Friday Link Pack 1/15/2016

HERE I AM — writing comments on other people’s blogs instead of writing my own posts. I mentioned recently that I’m planning to recommit to posting here in February. Let’s jumpstart that a bit.

It's Alive

Beginning NOW, I’ll be posting a Friday Link Pack every other week opposite this fine fellow. Drew is a friend and a member of, not one, but two of my writing groups. He’s a super talented writer and an all-around fantastic individual. You should follow his blog: Write Brained Ramblings. I would be totally remiss if I didn’t mention that Mr. Gerken and I didn’t come up with this idea entirely on our own. Our fellow writing group member, and considerably more accomplished friend (and… cheerleader?), K. M. Alexander has written 100 (ONE HUNDRED!) Friday Link Packs over the past couple years. As his writing career has put him in a place where many of his readers are now fans and not just other writers, he has passed the torch on to us. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t follow K. M.’s blog. I’ll cheat and link to one of his recent posts below.

Anyhow, here is last week’s installment in case you missed it: Friday Link Pack: 1/8/16

WRITE-ING (Note to self.)

Self Critique and the Road to the End
Fellow writer and friend, J. Rushing said all the right things to motivate me today. He has a delightful blog and his reminisce/advice here is beautiful prose in and of itself aside from its obvious extrinsic value. Looking forward to more from him soon.

Cildaire, a Fledgling World: A History
Nope. I don’t think I’ve linked to Drew enough. Why do you ask? Just one of his many talents, Drew Gerken, is a master worldbuilder. Check out this first post in a series that promises to keep your creative juices flowing.

CREATIVITY/INSPIRATION

David Bowie on Stardust
Going back to the father of the link pack on this one. Great way to send him off, K. M. What a week. Bowie and Rickman. A couple of gentlemen I admired for years. Bowie, though, was an inspiration as an artist AND a creative. Rest in peace, fellas.

SCIENCEY

NASA’s Propellantless EM Drive
The article is a little dense; click at your own risk. The gist is this: a drive for spaceflight that doesn’t require propellant means we could create generational extra-solar colonization spaceships. We could send people to other planets! It would take multiple lifetimes to get there, but we could do it! This is not science fiction, folks.

Nadine the Human Robot
It’s a good thing this needs no words because I have none.

GIF OF THE WEEK

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Rue From Ruin – Part 4

Here it is. I hope you enjoy it. If you don’t know what it is, go here.

This is the last time I’m going to write recognitions for folks who’ve helped out directly on a part. I’ll move all of them to the main Rue From Ruin page soon. In the meantime, I need to say this now. It’s important because, without these fine people, you wouldn’t be reading Part 4 today.

So much great help from Meri. She spotted all the really dumb stuff I was doing and she found it while suffering from a horrible cold. What an amazing woman! I’m blessed beyond belief to have her as my wife. My teen sons also took turns reading although their feedback was more along the lines of, “Ooo! Pretty good, Dad!”

Big thank you to the beta readers who provided some wonderful critique and helped me add more story that might have gone missing otherwise. J. Rushing, K. M. Alexander, and Drew Gerken all pitched in. Each of them had a unique perspective and I appreciate them immensely. They don’t even know. Srsly.

—-

Rue From Ruin – Part 4

hellhall

Imprisonment

I’m being marched through the center of a village at gunpoint by a fourteen-year-old girl, I think to myself. I wonder how pathetic it must look. Vanity isn’t a major weakness of mine, but I’m not immune to it either.

A tall young man, several years my junior, lounges against the wall in front of the small building we head toward. Incredibly, the squat stone structure appears to serve as police, fire, and La Poste for the little hamlet. The youth stares at me, but the girl with the shotgun ignores him and his sickly complexion. There is something familiar in his dark hazel eyes; I can’t place it. As we breeze past him, I’m unable to stop staring back.

“Watch where you’re going, scruffy-man,” the tall teen says and nudges my ribs with her 28-gauge. I turn around just in time to stop myself from walking right into the doorjamb of the building we are entering. She says, “I am the gracious host, am I not, señor?”

I nod agreement, not trusting my tongue to be civil.

