Jamie DeBree, Writer

Action. Adventure. Romance.
The Variety Pages by Jamie DeBree

On Taxes, Tea, & Journaling...

The photo above is my weekend in a visual nutshell. Coke, wine, tea, taxes/accounting, crocheting, and a trip to the comic book store. There was a little cleaning in there too, but I was fairly certain no one would be interested in seeing my vacuum, the food I cleaned out of the fridge/cupboards or my dirty laundry. You're welcome. 

The tax thing is a yearly ordeal only because I tend to put off bookkeeping until the last minute for my book business (ironic, no?), and then end up doing it all at once. Unfortunately, I had to declare a loss this year, which I was really hoping not too, since the government doesn't look all that kindly on businesses that spend more money than they make. It wasn't a huge loss, but still...enough that I'm going to have to make some spending cuts because I *have* to make a profit next year. I've been starting to do that anyways, but the next one's going to be a big one - I'm closing the BSB online store. Very few people actually buy from there - and I understand that it's because we're all comfortable buying from whatever big name retailer we're most familiar with. I get it. It makes sense. So I'm closing my store and instead revamping my publisher site to include links to all major retailers from genre-specific book pages. It'll work just as well as the store, and cost a lot less. 

And then I'll be able to use some of that money for smarter advertising. More giveaways, for sure. Which will also be good, and fun for readers. It's a win-win all around. 

As for the overall taxes, we normally owe the feds and get a refund from the state that just covers what we owe. This year, being in a lower tax bracket due to job changes, we owe the feds much less, and our refund from the state will cover it several times over. Not bad, if I do say so myself! 

Now if I could just keep up with the bookkeeping monthly this year instead of leaving it all for next March...which is what I always say, of course... 

In other groovy news, I joined the Steepster Select monthly tea club and got my first shipment this week. So this weekend, I tried one of the teas called Red Jade (it's actually a black tea made from a hybrid tea plant crossing a wild tea bush with an Assam tea bush). It's been so long since I had really high-quality tea, and I really enjoyed this one. Left a review on Steepster and everything. I'm really looking forward to trying the other teas included, and those to come. Incidentally, Steepster is a social community for tea lovers. Feel free to join me there

If you clicked through to my weekly to-do list at the top, you'll see that I've added a goal to start journaling again this week. My journaling is sporadic (to say the very least) and has been all my life. Normally I journal only when I'm trying to work something(s) out in my head that I feel it's better to keep to myself rather than talking to other people about. It's also a way to "purge" them so I'm not constantly worrying them while trying to focus on other things. It's self-therapy, really...and no, nothing's "super-duper" wrong or anything, I've just been doing a lot of thinking lately about my goals in life, personally & professionally, and need a way to noodle them out without involving another human party.

To that end,  I downloaded Smart Diary 4 (my preferred digital journal software...there's a free version, both installed and portable (for usb drives), and paid versions that do more stuff. And no, I don't keep paper journals anymore. People have a way of finding and reading them on me no matter how well they're hidden, and I'm not up for making myself that vulnerable.

So the goal is one journal entry per day this week. I need to find a good time to schedule for that, or I won't do it - probably late nights before bed. We'll see...

Other than that, lots of writing and business stuff this week, and of course the holiday hoopla next weekend for Easter. To dye eggs or not to dye eggs...that is the question...

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Serial Story: Under His Wing, Part 14

This story is presented weekly in draft (unedited) form. Enjoy!

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13 |

Dunning Manor, Book 1

Under His Wing
Part 14

Katie knew she was going the wrong direction when she left Thomas. She was curious as to whether or not he’d let her go, and a little peeved when he didn’t call her back. Whatever he had to do must be important, but she’d hoped to buy herself a little more time, maybe coax the final task for breaking free of the curse from him.

Seemed like if it was dangerous, it would be a good story, at least. And certainly something she’d rather avoid.

