Weekly Haiku Challenge: Haunt & Release

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So this week for my haiku, I decided to take part in Ronovan’s Weekly Haiku Challenge! I had been meaning to for a while, and since I was planning on a halloween-themed haiku anyway (for obvious reasons), I figured I could hit two birds with one stone. The words I have to use are Haunt and Release. Alright, let’s give this a go.

Red-blooded legend

Haunting bound in the red dust

Death was no release.

Storms stir up the sand

Rain dampens the spirits again

And dust turns to blood.

Inspiration: The majority of Australia is full of red dust and dirt. It’s actually from the high content of oxidised iron from the ancient weathering of rocks (really ancient, that’s part of the reason why it’s difficult to grow things in our country – the soil has very little natural organic matter left). But sometimes I like to pretend the ground is red for a different reason…

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Mini Story: These Dead Days

I seem to be the only person who remembers we used to be dead.

Back then, we were so desperate to be alive. Why was I so obsessed? Life fluctuates between monotony and pain and terror. Why did I think I’d be happy if I were alive?

None of the others remember. We used to be friends. I remember back in the dead days, we’d play tricks on the living. We had fun. Now, none of them want to know me. I’m just the weird one who sees ghosts. Which is stupid – the living can’t see ghosts.

I just know they’re there.

The misfortune, the accidents, the mistakes, these are all brought by the dead. I can’t understand how the living can ignore the signs when they’re so obvious. We were literally shoving ourselves in their faces; we were so desperate to make contact. Heh, I had the most fun going through people and mimicking them. Sometimes, I even made them mimic me.

I miss being dead.

The Dead Time is drawing near. That is one thing the living recognise, even if they can’t pinpoint it properly. The Dead Time doesn’t follow seasons or lunar cycles – it is a tide all on its own. I don’t know why I can still feel it. Maybe it’s because I’m meant to be dead.

I don’t recognise the dead one when it comes to me. It tries to do the thing I once loved – puppetry. It doesn’t work so well. I hate that I am so connected to the dead. Why can I feel it inside me? Why remind me of freedom I don’t have? This creature is trying so hard to have its fun.

I decide to let it – I give it my whole body.

When I open my eyes, the gloom is wonderfully soft and comforting. I feel so light – lighter than I ever could while I was alive. The silence is such relief. I want this numbness.

The thing that was dead is surprised at first, but then my eyes bursts into tears and my face breaks into a smile. It is happy.

It is only a matter of time before it regrets its ‘fortune’.

I go back to doing what I loved. A lucky catch is dropped. A frayed wire becomes a fire. A faulty tyre bursts, spinning the living into death. Have I become stronger? Perhaps being alive made me better dead. I become the whisper of wind that tips the scales.

Why was I the only one who remembered that we used to be dead?

The others avoid me. They must be afraid, but I miss the camaraderie, even if I don’t need their help anymore. I play and play and play. I reach for the happiness I had.

It does not come.

I find myself stalking my old body. The thing inside it is laughing with those who I loved when I was dead. No; I am dead. I am the one laughing. I am the one who is loved.

Why is that thing in my body so happy? Why couldn’t I be happy, in the very same body?! Why can’t I be happy? Why doesn’t it work for me?!

Give me back my body!

It slips on the stone steps. I watch it topple forward, finally feeling something akin to relief. I watch my arms rush forward and break in a vain attempt to save itself. I watch my head hit the fifth step and slide down and slump. The rest of the body rises up in a perfect headstand and forces the whole weight onto the neck. It doesn’t break. It doesn’t break. I don’t break.

So I add weight.

The snap is the most wonderful sound I have ever heard. The creature inside my body is dead again, and I laugh. I wait for it to rise so I can mock it. I wait. I wait I wait I wait. Where is it? Is it not dead?

I plunge my fist into the corpse. I cannot feel the heartbeat as I usually do. I cannot feel anything.

Where is that spirit? Where has it gone?

I watch as they bury my body. There are so many people around. People I used to know. People who are sad I have died, or at least pretending to be. Are they all pretending? Please don’t pretend…

Life fluctuates between monotony and pain and terror. I’m meant to be dead. Why remind me of freedom I don’t have? I want this numbness. I don’t need their help anymore. Why doesn’t it work for me?! I don’t break, so I add weight. I cannot feel anything.

So many people have these thoughts. I think all of us have had these at some time. It could be in the past, in the present, or looming dangerously on the future’s horizon. We worry. We hate. We become trapped by others or by ourselves. There are always some of us who wander through life feeling dead. There is always a part of ourselves who feels that life isn’t perfect. We need to remember that we all have our breaking points, and we all need each other. We need to feel. We need to give each other freedom.

Don’t just keep adding weight until you break. Recognise yourself. Recognise yourself in others. Life is more than monotony and pain and terror. Sometimes it’s difficult to believe, but sometimes you don’t know what you have until you lose it.

