Archive for Look for This
About a year ago Crystal Connor and I talked about our own writing projects and possibly working together. She asked me for some writing prompts and I sent her a few words: candlelight, book, snow.
What she sent me back was the beginning of an awesome story, one in which inhabitants of a small town were trapped inside their homes because of toxic snowfall.
Trading our story back and forth, I wrote bits, she did, we discussed the story, and things got rolling. We only set out to write one book, and somehow ended up writing two co-authored books, each with our own take on the events of a town in the mountains called Fate’s Keep. As of the date that I am writing this, neither Crystal or I have read each other’s copies. Silence is killer! We’re dying to read each other’s book, and we hope that you will be too!
Jaidis Shaw will be doing the cover reveal for our books on April 18th. Follow the link for more information for the blog tour Crystal and I will start shortly: http://junipergrovebooksolutions.com/cover-reveal-connor-titus/
This article caught my attention, and it’s a good conversation starter. How much is just the fantasy of wanting to see attractive heroines in fiction, and where does it cross the line into being degrading? And from a man’s perspective:
A new short story on Flashes in the Dark:
That whole summer felt like a dream.
The air hung so thick that you could taste it; trees and dirt and humidity so dense that breathing felt like drowning. I have lived here all my life, and I never knew anything quite like it. Everything was drenched in shades of green: the trees standing sentinel in the encroaching woods, the sky with its sickly hurricane tinge. And the water, calm and still, reflected both.
It was all about waiting, which is something I have never been good at. My husband was away at war, and he wouldn’t be back for several more weeks. I tried to imagine what that would be like. Would he come back whole? Would he have scars? Would the skin around his eyes and forehead show new creases of worry?
This was his second tour, and I remember well how it was the first time he got back.
I remember tracing the lines with my fingers, amazed at the man he’d become. The boy had been stamped out of him. I felt shy and at odds around him, like someone had dropped a stranger off at my doorstep. Love him, care for him, and just ignore that this new man wears the old one’s skin.
Not that loving presented a problem. I got pregnant shortly after he returned.
I very much wanted the child, but hated the process. The backaches, tears for no reason, and morning sickness that lasted all day. My breasts ached when the breeze blew. Some nights I just sat in a warm bath, enjoying the feeling of weightlessness that water gave me. I missed my lean body and the ability to jump up at anytime.
Along with that came other things. The feeling that I’d become part of something more important than just me. I paid attention to small things I had not noticed before—other people’s emotions, sometimes the meaning behind their words. I slipped easily into the idea of becoming a plural being, and no longer singular.
Comforting, I suppose, because without my husband there, I felt very much alone.
Our house is way out by the river. No one even comes up here unless they come to fish. I always liked that. When he proposed, I remember that he said we could “live together up on the lake, Vivian, and we can have our lives without being bothered by anyone else.”
I knew that I loved him, but those words sealed it for me.
I don’t remember exactly when it happened, but after my husband’s second deployment, Lola started showing up at my doorstep.
Lola is John’s mother. She is one of those women that everyone calls Mother. Probably as old as dirt, but with a round brown face that barely showed a wrinkle. She was active, a spry little thing: church mother, babysitter, unapologetic counselor, aggressively friendly, yet coolly dismissive. Apparently John was not the apple that fell from the tree, but the one that was picked up and thrown into another field entirely.
Lola would come in and walk through the house, quietly inspecting as she did. I would make a pot of tea and ask how things were going for her. Talk always slid back towards the baby, and John, and how it didn’t look like I was eating right. There were times when she brought me casseroles and chicken, and once, a whole pot of greens. I accepted all but kindly reminded her that I was having a baby, not a whale.
This made her laugh. I was too skinny.
Which made me laugh as well.
“You must take care of yourself,” she sobered me with a hand on my shoulder. “This is a very tenuous time. You must come out of it the right way.” There was a glimmer in her eye. Something that I did not understand.
She meant well, I imagined, but I didn’t like her. I wanted space. And I didn’t want to be measured. No matter how Lola did the math, I was missing something.
I laid down one afternoon after one of Lola’s impromptu visits. That was the first time that I remember having the dream.
Is there something wrong about not dreaming of your lover?