The old hall was narrow and drafty, the dim light flickering from torches mounted on the walls. She wasn’t yet tired, and she didn’t remember seeing this part of the manor, so she decided to continue following the lovely stone walls for awhile, just to explore. The manor was basically a large rectangle, so theoretically the hall would eventually end where it started, or so she assumed.
Reaching out, she trailed her fingertips along the cool wall, surprised to feel a slight dampness coating her skin. She rubbed her fingers together, smelled them, an old, earthy moss and soil fragrance bringing to mind the old English moors she’d often heard about.

“The stone absorbs moisture from our surroundings. In the right conditions, it releases it again.”

Zariah’s soft voice behind her made Katie jump, and she whirled around, one hand to her chest as her heart beat fast within.

“You scared me! Why didn’t you make noise or something?”

Zariah smiled. “It wasn’t my intention to scare you, Ms. Watson. I intended only to make sure you didn’t have to spend another night in the library.”

Katie rolled her eyes and dropped her hand, walking beside her hostess as they continued down the hall.

“Thank you for that,” she said, taking a deep breath, this time able to smell the lighter nuances she’d just sampled from the wall. “There aren’t really any bogs or wetlands here to speak of, so why do the walls smell more like moss?”

Zariah glanced sideways at her, and then shrugged.

“The manor isn’t bound to a single place, or time, for that matter. If our aid is requested, we are bound in that place until the threat has been dealt with, or the request is rescinded. But we never know who will come through our door next, or in what time/place we will...be.”

Katie frowned. “That’s not possible.” Zariah merely raised her eyebrows, her head cocked to the side until Katie conceded.

“Then again, it’s not possible to make my cooking edible either. And gargoyles don’t turn into men or vice versa.” She brought her hands up to rub her face, her mind stretching and failing to make sense of any of it. “I think it’s time I got some sleep. Just thinking about this is enough to make me crazy.”

Katie felt a light touch on her shoulder, and a sense of peace radiated out, easing the ache in her neck and down her back.

“Your room is just up ahead on the right.” Zariah walked with her to the door, and waited until Katie pushed it open. “Should you need anything at all, pull the rope by the bed. Rest well, Katie Watson. Tomorrow night after dinner, you and Thomas will begin your journey.”    

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Talkin' Books: April 9, 2014

Books Finished: 

Books In Progress: 

Short Fiction: 

Comic Books:
Superman Unchained #6
Wolverine #002
Origin II #2 & #3

So...Wednesdays are new comic book days (much like Tuesdays are new prose book days, unless you're me, in which case release day generally happens on a Friday. Because I'm odd like that.). Nothing new in my regular series this week, but...

I want the new Batman Eternal series - the first one is out this week. But...it's weekly, for 1 year, and...man oh man. That's $12 a month for just one series! Ouch. I mean, what am I supposed to do? Give up one of my other series? Not happening. But still...want! *sigh* Cruel, evil comic book people. I need to sell more books to make up the difference. Better get writing, eh?

In any case, I caught up with some comic book reading this week, and I have to say, still loving Superman Unchained even if I did have to wait what seemed like a really long time for this issue. The artwork is just amazing, as I've mentioned before, but the story's pulling me in deeper too. Good stuff, all around...I'm looking forward to the next two.

The new Wolverine series isn't exactly grabbing me...not sure I'll continue with that one. But the Origin II series is better than the reviews have let on, IMO. The drawings are a bit more traditional than the super-bright newer stuff, but I think that really suits the character and story better...and I love the way Wolverine is drawn in this set. I also like the more feral nature in this Origin story...I really need to get the collected Origin I, I think. I know he's gone through a lot in the newer arcs, what with losing his healing abilities and all, but somehow the emotional conflict just isn't...where it should be, IMO.

As for straight prose, I got a couple chapters deeper into Neverwhere, and am still finding that fascinating. My print TBR pile is growing by leaps and bounds at the moment, so I really should get that finished - there's a Rollins book waiting, for crying out loud!

Rescue Me took a somewhat odd twist that I'm not sure I'm completely on board with, but we'll see. Certainly not odd enough to make me stop reading (though when it happened, I did stop for that day, because it just seemed so...abrupt. But I'm making progress again and not minding it now, so there's that.

