Tag Archive | Smashwords

Random updates

Okay, so I”ve been pouting for a few days, I admit it.  I went to the doctor last Friday and got my labs back – I have borderline autoimmune thyroid which will have to be monitored and possibly retested and Crest Syndrome – which is actually five little syndromes bundled together (Calcinosis, Raynaud’s, Esophagael  Dysmotility, Sclerodactyly, and Telangiectasia) and is also autoimmune, as is the Sjogrens I was already diagnosed with.  Joy, joy.  I guess the bright side is my immune system must be damn good if it is attacking pretty much everything, LOL! No vacation time for it!

If you follow my book publishing at all the paperback is now up, but I’m still not on Barnes & Noble 😦 I may have to forgo Smashwords on this one and put it on B&N myself. Crap.

Okay, enough bad stuff. Now for some amusing things!

So I was in yahoo mail a bit back and kept having trouble with it. Finally, a pop up box appeared that said:

Wasn’t that nice? I said “hi” back, but it seemed ot have no effect. now, of course, yahoo is trying to make me upgrade – again. I have been working around this, but I don;t know how much longer it will last.  The interesting thing about upgrading, though, is the Terms. Has anyone noticed what they say?

in case it’s too small I’ll retype it:  “to deliver product features, relevant advertising and abuse protection, Yahoo!’s automated systems scan and analyze ALL email, IM and other communication content.”

I know, I know, all email providers do this. I just wonder sometimes if anyone has actually THOUGHT about it, though…

And speaking of email scanning, google is probably one of the worst. Not that it can;t sometimes be a good thing. For instance I got one of those spammy “boo hoo send me money” mails to my google apps account and it came with a warning on the top:

I dunno. I suppose it could be worse. I mean, youtube has trained monkeys running things…

LOL! Yeah, I got a kick out of that. I never saw any trained monkeys, sadly. I have seen trained hamsters, but that was years ago on yahoo.  Perhaps they are worth sharing again, anyway just because they were cute:

I loved their little t-shirts. and speaking of little things, did you know wal-mart is now selling really expensive do it yourself barbie furniture? See:

Okay, not really. It’s too big for Barbie, but it is a nice size for bigger dolls. And yes, I know it is only a display:

I wonder what they do with the tiny displays when they’re done? I’ve always wanted the miniature display tents for my barbie collection. Maybe someday I’ll find someone and ask.

In the meantime, Wal-mart is carrying a new product in the drink aisle – or at least that’s where someone saw fit to stock it at our store:

I’ have thought the health and beauty aid section, where all the pregnancy tests are would have been a better place for this, but hey, what do I know? I guess this way you have to walk clear across the store to get your extenze and then go find the condoms. In that regard it is probably clever placement. However, it seems to me that putting it in grocery, where there is almost always some annoying, screaming child, would be counter productive.  You look at the annoying child and then think, “Gee… I could end up with one of those… think I’ll go buy something else…”

Like some princess Leia chips:

Or maybe some Halloween themed soda:

and with that I leave you for the night. Perhaps I’ll kick up my feet, have an orange monster soda and go say hello to yahoo. Maybe it will even say hi back!

Song playing at the moment – “In my Life” – the Rasmus

Bethina – Blogophilia 51.3

It’s time again for Blogophilia, the fun blog group where Marvin gives participants prompts to use in their weekly posting. This week’s prompts are:

 

  • Blogophilia 51.3 Topic: “The Journey is in the Reward”
  • Bonus Points:
  • (Hard, 2pts):  use the word “amaranthine” in a sentence
  • (Easy, 1pt) : mention autumn leaves

For the last few weeks I’ve been posting short stories about characters from my Amaranthine series that, for one reason or another, never got to say much. As an especially snifty thing I am slowly revising them and publishing them on Smashwords as freebie reads. Eventually I’m planning to bundle them altogether into a single volume, but that’s something in the distant future, as there are several tales to tell!

