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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Funerary Buffoonery

Experiencing the death of someone you’ve loved deeply is hard.  Grief is real—and most people have a difficult time working through it. While there’s much information out there about the stages of grief, some people are still caught off guard when those of us, as we limp through loss and bereavement, exhibit behavior that is, well...off.

Sometimes it can be hard to discern whether any unusual behavior witnessed at a funeral is the result of someone in the throws of grief allowing emotion rather than reason to guide their actions, or whether they're simply someone who's never been instructed on basic funeral etiquette.  To that end, and inspired by recent events, I offer the following tips for minimizing funerary buffoonery.

I’d like to start by saying that you can almost guarantee that the amount of foolishment you’re likely to witness at a funeral is directly proportionate to the size of the decedent’s family. This is especially true in the South where often times there’s that person that wants to get in the casket with the departed. Or faints. Or wants the inheritance they fear might not be coming to them and tries to take the jewelry. If you’re attending funerary services for someone with a large family, be extra prepared.

Tip #1—Attend sober.


Unless you are the parent or spouse of the deceased and have been prescribed some kind of sedation to get you through what I can only imagine is the most difficult thing you will ever do in life, DO NOT attend a funeral service under the influence of any mind-altering medications or illicit drugs.

If you happen to be someone that has battled virtually a lifetime of addiction, do your loved one a solid and make every effort to attend their funeral sober—especially if prior to their death you have experienced weeks if not months of sobriety. A relapse may inevitably be part of your grieving process, but trust me, you CAN find the strength to wait until your loved one is interred before you begin a bender that takes a room full of grieving friends and family of the deceased with you.

Tip #2—Select an appropriate outfit.


This doesn’t mean you have to wear all black, but a conservative outfit is best—especially if the services are being conducted in a church or sanctified place.

Once you have committed to said appropriate outfit, please continue to wear it for the duration of the funerary services.  At no time should you ever disrobe during a funeral for any reason. Even if the reason is that you are geeked out of your mind and the funeral home’s thermostat setting of 58 degrees Fahrenheit has you feeling like your skin is about to melt off, keep your cloths ON. All of them.

If you should encounter someone at a funeral that is obviously a.) high and/or b.) grieving the loss of someone very dear to them, and that person begins to take off his or her clothing, even as the officient standing in front of the closed casket in the funeral home sanctuary calls for a moment of prayer, remember that a gasp of shock or surprise will likely have zero effect on the offender’s behavior and only draw their manic, paranoid ire. If you care enough for them, grab that discarded clothing and see Tip #3.

Tip #3—Know the exits.


This is something to keep in mind wherever you go, but doubly so for funerals.  You never know when it may be necessary to extricate someone who is acting not quite right from an embarrassing situation until that person has gotten hold of himself or sobered up a little. They’ll thank you later.

Tip #4—Turn your cell phone off or leave it in the car.  At the very, very least make sure your ringtone isn’t set to Buckcherry’s Crazy Bitch.


If you’re seeing a movie, play or lecture, attending a church service, or seeing your grandmother off to the Hereafter, leave your phone in your car. If you fail to do so, for the love of all that is good in the universe, DO NOT TAKE A CALL DURING THE EULOGY!

It has also become necessary to caution (most often but not exclusively) young and inherently stupid “mourners” not to tweet or post to social media from funeral services. #grandmasfuneral #sobored #Ihatetheseoldsobstories

Not cute. #kissthatinheritancegoodbyeyoulittletwatwaffle

Tip #5—Share something positive about the deceased with fellow funeral attendees.


This is where the most people get into trouble.  It can also result in the most awkward of unfortunate funeral experiences.

Take for example what one commenter shared on Reddit:

“My grandmother and I went to my uncle’s funeral who committed suicide.  My aunt and my uncle’s mistress were both there.  Noticing that they were both overweight, my grandmother said loudly, ‘If I had to choose between those two heifers, I’d kill myself too.’”

Yikes! My own grandmother was apt to make such inappropriate comments at family gatherings.  So much so that an aunt once threatened her that she was going to start telling people, “We’ve only got Mamaw from The Home on a day pass and we’ll have to be leaving early to get her on back before they lock the gates.”

Awkward conversations or exchanges are common when talking to the grief stricken.  Take this little ditty, from another Reddit commenter:

“About 15 years ago, my mom died. She wanted to be cremated and scattered with wildflower seeds in a field, so we gathered the family and took her ashes and a half-full, 5-gallon bucket of seeds to a field in a small town in Texas to scatter.

With the family surrounding us, my father opened my mom’s ashes and dumped them into the bucket with the seeds. He stuck his hand in and began to mix.

‘You want a glove or something, Dad?’ I asked.

