Saturday, November 5, 2011


I was putting away the Halloween decorations today and found this short story I wrote seven years ago.  When I lived in New Orleans a group of us would gather for a weekend at Oak Alley Plantation in Vacherie, Louisiana where we'd rent the same turn of the century cottage.  We'd prepare a great feast and then afterward gather by candlelight to read aloud ghost stories we'd written.

Every year was a different theme.  This was from 2004 and I believe the theme was a journey with a spiritual guide.  Something close to that anyway.

Anyway, here's mine:

The Price of Things
July 2, 2004

I met the old witchy woman in the French Quarter. Jackson Square to be precise.

It was a sunny Saturday afternoon and the winter wind was blowing straight through my down jacket right into the marrow of my bones. The woman had a small dilapidated table with a garish blue cloth edged with improbable purple tassels thrown over it.  On top of the cloth were the most unique and exquisite looking grails I had ever seen.

In my seven years of living in the city of New Orleans, I had always made it a point not to make eye contact with any of the Jackson Square vendors, tarot readers or artists. I considered most of them to be cons pure and simple and I'm not much for being scammed.

Yet these wooden grails called to me.  I could not walk past the table. My steps slowed and finally stopped as I greedily let my gaze crawl over them.  All I could see of the witchy woman was threadbare black velvet dress with most of the velvet rubbed away leaving an inky smudged fabric thin enough to almost see through in many places.  Buttons in the shape of black roses marched crookedly up over a flat nearly concave chest to a scrawny, wrinkled neck.

I was on my way to a voodoo shop to buy Papa Legba a candle, but I suddenly remembered that I had been looking for a wooden grail for nearly forever.  And here was a table full of them.

My eye was drawn to a tall, delicate goblet, the whirls and gnarls of the cypress wood lovingly polished to an almost mirror like sheen. I reached out a hesitant hand and it was then she spoke, in a thin, reedy voice, full of the South, burned by countless bottles of whiskey and quavery with extreme old age.

"That's not the one for you, baby," she said.

Unaccountably, I flushed with shame, as if I had been aught in the act of doing something wrong.

"You want me to, I make you a grail just for you. Only for you. You special, you is, girl."

"How much is this one?" I asked her, determined not to be sucked into some sort of street scam. Special indeed. But, still, I felt strangely as if her words were actually true. The dainty goblet really wasn't for me, pretty as it was.

"Ain't for sale. Leastways not to you," she said and then she laughed, a wild, witchy laughter that floated thinly across the Square, amplified by the cold wind.  Gutter punks, tourists, tarot readers and children all seemed to look over at once.

It was as if the Square was a stage and we two, the witchy woman and I, were in the spotlight.

"All right. What about the one you'd make for me special. How much would that be?" I asked, desperate for the eyes of the Square to turn away and go about their business. I just wanted to be in the background, part of the scenery.

She chuckled.

"You can never not be noticed, girl," she said as if I had spoken aloud my thoughts. "Like I said. You special."

"How much?" I insisted on knowing.

"You think too much about the price of things.  How much that be. How much this be. And it ain't just in terms of cash money, either, is it? It's all about time too. And effort. And how much of your soul be required to own your desires."

"Well, nothing is for free if you think about it," I said.

"You think too much about it." Her voice was flat and emphatic. "Can't you just for once take what you want without worrying about how much it costs?"

I swallowed hard, considering.

"I don't know," I replied honestly. "I've never tried."

She snorted contemptuously again. "Don't I know that for sure!"

"Okay, so I will buy the special grail you'll make for me.  I won't ask you how much it is. I'll just take it. When will it be ready?" I felt stung by her mocking contempt.

"There you go again, asking the price of things."

"I did not!"

"You asked 'when'.  There's a price tag attached to that word and you know it."

"Well, how will I know when to come get it if I don't ask when?" I demanded angrily.

"You just will, that's all. If you let yourself be, girl."

I was silent for a moment, wanting to shout out, That's the kind of thing that sound deep when you say it, but means nothing when you think about it.  But I didn't.

She saw me think it anyway by the wrinkled old smirk on her dark brown face.

"Fine," I said instead. "I'll be back when I've let myself be."

"You do that," she cackled, showing her nearly toothless old gums in a grin that both mocked me and yet somehow praised me.  "I ain't got no doubts. You special, you is."

For a few days afterward I did nothing but think about that old witchy woman and my grail. I fretted over when I was supposed to know it was time and how, precisely, I would let myself *be*.

Although this was about me, it was outside of me as well. I was not in control and it itched at me, the thought of that grail and the thought of the witchy woman.

