What do you do to unwind and relax?
Monday, September 30, 2013
What do you do to unwind and relax?
Every writer has their own idea of what a successful career in writing is, what does success in writing look like to you?
For me, success would be calling this my career. I have no delusions of wealth or grandeur. I just want to make a livable wage that doesn’t involve trying to write between jobs.
Tell us about your new book? What’s it about and why did you write it?
Forget Me Not is a college romance (with very steamy sex scenes) about a young girl, Lily, who goes away to school as a freshman while she’s in a long term relationship with her brother’s best friend. She’d had a crush on him for years and while she was still in high school, they hooked up and now they’re in a serious relationship. Unfortunately, Lily goes away to a different school and starts to wonder why she feels like she’s losing him. I wrote this because college was an important part of my life. I spent a lot of time in school and it’s still really significant to me. College is a lot of fun, but it’s hard. You have to figure so many things out and you don’t have the structure of high school to help. When you’re a teenager, you have teachers and your parents and your friends to help guide you. Once you move out, especially when you move away to school, you are on your own. Figuring out who that person is inside of you can be so challenging and I wanted to explore that.
Sometimes it’s so hard to keep at it – What keeps you going?
I can’t say I failed if I never stop trying.
What do you hope people will take away from your writing? How will your words make them feel?
I hope it makes them happy. I don’t pretend my writing is literary or that it will change the world. I just hope it provides a pleasant escape for someone for a little while.
What’s your favorite meal?
I love vegan food. Basically make anything with seitan and I am happy!
Genre – New Adult Erotic Romance
Rating – X
Sunday, September 29, 2013
20th day of Solis Moon, 1364
Derac choked. "What?"
"He came to speak with me while I was in the bath." The amber swirls in her eyes glowed bright and betrayed her panic, but her voice was calm.
His eyebrows shot into his hairline. "Did he force himself on you?" He swallowed the bile in his throat.
"No. He stared at me in a way that made me extremely uncomfortable and," she paused and held her lips between her teeth for a moment. "He kissed my neck. He didn't press any further than that, however."
Derac's breath rushed out of his lungs. He leaned back against the sofa and forced his muscles to relax. "What did he say?"
"He told me that he had great power, greater than just being the Mission Commander. He told me I should partner with him."
Derac's eyebrows shot up again. "What did you say to that?"
She spoke in hushed tones, but the words tumbled from her lips. "I told him no. I don't care for power. He said I could have my own power if I did partner with him. Then he told me to think about it. To wait until after the mission. He said that the events of the mission would help me to make up my mind. I have the awful feeling that this mission is going to go terribly wrong, and the Commander is behind it." She paused to her catch her breath. "Centurio, I know it sounds outlandish, but my feelings have never let me down before. We have no proof, but I think at the very least we should exercise caution around the Commander until we do find out the truth."
Derac rested his chin on the tips of his fingers. The elf thought he could barge in on the elfa's bath like he was supposed to be there? He tried to feel shocked at his Commander's possible betrayal and perverted actions, but he failed.
"What should we do?"
"I trust your judgment Kie. And you're right, we don't have proof. But I think I know of a way to get it." He lowered his voice to a whisper. "We tell the Commander our plan is to stay together. During the mission however, we split up. Get one group of faeries out of the cells and have two elite lead them back to the cabin. The other four will get the second group."
"Wait. Wouldn't that make the two vulnerable handling that many faeries on a six hour trip, on foot?"
"Yes. But, even if the faeries are weak, they could offer some help. There are hundreds of them down there according to the report." He winced. "Then again, you may have a point. What if the intel is wrong, yet again?"
"Didn't I see a report about sentry rotations at night?" Her eyes roamed over the table.
"Yes. It's here." He handed her the paper.
Her amber pools scanned the list. "Let's assume this is incorrect. According to this, they cut the guards in half at night. What if they had less? That would mean less to worry about. And, two of us could easily handle a few sentries."
"What do we do if they actually double the guards at night?"
Her lips pressed into a thin line. "Good point."
He pinched the bridge of his nose. "We can't even rely on our intel. Even if it ended that Palto was not involved, we could still be walking into an ambush. How would we know for sure it was his doing or just bad intel?"
