The Problem with Self Imposed Deadlines

Mostly, I never make them. Especially not if holidays are involved. So, I can write like a crazy woman tonight – that’s not totally out of the question, I already have the crazy part – or I can finish this next year. It’s looking good for next year – tired and achy do not make for great writing (no comments from the peanut gallery on that one!).

I got great news yesterday – I received my disability award. One of the few without any appeal necessary.  That translates to I have an income again – and I am so grateful to God for that.

I also splurged on a mobile hotspot so I can post from home. Which means not dragging myself  out everyday, setting up the laptop and running out of time to really write. As things improve, I will get a desktop and that will make writing easier (how does ANYONE type on the laptop keyboard? I have a separate USB keyboard just to type!).

I won’t have to worry with Obamacare and the ridiculously over-complicated plans – I’ll have Medicare. I got burned on my orthopedic visit and haven’t had the courage to see any other doctors since (or the money, for that matter). Once that starts, I can see about my legs and maybe reversing my gastric bypass – which would hopefully mean feeling a lot better a lot of the time.

But in the meantime, I’m not going to finish True Slayers in the final hours of 2017. I’ll grab some sparkling cider on the way home and curl up with a bunch of inspirational movies on the DVD and kittens on the lap. It’s already a happy new year for me.

Here’s wishing everyone a Happy and Joyous New Year!

We Interrupt This Program…

I have cookies to dust (yes, really – confectioner’s sugar, okay?), things to move, irate things to feed (look, the girl was late getting up, deal with it – none of your dishes were empty anyway! Quit mewing at me!), stuff to buy (late Christmas gift for me – yes, I know but the cookies aren’t for me, so there!) and more to do in the next few hours than I can actually do in the next few hours so I give up on the edit. I give up on today’s post – and probably tomorrow’s. I will do my Read the Book and Larilee’s Blog posts but only because they are quick!

I’ll pick up on Seven probably Wednesday if not sooner.

So, go have a Merry Christmas and quit looking at me like that!

 

True Slayers: Heroes

It was getting late and I was beginning to wonder if this was going to work. It should – I didn’t think Vinnie had the humility to walk away from a total loss. I’d heard and read the accounts from both Thompkins and Chambers – Vinnie wasn’t the kind that could admit defeat or let go. He should show up.

Well, in truth, showing up would be stupid – if he had any brains he’d simply start over somewhere else. Yeah, he had brains but I was betting his pride would overrule them. Steep bet on a guy I’d never met but you work with what you’ve got.

Crystal was on the rooftop of the adjoining building by now. I couldn’t see her face, just the outline out of the corner of my eye. I wasn’t taking my eyes off that street.

Chambers was just barely in view from where I was. Tresmayne had him covered from the top of Crystal’s building now. He’d jumped from mine – I won’t be trying that anytime soon.

The alleys were covered by various slayers. Thompkins had window duty from my apartment. If Vinnie showed, Chambers wouldn’t be in any danger. If.

If Vinnie was watching from somewhere, he had to be suspicious. Chambers had sat there forlornly for hours now – staying on the street instead of going to his apartment. Maybe Vinnie had more brains than I thought. Maybe.

Or maybe he was waiting for the neighborhood to be asleep – at least as asleep as a New York neighborhood gets. That seemed more likely and even if not, there was nothing to do now but wait.

I went deer hunting with a distant cousin when I was fourteen. It was the most boring thing I’d ever done in my life. My cousin got a small buck and was ecstatic all the way home. But for me, the excitement of the kill didn’t begin to make up for the hours of extreme boredom just waiting for the unsuspecting deer to show itself. That, and I admit I’d seen Bambi once too often with my sisters – it just wasn’t my thing.

But now I was beginning to understand what my cousin had tried to explain. Where I was bored past tears, he was on fire, every nerve and muscle at the ready, all his concentration centered on that instant when he had a good clear shot. I was feeling that now.

Hard to describe – I knew that street like the back of my hand but now I was perceiving it as if under a microscope. Every line, every crack, every tiny movement – it was as clear as a HDTV image in freeze frame. I knew it was late, knew time was passing but I didn’t feel the passage of time, other than as it related to whether or not Vinnie would show himself. I stood on that rooftop feeling like a perched hawk, watching and waiting for dinner to walk by.

