Monthly Archives: March 2015

Up to the Challenge?

Sometimes I need a nudge to get me writing.  Sometimes I need a push.  And sometimes I need a flat out dare.

There’s something about having a challenge laid out, a gauntlet thrown or any added incentive to force you out of a comfort zone.

I know I can’t be the only one. The success of popular writing challenges, NaNoWriMo being one of the most popular, shows that we writers like to challenge ourselves sometimes to get the words on the page.

This week Jesi and I are both doing the A to Z Blog Challenge, which is for all types of bloggers, not just writers, but is a fun way to challenge yourself.  During the month of April, we participants will be posting every day except Sundays following the A to Z through the end of the month. Most people choose a theme for their posts and many writing blogs use the daily post for flash fiction, poetry or even serialized short story or other work. On my blog, every day will be a quote or a few lines from a famous novel, short story or poem which can serve as a writing prompt. Some days I will post something new based on that writing prompt, but am not promising that for every day.  That is unless someone dares me and then, uh oh, well, who knows? 🙂 And this is probably where our resident instigator, I mean encourager (cough, cough) AJ, will cackle with joy and immediately issue a dare.

April is also National Poetry Writing Month so another popular writing challenge is NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month) where participants are writing a poem a day for 30 days.  I did a similar challenge in October of last year (and may do again this year) called OctPoWriMo, where organizers posted a prompt and a suggested form to try for a daily post. I’m a newbie poet so it was a huge challenge for me, but it was a great way to push myself and stretch those old writing muscles.

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) every November is hugely popular and for good reason.  The organizers offer a wealth of resources, lots of support and plenty of fellow challengers to help you along the way. I haven’t ever made the commitment to do NaNo since it requires a significant commitment and that time of year is crazy busy with my family, but I hope to give it a go at some point just to see if I can.

That’s one of the best things about the challenges, it’s a dare you make with yourself to see if you can do something new. It’s saying I will commit to giving this a try. It’s the start we sometimes need on a new writing path.

Sure, not everyone needs a challenge, and some just don’t like the organized ones.  Setting your own challenge or goal may work best for you. I gave myself a daily writing challenge last year. I had to write something every day. Sometimes it was a character sketch or just brainstorming for a scene.  Sometimes it was a poem. Sometimes though it was an entire scene or more. Having set the goal, the challenge, the dare for myself, I couldn’t let myself get by with just saying I wanted to write, I had to write.

So how about it? Are you up for a challenge? Look around, there are plenty! Or set one for yourself. It never hurts to have a little extra push (or a friendly kick in the pants) on occasion to get yourself moving forward.

Have you participated in a writing challenge you’d like to recommend? Tell me about it in the comments. Absolutely hate them and think they are a waste of time?  Feel free to share that as well. We always welcome your feedback.

Thanks & have a great week!

– CJS

How To Tell If You Are A Writer The Twisted Writer Way

There is this line I love from the move Sister Act 2. Whoopi Goldberg’s character, Sister Mary Clarence, is talking to Lauryn Hill’s character, Rita, about whether or not she should become a singer. She says, “If you wake up in the morning, and you can’t think of anything but singing, then you should be a singer, girl.”

There was a time, back in the Dark Ages, when all I could think about was writing. I’d wake up and want to write. I’d stay up late because I had to write. I’d had a bad day and needed to write about it to get it to go away. Who needs a therapist? Writing is great therapy! But I didn’t think of myself as a writer. Not until my dad died and I realized, that’s what I wanted to be. Only, isn’t that what I had been all along?

So, I thought I’d give you a list of symptoms ways to tell if you are a writer in the style of a Twisted Writer.

1. If you hear voices in your head and you talk to them, you might be a writer. Or crazy. Possibly both.

2. If the voices talk back to you and have long conversations and you type those conversations down, you might be a writer trying to prove you aren’t crazy.

3. If you have ever been told that you live in a fantasy world and you smile and tell them “I know, I created it, wanna come play in it too?”, you might be a writer.

4. If you see the word “writing prompt” and your heart starts to beat faster, you might be a writer. If it doesn’t, what the heck is wrong with you??? How can that NOT make your pulse race? Word prompts are sexy beasts!

5. If you joined a group that hears voices too and call themselves a “writing critique group”, congratulations! You have found your “tribe.” You might be a writer, or living in an asylum. Look out your window. Are there bars across it?

6. If you have ever thought about writing someone who’s ticked you off into a story and then offing them in some sick and twisted way, you might be a retaliating writer.

7. If you walk into a store (perhaps Wal-mart) and thought “that was a nightmare,” you might consider writing a horror story.

8. If you REALLY love anything geeky, trendy, or weird and you write a story about it, you might be writing fanfic. (Please take ten steps back and away from the keyboard. No! Don’t grab that pen and paper! Put it down right now! Don’t you write another sentence! Crap. Another 50 Tones of That Somber Color book just hit the shelves.)

