Spirit of the Wolf Character Short: Nati’s First Heartbreak

Coming out of eleventh grade pre-calculus, Nati turned to look down the corridor, searching among the sea of bodies for the one face she knew better than her own. Rhonda, her best friend for the past ten years, was Nati’s opposite in every way. Ebony skin contrasted with Nati’s honey complexion. Rhonda wore goddess braids that hung to her full hips, while Nati was athletically built and wore her silky hair in a pixie cut.

When she spotted Rhonda, Nati groaned inwardly. Isaiah was in his soccer uniform and slides, cleats in one hand. He leaned in to say something. Rhonda laughed in that way Nati could hear in her mind even over the hundreds of voices and footsteps of the other students in the hall. She spotted Nati then and waved wildly like one of those crazy windsocks that enticed people into car dealerships. Plastering on a fake smile, Nati waved back.

Outside the building ten minutes later, she couldn’t take the whispers and giggles any longer. She started towards home.   

“Nati, wait!” Rhonda came running up behind her. “What are you doing?”

“I have things to do. Standing around watching you giggle at Isaiah isn’t on the agenda.” It came out harsher than Nati meant it to, and she silently kicked herself.

Rhonda stopped and grabbed Nati’s arm, forcing her to turn. “Okay, what is your problem? Every time he’s around you start acting like a bitch.”

Nati glared and wrenched out of Rhonda’s grip. “No, you’re rude and I’m not your third wheel.”

Rhonda crossed her arms and squinted one eye, which meant she was studying Nati like a math problem. “Nah, fam. That ain’t it. Oh my God, do you like him? That’s why you’re mad?”

“What? No!”

“Why wouldn’t you tell me? I’m you’re best friend! If I knew—”

“I don’t like him.”

“It’s not a big deal, Nat. I’m not that into him. I’ll back off.”

Nati huffed out a breath and covered her face with both hands. She’d known for months now that this moment was coming, and she’d dreaded it every day. When she pulled her hands away, her face chilled where the remnants of her tears remained. “Rhonda, I don’t like Isaiah, but yes, seeing you together makes me jealous. There, I said it.”

Rhonda’s shoulders relaxed. “Come on, girl. It’s not like any dude will come between us. Chicks before—”

“It’s not that,” Nati mumbled.

“Well then what? I don’t und—”

“I have feelings for you.” Nati looked Rhonda in the eye. “More than friendship feelings.”

Rhonda’s mouth hung open, and she stared at Nati, speechless. Nati felt her own face crumple and pressure built in her throat as if someone were squeezing her windpipe. And her heart—cracks were splintering through it. Little by little pieces fell away until it was just a pile of rubble in her chest.

Nati ran.

~*~

The next morning, Nati buried herself under the covers and pillows when her brother Asim knocked on the door.    

“Nat, let’s go! We’re gonna be late!”

If she ignored him, he’d just barge in, and she didn’t want him to see her all red-eyed and swollen-nosed. “Not going. I’m sick.”

He came into the room. “Bullshit. I’d feel it if you were sick—twin privilege. And how come Rhonda’s not here? You two have a fight?”

In her haze of humiliation and misery, Nati forgot to factor in that Rhonda always picked her up in the mornings. “No.”

The blanket was ripped out of her grip, and Asim wrestled the pillow away from her. “What the hell, Nati? What’s wrong with you?”

“Asim, just leave me alone, please. I don’t want to talk about it. I can’t…” Her throat seized up as a new wave of tears began.

Spindly arms wrapped around her, and her head was pulled to the crook of Asim’s neck.

“Sis, what happened? Whatever it is, you can tell me.”

Could she? If losing Rhonda was devastating, the same reaction from Asim would strike her dead on the spot. This was the only secret she’d ever kept from him. Nati cried for long moments, anticipating what Asim might say. If she couldn’t trust him, there wasn’t a single person on the planet she could. “I told Rhonda… that… I… have feelings for her.”

Nati waited for Asim to tense up, to pull away. He kept hugging her and rubbing slow circles on her back. After a minute, he said, “I guess she didn’t take it well?”

“What? I don’t know. She didn’t say anything and then I kind of ran away.”  

She felt Asim shake his head. After a while, he said, “Okay, stay here.”

“Why?” Her voice rose an octave. “What are you about to do?” Nati clung to Asim’s wrist as he tried to get up.

“Nothing. Just stay here.” He left the room.

Had she been wrong about being able to trust him? But that was impossible. The main reason she hadn’t told him before was because she hadn’t wanted to accept the truth herself. With no hope left, Nati pulled the covers back up and curled into a ball.

A few minutes later, the door opened. When she peeked out, Asim was kicking it shut. He had a tray with two mugs and two foil packets that looked like toaster cakes. His laptop was snuggled under one arm. “I told Jaddi we both ate something bad at school yesterday. You know he doesn’t trust the lunches. And I brought cocoa and strawberry cakes. Scoot over.”

