Linna Drehmel(Louisa Albrect)

Monday, December 26, 2011

Tuesdays Tale: Truth be told

Mirrors other side:
 Truth be told part 1

The dragon was as tall as a Clydesdale, with the shear mass of a small elephant. He had beautiful shimmering emerald green scales. His large wings were a thin membrane that attached along an arm like appendage ended with almost hand like talons. He had large gold eyes that looked sad and a little wild.

Natalie knew the surprise of the dragon would not last long so she sprang into action and shoved Bal’thon off, jumped up and scrambled around behind the dragon in an attempt to shield herself from her attacker.

Being shoved to the ground awoke Bal’thon from the shocked daze, and heated up his lust for her blood.  He again retrieved his dagger from the ground sprang to his feet and found himself face to face with the beast who had bent its head down to look him in the eye. Bal’thon’s dagger fell from his nerveless hand with a soft thud. He was mesmerized just looking into those large golden eyes. Bal’thon opened his mouth as if to say something as he slowly began to bend his knees and sink to the ground as if in an attempt to grasp his knife.

The dragon then opened his great maw and breathed out a note that sounded somewhat like Natalie’s desperate song from a few minutes ago. Only its melody was deeper and shook Bal’thon to his very bones. As the volume and intensity of the dragons song grew, Bal’thon pressed his hands to his hears trying to block out the sound, he opened his mouth in an attempt to use magic in his voice but was completely lost in the dragons mighty song.

When the dragon finished his song the only thing that broke the silence was sound of Bal’thon slumping to the ground, deeply unconscious.

Although Natalie was afraid to abandon her hiding place behind the dragons massive haunches, her curiosity prompted her to investigate the situation. She was relieved and yet a little apprehensive to find Bal’thon laying comatose among the leaves.

            “What’s this creature going to do to me? Eat me maybe?” She thought to herself as she walked on unstable legs around the dragon to confront the imposing beast. "I wish there was some way I could talk to him." 

            Natalie hardly dared to look as she came around to his head. She plucked up her courage as she looked him in the intense gold eyes. Natalie took in a sharp breath as she took in the sight of his wild beauty.
*Keep a look out for part 2 next week

Friday, December 23, 2011

Tad Williams special!

Tad Williams’ new short story collection, A Stark And Wormy Knight, is available now, worldwide, as an ebook, $4.99 (or equivalent) for one month

The following story is unique to this blog and a few others.  Happy Holidays.


(A Christmas Story)

Tad Williams


            Danny Mendoza counted his change three times in while the teacher talked about what they were all supposed to bring for the class winter holiday party tomorrow.  It was really a Christmas party, at least in Danny's class, because that's what all the kids' families' celebrated.  Danny had his party contribution covered.  He had volunteered to bring napkins and paper plates and cups because his family had some left over from his little brother's birthday party with characters from Gabba Gabba Hey on them.  He’d get teased about that, he knew, but he didn’t want to ask his mother to make something because she was so busy with his little brothers and the baby, and now that Danny’s stepfather Luis had lost his job they had a Money Situation.  Danny could live with a little teasing.

            Danny was going to buy a candy bar for his mother, one of those big ones.  That was going to be his Christmas present to her and Danny knew how much she'd like it -- he hadn't just inherited his small size and nimble fingers from her, he'd got her sweet tooth, too.  And she had just been talking about the Christmas a few years ago when Luis had a good job with the Sanitation Department and he'd brought her a whole box of See's chocolates.  Danny knew he couldn't match that, but the last of the money he'd saved up from raking leaves in the neighborhood and walking old Mrs. Rosales' wheezy little dog should be enough to buy a big old Hershey bar that would make Mama smile.  No, what to get wasn't a problem.  The thing that had him thinking so hard as he went down the street at a hurried walk, hands shoved deep into his jacket pockets, was whether he dared to get it now or should wait another day.

In Danny's San Jose neighborhood the Mercado Estrella was like an African water hole, not only a crucial source of nurture but also the haunt of the most fearsome predator in his 3rd grade world.  Any stop at the little market meant he risked running into Hector Villaba, the big, mean fifth-grade kid who haunted Danny's days and often his nights as well.  Danny couldn't even begin to guess how much candy and other goodies Hector had stolen from him and the other kids over the years, but it was a lot -- Hector was the elementary school's Public Enemy Number One.  About half the time his victims got shoved around, too, or even hit, and none of the grown-ups ever did anything about it except to tell their humiliated sons they should learn how to fight back.  That was probably because Hector Villaba’s father was a violent, drunken brute who didn't care what Hector did and everyone in the neighborhood was as scared of him as the kids at school were scared of his son.  The last time someone in the neighborhood had called the police on Hector’s dad, all their windows had been broken while they were at church and their car scratched from one end to another.

            Danny was still trying to make up his mind whether to risk stopping at the market today or wait for better odds tomorrow (when class ended early because of the holiday) when he saw Mrs. Rosales walking Pinto, her little spotted dog.  He almost crossed the street because he knew she'd want to talk to him and he'd spent a lot of time doing that already last week when went to her house to get Pinto nearly every day.  He was too close, though, she’d seen him, and Jesus hated being rude to old people almost as much as he hated it when kids lied, or at least that was what his mama always told him.  Danny wasn't expecting much from Santa anyway, but if Jesus got upset things would probably be even worse.  He sighed and continued toward her.

