30 November 2011

Dirt Biking

This Thanksgiving my husband and I spent the weekend in St. George. I have been to Southern Utah dozens of times but St. George only a few times. We were a little nervous about what was going to happen but everything turned out spectacularly. We got along really well with all of the family, played games, ate really good food, watched movies, read, and I worked on my NaNoWriMo novel, not as much as I planned but enough. One of the best times we had was we went dirt biking.

I have never ridden a dirt bike before. In fact I have been four-wheeling but only about three times. I was excited and nervous. My dad owned a motorcycle and I have some fun mental images of his stories. I also have some not so fun mental images of the wrecks that I have heard about. I had no intention of riding without as much protective gear as I could. Even though it was fairly warm I made sure to wear my canvas jacket and trousers. The uncle who owns the dirt bikes required that everyone wear the helmets, goggles, and gloves.

When we got started I was really nervous because it wasn't like the ground was flat or even. It was probably a good thing there wasn't a speedometer because in my mind I was actually cruising, 30 or 35, when I was probably only going 10. At one point I came up this hill and realized the other side had a drop off. I couldn't get back on the path and headed straight for this cliff. Granted it wasn't really a cliff, it was only two feet, maybe just a foot and a half. I panicked and probably hit the front brake and ended up on the ground with the bike on my leg. One of my legs has a gnarly bruise longer than my hand span while the other is pepper with smaller bruises. My husband panicked when he saw me go down. I injured my pride more but I could see how people get so injured when riding. I am grateful I wore my coat because otherwise I would have ended up leaving part of me behind. I hope I get to do that again.

28 November 2011

Dialog Tags

Sometimes we are worried that the tone of our character isn't getting across just right so we add a dialog tag to make sure our reader understands exactly how the character is talking. Or maybe we are tied of the he said she said all the time. I mean why is he grumbled such a bad thing. The problem is that dialog tags draw attention to itself, unless that word is said. For us as writers we often see said repeated and try and change it up, but in this instance it is better to keep them as said. I don't know how many times I have heard this at different conferences so it must be true. Avoid fancy dialog tags and just use said.

25 November 2011

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow

by Jessica Day George

Several years ago I stumbled across what I call the “Polar Bear Fairytale.” I read a version of it and then came across a video version of it. Since it is a Norwegian tale and not Hans Christian Andersen, or Grimm’s fairy tales it felt fresh to me and I had no idea what to expect from them. When I started reading other books by Jessica Day George, I found this beautiful retelling of what I now know is the “East of Sun, West of Moon” tale.

Since this story doesn’t have as many adaptations to it, I highly recommend reading it, if only to get a sense of another culture. This is my favorite rendition of the story for several reasons. It has a sense of depth to the lass showing her strength and determination but also fear at what is happening in her life. I also like the fact that through 95% of the story the main character is only called “lass” or “pika” which means lass and yet I still felt a connection to her. She is a character that I admire. The mother of this story is someone who I wanted to trash most of the time but once again, Jessica wrote it in such a way that I could understand, though not agree with, what she was doing and how see acted.

This is a great introduction to Norwegian fairytales. It has all the classic elements we’ve come to expect and yet still keeps us biting our nails at what is going to happen next. I recommend this book to anyone. The other distinct advantage is this book is stand alone, though I probably wouldn’t complain if she decided to write more in the same setting with other lesser known fairytales.

23 November 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Every year when Thanksgiving comes around I really do get to thinking about what I am thankful for. When other holidays come around I am thankful for more specific things but Thanksgiving gives me a chance to really pause and take a look at my life. There are a lot of reasons to be positive about life but I don't think about it as much as I should. It is a lot easier to focus on the negative things in our life.

When I was in school I often remember filling out the goal sheets. They had short term goals: "What would you like to accomplish in the next month?" and long term goals, "Where do you see yourself in ten years?" I hated those. I mean how was I suppose to know? I had a lot of dreams at the time, depending on how old I was they ranged from owning a pet dragon (would still be cool), to being a rock hound (officially a geologist), to an author (most often and still true).

I look at my life now and though I can't say that I ever wrote down exactly what my life currently is, I am thankful for it. I am happily married with plenty of hobbies and a loving family. Though I have yet to publish a novel, I have written more than I ever actually thought I would be able to accomplish and still find joy in writing. I love where I live and have seen more places than I dreamed of. I have a lot to be thankful for this year and I hope that I can remember that owning a pet dragon isn't everything. I mean, I live with a pooka and she keeps my life entertaining enough.

21 November 2011


There is a saying that it isn't what you know, but who you know. The same can be said for the business of writing. I hate to admit it, but many times it isn't someone's story getting sent into a slush pile that gets them published, it is the fact that they met with someone face to face and made a good impression. Granted, even after meeting someone face to face you still have to deal with a submission processes but it normally gets you to the front of the line. The big conferences always come to mind for example World Con and World Fantasy Con. What most people don't realize is that a lot of areas have smaller conferences available. For example where I live I can attend CONduit and LTUE.

