And we had a great time also! 😀 And of note: those buckeyes are delicious. He is NOT exaggerating 😉
Last night I had two wonderful visitors come to visit me at my apartment: my friend and fellow writer Joleene Naylor, whom you’ve probably seen around the blog quite a bit, especially in the comments, and her husband Charles, who were passing through Central Ohio on a trip to West Virginia, and made a point to stop by.
I’ve been blogging and Facebooking and tweeting for over six years, so I’ve had plenty of time to make friends with numerous other writers, Joleene among them. Unfortunately, the distance between me and all these other writers often means we’re confined to online interaction. So when an opportunity to visit comes up, I get really excited (and a little nervous) and look forward to meeting them. And last night, I finally got to meet Joleene in person.
Joleene and Charles…
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It’s time again for blogophilia, the fun blog group where martien gives participants prompts to use in their blog. This week’s are:
We’re on the road….
I took lots of pics… apologies but the gallery feature is not working 😦
We stopped in Mt. Pleasant for food
And visited hubby’s step dad for awhile, then stopped at Burlington where a nice guy in the gas station told us they now had Sonic.
Then we made it to Peoria where we got a room
And now back to it!
Have a sonic kinda day!
Vampires of the World bundle – 8 novels box set… coming soon and already available for pre-order at Amazon, Apple, Barnes&Noble and Kobo!
I mean to blog. I really do. I just haven’t had time, I guess. Dad is home and doing good. Mom is still kicking. The cat is at the vet today, though. I did get Daniel edited and published, and will work on tidying Dismas up next.
Anyway, it’s time again for Blogophilia, the fun blog group where Martien gives participants prompts to use in their blog. This week’s prompts are:
This is slightly longer than usual. Okay, it’s almost twice as long as usual. What can I say, they just wouldn’t shut up. Part 2 next week.
“…And they call it puppy love…”
With a grunt, Fallon kicked the record stand. The arm jumped, the needle skipped, and the syrupy music died.
“Hey!” Lara jerked up from her magazine, chocolate eyes narrowed. “What the hell was that?”
Fallon pulled back to kick the stand again, but she leapt to her feet and pushed him back. “You’ll scratch it!”
“Good. I’m sick of that song.” He flopped on the couch and dropped his head back. When he spoke he could hear the soft southern drawl, more pronounced with his irritation. “I’m sick of all your music. Can’t you get something new?”
Laura fussed with taking the record off and carefully putting it back in its sleeve. “I don’t like any of the new stuff. Music peaked-”
“In the fifties and early sixties,” he finished for her. “But we’ve been stuck there for twenty years. Isn’t it time to give that crap a rest?”
She shot him a dark look then carefully placed another record on the player. As a do-wop song by the Platters echoed through the room, Fallon made a show of burying his head under a pillow. “For the love of God. I go on duty in two hours. Can’t you wait that long?”
“Fine!” She jerked the arm off the record with a huff, then dropped back to the floor and her magazines. “We can just sit in silence for two hours. Is that better?”
He didn’t bother to reply. It didn’t matter what he said, he couldn’t win – not against his sister. She always found some way to twist things around, and if she couldn’t she’d resort to pouting.
Just like when we were kids.
As the quiet settled around the little apartment, the snip-snip of the scissors seemed too loud. His curiosity piqued, he dropped the pillow and leaned forward to see what she was doing. He looked form a pile of random magazine images, all neatly cut out, to the current heart shape she so carefully snipped.
“Another collage?” he asked finally.
“You don’t need to sound so disparaging.”
“I wasn’t disparaging. I just asked-”
“I was the way you said another. Like it was a waste of my time.” She stopped cutting to look over her shoulder. “I’ll tell you who doesn’t think it’s a waste of time: Warren.”
Fallon’s teeth ground together at the name and his mind conjured a vampire with dark hair and a leather jacket; something straight from one of her fifties rock ballads. A bad boy with a chip on his shoulder. He was just missing the motorcycle.
“I thought we discussed him.”
Laura scoffed and went back to her work. “No, you discussed him. I said I liked him, and you said-”
“That he’s trouble. He’s not the kind of guy who’s going to appreciate you making a collage for him.”
“That’s what you think.” Snip-snip. “He likes them. He thinks it’s artistic and creative. There’s more to him than you think.”