Before we married, I never dreamed about making love with John. Maybe back then, there was no need. We were always together. There had been men before John, for me, but nothing serious. He was really the first man I ever ached for, who made me crave him. The deepest of all my experiences came from his hands, his body, and being in his arms.
So that afternoon I dreamed of him, and my heart began to race.
He was stood at the shore of the lake. And he smiled at me. I could feel him watching. He turned and went out into the water until he stood waist deep. The skies darkened overhead.
“There’s a storm coming.” I told him. “ We should go inside.”
“The water is warm,” he said, ignoring my discomfort. “Come on.” His voice dropped lower, teasing. “Come in with me.”
He held out a hand to me.
Something changed. The expression. He was serious. I felt a warm drop of rain hit my eyelid. The wind picked my hair up and blew it around.
“Vivian. Baby.” he said.
I woke in a sweat.
It was raining outside, a flurry of warm rain that would soon expire. The fan rotated above the bed, circulating the hot air like a dog chasing its own tail. The clock by my bed showed that two hours had passed since I laid down. Good, I thought. Lola had made it home before the rain.
I turned on the television, and the weatherman was complaining about a surprise storm sweeping up the coast. It had already landed in Greenville, and was moving fast. No kidding, I thought dryly. The picture faded in and out, expanding and contracting for a moment before the screen went black.
The lights went out, with a sickening pop.
It was still light enough outside that I could see, but that wouldn’t to last long. The storm brought twilight with it, pushing out the last traces of sun.
I kept a transistor radio on top the refrigerator. After fumbling with a pack of batteries I was able to load it and get it working.
I wanted the noise, to hear someone’s voice, to not feel so alone. The tinge of panic in the weatherman’s voice was catching.
Hurricanes were not uncommon during that time of year. But the announcer would not admit that it was a hurricane.
“Come on, you coward,” I said to the radio. “Go ahead and say how bad it really is.”
My voice echoed loudly through the emptiness.
More than anything, I didn’t like the idea of going down into the dark basement by myself—exactly what I’d have to do if they forecasted gale force winds.
I gathered all the candles I could find and brought them downstairs with me. Sitting in the kitchen, I lit all the candles and lined them up on the countertop. I kept the radio on the table in front of me. They had paused for a moment in their storm coverage to talk about local news, and I felt my mind begin to drift.
And then, it happened.
A pain ripped through me, like a knife cutting through the core of my body. I couldn’t scream. My eyes filled with tears. I clutched my middle. Falling from the chair, the cold linoleum met my body. I reached my hand out, and felt something.
I saw a black shoe.
“Vivian,” John said, his voice filled with concern. He bent down and touched my shoulders.
The next pain came like a wave, and the world went black.
The rest, I remember in flashes—because of the pain, and because I shut my eyes against it.
John picked me up and carried me into our room. I was crying. I remember screaming at him, but I don’t know what I said. His face was a calm mask, but I saw the fear in his eyes.
He told me I would be alright.
He said the baby wasn’t coming just yet.
“How do you know?” I spat angrily.
I felt the bed move as he stretched out beside me.
“I said, he’s not coming yet,” he replied firmly. “It’s okay. I’m here.”
I could hear the rain outside. Clutching his hand, I sighed. It felt like the first breath I’d had in minutes, like a swimmer emerging after having nearly drowned.
“Rest,” John said. “I’m home now.”
When I woke again, the pain had subsided. I felt pressure, but not the searing pain I had before. Uncomfortable, but bearable. I thought maybe it was a dream, but John still lay beside me.
It was his presence that roused me first. The sweet smell of soap mixed with his aftershave, the warm saltiness of his skin. This was my man. He turned towards me and I smiled.
“How did you get home early?” I asked. “ The storm’s coming…”
“I have a very pregnant wife. They took pity and let me come home early.”
“I thought I was going to deliver here all by myself,” I said, tears springing into my eyes. “I have to get to a hospital.”
Something moved in those dark eyes of his. “Viv. The roads are washed out. We’re going to have to ride this out.”
“How…?” questions were swirling through my head.
“I called your doctor. He thinks you’re having false labor.”
