Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happier Holiday!

Frostabella and Her Celebrity Friends!

Having a fantastic December, working as Frostabella the Snow Princess at the airport.  A strange little gig made even stranger by the fact that I start to work at 6 am.  While this may be the norm for some, I can assure you tis not the regular hour for theatre folk. Nothing like going through security at the crack of dawn with false lashes, covered in glitter, bumpit in place, and hot rolled curls a bouncing.  If you have never entered the airport sporting this look, you don't know what you are missing!

My pal Frosty and I walk up and down the halls of the airport as people shout hello, wave, and come running over for hugs and pictures.  Little kids gasp and jump for joy when they see us--except for the ones who burst into tear and run the other direction.  I've had more high fives and photos taken this week than I have my whole life.  People say things like "best airport trip ever" and "thank you for brightening my morning" on a regular basis.  Addicting.  Not to mention that girl could get used to people shouting "Hello, Princess!"  and telling her she looks beautiful every few steps.

I think my favorite is to see a sleepy adults eyes widen in disbelief as the look up from their airport stupor, not sure if they are really seeing a princess and a 7 ft tall snowman or if they have succumbed to travel madness. There have only been a handful of crankwads - but they are easily forgotten in the smiles and goodwill.  It has truly been a gift to have a part in spreading a little snowshine!

The downside (other than the 4:30 am alarm) is my face hurts from smiling and I can't stop waving and making eye contact with people; here's hoping no one knocks my block off in Target. 

Wishing you and yours a delightful winter and new year, filled with new stories, unexpected snowman, and all the glitter you can stand!  Cheers!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

I Am A NaNoWriMo--NoWi.

That right--I am a National Novel Writing Month Non-Winner.  And I am okay with that.

I have won many things in my time, including a bubble blowing contest and a minnow bucket. I have lost many things in my time, like every 5K I ever have or will enter and my marbles.

Such is the life of a participant

You win.
You lose.
You always learn.
And, if you're lucky, there are snacks!

What Did I Learn? 
Do I Look Like I Care About Numbers?
My official NaNo word count was 38,036. Better than a kick in the head! And no, I am not sure why I didn't just plunk down "but that wasn't all" for a nice round 38,040.  Anywhoo that is 11, 964 short of the goal.

I learned how many words I average per session, without brain bleed. I also learned how far I can push myself to up the word count.

Since it is never natural for me to think in terms of numbers--this is quite valuable. Now, with the aid of a calcumachine, I can better estimate how long it will take to get this first draft out.

With these same new skeeelz I can see that, if I hadn't taken a week off from writing to open a show, I would have easily "won." Cool.  I enjoy knowledge.

What Were The Snacks?

I whipped out a goodly chunk of NaNo words and the cute little wine bar near my house. Popcorn with Truffle Oil and a glass of Chardonnay, nerd power foods to be sure.   Yum.

There you have it.  My NaNo Nutshell.  I totally plan to do it again next year.  It was a great jump start and it was fun. 

How was your NaNo? I wish I had attended at least one Write-In, this year.  Did any of you attend such an event?  Was it worth it?

Friday, November 4, 2011


Let the triumphant kazoos sound!  
I am officially Done Done with the first book!

At loooooooooooong last my queries are sent and my brain is moving on. Looking forward to seeing how different the process for book number two will be.  It seems like it should be easier. Gulp. We shall see!

Oh and look who is helping me pound out Book Two for NaNoWriMo. 

 My Self-Prize! 

Pink, shiny, and way too big - but we can fix that!

What a good helper!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Who's That Lady?

Wanna Hear a Story?
My photog friend and I are having a (weather pending) photo shoot.  The goal is to create an authorial headshot to replace this one, which is dandy for my theatrical life, but perhaps for the literary world it would be wise to show less of my - erm - talents. To make matters worse, in thumbnails the top of my head often gets cut off and I needs those brainses!

We plan to gallivant around and see what photo-ops jump out at us.  Could be we get nothing and you are stuck with Ms. "I Know a Secret" over there for a while longer, but we will have fun trying.

I would love a picture involving a wishing well, since it is an image central to my current novel and the nerdiness would be divine. Other than that we are open to suggestions - what do you think, Birdies?

PS:  My Day 2 - NaNoWriMo Count = 3431

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


I decided to join the NaNoWriMo Madness this year!  Nerd Power!

Some selected blurb bits from their website...

National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing on November 1. The goal is to write a 50,000 word, (approximately 175 page) novel by 11:59:59, November 30.

What: Writing one 50,000-word novel from scratch in a month’s time.
Who: You! We can’t do this unless we have some other people trying it as well. Let’s write laughably awful yet lengthy prose together.
Why: The reasons are endless! To actively participate in one of our era’s most enchanting art forms! To give yourself permission to write without obsessing over quality.

In 2010, we had over 200,000 participants. More than 30,000 of them crossed the 50K finish line by the midnight deadline, entering into the annals of NaNoWriMo superstardom forever.

My plan is to jumpstart book two in the Children of Utrøst series.  I was tempted to start an unrelated book that has been knocking around in my brain, but I've determined that getting a rough draft of the second book out in the air is the best plan.

Here's what (I think) it's about...

Chase Johnson lost her twin brother in the battle to save Utrøst from the last rat of Hamelin.  The good guys may have won, but Chase is finding it impossible to embrace life without Charlie.  Even Henning, the bear whose voice once made her heart do weird fluttery things, can't reach her.  When Henning needs to return to his mysterious clan, Chase joins him against the wishes of her sister the queen. A road trip across a magical island is certain to be distracting and the secrets that Henning has been keeping may prove to be deadly.

We'll see if it turns out to be anything like this. It's the first time I've had any sort of plan so - who knows!

Any of my Write Campaign Buddies also doing NaNoWriMo? (How do the cool kids say it?  NaNo?  WriMo? Mo? Mary?) I would love to hear your plans and progress!

PS: For those of you who are thinking, "Seems like you may be distracting yourself from original unmet goals related to your first book. Hmmmmm? Haven't you been honking about that for the last 2 million years and now nothing? Hmmmmm? What's up with that? What about your pink sparklie self-prize?"