Universities often have conferences as well as state run writing organizations. Granted, these conferences may not have all the big names, but they often attract the attention of editors and agents and many times you can meet them there. Conferences are also a great way to meet other authors and get advice on writing as well as the business of writing. If you do have to travel, get a group together to carpool and split a hotel room. This is a great way to cut down on costs and it is always nice to know you will have at least one other person you know there to sit next to or have dinner with.

20 November 2011

*A Hollywood Romance

Intro: I am behind on my NaNoWriMo so I am posting a revision of a story I wrote last year. Hopefully you can see an improvement and hopefully you still enjoy it.

Kirkpatrick turned off the television in disgust and threw the remote onto the couch next to him. Once again, Hollywood had taken a perfectly good monster and made it loveable. Werewolves, aliens, mutants, vampires, what was next? Two headed monsters with three arms? Nope. Never mind. That had been done too.

“If you’re bored why don’t you take a walk?” Gladys said leaning over the back of the couch and picking up the remote. She turned the television back on. “I’m going to finish the show.”

“You already know how it’s going to end.” Kirkpatrick said as he stood up and brushed at an impeccable shirt sleeve. “The tragic but amazing man will beat all possible odds against his own character and choose true love over nature.”

“But I can always hope,” she replied sitting in the recently vacated seat her eyes already glued to the flickering screen. They had been together for quite some time and he still didn’t get her.

He left the mansion and the blasted television. It was a misty evening and he could hear drops pattering against the dark leaves. Even though the house was located in the middle of the forest there were no animal noises of any kind. Just how he liked it.

The walk into town was uneventful. He would just stop in, take a quick bite and then head back home. At Main Street two women approached him. Though neither of them was completely sober, they could still walk in a fairly straight line and knew the alphabet.

“Hello, hot stuff,” one purred. “What are you up to tonight?”

He pursed his lips and regarded the women. The one who was more sober stared at him with wide eyes.

“Red eyes, white skin. What are you?” The bottle fell loosely from her hands a she scrambled away.

“Vampire?” The other one breathed, ignoring her friend’s hasty retreat. “Even hotter.”


Kirkpatrick waited for the next line which was always “But your hair is red.” He took great pride as a Scotsman. No one ever appreciated his ginger hair though because it wasn’t Hollywood.

“Will you please go on a date with me?” She clutched his arm tightly and looked up at him through her lashes. “Pluh-ease?”

No one had ever asked him out on a date before. He pulled out of her grasp and rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “A chance at true love?” He asked.

“It would be epic,” she replied. “I’m—Faith.”

“And I’m Charles,” he replied flatly. A quick look at her driver’s license would reveal her true name but he didn’t care enough to even try.

“What a grand name.” She latched onto his arm again and tried to pull him towards a building. Her efforts were futile.

He slowly walked towards the building and paused at the door as she threw it open. He remained where he was as she dashed in. After a moment she came back.

“Aren’t you coming?”

Blast Hollywood. They make real vampires seem so drab.

“I don’t really feel invited,” he replied.

“Of course you’re invited, silly. Come in and have a drink.”

After twenty minutes he thought about vanishing into the night. This wasn’t nearly as fun as he hoped it would be. His date kept switching vocabulary. Some words came straight out of an eighteenth-century romance novel, no, probably not the books but the Hollywood knockoffs. Other times she spoke the meaningless jabber with her friends that mimicked their own written abilities. It gave him a headache. Despite her pathetic ability to keep him entertained, he kept his outlook bright. It would be worth it, in the end.

For the next four hours she paraded him around the town inviting him in to all the local hangouts. She offered him drinks but he always politely declined and ushered her on to the next place when she looked like she was getting too friendly with the beverages. At his urging they visited some dozen buildings Kirkpatrick had never set foot in before. Though he reeked of alcohol and cheap perfume, he was in a good mood. He rubbed his teeth with his tongue gauging the girl as they walked down the sidewalk.

“Wow, it’s nearly four and I’m not smashed. That’s a first.” She pulled away from him for a moment and spun in a circle on the sidewalk looking up at the few twinkling stars.

“Faith,” Kirkpatrick called. She didn’t respond. “Faith.”

“What? Who — oh. Yes,” she replied skipping back towards him.

“How about a walk in the park?”

“Will you protect me, Charles?” she asked, fluttering her eyelashes again.

“From all but the scariest of monsters,” he replied taking her arm and patting her hand.

They walked into the forest, away from the lights and noise of the city. He led her to a large tree and which stood at the edge of a still pond. Smoothly, with a smile playing across his lips, he pushed her back against the tree and could hear her heart beating rapidly.