“Well… How?” I wanted to know how on earth he had been able to call anyone when the lights were still out. Then again, maybe he’d used his cell.
“The contractions are too far apart. You were asleep for almost thirty minutes.”
“One man, asking another man about my contractions,” I said. “That’s just great.”
“I am a trained medic. I can handle it.”
“Well, I might not be able to. I need drugs.”
I wanted to turn on my side, but was afraid that any shift might cause another surge of pain.
John seemed to know. He gently turned my body so that I was facing the wall. He moved close, so that my back was against his chest. “You’ll be just fine,” he said.
“No I’m not. I hate you.”
This made him chuckle, which only made me more angry. His voice was soft, his breath warm in my ear. “Yeah right. I know better.”
I wasn’t feeling contractions anymore, but I was afraid. He rubbed my back, and for a long time we were both silent.
The wind started to roar outside.
John’s lips were against my ear when he spoke again. “Remember when we were kids, and we used to hide under Mama’s stairs? All the times we’d make out in the closet?”
Oh, I did remember. His scent and his body pushed up against me in the darkness. His breath hot against my face, and his hands moving across my body. I lowered my voice to a whisper. “What made you bring that up?”
“Cause we’re in the dark,” he said.
There was a clap of thunder . When lightning struck, everything looked silver.
John put his hand against my stomach. His face was shadowy in that light, a fine outline against the darkness.
Maybe it was mention of Lola’s name that made her appear in my dream.
We stood at the edge of the lake together. The sky was a deep, hot green, and the water reflected that color back. I smelled the coming of the storm in the air: dust, water, heat, ozone.
“Did you know,” Lola said, “that when John was a little boy, I used to sing him a lullaby?”
I looked at her, and stumbled backwards. Her eyes had gone completely green, like the water, only white where clouds moved.
“Water,” she said, “is life.”
The sound of the shingles coming off the roof awakened me.
I sat up in bed. “John!” I screamed.
Where was he? I stumbled out of the bed and into that hall. He came from the stairway and ran towards me. He tackled me, and shoved me back into a closet. He held me tight, pressing himself so hard against me that it was almost painful. The stubble on his cheek pressed against my face.
“I love you,” he said, “tell Joshua that I love him.”
Those were the last words I heard before the hurricane swallowed everything.
In the hospital, Lola watched over me like a weary ghost.
Her tear-rimmed eyes were filled with emotion. The first thing out of my mouth was to ask about the baby. Joshua had been born one day ago, not long after the ambulance brought me to the hospital. He was well and healthy, seven pounds, three ounces. The nurses would bring him around now that I was awake, so that I could hold him.
One of my arms was broken, and with all the pain and the trauma, the doctors had decided to sedate me after the baby was delivered.
Once I was assured that Joshua was fine, then there was only one other question.
Only one other grief could cause Lola so much pain.
I knew the answer, somewhere inside myself. I felt the moment that John’s body was ripped away from me. I’d heard snatches of conversation between the nurses as I dived in and out of consciousness. Our house had been destroyed. They said that all that remained was a broken fireplace. And the closet where I’d ridden out the storm.
My eyes filled with tears as I asked, “Where is my husband?”
She barely could say the words. It seemed to take her breath out of her. I had never before felt so sorry for her. What she said shocked me.
Two men had come to the hospital yesterday, dressed in formal uniforms. When she saw them, she knew their intent. One of the men was a commander, and he repeatedly apologized that it had taken so long for them to arrive with word about John.
With the storm, and all the chaos that followed, no one had been able to reach to family with the sad news..
John had been killed overseas five days before his son was born.
Copyright 2010 Lori Titus
Hello, it has been a while….!
There are updates all around.
Flashes in the Dark Radio (with Tonia Brown and I) has a new website. Our new home will not only feature our author interview show, but a second show that focuses on current events with an irreverent spin called That’s F*cked Up with co-host Victorya Chase.
You can find the new site here:
Now, for Flashes in the Dark Ezine! We’re a little slower than usual with our turn around times, but we’re still happy to take submissions. Over the next few weeks I will be clearing up our backlog.
