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Quote of the Weekend

“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says “Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.” – Louis Carroll

(I love this quote!)

I started a new blog!  Check it out Here! 

 

Girl%20With%20Lamb-755544Change is brewing in my heart and mind.  Explaining the change will encourage some of you, puzzle others, and mark me as crazy for a few of you – tis life and life where faith is involved.  As all of you should know by now if you read this blog with any regularity, I’m a Christian.  Specifically, I’m a Reformed Baptist.  As a Christian, I believe that Christ is constantly working to sanctify me and make me more like Him.  He asks me to live a life of sacrifice for His sake just like He did for me.  How can I do anything other than that??

In the process of that sanctification, Christ challenges us and pushes us out of our comfort zones.  He seeks to make us holy, not necessarily happy. (Assuming you understand happiness and joy to be two totally different things.) Recently, I have been challenged and convicted about my writing.  I don’t believe anything that I’m writing is wrong, but I have begun to wonder if it the best use of my gift.  This has been a very painful thought process, and a very long one.  I love my vampire/serial killer stories.  I love them.  They are a deep part of me.  They resonate with me.  I cherish them.  But my local church family and my own family are not being served by them.  I have been able to use them as a bridge to a few people in our church and I have forced them on others with threats of friendships ending, but they aren’t serving my body as a whole.

About a year ago, my husband was provided with the opportunity to start teaching in our Church. This is where his heart is, this is where he wants to go as the Lord provides.  As his wife, it is my goal in life to help him in everything that I do.  I want to help him achieve his dreams and I want to grow and mature alongside him, not away from him.  I want to be the old couple who still enjoys each other.  That takes sacrifice.  (And before anyone gets all feminist on me about him sacrificing for me, remember, this is me talking about me, not him, and he has sacrificed for me.  He does every day.  This is not an idea he foisted on me.  He gave me his opinion, of course, but he left me alone to sort things out in my own head, and between me and God.  There was no dictatorial edict from on high, but a loving friend at my side in the journey of life.)  Needless to say, vampires and serial killers don’t feature in his Biblical Studies….ever. So as he grows and changes, I want – more than I want to be published – to grow with him.

What does this all mean???  I’m not sure yet.  LOL.  I’m making a new blog where I can write things that will be more encouraging and edifying for my church.  It’s called a Gentle and Quite Spirit. I’m thinking about taking all the rumbling tumbling stories inside me and writing children’s books.  I hope to have children someday (sooner rather than later) and it would be nice to write stories for them.  I think there is a deplorable lack of decent, fun, and wholesome stories with strong life lessons offered to the youth of our day.  If we want them to stop acting entitled along with all their other problems, giving them more books like Perks of Being a Wallflower won’t help.  (I’m not saying that’s the problem entirely, I’m just saying stuff like that doesn’t fix anything.)  There are lots of thoughts stuffed in my head leaving me feeling like I need my own Pensive, and I have lots of decisions to make.  I can tell you this with all certainty, I will keep working on my stories, I’m just not going to focus on them.  I will use my gift to encourage and edify my church.   I will still honor our soldiers and look for awesome warrior stories to share with you.  I will find ways to express the concept of the Undeserved Rescue which sets my heart and mind on fire!

walk_away_by_iza87The new blog will still include the Writing Journal.  I’ll still review Books, Movies and Music, and I’ll still have Quotes.  Since these are the articles I get the most views and comments on, you and won’t be losing anything. In fact, other than a new layout, more content, and a few new categories, lots of you won’t notice a change.  At some point in time I will shut down the old blog.  This will be the last post going up on it.  If you don’t want to miss out on my Quotes tomorrow, please follow, or at least visit the new blog.

If you want to follow the new blog, you now know what my focus is.  I’d love to have you along for the ride, but I understand that some of you may find this offensive, uninteresting, and choose not to follow me as I change focus.  I understand.  For those of you who are interested, here’s the new blog.

Thanks for reading, commenting, and encouraging me for the last two years!  It’s been awesome!

Happy Halloween!

What's this? What's this?

What’s this? What’s this?

Happy Halloween everyone!!!

I often view Halloween as the gateway into the Holiday Season!