‘Why?’ replied Dad. ‘I’ve touched your mother before.’

‘Yeah,’ I said, ‘but to the wrist?’

The crowd was aghast. Dad glared. Some of Mom’s family still doesn’t talk to me.”

If the officient of the services (with the family’s permission, of course) asks if anyone wishes to share any remembrances of the deceased, remember the setting. There may be a more appropriate place to share your memories of the departed than a sanctuary.

Sheena Bryant, in an article titled “Let’s All Do Better: Crazy Things I’ve Seen at Funerals” on madamenoir.com, shared this experience:

 “…the moment my super sanctified older cousin walked to the mic during remarks and reflections at my aunt’s funeral.  She began to talk about the ‘real good times’ her and my aunt had ‘out in the world before Christ’ and told everyone listening that there was a special friend she used to call I Hear Ya’ Baby and proceeded to say—at the front of the church—‘I Hear Ya’ Baby, if you’re here would you stand up?’ When it became quiet enough to hear crickets and everyone’s face was frozen in a blank stare, she continued, ‘I Hear Ya’ Baby, if you won’t stand then just wave at me so I know you in the building.’ She waited for several moments without a response from I Hear Ya’ Baby. Awkward.”

While recently attending the funeral of an elderly woman with a very large family, I was witness to a bizarre and uncomfortable story during the “open mic” portion of the services where one of the decedent’s daughters relayed how her small Chihuahua and another relative’s dog had proceeded to mate right on the Hospice bed of her dying mother, becoming “stuck together three times!” The heartbroken woman, who obviously loved and had cared for her mother, went on to clarify for the crowd that her little dog was “fifteen years-old…too old to be doin’ that!” and how the mating session had coincided with a “prophetic” dream her mother had about being led through the gates of Heaven by the very dogs going at it on the bed beside her.

I looked from the speaker to the Baptist preacher sitting a few feet from the casket at the front of the sanctuary and back again. Was this real life? Preacher’s face said yes, but his body appeared to be paralyzed as he didn’t move an inch.

The bereaved daughter continued, recounting for her audience how her Chihuahua's pregnancy took an unfortunate turn.  “We didn’t expect the puppy to be born for a while, but then it started to come early. My little dog had trouble. She’s just a tiny thing and the puppy got stuck.  Well, we had to violate my little dog…and I mean with everything from Vaseline to vegetable oil, but it was no use.  Her pelvis just wouldn’t let go of that puppy!  And, Momma, well Momma came to herself there in the bed and said, ‘It’s okay. I understand now. That puppy is gonna guide me through the gates of Heaven.’”

I fidgeted. I squirmed.  I began to sweat and to consider removing some of my clothing before I remembered Tip #2.  I looked for the exits. And still the Baptist preacher maintained his stoicism and his seat.

Sometimes that’s all you can do. Maintain your composure. Chalk up the craziness you’re witnessing to grief and sleep deprivation and pray for peace and comfort and maybe an intervention for the ones who need them.

When people are grieving, they may not be the most rational. They may give into their emotions and behave in bizarre ways. If you’re prepared for that, it’s easy to counteract that behavior with compassion and perhaps even an offer of help. That doesn’t mean that in the midst of those shenanigans you shouldn’t be straining to commit to memory every possible second of the incident to pass along to someone like me who will share it with the blogosphere. Because Good Lord—it’s theatre, people! “Life is fleeting,” says Sheena Bryant of Madame Noire, “but boy is it interesting…and may I add that funerals are too?”


So how about you? What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever witnessed at a funeral? I’m positively dying to know!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Underdog Story, A Guest Post by Katie Clark

Who doesn’t love an underdog story? Think of guys like quarterback Tom Brady, and let’s not forget Cinderella. Underdogs are easy to root for because humans are equipped with compassion, and it’s easy to have compassion on the person everyone is stepping all over.

For readers, connecting with a character on a visceral level is vital to their enjoyment of a book. That’s why the underdog is so popular in books, and really in all of life.

The dystopian genre is ripe with underdogs. The dictionary.com definition of dystopia states, “a society characterized by human misery, as squalor, oppression, disease, and overcrowding.” A character who lives in this environment, but who ultimately strives to overcome it, is certainly facing an uphill battle. They are, with all certainty, an underdog.

The dystopian genre was something I’d never read until the Hunger Games hit the shelves. Even then, I only read these books because I’d heard so much about them. Little did I know it would quickly become my favorite type of book. Conflict? Check. Mystery? Got it! Romance? Yep, that too (often times though not always).

