Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year, Thank You's and other stuff

Photo credit: Neil Hayes
2010 how I loved thee, but I'm looking forward to 2011.

I don't know about everyone else, but 2010 was a good year for me (the even years always are). I got to see Paris, joined a fabulous critique group (YAFF), my mom moved home to Oregon after being gone for eight years, and I got through my first term of grad school.

I'd like to take the opportunity to thank everyone who has been a part of this wonderful year.

I must thank my awesome husband who is unfailingly supportive of me and who I can share the dream of being a writer with. Also, thank you for all the things you do for me. Your thoughtfulness does not go unnoticed, I promise. Especially thanks for all the dinners and lunches, without which, I'd probably eat out of boxes.

I must thank my family. Especially my mom, who has been a cheerleader for me my entire life. I'm so thrilled to have you home and I love that we can bump into one another at Fred Meyer. It's a weird but awesome feeling.

I must thank my friends who I have confided the big secret of my writing. They have surprised me in more ways than one with their support and encouragement. It's a hard thing (at least for me) to say it out loud. Especially to those who have never known that sort of creative side to me. I am grateful to have been able to share this side of myself with you all.

I must thank my fabulous critique group. Without these ladies' insight, help, encouragement and support, I would never have grown as a writer. There is nothing else in the world like being part of a group of people that share the same goal. Thank you for sharing your writing with me and thanks for allowing me to share mine. I am glad to call you all friends.

And finally, I must thank then entire community of writers out there. From YALITCHAT, to blogs like Fiction Groupie, Adventures in Children's Publishing, to Read Now Sleep Later. The wealth of information and good spirits helped keep me alfoat during periods of self doubt and writer's block.

I welcome the new year and can't wait to see what it brings. I hope everyone has a safe and happy one!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

YAFF MUSE: Sweetest Fruit

YAFF Muse is a weekly blog series featuring some YA Fiction Fanatics members. In this series, we'll post original short stories created from an image meant to inspire our Muse. Hope you enjoy! And don't forget to check out the other YAFFers participating in this series (links below). 

Photo Credit: Foggy Sunlight by Wallyir
Sweetest Fruit

Sneaking in past Auntie El was no small task. The woman could detect a field mouse stealing from the barn stores from the kitchen.

Laura giggled, vomit crusted into the cracks at the side of her prefect lips.

“Shhh. Do you want her to hear us?” I said.

Her eyes went wide as she heaved and bent over, spilling another round of hot sick into El’s roses. I pulled her tangle of blond curls, holding them until she’d expelled what had to be the last of an entire fifth of vodka.

“Shit, Laura. Why do you have to do this every damn weekend?” I asked, but mostly to myself.

She let out a low groan.

“Real ladylike.” I shook my head and half carried her to the back door of the old farmhouse.

“Lizzie,” she said, her voice like crackling paper. “Lizzie, I think I gave Marcus a handy behind—”

The kitchen light flicked on above us.

“Uh oh,” said Laura.

Auntie El stood in the doorway, flannel nightgown dusting the floor and arms crossed. Her long gray hair set in two pig-tail like braids down either shoulder, making her, at least from far away, look a lot nicer than she really was in this state.

“It’s not what it looks like,” I said. Who was I kidding? It was exactly what it looked like.
***
Jeanie stumbled on a clump of turned up grass. Her thoughts grew thick and lazy as she tried to focus on the hem of her dark jeans, now caked in red mud. She’d spent every weekend partying in the field near Thomson’s Creek, but this was the drunkest she’d been yet.

The beat of her heart quickened as she remembered the party, somehow different from the others. No Rick Jones, jock of the year, posturing near the usual keg standing at an angle on the old oak stump. No perfect Laura Winterborne drunk and stoned out of her cheerleader brain making an ass out of herself. No emo boys nestled together with their cigs. No Lizzie, wonderful best friend, always on the look out for her, Lizzie. No loud music.

She lingered on this last thought. Music. But, there was music.

Strange otherworldly music, like fiddles and squawks and chirps. Music that reminded her of a long lost children’s story.

Her legs had grown numb and despite the short distance to home, she couldn’t go on. A frigid morning breeze swept her hair into her face, the ends matted and stained violet. She ran her fingers through the sticky mess, then, not understanding why, pulled the strand into her mouth.

As her tongue connected with the sweet, wild juices, she remembered. Little men, they sang to her. With heads of birds and toads and fish, they sang. They danced too, and then they… they fed her fruit?

With her mind lost to the memories of the night, Jeanine fell, her pale cheek pressed against the wet grass of a cow field, and a strand of purple hair between her lips.
***
A distant buzzing woke me, and I reached for my cell. Through the haze of sleep I recognized the number as Jeanie’s home. She never called from there.

“Hey, where were you last night?” I asked.

“Lizzie? This is Annette.”

“Oh. Hi, Mrs. Darling. What, um, what’s up?”

“I thought Jeanie might be with you, but I guess not. You don’t know where she is?”

Crap. She was probably over at Marcus’ but I couldn’t tell her mom that. Jeanie’s parents were super strict religious types. “I, um, I bet she’s at Sarah’s.”

“No. I’ve already tried there.” Annette began to cry. “She’s never not-come home.”

“I’m sorry. I—”

The line went dead.

“Laura, wake up. We need to go and find Jeanie,” I said to my snoring sister, still all vomty from the night before.

She rolled onto her side, opening her eyes with clearly a lot of effort.  “Want to sleep. Go away.” Here lids slipped closed again.

“It’s your fault she ran off. Get your sorry hungover-ass up and come help me look for her.”

“Girls? What’s going on,” Auntie El called from the other side of our door.

“Nothing, Laura is just getting up to come and help me look for a friend.”  I rummaged around the room, finding a pair of jeans and a sweater, realizing too late the sweater was Laura’s and a bit on the small side. “Get up.” I pulled her stupid pink comforter off. God I wished we had our own rooms. I hated frills.

The door creaked open and Aunt El threw me my coat. “Let her sleep, Liz. She’s going to need her rest for the punishment she’s got coming this afternoon. I’ll help you.”

I left the comforter on the ground out of spite.

The two of us slogged through the damp grass, occasionally coming across a stranded beer bottle or can, in the direction of last night’s party.

“Oh dear God, is that her?” Aunt El asked as we quickened our pace toward a lump in the field between Jeanie’s house and ours.

“Jeannie!” She didn’t move. It wasn’t like her to drink so much. But Laura had been beyond cruel to her.

When we reached her, she smelled of rotten fruit. Jungle Juice, maybe? But where did she get it? There wasn’t any at the Thompson’s Creek party.

“Lizzie, stop!” El said in a strangled voice, her hand a vice around my wrist.
I tried to pull away, but she was stronger than any eighty-plus woman had the right to be.

“Auntie, she’s drunk. We need to get her home.”

