Category Archives: Creativity

Deiseal

NOTE: This is part of the new novel I am writing. I am posting it here as a diversion for readers who may be living under shelter-in-place policies while the world waits for the coronavirus pandemic to pass. For an explanation of this project, please click here. To read the chapters I’ve posted in order, click here.

Deiseal
Sangre Mesa ~ Coldwater, N.M.

Morgan looked at the trailhead and swallowed hard, wondering whether this hike would be the last one she ever took. Lenore cooed softly — a strange sound, coming from the big raven, but reassuring — and nibbled at a lock of hair that had slipped out of the ponytail Morgan had pulled through the back of her ballcap. 

Morgan looked back at Mom and Dr. Kavanaugh. If she had to face down a monster today, she’d have fierce backup, but the thought didn’t make her feel much better. As far as she knew, she was the only one with the power to fight the shapeshifter if it attacked, and she still didn’t know enough about herself to use that power. If it launched an assault on them today, Mom and Dr. Kavanaugh would be sitting ducks. 

But I didn’t feel like screaming, she reminded herself. If they were going to die today, I’d have known. If I were going to die today, Dr. Kavanaugh would have known. Unless something has gone horribly, horribly wrong, and the gift has somehow left two of us at once, we’re all going to make it back alive. Continue reading Deiseal

Dragon

NOTE: This is part of the new novel I am writing. I am posting it here as a diversion for readers who may be living under shelter-in-place policies while the world waits for the coronavirus pandemic to pass. For an explanation of this project, please click here. To read the chapters I’ve posted in order, click here.

Dragon
Coldwater High School ~ Coldwater, N.M.

Morgan stood behind Dr. Kavanaugh, watching over her shoulder as she entered Sangre Mesa into her search bar and clicked the link to show a satellite view. 

“There,” Dr. Kavanaugh said, zooming in on the top of the mesa. “See it?”

Morgan squinted. “Kind of?” 

Dr. Kavanaugh traced the contours of the land with her mouse. 

“Ohhhhhh — it looks like a big snake all coiled up on itself.”

“Exactly. Or a dragon, if you like.” Dr. Kavanaugh turned around to look up at Morgan. “Your mysterious guest suggested ‘a visit to the dragon’ might help you remember yourself, and then he told me to look at an aerial view of the mesa.”

Morgan stared at the picture on Dr. Kavanaugh’s computer screen. The more she looked at it, the more serpentine the mesa appeared. She wondered whether the similarity would be obvious from the side now that she’d seen it. “But what’s so special about the shape? I mean, I like hiking well enough in the springtime, but I don’t see how traipsing up the mesa in the cold is going to jog my memory. I’ve been up there a million times and never felt any different or thought of anything weird.” Continue reading Dragon

Think of the Children

NOTE: This is part of the new novel I am writing. I am posting it here as a diversion for readers who may be living under shelter-in-place policies while the world waits for the coronavirus pandemic to pass. For an explanation of this project, please click here. To read the chapters I’ve posted in order, click here.

Think of the Children
Coldwater Elementary School ~ Coldwater, N.M.

Gloria Henley frowned at the spreadsheet in front of her. Where the hell did Dr. Scherer think she was going to find $75,000 worth of extraneous expenses she could trim from the budget? She was already short-staffed, and at least three classes were two years overdue for textbook adoptions. 

She rubbed her temples. If Scherer would quit giving his pet deviant down the hall every damn thing she asked for, no matter the cost, there might be money left for the elementary. Gloria was getting sick of hearing how great that bitch was at every faculty meeting. Give me the kind of budget she’s got, and I might start pulling rabbits out of my ass, too.

Gloria remembered the days when she was the favorite — when her husband was superintendent, and she was special-ed director, and the building was full of quiet, respectful, God-fearing kids from quiet, respectful, God-fearing families that taught them to say “Yes, Sir” and “No, Ma’am” and act like they had some sense. Their test scores weren’t always perfect, but they tried, God love ’em, and they were good kids who knew how to sit still and listen to their elders. Then her husband went and died on her, and Scherer came in with his buzzwords and his bullshit and his endless parade of consultants with magic-pony ideas for Leaving No Child Behind, and the next thing she knew, the district was inundated with every little hellion in three counties in the name of keeping the doors open.  Continue reading Think of the Children

Folk Hero

NOTE: This is part of the new novel I am writing. I am posting it here as a diversion for readers who may be living under shelter-in-place policies while the world waits for the coronavirus pandemic to pass. For an explanation of this project, please click here. To read the chapters I’ve posted in order, click here.

