Multi-passionate writer, author and solo-preneur

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Free Story: Food Scarcity

Sorry for the blog silence. Lately my life has been split pretty evenly between doing the job hunt mambo and writing content for Demand Studios and spending what little free time I do have just trying to rest and recharge my batteries so I can do it all over again. That doesn’t leave a lot of time for blogging. Or unpaid writing of any sort, really.

So since the flash fiction project is on hold I decided to go ahead and share one of the two I’ve actually managed to finish (the other one is still under submission with a local e-zine). It’s only 500 words long, so grab a cuppa and settle in for a quick read. The title isn’t final, but for now I’m calling it…

 

FOOD SCARCITY

 

The lights still came on at night in the city. The girl wondered how long they would keep doing that, without anyone around to turn them on. The screens and news tickers in Times Square had been broadcasting the same warnings to stay inside and lock your doors for two weeks now. She didn’t think there was anyone left in the city still capable of heeding the warnings.

But she kept looking, just in case.

She stuck to the shadows and avoided streets where she could hear the tell-tale moans. She wasn’t afraid of those things. They weren’t that hard to kill, one on one. But swarms were a different story, and she couldn’t afford to get injured. Too many depended on her to lead them. To feed them.

So she hunted, even though it seemed more useless with each passing night.

A scream pierced the silence, filling the girl with hope. Only the living screamed like that. She scanned the street, the shops and restaurants. The living tended to show up where there might be food.

But the unliving tended to show up where there was screaming, so she had to hurry. The woman screamed again, and the girl raced toward the sound. There, up ahead. The Starbucks on Eighth Street. The windows were broken. A woman backed out of the door, clutching a broken and bloody two-by-four like a club. A shopping bag hung over her shoulder.

The girl came up from behind. Peering over the woman’s shoulder, she saw a man lying on the floor, swarmed by the unliving. They were devouring him. The woman sobbed. For now, they were too distracted to hear her.

The girl spun her around. She screamed and raised her weapon, but didn’t swing. “Are you bit?”

Dazedly, the woman shook her head. “My husband.” She looked back at the man on the floor… what was left of him. “David…”

“We can’t help him. Come with me.”

“Where?”

“Away from them.” Inside, the ones who couldn’t get their fill were starting to take notice of them. “Now.” She grabbed the woman’s hand, and pulled. The swarm filed out through the door behind them. They ran together down the street, turning here and there, tracing a path through a maze the girl knew well. The woman kept sobbing as they went. “Be quiet!” the girl commanded.

They ran down an alley, to a dead end. They turned around. The woman screamed again as the swarm followed them, blocking the entrance. There was nowhere to go.

The others emerged from the shadows. Her children. Together, they fought the oncoming horde. It was easy, together. When they were finished, covered in gore and surrounded by squirming pieces of the unliving, they turned to the woman as one.

She looked confused, and terrified. “M… my name is Sheila.” She held out the grocery bag with a trembling hand. “I have food.”

“We know,” said the girl, her fangs descending. “And we’re so hungry.”

###

 

Surrender

God has really been at work in me lately. He’s been patiently pulling me through a rather painful and difficult process of learning to let things go, to stop being led by my ego and my stubborn desires and to submit my will to His.

I confess that we haven’t been happy lately. Pretty much the opposite, really. Not with each other, I should clarify — our marriage is the one great thing we’ve got going. Well, and our dog. He’s pretty great, too. He makes us laugh when we really don’t feel like laughing. But everything we’ve been working on and toward has ground to a halt. For a little while there it seemed like the freelance biz was starting to pick up and maybe head toward success, but it’s floundering again, and while we’re still managing to scrape by, home repairs are piling up, and other little emergencies keep cropping up, and things have been overwhelming and we’ve just kind of been drifting, directionless, not knowing where to go next or what to do. It’s like God suddenly said, “NOPE! This isn’t the direction I want for you guys.” And for a while, instead of humbling ourselves and praying for Him to show us the right direction, we (I, mostly) kept stubbornly butting our heads against the wall trying to make it move.

I’ve done a lot of crying out to the Lord in my frustration in the last couple of months. I’ve done a lot of casting about for something or someone (other than myself) to blame. But I’ve also been digging deeper into scripture and realizing that I’m the one who needs to change. I need to surrender my pride and my ego and humble myself to God’s will. I need to surrender all of my desires and give God rein over my life. I need to stop seeking my own pleasure and start seeking His. I need to stop trying to wrestle everything into submission to my own will and start trusting in Him to care for us. And I need to stop putting him in the back seat in certain areas of my life.

