Saturday, January 13, 2018

Death Comes In Threes

It occurs to me that could be a good idea for a paranormal novel.  Death Comes In Threes.  Zombie ménage à trois perhaps.

Maybe someday.  For today it's just me babbling about things I can't say anywhere else, so please feel free to stop reading now, because nothing good will come of this post.  There's no takeaway here.

But it's a new year, right?  The old shit is supposed to be over, we're in a fresh new start...  To me it feels like the old shit is just rolling right into the new and forming one massive shitstain of a snowball.

I guess I still haven't gotten over the death of my dog.  Maybe because she felt more like a daughter to me, snotty attitude and all.  I'm sure she got the attitude from me.  As well as the anti-social, don't-touch-me, feed-me-now, yes-I-will-damn-well-pee-where-I-please stuff.  Because she was a nice, sweet girl when she arrived at eight weeks old.  She arrived when I was twenty-one, my young-mother baby, and she was supposed to hang out for a good long time.  Not turn up sick before she hit ten, go into the vet for an inspection and never come back home.  Not my beautiful bitchy girl who had me wrapped around her finger, and who I would traded places with in a heartbeat.

And yet.

Fast forward a couple of months and I get a call at work.  Apparently my grandfather's been found facedown on his living room floor and he's likely been there a couple days.  The funeral home is real impressed with themselves for "getting as much of him out of the carpet as we did."

I've never been close to this particular grandfather.  He was artistic, which I admire, and I loved his pottery.  But in his old age he always seemed deeply bitter at not having made a name for himself in the art world.  And frankly it never looked like he was trying that hard.  Which of course makes me worry I'm not trying hard enough (to be a writer, to be an artist), and I'll end up just like him.  But then again, the man told me to "put a lid on it" when I was five - "it" being a can of Pringles, and the meaning that I was a loud eater and likely to get as fat as my mother.  So.

But then we had to tell my grandmother.  His wife of seventy years, currently in a nursing home and not likely to ever leave.  And she kept forgetting who'd died and crying over her obese but still alive border collie.  So even if the dead relative doesn't make you sob, the living one probably will.

The rest of the family is out there now, picking over his belongings, by which I'm sure I mean they're cleaning.  And they want me to come collect mementos, and I can't even begin to.  Not only because it feels hideously morbid to me (and I'm a pretty goddamn morbid person).  But mostly because my mother's in the next bedroom dying, and I just can't seem to find my energy.

When I say she's dying I think I really mean it.  She's said she's dying since I was twelve, but last year, shortly after the sneaky bitch convinced me we should get an apartment together, so that she could escape the physical rehab facility where she was trapped, shit got real.  Lots of emergency 911 calls, followed by enrollment in in-home hospice care.  Hospice, you know, where patients get six months or less to live.

Some people die on hospice.  Others get better.  Despite failing heart, kidneys, eyes, and just about everything else, my angry, bitter-to-be-alive amputee of a mother thrived.  Healthier than ever.  Never going to die.

Then she got the flu.

And now her heart appears to be giving out.  Five days and she hasn't gotten out of bed.  She doesn't eat.  She barely drinks.  And in two days she hasn't once turned on the television to blast my brains out with Murder She Wrote or Quincy or Little House on the Prairie or any of that crap that makes me contemplate murder suicides.  She sleeps.  She mumbles to the imaginary possum on her bedroom wall.  (I jest not.)  Her body fills up with fluid until she looks like a beached whale, and when she wakes up, she doesn't know what day it is or why I have to leave her to go groom dogs at the shop or why on earth I want her to take her heart pills or drink some goddamn ginger ale.

Her doctor says she might surprise us and turn it around.  But her doctor also says this could be the beginning of the end.  And it will go fast, doc says.  But how fast is fast?  Days?  Apparently more than that.  A week, two, a month?  How long can you survive on one can of diet sprite a day?

I love my mother.  I hate my mother.  These are feelings I've lived with all my life, and I have no clue how to resolve them now.  I don't want her to die, because we just starting streaming iZombie from the first season, and she still hasn't seen how Game of Thrones ends.  The Bachelor just started for christ's sake.

I want her to die, because she's been in limbo for so long, and I know she believes in god and that she's going to heaven, and I want that for her even if it's all bullshit to me.

I want her to live, because she trapped me in this expensive apartment that I hate and can't afford on my own, and where the hell am I supposed to find a house for rent that will take me with two dogs, two ferrets, two rats, and four fish tanks, and yes I'm aware I created this particular dilemma all on my own.

