Category Archives: On Writing

A Resolution, Not a Resignation

Dear Readers,

It doesn’t seem all that long ago that I started this blog. Doing so, for me, was a logical step in seriously launching my journey—or perhaps I should say relaunching a journey I’d started long ago, but strayed from over the years. Whatever the case, my intention at the time was clear:

Follow my dreams,

Follow my heart,

And most importantly—

Follow the stories that filled my mind and soul.

And so I did.

Along the way, I discovered things about myself and the way I write. I learned things about the craft through incredible posts made by other writers. And perhaps the most dear to me, I met dozens of amazing people on a similar journey, sharing their hearts and souls as they blogged, commented, and became part of a wonderful cheering squad that we as writers must strive, always, to be for one another.

In the last few months, I’ve stuck closely to my intentions. I’ve been writing like a fiend behind the scenes, often waking from a trance at the end of the week and realizing I’d somehow managed 15-20 hours alongside my teaching hours. I explored new venues and tried new things, putting my pieces out into the world and discovering exactly how deep this passion to write burned within me. I whittled down my blogging because I wanted to focus, and in doing so found more time to write, more ideas to run with, and more exciting things ahead.

And so, over the last couple months, I’ve been toying with a notion I wanted to avoid, but one that I’ve come to recognize as a necessity if I want to truly follow my heart and run with my creative burst: the time to step back from my blog as I navigate the full landscape of my writing dreams. The decision to step away has been a difficult one—and that’s because of you. My connections here have been so satisfying, and I’ve found so many thoughtful, supportive, and intelligent people through this blog that letting it go seemed liked the craziest choice of all…until I dove back into my writing and realized where my heart was, and where I needed to be.

Since I’ve always been one to avoid saying goodbye, and since I also don’t intend to disappear from here forever, I’m opting not to call this a resignation from blogging. Instead, I’m calling it a resolution—a resolution to continue exploring my writing journey, and to continue spending as much time as I can focused on the craft and where it leads me.

I will still be around. I’ll still be reading blogs, and replying to comments for anyone who happens to mosey on over my old posts. I’ll still be reachable by email (evariederauthor at gmail dot com) and through my contact form. You can also find me on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter (though I’m pretty quiet on the latter). Finally, you can connect with me on Goodreads, where I’ll still leave short reviews for the books I read.

I’m excited about putting my full focus into creating right now, and in doing so, fully committing to my original intentions. And while I’m gone, I hope that you, dear readers and writer pals, are doing the same! Always remember to follow your passion, your heart, and your dreams, and most importantly…

…live your fantasy!

Best wishes to all,

Eva

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Tech Tools for Writers—A Help or a Hinderance?

Not all that long ago, writers practiced their craft with exactly one piece of technology: the typewriter. It was a heavy, bulky thing, eventually moving from the mechanical world into the electronic one, and then morphing into something more portable. Later, it became a computer, which nowadays is standard writer fare. Most of us can’t imagine a world where we can’t tote around a laptop—while others have become so savvy with smaller, more portable devices, such as the ipad and cell phone, that even a laptop sounds like old news. (This post was brought to you in part by the WordPress app of my iphone, after all—not my favorite mode, but handy on the go.)

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Old School

Yes, the times, they are a-changin’, making a plethora of technological advancements available to help your writing along. Programs like Scrivener provide entire writing “studios,” enabling authors to organize, research, structure, and format (among other features) far beyond the writing itself. The Dragon series of software allows dictation into a headset or remote microphone for easy transcription. Various editing programs both for purchase and on the internet (like Smart-Edit) help authors fine-tune prose, whether through spelling and grammar checks, or more complex functions such as flagging overused phrases or clichés, or counting specific word usages. These are just a few of the many computer-based assists available to writers.

Then, of course, we have a bounty of social media outlets to connect with readers and other writers—Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Goodreads, LinkedIn, Tumblr, G+, etc—all methods the writers of yore most certainly never imagined. Truly, there are options, options, and even more options, some of them helping authors to overcome hurdles that might have originally kept them from the craft, or advancing in it.

