“Blue Sparks” Kind of Love

Here’s an excerpt from my novel HalfWorlder.

It’s Gil Scott’s destiny to save the Earth from destruction, but he never thought winning the heart of a girl would be harder than saving the world. Though every once in a while, Alexandra shows her true feelings. And what they have is “blue sparks” kind of love. Read on..

Alexandra lay hunched over a small wet body that wriggled with life, but another large one lay unmoving under a white sheet nearby that revealed what lay below it perfectly well.

A mare had given birth. Recently.

The foal was so new it hadn’t yet stood up.

But something had gone terribly wrong. The door was hanging open on the scene, but there was nothing left here that could escape.

Alexandra looked up, her face red and wet with so many tears. I stood there unmoving, looking down on her with shock. She wiped quickly at her face, still staring at me, like she could cover up what was there.

“Hey! Don’t do that,” I said suddenly, grabbing her hands together and kneeling down in front of her. The way I stopped her from trying to dry her eyes was almost a little rough. Enough to shock her into reality. “You don’t have to do that. It’s okay. I’m here with you now,” I finished.

She stilled herself, and her eyes transitioned from strong to pained in four seconds, her eyes and face seemingly collapsing in on themselves the way a face does when it tries but can’t stop the tears that hide just below the surface. Great lolling drops rolled slowly down her still-pretty face. Even pained as it was, tears sometimes do more to reveal inner beauty on an outer surface than anything else can. This was a soul that truly loved. And lost.

Looking into my eyes, she let go, and collapsed into my arms, her body wracked again by tears and heaving sobs, until she was too spent to cry anymore. She pulled back and wiped at her running nose with the back of her hand, absentmindedly wiping it in the fresh hay we sat on – hay that smelled sweet and earthy just like her. She pulled at her eyes with her hands trying to erase the tears there again, though this time not because she was trying to hide them, but because she was finally done.

“She was mine,” Alexandra said quietly. I looked over at the mare’s body lying just below the white sheet she had used to cry into. Her wet tears still marked the spot near the horse’s neck where she had buried her head and wept.

“Dakota,” she said, sniffing toward the dead horse, her nose still runny from crying. “It was only her first foal.”

The baby, who glistened solidly black, was still very much alive and rocking back and forth on the floor trying to find its legs. Alexandra got up and closed the stall door.

“I’m so sorry Alexandra,” I said as she sat back down and gently touched the little animal.

She sniffed again. “I just wish I could have done something differently. Called the vet sooner? Maybe it would have helped?” Her eyebrows rose. I looked over at the little horse. Looking back, I found Alexandra’s eyes intent on mine, wanting answers, her restless spirit quiet for once.

I sighed. “Dakota knows you loved her and did your best, Alexandra. It’s okay for you to feel the way you do though.” I had some experience in this. “We always question when we lose someone … what we could have done to change it, if we did this or that, would it have helped? But you can’t change what happened. You can only remember them and try to go on.”

My thoughts drifted away to my dad.

“I’m just really sorry this happened to you.” Too, I thought.

I took her hand in mine and she actually let me, sighing. I felt something electric, and probably blue, dance quietly between our hands but it was hidden between them. She looked up knowingly but didn’t pull away.

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The Oracle at the Temple of Amun

Here’s an adventure-filled excerpt from my novel HalfWorlder.

Having just careened into the cold waters of an underground lake below the Siwa Oasis, with nothing but massive phosphorescent fish for light, Alexandra is injured as rocks begin to fall on them from above. A patch of square light calls to them from the bottom of the lake. A way out. But can they make it?

I swam over quickly, and just in time too, because something above gave way and rock began to careen into the lake from above us. Alexandra started to come to and I pulled her quickly to my side, throwing my hand out to form a shield above us like Ryan. I was surprised by the weight of the rocks. They bore down on me, slowing crushing against my powers. Alexandra realized this. Her eyes were alarmed. I was too new at all this and I was already exhausted.

