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And A Star To Sail Her By…

Greetings! Salutations! Thank you for reading my shiny new blog, whether you stumbled upon it accidentally or were referred here by a friend (in which case, thank your friend for me, too)! Starting a blog is both easy and hard at the same time, but the hard part is figuring out how I’m going to get started. Seems like everyone and their mother has something to say about the world these days.

Sure, I want to write about writing, write some writing, and then dabble in the writing process, reviews, and even discuss how the process is affecting me personally. But that’s hardly the most interesting hook, is it? Well, since no one has called me on my Caerbannog reference yet, I can assume no one is paying much attention. I get that. I’m new, what’ve I got to offer? Well, I shall tell you. No limits.

One of the best things about being an author is that you can comment on just about anything and not get the backlash of the world like the proverbial swinging door hitting you on the ass on the way out. But I don’t need to comment on today’s high or low points, plenty of people have something to say about that, and most of them are certain they’re correct. Well, good for you. Nice to know there exists a niche where people are correct. I shan’t say some of what I think about you all, but only because I don’t want to discourage readers who might fall into that category.

What then, is my appeal? I tell you, I comment on the future. What will humanity be like in a hundred years? Will we even resemble the humanity of the last decade? I may write fantasy a good deal, with magic helping out the characters both for and against the hero, but there’s always been forces working both for and against us. Personally, professionally, or as a society. Just because I tell stories in fantastical settings doesn’t mean there wasn’t an opinion driving the plot.

I hope you enjoy some fun prompt writing I’ll be working on to build my blog out into something more meaningful. Until then, thank you for reading, and watch out for the plot bunnies. They’re spawning left and right and I warn you… they bite.

Attack on Osthelm

The second challenge prompt is getting a little more personal for extra practice with drawing on our own thoughts and emotions. I’m pleased that I managed to find a way to turn this into a fantasy story, rather than letting my fears drag everything down. I chose my fear of losing my cat (when you’re alone, the companionship of your pet becomes almost codependency) and turned it into a story about characters I haven’t thought about in years.

​Prompt #2: Make a list of five things you’re afraid of happening to you. Then write a story in which one of them happens to your character.

The discussion about what to do about the hostile army now only separated from them by one rocky pass through the mountains was cut abruptly short when Veronica let out a shriek and fainted. Only her four comrades-in-arms moved, all rushing to her but not in time for her to hit the floor hard. Emelie knelt and whispered a prayer to her goddess, stroking Veronica’s forehead softly as she did so. To everyone’s concern, the noblewoman didn’t move. Emelie took Veronica’s hand in hers and closed her eyes, whispering a prayer to Silvanus for the soul of his druid.

It was then that the council chamber door opened, admitting Councillor Greggery Simms with a giggling harem girl on his arm. The blank look on his face told anyone who saw it that he had completely forgotten the meeting, despite the increased need for it since the Terpathi government had folded this morning. The harem girl hiccupped and hid behind the Councillor, who for his part covered his surprise with his usual look of disdain. His head turned left and then right looking for a scapegoat, and he found one in their fallen leader. “Has she finally had a heart attack and left me as her successor, or is she just having hysterics?” It was a good thing only those nearest the dwarf could make out what he growled in his deep bass, but the councillor seemed to take for granted that it was rude. “Well get your ladyship on her feet, fool, or get out of my way.”

A low cry from the kneeling healer this time brought eyes back to Veronica to see a red stain spread across her white blouse. That stalled even the rudeness of the drunken councillor for a moment, as he too stared at her. Emelie shook her head. “She’s not wounded. There’s nothing wrong with her!” she cried, looking at her companions for guidance. All of them shared the same stunned look that made her elaborate. “Her body is fine, I swear it! There’s no wound on her!” And there wasn’t, when she turned over the very edge of the noblewoman’s blouse. There was blood soaking the fabric, but none beneath it.

The next sound was the very audible gasp from the fallen woman, which made them relax until she started sobbing. Between sniffs and gasps for breath she sobbed a short phrase in Elvish, which she repeated. Emelie looked around, but most of the Elves had already headed for the border to bolster the defenses there. “Veronica, we don’t speak Elvish,” she murmured down at the woman. The sobbing changed, and while it was still in Elvish, the name Amael was only too familiar to all of them. “Oh no.”