So I suppose this begs the question—are all of these tech tools necessary? I myself am a bit old-fashioned when it comes to software. I operate on a Mac, starting long ago on PageMaker (the blame goes to my mother on this, since she was in advertising and it fit the house requirements), then switching to InDesign. Eventually I caved into Word because it was simpler, but since I’m fairly stubborn I used Open Office…until I started having all sorts of formatting conflicts. Now, it’s Word. Just Word. Sure, I use social media programs, and occasionally run a Smart-Edit when I can be bothered to open up my old netbook since the software only runs on PCs. I also picked up Dragon Dictate for a while, but I haven’t gotten much into it. For the most part, I’m an old school student of the new school—new school being A.T.: the After Typewriter era—which leaves me armed with just my computer and Word. Heck, I’ve even been so tech-boring as to bust out a pen and paper when I have an idea at work, and then scrawl two to three pages by painfully slow longhand to type up later!

Technology is grand. Technology is the future. Right? But writing is writing. Whatever it takes to get you writing is good, whether it be gadgets or mind-blowing software or even the rattle of a little radio in the background. I’m not sure where all this tech will lead, but I often wonder if for some it’s an advancement, or a hinderance.

What about you—what are the tech tools you use for your writing? Do you find that they help, or hinder you? If you don’t use anything “fancy,” do you wish you did?

Please share your thoughts below, I’d love to know!

And for now, it’s time to sign off [another piece of tech: WordPress]. Until next time…

Happy writing!

 


Don’t Bother Me, I’m Writing

I’m sure we all remember those ridiculous Carl’s Jr. ads—the ones with the beautiful woman biting into a burger and spilling ketchup all over herself to the voice over of “Don’t bother me, I’m eating.” Well, for some reason, every time I saw these ads, I warped the images and started making a joke of it. I’m sure I’m not the only one, but for me it seems to have stuck in one clear way…

That is, lately—and of course internally—I’m often catching myself saying, “Don’t bother me, I’m writing.” And in my image, instead of an inappropriately dressed woman, it’s little ole me, and instead of ketchup, it’s an ink pen blowing up everywhere because I’m scribbling away like a possessed, writing maniac.

You see, that’s what I’ve been doing: writing. Writing a lot. Writing like a focused machine. Writing so much I’m finishing my writing sessions like I’ve been in a coma-like trance, because I’ve ignored the house phone, used the nifty “do not disturb” feature of my iphone, and barely remembered to eat. In fact, I’ve even had to set alarms to stop so that I didn’t just write on through my meals, or my workouts, or my personal favorite, my cues to leave for work. (Yikes!)

This writing mania was fueled by a special schedule last week to accommodate our state standardized tests, because, thanks to the level of students I was testing, I got to go in late to work on two different days (yeah!). And then of course, there was the weekend I left fairly open to focus on writing. But really, it didn’t matter what else was going on. I just kept writing. And writing.

And writing some more.

It’s felt amazing. I’ve been creating like mad, and I’ve also been extremely happy. Rejuvenated. Content. Alive. And it wasn’t until last night that I pulled my head out of the sand and said, “Oh my goodness. I nearly forgot my blog again. Sheesh. But don’t bother me, I’m…”

You get the picture. 🙂

Anyway, I just wanted to make sure to post, and to share that I had an exhilarating last week jam-packed full of writing. Which made me realize, all over again, how very much I love this thing we do.

So to all my fellow authors—keep writing.

And to all my fellow readers—keep reading.

And to everyone—never stop being inspired.

See you in a couple weeks, folks! And for now…

Don’t bother me, I’m writing. 😉


Life…The Hamster Wheel

I consider myself a runner. I think this because I conquer a few miles three days a week for both fun and fitness. For me, it’s a time to enjoy being active, to breathe fresh air, and to meditate while burning off calories. It’s also a great time to come up with story ideas. Bonus!

However, while my usual run is along a winding trail, my life is more akin to running on a hamster wheel. Kind of like this.

Today, for example, I opted to cram in a run after cleaning my house, then went straight to the store to buy the fixings to make 15 bean turkey chili for my step-dad’s birthday tomorrow. It’s a simple recipe, but one I’m excited to make for him. However, the beans needed to soak overnight, which is why I thought I’d hit the store now.

Except Safeway didn’t have any bags of 15 bean soup mix. Odd.

