A Valentine's Ficlet

The chili sloshed in the crock, and Janie stopped her slow, unsteady pace to the back door of the building she worked in. Whose bright idea was it have a chili cook-off the day before Valentines?

Oh, yeah. Her crush. Carson McMichaelson.

Which was why, even though she was a vegetarian, she’d spent fifty bucks on ingredients, borrowed her neighbors crock pot, and made chili last night. She’d left it on cooking all night on low; she;d had to, it hadn’t been put together until five minutes past her bedtime.

So the pot was hot, wrapped in a large bath towel, and set into her laundry basket for the ride into base and for the treacherous walk across the lot to the building.

It still might not make it all the way in.

Struggling–her purse wanted to slide down her shoulder and it took her three minutes to find her badge onthe end of the lanyard withonly one hand while resting her laden laundry basket against the wall–she made it into the building and to the conference room where everything had been set up the day before.

“Just put yourpot nextto a number, thenput your name by that number on this sheet of paper.” Karen, fromaccounting, waved the printed paper in her face.

Janie wasn’t overly fond of Karen; the young woman had a tendency to wave papers–and other items–in her face. She was also pretty and slim and talked with Carson a lot.

Doing as she was told, Janie left the room in a rush, basket and towel in hand, and marched to her desk. Being on the bottom of the ladder in Admin meant she needed to be at her desk, working, before the supervisor came in.

Mrs. Bradshaw was nice to work for, in all honesty. She didn’t expect Janie, only 3 months in to the job, to know everything she needed to know and was a very good teacher. There were instruction and policies to follow, and Janie appreciated that to no end.

The woman just had a few odd rules that Janie sometimes had trouble complying with. Like being at her desk, busy, when walked in the door.

Mrs. Bradshaw smiled at Janie then frowned at the empty desk on the other side of the room. “Millie not in yet?”

“I haven’t seen her, Ma’am.” Janie winced. Poor Millie was going to get an earful later. Even if she had a good reason.

“Did you bring a chili in?” Mrs. Bradshaw smoothed her dark grey curls away from her face and hung her grey greatcoat on the coat rack.

“Yes, I did. I took it in sgtraight away.”

Mrs. Bradshaw smiled, “Oh, good,” and went into her office, almost closing the door behind her.

It was a busy morning without Millie–who had indeed gotten an earful from Mrs. Bradshaw when she’d finally called in to let them know she was sick. there was a slight easing of the lecture when Millie explained she;d been at the hospital emergency room.

At lunch, everyone crowded into the conference room to hear the announcment of the winner and then to chow down on the offerings. It would cost money to get a bowl of the winning chili (as well and second and third)–that would go tto the winners as part of their prize. Everyone else was free.

Carson–who was a stand-in judge when the Deputy had a meeting–was pale and sweating. Janie wondered ifhe had the same bug as Millie.

Janie hadn’t won, of course. She hadn’t expected to, after all, her’s didn’t even have meat in it, but a soy and wheat substitute.And it was her first chili.No one won with their first chili.

Though getting her picture taken with the Colonel and Carson would have been nice.

A loud retching noise made everyone pause and look.

Poor Carson wasn’t pale anymore, but flushed, with vomit on the floor in front of him.

“Oh, God!” Karen gasped–she’d been standing closest to him–and waved her papers in front of this face, backing away. “Carson!”

The Colonel, who’d been standing next closest seemed unfazed–which was probably a good quality in a Colonel. “You okay, buddy?” He called everyone Major and below “buddy”, even his civilians.

Carson shook his head,doubling over. “Soy..wh..wheat. Allergy..allergies.”

Janie felt sick herself. She’d poisoned Carson with her chili.

[I hope you enjoyed this little fic–inspired by the chili cook-off at my work–dubbed “heart-burn day” that we hold the Thursday before Valentine’s.]

It's Wednesday again…or About an Editor

So, I’m beginning to suspect that my subconscious is trying to tell me something…like Mondays will not be my day to post here.

So, Wednesday it will be.

Let’s cross our fingers that I’ll be able to stick with it.

On to my actual post.

I want to share a bit about editing, since my day job that pays the bills is as a technical (generalist) editor. I use generalist because most technical editors work within a specific field that they have a background in. They are responsible for checking the technical content in what they edit.

That’s not what I do.

I’m a copy editor, for technical documents. I have a technical background from my time in the Navy, which helps, but I’m editing in a technical subject that I don’t have a background in. What my time in the Navy did was give me a technical acumen and familiarity with how technical jargon works, and that allows me to help smooth and clarify an array of subjects for digestion by folks like me–folks without the same technical background as the author.

