I try to stay away from politics, because it's icky and sticks to my paws. Nevertheless, as much as I try to stay in my protective shell. it seems politics will follow me anyway. There is no escape.
So, Trump. So much noise about Trump. Facts don't even apply to him. His long line of business failures, his gutting of Atlantic City, his scam of a university, the verifiable falsity of so much that he says, and the utter hatred and bigotry he exudes -- why does this appeal to some segment of the US population to the point they want him as President? He's never really been poor, he has no connection to people suffering from economic hardship, and he has benefitted from the schemes of the GOP to reduce taxation on the small percentage of people here who have all the money. (I mean, seriously, if you are going to tax someone, doesn't it make sense to tax the people with all the money?)
But aside from the tissue thin ideas he presents, my big problem is the hatred he validates. Those comparisons to fascism aren't lost on me. I've read a lot about WWII written by people who were there and who were writing about it while it happened. I've watched a lot of documentary footage that delved into why Hitler was able to win over the German people, the techniques he used, the staging, the rhetoric. Trump is certainly playing that same game. The faces of people at his rallies are reflecting the same light as those German people in the newsreels. Hitler had a small but fervent following in the US before the war (the Amerikadeutscher Volksbund), so it's not like being in the US makes that impossible.
I've read a lot of people trying to delve into what makes this attraction happen. The gist of it seems to be -- and what I've thought for a while now -- is that Trump legitimizes and validates all the base emotions and expressions of emotions that our broader society tries to suppress. He plays hard on the quandary the US feels about money and education -- that those with a lot of money don't deserve it because they didn't earn it/deserve it because they earned it; that those with education don't have any common sense or practical skills/that a college education is the way to get ahead in the world. He plays with our feelings about immigrants with we are nearly all the children of immigrants who came here for a better life/immigrants who come here for a better life will take away what we have. He lets us hate women because they aren't men (Hillary is, of course, set up for this. There is certainly a line of thinking for women that disowning other women and criticizing them for not being "womanly" or "feminine" along certain sets of rules will help them be favored by men, since men have the power. Trump digs in and makes those ideas seem attractive, even practical. It's far easier to hate than to love, easier to reject than to accept, easier to throw beer bottles and wave signs than to seek to understand and to share. Trump's words tell us that we aren't the ones who need to change. It's "Them" (whichever "them" he's targeting at the time). "They" need to change, to stop trying to take our stuff, to stop coming to our country, to give us what we want because we want it. Our jobs went away because of "them".
And we get led along that path that says we are just fine as we are, we have all the truth we need, we don't have to look into ourselves or look into anyone we think we like for truth or facts. We can have a good time and hate, ride the energy of hate, expand and expound on hate, and Trump makes that ok.
There's no secret about it -- thinking is hard work. There is so much information to be sifted out of piles of crap. We can get fooled by the crap and feel embarrassed, humiliated, ashamed when we are proven wrong. We want to be right, for pete's sake. Being right is the best thing. Even if we are left standing on a crumbling levee while the water rises around us sweeping away all we love and know, as long as we are right, we're ok. Once we've decided we are right, we don't want to be bombarded with alternate views that might shake our fortress of rightness. We don't want to have to think anymore. If we find someone who makes us feel right, who plugs into the more unexamined but emotionally fueled parts of ourselves and says "Hey, those feelings that everyone says you should really examine and maybe change? You don't need to! You're right!" we are going to follow that person. We go with our gut, get primitive, be basic, be salt of the earth, all that stuff that is at one time praised and yet is treated with contempt and...
It's a whirling mess. A downright whirling mess.
For myself, I had hopes for Bernie but I was never sure his particular brand would make it. He's dragging our right-skewed politics back to center (Isn't it odd that "right" has so many meanings?), for which I am glad. He's planted a new idealism and I hope to see new representatives of his ideas sprout up to run for office.
I'm not completely enamoured of Hillary, but I've long thought she has the experience and know-how. She knows where the bodies are buried, probably because she buried some of them herself. She's causing a lot of controversy because she's Establishment. She's got dirty hands -- I find it heard to believe that anyone in politics doesn't have a little dirt under their nails, even Bernie (I am not comfortable with Saints anyway) because there's not a lot clean about politics. Leadership isn't really designed for people who don't know how to deal, to compromise, to make the choices that leave a queasy feeling in the stomach. There are a lot of conflicting agendas in this world, a lot of groups who wants totally divergent things and who have totally divergent things to offer.
