A Call for Help

I am celebrating!!! I just finished the last chapter to the third book in the Akasha Series, ‘Fire’. Of course, it still has a few months’ worth of editing, revising, and critiquing to go (worst part of the writing process, I swear), but this is the first milestone of novel ‘done-ness’.

By far the largest motivation factor to continuing with my series is the unexpected but awesome support I’ve found from readers. Never could I have imagined that complete strangers would be so enthusiastic about Kaitlyn and the goals of the Seven. Waking up to find posts on my facebook page about how much readers enjoyed my books makes all my late nights and early mornings worth it!

Over the next few months, I will be posting excerpts from all three of the books so far, I will do a cover reveal, and (hopefully) organize a massive blog tour for the release of ‘Fire’. To celebrate my readers, I will be offering ‘Water, Book One of the Akasha Series,’ for FREE for a limited time. You can download an e-copy in almost any version from Smashwords right now. But I need your help. When you have a moment, please go to ‘Water’s’ Amazon page and under ‘product details’ click on ‘tell us about a lower price’. Insert the URL to the Smashwords page: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/92109.  I’m hoping within a week or so Amazon will price match, and ‘Water’ can be enjoyed for free by thousands of people!

So – a day of rest for me, then back to writing. I’m participating in Camp NaNoWriMo with the goal of writing 50,000 words by the end of June. I’m moving right on to the final book of the series, ‘Earth’. The genre of ‘Earth’ shifts into dystopian, so it will be quite an adventure to write!

In the meantime, have you added ‘Fire’ to your Goodreads TBR list, or seen my book trailer yet? Which reminds me, I’ll need to do one for ‘Air’ and ‘Fire’ next…

Something for Everyone

angelfall

Although it isn’t my intent to regularly post reviews here, I’ve come across several ‘must shares’ in the past few months.  My list of top three reads so far in 2012 includes something for everyone:

YA Fantasy

Angelfall by Susan Ee

As a self-published author, her book has had amazing success.  With a 4.39 star average on almost 4,000 ratings on Goodreads, this is a must read for anyone who loves YA fantasy, and even for most of those who don’t!  Not usually a fan of YA books, there is a certain element of horror that really spikes up the interest level for me.  Word of caution, this is not for anyone squeamish to blood and gore.  This book has a great concept, great dialogue and character development and is very well written – a page turner for sure. I cannot wait for the sequel!

Click here to see my review on Goodreads.

Favorite Quote from Book: “We now play a permanent game of I-am-crazier-and-scarier-than-you. And in that game, my mother is our secret weapon.”

 

Fantasy with Elemental Magic

The Five Elements by Scott Marlowe 

I originally added this book because of the similarities to my own with elemental magic. I was curious to see another author’s spin on it. And boy, did my head spin. I could barely put the book down. I was immediately sucked into this new world, research on elemental magic completely forgotten.  The writing is sophisticated (not the ‘I did that’ and ‘he did this’ style that seems to be all the rage these days), the twists were amazing, and the pacing, character development, and dialogue were perfect! Scott is another self-published author with great potential.

Click here to see my review on Goodreads.

Excerpt from book (this sets the scene for the final climax): The folk of Norwynne fled from a land gone mad. Leaving behind what possessions remained to them, they abandoned the remnants of hearths and homes to flee into the night with only the clothes on their backs and their children held or dragged behind. They ran screaming and crying and praying beneath a sky turned crimson with blood-red clouds that spewed liquid drops of fire. The earth cracked, and convulsed, jarring some from their feet even as streaks of lightning, a score at a time, turned night into day. Tornadoes swirling with flame touched down everywhere, one coming too close to a fleeing group so that men, women, and children were sucked into the vortex and not see again.

 

Romance/Erotica

Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James

LOTS of buzz about this traditionally-published series, and the reviews are mixed.  The writing style is simple, shorter sentences but the content is definitely for mature audiences only.  Reading from the viewpoint of the MC, a recent college grad who experiences her first romance and sexual experiences, we witness all the nitty-gritty nuances of sex. And the author did not sugarcoat anything here, making for a very believable experience.  I loved the MC’s internal thoughts, and the e-mail exchanges between her and the protagonist were a riot. I’ve only read the first of a series of three, and will eventually get to the other two, but for now, my libido needs a rest.  (Pretend I’ve inserted a smiley face here – how the heck do you do that on WordPress???)

Click here to see my review on Goodreads.

Favorite Quote from book:

“Why don’t you like to be touched?” Ana whispered, staring up into soft grey eyes.
“Because I’m fifty shades of fucked-up, Anastasia.”

Flash Fiction – One Less

This week’s flash fiction is a snippet from ‘Air, Book Two of the Akasha Series’ to be released next month.  Kaitlyn, the main character, and Vayu, a wind elemental I introduce at the beginning of the book, are sent to battle a manmade fire:

 

A thick wall of flame came into view. Vayu stopped. “Here. This is the front of the fire.”