When it came time to write Vanquished, book one in my Enslaved series, I had studied the genre well. However, the seeds for this story started long before I’d read my first dystopian story. I’d had an idea for years—an idea for a character. She was strong yet vulnerable. She wanted to follow the rules, but for some reason couldn’t. I didn’t understand her, who she was, or where she was coming from; but I knew she was there. I’d also been given the challenge to write a story set in a world where there was no Bible. No “last word” or “final authority”, so to speak. Again, this idea sat in the back of my brain, but I didn’t know what to do with it.

It wasn’t until after I’d read the Hunger Games that I finally understood that this female character I’d been thinking about belonged in the Bible-devoid story I’d been challenged to write. The pieces came together at last, and Vanquished, Deliverance, and Redeemer were born.



My main character, Hana, lives in a future society where poverty and sickness are rampant, but medication and other resources are limited. When she learns that the society leaders are withholding the medicines needed to save her dying mother, she wants to know what other secrets they’re keeping. It sets her on a path of discovery, including the fact that the God she’d been told was myth might not be myth at all. Hana faces normal life challenges along the way, making new friends and tough choices, but in the end she must choose—keep the leaders’ secrets, or take a stand.

Still not sure about the dystopian genre? I encourage you to give it a try. You’ll most likely find all of your favorite story elements, and honestly, who doesn’t love an underdog?




KATIE CLARK writes young adult speculative fiction, including her dystopian Enslaved Series, made up of Vanquished, Deliverance, and Redeemer. Paperbacks are available now, and ebooks release on November 22, 2014. You can connect with Katie at her website, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Freaks & Geeks

It wasn’t that long ago that I knew very little about the world of sci-fi/fantasy, comic book and pop culture conventions.  I grew up mildly aware that there were such people in the world called Trekkies that dressed up as members of some Star Fleet ship or another and gathered in large cities far away from my home in rural Alabama, and much later I had a younger brother that was an avid gamer that delved into the world of RPGs and anime conventions, but I didn’t understand or connect with any of those folks.

To a certain extent I can say that I admired the Trekkies’ dedication to their fandom and my brother’s commitment to embody a character for a Con so completely that he cut his coveted long hair to get a certain look just right, but as far as I was concerned Star Trek nerds were…well, nerds…and the only thing I knew about anime were the names of a few Pokemon and that Sailor Moon’s outfit was a little sexier than I thought any clothing on a kids’ cartoon series should be.

My much younger brother was angsty and impatient with my lame agedness, and I never took the time to delve too deep into his geekdom, so we never bonded over the culture the way I now wish we’d been able to.   Fast forward a few years and I meet my first ENTIRE FAMILY of cosplay enthusiasts.  The Smiths:   A surgeon, her City Board of Education member husband (who happened to also be my kids’ favorite soccer coach), and their young sons, spend their free time dressing up like a small hoard of Jedi’s and waiting all year for Star Wars weekend at Disney World to make an annual pilgrimage.  They’re an All-American family living in my home town in a respectable neighborhood in an awesome log-cabin style home, the basement of which is filled wall-to-wall with some of the coolest Star Wars memorabilia that I’ve ever seen, peppered with many photos of the Smith Family in full Star Wars regalia. The Smiths weren’t awkward and angsty the way my teenage brother had seemed to me years earlier.  I didn’t get the impression that they dressed up like sci-fi characters to fit in or find acceptance the way I (wrongfully) suspected my brother did.  The Smiths were cool and respectable and fun, and they helped me reevaluate and try to better understand my brother and his love of cosplay and Con culture.

Newly enlightened as I was, I still hadn’t explored a Con for myself, however. I’d come to think of Trekkies and other followers of fandoms like my brother and The Smiths in new ways, though, and came to understand that cosplayers and Con goers shared a few traits:  on top of being completely devoted to their various fandoms, they were also incredibly intelligent, enthusiastic, accepting, and wildly creative.

When I finally delved into the world of Cons it was in a big way.  After attending Nashville’s Southern Festival of Books last October as an author vendor, I was invited to sit as a panelist the following week at WizardWorld, Nashville’s largest Comicon event.  I was super excited as I arrived at the Country Music Hall of Fame dressed in my customary garb for author functions:  heels, slacks and a sensible blouse.  I have a picture of Darth Vadar strangling me with The Force in that get-up that is absolutely PRICELESS!

Anyway, I had tons of fun at WizardWorld, met lots of awesome folks—including Henry Winkler who was an absolute riot and so gracious to his fans—and got to sit on a really great panel about researching while novel writing.  (I ask you, can you get any nerdier than that?)

[Photo Credit: www.asmize.com]




Since WizardWorld I’ve attended a few more conventions as a guest:



Alabama Phoenix Festival in Birmingham, Alabama;
[Photo Credit:  APF/Facebook]


The Geek Gathering in Muscle Shoals;






and YomuCon in Tuscaloosa.