 

Bethina

(You can find Bethina in shades of Gray. This story takes place in 1947.)

Bethina snapped the suitcase closed and gave the familiar bedroom a last look. Though her mother was silent, she could feel her standing in the doorframe behind her. She could imagine the frown on her face and the unshed tears in her eyes.

“Are you sure about this?”

Bethina sighed and turned around to face her. “Yes. Mom, I’m sure. What else am I going to do?” Her mother started to answer, but Bethina hurried on before she could. “It isn’t like I’m moving to the ends of the earth. It’s just a few miles out of town. I can come home and visit you.”

That wasn’t enough to silence her mother’s objections. “And what happens when you get too sick to be a nanny anymore?”

“Would you rather they send me to die in a TB San? Would that be better?” Her mother flinched as if she’d slapped her, and Bethina instantly regretted the words. Regardless, there was truth in them.  How much longer could they pretend she wasn’t sick? Eventually there’d be no choice and they’d have to send her away. Blue Ridge was one of the better sanatoriums, but it was over 100 miles away. That might as well be 1,000. This option was better – so very, very much better. If only she could tell her mother all of it, then maybe she’d understand. But, she couldn’t.

“I’m sorry, mother, but I’ve made up my mind. They know about my condition and they still want me to come stay full time. And Alexander is so sweet. You can’t look at him without melting. I don’t want to leave him behind. I want to do something with the time I have left.”

“If you feel that way, then don’t you have a responsibility to that little boy? You’re exposing him to the disease by being there.”

“And I’m exposing you by being here. And I expose everyone in church on Sundays! They know about my condition,” she repeated. “And they have still asked me to stay full time.”

“But those people!” Her mother caught her hands and held them. “Bethy, they’re… they’re not right.  They stay isolated in that old plantation and no one ever sees them.  They’re-”

“Different,” Bethina finished for her. “There’s nothing wrong with them, mother.” At least nothing I can tell you about.

A horn sounded outside and Bethina thanked whatever saint was the patron of interruptions. “That’s Ernie. He’s taking me up there.” She extracted her hands and hurriedly grabbed her luggage. “I’ll be back in a couple of weeks for a visit.” She brushed a quick kiss across her mom’s cheek and then slid neatly past her. “I love you! See you then!”

“Bethy!”

Bethina didn’t stop to let her mother finish, and she didn’t look back.  Her mind was made up. There was no safer place in the world for her to go than the big brick plantation house with its shadowy corridors, silent rooms, and undead occupants. Occupants that couldn’t catch her disease.

Eddie was a few years older than her. Though they got along well enough, they had nothing to talk about, so the trip was a silent one. She could feel his disapproval, but they weren’t close enough for him to comment. But, when he parked the car just inside the large, iron gates, he met her eyes and cleared his throat noisily. The sign something unpleasant would follow.

She tried to circumvent it. “Thanks, Eddie. I’ll see you later.”

“Will you?” His question forced her to drop the door handle and meet his gaze. “I know it’s not my business, but are you sure you know what you’re doing? Everyone thought you were crazy enough working part time up here, but to move in? They’re creepy, and this place is about as cheerful as a funeral parlor. You sure you want to live here?”

Her eyes narrowed at his too blunt assessment.  “You’re right, it’s not your business.” She opened the door and climbed out with a crisp, “thank you for the ride.” She slammed the door with a satisfying sound, and then marched to the house.

The large front door opened before she knocked, and Sandra, one of the maids, moved aside to admit her. The entrance hall was a huge room paneled in wood and hung with old, heavy portraits. Light shone through windows around the front door, but it couldn’t chase away the shadows. Technically, Eddie was right. The house wasn’t very cheerful. The interior had been redecorated, but otherwise it was the same as it had been when it had been built over a hundred years ago. That meant no plumbing, and no electricity.

