Friday, November 30, 2012

What's Better Than Book One? Book Two, Of Course

Yes, I LOVE series. Yes, I have been known to search down books one, two, three, twelve, whatever books published earlier than the one I pick up. I have sent the husband on a search for earlier books. I have refused to read book five without the previous four. I have gone into a funk when a series ends.

I even love cliffhanger books as much as the standalone books in a series. I have silently screamed when a serial character has been killed off...screaming out loud, I've learned, worries the family.

Today my list indicates I get to revisit with book two of two series I've been fortunate enough to edit at MuseItUp.

First up: The Chronicles of Caleath: Exiled Winter's Curse

Hampered by bandits; burdened with the title of Deathbringer; and rumors of dragons all drive Caleath further from his goals and closer to his destiny.

Back Cover:

Alone, Caleath rides south to kill the Tarack queen in her dormant colony, and thus, ensure the safety of the people. His ‘kill or be killed’ mission is not altruistic. Although he justifies his motive, saving the people, gaining his own freedom and acceptance, deep within his soul he battles a yearning for Tarack stim crystal. However, a small child's plea for help dissolves Caleath's simple plan.

His new quest takes him on a desperate path traversed by bandits, dragons, bloody battles, danger, and death. No longer is Caleath alone.

Meanwhile Nasith travels south with Lachlan, Gwilt, and a band of soldiers prepared for the battle with the Tarack. As they travel, Gwilt voices his concern about the malevolence surrounding a newcomer to the group. Convinced his doubts have fallen on deaf ears, he remains alert and wary. His attitude leads to a confrontation from which neither he nor Nasith emerge unscathed.

Winter allows the people of Allorn time to prepare, while other nefarious schemes rise to destroy them.


Caleath curled one gloved hand around the hilt of the Karadorian sword. His finger traced the outline of two missing jewels, used to purchase a pack horse and supplies before leaving Sheldarc. Cold leached through the fabric of the spare blanket draped around his shoulders as he tried to encourage sleep. Deep within the sheltered cowl of his hood, his eyes closed.

Caleath cocked his head to listen. Well beyond the horses resting with their tails to the wind, he heard a wolf’s howl disturb the quiet of the night. The baying stirred a well of loneliness. Gwilt and Nasith traveled elsewhere. They probably spent the cold, dismal night indoors, sleeping on warm beds with full bellies.

Thoughts of Nasith warmed Caleath’s blood, but he quelled them before they ruined his hope for sleep. He cherished the memory of moments spent in her company. They had been desperate moments. Survival dominated his thoughts then, preventing him from savoring her presence. Now assassins no longer hunted him, nor did ghosts haunt his nights. Nor did Nasith ride with him. He rode alone, south toward the growing threat, in a desperate quest to prove his worth to the old mage Penwryt.

With his chance of returning home destroyed, Caleath fought the despair of homesickness. Cold made his inner arm scar tissue ache. Anger warmed him, banishing thoughts of Nasith. Instead, rage focused on Ephraim, the man who manipulated Caleath’s exile. Although Ephraim managed to delay Caleath’s plans for revenge, they fermented even now. Left without galactic citizenship, or a means to get off the planet, Caleath cursed his enemy with every breath.

Outrageous plans and fading memories blurred as slumber edged past dreams of vengeance. Drifting into an uneasy sleep, Caleath’s guard lowered.

A taint of corruption carried on the cold night air.

Adrenaline pumped, boosting barriers within his mind. Caleath flinched. Sleep dulled the alarm, but instinct reacted to the touch of sorcery. Dragged from a dreamlike state, Caleath braced, rousing to repel the probing of another mind against the defenses inside his head.

His fingers clasped the Karadorian blade, already drawn beneath Caleath’s heavy cloak. Caution saw the sword bared against the threat of ice forming in the sheath and preventing the weapon’s release. Despite his precautions, the sword could not protect him from magic. The effort needed to prevent the persistent intrusion caused his heart to pound and his head to ache.

The barriers in his mind loomed as intangible walls, protecting the detritus of dark magic left by dire conjurations. The threat of incursion into the morass of unfathomed magic terrified Caleath. He recognized his feeble efforts, compared to the power ranged against him.

A trickle of dampness spreading along his spine became a river of cold sweat. Fully awake, Caleath trembled as he fought a silent battle against an invasive and invisible foe.