These are of course hard lessons for any Christian, but I think they might be especially hard for those who, like me, were raised in faith and grew up taking God and Christ and salvation and faith and etc. for granted. It’s hard to fully understand passages of scripture that talk about putting off the old man when you were only five years old when you got saved. It’s too tempting to think that you don’t have an old man to put off.

So now, at 40 years old, I’m just now beginning to grasp what it means to present myself a living sacrifice. I’m finally starting to understand that in letting myself be broken down like this I’m giving God material to work with so He can build me back up, and He’ll build me into something better than I ever could have imagined for myself.

Since I’ve come to that realization, things are starting to turn around. Doors are starting to open for us again. Matt and I had a heart-to-heart the other day about re-examining and re-defining our priorities and what changes we need to make to ensure that we’re walking in God’s will. Part of that is that we both need to start looking for work outside of the home, because God clearly hasn’t blessed our home business. We have to accept that maybe that’s not something He wants for us right now. Maybe it’s not something He wants for us ever. And that’s okay, because whatever He has for us will be better. At any rate, I have my peace back, and I’m full of hope for the first time in a long time.

Last year, we got to a point where business died down, and out of sheer desperation I started looking for a full-time job. I did so grudgingly. I cried a lot. I was resentful. I didn’t put my all into the search. Somehow, I still managed to find a job, but it was a terrible job and I only lasted there about six weeks, and I cried almost every day that I worked there. I came out of it resolved to make our business work no matter what.

But now, there are two differences. For one thing, we’re not desperate. We’ve still got some work coming in, plus content mill writing (which isn’t my favorite, but I’m grateful for it regardless), and while it’s not enough to prosper, it’s enough to make ends meet while I take the time to find the right job — the right job being one that meets all of our needs and is well-suited to my personality and abilities.

The other, biggest difference is that this time I have total and utter peace and contentment about going back to full-time employment. I’m even a little excited about it. And as we make our plans, I trust that the Lord will order our steps. I look forwarding to seeing where He leads us.

Back On Track

I have done writer-type things this week. On Monday I made a complete editing pass on Eucha Falls, and then gave it to Matt to read. In an unprecedented turn of events, he read the entire thing that afternoon, pointing out a few typos and liking it so much that he’s started storyboarding a graphic novel and/or film version in his head. Then I fixed the typos and sent it off to some beta readers, and also contacted a lovely and amazingly talented young artist about possibly illustrating a cover. She got back to me today, and we’re negotiating. I might have to do another Indiegogo campaign to raise enough money to pay the lady. So that will set the planned publication date back a few months. Although I’m debating whether it’s worth all that trouble for a novelette. I guess I’ll wait and see what the beta readers think.

Today I finally got back into the first draft of Radium Town, and wrote the first 505 words of Chapter 2. The story is already over 5,000 words long, and I’m only starting the second chapter. If you’ve read either of my other books, that should give you an idea of how different this one will be from what I usually write. I’m usually a cut to the action kind of girl, and I have to force myself to slow down and spend time on description. But with this one I’m taking more of a meandering path to get to the point, which I’m enjoying more than I thought I would.

Here’s a sample from today’s output:

“So what do you call that thing again?” Betty stood back with the professor as the workmen unloaded his machine from the back of the wagon. Miraculously, nothing had been broken when they’d dropped part of it earlier at the train station. Still, the professor kept an eagle eye on every move the men made with it, barking instructions with an incessance that was clearly starting to grate. Betty knew full well what the machine was called, but she hoped her show of interest might distract him and let those poor men do their work in peace.

“Professor Noble’s Subterranean Combustible Location and Penetration Device,” he said. She detected only a slight note of pride in his voice as he named his invention, and she wondered how much louder that note would’ve sounded if he wasn’t so distracted. “Here, now,” he shouted at the men as they pulled the largest piece off of the wagon, “be careful with that! Don’t you understand that this is a prototype?”

“That’s quite a mouthful,” Betty said, ignoring his shouting. “What do you call it for short?”

“I don’t call it anything ‘for short,’ agent, but if its proper title is too much for you, simply referring to it as ‘The Penetrator’ should suffice.”

