Thursday, March 28, 2013

What's Your Superpower?

"Dude, I don't think I would have agreed to come to this thing if I knew we were just going to stand in a bunch of lines all day."

"What are you talking about? We've met some amazing people."

"I thought we would get to meet Wolverine, not the guy that draws him."

"I think some of the Dr Who cast will be here."

"Dr Who? You don't even know his name?"

"That's the name of the show."

"What show?"

"You're hopeless."

"I'm not the one wearing tights, Peter Pan."

"Screw you. I'm Link. What the hell are you wearing?"

"A cape and a mask like everyone else. What's wrong with it?"

"Uh, no. That's a bed sheet and your mom's sleep mask with holes cut out of it. She is so gonna kick your ass for that."

"Whatever. I have a lightsaber, too."

"That doesn't make any sense!"

"Call me Captain Goodnight. Vooooosh. Vooooooosh."

"Stop that."


"Seriously, you are embarrassing me."

"Says the guy in tights. Going to ice dancing class after this?"

"Why did I invite you?"

"Because I was the only friend you have that was smart enough to come. I've seen pictures of the girls at these things. Hot nerd girls gone wild. Hey there pretty lady!"

"I didn't bring you to harass women."

"I was complimenting, not harassing."

"Oh my gosh! Link! Can I take a picture with you? We're a matching pair!"

"Uh, do you have any princess friends that want to jump into my arms and take a picture?"

"I don't think I know who you are supposed to be."

"Captain Goodnight, duh."

"Isn't that the name of a diaper brand?"


"Just shut up and take our picture. She doesn't care what you are wearing."

"Guy with a lightsaber and a guy with tights. If I was a betting man I would have lost money."

"Take the picture!"

"I am! There! Happy?"

"Thanks! Nice to meet you Captain Underpants."

"Goodnight! Captain Goodnight!"

"You're an idiot."

"And you're the worst wing man ever. She's giggling. Why do girls always giggle like that around me? Or maybe she is laughing at your tights."

"Enough about the damn tights!"

"Whatever. By the way, were you a really big fan of that churro you had earlier?"

"It was alright. Why?"

"Well you said we were in line to get an autograph."

"We are."

"Well then that guy selling popcorn is going to be really excited you want to meet him cuz that's the line we've been standing in."

"Dammit. Sometimes I really hate you."

More funny stuff here: Thank You for Holding

The opposite of funny here: Apologies

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Glass Zebras and Postcards

Sam and Carrie met on a plain Thursday afternoon. Carrie decided to enjoy the first warm afternoon of the year and eat her lunch outside. Sam took lunch outside everyday regardless of the weather.

"Life is too short to eat at a cubicle," Sam answered when asked about eating in the rain.

They had lunch together each day at the same table, shocked they had never met before even though they had worked in the same building for two years. Lunch dates turned into dinner dates and eventually stretched into weekends being spent together. It wasn't long until they decided it didn't make financial sense to rent two places when they only used one so they moved in together.

Carrie loved to cook and had perfected her grandmother's recipes. Sam was happy to wash the dishes with a belly full of comfort food. Sam teased Carrie about her collection of glass zebras that lived in every corner of the apartment while Carrie plotted to burn Sam's ratty college sweatshirt.

When Carrie's brother got married, they drank too much champagne and danced like fools the entire night. Carrie caught the bride's bouquet and waved it in Sam's face. They stumbled back to their hotel room above the reception hall with a final bottle of champagne swiped from behind the bar. Sam found a lottery ticket with a recent date left behind in the nightstand. They dreamed about seeing Venice, the Galapagos Islands and Beijing with their winnings. They wondered how hard it would be to travel with children and if they should try to see some of the world by themselves first. Carrie laughed until her sides ached the next morning when she realized Sam's lotto ticked was a valet ticket.

They had never been happier.

And then Sam got sick.

Cancer is an ugly word that comes with it's uglier friend called terminal. Time wasn't something they had worried about. They were young, whole lives left to live. Sam smiled and laughed it all off and planned a trip to Hawaii for the two of them.

"I just need a vacation."

Carrie begged Sam to try treatments before travelling, but lost the argument.

"Not much point to it, love."

They spent a week soaking in salty, warm air and listening to the waves crash on the sand. They kissed each kiss like it was their last and their first. Carrie committed each moment to a postcard memory and wished on the first star each night that she could live the same day over again tomorrow.

Sam held her hand and kissed her fingers when she cried on the plane ride home.