“You’re staying?” Sandra asked and took a step back. Like the rest of the staff she could still get sick and, though she was never unfriendly, she was distant.

Bethina only nodded and Sandra motioned to the curving staircase. “You might as well go on up. They’re not awake yet.”

Bethina nodded again and climbed the stairs slowly.  She made her way down the corridor to what was her new bedroom. Late September sunlight splashed through the windows and brought a cheer to the room that the somber hallways lacked.

She unpacked a little, rested briefly, then walked downstairs to the kitchen where the women were cleaning and preparing what would be their breakfast.  Yes, things here were different, including what time their day started.

Both women glanced up at her, but only Sandra acknowledged her. “Have you eaten?”

“Yes, but thank you.” She pulled up a chair at the kitchen table and watched Jane add wood to the old cast iron stove. Finished, the woman straightened and mopped her forehead, then rolled up her sleeves. Her arms were wrapped at random intervals with white gauze bandages. A hazard of working at the plantation house.

As if she felt the scrutiny, Jane turned around and met Bethina’s blue eyes. “I hear you’re going to be here full time?” Bethina nodded and Jane looked mildly surprised. “I can’t imagine your family is happy about that.”

Bethina shifted uncomfortably in her chair. “No. My mother’s pretty upset about it.”

“I would be, too, if I were her.” Jane turned back to a bowl of batter, leaving Bethina wide eyed with surprise.

“But why? You work here.”

Jane stiffened, but didn’t turn back around. “Just because I’m here doesn’t mean I’d want my daughter to be here.  I know what they are, after all. I wouldn’t want my child committed to this enslavement.”

“Enslavement?” Bethina echoed.  The word seemed absurd and out of place. Something antiquated and distasteful.  “How can you call it that?”

“And what would you call it?” Something dark hid under the edges of Jane’s tone. Something angry and challenging. It instantly irritated Bethina.

“How about employment?”

Jane laughed, but it wasn’t a happy sound. “You’re young still, and naïve. Employment is something you can leave if you choose. Do you think we have that luxury?” She turned around, her eyes dark fire and a wooden spoon gripped dangerously in her hand like a weapon. “Do you think we can leave if we choose?”

“Well-“

“Of course not! We know what they are. They can’t just let us walk out. Do you know what happened to the last girl who wanted to leave? She disappeared!”

“Maybe that’s because she left?” Bethina suggested impatiently.

“Without packing?” Jane snorted contemptuously. “They got rid of her because that’s what they do. When you get too old, or you want to leave they just dispose of you and hire another young girl who has no prospects for the future.  And in the meantime they work you to death scrubbing and dusting while they drink your blood!”

Sandra cleared her throat loudly; a warning that the conversation was headed for dangerous places, but Jane ignored her and went on.

“Maybe you don’t mind being food for those children because you’re staring down your own death, but the rest of us aren’t.  I could have done something. I could have gotten married. I could have had children of my own. Normal children that eat and drink and grow up!”

“Jane,” Sandra said softly. “Enough.”

“No, it isn’t! How can you face it, day in and day out and still say it’s enough? How can you stand to stare into that baby’s eyes and say it’s enough?”  She shivered. “It’s like they see right through you, to your very soul, but he never says a word. He never even cries! Just lays there like cold, dead weight and stares right through you!”

Bethina watched with wide eyed confusion as Jane’s shudders turned into tears, Sandra seemed to understand, though, and she quickly moved to embrace her. “Shhh. It’s all right, Jane. It’s all right.”

“How can it be all right? My sister’s dead! My own sister! And where was I? Here! I was here and would they let me go to her when she was sick? Would that bitch Jesslynn let me leave?”

Bethina stared uncomfortably at her hands while Jane wailed. She didn’t know how to feel about the woman’s words.  Her misery was real, but Bethina couldn’t reconcile it to what she knew of them. Yes, Jesslynn was austere, haughty even, but surely she’d let Jane go to her sick sister? She’d told Bethina that she could go visit her mother when she wanted, so long as she didn’t say the wrong thing. She’d been working there after school for two years now and had never betrayed their secret, so they knew they could trust her. Maybe that was the difference. Maybe she was trustworthy and Jane wasn’t.