Obviously I didn't finish anything other than comic books this week - I've been a bit busy trying to talk myself into doing bookkeeping instead of reading late at night (which until last night translated into watching music videos on YouTube until bedtime - and I still did a little of that as a reward for the bookkeeping insanity). But I feel a reading binge coming on soon. Just as soon as I get those pesky taxes out of the way...

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On Clogged Drains, Priorities & Spring Cleaning...

I can hear you groaning out there as you read the title of this post. "Oh no!" the readers cry. "She's in one of those introspective moods again! Quick! Someone stop her before she analyzes The World!" 

To which I reply, "Dude. Easy on the exclamation points. No need to get all dramatic just because I used the 'P' word. Seriously." 

Yes, it is Monday, but it's crazy early (as in 12:15am), and I'm tired and waiting for my laundry to dry before I can go to bed. The laundry's going rather late because our basement drain got clogged up last weekend, and I had to wait for Draino and a couple small loads to do their thing before I could put in a decently-sized one. Ah, domestic life. It doesn't get much more mundane than that, does it? 

But yes, I have had a lot of time to think this weekend...mostly during long crochet sessions wherein I was working on two sets of baby booties on special order. They've already been paid for, so I'd like to get them done and shipped out as soon as possible, but Saturday I had a bit of a tug-of-war with myself, and the writer side won. Two hours later I wasn't one stitch farther along on my crochet project, but I had a 900 word start to a novel that I think will be really good when it's done. 

After that, I crocheted for another couple of hours, went to Captain America on the big drive-in screen, and did my nails. Sunday after chores I...yes, you guessed it. I crocheted most of the day, taking breaks only for housework & food. I got two booties mostly done, and one more closer to done. If it's light enough in the evenings this week, I'll finish the last two, otherwise they'll have to wait for the weekend.

A lot of that time I spent thinking about priorities - writing vs...everything else. Book biz vs life. Book biz vs. actual writing. And the amount of time/energy I have to put into all of those different things, vs. how much I *want* to put into those things given the risks/possible rewards. Yes, I over-think a lot, and yes, I have plenty of doubts & fears swirling around in my head (that's not abnormal for creatives, it's status quo). But I try to push the emotional crap aside and look at things as logically as I can before making decisions. I'm actually pretty good at that - my personality lends itself well to stepping outside myself and seeing things from a more objective point of view.

In any case, long story slightly shorter, I made some decisions about the business side of my writing that I'm not particularly happy with, but I can live with for now given the circumstances and how I want my priorities to shake out at this point in my life. And obviously I'll still be writing/publishing, so nothing too dire (couldn't stop writing if I tried, honestly), just nothing that will help me get ahead either. And that's okay...for now. The important thing is that I can continue to write/share my work, and that won't change anytime soon. I'll write up a post for the business blog later this week with more detail. "Streamlining" is my word of the week.

I guess you could say I'm sort of "spring cleaning"...just in a planning/organizational sense. Though with the weather getting nicer finally, I'm itching to start some physical spring cleaning too. Right after I get our taxes done next weekend. Which entails catching up the business books once and for all this week... *sigh* 

Incidentally, I'm "spring cleaning" my finances/budget too. Streamlining costs, banks, debt payoffs, investments...everything is getting an overhaul. It's important to do that once in awhile, I think, even if just to be very much aware of where the money's going/where it needs to go for future goals. And how to make sure there's still enough left over to play a little, too.

And with that, my laundry should be about done, so I'm off to get it folded/hung, and then to bed. Here's to a warm, sun-shiny Monday for us all!

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Serial Story: Under His Wing, Part 13

This story is presented weekly in draft (unedited) form. Enjoy!

