Category Archives: fantasy

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop, the Intro.

THE NEXT BIG THING BLOG HOP. It’s a hoppy thing. (See what I did, there?)

What is a blog hop? Among other things it is a way for readers to discover new authors. The path to publication has always been a tough one to navigate, and even when it is attained it is usually not that fabled pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Getting seen and read after being published is growing tougher by the minute. There are so many good books out there you’ve never known existed, so many amazing authors who are just not getting the attention their skill warrants. Bookstores are closing and publishers aren’t promoting new authors the way they did in the past. Despite all of our hard work, many deserving authors are simply falling through the cracks. It rests with us, fellow authors, and us, fellow readers, to discover the talent that lies in the big blue beyond.

My place in this little hop is to tell you a bit about my book, Resonance, and to direct you to more authors who deserve a chance to be read and appreciated. Pop back in next Wednesday for my Q&A about Resonance, and for links to five other deserving authors.

So, Resonance is my book. It is a dark urban fantasy with lots of demons and magic, and one very reluctant punk hero whose name is, you guessed it, Resonance. It is currently for sale exclusively through Amazon. Print versions are in the works.

A huge thanks to one of my first-ever writing friends, Sidney Williams, for tagging me to participate. He is a talented author whose work you definitely should be reading. Give him some clicky love and check out his book, Midnight Eyes, from Crossroad Press.

See you in a week.


Tagged 7-7-7

Sidney Williams tagged me in a fun meme, so I figured I’d play along. Well, at first I couldn’t, because I was supposed to go to page 77 of my work-in-progress, and the only thing I’ve been doing as of late are novella length, or shorter. But, my genius friend Kate Sterling said I could do what she was doing and go to page seven, and play that way. The rules are, go to page 77 (in my case 7) of your current work. Count down seven lines, and then post the next seven lines/sentences. As I’m a chronic long sentence writer, I chose to copy the sentences, not the lines.

This is part of a short story I’m writing for an anthology on sexuality in fantasy.  I’ve had some thoughts, lately, on the recent sociopolitical push to drag women back to the old prehistoric caves by our hair. It has caused me… Angst. Okay, rage. And you know me, go dark or go home, so this little dystopian piece of bad news was born. This scene is where our heroine, Cherry, is confronted by an official of her church commune whose twisted desires for her cause him to act out in unholy ways:

“To keep me chaste,” she sputtered past the blood.

“Why?”

“As a reminder the Destroyer is everywhere, and that his demons cannot be overcome with manmade Chemical, or the National Church’s polygamist whoring, but by purity’s resistance alone.” If Cherry desired her back as bloody and raw as the Warder made his own every night, she would have added, But, the government keeps pumping me full of hormones and Chemical so I can lure these earthly servants to them, and you let them do it, so how can I be pure when everyone demands something unholy of my virginity?  As she had no desire to be whipped, she remained silent.

The Warder had always been a devout boy, singularly driven to understand the world they had inherited, the life so unlike the antiquated photographs of men and women walking freely in the sunshine, holding hands and pressing together their lips and bodies. He had latched on to the church’s inane assertions that the mouth of hell had opened up and spewed forth the creatures that had one day appeared from underground and carried off the majority of the world’s chaste in less than a month’s time.

*****

As I am very, very late to the game, all of my writing friends have been tagged, so I can’t play the “tag seven friends” part. But, if you’re a writer stopping by here and want to play, go ahead. Just let me know in the comments so I can read your 7-7-7.


Catching Up

It seems the past few months have been a race between time and me, with me struggling along in the back, trying to catch up to all of the things I need to do. This month marks a year since I joined SRG, and what I’ve learned, more than anything, is joining a roller derby league is not a trivial affair.  It’s not a drop in the bucket list, or the filler of an empty space on a college application.  Roller derby is a living, breathing monster.

And it will swallow you whole.

Once devoured by the monster, there are just two options: be spit back out, or settle down inside with thirty other ladies for a long, slow, glorious digestion. The first moment I laced up and stepped onto the track I chose digestion.  I practice for two hours, three nights a week.  At least one of those ends with someone offering to run out and grab a beer.  There are fundraisers, league meetings, committee meetings, and committee obligations.  There are gatherings, parties, and get-togethers almost every weekend.  With so many young women on the league, something is always going on.

I’m an all-or-nothing sort.  I don’t half-ass things, never have.  If I commit, I put my heart into it.  If I can’t commit, I don’t try to just squeak by with a marginal approximation, I simply don’t do it.  And that is why this blog has been such a wasteland the past few months.  I committed to roller derby, found amazing fulfillment in it, and let, well, pretty much everything else slack. There were other factors going on with my writing, ones I will not bore you with.  As many of you are writers you probably have experienced each of my extenuating circumstances, and I wouldn’t be sharing anything new, anyway. Whatever the root cause, my obsession with roller derby provided an excellent excuse for not dealing with the blinding white screen.

