upward, sprouting directly from the earth. No homes or temples or other buildings leaned up against it. No trees crowded the walls. A tower so high that the top was obscured in mist.

Varda tried to swallow and found that her mouth was too dry. She felt that she could not go on. She wished that some act of grace would wipe her from the face of the earth so that she would not have to enter the tower. Then a greater fear overtook her: What if she could not enter the tower?

The road approached directly to the outer wall of the tower and then simply stopped. She could see no door or other means of ingress. The tower appeared impregnable. So then perhaps she had been lied to. No surprise, if truth be told. Perhaps her journey served for nothing but to provide one less mouth for her village to feed. She understood.

Still, it stung. Had they told her the truth, she would have left no less willingly. She would have liked the dignity of knowing.

She continued forward. If she could not enter the tower, she would at least touch it. Afterward, she would return home and tell how much food there is to be had in the other villages. She herself might spend the rest of her life sneaking and taking from garbage heaps. There were worse ways to live, and only one way to die.

When she reached the tower she saw that a clever arrangement of the glossy dark stone concealed the opening from a distance. She would be able to enter after all, to place her plea before the feet of the Great Sar Gral.

An unfamiliar feeling arose within her, frightened her. It was a bright, restless feeling, close to desire but higher–and more dangerous–in tone. Later she would learn to call it hope. She squelched it with her old familiar friend, terror.

She crouched to retch into the grass by the road, and afterwards crawled forward toward the tower, unable to walk upright any longer.

The moment that she crawled past the threshold, into the shaded interior of the tower, the air chilled. In front of her was a second wall, and to both sides were openings, presumably into the interior of the tower. The polished stone floor was cold and her shivering grew so that she could not hold her hands still. Shaking, she pushed herself against a wall and slid into a standing position, crept toward the left side opening, then propelled herself into the interior in a sudden thrust of terror.

And then there he was. She had not expected an immediate audience. She had not expected anything. She had thought perhaps disappointment again. But not this, not Him, right here before her. She was too stunned to be terrified.

He was magnificent.

Twice her height, wrapped in glowing white raiment, his face gleaming with its own light. White hair, white beard, white hood. Holding a long black staff in one hand with a brilliance shining at the top. And he was looking at her. As though he had expected her. As though he noticed she was there.

She found she was no longer trembling. She found she was no longer weak. She found she was looking directly into his eyes. And he was looking directly into hers. His expression was interested. Piqued, even. And also something else… wary? Was he afraid of her? What did it mean?

After a long moment, he spoke. “Your favor is granted.”

And then he turned and started away. “Wait!” she cried. “What do you mean?” And then without thinking, she launched into the speech she had repeated to herself almost continuously since leaving home: “We are not a wealthy people, but we beseech your goodness. We will find a way to repay you if you will tell us what it will cost…”

A smile played at the corners of his mouth, and she stumbled to silence. So he was not angry with her then.

“I mean what I say,” he said. “Your favor is granted. Your village is saved. The curse is lifted and they will eat again–already the feast is laid before them. Twas a paltry wish and easily granted.”

“As for payment,” he said, “It will cost only your life.”

Then he was gone and she lay shivering upon the floor.

Candidate #4: The Summer I Met Mercy

This one isn’t new to the blog, but I want it considered, so I’m offering it again. This one’s YA (young adult), straight fantasy a la Neil Gaiman (if you like Neil Gaiman it’s JUST like him, otherwise NOTHING like Neil Gaiman (JAIMIE)) or, I don’t know, kind of magical realism-ish.

It’s also shorter than the others, so here’s more detail (skip if you don’t want intro spoilers). It’s set in modern-day Southern US (my backyard, to be precise, except not really my backyard), a first-person coming-of-age story with a dark (horror-ish) twist. All evidence to the contrary, this is not a vampire story. But you may figure out pretty quickly that Mercy is not exactly… normal, either. She wants something the MC has, and the MC wants something she has… and the trade may not be all it seems.

If this is your first visit to my blog, you’re probably confused. This should clear things up.

You can also review the first three candidates here:

Slave Chip

Relief: A Place to Back Up

The Red Girl

The Summer I Met Mercy

Nobody knew where she came from. I didn’t know where she came from. She was just there one day, down by the community lake, picking at the mud between her toes. Why she would do that when she was covered in mud from head to foot is anybody’s guess, and I didn’t ask. Just stood there gawking at her. Her hair was so caked it looked like it was made of mud, just long gobby strands of filth tangled with pond algae, and her arms were too long, her fingers too long, but the most notable thing about her was that she was naked.

She looked up at me and smiled, an ordinary, girl-next-door smile, and she was quite pretty, for a stringy 15-year-old, even if her teeth were rather large and white and pointy. Even if she was quite, quite naked. Not that I could see anything, not with her bent over her legs like that.

We became good friends, Mercy and I, that summer that my parents were separating, that my world was crumbling.

More than friends, actually. She was the first girl I ever kissed. She was clean the day I kissed her, and clothed. I never did see her naked again, in fact, not that day and not any day after. But I did kiss her. My first kiss.

It wasn’t quite what I expected. Weirder. Much weirder. She drew the tip of my tongue into her mouth with a sucking sensation, and then bit it, sucking continuously, her teeth scraping along every inch as my tongue went deeper. It hurt but not enough to make me want to stop. Not even as much as the throbbing in my groin hurt at that moment, and I didn’t want that to stop either.

Candidate #3: The Red Girl

Okay, FINE random number generator. FINE. You really want to hear the story of the red-skinned orphan beauty, don’t you? Fine.

Oh, hi, human visitor. Thank you for stopping by, um… hold on..

Okay. If you have no idea what’s going on here, start with this post first.