“Is someone going to enlighten us?” snapped the councillor.

“The roc has been attacked,” snapped the dwarf. “We’re now at war, so you’d best go lock yourself back in yer rooms again.” The dwarf may not have been the most tactful, but he was now in charge in Veronica’s immediate absence. The council only had power in times of peace.

“Keep a civil tongue in your head or I’ll have it removed!” returned the man, including everyone present in his sneer. “All of this is just hysterics over a dead pet?”

A wave of a bloodstained hand knocked the man twenty feet through the air into the nearest wall with no small force. “Amael is not my pet, he is my heart,” the ruler spat, every word audible throughout the entire council chamber. The harem girl squeaked and fled. “You are dismissed, Simms, and I suggest you not show your face for at least a day or I may have it removed,” she parroted back at him as the healer helped her into the nearest seat. For the first time the man seemed to know where his limits were, for he too fled the chamber. “Emelie, please run to my room and get my amulet. They’re attempting to strike me by infecting Amael with their witchspawned poison. He won’t die of it while I live, but at the rate it’s building up in him…”

The healer fled.

Veronica coughed wetly, a sound that belied the healer’s insistence that the woman was hale, and leaned her head back against the high headrest. “Jormundr, send the city guard to the west walls, there’s a small strikeforce coming in hard and fast to finish the job.”

The dwarf nodded and left the room at a run of surprising speed for someone stout wearing full plate armor. The three other councillors exchanged looks and rose, casting concerned glances at the elven woman but leaving the room to go find themselves more useful tasks that didn’t involve the potential death of their liege lady.

When she coughed again she pulled out a handkerchief, and this time it was visibly streaked with blood that soaked the thin material in moments. “Very well,” she grumbled, beckoning the two remaining adventurers closer. “Before I pass out, you two need to help me. My amulet reflects the bond between myself and Amael. You must burn it until nothing remains but the agate stone. It’s not going to burn well.” She coughed into the reddening handkerchief again. “Place the stone here.” She clutched at her chest where the appearance of a bloody wound remained. “If it’s in time, I’ll live.”

The two men looked at one another. This was not their area of expertise, one being a spy and the other a gladiator, but the instructions were clear enough.

“Don’t use the fire here,” Veronica coughed out. “Enchanted ironwood… no. Take it to the forge. And please…” A fit of coughing erupted from her and both men stepped forward to catch her as she started to tumble from her seat. “Please…” she whispered, all the sound willing to leave her throat. “Run.” Her eyes widened at something neither could see, staring blankly past them. “Silvanus’ hairy balls…” And the noblewoman passed out.

A nervous laugh exited Marek, the slighter of the two men, an almost unconscious sound that reflected the craziness of the situation they now found themselves in. The fighter grunted, but even Gavin couldn’t find disapproval to heap on his friend when Veronica lay like one dead in their arms. “Move,” he decided after a moment, scooping up the slender woman and laying her bodily on the table. His roughened hands were gentle as he confirmed that she did have a pulse, but her breathing was so shallow it was almost hard to see.

The door banged open, making both men reach for weapons, but it was just the return of Emelie, panting her exhaustion. “Veronica, what do I–” Then the scene registered and she looked from one man to the other. “She’s not..?”

“She lives,” Gavin replied. “Barely. Do you have the amulet?”

Emelie raised it in response, so Marek seized it and bolted for the door.

Gavin took the time to tell the healer to watch Veronica, they’d be back, and then followed the nimble rogue out the door. The lighter man moved faster without weapons and armor to hinder him, so Gavin reached the forge after Marek had already thrown the amulet in the fire, but the blacksmith was in his face. “Hold, friend!” Gavin called out from across the yard, interrupting the conflict enough that Marek slid away from the burly dwarven smith.

“This misbegotten son of a–” the smith began.

“We’re under attack by the Ycht witches,” Gavin snapped, trying to keep the smith’s attention on himself while Marek reached for the bellows and began heaving on the handle, stoking the fire hotter.