What's up: My query letter is written and being picked over by some helpful birdies.  My book has been fully reviewed and revised to my satisfaction.  I plan to have the query in the mail on Nov 1 one month after the goal and on the very day that NaNo starts! Hope I can still type with my new sparklie on my wrist!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Skeery Stuff

It's Halloween, I am working in a Haunted Forest, and the villains of my novel are the guilty parties holding up Operation Settle4NovemberFirst. I have evil on the brain. Imagine what my (already notoriously crazy) dreams are like!

Upon the advice of my beloved Crit Group, I have been trying to scary up my bad guys. But there is a distracting inner whisper and I am starting to question how far I really want to push in this direction. 

It is a fantasy novel, but there is a fine line between evil scary and EEEEV-ILL funny. 

Which got me thinking...

What are the necessary elements in a villain cocktail? 

Classic Evil-Tini Recipe
1 Part Bitters to the Core
1 Part Anger Management Issues
Muddle Reality with Twisted Past
Squeeze of Lemon (Directly Into Wound)
 Shake Violently

And just how much can you tinker with the basic recipe before you go from refreshing variation to cough medicine?

Utrøst's Evil-Tini Recipe
1 Part Bitters to the Core
1 Part Positive Thinking
Muddle Fear with Splash of Guilt
Squeeze of Lemon (Directly Into Wound)
Stir Slowly

Something is not working. But what if it's like getting a gin (shudder) martini when you prefer vodka? I will need to do more sampling.

As I poked around for outside inspiration,I found some good lists of classic literary villains. A few of them made me shudder with remembered horror, but mostly I didn't react with fear or disgust. I giggled away, nodding in approval and occasionally applauding as I recognized each name. Mrs. Coulter!  The White Witch! Bill Sykes! Iago! What fun!

And then it dawned on me. The problem is not that I cannot write a scary villain--the problem is that I may be a villain! 

As an actor I always covet the bad guy role. I can't say Voldemort without smiling. The Grinch is my favorite holiday cartoon. If there was a white hat and a black hat and I had to pick one.....well you get the idea.

These are my people. I like them. But maybe I like them too much.
What are the essential ingredients for your Evil-Tini? What will ruin the whole batch?
I'm All Ears!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

I'm Gonna Distract You With Some Pictures

Having readers with mad crafting skills is a definite bonus. It's a strange and wonderful experience to be gifted with a tangible interpretation of something that once existed only in your own mind.

 I consider them (and their creators) to be amongst my greatest treasures.

My friends The Henrys made this beauty, inspired by a cup and saucer in this excerpt.

From Our Barney Google Line....
Charlie held up a hand, asking Pavel to wait. Scrambling onto the kitchen counter to reach the highest cupboard, Charlie gingerly retrieved a tiny tea cup and saucer. They were both black and covered with googlie eyes, and the pupils jiggled a bit when Charlie tapped the cup against the saucer in three sets of three before rinsing it in the sink.

“How did you even remember where that was?” Virgil hadn’t seen the tiny dishes for years. It had been a part of Viv’s collection of Odd Little Kitchen Things. When the twins were younger, she had often brought them out to be admired. Chase and Charlie loved to examine the smaller than life items with reverence.


Hamelin first appears in Chapter One .

My sister made this gorgeous version of the villain, Hamelin.  Those jewels clutched in her tiny claws are very powerful--so no sudden moves!

Don't be deceived by how adorable she looks in this picture. Hamelin is three feet tall, commands an army of werewolves, and eats the hearts of her living victims.

This softer, gentler version is my lucky charm and (like my sister) she always makes me feel like I will succeed.

You're smart.  You know I didn't quite meet my personal deadline.
Close, but no cigar.  And I remain implausibly optimistic!
Stay tuned. It will be soon.

BONUS: Sassy Pink Frog!
Hello, Sailor!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Tomorrow Is The Goal

I get until midnight-right? 

I am 11 pages from reaching the end of the third and final edit. I will need my head lamp and some snacks, because it's a little murky down there.

Apparently in the excitement to write "THE END" and the eagerness to start on book two, someone got little harsh and cliffhangery. 

Tsk tsk. 

Everyone know that a satisfying ending needs must be. It's the literary equivalent of an after meal espresso and square of dark chocolate. Deceptively simple, but perfectly rich. You want to leave fondly reminiscing over the quality of the meal, not giving in to the pressing need to find your fat pants.

After I master that simple little task (snort) I will dose my badguy with that evil juice I have been brewing for some time.  I believe I will be able to do these things before the clock strikes Oct 2.

Ah the good old days!
Then I will shout "technicalvictory!" and claim my mini-self-prize......a manipedi! (This has been a surprisingly successful carrot for me. Every time I look at my hooves, I shudder in horror and then run to the computer.)
As I wait for the feedback from my wise owls, I will tweak my sexy query letter. When I see the ratio of Hoots vs. Pellets from my owls - I will announce my new Mail By Deadline. Know this - it will be October.

Of 2011.

That is that plan.  And ooooo the self-prize is REAL good for this goal, people.  It's pink.  It's sparklie.  And I WANT IT.

But first  have to earn it.

Are there any book endings (good or bad) that stick with you?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Welcome To The Imago Tavern

The place was dead as a windshield. She gave the bar top another pointless mirror polish and then she felt it. After all these years she could still sense when The Season began, not in her loins or her blood, but an echo deep in the lacuna of her exoskeleton.

She lit a smoke, taking a satisfied gander at her retirement plan. She was long past fertile and now she had a different kind of vault to fill. This little hole-in-the-wall had been just the ticket. It was stocked and ready.

Soon it would be crawling with every young bug in the city hopped up on hormones and grass clippings, filling the air with a miasma of pheromones thick enough to choke a lady cockroach and definitely turn one on. With oscitated jaws and frisky antennas, bugs would buy her booze and rub legs across the table until it was time to get to the propagating.

Inevitably there would be one lone fellow left moping after the last pair skittered out. She’d eat him; head first this year. Some call it the way of the wild, but she liked to think it was synchronicity. She hadn’t been wild in ages.

If you're in the Write Campaign and it didn't bug you, please give my little story a thumbs up!

#114 Welcome To The Imago Tavern - HERE


I hope you enjoyed my entry into the second Write Campain Challenge.  I took all the extra challengs too and boy are my wings tired!

