Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Excerpt from Elaina's Fate


What's this? Elaina's Fate has been out for two months and I haven't published an excerpt? Shame on me! I intend to remedy that right now. 

So here for your reading enjoyment are the first three pages of Elaina's Fate. 


Forgive them, Elaina. “ My younger sister Jodian curls her arm through mine as we stroll Bane’s packed dirt streets. It stinks of blood, grease, and manure piled upon filthy layers of fear and resentment. You can almost taste the bitterness. If Jodian notices, she ignores it as she does so many awful things. “They can’t help their jealousy.”

Emerald silk drapes from her ivory shoulders, complimenting her shining brown curls, her jade and gold eyes. As per antiquated Bane custom, her dress length brushes her ankles.

I pale against her beauty. I’m all sinews and straw hair. Where her dress emphasizes her looks, my skirts of midnight blue wash me out. My muscles strain at my sleeves in an embarrassingly masculine way, but I’m skinny everywhere else. My mouth is too small and grim, and my eyes are dull as Bane’s cloudy skies. I always resemble a scarecrow. Today I feel like a lampshade.

I don’t envy her loveliness. My sister is a treasure, and I won’t deny her perfection. Not today, not any day.

I know,” But the villager’s derision often gets under my cowl. My work as the Master’s Assassin not only ensures the safety of my family, but theirs as well. Yet I am greeted with suspicion and disparaging glares. I can’t help my anger. “But it’s your birthday. Can’t they keep their dirty looks to themselves for once?”

Jodian shrugs. “They don’t know you as we do.”

True. They don’t know anything about me.

My name is Elaina. I spy and kill for Master Issac Smith. Bastard that he is, he’s kept my family sheltered and fed for the seven years I have been in his service. Of course it came with a price. Everything in the world of Phaeton comes with a price, but especially in the village of Bane.

Mind your souls and pray to the Energy you don’t end up here. This is where the Energy, the so-called ‘God’ puts spirits It can’t control, save, or rehabilitate. This is where the truly wicked find themselves. We are the fallen, and this is Hell.

We should get manicures.” Jodian tosses her hair and smiles hard at the old woman who spits at my feet.

If that is what you want.” I glare at the shrivelled bitch. She had the nerve to glare back. Perhaps she has forgotten fear in her age-addled brain. Perhaps I should re-educate her.

Absolutely. I mean look at your hands.” Jodian emphasizes her point by bringing my clenched fist up to her critical eye.

My hands are scarred, dry and ugly to behold, and they always look dirty. Vanities such as manicures are not for the likes of me. Still, I let her drag me into Maxine’s. It’s her day, after all.

Jodian chooses pink nail polish, as I knew she would. I choose a flat black. It will blend better with—

Really, Elaina?” My sister scowls at my practicality. “Why would you pick something so dull? Does everything you wear involve some kind of camouflage?”

Fine,” I roll my eyes. “You choose then.”

I shouldn’t have said that. I watch, uneasy as her index finger dwells over pinks, purples and reds. All the prissy colours.

This one.” I breathe a sigh of relief. Metallic Electric Blue is better than Grape Bubblegum whatever-the-hell she likes. “It matches your dress.”

When we arrange our skirts and sit in the leather chairs, I can’t help but hear the conversations going on in the back as my sister settles in beside me. They’re arguing about who will work on my nails.

You’re the newest.”

You do her. It’s your shop....” The whispers are harsh.

No one wants to serve me. It’s not as though I’m going to stab everyone if I’m not satisfied with my manicure. What would be the point of that?

Maybe it’s because your hands are such a mess.” Jodian says. She’s trying to be playful, but the arm rest squeaks in her grip.

I stare at the black and white tiled floor, biting my lip, peeling chapped skin away with my teeth until I taste blood. “Maybe I should just kill them for being rude.” I’m not sure I’m joking.

Sudden silence. They hear us as well. The staff meeting ends, and Maxine herself shoves a young woman toward me, which earns the owner a look of such hatred I’m guessing I won’t be the one spilling blood. I’ll probably know by next week. Death is commonplace here.

For all her animosity toward Maxine, the woman attending me is nervous. She pushes my cuticles back with extra care, and trembles as she applies the polish. Sigh. Fear is tedious. There is no conversation, no sound but the occasional drip from the faucets.

In my day, in a different incarnation on Earth, in a country named Canada, we had no such thing as ‘manicures’. Nothing but trees and foliage. Naught but hard labour and harder men. My fingernails were cracked and bleeding from lye, splinters and other work related wounds. I didn’t leave the splendour of France only to become an unwilling slave to a dense husband in a frigid forest.

My marriages were short. My punishment is eternal. Such is the blessing of The Energy.

