Thursday, December 12, 2013

SparkleJollyTwinkleJingley


The Reveille Men's Chorus 2013 Holiday Show is now history. All the hard work and long rehearsals, the hours spent memorizing lyrics and notes, the effort to learn movements, the coordination challenge of putting movements and singing together, and all the labors of many talented people paid off nicely with three successful, well-attended performances of "It's a Fabulous Life."
This was my first season with Reveille. I joined in September and wasn't sure what to expect when putting on a show of this size. Leading up these shows, I participated in several "outreach" events -- our mission, after all, is not only to achieve musical excellence, but to promote human rights, diversity, and a world free of AIDS -- and those performances helped me get comfortable singing for an audience. And they were always fun, but in a formal way. We stood in formation, all dressed in black pants, white shirts, and purple ties with black notebooks of music held before us as we made pretty music.

Aside from making pretty music, the Christmas show was quite different. So was preparing for it. I sometimes wondered if it would all come together, but it did. Here are a few photos from various performances over the weekend. If you're looking for me in the pictures, I'm wearing either a blue or purple sweater, depending on the night.

Yes, we did indeed have dancing elves.
We served up thrills AND chills.

A lovely, living Christmas tree.
Sometimes we stood still to sing traditional songs.

I'm very glad it was fun for the chorus as well for as the audience each performance. After all, I joined Reveille because watching their shows last year gave me the impression everyone was having a blast up there on stage, and it reminded me of how much I enjoyed singing with a chorus way back in high school. Preparation for this show was more intensive and difficult than I imagined, but I'm pleased to report that I had even more fun performing with this great group of guys than I hoped. And we sounded good!

During one of our performances, there was even a live, surprise marriage proposal.  

He said "yes!"

I had a blast, and I feel great about the job we did. I wish there were more shows to do, actually, but this was the first year we expanded from 2 performances to 3, and everyone was happy we had full houses each time. So it's time to say goodbye to "It's a Fabulous Life." It was great to be a part of it.

Signing off with a kiss.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Recycling The Pumpkin Lady

I wrote this story for last year's Keepers of the Crypt event over at the Fictitious Musings BLOG. In case you missed it last Halloween, I'm reposting it here this year. Who says pumpkins aren't recyclable? Have a chilling but safe Halloween, everyone. Pick your pumpkins carefully.



The Pumpkin Lady
by Keith Pyeatt

The locals knew her as The Pumpkin Lady. She'd been raising pumpkins for fifty years, most of that time alongside her husband. In their prime, they worked twenty acres. Now an old widow with few needs, she managed a small patch and hired teenagers to harvest the pumpkins and haul them to town.

Late afternoon on October 31st, the air was crisp and rich with moisture from shriveling vines and drying leaves as the Pumpkin Lady picked her way through the patch. She'd walked those rows a hundred times over the past months, but the harvest disturbed familiar paths and turned up fresh dirt that made it easy to stumble, especially when trying to spot a hidden splash of orange in the fading sunlight.

Every harvest left behind at least one overlooked pumpkin, and she finally found it in the corner of the field, nestled in a depression and covered by thick vines. It was overripe and on the small side, but it had a perfect shape, the evenly round kind people liked. She fished a knife from her pocket and severed it from the vine, relieved she'd have homegrown seeds for next season's planting. This year, for the first time, she'd forgotten to hold back a few choice specimens for seed. As she carried the pumpkin up the dirt road to her house, the last of the sunlight slipped from the sky, releasing the day to All Hallows Eve.

Her manufactured home sat crooked on a crumbling foundation alongside a dozen other ratty houses, most of them boarded up and abandoned years ago. Her husband had bought the land to put in a housing development after they first married, but the economy went sour, the development died on the vine, and they became pumpkin farmers instead. The wooden porch creaked as she crossed to the front door. Inside the air was chilled, a not so subtle reminder that she'd forgotten to have the propane tank filled. It was too late to call anyone about it now, but she had blankets enough to get her through the night.

She set the pumpkin on the kitchen table and again admired its shape. Over the decades, she'd raised tens of thousands of pumpkins that kitchen knives and unskilled hands turned into jack o' lanterns, but it'd been years since she carved her own. She needed to gut this one for the seeds anyway, so she figured why not, pulled her knife from her pocket, and took to it. As she worked, she remembered supervising her children back when they carved pumpkins and, years later, when they helped with the harvest. Now the fruit of her vines were grown and moved off, and they only called on the odd occasion to see if she was ready for a nursing home yet.