She put her hands behind her head and glanced up at the ceiling. "I don't know. I have no skill with strategy."
He snorted. "You read battle strategies for fun."
"Exactly. I'm trying to learn. Doesn't mean I can make up new ones."
"All right. Let's go over all our options again. We can enter through the front or through the secret tunnel. With any of those options, we can stay together, split in half, or split four to two. Is there any other way to get into the mines?"
She shook her head. "I've heard rumors at the very top of the mountain is a shaft that runs all the way down to the lower levels of the mine. But, I don't know for certain and the mountain side is treacherous. We could injure ourselves more just trying to gain entry."
Derac held his head in his hands and tried to predict the outcome of their mission. Kie mirrored his position as her eyes scanned the intel scattered across the table. Her spine jerked and she sat up straight.
"What if we split up into three groups of two? Two to lead the first group out like you said before, two to provide protection, the last two get the second group. Done fast enough, all six of us and all the faeries would leave right after each other, or at least within moments of each other."
"And you say you have no skill with strategy."
She chuckled. "It's still risky though."
"What part of any mission isn't?" He sucked in air and held it a few moments before he exhaled. "Again, I don't like the plan, but it'll work."
They finalized their strategy and detailed every second of their mission. Confidence filled Derac that their idea would work and he ordered Kie to sleep.
Buy Now @ Amazon
Genre – Fantasy / Military
Rating – PG13
Saturday, September 28, 2013
I laid in bed that night, assuring myself that it would be the easiest money I'd ever made.
There was something about it, though--something cold sliding down into my gut. I had bitten that worm, and the hook was already working its way through me.
I smoothed over that feeling with the thought that I could be giving Haley a shot at the life she deserved--Winnie too. That's all I needed. I'd pay any price for that. Somehow that thought helped me get to sleep.
Around nine thirty-five, I began to drag myself out of unconsciousness like I was coming out of a coma. Slamming my hand down on my alarm, I stumbled through the living room to the red leather briefcase. An hour and a half later, I was in Philly, turning down a little side road called South Juniper Street. I had the brown paper package and a clipboard tucked under my arm.
About twenty-five steps from the corner was a small shop with a green awning and a candle lantern beside the entrance. The print on the window read McAfee’s Clockworks and Antiques. The curved brass handle on the door was cold. It was the kind of cold that hits your chest like a gong, then vibrates through the rest of you. The bell tinkled over my head as I pushed through the door and a small old man walked out from the back room. Wiping his hands with a dirty towel, he hobbled out from behind the counter.
"Can I help you, lad? Don't be afraid, there isn't anything an old goat like me can do ta hurt ya."
"I've got a package for Mr. Lyndon McAfee."
"Well, that would be me, wouldn't it?" He said with a smile. The man's face was tough, despite his age. He wasn't hobbling because he was old, he must have had some injury back in the day. I handed him the clipboard with the delivery sheet that Isaac had given me.
"This is quite unexpected," his voice had the same syrupy thickness of Isaac's. "There you go." He handed me back the board as I placed the package in his other hand.
"You have a nice day," I said and started to go.
"Can I get you anything before you go? Cup o' tea? A sandwich or something other?"
I turned back and forced a smile. "No thanks, sir. I'd really better be getting back to work," I said holding up my clipboard and giving it a shake.
"Very well, you have a good day."
"You too," I said as the bell tinkled overhead again. The door shut behind me. I rounded the corner feeling the sunlight on my face and crossed the street between the cars. When I stepped onto the sidewalk, I was already thinking about that money and just caught myself before I knocked a latte out of the hand of a blonde-haired businesswoman wearing a little too much perfume. Dodging her, I almost ran smack into a young guy with a black windbreaker and a camera. He stepped aside, and I caught his eye as he went past. I had time to notice he had short, dark hair, olive skin--Middle Eastern. A small scar cut down at the edge of his hairline. His eyes locked onto mine. That's when it hit.
Buy Now @ Amazon
Genre – Thriller
Rating – R
We had a team of agricultural scientists that said it’s possible with our land and climate. Big Oil and greedy politicians had blocked the United States from doing it for years.