He turned to me and I realized how wildly unprepared I actually was. Wind was the most unpredictable of elements, the most difficult to control. I hadn’t had much practice with it.

Vayu was able to read my face. “I don’t have time to teach you, but we can do this one of two ways. You can either feed me energy or you can try to copy what I do as best as you can.”

It didn’t take me long to choose, remembering what happened to Micah last time he willingly gave me his energy. “I’ll try it on my own.”

Vayu scrutinized me for a moment, trying to judge my abilities as if he could by just looking at my face.

I frowned. He hadn’t seen any of what I could do. “Vayu – Micah wouldn’t have left me if he didn’t think I could handle it.”

Vayu accepted my reasoning. In a weird sort of circle pattern, that in turn gave me more confidence. Amazing how Micah could change things without even being there. Vayu took a deep breath in, and flows of energy left his body as he exhaled. It was an all-encompassing net that went out from his body. The net expanded, retracted, and grew thicker or thinner at Vayu’s will. I felt it letting air through in some places and blocking it in others. The net quickly grew to the left and right of us, expanding beyond my sight. Somehow Vayu knew what to do in the places he couldn’t see.

Following his lead, I took a deep breath in and immediately sputtered on the smoke. Vayu spared a sideways glance at me but kept most of his focus on the job at hand.

I thought back to all the other times I had used my powers. I had either drawn energy from within myself, drawn energy from another element, or used raw emotion to conjure weather. I decided I couldn’t draw energy from within and risk my baby; it was the least I could do as a mother. I also lacked any significant emotion, barring the fear building up in the pit of my stomach. I had never really operated on fear before. It was anyone’s guess how the elements would react.

I closed my eyes and concentrated on the elements around me. Water was obviously in short supply, the air was tainted and I didn’t want to interfere with Vayu’s element. That left fire and earth. Could I possibly draw energy from the very element I was trying to defeat? I shrugged my shoulders.

“Why the hell not?” The fire was far too loud for Vayu to hear me. Good – the less crazy he thought I was the better.

I began, this time without taking a deep breath, and started to draw energy from the fire. I worked gingerly through Vayu’s net. Before the energy returned through the net to me, I shifted its direction and in the process it simply converted itself to wind. Perhaps it was following my will or even Vayu’s example. I directed the wind more over the fire than around it, quelling what flame I could and cooling the entire area.

“Good,” Vayu called over the noise. “That is helping – very good.”

He looked surprised, and I smiled. I liked surprising people, as long as it was with my skill and not the lack thereof. I continued to concentrate on my wind, cooling down the fire and occasionally letting a gust blow over the top of Vayu’s net to cool us down.

We were making progress. The evidence was in the blackened landscape left behind as the fire was pushed back. We moved constantly, to the sides, and forward, following the fire. Suddenly, several loud bursts to our left shocked us from our concentration. A small grove of trees had succumbed to the fire and were literally exploding into flames, one right after another.

“Move your wind to only that area,” Vayu yelled.

I refocused my efforts as Vayu’s net grew more intense. I worked for what seemed like hours, no longer sparing wind to cool us down. I was drained. Hopefully the fire was experiencing the same effect.

A strong wind on our right caught me off guard and nearly blew me over with such a force that it could only be described as malicious.

“What are you doing?” I yelled at Vayu.

“Not me – when a fire gets too hot it creates weather of its own.”

Despite the heat, chills crawled up my back. We were no longer fighting just a fire; it was a living, breathing monster. A crafty one, at that. The fire’s weather pushed quickly through Vayu’s net on our right and we angled our bodies to combat it. We had to move backwards to avoid being singed ourselves. Now we were on the losing side of the battle.

We were pushed backwards into burnt terrain.

Something caught us from behind and we both ended up on the ground.

Vayu recovered faster. “Damn log.” He got up quickly and rebuilt his net.

“Vayu.” I swallowed hard, not moving. “It’s not a log.”

“What?” He shouted down at me without looking.

“It’s a person.” I sat, frozen for a moment, then finally shuffled around the charred body and looked for signs of life. The hair was mostly burned off leaving only sporadic patches of fuzz, but judging by the size of the body and width of the shoulders, it was a man. He was lying on his stomach, his head turned toward me. Finally his back rose slightly, a shallow, somewhat regular breathing pattern.

“Is it Shawn?” Vayu asked, not able to spare a glance down at the body.

I looked at his face, and shook my head. “No.”

The man’s eyes, probably the only unscathed part of his body, were a light brown, not Shawn’s icy blue stare. Strange as the stare was. There was too much white. His eyelids were almost completely burned off. Bile rose in my throat.

He began to gurgle in an effort to say something.

I whispered back though he probably couldn’t hear me, “Shhh…..don’t say anything. I’ll get you help.” I touched his shoulder gently and bits of something flaked off. I couldn’t tell if it was skin or clothing. The entire body was either black or red; he wasn’t going to make it no matter what I did. I felt physically ill. I looked at him again and mouthed the words ‘I’m sorry’.

