- In an Absent Dream – Seanan McGuire
- If I were an Evil Overlord – ed. Martin Greenberg & Russell Davis
Haunted St. Louis – Troy Taylor
Free Prize Inside – Seth Godin
The Madness of Prince Hamlet – Robert M. Youngson
Packing for Mars – Mary Roach
The Selfish Gene – Richard Dawkins
Spook – Mary Roach
Candy Girl – Diablo Cody
Cut & Run – Madeleine Urban & Abigail Roux
Snowball in Hell – Josh Lanyon
Who Cooked the Last Supper – Rosalind Miles
The canary yellow scarf wrapped around the front gate seemed excessively perky. Joel scowled at it. “Don’t give me that,” he told the fluttering silk sharply. It didn’t seem to make a difference.
Joel limped up the front step. Cane down, twist hip, lift foot, stand, cane up. He made slow progress to the front door. Some wise-acre had put in a ramp that ran up the side of the house to the back door. Cane down, twist hip, lift foot, careful of the bottom of the ramp, stand, cane up. He ascended the Trex ramp past the profusion of red and purple flowers in the planters on the left side. He gripped the silver hand-rail until his fingers turned white as a wave of pain shot up his back.
After what felt like an hour, he’d made it to the back door. The six little panes of glass were decorated with little US flags and stars. Left of the door hung a mother’s flag with one gold star and two blue stars. Joel’s heart clenched a little. He touched the gold flag. “I’m gonna miss you, little sister,” he murmured.
He knocked on the back door. Time was he would have assumed that it was open, but life was very different from when he’d been a kid. The door opened slowly. The woman behind it froze. “Joel?” she whispered.
He nodded. “Hello, Mama.”
Suddenly, she was hugging him tightly. Maybe that silly yellow scarf was right. Maybe it was a good day.
Another night, another alley. Princess Raspberry twisted her neck from side to side to relieve the pressure there. She stretched her arms and then settled down to wait. It wouldn’t be long before the usual prostitutes were walking the streets. Then, the real scum would follow. Not the men just looking for a night on the town. She didn’t give a damn about them.
No, she was waiting for the little fish of a drug dealer that would lead her up the chain. She’d been watching him carefully for almost a month now. He was going to be the thread that helped her unravel at least some of the tapestry of stupidity she saw every night. The first few prostitutes sauntered by. The oldest one, a ravaged addict gave her a wide-eyed stare, but kept walking. As long as she wasn’t horning in on anyone’s territory they were content to ignore her comings and goings.
Almost exactly twenty minutes later the wannabe gangsta with his bandana and velour jacket slunk by. He was still young, maybe twenty at the outside. He was a small fry, but he had a group of about six runners working for him now. Princess Raspberry stayed calm and waited for him to get about a block away. She knew where he was headed. She jumped up and accessed the fire escape that took her to the bank of roofs that lead toward his meeting spot. The buildings were jammed up against one another. She’d only had to set up a bridge on one of them. Hopefully, no one had taken it down overnight. She ghosted along the rooflines, out of sight of most of the security cameras and above the range of the streetlights.
The dealer, Ricky, kept his same swaggering pace. He was armed with a gun and a knife. He might even have more on him. But he wasn’t a trained fighter and he had a tendency to get too close with his weapons. She’d watched his tough-guy act with his runners. He’d be close to killing one of them and she’d nearly intervened, but she’d seen worse. Ricky had terrible gun control and never kept his grip steady. He liked the look of the turned weapon which meant his wrist was always canted when he had it out.
He swaggered his way past the townhouse she expected him to be going to. Raspberry’s attention sharpened. Her heart began to beat a bit faster. She scanned her surroundings. There were no signs of security. She stayed carefully in the shadows of the roofs as she moved from one to the next. There he was, turning into the last townhouse on the block. Shit, they owned more than one now. She only had enough equipment to properly watch one. He knocked on the door and waited, body jiggling with excitement. The door opened, there was a sharp pop, and he slumped to the ground. She focussed her binoculars on the scene and took as many shots of the men who stepped out to drag the body in as possible. Damn. Damn. and Double Damn. She had to find a new way into the organization.
What in the heck is #MilWordy? It’s a challenge / goal of writing One Million Words in the next year.
It kicks off September 1st. I’m committing to it. Or committing to being committed.
Below is Kate Cavanaugh to explain more. (Not me! To my friend group she’d be Other-Other-Kate.) If you’re interested in writing and writing challenges and writing styles and writing habits, I highly recommend her channel. She’s very open about her process/progress and everything else.
On the plus side — all words count: fiction, non-fiction, blogs, articles, editing words, non-publishable, publishable. All of it. For me it averages out to about 2800 words per day. That’s about 2 hours of work a day. Some days will be a little more, some a little less, but Nano should be a breeze this year. LOL.
Wish me focus and determination and grit.
And hey, maybe you want to give it a shot too. What’s the worst that could happen? You end up with a few hundred thousand words you wouldn’t have written before. This is a shoot for the stars, land on the moon sort of deal.