“Right. And after he’s gotten what he wants-”
She set the scissors down and drew a steadying breath. “Fallon, I am one hundred and forty years old-”
“One hundred and thirty-eight.”
“Close enough!” she snapped. “As I was saying, I’m more than an adult, Fallon, and I don’t need you to look out for me.”
“You’d rather I just sit back and watch you get your heart broken, again?” He saw her stiffen and regretted his words. “I’m sorry. But-”
“Why don’t you go to work?” she asked through clenched teeth.
“My shift doesn’t start for…” He realized escape was the best option. “Yeah. Good idea.”
He scurried to his bedroom and changed into the black uniform of a greater guard. A quick brush of his hair yielded the same results as usual; it went where it wanted. He flicked the blonde curls that brushed his shoulders. If he’d only had time to grow it longer before he was turned.
Or cut it shorter.
The curls were his curse to bear through eternity, just like Lara was his curse. Except he sometimes got a break from her for a decade or two.
Dressed, he trooped back through the small living room. He quipped a goodbye that was ignored, then headed out into the carpeted corridor. He knew he’d made her really mad, but he’d meant well. He really didn’t want it to be like the last mess.
With that thought, he headed to the office. A group of five guards waited in a knot inside, while another sat behind the desk, on the phone.
“Look, I need one more to send to Malick…He wants to choose Executioner Griselda’s support himself this time…You know how he gets when he’s bored…I doubt he’ll choose you-” He broke off when he met Fallon’s eyes. “Never mind. Lucky number six just walked through the door.”
Fallon held up his hands. “I’m not on duty for another hour and some.”
The guard hug the phone up. “I don’t care. Report with the others to Malick’s chambers. He’ll choose some of you to accompany-”
“Executioner Griselda,” Fallon said irritably.
“Right, right. Off you go.” The guard motioned them with a wave of his hand, then turned back to paperwork, as if he was just too busy to be bothered.
Fallon bit back his argument and followed the others out the door. Though they were all from a different shift, he’d worked with them before on different things. He fell into step next to Fletcher. Vampires were pale by nature, but Fletcher gave the word a whole new meaning. His black hair and dark eyes made the effect worse.
“So what’s the assignment?”
Fletcher shrugged. “No idea, though I don’t think it’s anything important.”
“I hate when Malick does this, especially when it’s something trivial. Doe she really need to hand select us?”
“Especially when he’s let the guard on duty or the Executioners pick for more serious assignments. I think Noris was right. Malick is just bored.”
Fallon barely hid a snort. “If anyone knows it’s Noris. He’s been a guard for – what? A hundred years?”
Belle, the only woman in the group, looked back. “Something like that. I heard he’ll never advance because he helped in a revolt, then came crawling back. I have no idea if it’s true.”
They fell silent as they boarded the elevator. The deeper they went in the citadel, the stronger the presence of the ancient masters became. By the time they stopped on the lowest floor, Fallon could hear his heart hammering in his ears. He took a deep breath and tried to force the fear away. Malick didn’t call them downstairs to punish them. Hell, he hadn’t even asked for anyone by name.
The guards marched down the black corridor in a knot. Fallon nodded at those tasked with guarding the hallway that lead to the High Council’s personal chambers. He couldn’t imagine having to deal with the full blast of them all the time.
The hallway wound down around a corner and finally to Malick’s doors. Before they could even knock, the master’s booming voice bid them enter. Fallon and Fletcher dropped to the back of the group as they headed through an anti-chamber and into an open room stuffed with plants and a fountain. Grow lights kept the vegetation alive, a change from Malick’s old habit of having them dragged upstairs before sunup and back again after sundown.
Unlike us, they need their sunlight.
In the center of the room stood Griselda. Tall for a woman, she was dressed in the customary black, with a silver medallion around her neck, and a long coat folded over her arm.
In front of her, Malick sat on a carved bench, his red robe a contrast to the zebra skin that hung behind him. A long silver beard and silver hair gave him the appearance of wisdom, while dark eyes sparkled with the power of his years. Fallon looked everywhere but his face. He studied the new shoots of a plant, the fraying edge of a rug, and even the soft wisps of Griselda’s blonde hair that had come loose from her bun. Anything was better than looking at him.