She found a candle stub in a kitchen drawer, set it burning inside her jack o' lantern, and carried it to the living room window. They used to let it stare out into the night, but she turned this one to face into the room. What few neighbors she had left stayed to themselves, and there hadn't been a trick-or-treater come around in years. Why waste the glow? She stepped back to admire her work, stared into the flickering triangles of the jack o' lantern's eyes, and made a decision. This pumpkin was the last she'd ever grow. Fifty years was years enough.

She sighed, but it was more relief than resignation. She'd always thought the decision to let the patch go to weeds would be difficult, but it had come easy. Her next decision was even easier. Without a need for vines next year, she didn't need seeds either, at least not for planting, but she had something else in mind. She spread them in an oiled pan, sprinkled salt, and roasted them in her electric toaster oven. They gave the house a nice aroma, but the chill was beginning to penetrate. She rummaged in the back of her pantry and pulled out a nearly forgotten bottle of cheap whiskey. It was half-empty, but there was enough to celebrate retirement and keep her warm. Minutes later, she was snuggled in her easy chair with a tumbler of whiskey, a warm snack, and a jack o' lantern for entertainment. It grinned at her as she munched its seeds, and she noticed the edges of the cuts she'd made to give it a face were already puckered and drying out. They reminded her of the way her own features had puckered with age.

The seeds tasted off to her, but she was hungry enough to keep eating. Maybe her old mouth wasn't tasting things right again, or maybe this was the way seeds from an overripe pumpkin tasted. It didn't matter much when she washed them down with the whiskey. By the time she finished the last seed, the jack o' lantern smile had begun to look a little too familiar. She snorted in surprise when she realized why, and she set the whiskey on a side table out of easy reach. She'd had enough. More than enough. The room was beginning to spin, her stomach gurgled uncomfortably, and her thoughts floated around the image of her smile carved into a pumpkin. She scoffed at herself for the strange thought, leaned her head back, and drifted to sleep, cussing the effects of bad seeds and cheap whiskey.

Her own coughing woke her. The room was hazy with acrid smoke that burned her eyes and throat. Erratic light pulsed from inside the jack o' lantern, spilling out its eyes, nose, and grinning mouth along with wisps of smoke. It looked alive and...evil.

She shook her head to clear the cobwebs of sleep. The pumpkin was smoldering from the sputtering candle inside it. That's all. She must not have cleaned the rind well enough before lighting the candle. Or maybe the old thing was rotting under the heat. She felt awake now, but her thoughts were still as hazy as the room. She needed fresh air.

The Pumpkin Lady struggled to her feet, made it outside and down the porch steps, and wandered out into the moonlit night, breathing in cold Halloween air. When her thoughts  cleared, she found herself in the patch looking down on the spot where she'd discovered this year's forgotten pumpkin. Enough moonlight fell to see the vines were particularly thick here, like a blanket, and she'd grown chilled again, worse than before. She sunk to the earth as gracefully as she could and nestled into the soft depression where the pumpkin had rested. She pulled loose vines around her, and they seemed eager to help cover her and offer warmth.

Her stomach groaned, the taste of the seeds soured her mouth, and the air was ripe with decaying vines and moist dirt and traces of the pumpkin smoke that clung to her clothes, but she was comfortable enough and not surprised when another big decision came effortlessly to her. My season is over. It's harvest time for this tired body. And with that thought, the vines stirred and squeezed the Pumpkin Lady with what felt like affection. For a moment.

The first stab was to her nose, and she felt blood running down her face. Another jab and fiery pain blinded her left eye. She screamed and tried to rise, but the vines held her down. They shifted around her now, slicing and puncturing her skin. Internal pain was even worse, as the seeds she'd swallowed sprouted and pressed against her flesh from the inside, shaping her as the vines that held her carved and carved...

It was a week before her remains were discovered and two more weeks before the media stopped running stories about the murder and elaborately gruesome disfigurement of an old woman. The press and the rest of the country came to know her as "The Jack O'Lantern Corpse." The locals still called her The Pumpkin Lady.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

I'll tell you what's REALLY scary...

We took a car trip to San Diego early this month. It's about a 6 hour drive from Tucson, and, with the help of Groupon and Living Social, a few days there can be an inexpensive get-a-way with an ocean view. We took a similar trip in 2013. This year, we returned to Balboa Park, which we love, and saw that the Museum of Man was having an exhibit about the Instruments of Torture. We took a deep breath and entered.

