Akasha Uber-Fans

If you are out there…I have an awesome Christmas present for you!  Check it out:

   ornaments 1 v3ornaments 3 v3

 

Akasha ornaments – they are kinda cool, right? Please say yes because I made them myself. My plan was to post step-by-step instructions with pics that would rival any DIY craft blog, but things got a little messy.  You can probably get all you need to know from this:

ornaments 4 v3

And by the way, the wine in the back was totally involved.

So how can you get your hands on this set of ornaments?  Here’s how: send your answers to the below questions, and one fan who emails correct answers by Dec. 14th will be randomly selected.  I have to give my sincerest apologies – this contest is only open to those in the US. I just shipped a bunch of books overseas and those rates are killer.  So summing up; answer questions by Dec. 14th, US only. Send an email to: terra.harmony11@gmail.com.

Question 1 from ‘Water’: How did Shawn manage to overtake Kaitlyn and Susan, ending in Kaitlyn’s fateful trip to the Galapagos? (I’m specifically looking for the element used – you have a 1 in 4 chance!)

Question 2 from ‘Air’: What happens to Cato at the end of the book?

Question 3 from ‘Fire’: Where (what island) does Kaitlyn choose to hide from the rest of the gang?

Question 4 from ‘Earth’: The Akasha Series takes the reader all over the world, but near which city (or for bonus points, the exact location) does the final battle take place?

Hopefully the questions are fairly easy, it’s been a while since some of you have read the series!  Again, just email the answers to me at terra.harmony11@gmail.com, and hopefully I can get these beautiful ornaments to the winner by Christmas!

Good luck and happy holidays!

In Three Days…

In three days, ‘Fire, Book Three of the Akasha Series’ will be available for purchase on Amazon and B&N.  Shortly after that it will be available for iBooks.  Of the few books I’ve published so far, ‘Fire’ – by far – is the most exciting for me!  Let me tell you – it starts out with a bang. If you are squeamish, the first chapter probably won’t suit you. Whatever the case, make sure to put ‘Fire’ on your Goodreads TBR list now.

Each day until its release, I will post the first chapter of each of the books in the Akasha Series.  You know – in case you haven’t read them yet! Today’s first chapter is the opening to the entire series. Don’t forget ‘Water’ is now free on Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, and iBooks!

 

‘Water, Book One of the Akasha Series’, Chapter One:

There is nothing like an avalanche to put your life into perspective.  I leaned forward and the board strapped to my boots responded.  Slicing through the fresh powder, I made a sharp curve to the right.  A quick glance uphill showed the wave of snow was five times my height, and about to catch up to me.

The avalanche roared like an angry dragon, breath stinking of the earth churned up in its path.  The entire right side of the unmarked back country trail was a thick wall of trees, impossible to break through.  I pulled my toes up, arching back to the left side of the trail.  But I wasn’t going to make it.  Ice pelted me on the back of my neck, sending chills down my spine.  I pointed my snowboard straight downhill and put all my weight on my forward leg, hoping to outrun the beast.

I willed my board to go faster than I ever dared before.  The avalanche was faster.  It opened its mouth wide, closing in on me from both sides and overhead.  Gray blacked out the blue sky above and the trees to the side of me.  The mountain slope cracked and slithered forward, like a monster’s forked tongue.  As the force of nature dropped over me, I closed my eyes and threw my arms around my head.  My screams were swallowed by the creature.

Completely engulfed, I moved with the avalanche.  The whole of the trail had transformed into its body; an agitated, unstoppable river of churning snow and debris.  The world became darker and darker, the snow heavier and heavier.  Flashes of light were few and far between.

When I gasped for air I was sometimes rewarded with a clear breath but more often than not I sucked in a mouthful of snow.  Hacking to rid my throat of the slush, I came to the awful realization that I was drowning on dry land.