Write a blog post in 200 words or less, excluding the title. It can be in any format, whether flash fiction, non-fiction, humorous blog musings, poem, etc. The blog post should:
· include the word "imago" in the title
· include the following 4 random words: "miasma," "lacuna," "oscitate," "synchronicity,"
If you want to give yourself an added challenge (optional and included in the word count), make reference to a mirror in your post.
For those who want an even greater challenge (optional), make your post 200 words EXACTLY

Friday, September 23, 2011

Flash You On Friday

Today has been all about getting my house cleaned up before my next round of jobs kick in, but wanted to post a little sumpin.

I have a major cybercrush on Chuck Wendig at terribleminds (shhh - don't tell) and I took his Friday Flash Fiction challenge.  One story in three sentences.  Here's mine.

“A place for everything,” she croaked, lurching to her feet in a swirl of cat and hair. Brushing the crumbs from her chin and clutching the new treasure, she made her way down the narrow path, straightening the newest tower of phone books and tucking stray receipts back into bundles until she reached the bread boxes. “This is your place,” she whispered, nestling the tender crust in amongst its hard and moldy brothers.

Clearly influenced by my fall cleaning, though (despite what my husband thinks) I am not a hoarder.

So back to my Friday clean-a-thon.  On a final note, here are some things I found in my office today:  3 lost earrings, one wolf's ear, a foam pear, a beaded purse, a mammogram bill, and five pairs of sunglasses. 

This is not fiction.

I am not a hoarder.
Not as much fun as this guy's having.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Edit My Face Off

It appears that I have already broken my own blog rules by not posting for an entire week.

Nice, Swenson, real nice. 
I was imprisoned by an evil sapling?

No, no evil sapling to blame. It was writing that kept me from blogging. I have been committed to keeping my Oct 1 deadline to be Done Done with Children of Utrøst.  And boy-howdy is my work cut out for me.

The ending is a big hairy mess which needs rewriting. My villain needs a good dose of evil juice, which is currently bubbling on the back burner, still needs a pinch of unicorn blood. And somehow I must trim my word count so it looks good in a bikini. I am all for a good Brazilian, but I think I've already done all the major clearing and will have to get out the tweezers. (Classy-no?)

Can all this be done by 10/1/11?  Without resulting in this?

Not That Uncommon.

You'll be the first to know.

A week late.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

In Celebration of Nerds (Again)

Just enjoyed a weekend at the Kite Festival in Pacific Beach, WA.  With the sound of the ocean in your ear, plenty of Bloody Mary in your veins, and the gentle sway of the kites all around you, it's basically like spending the weekend inside a tropical fish tank.

So. Chill.
Let your Frog Flag fly!
Did you know there was such a thing as Stunt Kiters?

(Try saying that 3x fast without being a dirty bird!)

Stunt Kiters, who are real, might just connect on the beach with like-skilled folk they've never met before and spend hours shoulder to shoulder making their kites dance in an impossibly synchronized dance. How?  How? Even up close it doesn't look real. So cool.

I just love discovering a new nerd pocket! You know, one of those weird hobby/obsessions/lifestyles that make you say, "That's a thing?"

It could be LARPers, adventure racers, urban farmers, part-time zombies, scooter clubs, or rabid collectors of Weird Item X. I love knowing that they're out there and I want to know all about it. I am giddy knowing there are entire mini-cultures I've never dreamed of complete with etiquette, snobbery, and a language all their own.  Even if they don't turn my personal crank, they are always (briefly) fascinating. It's world building in real life! 

Where my nerds at?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Write Campaign First Challenge

Here are the rules of the first challenge for the Write Campaign

Write a short story/flash fiction story in 200 words or less, excluding the title. It can be in any format, including a poem. Begin the story with the words, “The door swung open.”

If you want to give yourself an added challenge (optional), use the same beginning words and end with the words: "the door swung shut."

For those who want an even greater challenge, make your story 200 words EXACTLY!

If you watched the video in my last post you KNOW I took both of the extra challanges. 

Nerd power!!!

Between The Rock and A Hard Place

The door swung open, completing its dramatic arch and return, then slamming closed in her face. So much for slinking in unnoticed. Gingerly she tested the end of her nose, relieved when it did not wheeze like an accordion. The wood grain was quite lovely up close.

In the long second before kissing oak, she’d glimpsed him sitting on the white couch surrounded by family, friends, their friends, and their friend’s friends. On the side table right next to all the solidarity-lay her traitorous purse and keys.

 Not a sound came from the other side of the door. She imagined them all staring at it, well-dressed rabbits frozen in social horror. It wasn’t the first time she’d brought the room to silence that night.

“Will you marry me?”


Leaving two choices - walk the twenty miles of wooded road alone, in heels, in the dark or walk back into that room. Could she hide in the bathroom until they went to bed? She sensed movement on the other side and the door cracked open. A hand appeared with her purse dangling between the fingers like a dead rodent. She grabbed it and ran.

Behind her the door swung shut.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Ambergis Martini

Are you done yet?

Um. No.  Well, yes.  But, no.

It's a valid question.

Truth is there are all kinds of "done" in the writing process: done with the first draft, done with second draft, done with crit group edits, done with rewriting, and capital D - Done.

I get pretty excited every time I reached a done. I like celebrations -- there's dancing, hooting, and martini sipping.
 So when can I officially say I am Done and sip my martini straight from the pitcher?

In my mind Done is when this current WIP is beautified to the point that it can be sent out to agents. Then it becomes the book I am selling and something new will snag the title of WIP.  I am looking forward to that part of the adventure.  My goal is to be Done by October 1.  Will that happen?  Maybe-we will jump in that well when we get to it.

It's all pretty clear to me, but it's hard to explain to my interested and supportive friends and family.  I have used many a questionable comparison: writing a book is like building a house, writing a book is like producing a show, writing a book is like turning whale barf into perfume (that's probably the most accurate,)  but the truth is that writing a book is like writing a book and not everybody is gonna get it. Just like I don't get motorcycle racing or reality TV.

How do you explain it?  Or do you?

Friday, September 2, 2011

Frabjous Friday

Leapin' Liebsters!
Feeling kinda sparklie because the dashing T.B. McKenzie over at Magickless has gifted me with an award for bloggers with less than 200 followers.  (He is also under the impression that I am an Aussie - which is totally not true, but makes me feel ultra cool.)  Thanks T.B.!

And now a big drum roll for Ms. Saba who I am nominating for her very own Liebster Blog Award in honor of our shared love of Amelia Bedelia.

