#BlogBattle – Loss    **Laurel’s Choice**

#BlogBattle – Loss **Laurel’s Choice**

Laural wandered aimlessly around her living room. Nothing interested her, nothing enticed or motivated. She made another circuit around the room looking at books, games, chores that needed doing and gave up. When she plopped down on the sofa it was with a huff of exasperation. “What the crap am I doing? I’m not getting anywhere like this,” she sighed. She leaned forward and let her head fall into her hands so she could run her fingers over her aching scalp.

She was still massaging her head when her mother entered the room carrying a large laundry basket. Like clockwork, she followed her morning routine. So did Laurel but the two didn’t look at each other much less speak. They hadn’t spoken in months. Too many arguments, vile words, and disrespect had passed between them. Their last conversation had ended with both of them red-faced from screaming. Silence had claimed both their tongues since. Occasionally, she felt her mother’s eyes upon her, but when she tried to speak, nothing came out and her mother grew even more despondent. Despite both of them hoping for a reconciliation, they avoided each other. It was best for everyone. Especially little Haley.

Laurel’s sister, Haley, had been a surprise to everyone. Mom and dad had given up having more kids after mom miscarried baby number two. Lauren had been the one to call 911 when she found mom on the bathroom floor. Her brother had been so tiny! She hated that they hadn’t even bothered to give him a name. Baby number two just sounded like a cruel pun.

They hadn’t buried him either, but they buried Tina – another baby they’d at least bothered to name. Instead, her brother had been cremated and his ashes spread over the river. What the hell that had been about she still had no idea. She’d never been given a decent explanation and had no way to visit him like she did Tina. She was still pissed about that and poor Haley, who was too young to understand, felt the tension in their home. It made her cranky.

Haley cried a lot. Mom would try to comfort her but only Laurel’s voice seemed to soothe the toddler. She’d spent many days in Haley’s room telling her silly stories to make her giggle, and many nights singing so everyone could get some sleep. Laurel would do anything for her baby sister. She glanced toward Haley’s room. She was napping, which was great but that left her at a loss. Still without motivation to do what needed to be done.

Keeping her head down, she watched her mother fold and refold towels until they were perfect before separating them into piles: beach, bath, hand, and wash. Mom was methodical to the point of O.C.D. with some things, but completely March Hare with others. It drove Laurel nuts, but she also found it somewhat endearing. She’d never admit that to mom, though. Towels done, she watched her mom pick them up and head into the bathroom to shelf them. Laurel thought her mother was beautiful when she wasn’t crying or yelling, but again, she would never admit it to her.

Laurel watched a moment longer then turned away. It was too painful, this non-communication. She hoped someday they’d be able to talk again but right now the divide was too deep. She sighed heavily. At least dad would be home soon. Maybe she’d talk to him tonight. He was easier to talk to than mom, especially now, but he wasn’t home much anymore.

It was hard for him to face so much loss. She saw it in his eyes every time he entered their home. His shoulders would slump ever so slightly, while his eyes became weary. It saddened her, but not as much as the lack of affection between her parents. They used to always be hugging or worse, kissing. It used to gross Laurel out, but now she wished to see it again. Her parents seemed to yearn for each other’s companionship but dread it at the same time. She wished she could fix things, make everything better, but she was only a teenager.

The last time she’d spoken with her Dad – mist rising from his lips with each word – he told her she was a great kid. That he loved her and was proud of her, but in her heart, she never felt as if she were doing enough. Of course, doing things now was harder. It took a lot of energy to do anything in her condition.

Laurel sighed again and reached for her aching head. It was weirdly concave ever since that night, the last time she’d argued with her mom. The night she’d stormed out of the house and hitched a ride with that drunk neighbor kid, Mike. She didn’t know he was drunk when she got in the car, and he never saw the delivery truck before they hit it.

The light had come to collect Mike immediately, but she couldn’t leave her sister behind. Haley needed her. So she’d made her way home and hadn’t left since. Deep down she knew she should have let the light take her and let everyone move on, but (in that moment) she’d made her choice. Now it was too late. She didn’t know how to get to the light and wondered if she ever would.

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Spokane werew’elves – A happy howlidays  story / #BlogBattle entry.

Spokane werew’elves – A happy howlidays story / #BlogBattle entry.

Fresh snow sifted through the forest canopy to dust the sparkling carpet of the previous day’s record twenty-five inches. Low overnight temperatures had created a thick crust on top of the snow making it easier for the pack to get to the designated spot. Stan had chosen the meeting place very carefully. He wanted everything to be perfect for what he had planned.

