Escape

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By Jamie Burns

She walked along the damp tunnel, her bare feet moving swiftly against the cold cement. The wind blew through the tunnel and right through the thin night gown she had been given. She knew that if not for all the adrenaline running through her she would feel frozen, but right now all she could feel was her heart pounding through her whole body.

She had nothing; no coat, no shoes, no means to tell how much time had passed. It felt like hours but really it was less than ten minutes. Less than ten minutes for her to change her life, less than ten minutes to either get her life back or end it for good.

The tunnel went on and on. She was finally nearing the end when in the distance she heard the dogs barking inside the tunnel behind her. She quickened her pace. Then she could hear men’s voices in the tunnel, yelling out indecipherable commands and information to each other. She ran through puddles and sludge praying that her feet wouldn’t find any glass. Then, a burst of fresh clean air blew across her face,  she had made it out of the tunnel. But it was of little relief since she was still a mile from the fence line. She sprinted toward it even though her lungs were already on fire. Dawn was on the horizon and if she could at least make it to the fence she might have a chance.

She had been locked in that room so long that running felt freeing mentally but excruciating physically. Once able to run for hours without feeling tired, now she was spent after  fifteen minutes. She was a shadow of what she once was and they had done that to her. They had taken all her detail away, all of her dimension and complexity. She hated them for that, she ran even harder.

The loud, clear barking of dogs filled the field telling her they had made it out of the tunnel. Their men would be behind them shortly. She ran and tried miserably not to wonder if the dogs would tear her apart before the men could shoot her.

She had covered the expanse of the clearing and reached the wooded area that came before the fence line. She was only a short way in when she ran straight through a patch of thorn bushes. She could push through a few scrapes on her legs but it was the ones that buried themselves deep into the bottom of her feet that made her fall to the ground. Rolling a few times before hitting a tree. She scrambled up next to the trunk and frantically pulled the thorns from her feet.

The low growl of a dog reverberated through the forest. They had caught up, and the first was now stopped just ten yards away. It’s head low to the ground and the fur on  its back standing on end, the snarling dog’s two companions fell in line behind it. After making it this far, coming so close, to die with nothing but a tiny hope. It was all she had left. Even with so little of it, she had to try. Maybe she was close enough. She clapped her hands together, interlaced her fingers and closed her eyes to concentrate, but nothing happened.

She opened her eyes. The dogs were now starting their slow approach. With her last shred of hope fading, she looked in the direction of the fence line and there as the first light of morning brightened the sky was a gleaming silver fence post. Without a second thought, she pushed herself away from the tree and sprinted for the post. Overjoyed to find the fence line had no fence to speak of. If she could just cross that line…

From the moment she started running the dogs closed the distance quickly.  She was sure she could feel their hot breath on the back of her legs. She extended her stride and pushed her body to its breaking point. As she did her best to jump over the brambles at the fence line,  one of the dogs knocked her to the ground. They both tumbled and rolled but by the time she stopped the beast was over the top of her, teeth bared and snarling. Terror overtook her for the split second before she realized they were over the line.   

She slammed her hands together in front of her in the space between her and the beast looming above. The blue surge of energy that shot from her hands manifested itself as a double-edged sword that glided smoothly up through the beast. Its snarl faded to confusion, then it was gone. She tossed it aside and popped up to her feet. The other two dogs split apart trying to encircle her. She pulled her hands apart but the energy stayed, the sword splitting in two so she wielded one in each hand. She felt her energy returning, the burn in her lungs and legs dissipating. Her energy filled her with more rage. Her natural state only reminded her of all they had taken from her.

The remaining dogs jumped at her almost simultaneously, the one behind her moving only seconds after the one in front. She stepped sideways and raised her hand over her head then swiftly back down, slicing off the heads of both beasts in one fluid motion.

It sounded like the men were now closing the distance. All she wanted was to get out, to get free. Now standing at the edge of her own hell, her prison over the last five years with the men that tortured her approaching a place where she was the one with the power her feelings shifted. Did she want freedom? Or did she really want revenge? Inside the scared girl that had spent years there told her to leave then. But with the energy that coursed through her, the rage filled warrior she was supposed to become told her to stay. So she stayed, broken and angry she was intoxicated with her own power and intoxication leads to bad judgement.

She moved farther away from the fence line but still within view to lure them to her. The four men stopped when they saw the dogs, dead on the ground and exchanged looks with one another. They spotted her, no blue energy coming from her hands just a slight, barefoot girl in a dirty, thin nightgown.  Like the dogs they were, they too spread out to surround her.

The man in front of her held out a hand. “27, why don’t you come back now and save us the trouble of dragging you back.”

“That’s not my name.” She said under her breath.

“You don’t have a name.” His voice dripping with disdain.

The men closed in around her, and she tried to track them all in her peripheral vision but  lost one behind her. That was the first moment she wished she had listen to the scared little girl that said leave. It was too late now. She steeled herself and looked up and meet the gaze of the man in front.  

“I might not have a name, but in a moment, you won’t have a head.”

His smug look faltered for a moment and she focused the energy back to her hands, the blue light illuminating the forest around them. All the men took a step back as the dual swords formed. The leader tried to keep his composure but every tiny waver in his confidence made her giddy with pleasure.

“You really think you can win you worthless piece of garbage?” He spat at her.

At the words, she jumped high into the air toward him, twice as high as she had been able to jump within the fence line. Calling her garbage was the last thing he ever did. She landed in a crouch on the ground in front of him and his blood ran down the edge of her blue blade. The gasps from the other men were like music to her. She stood to her full height which was still half as tall as the man she had just decapitated. Turning to the next man she ran at him, closing the gap quickly. When a pain like nothing she had known coursed through her body radiating from her chest. She started to fall toward the man and her blades flickered out, once again defenseless. She stumbled forward and to her surprise, the man caught her. Her legs went limp and he lowered her slowly in his arms. She felt a warmth spreading over her as her energy diminished. The man held her as her warm blood covered both of them before staining the earth below. The man across from them still had his gun raised and a smile on his face. She looked to the face of the man holding her and thought how she might have hated him the least. But he was still one of them. Through the blood that filled her mouth she choked out. “Do...don’t touch me.”

He lay her on the ground and stood over her. “You should have just come back with us.” He looked surprisingly sad.  The other two men joined him looking over her.

Hatred consumed her heart giving her a last surge of energy. “Death first,” she spat and a blue pulse coursed out of her body. The ripple filled the forest and she was finally free.

 

Goals for 2017

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I’m gonna go ahead and say that I killed it in 2016. Sure I didn’t reach every one of my goals but half aint bad! Now I’m headed into a new chapter in life and I get to focus on what I really love to do, write. I’m excited and totally ready to Slay 2017! (Ya! That's right I know hip millennial lingo.) Before January gets away from me I wanted to set some goals for the year. Telling you guys about them can really help me motivate myself it to accomplishing them so here we go!

Goal 1: Finish revising my manuscript from NaNoWriMo 2016.

Yes I have a finished manuscript! Once it’s all polished and shiny I’ll talk about it more. I’m hoping this will be done by June. That’s my own revisions, than one from my critique partner, then an editor.

 

Goal 2: Read 36 Books!

I upped my reading goal this year. Since this was one of the goals I did accomplish in 2016. I really enjoyed it so I decided to go even bigger in 2017. That comes out to 3 books a month. Since I already have 40 books on my TBR (to be read) shelf it should be one of my more attainable goals.

 

Goal 3: Participate in 2017’s NaNoWriMo.

I had a wonderful experience that taught me a lot about myself as a writer during the 2016 NaNo. So this is a goal I am happy to put on my list again. I already have a story concept picked out and I can’t wait to try for another Win!

 

Goal 4: Learn more about the world of publishing.

My ultimate goal is to be a published and successful author so learning about that world is a pretty important part of the quest. This might also include finding representation (Literary Agent) but I’m not sure I will be quite to that point this year.

 

Goal 5: Bring Sci Fi, Oh My readers (Hey that’s you!) good content.

I really tapered off my posting at the end of the year because I felt like I was posting for the sake of posting and not because I was producing quality stories. That’s not what I want. I don’t want to put out mediocre garbage because I have to write something. That’s not fair to any of us. Yes I want to post consistently but I want those posts to have quality content! Whether that’s helpful writer’s stuff or entertaining fiction.

 

Goal 6: Finish another Manuscript.

Whether it’s the time travel book I have been working on for 2 years or a new project entirely I want to finish at least one novel this year not including the one for NaNoWriMo. This feels like my most ambitious goal yet. I have a list of story ideas that are waiting to be brought to life and this year one of them will be.

I think that’s a good amount of possibly attainable things for one year don’t you? Me too. Let's do this 2017!

Sci Fi, Oh My's 2016 Reading Round Up

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At the beginning of 2016 I decided to set myself a goal of reading 2 books a month. That might not sound like much to some but that’s 24 books total and a lot for me. Happy to say that I made it! Effectively tripling the number of books I read in 2015. Yay!

I tried to read a wide variety of book in 2016 everything from thrillers, romance, fantasy, British comedy and of course Science Fiction. With all that came many different writing styles. I can truly say that reading more makes you a better writer. Not only does it help your creative side it also helps you to realize styles and devices that you really like and don’t like.  It reminds you what a reader likes and then you can take that back to your own writing. Now, I’m not saying you should write for anyone but yourself but you should write something that you would want to read. Just something to keep in mind.

I want to talk about the books I read this year. I’m going to do my very best not to have spoilers. Mostly I want to talk about things I learned as a writer from reading these books. Here we go. (LOTS of book talk ahead)

In no particular order…

 

  1. Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis

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When I hear C.S. Lewis, one word comes to mind. Prolific. But I’ll admit the only thing I had ever read from him was of course The Chronicles of Narnia. So I saw this and had to get it. C.S. Lewis in space! How could I not. I went in not knowing what to expect and found of course that even though the words were coming for a blobby type alien they were deep, profound and spoke to me. Leave it to C.S. Lewis. This is the first book in a trilogy and I haven’t had the chance to read the others yet but I hope to in 2017.

One thing I have noticed in many space travel stories is the common theme that we on planet earth are oblivious to the vast life that spreads across the galaxy. Instead of painting the human race as a pack of idiots, C.S. Lewis gives us the feeling that it is more of a tragic state than a laughable one. I was surprised when I found this book to be so profound in theme but I’m not sure why since the author is so well known for just that. Looking forward to finishing the series.

 

  1. The Warlord of the Air by Michael Moorcock

Another first in a trilogy, a Nomad of the Time Streams novel, I guess you might call this a steampunk science fiction. I very much enjoyed this book. Thought I would throw that out there before I say it was while I read this book I realized how much I’m not a fan of forwards and prefaces. I know they have a purpose I’m just saying they are not my particular favorite.  It was also while reading this book or maybe right after I finished it that I realized something I loved about it, it’s pacing! The timing and pace was wonderful, everything in it was pushing the story forward. No chapter after chapter of forest descriptions or paragraph after paragraph of how to make a sandwich (silly example). It made me realize I like a story that gets down to business. My imagination can fill in more of the blanks of what's around me. Tell me something about the plot.

This also helped me realize that an author who paces stories like this, then takes the time to elaborately describe something it must be because it’s important. An example of this isHarry Potter and the Half Blood Prince in which J.K. Rowling actually describes Rowena Ravenclaw's lost Diadem and its location, (We had seen the thing!) but it’s only a moment and doesn't come into play again until the Deathly Hallows.  

Good pacing can add weight and gravitas to other elements of a story.

 

  1. Veronica Mars, The Thousand Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham.

If you were a fan of the show this is a great way to get more of Veronica’s Nancy Drew like sleuthing. It feels very familiar since in the show we often had Veronica’s inner dialog to tell us what snarky things she was thinking, this book has much the same feeling. Falling into the mystery/thriller category, it’s not a genre that I usually gravitate towards but containing a character I was already invested in made it easy for me to dive in.

