Snake Handling

It’s morning and I’m working my way through my daily caffeine intake. I should not be thinking about snake handling, and I should be writing about it even less when I am bleary-eyed and peering at the brightness of the screen. It’s 8:30. So why am I thinking of snake handling? My grandmother. She died earlier this year. She was 93 and lived a long and full life. Covid took her out, which just pissed me off to no end, but I digress.

My grandmother grew up in depression era Appalachia. Born in Kentucky, then married and living on the mountain where the Hatfields and McCoys had their battles. And yes I’m related to them – both of them. Before she had to move to a nursing home, I would visit her every week and she would tell me stories. One was about going to a snake handling church. She was young and recalled the preacher dancing with the snakes and the people speaking in tongues. These images filled my imagination so I did what I do and I wrote about it. “Revival” was published in a magazine called “Penumbric” and later was included in one of my collections. Incidentally, one of these days I’ll get around to putting up a bibliography.

Revival

They share the taste of strychnine,
liquid faith like crystal purity,
bottled in a mason jar 
scented with the ghost
of last year’s peaches.

Dusty boots thump,
and patterned skirts swirl,
keeping time with the choir 
of shivering tambourines,
as they cry with broken voices
of the rapturous divine.

The Reverend handles serpents,
armed with shining words of God,
and preaches fervent sermons
with the cadence of 
the hissing snakes,
sliding coils through grasping fingers
scarred with memory of sin. 

He sways,
moves with strange conviction,
and teaches salvation
to the undulating devout,
singing in blind ecstasy
in obsolete tongues. 

They dance,
caught in serpentine embrace,
anointed by the Spirit
with sacred revelations, 
as the congregation burns,
wrapped in spiraling religion.

julie shiel 

Circe pt 2

It’s been a pretty crap week. Circe has been ill all week, to the point that I was sure that she was dying. She’s had episodes since this started where she’s really sick for a few days and then she’s back to normal. But they seem to be getting longer. The last episode was 5 days. She’s usually not eating or moving, then she’s up and about like nothing happened. This one is not that. It’s been about 10 days now and she’s pulling out of it but it’s slow. After 7 days of no improvement I took her to the vet to be euthanized. She was suffering and I didn’t want her wasting away like that. My vet couldn’t see her. I tried a vet that comes to your house but it was $500. I ended up taking her to the ER vet. I called ahead and let them know, and was bawling my head off by the time we got there.

Circe is young, so the vet was hesitant to euthanize her. She came and talked to me, and I told her Circe had seen a vet neurologist already. She gave her a shot for the nausea and sent us home. Circe actually started improving. I was trying to syringe feed her, but she started to eat a (very) little on her own. Since then she’s improved a little bit each day. She’s not walking well and still isn’t eating normally but she is eating and walking, so I’ll take it. An MRI to see what’s going on is still over $5k so the issue isn’t resolved by any means, but I guess we have a little more time.

My cat Jack has diabetes and isn’t responding to insulin, because when it rains it pours, usually toxic toads right on my head. Not to mention Merlin’s cancer. One thing at a time. As a result of this past week’s nightmare I got very little done on my edit.

There’s a pitch party on twitter in two days. I just learned about it last night and want to participate, but I had hoped to write a pitch today and that didn’t happen. I’ll try tomorrow, but it’s not the sort of thing that should be last minute. I’m doing my second edit of the book, so I should wait until that’s finished, but these pitch parties are only a few times a year. This one is especially Fantasy and Science Fiction. There should be an email list for pitch parties. Maybe there is and I’m just unaware of it.

It’s the next day now and Circe is doing a little better again. I just tended my tomato plants and damn it’s hot out. Something is taking bites out of my tomatoes. I read that squirrels will do that for the moisture so maybe that’s it. I really need to get a fountain set up for the critters.