Now, I write paranormal horror, and I put my characters through a lot, mentally and physically. My fictional creations face vengeful spirits, ancient demons, otherworldly powers, and even the devil himself, but what's really scary is the reality of what humans have done and continue to do to each other. Sheesh! Seeing and touching evil devices that were actually used on poor souls, seeing the illustrations of what they did, and reading about the agonies the victims felt and how they died, and knowing it was all too real... My partner and I were both affected by it.

On the lighter side, one day we drove to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in Escondido, where people work to keep endangered species from going extinct. These are much nicer folks than the ones who dreamed up and used those torture devices, and seeing all those critters surviving happily in such a nice surrounding made us smile. We were treated to tranquil scenes like these.



The day definitely provided more uplifting views than a Judas Cradle or Iron Maiden. At one point in the tour, I was compared to a gorilla. Some folks might have taken offense, but I found it a refreshing change. Usually I'm compared to an ape.


Friday, September 27, 2013

Hello again

Remember me? I'm still around, still a horror guy, but lately I'm more a horror guy on leave than an active horror writer. But I am still around.

Since this BLOG is about my writing, and I've now admitted I'm not writing, you'd think it'd be incredibly difficult to come up with a BLOG post, but if you've been here often, you know I routinely wander off the writing topic and into my personal life. With no other choice, that's where we're headed now.

But first...the writing thing. No, I haven't hung up my proverbial pen, only going along with my life's flow, and these days, the current ain't steering me to the keyboard. I remain excited about my work-in-progress, a dark and deliciously juicy alternate world paranormal thriller I call The Sirens of Sayhurn, but it's going to have to wait around in partially-written, first-draft mode until I'm ready to begin hammering on it again. Daeva, a literary horror novel that was scheduled for release in June 2014, is now scheduled for release in December 2014. The publisher needed to push all future releases back six months. That's okay. Daeva's still in the pipeline, and I'm very excited about it's upcoming release with this publisher.

So what have I been doing since I last checked in, which was way back on May 9th (sheesh!) with a post about running? Well, I'm still running. A lot for me, actually. I'm normally lean, but with the extra miles these last months, it's a challenge to swim across our little swimming pool without sinking like a stone to the bottom. We've also been traveling again. We took a fantastic trip in June to the Netherlands, Belgium, France, and England. What a great time! I posted pictures on Facebook. Here's a link if you're interested: Pics of our European and UK trip.

Me next to my friend Bob in rehearsal
When I'm not running, traveling, or trying to keep my head above water, I'm doing some singing. Yes, singing, like in do re mi... I suppose my artistic side needed a different outlet than writing for a while, and I'm excited to have joined Reveille Men's Chorus here in Tucson. What a great and talented group of guys. I'm so glad they let me in.

It has surprised me that the news that I love to sing surprises my friends, even ones who've known me for decades, but I guess it makes sense. I sang my heart out throughout my junior high and high school days, but when I gave it up to concentrate on engineering in college and career, I muzzled my singing voice completely. Now that I'm warbling again, it sure feels good and right.

So I'm still around, only making music with my voice instead of clacking noises on my keyboard. Here's a picture of our first concert of the season, just this past weekend. I'm the guy with his mouth open. Okay, that doesn't narrow it down much. I'm in a white shirt and purple tie. Okay, that doesn't help at all. I'm about a quarter of the way in from the left edge, somewhere near the middle going up and down.


Thursday, May 09, 2013

Nerd on the run

I run for various reasons. I like to be fit, running is great cardiovascular exercise, and my thoughts get to wander where they will as my feet pound mindlessly along. Also, running is a great reason to venture out in the cool early morning air during a Tucson summer, and man does it feel great to jump in the pool immediately upon my return home. I like that I can run and I do run, if that makes sense. I like the accomplished, relaxed feeling after a run. I've even come to enjoy running itself, so I look forward to heading out most mornings. Regular running helps my mind, my stress levels, my imagination, my appetite, my heart and lungs and various other body parts.

In some ways I'm an avid runner. I've run for over 15 years, and I run regularly, 3 to 5 times a week, even on vacations or when traveling. But when I go to running websites or talk to true running enthusiasts, I quickly realize I'm more dedicated and delighted by running than avid over it. I don't run particularly long distances and can't even imagine trying a marathon. My typical runs are between 3 to 5 miles, and I like it that way. I don't compete. Ever. I don't run in groups. I've never even run with one other person. I don't need a companion for incentive or inspiration or competition. I don't need to talk about running. I certainly don't need to talk while running. I just like to run as often, as far, and as fast as I feel like going.