Still, she felt she should say something. “I’m sorry to hear about your sister.”

Jane pulled back and glared at her through puffy red eyes. “No, you’re not! You couldn’t care less, just like they couldn’t care less. You’re a pet to them, not a slave like we are. But, just wait until you’re dying and they look the other way and pretend they couldn’t share some of that immortality with you. Then you’ll see how much they think of you. You’re just livestock to them, like the rest of us.  We’re good enough to clean their house and give our blood to their children, but we’re not good enough to join them! They let us die while they keep the secret to themselves!”

Bethina stood up too fast and grabbed the edge of the table to keep from falling. Jane had passed annoying and gone straight to making her angry. “It’s too bad your sister died, but you shouldn’t take it out on everyone else by being so nasty.”

Sandra cleared her throat again and glanced at Bethina. “I think maybe you’d better…” she trailed off, but they all knew what she meant.

Bethina nodded crisply and marched out the door. As she left, Sandra’s voice floated to her. “Jane, honey, you have to watch what you say. If she tells the mister and missus who know what will happen to you?”

“Who knows what will happen?” Bethina muttered darkly. “You’ll get fired, that’s for sure! See how you like it, then!”

She intended to go to her room and finish unpacking, but she got tired by the time she reached the entrance hall and had to stop and sit on a carved bench.  She coughed into her ever present handkerchief and tried to fight the instinctual alarm when she saw the crimson dots on it. Jane was so worried about the meager amount that Alexander or the baby took from her. Maybe she should try watching her handkerchiefs fill with it for no reason! Then she could talk to her about death!

“Bethina!”

She looked up at the sound of a delighted voice and saw Alexander. He stood with his back pressed to the far wall, clinging to the shadows.  “What are you doing up? It’s not dark yet.”

He squirmed. “I know, but I wanted to see if you were here yet. Father said he didn’t think your mother would really let you come, but Mother said of course you would. I knew she’d be right.” His face broke into a wide, pointy toothed grin.

She pulled herself to her feet and walked to him, stopping in front of him with her hands on her hips. “All right, now you’ve seen. You better get back to bed, mister, before you get caught.”

“Aw.” He turned his large, pleading eyes up at her, but she refused to back down. “Fine.” He relented. “But only if you promise to tell me a story later.”

“I’ll tell you a story, all right.” She tousled his dark hair. “One about little boys who don’t mind their parents and sneak around the house while they’re supposed to be sleeping. Can you guess the end?”

He gave a small, but exasperated sigh. “I’m going. I’m going.” He turned for the cellar, but stopped and looked back. “I’m glad Mother was right. I’d miss you too much if you never came back!” And then he skipped away to return to his coffin.

Alone, Bethina wandered to a side door and out onto the wide wraparound porch. The sky to the west flamed red and gold, and stray autumn leaves danced and swirled in the early evening breeze. She dropped to the porch and drew her knees up to her chest. Jane’s words flitted through her mind, “Just wait until you’re dying and they look the other way and pretend they couldn’t share some of that immortality with you.” Would they really do that? And even if they didn’t, would she really want them to share? Did she want to live forever, knowing that she’d never change?

“What’s that old adage? The journey is in the reward? No, the journey is the reward?” She couldn’t find the exact words, but it didn’t matter. The essence was there.  It was the road that mattered, not the destination because they were all headed to the same place, just some sooner than others.

Maybe Jane was right about one thing. Maybe she could look at things differently because she was staring down death. She knew she’d never get married and have children of her own, so what was the harm in letting her dote on Alexander while she could? Wasn’t it better to be here, near someone she cared about, than locked away in some sanatorium, sleeping in outdoor pavilions that were supposed to cure her? IN the end, whether they looked away, or even killed her themselves rather than letting her last days linger, surely it was better here than being there?  “Yes”, she told herself firmly. “It has to be better.  No matter what happens.”