9. If you see incorrect spelling, punctuation and/or grammar in a book and you want to correct it, you might a be Grammar Nazi. You should think about being a copy-editor.

10. If you have ever read a horrible book and thought “I can write better than that,” you might be a new writer. Go find your tribe and bleed ink.

11. If you see something really funny and say, “that’d make a great story,” you should sit your butt down at a keyboard (or use paper and pen if you’re a traditionalist) and start writing.

12. If you sit down to write at your computer for an hour and find yourself wasting 45 minutes on social media and 15 minutes actually writing, you are definitely a writer. And procrastinating. Stop and get back to writing or I’ll send AJ over to hurt you. She may be little, but she is fierce. (Why yes, that is cribbed Shakespeare.)

13. If you have ever written a scene where the character is having a drink and thought “that sounds good” then stopped writing to fix yourself one, you might be a writer. (And on your way to becoming an alcoholic-remember, writing while drinking is NOT a good habit-funny as hell the next day, but it does not help your writing.)

14. If you have a cat that laid on your keyboard and deleted your entire story, you might want to back up the story in a lot of different places. You’ll thank me later. And if you kept the cat, you might be a cat-loving writer.

15. If you have ever put your character in time out, you might be writing angry. You might need to take a time-out, too.

16. If you keep an online journal and make it public, you are a blogger. Claim it, own it, wear your colors proudly. Tell a saucy tale, make a little stir, customers appreciate a bon-viveur…(sorry, couldn’t help the Les Mis outburst.)

17. If you go to a movie and spot the plot holes, you might be a writer. If you write about it, you’re a movie critic, and I have a few words for you about a certain movie you didn’t like.

18. If you wake up in the middle of the night and find your spouse at their laptop typing madly while talking to themselves with a wild look in their eyes and hair all a-mess, you might be married to a writer with a deadline.

19. If the sight of a blank page makes your fingers itch and a nerve over your eye begin to twitch, you might be a writer. You might also be freaking out. Breathe. A blank page is easily fixed.

And finally,

20. If you wake up in the morning and all you can think about it is writing, you’re supposed to be a writer.

Neil Gaiman, in an interview while filming the BBC television version for Neverwhere, said that he was the only one who could tell the stories he had to tell. In the introduction to his short story compilation Fragile Things, he said:

“Stories, like people and butterflies and songbirds’ eggs and human hearts and dreams, are also fragile things, made up of nothing stronger or more lasting than twenty-six letters and a handful of punctuation marks. Or they are words on the air, composed of sounds and ideas-abstract, invisible, gone once they’ve been spoken-and what could be more frail than that?”

To be a writer is to have people and worlds and conversations living in your brain that only you know. And you are the only one who can tell them and tell them as only you can. If you don’t write them, no one else will, because no one else is you. When you are gone, your stories are gone as well. Don’t let your stories go unheard.

You are a writer; tell your stories.

Write them into life.

I-am-a-writer

 

I think my head just exploded

There are many things about being a writer that are fun, but there are challenges as well. Two of the biggest challenges that many of us face is remembering that not everyone can hear the characters in our head and that there are times and places when we really do need to act like “normal” people.  😉

I don’t know about you, but I have been known to carry on conversations with certain characters. It usually happens when one is being particularly obstinate about something in the plot. No, it doesn’t matter that they are usually right. The fact that this imaginary character (and oh the screams of denial that just went up) doesn’t matter. They know the plot better than I do. After all, they are the ones living it, aren’t they? All I am is a means to get the story out to the people. My job is to sit there and type.

Then there are the characters that refuse to die. One novel is on the back burner right now for just that reason. I was going to kill off a supporting character about a quarter of the way into the book to give the main character more motivation for seeking vengeance against the big baddie in the book. But noooo, that character refused to die. Oh, I could hurt her a little but she wasn’t going to die. Nope, no way and no how.

Sigh.

Fortunately, most conversations with my characters happen when there is no one around. But there have been times when I’ve been out for a walk or running errands and I wind up talking out plot points. I usually realize it when people start pointing and whispering. Let me tell you, folks really do look at you oddly when you talk to yourself. They tend to hide their children and consider calling for help if you are discussing things like planetary invasions. People are funny that way.

The biggest challenge to acting normally usually come when I am actually writing. I’ve learned not to be out in public when writing fight scenes. People really do get alarmed when, in the middle of the library, you suddenly stop pounding away on your laptop and starts choreographing a fight, complete with hand and feet movements. I tend to forget thing like that. Even if I don’t get out of my chair, I might stop and try to figure out the best way to deliver a strike while preparing for a block, especially if the attack is coming from an unexpected angle. For me, it is easiest to do that if I actually make some of the arm and hand movements. They might be shortened movements but they are still enough to cause raised eyebrows.