Nati’s eyes began to leak again. “You didn’t have to—”

“Shut up. What are we watching? Netflix or anime?” Asim sat and swung his legs up onto the bed. “And don’t worry about Rhonda. You probably just caught her off guard. She’ll probably be knocking on the door after school.”

She hoped he was right as she lay her head on his shoulder and accepted one of the steaming mugs.

Spirit of the Wolf Character Short: Jesse Down the Rabbit Hole

Spirit of the Wolf

Jesse hung up when Asia’s phone went to voicemail. Maybe she was somewhere loud and didn’t hear the phone. But she’d feel its vibration. She could have been in one of those lectures and couldn’t pick up. She’d probably text back.

The second call went unanswered. Keeping his tone casual, he left a message to call him back. What if something happened to her? What if she got mugged and her phone stolen? Or stabbed? All those horror stories about the crime rate in New York City had to come from somewhere. He tried texting.

Half an hour later, there was still no word from his girlfriend, so he tried her again. He thought back to when she’d said she’d be in the city. He’d reacted like a little bitch—whining and begging to see her afterwards. Of course she didn’t want to talk to him. He was weak, and Asia had seen it. Pathetic. She would probably dump him the minute she got back to campus. What girl in her right mind would want such a loser?

He went for a short run to clear the hateful voice in his mind, and then went to lift weights. He ran into a few teammates in the dining hall. Jesse fought against himself to leave his phone in his pocket and not look for a message but once back in his room, desperation won out. And still Asia hadn’t returned his calls.

“What the fuck, Asia? I could be lying half dead in a hospital, and you can’t be bothered to spare me two minutes to see what’s up? Girlfriend of the fucking year!” Jesse wished he had one of those old-fashioned phones that people used to be able to slam down. That would have been much more satisfying than aggressively hitting the END button.

It was dark out the last time he called. “I’m sorry. I was being a dick, but I just miss you. Please call me when you get back?” Now his own negative mental coach was joined by the voices of his former brothers. Weak. Loser. No one will ever want you, piece of shit.

He was curled on his side on top of his bed when the notification finally chimed. Asia said he could come by if he wanted to. After ordering a pizza, Jesse threw on a cap and grabbed his laptop. He would apologize, be the man she deserved. He’d be such a perfect boyfriend that she’d never want to leave him.

Not ever.

Spirit of the Wolf Character Short: Asia Arrives at School

Spirit of the Wolf – out now!

Thick forests flanked both sides of the road as the car sped over the rolling hills. Envisioning herself barreling through those trails, Asia held her hand over her chest, heart racing. The campus was close.

In the front passenger seat, Mom tapped long, glittery gel nails on the arm of the minivan’s bucket seat. Her braids piled high on her head, she turned to look back at Asia, a slight frown on her face. The driver’s seat was pulled all the way forward, and Asia could only see a glimpse of bright red sunburn across the back of Dad’s neck.

Slowing, the van’s signal lights ticked, and Dad pulled into the turning lane. Ahead a giant cut stone had the words Chinook University carved into it. They had arrived!

They found the dorm and parked, unloaded some of her duffels and boxes. Two sets of doors stood open with a small vestibule between them. To the left, the glass window to the security office was darkened with a blind pulled down. Next to the window, a box hung on the wall. Its label read Free Condoms-Be Safe! The box had cut-out images of diverse couples stuck to it.

“Disgusting,” Mom said. Of course, she’d be the first to see the box. “They shouldn’t be promoting that wickedness. This is environment we’re leaving you in?” She had been in the US for much longer than Asia had been alive but had never lost her Bahamian accent.

Asia bristled, knowing where this was going. “Isn’t it better for students to take precautions, Mom? Most college students are active.” That wasn’t exactly what Mom was referring to.

Dad stifled a groan and fingered the crucifix he wore around his neck. Asia shook her head.

Mom tutted and went through the second door and started up the stairs. She wasn’t done with the topic. “I meant those pictures of the gays.” She curled her lip. “They shouldn’t be filling young minds with those unnatural ideas.” Her voice echoed through the stairwell.

A couple of girls passing them in the opposite direction gave Mom sidelong glances. They had to be athletes. Could they be Asia’s teammates? Great—she was already starting off on a bad foot.

“There are no children here, Mother. Can you please lower your voice?”

Dad briefly laid a hand on Mom’s arm. She sucked her teeth and grumbled under her breath, but she stopped embarrassing Asia for the moment.

It didn’t take long to unload all of Asia’s things and organize her side of her double within the suite of four rooms. Her suite-mates wouldn’t arrive for another couple of weeks.

When they were done, Asia walked her parents back to the van and hugged them goodbye. She had a team meeting in thirty minutes.

