Weekend Writing Warriors: Something dark came in my direction

Raindrops on water.jpg

Hello again, friends! Time for another story excerpt for the Weekend Writing Warriors Sunday blog hop! A bunch of us get together to post snippets of no more than 10 sentences from our own works then hop around to each other’s blogs to leave comments, support each other, and maybe find a new favorite author.

Skipping ahead a little after last week’s post. Father John told Devorah a piece of unusual artwork was found hidden in St. Benedict’s church, and it’s suddenly become very important that she and Kazimir keep it away from the local demons. Kaz goes to the rectory to see if he can find the artwork while Devorah returns to the apartment they share. She’s had a tough day so she fixes a cup of tea and goes into the living room, intending to curl up on the velvet sofa. However — well, you’ll see! (Previous excerpts are here.) I should clarify that Adrael, as an angel, can transport people instantly but only one at a time. He can take people through windows without breaking the glass.

Movement in the corner of my eye made me turn. From the window across the room, something dark seemed to roll in my direction. It took on a human shape, still moving toward me. A deep, strangled moan from it made the hair on my neck stand up. The mug slipped from my hands, shattering on the hearth tiles, as I shrank against the wall.

Adrael knelt next to the form writhing on the floor. “Try to hold still so I can help you,” the angel said.   

My God, was that Kazimir? I crept closer. “What happened?”

Oh no! What terrible thing has befallen Kaz? Can Adrael or Devorah do anything to help him? shocked clip art PAID FOR IIWhy have I got a picture of rain at the top of the post? Because we haven’t had any rain in many weeks and I’m hoping sympathetic magic will attract some! Thanks for visiting my blog.

Weekend Writing Warriors: demons can’t enter holy places


Hello friends, hope your summer is going well; or winter, if you’re in the southern hemisphere. I’ve sent my novel-in-progress Night Shift off to one beta reader and hope to find more peeps willing to read the whole thing. Draft 4 comes in, after some changes, at half a hair under 82k words. I’m sure some changes will still need to happen.

For this week’s Weekend Writing Warriors excerpt, I’m continuing with the scene from the last post. Weekend what, you say? We’re the weekly blog hop where authors post 8 – 10 sentences from one of their own works, then we hop around to each other’s blogs for some great reading and commenting. it’s kind of the definition of fun 🙂

Devorah is talking to Father John in one of the confessional booths in St. Benedict’s church. Someone asked last time if Fr. John would be bound by the usual oath of secrecy for this conversation, but I don’t think so because a true confessional was never started. As soon as she was alone in the booth, she identified herself before Fr. John could speak. She’s only being secretive because she doesn’t want any demons to know she’s visiting the priest, not because she’s telling him about anything illegal. In this scene, she’s asked Fr. John about the renovations going on in the church.

“The construction crew is working in the apse now. I don’t know if you remember, but that was one of the areas with water damage from the spring storms a couple years ago. We took out the cabinets in the sacristy the other day and found extensive floor damage.”

Of course I remembered, my dad died not long after those storms came through; it was two years and five weeks ago, in fact. “Wasn’t St. Benedict’s closed for a month to get all the damage repaired?”

“Yes, I don’t know how they pulled the wool over Father Albert’s eyes while I was in the hospital, but that shoddy work is why we’re seeing problems now. We found something a little strange behind one of the cabinets, some sort of artwork. I’m sure it’s stolen, it looks like some kind of icon. It probably fell out of one of those clowns’ toolboxes after working somewhere else.”

At least that had nothing to do with demons since they couldn’t enter holy places.

It’s true that demons can’t enter holy places, but others can. *wink wink*

Saturday I visited some of the more than 400 gardens open to the public during Garden Walk Buffalo. My town has a few things worth bragging about and this is the crown jewel. We have literally the biggest garden walk in the nation. Many of the properties also feature outstanding homes, some dating back nearly a hundred years or more. The event has drawn journalists from Martha Stewart Living and top-level gardening publications. Some gardeners on the Walk sharing clippings of their beautiful plants, in a time-honored tradition among gardeners. If you’re ever in Western New York at the end of July, come on the Walk! You’ll meet some of the friendliest folks you’d ever want to meet, see some extraordinary architecture, and experience a gardener’s paradise. No lie, dozens of magazines and websites have said so!

Image result for buffalo city hallOur city hall has been called one of the finest examples of Art Deco architecture in the nation.  We had so many millionaires here that when the stock market crashed in 1929, funding for the building was secure and it opened in 1931.

Plus, when production is on in the General Mills plant, downtown really does smell like Cheerios 🙂

Thanks for visiting today, I appreciate it!

