Flash Fic Friday

Flash Fic Friday

After accidentally posting earlier this week, it’s now really time for Flash Fic Friday!

**Okay, so this week I brought back Elliott and Nate.  Remember them and their proposal at the zoo?  They totally wanted to come back when we got this week’s challenge–a phobia, lost keys, and a birth.  Enjoy!**

“Keys, keys, keys,” I muttered to myself, tossing the pillows off the couch and sticking my hand down between the cushions.  I’d torn the house apart looking for my damn keys, and I was freaking out.  I always tossed them in the bowl on the little table by the door when I came in, but they weren’t there.  Panic was starting to rise in my throat.  I had to go. I had to get to the zoo. I had to be there.  There was no way I was missing this.

Nate’s nearly constant text messages weren’t helping any either.  Now that I knew Amala was close to giving birth, and that I’d be allowed in despite not being an actual staff member, I was desperate to get there.  I’d been waiting for this moment for nearly two years, ever since Nate came home and announced the young elephant was pregnant.  He’d been just like a proud papa.  I knew the girls were like his children.  Hell, I loved them almost as much as he did.  Indira was both of our favorite, and Amala was her daughter.  I didn’t want to miss seeing the moment Indira became a grandmother.

But I couldn’t find my fucking keys!

There was only one place I hadn’t looked, and with sinking dread, I realized that it was likely the keys were in that room.  Because Nate, the rat bastard, had been a good husband and taken my car for an oil change last night.  And since he’d had the keys, and had gone straight to the freezer and gotten several pinkies the moment he’d walked in the door, probability was high that’s where they were.

I checked the freezer for the keys first, just in case.  No such luck.

Fear welled in my gut, and for a moment I thought I was going to puke.  I almost thought it would be better to call a cab and pay the exorbitant fees than go in that room.  Which was just ridiculous.  I loved Nate more than anything in the world, but I was going to kill him dead for making me do this.

It was just a snake.  A baby, not even two foot long albino python.  I dreaded the day she got big enough that she could no longer eat the tiny, frozen, naked baby mice.  Nate swore Jezebel was a sweetheart.  But I knew better.  Snakes were gross and dangerous and they ate poor defenseless mice and other rodents.  I hated snakes.

Okay, they scared the ever loving crap out of me, and the only reason I allowed one in the house was because she had her own room and was kept under lock and key.

My phone went off again with another text from Nate.  His “hurry up, Elliott, you’re going to miss everything!” finally spurred me into action.  I took a deep breath, and swallowed down the bile.  I approached the room slowly.  My hand was shaking as I lifted it to unlock the deadbolt.  It turned easily.  Slowly, every so carefully, I inched the door open a few inches.  I closed my eyes, pressed my hand to my stomach, and peeked inside.

Instantly I saw the snake, high on a tree perch in the corner of the elaborate habitat Nate had constructed along the back wall.  The door to the enclosure was firmly shut and latched.  I stuck my head a little farther into the room, and tried to look around while keeping an eye on the snake and making sure she stayed put.

There, on the tiny table right by the snake, were my keys.  Goddammit and mother fucker.  Okay, okay.  I could do this.  The snake couldn’t get me from where she was, the mesh screen was firmly intact and there was no way she could get out.  I inched into the room, took a deep breath and ran for the table.  I snatched my keys up, and bolted, slamming and locking the door behind me.  Panting hard, fear and adrenaline pouring through my veins, I leaned against the cool wood for a moment, trying to get myself back under control.

Fucking snakes.

Another chime from my phone, and I was running from the house, barely remembering to lock the front door on my way out.  It took barely twenty minutes to get to the zoo, and I parked illegally in staff parking before racing through the front door.  I was there all the time, and I barely waved to the volunteer at the ticket booth.  Agnes was a grandmother of eight, and the sweetest lady on the entire planet.  She just laughed as I ran by.

