ANIMAL INSTINCT – Chapter One Audio

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If anyone was curious about my book but didn’t feel like reading the first chapter, you can always give it a quick listen right here!

And if, just possibly, you feel intrigued enough after that then you can hop over to Amazon and pre-order it so it’ll be delivered straight to your device when it releases on the 21st.  I still have a person goal of 100 pre-orders and currently we stand at 7.  So fingers crossed?

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ANIMAL INSTINCT – Chapter One

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Animal_Instinct_eBook_preview

Chapter One

The needle slid into Jackie’s arm without resistance. Despite her friend’s skill, she nearly bit through her lip while she squeezed her eyes shut. It was an old phobia, the needle alone didn’t bother her but its presence woke her worst memories. Even with her eyes closed she could see a man wearing a white lab coat coming towards her with sharp things, wanting to cut into her skin and stick gloved fingers where they never belonged. She could remember the heavy flow of blood against her legs and how the pain had kept her awake, fighting off the haven unconsciousness offered.

“You can open your eyes, Jackie. I’m finished.” She did so reluctantly, glancing at the round Band-Aid covering whatever damage the needle had left behind. “See? Was that so bad?” Her eyes narrowed.

“It was a few seconds in my own personal hell. Maybe I should pick out a few spiders from the barn and let them crawl on you, Izzy. Give you a sense of perspective.”

Izzy, also known as Isabelle, didn’t bother to hide her shudder. “Okay, I get it. No more needles.”

Jackie nodded, opting to allow the smooth, cultured tones of her friend’s voice to soothe some of her ruffled feathers. She then left the state-of-the-art stainless steel and granite kitchen to get some air. Isabelle Watts had a beautiful loft just down the street from the Walt Disney Concert Hall in the city of Los Angeles. It was the perfect location for Izzy, a woman who valued style and glamour. She believed in the classic lines of a spiral staircase, the Old World charm of a Victorian loveseat. Izzy thought everything should sparkle, be it diamonds or wood. Jackie walked barefoot across cherry wood floors shined to a high polish, looking up to see the Swarovski crystal chandelier illuminating Izzy’s living room. She’d always wondered when Izzy would marry some rich businessman and move all her furniture into the mansion where they belonged.

“You never told me how it worked out with that publisher,” Jackie called over her shoulder, idly rubbing her scarred elbow and taking a seat in front of Izzy’s fireplace.

“A dead fish would have better kissing skills so I dumped him.”

Jackie rolled her eyes. Somehow she knew it would be something like that. “You’re too picky. He was handsome, genuinely interested in you and he had a good job. Plus, you said you could talk to him for hours.”

“I want to be able to do more than talk, Jackie,” she pointed out as she left the kitchen holding a delicate vial of blood.

“Not everyone is a naturally gifted kisser.” She stared at her blood sloshing against the glass container. It was a little horrifying although not nearly as bad as what would come next. “Maybe if you stopped letting your boss stick his tongue down your throat you wouldn’t be so reluctant about getting an actual boyfriend.”

Izzy smirked. Jackie was about as subtle as a blow to the head. “Most of my actual boyfriends weren’t as good at it,” she told her, heading up the spiral staircase to her bedroom. She kept her bags of emergency blood in the mini fridge and that was where she intended to keep Jackie’s blood until she could get it to her employer. Her feet sank into the thick white carpet as she walked past the canopy bed to the fridge she kept near her walk-in closet. “Besides, at least I’m getting a few kisses.” And considerably more, she thought.

“I’m single by choice!” Jackie shouted up at her. She wouldn’t admit that she sometimes agreed with Izzy’s perspective. Sex wasn’t the most important thing in life. But it was in the top five. The closest Jackie had gotten to an orgasm during the last three years was indulging in strawberries and marshmallows. For her, a satisfying orgasm came with a person attached. Solo work led to the most random thoughts. Once she’d had to stop because she’d been convinced she’d forgotten to buy tomatoes at the store and it drove her nuts not knowing. The mood had died a quick death after that. Since pleasuring herself was out and relationships that included sex came with certain risks like falling in love and getting her heart broken, Jackie stuck with fruit and sugar.

Izzy came back down the stairs. “Are you done trying to avoid what we came here to do?” Jackie opted to stare at the rich burgundy walls and her friend rolled her eyes. “Why are you so nervous about it? Seriously, it’s just an easy way to make some extra cash.”