[Photo Credit:  Ben Flanagan/al.com]



I've had the BEST of times, made many friends, and met countless incredibly talented cosplayers.  I'm hooked!

I’ve stopped wearing my author clothes to Cons for the most part—the Geek Gathering had some fabulous event shirts that I loved—but I haven’t worked up the courage for cosplay…yet.  More and more these days I think on what kind of costume I might be brave enough to don one day.  My heart belongs to the world of Harry Potter, but I’m a little too old…and rotund…for Hermione.  There’s always Professor Sprout I guess.  She’s a fatty, too.  Or Madam Hooch, maybe? I love her hair!  It would be quite the way to come back from that embarrassing Harry Potter Trivia loss I suffered onboard a Carnival cruise this past summer due to missing one lousy Madam Hooch question.  I’ll have to think on it some more.

Professor Sprout




In the end, it doesn't matter if I go to my next Con as Professor Sprout, Madame Hooch, or just plain, awkward Author Woman; I know I’ll still have a great time and fit right in.









Tuesday, October 28, 2014

In the Army Now

Life has been different in the Lowery-Combs House since August when we reluctantly handed our oldest child over to the United States Army. It was a decision #1 made early on during his Senior year of high school so we knew his leaving was coming after graduation in May. That, however, didn’t make it any easier to watch him being driven away from our local recruitment station in a van full of other young recruits without knowing when we’d next hear from him.



I cried for ten days straight.Every time I folded a load of laundry, went to the grocery store, cooked a meal, or heard one of my other children walk through the door after school, I cried for the son who I’d not be tending to, feeding, or greeting at the end of a day for perhaps a very long time if ever again—my son would be a man when I saw him again, after all, and a soldier, highly trained to be capable, responsible and self-sufficient. I mourned for the boy who counted on me for matching socks and clean underwear, the boy who preferred his sandwiches prepared without any condiments, please, and kissed me goodnight every night before bed when his much younger siblings had stopped doing so years ago.

I worried constantly. Was #1 truly prepared for the harshness of a Drill Sergeant whose job it was to transform him from a boy civilian to a combat-ready warrior? Was he physically ready for training? How would he cope with too little sleep and barely enough food to function? Was he regretting his decision to join? What would his fellow trainees be like? Would they support one another? And what about all those guns? He’d shot one of our garage windows out with a pellet gun a few weeks before his high school graduation, and now someone was going to put a M4, a few grenades and a rocket launcher in his hands?

With his absence I came to appreciate anew many of my son’s attributes that I began to understand would make him a successful soldier. He’d been the first of my children to lend a hand when needed. He was my go-to for errands in town. I could trust him implicitly with my car, debit card, and important family business. He had a knack for keeping his younger siblings from killing one another in my absence, even when they drove him completely nuts. He accepted responsibility and rarely complained. He was quick and strong. He respected authority. He had great manners. I recited these qualities to myself day and night whenever doubt and fear about how he was holding up crept in.

For almost three agonizing weeks our family waited for word from our SIT (Soldier in Training), during which time I joined a Facebook group for families with trainees at his Army base. Having others to talk to with similar worries and questions helped tremendously, and I learned a good deal about the BCT (Basic Combat Training) and OSUT (One Station Unit Training) experiences. I was also introduced to a site that published training photos for purchase. Seeing with my own eyes #1 training and apparently succeeding did more to ease my apprehension than probably anything else. His father had teased me in the beginning about my cyber-stalking of his base and platoon, my pouring over hundreds of photos, hoping for even a glimpse of our son, but when I had pictures of #1 to show for it, his dad was thrilled that I’d been so determined.

The following weeks were tough, but through photos we watched our son and his Company complete rope courses and land navigation exercises, exit a gas chamber (gagging, weepy and snotty), throw grenades and fire an assortment of American Military weapons. Through his letters, we learned about the physical and mental challenges #1 was overcoming as well. With few and unpredictable phone calls we gauged the success of his platoon. In some ways, I hardly recognized the man my boy was becoming with every passing week. I wondered how the experience was changing him in other ways. How would he be when we saw him in late October for Family Day?



This past weekend I got my answer. #1 is doing GREAT! He’s healthy, disciplined and focused. He was a little tired and always, always hungry; but he loves the Army and is ready to complete his training. He had a few stories to tell…he’s been able to see both the humor and critical importance of his experiences so far. There was a new tenderness between him and his brothers and sisters that comforted me and warmed my heart. He could tell how much he’s been missed. It was a great visit but bitter sweet, too. It was hard to watch him have to turn and walk away from us again.

The Gang's All Here


"Reunited, and it feels so good!"


We think Danann may have found her calling.
Big Brother to the Rescue!


