Clarion Write-a-thon 2014! And reblog challenge!

So this year, I will once again be taking part in the Clarion West Write-a-thon. That was the fun time we had last summer, with the stories from the Black Carnival.

This time, we’re doing something a bit different. From my profile, which can be found here:

This year, I’m starting a new novel. Working Title: Working the Dead. I wrote part of a version of it a while back, but unlike then I actually have an idea where this is going.

Here’s the test jacket:

When Daisy died, she wasn’t expecting clouds or choirs of angels or even brimstone. But she also wasn’t expecting this.

Living in the Thenatopolis – Dead City, everyone calls it, one of many names – could just seem like L.A. or New York. But there is magic here. And rules.

Everyone is still getting judged by some higher power – who is He or She? Wouldn’t you like to know.

But what Daisy knows is that something bad happened between her and someone she loved before she died. Now she’s going to find out what, and not even miles of eternity are going to stop her.

My goal for the Write-a-thon is 500 words per day. I can definitely go over that, but this is something I know I can commit to. I mean, 500 words is just a really, really long tweet. Or a bunch of tweets. Or a fantastic email.

It’s the summer of love, people! Let’s do this!

As you may recall, the Write-a-thon aims at raising money for the Clarion West Writers Workshop. Pretty awesome, right? As incentive, for every $10 donated to me, I will post a complete chapter of Working the Dead. For every $50, I will complete a piece of digital artwork, such as a sketch of one of the characters, a scene from the story, etc. This is in addition to all the normal stuff I will be posting here about my writing process.

Here’s the exciting bit: anyone who reblogs this post between now and June 30th at 11:59PM EST to encourage folks over to my Clarion West Write-a-thon Profile will be entered into a random drawing. One July 1, I will pick one name. That person will appear in Working the Dead as either themselves, a character, etc. I will work with you to create an interesting story of your (dead) character who will interact with the other denizens in the Dead City.

Awesome, right?!

So get reblogging, and I’ll see you all on the 22nd!

Fifteen Minute Fiction: Day 2

Something seemed different.

Sugar Town

Something seemed different.

When he stepped outside of his apartment building, the air was thick and sweet. It was like a bakery had blown up and the scent of its heavenly pastries, cookies and cakes had created an atmosphere of sugar-oxygen.

But it wasn’t just the scent. The people who walked the street were in this hazy semi-catatonic state: mouths slightly opened, eyes unblinking, their movement sluggish and syrup slow.

At least I’m not having a stroke, Ron thought to himself.

As he started towards his car, he could feel his head start to ache. The cloyingly decadent waves were starting to make him wonder if there was some sort of chemical spill — like a Gingerbread Man Chernobyl. He got into the Acura and turned the engine on, shutting his vents and backing out of his spot on the street. Even out of the open air, his seats – white leather – reminded him of vanilla iced cookies.

There was no one else on the road, which was not like a Tuesday morning in the city at all. Ron got to his office in a third of the time it usually took and ran inside out of the confection climate. The building was dark and quiet. No one – not any of his coworkers, the managers, not even a janitor – was there. He picked up his phone and was welcomed by the dial tone.

At least I’m not in a horror movie, Ron thought to himself. He started running several databases and compiling reports.

At lunch time, Ron took the elevator up to one of the top stories in the building. From the 34th floor, he looked down. The people who had been walking the street were all gone. From above, the city looked like a model, one of the planned design diagrams that architects use when designing a new installation or business or park.

Park. Far off, he could see a multicolored blob of heads, a crowd, gathered around the park. He couldn’t see anything more, though; there was no sign of tents or balloons or anything to indicate a gathering of sorts. Seeing all of them, the people gathered in their mass, made him go back to his salad.

At least there wasn’t some accident, Ron thought to himself.

The salad crunched in his mouth as a pink beam of light came down to the park, and since he was heading back to his cubicle, he didn’t notice all of the bodies floating through the air into a cotton candy cloud. He hit a button to start formulating grafts for a meeting in a week just as the beam and the cloud and the people puffed out of existence in a tiny, rose-colored explosion.

Micro Fiction: Plastic Beaches

When I first met her, she smelled like beach vacations. Sand, sunscreen, salt. Sweet, melted treats from the boardwalk. When she was mad, it was like the rolling, blue-dark clouds that came in off the water, lightning far off and dancing across the horizon, her words white-capped waves.

In the court room, she is all tourist trap. Caricatures and big sounds and bright lights. Artifice, promising things that are much better in description than reality. As I pass her on my way out, the scent is candy, like grape, watermelon, strawberry. Fake. She is only a flavor of the woman I used to know.

Euphoria

The porcelain figurine is somersaulting through the air. It’s a little boy wearing glockenspiel. The mallets in his chubby hands are positioned at right angles, about to come down to peeng-pong against the bars. His eyes are wide, his smile jovial, when his head is smashed in by the wall.

“I always hated these fucking Hummels,” my sister Harry says, picking up a little Heidi-looking shepherd girl.

