Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Tomatoes & Grand Maester Aleister

Life is like growing tomatoes.  You plant them, a whole lot of them, red ones and purple ones and black ones and green ones and ones that are supposed to beat cancer.  You fertilize them and mulch them and weed them and every single day you water them (and if you're really crazy, you bring a measuring stick to see how much your little darlings have grown since yesterday).  You think:  These are going to be the best tomatoes ever.  These tomatoes are going to be legen... dary!

Then one day you're inspecting your plant and you see this:

An evil monster.  Okay, a tomato caterpillar.  Either way, it has invaded the sanctity of your garden and is currently munching down on your beautiful plants.

And you can't kill it because, you know, you're incapable of killing things.  You are the person who finds a mouse in a glue trap and gently, lovingly rinses its tiny hands and tail in warm soapy water to extract it, and then let it go running right back into the hole behind your cupboard where it's presumably been storing all the ramen it steals.

So a cute little green worm that's all busy trying to look ferocious?  Please, bitch.  Get out of jail free card.

But you carry it all the way across the yard to release it elsewhere, and hope that's all there is to the tomato munching.

Then the leaves of one plant start to yellow and droop.

Another plant develops black spots.

A third plant is the victim of a weed-whacker-wielding maniac (you).

And six whole plants decide to tear their stakes out of the ground and fall over and oh god they can't get up.

And you despair, you think these plants are never going to yield tomatoes, they are all going to die and all your hard work all your tears and blood yes blood from all the goddamn insect bites and stings, all of that pain is going to mean jack shit.

And then--


The first tomato ripens.

At the same time that you have an abundance of fresh basil and a new block of mozzarella.

And all is right with the world.

The owl, in case you are wondering, is named Grand Maester Aleister.  About the same time I picked him up from the Antiques Barn, I found the first owl pellet out back in my herb garden.  Full of fur and bones and lovely things.  This, after the voles or some other tiny creatures devoured my strawberry crop.

So I can't kill living things but... beware my loyal attack owl.

I'm pretty sure I meant to go somewhere else with this post.

Monday, July 20, 2015


Sweetness is coming.  Like, ferr realll.

After five drafts, lots of red wine, and even more Cheetos to help me through the dark times, I've finally finished a new novel.  Sweet - a paranormal romance (light on the paranormal, heavy on the angst relationship issues) about a fairy, an incubus, and all the reasons best friends should/shouldn't fall in love.

The fully edited and polished version will be available on Kindle and in print somewhere about mid-August.  But if you're impatient like meeee, you can read a slightly more raw version for free here on FictionPress right now.  The free version will (*frowny face*) go buh-bye when the paid one comes out.  But, yes, of course there will be free days to nab the final kindle version later on.

I leave you with an image of the brand new cover...  And then I go curl up on the couch and finish watching The Bachelorette: The Men Tell All, because it's been a hellish day and only drama regarding cute men and red wine and yet more Cheetos and THE THOUGHT OF A NEW NOVEL will make me feel human again.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Just a Rat and His Cookie

Because some days (years), you just need to stare at a picture of an adorable creature eating a yummy cookie until you feel better.

This is Sammy.  In general he is a healthy rat who prefers to eat carrot sticks, lettuce, and nutritious rat chow.  But then, some days a rat just needs a cookie, too.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Do You Believe in Magic?

I do.  Because after six long, LONG years... I have a new story that I'm in love with.

Today marks the publication of The Magician's Assistant, a novelette about darkness, desire, atoning for bad decisions... and, yes, real, bone-deep magic.

It all starts when a young man named Rain answers an employment ad.  Seeking, the ad reads, a discreet young man to assist master magician in live performances.  Apply in person...

But when Rain arrives, he finds himself interviewing for far more than a job.  This magician is no charlatan.  He's as hard and cold as his magic, magic than can send a sword through a man's heart and leave it beating.  To take that sword, his assistant must possess unique qualities.  Obedience.  Loyalty.  Trust.  And maybe... love.

If Rain can give all that, and somehow persuade the magician to offer it back, he might just find the life he's been searching for.

The Magician's Assistant is available for purchase from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo Books, iTunes, and just about everywhere else ebooks are sold.

And now, being properly exhausted, I shall leave you with an excerpt.

**Adult material - not for readers under 18**

“Are you quite comfortable?”

Rain smiled slightly.  His spine stretched unnaturally against the drag of his own body, his toes just barely brushing the floor.  Chains ground against his wrist bones, and already the strain made his shoulders ache, set his arms on fire.  “Not… exactly.”

The magician nodded.  He adjusted neither chain or hook.

And that, at least, was exactly what Rain had expected of him.  His smile hardened.  So the magician wanted to hurt him?  Good.  He could handle it.