I grabbed some other things, then ran over to Trader Joe’s. There I picked up other items for my house and the chili, and went hunting for their 17 bean barley soup mix.

“We don’t carry that anymore,” the grocery attendant said.

Um, what?

So then I ran over to Lucky’s, which fortunately had bean soup mix. Only two bags—no more, no less—which thankfully was all that I needed.

While still pondering the absence of beans in the world (I mean, it’s a bag of beans, one of the oldest staples known to man), I got home, unloaded my groceries, and looked at the clock. The following is where my brain went:

8 p.m. Way overdue for my blog post. Dinner is not made. Groceries are scattered in bags on the floor. Must soak beans. Cats need to be fed. Dear gawd, I still haven’t showered since my run. Yuck. Um, wait, did I ever move that laundry over?

And then:

Oh crap. I forgot the ground turkey!

All of this, a typical evening in the life of me, and not surprisingly, most people.

So tonight I wanted to take a minute to honor those who run this hamster wheel called life, somehow managing to swing it all while still writing. I heard some statistic that 90% of writers have day jobs, and while I’m running over here on my wheel, doing the usual wake-up/feed cats/cook/write/work/run/grade/write/cook/consider doing dishes/throw hands up in air/feed cats again/ponder the existence of people who actually sleep enough/pass out/repeat, I have to wonder how we all do it. And often when I think this, I am baffled at the realization that I don’t even have kids and I’m still running on this hamster wheel trying to get it all done. Kudos to those of you who balance work, writing, and a family—like you, Jessica Vealitzek, and Rebecca Lane Beittel, and a dozen other people. It’s mind-boggling, and sort of amazing, really.

But it forms an interesting question: how do we do it? Specifically—

How do you find the balance? How do you “fit” the multiple life and writing goals you have into your day without falling off the hamster wheel?

I’m sure I’m not the only one to wonder such a thing, so please share your thoughts below!

As for me, I feel like I’m still working on that balance. Always running, always spinning, always…

Oh dear. It appears I just burned a pan cooking dinner (and blogging at the same time).

*Sigh.*


Excuses, Excuses…and a Different Approach

Hello again, readers!

The last two weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind, and I admit, a lot different than expected.

As you may recall, I had big plans to start my next book in February, the goal being a first draft by mid-April and in turn, a daily devotion to my protagonist’s cause. This plan started off beautifully—on February 1st, I began drafting!

And then stuff happened.

I had a cat come down with pneumonia, which was better than the original diagnosis, mind you—immediate heart failure—which then led to adverse reactions to antibiotics and twice-weekly vet visits. Meanwhile, work grew unusually stressful, my sleep patterns got seriously whacked (read: 5 hours was a good night), and somewhere in there, I irritated a nerve in my elbow. Yes, she-of-random-and-bizarre-ailments had actually leaned on her elbow enough numb out her hand for two to four hours at a time…so I write this post to you accompanied by my beautiful and temporary new friend, a splint. Yay!

But you know how it goes—one must write to be a writer! So I kept trying to write. I really did. I put in 3,000 words in two days as the mess started. I wrote a blog post aligned with Valentine’s Day. I sat in front of this computer almost every morning at the ridiculous 4:45 time I wake up to do this mad thing we do, but I was coma writing—and not the good kind of coma writing, where one is just writing in a creative trance. Nope, this was pure and simple coma writing, lacking quality, form, and inspiration of any kind.

But I sat there. I typed. I stared at the wall. I typed. I stared again. I sighed a lot (more than one really should). Somewhere in there I thought about a couple anthologies I’d planned all along to write for and submit to “on the side” while I wrote my book—and I realized at that moment, I was really excited to write these short stories that kept popping into my head. Maybe with my rollercoaster real life already clogging up my brain, and my Glamour horoscope validating my concerns by telling me to do a great job on one thing instead of a shoddy job on several, I had to attack this a little differently.

So, I closed up the file for my charming protagonist, Simone, and opened a couple new ones for the short stories. In just a few days, I wrote them. Fast. Thoughtfully. Fairly darn cleanly, I might add. And I smiled the whole time!

