- See more at: http://blogtimenow.com/blogging/automatically-redirect-blogger-blog-another-blog-website/#sthash.UVsgb4Gv.dpuf Erin's Alter Ego Writes Books: 2013

Friday, 6 December 2013

Another short story for you. :)

I enter in some writing competitions just to keep my mind fresh and stretch it in ways that I don't usually get to do. Sometimes, just adding certain parameters and restrictions lets you run in an entirely unexpected way and the results are fun. I enjoy it immensely. And I post them here for you to read. I'm thinking about compiling them into an ebook, just so you can have all of the stories in one place.

The latest story is for the NYC Midnight 2013 Flash Fiction Challenge Round #2. This time, I was able to get first place for the first round (posted here) and I got first place for the short story below. The brief? Write a 1,000 word short story in 48 hours that is a fantasy, set at a train station, and featuring a bottle of wine. You can interpret it anyway you want.

I really enjoyed writing it. Actually, it's probably one of my favorite short stories I've written for this competition. And I hope you enjoy reading it.

The Land of Snollygolly

 Though he had spent every night of the last ten years at the train station, no one had ever paid attention to the old man. Maybe it was because his clothes were in tatters. Or maybe it was because he smelled of sweat and alcohol. For whatever reason, he was invisible to the rest of the world.
“Myrtle always made sure that I wasn't lonely,” he would mumble to no one in particular. “Myrtle loved me.”
One night, while clutching a bottle of wine in a paper bag, he fell asleep while the trains came in and left. People boarded them and got off. No one disturbed the old man.
He woke up some time later to find the train station completely empty. All the lights were off except for the lone bulb above his bench. He peered around, unable to find another soul. In fact, the station was so dark, it seemed that he couldn't see more than than ten feet from the bench.
“Strange,” he murmured to himself. He took another swig of the wine. It was okay; he still had over half a bottle to keep him company.
After a few minutes, a beagle walked in and sat beside him on the bench, not on the floor as normal dogs would. The old man scrutinized the dog as the dog watched him. He found it more strange that the dog was paying attention to him than the fact that the dog was sitting on the bench like any human would. What's more, he couldn't shake the feeling that he'd seen this dog before.
“You lost, fella?” he asked.
“Nope,” the dog said. “I'm just waiting for my train.”
Surprised, the man blinked. What did you talk about when you were talking to a dog? He didn't know. He just knew was that he was curious. “Where ya headed, fella?”
“I'm on my way to the Land of Snollygolly.” The dog looked up at the man. “The train should be arriving any minute.”
The man took another drink of his wine bottle. “What's in the Land of Snollygolly? I ain't ever heard of it.”
The dog gave a bark of laughter. “Only the most magnificent mountains!” He spread his front paws wide. “And purple canyons so deep, you can't see the bottom. There's unicorns and dragons and more. And there's every kind of candy imaginable just waiting to be eaten.”
The old man gave a toothless grin. “Like Whoopsie Rolls?” That was his favorite candy when he was younger. He sometimes dreamed about that candy.
The dog nodded sagely. “It grows on trees there! You can just pluck it off and eat it.”
“Mmm,” the old man agreed. He took another drink of his wine. It certainly didn't taste like the Whoopsie Rolls of his youth. But it at least it filled a hole.
“But that's not all,” the dog continued, getting more and more animated. “They have the most magnificent feasts waiting for you! You just wish for what you want to eat, and faeries whip it up and deliver it to you.”
“Really?” the old man asked with a chuckle. “Anything I want?”
“Yep,” the dog said. “Anything.”
“Like the pecan pies Mother used to make?” The old man's mother was a master of making pies. Pecan pies were her specialty. She had died when he was little, taking her recipes with her. He hadn't been able to find anything close his entire life. He would give anything to have a slice of one of those pies again.
“Just the ones,” the dog said. “But I haven't gotten to the best part.”
“The best part?” The old man was certainly intrigued now.
“The people there. They're the nicest people ever. Whatever you're doing, they'll give you a belly rub.”
The old man took another drink of his wine. “I don't think they'll give an old man like me belly rubs,” he admitted. He looked down at his own belly which wasn't as fit as it used to be. He'd had far too many bottles of wine.
The dog shook his head. “In the Land of Snollygolly, they give everyone belly rubs.”
“That does sound like an amazing, magical place,” the old man said. “I wish I could go there.”
“You should go there, Charles,” the dog insisted. “It's all ready for you.”
It took the man a few seconds to realize that the dog had called him by name. No one had called him by his name in years. He had become nameless, one of the many homeless people in the city. Suddenly, from the cobwebs of his memory, he recognized the brown spots on the dog.
“Nemo?” the man asked incredulously. He reached out and ruffled the dog's ears. “Nemo is that you? Why, it's been...”
Nemo gave him a doggy grin. “It's been over thirty years, Charles,” he said.
The man took another drink of his wine. It was nearly empty. “Wow,” he murmured. He put a hand to his forehead. “I hadn't realized it'd been so long...”
Nemo nodded. Somewhere in the distance, a train sounded. “It has been too long, Charles. And Myrtle's waiting for you.”
Charles couldn't believe his ears. “Myrtle?” he asked. “Myrtle's been waiting for me?”
“Yep,” Nemo said. “And she wants to give you a belly rub. Or is it a kiss? That's what humans do, right?”
Charles laughed. He looked at his bottle of wine. It was a pinot noir, Myrtle's favorite kind of wine. When she died, he took to drinking it to remember her by. But if she was waiting for him in this Land of Snollygolly, suddenly the wine didn't seem so appealing.
The train pulled up to the platform.
Nemo got up and looked back at the man. “Are you coming?” he asked.
Charles straightened his jacket and smoothed out his thinning hair. He stood up, leaving the bottle of wine on the bench, forgotten in his elation. “Yep,” he said. “I'm coming.”