My hands, flailing for something solid to hang onto, finally caught hold of a tree.  Small as it was, it held fast against the merciless rush of snow.  I fought against nature, literally holding on for my life.  I wrapped myself around the trunk as two large branches just above me ripped away and disappeared in the churning white waves, along with my screams.  I squeezed so tight the rough bark scratched my cheek.  I inhaled the heavy scent of pine, as though the smell alone would keep me tethered to the tree.  I willed the roots to be strong.

They were, but I was not.  My grip started to loosen as my tired muscles and numb fingers were unable to hold on any longer.  I lost the stable trunk and returned to the tumble of snow.

I came to a halt just like the rest of the debris that used to be the Canadian mountainside.  A small air pocket had formed, allowing me to spit out the coppery taste of blood.  Suffocation couldn’t be too far off, encased as I was in an immobile block of ice.  Feeble attempts at movement proved useless.  Silence settled in on me as I heard the last of the snow come to a halt above me.  I tolerated its crushing weight because I had no choice.

As the numbness slowly receded, pain returned to one hand.  I wiggled my fingers.  They were free, possibly above the surface.  I grimaced.  Great – at least the wolves would find me.  Closed casket for me.

 

Hope you enjoyed it! Don’t forget to get ‘Water’ free, now on Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, and iBooks!

Amazon – I love you, man. But you make no sense.

Thanks to everyone who helped price-match ‘Water’. My novel is now free to the masses! In other news, the print version will soon be available (it’s been a long learning process – print formatting is way more complex than e-book formatting).

I’m not exactly sure when the price-match occurred, but ‘Water’ already has over 1,000 downloads. And that is without a lick of advertising (until I hit ‘post’ on this article, that is).  I’ve even sold three copies of the next in the series, ‘Air’, today.  That is more than all of last month. :)

Anyway, ‘Water’ now ranks #2 under the ‘family saga’ bestsellers list. Not sure how it ended up there. I don’t really think it belongs there, and I’m not sure I can change it. I’m hoping it hits a few other bestseller lists. Speaking of, over 20 people have tagged ‘Water’ as young adult.

Not cool, Amazon. Not. Cool. Anyone reading the novel expecting young adult will be severely disappointed, possibly offended, and most likely ticked off. Ratings could very well suffer.

But we’ll see what happens. Let’s just hope this little experiment doesn’t run me out of the business. Until then – tell all your friends!

 

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…

Picasso Sucks

keep-calm-and-write-on

“I would never buy his work, and you couldn’t pay me to hang it up on my wall.”

This is what my husband told me after I became seriously heartbroken after another two-star review for my eco-fantasy novel, Water. His point was, my book will not be for everyone, just as Picasso’s work isn’t for everyone. I understand that. Hell – I embrace some of the more critical reviews and have made my novel better because of them.

To give you some perspective, as of today on Goodreads ‘Water’ has an average 3.86 stars out of 77 ratings. Here is the breakdown:

 

Don’t get me wrong, I am extremely grateful to have 77 ratings at all. But why am I so obsessed with the fact that I have a below four star average?

Probably because I, myself, hesitate to read anything that has below a four star average.

Why do I spend countless hours gritting my teeth and analyzing the one and two stars and significantly less time celebrating the four and five stars?

Because I am human.

As authors, and especially as indie authors, we can say we have a thick skin all we want. But years and years of work go into one novel, and very often, we have given up so much to make it a reality. So when someone tears our baby apart, basically encouraging others not to give it a chance, it hurts.

But this is the reality of putting your creative work out there. Musicians, actors, and artists all go through the same thing. Under constant criticism, good and bad, how do we find the motivation to continue? Here is what I will try to keep in mind:

  • I can’t stop writing, any more than I could stop breathing. Even if the outlet of self-publishing wasn’t available to me, I would see my series through to the end – and then start on another series.
  • Despite his haters *glares at husband*, Picasso remains the top ranked artist (based on sales of his works at auctions as of 2004 according to the Art Market Trends report).
  • There are plenty of very popular and successful books with sub four star ratings on Goodreads to include Fifty Shades of Grey ,every single book in the Twilight Series, and plenty of Amanda Hocking’s books.