“No, child. Get your phone out and call the police. She’s dead.” Tears welled and she released me.

Her hand moved to cover her lips and though her next words were barely a whisper, they shook inside my head as if she’d shouted them.

“They’re back. The Goblin Men are back.”

(c) 2010, MB


** This YAFF Muse has been based on a re-telling of the ever eloquent Christina Rossetti's poem The Goblin Market.

Don't forget to check out my fellow YAFFer's stories based on the same photo:
Rachel Marie Pratt
Rebekah Purdy
Traci Kenworth
Vanessa Barger

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Book by Book - Vote Now!


Most of you probably don't know that I used to work in the non-profit world. Sure, it was a Chamber of Commerce, and it didn't really sit inline with my hippie views. But, working with a shoestring budget and trying to create services for the population you serve is still the goal. I'm posting today to creat awareness about a Pepsi (sigh... I know big corporation, just look away fellow Librals and acknowledge that there might be some good out of it.) giving out a grant fo 250K to a non-profit. But, people have to go and vote for the idea to reach the rank of #1 or #2. The organization I'm urging you to vote for was brought to my attention by a fellow Goodreader and blogger, Alethea (read her fabulous blog here). There's a million reasons why it's a good idea to go and vote for Book by Book, but it's probably better if I just share the link and you can take a look for yourself. There's even a video and a great breakdown of who the grant money will be used.

If you're reading this blog, it's because you either love reading or are a writer or both. At least that's what I assume is why you read this blog. So remember that moment in the library when you were a kid and how excited you got to pick out a slick dust covered book. Remember not being able to wait until you got home to crack it open and let your imagination roam free. Remember reading it on the bus, and almost missing your stop because you were engrossed and engaged. Remember there are kids out there in schools with crippled libraries that haven't made that memory yet.

It's hard working in non-profit, and for once this one isn't begging for money, just votes. You can vote every day until December 31st. Help Book by Book make it to the top with your vote.


CLICK HERE TO VOTE

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Give money to a good cause and maybe get some loot!

So one of my all time favorite authors, Patrick Rothfuss, just posted a HUGE and I mean HUGE contest on his blog. One of his favorite charities happens to also be one of my favorite charities.  Heifer International folks! It's awesome. I mean how many charities can boast a basket of chicks?  huh? Exactly. Not many.  Anyway, pop on over to Pat's blog and donate some cash and maybe win some truly awesome prizes.  It will make ya feel good, plus it's a tax write-off.  Happy donating/winning!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

YAFF MUSE: Dealing Dreams

YAFF Muse is a weekly blog series featuring some YA Fiction Fanatics members. In this series, we'll post original short stories created from an image meant to inspire our Muse. Hope you enjoy! And don't forget to check out the other YAFFers participating in this series (links below).

Photo credit: hotblack at Morguefile.com

Dealing Dreams
The cab smells like feet, dirty stinky, human feet. A rarity in this sterile world.

The driver gives me a glance from the rearview mirror. “Where. To. Miss-us?” he says. His Mac voice is good, but not that good.


“You’re human, aren’t you?” I say settling in against the cool vinyl.


“I. Am. Mach-ine. Miss-us. Where. To?” He moves in a stilted, disjointed manner, like the Macs do.


“Princes Street,” I say.


If I thought for one second he wasn’t human, I would’ve given my own best Mac voice. But, the stench in this cab gives him away and if he’s worried about being harvested, he shouldn’t. He’s too old.


Through the window of the moving car, dark gray tattered buildings rush by in a blur. Machines, or Macs, don’t need pretty things. But they like to dream of them. Only, they don’t have imagination. That’s what they use us for. Few of us are free anymore, and if we’re caught we’ll be harvested. Well, the young ones, the ones that can still produce dreams.


“Prin-ces. Stree-t. Miss-us,” the cabby says as the high pitch wail of metal on metal brakes screech through the air and the car stops.


The money crinkles as I push it through the payment box. But instead of getting out of the cab, I wait. I want him to say something, admit he’s human just like me. But acting the part of a Mac he sits straight ahead, as if he’s been turned off until his next pick up.

Through the window, I see the Macs I’m looking for. Leaning forward, I say, “Listen, I know you’re not one of them so why don’t you cut the shit and give me a break. I’ve got to meet some tweakers and there’s another twenty in it for you if you stay until I’m done.”


He continues to stare straight ahead, but I catch the twitch in his left eye and know that I stand a good chance of him hanging around.


“I’m Leo by the way,” I say watching the pupils of his eyes widen with surprise. “So you’ve heard of me? Guess you didn’t think I’d be a girl, eh?”


The metal is cold beneath my palm, like everything in the Macs’ world, as I open the door, settling into my Mac persona. “Re-mem-ber. Ex-tra. Twen-ty. For. You,” I say, slow and stilted. Damn, I hate Mac language.


In hard but quick disjointed movements I make my way to the three Macs standing in the shade of the park overgrowth. They turn to me, gears twitching beneath their silicone skin – there’s nothing freakier than a Mac strung out.


“You-rre. Laate,” one says.


“Shut. Up. And. Show. Me. The. Bills,” I say.


His hand slides into a coat pocket to reveal the corners of two hundred-dollar bills. Old, before the war currency, not used by the Macs, but still used in the underground human settlements. His gears click as he shoves the bills back.


Getting caught would be bad for us both. It would mean a trip to the harvester for me, and deactivation for him and his pals.


“Card-s. Pl-ease,” he says.


With a stiff glance over my shoulder, I check that the cab is still there. Huh, guess he’s not as gutless as he seemed. My elbow straightens and I hold out the palmed cards. Four tiny metallic disks, each filled with enough dreams to last these tweakers until next week.


The gears in the Macs’ hand shake as he takes them from me and I grab the bills. “Nice. To. Do. Bus-in-ness. With. You,” I say and turn back toward the cab.


I don’t look back, I don’t care; I just keep walking the Mac walk back to the car. They’ll be there next week, unless one of them gets caught dazed out on illegal dreams.


When I slide into the seat once more, the cabby says, “Where. To. Miss-us?”


“Pickens Lane, South Burg,” I say. “You know, this isn’t going to work if you don’t come clean, man. I can smell the life on you.”


His shoulders relax and I realize he’s been holding them tight against his neck since I first climbed in. “I don’t want to get caught,” he says. “I’ve got a little girl.”


“What’s your name?” I ask.


He stares at me through the mirror. “Dreyfus.”


“Well, Dreyfus. I have a feeling a cabby might be useful in my line of work. How would you like to make some bills on a more permanent basis?” I stuff one of the hundreds through the payment box.


“I can’t get caught,” he says, placing the car into gear. I can tell by the new beads of sweat on his brow he knows what I am, that I survived the harvesting and escaped the Machines.


“Stick with me and you won’t have to,” I whisper.