Hillary and Bernie both have not played the same hate card. They both have some practical ideas based on having experience with the mess we call government. Neither of them scare me nearly as much as the GOP extremists. I'd like to see the US edge back from the cliff, get some self control. Yes, I do think there are some important ideas in the past (like the taxation rates pre-Reagan) that need to be revamped and put in play again. We have infrastructure to shore up (jobs!) and technologies to explore (more jobs!). We have an education system in serious need of help (yet more jobs) and it would be nice if we started making more of the stuff we consume here instead of relying on cheap and often exploitive overseas labor. I'd like to see focus move from the success and wealth of the CEOs and board members of companies back to the people who do the work (no one fucking needs a $10 mil house or 18 cars or a maid for their dog. Can't people be content with, say, a $2mil house, 4 cars, and walk their own dog?)
See how long I've run on? No one will read this and I don't blame them. Nothing new in my ranting. But I'm honestly worried about the next 4 years. I'm getting older and my life will be more difficult, and I'm scared. I want to have a strong, proud country again, full of citizens who don't have to hate and shoot other people and scream blame, who can be honest with themselves and rise above the base parts of their nature.
Rape victims can be ANYONE. There are no particular protections from rape provided by social or economic class, race, gender, location, education, body type, or age. Rape is about power over another person. treating a human as a thing. It is about causing pain, humiliation, and trauma. It is about power. It's not even about sexual power, but power pure and unmixed with qualifiers or excuse.
That the rapist is often the one more subject to the protections (or lack thereof) provided by race, gender, age, sociol-economic level, public status, etc. is just more evidence of what rape is not. For those people who our culture on the whole sees as rightfully and deservedly powerful, who embody power (in this case, white males) they can never really be rapists or rape victims -- they can't take power from someone because it already belongs to them, and that power cannot be taken away from them by another because power belongs to them.
Reality, by the way, in the truth of trauma, suffering, and the pressures brought down on victims of any gender, aren't considered.
I think I've mentioned it before, but some time last year I decided that Patton Oswalt was my imaginary friend, and I started writing letters to him. Now, let me be quite clear -- I am in no way connected with Patton Oswalt. I am not stalking him, and the couple of times he responded to tweets I made are rather treasured, but in that way of a fan thinking "Hey, I got 5 seconds of attention from someone I admire who entertains me, woot!" and not much else. I look upon the entire thing as something I do to entertain myself, so hold up on the tranquilizer gun and the special jacket.
With that said, yes, I have written several very long letters to Mr. Oswalt. I wrote them by hand, with a fountain pen on nice stationary (you have no idea how hard it is to find nice stationary these days, or how pricy a decent fountain pen is, so, yes, this is a hobby sort of thing). I even mailed some off to an address I found where one could request an autograph. I expect they are somewhere being reduced to pulp or compost right now, unread and unnoticed. I'm ok with that. One doesn't expect responses from an imaginary friend.
And I fully understand that the version of Patton Oswalt I hold in my head is imaginary (as are, quite frankly, the version most people who do not know him well hold in their heads -- his fans, his haters, those who know who he is but are more or less indifferent -- none of us have a real, fully developed and multi-dimensional version of him available to us. That can be said for most of the people we run into in this world, so it's not anything special. Some of us don't even have fully realized versions of ourselves in our heads.) I built it up via his comedy performances (all seen on video because he's far too smart to ever perform anywhere near where I live, and even if he did, there would be too many people in attendence for me to tolerate. I have solid reasons for preferring imaginary people most of the time, but we shan't go into that right now.) This imaginary version has a connection to me that I made up. The original actual person doesn't owe me a damn thing ever.
So, why am I even talking about it? Mostly because I want to, because the whole concept interests me, and I like romping through my own head pulling out things to look at and talk about. Don't roll your eyes. I'm no different from most of you except in my choice of topic. I could be geeking out over tiny details in Pacific Rim or the whole Godzilla canon (which does NOT include the 1998 Giant Lizard Breathes Tuna Breath on New York movie). In fact, I have and will again go into deep discussions about both these things and many others. But this, this imaginary friend thing, that's what I want to talk about now.