 

*******

Next week is Claudius.  Look forward to it!

Fav song of the moment – “Changing the Weather” – Crash Parallel

PS -Some random, but interesting, links on TB Sanatoriums (turned out I didn’t need it, but it was interesting reading all the same!)

The Great White Plague

The Tuberculosis experience of African Americans

A patient’s personal diary

Benjamin – Blogophilia 50.3

It’s time again for Blogophilia, the fun blog game where Marvin gives participants prompts to use in their weekly posting. This week’s prompts are:

 

  • Blogophilia 50.3 Topic: “There is no “I” in Team”
  • Bonus Points:
  • (Hard, 2pts):  mention a Maya Angelou quote
  • (Easy, 1pt) : incorporate a unique use for honey

I’m a bit late at posting this, but still on time. As you might know I’ve been doing a short story a week, each about a different side character vampire from my Amaranthine series. When I say side character, I should really say bit character, for the most part. It’s an excuse for me to get to play with all the little random people I make up, but never have time for.

A random note – Adam, the first of the Vampire Morsels, is now edited, tweaked, and downloadable on Smashwords in its final version as a free read.

 

Benjamin

(You can find Benjamin in Shades of Gray. This particular story takes place in 1972)

The Roockwood Inn was a roadside motel. The town around it had once been vibrant, but was looking forward to its demise. Somehow, the occupants hadn’t caught on yet, and still thought they had a corner on the tourist market. Even Benjamin seemed to think so.

The motel office was newly retiled, but no one had bothered to repaint. Behind the counter stood a doorway, closed off by a tatty blanket that served as a curtain. The smell of whisky and stale cigar smoke oozed out around the edges and left the office ceiling stained a permanent brown.

Through that door was a room as disheveled as its occupant. Though Benjamin called it his “living space” it was really a jumbled, windowless room with a dusty bathroom off to one side. There actually were windows, but they were hidden behind layers of cardboard, newspaper and masking tape. He was planning to renovate as soon as he got the money saved up, and when he did, the windows were going. Mei, the Chinese girl who looked after the place in the daytime and served as a part time housekeeping, couldn’t understand why he wanted rid of them. She argued more than once to save them, but he only shook his head and said the sun was bad for his complexion.

Benjamin sat in his usual spot. The ratty arm chair smelled like it should have been left on the curb, and looked like maybe it had been. The TV was as close to his lap as he could get it without having to hold it, so that he had one foot propped up on the table on either side of it. He watched the screen with an absorption born of years of television viewing and didn’t even seem to hear the first knock.

“Goodnight, John Boy. Goodnight, Grandpa. Goodnight-“

Benjamin clicked the knob and the television went off with a hiss and fizz of static. He cocked his head to one side and listened. The knocking was repeated.

“Who the hell is that?” he demanded, but the stale air didn’t answer him. There was only one way to find out. Using obscenities like booster fuel, he heaved his bulk from the chair and shuffled towards the side door. He had to stop and kick boxes of empty whisky bottles out of the way. No one used this door anymore, or at least no one was supposed to.

They knocked again and he grumbled a loud, “yeah, yeah,” as he unbolted the locks and jerked the door open.  The outside light was burnt out, but he could still see the two figures, their expressions carefully neutral.  The one in the front had short, cropped hair and dark skin, while his companion was a slender, willowy male with a reddish auburn mane. Benjamin surveyed them both and then demanded, “Eh? What do you want? Can’t you read that sign?”

“What sign?” asked the dark one.

“The one that says ‘use office door’!” Benjamin barked.  “You want a room, you go around!”