The horses shuffled, as if they too sensed the desperate conflict. Caleath didn’t open his eyes, his focus turned inward. Neither cold, nor the scent of corruption, nor the sudden quiet in the forest seemed important as he fought to keep his mind free from manipulation. He called upon all the ways and means of constructing and maintaining barriers, learnt during three years as the source for Karadorian dread lords.

Even so, his efforts seemed futile. Nothing he offered prevented the aggressive sorcery from broaching his wards.

He dragged cold air into his lungs, clamped his jaws shut, and clenched white-knuckled fists around the hilt of the sword. His sense of futility spread, though he refused to capitulate. He tasted blood, smelt bitter corruption and heard Death’s dark humor in the cascade of a nearby creek.

Between one heartbeat and the next, an explosion of burning flame rampaged behind Caleath’s eyelids. He gasped, opening his eyes when the image of a dragon rampart burned into his vision. He sensed a presence; human, insubstantial, but carrying dread potential. Before he could react to the awe-inspiring presence of the dragon, all three apparent threats; dragon, human, and the touch of sorcery dispersed. No longer under attack, Caleath shuddered.

Both horses snorted, shying as Caleath staggered to his feet. Blinded by the sudden light, it took another heartbeat before vision adjusted to the darkness before dawn. Caleath stumbled against Enigma’s flank, his sword flailing toward two unseen foes.

The forest remained quiet. A white owl winged silently into the gloom. No dragon or sorcerer disturbed the peaceful tableau.

“Balls of a hairy goat.” Caleath rammed the sword into its scabbard and tried to shake off the feeling of impending doom. He took time to settle his racing heart, fill his lungs with sweet air and relish his continued freedom.

In the distance the wolf yowled as the morning light crept across the forest floor. Shrugging off the cloak, Caleath adjusted his shirt where damp fabric chilled warm flesh. The cheerful chatter of crickets, birds greeting the dawn, and the innocent babbling brook mocked Caleath’s rank fear. Again thoughts of Gwilt and his wolf rose to provoke his loneliness. Cursing his penchant to dwell on their plight, Caleath savored a moment wondering how Nasith greeted the dawn.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Some Stories Are Just Unsettling

And for Dark Fiction this is something you want...unsettling and putting you over the edge.

Don't Make Marty Mad by Calico Skelly fits this bill perfectly. It came across my cyber desk because life interrupted another editor and as we do at MuseItUp we back each other up. I'm glad I was able to be a small part of this story, but I'll be honest it did unnerve me and still does.

I'll repeat...isn't this what Dark Fiction should do ;)

Read...if you dare.

Marty needs to lighten up before he loses his head 

Marty has issues, like his need for anger management. Just ask his wife, pregnant with their fourth child—or ask the kids. Can his family help him solve his problems? Marty thinks so.

Opening the door to our doublewide, I expected the fragrant odor of dinner on the stove to settle my raw nerves after the rough day I’d had at work.

I expected to hear the happy voices of my young son and daughter at play as their imaginations ran rampant.

I expected a warm and loving embrace from my wife of twelve years; the woman I’d loved throughout high school and had married upon graduation because my first son was on his way into this world.

I expected to receive the respect of my family for bringing home the bacon week after lousy week despite having to put up with the bastards at the factory who pushed for more out of me when I was already giving all I had.

Stepping into the trailer, my senses were assaulted instead with dank, foul air, a roaring television, toys strewn everywhere so there was nowhere to step, and a dark, empty kitchen which bore no signs of recent occupation.

My wife, again pregnant, this time with our fourth child, lay sleeping on the sofa, snoring softly.
Frozen for several moments on the top step, absorbing this scene of undomesticated bliss, I was dumb-founded—speechless. Obviously the lessons of the past were forgotten.

Thank Heavens For Other Eyes

Earlier today I mentioned how I can become wrapped up in a manuscript to the point I forget to edit. Well, Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island is another one of those stories. Thankfully, we have more than one set of eyes working with our MuseItUp editors.

All our books go through three stages:

1. Content edits. Here the editor looks at story flow, storyline, voice, consistency of everything, overused words. We always work at maintaining the author's voice and style. During this phase we'll also work at tweaking to Muse's house style.

2.  Line edits include house style, grammar, and anything the content editing may have missed...going through edit rounds you can and will become story blind.

Communication between Content and Line editor is an important element as well.