It occurred to me a few days later that I didn't even know her name. A few days after that it also occurred to me that there were a lot of things I didn't know and never would. And while I had always known that, somehow it now bothered me. Why not? What was stopping me from knowing all the things I wanted to know? What were these limitations on me? Were they self-imposed or not? Did it matter or not?

I felt myself going quietly insane because I couldn't stop thinking, so that when I just let it all drop.

I must have walked through Jackson Square a hundred times after that, without a thought for the grail or the witchy woman, but then one time I found myself looking at the spot where her table had been and I heard my mind whisper, What witchy woman? And she was there.

I realized I had seen her, and her blue cloth covered table, without recognizing what I was looking at.

She was smiling.

When I walked up to her, eager and reaching out, instead of handing me a grail, she gave me another smile.

"Friday night long abut dark, you come by my house and I give you the grail.  I worked hard on it, baby. Best work I ever done."

Bitterly disappointed that I couldn't have the grail right there and then, the words, How much drifted up and almost across my lips, but with an effort I stopped them. She watched me, her black eyes murky as swamp water.

Instead, I said, "Ill be there." And forced myself to walk away.

Then came Friday night when I set out in my car to find the old witchy woman's house.

Up until it started to rain I felt infused with vitality and a sense of right and purpose. I was more than myself and yet I was still me.

Torrential rain pounded down.  I swore violently and hit the brakes, but not very hard.  All I needed was to hydroplane off into the black branches of some old tree.  There were a lot of trees on this stretch of the road. Standing like rain drenched sentinels against the night sky and the shroud of clouds lit from within by flashes of lightning. More trees than you usually saw in Louisiana.

I realized I had no idea where I was or where she lived. She had never told me.  Caught up in the otherworldly drama of it all, I hadn't even thought to ask her.  But then again, maybe that was the point. I didn't need to ask her because I knew where she lived. But if I knew where she lived why was I suddenly lost and why couldn't I find her?

I came within an ace of turning around and going back home to the comfort and predictability of a Twilight Zone episode on DVD by candlelight. Maybe a glass of champagne and the cats sprawled on my lap...

"Damn it!" I swore again, trying desperately to focus myself. "The least little bit of difficulty and you start thinking about champagne. You can have champagne anytime. What you can't have is this grail and the experience of actually having this grail made for you, especially, by some supernatural old woman straight out of the Twilight Zo.. No!  Stop thinking about the familiar. The tried and true. Just because the Twilight Zone is creepy doesn't mean it's not mainstream and ordinary and status quo. Tonight isn't supposed to be status quo. It's not supposed to be about being comfortably seated in the front row watching the curtain part. It's supposed to be about being on the other side of that curtain.  Being instead of watching."

I started to cry.

I drove up and down that road all night long, alternately sobbing and cursing, sometimes preternaturally calm, other times wild and raging. I even drove with my eyes shut one time, certain that if just gave up trying to see and instead just let myself be, I would find that damn old witchy woman's house.

It was a miracle I didn't drive into a tree. The thought I might made me slam on the brakes and just behind my ids, the ghost of possibility coasted and then floated away, out of reach. In the act of braking, I lost it. I could never just drive with my eyes closed. I was too afraid of hitting something, or someone, of killing myself, of losing my license, of having my insurance canceled, of forfeiting my house because of bills I might owe to pay for the damage I might do.  In short, of the price of such a thing.

When dawn started streaking blushy pink fingers across the grey clouds, erasing the rain with the night, I gave in and drove home.

In the days that followed that night, I have come to the conclusion that I'm just not ready. I may be special, I may not b able to avoid being noticed. I may be capable of great things, even the greatest of things, of knowing all that I want to know and being all that I suspect I can be.

But I'm not there yet. And I can't help but start to cry when I wonder about that old witchy woman and what she was trying to show me. wonder if she would even look at me, presuming I ever ran across her again.  I wonder if I failed her and if I failed myself. Sometimes I think I have.  Sometimes I think I might have. Sometimes I think of the price of things and how much I have to pay for them. Sometimes I think that until I can get past putting a price tag on that grail, I will never find it. Other times I think that I'm crazy because the price tag on the grail is all that I have, all that I ever had, all that I ever will have. All that I ever will be.  And I whisper, "Please, just let me find it and let me have it."

But as of now I haven't found it. Although I often haunt Jackson Square, watching people watch me as I watch them, I never see her, the witchy woman who made me my grail.

What's terrifying is the thought that I perhaps I never will. I had my chance and I lost it, worrying about what it would cost me.

What's even more terrifying is the thought that perhaps I will see her again and I finally take that grail into my hands, fill it with elixir, and drain it to the last dregs.

