Flotsam

So… Long time, no see! Between bad weather (being snowed in with no power for 2 days in January) and just general life stuff, the blog has once again taken a back seat to… well, everything.

In an effort to rectify that (at least to a small extent) I thought I’d post a snippet of something I’ve been working on. It’s a contemporary romance (I know, I  know, unexpected from me) that I kind of like, but am undecided about pressing on with.

And just in case that’s not your thing, here are a couple pics I took on my cellphone on the way home last night of the moon rising over some flooded areas. I haven’t been carrying the Nikon for a while since it’s been so dark and/or rainy when I’m on the road.

2-10-17-moonrise-over-flooded-valley

2-9-17-moon-thru-trees

If romance is not your thing, feel free to bail at this point.

Everyone else, on to the story! Working title, “A World Away”.

 

The bed shuddered and Pam felt warm breath on her face.

“Pascal, I told you to stay off the bed.” She rolled over and opened her eyes. The little Boston terrier sat looking back at her. With a groan she pulled the blankets over her head. Pascal, however, was not to be deterred. Weekend or not, it was breakfast time. He pawed the blanket, whimpering and snuffling.

“Ok, ok, I’m up.” She threw off the blanket and rolled out of bed, feet hitting the floor. Grabbing her robe from the foot of the bed, she headed for the kitchen with Pascal trotting behind her.  As she filled the dog’s food dish, she noticed the time. It was nearly nine o’clock already.

“Damn.”

Trudy would be by to pick her up at ten o’clock for the photo shoot. She swore under her breath again for allowing herself to be talked into modeling for Trudy’s boyfriend, Ron. If she hadn’t been out of work so long she would have told him to take a hike. She showered and dressed, and got Pascal out for a quick walk with just enough time to lock the door before Trudy’s car pulled up in front of the condo. The car had barely pulled to a stop before Pam slid into the passenger seat, gratefully received the cup of coffee placed in her hand, and Trudy steered the car back into traffic.

“Ron’s already at the studio so I’m going to drop you off, then I have to run downtown to pick up some equipment he ordered.”

Pam took a sip of coffee and burned her lip. “What? I thought you were going to be there for the shoot?”

“I shouldn’t be long but you’ll be fine, don’t worry. Ron knows you’re not a professional model, and he knows you’re nervous about this.”

“You’d think telling him ‘no’ about a thousand times would get the point across.”

Trudy gave her a sidelong glance. “You’re lucky to be so pretty. You could have had a career in modeling.”

“And give up the weekly grind of life in a cube farm?” she snorted. “Besides, too late now. Can’t start modeling at the ripe old age of twenty-eight. Seriously, I can’t imagine anything I’d hate more.”

“Why? What is so terrible?”

“Come on, you know me better than that. When have I ever cared about fashion or makeup?”

“Then think of your friends who want a ticket to the glamorous life, compliments of you.”

“You’ve got Ron. Photography’s not glam enough for you?”

Trudy made a face. “We’ll see about me and Ron.”

“Oh no, are you two having problems already?”

“We’ll talk about it later. Go, be fabulous, and let me live vicariously through you.”
Trudy pulled to a stop in front of the photography studio. With a frown and a sigh Pam exited the car. As Trudy sped off, Pam stood on the sidewalk with a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach at having to be alone with Ron.

“Trudy, you are so going to owe me for this,” she muttered.

On the elevator ride to the fifth floor studio, the butterflies in her stomach nearly managed to float her up on their own. She couldn’t pinpoint any one thing Ron had done to make her dislike him so, it was more of a combination of things: his gaze lingered a little too long on her, his handshake lasted a second too long, he always managed to seat himself next to her at dinner parties. He’d told Trudy he was forty-two, but Pam was sure he was closer to the wrong side of fifty. She couldn’t help it, the guy gave her the creeps. Why Trudy was seeing him was a complete mystery to her.

She entered the studio, but saw no sign of Ron. For a second she wondered if she had the wrong day, but then Trudy would have been wrong as well.

“There you are at last.” Ron came out from behind the backdrop, walked straight up to her and greeted her with a hug, and attempted to kiss her. She managed to turn her head in time and his lips landed on her ear.

“Hi Ron,” she said, pulling back out of his embrace.

“So I’ve had a new thought,” he said. “I’d like to do some boudoir shots, if you’re up for it.”

“I thought we were doing a sporty theme?”

