Category Archives: Uncategorized

Fresh Start – Homebound

It’s been a week.

Last Monday, I signed paperwork to buy a new home. We slept on an air mattress that night because the movers couldn’t make it back until Tuesday morning.

And that was perfectly okay.

Because it was done. Finished. The home was ours. The trials and tribulations that led up to last Monday are for another day. There were plenty of them. I don’t remember being even half as stressed when we bought the last place, but we survived so I’m letting it go. For now. Until I feel like ranting against the strange behaviors of humans again.

Not tonight though.

Tonight is for the beauty of finding a place that calls out for you.

I haven’t written in months. No, years now. It’s been at least as long as the new job title I acquired two years ago, perhaps longer. Definitely longer.

This home inspires me.

As I sat on the deck this afternoon, reclining in a chair to watch the clouds drift by, I realized I was narrating in my head. Something that doesn’t happen often anymore. It’s been a great fix when I can’t sleep – I narrate a scene for Crank late at night as I try not to stare at the ceiling – but tonight I was doing it simply because.

Because there was something I wanted to say. A story to weave. A sense of peace with words and environment I haven’t felt in a while. Because I am a writer.

The clouds drift lazily by overhead as you stretch, languidly, like a feline. You notice the different layers of white in the sky and think back to the day when you could’ve named them. Some clouds fluffy and thick, others thin and sparse. As you watch, two crows do aerial acrobatics, fighting over… something. You don’t care what.

You think back over the last week. You’ve seen orioles, cardinals, hummingbirds, and one curious groundhog who stood on his hind feet to sniff the air when he spotted you watching from behind the glass of the walkout basement door. You watched each other for several minutes before he ambled into the bushes, unconcerned about his new neighbor.

This is a place that could bring back the stories. This is a place that could sustain peace.

The last place served you well. Very well. But you couldn’t relax like this. Not outside. On that deck, you barely rocked your head to one side to see two yards down. That house, the neighbor “warmed up” his oversized pickup truck for several minutes before tearing out of the neighborhood like he drove a street racer. That house had turkeys, though this one still might. They say a moose was spotted here once. You don’t want to tangle with that, and you’re fairly certain the cats will chose the same cautionary path should they spy the leggy but onerous creature.

It was a week ago that you signed the papers, and every day you’re grateful that you were stubborn, refusing what should’ve been nice homes, insisting on continuing the search. It was a week ago, that you laughed with the sellers, despite the stress leading up to that day. It was a week ago, that you wondered about the gruff nature of the man purchasing the home that sheltered you for the last decade, but relaxed when you learned he wasn’t the one that would live there. That energy wouldn’t invade the home that treated you well for years.

Today, swallows race each other across the span of the lawn to disappear behind the roof of the house, and dragonflies bigger than you’ve seen dart by on the way to do whatever dragonflies do. Today, you relax, listening to the night critters as twilight falls and the clouds thicken, and you smile.

Writing started as a catharsis to pain, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Writing can be inspired by much more if only the writer opens her eyes to see the inspiration.

Could this be a fresh start? I know Crank and Mike have been busy in my thoughts, but I can’t promise anything just yet. This laptop tells me the battery is crap, and my job still requires a lot of mental energy, but I haven’t surrendered. Not yet. Not anytime soon. I am a writer. I only need to put words down on the page.


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http://hopagainsthomophobia.blogspot.com/


For Boston

This morning I wrote a Hunger Games post about the passion of runners, especially marathon runners. Shortly thereafter, as Boston scrambled to take care of the injured and ensure no other harm would come to those gathered to celebrate that running passion, I removed that post to reflect on what had happened. At some future date, I’ll probably revisit the topic but or now, let us remember that while running is often a solitary sport, it was runners who, along with the police officers, were running toward the explosions instead of away. There is camaraderie among us, as athletes and as human beings. We will not let cowardly attacks from hidden faces weaken us and keep us down. We are strong. We love. We run.


New Winner

Renee, AKA PaParanormalFan, please email me at piathewriter@gmail.com with your choice of format.

Everyone else, the GoodReads drawing is still open. Visit the thread HERE to enter.