            "Look who's here!" Mrs. Rosales said when she saw him.  "Look, Pinto mi querida, it's your friend Danny!"  But when he waved and would have passed by she told him, "Hold on a moment, young man, I want to talk to you."

            He stopped, but he was really worried that Hector and his friends might catch up if he stood around too long.  "Yes, Mrs. Rosales?"

            "I short-changed you the other day."  She took out a little coin purse.  It took her a long time to get it open with her knobby old fingers.  "I owe you a dollar."

“Really?”  Danny was astonished.

She pulled out a piece of paper that looked like it had been folded and unfolded a hundred times and handed it to him.  "I know boys need money this time of year!"

            He thanked her, petted Pinto (who growled despite all their time together, because Pinto was a spoiled brat) and hurried toward the market.  Another dollar!  It was like one of those Christmas miracles on a television show – like the Grinch’s heart growing so much it made the x-ray machine go sproing!  This changed everything.  He could not only buy his mom's present, he could buy something for himself, too.  He briefly considered blowing the whole dollar on a Butterfinger, his very favorite, but he knew hard candies would be a better investment -- he could share them with his younger brothers, and it was Christmas-time, after all.  But whatever he got, he didn't want to wait for tomorrow, not now that he had something to spend on himself.  Danny Mendoza had been candy-starved for days.  Nothing sweeter than the baby's butterscotch pudding had passed his lips that week, and the pudding hadn't been by his own choice.  (His baby sister had discovered that if she waved her spoon things flew and splattered, and she liked that new trick a lot.)  If he hurried to the market he should still get there long before Hector and his friends, who had many children to harass and humiliate on their way home.  It was a risk, of course, but with an unexpected dollar in his pocket Danny felt strangely confident.  There had to be such a thing as Christmas luck, didn't there?  After all, it was a whole holiday about Jesus getting born, and Jesus was kind to everybody.  Although it sure hadn’t seemed like a lucky Christmas when Luis, Danny’s stepfather, had lost his job in the first week of December.  But maybe things were going to get better now -- maybe, as his mama sometimes said, the Mendoza family’s luck was going to change.

            He was even more willing to believe in miracles when he saw no sign of Hector  and his friends at the market.  As he walked in Christmas music was playing loudly on the radio, that "Joy to the World" song sung by some smooth television star.  Tia Marisol, the little old lady who ran the place on her own since her husband died, was trying to hang some lights above the cigarettes behind the cash register.  She wasn’t his real aunt, of course.  Everybody in the neighbohood just called her “Tia.”

"Oye, little man," she called when she turned around and saw him.  "How's your mama?"

            "Fine, Tia Marisol.  I'm getting her a present."  He made his way past the postres to the long candy rack.  So many colors, so many kinds!  It almost seemed to glow, like in one of those cartoons where children found a treasure-cave.  When Danny was little, it was what he had imagined when the minister at the church talked about Heaven.  The only better thing he had ever seen in his whole life was the huge piñata at one of his school friends’ birthday party, years and years ago.  When the birthday boy knocked the piñata open and candy came showering out and all the kids could jump in and take what they want – that had been amazing.  Like winning a game show on television.  Danny still dreamed about it sometimes.

Danny realized that he was staring like a dummy at the rack of candy when every second the danger that Hector and his friends would arrive kept growing.  He quickly examined the big Hershey bars until he found one with a perfect wrapper, a massive candy bar that looked as if it had been made special for a commercial.  He would have loved to spend more time browsing -- how often did he have a whole dollar to spend just on candy? -- but he knew time was short, so he grabbed a good-sized handful of hard, sour candies for sucking, took several different colors of candy ropes; then, as worry grew inside him, as uncomfortable as needing to pee, he finally snatched up a handful of bubble gum and ran to the front counter.

            "What's your hurry, m'hijo?" Tia Marisol asked.

            "Mom needs me," he said, which he hoped was not enough of a lie to ruin Jesus' upcoming celebration.  After all, Mom did always need his help, especially by this time in the day when she'd been on her own with the baby and the littlest brother since morning, and had just walked the other brother home from preschool.  He pulled the three dollars worth of much-counted change out of one pocket and mounded it in front of Tia Marisol, then put the Hershey bar and his own handful of candy down beside it before digging out the crumpled dollar Mrs. Rosales had given him.  She slid her glasses a little way down her nose while she looked at it all.

            "Where'd you get so much money, Danny?"

            "Raking lawns.  Taking Mrs. Rosales dog for walks."

            Tia Marisol smiled, handed him back twenty-three cents, and put everything into a paper bag.  "You're a good boy.  You and your family have a happy Christmas.  Tell your mama I said hello, would you?"

            "Sure."  He was already halfway through the door, heart beating.

            The Christmas miracle continued outside: other than a couple of young mothers with strollers and bundled-up babies, and the old men who sat on the bus bench across the street drinking from bottles in paper bags, the area around the store was still clear.  Danny began to walk toward home as fast as he could without running, because he had the bag under his coat now and he didn't want to melt Mama's candy bar.  Still, he was almost skipping, he was so happy.  Joy to the world, the Lord is come...!

            "Hey, Mendoza," someone shouted in a hoarse voice.  "What's in the bag, maricon?"

            Danny stopped, frozen for a moment like a cornered animal, but then he began to walk again, faster and faster until he was running.  There was no question whose voice that was.  Pretty much every kid in his school knew it and feared it.