“I don’t think that’ll give me enough range of lighting to play with. I really need some shots in my portfolio that will show more nuance. You don’t mind, do you?”

How cleverly he’d managed to phrase it. A refusal on her part would sound selfish, prudish, or force her to admit her distrust of him. And why shouldn’t she? He was pulling a fast one without Trudy there to be a witness so it’d be her word against his. She hated him more with every passing second. There had to be a way to stall until Trudy arrived.

“Well, I only brought sports gear and clothes.”

“That’s all right, I’ve got some outfits I borrowed from a friend, should be your size.” He walked to the back of the studio behind the backdrop and returned a minute later with a box.

“We could do both,” Pam said. “Start with the action shots, and then do the other later?” If she could drag it out until Trudy got there, she could let Trudy put him in his place. She glanced at the open box he was holding out to her. It was stuffed with silky lingerie. She frowned, wondering which “friend” he’d borrowed these things from.

“I really think we should wait to do that until Trudy gets here.” That was it, she drew the line in the sand. Let him try to get around that.

He laughed, but his eyes got a hard glint in them. “Don’t you trust me, Pam?”

“Frankly, no, I don’t. This isn’t what I agreed to. I think we should forget the whole thing.” She started for the door, but he grabbed her arm.

“Hang on,” he said, his voice taking on a cajoling tone. “Nothing’s going to happen you don’t want to happen.”

“What the hell does that mean?”

He kept the sleazy smile in place. “We’re all adults here.”

She yanked her arm away. “Keep your hands off me. We’re done, I’m out of here.”

“How am I going to explain this to Trudy?”

“That’s your problem.” She walked out and slammed the door behind her.
As she pushed the button for the elevator, the doors slid open to reveal Trudy. Startled, Trudy stepped out of the elevator, her arms full of boxes.

“You guys aren’t done already, are you?” she asked.

“Oh, we’re done all right.”

Just then Ron threw open the door of the studio and bellowed, “You need to grow up, little girl. You’re going to end up a frigid spinster.”

When he saw Trudy and the shocked look on her face, his mouth clapped shut but he appeared to realize the damage was done. His mouth opened again and Pam expected him to start trying to blame her in some way, but instead he closed his mouth without saying anything, turned and went back inside.

Pam had never seen anyone as shocked as Trudy. Trudy set the boxes she was carrying down on the floor, stood up, and without looking at Pam she walked into the studio, leaving Pam standing in the hall.

Shaking with anger, she didn’t know whether to wait for Trudy or go on home and leave her to deal with Ron. Standing around outside the door didn’t seem like the right thing, and the more distance between her and Ron the better. Once outside she paced up and down the sidewalk for a few minutes then started to think maybe she should go back in to check on Trudy.

Just then Trudy emerged from the building. When Pam saw her face, her heart sank. Trudy’s eyes were red, and her makeup was smeared from crying.

“Well, you were right about him,” Trudy said, trying to stand up straighter.

“Oh honey, I didn’t want to be right,” she said, and gave her friend a hug.

Trudy sniffled a little, then pulled back. “Let’s get out of here.”

“Are you ok to drive?”

“I’m not sure, maybe you should. Let’s just go back to your place for a bit.”

Once back in Pam’s tiny apartment, Trudy headed for the bathroom to wash her face. As Pam opened the cupboard to get tea, she stopped and stared for a moment at the nearly bare shelves. She wanted to pound her fist on the counter. Why did Ron have to turn out to be such a sleazeball? She’d needed the money from this job modeling, but she didn’t need it bad enough to allow that creep to talk her into whatever he’d had mind. The only problem was, what to do now?

Trudy walked into the little galley kitchen and found Pam staring into the nearly-empty cupboard.

“Is there a snake in there?” she said.

“I think we know where the snake is. Just contemplating my empty cupboard, and empty future.” She looked at Trudy with a rueful smile.

“So, what now?”

Pam let out a huge sigh. “I honestly don’t know. This town seems to be telling me to move on, so maybe I will.”

“Just like that?”

“Hardly ‘just like that’. It’s been almost a year and I’m almost out of money. I think it’s time I admit defeat here, fall back, and regroup.”

Trudy started bustling around, filling the tea kettle with water and setting it on the stove to heat, fetched mugs from the cabinet, and rinsed the teapot.

“Go sit down, I’ll get this,” she said, pushing Pam out of the kitchen. “I need to keep busy right now.”