Malick waved his hand, and Griselda turned her cornflower blue eyes on them. “I need four of you for an easy assignment. In total, we should be gone no more than a week.”
No one spoke, so she added, “We will head to California by plane. If this is a problem for anyone bow out now. I don’t want to find out you’re afraid of flying after we’ve taken off.”
One of the guards stepped back sheepishly, but no one else moved. With a chuckle, Malick stood and laid a hand on Griselda’s shoulder. “My child, do not be impatient with them. I believe our presence overwhelms them, yes? Most are young.” His eyes darted over the group, and they unconsciously drew closer to one another, as if the small power of numbers could save them. Fallon felt the master in his head for a moment – a burst of intrusion, like a match flaming to life and then dying in the same breath. Though he wasn’t a mind reader himself, he could almost feel as it happened to the others; as Malick peered into their heads and abandoned them as quickly.
“There.” Malick suddenly motioned towards Fallon, Fletcher, Belle, and another. “Take them.”
Fallon’s heart raced as the master looked over him, but the ancient vampire as quickly turned away and moved back to his bench. “I believe things have been arranged already?”
Griselda bowed low. “Yes, master.” When a flick of his fingers said she’d cow-towed enough, she straightened and marched for the door. “Meet me upstairs in five minutes.”
The chosen hurried to their rooms to pack. Fallon found Lara still cutting things out, her music playing full volume. He shouted over it to say he’d be gone a few days, but got no reaction. With a shake of his head, he tossed clothes and toiletries into a bag, then tried a final time to tell her goodbye. She pointedly ignored him, and he tried a final, “I’ll write when we get there, so you won’t worry.”
“I won’t worry,” she said icily.
But he knew she would.
Fletcher and Belle were already upstairs. When the fourth joined them, they headed out into the night. Heavy clouds obscured the sky with the threat of rain, and frost crusted the dead leaves. Winter would be there soon. Another winter in a string of so many.
One hundred and forty, he thought wryly.
A van waited, a guard in the driver’s seat, Griselda next to him, eyeing her watch. They climbed inside, and settled in for the short trip to the airfield. A rural strip designed for crop dusters, it had been modified over the years to handle The Guild’s bigger planes. Though the vampires were supposed to be a secret, somehow the mortals always did just what was needed. As if Malick was manipulating them from deep in the earth.
He probably is.
The van came to life and the radio snapped on. Fallon closed his eyes, safe at least from Lara’s fifties collection.
But the question remained. Why had Malick chosen them? Had he seen something when he looked into their thoughts? Or had he chosen them based on abilities? He couldn’t imagine that. Griselda was an agonizer, Belle a titan, and Fletcher and the other were phantoms. How would his own angel eye ability help? True, it was rare, but it wasn’t especially useful. Seeing the future, now that was something, but seeing the past…
His master had called the ability a curse; and sometimes it was. To see past moments captured like a painting, to hear old sorrows, and betrayals, all the dark things that people would rather forget. Though the past wasn’t always made of those moments, those were the ones Fallon most usually saw, as if his subconscious will was bent only on misery.
“…Let me steal this moment from you now…”
Fallon focused on the song for a moment, then shook his head. It wasn’t really like stealing their moments. He couldn’t feel them like a mind reader could, or look through their eyes, only see what had happened, like an observer watching playacting.
And it’s just as well, he mused. Memories could be faulty, biased, twisted. Even the most talented mind reader was never guaranteed the truth, only their victim’s version of it. On the other hand, he could see things as they’d happened, with no interference, like a fortune teller in reverse.
So even if they’ve forgotten something, I can still find out the truth. Lara had once joked that it was like asking an elephant what had happened. When he’d asked what she meant, her answer had been a groan worthy, “Because an elephant never forgets!”
Her sense of humor needs some real work.
The van stopped at the airstrip, and they filed out to a waiting plane. Decorated in leather and frosted glass, the interior resembled a board room more than a vehicle. A sign of the modern times.
Fallon belted himself into an overstuffed seat next to Fletcher. Griselda took one farther away. Once she was situated she pulled out a Walkman and popped a pair of headphones on. Fallon could just hear the refrain of a song he didn’t recognize.
Probably too modern.