“We’re not here for a room,” the visitor purred. Then, he smiled, flashing a pair of silvery fangs. Benjamin drew back a step, and the visitor took advantage of it and was quickly inside, his companion on his heels. “You know what we came for.”

Benjamin met the dark vampire’s eyes. They stared at one another; a contest of wills, and then Benjamin declared, “Look here, poker night’s Thursdays, Des.”

There was a moments silence and then Des rolled his eyes. “It is Thursday, old man. Check your calendar.”

They stepped smoothly around their baffled host and headed for the couch.  Des tossed a week’s worth of mail out of the way and took its place. Benjamin trailed after them, ticking off the days of the week in his head. Thursday? It’s not Thursday – wait. The Waltons was on. Damn. The son of a bitch is right.

The bell over the office door tinkled, and with a few healthy curses Benjamin diverted himself in that direction. It wasn’t customers though, just Herrick and a bald guy that Benjamin didn’t recognize. Two strangers in one night. Ah well, their money spends the same.

He led them through the blanketed door and pointed in the general direction of the couch and some folding chairs. They seated themselves while he set up the card table and gathered up the cards, an overflowing ashtray, half a bottle of whisky and a beat up metal bucket that smelled like alcohol. Finally, he tugged his tatty chair into place and dropped into it.  “We ready to play, or is there anyone else comin’ I should know about?”

“Nah, this is it.” Des shuffled the cards with a little too much expertise. “By the way, this is Marcellus. I said last week that I was bringing him.”

Herrick nodded, but Benjamin just shrugged. “Eh. If you say so.” His eyes landed on Herrick’s companion; a bald vampire who had a tattoo down one side of his face. “And who’s this?”

“Micah,” Herrick explained, as if the name meant something. “He’s what you’d call a new recruit.”

Benjamin lit a cigar and blew put a cloud of thick smoke. “That’s just what we need.”

“You’re not so far past new recruit yourself there, old man.” Des commented.

Benjamin snorted an answer and took a healthy swig of whisky. He swooshed the amber liquid around his mouth thoughtfully. He’d been one of them for damn near two years, now. That was enough time to lose the new recruit status as far as he was concerned.

Des dealt the cards and Benjamin spat the whisky noisily into the bucket.  Marcellus cringed visibly, and Des shrugged. “I warned you he has some pretty bad habits.”

“Just because I can’t drink don’t mean I can’t still taste it,” Benjamin grumbled. “You got a problem with it…” he left the sentence unfinished, but the meaning was clear and it went something like “get the hell out, then.”

Micah fanned his cards casually. “I wondered how you planned on drinkin’ that. I learned the hard way that doesn’t work out.”

“Got sick, did you?” That was a mistake they said most newbie vampires made. Hell, he’d made it himself. You could get the stuff down, but you couldn’t keep it down. It was the same as when a kid swallowed something out of the cleaning cabinet.  Your body knew it wasn’t good for you and sent it back where it came from.

“Fuck, yeah.” Micah offered a toothy grin. “That was one helluva night, though. A couple of ladies, a bottle of scotch and a jar of honey.

Herrick surveyed his cards, his brow wrinkled. “Honey? What was the honey for?”

Micah’s grin widened. “If I gotta tell ya’, then it takes the fun out of it.”

“For the girls,” Benjamin explained. “But sounds full a shit to me. This loser couldn’t get two chicks if he waved money in front of their faces.”

Micah cocked an eyebrow. “How would you know? Bet the last time you even saw a chick was in 1965.”

Benjamin ignored him and went on. “I get losers like him in here all the time. They show up on the make with a couple of stoned out girls and act all macho. Nine times outta ten they pass out in a puddle of their own puke in the john.”

Micah opened his mouth to argue, but Marcellus held up his hand. “Is an evening of negativity necessary? Let’s just play cards.”

“Negativity?” Micah snorted. “You sound like one of those dali-lama-guru Buddha heads. We here to play poker or talk about the meaning of the universe?”