They were in the hospital before they expected, but anytime would have been too soon. Carrie decorated the beige walls with glossy travel magazine photos of white sand beaches, ancient Egyptian pyramids and St. Basils Cathedral in Moscow and even a few glass zebras. Colors of cultures from the world kept life and hope in the room. Sam promised to take her to every place including the ones she only saw in her dreams.

"I'm just going to get some coffee. I'll be right back."

When Carrie returned to Sam's floor, she was stopped by a nurse. She was refused admittance stating Sam's parents had arrived and requested only family be allowed in Sam's room. When she tried to explain they were practically married, but Sam had wanted to wait, the nurse could only apologize.

Sam died on a dark Wednesday.

Carrie received the news while she sat on a plum colored bench in the lobby. She learned that hearts don't break. They shatter like a glass figurine into millions of tiny shards that could never be put back together.

She never got to say goodbye.

Now imagine Sam was a man instead of her loving, nurturing other half that happened to be a woman.

I love stories about love: Indifference

And love lost: Solitary

Monday, March 25, 2013

You write a book...and you write a book...and you...

I'm nowhere close to being an expert on the whole indie market, self publishing industry. I read article after article and still feel clueless. I looked at the "how to publish your book" page on Amazon once. Just once. Pretty sure I broke out in hives. Cover art? Formatting to different platforms?

I need a drink just thinking about it.

All that makes writing a book seem easy.

I haven't completely lost hope just yet. 

There seems to be a sort of revolution happening when it comes to self published authors and the publishing world in general. This isn't exactly new. Ebooks have transformed the way readers access books. We've seen Borders close it's doors along with smaller retail chains. Barnes and Noble was smart enough to see where books were heading and came up with the Nook and could be why they have survived the culling.

Being a book junkie (and just a little weird to begin with) I mourned these losses. I used to spend hours in bookstores. My dad has always had a book in his hand and trips to Waldenbooks were as routine as going to the grocery store. Losing these places was like closing a door on pieces of my childhood. 

I even spurned the Kindle at first claiming it wouldn't smell like a book and holding a small tablet couldn't compare to 800 bound pages with beautiful cover art.

And then I got a Kindle as a gift and had the mother of all realizations: I now owned a bookstore that never closed.

Holy mother of God.

And that's how I met Colleen Hoover. Well, I didn't "meet" her, but I read her books Slammed and Point of Retreat . They didn't immediately rocket to the top of my list of all time favorites (sorry Colleen!), but I did enjoy them. Both were sweet and unique with great characters and even got a few tears out of me.

Then she published Hopeless .


I don't go around raving about too many books, but I actually messaged a friend at one in the morning because I had just finished reading it and couldn't wait until the morning to tell her she NEEDED to read this book.

It's rare to find a book that is witty enough to make you laugh out loud while you fall in love along with the main character and are left in a heaping sob of embarrassing mush after living their tragedies. This book runs the emotional gauntlet and leaves behind a bitter sweet taste and yet, is completely satisfying.

What I find to be most mind blowing about this whole thing (and the point of my ridiculous ramblings) is she is self published. Yup. All by her little self. Since becoming a bestselling author she has picked up a publishing deal, but she retained full rights to her e-book for Hopeless.

She's driving a huge parade float down publishing avenue clearing the way for self published authors. Publishing is evolving to be about the author and the reader instead of large houses telling us what we should be reading. The way books were meant to be produced.

Bloggers are becoming a huge part of this world as well through organizing unreal author signings like Bookbash in Orlando and The Boston Author Event that bring authors and fans together. Self published authors brought together by bloggers to meet fans that took a chance on a writer they might never had known if traditional publishing was the only path.

It's a community of glorious misfits and it is fascinating to see it evolving.

Now if someone could please tell me where the hell to look for cover art that won't cost me two weeks pay.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

After the Lights Go Out

Anna's stomach rolled as she sniffed the lingering scent of campfire smoke mingled with the odors of sweat and exhaust in the cab of the truck. Anxiety had already torn her gut to shreds and the invasion of smells was almost enough to retch up her meager breakfast of dried fruit and beef jerky.

She swallowed three times trying to focus on something other than her nausea. Her eyes drifted to the gas gauge hovering above a large, glowing "E".

Trees. Watching the trees might help.

She jumped as a strong hand squeezed her knee. "You okay?"

Anna answered with a weak nod and wondered if she had aged as much as Travis appeared to over the past week. "Stomach just feels a little rough."