I posted a first try at a query letter on the appropriate reddit last week. It needs a lot of work and much of the feedback was helpful. However, this one person was being snarky and it was really not appreciated. It has shaken my confidence in my book. I knew the query was crap but this person seemed to be criticizing my plot. I shouldn’t let it get to me but it did. Now I feel like I need to do major edits to the book instead of minor. That slows this edit way down. My beta readers have given me positive feedback so far, so it could just be me, but I told them to hold off. I am currently uninspired and was hoping that writing a blog post would nudge my creativity. Maybe later. I was going to do a books I read post but that will have to wait.

Have a picture of my goofball floof factory Pumpkin. Here’s to this week being better than last.

Circe’s illness

Saturday’s #scifaiku prompt was ‘select’:

Select DNA,

Unravel code and edit-

A new species born.

My cat Circe is sick and I’m pretty depressed. She has vestibular disease. It started with her balance, then nausea, then circling and now she can’t walk at all. She has episodes. When they first started it wasn’t bad but now it is pretty terrible. I waited for months to see a cat neurologist, which I did not even know was a thing. Of course when her appointment came around, she was just fine. The Dr. said she didn’t see anything wrong with her and would need to run a scan to find out what the problem is. I drove an hour and a half each way and paid a ridiculous fee for her to tell me I need a scan. The scan would be over $5k and then I’d have to go see another specialist to actually get treated which would likely be thousands more. So I had to decline but now I’m wishing I hadn’t. The vet said it could be a polyp or a tumor or an inner ear infection. She seemed to think it was most likely a polyp.

It’s been about 6 weeks since her last episode. That one was bad and lasted for 5 days. She didn’t eat or drink and I couldn’t even reach her in the place she found to hide. Today was day 5 of this episode. I got subcutaneous fluids from the vet and have been giving her those but that’s all I can do for her. She has a dark safe place in the closet so I’ve been letting her stay in there unless I’m giving her fluids or trying to get her to eat or take meds. I keep wondering if I should have her euthanized. I keep telling myself her good periods far outweigh her bad, but when she’s like this it’s awful. I also can’t let her waste away so if she doesn’t come out of it tomorrow I have some decisions to make.

That’s it for tonight.

Miss Thing when she was feeling better.

Books!

I’m currently about 80% through Jeff Vandermeer’s ‘Dead Astronauts’. I loved ‘Borne’ and ‘The Strange Bird’, and this is the third book to take place in this universe so I thought I’d like it as well. I do like it, to an extent, but it goes on a long, meandering, mushroom-laced trip through a nightmare Wonderland where everything is a bit skewed and the White Rabbit is carnivorous and insane. If you’ve read his work, you’re familiar with his brand of literary speculative fiction. I loved the Southern Reach trilogy and have read one of the fungus books and liked it as well. This is the only book by him that I’ve found underwhelming. I expect I’ll finish it tonight.

The book I read before this one was ‘And The Trees Crept In’, which was another one I was less than impressed with. Parts of it were good. Parts of it were cliche. I think I’d give both of these books a 3/5 for different reasons.

I am tempted to go back and re-read some of my Stephen King books. I find I use his books as a palate cleanser at times when I’m going through a boring patch in reading. I’ve read his work so much, and there is so much by other authors that I haven’t read that I sort of hate to keep returning to it, but what can I say… I love all of them. I used to read ‘The Stand’ once a year, which if you’ve read it, you’ll realize is ridiculous. I finally got off that kick and it’s been probably 5 years since I read it last. Some of my other favorites by him are The Dark Tower books, It, Lisey’s Story, Duma Key and Desperation, but really you can’t go wrong with his work IMO. The only things by him I have no wish to re-read are ‘Apt Pupil’ and ‘The Library Police’. Both of those are just freaking brutal. I love horror but I hate cruelty. I’m the same way with movies.

I have the latest Murderbot book in my queue, the last Red Rising book, the last Expanse book, and a host of stand alone books waiting to be read. And still I keep buying new books. It’s a problem really. 🙂 (And good grief, will GRRM *ever* finish The Game of Thrones series??) If I really like a series I put the last of it off. I don’t want to end it, so I have that last book or that last season still to go. It’s silly I know. I don’t do it consciously but it is what I do.

