Monday, October 27, 2014

(Fic) Alone

This story was inspired by an odd thought: what happens to the monsters when mankind is gone? Enjoy!


The sky was a gray shroud cast over a graveyard landscape of ruined cities and scorched earth. Trees grew in twisted clumps, those that grew at all, and the wind rattled their dead branches together, until it seemed the landscape was haunted by a band of invisible castanet players.

Eleanora grasped the broomstick thrust between her thighs and squinted below her, at the bleached bone earth. Nothing moved, that wasn’t pushed about by the wind. Adjusting the goggles she wore over her eyes, to protect them from the ever-present grit, she flew in an ever-widening spiral, searching the world for any signs of life.

She found none. Neither bird nor beast, neither fish nor fowl seemed to have survived the long winter. The world had been wiped clean by fire and madness.

Idiots, thought the old witch.

Gripping her broomstick, she whirled sharply and headed for home. The sun was sinking, the meager warmth that penetrated the clouds fading from her skin, and she wanted to be in doors before the night’s brutal cold arrived.

Home was a cave in the mountains, far from prying eyes and, as luck would have it, falling bombs. She had been sleeping when the war happened and, except for some spectacularly bad dreams, had not otherwise been affected by it. Her cavern home was deep and dark, sealed by stone doors that had kept out fallout and acid rain, the ravages of the long night and who knew what other manmade horrors.

Eleanora had woken from her long sleep, stiff and aching, with the absolute knowledge that the world had changed. But until she had climbed out of her cave and seen the state of the place did the enormity of that change strike home.

She alighted on the hard rock outcropping just as the hidden sun began to vanish behind the world’s curve. Broom slung over her shoulder, Eleanora descended into the dark earth.

The great stone doors opened at her approach, and green flame sprang into being on her meager hearth. She emptied the pockets of her long, drab dress tossing bones into her cauldron. The world was full of bones, a graveyard and banquet all in one. Eleanora would not starve.

As always, the first thing she did was check under the bed. It was empty. If there were any monsters left in the world, they weren’t hiding under her bed.

Perhaps there aren’t any monsters left, thought Eleanora.

It was a sobering notion.

She shut the stone doors of her little cave and crouched over her cauldron. The bones simmered, long and short, human and animal. She whispered to them, strained to hear anything answer back, but the bones remained quiet. As dead as the world she’d plucked them from.

Sighing, Eleanora sat back and pondered her next step.

She’d flown as far as she could on the broom, and still be able to return to her cave. If she flew further away, she’d have to take provisions with her, find shelter against the cold. And it all seemed so much bother.

Glancing around her cave, she spotted the pile of broken glass lying in a corner. She frowned. The glass had belonged to a magic mirror, an old and cherished item, that had not survived the war. It had tumbled over during her sleep, breaking into a thousand pieces. Eleanora could have repaired the glass easily enough, but the enchantments woven into it were beyond her.

She regretted not storing it more safely. The mirror would have let her search the whole world from the safety and comfort of her home. Now, she had to do it the hard way.

And what was she even looking for? Mankind was dead. Gone the way of the dodo, or so it appeared. And if they weren’t dead, what then? The survivors would be a scabrous lot. They would probably be a thousand times worse than the wickedest monster-under-the-bed.

No, mankind had never been satisfied with mere frights. They hungered for blood.

Well, thought Eleanora, they had gotten their full of it with their damned war and it drowned them.

Why was she hunting for them? For anything?

It wasn’t loneliness. Eleanora had always lived away from men, away from the others of her kind. She was solitary by nature and not sentimental in the least. So why was she hunting for survivors?

Maybe, she thought, I just miss their noise. Their airplanes and automobiles, their trains and cell phones. Mankind had filled the world with busy noise and, since their absence, the world had been quite as a tomb.

Perhaps, thought the witch, I just want someone to talk to.

At this point, Eleanora would have tolerated the most inane vampire, the most brain-dead zombie to ever crawl out of its grave. If only for five minutes.

But vampires, who preyed on humans, were now as dead as their food source. And zombies had never managed to survive very long, even under ideal circumstances. Eleanora doubted any of them had made it either.

There could, she postulated, be some witches left. No doubt others, like her, had been deep in hibernation when the bombs fell. Some would have survived, probably in isolated, out-of-the-way places like Alaska and China and the Gobi Desert. Perhaps she should pack up the broomstick and tour the world, hunting for her witch-sisters, rousing the sleepers.

But to what end? To have one last great party beneath the skeleton moon? To stalk through the cindered forests, the ruined cities, noting the folly of man? To listen to the endless pontificating, the rampant theorizing about how and when mankind had gone collectively mad?

The more she thought about it, the less appealing the scheme became to Eleanora. She looked around her cave, lit by crackling green firelight, and realized that she had everything here that she had ever wanted. Now, she just didn’t need to worry about hikers or spelunkers or wandering vagrants.

The witch settled herself by her fire, stirred her cauldron full of bones and smiled.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Take a Break!