Sunday closes our official season–our team’s first. I started out having not skated in twenty years.  I was sedentary (save for a few short-lived spurts of “I’m going to get in shape with Billy Blanks!”).  Skating an hour during open skate exhausted me.  I geared up and pushed myself on sucky wheels and a slick floor.  I participated in my first bout, skating very upright and directionless.  Boomz from Charm City–a borrowed skater for our team–spent the entire night yelling my name and dragging me around the track from wherever I had wandered to where I was supposed to be (thanks for that, Boomz). I worked harder after that bout.  I learned to always ask myself, “Where’s their jammer, where’s my jammer, where am I?”  I learned to pick up my feet, to get in front of people and sit on them. I got faster, got winded less. I went from panting after one jam to being able to participate in almost every jam without exhaustion. I tore my PCL.  I went to physical therapy and pushed even harder once I got back on skates. I hit harder. I skated with more strategy.  I learned to crossover on the turns while skating backwards.  I jammed more to learn agility.  I hit harder.  And now I’m looking at this upcoming bout with confidence, knowing that all of those little struggles have added up to an entirely new me, both on and off the track, one that will keep growing and changing with every passing practice from here on out.

If I take what I have learned from roller derby this past year, it’s that achievements aren’t the big billboards we envision at the end of our path.  Rather, they are the small things that happen on a daily basis that add up to create an ever-shifting vision of who we see ourselves being. For a while there, I was concentrating on my billboard dream with writing. I kept slogging towards it, occasionally flinging myself forward in the hopes of making greater headway, but it never seemed to be getting closer.  Every choice I made seemed to fail, and I started to think, “Why bother?” And that’s where the disconnect began. Commercial/professional/mental progress is much trickier to track than the physical, however, and I failed to recognize how far I’d come from five years ago. The connections I’ve made with other authors–people who are great both professionally and personally–are enough alone to consider this venture a victory. Looking even closer, though, I see magazine articles; an entirely self-published novel with admittedly few, but stellar, reviews; invitations to join other writing friends on projects; and new avenues constantly appearing to help guide me through this path I’ve chosen.

Expecting the One Thing to tell me I’m doing well is like saving up all of my energy at a bout just to deliver that big hit where everyone goes, “Ooooh!” It might be cool and satisfying in the moment it happens, but in focusing on that single detail I would be overlooking the multitude of other opportunities to grow and achieve (and probably set myself up for a slew of failures in the interim).  You know that hokey saying about how it takes a village? I guess it’s true.  Except in this case, it takes a whole roller derby team to raise a writer.    

As this blog is about Hell and Wheels, about my professional and derby life, it seems only natural to treat them as mutually inclusive.  How I approach derby seems to be a success, so I’m going to approach this writing life in the same manner–one little victory at a time.

As for Sunday’s bout, well, I’ll let you know how that one turns out.  Here’s a spoiler, though, it’s gonna be a good time.

If you’re in the Wilmington DE area Sunday around six and have nothing to do, stop by the Christiana Skating Center and buy a ticket.  I’ll be in black, with the mark of the beast on my back.

(I’m not in this particular jam from our July bout, but this is SRG–purple–in our first bout against this weekends’ opponents)


What I’ve Learned About Writing From Roller Derby, Part Two: The Flashy Stuff is Generally Useless

A woman cruises along on her skates, leg extended back.  Another skater flies up and grabs the proffered ankle.  With a quick pull, the front skater propels the other forward, giving up her momentum to allow her teammate to fly around the track.  The crowd goes wild at the show just performed for them.  This maneuver is called a “leg whip.”

A blocker sees another blocker coming up.  She leaves her defensive wall and sweeps out like a wrecking ball, smashing the other player into the suicide seats.  The opponent sprawls onto the floor (and maybe a few laps), and the audience is beside itself with glee.

The problem with these techniques is–they’re generally useless.  If a skater is in a tight pack, then there’s probably no room to extend her leg fully.  Even if she does have the space to attempt such a move, she’s just asking to get knocked down.  An arm whip–less glamourous, maybe–will more than suffice.  As for our swooping, big hitter, odds are the opposing jammer has taken advantage of the defensive hole she has left in the pack and has zoomed on through.  Or, the other team has used the lack of walls to form one of their own, and have now possibly trapped the abandoned co-blocker, making her the “goat” they keep behind them (and thereby control the speed of the pack).  In any of these scenarios the result is the same, showboating gets you nowhere.

The same is true for writing.  You can plan in your head a heroine who does flying roundhouses, snaps necks with a flex of her well-toned (yet sensual) bicep, who dismantles nuclear weapons while speaking eighteen languages to six different covert agency operators.  You can implant her into every dangerous scenario known to man.  You can build up the action until it’s nearly boiling over.  But, if your character has no purpose, no meaning, no depth, then all you have is flash.  And while flash can be pretty and cool, it never entertains people for very long on its own.