What will I Become then? Will it be Death? Will it be Afterlife? Will be oblivion? Will it be more than I can dream of right now? Will it be all of that?  Will it even matter?

And so I chase my Death, my Dreams, even as I chase myself, and I swear if I'm given the chance again, I won't ask the price, I won't count the cost. But what if I do?  What then?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Lovecraftian Short Story

I thought I would share this little story with everyone even though it has nothing to do with my Stanzie and Murphy novels.  I read it last night on a windy beach at Galveston under the starlight (and a mini flashlight).  Mine was one of three tales told by moonlight -- all inspired by H.P. Lovecraft.


Some call me demented.  I acknowledge them not.  They, who cannot see because they are, yes, willfully and stubbornly blind, cannot judge one who has dared to plumb the veiled and tantalizingly difficult depths of the true self as have I.  Lost to them are the wonders and savage joys I can see.   And I think not of them who think so little of me.

But judge for yourself, Reader, for you alone, have been presented with the challenge to seek out the strength of heart and mind which will allow you to comprehend my life’s noble work.

Judge and dare to walk the same path I have traveled, that is my Gift to you who risk all to read further. 
I was born during a magnificent and violent rain storm that blotted out the light and the land and left my mother stranded in the twisted angles and planes of the master bedroom my father, an architect of international renown, built for her on the occasion of their marriage. 

Her agonized labor shrieks went unheard by any save herself and the infant that was the yet to be me.  Upon years of sober and logical reflection, I dare to understand something else heard the strident screams and moans of a woman driven utterly mad by pain.  This transfixing agony achieved a resonance with wild forces and incomprehensible energies which somehow resulted in something that Came into Being in response. I know not the origins of the something that heeded my mother’s receptive call, but I do know with intimate knowledge gained over the course of years of serious study and dedicated devotion to the darker arts, the something now lives in the sea outside the angled walls and weird windows of the modern monstrosity my father saw fit to create ,but rarely to reside within.

I suppose he stubbornly believed that if he built my mother a massive house in which to pass the time while he was away, she would be content to stay and explore. Not only the monstrous house, but the mysterious and gloomy seashore which surrounded on all four sides the private island upon which the house reposed. 
My mother resented the ocean.  She detested the muttering noise it made, the noxious smell it produced, the weird thrum of the waves against the shadowed shore that interrupted her thoughts, her sleep, her food, her very existence until in an ecstasy of rage she threw herself into the terrible and tumbling waves, shrieking madly for them to cease. 
Her drowned and bloated body floated to shore three days later and the only witness was the family dog who slunk back to the house on his belly and whined miserably until the housekeeper sent her husband, a surly and thoroughly unlikeable man, who acted as the estate caretaker, to follow him.
The funeral, naturally, was not well attended.  My mother’s family did not deign to appear due to a bitter family feud instigated on the occasion of the marriage when my wealthy father refused to part with a penny to help his impoverished new in-laws.

Impoverished not by circumstance, he averred, but by choice.  Work was not a recognized word in their limited vocabulary and the best, most honorable thing they had ever done was produce the fragile beauty that was my mother.

I was but three years old when she and the sea clashed and she was vanquished forevermore.  My father did return for the funeral but not for me.  Instead he hired a woman to oversee my welfare.  I suppose she could have been called a nanny, but to me she was a witch.  In both spirit and actuality.  Many was the dark night I crept stealthily out of bed and toddled to the gloom shrouded shore to find her dancing wildly about a crackling bonfire, naked , her witch black hair streaming down her back as she whirled and danced about the blazing, terrifying flames.

She shrieked at the ocean much as my mother had, not in defiance, but supplication. Entreaty.
She felt the something.   And feared it.  Her witch’s senses were attuned to the unearthly, uncanny, dark presence. My mother had blamed the entire ocean, but the witch knew it was something in the sea, not the sea itself.

The witch taught me all she knew of the craft.  Together we fashioned sigils and traced them into the rocky sand with sticks of cedar purified in the smoke of sage.  We chanted complicated and involved invocations, her in her deep contralto, me in my lisping soprano.  From the earliest age I could remember, I learned the lore.  At first it was simple repetition and the desire to please her, but as I grew older, I became more cunning and the words combined in my head and heart and made a strange sense that I believe even the witch, in all her earthy wisdom, could not comprehend.

The first time I crept alone to the beach under the midnight moon with the stars aligned above me in an icy configuration of detached logic and unsurpassed beauty, I was twelve.  The witch would have beaten me if she’d known as the incantation I chanted that night, and all the stolen nights after, had nothing to do with puerile supplication or the whining appeasement of the something in the sea, instead I called its dark and dangerous power forth and drew it to me.  I craved its immense force and did not desire to bow or prostrate myself to achieve mastery of it. 