            "Hold up, Mendoza, or I'll kick your ass good!"  The voice was getting closer.  He could hear the whir of bike tires on the sidewalk coming up behind him fast.  He looked back and saw that Hector Villaba and his big, stupid friends Rojo and Chuy were bearing down on him on their bikes, and in another second or two would ride him down.  He lunged to the side just as Hector stuck out his foot and shoved him, sending Danny crashing into the low wire fence of the house he was passing.  He bounced off and tumbled painfully to the sidewalk as Hector and his gang stopped just a few yards ahead, now blocking the sidewalk that led Danny home.  The hard candies had fallen out of his bag and were scattered across the sidewalk.  He got down on his knees, hurrying to pick them up, doing everything he could to avoid eye contact with Hector and the others, but when he reached for the last one Hector's big, stupid basketball-shoe was on top of it.  The older boy leaned over and picked it up.  "Jolly Rancher, huh?  Not bad.  Not great, but not bad."  He waved it in Danny's face, making him look up from all fours like a dog at its master.  "I asked you what's in the bag, Mendoza?"

            "Nothing!  It's for my mama."

            "For your mama?  Oh, iddn't dat sweet?"  Hector's fingers hooked under Danny's chin and lifted.  Danny didn't fight -- he knew it wasn't going to help -- but he still flinched when he saw Hector's round, sweaty face so close, the angry, pale yellow-brown eyes.  Hector Villaba even had the beginnings of a real mustache, a hairy smudge on his upper lip.  It was one of the things that made him so scary, one of the reasons why even bigger twelve year olds like Chuy and Rojo let him lead them -- a fifth-grader with a mustache!

            "C'mon, open it up," Hector told him.  "Let's see what you got for your mama."  When Danny still didn't offer up the bag, Hector's friend Chuy put a foot on Danny's back and pushed down so hard that Danny had to brace himself to keep from being shoved against the sidewalk.  “I said show me, maricon," said Hector.  "Chuy gonna break your spine.  He knows karate."

            Danny handed Hector the bag, biting his lip, determined not to cry.  Hector pulled out the big Hershey Bar.  "Hijole!" he said.  "Look at that!  Something for your mama, shit -- you were going to eat that all by yourself.  Not even share none with us.  That's cold, man."

            "It is for my mother!  It is!"  Danny pushed up against Chuy's heavy hiking boot trying to reach the candy bar, which didn't look anywhere near so huge clamped in Hector Villaba's plump, dirty fingers.  Chuy took his weight off for a moment, then kicked Danny in the ribs hard enough to make him drop to the concrete and hug himself in pain.

            "If you try any more shit, we'll hurt you good," said Hector, laughing as he unwrapped the candy bar.  He tossed a piece to Chuy, then another to Rojo, who grabbed it out of the air and shoved it in his mouth like a starving dog, then licked his fingers.  Hector leaned down and gave Danny another shove, hard enough to crash him against the fence again.  "Don't you ever try to hide anything from me.  I know where you live, dude.  I'll come over and slap the bitch out of you and your mama both."  He pointed to the hard candies still clutched in Danny's hands.  "Get that other shit, too, yo," Hector told Rojo, and the big, freckled kid bent Danny's fingers back until he surrendered it all.

            The Christmas chocolate bar, looking sad and naked with half its foil peeled away, was still clutched in Hector's hand as he and his friends rode away laughing, sharing the hard candy out of the bag.

            For a while Danny just sat on the cold sidewalk and wished he had a knife or even a gun and he could kill Hector Villaba, even if it made Jesus unhappy for weeks.  At that moment Danny almost felt like he could do it.  The rotten, mean bastard had taken his mom's present!

            At last Danny wiped his eyes and continued home.  It was starting to get dark and the wind was suddenly cold, which made his scratched-up hands ache.  When he reached the apartment he let himself in, dropped his book bag by the door, then called a greeting to his mama feeding Danny's baby sister in the kitchen as he hurried on to the bathroom so he could clean up his scratches and tear-stained face and do his best to hide the damage to the knees of his pants before she saw him up close.  It wouldn't do any good to tell her what had happened – she couldn’t do anything and it would make her very sad.  Danny was used to keeping quiet about what went on between home and school, school and home.

After a while he went out and sat at the table and watched as his mother fed green goop to the baby.  Even her smile for Danny looked tired.  Mama worked so hard to keep them all fed and dressed, hardly ever yelled, and even sang old songs from Mexico for Danny and his brothers when she wasn't too tired...

And now that cabron Hector had stolen her present, and he didn’t have any money left to get her something else.


Later that night, when the house was quiet and everyone was asleep, Danny found himself crying again.  It was so unfair!  What had happened to the Christmas luck?  Or did that kind of thing only happen to other kids, other families?

“Please, Jesus,” he prayed quietly.  “I just have to get Mama something for Christmas – something Hector can’t take.  If that’s a miracle, okay – I mean, I know you can’t do them all the time, but if you got extra one...”


            Something woke him up – a strange noise in the living room.  For a moment he lay in bed wondering if Santa Claus might have come, but then he remembered it was still three days until Christmas.  Still, he could definitely hear something moving, a kind of quiet fluttery sound.   His brothers were both sprawled in boneless, little-boy sleep across the mattress they shared, so he climbed carefully over them and made his way out to the living room.  At first he saw nothing more unusual than the small Christmas tree on top of the coffee table, but as he stared, his eyes trying to get used to the dark, he saw the tree was...moving?  Yes, moving, the top of the pine wagging like a dog’s tail.