I started this post last night. It’s morning now and I’m trying to wrap it up to get started on the day. I’ve been tending to real world problems since I finished my edit, trying to give my readers a bit more time. The feedback I’ve gotten so far has been good and I’m about to start a second edit. I’ve tentatively began trying to write query letters. It’s difficult to sum up a book, and do it in an exciting way in a paragraph. I have ideas for a second book and would like to start working on that as well.

I did finish ‘Dead Astronauts’ last night. I like literary writing, I enjoy the obscure, and I love when a book or show makes you use your brain. This book is all of those things, but it doesn’t gel for me. As I mentioned, I am a fan of the author’s writing but not a fan of this book. It is told from various viewpoints and various points in time. Some of these viewpoints are insane. Throw in some bioengineered nightmares and I was left wondering what was real and what was a hallucination, and if it was a hallucination, what was actually there. The book got lost in its own cleverness, I think. Or maybe it’s just beyond me.

I picked up T. Kingfisher’s ‘The Twisted Ones’ but haven’t started it yet. For now, I’m off to work on my own writing and go get my cat’s insulin.

I am a cemetery by the moon unblessed.” ― Charles Baudelaire

Prologue

It’s Saturday. It pounded down rain yesterday, releasing all that humidity that had been building up in a thunderhead, so today it was a reasonable temperature. It’s night and the frogs are well into their nightly chorus. There’s a small wanna be stream running along my property that houses a host of them, from bullfrogs to treefrogs. The lightning bugs aren’t as thick tonight as they have been. I’ve no idea if that’s due to the temperature or what. I’ve really been loving their nightly display.

Some raccoons have visited a few times recently. Oh they are cute.. I’ve seen two of them. They came right up to my door and drove my cat batshit. I have a long ramp to my house, so when creatures make their way up it I’m always a little surprised. Last year I had a toad live in my flower pots all year. Anyway, after the raccoons, I found a bold bunny that came up to the second level to sample my pots of herbs and steal a strawberry. Seriously, what’s up with these critters? I think I give some sort of pheremone that tells them they are welcome and that’s how every stray cat in the neighborhood finds me. But this is what I love about living in such a rural location. I like it to be dark out at night. You should be able to see the stars. You should be able to see fireflies and wildlife.

So. Today I finished my book revision! I have some people I’ve asked to give me beta reader feedback but they don’t read as quickly as I do so I’m outpacing them. I’ll give it another once over to see if there’s anything I missed and give it a polish, but then it’s time to start submitting to agents. I’m trying to come up with a pitch for my query letter. Hell, I’m still not happy with a book title but it will get there. I’ve started making a list of agencies and agents that sound promising and created a database to keep track of such things. It’s all really terrifying.

Here’s my prologue… feedback would be really helpful.

Prologue

The car was canted at an angle, two wheels driven onto the crumpled guardrail. She didn’t remember the impact, or know how long it had been since it happened. The oddness of the tilted world added to her disorientation. She looked out the window to see the headlights of the car illuminating the narrow back road that led the way home. Outside the yellow glow of the lights, the dark night gathered thick and silent. At first she had attempted to get up, blue-green safety glass falling from her hair as a wave of dizziness washed over her. Her left arm was an agony, uselessly hanging and refusing to obey her commands. Sobbing, she looked to her sister in the seat beside her. Rose was strapped in with her seatbelt as well, but she hung from it limply, reminding Raina of her discarded doll Blue. Blue had a sweetly surprised expression and wore a cornflower colored gingham dress on her soft cloth body, and when you were done playing with her she lay just like her sister was now, loose limbed and vacant.