Recognition flashed in his eyes. I believe I had just been so kind as to help him realize his own death was close at hand. I lay down next to him, oblivious of the fire around us. The least I could do was stay with him until the end. Vayu was yelling something, but my priorities were clear. I wasn’t a Gaia right then, nor was I Kaitlyn. I was simply the last connection this man would have in his life, or this life, anyway.

Vayu, still yelling, rustled around in the pack on my back for something. My body jerked as his search became more frantic.

The man resumed his attempts to speak, despite my insistence he lay still. I leaned in closer, trying to interpret a phrase he said over and over. Only two words in the garbling were comprehensible, and they were enough to freeze me in place. “One less, one less.”

He began shifting his body and grunting; I couldn’t subdue him with my hands for fear of causing more damage. Finally he leaned away from me, pulling out a bag from underneath the blanket. It was shiny; possibly fireproof. Inside the bag was a thick, neatly bound document. He must have been protecting the document while sacrificing his own body. The white pages were a stark contrast to the blackened earth below and his charred hand. He pushed the document feebly toward me. He left streaks of ash behind on the pristine paper as he pulled his hand away. On the cover was one simple symbol, the same symbol worn on my shoulder as a permanent scar of Shawn’s doing.Suspicions confirmed, my body went numb. The charred man smiled. “I was chosen to be one less.” Triumph and self-importance emanated from him. His smile, no matter how much it anguished him to do so, was the last thing I saw.

 

So there you have it. Now is your chance to let me know what you think; before I release ‘Air’! Please leave a comment!

Flash Fiction – Out of Their Element

I’m taking a break this week from the Akasha Series characters, and delving into something that has been in my head for a while.  I have to get it out for sanity’s sake.  This is a possible first chapter for a new series I will undertake after completing the Akasha Series.  Let me know what you think!

 

Serena turned the corner of the thin, rocky path.  Her shoes slid along the pebbles almost sending her head first into the trees.  “Damn things!  Why would humans wear these?”

She looked behind her.  There was time, the beast wasn’t yet in her sight.  She quickly slipped the shoes off, and began running again.  The beast took the corner too fast as well.  As soon as she heard skidding, she turned and threw one of her shoes.  Miss.  The beast scrambled to get his legs under him and lunged for her.  She threw the other shoe.  Nailed him in the nose.  Serena laughed out loud, and resumed her steady running pace.  “I thought werewolves were faster than this!”

She had no idea if he could understand speech in his animal form, but he was no doubt enraged.  His growls told her so.  The noise scared off any other animals close by, plunging the forest into silence.  Besides the beast, the repetitive waves in the distant ocean was the only other sound.

Her legs brushed past the sharp, thick shrubbery outlining the path.  Shallow cuts crisscrossed over her otherwise smooth, white skin.  She looked down at the trickles of blood.  Good, she thought, at least I’ll get a few battle scars out of it.

Next to come off was her shirt.  She threw it behind her, only stopping to watch the beast tear madly at his own face, where the shirt landed.  She quickly stepped out of her jeans, but had to throw them backwards over her head as she ran.  The beast was on the move again.  He dodged the pair of pants, finally learning what to expect.  Stupid mutt.

She breathed in deeply, putting her lungs to work, and smiled.  Never had she felt so free, so reckless as tonight.  Pursued by werewolf in unknown territory in nothing but her own skin.  How was she going to top this adventure?

No matter.  She would find a way.  Serena always did.  She broke the tree line at her fastest pace yet, soft sand greeting her feet and slowing her down.  The wolf was close, she could smell his foul breath.  The thing snapped at her, almost reaching the tresses of her long, curly, brown and gold hair.  Some of the werewolves’ spit flung forward onto her shoulder.  “Ew!”

The beast was faster on the sand.  Serena did not expect that.  The greedy thing didn’t even wait until he had a sure kill.  He swiped at her as soon as the long reach of his paw was close enough.  The gash caused Serena to falter, and she stumbled in the sand.  Taking care to avoid the yellow razor-like gnashing teeth, Serena rolled.  The beast rolled with her, unwilling to let go of his prey.  In the split second he was on top, Serena pushed up and out with her powerful legs.  The werewolf yelped as he spun, head over tail, into the waves.

Rough waves toppled over the beast as he struggled to get on his feet.  The water pushed and pulled, becoming stronger and stronger, as if it were working against the werewolf.  Sabrina laughed again, delighted to see the mighty creature out of his element.  He dragged himself out of the water, weighed down by his thick, matted fur and gasping for breath.  Sabrina walked by, keeping a wary eye on him.  Welcoming waves reached out to her, drawing her into their frothy grip.

Having recovered, the werewolf shook his fur, ridding himself of the salty sea water.  He looked out into the ocean, and spotted his prey bobbing up and down with the waves, well beyond his reach.  He turned his head toward the moon and howled in mourning.