Had not the something responded to my birth? Had it not driven my mother mad and lured her into the faithless waves ? 

For by then I had reasoned she had not died screaming at the sea, but died to save me.  In her own, pitiful warped brain she vaguely comprehended the presence of the something, but her mind and soul would not admit to the majesty of the Self.  She had not the ability to See in the way that I could, in the way the witch could have had she not been also similarly twisted by convention and society and the morality of a dead god who promised much but delivered little.

The witch’s spells and incantations had all been of a cloyingly protective nature.  They had been painstakingly fashioned to keep the something at bay, to convince it to pass by, to create an invisible, impenetrable barrier between it and me.  But what the witch failed to understand in her rather commonplace mind is that I wanted the connection.  I wanted to be more than I was and more than this world would seemingly allow me to be.
It was my purest and most ardent wish to wrest my future from the clenched jaws of conformity and fear and shape it to my will. I do not believe in predetermined destiny. I believe in creating paths and gateways and choices.  I believe I can have a hand in my own fate whereas people like the witch and my mother see only chaos and confusion and rush to embrace the ordered and precise existence as carved out by someone or something else. 

I will not live that way!  I will not let others fashion my very existence for me! 

My first few incantations did not work.  How could they?  For I was young and inexperienced and far too indoctrinated with the taint of the witch’s weak magic, not my own. 

No.  I struggled to ruthlessly strip away all my preconceived fancies and ideas.  I grappled with all my might to shrug off the ridiculous fallacies and escape the shackles of indoctrination in order to uncover my true self. 

It was the labor of years.  Years.    I sent the witch away.  By this time she suspected I was attempting to escape her narrow, bigoted cage of watered down magic, but she was powerless to stop me.
The servants refused after a time to remain in residence.  Fearful peasants.  Their faulty logic and mindless devotion to conformity made it impossible for them to endure my life’s work. They shrank from me as I haughtily passed them by on my relentless path to the shore where I would spend not only the nighttime, nightmarish hours chanting and drawing sigils in the sand, but also by the fierce light of the radiant sun which illuminated everything and produced a friction of heat and energy that caused the entire island to shudder beneath my growing Power.

I had no time for anything but my studies and my single-minded pursuit of the something.  If I could make contact, if I could exchange essence with It, I would only then see myself reflected in the cold luminescence   of the pure logic of unutterable Truth.  I would at long last Be myself, but I needed the key and the key swam the murky depths of the black and terrifying sea.

The something called to me in my dreams, but dreams are capricious and arbitrary things that cannot be examined by logic and assembled into intelligence. They are fraught with ambiguity and by their very vague nature are not tools to be trusted.  For when I would have the truth in my grasp, I would sputter awake and disoriented, the moonlight a cold reproach against my clammy cheek.

Come to me,” urged the seductive voice of the something in the sea in my fantastical dreamstate.  Come to me.”

But never did I hear that Voice while conscious and in command of my senses. 

No matter how many multitudes of brilliant and evocative incantations, no matter the masterful and magnificent intricacy of the many sigils I scratched into the porous sand, the Voice remained inflexibly and infuriatingly silent.

Only in dreams could I hear and in dreams I did not, could not, would not trust.
Products of a fanciful and infantile imagination, how could they herald the truth, how could they possibly begin to converge with the immutable Self, the non-natural something that writhes and squirms beneath our ordered and precisely structured consciousness?

If I could have murdered sleep, I would have strangled it with my bare and furious fists.  Tortured it. Made it suffer exquisite and incalculable agony. For every dream in which I perceived that Voice and resisted its siren song, I drew sixty sigils, no, a hundred sixty.  For each ridiculous and specious dream in which that Voice appealed to me from beyond, I chanted a hundred, no a thousand complex incantations until my own voice was hoarse with them.

But nothing.  No response.  The Voice, the something, remained obdurately still.

I must have overlooked something vital in my esoteric studies of the darker arts.  I returned to my books and spent night after everlasting, moon drenched night reading and re-reading until my weary eyes rebelled and I saw the world doubled, trebled, in a strange, fantastic blur of blinding color and savage shadow.

The dreams intensified – spinning, colliding, masterful webs of delight and deceit, none of it verifiable, none of it real. 

Come to me,” It sang.  The dark, icy sea soaked into the tones and quality of the Voice. Beyond my bedroom window, the restless mutter of the incomprehensible, horrid waves broke over and over again in monotonous and mind numbing repetition.  Always the same sound, never a variation or a variety. 

At first I shut my window, then bolted it, then covered it with foil, stuffing the cracks with rags. Anything, anything, to stop that monstrous sound!