“I owe you my thanks,” he said leaning closer, his cold breath in her ear.

“Why?” She nearly collapsed into him.

“Because you’ve invited me so many places I couldn’t go before.” His sharp teeth sunk into her soft neck. His mouth filled with the iron liquid, the only beverage he’d been craving all night. She struggled for a moment but it was simple to pin her back against the tree as he continued to feast.

“Let me go —” she faltered her eyes wide. Her life drained out.

Good, she was sober enough to realize what a fool she was. Her flesh flushed from the evenings activities now lay skeletal on the ground as he wiped his mouth. The night remained devoid of sounds as he smiled and crouched down next to her head.

“Was that epic enough?” He chuckled.

Her body made no splash as it slid into the pond. He whistled to himself as he strolled home still relishing the taste of her terror at his betrayal. The stars faded slowly in the sky, foretelling dawn.

Gladys looked up briefly as he sat down on the couch next to her. She’d put in another movie, but this one didn’t appear any different than the hundreds of others. It was late but in the basement, they didn’t have to worry about the sun reaching them.

“You know,” he said, moving closer to her. “Hollywood may not be completely daft.”

18 November 2011

The Weaving of a Dream

by Marilee Heyer

THE WEAVING OF A DREAM is a picture book that sticks with me for a variety of reasons. The first is that my paternal grandfather gave it to my family. The second is that the story line is one that still makes me slightly teary eyed (but that doesn't take much). The third reason is the artwork is some of the most beautiful I have ever seen. Marilee Heyer brings the world to life.

THE WEAVING OF A DREAM is based on a Chinese folk lore. The story is about a woman with three sons. She is the best weaver in the valley and between her tapestries and her sons' firewood they are able to make enough money to survive. One day when she is at the market she comes across a beautiful painting. She buys it and decides to make a tapestry on it. When the tapestry is complete it is blown out the door and is taken. The three sons must then decide whether to go after the tapestry or chose another path. When the youngest son is given the choice he shows true love and courage willing to risk everything to help his mother. And as with all of my favorite books his sacrifice is rewarded and things turn out wonderfully in the end.

I remember even as a child being entranced by the beautiful artwork. I knew the story and would just go through the pictures retelling the story to myself. When I got older I bought the book for myself just so I would be able to read it to my children. This is a picture book that I will always treasure. This book is one of the big reasons that I wished I could draw and paint so enrolled in an art class a couple of years ago.

16 November 2011

Book Bomb

I was trying to decide what to write this week when I thought about last week's book bomb. I like to consider myself a decent fan of the local Utah authors. The reason I got a Twitter account was because I wanted to follow them to learn about book signings and pretend to be cool because I read their Twitter conversations. There are times it is kind of sad to meet them in real life because I feel like I know them but they have no idea who I am. I just tell them that I am a fan and really enjoy what they do.

Last week, on Twitter, Larry Correia instigated a book bomb for Robison Wells who has had a run of extreme bad luck. The goal of a book bomb is to try and get a specified book as high as possible on the Amazon lists. It was really cool to follow the progress of VARIANT for the day. It did really well in both the top 100 and YA and was even #1 on the "Movers and Shakers" list. If all went well a lot of people were introduced to the book which will spawn a following and a dedicated readership.

There are times that I get caught up in how dark the world has gotten. I don't like reading the paper because it is the sad, disturbing, or malevolent stories that make the news. This book bomb reminds me of why these authors are my heroes. These authors are men and women who every time I meet them I admire them even more. They are good people who haven't been changed by their fame. These are the people who when they see a friend in need will do something about it. I didn't spend much on the book, which is actually going to be a birthday present from my husband, but it felt neat to be part of something that big. And hopefully not only will the money help, but there will be a larger effect because of the efforts everyone put in to promote the book.

14 November 2011

Showing Drafts

Once you finish writing it is always a huge temptation to start showing all of your hard work to everyone, not just your critique group. The only problem is it isn't the best idea to be waving around your draft of your novel. It isn't that you should be worried of people stealing your ideas. (I mean if someone who wants to write a novel can't come up with their own ideas then you probably don't have to worry. And truthfully I don't know anyone who would want to steal any ideas from me because I haven't proved that my ideas are actually worth anything.) It is that sometimes people don't understand the difference between a draft and a final product. If they are avid readers they may compare your draft to a final product that has gone through dozens of revisions and that can get discouraging. They may also try and give you advice on how you should change your novel including major plot lines and characters. Critique groups normally understand how much they should say when giving suggestions. Those who don't know you as well or your writing techniques may not understand what exactly you are looking for when you show them your draft.