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 |

Dunning Manor, Book 1

Under His Wing
Part 13

Thomas hesitated just long enough that he could hear Katie’s footsteps behind him on the stairs before continuing to the bottom. He hoped she wouldn’t press him for details, because he had no intention of telling her the final requirement to earn his freedom. He’d made that mistake a several times in the beginning, and each time what felt all too real had turned out to be cruel tricks that resulted dashed hopes and painful consequences.

In the last case, it had cost a woman her life.

After that, he’d vowed to remain a ward of the castle for eternity, or until the Dunning brothers finally broke their curse. He would not willingly see another woman suffer on his behalf.

“It must have been bad,” Katie commented as she joined him in the hall. He peered down into her insightful gaze and raised a questioning eyebrow.

“What’s that?”

She didn’t buy his innocent act, he knew. But perhaps if he parried enough, she’d grow tired of the game.

She shook her head, disappointment in her eyes. “Whatever happened the last time you tried to complete the second part of your penance.” She stepped closer, raising a hand cup the side of his face. “You think you can hide it behind that stone facade of yours, but the pain and fear are etched into those little lines beside your eyes.”

He moved away, her gentle caress too exquisite to bear. She let him, cocking her head to the side - a gesture he found far too endearing.

“If you won’t tell me the requirement, at least tell me what happened. If there’s a chance it could happen to me, I think I deserve to know.” 

Thomas shook his head and looked her in the eyes. “You will not be affected by the curse beyond the assistance you require. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some preparations to make in advance of tomorrow evening. You can find your way back to your room, I trust?”

Katie nodded. “Go ahead. I promise I won’t get lost.”

She turned and walked away in the opposite direction from her quarters. He almost stopped her, but Zariah appeared from a doorway further down the hall and nodded to him. She’d make sure Katie found her way.

He went down to the main floor and through the kitchen to the basement stairs, and descended into the dungeons. The stone and iron cells hadn’t housed prisoners for centuries, but served instead as storage for clothing, tools and weaponry collected throughout the years. Thomas wasn’t sure where it all came from, and Zariah wouldn’t say, but occasionally he availed himself of a modern tool or weapon to dispatch an enemy.

This time, however, he made his way to the very last cell in the row. Stepping inside, he found the items he needed and carried the lot upstairs to his temporary quarters. By this time tomorrow, the requirements for assistance would be met, and he would escort Katie to her home.

Then the battle would begin.  

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On Doing Too Much, Newsletters & Other Mundane Stuff...

So...blah on this whole winter thing. I'm over it. I want sunshine, and warmth, and green grass and my tulips, who have been snowed on twice now since they came up, and I fear they aren't going to bloom at all this year, poor things.

Last week was semi-productive, but also very introspective, and I had to admit that once again, I'm trying to do too much. I had this awesome idea to add a short story to every monthly newsletter, but then I got hung up on the story for the newsletter, and before long, I was getting behind on all my other writing. And since I'm pretty strict on making sure the serial chapters get done every week (and I have four serial stories to stay on top of, one of which was on hiatus for a couple weeks), I'm also working on a couple of other drafts "behind the scenes" that I really, really want to finish this year. And that's not going to happen if I don't ditch the whole newsletter short story idea and just stick to the plan I made at the beginning of the year.

It sucks to have to do that, but while some writers have no issue getting up early to lay down a few words before work and/or coming home afterwards and putting in several hours of writing per night, that's just not how I want my life to be sculpted. I need variety, I need down time, I need time to work on the business side of things, and I need time away from the screen altogether. So basically what I'm saying is, I'm not dedicated enough to make writing my whole life outside of work. And for those who might think I'm being "down" on my self, fear not -  I'm perfectly okay with that decision, though I realize it's not a popular one among the more driven set.

No one's ever accused me of being a workaholic (doing too much, yes, but rarely of just one thing - which is good, IMO). 

In any case, I've decided the newsletters will contain excerpts from things I've been working on through the month rather than a complete short story, and that will have to be enough for now. I need to rein myself in, so to speak, and focus. I'm kind of hoping that if I do that, I'll be able to get ahead on the serial stories as well, and finish them faster than they appear online...which will be handy in the fall when I tend to be busier overall.

