As the sun rises on 2020, it’s time to set goals

A new year approaches: 2020, the year of the double crit, and it’s time to set some goals and make some plans. ūüôā

My primary, short-term goals are more of a “to-do” list than actual goals. I have things piled up from this year that will need to be taken care of before I can take on new things. Here’s my list of “things that are left over from 2019 that I have to finish before the end of February 2020“:

-Write, edit, polish, submit short story to the anthology I’ve joined

-Complete the two Kingdom scrolls I’ve been assigned to do (SCA project)

-Finish my Valkyrie hood so I can fight in it at Estrella (SCA project)

-Full construction and embroidery on a commissioned Viking hood, hopefully before Estrella (SCA project)

-Full construction and embroidery on a Hedeby bag for my husband (SCA project)

-Embroidery commission for some friends (SCA project)

^^ These are things that have to be done. I have set a firm deadline for them, so I’ve gotta follow through.

Then there are some less-deadliney things. These are more the goals/plans that I’m making for the upcoming year:

-FINISH FIRST DRAFT ON BOOK 3

-Book 2 revisions/marketing/promotion (after back from beta readers–this will have a deadline because, well, publishing lol)

-Two current novellas-in-progress

-Potentially three more novellas (a trilogy)

-Teach more SCA arts classes

-Learn more SCA/medieval arts

-Get back into rapier fighting (now that I’ve lost enough weight that I feel comfortable fighting again–when I’m off restrictions, that is)

-Recertification for work

-Take better care of my mental health (and start asserting myself in those times where I normally back down and give in)

-Read more books

-Continue to build my social media presence as an author and build my brand

-Do more SCA (and mundane) sewing/embroidery/arts for myself and my husband

-Continue with my keto diet and weight loss, adding exercise as tolerated (once I’m off restrictions from my podiatrist)

-Work more with my co-author on our horror novel to get the first draft of that finished and in the editing process

This is by no means a comprehensive list, because, frankly, I haven’t thought about it that much yet. I’ve got so many things in the first list to get finished that I haven’t activated my “2020 vision.” Lol

But wait! 2020 isn’t just the start of a new year–it’s the start of a new decade. So, then, I’ve got 10 years’ worth of goals to devise. Let’s see what I can come up with here:

-Complete the 5-book ABNORMAL series and start on the ABNORMAL LINEAGE spin-off series

-Continue to take advantage of writing opportunities to participate in box sets/anthologies and grow as an author

-Expand body of written works to include more genres/standalones/etc

-Find an effective way to save money for attending conventions/book signings as an author–and then attend more signings and conventions ūüėČ

-Strive to achieve Laurelhood before 2030 (which is, oddly enough, both within my ability to achieve and totally beyond my control haha)

-Work on overcoming (or at least adapting to) my social anxiety to where I can function better at social events, like conventions or SCA events

-Continue building an author network

-Learn more about generating graphics for book covers, book marketing, and other things

-Maintain the weight I’ve lost, get to a healthy weight, and try to find an exercise plan that works for my lifestyle

-Learn how to pattern more complex clothing (Viking I can do, but that’s too easy–I want to learn the concepts behind patterning that get me from measurements to finished garment without necessarily needing a manufactured pattern)

-Accept my grey hairs wholeheartedly

-Find a better balance between work/home/SCA/writing that encompasses all the things I need to do as well as all the things I want to do as well as omitting the things I don’t want to do lol

-Take more vacations

-Make my health a higher priority, in as much as it comes to calling out when I’m sick and not trying to “soldier on,” taking time off when it’s physically or mentally needed, and recognizing when I’m taking on too many projects for my mind and body to handle

It’s a tall order, but these are my goals for the next two months, the next year, and the next ten years. Note that I’m calling them “goals” instead of “resolutions.” I make the distinction because I’m not “resolving” to change things, but rather setting what I hope are realistic goals that will improve my writing career, further my SCA learning/experience, and keep me mentally sound through it all.

