Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Monsters Lurking

In this day and age when political correctness is king, one gets the idea that we’ve come a long way.  The instant the ‘n’ word is uttered by a public figure, outrage sweeps over him or her with the force of a tsunami.  Their career shatters.  It’s starting to move that way for those striking out against the gay community too.  Public disgust blankets the land, and we turn our backs on the backwards bigot, relegating him to the margins where he belongs. 

At least that’s what happens on the outside, in polite company.  However, I have begun to suspect this is only a mask many wear, a pleasing disguise to hide the true ugliness that pervades our society. 

A few weeks ago my cousin was murdered as she slept in her bed while her children (plus a couple of their friends) slept in a nearby room.  Two gunshots were fired into her head by her estranged boyfriend, who had been beating on her until she made him leave.  Her life was over at the age of 33.  It was a sad ending to a sad life marked by severe depression and drug abuse. 

A side note here:  I was not close to this particular woman, so there is no need to offer me your condolences.  The pain I feel is that for a life cut short by senseless violence, along with sorrow for those who were close to her, particularly her children.  It’s the kind of hurt one has for a long-ago casual acquaintance; a distant shock that someone I once knew has come to a tragic end. 

Back to the subject of this blog:  to my mind, it made no difference that my cousin was white and the boyfriend was black.  That non-issue never entered my consciousness ... until I read the comments posted on the sites where the news story ran.  That’s where I discovered that things have not truly changed between the races in America, at least where southern whites are concerned. 

Vile, poisonous things were written by posters, people who felt comfortable letting their true colors show under the concealment of anonymity.  “That’s what you get when you date a black man.”  “Great, more welfare kids supported by my tax dollars.”  “What do you expect when you mix with someone from the ‘hood?”  And so on.  The few that expressed sympathy for the family were ridiculed for it.  Those who protested the abusive comments were told things like “If you’re so thin-skinned, you shouldn’t post.”  Continued protests were shouted down (textually speaking) by the bullying posters.   

No one seemed to care that children were present during their mother’s murder.  The feelings of family were discounted in these monsters’ delight in professing their bigotry.  Had they known how my cousin’s mother and sister collapsed while gathering the children’s belongings from a bloodsoaked room, they would have only jeered and written more horrible things.  These are beings with no souls. 

No doubt they never would have said those same words in public.  No, because they know their intolerance will not be tolerated, at least not on the surface.  The cowards refuse to be exposed.  When out among the rest of us, their masks are firmly in place. 

After reading the rants posing as statements from ‘concerned citizens’, I was initially in shock.  Then curiosity got the better of me, as it often does.  Surely this insane deluge of vitriol had to be a rare occurrence, right?  Something told me it wasn’t. 

Hoping I was wrong, I began looking around at other news sites from around the country and the articles they posted.  It turns out it’s not just racism that brings the monsters out to play, and the problem isn’t confined to my neck of the woods.  The creatures we never see in society come out in full force whether the subjects are politics or crime (okay, those might be the same thing), whether it’s a natural disaster or genetically-engineered produce, whether it’s a far-flung country’s war or the opening of a new local hardware store.  People come out in droves to spread cruelty, for no discernible reason except to be assholes. 

There are times I bemoan my lack of social graces and wish I got out among the public more often.  Right now, I’m more inclined to stay home and give the world the finger.  Because now I know these awful sub-humans are out there, pretending to be decent, civilized people.  I know there are many more than I suspected.  I know there is a chance I am on friendly speaking terms with some of them because I’ve only seen them with their masks on. 

If political correctness has done the world a real disservice, it’s that it’s driven the monsters underground so that we can pretend they no longer exist.  They’re still out there, teeming with black hatred for the rest of us.  They smile in our presence only to strike behind our backs.   