“There is nothing easy about volunteering to have some random guy bite you so he can drink your blood,” she muttered.

“My boss is a really good guy. He takes care of his own,” Izzy promised.

“I won’t be his,” Jackie corrected. Her deep voice tended to be all the more jarring when she snapped because it was made more for soothing animals than raising hell.

“Of course not,” Izzy agreed, realizing her mistake. “I just meant he looks out for the people on his payroll. And he’s really generous to his, uh, the girls.”

“That’s another thing. I don’t want him thinking this is going to be a personal relationship. He can have my blood but I’m not going to share anything else.” Izzy tried not to wince. He wasn’t going to be thrilled about that prospect. He got pretty girls for a reason. All of them were compensated financially and physically for their donations. Every single one of them agreed that the physical compensations would be enough.

“I’m sure you’ll be able to work that out with him,” Izzy said, even though she felt highly dubious about the idea. In fact, she was worried about whether he would want to hire her or not. Izzy’s boss knew what he liked and she’d never seen him deviate. Jackie glanced up to see her friend studying her with a discerning eye.

“What? Do I have horse slobber in my hair again?”

“No, no, I was just thinking… Maybe we should go shopping before you meet my boss. I know this great hair stylist. We could go see him, too.”

Jackie frowned. “Why this sudden interest in my looks?”

Izzy shifted from foot to foot. “Well, it’s just that my boss likes a certain type of woman and you’re a little different.”

Jackie stood up and Izzy winced internally at the height difference. Izzy was nearly a head shorter than Jackie and that was about where she came to on her boss as well. The fact was that none of his girls were the same height as he was.

“What type of woman does he like, Izzy?” she asked, a dangerous tension in her jaw.

“He always goes for… well… delicate women. You’re not exactly delicate,” Izzy said as gently as she could. Jackie sighed. There really was no way to argue with that statement. She’d been overweight until high school when she’d shot up to six feet. Then all the fat had been redistributed as muscle and hips. Unfortunately, only some of it had gone to her chest. That had turned out for the best, however. Even with her modest attributes, trotting on a horse occasionally verged on jarring. God bless sports bras.

“Which is why you’re bringing him a sample. That way he can get hooked on my blood before he meets the source,” Jackie said. “Is there anything else I should know about his preferences?” Izzy took a step back.

Jacquelyn Chase had a very strong Scottish background passed down from her father’s side, which included high cheekbones, a straight nose and pale skin. She always stood with her back perfectly straight and wouldn’t look unnatural with a Claymore in hand. Jacquelyn worked in the sun on a daily basis; the brown tan on her arms that ran from a little above her elbow to her wrist was evidence of that. Those arms were slim but firm with muscle as were her legs. No, this wasn’t a woman her boss would choose.

There were some bonuses, though. Both tanned and fair skin glowed with health. Her mouth was small, lips soft and a naturally perfect shade of pink that was attractive if she wasn’t mouthing off. Jacquelyn’s eyes were the precise shade of whiskey with sunlight shining through it. Her hair was short, unfortunately, barely going past her shoulders when it was down. At least it was a rich shade of brown with pretty gold highlights that were a natural product of all the sunlight. All in all, Jackie wasn’t ugly. In fact, in the right light she was even beautiful.

“Just, uh, try not to glare at him. He’ll probably try to provoke you but you have to remember that he’s like that with everyone,” Izzy said. Jackie took a long look at her friend. Petite, curved in all the right places, she even had a delicate, almost doll-like face. Her hair was jet black and fell into a perfect wave around her face and shoulders. This was the kind of woman her boss preferred. It wasn’t an encouraging observation.

“I need him to like me,” Jackie murmured. “I’m scrambling here, Izzy. If I can’t get out from under this debt then I’m going to lose my ranch. I’m going to lose everything I’ve worked for.”

“Don’t talk like that,” Izzy said, unwilling to admit how much it freaked her out when her steady, always dependable friend trembled and showed her human side. “You will not lose your ranch. You’ll keep all your horses and your crazy dogs and your antisocial cat. I promise, okay? He’ll like you. I wouldn’t be surprised if he fell in love with you on the spot!” That was stretching it but Jackie laughed anyway, which had been the point.

“I don’t need him to love me. I just need him to pay me well for doing very little.”

Izzy smiled and squeezed her friend’s arm. “He’s more than capable of that. Trust me.”

Jackie nodded. “You know, since I’m going to work for him, it would be nice if you finally told me his name.”