The problem is, when I’m deep into the story, that is where my mind is. I forget there are other people around me. I might be on another planet, hip deep in battle, or walking a courtroom, delivering my closing argument. That is what I see in my head, not the kids just out of school for the day and their parents looking for books or dvds to keep them occupied.

So I have to keep myself grounded when I’m out of the safety of the house writing. Fortunately for my sanity, what there is of it, other writers have said they face the same challenges. I hope they do and they weren’t just humoring the crazy writer lady. . .hmmm, is that anything like the crazy cat lady?  😉

Fiction, Science Fiction and Non-Fiction

Stars

 

I want to get into a bit more detail on my take, at least, of the fine work AJ Prince posted last week with her interviews with us here at Twisted Writers and on CJ Stuart’s intriguing follow up. I want to talk about how I usually apply personal experience to story writing.

When I first felt the urge to write, years and years ago, I wanted to write non-fiction. That, however, did not work out so well, as I felt the urge to exaggerate events and characters.   Obviously, that was not consistent with the definition of “non-fiction.” I suppose – bottom line – the truth bored me. So, I just went with the flow and ended up in the world of fiction.

Inspired by the likes of Star Wars, Star Trek and The Hitchhicker’s Guide to the Galaxy of the late ‘70s and through the ‘80s, I first tried and quickly failed at, science fiction. Frankly, there was too much involved in imagining and creating details of worlds I had never been too. To me, shooting around other worlds and the possibility of life on other planets, while certainly possible and, to some extent, probable, is literally unimaginable, if that makes sense. After all, such life could be the size of microscopic bacteria or of a towering green-eyed monster.

Rather, my writing comes from, but not necessarily about, true-life moments and is what speaks to me the most me the most by creating plots and developing characters from combinations of events and people right here on planet earth.

As CJ Stuart wrote, “we all have voices in our head that speak to us and, not only are we okay with that, we are happy about it.”

For instance, there is a story of mine coming up that I have written about a gambler named Spencer in a story triggered by real people and events. In fact, parts of his story were actually written in a casino while waiting for a friend to finish gambling away their previous winnings at blackjack. So anyway, one day his life changed when he came across one of those systems for winning at blackjack.

Along the way, these characters, while created as fantasies, may face real-life challenges and discover inner strengths and potentials borne out of necessity and realize the need to survive that they would never have otherwise imagined.

Then there is the story I will discuss next week of how I met an American hero, who, in another fictional encounter, as a diplomat serving overseas, overcame astonishing challenges by drawing on abilities she otherwise may not have thought she could possess.

These are the types of stories I like to write about that build off fictional characters facing credible combinations of intriguing and extraordinary scenarios. In these, I try to illustrate how anyone of us may react and deal with these situations.

 

The Rule Of Three

the sentence

Yes…everybody is a critic. But you have to have a thick skin. Especially if you are a new writer, like me. I don’t have enough experience under my belt to tell somebody that they don’t know what the hell they’re talking about. “What do you mean, I can’t write? I have one short story published!” doesn’t sound all that impressive. And besides, they might be right!

But just because Saint Peter tells me that I should change that love scene in chapter six, should I run home and rewrite? If it means the difference between getting into and NOT getting into Heaven, I probably should. But I don’t really have to worry about that, just yet. So how do I know who I should listen to and who I should just give a nod of my head and a polite smile?

For this puzzling dilemma our twisted little writing group uses the rule of three. It’s simple. If only one person has a problem with your main character exposing himself to a group of nuns in the opening paragraph, don’t get all bent out of shape and delete it. But if at least three readers say it that they don’t think it should be there, you might want to take a good look at it. I’m just using this scene as an example, of course. I actually can’t imagine anyone having a problem with it. As a matter of fact, the more I think about it the more I love the idea of one of my characters exposing himself to a group of nuns. Maybe not in the first paragraph, but very soon after that. I know there’s that whole Saint Peter’s thing to worry about but I’m a, “cross that bridge when I come to it,” kind of guy.

In the end, though, it’s still up to the writer to decide whether he or she wants to change something. After all, it’s your baby and you’re going to love it no matter what. But if you want the rest of the world to come over and pinch its little cheeks you might want to think about changing that diaper.

And really, don’t we all want other people to feel as warm and fuzzy about what we’ve written as we do? I know I do. I want them to enjoy it. And yes, I want them to buy it, too. Now the question is, will they buy a novel where the main character exposes himself to a group of nuns? In the first paragraph? I’ve just got to work this scene into a story.

What’s your genre niche?

When you go into a book store/library, what do you find yourself browsing for in a book? Is it a spicy romance novel that has your heart racing? Or a thrilling horror that has you screaming when your kids startle you… by merely going to the bathroom in the middle of the night? How about a travel through time to see the world how it used to be? Maybe you prefer an exciting trip into a world not quite like our own? There are so many varieties out there that it is mind boggling.