“Why didn’ ye jus’ say so?” retorted the dwarf. He turned and shoved Marek out of the way. The smith’s movements were swift and sure, the fire glowing white hot. The dark spot of the amulet sat next to a melting sword blade, not seeming affected by the heat at all. The smith’s eyes widened, but he didn’t wait. “Toss me the darkwood-hilted dagger, there.” He pointed. Gavin grabbed it and lobbed it gently in the dwarf’s direction. The smith caught it easily and began muttering in dwarvish over the pommel, the polished darkwood gleaming by the light of the forge. The smith glowered. “Wha’ fool made this impervious bit o’ nonsense?”

“Lady Jhanniovvara.”

The dwarf’s mustaches twitched at his error, but he returned his attention to the dagger in his hand. This time he thrust the blade straight into the coals, his hands seeming to not notice the heat. The smith pumped the bellows again and called out a single dwarvish word, the power of which knocked the dagger over straight into the hottest part of the fire. This time both dagger and amulet flared, the wood burning the way wood ought.

Gavin took up the handy pair of tongs and grasped the moss green stone from the coals, throwing it straight into the cold water trough. With a mighty hiss and green-tinted smoke, the agate cooled to a more normal temperature. “Get it back to Veronica,” he ordered Marek, who pulled it from the trough and took off at an all-out run once more. The fighter nodded at the smith, whom he’d not known capable of arcane feats the likes of which he’d just seen. “We’ll repay you what you’re owed, just send a message once all this is over.” Then he too ran back the way he’d come, hoping they had burnt the amulet in time to save their friend.

Emelie was holding Veronica down when he reached the council chamber, the elf tossing and turning, muttering in Elvish once more. The roc’s name was repeated, but when Marek tried to do as she’d asked, laying the stone on her breast, a seemingly random jarring movement sent it to the floor where it skittered toward the balcony. Both men raced after it, nearly cracking their skulls together in their haste. Gavin came up with it and turned back, grabbing her arm with his free hand so she couldn’t lash out again. Stone in his fist, he pressed it against her breastbone, holding her down with Emelie’s help.

Veronica’s tossing ceased, and she lay very still.

From the balcony, Marek’s voice cut through the sudden silence. “Gods above.”

Both Emelie and Gavin turned to see a large bird’s silhouette plummeting down. Despite the large shadow’s seeming closeness they knew the roc was quite distant, only the druid’s thrice-enchanted bond with it having informed them what was going on, or kept it alive for the minutes that it had lasted.

Gavin’s eyes didn’t leave the sight of the bird’s demise. “Is she…?”

Emelie moved, whispering prayers as she checked Veronica’s throat for a pulse. “I don’t– yes!”

The exclamation did not sound negative, so he turned to confirm that their friend was now breathing easily. “Thank the gods.”

“Thank you two,” Emelie replied quietly. “Give me ten minutes, I’ll have her on her feet.” This time she sounded quite sure of herself. “You may want to go help Jormundr with whatever defense he’s mounting. We’ll get through this.” Both men nodded and turned to make their way to the city walls at a much reduced pace.

Camp NaNoWriMo Approacheth!

July is once again time for Camp NaNoWriMo. If you don’t know National Novel Writing Month and its spinoffs, I love them. The standard version is thirty days, fifty thousand words, and a heck of a lot of fun. The camp version (rather like NaNo “lite”) has the option to set your own goal, revise instead of write new, and all sorts of variations which make it a much more functional month’s project. I highly recommend it to everyone! It is especially good practice at keeping a project going through whatever comes at you, namely that tricksy “life” stuff. November projects usually include snowy weather and all of the associated ills (transportation woes, plumbing problems), not to mention American Thanksgiving, visits with family and friends, and any holiday shopping that we intend to do before the last minute. Then there’s the day to day issues of getting sick, studying (for those of you with school semesters ending in early December), work, and whatever else you would be doing if you hadn’t set aside the time for writing.