That doesn’t mean I don’t have an editing education: I have a Bachelor’s in English (and at this point, nearing 20 years of editing), as well as many editing and communication courses over those 20 years.

I also edit fiction for a select number of individuals (namely, folks I know). While the basics of editing remain the same, the mechanics are different. While for a technical document I’m ensuring the system under discussion is always called my the same name–EVERY TIME–in fiction, it’s different; variety is the key in fiction, though not so much that the reader thinks it is something else.

Putting together newsletters and press releases and articles (all of which I have take formal classes in, and have at one time or another been paid to do) also take a slightly different angle on editing; in the end, it all boils down to the audience, and the editor understanding who that audience is.

Which is why I will never edit a dissertation for anyone ever again (unless we share close blood) because that is an audience I will never, ever understand…but I digress.

When looking for an editor, check what they’ve already edited (be suspicious if they have a web site but don’t share who they’ve worked with or what they’ve edited) and ask for references. Don’t be afraid to ask other folks doing the same thing as you who they use, or don’t use. At the same time, don’t be afraid to take a risk on someone trying to break into a different type of editing (as long as they are giving you a break on the cost).

You may find the best editor ever.

It's Wednesday, not Monday

Welp…I’m already falling off my schedule. It’s Wednesday and this should have been put up on Monday. Of course, I had a headache that lasted two days…and now its Wednesday.

So, I wanted to post about pen names and why folx use them. Though I can’t really speak for others, I can speak for myself.

I publish under several pen names…one of which is Tara Moeller; this is for my adult novels and novellas. There aren’t a whole lot of them yet, but there should be another one out by the end of the year. There are also a couple of short stories under this name that were published in college.

I also have novels published as E. G. Gaddess. This is the first name I used for any of my novels, which happen to be young adult steampunk and vampire novels (two different trilogies, btw). Very different from what I write under my own name. Though I think this name lends itself to the Victorianness of these novels, its actually my grandmother’s maiden name, and the initials for the names my grandfather thought I should have been given when I was born. I use it to honor them.

Then, there is T. L. Frye, used for my middle grade books, like the Secret of Magik and Dragons. The Truth About Magik and Dragons is in cover art production now and when it publishes, will use Open Dyslexic like the rest of the books DreamPunk Press puts out.

And now, I have Zhara Jons for young adult contemporary stories (and YA contemporary paranormal). The first under this pseudonym will publish in March of this year. And I am excited. There are two more completed and another in the works.

But why do I use pen names? I write so many different stories, and not everyone will like all of them. I am hoping that each pen name will become a brand for the types of stories I tell using them. Like the steampunk new Victorians of E.G. Gaddess.

Other writers have other reasons. Do you use a pen name? Or two (or three)? If so, why? I’d really like to know I’m not alone in my reasoning.

I’m back… I think

It’s been awhile, I know. More time that I want to count.

But…my mother passed and it will be two years this coming April (she died on Friday the 13th). It was a peaceful event, I think. For her anyway.

I thought I was ready, that I’d prepared myself for her to be gone. I wasn’t.

I bawled. I wasn’t there. I’d gone home to grab something to eat and make the hard phone calls to her siblings–my aunts and uncle–that she was ready to go. We all knew it was coming. It wasn’t a surprise.

She’d had lymphoma–a rare primary site of the brain–since the summer of 2012. By all rights, she could have died then, almost did, maybe it…no, I’m not going to think that way.

But she wasn’t alone on the 13th in the nursing home (we’d only moved her into one a few weeks prior). My kid (an adult) was with her, along with their best friend, a nursing school student. They painted her nails and put lotion on her hands. They spoke to her. Said goodbye. I’m sure they sang.

I wanted–want–her back, even though her dementia had taken much of her away from me long ago. Even those small bits of her would be better than nothing.

Insurance Fraud in Ancient Egypt

At MarsCon 2018 in Williamsburg, Virginia last month (check out their website for next year’s con info: http://www.marscon.net/wp/) , I participated in a 5-minute fiction panel. The goal was to write a piece of short fiction in 5 minutes, and the audience would vote to choose the favorite from the three pieces written by the panelists.

I never won.

But it was fun. It really made me stretch my creative process. Stretching was hard, since the panel started at 11 p.m., and we should all know by now I turn into a pumpkin at 10.

Despite the struggle, I thought I would share my favorite of the pieces I wrote. We were given three things from the audience: a place/time, a crime, and a monster. For this particular piece, we were given Ancient Egypt, insurance fraud, and a swamp monster.