Then I got on a plane—leaving my almost-out-of-the-woods cat with a capable and caring cat sitter friend—and went to visit my parents in southern Nevada. It turned out to be an incredibly relaxing trip. We walked, talked, and played cards while yelling at the Jodi Arias trial on tv. It was perfect! There was also a lot of good food, coffee, and rum and cokes, courtesy of my master chef and perfect latte-making dad. 🙂

These extremely therapeutic days dropped me at home four days later, ready to edit the shorts (which I did) and prepare them to submit (which I am). So what does this mean?

Well, March 1st is Friday, so it seems like a good time to go back and focus on that novel I intended to write. It might be a month later than planned, but now that my table’s really clear, I think it will play out much smoother in the long run. Phew!

As my Cascade Conference mentor, Ken Scholes, once said, you have to “prioritize your anxieties.” I’m pretty sure he got that from his mentor, Patrick Swenson.

No matter who said them—they seem like smart words to keep passing along, if you ask me!

🙂

Happpy writing, everyone!


Whole Lotta Love (in Books)

It’s nearly Valentine’s Day, a holiday that tends to divide most of the population. Those who love it do so either because they enjoy the romantic elements, or because they are madly in love and appreciate a reason to celebrate that feeling. Others hate it, for reasons as diverse as single-dom to the commercialization of love. I myself always fall with one foot in either camp—while I tend to be fairly evasive when it comes to relationships, I’m also a giant mushball when I’m actually in one.800px-Antonio_Canova-Cupid's_Kiss-3-Hermitage

So, in the spirit of all things loving, romantic, heart-filled, and Valentine’s-oriented, I figured today’s post should address love. Specifically, love in one’s novel.

Once upon a time, I thought I wanted to be a romantic fantasy writer. That is, I wrote Kyresa, a romantic fantasy novel. I’m quite proud of that little baby, and still aim to find her a home, but in the time since finishing the book I’ve stumbled upon some darker roots. This could be a combination of bad love memories, or maybe just an imagination that lends itself to sinister undertones, but dark speculative fiction is the direction of my next novel.

And yet to my surprise, as I set about outlining early last week, I discovered…my story had an embedded romantic plot line! At first, it felt counterintuitive, but the more I thought about it, the more I figured most everyone experiences love, is in love, or wants to be in love, thus making it a natural element for even the least likely of tales. In fact, when I got right down to it, I realized that most of my favorite books included a romantic plot or subplot: The Black Jewels Trilogy, Jane Eyre, The Robber Bride, and The Demon Lover, for example, all have romance weaved into the tale (or as the main tale). The little anti-romantic in me took a pause after that discovery and screamed, “But I like my stories really dark!” Yes, indeed, they can still be dark, but even the deadliest of creatures needs love! 🙂

The element of romance in one’s novel is of course dependent one how big a role it will play in the tale. Is the relationship already established, with the two characters bonded and holding strong together as they face the real essence of the plot? Or, will they meet in the course of the tale, taking the reader along the romantic journey with them? More questions arise as you delve into fictional romantic elements—will their love be traditional or not? Will they fight their romance, or will they fall epically fast? Will their love carry through the whole novel or will the breakup happen in the tale? And of course there comes the big authorial decision (heck, the big romantic life decision)—should they have sex?

While I knew before ever starting to write Kyresa that the romance would begin with a meeting and transform into a full-blown, serious relationship, I’m not as certain where the love story in my current book will lead. Will there be a meeting? Yes. Will there be a love affair? Yes. Will there be sex? Uh, with a succubus as a main character, I’m pretty sure the answer to that is straightforward. Still, do I have any idea what will happen in the long-term? Not a clue. I guess at this stage in my writing, I like my romantic journey to be as mysterious as it is in real life!

So what about you? When you write, do you tend to include romantic plot lines or subplots? Do you have the entire relationship mapped out before you go, or do you sit back and let it unfold as you write?

For those of you who do tend to weave romance into your tales, I’d like to refer you to a lovely little post on romantic plots by writer and blogger Katherine Checkley. It’s an oldie but goodie, and I think worth a read here. Speaking of love—I’d like to thank Catrina Barton, since she kindly nominated me for two blogger awards, the Versatile Blogger and the Very Inspiring Blogger! I’ll try to address both in a future post, but for now, thanks so much, Catrina!