Planning ahead. I know, I know...novel idea (pun totally intended).

I spent most of my weekend crocheting (got another order for baby booties, and got those partially done) and Sunday was my mother-in-law's birthday, so we celebrated that, and I contemplated all the stuff I had to do while doing pretty much nothing last night (I finally picked up my knitting just to feel productive for an hour). Some days are like that...just gotta roll with 'em.

This week I have another full schedule - lots to do at work, lots of writing to catch up on, a new serial story to start, a print book to format and upload, and those booties to finish so I can get them sent off. But it shouldn't be a particularly stressful week, just busy, and ultimately satisfying if I can check all that off the list.

Of course, I do need to start thinking about taxes soon...which means there's a *lot* of bookkeeping in my immediate future... *sigh*

Once more into the fray, dear friends. Glad to have you along with me.

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Serial Story: Under His Wing, Part 12

This story is presented weekly in draft (unedited) form. Enjoy!

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 |

Dunning Manor, Book 1

Under His Wing
Part 12

Katie took his hand, noting how smooth and cool the firm skin felt against her palm. Like a fleshy rock of sorts. Would the rest of him feel the same, she wondered as he led her out of the dining room? Her cheeks heated as it occurred to her that wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.

Too much mead. Undoubtedly. Scary how quickly she was taking to the odd drink.

They went down the hall and through a narrow stone arch that led to an even narrower flight of stairs. The steps were slippery, worn smooth over the centuries and the lack of any handrail made it imperative to pay attention as she placed her feet.

Which was why she plowed into her personal gargoyle’s firm behind with her head when he stopped, presumably at the top.

“Sorry about that,” she mumbled, backing down a couple steps and thanking her lucky stars for the dim light coming in narrow windows so he couldn’t see her flaming face.

His deep chuckle echoed through the small space. “I’d wager ‘tis better for you to watch your own feet than my backside.” He stepped over a threshold and turned, holding a wooden door open for her as she stopped just short of following him outside.

“Is it safe? I mean, is Peter...”

He shook his head. “We’re on the roof of the mansion. I assure you, your nemesis can’t reach you here.”   

Nerves made her shake slightly as she stepped out onto the graveled surface. She trusted Thomas, but her body hadn’t quite caught up with her brain and still remembered the tug-of-war all too clearly. Crossing her arms over her chest, she tried to will herself to calm the heck down with lackluster results.

“This way,” Thomas said, turning to the left. “Alfred and Dornin are at the front of the building.”

The center of the roof was taken up by large raised garden beds, where all manner of herbs and vegetables appeared to be growing. There was even a patch of corn on the end, and one that looked like it held root vegetables. Katie didn’t know much about gardening, but she couldn’t help but wonder at the variety.

“How do all these grow at the same time?” she asked, earning a shrug from her tour guide.

“You’ll have to as Zariah. It’s her garden, and she’s rather protective of it.”

Katie nodded, her gaze shifting outward to the rows of gargoyles that sat looking out atop stone pedestals all around the edge of the roof. She counted five on each side plus the two larger statues sitting in a bump-out that would be just above the main doors to the building. One pedestal to the right of those two was empty, and she could only assume that was Thomas’s place.

“Do all of these...I mean, are they all like you? They all can change into humans, or live gargoyles?”

Thomas nodded as they stopped between the two in front. “All except these two have been cursed for a crime of some sort. We are imprisoned here until we earn our freedom.”

Katie frowned. “It must be hard to do - earn your freedom, that is. There are so many...”

He glanced at the statues, his expression wistful. “It’s not so difficult, really - we must help someone such as yourself, who needs protection from something similar to what we ourselves did to others. But freedom comes at a price as well - one that some of us aren’t willing to pay.”

She wanted to ask what the price was, but he continued immediately, gesturing to the statue on his right.