Eclectic slayer – I guess that’s why I hadn’t even bothered to bring a weapon, not even a bat. Whatever came to hand would be fine – strange way to feel about the possibility of being involved in a fight with a guy who wants me dead, but there it is. That wasn’t the plan – I wasn’t expecting to need to fight – but good strategy considers all the known possibilities along with the wild cards. Yet I hadn’t brought a weapon. Either it’s an eclectic slayer thing or I’d done something stupid. I mentally put that on the long list of things to ask the Mistress about someday.

The street felt wrong. I couldn’t put my finger on why at first then I realized that despite the hour it still looked like daytime. Oh, it was dark enough, but curtains and drapes that normally closed after dark were still open. Lights that would normally be out were still on. Most lights were out – it wasn’t something a passerby would notice – but the wrong ones were still on. It was like no one had gone to bed.

Maybe they hadn’t – there had been a lot of fuss of late and especially tonight. Maybe in my hyper-aware mode I was noticing lights more than I would normally. But I didn’t think so – I knew this street and the people on it. Mrs. Kelly across the street to the left of Crystal’s building, and third floor up had never had a light on after nine pm in my living memory but there was a little lamp glowing in one of her windows.

I noticed but strangely didn’t care. I was still concentrating on Vinnie – still very much the hawk waiting for his prey. Nothing else really mattered – although I saw incredible detail, I only cared about the one detail I didn’t see – Vinnie.

Half bidden, the thought crossed my mind that Chambers, unlike Thompkins, would be feeling the cold. He hadn’t moved, hadn’t adjusted his jacket. He was like the professional actor that pretends the other guy hadn’t flubbed his lines and the set didn’t just fall on his head – he just keeps acting. Had to respect that – later. For now, it was merely noted in the back of my brain.

I sensed a vampire but that didn’t bother me. After a moment, I knew why, Mertyn had joined Tresmayne for whatever reason. He wasn’t a threat and I didn’t care until I had to.

Time kept passing. It was weird – like looking at a clock, knowing time is going on normally, but feeling like time had stopped. Like looking at the passage of time through a window – seeing it but not being part of it. I knew it was past midnight now but didn’t feel like it had been the five hours that had actually passed. Impassively, yet keenly aware, I continued to watch.

A shadow moved where it shouldn’t at the end of the next block. A passerby? Maybe. It grew closer, shapes blending from shadow to form. By the time it was ready to cross the street to our block, I had it in perfect view. A man, 6′ 2″, long coat, collar up, hat low. Nothing surprising, it was cold even if I couldn’t feel it. My brain said ‘passerby’ but my gut was screaming something else.

Update!

I should post the next installment today. I had intended for Reckoning to be the final chapter and then an epilogue but it’s not going to work that way. The final chapter will be Heroes – whether or not it will still need an epilogue remains to be seen but I still expect so. Reckoning would have ended up in at least forty parts – the longest of any by far – so I think breaking into a new chapter is the best recourse.

The only reason you get to see this is that I’m writing and publishing in sequence – had I written then published, this kind of thing wouldn’t be evident. I could restructure chapters any way I pleased without anyone knowing. And actually, I will – this is effectively the first draft. When I edit, I will definitely make changes – there are continuity problems (memory, what’s that?) and flow problems and POV changes that shouldn’t be where they are – but the plot and story structure will remain the same. I like the alternating points of view and the general confusion of the first chapters – after all, Jack becomes a vampire slayer and amateur detective in one day, he shouldn’t get it all perfect off the bat.

But the love story got lost in the writing and needs to be revisited – and will be in the edit. For now, I’m concentrating on getting it finished – once that’s done, the editing and rewriting will probably take a few months. The final result will be an e-book. None of the edits or rewrites will be done online – other than the minor spelling and continuity edits already done, the novel will stay online as written originally.

Okay, enough talking – time to go write!

True Slayers: The Right Track, Part Fifteen

My normal as anything we have around here sister did more to educate me in the next hour and a half than the all the reading, talking and questioning of the previous two months had done combined. If this job came with a budget, I’d hire her to educate every new slayer. Seriously.

Unlike other slayers who instinctively know quite a bit – but don’t instinctively know what you don’t know – my sister just assumed we were starting from scratch and went from there. She moved on from things I already knew – as soon as I passed her quizzes – and hit everything she could think of that I really needed to know.