So I'm a dedicated and delighted, non-competitive, long-time, regular runner. I'm also a nerd. I time every run, and I know how far I go and my average pace. I have a Garmin watch that communicates with satellites and uploads data to my computer, so I have charts that show how far I run weekly, monthly, etc... I even know how many miles I run each day of the week and which days tend to be my favorite and least favorite running days. I'm most definitely a nerd about this. I'm a running nerd.

It gets worse. When my pace changes, I try to understand why. For instance, recently and suddenly, I began running faster than I've been going for months. I feel like I should smile, say cool, and go about my business. But that's not what I do. I wonder if it's because I changed shoes or inserts, ran earlier than usual, stretched more before... Since my runs are always limited by how much air I can take in, I think about air quality. Is there less pollen? More humidity? Maybe it's the type of allergens in the air. Or the time of year. Maybe it's because I ran a few days in a higher altitude on a trip, and now that I'm back where there's more oxygen in the air, I can run faster here...

What a nerd, right? This is probably the result of my engineering side combining with my writer side. Engineers love data and reasons and understanding things. Writers are obsessive.

But for whatever reason, take warning, Tucson. There's a nerd on the run among you.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

CANCELLED - Albuquerque book signing for Tango Sunday

--CANCELLED--
I'm sad to announce that due to severe illness in Janet's immediate family, the May 1st book signing in Albuquerque has been CANCELLED. Please send good thoughts to Janet, her husband, and their family. 
--CANCELLED--

I'm making my first trip to Albuquerque since we moved to Tucson over 2 1/2 years ago, and it's for a very good reason. I'm joining Janet K. Brennan at Bookworks to sign copies of Tango Sunday.

This will be fun! I enjoyed living in Albuquerque for over 7 years. I even made it the setting -- along with Chaco Canyon -- for my novel Struck. Now I'm excited to return for a very short visit next week, and I hope some of my Albuquerque friends will come out to Bookworks to say howdy. I'll be reading a segment from my short story, "Final Vision," which is my contribution to Janet Brennan's collection of "tales on the edge."

I've always had good feeling about being the guest author in this collection, and reading all the incredible stories in Tango Sunday made me even happier that I participated. The title Tango Sunday and the sub-title "tales on the edge" are both very appropriate. Each story in the collection dances boldly and gracefully along the border between everyday life and what's just beyond the edge. It's very fun to read!

The signing is at Bookworks in Albuquerque (4022 Rio Grande NW) at 7:00 PM on Wednesday, May 1st. If you're local to Albuquerque, please come see us!

So there was no book signing, but Tango Sunday is definitely worth a look. It's different and fun. CLICK HERE to check it out for yourself.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Standing Man -or- The Saga of My Sore Butt

I'm taking a stand against my office chair and becoming a standing man. I've been reading about standing desks for a couple years, waiting to see if it was a fad or a smart trend. In the meantime, my butt suffered from long hours in the chair, and I struggled from time to time with lower back pain. I tried a few things to alleviate the problem.
  • I tried standing and/or walking around regularly. I read that this was a smart practice for office workers, but I like my work habit of total immersion for long periods. Interrupting my creative flow for the sake of my butt and back wasn't a great fix for me. 
  • I tried taking my laptop to different places to work (couch, outside, kitchen counter,...), but I like working in my office. 
  • I bought a better chair with a better seat design. It didn't help, so I bought a fancy gel cushion for the better chair. My back side continued complaining. 
  • I bought a knee chair and switched back and forth from office chair to knee chair. That actually helped for some time, but I ultimately wheeled the knee chair into the closet because it was a bit awkward and my legs were stiff after getting up from it. 
  • I considered gaining 50 pounds or so, figuring some of that added mass would find its way to my admittedly bony butt, but it didn't seem like a healthy choice. Okay, I really didn't seriously think about that one. :)  
So that's the saga of my sore butt so far. Now on to the next chapter, becoming a standing man. Standing desks can be pricey, but I found a nice looking one online for a very reasonable cost. I assembled it and hung it on the wall yesterday, and I already like using it. It's easy to transition back and forth, especially while my body is getting used to all the standing. I pick up the laptop, turn 90 degrees, and sit at my regular desk. Here's a photo.