(c) 2010, MB
Don't forget to check out my fellow YAFFer's stories based on the same photo:
Vanessa Barger

Traci Kenworth
Rebekah Purdy

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Fox, Wolves, Some Caribou, Buffalo, Moose and a Badger Crossing. My adventures in the Wilderness that is the AlCan Highway

Most of you know (from the previous post) that my mom moved her from AK. As part of the fabulous journey, the good daughter, err, great daughter I am, I flew all the way up to AK (in a middle seat on a full flight with a delayed layover - did I mention what a wonderful daughter I am?) to drive with my mom down the AlCan HWY.

It started off fine. iPod plugged in? Check. Dog & cat? Check. Snacks? Check. GPS, lovingly named Ruby? Check. Maps in case Ruby doesn't work/dies, etc? Check. Beautiful Alaska landscape (especially leaving)? Check.

Here is a picture taken from (all taken with my phone from the car) of the insert long consonant heavy name here pass. It was lovely.

Around this time (and it was curvy) the dog seemed fine. I took this picture, turned back to take a picture of him (he's a little Havanese named Stewie) to find him covered in yellow vomit.


But not to worry! Mom saved the day with lemony scented wet wipes.


On we went. Further through the dips and valleys and glacier fields.








To snow! Now look carefully but we are actually NOT in the mountains here. Yep. No snow in the mountain curves, but get down to the valley floor and it's all over the road.


Also, if you look even closer, it's ONLY on the road.

(shakes head)


Sometimes things just don't make sense in AK (but more on that later).


Luckily, mom's got 4-wheel drive and we headed (safely) straight for that next mountain in the distance.










Hmmm. That snow is getting mighty thick here and Mom's knuckles are about the same color as it. Come on 4-Wheel drive.


















Okay. Lots of snow AND a downhill road. Did I mention that to the left it goes straight down?











Okay, this has to be one of the dumbest things I've seen. Now, I don't know why it bothered me so much, but it did. These two mountains are flanking the highway. They are almost exactly the same elevation and equal distance from the road. (pay no attention to the one on the right looking farther away. It was the angle I took the picture at (ya know, iPhone in car isn't the greatest) Anyway, why does one have snow and the other not? Hmm? Weird, huh? Anyway, let me just say there's a story brewing in these mountains.



And this is documentation of the scariest part of our trip. You can't quite see it here, but underneath all that fat snow is black, black, black ice. And in case you can't tell, that's a steep incline to boot.

12 miles in second gear and a set of headlights behind us that disappeared (no there were no driveways it's full on wilderness out there) later and we arrived at a fancy little berg called Haines Junction. Really, it was a one-pump gas station, a decent hotel and a run down you'll probably find Norman standing in the shower type motel.

Now, thanks to the awesome roads conditions this far, it took us 14 hours instead of the anticipated 12 to get there. Mom goes in to the nice hotel, asks for a room and the guys says "We've got one no-pet room left." My mom isn't the greatest of liars. Which overall is a fab trait. But when you've been on the road for as long as we had, seen disappearing lights and a slippery hill of black ice, I wish she were. She didn't say anything but the guy could read her face and said, "Got a pet, a?" (how do they spell that Canadian "A"??) Of course she told the truth, and that was that. He sent us on our way. He said we could check the flea-bag motel up the road. (The Bates one - yeah, no).

This ends the picture section of the blog. Basically, Mom had enough driving and was about ready to pass out. We both had to use the little girls' but of course there was nothing in the "junction" so we got gas (it was a self serve thingy no bathrooms) and drove up the road (which was thankfully snow/iceless)

We pulled over, a dark 10 miles in either direction on a straight stretch and used the loo. In hindsight, Mom was smart. She just dropped trou directly behind the car. But being Miss Modesty, I hiked down the incline to the left, ya know, near the trees. Why? Why would I do that? Well, it was late and I can probably blame delerium. Anyway, I took over driving from here on (hence no more pictures... well, one more but that's later). So about a half-mile down the road, a wolf crosses in front of us. And where there's one... needless to say, I was a little disturbed by how close my bathroom excursion was to a pack of wolves! I could have been eaten!

The distance between Haines Junction and the next town, Whitehorse, is about two hours or a little over 100 miles. Despite some douche bag blinding me by refusing to turn his brights down and very large Caribou legs flashing in front of my headlights (because the legs were all I could see with his brights in my eyes) we made it and found ourselves safely tucked away in a hotel.

I wish I'd had my phone with me to take a picture of this store we stopped at somewhere around the Yukon Territory and BC border. It was pretty nice inside (a lot of places you go in and come out smelling like some horrible combo of grease, stale cigarettes and old lady perfume). In the bathroom, there was a sign above the sink that said, "Boil water before drinking." Okay, I'm cool with boiling water before drinking. But WHO drinks from public bathroom sinks? Maybe I don't want to know who. If you're one of them, don't tell me because I will be sad to find out.

The twelve and thirteen hour days blurred together. Pretty countryside that goes on for so long you actually stop caring and believe it to be the most boring thing you've seen in your life, a bear, moose, some buffalo (Oh! I have a picture of that!) and a badger crossing.


I know it looks like I'm taking the picture from the dirver's seat. But I'm not. I swear. Mom took this one. Animals in the road are one of the main reasons the AlCan is one of the scariest places to drive. They are big, fast, and come out of nowhere. (Well these didn't, but ya know what I'm sayin')






We were so happy to get into civilization once we got past the last mountain range near the border. We got through customs, drove through a little country town, happy to have mile signs again and was a whole two miles from I-5 (which on the west coast is THE freeway going from the bottom of CA to the top of WA), when this happened:



Yep, that'd be Mom's car all broken down. Who knew that an alternator can go out WHILE you're driving? I sure as heck didn't. This was a busy road too. I was lucky to pull off when I did (just before the car died).

We got to wait an hour for the tow, then get to the mechancis (who were awesome) before we could finish our trip. We were thrilled it was something that could be fixed so easily, but who wants that at the end of the trip? Although, at least it didn't happen on one of those middle-of-nowhere places in Canada. So bright side, right?


We got home late evening on the fourth day of our journey. All intact, and hardly worse for the wear, save for some serious exhaustion.

This is my second trip through the AlCan with my Mom, and she better not decide to go back because I'm not doing it again. (Okay, who am I kidding, like I'd let her go alone.)

I'm glad to be back to the land of the living (aka civilization) and back to my house, pets and husband.


Sunday, October 17, 2010

How would you like your change? Slow and steady, please.


Doesn't fall seem like a good time of year for change? It's my favorite season and it seems way better than New Year's. I mean, everything is dormant and cold. Okay, spring is the obvious choice for change, I know. But fall is just as good, I swear.