            “Momma,” she cried, looking to the driver’s seat. Her mother was held in place, but her head hung to the side and her right arm was spread wide, as if she fell asleep in mid-gesture. Raina saw blood dripping off her mother’s fingers and called for her more frantically, trying to reach her with her one good arm. She looked to her little sister Rose again. Rosie was making a funny noise and Raina twisted around to brush her sister’s hair from her face. Her baby sister had blood running down her cheek from an open cut on her forehead. Rose was trying to say something but Raina could not understand her. Since Raina was two years older she considered it her duty to tell her sister what to do.

            “Rosie, get up now!” Her sister looked at her, her blue eyes that were exactly like Raina’s own glazed with pain. “You have to get up. We need to go get help. Momma’s asleep.” Her sister’s face was hot to the touch and sticky with blood and tears. Raina grabbed her hand and felt her squeeze it slightly. “I’m going to undo my seatbelt,” she told her, releasing her hand and reaching for the belt release. She braced her legs against the console, trying not to jostle her injured arm as she reached across her body for the button. She fumbled with it for a moment before releasing the belt’s latch and carefully turning herself around to face her sister.

            Rose was no longer making the noise, or any noise for that matter. “Wake up!” she yelled into her sister’s face. When that got no response, she pinched Rose’s arm, hard, but she didn’t respond to that either. Raina pressed her forehead against her sister’s, as they had done when whispering secrets after lights out. “Rosie please wake up.” She put her hand over her sister’s open mouth. She couldn’t feel her breath. She began screaming, first her name, and then an inarticulate wail that felt like it was ripping her inside out. 

            On the rural moon-struck road, the creatures of the forest had gathered, drawn to the bright ribbon of the girl child’s essence. Large and small they crept toward the road from both sides of the forest; mice and rabbits, coyotes and raccoons, the drama and conflict of their lives temporarily halted as they were caught in the girl’s riptide. The insects had fallen silent and the only sound was the child’s crying. Uncertainty at her strangeness kept them at the edges of the headlight’s range, but the sharp need radiating from the child would not allow them to leave. As Raina screamed, the coyotes that had gathered in a rough pack on the road howled in commiseration and a black stag pawed at the pavement under an indifferent night sky.

Scifaikus for today with prompt word ‘rest’:

Asteroid wranglers

Docking repair bay seven

Space cowboys at rest

Telepathic race

Chasing thoughts through the ether

Bringing ships to rest

Happy Fourth

It’s July 4th and I hear fireworks outside. The cats are hiding under the bed. Well Jack’s not.. Jack is fearless and thinks the world loves him. The others are hiding. The door is open and it’s a beautiful night other than the noise. Fireflies are going about the business of finding mates in the darkness, crickets are chirring and frogs are singing, although not quite so much tonight. The Brood X cicadas are gone which is a shame. I rather liked the sound of them. I am nearing the end of my first edit and have rounded up some people to read the book for me to give me feedback.

Still, I’m depressed as hell. That self-defeating, self-destructive part of me is telling me that I have to be kidding to think I could sell a book and by the way, did you really show that garbage to people? I wish I could bludgeon that part over the head but alas, it makes itself known on a somewhat regular basis. I just finished the book ‘Nevernight’, which I loved, and when I look at the world building in that book, I know mine doesn’t measure up. I have no idea what possessed me to write fantasy. I didn’t plan on it; it’s just what came out when I started typing. I always thought I’d write horror. In the past, I tried the whole outline thing that’s supposed to be how you go about writing a book. And I would sit there and stare at it blankly until I gave up. I’m a discovery writer,which from what I understand is less common, so I honestly had no idea where it was going when I was writing it. I think outline writers get to bang it out easier once they’ve done all the work of an outline, but discovery writers have to go back and clean it up instead. It’s just a matter of doing the work beforehand or afterwards. But now I’m second guessing things, and wondering if the story is interesting enough, or are the characters engaging, and does it keep your attention, and does it make you want to keep reading, and is it cliche and all the other things I can question.