 Next is Thanksgiving and then Christmas!  I’m think of doing a series of short stories about our family Christmas Adventures, so be on a watch for that.

This is my first year not working on Halloween.  That means I probably won’t be dressing up….but I might carve a pumpkin just for fun!  And I’ll try to watch the Nightmare Before Christmas!

Have a great day everyone!

Writing Journal

old-showcase-many-old-heads-dolls-18361820I have been working on developing a new serial killer for my WIP Hero’s Story.  He was coming along nicely but not great.  I felt like I was missing something really creepy about him.  Each time he killed a group of boys they were dressed up according to treasured childhood movies.  While it made the clues interesting and the interaction of the cops interesting, it didn’t really creep me out.  It had no shudder factor.  It more just made me want to watch those movies again.  And to be honest, I really don’t want those movies to be creepy, so I was subconsciously fighting against using them.

One day as I ran my errands, I stopped at a light.  On my left, trees dotted the medium staked with rubber hoses so that the strong Texas wind wouldn’t blow them over.  Stuck in the wrapped around straps of the stake was a little abused doll.  It was missing limbs and its hair had been chopped off.  Something about it really made me shiver.   I just sat and stared at it.  It was like a little piece of abuse hidden away where only someone with the right twisted mind would see it.  Or, where the creator and dreamer of the men and women who hunt the twisted mind that stuck the doll in there in the first place would see it – me.

Around that time someone posted a picture on Facebook of their childhood dolls, complete with chewed off fingers.  While they enjoyed the nostalgia, I enjoyed being totally creeped out: twist-in-the-gut-with-a-desire-to-run-or-throw-up.

These two things reminded me that for a serial killer to be good in an urban fantasy novel, he needed a creep factor.  In my last WIP I used insane asylums.  This time I was using treasured childhood movies.  Not creepy.  So, I changed it.  I changed it from movies with fun clues, to dolls with a theme of tortured abandonment.  Overnight my story changed.  I began to see things which needed to be connected.  I found stronger themes that tied into the idea of Lost Children.  Characters were drawn together and my serial killer gained a creep factor.  Yea for scary toys!

By the way, if you find dolls a little frightening….never walk down the pink aisle at Target.  One step down its bright path leads you to a world of talking, blinking, giggling horror. flat,550x550,075,f

Quote of the Weekend

I’m bleeding out
So if the last thing that I do
Is bring you down
I’ll bleed out for you
So I bare my skin
And I count my sins
And I close my eyes
And I take it in
I’m bleeding out
I’m bleeding out for you, for you.

When the day has come
That I’ve lost my way around
And the seasons stop and hide beneath the ground
When the sky turns gray
And everything is screaming
I will reach inside
Just to find my heart is beating

Oh, you tell me to hold on
Oh, you tell me to hold on
But innocence is gone
And what was right is wrong

‘Cause I’m bleeding out
So if the last thing that I do
Is to bring you down
I’ll bleed out for you
So I bare my skin
And I count my sins
And I close my eyes
And I take it in
And I’m bleeding out
I’m bleeding out for you (for you)

When the hour is nigh
And hopelessness is sinking in
And the wolves all cry
To fill the night with hollering
When your eyes are red
And emptiness is all you know
With the darkness fed
I will be your scarecrow

You tell me to hold on
Oh you tell me to hold on
But innocence is gone
And what was right is wrong

‘Cause I’m bleeding out
So if the last thing that I do
Is to bring you down
I’ll bleed out for you
So I bare my skin
And I count my sins
And I close my eyes
And I take it in
And I’m bleeding out
I’m bleeding out for you, for you.

I’m bleeding out for you (for you)
I’m bleeding out for you (for you)
I’m bleeding out for you (for you)
I’m bleeding out for you

‘Cause I’m bleeding out
So if the last thing that I do
Is to bring you down
I’ll bleed out for you
So I bare my skin
And I count my sins
And I close my eyes
And I take it in
And I’m bleeding out
I’m bleeding out for you, for you.