Then again, when change hits and it's unexpected, it is hard to process no matter the time of year. Of course, I'm talking about change affecting us, rather than the reverse of us affecting change.  It's much better when we can choose the change, right? Don't worry though folks, I'm not going to wax philosophic today. I know no one wants to read the chicken/egg loop for an entire post. I'm just saying I prefer my change slow and steady instead of a "surprise!" moment.  Planned change, yeah, that's the ticket.

In the last couple months there have been some major changes in my life, or rather, there will be. One, I just started grad school, and boy is it a lot more work than I planned on. Two, my mom (who has for the last eight years been living in Alaksa - sorry peeps, but that place is another world and I don't mean that in the magical has fairies and cool stuff way.... okay to vacation it's pretty cool, but you couldn't pay me enough to live there... oh yeah back to change) is moving to Portland.  Whoo hoo!  I mean, seriously.  Before she moved to Alaska, I moved to Los Angeles (another armpit of the west coast, but I won't go into that now) so we've lived apart for the last decade. It's hard to believe it's been that long.  But my mom, sister and I have always been close and we're all looking forward to having her close.

See, those changes don't seem too bad. Learn time management, enjoy mom being back. Good.

But. There are two changes in my writing life that I have to say make me a little bummed. Two of the wonderful ladies from my critique group Young Adult Fiction Fanatics are movin' on. Change comes for everyone in different ways, and sometimes we have to move things around to make them work in our lives. While I know, or at least truly hope, we'll all be able to keep in contact, I want to take the opportunity to thank them both for the fantastic contributions they've brought to the group.

Both of them are fabulous writers and I'm sure someday we'll see them on the shelves.

Cam - you introduced me to the "Show-me" police, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your insight, spirit, and humor infused comments have brightened my writing in ways I cannot even describe. I will miss you on the boards, but fear not, I'll be stalking your blog. And anyone who wants join me can do so here.

Clara - I can't tell you how much I've enjoyed reading your MS. On the boards, you've been a true cheerleader for us all, and your constant positive attitude is truly appreciated and will be missed. I'll see you on FB and I'll also be stalking you on your blog. And anyone who wants to join me can do so here.

I just want to give a big THANK YOU to you both for bringing such positive elements to both my writing and my life.

So even though I prefer my change slow and steady, sometimes it gives you just the opportunity you need to reflect and remember the good things that can come of it.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

YAFF MUSE: Lost Language

YAFF Muse is a weekly blog series featuring some YA Fiction Fanatics members. In this series, we'll post original short stories created from an image meant to inspire our Muse. Hope you enjoy! And don't forget to check out the other YAFFers participating in this series (links below).

Photo credit: Vanessa Barger (pssst... she's our very own YAFFer!)

Lost Language
Don’t scream and we’ll let you live. That’s what they said. Two days ago.

I wonder if Father will do what they want. If he even knows I’m gone. He spends so much of his time running from meeting to meeting I barely know we live in the same house. When he is home, he prefers to lock himself in his office scribbling at his desk, big silver headphones on his ears. Drowning out the world to concentrate on work. Drowning out his only daughter. His only family since Mom died.


A thin slice of light blinds me as the door slides open and I wrap my arms tighter around my knees where I sit.


“Get up,” A woman says. She’s the same one who took me. Dark curls, wide brown eyes, heart-shaped face. That's one thing Father taught me, pay attention to detail, it might save your life one day.


“I said get up.” She opens the door wider and begins to enter.


I scramble to my feet, legs shaky beneath me. “Did my Father do what you wanted?”


“Let’s go,” she says.


I follow her down the manila corridor, through doorways with large broken doors hanging from bent hinges. The cool air and burnt scent draws my attention to the walls, etched with deep grooves of black that cast outlines of where people or furniture might have stood, like a reverse shadow.


“Where are we?” I ask through cracked lips.


“These were supposed to be blast-proof, you know,” she says and runs her finger in a line along the soot.


The frigid cold reaches me before we enter the expansive room. Its far wall and three stories above have been blown away and I understand where we are. A place no New Yorker goes anymore. A place bombed like the rest of the island twenty-five years ago, ten years before I was even born.


The woman grabs me back from the main chamber. Away from the wreckage of chairs, tables and exposed cables long dead from carrying electricity. Away, from the man struggling against two larger men at the center of it all.


“Daddy!” I scream and try to get out from her grasp, but she holds me tight.


“What did I tell you about screaming?” she whispers into my ear, her curls tickle my cheek.


“Please,” I say.


But she drags me away, through a doorway and up a narrow flight of stairs. We enter another small room, this one with glass at its center and a view of the huge room beneath. She lets me go and leans against the exit.


On top of a desk, covered in years of dust, are computers, papers, and headphones that look similar to Father’s.


“What is this place? Please, I need to go to my Father. I’m sure he’s given you what you want.” I peak over the desk and cringe as one of the men slap him in the face. Before I know it, my hand pounds against the window. “Daddy!”


“They can’t hear you,” she says.


When I turn to her, she seems to be pinching her ear. “Leon, let him know.” Her eyes find mine and she says, “Now give Daddy a show. Look out the window.”


I follow her commands, but wish I didn’t as I watch one of them men direct my father’s gaze toward me. His eyes go wide, and even from where I stand the fear is evident. My hand aches as I pound on the glass once more. “Daddy!”


“Do it,” the woman says from behind me.


Seconds later, their large fists crash into his temples as booted feet send him to the floor in a crumpled mass.


“No!” I scream and the rusted gate that’s held my secret for so long crumbles to dust as a string of words in my mother tongue fly out of my mouth. Realizing what I’ve done, I clamp my hand over my lips.


“She’s the one,” the woman says. “Let the father go.”


My heart soars and sinks at once as the men drag Father through another exit and out into the night.


“He wouldn’t tell us, you know.”


I turn to her.


“Too loyal to the President, I guess. But you. You’re the true gem.”


“Wha—what do you want from me?” I ask, tears burn as they slide down my face.


“President Smith has coded documents we need deciphered, written in your lost language, of course. And I had a feeling your dad wasn't the only speaker. We need your help.”


“Why do you think I’ll help you? You’re terrorists,” I say. “You must be, or else you wouldn’t do this.”


Her laughter is high pitched, like bells on Christmas and it echoes through the room. “Things are more complicated than that, and trust me, your precious government has done far worse. Tell me, have you heard of The Free Children?”


“No.”


“Well, come with me and let’s get acquainted.”


“I’m not going anywhere until you promise me he’ll be safe.” I cross my arms in front of my chest, and root my feet to the ground.


“Oh, he’ll be safe for as long as you cooperate. You have my word.” She smiles.


“Like that means so much,” I say.


“You won’t get any other offers, and the alternative is less the desirable, I assure you.” She moves out of the doorway, leaving room for me to join her. “Come on, Deva, the deal won’t stay on the table forever and I can bring him back with a word.”


For him, I follow her.