Her eyes fluttered. She didn’t look well. “You have to let me go,” she said quietly into my head.

So, she did realize.

“This is too important. The answers are down there.” Her face looked slack and unnatural. “We’re on the right path. You know it now. We can save the Earth. You can save it still, Gil,” she corrected. Her mental voice went quieter with that realization.

What was wrong with her to talk like this?

“There. Down there.” She tried to nod her head in the direction of the square of light below our feet, but it just rolled. Her eyes brimmed with tears, and she tried to pull away from me. But I held her tightly.

“Are you kidding me? I’m not letting you go!” I yelled out loud. “Good ancient false gods, you are fatalistic!” Adrenaline surged through me and I pushed out through my hand. She made me angry. There was no way I was losing her. Not for billions of lives. It was hers alone I wanted to protect. I couldn’t lose her. The rock above us rose slightly at this burst of heated energy.

Her eyes fluttered and she looked up at me as I held her in the cold water. She reached her hand for my face. Wounded as she was, she acted without her usual restraint. “You never give up do you?” she asked.

“Not when you’re involved,” I answered honestly, looking down on her. She said nothing, but she had heard me. Her eyes fluttered again and half closed. I was desperate. My Bau was fatiguing. I looked around frantically. I had to save her. There had to be a way.

“Can you help?” I asked her, looking down. I had to jog her just slightly to get her to wake and even hear me. She just looked at me. This was so unlike her. She must be really hurt. She was practically limp, I realized. I wasn’t even sure she was still conscious anymore. Her eyes hung open glassy this time.

Oh, God, please let her not be dead.

All around me, falling rock, choking water, giant fish. All of it was capable of killing us. None of it could help.

Unless.

I wasn’t so good at the telepathy thing. I could talk to ships, mumble to Alexandra. Could I catch the mind of a simple fish?

I tried it.

I focused my attention on a massive whale of a creature far down below and waited. It shot up through the water, its mouth open in a gaping hole.

Ah! Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea!

The fish’s massive body was translucent. Its guts and veins bulged purple, red and black under its scales as it approached. But it also glowed phosphorescent too, allowing me to see it in all its horrible glory. It seemed to turn its eye on me at the last second and then swallowed the two of us whole. It closed its mouth tight, so we had the privilege of air along with a great view of the other titan fish swimming around its clear body as we rocketed back down to the bottom of the lake.

The fish was fast moving and avoided the falling rocks by swimming zigzag through the water, sending an already hurt Alexandra tumbling around its massive tongue. The air wouldn’t last forever and I willed it to swim quickly for the square of light below. I didn’t know what would happen when we got there, but I felt sure it was our only hope.

The fish stopped in front of the light and I tried my best to thank it. I think it was confused at first we wouldn’t be a permanent meal, but its mind was simple and it accepted without much fuss. It swam in front of the doorway of light and let me take it in a moment before expelling us. I was pretty sure I could see something behind the blue light, and the material looked similar to the stuff that made up the mini dome we practiced in, so I was confident for the first time in 20 minutes.

It was something at least.

Alexandra was semi-conscious now and looked around in wonder realizing where she was at. A slow smile spread across her face and she accepted my help. “Hold your breath, Alex,” I said gently taking her in my arms. She pinched her nose lazily and took a deep breath. The look on her face was slightly spacey. Our fish friend opened its mouth and we burst across the barrier into a dry room filled with air.

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“If he fails, I lose you forever.”

Here’s an excerpt from my novel HalfWorlder, which sets up the premise:

It was the dead of night and the girl was running. She was older now. Behind her, the young man panted and ran hard, looking back over his shoulder. Their pursuers were lean and muscular men, reaching with their hands and making the earth rise and fall in front of the seemingly doomed couple.

The girl looked back at her suitor and cried out. Her eyes were full.

“It is the only way,” he mouthed to her.

They kept running.

“No!” she pleaded with him, the words only a whisper on the wind.

“I’m sorry, my love, but I must protect you.”