Folk Hero
Tumbleweed Motel ~ Coldwater, N.M.

Holly couldn’t sleep. Something was afoot tonight, and while it didn’t feel dangerous per se, it felt … different. She’d tried adjusting the heat in her room, sleeping with the blankets off, sleeping with the blankets on, meditating, timing her breaths, daydreaming, bundling up, stripping down, and even taking an antihistamine, all to no avail, before she finally gave up, put on her bathrobe, and filled the electric kettle with water. If she wasn’t going to get any rest anyway, she might as well sit outside with a cup of tea and listen to the night.

When the water boiled, Holly poured it over the bag of Earl Grey in her faded Daniel Webster High School travel mug — the one she’d bought from the school store 10 years ago, when she took her first administrative position — and carried it outside.

It was after 11 p.m., and Coldwater was quiet. Waiting, her mind supplied. But waiting for what?

She sat on an old metal chair outside her room and let the tea steep while she listened to the wind and the nothingness.

A 1972 Barracuda pulled into the parking lot, its engine curiously quiet, and a large man with white hair and beard got out. A tingle of hyperawareness fired along Holly’s nerve endings. This new arrival would be important. Why? She forced herself to remain still, but she followed the man with her eyes as he walked past her and around the side of the office, where a familiar figure emerged from the shadows and embraced him like a long-lost son.

Well. If Aunt Shirley was welcoming him, Holly wasn’t worried. She let herself relax as she watched the pair interact. They were too far away for her to hear what they were saying, but Aunt Shirley glanced in her direction and made a small gesture of acknowledgment. Holly would simply have to wait to find out who the man was and what he was doing there.

The man walked back around to the front of the building and rang the night bell. A moment later, a light came on in the lobby, and Morgan opened the front door, admitting him inside.

Holly glance back over toward the spot where she had last seen Aunt Shirley. She was gone.

A half-second later, Holly nearly dropped her tea when the woman appeared in the chair next to her. 

“You won’t believe the name he’s using this time,” Aunt Shirley said, her voice amused.

Holly stared at her. “Should I know who he is?”

“Every Irishwoman should know who he is,” Aunt Shirley chided. “He’s calling himself ‘Blake Cole.’”

“Blake Cole.” Holly rifled through her mental Rolodex. Who was Blake Cole?

“Blake means ‘white-haired,’” Aunt Shirley offered, by way of clarification.

Yeah, still not getting it, Holly thought.

“Didn’t you feel it when he pulled up?” 

Holly nodded, hesitant. “I felt something. Is he fae?”

Aunt Shirley nodded. “Partly. By way of his mother.” She looked at Holly. “There’s another name that means ‘white-haired’: Fionn.”

“Fionn Co– ohhhhhhh.” Holly chuckled as it clicked. “Clever. Did you send him?”

Aunt Shirley shook her head. “He sensed the shapeshifter gathering strength. He wanted to be close, in case the Tuatha needed him.”

“The Tuatha?” Holly’s eyes widened. “Surely that thing isn’t big enough to threaten the Tuatha from the other side of the world.”

Aunt Shirley just looked at her. “It’s plotting an attack on the Morrígan herself, and you’re surprised the protector of Ireland is getting involved?”

Oh, Holly. Shit just got real. 

“Indeed it did,” Aunt Shirley agreed, though Holly was sure she hadn’t spoken the words aloud. “I hope your young friend remembers who she is sooner rather than later. I think that’s the object of tonight’s visit. I’d suggest you spend a little time with our guest and see if he has any ideas to help her.”

With that, Aunt Shirley’s form faded into mist and blew away on the west wind. 

The office door opened, and “Blake Cole” walked out, carrying a key and wearing a jovial grin. 

“Hello, young lady,” he greeted Holly in Old Irish as he approached. “Looks like we’re going to be neighbors this evening.” 

“‘Blake Cole’?” Holly grinned at him. 

“I thought it sounded plausible. They’d suspect me of putting them on if I used my real name,” the warrior said. 

“They probably would,” Holly agreed. “So you met our young Morrígan?”

“I did.” 

“And?”

“May I?” Cole gestured to the chair Aunt Shirley had recently vacated.

“By all means.”

Holly waited for the big man to settle himself into the chair. 

“She’s an impressive lass,” he said at last. “The Morrígan’s power radiates from her, but it’s wild. Uncontrolled. One might even call it sloppy. Quite unlike our Great Queen. Has she any idea how to use it?”