2020 is just another year, but at the same time it’s not. As long as I make an effort to do the things I want to do in the coming year/decade, 2020 is whatever I make of it. ūüôā

2020 Vision

It’s going to be a year of puns and bad dad jokes. You might ask why…Well, I happen to be lucky enough to have a day job at an eye clinic–and it’s fixing to be 2020 all year long.

What’s in store for me for 2020? Let’s see…. Fingers crossed that Book 3 finally starts to behave and I can get it finished. Re-release of WHISPERS OF DEATH, complete with new cover design and revision of the inside text. *Hopefully* completion and release of ESCAPE THE LIGHT (ABNORMAL Book 2). Release of the WICKED SOULS box set in September. Two more box sets. Wait…three. Three more. Which means three more stories to write/edit/etc. And one of those stories may or may not lead in to a novella trilogy. So there’s that on the writing front.

Then, in SCA news, there’s Twelfth Night, which my husband is autocratting and which I have to make 2 undergarments and eleventy thousand buttons for. There will be Estrella War, which I hope to have at least one more outfit made for (and which I’ll finally be able to fight again for!). There are still commissions from 2019 begging to be completed…and who knows what new commissions will come in?

Work-wise (speaking of that eye clinic day job)….that remains to be seen. (Ha-ha) It’s not bad-bad, but it’s becoming…stagnant. That’s a good word for it, I guess. There’s no growth and no hope for improvement, from where I stand, but there’s also no way out, so I guess I’ll be there for the foreseeable future.

I’ve started making lists to keep track of what I need to do for writing and SCA. I’m starting to get helium hand when it comes to agreeing to do shit, and it’s making it hard to get the shit I already have to do done. Let’s hope that 2020 brings better time management, along with the ability to realize that I need to make time for both writing and SCA and that I need to take each into consideration when making agreements for the other. Just because I tend to compartmentalize does not mean my time will compartmentalize itself accordingly and give me the sections of time I need to do all the things.

My goals for 2020? I guess I can lay those out in a neat little list here. Give myself something to look back on and remind myself of:

-Finish Book 3's draft!!!
-Finish edits/revisions on ESCAPE THE LIGHT and WITCHING HOUR: THE STROKE OF THREE
-Draft/edit/revise CONJURING ASYLUM before the Feb 1 deadline
-Finish cotehardie buttons and undergarments (in progress)
-Finish revising WHISPERS OF DEATH and rerelease
-Edit/revise SKIN DEEP
-Draft/edit/revise TO MELT A FROZEN HEART
-Make another apron dress and underdress
-Pare down commission list and complete current commissions before Estrella War, then start getting smart about taking on more
-Teach a couple of classes (in the SCA--not in writing lol)
-INSERT OTHER GOALS AS THEY PRESENT THEMSELVES

It’s a deceptively accomplishable list. I say deceptively because there will inevitably be new opportunities and new commissions to take on. Estrella is only in February, and new writing opportunities are popping up left and right lately. That last goal, the one bold printed in all caps, is the kicker. I don’t yet know what new goals/deadlines will present themselves.

After all, I don’t exactly have 2020 vision.

Branching out

Okay, so I’ve done poetry, flash fiction, short stories, novels, and now novellas–so now what?

Well, I guess I’ll work on photo edits and graphics. Oh, and marketing (still), and content generation, and and and…

There’s a lot more to being a writer than just writing the things. I have to know what to do with the things once I’ve written them, and I guess know how to make the things pretty, and who to show the things to, and so forth and so on.

I am by no means a master. Mistress. Whatever. Point being, I still have a lot to learn, but I am willing to learn and grow and expand my wheelhouse.

Despite my growing repertoire, I’m still–now and forever, it seems–stuck on Book 3. I had been hoping that diverting myself to the two novellas would give my old noggin a rest and let me regroup, but sadly that’s not much the case. I still get stuck, and I still don’t quite know where I’m going with this any more than I did when I set it aside.