Monday, 2 December 2013

Where the hades did Plutus come from?

Hey everyone!

So the Death is but a Dream blog tour is over, but there are just under two days for the giveaway. So make sure you get those entries in. Again, thank you so much to all the bloggers who participated and to Xpresso Book Tours The thing I'm most excited about is all the new likers of my Author Page on Facebook. *waves*

SO. The big question everyone had while reading DIBAD is where the hades did the Greek God Plutus come from? A lot of people have never heard of him before.

Dionysus, sitting on the left, and Plutus, holding the cornucopia. Already friends.

My author's note at the beginning of the novel explains that I discovered Plutus one day while looking up the children of Hades. And while I did take some liberties with the myths, I did try to stay true to source material. Here's what happened.

The story of Plutus is not a popular myth, and many sources say that it's a misrepresentation as the Roman God of the Underworld AND Wealth was Pluto. Otherwise known as Greek God Hades' counterpart. Some sources say Plutus is Pluto lost in translation. There are, however, places where he appears in Ancient Greek text and vases.

Plutus appears as the titular character in Aristophanes' play, Plutus. Here, he is the god of wealth who appears as blind beggar (sound familiar?). He also makes an appearance in Dante's The Inferno as the demon of wealth. Obviously, his incarnation there is quite different than the one you see in DIBAD. There are also statues that feature Plutus as a baby with the Goddess Eirene.

A lot of sources say that Plutus was the son of Demeter and Iasion. According to my research though, he is sometimes considered the son of Hades and Persephone. You can find him on many vases with the King and Queen of the Underworld.

So it's that last part that I ran with. The God of Wealth is the son of the God of the Underworld. It might not be the most accepted of all myths, but it worked incredibly well for DIBAD. I even included in the book that Plutus' obscurity was by design, because you can imagine being the God of Wealth, he's a pretty hot target for opportunists. That gave me the perfect ground for which to base a mystery novel. And a great companion to Callie.

I'm not a Greek historian or anything, so I could be incredibly wrong about it. A lot of my research was compiling different sources on the internet. This is also where other obscure gods like Telesphorus and Hygeia came from.

It sure made for a fun write. And I hope everyone enjoys it.

Also, if you haven't heard of Aristophanes before, I'd highly suggest reading his play Lysistrata. It tells the story of Sparta and Troy and of a war that's been going on for years. Eventually, the women get so fed up, they get together and decide that they won't have sex with the men until the war is over. Yep, you read that right. Even if Greek mythology isn't your thing, it's a really funny read.

Until next time peeps!


Monday, 25 November 2013

Death is but a Dream's Book Tour + GIVEAWAY!!

Woo hoo! So the blog tour for Death is but a Dream launched today from Xpresso Book Tours. It will be on from November 25th to November 30th, over Thanksgiving, one of my favorite holidays. Perfect.

Which is why there's a giveaway of a Kindle Fire, 2x Signed copies of Death is but a Dream, and 3x eBook copies. It should be fun, so enter in the Rafflecopter giveaway below. Good luck.

A special thanks goes to Giselle from Xpresso Book Tours, who has coordinated everything. And a very special thank you goes to all of the bloggers who are participating in the tour. And thank you readers.

Here's where Death is but a Dream will appear. And don't forget to enter the giveaway.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Let's do something slightly different

First of all, as tomorrow/today is the start of Death is but a Dream's blog tour from Xpresso Book Tours, I want to say thanks to everyone involved. It really means a lot and thank you.

Second, for the slightly different thing and to get our minds completely off Death is but a Dream, I'm going to post a short story I wrote for NYC Midnight. NYC Midnight is an international short story competition where you are given a genre, a location, and a subject in which to write a short story in 1000 words. It's a great exercise to step out of your comfort zone and just write within certain parameters.

I entered it with my lovely friend Caro and we both got top marks in our respective groups. We have a few rounds to see who's the winner, but I figured I should probably post it now. It's a bit different to my usual fare.

This time, I had: Science Fiction (yay!), an underwater city, and a priceless painting. And boy did I have fun with this one. Enjoy.