“Some. She knows how to use the ceo druidechta, but she has trouble concentrating long enough to make it do her bidding if she’s not protecting someone she loves. She’s grieving her father. The thing uses that to distract her. And she’s got a familiar now — she calls the raven Lenore, after a character in an American poem she likes — but she still hasn’t remembered how to assume the raven’s form.” Holly gazed into the distance. “Sometimes she doesn’t want to remember. She’s progressing. She’s come to terms with her bean sidhe status. But she doesn’t like to be reminded that being fae means she isn’t human, and the idea of being a goddess is a bridge too far. She doesn’t want to accept it. I just wish I knew how to help her progress faster. There’s got to be a reason she chose this form, in this moment, with this mentor. I just don’t know what it is.”

Her companion was silent, chewing on his thumbnail and staring off into space. Just when Holly thought he’d completely zoned out, he spoke. “Have you taken her to see the dragon?”

Holly frowned. “Dragon?”

“Aye.” The man nodded toward the mesa. “The serpent.”

“I don’t follow.”

“Do you have one of those little devices humans like to carry, with all the information inside?”

“A smartphone?” 

“Aye.”

Holly reached into the pocket of her robe. It was empty. “Crap. I forgot it on the nightstand. Let me go get it.”

Cole held up his hand. “No need. I’ve said nearly all I planned to say tonight. The smartphone: You can use it to see pictures of the land from above?”

“Yes.”

“I suggest you look at that mesa. I expect a visit to the dragon might help the Great Queen remember herself.”

“Oh.” 

“Go look up that picture.” The man rose. “And spend some time studying the local legends. Ireland isn’t the only place the Tuatha have lived.” He waved to her. “Good night.” 

Before Holly could reply, he dissolved into the air as Aunt Shirley had. She knew that when she looked back at the parking lot, the Barracuda would be gone.

Guest

NOTE: This is part of the new novel I am writing. I am posting it here as a diversion for readers who may be living under shelter-in-place policies while the world waits for the coronavirus pandemic to pass. For an explanation of this project, please click here. To read the chapters I’ve posted in order, click here.

Guest
Tumbleweed Motel ~ Coldwater, N.M.

Morgan had just changed into her pajamas — one of Mom’s old Leon Russell T-shirts and a pair of Coldwater Roadrunners sweatpants — and was padding into the kitchen for a drink of water when the night bell rang.

“I’ll get it,” she called.

“Not by yourself, you won’t,” Mom replied, coming into the kitchen. “Not at this time of night, and not with that thing gunning for you.”

Morgan rolled her eyes. “I scared it off last time, didn’t I?”

“Yes. You scared it off. You didn’t kill it. Which means it is still looking for you.” Continue reading Guest

Confrontation

NOTE: This is part of the new novel I am writing. I am posting it here as a diversion for readers who may be living under shelter-in-place policies while the world waits for the coronavirus pandemic to pass. For an explanation of this project, please click here. To read the chapters I’ve posted in order, click here.

Confrontation
Teague’s Gas ’n’ Go ~ Coldwater, N.M.

Joey peeled the paper seal off his orange-sherbet push pop and was about to cram it into his pocket when Morgan held out her hand. “Here, Joey — let me throw that away for you,” she said. “You know Mom hates it when you forget stuff in your pockets and let it go through the laundry.”

Joey handed her the seal. She tossed it into a trash bin near the corner of the building where a Gas ’n’ Go employee stood, smoking a cigarette. The guy nodded to Morgan and Joey as they walked past. The hair on the back of Morgan’s neck stood up, but she kept a straight face and nodded back, fighting the urge to shiver. 

Morgan and Joey rounded the corner of the building and walked across the back lot, where several trucks were idling. Morgan gave them a wide berth, remembering the stills she’d seen from the security footage of that part of the lot the night Daddy died. She knew Daddy’s killer wasn’t really a trucker, but she also knew the killer wasn’t really dead, and being out here behind the building gave her the willies.  Continue reading Confrontation

Confession

NOTE: This is part of the new novel I am writing. I am posting it here as a diversion for readers who may be living under shelter-in-place policies while the world waits for the coronavirus pandemic to pass. For an explanation of this project, please click here. To read the chapters I’ve posted in order, click here.

Confession
Tumbleweed Motel ~ Coldwater, N.M.

The cake was still warm when Dr. Kavanaugh cut a big slice from one end and topped it with several generous pats of butter. Morgan eyed it suspiciously. Butter on chocolate cake didn’t sound terribly appetizing.

“Trust me on this,” Dr. Kavanaugh said. “It’s delicious, and it’s good for you.”