I think I might prefer outright hatred in my face.  Having awakened to this cesspool of faceless brutality, I wonder if I’d feel better having someone openly scream at me for having friends of various ethnicities, friends of differing (and sometimes no) religions, and friends who are gays and lesbians.  At least then I’d know what I was up against.  It’s got to be better than abruptly discovering the beasts have been here all along, hiding in plain sight and waiting until the worst moments of a person’s life to glory in that other’s heart-wrenching pain.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Sunday’s Serving – Lilith

            They relaxed — a little.  Colwyn flicked wary eyes at his surroundings.  “Interesting decor.  It looks like a shrine to every god ever thought up.”
            “This stuff is my idea of a home insurance policy.”
            Jacob stood frozen except for his eyes which rolled around taking everything in.  “This won’t harm us then?  I mean, I feel okay, just nervous.”
            “It can’t hurt you because I’m not using anything as a weapon.  Faith invokes their properties.  You should be able to touch most of them without injury.”
            They moved further into the room, their steps cautious.  Jacob touched a tentative forefinger to a small statuette of a goddess.  When nothing happened to him, his tension eased.  He picked up the plaster figurine to examine it closely.  “You’re right; it doesn’t bother me at all.  How about that?”
            Colwyn walked to the center of the den and turned around in a circle, looking at everything.  “Am I to understand that belief is your greatest weapon?”
            Alex nodded.  “Both mine and any demon’s I face.  Holy water would have no more effect on you than tap water if we didn’t both believe it could hurt you.”
            “What if I believe and you don’t?”  Colwyn watched Jacob handle the statuette.  A muscle twitched in his jaw.
            “Then it would depend on which of us has the greatest faith.  What religion do you fear the most?”
            He glanced at the crucifix over her computer and quickly looked away.  “Christianity, of course.”
            Alex motioned to his brother.  “That piece Jacob is holding is an image of Isis, an Egyptian goddess.  I use it as part of my protection against demonkind.  Because I decided it wouldn’t hurt him and he didn’t perceive it to be a Christian threat, he can touch it without injury.  If he touched a crucifix, it might hurt even against my wishes simply because he thinks it’s harmful.”
            Fascination helped Colwyn relax a little more.  “Is that why the Segreto uses so little physical force against demonkind?”
            Alex gave him a wry grin.  “You withstand physical injury too well for them to defeat you that way.  I’d guess you two gorillas in particular can handle more pain than most.  Since we can’t shoot, stab, or beat demonkind to death easily, we’re left with using metaphysical weapons.  That expression ‘faith can move mountains’ is very apt.” 

Available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

My Birthday Buddy

So here I am, on the eve of turning another year older.  This is a rather sad time for me, and not because I’m only three years from the big 5-0.  Honestly, how did I arrive at my late 40s?  I certainly don’t feel like I imagined someone this age would.  I guess my immaturity keeps me a perpetual twenty-something in my head, lol. 

At any rate, today would have been my beloved grandmother’s 103rd birthday.  This is my second birthday without her, and I’m feeling the loss more than ever.  I miss sharing our two-day celebration.  It’s just not the same.  I keep looking at the phone, feeling like I should be dialing her number and hearing her sweet voice.  With me in Georgia and her in North Carolina, our almost-shared birthdays often passed with us together in spirit rather than in person.  But it was still special to know our days were right next to each other. 

I feel lonesome having my birthday all to myself now.  It’s just not the same without Grandmom, even though we often spent our birthdays apart.  I guess it was enough knowing she was here on this earth with me still, thinking about me as I was thinking about her.  Knowing I could call and wish her a happy birthday meant more to me than I realized.   

I know she’s somewhere better now, out of the tremendous pain that comes with a failing century-old body.  She’s removed from the awful loneliness that comes when a person has outlived her husband and all her friends and siblings.  I’m not sorry for her at all, because I have hope that she’s surrounded by those who loved her best once more.  I’m sorry for me because there’s a big hole in my life where she was for 45 years.  I’m selfish that way ... I still want my grandmom who loved me unconditionally.  I want my birthday buddy, because it feels so wrong to celebrate another year without her. 