The Nursery Curator

 I feel nervous.
Mostly it's because I'm feeling too hot. The oxygen in my breathing apparatus tastes stale and I am sweating in my suit. My movements feel sluggish in the intense pressure of the sea floor.
I hope I'm not too late.
Three days ago, the entry hall to The Nursery, the gallery of art of our underwater city started leaking uncontrollably without warning. Diagnostics went down, and we don't even know if the door to the gallery is open. Thousands of priceless paintings are housed there; if the seal was open, then it would have been flooded. The worst part is The Nursery is only accessible through the entry hall.
I volunteered to repair it, and I really have no idea what I'm doing. After all, I'm only a museum curator. I have to go in through the outside to make sure I don't flood The Nursery.
The superheated blow torch is bright in the murky water as I trace a molten outline of a rectangular hole in the metal tube.
“You doin' okay there, Cal?” Reese, my director, asks me. Her voice is concerned, although she's trying hard not sound concerned. “Your temperature is elevated.”
Sweat beads on my brow. I wish I could wipe it away.
“Just dandy,” I answer. “How are you back on base?”
She chuckles softly. “We're fine, cowboy.”
My blow torch finishes its rectangular circuit, a few threads holding in place in the metal tube. Water is rushing in around the edges. All I need to do is kick it and I'm in the chamber. The water from the sea will fill the space, and I'll have to seal it and flush the water out of the tube before proceeding.
I hesitate.
“How do we know that the door to the gallery is sealed?” I ask. “How do we know that it's not open and I'm going to be the one who floods and ruins it all?”
There's a pregnant pause in my headset. “You won't, Cal.” Her voice is soft, reverent. She cares more about these paintings than I do.
But you don't know for sure. The unspoken words haunt me as I continue, using my weight to push against the opening. The weakened metal gives way and I'm sucked into the dark opening amidst a rush of water.
For a couple of seconds, it's chaotic. I fall into a pool of water about chest high. The water from outside pours onto me with such force. I just have to wait in my walkabout suit for the water to fill the rest of the hallway and the pressure to even out. It's dark and I can't see if the door is open.
It's awful.
“Just breathe, Cal,” Reese says. “Your vitals are off the charts.”
No shit.
I steady my breathing.
An eternity passes, and the chamber finally fills up with water. It's so dark here, I turn on my headlamp to scan my surroundings. Thankfully, the seal to the museum gallery was closed airtight, so the paintings in there weren't ruined.
“What do you see, Cal?” Reese asks me.
I clear my throat. “From what I can see, no water leaked in.” Small miracle, but I'll take it.
She lets out an audible sigh that I can hear. “Thank goodness,” she whispers.
I proceed to plug up the hole with the piece of metal that I had knocked out to get in there. The blow torch makes quick work of the hole. Luckily, the next part is easy: flushing it out. Each chamber in the city is built with vents to release water in case something like this happens. It's easy, I just turn the nozzle and wait.
While the water is flushing out of the chamber, I check everything and run diagnostics of my own, making sure that the doors are secure and reinforce the patched up hole. Later, repairmen will make sure that it won't buckle under the pressure, but it will hold for now.
It takes an hour to clear out the water. But it does clear out.
“Mission control,” I breathe happily. “Success.”
An overjoyed whoop sounds on my headset, making me wince.
“What are you thinking about?” Reese asks me over the happy pandemonium. In contrast, her voice is soft, reverent. Her mind is on the same wavelength as me, although she doesn't want to admit it.
“I'm thinking about saying hi to Jude.”
I hear her sniffle. She's crying. To avoid further awkward conversation, I take off my helmet. I finger in the code for opening the door. It obediently irises open and I'm greeted by the fluorescent lights flickering on. I step through and make a beeline to the one piece of art that I fought so hard to protect.
It's a piece of paper with a colorful, child's watercolor on it. It shows three vaguely human bodies, one small, the other two big. Handwritten shaky, black letters say, “Momma and Daddy and Jude 4 1/2 years old”. Even though I've memorized every line of the picture, it still takes my breath away every time I see it.
“Hey son,” I whisper. I touch the glass. “Daddy fixed the problem. And Mommy says hi.”
It's bittersweet. It always was hard for Reese to see this painting. It was just enough for her to know that our son's painting is there.
Ten years ago, the Decompression Plague hit everyone in the city. It made adults infertile. Worst of all, it hit every child under the age of fourteen with a mortality rate of 100%. So not only are we unable to bear children any more, our children died along with any hope of the future.
That's why we have The Nursery. It's a memorial to all of our children. Every child has their last drawing on the wall to commemorate their passing.

While we're hurtling towards extinction, I'm the curator of our children's memory. And I'll do everything I can to keep it alive.

Monday, 4 November 2013

November and cornucopias!!

Wow, it's November already. Where does the time go?

Death is but a Dream has been released and is in all formats. The feedback has been great so far. I know what to do better next time and I know what people have liked.

The end of November is my review blog tour for DIBAD and I'm so nervous and excited. I've never done a tour for a book before, so this is new ground for me. We're giving away something exciting for old fans and new. It should be fun. I hope it gets the book into the hands of people who want to read it.

Watch this space in about three weeks. *bites nails nervously.