It's soothing to write letters to Patton Oswalt. I have the little conversation going in my head where Craig Ferguson is talking about how getting a "happy ending" from a massage therapist is never going to happen...but it might happen. It doesn't exist in the realm of probability, but it exists in the realm of possibility. Patton Oswalt could possibly one day read one of my letters, could be moved to respond, could enter into conversation with me...and he could rent a plane to fly a banner over my house telling me to leave him alone. Not probable. Yet it teases there on the edge, just like most day dreams and vague longings. But I don't bank on it, don't spend much time entertaining it. I just write my letters.
The letters go on about whatever is in my head, including the letters themselves because that's how my brain works. I talk about my life, about things in the world, wondering what his take on them might be, about books, movies, my struggle with depression and anxiety, about dogs. In fact, to my imaginary friend version of him there is little I could not write about. He's a very good imaginary friend.
And because he's imaginary, there is no need to wait around tensely for a response. There won't be an answer (if there were, I think I would be torn between giddy delight which might include dancing around the room and horrified anxiety which might involve hiding under the bed and peering out fearfully at whatever form the response took. Either way, I would likely spend days debating on reading it. Maybe I'd enshrine it somewhere, or enlist someone else to check it for explosives (not all bombs involve chemicals).
I'm considering writing another such letter. It's been almost a year since the last one (still in my desk) where I pondered if I was over the fit, if I'd satisfied whatever urge I felt. Now it's stirring up again. In part, it is because of his own recent loss, the pain of which I can imagine but hope not to experience (scrap for some other writing). In part, because it is summer and I am about to head to my own corner of peace and paradise where I can happily do such things without spending a lot of time wondering if I should be doing something else instead.
Mostly, though, it is because I did something a bit illegal recently. I recorded (in the clumsiest manner) a short segment of one of Oswalt's audio books to share with certain friends, in part because I find it delightfully funny, and in part to encourage them to buy and read the books/listen to the books themselves. I kept it very limited for fear of the Furies of DRM and Copyright going after me. Now, though, I'm contemplating posting it publicly because, damn, I want more people to read his books so that I can reference them in the best of geeky ways and know someone else will get it.
For the record, if it is necessary to label your book "A Novel", perhaps someone thinks you didn't do a good enough job in making it obviously a novel. Pet Peeve and it just makes me feel like publishers think I'm stupid.
Onward. The Rook is built along my favorite lines -- a bit science fictiony, a bit superhero-y, a touch of paranormal, and a whole lot of "whodunnit". It's a good book to start the summer.
Now, the reader. Susan Duerden does a respectable job with voicing the characters. My big problem -- something that actually irritated me and made me pause the book more than once -- was her "neutral" narrator voice. The book is written as a combination of 3rd person limited and 1st person epistolary. She gave the main characters (yes, plural, for reasons I'll explain) a good, reasonable voice that worked. But the neutral voice...gah! Every sentence ended on an uplift, a vocal inflection that is not uncommon with women because it lets each sentence, no matter how obviously declarative, sound like a question. Each line has an echo of "Is this all right with you?" It's not the full questioning uplift, just a hint of one, but so frequent that it became noticeable. Now, this is the expositive part of the book, which is quite certainly declarative in nature. The narrator/author is not asking the reader questions. However, that slight uplift, that ending of each sentence on a place higher up the scale by a note, a note and a half, so repetitively, got supremely irritating. It may not bother anyone else, but it bothered the hell out of me. It was also unnecessary, since she did quite well voicing characters, including male characters, with distinct voices, inflections, and vocal mannerisms.
Then we have the story. I got hints of Jasper Fforde in this, not just from the British setting, but from the very evenhanded, unexcited way very bizarre parts of the world were just..accepted. I enjoyed that in the Thursday Next books, and I enjoyed it here. We start the book with Myfanwy Thomas, or at least a woman who used to be Myfanwy Thomas and who choses to be her again. The question presented to us is a nice twist on the classic dead body in chapter one -- who "erased" Thomas's personality and memory, and why? Thomas knew it was going to happen and has prepared with meticulous detail a series of letters and a binder of information, among other things, for the person she would be if she survived whatever it was that would happen.