(c) 2010, MB
***
Some of you may recognize a main character from my current WIP, Laced. But I hope you enjoyed it even if you haven't been reading Laced as it goes along.
***
Don't forget to check out my fellow YAFFer's stories based on the same photo:
Vanessa Barger
Traci Kenworth

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

YAFF MUSE: In Dreams

YAFF Muse is a weekly blog series featuring some YA Fiction Fanatics members. In this series, we'll post original short stories created from an image meant to inspire our Muse. Hope you enjoy! And don't forget to check out the other YAFFers participating in this series (links below).

Photo Credit: MorgueFile.com

This story is stand alone, but has recurring characters introduced in The Lake of Swans.


In Dreams

The high-pitched screech of my pager wakes me, and before I know it, Mom and I are rushing down to the station - me still in blue polka-dot boxers and a stained Micky Mouse t-shirt from '05.


Ten kids in six months, and every time, I'm too late.


I know she won't be there, but I glance to the detective's desk. It's been almost a month since she died, and even though she used to cross herself to ward me off, I miss her in a weird way.

"Come along, Darla." Mom stands in the midst of the sea of other empty desks, a hand at her hip, garishly manicured nails tapping in irritation. "Darla," she hisses, her bright red lips twist into a sneer
.

"Sorry, Mom," I say, catching up with her in two long strides. At least I don't have to walk through the usual mind-chatter.

When we reach Chief Blackstone's office, my skin erupts in goose bumps. "Wait."


"What?" Her hand pauses on the doorknob and she looks over her shoulder at me.

"There's someone else in his office."


"Of course there is, Darla. Why do you think we're here?" She begins to turn the handle.

"I don't know who, or what he has in there, but I'm not going." My feet fuse to the floor, arms cross in front of me.

Like a coiled snake she lunges at me, orange claws dig into the flesh above my elbows. "You're going in, Missy." She drags me forward and I struggle to hold my ground.

The door opens.


"Is everything alright out here?" the Chief asks, smoothing the edges of his mustache.

I get a flash of where he's been and try to close out the vision of naked bodies grinding on poles. But the image persists and as my eyes meet his, a slow crimson spreads across his cheeks.


"We're ready for you Ms. Holiday," he says, opening the door wider, revealing the toe end of a sneaker. "I'm afraid we don't have much time, I'd like to get started."

The taste of blood coats my mouth and I realize I've been biting my lower lip. "Who's in there?" I ask, still refusing to budge.


The Chiefs gray eyebrows shoot up and he chuckles.

"Please forgive my daughter.' Mom's grip on my arm tightens.


"Why don't you come in and meet him?" he suggests.

The decision is made for me when the owner of the shoe steps out of the office. A guy around my age, 16 or maybe a little older, with caramel skin and dark dreads tied loose at the nape of his neck. Untangling myself from Mom, I wrap my arms tight around my torso, wishing she'd allowed me time to change.

"Hi," he says, green eyes glinting with excitement, he stretches out a hand.


I"m temped to take it, to shove off the warning bells my senses sent out when he was still behind the door. But like a snuff film, dark images flicker in my mind.

Fresh blood spilled across delicate white tiles, a girl about twelve with her throat slit like a gruesome smile beneath her chin. The scent of death hangs thick in the air and I'm no longer in the station. There are no doors in this room, no windows, but knowing my body did not come with me, I shift through the walls.


The brick cabin stands alone in a white wasteland, my feet grow cold but they shouldn't. This is only a vision.


I close my eyes tight and will my consciousness to go back to my body, back to the station. And as I feel myself lift into the air with the promise of home, I peek, catching movement in a tree that has popped up next to the cabin. Where a lifeless body swings from a noose.


"Darla!" Mom's screams reach my ears and I open my eyes.


"It's not what you think," the boy says.


My hand moves to my nose and comes away bloody. I scoot away from Mom and the rest of them, my spine pressing against the cool metal of a desk.


"What happened?" I ask.


"This here," the Chief clasps the boy on the shoulder. "He works up images to trap 'em." He hands me a white cotton handkerchief. "But he needs you to find 'em first. You see?"


"That's what you saw. it's not real," the boy says, holding out a white business card.


What's in his head if he can conjure up such horrible images to tempt a witch? And how did he pull me into it?


I take the card, and just like mine in black letters it reads:


JULIAN SPENCE
DREAMSCAPE MAKER


(c) 2010, MB

Don't forget to check out my fellow YAFFer's stories based on the same photo:

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

YAFF MUSE: Sleep

YAFF Muse is a weekly blog series featuring some YA Fiction Fanatics members. In this series, we'll post original short stories created from an image meant to inspire our Muse. Hope you enjoy! And don't forget to check out the other YAFFers participating in this series (links below).

Photo Credit: The Room By trubluboy

DAY 25 - 1:00 AM
I still can’t sleep. The doctors prescribed heavy-duty drugs, but it only makes my handwriting shitty. It’s warm and I’ve opened and closed the window five times already. Maybe I should open it again.


DAY 35 – 2:30 AM
Someone followed me home from school today. I don’t know them. I told mom, but she said I must have been imagining things.


DAY 82 – 4:00 AM
No one believes me anymore. They’ve sent me to shrink after shrink and still they say it’s all in my head. But the people, I know there’s someone after me. I can feel them watching, always watching. Oh God, why can’t I sleep?


DAY 120 – 3:00 AM
They’ve pulled me out of school. Good. I’m glad. Yes, I’m glad. There are monsters in school. They lurk in the hallways, in the shadows. Mom is telling me to turn my light out, to go to sleep. But doesn’t she know? I can’t sleep. The shadows will get me if I sleep. I’m keeping my lights on. I don’t care what she says.


DAY 144 – 5:20 AM
I haven’t slept in eight days. Not even an hour. Not even a minute. I used to get at least an hour. But now, nothing. Wait. There’s something in the walls. A scratching. I call to mom but she doesn’t come. I think she’s starving me too. I haven’t been out of the room… there’s a scratching again. I call again, but she still doesn’t come. My hipbones hurt.


DAY 250 – 2:00 AM
My tongue is thick. I can’t talk anymore, who am I? What happened to me? Where did my mom go? I hear footsteps but I can’t remember how to walk. My eyes won’t close. They come in and put drops in them, but I can’t blink.


DAY 300 – 5:30 AM
Sleep comes.

(c) 2010, MB
***
As we’re gearing up for the creepy fall, horror is on my mind. And usually, I don’t give a reason behind the muse, but this week’s is inspired not only by the picture, but also the most terrifying thing I can imagine – not sleeping. A few years ago I read a book by D.T. Max called The Family That Couldn’t Sleep. It’s about a genetic disease causing a malformed protein or Prion (like Mad Cow) that causes the victim to not sleep for anywhere from seven months to a full year or longer. Things bumping in the night can’t hold a candle to that kind of horror – at least for me.