Love you guys.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Edits, proofs, and songs

I got my edits back from my editor and I have to say, the book reads beautifully and I lurv it dearly. Thanks to everyone who helped make this possible. Hopefully you know who you are. ;)

I've formatted it and ordered proofs. I should be hitting the publish button next weekend if all goes to plan. It will be available on Kindle, Print, Nook, Apple, and others.

Fingers. are. crossed. And I'm so nervous about releasing it, as you probably are when your child rocks up to kindergarten for the first day. So much hope and so many dreams for the future.

So, with that in mind, here's a song that I've been listening to nonstop since it came out. It reminds me soooo much of the story, with its haunting music from one of my favorite bands to hit the airwaves in the past few years. Sit back and enjoy "Together" from The xx.

*sighs happily. I should probably post the entire soundtrack to the book, of the music I listened to while writing Death is but a Dream.

So please add Death is but a Dream to your Goodreads lists if you haven't. Or mark it on your calendar.

I can't wait to share it with you.


Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Death is but a Dream Cover Reveal!

Oh my goodness has it been a while since I posted on my blog. It's almost criminal negligence. I'd like to say that I've been incredibly busy with writing and prepping and work...but then again, I am playing some Legend of Zelda in my spare time, so...

BUT, to make it up to you, here's is the absolutely GORGEOUS cover for my new book, Death is but a Dream, which is going to be released this Autumn. The artwork is done by the AMAZING Claudia McKinney of PhatPuppy Art and the typography was done by the AWESOME Ashley of Bookish Brunette Designs. I think they totally nailed it and I think Callie looks pretty epic. The cover reveal for it has been organized by the WONDERFUL Giselle of Xpresso Book Tours. Thanks everyone, I really appreciate your help.

Here it is!

Here's the back description:

Caught between life and death, all Callie wants is to live again.

Homicide detective Callie Saunders knows that death isn’t all pearly gates and angels. After being hit by a bus, she finds that it's the ancient gods and goddesses of Greek mythology who are in charge of everything.

So when Hades offers her a deal, she accepts. If she wants to be brought back to life, she’ll have to figure out who is trying to kill his son. But if she fails, both her soul and the world will be destroyed.

With the odds mounting against her, it’ll take everything she has within her to wake up from death. But the rules are constantly changing. And someone wants her to stay dead.

So please be sure to check it out this Autumn! 


Monday, 27 May 2013

NYC Midnight Round 2

So, in between everything that's been happening, I've been involved in a short story contest over at NYC Midnight. It started out with 850 writers, the weekend Chris and I were in Wellington. I nearly forgot about it until the day before it was due. I made it into the second round with my story entitled Glassical Music. Then, when Chris and I were in Queenstown, I got the 2nd round brief and I had to write a short story in 3 days. That was fun. I'll post it here for you guys to enjoy. The feedback I got from the judges was great. And it got me into Round 3 - the Finals. I'll elaborate on that late. But until then, here's Round 2.

I hope you'll like it too. :)