- Bleeding Out by Imagine Dragons

( You may have noticed that I recently got into Imagine Dragons.  Not only is their band name great, but their songs are awesome, or at least a lot of them are.  I’ve run across a few I don’t really enjoy, but I guess that’s true with any band.  I like this song cause I believe someone did bleed out for me, they counted my sin, took it in and bled for me.  It is a good reminder of that.  I also like the haunted quality of it, which if you know me, haunted is one of my favorite things.  I blame that on Lord of the Rings.  This song might have something to do with my recent obsession with the idea of a Scarecrow:  An empty man, tied to a stick, protecting the field from ravens.  Wow.  Talk about some imagery and room for a great story.)

The Death of a Friend

September has been a very busy month.  It started with a head-cold, then a wedding during the cold, than a dear friend passing away, then a conference.  I coordinated the wedding with the cold and almost no voice.  I was the person in charge of the five meals for about 200 people attending the conference.  It was crazy.  But what I’m sharing today is about my friend who passed away.

These are notes I took while sitting in the hospice room for the last few days of his life.  These are very intimate notes, but I feel it is important to share them.  I’m leaving them much as they were when I wrote them, so please excuse the rough draft format.

9/14/13:  Early AM 

I’ve never been with someone when they died.  I’ve been to relatively few funerals.  My fear and repulsion for hospitals and any and all things medical coupled with the one too many things I know about crime scenes and thus how the body decays after death has led me to fear the side of a dying friend for many years.

But, I have entered a stage of life where I can no longer avoid hospitals and death.  God’s grace is sufficient and like a good hobbit I screw up my courage and visit my friends.  I have found love to be a great motivator.

So, here I sit, having been in the hospice room for almost 12 hours and only three of them spent asleep.  My brother “breathes” loudly in the hall.  My husband is finally lying down covered by my St. John throw, faithful to his friend to the end.  Glenn is sleeping for the first time in days and Flo stays by his side, nurse, wife, and friend.

We have kept the night watch.  We have been with Harry as he struggles to breath – labors! – and as his body shuts down.

I’m amazed that I have done this.  I have visited Harry, my Grandma and spent all day with my father-in-law in the hospital.  And while I have not changed my revulsion for them, I am here.  I haven’t “felt” the hand of God, but I have thought, “I love these people and I must do my duty.” (Maybe that’s what the hand of God feels like.)  It is so ordinary and I am so thankful for it.  For the quiet working of God to aid me to be motivated by love.

So, Brother Harry lays dying.  Not real quickly I must say.  He has no family here, only his church.  But as far as I am aware, he has not been alone at all.  Men and women have gathered to sit at his side, hold his hand, stroke his brow, pray, read the scripture, sing.  We have sung his favorite hymns and the hymns he wrote.  We watched him try to sing with us.  We felt him squeeze our hands when his favorite passages are read, and like Sam at Gandalf’s death, we have spoken often of his banana pudding.

So, I sit and watch a friend die.  A man I love because he encouraged my husband.  And you know what I think….Harry’s gonna get to see Glenn Wilkinson before the rest of us.

My facebook post that day:  For the believer death is but a door to heaven.  It is the ending of one story to begin the real story in the presence of Christ.  And dear believer….this story has the best ending through the path to it has been dark.”

A quote sent by a friend: “Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens.” – JRR Tolkien

9/14/13: 9:00AM while Price reads Revelations out loud to Harry.

Listen.

Listen for his last breath,

Feel the twist in your gut,

Is this the one?

A moment of bi-polar emotion.

Fight. Fight to stay alive!

Go. Go. Let go.  We will soon follow.

So we gather.

We hold tissues tight in our fists.

We sing in broken voices.

We share intimate moments of tears.

We hold his hand unsure of being held.

We talk unsure of hearing.

We read unsure of comprehension.

And we listen

Together, we listen for your last breath.

Even now, when he lies lost in dark halls of his mind laboring to breath, hot with fever, he serves his church.  Even as his last few hours slip away, we are encouraged, brought together, given new opportunities to serve, given new love for each other.  As you come closer to haven’s door, we, gathered around you, examine our own future deaths and find peace.  We see the love of the saints.  We see you surrounded by hymns and the Word and by tears and laughter and we know we are not forsaken.  Even in death, You are with us, our mighty brother who already conquered death!