Weekend Writing Warriors: Something’s being planned

d8c3b-wewriwa_square_1Happy Canada Day weekend and Happy Independence Day 🙂 Hope you’re having a grand time whichever holiday you celebrate, or if you’re just hanging out at the computer waiting anxiously for all the posts in the Weekend Writing Warriors blog hop! In case you just happened to find my blog and don’t know what the excitement is about, this is the blog hop for writers and readers. Every week we post up to 10 sentences from one of our own works then hop all around to other participating blogs, commenting and finding cool new stories to read!

Given that here in the U.S., this is a major summer holiday weekend so some folks will be off celebrating instead of blog hopping, I’ll share an excerpt from a different scene so regular visitors won’t miss anything. Previous excerpts are here. In this scene, Devorah visits Father John, the priest of St. Benedict’s Catholic church, to warn him that something’s being planned by the local demon groups that could affect humans. She can’t tell him everything because he doesn’t know she’s one of the demons; like undercover cops, she has to keep a lot of secrets. He knows she’s into something strange and dangerous, but not much more.

She’s speaking with him in the privacy of a confessional. St. Benedict’s is over 100 years old so there’s a limit to how much modernizing can be done. Devorah is the first speaker.

“I can tell you that something is being planned for the 29th of this month around the Earth Hour events. It’s just a test phase to take advantage of when people turn their lights off, so if a lot of lights don’t come back on right away, don’t be alarmed.”

His cassock rustled as he shifted position. “That’s only three days away. This won’t be people sabotaging power stations, I take  it?”

“It may last an extra fifteen or twenty minutes, or maybe a couple of hours – that’s all I can say. And right about now, I need a dose of normalcy. How’s the church renovation going?”

He gave a light sigh. “Someday I hope you can take me fully into your confidence.” 

The renovation figures into the plot, by the way. Devorah and Father John don’t know that yet! I like Father John, although he doesn’t get much airplay. It’s nice to have a character who doesn’t try to take over.

If you’re reading this on July 3, I’ll return your visit in the evening; that might be July 4 where you are. I’ve got a reservation for a Buffalo River history tour by boat. I’ve never done it before but it sounds interesting and fun. I love water and boats, raise your hand if you do too 🙂 Stay safe, everybody, and thanks so much for visiting me today!

Weekend Writing Warriors: The whole ball of wax

temperature 062516I’d quote some songs about summer but don’t want to get slapped with a copyright infringement lawsuit 🙂 so here’s something almost as good–the current temperature reading as of 9:30 in the evening. My kind of weather!

Never mind that, it’s time for Weekend Writing Warriors! The weekly blog hop for authors and readers! Check out the list on the home page for links to great excerpts from talented writers.

Continuing with the scene from my novel-in-progress, working title Night Shift. You can find previous snippets here. Devorah and Kazimir are visiting Quinn, one of the local demon overseers. Kaz tries to get Quinn to admit he has the important info he and Devorah believe Quinn’s got, knowing he’ll want something in return if he agrees to talk. Eventually, Quinn does admit to knowing something. Quinn has been after Kazimir for years to leave the demon group he belongs to and join Southside, the group Quinn is overseer of. So naturally Kaz thinks that’s what Quinn wants in exchange. (This excerpt has been edited to fit WeWriWa’s guidelines.)

“Details?” Kazimir said, “names, timing, all of that?”

Quinn nodded, “the whole ball of wax—it’s good to know people in high places.”

Kazimir sat forward. “All right, cash, drugs, weapons, what?”

“Oh that’s petty stuff, I said the whole ball of wax.”  

His expression was smug enough for him to be telling the truth. Did he know things Tark didn’t? Was Southside in a better position for whatever was coming?

“I haven’t defected from any group in years,” Kazimir said, “that’s worth more than vague comments.”

“Well, Russian, you’ll be happy to know that’s not what I had in mind.”

Cue the ominous music! What Quinn wants has a major impact on Devorah, causing her to make some not so good choices.

The current draft of Night Shift is almost ready for beta readers; just need to tweak a couple more things. Microsoft Word tells me the draft is just barely shy of 82k words. I’m supposing I’ll add some because I feel the worldbuilding might need to be expanded in places. Goodness knows there’s enough dialog, maybe too much!

I should be thinking about whether I want to go the query route or jump into self-publishing. Either way, I’m not looking forward to spending a bunch of time promoting the book, partly because I don’t really know how to promote anything and partly because if I’m doing that, I can’t be writing. *shrug* Always something, ain’t it?