It has now been three years since I wrote the manuscript for one of my novels in its entirety — I may have many novel ideas going at once, but there is only one manuscript which contains an entire plot from beginning to end — and I have been putting it off for far too long. It is now time that I hack apart the first section and make it easier for the reader to get into, and then go from there working the whole thing into a second draft worth submitting to a publisher. I believe it will take me a fair while to do to my satisfaction, so my Camp goal is 30 hours of revision work. Given that there’s a hundred and forty-two thousand words in the current version, though I have revised portions already, I don’t think I’ll have a hard time spending at least that amount of time.

So here’s my years of National Novel Writing Month novel-writing experience boiled down into the few things I can share as words of wisdom. Firstly, don’t panic. I’m going to repeat myself, because that one’s pretty important. Don’t panic.

There are those who think fifty thousand words in a month is easy, whether they’re veterans or newbies, and sometimes it’s experience talking. Sometimes we learn otherwise mid-month. There comes a moment for a lot of us when our idea suddenly lacks the full body that we thought it had, and suddenly there is a gaping chasm yawning beneath us which threatens to swallow us (and our plans for the month) whole. If this happens, and I’m not saying that it necessarily will, don’t panic. Take a step back from it and figure out the tiniest improvement on the problem. Saying “baby steps” may sound stupid, but it really is the easiest way to overcome the gaping holes.

I find that planning ahead (even for those of us who aren’t planners) is just a smart move. Even if things go smoothly the entire month, it’s easier to have some idea of what lies between points A and B before you try to think about point C. For me, this is everything from extra characters which I can throw into a scene that isn’t working to consequences or evil things to stick a character with whether for good reason or just because I feel like it. Important note! This also includes any research that would inadvertently lead you to TVtropes, wikipedia, youtube, or other black holes of the internet which will eat your writing time. I also have found that journaling at the end of a writing session can help move things along the next time I sit down, as well as remind me to look up something or check if I’ve already written in a minor detail (like a side character’s eye color) in the time between sessions. Things like those would bug me if I left them until afterward, but they’ll muck up your writing session if you stop every time you think of something you want to look for and fix.

Reward yourself! In November I have leftover Halloween candy in whatever bag I’m carrying labeled “writer treats”. In July I’ll have to figure out something else. These, like doggie treats, are for accomplishing tasks and doing what you should be doing. Usually that means the day’s word count, but sometimes if I’m struggling with a scene, it can be the next 500 words. Breaks are good rewards, but don’t hesitate to give yourself a break if you’re having trouble, too. You don’t want to just sit and stew over the blank screen of death.

I can’t say I have any other NaNo tips or tricks that haven’t been repeated by many others all over the place, but if I come up with any tough spots on my own next month, I’ll be sure to share the solutions (assuming I can find them). Let me know if you come across any troubles and I’ll certainly try to share any advice I can! I’ve never tried to revise as part of a daily scheduled exercise, so we’ll see where that takes me, too.

There may be a couple posts over the course of July that come of either great success or abject failure to meet my revision goals for which I will apologize ahead of time. Good luck to all, and may the words be with you.

Luna, You Need to Run!

The young woman ducked in and out of sight as she took one alley to the next on her way home. Each time she reached one of the pools of dim light offered by lamps along the way, she held herself differently, never appearing to be the same person or cast the same shadow. Her light eyes moved quickly in search of anyone or anything nearby that might hint at danger. It was after curfew, so the concern was appropriate, but she didn’t move like someone afraid. She had the slinking movement of a cat out on a nightly jaunt, not a care in the world.

This district had been quiet for years, now, so there was little chance of the Watchmen appearing here tonight. But there were rumors — even when silenced, some rumors still spread — that there were other things out at night these days, something the Watch insisted was not true. They would protect their citizens as they always had, ‘Protection of the Watch’ being a long-standing joke among those who chose to speak out. The posters were torn down whenever they went up, but the graffiti lasted longer.

A convenient dumpster behind a halfway legitimate tech parts store offered both a place to take a moment’s rest with her back against the wall and a source of spare parts she might be able to fix later to useful ends. She was better than the store’s handyman, certainly, and had scrounged good gear out of the trash here before. The top shelf AR gaming rig she’d used to solve the problem of worsening cataracts in her left eye had been quality enough that she could implant the display filaments in her cornea without aid. It was not the sort of thing she advertised, but it could be handy to be able to see more than met the eye.

