Paranatural Circus (Black Widow)

Wednesday Writing Prompt: Begin a story with an upbeat sentence. End the story with the same sentence, only now it’s terrifying.

black widow

She walked down the corridor, excitement and anticipation pulsed through her veins.

It had been days since Widow was onstage, so she was itching to play.  The slow, deliberate clicking of her high-heeled boots against the floor echoed like an ominous warning.  She exited the darkened hallway and stood just offstage.  Widow ran her slender fingers through long, jet-black hair, while she waited for her introduction.

The ringmaster stood under the spotlight wearing a black top hat over long, dark hair, and a black cloak that hung to the floor.  His sharp, handsome features captivated the crowd almost as much as his truly hypnotic voice.  A natural gift that was of great benefit in their particular line of work. His smile grew wide enough to reveal fangs as he introduced Widow’s act.

“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, here at the Paranatural Circus we have an act so daringly unique, you can only witness it here!  A balancing act that combines graceful acrobatics with gravity defying stunts! The most risqué, engaging, compelling tightrope act in the entire world!  Or as some would claim, in any of the worlds.”  His piercing green eyes scanned the crowd.  These insignificant, oblivious mortals had no idea.  “Without further ado, I present to you…The Black Widow!”

The crowd erupted into applause as Widow stepped into the spotlight.  The music roared to life as she moved across the stage.  Widow lifted her blood-red lips in a tantalizing smile while she slithered into the crowd.  The beat of the music was vibrating everyone into the next level of anticipation.  Widow lived for this part of her act.  The hunt.  Eager spectators held their breath either wishing to be invisible or hoping for a chance to be part of the show.  There was no method to Widow’s choices.  Her tastes varied based on the day and her current mood.  Sometimes she chose men, sometimes women, but never…ever…children.  Not for any moral reason.  After all, Widow didn’t have any morals.  Just raw, unapologetic instinct.

She twirled around the crowd searching for her volunteer the same way a person might search for a perfectly ripened peach, briefly touching and feeling her options, waiting for one to stand out above the rest.  Then she sensed him.  His heart was beating harder than the others, so hard in fact, she could hear it even above the music.  Widow opened her mind, searching him out across the crowd until her eyes connected with his.  Poor guy didn’t stand a chance.

Widow licked her lips and appeared to teleport over to him.  The crowd applauded her magic and she reveled in her devious secret. Clueless mortals. She straddled him in his seat and lowered her mouth to his ear just as the spotlight found them.

“Well don’t you smell delicious?” she purred, inhaling his scent.  “What’s your name?”

“Bryan,” he answered.  He was unsure of where to put his hands as his date looked on from the seat next to him.

Running a blood-red, long nail gently down his cheek and under his chin, Widow guided him to stand and follow her. Bryan’s pretty little date reached out to grab him, but it was already too late.  He belonged to Widow now.

He followed her onstage, and she shoved him down into a seat facing the audience.  Twenty-five feet above them, Widow’s elaborate spiderweb-themed tightrope course hung securely. Glancing out at the audience, Widow lifted her long, slender leg, placing her high-heeled boot in Bryan’s lap.  With her inner thigh just a foot away from his face, she made a show of unzipping it, all the way from the middle of her thigh down to her ankles.  She removed her boot and threw it off to the side of the stage.

Widow twirled and shifted around Bryan to the rhythm of the music, before seductively settling her other boot intimately into his lap.  This time, she instructed him to remove it.  Bryan hesitated briefly, then his face contorted in confusion as his hands began working Widow’s zipper.  The harder he tried to resist the stronger Widow compelled him to obey.  His fingers slid slowly down the inside of her leg, gently guiding her out of the boot. Widow found his date in the audience.  She had just gathered her coat and was currently headed for the exit.  Pity she couldn’t stay for the show.

Widow smiled, flashing perfectly white teeth.  The crew helped Bryan to his feet and removed the chair from the stage while Widow discreetly put on her leather slippers.  Widow approached Bryan, sliding around to stand next to him.  She opened her hands, palms facing and fingers spread wide apart.  A subtle, red glow began to form between her hands as the music rose to a crescendo.  The audience cheered her magic on as silky webs that seemed to come from her hands began to cocoon the volunteer, starting at his feet.  Widow shivered in anticipation.  Let the show begin.

black widow

This was supposed to be a fun night.  A first date at the circus seemed like a romantic idea, but now his date was gone, and he was getting wrapped up in a prop that felt far too constricting.  Who was supposed to be regulating this?  He wasn’t even sure what he did to get up on the damned stage, or what the hell he was thinking practically undressing this stranger.  How embarrassing.  Bryan was never one to volunteer, crowds made him self-conscious.  But still, she had picked him.  Had sought him out among the crowd.  What rotten luck.  He tried to reassure himself that it would all be over with shortly, and then he could go try to salvage what was left of his date night.  If he could even find his date.