It was late, and the zoo would be closing in about a half an hour, so there weren’t too many patrons still inside.  Despite that, I had to dodge and weave around a few small children, and was ready to leap over a stroller until it was moved at the last second.  I was panting hard and out of breath by the time I made it to the elephant enclosure, and ran around to the back where the stables were.  Only then did I slow, take a minute to catch my breath, and then carefully and quietly push open the door.

I saw Nate right away, my beautiful husband wearing a huge grin.  I walked quickly, my sneakers not making a sound on the concrete floor, and sidled up beside him.  He startled, but as soon as he realized it was me, he tucked me under his arm and kissed my cheek.

“You made it just in time,” he whispered, and pointed into the stall.

There was no doubt about it, the birthing process was absolutely disgusting.  And Amala was obviously in pain.  It broke my heart to see it, and my already queasy stomach turned at the blood and amniotic fluid.  But I still watched in awe as the tiny baby elephant made its way into the world.

Nate and a few other staff members went in as soon as they could, toweling off the baby and giving it and Mama a quick check.  Amala had been born in this zoo fifteen years ago, and she considered Nate part of the herd, so she accepted the attention without fuss.  I watched for a bit longer, before I headed down the aisle to visit with Indira.

Indira was still snuffling her trunk in my hair when Nate found us.  He patted Indira’s trunk, gave her a few scratches behind her ear, and then turned a beaming smile on me.

“Amala is fine,” he told us both, one hand still on Indira.  “And so is her calf.  A beautiful baby boy.”

I had to admit, I was a little sad at the news only because it meant that the baby couldn’t stay with the herd.  The zoo already had one bull elephant, and wouldn’t keep two.  Jahi was only twenty or so, and had a lot of years left.  The baby would be sent to another zoo in a few years, and that broke my heart.

Indira started making a growly noise, a stomach rumble she used to communicate with the herd.  Nate did his best to soothe her.  I knew she was anxious to check on Amala and the baby, but Nate had told me before that no one else would be allowed near her for at least a few hours.  I reached up to pet Indira’s trunk too, hoping to help.

“What are you going to call him?” I asked softly.

Nate pulled a face.  “The zoo will announce the birth in the paper and on the news, and then have a naming contest.”  He rolled his eyes.  “We won’t know for a few weeks what his name is.”

I scrunched up my nose.  “We are so not doing that for our kids,” I teased without thought.

Nate sucked in a breath, and I realized what I said.  I gaped at him, trying to take the words back, but I couldn’t make myself.

“Elliott?”

I shook my head quickly.  “A conversation for another day.  Let’s go look at No Name instead.”  I gave Indira another pat, and then headed for Amala’s stall without a backward glance.  I heard Nate following, and he caught up with me fast, grabbing my hand.

“I love you.”

I smiled.  “I love you too.  So much.  I’m going to kill you later though, because I had to go in the snake room.  So I guess we don’t have to worry about kids after all.”

Nate let out a happy laugh, and tugged me close, giving me a swift, deep kiss on the lips.  “You can tell me the story while we watch No Name find his feet.”

I had to agree, that sounded like a pretty fantastic idea.

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Finally

Tomorrow, after work, I’m finally getting to head on my little vacation.  A weekend away.  Just my sister and me, holed up in a hotel, taking in some pretty sights, and basically, just relaxing.

I need it desperately.

I need to decompress in the worst way.  I need the demands of life to be put on hold for a brief time.  I need to take a step back from the normal.  Getting away, even though it’s not far and even though it’s nothing extremely special, is exactly the right thing for me.  I’ve been looking forward to this actual event for weeks, and the abstract thought of a vacation for more than a year.

The laptop is coming with me, of course.  There’s no way I could go so long without it (and thankfully the hotel has free Wi-Fi available).  The Kindle will be coming with me as well.  And also yarn.  Do I expect to make use out of all of those things?  No, probably not.  But I want to have them with me.  I am hoping to spend some time getting words on the page, and hoping that a change of scenery will help the creative process.