“Good for me. Yeah. Sure.” Morgan rolled her eyes. “Chocolate cake and butter are definitely health food.”

“You’re thinking like a human.” Dr. Kavanaugh buttered a slice for herself. “Think like the fae you are. For our kind, butter absolutely is health food. Our bodies work differently than humans’.”

Morgan wrinkled her nose. She didn’t like thinking about the fact that she wasn’t human.  Continue reading Confession

Comfort Food

NOTE: This is part of the new novel I am writing. I am posting it here as a diversion for readers who may be living under shelter-in-place policies while the world waits for the coronavirus pandemic to pass. For an explanation of this project, please click here. To read the chapters I’ve posted in order, click here.

Comfort Food
Tumbleweed Motel ~ Coldwater, N.M.

Sandy pulled a chair out from the table, set it in front of the refrigerator, and climbed up on it to reach the small cabinet above the refrigerator where Sierra kept the hand mixer. She pulled out a plastic case that looked as if it belonged to a cordless drill and handed it down to Holly.

“Sierra has many fine qualities, but efficient kitchen organization is not one of them,” Sandy said with a grin as Holly held out her hand so she could steady herself as she stepped down from the chair. She winced as she put her weight on her left leg.

“Hey, now,” Sierra said as she walked into the kitchen. “I know where everything is. I just don’t use that mixer often enough to justify keeping it in the lower cabinets.” She frowned as she saw Sandy favoring her leg. “You’re limping. What happened?”

“I got old,” Sandy replied. “That left knee just gets a little sore now and then. Think I wore it out chasing men in the ’60s.” 

Holly laughed. “I’m glad I don’t have to worry about that.” She picked up a recipe card from the counter and squinted at her aunt’s spidery handwriting. “I hope you can make heads or tails of this.”

Sandy looked over her shoulder at the card. “Oh, I know this recipe. I’ve made it for years. She probably got it from the same magazine I did.” She gestured toward a cabinet in front of Holly. “The cocoa and baking powder should be somewhere in there. Bottom shelf, I think. Sugar and flour are in the canisters next to the stove.”  Continue reading Comfort Food

Anticipation

NOTE: This is part of the new novel I am writing. I am posting it here as a diversion for readers who may be living under shelter-in-place policies while the world waits for the coronavirus pandemic to pass. For an explanation of this project, please click here. To read the chapters I’ve posted in order, click here.

Anticipation
Bill Swinney’s Barn ~ Coldwater, N.M.

In a paddock next to the barn, a black horse snorted in frustration. The girl had been so close to remembering today, but her sentimentality had gotten the best of her. The Morrígan of centuries past wouldn’t have let guilt get in her way. 

Still, her fondness for her father was a weakness. The horse shook its mane as it watched the young Morrígan’s bean sidhe mentor lead her away. The bean sidhe seemed to be emotionally attached to her naive little queen, and the child seemed to return her affection. Whether their bond was a liability or a strength was not yet clear, but it was worth keeping an eye on. The girl’s protective streak had been the catalyst for her reacquaintance with the ceo druidechta. The fae woman, Kavanaugh, recognized the potential in that. The girl was taking the long way to her memories, but without her mentor’s direction, the wait would have been much longer. 

Kavanaugh was proving useful. The horse suppressed the temptation to taunt her again by calling to her in her dead uncle’s voice. Use it too often, and the trick wouldn’t work. No sense wasting such a valuable tool on pure frivolity. Continue reading Anticipation

Training

NOTE: This is part of the new novel I am writing. I am posting it here as a diversion for readers who may be living under shelter-in-place policies while the world waits for the coronavirus pandemic to pass. For an explanation of this project, please click here. To read the chapters I’ve posted in order, click here.

Training
Bill Swinney’s Barn ~ Coldwater, N.M.

Morgan stood in the center of the indoor arena, trying not to let the wind distract her as it rattled against the side of the pole barn. She’d been in here with Dr. Kavanaugh for more than an hour, with nothing to show for her efforts but a headache. This was a fool’s errand. Summoning fog was one thing; transforming her body into an entirely different species was quite another. She rubbed at her eyes in frustration. 

“This is stupid,” she grumbled. “Are you sure I’m supposed to be able to shapeshift?”

Dr. Kavanaugh’s expression was serene. “You already have.”

“But what if I haven’t? Maybe that was just a dream. What if that isn’t really one of my powers, and we’re just wasting an afternoon we could have spent on something useful? We still don’t know what the monster is.”

“Which is why we need you to do this. I think once you remember how to alter your form, the rest will come back to you — including what you know about that thing.” Continue reading Training