An update

 

Writing is hell.  Even on a good day.  One thing it has taught me ever since I began is that nothing goes according to plan.  Even if there’s no good reason why it shouldn’t, even when the plan went perfectly and it’s done and it’s everything you saw in your head so all you need to do is, you know, do it again.

The latter has been my lesson during the past year.

I published ‘Count Your Crows’ and I loved it.  I also hated it, and felt indifferent toward it, all usual emotions I experience when I’ve completed something I’ve slaved over with blood, sweat, and tears.  I was ready to work on the next one, and I wrote it.

About five versions of it.  All 50k words or more.

And I couldn’t use any of them.

Sometimes stories are like that.  Sometimes they don’t work out, and so you have to figure out if they’re worth reconstructing yet again, or if it’s time to put them away for good.

I took time to think about it.  I worked on other projects, other characters.  But I kept coming back to Fred and Taz, so I decided to approach their tale again, but I had to rethink that approach and the conclusion I came to is this: their story won’t be a novel.

I wanted it so badly to be a novel.  To be a series of novels.  To see book after book, thick ones, on the shelf at a bookstore.  I wanted it to take both hands to hold the book open while reading.

Because the novel is the standard, right?  That’s what people consider real writing, real work.  And saying you write novels is just so much more impressive.

But I’m not good at writing novels.  The scope is too big for my attention span.  I lose threads and get burnt out.  I end up tangled in a web of my own making, and fixing it doesn’t so much require patching as it does a jug of kerosene and a match.

But I’m good with short stories.  After talking with another writer who knows my work and my work habits, I had to admit that writing shorts was more within my skillset than a novel.  I can certainly write a novel if I push myself, but I get far more joy out of writing short stories, out of pulling my characters’ headspace into hyper focus.  I can also finish a short story, and in more reasonable time, which goes a long way to preserving one’s sense of sanity in this precarious profession.

So that’s what I’m doing.  I’ll be taking ‘Count Your Crows’ off of Amazon soon to replace it with the revamped collection of short stories for Fred and Taz that is 50% completed.  As of today I have 5 stories fully finished for the collection.  I started writing them April 1st.

So, that’s the update on what I’ve been doing since I posted last.  Writing is a bumpy journey that is certainly not linear, or even well paced, but I still love it, even when I want to strangle myself for loving something so contrary.

The Girl With Two Shadows

For the prompt ‘rebellion’ in Chuck Wendig’s latest flash fiction challenge.

the-girl-with-two-shadows

Once, there was a girl with two shadows.

Her name was Taz and they were both there when she woke up.  One shadow was herself, just over four feet tall with short hair with mussed in every direction.  The other shadow was slightly bigger, with bushy hair that curled.  That shadow followed her steps, but not her movements.

Taz jumped up and down, waved her arms around, and danced until her feet were sore.

The shadow would tilt it’s head as if to say, what on earth are you doing?  Other times it would shake, it’s shoulders bunched up and shadow hands melting away where they clasped over the face in silent laughter.

One day Taz held out her hand as the sun was setting in the west.  The other shadow took her shadow’s hand, and they stayed that way until night seeped through and made them one.

“What happened to her?” Taz’s mother asked the town Alders.  Her mother shook with righteous fury under the bruises and the indenture collar they forced on her.

“We don’t know,” they said.  They actually said quite a bit, but none of it was helpful.  They tried to find out, though.  They performed spells of removal and spells of unbinding.  They made Taz drink mixtures of herbs steeped in brine.  They took knives and tried to cut the shadow away.

The other shadow flipped them off and stuck out its tongue, and stayed very much attached.

“You have to belong to someone else,” Taz told the other shadow one night.  “Why are you here with me?”

The other shadow brought its hands together to made a shadow bird flapping its wings, and then wavered to become a storm cloud and a black lightning strike.

In the dark and silence of her room, Taz heard a faint caw and smelled ozone.

Taz asked her mother about it, but her mother turned away, shoulders tight and angry as she went to work.  Taz asked the Alder’s when they tried their next experiment with fire and holy oil.  They said she was infected with a nasty spirit, don’t ask again, we’ll fix it.

Taz got the distinct impression everyone was keeping something from her.

That night, when her mother took the whiskey bottle to bed, Taz stole the matches and climbed out the window.  She snuck past the houses and the edge of town to a ravine that cut its way through the dusty landscape.  She walked until she came to the deepest part, where the walls rose twenty feet high on either side above a dry, sandy bed.