So I’m going to take the weekend to relax and get my head into a happier place.  I’ll still be around some, but probably not as much.  Enjoy the heck out of tomorrow’s flash fic, and if you stop in before I head out, I’ll definitely respond in a timely manner.  😀

And hey, don’t forget to stop by on Saturday too, where there is going to be an awesome and exciting announcement!

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A Diversion

So I’m working on polishing up my story, and it’s going to take a few more weeks.  I’ve heard back from all quarters with some good input, and now I can edit and tweak and make it as shiny as possible.  This is the fun and daunting part of the work, because it makes me think and really push myself.  Of course, I’m also a little bit in love with my own words so sometimes it’s hard to change them.  I’m working on it though.

Now, this is the first in a trilogy, and I have the next two books roughly plotted as well.  So that’s good news.  When I get to them, I’ll be ready to write.  I also tentatively had another story on the calendar after I write those.

But in the meantime?  Something other is flitting in my brain, and I can see the beginning and some of the middle, so I’m going to put a bit of that on the page.  Because I need a diversion, a little something with a different feel, something to keep my creative juices flowing.  This one I think I’ll be working on in the in between, in and around the series.  I wouldn’t say it’s a complete departure from my norm, but it’s got a little bit of a different flavor, and that’s going to be fun.

At any rate, I’m working, working, working.  Edits and polishing and new things alike.  Because if I don’t get the stories written, then I can’t get them out into the world.

Enjoy your Wednesday.  Friday the flash fic will go up, for real this time (gah) and Saturday, there’s a special announcement.  And I’ll see you tomorrow too. 😀

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After the Draft

While I’m writing, I frequently (and sometimes obsessively) go back over what I’ve written and fix and edit and tweak.  So when I finally get the entire manuscript on the page, I can’t really call it a first draft.  It’s already gone through several revisions at that point, at least most of it, so it’s really more like a third or fourth draft.  But just because I’ve got all the words on the page doesn’t mean that the work is done.  (If only that were the case!)

Then it becomes time to read it through, start to finish, and figure out if it makes sense.  Fortunately, it usually mostly does.  Some more tweaking and fixing ensues in this stage, and also trying to catch all my typos.  I’m really bad about typos.  So I read it through, and fix more stuff.

And then it’s off to the betas so they can give me their opinions.  They’re great about finding the typos I missed (damn typos) and telling me where things need additional work.  Where a sentence doesn’t work or isn’t needed.  Where what I was going for didn’t come across clearly, or the emotion is too big for what I wanted, or not big enough.  They give me all the bits and bobs to polish and make it shinier.

Now everybody has got a different opinion, and what works for one person doesn’t always work for another.  I’ve got people who like my stuff (because why would they read for me if they didn’t!) but also have varying degrees of what they like and don’t like.  I value my betas more than I can say, and welcome the feedback with a fiery passion.  But I’m the writer, and I get final say. So it’s up to me to weed through the critiques they give me, decide what I agree with and what I don’t, and make the changes appropriately.  Sometimes that’s really hard, and I get a pain in my belly when I do it.

And that’s where I’m at right now with Something Like Hope.  I’ve heard back from some, and am waiting for others.  And as I go through all the critiques and try not to cry (:P) I’m making a better book.  So by the time I send it to the publisher for consideration, it’s the best book I can make it.  Editors will have their own say, of course, but that’s a whole other blog post.

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The Joy of Writing

Despite all the frustrations, second guessing, worry and fear, and the multitude of other issues I encounter when writing, the simple fact remains that I absolutely love it.  I wouldn’t be doing it at all if I didn’t.  I’m not some huge name (which is fine with me) and I’m not making piles of money doing it.  Would I like to be a full time writer?  Of course I would!  Think of how much more I could write if I didn’t have to go to the evil day job!  But even if I never get to that point, even if I never publish another word, I’ll still be writing.