The silken web crawled up his thighs and seemed to be coming directly from Widow’s hands. Being this close, he would think he’d see some sort of contraption or device assisting this performer with her magic, but he only saw the red glow and silk thread.

The web was around his midsection when he started to worry.  He wasn’t sure how this magic trick worked, or where it was headed, but Bryan didn’t feel like being a guinea pig.  How would it look if he left the stage?  Would he ruin the show?

He was in up to his chest, with his arms pinned tightly to his sides, as the silk spun higher and higher squeezing the air out of his lungs.  Bryan was on the brink of panic.  He decided he had enough and tried to leave, but he couldn’t move.  It was like his body wasn’t his anymore, and he realized it might be more than stage fright that gripped him.  Inside his head he was screaming wildly, but in reality, no sound came forth.  In his mind’s eye, he was violently thrashing around trying to fight his way out of this cocoon, but on stage, he was paralyzed.  The silk strangled his throat before covering his useless mouth, then his nose, and then everything went dark.

Bryan could still hear and breathe, but just barely.  He’d never been claustrophobic, but damn if he didn’t feel like the world was closing in on him.  His skin crawled and his muscles itched to move.  His lungs burned for oxygen but only got the crushing weight of terror and defeat.  His heart hammered in his throat as he felt hands on his entombed body, laying him flat on the stage.  Bryan was aware of being hoisted into the air by whatever was tied around his ankles.  Probably more of that god-awful silk.  How high up was he dangling?  Did anyone sense he didn’t want to be there, or did they all continue to think this was an entertaining show?

The horrifying thought suddenly occurred to Bryan that he might not make it out of there alive.  His silent scream was only heard in the confines of his own mind.

black widow

From up on her web of ropes, the audience looked so small to Widow.  She was untouchable as she placed her feet comfortably on the lines.  The song switched to a slower, haunting tune.  The music filled her with power as she twisted and contorted in a graceful display of choreographed movement.  Her body danced seductively over the ropes, her long legs and sculpted arms flowing with the rhythm of the sensual music.

This.  This is what Widow lived for.  Sex, death, and feeding.  It was her instinct, hardwired into the very core of her being.  She couldn’t be blamed for who she was any more than the lion could be blamed for eating the gazelle.

Sex, death, and feeding.  She continued to dance, gliding over the ropes, making use of the entire web.  Her body, the music, and the lights were all in perfect harmony, captivating the audience below.

Sex, death, and feeding.  Her next thrill hung cocooned just below her, helplessly dangling and at her mercy.  She wet her lips.

Widow slid headfirst down the line of silk that connected Bryan to her ropes.  The audience gasped and sat on the edge of their seats as she slid further down the silk and closer to the human-shaped cocoon.  When she reached him, she ignited a powerful flash of smoke, concealing the two of them from the audience.

She wrapped herself around Bryan, gripping him tightly between her thighs, and teleported offstage, cocoon and all.  The smoke cleared revealing their absence.  The last thing Widow heard was the thunderous roar of an entertained crowd.

Backstage, it was time to retreat to her dressing room.  Widow said “goodnight” to the crew and began dragging her cocooned volunteer by his ankles.

Sex, death, and feeding.  Widow was starving.

She walked down the corridor, excitement and anticipation pulsed through her veins.

Invisible Anna

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After the blinding light cleared, Anna tried to refocus.  Her head felt fuzzy, but despite being disoriented, she was able to regain her vision.  Directly in front of Anna was an ornate mirror hanging on the wall, with a wooden table and an arrangement of pink roses below it.

“This can’t be right,” she said, squinting to get a better look.

The reflection in the mirror was definitely Anna, only she looked as though she was in her thirties again.  She stepped closer to the mirror and touched her warm, soft cheek.  Stretching her hands out in front of her, she noted the smooth, slender fingers and glowing skin where age spots had been moments earlier.

Pulling at the neckline of her favorite t-shirt, she took a peek inside.  “Well hello girls, you’re looking perky,” she said, pleased that her body was back in place and not hurting anymore.

Anna’s daughter came into the foyer just then, her dark brows were pinched, lips set in a thin line, and her eyes had dark circles underneath.

“Allison, what’s happening?  How did I get here?” Anna asked.

