Flash Fiction and Giveaway

Hi there everyone!  If you haven’t yet, hop on over to Can’t Put it Down Reviews where I am giving away six sets of the first two books, ‘Water’ and ‘Air’ in the Akasha Series, plus one grand prize winner gets to pick a t-shirt from my store.

I am also giving away the complete set of the Kindred Curse Anthology, not yet released anywhere, in the Follower Love Giveaway Hop. Oh – and did I forget to mention the $25 Amazon Gift Card?

Now on to my newest flash fiction.  This was recently featured on Can’t Put it Down Reviews.  It is some of the  back story on Kaitlyn’s (main character in the Akasha Series) parents.  Enjoy!

Good Luck Charm

Mary leaned forward, looking through the windshield of their small, blue Honda and up into the sky. “Do they know we’re coming?”

The sky was growing darker by the minute, and the wind was picking up.

Cato answered from the back seat, “No one knows.  Well, except Shawn. Boy probably doesn’t even remember, as involved in video games as he was.” Cato stared at the scenery rushing past. Corn fields. Acre after acre of the tall stalks; all leaning to the left with the growing wind.

“Oh, please.  Your son is gifted and you know it.  I’ve seen the spark on more than one occasion.” John smiled at Cato through the rearview mirror. He put his hand over Mary’s, attempting to calm her fears.

She smiled, but her eyes still wrinkled with worry. It began to hail. Small chunks of ice pelted the windshield and road ahead. Mary began rubbing at the charm around her neck.

It was a necklace given to her by their only child. John thought of their daughter Kaitlyn, at home probably working on college applications. She was all they really had, and he would give anything to make it a better world for her.  Which is why they were all here.  With far more confidence than either of his two passengers, he resolutely nodded his head. “Yes.  Everything is going to be –“

“John! Stop!” Mary cut him off with her screams. He slammed on the brakes. About a mile ahead of them, a funnel shot down from the cloud cover. It was already bending the sturdy highway signs with its force. John put the Honda into reverse.

“Don’t want to do that either, John.” Cato pointed out the back window. A thick formation of clouds were already spinning in preparation for another tornado vortex to emerge.

John and Mary locked eyes.  Their communication was almost telepathic.  This was not natural weather.

The corn stalks no longer leaned in one direction. They waved wildly, as if flagging away the trio. But it was too late; they were trapped with twisters blocking each direction of road.

“So now we know – there has to be a traitor with The Seven.” John and Mary each turned to look at Cato.

“Let’s just get through this. Then we can turn to who is responsible. If I don’t make it…” Cato trailed off.

“We’re all going to make it.” John didn’t give Cato a chance to finish. “And we will all go home to our children.”

Cato nodded at his lifelong friend, thankful he was here to help face their enemy. The three exited the car.

Mary’s long, red skirt whipped around her legs. The red was a stark contrast to the dark grey skies. She faced the first of the tornados, opening herself up to the warm, moist air being drawn in from the south.  She used her powers as a water elemental to diffuse the air of moisture. John stood by her side, commanding the cool, dry winds blowing in from Canada. Together they worked, forcing away the conflicting weather and trying to stabilize the atmosphere.

Though Cato could manipulate all of the elements, he concentrated on the wind speed.  He worked to slow it down, preventing any more updrafts. He was significantly stronger than the pair that worked behind him, but he was hindered, having to deal with chunks of road and now farm equipment being tossed at them by the tornado. He moved forward, certain he was the target of the attack. The least he could do was decrease the risk to his friends by angling away, further down the road.

Mary looked back to see their small car in a slow spin, gradually being lifted up. It was as unpredictable as the winds.  “We need to move!”

Without hesitation, she turned to the fields. The sharp, unharvested corn cut that might offer some protection from the wind, bit into her bare legs as she ran. John stayed close on her heels. “Where is Cato!” He called to her. But there was no time to answer.  He lunged forward, tackling Mary to the ground as the roof of a barn whipped by overhead.

Cato remained  on the highway, struggling with the wind patterns.  They were unpredictable.  He detected several threads of power being woven into the storm from two different directions.  There would be more than four elementals attacking – and no time to target them.  Cato had to settle for playing defense. He looked behind me, startled to find John, Mary and the car gone.

He ran back to where he had left them.  Dumbfounded, he looked to the right, at the slightly wavering speed limit sign, still planted in the ground. He peered closer into the fields, thinking he saw a flash of Mary’s skirt.  He took a step towards it, when a spinning, blue mass shot by, missing Cato by mere feet.  He could barely track it with his eyes.  It was their car, now bouncing end over end down the highway, taking the speed limit sign with it. Cato blinked, then turned back to the wind patterns in the sky and could only hope the same fate had not befallen his friends.

Gradually, his energy waned, and he was left only able to maintain a protective circle around himself.  The weather had grown too strong; almost like more elementals had joined in. The corn fields and his friends were on their own. Cato’s whole body shook with exertion until he dropped to his knees. His sphere was allowing the strong gusts to pass through, but it would hold against the more solid objects thrown at him by the storm, and it would keep him firmly planted on the ground.

The two funnels moved closer, then angled in – towards the path his friends took.  Shards of debris littered the air like feathers in a pillow fight.  Cato was still able to discern the funnels, large as they were, merging together. As they did, lightening lit the sky and thunder cracked in the air, barely heard over the freight train noise of the super twister.  It was a triumphant announcement; both sides knew who had won this battle.

Wind gusts did not let up. They grew stronger and stronger, pulling even more debris into the air, until Cato could not see past his protective circle at all. He was sure the large mass was coming for him next.

With a final burst of energy, Cato pushed himself to his feet. He wasn’t going to face death curled up like a coward. It would be full on, shoulders squared and eyes opened. And without his shield.

When the noise was unbearable – and Cato was sure the climax had arrived, he lifted his hands to dissipate his shield. Before he could, the world went silent. Stalks, corn, dirt, and fractured wood from nearby structures all fell to the ground at once. There was no wind. What cornstalks were left in the ground were still. In the skies, clouds moved away revealing a disturbingly peaceful blue sky in their wake.

The last of Cato’s energy fizzled out, and his protective circle vanished. Two loud, sickening thumps came from behind him. Cato swallowed the rising lump in his throat, then turned. Mary and John lay dead on the highway. All of their limbs twisted in unnatural, odd angles, except for one. Mary’s hand still clutched the charm at her neck.

Let me know what you think!  Comments always welcome.

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.