I set aside my ponderous books.  The knowledge contained within them was burned indelibly upon my brain.  I was immersed in the icy clarity of their words, every shuddering breath I drew, filled my head with more of them, crowding in upon me as I rushed to the shadowed shore to work my magic with sigil and incantation.  Beyond me, the terrible waves crashed with fitful banality to the shore.

That noise, once a fundamental and vigorous counterpoint to my magic, now interrupted it, swelled above it, drowned it with its infernal racket.  Oh, for one moment’s peace! 

Even the untamed crackle of the bonfire could not obscure that frantic noise!

“I have given you everything!” I shrieked, my nails digging bloody furrows down my hectically burning cheeks.  “I have spent my life in the pursuit of higher knowledge and goals of immortality known only to the gods and those who dare to Know Themselves and yet, still, always, ever, I receive nothing in return but that appalling, dreadful noise!”

In a frothing ecstasy of iniquitous rage, I flung flaming chunks of bonfire wood into the cold, incalculable waves.  Hissing steam obliterated the moonlight and half choked me, but still that cacophony continued. 
I thrust blistered hands into the shocking cold water and screamed, but my voice was a pitiful nothing in comparison.

Hunted and plagued, I sought the sanctuary of my bedroom, but one tortured glance at my bed, the blankets drawn down invitingly, the pillows plumped to perfection, and I knew I was doomed. 

Why?  Why should I be denied the very sustenance I so fervently desired? Why after countless hours of study and contemplation, after years of sigils and incantations, of my very life sacrificed on the pitiless altar of Knowledge, should I be thwarted so?

Perhaps I stood balanced on the very threshold?  Could that possibly be the answer?  Did I need just one last, valiant effort and the unimaginable reward would be mine?  Could it be that byzantinely simple?

Come to me,” whispered the Voice in my treacherous dreams again that night.  And for the first time I Saw.  I Knew. I Understood. 

I compose this on the shadowed shore beneath the murky light of a crescent moon.  The stars are thick and icy bright in the vast expanse of space above me.  The earth beneath me shifts and groans under the inexorable assault of the dazzling waves.  Flames from the bonfire spit and roar in defiance of the darkness while the damp midnight splendor of the sea beckons.

When this missive is at last concluded, I shall put it into a small bottle and cork it.  Then it, and I, shall explore the dark and enigmatic depths of the immutable sea.

Let ye who shall read my words dare to follow in my intrepid footsteps.  I am not afraid, I am exultant.  I know now nothing comes of railing against a cruel and merciless fate.  Nor does supplication and appeasement alter the outcome even in the slightest.

For I am not beneath the Voice, nor am I above It.  It is as equals we shall meet in the indecipherable depths . 
Follow me if you dare.  Despair if you dare not for you will never know the Truth of it, nor the wild, incalculable beauty of the True Self.  Of this, and nothing more, am I certain.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Inside Out

Yay!  The fourth book in The Wolf Within Series has been accepted for contract.  It's called Inside Out and is set in Massachusetts around Midsummer's Eve.

Stanzie's cousin, Faith Newcastle, thinks something is wrong in their birth pack, Mayflower.  As Alpha female, Faith asks Stanzie to investigate because she is an Advisor to the Jason Allerton and the Great Council.

Stanzie comes face to face with her past -- including confrontation with her parents who have disowned her.

I love this one - it's probably my favorite of the series so far.  Liam Murphy is in Dublin for all but the first couple of chapters and Stanzie has to do this all on her own.  She does have the assistance of a hunky guy named Scott Charest, but he's her cousin's bond mate and current Alpha of Mayflower so there's no romance there.  A little bit of friendly lust, sure.  :)  (This is a paranormal romance and the characters are Pack!)

I don't know when it will be released, but I will let you know more when I do!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

I'm Editing Scratch the Surface!

That's the second novel in The Wolf Within series.  Editing is a pain in the ass, a labor of love, and a humbling experience.  This is where I come face to face with all my lazy writing habits and my habitual misuse of grammar - although I will never like using the word "whom" but that's just me!  :)

Scratch the Surface is set to be released in February at Lyrical Press.  Here's a sneak peek at the cover art.

I can't help but think poor Stanzie is very cold in her underwear out in that cold snowy forest clearing...

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Beneath the Skin is Available!

Okay!  My first book is now available at Lyrical Press.  I'm incredibly excited.  I don't know what I'll do with this blog really, except discuss Stanzie and Murphy and upcoming books - there are currently four books in the series so I hope everyone likes this first one!

If you ever want to know anything about me or anyone in the Pack, just let me know!