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.”


“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.”


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

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Beautiful Blogger Award

Thanks to R.M. Gilbert & Rebekah, my fellow YAFFers for this lovely blog award.

So I'm supposed to post seven beautiful boggers here:
1. Roni Griffin - Fiction Groupie She always has useful information and is now doing a huge contest. Plus I have to admire her ability to blog EVERYDAY.
2. Vanessa Barger - Slightly Skewed A fellow YAFFer that always has a great sense of humor and positive attitude.
3. Jennifer Fischetto - Writer Also a fellow YAFFer that doesn't always know how awesome she really is. But she should, because she is pretty darn awesome.
4. Penny Randall - Writer Another YAFFer who is also awesome and a lucky-ducky on vacation in Greece.
5. Traci Kenworth - Writer Yes, another YAFFer. Traci never ceases to amaze me with her ability to write with the creep-factor.
6. Alethea - Read Now Sleep Later A fantastic blogger and buddy with an amazing passion for reading.
7. Kristen Lippert-Martin - A Rock in My Pocket She never fails to make me laugh out loud with her observations on writing, reading and all quirky things in life.

Now, I'm supposed to tell you all seven things about myself.  Hmmm.
1. I'm pescetarian, though I don't eat shellfish.
2. I grew up on a farm and had a pet raccoon that lived in our house and slept in my bed. His name, in all its childlike unoriginal glory, was Rocky.
3. I learned Russian just so I could read fairy/folktales in their original language.
4. I don't like fried food.  At all.  In fact I'd go as far to say that I loathe even the smell of it.
5. I have a black thumb - even airplants die in my possession.
6. I'm a coffee snob. I won't drink Starbucks, Seattles Best, or anything that comes from a can.  I prefer my local coffee roasters Stumptown.
7. I'm a writer still in the closet - save for two or three - none of my friends outside of my crit group know I write.

Okay.  I think that's it.  Even though I didn't list R.M. & Rebekah in my list of beautiful bloggers, it goes without saying that each of them fall into that category.  Plus, since they gave me the award to begin with, I wasn't sure I should send it back.   Anyway, they are both awesome ladies, and thank you to you both.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

YAFF MUSE: Mission 28

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: Musical Burial by OfficialTwilamore

Mission 28

My hands are careful as the syringe pops through the rubber center of the bottle marked Oxyuranus microlepidotus. The plunger drags against the pressure of the liquid as it fills the plastic tube. I leave the needle submerged and my thumb presses down until the body reads point-ten milligrams. It’s more than I need.

The scrape of the door almost sends the bottle and syringe clattering to the ground. Thankfully, I haven’t pulled the needle from the top yet, and they fall into my lap.

“What are you doing?” Shin asks as he enters my room.

“Knock much? You almost freakin’ killed me. If that needle had been out . . .” I scramble to set the stuff on the table, press the plunger down and remove all the captured liquid. I’ll have to start over again.

“Whatever, my reflexes would have caught it before it pricked that perfect skin of yours.”

My head pops up to glare at him, but he’s inches away. A ghost in the flesh, he crossed the distance to me without a sound. His spicy scent and proximity has me momentarily tongue-tied.

“Besides, I did knock.” His index finger glides along my cheekbone.

“No you did—” I stop myself and his eyebrows rise. “Making noise isn’t the same as knocking, you know.” I want to pull back from him. To scoot my stool across the room, but his stare keeps me fixed.

“Exactly,” he says then backs away, almond eyes skidding across the room. “The General sent me to see if you’re ready. The target will be in the location at 1600 sharp.”

I bite my lip. It never gets easier, and unlike my teammates I’m not a sociopath. But it’s better than what my life could have been if the General left me in the orphanage.

“Saeth? Hop to it. We’ve got twenty before we need to be there.” Shin’s lips curve into a wicked smile.

“I would’ve been done if you hadn’t scared the living shit out of me just a second ago. I need fifteen,” I say then turn back to my desk.

“You’ve got ten,” he whispers in my ear.

I turn to catch him, but the room is empty and the door is once again shut. I hate ninjas.
The wind stings my cheeks as Arash and I walk to the beach. He’s lanky but built, and the contents of the hidden compartments within his swim trunks make him the second deadliest thing walking the sand today. What’s sewn into my suit proves I’m number one. He grabs my hand as we approach the counter terrorist checkpoint. Just two teens out for a day at the ocean.

The guard checks our ID’s against our fingerprints when we place them to his hand scanner. “Have a good day,” he says and ushers us through.

Out of the guard’s sight, we break apart. Shin is somewhere behind us, and he won’t be going through the guard to get in. Knowing him, he’s probably already here.

“There she is,” Arash says. “Do your worst.”

My heart thrums in my chest. The target is younger than my usual, probably twenty or twenty-one. I unravel my beach towel next to hers. Her blond head bobs up and down to the music in her ears. Good. It’s better if I don’t have to talk to them. I catch my reflection in her large black sunglasses.