It was an ear-piercing noise.  Serena couldn’t understand why the lot of them hadn’t been put down centuries ago.  She flicked her freshly formed fins, spraying water onto the hound, effectively cutting off his pathetic cry.

She smiled, but was already longing for more adventure.  Serena said goodbye to the world and turned, flinging her body up then down again, diving into the cold, dark water.  Gills took over for her lungs as she dove deeper and deeper, returning to familiarity and routine, to her home…to her prison.

So there you have it – I am sane once again.  Comments always welcome!

Flash Fiction – Depopulation

Merry Christmas – and a big welcome to all of my new followers!  In addition to book review blogger interviews and fantasy author guest posts, my blog features once a week (ish) short stories based on characters from my books.  This week’s short story includes Shawn, the antagonist of The Akasha Series, as a younger boy.  I try to keep the short stories at flash fiction length (1,000 words or less).  Please feel free to comment or e-mail me directly – I could always use the feedback

At first, they had been plentiful.  Tiny specks of concentrated energy – each one of them so dense they could be seen with the naked eye, like specks of dust visible in the sun’s rays.  Shawn collected them, willing them to group together, building a wall around the old man standing across from him.  But now they were fewer, and so transparent they could only be felt, not seen.

They were also no longer cooperating.  Many floated away from the mass, compromising the strength of the wall.  The purpose was to block Cato, the old man, from being able to wield magic.

“Pay attention, son.  Your creation comes from synching yourself with nature.  Shields are not built by sheer willpower.”  Cato lectured the 10 year-old boy, who had been at the exercise for the better part of an hour.  Sweat poured down the boy’s forehead as he furrowed his eyebrows in concentration.  If walls were built with willpower, Cato wouldn’t have a chance.

Cato smiled, forcing air into the flimsy block Shawn had constructed.  Once the air tunnels had penetrated even the smallest pores, he pushed bits of earth through the tunnels with a burst of speed, effectively blowing apart everything Shawn had constructed.

Shawn’s frustrated growl made Cato laugh out loud.  “How did you do that?”  Shawn asked.

“Think of it like overpopulation.  Just as the Earth cannot handle a limitless amount of humans, neither can your wall handle a limitless amount of force.  Now – try again.  This time, concentrate on the purity of your energy.”

Shawn took a sip from his water bottle and threw it aside.  He wiped the sweat off his forehead with his shirt, took a deep breath, and closed his eyes – centering himself just as Cato had taught him.  He drew energy again, attempting to build a wall around Cato’s magical abilities, molecule by molecule.  This time he packed them in tighter, giving his structure a sturdy base.

“Good, good,” Cato commented.  “Soon you will be able to practice with the Gaia herself.  Your manipulation of her magical abilities will include strengthening it, altering it or even blocking it when necessary.”

Shawn fell into a rhythm.  Slowly but surely, the wall was beginning to rise.  It soon became boring, monotonous work.  His thoughts fell to the overpopulation comment Cato made.  “If humans are destroying the planet, because of how many of us there are – why don’t we just make it so there are less of us?”  Shawn asked.

Cato turned a wary eye to the 10 year-old boy, “What do you mean, son?”

“I mean, maybe there should just be less people.”  Shawn continued constructing his wall, brick by brick.

Cato wasn’t sure he should pursue the subject, but he had felt guilty – having spent all his time with the two new children he adopted three weeks ago.  He at least owed it to the boy to treat his ideas with respect; owed him a serious conversation.  “How would you propose we go about doing that?”

Shawn took his time answering.  In the past when he had brought up the subject, he had been either brushed off or rebuked.  “Well, population control, for one.  Like China does.  One kid per family.”

Cato nodded his head, “A valid point.”  Shawn’s wall had completely enclosed Cato from the ground up to his knees.  He could still knock it down, but the boy needed to practice.  “Religion poses a problem.  Many religions preach that faith equals fertility.  Going against such a fundamental belief is not a good idea – even if your original intentions are to save the planet.  Not many will be on your side.  You would alienate our organization from the majority of the population.”

“Religion isn’t all bad – I mean, look at all the wars started because of religious differences.  That got rid of some of the population,” said Shawn.

“You’ve been paying attention in your history lessons!  Good boy!”  Cato ruffled Shawn’s hair, choosing to ignore the darker implications of Shawn’s thought.  Shawn had suddenly picked up speed with his wall – it was now closing over Cato’s chest.

Encouraged, Shawn continued.  “Governments spend so much money on disaster efforts, sick people, old people.  Why don’t they just, you know, stop doing that?  Might help with population numbers.”

“Most certainly.  But then you are telling people to ignore one of the very traits that define humanity – compassion.”  Cato uttered the last word with uncertainty.  He pushed a small amount of energy into the wall.  Impenetrable.  The boy was learning.  Slowly, the wall began closing in; squeezing Cato like a sinister hug.

“But it is compassion, because you are saving the Earth – making it a better place for humans and in the end even saving people,” Shawn said.