My preferred cover art.
Speaking of ultra cool - I thought you all might enjoy this video.  It's a little something put together by one of the theatres I work for - a fun way for the kids to get to know the directors and shows before they audition for the upcoming season.

 I am SO EXCITED because this winter I will be directing an adaptation of A Wrinkle In Time one of my favorite books EVER!! 

I travel back in time to let my younger nerd have a say.  Good for a giggle.

Check it out!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Blogging Games

I have been tagged by the lovely Alynza Smith and now must come up with ten random things about myself that will be interesting but not frighten any of my pretty birdie followers. Then I shall tag four of my new buddies and the fun continues across the internetwebs!  Here it goes.

Hee hee - gross!

1.   I prefer plastic utensils for most foods, especially sweet or cold things. (But I can act like a normal person when out in public)

2.  My day job often involves playing dress up and being bossy...perfection.

3.  I collect frogs, but not just any frog I have frog standards.

4.  Whenever I leave a car, the seatbelts are twisted.  Same goes for a room with rugs.  Chaos is my calling card.

5.  Stuffed animals displayed in the back window of a car give me rage.

6.  I grew up in a very small town - there were 20 people in my graduating class.

7.  I love recipes and changing them.

8.  I like pink, but not just everything pink, I have pink standards.

9.  Been running around with the same dude for 23 years and he still makes my heart go pitterpat.

10.  I am a lefty and manage to injure myself in the most ridiculous incidents.

That was fun and I'm gonna tag these cool kitties.  Wanna play?  If you don't please see above image!  :)

Alleged Author (a nice break from pursuing love of ze dance)
Small Town Shelly Brown (fellow thespian)
Annalise Green (cause she loves monsters)
Jilly Bean (My first non-friend follower!)

Monday, August 29, 2011

!Tood, Ad, Tood, Tood

Hmm..I probably should have made a bigger deal about the last chapter I posted being the last chapter I am going to post.  Tee hee - silly blogger. 

So here is a little reverse fanfare (with added cheese so you will have to like it) Delicious-no?

What could possible follow a giant can 'o cheeze? Good question! I have been scooting all over the internwebnets checking out how my fellow Write Campaigners do their thing. 

Inspiring. Nerdy. Delightful.

As I scoot I have been learning what I do and don't like as a blog reader and filling my brain bucket full of ideas. 

I started this blog to share my writing adventures with friends and family and I will keep up with that. For the rest of my birdies, I am thinking book reviews, theatre skills for the writer, and probably some other silliness. 

What would you like to see?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

I Swear I Wrote This Before Lady Gaga!