My story is the familiar one.  I’ve been reading and obsessed with books since I was a young child.  I devoured anything I could get my hands on and one memorable punishment when I received when I was about 13 was that I couldn’t read for fun for a month (I don’t remember what I did to deserve such a harsh punishment, but it must have been pretty bad).  When I was in fifth grade, I leaned about the creative writing process, and dabbled on and off with writing for the next few years.  When I hit high school and college, I wrote a lot, but tucked the pages away, filed in a crate.  Eventually, I found M/M romance, but it still took me four years to write something and actually have the guts to send it in.

So I’m a writer because I need to be. Because there is always a story in my head, and I see my guys lives as if they were playing as a movie in my brain.  Because if I didn’t get it out on the page, I’d go stark raving mad.  And though it’s sometimes scary and daunting to put my stories out there for public consumption, I do it because I think that they may bring some of you a few minutes, or hours, entertainment.  And that’s the joy for me.  Writing is not only fun, but a necessity, and I get to share it with the world.

 

Flash Fic Friday

Flash Fic Friday

**Remember Connor and Angel?  No?  Well refresh yourself, I’ll wait.  All caught up?  Good.  I was having a lot of trouble writing this week’s fic, until I finally realized that it was time to bring these boys back.  Enjoy!**

Three months had passed, and I was still here.  Living in a tiny rent-by-the-month apartment and telecommuting.  I still didn’t know what I was going to do with the property where my childhood home had once stood, but I knew I had to decide soon.  Because there was no way I was going try to muddle through filing my taxes again next year with it still hanging over my head.

But I was finally done, and I thought I got it right.  At least the software I was using finally stopped throwing errors at me and let me submit the paperwork.  A few minutes passed before my email dinged with the confirmation.  The forms had been filed, and were waiting acceptance.  I breathed out a sigh of relief.  It had taken me a good ten hours to get it done.  I wasn’t even that pissed that I wasn’t getting a refund this year.  Because it was over, and I didn’t have to worry about it anymore.

There was a knock on the door a second before it creaked open.  I gave Angel a tired but pleased smile.  Lately things had been moving from friends to something more between us.  But I knew he was wary of starting something until I made some decisions.

I hadn’t had the guts to confess that I was sticking around because of him.

“You should keep the door locked, you know,” he said by way of greeting.  But his dark eyes were sparkling with humor.  God, I loved that look on him.  He was gorgeous, and he knew it but he wasn’t arrogant about it.  I needed to do something about us, and I needed to do it soon.

I cleared my throat and forced that thought away for the moment.  “What have you got there?”

He was holding a weathered piece of wood, and at my question, he looked down at it like he’d forgotten he held it.  His grin was wide and warm as he walked further into my apartment, and held it out to me.  I quirked an eyebrow but I took the proffered item.  My breath caught when I realized what it was.

The sign from the treehouse we built the summer we turned eight. My father had actually be sober that summer, and the three of us cobbled together a barely stable platform in the white ash tree in my backyard.  Angel and I had spent every day there, and some nights too.

“I’d forgotten about this,” I whispered reverently, tracing my fingers over the lettering.

Angel crouched down and put his hands on my thighs.  He looked up at me, his dark brown eyes fringed with impossible lashes.  “That was a good summer.”

“Yeah,” I murmured in agreement.  It was one of the few good memories of my childhood that I had.

“Will you come with me?”

“Sure,” I agreed, my voice gravely with emotion.  It didn’t matter where we were going.  Angel asked, so I went.

We were driving down a familiar street before I realized our destination.  I fidgeted in my seat, uncomfortable.  Even though I’d been in town for three months, I’d only been to this property once.  The night Angel and I reconnected.  Every time he’d brought it up, I’d quickly and effectively shut him down.