Our job was to convince the American People.
People are deathly afraid of change. Ideas have a life cycle. Early adopters jump on the bandwagon right away, eager to try the latest thing. Next, you have the show me types; they’re a little afraid to try anything new. They’re worried when they go to the pump there’ll be no gas. Third, there are the late adopters. After most people are convinced, then they’ll buy in. Last, you have the - that’ll never happen types. They’re quick to say it will never work. They wait until an idea is in common practice, then they go around telling everybody they thought of it years ago.
Bud liked to educate prospective big dollar supporters, “The first cars ran on bio fuel; back in 1880, cars were made to run on peanut oil. Hell, Henry Ford made the 1908 Model T to run on Corn Ethanol; he even had his own plant to produce it. This is nothing new, fellas. It’s been around for years! It’s easier than makin’ moonshine!”
Well what’s old is new again. Bio Energy had been hard to get across to the voters. Folks didn’t seem to get how it would create jobs. For this election, our message was honed to American Energy Works; we would link it with a new slogan - We Can.
Bio Energy sounds like something you flush.
I know people want a president, not a chemist. Focus group testing showed anything we tried sounds better after the words 'We Can'. I’d say the sexy stuff and leave the science to the talking heads.
America had done so well with corn technology, farmers had tripled the bushel yield per acre a decade ago. If American ingenuity could send a man to the moon, we could do the same for our homegrown fuel.
We’d all heard stories of guys working in their garages, who chanced upon a breakthrough technology, only to have it bought out by some oil company. Or worse - tales the inventor were quieted by the government in some conspiracy. That’s all science fiction.
We were holding a workable plan, the key feature being the planting of Jatropha, a hardy grass-like plant that grew in almost any soil. We would convince farmers to grow it and chemists would turn it into Bio Fuel. I preferred Jatropha to other feedstocks like soybeans because it couldn’t double as food.
I figured, why give people a reason to debate? Our experts laid the country out in a grid showing, by planting, just the available farmland of Kentucky; we could accomplish nearly half our national goal. Imagine what we could grow if we spread it around to all fifty states. The message had resonated so well in my home state, I’d won a third term.
Bud was telling donors, ‘It just makes good old-fashioned common sense!’
H. Bud Singer was in charge of the campaign and, in addition to fundraising, he was chiefly responsible for reshaping the message. I needed Bud because he could do and say things other men couldn’t or wouldn’t. Besides Bud, three other rising stars rounded out our core team, each in charge of a segment of the campaign.
Once we announced, we expected a flood of volunteers in addition to more paid staff. Our offices would be buzzing with enthusiasm and the aspirations of youth seeking a place to make their mark in the world. I had an uncanny knack for turning talented people into true believers.
Bud and I spent hours going over speech notes. Ideas didn’t come cheap; especially the kind that could lift us out of recession and pay our debt to China without going to war. We always ended believing the surest way to National Security and prosperity for America was to produce lots of cheap energy. Top economists calculated, for every one percent of energy produced on our soil, we would lower the import cost of oil by 3% and create a quarter million jobs. Our goal is to produce twenty percent of the energy we use and cause the price of world crude to plummet.
What’s scaring the Saudis is they knew it was possible; even their own scientists were telling them so. At least all the data we are continually sharing with them brought them to this conclusion. We have them so worried, the whole Middle East would be planted if they could grow anything in the desert. America has millions of acres of available farmland, a willing workforce, and people who can’t pay their oil bills nearly freezing to death in the Northeast. If ever there was a time for a message to resonate, this was it.
I met Bud Singer at Brown where I majored in economics. Bud was a Political Science undergrad, eventually getting a degree in law. He loved the strategy of politics and started working on congressional campaigns right out of law school. Later he headed a prestigious lobbying group, leaving it only to help me win the election to the senate. Bud was stocky and bald and stubborn, continuing to chain smoke even after having a couple of heart attacks.
Bud would say to big money donors – ‘We’ll have cheap energy like we had back in the 50’s and 60’s, so cheap the multi nationals fall all over themselves to bring production back to America.’ Privately he had a more ingenious plan. ‘We’ve got to make it economical to manufacture here again. Once we lure the Corporations back and get them hooked, we force them through taxes to keep the money and jobs here. Bud was right: politicians had made a crucial error rewarding American Corporations for sending jobs overseas, searching for cheap labor and short-term profits.’