(I have, on my next page, the words written out from Before the Throne of God Above and Into the West.) (http://instagram.com/p/eP6SugTFFU/)

9/15/13:

Watching Harry, I’m struck by God’s beautiful multi-tasking. I’m beginning to understand joy in the midst of suffering.  Our church hurts, yet here we are gathered around Harry with all the members singing, praying, reading the scripture.  We are laughing and crying, crying with people who I’ve never cried around, watching people cry who I’ve never seen cry.  And we are united.  So as the Lord takes Harry home, as he finishes the work which He began, we are made stronger.  We are untied and we are challenged.  As the Lord takes him home, he is using Harry to help us love each other more.  He is using Harry to sanctify us.  Harry’s faithful testimony has been mentioned again and again.  And the Lord even used that.  If Harry hadn’t been faithful, he might have died in his apartment alone, but God used his faithfulness to preserve Harry.

“I have so many friends, and I don’t know why,” is what Harry told his niece before he became mostly unresponsive.

9/18/13:  (Harry passed on the morning of the 16th.) 

I spent the weekend carefully watching my husband.  When did he become the man I always wanted him to be?  When did he get so strong?  As I watch him hold the hand of a dying friend, as I listen to him sing and read the scripture, I couldn’t be more thankful for this man, my friend.  He sacrificed his time, sleep, his work to stay by Harry.  The Lord granted his request to be there with his at the end.  But the part that I remember and cherish the most is him holding Harry’s hand and reading the book of Revelations barely able to keep his voice steady.

20130914_090833

(We were there at the end, when Harry died, along with my parents, our other pastor, Glenn and Flo, and Ben.  It was the first time I held someone’s hand as they passed away….I know it will not be the last.  But I do know that God is good.  He will finish the work.  He has conquered death.  I hope and pray my death serves my church as well as Harry’s did.)

 

Quote of the Weekend

When the days are cold
And the cards all fold
And the saints we see
Are all made of gold
When your dreams all fail
And the ones we hail
Are the worst of all
And the blood’s run stale

I want to hide the  truth
I want to shelter you
But with the beast inside
There’s  nowhere we can hide
No matter what we breed
We still are made of  greed
This is my kingdom come
This is my kingdom come

When you  feel my heat
Look into my eyes
It’s where my demons hide
It’s where  my demons hide

Don’t get too close
It’s dark inside
It’s where  my demons hide
It’s where my demons hide

When the curtain’s call
Is the last of all
When the lights fade out
All the sinners crawl
So they dug your grave
And the masquerade
Will come calling out
At  the mess you made

Don’t want to let you down 
But I am hell bound
Though this is all for  you
Don’t want to hide the truth
No matter what we breed
We still  are made of greed
This is my kingdom come
This is my kingdom  come

When you feel my heat
Look into my eyes
It’s where my  demons hide
It’s where my demons hide

Don’t get too close
It’s  dark inside
It’s where my demons hide
It’s where my demons hide

They say it’s what you make
I say it’s up to fate
It’s woven in my  soul
I need to let you go
Your eyes, they shine so bright
I want to  save their light
I can’t escape this now
Unless you show me how

When you feel my heat
Look into my eyes
It’s where my demons hide
It’s where my demons hide

Don’t get too close
It’s dark inside
It’s where my demons hide
It’s where my demons hide

- Demons by Imagine Dragons

(I like to think of this song as Fortunatus’ song to Akilina.  He loves this pure angel but he has blood on his hands, he’s cursed.   He always feels like he doesn’t want her too close.  The song has a beautiful pleading sound to it that I love.)

…Back to the Beginning…

…Last time in When Skies are Gray…

Crow’s cell phone vibrated in his pocket.  He released Olive to check the caller ID.

“What did you see in your vision?”  Olive asked linking her hands behind his neck.

“Hold on, it’s Stan,” he said flipping the phone open.

“Did you leave before the police got there?”

“Yeah, I couldn’t resist the visions anymore, so we got out of there.  Manson’s royally angry.  And, I found out he’s losing his connection with the spirit world.  Dove said his soul’s too torn to sense it like he should.  According to her, the whole spirit world is singing Olive’s name right now.  I’m sure Dove will be coming soon cause he’s not gonna be content to just let this go.”