Don’t forget to share your thoughts on writing romance in the comments section below…and in the meantime, love, kisses, and romance to all—in your books and in real life. 🙂

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Preparing to Start Your Next Novel

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

For the last six months, I’ve sworn that I will be starting my next novel in February. In the meantime, I’ve been tackling oodles of projects, from writing short stories to submitting them, as well as continuing to send Kyresa to various appropriate markets and agents. I knew I wanted the “board clear” when I began writing my next book, so that I could wrap all my focus and determination around crafting my next piece. The truth is, the tale has been bubbling around a bit in my head for almost a year, but having had Kyresa go on for so long, and then having had a full length side project I wanted to tackle first, I needed some time to let it all simmer.

All the same, I’ve been so immersed in these shorter pieces for the last few months, I felt a variety of sensations upon discovering that February starts this Friday: a bit of terror, a lot of anticipation, and overall, a genuine sense of excitement. Fortunately and by fluke coincidence, I’m going to end up with a large chunk of time to write on Thursday, which in turn gives me the opportunity to close up shop on the shorts until I resurface from the first draft of my dark fantasy novel. This means I can wake up Friday to my blaring 4:45 alarm and dive right into it, without any hold ups of what if or but I didn’t or oh I meant to…. Pretty convenient timing, if you ask me. Phew!

So how do I prepare to start my next novel? It’s a great question, with many answers depending on the writer you ask. For me, preparation meant finishing other projects that would eat at me if they weren’t complete. It meant reviewing the [extremely incomplete] rough outline I wrote a year ago about my plans for the book. It also meant bolting upright after a dream at 3 a.m. one night in late December, running to the computer, and frantically typing the first two paragraphs as my protagonist said them to me in my sleep. (Yes, this really happened.)

But I imagine that on Friday, when I sit down to start, I’ll actually be doing much more prep work. Kyresa was less about outlining for me; this was instead something I did after the fact, a way to organize my thoughts and figure out the point of each chapter and where I could move things around. For my next, as-of-yet untitled work, I intend to have a little more of a plan before I launch. I prefer to not know the end when I start, but to at least know a few bumps along the road. If I were to sketch out my narrative arc this Friday, it would probably look like a rocket shooting straight into the sky, waiting for a reason to come back down—and that’s okay with me, for now. While I’ll need to flesh out some more key events, I’ll also write some character sketches to get myself pumped up, and bookmark various informational websites that I’ll need to reference along the way (note: I’ve been fascinated with Russian names, lately, so this will indeed come into play).

In short, if you asked me what I do to prepare for my next novel, I suppose my answer would be, “Type up some quick notes, cross my fingers, hope for the best, and then turn into a shut-in and let it all flow!” 🙂

But what about you?

How do you prepare to start a novel? Do you start on a lam, or do you plan out extensively before you launch, using research, characters sketches, and detailed outlines? What gets you motivated and ready to GO?

Please share your thoughts below!


Where Am I Going, Where Have I Been?

Hello again, Readers!

It’s been a long time away, and I have so many things to share with you! For starters, yes, that title is a reference to the masterful Joyce Carol Oates and her beautiful work, “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” Has my time away been like 15-year-old Connie’s journey in the story? Golly, no. But it has been a time of discovery in all things writing, and since Joyce Carol Oates’s talent is incredibly admirable to me, I would say that my time away has inspired me to dive headlong into my writing. (And if you are unfamiliar with Ms. Oates, check her out!)

So, what have I been doing for the last six weeks while I broke away from this blog?

TONS.

Here’s a quick list. I…

  • Finished editing a novel-length side project
  • Edited three short stories
  • Researched markets for six short stories and submitted three others
  • Cleaned up my website
  • Started tinkering with ideas for the novel I’ll be starting in February
  • Received super exciting news about a short story I wrote (the official news comes out in May/June; I’m leaving you hanging, sorry!)
  • Read oodles of stories and books, and I mean oodles—a book of short stories, a few stand-alone shorts, a literary novel, an amazing dark fantasy novel, and two YA novels, all of which were great examples of solid writing (which in turn makes me a better writer), and
  • Researched and read a lot of blog articles about fiction authors maintaining blogs, such as these three thoughtful posts by Joel Friedlander, Rachelle Gardner, and Jody Hedlund.