Danny had never heard of a Christmas tree coming to life, not even in a TV movie, and it scared him.  He picked up the tennis racket with the missing strings Luis kept promising to fix, then crawled toward the scraggly tree with its ornaments of foil and cut paper.

            As he got closer he could see that something small was caught in the tree’s topmost branch, trying to fly away but not succeeding.  He could hear its wings beating so fast they almost buzzed.  A bird, trapped in the apartment?  A really big moth?

            Danny looked for one of the baby's bowls to trap it, then had a better idea and crept to the kitchen cabinet where his mom kept the washed jars.  He picked a big one that had held sandwich spread and slithered commando-style back to the living room.  Whatever the thing was, it was really stuck, tugging and thrashing as it tried to free itself from the pine needles.  He dropped the jar over it and pulled carefully on the branch until the thing could finally get free, then Danny clapped the lid on the jar to keep it from escaping.

            The thing inside the jar went crazy now, flying against the glass, the wings going so fast that it made it hard for him to see for certain what it was.  The strange thing was, it actually looked like a person -- a tiny, tiny little person no bigger than a sparrow.  That was crazy.  Danny knew it was crazy.  He knew he had to be dreaming.

            "What are you doing?" the thing said in a tiny, rasping voice.  It didn’t sound happy at all.  "Let me go!"

            Danny was so startled to hear it talk that he nearly dropped the jar.  He held it up to the light coming in from the street lamp to get a better look.  The prisoner in the jar was a little lady -- a lady with wings!  A real, honest-to-goodness Christmas miracle!  "Are angel?" he asked.

            "Let me out, young man, and we'll talk about it."  She didn't sound much like an angel.  Actually, she sounded a lot like that scratchy-voiced nanny on that TV show his mama watched sometimes.  Her hair was yellow and kind of wild and sticky-uppy, and she wore a funny little dancing dress.  She was also carrying a bag over her shoulder like Santa did, except that hers wasn’t much bigger than Danny’s thumb .

            "P-Promise you won't fly away?" he asked this strange small person.  "If I let you out?"

            She had her tiny hands pressed up against the inside of the jar.  She shook her head so hard her little sparkly crown almost fell off.  "Promise.  But hurry up -- I don't like enclosed places.  Honest, it makes me want to scream.  Let me out, please."

            "Okay.  But no cheating."  He unscrewed the lid on the jar and slowly turned it over.   The tiny lady rose up, fluttering into the light that streamed through the living room window.

“Oh, that’s so much better,” she said.  “I got stuck in a panoramic Easter egg once, wedged between a frosting bunny and a cardboard flower pot.  Thought I was going to lose my mind.”

"Wow,” he said.  “Who are you?  What are you?"

            She carefully landed on the floor near his knee.  "I'm a sugarplum fairy," she said.  "Like in that ballet."


            "Never mind.  Look, thanks for getting me loose from that tree.”  She turned herself around trying to look down at herself.  “Rats!  Ripped my skirt.  I hate conifers.”  She turned back to Danny.  “I didn't mean to scare you, I was just passing through the neighborhood when I felt somebody thinking candy thoughts -- real serious candy thoughts.  I mean, it was like someone shouting.  Anyway, that’s what we do, us sugarplum fairies -- we handle the candy action, especially at Christmas time.  So I thought I should come and check it out.  Was it you?  Because if it was, you’ve got the fever bad, kid.”  She reached into her bag and produced a lollypop bigger than she was, something that couldn’t possibly have fit in there.  “Here, have one on me.  You look like you need it.”

            "Wow.  Wow!"  He suddenly realized he was talking out loud and dropped his voice, worried that he would wake up his mama and Luis.  He reached out for the lollypop.  "You're really a fairy.  Do you know Jesus?"

            She shrugged.  "I think he’s in another department.  What's your name?  It's Danny, isn't it?"

            He nodded.  "Yeah.”  It suddenly struck him.  “You know my name...?"

            "I've got it all written down somewhere."  She started riffling through her bag again, then pulled out something that looked like a tiny phone book.  She took out an equally small pair of glasses, opened the book and began reading.  “For some reason you fell off the list here, Danny.  No wonder you're so desperate -- you haven't had a sugarplum delivery in quite a while!  Well, that at least I can do something about.”  She frowned as she took a pen out of the apparently bottomless bag and made a correction.  “Of course, they may not process the new order until early next year, and I’m not scheduled back in this area until Valentines Day.”  She frowned.  “Doesn’t seem fair...”  A moment later her tiny face brightened.  “Hey, since you saved me from that tree branch I think I’m allowed to give you a wish.  Would you like that?”

            “Really?  A wish?”

“Yes.  I can do that.”

“You’ll give me a wish?  Like magic?  A wish?”

            She frowned again.  “Come on, kid, I know you’ve been shorted on candy the last couple of years but is your blood sugar really that low?  I just very clearly said I will give you a wish.  We’re allowed to when someone helps us out."

            He was so excited he could barely sit still.  It was a Christmas miracle after all, a real one!  "Could I wish for, like, a million dollars?"  Then even if Luis didn't find another job for a while, the family would be okay.  More than okay.

            She shook her head.  "Sorry, kid, no.  I only do candy-related wishes.  You want one of those extra big gummy bears?  I hear those are popular this year.  I could bend some rules and get it to you by Christmas."

            He was tempted -- he'd seen an ad on television -- but now it was his turn to shake his head.  "Could I just get a big Hershey bar?  One of those extra-big ones?  For my mother?"