There’s some good news to it, though; I have a mockup of a cover design for one of the novellas. Observe what some stock photos and photo editing apps can do:

Will that be the final design? I don’t know, but I like what I have so far, and I’m kind of proud of getting there on my own.

I guess I’ve procrastinated enough, though. Book 3 is still waiting for me to add some words and get the story moving. Onward and upward–in word count, that is.

Pro-draft-inating

It’s the weekend. I’m home alone until Sunday afternoon, so I have all the time in the world–or at least thirty-six hours of it–to get shit done.

So why am I rooted to the couch, laptop in hand, working on a rough draft, when I could be sewing, doing laundry, or cleaning up–all the things I don’t have time for during the week?

I guess I’m just prodraftinating. It’s a thing now, I’ve decided. Basically, I’m avoiding all the work I need to do by working on the rough draft of my romance WIP. I’m at 12,600 words out of a minimum 15,000, and the story’s close to wrapping up, but I’m still far from “done.” My story has trapped me, and I have to see it through.

I’m loving my new characters, and it’s nice to take a break from the Abnormalverse (as I’ve dubbed it) for a contemporary story. No magic, no supernatural happenings, so evolutionary powers, no politics–just a story about a girl and a guy and a little happily ever after.

Once it’s drafted, though, I’ll have to dive back into the Abnormalverse for a couple of WIPs: my current 3rd installment of the primary Abnormal series, plus a new WIP that fell into my lap yesterday that takes place in the Abnormalverse but only features a cameo of my MCs from Abnormal.

The writing has taken a sudden leap in volume and prolificity (which, spell check says, is not a word, but I’m already making up words today so whatever). I’ve gone from working on one piece exclusively, with maybe a couple short stories or poems sprinkled between primary writing sessions, to having–let’s see–three active works-in-progress. It’s kind of cool. I feel like a “real” author. Lol

I do have to do some “real” work today, though; my co-host and I have two interviews to record for our podcast, so I’ll have to stop the writing for those at least. What I’ll do after is up in the air, because that just might be the pause button I need to get up and to other things. But those are almost six hours away, so maybe I’ll finish my draft first. Who knows. Ideally, I’d like to finish the first draft within my word count limit, but I might have to go back and revise to fill it in more.

My newest project should be interesting, and even though I’m toiling away at the contemporary romance story, the back of my mind is plotting and devising a strategy for this new WIP. I’m hoping I don’t completely stall out on the 3rd Abnormal book while all this other stuff is going on, but I was needing a break from it anyway. Maybe these other Abnormalverse stories will spark some new ideas for the primary Abnormal story line. Maybe. Who knows.

I guess I’m off to finish my draft now. My characters are standing next to me, arms crossed over their chests, tapping their feet as they wait for me to hurry the fuck up.

Y’all just calm the fuck down. I’m getting to you–just be patient. ūüėČ

Hell to Pay

Story prompt time! I was given this prompt by fellow author Angelique Jordonna: “You’re looking to unleash hell on earth; how do you bring this about? What are you going to do to summon those evil spirits, hell hounds, Satan….whatever?”

That’s it. I’m done. Done with this life, done with the bullshit, done with humanity.

Don’t get me wrong. I tried to “live my best life” or whatever. I tried to keep my chin up and all that. But people suck regardless of what you do, and I’m just over it.

It took me forever to find a solution to life and all its misery. I mean, even though I’m fed up, I still want to make my mark. And boy howdy, it’s one helluva mark. Get it? Hell of a mark?

Fine. Don’t laugh. Keep screaming in agony. This is why I did it: no one appreciates a good pun.

When I told my friends what I had planned, they all just kind of scoffed and dismissed me. Went back to their iPhones and smart watches. Ignored me. They fucking earned this, I tell you.

