Robots, Cowboys, and New Books!

THE DAY the marauders came for us started with an ominous gray horizon. Dust flew in on the heavy winds that stirred up the dirt and grime stuck to every inch of our farmhouse, silt and debris like tears gathering in the corners of the old building’s eyes.

It had been eleven months since our father had passed, struck down by the roving gangs of rebels that plagued our country from the bottom up, the battles for power that had been fought, without end, for an entire generation.  No end to this war in sight.  No side willing to give in.

Papa had been a peaceful man, as sturdy as the strong oak that made up the sides of his enormous barn.  Not interested in politics or feuds, he wanted to raise animals and crops in peace until the end of his days, and then pass on the land to his two unmarried daughters – me, the old maid in her late twenties, and eighteen-year-old mousy Ruth, too timid to leave my side.  Mama had died of the influenza back when Ruth was two, and the loss had left her child heart as skittish as a tiny rabbit’s. She never left the property.

Thus bound, I had given up all hope of my own future, and had thrown all of my dreams and affection into the grand old farmhouse, the barns overflowing with happy animals, and the little plants straining to reach the expansive prairie skies.

It was a good life.

We had multiple artificial farmhands, bland male robot models that Papa had bought with his savings. They did the work of ten men, never tiring except for the six hours of battery recharging they required at night.

But then Papa was killed.

 

— Artificial Love, coming out February 2019

 

Happy New Year, friends and readers!!! So thankful for all of you and your motivation to keep me writing for Christ! 

This month I’m going to be focusing on getting you all excited for my new sci-fi cattlepunk short story, “Artificial Love,” coming out in February! It’s around 7k words, so the size of Lucent Sylph and Gem, both of my award-winning stories.   

The first piece of news I have to share is that I’m getting Seedlings Designs to make the cover!!  So stay tuned for that – cover reveal at the end of the month!  🙂

 

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What She Wants You to Give Her for Christmas – Based on Myers-Briggs Type

A general, stereotypical guide to giving that special woman in your life just what she wants for Christmas.  You still have time!  Christmas isn’t for five more days, men!  😉

 

ESFJ – A super personal and unique piece of Etsy jewelry with her loved ones’ names engraved on it.

INFJ – High quality art

ENFJ – Donate to her favorite charity in her name, and then plan a future outing where you’ll volunteer at the charity with her

ISFJ – Chocolate and a maid for a week

ESTJ – That Pottery Barn formal chair she’s been eyeing.  It has to be THE color she picked out though.  Don’t try to guess.  It has to be perfect.

ISTJ – Is a bit horrified that you’re spending money on her.  Wants you to save it for a rainy day and clean the house for her instead

INTJ – For the glamorous INTJ woman: expensive perfume.  For the nerdy INTJ woman: books.  For the balanced INTJ woman: books that smell like perfume.

ENTP – Memorabilia from the last geek convention you both attended together

INTP – Tickets to a lecture given by her academic hero, or a comedian, or a book written by her hero/comedian that’s sat in her Amazon shopping cart forever and she forgot to buy

ENTJ – An antique or memorabilia from her favorite time in history.

ISTP – Has no interest in “gift-giving” on the whole.  Doesn’t mean a lot to her.  She’ll take  cash.

ESTP – A board game that guarantees she’d be able to cream the whole family next game night

INFP – A new kitten

ISFP – Fancy cooking oils and culinary delicacies

ENFP – A scavenger hunt to find clues to discover that you’re mysteriously taking her on a date

ESFP – Tickets to a theme park

 

Or, if all else fails, probably every type wants an ISFJ or ISTJ to come clean their house for them, while the ISJs are getting their own maid.  Can’t go wrong there…  😉

The Mayor’s Child

images

 

I have numerous brothers and sisters

I am somewhere in the middle

We’re raised by our father Luc

Our mother is dead

 

We attend a school each day

Teeming with shady teachers

They lie to us and lead us astray

I hate it there

 