CHASE — No Show
The waiting was starting to get to her. Chase leaned up against the curved wooden wall of the old wishing well. Stood up by her own twin—nice, real nice. Her butt was falling asleep so she flopped on to her back, stretching her legs up the inside wall of the wishing well. The old structure was perfectly maintained like everything else in Papa V’s garden. She couldn’t see a single cobweb in the triangle of roof above her, and the decorative bucket looked like it might actually be watertight. The wood of the interior was painted gray and smooth as an icicle, yet Chase had managed to get a ginormous sliver embedded in her palm. The dull throb of the intruding wood was a complement to her mood.
Growing up, the well had been like a playhouse. Back then she and Charlie had been little enough to fit inside together. Chase hadn’t really thought about the wishing well in years—until this week when it suddenly began starring in her dreams, and she woke up with a feeling that she needed to keep a close eye on the wishing well. Dreams were a touchy subject with Chase. This wasn’t the same as a Real Dream she told herself. She hadn’t had one of those in a long time (eleven years ago tomorrow, not that she was obsessed or anything.) She had to admit, she’d been kinda vague about why she suddenly wanted to hang out in the middle of Papa V’s garden, but Charlie seemed game enough for a while.
Chase couldn’t believe he ditched her already. She knew it wasn’t his happenin’ social life that was keeping him. It was pretty safe to say they were each other’s only friend. It was also pretty safe to say that Charlie had found something better to do today. No doubt something in the kitchen or replenishing his ever-present fanny pack in the woods. Every time he passed something even remotely green he had to take a sample. It had gotten especially bad, almost obsessive, since Nana Viv died. Chase could deal with the herb gathering—the fanny pack was seriously embarrassing.
Chase picked at the sliver, but her palm was too sweaty to get a good hold of it. She undid the vintage button that read “Future’s So Bright…” from the strap of her backpack. Papa V always sang that song to her and given the button to her as a gift. It was pretty funny—considering. She flipped over the button and picked at the sliver with the pin on the back.
She could have sworn that it was getting hotter as the sun went down, which made no sense at all. Unzipping her hoodie, Chase stuck her head up over the lip of the wishing well. The air definitely seemed cooler on her face. She lifted her baseball cap and fluffed up her dark spiky hair. The sun was behind the trees, but she didn’t remove her dark glasses.
Light was not her friend. It didn’t matter if it was electric or sun powered, her eyes couldn’t handle it. The briefest exposure brought her to her knees, and it took forever to recover from the migraine that followed. It hadn’t always been that way, she used to be able to play outside and be normal, but it had steadily gotten worse as she grew older.
            The shades and hat were a combo that Chase wore at all times, earning her the nickname “paparazzi” at school. This had naturally been shortened to “pap” and then made the perfectly logical jump to “pap smear.” So creative. Not much she could do about it; the hat and glasses were functional, not stylish—keeping out the sun and hiding her freakazoid eyes. If her classmates ever got a good look at her silver irises and hyphen pupils, nicknames would be the least of her worries. She’d made peace with her modern day armor, and she had almost made it to senior year. Charlie was homeschooled by Papa V. Chase could have joined them but was determined to make it to graduation. Although they looked embarrassingly alike, her brother had been spared the alien eyes. He did have panic issues which lead to ritual repetitions; he didn’t talk, and their small school didn’t have the resources for ASL, so homeschooling was obviously the right choice.
It was kinda cheesy, but Chase was determined to graduate from “regular” school for both of them. Plus, she hated the idea of certain name calling losers thinking they had any power over her. Victory would be walking across the stage with the class of 2010, the only one allowed to wear shades. Probably at least half of them would still be wondering if she was male or female. The physical changes of puberty had so far been a no show. Boobless, bug eyed and bitchy, even if she had a phone—it wouldn’t be ringing.
Chase frequently joked about the discount sperm bank their mother must have visited to turn out freaks the likes of them. It always earned her the death glare, and Annika was the master of the death glare. Chase wondered if her mother ever regretted it. There were a lot of things her mother didn’t like to talk about, but the circumstances surrounding their birth were a minefield. Tomorrow was their birthday; she and Charlie would be 17 and very nearly adults. Maybe she could convince her mother to talk about it now. Maybe ninjas would fly out of her ass.
She looked out over the familiar garden filled with cheeseball lawn ornaments from gnomes, to flamingos, to a snoozing fawn. It was just what you would expect in the midst of a garden like this, although none of the girly stuff really fit with Papa V’s image. He was more of an old hippie than a plastic flamingo kind of guy. But he cared for them all as much as his plants because they had belonged to Nana Viv. “Miss you Nana Viv,” Chase whispered. She always felt connected to her in this garden.
The shadows were getting longer as the sun slid behind the tops of the trees, yet Chase could feel sweat trickle down her back. Weird. She sat back down and with the help of the metal pin finally conquered the sliver but not before she stabbed herself pretty good. Blood oozed from the puncture, and she let it drip onto the dirt floor as she rummaged in her backpack for a Kleenex. Pressing the tissue to her hand, an unfamiliar feeling creeped across her skin like a spider. She felt dizzy, and it was suddenly inferno-hot inside the wishing well. Panic clenched her stomach. Chase snagged her backpack and scrambled out into the garden. What was that all about? Blood never bothered her that much before, and panic attacks were more Charlie’s thing.
Hearing footsteps, she crouched down. Papa V was headed out to his herbs. She took care that he didn’t spot her. She didn’t feel like explaining herself and wasn’t exactly sure she could. Chase shivered as a breeze blew across her neck. As soon as Papa V turned his back, she ran the familiar path to home.
Chase and Charlie lived with their mother in an apartment on the top floor of the converted barn that went with Papa V’s old farmhouse. The bottom of the barn served as a training space where Annika held classes. When not working in Nana Viv’s store selling all things herbal, her mother trained people in medieval battle techniques for movies, plays, and renaissance fairs. It wasn’t hard to guess which job suited her better. It was also where she trained Chase and Charlie in the evenings. Knife work and combat skills were strange family hobbies. Chase had been tempted to use her ass kicking skills on the Pap Smear Crowd but refrained. Just knowing she could went a long way.
 It was dark and quiet on the first floor; she could smell the organic cleanser Nana Viv had made to disinfect the mats. Chase was a dark blur in the mirrors lining the walls as she ran up the stairs to their apartment and blew through the door with satisfying bang. Her mother spun her chair away from the computer as Charlie shot out of the kitchen growling and waving his hands above his head. It was a like looking in the mirror—though she was pretty sure she looked cooler.
“Oh puleez, Charlie. Don’t even try to act like you are making a soufflé because we both know you aren’t. One slammed door never hurt a chocolate cake. Sometimes you are such a damn diva,” Chase vented.
“Save it.” Her mother stood, switched off her desk lamp, and started lighting candles. “What is with you two?”
Chase rolled her eyes, safely hidden behind her dark lenses.
Their mother walked into the kitchen and secured the blackout shade. She paused on her way back to the computer, taking Chase’s glasses and cap off and rubbing her knuckles a little too hard on top of her head.
 “Figure it out, brats, and don’t get blood all over the kitchen.”
“Well, I certainly can’t kill him until after I eat his cake,” Chase crossed towards the kitchen. Charlie snapped her forearm with the dishtowel draped over his shoulder. Chase smacked him upside his genius head.
 “You were supposed to meet me after school,” she said closing her eyes and reaching into the fridge for a soda. She could sense Charlie cringe at the reminder.
A pointed look from her, and he allowed access to his head. Another checkmark on Chase’s “yes-I-am-a-freak” list. She and Charlie could communicate directly into each other’s minds. Pretty cool considering Charlie didn’t speak in real life, and it kept their mother out of things, not that it was easy or reliable. It only seemed to work if Chase initiated it. If Charlie would let her practice some more they might actually be able to hold a decent conversation. He had some kind of mental mute button he could use to shut her out, and it was always activated. She knew he hated it when she invaded his mental space. Charlie was barely willing to share his kitchen, letting Chase into his thoughts really creeped him out.
It really burned that he resisted so much. They were freakin’ twins, and he wouldn’t trust her inside his head? There was nothing she wouldn’t trust Charlie with and it stung knowing that it didn’t go both ways. The fact that he was feeling guilty was the only reason he was relenting so easily now. Charlie, sniffing her emotions, looked concerned and apologetic, but he didn’t stop working on his frosting.
Narrowing her eyes she imagined a tube connecting from her brain to his and thought “Way to ditch me, jerk!
“Sorry,” she heard him think. “I got involved…”
With a recipe,” she finished. “Shocker. When aren’t you making out with your mental cookbook?         
Charlie glared at her. He never shied away from looking right in her eyes, not that she was giving him any points for that at the moment. “Stick your nose back in the blender if your recipe is so goddamn important.” Oops, that one had been out loud.
 “Language!” Her mother called from the other room. Chase never figured out why her mother pretended to care about swearing. Annika could curse like a sailor and had let loose with some pretty inventive stuff during their training sessions.
“I really am sorry,” Charlie mind-whispered. “It’s not like anything happened…”
Chase thought about the strange heat and the creepy crawlies she’d felt, he didn’t need to know about that. “Whatever!” she sent back with too much volume.
He solemnly held out a frosting coated beater and the fight drained out of her. Charlie hardly ever allowed sampling. Anyway, he was right. There wasn’t any point in getting bent out of shape. Dreams were tricky, and it wasn’t like anything had really happened. Maybe the dream meant nothing.
Chase set down her soda and accepted the beater. The frosting was freaking amazing.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Gussying Up

Wanted things to look nice around here as I joined the Platform Building Campaign over at Rach Writes. It's a crash course in this whole network and blog world and I thought it would be a great way to jump into the deep end with my hot pink water wings firmly in place.

Plus, I get a sweet badge for participating and you know I like that kind of business!

So shiny!