Pam stooped and picked up Pascal who’d been following her every step. “Well my little friend,” she said, “you ready to get on the road again?”

In answer, Pascal turned his head and licked her cheek.

A few minutes later, Trudy joined her with the tea, poured a cup and handed it to Pam. “If you leave, where would you go?”

“My aunt up in Washington is always telling me to come up for a visit. Maybe I’ll go stay with her for a while until I can figure out what to do.”

“Washington? All those hairy lumberjacks…” Trudy said with a shudder.

Pam laughed. “It’s not the 1890s, for crying out loud.”

“But doesn’t it rain a lot up there?”

“I think that’s what they say to keep the Californians out.”

“Well it’s working with this Californian. What the hell would you do up there? Learn to whittle?”

Pam laughed again. “Oh my gosh, what would I do without you? I don’t know, I’m just thinking about it. But I can’t stay here.”

“Well,” said Trudy, “if you do go up to the frozen North, try not to grow a beard. Everyone has beards up there.”

“Geez, it’s just near Seattle. I’m not talking about the Yukon.” She rubbed her chin. “Nope, no stubble yet.”

“Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

 

 

Revenants Abroad Free through December 31

vampire-christmas

I decided to make Revenants Abroad free through the end of the year on Smashwords. Amazon doesn’t allow a price below .99 unless I put it into the KDP Select program, which I can’t do right now. I’m still hoping the Multnomah County Library will pick it up, and it has to be available on Smashwords for them to do it. So… it’ll be February sometime before I hear about that.

But, if you’ve been thinking about getting RA, please help yourself over on Smashwords. It’s available in multiple formats, including MOBI for Kindle. There are other reading apps you can get if  you don’t have a dedicated e-reader like a Kindle or a Kobo. Aldiko seems to be popular for Samsung phones, etc.

It’s a small thing, I realize this isn’t going to make your Christmas season, but if you’ve been thinking about reading it, now’s a good time to pick it up.

Don’t make me put a Santa hat on Neko. He wouldn’t appreciate it.

Happy Holidays!

Side Projects

Some stories take longer to gel in my head than others. The cast and crew of Revenants Abroad was nearly effortless. Andrej in particular, who was of course the genesis of the story, appeared in my head fully-formed, ready for action. Anne-Marie took longer for me to get to know. Neko … what can I say. He’s the bad boy with a heart of gold. Another one who showed up ready for battle.

I’ve been toying with a contemporary romance, which I started for a certain reason that I don’t actually remember. It was to have been a satire of bubble-headed, self-absorbed popular girls, but I don’t recall what particularly pissed me off at the time I got the idea for it, so I’ve lost that momentum. Then today I found a use for someone from my past. Those of you who’ve been reading this blog for the last few years may remember a person at my previous job whom I referred to as The Princess. I think I’m about to exact my revenge on her. She’s just the foil I need in this new story.

Anyway, you know what they say:

Careful, or you’ll end up in my novel.

 

Backing Away

How’s everyone doing? Boy, it’s been a tough week, hasn’t it? It’s been, at the very least, anxiety-inducing. So, in order to try to preserve what’s left of my sanity, I am beginning a new relationship with social media. I’ve been fairly active on Twitter since I joined in 2010, which has been both good and bad. On one hand, I have met some really really fantastic people, but on the other hand I’ve also seen some truly ugly stuff go down.

Lately it’s become a constant toxic stream. This is not a put-down to anyone, it’s just that it’s a constant barrage of (mostly) righteous rage, and very little else. I’ve also been dismayed  and disappointed by some I thought were a little more enlightened than they now appear.  It’s funny, the sort of back-handed tactics they employ to try to tell you what you should be tweeting, what they find acceptable. Well, you never really know people on Twitter, do you? I’ll tweet what I like, when I like. If someone doesn’t like it, they are free to unfollow me. I didn’t get on social media to argue. And as far as I can tell, arguing with people online never changed anyone’s mind.

But, that aside, Twitter has been consuming far too much of my time anyway. I’m always griping about trying to find time to write, so removing that time-suck seems the logical thing to do. Years ago I resisted joining, even though I had writer friends encouraging me to check it out. I finally caved back in 2010. So seven years later it’s sucking up my life as I feared it would. My fault, of course, for letting it. I don’t intend to vanish entirely from Twitter, but I am going on a Twitter-diet, and will be more strictly regulating my time there. I considered automating my Twitter feed, but I really hate when people do that. It’s more likely I’ll have a couple bursts of activity during the day, then shut it down again.