After these edits, which can be anywhere from two to four or more rounds each, all manuscripts go through our galley stage before publication.

3. Galley stage. Here is were Lea...if I say anything like boss, head of the company, leader, she'll come over with scissors to cut my hair (inside joke ;) we're a team; a family...formats the manuscript for vendor uploads (of course vendors have their own tweaks and irks in formatting). At this stage, the author has a chance to carefully read through again to catch any errors missed during edits. A misspelled word, it's instead of its and such.

Then it's uploaded for you, the reader.

Well, with  Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island, it was Lea who discovered multiple paragraphs all starting the same way...with the MC's name. Because she looks at a manuscript differently than the content and line editors do, she was able to spot this pattern. And because of communication, we all learn.

It's vital your story goes through an other's eyes, and even a few others' eyes. Each will read and see differently, tightening and strengthening your story.

I hope you'll visit, revisit, C.K. Volnek's Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island

MuseItYoung: Evil haunts Roanoke Island and a young boy must unravel its mystery and destroy it, before it destroys him. 


In 1587, 121 colonists disappeared from Roanoke Island, NC, never to be seen again. 

Something evil is haunting Roanoke Island and it’s up to twelve year-old Jack Dahlgren to unravel the mystery of the lost colony and stop the hateful campaign of revenge. But can Jack solve the puzzle in time to destroy the beast, before it destroys him?


Jack rushed to the front door and reached for the doorknob. His hand stopped in midair as the door shuddered violently, shaking on its hinges. A deafening howl roared on the other side. The boards covering the windows shook, the nails screeching as though giant hands were trying to rip them from the house. The lights flickered and went out, leaving the house pitch dark.

Sweat broke out on Jack’s forehead. His heart drummed in his ears. Turning, he fumbled with the dials of the battery-operated radio on the end table. The announcer’s voice sputtered between static crackles. “Hurricane Da...earlier than expec...winds reaching...residents on Roanoke Island…take cover immediately. Stay…”

Jack leaned against the door, his mind whirling. Regret twisted inside as the argument with his dad hammered in his head

* * * *

“Why can’t I stay home? I don’t need—” 

Dad rushed around the front room, putting on his rubber boots and black slicker. “No. Get your coat on. I can’t trust—”

“Come on, Dad. I’ll be fine. It wasn’t my fault Kimmy—”

“Enough! Don’t argue with me, Jackie.”

Jack stiffened at the name. “I’m not a baby anymore. I’m almost thirteen, you know.”

Dad spun around, eyes flashing. “Then why don’t you act like it?” He let out a long breath. “Fine. Stay here. But don’t do anything stupid. I’ll be back before the storm—”

Jack bristled, his jaw twitching. “I’m not stupid.”

“That’s not what I meant—”

Jack didn’t let him finish. “Just leave! And I hope you never come back!” He stomped to his bedroom, slamming his door behind him.

* * * *

Jack swallowed. But, no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t get the beach ball-sized lump out of his throat. “I didn’t mean it, Dad.”

Something banged against the porch, scraping along the boards. Jack jumped and listened. Was someone calling for help? Yanking the front door open, he stepped outside.

“Dad?” His voice was lost in the storm.

He strained to hear, something—anything. The boards of the long walkway leading into the water creaked and groaned. Someone was on the dock.


Ducking back inside the door, he grabbed his yellow slicker off the hook, slipped it on, and charged down the steps. A gust of wind shoved him back. Clenching his teeth with determination, he leaned against it, forcing his eyes to stay focused on the wild ocean. Dad would need his help getting the boat secured in this storm.

Jack staggered down the sloppy trail leading to the dock. The storm howled in his ears. A heavy sheet of rain tore loose from the sky. Dime-sized raindrops pelted his body, plastering his hair against his scalp. He pulled his hood up over his head and clutched it tight with one hand, but the wind tore it off again.

Bracing himself on one leg, Jack leaned over the railing and stared down the long wooden walkway bouncing on the water. Dad’s green runabout was nowhere to be seen. He scanned the choppy waves beyond the pier. Nothing. No one.

Jack shuddered and gazed back at the house; the run-down beach house they’d moved into two months ago.

Had it only been two months? It felt like two years.

Dad spent every free minute cleaning and fixing it up, even drafting Jack to help paint it, though Jack couldn’t seem to do anything right by his standards. Slowly, it had started looking like a normal house. Now, boarded up it looked haunted…like Tyler Johnson said it was.