Yet I will, because it’s what she would have wanted.  If I could hear her, she would remind me of my beautiful son and how much he adds to my life.  She would tell me that I deserve to be happy.  She would chastise me in her gentle way (which never felt like chastisement) that she was just one ‘poor little country girl’, not worth getting so emotional over.  Of course, I would beg to differ on that account.  My grandmom was an amazing woman, and the world is much less bright without her beautiful presence in it. 

And so I say, happy birthday, Grandmom.  I’m still sharing it with you in my heart.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Sunday's Serving - Willow in the Desert

She guessed they had been traveling half an hour when of the soldiers in the lead called out, “Sir!  Got something strange here.”

Everyone hurried to the young man who Carli recognized as Paul Bates.  All except Arner, who kept his steady pace forward.  When Carli saw what was lying on the ground at Bates' feet – no, what was staked to the ground, smelling like burnt meat, she nearly puked.

Sounding furious, Leo rounded on the approaching Arner and said, “Tell me that wasn’t Jeff.”

The sergeant joined them.  His face, the night vision goggles rendering it as green as Carli felt right now, was without emotion.  “Yes, it was.  After I took him out, I planted him here for other passing aliens to see.  Pretty potent warning, I think.”

Carli had to look away from the corpse.  It was too awful, seeing the charred mass that had once been a man.  She choked out, “This is wrong, Arner.  Jeff saved half a dozen of us back at Calgary’s Pyramid when those Becomings loyal to their Old Ones came after us.  He was a hero.”

Arner nodded his expression steady.  “I can understand how you might see it that way.  But I think Jeff wouldn’t mind being a warning if it keeps the bugs from attacking Freetown.  He’d be happy knowing he’s still keeping us safe.”

Carli stared at his peaceful face, wondering about his use of the word ‘bugs’.  Surely he didn’t see the Becomings, their Becomings, the same as the Old Ones.  And could a sane man do such a thing?  Sure, they'd all gone a little crazy since the invasion.  She knew she no longer resembled in any way the quiet, cowardly librarian she'd once been.  But this horror spoke of something uglier, something sick and twisted. 

Available from Amazon, Barnes &Noble, and Smashwords. You can get it in paperback too.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Neverending Stories

I was startled a few weeks ago to realize the end of the publishing contract on my first book The Willow and the Stone is fast approaching.  Having opted to not extend the contract, I am getting the rights back in July. 

Since my foray into traditional publishing with a small house has been a mixed bag with more negative than positive, I will be re-releasing The Willow and the Stone on my own.  Alt-Tam has had a great deal of success in self-publishing, so it’s a hat I’m used to wearing. 

However, this means a lot of work.  I’ve already begun a new editing run on this book, fixing some writing issues that I missed before ... even though I’ve been over and over the story a million times.  I never remain happy with anything I write for very long.  I always wince when I read over something that’s been out a little while.  “That could have been done better,” I say to myself.  “Did I really let that go into public looking like that?” 

The same has happened once more.  I’m formatting my new version of The Willow and the Stone and finding irritating little things that make me grind my teeth.  I comfort myself as I go, thinking, “Well, I get to fix that.  At least I’ve got that going for me.”  We writers are brutes to ourselves.  I don’t think I’ve ever met another author who feels they got their work perfect. 

Feeding my angst is the way the publisher let the book go out.  The formatting is horrendous on the print version.  I’m afraid to see how it looks as an ebook for fear it’s just as bad.  This is one of the reasons traditional publishing has left a bad taste in my mouth.  You’d think those who are supposed to be experts in this field would at least be able to format a book.  Apparently not.  I am embarrassed to have people read my work looking like this.  I’m not quite sure they can read it.  In using my print copy to work on my edits, I’m nearly cross-eyed trying to figure out where one paragraph ends and another begins.  What were they thinking? 

Again, I remind myself I get to fix it.  The book is out of print anyway, so at least no more damage can be done on that front.  So I’m pasting a big smile on my face and continuing on. 

Yet the constant urge to improve makes me wonder if I’ll ever truly finish writing The Willow and the Stone.  Will it reach a point where I can claim it is done, never to be touched again?  I don’t know.  I have a sneaky suspicion the answer will be no.