            The little woman tilted her head up so she could see him better from where she stood down on the ground.  "Truly?  Is that all you want?  Gee, kid, I could feel the desperation coming off this house like weird off an elf.  You sure you don't want something a little more...substantial?  A pile of candy, maybe?  A year's supply of gumdrops or something?  As long as it's candy-related, I can probably get it done for you, but you better decide quick.”  She pulled quite a large pocket watch on a chain out of her bag, then put on her glasses again.  “After midnight, and I’ve still got half my rounds to go."  She looked up at him.  "You seem like a nice kid, Danny, and it doesn't look like you guys are exactly swimming in presents and stuff.  How about a nice pile of candy, assorted types?  Or if you'd rather just concentrate on -- what did you say, Hershey Bars? -- I could probably arrange a shopping bag of those or something..."

            For a moment his head swam at the prospect of a grocery bag full of giant chocolate bars, more than Hector the Butt-head Villaba could ever dream of having now matter how much he stole...but then another idea came floating up from deep down in Danny’s thoughts – a strange, dark idea.

            "Can you do all kinds of wishes?  Really all kinds?"

            "Yeah, but just one.  And it definitely has to be candy-related.  I'm not a miracle worker or anything."

            "Okay.  Then  I'll tell you what I want."  Danny could suddenly see it all in his imagination, and it was very, very good.


            The school holiday party was nice.  Danny and his classmates played games and sang songs and had a snack of fruit and cheese and crackers.  Nobody brought Chips Ahoy cookies, but one of the mothers did indeed bring cupcakes, delicious chocolate ones with silver, green and red sprinkles for Christmas.  There were even enough left over that although Danny had finished his long ago despite making it last as long as possible, he was allowed to take home the last two for his little brothers.  He suspected that the teacher knew his family didn't have much money, but for this one day it didn't embarrass him at all.

            After the bell rang Danny followed the other third-graders toward the school gate, holding one cupcake carefully in each hand, his book bag draped over his shoulder.  He was watching his feet so carefully that he didn't see what made the other children suddenly scatter to either side, but as soon as he heard the voice he knew the reason.

            "Look at that, it's Maricon Mendoza, yo," said Hector Villaba.  "What'd you bring us for Christmas, kid?"  Danny looked up.  The mustached monster was sitting astride his bike just a few yards down the sidewalk, flanked by Rojo and Chuy.  "Oh, yeah, dude -- cupcakes!" said Hector.  “You remembered our Christmas presents."  He scooted his bike forward until he stood directly over Danny, then reached out for the cupcakes.  Danny couldn't help it -- he jerked back when Hector tried to take them, even though he knew it would probably earn him another bruising.

            "Punch the little chulo’s face in," Rojo suggested.
            Hector dropped his bike with a clatter.  The other kids from school who had stopped to stare in horrified fascination jumped out of his way as he strode forward and grabbed the cupcakes out of Danny's hands.  He peeled the paper off one and shoved the whole cupcake in his mouth, then tossed the other to Chuy.  "You two split that," he said through a mouthful of devil's food, then turned his attention back to Danny, who was so scared and excited that he felt like electricity was running through him.  "Next time, you better remember to bring one for each of us, Mendoza.  You only bring two, that's going to get your ass kicked."

            Danny backed away.  It was hard to look into those yellow-brown eyes and not run crying, let alone keep thinking clearly, but Danny did his best.  He dropped his book bag to the ground and out fell the stringless tennis racket that he had brought from home.  Hector hooted with angry laughter as Danny snatched it up and held it before him as if it was a cross and Hector was a vampire.

            "Que?  You going to try to hit me, little boy?"  Hector laughed again, but he didn't sound happy.  He didn't like it when people stood up to him.  "I'll take that away from you and beat your ass black and blue, Mendoza."  The bully took a step nearer and held out his hand.  "Give it to me or I'll break your fingers."

            "No."  Danny wasn't going to step back any farther.  He lifted the racket, waved it around like a baseball bat.  It was old and flimsy, but he had come to school determined today.  "You can't have fat asshole."

            Behind Hector, Rojo let out a surprised chortle, but Hector Villaba didn’t think it was funny at all.

            "That's it," he said, curling his hands into fists.  "After I kick your ass, I'm gonna rub your face in dog shit.  Then I'm gonna kick your ass again.  You're gonna spend Christmas in the hospital."  Without warning, he charged toward Danny.

            Danny stepped to the side and swung the racket as hard as he could, hitting Hector right in the stomach.  With a whoop of surprise and pain Hector bent double, but when he looked up he didn't look hurt, just really, really mad, his eyes staring like a crazy dog's eyes.

            "That'  I'" he said, then sucked in air and stood up straight, but even as he did so a funny expression crossed his face and he looked down at where he was holding his belly.  Hector’s hands were suddenly full of crackling, cellophane-wrapped hard candies, so many of them that they cascaded over his fingers and onto the ground.  He lifted his hands in disbelief to look and dozens more of the candies slid out of the front of his open jacket -- candy bars, too, fun-size and even regular ones, Snickers bars, Mounds, Tootsie Rolls, lollipops, candy canes, even spicy tamarindos.  The other children from the school stared in horrified fascination, guessing that Danny had broken a bag that Hector had been carrying under his coat.  They were so scared of Hector that they didn’t move an inch toward any of the candy that was still slithering out of the big boy’s coat and pooling on the ground at his feet.

            "Oh, man," one of the other third graders said in a hoarse whisper, "Mendoza's going to get beat up so bad...!"