I’m so often alone; I have ample time to ponder my existence on the world of Phaeton. Everyone does, I imagine. Every time we are reborn, we are reminded why we are here, and that there will be no escape. Yet another gift from The Energy. The memories, the dreams.

Jodian knows the horrors she has done. She still speaks with an accent sometimes. Her voice is soft, but her words are abrupt and peppered with buzzing sounds. Your handz are zuch a mess. She was a German, and tells me that there was a great war, but speaks rarely of it because she is ashamed. I can’t imagine her being cruel, but she assures me she was.

A man bursts through the door, nearly slamming it off the hinges in his hurry, and everyone startles.

He narrows his eyes at the blubbering Maxine, her eyes are wide and bloodshot with terror. She recognizes one who wears the armor of the Elite Guard. He wears the silhouette of a howling wolf’s head on his breastplate and oversized shoulder pads painted blood red. His hand tightens on his sword.

Elaina,” he demands, no need for pleasantries. “She is here?”

I hope you enjoy it. I will remember to publish another excerpt soon. 

Friday, March 4, 2022

When a Cat Learns to Love You.


It's been about a year and two months since Grendel became a permanent member of our family. A year and two months since we brought Grendel inside and got his broken leg fixed.  No regrets. 

He's a sweet. happy and loud boy. I don't mind when he yells at both two and five o'clock in the morning. Okay--I mind a little bit, but it sure beats staying up late worrying and keeping an ear open for him at the door. 

Freya used to hiss at him. He was always following her around, getting in her space. 

He bonded with Dan immediately, shouting for his attention and jumping on his desk. He would boop Dan's hands while he pet him, and Dan would call him Sweetie-Doodle and tell Grendel how happy he was that he was here. 

It was me Grendel wasn't quite sure of. He liked me well enough, but I hadn't earned his trust yet. I always seemed to startle him. I'd let him sniff my hand, and sometimes he would tolerate my petting. Sometimes I'd get a kiss. Sometimes he would back away from my touch. Dan was his rescuer and I was the human that lived with his rescuer. 

I tried to give him space, tried not to be too handsy. According to Jackson Galaxy, trust equals love to a cat, and trust takes time. I did my best to learn what Grendel needed. When he sat at the window, I opened it for him so he could smell outside. When he cried and paced at two in the morning, I learned that a small snack would calm him down. If he ran around the house trilling, it meant he was bored and he wanted to play, so we learned what he liked to play with. 

His favorite toys are the green ball that dispenses crunchy treats if he rolls it right. He loves to stalk and pounce on Mr. Bug, a pink spider on a string. Dan puts the string under his shoe and drags it around the kitchen table.

I have a close friend who trapped three feral cats from her garage eight years ago. She brought them in because she was sure they'd never survive the dropping temperatures. She told me it took years to earn their trust.  They are Mama, (RIP)  Baby and Lookie. Mama eventually became a friendly cat to other humans, but Lookie still hides from company and I can count on one hand how many times I've seen Baby. 

My friend told me some cats never warm up to humans, and maybe Grendel might not accept me. I was okay with that. I knew he got along well with Dan--they make each other so happy-- and now that she feels better, Freya has started playing Chase with him. That might just have to be enough and that was okay. I love him anyway.

But something happened yesterday. It was like a flipped switch. Grendel jumped up on my desk and chirped at me and looked me in the eye. That was a surprise. He never jumps on my desk, only Dan's. I said, "Hello, Sweet Boy."  I extended my hand to him and he rubbed his face all over my fingers. I pet his nose and head and he leaned into it hard.  He let me cradle his face in the palm of my hand. I tried not to get too excited. 

But this was a new day. I opened a window for him and together we looked out at Squirrel and Bird TV.  When I looked over at him, he leaned in and booped me. I was so delighted, I kissed his nose. I worried that I may have offended him, but he didn't seem to mind. I decided not to push my luck and let him be. 

Later that night, Dan and I were sitting on the couch. Grendel jumped into Dan's lap and asked for love. It's not the first time he's jumped into Dan's lap, but it's the first time he's done it while I was sitting there too. Dan stroked his ears and I reached out and hoped my affection would be accepted. Grendel responded by purring louder than I've ever heard him and nuzzling into both of our hands. 

I'm writing this because I need to tell you, in that moment it felt like our family was whole again. For the first time since we lost Spartacus, I felt like our little family was complete and at peace.  I was hoping Grendel would eventually love me, and now I believe that he does. 

When he grew tired of Cuddletime, he crawled up on Freya's towel and fell asleep next to her, and I snapped that picture. I think he understands now that he truly belongs here and he knows how much he is loved by all of us. 

The world has become a comic book, but I have a corner of happiness.  It's a fantastic feeling that I thought I'd share. The world feels just a little brighter, just because I've earned the love of a cat.