“Will you put it on speaker,” Olive asked.

Crow switched it to speaker and held it between them.

“Stan, I’m here.  I noticed some interesting magical lines when I healed the house, ones Crow probably couldn’t see before due to the inheritance in him being so small.”

“Or cause we’ve never gone back to a crime scene to see what Manson left behind,” Stan said.

“Or,” Crow added, “this is something he’s done recently.”

“That too….or three,” Olive said.  “I think Manson not only gets a high destroying their souls, but he maintains a buzz by feeding off the rips in the souls of the families and friends.  I saw the same vein-like magical lines linking Manson to the body as I did leading away from it.  I think we need to follow that vein and see where it leads.

“What if it leads back to Manson?” Crow asked.

“It isn’t the main vein, but an off shoot.  And besides, Colin can tell us if we’re headed right towards Manson.  I’d be willing to bet it leads to Robert’s family.  If I’m right, we may be able to do more healing.”

“Which means more pissing off Manson,” Crow said.

“Exactly.”

“Alright kids,” Stan said. “Let’s meet back in the town square in front of that antique mall.”

“Make sure Aunt Rose comes with you, I want her to look at the magical lines,” Olive said shifting to her feet.

“What about Jack?”

Olive raised an eyebrow in question at Crow.

“He can come if he wants or he can stay with Fortunatus since the sun’s out right now.  But I want him to have a cell phone….”Crow paused.  Old nightmares flashed through him.

“Crow?  Olive? You still there?” Stan said, a hint of fear in his voice.

“Yeah….bring everyone, even Fortunatus with you.  I don’t want anyone alone.”

Now Stan went silent on the other end of the phone.  Crow imagine Stan saw the same bloody nightmares he had.  Absent-mindedly, Crow rubbed the list of X’ed out names on his shoulder.  Olive took his hand and kissed the tips of his fingers.

“Will do, Crow,” Stan finally said, “See y’all in a second.”

“Keep your cell phone with you.  I’ll call Fortunatus and wake him.”

“Got it.  And one more thing, an Agent Syracuse of the FBI is waiting to interface with the detectives assigned to Noles murder.  You remember Detective Richards?  When I called him, he sent me to Syracuse.  Apparently the FBI decided to assign her anything that smells strange.”

“You mean anything magical?”

“Yeah, but they don’t call it that, they call it strange.  Also, the detectives assigned are Blaine and Stark.”

“The ones who dropped by the house the other day?” Crow said.  He couldn’t believe it was just a few days ago, felt like years.

“Same two guys.”

“I thought they were Dorian PD?”

“Chesterfield’s too small to have that big of a police force, Dorian’s helping out.”

“That worries me.”

“Me too.  I gotta go.  See you in a sec,” Stan said and then hung up.

Crow hung up, scrolled down to Fortunatus’ number, and listened to it ring.

“Yes, dhampir?”

“We have to move out.  Manson’s figured out what we’re doing and Olive found a link from the murder scene to what we think is Robert’s family.  We want to deal with that before Manson gets Dove or the Greeks here.”

“The sun has just crossed the line into noonday.  The Greeks will not be able to arrive until tonight.”

“We’re moving you around in the daylight, so why couldn’t they do the same?  Manson’s not that far away and it won’t take him long to get going.  Stan’s gonna pull up in the covered drive and let you in the back of the van.  I don’t want anyone staying by themselves.  Even you.”

“How considerate of you, and it is so nice to see you learning lessons from the past.”

Crow flipped the phone shut and stood up.

“You’re gonna have to learn to be polite to more people than just witches,” Olive said taking his hand.

“What?”

“It’s considered polite to say good-bye when ending a conversation before you hang up.”

“Not when you are talking to someone who had a hand in your parent’s death and continues to be a prick.”

Olive sighed.  She took a large white feather out of the pocket of her pouch and brushed Crow’s shoulders off.

“What are you doing?”

“Trying to get rid of the chip on your shoulder.  Someday you’ll have to accept the fact that your parents died, and that Fortunatus, who’s now forgiven, had a hand in it.  Someday you’ll have to face the fact that the only person you can be angry at is God.  Then you’ll have to decide if you have the right to be angry with Him.”