Here is what I came up with (unedited, as written in the 5 minutes, other than the correction of spelling errors):

“I’m sorry, sir. You’re policy doesn’t cover that type of damage.”
“I pay through the nose-ring for flooding.”
“Sir, this is not caused by flooding.”
Standing at the edge of the Nile, the agent shifted his robes.
“My policy specifically calls out water damage caused by the Nile.”
“While I am certain, sir, that the damage, in some way, came from the Nile, it’s not from flooding.”
The homeowner sniffed and surveyed the damaged scow. “And what do you think caused it?”
“Sir, those are bite marks in the hull.”
“Which is what let the water in.”
“True, but-“
“And thus, flooded my scow and it sunk.”
The agent sighed, rubbing his nose. “But it is the gaping hole that caused the damage, not a flood.”
“And how do you think I should handle this for the future?”
“You need to add swamp monster coverage to your plan.”

The exercise was fun, and if I made mods to this piece and spruce it up, I will share it here, so you can take a look at how stories can change from that first, swift outpouring of an idea through an editing and (hopefully) polishing process.

Oops.

So, the SquareSpace site isn’t working.  I’ll have to set something up here for those to order copies of the charity anthology, Go Ahead and Howl: Werewolf Stories.

So now, I’m researching shopping cart sites and platforms.  Sigh.

It never ends.

Anthology -phew!

So, over at DreamPunk Press, the writer’s cooperative I’m a part of, we just completed our first anthology. It is a fundraiser for the official charity (the Heritage Humane Society) of MarsCon 2018 in Williamsburg, VA (for more about this AMAZING convention, check out its website: http://www.marscon.net/wp/).

Since this year’s convention theme is werewolves, that is what the stories in our anthology revolve around. And it has some really great stories in it by some really great authors: Travis I. Sivart, Wynn Mercere, Mx. Knowitall, E. G. Gaddess, Nyall Robert Frye, Kimi Darnell).  You should check it out.  I have a page over on Squarespace where (until February 15) you can order a copy and the net profit goes to the charity (https://tara-moeller-mfe4.squarespace.com/config/pages), or if you are local and want to come to the con, we have a special goody bag for the first 25 who purchase a copy of the anthology.  There will also be an opportunity to have some of the authors sign your copy if you buy it in person.

But man, that took a lot more work than I thought it would.  You see, in addition to writing a story for it, I also managed the project and acted as editor.  Getting everyone’s submissions in on time was hard (though some were very good at hitting deadlines).  Then, we ran so close to the wire, I had to use a different printer to get the copies in time for the con (here’s hoping; my fingers are crossed because I’m still waiting on them).

Next time I do this (and I probably will for next year’s MarsCon charity), I am going to allot a whole lot more time for the editing.

And the making of the cover.  Morven Moeller (yes, a relation and fellow author at DreamPunk Press, who is also the resident artist at the cooperative) put it together, but finding something that represented the stories without being too generic, was difficult. They went generic, in the end, and I think it a beautiful cover:

werewolf anthology cover

But it was still a rough decision.

Anyway – I’ll post more about the printing, and how the convention goes, and other stuff more often (you know how that promise goes), now that I’m not stuck in editing limbo.  🙂

 

 

Newsletter Mailing Lists – revisited

So, hopefully you never saw my first post about the newsletter mailing list I was trying to set up and failing miserably at. I sent it to the trash because the embed code just wasn’t working. Then wrote a very short post about that as follow-up and apology for those folks who actually saw it.

My heartfelt and humble apology for that.

I still can’t get the embed code to work, but I was able to integrate the form into the Facebook page for DreamPunk Press, and I have a url that will take you to the sign up form (try it, here: http://eepurl.com/cPD5-z.)

But the code is no go.

I’m not sure I need it — yet. I can always just provide the url link somewhere, like in a Facebook post, or embed that link in a button at the website so that it opens the sign up link.

But that code is really pissing me off. Probably not the fault of the mailing list site I’m using, or WordPress. They are likely just incompatible, or I’m copying it wrong.

Or it’s just the whole world is against me creating this mailing list in the first place.

 

Mailing Lists

Making a mailing list sucks, even when you’re using a site that specializes in it. Maybe especially when you’re tired and most of the way through a bottle of hard cider and you were challenged to get this thing up and running.

If you saw the post I trashed, you’ll understand what I’m talking about.

If you didn’t, here goes:

I make the mailing list form and have the site make the code to embed the list at a website. Copy the code and paste it here.

It no worky.

My preview just doesn’t have the boxes you type your name into. When I actually go to the site, there is gobbledy-gook code showing. Argh!!!

So I deleted it. Tomorrow I will play again. And maybe there will be a new post with a sign up form and maybe not.

We’ll see.

I have to have something done by Friday. Or I’m buying the booze.

Life Sucks–and then She Lives

Enjoy!

(c) 2017, Tara Moeller

It was a good day. There was a funeral in the far corner. The smell of fresh-turned earth and over-scented roses hit her square in the nose.