But now we were here, and my heart stuttered as he pulled into the gravel driveway.  The ruin of the house had been torn down at my direction, but the cement foundation was still there.  I couldn’t seem to tear my gaze away.  Angel opened my door, and with his gentle coaxing, I exited the vehicle, my attention still fixed to the foundation. He took my hand and led me around the car onto the grass.  My heart was thundering in my chest, my breathing fast, and I couldn’t seem to get my riotous emotions under control.

“What do you see?”

“Angel.”  His name was a plea.  I couldn’t believe he was making me do this.

He stepped into my field of vision, cutting off my view of what was left of the house.  “Not that,” he said, keeping his voice low and calm.  “Everything else.  What do you see?”

Because it was him, I did as he asked.  I looked around and took it all in.  The huge oak in the front yard with its gnarled trunk was just starting to bud with new leaves.  The grass, though thin and patchy, was a vibrant green.  The azalea bush was full and lush, and I could see just the hint of the pink flowers.  If I peered over his shoulder, I could just see the ash tree, farther along than everything else around it.

“That’s right,” Angel murmured, making me realize I’d been talking out loud.  “All this beautiful new life.  This is a place of renewal.”  I started to shake my head, but Angel caught my face in his hands and made me focus on him.  “Yes, Connor.  The bad is gone now, and there’s nothing left but brand new life.”

I felt a tear leak out of my eye and realized that this was the defining moment.  I took a deep breath, and then another, before I managed to look him straight in the eye.  All I saw was warmth, love, and affection.

“If I were to build here, start a new home…” I paused, and swallowed hard, never breaking his gaze.  “Would you share it with me?”

Angel’s sigh of relief and heartfelt kiss were all the answer I needed.

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Of Catnip and Kryptonite

Go with your gut.

That’s the advice I got the other day, and it’s sound.  Gave me just enough courage to do exactly that.  But see, the thing is, I sometimes have a hard time trusting my gut.  At least when it comes to writing.  I over think things.  Second guess myself.  Spend useless hours contemplating some point, and trying to change it, just so it’s different.  Something unexpected.  And while the unexpected can definitely be a good thing in writing, sometimes it’s not.  Sometimes, all we want is for it to be how we expect.  Especially if the unexpected seems like it’s trying too hard.

And sometimes my gut tells me to write in a way that I’m not completely comfortable with.  And that makes me second guess myself as well.  Because there’s a certain way I write, and a certain kind of character I’m comfortable getting into his headspace so he can tell the story.  To step outside of that, to write from a different kind of perspective, is a little scary.  Because what if I can’t do it as well as I do the other thing?  What if it doesn’t work out like I thought?

Go with my gut, indeed.

There’s a type of male character that I’m drawn to.  No use in denying it.  I like the big, alpha male who is grumpy and stoic and cranky on the outside, and has the soft, gooey, caring center.  Someone who can be, on occasion, just this side of complete asshole but who shows his deep caring and mushy middle at the perfect moment.  That kind of guy is my Kryptonite and my catnip.  I’m always going to be drawn to that kind of character, and that guy is always going to be my greatest weakness.

I’ve hinted at it before.  Jack is kind of like that.  So is Alex.  They both have their moments of grumpy and cranky.  They both have melty centers when it comes to their men.  But neither character is full-on in that regard.  To write someone who is pure alpha male, testosterone incarnate, who has stoic down to an art and for whom control is paramount, that is daunting.  That’s not me in any way, shape, or form.  To write that guy, and write from his POV, is a little bit scary because I worry about not getting it right.

But if I’m going with my gut, he’s the guy to tell the story.  He’s the one whose head we need to be in.  So as I begin plotting the second book in the trilogy, he’s the guy I have to trust to help me tell the story.  He’s the kind of guy that won’t let me down either.  As long as I can trust him.  Trust myself.  Trust my gut.

He is my catnip and my Kryptonite, and if can just let go of the worries, I’m going to fall in love with him.