The character of Veronica Mars does remind me of something I struggle with in my writing and that’s character development. Taking my character from being one person when the story starts to a changed in some way person at the end. I tend to make people who I want them to be from the beginning. I’m working on it.

 

  1. Red Dwarf by Grant Naylor

The first 2 books in the Red Dwarf series says the author is Grant Naylor. Grant Naylor is really 2 different people Rob Grant and Doug Naylor. Something I didn’t realize till I started looking for the 3rd book in the series.

What can I say about Red Dwarf… Okay. Red Dwarf (Infinity welcomes careful drivers) is easily a stand out favorite for me! Bringing the idea of what British comedy is to a whole new level of storytelling. You might remember (or not) that this was also a show on the BBC back in 1988. I still haven’t tracked it down to watch it since I haven't finished the books yet.  

This space adventure comedy showed me that something can be totally, completely, absurdly ridiculous and still be fantastic! The British have a way of doing this. I can’t fully explain. This book had more moments than I can remember that I found myself in stitches thinking “Really? This this really happening right now? This is the most amazing thing I have ever read.” I enjoyed it immensely. So much that is made it onto my favorite books list and that’s a pretty short list.  

The other thing that I found interesting about the Red Dwarf series (and please don’t let this deter you from picking it up) is its lack of likeable characters. It almost feels like a whole story filled with supporting characters that in any other novel would be a background character that showed up for comic relief but instead these guys are what you get.

I realize that this book will probably not appeal to everyone, but in my opinion it’s pure brilliance.

 

  1. Better Than Life (Red Dwarf #2)  by Grant Naylor

Continuing with a ship full of buffoons that you are now somehow inexplicably attached to, Better than Life takes us on to the next chapter of the Red Dwarf’s journey. Giving more of the crazy goodness.

 

  1. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Talk about the kind of book I usually wouldn’t have picked out. But a friend suggested it and I did enjoy it. This falls in the romance drama category. Really, I should probably read a little more in this area since I find it difficult to write romance into my stories. This was very informative one ways to slowly grow two characters closer to each other. And SPOILER not all romance ends in a wedding and riding off into the sunset.

 

  1. Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

This was an exciting book. Made all the more exciting by the fact it was written during a NaNoWriMo. Erin Morgenstern takes a beautiful story concept and weaves a magical tale full of whimsy. I didn’t love this book as much as it seemed many others did but I was still happy to take the ride. The author has a wonderful way of describing fantastic scenes of impossible things, but you know “magic” so…

Erin Morgenstern also uses a style in small sections of “Present Tense Writing”. A style you rarely see in novels. It reminds me a lot of the odd choose your own adventure books. “You’re standing in front of a forked path. To the left you see a forest. To the right an open glen.” That kind of thing. Writing that makes you feel like you’re living it. I can’t imagine an entire novel like this but it does remind me that you can try new things new styles?. Some of them might work some might not but it’s okay to try.  

 

  1. The Siren by Kiera Cass

This is a  standalone novel by The Selection author Kiera Cass. It’s a haunting tale of a Siren’s life. You know a Siren, the mythical women that sing to bring boat crashing into rocks killing all that are one board. Yeah, those sirens. I like the originality of the concept. Though I had some small things I would have liked for her to explain more. This book reminded me how nice it is to read a standalone novel. A quick read that doesn't lock me into reading 3 or more books just to complete one story.

 

  1. The Crown by Kiera Cass (Spoilers)

The 5th book in the Selection series. We are now following Eadlyn, the daughter of America. America is the heroin from the first three books in the series. I have liked the other books in the series but I wasn't overly in love with this one. I found that I cared about every supporting character more than I did Eadlyn. It might have been more about the kind of character I like more than the writing itself. What it lacked in keeping me invested it made up for in giving me what I wanted in the end.

 

  1. The Bassoon King by Rainn Wilson

An Autobiography of the actor that played Dwight K. Schrute. The only non-fiction book I read this year. It read like fiction as Rainn Wilson had the kind of life you would think had to have been made up. Nothing like  I would have imagined him in real life. It was odd to see behind the veil. If you’re interested in Rainn Wilson and his eccentricities this will give you deep insight but if you’re not it’s a pass.

 

  1. The Cosmic Puppet by Philip K. Dick

Another author that qualifies for the word Prolific. You might not  recognize the name Philip K. Dick but you have probably heard of some of his work. Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report, and A Scanner Darkly are all his handy work. Can I also point out that Blade Runner is based on a book called Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Now is that a name or what? (I love it).

This novel reads much like an episode of the twilight zone. (Spoilers) A man rolls into the town he was born in only to find that things are a little off and according to the current town, he was never born.

 

  1. FanGirl by Rainbow Rowell

This was my first read from Rainbow Rowell and another that was written during NaNoWriMo. Since this is the only book I have read from Rowell I’m not sure if this is her usual subject or if all her books deal with different themes. This is basically what I would call a coming of age story. Set in the real world and driven by the relationships in the book. I listened to it on audiobook and enjoyed it for what it was. A not too heavy story about a girl figuring out how to life.

 

  1. Prodigy: (A Legend Novel #2) By Marie Lu

Honestly, I read this early in the year and I having trouble remembering a lot about it. Which just reminds me that I wasn’t overly wowed with it. I think at this point I was getting burnt out on teenage dystopian futures. I remember I liked it enough that I do plan to finish the series. What it’s taught me as a writer is to work towards coming up with something new and fresh. Don’t get me wrong; nothing wrong with a dystopian future but unless you have something that really makes you stand out you might just get lumped into a category that readers are bored of.   

 

  1. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Mass

This adventure into a fantasy world of faeries was enjoyable. I like to read and learn how other writers do their world creating. Since I find that exhausting, it’s the thing I dread about writing fantasy more than anything. That’s probably why I tend toward Science Fiction where I can base my stories loosely in the ‘real’ world. In that aspect, my hat  is off  to Sarah J. Mass. She does a great job at painting you into a new place with magical and impossible creatures.

 

  1.  Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Alright I had to take a deep breath before this one. I LOVE this book! It was a gift and I read it without the tiniest idea of what it was about and I am so glad I did. I finished it in 3 days. (Which is fast for me.) This Science Fiction thriller came to me at the perfect time. I was dealing with writer's block and a heavy dose of laziness in my writing. Dark Matter was the kick in the pants I needed. Wonderfully exciting, clever, and original it’s very hard to put down. I’m pretty sure at one point I had the book in one hand and I was flipping pancakes with the other.  I cannot recommend this book enough.

 

16, 17, 18, 19, and 20. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Series, The Restaurant at the end of the Universe, Life the Universe and Everything, So Long and Thank for all the Fish, and Mostly Harmless: by Douglas Adams   

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Back to my British sci fi comedy kick, I immensely enjoyed this series. Some of the books more than others but I see them all as one story. The first book is a fantastic nonsensical romp in the galaxy immortalized not only by Douglas Adams writing but also by Martin Freeman in the 2005 film adaptation. Though the script wasn’t as strong as it could have been, the casting was on point. With Martin Freeman, Sam Rockwell, and Zooey Deschanel being perfect matches to their characters. (In my opinion, which is the right one because this is my website ;D) But this isn't about the movies, I just appreciate that the Arthur Dent in my head will always be my hobbit friend in a bathrobe.

Each book the story becomes more exciting and even more confusing. It’s only one of the few times I find it pretty easy to let go of the glaring continuity errors. In fact, many times they are explainedlater. I mistook foreshadowing for plot hole more than once in this series. Sadly, Adams died in 2001 with the series uncompleted. There is only more “Official” book in the series but it is written by another author and I have yet to read it because am a skeptic.  

If you like British humor, it’s a great series. I even gave a compendium to a friend as a gift. I force her to read all the books I want to talk about.

 

  1. Armada  by Ernest Cline

I’m a big fan of Ready Player One so when Armada came out, I had no hesitation in getting it. I wasn’t disappointed. It definitely felt like an Ernest Cline novel but that’s not really a bad thing, he just has a subject he really gravitates towards and that’s 80’s pop culture. A very different story and premise than Ready Player One but a similar feel that reminded me not only of his own work but also of Ender's Game. Definitely worth the read if you liked either of those books.

 

  1. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: Screenplay by J.K. Rowling

Because it was a screenplay this was a quick read. Although not a “book,” I decided to count it on this list because… why not. Reading a screenplay requires a bit more imagination but lucky for us J.K. Rowling and David Yates have already established the visual aesthetic of the wizarding world.  Making it easy for me to create my own mental storyboard as I read it before seeing it on screen.  While I read this, I discovered that I wanted to write my NaNoWriMo project into a screenplay as well as a novel.

 

  1. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Script by John Tiffany, Jack Thorne, and J.K. Rowling

There was so much excitement around this script from Harry Potter fans everywhere and I was no different. Even more so once I started reading and found it dealt in time travel. (Insert fangirl squeal here)

I hear a lot of people say they couldn’t really get into it because how it’s written. (Script and not a novel) My brain sees everything I read in a film adaptation in my head so I had no problems and got REALLY into to. I read it in only 2 days. It’s a great addition to the story but I just wouldn’t be me if I didn’t pick  apart the time travel.

The Prisoner of Azkaban had always been one of my favorite in the series probably because it has a time travel element. Moreover, it handles time travel as I prefer which is a fixed time line. (I’m not going to go into that right now, this post is already long enough. If you want to talk about it, message me.)    But in the Cursed Child, Rowling abandons the theory of fixed time lines and moves to using a Dynamic time line. A HUGE continuity error that drives me CRAZY!

I understand that the whole plot of the Cursed Child hinges on a dynamic timeline so I pushed it to the back of my mind and enjoyed the story. But since I hate plot holes and the like, and this story has many, it was a bitter sweet read for me.

 

  1. Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

When I found this at the used book store, I had to pick it up. I had seen the movie but wanted to read the original story and see how the author approached the unique situation.  Zero disappointment. Chuck Palahniuk blow me away with the odd style this is written in, that somehow works. Although I wondered if I hadn’t seen the movie first would I have been able to follow it as well as I did. (I guess I’ll never know.) I think it’s one of the best film adaptations from a book that’s out there. The film differs only very slightly from the book from scene to scene. This is a great book to read and take in different ways to foreshadow. If you already know the story you really appreciate all the small details more.

 

25.-ish (Reread) Ready PlayerOne by Ernest Cline

I really do like it that much. It was my only reread of the year. It helps I have it on audio and Wil Wheaton narrates it. He’s amazing FYI. I enjoyed it just as much as I did in 2015 when I read it the first time. It’s another I highly recommend if you’re a fan of 80’s pop culture.

 

So that’s it! I’m looking forward to all the reading to come in 2017!

NaNo Wrap Up!

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NaNo Wrap Up

December already! November flew by, probably because I had my nose to the grind stone, type, type, typing away at my NaNoWriMo goal. It was all worth it too; because for the first time, I won! If you read my post NaNoWriMo 2016 explaining what NaNoWriMo is then you’ll know what I’m talking about. If not and you want to know what I’m talking about, click on over to NaNoWriMo 2016. I’ll wait here…

Alright! So, yes, I won! The goal was to write 50,000 words toward a novel between November 1st and 30th. I Won on November 26th, and ended November with 54,703 words. I have almost completed my story. I’m still working on the last 2 chapters and then I’ll have my first draft complete! I’m using a lot of exclamation points because that’s how excited I am! I am so glad I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo this year. It was on my list of goals for the year and it’s now one that I can put a checkmark next to. It will also be going on my list again for next year.

How NaNoWriMo Went for Me

November 1st came and I was ready to get the ball rolling. On the NaNo site they have a word tracking graph and all kinds of achievements and badges you can earn throughout the month. This really speaks to the gamer in me, and when I saw there was a badge for updating your word count every single day in Nov I  knew I had to have it. Therein  meaning I needed to write every day. I had already planned to, but having that in the back of my mind helped me make sure I always got my words in for the day.