For instance, have you ever stood in line to see the Hope Diamond?  Waited in that snaking, creeping line to get your turn at the glass?  If not, here’s how seeing it goes:

Seconds one through two:
“Oh, wow! Just…. Wow!”

Seconds two through eight:
“Man, that thing is big.  I’d risk a curse to have a diamond that size.”

Seconds eight through ten:
“How is it blue?  I like blue.  I’d rather have a blue one than a regular one.”

Seconds ten through twelve:
“I think that guy behind me is breathing directly onto my neck.”

Second thirteen:
“I wonder what the big elephant in the lobby is up to?”

And that’s it.  The flash has already waned.  And the more times you see it, the less special it is.  Soon, it’s just a rock in a case that thousands of people stand in line to see, while you walk by and think, “Suckers.”

Sure, that last part was a little jaded, but my every field trip from kindergarten to twelfth grade was to the National Mall and I’ve had more than my share of the Hope Diamond, so you’ll have to forgive me.  Still, I stand by my assertion; just like a leg whip, just like a swooping block, just like an over-hyped stone, writing with the sole purpose of blinding your audience with awesomeness is useless.  Without depth and meaning, those big moments will not be very big at all.  In fact, they’ll reek of the author’s hand in the story, and jade your readers faster than a twenty-minute line to see a rock.  Staging events just to have them will never ring true with fans, and–just like the blocker who swings out to make the grandiose hits–will most likely cause a giant hole to appear somewhere you don’t want.  

Instead, keep it tight.  Keep it effective and meaningful.  And if the opportunity for flashiness arises, be sure first and foremost you’re not doing your story any harm by taking it.



What I’ve Learned About Writing From Roller Derby, Part One: It’s Okay to do This

In roller derby you have to pass a series of physical and written tests before you can scrimmage with the other players.  It’s a safety thing–making sure you’re not going to injure yourself or anyone else when skating in a tight pack.  At one point during the assessment test I fell.  As I regained my feet, my captain said, “It’s okay if you fall.  You have wheels on your feet.  You’re going to fall sometimes.”

I called the corner of the rink in which we fresh meat practiced, “The Guppy Pond.”  In the guppy pond I practiced crossovers, jumping, blocking, hitting, and I learned how to fall.  I learned how to fall correctly, and how to get up quickly.  I would steal envious glances at the ladies scrimmaging on the rink while I skated and dropped to one knee, stood up, dropped to the other, stood up, dropped to both, stood up.  Over and over I skidded across the floor, my legs aching for relief, my eyes darting along with the flashes of blue and red pinnies flying around the track.  I wanted to be out there so badly, to mix with the experienced girls, to play derby.  But, I wasn’t ready, yet.  I had more to learn before I could play the game.

So, I studied the rules and practiced the basics.  I took my test and passed.  And then I got onto the track.  My rabid enthusiasm quickly turned to apprehension as the realization sunk in that I was out of the guppy pond.  The hits would be real, and my newly acquired skills were nothing against the seasoned skaters surrounding me.  Suddenly, the guppy pond didn’t seem so bad.  But, it was too late.  I was in with the big kids and there was no going back.  So, I launched into the fray.  And fell.  And fell.  And fell.  Over and over I tried my best to get around the opposing blockers, eating floor more often than not.

But, there’s a trick to falling in derby.  It’s called falling small.

Falling small is falling in a calculated way.  It’s not flailing, clawing, sprawling onto the track in a miserable heap, railing against that which brought you down.  It’s tucking in your knees and elbows while still descending, hitting the ground in a smooth, protected curl and regaining your feet instantly.  It’s a thoughtful process, not distracted by what happened to make you fall–that doesn’t matter anymore–but rather knowing how to make that hitch in your progress cost you as little momentum as possible.

We’ve all struggled as writers.  Roadblocks–either of our own design or of those forged by the system into which we seek admission–are inevitable, just like falling when you have wheels on your feet.  But when those moments come, we can be ready for them.  As we topple, we can look up to see the track ahead.  We can see the holes in the defense, pleasant little spaces for us to try to squeeze through and attain our goals.  We can tuck in, preparing for that brief moment of impact, but already poised to spring forward with renewed vigor. Sometimes we hit the ground hard, but it doesn’t matter.  We’ve fallen small, and are up again and sprinting, a clearer plan in mind.

Yes, it is okay to fall.

Just make sure you do it right.


Five Years and One Month

That’s how long it’s been since my blog has been running.  To celebrate that milestone (I missed last month’s true anniversary, but I like the notion of thirteen months better than twelve, anyway) I am making some changes.