Cato tried taking a deep breath, but the squeezing was too intense.  Even though Shawn’s wall was invisible to the naked eye, it was as solid, and as real – as steal.  They boy’s magic, as well as the conversation, were treading dangerous ground.

“Shawn – I think you are missing the point.”  Cato was having more and more difficulty talking as the wall snaked around him.  “The Seven exists to protect and help the Earth.  Those of us that have been blessed with the ability to manipulate elements and energy must do our best to counter the harmful effects of the human population.  We are not here to counter the human population itself.”

“Well, maybe we should.”  Shawn completed the wall; it surrounded Cato like a claustrophobic igloo.  The two stood there, still as ice – one by choice, the other not so much.

Cato was taking in short, constricted breaths, “To what end?  Why then, would we be saving the Earth?  Who would be here to enjoy it?”

Suddenly, the wall disintegrated.  Shawn released his adoptive father and said, “You know – the rest of us.  Whoever is left.”

Cato resisted the urge to brush off of the non-existent wall debris.  “No.  The answer is no.  We will all abide by the mission of the organization – and the mission is not depopulation.”

Completely unnerved by the entire experience, Cato picked up his gym bag and walked away, mumbling excuses of the work awaiting him.

Shawn watched him go.  “Then maybe we need a new organization.”

 

What did you think?  Contact me or comment and let me know! 

Want to read more?  Check out my contemporary eco-fantasy, Water: Book One of the Akasha Series.

Flash Fiction – Raining Mud

Another short for you.  This one features Alex and Susan, two characters in my novel ‘Water’, and shows how Alex was introduced to the Seven

Somehow when I thought of Afghanistan, I imagined desert, men in turbans, and camels. I was so wrong. Instead, there were treacherous, ice-covered mountains. The men who shot at me didn’t wear turbans; they mostly wore their knitted pokal hats. And the only camel I saw was dead, bones picked clean by a starving village.

It was a horrible place, made more so by constant war. I shrugged off the misery of Afghanistan; it was better than going to foster parents. My mom signed the parental release forms for the military on her death bed; we had no surviving kin.

“Henson! Do you have them yet?”

“Working on it.” I grunted back. I was supposed to be behind the lines in a warm tent, playing with high-tech, cryptologic receivers trying to intercept enemy communications. But our small detachment got attacked, and the commander decided to integrate the radio guys with infantry. Apparently, in Afghanistan, there was no such thing as ‘behind the lines’.

“Hurry up, Marine! We need some intel.” The platoon sergeant kept pressuring me. He had no idea how difficult it was to operate a receiver with bullets flying so close I could feel the wind off of them.

“I swear to – ” The sergeant was cut off by a bullet to the throat. I watched, his body falling in slow motion while the rest of the world continued at a normal speed. Dust billowed up around him as he hit the ground. I crawled over to him, putting pressure on his throat. He started to gurgle so I let go immediately, afraid I was choking him. I didn’t know what the hell to do. I looked around helplessly, just in time to see the first truck in our convoy out of there get blown up. By the time I looked back down at the sergeant, he was gone – eyes wide open and lifeless.

I stared in shock, from my bloody hands to the whites of his eyes, and back again. His body jumped slightly as a bullet zipped into his side; like kicking him while he was down.

“Fuck a whole lot of this.” I immediately backed away; that bullet was probably meant for me. Another deafening blast; the convoy was not done getting ripped apart either. Where the hell were the reinforcements? I had called for them myself over three hours ago. These shooters weren’t exactly accurate, but they were coming out of the woodworks. Word of our position spread faster than disease out here, except to our allies.

I grabbed my rifle and radio and slithered over to a ravine. Two grunts took position on either side of me; keeping enemy bullets at bay. I switched channels back and forth on HF, trying to remember the frequency for the battalion. I didn’t bother going secure; there was no time for it.

Finally, something came in. It wasn’t the battalion intercepting my distress call. It was a woman. “Say again, I do not read you. I repeat…say again.”

“This is Corporal Henson, 3rd Platoon located three clicks northwest of Korengal Valley. We are under fire; we need air support and evacuation of casualties. Transportation is out.”

“Where is your battalion, Corporal? I will relay the message.”

I gave the woman my battalion’s information and our grid coordinates, praying this wasn’t some sort of trap. Five minutes later the radio crackled back to life, “Helo went down in route to evac you. They are doing recovery efforts there. Will be some time before they can get to you.”

I exchanged a despaired look with one of the Marines beside me. I put the handset up to my mouth when her voice came back on, “We are coming in from the south. Look for two vehicles with the number seven on the side. And do not effin’ shoot us.”

“Who are you?”

There was a short pause before she answered, “A friend.”

“Seals?” One of the Marines offered.

“What, they’re sending GI Jane to save us?” I rolled my eyes at him. Maybe CIA? Whatever – if she had vehicles that weren’t currently on fire, it’ll do.

