Friday, November 30, 2012

Celeste (part six)

Sorry I took so long this time. Got busy with other things. Too bad no one else has stepped up and offered an addition to the story.

Anyway, I decided it was time to shake things up. So, here's a little definition and—because everything seemed to be going so smoothly—a monkey-wrench.


Reorganizing Celeste’s racing thoughts gave her few of the answers she sought. Celeste, Gawain, Jacob, and many others, legally classified as witches and warlocks in the Twenty-Fourth Century had been an impossibility until the Twenty-Second Century. That’s when the physicists at Lawrence-Livermore labs had restructured their tokamak field and accidentally unlocked what many considered the Age of Magic.

Of course, there had always been magical folk of a sort: telepaths, telekinetics, clairvoyants, psychics, but centuries of testing had found them impossible to pin down. The clairvoyant who could clearly see the location of a kidnapped child one minute, couldn’t find her own car keys the next. The telekinetic who could make furniture fly around at home couldn’t roll a pencil across a table while being videotaped. Some believed psionic abilities were simply masked by stress or duress. Others believed the abilities required the right stressors to activate them.

Most scientists just felt it was a load of hooey.

No matter how you classified them, they weren’t the witches and magicians of fantasy lore. No one had ever been able to turn anyone into a newt, conjure an entire suit of clothes from thin air, travel on broomstick, travel in time, or actually read minds on a whim. Prior to the Age of Magic, the world’s magic had been more like an occasional minor case of psionic hiccups.

Then came the Merlin. A small black device that—due to a coating of platinum oxide—vaguely resembled the Maltese Falcon. Before the first startup, however, the Merlin had been seven such birdlike-appendages attached to a set of three-meter long radial arms attached to a four-meter-diameter magnetic bottle enclosure that contained fusion reactions. Ostensibly a magnetic-field generator containing a self-sustaining fusion reaction, the Merlin’s initial startup changed the world. The fields started up, the radial-arms lit up. The indicator lights, “eyes” on each of the seven falcon-like structures, went from red to green. The fusion chamber was working, drawing in hydrogen from the seven radial arms.

And then everything disappeared. Everything but one of the seven birdlike things. The remaining bird-thing, eventually nicknamed The Merlin, floated, detached, mid-air at the edge of a room that had contained the rest of the tokamak. Three physicists and six graduate students had also disappeared, never to be seen again in this dimension. The remaining two physicists spent the rest of their lives trying to contact their missing colleagues. Their best guess was that, somehow, the other men and women, along with the rest of the tokamak behind the Merlin, had disappeared into one or more other dimensions.

Three major effects of the Merlin incident were identified in the following decade. The speed of light decreased by .09 percent. Planck’s Constant increased by approximately .1 percent. Earth’s gravity decreased by a whopping l percent (from 9.780327 meters per second-squared to 9.682524 meters per second-squared). The scientific community was slow to accept other changes that were being noticed around the world.

On his deathbed, the last surviving physicist of the Merlin incident sat up in his bed. “Dear God! They’re still alive. Three of them are still alive. They’re aging much slower than we.”

His daughter stood and moved to his side, dabbing sweat from his brow with a kerchief. “Who’s still alive, Dad?”

“We are,” said a woman’s voice. She shimmered into view. The daughter screamed. Two nurses and a physician came running. Everyone could clearly see the young woman. “Please, someone record this. I’m on a limited time budget. We had to speed up my image in order for you to understand us. We’ve been trying to contact you for couple of years, but in your dimension, that appears to have been several decades.”

As the nurses and doctors present captured on personal recorders—later played extensively on the Internet—she went on to describe changes they had classified in her dimension, changes that were likely to be true in every connected dimension. She strongly recommended nationwide psionic testing and careful regulation of the newly initiated abilities they would find.

Celeste knew the Ninue was herself in another life. Thanks to Gawain, she knew Ninue had similar powers. Clearly, like herself, Jacob, and Gawain, Ninue’s connection to the Merlin extended across time. Once an individual had been subjected to the multidimensional breach, the resulting bond was unbreakable. Experimentation with the Merlin extension in her own dimension suggested that even the destruction of the Merlin couldn’t close the rift. Those affected maintained their powers even when the Merlin was shutdown and—most remarkably—even if they traveled back in time to a when that didn’t have a Merlin. Once a witch, always a witch, it seemed.