I’ve been skating for five months now, and I can honestly say the Derby Monster has grabbed me and will not let go.  Instead of fighting my loves and trying to compartmentalize them, I have decided to merge the two.  Derby has taught me quite a bit about being a writer, and vice versa.  I’ll tell you all about it, soon, right after I get this new layout squared away.  
There will still be fantastic stories–of mystical women, some who can control fire and minds, and others who will knock you onto your face with a twitch of the hip, or slide through a fingerbreadth of space as if it were a chasm.  
So, welcome to Hell and Wheels, the next transformation of the dark fantasy writer Avery DeBow’s blog.  I’ll be back soon with my first post about what derby has taught me about being a writer and how “It’s Okay to Do This”
It’s Okay to Do This

Toothless

Well, the roller derby bout is over (so much fun, even though my team lost in overtime), but I still have house guests and the upcoming holiday weekend to contend with, so I don’t have anything original to post.  I thought I would take you far back to when the vampire phenomenon was gearing up, back when I thought I might like to write a vampire story.  The popularity of the vampire (and, yes, more so the “sensitive” vampire) tale drove this YA piece back into the computer vault, never to be submitted.  While it’s nothing I’d write now, I like some of the prose and Gordon is fun, so I’ll share in good humor.

TOOTHLESS



Joshua’s father had smoked yellow-ended cowboy cigarettes.  Two packs a day.  The bittersweet aroma had seemed to concentrate between his dad’s nubby fingers where the butt always remained pincered until it smoldered to ash.  It was that unmistakable scent that surfaced in Joshua’s mind whenever he recalled the four-year span when his baby teeth had loosened but were reluctant to part with his head, and those aromatic digits had repeatedly crunched the waggling offenders free of their sockets.

The hands pinning Joshua dug into his arms and legs, grinding his body against the concrete wall.  Another pair cemented his head to the cold solidity behind him, pulling open his lower jaw hard enough that the tendons popped and cracked with the strain.  But those hands didn’t concern Joshua nearly as much as the single pale one creeping towards his face, the one that carried the same smoky-sweet aroma he remembered from his childhood.  It was that hand that caused him to writhe in panic under the pressure of his captors, turning his gurgling protests into high-pitched screams.

It was all because of her.
******

The trance music’s beat picked up the individual thumps from the wildly pounding hearts of the dancers around Joshua, swelling the thick rhythm in his throat.  He stood off to the side, out of the range of both the stroboscopic spotlights and the trajectory of flashing neon glow sticks wielded by a good number of the contorting youngest attendees.  His black hoodie’s ragged string again found its way into his mouth.  He chewed it in time to the music, imagining the cord between his teeth was made of a softer, more palatable fiber.  
He was hungry.

She walked in front of him, taking a deep swig from her nearly empty water bottle as she passed on her way to the door.  She hit the center of his gaze’s range and stopped dead, turning her suddenly wide eyes to meet his.  Her dark hair was piled high on her head in an elaborate series of swirling buns.  Her sweat-ruined turquoise makeup bled down her face and neck, disappearing into the tiny chasm between her black tube top and the slight mounds of her breasts.  For a moment she trembled beneath Joshua’s scrutiny and he feared she would bolt.  Then, her mouth curved in a smile and her hips–clad in yet another miniature stripe of stretchy black fabric–swished to the side as a bangled wrist propped against one of them.  E was a miracle drug.
“See something you like?”  She tilted her head seductively, promising him far more than she was prepared to deliver. 
Joshua nodded, rolling the string around in his mouth like a sweet piece of candy.
“You got a name?”

Joshua nodded again, chewing furiously.  Any natural instinct to flee would have been long squelched by the feel-good chemicals flowing in her veins.  He could tear into her, and she would purr.  He dug into the ragged pocket of his jeans and surfaced with a pair of tiny white disks marked with a letter.  She’d already used twice tonight at the rave.  That meant she’d use again.  He held out the pills, smiling.  “Name’s Josh.”
******

Joshua screamed as the thick scent filled his nose.  The index finger and thumb closed around his tooth and he could nearly feel their calloused hardness grinding into the enamel.  His chest heaved in short, spasmodic bursts.  If he’d had breath left, he would have hyperventilated.  As he didn’t, the noise continued to flow in broken bursts from his lungs, the high-pitched wailing of a car’s alarm.  With the strength of steel pliers, the fingers tightened and wrenched.  The crunch of the roots tearing free of their tissue echoed in deafening waves through Joshua’s head, and his cries of agony burbled away in a wash of blood.
“Enjoy that drink,” the owner of the fingers said.  “It’s pro’bly the last you’ll get for a long time.”  The fingers returned.  With the same cold efficiency they tore the other pointed incisor from Joshua’s mouth.  

His screams turned to sobs as the imprisoning hands released him and he fell to the floor.  Blood gushed in twin torrents from the gaping chasms in his gums.  Amid a round of vicious kicks and a chorus of taunts urging him to lap it off the floor like the dog he was, Joshua cried.  He hadn’t been a vampire long, and already he’d screwed up beyond redemption.  