To be clear, I am not comparing my novels with these books – I aim to be better. I will also keep in mind that I don’t play it safe with my novels. I tackle tough issues; rape, violence, relationships that escalate too quickly, suicide, mental disorders, as well as gay characters. If that wasn’t enough, my third book of the series, Fire, which releases this October, opens with a birth scene. Squeamish? You won’t last the first chapter.

So I will take a deep breath, vow to stop starting my day by checking Goodreads, and….well…I will:

A Book Obsession

Time for another awesome book blogger interview! Mindy’s site, Forbidden Book Reviews, was created by team members of Books Complete Me and Page Turners Blog as a way to showcase all things ‘grown up’. Mindy recently reviewed ‘Water’ – see her review here. After sharing such an ecstatic review, I couldn’t help but get just as ecstatic over Mindy! Okay, that sounded weird – let’s just get on with the interview, shall we?

Q: First thing is first – how did you get into book blogging?

I became obsessed with the Twilight series. Seriously obsessed! Through this LOVE of all things Twilight, I met an INCREDIBLE group of gals on a twilight mom site. That is how the name Mindy Fangedmom came about because when I first fell in love with Vampires, they had fangs (the Twilight vamps do not have fangs but I love them anyway)! Fangedmom was my screen name in many forums.

Once my twimom friends started branching out to blogging, I of course, followed them. After following many blogs and being opened up to a WHOLE NEW WORLD of books, I was blown away by the SHEER talent that is all Indie and Self Pub authors!

Cindy, owner of Books Complete Me blog, asked me to join as a blogger. I was so excited. When Forbidden Reviews was created, I jumped on the chance to be part of it too. I am now the main blogger of Forbidden Reviews and LOVE IT!

A dear friend I met online gave me the nickname Brook. As in ‘babbles like a brook’. I love to talk. What a more perfect “job” for me than blogging.

Q: So now I have to ask – Team Edward or Team Jacob?

Team Jacob for sure from the very beginning.

Q: Tell me more about Forbidden Reviews. The creation, the concept, the…wine?

When Books Complete Me started, it was mostly focused on Young Adult reviews. As more and more authors started contacting us, we decided that it was not right to have our YA books being reviewed alongside books of a more adult nature.

We decided to start a sister blog for all adult themed books. We voted on the name Forbidden Reviews. When one of the gals came up with the header (the gal in the bathtub with a glass of wine: SHEER GENIUS) our rating system was born. I personally LOVE a glass (or bottle) of wine!

Q: White wine or red?

White wine and it has to be cold!

Q: What is your favorite part of the ‘job’?

Having someone tell me they read a book because of my review and that they loved it as much as I did!!!

THE AUTHORS…THE BOOKS…THE AUTHORS…THE BOOKS…I am absolutely blown away by authors. I have been since I learned to read. To have these stories, characters, settings and events in your head just blows my mind! I love to read a good book. There is NO better escape for me. Since I started blogging, I have met the most amazing Authors and read the most amazing books! Indie authors and Self Pub are my favorite! There is so much talent out there that once I discover it, I want to share it with the world!

Q: What is your not-so-favorite part?

Sometimes I want to just read. I wish some days I could just put “READ THIS BOOK. It is incredible and just trust me” and move to the next book. I don’t get as much reading done as I want because I cannot always write my reviews and post my reviews in a timely manner. I am a full time working mom, wife and my husband is self-employed. I am a busy gal! I MAKE time for blogging.

Q: How many hours would you say you spend on reading? How many hours on reviews and your blog?

*gets out calculator…* I work 8-10 hours a day, sleep for 5-6 hours, that is approx. 16 hours so that leaves about 8 hours a day that I am “free”. So in those 8 hours a day, I try to devote at least 2 hours to reading and/or blogging. Sometimes those hours all blur together in a reading/blogging marathon. It is nothing for me to start a good book and stay up all night to finish it. I have been known to read all night, sleep for an hour and go to work (I work in an office environment). I can also sit down to blog and say “I will only be a minute” and my husband and kids GROAN because “Mommy minutes” are HOURS long!