I love the gel mat I purchased in anticipation of this change. We have concrete floors, so I figured I'd need some cushioning for the sake of my feet and joints. I'll transition slowly, experiment with the length of time I spend at each desk, and make modifications as needed (I already know I want to add a little stool so I can prop one foot or the other on it from time to time), but I hope to report great success with my workplace addition. So far, I'm quite happy with things as they now stand. hehehe

Monday, April 15, 2013

The "North Patio"

On a completely non-horror, non-writer note, we're almost done transforming the north mess of our back yard into the new and vastly improved "North Patio." We dreamed about doing this because it was ugly and highly visible to us while enjoying the other, more pleasant parts of our yard. We know a good contractor (who I now deem a great contractor), explained what we wanted, and he made it happen in about 3 weeks. Then we got to work moving rocks, planting trees and shrubs and flowers, and generally sprucing up the yard. Now we're in very good shape and so is our back yard. For your viewing pleasure, some before/after pictures.

What we saw vs. what we now see standing by the pool

From wasted space to our new favorite spot to eat meals

Old vs. new view from the hot tub

What a difference!

Still some work to go to finish it off, but looking good

Our artistic addition: "The Face"

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Mist on the highway?

Saw this on Facebook and found it so startling, I decided to post it here (assuming this works). So put down that mug of coffee, read the introduction, and evaluate the mist on the highway for yourselves.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Fascinating or what?

I saw this circulating on Facebook and couldn't resist "sharing" it with my Facebook friends, along with my comment, "I think I have a new role model."

I moved on, but I found myself returning to my Facebook page several times just to look at this guy. I don't know if this picture of a big hairy dude on a pink tasseled bike reflects how he normally gets around on pretty days or if he's a biker with a sense of humor having a bit of fun or if it was staged. Probably staged, but who cares? It's a great shot and a great caption.

My question to you: Would this guy make a fascinating character or what? And if you choose what, please elaborate.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

SpecFicPick Author Spotlight

I'm basking in the warm spotlight over at the speculative fiction webzine SpecFicPick. This is a great blog for readers of speculative fiction (and if you're not sure if you like speculative fiction or know what, exactly, it is, the site even provides a great definition HERE. Now you know!), because it'll help you find the good stuff out there. In short, SpecFicPick is "dedicated to providing quality content for readers of speculative fiction." And now they're featuring me and my novel Dark Knowledge. Yay!

CLICK HERE to find me and Dark Knowledge in the spotlight.


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Squeaky wheels and time machines in the sky

Me on top of the mountain
We're back from the snow skiing trip I mentioned in the previous post, and it was a great time. It was also great timing. We'd made the hotel reservations and purchased discount lift tickets at Snowbowl weeks ago. Obviously, we had no idea what conditions would be like, but we were pleased when it began snowing in Flagstaff the week before our trip. It kept snowing too. I actually began to wonder if we'd be able to get up the roads to the mountain. But the snow ended Monday night, the sun came out Tuesday, the winds stopped blowing mid-morning, and we arrived to enjoy ideal slope conditions and perfect weather around noon. Wednesday was incredible too. By Thursday, the slopes would be getting crusty and skied off, but we'd already left for home, with a stopover in scenic Sedona.

Timing is a funny thing to think about. The timing of this trip was pure luck. "I'd rather be lucky than good" is one of my go to phrases, and this was a good example of why.

I love skiing. I like being bundled up and warm with just a few exposed places on my face feeling the brisk chill. I like feeling my legs work to absorb bumps or to turn me and keep me stable. I'm thrilled when I can let go to gravity and just fly down an empty slope for a while (under full control, of course). I like seeing the snow-flocked pine trees lining the slopes and the incredible views from the mountain tops. I like riding the lifts, catching my breath and anticipating the next run. And I really, REALLY like the sounds.

Jack on the time machine
First, I like the sound of snow under my skies (the soft squeaking of packed powder when I move across it, not the harsh scraping of my edges when I hit an ice patch). I like how quiet it can be, despite how well snow carries sound. Most of all, I like the sound of the lift, especially when there's a squeaky wheel on one of the towers. That squeak-squeak-squeak sound swells as the chair approaches the tower, then fades as we move up the mountain. When it's really quiet except for that sound, for whatever reason, my chairlift turns into a time machine. My mind goes back to all of the times I've listened to that squeak while sitting on a chairlift with a ski buddy, bundled up, happy, sometimes cold, always anticipating the next run down. I've done quite a bit of skiing over the years, so there are a lot of memories for that little sound to trigger. I love it. I notice it every time I ski.