It won’t do any good to snap at her, I remind myself. However, if I hadn’t taken the tincture in time… I shudder and try not to think about it.

We resume walking through the door of the multi-purpose building. I catch a whiff of something pungent that causes me to stop like a car in one of the crash test commercials. I feel the shotgun barrel dig into my back as the girl presses forward, not anticipating my sudden halt.

I know this scent.    

The girl sighs, impatient, and we continue down the narrow stone hallway past the shuttered window where La Poste customers fetch their mail. The odor is so strong it’s becoming overpowering. I can almost see it. After ten meters, the hall opens up into a tiny room with a small rectangular table, covered with a black and white checkered tablecloth. A man in a rumpled uniform sits behind it. The officer barely registers to me because my sinuses are reeling in the overpowering smell of HIM. I swear the odor emanating from the small window on his cell door is practically visible, with sickly green tendrils of smoke-like stench reaching for my nose.

“Hola, papa,” the girl says to the man at the table. “This Americano was trespassing by the old well on the Laurent property.”

I barely notice her speaking, because this is it! At last, the end of my search! I’ve found René Demons. And soon, he will pay so dearly for what he has done.

After I get some answers, I remind myself.

The man in the chair straightens and says something in thickly accented English about, “… night for trespass … go in morning.” He waves a hand toward the open door of the second holding area. It’s barely a closet, and his daughter gives me a nudge toward it. I try to catch a glimpse into the window where the sickly scent-tentacles are reaching out. No luck. I listen for any movement in the cage and hear none.

Of course, Demons probably knows I’m here. I haven’t said anything, but he’s always been very canny at running from me; the monster must know I am near. He can’t be allowed to escape, but I also can’t see a way to get to him now without slaughtering the officer and his daughter. As badly as I want the Professeur, I don’t wish to harm these people.

Deadlocked by indecision, I allow myself to be herded into my tiny prison, hardly noticing as the door grinds shut behind me. Once in the cell, I sink to sit on the cot. It’s barely larger than an oversized camping cooler, and no softer. That doesn’t matter. All I can think of is how I’m going to rend the Professeur’s flesh in the most painful ways.

After sitting for a while, fantasizing, I start to consider the questions I’m going to ask him in the morning. Why turn me into this… thing? Why let me go home to my family as if nothing were wrong?

Why the hell didn’t he just give me some answers that day? I’m clearly delirious. He’s been running from me because he knows I’m going to kill him. How could he have any doubt of my intention?

Exhaustion and the droning on of the father and daughter eventually lull me. A night of rest will ease my fatigue and help me deal with him in the morning, the rationalized thought comes thickly as if bubbling up through molasses. I fall asleep sitting on the cot, back against the wall, chin on chest.

——

The dream always brings back every painful reminder of what I felt like waking up on the morning when they died. I’ve dreamt it more times than I can count. It goes like this:

I’m looking up at the ceiling and note with morbid fascination that there appears to be something crimson speckling its powdery, popcorn texture. I roll over on the slick, hard surface, nearly naked in my shredded clothing from the night before. I’m covered in sticky red blood and, in fact, am lying in viscera in the middle of our kitchen floor. Their dead and waxen faces are waiting for me as I roll to my knees in the ichor. The bright red lifeblood spattering them is a stark contrast to the porcelain of their features. There is so much of it.

Everywhere.

The details of the night before are hazy, but I do remember coming home and feeling terribly sick. I went straight to my bed to lie down and was frustrated and worried that the Prof had gone off his rocker. He had taken a phone call earlier in the day, I think. Shortly after hanging up, he had left for a few minutes and then he came up behind me and injected me with a hypo of what I think was his own blood. I recall his crazed screeching about it being the only chance.

I called security immediately, and the Professeur fled the lab. I tendered my resignation in disgust and left the office to return home after making my report.

No longer able to keep my thoughts to myself, I remember getting up and coming to the kitchen. Always my sounding board, my wife was there sitting at the table with little Kara. I sat with them and ranted on about the incident. Marilyn, ever rational, reminded me that some blood tests were probably in order. Just to be sure I wasn’t infected with something dangerous like HIV. How I wish I would have left the house right then to follow her advice. Instead, I complained and whined and said I would get checked in the morning.