            But even more candy was pouring out of Hector’s belly now, as if someone had turned on a candy-faucet, a great river of sweets running out of the place where Danny had knocked him open with his old tennis racket.

            "What the...?"  Then Hector Villaba looked down at himself and began to scream in terror.  Candy was showering out of him faster and faster onto the sidewalk, already piled as high as the cuffs of his pants and still coming.

            "Hijole, dude!"  said Rojo.  "You're a piñata!"

            Hector looked at him, eyes rolling with fear, then he turned sprinted away down the street squealing like a kindergartner, a flood of candy still pouring from him, Crunch Bars, M&Ms,  (plain and peanut) as well as boxes of gumdrops and wax-wrapped pieces of taffy, all raining onto the street around the bully's legs and feet, bouncing and rolling.

            Rojo and Chuy watched Hector run for a moment, then turned to stare at Danny with a mixture of apprehension and confusion.  Then turned from him to look at each other, came to some kind of agreement, and threw themselves down on their knees to start scooping up the candy that had fallen out of Hector Villaba.  Within a few seconds the other school kids were all scrambling across the ground beside them, everybody shoveling candy into their pockets as fast as they could.

            Danny waited until he wasn't breathing so hard, then started for home, following the clear trail of candy that had gushed from Hector Villaba as he ran.  He didn't bother to pick up everything, since for once in his life he could afford to be selective.  He stuffed one pocket of his jacket with candy for his brothers, then filled the other just with Butterfinger Bars, at least six or seven, but kept walking with his head down until he spotted a nice, big Hershey Bar in good condition which he zipped in his book bag so it would stay safe for his mother.  The rest of the way home he picked up whatever looked interesting and threw it into the book bag too, until by the time he reached home he was staggering with its weight up the apartment building walkway.  For once, Hector Villaba had been the one who had run home crying.

            He didn't feel sorry for Hector, either, not at all.  Scared as the fifth-grader was now, he would be all right when he reached home.  Danny had made that a part of the wish and the fairy had said she thought it was a good idea.  Jesus didn't want even mean kids to die from having their guts really fall out, Danny felt pretty sure, so he had done his best not to spoil the Lord's birthday.  Of course Hector Villaba probably wouldn't have a very merry Christmas, but Danny had decided that Jesus could probably live with that.

Sunday, December 18, 2011


Chris White’s Worst and Best

Linna recently asked me to write a little something about the worst thing I ever wrote. Well, then. I can breathe a sigh of relief that my videos will be excluded. That’s nice. But it’s dangerous ground for an aspiring author to tread. I normally avoid this, I usually try to hedge around the subject of my worst stuff because my career stands on a knife’s edge every day as it is. I’m sure there are others in the arena who can relate to that.

I guess my worst was my first, and I’m sure you can relate to that too. It all started when I lost a massive construction company in 2007. We were stacked up with almost seven figures of debt. That’s back before the word debt became profanity and speculation wasn’t that risky. Anyway, long story short, we lost just about everything but our sanity, and I needed an outlet so I turned to my old Mac and started to write about it. 80,000 words poured out of me in three weeks. This little autobiographical was cathartic, sure, but my mistake was trying to publish it. I went through Lulu and sold two copies: one to my father-in-law and one to my mom. She’s still my #1 fan. She’s sweet. Anyway, I had to learn that the MS I had produced was utter crap all by myself; no one told me. I guess I’m thankful for that.

It’s funny. While there are all kinds of dispensaries of advice on the Web, there’s really no cohesive and sensible source for good information that might add up to something truly educational, something that produces highly skilled and competent writers from the admittedly talented but clueless hacks most of us are (including me). There’s no easy way to become magically successful. Good writers must endure the fires and pressures of contention, we must enter the arena and spill our sweat and tears for the privilege of calling ourselves writers. Perhaps that’s as it should be, because that fight produces… eventually… sometimes… something amazing.

I’m certainly proud of what I consider to be my best writing yet, though. It’s my solo debut novel: K [phantasmagoria]. It all started with an itch, a need to get something out on paper. That excerpt, highly modified, now appears toward the middle of the book, and it’s just about a dude who hates his life who nevertheless has to wake up and friggin deal with things because there is no rest for the weary. You get the idea. But that’s not all. This man, simply K by name, has a reason to be so hateful: he’s suffering from something that might be spiritual, might be a psychosis, might mean he’s a nutter, might mean he’s crossed the line with God, might mean he’s walking a little too close to the edge and daring a little too loudly for the Reaper to reach across the void and snatch him.

K is afflicted by phantasmagoria, a clutch of random flash visions and dreams that haunt him day and night, making rest impossible, straining all his relationships to breaking. There’s a large cast of characters in this, including Dr. Audrey Kendrick, the youngish and stunningly beautiful blonde who’s sharp and unafraid to express herself. She holds a double doctorate in anthropology and archaeological linguistics. Her flaw? One of her legs wasn’t formed right; she’s had to use a cane to walk since childhood. There’s professor Hollis D. Hamby, loveable old sage and academe whose life has been devoted to medieval studies at the University of Chicago. There’s Allan Haight, the ultra-wealthy and ultra-mysterious man who comes off just ever-so-slightly psychopathic. Then there’s K’s conflicted affections for the copper-haired beauty Essie Gray, who breezes in and out of his story to notes of tragedy. There are more characters, but I’ll spare you for now and ask you this: what’s behind it all? You’ll have to read K [phantasmagoria] to see some of the driving forces, but there are no sure bets, even when certain plot twists seem like they’re untwisting. This is a psychological thriller packed with plot twists, crazy nightmares, impossible happenings, questions, and lies. And it’s only the first book in the series, too. =)

I’ve painted it with some bold and broad strokes, taking a couple of years to develop the ideas and plotlines in it. It releases as an eBook in December, for Kindle and Nook. I know, never trust a writer to talk honestly about his own work, but this one… I wish I could say, “trust me,” but that’s more than a little cliché. All I can say is stay tuned to my blog for the latest poop. Scoop. Like, info. And thanks, Linna, for having me on your blog.