No less than ten minutes later, the sound of idling vehicles reached us. They stayed well back from the battlefield, hidden to the enemy in the shadows. We had all taken up positions behind our rifles, but couldn’t let up. A break in fire could mean an enemy through our lines; another Marine dead.

A slight tap at the shoulder and my reaction was to immediately let my elbow fly back. Thankfully, she was expecting that, and ducked.

“I suppose I should’ve made it clear. No elbows, either.” The woman was almost as tall as me, an unusual trait. She was in tennis shoes and what looked like a running outfit. It wasn’t camouflage but at least it was dark. She had her hair pulled back into a tight ponytail at the nape of her neck. In rural America, she could have passed for a jogger.

“Who are you; why are you here?”

“I am Susan. We are going to get you out of here – alive.” She peeked around me at the raging battle; we weren’t even in the thick of it. We were on the outskirts. She put up a hand-held walkie-talkie to her mouth and began issuing instructions.

“But why are you in the area?” I asked.

“We’re here to help the environment.”

I laughed – as did several others. Susan glowered at me.

“Seriously, now.”

“I am being serious.”

“Oh, for Christ’s sake, woman.” The crazy episodes of Whale Wars came to mind. “My hands are stained with the blood of my sergeant, and you’re here to keep them from cutting down trees?!” I shot off my last couple of rounds and changed out magazines. “There are no trees out here!”

She shrugged, “Not anymore.”

I looked at her, mouth open, “You are serious.”

“They cut down most of their trees for war. Plus, the land is depleted and not conducive for agriculture. Help the land, help the economy. A stable economy makes for a stable country. See – it’s this whole domino effect that I don’t have time to explain, because your Marines are dying.”

Another explosion, closer this time, sent us all flying. We picked ourselves up. One of the Marines beside me went running into the thick of it, relaying orders for a retreat. He never came back. 13 others did.

“We can all fit, I think – let’s get going before they realize what’s up.” Susan said.

“No,” I stopped her, grabbing her at the wrist. “We have to get the fallen.”

Her mouth pressed into a tight line, “I’m sorry, we just don’t have enough room.” There must have been twice as many Marines dead than those that still stood. I shook my head, “Non-negotiable.”

Susan stopped, turned to face our group, and scanned their faces slowly. They were tired, dirty, bloody, hurt, and scared. But they were as resolute as I was. We all go, or no one goes.

She dropped her head in consent, “Fine. But we’ll need at least one other vehicle.”

There was one other, sitting untouched amongst the smoldering scraps of its brothers. I could see face of the enemy just beyond it. They hadn’t approached yet, but it wouldn’t be long now. “We’ll need a diversion.”

“Done,” Susan said, “When the storm hits, get someone to back that vehicle out of there, and get everyone on board – quick.” Susan held the walkie-talkie up to her mouth again, “I need you here.”

Placing the walkie-talkie in her back pocket, she closed her eyes, and began slowly raising her arms into the sky.

“What are you doing?”

“Please don’t distract me.”

A large, native-American man, with dark, black hair in a thick braid that went down to the middle of his back, walked up to join Susan. Despite the cold, he was in a sleeveless shirt. His thick arms were adorned with tattoos of the planet Earth, various trees and of course eagles.

“You people are crazy.”

“About as crazy as you, Marine.”

Great, compatible by insanity. Susan’s arms were all the way above her head now, and the wind had begun to pick up. How had she known a storm was coming?

I looked back at her face.  Her eyes were striking, glowing a bright green against the dark sky. Her hair was coming loose; wild strands whipped around her face. The man next to her was now kneeling, with one hand on the ground, chanting.

The Marine standing next to me suddenly lurched forward, then fell to the ground. Blood gushed out from under his not-so-bulletproof helmet. That was the last Sergeant; meaning now I was in charge.

Susan yelled at me over the increasing wind, now infused with dirt and sand, “The storm will temporarily disorient them and slow them down. But it won’t stop bullets.”

Got it.  I barked out orders to the nearest Marine, “As soon as the storm moves into that group there, run for the vehicle. We’ll lay down cover fire.”  Then turned to the rest of the group, “The rest of you – get your brothers. We’re bringing them home.”

I had to cover my mouth. Where had all the sand come from? I had seen nothing but ice and rock on the ground for almost a month. The sky cracked open with a bolt of lightning, and rain like I had never even seen stateside poured down. It was literally raining mud. The storm’s intensity moved from directly overhead toward the enemy line. We were still getting rain and wind, but now they were bearing the brunt of it. My platoon stood stock still, staring at the freak storm with nervous glances at Susan and the Native American. “Move it!”

My bark shocked them into action. The whirlwind of rain and mud tightened in on itself, sounding almost like a freight train. Susan’s vehicles pulled forward, and two more men got out to help load the wounded and the dead.

Our vehicle came up beside them. A quick head count – everyone was accounted for and loaded up. “We’re good!” I shouted to Susan.