Additionally, I’ve been busily unsubscribing from a host of email newsletters that I signed up for in the dim past and never seem to actually read. I spend more time deleting them than reading them. I cleared out probably 1000 old emails  (I know, I know…) this morning, and it’s just a colossal waste of time. New rule: read it or delete it immediately.

I only recently joined Instagram, too, and though I really enjoy it, it too is a time-suck. All this social media may be fun, but it’s not writing. As with most of these things, you follow some people to be polite, then find you never interact with them, or even read their posts. It’s just silly.  If we’re not really interested in what someone is saying, why the pretense?  So, I unfollowed a bunch there. I expect to spend far less time on Instagram as well.

Indie authors like me are encouraged to have accounts everywhere, but it’s absurd. I have accounts on Ello, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Wattpad as well that I’ve all but forgotten about. There’s no way to keep up with it all. Even this poor blog is terribly neglected. If anything, I may try to get back to blogging on a more regular basis, but the rest will likely be very much more on the back burner.

Social media is not all bad, but it’s largely unproductive. I’ll be around, but not as much as I have been. At least, that’s the plan. Let’s see how long I can stick to it.

I Do It My Way

writer at deskI try to write the best books I possibly can, and with my limited free time to devote to writing, it should be no surprise that it takes me a while to finish even a first draft. Once that’s done, the revisions and rewrites begin before I allow beta readers to see it. This flies in the face of some of the advice to indie authors these days that you should be putting out several books a year. It simply can’t be done, or at least not done well. I take writing very seriously, and rather than toss out a sloppily written novel I try to put out the best product I can. Why should I expect anyone to pay money and spend time on anything less? I do aspire to be a better writer and I’m always looking to improve.

As a writer I love to discuss the craft of writing with other writers. To that end, I participated (briefly) in an online writer’s chat on Twitter the other day. It turned out to be more of a coffee klatsch than writing talk. Questions were things like “What’s the best review you’ve ever received?” Being at work while the chat was going I was only able to participate in the first question which was “Where are you in your writing process?” Most of the rest of the participants (not all) mentioned several projects that are in various stages of writing or revision. I answered that I’m working on the sequel to my first novel. I do have other stories started, but I’m focusing most of my time on the sequel. The moderator (who has apparently heard me discussing this before) said, “Still? How long have you been working on that?” I replied that if I didn’t have a day-job, it might go faster. The mod does not have a day-job. Yes, it’s taking me a while, and I’m sorry for that to those of you who are waiting for the sequel but I have to keep the day-job as I have bills to pay and I’m not a kept woman. Add in everything that needs to be done around the house on weekends and it leaves very little time to write.

That question rankled. It’s no wonder the market is flooded with poorly written books and indies have such a terrible reputation. People are cranking out multiple books a year, but how much time and attention are they giving to any of them? Could my own book have been better? Of course, and I wish I had the money to hire a professional editor to go over it. I may yet release a revised version, now that I’ve discovered ProWritingAid. I’m dying to run the whole book through it and make it better. I can already see things I’d like to change and tighten after using that program for just a couple weeks. I expect Revenants Within to be a much stronger book.

Before self-publishing became an option, it was the norm for a writer to take six months to write a book. Now, if you don’t publish six books a year, you’re pretty much told you’re slacking. I will never be able to write at that pace. If you can, godspeed. But don’t denigrate others who don’t.

And if you’re a slow writer like me, you’re not doing it wrong. You’re doing it at your own pace, which is exactly how you should.

World Dracula Day 2016

 

Bram_Stoker_1906

I didn’t know there was one! Today is the anniversary of the first publication of “Dracula” in 1897. In honor of that, here some links to fun Dracula-related things (sites, podcasts):

http://www.bramstoker.org/novels/05dracula.html

The Dracula Chronicles

The Vampire Historian – World Dracula Day Mini-sode (from 2015, don’t see anything more recent)

The 1977 “Count Dracula” from the BBC, starring Louis Jourdan. One of the more faithful adaptations. Sorry, can’t find one without the subtitles. Subtitles just annoy me.

And remember, “The dead travel fast.”

Vampire Tarot Magician

 

Summertime, and the Livin’ Ain’t Easy

Warm weather is here, and you know what that means.

Yardwork.