Jack huffed, a sour taste filling his mouth. That was stupid. Tyler was stupid.

Jack closed his eyes. For a moment he was back in Ohio. In Ohio he had friends. He was on the baseball team, lead archer in boy scouts, and point leader in math wars at school. Here, there was no math wars, no boy scouts, and no teammates. No one wanted to be his friend. Tyler had made sure of that. No one wanted to get close to the kid who lived in the creepy old Ellis place.

The sound of splintering wood crashed behind him. Jack jolted and turned around. Waves heaved the wooden pier upward; smashing it into a hundred pieces.

Something moved alongside the detached garage at the far edge of the yard, sliding past the darkened yard-light. The light’s rusted frame hung in a half salute, a dejected soldier of metal. Jack blinked against the rain as a light-brown figure crept slowly, deliberately following the slope that led to the bluff at the back of the building. It stopped and opened it black mouth, a sad howl drifting on the wind. It was a dog. A Mastiff.  Like the one he’d seen at the baseball field in Ohio last summer.

Jack stared. What was a dog doing out in the hurricane? He glanced around the large yard, expecting the dog’s master to appear. But, there was no one.

How could anyone leave a dog out in this?

The Mastiff turned and loped up a trail leading to the top of the bluff, his v-shaped ears flopping, long tan tail swinging.

Where was the dog going?

Jack gazed up at the vine-covered ridge and swiped at the water smearing his face. The bluff wasn’t really that high. Not a mile high cliff or anything. Why was Dad so worked up over it? Jack bit his lip. He knew why.

The Mastiff stopped midway up and looked back, his black eyes drilling into Jack’s. With a quick shake, the dog charged again to the top.

Jack felt dwarfed by the ridge. At the top a massive dead oak towered into the sky. A white sentry; its brittle, leafless branches reached so high they seemed to spear the dark clouds. Since Kimmy’s fall, Dad had forbidden him from ever going up there again. His stomach knotted.

Oh, I Was Supposed To Be Editing This

I will admit there are times I forget I'm supposed to be editing and have only been wrapped up in the story reading it. End up needing to go back and find my last edit note and restart...only to get re-wrapped up in the story and having to restart, again (and again, and sometimes again).

There's a reason we at MuseItUp pick our manuscripts to edit...when you enjoy the genre, the story, editing is easier. Right now one editor and I are in a joking arm wrestle for a newly contracted manuscript. And, yes, there have been times you'll hear some of us in our Editors' Loop groan when someone grabs a manuscript we wish we had time to take on. Even when it's a Muse author already working with one of us, we might give a groan or two wishing that story was coming our way.

Sometimes a manuscript will come our way simply because an author has asked for us; submitted their manuscript to our individual attention; we're looking after a certain theme; or one of us thinks we're the match for the story.

This is how Rosalie Skinner's series "The Chronicles of Caleath" came to me for line editing. And the first in this marvelous series is: Exiled: Autumn's Peril. 


Hunted by off world assassins, haunted by ghosts, homesick for a planet light-years away, Caleath’s quest is to survive and escape. 


Exiled and driven by guilt and vengeance, Caleath, adept in virtual reality games, finds himself on a world where magic rules. Assassins hunt him, ghosts haunt his nights, a sorcerer covets his knowledge and a beautiful hostage complicates his escape.

Washed ashore from the wreck of the Albatross, tortured in mind and body, Caleath  uses his dreaded nanobots in order to survive and  reluctantly befriends the young Gwilt  Their search for the survey satellite, which could lead Caleath home, unveils  the terrifying world of 'a dark soul, black magic and a bloody sword'.

On this perilous journey, an assassin destroys Caleath's healing nanobots, and exiles from his home planet follow his every move. He takes the beautiful Nasith, of the Ferran clan, hostage to keep the assassins at bay, but her presence endangers him more. A sorcerer forces Caleath to aid the Council of Mages when he discovers Caleath carries vital  knowledge that could save the Sharyac people from the invading Tarack, a species of giant ants.


“Well three horses come this way. I can hold the assassin but the rest is up to you.”

“Adder’s spit, wizard! How long have you known?” Caleath spun as the first rider reached the edge of the clearing and threw himself off his horse.

The assassin took six strides across the clearing. He unsheathed a sword as he approached.