The magician circled him, chin tipped down.  His hair fell forward to shadow his gaze.  “The sword,” he said, “is a tool in many tricks of illusion.  But this is not a trick.  I do not practice illusion; my business is magic.  Do you believe in magic, boy?”

“Yes, sir.”

“In truth?”

“I believe, sir.”

“Then if I were to put this blade through your belly, you believe that I could do so without causing harm to your body?”

Rain sucked in a labored breath.  “Yes, sir.”

“There is only one matter remaining then.  Trust.”  The corner of the magician’s mouth lifted in an acerbic half-smile.  He bent to retrieve the mended scarf he’d set aside earlier.  It trailed silken and sin black from his hands.  “Do you trust me, boy?”

Rain stared at the scarf.  In four years, he had never been blindfolded.  It was his only hard limit, the one thing he would not allow.  He would do anything, give himself over to anything—as long as he could see it coming.

This was his last chance to walk away.  Even with the shut door and the chains locked around him, the magician was giving him one final chance to leave unscathed.

But he couldn’t.  Because there was the word, trust, and that was what it all came down to.  Did he trust this man?

Arctic eyes gazed back at him with scarcely veiled amusement—and challenge.  The gaze and the half-bitter smile told him he was a fool to trust.  Rain thought he might be just that, because for the life of him, he couldn’t walk away now.

“Yes, sir.”  He let his eyes slide shut.  “I trust you, sir.”

The air stirred in hot currents as the magician stepped in close.  Silk whispered against Rain’s cheek and then settled into place over his eyes.  He could smell the other man on the fabric, a scent of orange and clove that teased him, that made him wish for the touch of impossibly warm skin against him.  His heart beat hard and fast.  But the magician didn’t touch him.  Not yet.

It was cold steel that found his skin.  Cold steel that touched and kissed him.  Not slicing, not stabbing, though his body reacted as if it did,  muscles contracting in an instinctive effort to pull him out of harm’s way.  Instinctive and futile, as the chains clanked and pulled tight at his wrists.  The sword went on as if he hadn’t moved at all, the tip of it grazing the ridge of his hipbone, rising to slowly count his ribs.  Light as a breath, the blade traced over his chest, circling each nipple with a deliberate closeness that made Rain’s breath catch.

“And still you trust me?” the magician murmured.

Rain forced a hard exhale.  “Yes.”

The rapier stroked a straight line down from the center of his chest, sharp point coming to rest in the indent of his navel.

“And now?”

A flush crept up Rain’s neck.  His groin flooded with heat.  “Yes.  Always.”

“Good,” the magician said, and pushed the sword forward...


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Waiting for the Sun

It occurs to me this morning that I have spent a great many nights sitting awake with my heart pounding, waiting for some sign that the sky is lightening, that dawn is coming.  Which is strange, because I'm not afraid of the night.  I find it quite lovely and peaceful.  The vast spread of glittering constellations,  the ghostly arc of the moon.  The call of whippoorwills and the great horned owl that lives in my yard, the wild shrieking of a passing coyote pack.  These are the things I love about the nocturnal hours.

Things I don't love:

Bears.  Last summer I was alone at my family's mountain cabin, getting ready to take the dogs for their 10pm walk, when a snuffling sound outside alerted me to the presence of two half-grown black bears in the yard, scarfing down seeds I'd stupidly left out for the chipmunks.  I scared them as badly as they scared me, and they bolted.  Probably to sleep somewhere nice and cozy.  I however, stayed awake all night, jumping at every noise and shining flashlights out into the woods, positive they were going to send their mama bear to get me.  (They did not.)

Door-to-door salesmen.  You hear all kinds of horror stories about criminals pretending to be salesmen in order to gain access to your house.  So when I encounter one who's a bit too chatty - oh, do you live alone here, ma'am? - I immediately assume they are canvasing the neighborhood and will return under cover of darkness with crowbars, locksmith kits, and bad intentions.  Which means... I stay up all night, all week, with lights blazing and special booby traps set up in front of the front door to alert me in case I actually do fall asleep.

Also, freezing weather.  I never feared this until this winter.  But then, for the last seven years I've lived in a Manhattan apartment building where the big winter problem was that they cranked the heat up to eighty.  Here in the country?  Pipes freeze.  Even, apparently, if you leave the hot and cold water dripping overnight.  Hence you wake up at three in the morning to use the bathroom and discover that your upstairs cold water pipe has frozen.  Hence you spend the next several hours wide awake, terrified your pipe (which is buried somewhere in the wall) is going to burst, your landlord is going to make your pay for it, and oh, yeah, he's going to kick you out while you're supposed to be watching the place for your mother who's spending six months in rehab after having part of her leg amputated.