@cpwhitemedia on Twitter.

Chris White grew up living on an old San Francisco city bus that was converted to an RV, living in almost every state of the Union. He spent most of childhood learning how to make fast friends, reading books and doing heroic skids on his coaster-brake bike. He spent most of adolescence playing the trumpet and being a total nerd, building lots and lots of plastic models. He tried college for a couple years, but interrupted that with four years of service as an infantryman in the U.S. Marines. He finished college later, but the Marines taught him far more. He met his wife in Idaho and then spent six months in South Africa with her shortly after they were married. He’s tried being a truck driver, bicycle mechanic, executive recruiter, drummer in a rock band and call center robot, but he’s always, always been a writer—which he only just realized a few years ago. He has two boys and lives with his family in Idaho.

Friday, December 16, 2011



What is my worst work? Thinking back, it’s hard to remember; only because of the fact that it’s been a long time since I’ve worked on a book. Up until 8th grade, I was a constant writer. I had stories galore just waiting to unfold, and only a few I gave life to. One of them I can regretfully call the worst thing I have ever written.
Thinking about it now makes me laugh *hehe*, but it was a miserable story I wrote when I was maybe 11. It was a about a girl who got her first pair of Levi’s *grimace*. It was completely embarrassing, it even included a ma and pa. I only remember this story because my uncle (who loves to laugh, mind you) brought me a printed copy, and told me about how funny it was. I read it, and died of mortification and amusement, the two feelings were fantastically entwined as one. I still have that short story somewhere in my house. But since I like to hide things from myself, I have no idea where it is.
My best work would undoubtedly be my first book in the Nyx Series, Everlife. I have never finished a book before, so I felt completely accomplished when I typed those last few words in my novel. I never thought that I would be an author, for such a long time it has been fashion for me. And it certainly still is lol. But my journey has led me here, and now that I have started I am 100% dedicated to telling Rose’s story to the very end. Hopefully each work will be better than the next.



Thursday, December 15, 2011




I would like to thank Linna for inviting me to her blog. But then again, it is to confess my worst writing sins, so I am now not so sure this is a good thing.

I’m gonna have to say that, unlike most of the other writers who have confessed on this blog, my worst writing is not hiding out in a childhood drawer or lost in some computer crash. It is instead available on DVD at Amazon for the world to see today.
Yep, there it is in all its horrible glory.
I wrote The Master Thief as a screenplay, gathered together local actors and produced, directed, edited and self-published my 90-minute action / adventure masterpiece to Amazon on DVD and *gasp* VHS, if that gives you any indication of how long ago that was.
Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed making the movie and, to its credit, people have been known to actually watch the whole thing through to the end. I have seen worse movies that received wider distribution and, compared to those, the writing in my movie is inspired.
I wrote it before I knew anything about the craft of writing. I got some things right and, unfortunately, a lot of things wrong.
But enough about the past.
Onward and upward, as they say.
I would have to say that my best writing is always what I am working on now as it benefits from all the practice of any writing done before. My latest is a dystopian science fiction re-imagining of The Wizard of OZ due out in 2012. While not yet available for others to see, if you are not too critical of pre-release and unedited raw footage, I have included some teaser chapters below the book cover picture for your enjoyment.
So, now you know my deep dark writing secret. Well, the room should be dark when you watch the DVD that showcases the worst writing of my career anyway. Don’t forget to pop some popcorn.
Steve DeWinter

Chapter X
It was pitch black.
So this is what it's like to be dead, thought Dorothy.
She moved slightly and felt the muscles in her face twitch as she grimaced from the pain.
No, she couldn't be dead. You weren't supposed to feel anything once you were dead.
Right now, every muscle ached.
She could hear faint voices all around her.
"Do you think she will be better than the last marshal?"
"Anybody would be better than her."
"What about her sister. What do you think she will do when she finds out?"
Dorothy's eyes fluttered open and it was no longer pitch black.
A wrinkled face moved into her field of view.
"She's awake."
More tiny wrinkled faces moved into view all around her.
One of the faces smiled, showing only three teeth in the bottom row and no teeth in the top row. "How are you feeling?"
She tried to speak, but her throat refused to respond and she coughed instead.
Smiley looked over his shoulder. "Bring her some water."
A stubby hand reached for her, took the back of her head, and lifted her up to meet the dented tin cup that appeared before her.
"Drink. It will make you feel better."
Dorothy hadn't realized how thirsty she was as she gulped at the rusty tasting water. Her throat soothed, she could finally sit up and look around her.
She was sitting in a tiny bed, her legs dropping over the bottom edge with plenty of room for her feet to touch the floor.
The men gathered around her were no more than three or four feet tall. Their dingy clothing all the same color of grey. They all smiled at her as she looked at them gathered around her bed in the room.
"Where am I?"
Smiley stepped forward and bowed. "You are a most honored guest in my home. My name is Munch." He opened his arms wide, indicating all the other short men around him. "And these are my brothers."
"How did I get here?"
"Your ship crashed into the center of town. We brought you here and cared for your wounds."
She looked down at the bandage around her arm. "How long..."
Munch smiled again, the lack of teeth even more evident. "You are welcome to stay as long as you like."
Dorothy swung her feet over to the side and grimaced with the pain. "Oh, hell no. I will not be your Snow White."
Munch frowned. "Who?"
She shook her head. "Never mind. I meant, how long have I been asleep?"
"Most of the night and half the morning."
"They'll be looking for me by now. I have to go."
"Of course. You must begin your duties as Marshal."
"My what?"
"Your Marshal duties."
"No, I have to get home."
"You are home."
Dorothy looked around her. "I'm back in Kansas?"
"No, you are in OZ."