Overall,  the stats say I averaged around 1,823 words a day.  I got big chunks of it on the weekends or days I took off from work. I write best in the morning, so on days I had to work after I got home, I could only get a few hundred words before I was falling asleep on my laptop as I wrote nonsensical things. I had to shake myself awake and delete whatever the last silly thing was that accidentally slipped out of my head. To make up for those days, on my days off I would get up at the same time. (4:30-5:00ish) and start writing. Usually I was able to get at least 3,000 words on those days. I think I even had a day I wrote 6,000 words!  

Writing every day is a great habit to be in. What I learned most from it is that sometimes you’re not going to feel creative. You’re not always going to feel like a good writer.  You can’t stop writing just because you don’t feel like it, or aren’t feeling inspired. I mean you could, but you’ll probably never finish anything.

When I was at a stall, I just looked at my outline and looked where the story needed to go. It might not have been pretty but I just wrote what it took to get me to the next part of the story. “Keep moving forward, I’ll fix it later.” became my mantra. Because of that mindset, I have a FIRST DRAFT! Not just an idea, a character, an outline, a chapter, a general sense of where it’s going, but a WHOLE first draft! My first, first draft of a book! That’s crazy talk!

Overall I am 100% glad I participated in National Novel Writing Month and I know that I’ll be doing the same thing next November. Hope you do too!

The Dark Dragon (Nathaniel)

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The Dark Dragon Accounts

(Mary)

(Isaac)

(Lucas)

The Dark Dragon

Nathaniel

By Jamie Burns

My father told me stories of the Dark Dragon my whole life. It was tradition, of course  I told them to my Children. My wife Rose and our two girls would curl up under a blanket while I repeated and added to the stories. When the stories got to scary our girls would bury their faces against Rose’s shoulders wait for the moment to pass then join back in the adventure. Those were my favorite memories of my wife.

Rose passed away shortly after giving birth to our son Isaac. For years I thought I would never tell those stories again. The memory of my girls all huddled together under a blanket listening were so perfect it hurt to think about. Until one day when Isaac was 7, he had been sick for several days, and I sat by his bed trying to comfort him. When one of my girls pointed out Isaac had never been told the tales of the Dark Dragon. Both girls agreed that mom would never have stood for that. They made themselves comfortable, Rachel at the foot of the bed and Mary along side Isaac, pulling a blanket over them both. Once again I told the tales of the Dark Dragon. Isaac loved the stories, the girls cared more for the nostalgia of the it, less about the stories themselves, but I suppose that’s part of growing up.

...

After the second tremor the merchant I worked for let us all go for the day. People were gathering in the square and it was clear no one was getting any more work done that day. I just wanted to get home to my kids. I though the tremors would be small, nothing to get worked up over and maybe we could have a nice family dinner for once.

That hope for a nice night was dashed by the fact that I got home to find no one. They were smart kids, even if they had been out they knew to come home when they felt the tremors. I double checked the rooms but it’s not like our home is big enough to have missed anyone. I paced and with every pace the room felt smaller and smaller. I couldn’t just wait here and hope they were on their way back. I left and headed toward the square.

“Rachel!” I called out when I spotted her.

“Dad!” She ran over and greeted me with a hug. “Do you know what's going on?” she asked.

“I’m sure it’s just earthquakes. But where are your brother and sister?” I tried not to sound irritated, not sure it was working. She looked at the ground.

“Rachel? Where?”  

“I saw Isaac on the path, the one that leads toward the cave.”

“On the cliff side?”

“I was going to go get him dad I swear. But it’s ok because Lucas is getting him.”

“Lucas? Who’s Lucas?”

“Um, he’s a boy I know.”

It was just getting better and better. I decided to handle one problem at a time. Find my kids first, punish them later.

“So where are Isaac and Lucas now?”

“I don’t know they haven’t come back yet.” Rachel bit her bottom lip. Something her mother use to do when she was worried as well.

“And Mary?” I asked

She shrugged her shoulders. “She wasn't with Isaac when I saw him.”

“Ok, come on. We’re sticking together.” I pulled her by the hand out of the crowd and toward the mountain. Then another tremor shook the ground.

Rachel and I were halfway to the mountain when it emerged. Every story my father had told, every story I had told and there it was. The Dark Dragon had come out of it’s cave after over 100 years.

The mountain was still a ways off but it sat like a dark shadow looking down over the village. Even from where we were it was easy to see the torrent of fire that was now pouring from the creature that stood at the cave's mouth. I ran toward the mountain,  praying Isaac had l left that cave long before.

When I realized Rachel was running behind me I turned to her. “No, go home. Run home and take cover. If your sister is there don’t let her leave.” I wished I could soothe the frightened look on her face but I was pretty sure I had the same look.

I ran at a sprint toward the mountain, and I heard it. It was a sound I had described many times over while telling the stories but never really heard till that moment. I’ll be the first to tell you that the description in the stories did not do justice to the roar of a Dragon.

It was said in the stories that the Dark Dragon’s roar was like thunder from on high. Now having heard it I would say it was a thunder that enveloped you so completely the thunder might have come from your very own bones. A sound that instantly drained the warmth from your body leaving you cold and frightened.

I ran faster half watching my path half watching the Dragon. The as the light from it’s fire dimmed the black Dragon took the the sky. It seemed to take little to no effort for the massive creature to lift off the ground. The flap of its great wings disturbing the trees and land around it with a powerful flurry of wind. The dragon shot straight into the sky. It made it’s way up out of the shadow of the mountain and what was left of the sun light hit it. I had never imagined it properly. I had been far from it and the Dragon still seemed to massive to comprehend. The Dark Dragon was indeed a black dragon just as the stories said. What the stories never got right was well the color. Yes it was a black dragon, but once the light hit it the black had a incredible undertone that glinted in the sun light. Like when lamp oil is mixed with water. A rainbow effect that mesmerizes any on looker.

I reached the start of the cliffs path and the dragon was still soaring upwards. It must have been terribly high because it was finally starting to look smaller. I thought I could see it turning slightly toward the village. I told myself again one problem at a time, first find your family. The crash of relief came with a crash of Isaac and Mary’s hugs. They had made their way back down the path and seemed to be unscathered.

“Thank God you’re alright!” I said as I looked them over to be certain.

“We’re ok Dad.” Said Marry.

“Ok we need to get back home and get Rachel.” I turn back down the path, but a hand pulled my arm stopping me. I turned to Isaac. “What is it?”

“I...I think there was another boy… in the cave.” He said.

What had Rachel called him? Lucas?

“Ok, I want you to stay right here! Do you understand me? Only move if that Dragon comes back and you need to take cover. You got that?” I instructed Mary.

They both nodded their heads in a compliant yes. I headed up the path, once I was almost to the cave opening I could see over the village and I spotted the Dark Dragon high in the air and it looked like it was flying in high wide circles around the village. I thought for Rachel in our house, I wanted to go to her right away but I hoped it wouldn’t be with bad news about her “Friend”.

 

Copyright 2016 JAMIE BURNS ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

NaNoWriMo 2016

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Let’s talk about National Novel Writing Month! That’s right November is almost here and that means NaNoWriMo is almost here. During the month of November hundreds of thousands of writers all feverishly work to puke out 50,000 words of a novel. We sign up online, band together, try to encourage each other, and build community. The term “Hermits United” comes to mind.

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Since it started in 1999 with just 21 participants and only 6 “Winners” (winners being anyone that hit 50,000 words) it has grown exponentially. In 2015 351,489 writer's participated and 40,423 Won. That’s a lot of people! That also means only 12% of the participants finished/won. This year I want to be on that 12%. Oh and I got all these numbers off wikipedia so we know they are 100% accurate.

I myself haven’t participated in NaNoWriMo since 2011 and I was not even close to winning. I didn’t know at the time that the story I was writing was an epic odyssey much to grand a tale to try and pump out in one month. That was the first match in the inferno of a Novel I have been working on all year.

For November however I’ll be taking a break from that story (I really should give that this some kind of working title). I’m going to break from that novel, my reading and Fiction Friday to focus as much energy as possible on NaNoWriMo. I know I just got the ball rolling again on Fiction Friday but realistically I can’t be able to keep up with both Fiction Friday and NaNoWriMo.

I’ve got to say I’m more excited than I thought I would be. It helps that I am getting prepared. I have a concept, characters and a general outline that’s taking shape more and more everyday. Plus the fact that this story is about 300 times less complicated than my last NaNoWriMo story concept. It really feels like this is my year! I feel it’s best to go in with hope and big dreams. Big dreams meaning I’m going to hit that word goal and just hope I don’t end up with a steaming pile of garbage I’ll call my first draft.

If you are interested in how I’ve been preparing for NaNoWriMo might I direct you to my last Manuscript Monday post How to Construct a Story in 5 Step.  After those 5 steps I’m feeling vastly more prepared than last time. I’m also trying to get some blog writing done ahead of time, and finish a few extra books.

This is how I’m planning for a successful NaNoWriMo 2016.

  • No reading in November. It sounds silly I know, but I’m a slow reader and that ends up as hours I could be writing.
  • Little to No TV. I’m not going to lie and say No TV but I will say I’m going to cut it way down
  • Less Social Media. This one will be easy right now since I have been avoiding facebook more and more anyway.
  • I’m planning a few days specifically set aside for writing. I get not 1 but 2 holidays in November. Huzzah!  
  • Writing on my breaks at work. This one is more iffy really, I’ll try but it’s hard to get my head in the game in a 15 minute break in which I also need to eat and convince myself not to flip a table.
  • No editing as I go.  
  • Use [Brackets]. Getting hung up somewhere? Through in some brackets with a generally gist of what you need [Insert Science Here] and move on. Come back to it latter.
  • Get with other Writers. This might be the one that’s got me pumped. I have a few friends that are also participating. Having someone to encourage you or keep you accountable can be a great help in finishing.

 

I’m looking forward to November and I hope you are you too. If you’re participation in NaNoWriMo let me know. If you’re not just know I might be a bit MIA.

I’m glad it looks like the end of the year is shaping up to finish strong.

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How to Construct a Story in 5 Step.

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How to Construct a Story in 5 Step.

 

With NaNoWriMo on the horizon I thought now would be a great time to talk about how I come up with a Novel Idea. Get it. ;)  If you were wanting to participate in NaNoWriMo or simply wanting to start writing fiction in general but don’t know where to start I hope this helps! With the disclaimer that what works for me may not work for you. Feel free to take away what you like from my methods.

 

Step 1: Story Concept.

It always starts here for me. It usually comes to me randomly when I’m driving somewhere or while I’m in the shower. You know, doing mindless stuff, like when I’m at work.  It’s the question that drives us. “What if?”  For example: What if your planet was destroyed? What if you found out you were royalty? What if you lost something so valuable you would do anything to get it back?  

From here I start answering the question and other questions that it incites.  Almost like reverse engineering a story. What if your planet was destroyed? Well that tells me you must not have been on that planet. Why weren't you on the plant? (Maybe you’re an astronaut or you were vacationing on Neptune.) How were you not on the planet? (Mission to repair spacey type telescope or Space cruise liner.) Who destroyed the planet? (Natural disaster or pissed alien race.) Why was the planet destroyed? (Maybe those aliens were having a really bad week.) How will you now survive?

Keep the Q and A going. Keep what you like and toss what you don’t. Eventually a story concept will emerge and even a very, very rough outline.

 

Step 2: Characters.

Sometimes my concept and my characters come to me at the same time, sometimes they don’t. After you have your concept you can ask yourself; what kind of person would be in this situation?  How do they handle the situation? Are they funny? Are they serious?

There are hundreds of Character building lists on line. So I’m not going to get too crazy in depth with this section. Basically I flesh out my main Character then ask; who is their support system? Family? Best friend? Significant other? Then I have my secondary characters.  

Then time for what might be the most fun part. Who is making my hero’s life harder? My protagonist! Everyone loves a good bad guy these days.