But the man I hate most

Is our city’s mayor

He sits in a mansion atop a high hill

He has guards at His gates

 

Dad despises his guts

He spits at the TV when he appears

When his employees campaign at our house

Dad throws rocks

 

A couple of times I’ve found

Banners and fliers in the cellar

Old stained blood on the floor

And I know he’s killed some

 

He hates the mayor

 

See, the thing is my dad has campaigned too

Us by his side dressed up nice

The man with a dozen sweet children

But in the end, Dad always loses

 

Then one frosty morning

Everything changes

The despised mayor sends

His only kid to our school

 

It makes no sense

The boy has tutors

A hoard who serves him day and night

Why is he here in our slimy school?

 

Those who voted for his father are few

They’re afraid to speak up around us

Luc’s children abound

And teachers tear the mayor’s picture

 

Why is the mayor’s son here?

 

He’s tanned and average-looking

Nothing like what expected

I thought he’d be peaches and cream and golden

Like his father

 

The boy his famous father always kept off the TV

Only guesses as to his character

The cameras on him now

The teachers disgusted

 

He makes friends so fast my toes curl

He gives out gifts like he’s infinitely wealthy

But not cheap, shallow money

Real things that make personal sense

 

My dad, in anger, beats me

His belt a stinging whip

He breaks my arm under his fists of stone

My mouth is silent, my heart already dead

 

It’s my plan, I own it proudly

My brothers and sisters we plot

Around the locker rooms at recess

On the rusty playground at lunch

 

But the mayor’s son looks at us and we think he’s heard

Does he know?

 

My dad gives me the weapon gladly

Wringing his hands and patting my greasy head

My broken arm limp by my side

I am his favorite child now

 

The mayor’s son keeps no guards

His small arms aren’t strong

His voice is firm but gentle

His step soft and light

 

This will be easy.

 

On the last day of the semester

All my brothers and sisters

We storm through the school doors

Handguns clutched in jittery hands

 

The teachers see us and step aside

The few children who voted for the mayor run in fear

We are unopposed

Unstopped

 

The mayor’s son steps out of a classroom

He walks straight for us

No surprise in his eyes

Nothing to defend himself

 

Hands out in welcome

He is alone

 

We gun him down without mercy

My siblings and I fill him full of holes

We kick his head when we’re done

We stand triumphant over his lifeless body

 

But suddenly the boy pulls out his cell phone

He had it all along

He could have summoned his guards

Rescue was one call away

 

But at this time he calls the mayor

We hear the man’s voice pick up

“Dad, I’m dying but don’t be mad

Luc’s children don’t know that it’s wrong.”

 

They have no idea what they’re doing

 

When the mayor’s guards come to our father’s house later that day

Dad acts like his hands are tied

He gnashes his teeth and curses

But his gun lies still at his feet

 

They take only me

Somehow they knew

I was the schemer

It was my fault

 

I’ll never forget the look in his eye

When he asked his dad to forgive us.

When he breathed his last

When his blood stilled cold

 

The large gates on the hill open

I’ve never been in here before

My knees are liquid

My breath is a panic

 

I shall die now

The mayor runs forward with arms open wide

He himself who I’ve seen on TV

He clutches me in arms so strong

My breath disappears entirely

 

Why is he hugging me?

What is this?

 

“You are my son!” he says

And I think he has actually gone mad

“I killed your son!”

And it comes out in a sob

 

With a smile that thaws out my dead heart

That peaches and cream and gold

Looks straight into my soul

And he says

 

“You were always my son

I adopt you back today

I chose you from the moment my wife gave you birth

But Luc abducted you from me.

 

Even if I had extended a hand

You thought you were Luc’s son

You did his bidding

You were his, in bondage

 

So I waited until the perfect timing for your heart

And then sent my own son.