“This is Lord Alfred Dunning, owner of the mansion and the man who started the curse. And this,” he pointed to the other gargoyle, “is his brother, Dornin. After the druids cursed the castle as Dunning required, they cursed these two with an impossible task. They are only allowed to regain human form once a year for seven days, and to break their own curse they must each convince a woman to fall in love with the other man. When they break their own curse, the curse on the mansion will be broken as well.”

Katie shook her head. “No wonder they’re still here. That’s an impossible task.”

Thomas smiled. “I have watched them bicker and complain more times than I care to count over the years, but they’ve had chances. It’s difficult to hand the thing you want most over to your brother - when that thing is a woman’s affection, nearly impossible, as you say.”  

Katie thought about that for a moment, and then met his cool gaze. “What about you, Thomas? What do you have to do to break your personal curse?”

He sighed, looking away as the wind riffled through his hair. The sunset behind him cast him in shadow, and she couldn’t help but think what a striking, manly figure he made standing there. Like an ancient warrior.

“My task is twofold, as are all of ours. First, I have to save someone from a person who would do what I once did.”

When she realized just what he was saying, she fought the urge to take a step back. “You tried to burn someone alive?” 


“Who?” She didn’t want to know, and yet, she had to.

He was silent for a long moment, so long she thought he might not answer until he finally did.

“My wife and her lover.”

Katie felt the tension lesson as her muscles relaxed.

“A little dramatic, but understandable I guess, especially back then. What’s the second part?”

“Nothing you need to worry about,” he said, his voice sharp. “I have no desire to leave this place, so the second part doesn’t matter.” He brushed past her, walking back toward the door. “We should go back inside. It’s getting late.”


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Talkin' Books: March 26, 2014

Books Finished: 

Books In Progress: 

Short Fiction: 

Comic Books:
Harley Quinn #4
Superior Spiderman #29
The Sandman Overture #1

Yes, once again I'm too lazy to look up the comic book links for you. You can handle it, right? You found my blog, so I have to assume you're at least somewhat internet savvy...

Besides, if you have a local comic book shop, I'd highly encourage you to visit it. Because while I've whole-heartedly embraced digital prose, and comic books do look rather sharp on a color screen, it's an art form I really think works best in print. Less eyestrain too.

As for Harley Quinn...she just keeps getting better. Funnier. In this particular issue, I was reading along, thinking maybe it was getting just a tad bit preachy when the whole thing twisted and the "lesson" turned out to be something completely different. There are so many levels you could analyze this storyline and character on, but honestly, it's just a really fun comic book to read. There's only four out so far (I think), so start now while there's still time to catch up!

Superior Spiderman was interesting in a completely different way. So many questions, and now that we all know Peter Parker will be making a comeback (which I almost wish I didn't know), it's interesting to watch the mind meld between Parker & Octavius and try to figure out which one will end up being dominant - or whether they'll mesh into a new spiderman entirely. Hmm...

The Sandman Overture is the new series by written Neil Gaiman, and I have to say, it's...odd. I need to read it again while I'm more awake (as opposed to 1am), because I feel like I missed a lot of nuance the first time. The artwork (by JH Williams III) is spectacular, and it would appear that I finished the first one just in time for the second issue to come out, so...I'm reserving judgement at the moment, but planning to continue with at least one more issue for the artwork if nothing else. Yes, I hear the possibly 1-2 fantasy readers actually peeking at this blog screaming "sacrilege" at me right now for not immediately loving Gaiman's story. Patience, dear ones. I did love the poetic nature of the writing, but half-asleep reading just didn't work for me. I'll try again. 

Speaking of Gaiman, I'm enjoying Neverwhere very much, though a lot of book-business work has kept me up very late for the past few weeks (and Neverwhere is an end-table print book, so if I don't get to bed while hubby's still up reading, I don't get to it). A lot of books I read and put down for long periods of time I have to back up, and sort of re-orient myself to the story when I finally pick it back up. Not so with Neverwhere...even after a couple of weeks away, I can pick it back up and be right there where I left off - the characters and story are that vivid (surreal, whatever). And I have to be honest...my favorite characters are not the main characters, but rather the hired thugs. They have some of the *best* dialogue I think I've ever read. So dry and funny all at the same time...I just love them. One might think that cause for concern if they didn't know me, I suppose...