Part of this is my brain and my depression. I blew up my life a while back for a man who I thought loved me, and I’m still suffering the fallout. I know that’s a big part of it. I’ve had losses and that’s another part. But I think a big part is the isolation. Now that people are going about their business and things are opening again, I had hoped to make some new friends, but it’s difficult. The older you get the harder it gets, and my oldest friends are gone. I find myself with a lot of regrets, which do me no good whatsoever, so I try to bury them. And I was really trying to keep my personal crap off of here but here we are.

Anyway. I’ve started trying to come up with the dreaded pitch for the agent letter. How are you supposed to distill your novel into a catchy paragraph? So I’m reading about letters and pitches and hooks and elevator pitches and synopses which all boils down to selling your book. And it sucks. Hell I’m still struggling with a name for the thing. I have always struggled with names.

In spite of all my doubts and questions, when I’m working on the book I feel useful, like I’m doing something that matters, something I’m supposed to do, and that makes me feel better. I just hope that I’m not investing too much of myself into it.

Yesterday was #scifaikuSaturday with the prompt “quest”

Used to fight dragons

Hero’s quests and chivalry

Now we slingshot stars

The prompt for #SciFanSat was “useful”

Uncertain language

Translations performed as art

“Temba, his arms wide”

(That’s me, nerding out again.)

Jack

Book reviews

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”
― Stephen King

I read like the ink from the book is oxygen and I’m gasping for breath.”

I’ve been trying to keep up with my goodreads page lately. There’s a feed for it at the bottom if you’re curious what I’ve read. I read a lot. And I do mean a lot. I have since I was a child. I read a variety of genres but would have to say horror is my favorite. I also love science fiction, fantasy, dystopian (which is sort of both), and non-fiction in whatever subject happens to catch my interest. I love books about ethnobotanists and lost cultures and Chernobyl. I love YA and of course mythology, folklore and magic. I have separation issues when it comes to my library. I’ve gotten rid of soooo many books but still have an entire room (library) devoted to them. And that’s with reading most of my books on kindle any more.

This past week I finished Laird Barron’s “the Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All”, David Wong’s “What the Hell Did I Just Read”, and William Hjortsberg’s “Falling Angel”.

“The Beautiful Thing” is a book of short stories. I loved the author’s book “The Croning” so was looking for more of the same. This isn’t it. There were a few stories I liked, but for the most part they were a bit tedious. Laird Barron does literary horror, which I’m a fan of, but some of these stories were just too bogged down in convoluted ramblings for my tastes. It took me a while to get through this one, reading it off and on. I’m told his collection of shorts “Occultation” is better, so I may give that a try in the future. I gave this one a 3/5

“Falling Angel” is sort of noir detective with a supernatural twist and a dash of voodoo. If you’ve ever seen the movie “Angel Heart” with Mickey Rourke and Robert DeNiro, it was based on this book. If you haven’t seen the movie, go forth and watch it. I think it’s currently on amazon prime and it’s a good one. This book was good for what it was. I was expecting more horror than noir, but I still enjoyed it. Some of the stuff is just too obvious (I’m looking at you Louis Cyphre). In the movie the voodoo priestess was played by Lisa Bonet, looking particularly gorgeous. In the book, the character seemed dumbed down and simplified when she could have been so much more complex. Actually I think the other main female character had the same issue. The bad guys were a bit tropey but it was still a fun read. I gave this one 4/5.

“What the Hell Did I Just Read” is the third in the “John Dies at the End” books. All three of them are hilarious and just fantastic. The books involve two 20-something fuck ups who accidentally took some interdimensional substance that lets them see what’s really going on – things normal people cannot. Dave is the main character, John is is best friend, and Amy is his girlfriend. I love all the characters. These books are hilarious, but they also get quite dark in parts. It’s an odd balance of comedy with Lovecraftian horror that really works. I stayed up most of the night trying to finish this book. I had to put it aside when I was laughing too hard to keep reading. I gave all three of these a 5/5.