Allison ignored her mother and disappeared through the double doors.  Anna followed behind pushing the door open, and the hinges protested with a creaky moan.  Anna’s three children and their families stood at the front of the room, turning to see what the sound was.

“There must be a draft,” Allison said.

“No, it’s just me,” Anna replied, but her family had already shifted their attention away from her.

Anna moved forward to get a better look at what everyone was gawking at.  Some of her family was crying, and everyone stood defeated, as though the weight of the world rested on each of their shoulders.  They were gathered around a casket.

“What am I missing?  Who died?” Anna asked, moving in for a closer look.

She clamped her hand to her mouth, stumbling back a few steps, swallowing the bile that was rising in her throat.  Tears filled her eyes as panic settled into every crack of her being.  It couldn’t be.

“Goodbye Mom,” Allison whispered into the coffin.

“I’m right here!”  Anna’s voice cracked, she shook her head trying to clear out the confusion.  “What the hell is going on?”

Anna backed up to put some distance between herself and the coffin.  She bumped into someone and, out of habit, turned to apologize.

“Man, I’ve missed you,” Jack’s familiar voice soothed her.

“Jack?”

Tears fell from Anna’s eyes as her late husband wrapped her up in a tight embrace.

“I knew I’d see you again, I knew it!”   She pulled back, stroked his middle-aged face, and squeezed his arms to be sure he was real.

“Is this a dream?” Anna asked him.

“I think you know it isn’t.”

“But I don’t feel dead.  I’m so confused.”

The funeral director began setting up a large picture on a stand next to the coffin.  Anna crept over to have a peek at her old, wrinkly body.  It was covered only by a clean, white sheet pulled up to her neck to conceal her nakedness.

“Just like I requested,” she noted.

The director gently closed the coffin as Anna examined the oversized picture of herself.  She looked at Jack with a sparkle in her eye, and the two of them burst into laughter.

“This is the one?  This is the best picture they could find of me?”

“At least they blurred out your middle finger,” Jack smiled.

“My gosh, I remember this!  I was drinking tequila.  Would you look at the hot pink lipstick on that shriveled up smile of mine?”

Jack winked at Anna.

“You’re eighty-five years old, get it together,” she yelled at the picture, smiling.

Her family slugged around the room, as guests began pouring in to say their goodbyes.

“This is depressing,” Anna said.

“Well what did you expect?  The world is a darker place without you in it, my love.”

Jack reached for Anna’s hand and held tight.

“Oh look!  There are Jenny and Mel.  I’m going to miss those girls.  Maybe I’ll haunt them sometime.”

More familiar faces piled in and a smile spread over Anna’s face.  “It’s good to know they cared,” she told Jack.

Anna’s youngest great-grandchild was Jill, a blonde hair, blue-eyed sweetie pie who just celebrated her first birthday.  She came toddling toward Anna on unsteady feet.

“Nana!” Jill babbled, pointing as drool hung from her lips.

“Nana’s in heaven with the angels now,” her mother soothed.  She swooped Jill up into her arms.

Jill’s chubby-cheeked smile flashed over her mother’s shoulder, as the toddler reached out to Anna.

Anna placed her thumbs against her temples and wiggled her fingers while blowing raspberries to Jill.  The sweet girl squealed and clapped.

Anna placed her hands over her heart.  “She can see me?”

“Sometimes they can,” Jack said.  “Especially when they’re little.”

Anna arched her brow as a new guest entered the room.

“And what is Ethel doing here?  She doesn’t even like me.”

Jack shrugged his shoulders.

“Look at her pretending to care.  Oh, I’m haunting this one for sure.  Books will be flying off shelves, and dishware will be levitating.  You can count on it,” Anna promised playfully.

Ethel made her way up to the casket, collapsing into tears and causing a scene.  Anna followed close.

“What a drama queen.  Would you look at this, Jack?  I don’t even think those tears are real!”

“Anna,” he said.

“What a fake…”

“Anna!” Jack interrupted.  He nodded in Allison’s direction.

She was huddled with her two brothers and clearly struggling with this event.  Anna floated over to her children, who were already wrinkled with age themselves.  She put her arms around them as best she could.

“Oh God, it’s like she’s still here, I can feel her,” Allison sobbed.

“Mom probably is still here,” Alan soothed.  “She’d never let anything keep her away from us.  Not even the Grim Reaper himself.”

“I can feel her too,” her oldest brother agreed. “Of course, it could just be gas.”

“Andrew!” Allison snorted at her brother’s weird humor.

Anna floated back to Jack’s side.  “I feel so helpless.  Is there anything I can do to comfort them?”