It is human nature to find something you know and like then to stick to it.

Growing up I tended to read more of the horror genre only sneaking my mom’s romance novels when I was really desperate. Then as I became a grown up, I read whatever book was passed to me from my mom and grandmother ; still mostly romances – Nora Roberts, Barbara Taylor Bradford, Danielle Steel, etc.

Somewhere along the way, the three of us branched out a bit further, now my grandmother tends to pick up suspense and mystery novels; my mom is more of a thriller junkie.  Me, I still read whatever is usually passed on or referred to me.

As a writer you have to read a lot. They say read what you write and write what you read. Research your genre and see what works and what doesn’t.

How does that work if what you write isn’t necessarily what you like to read?

When I read a book, I want my characters to have a happy ending. I know, I know, how boring. Life doesn’t always have that happy ending and neither does a book. I don’t care, I like what I like and good should over come evil, the bad guy should get his butt kicked by the end of the story, and the couple that is madly in love should have their happily ever after. Oh how it kills me when a romance story kills off one of the main characters at the end.

However, when I write, I don’t follow my own reading rules. This makes things a little difficult when trying to juggle reading for pleasure and reading to better your writing.

When I started writing the first draft of my current novel, I had no clue where I was going with it. In fact, it had started out as a short story to let off some steam. Once I had finished the short story, I realized that it wasn’t completed. There were other voices that needed to be heard, other point of views that needed writing. After all was said and done, I approached Amanda with my first draft and asked her just how crazy was I in doing what I did.

Her response… Eek. You did what? With how many different…

Like I said, what I have been writing is not something I generally like reading.

Being able to write something that wasn’t overwhelming or confusing and had people wanting to read it meant a lot of research in finding what worked and what didn’t. I was left with the possibilities of having to change so much that I considered giving up many different times but I kept going, expanding my story and plotlines.

Then it came time to start reading what I was writing… and I wasn’t looking forward to it. Again I contemplated just leaving it as a first draft and cutting my losses.

Research is fun for me… as long as it is not a requirement. Then it becomes tedious. So not only was I faced with having to read a bunch of books that I was sure I would dislike, I also had the chore of figuring out what books would benefit me the most. Needle in a haystack. (Ha! more like a book in a library.)

As I mentioned earlier, most of the books I read come as recommendations from friends, family or other bloggers. I have been extremely lucky these past months, almost every single book that has been suggested to me has somehow helped me with my current book.

Books ranging from a YA ghost story, a dystopian collapse of mankind that spanned over 70 years in time, a YA written in present tense, a historical two-person view that absolutely broke my heart, and a multitude of books all written by the same author who has many titles under their belt exploring multiple POV’s.

As far as research reading goes, I hit the jackpot. And it was because I did not stick to one specific type/style of book. I had to branch out and jump around from shelf to shelf, picking my way through what works and what didn’t work for me. My job isn’t done, I am still reading and with each new book, I am better equipped with the knowledge that I need to do the best that I can do.

If I had stuck to only one particular genre, I’d have probably given up on my novel by now.

Do you have a favorite genre? And does it help your writing? Let me know in the comments.

~AJP

It Hasn’t Been Written Yet

No cause for alarm, my title does not serve as notice to my fellow bloggers that I didn’t get my post for today written. 🙂

This post is actually inspired by one of my fellow bloggers.  During our first week here at Twisted Writers, AJ Prince posted an interview with each member of this group on the day of his/her first post.  You can see the interviews on her blog, For the Love of… which did a great job of giving you a glimpse into our differences and similarities.  For example, I don’t think any of us are strictly plotters.  Also, neither Jess nor I want a gravestone. We instead like the idea of a tree. The interviews are fun, so go have a look if you like. Have one of us in particular you need to know where we would go visit if we could, like right this minute? (Spoiler alert, I want to go to Hogwarts.  She didn’t specify that it had to be a *real* place.) You can check them out here:

It was David’s reply to what fictional character is most like him that had me inspired for this post.  Instead of confessing who we are most like despite our best wishes (like me), or flat out refusing to give away that information (Amanda), David said “I don’t think they’ve written one yet.”

I love that.  Who knows what was going on in his head to prompt that answer exactly, but what spoke to me is that in this world where (arguably) it’s all been written before, there are still reasons to keep writing because some details, some worlds, some characters haven’t been written yet.

I read and write a lot of romance. Of course, the “Will they or won’t they” storyline isn’t new. Boy meets Girl and they have a conflict and stumble their way towards a happy ending.  Not exactly revolutionary.

What is revolutionary is when a voice emerges that hooks us in to whatever story the author gives us. Jane Austen put pen to page, informing us that:

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

Readers for ages tuned in and flipped pages to see what would happen to Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy. Knowing that they would probably end up together in the end did not change the fact that their story captures hearts and her characters remain beloved by new generations.