13 November 2011

*Every Other Thursday

Intro: This month is NaNoWriMo so I didn't want to spend much time coming up with another story. I am already a day behind on my word count and couldn't justify writing a half day's worth on another story. So you get this story. I came up with the idea late one night of a planet who loses gravity on a regular basis for a specified period of time. I then realized that I didn't want to have a spiteful god who turned off gravity just for the heck of it, there needed to be a reason that gravity didn't exist. I then came up with the idea to have a space settlement with two orbiting moons that when the moons were in perfect alignment they overpowered the gravity generators. Now that my explanation is half the length of my story, I guess I should get back to NaNoWriMo.

Larry hurried to the next building listening to the warning bells. Two minutes until the moons aligned. He hated Thursdays. It didn't matter if it was an on- or off-week. When he got into the building he glanced around noticing the sign over the door. 'Capacity Level at 93%'. All of the stools, bolted to the floor like every other piece of furniture, were already taken and the majority of the wall space as well. He moved over to the wall fumbling with the straps. The countdown started.


"The buckle's broken," the man next to him said.

"Why didn't you tell me that earlier," Larry said almost snarling the words.


Larry looked around. One free buckle left but someone was already running towards it. He glanced at the counter 'Capacity at 100%'

"You got to be freaking kidding me!"


"What are you going to do?" The man asked.

"Hang on for dear life." Larry looped the belt around his arm, the last person to use it must have been a child.

"Ten. Nine. Eight."

He gritted his teeth and closed his eyes.

"Moons in alignment."

His feet rose and soon his arm felt like it was being pulled from his socket. Others around the roomed screamed. Some always did. He felt like screaming but with the blood rushing to his head he worried he would black out. If he did, he would lose his hold on the strap and go sailing up to the ceiling. Going up wasn't the problem, it would be more of a problem when the moons left alignment and the generators once again worked.

Five minutes. His ears ringing and his vision black he fell to the floor. Life aboard the moon had seemed like a good idea. Losing gravity for five minutes every two weeks a small price to pay but this was too close a call for his liking.

"I hate Thursdays."

The man scooted down next to him. "Odd, I find that most people enjoy the experience."

As he turned away, Larry felt a laugh bubble up even as he calculated whether he had enough money to purchase a ticket to another settlement.

11 November 2011

The Giver

by Lois Lowry

I read THE GIVER by Lois Lowry when I was in elementary and it really made me think. It was the first dystopic story I read and though I didn't necessarily finish the book with a happy feeling, it is one that I have reread over the years. This is one of the books that I've read to my husband. When we finished the book he looked at me and said "That's it? That is how the book ends?" I don't recommend this book because of how happy it makes me, but because I still find myself thinking about it.

THE GIVER is about Jonas, an eleven-year-old boy who lives in a utopian society. The people who live there are very happy with their lives and there is little sadness or contention anywhere. Everything and everyone is made to be same. Their careers are chosen for them. At certain ages they receive certain rights, and lose others. Jonas is given the job to be the Receiver of Memories. He retains all of the memories that the government doesn't think the general populace can handle. These memories aren't only negative, but include emotions such as love, joy, even color and music. As the book goes on, it becomes apparent that while the people of the society think that they live in a utopia, it is actually not perfect. The more memories Jonas' receives the more he sees how flawed the society is. He has to decide whether to live in the society pretending that he is alright with everything, or try and find a new way of life.

This was one of the first dystopic novels that was written with young adults in mind. When you read this book you will probably see some similarities between THE GIVER, which came out in 1993, and some of recent books. I mentioned in an earlier review that the book MATCHED by Ally Condie reminded me of this book. There are two other books that form a trilogy of sorts but if you take this book as a single story, it really makes you wonder what happened.

09 November 2011

Obsessed Fans

I have felt strongly about this for some time, formulating what I will say regarding the topic of obsessed fans. Twilight has received a lot of flack about how obsessed the fans are. And I will say it is kind of scary how attached people are to the fictional characters. But the truth of the matter is obsessed fans come in every genre. (I even have a friend who I would call obsessed about hating obsessed fans. Every chance he gets he brings up how awful Twilight is and questioning why anyone would be willing to spend money on it and how they can't live without it. I find it ironic.)

Twilight isn't the only thing to have fans that are extreme. I am not a fan of watching sports so I really don't understand the riots that happen on occasion and I am not willing to shell out the money for season tickets. I enjoy the Star Wars movies, but I am not going to purchase a Stormtrooper uniform. I don't have any interest in nice car stereos. I am not one who scrapbooks. I don't see a lot of movies in theaters or buy movies. I am not into the latest fashions. I'm not even willing to pay for cable. I do enjoy anime and sewing, so once a year I try and make a costume. Some people would find that odd, but it is how I enjoy spending time with my husband. There are obsessed fans wherever you go and whatever you do. I am just glad that Twilight has spurred more people to start reading. I think anything that gets more people to read is a positive.