Hello, gentle readers!
Sorry for the lateness of this blog entry, but I was out and about all day yesterday. This is the first chance I've had to sit down and write anything.
It's been a trying week here, so yesterday I decided to take a break.
I hopped in my car and drove 200 miles north and west to go gambling.
Did I win?
Yes.  Yes, I did.
The sad thing is that I would have come home with almost double my money if I'd listened to that little voice in the back of my head. I think some people call it 'the voice of Reason.' 
But I didn't, so even though I came out ahead, I didn't come out as far ahead as I could have.
Still, I had a good time.
Sometimes, it's nice just to get away from it all. To climb into your car and drive and see where the world takes you.
So, if you've been having a lot of problems lately, or are just unhappy, might I suggest that you take a break? Maybe a day trip somewhere all by yourself. 
It can work wonders.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Loop

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m stuck in a loop.
For the longest time, I’ve been writing and rewriting this one scene and it is driving me insane. It’s not particularly integral to the plot, but it’s become a challenge to overcome.
So far, I haven’t managed to overcome it.
Not yet.
Sometimes, I think I’m too stubborn for my own good.
I hate admitting defeat, especially re something like this.
I should be good enough, smart enough, creative enough to write through this scene and get on to the next.
I should be.
But, so far, I haven’t been.
Sometimes, I get so angry when I think about it that I want to throw dishes at a wall or just delete this entire book, throw up my hands and go off and become a ditch digger or something. Do something that doesn’t involve characters and plots or anything remotely connected to writing.
Sometimes, I just want to give up.
But I know that isn’t going to happen. Mainly, because I’m not the sort of person who gives up easily. Secondly, because I know it would be futile.
The damned words are in my blood, in my bones. Writing is like an addiction and I don’t really want to shake that old monkey off my back.
So I lean back, shut my eyes for a minute, and then try to tackle the damned scene again.
To write my way out of this damned loop.
I’ll do it, too.
One way or another, when I’m not even trying, something will come. Some arrangement of words that just feels right.
They’ll be like a key to a door.
All I have to do until then is endure.
I suppose, in a way, that’s a bit like life. It can get us down; it can throw curves at us that we never see coming, it can grind us down into the mud and the filth.
But we just have to hang on, to endure and we’ll get through it.
And that’s what I’m doing.
Getting through it.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go take another stab at writing myself out of this loop.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Q & A!

Good day, gentle readers! Today, I’m going to answer some questions randomly submitted via the Internet. If you’d like to ask a question, feel free to do so in the comments below or send me a DM on my Twitter.


Okay! Away we go!

Q: What is your writing process like?

A: For me, it’s a bit like taking a road trip. I have a beginning and a final destination in mind. There are multiple routes I could take to reach that final destination, as well as interesting diversion one must stop at along the way. Otherwise, what’s the point of taking the trip?

Before I had a regular job, I used to be a timed writer. Get up in the morning, shower and shave, power up the computer and be writing at ten. Keep writing until six. Stop somewhere in the day for lunch.

That’s how I wrote Dawnwind: Last Man Standing. To a lesser extent, it’s also how I wrote The Marvelous Land of Ap.

However, since getting a normal job, I’ve had less time and energy to devote to writing, so lately, it’s been a sort of catch-as-catch-can process.

My productivity may have suffered because of this, but I think the quality of the writing has improved.

Q: Do you have any strange writing habits (like standing on your head or writing in the shower)?

A: No, not really. At least, I don’t think they’re strange. I usually write in bed with a box fan blowing on me to drown out background noise. I do write in the nude. Is that strange?

Q: What book do you wish you could have written?

A: The Bible, because I would have made it a helluva lot more readable.

Q: What authors have inspired you to write?

A: Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, John Varley, Mike Resnick, Neil Gaiman, Steven King, Clive Barker, etc. etc. etc.

Q: If you could cast your characters in the Hollywood adaption of The Marvelous Land of Ap, who would play your characters?

A: Honestly? I have no idea. It might be interesting to cast Daniel Radcliffe as Charlie, just because of what he’d bring to the role. Ella? Kaya Scodelario who was in Wuthering Heights, mainly because she looks the part. Thimble would have to be cast as an unknown because I can’t think of anybody who fits the part.

Q: How important are names to you in your books?

A: Names, to me, are ridiculously important. I’m very particular about what I name my characters because in my head their names define them. Not just their appearance and background but their personality traits. So names are very important to me.

Q: What do you consider your best accomplishment?

A: The fact that I am living my life as I want to, not as I have to.

Q: Where do you see yourself in ten years?

A: I don’t know. I never plan that far ahead. As long as I’m happy I don’t think it really matters.

Q: Have you always liked to write?

A: No. I’ve always loved stories, but I never really started writing until middle school. I had a teacher, Mrs. King, who was very enthusiastic about some things I wrote and she sort of put the idea in my head that I could be a writer.

Q: What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

A: Be true to yourself. Don’t compromise for the almighty dollar, for an editor, or for your readers. Tell your story the way you want to tell it and if the world doesn’t like it? Screw ‘em. To paraphrase George R.R. Martin, "Don’t be anybody’s bitch."