“I always hated you!” I say. I wheeze. I’ve been smoking all day. Just because I wanted to know what it felt like. My lungs feel like they’ve been wrung out, like they’re soggy, nasty dish sponges.

That makes her laugh, short and loud. Her arm winds up and she lets go. The antique rolls off her fingers, though, and arcs to the floor instead of the wall, bouncing a few times on the carpet. I look out the window. “It’s getting shitty out there.”

For a few seconds, we are both quiet as we stare outside. The wind is getting harder, making the leaves go white as they flip over. They think it’s just a storm coming. They are sadly mistaken.

The sky is softly glowing with purple light. It makes me think of those skeezy lounges you see in ’70s and ’80s movies, where there’s frosted glass and violet backlighting and white leisure suits.

I break the silence. “What band will you miss not having seen live?”

Harriet walks into the kitchen and pulls out a stack of plates with one hand. They immediately tip and shatter on the floor, loud. She yells over the impact, “Dave Matthews Band. You?”

“Uh, lame.” I take a sip from a cloyingly sweet wine cooler. I would have been 21 in seven months if all this weren’t happening. “Radiohead.”

She disappears into the other room, then reappears. “Fuck. I was going to turn on OK Computer, but I forgot there isn’t any power.”

I laugh, tipsy. “Seriously? You forgot?”

The news reported what was happening two days ago. I was at school, and Harry was living with her loser boyfriend. We both came home, to the carcass of the house that belonged to our parents. And we cried. A lot and for a long time. Until the power went out, then we screamed.

Our parents had gone off to backpack in Europe. No contact.

Harry’s boyfriend had just never come back to their apartment. When we finally calmed down and realized that the world wasn’t ending, like, at that exact moment, she called him and left this long, horrible voicemail, full of all the terrible things she thought about him and probably a few she hadn’t thought until the moment he left her alone, when the rogue star was going to destroy the Earth.

“I couldn’t be there, all alone. How depressing would that have been?”

She sits down on the floor next to me. Her long legs stretch out to what looks like a foot past mine. She’s a loose ragdoll, all of her destructive energy spent. Outside, something cracks and falls over. I wonder if there are other people, in their houses, doing what we’re doing.

“It’s like we’re all in the Titanic,” I say. “All the lifeboats are gone. Now we’re just…afloat.”

The house sways for a moment, and we grab each other’s hands, so tight I make a little squeal between my teeth. But then it stops, so we let go.

Harry says something, a little too quietly and mumbly for me to hear. I elbow her. “Do what now?”

“Did you mean what you said?” she asks again, louder. She presses the heels of her hands against her forehead and pushes her red hair back. Her skin is speckled with freckles. I used to think they looked awful when we were younger but now I am jealous. Because I am pale, and my red hair is so dark it’s pretty much just a flavor of brown. “That you’ve always hated me.”

I don’t entirely remember saying that, but I do give it some thought. “No. I mean, you were a brat when we were growing up. You made things a lot harder for me than they could have been. But I think that’s what sisters do. At least sisters that have relationships with one another anyway.”

She nods. “I guess. I could have been nicer.”

“You could have been a LOT nicer.”

“Okay, okay, shut up.”

In one of the back rooms, a window breaks, and I can just make out a faint roar beyond the expanse of our neighborhood, our town, our county. I try to pop my ears, thinking it’s the pressure changing, but it’s getting harder to breathe.

Harry gets up and pulls me to my feet. “Come on. I’m tired. Let’s go to bed.”

We both stumble down the hall – the walls are shaking, and in their foundation, I’m sure they’re buckling and breaking – and go into what used to be our shared room. We close the door, and somehow it feels like it makes everything that’s happening a little more dull. Like we’re away from it, in here.

I start getting into the bed as Harry closes the blinds. There’s still that glow, that strange lavender star, but the room looks bright in a way that to our eyes seems natural. Like when you wake up the morning after it snows, and the sun is bouncing off the sugar coating of winter.

“Hey, man,” she says, as I’m about to get comfortable. “Take your shoes off.”

I roll my eyes, let my head loll back and groan. “Seriously?”

“Seriously. It’s nasty, you turd.”

I kick off my converse and get under the covers before my toes get cold. Harry gets in behind me. My eyes are wide open, staring at the ceiling. I feel like I’m in middle school again. The room is practically untouched, and there are pictures of bands from the nineties and a movie poster for Beauty and the Beast. I grab one of a dozen teddy bears that are against the wall and curl into a ball.

“Thanks for staying and hanging out,” I hear Harry say into my hair. She has the tail of my shirt in one hand, and she pulls it when something loud crashes outside.

The bed is warm, and I squeeze my eyes shut. “Thanks for showing me where Mom and Dad kept their old wine coolers.”

“No problem.” She has yanked the blanket over our heads. I feel weightless in the dark.

“Goodnight!” she yells over the din of destruction.

“Good-“