Every time a reader picks up a novel with a romantic theme, for example, since that’s my genre, it’s a great possibility those characters will end up together, but it doesn’t diminish the tension that we feel hoping that all will get resolved.  Will Katniss choose Peeta or Gale? Or neither? And will she, or they, even survive? I didn’t know, I had to keep reading those Hunger Games books to see! (Just a note here, I am emphatically Team Peeta, though the actor who plays Gale, a/k/a Thor’s brother, makes that a little harder on me now that there are movie versions of the book characters I love.)

Every genre has its tropes and most all books and stories have something that has been done before in some way or other. What hasn’t been done, though, is seeing those similar stories done in your context, with your characters, and in your voice.

David said he didn’t think a character had been written like him.  It’s quite possible that there isn’t, because he is unique (and awesome by the way). The possibility of seeing a part of yourself in a character you read, or recognizing some aspect of your life in the story you are reading is part of what keeps us reading. There’s comfort in knowing we are not alone. Equally, it’s encouraging as a writer to know that there is the possibility of reaching a reader with something we have written.  Knowing there is the possibility a story line, or line of text from something we write will resonate with a reader is part of what keeps us writing.

So remember as you write that there may be someone out there who hasn’t yet found that character that is just like him/her. Feel encouraged that what you write may strike a chord with someone in a way nothing has before. Trust that even with your simplest words on the page, someone may connect with them in a way you wouldn’t have imagined.

Just keep writing, because “it”, that something that will be special to someone who reads your work, hasn’t been written yet. And you must write it!

Have a great week!

~CJS

Ten-Minute Spill

Normally on Mondays on my home blog at The Lunatic, The Lover, & The Poet, I post something inspired by my Muse. Usually that means poetry. I won’t always post poems here but I thought it’d be fun to do one this time around.

If you follow me over at my home blog, you’ll become aware that I am going through some poetry exercises from this book (The Practice of Poetry by Robin Behn & Chase Twichell) I bought at a local Half Price Bookstore. It has a lot of exercises by different poets/writers to help get the creative juices flowing, and I’m actually learning some new techniques that are very helpful. I’m not rushing my way through the book. I do one exercise and then put it away for a week or two. And I’m finding that I enjoy the exercises more than if I charge my way through.

So, I thought I’d share the most recent exercise here because I thought it would be really fun to use as a writing prompt as well. The exercise is called Ten-Minute Spill by Rita Dove. What I was supposed to do was write a ten-line poem. It was supposed to contain a proverb, adage, or familiar phrase (ex: one foot in the grave, a stitch in time saves nine, the whole nine yards, etc.) and change it in some way, as well as use five of the following words:

cliff          blackberry          needle          cloud

voice       mother                 whir               lick

You have ten minutes.

I did not come up with a ten-line poem. What I wrote was much longer. (They shouldn’t give me ten minutes.) But I liked the result and was somewhat surprised by what came out. I ended up using two phrases though one I changed and the other I did not. The five words I chose were: blackberry, mother, voice, needle, and lick. Here is my result:

Femme Fatale by Jesi Scott

She’s one mean mother of a brick house

     in her slinky crimson dress and black shoes,

     the ones with the needle-sharp heels,

lips done up in that wet blackberry shade-

makes your palms sweat just looking at her.

     She smiles that smile just for you

and your mouth goes dry, your heartbeat

trip-hammers a staccato tune

-Chopsticks on a piano.

That waterfall hair cascading down her back

     like brown waves into a blood-red ocean,

your fingers itch to tangle in it and drown.

Then, she sighs and says,

     “I can be yours if the price is right,”

and she presses her body against yours,

promises bright in her voice.

You lick your lips, your mouth dry,

and you know somewhere in the back of your mind,

somewhere between the devil and the deep blue sea

…she’s going to make you pay.

So that’s what I came up with after ten minutes. I did only minor editing like spelling and punctuation. What do you think?

Try it yourself. You don’t have to write poetry. Give yourself maybe twenty minutes. Think of a proverb, adage, or familiar phrase and write a quick story and use five of the words from above. Make sure you change the phrase you use in some way. If you have a blog why not post your attempt and share the link with us in the comments? I’d love to read what you come up with!

Have a Twisted Monday!

Jesi

P.S. Don’t forget to sign up over on the right and follow us by email!

 

Sunday snippet

Vengeance(Good morning, all, and welcome to our first Sunday snippet. For the next month or so, we’ll be posting short(ish) excerpts from things we have published or that are close to being published. I’m going to kick things off with a snippet from Vengeance from Ashes, the first book of the Honor and Duty series I’m writing under the pen name Sam Schall. So, without any further ado, here we go. Of course, as with everything on the site, copyright resides with the author of the post. Thanks!)

Vengeance from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 1)
by Sam Schall

“Prisoner Four One Niner Baker One-A, prepare for transfer,” a disembodied voice said from the overhead speaker.