I want her to live, because I have a new dog, adopted from one of my clients, and I want my new girl to have a grandmother.  I want my boy Jasper, who loves his grandma probably more than he does me, to keep getting his morning petting sessions and all the yummy people food she sneaks him.  I want to hear her bitching again about how Jasper leaves all his favorite balls right in front of her walker as gifts to her and she always thinks she's going to step on them and fall, even though she never actually lifts her feet high enough off the ground to step on a fucking gumdrop.

I want her to die, because I'm sick to death of living with my angry, sick mother, and I'm ready to be a fucking adult living in my own home, alone, without falling over walkers and wheelchairs and ugly ass furniture I can't stand and listening to that tv going day and night, day and night, until I want to scream.

I want her to live because she's my mom.  And even if there are a lot of ways she failed me as a mother, she always loved me.  And I love her.

My new novel was supposed to be finished a week ago, but I can't seem to write more than twenty words a day on it.  All my jewelry orders are overdue.  I burst into tears for no reason in the middle of every groom, and the dogs look at me like I'm nuts, dear jesus, why are they stuck with the nutso groomer and maybe a little nip would snap me out of it?

And I have no idea what to do.  None whatsoever.

Except wait.  And do nothing.

And now - just fucking now while my finger is hovering over the publish button - I hear her rasping and muttering to herself in her empty bedroom, and she says, "I love you, [Lydia].  I always have, I always will."

Fuck.  Me.

Friday, December 8, 2017

The Hunting, Vol.2

The second volume of The Hunting trilogy is officially up!  (Or will be in 24 hours...)  Releasing January 9, 2018, you can preorder a copy on Amazon.

PACK:  The Hunting, Vol.2

Opposites attract, and love is blind.  What other hope is there for a werewolf who can't seem to fall out of love with his werewolf-slaying ex?

Jackson thought the hard part of getting back together with his estranged boyfriend would be convincing Eric not to kill him outright.  After all, Eric has spent his entire adult life being brainwashed by the Paranormal Division; he's trained to kill monsters without mercy or sentiment.  And whether Jackson chose to become a werewolf or not, the fact that he ran away and hid for two years afterward has left Eric in a perpetually pissed off mood.

And yet—he didn’t kill Jackson.  He chose, instead, to leave the Paranormal Division and run away with his wayward ex.  But that wasn’t the hard part.

The hard part is living together after.  When they’re on the run from a secret and deadly branch of the government.  Camped out in the middle of nowhere with no decent coffee for miles.  When Eric won’t touch Jackson.  Won’t talk to him.  Will hardly even look at him.

When Jackson is pretty sure that Eric thinks running away with him was a mistake.

But the Paranormal Division is hot on their heels, and there’s only one place Jackson can think of where he and Eric will be safe to figure out their next move.  The problem is, it’s the same place where he spent the last two years hiding.  And it’s a wolf’s den.

For two years, Jackson lived with the Beneventi family.  From them, he learned how a man and a werewolf can live at peace in the same skin.  He ran with them, hunted with them, and called them pack.  To a wolf, pack means family.  And not every member of his adopted family has forgiven him for trying to return to his old life and his old lover.  Michael Beneventi thought he’d laid claim to Jackson, and now he’s fully prepared to take out any challenger, even a federal agent with a dangerous attitude and the knowledge and skill to put down any werewolf.

It’s up to Jackson to stitch together the two sides of his life—or tear them apart once and for all.  If he wants to keep Eric, he’ll have to fight for him.

But then… there’s always the thought that Eric never really left the Paranormal Division at all.

And if you missed it, don't forget to check out the first volume of The Hunting!


Sunday, November 19, 2017

Pack Means Family

At long last, The Hunting continues - Volume 2, Pack, will be released for Kindle in January 2018.  It's taken a lot of drafts, a lot of coffee, and a lot of mumbling to myself, but Eric and Jackson's story has finally sorted itself out.

To be fair, nothing is simple when you're talking about a werewolf going on the run with his estranged boyfriend, who very formerly made a living killing monsters like the one his lover has become.  Not to mention his old employers are on their heels - the Division, the most secret and deadly branch of the FBI.  They want Eric back.  And if they can't have him, they'll put him down just like they intend to put his boyfriend down.  Throw in an old indiscretion of Jackson's, resulting in a dangerously jealous young werewolf dead set on knocking out his human rival...  And things are about to get messy.

Pack runs about twice the length of The Hunting, and forms the midsection of what is intended as a trilogy.  Volume 3, Blood, is in the works now and will be out closer to spring/summer of next year.