"Maybe you could put the window down? Get some air?" The question wasn't directed at Anna, but to the rear view mirror. Grayson nodded his approval from the backseat so Travis pressed the controls on his left.

The blast of mountain air was warm with summer heat, but an improvement in the cramped space.

"Should be there soon," Travis muttered.

"Be where? We keep getting turned away!" panic was evident in her voice

"I know, but there has to be somewhere..."

"We won't even get wherever you think we are going before we run out of gas." Travis grabbed her chin and glanced away from the road to make sure Anna listened.

"We will make it. I promise." His conviction was soothing enough she chose to believe him for the moment.

A voice piped up from the backseat. "Take the next exit."

"What? Why?" Travis swiveled his head to scan all directions for an approaching car.

"Calm down there, tiger. No red alert. I saw a sign for a gas station back there."

"Gray, there's no way a gas station is out here. It would be closer to the city."

Grayson sighed at the resistance and threw his hands in the air. "Do we have a better option?"

Travis looked to Anna for guidance. Her heart sank when she read fear on his face. He had been so certain of their choices up until now.

She scanned the area hoping for sign. An unnatural shape protruded from the roadside weeds. A few moments later a second one appeared, the same rusted out color as the first. This one still retained a few spikes of beads to resemble feathers on the back of a metal peacock.

"He's right! Take the exit!" a foreign sense of hope trickled down her back.

The turn signal clicked to life to alert the rest of their caravan. He pulled off the highway onto a gravel road marked with matching signs for Dove's Gas standing sentry on either side.

A rusted remnant of a metal rooster followed soon after with a familiar sign reading "Fresh Pies". Anna's breath hitched at the sight and a vague childhood memory tapped at the back of her mind.

"Doesn't look like anyone is out here," Travis pointed out as overgrown trees and shrubs clawed at the sides of the truck.

Anna gnawed on a ragged cuticle and counted each sculpture as they passed.

The cab dipped into a pothole and roused Becca who had been peacefully unconscious in the back next to Grayson.  "Where are we now?"

"Hopefully somewhere with gas still in the pumps," Grayson answered as he wrapped an arm around her small shoulders.

"You guys found a station?" she asked, suddenly alert.

Anna peered around her seat and tried to force a smile, but ended up looking more like a deranged birthday clown. "Well, we found signs, and I remember stopping at this place once when my family used to camp out here. I had forgotten all about it, but I don't know any place else that sold sculptures of metal and glass birds and they are all along here."

"Oh! Like that?" She pointed to another fixture being swallowed by weeds.

Anna tried to swallow the lump in her throat. Becca had been virtually silent the last few days, and the spark in her eyes was most likely about to be crushed with disappointment.

Please let it still be here.

Travis followed the bend in the road to the left and a hushed sigh of relief whispered through the cab.

A small building clung to the earth with aged, timber supports. The paint was faded and peeling to match the once shiny red pair of gas pumps resting under a tin roofed covering.

Several car doors opening and closing were the only sound in the area. Anna felt her spirits sinking when she spotted an old sign by the door reading "Free slice of pie with fill up!" hanging askew from one last chain.

The gas pumps were secured with heavy chains and padlocked. Someone had gone to the effort to ensure free gas wasn't on the menu.

"Should we go knock or something?" Kyle asked as he approached their group hovered by the truck.

Travis shrugged and nodded, not willing to admit it was probably futile. He gestured to the two remaining male members of their group to join him with Kyle and Grayson. Anna tagged along hoping to recognize some sign of life.

As Travis started to object, door hinges screeched in protest, cutting his lecture short.

A straw of a man leaned against the door frame, taking them all in. He was sweaty and covered in grime that had covered him long before the world had started to end.

"Something you all want?" he asked without really caring what the answer was.

Travis pointed a thumb at the vehicles lined up behind them. "We could use some gas."

"Heh," was his only response before spitting a slimy wad on the ground at his feet. "So you want gas? Betcha do. Not many places left you can get it, I imagine." He tucked his greasy blonde hair behind his ears and looked up and down the line men in front of him. Even Grayson looked like he outweighed him, and he only had twenty pounds on Anna. He didn't seem the least bit intimidated. "How you plan on paying?"

Travis produced his wallet. "We've got enough money to cover..."

"Piss on that."

Tension straightened each of their spines. Anna glanced up at Travis and saw the side of his jaw tick with irritation. "Our money isn't good enough for you?"

"Nobody's money is," he laughed and spit again. "You kids think I'm stupid? I saw every city around here get blown off the face of the map just like you did. You must have all been out camping or you would be people BBQ, too. You should keep that paper in your wallet to wipe your ass with, because that's all it's good for now."