Lips pulled back, teeth bared in an animalistic sneer, the prisoner sat up and swung her legs over the side of her bunk. As she stood, she turned away from the cell door. Her hands automatically went behind her head, fingers lacing. Almost without thought, she sank to her knees, legs spread, ankles crossed. Then, realizing what she had done, she cursed silently, hating herself and those responsible for bringing her to this state.

Two years. Two very long years in Hell had taught her how to act. Her body responded automatically to the commands barked at her. Only when she allowed her mind to surface, to let herself fully experience what was going on around her, did she hesitate. But not this time. There was no reason to disobey, no threat yet to meet.

Those years may have taught her all too painfully how to act, but they hadn’t broken her. Not yet at any rate. Still they had come close. Two years cut off from those she cared for, from almost all human contact. Stripped of even the most basic of human rights and dignity, she knew she was little more than an animal to break and tame to those in charge. She knew it just as she knew she could do nothing about it.

Just as she knew she’d been betrayed by the government she’d served and had been ready to die for.

What she didn’t know was why. Why had she been betrayed? Worse, why had those who’d served loyally at her side been targeted?

The soft swoosh of the heavily armored door sliding open broke the silence a few moments later. With her back to the door, she couldn’t see who entered, not that she wanted to. One of the first lessons she’d learned after arriving at the Tarsus military penal colony was not to look. That had been a very painful lesson, one that had landed her in the prison’s infirmary for several days. It was also a mistake she’d never repeated.

That had been one of many lessons she’d been forced to endure since arriving there. With the commandant’s tacit – hell, as far as she knew it was his overt – approval, the guards could be as sadistic as they wanted. Correction for even the most insignificant infraction might take the form of a rifle butt to the ribs or kidney, and that was if she was lucky. If not, the beating that followed would leave her hurting so badly she could barely move. Even then, the guards wouldn’t send her to the infirmary. After all, it was so much more fun to watch her suffer, reminding her that she alone was responsible for what had happened.

Fortunately, she’d heard the horror stories before arriving at the penal colony. Even though she hadn’t been ready to believe them, they had helped prepare her for what she’d face. Even so, it had been a shock the first time one of the guards beat her down for asking what would have been a simple question on the outside. That had been enough to convince her that the best course of action was to remain silent unless it was imperative that she speak. That wasn’t to say there hadn’t been times when circumstances forced her to break that rule and she bore the scars to prove it. All she wanted now was to live through her prison term. Survival was the first goal. Vengeance would come later. Not for her, but for those who’d followed her despite her protests and who had paid the ultimate price as a result.

She swallowed hard, forcing her mind away from past horrors, as boots clomped across the small cell in her direction. A rough hand grabbed her right arm, twisting it painfully behind her back. She flinched as a security cuff was locked tightly around that wrist. Her breath hissed out as the process was repeated with her left arm. Moments later, similar restraints were fastened about her ankles. Then a gloved hand closed around her left arm and jerked her to her feet.

Guard Captain Gavin Haritos spun her to face him, grinning sadistically. His fist caught her with a vicious backhand. With a sharp cry of pain, she staggered back. The short chain connecting her ankles tripped her. Only the man’s quick grab at the front of her jumpsuit kept her from falling. He pulled her forward and, with the ease of much practice, draped a heavy hood over her head before she could react.

Haritos’ cruel grip on her arm kept her on her feet as he hauled her out of her cell and down the long corridor. Blood pounded in her ears, almost deafening her. Fear and hatred raced through her, sparking every fiber of her survival instincts. She knew this was going to be bad, very bad. It always was when the guard captain came for her. But she could do nothing to stop him, at least not yet.

“This is your lucky day, bitch.” Haritos shoved her into one of the three lifts at the end of the corridor and she heard him slam his fist against the control panel. A moment later, the lift gave a slight lurch and she felt the car start downward. “You’re being transferred, Shaw. But don’t get your hopes up that it means the rules no longer apply because they do. If you’re smart, you’ll remember those poor bastards sentenced here with you. Everything you say and do from now on impacts them.”

A soft moan escaped her lips before she could stop it and fear raced like an open current through her. No matter how many times she’d been in this position before, she couldn’t help it. A transfer could mean almost anything, none of it good. Not as long as the survivors of her unit were still on Tarsus.

To her surprise, Haritos said nothing more. That was unusual for him. Whenever he’d come for her before, he’d taken perverse pleasure in detailing what horrors awaited her. The fact he’d gone silent worried her. Could he finally be leading her to her death, despite the fact her sentence was for only five years?

Dear God, what was happening?

Haritos remained silent as he forced her off the lift. Doors opened and then closed behind them. She didn’t know how to react when, for the first time in months, she felt the sun beating down on her. They were outside. Where were they going?