I am currently reading “Nevernight”. I only started it last night and haven’t gotten far in it yet so it’s too soon to say if I’m liking it. I have a whole kindle of books to read and tend to jump around genres. Horror is my favorite, but there’s a variety of other stuff on there. I have yet to read the latest Murderbot book, and I’ve only read the first in Dan Simmon’s Hyperion

I’ve been diligently working my way through my first revision. I’m 2/3 of the way through it and am starting to try to come up with a ‘pitch’ and ‘elevator pitch’ and all the other hoops you need to get read if you hope to get an agent. I have several people acting as beta readers so I can get some feedback and am anxiously awaiting that.

Tonight the trees are full of fireflies blinking so it looks like they are strung with Christmas lights. It is beautiful out.

The Mad Ones

“Because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes «Awww!»”
― Jack Kerouac, On The Road

Of course, Jack Kerouac died at 47. That’s the problem with over the top, intensity-turned-up-to-eleven people. If you do manage to survive, it’s because you let off the gas pedal. You slowed down, obeyed the laws of nature and your failing body, you settled. It’s natural, it’s what’s expected, and once you’ve lost that momentum it’s not easily regained. And who would want to, for the most part? It’s a desperate way to live. But still…

Most would tell you I used to be one of those people, and I think it was exhausting. For them, I mean. Apparently it’s difficult to be friends with someone who lives on the edge when you don’t know when they might fall off. As for me, that restless spirit caused more misery than joy. Even so, if I’m outside at night and there’s that swelling feeling of longing in the air, my heart seizes on it, fierce and rising, and I get an echo of that sensual violence.

I traveled a lot, trying to channel that into less harmful activities. It worked for the most part, but even then I would push the edges. I went to Guyana to do volunteer work. It was WAY back in the jungle, 5 hours by boat to the nearest town. I never did do half measures. Anyway, at the end of the trip I was trying to leave early because things had gone badly. I had gotten back to the city and only had like 2 days but I wanted to go. I couldn’t change my ticket, so I called my friend, who could tell there was something wrong. While she went to work on my behalf, I visited the zoo. There was a gorgeous black jaguar there. It wasn’t like US zoos where you can’t get anywhere near them. It was a wire fence enclosure, so I was up against the fence. I put my fingers through and she jumped up. Her paws were incredibly huge. She was very gentle, but she chewed on my finger a little. I remember the click of her tooth on my nail and the heat of her breath. To me it was a magical experience and I only wished she could be free. About that time an employee yanked me back and started lecturing. That’s ok. Contact had been made, even if only for a moment. To me, it was a highlight. My friend was speechless when I told her about it. I tried to explain to her that I knew she wouldn’t hurt me, but my friend, who was very conservative, about had a heart attack just hearing about it.

I think that lack of fear on my part unnerved her. That’s only one example of things she couldn’t understand about me, but still, she was a good friend and we were close for a long time. Until one day we weren’t, and she ghosted me, apparently because of a(nother) dangerous situation I was in. I have a hard time understanding that because it’s not something I would ever do to a friend. I guess if you ‘burn burn burn like Roman candles exploding’, there’s going to be shrapnel.

Here’s a scifaiku from Saturday with the prompt ‘open’:

Remember the Cant!
Holden charging through the belt
Open source hero

And from a couple of months ago:

Xenocidal child
Hive queen and the Hegemon
Speaker for the dead

Neither of these are my best, but they are both very nerdy so sort of go together. 🙂 Happy Wednesday.

Coreopsis blooming in the garden – my bees love this stuff.

Ghosts

My father died last week. I hadn’t spoken to him in close to 25 years and didn’t think I’d care, so I was surprised to find myself crying a little. Needless to say, we had a rocky history. He died in another state, penniless, so it was up to me to arrange for his burial. My brother and I decided on cremation. There were several days of pretty much non-stop phone calls between the coroner and the crematory and my brother and everyone else but it’s done with. The ashes will be shipped to my brother and we’re supposed to do some sort of dinner at a later date as a memorial. My brother came over to look through my photo albums for a photo to be used for the obituary. We settled on his graduation photo. I wrote the obituary and placed it in both states. And that’s that.