07 November 2011

Likeable Characters

When developing characters it is important to make them realistic. While I love comics, there are just times that I shake my head at Clark Kent. I feel that he is too perfect without enough flaws or weaknesses. I am more of a Peter Parker or Bruce Wayne. Their characters have a little more depth to me partly because they have to work, Peter Parker is always living paycheck to paycheck, or I can be like them, Bruce Wayne has gadgets, I can use gadgets. We don't know if they are going to survive because a lot of stuff can harm them physically and emotionally.

Not only do we need to make sure they have flaws, but they are still likeable. I have been reading a series recently where the characters are definitely flawed and they don't like to admit their flaws. There is nothing wrong with that. I don't like admitting when I am wrong. What really drives me up the wall is that I am now in the 6th book and they haven't improved. They still have the same flaws and they still have the same mightier-than-thou attitude. I get really tired of characters who I wouldn't want to deal with in real life. Granted one or two isn't bad but all of these characters have the same attitude that everyone else is wrong and they are right and they are going to make sure everyone knows how stupid everyone else is.

If we don't create characters who we would want to associate with why would our readers want to? Flaws are good, personality flaws are good, but we have to make sure when all is said and done that are characters are likeable enough that someone will want to read the book to learn what happens to them. We don't want the readers to be rooting for the protagonist's death.

06 November 2011


Intro: I entered this story for the Machine of Death anthology and sadly I wasn't accepted. Therefore, since I didn't have any time to write a flash this week, NaNoWriMo taking up all of my time, I present my story to you. It comes in at almost 3,500 words.

The wheels of Kira's skateboard clacked in the cracks of the sidewalk as she rode to the university. Every so often she'd push off with her foot, just to get that extra burst of speed. She liked feeling the wind in her face since she practically cloistered herself during the school year. Traveling between home, school, and work was the only time she had to enjoy the air. The cool air brushing her cheeks this morning almost made forget the disastrous weekend.

She did it on a dare, a bit stupid for a twenty-one year old to accept the dare in the first place, but she did. Pay a buck. Prick your finger. Learn your cause of death. Simple. Almost painless. For Kira, however, it was more than that. It wasn't just learning her death. It was a realization that her life would only be looking around the corner for her death. That was why the paper with her fate remained stuffed in the back of her sock drawer.

"Kira, wait up."

Kira leaned back, bringing the board to a stop. She popped the deck and caught the end as it came up. Lance jogged up to her. They'd known each other in high school and somehow their friendship had persevered through two years of college despite their differences in majors. Kira pursued a degree in finance while Lance reveled in the psychology department. After Friday night she wasn't sure he would come talk to her. Her heart fluttered for a moment, glad everything was back to normal.

"I can't believe you still ride that thing around," Lance said, adjusting his shirt after the quick jog.

Kira held the skateboard close for a moment, a look of mock shock on her face. She bumped her shoulder against his and continued walking towards campus. "I can't afford a car."

"Maybe if you didn't waste your money."

She didn't reply. Today she felt rich and probably could afford a junker of a car, but today was bill day. The Doppelt Company would call at five-thirty so until then, she could pretend to be rich. Lance knew that she helped pay the monthly bills that plagued her parents.

The Doppelt Company provided medical technology. It was the only company that agreed to help her parents during her birth. They hadn't come cheap but they had helped when no one else would. Five years ago when she went looking for them, their website had consisted of a phone number and their logo. Now they called on a monthly basis for her money and it meant her parents didn't have to pay as much. They gave up more for her than she would ever be able to repay.

"Why not just walk?" Lance asked.

She laughed and turned to walk backwards in front of him. "Why walk when you can ride? I like the wind."

"It's going to be the death of you," Lance grumbled.

Kira winced. She didn't mean to. Her heel caught an uneven crack and she stumbled backwards. Lance's hand darted out and he grabbed her shoulder.

"Sorry," he said. "Poor choice of words."

"Don't worry about it," she said it with a smile, trying to bring back the light mood. But Lance wouldn't look at her.

It had been because of Lance that she'd used the old machine in the arcade last Friday. It squatted in the corner of the room, lurking among the lights and sounds. Everyone who walked into the arcade stared at it for a moment, as if sizing it up, and then ignored it. Kira, Lance, and various other friends had been to the arcade dozens of times throughout high school. They too would stare at the machine and every time someone would say "Fifty bucks." The others in the group would laugh and then everyone ignored it. As far as she knew, no one ever tried it.

Friday night it was just Lance and Kira. Technically it was a date, but they both refused to call it that, just in case it went wrong. No need to panic.

"Fifty bucks," Lance said.

"Make it a hundred," Kira replied.

"Two-hundred," Lance said.

Kira raised an eyebrow and they both laughed. They moved further into the arcade making a beeline for the air hockey table.

"A thousand," said another voice.

Kira laughed and kept walking. Lance stopped.