Bud and I agreed that the richest Americans didn’t care where they made the money; they had quadrupled their wealth over the longest recession in history. Once we change the Energy Dynamic, the big players will all rush in for a piece of the action.
A trillion dollars worth of wealth would pour back into this country. We would appeal to their massive egos and call them patriotic - after all, they live here, anyway.
This time was nothing like our first presidential campaign, when our offices were housed makeshift in an old mattress store. One thing the first loss brought me was better positioning in the senate. In the most striking example of ‘it’s not what you know but who you know,’ greater name recognition had secured me a coveted position with the Armed Services Committee.
Our new headquarters were courtesy of our friends at TenStar, a Major Defense Contractor who wanted to get to know me better. They “rented” us the space, renovated to suit, and agreed to accept delayed payment over ten years.
Bud liked the idea, ‘That’s making the paper walk backwards, Jack!’
In addition to providing office space, TenStar would make the campaign an unsecured loan of five million dollars and provide the use of a corporate jet. Privately, the agreement was more complicated, involving several components. Provided Bud would sit on their Board and appear at Corporate Events, the lease debt would be considered settled. The caveat attached to the five million was after I left office I would speak at their annual meetings. Open-ended access was an assumed, but unspoken, part of the deal.
All in all, we considered that fair for us at this juncture, as we get closer, the arrangements will get better.
Sandy called on the speakerphone, “Brenner’s on the line. Can you take it, Jack?”
Joe Brenner, CEO of TenStar, personally arranged for the space. TenStar made major weapons systems including a prototype fighter - code name, Phantom, that could enter Earth’s Orbit and fire weapons from space. Sort of an X-35 meets the space shuttle. The problem was, Brenner and his counterparts were the guys who lobbied Congress to shut down the U.S. Shuttle Program.
I picked up the phone, “How the hell are you, Joe,” mirroring his usual style and tone.
Joe fired back, “I’m well, Jack, just calling to see how you boys are settling in.”
“We’re doing fine.”
“How’s the donor money flowing in?”
“Don’t worry, Joe, you got us cheap.”
He chuckled, “We’ll see, Jack. You’ve still got to do well in New Hampshire and you’re not that well-known in the Northeast.”
“Thanks for the heads up, you son of a bitch! If Bud ever decides to leave politics, I’ll know who to call.”
Joe laughed, “I don’t think I’m ready for that. I’ve got all I can handle right here, but Jack, you let me know if you need anything.”
“Thanks, Joe, we’ll have a drink together in the White House, and seriously, I appreciate your support. We’ll talk soon.”
I could count on that, since the Phantom’s projected price tag was estimated at eleven billion per copy.
“Hey, Jack, I heard you were headed out of the country. Anyone I know?”
Joe was always snooping.
I laughed, “If I told you I’d have to kill you, so you’re better off.”
Joe’s laugh sounded forced. We said goodbye.
Sandy tilted her head in, blonde hair hanging down to the doorknob.
Still smiling, I thought she mistook my grin for a reaction to the plunging sweater blouse she was wearing.
Girlishly, “Senior Staff is ready when you are, Jack.”
I figured I’d just go with it to make up for semi-ignoring her before.
“Hey step in here a second.”
“Why, Jack, you need something,” flirting.
“I didn’t get the chance to tell you before; you look fantastic! Is that a new outfit?”
Sounding like a spoiled twenty, “Yes, do you suddenly like it? I didn’t think you noticed me, running through the building to look at your stupid car.”
“Well, I’m noticing now. You look gorgeous. Wow, Honey!”
“Well, better late than never, I guess…Thanks, Jack.”
Her look and the way she practically bounced out of the room told me she was happier.
I was sitting at my desk when Bud arrived, taking his usual seat on one of the sofas.
My office was shaped like an L. Our gathering area consisted of two black leather couches, a couple of wing back chairs, and my desk, all in a tight-knit square.
Bud asked, “How’s everything going today?”