Now we mingle, play blogging games, and scratch each other's blogs between the ears. As I am used to collaborating with many artists at a time in my day job, this will be a welcomed boost to only collaborating with the voices in my head. Not that they aren't entertaining.

Oooo - don't be scared new writer friends.
I am just as normal as you.
Looking forward to meeting you in my courage zone (smooches to Bob Mayer)
Now I must finish my cow choreography. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

What's Cooking?

CHARLIESecret Ingredients

Charlie’s mother leaned in the frame of the kitchen door, lost in some kind of memory. It wasn’t a good one. Her eyes were far away, and her jaw clenched. Sometimes Charlie wondered if his mother had any happy memories. She’d never told them anything about her life before he and Chase were born; it was an extremely touchy subject.
The sun slanted through the kitchen window, lighting flames in her red hair. Annika had already pulled and secured the shades in the rest of the house, so it would be ready for his sister when she got home. “Chase will be home soon, don’t forget your shade,” she signed as well as spoke. No one in the family was deaf, but Charlie didn’t speak so they all learned ASL. Annika always liked to keep in practice, she said it made it easier to understand Charlie if her own hands were moving.
Charlie gave his mother a look; they both knew he would keep the shade over the sink open until the last minute. “What are you making?” she asked looking around the kitchen eagerly. Charlie growled and shooed her with shortening-covered hands. “I think you need a new hobby,” she said. “You’re as pleasant as a cave maggot!”
Charlie rolled his eyes. He had long ago given up trying to make sense of his mother’s weird sayings. He stepped closer, wiggling his greasy fingers threateningly. Shaking her head in mock exasperation she quickly left, as if it were her idea. He smiled a little at her exit and turned back to his baking experiment.
The kitchen was his domain. He’d painted the cabinets white, the walls a soft gray, and had Nana Viv make the navy blue curtains. It was pretty masculine for a kitchen, except for all the candles. They were more functional that decorative, the only source of light that didn’t make Chase sick. He cringed as he remembered he was supposed to meet her at the wishing well today. She wouldn’t tell him why she wanted to be there, and all they had done the first two days was sit, so he didn’t feel that bad. Besides, it was too late now; he was right in the middle of a recipe.
The majority of his ingredients were laid out on the butcher-block island, a Goodwill find fixed up by Papa V. He greased one round cake pan, fingers sliding across the bottom and up along the sides. Pinching flour in his dry hand, he sprinkled it evenly onto the surface then turned the faucet on with his elbow. He tried to fight the urge but had to flip the faucet on and off an additional eight times before he could let it go. Today he had been feeling weirdly apprehensive, and he couldn’t figure out why. It was the anxiety that put him into recipe mode. When he was lost in creating something, he usually left behind his tics.
He glanced at the kitchen door to see his mother’s reaction. Normally tics didn’t show up in the kitchen, and he knew she would worry. She was in the living room folded back into her desk chair staring off into space and scratching at the scar on her lower back. He was relieved she hadn’t seen, he hated to stress her out. As it was, the fragrance of her inner turmoil was already messing with his recipe.
Charlie could smell people’s emotions. Like a seasoned wine tester, he could identify many layers. It was kind of like receiving a photograph through his nostrils. Charlie smiled at the idea of a glossy 5x7 floating up his nose. While he was with food, he could put his weird talent to good use. His sniffer had found some truly unusual combinations that he tested out on his family. And, usually, the aromas of baking were a good distraction from the complex scent of emotions that accosted him daily. He was getting better at handling that as he got older; it was the rituals and the pain that kept getting worse.
The water flowing from the tap was finally hot enough to wash the shortening off. Hands dried, he picked up the pan gently tapping flour around in a circle as he reviewed his plan. Brownie cake, espresso cream cheese frosting and one top secret ingredient. Charlie was glad his mother hadn’t seen the small silver bucket on the shelf below the counter. In it was freshly turned earth, from Papa V’s garden.
Papa V was an old school granola, and Charlie knew that only organics had ever touched this dirt. It was rich and velvety with the faintest sparkle, like the coffee grounds his mother emptied into the garbage every morning. Although he was not a dirt eater normally, Charlie trusted his nose, and his nose told him that the earth’s contribution was the thing that would take his cake to the next level.
He’d been planning to filch the dirt on his way home after school with Papa V. He’d found a fancy silver vase half buried by the side of garden where he meant to dig, so it seemed the earth itself agreed. He had quickly abandoned his plastic cup in favor of this new find. Charlie enjoyed a good presentation, even if he was the only witness.
He wasn’t sure if he would reveal the secret ingredient. He weighed the pleasure of seeing his family glow with happiness while they ate his cake, with the equally enjoyable sight of their eyes bugging out in disbelief as he unveiled his bucket of soil. It was a tough call.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Come Visit Virgil's Groovy Garden!