Then the change started coming on. I felt the terrible pain of displaced bone and muscle and ligament for the first time. The dread of a strange, overpowering hunger and the anticipation of sating it.

To my utter dismay, shame, and heartbreak, there are only two human beings I’ve ever killed in the throes of my curse: my wife, Marilyn, and my daughter Kara.

After awakening and sitting up to the scene of their deaths, I collapse back to the floor. Salty tears of despair flow freely, and somehow I can’t seem to breathe. Finally, a cry that sounds like the mating call of a grizzly bear escapes my lips. Once released, the wracking sobs won’t stop for what feels like hours.

When the tears finally run dry, I make a solemn vow to my dead family: I will make vengeance my life’s last goal.

——

The door swings open, and a man in a fireman’s uniform is speaking to me in French. Still mostly asleep, I don’t understand a word of it. I wipe the wetness of the drool from my chin. But, unfortunately, it has also soaked a portion of the overall I’m still wearing. There is a large salty-edged saliva stain on the front. It must look ridiculous.

The man motions me to leave. Finally! I wipe the sleep from my eyes; stand and follow him out. I’m groggy, but I still notice the open door to the other cell. I sniff the air, and although the scent is still there, it’s somehow weaker, less overpowering. My worst fear of the previous night is realized. They’ve let him out while I slept!

Sniffing the air, I catch a tendril of scent leading out of the building. He is still very near.

I don’t much care what the Frenchman is yelling after me as I sprint out of the building at full tilt.

Inspiration For Rue From Ruin

IMG_5854

Montepulciano, Tuscany, Italy 2009

Here it is. No, not the serial story post I hoped to publish today. This isn’t exactly a filler post because I’ve been planning it for some time, but it is in place of Rue From Ruin.

You will have to wait a bit longer for the next installation.

I’m not entirely happy with Rue From Ruin – Part 3 yet, so today I’m sharing some of the inspiration for the story with you instead.

The picture above was taken several years back during my first trip to Europe. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been infatuated with the old world. I love the sense of permanence and history that permeates that part of this tiny blue planet (even if imagined).

So when my friend and writing support group member, J. Rushing shared the photo below with our little group, I immediately loved it. The image is so wonderful and so full of character. Therefore, I felt inspired to write something about it. Anything really.

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Also, I recently binge-watched Supernatural. Yes, this had a considerable impact on my writing timeline for The Galaxy and All Her Charms. In my opinion, totally worth it. I probably would never have even considered writing anything in the paranormal vein before I watched those crazy Winchester brothers. #SPN can be cheesy at times, but I’m so not above cheesy.

giphysuper

Finally, I wanted to write more on the themes of addiction and loss. My current work in progress deals with loss, but in Rue From Ruin the loss is far more personal. It’s tied directly to the addiction as well (no spoilers) which is something I feel very strongly about writing.

So there you have it. Hopefully, the next part of Rue From Ruin is complete as soon, but I’m not going to rush out something that doesn’t feel ready. I’m excited about what I’ve written so far, and I think my three readers are going to love it. At least, I hope you do.  It certainly is a blast writing it!

Rue From Ruin – Part 2

Well hi there! I hope you, my three readers, enjoy this next part of my Serial Story. You may have heard it has a title now: Rue From Ruin.

Special thanks to K. M. Alexander and J. Rushing for helping me nail down a name I really like. If you want to know more about the title, shoot me a comment here or a question on Twitter. Extra special thanks to Drew Gerken and my wife Meri for all the proofing/editing help on short notice. I owe you all!

Writers: if you don’t have a writing support group as delightful as these fine people, then your writing will probably be worse than mine. Did I write that? Obviously no one proofed this intro.

If you are wondering: WHAT IS THIS SERIAL STORY THING? GAAAAHH! Please refer to Part 1. There, you will find a beginning. You may also wish to note: Part 2 is not the end. If you only enjoy stories if they end as soon as you read them, come back when Rue From Ruin is done. Without further ado…

Rue From Ruin – Part 2

six-thirty-am

6:30 AM

I scrunch up my face. It’s a futile attempt to keep a single, dust-filled ray of sunlight from playing directly across my eyes. The air must be filled with pollen and particles. I can smell the hay. Out of reflex, I brace myself to stifle a non-existent sneeze, even though allergies no longer plague me as they once did. I open my eyes a crack to glare at the offending gap in the wall of whatever building I’m in.