The caretaker waved, the movement short, off-hand almost. He no longer questioned why she came, stalking the perimeter of the cemetery. Once, he did, the questions growing shorter with each asking. Until now, he remained silent save for the wave, or a quick nod.

She smiled beneath her hood. The old man was tired; the exhaustion crept off him, fingering the fringe of her frayed mind. But she left him alone; it was all he had left.

Not that she had ever taken anything from him. No. Life had drained him all on its own.

“Hey! What are you doing?” A younger man rushed from the office, pushing past the older man to tower over her, hands on his hips, brows meeting above a long, narrow nose.

She stopped, the wave of outrage punching. Blinking in reflex, she took it in, watching the young man’s ire deflate. Careful, she cut off the syphon, leaving him with a slice of indignation.

“Leave her alone. She just walks around.” The old man joined them, leaning heavy in the door jamb.

“But…” his emotion muffled, the young man stood, confused.

“Have a good walk, miss.” The old man reached out and hauled on the other’s arm, leading him back inside.

Releasing a controlled breath, she tasted the outrage, letting its nuance roll through her mind. It was bitter on her tongue. The young man was lucky she’d been able to stop.

She approached the funeral group at a measured pace, tasting for the sadness, despair, and best of all—the fear.

When those emotions lapped at the outrage, mingling at the edges, she paused. She took the despair first. It would be a good thing, temper the damage, and a woman’s sobbing eased.

The young woman huddled beside her was afraid, though not of the person lowered in the casket, but of the elderly woman’s emotions.

So she syphoned off a bit of that, but not a lot. That emotion would alleviate on its own when it became evident that the despair had waned.

The rest of the group was sad, the degrees of it varying, so she took a bit here and a bit there. Some folks stopped crying, others offered a half smile, the ebbing sadness allowing a happy memory to intrude.

It was a meager meal; certainly not a feast. It would sustain her for the moment, keep her alive until the next time. If she took too much, the person would never feel that emotion again.

And she would forget how to survive on just enough. It was a diet that kept her alive, but not much else. It also kept her from being destroyed by those who could never understand.

She finished her walk, keeping to the space between the trees and manicured lawns, enjoying the chatter of squirrels and birds and creaking limbs.

Buried in her hoodie, hands tucked hard in the front pouch, she marched towards home, concentrating on keeping her barriers up. It would be too easy to suck someone’s joy away. Especially after getting a little, after taking the darker emotions, a little light would be heaven. The craving only grew. She could lose herself, her composure and control in the revelry.

Focused inward, she missed the small mob of young men fast-stalking the middle of the street. They were too close when their anger assailed her, surging over her barriers, unchecked.

It flooded her mind, overriding her control. Their laughter and running feet followed.

They surrounded her, pushing, pulling, grabbing at her hoodie, revealing her limp grayed hair and gaunt cheeks.

“Look, it’s a hag!”

“C’mon lady, it ain’t Halloween!”

One pushed hard enough she tumbled to the pavement, hands and knees bitten by tiny rough stones.

Someone kicked and she rolled aside. Her control shredded with her palms and she sucked in the emotion.

Another voice—female, from away—screamed for help and a siren wailed, the grating noise louder the closer it got.

Desperate, she gobbled up the anger–all of it. She left nothing behind, and even started on other emotions: confusion, fear, vengeance, the rush of power.

Once started, she couldn’t stop. She feasted, leaving nothing behind.

When the police arrived, the young men stood in a ring around her, staring into the horizon, drool leaking from slack lips.

A woman, voice high-pitched and breathy, explained what she saw.

The youth were hand-cuffed, not resisting the rough tug of police hands. “Jeez. Wonder what they took? They look absolutely fried.”

Laying on the ground, panting, she waited. She rebuilt her barriers, regained most of her control.

“Miss? You okay?” The officer extended a hand and she took it, offering a smile of thanks and a short nod. She sipped at his exuberance, his pride in catching the young men. “Do you need an ambulance?”

“You are so lucky.” It was the woman who had called for help. Her relief tasted sweet, almost sickly so. “Whatever they were high on wore off pretty fast.”

Standing, legs shaking, she nodded again. She couldn’t speak; her tongue wouldn’t move. Blonde hair sifted across her face and she brushed it aside. Her skin–soft again–wanted to be touched.

“Young girl like you, they could have really hurt you.” The officer tipped his hat and hauled the last young man off to his squad car.

She watched, her own dread building. Her veins thrummed. She wanted to run, to dance, to sing with a voice unheard for decades. She’d been warned, her mother had told her over and over before sending her off to her own feeding grounds.

Once she’d feasted, she could never, ever be satisfied with less.