Sucking up my weekends, when I’d much rather be indoors writing. I’m trying to reclaim my back yard from the blackberry brambles this year, and have finally resorted to chemical warfare. I hate using herbicides, but it’s out of control. There’s a play structure in the back that my ex-husband made for the kids when they were small that is now completely overgrown by blackberries, you can’t even see it. The deer haven’t been by in weeks, so I thought maybe it was safe to spray as long as they’re not here eating the blackberries. I wanted to get the blackberries dealt with before they flower and produce berries and (more to the point) more seeds. I still hate the idea, but it’s insane how much yard they take up.

I found this little thing growing up through the ivy. Known as “Stinky Bob” or “Herb Bob” it’s also classified as a noxious weed, just like the blackberries are. These sound much easier to get rid of, if you want to. I left it.

Stinky Bob / Herb Bob

Stinky Bob / Herb Bob

Here’s a shot of my redwood tree. You can see some of the blackberry bushes at the bottom, how tall they are, almost totally blocking the shed/outbuilding. It’s a big building, up on a concrete slab with electrical. Previous owners used it as a woodworking shop, apparently they built  cabinets there. There’s an extra-wide door to get the stuff they built out through.

5-1-16 redwood2

And Buster. He follows me around, meowing. I don’t know what the hell he wants.

Buster

Buster

I’m already sick of mowing.

2016, We’re Counting on You

I gave up making New Year’s resolutions years ago. Generally, it seems a week into the new year most are already forgotten. It’s not that I don’t have goals, but sometimes the resolutions I’ve made were not all that intrinsic to my interests or that important in the long term. Lose weight? Sure. Exercise more? Sure. Who doesn’t want to do those things?

Who sticks with any of that past January? Hmm? Raise your hand. Yeah, that’s what I thought. (Ok you, in the back: pipe down. You’re an anomaly)

Still, for the first time in years, I actually have three things I am resolved on for the coming year:

  1. Read more. I signed up for the Goodreads reading challenge thingie last year, and hilariously said I was going to try to read 3o books in 2015. Counting a re-read of “Sense and Sensibility” I appear to have read seven. That’s pathetic. I stand here before you to confess my shame. I really need to make more of an effort.
  2. Write more. Gotta get on the stick there and finish the first draft of  “Revenants Within,”  sequel to “Revenants Abroad.” I also have several other projects half-begun so I need to get with it.
  3. Spend less time on Twitter and get back to posting more regularly here on the blog. Maybe even get my other website, ddsyrdal.com back up and functional. I still own the domain name, but let the site slide.

Best wishes to everyone for a healthy, happy, prosperous new year!

Here are a few recent photos:

Ten Brides

This is a flash piece I wrote for The Future Fire’s Tenth anniversary writing contest. Even though the word “contest” is plainly stated, my brain somehow glossed over it and I didn’t realize it WAS a contest until I was contacted and told I’d tied for the win. So I’ve got a couple of lovely free books coming! Yay! So, something a little creepy as we go into Halloween season. And Blessed Mabon to all.

Ten Brides

The winter Will Gannett’s mother died, the ground was so frozen they had to wait for the spring thaw to bury her, as if the earth wasn’t ready to accept her.

In the spring, the earth gave up her dead. The hole they opened in the ground for the widow Gannett revealed a skeleton: unknown, unnamed. A trade. A new body for the old.

An ill omen, said the elders.

Soon after, like trooping fairies ten lovely women arrived in town. Within days, each was betrothed to a young man of the village. In due course the weddings were accomplished. Each of the strange beauties, while barely able to speak the local tongue, were obedient, compliant wives to the young men who could scarcely believe their good fortune.

The first to die was the miller’s son, trampled by the donkey that turned the millstone. Soon after, the parson’s son fell ill and perished. The blacksmith’s son fell into the forge and was burned alive. Within a year, all ten were dead, leaving behind wives who were soon mothers. Within days of each other, each delivered a daughter.

Gathering in the field where the ancient body was dug up and the Widow Gannett and the young husbands now lay buried, the new mothers met in a circle. In the center lay the bones of the mystery corpse. The women chanted and sang:

“This is the spell that we intone
Flesh to flesh and bone to bone
Sinew to sinew, and vein to vein,
And each one shall be whole again”

as the bones again grew muscles, sinews, blood veins, and skin. And when it was whole again, the corpse that was now a woman looked around at the women assembled around her.

“The old god is dead, and we will reign again.”

And she led them back to the village.