Caleath’s breath caught in his throat. The wizard raised his staff and the ranger froze mid step.
“Go!” Penwryt shouted when Caleath hesitated.

A strange miasma of white magic circled around the stationary ranger but whipped away from contact with Caleath when he sprinted toward the buckskin. Already a second ranger crossed to join his partner. His voice reached Caleath as he ran for the trees.

“What sorcery is this, Penwryt?” the ranger cried while he lifted his loaded crossbow and tracked Caleath’s movement with his aim. Caleath heard the wizard’s warning but when he turned to give heed, the crossbow bolt flew straight and true.

“No!” Penwryt bellowed.

The quarrel struck Caleath’s arm with enough force to knock him off his feet. White pain blinded him for a split second. When he recovered his balance, Caleath saw another ranger supported by a slight companion standing between him and the buckskin. The ranger, whom he recognized as Lachlan, looked unwell. His companion helped him stand.

Behind him, Caleath heard the second ranger reload the crossbow. He cursed and grabbed Lachlan’s companion with his good arm. Needing a shield, Caleath slung Lachlan’s friend between himself and the bowman. When Lachlan started forward, Caleath struck the ranger in the chest. His boot heel knocked the ranger’s chest and disabled his attempt at heroism.

“Stay down,” Caleath warned while he dragged the ranger’s struggling companion to where Enigma waited. Hampered by an arm pulsing with fire and aware he remained a target, Caleath lifted the uncooperative hostage across his good shoulder.

Using the cloak and body of the hostage as a shield, Caleath hauled himself and his struggling burden onto the unsettled buckskin. Raw pain exploded through his body when he hit the saddle. The horse sprang forward. Heavy hooves churned damp earth and Enigma thundered into the forest.

As soon as the horse hit full gallop, Caleath gained his balance and swung his human shield around to balance face down across the stallion’s shoulders. When the kicking and screaming paused for a second, Caleath identified the pitch and ferocity of his captive’s efforts. In a heartbeat, he knew the awful truth. He held a female hostage.

“Adder’s spit!” His heart skipped a beat. He’d taken aboard more trouble than he needed.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

When Paths Cross

Back with my first post about John Rosenman I mentioned becoming his content editor at MuseItUp wasn't where we originally met. He had sent me a review request for Dax Rigby, War Correspondent which didn't get written.

Time and Life have a way of disrupting good intentions. Maybe it was for the best? When John decided to submit Dax Rigby to MIU, I actually held off on assessing. I had already accepted it once, so I was a tad bias in my opinion.

It was one of those strange moments when my reviewing personality crossed paths with my editor's life. I rarely, only in cases of can't help but see a book needed edits, do I pick on editorial aspects of a book I'm reviewing. I read more for the story and enjoyment and whether the author fulfilled my reading escape and become lost in another world.

As an editor, I read for the story content, it's logical flow, the story's voice, to ensure switches in hair colour/name/gender doesn't happen. If a character is only five-three how can s/he suddenly reach the top shelf of a seven foot bookcase...without a ladder.

In other words: Editor hat - nick-pick the details; Reviewer hat - what nick-picks.

As for Dax Rigby, War Correspondent...

War Correspondent Dax Rigby fights to save intelligent aliens and a dying human outpost on Arcadia while WWIII rages back on Earth. 

As WWIII rages on Earth, War Correspondent Dax Rigby travels to the savage planet Arcadia to investigate and report on the Western Alliance’s mission there.  Soon, he fights not only to save two intelligent alien species from extinction, but also to rescue a dying human outpost threatened by a mysterious disease.

Facing assassination attempts, seduction from a passionate pilot, and his own mysterious powers of resurrection, Dax struggles to maintain his loyalties and complete his mission. The fate of two worlds hangs in the balance. Will he find a way to redefine both his identity and his destiny in time?

Outside, boots thudded across the ground—Campbell’s deputies searching for the leader of the conspiracy on Arcadia, the traitor who harmed and killed their comrades. Their feet crunched the dirt, and he heard a voice call out, knowing nothing could disturb Casey’s slumber.

Dax raised his hands and touched Casey’s shoulders. “Casey,” he said, “come back to me. It’s meaningless this way. It can’t end this way.”

Why not? Life was meaningless. He’d said it himself to Father Ben.

Death is death. The end to everything. Father Ben had disagreed. There is no death, he’d said. Only beginnings.