This last bullet point actually led me to some deep thinking about the whole blogging process. I’ve missed posting regularly, but mostly I’ve missed you, my readers! On the other hand, I found in the last six weeks that I was not only less stressed, but I was extraordinarily productive with all my writing plans. When my alarm blared at 4:45 so that I could squeeze my 30 to 45 minutes of writing in before work, I was actually less likely to sleep through it, chuck it across the room, or even allow Sienna Cat to fight with it and bat it off the nightstand (she’s apparently not into the noise). I also found myself coming home more excited to tack on more time, often spending at least an hour, if not two, on something writerly before I fell into a deep, idea-rich slumber.

Another thing I noticed was that, while I’m enjoying reading the blogs that I follow, a lot of posts reflect similar information. That is, an idea, or topic, gets addressed by many of us at some point, often in a short window of time. Most of the time it’s not intentional, but all of the time, it’s inevitable—take for example the three articles I read in a six-week window on authors blogging, and if you google the topic, you’ll find many more. The good news is that this provides interesting perspective and commentary from each author, but the bad is that the whole point of blogging, or one’s “platform,” is to showcase something special and uniquely you.

This put me at a bit of a crossroads. The creative boon is the key piece—I am, after all, a writer, and the only way to be a writer (and eventually get published) is to be a writer and write—and the burst I’ve had in the last six weeks has been amazing. I do enjoy blogging, but for different reasons—namely, connecting with and hearing comments and thoughts from you, my readers. Clearly, some sort of compromise was in order. Would I quit blogging forever? Ha. NO. Would I give up all the writing creativity? Double ha. HECK NO. But…

What I need to do is write.

Frequently.

Constantly.

Repeatedly.

That said, I’ve decided to scale back my blogging a bit. From here forward, I’ll be posting the second and fourth Wednesday of every month. I hope in this way I will (a) still be able to connect with you, providing fresh, informative posts, and (b) be able to continue working on my writing at the productive pace I’ve experienced since the beginning of December. It was a tough decision, I’m not going to lie, but a necessary one.

Knowing that many of my readers are also writers, I’m curious what all of you think about the burning to write or blog question.

Do you find blogging takes away from your writing? Do you love blogging so much/enough that it doesn’t matter? And also, why do you blog?

Please share your thoughts below, I’d love to know!


Break Time

Hello Readers!

After some lengthy deliberation, I’ve decided I need to take a temporary break from this blog. It was a tough choice—I love everything about blogging, including hearing the wonderful thoughts you all have to share—but it’s also a necessary one. Between work and home I’m running around like a maniac, and I’m simply not getting enough creative writing in. This year has been all about me rediscovering my passion for writing, and while I’ve made huge progress, I want to spend the rest of the year making more significant strides toward crafting a body of work.

I plan to return at some point in January with an update and a potential new blogging schedule. I’ll still be accessible on Facebook and Twitter (though I’ve been a terrible tweeter these last few months—bad bird!—but this will change), so please feel free to find me on any of these networks: my Facebook page, my regular Facebook, or on Twitter. You can also sign up for my newsletter by sending an email to EvaRieder-subscribe@yahoogroups.com.

If you’d like to know more of what I’m writing, please check out my Flash Fiction Works. I’m working on longer pieces currently, but these should give you a feel for what I’m up to while I’m away.

In the meantime, I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season. May the end of 2012 bring you much happiness, and the start of 2013 bring hope for more to come!

Best wishes,
Eva


Third Thursday Flash Edition Six: “Tribe”

It’s time for the sixth edition of Third Thursday Flash!

Every three weeks, I craft a 500 to 1,000 word flash piece with a theme suggested by my fantastic blog readers. This week’s theme is based on a few sentences a reader sent in to me. Something about them hooked me, and they were: “I’d run into the forest to collect my thoughts. What he’d told me was shocking, unimaginable. Finally still, in the midst of the forest, streaming filters of light scintillating through the dense canopy above me, I began to break it all down. Except, I realized, I was not alone.” So, using those sentences from anonymous reader (thank you!), here’s…

Tribe

I ran into the forest to collect my thoughts.