The Alpha parked his Jeep just off a service road. Normally no one but rangers and firefighters used it, but Sheriff plates came in handy at times. Stan rounded the back of the car and pulled a large bundle and a pair of snow shoes out of the trunk. Time to get to work.

Two hours later, he had everything set. Lifting his nose, he scented the air. Powdery snow was still falling but his nose told him it would stop soon. It also told him his pack was getting near. He checked on his preparations one last time, then cleared the snow off a nearby stump to sit and wait. It wasn’t long before the soft crunching of paws reached his sensitive ears. One by one, pack members began to appear, slipping out of the shadows and into the moonlit grotto. Moving with purpose, they formed a circle around the perimeter of the clearing.

Walt was in charge of bringing their newest pack members, Miranda and Seif, and was set to arrive last. An easy enough task as he lead them in human form while they followed as wolves. This was done on purpose so the two couldn’t pepper him with questions via mind speak. He couldn’t answer them even if he wanted to however because Stan had sworn him to secrecy. Hefting his pack, Walt tightened his snow shoe bindings and grinned in anticipation as he lead them into Riverside State Park. His heart was light; he loved this time of year.

Twenty minutes later the trio entered the clearing and paused at the perimeter the pack had created. Walt stepped through the circle of wolves and motioned his two charges to follow him into the middle where Stan stood waiting. The sheriff, in his street clothes, grinned merrily as he greeted everyone.

“Spokane Guardians, thank you for coming on this beautiful winter night. Tonight we welcome two new helpers into our yearly endeavor.”  He gestured toward Miranda and Seif and the pack reacted with happy yips and chuffs before he continued. “Seif, Miranda, every year our pack adopts families in need and as the holidays approach we collect goods and gifts to deliver to them. This tradition has been handed down, Guardian to Guardian, pack to pack, for hundreds of years and tonight you join our happy band as apprentice elves!”  With his last word, Stan bent over and flipped the switch on a small generator. The pine tree behind him lit up and flooded the snow covered clearing with multi-color light. Bundles of gifts surrounded the base of the tree, as well as one strange pile of fabric with glittery bands. Miranda and Seif, their tongues lolling out in wolfy smiles, stared at the beautiful tableau until Stan began to speak again. “For those of you who’ve done this before, you know the drill. Please line up behind our newest helpers.”

The pack settled in behind Seif and Miranda, chatting happily about their individual holiday traditions while Stan disappeared behind the tree. Walt moved to the forefront to speak to the pack and cleared his throat loudly to get their attention. He was obviously holding something behind his back and Miranda scented mischievous mirth wafting off him. She threw a look at Seif then turned back to eye Walt, tilting her head in question. The old goat chuckled and winked before lifting his voice.

“As the newest members of our Secret Santa Brigade, you two,” he motioned to them, “get to don the honorary head gear!” Pulling his hands from behind his back, Walt approached the duo with red and green striped elf hats with large elastic bands.  He placed one on each of their large canine heads and stepped back. “Behold,” he shouted, “Santa’s newest helpers!” The pack howled their approval, some with obvious laughter, and a few puns were cast to the duo.

Hey, you two look great! You’ve really pulled your ‘elves’ together!

Too bad wolves can’t use phones, you two should really take an ‘elfie’ together!

Good thing we switched to hats. Rudolf noses would have interfered with your ‘elf’factory senses!

While the pack groaned at the puns Miranda and Seif looked at each other and chuffed out wolfy chuckles. They looked ridiculous but it was for a good cause so, grinning, they made a small bow to their fellow pack members. When they turned back around Walt asked them to wait, executed an awkward turn in his snow shoes, and slowly made his way back to the tree where he picked up the strange glittery pile. “All right, come here and let’s get you situated.”

Miranda and Seif padded forward to sit in front of their Beta. He shook out one of the bundles and held it up. It was a large harness with saddle bags attached. In each bag there were several small bundles with names and addresses on them. Moving steadily, Walt attached a harness to each of the 14 Guardians. When he was done they sat chatting amongst themselves as they waited for Stan to reappear.

The time waiting was definitely well spent as far as Miranda was concerned. The Alpha stepped out from where he’d been changing and appreciative sounds emanated from the pack. Stan was now sporting a beautiful old fashioned Santa Suit. The dark red coat that fell to his knees was closed with a sash and trimmed with a light golden fur, as were his thick, black leather mittens and boots. An intricately hand-knit scarf wound around his neck held three small jingle bells at each end. The bells caught the lights and sparkled against his chest. Well over 6 foot 4, with fiery red hair and beard, Miranda thought Stan made an impressive Father Christmas!