The towel is already warm from the heat of the sand by the time I lay out on it. Carefully, my left hand reaches down and finds the syringe stitched into a hidden pocket of my bathing suit. The threads come away without much effort and then I palm it to my other hand.

Without getting up, I uncap it one-handed, and hope it’s laced with enough lidocaine. By the time she feels it, it’ll be too late. With a soft prick into the meaty part of her thigh, my thumb dispenses the euphoric concoction first.

She sighs heavily and her head-bobbing slows. The General hates my process, but I prefer my targets to be blissful and unaware. Next, the plunger threatens to break against the thick polymer gel that separates the euphoria from the poison, but eventually it slides through.

Within seconds of removing the needle her heart will stop. I don’t need to check, she’s point-eight mills over what it takes to kill a man twice her size.

I lay there for another ten minutes, nausea rolling in my stomach, before recapping the sharp and getting up. “Hey can you watch my stuff?” I ask the target. She doesn’t respond, but this part is for show anyway. “Great. Thanks. I gotta pee,” I say and head toward the restrooms.

Once inside, I repeatedly vomit into the toilet, flushing every few seconds to eliminate the sour stench. Strong arms pull me up from my hunched position.

“Get your ass up, Saeth,” Shin says, yanking me to my feet.


“Here.” He hands me a piece of gum, and by the time it’s unwrapped and in my mouth, he’s gone again.

Arash leans next to the door. “It’s done I take it,” he says.

“Mmmm hmmm.”

We trudge through the sand to the beach exit.

“Someday you’ll get a stomach for it.”

I nod in agreement, but somehow I doubt it.

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

Rebekah Purdy

Monday, July 19, 2010

Idea Intruders

I just need to pose this question to the creative universe.  Why, when I'm trying to work on edits for a completed MS, does the Muse strike?  All I want is to get it out the door. But all my brain wants to think about is this other fancy, shiny, new idea.

Should I abandon edits for the thrill of a new story? Should I knuckle down and just jot the idea to come back at a later date?  Oh why is discipline so difficult!?!  Do I have time for both?  What could I sacrifice in order to work on each?  Sleep?  Eating?  Reading? True Blood?

I have to admit, (though I've always loved it) I came to writing because I was avoiding something... epidemiology homework. I usually bake when avoiding things as well.  Perhaps it's just something in my make-up that encourages avoidance. Edits are tough. My mind must be racing to find something to distract me from having to do them.  Even right now, I'm writing this blog post instead of doing my edits.

Well, creative universe, I expect some answers.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

YAFF MUSE: Beautiful Beltane

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: Gold by Kizuna Chan

The bonfire illuminates the dancers’ painted bodies as they sway in time with the flames. Their bare feet kick clouds of dirt into the air that mix with the hazy smoke.

The skin I wear is both familiar and foreign. Many seasons have passed since I have known this form. My chance will not come again and I leave my hiding place in search of her.

“Are you going to dance this year?” Becca asks.

“Hell yeah,” I say, braiding flowers into her long blond hair. “Aren’t you?”

“Nah. Mom said I’m not old enough yet.”

“That’s crap. It’s not like anything happens out there. She should know, she’s been dancing the Beltane for years.” I wipe my hands against my jeans, trying to get rid of the sticky flower residue.

“I know. But there’s just something weird about dancing nearly naked in the same circle as your mom,” she says and inspects my handiwork with a small mirror hung from the branch of an old oak.

I chuckle. “I guess that’s true. But I'll be there and I'll protect you from the horror of your mom's nearly nakedness.”

“Shut up.” She lunges at me, and then giggles as I give way to chase.

“You’ll ruin your hair,” I call back to her. The brush crushing beneath my shoeless strides, I dash between elder trees.

“Gottcha!” Becca’s fingers capture my wrist.

“Okay, okay. You win,” I say and we tumble to the ground laughing. “You did ruin your hair.”

She pats it blindly. “I’m sure it’s fine.”

My hand trembles as I tuck a stray beneath a bobby pin. “There. Now it’s fine.” I fear her rejection if she knew my true feelings and my gaze slides to my hands.

A deep pink spreads across her freckled cheeks. “Come on. They’ve already started, let’s go get you painted up for the dance.”

I glimpse my freedom through the flames. Strawberry curls wrapped up in a crown of Ivy and Marigolds, her curves exposed and painted in swirling patterns of orange and red. My heart quickens and at once the length and strength of these legs, my legs, become comfortable again. The rhythm beats beneath my skin and I enter the sway of the Beltane bonfire.

The subtle scent of the earth sweetens the spice of ripe bodies. My skin afire, I move with the pounding of the drums. On the other side of the blaze, a girl I’ve never seen watches me. Her long black hair shines with an iridescent emerald and stands out painted in hues of blue, green and gold. The intricate paisley pattern shimmers in the light of the flames.

She catches me staring back at her and begins to dance toward me. Suddenly, my body paint is thin and I shiver with the embarrassment of exposure.

“Hello,” she says, her voice the music of the earth and my secret crush on Becca becomes a distant memory.

“I’m Theda.”

“Gwinn.” She’s inches away, in time with the tempo of the drums. I join her.