Want some quick reads? Check in here:
I have four writing projects on the burner. There are two of these that are with another author, and for now I have been sworn to secrecy about them. Of course, there is Marradith. And another story that was just started off this weekend. So my proverbial plate is full.
Thank you so much for continuing to support both the ezine and the interview shows. And here’s to producing great new things to add to your e-reader or bookshelf!
While I am working on editing Marradith #2, and some other projects, I thought it would be fun to give you a taste of my ghost story. It’s about two sisters, Jenna and Diana Bell, who have a complicated relationship, made more so by their respective pasts and the ghosts that haunt them . Set in the fictional town of Chrysalis, South Carolina, it’s all about family drama but with a twist of the paranormal. The story takes place in the present day, but the preface below takes a look back into the 1950’s, when the women’s father, Travis, was a young man.
Willow Branom was promised to Travis Bell’s bother, Jeremiah.
Travis couldn’t be sure, but he thought that may have been the first thing that attracted him to the woman. And she was beautiful. Chocolate skin and amber eyes, with black hair that flowed down her back. Jeremiah bragged about her. How smart she was. How beautiful. He’d met her in Charleston, where she had a position as a teacher at the local Colored school. When he brought her home they were already engaged. The plan was that she would live on the property in the back house, until he came home from a job he was taking down in Florida. One last construction gig out of town to bring home some money. A little bit more to buy his woman the kind of wedding dress she deserved.
If Jeremiah had known what was good for him, he would have wed her at the Justice of Peace before heading out of town. He’d have made love with his new wife and made her pregnant before he went away.
Jeremiah was a braggart, always so sure of himself and all that belonged to him. So he left the girl alone with an engagement ring. Alone in the little house by the creek where they would live together once they were man and wife.
Travis watched her.
It was hard to disguise his interest. There was something about her. Some ache beneath the surface that Travis wanted to quench.
She had to be lonely.
She had come up to the front house one afternoon, looking for Mother Kamila, offering to help with Sunday dinner. Travis told her to come in. He said that Mother asked that she peel some potatoes, and that she had gone to the store for some last minute things.
Standing in front of the window, he watched as she stared out at the trees, wearing her little pink dress, so sweet against her dark skin. He sat at the kitchen table, drinking his coffee. Not caring that she felt his gaze at her body. She was the perfect hourglass.
“I wish you wouldn’t do that,” she said over her shoulder.
“Do what?” he feigned innocence.
“Oh. That.” He said.
He stood up, and with a gentle touch, cupped her bottom in his hands. “Should I do this instead?”
She turned, and he pressed himself hard against her, so that she was pinned between him and the sink. He made sure that he placed his pelvis just where she could feel his erection. There was something like fear in her eyes, but he smiled down at her. He kissed her mouth deeply, and to his delight, she kissed him back.
Dinner that night was an uncomfortable affair. Willow kept her eyes on her plate, pretending to be shy. When Kamila asked why she hadn’t spoken much, she said that she was feeling weary and wanted to go lay down.
Travis bidded his time, not wanting it to be obvious. He waited a half hour before leaving out the back door.
As he guessed, she was waiting for him amongst the trees at the very back of the property, where they were shielded from view of either house.
“How did you know?” she asked breathlessly, once he reached her.
Travis smiled. His body was hot, burning from his loins and through his blood.
“Where else would you be?” he whispered.
He kissed her hard, holding her again. When his tongue stroked her neck, he heard her sigh, and he laughed with the pleasure of knowing she wanted him.
His hand traveled down, beneath her dress, and into the smooth skin between her legs.
She stiffened. He felt her sense of fear, as deeply as if she somehow pressed it into his body.
“Oh, hush baby,” he whispered, though she made no sound. And he began to move his hand up and down. He pressed, pushing up until he felt her virgin body break beneath the pressure of his hand.
Her sigh was deeper this time, animal. Her knees gave way, and she would have fallen if he had not been holding her. Somehow, she managed to untangle herself.
“I…. I shouldn’t..” she stuttered.
“It doesn’t matter,” Travis grinned. “You’re my woman now.”
She ran from the clearing.
Travis looked down at his hand, feeling wetness.
A week passed, and Travis wondered if she would tell anyone. As he guessed, she did not. When he told her that he would meet her again, under the trees, she gave him a look of trepidation.