Her arms began to sink back down to her sides, and she lay a hand on her companions shoulder. He broke out of his trance and stood up. The storm had already started to diminish.

“We have about five minutes before they come charging through what’s left of the sandstorm.” Susan said as she hopped into the passenger side of one car. “You coming?”

“Yeah.” I narrowed my eyes at the storm, then her. It couldn’t be. But then again, I did just see it for myself.

I was the last one to the vehicles. I glanced at the large number seven painted on the side of the vehicle, then crowded Susan over as there were no more seats.

“I want to join.”

Susan looked at me with a half-smile, she exchanged glances with the Native American, then handed me a clean rag from the glove box. “Haven’t you done enough joining for one lifetime?”

I used it to wipe the blood from my hands, “Apparently not.”

I leaned back in my seat, and put my arm around Susan. This was one lady who offered adventure I could not pass up.

 

Flash Fiction – Oil Spill

Welcome to the first ever edition of my weekly short stories, based on characters from my books.  I’ve yet to come up with a clever series name; so for now I’m sticking with Weekly Shorts.  If you have any ideas for a better name – feel free to comment!  I promise to keep them between 1,000 to 2,000 words each.  These are samples of my raw, unedited writing – please excuse any grammar/spelling mistakes!

 This week’s short features Susan and Micah (brother and sister) at a younger age on one of their first missions for the Seven, an organization hell-bent on saving the Earth

“Susan, Micah. Keep up.” The Gaia snapped at the kids trailing her. The hired dog sled team had refused to take them further so they were forced to walk the last mile over rough, icy terrain to the shores of Prince William Sound. “And turn off that blasted headset.”

Susan rolled her eyes, but obeyed anyway and slipped her Walkman into her backpack. “It keeps my mind off the cold. It is freezing out here.” Susan buried her head back under her parka’s thick jacket hood and spared a sideways glance for her younger brother. The bite of an Alaskan winter didn’t seem to be affecting him as much; his mind was elsewhere. Just one month ago, with the untimely passing of the Seven’s Ardwyad, Micah had taken his place. Youngest ever Ardwyad, their adoptive father Cato had said. The Gaia had reservations about an 11-year-old Ardwyad. Several in fact, that she made known to Cato, to Susan and to Micah himself, especially during their tedious trek from Indonesia to Alaska to help with the oil spill.

Her rants did nothing for Micah’s confidence. Since his job was basically to protect and train the Gaia, she really could have helped herself by helping him. Instead, she was making it worse for everyone. Susan couldn’t blame the Gaia too much. Susan knew the Ardwyad’s job was also to kill the Gaia once a stronger one was found. This wasn’t always common knowledge with the Gaias that came through; although Susan was sure this Gaia knew. She has accepted her fate with grace; that is until she met her would-be assassin face to face.

There had been a short send-off ceremony for the trio. The Gaia had tolerated it with her arms crossed tight over her chest, Micah was hanging on every word spoken during the ceremony, and Susan had kept her Walkman on the entire time. Cato blessed them with a prayer;

The Earth is my Mother

I shall not want.

Her breathe is the air that gives me life.

Her hand brings forth the green pastures.

Rivers run forth from her great breasts, remain close.

Fire is her gift, providing purity and warmth.

Her womb is the earth that will enfold me.

Surely, goodness and beauty will nurture me all the days of my life,

and I will become part of the earth forever.

“Here is good.” The Gaia stopped so suddenly, Micah almost ran into the back of her.

“Sorry,” he mumbled. Susan automatically wondered if he was aware of the ‘other’ part of his job; she sure as hell wasn’t going to be the one to tell him. How would he do it anyway? Would they give him a gun? A poison syringe? Was suicide an option – just to spare an 11-year-old boy the trouble? She probably wouldn’t, selfish –

“Susan! Snap out of it!” The Gaia had lost all patience with her charges. “I swear to God, I should’ve been doing this with Sian.” Sian was the former Ardwyad, and had chosen to go with the previous Gaia when it was her time. Susan had only been there a few years, and she hadn’t detected a love interest but what goes on between a Gaia and her Ardwyad mentor was largely private.

The three stood on an icy bank looking out into a sea of oil. Ribbons of gray and brown were strewn over the ocean water, turning almost shiny in the sunlight, and slowly spreading out like an infectious disease. They were told to help, but given very little direction as to how. Cato merely asked they bring as much oil ashore as they could; it would be easier for the Adanas, the earth elementals, to clean up from there.

“Ok, Susan. Do your thing,” said the Gaia.

“My thing?”

“You are a Nerina, yes?”

“Yes,” said Susan.

“A Nerina specializes in the element of water, yes?”

“Yes.”

“This water is dirty, yes?”

Susan grit her teeth together, “Yes.”  She was barely able to hold back the string of curse words trying to force their way out.

“So clean it. I didn’t know you needed someone to tell you how to do your job.”