That proved to be quite a lot. Color is important but it isn’t static – like people, creatures can change over time. Each of the three colors is measured on a 10 point scale by those who can detect color. Higher is better so Thompkins 7 was actually pretty high.

Possession is more complicated. For the  most part, it isn’t ownership – and in the few exceptions where it is, only the Mistress herself can actually ‘own’ a creature. Possession is usually a kind of patronage. The Mistress (or whichever true born happens to be involved) is the patron. The slayer that takes possession is the steward – this explained why Thompkins had called me that several times – I had been meaning to ask. Yes, any creature possessed will obey the steward as if obeying the Mistress herself. That meant I had to be even more careful of possession than of my command ability – my off the cuff comments could become law.

But the creature gets more out of it – the increased chance of ‘achieving’ a soul. Dispossessed creatures (yes, there’s a word for it – and yes, Lisa knew it) cannot be safely around humans, not even the benign forms can be around humans a lot. But without that contact, it is difficult to impossible to remain clean or unblooded – which is a necessary part of achieving.

For Thompkins, the issue is remaining clean – doing no harm to innocent humans. That sounds easier than it is – even though as a function of his type he protects kids, he still emanates a lot of power that can be harmful over time. He also is as susceptible as anyone else to temptation – like the temptation of having kidnapping scum for dinner. With no soul, he’s not considered a moral actor (that is weird as heck to me too – he’s certainly trying to behave morally) so nothing short of outright defiance of God counts as sin right now. He has to be as harmless as possible to the people around him, even the bad ones. Not an easy row to hoe.

For the werewolves, the issue is less complicated but harder to accomplish – they must remain ‘unblooded’. Blooding is simply blood letting – having drawn human blood, any human blood. Once blooded – which for an average werewolf happens the first time they transform – it takes 1000 years of not drawing human blood at all to be considered unblooded again – then and only then they can work toward achievement.

Being possessed or in a pack makes it much, much easier on the creature. A werewolf in the Mistress’ pack simply cannot hurt a human without her direct command. A possessed creature with its steward can be around humans safely almost constantly – his power is contained in the possession and doesn’t harm anyone.

That explained why Thompkins reacted the way he did – from his point of view, he’d gained a lot more than he lost. Having been born a creature with parents to teach him well, he had been striving toward ‘cleanliness’ his whole life. There would be a cleansing period similar to that of the blooded creatures but it lasted only a year and a day. Then he too, could work toward achievement.

Gaining a soul is a lot more than just playing nice in the sandbox. Only God can grant a soul. There is no Bible for soul achievement – nor are there hard and fast rules. Piety, prayer, charity, and love are the four ‘pillars’ but when and how a soul is exactly achieved, only God decides. It’s a dark path with no flashlight. Just a Voice – that’s how Lisa said the books describe it. A Voice saying ‘follow’ and leading out of the darkness.

I’m more of a ‘turn on the headlights’ kind of guy – but it’s not my business to tell God how to do His business. Over the years, I’ve come to see the wisdom in the process. I guess because I have seen it happen a few times now – and there’s an enormous amount of spiritual healing that comes along the way.

You wouldn’t think creatures, as powerful as they are, would be hurting. You’d be wrong – whether created or born, all creatures are in spiritual pain. They instinctively know they are missing something – something they can’t get back. Werewolves and vampires aren’t just feeding to continue to live when they attack humans – their confused spirits are hoping to capture what’s missing in themselves – the souls that is there in their victim.

That can never work – which creates a vicious cycle. Some creatures resist – they attack only to sustain themselves. Others, in anger and pain, attack without reason, striking out at a world they cannot comprehend. Some of these can still be helped – some can even be possessed or brought into the pack. Others refuse – they chose to follow the darkness. Those are the ones that have to be slain.

It was sobering, to tell the truth. Lisa went on to explain that slayers have an instinctive knowledge – they know when to strike and when not to. Crystal had let a werewolf and a vampire live – circumstance? I began to doubt it. I had let two werewolves live because killing them felt wrong. Now I knew it was the right decision. And it was comforting to know that Someone was in the driver’s seat to make sure I knew when to slay and when not to.

I had a new respect for my little sister. She’d understood more than I did. And not just from reading Momma’s books – she pulled out her Bible as well to explain a few things. She made connections I’d have never seen.