While The Hunting books are related to and partially set in New Berlin, they form more of a Division subset which gets a bit darker than stories like, say, Sweet.  I have plans for several Division focused novels to be released over the next year or two, werewolves and some undead forays as well.  And then it'll be full circle back into New Berlin proper, where the witches, incubi, and angels have been biding their time.

Pack will be available for presale mid-December.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

It's Halloween

Or almost Halloween.  Technically it's the first day of Mabon.  I was born at Mabon, which maybe accounts for some of my darker and more woeful inclinations.  Call me Demeter.  Or Persephone?  But I'm trying to look on the lighter side lately, because sometimes the dark is just too dark.  So even though I'm releasing my first zombie story in less than two weeks, it's kind of a lighter zombie story.  There are even jokes.  I can't say whether the jokes are funny.  But they're in there.  So...

Strange is a short story set in New Berlin, though it stands independent of any previous stories.  It's a look at the dangers of Craigslist roommate ads, and what might happen if a workaholic chef invited a hoodie-wearing, cash-rent-paying zombie to live in his spare bedroom.  It might be weird sometimes, right?  Like, who gets the last piece of bacon?  And is that blood on my beautiful kitchen floor?  But it might also be really convenient, say in the event of a home invasion, to have a roommate with superhuman strength and an insatiable appetite for human flesh.  Naturally though it would be a really stupid idea to start crushing on your dead roommate.

So, yeah, werewolves suck (you guessed it, I'm stalled on the second volume of The Hunting again), and zombies are in.  Strange comes out October 3rd.

And there will probably be more zombie stories to come, because they are somewhat of an obsession of mine.  I can't promise they'll all be light, because, you know, Mabon and the influence of the Dark Mother.  But there will probably be more.  And then maybe some vampires and/or witches.  Possibly we'll go back to a werewolf or two.  Eventually--eventually--there will be a return to the fey and incubi and fallen angels.  Because the angels are really the point of this whole city, if I didn't keep getting so damn sidetracked.

But for now.  Strange.  You can buy or borrow it from Amazon October 3rd.

Meantime.  Happy fall.  Go harvest something.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Christmas in July

I have it. Definite proof that I am actually working on something.

Because clearly I have a fetish for redneck werewolves and their uptight, hunter boyfriends.

Here is the opening of The Hunting, Vol. 2, which I hope will be ready for publication soon.  Or soonish.

FROM THE EDGE of the forest, cool and dark, Jackson watched his lover shiver in the grip of a nightmare.
Shiver, and then thrash—Eric twisted free of his sleeping bag and kicked it away like a mortal enemy, one bare foot crunching hard into the side of the truck bed.  He came awake with a low, violent cry, sitting straight up and reaching for the knife he always carried strapped to his left calf.
It was gone.  Left behind three hundred miles ago, abandoned in a bloody field, in a town neither of them would ever return to.
If we’re lucky, Jackson thought.
Eric relaxed slightly, the tension leaving his spine.  He scrubbed a hand across his face and stared out bleakly around him.  His gaze swept the clearing and the woods, passing right over the shadows where Jackson lingered.  Even if he’d known where to look, he was just a man, with human eyes.  While Jackson was anything but.
Eric shivered again, and Jackson imagined he could see the tiny hairs on the back of his neck rise up and stand on end.  The mornings here carried autumn’s bite, today worse than usual.  The wind howled around the open truck bed, whipping the short, dark thatch of Eric’s hair.  An overcast sky warned of a nearing storm, an hour, maybe less, before the heavens burst open.
It was their fifth day here.  Five days camped out in the game lands of upstate New York, slapping at mosquitos, staring at trees, and sleeping in the back of the truck together—if together meant lying down together with as much space between them as possible.  If it meant Jackson waking up each morning while the sky was still dark to find Eric’s back turned to him, shoulders hunched against him, every line of him stiff with rejection even in sleep.
Jackson didn’t wake for him to wake up, couldn’t.  Each morning he slipped silently away into the woods to hunt, or sometimes simply to run, to wear the edge off his own tension and forget that Eric hadn’t touched him willingly in five days.
Not since Jackson had changed into a wolf and slaughtered Eric’s stepbrother while he watched.
If that killing had been murder, then so be it.  It had also been justice.  When Jackson was human, he had worried over morality, right and wrong, and crossing the line.  Now he was at peace knowing he would not hesitate to defend himself against any foe.  And to protect those he loved, to avenge the wrongs done them, he would kill without mercy.  Again and again, he would kill, until there was no one left to harm them.
And that was why Eric wouldn’t touch him.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Wishing You a Blessed Samhain

We're finally down to three days before Halloween, my favorite holiday of the year, which at first seemed like it was never going to arrive.  And then during the last week, as Chrismas decorations suddenly starting popping up like some heinous black magic in stores, the end of October became a freight train intent on splattering across the tracks any unfortunate souls caught off their game.