I should’ve written a few short stories first and worked on selling those. That might make selling a novel easier. Always something 😉 Thanks for visiting today, it’s always appreciated!

Visualizing characters

I seem to work with character dichotomies. So far in the two novels I’ve worked on, I’ve had two protagonists for each story. One has emerged from my psyche (or wherever these people come from) pretty much whole like the myth of Athena bursting from Zeus’ head. (One protag has been pretty warlike so that’s apropos) The other protag hides their personality and thought process from me. The cliche of pulling teeth being easier is really the truth in that case.

For Night Shift, the character with the hidden personality has been Devorah, which is very awkward because she’s also the POV character. Hard to tell a story through somebody’s eyes when you don’t know much about that somebody!

I’m a visual person so I thought having some kind of picture might help me define her better. I came up with these. They’re not exactly how I think of Devorah but they give me something concrete to work with.

Devorah2 Devorah4

Devorah is a Crosser, one of the humans who work undercover in the ranks of demons; they ultimately answer to the God of Light. Many demons keep their human forms so they can work more effectively in the human realm. Crossers must blend in among full demons so they usually wear a lot of black. Devorah also wears some blue because she’s aligned with the element of water. She puts a steampunk spin on the usual demon attire; I had a hard time finding clothing items I thought fit with that but these work for what I need.

Many Crossers also invent an alternate persona they fall back on when they must engage in the inevitable demon behavior. For example, before Devorah could be admitted to one of the local demon groups, she had to perform an initiation challenge. If she completed the challenge without flinching, she was accepted. Her challenge was murder, a typical demon bit of behavior. The alternate persona is similar to the persona undercops use. Devorah’s demon persona is known as Malicia. It’s common for demons to use names that we think of as a bit corny; they’re not an especially creative bunch!

So this is what I came up with for Malicia. She has a “uniform” that often includes an army jacket and/or army boots, or something camo. She also had blue streaks put in her hair.


I don’t currently have a way to make an avatar for Kazimir, although it’s not really necessary since he was so clear and developed almost from day 1 that I had to stop him from taking over the story!

Characters . . . some you love, some drive you quite insane, some you wouldn’t want to be in the same country with, some just drift into stories then out again when their job is done. But you’ve got to have a clear sense of who they are if they’re going to be effective whether they’re the POV character or a minor player. Seeing pictures helps make them more real for me which, hopefully, translates to the typed page.

How about you? Do you find a picture of your characters helpful whether you can already visualize them or not? Does your idea of their physical appearance change as you write more about them?

Weekend Writing Warriors: Quinn

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Ready, set, hop! Blog hop, that is. Every Sunday us Weekend Writing Warriors get together to post excerpts from our own works then hop to each other’s blogs for reading, commenting, and general writerly enjoyment. I guarantee you’ll find at least one story that catches your imagination, probably three or four 🙂

Previous excerpts of my novel-in-progress (working title Night Shift) are here. Kazimir has decided Quinn’s silence on Twitter is important so he and Devorah pay him a visit. Devorah’s not exactly pleased about that. Who is Quinn? Here’s an introduction.

Quinn always had some nice vodka—though not imported like Kazimir’s—and his apartment wasn’t as dingy as our own overseer’s but that was as close as I could come to complimenting him. He had the sort of small, shifty eyes mentioned in 1950s detective novels as marking the criminals. He didn’t even have the good manners to turn off the TV when people were visiting, just turned it down. For an overseer, he left a lot to be desired.

Quinn’s was one of the places I didn’t mind Kaz’s pretense of possessiveness. Quinn had plenty of seating but Kazimir pulled me onto his lap without a struggle from me. Quinn’s beady eyes swept up and down my body. I tried to turn away.

Yeah I wouldn’t be happy about being in his apartment either. After writing about him for a while, I started to feel like I needed a shower! Quinn is a full demon, unlike Devorah and Kazimir who are also servants of the Light. Therefore, I didn’t feel bad when — oh don’t want to give anything away! 😀

The photo at top is the moon and Mars, taken from my front porch on June 17, 2016 with my iPad. Mars, you say? It’s there, honest. It’s a pin dot of light about halfway between the tree and the right edge of the photo, and about halfway between the top and bottom edges of the photo. Not exactly material for Astronomy magazine, but not bad for an iPad.

Thanks for taking time out of your day to visit my blog.