She wasn’t entirely sure what the purpose of the original gaming rig had been, but there was a poster she enjoyed passing by on a daily basis that was impressively good at telling her exactly what she needed to hear… when it wasn’t shorting out, that is. She’d jury-rigged it back together a week ago so it could tell her that she was going to smile when she thought about the ridiculousness of purple elephants in tutus, which she promptly did. It had been a day much in need of smiles, so it was well that she’d taken the time to fix the sign when she saw it had shorted.

It wasn’t really on her way home, but it was worth it every time, so she deviated on a daily basis. Today was no different. She approached the location from the quieter alley side, keeping her eyes out for any other potentially lethal actors out in the district’s back streets. All was quiet, so she sought the sign’s content today, ignoring the faded lettering that had been printed on the sign when it was manufactured. (Whoever had hacked it to display pleasant things had done so at a stage the sign didn’t appear to be maintained.)

lunayouneedtorunShe stopped and stared at the sign once she caught sight of its message. Today the sign read “Luna, you need to run!”

This was unheard of. Hacking AR had been around for decades, it seemed like, but getting it to recognize an unregistered person who was not broadcasting on any frequencies? What’s more, while she stared in amazement, the sign changed in front of her, something it had never done. It blanked momentarily, then the characters appeared in real-time, as the hacker was typing them.

“Yes, I mean now! WATCH out!”

That registered. She turned away from the sign towards her basement flat, slipping into the shadows to disguise the mad dash she began, hoping to reach home before something awful occurred. Corners blurred by, carefully disguised posture and gait went out the window, and still Luna ran like the devil was on her tail… for all she knew, he was. Home was all of two blocks away and in sight when the all-terrain tank-like vehicle rolled into her path. She made for the nearest shadow and froze, but her racing heart told her she was still too obvious.

In the blink of an eye, the scene changed. Another tank rammed into the first, hard enough to slam it back a few meters. Before she could catch her breath, the new vehicle’s side door opened and a scrawny man beckoned her. “Luna!”

Her name made her move, and she ran for the newcomer’s truck, hoping against hope that she made it before the Watch recovered from their surprise. How the rebel planned to get away, she didn’t know. If a stranger was using her name he was either her hacker or the Watch were searching for her specifically… or both. The screech of metal rending from the first tank drove her to push herself harder, faster than she’d run in a long time. Her muscles screamed at her as her world narrowed to the open door and the hand beckoning to her.

Luna ran.

Hobnailed boots audibly hit pavement.

Luna dove into the waiting vehicle, brick shattering right behind her as the shot rang out. Banks of computer equipment broke her momentum, likely bruising her shoulder and upper body.

“Go, go, go!” cried the man who had beckoned her, slamming the door before more shards of brick could fly in at them. The driver floored the gas pedal, racing backwards and turning down a different alley to get out of the immediate line of fire… for the Watchmen behind were indeed firing at them.

Luna, now covered in a fine layer of brick dust, stared at the men. The driver was intent on the road, the other was peering over his shoulder and tapping a hand against his leg like the fidgeting was keeping him sane. He turned back to her and panted a sigh of relief. “That was close!”

His words unfroze her. “What is going on? Why was the Watch looking for me? Who the hell are you?”

His hands rose to try and wave her silent. “My name is Isaac. That’s Josh.” A jerk of his head indicated the driver. “We tracked your gear…” Now he frowned. “You’re not wearing a… where’s the headset?” His eyes moved, clearly picking out the lack of visible lumps in her pockets, nor any bag to carry gadgets.

“Headset? What headset?” Luna was still very confused.

“The XK Model CD-231? It was ditched by one of our operators in an attempt to throw the Watch off his trail. That didn’t work, but they picked you up after you found it. Where’d you stash it?” He was still eying her, this time pulling a handheld device out of his pocket and checking the display. “It’s on you. What the hell?”