It didn’t take long to find out. Haritos led her up a ramp. The hood obscured her sight, but she could hear the muffled sounds of a crew working to prepare a shuttle, maybe even a courier ship, for launch. Haritos pulled her to a halt and told her to stand still. Then he released his hold on her arm and she sensed that he had moved a short distance away. There were soft voices. Straining to hear, she only caught a few words. Transfer. . . prisoner. . . dangerous. . . .

Dear God, was she actually being transferred out of the Tarsus penal colony?

Hope flared only to die as quickly as it had been born. She had a feeling she was the only prisoner in the staging area. That meant her people, those few who had survived the ambush only to be betrayed by those who should have stood for them, were being left behind. Was that what Haritos meant when he told her to remember them?

No!

Before she could do anything – not that there was much she could do, bound and hooded as she was – Haritos was once more at her side. She stumbled forward as he grabbed her and led her further up the ramp. With one last warning not to do anything foolish, he turned her over to someone else. Flanked on both sides by unseen guards, she was led into another lift. A few minutes later, her restraints were removed and then her hood and she found herself standing in the center of a small cell. She didn’t need to hear the announcement for all hands to prepare for departure to know she was on a ship. But a ship to where?

And what about those who’d been sent to the penal colony with her? Where were they?

Now, almost a week later, she stood in yet another cell, this one planetside, and fear warred with anger. She’d overheard enough from the guards on the transport to know her fears were true – the others had been left behind on the penal colony.

That’s when an anger so great it overrode the fear of the unknown had flowed through her. For the first time in two years, she’d been separated from the survivors of her unit, those poor, brave souls who had fallowed her into hell and back only to find themselves brought up on charges right along with her. It didn’t matter that the commandant of the penal colony hadn’t let her see her people. She’d managed to get word of them from time to time and that had been enough to let her know they were all right – or at least as all right as anyone could be after being sentenced to the Tarsus penal colony.

It really was amazing how the prison grapevine managed to keep tabs on everyone and pass along information. It might be inconsistent, but it was there and it had been all that kept her sane. She’d never thought herself a social animal, but two years of rarely seeing anyone but her jailers had been almost more than she could handle. Thank God for the grapevine and the bits of information it brought her.

During transport from the penal colony, no one had told her anything. She’d been held in the transport ship’s brig. A guard brought her food and drink at regular intervals but he never said anything that wasn’t necessary. He certainly hadn’t volunteered any information. Still, she’d managed to work out that she was alone in the brig by the way his steps never stopped before he appeared at her cell door and she never heard anyone else trying to make contact.

She had just noticed the slightest change in the rhythm of the ship’s engines, indicating it had assumed orbit somewhere, when another guard arrived with a change of clothes for her. She’d looked at the plain black jumpsuit with suspicious eyes. Nothing about it marked her as a prisoner. It could have been something worn by any worker on the docks or in a warehouse. That should have reassured her but for one thing. There was nothing about the guard’s manner to indicate she was about to be freed. In that moment, she’d come the closest to breaking her rule of “never ask a question you don’t know the answer to” than she had been since her first few days on Tarsus.

Half an hour later, she’d been seated on a shuttle. The guards had secured her hands behind her back before locking her safety harness in place but they hadn’t hooded her. They obviously weren’t worried about her recognizing where she was. Of course, the only way she could do that was if she could actually see something of the lay of the land. So she’d craned her neck in an effort to see into the shuttle’s cockpit. One corner of her mouth lifted ever so slightly at the sight of the high rises ahead of them. Her heart beat a bit faster as she recognized the skyline of Fuercon’s capital city. New Kilrain. She was home. But why?

Now, after being processed into the same military brig where she’d been held during her trial, she still didn’t know why she’d been brought back home. It couldn’t be good. They may have taken away her prison issued jumpsuit, but she’d still been brought there shackled and had been processed into the brig as quickly as humanly possible. It had almost been as if FleetCom was afraid word of her return might leak out. But why?

Damn it, what was going on?

Of course, there’d been no explanation. Nor had she asked for one. It would be a long time before she forgot that lesson. Too much talking, too much curiosity was a bad thing that almost always resulted in painful punishment. She might not be on Tarsus any longer but that didn’t mean things would be any different here. After all, who policed the jailers? No one, at least not on Tarsus and she wasn’t willing to risk it now that she was home.

Freed of her restraints and alone, she looked around. One cell was pretty much like any other. Across from the door was a narrow bunk. Hygiene facilities were at the foot of the bunk. Almost exactly like her cell back on Tarsus. Nothing she could use to escape and nothing she could use to kill herself, not that she planned on taking that route out. At least not anymore. No, there were others who needed to die before she did.

“Prisoner is secured,” the guard who’d brought her to the cell radioed as he stepped back.