And from there, we are off. The comedy is sharp and cynical and, at certain moments, a bit overdone, but not so much that it threw me off the story. Myfanwy is interesting, not only as the detective AND the victim in this sort-of murder mystery, but as someone trying to take up someone else's life without that someone's particular problems and coping mechanisms. Thomas (the old personality) had some serious damage. Myfanwy (the new personality) doesn't have the memories of those traumas, and so isn't hedged around with defenses. It's a marvelous sort of "What If?" story.
The frosting on this layered story cake is also quite delicious, as we discover (yet another) secret agency charged with saving humanity from the dark, alien, and mysterious parts of the world that would seriously upset the normal, reality TV show watching citizen. There are deadly enemies, weird dangers, and problems with finding something suitable to wear for various important agency events. I was surprised that Myfanwy, who is not in the usual heroic "strong female character" mold, didn't really need anyone to save her, but was just fine when someone did. She will stand up for herself when she feels like it, but she doesn't always feel up to it. That worked for me.
A G+ friend , +Curt Thompson , talked this series up a few weeks back, and so I had to try it out. He did a good job selling it and I'm sold.
Yes, this is yet another action packed vampire and spooky thing series. I'm fine with that -- it's obviously my favorite current genre. And I'm picky -- I've given a lot of different series a try in the last 10 months or so and not everything thrills me.
So, I'm excited by this one. First, a female lead who is NOT drop dead gorgeous, is NOT being chased into the bed of every man (or really any man -- or woman) in the book, and who is NOT made up of simple parts (tragic past, basic flaws, needs curing). Jane Yellowrock is one of the better leads I've run into for a long while (I could make a list of all the ones I've fallen OUT of love with, but I won't.)
Second, she's a person of color -- a Cherokee Native American, specifically. The author seems to be doing a good job on the research and -- as far as I can tell -- is doing a pretty good job honoring the culture she's given her character. I know there are a lot of assorted feelings about cultural appropriation, but I also think writers are writers specifically because they can extend their imaginations into the lives of other people.
Third, the whole first book managed to be great and tense and interesting without any real sex scenes. That's pretty unusual for this particular corner of the genre. Oh, there's steamy sex promised in future books, but just that little break in the tropes was very nice. Hunter does a pretty respectable job bucking tropes, or at least giving them little twists.
So, there are 9 more books and a bunch of short stories in the series. I have them all on my wishlist. I owe Curt a cookie.
I had this book on pre-order from the day it was announced. I'm a huge and dedicated fan of the series and of Kevin Hearne. I've read the books multiple times. It's one of my geek things.
I just now finished reading the book, weeks after it arrived. I'm not completely happy with it. It isn't a happy book, really, although it is busy trying to tie up loose ends and plot threads.
I tried listening to the audio version first, and the things that had started to get on my nerved in Hunted and Shattered, the changes in Luke Daniel's reading, made me quit within the first chapter. It was grating on me terribly. So I started with the print version and I've read it in tiny bits for weeks now.
Why? Why didn't I rip through it as quickly as I did the first 6 books (Yes, I read the first 6 books in less than a week and I've listened to the audio versions so many times I can recite parts of it. I was less thrilled with Shattered, not because I don't like Owen, but because the splintered narrative kinda got on my nerves. I like it well enough -- Owen is fun -- but it doesn't work as well because it does sprawl so much and lack a centering point in the plot.
Staked is the same -- multiple plot threads running around trying to be ended, and the actual ending of most of them was, shall we say, underplayed. Sometimes almost incidental, despite the huge build up and importance. I feel a bit as if the author is thinking "Damn, I gotta finish this up so I can go on to this other project." Maybe it was because there was so much to be done that the actual doing of any of it was rushed, short-hand, even skipped over.
There are a lot of important deaths in this book, and compared to deaths in previous books, these were...I dunno...edited for TV? Fight scenes felt rushed, banter was forced, and nothing had much depth to it. I really didn't hook in like I did before, and that disappointed me. I'm not used to that from this series. Even the books that I like less felt satisfying in a character driven way.