“You think we wouldn’t find out?” asked Gordon, his master and owner of the assaulting fingers.  “You think we’re that dumb?”

Joshua lolled his head against the cold basement floor, unable to lift it for the pain.
“You split before the changes were thru.  She didn’t die, but she sure as shit rose again.  You made somethin’ that was only the stuff of bedtime stories ’til now.  You made that broad a livin’ vampire.  You’re too stupid to hunt like us.”  Gordon used the toe of his boot to tip him onto his back.  An old construction foreman from New York’s nineteen-twenties skyscraper heyday, Gordon was extra sensitive to the effect of individual errors on the greater whole, and gave no lenience in the punishing of them.  “You ain’t one of us no more.”  Gordon flashed a crooked, humorless smile beneath his bushy gray mustache.  “But, you do what I tells you, we might let you come back as a Lesser.”
Joshua cringed.
“It’s the best deal you gonna get, boy-o.”
A Lesser.  A human.  No.  Even less than that.  Humans were at least food–useful.  He’d be an encumbrance.  A slave.  If Joshua didn’t do as Gordon commanded, he’d die.  One night he’d be walking down the street and the shadows would sweep up from the ground to meet him.  When they withdrew, there wouldn’t be enough left of him to fit in his father’s novelty Elvis ashtray.  

A hand tangled in Joshua’s hair, jerking it upwards.  Mark–a vampire who’d once been his friend–walked towards him, carrying a lighted brazier.  
Gordon held up his closed fist and rattled the objects inside it like dice, tossing them onto the floor at Joshua’s feet with a flourish.  “You get ta do the honors.”
Joshua gazed at the two miniature white daggers lying in the crimson puddle at his knees.  He stretched out his hand and scooped them up.  In his mind, he made a brilliant break for it, kicking Gordon’s legs out from under him, smashing the elder vampire’s skull against the wall, then plowing through the other ten assembled vampires with Herculean ease before catapulting through the window and out into the night, his teeth clutched like precious gems in his sweaty palm.  In reality, he extended his trembling hand over the crackling miniature fire and dropped in his teeth, watching in helpless grief as they turned to blackened ash.
*****

The first semester art scholar worked alone in her loft, her crackling arc welder and large, contorted slabs of steel the only company she could claim.  Joshua had watched her silhouette move behind the frosted mullioned windows for two nights, now.  It seemed she lived as hollow an existence as he, going to random parties because they were one of the few refuges where a person could be both surrounded and yet remain completely alone, and no one would be the wiser.  Where other humans tended to mesh together to create a fabric, she remained a solitary string frayed away from the rest of the weave–much like the one he’d held clamped in his teeth three weeks before when he decided she was enticing enough to both feed him and be paid eternal life as compensation.

The ramifications of that once seemingly trivial decision pounded in the two tender craters in Joshua’s mouth.  As a slave to those he’d once called brothers, his life would be filled with ridicule and torture.  Yet, he’d still be able to claim their protection against the rival clans who would clamor to possess him once the word got around a eunuch vampire roamed the States.  If he couldn’t survive the torment, he could always choose death.  The other way around was a much more irreversible decision.

If Joshua decided to take the hero’s route and protect his first-made, he would be rewarded with a stake through the heart and she would die at Gordon’s hands just the same.  His mission wasn’t solely about punishment; the vampires would never permit such an abomination to live.  Since she was going to die anyway, Joshua might as well squeeze some sort of existence for himself out of the deal.

It was so simple in his head, yet here he was, staring at her shadow for the second night in a row.  With a great effort, he shook himself out of his torpor.  The sooner it was over, the better it would be for everyone.  

Forcing his way into her apartment was easy; he’d already been invited in.  The remainder was the simple task of pitting his vampiric strength against her door’s common metal latch.
As Joshua moved to stand behind her, she flipped up the visor of her welding helmet and switched off the sparks.  

“Hi again,” she said.

“Hi, April.”

“You’re here to finish what you started.”  She stood, turning to face him.  Her cheeks had gone pallid, as had the luster of her eyes.  Her face and body were leaner than the last time he’d seen her, and the bones in her hips jutted from her torn jeans in sharp points.  She gave him an indiscernible look, and then edged past her sculpture to the fridge.  
“Yeah.”  Joshua took a step towards her, but made no move to attack.  A thin line of blood from the non-healing wounds in his mouth crusted each side of his chin.  They crackled to powder as he formed the next words around the painful gaps with tenuous care.  “I can’t go back unless I do.”

“But you’re not going to.”  April said it with such finality Joshua nodded and then turned to leave.  Two steps later, he stopped short, shaking his head to clear it.  Even though she’d escaped the vampiric curse of living death, she had the undead’s gift of swaying minds.  It was an impressive feat for a novice to muster any amount of control over another vampire.  It made him wonder what other amplified gifts her unusual status granted her.  