Looking over my reading glasses, “Good, have you finalized the distribution points for the large donations?”
Bud answered, “Everything is set to go. The pump is primed, all we need is the cash.”
“You’re the wizard, Bud, great work.”
Bud had been working for months setting up Super Pac’s that would be controlled by us. The Committees could spend as they wished and collect vast contributions without burdensome regulations. Advertising on television is expensive, even on the local level. Regardless of cost, it’s critical to catch voters in that semiconscious state.
TV helps instill a positive and familiar ‘I know that guy’ kinda feeling. I don’t believe an election could be won without it. To be ingrained, our message has to be playing over and over. I still remember ads I haven’t seen since I was a kid.
The bottom line is - in order for us to make the financial commitments necessary to influence the election we have to set up these channels. I was confident Bud would handle our finances in a way that would still allow us to accept Federal Matching Funds. The people he placed in charge of the Super Pacs would be handsomely rewarded with opportunities, either in the White House, or with corporations that supported us. The system’s crazy; we had no choice but to work the gray areas if we want to win.
Next into the office was Robert “Tip” Thornton, after him, my best buddy, Bill Mitchell, and finally Lisa Pennington. The hit squad, we liked to call it.
This group, along with Sandy, was our inner circle.
We had an understanding of total candor - no subject was off-limits. We liked thinking out loud, knowing everything would stay with us. Secondary staff was on a need to know basis.
Bill was first to speak, holding up his thumb and fore finger an inch apart, “I’m this close to finalizing the trip to see the Saudis.”
We were priming the Crown Prince to be a keystone contributor. We would need a quarter billion to win this thing and we were banking on him to give us a big piece of that.
I said to the group, “If I can get twenty from them, we could get some of the others to pony up. Everybody likes to follow the big dog.”
Bill said, "They’re going to want some heavy assurances that you’ll stall the home still, Jack. Are you prepared to lie to these guys?”
“The truth would be really quaint right now, Bill. Listen, they’ve been selling us high-priced tar for years, sucking the life out of our economy. I don’t care what I have to say at this point! If we’re gonna do this thing and bring America back, we’ve got to hold our noses and do it. If any of you have a problem with this, try focusing on the ordinary Americans who are suffering. We need to tip the scales back in their favor!”
Bud added, “If any of you think there’s any other way to win, speak up now, because it’s now or never. Once we go over there, we’re in it up to our eyeballs!”
Lisa piped back, “I agree with Jack, I’m sick of seeing Americans losing their homes! This is our chance to finally have the power to do something about it.”
“Power isn’t given, it must be seized,” I asserted, “We’ve got to pull the rug out from under these guys, before they catch a whiff of what’s coming.”
Tip was a man of few words and had one quirk: he refused to ever repeat himself. When he spoke, we all piped down for fear of missing even a single word. It was always interesting. An ex-Navy Seal, he was in charge of security for the campaign. I trusted him with my life. Decorated for Valor in Iraq, he was recruited with a sub-agency of the NSA. Tip and company had been dropped into hotspots all over Afghanistan to hunt for snipers. The agency believes ‘it takes one to hunt one’ and chose candidates based on natural ability, recruiting secretly out of the military. His group eliminated targets considered security threats to the United States. Nicknamed King Cobra, Tip commanded an elite squad outfitted with sophisticated survival gear, capable of encampment behind enemy lines for days at a time. Tip saved lives by surgically removing the enemy’s instruments of death. The existence of the team was never made public.
Genre – Political Thriller
Rating – PG
Friday, September 27, 2013
What you love is what you are gifted at, and there are no exceptions.
~ Barbara Sher
This chapter is action-orientated and is all about finding the key that unlocks your Vital Vocation. It’s where we go in search of your gifts and talents in the sure knowledge that these lie at the root of your ideal work. If you already think you know what they are, great; now’s your chance to verify that. If you don’t, the exercises in this chapter will really help you to unearth them.
Discovering What Makes You Tick
The simplest way to get a hint of where your talents lie is to pay attention to anything that you are attracted to and in particular, anything that you really love.