I know you probably don’t appreciate the effort I went into, seeing as how you’re burning in eternal hellfire and all. But trust me, it was a feat in itself, bringing Hell to reality. No one thought I could do it. “Satan’s not real,” they said. “Hell is just a construct of The Man to keep the sheep in line,” they said. “You’ve lost it if you think you can summon an actual demon,” they said. Well, fuck them. I showed all of them.

I have the Internet to thank for my success, really. Just about any resource you need, it’s there. It might take some searching, some really creative keywords, but yeah. You wanna summon demons? Raise Hell? Meet Satan and all his pals? You can do it. Well, you could have….I kinda beat you to it.

How did I get Satan himself to come party with me for this end-of-days event? Simple: I emailed him. What did you think it would take? A virgin sacrifice? Complicated ritual? Chanting in Aramaic? Please. It’s the twenty-first century. Satan keeps up with the times.

Satan’s not really that bad of a dude, to be honest. I mean, you might think he is, but I think he’s pretty cool. The guy has some cool torture ideas. Like, beyond Biblical. I’m talking some of the sickest, most depraved shit I’ve ever heard of. Horror-movie-on-steroids type torture. I suppose it’s not as cool to experience it firsthand, but watching it is pretty neat. Totally sitting here next to Satan with my beer and popcorn, fist-bumping him when someone who pissed me off starts to scream.

I bet you’re wondering what kind of deal I made with Satan to get the ball rolling on this. Turns out he wanted this too. His hands were just tied by holy legal shit. I guess he can’t raise literal Hell without a specific request by a mortal. Once that’s been made though, he’s a free bird. Hellfire, demonic possession, torture–all it needed was my simple “Hey, dude, can we just end life as we know it? I’m kind of cheesed at all these people, and I’d like to see them burn.”

Yep, that was it. It was all me. This hellscape is courtesy of my temper.

I pet the closest head of Cerberus, who’s lying next to my throne. I guess freeing Satan from his constraints has its perks. No torture for me, and I get a bonus comfy seat. Anyway, Cerberus is chewing on someone’s thigh bone, wagging his tail. He’s fluffier than I pictured when I thought of “demonic hellhound.” I think the bone used to belong to that guy who made fun of me in junior high.

“This is nice,” I say to Satan. “The fires are warm, and the screams are relaxing.”

“Yep,” he says. “No one ever thinks about that. They just think about ‘peace’ and ‘harmony’ and ‘being a good person.’ Bunch of crap, if you ask me.”

I nod and take a swig.

Best email I ever sent.

To Sleep… Perchance to Dream

I’m not quite sure what woke me. I don’t recall hearing anything unusual, but it’s certainly not normal for me to wake in the middle of the night like this.

I stop and listen, my eyes fixed on the ceiling. The sounds all seem normal. The shadows all seem normal… except….

I roll out of bed to see a single, menacing eye staring at me through my window. I try to scream, but a voice that is not my own comes out instead and says, “The pact is sealed.”

Pact? What pact? And who said that? I want to ask the eye who it is, who spoke for me, what’s going on, but I can’t move.

“Excellent, Kiyyah. You have done well.” The giant red eye bobs with its speech, so I can only assume it’s attached to a head of some sort, though from the glowing veins, the black sclera, and the scaly lids I’m not certain what kind of head it belongs to, or if I even want to know.

My body bends at the waist, bowing deep, and it’s then that I notice blood dripping to the floor from my clenched fists. Dark red rivulets ooze down my hot pink sweatpants, staining the leopard print slippers on my feet.

“Is there anything else you require of me, my master?” It’s my mouth moving again, but the words still aren’t mine.

“Just one final thing,” the eye says, and the corners of its lids crinkle a little. Is it… smiling?

I’m not prepared for the entity that was inhabiting me to be wrenched out. I’m not prepared for any of this, but the slow, agonizing ripping sensation is something I can’t much describe, let alone prepare for. Bloody hands aside, my body remains intact, but the scream that wouldn’t come finally finds my lips and fills the room.