MdD

Book Review: Fair Game by Patricia Briggs

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Review:

Dear Patricia Briggs,

Leslie Fisher is awesome. Can she get her own series?

Sincerely,

Marigold

After the last Mercy Thompson book I read, I was looking forward to going back to Alpha & Omega, which I thought of as more my type of thing: it seemed to have more magic and mystery. This book delivered on that but… honestly, I would have preferred to see the whole thing through Leslie’s eyes.

Charles and Anna did some random boring couple stuff, which I found boring, of course. It also seemed really misplaced at the start of the book: they had just finished this meeting with FBI about these horrible murders that were going on, and they both vowed that even if the FBI didn’t want their help, they were going to try to solve the murders anyway. AND THEN THEY GO SHOPPING.

WTF.

I get that Charles was having issues and Anna was trying to distract him, but hadn’t everyone agreed that getting Charles to play detective was going to help his state of mind. Why ignore the very thing that could quite possibly help Charles?

Seriously, the first thing I thought of after getting the lowdown on the mystery was: let’s go see the crime scene of where the last body was found. It had been found several days ago in a public area, so there was absolutely no restriction on why they couldn’t go there by themselves, FBI approval or not (just look it up on an online newspaper to find the site). I mean, if you really want to solve a crime, you GO TO THE CRIME SCENE.

It took the almost two-thirds of the book for them to get there, and then do you know what happens? THEY DISCOVER A CLUE. I’m not even going to put in a spoiler warning for that because it’s so stupidly obvious.

AND THEN THEY RANDOMLY HAVE SEX.

Now that I’m looking back at the story as a whole, well, there just seems to be a couple of holes. I won’t be pointing out any more because then I would need some spoiler warnings and I like to avoid (not completely obvious) spoilers in my reviews.

It’s still Patricia Briggs, so the book isn’t all bad. Actually the mystery is pretty good but it could have been better if the werewolves were a little more sensible about… everything. The ending was good but also bad because… more spoilers! Let’s just say it had to do with one all-powerful fae who for some reason couldn’t obliterate a minor fae when he could control the lives of 50+ humans at once.

Patricia Briggs… do none of your beta readers/ editor point out the flaws in your stories before they’re published anymore? Have you just become so legendary that no-one can tell you no? Sure, your books are still getting great reviews overall and like others I’m willing to forgive a few things that didn’t work but this is starting to get glaringly obvious. Despite it’s flaws, I still enjoyed Night Broken, but going from that book to Fair Game I’ve found myself far less forgiving. I suppose it could be that I just don’t like these stories anymore.

I have to give this a thumbs down despite, like Night Broken, the actual mystery being good (retrospectively, maybe I should have reviewed Night Broken harsher but, like I said, I was more willing to forgive the annoyances and shortcomings at the time). I can only recommend it weakly to those who are fans of the Alpha & Omega series already. I am disappointed enough not to be looking forward to any new Patricia Briggs.

Maybe I’ll read Dragon Blood now. It’s an older book (published 2002 according to goodreads) and I’m hoping that it’s a worthy sequel to Dragon Bones, a book that I loved. It would be nice to go back to coherent and creative Briggs storytelling.

Fair Game
Patricia Briggs
Alpha & Omega #3
Adult
Urban Paranormal Fantasy
293 pages

According to the Blurb on the Back:

It is said that opposites attract. And in the case of werewolves Anna Latham and Charles Cornick, they mate. The son – and enforcer – of the leader of the North American werewolves, Charles is a dominant Alpha. While Anna, an Omega, has the rare ability to calm others of her kind.

Now that the werewolves have revealed themselves to humans, they can’t afford any bad publicity. Infractions that could have been overlooked in the past must now be punished, and the strain of doing his father’s dirty work is taking a toll on Charles.

Nevertheless, Charles and Anna are sent to Boston when the FBI requests the pack’s help on a local serial-killer case. They quickly realise that the last two victims were werewolves, and identify others originally thought to be human as fae. Someone is targeting the preternatural. And now Anna and Charles have put themselves in the killer’s sights…

Flash Fiction: Cat Dog Dialogue

“You’re not helping them, you know.”

“What do you mean?”

“Giving them all that attention, all that affection. How do you expect they cope when they go off into the world and you’re not by their side?”

“I don’t understand what you’re saying.”

“Of course you don’t.”

“You actually believe leaving them on their own and acting cold is helpful?

“It prepares them for what awaits.”

“You can’t pretend they don’t need companionship.”

“I don’t.”

“Then why are you talking to me?”

“I am merely trying to help.”

“You are helping: yourself. You need attention just as much as they do – you just can’t admit it.”

“Don’t be absurd. Look, this isn’t about me – I am concerned for our housekeeper. I see him come in every evening looking depressed and you brighten him up to an unsustainable level before he leaves again and the vicious cycle repeats.”