As he enters his second phase of training, I have less trepidation. My son is an American Soldier. He’s got this. Hearing him recite, with his Company, The Soldier’s Creed was the only assurance of that I needed. We still miss his everyday presence in our home—I still get teary eyed over the last pork chop in a pan that would have been his—but we hold him closer in our hearts than ever before. We’re in the Army now, and we couldn’t be prouder. Hooah!





Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Amalia Dillin Guest Post & Giveaway

BEYOND FATE Character Spotlight: Elah the Goddess




BEYOND FATE introduces us to some new characters, and while I don’t want to spoil anything for you, I did want to talk a little bit about Adam and Eve’s daughter, the Goddess Elah.

Writing Elah was a huge challenge for me, because inside the Fate of the Gods world, she’s the next level up in terms of power and omniscience. Unlike Thor or Athena, she has her fingers in every pie, parts of her (and Elohim’s) spirit spread throughout Creation, from the Host to the men and women and children born and living every day. She has only to look and the world is revealed through their eyes.

But that also makes her less human, and less understandable. Thor is a god of the common man, with his goats and his drinking and brawling, but Elah is something else altogether. In many ways, she IS Creation, and it is only through her will that the world as Eve and Adam and Thor know it is maintained. It’s a lot of responsibility, and for Elah, likely a lonely position to be in – there are very few others who operate at her level. And of those residing on earth, Bhagavan is likely the singular exception. Which makes him, potentially, her most powerful enemy, too.

I settled for writing her as I would any other character – a third person limited approach. But I couldn’t help but wonder how much more I was missing. Is there a constant stream of information in the back of her mind? How does she sort through it all, if so? Is it like Adam and Eve, where they have to make a conscious choice to read the mind of a person near them, or does she just see every thought, even the deepest darkest secrets, unless she makes a conscious decision not to? How disconcerting would that be to the people around her?

And I’m not the only one who wonders about the answers to those questions or who worries about how much Elah knows, or might discover. There are plenty of Fate of the Gods characters who are deeply concerned for their privacy as well –

But you’ll have to read BEYOND FATE to find out how they cope with the new and very powerful Goddess in their midst!



Here's your chance to win a copy!



Amalia Dillin began as a Biology major before taking Latin and falling in love with old heroes and older gods. After that, she couldn't stop writing about them, with the occasional break for more contemporary subjects. Her short stories have been published by Daily Science Fiction and Birdville magazine, and she's also the author of the FATE OF THE GODS series and HONOR AMONG ORCS, the first book in the Orc Saga. Amalia lives in upstate New York with her husband, and dreams of the day when she will own goats--to pull her chariot through the sky, of course.

Learn more about Amalia at www.amaliadillin.com.

More from Amalia Dillin and the Fate of the Gods series:










































Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Nekked and Afraid


A fully-grown butt nekked man ran into the street in front of my minivan at 3:30 p.m. today. I’ll wait while you reread that sentence.

Nekked Man sprang from the bushes on the left side of the rural road I happened to be traveling, dashed across the black top with all the grace and enthusiasm of a baby elephant, and then halted before turning to…urm…face me.

Naturally I was alarmed. At 36 years-old, I have never seen a fully-grown nekked man in broad daylight in the Great Outdoors. I took my foot off the accelerator and scanned the left side of the road, looking for whatever may have sent Nekked Man scurrying into the street after apparently devouring only his clothing, but saw nothing. I dared a few glances at Nekked himself, trying to decipher if he was injured or bleeding, but too embarrassed to look at his face.  And that’s when things got…interesting.

It took me a second to realize that Nekked was just kind of standing there. Despite the ample overgrowth along the right side of the road, Nekked didn’t throw himself into the bushes or attempt to conceal himself in any way.  He just stood there:  tall, virtually hairless, and glowing fishbelly white in the afternoon sunshine.

Like any good Southerner, I knew what must be done when confronted with a roving nekked man during peak school bus traffic hours. At a stop sign in the fork of the road, out of sight from Nekked, I called The Law.

A friendly receptionist at my local Sheriff’s Office answered the phone. “Hello,” I said, “I need to…urm…make a report.”

“I’m sorry, m’am, but you can’t make a report over the phone, you have to come in to do that.”

Crap! Guess I should have called 911. Nekked’s junk, while impressive, hadn’t seemed to warrant an actual emergency call.

“Um, well, I only needed to let someone know that there is a fully-grown nekked man running across and along Old Sulpher Springs Road in Alexandria right this very minute.”

“Let me transfer you to Dispatch,” Ms. Friendly answered.

Dispatch had a few questions for me that I was ill prepared to answer. Specifically, they wanted to know if I could provide a description of Nekked.