Of course, there were in-story reasons I got my feathers ruffled. I've never liked Greta, for instance, not because she dislikes Atticus, but because her anger and grief lead her to blame Atticus for the choices made by others than lead to their deaths. She's always irritated me in her persistent denial of Gunnar Magnusson's agency, his choices and decisions that lead to his death. Atticus never encouraged Gunnar to go to fight Thor. In fact, he tried very hard to get of it. Gunnar made that choice (with Lief's encouragement, yes, but she seems to skip that conveniently) and she refuses to accept that. Makes me want to slap her around. There are events in this book, too, for which Atticus is saddled with blame that, as a reader, I felt more told than I saw was his fault. Greta needs a solid ass kick, in my opinion. I don't see her getting it, and so I don't like her or care about her, and that bleeds over onto Owen and....well, it's all in-story stuff, choices the author made that I can't agree with. That's always a knock against a book, when as a reader I'm balking at the choices of the author.
The book does have some positives -- we find out a bit about vampire biology (it's supposed to be funny although I didn't laugh or even smile). We see the Hammers of God as good guys, at last (still don't know what those beards are about). The number of problems Atticus has to solve is not really reduced, but they are grouped a bit better. I'm rather hoping that Owen will be too busy with how his story has developed and that his Grove is a writerly method for reducing his presence in future books. Not having the werewolves involved would be interesting. Other characters have new goals, too, so despite not being enamoured of this entry into the series, I am never the less looking forward to the next book -- I can't imagine it as the last because, unless it is one huge book, there is still a great big lot of stuff to be handled. I can see this series expanding to twelve books.
I'm still jazzed for the series, too. I mean, I bought this book in two formats, and I bought a copy to send to a friend, so it's not like I'm walking away from it. This book was just a book full of final chapters of story lines, clearing the way for the big story line brewing for the future.
Full disclosure: I know Rick Wayne. I bought this book myself, so he's not paying me with a copy for a review. In fact, I don't think he would expect me to have read this. Surprise!
This book is exactly what it advertises itself to be -- mad pulp with end of the world monsters, alien invasions, murder, explosions, blood, dick jokes, naked women, robots, and even telling you all that doesn't really count as a spoiler. It's a ride. You get on, buckle in, and hang on.
I had a good time. I'll be honest, it wasn't a great time. I don't know that I'll feel the urge to read it again. I won't forget it, though. It's a sticky story.
In part I didn't get highly attached because it's a broad story, not a deep one (although I would be willing to class-chat the meta levels if there is alcohol involved. And chocolate.) The characters appear and disappear without really making much of an impression. The "hero" -- Jack "Blackjack" Fulcrum -- is indeed the hinge pin of the story, That's about all. Other characters appear, do some stuff, disappear, reappear, popping up like Whack-a-moles. It's all good, but it doesn't really get me involved. Gilbert, who could also be considered a kind of hero in the story, is the one who most engaged my sympathy because he did seem to be doing some level of growth. Really, though, it wasn't important. The characters are in the story to move things along so we can enjoy the weird settings, the strange conversations, the violence, and the monsters.
I want to emphasise that the lack of developing characters is in no way a negative. This book is honest pulp. It's good at being pulp, at being weird. The settings are important. The language the different characters use is important. The events are important. The characters exist to be the life force, the breath, the movement of the story. This book is a machine. All the parts have to work together. I could practically hear the "clank-clank-clank" of the chain drive hauling the car up the hill for the first drop.
There's also a fine layer of philosophy just under the surface -- Rick thinks Big Thoughts -- but that's not what the story is about. The story is about the monsters, the blood, the sex, the death. Like I said, I could easily sit around a table at the local IHOP with pancakes and bacon with friends and pull the book apart for Deeper Meaning, speculating about where everyone came from and where they are going, why they did what they did and why they REALLY did what they did. It would be a good time, but it wouldn't make one bit of difference to the story. It's great geek fodder. If someone made it into a movie, I'd watch. I could imagine a video game -- or even better, a tabletop RPG -- based on it.
I say that throwing some money at it would be a good bet.
I'm trying my best to listen to the latest Iron Druid book. I loved the audio books for the first three in the series, read by Luke Daniels. Then, around book 4 and definitely into book 5, the style of reading changed. It became broader, the various character voices more extreme, the humor heavily underlined, and, honestly, downright annoying. I haven't enjoyed the audio version of Shattered nearly as much. Now, in Staked, it's gone to a new extreme and I'm actively wincing and shuddering. It is, in short, ruining the book for me. I'm going to go with the print version (of course I have the print version) so that the voicing won't prejudice my reading of the book.