Why, then, did Ninue steal one of the Merlin extensions? Why transport it back in time? Celeste felt certain the answer had something to do with why he had chosen the name Ninue.  

Celeste, slogging through the increasingly muddy snow of the mid-afternoon melt, saw a landau drawn by a black mare in the near distance. She sighed a relief, but had no idea how to hail a cab in 1907 Minneapolis. Rather than shouting “Taxi!” she elected to speed her stride and wave.

As she approached, the driver, a tall gaunt man in black greatcloak and top hat, turned to face her. There was a strange, silvery gleam to his eyes, and his smile was toothy—fanged, one might say. He grinned, looking more ferocious than cheerful, and tipped his hat, “Taxicab, Mum?”

Celeste stopped for a second. Why couldn’t he be some pleasant little fat man? She sighed—smiled—and climbed aboard the landau. “Thank you, yes. Could you take me to a good candle shop?”

“Of course, Mum. The best. Only the best.” He cracked his whip. The mare, turned, flashing angry red eyes at the driver, and then lurched forward.

Did I see that right? Red eyes? Celeste shook her head. I need to get some sleep. Celeste leaned back against the plush leather cushion of the rear bench. Such a comfortable bench. Gradually, between the soft embrace of the cushion, the soft swaying of the landau, and the rhythmic clop of hooves on ice and cobbles, Celeste fell into a deep, warm sleep.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Celeste (part five)

And we're back. Here's Crystal's latest addition.

Two reminders about Celeste:

1) This is an exercise. The principal point is practice with dialogic characters. Even if you're working alone, realistic characters create a dialogue with the author, forcing the story to shift and move in unexpected directions. Crystal and I haven't had much opportunity to discuss or revise these sections. A bit of revision could work wonders, and maybe one or both of us will want to take up the final product and try to pull it together into a cohesive work.

2) The fact that this is an exercise doesn't mean we're exempt from critique. We're already critiquing one another behind the scenes. We'd love to hear from anyone else who has additional critical comments. And, yes, this mean that anyone who joins in the fun also has to be willing to accept criticism.

As for the near future: it's almost Thanksgiving, folks, and I'm the family cook, so I'll be offline tonight and most (if not all) of tomorrow. That means I'll not be working on a response to this section until at least Friday.


Jacob came away from the fire, no longer chilled from the winter’s snow. He climbed into Celeste’s lap hoping to be lavished with tender strokes of affection. That was not what he got. What he got was Celeste sitting entirely still, slouching in her chair, unaware of his presence.

Jacob not one to be easily disappointed, stretched across her lap, content to share her bodies heat.  Both cat and woman went unusually quiet.  Gawain sat across from them and watched intently, chewing on his bottom lip and tapping his foot.  He was waiting for some kind of action, word, scream, anything but silence. 
Celeste jumped up from her chair and dump Jacob to the floor with a shrieking meow.
He righted himself on his feet and rushed out from under her shuffling feet.  :What the hell, woman?: he screamed mentally out loud as he fell to the floor.

Celeste frantically paced the room back and forth.  She zipped back and forth raising her hands and swinging them around.  Occasionally Gawain and Jacob heard a word or two escape her lips.  “What the …?” followed by more pacing, “…not right”, silence, more pacing, “….off my rocker…” pacing, silence, pause, pacing, “…tortured my brother”, pause, silence, pacing, “…Ninue…the Merlin…”

The boys watched this and took it all in as a normal day at the office.

“Wonder how long she will be like this, this time?” Gawain asked Jacob who sat under a large table dutifully cleaning himself.

:Who knows: he remarked, :longest I’ve seen this go on for was 23 and a half hours, of course that was when she found out I was a cat.  It could be a while, I’m guessing it’s a bit of a shock.:

“When she was younger, she shut out the entire world when she got like this. Has she mellowed any over the past hundred years?” he asked.