“Well, not really,” I said.  “He was white, tall, adult, and well…nekked.  To be honest when I saw that he didn’t look hurt and that he wasn’t gonna try and hide his nekkedness from me, I was afraid to look directly at him.  I’m pretty sure he’s the only nekked man you’re gonna come across out there this time of day, though.”


I have done nothing the rest of this afternoon but wonder if The Law caught up with Nekked. I am most likely to live another thirty-six years without ever again encountering anyone like him. The thought fills me with both immense relief and weird disappointment. Thanks for the memories, Nekked!

Friday, August 22, 2014

My Respite From YA: A Spotlight on Blood Chimera by Jenn Lyons

Faithful readers and followers know that I am a huge YA fan. That doesn't mean, however, that I don't also enjoy novels geared more toward adult readers. On the rare occasion that I feel like a full-fledged grownup, or when I'm simply in need of a respite from the angst and turmoil that is coming-of-age while attempting to thwart an enemy even greater than Calculus--like say an entire dystopian government--I often turn to paranormal mystery.

Parts fiction, fantasy, and horror, the basic structure of a paranormal mystery is that of a mystery story...more often than not, a detective mystery. Someone has been murdered or some other serious crime has been committed.  Who (or what) did it?  Because it's paranormal, that answer could range from vampires, ghosts, or werewolves to a myriad of other dark fantastical beings. Awesome, huh? And what better escape from reliving over and over again (the sometimes funk of) maturing into a young adult?

Susan Abel Sullivan's Cleo Tidwell series has been a recent favorite, so when I began to feel particularly grownup this week, I was delighted to discover another of World Weaver Press's latest paranormal mystery releases:  Blood Chimera by Jenn Lyons.

Here's what you need to know:


Some ransoms aren’t meant to be paid. Kidnap and Ransom negotiation used to be straightforward. The bad guys kidnap someone, and K&R expert Jackson Pastor negotiates their release, skillfully traversing a maze of bloodthirsty monsters: criminals, terrorists, police, and especially the FBI.
But that was before he met real bloodthirsty monsters.
When Jackson Pastor arrives in Los Angeles to help a new client recover his kidnapped wife, he finds himself dropped in the middle of a 500-year-old war between rival European and Mexican vampire clans, a conflict that threatens to escalate into a full-on public gang war. Worse, Jackson hasn’t been brought to Los Angeles to be a negotiator.
His new boss wants to turn him into an assassin.
With Jackson about to be caught in the middle of a war, his only hope of escape may lie with a secret FBI monster-hunting task-force led by a very dangerous, eccentric wizard.
Which could be a problem, since Jackson’s a monster himself.
Blood Chimera is a gritty, noir-style mystery of paranormal proportions where nothing is as it seems, not even the term vampire.


Excerpt:

“How are you feeling, Mr. Pastor?”

I looked down at myself. I seemed to be hale and hearty enough, with all the right number of limbs in all the right places. My ribs didn’t ache when I breathed and my arm wasn’t swollen. I felt great, but I looked ready to play one of the walking dead. “Like I need a bath,” I told him. “And clothes would be nice.” There’s nothing quite like being naked and filthy in front of a lot of people who aren’t, to make you all self-conscious about it.

He nodded. “You’ve looked better.”

“Why do you have me in a cage?” I shook my head. “What happened?”

“I would think the reasons for the cage would be obvious. You don’t remember?”

“No, of course I don’t remember. I was Tez’s prisoner and then--” I looked over at the carcass in the corner. I swallowed. “Who did that?”

“You did.” Darius said as he took a swig of his beer. “You also wrecked one of my vans.” He pointed to an unmarked black van over in the garage area. The back doors were hanging awkwardly and the metal was twisted. Great gouges had been raked into the door and sides as if something had tried to smash its way out with some kind of very sharp ram.

I blinked at that. “That--that couldn’t have been me. I didn’t--”

“Oh, you very much did. We had a hell of a time getting you back here. We were lucky you were stunned by the explosions, and even luckier that we had tranq darts. That--” he pointed to the rotting, fly-infested pile of flesh using the long black feather. “--used to be a pair of goats. Juan thought you might revert if we fed you something. As it happens, he was right.”

I felt sick to my stomach, and, although I certainly wasn’t going to mention it to Darius, a bit peckish.


Goat wasn’t as filling as human.


 Read it now, direct from World Weaver Press in ebook or trade paperback, or from any of these retailers:
Amazon (Kindle)
Amazon (paperback)
Amazon UK
Barnes & Noble
Kobo

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Jenn Lyons

Jenn Lyons lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband, three cats and a lot of opinions on anything from Sumerian creation myths to the correct way to make a martini. At various points in her life, she has wanted to be an archaeologist, anthropologist, architect, diamond cutter, fashion illustrator, graphic designer, or Batman. Turning from such obvious trades, she is now a video game producer by day, and spends her evenings writing science fiction and fantasy. When not writing, she can be found debating the Oxford comma and Joss Whedon’s oeuvre at various local coffee shops.

