Throwback: Vultures

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File under “Sometimes I get mad.” I wrote this last year as an indictment against systemic racism, from incarceration to economic opportunity, set in a reimagined world of non-human animals. Because what can I say, I watch a lot of Disney.

VULTURES

Scavengers caught in cages
Different stages of difficult phases
Fangs filed, claws clipped
To the bone, wings snipped.

Ribs press against skin
As spectators stare in
At beasts who never stood a chance
And never stand a chance again.

Fresh apples in dead mouths
Fresh blood, draining down
Decaying flesh, begging hand unfurled.
When did vultures get to rule the world?

Gold glints in their eyes
Black velvet circling the skies
Safe from the kill, prey the predator’s own.
When did vultures get to rule the world?

Beasts of work, beasts of burden
Unburdened by strain of security
Best to stay low to the ground
Better to maintain the purity.

Hungry eyes, the grass is greener
Where it isn’t needed.
What’s a hare to do
With something to care for, my dear?
Just another bit of roadkill.
No one’s crying, my dear.

Carrion desiccation
Unrepentant desecration
Each poor dying soul strung like a pearl.
When did vultures get to rule the world?

Everything collapses
And dignity lapses
There’s always dissatisfaction
For them to feast upon
A battered, bloody violent reaction
For them to feast upon
As though it doesn’t matter
Which beast they feast upon.

And the predators know
To leave a generous share.
Let the thoroughfare war
Over whether it’s fair.

There’s always more dead to go around.
Always something to blame farther down on the ground.
When did vultures get to rule the world?
When did vultures get to rule the world?

…because tomorrow you might be dead

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When you’re looking through glass at tomorrow’s history lesson, there are just some things that go through your head.

I worry that I won’t get everything done, that all the things I planned to write over the next ten years won’t get written. That I’ll die with series unfinished and stories untold and unshared.

I’ve gone a lot of places, I’ve met plenty of people, but writing is my life, and I don’t know if I’m going to be alive next year. That’s just truth.

I’m sheltering at home, but so many people in my area aren’t, and without masks. I don’t know anyone who’s died of coronavirus, but I don’t know how many people I know who will. And one of those people could be me. That’s just truth.

I work from home and I don’t go out. My dad is a Whedon dad; he does all the leaving for the household.

This is doing nothing for my paranoia and agoraphobic tendencies, to say the least for my thanatophobia.

One small but significant thing that’s changed is that I eat the ice cream and pizza now. Because if I’m going to die soon, I’m seriously not going to tell myself I can’t have the ice cream. It’s a good thing I really like working out.

Entertaining Devils

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File this under “Sometimes I Get Mad.”

ENTERTAINING DEVILS

They say demons that tempt you walk in deserts
And the deserts are expanding all the time
Tumbleweeds are our new unit of measure
We just passed the last rusted street sign.

They say there’s gold in them there hills
At night, you hear cries and flashing lights
The moths flock in to eat their decaying fill
Promised cold ends in a warm paradise.

But the games are all rigged
And the house always wins,
The promise a mirage,
Successes the sins.

There are many roads and doors
To a hell with many levels
Another one bites the dust
As soon as the last red dust cloud settles
The wolves, they wear white wool
And the lambs howl like rebels
If we’re entertaining angels
Then aren’t we also entertaining devils?

There is more than one dead end coming
Red paint on cardboard says an end is nigh
With long dead language, the demons are summoned
With living words, the demon have learned to lie.

Abundant feasts have gone brown and spoiled
Laughter follows as the weakest fall
Nothing but fog for which men have toiled
Dancing in the streets from the latest thrall.

The party continues on
Until we wear through the soles
When laughs turn to screams
There’s no buying what we sold.

There are many roads and doors
To a hell with many levels
Another one bites the dust
As soon as the last red dust cloud settles
The wolves, they wear white wool
And the lambs howl like rebels
If we’re entertaining angels
Then aren’t we also entertaining devils?

From the view of the mad, the sane seem worse
Sanity’s heart is sanity’s curse
Hell’s unemployed, basking in the glow
There’s no telling how far man will go
To keep the wheels turning
And the candles burning
And the spirits yearning
For something already sacrificed
To the discerning gentleman
With scotch on ice
Who makes sure no one’s learning
What feeds the beast, what feeds a man

What need have we for devils
When we do so well ourselves?
Half the fun of wreaking havoc
Is knowing how many angels fell.

There are many roads and doors
To a hell with many levels
Another one bites the dust
As soon as the last red dust cloud settles
The wolves, they wear white wool
And the lambs howl like rebels
If we’re entertaining angels
Then aren’t we also entertaining devils?

 

Warning Signs

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The coming mist glows yellow
With sulfur in its smell
A smoky sky, hanging low,
Carries dangerous stories to tell.