What he’d told me was shocking, unimaginable—and in the midst of the forest, streaming filters of light scintillating through the dense canopy above me, I began to break it all down.

Permanent.

Survival.

Contagious.

He’s sorry?

My knees buckled beneath me. I collapsed to the earthen floor, digging my fingertips into the soil and burying them like the weight that crushed my lungs and pushed the air from my chest in slow, shallow breaths.

I stared up into the trees, the tears escaping from behind my eyelids and streaming down my cheeks. The green above blocked the sky. It rustled with the wind and blew away all I’d known as I tried to understand the truth he’d whispered into my ear.

Except, I realized, I was not alone.

From the wall of trees around me, their faces emerged. One after another, all of them covered in the same pattern he’d shown me in secret, the swirling designs that spread over their skin as they arrived into this world and before they left for the next.

“Alison.”

His voice came from behind me and I shuffled to face him, the last of those who watched from the trees.

Run.

I couldn’t.

He reached out his hands, turning his palms up in a show of apology. “You know I didn’t mean to.”

“You did,” I whispered. I pressed my forehead against the ground, sobbing as he stepped behind me. The others buried me in their stares while he rested his hands on my back. His touch came hotter than I’d ever felt from him, in all those months together…

“Maybe I did.”

“Why?” I snapped my head up. His eyes, like those from the trees behind him, were the only ones that would ever understand what had happened to me.

What he did to me.

“Because I love you, and I don’t want to be alone anymore,” he said. He grabbed my elbows and stood me up, propping me against the warmth of his chest. “Neither do you.”

“You aren’t alone,” I said. I pointed at the trees. “You have all of them.”

He shook his head. “They’re not real, Alison. Ancestors. They’re only a whisper now.”

“Which we’ll be too!” I tried to tug myself away but he held firm. “You could have offered me the choice.” I squeezed my eyes shut.

“It will be a lifetime until we’re like them—and I did offer you the choice.”

His words echoed, filling the space around us and ringing in my ears. Had I said yes? Every hint, every conversation, every time I told him I couldn’t stand the world around me and I marveled at his life, and what he was. Every time I told him this world had nothing for me.

“I did,” he repeated. “Many times. And you said you wanted it to be different. You wanted to feel something different.”

I froze. A tingle spread across my skin, starting cold and turning hot, like a gentle lapping of bath water against my arms and legs. He saw it in my face and nodded before I looked down.

“You’ll be happier, Alison. I promise. We’ll be together, not living in two separate worlds anymore…”

My skin changed then, lines of brown and red etching themselves starting at my elbow. The trails ran like veins up and down my arms, swirling into patterns like the ones on his ancestors. He took my hands and stretched out my arms, smiling as the colors spread against my tanned skin. A similar etch traced his own arms.

“We can be together if you really want this, Alison.” He ran his finger along my cheek. “And if you don’t want it, there’s only one way to stop it. But you have to do it now.”

He drew a knife from his pocket, aiming the tip at his chest and nodding at me. His eyes shined as bright as the day we met, and his cheeks flushed the rose tint they always did just before he said the words.

“I love you,” he said, “and I did it for you. Choose to be with me, like this, or…”

The pattern spread to my hands. Beneath my clothes, I felt it spilling further across my flesh, changing me into a mirror image of what he was. I stared at the intricate lines along his arms and face as he began to pull away, to dissolve. Behind him, the ancestors disappeared into the trees, camouflaged, airy beings that no one of this world would ever see.

Except me?

My body began floating, leaving with him—two creatures who would never fit here.

“Alison?” He held the knife out.

I grabbed the handle. The smile in his eyes changed to fear.

Then it washed away.

“Go ahead,” he said. “Whatever you wish. I love you, and I respect your choice.”

The warmth stretched across my stomach and down my legs, and as I peered at my arms they began to match my surroundings, camouflaging me as I became one with the air. The sunlight breaking through the trees shimmered over us, lightening that which became so much harder to see.

I tossed the knife to the forest floor.

“I love you,” I said.

And then we vanished.

***

Thanks for reading the sixth edition of Third Thursday Flash!

 


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