“I think I do if he killed my parents.”

“Everyone dies.  Everyone loses their parents.  The child whose mother dies of cancer while he watches helplessly is in no different position than you.  God wrote your parents story, and out of that he gave you the tools to beat Manson.  Don’t lose them in your anger and resentment.  Trust the King.”

Crow studied her.  He stared deep into her glowing green eyes.  She was right.  If he defeated Manson with hate and anger, he would be a hollow shell at the moment of Manson’s death.  He would be a ghost with no purpose but to find something else to hate.  Unless he laid his anger at the feet of the King and took hold of the hope offered back, he had no life outside Manson.  The pain of hope, sharp and clear, hurt almost as much as damnation.

“Are you okay?”

He tipped his head back, blinking away sudden tears, while he pinched the bridge of his nose.  Olive came around him resting her hand on his chest.  Crow took a deep breath.  He filled himself with the good, clean, beautiful scent of her.

“My curse lifted the day I mixed you up with one of Manson’s attempts to trap me.  You healed me first.”

She put her arms around him.  “Then I have the greatest gift ever.”

“What’s that?” Crow wrapped her in his arms and kissed her forehead.

“You. Whole, healed, and filled with hope.”

Taking Olive’s hand with Zephyr on his shoulder, Crow the only dhampir – cursed with damned gifts from his Father and Mother – left the forest with a pure heart.  It was time to end the reign of Manson, the witch of Serial Killers.

light-in-the-dark

The white van pulled up in front of the Antique Mall.  The glass eyes of old dolls watched Crow and Olive climb inside through the sheer pane of their jail window.  Crow noticed new license plates on the front and back.  After this was all done, he would need to contact this Agent Syracuse and detectives Blaine and Stark to make sure no innocent people end up in trouble.  In fact, if this came to a head as soon as he hoped, they would need to contact them sooner.  Rose held up her mirror until she found the same pulsing vein Olive had found at the apartment hiding one block over in a dirty alley.  Checking for traffic, Stan pulled out.  Jack threw his arms around Olive and Crow as they settled in the van.

“Glad we’re back, kid?” Crow said.

“I was worried.”

“Do we know, for sure, where this magical line goes?” Stan asked from up front.

“Not to Manson,” Colin said from the back.  “If that’s what you’re worried about.”

“That’s exactly what I was worried about.”

“See,” Jack smiled.  “I’m not the only one who’s worried.”

Sunlight glinted in Rose’s mirror dancing and flickering like a trapped fairy.  She watched the blood-stained trail Manson left linking something – Olive believed the suffering family – with the body in the spare room.  Stan obeyed all the speed limits and traffic signs to avoid drawing any unnecessary attention to themselves.  They left the few blocks of Main Street, drove through a tiny school zone in front of the elementary school and the town library, and turned into the country road leading out into the flat Texas plains studded with wild mesquite trees.  Stan listened to his police radio while he followed Rose’s direction.

“Not even a little chatter about us.  This is too easy,” Stan said rubbing the back of his neck.

Crow felt exactly the same.  What was he leading his family into?  He checked the Jade Gun’s magazine and the extra ones.  All the bullets he had loaded this morning were still there.  He drummed his fingers on the arm rest.

“Just because we have a path to follow doesn’t mean it is a trap,” Olive said.

“You haven’t been in one of Manson’s traps before.  Usually someone dies a horrible death.  Makes a person kinda jumpy.”

“Um, Stan.  You have me the way I am because I’ve been in one of Manson’s traps.  Remember?”

“Sorry.” Stan blanched still rubbing his neck.  “Sorry.  I forgot.  You’re just the first one to every come out ahead after Manson got ahold of ‘em.  It’s hard to remember he did.”

“No it’s not,” Olive whispered examining her hands in her lap.

“We can’t help it,” Crow said.  He wrapped his arm around Olive not wanting her to think about what Manson did to her.  “Since the day he found my mom, he has always been one step ahead.  We’ve never caught up.   If he’s not laying low sending his spawn out into the world, he’s dancing in front of us setting traps and we just keep running into them.”

“Almost there, dears,” Rose said.