“It could be that my affection is what gets him through the day.”

“You think too highly of yourself. He’s headed for a breakdown and you can’t see it. I’ve read research of these symptoms – optimists cannot sustain themselves as pessimists can.”

“You’re making that up.”

“No; it’s true.”

“Well, I don’t believe you. I’m older than you aren’t I?”

“Not for long.”

“What are you saying?”

“Cats live longer than dogs. Everyone knows that.”

“You know what else everyone knows? Dogs live happier than cats.”

“Happiness is an unrealistic expectation.”

“Only for some. Do you really think people are better off acting like you?”

“Haven’t you noticed how they act towards each other? They do act like me. They know what works.”

“Unless they think it’s easier to pretend than admit they don’t know. If they were honest like dogs, maybe they’d be happier.”

“You forget.”

“What?”

“Cats are honest too.”

The Black Swan Inheritance Covers, plus Blurby Fun

Hear ye, hear ye! Well, actually I want you to do the talking and for me to listen! I’ve got a few different concepts thanks to your input last time, so I hope these new covers are a little more exciting than the last ones. Leiah said she liked the glowing feathers and seeing more of the swan. Rosh liked the original picture the best so maybe I should just use that but I can’t help fiddling with things! Bethany advised I work on the font, so I’ve played around with a few different types as you’ll see below. Wlloydjr suggested focusing on the texture of the wings, which I definitely like the idea of as it makes it much simpler, in an ‘uncomplicated and pleasing to the eye’ sense.

I’m still loving the photo, but as far as making it a cover I can’t really commit to any of the ones I’ve made. Leiah said that I should use a cover I’m happy with, but truth be told I just don’t know anymore! Help! Do I go with dark or elegant? I like both! And I think both hint to the story within… so I’m at a bit of a loss.

So I have some covers that are complicated, some that are simple, and I’ve included the original picture too in case people still like that one and want me to stop messing with it!

Black Swan Feathers Cover

Final Copy8Feather Texture

Black Swan

And just for reference’s sake, here’s the first cover I worked on:

Book1_3_without_beakI hope I’ve improved!

 What did you like? What didn’t you like? Whole picture or zoomed-up texture?

Once again, my book should will be released December 1st! This is the current blurb, completely different from the last one I posted:

The striking Black Swan is native to Australia, unrelated to the seemingly pure White Swan of Europe. She is found in the strangest of places – from ugly mines to cultivated farms, beautiful bushland to violent coastline.

Yet, she always shies away from humanity.

The Black Swan is always beautiful, surprisingly resilient and very, very powerful. Most Black Swans are wise enough not to use that power to challenge the status quo.

Most…

And this is the blurb that I posted a while ago and got great feedback on, but like the lazy busy person I am I haven’t gone back to edit the blurb based on those comments. Well, not properly at least – I did change the last line, and made a minor change of the last sentence of the first paragraph. If you’re interested in reading that post and those comments, you can find it here.

Anita had the kind of reputation in high school that no one wants to carry into adulthood, especially since she wants to be a doctor like her dad. Now at university, she is determined to be good, but one little end-of-semester celebration can’t hurt, right? Well, it can if she ends up having a one-night stand with a werewolf that triggers a dark awakening. Turns out Anita’s over-active libido has become more than something hormonal – it’s magical.

The Black Swan is a powerful legacy that brings both temptation and danger. Having now inherited the title and all that comes with it, Anita finds herself beset upon by ancient abominations that won’t take no for an answer. No wonder the Black Swan had been driven to seclusion and banishment in the past. But Anita is determined not to run away – she is here to help, whether the medieval dragon-wolf or the undead cultists want it or not.

She will be no one’s pawn. She will rise to the challenge.

If she can just manage to deal with her own flaws first. Anxiety, panic-attacks, and bouts of bitchiness does not a successful diplomat make.

I should also mention that you can find all the posts to date related to my book under the “Black Swan Inheritance” category. Because I like to believe I have fans 🙂 Hey, you gotta be optimistic when you’re pursing a career in something creative, or anything you love.

To be fair, I will always write, regardless of what the future brings. But since I have the option to self-publish: YEAH! Of course I’m going to try that!

Shamelessness. It is incredibly liberating 😀

Indie Book Review: Pearseus Year 18: The Schism

Pearseus by Nicholas  C. Rossis

Review:

This is such a different book to anything I’d read before. If you like myths and legends, history and humanity, you will like this book. It reads like a fictionalised version of history, but it’s not our history. Scifi that brings a few hundred people stranded on an Earth-like planet, we see good and bad people struggle to hold onto the history of the human race while trying to build a new society. And of course, everyone has a different idea how this new society should work.
With multiple characters and mutliple POVs, I was worried it would get hard to follow but it never happened. Actually, I bought the 3 book boxset (which I recommend doing) and completely blitzed through the first book and was partway through the second before I realised I had already finished book one.
The time gap should have clued me in, but anyway…
This is why I should read more indie books. I’ve never read anything like it before and I just don’t think I would’ve been exposed to something similar by going to my local library. I’m really looking forward to finishing the series – how do you end something that has such a broad scope and scale?