Last Call

Barbara Elsborg, please email me at piathewriter@gmail.com with your preferred format for Hounded By Love. If I do not hear from Barbara by 6 p.m. ET tonight, I will draw a new name from the Hop Against Homophobia commenters. Stay tuned, dear Readers, you may still win.


Guest Blogs

Today I’m visiting RJ Scott and telling her about my top five favorites of her chosen categories.

Saturday, I’m visiting Culinary Carnivale to discuss my favorite M/M authors and books.

Drop on by so I’m not talking to myself! 😉

Ciao,
Pia


Three ‘Other World’ Updates

I typically like to post in my blog once a week on average. Some months, I have a lot to say, or maybe that should read, I don’t censor myself as well, and other months, I struggle for topics for the blog. In those prolific months, I type up drafts and save them on the blog dashboard for future use. Yet when I realized I haven’t posted a new entry to this blog since the 7th and opened up that list of drafts, I found nothing but fiction blurbs and partial flash fiction attempts. Uh, yeah, my head’s been in the creation process a little too deeply lately. Well, not “too” but I’ve been in that Other World often.

 

Crowded and Alone has slowed in the word count, but that’s a good thing. Something about the manuscript has been bugging me and letting my mind wander over how each scene contributes to the whole as I write it has helped narrow down the issues. I know now where I need to concentrate on the second pass to pull the story together with strong bindings.

 

On the publication front, Fallen received a great review on GoodReads and not only did I enjoy the review, but it inspired several other GoodReads users to add the book to their bookshelves. Fallen is on 30 shelves this morning and while I know some people use multiple shelves, I’m still happy with the number for now.

 

In other writing news, Summer Lust was officially rejected after a month outstanding. I’m not the least bit disappointed (okay, just a little) because I received an extensive letter outlining what worked and didn’t for that publishing house with an invitation to submit the manuscript again if I address their concerns in future edits. The best part was, I understood their points and came up with some fun adjustments to fix those sticky spots. The Bad Guy will have a bigger role, and so will one MC’s parent. I’m excited and looking forward to finding the time to work on these changes.

 

Last, but certainly not least, I love to challenge myself. I believe that every writer should step out of their comfort zone on a regular basis. Once, a friend dared me to write a Western. I did. It wasn’t easy, but I did, and I loved the experience. My newest challenge was on a random whim that I didn’t expect to follow through with just yet. Silver Publishing has a call out for Valentine’s Day short stories. I generally avoid holiday themes, so I figured what the heck, let’s do some kind of sappy story for the lovers’ holiday. What’s developing is not fully sappy, and within the first two thousand words shifted from a contemporary romance to a paranormal horror with a V-Day theme, but I’m loving the challenge and I hope Silver will too. It will be sent out to them once finished even if the sap starts flowing into a flood.

 

Hmm, not bad for having nothing to say. The lack of daylight – or rather, the lack of safe running time outdoors – has been dragging down my mood, but apparently not my productivity. Go me. Go you, dear Readers. Are you keeping busy?

 

Ciao,

Pia


Boys and Beasts

THE CELLAR by Richard Laymon

This is another book in the Beast House series. No, not series, because they didn’t rely on each other; instead they have similar themes of ugly, vicious beasts with an over-the-top sexuality. I can’t help but wonder if Laymon wants to make a point about humanity, or is he simply trying to scare us?

When Donna learns her ex-husband has been freed from jail – after serving his sentence for raping their young daughter – she grabs young Sandy and flees. She wrecks the car in the same sleepy little town that is home to the Beast House, a carnival-like attraction known for the hideous murders throughout its past.

The lone survivor of the Beast is haunted by the memories decades later. When he hires Jud to help him hunt the beast, their paths cross with Donna and Sandy and, together, the foursome face down the violence in Donna’s ex and the one in the Beast House.

My only complaint about this story is the last chapter, the final resolution, that is the last few pages after the beast and Jud have their showdown (and I won’t spoil anything for you there – certainly, if you’ve read Laymon, you have an idea of what kind of beast Jud will find). The wrap up seemed tacked on and anti-climatic. I say this because it doesn’t suit the story or the characters. The rest of the story was well worth reading however, so I will be adding Laymon to my TBR pile again soon.