“I know, guys,” Olive said lifting her head with a smile.  “But I also know from your vision, Crow, and what I felt in that room, that this isn’t a trap.  This is payback.”

“Here we are.”

Rose pointed to a little white house set deep on a large lot with a plethora of ivy climbing on it.  Though still mostly brown from the winter, here and there new green leaves burst from the main vine to collect sunshine.  Potholes dotted the dirt drive washed out by the spring rains.  Three large pecan trees stood sentinel over the yard, green buds gracing every branch tip.  A shadow covered the house though not a single cloud broke the wide blue sky.

“Oh, the poor things,” Olive said, seeing the depths of the spell and magical lines that no one else could.

“It smells like Manson,” Crow said tossing his head.

“You’re telling me,” Colin said.  He turned to Olive. “So what you’re saying is that me, Crow here, and Ms. Rose, can see the magical lines – which I can.  But we can’t see ‘em like you see ‘em?”

“You could probably pick the lines apart to see the true spell underneath them,” Olive said.

“But she didn’t have to,” Crow said.  “They were visible to her right off the bat.”

Olive blushed.  “I’m gonna start on the outside of the house first, and then I’ll have y’all join me to help the family heal.  Crow, I think there you’ll play the bigger part.   Aunt Rose, will make my magic visible so they can see what I’m doing?”

Rose nodded and they all watched Olive climb from the van.  She stepped to the front and faced the house, unmoving.  Rose reached inside her beaded handbag and pulled out a larger mirror with an autumn leaf embedded in its back.  She levitated it so everyone in the van could see through it.  A wave of magic passed over the group.  All the hairs on Crow’s arms stood up.

Olive became visible in the mirror, stalwart before the haunted home.  Crow was right.  He saw her TrueSelf every day, all the time, but this version glimmered more – like the TrueSelf of her TrueSelf – reminding Crow of the angels in the Spirit Plane more than any witch on this one.  Her skirt and tank top faded into a long sunshine yellow dress with a belt of orange maple leaves.  Living vines sprouted and wrapped her bare tattooed arms forming circle after circle of spring green.  Snowflakes, white and sparkling, pinned her hair up in a pile of multi-colored curls.  She bent down and held out her hands.  Tendrils of ivy, branches of the pecans, and flowers from the front planters came to her like injured dogs finding comfort in the hands of their master.  She stroked the plants cooing softly to them as she danced amongst them.  New leaves budded. New flowers bloomed.  Sunlight flooded the yard shattering the shadow.

She stopped, stood completely still, and held out her hand.  On a breath of a crisp breeze, a blood-red leaf swirled and landed on her palm. Olive held it up to her face, like a masquerade mask, and looked at the house.  Colin gasped.  Bile rose in Crow’s throat.  Manson’s line of pain and torture expanded to cover the house like a net made of veins.  It collected all the anguish from the broken family, and sent it pulsing back to Manson.

Olive held out her other hand.  A gust of cold, snowy air swirled around her dropping a sword of ice in her fist.  She clasped the frozen hilt with both hands and lifted it high over her head.  The sun caught the clear ice and blazed from the blade.  Crow swore as it momentarily blinded him.  With a cry, Olive brought the ice sword crashing down. It sliced the vein in two before shattering into a thousand pieces.  The net over the house throbbed, blackened, and died.

Rose lowered her mirror.  “The spell’s been destroyed.  We can go out now.  She’ll need help with the family.”

…Join me, next Friday, for the continuation of the tale…

Writing Journal

The piles of post-it notes on my desk and in the front cover of my editing notebook are growing.  For each new thing I discover about When Skies are Gray I must make careful notes for the other five books in the two series which sprang from it.