Red sky in the morning
Blood on the moon at night
An ill-swept wind blows in
With an eerie kind of light.

The world is lit with warning signs
The roads run dark and still
Cyan bruises on these lips of mine
Purple sage upon the hill.

Red eyes from the mourning
Blood on the sheets at night
A sickness marks our subtle sin
The beast will have its bite.

In all the colors of all the signs
We saw but haven’t seen
That we bring ourselves to an end of times
When all we can see is green.
When all we can need is green.

A person must be wicked
If a person’s to be heard
Were I a witch, with verdant skin,
Could the lesson be learned?

Red hives in the morning
Blood from the mouth at night
The edge of green is browning
And blackens into white.

Running

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After a bit of a dry spell, lyric-writing inspiration hit me hard, and I had to take advantage of the windfall while I had it, so there will be more in the coming weeks.

I honestly don’t know what I’m going to do with these things, but sometimes a feeling doesn’t want a whole novel to express it. I’d like to think that I’ll be able to DO something with them, but experience tells me that even if I do, that doesn’t make me heard.

RUNNING

Laying on the bed
Blood on the pillow
Drying brown
The porch swing creaks
In autumn wind
Where I’ve always belonged.

Always in a world of four walls
Head bruised by low ceilings getting lower
Told the walls were safe and I was just too tall
Locks for my own good, no use for a door.

I never try to get away
Torture to move
To breathe
I’ll take what you give
As the gift
That I have to receive.

But I’m running, running, running
Running, running, running
Left the keys in the car
The money in your pocket
You can’t tell me who you are
You can’t shut my mind and lock it
I’m running, running, running
Running, running, running
I don’t like to run, but I’ll run from you.

You asked for everything, every window open
You told me to stay, so I stayed
But even a spider reaches the end of her rope
And you know what a good spider does to a mate.

Been staying so long
I couldn’t see
Through your windows
That I could go
Where you weren’t
That I could just go…

You were a king
Of the smallest plot
But you’re not a king out there
Show your teeth
But I’ve got teeth of my own
If you don’t, why should I play fair?

There were a thousand forty-eight chances in my jar
And you just took the last one
I stood so still for so long
But the stone’s cracked and now I can run.

And I’m running, running, running
Running, running, running
Left the keys in the car
The money in your pocket
You can’t tell me who you are
You can’t shut my mind and lock it
I’m running, running, running
Running, running, running
I don’t like to run, but I’ll run from you.

 

DEEP DOWN Available

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Edge smDeep Down is available as a 99c e-book at Amazon! I still need to proof and publish the paperback, but here’s the link to the ebooks:

Amazon
All other vendors

If you’re not a fan of horror, it’s not your thing, and that’s okay. Just putting it out there for those who might.


The world is ending. His family is dead. And it’s all the man’s fault.

There’s no reason for him to go on.

But he promised his eldest son that they’d explore the mountain cave near their home. They never got around to it, never enough time, always something in the way—work, school, other responsibilities, things that don’t matter anymore. Now the man has all the time in the world, because everyone’s out of time.

Of all the broken promises, this is the one he is determined to keep.

Along with the family dog, who he can’t bear to leave behind, the man ventures into the cave.

Though he doesn’t expect or plan for either of them to live very long, the man still struggles to keep himself and the dog alive, struggles to survive one more day, just one more day. Yet the deeper into the mountain they go, the stranger and more dangerous the cave becomes.

But that’s the only thing left to do—go deeper.

Seeking Solace at the End of the World

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Edge smI’ve said before that I conceived of DEEP DOWN in a bad place, and it’s a bad place that I’ve returned to a lot over the last four years, but during this current plague, I’m returning far more often. All I want to do is hide in my closet with the lights off and never come out. It’s a place of despair, but it’s somewhere I can’t get sick, a place where nothing can hurt me except myself–and I’m all too used to that.

Social distancing/quarantine appeals to an alarming tendency inside of me toward agoraphobia. On a daily basis, I once made myself leave the house, get in my death trap (aka, the car), to be around people, which is good even for this extreme introvert. I was a productive member of society, because I had to be. I am compelled to be useful, because I don’t have a lot else that I can do for this world.

But now I’m afraid of people more than usual (I suffer from a fairly mild paranoia that has only slipped from neurotic to psychotic once, and I’d rather never relive that experience), because everyone’s a potential carrier, and I’m not sure under what circumstances I would feel safe entering my death trap just to walk into a few more on a regular basis. I’m concerned about whether I’ll ever trust the end of this nightmare. I was lucky enough to keep my dayjob, because I can telecommute and it’s a 24/7 business even during a pandemic. Would that accommodation continue indefinitely? Or would I just accept my fate as a red shirt, like I always do, accept the risk because I’m cosmic cannon fodder and know it?