Taz gathered dry roots and driftwood and piled them with tight bunches of dried grass. With the matches she lit the tinder and fed it until the fire crackled and popped in the dark.

Taz turned her back to the fire and greeted her shadows that stretched out on the ravine walls.

“I think they made me forget who you are,” Taz told her other shadow.  “No one wants me to remember except me.  I need your help to do that.”

As if only waiting for permission, the other shadow turned to Taz’s and placed its thumb on her forehead.

Taz gasped as her forearm spasmed in pain.  She clutched at it and cried as a black mark bubbled to the surface of her skin.  Three long slashes made a triangle that held a circle inside.

Then both shadows reached out from the wall, across the sand, and gestured to the fire.

Taz understood.  She bit her lip, closed her eyes, and thrust her arm into the blaze.

There was a scream, but it did not come from Taz, for the mark on her skin writhed like a living thing, wrenching to and fro, unable to escape the flames that did not hurt Taz.  The mark seeped out of her skin and ran off like water, sizzling itself out on the coals.

Taz pulled her arm back.  It tingled and felt over warm, but not burnt.  She gazed up at the other shadow in awe.

Taz remembered.

She remembered her sister.  Taz remembered running side by side with her, crows overhead, watching lightning arc down from the sky and strike the two of them.  It fused them, their spirits, together.

Taz remembered her heart tearing in two as the Alder’s separated them.  Taz remembered reaching for her sister as her she was loaded into a wagon with others, forced to go to war.  The Alders held Taz down and marked her arm, and the memories seeped away like water into dry land.

“Your name is Fred.”

The shadow could not grin, but Taz felt the pride and love radiate as Fred’s shadow embraced Taz’s.

The next morning the Alders took her again and put her in the room with all the tools, herbs, and books of magic.  They tried more things they thought would sever her extra shadow.

“We will fix you, darling,” one said, as if that were a comfort.  “The dark cannot hold against the light.”

“You don’t understand anything at all,” said Taz.

With Taz’s memories came the lessons Fred taught her.  Lessons about balance and nature, magic and willpower, and, above all, the chaos of love.

“I’m sure it seems that way to you now,” one Alder started, and then stopped.

For Taz’s two shadows were growing and melted into each other.  They became one and filled the wall, and then the corners, then the ceiling.

They swallowed the Alders’ own shadows and smothered them.  The Alders fought each other to run for the door, but one by one they fell to the ground.  Triangle marks burst onto their skins.  Their eyes clouded with confusion, and they slept.

The girl with two shadows walked home with the key to her mother’s collar. 

“It’s time to find Fred,” Taz told her mother.

Later the Alder’s woke on the floor of that terrible little room.  None of them remembered why they were there.

New Short Story!

So, remember how I mentioned I have two new short stories I was going to put up?  Well, the first is ready!

Kill the Writer

“Choices, left in our incompetent hands, lead to thought, lead to opinion, lead to clash of opinions, lead to art.”

In a world run by the Formula, a rigid system that dictates every part of life, picking up a pen is a death sentence–

It’s also revolutionary.

This short story is available on Gumroad here.  Kill the Writer is free, so when you go to purchase you can enter 0.00 in the box (or a higher amount if you’re so inclined, and I appreciate that!) and click ‘I want this!’

Kill the Writer is a bundle that comes in PDF, Mobi, and ePub versions for your convenience.  It will also be available on Amazon within the next few days.

Cheers!

Count Your Crows – Available on Amazon!

The day is finally here!

COUNT YOUR CROWS is available for purchase on Amazon.

Count Your Crows by Shiloh Ohmes

Count your crows and make a wish before they fly away.

Taz has only one wish: to find her sister Fred, gone these past four years fighting in a war to secure a better future for witches everywhere.  She would also appreciate not dying horribly and forgotten in the wild Texas frontier, too, but in post-war Texas that is easier said than done.  Packs of hungry chupacabra roam the landscape, slave traders prey on the weak and stupid, and nature herself is entirely unaccommodating to someone who just wants her family back.

Also, her sister has managed to become the most wanted witch in the Republic.  Taz isn’t surprised; Fred’s always been an overachiever.

Wishing on crows got her through a shaky childhood of persecution and running, but Taz will need spells and bullets to make it through Texas.  Even then, that may not be enough.

Get your copy today!