But at the appointed time, she was there.
He kissed and touched her again over the course of several nights, before she finally left the door of her house open for him.
Travis waited past midnight before making the short journey to Willow’s house. She gave him all that he wanted, seemed ready to try any dirty thing that he asked. They never spoke of Jeremiah or what would happen if anyone found out, but Travis preferred it that way. He had no real intentions to be with her, but the sex was incredible.
It ended one morning, as suddenly as it all began.
Travis went downstairs for breakfast one morning. He could hear his Mother’s voice from the kitchen, smell eggs and sausage cooking on the stove. The soft voice that replied to hers was Willow’s. Travis smiled as he rounded the hallway into the kitchen.
His brother Jeremiah sat at the table, with a newspaper in front of him, legs crossed, a cup of coffee in his left hand.
“Well good morning to you too, Travis,” Kamila said sternly. “Aren’t you going to welcome your brother home?”
Jeremiah looked up from his paper and nodded dismissively. “Yeah, I’m used to it, Mother.”
Travis looked at Willow. She stood at the counter, beside the coffee pot. There was a cup in front of her, but it looked like she hadn’t drank any. He didn’t miss the discomfort in her posture, the way she had pressed her back against the kitchen wall, making herself as small as possible.
Kamila stood at the stove, and her eyes, dark and knowing, settled on Travis like a hawk.
“Foods done, Travis. Get yourself a plate.”
He opened the cabinet, reaching past Willow for a cup and a plate. She didn’t flinch, but it took effort. He could tell by the way she bit her lip.
“Are you back to stay?” Travis asked his brother.
Jeremiah took his time folding up his newspaper, making noise and avoiding eye contact while he did. “Well, sort of.”
“What’s that mean? Either you’re here or you aren’t.”
Willow moved. She went and sat next to Jeremiah. He put his hand on her thigh, patted her knee.
“We’ve been talking, and we’re going to put down on a house of her own. There is a place my buddy’s family has been trying to sell, and they are willing to give it to me for a song. It’s a fixer upper, but it will be nice once I can get some work done on it.”
Travis found the sugar bowl and spooned some into his coffee. “Really? What made you come to that decision?”
“I was trying to explain,” Kamila interrupted, “that if they stay here for at least a few months after the wedding, they can save for a better place. Somewhere closer.”
Jeremiah shrugged. Ignoring his mother’s comment, he answered Travis’ instead.
“Well, you wouldn’t understand what it’s like to have responsibilities, Travis. Maybe you’ll be engaged one day, and then you’ll understand.”
Travis’ voice was low, but both the women in the room looked up at him. Only Jeremiah seemed unaffected by the tension in the air.
“Yes.” Jeremiah said. He grinned at his younger brother.
“Before you go making all these grand plans, you might want to make sure that your fiancée is actually the marrying type.”
“Travis…!” Willow choked.
“What are you talking about?”
“Oh, you mean she didn’t tell you?” Travis said, his lips spreading in a grin. “It’s really sweet, you know, how she moans when she gives it up. But maybe you don’t bring that out in her.”
Travis saw his brother’s eyes widen, felt the movement of air as Jeremiah lunged at him. The first punch caught him unprepared, but then they were in the thralls of it. Jeremiah was rock hard, and taller, but Travis held his own, until he was knocked onto the floor.
Jeremiah straddled him, and was beating him to a pulp.
Travis tried to fight back, but couldn’t get any air.
Kamila had done the only thing she could think of to keep her sons from killing each other. She poured a skillet of hot oil down Jeremiah’s back.
He went to the hospital, and Kamila with him. Before she left, she took one look back at her destroyed kitchen, and Willow, who stood there in shock.
“Have that woman out of my house before I get back,” she hissed at Travis. And then she was gone, with a superior tilt of her head.
Before he could even turn, Willow was out the back door, running across the yard to her house. Travis followed.
She turned on her heel, and punched him. But her blow was nothing compared to Jeremiah’s and he laughed.
“I can’t feel shit on that side of my face anyway.”
“Why did you tell him? How can you laugh? Don’t you understand what you’ve done?”
“Were you really going to leave here with him?”