 

Step 3: Building a Strong Outline.

So the world of writers boils down to two types of writers. Planners and Pantsers. I’m, (if you couldn’t already tell) a planner. Pantsers like to make it up as they go. Don’t get me wrong making it up as you go can be freeing but… every time I have tried this it’s like looking up to find out you're in the middle of a field miles from anything. Where’s my plot? It’s just not for me. So planner that I am, I start working an outline.

The setup: In which I do just that, introduce my character, tell ya a bit about their life. Right before a change it all.

The Trigger: Which is the event that sets the story in motion. (Boom your planet gets destroyed!)

The Midpoint: Now you throw rocks at your character. (Plot point rocks that is) Conflict, conflict, conflict!

Rising acting: Time to start solving some of your small problems and giving your character much bigger ones. All leading up to…..

The Climax: When your story reaches its crescendo. It all gets as bad as it can get and then you figure out how to fix it.

The Resolution: Where this all ends up after the conflict is over.

That’s all crazy overly simplified but that’s how I start simple. From these simple points we can build them into a lot-o-plot!

 

Step 4: Conflict!

After my outline I have to work out what the conflicts will be. I generally like things to be easy so I have to push myself to make life harder for my Characters. Sure the overall conflict of my story is there, but I have to work to figure out what rocks I will throw at my hero.

 

Step 5: Resolution.

The resolution, as I previously mentioned, is where everything ends up when the conflict is over. I’m going to so real and tell you this is my weakness. It’s always the hardest part for me. Nothing like having a story with no idea how you want to end. I usually come up with 3-7 options and stare at them for un undetermined amount of time.

So my advice to you and myself is this. Come up with lots of options. Stare at them for an undetermined amount of time. Then start the process of elimination. Cut the ones you know you don’t like. Cut anything that’s overly cliché. Till you’re left with only the top contenders. If you still don’t know, this is the time having a writer friend can really come in handy. They really don’t have to be a writer but having someone to bounce ideas off of can help you in your decision making process. Who knows, something they say might even inspire you to have a totally different ending than you thought. I’m, of course, not saying take someone else's idea. I’m just saying you don’t have to be alone.

And remember if at the end of your story you blame aliens in a story that had nothing to do with aliens till that point or you end it with a variation of “and then they woke up.” expect your readers to find you and punch you in the throat.

 

After those 5 Steps it’s all about putting in the work. Choosing to work on your story and write instead of watching Netflix or browsing Pinterest. Honestly this is really and truly the hardest part. Coming up with the ideas can but so exciting and invigorating that when the time to write comes it’s a snooze fest. Writing is a rollercoaster. The downs come very suddenly and the ups can be a long arduous climb. But at the end you have an amazing experience to look back on and hopefully a first draft.   

The Dark Dragon (Lucas)

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The Dark Dragon

Lucas

By Jamie Burns

 

I had never really noticed Rachel before, but over the summer she had started really making an effort. It also helped her social status that her two best friends were the beauties of the village. Not that it did much for their personalities. I can vaguely remember Rachel trying to talk to me once before when we were still in child's lessons. Back then she always had dirt on her face and second hand cloths, so obviously it was a short conversation. After all my family had a good reputation and I couldn’t risk talking to just anyone that drooled over me.

Over the summer it seemed Rachel had finally figured out the way the game was played. She had cleaned herself up and stopped bringing her impoverished family in to polite civilized conversation. She was becoming increasingly more lady like and reminded me of my own mother. Something to be gazed at but scarcely forced to listen to.

The summer was winding down and there was a group of us in the town square, enjoying what was left of the warm nights and summer harvests. Rachel and I had become somewhat of an unofficial item. Which meant I spent my father’s coin buying her fruit she wouldn't be able to afford otherwise and she let me get a bit farther than I had with the other girls.  

Rachel fed me slices of the peaches I had brought in the market. I had taken her to a spot my father told me about earlier that year. “Girls love the place.” He had said. It was nice, the perfect spot to watch a sunset. It was a short hike up hill with a nice rock formation that made a natural bench. It overlooked the valley to our left and the cliffed mountains to our right.  As the sun made it’s decent I took the peach from Rachel and leaned in for a kiss. But the moment before my lips touched hers the ground beneath us started to rumble. It was a small tremor but it was enough to pull Rachel’s attention away from me.

“What was that?” She asked.

“I’m sure it was nothing.” I said as I tried to get her to face me again.

“I don’t know. It didn’t feel like……”

The ground trembled again, stronger this time. Ok maybe it wasn't nothing. I too turned my attention to the view. It was easy to see that below in the valley people had started to more around me franticly and some had gathered in the square.

“Maybe we should go back.” Rachel suggested in a way that told me my chances for a late summer make out tonight had dropped to zero.

“Fine.” I said standing up. Then out of the corner of my eye I saw movement along the cliff side trail. I squinted the make out the figure in the growing mountain shadow. It looked like the figure of a man, no a boy. He was definitely smaller than me.

“Isaac?” I heard Rachel say. She too was squinting at the figure on the mountainside.

“Do you know him?” I asked.

Rachel squinted ever harder. “I think that’s my brother.”

“What would your brother be doing out here?”

“Nothing he’s allowed to, that’s for sure. I should probably go get him.”

I guess my gallant side took over because I looked at her dress, then the sharp rocks between where we were and the path he was on and before I knew it I had said. “No, I’ll do it. You head to the square.”

 

As a balanced my way across the rocks to reach the path toward the cliff I reminded myself of how many brownie points this was getting me from Rachel. I would just bring her back to the spot tomorrow and hope for no little brother interruptions. I reached the path we call the Path of Darkness and realized I hadn't been on it for years. I remembered being 11 or so and we all challenged each other to walk the path. I guess it was still a right of passage. I headed up the path trying to catch up to Rachel’s brother. I expected to find him somewhere on the path, that’s what usually happened, kids get a certain distance and then they chicken out. In fact, by the looks of it I was now passed the point I myself had previously made it too.

As much as I didn’t want to admit it, once I made it to the cave opening that same 11 year old fear had returned. Everyone in the village knew that this was the cave of a dragon. People had been telling the story to their kids for generations. I looked around to see if the boy was maybe sitting near by. There was no one. Had he really gone in? Did I really have to go in after him?

It was dark and I hadn't brought anything to light the way so I found myself stumbling more than upright walking. I thought I heard a movement so I abruptly stopped. My head told me to call out. I thought she said his name was Isaac? But something deeper in me said to keep quiet. That was when the next tremor coursed through the mountain. I turned to run back toward the cave opening but it was dark and I’m assuming I tripped and hit my head because that was the last thing I could remember.

 

Copyright 2016 JAMIE BURNS ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

The Dark Dragon (Isaac)

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The Dark Dragon

(Isaac)

By Jamie Burns

 

My favorite part of the day, was always when my dad would finally get home from work and he would tell me stories before bed. Stories about the Dark Dragon. The tales said that the Dark Dragon was over 900 years old! And a dragon never stops growing. He was as tall as a mountain, his scales were like black onyx and stronger than any steel ever forged by man. He had killed by the thousands with his kiss of fiery death.  Some even said there were still bone between his teeth from his last feast on the valley. Not that anyone would have truly been close enough to see it and live. So you know, awesome bedtime stories!

 

I had the great misfortune of having the two most boring sisters in the worlds. My oldest sister Rachel was all about boys, flowers, and I’m not really sure whatever girly crap she liked. She was the worst, but the most fun to scare. One little spider in her hair and she would jump like a frog. Rachel didn’t hang around our house much. I guess when you get older you just get to go out and do whatever you want.

My other sister Mary was not the worst, like Rachel, but she was still boring. I guess you could say she was “in charge” of me. I told our dad I didn’t need a babysitter. After all, I was 12 years old, not a baby. Anyway Mary had become immune to my tricks over the years so scaring her was much harder than scaring Rachel. This fact added to Mary’s boringness.

There were other kids in the village my age and they didn’t have to have a babysitter it was completely unfair. I had had enough. Yet another boring day in the house just me and Mary. I had hoped we would go out, walk around the town square and maybe I could slip away from her. My friends Henry and Philip had been talking about going to the path of darkness. It was the trail that lead up to the Dark Dragon’s lair and everyone who was anyone had been there. I was someone who was no one because I had never been. I was supposed to meet up with them but instead I was stuck watching Mary sew all day. Until luck was on my side.

I sat and watched as Mary’s head kept lolling back and forth. I tried to stay as still and quite as possible because it was my only hope of getting out of there. Her head drooped down totally and I let a good minute pass to be sure. I was out the door and with luck Henry and Philip would still be waiting for me.

 

When me and the guys got to the path of darkness it wasn't as cool as I had expected. I guess I imagined some kind of archway, not just a rickety old sign. We all stood, toes just behind the imaginary line of the start of the path.

“It’s not all that scary.” Henry said. But he glanced sideways at me like he didn’t know if he believed what he said. I know I didn’t.

“I don’t know guys, it looks pretty rockey up there.” Said Philip.

“Are we going up?” I asked

“Well… ya. That’s why we’re here right?”

We had never really talked about what we would do when we got to the path of darkness. Now that I was standing there it seemed obvious that I would be expected to walk that path. The rickety old sign started looking more ominous the longer I stood there.

“I’m not going up there.” Philip backed away from the path.

“What don’t be a coward.” Henry said, but his own voice had a shake to it.

“I’m not a coward. I’m just not going up there.”

“You sound like my baby sister, Philip.”

“Why don’t you just go up there, Henry?”

“Well, technically Isaac is the oldest. So… he should get to go first!”

The two of them stopped their bickering to look at me. Just like that supposed to not only going up the path of darkness but I was to going up it alone. I wanted to say no but something else in me wanted to be brave. The thought of telling my dad I had been to the lair of the dragon sounded great. Sure he would be a little mad at first but then he would think it was cool. Plus none of the other kids my age had ever made it all the way to the lair. What if I was the first? Yes, I would be the first kid in years to make it all the way to the Dark Dragon’s lair.

“Ya, I’ll do it.”

Both Henry and Philip’s faces looked a bit shocked. I thought how that would be the look on all the kids faces when I went to lessons the next day and they heard about my bravery. I started up the path. Only three steps in and part of my father's story came to me. The bones in the dragon's teeth and for a split second I thought those might soon be my bones.

“Wait,” Called Philip.

A wave of relief washed over me. Had he come up with a reason for me not to go? Nope.

“You have to leave and offering.” He pointed to the Sign. Under it sat all sorts of things others had left.

“Don’t want to head up without giving the dragon spirit something.” Henry nodded in agreement. I rifled through my pockets and all I had was a drawing I had done earlier that day as I waited for Mary to fall asleep. I unfolded it and put it at the base of the sign. I didn’t have any other reasons to delay. I wanted to back out, but instead I thought of the blond girl in my lessons and I was on my way back up the path.

 

Copyright 2016 JAMIE BURNS ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

The Dark Dragon (Mary)

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The Dark Dragon

(Mary)

By

Jamie Burns

 

The legend of the Dark Dragon was always that to me… a legend. My brother and sister always put more stock in the Dark Dragon. I myself was a sceptic. After all no one had seen the thing in a hundred years. Sure the occasional elderly person, village drunk or attention seeking child would SAY they had seen it but really I was convinced it was a hoax.

It was just a scary story to keep kids from going off to the dangerous cliff side caves. Or so I thought till the day my little brother decided he wanted to be a dragon slayer. Not when he grew up though, no he wanted to be a dragon slayer right then.

Being a middle child is like… well it’s like being the middle child. You’re not the beloved first born and you're not the baby, you’re just there. That with the fact I am a girl meant I was basically a built in babysitter for my little brother Isaac. While my sister was becoming the social butterfly of the town I was at home keeping an eye on Isaac and doing all the housework no one else was going to do.