Count Your Crows – An Excerpt

Official excerpt time!  Have a first look at chapter one of COUNT YOUR CROWS.  Be advised, it does contain some strong language.

Count Your Crows by Shiloh Ohmes

Taz is an idiot.  That will be on her headstone, guaranteed.  Here Lies Tazarina Wyatt, She Who Lived By The Laws Of Sarcasm And Idiocy, Aged 18, Gobbled Up Rare.

Well, if she gets a headstone.  At this point she may have to be content with her carcass strewn out over acres in the middle of nowhere, because Texas hasn’t changed it’s overall penchant for hostility against outsiders.

Down below, in the shade of the lone cottonwood tree, the pack of chupacabra circle.  They’re even uglier than she remembers: gray hairless bodies all gaunt like decaying cow hide stretched over bleached bone, heavy heads  with yellow tinged eyes that are far too intelligent, big snapping jaws, and skinny rat tails that snap back and forth.

And they sing.

They sound human until you get close enough.  It’s a trick, some form of old magic the chupacabra are able to somehow harness.  It’s all snatches of words and half sentences stitched together out of order and let loose in mournful bursts, like coyote vocals, only with the stolen voices of their prey.

Chupacabra hunt humans exclusively. Taz has seen them crazy mad from hunger yet pass up horses and cattle and sheep just to go after people.  Fred used to joke that it was because chupacabra couldn’t catch any wild pigs, crafty fuckers, so good ol’ long-pig was their second choice.

They shouldn’t be that hungry these days.  The war only stopped, what, two or three weeks ago?  Taz passed three towns already, all of them empty save for the dead.  Too many to count, Taz lost her lunch the first time.  Laying side by side, hanging from trees, torn apart by shrapnel, spells, and scavengers.  It’s nothing like she’s ever seen, not even in her worst nightmares.  She avoids towns now.

And fuck you, Fred, for being so gods damned hard to find.

By Taz’s estimates there are thousands dead, but her sister isn’t among them.  Good thing, too, otherwise Taz has no idea what she’d do with herself.  Fred is alive, northwest of Taz’s current location and Taz’s horse is to the south about twenty miles.  He’s not running anymore, but he’s still going in a direction that’s away from here.

Taz can’t do a lick of magic, but she has a gift.  An internal compass that lets her find anyone or anything that’s not magically shielded just right.  The only thing is, Fred’s signal is patchy, going in and out and it’s faint.  Taz has never felt anything like that.  Is Fred dying?  Mortally wounded?  Taz has no answer, only knows that Fred is like a weak radio signal and it’s the reason she’s spurred herself onwards so hard, blowing through the Oklahoma state line, pushing herself and her horse as much as she can, and, apparently, forgetting to set the pre-made perimeter charms Mom left behind when she inexplicably disappeared.

Taz shudders and pushes back into the branches.  She’s never seen such a big pack.  Usually chupacabra hunt alone, or in groups of three or four.  Below, fifteen chupacabra stare up at her, unblinking, and sing.  Their big jaws move around the sounds and words, their sharp teeth and red, lolling tongues on display.  If she closes her eyes she could pretend she was in some theatre, listening to a group of actors shout and sing all their parts at once.

One skinny chupacabra crouches down and then springs straight up, browned teeth snapping at her boots.  It misses, barely.

Eyes wide open, wide-wide open, Taz.

Taz’s camp, what’s left of it, lies just to the left of the tree.  Her little canvas tent is in tatters, her meager food stores ruined, clothing torn up and spread around the sage and buffalo grass.  She didn’t have time to grab anything but her backpack, which is now swinging on a branch three feet under her.  One misplaced foot and rotten bark nearly gave her a heart attack and the backpack dropped, saved only by a strap hanging on by a few threads.

What’s that phrase that Cajun witch liked to use?  Oh, yeah.  Mauvais gumbo.

It still doesn’t have the same ring as fucking fucked in the lowest level of fuckering fucks.

Taz swallows against the dryness in her mouth and casts her eyes around, desperate for something, anything.  She’s been up this tree for over a day now, praying and wishing like it’s going out of style.  She just needs one crow, one measly crow, to pin her wishes to.  Of course there isn’t one.  Hasn’t been a single crow since she crossed the border, and ain’t that just typical of the universe.

She can’t believe this is how she dies, miles from civilization and all alone with no one to hear her final words.

Fuck the gods.

Fuck all of them.