:Nope, completely oblivious. It’s her coping mechanism when things make no sense. Perhaps that’s what brought about Ninue, she finally just flipped her rocker with all the stress or perhaps…more likely, her personality split. That rings truer.:

“How did you live with it for so many years?” Gawain asked.
:Because,: a mental sigh rang through the room, :Because I love her dearly.  That, and she loves me.  However, it is her unusual condition that aided me in becoming a cat.  Word of advice my friend, don’t work magic and utter a curse at your wife in the same breath, it can have dire consequences.  All I said was, “I’d rather be a mangy cat than married to you, you shrew” and, well here I am.  It seems the universe has a keen sense of irony.:

“But you said earlier that she divorced you.”
:Oh, yes, she did. She had to in order to handle our affairs. I gave her everything in the divorce, because, well to be blunt, what does a cat need for possessions and money? I am much better off letting her pamper me out of guilt.: he chuckled, a strange sound from a cat. :And, besides, I am still too proud to let people know what I did to myself.  Most people think I ran off to the 23rd century and that I’m basking on some beach in France with a bikini model.  So, obviously, I’m hoping in time I can remove this…mess, and we can remarry and move on from there. Of course this new situation may delay that plan for a while.:

“As for Lestie’s condition, don’t they have medications that she can take to alleviate this type of behavior?” Gawain asked. “I mean, it’s really none of my business, but I love her, and when she gets like this it worries me.”

:Oh, they do have medications that can stop this behavior, however she did not wish to take it and I would never ask her to.  To overcome her “disposition” the only medications available to her would leave her drooling in the corner and unable to do more than take care of day to day needs.  The brilliant mind we see light up and sparkle behind those beautiful blue eyes would dull and the lights would go out.  I’d rather deal with her infrequent “bouts”, than lose the woman I love.:

“Oh,” Gawain replied.
Both men watched Celeste pace back and forth. “You know it’s actually relaxing to watch her, it’s like watching a tennis match.”

:You know, you’re right,: Jacob agreed.

The two males watched her pace some more, but it was boring. It was Gawain that broke the uncomfortable silence.  “So Jacob, if it’s not too personal, what’s it like being a cat?” With that said, the two men talked for a couple hours.

Celeste continued to pace back and forth, back and forth, and then, as quickly as she began, she ceased, plopping her butt back down in the chair, with an exasperated “Fuck!”

Jacob sat up on his haunches and looked at her.  :Welcome back dear, any amazing breakthroughs?:

“No—yes—maybe. At least I have the whole thing centered in my mind, and I can think clearly again. Thanks for your patience,” she replied.

:No problem dear.:

“How long was I out of commission?” she asked.

:About five hours,: Jacob told her.

“Oh, so not too badly all things considered. Okay, moving on, Gawain, I need to know how and when you first noticed you were being trailed—when, where and how. After we discuss that, I’d like to take the time to discuss Balrog with Jacob. Mythical monsters were always his field of knowledge, I’m lucky to even know what Balrog is. I’ve decided that I’m going to try and move us to another time period, further away from Northumbria, A.D. 656.”

“Won’t she know where you’ll take me?  She is you after all.”

“She doesn’t know me any better than I know her.  Why the hell did I take over the name of Ninue and take the Merlin?  Hell, I’m going to have to spend a day researching the Merlin again.  But, whatever, I need to take us someplace, and sometime that would neither be a place I’d choose or a place I’d avoid.  Those are the most likely places for me to look, I would imagine I’m not thinking as clearly on this as I, Ninue, would like.”

:Where then?: Jacob asked.

“I’m thinking 1973.  Not the most pleasant time, with Vietnam mostly over but still a mess, women’s rights moving forward, civil rights moving forward.  It’s a time of stress, but not of historical significance to me really.  Besides, the drugs are good and the sex doesn’t have commitments—sorry, hon,” she said looking at Jacob, “but I’m still a woman with physical needs.”
:I understand, just as you do when I go out for a few days monthly in the warm weather.  Nature is nature.: Jacob replied.
“I also think you should leave your comm-screen in this time period Gawain.  That could be one of the easiest ways for her to track you down.  I will give you Jacob’s.  I have it somewhere here in my purse,” she said as she dug around through the bottomless contents.  “Oh here it is.  I’m sorry, hon, but I think you should also leave your father’s ring and watch. Those are things I know you would never willingly part with, and those are also traceable.”


“Sorry Gawain, no buts. She’ll use that as her secondary way of following you. Everyone knows that you wouldn’t willingly part with your heirlooms, and I’m sorry to ask you to do so. But we need time. Forcing her to look harder for you buys us that time.”

Gawain bowed his head and sighed, “You are right, I know you are right, but there has to be some way for these to be returned.”

“Go to the bank and put them in a safety deposit box or they may be called a paymaster’s strongbox in this time, I don’t remember.  Tell them this is an inheritance for your great-grandchild who will provide proper verification them at the time.  Pay them for 100 years and when this is over go back and get it.”