My hands find their way to her hair then down her neck and shoulders. My hips and stomach brush against hers and I know freedom is close.

She is the one.

“Theda,” I whisper.

Tendrils of swirling silver is magic in the air when she says my name. Her skin is cool despite the heat around us and she leaves blue fingerprints atop the dark red of my shoulders. The pulse of the night brings me closer. My arms encircle her, tracing the line of her spine and still we dance. I suck in deep breathes of warm air.

She pulls away, her eyes catch mine and sadness radiates within them. “I am sorry, Theda.”
A blush rushes to my cheeks and I’m thankful for my crimson paint. “Don’t be,” I say, reaching for her.

She backs away, and my outstretched hand freezes in front of me. My Beltane red replaced by the same patterns Gwinn wears. Cold dread fills my heart as I watch her sink away from the fire, painted in reds and oranges.

I go after her, into the darkness of the forest.

She chases me. I knew she would, but I remain out of her grasp and as the sun crests in the east, I know I am safe. Free after a century, I stop running and return to the Beltane camp.

“Theda! Where have you been?” A blond girl asks me.

“Dancing,” I say.

Her fine brows knit together. “The dance has been over for hours.” She shakes her head. “Never mind. It’s time to go, everyone’s waiting.”

I follow the girl to a truck as a high pitch squawk pierces the morning air.

“What was that?” she asks.

My lips curve into a slow smile. “A peacock,” I say.

We drive out of camp, and the girl points through the window. “There it is! It was a peacock. Wow. It’s a pretty one too.”

“Yes, the very prettiest,” I say.

Trapped in a body that is not my own, I open my mouth to scream, to beg them to return to me but all I hear is a harsh, ugly cry. I see her – me – staring from the rear window. She raises a hand to her mouth and blows me a kiss.

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

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

YAFF MUSE: The Sounds of Violins

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: "Around the Streetmarket" by Plamen Stoev

The Sound of Violins

      My eyes shut tight against it. Against him. Against the stale scent of cologne mixed with cigarettes and the bristle of his cheek along my neck and jaw. I don’t hear his grunting. I don’t feel his weight. Instead I hear music. Memories of running through the village with my sister play beneath my lids. When I open them again, I’m alone.
      He is my third customer today, but I need one more to make the quota. Another girl, Wei, screams from the other side of the silk curtain that separates our mats. My fists clench but I close my eyes to her too.
      Rain is coming. The aroma of cooked fish cuts through the humid air. Hunger rolls in my stomach. I crawl and my knees scrape along the dry clay floor as I make my way to the window at the back. The creak of the opening pane is drowned out by the sounds of customers.
      Clouds darken the alley as I skirt through crates of spoiled food and garbage out into the market. For a minute the bustle of the sellers and people overwhelm my senses, and dizziness takes hold. I close my eyes, violins play and calm returns. I step into the sea of shoppers.
      The old lady with the fish cart gives me salted Carp. If I can’t get my fourth customer, it will be the only meal I get today. When I can, I bring food back for the other girls. None are as small as me, and they won’t fit through the window.
      I think of Wei, and ask the cart lady for an extra piece. She shakes her head. No, not today. I swallow my mouthful of salty meat and pocket what remains for Wei. It’s not much, but the customer making her scream is not enough for her to make quota. She will not eat.
      My mouth waters at the smell of sweet bread. Though I have no money, I walk in a trance toward the vendor. Hope fills my chest. It’s not the toothless bald man tending the cart; it’s his son, Bao.
      I smooth my hair down, and run my hands across my threadbare black dress. He smiles as I approach the cart, then presses his finger to his lips. A blush rushes to my cheeks. He is not like the customers. No, he’s a shining star in my dark life since my brother sold me to the Mangda.
      “This is for you,” he says and palms me a sweet roll.
      “Thank you,” I say.
      The scuffle of feet let us know his father is coming. He cringes and I notice the black bruises around his cheek lead up to a bloodshot eye. I nod in understanding, and then fall into the swarm of the crowd working my way back to the alley. Thunder rattles in the distance and the rain muffles the busy market. Fat drops pelt my head and shoulders.
      I rest against the cool stone wall near my escape window. The downpour washes the fragrance of the market carts from the air leaving the stink of hot, wet garbage to hang in the alley. I open my cupped hands, the sweet dough still warm between them.
      Underneath, edges of stiff paper graze my palm. A card. Just like the ones the customers in suits carry in their pockets. The bright pink name of a teashop is crossed off. On the other side is a hand written note.
      I read it over and over again. The words on repeat through my mind.
      Meet me by the train station.
      Tonight, we hear music.
      Tonight, we run.


Worldwide, there are an estimated 2.5 million people in forced labor (including sexual exploitation) at any given time as a result of trafficking.* The majority of trafficking victims are between 18 and 24 years of age.**
If you would like to know how you can make a difference check out these organizations:

(*) International Labour Organization, Forced Labour Statistics Factsheet (2007)
(**) International Organization for Migration, Counter-Trafficking Database, 78 Countries, 1999-2006 (1999)


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