VIRGIL—Gammal Värd
(Seventeen Years Later)
Virgil took a deep and stinging drag of his joint. Nothing beat the satisfaction of tasting something home grown. The marinara sauce burbling on the back burner echoed the sentiment. Holding his breath, he nestled Mary between the naked breasts of the mermaid ash tray. With a slow exhale, he waited for the smoke to dissipate, helping it along out the screen door with a lazy wave of the hand. Pulling the rubber band free, Virgil shook his dark pewter streaked hair down around his shoulders. Viv had always liked it long, so he kept it that way. Not as much left on top as on the bottom, but he could still manage a respectable ponytail. Heaven forbid that his grandson smell it in his hair. Though he wasn’t entirely sure why he bothered—Charlie was a bloodhound. And Virgil was a grownup, dammit. He picked up his scissors and headed outside.
Dusk settled around the quiet yard with a strange, yellow-tinged heaviness. The huge trees surrounding the back half of his property were dark and watchful. I can feel it coming in the air tonight. Phil Collins began to croon in the back of his head. Weaving expertly through the rows of the garden to the basil, Virgil snipped a handful of the herb. He rubbed a fragrant leaf between his fingers and inhaled deeply. Nice. Life is pretty okay sometimes. It was good to remember that. Straightening, he looked out past the plants and into the woods. He couldn’t shake the feeling of being observed. Must be the time of night. Twilight was traditionally host to the faerie folk.
Absently he tickled the top of his other herbs, straightened a flamingo that was listing dangerously and slid a gnome’s shades a little more securely onto its wee cement nose. He felt a gentle nudge in his heart remembering Viv. She had been gone almost two years now, and he still felt her presence so strongly, though he no longer suffered a hard jab of grief.
This motley collection of garden creatures had her sense of humor all over it and he would never remove them. She had her part of the garden, and he had his.
At the edge of the garden he saw a small hole in the dirt. Kneeling, he continued to rub basil between his finger and thumb. Setting the remaining leaves in the grass, he traced the circumference of the hole. No gopher or mole did that. Weird, very weird. Settling back on his haunches Virgil ran through the various possibilities. He couldn’t stop the headlines from rushing through his head, but managed to talk himself down from the burst of paranoia. Marijuana plants tucked in the center of a retired school teacher’s garden was not the kind of stuff cops bother with. He had grown it for Viv to help with the cancer, and he kept it for himself to help with the aftermath of the cancer. Really, he needed to get control over his imagination. Where was all that when he was sitting in front of a very empty computer screen? He felt the familiar twinge in his stomach that became a violent twisting whenever he thought about his so-called retirement novel.
Movement by the wishing well caught his attention. Chase was dashing across the garden, crouched low. Hiding in the wishing well was a little beneath the dignity of someone turning seventeen tomorrow. The twins were seventeen. Time was one crazy ride. His life had changed in a million ways the day those two cabbagepatchers had suddenly appeared in his garden.
Virgil and Viv were having some Sunday gardening time. Virgil was always quick to point out that while they may both be in the garden at the same time he was the only one doing any actual gardening. Viv would counter that she couldn’t be blamed as she suffered from incurable “black thumb” and had been banned even from the simplest weeding. She could do magical things with flowers and herbs once they were grown, but involving her anytime before harvest was a bad idea. Her self-appointed gardening job was bossing Virgil around and tending to the many members of her Odd Little Garden Things.
While Virgil trimmed and planted, Viv cleaned and rearranged. She made outfits for some of the collection to mark seasonal changes or holidays. She had a plastic bucket with her necessary tools. A toothbrush, one squirt bottle with soapy water and one with plain water, a cloth for buffing and a small collection of paints and brushes for any extreme makeovers. Once all were beautified, she would create a fresh tableau. Hours were spent, never tiring of making “moments” in and amongst the plants.
Set back from the main road and bordered by woodland, it felt like they were miles from civilization. No traffic noises or people, he would often suggest Viv go topless. She had yet to oblige. They were both bent to their individual tasks, the sun warming their backs and the soothing quiet of the plants surrounded them.
Suddenly the peace of the day was broken with a flash of light and an enormous crack. Virgil searched the sky expecting to see falling debris from an airplane. For a moment he could only hear the sound of his own ragged breath. Then the wrenching sob broke through.
When he looked around he saw that Viv had already found the source. It was a woman. She was covered in blood. Viv was kneeling near her, whispering urgently. The woman nodded, whispering something in reply.
Puzzled by the apparent familiarity, he moved slowly towards them. The wretched-looking woman startled at his approach.
“He’s okay. It’s okay,” Viv soothed. “Annika, this is Virgil.”
 “Are you hurt?” Virgil asked. Although she was covered in gore, he could see no obvious injuries.
“It is not mine,” Annika smiled with bitter satisfaction. Those cold words seemed to brace her. The tears cleared patterns through the blood on her cheeks. Her eyes were huge, haunted, and dangerous. Virgil was suddenly glad that he hadn’t dropped his shovel. He tightened his grip, walking slowly in a circle around the two women, looking for any sign of unwanted company. As he passed the wishing well, he heard a rustling from the depths.
Having built the ornamental well himself, Virgil knew it ended in a dirt floor. It was the focal point of the garden. He had built it big so Viv could admire it from the kitchen window. It was easily big enough for a person to be concealed in the shadow of the walls. Whatever was in there, it was good and cornered. Virgil raised the shovel over his head, trying to look and sound as intimidating as possible.
“We can hear you in there. No use in hiding any more. Come out slowlywith your hands where I can see them.” Virgil fervently hoped he was about to be embarrassed by nothing scarier than an errant squirrel. His snazzy, cop show dialogue would do him little good in an actual confrontation. He didn’t know who he was kidding with this shovel either. Viv was slowly placing herself between the now silent Annika and the wishing well.
“Come out!” Virgil knocked the side with the shovel. He’d thought he’d already experienced the weirdest part of his day. Then he stepped up and peered into the well, and things got even weirder.
“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!” Virgil was positive he had actually felt his heart stop and restart. “Viv! There are babies in the well!” Virgil nearly pissed himself when he turned and saw for the first time that Annika was holding a sword. A sword? She lowered it as she sank to the ground, crying silently.
Viv ran forward, leaning over the side of the well. She gasped in delight, which seemed a strange reaction considering the circumstances
“I’ll go call 911.” Virgil began backing towards the house.
“No.” Viv’s voice was sharp, and he looked at her in surprise. “I think we handle this ourselves.”
“Trust me, Virgil.”
He nodded, still eyeing the sword. Finding the babies had stunned Annika into utter stillness. He guessed she wasn’t a threat. Viv was positively glowing as she swung over the short wall into the well. It was becoming clear that she knew more about this crazy situation than she should.
“Go inside please and bring back my bathrobe. While you are in there, fill both sides of the sink. Lukewarm.”
His tasks were easily accomplished, and he returned to the wishing well at a run. Viv was still in the well, now holding the eerily silent infants. She quickly handed him her bundles as she scrambled back out. Virgil felt pretty impressed with himself when he refrained from passing out or screaming. Wrapping the robe around Annika’s shoulders, Viv spoke in a low voice.