Catching her errant thought, Stan smiled. Thank you, Miranda.

You’re welcome. Miranda grinned ruefully. I’m still not used to this mind speak stuff, though.

Neither am I. Seif admitted. But she’s right. You make a striking Saint Nick.

Stan inclined his head to the two of them then the Santa Alpha directed the wolves toward the northern edge of the clearing, across from where Walt had lead them in. A small red sleigh with gold accents and runners awaited them. The Guardians once again formed two lines and Stan moved along them attaching the leads. Miranda couldn’t believe they were going to run around town pulling him like sled dogs, but was so excited to do so! She glanced at Seif and he looked just as thrilled though obviously confused.

How are we able to do this without freaking out the town folk? Seif asked.

People see what they want or expect to see so as far as the town folk go, they’ll just think you all are big sled dogs. The reins, bells, and hats add to the disguise. Plus we’ll be sticking to the shadows as much as possible. Don’t worry, you two. We’ve been doing this for years.

Satisfied by the explanation, Miranda and Seif settled in to wait. When the last lead was connected Stan mounted the small sleigh, picked up the reigns, and with a booming voice called out, “On Guardians, pack members, my family and friends. Let’s make this a merry Christmas for as many folks as possible!”

Before the pack could move, Miranda turned to look back and broadcast a thought to her Alpha. You couldn’t find a rhyme for friends to end that with, could you?

Stan chuckled. Nope, but I did find this.” He pulled his cell phone out of a pocket, ran his finger over it, then held it up and waved it once, sharply. The sound of a cracking whip broke the serene silence and the two new helpers eyes widened in shock.

Are you kidding me with that? Miranda squeaked a split second before the pack’s laughter erupted. She and Seif looked at their fellow Guardians. They’d all been in on this.

“You two should see your faces right now.” Stan chuckled.

Miranda and Seif, now chuckling along, shook their great furry heads and took off pulling the sleigh across the snow, as the entire pack yipped and howled with joy.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you all!

 

A very humble THANK YOU!

So my first novel, Waxing is Useless has been out for nearly 2 months now. It’s still somewhat surreal that it’s out there, but what’s even more surreal is the sweet, positive comments and reviews I’ve been getting!

To all out there who’ve taken the time to visit the Amazon site and leave a review,

You guys make me feel like this. . .

My mom the werewolf – #BlogBattle

This month’s #BlogBattle word was ‘Educate’. With that in mind, here’s another small installment on the Luna Chronicles’ Moon family. Enjoy 😉

Tammy watched as her mom loped out the back gate to join Walt. Pack historian and Beta of the Spokane Guardians, he greeted Miranda in the alley before they both disappeared into the moonless night. So much had changed since her mother had been diagnosed with Lupus and joined the pack Tammy wasn’t sure her brain could keep up.

A few months ago she’d been so angry about her mother’s poor health, blaming her for wrecking family outings by being too tired, using up family funds for, what she had thought at the time were, unnecessary doctor visits, and for not being there when Tammy needed her. The super reliable, highly motivated and organized mom she’d grown up with had slowly disappeared over the course of the last year. She’d given up her PTA duties, stopped teaching Sunday School at their parish, and didn’t make it to a single one of Tammy’s volleyball games. Mom said it was because taking on an office job after fifteen years as a stay-at-home parent was too much for her, but Tammy suspected it was due to all the extra weight mom had put on. She blamed it on the steroids, but Tammy had assumed it was because she ate too much and rarely got off the couch anymore.  Isn’t that what usually happens when people do that?

Tammy cut her mom a little slack when she injured herself. Mom was a total klutz, but the last accidental injury had been really bad. Miranda’s knee had given out and she fell face first onto the washing machine, breaking her nose and gaining a concussion. That had scared Tammy into considering the possibility that her mom really did suffer some illness, but it wasn’t until Dr. Reynolds diagnosis –  Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (or SLE) –  that Tammy really began to understand what it was her mom had been struggling with.

Dad had shared the pamphlets Dr. Reynolds gave him and asked both kids to read them. Matt read them over immediately (of course) but Tammy was still too angry. She’d thrown them aside and ignored them. They’d lain on the floor of her bedroom for weeks until something terrible and miraculous happened. Her brother was kidnapped and her mom came out of the closet – as a werewolf! It had been a harrowing night that, thankfully, ended well.