Q: What are your favorite genres?

Paranormal and Supernatural. Hands down. If there are mystical creatures, magic, witches, vamps, were’s, wolves etc. I will read it.

I am NOT a fan of what used to be known as Science Fiction. I am not sure if that genre really exists today. The genres have really changed since I was a young reader.

Q: What kind of book is worthy of five wine bottles?

Everyone has a different idea of what makes a good book. I am not an editor and I am not an English teacher. Therefore, if there are a few typos or a few mistakes..BFD…I am just grateful you wrote the book and I get to read it!

To me, a Five Wine bottle review means that I would tell you to read it. STOP what you are doing and read it. I have been told that I have a “fan group” that follows my reviews and reads what I review (talk about the ULTIMATE compliment)! THAT to me means I am doing something right as a blogger.

Q: Who are some of your all-time favorite authors? What about your favorite movies?

OMG there is no way I can answer that question. NONE. Usually if I am asked what my favorite book is, I refer to the book I am currently reading. I cannot pick one. Just like I cannot tell you which of my children is my favorite. They are all special and unique to me. I love a lot of different styles of writing, content…just way too many different ones to pick.

Movies: Another hard one. I just watched the Rebound and LOVED IT! I tend to watch movies over and over when I love them (seeing this obsessed personality much)??? Stargate, Lost Boys, Men in Black, 13 Going on 30, Twilight series, Harry Potter series, Hocus Pocus (again…I ramble…too many to name. These are the ones that just popped in my head).

Q: Coffee or Tea? Coke or Pepsi?

Coffee in the morning, tea in the evening (iced of course) and Pepsi.

Q: What is next for you?

Next? Maybe a bigger house with a built in library for all my books? I would be more than happy to let someone build one for me *giggles*

Seriously…I love to blog and I love to read. I will keep on doing both for as long as I can. Meeting new authors and meeting their “minds” is an incredible experience for me and I am very happy doing it.

Thank you for taking the time to complete the interview, Mindy! Book bloggers are amazing to me and you didn’t disappoint!

Thank you to Terra for my very first interview where I answered the questions instead of asked them. You should REALLY read Terra’s Akasha series. ‘Water’ blew me away and I am getting ready to start ‘Air’!

Check out Mindy’s book and movie reviews at: http://www.forbiddenreviews.com/

 

Cover Reveal!

I’ve been holding on to this one for a while, and I am soooo excited to finally be doing my cover reveal.  Props to the cover designer, Keary Taylor. You can see my interview with her here.

And now, bask in the glory that is ‘Air’ *imagine choir music here*

And, if you are not sufficiently basked – you may continue to bask in the glory that is ‘Water’ *more choir music*:

 

 

Now a mixed symphony:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ok, yes.  They’re very similar.  It’s called branding.  When you see one of my book covers, I want you to know it’s from me!  For a fun, quick read on how ‘Water’ came to be, see my blog post titled Mormons, Vagina’s and Cover Art.

‘Air’ will be available for purchase within one month on Amazon, B&N and Smashwords.  If you have read ‘Water’, and are interested in an ARC of ‘Air’ to review, let me know!  In ‘Air’, while Kaitlyn continues to carry her secret, Micah must work to prove himself to her and Shawn turns his depopulation theory into a plan.

Stay tuned for my book trailer to ‘Water’, where I totally exploit the cover!  You’ll see how – follow my blog via e-mail so you don’t miss a thing!

See?! Dreams Can Come True!