“We could do both,” Herrick suggested. “As long as someone else deals.” He glared at Des who only snickered. Knowing him, he’d dealt the cards on that way on purpose.

But, Benjamin’s hand wasn’t half bad. He traded in two cards and quipped, “There’s no meaning to the universe. It just is.”

“I disagree.” Marcellus fished a wad of money out of his pocket and counted out the opening bet. Benjamin tried to mentally calculate how much he had on him, but he wasn’t fast enough before the money was stuffed back into his pocket. “There must be meaning, or else there wouldn’t be organization.”

“You see any organization around here?” Micah waved his arm to indicate the room. “It’s just like us. There’s no order, or reason, it’s just chaos and you pretend there’s a plan behind it to keep yourself sane.”

“Us?” Des asked, as he counted out his own money under the edge of the table.

“Yeah, us. You know, vampires.” Micah rolled his eyes. “If nothing else, we’re proof that it’s all just random shit.”

“I disagree,” Marcellus said again. “Our very existence proves that there is order beyond the seeming insanity of the cosmos. You can’t imagine that we, as a species, just appeared by accident? We were crafted for a particular purpose.”

Micah folded his cards, the game momentarily forgotten. “What, like the next evolutionary step? You don’t buy into all that monkey crap?”

Des glanced up from his cash. “How can you argue against both evolution and intelligent design?”

“Because I ain’t from no ape. You can be if you want to-”

Marcellus cut him off. “No, we’re not the next evolutionary step. Vampires have been in existence since the dawn of creation. As old as man, if not older. And that is the proof of the design, and the proof against the chaotic evolution theory. If it was all an accident that hurtled forth from chimpanzees to modern man, then why has the vampire not changed, too?”

“Maybe they have?” Herrick suggested. “It isn’t like there’s anyone from that time left.”

“And how do we know that? Because you haven’t seen one?” Marcellus eyes shone with some kind of victory and he folded his cards as though settling in for a long discussion. “When was the last time you saw the sun? But you still know it exists.”

Benjamin didn’t bother to comment or interrupt. He just took an impatient swig of whisky, swished it around his mouth, and spit it loudly into the bucket. It failed to get their attention.

“That’s different. I’ve seen the sun,” Herrick argued.

“When? How do you know you really saw it and don’t just think that you did?”

“And how do you know that any of us are real?” Des added, amused. “Maybe we’re all just figments of a hamster’s imagination.  Enough existential stuff, huh? Whose bet is it?”

“I bet I can prove who’s real,” Micah said with a broad grin. “Gimme your arm and we’ll see if you feel this.” He snapped his teeth together in imitation of a savage bite.

Marcellus smiled tolerantly, but made no move to return to the game. “Pain is only an illusion and proves nothing.”

“It can prove that your god damn foot’s been cut off!”

“No. First there is the pain and then you look and see that your foot is cut off, so the pain proves nothing, only draws your attention.  However, there’s no evidence that what you see is real beyond your own experience, or that your reality and mine are the same experience at all.”

“Memories are like that,” Herrick agreed slowly, drawn in despite himself. “One person may remember that it rained, while another says ‘no, no, the sun shone’.”

“Exactly.” Marcellus tapped his cards on the table.  “Each has a separate reality that is just as true to them as the opposite is to the other.  If reality is not to be trusted to the eyes or the senses, then that leaves us with only the emotion.”

“Ah, but emotion is nothing but an illusion, too,” Herrick argued, getting into the swing of things. “It is true that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.  However, your actions don’t necessarily correspond to their feelings. If I pick up this bucket.” He seized the bucket and Benjamin made a low, warning noise in his throat. “-and I toss it out the door, you may feel relieved to be get a break from the alcohol regurgitation, however, Benjamin will be mad enough to break my nose. To him, my actions are evil, but to you they were merciful. Meanwhile, the reality is that I neither planned to make him angry, or spare you, I simply acted.”