A shriveled old woman falls from my body, almost like she’d been living inside and gotten evicted. Foam bubbles from her mouth as she writhes in agony, her screams joining my own for a scant few seconds before she falls still.

My second act back in control of my body, once I’ve screamed my throat raw, is to heave up the remainder of my dinner. The dead old lady doesn’t smell any more appealing than she looks, and I can’t take the stench.

The giant eye blinks a slow, eerie blink before it speaks again. “Hmm. It appears Kiyyah didn’t check your constitution as thoroughly as she should have.” A low rumble sounds, and it takes me a second to realize that the eye is laughing. “Shall I bring her back and punish her properly?”

I wipe the back of my bloody hand across my mouth to clean off the vomit. “N-no…I think she learned her lesson.”

“And what about you, child? What lesson have you learned this night?”

I look at my hands, still bleeding from deep, jagged cuts, and at Kiyyah’s still form. I’m still not sure what’s going on, I’m not even sure this is real, but I somehow know that whatever I’ve gotten into, there’s no getting out. I clear my throat, straighten my back, and look my new master in the eye.

“I live to serve, Master.”

Train of Thought

Catherine sighed as she looked out the window, watching the trees speed by, a broken film reel that would never stop flipping. Mom was so wrong, she thought. Train rides aren’t exciting or adventurous. They’re boring. Not even the name of the train she took, the Zephyr, could add excitement to the never-ending sea of trees, rocks, and grass.

The train banked a sharp curve, revealing miles and miles of plains beyond the trees, an even more generic view. As the car shifted, so did something on the floor near her feet. She bent to examine the paper-wrapped package that bumped into her.

For Catherine Morrow. Open only when alone.

The script on the label reminded Catherine of the fancy calligraphy she’d seen on her cousin’s wedding invitations, though the ink was brown and faded, not bright and thick. The paper wrapping was stiff against her fingertips, and it had suffered water damage at some point, though the wrapping had long since dried.

Oh, great, she thought as she looked around the car for the potential messenger. Mom’s trying to hook me up again. I bet the guy’s watching to see if I’m swept away by this grand romantic gesture. The train car was packed with bodies, but none seemed interested in Catherine or her package. Noses were buried in books or newspapers or tablets, with the exception of a few small children whose excitement at riding a train for the first time could not be contained. They scrambled from window to window, announcing every cow or coyote they saw.

Well, if I open it here the kids will descend and demand to see what’s in it–and if I know Mom, there’s no telling what kind of potential “suitor” she shanghaied into this. I could be opening a box of chocolates or a box of vibrators. Better to open it back in my room on the sleeper car.

She stood and tucked the box under her arm. Shadows flickered in the train car as it sped past another copse of trees. With those shadows came a flash of recognition. Something about this train ride was familiar, though Catherine was as new to train travel as the kids that bounded down the aisle in front of her.

She glanced down to sidestep a child and bumped into a man who hadn’t been standing in front of her moments before. A quick look revealed him to be dressed in strange attire, something more at home in an old Western than in modern-day couture. He tipped his wide-brimmed hat, which cast a shadow over his face, and cleared his throat.

“My good lady, I see that you have found my package. If you would ever-so-kindly return it, I might offer you a reward.”

What the hell is Mom up to? This guy looks more like part of the dinner show than a possible date. “Your package?”

White teeth flashed in the shadow. “Why, yes, ma’am. Right there under your arm. I dropped it earlier and it slid clear down the car.”

Something inside Catherine’s gut screamed at her to back away, to keep the package safe until she could open it. She plastered a polite smile on her face. “I’m so sorry, sir, but you must be mistaken. This package is for me. It’s got my name on it.”

“And what might your name be, ma’am?”

Warning bells sounded in her head, warring with the screaming from her gut. Wherever Mom found this guy, it was the wrong dating site. He’s bad news, I just know it. “Sorry–I’m sure you’re nice and all, but I’m not giving my name to some random guy on the train. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I need a nap.” She hesitated for a split second. “Besides, my boyfriend’s waiting for me in the car.”