“Not that I know of.  This is their time to hurt and to heal.  It’s what life is all about.  They’ll be fine.”

Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” played softly over the speakers.

“They remembered!”  Anna clapped her hands together as a smile spread across her face.

“Don’t worry…about a thing…cause every little thing’s, gonna be alright…” Anna swayed to the music, memories flooding her soul.

Her family also smiled now, sharing their own memories of Anna.  Some memories were such a gift, and the most important ones never seemed to fade.

“I’m really going to miss the kids,” Anna sighed.

“We’ll stay close by.  They’ll be here with us all too soon.”

 ~*~

Anna and Jack stood side by side on the familiar grounds of their property.  In human terms, a week had passed, but time was different in this new reality.  For Anna, it had only felt like minutes.

Her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren were gathered at the back of the property, just outside the tree line.  Allison and her husband had moved in to help take care of Anna during the final stages of her life, so Anna left the house to them.

It was a beautiful fall day.  The sun was shining, and the leaves were vibrant shades of orange, yellow, and red.  The smell of burning firewood blew in on the crisp breeze.  A small hole was freshly dug a short distance from the ten-year-old oak tree with Jack’s memorial plaque tacked to it.  Allison placed the bio urn, containing Anna’s ashes and an oak seed, into the hole.

“Rest in peace, Momma.  Hug Dad for us.”

Anna wrapped her arms around Jack.  “This is from the kids.”

He smiled and hugged her tight.

Allison furrowed her brows.  “Do you think that, somewhere out there, Mom and Dad still exist?”

“I don’t know.”  Alan put his arm around his sister.

The grandkids buried the urn, excited for the day they would have a picnic under their Nana’s living memorial.

That evening while Allison was in the shower, tears slid down her cheeks and she sobbed.  Thoughts of her own mortality, her mother, and the fresh empty void in her life consumed her.

“She’ll be okay, Anna.”

“There has to be some way I can comfort her.”

“Let her live, I promise she can handle this.  We’ll check on her in a little while, but right now, I have so much to show you.”

Anna started to follow Jack.  But then her eyes lit up and a smile played at the corners of her mouth.

“Wait, I’ve got an idea!”  She disappeared into the bathroom.

Seconds later she emerged, her features much more relaxed than before, and she took Jack’s hand.

Somewhere in the Universe, in a place so beautiful human language can’t describe it, Jack and Anna laughed and twirled in each other’s arms to a heavenly melody no human ear could comprehend.  Peace and love permeated every part of her soul.  She was home.

~*~

Allison stepped out of the shower and reached for her robe.  Her eyes widened, goosebumps tickled her skin, and her breath caught in her throat.  Then peace filled her heart, and she smiled.  She hadn’t heard anyone enter the bathroom, but in the fog on the mirror, in her mother’s familiar handwriting, were the words: WE STILL EXIST.

 

 

 

 

What is The Facination With Vampires

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My latest novel, Vital Spark, is a vampire romance set in New Orleans.  I’ve been a fan of mythical vampires since long before Twilight oversaturated the market.  In all the novels I’ve read, I never really questioned what it was that made the vampires so appealing.

Obviously they are written as gorgeous, so there’s that.  Then there’s the idea of superhuman strength and speed, which creates a situation that would make anyone feel safe and protected, and that’s a nice feeling.  Some people are a sucker for a tortured soul, which could also explain some of the facination.  A lot of us can relate to having that “darker side” of ourselves.  We bury it and struggle to keep it contained, but we all have our inner demons.

Then I got to thinking, what is it that most people fear?  Death.  And also aging, because that seems to lead to death.  But with just a little bite, a vampire can give you the gift of immortality and eternal youth.  The older I get, the more I realize there isn’t much I wouldn’t do for eternal youth.  Maybe not botox though, I’ve seen some pictures. But I have to do something because it’s not going to be pretty you guys…

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A vampire can ease your biggest fears.  Can you imagine what you would do if you knew you couldn’t die?  I’d eat two pounds of bacon for breakfast every morning.  And a stick of butter covered in sugar.

I always say it would suck to live forever.  At some point, I’ll want to move on to the next realm so I can start haunting people or whatever.  But I can bet that on my deathbed, I’ll be screaming for Dracula.

What do you think?  Would immortality be a blessing or a curse?

Vital Spark: A FREE Peek Just For You!

Vital Spark Banner

Happy book release day!!!  Vital Spark is now available for purchase on Amazon!