Susan wanted to scream out loud. Instead, she chose to be the adult, and turned to the oil. She had limited practice with Cato, but had more with her mother who was also a Nerina. She wished she could remember more of that training. She wished she could remember more of her mother. At least she has some memories; Micah had been too young to remember anything about their parents. All he had was Cato.

Susan shook off the depression that always set in when she thought of her parents, and concentrated on her task. Almost immediately, she felt herself connect with the water. The tide rushed in to meet her, then pulled a part of her back out with it. Normally she’d have to fight the pull. She would be fighting to stay on land when all she wanted to do is submerge herself in the life-giving liquid. Not this time. This time the water was tainted and sluggish. The dark slime permeated every small cell, leaking into the very essence of the water, the very essence of Susan.

Susan dry-heaved at the feeling, and felt the Gaia huff behind her. She took another deep breath, telling herself it wasn’t really on her. But that was a lie – the water, Susan’s lifeline, was almost beyond repair. All Susan could detect was death; molecules were corroded – and as a result phytoplankton, fish, mammals, and the eco-system as a whole were dying.

Micah stepped up next to his sister. She looked down at him and smiled. His mere presence was calming. Susan attributed it to the fact that although they had an adoptive father, no one would really look out for Micah like she would. He was solely her responsibility. Believing this gave her strength.

She took Micah’s hand in her own, squeezing to feel the ridges of his fingers through their thick gloves, and closed her eyes. The ocean opened itself up to her, revealing its composition, movement, and more importantly, the elemental forces within.

She experimented with those forces, delving into her work, cold forgotten along with time. It took her near three hours before the puzzle before her finally unfolded. Susan targeted the water molecules, charging them with energy. The trace amounts of metals found in the crude oil repelled from the charged molecules, and automatically pushed itself away like two wrong sides of a magnet.

The only problem was, if the oil were to separate from the water, it had to go somewhere, and the only somewhere around that wasn’t water was the shore, which so happened to be where they were standing.

The oil gained momentum, propelled forward by a magnetism force. Within seconds the oil slick was several dozen feet high. Susan, shocked out of her connection with her element, was at a loss on how to stop it.

The Gaia immediately sent her own weaves into the water, trying to undo Susan’s manipulation. But the Gaia’s elemental strength, even with water, was double Susan’s. The surge of her energy into the ecosystem further charged the molecules and caused the slick to pick up speed. Now they both were at a loss at how to stop it.

Micah, feeling largely inept until now, stepped in front of the Gaia. He ignored the oncoming wave of oil and faced her. His hands clenched, and his face had gone red in anticipation of what he thought he must do.

Rivers run forth from her great breasts, remain close. The prayer Cato said before they departed was the only thing running through Micah’s head.

Suddenly, Micah buried his face square between the Gaia’s breasts, which elicited a high-pitched squeak from the Gaia.

Susan’s mouth dropped open. Micah pulled his head out, sucked in a badly needed breath, then looked back at the oil slick. It was still coming. He turned and did another face plant; only harder. Thinking perhaps she couldn’t feel him under all those layers of clothes, he shook his head back and forth.

Just as the wall of crude oil crashed into the shoreline, it lost momentum. It slowed and rolled to a goopy stop right at the trio’s feet. Micah’s move had flustered the Gaia, causing her body to flood with adrenaline. Since her natural reaction of accumulating nearby energy during an adrenaline rush followed; she essentially discharged the molecules.

Susan looked at her brother in wonder. He couldn’t have known how that would play out. Nonetheless, Micah turned back to the Gaia, still wide-eyed, but also with a small smile of accomplishment.

He had done his job; he had finally proven himself worthy of his Ardwyad title. The Gaia slowly raised her hand and issued a neat slap to his face.

“When we get back to the Chakra, I am filing a sexual harassment suit.”

Susan could no longer hold her snort of laughter back; as if the Seven had a human resources department. The Gaia turned on Susan, “Of which you will be included as an accomplice.”

“How – ”

“ – for helping to fulfill the desires of your puberty-stricken brother!”

The Gaia turned on her heel, sliding in what oil had made it that far onto shore, and stomped away in the ice and snow; black boot prints trailing her.

Susan watched the Gaia go, then scooped up some clean snow and put it on her brother’s reddening cheek. He held it in place.

“Well, how was your first time?” She asked.

“It was…” he started to walk after the Gaia, slowly, and Susan followed. “Liberating.”

Susan cleared her throat.

Micah looked up, suddenly appalled, “Wait, did you mean using magic? I mean…I didn’t use any magic. I thought you meant…her, um – “

“Don’t say it. I don’t even want to know what you call them.” Susan spared a sideways glance for her brother, then punched him playfully in the arm. He punched back and missed.

She shouldn’t be so hard on him. He had rougher times with women ahead. It was those handsome green eyes of his; they were going to get him into big trouble one day.

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What did you think of my first short?  Please comment or an e-mail directly to me at terra (dot) harmony11 (at) gmail (dot) com.  Worth following?  Please sign up to follow by e-mail!