It was pretty normal for it to be just Isaac and I all day. Our father was always working so we could have nice fancy things like food and shelter. My sister was always out of the house doing God knows what with her snooty pack of friends. So there we were Isaac and I holding down the floor boards.

“Can we pleeeeease go outside?” Isaac begged.

“Not today I need to get this sewing done.”

“But why?” He whined and flopped down on the kitchen chair.

I didn’t bother responding, no point in arguing with a 6-year-old. He eventually picked himself up and sat on the floor to color. Relieved he didn’t push the matter and told myself I would take him out when I was done.

With every stitch my head and eyes grew weary. I only had a few inches of stitching to go and….  

I opened my eyes, the light coming in from the window told me it had to be close to sunset now. I must have fallen asleep. I was surprised Isaac hadn't woken me, by jumping out and screaming at me. He loved making me jump out of my skin. My back was stiff from the wooden chair, I moved to stretch out. I looked over to see the pages Isaac had been coloring, but no Isaac.

“Isaac?” I called out, I headed toward the room he and my father shared. It was dark and empty.

“Isaac, where are you?” I headed to mine and my sisters room, no one.  “Isaac if you’re hiding I need you to come out right now.” I stood perfectly still and listened for the sound of movement, but the whole house was still and silent. A shiver took over my body. A gust of wind creaked through the house and a familiar squeak hit my ears. The front door was open.  “Oh Isaac.” I pulled on my boots, grabbed mine and Isaac’s coats and ran out the door.

Two streets over was the town square. I was surprised at how busy it seemed. I started asking all our acquaintances if they had seen Isaac but no one had. There seemed to be more people arriving in the square with every passing moment, the crowd growing quickly.

“Mrs. Norris, What’s going on?” I asked the long white haired elderly woman.

“Oh, hello my dear.” She greeted back to me.

“Hi, um you haven’t seen Isaac have you?”

“No, not since about an hour ago.”

“An hour ago?! Where was he?” I tried not to let panic take over. I prayed he was safe and I would find him before my father found out I had lost him.

“Oh I saw him on the north side of town.”

“Alone?”

“He told me you were a street over and he had to get back to you. I didn’t give it much though dear. Did you two get separated again?”

That little lying munchkin. “No Mrs. Norris he snuck out without me. I need to find him.” The crowd in the square was now so large it pushed against my back. “What is going on?”

“Oh I’m not totally sure dear, there was some rumbling in the northern cliffs and a few people said they heard some kind of noises coming down from that direction.”

Oh no, “Where did you say you saw Isaac, Mrs. Norris?”

“It was on Stable lane on the….”

“North side of town.” My heart sank. Surely he wasn't that stupid. “Ok if you see him at all can you keep him with you please?”

“Of course dear, but where are you going?” She asked as I headed north.

“To slay a made up dragon.”

 

I had only been to the northern cliff side once before. It was before Isaac was born, when my sister and her friends got most of their entertainment from torturing me. It was a dare they found very clever. I found it meaningless and stupid. I was to go into the cliff’s cave and face the Dragon. I only did it because I knew there was no Dragon to face. I had hiked up the mountain side, but during my climb I lost my footing and half fell half rolled down the mountain on the rocks. My sister had to run and get my father for help, it took me a couple weeks to fully recover. I still have more than a few scars from the event. My sister got in big trouble and we were both forbidden from going anywhere near the northern mountains. Not like we were allowed to be there in the first place. My memory served me better than I had expected and I found my way to what the kids called the “Path of Darkness” Yeah, a little melodramatic for my taste but that’s what they called it. It was the start of the Path that lead up to the “Dragon's Lair”. If you believe that sort of thing. Which Isaac did. He had been talking more and more about the Dark Dragon lately.

At the beginning of the path of darkness it was traditional for people to leave a token of some kind. As a way to show who had ventured up. A sign of your bravery I suppose. Then I saw it, plain as day there with other dusty old knick-knacks was a sheet of paper. It had a sloppy drawn black dragon on it and at the bottom of the page was Isaac’s messy signature.

I headed up the path, it would be dark soon. I had only made it a few steps when I decided to back track. I wasn't superstitious and I didn’t really care if people thought I was brave but I took off my necklace and hung it over one of the other tokens that was left at the path’s start. That way if my father made it here he would know that I had as well.

I was halfway up the path when I felt a rumbling through my feet. It had been 4 years since our last earthquake. It had been strong enough to crack the fountain in the town square. It took them two months to repair it. This quake however, was nothing compared to that one. I still didn’t like the thought of Isaac being inside a dark, empty cave when an earthquake hit, small or large.

More than half way up the path and the sun was down but it’s light still kissed the sky. I heard movement ahead of me on the path and stopped. “Isaac?” Nothing.

A few more steps. Then I heard a fast hard patter of small feet running. “Isaac?”

“Mary!” Isaac cried out and he slammed into me with a hug.

My relief was overwhelmed only by my irritation. “What were you thinking?”  I bent down to get a good look at him in the growing darkness. He was breathing heavy, sweat covered his face along with a look of terrified fear that left me cold.

“We have to run!” He said and pulled my hand back down the path.

“Be careful! What’s wrong?” But he didn’t get a chance to answer before the ground shook again. Twice as hard as before. Then the darkened cliff side was suddenly illuminated and instantly grew impossibly warm. Fire poured into the air behind us. I looked up to see the cave opening, orange and red flame plumed into the night sky. In the shadow the fire cast I saw it and finally believed in the Dark Dragon.

 

Copyright 2016 JAMIE BURNS ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

September to Remember!

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September to Remember!

My goodness, she’s still alive and hasn't given up writing?! Ya it was touch and go there for a minute. My apologies for my recent leave of absence. I will now insert reasons/ explanations/excuses here -------> LIFE.

I know best explanation ever. I didn’t want to go into any long winded explanations that really aren't all that interesting. The point is, I wasn't writing or posting and felt that twinge of failure. So now I’m back to right the wrongs and wash away the injustices my former self has done.

At least I can say that before my hiatus I went out on a high note. “The Protector of the Night” received great feedback and my deepest thanks to all that took the time to read and enjoy it. You’re all awesome.

Since this is technically a Manuscript Monday I suppose I should talk about how some of my goals are coming along. Back in April I posted “Goals for 2016” progress report…  My reading goals for the year are going better than I would have originally expected I’m only 2 books shy of being right on schedule. That means I’ve currently read 16 book this year. For me personally that’s nothing to turn your nose up at.

My book’s progress on the other hand... I’ll be totally honest… Right now it’s not looking too good. Still sitting at 37,000 words and might be facing a POV hiccup. Let’s just say that just because you’re a new writer doesn't mean all your first choices are wrong.

November NaNoWriMo is only a month away and I do plan to participate. I have a concept, characters, and have started a brief outline. So keeping my hopes up for November.

 

In closing, I’m working my way back into the swing. Thanks for your continued support and I hope to bring more entertainment with every passing month. Have a good week!

Protector of the Night

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Inspired by an illustration you might have seen…

Protector of the Night

By Jamie Burns

 

I was born of no Father and no Mother. However, I am one of many brothers. Forged and created in the hellfire of oppression, sent across the sea to serve. I have served my current Master for eight long years, and his father before him. I was hand chosen by my Master’s great-grandfather to serve their family with unwavering loyalty and courage.

It falls to me, to protect the Master in his most vulnerable state. In the long nights when the sun falls and darkness is the ever present threat. I patrol the realm for all atrocities that might attempt to befall my young Master. I alone, in the hours before the sun returns its protective light to our world, am solely responsible for his life.

My Master’s predecessor had all manner of threat come to him in the night. Years I spent sleeplessly watching over him. It wasn’t uncommon for a threat to show its horrible face. They would look out from their hiding places hoping it get a clear shot at the Master, instead they would find me. The rage and fire of feverish protection glinting from my eyes. I protected my first master with every stitch I had. Threats arriving once a month, sometimes more, attempting to disturb him.

When he passed my services on to his only son I promised that I would serve my new Master with the same ferocity and love that I had him. I had no idea that my job would become so much more treacherous.

As I grew to know my new Master he showed me even more kindness and thankfulness than his father before him. He was a generous Master beyond what I could have imagined. I grew to love him like a king and would willingly lay down my life for him if the situation were to arrive.

The young Master had more foes than his father. Some weeks I would face a threat every night. Enemies would silently slink into his quarters in a haze of mist, Monsters would quake the ground as they approached hoping to get close enough to swallow the Master up. Every one of them seeing my grizzly face between them and the Master.

When threats from without weren't present threats from within often haunted him. His own inner consciousness often playing cruel tricks, sending nightmarish scenes to his mind's eye.  He would wake in a cold sweat screaming for relief. When he woke I was always there. There to reassure him that those things were unreal or had not come to pass. His family was safe; no evil had befallen them. No nightshade was present. I was there to protect him and he could rest assured.

Years passed and my watches were always busy. My Master grew, and together we forged a bond like steel. Over time the legend of the protected Master grew and threats diminished. His mind eased, becoming less likely to turn on him. But when his mind betrayed him I was there. He would find me on watch, constantly vigilant.  

I am proud to serve the house of my master. I look forward to my days in service of his son as I have served him and his father before. For I am the protector of the night, the guardian of slumber, vanquisher of monsters, and dispeller of fear. For I am a Teddy Bear.

g3ePh

I wish I knew who to credit for this illustration alas I do not. Sorry.

5 Tips for Refocusing Your Scattered Mind

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5 Tips for Refocusing Your Scattered Mind

 

Here are some sad realities of my manuscript’s progress. In fact, they almost feel more like confessions at this point. I have made no real progress on my manuscript in a good solid four weeks. Yikes! (And she hung her head in shame.) I did find a lost section that I was able to integrate in. One of my favorite parts of the story in fact. But as far as new growth, things have been pretty stagnant.

That’s not to say I haven't been writing anything. (Albeit not much) I have still been working on some short stories and things that you will see on Fiction Friday eventually. But in the area of my book it’s been bleak.

Like everything in life, writing has an ebb and flow to it. Sometimes the words can come in crashing waves that can flood cities. Other times it hasn't rained in months and you think you might die before it ever does. So I have hit a bit of a dry patch. I have my excuses all ready and lined up for anyone willing to listen, but I know I’m my own biggest problem.

My time management skills have been lacking in a major way as of late. Then when I do sit down to write I find numerous ways to distract myself. I also have developed a wonderful knack for telling myself I can’t think of anything good. When the truth is I haven’t cleared my head out enough to even try my hardest.

So there they are my truth bombs. Time to move past this rough patch of writing and reignite the fires of creativity. (Too Corny? Oh well. Deal with it.)  Here are my…

 

5 Tips for Refocusing Your Scattered Mind.

 

1) Turn Off Your Phone

(How Dare She!) That’s right I said it. The unspeakable. Cut yourself off from the distractions of social media and Pokémon Go. Whatever it may be. (Hi, my name is Jamie and I’m a Pinterestaholic.)

Really, we live in a time where the concept of not having a phone in our possession at all times is considered weird. Which personally this old lady finds weird. (I weep for every millennial and all who come after.) I’m not saying I don’t usually have my phone, I do. I’m just saying it’s good to take a break. When I have my phone the compulsion to check is always lurking at the next free moment I have. So remove the phone, remove the compulsion, then maybe at my next free moment I’ll have time to possibly have an original thought.

 

2) Read Something that Inspires you.

This could be anything. It doesn't have to be some obviously inspirational autobiography of a person that overcomes adversity and saves the planet. Unless that’s your thing, then more power to ya. Read anything that inspires you to do whatever it is you want. Something that gives you courage and makes you want to take risks.

For me it was an off the wall British sci-fi book. (Better Than Life, Book 2 of The Red Dwarf) When I finished it, it reminded me that a story can be silly, clever, COMPLETELY ridiculous and still totally amazing. Not everything I write needs to be a dramatic epic odyssey. There are hundreds of different stories to tell and most all of them could use a joke.   