Happy Father’s Day to any guy who’s a dad, a father figure, or a mentor — whether your “kids” have two feet, four feet, fur, feathers, or scales 😀

Weekend Writing Warriors: Dancing in the dark

Allentown Art Fest 2016Well folks, this is going to be a short post ’cause I’m plumb tired. However I don’t want to miss this week’s edition of Weekend Writing Warriors, the weekly blog hop where writers share 8 – 10 sentences from one of their own works and the rest of us visit, read, and comment. If you haven’t taken part yet, try it, you’ll like it!

Moving ahead with my novel-in-progress, working title Night Shift. You can find previous excerpts here. I’ve had some excerpts with characterization and world building; this one gets directly to the plot. Devorah and Kazimir have gone to see one of their acquaintances, Anton, who is also a demon. They’re looking for info on the electricity blackout that just hit the city; Devorah and Kaz have reason to suspect demons are responsible. M-North is the demon group Devorah and Kaz belong to, Southside is a rival group. Azura also belongs to M-North and Tark is the group’s overseer.

“What’s up with all these blackouts, dude?” Kazimir asked. “Too much going on to be coincidence. Is Tark playing at something or is this somebody else?”

“Not sure. . .kind of strange ’cause I’m only seeing tweets and texts from Southside and M-North. Josselyn in particular, she keeps tweeting ‘LOL suckers!’ I don’t know who she’s directing that at.”

“Azura seems kind of high on the blackout,” Kazimir said, studying his phone, “with all those repetitions of ‘let’s go dancing in the dark.’ But then it’s Azura, so maybe not weird.”

Anton moved a finger across the phone’s surface, scrolling messages. “You know who’s conspicuously quiet on Twitter tonight — Quinn.”

Ah, now we’re getting into it 🙂 Who’s Quinn? You’ll find out 🙂

I’m plumb tired because I spent all afternoon at the Allentown Art Festival. More than 400 vendors line Delaware Avenue for several blocks and spill over into the side streets. I spent too much money again but got some awesome stuff–I can’t pass up elegant owls! It’s also a perfect occasion for people watching. At Allentown, anything goes. You see people who bring The Illustrated Man to life, street musicians of course, a fellow giving his pet Chihuahua a ride on his shoulders, a couple peeps riding tall unicycles, and my favorite from a few years back, a guy playing guitar with an amp strapped to his back, rolling along on roller skates. Festival attendees are a mix of boho and retro! Temp was 78 (about 25 centigrade) and despite threats of a weather apocalypse, the skies were sunny which made it seem hotter. After five hours, I was glad for an early dinner at the iconic Towne Restaurant complete with baklava for dessert 🙂 then off home.

I hope your weekend has been wonderful, and thanks for visiting my blog. I sure appreciate it!

Weekend Writing Warriors: We require a profession of penitence

angel, stone
Image courtesy Flickr cc: Pawel, “angel”

Happy June, everybody 🙂 I love this time of year! Summer’s flowers are blooming and I’ve finally shed that waiting-for-the-other-shoe-to-drop feeling that the warmth is only temporary because the cold will be back in a day or two. But on to the next excerpt for the Weekend Writing Warriors blog hop! Participants share 8 – 10 sentences from one of their own works then visit each other’s blogs to comment and generally support each other. I don’t have to ask people for book recommendations anymore, I find my reading material right there 🙂

You may remember that in my excerpt last week, the angel Nanshi berated Kazimir for some recent mysterious behavior. (You can find previous snippets here.) Continuing with the scene for just a bit, this part hints at how seriously these angels take breaking a vow.

Nanshi drifted toward the hall and called Kazimir. He came into the doorway eating an apple. 

“I will leave you in place as Devorah’s mentor,” she said, “unless there is another breach of trust. Should that occur, you will be sent to Ninti.”

He shrugged and bit into the apple with a resounding crunch. That was no exceptionally crisp fruit; his tense body language told me he swallowed a retort along with the apple.

“Also,” she continued, “we require a profession of penitence. Now–and I remind you that Devorah and I are not your only witnesses.”

There’s no one else in the room so who else is listening? Hint: Nanshi is an angel, Kazimir and Devorah are servants of the God of Light. 😉 And where is Ninti? I think I’ll keep that secret for now–but it’s clear Kazimir is not happy with the prospect of being sent there.

I’m vacillating over whether or not to include a prologue for this story. The piece I have in mind explains why and how Devorah’s dad got involved with the people who eventually killed him, and since solving his death is what propels her throughout the story, it seems like it might be a good fit. But I know a lot of people don’t read prologues. How about you? Always skip, never skip, sometimes? How come?

And thanks for stopping in. I like having visitors to my little blog home!