“Now stop whining about incidentals,” she continued, “we have things to do. Jacob, you and Gawain take care of his items and discuss this Balrog. I will collect the items I need to do this spell the old fashioned way, with candles, ritual and a crystal.  It’s much harder to trace us that way since it leaves a huge amount of magical residue. I should be back by mid-morning.”  Celeste headed for the door, pausing for a moment to look at her comm-bracelet. “Good, it’s not too early, it’s after 0800.” With that said, she disappeared out the door.

They heard the door open and then heard footsteps back, “I nearly forgot, when I return we shall discuss what you remember of Ninue tracking you down. I need that information to ponder in the back of my mind while I work on other things, but not now, I need to be moving.  Cheerio. She turned on her heels and left. This time they heard the door shut.

“Needs to be moving?”  Gawain said, “Well, she seems to have come to some ideas in her all her manic pacing—that was not moving,” Gawain said shaking his head.

:So it would seem: Jacob agreed as he stood up and stretched, arching his back. :I just hope she remembers what it’s like to be a woman from this century and what the current currency is or the day could get very interesting, since I’m sure she did not remember to look at the address of where we are.:

Monday, November 19, 2012

Celeste (part four)

And we're back.

So, here's my second response. The ball's in your court, Crystal.


Seeing her brother’s bared torso, Celeste’s eyes dilated. Her hand went to her mouth, and she gasped.

Jacob, peeking out of the bundled shawl, thought :Jesus, Gawain. What happened to you?:

Gawain’s smile disappeared. His eyebrows drew heavy curtains of shadow over his eyes. “Damn it, Celeste,” Gawain’s dropped his left  hand to cover his crotch. “This is no time for sibling rivalry.” He raised his right hand, snapped his fingers, and the light level surrounding around Celeste dimmed.

Celeste blinked until her eyes recovered from their brief bout of snow blindness. They were in a well-appointed drawing room, a fully-stoked fireplace blazing merrily away. Heavy, blood-red curtains blocked out the sunshine, and a handful of gaslamps added feeble light to the fire. Jacob was still under her arm, but her brother had disappeared.

“Gawain?” Celested looked around. Two doors led into the room. One was open and led to a sunlit room.

Gawain stepped from the sunlit room, tying the belt of a silk dressing gown at his waist. “You know, sister, there are those who would question the deep-seated psychological issues of a woman who finds excuses to strip her younger brother naked—with her husband looking on, no less.”

Celeste frowned down at Jacob, who promptly leapt from the shawl and strutted over to the fire. :Hadn’t you heard, Gawain? She divorced me.:

Celeste dropped the empty shawl and turned on Gawain. “Don’t start trying to be funny, Gawain, or to distract me. I saw those scars. I’ve never seen anything like that. What the hell happened to you, Sweety?”

:From muck-sucking, walleyed guttersnipe to Sweety in under five minutes. Not bad.: Jacob sat before the fire, licking his paw.

“Can it, Jacob. Gawain, what the hell is going on? You called us here, but then dragged us back into the Twentieth Century. Now I find that your torso is covered with scars that look like you’ve been streaked with napalm.”

Gawain shrugged. “I didn’t drag you here, and the scars are from Balrog’s whip.”

Celeste backed up, finding an easy chair with the backs of her knees, and sat down slowly. “Balrog? 

Gawain, what the hell are you talking about? Balrog is a fiction. There’s no such thing.”

Gawain shivered. “No. There isn’t. Unless Ninue wants there to be. She’s incredibly powerful, Celeste.”

:Ninue? Merlin’s mythic girlfriend? If he’s a myth, shouldn’t she be one, too?:

Gawain coughed out a syllable that might have been a scrap of laughter. “O, she’s real enough, Jacob. She’s the one dragging us back in time—dragging me, actually. You guys just got stuck in the vortex. I managed to hold onto our comm-screens, for all the good they do back here. She’s trying to drag me back to England, as well, but it’s been easier to fight the traction through volumetric dimensions than through time. This—1907—is the best I could do. I know you’d rather be back up in the Twenty-First Century or maybe back home in the Twenty-Fourth.”

Celeste rubbed her temples with the thumb and middle finger of her right hand. “Hecate’s loins, Gawain. Who is this woman? What does she want with you? Why have you been tortured?”

Gawain frowned, looked at the floor. “She’s a rogue. One of ours, of course. She’s very old, very angry. She plans to remake to world using her magic. She’s living in a heavily-shielded cave in Northumbria, and she has the Merlin. She plans to activate it in A.D. 656 and bring magic to Anglo-Saxon England.”