"A thousand dollars?" he asked.

"For using the machine. Learning how you die," the man replied.

"Come on, Lance," Kira said, turning around to pull him with her.

She recognized the speaker as the arcade owner. He held up a wad of bills. The arcade was a whirr of colored lights and 8-bit sounds from the machines, but the people in the room remained still and silent. The man tossed the money to Lance. It was a fairly large stack and Lance flipped through it, looking at the different denominations of bills.

"It's yours, if you have the balls to prick your finger."

"Why?" she asked.

"Few people have ever touched the machine, but once someone does everyone will."

Kira could see the gears in Lance's mind spinning. A thousand dollars for either of them would mean rent and food for at least two months. Or paying off more of the eternal medical bills from her birth. Lance didn't work. His school schedule was wonky, giving him an hour here or there, but not enough free time together for a job. The fact that he even considered the money made Kira shiver. He was broke and desperate.

"Fine," she said. "It's not like it's actually real."

A crowd condensed around her. She'd never seen the machine up close. The black and gold box stood to her shoulder. Dust clung to the surface obscuring the writing on the top. Kira lifted her hand and brushed the dust away hoping no one saw her hand shake.

Machine of Death
1. Insert $1 into slot.
2. Press finger against pad.
3. Take fortune.
4. Enjoy the rest of your life.

"All I have to do is prick my finger?" she said.

The man let out a little smirk and nodded. She moved over to Lance who still clutched the stack of money.

"This is on you," she said and pulled out a worn dollar. Lance looked like he was going to protest. He reached for the money but then pulled it back. He ran his fingers along the edge of the stack.

The machine ate the dollar in the first try and a small yellow square lit up on the front of the machine. Kira bit her lip but firmly pressed her left index finger against the square. The prick was quick but stung more than she anticipated. She pulled her finger away and stared at the small red dot in her flesh.

The black machine made no noise and nothing changed. After a minute of nothing, the machine beeped once. Nothing else happened. A small part of her wanted to cheer in relief as she turned towards the crowd.

"Done. Thanks for the money."

"Look," Lance said, his voice low. Resting in a small alcove was a square piece of white paper. It was blank. This time she was sure everyone could see her hands tremble as she picked it up. Her fingers felt the ridges of ink on the other side but she folded it quickly and stuffed it in her pocket.

"My death, my business," she announced. "Come on, Lance. Let's get out of here."

Lance trailed after her as she walked from the arcade on shaking legs. The arcade owner laughed, not seeming to care that he'd just lost a grand. But then again, people now flocked to the machine in droves. The now-officially-not-a-date-night ended five minutes later.

As Kira continued walking toward campus, she pushed the memory away. She tried to think of another conversation topic.

"Thanks for money," Lance said for the hundredth time. "You sure you don't want it?"

She wanted it, but she didn't want it. If she took the money, she would always remember the square of paper. If Lance had it, she could forget it in time, hopefully."I told you, keep it."

Lance fell silent and matched his stride to hers. Finally he said, "Are you doing anything this weekend?"

"Not that I know of."

This time Lance winced. He looked ridiculous and it made her sick that such a harmless comment would make anyone flinch.

Kira shook her head and stopped walking. Neither of them would forget and that would always be a barrier between them. "I can't handle this right now. Bye, Lance."

She dropped the skateboard to the sidewalk and pushed off. It wasn't as if the relationship would have gone anywhere anyways. Kira knew she couldn't offer him everything needed in the way of girlfriend or later as a wife. Besides paying for bills that sucked more than half of her income, an accident and subsequent surgery as a child left her physically incapable of getting pregnant. But, being barren wasn't as big as the money. Money would always be an issue. Having it or not having it. She kept telling herself that if Lance didn't care about the money, he wouldn't have accepted the thousand from her in the first place. He never even let her handle it.

In the first class of the day, her favorite class, she focused on the lecture through sheer willpower. In her general genetics class she found herself doodling geometric shapes on the margins of the handouts.

"Earth to Kira. Come in, Kira."

Her elbow slipped and she looked up in surprise. Her professor stood in front of her, arms folded and tapping his foot.

"I see that you have decided to join us, finally."

"Sorry," she said and sat up straighter in the chair.

"Did you at least complete the reading assignment?"

Kira looked at her book and wracked her brain. She had read it, before everything happened over the weekend.

"Clones," she said after a painful silence. "It was talking about how to use DNA to create clones, like Dolly the sheep."

"Anything else that you can remember?"

"Human cloning is frowned upon?" She said.

"Something that isn't common knowledge?"

Kira shook her head, her face burning.

The professor frowned and moved back to stand in front of the class. "The term is derived from the Greek word for trunk or branch. There are several different types of cloning, can anyone tell me what they are?"