When I get too old to ski, I'm going to bundle up, go to a ski resort, and pay someone to let me ride the time machine (up and then back down again). I think I'll start saving now.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Bloody Valentine Blog Hop

We're on the road this Valentine's Day, so if you're reading this post on Valentine's Day, it means I successfully figured out how to schedule Blogger to publish a post in my absence. Feel free to congratulate me. If things worked out as planned, we've been in Flagstaff, where we snow skied at Snowbowl, and now we're driving back to Tucson or enjoying a long stopover in Sedona.

I set up this advance posting because I'm participating in a Bloody Valentine Blog Hop. That means several authors of the horrific variety are posting Valentine's Day stories on their blogs today, and we're all linked together to make it easy for you to hop from blog to blog to read our offerings. Here's the list of participating blogs.

Love, Romanian Style | plague of dissent | Dean Harrison| A Diamond In The Dark | A Bloody Kind of Lust | Keith Pyeatt: Horror with Heart | The Cult of Me | Bestiary Parlor: The Musings of a Zoologist | Sheila Deeths Blog | Yours in Storytelling | Bertrams Blog | Laughing for a Living Worldbinding | Pagan Spirits | Exile on Peachtree Street | A. F. Stewarts Blog

My offering is a rerun of a flash fiction story I included in my Horror with Heart Newsletter a year ago. If you subscribe to my newsletter and feel like you've already had enough of my story, "The Birthmark," and its multiple endings from last year, please hop on over to another blog.

If you're still here, I hope you enjoy "The Birthmark." There are four endings, so no matter whether you like your Valentine Day stories sweet and happy, dark and disturbing, or even with evil red gnomes in them, there's an ending for you. If you have a favorite, please leave a comment telling me which one. Happy Valentines Day!


The Birthmark

Adele risked her arm to stop the elevator doors from closing when a masculine voice floated in from her apartment lobby, "Hold it, please." The door bucked three times against her arm before receding into the wall.

"Wow," the man said as he entered, "I didn't realize how much I was asking of you." He smiled. He'd been pleasant enough looking before, but his big crooked smile made him handsome in a rugged, friendly way. 

"There's no button," Adele said. She caught the slight movement of his eyes, a subtle shift as he focused on her left cheek. To his credit, he made eye contact again almost immediately. His smile barely faded.

"What's that about a button?" he asked.

"No 'open door' button," she said, trying not to slur and doing a reasonable job. "It's an old elevator."

"Ah." He nodded, looking only at her eyes, not the rough, thickened skin that covered half her face like a red moonscape. "But I love these old buildings," he continued. "They have character." He had to reach close beside Adele to push the button for the fifth floor. She shuffled to the side, dropping her gaze and noticing his other hand held a heart-shaped box of chocolates, wrapped with a red bow.

"Corny, isn't it?" He held the box higher. "What can I say? I'm a romantic on Valentine's Day. If I can't be corny today, then when?"

Adele nodded, her way of smiling. She'd given up on using her lips for the gesture long ago. The birthmark pulled down and paralyzed the left side of her mouth, transforming even the slightest smile into something grotesque. "I'm sure she'll like it," she said.

The elevator opened on the third floor, and Adele crossed the hall to her apartment. She thought the elevator had closed behind her, but when she turned, the man stood framed inside the open doors. He used the hand holding the box to wave when the doors finally slid shut.

Inside her apartment, she shrugged out of her winter coat but left her lab coat on. She worked at a chemical company, where she was currently experimenting with high potency fertilizers. She took a vial of blue liquid from her pocket, placed it carefully on the kitchen table, and went to her bedroom to change into her slippers.

She thought about the man on the elevator, his smile and how kind he seemed. She wondered who on the fifth floor would get the chocolates. Was she pretty? Probably. Was she kind too? Possibly, but Adele had already considered the tenants she'd seen going to the fifth floor over the years. The only single woman of the right age was indeed pretty, but not kind. Adele heard her gasp the first time she entered the elevator with Adele. Ever since, the woman refused to look at her, pretending Adele didn't exist.