Celeste gasped. “That’s insane. Bringing magic to a pre-Cartesian society will push scientific progress back thousands of years and inhabit the wild spaces with all manner of inhuman monsters. Why would anyone want to do that?”

“I gather from what little she said that she doesn’t think too highly of our version of progress. She’s had a rough time. She lost everyone she cared about in World War III.”

Jacob growled. :You’re talking nonsense, Gawain. There’s never been a WWIII.:

Gawain shrugged. “Not in our timeline. You should see the radiation burns on that woman. Yeek. She wants me back. She knows I went forward to the Center. She may have guessed that I had her fingerprint on my comm-screen, I don’t know if she realized I had some of her DNA. Hell, she may even think I’d already figured out who she is. I’m honestly kind of surprised I didn’t—even with the scars and the years and her messed-up throat. I should have known her.”

Jacob purred. :How’d you manage the DNA?:

Gawain grinned. “She kissed me. She was taunting me, but I bit her lip. Managed to keep a scrap of her skin wedged in my teeth until I could get my hand free.”

Celeste smirked, crossed her arms. “Okay, little brother, so you figured her out. Who is she, Sherlock?”

Gawain glanced down at his comm-screen, touched a few points. “Okay, it should be on your screen, now. This is the old woman who’s trying to destroy the world.”

Celeste looked down at the screen. “This isn’t funny, Gawain.”

Gawain shook his head, frowning. “No. It’s not. It’s not a joke.”

Celeste dropped her hands, fell back against the chair, and paled. “This Ninue—she’s me.” 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Celeste (part three)

And this is Crystal's first riposte. So, I need to write another response, which I'll post in a day or two.

Are you an aspiring writer? Think your fantasy chops are a good fit for this story? Would you like to join the exercise? Fine. Don't ask any questions. Don't ask permission. Just post the next portion directly to the comments. I'll discuss your input with Crystal. If we agree, we'll add your work to the mix and your name to the by-line.

Give it a shot. What do you have to lose?


Celeste tramped through the snow trying to take the sidewalk wherever possible, which due to the snowstorm was not often. She then tried to stay in the tracks of cars that had passed and tripped and stumbled around for her effort.

:When did you become such a klutz? You’re only a few hundred years old, you should be in better shape than this,: griped her furry passenger.

:Be nice or I’ll let you walk too,: she barked back at the little fur ball.

With her next step she twisted her ankle and fell face down in the snow. She sat up and slammed her hands down on both sides of her, “When I get my hands on that walleyed, muck-sucking, guttersnipe, I’m going—I’m  going to—going to—”

“You’re going to do what sister mine?” Gawain laughed and just stood there pointing at his sister, his laugh continuing. “Gotcha!” he finally exclaimed when he could find the breath.

Celeste’s face turned red and she struggled to her feet. Then, without warning, her face changed from frustration to an evil grin which she turned on him. Her eyes had dilated and were turning red.

O no, Celeste, I know that look. You wouldn't dare. It was just a joke.” he pleaded.

“I did not find the least bit of humor in that Gawain, look at me.” she said, pointing at her snow covered body.

:Nor did I. I’m wet and cold.: chimed in Jacob.

Celeste took a step toward her brother (well, her step-brother to be exact) and raised a hand pointing toward him.

“Really Celeste, let’s shake and let bygones be bygones,” he said nearly pleading.

“Are you crazy, in the middle of winter, in a snow storm, you do this! Let me show you how it feels you overgrown imp.”

She waved her hand slightly and watched as the stitching in his clothing dissolved and fell to the ground, leaving him stark naked.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Celeste (part two)

This is my first response to Crystal's story opening. Enjoy.


The surrounding walls were becoming less smooth—more unfinished brick and wood. The road became bumpier, and the radio died. Celeste noticed the steering wheel becoming harder, thinner, padded only by her gloves. The windshield curve flattened out and her engine coughed. Celeste groaned, "Not my brand new Jag. Gawain, you Luddite asshole."

Cold air, flavored with coal smoke, leaked in at all sides.

Jacob slid closer to her across the now single bench seat, buried his face in her full layers of skirts and petticoats. He was shivering.

: What idiot designed a car with no heater?: A low, whiny growl leaked from the cat.

"Don't complain, Darling. At least we still have a motor vehicle."