Izzy had never revealed his name since it would be a disaster if anyone else found out. He was a prominent businessman and a vampire. The human world only needed to know about one of those details and it wasn’t the latter.

“Good point,” she said. “His name is Liam O’Connor.”

 

The next day Jackie heard about the woman who had been found discarded by the side of the PCH with her throat slashed. She felt a moment of sympathy as the particulars were rattled off on the morning news but had mostly forgotten it by the time her phone rang with a very important call. If the details of the report had included the whiskey color of the victim’s eyes, she might not have been so willing to involve herself in vampire business.

ANIMAL INSTINCT will be released October 21, 2017

Animal Instinct – Video Blurb

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Hey there cats and kittens, your intrepid writer friend has returned this beautiful Friday the 13th to bring you a short little video plugging my first book!  It’s currently available to pre-order on Amazon and the release is on the 21st, one day and a week away.  Tomorrow I’ll be posting the first chapter for your preview pleasure and then I’ll likely read it aloud for your listening pleasure.

Should be interesting to see how I do reading something straight instead of mocking it as I do with Jenny’s recaps.  No cartoon voices for me.  Gulp.

Jenny Reads Handbook for Mortals Chapter 1

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The voice I do for Lani/Zade, while accurately pegged by Jenny as the right fit, makes it incredibly difficult to get through the banal, repetitive, and often nonsensical descriptions in this book.  I’m just dragging this bewildered speak and spell through hell in this recording and we all know it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

Never thought I’d miss Ana’s internal monologue.  I’ve reached a new low, folks.

Get on over to Jenny’s post so you can see all the pictures!

And if you feel like supporting me, there’s two options.  First there’s ko-fi and second you could hop on over to Amazon and pick up a pre-order of my book, Animal Instinct.  Plenty of romantic vampire fun for the whole age-appropriate family.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Vampires and Horses

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Some of you might remember a few weeks back I mentioned editing work I’d started when I was sixteen years old.  Well, here’s the result.

Animal_Instinct_eBook_preview

That’s right, folks!  The very first book I ever wrote is now available for pre-order on Amazon.

I started Animal Instinct when I was a wee sixteen year old high school student and finished it my freshman year in college under the eye of professors who knew far more about writing than I did.  I didn’t come back to it again until my last semester in grad school.  After blowing the dust off and wincing at the old bad writing habits, the real editing began.

It’s taken a decade for this book to see the light of day but I’m actually glad about that.  If I’d released it to the world as it was all that time ago, today it would only serve as a time capsule.  All the parts of me that I’d outgrown, lessons I hadn’t had the maturity to learn, would be immortalized.  And I’d rather not have one of my novels serve as a specter of past flaws, writing and personal.

If nothing else, I think my characters deserve better from me and I’m happy I gave it to them.

For a long time whenever anyone asked what Animal Instinct was about I’d give the shortest answer possible.  “Vampires and horses.”  That summary is still true but it leaves out a lot.

Appropriately enough, Animal Instinct is about learning how to be better.  It’s about people who believe they know the best way to do things only to discover something so much better was waiting just out of sight.  It’s a journey where the characters have to put aside the habits that had worn out their usefulness and take a good, long look at their mistakes.

But hey, there’s still plenty of vampires and horses.  Go check out the summary if you don’t believe me!

 

Animal Instinct is due to be released Oct. 21, 2017.  Go get those pre-orders in, friends.  I’ve got a personal goal of 100 and here’s where we stand so far:  2/100

Jenny Reads Handbook for Mortals Chapter 0

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Down once more to the dungeon of my amateur voice acting…

Down we plunge to the prison of badly written novels…

It’s been a long long time since I finished up the audio for Jenny Trout’s 50 Shades adventure.  Or at least the audio for the first book.  Nowadays Jenny’s tackling a different horrifying sea beast.  It’s a book called Handbook for Mortals that recently caused something of a stir.  Jenny explains the story in detail on her blog.  If you want the nitty gritty, that’s the place to be.  And you want to be there anyway so you can see the pictures and videos referenced.

Me?  I’m just here to report her brilliance in harpooning the fuck out of this pile of garbage.

Mysterious and Strange

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Today I was thinking about my Omens of Ill Fortune post and I realized that aside from my freshman year, something always went wrong whenever I was about to head back for undergrad at Sarah Lawrence.  More than that, it was a gradually escalating scale of bad.  You already know what was on the high end of the scale if you read the Omens post but in case you forgot, I have two words for you.