Dax tightened his grip on Casey’s shoulders and shook her. “Wake up, damn you. Don’t leave me behind!”

“Easy, son.” Father Ben touched his shoulder.  Dax ignored him.

“Wake up, Casey!” he said, wondering if he’d gone mad. “You can’t die! I love you, and I want you back!” He shook her harder, so violently she rocked on the bed. “Damn you, damn you, damn you! Come back!”

At last, he tired and laid his head on her breast. There is no end, Dax. Only beginnings. Yes, perhaps Casey was already part of a distant galaxy, sailing the cosmic winds of her next life. If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles, some poet had written. Dax knew such wishes were useless. This life is the only one there is.

He raised his head and gazed at Casey, seeing he’d shaken her eye patch askew. He raised his hand to reposition it.

It took him a moment to realize her left eye socket was no longer empty. A bright blue eye now gazed back at him. And the left side of her face, once ravaged, appeared clear and unblemished.

I’m seeing things. Losing my mind.

Pulling back, Dax lifted the other eyelid—and felt a rush of wonder.

Casey now had two blue eyes.

“I’ll be damned,” he murmured.

“What is it, son?” Father Ben asked.

Air. Warm air on his hand. Looking down, Dax saw Casey’s lips move. Her chest stirred.

He rose and staggered back, feeling something rise inside him, filling him to the brim. Joy bloomed, joy such as he’d never known, and transcendent gratitude. There was also far more, feelings he had no name for.

“Dax,” Father Ben said, “what is it?”

He raised his hand and pointed.

Father Ben looked. Now they could hear the sound of Casey’s breathing as her chest rose and fell. A soft moan.

“Impossible! This can’t be!” Father Ben went to Casey on the other side of the bed and checked her pulse, eyes, and chest. Next he turned her gently to study her back. “No wounds! It all looks healed!” He laid her back and stood trembling. “By the Holy Mother Universe, Casey’s alive. She even has two eyes again!”

He snapped his fingers. “Vital signs. I must check them!” He rushed to a desk and returned with a small square device—a Vitex. He placed it against Casey’s throat.

“Father,” Dax said. “You won’t need it.”


“I said, you won’t need it.”

Father Ben tore his eyes from Casey and looked at him. “Why not?”

“I feel it.”

Father Ben hesitated, set the device aside, and stared at him. The priest’s eyes were wide.
“I should have known,” Father Ben said finally. “I should have recognized you the first time I saw you.”

Dax moved to Casey and touched her cheek. It felt warm, and his heart filled with love.

“All my life,” Father Ben said, “I’ve prayed to be blessed, prayed to behold a Redeemer before I died. I grew old and sick; still, I always hoped. Finally, one flew all the way across the Galaxy to meet me, and I didn’t even recognize him.”

Casey’s eyes had closed in healthy sleep. Dax could almost feel her recovering. “What are you saying?”

“Beneath your pain,” the priest said, “I saw only goodness. It was as pure as your search for the truth. You’re a seeker, Dax.”

Dax laughed. “You saw all those things? Oh yeah, my aura. My sacred garden—right, Father?”

“Do not mock,” Father Ben said. “I saw your spirit the day we met and yesterday in your jail, from point-blank range. Sadly, my eyes had grown dim, and I did not recognize you. Today you have made it clear even to one as blind as I am. You have brought Casey back.”

“What?” Dax looked at him in amazement. “Oh, hell, no. The Hopper milk did it, not me.”

“It took you to know it, Dax. You to bring it here and use it. No one else could.”

Dax’s joy was so intense, so intoxicating, he could barely follow such nonsense. “You make me sound some kind of cheap messiah.”

“Not cheap. Never.” Father Ben reached across the bed and seized Dax’s shoulder. “You’ve never had a sign or suspected? Never felt a deep, wordless knowledge?”

Dax stroked Casey’s hair. “C’mon, Father. Casey’s going to wake.”

Father Ben’s grip tightened. “Listen to me, Dax. I know you think the universe is dead. It is not. The universe is alive and divine. The universe is God. It’s not empty as you think. It is gloriously filled.”

Beneath Dax’s fingers, a pulse beat in Casey’s throat. “Filled? Filled with what?”

“Filled with faith,” Father Ben said. “Filled with avatars, such as you, born of the Universal Spirit.”