You know you want to.
Angela shredded a piece of grass absently. The little strips of green fell haphazardly onto her stomach. The grass was cool, but not damp. The sky was a deep blue that didn’t seem real. Little puffy clouds drifted along the air currents creating strange creatures in the air. She plucked another piece and continued to stare up at the drifting clouds.
“Earth to Angela. Earth to Angela. Come in, Angela.” Her best friend made her best attempt at a megaphone sound.
Angela flipped her the bird. “Stop trying to be productive and look up at the clouds.”
“You are the worst partner for building a garden ever. You know that right?” Tara had dirt streaked across her face. Her hair was held back by a bandana as well as her braid. Her work-gloves were thick, sturdy things caked with topsoil and peat moss.
“I’ll get my part done. But it’s just too pretty to spend the whole day bent over glaring at soil mixes. Lay down and relax for a minute.”
Tara bit her lip. She glanced back at the shovel and plants. “Fine. But only for a few minutes.”
Tara laid down gingerly. She put her feet flat on the ground so that her knees were bent. She groaned. “My back is not happy.”
Angela just laughed. They drifted into companionable silence. Angela grinned as a soft snore escaped from Tara’s lips. Now this was a proper spring day. She turned onto her side to join her best friend in a well-deserved nap.
Flour streaked the walls, the cabinets, the counters, and even the light fixtures. Milk had dribbled off the edge of the counter and formed a puddle between the counter and the fridge. Three broken eggs lay helplessly in the bottom of a glass bowl that was overturned by the back door. Two large carving knives were imbedded in that same door. A third was in the sink dripping blood onto the ceramic. A streak of blood ran from the front of the kitchen to the basement door.
“What the Hell? Rebecca?” her husband called out. Neil stood just outside the kitchen. His suit was rumpled from a day of meetings. His good shoes were in the closet and he was only wearing sock-slippers. There was no way he was wading into that mess if she didn’t need him to.
“Call for pizza!” she yelled up the basement stairs. “And get a two liter of Coke too.”
“Right.” He retreated to the den to call their favorite shop. Chore done, money set by the door, he slipped on his cleaning clothes. He got the cobweb broom from the closet and started on the fixtures first. He’d start at the top and hope that. The whir of the grinder downstairs made him wince. He needed to replace that with something quieter. The flour ended up in his hair and all over his clothes.
The pizza delivery man looked at him with a studiously blank face. “Kitchen emergency?” He held up the box. “One large pepperoni and black olive and two two-liters of Coke.”
Neil cracked up. “You could say that. Here.”
“Thanks. Have a good night.” The delivery man threw a wave behind himself as he went back to his car. Neil set the pizza in the small dining room. It was the only safe place for it until the vacuum came out to tame the flour.
“Was that the food?” Rebecca’s voice floated up from downstairs.
“Yes,” he called back.
“Can you tape over the broken back window?”
“Sure.” He hadn’t even noticed the broken pane in the back door. Well, hopefully, no one had heard that. He continued to clean up until he heard the thump of his wife’s feet on the stairs. She was obviously tired. Her apron was a mess of blood and flour. “Go wash up.”
She grimaced. “I’ll just take a couple slices down with me. This one’s taking longer than usual. I think we burned out the motor.”
“I’ll get a replacement this weekend.” He kissed her cheek in greeting. “Long day?”
“The longest. Son-of-a-biscuit broke in through the back door. He thought he’d get me.” She lifted her chin. “There’s a reason I’m the best at this game. We’ll have sausage for the rest of the year at this rate.”
“And a few pot-pies, and a roast or two?”
She smiled back. “Yes, indeed. I was trying to make the batter when he broke in. Thanks for cleaning up.”
“I’ll go get your pizza.” Life married to the best killer in the world was full of culinary adventures. “Oh, did I send you that sage meatloaf recipe?”
“Got it in my inbox this morning. Someone was supposed to be working, not trolling the Food Network for ideas.”
“I had a boring, boring day. But I convinced my boss that I could take vacation next month to join you in Russia. Just let me know what day to buy the tickets for.”
She threw her arms around him and hugged him tightly. “And you’ll finally get to kiss me in front of the Kremlin.”
“James Bond dreams die hard,” he told her seriously. He dipped her into a kiss. “Go on. I’ll bring it down.”
“Love you too.” They brushed noses and then Rebecca was off to the basement kitchen.
The sand was still wet when Sam formed the bowl-like depression with her hands. She used a stick to draw the circle around her, as though it would protect her from the photographers that she could see lounging against the rocks. The tide was going out and there were crabs scrabbling in the early moonlight.
She poured the white wine into the bowl she’d created and sat on the beach. She drew her knees up to her chin and sat watching the moonlight play along the tips of the water. It was quiet here. There were no planes flying overhead, no cars close enough to the beach to be heard. The sea-birds had retired for the night. The people had abandoned the space.