Chapter X
Dorothy cleared the cobwebs from her brain with a shake of her head.
"That's right. I crashed in the Outcast Zone."
Munch grimaced. "We like to call it OZ. Sounds less depressing."
She pulled back the covers and stood up. The room tilted wildly and she sat back down hard on the bed.
"Don't try to get up Marshal. You are still weak from your arrival."
She held her head until the room slowed down enough for her to focus on the one called Munch. At least she thought that one was Munch. Every one of these little men looked identical to each other.
"Why do you keep calling me Marshal? My name is..."
"You are the Marshal of the East Region because you killed the previous Marshal."
She couldn't believe her ears. She didn't kill anyone. She couldn't even make herself pull the trigger on Amanda when her life had depended on it.
"What are you talking about? I didn't kill anyone."
"Your airship landed on her while she was giving a speech in the town square."
Dorothy lowered her head, shut her eyes tight, and tried to control the thoughts spinning in her head. "I didn't mean to kill anyone. I am so sorry."
Munch, or at least she thought it was Munch as he was the only one who did any talking, came forward and put a stubby hand on her knee.
"Don't be. She was as wicked as they come. A real witch with a capital b."
"I don't understand."
"It is our custom that whoever kills the Marshal takes their place."
"So am I the new target for the next yahoo who wants to become Marshal?"
Munch smiled, his three teeth glistening in the light steaming in from the window. "Oh no, you are perfectly safe. Nobody wants to be a Marshal in OZ."
Dorothy stood up and caught her reflection in the mirror. Her mouth gaped open as she looked down at the brown leather corset, leather pants and combat boots.
"What happened to my clothes?"
"Your clothes were torn and bloody from the crash. Not to mention the fire. It was indecent for you to walk around as you were. And besides. You're the new Marshal. You had to look like one. It was your good fortune that I was the official tailor for the previous Marshal."
"Who dressed me?"
The men all looked at the ground. A couple of them blushed.
Munch refused to look her in the eye. "We have no women in the house. We took no liberties, I assure you."
Dorothy shook her head. "I have to get out of here."
Munch brightened up with the change of subject. "I will show you to your palace."
"I don't mean out of here. I mean out of the Outcast... out of OZ."
"As long as you wear that shield," Munch pointed to the Marshal shield attached to her leather corset. "You are the law here and we will do as you command."
"Then get me out of the... out of OZ."
"There is no way out of OZ. Unless you can fly."
That's it, Dorothy thought.
She looked at Munch. "Take me to my airship."

Chapter X
Dorothy stared at the twisted metal, some of it still burning.
The gondola had broken apart into several pieces and was scattered throughout the center of the tiny town.
A leather boot attached to a bloody leg protruded from under the largest of the gondola fragments.
Munch pointed to the bloody boot and smiled. "Your handiwork."
Dorothy clenched her jaw. How dumb were these little guys?
"I told you, I did not want to kill anyone."
Munch nodded. "That is good news indeed. The previous Marshal had no problem killing any of us when the mood struck her."
"I am not your Marshal. I don't plan on sticking around any longer than I have to."
"We already told you, there is no way out of OZ."
"There has to be."
"There isn't, except..."
"Except what?"
Munch walked away from her. "Never mind. Forget I said anything."
She caught back up with him. "Except what?"
He stopped. "No. It will not work."
"What won't work?"
He turned to her and looked her in the eyes. "You know why OZ was built, don't you?"
"It is a centralized global prison."
"It is now, but it didn’t used to be. Originally, it was built for one man and one man alone. We are only here because it was cheaper and more agreeable to the human rights activists than killing us outright."
"Kill you? What did you do?"
"That's the thing. I didn't do anything."
"Then why are you in the... in OZ?"
"Me and my brothers are clones."
She looked around at the identical men gathered around her. "Cloning is illegal."
"And so, by proxy, we are illegal. Well, they are anyway. I am the original. They are all clones of me, so technically, I am okay. But it didn't do any good to have me running around telling everyone about the cloning experiments so I was sent here with them."
"How come I never heard about this?"
"This is OZ. It is a one-way trip. Anyone sent here is forgotten."
"What about contacting the news media or getting an appeal?"
"There is no contact with the outside. Once you are here..."
"But you said there was someone. Someone who could help."
"It was a stupid idea."
"Tell me anyway."
"There is someone who seems to be able to contact the outside. If you could get to him, he might be able to get a message to someone that you are here."
"Who? Tell me."
Munch lowered his head. "It’s who OZ was built to contain.” He lifted his head again and looked at her. “Only The Wizard can help you."