Benjamin jerked the bucket away and snarled. “Yeah, yeah. And there’s no ‘I’ in team. Can we get on with this, or should I kick the whole bunch of you out?”

“Your friend doesn’t like a thought provoking discussion?” Marcellus asked Des, half joking.

“No,” Benjamin answered for him. “I don’t.  I like to watch TV, which is what I was doing before I got interrupted by a bunch of idiots who wanted to play poker. Only, we haven’t done much playing yet! So either get with it or I’m gonna go watch Ironside.”

The conversation died down after that.  The cards were dealt, the bets were placed and by two am they were all sick of each other’s company. Micah and Herrick made their excuses first, followed shortly by Marcellus. Alone, they counted their money, and then Benjamin moved the furniture back while Des lounged on the couch.

“I assume you didn’t like Marcellus?”

Benjamin kicked an argumentative folding chair and shrugged. “Eh. I don’t care either way. He loses pretty good. So long as he shuts up and plays his cards.”

Des nodded and they lapsed into a thoughtful silence. Finally, he broke it. “You don’t suppose there really is some intelligent design behind everything? That there’s some kind of fate that made us all what we are?”

Benjamin rolled his eyes and plopped into his armchair, now restored to its rightful home in front of the television. “How should I know? It was a trucker woman with eyes like coal and nails as red as blood that made me what I am.” He glanced to the darker skinned vampire. “And I can’t say what made you the way you are, now, but I doubt it was God.”

“No,” Des agreed. “It was my mother.” He fell silent again, and Benjamin turned the television on. The stations were off for the night, so there was nothing but static. They sat there, lit eerily by the light from the television, both lost in their own worlds until Des snapped himself back to the present. “It’s been fun. See you next Thursday, old man.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Benjamin waved him off, and the dark vampire disappeared out the door. Benjamin stared at the television screen and watched the static bounce around, like ant races, some said. It never looked like ants to him. More like a blizzard. It was the same kinda blizzard that had brought that trucker gal into the motel. With her red nails and her black eyes. She’d been wearing skin tight jeans and been so full of pent up energy that she looked like she’d burst right out of ‘em. That had been one helluva night.

“And I didn’t even need any honey,” Benjamin commented aloud. He took a swig of whisky and spat it into the bucket. “Armature.”

***************

Next week is Bethina. As they used to say in Gatchaman, “Look Forward to it!”

Fav song of the moment – “The Humbling River” – Puscifer

Help Me Pick a Pen Name!

If you’ve ever visited my Smashwords author page, you might have noticed a book called The Do-Nothing Day that is about snuggly teddy bears and written for a target audience of four year olds. It was written and illustrated in roughly 2001, along with ten others, and they have since darkened my hard drive. Though, I originally uploaded it so people with questions could see what Smashwords books with images looked like, the book has gotten enough downloads that I’ve decided to upload the other ten as well. However, I’m not so sure that mixing children’s books and adult books is wise.

My vampire books aren’t erotica, but there’s enough of a difference that I wouldn’t want someone to judge either set of books based on the other. I already have enough of a fight convincing people that my vampires are not YA (thanks again, Twilight), and mixing kiddie books into my account isn’t going to help. But, I don’t see why someone shouldn’t be enjoying them. They are pretty cute, after all.

So, now comes the fun, interactive part of the blog where you get to cast your votes on what my pen name should be! Leave your vote in the comments or, if you have a better suggestion, then leave it, too. I’ll probably cross post this all over, but in the end I’ll compile them all together and whatever wins is the name I will use.

  • J. Harris-Naylor
  • J.R. Harris
  • Roey Harris
  • Sintiel Quen
  • Nic Constantinescu
  • Alex Marshall

All the names come from various things I’ve done over the years.  I could give you lengthy explanations, but I’ll refrain. I will say one of them is elvish.

Look forward to seeing what everyone thinks!

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