In other news, Demand Media Studios contacted me about possibly being a “Section Expert” for their new, soon-to-be-launched Crafts section. It’s an editorial/managerial position, and though it’s only part time, it pays better than writing articles. I interviewed for it this afternoon, and they’re going to schedule another interview with the person in charge of developing the section. I also signed a new web design client this week — a photographer this time. This will  be the first photography site in my portfolio, so I’m jazzed about that. Things are starting to look up in the employment realm.

The other thing I’ve been doing this week is trying to develop a daily marketing habit. Right now I’m focusing all of my efforts on Bauhaus Online Creative, but once I work out the kinks on a streamlined strategy that doesn’t take up half my day, I’ll start doing more to promote my books and this here blog. Remember when this blog used to be about the ins and outs of self-publishing? Yeah, I plan to get back to that at some point, and also start promoting other indie authors on a regular basis again. Although, I’ve been disappointed in the lack of ROI on my Indie Spotlight column. Part of the whole point of having blog guests is that they, y’know, promote their own guest posts or interviews, thereby helping to build traffic and SEO, but very few of my guests have made any effort to do so, which I don’t really get. I’ve promoted the bejeezus out of any guest posts or interviews I’ve done on other blogs. It’s kind of common courtesy, but I imagine a lot of people don’t know that. Anyway, that went to more of a ranty place than expected. Maybe that’s one of those instructional-type posts I need to write when I get back to writing teachy posts instead of just rambling at you about my life.

Camp Nanowrimo, Day Four

2013-Participant-Facebook-Cover

Project: Radium Town, the Steampunk Weird West adventure set in my hometown of Claremore, Oklahoma at the dawn of statehood and featuring Will Rogers and Tom Mix.

Writing stage: First Draft

Today’s Word Count: 664

Total Word Count: 3,920

What happened: The professor had a conniption when his mystery machine got dropped, but Betty smoothed things over with the workmen.

Favorite line(s)

“Agent Blake,” said the professor, “arrest these men.”
“Arrest them? What for?”
“Sabotage! Incompetence! Utter buffoonery! I don’t know, invent a reason!”
“That’s not quite how it works, Professor.”

C25K/UFYH:Did (well, am doing) laundry and wrangled the recycling. Also, the sun came back out so we spent some time in the back yard tossing the football.

Elsewise: Did some troubleshooting on the client project I thought I finished yesterday, and made good progress on the other client project. Didn’t get as much done as I wanted to today, either writing-wise or work-wise. I’ve been pretty scattered and a bit lazy and low on energy for the last couple of weeks. I think it’s probably a combination of the weather, sadness over our sick kitty, and watching the final days of my thirties slip away. At any rate, next week I’ve got to snap myself out of it and get organized, because there’s stuff that needs doing and it won’t get done at this rate.

Lawd Have Mercy! Also, a New Cover for Restless Spirits

Guy-friendly cover of Restless Spirits by Jean Marie BauhausProject: Radium Town, the Steampunk Weird West adventure set in my hometown of Claremore, Oklahoma at the dawn of statehood and featuring Will Rogers and Tom Mix.

Writing stage: Researching, world building & plotting

What got done: Over the weekend I did a little more research into Tom Mix, and rounded out my cast with a couple of invented characters, including my requisite genius inventor and another BDD super agent, Madeline “No Mercy” Mercier, who will act as a foil to Betty. The part of Mercy will be played in my head by Sophie Okenedo (Queen Liz X to all you Whovians). And if you’re so inclined, you can see my whole dream cast, as well as research links and inspiration for costumes and setting on my RADIUM TOWN Pinterest board.

Today I used my writing time to publish the new cover I created for Restless Spirits over the weekend, which has gotten hearty approval from the guys who’ve weighed in. Upating the cover for the e-book versions on Amazon and BN.com was simple enough, but CreateSpace was quite a bit more involved. I also made minor modifications to the books themselves, including updating the cover credits on the copyright page and adding a link to buy Dominion to the end — a simple “No duh!” selling tactic that was nevertheless lost on me until I read a tip on it somewhere last week. A natural sales person, I am not.

C25K/UFYH: You know, we had all these lovely warm days in January and February, but now that spring is actually here, it’s cold. Yesterday we even had some snow. So the C25K thing is on hold until it warms back up and stays that way. As for UFYH, I didn’t do much over the weekend, but today I bagged up all the trash and recycling and took it out to the bins, and also bagged up all of the errant shopping bags that would take me far too long to fold and put away.