·         Website: JennLyons.com

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Slow and Steady Wins the Race?

Some of you may be aware of this already, but I've spent the past couple of months toiling as a field hand on my sister and brother-in-law's farm/plan to end world hunger.

While the work has been extremely rewarding--my family has never eaten so well in the history of my being in charge of meal planning, procurement, and preparation--the death of the prepackaged meal has come at the cost of my timely completion of the second book in my Genie Chronicles, Solomon's Bell.

Farming has not proven conducive to creativity in my experience.  Sure, I still talk to my characters while I water the green beans with the very sweat cascading from my brow as I bake like a crab cake in the Alabama sun, but mainly I just wish for a genie in the form of a tiny tornado that would gleefully take out half of the rows I'm supposed to pick before lunch.  I haven't much mental energy left after a day in the dirt and itchy squash, zucchini and okra plants. That I manage not to claw my own skin off because of the chiggers seems like accomplishment enough some evenings.

I am taking advantage of less demanding days to write, but I think the sun has liquefied parts of my brain.  Today I wrote for NINE STRAIGHT HOURS and got down a mere 597 words.  That's less than 67 words per hour!  Still, I got them down and I'm pretty satisfied with them and the direction of the story.  In celebration, I'm sharing them here (with a few others for context) as a sort of teaser.  I hope you enjoy them!

Remember me, as I labor away this summer in the Green Bean Forest.  And pray for rain--it's good for the crops and gets me out of the fields for awhile to write!

(Unedited Excerpt:  Genie Chronicles, Book Two:  Solomon's Bell, All Rights Reserved)

(The Shops of Golden Lane, Prague)

The old man’s bald scalp, the only part of him not wrinkled, protrudes from the thick dark garment he wears and glows in the firelight.  His nose is large and hooked, his bushy brows heavy over eyes that hang like watery black moons in his weathered face.  In the firelight, his dewy eyes make him appear on the verge of tears.  He plucks a crumpled hat of some kind from a wall peg near the door, shooing a fat yellow cat from its perch atop a stool underneath, and places it over his glowing dome.  He looks embarrassed for a moment, pursing his narrow, thin lips as he makes minor adjustments to the cap, and this makes me feel embarrassed, too.  Caleb, Haley and I are strangers, come to his door unexpectedly and uninvited, and it looks like we’ve caught him in his night clothes.
I avert my eyes and see the cat dash through a narrowly opened door at the back of the room.  Then I take the opportunity to study my surroundings for signs of the djinni I’ve detected.  The front room’s primary purpose isn’t altogether clear.  There’s a sturdy wooden counter near the center of the space, the top of which is crowded with a number of small wooden trays, each one divided into compartments.  Some of these hold glinting spools of bronze, silver and gold thread.  Others hold semiprecious stones:  topaz, garnet, jade, and opal.   Along one side of the room a rough worktop sits covered by more trays holding thin strips of dull metal and partially unraveled spools of yarn that look like they’ve been dipped in liquid gold.  There are also cauldrons of various sizes sitting alongside some kind of small press and racks of slender tools.  An apparent work in progress—a string of sparkling orange topaz—lies  atop a small square table nestled in a corner and bathed in a pool of light from a simple but beautiful gilt candelabra holding three candles of pale yellow wax.   In the opposite corner, haphazardly stacked, sits a pile of books with leather bindings of a dozen colors; the spines visible to me are marked with curling words and symbols.  Books of magic?  A distinct but faint odor reminding me of fireworks hangs in the air.  Whatever this shopkeeper is up to, it almost certainly involves magic.
“What is it that I can do for you?” the man asks, raising his arms and bowing his covered head.
“You are Alois Kovar, are you not?” Haley asks, drawing all four feet, five inches of her slight frame into a stance of confidence and command.  “Goldsmith to the Maharal himself?”
The man’s head jerks up, his orb-like eyes betraying his surprise.  He looks from Haley to me and then to Caleb, and seems to notice our appearances and clothing for the first time.  “You are certainly well informed.  I had not known my service to the Maharal to be the knowledge of anyone so young…and foreign to the Great City.”
The door leading to what I presume to be the inner quarters of the shop opens a few more inches and the fat yellow cat slinks back into the room.
“Marek!” the old man shouts.  The cat meows loudly and, before I can do anything to stop it, is engulfed in a sudden convolution of yellow smoke.  I dash forward, grab Haley, and shove her behind me.  Caleb is near.  I can feel one of his hands on my upper arm and hear him shout my name above the loud hum in the electrified air swirling around my head.  I look over my shoulder to see my friend and foster sister fall to the ground, palms pressed tightly to their ears against the noise.  Even the shopkeeper Alois Kovar crouches near the floor with his silly cap pulled low and pressed to his ears.