Mom kissed her forehead. “Behave yourself. You focus on your studies and on your running. Stay away from any funny business.”

Asia pulled away, laughed, and rolled her eyes. “I dunno, Mom. I was thinking of planning a bank heist and then maybe starting a campus drug cartel.”

“Don’t put ideas in your mother’s head.” Dad gave Asia a squeeze and then held out his fist for the private handshake they’d made up when she started running back in seventh grade.

She watched the van depart and took several deep breaths.

Finally.

Freedom tasted good.

Launch Day

Today marks my initiation as an indie author with the release of my novella Spirit of the Wolf. The process has been fun, instructive, and a little scary at times, but also exciting. There have been some mistakes, but I’ve also learned a lot about the process. The biggest lesson has been to push past self-doubt and second guessing. So it’s definitely been a growth process.

Please check out the story! And if you’d like to support my effort, sharing the link and leaving nice reviews are always more than appreciated! Thank you, and enjoy!

Nightlight Podcast: Niobe Doesn’t Listen

My story Niobe Doesn’t Listen was performed on episode 515 of the Nightlight Horror Fiction Podcast. This was honestly one of the coolest experiences of my writing career to date! The production and voice acting are so well done! Give a listen, and if you can, please support the team’s Patreon so they can keep producing these stories!

Queer Sci Fi Annual Flash Fiction Anthology: Clarity

Clarity (noun)
Four definitions to inspire writers around the world and an unlimited number of possible stories
to tell:
1) Coherent and intelligible
2) Transparent or pure
3) Attaining certainty about something
4) Easy to see or hear

Clarity features 300-word speculative flash fiction stories from across the rainbow spectrum,
from the minds of the writers of Queer Sci Fi.

Every year, Queer Sci Fi runs a one-word theme contest for 300 word flash fiction stories, and
then chooses 120 of the best for the annual anthology.

This year, my story, “Bathtub Gin” was selected. Please check it out!

Process and Routine

Thinking about process right now. And what is becoming clear to me as I try to get myself into some routines is that trying to be that writer who sits down and writes for X hours per day and churns out X000 words per day isn’t going to work for me. Discipline isn’t really the issue. I can do that. I did NaNoWriMo for many years—I lost count—and always hit my target. So it’s possible for me to do that, but it’s not sustainable for me. And even though I’m putting words on the page, they might be pure, directionless crap. So I feel like I need to find a different process that is more in line with my personality, lifestyle, and other responsibilities.

I did some research recently about the habits of some of the greatest writers, and I certainly found some solid advice that resonates with me. The idea of ending before you’re done so that you know exactly where you’re starting when you get to the next session is brilliant. And I also saw a lot about getting exercise and having a dedicated space. I can check those boxes.

But what I realize is that trying to do anything for extended periods makes me restless and my mind wanders and then I procrastinate or engage in some other distraction. I’m fairly sure that if I were growing up now, I’d be classified as ADHD. But in my day, I was just really smart and eccentric. I can focus on things in short bursts, like 20-25 minutes before I need to move, unless I am super engaged and the words are flowing. Then I can sit for hours. But that’s not an everyday thing.

Maybe it would be a more efficient use of my time to make a list of what I want to accomplish for the day and then just tick off boxes in whatever way they get done. I already have my routine of doing yoga every morning, except when I had Covid—I had to take a couple of days off because I literally couldn’t move. And then I make my tea or hot lemon water and I do my tarot readings for the day. I can make my list after my readings. That way whatever else comes up can be fit in around what I know I have to get done. And on those days when the words just flow, I can stay in my little cave as long as I want. How beautiful is that?

One of the reasons I started freelance writing years ago was because aside from loving to write, I wanted flexibility—in what I wrote, who I wrote for, and how I did it. So why should writing fiction work any differently? There needs to be structure, but it needs to be my structure. I’ve never fit into anyone else’s mold, and I don’t think I can start now.

Cover Reveal!

umbrasshadow_cover

Umbra’s Shadow
Contemporary Fantasy
By AndreaStanet
Publisher: Roane Publishing
Release Date: March 13, 2017

Keywords: Contemporary, Paranormal, Fantasy, Shapeshifter, Mercenary
Got a problem that needs a kick-ass mercenary to fix it? Merc’s your shapeshifter.
It’s been open season on changelings—human/faery hybrids—until word gets around: someone’s got their backs.
Merc relies on her unique shapeshifting talents to defend the poor and disenfranchised hybrids living on the fringes of a modern-day Hudson valley city. Perhaps her past spurs her to help—orphaned, unable to remember her parents or her original form, forced to survive alone until a kindly Changeling couple takes her in. But Merc also dreams of escaping the poverty and rescuing her boyfriend from the environment that feeds his addictions.
Dúl, a mysterious and seductive full-blooded fey, seems to offer Merc the way out. But the job he proposes will plunge her into the political wasp nest of the Dreaming World and its fey courts. Dúl hires her to rescue the female lieutenant of the Shadow Court’s king. But Morgan isn’t the only full-blood that’s disappeared.
Nothing is what it seems. A hidden player is capitalizing on the animosities within the four courts, and Merc must solve the puzzle before anyone else falls victim. Her investigation exposes the web of betrayals and lies ambushing the courts from without, or maybe from within.
No one could defeat this conspiracy alone. Merc must suppress her solitary nature and learn to work with a team, while Dúl enters into a bitter alliance with his most hated enemy. Amid this treachery, the magnetic attraction between Merc and Dúl deepens into a forbidden bond they are powerless to deny.
Even if she unravels the chaos plaguing the Dreaming, can she handle the truth about the full-blood she’s fallen for?