If you’d like, you can read the first two candidates here: Slave Chip, Relief: A Place to Back Up

This next one is the same one that random number generator told me to post last time. I said “no.” Then it chose it again today. Stop being so random, random number generator!

Anyway. It’s pure adult fantasy (ugh, WHY does the word “adult” have that connotation? It’s not ADULT just “adult,” as in FOR adults. And it’s not THAT kind of fantasy. It’s high fantasy. Think Dungeons and Dragons, Tolkien, elves and trolls and demons). It’s about a beautiful and charming orphan girl adopted into a noble family, but whose identity harbors a dark and bloody secret that could spell the end of all that is good in the world.

Working Title: Tiefling

Lady Jayne was not the first to hear it through the whistling of the night wind. The two maidservants at the front of the line were.

“What is it, girls? What do you fear? None shall harm us here.”

“No, m’ lady,” said Beatrice. “I thought I heard a weeping babe, is all.”

Jayne took a torch from one of the girls, and pressed past them, around the curve of the rock. The wailing ceased the moment torchlight fell upon the tiny infant, dirty and bald and, for all that, the most beautiful child Jayne had ever seen. Its dark skin seemed to glow with rosy light. Two amber eyes gazed at Jayne with astounding intelligence, shards of color in them dancing like flame in the torchlight.

It had been many years since abandoning infants in these hills had been common. When he had come into the seat, her lord husband had forbidden the barbaric practice on penalty of death. And tonight of all nights, the most holy night of the year, these hills were sacred, open only to women of noble blood and pure heart.

In the moment that her eyes met those of the infant, however, Jayne thought none of that. She saw only the exquisite beauty of this girl child, and knew without a doubt that her presence here was a gift from the goddess. When Jayne lifted the infant into her arms, the milk sprang to her breasts.

“Beatrice, lend me your shawl.”

Jayne wrapped the child and held it to her own bare breast. She smiled at the ferocity with which the girl began to suckle. Turning to her party, she announced: “The child’s name is Evalyn, for she is greatly desired.”

The girl did not disappoint her fostering mother. By the age of one, she was speaking in complete sentences. By the age of two, thick waves of amber hair had grown to her waist. At the age of three, she spread flour to convert the front room to a winter wonderland, carried in stable mud to turn her bedroom into a swamp, and smiled with such perfect white teeth and dimpled cheeks that nobody minded.

At age four, she began pestering the library master for books on philosophy and mathematics, “and please, something I haven’t read already!” At age five, she challenged her twin brother—the same brother she had shared her mother’s breasts with—to a wooden sword duel, and won.

And when Evalyn was six, her mother made a discovery that threatened to shatter their world. She was brushing Evie’s hair for bed, running her hands through the luscious curls to smooth them down, when her hands stopped.

What was it? Had Evie hit her head and forgotten to mention it? No. There was another on the other side. Both bumps exactly the same, hard and sharp and terrifying. No, no. It was nothing. Her imagination was running away from her.

“Oh, Mummy,” said Evie, taking a break from the story she had been weaving about a fire princess and her pet dragon.

“Yes, my darling,” said Jayne, barely trusting herself to speak.

“I’ve been meaning to ask you. Why am I growing horns upon my head?”

Candidate #2: Also Sci Fi

If you’re confused about this post, check this out first.

If you haven’t already, you can read the first candidate here.

And remember how I said the order was chosen randomly? It’s not any more. The random number generator told me to go from the previous story, about a stunningly beautiful slave, to a second story, about a stunningly beautiful outcast. Gag me.

So I cheated.

Alas, this heroine is probably beautiful too (I haven’t seen a photo of her yet), but only because she gets to pick her own body. If it were up to me, she’d have zits and bad hair.

This one is adult sci-fi with a suspense/mystery twist, about a woman in a hospital ward who discovers that she’s being held by authorities on suspicion of terrorism. Here ya go.

Relief: A Place to Back Up 

At 10:00 am precisely, 12 minutes and 37 seconds after Risha Lencionis walked through the front door of Kwahm Ca Sthaban, the facility exploded, killing her and all 67 clients and 12 employees inside. Unaware that this had happened to her, the chief thing Risha felt right now was relief. For all its excitement, foreign travel also entailed danger, the worst of it being the difficulty in finding a signal strong enough for data backup.

Standing there with her back against the old stone wall, listening to the sound of street vendors calling their wares, she took a deep breath of the heady old-world perfume—frying oil, fresh papaya, human sweat—and smiled at the message on her screen indicating successful upload. Thank goodness for modern hot spots.

Something was wrong, though. The noise and the light and the smells had been there a moment before, but now everything was dark and quiet. She was on her back.

Over the cool quiet lay a thin veneer of shushing—fans, murmuring bio-machines. Under the quiet was a layer of human voices. Her limbs felt familiar and relaxed, which was odd because rental units always had that fresh stiffness about them that felt exciting but never quite comfortable.

A port shushed open and shut, and soft footsteps approached.

“Can you hear me?” said a voice. She tried to form words to answer, but her lips felt thick and unwieldy, so she just nodded. “Great,” the voice was crisp and cool. “Do you remember what happened?”

She thought about that for a moment. She remembered the oppressive heat, the colorful bougainvilla trailing from the balconies across the street. Then this—the dark and quiet. She didn’t think that’s what the voice meant. She shook her head.

“Hm.” A pause. Then: “We’re going to begin the rewiring sequence now. It’s been a few weeks since you were in this Bod so it will take a little time to get all your systems aligned.”

A moment later, the footsteps retreated again, the port shushed open, and Risha heard her visitor speaking to someone as she passed through: “I know it’s not my job to call the shots, but really it would have been better for everyone if we had just left her dead.”