The noise begins to fade, lifting like a dissipating fog.  I regard the scrappy yellow-haired man standing in front of me with genuine interest.  I’ve never met another genie other than Rashmere before.  This Marek is nothing like Rashmere, however, with his fluffy tufts of blond hair and emerald green eyes.  His smile is wide and toothy but insincere and never reaches his cold, languid stare.   Where Rashmere is calm and centered, Marek seems nimble and spry with an innate capacity for cunning; he looks ready to pounce.  “What do we have here?” Marek purrs.








Sunday, June 8, 2014

Five Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter

Well, it’s happened:  my oldest daughter has come of dating age. I’m struggling with it more than I did when her older brother reached this milestone. Maybe because he didn’t do much casual dating; his first serious girlfriend was a year and a half older and a Freshman in college. The girlfriend was responsible and intelligent and a couple of hours away for most of their relationship. Number One son is now successfully graduated from high school and enlisted in the US Army with nary a pulverized-to-bits broken heart, STD or offspring to his name and I can’t help feeling like we came through those first dating years unscathed.  But now comes my first born baby girl and I’m a mess.

I’ve decided that it would help not only my sanity but also my daughter when screening potential dates if I were to hammer out a list of FIVE RULES FOR DATING MY TEENAGE DAUGHTER.

1.            I will meet you face-to-face and WE WILL have a conversation that may or may not make you varying degrees of uncomfortable. I will ask questions like:

                a.)  Who are your parents?

                b.)  Where do you go to school/church? (You won’t be penalized for these particular answers provided that you are, in fact, in school somewhere and not a Scientologist.)

                c.)  Do you/ have you ever used drugs or alcohol?

                d.)  What did you score on your driver’s test?

                e.)  What is your LATEST ACT score? (Yes, you will have needed to make more than one attempt at the ACT. How else am I to gauge your commitment to attending a college or university?)

                f.)  What was the last novel you read? (Extra points if it happens to have been mine—in which case you will be grilled extensively about the characters, plot and themes of the book, just to make sure.)

                g.)  If you could be a bat or a ball which would you be and why? (I have no idea what this question is even supposed to ascertain, but I was asked it in an interview for a bank teller job when I was 19 and I’ve never been able to get it out of my head. If Compass Bank wants to know, so do I.)



2.            No tattoos.***

                                If you’re dating my teenage daughter, I can assume that you yourself are also a teenager. That being established, being tatted up and having made that LIFETIME commitment as a minor makes me question your ability to exercise good judgment.

                                ***Exceptions may be made for a single memorial tattoo of your Dearly Departed Momma provided said tattoo is:

a.)  of professional quality

b.)  in good taste

and

c.)  your Momma is actually deceased (If you are a minor and have a tribute tattoo to your mother who is alive and well somewhere, then you may have issues that preclude you from being a good match for my daughter. Just sayin’.)




                3.            No offspring.

                                And I mean EVERYTHING from children to unexplained rashes.

                4.            You will be required early in your dating relationship to meet my mother.

The Princess & Her Mammy


                                When you date one of my children, you’re basically dating his/her ENTIRE family. We are a package deal with no real respect for personal boundaries. You will not outsmart Mammy. She is the Boss of Foolishment and can sniff it out a mile away. She’s a bail bondswoman ala Dog the Bounty Hunter style. You CANNOT hide from Mammy.  She will find you and bust down your door armed to the teeth with wild hair and pepper spray.




                5.            You will need to be respectful and mannerly AT ALL TIMES.



                                This goes for how you treat and address my daughter, me, Mammy, the wait staff at the restaurant where you dine, and the guy who takes your ticket at the movie theatre. Manners matter, buddy. Remember that I’m watching. And so is Mammy with her pepper spray.

                                If I tell you she’s to be home at 10 p.m., then by gosh she’d better be home at 10 p.m. no matter what kind of mountains you have to move to make that happen.  I won’t care that your “movie ran over”, you’re “out of gas”, or you need to “make a stop somewhere” and therefore “she’ll be a little late getting home.” Punctuality is a sign of respect and you will respect me and my daughter’s curfew.



So, that’s it. Five rules I believe the Princess and her potential suitors can live with. I trust my daughter, who has shown me that she’s a responsible young woman capable of good decision making, and I hope to trust any young man that not only understands my need for a list, but happily submits himself to it. As long as he can also produce those ACT scores and maybe his CARFAX while he’s at it.