Whether it inspires you to be more outlandish, serious, committed, ruthless, romantic, etc., reading is a great way to put things in perspective.

 

3) Get Up Early

This is one of my personal favorites. I’m a morning person, at first out of necessity then I adapted over time. Now if I sleep past eight I feel like I’ve missed my best hours of brain power. Many of my Fiction Friday posts are written Friday morning between the hours of 6am-9am. This might change in the winter months, but all the more reason to take advantage now.

I live in a fairly quiet area, getting up early has a feeling of most of the world still being asleep. Me being an introvert that deeply values my alone time, this is a thought I find quite comforting. Less people making noise the better. I adore getting up having a cup of coffee and watching the sunrise, I have had some of my favorite story ideas in these moments. I would do it every day if it weren't for that stupid thing they call a day job.

 

4) Fall in Love with Your Own Work, Again.

I know I already mentioned reading as one of the tips but this is different. Read something YOU wrote.  Find a section you love. Something that was so good you surprised yourself. A part that makes you love your characters that much more.

Basically remind yourself not everything you write it complete garbage. That’s how I felt. It was all crap! Everything! Till I found a chapter I wrote months ago. Where two of my characters meet for the first time, and it was awesome. (You mean I’m not the worst writer on the planet? Color me shocked.) Momentum is a huge factor in writing. So once you lose a significant amount it’s hard to get that ball rolling again. Sometimes we need a confidence booster so we don’t quit all together.

 

5) Stop Being a Girl.

Ok, before you grab your pitchforks and torches over that comment let me explain.  I’m all about that Lady Boss, Girl Power, Rah Rah stuff. I totally believe women should be encouraging one another not tearing each other down. (If you’re a male reading this don’t skip this one. Maybe you’ll learn something about “The Complex Infrastructure known as the Female Mind”. -Relient K)

So, why stop being a girl? As a woman it is pretty much impossible to think about nothing! Really there is always something going on in there… always. Which makes it difficult to clear our heads and make room for other things. Men on the other hand have this amazing ability to literally think about NOTHING! I’m not making fun. It’s a trait I often envy. The power to shut down my manic brain would come in very handy. The point is to try your best to clear your mind of all the other crap that is going on in your life and the world. I try to channel my inner guy and shut down. If you are a guy, consider me Jelly.

 

Even though it’s still slow going, I am starting to make my way back to the right track. My word count is at 37,221 still under halfway. (eeek) I just have to keep sifting through my cluttered mind and refocusing on what I really want.

Disappearing Act

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By Jamie Burns

 

          “Close your eyes.” she whispered into his ear softly. She stood behind him with her hands gently placed on his shoulders.

           Standing as still as a statue he did as instructed. His heart beat fast against his chest, racing at a pace he didn’t think possible.

           “Just relax.” She said as she started pacing in a circle around him. “Deep breaths, let your mind clear, let all that is within it dissolve. All that exists right now is you and the sound of my voice.”

           He relaxed his shoulders and took a long deep breath, then another. With every breath that grew deeper his heartbeat slowed. He soon forgot his discomfort. In a room so large and grand he heard nothing. Nothing but the sound of her voice and the step of her boot on the floor as she paced him.

          “Leave nothing in your mind, let every thought sink down to the souls of your shoes.” The circle she had been walking around him was getting smaller and he could feel the hem of her dress brush past him.

          Another deep breath in and just like he forgot his discomfort, he forgot what he had done with his day before that moment. The Magician circled him now so close he could smell the scent of her hair as she passed in front of him. Her voice, her scent and the steps of her boots was all that existed to him. With every breath and every step of those boots he forgot.

          Step. The color of the suit he was wearing.

          Step. The things that upset him.

          Step. Who he had come there with.

          Step. Where he worked.

          Step. The crowd of people watching him.

          Step. And eventually his own name.

 

          The audience waited in anticipation. Unsure what would happen next. The show so far had been a stupendous spectacle of illusions and trickery. The beautiful Magician had a gift for performing. Her act was done so flawlessly that even the most skeptical of her audience could not explain how she performed some of her tricks.  Now with the stage cleared of any prop or device none of the onlookers knew what to expect. The thick dark red curtain hung along the back of the stage and all there was to see was the man, eyes closed, body slightly swaying and the Magician. This trick felt different from the others and the audience wasn't sure they liked it yet.

 

           The Magician stopped and faced the man on stage, just a small step from him. The scent of her hair filled his head, a rich creamy scent of black currant. He tried to push the thought of it away like everything else.  Keeping his mind clear as he had been told to, but passively wondering what his name was again. His head tried to tell him he should be more worried about a thing like that. At the moment he couldn’t manage to care. He was too relaxed and the Magician’s voice was too soft, her smell too intoxicating.

           “You have nothing to fear. Let everything in you sink down. Let it settle as far from your mind as possible.” Her dulcet tone told him.  He already felt heavy but now his feet felt weighted to the floor. The Magician spoke again but this time it sounded muffled and far away.

 

           The Magician had turned back toward the audience.

          “As you can see our handsome volunteer is now in a deep state of relaxation.”

          “Hypnotized.”  A young woman called out from the front row.

          “No, not hypnotized. Not technically. He had done most of it by himself. I mostly just guided him in the right direction.” The Magician gave a sly smile and turned back to the man.

 

          He had been waiting, swaying in fields of black currant, listening to the low distant hum of indiscernible words she spoke. Then the sweet voice was once again clear.

          “Henry.” She said.

          The name that had been missing from him was given back. His own name filled his head and made him slightly less comfortable than he had been the second before. But it settled in him and he once again accepted it. As if she had been waiting on this process the moment Henry was Henry again she spoke.

          “Henry.”

         “Yes?” He replied, his own voice sounding harsh and raspy compared to the silkiness of the Magician’s.

         “Do you feel relaxed?” She asked.

         “More than I thought possible.” He said with a smile spreading across his face.

         “Good, is your mind clear?”

         “Yes.” He lied. For his mind was still full of her scent and the sound of her voice saying his name.

         “Good.” She said again and turned away.

 

          Facing the audience, the Magician pulled a handkerchief from a pocket specially sewn into the folds of her dress. She held the white handkerchief over her head and waved it back and forth in a long wide arch. As it reached each far side of the arch it doubled in size. Until it was as long as a bed sheet. She swirled it in the air effortlessly as if it had no weight at all. She spun back away from the audience.

          Grasping the edge of the cloth and holding it up between herself and Henry. Making it so only herself and the cloth where visible to the audience. She held it high over her own head and took a deep breath.

         “Henry, relax for me and please take a deep breath.” She said, and then shut her own eyes. She listened to his intake of breath and once the exhale came she too exhaled.

She released the cloth from her grasp and it fluttered to the floor.

 

           There was silence in the theater. The Magician still had her eyes closed and she grimaced. This was usually the time when the applause would fill the air but no sound came. She opened her eyes and to her own shock there he was. Still standing there was Henry.

           His eyes still shut and a small happiness settled on the corners of his mouth. What had she done wrong? This had never happened during a live performance before. Now she would have to turn around and come up with something to say to her audience. The Magician looked at Henry feeling perplexed. She turned to the audience and was meet with a second shock.

           Where was the audience? The theater she and Henry now stood in was empty, completely devoid of another soul. The candles were still lit and the curtains had not drawn. All was just as it was before only without the people. Was it even possible? She wondered as she examined the desolate theater.

           “Henry?”

          “Yes?” He answered swaying slightly.

          “Who are you?” She asked in a gentle way.

          His swaying stopped and the smile faded a bit. “I’m not sure at the moment.”

          “Open your eyes.”

          When he did his relaxation slowly started to ebb away. But the sight of the empty theater didn't shock him the way the Magician expected it too. He looked at her and a long silence passed between them before she said.

           “Your mind wasn't as clear as you said. Was it?”

           “Not exactly.” Henry said and he felt his face flush with heat.

           The Magician took a last look around from ceiling to floor and wondered at the feat that had just occurred.

           “Well Henry, you’re incredibly powerful and wonderfully intriguing. But we need to fix this now.”

           “We? Didn’t you do this?” He asked

           “It’s difficult to explain, but let’s just say I draw from my subject’s mind and power. Whatever was in your mind when this happened holds an unprecedented amount of power.” She explained, and Henry’s blush grew deeper. The Magician didn’t notice.

           “So how do we fix it?” Henry asked.

           “Um, it should be fairly simple. Just do that same thing in reverse.” She looked at him and saw the confusion. “You know what, don’t worry. You just do the same thing as before.”

            “Are you sure?” He asked, nervous it wouldn’t work or more importantly nervous she would somehow read his mind.  

             “I’m sure. Stand on the spot and close your eyes.”

            Henry did, and the Magician guided him back to the empty space that she had hoped for. Just like before that place for Henry became a field of black currant filled with the voice of a goddess. Together they took a deep breath and the Magician dropped the cloth again. Nothing.

 

           Twice more they tried and twice more nothing. It became harder and harder for Henry to relax. The fourth time came and before they took their last deep breath Henry asked. “What’s your name?”

           The Magician paused, she was most often known simply as The Magician. She had performed under many different pseudonyms and briefly thought of telling him one of them. Something within her said no. So she told the truth, which was a rarity for her.

           “Abigail.” It came out in a whisper.

           The name floated over the fields in his mind, her scent became stronger and enveloped him. Together they took a deep breath and once again Abigail released the cloth that fluttered to the floor.

 

           The audience erupted in applause and whistles. They stood to their feet and the roar filled the theater. The Magician stepped aside to stand next to Henry. He looked at her and gave a smile. She motioned for him to bow and he did. He in turn gestured to her and she gave a curtsy. The applause getting louder as she did.  Henry made his way off the stage and back to his seat.

            The Magician picked up the cloth and with a few short flicks of her wrist it was back to the size of a handkerchief, and she stuffed it in her pocket. The rest of the show went smoothly and the audience gave her another standing ovation at the end.

 

           During her career, that performance was one of the most talked about, becoming known as her best. There was never a mention of the disappearing audience only her magnificent showmanship and the feeling of electricity or magic that was in the air. For the Magician she remembered it as the only night she was ever unable to make a man disappear.

 

 

Copyright 2016 JAMIE BURNS ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

The Copper Key

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Today I’ll be using a writing prompt I found care of Pinterest. Enjoy.

The prompt:

“One day you notice there’s a new key on your keychain.”

The Copper Key

By Jamie Burns

Most mornings I have plenty of time to make my coffee, put on my boots, and leisurely gather my things to head to work. That morning was not one of those mornings.  

That morning, in my sleepy haze I had hit snooze five times, instead of my usual once. By the time I came to my senses I was thirty-six minutes behind, throwing off my entire routine. I tore out of bed like a force of nature bent on destroying a city. A furious flurry of flying laundry, followed by a hair brush and hasty ponytail. By the time I pulled on my second boot and skipped tying it another five minutes had passed and I was forty-one minutes behind.

No time for coffee which is always the worst part of being late. I grabbed my bag and rushed out the door to my car. The keys felt different than usual in my hand, bulkier. When I looked down I noticed it, right there between my car key and mailbox key. A key I had never seen before. A small shiny copper colored key that had to my knowledge just shown up. I pushed the oddity of it from my head and grabbed at my car key. I was much too late to wonder about such a small thing right now.

I lived in the countryside a ways outside of the city which gave me a twenty-minute commute. On an average day it was one of the more enjoyable parts of my day. That day ten minutes into my drive I must have hit a nail because before I knew it, I was pulled over to the side of the road fifty-six minutes behind schedule. I stared at my passenger side front tire in defeat. By the time I got it changed I would be impossibly late. I took a deep breath and turned my back to lean against my car. I took in the open valley and the sun coming up over the distant mountain.