MALE CALL by Denise Agnew

I’m starting to lose interest in anything marked as a Kindle Freebie. At first I thought this would be a good idea for my own stuff (once I manage to start publishing some of that crap anyway) but now I have my doubts.

Agnew starts off with a premise that should be interesting, but quickly lost me with mundane things that should’ve been edited out or slipped in with subtlety. The story start with Eve debating on going to a “male review show” and then bolts into a plotline that is little more than the exchange of letters between her and Sean, a computer geek deployed in Iraq. After a dozen pages, the connection between the revue (by the way Agnew, when referring to a theatrical show it’s spelled revue) and the letters between her and Sean still did not exist and the transitional sentences between letters would be better off left out completely for all the help (aka damage) they did. The letters themselves didn’t propel the story forward quick enough to keep my attention as a reader.

I’m sorry to say, I didn’t make my quota of fifty pages before quitting on this one. There was both too much and not enough going on and none of it was connected enough to be interesting. I’m glad this one was free because I’d have been disappointed if I spent even a single dollar on it.

DARK ANGEL by GA Hauser

Here we have yet another freebie from the vast stores of the M/M world. Quite often freebies can entice readers to buy books they might not otherwise read. Other times, this strategy backfires, like today. While I have heard that Hauser has some great stories out there, I wasn’t impressed with DARK ANGEL. The story opened in the middle of a conversation between vampire, Daniel, and Jayden, who we never learn anything about other than Daniel doesn’t want to talk to him and he can vanish into thin air.

Daniel is the typical broken vampire with a burning, insatiable hunger and the cold-heartedness of centuries of murder for survival. Hauser takes the time to introduce his history but she doesn’t take any to introduce romance, or even lust. The heat level in this story is zero and, when Daniel finally meets his match, he immediately decides he can try out his first emotion and maybe even fall in love, but his match is nothing but a player – a different kind of predator. There is no spark, nothing in either man to convince me that Daniel should give an iota of a damn, let alone let down his guard to fall in love.

While it was written as such in Daniel’s voice, this wasn’t HEA, or even an ending at all. This story read more like a couple of chapters in the middle of a larger work. This is distracting enough, but then add in the glaring formatting errors and it’s not surprising that I had difficulty suspending disbelief for this short story.

If Hauser has something better, please let me know. I’d like to see something that lives up to what I’ve heard of her boys.

NASHVILLE HEAT by Bethany Michaels

This is a rare choice for me, as NASHVILLE HEAT  is an M/F erotic romance. Overall, the sex scenes were steamy but the push and pull of the two lovers got annoying after a while. I suspect, this is expected by romance fans since so many of these books do this. Me, I find it interesting until about halfway through and then I want to strangle the heroine because I already figured out how the story will end even if she doesn’t seem capable of doing so herself.

For boy-girl romance, yes, Michaels knows her stuff. If you’ve been here before, you know this genre isn’t my first choice, but I do pick them up for a chance of pace and a quick read. So, my not-quite-glowing discussion of NASHVILLE HEAT is actually a good review. I did enjoy most of the story and me wanting to slap the heroine is par for the course. I do admit that the setting wasn’t my thing, but it was interesting as portrayed – Nashville, country music, and a sexy, handsome cowboy singer. I hate country music, but Michaels did a great job setting up the scene for a young girl trying to make it big in Nashville. Her passion for musical talent and for the city is evident in her prose.

I did skip the last sex scene because, though it served a purpose, it came right after a steamy encounter in a bathroom. I skimmed it to get to the resolution. I usually prefer to reread the good smut, but this one after all of the others, didn’t sit right with me. Call me a whore for the quickies, because I loved those encounters each time the heroine met her cowboy star. If you like M/F erotic romances, check out NASHVILLE HEAT. It’s a quick, steamy read with a sexy musical twist.

Coming up soon:

THE SHINING by Stephen King
BODY & SOUL by Jordan Castillo Price
THE SURGEON by Tess Gerritsen
The CONQUEROR WORMS by Brian Keene


Outcasts, Flight, and Witchcraft

Here’s another crash course in Pia catching up on her reading blog posts all at once!