Luna slowly caught up with his rapid-fire comments and questions, her brain still stuck at the “panting over the exertion of running from the Watch” for a long moment. “I took it apart.”

“What?” asked Isaac, a question echoed by the driver a half-beat behind. “That was one of the most high-tech–”

“Yes, I know. That’s how I was able to use it to counteract my cataracts.” She slowly moved to sit against the truck’s interior wall, brushing brick dust out of her face. “I wondered that someone threw it out, I never did find anything wrong with it.”

“Your cataracts,” he repeated.

“Did I stutter?” she snapped before looking away. “Sorry. What does the Watch want with me?”

“There was data on the drive we needed,” her companion told her. “You… really implanted that in your eye?”

She sighed. “The drive is at home. I only needed the display. You’re going to have to turn around if you want your data. And yes, I really did. You didn’t realize you were hacking my eyes in real-time, did you?” she looked up at him, cloudy corneas enforcing her point. There was no way she could have been walking around on her own without some kind of technological aid, she was completely blind.

“We’ll wait until they’ve searched the place,” came the driver’s voice. “If they’re looking for a headset, they’ll probably ignore any unequipped parts you’ve got lying around.” The truck’s frantic speed and repeated sharp turns slowed, and Luna was able to look around. It really was a Watch truck, complete with all of their listening devices, networked computers, and black market tech. “I take it you’re Resistance.”

“We are.” He looked around at the things she was focused on, not really seeing them. “And I dare say you are too, now.”

Challenger Spotlight: Amanda McCormick

One of the great things about using a challenge to start fortifying my blog is that I’m not going it alone! Whether the high points or the low, there are others along for the ride. I am hoping to feature one of them after each challenge prompt, to showcase some of the great writing that has already been produced as a response.

I really enjoyed all the stories that the other writers created, but if there is one I had to choose that I liked the most, it was the one written by Amanda McCormick herself. (Also, as it is her challenge, it does seem rather fitting that I begin this spotlight series with her.) Her story begins in catacombs with the theft of a ring, but it’s hardly the typical greedy thief who has no respect for the dead. Quite the opposite in fact, which was part of why I enjoyed it so much. I’d hate to ruin the story by detailing it here, but I will include some thoughts on it in a spoiler tag below. Amanda is a freelance writer with a great blog you should definitely check out for all the tips and tricks she’s offered over time, not to mention the repeated hints about an upcoming novel!

I asked Amanda a few questions about the prompt, which she was kind enough to answer for me so that I could include her wisdom in this here blog post.

What did you think of this particular prompt?
I thought it was pretty interesting. I’m not usually a huge fan of three word prompts, but this one was really fun.

What were the easiest and hardest parts?
The hardest part for me is getting started. Once I’m about 200 words in, it all starts to flow really well.

Are you a planner or is it all by the seat of your pants?
Prompts are always by the seat of my pants. I don’t know what’s going on any more than the reader does until I get to the end.

If you had to pinpoint one thing you liked most about where this prompt led you, what would it be?
I like it when my prompts lead me to dark places. It’s always fun.

Were there any surprises with this story?
I didn’t realize that there were going to be lesbians xD And I certainly didn’t realize that one of them was going to get carted off the way she did.

Are you going to continue it?
I actually might. There’s this poor girl who needs to figure out what happened to the woman she loved. I have a bad habit of prompts turning into novels @_@

Continue reading “Challenger Spotlight: Amanda McCormick”

Assassin’s Song

darkness all around me
the sky of stars above
a dance of death unhindered
whirling blades
at practice yes
but silver sheen
reflects the sky’s embrace

a name yet uttered
will hang in the air
a silent song of death
from stranger
to stranger
courtesy of moi
the blade in your sheath

speak the name
show the coin
aim the arrow and let it fly
the target
your choice
will end by my hand
a nightdark shadow that bites

Sharpening the Pencil: What I Write

Again I find myself Sharpening the Pencil. (It’s almost like I planned it for one week after the first!) Welcome to my early-morning thought dump on the stated theme. While the first episode was inspired by the blog challenge I’ve mentioned previously, this one is more speculative, even participatory, as I find myself wondering what the modern blog audience reads.