“Do you know what you just did to me?” Joshua asked.

“Not really.”  April propped a papery hand against her hip and frowned.  “Not until I did it.”

“I really don’t want to kill you.”
“So don’t.”
He didn’t answer, but lifted first one side of his upper lip and then the other, exposing the voids punctuating the otherwise uniform whiteness of his teeth.
“They pulled them out?”
“If only that.”  Joshua sighed, the sound whistling through the hollows like a desolate wind.  “The others held me down while my master did it.”  He rubbed his hands against the cottony softness of his jacket’s sleeves as if cold–even though the ability to feel such a sensation had long deserted him.  “After they made me watch my teeth burn away to nothing, they turned me out.  They won’t let me back until I kill you.”

“Without your teeth?  Why would they make the job they ordered harder to do?”

“That’s just it.  They took my natural weapons, forcing me to use other, more human means.”  He shook his head as his hands still worked against his biceps.  “Even when I show I’m worthy of the title I was reborn to by fixing my mistake, they’ll still make me live like all the other things not on top of the food chain–at the mercy of those who are.  And I can’t ever again have that feeling of biting into a soft neck and letting the blood gush down my throat.”
“They won’t grow back?” April’s question didn’t drown the low, pitiful stomach rumble his last sentence evoked.

“I’m no better than a house cat that’s sprayed one too many times on the furniture.  I’ve been fixed.”

“What about falsies?  The poseur goth kids get them all the time.”
“They’ll just fall back out.  I’m stuck with two unhealing holes in my face forever.”  He dropped his gaze to the scuffed toes of his sneakers.  “I have to use tools to open veins from now on.  I’ve gone from hunter to plain murderer.”
April’s stomach growled again and she opened the refrigerator door.  Standing in the slice of harsh light, she flipped open the lid of a container brimming with a toxic green liquid, and tipped it to her lips, draining half of it in two gulps.  She turned to him, offering the remainder and he made a face.  

“Spinach and cucumber.  It’s not half bad.”

He grimaced again.

“It’s your fault,” she said after taking another swallow.  “I can’t eat, anymore.  I try even the smallest bite of food and I hurl all over the place for hours.  I want to kill, to drink like you just described, but I can’t bring myself to eat people or animals; I was a raised a vegan, you know.  My parents still call once a week to check on me, make sure my college buddies haven’t lured me to the dark side with a hamburger.”  She seemed to shrink into herself as her own words sunk in.  “Like that’s the biggest of my problems.”
“I’m sorry.” 
A fragile squeak of laughter escaped her throat.  “Lucky for me I have a juicer.  My stomach knows its not blood, but it lets me get away with it–barely.”
“I’m sorry,” he repeated.
“I can’t go in the daylight without getting hives.  Too much water freaks me out.  I’ve had to drop all my day classes; the sun rises and I have to fight not to pass out right then and there.  I’ve lost like fifteen pounds and I’m pretty sure I look like crap, but I wouldn’t know because my reflection is just a hazy blur.”  April fixed him with a glare.  “And the best part?  The day after you turned me into this I woke up naked in a room splattered with my own blood.  Now, that was fun.”
“I’m sorry.”


“I heard you the first two times.”  The corner of April’s mouth gave a minute, downward twitch.



When she turned to put the juice away, Joshua made sure he was gone before she closed the door.

*****

Rough hands pulled Joshua to his feet, yanking him off the park bench.  Newspapers fluttered to the sidewalk and caught the next breeze, scurrying away from the two burly figures holding him.
“Did you think just because we don’t eat bums we wouldn’t find you hiding like one?”  Mark’s hands were as big as baseball gloves as they bunched in the folds of his shirt.  The cloying aroma of dinner still hung from his former friend’s fangs and Joshua’s stomach whined.  He hadn’t eaten in days.  “Gordon gave you an order.”

“I–”
“No excuses.  The way it goes is, order given, order received, order carried out.  Even as stupid as you are, you should be able to manage somethin’ as simple as that.”  Mark gestured with his head to a thick-necked, vampire behind him.  “Or, do we have to drive the point home?”  
Thick-Neck grinned a gold tooth studded smile and held up a diamond-encrusted shaft with five deadly inches of sharpened wood protruding from its end.  Purchasing custom built, personalized stakes for the skewering of one’s foes was currently a popular trend among the fanged set. 
“No.”  Josh stammered as Mark raised an expectant eyebrow. “No–No, sir.”
“You know, Gordon says me and Biz, here, can share you when you’re done with your little job.”  Mark adopted a tone of false haughtiness as his eyes raked up and down Joshua’s frame in anticipatory appraisal.  “Did I ever mention I have a fondness for the taste of vampire blood?  It’s not for everyone, I know, but I’ve developed a palate for the unique texture of congealed liquid brimming with platelets marinated in aged veins.”  Mark dropped the accent, his expression turning to one of sadistic menace.  “And the best thing is, you’ll keep on living this sad life you carved out for yourself even after I drain every single drop of it from your skinny ass.  You’ll be as hollow as one of those chocolate Easter bunnies and everywhere you go, your shriveled up organs will rattle around in you like a maraca.”
With a laugh, Mark released him.  Joshua toppled to the ground, landing on one side, his elbow taking the force of his thankfully less-than-solid frame.  His assailants had already merged back into the shadows.  He pulled himself to his feet, still rubbing the twanging joint.  How had he been friends with that guy?