In honor of book release day, I’m sharing the first two chapters of the novel for free.  So, check out your free sample of Vital Spark and if you like what you read, you can buy my latest novel, Vital Spark right here!  It’s available in both the Kindle and paperback editions.

Thank you for your consideration!  Happy reading!

 

Blurbing it Up

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Elaura Maitland is searching for her missing sister in the deepest, darkest shadows of New Orleans when she unwittingly gets pulled into an underground war between the vampires of the French Quarter.

Max has been the most powerful vampire in New Orleans for decades, ensuring a peaceful coexistence with humans.  Now people are disappearing, which can only mean one thing: a vampire uprising.  If Max can help Elaura find out what happened to her sister, maybe he can discover who’s trying to wage a war against him.

As if he didn’t have enough on his plate, Max’s longtime enemy, a vampire hunter named Trevor, is back in town.  The mysterious hunter and the beautiful Elaura have developed a close relationship, which complicates things even further, as Max tries to fight his own growing affection for her.

Lost in a world she never could have dreamed existed, Elaura must find out what happened to her sister, before the entire city goes down in the flames of a war waged to destroy humanity.

 

Vital Spark.  Coming to you October 1st!

Thoughts?  Questions?  Comments?  Let me know!

Title Rejects

You know you're a writer when... you've spent more time brainstorming the title for your novel than writing.

To title a novel is a process.  Every successful author has one and I’m pretty sure my process -while fun- is flawed.  I don’t know.

It usually starts with a glass of wine, after I’ve had a shot or two.  I complain a little bit about my upcoming task to anyone who will listen…so, my dogs and the one cat who’s too lazy to run away.  Then I sit down at the computer and start typing any title that comes to mind that’s even loosely tied to the novel I’m working on.  Any words or phrases that pop in there.  This strategy works well because there are no rules, nothing is off the table in this moment.

I usually keep going until I find myself typing things like “You’ll Never Pick a Good Title” or “Just Give Up.” At that point, I’m just being negative and clearly a refill of wine is necessary.  But what I’m left with are some great ideas for a title that I get to choose from.

I mean, I haven’t actually chosen any titles that present themselves during these brainstorming sessions, but I figure, if I just keep with it, one day it’ll work.  Maybe.

Here are a few rejected titles from my upcoming novel.  It’s a vampire romance set in New Orleans.

Suck It ……………………………………….I like the blunt approach, but it seems a bit rude.

Bite Me (A Vampire Romance) …At least it’s to the point.

Eat. Drink. Prey. ……………………….Get it?  “Prey?”

Bae in the Bayou ………………………This is just dumb.

I Thought He Drank Wine ……….She made an honest mistake.

My Boyfriend Can Fly ………………Not really the point of the story.  At all.

Love Can Be Draining ………………Too pessimistic.

This Book Has No Title …………….Too honest.

Just Read This ……………………………Too bossy.

There should be a profession where people get paid to read a book and come up with a title for it.  I would pay good money for that service if I ever had any good money.

Things I Would Rather Do Than Title a Novel

What happens when you pull his finger?
Longmire Does Romance Novels

My favorite part of writing a novel is creating the first draft.  With reckless abandon, I can type out anything I want, no matter how stupid it might be, because I know the first draft will never be seen by anyone but me.  I can unleash the creative monster in me and then reign in the insanity little by little with each rewrite.

I’m not a fan of editing.  Like, at all.  While I’m very particular about “your” and “you’re,” “there” and “their,” or “to and too,” everything else pretty much goes to hell in a handbasket.  I’m fairly decent at making crap up, but grammar and punctuation are not my strengths, and as an indie author, I don’t have thousands of dollars to pay a real actual editor.  (Which reminds me, how much are kidneys going for on the black market?  Asking for a friend…)

But figuring out a title for my novel is, by far, my least favorite part of being a writer.  Now, I’ve done some difficult things in my life.  I’ve squeezed some rather large-headed babies out of my teeny tiny girl-parts.  I’ve been through a divorce and I was a single mom for a bit.  I had to leave my newborn in intensive care for just over a month.  I’m a Marine Mom, I’ve had teeth pulled, and I survived Catholic school. I’ve even watched about thirty minutes of The Royal Tenenbaums, and believe me, that was extraordinarily difficult.  But every time I need to come up with a title that sums up a novel I’ve written, it’s just too hard.

So here is a list of five things I would rather do than title my novels.

  1. Vaginally deliver a giant, breech porcupine.
  2. Solve an algebra problem.  Sober.
  3. Lick a U.S. dollar bill.
  4. Get an enema.
  5. Get kicked in the face by a donkey wearing baseball cleats.

What do you hate most about your job?