Electric Love

 I love her.
The feeling is intense and all-consuming, like a crushing weight on my soul. She is my soul mate. And I am hers. Even though she doesn't know it yet. It's a match made in Heaven, even though you might say that I belong in Hell.
She works as a tour guide at the Texas Prison Museum in Huntsville, where she tells school children all the “don'ts” to stay out of prison: Don't steal. Don't do drugs. And most of all, don't murder anyone.
That's the best part about her lecture – she gets to show them Old Sparky, the decommissioned electric chair. The kids watch her as she describes the past Death Row inmates who died in this twisted piece of metal and wood. There are the notorious ones, the serial killers who raped and murdered more women and men than they can remember. There are some who have killed just a single person. And some who were completely innocent.
But Old Sparky doesn't care. When you flip that switch, he fries the life out of whatever unfortunate soul is sitting there. For such a flippant name, the damn chair is an undiscerning bastard.
The kids are always fascinated. Some think it's cool. Some are frightened by the possibilities of a chair like this. A piece of their innocence is forever lost, like looking at this chair gives them a glimpse into the fabric of life and death. Maybe one or two of them make a conscious decision not to end up in a similar situation.
But most will forget about it as soon as their teacher passes out lunch, usually comprising of smushed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and watered-down juice. Their lives will move on, and they'll forget this little tour.
But not me. I am forever left alone with Old Sparky.
It was decommissioned in 1976 when there was an uproar over the fact that it took three tries for death to finally claim its last victim.
And I've been haunting this electric chair ever since.
After 37 years, I've forgiven Old Sparky for our rough first meeting. I mean, I wasn't innocent. Not by a long shot, so maybe three tries to make my heart explode in my chest was a bit of retribution. Because without my unwavering connection to it, I might have never met her.
I don't know when it started, my search for the perfect girlfriend. It might have been just after I started working as an electrician. I've always been a lonely kind of guy. Girls never noticed me, and I never knew how to approach them.
As an electrician though, I was someone they trusted to enter their homes and lives. They would smile at me when I first arrived. They would offer me water while I worked. Some would chat. And they would all give me a handshake and say they'd call again if they needed any help.
I saw them quite a few times over the years.
Problem is, I'd get fixated on one. I'd repair the electrical faults in her house. I would make sure that the job would take several days. We'd end up talking to each other – and I mean really talk during my breaks. I'd learn a lot about what she liked and all her dreams.
With the first one, I had made the mistake of telling her my dream. That I wanted us to be together for the rest of our lives. That I always wanted her there at the house to welcome me. To love me.
She laughed and told me she was already married. That it was impossible for any of that to happen.
Instead of just moving on, something inside me had snapped. If we couldn't be together, then she couldn't be with anyone.
I botched the repair job, not so much as to be obvious about what happened. Just enough so that something would happen. And a few weeks later, when the house burned down to the ground with the bitch and her husband inside, the police never suspected a thing.
I was free of her love spell and continued my work.
The thing was, I always found another girl to fall in love with. And even though I was so courteous to spend my time repairing their electric wiring, they never reciprocated my feelings.
So I made sure they were never able to reciprocate those feelings with anyone else.
I started small, doing similar hack jobs that guaranteed the house would burn down at some point. Amazingly, the police never caught on that all the victims had the same electrician.
So I got more ambitious. I wanted my unrequited loves to suffer even more. Their pain filled the hole in my heart, if only temporarily. I made sure fires would start in different places, so as to avoid suspicion. I went bigger and bigger, until the house was literally a ticking time bomb ready to go off with a bang.
They never got away either. As my star-crossed lover, each one was doomed to die when their house finally gave in to the faulty wiring. Their homes became their funeral pyres.
But when my eleventh love died, someone at the police station finally connected the dots. I was arrested amid a flurry of media frenzy. They pegged me as a serial killer, ranking me up there with the likes of John Haigh, Ted Bundy, even Jack the Ripper. I freely admitted that I killed them as well. After all, they deserved it for not loving me back.
Fittingly, the newspapers called me The Electrician, and I became the most hated man in America.
You can imagine the sheer irony that the electric chair that executed me had faulty wiring and required not one, not two, but three tries to finally do me in. Some said I deserved it. Others were just glad that I was finally dead. But the state was so embarrassed, they finally decommissioned Old Sparky.
So we've been sitting together in this museum for years. Time was just ticking by without anyone noticing us. I thought I was doomed to never be happy again. And maybe that's an appropriate punishment for someone like me.
But no, God has finally smiled upon me with forgiveness by bringing my museum tour guide to me. Unlike the other girls I've fallen in love with, she's smart, funny, good with kids, and absolutely beautiful. This angel has restored purpose to my Afterlife. She gives me reason for being. It makes sense that everything before was just leading up to our meeting. If I hadn't killed eleven other girls, I never would have been executed, which means I never would have been haunting Old Sparky. And I would have never seen her shining face.
I can think of nothing else but being with her. I am obsessed with the thought of us finally being together.
But how can we, when she doesn't know I exist?
I've been pondering that for quite a while now. How can I make her finally see me? How does a ghost make a living girl fall in love with them?
I don't want to show myself to her while she was giving a tour, which, sadly, is really my only contact with her. I want us to be alone together, where we'll talk and laugh and share everything we loved about each other.
I am sitting on Old Sparky thinking of ways and alternatives, when suddenly, there she was. After closing time and without a tour.
I look up, astonished that this Aphrodite created just for me is here, now, with me. I get up quickly to dust off my pants and make sure my hair is parted correctly. It's an outdated style by now, but it had been all the rage back when I was alive.
She's not even looking at me. She's on her hands and knees, searching around the benches and around the trash cans, but I don't know why. At this point I don't really care. I just want her to see me and love me.
She picks something up in her hands – I've seen the kids with them before. “Hey Josh!” she calls out in to the hallway. “Tell Mrs. Anderson I've found her son's iPhone!” She gives it another dubious glance.
A muffled voice answers from down the hall, sounding genuinely amused, although I can't make out the words.
“Stupid kids don't take care of their stuff,” she adds under her breath.
She sits back on her heels and takes another glance around the place and her eyes linger on Old Sparky. I sure wish they'd linger on me.
“Such a creepy place,” she mutters. “I really need to get a new job.”
Now's my chance. I get near her. I don't want to scare her – after all, I am a ghost – but I don't want this opportunity to pass us by.
She shivers perceptibly as the air chills around her from my presence. She tries to rub warmth back into her arms. But I know she won't be able to get warm with me around her. That's okay though – she'll learn to like the cold because that means she'll be around me.
“My love,” I whisper in her ear.
She jerks at my voice, falling on her wonderful butt. She has gone pale, frightened. Her short, panicked breaths are coming out in short bursts of white clouds.
“Wh-who's there?” she calls out. I give her her space. She's freaked out now, and I don't want to ruin my first impression. I'll let her calm down.
“Josh, is that you?” she cries out. “Samantha?”
When there's no answer, she scrambles to her feet and looks around wildly. I realize, too late, that she's about to leave. She'll run away from me, and if she's scared enough, there's no way she'll ever be back in here by herself again.
“I'm here,” I tell her.
I reach out to touch her, to comfort her and tell her that everything is all right. But as my hand touches her bare skin, electricity arcs between us, sending a jolt down to her skin. She jumps back with a shriek.
There's nothing else I can do. I grab her into a tight embrace, meaning to comfort her and tell her that everything is all right. Electricity shocks her again, and this time, it's her entire body. I can't stop the shocks. But I can hold her to show my love transcends death for her.
She screams with the horror of someone whose world has just been shattered. “Th-th-the Elect...rician?!”
Initially, I'm surprised that she knows who I am. I guess the sparks between us give my identity away. But before I can do anything, she runs out of Old Sparky's room, looking like she had just seen a ghost. Me.