That’s when I saw the door. In the field, about fifteen yards directly in front of me sat a single green door and frame. It stood out in contrast to the tall yellow grass of the field and the purple cast of the mountains. What was a door doing just sitting out here? I couldn’t help but look around. The long lonely stretch of highway was devoid of anyone but me. I stared back at the door, my curious nature tugging on my imagination while my sense of responsibility told me I was now fifty-eight minutes late. I checked my watch, then out of the depths of my mind or my soul, I’m not sure which. A voice said ‘In two years you’ve never been late. Just go have a look.’

I traipsed through the open field, excited for no reason obvious to me. I stopped in front of the door and looked around again, wondering if someone might be watching me from a distance. The door stood alone, with no structure that might have need of a door. Just a bright forest green door with a dark chestnut door frame. I walked around it examining both sides, they seemed to be identical. It was so curious I had to smile in amusement. Who had placed it here and why. I assumed it was out of some sense of whimsy for people that drove the road every day. There weren't many explanations I could come up with.

I noticed the tiny copper colored circle in the door. A spyhole. I didn’t think too much about it when I pressed my face against the door to peer through it. If anyone was watching me from far out I’m sure the confusion on my face was priceless. Through the spyhole was a dark heavily wooded forest. I pulled my head back and grimaced. It must have simple been a trick, a joke for anyone that was crazy enough to walk all the way out to the random door in the field. I checked again, sure enough the forest was still there, I was positive just a picture placed over the back of the spyhole. Then to my shock a deer bounded across my view of the forest.

I grabbed the bright copper knob but the door didn’t budge. I took a few steps back, confused as ever. ‘Odd morning’ the deep down voice said again. It was an odd morning. There was that other odd thing this morning… I pulled my keys out of my pocket and flipped them over to find the small copper key. It slid into the lock with ease and before I turned it I considered leaving. I could just go back, change my tire and go. I was a contradiction of sensibility and curiosity. So I turned the key.

The knob made a click sound and was loosed from its locked state. I pushed the door open slowly. My adventurous heart only half expected to find my field on the other side.  My heart was not disappointed, the door opened completely silently to the dark forest. The smell of pine hit me along with the chill of the air. I walked through the doorway from the yellow dry field under my feet to the damp soil of the forest. Both places had been quiet but with the wind of the valley, the forest was eerily silent in comparison.

I looked back through the doorway and saw my car sitting on the side of the highway. Being late for work seemed far less important now. With the key back in my pocket I closed the door.

On this side the door was yellow with a pine frame but the copper spyhole and knob were the same. I looked through the spy hole and there was the field and my car in the distance. Delighted and curious I turned my attention to the forest now around me.

The deer I had seen had long since made off out of sight. I wondered at the trees and their sheer size. Thick, tall and numerous the trees were overpowering to say the least. They were so thick I couldn't see the sky through the tops of them, explaining why it was so dark.  I wondered what part of the world I was in. The trees weren’t completely unfamiliar but if someone were to ask me what kind they were I wouldn't know quite what to say.

I had only moved a small ways from the door when I saw a movement in the corner of my eyes. All was completely silent. I was sure I was the loudest thing in this forest. My quiet whisper felt like a yell in that stillness.

“Hello?” I waited for a response. Nothing. “I saw you.” I said this time a bit louder.

“If you continue to wonder, you might end up with more than you bargained for.” A low smooth male voice responded. I couldn't see the speaker and the forest carried his voice so I wasn't sure where exactly it came from. I could only assume it was near the vicinity I had seen the movement.

“And what kind of bargain might that be? Ambiguous forest voice…” I said as I craned my head to try and catch a glimpse of the speaker.  This time I heard soft movement coming slowly toward me as the voice spoke.

“The kind that would be difficult to explain back where you came from.” A black and gray wolf padded out of the forest into view, then sat tamely a distance away. “If you were ever to make it back.” The silky voice of the wolf finished.

 

 

Copyright 2016 JAMIE BURNS ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

How to get by in the Galaxy- The Conclusion

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Start from the beginning Part 1

How to get by in the Galaxy Part 10

How to get by in the Galaxy

Part 11

The Conclusion.

By Jamie Burns

 

The years spent traveling through space were my best years. It was when I finally found who I was and where I was meant to be. The answers: April Norian and in the sky, out seeing the Universe. A nomadic life of new adventures, it was my perfect fit. Now I was feeling like the whole of the Galaxy was pulling me in as it’s own. I saw an innumerable amount of stars fill every bit of my vision. I was ready to accept the fate that I had been given by the cold hand of death, also known as Tom.

I was ready but I guess the galaxy didn’t want me like I thought.

 

Feeling returned to my limbs and I sensed cold metal under me. I opened my eyes to a dimly lit room that I had been in before. It was the galley of the Lamplight, and I could see Nathan fiddling with something in one hand at the counter. His other arm was in a messy bandage and sling, his shirt underneath still covered in his blood.   

“Hey bro…” My voice cut out. Pushing the words out felt excruciating.

Nathan flinched at hearing my voice. “Oh thank God. You’re awake” He said as he dropped whatever he had been holding and walked to the table beside me.

“Wha… happen..” I managed to force out.

“You should try not to talk.” Nathan instructed me as he brought me a cup of water in his good hand.

“You were passed out cold when I got to you but still breathing. The sounds of the gunshots must have drawn some attention because some of Cryton's men started to head back our way. When the Lamplight showed up without Clara I was sceptical but I didn’t have a lot of options.”  

“After we broke orbit and I wrapped up my arm, Lucinda told me who she was and about your plan. She said it didn’t go exactly right, but we’re all alive so I’ll take it. We aren’t sure what happened on Clara’s end. We are on our way to the rendezvous point to meet her and the Thestrious.” Nathan sat down and gently adjusted his poorly made sling.

We were on our way to the Thestrious. The thought made all the pain I was feeling in my body ebb. I took as deep a breath as I could muster and slowly exhaled it though my nose. I let my body relax and rest till I felt like I could sit up without passing out. Then I rested again.

 

Slowly with rests between most moves I was back up and moving freely. I worked on replacing Nathan’s hastily done bandages. Luckily the bullet had gone all the way through. I fixed him up with a clean shirt, clean bandage and a much more effective sling. I didn’t want Clara seeing him all covered in his own dried blood. As we finished up Lucina called over the intercom.  

“We have a visual of Clara and your ship, we’ll be docking in about 20 minutes.” She said.

Nathan and I made our way to the bridge. Nathan moved slower but I would have run if I could have managed.  I wanted to see her, The Thestrious. Was she still in the shape she had been in when we were forced to part? Had they cannibalized her? What kind of repairs would she need?  I wouldn’t feel totally at ease till I saw the damage.

I stumbled onto the bridge and Lucinda gave me a sideways glance. Like her sister, Lucinda was sometimes hard to read.

There in the distance was my Thestrious. Looking none too worse for the wear. Yes it looking like a few things were missing but I had prepared myself for much worse.

 

The Lamplight was docked and the air lock between the two ships opened. Clara was waiting on the other side for us. At the sight of Nathan you could see Clara’s body relax. She ran to him and then slowed and gently hugged him over his sling. Nathan pulled her in for a kiss and the contentment on their faces said all they needed to say.

After Clara and Nathan parted she walked over to me and threw her arms around me, I returned in kind.

“Thank God ya’ll are alright.” Clara said.

I smiled and wanted to say something similar but my throat still felt like I swallowed a bag of nails. I was using my words sparingly but I made a note in my head to tell her later how grateful I was. I made for the corridor, eager to walk the ship and see the state of things. Just before I stepped out of the room I heard Lucinda.

“Well Clara Bug, this is where we part again.” she said.

I turned and Lucinda was holding out her hand to shake Clara’s

“Come wait in the galley with us.” I rasped out.

“She’s not waiting for a ride April.”  Said Clara

“Your men aren't coming?” I asked.

“No need my ride’s right here.” Lucinda said and pointed a thumb over her shoulder toward the Lamplight.

My heart sank. The private conversation Lucinda and Clara had, the one where Clara convinced her to help us. She hadn't convinced her at all, she had payed her. Clara had traded her ship for my ship and Nathan’s life.  I knew that for the rest of our lives I would always feel indebted to her.

Clara pushed past Lucinda’s outstretched hand and hugged her. It was brief but fitting. Lucinda headed back toward the Lamplight and tossed a few sacks that had been laying by the door into the Thestrious.

“Here’s your things… and Clara never come back to this planet again.” Lucinda said and she closed the Lamplight’s air lock.

I closed the Thestriouse’s air lock and the light on the control panel switched to green. We felt a slight jar as the Lamplight broke free. I watched out the small window as the Lamplight grew smaller. I was sure Clara was devastated, but when I turned to look at her she was walking with Nathan back toward the corridor. Unconcerned about the arrangement and seemingly fully content with it’s outcome.

 

Over the next few days we made our way back from Exodus, making plans for the future. I asked Clara if she would be willing to stay on the Thestrious and act as my second in command. Technically I owed her a fortune, between the money I had promised at the start of the journey and her losing the Lamplight because of it, I would never be able to repay her. Clara didn’t seem to care much about my outstanding debt and happily accepted my offer.

Nathan asked if I would mind if he stayed as well, which I saw coming. I agreed, as long as we set ground rules about his gambling and that he would be required to start paying off all the debt he had laying around the galaxy. By the time we made it back to a civilized planet life on the Thestrious was starting to feel like the new normal.

I sat on the bridge alone in my large, soft cushioned pilot's chair. The sound of the engines whirring down and an electric hum in the air coming to a close. With a deep breath I could smell hints of oil and the leather of my chair, smells that remind me of my dad. Once again it was clear to me who I am and where I’m meant to be.

 

Copyright 2016 JAMIE BURNS ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

How to get by in the Galaxy Part 10

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How to get by in the Galaxy Part 9

How to get by in the Galaxy

Part 10

By Jamie Burns

 

The scene in the shipyard changed dramatically. Some of the men running away from the explosion, others running towards it. Panic and chaos took over like a flash flood. My ears still had a ring in them from the sound of the explosion. As it dissipated I could hear the air was filled with yelling, the sound of a blazing fire, falling debris crashing back to earth and in the farther distance screaming.

The men that moments before had me surrounded at gunpoint were gone. Infact, almost all of Cryton’s men had gone, swept up by the commotion. Which lead me to think that the explosion must have been close to their base of operations. The thought of Clara being there when it happened was scary but more over the though she might have been the one to cause it was no more comforting.

All who remained in our standoff now was myself, Cryton, (his gun now trained on me) and two of his men who had been standing slightly behind him to his right and left, suggesting they must have been his most loyal, and his right hand. The last soul left in the clearing was Nathan still laying on the ground, thankfully yelling in pain. I wasn’t happy he was in pain but I was happy to see he was still alive.

“What did you do!” Cryton yelled, and I could see the spit fly from his mouth as he raged at me.

“That wasn't us!” I wasn't totally lying because I really wasn't sure if it was Clara who was responsible for it or not.

I stepped closer to them and Cryton shot a round near my feet, causing me to freeze instantly on the spot.

“So you’re saying this is all a coincidence?” Cryton waved his gun toting hand around at the scene.

“How would I have done that?” I pointed to the smoked out area behind him. Cryton had no response. He looked down at Nathan then back to me and finally up to the Lamplight that was far in the distance behind me. Much too far away to be responsible for the explosion.  He was at a loss, the plan might not have been going exactly like I had thought but the main principle was still holding. He thought it was just the three of us Nathan, Clara and I.

Nathan still writhed on the ground but had managed to stop yelling.  Over the radio that was attached to Cryton’s belt a voice called out, “Boss, boss we need help over here! This place is going up like a candle!” The radio cut out and Cryton looked more annoyed than concerned. He pulled the radio off his belt and tossed it to the man on his right. “Go tell those idiots what to do.” He barked. The man was off towards the blaze and then there were two. Only two men stood between me, my brother and freedom.

“Come here little sister.” Cryton said, motioning with his gun to stand in front of him. I cautiously approached but stopped just out of his reach. He pointed the gun back down to Nathan. “Now tell Blondie to LAND!” He screamed the last word at me.