Don't forget to check out my fellow YAFFer's stories based on the same photo:

R.M. Gilbert
Rebekah Purdy
Traci Kenworth
Vanessa Barger
Jenn Fischetto

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

YAFF MUSE: The Journey

YAFF Muse is a weekly blog series featuring some YA Fiction Fanatics members. In this series, we'll post original short stories created from an image meant to inspire our Muse. Hope you enjoy! And don't forget to check out the other YAFFers participating in this series (links below).


Photo Credit: "Tren" by Phypet
The Journey

The scent of grit and oil permeated the air around us. Our friends and family gathered close, their voices drowned by the sound of squealing brakes and waiting passengers.

“It’s time,” he said, handing me two thick tickets.


“I don’t want to go,” I said. My heart filled with lead and my feet rooted to the ground.


His eyes were tired, but the darkened blue I’d loved since the day we met sparkled through. “We must, my love. But let me tell you something about this journey.” He pulled me to his chest and kissed the top of my head.


“When we laugh, the train will go faster though we wish it wouldn’t. When we cry, it will slow though we wish it speed. We will scale mountains and plummet down the other side. But we will be together.”


“What if it breaks down?” I asked, tears cresting the corners of my eyes.


“Ah, and it might. But what’s a journey without a few breakdowns?”


“I don’t want a journey. I want to just get there and let it be over with.” I held tight to him, knowing I’d do anything to avoid this destination.


He caressed my cheek then drew my chin up to face him. “My love, it’s the journey that’s important. It’s what we will remember, what you will remember.”


“Can’t we just run away?” I asked, burying my face into the crook of his neck.


“All paths would only lead us back. You know that.”


And I did. I knew that no one escaped the train of fate. As I glanced around at the busy station I noticed the many passengers getting ready to take a similar trip.


A tall skinny man held tight to a shorter thick woman. Their train arrived, candy apple red paint glinting in the light of the afternoon. Though they didn’t seem the type, their train exuded lust and thoughts of many passionate nights.


Another couple, old and grizzled walked hand in hand to their train, a battered blackened thing that looked as if it had traveled through a war zone.


To our left stood a gorgeous couple, oozing confidence and money. They held hands, but a chill hung in the air around them. A gasp escaped my lips when their train arrived. It clunked along at a snail’s pace, seizing every few feet then sputtered back to life with a wheeze.


When the train meant for us arrived, my leaden heart lightened. Strong puffs of crisp white steam rose from the stacks and the sleek sides, while sporting a few dents, were clean and shined. It was a Herculean thing made to plow through any obstacle with ease. A thing of true beauty made by our love, and meant to carry us on this journey.


“We cannot delay any longer, my love,” he said.


Grasping his hand, I faced forward with him. As we stepped onto our sturdy train, I gave a last glance to our friends and family waiving their goodbyes. They would not come with us this time, but I knew they’d be there when I returned.


My mind filled with all the lovely things still left to do and see. Excitement burned in my chest, I was finally ready to enjoy the journey.

(c) 2010, MB



Don't forget to check out my fellow YAFFer's stories based on the same photo:
RM Gilbert
Rebekah Purdy
Vanessa Barger
Cambria Dillon

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Reading, writing, and well, not so much arithmetic

 Most of you who read my blog, know that I'm in grad school. It's been about six months since I've had to take a serious (nose to the grindstone) kinda class. One of the things I noticed while doing edits on my finished MS (The Last Elemental) is that there are places, whole chapters really, that my writing gets a little stilted, or formal. Then there are others where my writing is much more, well, me.

I'm assuming this happens because of all the research papers school forces me to write (the nerve!). Unfortunately, I'm not doing a masters in anything would help my writing, like creative writing. Instead my upcoming days will be filled with public health theories and practices. But that kind of research and teen assassins (my WIP, Laced) don't really gel. Or at least not for me. I have a very difficult time separating writing styles.

I know that many writers write fiction or personal stuff and also write for publications.  I wonder how or if that is really any different than what I do with research papers. How do they/you keep it separate? Is there a process for this? Some kind of exercise maybe?  Or should I plow through my WIP and get it done (at least up to the Beta phase) by September 28th?

I'd love to hear some perspectives on this.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

YAFF MUSE: The Place Where Beauty Lies

YAFF Muse is a weekly blog series featuring some YA Fiction Fanatics members. In this series, we'll post original short stories created from an image meant to inspire our Muse. Hope you enjoy! And don't forget to check out the other YAFFers participating in this series (links below).

Photo Credit: playingguitar2 by:trublueboy

The warm scent of Jasmine hung in the dense air the night he came. Grains of sand seemed to move in slow motion around his feet. His dark hair and eyes were black against the light of the moon. A song played in the distance, but the wind’s tongue deceived me and I could not understand.

Iz-za ostrova na strezhen’, Na prostor rechnoy volny, Vyplyvayut raspisnye, osterogrudye chelny.

“I have won my prize, my bride,” he said. His large outstretched hands ripped me from my only home.

Na perednem Sten’ka Razin, Obnyavshis’, sidit s knyazhnoy, Svad’bu novuyu spravlyaet, Sam veselyi I khmel’noy.

The cool water splashed through my sandals as I walked the creaky length of wood onto the ship. Great men covered in thick furs and beards as dark as shadows stood, weapons ready at their hips.

Pozadi ikh slyschen ropot: Nas na babu promenyal! Tol’ko noch’s nej provozilsja, Sam nautro baboy stal…

The rush of water beneath the ship was the only hush against the men’s laughter. The arm of the man who calls me his bride encircled my waist. Jasmine clung to the air around me, but we sailed so far, it's unable to hold on. Spices I do not recognize replaced the scent of home. Yet still the wind sang its song.

Etot ropot I nasmeshki, Slyshet groznyi ataman, I mogucheju rukoju, Obnjal persijanki stan.

He pulled me tight, wrapped me in furs. His breath was hot and stunk of death as he pressed his lips to mine. I squirmed beneath his grip and he pressed down harder.

Brovi Chornye soshlisya, Nadvigaetsya groza. Buynoy krov’yu nalilisya, Atamanovy glaza.

Commotion on the deck drew his attention back to his men. The boat rushed on, cutting a line in the deep cold water blow. I sat huddled in a corner, bow at my back shivering in furs, wishing for the sweet scent of jasmine.

“Nichevo ne pozhaleyu, Bujnu golovu otdam!” – Razdayotsya golos vlastnyi, Po okrestnym bergam.

The men began to argue, their swords drawn, gleamed in the moonlight. Their voices a danger to the wind’s ghostly song. My arms burned when he grabbed me from beneath the warmth of the furs.

“Volga, Volga, mat’ rodnaya, Volga, russkaya reka, Ne vidala ty podarka, Ot donskovo kazka!

He yelled to the men, fist to the sky, me at his side. The freezing air cut at my exposed skin.