I knew if you killed him, and you saw his death

Your heart would be ready

 

Luc would have no hold on you

The law would have no hold on you

Your teachers would have no hold on you

Your debt would be paid

 

And I would draw you here back to me.”

 

It’s too much for me to understand

To trade one perfect son for me

To adopt his enemy

To choose me and love me

 

His plan

 

If thought that my soul would contain no other emotion

But I was wrong once again

For behind the mayor

Appeared his dead son

 

Alive and well

Bullet holes like scars

Marring his hands and feet

“Come live with us, my sibling!

 

You too are the mayor’s child!”

 

 

“For He chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will– to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us.”

Ephesians 1:4-8

 

 

 

 

 

Jamaican Grace

Do you write with music on?  I MUST.  It’s the way I operate, get in my character’s head, and keep my voice, tone, and mood.

So I started thinking – what about the other way around?  What if I listened to a song first, and it dictated what I wrote?

I asked readers, on my author page (if you haven’t joined my Facebook author page now, you should, because I post there far more frequently about my books and writing, and it’s lots of fun, I hope!), to post a link to a song they love or find interesting, and I would write a flash piece on the spot after only listening to it once!  😀

The second winner was Laura Pol with MercyMe’s “Grace Got You”!

The following short fiction piece was written in 15 minutes on the spot while listening to this specific song!  😀

I highly recommend you listen to it while reading my piece below, which is a gift to Laura that I hope she enjoys!  🙂

If YOU like flash fiction, and think you can write an emotionally moving piece in under 1000 words and want to win ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS, my contest is still open!

 

JAMAICAN GRACE

 

Solomon “Jamaica” Barnes sat under the cement bridge, bopping his head to the hidden tune that only he could hear from the pounding of vehicles over his head.  The rhythm reverberated all the way down to his fingers, which tapped against his side happily.  He closed his eyes, his grin splitting his chapped lips.  Popping another peanut into his mouth, he dropped a handful at his feet.

Down on the cement, a tiny New York city squirrel wrapped itself around his ankles, scrambling for the peanuts.

“Dis be d’life, eh, Crunkle?” he murmured, reaching two fingers down to gently stroke the furry back of the small animal.

Crunkle’s rapid crunching was his only reply.

“Ho, Jamaica,” a voice muttered from behind him.

The dark-skinned man lazily turned his head to welcome a grungy, gray-bearded hobo pushing a loaded shopping cart around the far corner of the bridge.  “Jimmy!  Mon, how you be?” Jamaica waved his hands, the squirrel skittering away at lightning speed. “You comin’ to hang?”

The man shook his scruffy head, his eyes on the ground, sandaled feet scuffling forward slowly. “I’s be tryin’ to get to Central Park b’fore dark.”

“Sure, but I could use d’company.  Any time, mon.” Jamaica squinted at his friend, watching the man roll by him.

“I know, Jamaica.  I know. But I hate sittin’ on cement these days.  My war-torn backside ain’t what it used to be.” The old man’s coat had bird dung and dirt encrusted on the hem.

Jamaica watched him carefully. “You and d’war, Jimmy.  When ya gonna let dat go, mon?”

“When I be dead,” came the murmur as the shopping cart creaked around the opposite corner of the bridge, and the sound of cars covered anything else Jimmy might have added.  The echo of the word “dead” reverberated around the hollow underside of the bridge.

Jamaica frowned, but only for a second.  “Crunkle?”

The squirrel reappeared, a tiny little nose twitching above the black canvas bag behind Jamaica.

“Come ‘ere, ya lil’ beggar.”

The squirrel ignored him, sniffing the bag for more hidden food.

Jamaica scratched a spot on his foot that shouldn’t itch.  Pulling up his pant leg, he checked over the prosthetic.  “Jimmy and d’war… that mon wasn’t da only one who saw bloodshed.”

Crunkle made an angry squirrel noise, halfway between a chitter and a tiny cough.