Hence I am awake this morning, exhausted, and still trying to warm my house up enough to thaw this goddamned pipe.  Did I mention the electric heat chose last night to stop working?  And we are expecting a fresh snowstorm to commence in three... two... one...

And, hence, I was awake once again to watch as the night lightened to gray, and color crept slowly back into the world.  Dawn is, possibly, the most beautiful thing I've ever seen.

If it's common knowledge that that darkest hour comes right before the dawn... I will be here.  Waiting up for it.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Tequila Is the New Tequila

So, Tequila Angel.  It was first published in 2009 but had been up on FictionPress before that, and readers seemed to either love it or loathe it.  I loved it, but you know I'm biased.  It was a little bit of an experiment, originally written in second person over the long boring hours when there was nothing to do at my then-job.  The style was heavily influenced by all the Sin City graphic novels I was reading at the time.  If, of course, the Sin City series had featured gay rock stars having sex instead of thugs and dames with guns.  So, yes, it's overblown.  But I still love it, possibly because the main character Dave is my truest alter ego thus far.  I love Dave.  He's a dick.  But naturally that's because he's so misunderstood and vulnerable deep down inside.  Right???

In any case, I want to make Tequila Angel available across all platforms, but have to wait for its current enrollment period in KDP Select to expire.  So of course I thought, why not use up the last of the freebie days in the meantime?  Who doesn't love free?  I love free.  I have a gazillion free books from BEA, RT, and RWA, not to mention free kindle books, that I'm still trying to slog through from 2014.  So yes.  By all means, let's do THE FREE THING.

Have you any desire to do so, you can snag a free copy of the short story over here on Amazon, from today through Sunday, February 8th.  And if you are lamenting because you have no kindle/kindle app, fear not, I shall imminently announce availability on Nook and other platforms.

This is the incorrigible and ever hopeful L.F. Blake, signing off.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


For the last three years I've been working on the same story on and off.  It started off as a short story, about 8k, and altogether unsatisfying.  Over the last year especially, I've been rewriting it over and over, letting it get longer and more meaningful (to me, at least).  But lately I feel like I'm at that point where I've more or less lost my ability to judge the whole thing.  Are my characters shallow?  Wimpy?  And how shallow is too shallow by the way?

Clearly this means it's time for second opinions, which means posting it up on my favorite site, FictionPress.com.  Years ago, I was there all the time, writing and reading, but I fell away from it as most of my stories seemed to be stalling out and never getting finished.  A lot of the people have changed now, but the site itself remains essentially the same, and I'm exciting to get back to it now that I'm writing seriously/happily again.  And of course I can't wait to dig through and find some new stories to follow.

The story I'm posting is Sweet, a novella (novel?) about an incubus and a fey with a self-destructive relationship.  It's set in the fictional city of New Berlin, which is where most of my new work is set.  New Berlin is every bit as toxic as Connor and David's on-again, off-again romance.  A glittering metropolis with a rotten core.

I'm expecting to post two chapters a week, as fast as I can rewrite them yet again.  :)

I can't even begin to say how glad I am to be able to bury myself in this story right now.  My mother has come through her surgery pretty well, but there is so much work that lies ahead of her now, and ahead of me.  Sometimes art really does save.

Friday, January 23, 2015


I cannot stop thinking about starfish.  Starfish, sea stars, brittle stars.  Many species have the ability to regrow lost limbs.  Some can even regenerate all new limbs and the central disk of their bodies - all from a single lost arm.

Humans cannot do this.  When injury or illness causes us to lose a body part, it's simply gone.  It can be replaced with a prosthetic, and certainly prosthetics have come a very long way.  But they'll never really be you.

Starfish and brittle stars can chose to shed their limbs.  Special connective tissues soften when the star is threatened, allowing it to lose its limb but keep its life.

If you had to make this choice, could you do it?

I like to think that I could.  I like to think that if I were ever bitten by a zombie, I'd waste no time in taking a hatchet to my own limb.  But I don't know.

Right now my mother is lying in a hospital bed facing a surgery that will amputate her right leg twelve centimeters below the knee.  It is, in her case, a true choice of life or death.  Diabetic complications have disfigured her ankle to the point where it will no longer bear her weight.  The limb is infected.  If it isn't removed, it will result in sepsis and death.

It took thirty-six hours to convince her to agree to the operation.  Thirty-six hours during which she asked, Why bother?  What kind of life can I have with one leg?  Thirty-six hours during which I stared at her in a kind of angry helplessness, and replied, You can have A LIFE.  In which you are not dead.  In which there is a chance, always a chance, of things getting better.

With the persuasion of one insistent doctor for whom I feel immense gratitude, my mother has finally agreed to the surgery.  She has finally allowed herself to feel a sliver of hope that after this operation, she will regain her health, and with the use of a prosthetic, may be more active than she had been able to be in over a year.