Tatterdemon is still on the back-burner...the gray days just aren't really screaming "read more blood and gore!" to me. Actually though, that would be a good slogan for a horror writer's cards/posters. I'll get back to it once the sun finally comes out again. Gotta be in the right frame of mind for that messed up stuff...

I'm also very much enjoying my lunchtime reading - Rescue Me. Good, solid romantic suspense...if you haven't tried Allie K. Adams, I'd recommend the TREX series, or this book at least. I mean, hot alpha guy, alpha chick who's not taking his crap, a kid to find who isn't really "lost", plenty of secrets and twists...another "this would make a great movie" type of book, which are generally my favorites for just good old entertainment. I'll admit though, with the title I'm curious as to which of the main characters will eventually rescue the other...and I'm kind of hoping the girl rescues the guy. Seems like it would be fitting, but since I'm not a "jump to the back of the book" kind of reader, we'll all just have to wait until I'm done to find out.

That's it for this week, I think. Good stuff, all around, as it should be.

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On Mental Illness, Dishonesty, & Swearing

Just another manic Monday, right? It's snowing. Again. And that's all I'll say about that.

There's a link floating around (I may have shared it, can't remember) drawing similarities between successful writers and the mentally ill.  A little while earlier, there was this article on how creativity and dishonesty often go hand in hand. And of course there's the meme that occasionally goes around FB about how people who use cuss words tend to be perceived as being more trustworthy/honest.

Ironically, all of these are somewhat depressing for me, but not in the way you might think. You see, I'm not mentally ill. Sure, I have a rather rich fantasy life that translates into stories which I then feel the need to write down and share, but while I may occasionally feel "down", I'm not clinically depressed, and while I may talk to myself occasionally and have a "thing" about cupboard doors/drawers being left open, I'm not crazy. I don't neglect my husband, I keep my obsessive-compulsive tendencies in check for the most part, and I live a fairly balanced life.

Strike one.

I'm also not terribly fond of what lying accomplishes or the work it takes to actually keep a lie going, so I'm honest probably 98.9 percent of the time. Heck, I can't even keep my pen names secret. Besides, I generally prefer to just get whatever fallout might be coming due to telling the truth over with, so no one can "find out later" and have anything to hold over me. I don't like prolonging pain or punishment - I'm a "get it done and over with" kinda girl. So I rarely lie, which gives me strike two, if we're going off the articles above.

My third strike comes in very rarely swearing, and hardly ever in front of people. This isn't actually because I have any kind of moral objection to it, and it doesn't offend me when others swear (though excessive swearing does make me roll my eyes - as does most excessive "drama"). I simply never learned how. I grew up in a house where no one used "those words", and if you did, you literally got your mouth washed out with soap. My mother was very fond of telling us that those who resorted to cuss words didn't have a large enough vocabulary. My dad only cussed when he was *really* mad and yelling. Considering I lived at home all through my college years, and worked pretty much full time from when I turned 15 (swearing is usually frowned on in a work environment with lots of public contact), there was never a time when I was really in an environment to learn to use those types of words effectively - or even to be around other people using them frequently.

Yes, my characters cuss whenever it suits them, and there are occasions where I'll mumble a well-placed swear word under my breath, but it's rare, and as I said above, even more rare in front of an audience. Strike three! 

So apparently, according to the internet at large (or three random benchmarks of a creative personality, rather), I can't possibly be successful as a writer. The question then becomes, if the realization of all this depresses me enough to drag me down into a clinically diagnosed funk, wherein I begin to lie compulsively and develop a sailor's vocabulary from the sheer hopelessness of it all, will I have a better chance at actually being a successful writer?

Brain chemistry being what it is, I doubt we'll ever find out the answer to that question (thank goodness). As to whether or not I'll ever be a "successful" writer despite my generally optimistic disposition, my tendencies toward honesty and my lack of colorful vocabulary, I'll let you know when/if I decide to stop writing. As it is, I make enough money selling books to buy more books, and writing keeps the voices from being stuck in my head (which probably keeps me from going crazy).