Apparently a huge mistake. The sun is low on the horizon. It is waiting there to greet me, and I regret my decision instantly. I flop over, clamping my eyelids down again and feel the sharp poke of what can only be more miserable hay digging into my bare skin. Something gives way beneath me, and I fall a short distance with a thump. Dull pain begins to pulse through my shoulder and hip.

“Ow!” I say. I hear a nearby horse snort and immediately regret the noise I’ve made. If I know anything, I know being discovered naked on someone else’s property won’t win friends or influence people no matter what country you are in. Unless you are trying to influence them to bring out a pitchfork or a shotgun. I lie very still listening for anything and notice only the thumping of my own heart and the sound of birdsong somewhere outside. My ears are much keener than they once were, and they aren’t picking up much until an abrupt electrical buzz like a cattle prod startles me.

Time spent on Grandad’s farm quickly informs me that this is only the sound of a controller for a wired electrical fence. The device is cycling its pulses of power. I remember my older cousins taunting me into touching a live wire. The event spawned a deep appreciation for the way the device cycles so that grabbing hold didn’t cause my muscles to convulse, unable to let go as I slowly electrocuted.

I focus on breathing, forcing myself to relax, and open my eyes.

Immediately, I remember to check my neck, and I am relieved to find the leather strap and pouch containing the ingredients for my tincture are still there. Looking down at my unclothed form, I feel a pang of sadness and regret. There is blood covering my fingers and hands. It speckles my forearms, abdomen, and chest. No doubt my face is covered as well; as I focus, I feel it cracked and dry around my mouth and inhale the strong metallic scent. I grab some hay, trying without success to wipe the blood from my mouth. My senses reach out, frantic, searching for a trail of trauma and find it with ease. The body must be close.

Don’t lead to a farmer or a kid, or some other person, I thought. Let it be HIS blood. Just this once, let luck be on my side.

Cautiously, I follow the trail down the steps from the hayloft where I had been sleeping. I note the horse I heard a moment before in one of the stalls is a black Mérens stud. He rolls his eyes at me and shuffles in his stall but is otherwise quiet. I don’t smell death coming from the stalls and say a silent prayer that it isn’t coming from the house. I silently pad across the dirt floor to the building’s only exit. The few tiny pebbles on the ground don’t bother my feet as much as the clinging layer of filth sticking to their sweaty, calloused bottoms.

Once, I braved the dangers of a Lego-strewn floors with those feet; I would give anything to trip, cursing at the plastic caltrops of parental doom again. A tear finds its way out of my eye and courses down among the dried blood on my face as I remember why I’ll never be swearing at building blocks again.

The electrical fence controller buzzes again, but I’m expecting it now.

Peering out of the slightly ajar barn entrance – I again rely on my heightened senses. There doesn’t seem to be anyone nearby, and people are easy to pick out by smell. A sickly sweet scent is coming from the right of the door, away from the small french-styled rock cottage. I ease the door open and sprint to the edge of the barn, looking over my shoulder as I go. Hoping no one takes notice of the pale, naked, and blood-drenched man running through the barnyard, I dodge around the side of the large outbuilding. The scent of copper is stronger here, mixed with the foulness of something disemboweled. There, farther down the side of the weather-worn barn is the remains of something black and hairy, but not quite so large as a man. I think it’s… a goat?

I breathe a huge sigh; relieved Bordeaux did not pay too dearly for my decision last night. There must have been a reason I came here instead of returning to my clothes.

Right. Clothes… and a bath. Probably not in that order.

Those problems need to be sorted out before picking up the trail. I can’t delay or risk being run-in to a French jail on indécence charges. My window of time is brief. Losing the trail of the Professeur again is not an option.

Finally able to focus, I can see a sign of his passage. The hunt is on.

Continue the story in Rue From Ruin – Part 3.