MAMA FISH by Rio Youers

We’ve all been there. We knew that one kid that didn’t quite fit in with his or her classmates. Some of us might have been that kid. Patrick Beauchamp introduces us to Kelvin Fish through memories of his childhood mixed with current day struggles of identity.

You can read an excellent review of it at “What Lurks Beneath the Covers”. I can’t say it any better, so please check it out!

LAKE HOUSE by James Patterson

Ah yes, I can hear the eyebrows jumping up through the internet void. I generally avoid authors that have taken up residence on the Best-Seller list.

Patterson is hugely popular, and I can see why. He manages some trouble, some tension, and a lot of cutsie moments about children, not fitting in, and flying. That being said, I felt the story had little depth and read more like a secret diary of Patterson’s deepest desire to learn to fly himself.

I enjoyed the concept in this and the first part of the story, WHEN THE WIND BLOWS, of children born in a secret lab genetically altered to have not only wings, but other bird-like qualities. The storyline itself (LAKE HOUSE) is a redundant follow-up to the first, with another secret lab and a scientist/doctor who wants the winged children for his own nefarious plans.

On a positive note, it was a quick and easy read, perhaps appropriate reading for a vacation on a beach, where reading with a drink in hand and sand in your shorts makes for a relaxing week away from the evil place called work.

DEAD TO THE WORLD by Charlaine Harris

(minor spoiler)

The forth book in the Sookie Stackhouse series, and another of those quick and easy reads called paranormal romance. I read this one in the span of 24-hours. I had been disappointed in book three, but this one was better. Perhaps that was partially because my favorite character has always been Eric. I had my reservations because I’m not a fan of amnesia storylines, but the different side of Eric that developed when he didn’t know his past was interesting. Plus, he and Sookie finally… *ahem*. About effin’ time!

Harris added yet another aspect to her supernatural world. Introducing witchcraft to a series that already has vampires, werewolves, and shifters, might have given the story too much clutter, but she kept each group in its role. Also, my hackles immediately quivered at the mention of witchcraft and Wicca. I did not want to read a story about evil witches that would do nothing but propagate the already frustrating Christian stereotype of working magic. Evil witches were the focus of the story, yes, but there were also witches that fit in with today’s real witches.

Finally, like the book about Dallas, this book starts and ends with a separate story that didn’t mean anything to the rest of the story. Jason disappears and while Sookie frets and searches for him through the book, his disappearance (and the resolution of it) lent nothing to the main story. Still an easy read and a nice way to space out the horror novels.

CROOKED LITTLE VEIN by Warren Ellis

There is so much I want to say about this book, but if I start referencing it, I’ll go quote crazy. From the first line, when a down-and-out private investigator wakes to the sound of a rat pissing in his coffee, to the end when our PI, Mike, decides what to make of the drug-addled member of the White House, Ellis keeps up a steady prose of crass observations, bad luck, and sassy dialogue.

I absolutely loved Ellis’s voice in this story, portrayed as a “shit magnet” P.I. named Mike hired to find an ancient book that could change the face of America. During his investigation, following the trail of the book from owner to owner with pretty young Trix as his assistant, Mike discovers things that disgust him in America’s underworld as it surfaces to the mainstream through his world-saavy girl’s familiarity with each questionable act.

Not only was this a dirty and fun story, but Ellis also gives great scrambled egg in the additional content in the back of the book. It is not, however, for everyone. Oh, definitely not. You’ve been warned. While you try to decide what to make of that warning, I’ll be reading it again. And again.

More later, my dear Readers. I’ve finished Ray Garton’s RAVENOUS and I’m well drawn in to a couple of more stories, including getting sucked into Joe Hill’s HORNS in the first paragraph. What are you reading, dear Readers? Talk to me.

Ciao,
Pia


Zombie Mask (fiction)

Brian Keene, master horror writer and heavy metal fan, is dead. I killed him. It was for a good cause.

If you like zombies, murder, and mayhem, the link to Mr. Keene’s website will give you a list of amazing authors and their versions of Brian’s death (plus an explanation as to why we killed him over and over and over again).

Thanks for reading!

———————————

Life was good and right.