Walking pneumonia.

But my sophomore and junior year were similarly plagued.  Granted, the sophomore year incident wasn’t so bad.  The night before I was going to fly back I was cooking dinner and put my hand on a pan to get it out of the oven.  No glove because I’m a special genius who understands how ovens work.

(Still not as bad as when I put a towel in the oven because my brain told me it was totally normal, we always put the towel in the HEATED oven.)

So I scorched myself but I’d pulled my hand off fast enough that the skin only went a little red.  Thoroughly chastened, I put on oven mitts and and got the pan on the stove.

Where I then proceeded, not five minutes later, to stick my bare hand on the pan handle to adjust its position.

And yes, the handle is metal.

No, it hadn’t cooled.

This time the burn was not mild because I’d gone and wrapped my whole damn hand around the handle.  My palm got a taste of hell’s inferno right then.  The worst part had to be me just yelling out loud at myself as my mother looked on in bewilderment as to how I’d possibly made the same mistake twice in under ten minutes.

So I’d gone and done the cleverest thing possible.  I had a blister on my right hand not twenty-four hours before I’d need to be using it consistently to drag my suitcase around the airport and then later, you know, unpack my dorm room.  Awesome.  Wow.

Junior year a horse stepped on my back.

The story there is that Brego was still young and slight.  These days he’s a muscled-up freight train of elegance and poise (while still being a total dork sometimes) but in his early years he wasn’t the most sturdy.  You wouldn’t be either if you kept having dramatic growth spurts just as you started filling out.

It’s our last ride together and my trainer has us on the lunge line so she can control the pace of what we’re doing.  Everything’s fine, very routine, until something frightens Brego out of his skin.  Now I never saw what it was but according to witnesses a golf cart took a turn a little too quick and appeared.  Horses aren’t fans of things appearing out of nowhere.  To this day Brego does not like it when something loud and dramatic sounding happens behind him.

My experience goes a little something like this:

Brego leaps up and to the side, throwing the both of us off balance.  The lunge line is nowhere near enough to keep him steady and even though I had kept my seat, for sure wasn’t going anywhere, we were still tipping.  My weight at the angle we were leaning was too much for Brego to correct himself.  I had about a split second to figure this out and to then make the executive decision to bail.  I couldn’t think of a single good thing that’d be accomplished if Brego and I hit the ground together so I decided to take the fall alone.

This was both good and bad.  Good because a horse didn’t fall on my leg.  Bad because Brego still hadn’t quite gotten his feet under him and I was in his way.

Now, horses don’t want to step on you.  They flat-out do not want it.  No thank you ma’am that sounds terrible.  So when his hoof landed on my back he was quick to get it the hell off.  But even with just a fraction of his weight, that is a goddamned heavy animal.  My saving graces in that situation were how fast he got off me, the give of the footing I’d landed in and the fact it was my lower back so my spine had a little cushion around it.

So after checking to be sure I could still move my legs and getting levered off the ground, we went to the hospital and made sure nothing was broken.  They gave me a Vicodin pill that sent me on a ride to Loopy Town but no permanent damage to my back was found.  I lived on Advil for about a week to keep my back from screaming.  Weirdly, it never bruised the way I thought it would.  At most there was a sort of shadow whereas I expected a technicolor spectacular.

Then once I got back to school I had to move furniture so, you know, great timing.

Junior year was actually triple special on the bad news front.  First, my grandfather passed away shortly before I had to go back.  Then the last ride I had up where the horses live ended in catastrophe.  And then when I finally got home to pack up, Hurricane Irene canceled my flight.  Talk about a series of unfortunate events.

Then finally there was senior year with the pneumonia.  I actually can’t believe I hadn’t thought of how bad luck would smack me up the side the head every time I went back to school after summer break.  That might be a good thing, though.  I might never have gone on to grad school there if I thought there was some malevolent spirit gradually upping its game every time I flew back for a new year.

Come to think of it, I also always got bumped from at least one of my chosen classes so I had to scramble to pick a new one every year.

You know what?  I’m making a note.

Never do anything important in late August.

Ever.

My Weight

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Disclaimer: In case anyone isn’t looking to talk about health and weight, feel free to turn back now.  I’m not a professional and this is very much just me working out the thoughts I have about my personal well-being.

Recently I started this new health program type thing.  It’s a thirty day cleanse that’s about resetting the clock on your body, etc.  The factory settings of bodily health, you know?