“Now Virgil, I need you to take these darlings into the house and get them in that water. We need to clean them up and warm them. Annika and I will be right behind you.”
Afraid to speak lest he reveal a sudden return to puberty, Virgil nodded manfully and turned towards the house. Looking down he saw two sets of eyes observing him, one pair midnight black and the other silver with an oddly shaped pupil. Their hair looked blue. Admittedly he knew nothing about babies, but he’d never heard of them being born with blue hair. Walking towards the house like he was carrying a case of dynamite, Virgil hoped that the thundering of his heart wasn’t scaring the babies. At the back door, he turned to see what progress Viv was making.
They had stopped by the hose to get the worst of the gore off. Now he knew he was going bonkers. He could have sworn there was a fluffy, red tail sprouting from just above the woman’s ass. It was tipped with white on the end just like a fox. Unable to control himself, he glanced again only to see that Viv was holding up the towel like a shield. She met his eyes with an expression he had never seen. A wave of new understanding hit him. Shaken, he entered the house and headed towards the kitchen sink, with his silent riders in tow. Now was time to focus on the stuff he could handle.
This was a good plan until he reached the sink. Bathing one baby was completely outside his realm of experience, two was straight up impossible. He put them on the counter and stared at them. The spooky little things stared right back. Even in the light of the kitchen, he could swear their hair was blue.
“Shouldn’t you be making some kind of noise? Screaming for your mama? Are you two cabbagepatchers ok?” He felt like he was in a Scooby Doo episode where the eyes in the portrait followed the gang’s every move. He heard the shower, and Viv walking down the hall to the kitchen.
She unwrapped one of the bundles, indicating with her head that he should follow suit. Viv clucked and cooed. The wrappings were removed revealing a boy and a girl. Virgil felt his throat tighten; this bit of information somehow made everything seem very real. A quick examination showed that they were unharmed, just dirty. Viv lowered the girl into the warm water and was rewarded with the kind of bellow usually reserved for charging bulls. Almost instantly, her brother joined in the caterwauling. Viv and Virgil looked at each other and laughed.
They continued to chuckle intermittently through bath time as the infants settled down and started to tolerate the process. They were dried and wrapped in fresh towels when their mother appeared in the doorway. Her hair tangled and wet, she looked like a child herself engulfed in the bathrobe. She remained in the relative shadow of the hallway, blinking at the florescent lights of the kitchen.
Hoping to bring her a little comfort, Virgil placed the drowsing boy in her arm, and Viv placed the girl in her other. She stood stiffly.
“There, little mama, I imagine that feels better,” Virgil said stepping back. He was still a little afraid of her, even without the sword.
She looked at the babies, her eyes wild. She made no move to cuddle the infants, just looked at them. Viv ushered the uncomfortable mother towards the guestroom. Virgil couldn’t help but notice what appeared to be a lump in the lower back half of the robe. Of course, it was just the weight of it folded on her small frame. But as they entered the back room, he could have sworn he saw a flash of reddish orange just at the hem of the dark robe.
When the door closed behind the women, he dashed to the cupboard. With admirably steady hands, he pulled down a dusty bottle of Jack and took a mighty swig. Capping it, he set it on the counter for later. It had been that kind of day after all.
Some time later, Viv returned to the kitchen and handed him a list featuring bottles, formula, and diapers. She picked up the whiskey, took a swig and then danced back down the hallway humming.
The store had been a blur. He finally just handed the list to a teenager in a blue vest and paid for whatever was in his cart. When he got home the wails had reached glass shattering proportions. Viv, no longer quite so chipper, dove into the bags and started making up bottles. Virgil, against his better judgment, followed the sounds of the screams. The woman was cross-legged on the bed, the seriously pissed off infants in front of her. The racket was impressive. Virgil had to admire their stamina. Viv sped into the room bottles extended out in front of her like a superhero. After working through some residual rage, the twins settled down and began to eat.
When the much preferable silence fell around them again, Virgil backed out of the room and enjoyed a longer visit with Jack. Viv appeared in the doorway. She had never looked more beautiful.
“Are you ready for this?” Her voice was low and steady. Virgil’s stomach twisted, he had been denying his suspicions all day.
 “It’s my vision. They came from Utrøst.”
A mix of fear and happiness crossed her face, and she seemed suddenly at a loss. He offered the bottle, unsure of what to do or say or even think. Viv took it and crossed into the living room. He followed trying to find the right words.
 “Instant family,” was what came out.
“Is that alright with you?”
He didn’t even have to think about it. Those pesky cabbagepatchers had worked some kind of magic on him. Maybe it was Utrøst magic, maybe it was just regular old baby magic, it didn’t really matter.
“Grandpa Virgil,” he kind of liked the sound of it. “Talk about accepting a reality I am in no way prepared to handle.”
 Viv laughed, wrapping her arms around him. They stood holding each other for a long time after the laughter faded. The house felt different, three new heartbeats filling up the rooms with possibilities. That was pretty good, he should write that down. First, though, he just had to ask.
“So, was that a tail?”
What was that bullshit earlier about “no longer a hard jab of grief?” His buzz and his mood radically damaged, Virgil scooped up his basil greens and stomped to the open back door. He fought the urge to close himself in, leaving the door open to the scents of the garden and the approaching night. Mary was waiting, but he was no longer in the mood. Sighing, he opened the freezer and slid the unfinished joint into a zippered baggie. Slamming the door and resolving to get over himself, Virgil uncorked the merlot, poured a little in the sauce and a lot in his glass. Quickly rinsing the basil, he used the scissors to snip it into the sauce.
 Minutes later at the table, Virgil twirled the pasta around his fork and sampled his masterpiece. Delicious. If only writing came as easily as cooking. Somehow, despite any training, he had discovered that adding fresh basil from the garden at the last minute was the secret to an incredible marinara. Yet, despite years of education and educating, words would not fly from his mind to his finger tips like golden unicorns. Golden unicorns? Shit, he couldn’t even come up with a decent metaphor to mock himself. A little voice in the back of his head pointed out that maybe he shouldn’t work so hard to dull his emotions if he wanted the words to flow. Virgil shut that guy up pretty fast. The wine and the Mary were just to help him adjust to life without Viv; he would give it up eventually. Not soon enough for Charlie, president of his personal anti-drug campaign.
Swigging his wine, Virgil shrugged off such unappetizing thoughts and tucked into his fantastic pasta. Might as well enjoy these fruits, he thought. Without warning, the uneasy sensation he had tried to leave in the garden returned. Someone was watching him. Pausing with the next mouthful hovering just above the plate, Virgil moved only his eyes towards the door. The door he had left open in defiance of his own instincts. His gaze drifted down towards the floor and froze. Leaning against the doorframe was a little man. Lilliput little. He wore tight pants, the color of wheat, and a silk tunic with the sleeves rolled up to display proportionately powerful forearms. His tousled hair was blonde, and his bright blue eyes were boring into Virgil with a combination of amusement and irritation. He’d never heard of a hallucination doing that.