“Then I don’t care what you do. You heard my Mother. She wants you gone.”
They were standing at the top of the stone steps that separated the from the back. With her hands on her hips, Willow faced him with anger he’d never seen in her eyes before.
“You really are a sad excuse for a man, aren’t you? You didn’t really want me, you just didn’t want Jeremiah to have anyone.”
“So what? You wanted it. You couldn’t get enough of it.”
He turned away from her then. He heard Willow’s heels click against the stone as she rushed down towards the guest house.
There was no scream, only a mutter. But he heard the impact of her fall.
When Travis reached her, she was dead.
She’d fallen down the steps, halfway tumbling onto a jagged stone.
Her neck was snapped.
The trees shielded him from eyes that might have seen his dirty work.
There was rope in a shed out back, and a ladder. It took longer than he would have liked. Travis tried to place her in as graceful way as he could. Over and over he whispered apologies. Her body grew ever colder to his touch. Tears came to his eyes, but he hastily wiped them away. Around him the morning was deadly silent. No bird call, no wind. Only the screams that wanted to escape from his mouth, but found no release.
The police wouldn’t much care about the passing of a Negro girl, especially one that had been unfaithful to her man. Was it so hard to believe that she would take her own life? Her reputation was ruined. A suicide under these conditions would draw less attention than an accident.
It was Kamila who found the body the next day. Willow hung from the tree that shaded the spot where Travis first touched her. She looked like a lovely sleeping angel, her dark hair shading her face, her lips puckered, pink, and as innocent as the day he met her.
©2012 Lori Titus
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I would like to offer your readership a 10% discount off of the cover price of Don’t Pet the Sweaty Things. When they buy from Createspace, they go to the link at https://www.createspace.com/3772404 andselect “Add to cart.” On the following page, there is a spot that says ” if you have a discount code, enter it here.” Plug in “WLJS8U8.” To negotiate a 15% discount for your readers, please communicate directly with Bards & Sages’ Julie Ann Dawson, firstname.lastname@example.org
I am waiting for him again.
I pass the window and try not to linger. Down on the avenue, the street lights have just come on. They cast an oily glow. The breeze floats through the windows, and with it the muted sounds of traffic and passerby.
The train is only a quarter mile from here, and he walks the distance to our flat briskly. I can see him from where I stand as he turns the corner.
He’s carrying a bag of groceries, and I’m glad for that. He’s paler and thinner than he used to be. I know how he is when he’s depressed. Food is an afterthought at best, until he becomes nearly sick with the need of it.
His steps hit the sidewalk with a solid, fast paced click. I like the sound. Those boots have lasted him many years, and each time they wear thin, he gets the soles redone.
He must be cold, though you wouldn’t know by his stance. He wears a leather jacket, t-shirt, and his favorite jeans. None of it warm enough in this weather. He exhales, and the cold air makes clouds of it.
He looks up. I would have held my breath if I were able.
His lips move, and I know the word that falls from them all too well.
He shrugs, and walks toward the steps of our building’s door.
Inside our flat, he pauses. I have seen this look on his face before. It shouldn’t hurt me so much. But somehow, it still does.
How am I supposed to get used to being felt and not seen? Or as time goes on will his sense of me fade too, as if I am nothing at all?
I stay the evening.
I watch. He cooks dinner and eats it alone. He retreats to the living room to watch television, his eyes glazed and weary.
I throw a glass to the floor, shattering it. He gets up from the living room to see what’s going on.
He cleans up the mess and stands.
“Evie, I know it’s you,” he says, barely above a whisper. “But I can’t go on like this. You have to leave. I’m sorry.”
His words hit me like a punch. I understand, but it doesn’t make things easier. Just a little longer, I plead.
He turns off the light, and I am left in darkness.
Later, he drifts to sleep.
I reach out to touch him. My fingers pass through his flesh.
I can feel his heart beating against my palm. It’s both joy and pain to feel this. I want him to live. But as long as he breathes, we can’t be together.
His heart flutters, like the wings of a bird.
Slowly, I move my hand, gripping his heart in my fist.
“I cannot come to you,” I whisper in his ear. “But you can come to me.”
©2010 Lori Titus