Ashlyn Shaw, former Marine captain, didn’t move. Instead, she stood in the center of the small cell, her brown eyes focused on some point beyond the guard, her hands behind her back even though the restraints had been removed. As the security field across the cell door activated, she gave no sign of realizing it even though the faint, high pitched hum was something she’d learned to listen for over the last two years. That sound, like a distant bunch of angry bees, meant she’d fry her nervous system long before pushing through the field. Freedom might look close, but she’d be dead – or worse – before she actually found it.

At least the guard didn’t close the physical door. For the first time in what had to be months, she could look beyond the confines of her cell. It might not be the same cell she’d occupied since her conviction. Hell, this wasn’t even the same planet. That didn’t matter. All that did was the fact that the open cell door gave her at least some semblance of not being completely cut off from all other life on the planet.

As the guard disappeared from sight, Ashlyn remained where she was, motionless except for the rise and fall of her chest and the slow blinking of her eyes. She listened, counting his footsteps as they slowly faded away. When she’d been escorted to the cell, she had focused on what was directly in front of her. She had not wanted to give the guards on duty the satisfaction of seeing her look around in curiosity. Now, with only silence filling the air, she allowed herself to relax a just a little.

Once convinced the guard was gone, she moved to the door, careful not to get too close to the security field. Looking to her left, she couldn’t tell how far away he might be. All she knew for certain was that her cell was located at the end of the corridor, the door situated so she couldn’t see much beyond the far edge of the cell. So there might be any number of other prisoners close by but, for all intents and purposes, she was alone – again.

That was fine. Alone meant fewer chances for anyone to figure out what she planned. But it also meant she had to keep up appearances. She couldn’t let them guess what she had in mind. So she lay on her bunk, her back to the doorway. She wouldn’t let those she knew were watching over security monitors see her curiosity or her concern.

This was as close to home as she was likely to get in a very long while. If the opportunity to escape presented itself, she’d take it and be damned with waiting on the military courts to finally get it right. Once free, she’d deal those who’d betrayed her and then she’d find a way to free those who had been sent to the penal colony with her. After that, she really didn’t give a damn about what happened.

***

Vengeance from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 1) and all my other novels are available from Amazon or you can check out our “Publications Page” for a complete listing and links.

And the most twisted of them all

Yep, that’s me. For those of you who don’t know me, my name’s Amanda Green. I’m the one who decided it would be fun to herd cats to start a writers group. That was about five years ago. In that time, the group has seen people come and go but, as the others have said, a core group formed and, well, here we are.

So, who am I?

Well, growing up, my mom used to say we were descended from a long line of liars storytellers. Journalists and writers, spinners of tall tells. That was her mother’s family. As for me, I guess it’s only natural that I followed in my family’s footsteps.

I’m an indie author and proud of it. Part of the reason I went indie is impatience. Writing takes time. Once I have something I feel is ready for public consumption, I don’t want to have it lingering for several years at least while it makes the rounds of agents and editors, looking for a home. I want it out there in the hands of the reading public. Another part of the reason is purely financial. By going indie, I get a lot more of the money from each sale than I would otherwise and, well, I really really like that part.  😉

So what do I write? The better question would probably be what don’t I write.

 
InterludUnder Amanda S. Green, you will find the Nocturnal Lives series of books. These are a blend of urban fantasy and police procedurals. The series, to date, consists of Nocturnal Origins (Nocturnal Lives Volume 1), Nocturnal Serenade (Nocturnal Lives Book 2) and Nocturnal Interlude (Nocturnal Lives Book 3). There is also a novella, Nocturnal Haunts (Nocturnal Lives). The fourth novel in the series, Nocturnal Challenge, will be out later this year.

wbbebookcoverUnder the pen name of Ellie Ferguson, I have written the romantic suspense novel, Wedding Bell Blues. I have also written three paranormal romance novels: Hunted (Hunter’s Moon Book 1), Hunter’s Duty (Hunter’s Moon Book 2) and Hunter’s Home (Hunter’s Moon Book 3). There will be at least one more ttle in this series. Coming this winter will be Slay Bells Ring, another romantic suspense novel. Oh, and just for AJ and Jess, Skeletons in the Closet, an irreverent paranormal that I’ve teased the group with.

Yes, I’m evil that way.  😉

VengeanceFinally, under the pen name Sam Schall, there is military science fiction/space opera and, later this year, a fantasy novel. There are two volumes of the Honor and Duty series out already: Vengeance from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 1) and Duty from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 2). Honor from Ashes will be out later this year. This is where I admit the series, which had been planned for three books only, will be a four book run. While plotting out Honor, I discovered my muse was not going to cooperate and let me wrap everything up in this one volume, at least not in a book of reasonable size. So, four books it will be.

That’s about it where I’m concerned. The only thing left to say right now is that I’m thrilled to be a part of this group and I can’t wait to see where the ride takes us. Oh, and fair warning, I’m on good behavior right now. AJ told me I couldn’t scare anyone off this first week. Bwahahahahaha. . . . .