Friday, May 30, 2014

Flash Fiction Friday #19 - Violet Dawn

I've been wanting to explore my character, Violet Dawn, a bit more since finishing the Black Earth series, and this Friday's piece gave me the perfect opportunity to do so. For those of you who have read my Black Earth novels, you'll know Violet Dawn from some of the quotes at the beginning of the books, and some of the artwork found throughout the series.

Violet Dawn
Donald Respy, a male reporter for the Violent Underground newspaper, took a seat on the red leather couch, afraid to touch anything in her apartment. Violet Dawn was known to be a germaphobe, and she hadn’t set the rules for her place when he first arrived at her apartment to do his interview with her for the newspaper. Instead, upon answering the door, she left him in her foyer and went straight back to the canvas she was currently painting: a lonely daisy, the flower rising tall above the blades of grass surrounding it. Behind the daisy was a field of trampled flowers of many varieties and colors. Violet was in the midst of painting one of the crushed flowers, a violet.

How appropriate, Donald thought. “So, how did you come to be a painter?”

“Artist,” she corrected as she dipped her brush in some purple paint set to the side of her easel. “I am an artist.”

“But aren’t painters artists?”

“Not all painters are artists. You are only an artist if you bleed all over your work.”

Donald scribbled her quote on his notepad, unsure if he should ask a follow-up question. “So, how did you come to be an artist?”

“I took a risk one day. Remember that movie, The Matrix? Remember when Neo takes the red pill?”


“That was a risk that Neo took to find the truth in everything. One day, I slit my wrist – figuratively – and bled my anger, my love, and all the emotions I felt in between upon the canvas. That’s the day I became an artist.”

Donald began scribbling down her quote, and stopped for a moment to study her figure. She wore blue jeans and a red blouse, and her figure was that of a perfect hourglass. Donald wasn’t sure how old she was – she never, ever gave her age in any of her interviews – but he could easily guess she was in her thirties. The white smock she wore over her blouse had a large black oak tree embroidered on it. Her sneakers were Sketchers.

“Your stare is burning a hole into my right butt cheek,” she said, dropping her paint brush on the edge of the easel before turning to him. Her bright red hair came out from behind her head in all directions, like a long cluster of fiber optic cable. Donald was certain his cheeks had turned the same shade.

She simply grinned and motioned to the painting.  “Done.”

He nodded. “Very nice.”

“Oh, I wasn’t asking your opinion,” she said. “I’m just stating a fact. I’m done. Well, not completely done.” She picked up a piece of white paper and set it on the edge of the easel underneath the painting. “This will be the caption that goes with the picture.”

Donald set his notepad on the surface of the glass coffee table and stood to get a closer look at the canvas. “And the flowers were trampled under their feet,” he read. “All of them were. But the daisy rose above the others and stood tall, carving a way through the valley to the Mountain of God. Violet Dawn.”

She nodded. “I have to get the proper plating for the caption, but other than that, I’m done.”

“What does that caption mean?”

She shrugged. “How am I supposed to know?”

“Because you wrote it.”

“I did. Artists are simply conduits, Mr. Respy. Conduits to the emotions around us. Conduits to the darkness and light in this world. Conduits to the spiritual realm. Just because I painted this painting, and just because I wrote that quote, doesn’t mean I understand what any of it really means. It’s left open for interpretation. Open for examination.” She took a step toward him, leaning in near his face so close he thought – with a delighted expectancy – that she might kiss him. “The real meaning behind the painting is the meaning you apply to it. What does this painting mean to you?”

He stepped back, giving himself room to examine her artwork more closely. “It’s a daisy that has lasted some chaotic event. Maybe some global disaster. Or maybe some kid came by and trampled all of the flowers and missed the daisy because his mother yelled for him to come home.”

Violet crossed her arms and nodded. “I can see that. What else?”

“Nothing more. I don’t know what the Mountain of God is supposed to refer to in your caption.”

“It could be anything that means something to you spiritually. Or it could be an actual mountain that God has appointed as His own.”

Donald picked up his notepad and pencil from the coffee table. “Ms. Dawn, where exactly do you get your inspiration from?”

“No more questions, Mr. Respy. You know all you need to know about me by viewing my work. Like I said before, I bleed all of myself into my work. Everything you want to know about me is on that canvas.”