For now, that's success enough for me.

Here's to a creative, happy, less-snowy (please!) week...

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Serial Story: Under His Wing, Part 11

This story is presented weekly in draft (unedited) form. Enjoy!

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 |

Dunning Manor, Book 1

Under His Wing
Part 11

Katie tapped her foot against the stone floor of the dining room that evening, waiting for Thomas to join her. She leaned forward in the too-big chair, took a sip of mead from her goblet, cringed at the taste, and then sat back again.

She shifted to the side, leaning on one thick armrest, and pulling her feet up on the seat beside her. Glancing at the serving platters where her attempt at two individual meat pies sat, she put her feet down and sat up straight again.

Would the man never come? Or would it be the gargoyle? Had she really seen him change last night?

Heavy footsteps approached, and she shifted in her chair again, looking over the table one more time before his shadow fell through the doorway and into the room.

“Good evening,” he said, taking his place at the head of the table. “Have you recovered from your ordeal earlier today?”

She nodded. “Hi. I mean, hello. And yes, thank you. Are you...” she wasn’t sure what to ask, but it seemed polite to make small talk. Unfortunately not one of her strong suits. “Did you have a good afternoon?”

He inclined his head as he reached for a pie. “It was...relaxing. And yours?”

Katie reached for the second pie with part dread and part curiosity. Would it be magically edible like the meal last night, or would it taste as bad as it had looked just out of the oven?

“It was okay,” she said, spearing a bit of crust, meat and gravy on her fork and lifting it to her lips. It smelled surprisingly good, and she was relieved when the flavors on her tongue bore no resemblance to what she’d been expecting.

“You are a good cook,” Thomas said.

Katie choked at his comment, gasping for air and pounding on her chest as she coughed in an attempt to continue breathing. Thomas didn’t even look concerned, just continued to eat until she could speak again.


“Honestly, I’m a horrible cook,” she finally admitted after gulping a too-big sip of mead. “I burn water. I have no idea how it happens, but somehow the food just...turns into something good when it’s served. It’s like magic or something.”

Sitting back in his chair, Thomas laughed. “I doubt that very much. But humility is a rare trait in someone so young, so perhaps I should take you at your word.” Amusement twinkled in his eyes, like someone who knew the veiled insult would sting, and looked forward to the eruption sure to follow.

Men. They were all alike, aside from the whole turns-into-a-monster thing.

“You’re right - I’m not being humble. I really can’t cook. Even with a recipe, I can screw pretty much anything up. I have to ask though - have you ever had a bad meal here?”

He thought for a few seconds, his brows drawing together in a way that did peculiar things to her insides.

“No, now that you mention it, I haven’t. To be fair though,” he rubbed his chin with one hand. “I haven’t exactly eaten here much either. If I’m not assigned to a case, I’m usually sleeping.”

It was Katie’s turn to frown. “How long have you been here, anyway? And I want to know about the whole gargoyle thing too. How does that work?”

He poured himself more mead, and then topped off her glass. “I don’t know the exact number, but I’ve been here for over two hundred years now. As for the other...well, there’s a curse on this mansion, commissioned by its first owner, a wealthy aristocrat named Alfred Dunning. He caught his brother trying to seduce his wife, and forced a local group of druids to cast a spell that would serve as punishment. Unfortunately the druids weren’t happy with someone using them for something so banal as revenge, so they cursed the entire mansion, and the Dunning brothers with it. Those two are the only gargoyles who can never leave this place.”

Katie’s eyes went wide, and she sat up straight. “Wait a minute. You’re telling me the original owner of the mansion is still here, along with his cheating brother? Where? Do they ever just...walk around? Say hi? How old are they?”

Thomas grinned, draining his goblet and then rising to his feet. He held out a hand to her.

“Come with me. I’ll introduce you.”

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