The shadowed grin widened, and he tipped his hat again. “My apologies, ma’am. I shall look around for my package.” He paused. “Perhaps I dropped it in another car…”

With that he turned and headed towards the sleeper cars. Catherine’s heart pounded in her chest.

Shit! What do I do now? He’s going the same direction I am; if he sees me go into my room alone, he’ll probably break in and attack me or something. Damnit, Mom, why do you have to go meddling? I’m perfectly happy waiting for Mister Right to come to me of his own accord, thank you very much. Now I’ve got a stalker on this train, and it’ll be tomorrow before we get to Chicago.

The man disappeared through the door between cars and slammed it shut behind him. Catherine jumped, and for a moment the door looked more like split wood than smooth metal.

A tug at her sleeve drew her attention down to one of the children, a small girl. She was dressed in a ruffled floral-print dress, and her golden hair was neatly woven into tight pigtail braids with ribbons on the ends. “Hey miss, is that a present?”

Catherine knelt down to be closer to eye level with the girl. “Yes. But I can’t open it here. It’s a secret.”

The girl’s brow wrinkled, and a frown marred her pretty face. “That’s a stupid present.” She whirled around and skipped down the aisle.

When Catherine stood back up, the door was back to its metal state. Geez, I’m going crazy. She inched closer to the door and peered through the glass-paned window. Though the sleeper car was dark, she could see that the strange man was nowhere in sight.

She slid the door open and slipped through. Tucking the package under her arm, she dug through her purse for a lighter. Once she found her trusty Bic, she flicked the little red tab and it burst into flame, illuminating the face of the man from the other train car. He was so close she could smell the musty tobacco on his breath, but his sudden appearance wasn’t the most disturbing thing about seeing him in the light.

He had no eyes.

In place of his eyes were two gaping holes, lidless.

His tobacco-stained hands reached out towards Catherine. “I do believe you have my package, young lady.”

Catherine screamed and dropped her lighter. She backed up, fumbling in the dark for the door handle. Once found, she jerked it to the side and fell back through the door into the passenger car. She scrambled to her feet and looked for someone who could help–but the car was empty. No businessmen tapped away at their laptops, no soccer moms read their cheesy romances, and, most notably, no children played.

She ran to the back of the car and tugged at the handle of the back door. Maybe they all went to the dining car. The door didn’t budge, and she cried out when a splinter stabbed her finger.

Wait…a splinter? She looked around and noticed that the car had changed in the few seconds she had been gone. No longer were there metal-framed plastic seats or fluorescent lights; now lanterns hung from the ceiling, and the seats looked more like wooden benches or church pews. The ride grew bumpy, and the sounds of the wheels on the tracks grew louder.

Standing in the doorway through which she had fallen was the eyeless man. He took slow, deliberate steps towards her. “My package, young lady. It is impolite to steal and open someone else’s property.”

“I-it’s got m-my name on it,” she stammered. “You’ve got the wrong package.”

He reached for the package, but Catherine jerked it out of his grasp. “It’s mine!

In the struggle, the paper on the package tore at one corner, and the flap on top bounced open. Catherine backed into the door and ripped the other flap free and looked inside the box.

What she saw inside made her blood run cold.

Inside was a still-beating human heart.

The man chuckled. “Well, well, I guess it was your package after all, sweet Catherine.”

“I n-never told you my name…”

“You didn’t need to, my dear. I would recognize you in any time, at any place. You are and will always be mine.”

She stood frozen in fear as his hand grabbed her chest. The force of his grip was strong, painful, and she looked down to see blood trickling from five finger-sized wounds in the center of her chest. He dug deeper, and she heard bone cracking as he ripped through to her heart. He pulled it out in one smooth motion and grinned.
“You don’t need this anymore, Catherine. I have your original heart right here.”