 

About Andrea Stanet:

A dream stalker, shadow man, vengeful steampunk siren, ghost, and now fey court intrigue—while Andrea Stanet doesn’t shy away from any genre, her passion is writing fantasy and horror fiction for various age groups. Her short stories have appeared in several anthologies and an online literary magazine. Her most recent releases are “The Tradition,” a middle grade horror about were-crows, and “Song of Vengeance,” about a young performer whose father traps her dying spirit in a mechanical bird.
When not fixating on dragons and zombies, Andrea’s hobbies include running (clearly displaying masochistic tendencies), cycling (hills are only fun when going down), reading (anything and everything), and gaming (Cthulhu themed board games are favorites). Andrea lives in New York with her husband, two kids, a cat that thinks she’s a dog, and another cat that thinks he’s a mountain lion.

Links:

Fright Before Christmas Anthology

It’s the most wonderful time of year…or is it?

Christmas Eve is a night of mystery and magic, but not always in ways we expect. Things lurk in the shadows and they’re not the least bit jolly or merry. Let’s just say some presents are better left unopened.

‘Tis the season to be screaming along with our thirteen tales of holiday horrors. Ghosts. Monsters. Demons. And more!

This Christmas, be careful what you wish for…

Author List:
Richard Ankers
Jackie Horsfall
Boyd Reynolds
Lea Storry
Ally Mathews
Laura Pauling
Ty Drago
Jessica Bayliss
Judith Graves
Andrea Stanet
Patrick Hueller
Dax Varley
Medeia Sharif

Pre-Order Sale and Book Links:
Goodreads

Pre-Order ebook sale for $1.99 – regular price $3.99
Amazon
B&N
iBooks
I’m very excited to be a part of this anthology. It promises to be lots of fun!

Brief Reflections on 2013

214px-Adult_deer_tick

I try to avoid all the usual end-of-year trends toward lists and replays, but when the alarm went off this morning, I started thinking of all the things I wanted to accomplish today. This led to the realization that 2013 has been a year of some high highs and some devastating lows. I’m typically a middle-of-the-roader, so for me, these extremes are noteworthy.

Personally, on the most positive end of the spectrum, I had three stories published and actually got to see my name in physical print book form twice. When I saw the print version of Stalkers, I won’t lie, I nearly (very nearly) cried. These were huge accomplishments for me, and they gave me the confidence and drive to think of “novelist” as an actual job title and a real possibility. So there was that.

At almost the same time (I think it was literally a week after my first acceptance), my whole little house-of-cards life was collapsed by a stupid, six-legged beast the size of a pinhead. Ugh. I have developed an undying hatred of all tick-kind. While I won’t get into all the details of all the ways Lyme disease ruined the past six months, I will say that I have sworn off card-house building and anything domino related. And I’m recovering, so there’s that.

A small consolation from the Lyme debacle was that it inspired a mini story. When I started the first course of antibiotics, a friend showed me a contest prompt: write a 40-word story that begins and ends with the same word. I had nothing else to do but lay in bed in pain, so I transferred all my negative feelings of the moment into a story. I never submitted it because, at the time, I was mentally incapable of figuring out the hows.

But here is the mini-short that Lyme made:

Tick needed a human to pass the lyme to. He waited on a blade of grass, hitched a ride on Deer, and hopped on Cat’s scruff. A human appeared.

Chicken chomped the insect. “You’re not giving my human lyme, Tick.”

 

Clearly, I was not in my right mind, but it made me smile for a bit. I wrote two versions. This seemed the stronger of the two.

 

Ironically, I had written a novel several years ago in which one of the villains used a tick-like weapon. I wonder if I was having some kind of premonition.

 

Anyway, overall, 2013 taught me a lot and assigned me lots of work to do for 2014. Hopefully, I’m up to the tasks. I don’t do resolutions, but I have some goals in mind.

  1. To sell or indie-publish a novel this year
  2. To transition from “freelance writer” to “author” as a job title
  3. To get on solid financial footing

 

Do you have any major accomplishments or lessons to share from the past year? What are your goals for 2014?