Joshua had suspected the quality of life waiting for him when he finished his assignment.  But, suspecting and knowing were two different things.  He wouldn’t live like that.  

Not even if it meant he’d get to live.
*****

Joshua followed April’s scent through the streets, his memory taking over for his nose when the brownstone row houses faded into the familiar sight of the dilapidated buildings of the city’s largely deserted industrial district.  Around the next block, the deep bass boomed through the abandoned warehouse, rattling the few remaining unbroken windows and setting his lifeless heart tripping in the closest thing to a beat it had experienced in the long year and a half he’d been undead.
April was standing just outside the rave, hovering at the fringes of activity as the brightly colored butterflies flitted in and out of the doors with their arms wrapped joyously around one another.  The expression on her face was pained, as if the hunger inside was gnawing its way out.  A young woman with glazed, love-filled eyes brushed by, trailing an exploratory finger up April’s arm.  April lurched forward at the contact, but then checked herself.  It wouldn’t be long, though, before that control slipped entirely away, the hunger eating her rationale because she wouldn’t give it anything more substantial.  The hollow defeat in April’s eyes as she watched her potential meal slide into a waiting car suggested she knew this, that she was merely holding off against the inevitable for as long as she could.

Joshua had a fix for that.

“Hi, April,” he said as he approached.

Her gaze flicked to him.  She didn’t seem surprised he was there.  “You’ve come to finish what you started.”  Although the greeting was the same one she’d used the week before, it was no longer a declaration of fact, but instead a tired plea.
“Yeah.”  He gave her a long look.  They were both alone in this world, unwilling freaks of other people’s machinations.  There was no reason either of them needed to die because of it, and there was every reason the ones who refused to tolerate their aberrant presence should.  

Joshua moved closer, leaning in to whisper his proposal in April’s ear.  At first she shook her head in vehement refusal, eyes wide with horror and panic.  But, as he continued talking, her expression took on a darker, more predatory glow.  

She would be his teeth.  He would teach her how to use them, to repeat the mistake he’d made and paid for.  Only this time it wouldn’t be an accident.  And it wouldn’t be just once.

Every shift in history could be traced back to one moment, a single event that set the wheels turning.  

This moment was the axis for the downfall of the vampires.

The beat of the rave thrummed through Joshua as he twined his fingers around April’s and led her inside.  The sweat-infused damp wrapped them in a warm cocoon as their future army bobbed in cadence under the prismatic spotlights. 


Well, well

So, you guys like how Spider’s done on here? I’m kinda happy with it myself.
Yep, it’s me, Res. I’m back.
Where’ve I been? Well, that’s the million dollar question isn’t it? And, despite risking getting your panties all into a twist, I’m not really into talking about it right now. Let’s just suffice it to say I’ve been places, seen things, and done things, none of which I’m very proud of right now. And I’m pretty fucking happy to be home.
Yeah. Home. 
Who’d’ve thought I’d ever call Tyne my home? Not me, that’s for sure. God, I hate that word, not
Anyway, I’m back, and it looks like I’m sticking around. It also looks like I might be getting some company, but I’ll leave that for later, too.
Mom and I are still on the outs, but, that’s pretty much daily life for Res, so I guess I’d just better get used to it, huh?
Thanks to all you guys who stuck around when I was…uh, busy. And thanks most of all to Spider. Looking back at your posts, man, I’m thinking you were close to being certifiable. But, that you were apeshit like that over me and my whereabouts… Well, thanks.
And to the rest of you out there, stay put; the bitch is back.
Oh yeah, and that Avery chick wrote a book about me.  Seems it’s for sale as of now in the Kindle store on Amazon (whatever that is).  She says there are some other versions coming soon, iBookstore and Barnes and something-or-other.  I dunno how she wrote so fast.  Almost like she knew before I did what was going to happen to me.  Oh well, I’ve seen weirder things.  So go buy it.