In a sea of simple grey uniforms and masks of purple and gold, people lived in content peace. Violence had been eradicated. Poverty destroyed. Humanity worked as a hive, a well-tuned engine, a utopia of decimated dreams and glazed, deadpan eyes.

Everything was right and good. Everything worked.

The skies, as grey as the simple pantsuits every human wore, hung low, threatening a storm. Riding on that storm, one man, Brian Keene, glowered behind his mask as he waited for a traffic signal. The light turned green and not a soul tried to rush through before he hit the gas.

He growled in frustration, slamming a fist down on the steering wheel. Gunning the engine, Brian blasted a u-turn in the middle of the intersection, heading back home. Not a single driver honked his horn. Two waved and wished him luck on whatever he had to do in such a hurry.

Brian burst through the front door, startling his wife. He raced up the stairs, two at a time, muttering to himself. At the top of the stairs, he yanked on the cord dangling from the ceiling, unfolding the access ramp that led up into the attic.

“Is there something wrong?” his wife asked.

“Very!” Brian scrambled up the narrow passage and shoved aside the insulation blocking his access to the rarely-used storage room. He tore through boxes, scattering old clothing throughout the cramped space.

“I have fresh laundry,” his wife said from the hole in the floor. She gasped at the mess, her dainty hand, blocking her mouth and fluttering at the mask that hid the full expanse if her reaction.

“Where is it?” Brian kicked over an empty box to reach another. “Yes!” he cried as he pulled the flaps open. With a grin worthy of the long-forgotten Cheshire Cat, Brian held his treasure aloft.

“No,” his wife whispered. “It is not good. It is not right.” She shook her head. She backed down the steps, watching him descend triumphantly.

Brain ripped off his mask and then yanked a black shirt over his head. He held his hands out and said, “What do you think, hun?”

She stared in horror, desperately trying to keep her reactions neutral and good and right. She couldn’t take her gaze from the block letters spelling out ANTHRAX on his chest.

Her eyes flicked up to his. “Put your mask on,” she whispered.

“No.” He laughed. The baby cried somewhere in the house. “No more masks. I am not some faceless drone. I am Brian Keene!” He laughed again but the baby quieted.

“Please, husband, do not break this Ultimate Good.”

“I’m going out,” he announced. He tossed the mask to her and strode down the stairs and out the door.

Humming a fragment of a memory of a song off-key, Brain walked through his neighborhood, painting each house a vibrant shade of anything but the required beige with tan trim. He shaved poodles. He slapped silly bumper stickers over the traditional black sedans in every driveway.

A plain, boring, but good car rolled to a stop in front of him, blocking his progress. He grinned and waved at the two men who climbed from the vehicle.

“Sir,” one said forcefully. “Return to your house. Resume protocol for good and right dress.”

“I will not wear a dress and don’t ask me to wear a mask.”

“What?” The men in grey exchanged glances, neither willing to admit they did not know how to handle the dissenter.

“I won’t. You shouldn’t either. Be yourselves!” Brian grabbed the mask from one, and then the other. He threw them in the air like confetti and then raced down the street with a wild whoop of delight.

A young woman shrieked and hid her child’s face from the scene. An older gentleman clutched his chest and sunk to the ground. A husband and wife stare wide-eyed at the strange clothing Brian wore and then, once the fearful creature had passed, raced back home as quick as they could while keeping with the Ultimate Good.

They say Brian Keene made it all the way to the town center, climbed up on the gazebo in the park, and head-banged to old metal tunes only he heard, before they took him down. No law enforcement had been necessary for years, but society knew the importance of fitting in and they feared a world without masks. A dozen or more grey-clad, purple-masked people dragged Brian laughing and singing from the roof of the gazebo and beat him soundly into the perfectly trimmed, just the right shade of lush green, grass.

Only when he stopped fighting them, did they peel his face from his skull and turn the skin over to form a proper mask for him to wear.

Brian still sits in that gazebo. His skin mask has long since slid away and his eyes are blank voids in his skull due to the crows that found him. He may be dead now, but he is still teaching young people that “Long Live Metal” is not the right slogan for change.

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If you enjoyed this story, please consider making a small donation to The Shirley Jackson Awards. Also check out Brian Keene’s website for a list of amazing author’s and their versions of Brian’s horrible death.