Perhaps I can attack the question from the verso; I know what I write, and that is currently everything from childish musings to random smut that comes from the same creative source. This leads me to a dilemma, however, as my understanding of traditional publishing (with or without an agent, with an established publishing company) is that it frowns on erotica. This is very much an outdated stance, in my personal opinion, but to my knowledge it still remains thus. Those authors who write both mainstream and erotic fiction use pseudonyms to do so, much like well-known bestselling authors choose to publish under an alias when trying out a new genre or audience. Or am I mistaken? I can’t say I have any personal experience with either traditional publishing or bestselling authors, so perhaps I am counting as fact what is actually hearsay.

Perhaps the world is changing, and indeed I know it has changed, since you can find a wide variety of pornographic short stories for sale on Amazon, and they sell. Oh, how they sell. But again, to my knowledge, most are sold pseudonymously. So here comes the important question…

How much does it matter if the average as-yet-unpublished author posts mature content?

To me, obviously, it matters very little. I read mature content in my reading material, and I write mature content both in the context of plot shenanigans and for its own sake. The key part of that question, however, is ‘posts’. I have now freely admitted to writing erotica, and it’s on the Internet, so I can never take it back. Hopefully it won’t come back to bite me later. But I have yet to post any of it openly under my own name, and I now wonder whether it is wise to do so. I have created an alias (or rather, had created for me by friends’ jokes) which I had once upon a time intended to use to publish an anthology of erotic short stories I have half-written and tucked away out of sight. Having it already in hand, I could easily register it as my pen name, start a blog using the alias, and post erotic content there to my heart’s delight.

This does seem both disingenuous and excessive, in the sense that I am a lazy woman and logging out of one blog and logging into another each time I want to post or comment on someone else’s seems like a lot of work. I might say to hell with it and just post everything under my own name and let the world decide what it may, but this too seems unwise.

So I’m curious. Whether you write or if you just like to read (as I assume you must if you have come across my blog), how much does an author’s range of work dictate how you see them? I may have to suffer to do without the knowledge of the publishing industry’s official views, but the wider world has some say in it, I should dare say.

A Campground Story?

Prompt the first for Ego’s Blog Challenge! Apologies for not getting something up sooner, the migraine this week… killer. Anyway, plenty more ahead, hope you enjoy this little thing that came of three random story elements.

Write a story including the following three elements: A stolen ring, fear of spiders, and a sinister stranger.​

The drizzle had progressed into a real rain by the time the sun set, making it rather unpleasant to be lingering out of doors, but there was little else for it. Scott had been promised actual money if he could find out who had stolen nana’s ring, and it meant he was going to nose about the family’s camper until he found something. So far he had a dislike of all the other campers in the vicinity and a growing fear that spiders were the least of the horrors crawling about in all this wilderness. Yuck. Why couldn’t the family have vacationed at Disney World or something like that? They weren’t nature-loving enough to go camping the real way, so what was the point of this parking in a squalid yard along with other similar people who couldn’t do vacation right? Weren’t there enough people just parked in trailer parks at home?

A splat on his shoulder made him flinch, and then he leaped out of the current bush doing a jig as he tried to unstick the large spider from his raincoat, ideally without having to touch it with his bare hands. He heard a giggle from the girls that lived in that camper year-round, and wished himself dead. Their giggles followed him as he left the area, luckily divest of the arachnid at this point (though he had a feeling it was on his back where he couldn’t keep objecting to its presence). Seemed like the girls thought it wasn’t as big a deal as it was, but if they had a solution, it would’ve been nice of them to share. Maybe he should go back? No, making conversation with them would only make his humiliation worse. Best to move on.

The mystery really was that nana’s ring had been on his mother’s finger that morning, and she didn’t remember taking it off, so someone had to have been pretty tricksy to get it away from her without her noticing. That begged the question whether his mother was the one who had taken it, but that would be silly, and she wouldn’t be pitching a fit the way she was. Scratch that theory.