I’m scared, because I have things I still want to do, things I want to finish, and I don’t trust that I will make it out of this. Because I wouldn’t be that lucky.

So this is a perfect time to be preparing DEEP DOWN, my utterly bleak apocalypse novel, for publication. I submerge myself in that place on purpose every day to make it better. In a way, it’s wallowing. In a way, it’s therapeutic. Because I’m in that place all day and all night now, I can recognize the feelings that the story invokes, appreciate that I achieved such a reflective translation into fiction, because it doesn’t feel enough like fiction to me while I’m in it.

I’ve been listening to THE RING and SILENT HILL soundtracks on repeat all during the editing/proofreading process.

I’m insanely pleased with DEEP DOWN on so many levels. I’m proud that I managed to write a short novel when I didn’t think I was capable of it, worried that I was, in fact, too wordy. I’m proud that I tried a new style of writing. It’s completely mine, of course, not a mimicry–I still recognize my narrative voice, no question. But I’m a fan of form following function, and DEEP DOWN was a different kind of novel than I’d written before, different feel, so the form of it needed to change. As terrible and unrelenting as the subject matter is, I’m proud that I faced it without compromise. I’m a coward at heart. Writing is as close as I get to brave, even if it’s not an uplifting outcome.

It’s not a contagion horror story, but it’s an apocalypse, and perhaps this isn’t the right moment, if anyone’s listening or watching or interested. But DEEP DOWN is coming soon, hopefully within the next week. You don’t have to enter that world now. You can save it for when the lion’s out of the room again. I still have trouble making that distinction.

A man and his dog enter a cave to die.

Enter with them, but I make no bones about what kind of story this is. Know where you’re going, and enter freely. It’s good–or at least I think it is–but it is what it is. I can only think of one person in my vast circle of family, friends, and acquaintances (I exaggerate) who wants or would want to read it. Do as you will.

Pretty

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I had a lot of fun writing this one, because it made me giggle and it doesn’t go the direction you think it will.

PRETTY

Do you think I’m pretty?
I don’t trust a mirror to tell me the truth
Do you think I’m pretty?
I don’t trust mirrors, but I’ll trust you.

My hair gleams so glossy
I scrubbed my skin till it shines
They’re both blacker than onyx
You’ll find no onyx stone finer than mine.

Do you think I’m pretty?
When I ask others, they all run
Do you think I’m pretty?
With the others gone, call me your only one.

I can smile for days
You’ll never find sharper teeth whiter than mine
I smile at you from ear to ear
To the back of my head, to the back of my spine.

Do you think I’m pretty?
My heart rests on your reply
Do you think I’m pretty?
If you don’t love me, someone will have to die.

Maybe me… Maybe you…

Have you ever seen a body like this?
Where others are lines, I’m all curves
Segmented, hard, and perfectly formed
Open your mouth and I’ll open mine. Dinner is served.

Do you think I’m pretty?
I cannot control the hand I’m dealt
Do you think I’m pretty?
My heart breaks the same as everyone else.

Do you think I’m pretty? (4x, deeper and growlier each time)

Resolute (2)

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On a personal level, not much happened to me in 2019. I gained a lot more responsibility at my job with changes at the company. And the biggest life event was the death of our sixteen-year-old cat, Sasha, whom I loved very much and continue to miss. Her death wasn’t unexpected, but that doesn’t make it hurt any less.

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We are now a catless household, and our lives are poorer for it, but we have an unpredictable dog, so I’m not sure whether cats are in the foreseeable future. You’d think that would be enough for me to move into an apartment, but I’m prohibitively resistant to change.

Sharing what you’ve accomplished during the year is less fun when you haven’t met a lot of the goals that you set for yourself. It’s okay that I didn’t, because writing takes up most of my time, and what isn’t taken up by that, I added regular cardio workouts, which take good chunks out of most of my week. Any hope I had to do much more creatively than writing died with my attempts to improve my blood test numbers. And I did. Some with the help of medication, but my triglycerides went way down on the last blood test, which was all me. So go me on that. So I need to adjust my expectations, as long as I continue to prioritize writing and my health. Good priorities to have, generally.

I did lose a significant amount of weight from the addition of exercise, but despite that, it didn’t make a significant change in my wardrobe, which kind of sucks, so it’s a good thing I’m doing it for my heart health and not my reflection – although it would be nice if my reflection could improve. I’m hoping that if I can’t improve my reflection in the coming year, at least I can lessen or eliminate one of my prescription medications.

I was supposed to reboot my jewelry-making, but that’s simply not going to happen until 2021 at the earliest, because this year’s writing schedule is really tight. And unfortunately, horror movie reviewing didn’t go very far at all, because last year’s writing schedule was so tight. I’m going to try again to do a dozen reviews in 2020. I’ve written several in my head. Just haven’t had a good moment to sit down and get them out.