That was the worst reaction, really. Maybe people thought they were being kind not to look at her, but Adele would rather be ridiculed or taunted than ignored. At work, a few people spoke to her, but it felt forced. No one invited her to do anything outside of the lab, and no one accepted her invitation the few times she'd been brave enough to offer one.

It made her sad to admit her coworkers were the closest thing she'd ever have to friends. Exchanging brief pleasantries, like with the man in the elevator, was the closest she'd ever come to having a relationship. No one would ever look past her disfigured face and get to know her. No man would bring her candy in a heart-shaped box. She'd wasted years dreaming of a different life, using any kind gesture a male offered to launch an ongoing fantasy, but no more. The real world swallowed the last of her fantasies years ago.

Adele looked in the bathroom mirror. Sometimes she focused only on her eyes. They were beautiful, golden brown and shaped like almonds. The skin around them was smooth, untouched by the birthmark that lurked below her left eye, red and angry. But ignoring everything other than her eyes was just another way to fantasize. Today she took in her full face, the reality of what others saw, how they judged her. She stared at her reflection a long time. Then she returned to the kitchen table. She picked up the vial of blue liquid, removed the stopper, and lifted the vial to the functioning right side of her mouth.

A rap on the door startled her. She froze. Her eyes stung from fumes coming from the vial. Someone knocked on her door a second time, and she imagined the man from the elevator standing in the hall. He'd seen where she lived, so it was possible. The woman on the fifth floor always dated flashier men. She wasn't the type who'd appreciate the simple Valentine gift. Maybe it didn't go well.

Adele pressed the lid back on the vial, slipped it into her lab coat pocket, and answered the door, already visualizing a crooked smile.


********** ENDING "A" **********

No one was there, but a package lay at her feet. "Delivered to me by mistake," a voice down the hall said. Adele's neighbor already stood in front of her own apartment. She offered an awkward wave and disappeared inside.


Adele examined the package. It was a book she'd forgotten she ordered. She took off her lab coat and hung in the closet. No vial for her tonight. The fact that she'd hoped meant she wasn't ready. She'd give reality another chance to change.

She unwrapped the book. The cover looked cheap and cheesier than chocolates in a heart-shaped box on Valentines Day, but she'd read good reviews. Who was she to judge a book by its cover?


********** ENDING "B" **********

The smile wasn't where she expected it; it was three feet lower, on the face of what appeared to be a red gnome with pointy teeth. He reeked of sulfur.

"I can fix that for you, disfigured mortal," he said in a gravely voice. He lifted something that looked like a dirty pink chunk of Styrofoam. "Do you like my birthmark eraser? If you can afford it, I'll use it to scrub your face clean in seconds." He held out his other hand, displaying a picture of Adele without the birthmark. She wore a beautiful smile.

"How much?" Adele asked.

The red gnome's teeth glistened with moisture. "Nothing down, but we'll need something when you're done living, years and years and years from now." He seemed to gauge her hesitation. "You were about to cash out before tasting life. I'm offering you a bigger bite than you ever imagined." He mimicked taking a bite out of something with his horrible teeth and then made a chuckling noise that sounded like rocks in a garbage disposal. "What do you say?"

Adele focused on the picture, on her smile. She felt herself nodding.

"Good enough," the gnome said. He reached toward her face with the pink eraser. She didn't like the way he smiled. 


********** ENDING "C" **********

No one stood outside her door, but she caught movement across the hall. The elevator doors had just closed. At her feet rested a familiar box, shaped like a heart and wrapped in a red ribbon. A slip of paper was tucked under the ribbon. It read: "Thanks for risking your arm for me," and it was signed, "Jim." He'd written his phone number below his name.


********** ENDING "D" **********

He stood there, just as she imagined. Well, almost. Through his chest, she could make out the elevators his body should have blocked from sight. He offered her the heart-shaped box. When she took it, the pink color faded. The cardboard was dusty and warped with age, and the ribbon was frayed and brittle.

"I had to come back and find you," he said, "once I realized we're alike." He smiled, but this time it wasn't charming. His smile only looked crooked because part of his right cheek was missing. His face wasn't rugged, it was rotting. "I saw in you what I needed to see in myself." He reached up and cupped Adele's birthmark before she could back away from his touch.

"My birthmark?" she asked.

He pinched together what remained of his lips and slowly shook his head. "You didn't have that in life. That's no birthmark. That's your deathmark. It's time to go. Time for us both to go."

Just like that, Adele understood. She felt as if an orchestra had been playing nonstop, but she couldn't hear it until now. "What happened to you?" she asked.