Even if you don’t have an obvious talent in that area, you can be sure that your love for a thing points you towards a talent of some sort. Perhaps it will be something as simple as the fact that you have a heightened appreciation of the subject in question. Yes, that is a real talent. An expert wine-taster doesn’t need to be able to make wine, but he or she needs to fully appreciate good wine in order to do the job well. A history teacher may never make history, but he or she needs to love learning about it in order to teach it effectively. So it is with you. If you love something, you see it in a particular way: a way that’s utterly unique and therefore very valuable to you, and to others.
In order to cast the net as wide as possible, I’m going to ask you to explore several areas which will provide you with clues as to what you should be doing with your life. In the exercises that follow we’ll be searching for this treasure in:
- Your memories
- Your future plans
- Your imagination
- Other people’s perceptions of you
- Your unconscious mind
Each area is explored in a separate exercise and I’ll give examples from my own life so that you can see how it’s done.
It’s worth giving yourself sufficient time to do each exercise without having to rush through it. By going searching for what you love in each of these areas (the last two are optional) you’ll be able to gather enough information to spot any pattern in the things that are capable of satisfying and stimulating you. Once you can see a pattern like that, you can begin to build a life and career around it.
Ready? Enjoy this. We’re about to do no less than discover your purpose in life!
EXERCISE 3: Journeying into the Past
For this exercise, you’re going to cast your mind back to things you’ve loved doing in your past.
Wherever you are just now in your life, think back to several earlier periods, for example:
- Your teenage years
- Young adulthood
- Middle age
Write each of the periods you’ve chosen as a heading on a separate page and make a list of all the things you really loved to do when you were that age. List as many as you can recall and be as specific as possible.
However – and this is important – only write down the things you particularly loved. Choose things that would rate a 7 or above if you were to rate them on a “lovability scale” of 1 to 10 (with 10 being highest).
Genre – NonFiction / Careers
Rating – G
Thursday, September 26, 2013
The Hunters and the Queen – Virginia Vayna
Genre – Fantasy, Paranormal, Mythology
Rating – PG
3.8 (4 reviews)
The Hunters and the Queen is a work of fiction in the young adult, fantasy and paranormal romance genres. The story blends elements of romance, darkness, history, fantasy, and reincarnation. The second book in the series, The Gypsy Hunter, has a release date during fall 2013. I hope you enjoy the story. Please come back for more of the journey.~
The main character, Jolán Vajnbirg, is developing into another being. She has a calling from the sky world. A battle is on the horizon.
While working on her studies at the Churchill Military Academy in Kinsburgh, England, Jolán Vajnbirg’s final year at the academy develops into a year of competition, aristocratic love, reincarnation, and a calling from the sky world to help save earth from the death and destruction caused by the Order of the Hunters.
Jolán Vajnbirg is an often reserved, yet occasionally outspoken young woman living in Kinsburgh, England. She has a relatively easy life living in her quiet England town. She has a full-ride swimming scholarship to the Churchill Military Academy. She has a strong mind, she has an athletic body, and she has a loving family and caring friends.
As Jolán embarks upon her final year at the Academy, her life takes an unexpected turn. She has a quaint encounter with Colemund, the Prince of Gallia Belgica, and the two are literally a universal match created centuries ago. As Jolán begins the last year of her studies, she experiences many changes. She is unaware her future love will develop in to a star-crossed romance.
The sky world is steadily preparing Jolán for her future fate. She will need her friends to help her battle the Order of the Hunters. The hunters have upset the universal balance of earth, and the hunters have upset the sky world.
Jolán will learn about her past, she will learn about reincarnation, and she will understand her responsibilities in the realm. Her relationship with Colemund is no ordinary college love.