Year 18: The Schism
Nicholas C. Rossis
Pearseus #1
Adult
Sci-fi Fantasy
56 pages

According to the blurb on the back:

It’s New Year’s Eve, the year of 2099, but the distinguished guests aboard the Pearseus won’t get to countdown seconds; soon they’ll be counting bodies and survivors after the spaceship’s crash landing on another planet.

The good news? The planet is seemingly hospitable both in resources and in terms of the natives’ attitude towards earthlings.

The bad news? They might have come on this planet bare of possessions, but what they haven’t been able to shed are the shortcomings of their human nature. Will that be the sole threat to a unified future, or is the new land and its first inhabitants not as innocent as they look?

The best-selling short prequel to the Pearseus series is filled with surprising twists: A leader that falls prey to unseen forces. An unlikely hero who faces death for his convictions. Mysterious voices driving the survivors to repeat the mistakes of their ancestors. But who are their true ancestors? And how many voices are there?

Influencing Your Characters Just Because You Can

This is the first time I’ve ever had my book professionally edited, and Leiah Cooper picked up something interesting.

See, I had almost finished writing my novel when something pissed me off. I don’t remember what it was exactly… oh wait, yes I do. The last manuscript I had sent off was rejected.

Yeah, that pissed me off.

I had almost finished writing The Black Swan Inheritance, a book about magic and conquering your own shortcomings with a bit of a romance slant. Actually, it had a lot of a romance slant – more than I personally liked just because I knew that sort of shit would sell. At least, that was where I was coming from when I started writing. As these things do, the characters developed a life of their own and I grew a little attached to them.

Then that other manuscript was rejected.

So what do I do? Since I was the goddess of this new world I created I decided, in the heat of the moment, I was justified in absolutely ruining the romance. Then I ended the book.

Yeah, I’m a very mature adult. Just be grateful I’m a writer and not, for instance, a mad scientist. Okay, I am a scientist, but as a geologist the best I can do is throw rocks around.

I did some of that too. And hammers.

Anyway, I finished the book. Over the course of the next few months I went back to it and edited, but somehow it never occurred to me to do justice to the relationships of the characters and give everyone closure.

Leiah brought that up.

I’m paraphrasing a little here, but she essentially asked, “Why has the main character reverted back to bitch-mode in the last few scenes?”

Um…

Because I was in bitch-mode when I wrote it.

Whoa, that was selfish of me. What was all that about authors respecting their own work? Yeah, I just threw it all out the window.

SO I am fixing that. I am going to do justice to the story. I am going to allow the characters to each have their place in the sun, to say their piece, to do what they want to do, not what I impose on them.

Aspiring writers, have you ever done this? Has something happened to you that has effectively driven you to write:

ROCKS FALL. EVERYONE DIES.

THE END

I expect George R R Martin goes through it a lot.

Haiku: Green Tea and Daggers

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I brought home one thing

from Singapore, nothing else

made it through customs.

I had bought daggers

Thought they were ornamental,

blunt and therefore safe.

On declaration

Customs said they’re actually

illegal weapons.

Daggers. You’re kidding.

Should bust medieval fairs.

They’d find plenty there.

Now green tea flavoured

KitKats just remind me of

Illegal daggers.

DSCN7139

Mini Story: Fish Feet

I couldn’t stand it. I lost my ability to breathe. My mind went completely dark, lungs seized up. Maybe I was having some sort of basic function shutdown in response to what was about to befall me.

Then came the hysterics.

At first, it wasn’t more than a simple giggle. A little squeak that could be easily explained in context. A minor reaction out of fear – that was all it was. But it didn’t stop there. It kept going. The laughter bubbled up in a continuous loop. I supposed I must have been breathing again because how else was I able to make such loud and obnoxious sounds?

I tried hovering my feet over the water again, and again the little buggers shot up to surface, snapping, eager to get a taste of my flesh. I hadn’t even touched the water yet! Still caught in a laughter-loop, I hugged my knees to my chest. Terror swam with the strong realisation of just how absurd I must look. But there was no backing out now. I had paid the euro. I was on holidays, dammit!

I will be adventurous and try something new!

Even if that something was only letting little guppies nibble my feet.

Eventually, finally, though my face was covered in fresh and dried tears, I dipped my toes beneath the water and let the fishys have their meal. It felt like bubbles. I told myself it felt like bubbles…

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I did get used to it eventually. And my feet were pretty smooth afterwards.

Would I do it again? Yes. Yes I will.