I feel positive about it for a few reasons.  One of the big ones is that the shakes don’t taste like death.  I actually really like the vanilla, which is odd for me because usually these health shakes need more flavor to not be a miserable slog through breakfast.  But actually I could just dump the vanilla powder into plain water and be perfectly happy with it.

Another positive about this program is some products you can buy from the company that aren’t necessarily tied up in this thirty day thing.  There’s this fizz stick that gives you energy when you toss it in some water.  A 5-hour energy drink except there’s no specific time limit and I don’t feel like I took a shot of fruity chemicals.  Also I’m feeling the effects right now.  It’s pretty great.  A current of energy that isn’t giving me tremors.  I just feel motivated and that is a pretty unnatural state for me.

I don’t know if these things taste as good as they do, or don’t seem to be messing with my body in unpleasant ways, because of the all vegan ingredients and heavy emphasis on keeping these products natural but it’s suiting me pretty well so far.

Another thing I liked about the thirty day cleanse pitch is that it’s not really about weight loss, it’s about overall health.  Not to say they don’t mention you could lose some weight – I think every health program on the planet has to mention you have a shot at losing weight these days.

All this got me thinking about another decision I made for my own health a while back that I don’t regret.

I decided to stop caring about my weight.

This is easier said than done for a lot of people, I know.  It may even sound irresponsible.  If you’re not monitoring your weight, how much can you know about your health?

I did some irresponsible things in grad school.  My first year I really, really did not look after my diet.  My grocery budget was categorized under ‘luxuries’ in my head so it didn’t have a very high priority.  I’d also made a promise to myself to manage all my own expenses while at school so asking for help was out.  It didn’t feel serious to me at the time but I was learning some really bad eating habits.  ‘Eat all you can when there’s food in front of you because who knows, right?’ is not a good mentality.

I lost a good chunk of weight.  Enough that I fit back into dresses that had been a little snug.  And while that kind of made me smile, I couldn’t get my head around the fact that this result society had told me was good came about because I wasn’t treating myself very well.

The bad habits lasted even when food was readily available again so after grad school I put on a little weight.  Nothing huge but enough that I could feel it.  I didn’t have the sensation of comfort in my body that had been standard for me.  So I picked up exercise (a thing I really need to go back to) and started feeling a thousand times better.  I didn’t just get back to being comfortable, I started feeling better than normal.  And I stopped caring what the scale said.

I had energy and increasing muscle definition.  My mood improved by miles.

I realized whatever number the scale might throw at me didn’t matter because I wouldn’t trade how I felt to get it lower.  Feeling good, eating well, treating myself with a little care and compassion…  That was the best diet in the world.

Of course life intervenes.  I got out of the habit of exercising for a million little reasons but I know I’m going back.  I still took care to feed myself.  I’ve started cooking a lot and I find I enjoy it more than I thought possible.  I also started drinking a gallon of water a day.  Never going back to dehydration, no sir.  And now with this thirty day health ‘reset’, I have a positive outlook on this journey I’m starting with my body.

But I’m never going back to the scale.  For me, seeing that number isn’t helpful.  Because I’ve seen that number go low, felt good about it, and realized it was the result of bad practices.  And I’ve seen it go up, stabilize, and feel like my body had become a happy, welcoming place.

So I’m going to be a Millennial about this and prioritize my special ‘feelings’.  When I feel bad, I’ll make changes.  If I feel good, keep going.

This isn’t going to be useful to everyone.  Some people want that number.  It can be encouraging!

I just wanted to say to the people out there who don’t have a positive relationship with that scale in your bathroom, you don’t have to stay.  You could tell say to it, “I need some space from you.”  Or, “It’s not you, it’s me.”  Or, “I’m trying to focus on my career right now.”  You can always go back if you change your mind.

I guess at the end of the day I think you should feed yourself something more substantial than a number that might not be an entirely realistic representation of your health.

So take care, darlings!  And be kind to yourselves.  You’re listening.

Salutations

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I’ve been doing a lot of editing recently.  Turns out when a good half of a novel got written when you were sixteen, you want to change more than a few things after graduating with a masters in writing fiction.  Although, oddly enough, the sex scenes needed very little adjustment.

So during this editing process it can be easy to stare into the void a little too deep and end up questioning every decision you ever made in your life because you used the wrong kind of there there.  It’s times like these you need to remember that you aren’t a terrible writer, mistakes happen, and Fifty Shades of Grey exists.  If after remembering that you don’t hurl yourself off a cliff because oh god that book got published then you’re doing okay.