She closed her eyes in relief. “Oh, Mother,” she murmured – half to the moon, half to the water. “This gift is too much for me to bear.”
Her hair was pulled back in a sensible braid and the stone tiara that she’d received in the deep forest rested on the top of her head. She couldn’t lose if she tried. It always reappeared on the wardrobe when she was ready to do her hair. She’d tried leaving it in her backpack, but it appeared in her pocket. She wasn’t that thick.
This morning had been one of the better ones. She and Mom had managed to hide away at a small apartment near the beach. It had a gate and a security system which was more than she could say for their home.
Sam buried her face against her drawn up knees. The tears that streamed down her face were from relief. There hadn’t been a single sick child on her doorstep this morning. In fact, there had only been one reporter within range of the door. She didn’t recognize the writer, but she knew the photographer with him. It was Partridge. Paul Emery Partridge. Last time she’d seen him, he’d been thirty years younger, with more hair and fewer wrinkles. She’d been looking forward to the date too.
She sniffled into the soft cotton of her pants. She didn’t have her camera with her tonight. It was just as well. She couldn’t see through the tears to take anything approaching a good picture. There was a crunch of rocks and she lifted her head. The feather that was tied into her hair tickled her behind her ear. Paul stopped at the edge of her circle. He sat down carefully. He held the camera up for her inspection.
“You’ve been using that one a long time. Do they actually still allow you to get away with putting in prints? All the bastards I’ve been submitting to want digital.” She scrubbed away some tears with the side of her hand.
Paul snorted. “I scan them in. And I use a digital for most things. But moonlight and you? There was no way that I wasn’t going to use film.” His smile quirked up. “I waited for almost a year,” he said quietly. “It took me that long to find out you weren’t going to call.”
“No my choice,” Sam said. She blinked rapidly. No more tears tonight, she told herself. “We could have been a great team.”
Paul shook his head. “Or we would have killed each other within six months.”
“Or that.” They were quiet, letting the sounds of the ocean and the slight breeze fill the space between them. “You want pictures. For who?”
“That’s my son. Goes by his mother’s last name though. James O’Rourke.”
“You and Twyla?”
“Me and Twyla.” He smiled fully then. “She put up with me moping about you for years. Jamie just wants to know what was so important about you. I don’t think I can explain it.”
Sam considered breaking the circle. It wasn’t as though she’d put a lot of power into the ceremony, but she still felt – not obligated exactly – impelled to finish it. That meant staying until the moon was directly overhead. A fresh beginning with Paul. “Friends,” she said finally. “We were friends and we might have been more, but that was a long time ago for you. And with everything that’s happened? Somehow, I don’t think you’re planning to try anything with me.”
“I didn’t actually marry Twyla.”
“So? You did have a child with her. Are you still together?”
“We are. It’s been twenty-five years now. Jamie’s twenty-six.”
“Did you pitch the article to someone? Did you tell them that we’d been friends? Or did you just try to get by on the photo-journalist angle.”
Paul laughed. It was a rolling sound of genuine amusement. “I’d forgotten how blunt you really are. This public face you’ve developed is so different.”
“I haven’t developed anything. It’s the news. It’s so different. There’s so many more people talking and I have no idea where to start.”
He bit his lip. “I’ll get you the name of a reputable PR firm. Maybe you can get someone to look out for you.”
“Right. I’m broke, Pauley. I’m dead broke. I’ve been trying to sell my photography, but people are treating them like holy relics, not like prints from a forest.” She shook her head. “But tell him to come on over. I won’t bite. I won’t even get too mad about it. At least you’re not bringing him to me dying from leukemia.” She took a shaky breath. “At least I hope you aren’t.”
“No. He’s fine. I’m fine. Twyla’s fine.” He waved his son over. The younger man jogged across the sand. His father stopped him before he tried to reach into the circle. “Jamie, that is her demarkation zone, okay. Stay on this side of it.”
James nodded. “Nice to actually meet you, Ms. King.”
“Call me Sam or Sammy.” She looked the young man up and down. They were the same age. At least, that’s what it felt like to her. It was just that their lives were so different. “Your dad tells me we’re the same age. That is just plain weird. How long have you been a journalist?”
James looked more like Twyla than Paul. His hair had tight blond curls but there was a dusky tone to his skin that indicated that he tanned better than an O’Rourke. The nose was Twyla’s though. The ears were pure Paul – sticking out a little from the sides of James’ head like Prince Charles. At least Charles was still alive. “I’ve been working on papers since high school. I’ve been freelancing for a couple years now. I started when I was still in college.”
She smiled. A happy story. No one dead or dying in the family. It was such a relief. Paul’s hands lifted automatically to take the shot and she held still for him. She wasn’t sure what someone would see. Maybe the moonlight on half or her face. Or maybe just her teeth glinting. This was one interview that wasn’t going to destroy her calm. “Thank you, Mother,” she murmured.
When she looked back at the offering bowl, the wine was gone.