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Flash Fiction Friday #18 - Red Crane

Red Crane
Detective Hale ripped through the strips of yellow and black police tape and entered the dark room, exchanging the warmth of the hallway for the cold of a crime scene. Blue moonlight pierced the long vertical blinds in the living room, casting cerulean stripes across the disheveled studio apartment. He shut the door behind him, wishful that none of the neighbors had seen him enter. The department knew nothing of his presence here. He had been ordered to stay far away from this particular crime scene, but he had no idea why. He wasn’t a suspect, and this part of Lysallis was under his jurisdiction.

He made his way past the small kitchen to his right and entered the living area. He scanned the room, making a mental note of the toppled lamp, the smashed computer desk, and the overturned couch. A struggle had occurred here. He approached the blinds  and peered out on the city. He marveled at the view of Lysallis from the vantage point of the twentieth floor. The Pleasure District, lit in a red haze, stood out like a glowing ruby in the distance.
Hale continued his search around the one-room apartment, checking the in-wall bookshelves, the big-screen television, and the small bathroom. Nothing stood out to him, aside from the various toppled items that filled the living space.
And then his eyes caught sight of the one item he had been searching for, the one item that would connect his assumptions with the truth of the matter. Atop the small end table that stood near the overturned couch sat a small crane made of origami.
Hale took a pair of tweezers from the inside pocket of his overcoat and used them to lift the  crane from its perch on the end table. He examined the paper bird and noticed that it was nearly identical to the other paper birds that had been left at the other half dozen crime scenes he had investigated in the last few months. The crane was made of paper, red in color, soaked in the victim’s own blood. A calling card left by the Red Crane Killer.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Flash Fiction Friday #17 - Edge of Babylon

There's a Switchfoot tune - "Where I Belong" -  that speaks of a song sung on the shores of Babylon. I heard the tune while I was driving through San Francisco the other day, and this new character - Solaris - came into creation. Here's a little piece I sketched out about her -

Edge of Babylon
Solaris stood at the shore of the Bark Ocean, watching the waves break against the sand. The moon cast its blue light across the waves, turning them cobalt, cerulean, and sapphire, while a cool and gentle breeze caressed Solaris’s face like the hand of a past lover.

She glanced over her shoulder at the massive stone wall that stood between her and the city of Babylon. She wanted nothing more than to get as far away from this place, but her directive was simple and clear. She had to enter the city and find Tibolt before they executed him for treason. It was no simple task to reach the shoreline, let alone infiltrate the kingdom, but Tibolt was the last friend Solaris had, and she owed it to the man to attempt her daring rescue.

Her gaze returned to the ocean tides, watching them slap each other like playful children. A strange scent filled the air, something that resembled grilled beef. Within that seemingly innocent fragrance, she was able to identify the putrid smell of burnt human flesh. The people of Babylon were performing their nightly sacrifice Arumash, their god.

Solaris felt a melody rise within her spirit, consuming her fears and her doubts. She hummed it loudly, watching with fascination as the sound carried across the waves and stilled the rambunctious children of the sea. She hummed louder, allowing the tune she was pulling from thin space to echo out across the deserted shoreline, causing the grains of sand to tremble and the water to turn to glass.

She stopped humming, in awe of what she had done. She heard voices behind her and turned to find a multitude of guards roaming the top of the wall. One of them pointed in her general direction. Solaris couldn’t make out what he was saying, but she knew enough to know she had to hide or she would be tortured and killed with Tibolt.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

New Cover Design For The LZR Project

Since I've been in the midst of edits for The LZR Project episodes, I figured I'd tinker with the cover design and make sure its something I can be proud of since this series is going to be running nearly ten months once it gets started. While I liked the original cover design....

...I realized that I've had a more colorful cover in my arsenal the entire time. My good friend, Jelani, actually created new covers for my two Expired Reality novels (Endangered Memories and Lost Birth) a little while ago, and even though I decided in the end not to use those cover designs, I realized the cityscape backdrop that he created is perfect for The LZR Project.

So, here's what I came up with so far. There's still some alignment tweaks I'll need to make, but overall this is what the actual cover design for each episode of The LZR Project will look like...

Friday, May 9, 2014

May Update

There will be no Flash Fiction Friday piece today. I've been swamped with projects left and right, so I'm going to take a break from the flash fiction until next week. I also decided it was time to give everyone a quick update on what I'm up to.

The Crossover Alliance
I started The Crossover Alliance community to pull together readers and writers of edgy Christian speculative fiction. I originally built the community on a SocialGo network, but after running with them for a while, decided I wanted to move the community over to a Ning platform. Unfortunately, I wasn't aware that Ning had just shifted to its 3.0 upgrade - which had almost nothing in place in comparison with its old version. So, I've spent the last few months trying to mess around with their design tools and profile features and realized that they don't give me nearly enough to work with for the $30/month price tag they have on their product.