An Excerpt from The Hunters and the Queen:
Hadrian immediately placed an angry phone call to Akuji, but this time she answered her phone. Hadrian sharply inquired, ‘Where are you, Akuji? We have a major problem in development.’ Akuji nonchalantly replied, ‘I just transformed a farmer into a hunter, and I’m explaining the rules.’ Hadrian didn’t care about what Akuji was currently doing at the moment; he violently said, ‘Return to Komi. Do not waste time, do not waste resources, but return on the next flight out of England.’ Akuji said, ‘I still have to finish one more assignment. I need to find and follow this girl named Jolán.’ The mere sound of such a name caused Hadrian’s stomach to turn, and his unnerving sensation returned. Hadrian dryly inquired, ‘Who is Jolán?’ As soon as Hadrian spoke Jolán’s name, he felt his insides turn and his stomach ache. Hadrian felt weak. Akuji said, ‘She is some assignment I have to figure out, but I’m not having any success.’ Hadrian gathered as much strength as he could for the moment, and he said to Akuji, ‘Get on the next flight back to Russia. We have heavy issues of concern we need to assess for action.’ At that moment, Akuji heard several voices come through her phone; but she was unsure what happened or where the voices were located. She asked Hadrian, ‘Are you ok?’ All Akuji could hear was the sound of a thousand whispers. Hadrian kept saying, ‘Akuji, are you there? Answer me.’ Hadrian received no response from Akuji. Hadrian finally hung up the phone, but Akuji still heard the voices. She was caught in a trance for several minutes until she received a piercing headache. Akuji quickly left some items behind for the farmer to study, and she walked towards her car. She hustled to the seat of her car. She was en route to the airport; and she was headed back to Komi. Akuji felt something had changed. She felt a sense of urgency.
His six foot two inch, two hundred pound frame lumbered into the shower, collapsing under the scalding water, determined to burn away his skin, his thoughts, his memories.
That was the key to all of it. Why was he being tortured with visions of Abby? Why was she in a warzone? Why wasn’t she here with him, or at least somewhere she could have a chance at a normal life? Why was any of this happening? What had either of them ever done to deserve this?
The cold hard reality of everything that had happened sent shivers rippling over Conal’s skin. Conal wrapped a black towel around his waist, his back bright red and burning. He examined his scruffy facial hair for a brief moment. No grays yet, maybe tomorrow. He ran his hand through his wavy wet brown hair and headed for the kitchen to heat up his standard frozen dinner.
Conal flipped through a few frozen dinners he had, glancing at each cover and then tossing them back in the freezer one by one.
Lasagna, or chicken and carrots? “Lasagna.” In another life, I might be eating lasagna out at some fancy restaurant, with a bottle of wine and…
He snorted and went upstairs to change while he waited to hear the familiar ding from the microwave. After two years of the same routine, he had this down to a science.
In his room, he put on a pair of sweatpants and a clean undershirt. A picture on the dresser caught his eye. It was of his parents. Another lump caught in his throat. They reminded him of when life had been easier. Duller, perhaps, but easier, sane. He turned the frame around and looked at the photo he’d stuck in the back. A wallet-sized photo copied from a high school yearbook. Abigail Bradley, age 18. It was the only photograph he had of her.
We never even took a picture together.
Conal heard the ding of the microwave, put the frame back and headed downstairs.
He carried his dinner to the living room and sat down to read. Conal had spent every night of the past two years reading, ever since the loss of Abby. The house was covered top to bottom with books of every genre and on every subject: history, physics, language, anatomy. What had once been a favorite pastime had become an obsession, an only way out. Aside from the History Channel, the television was never on. Edie would stop by occasionally to nose around or drop off some baked goods. Conal would accept politely, then shoo her out as quickly as possible.
The library had a purpose, but he wasn’t about to discuss it.
The storm had picked up again, so he lit a candle in case the lights went out. He opened a book to where he had left off, dissecting Einstein’s theory of relativity, a subject he was beginning to know uncomfortably well. Reading helped ease his anxiety, it gave him a sense of productivity, the illusion of moving toward a solution. He often read for hours at a time. Tonight, though, his eyes began to droop under the weight of depression and exhaustion. It had been a terrible day.
“I promise I’m trying, Abby. I promise. I’m working on it. I just need to rest my eyes for a minute, Abby, just a little while.”
He was asleep within seconds.
I met Ethan on the day that I killed Karoline.
Other than a few minor adjustments, I believe that I have handled her murder exceedingly well.
The state of my car, for instance, has become something of a nuisance. Bits of tissue, used napkins, paper cups and pop cans litter the floor at my feet or fly out the window as I drive along. I am invariably subjected to a barrage of honking whenever I reach a red light.