Shtoby neb lo razdora, Mezhdu vol’nymi ljud’mi, Volga, Volga, mat’ rodnaja, Na, krasavitsu voz’mi!

My bones rattled beneath my flesh as he shook me. With one hand my feet left the solid ground of the boat and flew into the air, suspended above him. The men cheered but their delight was dampened by the wind’s song.

Moshchnym vzmakhom podnimaet, On krasavitsu knyazhnu, I z abort eyo brosaet V nabezhavshuyu volnu.

Weightless I flew into the depths of the river below. The bite of freezing water cut through my center like a sharpened scimitar. I gasped for air but my lungs burned with the crush of ice. Darkness crept into my vision, though I did not struggle when I smelled the jasmine.

“Ssto zh vy, bratsy, priunyli? Ej, ty, Fil’ka, chert, pljashi! Grjanem pesnyu udaluyu, Na pomin ee dushil..


Blackness retreats as I gasp to a cold slap of water to the face.

“Amira, wake up.” Cinda’s panicked voice reaches my ears and I realize it’s her hands violently shaking me.

“Yeah, yeah. I’m here,” I say opening my eyes to my friend’s concerned look.

“What happened to you? One minute you were ordering a pop at the bar and the next, you’re out like a light.”

“I…”

“Iz-za ostrova na strezhen’, Na prostor recnoy volny, Vyplyvajut raspisnye, Ostrogrudiye chelny.”

“That song…”

“Yeah, Sebastian Razin is a damn hottie. So hot you passed out?”

“I guess so.” I glance from my friend to the stage where a young guy sits. His lips pressed against the mic, a shadow beneath the hazy green lights of the coffee shop.

“Thank you,” Sebastian says, in a thick Russian accent then steps down from the platform, heading toward the bar. And us.

“Don’t you remember anything? He asked you to have a pop with him after the concert?”

“I remember, now go away,” I say, turning and wiping of the water she drizzled on my face.

“Are you sure you’re okay?”

“I swear. I’m fine.”

“Okaaaay. But I’ll be right over here, if you need—”

“Hi,” Sebastian says, his black hair partially concealed beneath a ball cap.

“Hi,” I say.

“Did you like my song?”

“It was in Russian, right?”

Thick fingers clasp onto the cap as he lifts it, running his other hand through his hair.

“Um, what is it about?” I ask.

The brown of his eyes deepen. “A sailor who takes a Persian princess as his bride only to have his crew ridicule him for giving up country for the love of a woman. To prove his allegiance to his homeland, he throws her overboard into the River Volga.”

My skin erupts in goose bumps and I blow out a lungful of air. “Tragic.”

“Nyet,” he says grasping my chin between his index and thumb.

“I… um…”

“Not to worry, Amira, my princess. Song is meant to be romance.” He presses his lips against mine. The scent of death finds me once more.

Lyric credit: Stenka Razin - traditional Russian Folk Song written by Dimitri Sadovnikov circa 1883

(c) 2010, MB
I normally don't give a reason behind the inspiration, but this week I think it needs it.

Traditionally, this song is based on a folk hero who falls in love with a Persian princess and marries her. But his crew teases him about having found a woman and then turning into one himself. He says he'd give up everything, including his own head for his homeland and as a testiment to his loyalty, throws his new bride overboard into the River Volga.
For some reason this song popped to mind for me when I saw this picture and I started to consider what the Persian princess might have thought of the whole situation. She wouldn't have spoken Russian, and would likely have been frightened by the all male crew, being a prize and then being thrown into the river. Amira means princess in Persian. So I thought it was a fitting name for her.
Don't forget to check out my fellow YAFFer's stories based on the same photo:

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

YAFF MUSE: The Lake of Swans

YAFF Muse is a weekly blog series featuring some YA Fiction Fanatics members. In this series, we'll post original short stories created from an image meant to inspire our Muse. Hope you enjoy! And don't forget to check out the other YAFFers participating in this series (links below).

Photo Credit: I Turned Around by Inessa Emilia

The Lake of Swans
The stainless steel is cool and I fidget in my seat. My mom gives me ‘the eye’ but I stare back at her. If it weren’t for my abilities, I’d be just like her. Dressed to the nines, orange spray tan and tarantula lashes. Though, right now, I think I’d make that trade.

“Ms. Holiday, we’re ready for her,” says a portly officer dressed in blues.

“Come on, Dear.” Mom’s red lacquered nails tug against the knit of my sweater.

I follow her in a cloud of Chanel No. 5 through the rows of officers that give furtive glances as we pass. Thanks to Mom, I used to take a similar walk, only instead of police stations it was a runway. God I hated pageant life.

A detective with a dark brown ponytail clutches the cross at her neck. The roller balls wail in protest as she scoots her chair back. I’d give her a dirty look or maybe even twirl my finger at her a little if I didn’t already know she has breast cancer.

Five more months. I’ve seen her kids cry, so I try not to hold her superstitions against her.

On second thought, maybe I hate this life more.

“Afternoon, Ms. Holiday,” The Chief says, his gray mustache is overgrown and I get a flash of him living in a hotel.

“Chief Blackstone, it is good to see you. I take it the wife and kids are well?” Mom asks.

The Chief’s eyes flick to me for a brief second. I give him a half smile.

“They’re great, Lotty. Thanks for asking,” he says.

I hold back my snort. Part of knowing everyone’s secrets is keeping them.

“And Darla, how are you doing today?” the Chief asks me, but doesn’t shake my hand as he did my mom.

“I’m good Chief. Thanks,” I say, taking my usual seat.

“Great,” he says and settles down behind his desk. “So, have ‘ya got anything for us today?”

I swallow against the dryness creeping into my throat. “I guess we’ll see.”

“Of course she does, Chief,” Mom says. “Of course you do, don’t you, Sweetie?” Her nails dig into my thigh.

“Yes, I’m sure I do,” I say. Your meal ticket always has something for the nice officer. I want to say it, but I never do.

The Chief gives me the go-ahead hand signal and Mom ties my feet and hands to my chair. The rope burns and I give her a sideways glare.

“It’s for the best, Dear.” She makes it even tighter.

With the ropes in place I close my eyes and walk back into my mind. Then I climb. I climb until I’m out of my body completely, above the Chief and Mom, above the detective with cancer, above the police station, above the horrible little town of Stayton.

There’s a song on the wind, one that only children can hear and I know it’s her. If I had a heart it would be racing as I glide toward the sound, passing rivers, houses and fields of sheep. The air vibrates around me.

There.

I hover above like a mist, then float down behind her. She’s staring into a lake, and if my body were here, I’d be shivering. She continues to sing, the sweet song, the children’s song.

Oh God. Along the tree line are two children coming to her song. I want to scream out. I want to stop them, but I’m helpless.

The song pauses and she turns, facing me. Her eyes are liquid silver, her mouth spreads into a wide smile. She lunges at me, but I’m only air and I lift back into the sky.