RESONANCE for Kindle


The Worst Day of the Year — and an Announcement

Spider, here.
It’s started.  Already.  I’m gettin’ the calls for St. Patrick’s Day ink requests and I’ll be the only one workin’.  Man, I hate that day. Now, don’t go thinking I got a problem with the Irish, or those that think they’re Irish, or those that wish they could think they’re Irish. I don’t. I just don’t wanna have to do any fuckin’ four leaf clovers.
I swear, as soon as New Years is over, every fucker who wants a tat suddenly decides he’s fuckin’ Irish.  The closer to March 17, the more likely it is the dude’ll be too pissed to see straight, demanding I give ‘em a shamrock on the balls or somethin’. Try tellin’ a drunk fuck you can’t do his ink because his blood’s thin and he’ll bleed all over the fuckin’ floor. The next thing you know, you’re rollin’ on the tiles as the dickhead screams about you denyin’ his heritage. Then, there’s blood on the floor anyways. And it sure as shit ain’t mine. Still don’t make it any more fun to clean up.
I tried switchin’ shifts early this year, but Trey’s already planned to be drunk in anticipation of sitting his black ass down and celebrating his “Irish” heritage proper, and my boss is the one who handed me the shit gig in the first place. So it’s gonna be me and the piercing chick (whatever her name is, piercing chick #7, I guess; they come and go like there’s a revolvin’ door) and I don’t think she’s gonna be much help.
I’m gonna tell ‘em they gotta take a breathalyzer test by law and the machine’s broke.
I’m gonna lock the fucking door and make ‘em show me what they want before I let ‘em in. 
I’m gonna tell ‘em I’m out of green ink. 
Fuck it. I’m gonna do the four leaf clovers. I’m just gonna charge ‘em triple. They’ll all be too wasted to notice.
So, call to check my schedule.  I’ll give you a discount if you don’t want nothin’ Irish (no shamrocks, no Celtic, druid or pagan crap, no leprechauns, not even one of those ugly ass setter dogs). 
If want any of the above, you’d best be ready to pay, and feel some pain.
Now that I’ve got y’all all worked up, Avery wanted me to tell y’all that she’s got some book or nother coming out on Thursday.  Tells me it’s got some familiar people in it, whatever that means.  I don’t read much, but I guess y’all might.  So, there ya go.  I told ya about it.  You’ve been given official notice, so don’t let her give me shit about it, later.

Religion’s Dead–Or on Walkabout

Spider, here.
When I was a kid, I thought a monster was under my bed. I could hear him hissin’ and growlin’ under there. My ma told me it was the radiator and stop being such a retard. Didn’t convince me, tho. I knew. It was down there, waitin’. The next time it started hissin’, I yelled again. This time my ma came in with a baseball bat. She told me to shut up ’cause she was busy and if the thing came creepin’ up the foot of my bed like i said it was, to hit it in the damn head. I held that chunk of wood and knew there wouldn’t be any more noises after that. Just like I believed in the monster, I believed in that bat.
Later on, when birdie powder and bad boyfriends made my ma more likely to hit me with a bat than gimme one, my beliefs still were about that bat. It was solid. It would deliver pain–and sometimes save me from it. I did some things with that bat most of you’d turn away from. I did some things all of you would say I’m a bad person for. If I am or not, well, that’s not part of this, so I ain’t gonna get into it. It’d end up a big circle of a talk with no answer at the end, anyways. Might as well leave it.
In high school, right about when that bat started gettin’ me into too much shit, I found something else to believe in. A new student from Bal’more named Resonance. She looked to me like this surly girl who’d just as much kick you in the teeth as say somethin’, but the funny thing ’bout her was she liked to pretend she was invisible most of the time. She’d slink around the halls, duckin’ past whatever was in her way, makin’ sure she didn’t have to look at no one. But, every once in a while, someone would do somethin’ she couldn’t overlook and she’d pop out of the shadows and it was all fangs and fury for a good thirty seconds. Then, she’d disappear again.
She still likes to think I didn’t see her, didn’t notice her until she noticed me. That ain’t the truth. I saw her. I watched her, waited to see if she’d ever drop the invisible shit and just be, you know? Then I pulled some shit in class one day and she just–exploded. Not in a crazy, gun-toting, school-burning way, or anythin’. You know that Wizard of Oz movie, where everything is black and white, and then the chick in the house lands and, boom, it’s all color? That’s what it was. She turned to color. And everthin’ around her did the same.
After that, I didn’t need that bat. Life was alive ’cause she was. The walls were colored for her. Music was there so she could pull me into the pit and thrash around like we were forged from anger itself. The air was there just so her mouth could go on lettin’ out whatever the fuck it was she felt like sayin’. 
When the stepdad from hell started layin’ in on me, she’d tell me it’d be okay someday soon. And it was like I finally understood those people who stuffed themselves into their good clothes to pack the churches on Sunday. She spoke. I believed. She became my church. My religion. 
Now the church is empty. And I can’t go back. That bat’s just a hunk of wood. Even that monster can’t get ahold of me, now. My beliefs changed and all that lived before she walked in on my life has washed down the drain like dirty water. I’m clean. Born again. I embraced the color and then the world went all gray again. I saw the light, then the light upped and split.
Shit.

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