People these days have no patience. They ought to understand that I am busy examining the stray bits in my car. Some of them are works of art. I don't notice the change to green because they are so infinitely interesting.
This study of creative possibilities has become somewhat of an obsession. In the back of my mind I know that all I have to do is clean it up. Yet the thought of actually tackling the onslaught of debris leaves me inert and helpless.
Ethan offered recently to take me to the car wash. He'd help me dump the debris and vacuum the inside, but I have seriously considered the idea that I may be destroying a future Picasso. I have thus far refused his proposition. Not that I have shared my vision of a Picasso with him, of course. I just say that I never have time.
I have acquired a habit of going shopping. I make lists of things in my mind—groceries, toiletries, cosmetics, medicines, vitamins or clothing—that seem absolutely essential to the arrival of tomorrow. But once inside the pharmacy, the clothing store or the shopping center, the bright lights mesmerize me. My eyes blur and I can't for the life of me remember what I have come for.
When I do buy something, I am left vaguely dissatisfied, certain that I could have gotten a better bargain somewhere else had I only looked a little longer. Depressed because I had to use my credit card again and this purchase will become just one more thing to do. Write the check. Buy the stamp. Walk to the post box. Mail the envelope.
The little, unfinished things do sometimes bother me. Dirty laundry is piled up in the closet. The bed is always unmade. In the bathroom, the ceiling is slowly cracking from some unspecified leak that I have failed to report to the superintendent. The drapes in the living room neither open nor close anymore.
At first I tended to watch television all night long, despite the fact that the next day I was a zombie. After I decided to go on an extended sick leave, it didn't matter. I started to sleep all night and all day, never moving unless forced to by some phone call, knock at the door or the call of nature.
I spend hours at the sink. For some reason, the suds and the water are calming. So far I have washed every dish, bowl, and ornament in the apartment two or three times. I reenact advertisements for the latest dishwashing liquid, showing off my lovely long fingers and hands to, well, myself. I speak in a sing-song voice to the imaginary audience, telling them how kind the dishwashing liquid has been to my hands over the years, encouraging them to run right out and buy this product before it disappears from the shelf.
After I've allowed the water to swirl down the drain, I shift to spending hours in front of the little mirror that hangs in my kitchen. People tell me that I am a very beautiful woman. On good days, when I feel haughty and happy, I can gaze into the polished glass and agree with their assessment. On other days, I notice the nose that's a little too upturned. The lips that protrude a bit too much. The dark birthmark above my left eyebrow. The ears that don't lie flat against my head. I have no idea why I am considered flawless, for I have many perceptible flaws, both inside and out.
My father is white and my mother is black with some Native American thrown into her background. My parents have always bragged that I inherited all the great physical features of those races. Their perspective is far less critical than mine. They focus on all the positives. Naturally wavy hair. Large brown eyes with long curling lashes. High, full cheekbones. A small, pert nose. Lips just thick enough to be called luscious.
I am one of those fortunate people who can eat all day and not gain an ounce. Thus I am described as tall and lean as opposed to thin. I have full breasts and a narrow waist. I am a fast runner and good at any sport I attempt. In Hollywood, I am considered full figured.
My skin is a light brown, the color of coffee with cream I guess you would say, that makes me look as though I've just stepped out of a tanning bed. Heads literally turn to stare at me in the street, from across a room, or on the subway. Male and female. To me, it's a constant source of surprise, chagrin and exasperation.
Lots of people, especially women, have jealously told me that I should be grateful for my looks. But I hate being identified as beautiful. Men tend to stare only at my chest when they talk to me. Or they show me off like some trophy and do not bother to ask my opinion on anything. I have been approached in bars and stores alike. Even in this land of plastic enhanced faces, I literally cannot go anywhere without being stared at or even followed. Most people, in fact, are convinced I am a movie star or model. These are not careers I've ever wanted.
I have often been stalked, thus the three sets of locks on our door. Our telephone number is always unlisted and has to be changed once some obsessed man discovers it. When you are lovely on the outside, it's always difficult to entice people to look for the true person underneath. I'm learning through Ethan that it's exactly the same for truly ugly people.
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Genre – Psychological Suspense
Rating – 18+
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