Kyle and Travis looked at each other, unsure of how to proceed. Grayson decided to ask what they didn't want to know. "What would you be willing to trade then?"

"So one of you has a brain, after all." He smiled through his chew revealing gaps and stumps where his teeth had rotted away. "How much water you got? And what kind of food?"

"No way, man," Kyle snapped. "We've got ten people to take care of. We've got nothing to spare."

Greasy man shrugged." Then I guess I can't spare any gas," he answered and turned to return inside.

Anna felt panicked as she glanced back at the chained pumps behind her. Her vision caught Becca watching the scene from the back of the truck. She didn't need to be told things weren't going well and her eyes were wide with fear.

Anna pushed her way passed Kyle and Travis. "Wait! There has to be something else. We have other supplies. Are you sure we can't make some kind of trade?"

He jerked back around at the sound of her voice and cocked his head with curiosity. A sneer drew up the side of his face as he looked Anna up and down. She shivered and felt naked under his stare. "I'm a reasonable guy. We might be able to work something out."

Travis possessively grabbed her by the waist and pushed her behind him. "Forget it."

"Don't think I was talking to you, boy. I was having a chat with lady."

"I said forget it," Travis threatened as he stepped forward.

"Oh for fuck's sake!" Sabrina shouted as she shoved her way past the line. "He's been pretty clear about things. Are we going to argue all day or get on with things?" Her over sized breasts threatened to bounce out of the tiny tank top she was wearing, much to the delight of greasy man. She glared at Anna and rolled her eyes. "Look, you won't get anywhere with ice princess. I'm not even sure she knows where things go which explains why big boy over here is wound so tight."

Anna lunged at Sabrina, but was easily restrained by Travis' strong arm and a stern look of warning.

"I'm down for your deal, if it means all three tanks and the reserve cans we have in the back of the truck." She hooked her thumbs through the belt loops on her cutoffs and stuck her chest out.

Kyle grabbed his girlfriend by the arm and hissed in her ear, "What the fuck do you think you are doing?"

"Getting our asses out of here," she snapped back and wrenched out of his grasp.

"Like hell you are!" He reached for her again, but Sabrina raised her hands to stop him. A moment of silence passed between them before she ran her hands up his chest and locked her hands behind his neck. She pulled him towards her and she spoke softly into his ear. When she released him, he sighed with resignation and stomped off to his Jeep.

"Now, where were we?" Sabrina began to saunter towards greasy man as the rest of the group looked on in horror.

"Sabrina! Stop!" Anna screamed. She could barely stand the slut on a good day, but she wouldn't stand by and watch this happen. "Travis, stop her!"

Travis looked back to Kyle who shook his head. "Let her go."

Appalled, Anna tried to run after Sabrina, but she only made it a few steps before her feet left the ground. Travis had a firm grip on her waist, but her kicking and squirming got her legs restrained by Grayson. Anna screamed in protest and tried to resist. She refused to accept what was happening and screamed again for Sabrina.

The fight left her body when she saw only a look of amusement on Sabrina's face.

Becca popped open the passenger door to let Travis deposit Anna inside. Sabrina had disappeared inside with the greasy man and a desperate sob escaped her throat.

Becca's small arms wrapped around Anna's shoulders and she tried to console her. "She will be fine."

"But they just let her go! Travis...Kyle...none of them stopped her. Why would they do that?" She watched Travis sink to the ground against a post. He buried his face in his hands and looked as lost as Anna felt.

She wondered why they had been so desperate to find fuel to begin with. They had been greeted at every major freeway by military personnel and forced to turn back. Sabrina was only buying them more time to drive in circles. It wasn't worth the cost.

"Do you think Andy and Lauren made it past the guards?" Becca asked quietly.

Anna was startled that her mind had been on a similar subject as her own. "I don't know, sweetie. Maybe?"

"And they wouldn't let them back out? That's why they didn't come back?" She was trying to find some reason for losing her sister. Anna couldn't meet her eyes, the haunting replicas of her best friend that was now lost to her.

"Tori shouldn't have let you come. I'm so sorry you are out here with us." Anna sniffled and tried to push away the image of Tori closing her eyes one last time.

Tori didn't admit she was out of insulin until she was too sick to move. Anna couldn't imagine the panic she must have felt watching the night sky light up with explosions in every direction; knowing that modern medicine had suddenly become a luxury, and her time was limited.