She won't ever return.
It takes me a while to realize this, but after patiently waiting a few months, I am forced to admit that she was too frightened to stick around. The tours continue without their guide. Instead, some guy is filling in until they can find a permanent replacement.
It breaks my heart at first. All I ever wanted to do was to make her love me and give my Afterlife meaning. I eventually get over it though, because life goes on, even when you're dead. The sting goes away, and I go back to my lonely existence with Old Sparky.
My only regret is that I didn't kill her.
Someone new starts conducting the tours in her place. And as I watched this new girl teach new rounds of school kids about Old Sparky, I realize that here is a girl I could finally see myself with.
I learn to love her.
She is my soul mate.
And I am hers.
Even though she doesn't know it yet.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

My short story submission to NYC Midnight

Hey guys, how are you doing?

Things have been busy in Erin-land (aren't they always?). I've crossed the 50k word threshold with my new book, test reading a few others, plotting ways to take over the world with my husband, been on vacation, AND I've entered a short story contest for NYC Midnight, which I've just submitted.

Now, with NYC Midnight's short story challenges, you get assigned a genre, a subject, and a character, and you have a week and 2,500 words to do it in. I usually try to do these to stretch myself as a writer and do something a bit different. They tend to be fun.

This time, I got comedy, a scholarship, and a music teacher. Because I was in Wellington when I got the assignment, I nearly forgot about it until Friday night. Whoops. So I sat down and wrote the first thing that came to mind. It's not a comedy (the situation might be, but there's no laugh out loud part, so I don't think I'll progress, but I quite like what I wrote. I tried a few things here to be a bit different, and it's not bad for a few hours' work (okay, it was about seven hours of work, but who's counting?).

Here's the story. If you want to give me feedback, please respond in the comments and let me know - I'm always trying to make myself better as a writer, and as I said, I'm trying to do something a bit different. Enjoy.


Glassical Music

Brief Synopsis: Given no other choice, Kevin Baxter resorts to playing an unusual instrument when he auditions for a full scholarship to New York City's finest arts high school.