Tomorrow is the cover reveal of the next book in the Akasha Series, ‘Air’.  But for today, an interview with Air’s cover designer, Keary Taylor.  I am so excited to be interviewing Keary, she is a very talented graphic artist and indie author.  She created the button on the right, by the way – feel free to grab it! Keary recently released some exciting news that more than trumps my cover reveal – and I couldn’t be happier for her!  Keary is an indie author of the paranormal romance ‘Fall of Angels’ trilogy and the post-apocalyptic thriller ‘Eden’.  Now on to the news:

Q: Ok, I’ll just come out with it.  The film and TV rights to ‘Eden’ were just negotiated.  Wha- what?!  Talk about every author’s dream – or many author’s dreams, anyway.  How are you not bouncing off the walls right now?  Tell us how this whole thing came about!

Haha, it certainly is beyond exciting!  I was contacted by KK&P on November 1st so I had to keep everything a secret for over a month!  But yeah, Kami Garcia (co-author of Beautiful Creatures/producer) read Eden, loved it, passed it to Mark Morgan (producer of Twilight and Percy Jackson) and he loved it too.  So they contacted me, said they wanted to represent Eden for film.  We went through some contract stuff and here we are!  And amazingly enough, KK&P wasn’t the only production company to contact me about Eden!

Q: When did you first self-publish Eden?

In June of this year.

Q:  For us author types, what marketing strategies worked best?

You have to be pretty smart about your advertising.  Whenever I have a new book come out, I send ARC’s to book bloggers and do a bunch of interviews and giveaways.  I also promote on Goodreads.com as well as Facebook ads.  Sometimes, you just get lucky I think and things take off.

Q: For us reader types, what can we look for from you next?

I just finished the first draft of a YA contemporary I’m hoping to release in the spring (I’ll be doing an announcement of the title and cover on my blog probably around the same time this interview goes up).  After that I have a science fiction I plan on working on.

Q: Will you send me an autograph movie poster of ‘Eden’, you know – when you have hit it big?

Haha, we’ll talk when it gets to that point 😉

Q: Ok – on to your graphic talents.  You’ve done an amazing job with your covers, my covers, and many other indie author covers.  Here are a few (more can be seen on Keary’s design page):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve gotta say, ‘Awakening’ is my favorite out of the bunch – after ‘Water’, of course! Does design come naturally to you?  Do you have professional training in graphic design?  How did you learn the trade?  Is this a part of the ‘job’ you really enjoy?

I guess you could say it comes naturally to me.  When I started reading so much, I really started paying attention to covers, picking out things I really liked about certain ones.  I have to admit, I don’t have any professional training.  When I started self-publishing I just started playing around in Photoshop and watching different tutorials and just picked it up!  I loved it!  And so I started offering other authors to do it for them and soon I had people coming to me!  I don’t know if I’d call the graphic design a “job”.  While I do make a bit of money from it, I mostly do it for fun and to help other authors out.

Q: Tell us your thoughts on the importance of book covers.

Oh man, I can’t stress enough how important a good cover is.  Being an independent author is hard enough without a bad cover working against you too.  A cover is what people see first and even though they say “don’t judge a book by its cover” people always do.

Q: Have you ever won any awards for your graphic work?

None that I know of, lol.  But I do get a lot of compliments and the cover for my book Eden was listed on a TON of best of 2011 covers.

Q: And back to the film rights for ‘Eden’ (because I just can’t stop thinking about it).  What are the next steps?  Is there a timeline?  What info can you give us?

I really can’t say too much right now.  There should be some more news to share in the next six months or so.  As of right now it’s about getting a screenplay done, looking for actors, and studios.  It is certainly exciting though!  A total dream come true.

A big thanks to Keary for doing the interview and an even bigger thanks for all my great covers!  Please check back in tomorrow to see her masterpiece!

About Keary:

Keary Taylor grew up in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains where she started creating imaginary worlds and daring characters who always fell in love. She now resides on a tiny island in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and their two young children. She continues to have an overactive imagination that frequently keeps her up at night. She is the author of BRANDED, FORSAKEN, VINDICATED, AFTERLIFE (Fall of Angels series), and EDEN. To learn more about Keary and her writing process, please visit http://kearytaylor.com.

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!