From the box he pulled the dismembered heart and shoved it into the gaping hole in her chest. She gasped for air. One gulp. Two gulps.

He squeezed, and the new heart inside Catherine began to pump. He drew his bloody hand out of her chest and placed it on her cheek. “How do you feel, my dear?”

She gazed into the voids where his eyes once sat. “I feel so much better now, Charles.” She straightened the bloody linen dress she now wore and adjusted her blood-stained while gloves. “How long has it been this time?”

“A hundred years, my love, since we last were together.”

Catherine nodded. “Well, Charles, shall we find your eyes now?”

The treatment is a success…or is it?

So it’s been almost a week since I started the new bipolar med, and it’s got mixed results. I mean, I’m not feeling the sky-high levels of stress and anxiety that I was feeling before, but at the same time…I’m not feeling as much of anything.

Stress levels are down–which is great–but my give-a-shit-o-meter has crashed. I just don’t care. Ten-hour day on my feet with a fifteen minute lunch? Eh. Forgot to get my lab work done before my appointment today? Whatever. Probably going to get yelled at by my rheumatologist for not taking the $2k-a-month medicine she prescribed? Shit, she yells at me all the time anyway. Like it’s my fault the RA isn’t under control–try prescribing something that doesn’t cost more than my mortgage, lady.

I even didn’t get that upset when I threw up my breakfast yesterday. It was like “Okay, this is happening. I’ll just hold off on eating anything else until I’m sure my stomach is settled.”

Don’t get me wrong; I’m extremely grateful that the stress and anxiety are almost completely gone. That part’s great. But I gotta admit, it concerns me a bit that I’m not, well, concerned. I’m just rolling through life, doing what I need to do. I’m pretty sure there’s going to be backlash on that at some point. Things can’t be this smooth without some bumps along the way.

Oh well. I’ll take the bumps as they come. I’m handling things much better now. I don’t get the all-consuming sense of being overwhelmed by what I have to do. My interest in my interests hasn’t 100% come back yet, but I’m getting there. Got a new short story in the works, got Book 3 moving along–at a snail’s pace, but it is moving–and I’ve got the embroidery that I’m slowly getting knocked out.

Speaking of which, I should probably work on that while it’s nice and quiet. I’ve got most of today to work on it, but there will be that 3-4 hour period where I’m off to my appointment where I can’t embroider. (I feel weird embroidering in the doctor’s office).

Very shortly

It’s funny how the little things can get you more anxious than the big things.

I’m talking about short stories versus novels. With my novels, I usually take more time to fine-tune them and make sure they’re publishing-ready. Short stories, though? Most of the time I just type ’em out, give ’em a once-over for typos and flow, then throw ’em up on this blog.

This time, though, I’m going to be submitting to my publisher for a place in their next anthology. The theme (legends) fits with a new set of characters in Escape the Light, so it’s the perfect opportunity to get the world of Abnormal out to a wider audience.

I’ve never submitted a short story for publication before. I’ve never gone through the editing and beta reading process, never spent more than a couple of hours on a short piece. Not that I don’t care how my short stories turn out, but it’s a different feeling when it’s for publication. I feel more pressure to do it “right.”

Am I worried? A little. But I’m taking the necessary steps to make my story as perfect as it can be. I’ve got a few more beta readers’ feedback to go through, and I want to get someone to do a proper edit on it.

I think it’ll do well. I think it’ll get published. But I’m still nervous about it.

Harp, the Herald Angels Sing

Harper Williams had survived a lot: Abuse at the hands of her favorite uncle, rape and torture inside the camp at Kensington, the loss of her eyesight, and, most important of all, the loss of her lover Clare.