As a student in the back answered, "Molecular, cell, and organism," Kira sagged back into her chair. She tried to pay attention for the rest of the class and by the time the lecture ended she was glad to be out of there. The ride to work, with the wind blowing in her face, wasn't nearly as calming as she hoped it would be.

At five o'clock, after her six-hour shift from Hades at the call center, Kira wanted to barricade herself in her apartment and never leave. Her first reaction to the awful day was to call Lance, but that option wasn't open anymore. She hated to mope and decided to do something about it. With a mug of hot chocolate, she curled up on the couch and called her father. Her parents had moved the year before to a smaller, cheaper, apartment.

"Hello, Dad."

"What's wrong?"

With just the two words he had known something was wrong. She wondered if that was why she'd called him, because she wanted him to know.


He chuckled and she could hear him sniff.

"I can smell the hot chocolate from here."

It made her laugh, and a small bit of tension eased from her shoulders.

"Is it Lance?" he asked.

"You can figure everything out without me saying anything."

"Not everything," he said. She could picture him smiling, his blue eyes squinting almost closed as he did. "Why don't you tell me?"

She swirled the dregs of the chocolate in her cup. The last few sips were always the richest.

"I broke up with Lance."


"I just can't do it. I can't give him what he wants."

"Just because you can't get pregnant doesn't mean you can't have children. You should know better than anyone."

Adoption was always an option and she had no qualms about it. She loved her two younger brothers though they shared no blood. She winced, wanting to tell him about the bills she helped pay but she couldn't bring herself to. Now she sounded shallow. Kira was the oldest of three and the only biological child. During her delivery complications arose. She and her mother almost died in the process. It was almost a year before Kira came home from the hospital. She'd been small for her age but eventually caught up with everyone. Every three months she was suppose to have a checkup and the results were sent on to the Doppelt Company.

"There's something else that's bothering you."

She took a sip of the coco and the extra rich liquid settled in her stomach like liquid lead.

"Have you ever heard of something called the Machine of Death?"

"Machine of Death?"

She waited, hoping he would say more, yet wanting to take back the words.

"Why do you ask?" he finally said.

"There's one in the arcade, remember?"

There was another pause before her father laughed. "That Machine of Death? It's nothing but a prank. It's like an emo version of the old fortune teller machines they use to make."

He laughed again and she wanted to laugh with him, but it stuck in her throat. The weight in her stomach only grew with everything he said.

"We used to tease each other to go try it. It doesn't even work."

"Doesn't work?"

"We couldn't even get it to take the money," her father's voice was light hearted, too light hearted and almost pleading. It didn't add up.

"I should go," she said. "Talk to you later." She hung up.

He wouldn't call back. Not right now anyway.

She shuffled to her bedroom and lay on the bed, staring at the sock drawer. She couldn't decide what was worse, her father lying to her, or the fact that she knew the method of her death was written on a small piece of paper hidden in the back of her sock drawer. She tossed her phone on the pillow.

"How bad could it be?" she muttered and stood up, hand reaching for the drawer. "There's nothing to lose."

The phone rang. She didn't even look at it. Her courage faltered. The caller didn't leave a message. The phone rang again. She felt her determination slip with each ring. The caller never left a message. The fourth time the phone rang she walked over and picked it up without looking at the caller id. It was about time for the billing company to call.


"Hi, honey. Am I interrupting something?"

"Mom?" Kira sat down on the bed and took a second to flip through her call list. Something was definitely wrong if her mother had called four times.

"I'm sorry to hear about Lance."

Kira flopped back on her bed.

"Maybe you should stay with us for a few days."

"I have school," Kira replied. "I can't commute three hours to school each day. I don't have a car."

"I don't — I guess you're right. Why don't we come up and visit you?"

Kira frowned as she looked around her small apartment. One bedroom, a bathroom, a small kitchen, and an equally small living room. Her parents couldn't afford a hotel, and there wasn't any room for them here.

"I'm fine. I'll come visit this weekend." She mentally added, "If I can find a ride."

"Are you sure you don't want us up there?"

"I'm fine."

The silence stretched over the phone and for a brief second she thought she heard her father in the background saying, " — couldn't know."

"See you this weekend," Kira said.

"Yes, of course. Make it a good week."

As soon as the call disconnected, Kira was on her feet. She pulled open the draw and snatched the fortune. The folded paper was smooth against her fingers. She opened it, keeping the message turned away from her and once again felt the raised ink. It drew her and though she knew it would burn her, as a moth to the flame, she turned the paper over.


Her fingers traced the five letters, the weight in her stomach turning and wrenching. The word tasted vile in her mouth. It was like a sick joke, someone who was unable to have children dying due to a birth, just like her mother almost did. A birth would cause her death. If the Machine of Death was real, anyway. Obviously she survived her own birth, and she was certain it was anatomically impossible for her to get pregnant and give birth. That didn't leave many other options.