“As soon as you let him go.”

Nathan was now weakly pulling himself to a sitting position.

Cryton just looked at me, once again sizing me up. Without taking his eyes off me he called over his shoulder. “Tom, go get Sheila.” Cryton pointed his gun at me. The man hesitated for only a half a second then headed into the open dock of the ship they had pulled Nathan from.

“Who is Sheila?” I asked.

Cryton only smiled.

It took only a moment for Tom to return. My surprise that he returned alone was brief before the despair set it. He might not have returned with a person but he had brought what I was assuming was Sheila. An over-sized portable ground to air missile launcher. Then right there on the right side in large messy white paint I saw her name Sheila. Tom hosted Sheila up onto his shoulder and waited for instruction.

Nathan and I looked at each other. He had now made it onto his knees. He held his sagging blood soaked shoulder, and I saw his eyes twitch toward Cryton then back to me then to where Tom stood. The smallest of actions that told me all his thoughts. It wasn't the plan I had come up with but desperate times called for desperate measures. I casually straitened my index finger of the hand at my side telling him to wait for my signal.

Cryton pulled his shoulders back and looked up to the Lamplight. “Now shoot Blondie out of the sky.” He said.

“Wait!” I took a step toward Tom.

Cryton held up his hand to keep Tom from firing. “Are you ready to tell her to land now?”

Then I saw it, a shadow moving in the smoke filled sky over the explosion. My plan had mostly come together, maybe even better than I had hoped.

“No, I have to tell you something.”  I said to Cryton.

“And what’s that little sister?” He mocked.

“Taking my ship was a mistake.” Then I let the slight grin I had been holding back spread over my face.

The loud rumble and rush of air from my low flying ship tore over our heads from behind Cryton. Clara was definitely not in the explosion. The air pulled Cryton and Tom unexpectedly off balance along with the shock of seeing The Thestrious in the air. I clenched my hand into a fist. In unison Nathan and I acted. Nathan threw himself to grab at Cryton’s gun and I sprinted with all I had toward Tom.

I was sure the man had more than a hundred pound on me, but I was sure as hell not going to stand there and let him shoot mine or Clara’s ships from the sky. I aimed all of my weight at his torso and knocked him and Sheila to the ground. I heard the metal hit the ground a few yards away and had a small sense of relief.  No Shelia, no missiles. The victory was short lived. Tom had easily thrown me off and was then over the top of me. I kicked with my legs trying to keep him at a distance but it was useless. I held my arms over my face as a shield but that too was useless. I felt his hand grasp my throat like a vise.  I wasn't even sure he was using both hands.

I looked up into Tom’s face and found no anger or emotion, just a stone expression that made me think he had been doing Cryton's dirty work a long time. I started to feel a burning in my chest and a pressure behind my eyes. Tom’s face grew black around the edges. With whatever I had left I tried to dig my nails into his hand. Then I felt the feeling leaving them and thought about the fact that Tom’s hand seems very soft for a strangler. I let my head roll back and I caught a glimpse of the sky and a large gray object passed overhead.

The last thing I heard was the sound like a gunshot. The pressure around my neck was released and replaced by what seemed like a 200 pound man laying on top of me. This pressure was quickly removed as well.

I saw the world through a pinhole. My small and tiny world. My brother, the sky, the Thestrious, darkness, then stars and the universe.

 

 

Copyright 2016 JAMIE BURNS ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Things I’m Doing When I Should be Writing!

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Things I’m doing when I should be Writing!

  • Napping
  • Watching Battlestar Galactica
  • Reading books (Written by people much more talented than me.)
  • Pinning tattoos I’ll never get on Pinterest.
  • Pinning EVERYTHING on Pinterest.
  • Forcing my dog to cuddle me. (Love me!)
  • Fantasizing about my dream job.
  • Napping
  • Working over time at my real job. (Gross)
  • Staring at my computer screen blankly.
  • Looking up random greek mythology.
  • Daydreaming myself into adventures instead of my characters.
  • Wondering how my brain got so disorganized (Who's in charge here?!)
  • Napping  

                 So it looks like I need to try harder to schedule my writing time. I should also start going to bed sooner apparently. With my new work schedule it’s safe to say I have been a bit thrown off my writing game. Not to worry I’ll be making a comeback, just need to focus more. Sure, it’s easier said than done, but so are a lot of things I have done. Fiction Friday will be a day late. I know, Friday is right there in the title, sorry. Sometimes life is exhausting.

Imagination Monster

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Imagination Monster

By Jamie Burns

.

He comes in the most innocuous of ways,

Before you know it your mind's wandered for days.

.

A passing reflection,

A stray idea,

A naughty thought that makes you red in the ears.

.

For some a moment is all that he takes,

Focused again now back on their days.

But others he finds the company quite grand,

Then you're strolling along now hand in hand.

.

He takes you down paths untraveled.

Adventure with characters,

Your minds unraveled.

.

Present no longer in the here and the now,

Instead your mind’s gone,

Off on the prowl.

.

A darkened forest,

The far reaches of space,

Depths of the ocean,

All time just to waste.

.

Hours might pass or days better still,

Before you show up,

Back in the real.

.

He drops you abruptly

I do have to say,

Back to monotony that fills your day.

.

But if you find you prefer

The adventure

The thrill

Just wait for tomorrow

He’ll come back he will.

.

.

.

Copyright 2016 JAMIE BURNS ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

How to get by in the Galaxy Part 9

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How to get by in the Galaxy Part 8

How to get by in the Galaxy

Part 9

By Jamie Burns

It was early Christmas morning, I woke up feeling awful and promptly ran to the bathroom to throw up. I felt a hand rub my back and then put a wet washcloth on the back of my neck. I expected to look back and see my mom but it was Nathan. I was only seven years old but then again so was he. When I was feeling ok to move he helped me to the living room, he put me on the couch, gave me a blanket, turned on the Christmas tree lights and made me a cup of tea. We sat there looking at the twinkle lights of the tree, some blinking slowly on and off, others steady. I drifted in and out of sleep. Nathan all the while sitting beside me making sure I didn’t need more tea or a bucket if I had another bout of sickness. Two hours later when my parents woke up they asked why we hadn't woken them and I remember saying “Nathan took care of me.” That’s all I can remember from that particular Christmas.

I hadn't thought of that in over sixteen years. As we sped in the Lamplight toward the rendezvous point the words stuck in my head. “Nathan took care of me.” Throughout primary school, high school and well into flight school Nathan took care of me. I helped him with homework, studying and even would cover for him with mom and dad on occasion. It was what we did. We took care of each other and I was determined to keep the tradition alive.

I landed the Lamplight a few miles from the rendezvous point. Clara and Lu both walked on to the bridge. Lu was dressed in some of Clara’s clothes and they had pumped up the volume on Lu’s blond hair. “Alright, this is the best spot.” I said to Clara and headed to the back of the ship expecting her to follow. When I realized she hadn't I turned back around. Clara and Lu faced each other awkwardly. Clara held out a hand, “Thank you for your help.”

Lu took Clara’s hand and gave it a firm shake. “You’re sure it’s worth all this?” She asked.

Clara said nothing just gave her head one firm nod.

Clara and I walked to the back of the ship, she opened the hatch to the cold air outside. We both looked out then at each other. “Remember watch your back at all times. She’s going to be a lot heavier than the Lamplight so don’t be timid. Don’t be afraid to push her around, just get her in the air and head to the place Lu setup.” I told her.

“It’s gonna work.” Clara said it as if she was trying to convince both of us.

I dropped the hard tone in my voice, allowing myself to be genuine and vulnerable for a moment. “Please just be careful Clara, I don’t want to have to come save you too, but I will if I have to.” I gave her a weak smile but it was all I could muster. Clara pulled me in for a hug. “We’ll get him back.” With that she turned and set off.

I closed the hatch and the moment it was sealed the Lamplight rose back into the air.  On the bridge I found Lu at the helm, looking confident and at ease.

“No wonder they could never catch you.” I said as I sat in the co-pilots seat. Lu just smiled and pulled back on the helm sending us higher into the gray clouds.

We arrived at the rendezvous ten minutes ahead of the dead line. How we managed that  seemed like an act of God or a lot of happy accidents all in a row. Either way I was grateful. Instead of landing the Lamplight in the spot that had been clearly left open for us it dipped low and I tossed the rope over the edge of the hatch and slid down to the ground. Once my feet had touched I raised my hands showing I was unarmed and the Lamplight quickly gained in altitude again. I walked to toward the crowd.

Turned out the rendezvous was yet another shipyard, but this one had far more security and was much busier than the one we had been in earlier that day. The ships in this yard didn’t look like the junk that was in the other shipyards.  Here they were larger, well built, with weapons, no rust and some I would even call shinny. It felt more like a showroom than a shipyard. I recognized the ship the crowd was gathered around. The last time I saw her she was flying away from the planet Cierra with the Thestrious flying away beside her as I could only watch from the ground.

Hands still up I kept walking toward the crowed. Some of the men had their guns raised while others looked on relaxed, in the middle of them was Cryton. He was wide in the shoulders and seemed fit for a man that looked like he was in his late forties.  All the others seemed to look to him for cues on what to do next. It made me wonder how bad a man you have to be to have others fear you on a planet like Exodus. I pushed the thought down because it made me more nervous than I liked. Cryton on the video had seemed charismatic and likeable for a kidnapper. That's what made me so nervous about him. He was a kind of bad man made worse by his good lies. Not that I didn’t have a lie or two up my sleeve.

“Well there she is boys, the little sister.” Cryton called out. With a flick of his finger the men with guns advanced towards me.

I watched as they encircled me. “Yep that’s me… where’s my brother?”

“Oh he’s close by.” Cryton said, him and his men chuckling at that. I instinctively took a step back.  Cryton eyes narrowed in on me, “What’s your little gal pal doing up there? Tell her to land.”

I had to laugh at this one. “So you can kill all three of us and keep the ship. I don’t think so.”

“You know I could just shoot that match box out of the sky if I wanted to.” He was getting more frustrated.

“I’m sure you could, but you don’t want to.”

He paused and let out a breath. “No, I don’t but if you’re up to something fishy I might just change my mind.”

“Where is Nathan?” I asked again.

He looked back toward his ship and waved to the men waiting there. A moment later two men dragged Nathan down the dock and dropped him next to Cryton. Nathan slowly stood to his feet, I was sure he couldn't see much with his face swollen to it’s current size.  I called to him. “Nathan it’s ok I’m here.” I walk a bit closer to get a better look at him. The sound of my voice didn’t put him at easy. If anything it seemed to make him angry.

“April? Why? I told you guys to leave.” He was scared and angry and I didn’t really blame him. He forced his eyes open and looked right to where I was standing. “Why can’t you ever listen to me?”

“Alright now little sis you tell blondie to put her ass on the ground now.” Cryton demanded.

“Give me Nathan, then she’ll land in the distance. You’ll let us go while you head to your new ship.” I called out sounding as confident and forceful as possible.

Cryton stared at me for a moment in shock, I guess at my demands. Then a slow smile spread across his face and he looked around. His men nervously looking back at him. He started to laugh, the men looked at each other, and started to laugh as well. Though it was clear they weren't sure why.

“I don’t think you understand little sis, this is not a negotiation.” He said then he pulled his gun from his holster and turned Nathan toward him. I knew I was to far away but I still lunged forward, Cryton pressed the barrel against Nathan’s shoulder and pulled the trigger.

I could have sworn that I felt that bullet. I felt the shockwave flow through my body and weaken my knees. At least that’s what I thought at first. Then I realized everyone was looking up. In the distance behind Cryton’s ship was a plume of black smoke. The massive explosion had socked all of us. I saw Nathan lying motionless on the ground my heart sank and I looked  back to the plume of smoke now lit by the fire that burn beneath it. My face must have been white as a sheet as I wondered where Clara was.