Unless they give her a miracle soon.  She’s not totally unreasonable.

The relentless Texas sun beats down through the wilting leaves.  Taz swipes at her forehead.  Sweat, sticky and hot, trickles down her cheek and the back of her neck.  Gods, what she wouldn’t give for some water.  The chupacabra aren’t going anywhere.  Even if she sits tight and waits, they’ll just settle in below, keeping up their creepy singing until she dies of dehydration and drops.  Or makes a suicide run for freedom, whichever comes first.  Out this way, miles from the established roads and trade routes, it’s unlikely anyone will come to her rescue.  Even if they do, odds are they won’t be friendly.  So she needs to rescue herself, gods and wishes be damned.

Taz is gonna need her backpack.  It’s time to make her move, last stand style.

Problem one: the backpack is three feet below Taz, well within biting range.

Problem two: this tree is rotten as all get out and the branch she has to step on to get the backpack won’t hold her weight.

The solution is clear, and Taz hates it.  Hates it worse than she hates lima beans and cold winters.

“I hope you all rot in some gods forsaken sinkhole,” she says without thinking.

The words melt away from her, grow thin and weedy in her throat as the chupacabra magic steals them away.  Taz clamps her teeth over any more, but the damage is done.

The chupacabra go silent for about ten seconds and Taz gags on the forceful pull deep in her throat.  Words spill up and out of her like maggots from a dead thing.  Words that don’t make sense, just bits and pieces taken from her head, things she’s thought and said to herself and others, all of them out of order.

The chupacabra start singing again, louder this time, pulling more words out of Taz and she can’t stop it.  She bites her tongue, her lips, she clenches her jaw.  All that does is make the words like splinters and they scratch coming up.

Blood wells up in the back of her throat.  Nothing for it now.

Taz stops fighting and lets her mouth run.  Mom would say it’s no different from any other day, but, well.  Not like Mom would know anymore.  Taz stopped talking to her unless necessary once her sister left.  They never had much in common without Fred anyway.

Taz shifts on the tree branch and settles her fear in her belly.  Fear won’t do her any good.  If she’s gonna die anyway, she might as well die trying to do something, rather than let the chupacabra magic tear her apart on the inside until she falls.

All she needs is three feet.  Three feet and quick fingers.

Legs, Taz thinks, are a wonderful part of a person.  They can kick and squirm and run for miles, and they can wrap around a lover’s waist to keep two people anchored together.

Or one person and a tree trunk, which is a slightly larger circumference.

Taz hooks her ankles together and thanks all the partners she’s practiced with over the years as she scoots her butt off the branch and hangs on by the strength of her thighs alone.  Taz releases her hands and leans back, dangling upside down and backwards.

The chupacabra look no less terrifying from this angle.  Taz breathes and focuses on the backpack.  The skinny one jumps up, jaws snapping.  It hits the bags and sets it to swinging.  Fabric rips.

Taz pulls back, then lunges, fingers wiggling.  Her nails scrape the strap, just there.

Almost.

A chupacabra head comes up at the same instant.  Bites down on the pack.  Rips it off the branch.  Chupacabra and backpack tumble to the ground.

Stay tuned for more updates about the upcoming release of COUNT YOUR CROWS by Shiloh Ohmes.

I now have a Facebook page!

Yay!  *throws confetti*  I created a Facebook page for my WITCHES OF TEXAS series.  This blog isn’t going anywhere, don’t worry, but the FB page will have updates just about the series, including music mixes, art, deals, and information about the world and characters.

Witches of Texas (1)

Witches of Texas Facebook is live, so go check it out!

COUNT YOUR CROWS – Summary

Count Your Crows by Shiloh Ohmes

Count your crows and make a wish before they fly away.

Taz has only one wish: to find her sister Fred, gone these past four years fighting in a war to secure a better future for witches everywhere.  She would also appreciate not dying horribly and forgotten in the wild Texas frontier, too, but in post-war Texas that is easier said than done.  Packs of hungry chupacabra roam the landscape, slave traders prey on the weak and stupid, and nature herself is entirely unaccommodating to someone who just wants her family back.

Also, her sister has managed to become the most wanted witch in the Republic.  Taz isn’t surprised; Fred’s always been an overachiever.

Wishing on crows got her through a shaky childhood of persecution and running, but Taz will need spells and bullets to make it through Texas.  Even then, that may not be enough.

COMING SOON.