I wrote ten original song lyrics, which is two short of my goal, but I also wrote three for one of my novels, so that balances it out and then some.

“All Thumbs”
“House of Windows”
“Trouble”
“How to Love”
“Dead Ends”
“The Smiling Man”
“What Are You Wearing to the End of the World?”
“The Long Walk”
“Pretty”
“Storm the Castle”

As far as my writing goes, I’m behind on my schedule by about a half a month to a month, and I didn’t get to rewrite WAR HOUSE, but I did finish three novels of quite varying lengths.

DEEP DOWN (pure horror): 60,480 words in about a month
DRIFT (modern gothic folk tale): 88,918 words in a little over a month
PUPPETEER (fairy tale remix, Thorns Series 4): a staggering 222,215 words in a little more than two and a half months (I started mid-September, but there was a two-week break in October when I had to proofread and prepare ROSE RED). I wrote 102,119 words in November for NaNoWriMo. It’s my longest first draft ever, and I’m going to have to cut at least 50K of it over the course of the next five rounds of edits, but I finished it before Christmas, so at least I got it done.

All of that for a total of 371,613 words this year. Technically, about 10K of DEEP DOWN was written in 2018, but I didn’t count it last year, and those handwritten words were transcribed this year, so let’s just go with it.

Rose Red E CoverIn addition, I went through all the motions to publish the second book in the Thorns series, ROSE RED. I’m not sure whether anyone but a handful of people I know actually read my books, which brings up the question of whether the sheer time and expense of publishing is worth it. But since I can’t stop writing, I might as well continue the vanity publishing and support the indie publishing industry while I’m at it, especially since I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be able to justify it.

Definitely going to be supporting the industry this coming year, since I hope to self-publish DEEP DOWN, DRIFT, and BLUEBIRDS (Thorns 3), which is…ambitious with the intensive process I’ve given myself. I finished the last personal edit for DEEP DOWN last night, so, pending my beta reader’s suggestions, it’s ready to send to my editors. I was also really pleased with the first draft of DRIFT, so I don’t anticipate tremendous changes during the double-edit.

Unfortunately, my last read of BLUEBIRDS felt…off. I think it’s a pacing and conviction issue. So I’ll need to give it another intensive edit before attempting the last double-edit and sending it to my editors. I’m also really not sure about PUPPETEER. It’s one of those things where it’s either quite good or quite terrible, and I just can’t tell. I’d send it to my alpha reader (she reads my stuff before I edit to make sure I edit in the right direction), but I don’t want to hand her such a bloated manuscript.

In addition to all the edits needed to publish – and the time required to accomplish them, especially for BLUEBIRDS – I’ve scheduled the re-write of WAR HOUSE, a few short stories, and two additional novels, including CROOKED HOUSE (Thorns 5). I’m guessing that if I don’t have the time, the short stories and WAR HOUSE might be pushed into 2021. My priorities are the publications, CROOKED HOUSE (T5), and the zombie novel I have planned for next NaNoWriMo. 2020 is going to be plenty busy, but it’s worth noting that 2021 isn’t going to be nearly as full, so I can afford to push WAR HOUSE off another year if I have to.

So that’s it – 2019 in the rearview, 2020 through the windshield. Here’s hoping that this year can be just as personally productive, even if I don’t accomplish much else.

ROSE RED Playlist

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Rose Red E CoverOne of my personal little joys is moving music I love into playlists for the books I’m working on. It helps me focus my themes and feel all the feels that music can make a person feel more effortlessly than words on their own. My experience of books, mine and other people’s, is very cinematic, and soundtracks help supplement that experience for me, and I love sharing that playlist with anyone else, if they want to feel the feels with me.

There’s more metal in this than the pop/singer-songwriter vibe of the THORNS playlist (although we still have some of that), because things get darker and much more dramatic, hence the white-gothic aesthetic of the cover, which is my jam.

The rules: No more than two songs by each artist, and no song specially written or covered for a movie.

“Mad Girl” – Emilie Autumn
“Not a Virgin” – Poe
“I Can’t Make You Love Me” – Bonnie Raitt
“Swansong for a Raven” – Cradle of Filth
“Snow-White” – Xandria
“Out of my Cage” – UNSECRET feat. Alaina Cross
“Where is the Blood?” – Delain
“Promised Land” – Lily Kershaw
“Ravenlight” – Kamelot
“Madness” – Ruelle
“Control” – Poe
“Hate Me” – Eurielle
“Darkest White” – Tristania
“Vendetta” – UNSECRET feat. Krigare
“I Want My Innocence Back” – Emilie Autumn
“What Have You Done” – Within Temptation
“Nietzche’s Eyes” – Paula Cole
“Hate it When You See Me Cry” – Halestorm
“Manhattan” – Sara Bareilles
“Love and War” – Fleurie
“Let Her Go” – Passenger