There they are, just ready to be sold.
My Nana's crystal stemmed wine glasses sparkle tauntingly as I open the cabinet.
Gently, I pick one up. I know there are five dozen crystal stemmed wine glasses in total, most of them sitting under several layers of dust. After everything that happened with my family, they were never pawned off. It is nothing short of a miracle that they are still here. Nana's no longer here to defend them. The only thing keeping them from being the next thing sold is the fact that Momma had simply forgot about them.
“How much d'ya think they're worth?” I ask. “Ya think it's enough for that keyboard?”
“That keyboard” being the one I found at the very pawn shop where most of my family heirlooms were sold for pennies for each dollar they were worth.
“Nana loved them glasses,” Shawn, my nine year old brother, whines.
“She ain't drinking from 'em now,” I shush. I grab another and another and start to fill up a busted cardboard U-Haul box I found on the walk home from church. It will be big enough to carry all of these glasses to the pawn shop, hopefully without breaking one.
I have to hurry before Momma gets home. I arrange them inside the box.
“You takin' all of 'em?” Shawn can be really annoying.
“Yea, now shut yer trap,” I growl.
I give him another look that silences him. When Shawn wants to, he can close up like a Venus Fly Trap I once saw in science class. And with the way his mouth was gaping a moment before, he probably did catch a fly.
“Now, help me get alla these ready.”
Between the two of us, we fetch each glass, dust it, wrap it up in yellowed newspaper, and place it in the box. It takes a bit longer than I would've liked, but I guess that's what happens when you're trying to protect sixty fragile wine glasses.
I pick up the box with a grunt. It is surprisingly far heavier than I would ever have thought. Each one of them is made of thin, clear glass, with an impossibly skinny stem. But sixty of those can add up to a pretty heavy load.
“'K, you stay here,” I order. I open the front door and use the box to prop it open as I gingerly make my way through.
“But Kevin...”
“Shawn!” I exasperate. “Stay here. Granpa'll watch you.” He is asleep on the couch, but Shawn isn't stupid enough to cause too much trouble.
My kid brother watches me with too-wide eyes as the door closes behind me.
Now, by myself, the weight of what I'm doing hits me, and I sway slightly. I am suddenly lightheaded. I don't want to sell Nana's wine glasses, but how else am I supposed to get money to pay for a keyboard? The audition for LaGuardia Arts High School is in a week, and I don't have any way of practicing a song for it. And I have to be the best, because the best performer gets a full ride to the school. And with my family's financial troubles, that scholarship is my only hope of going to LaGuardia.
If I got in.
I'm actually not too worried about getting in. Before he died, Dad taught me how to play the piano on this old vertical piano he got from a bar on the lower East Side that looked like it was from the 1920s. It wasn't a great piano, missing a key from the lowest octave, but it had 84 other keys you could play. Dad even tried replacing that missing key with a wooden Jenga piece.
It turns out that I have perfect pitch and can play the piano by ear. I don't even know how to read music. You just play a song and I can match it, after a few tries. Granpa had been disappointed when Dad told him what perfect pitch was (“He ain't practicing to be a baseball pitcher? What the hell is a boy going to do with music?” he grouched.) but I could play like like a concert pianist.
When Dad died, my family suddenly found itself without a breadwinner, so they sold the piano for a hundred dollars.
And I suddenly found myself without a piano.
That was all right up until a few weeks ago. I was able to practice at my junior high, because they have their own piano. But now, school's out for the winter holidays and I have auditions for LaGuardia coming up in a week. So I need an instrument, fast.
I also don't think Nana would mind supporting her eldest grandchild.
“C'mon, Kev,” I tell myself aloud. “You can do this.”
The bell to the pawn shop jingles as I enter, that high pitched tingle a reminder of my guilt. I trudge up to the counter and softly put the box on it. Behind the bullet proof glass, the cashier regards me through half-lidded eyes.
“Kevin Baxter,” he says, giving me a toothy smile. My family has been here so much in the past four years, he knows us all by name. I just never bothered to learn his. “What brings ye here?”
I take out one of the glasses and show him. “I wanna sell these,” I say. “Please.”
He raises an eyebrows and inspects it.
“There're sixty,” I add, hoping that the number entices him.
He glances at me, and slowly, achingly, he sifts through the box, as if he doesn't trust that I'm telling the truth. “I'll give ye thirty for them.”
I blink, unsure if I heard it right. “Thirty?” I ask.
“They're worth at least two dollars!” I actually think they're worth a lot more, but I'm not going to tell him that. I'm trying to negotiate, but all I really want is enough money for that keyboard.
“Thirty dollars.”
I gulp, and I self-consciously glance at the wall to my right. An old Casio keyboard is looking back at me. Its keys look like it's giving me a toothy grin. A sticker on it says $45.
“Either thirty or nothing,” he drawls. “Take it or leave it.”
I glance back at him. I could sell them and see if I could find another keyboard. But I don't know how many options are left to me and the Casio is the cheapest keyboard I've seen. I've been looking around.
I'm about to say yes, when I see his finger twirling around the rim of the glass. I remember my Nana doing that when the glass was full of red wine. She'd make this haunting noise just by dipping a finger into the liquid and then running it along at that thin edge. The fuller the glass, the higher the note.
Music. It's music.
“I'll leave it,” I say, picking up the heavy box.
Next week is going to be very interesting.