In response to this, I've decided to shift The Crossover Alliance to a static website that will incorporate the same great profile pages for the books that fall into this spectacular genre, and I'm going to attach a ProBoards forum to keep the community element intact. Since I'll be using Wix to build and host the site, my cost per month drops to nearly 1/3 what Ning has been charging me. I plan to roll out the new site in a matter of weeks, so stay tuned for that announcement.

The LZR Project
This is my pride and joy right now. I finally finished writing out all 40 episodes of my short-story mini-series, and my plan is to do some hardcore editing over the next few weeks so I can roll out the first episode before the end of the month. Right now, the plan is to release one new episode in digital format each week. The episodes will be released via Gumroad, and each will cost $1. They will be crafted in PDF format, so they can be read on any current Ereader or PC. I'll be putting out some more info for the series in the next couple of weeks, including character info and some of the plot arcs that you'll be seeing through the series.

Other Various Projects
With the release of my non-fiction book, Of Dreams and Faith, I realized that I really like the new matte cover options for the paperback format of books created through Createspace. All of my books up to this point have been done in glossy format. On that note, I am going to be redoing all of my current paperback versions in matte. I will also be reformatting all of my ebooks to make sure they are clean and easy to read on the current digital platforms. On top of that, I am going to be redoing the covers to Endangered Memories, Lost Birth, and Picture Perfect. I know those covers have been redone nearly to death, but I've been reading up on some tutorials and articles on cover design, and I think I have a good gauge as to where I want to go with all of the covers in my Expired Reality series. Also, I'll be creating a brand new Double Pack for the second two books in my Black Earth series - as I already have one Double Pack available for sale for the first two books in the series.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Flash Fiction Friday #16 - Sapphire

This week's FFF piece developed out of my Black Earth series. Pearl is a character from that series who was created by hand by the witch, Evanescence, in the bowels of the Depths. Even though she was destined for destruction and malevolence, Pearl managed to escape and carve out her own destiny. This new character that I introduce in today's piece - Sapphire - seems to have been formed within the same circumstances. And much like Pearl, Sapphire wants nothing more than to get as far away from the Depths as possible.

They say that a rose by any other name is still a rose. I don’t believe that nonsense. A name has more impact than most people give it. At least, I would like to hope so.

I sit in my bone chair, the smell of death rising from the seat, filling the air with the putrid scent of decay. I’m not sure how much longer I can stand this place before I concede to madness. Looking around at the walls that imprison me, my stomach churns at the site of the splattered blood and the random skulls embedded within the walls. Hollow eyes searching me, wanting to know why I would despise a place such as this.

I was born here. Well, created here. My mother, Evanescence, pieced me together. She had high hopes that I would follow her and her army into darkness. But I will not. I cannot. Something else compels me not to. Something else pursues me. Something else is...drawing me from her.

I dart up from my bone chair, thoughts racing through my mind wondering where all of the bones came from. People. Dead people. Humans slaughtered by the army I am supposed to help command. I rush to the mirror framed by black-painted bone, and I look upon myself. My form is slender, my eyes are bright and beautiful with their cobalt hue. I want nothing more than to shed myself of this raggedy black gown. My hair, dark and flowing like oil, could be cut short and I would be happy. Very happy. I just want to be clean, to be rid of this filth.

Maggots crawl near my feet, scattering out of a rotten chunk of indiscernible fruit tucked away into the corner of the room. I leap backwards, frightened of the worms, terrified of the filth they carry.

I tuck myself into a different corner – the only clean corner in the room – and I work hard to stop my stomach from casting its contents across the cement. Suddenly, the skulls in the walls begin chattering, their jaws moving on their own accord, their hollow eye sockets looking upon me.

“Stop,” I whisper.

Their chattering increases, the annoying sound turning into words. My name. My old name.

“Sapphire. Sapphire. Sapphire.”

“Stop!” I scream.

Their chattering refuses to miss a beat in the steady rhythm of incessant droning. “Sapphire. Sapphire. Sapphire.”

“My name is not Sapphire. It is Abigail. Abigail. Not Sapphire.”

“Sapphire. Sapphire. Sapphire.”

I rush to the nearest skull in the adjacent wall and grab hold of the bottom portion of its jaw. I break it free, scattering the fragments of bone across the floor. The rest of the skulls stop their chant.

“My name is Abigail. Not Sapphire. Sapphire does not exist. I exist. And my name is Abigail.”

I have to  wonder if Pearl went through this before she escaped this horrible place.