It’s important to have standards, really.  You want to try your best to present a coherent narrative that won’t inadvertently scar and horrify the masses.

Funnily enough, I’m not referencing 50 Shades again there.  I’m talking about a book that came out a while ago that floated in, briefly shook my faith in the written word, and then floated away again.

Does anyone remember List of the Lost by Morrissey?  I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t.  I’d put it out of my mind.  It helps that I haven’t read it.  Never will, either.

So then how, you ask, could I know it was a terrible, terrible thing to inflict on the reading public?

Because all you really need to know about that book is probably its most famous paragraph.  Just to warn you, he won a bad sex award for its absolute awfulness.  So before you go venturing off to google to find this abomination, be prepared.

Me, I’m not going to retype the whole thing for you.  I’d need to boil my fingers after.

But!  I will talk about certain phrases that come back to me in my nightmares.

“Eliza’s breasts barrel-rolled”

I tried a few times to picture this.  Aside from the obvious horror of picturing a woman’s breasts becoming mobile in a way that would enable a barrel-roll to happen, I speculate as to the positioning required to think that would be a good descriptor.  In the scene they’re barrel-rolling over some dude’s ‘howling’ mouth – possibly howling in terror at what he’s witnessing – so I picture her sort of bodily rolling over him and just happening to scrape his mouth with her boobs as they go flying overhead.

That’s still not the worst part.

He uses the phrase ‘bulbous salutation’ to describe his erection.

Revolting?  Yes, of course.  Still not the worst part, though.

No, the worst part is him describing what that erection is doing.

“smacked its way into every muscle of Eliza’s body”

So again, either it detaches – another possible explanation for him ‘howling’ – or he gets up and starts prodding this woman all over her body with his erection.  It does specify every muscle.  So he’s slapping around her calves at some point before awkwardly angling himself to ‘smack’ the back of her knees.  At this point the barrel-rolling almost makes sense as a move, since poor Eliza is probably fighting him to get into a position where sex could happen.

He’s busy acquainting his ‘bulbous salutation’ with her shoulder blades and she goes barrel-rolling around to beg for some actual erotic touching.

Now wait a minute, you might be thinking.

Actually you’re probably thinking ‘I never needed to know this, please stop, I beg you’.

Anyway!  You might be thinking I can’t be speculating about how none of this is leading to a satisfying sexual encounter.  After all, ‘every muscle’ includes the obvious one, right?  I have some bad news.

“smacked its way into every muscle of Eliza’s body except for the otherwise central zone”.

Yeah, that’s going to make the sex a touch difficult.  Although maybe Eliza’s dodging a bullet there because I’m not sure anyone wants to get smacked in their ‘otherwise central zone’.  Their O.C.Z., if you will.

I really hope you won’t because that’s terrible.

It’s at this point I really want to go back in time to my sixteen year old self as she’s writing surprisingly tasteful sex scenes, pat her on the shoulder and say, “Don’t worry, kid.  Turns out people who’ve presumably had sex don’t know how to write it, either.”

No matter what mistakes you make while writing, remember to assure yourself that at least you don’t have breasts and erections departing their owners’ bodies.

Unless you’re into that.

What?  There’s a genre for everything.

Omens of Ill Fortune

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A bumper sticker told me I was going to get walking pneumonia.

Sort of.

Look, I’m not what anyone would call religious, mostly because I don’t belong to any religion. I also don’t think of myself as superstitious. I’m too contrary for it. As a kid I decided thirteen was a lucky number for me purely out of spite. But hey, my Brego was born on Friday the 13th so perhaps my contrariness appealed to the universe.

And that tends to sum up my set of beliefs. There are powers in the universe that respond to irony.

Well, I also believe in God but mostly as a benevolent force who finds it puzzling when we’re so mean to each other, especially on His alleged behalf. My belief about the universe’s enjoyment of irony extends to God as well.

Most of all, I think we sometimes get a heads up from the universe when something’s about to happen, good or bad. I know the human brain is engineered to see patterns even when there are none but I’ve seen too many tips of the hat from the cosmos for me to take it for granted. Anyway, I’m a writer. I’m supposed to be eccentric.