I'm incredibly relieved.  I'm deeply shaken.  I'm entirely terrified.

It's not me facing an operation or life without my leg.  But for a while I thought I was facing life without my mother.  My mother, who irritates me and makes me crazy, who succumbs to her depression more than she battles it, who gets into screaming matches with me over stupid, pointless things and then makes me feel terrible over when she starts crying.  My mother who taught me to swim, to makes art out of pine cones and glitter, to love horror movies, and to be a hopeless romantic.

I don't want to live without my mother.  I also don't want to live without my own leg.  I don't know now, if the choice were mine, what I would decide.  I am not a brittle star, just brittle.  And that scares the shit out of me.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Hydra is Green

Today is a good day.  Today I ran out of chartreuse.

With any other liquor it might just be a case of drinking too much.  But in the case of this particular liqueur, it's a clear sign that I have been doing my writerly duty and writing.  And better, not just writing, but writing entire drafts.

Tennis players have weird sock rituals.  I have this:  Every time I finish a complete draft, I pour a glass of chartreuse over ice.  I prop my feet up on my desk.  I put Antichrist Superstar on the stereo.  And I toast myself to a job well done.

Self-indulgent, maybe.  But in an occupation that involves so much isolation, hair-tearing, and ideas that never come to fruition, I like to celebrate the small things.

Today's celebration is even more important for the fact that what reached its end was the third draft of a novelette that hopefully only needs a few final edits and a good polish before being ready to launch into the world.  (I would very much like to launch another story into the world before I die of old age.  Or frustration.)

What's even more important?  I really like this story.  I think I love it.  Definitely I love the characters, who are totally fucked up in a beautiful sort of way.  They say things to each other like, I'd rather hurt you than anyone else.  I'd rather be hurt by you than anyone else.

Which probably means I have listened to bloody Sweet Dreams too many times.  (But really, can you listen to Sweet Dreams too many times?)

So yes.  Today is a very good day.

In this moment, I feel like the hydra, baby.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Art. Failure. Writing. Love. Confusion. Truth.

I'm not gonna lie.  The last couple of years have kicked my ass.

I've gone through just about every position a twenty-something can have in a literary agency without actually becoming a flat out agent - assistant, junior agent, office manager, royalties assistant/royalties manager...  I gained a lot of invaluable industry knowledge, and the certainty that I did not want to be in the business of selling other writer's books.

After that revelation came to me, I spent a lot of time frantically trying to figure out what I did want to do.  Write, was the first thing that came to mind, just like it's been the first thing that came to mind since I was twelve.  I like to think I'm smarter now than I was at twelve.  But really... not.  No, upon the decision that I would (once again) attempt to become a professional, paid storyteller...  I immediately set off to write a lot of stories carefully calculated to appeal to a mainstream audience and make me enough money to live off.

Head, meet wall.  You know the drill.

In short, I wrote a lot of things my heart wasn't in.  And because my heart wasn't in them, most of them turned out pretty shitty.  Yet I kept telling myself I had to keep going, because if I stopped, I'd never get anywhere, if I stopped, I'd end up working a job that made me miserable for the rest of my life...

At some point, I realized it wasn't just the job that was making me miserable.

Just me, as usual, trying to force myself to be something I wasn't "for my own good."

Why am I saying this?  Why am I typing out a pointless confession as if the internet is my own personal diary?  God, I wish I knew.  Call it therapy, maybe.  Self-therapy via internet.

All I know is this:  I want to be in love with what I write.  I want to laugh and bawl along with characters that seem more real to me sometimes than my own family.  I want crazy, dark, twisted, ugly, beautiful stories that make my heart feel like its breaking.

The Far Away Years was the first novel I ever wrote, and it ripped my heart out completely.  When I finished writing the first draft, I cried for a week because I didn't want it to be done.  Looking back now I see a flawed story.  But I still love it; I still love Danny and Jeff, and I still miss them.

I want that feeling back more than I want anything else.

So I'm trying a new thing now, that is somewhat of an old thing.  Going back to my roots.  I'm not the same writer I was ten years ago when the first words of The Far Away Years were written.  I'm not even the same writer I was when it was finally published six years ago.  I've lived more, loved more, hated more, cursed more, bled more.  But I'm ready to be that person again who says, fuck the mainstream, fuck my savings account, fuck everything.  This is what I love.  Beautiful or ugly, this is my art.

Don't get me wrong.  I still hope, someday, to make a living off my art.  As I embark on a new phase in my writing, I still have every intention of promoting and asking everyone I know to buy my books and be so kind as to consider reviewing.  But only as long as I can look at those books and say:  I love you.  You are the best and truest thing I was capable of in this moment.

Happy New Year.

~the long buried L.F. Blake, clawing her way to the surface again~