So, inadvertently, I’d solved the Thompkins problem. He would have his cleansing period and then I had no doubt he’d go on to achieve. Once ensouled, he would be as human as the rest of us – once gained, a soul cannot be lost. Meaning they cannot ever again be made into creatures – salvation is a gift to be accepted or not and that is a choice only a soul can make. I knew what Thompkins would chose – that was not in any doubt. There would be a white wedding in my little sister’s future with a good, God fearing, human being as the groom.

I was careful not to smile at her during my epiphany – she’d have creamed me. Having straightened out her big brother as much as possible for the night – and impressed the heck out of our mother who had listened in as she cleaned the kitchen where we sat – Lisa decided to say her good nights. She trotted back across the hall to speak to Thompkins then came back, kissed Momma and trotted off to bed. I put things on the top shelf for Momma, agreed that my ‘normal’ little sister was something else and with my own kiss for Momma, trotted back to my apartment.

True Slayers: The Right Track, Part Three

Work had been okay but it hadn’t really improved Jack’s mood. Mad at himself, he’d spent the day trying hard not to take it out on everyone and everything in sight. Bernie, who normally ignored everyone and slept through the day, had decided to become Jack’s ‘friend for the day’, opting to sleep by Jack’s station and even deigning to rub past his leg a few times.

That was also the highlight of Jack’s day. Putting together an ancient chandelier and managing to not have any parts left over – without ‘accidentally’ losing them in the parts box – was Jack’s biggest accomplishment. As he hiked the last block home, it occurred to him that normally, he’d be happy with a day spent making something beautiful out of a box of puzzle pieces, but somehow, it hadn’t worked today.

He glanced at his watch. He’d thought he’d left a little late but hadn’t paid attention. Now he realized he’d left a lot late. No one was outside as the gloom of night had already come. Jack took the stoop steps three at a time, went in and shoved his head in his parents apartment to holler at his sister Donna that he was home and getting ready. Donna nodded and told him she would tell their mother. Filial duty accomplished, Jack ran into his own apartment to get himself presentable.

Crystal and Nyota were having dinner with her parents. Tresmayne – there didn’t seem any reason to keep calling him Mr Wolff – would join them later. Thompkins was seated between Marty and Tim – Jack couldn’t help but grin at that and the consternation of his sister Lisa, two seats down.

Poppa said the blessing and Jack snagged the biscuits, a gift from the Abernathy’s. Mike began to argue. Donna smacked Jack’s head for hogging the biscuits. Tim was loading his plate while Marty was grilling Thompkins. Lisa was having it out with Jane over a hair dryer. Kevin was trying to get Tina to select a dish so he could pass it. Just another family meal at the Scarlotti’s.

Crystal and Nyota joined them just after the dishes were done and Tresmayne came in shortly thereafter. There was no particular reason – there had been enough useless talk the night before – it was just natural.

What wasn’t natural was Tim excusing himself to ‘go out’. The idiot still hadn’t told Momma about Gina, Jack realized. Marty and Mike decided to go to a friend’s house to play something called a role playing game – they were excited about it being their first tabletop game, whatever that was. Donna took Tina and Jane to the mall, unable to convince Lisa to tag along. Kevin went to work on the paint in what would be his and Tim’s apartment – assuming his lunatic eldest brother didn’t decide to disassemble it again.

As everyone settled into the living room, Thompkins was explaining something called D&D to Lisa which evidently had something to do with what Marty and Mike were up to. Jack wasn’t interested – he might not have had the best day but he did have enough on the ball to be more interested in Miss Abernathy than his younger brother’s geeky games.

Discussing Crystal’s stellar academic performance was much more interesting – especially as her eyes sparkled as she told the harrowing tale of passing Intro to Logic. But even in a house of weirdness, some comments will catch your attention.

“Oh sure, they have vampires and werewolves in the Monster Manual, too. It’s just that dragons and bugbears are more common…”

“Oh? I get it. Hang on.” Lisa’s voice told Thompkins.

Jack couldn’t help a sideways glance. Lisa was up and on her way into the kitchen. Why, Jack couldn’t and didn’t want to guess. He went back to looking at Crystal’s schedule for next semester.