He stopped running then and turned to face the assassins. He called out, “Ra commands the sun!” And light so dazzling it blinded came rushing from the heavens and filled the sky. The men stopped and covered their eyes. The girl fell and covered hers too, but Ra stared into the light, his eyes gleaming with kinetic energy, those eyes of his still seeing but totally white like they were blind.

The men withered on the ground like they were in pain, but the girl stilled herself as Ra approached and knelt beside her. He placed his hands on her eyes, and when he removed them, she stared up at him, both their eyes now white and startling to look at.

Tears filled them as they knelt and held each other. “There’s no time now, Isis. We must do this now. It is the only way. The Oracle has said so. You know we must obey.”

“No, Ra. We must not. You know what this fate may bring. You risk us in doing this. I cannot lose you forever to the Aten. The boy may not be able to finish it. She said so. And if he fails, I lose you forever.”

“I will lose you forever now,” he said and looked back to the men, “if I do not.” And with that, Ra grabbed her hair and the nape of her neck and kissed her. It was a kiss of desperation. A last kiss.

He pulled back and their white eyes cried. He took the locket from where it lay across her neck and opened it. Something like the sun, though certainly smaller, rose from it and swelled and catapulted into the air above Ra until it was wider than his broad shoulders. The orb was as powerful and bright and as alive as the white-eyed people it now hovered over. It waited as if it already knew what they would ask of it.

Ra took one single breath, and did: “Aten, accept this gift of man and tie the knot of Isis.”

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Don’t hide from them. Children can smell you out like blood hounds.

This morning, I went to have a nice long relaxing bath. That’s a lot of adjectives, I know, but I had high hopes for this bath. It was needed too. I had spent all of the day before querying my YA epic fantasy, HalfWorlder, in my pajamas. I also happen to live in one of those old 1950’s center-hall colonials whose closets are too small for the duct work of modern AC (but that’s for an episode of This Old House, right?), so good-old-fashioned wall and window units are it for cooling at the Herring house. With temperatures nearing the 90’s, I guessed this would be problematic, and since my work space happens to be across the house from the main AC, I soon found out it was. I could feel a thin sheen of sweat forming across my forehead by only mid-morning. Yet still, I holed up and went to work … you know … because that’s what you do when your manuscript’s done and you can’t think of any more excuses not to query.

Now here’s the miracle: In some happy alignment of the stars, the heat wave gave me the break I needed to get some actual work done. My children abandoned their normal zealous mom’s-my-short-order-chef, where’s-my-pants pursuit of me in favor of the cool air and TV in our living room. All three of them grabbed food and drink and settled down to watch a “marathon of movies” (my oldest daughter’s words) and as many episodes of Liv & Maddie as their little hearts could take, only to emerge like wary prairie dogs, afraid of losing their place on the couch, for more of said food and drink. It was great. It felt like a vacation, and even though I was riper than the box of kiwis I had forgotten about at the bottom of my fridge by afternoon, life was good.

Sounds beautiful right (of course, minus the icky sweating part)? Are you feeling me, you other work-from-home, summer’s-here and my-kids-aren’t-at-camp-this-week parents? Yes? Well, this only serves to make what I’m about to tell you that much harder. Here’s the thing about kids: You can’t hide from them for long. They’ll find you. They’re like blood hounds. They can smell you out wherever you go. Sure, you might get a break like me if you lock yourself in a sweltering box for an afternoon, but as soon as the temperatures drop, you’re in for it.

And that brings us back to my bath tub. I managed to settle in undisturbed, the hot water enveloping me like an old friend (one I knew well before kids). I started to enjoy the near-burning water, beautifully deluded by the dream that was my atypical previous day. I was down one kid at baseball camp anyway, so there were only two left who might find me. The odds were ever in my favor (love me some Suzanne Collins). I felt hope warring with my fears. I might just pull this off! And then I heard it, the pitter-patter of little feet on the stairs and the word I can’t help but love coming off the lips of my 6-year-old, “Mom!”

I grabbed the shampoo quickly. Bath time was over.

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