Shelter

20171224_114500Many years ago (2003 or ’04) I wrote a Christmas story to share at the Seattle Writers Association holiday potluck. I didn’t think about it again until December 2018 when the organizers of an online author event put out a call for short stories to use as prizes. I remembered this story but couldn’t find it on my computer. Believe it or not, I turned up the hard copy! It was short enough to retype and update, and I enjoyed reading it again. I hope you will, too.

SHELTER

Christmas, Anna thought, was like a big cup of Diet Coke. It promised sweetness and abundance and refreshment, but when you finally took a sip, it was flat and artificial. That was the problem: all the stress and none of the sparkle. Christmas had lost its fizz.

Anna remembered Christmas magic from long ago, when she was a little girl. And as a mother, she had made the magic herself. Even after Will died and she had to go back to work at the hospital in order to support three children, all by herself with no help from anyone, thank you very much. Those children were now grown and too mature for magic. They still expected lavish gifts from their mother, though they had yet to present her with grandchildren. There was no one to make magic for.

To battle holiday blues, Dear Abby advised helping those less fortunate, and then the church bulletin had asked for shelter volunteers for Christmas Eve. Full of enthusiastic good intentions, Anna signed up. She pictured the hospitality and Christmas cheer she would offer, a hostess to the needy young guests in this, her second home. Their gratitude would warm her heart, and just like in a TV movie, she would rediscover the true meaning of Christmas.

Late on Christmas Eve, Anna sat on a metal folding chair, watching people sleep. Rather than joy at sharing, she felt battered by the invasion. They had tromped in, armored with piercings, grimy backpacks, and attitude. Anna soon gave up trying to converse. She didn’t know their families (did they have families?), disqualifying that small-talk staple. They didn’t care that this building was erected in 1927 and nearly lost in the Depression, or that the congregation had been organized over 100 years ago, or that Anna had had her wedding reception in this very room, long before anyone thought of running a thrift shop or hosting a homeless shelter in a church fellowship hall. It was like trying to communicate with members of another species.

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Review: Greener

GreenerGreener (Not A Pipe Publishing, 2018) by Heather Ransom

Calyssa Brentwood of Going Green is back in a sequel that’s even better than the first book. In that volume, she wasn’t yet fully Green—a genetic enhancement that allows humans to photosynthesize, saving resources and time so they can devote themselves to bettering their community (with a side effect of improved health and attractiveness.) She became close to the Non-Green Staytons, even falling in love with hunky Gabe, and blamed herself for a terrorist bombing at their farm.

Greener opens eights months later, with Lyssa fully Green, in college, working an internship at her father’s company Advanced Human Genetics Assessments (AHGA), and helping care for her sister Livvy as she recovers from a near-lethal viral infection that has left her yellow and unable to photosynthesize. Lyssa uses her internship for secret investigations into possible corruption among SciCity’s Security Enforcers.

Lyssa is drawn back to the Stayton farm when her friend Ana Stayton dies from a black market Green enhancement gone wrong. Meanwhile, her new friend Ayva is into Nock, an enhancement to the enhancement from a private, unregulated lab that makes Greens Greener with party-drug side effects … but it also has a dark, dangerous side. And Livvy has a few secrets of her own. Everybody seems to, including Lyssa and Livvy’s long-lost mother. Themes of secrecy, loss and regret are woven through the narrative, as well as those of peer pressure, community, and loyalty.

Lyssa thinks she knows about loss, but also recognizes her privilege. She lost her mother as a child, had to give up her first love (who now blames her for his sister’s death), and nearly lost her own sister to the virus. In this book, the losses pile up and even wealth and power can’t shield her.

I was glad to see that music still plays an important role in Lyssa’s life. Her family is after her to choose a practical career, but playing cello is where she really comes alive and feels a connection to her mother. I particularly appreciated the realistic but compassionate portrayal of a college freshman, who feels so much more mature and knowing than she was in high school but is still naive and vulnerable. Lyssa believes she is a better spy than a pro, who is secretly keeping tabs on her and Livvy. Lyssa is unusually susceptible to the attentions of handsome genius Maddax Steele and can’t quite bring herself to ask if that’s why he’s paying attention to her. She takes crazy risks, pulling back before anyone is hurt but with real consequences.