I try not to notice all of the eyes that are staring at me.
I'm sitting in the hallway next to the stage door of LaGuardia Arts' auditorium. There's about fifteen other kids my age here with their parents looking at me like I'm a huge joke. They're all dressed far better than me with their clarinets and violins and tubas sitting on their laps. One kid even has a gigantic harp.
Like me, they've already warmed up in another room. Like me, they're just waiting to go in.
“Are you for real?” a preppy kid near me asks.
“Are you 'n asshole?” I ask back.
His eyes widen in disbelief. Apparently no one has ever called him that before. I sit back, satisfied.
“Kevin Baxter,” a kind voice announces.
“Here!” I call out.
The woman with the clipboard looks at me and blinks confusedly for about fifteen seconds before answering. “It's your turn,” she finally says. And she moves aside, giving me enough room to push my cart into the auditorium.
Every bump and every turn feels treacherous as I push my way out onto the stage. I can imagine taking a turn too quickly and spilling everything onto the floor. And while I have perfect pitch, my singing voice isn't enough to get me in. My church choir can back me up on that.
“Number 439,” the woman with the clipboard announces. “Kevin Baxter.”
The lights bearing down on me are bright and impenetrable. I see six silhouettes in front of me, all teachers from the music department at LaGuardia Arts. They'll be judging my audition, determining if I'm good enough to be both accepted and if I'm good enough to receive the full ride scholarship into the music school.
I swallow nervously. Was I supposed to do an introduction? I'm not sure.
“H-hi,” I said. “My name's Kevin Baxter.” Idiot, the lady already said that. “An' I'm going to play 'Hallelujah' on my...my glasses.”
Even saying it aloud makes it sound more ridiculous. My cheeks burn.
There's no response. In fact, I can actually hear a cricket somewhere in the back of the auditorium, which momentarily disorients me. Why haven't they gotten rid of the cricket for these auditions?
This is for my future. This is for solving all my problems. Including tuition to the top magnate arts school in the city.
I bend over my cart, to Nana's sixty wine glasses filled with varying levels of water. I had arrived to the school early so I could spend hours tuning my so-called instrument. It's amazing how just a drop of water can make the note sound off. I'd arranged each glass, fashioning something like a piano on my cart. I even added food coloring to create “black keys”. While there are only 60 keys here, far less than the piano I grew up on, I know what I'm doing.
I dip the tips of my fingers in a bowl of water and start to play, letting the music flow through me. Even though I am used to it after a week of practicing, the notes blend together, making a haunting, minimalistic version of a song I know these music teachers have all heard before. Other kids'll be playing complex, hard songs that makes their fingers ache and their lungs deflate.
My hands are flying above each rim. I have to move fast, even though each note is slow, melancholy. I know that every pitch is perfect, every note is hit right. Once around the rim for longer notes, quick swipes for shorter notes, just like I practiced all last week. I pour everything I have into the music, letting it roll over me and out to the audience. Ninety seconds. That's all I have to impress the music teachers and show them that I know music even better than they do. Ever play using wine glasses? I thought not.
Then, after it feels like no time has passed and everything is drained out of me, I finish. I allow myself a smile.
The judges are silent. Aren't they supposed to say something, to give feedback? I was expecting something else. Not silence like this.
That damn cricket at the back of the auditorium is back, playing his own music which sounds oddly like, “Weirdo, weirdo, weirdo.”
“Thanks,” I say, and I nod my head in an awkward bow.
I wheel off my cart, not even caring if I spill a few drops now. I'm done. If they don't like what I did, then there's no further point in anything else I'm doing. Once again, I ignore the shocked expressions of other hopefuls and their parents, and I head straight to the bathroom to pour out the contents of each glass. It's time to pack up and go home.
They are meant to announce who got in and who got the scholarship today. After the music teacher's silence, I know what the answer is. No and no. I should've sold Nana's wine glasses when I had the chance.
I take my time cleaning up, because if I have to suffer through any more stares or crappy comments, I'm going to break, just as if I drop one of these glasses. It takes me longer than I expected to wash, dry, and pack up sixty glasses, even though I've done it many times before in the past week. I don't want to face the truth.
When I get out of the bathroom, the results are posted on the door to the auditorium.
I look, but I don't want to. I don't want my dreams to end here, but I'm compelled to look.
There it is. My name on the accepted list. I widen my eyes and read again. I'm at the very bottom of the list, what does that mean? Oh. I'm not at the top. I'm not the one who has received the full scholarship.
My eyes are wide now, and it's not from shock. It's because I don't want to cry in front of these people. Others are shrieking happily that they've been accepted, and one lucky person doesn't have to worry about the steep tuition fees. But I do. This is even more cruel than if I hadn't made it.
“It's unfair, I think,” a voice says beside me. I turn my head and a man is smiling at me. “I tried convincing them that someone of your exceptional talents should be given a full scholarship to LaGuardia. We need more diversity, more innovation in order to stay relevant to the present. Someone like you.”
“Oh,” I say.
“I'm Dr. Forrester,” he says, “and I teach music theory here at LaGuardia.”
“Oh,” I repeat dumbly.
He gives me a grin. “You know, my wife's family owns a restaurant on Greenwich Avenue, and they're looking for a new dish washer. After seeing the way you treated those wine glasses, I think you'd be a perfect fit. Not a single one broke when you were wheeling that thing out onto the stage.”
He slips me a business card, and I glance at it. D'lish is the name of the restaurant.
“If you want to come in for an interview, I think we can offer you your full tuition here and plus some more. Plus,” he adds with a mischievous smile, “there's a piano there you can play to entertain dinner guests.”
He claps me on the back. I'm stunned.
“Just give her a call at that number and she'll bring you in for a chat.” He smiles at me. “Be seeing you around, Kevin.”
Just like that, he leaves me alone. It takes me a few minutes to process what he has said. But it feels genuine. And for the first time in a long time, it feels like my dreams are coming true.
I look down at my box of sixty wine glasses, and a slow smile spreads across my face.
“Thanks, Nana.”

Saturday, 2 February 2013

I'm alive, I promise

As a fellow writer recently lamented, blogging can get in the way of writing. And I've been so busy, life has gotten in the way of writing, so blogging suffered as a result. I'll try to make amends.

So NaNoWriMo didn't go as planned.

I wrote and wrote and tore out my hair, trying to make it work. I had a scenario that I'd dreamt about years ago and it's stuck with me for a long time. The dream terrified me. And while I was writing my horror story, I just didn't feel like I was doing it justice. I didn't have a purpose to the story. There was no antagonist. I only had characters that I tried too hard to like. When I had a bad day and killed off three characters within one paragraph, I did one of these:

So, I put that story on the back burner. I will return to it, but November just wasn't the right time. Instead, I've start writing another book that I've had stewing in my mind. This one goes back further than my horror story - I drew the first version of the main character when I was a junior in high school. Granted, that character no longer exists, but that sowed the seeds for this current book.

I'll go back to my little horror story either when I'm done with this one or the one after that. It will be better for it.

Other than that, if you haven't seen this short, then be prepared for the best six minutes of your life.