She had refused to let anyone try to get back into town on her behalf, and it was apparent she couldn't stand the eight hour car ride. Andy and Lauren left while everyone was asleep, determined to bring back insulin for Tori.

That was eight days ago.

Tori had only lasted four.

Becca shook her head and fought against tears. "You saved my life. If I wasn't here with you guys, then...," she trailed off, not needing to explain the alternative.

Anna hugged the little sister she had inherited. "I'll keep you safe. Whatever I have to do." She glanced at the nearby shack and silently prayed it wouldn't come to something she couldn't live with doing.

Minutes stretched on as they waited. No one in their group spoke or even moved, each feeling just as helpless as the next person.

Anna was about to ask if they find a way to check on Sabrina when the door to the shack squeaked open.

Sabina skipped out looking slightly unkempt, but alive. She tossed a ring of keys at Travis as he jumped to his feet. "There's cases of water and snacks left from when this place fully operated. Probably stale, but at least it's something." She grinned at a question from Travis that Anna couldn't hear. "Nah, he won't mind at all."

Anna opened the door to help collect supplies, but Travis pushed the door shut before she got out. "Stay," he commanded.  "Please? Just wait here."

Kyle embraced Sabrina and laughed at something she whispered to him. Anna felt her jaw fall shocked at the scene before them.

"Well at least she's alright," Becca mumbled as she scampered over the seats to the back of the cab.

Sabrina headed towards the truck, wiping her hands on a dirty rag. She stared Anna down with a smug grin as she approached her open window. "Here, princess. Got you a present." She tossed a screwdriver into Anna's lap. For a moment she wondered why it felt wet, then she saw the blood it left on her thigh. She looked back to Sabrina in horror. "Now you have something legitimate to judge me for, bitch."

She swiped the bloody screwdriver onto the floor and kicked it away, but she couldn't touch the smear across her leg.

Soon after, Travis led them back out onto the freeway. Anna tried to wrap her thoughts around things. Kyle knew what Sabrina had planned on doing. Did that make it better or worse? Would she have fought as hard to stop her if she knew what was really going on?

She tried to tell herself that it was done. There was no point in dwelling on what she couldn't change. Travis had kept her out of things as best as he could, though. "Did you know what she planned on doing?"

His tired eyes glanced in her direction before shaking his head. "I knew Kyle wouldn't have let her go without a good reason. I had to trust him." He reached for Anna's hand to steady his own and she realized he was struggling as much as she was. Physically he was more capable of having done something than Anna, so guilt was weighing on his soul, slumping his shoulders and pulling at the corners of his mouth.

Anna held his hand. It was the only support she could offer aside from refraining from any more questions.

Country highways did nothing to occupy the mind. Anna pictured Tori healthy then fading away before her. She saw Lauren sitting on Andy's lap, the pair laughing at a private joke. She missed her friends and pushed away their memories because they shouldn't occupy the same head space as a murdered stranger.

She began to consider the softest spots on a man to thrust a screwdriver: the throat, the kidneys, the gut. She wondered if it killed him instantly, or if he suffered. She realized he might have still been alive when they drove away.

The copper stench of blood, real or imagined, attacked her and rolled her stomach again.

"Please pull over," she hissed through clenched teeth.

The color must have drained from her face because Travis didn't hesitate.

Anna flung herself out the door before they completely stopped, and she stumbled to her knees on the side of the road retching up half digested beef jerky.

Her vomit was soon accompanied by sobs. She wished for all of it to be over; to wake up from the nightmare they were living.

Travis joined her and rubbed her back, murmuring soft words meant to calm. She was exhausted and her nerves were raw. She didn't want to be afraid anymore or not know where they would end up next.

A breeze blew across her face and brought the stench of rotting death to her nose. Travis froze as he recognized the scent, too.

If the grass had been a few inches higher she wouldn't have seen them.

The bottom of a pair of Vans with the name "Andy" spelled with a backwards N stared at them. Anna remembered giving Lauren so much grief as she had refreshed the faded sharpie on the bottom of her shoes. Lauren had just smiled and told her it made sense since she belonged to him.

A pair of hiking boots on a body lying face down were next to the familiar shoes. Their car was gone. Only two ruts in the gravel remained where the car had peeled out to leave the bodies decaying by the side of the road.

First fuel, now a car. What would they kill for or be killed for next?

Anna felt her throat and wondered how much a screwdriver would hurt.

If that wasn't dark enough for you: Tick Tock

Or if on the lighter side of things: Her Confidence is Tragic