My mother was driving me to the airport when I saw the bumper sticker. I already knew the flight would be rough because it was a red eye to New York and then that morning I’d be registering for my senior year in undergrad. Before I could even go to bed I’d need to unpack a few boxes to get to my sheets. But I wasn’t too worried about it. You know, until we drove by a van with the bumper sticker that said, Pray for Kate.

Not encouraging, universe. Not encouraging at all.

I remember laughing at the time because explicitly ominous bumper stickers are kind of funny in the moment. Whoever owned that car probably chose that sticker as a sort of touching gesture to whatever Kate was in their life. But for the random Kate on the highway, it was unsettling.

Er, why do I need prayers? Is something happening? Someone know something I don’t?

The plane didn’t crash so that was a plus.

No, no. What did happen was the day after registration I woke up with a raw spot in my throat. Initially this didn’t seem important. I’ve been sick before and getting sick the beginning of the year wasn’t the end of the world. I’d probably picked a bug up on the plane, boo hoo.

That it was a very weird raw spot in my throat didn’t faze me. The strange, aching pain that would spear up my jaw into my left ear before returning to my throat was probably nothing.

And then my luck got worse. I’d been bumped from one of my classes, a thing that in itself wasn’t so much bad luck as consistent luck since I’d been bumped from a class every year of undergrad. Inevitably it would also be the one that was most important to me, in this case my writing workshop. So to my delight I got to frantically sprint around campus to get a replacement class.

You know that thing people say when they speculate as to how a situation could get worse?

Yeah.

Order up one New York downpour for the girl in the jean shorts and t-shirt, please!

Interviewing for a class soaking wet was just more fun than I can say. Who doesn’t love waterlogged sneakers?

After that, the cough was hardly a surprise.

Okay, I lied. It was a surprise to me since generally when a cold starts with a sore spot in my throat the next step is my nose running. The cough generally attends on the last days of the cold as a sort of herald of glad tidings. Like hack hack, congratulations! Gasp, wheeze you’re almost well!

That was when I cottoned on to the fact that this cold was behaving in a strange manner. So I got my bedrest, drank fluids, and tried not let my teeth clack too hard that one night it felt as though my bone marrow had been replaced with liquid nitrogen. But the cough didn’t get better. Even when I caved to the need for medicine and one of my very dear roommates bought me some Mucinex, it didn’t do the trick.

Then I had to spend my first class of the year alternately strangling myself to silence the coughing or hurrying out to the bathroom for water. On one such trip, after hacking into the sink, I looked up into the mirror and was struck by how pale my skin had gone and how red my lips were. It reminded me of what I’d heard about tuberculosis victims in bygone times, how they left lovely corpses.

Still, I didn’t want to go to the health center. There didn’t seem much point to me since I thought it was just an extremely bad cold and they’d only give me antibiotics, completely useless for a virus.

But then came the day I noticed I was coughing up green phlegm. Finally, it dawned on me.

This thing could be bacterial! I’d been sick much longer than was normal for me and with no improvement made I suspected foul play. After consulting Dr. Google the most likely culprit was walking pneumonia. The only way to know for sure was to finally involve an actual medical professional.

The doctor didn’t make a diagnosis, just prescribed antibiotics as a sort of ‘well, let’s see if that helps but it won’t if it’s a cold’. She made that pretty clear, actually. It was all she had to offer but it might very well not help. When she had me breathe as hard as I could to test my lungs she noted they were in good shape, but then I’d only had the thing a little over a week.

What would determine if I had what I thought I had was how the antibiotics worked.

After the first day’s dosage, I felt almost entirely recovered. That more than anything convinced me I’d been hit with walking pneumonia. With antibiotics, taken as prescribed, that bacteria was wiped out in no time flat and after the second day I was back to normal.

While I was sick, I didn’t think of the bumper sticker. It was only when I was recovered and wondering at how strange an experience it had been that I remembered I’d been given a warning.

Although how exactly I was supposed to get Wear a facemask on the plane unless you want walking pneumonia, Kate from Pray for Kate I’ll never know.

Maybe obtuse warnings from the universe aren’t as useful as they could be. What I like about them is the sense that someone out there is rooting for you. Even if you don’t know what they’re trying to say, there’s a force that wants to help.

Or a force that wants to say, “I told you so” after the fact.

It’s nice to think the universe has a sense of humor, even when the joke’s at your expense.

So keep an eye out for those signs! They probably won’t be the Powerball numbers but inclusion in the ineffable isn’t such a bad prize at the end of the day.

 

But if you’re listening, I’d also really appreciate the Powerball numbers. Please?