Time passed – Jack was actually interested that Crystal was considering an art class that involved welding. That he could help with, unlike Logic or Algebra. He was telling her about the chandelier he’d re-assembled today when he heard Lisa return.

“Like this?”

Jack again glanced around – Lisa was handing Thompkins a cookbook.

Thompkins took it and looked like he’d just eaten a bug, “W-where did you get this?”

“It’s Momma’s.” Lisa replied nonchalantly as she seated herself. “I’ve never heard of a bugbear, but there’s a lot about vampires and stuff.”

That got Jack’s complete attention. Crystal caught it as well and looked past Jack to see the book.

To Jack’s eyes, it was Momma’s Kitty Keller’s Best Recipes Cookbook which had graced the kitchen shelves as long as Jack had been alive. What in the world was Lisa babbling about?

Momma got up slowly and came over to them, “Lisa, can you read this?” She asked, pointing at the cookbook.

That was past weird. Of course she could read it – she’d been cooking out of it since she was seven.

Lisa nodded, “Yes Momma – I can read it.”

“And what is it about?”

“The different kinds of Creatures of the Night, how to identify them and kill them. Oh, and there’s a really funny part about deep frying ghouls…” Lisa actually giggled.

“You can read the Compendium?” Crystal blurted.

Lisa shrugged, “Sure, why wouldn’t I be able to?”

“Normal people aren’t… ” Crystal stopped speaking.

“When did you learn to read it?” Momma asked.

Lisa shrugged, “When I was little. I noticed that if I thought about nothing in particular, the book didn’t look like a cookbook anymore. I figured James would see it the way I do, since he’s like Jack and you. Is that wrong?”

Momma knelt beside Lisa’s chair, “Not wrong, no. But how did you?”

Lisa looked away, the tension getting to her, “Jack was always the special one – the one who’d be like you. Poppa and you said so once, just once, when I was really little. I remember someone coming in out of the rain, all bloody, and you and Poppa taking care of him. He asked for sanctuary and you said that was what this place was. You were talking while the man got cleaned up, that was when I knew. ”

“You, you were a baby then.” Momma replied.

Lisa nodded, “I was really little. I couldn’t talk yet – really frustrating. When I got old enough to talk, if I said something too old for me, you’d look at me funny so I stopped doing that. If I couldn’t be special, I didn’t wanna be weird.” She sighed, “That was stupid, huh? I shouldn’t have – I just wanted James to know I wasn’t as stupid as you all think.”

“Lisa, no one…”

“Sure you do, Momma. I’m supposed to just not notice that a vampire killed Mr J? That Jack finally does what you said you used to do? That a werewolf moved in?”

She turned to Thompkins, “Or that I fell in love with a faoladh. It’s in another book. You probably think I’m stupid, too.”

She got up, “Maybe I am…”

“Like ____ you are.” Jack stood, not even apologizing for the profanity. “You do know that until now, I thought that WAS a cookbook. Heck, it still looks like one to me. You’re an annoying, sneaky little twit and I’m gonna wring your neck for scaring the daylights out of everyone – but stupid you are NOT.” Jack’s eyes narrowed as he got into his younger sister’s face, “Okay, out with it – how did you make sure?”

And Now a Word From Our Sponsor

Which at the moment, is me.

The continuing story of my crazy, falling apart life is chronicled at my other blog, ever so aptly named Larilee’s Blog. Online diary, disaster report, faith journey and random meanderings all in one convenient place.

So, what about Archena’s Weblog? Well, for starters, I do plan to finish the first True Slayers novella here. After that, in addition to publishing short stories I’ll discuss writing, my writing and all things literary here.

For those interested, I’m planning to compile the existing chapters into a first draft PDF. When the novella is complete, the final version will be an ebook – but you will still be able to read the first draft here. I have lots of plans for Jack and company so the adventure will continue – but I probably won’t try the serialized version again.

I have two other novels in the outline stage. I plan on publishing some excerpts here – assuming anyone is still reading this by then!

I have a number of other blogs to attend to so for right now, my target is to publish here monthly beginning in August or September. If all goes well, I’ll go to a weekly schedule to complete True Slayers. If not, well, it will get completed eventually.

Which brings me to my final thought for the day – thank you, Mandy, for your encouragement and everyone who has commented, supported, critiqued or at least read my work here. I do so very much appreciate it!

 

Til next time!