This is the hard part about being a pantser.  Some writers plan everything before they set pen to paper.  They have detailed bios of each character.  They do character interviews.  They have detailed outlines of each chapter, each book, and the entire series.  Some writers wing it and wait to see what’s gonna happen.  Those are pantsers.

fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants

I tried outlining when I first started writing back around 2001.  As soon as I finish the outline I was bored with the story.  Bored with the outlined story, I would think of another story, outline it, and be done.  Each outline represented a finished story in my mind.  There was nothing to explore.  I knew exactly what was going to happen and thus the story was told.  On to the next!  (This also happens if I tell too many people about my new story.)  I tried writing character bios and couldn’t answer half the questions.  The closest I got to doing this successfully was with my handy DnD character sheets.  But more often than not, I just ended up feeling like less of a writer because I couldn’t tell you what happened every day of my character’s life or what their favorite colors and foods were.    Now that I have more confidence in my abilities, I realize that my inability to answer these questions stems from the fact that they are not important to the type of stories I tell.  I’m often just giving a few weeks snap shot of my characters’ lives at their most brutal point.  A point when color and food are not significant.

Somewhere in there, I realized that if I ever wanted to write a full story I was gonna have to stop planning.  My first rough draft would have to be my outline.  The story would be the Character Bio.   After the first rough draft was completed, I could go back and add in more details, flesh out the characters, and fix problems in the plot.  I generally start a novel with a scene in mind that has touched me for some reason and a theme.   For my current WIP the scene is the moment this line is spoken, “I never once left you unguarded.”  The theme is protection.  These two things guide the story.  They are my lamp-post lighting my way through the unknown forest of my imagination.

This worked great for me.  Since becoming a pantser – and changing some other things about my writing habits – I’ve gone from zero finished stories to three manuscripts, one in progress, and two more simmering in the back burner of my mind.   Score for me!

But this system does have its problems.  Hence the pile of post-it notes on my desk.  Just over the last two weeks alone I’ve discovered that my stories are pointing one of my main characters down a very specific career path.  I’ve discovered an element in When Skies are Gray which could create a lot of character depth.  It’s been sitting right under my nose for almost 4 years – and I thought this story was done.  As I was driving down the street the other day I saw something that made me totally rethink the antagonist in my new novel.  OMG that’s a lot of rewriting.  Because I don’t plan, I have to often go back and tweak.

seat of your pants

What I love most about being a pantser is that the story is new to me as I write it.  In fact, it’s a lot like reading a good book.  When you pick up a good book, you open the pages to a new world.  You meet new friends and new enemies.  You are wrapped up, snuggled in, totally engaged in this new experience.  Writing is like that for me.  Even now, I’m struggling with my multiple-personality girl, Sky my ghost hunter, and Conner my new cop.  I’m sorting through with them, along with them, beside them, what they are like, what they do, who they are.  At the same time, I’m going back over my original characters, my first team, my crew and making them stronger, more real, more them.  It’s amazing.

So, are you a pantser or a planner?  If so, what do you love about it?  What is the hardest part for you about your planning style?

Quote of the Weekend

The glance in the mirror startles me.

I see not my face, my eyes, my hair, but the truth.

I see the monster twisted by selfishness inside.

No amount of scrubbing with a cleaner, even 409, will remove the monster inside.

 

I try.  I try.  I try.

 

I try to be better.  I try to hide the monster down deeper.  I try to look pretty.  But I’m a monster.  How pretty can I really make myself before someone points out what I really am?

I beat on the mirror.  Maybe if I break it’s damning reflection the monster will be gone.  Shards of glass cut me, but the broken glass only shows more monsters from more angles.  Scattered at my feet they laugh at me.  They taunt me.  They haunt me.

Blood drips on the broken mirror.  Drip. Drip. Drip.

But it is not mine.

A white robe of soft fleece wraps around my monsterness.

But it is not mine.

A hand held out in acceptance.

But it is not another monster.  It is a good, whole, pure, scarred hand.

I hesitate.  I am a monster after all.  I’d rather be damned than saved most days.

The hand takes mine.  It bleeds, covers and takes.  It accepts, changes and offers what I don’t have:

hope

hope in the scarred hand.

hope in the drops of blood.

hope in the white robe covering my monsterness.

The hand guides me to another room, a hall of mirrors.  He stands beside me and the reflection changes…

- Abby Jones

(There are days of clarity where our sin seems to haunt us.  Most days we are so used to our own sinfulness we only notice the “big” things.  But some days, some moments God pulls back the curtain and lets us see how everything we do is stained with selfishness, with hate, with murder deep down.  How even things which appear kind are not selfless.  Once in a while we see the monster we really are.  These are the moments I cling even more to Christ. )

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