Fletcher checked his watch as the plane rose in the air. “We should get there well before sunrise. I imagine they have a place to stay worked out already.”
Belle leaned over from a nearby seat. “I hope so. I don’t want to be caught in the sun again. Not that it would hurt you.”
Fletcher arched an eyebrow, and she explained, “As pale as you are, you’ll just reflect the sun back.”
Fallon chuckled and settled in for the flight. Hopefully it really would be an easy assignment.
They landed at a quiet airstrip in California. With an hour to sunset, they hurried to a nearby den. Their hosts’ lack of enthusiasm was palpable, but Griselda only commented how lucky they were to be able to help The Guild.
They don’t look like they feel very lucky.
The next evening they set out to take up residence with another coven. Their den was a small house near the ocean. Fallon could smell the salt water and thought of Lara’s Beach Boys collection. Though they were just on the edge of the so-called “musical peak”, she owned every album.
“Why don’t we live near the beach?” she’d asked more than once. “We could learn to surf. Wouldn’t that be fun?”
It sounded horrible to him. Plus – “Because The Guild isn’t near the beach.”
“You don’t have to work for them, you know. Most vampires don’t.”
This was usually where he sighed. “I know, but I like it. I get to travel, and we don’t have to worry about coven wars or territory disputes, or hunting rights. If you want to go live on the beach, you can. You don’t have to stay here.”
And that was when she usually got mad, hurling couch pillows and accusations. “You’d like that. You want rid of me, don’t you? You’re sorry that you turned me!”
And of course he wasn’t really, and they both knew it, but it gave her something to say, something to make him defend against, and once he was on the defensive he’d already lost. Not that he was sure what the contest even was.
He still remembered when she and their brother Orson were turned. Fallon had been given the immortal gift on the battlefield, after the battle of Pleasant Hill. There’d been no hill, had the bloody engagement had been far from pleasant, more like hell. Worse, they’d given the win the Yankees, though the Union had turned tail and run afterward.
Not that he’d been there to see them retreat. He remembered lying among the tall grass, gasping for air, and watching the sky darken. Moans sounded around him like crickets, quieting as men lost themselves to the endless slumber of death. He’d thought of his girl, Clarice, and of his family, and prayed that they’d at least find out what happened to him; that he wouldn’t just be reported missing as so many other men were.
That was when Lucien found him. He learned later that the vampire and his coven were combing through the remnants of the battle in search of food, but at the time he took them for angels or demons; a sign of his transition to the afterlife.
Lucian had looked him over, form the spill of his curly blonde hair, to his smooth, dirt smeared face, and declared that the “boy is too well made to allow death to take him.”
Though Fallon had lost consciousness, Lucien carried him back to their den and turned him. It had taken Fallon time to adjust to everything; to warm to Lucian, his mate Eva, and the others. But even warming to them couldn’t stop his worry. His father had been killed in Donaldsonville, leaving his mother alone to take care of his sister and younger brother, one eighteen and the other fifteen.
Kinder than many masters, Lucian not only let Fallon sneak home a month later, but accompanied him. They found his mother dead of sickness, Lara ill, and Orson determined to throw his own life away in the war. As a new fledgling, Lucien warned that Fallon wasn’t strong enough to turn both of them himself, and so he Orson, leaving Lara to Fallon.
Maybe that’s why Orson never wanted to stay, Fallon mused. He didn’t have the same connection as Lara and I.
They’d left the next night for Lucian’s den. Fallon had thought of visiting Clarice, of maybe turning her, too, but his new master refused. “You’ve already asked a great deal, and been granted it. Do not push for more.”
Fifty years later, Fallon had gone home looking for her, curious how her life had turned out. He couldn’t find her, or anyone who knew where she’d gone. His story about being distant relation – because how could he explain that he hadn’t aged? – was suspect and he’d given it up.
Just one of those little mysteries we’re not meant to know the answer to, I suppose.
Not that it mattered. If his strange ability had taught him anything, it was the futility of dwelling on that which had already come to pass.
You can’t change it, anyway.
The assignment was to handle a dispute among covens. Four of them, including their hosts, claimed that the hunting territory belonged to their coven first, and that the others were interlopers who’d muscled in.