Settling back into my body, I wish I hadn’t. Blood trickles from both my ears and the ropes have burned gouges into my ankles and wrists.

Mom unties me and hands me a washcloth.

“It was her wasn’t it? Where is she?” the Chief asks.

My voices cracks, and Mom offers a glass of water. After a few big swallows, I look into the Chief’s eyes. There’s fear. And there should be.

“Yes, it was her. She’s at the Lake of Swans near the coast,” I croak.

The Chief grabs his phone and begins to bark orders.

I shake my head. “She had two children on the hook. She won’t be there when you find them.” She’s never looked at me before, and I know I should tell them, but some secrets are for me alone.

The Chief settles back into his chair. “Damn it. We need to catch her earlier next time.”

I nod.

“We will, Chief. I’ll have her here earlier next month,” Mom says.

“Good. Well, in the meantime, I’ve got these for you. The station wanted to do something nice for you. You know, in case you ever make it into the big leagues.”

He hands Mom a small cardboard box. Her nails scrape against it as she lifts the lid. “They’re lovely, Chief,” she says and hands me a white business card.

In plain neat letters it says:
DARLA HOLIDAY
WITCHFINDER

(c) 2010, MB

Don't forget to check out my fellow YAFFer's stories based on the same photo:

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Super Duper Contest

If you read an earlier post "beautiful blogger" you would find one of the ladies I named is Roni Griffin. I am truly amazed at how much she manages to blog!  And not only that, she's created a one-stop community for writers on that blog. She has recently been to a conference and with fellow blogger Julie Cross and the two of them are offering a laundry list of prizes.  If you are a fellow writer, go visit her contest, enter to win some prizes, and enjoy her positive energy and excellent blog.

Roni & Julie's Epic Summer Contest!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

YAFF MUSE: Lost

YAFF Muse is a weekly blog series featuring some YA Fiction Fanatics members. In this series, we'll post original short stories created from an image meant to inspire our Muse. Hope you enjoy! And don't forget to check out the other YAFFers participating in this series (links below).
Photo Credit: kozarevets story 2by ~pstoev

My hand drags along the rough surface of the white plastic table. Everything is white here. The floors, chairs, walls, even the paper cups they bring that remind me of the ones I used to dip my fries into. But instead of ketchup these hold three little pills.

“Meds, Meg,” the nurse, dressed in white scrubs, says to me.

I don’t bother looking at her; she’s faceless like the rest of them. Instead I grab my pills and the other white cup containing two swallows of lukewarm tap water. I don’t mind the blue pills. They keep me calm. But I cheek the other two. The dreams will come again and I know they’re the key to understanding. To remembering.

There is movement outside on the lawn and my eyes struggle to focus through the dingy windows. It looks like the staff organized a game or something. Finally the meds nurse turns away from me and I spit out the two pills into my hand then press the chalky wet mess into my pocket.

“Wanna dance?” Ashlyn asks. Her bright red hair is striking against the sea of white.

“Uh, no thanks,” I say, but realize she wasn’t talking to me in the first place.

She scoots along the common room floor, twirling and singing to herself, a Raggedy Anne doll in her outstretched hands makes the perfect dance partner. I’m not sure why she’s here, but she’s pretty damaged.

We all are, I guess. But I wonder if any of them did it to themselves, or if someone did it to them. And I wonder which one of those categories I fall into.

I wish. It doesn’t matter what I wish anymore. But sometimes, no, all the time, I wish I hadn’t gone that day. Josh invited me over after school. He told me to be there at four. I was crushing on him for months before he finally asked.

I remember how the old bike wailed against the pressure of my feet pumping the petals as I raced toward the house. His house. It’d been raining all day and the damp air promised another bout of it. I wanted to get there before it started again.

After propping the bike against an outbuilding, I walked over and knocked. There weren’t footsteps coming from the other side of the door, more like scraping then a rattling, like a snake.

Then my world went blank, white, like this room. I don’t remember who answered the door. In fact, I don’t remember anything after I knocked. I woke up days later in the hospital. Mom said someone found me walking my bike down the middle of the freeway talking gibberish.

“Time to go back to your room, Meg,” Another nurse in white tells me.

I leave the table and the commons, heading in a group back to our rooms. I sit on my bed and know that the nightmares will come, hoping that this time I’ll remember.
(c) 2010, MB

Don't forget to check out my fellow YAFFer's stories based on the same photo:
RM Gilbert
Rebekah Purdy
Traci Kenworth
Vanessa Barger
Jennifer Fischetto
Cambria Dillon

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

YAFF MUSE: Goodbye

YAFF Muse is a weekly blog series featuring some YA Fiction Fanatics members. In this series, we'll post original short stories created from an image meant to inspire our Muse. Hope you enjoy! And don't forget to check out the other YAFFers participating in this series (links below).

Photo Credit: Grass Kiss by Criswey

Swamp coolers roared in the background and I wondered why a gallery would allow so much damp air in the room. My parents dragged me to the opening. The artist was some son of some power couple they knew. As if it wasn’t bad enough being stuck at a snooty damp art show it was made worse by their trying to pair me up. Ever since Max died its all they ever tried to do.

“Hey,” said a dark haired boy about my age. With his hands shoved deep into his expensive tailored suit pockets he seemed bashful and out of place.

“Hey back,” I said, right finger twirling in the silk cord of my purse. Why the hell was I nervous?

“You like the show?” he asked.

I turned to the wall of abstract paintings, overhead lights zeroed in on each piece. The one in front of us had broad strokes of tans with sage and yellow like the sun had just come across a field of wheat. My heart broke all over again. The months and months of trying to forget came undone as instead of a painting a memory played before my eyes.

“Are you okay?” the boy asked, a warm hand on my shoulder.

I blinked and the vision of Max and I in our field disappeared.

“Um, are you—”

“I’m fine. It’s fine. I’m… It’s a beautiful piece.”

“Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Yes. Thank you.”

“I’m glad you like it,” he said, his hand still on my shoulder.

“Let me guess. You’re Calvin, as in the artist.”

“Something like that.” Pride laced his voice.

“Nice to meet you. I’m Juliana.”

“I know.”

I shook my head, my gaze sliding to the ground. “Of course. I suppose your parents sent you on some mercy mission to come talk to me.”

“No.”

“Whatever, don’t bother. I’m not interested." I bit my lip and looked up at the painting once more. It threatened to melt into my memory again. "I'm still..."

“Missing me?”

My eyes met his. “Max?”

“Mmm. Hmmm. But just for tonight.”

“How?”

He pulled me into his arms, his breath warm against my ear. “Because I never got to say goodbye.”



(c) 2010, MB
Don't forget to check out my fellow YAFFer's stories based on the same photo:
R.M Gilbert
Rebekah Purdy
Traci Kenworth
Vanessa Barger