Including me, of course, who had intended all year to have another novel out by early October.  But sometimes the thing you're writing takes a lot more time than you thought it would, and sometimes the thing you're writing just runs off the tracks and explodes (or gets splattered).  There's been a bit of both during the last year.  So while the pipeline has got stuff in the works, it's not quite ready to leak into our drinking water yet.

This is possibly too many metaphors even for me.

So to all my readers (I know you're out there, lurking under rocks, but it's okay because it's that time of the year), my sincere apologies.  I'm writing my brains out right now, and if you're following the New Berlin series, you're going to see some familiar faces from around Chicanery soon.  Angels, incubi, some dark fey, and a few other creatures are cluttering up the pages of my first draft pile.  They just need a little merciless surgery, and then some further botox and nip/tucking before they're ready to face you.

On a further note, Sweet is going to be free on Kindle in honor of Samhain, one last gift and one last harvest before the long, dark night.  You've probably already read it, in which case thank you!  But if you know anybody who'd like to snag a copy, they can get it now through sunset of November 1st.  Okay, midnight actually.  KDP refuses to let me run promotions based on sunset-to-sunset.  But hey, such are the trials of life as a half-assed pagan.

Now it's back to work for me, so I can pin all my hopes on finishing something in time for Yule.

Forever love, and may you all enjoy a blessed Samhain!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Three Years Ago

Three years ago this week, I was in Pennsylvania on a rescue mission - literally dragging my mother out of her farmhouse where she was intent on letting ketoacidosis kill her.  It wasn't the first time I had to bully her into the hospital.  This is her pattern, passive suicide followed by the realization she might actually die, followed by a call for me to come save her.  And I always do.

But there's an amount of stress that goes along with repeatedly rescuing someone, especially when that someone is the person you feel like you ought to be able to lean on for emotional support, and never have been able to, because all your life they've been too heavily leaning on you, the child/young adult/grown up daughter.

People deal with stress in different ways.  My mother told me that her mother used to feed her whenever she was upset, resulting in her lifelong weight problem.  So instead of feeding me, she taught me to shop when I was sad/sick/stressed.  Toy shopping when I was a kid.  Later, clothes.  Mostly I've broken this habit, but occasionally it kicks back in.  I head either to Michaels for art supplies, or to the pet shop.  If I'm lucky, I leave Petsmart with a sparkly new dog collar, or a bigger fish tank.  Four years ago yesterday, I left with a new cage, water bottle, litter pan, Oxbow food, sunflower seeds, yogies treats, and two young male dumbo rats.

On day one I named them:  Sam and Dean W.  Dean hid inside the empty tissue box I gave them.  Sammy explored every inch of his cage and then started watching me instead, grasping the cage bars in his little pink hands and staring out at me with curious dark eyes.

On day two I opened the cage and offered both rats sunflower seeds.  Dean hid inside his tissue box again.  Sammy ate all the seeds and then climbed onto my arm in order to slurp coffee out of my mug.  Later he did the same with my vodka tonic.  I fell in love with him before I'd had him for 24 hours.

For two and a half years, through three job changes, two major moves, and many more motherly hospital dramas, Sam and Dean stayed with me.  While Dean always remained standoffish, his brother was an outgoing bundle of enthusiasm and affection.  He was intelligent, learning to spin on command in ten minutes, and he always came when called.  He returned kisses with tiny rat licks.  He rode on my shoulder while I cooked, and when I worked at my desk, he hunkered down in the corner of the cage closest to me and dozed there, waking whenever a chip bag crinkled or ice cubes clinked.  He had to be chased away from alcoholic beverages, because god, he was a lush.


Petsmart didn't know the exact ages of the boys, so I estimated their birthday as December 25th.  The first year we failed to celebrate, as the living room ceiling caved in that night, and Sammy decided the bucket collecting dirty water from above would make an excellent swimming pool.  The next year we had presents, new plush hammocks and a tiny birthday cake made from a banana slice with yogurt for icing, and sprinkles.

They never made it to their third birthday.