He wrote Lara a quick letter, to let her know he got there safely and what was going on. He imagined her question, “Why does the territory matter so much?” and added:
“The territory makes a difference because if too many vampires hunt people in the same location, the mortals start to notice the high rate of disappearances. And noticing can lead to investigating, which leads to mortals discovering us. It’s important for covens that share hunting grounds to work together to keep human casualties low enough not to draw attention, and if they can’t get along then someone has to relocate. The Laws say that it’s first come, meaning whoever was here first gets to stay and the rest have either capitulate or leave.”
He stopped from adding, “This is why I like working for the Guild. We don’t have to worry about this.”
Griselda gave him permission to mail it, and then set him to work at coven number two’s den, leaning against the wall, his hand on his weapon as he tried to look menacing. She interviewed them, and logged their claim of first ownership. The experience was the same at the third coven and the fourth, and when they returned to their hosts early in the morning, they were no closer to a resolution.
“I’ll contact The Guild and see what information they have. Meanwhile, you!” She turned her blue eyes on Fallon. “You’re an angel eye, yes?”
“Can you determine the truth? Who was here first?”
“I can try,” he offered uncomfortably. “I can’t make promises.”
She nodded. “Do what you can. In the meantime, tomorrow Belle and Fletcher, you will visit the local courthouse and check property records.”
They saluted and Belle asked, “What if we can’t determine who was here first?”
Griselda scoffed. “In five days I’ll make a decision regardless, even if I have to flip a coin. The covens will respect the ruling or die.”
Death. The Executioners’ usual means of forcing compliance. Always effective, it was guaranteed to work. Either they did as they were told out of fear, or they suffered the consequences. Either way, the problem was solved.
1) swimming hole 2) Taking a dip 3) get back here 4) following 5) get in here 6) this one is really hard. 7) I bet Jonathan “magically” guesses it, though. 8) Yeah, I’m still suspicious. 9) natural pool 10) shallow 11) where’s the beach? 12) rock and pool is nice and cool 13) secret place 14) tucked away 15) come on in, the water’s fine 16) canyon 17) painted rocks 18) water in the desert 19) oasis 20) just swimmingly
Wednesday was a lazy day. A couple trips to the store, breakfast for dinner, and TV pretty much wraps it up. Not bad at all.
We did try an aloe drink:
It was mostly grape juice with jelly bits of aloe in it, so not bad tasting. Unlike the chips:
They’re missing something, though Ryhan liked them.
I mentioned TV right?
We watched Annabelle, which was okay, Bye Bye Man, which was pretty dumb, and The Smurfs Lost Village which was cute, and I was subjected to Big Brother, ha ha!
Oh, and my rash is getting better.
More excitement later.
Have a good one!
I’m using this as my weekly blogophilia post. The prompts are:
Yesterday I was thankful for Dad’s results. The mass is just a fatty cyst, though his prostate is enlarged. However I’m guessing it’s not cancerous as their two treatment options are to “hollow it out” (what????) or bypass it with a catheter between his bladder and kidneys. He has to see a heart doctor to determine if he’s healthy enough and what not.
So while it’s still something it’s better than it could be.
Though I am on vacation, I had to get up at 7 to go to the dentist (long story). The traffic in Springfield was crazy, there were so many cars that we were just a face in the crowd. Seriously, I’d forgotten about it. Though the dentist office has moved to the edge of town and with exits closed we took a scenic route.
Their new office is swanky
Anyway, after the initial appointment I had to come back at 4, so we killed some time with breakfast:
Yes, despite what they told us in Mississippi, the omelette biscuit is still available in Springfield. Whoo hoo!
After that we went to the Super hyvee, which is gigantic, and Chris got his candy bar.
He loves those.
It would have been nice to go to an art museum and see Vampire’s Kiss by Boris Vallejo, but alas we just wandered around until lunch time. The taco truck was in town!!! I love the taco truck!
We did get to visit with Pattie for awhile, so that was awesome.
Anyway, we eventually got back to the dentist and then headed back to Bolivar where amazing pokemon were out.
And my amazing niece made amazing cheesecake.
I could get addicted to this, easily!
We also watched all of the Lemony Snicket episodes, so now to wait for season 2.
And now I must go to Aldi’s. Have a cheesecake kinda day!