Born Harper Lee Revenant, Harper grew up in the heart of Heaven’s Light. She got her Sniper eyesight from both her parents, but her olive skin, turquoise eyes, and raven hair came from various gene donors, hand-picked at her mother’s insistence. These qualities enticed her pedophile uncle when she was a young girl, and the resulting psychological trauma left her with a hunger that couldn’t be sated. This hunger caused a rift between Harper and her boyfriend Eli, a rift that turned into a painful chasm–until Clare came into their lives.

For Harper, Clare was a breath of fresh air in an otherwise stagnant situation. Exiled from Heaven’s Light as a teenager, Harper found refuge with the roaming camps of Abnormals known as the Dead Cities. There she met Eli, but her nymphomania eventually pushed him away. Clare, a bipoly Abnormal that Eli had rescued from Heaven’s Light after two Gifted assailants nearly killed her, was everything Harper needed: strong and fierce, intelligent and intuitive, bold yet timid, all rolled into one tight, tiny package of sex and love. Through their mutual love of Clare, Harper and Eli’s rift was mended, and the three of them became inseparable.

Inseparable, that is, until they were ripped away from each other at Kensington.

The torture at Kensington was unbearable. The red-hot pokers that took her eyes, the broken bones, the gang rape that seemed unending–Harper wished for death more than anything then. Clare, with that brilliant, powerful mind of hers, found Harper and talked her back from the edge of the abyss. She joined their minds with Eli’s and drifted Harper off into a coma, a blissful nothingness that ended her suffering while Clare figured out a way to escape.

Or so she said.

While Harper slept, Clare–unbeknownst to Eli–struck a bargain with the Devil incarnate, Ezekiel Howard, the head of the Council. She made a dead for Harper and Eli to be healed and released, on one condition: Clare would go with Ezekiel back to Heaven’s Light.

Clare woke Harper from the coma with a kiss, and for a moment Harper thought everything would be okay. She was healed, save for the ocular implants that needed to be calibrated to her body, and Clare was with her.

Then Clare left.

She left. She left Harper alone and frightened, and she left of her own accord.

Harper and Eli were released once their injuries had been repaired, and Eli hurried them back to the Dead City before Ezekiel changed his mind. Eli was distant during this time, his easy-going personality replaced with a hardened, broken man. He stayed with Harper throughout her recovery and helped her adjust to her new way of seeing.

Harper wished he had left her alone. Without Clare, she didn’t much want to go on. She trudged through the days and nights in a haze, daydreaming about her lost love and hoping that she’d return. Days turned to weeks, weeks to months, and after two months with no word from Clare, Harper gave in to her demons.

Eli found her and took her to a medic, and to Harper’s dismay she woke up very much not dead. She’d been hoping to an end to the pain, but instead she wound up with deep scarring on her wrists that even the medics couldn’t fully repair.

Her dark life was brightened, however, when the medics gave her the happiest news of her life: Harper was pregnant.

Harper didn’t believe in any God; she didn’t believe in angels and Heaven. But one thing she was certain of: this was a miracle.

No longer feeling so alone, Harper threw herself into the pregnancy with a joy that was unsurpassed by anything else in her life–with the exception of Clare. She longed to share the news with Clare, to tell her that she was going to be a stepmother, to let Clare help name the baby girl. Instead, she busied herself with preparing the home she shared with Eli for the new arrival, fixing up the nursery and painting the walls the best she could with her artificial eyesight.

Eli’s mood brightened as well with the news, and he proposed to Harper on her birthday. Harper squealed with joy and threw her arms around Eli’s strong neck as she accepted.

Finally, she thought, I get to have a family.

There were still nights where Harper stayed up well past the time Eli retired, where she gazed out the window of the abandoned suburban home where they’d taken up residence and wondered what life would have been like if Clare hadn’t left.

One day, she told herself.

One¬†day,¬†Clare,¬†I’ll¬†find¬†you¬†again.¬†I’ll¬†take¬†you¬†away¬†from¬†there,¬†away¬†from¬†the¬†Light¬†and¬†back¬†into¬†my¬†arms,¬†where¬†you¬†belong.