Why has the reading style changed? Is it the producer or director? I know the books changed companies -- the first three were by Brilliance Audio and I love them. Then Random House took over the books, and that's when the reading style began to (in my opinion, obviously) sink into this annoyingly broad, exaggerated, hammy style. Why? Kevin Hearne is a really good writer and it hurts to have the narrator fail the text.
Why don't I see Elliott Jame's Pax Arcana series not more known? Why don't I see more about them? They are really excellent, fun, interesting books, with character development, a nice sexual tension working through the first three, and lots of potential for more entries into the series. I'm just one voice in the wilderness here, but, hey, really, find these books and read them and tell others about them. Or, get the excellent audio versions. No mugging, no broad hints to be sure you "get" the joke. The humor is sly, sarcastic, sharp, and delicious. The world is a unique twist on familiar tropes and ideas, and it's well built. Roger Wayne has replaced Luke Daniels as my favorite reader/narrator.
So, really, why do they seem to be lost in the mass of books? I've just tuned up Charming yet again, and am listening to it to wash the taste of Staked out of my ears. I'll just read it, thank you.
Same thing goes for Daniel Jose Older's books, although in their case, I recommend the audio versions over the print versions (which I will be obtaining because I might get an autograph one day!). The author reads the books and I'm STILL amazed by his reading. He makes no mistakes with his own words, and, really, the poetry and music of his reading might blind me to story flaws, but I really don't care. A lot of very popular, well known music has lyrics that make no sense at all (In A Gadda da vida, anyone?) Go find Half-Resurrection Blues or Midnight Taxi Tango. Listen to them. I command you.
I'm not a graphic designer. Hell, I put this together using freaking Powerpoint and Paint because, even though I have really cool programs available, I don't know how to use them and it would take a few days to learn enough. During that time I'd beat myself up to the point where I'd give up. Instant gratification is sometimes just rolling while I have the power. I wanted a picture, so I made a picture.
I'm posting little snippets of the story I'm revising right now, with this picture because I am.
Don't make me explain everything.
“Ma! Ma! They’re comin’!” I grabbed little Letty as I scooted across the dusty yard toward the house, yelling my head off. “They’re coming’!”
Letty squirmed in my arms, her dirty pink shoes kicking at my thigh. "No! Amber, no!" she squealed. She was almost too big to carry and her legs hung down because she was too mad to wrap them around my hips. “No!” She kicked me hard and I almost dropped her.
Ma Deuce strolled onto the porch, her whipsword wrapped around her waist, the pommel under her right hand. She was such a little woman, sort of squat and dark, grey streaks in her braided black hair, but she always seemed bigger than me. Behind her, taller but so slight she practically faded, Kelly Ann peeked over Ma's shoulder. She had Princess on her hip and she looked scared.
"Get the babies inside, Amber, and see to The Mister." Ma's voice didn't match her appearance, either. The Tamil she'd talked as a baby was paved over with the clips and stretches of the mountain people's speech. My own speech had taken on that flavor, too, since I'd found refuge here in the old mountains.
"Yes, ma'am." I snagged Hunter's arm and pulled him with me. "Come on, we gotta go in now." Hunter dragged on my arm and Letty kicked me again. "Stop it now. You want a spankin' from Ma? We got to go inside." Tag followed without being pushed or told. Letty stopped kicking and just cried her frustration. We hurried into the house behind Ma's shadow.
"How many?" Ma asked, voice low, as I scuttled passed her.
"Two trucks. Maybe five or six." I dropped Letty to the floor and pushed her toward Kelly Ann. "Taylor saw 'em first and took off to the blind."
She nodded once, sharp and definite. "Good. Where're Tony and Skye?"
I shook my head as I untwisted Hunter's hand from his grip on my shirt sleeve. "Didn't see 'em."
She nodded again, just once, and I pushed the two little boys in front of me before they could stop being scared and start being curious.
Kelly Ann gave me her wide eyed stare and slowly pulled Letty back into the dimness of the house. "Amber, " she whispered, "Was Prentiss Waine there?"
I shrugged, herding the boys toward the kitchen. "I didn't see. Check the back door and the windows. Get Lilly to help." She stared at me for a few more breaths and my impatience got the better of me. "Kelly Ann! Move it!" Shaken, she hitched up the baby on her hip, tightened her hand on Letty's arm, and moved down the hall after the boys.