And of course I gave Sasha her meds. She’s feeling a lot better since the antibiotics and vitamins have kicked in, but there’s another suspicious place on her stomach where it looks like the cancer might have spread. We’re also giving her Interferon, and the hope there is that it will boost her immune system to the point where it will be able to kill the cancer, or at least keep it in check, without draining all of her resources. Poor kitty. She’s only 10, which isn’t exactly young, but it’s not old enough to have to contemplate saying goodbye yet, either. I think she’s tough enough to get through this, though, and I still expect that she’ll be around for several more years.

Cooking: Last night I cooked up the big spaghetti squash that I picked up on Friday, and used some of it as a noodle base for a Thai-peanut stir fry that I cooked up last night using ground chicken, shredded cabbage and a frozen stir fry veggie mix. It wasn’t exactly Pad Thai, although it tasted close enough, and it was a bit Sandra Lee what with the frozen veggies, but it was delicious all the same, and with the spaghetti squash I didn’t miss the high glycemic noodles at all. When I do cook I always make a big batch, so that’ll do for dinner for the next few nights; and the leftover squash is put away to serve as a pasta noodle replacement later this week.

Later: Client stuff. I need to keep my head down and get stuff done.

Showbiz Cowboys

Project: Radium Town, the Steampunk Weird West adventure set in my hometown of Claremore, Oklahoma at the dawn of statehood and starring Will Rogers. Now with bonus Tom Mix.

Writing stage: Research

What I accomplished/learned: On Saturday I went to the dollar store and bought a new notebook and a pack of note cards for research and plotting, and in the notebook I began jotting down a timeline of real life historical events relevant to my story and characters. In the biography of Will Rogers that I’m reading, I’m up to where he became a vaudeville sensation and joined the Ziegfeld Follies and started to get noticed by Hollywood, which is farther than I needed to go. I learned that Will was quite the world traveler at the turn of the century, and he was in England at the dawn of the Edwardian era, and I might be able to use that. I learned that he and Tom Mix were in a Wild West show together here in Oklahoma and were BFFs, and I can totally use that. I also learned that Betty Blake, the girl that Will would eventually marry, was quite different from the type of character I need her to be for my book (which I very much expected), and now I need to focus on figuring out how my alt-history directly affects her to the extent that it takes her from a quiet Kansas girl to a butt-kicking government agent.

C25K/UFYH: On Saturday we did yard work, and I mowed the back yard, which satisfied both my workout and unfussing requirements. On Sunday I did fargle-all but sit around in my robe and read steampunk short stories and watch Supernatural and knit, because last week tired me out more than I realized. Matt made a corned beef brisket and my robe was green, so that was our St. Pat’s day. ANyway, today I vacuumed the whole house and took out the compost. Later this afternoon I’m either going to go out with Matt to toss the football around or I’m going to go for a walk. Either way, I’ll get some kind of movement in, although I’m still not quite up to snuff on this whole C25K thing. I’m still waiting for the weather to become warmer and stay that way.

Later: I have design work to do for two clients, and quite a bit of e-mail to answer, and I need to work on lining up some clients for April so I’ll actually have time for Camp Nano instead of having to spend all day every day writing Demand Studios content. And then after dinner we’ll fall into bed and watch Walking Dead.

Progress (or, Jean is Too Tired to Remember to Change the Template Title)

Project: Radium Town, the Steampunk Weird West adventure set in my hometown of Claremore, Oklahoma at the dawn of statehood and starring Will Rogers.

Writing stage: Research

What I learned: Nothing! Fridays are grocery and errands day and also Bible class night, so probably writing isn’t going to get done on Fridays. Or researching and plotting, either.

C25K/UFYH: Today was a get outside and enjoy the weather kind of day, and I had already promised Matt (after we’d both put it off all week) that I’d go with him and be his assistant while he got in some photography practice somewhere other than around the house. So we went to Centennial Park downtown, where I did enough walking and carrying camera equipment that I think it qualifies as today’s workout. And look, I took a picture too!

downtown

…which shows why I’m not the photographer in the family.

Later: I need to draw up a client contract and then I’m going to try to get a cat nap before church.