A much bigger plot takes over before Lyssa’s personal dramas can be resolved, so there is still much to come in the inevitable 3rd book. I hope she has her cello with her after the disaster; music may be the thing to save her world.

You can get your copy here:
Oregon Books and Games, Grants Pass: HERE
Barnes & Noble: hardcover HERE, trade paperback HERE
Amazon: hardcover HERE, trade paperback, HERE
Kindle: HERE

Wizards Can’t Go Home

My novel Daughter of Magic released on May 22, 2018 from Not a Pipe Publishing, which accepted Kamila Shamsie’s challenge to make 2018 The Year of Publishing Women and will publish nine books by seven women this year. They are also accepting submissions of short stories by women to be published weekly online.

“Wizards Can’t Go Home” comes from even deeper in the backstory of Daughter of Magic than “Crane’s Fire.”

fantasy-watermill“Wizards can’t go home.”

When Master Ordahn spoke those words, his apprentice thought he meant home would feel too tame, or the wizard would be too changed for home to seem like home anymore.

He didn’t know it meant home would cease to exist.

The young wizard glanced at the dripping sky, then pulled his hood forward and sank onto a fallen log with a dejected sigh. “Now what?”

He called himself The Crane, a name he’d given himself as a boy—the last of many. He didn’t remember what his mother called him. Both his parents had died when he was very small. They had died here. He wasn’t sure he could even find their graves.

(Read more here.)

Review: The Supernormal Legacy: Book 2: Root

RootThe Supernormal Legacy: Book 2: Root (Not A Pipe Publishing, 2018) by LeeAnn McLennan

Book 2: Root picks up 6 months after the events of Book 1: Dormant (read my review here), in which Olivia Woodson developed the supernormal abilities she’d been suppressing since childhood, in time to help defeat a rogue supernormal cousin who had joined a terrorist organization. That cousin is in prison, but the rest of the Brighthall cousins are kept busy by an influx of monsters, many of them rarely if ever found in Portland, OR. And Olivia is having visions of her cousin breaking out of prison, but that’s impossible: supernormals don’t have visions.

Olivia is equal parts appealing and exasperating, for the same reason: she thinks like a teenager. She makes bad decisions for good reasons and continually finds herself in trouble with authority figures, usually because she’s trying to stay out of trouble. For example, she keeps her visions to herself because she’s sure she knows how the adults will react and she’d rather not go there. With good reason: more than one of these super-powered adults is dealing poorly with past trauma and tends to blow up at the nearest target. Young readers might miss that aspect of the story, but I found it compelling and moving. Olivia’s normal father has processed his grief over her mother’s death much better that her supernormal aunts and uncles, who aren’t used to needing help. Olivia’s secret strength may be her connection to the normal world, so I was pleased to see her make an effort to maintain relationships with her normal friends.

Although there’s some “sequel syndrome” here, having to re-introduce characters and situations, it is lessened by the introduction of a host of peculiar, goofy, gross, and/or terrifying monsters, such as a vampire-like thing that feeds on human lymphatic fluid. There were almost too many for me to keep track of, but that may have been the point; I think Olivia felt the same way.

Meanwhile, Olivia harbors warm feelings for another young supernormal, but he’s locked up and in a medically-induced coma to suppress his mindreading ability. When he’s released to help track the escaped prisoners, Olivia makes additional ill-advised but well-intentioned choices that lead to a road trip, a ghost town, grave peril, and a cliffhanger ending. There better be a Book 3!

Crane’s Fire

My novel Daughter of Magic released on May 22, 2018 from Not a Pipe Publishing, which accepted Kamila Shamsie’s challenge to make 2018 The Year of Publishing Women and will publish nine books by seven women this year. They are also accepting submissions of short stories by women to be published weekly online.

This week’s story is “Crane’s Fire,” from deep in the backstory of Daughter of Magic.