Except it’s not really. The man made my life a nightmare and I was not sorry that we no longer spoke. I would not change it. There’s no revising the past and I put my issues with him to bed long ago, but he still helped make me who I am, for good or bad. His death has stirred up ghosts that were laid to rest and I find I am still haunted.

ScifaikuSaturday prompt word: next

Atmosphere altered

Acidic oceans seeded

On to the next star

A couple of others from previous weeks:

Dead Cthulhu dreaming,

The elder gods are stirring

Dark star stuff debased

~~~

Space cats chasing moons

Black fur curling around stars 

Each hairball a world

The Bolotnik

There was a new hashtag game on twitter today – #SwampSunday, covering folklore from swamps. One thing I contributed was the bolotnik. The bolotnik is a Slavic shapeshifter. In man form, he appears as an elder covered in dirt, algae and fish scales. In some stories he has excessively long arms and a tail. He’s bug eyed and round bellied with a wide mouth and beard.

In his natural form, he lives in the swamp. You may mistake his bulk for a stepping stone, but once you step on it, he will quickly pull you down to drown below the stagnant water. The bolotnik dislikes noise, so it is wise to be quiet as you pass through his marsh.

A bolotnik is one of the creatures populating my book. My book pulls from Slavic, Celtic and Nordic mythology. Slavic folklore is rich and has a wide variety of creatures both good and bad.

I’m working my way through the first edit. I imagine it will go through at least a couple more edits before it’s through. This edit is cleaning up some dangling threads, rewriting a few parts, tweaking story lines. It’s time consuming. While I do this, every fear and insecurity I’ve ever had about my writing rears its ugly head. I don’t know if other writers do this as well, but I start doubting it and questioning what I’ve written. I push those doubts away and try to soldier on. If I give in to it I’ll never finish and never have the nerve to try submitting it to a publisher.

Below is an excerpt from when they run across the bolotnik. Feedback appreciated! I haven’t edited this section yet so it’s raw.

Brynn and Raina had changed places during the slog so it was Marrok that helped her onto the next rock. She braced herself with the branch she had been using and held a hand out to help Brynn. Brynn stepped up, planting one foot on the rock beside the one Raina stood on. As she straightened, the rock shifted beneath her, sending her backwards into the swamp. Raina watched in horror as Brynn splashed beneath the water. She started screaming for Marrok to help her as she stepped back into the mire.

Marrok and Larkin both yelled out “No!”

Brynn was struggling and Raina reached out a hand to help her up, but the other girl wasn’t coming up from the water. It churned as she fought and Raina had a moment of confusion before she felt something grab her ankle and yank her beneath the water. Oh, she thought stupidly.

Panic set in and she fought madly against the inexorable pull dragging her through the mucky bog. Everything was a murky green and it was difficult to see what was going on but she felt Brynn nearby. She looked down to see what had her ankle and was met by the malevolent eyes of a creature that looked like it was half frog. Its body was a shapeless blob in the swamp water, but she saw webbed fingers wrapped around her ankle. The creature had large, protruding eyes that stared up at her with reptilian indifference and an unnaturally wide mouth. Its head was bumpy and hairless, with vestigial ears lying flat against its rounded head. Unthinking, she opened her mouth to scream and swallowed the muddy water. She fought it with every ounce of her strength and will. She heard a roaring noise and then a large splashing.

Marrok’s claws swiped at the creature to force it to let them go. He yanked Brynn up out of the water and onto a boulder, then reached down to help Raina up. The two girls rolled over on the rock, sputtering, coughing and shaking with spent adrenaline. Raina suddenly puked, then groaned in misery. Larkin stood with axe in hand, kneeling and peering into the water while cursing as Marrok smacked Brynn’s back, sending her into a coughing fit and earning a reproachful look for his trouble. He stood snarling and pacing as he waited for her to recover. Larkin stood and helped Raina to her feet.

“Are you both ok?” Raina glared at him but nodded.

“What the hell was that?”

“Bolotnik.”