Weekend Writing Warriors: You spent time in hell

balmy palms
Photo courtesy Flickr cc; Marc Cooper, Balmy Palms

Hello again, friends and followers. It’s time for another post for Weekend Writing Warriors, the blog hop where writers share up to 10 sentences from an original work of theirs then hop around to visit and comment on each other’s excerpts. Fun? You bet! Fantasy to historical to romance to sci fi, we’ve got it!

Background for this snippet: Devorah and Kazimir have gone back to their apartment after capturing a high-ranking demon at the angels’ request. Kazimir engaged in some, well, behavior during the capture that wasn’t agreed upon . He and Devorah are visited by a “supervisor” angel who reads Kaz the riot act. He says he had a perfectly good reason for what he did, and was planning to explain. The angel called Nanshi is the first speaker here. You can find previous excerpts here.

“Seeking permission after the fact has never been acceptable. Nor has allowing personal revenge to take precedence over Crosser directives, which you clearly have been planning to do for some time. You spent time incarcerated in hell because of misdirected personal motives, is that correct?”

I could hear the clock ticking from my bedroom down the hall. Finally Kazimir said, “I wouldn’t exactly call it that.”

“You have the capacity to learn from your mistakes, which does not seem to be occurring. We placed great trust and confidence in you, Mr. Barsukov. While you have served well, you have also made a series of decisions, capped by these most recent, that lead us to question your integrity.”

Ooops! These angels get pissed. Hopefully Devorah will also learn something from this . . . ya think? –Nah, where’s the fun in that?

Treated myself to a hot fudge sundae Saturday evening, because 85 degrees; that’s about 30 for those of you who do Celsius/centigrade. I will never complain about heat or humidity again, no sir, not after two record-breaking winters. I love summer anyway -smile-

I write in Word with each chapter in a separate file. I recently compiled them all into one file and the word total came out to a little under 83k. Not too shabby for a first novel, particularly since I’m still tweaking it. I’m purposely leaving some room because I’m sure there are places where more worldbuilding needs to happen. I used to think I had a fair sense of what was necessary in my stories and what could be left out, but have realized that’s so not true. In a broad sense, yes, I can tell which plot points need to be fully shown and which can be condensed, or that some scenes have too much dialog. But pinpointing exactly which sentences should be deleted, or which should be expanded on, is actually not an easy thing when you have a whole novel to think about. There are so many nuances affected by what a writer leaves in or takes out. I’ll be glad to get other eyes on this thing!

If you’re in the U.S. and celebrating Memorial Day, be safe. This weekend tends to bring out the “firecracker crazies.” And spend a few minutes contemplating what our military service people have given up because they went out to do what you and I couldn’t–fight real battles, face real bullets and bombs, conquering their own fear in the process. My father served in World War II. He refused to talk about his experiences except to say he saw horrible things. It must have given him the dark edge we saw from time to time. How different would he, and so many others, have been if war had never happened? Worth thinking about.

Thanks for visiting my blog, I appreciate it.

Weekend Writing Warriors: What the hell was that?

Well friends, I hope whatever your current season is that it’s treating you better than spring in Western New York. Outlying areas may see a freeze tonight. *sigh* Today was rainy, gusty, and chilly–but on the upbeat side, I’ve spent the afternoon editing/revising additional chapters of my novel-in-progress, Night Shift, from which I present 8 more sentences. Oh dark fantasy’s not really your thing? That’s cool, visit Weekend Writing Warriors for excerpts from the whole range of genres. A bunch of us share snippets and comments every week. Seriously, other than writing, it’s the most fun I have in the week!

Skipping ahead a bit, Devorah and Kazimir are returning to their apartment. It’s late at night. Being humans who are also demons has disadvantages: you never know who or what might be lurking in the shadows, waiting to spring with weapons conventional or otherwise.

When we turned onto our street, I scanned the nearby porches, knowing Kazimir would be keeping an eye on the spaces between the parked cars we passed. He’d taught me a few tricks in case anybody tried to grab me but it was best to avoid trouble. Human thugs weren’t all we needed to look out for; rival demon groups had been known to attack each other.

My gaze was drawn to a porch across the street. Something lay on one of the steps, a deeper black than the surrounding shadow. It oozed up onto the porch floor and disappeared.

My eyes popped wide open. “What the hell was that?”

Probably something unconventional! Maybe don’t cross the street, ya think?

I expect to have 27 chapters once I’m done with this draft, and I’m on chapter 21 today. I’m still focusing on the plot rather than the prose, because it’s annoying to craft gripping or soaring prose only to cut those scenes because the plot has to be changed. Wish me luck! Thanks for visiting today, your comments always make me smile 🙂