The Long Road to Radium Town

Project: Radium Town, the Steampunk Weird West adventure set in my hometown of Claremore, Oklahoma at the dawn of statehood and starring Will Rogers.

Writing stage: Research

What I learned: Nothing new, really. Last fall I’d picked up an old Oklahoma University state history textbook and a biography on Will Rogers at Gardner’s, and I finally started reading those. I brushed up on state history from the establishment of Indian Territory and the Trail of Tears up through statehood (an aside: I wonder why we never hear about all of the black slaves who were forced to march the Trail of Tears along with their Cherokee owners, and how they ended up being some of the first non-native settlers in this region). Then I started reading Will Rogers: The Cherokee Kid and learned some facts about his family and childhood that will surely help to shape his character for my book.

At this point my main goal is to figure out my timeline and at what point my alternate history branches off. Right now my thinking is that there was some sort of cataclysmic event in Europe in the late Victorian era that had a ripple effect throughout the rest of the world and didn’t really affect the US until the turn of the century. But it’s going to take more research and thought to iron out the details and how, exactly, it altered the lives of my characters.

C25K/UFYH: Eh, we overslept again. But I’m going to do my best to make time this afternoon to get outside and get some form of exercise.

Later: Client stuff, mostly. I might need to run an errand across town later today, but that depends on a few things. I’m stoked because another author signed off on my estimate for doing a website for her book series, which shores up the rest of the month for us as far as work and bills go.

Progress

I made pretty good progress this week, I think, though I did better in some areas than in others. For one thing, I picked a terrible week to start Couch to 5K, because it snowed on what was supposed to be my second day. And we have an actual blizzard warning for tomorrow, so I guess I’ll be holding off on re-starting it until the bad winter weather is out of the way. But I did faithfully do the first day last Monday, as promised, as soon as I got home from dropping Sasha at the vet, and I didn’t die (even though it felt touch-and-go there for a little while), so that’s a victory.

Speaking of Sasha kitty, in case there’s anyone reading this who doesn’t follow me on Facebook and who is wondering, she’s doing great. They were able to cut out all of the bad stuff (as far as they know) and she’s recovering. I knitted her a sweater to wear over her sutures so she doesn’t have to wear the Cone of Shame anymore, and since I put it on her last night she’s seemed much happier.

Anyway. One thing I did manage to stick with all week was getting up earlier on a consistent basis, and I also managed to sleep better for the most part, save one morning when I woke up at 4AM for no apparent reason and couldn’t get back to sleep. Unfortunately, I was still too busy with freelance work to translate any of that into consistently making writing time, although I did get a tiny bit written on Eucha Falls.

I also surprised myself this week by writing a new song. It’s only the second one I’ve written, but I like it well enough that I wish I could make more time to cultivate my musical abilities so I could actually do something with it. But it just sort of occurred to me, the same way my best stories usually do, which is a positive sign, because I’ve been feeling so uninspired and creatively drained lately.

It’s probably no coincidence that it came to me the morning after I bit the bullet and let go of one of my unprofitable contract jobs, and made the decision to wrap up the other one and phase it out as soon as possible. Making those decisions felt akin to laying down a big bag of wet sand that I’d been carrying for too long. I’ve still got a lot to do to wrap up the other job, but I can see the light and it’s clear enough and close enough that I’m pretty sure it’s not a freight train barreling down on me.

I also wrapped up and launched a client’s website, freeing up even more room on my plate. I’ve got one more web dev project to wrap up (I’m waiting for the client to pick out a web host), and then I’ll be down to just writing for Demand Studios — which is FINE. I mean, DS isn’t something I want to do long term, but it’s a decent gig for keeping the lights on while I take a step back to figure out where I want to take my freelancing business next. In the mean time, I think I’m going to take a break from worrying about that and focus on novel writing, on marketing my books and cultivating my fan base, and on helping Matt build his photography business, all of which I think is WAY more conducive to my ultimate goal of noveling full time than the kind of work I’ve been stuck with lately.

But really, you guys, it feels so good to have some breathing room again, I can’t even tell you.

Meanwhile, In Real Life…

Sorry for the radio silence this week, folks. I’m buried in work right now, and I’ve got a couple of client projects that I’ve got to buckle down and get cleaned off of my plate ASAP. So this is just a quick note to let you know that the blog’s on another mini-hiatus until those are done.

Now you kids behave yourselves while I’m gone.

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