I turned the other way to the big bedroom. The Mister lay sprawled on the bed, a sheet carefully laid over him so that only his face showed in the lamp light. It hardly looked like a human face, it had been beaten so hard. Swollen eyes, swollen nose, swollen lips, little bloody lines of cuts every which way, and some of his hair shaved off so Ma could stitch his scalp. I wasn't sure he could see me when I crept in to close the window and put the wooden shades in place.
"Whus habbnin?" he murmured at me, making me jump just a little. He'd left us yesterday morning, saying he intended to get what he was owed, and we'd all slunk around the whole day wondering if he'd ever come back. Except Ma. Ma told us that The Mister would do what he said he would do, no matter. He'd crawled his way to the back door late last night, scaring Kelly Ann near to death. Taylor and I carried him inside.
"Two pick up trucks comin'. " I didn't have to tell him who was in those trucks. He knew better than I did.
I carefully lifted the cold pack against his jaw and examined the red and blue bruises underneath it. "On the porch." I reached for the clean rag resting in a bowl of water and squeezed a few drops into his mouth.
"Good." He moved one hand under the sheet, the one that wasn't wrapped in tight bandages. He was hurt, but not near killed. They wanted to teach a lesson, not murder a useful man. Still, it bothered me to see his big muscled body so battered and broken. It scared me. "'Ey won find it."
"You be still, Mister. Ma will skin us both if you mess up her work." He chuckled soft in his throat. I turned down the lamp so it barely flickered and put it on the floor between the table and the wall. I didn't want anything to hit it and catch the house on fire. At least the house was cinder block. I closed the door behind me, knowing full well that The Mister wouldn't be resting even in the dark, not until this was over.
"Amber?" Kelly Ann, now without her baby, shuffled down the hall. "The trucks just pulled up. Amber, I'm scared."
I took her arm and turned her around. "Then go in with the babies and keep them quiet. All the windows locked?"
She nodded. "Lilly is double checking and turning off the lamps. Amber, what's gonna happen?"
I shrugged as I pushed her back to the kitchen. "Ma will take care of it. Go on." I glanced into the large room to see Lilly mounting the last shutter over the windows. "Here, help me." Together we wrestled the heavy door — taken from one of the abandoned houses in the derelict neighborhood — into place in the doorway. The Mister had added a lot of doors where the house didn't have them before. I slid bolts into the hinges on the outside. Kelly stopped it as it swung toward her, looking at me in an excited, scared, eager way. I pushed the steel and wood veneer toward her. "Ma will take care of it. Lock this." The door had to be shimmied and shoved to fit into the frame. I heard the chunk of the thick plank as Kelly Ann dropped it into place.
I wondered if I should put up the other door to block the hallways when voices pierced the glass windows at the front of the house. I slowed down, trying to remember that the bright sun outside made the inside of the house too dark for anyone to see me, but not quite trusting that, and eased open the front hall closet door. Just inside, behind a well fitted drywall piece that I could unlatch by feel, I groped for the double barrel and a box of shells. The Mister had taught me to shoot that one and the handgun, making me practice over and over so that I could hunt nearly as well as Taylor and not jump at the boom or flinch from the recoil. I didn't like guns, but I understood them. I wished Taylor and Tony where here — Kelly Ann wouldn't touch a gun and Lilly wasn't yet practiced enough, so it was up to me to back up Ma. I hoped that I wouldn't have to as I cracked the shotgun and loaded the buckshot shells. I could have used the birdshot, but Ma's tone told me
This is the hardest thing I am supposed to do, harder than avoiding donuts, harder than folding laundry or vacuuming, even harder than going to a large dinner party. Self-promotion for my writing, Yeah. I'm working on it.
You see, it's hard for me to just say "Hey, I wrote this great thing! You should buy it and read it!" In my head I'm looking down at my feet, kicking the dust, and mumbling "uh, yeah, so, I kinda wrote this thing and...well...it's erotica and NO PRESSURE HERE it would be cool if you'd take a look IF YOU WANT and ...um...it has pictures and...well, ok, nevermind."
So -- self promotion time In the Temple of Nogged available at Smashwords. It has nudity and animated stone gods and dancing girls.