Now her mother was one of the Spokane Guardians. Mom’s friend and Mentor, Sherryl had explained that they weren’t like the movie werewolves. Silver did not bother them, the moon didn’t force their transformations, and they didn’t go nuts and kill people. Well, hardly ever. They were, according to Sherryl, a pack of werewolves created by an unknown saint, and charged with the protection of whatever community they happened to be a part of. Tammy thought that was pretty cool, but the best part as far as she was concerned was her mother’s new ability to eat anything and never gain an ounce! She sort of wished she could do that too, but didn’t really want to deal with all the follicular challenges mom now faced. Especially since that hilarious Nair incident.

Tammy chuckled as the memory filtered through her brain. She still needed to get copies of those pictures from Stan, the Alpha of the pack! Tammy’s smile dissolved into a sigh. Time to get back to the books Walt had lent her. There were three of them: Spokane Guardians – A Short History, Lupus: A Disease for Humans and Canines, and last but not least, So Your Family Member’s A Werewolf – A Guide To What Comes Next.  She wandered back to her bedroom, shut the door and started the playlist on her laptop. As Drake’s song God’s Plan filled her room Tammy cracked open the first book. “Time to get educated.”

WIP = Vol. 2 of The Luna Chronicles

WIP = Vol. 2 of The Luna Chronicles

Lilac City Lunacy is in the works!
So I’m about ten chapters in and it’s reminding me why a first draft is called rough. Good grief! I’m struggling a bit, but still enjoying the world of the Spokane Guardians.
I’m digging deeper into my original characters back stories (esp. Hank and his mysterious family tree), introducing new characters, and creating a monstrous new menace!

Miranda and the pack will have their relationships and creativity tested, and their pack history, territory, and shoe sizes expanded. 😉

Stay tuned for more news about “Lilac City Lunacy – Vol. 2 of the Luna Chronicles!

**Mini-spoiler** There may also be a bit of romance involved this time. Crikey!

Happy Howl-oween!

Hey everyone,

I hope you all have a Halloween fun enough to howl about! 

Tail wags & shoulder bumps to you all,

M.J. 

P.S. If you are looking for a good, clean Halloween read, check out my first novel in the Luna Chronicles, Waxing is Useless.  What happens when a middle age soccer mom faces adversity? She grows fur and a tail, of course! **Excerpt below. 

Miranda closed her eyes and tried to concentrate on breathing, but the minute she shut them her other senses seemed to explode. Her heart raced, a bass accompaniment to a symphony of dripping water, crackling ice, a light breeze, and somewhere a few blocks away, tires on icy streets. She could feel every blade of mushy grass beneath her hands and feet. She felt the mud and the slight temperature fluctuations in the wind. Even the moonlight felt like waves of mist against her burning skin.

Lifting her face to the sky, she inhaled deeply. Scents she’d never recognized before sifted into her brain. She identified crocus shoots, compost, and weirdly, earthworms. She turned her face north into the wind. Someone was smoking marijuana in a nearby home. The Kollyers had apparently grilled chicken earlier. George burned it a bit. The chemical floral scent of someone’s dryer stuck in her throat, making her gag. She sneezed to clear her nose and continued to explore the scents of the neighborhood. Wood smoke from someone’s stove and beer and cigarettes from the bar four blocks away. She couldn’t believe what all she was sensing!

Miranda opened her eyes. She had spent so much time analyzing scents that the moon had slipped lower in the sky, and the temperature had dropped even further. She knew it was cold enough to become hypothermic but didn’t feel cold at all.

She focused on her surroundings. She could see everything so clearly! Details she’d never noticed during the day jumped out at her in the dark. Despite the strange new clarity of her eyesight, Miranda was finding it hard to think. Her brain felt foggy. She considered calling for help, but she couldn’t work up the energy to vocalize her need.

Fighting the urge to lay down in the now semi-frozen grass, she forced herself to stand, and swayed unsteadily for a moment before she turned toward the house. She’d taken two lurching steps when something metallic hit the cement floor inside the garage. Someone is in there!

When the authorial high wears off.

So, it’s been a little over three weeks since I published my book, Waxing is Useless, and my feet are finally hitting ground again. To be honest, with a bit of a ‘THUNK’.

My starry eyed feeling of actual authorship has calmed into a slight panic. What do I do now? Marketing is something I’m on the vague edges of understanding, but in reality, I have no idea where to go with it.

I’ve dutifully set up my author central bio on KDP, linked this blog, even started a new blog – that has yet to be used. I’ve got my Twitter account going and am slowly building a following. Sloooooowly. I’ve even got my Instagram thing happening. Sort of. So what’s a new author to do at this point? I guess as I figure things out I’ll share them here, but if anyone has any advice, please leave a comment and share it with me and any other authors out there!

Thanks in advance.