“I’s be all outta peanuts, beggar.” He picked at his holey pant leg. “If we want somethin’ more dan dat, we’s a hafta go to Letitia’s, an’ I canna afford dat wit my pride.”

The squirrel gave him the nastiest stare a rodent was capable of giving.

Jamaica laughed loudly, his guffaws rumbling around him, adding a chorus to the car thumps above his head. “If squirrels coulda give d’evil eye, you’da killed me dere.”  He leaned back against the cement, pulling the bag forward to use as a makeshift pillow.  Folding his arms above his head, the little squirrel clambered onto his chest. He sighed, staring at a spot of graffiti on the bridge ceiling above him. “Wonder how dose dumb kids got up dat high to paint up dere,” he mumbled.

The squirrel stretched out a leg, all taut and tight, and then relaxed and went limp, tucking its head into its tail, its body a neat little circle.

“It’s gonna be Thanksgivin’ soon.” Jamaica frowned.  The grafitti read “Girls.” He put a hand over his eyes to block it out. “Wonder if my lil’ girl, Letitia, woulda be stark shocked t’see me show up for Thanksgivin’.” He tucked his chin to peek at the sleeping squirrel. “Think she’d be too ‘shamed to see us, huh, Crunkle?  Think she’d forgive her old dad now dat I be clean?”

A pipe from a motorcycle above popped, and Jamaica jumped. “It’s a hard world for us vets.”  Heroin had been an easy out.  He could block out the memories.  All that blood.  Men doing things he had never imagined, let alone wanted to experience.  All those faces, gone and dead.  And then he had come back home, missing a leg, his wife and strangers to him and his pain.

He had come to America at the tender age of ten, and becoming a US citizen was the highly of his life.  When World War II broke out, he had been excited to do his duty to this great country.  But no had prepared him for what life was like coming home.

Marge had wanted nothing to do with him when he wasn’t the man she had married any more, and he couldn’t stand the judgment on his oldest daughter Lucy’s face when she had chosen to turn her back on him and take her mama’s side.  That last day he had seen her, his vision blurred from his last fix, she had linked her arm through her mother’s, standing on the edge of the bed of the moving truck.  Her face was as steel as granite, even at the tender age of fourteen.

But little Letitia had turned around.  When Marge took her hand to lead her to the car, his second ten-year-old daughter had given him one last hopeful glance, those eyes open and still trusting.  There was love still in her heart, he had been sure of it.

It had been a decade and a half since then, and supposedly Letitia was married and back in New York, a brand newlywed. Her husband was a newspaper man or something like that. The last time Jamaica had visited his elderly father at the nursing home, before the nurses had shooed him out, their noses pinched, their hands shaking with anxiety, he had seen the letter from her.  After all these years.  Letitia had written to him, hoping her grandfather would pass her words on.  She wanted to reconnect.  She wanted to know her dad, to give him a chance.  She wrote about Jesus.

He had carried the wrinkled letter in the bottom of his bag for a while now – her address written clearly on the outside of it.  But he hadn’t need to – the address was seared into his memory.

Sure he had been clean for a year now, but time had passed him by.  He had no money and ability to do anything but beg.  Shelters were for those harder up than him.  Old Jamaica Barnes – he could tough it out, adopt baby squirrels, turn highway noises into songs in his mind, and keep up his cheer.

Until he thought about his baby girl reaching out.  Dangnabbit, she was brave.

He pulled out the envelope for the thousandth time and stared at it.

“I’ll go,” he said, and suddenly he knew that’s what he had always and ever wanted.

Thanksgiving was coming.

Autographed Books and Paypal Link

I have a personal Paypal link now! If you want autographed copies of A Bottle of Glass Hearts, Gem, or Lucent Sylph, you can send me $10 per book with a note saying which you want.
Or you can support my caffeine addiction that helps me write. 😛 😀 Seriously! People actually used to tip my computer geek husband through his personal website and Reddit and “support his caffeine need.” Haha! Stranger things have happened!
 
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