More likely she hadn’t been paying attention when she took it off, so she’d either been on the phone or watching the tiny TV the camper included, like what was the point of sitting in the camper and watching shitty local television? If they were going to be stuck out here for a week, the least she could do would be to explore the questionably-termed “campsite” or try and talk dad out of whichever fliers had caught his eye. Like today’s was the place where you could go get a chance to drive construction equipment, but not in a really fun way, no, that’d mean insurance and dangerous areas for other tourists. No, you could just go sit inside and move the front-end loader arm to dig in the ground, or drive a closed obstacle course in one of the little ones which didn’t have any moving parts. And dad had chosen that over going to a monster truck show that Scott wanted to go to? It didn’t make any sense.

Neither parent was of much use, but that meant he could wander around without one of them expecting him to ‘check-in’ every so often. If it would just quit raining he might even solve the mystery of nana’s ring and have some pocket money to go buy candy at the bingo store. (He didn’t want to sit with the old people in the rec room and actually play bingo to redeem for candy, that would be boring.)

“Hey, new kid!” A group of four teenagers were slumped under the roll-out awning of one camper, staring sullenly out at the rain.

Scott had to assume the older boy meant him, since he was looking at him. “Me?”

“You’re new, ain’tcha?”

“Been here a few days already.” It seemed silly to claim anyone was ‘new’ in a place that had a rolling clientele, but whatever made the other kid happy. “What?” Maybe the other kid had some interesting suggestions of who might steal things around the park?

“You wanna get us all pizza? You cin hang wit’ us.”

Scott shook his head. “Can’t, stuck doing stuff for my mom. Sorry.” That was easier to sell as a reason not to hang out with the apparently self-deluded ‘cool kids’ of the campsite. Not that he’d want to hang out with them if he ran into them again tomorrow, but he’d have another excuse then.

“Lame,” decided the teen girl who showed up about then to plop herself down in one of the boys’ laps.

Scott just made sure he checked her fingers for a familiar emerald ring before moving on. Too many choices to pick from. So many random people thrown together in one place, it was hard to even know how any one of them might have picked his grandmother’s ring out of his camper in the first place. They would’ve had to break into an occupied camper to find it to begin with, and it wasn’t all that valuable, really. Mum just kept it because it was her mother’s, not because it was fancy. He decided to turn back around and head closer to home. Anyone who didn’t spend time in the nearby campers was too far away to have noticed it to begin with.

At this point it was raining hard enough that there probably wouldn’t be anyone around except inside their campers, so it was almost a waste of time looking. The teenagers had been the closest to outside of anyone except himself that he had seen in a couple blocks, and they’d at least been out of the rain. He didn’t want to give up on that pocket money, though, so he wasn’t quite ready to give up.

A car pulled past him, a shadow with floating tail lights in the rain as far as he could tell, but the headlights revealed a man leaning against a trailer ahead in the dark, just standing there in the shadows for no good reason and smelling like an ash tray to boot. He looked like the lights had blinded him, so Scott was able to scurry to the other side of the dirt road down the block of trailers and get away from whatever reason someone would stand there in the rain like it didn’t matter that they were soaking wet and miserable.

When he made it back to their camper, their car was parked alongside, so dad was back. Scott raced for the door and shook himself free of his rain boots and coat as he made it inside, feeling like the world was a lot quieter in here without the pattering of rain (or spiders) on his hood. “Hey, dad,” he called, wondering where in their rental camper his father had gone, since he wasn’t in the main room (also known as Scott’s bedroom). He was probably in the bathroom.

“Hey, Scottie,” came the response as his father exited the tiny bedroom.

“Dad, mum can’t find nana’s ring, and I was wondering if you’d seen it earlier? She promised me twenty bucks if I could find it for her.”

“Ha! Twenty bucks, Rosie, that’s on you. Don’t you come asking me for it.” This was directed toward the bedroom, making Scott frown. Had they found it already? What a waste of his time, out in the rain with the spiders! His father turned back to see his son’s frown and laughed again, but this time he added the important details. “Your mother dropped it down her shirt while she was asleep on the couch, Scottie. She’d fallen asleep watching whatever passes for daytime TV out here.”