We had been traveling a lot.  My mother, having had a leg amputation, was never going to be able to come back to her two-level farmhouse, so I was in the process of packing up her belongings.  In between packing, the rats, the dogs, and I drove into the city to babysit my dementia-challenged grandmother,, who could never remember who I was, why I was in her house, or why I had my "hamsters" with me.  For sanity we escaped for a few days at a time to a tiny cabin in the mountains.

The boys were handling the stress with their usual curiosity and hardiness, though Dean had begun to develop health issues, arthritis in his back legs, and cataracts.  He longer enjoyed his cage-free time, preferred to remain curled up in a fleecie, but he still loved grooming his brother, and, well, eating.  He didn't nip  anymore, though of course he only ever had nipped at all, lightly and without breaking the skin, when he was frightened.  Now he seemed to have accepted that I was trustworthy.  Both rats had weekly baths, and while Sammy resisted his with a passion, Dean almost seemed to enjoy being cleaned and dried and cuddled afterward.  Sammy, despite the occasional stiff feet in cold weather, was still energetic and healthy, and I worried how he might grieve if his brother passed on.

The morning of actual farmhouse moving day, I opened the cage for feeding time.  I could see Sammy's head in the entrance to his plastic igloo, where he and his brother always cuddled up at night.  He wasn't moving, though his eyes were open.  After a few seconds of staring, hand full of food frozen over their bowl, it occurred to me that he looked very strange, very unnatural.  Then it occurred to me that Sammy looked dead.

If you've lost a pet suddenly, you know that feeling.  The shock, the denial.  Picking up the body in your hands and feeling the stiffness, the cool of it, but still thinking:  No, maybe he's just, maybe I can, maybe.

Sammy is buried in Pennsylvania, in a place I almost never go, his grave very far away from me now.  It was mid-November, thirty-eight degrees and me wearing only a hoodie, but it didn't feel cold when I was digging his grave.  All it felt like was pain, hollow, heart-and-lungs clenching pain.  Private pain, the kind you allow no one else to witness, because it's too deep.

I don't know how or why Sammy died that way.  Maybe a heart attack, and maybe that's my fault, for letting him get to be too much of a big squishy fat rat.  I don't know.  Dean followed him a month later, one week before his third birthday.  Dean was not unexpected.  His arthritis took a hard turn.  He couldn't walk, but had to drag his back half.  He developed an abscess on his jaw that grew with horrifying speed.  I told myself I should take him to a vet and have him put down, but could not do it.  So there's guilt for that, too, for letting his pain last days longer than it should have.  The night he wouldn't even slurp up his pureed chicken baby food, I knew it was the end.  He was gone by morning.  And I thought, knowing it was coming, knowing we hadn't been close the way I had been with his brother, it would be easier.  It wasn't.  He wasn't Sammy, but he was lovely and unique in his own way.  In the sly, skittish way he stole food, or cash from my purse, or pens with rubber grips.  In the way he stood back and watched his brother learn to do tricks, and then copied them very carefully, hoping he too might get a carrot stick.

I still cry over the boys.  Ugly, snotty crying, like I'm doing right now.  They left an empty space that has not been filled.  Six months, and sometimes I still look to the place where their cage used to be and expect to see tails hanging out through the bars.

What makes it worse is the fact they were rats.  If I'd lost a beloved dog, other people might understand.  But rats are undesirable creatures, spreaders of disease, nasty dirty rodents that should never be kept as pets, much less by a thirty year old woman.  Sammy never bit anyone, not me or strangers or even overly curious dogs.  When he was physically able, Dean spent more time grooming himself than a cat.  Both rats were litter trained in a single day, without ever having seen a litter box in their life.  But I cannot share these things with other people unless I want the looks--at best, carefully blank, at worst, disgusted.  I cannot understand their narrow-mindedness, and every time someone says something ignorant or condescending, I hate them violently.

My dogs are alive, thank god, and getting extra hugs and cuddles and healthy treats.  I am bonded with them.  I was bonded with the rats.  There is no difference.  I've lost a friend.  It hurts.

I thought, when I started typing, there would be a point to all this.  But maybe I just needed to get it out.  Maybe the only point is that I miss my little guys, that three years ago yesterday I looked into their expectant faces for the first time, and today I cannot stop crying.  Maybe the point is that my life is such madness right now, crying for Sammy is the easiest thing to cry for.  And maybe the point is that through all the sadness and pain in the world, you have to keep trying to push through and remember the good and the beautiful--about your rats, about your mother, about every single day of this life.