The phone rang again. She glanced at the caller id this time, Doppelt Labs, and flipped it open. This call she'd been expecting. They always called the first Monday of the month at five-thirty. Like clockwork. The only thing certain in life was death, taxes, and medical bill collectors. She swallowed at the thought of death and pushed the thought from her mind.


"May I speak to Kira Patterson?"

"This is her," Kira said. She knew the routine after doing this since she had her first job at sixteen.

"Has your account information changed?" the woman asked.


"How much would you like to pay this month?"

"Five hundred."

"Would you like us to mail the receipt to you, or would you prefer to get setup online?"


The woman's voice could be described as chipper as she spoke. "It is a new process we are implementing, to better serve our clients. All of the bills can be managed through the secure server as well as tracking the progress of the work. If you have any complaints or questions there is always someone monitoring the site that can be of help."

"I don't think I have the rights for that, you might as well just mail the receipt."

"Of course you have rights."

Kira frowned. "No, I don't. I'm an anonymous donor." She added half to herself, "But I turned twenty-one last month. Could that be it?"

"You are listed on the account. I'll get you setup so you can see."

Kira moved over to her computer and followed the directions. The website looked almost the same, the name and a phone number, but now there was a sign in and password box at the top of the screen.

"Please let us know if you have any questions. We are especially interested in hearing from you."

"Yeah," Kira said, already typing in the information. A new window opened.

She barely heard the woman say, "Have a nice day," and hang up.

"The Doppelt company: Leading the World in Organism Cloning," she said reading the new information on the website. She clicked on the billing tab.

She knew the bill had to be large. Her parents had been making payments for twenty years.

"A million dollars? They paid a million dollars? For what?"

She clicked through the payment tabs looking at the number decrease from her own petty contributions and her parents' payments. They still had a long way to go. Maybe she could set aside eight-hundred each month.

Another link caught her eye.

"Notes," she read.

It looked like a blog, lines of text separated by dates. The date on top was from two months earlier. Her last doctor's appointment.

"Subject coping with extended stress of adult life. Vitals are in the normal expectancy range."

The next dozen entries were similar. She scanned down to a bigger paragraph of text.

"Subject entered the workforce. Worried about stress that comes from training. After three weeks patient shows exhaustion but body is coping well. All within range."

Further down she read.

"Setback in research. Subject suffered from internal injuries after being hit by a car. Surgeon removed reproductive organs that were damaged beyond repair. Will not be able to test theory of normal reproduction in Subject."


Kira covered her mouth with a shaking hand. She scrolled down to the last entry on the page. Her birth date.

"Family made inquiry after daughter died due to complications from birth. DNA sequence retrieved from Kira Zero. Cloning process of Kira Prime to begin immediately."

04 November 2011

Maniac Magee

by Jerry Spinelli

I recently read THE HELP and it reminded me of MANIAC MAGEE by Jerry Spinelli. My mother read this book to me when I was young and then I read it in elementary. The story follows a young boy, Jeffery Magee, as he learns what being prejudice is about. His family is dysfunctional and it pushes him over the edge one day. He runs away from home. He is an amazing runner and I loved the descriptions about him traveling through the various places. Everyone is amazed by his running ability. A year after running away he ends up in a town that is separated by color.

He is a white kid who ends up living with a black family and doesn't even realize the problems he is causing for them. All he sees is a family who is willing to take him in. As the book progresses he learns that though he doesn't see a difference between him and anyone else in town, there are a lot of other people who think it is wrong to mix between the whites and the blacks. The more he learns about the contention between the two sides of the town, the more he is determined to make peace between everyone.

This is a great young adult book that really made me realize how bad it was even when slavery had been abolished. I always wanted to be like Magee in the fact that he didn't care about anyone's race or skin color. The descriptions are fun and the characters are lively and unique. MANIAC MAGEE is an educational read if not entertaining as well.

02 November 2011

Women in the Movies

I am all for women's rights. I think it is important that women be able to vote and be treated as equals in the workplace. By golly, I like getting a paycheck determined by my ability to work and not my gender but I find some of the feminist movements a little bothersome and how Hollywood feels like they need to put a certain number of women in the movies. For example: I love the Lord of the Rings, I think they did a good job with the movies but I was bothered that they felt like they had to give the women more heroic tasks, not necessarily the ones they had in the books. I liked better how the women were portrayed in the book.

I am sure all of you have heard of a little show called Star Wars. Now what I want all of you to do is think of all of the female characters you can in the original trilogy. This isn't including the games and what not. Here are the female characters by name:
Aunt Beru
Mon Mothma (Rebel Political Leader)
Oola (Dancer in Jabba's palace)

And yet I have never heard anyone complain about Star Wars not having enough female characters. Leia can hold her own against the guys and still look good in a dress.