Hand-on-Fire-Wallpaper-For-Free

CRANE’S FIRE by Karen Eisenbrey

Crane was bursting to tell, but he couldn’t. Not while Soorhi watched. The teacher might have been old as dirt, but he didn’t miss much. Crane fidgeted. A breeze blew through the open windows. It smelled like apple blossoms. Like spring. Why were they inside on such a day? The eastern window framed a view of open country—grassland and rippling green wheat fields, broken here and there by splotches of purple or yellow where wildflowers bloomed. To the west lay the village of Deep River, though Crane could see only one house and part of another, built of gray river rock like the schoolhouse. Between them, he caught glimpses of a distant snow-capped mountain, and the dry gully that gave Deep River its name.

(Keep reading here.)

Review: Survivors’ Club

Survivor's Club coverSurvivors’ Club by M. K. Martin (April 2018, Not a Pipe Publishing)

I received a copy of the ebook from the publisher.

Survivors’ Club is a taut bio-thriller with an ensemble of protagonists so lovable you’ll want to take them home, and a threat so dire you’ll have nightmares. It reads as a prelude to an existential threat to humanity, of our own making. Out of control greed, corruption, and scientific hubris conspire to unleash a viral outbreak of monstrous proportions. The Infected become something else that want to infect and/or consume other creatures. This is the nightmare part.

Each chapter is narrated by a revolving ensemble of characters, all well drawn and believable with distinct voices and concerns. The main trio, the Survivors’ Club of the title, are Dr. Marius Tenartier, handsome young science prodigy/awkward nerd with heroic inclinations; Captain John Courage, head of security at Chrysalis BioPharmaceuticals; and Miranda Viers, smart and resourceful high schooler and daughter of Chysalis’ CEO. These three have seemingly little in common but bond over shared trauma and become the warm heart of this book. They pick up some equally appealing sidekicks during the course of increasing peril and ever more dangerous ideas for how to fight back.

The ending sets us up for at least one sequel. I’m looking forward to it—what happened in Argentina???—but I don’t plan to read it right before bed.

 

Survivors’ Club releases on April 17, 2018. Preorder from your favorite independent bookstore by asking for it at the front counter, or order it from one of these fine online booksellers:

Powell’s: HERE

Barnes & Noble: HERE

Amazon: HERE

Kindle: HERE

Want to meet Ms. Martin? Pre-order your copy and bring it to be signed at the launch party on Saturday, April 21 at 6 PM at Steelhead Brewery Eugene. RSVP for the event on Facebook HERE.

Review: The Supernormal Legacy: Book 1 Dormant

DormantThe Supernormal Legacy: Book 1 Dormant by LeeAnn McLennan (Not a Pipe Publishing, February 2018)

I was predisposed to like this story of a reluctant teen superhero in the Pacific Northwest; it’s my sub-sub-genre, too. McLennan delivers the goods with a relatable young protagonist in a recognizable real-life setting. Dormant provides a nice twist on the origin story, too: rather than being surprised by the sudden advent of powers, Olivia has known about them her whole life and doesn’t want them.

Who wouldn’t want superpowers? But 14-year-old Olivia has good reason. Descended from a long line of “supernormals,” as a child she witnessed her mother’s death in action and blames herself. She rejected her powers and that side of her family, suppressing abilities that should have manifested when she was 13. When a bank robbery compels her to use her abilities, Olivia is drawn back to the “family business” and begins training with her cousins to learn to control her powers and help protect the city of Portland from supernormal bad guys and monsters. (I really loved that her superteam is a group of cousins, a special kind of friend-relative that everyone should have a bunch of to grow up with.) When more than one local landmark is violently destroyed in her presence, Olivia and her family begin to wonder if she’s turning into a villain herself, unconsciously using powers when upset or angry. Meanwhile, she’s trying to keep up her old normal life of school, friends, and boyfriend while avoiding a mean girl who has it in for her; but the universe—and her aunt and uncles—have other ideas. Plenty of action–and humor–keep this from devolving into an angsty-teen emo-fest.

For someone who spends most of the book rejecting or suppressing her powers, Olivia takes great delight in using them. She knows deep down that this is who she is and what she does. I especially liked those scenes, which showed she was still capable of joy. Although she had good reason for turning away from that identity, embracing it seems like her one hope for healing from her early trauma. By the end of Book 1, she has endured more than one tragedy, but has excellent motivation for training and using her abilities. Book 2, Root, comes out in June. Read Book 1 now so you’re ready.