: You're sure this is Gawain's doing?: Jacob burrowed into Celeste's petticoats.

Celeste dragged back the edge of her left cuff with her right forefinger. The touchscreen on her bracelet winked bluegreen in the morning light.

"Yeah. It's Gawain."

: Good. Remind me to scratch the bastard. Or punch him in the face, if...: The thought trailed off.
"Could be worse. Knowing Gawain's tastes, I'm surprised he left us with internal combustion." Celeste frowned. Jacob was adorable like this, but she couldn't imagine how frustrating it must be. She caressed the cat roughly, hoping to warm him a bit.

: I heard that.:

"Heard what? I didn't say anything."

: Pity.:

"You can hear pity?"

: Like a foghorn.:

"Wow. Maybe I underestimated the advantages of—"

The Model-T came to a teeth-jarring halt, both front wheels falling into deep ruts in the recently refrozen street mud. The engine coughed—sputtered—died.

Celeste rubbed her chest where the huge steering wheel had struck. Shaking her head, she looked down at the dashboard. No key. Just a choke knob. Then she saw the crank handle on the floorboard and groaned. Was it even possible to restart one of these things without help? Didn't someone have to operate the choke while she cranked—O screw this. Celeste pulled back her skirts and eyed her boots. Laced. Ankle high. Two-inch spiky heels. Really? Heels? In this weather?

She checked her wrist screen again, tapping up the last update of the GPS before the satellite signals had disappeared. The blue dot showed that Gawain should be just a few blocks away—well, had been a few blocks away. Celeste removed her shawl, gathered up the complaining cat, and kicked the door open. "Come on, Romeo. Looks like we're hoofing it."

Jacob growled within the bundle of shawl. : What kind of self-respecting witch walks in weather like this?:

"One who can't read early Twentieth-Century wards and would prefer avoiding death or dismemberment. Don't complain. At least you're warm."

: You have a point. Anyone watching?:

Celeste looked around, slowly, not wanting to look too furtive. "Not a soul in sight. It's early."

: Good.: Jacob began purring.

Celeste noticed the warmth before she noticed the weight. She glanced down at her shoulder and saw that she was now wearing a sable jacket. "Aw, aren't you a sweety."

Celeste (part one)

And now, to borrow from Monty Python, for something completely different. My very good friend (and honorary little sister) Crystal has been reading my novel and has provided some outstanding feedback. So now, in addition to my wife's name and Jan's (my other honorary little sister), I have a third name to add to the acknowledgments page. Would you like to see your name forever immortalized on an acknowledgments page? Would you like a signed first edition? These perks and more can be yours for simply reading and critiquing my new book, tentatively titled The New Girls.

But I digress.

In the midst of the critiques, Crystal sent the first few pages of her own incipient urban fantasy novel as a writing exercise. I don't know if you've ever done any collaborative writing, and I really don't recommend this exercise as a primary method, this exercise does teach you a great deal about handling authorial dialogue—those magical, transformative details Mikhail Bakhtin would have called novelistic.

The exercise goes like this: Crystal sends me the opening pages of her story with absolutely no additional information. I have to pick up where she left off and continue the story for a bit. Then I send it back, and she has to add a portion. Und so weiter.

If you've never written a novel, you might be wondering how this can  possibly be helpful. "You're the author, right? You should know where your novel is going, right?"

The short answer: no. O, you might think you know where you're going when you begin a story, but real, complex characters take on a life of their own. Very quickly, as Bakhtin notes, the relationship between author and characters ceases to be dictatorial and becomes a dialogue. This exercise is a sort of shortcut to novelistic dialogue.

Now, I should have started posting the results of this exercise immediately, but I've been busy with [blah blah blah excuses excuses]. So, to catch up, I'm going to go ahead and post Crystal's opening, my first response, and her first riposte, in rapid succession. I'll probably post my first response later today and her first riposte tomorrow morning, just to catch everyone up. (We haven't discussed a title, so I'm going to begin with the name of the principal character as a working title. I'll change this if and when Crystal makes a strong suggestion one way or another.)

Okay. Without further ado, here's part one.


by Crystal L. Thomas Worrell and D. G. Grace

Brake lights! Ice! Celeste downshifted savagely, tearing through the lower gears of her grey Jaguar. Time slowed. Her heart raced and vaulting itself in her throat as she grappled her skidding car for control. Her seat belt jerked tautly against her body as the wheels finally gripped solid pavement.