"Jealous ex-husband with a baseball bat. Up on the fifth floor, one Valentines Day. You?"

Adele reached into her pocket and removed the vial. The glass was cloudy with age and dust, and it was empty expect for traces of blue residue stuck to the bottom. "Poison."

Monday, February 11, 2013

Rebel writer

I have this really cool, intriguingly dark novel started. It's full of passion, seduction, addiction, greed, a strange alternate world, and even some romance. I call the work in progress Sirens of Sayhurn. I've worked on it, abandoned it, plotted and re-plotted it half to death, redrawn the characters, changed the main threat, returned to writing it, abandoned it again... At one point I trashed 30,000 words I'd struggled to write because the characters bored me, and I started all over again. Now it's better. MUCH better. I love the characters and what they're doing and what they're up against. I love the darkness and the emotion and the motivations.

But...I still resist writing it. ARG!

Tired of trying to force myself to write on this novel, I finally decided to push the entire project aside, at least for now. No more worrying over this thing. I brainstormed new novels. I've got a couple pretty good ideas to consider.

But...like they do inside the novel, the Sirens of Sayhurn sang seductively to me, trying to lure me back to their novel. I resisted. They sang more seductively. I resisted. Now they're bothering my sleep, causing me to lapse into deep thoughts about the novel throughout the day. I think I'm going to give in.

Eureka! Instead of trying to force myself to write, I think I need to try to force myself not to. Then I'll be sure to write. I hope.

I'm such a rebel writer, even if the person I'm rebelling against is myself.

Score: Sirens 1, Me 0

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Doing the Tango

Casa de Snapdragon's newest release is now available on Amazon, and I feel like dancing...the tango.

Tango Sunday is a collection of "tales on the edge," by Janet Brennan, and there's a story from me in there too. I'll have more to say about Tango Sunday in an upcoming newsletter, but a new release is too exciting to keep to myself, so I had to blog about it NOW. 

You can learn more about this collection and Janet Brennan or purchase this book through Casa de Snapdragon's website by clicking here or on the cover above. Casa de Snapdragon's webpage already has other helpful purchase links too.

If you want to purchase from Amazon (US), click here. It's also already available on Amazon Canada and in Europe. More to come...

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Bookmans Book Signing this Saturday

I'll be selling signed copies of Struck and Dark Knowledge this Saturday, January 19th, from noon to 2 PM at the Speedway Bookmans in Tucson. That's at 6230 E. Speedway Blvd. near Wilmot, beside Beyond Bread (yum). I'm part of an Authors Fair. I don't know how many other authors will be there, but look for my posters shown below, and I'll be close by. Come say howdy before the irresistible pull from Beyond Bread lures you next door for lunch or desert.



Hope to see you there!
Speedway & Wilmot, Tucson
Saturday, January 19th
Noon until 2 PM

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A carefree vacation

Me and a little piece of the very big ship




We went cruising again, this time to the West Caribbean out of Galveston. We stopped in Cozumel, Mexico; Roatan, Honduras; and Belize City, Belize. What fun! And it was a cruise, so...What food!








Cozumel was warm and beautiful. It was also a bit rainy. We didn't care. We boarded a little submarine (my first!) and headed underwater to where fish frolic and rain doesn't matter.
Colors get funky deep under the water, but that's us.
We went more than 100' deep (see red gauge).


We hiked in Roatan, and it was beautiful. It rained on us several times. We didn't care. It was warm and always cleared up after a few minutes. It was their rainy season, after all, and you could definitely tell by the trails. They were very muddy. We didn't care. Mud washes off, and they gave us a big stick to help in the slick spots. 
Me and my big stick.
Jack on the beach where we relaxed after the hike.


We went horseback riding in Belize. Weather was beautiful, and we saw geckos and iguanas and even a monkey. The skies were clear but the ground was incredibly wet and muddy. We didn't care. The horses had to deal with it, and they didn't seem to mind. What splattered on us washed right off. Mud's good that way. 
Jack on Coconut.
Me on Trek.


We were fogged in when we returned to Galveston, and we couldn't dock and get off the ship. We didn't care. They fed and entertained us.

By the time we made it to the airport, we'd missed all the flights home. We didn't care. We extended the vacation a night and flew home the next day.

Obviously, we left our cares behind for this vacation. It was great fun, but it's over now. We don't care. It's always good to get home.