A Travel Story and An Excerpt

I recently tripped over to Asheville, N.C., for a quietly celebratory weekend with my mom. My birthday and Mother’s Day often coincide, so it’s nice to take a weekend, one-or-two-off, to commemorate these days.

We stayed in a discount hotel room near the interstate, where we drank Biltmore wine and ate Mexican ground chocolate–curiously sandy-seeming–and visited Biltmore Estate. It was beautiful, as always, as well as intimidating, overbearing, inspiring…all the things a modern castle should be, really.meg at biltmore

We made our way to downtown Asheville, where Mom had her first taste of Thai food. I also convinced her to try seaweed as a snack, earlier, which she roundly rejected after one bite, so I’m surprised she still trusted me as a new food guide. All went well gastronomically. We passed musicians and fringe-dwellers smoking pot on the sidewalks, one very, very friendly girl in her twenty-somethings skipping and squealing hello to everyone she met. In retrospect, one of the least eventful trips to Asheville I’ve ever had.

I’m still at work, high-fiving that bald guy in the pit, pressing out the story for book two in the Mermaid Underground series. The first in the series, Devolution, is available on Kindle. Here is an excerpt to whet your whistle:

Chapter 1

Delorse could breathe underwater. She knew it. No, not that…she could breathe the water.  The trick was, she had to—just so—take a shallow breath in, a sip, really. You didn’t gulp the water into your lungs like you would air. No, no, you had to sip it, only enough to let the water slide around the skin of the lungs on the inside, just enough to coat the little bubbles in there, the alveoli, that’s right.

Water was really heavy air, after all. It’s heavy air. So she sipped it. She kissed it, like whiskey, and it burned like whiskey. She pursed her lips and put them to the liquid. Pulled some into her mouth, into her lungs. She knew how it would be, hadn’t she done it before? She’s sure she had. It will be like smoking, she thought. She tried that once, smoking. It hadn’t been as glamorous as the movie stars made it seem, but still, after a while…not bad. Breathing the water would be exhilarating, burning as whiskey did as it scorched down her throat and into her breasts. She’d only tried whiskey once, to see what it was like, after her teenaged son had swiped a bottle from his father’s liquor cabinet and gotten profoundly drunk years ago.

She coughed and sputtered. It did not scorch like whiskey. The water seared, she was suffocating; she was drowning. She threw up, heaving, hacking.

***

    Jim walked in and found his mother there on the floor of the dim bathroom, next to the tub full of water. She shuddered and wheezed.

“You have to just sip it,” she whispered. She was covered in vomit and water.

“Ally!” he yelled, “Ally! Get in here, I think Mom’s sick!” His sister ran in to the bathroom, stopping short when she saw their mother on the floor.

“Ah, shit,” she said, “Not again.”

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The Old Man in the Pit

Here’s a confession: nobody has ever, ever asked me where my ideas come from.

And I always wanted them to.

I  shrewishly read the answers in author interviews when they are asked this. It’s always cheekily put off, like “ideas are all around,” and “oh, you just write one word at a time and the story shows up.” That last one I actually came up with, but it’s a spin on what most writers say.

book and pencil

Here’s the truth. Fiction writers (especially fantasy writers) are molded in a combination of good fishermen, superstitious athletes and ancient Appalachians who built their houses with witches’ keyholes atop their chimneys, and they do not reveal the source of their mojo.

But me, I overshare. When I was little I told a friend that she wasn’t allowed to come and play at my house, because my mother didn’t like her. She told her mother, who was in the same Jazzercise class as my mother…it was an awkward session, when the confrontation hit, Patrick Swayze posters glaring down in disapproval.

Here’s what I really want to tell you about the well of my inspiration. I’ve learned over the years to keep my works-in-progress to myself, because just as wishes don’t come true if you say them aloud, my characters wither and die when they come into the light too soon. But there is a place, deep in the pit of me, where a squat, bald, gnarled old man capers and stirs. He uses a huge paddle, taller than he, and moves the sludge about.

ancient diver

Occasionally he brings up a pretty, showing its sparkle to me in the dead of night or while I drive my kids home from school. Its glint blinds me a little, sets a quiver in my gut, makes me smile a private smile, just to myself. Sometimes I get lucky enough to catch hold of what he hands me, and I can turn it over and over in my hands and put it to the page.

When that happens some of the sparkle dulls, and then the editing comes, but hopefully the shape of the thing remains.

An Old Friend: Spring

Every year I am convinced that spring will never come again, so that when it does explode around me with the palpable “floof” of millions of tender green leaves and buds unfurling at once, I am so, so pleased.

In Northeast Tennessee, springtime says “Come and drink coffee on the back deck. Smell the honeysuckle and dogwood. If you come back later, you’ll see early fireflies at dusk.” It’s quite a show for all the senses.

https://images.unsplash.com/photo-1431444393712-19267bd26144?ixlib=rb-0.3.5&q=80&fm=jpg&crop=entropy&s=ed229ac1b7d3bf6a9704c027f7576db1

My kids are doing their part to bring in the warm season, running and squealing with joy in their bare feet and smearing themselves and each other with mud-paint. The symbols they make are intelligible only to natives of their world.

I almost remember the language. Almost.

DEVOLUTION Available on Amazon!

As of April 3, 2016 my first novella, Devolution, is officially added to the electronic aether of the Kindle Direct Publishing ebook shelves. It is the first in a series titled Mermaid Underground.

Here’s the book description:

James Hamrick is worried about his mother. He moves back home to take care of her after dropping out of college (again), only to discover the truth about her condition. As the family secrets stack up, each question answered brings with it another mystery–about those he loves, his estranged father and the women in his old man’s life.

In this, the first volume in the Mermaid Underground series, Jim discovers he is far more important than he ever thought possible. And, in protecting the family he loves, he finds himself in danger darker than the watery depths below the surface of the earth.

After months of working around the schedule set by my two young kids, gratefully (and greedily) hoarding the days I had alone when one of the grandmothers nearby offered to babysit, stealing time to write, hunched over my laptop during the odd toddler nap or in a burst of post-bedtime energy, I finally cranked out the finished product. And then I rewrote it. And my faithful, discerning first reader took a crack at it. I rewrote again. I sent it to my editor, the talented Emily Sikora Katt. Who then bled red electronic ink all over in track changes. After another rewrite…more tweaks, something added, something taken away…in effect, Cinderella’s dress is ready for the ball!

Please check it out. I hope you like it.

Here is the link to Devolution on Amazon.

The second in the series is in the works.