“You stupid son of a—!” she growled deep and guttural, slapping the steering wheel savagely. Without conscious thought she collapsed back into the leathery embrace of her bucket seat and took a long, deep breath.

A squeak from the passenger side drew her attention and she glanced over to see the long-haired, tan cat indignantly clawing his way back onto the seat. His tail twitched back and forth like wiper blades and his ears and whiskers pressed flat against his furry head.

Celeste bit her lower lip suppressing a laugh--apparently his pride had been sorely wounded when he was dumped gracelessly on the floor.

“Are you all right, Jacob?” she asked him, unable to stop the grin from stealing across her face.
He stared back at her, his golden eyes narrowed into thin slits as he scolded her with a deep, shrieking meow and looked pointedly away.

: What do you think?: he sent her in a short terse thought.

“I’m sorry,” she told him as she reached over to scratch his ears. How like a normal cat he could be sometimes.

“You know I didn't exactly plan that.” she said.

She stared at the snowy, ice packed road. “God, how I hate to drive, especially in this mess. Remind me again why I like Minnesota so much?”she asked Jacob as she gestured to the snow pelting her tinted windshield

Jacob didn't respond. He leaned heavily into her hand as she scratched behind his ears and under his chin. His ears once again raised and his whiskers protruding forward as he purred loudly.

With a mental shrug, she slowly pulled her car into the intersection and began to follow her mental landmarks down the snowy back streets of St. Paul.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day - Vote for Me

Okay, not really. I'm not running for office. I'm just trying to get readers for my novel.

But, seriously, if you haven't already, please vote. Please.

On to more personal matters, that pesky novel. I reached out to a fwe select friends and got a few volunteers. One reader only read the first three chapters. I hadn't mentioned that rape plays a major role in the story line, and she informed me that she will not read anything that includes rape as a premise.

Please, don't leap to the Alan Moore assumption. I don't have anyone falling in love with their rapists or any others such sick crap. I needed a vile, despicable villain who would call down the anger of a powerful woman who would then see turning said villain female as an appropriate revenge. A serial rapist seemed the best choice.

So, without giving anything away, what's this novel of mine about? No one wants spoilers, but everyone wants to know what a novel is about before reading it. Here's the rundown on my novel, The New Girls.

Back in June of this year, while I was preparing to go in for scoliosis surgery (repositioning of my entire spine by bolting it to a pair of rods that run from the top of my scapulae to my sacrum, where the longest bolts connect the rods to my ilia) I started working on a novel. I finished the first draft before I went in for surgery (August 7th) and have revised it several times since my release from post-op rehab in late August. I was surprised how much of this novel was already there, fully formed, in my head. I wrote the first 70000 words in under thirty days.

Let me ask you a question. Ever have a recurring dream that wasn't a nightmare? I had one, starting when I was about thirteen (which is—ouch!—forty years ago). It was one of those crazy dreams where I would eventually wake thinking, Wait, that wasn't real? In the dream, I woke, showered, ate breakfast, and went to school—just like any other day. Even the classes and teachers were the same. Two things were different. First, I seemed to be a lot more popular. People who'd never even noticed me before were following me around and acting like my friends. Second, I was female. Understand, this was not an erotic dream.

Over the years, this dream continued to pop up, and I wondered, briefly, if I wasn't suffering some form of latent transsexualism. Awake, however, I never felt the least interest in switching genders, so I knew this wasn't the souirce. So, over the years, surreptitiously, I've questioned other men about transgender dreams. I only recently began asking the same question of women. The results, thus far, have been surprising. As far as I can recall, every man I've asked has admitted to transgender dreams at one time or another, of one sort or another (erotic, status quo, nightmare). A few have laughed of the questoin or refused to answer, but I tend to chalk those up as, "Yes. Leave me alone."

Those dreams were the source material for this novel. I wanted to examine a situation where four very different men suddenly wake to find themselves female. This was impossible to do in any form other than science fiction or fantasy. I chose urban fantasy, primarily because I wanted to examine this situation in terms of modern issues and attitudes concerning gender, youth, sex, and beauty.

So, in the spirit of honest disclosure, The New Girls is an urban fantasy. It's also part police procedural, part crime novel. Because of the sexual and violent content, this is no youth novel. If any of these aspects interest you, please, drop me a comment or email me at I'll send you the first three chapters immediately and follow-up chapters as you need them.

Thanks in advance.