Avatar? Dax searched his memory. Oh yes, according to the All-Faith, an avatar was an incarnation of God, a child of the divine universe. Horus, the human version, had passed through several incarnations, traveling to ravaged realms to fight terrible foes. Usually he died horribly.

“Please, Father,” Dax said, “I don’t have time for this.”

“Dax,” Father Ben said. “Don’t you know who you are? Don’t you know who you’ve always been?”

I've Been Known To Edit Romance

Which is strange since I don't normally mix with this genre.

MuseItUp Publishing covers all genres and age groups...okay, our youngest line is Middle Grade, we don't publish picture books and young children books. I've had the pleasure of editing almost all our genres...haven't gone too far into Historical Romance and any erotic/sensual has been tame to my understanding.

I should really revamp that entire start, any romances I've edited have been mixed with other genres.

Really, what I'm trying to say this early morning (writing this at 7:50am while supervising child as she gets ready for school) is reading for pleasure, reviewing, writing, and editing all bring different material to my bookshelves. Each requires a different mindset and each brings their own enjoyment.

I hope you'll visit with Larion Wills' CHASE

Despite the threat of prison or death, Chase had to know, did he have a child or had Tiffany lied again. 

Tiffany swore she was pregnant, but Chase never knew if she’d lied. Eleven years after her father had had him beaten and ran out of town, Chase couldn’t stand not knowing. Despite the possibility of another beating and the prison sentence they’d promised him if he ever returned, Chase went back and faced far worse than prison.

After eleven years Sydney didn’t cherish the chance to have Chase as much as she feared he would learn too many secrets.

Chase had to decide if the stories so many were so eager to tell him were true. Did Sydney kill to become the only heir to the Gibson fortune? Was her obsessive/compulsive disorder so severe that she’d held on to his child only to trap him or that she would kill again if he made her angry?


A crisp suntan uniform stepped up beside them to interrupt. Though the belly was going to fat, the arrogance was still there. Reed Holmes hooked his sunglasses on his shirt pocket and rested one hand on the revolver holstered at his waist. “I’m surprised you had guts enough to come back here, Lomen.”

“It’s not polite,” Ryan told him, “to call someone by their last name without Mister.”

“I don’t need you to lecture me on manners, kid.”

Sydney’s arms crossed over her chest. “Someone should.”

Reed scoffed. “Seeing you with him doesn’t surprise me. You always did have a thing for him.”

“Right. I’ve pined away all these years because no one…” Her gaze raked Reed from face to the toes of his shiny black shoes and back. “…else could compare.”

An unhealthy red crept up Reed’s neck. “Send the kid off,” he ordered.

Her gaze remained steady on him, and she said nothing to Ryan. Ryan took a huge bite of his hamburger and smirked at Reed.

“Have it your way.” He turned to Chase. “We don’t want any rapist here.”

Sydney answered before Chase could. “You know better than anyone that he is not a rapist, and you’ve got no grounds to order him out.”

“There’s a fugitive warrant—”

“No, there isn’t,” Chase retorted, fighting to control his temper and eleven years of anger. He’d been dogged by a felon arrest all his adult life. If there had been a fugitive warrant—not that he wouldn’t have put it past old man Gibson to have filed one—he would know.

“There can be,” Reed threatened. “Charges can be brought again, and you’re in violation of a restraining order.”

Sydney leaned forward and dropped her voice to a hiss. “The restraining order was to keep away from Tif, and it expired after six months. The statue of limitations expired years ago. If you’re going to stand there spouting off threats, at least make them viable.”

“Here’s one for you,” he hissed back, turned his head, and told Chase, “You better have money in your pocket, a place to live, and a job—or I’m running you in for vagrancy.”

“You do,” Sydney shot back, “and I’ll file charges against you for unlawful arrest, harassment, and violation of his civil rights. I’ll call the media and—”

“You think threatening me will get him for you?”

Sydney shot to her feet and startled Chase as tense as he was with how fast she moved. Ryan, obviously expecting what was coming, quickly moved things as her hands came down. She balanced on her fingertips to lean across the table and told Reed, “When my father and the rest of you framed him, I was too young to do anything. I’m not now, and I’ve got the education. I’m not a child locked away in my room for a month to keep me from telling the truth, you don’t have my father’s influence or Cosby’s guts, and you better not mess with me.”

“If your father was still alive, you wouldn’t be so brave.”

“Wrong again.”

“Makes it easy for you with all of them gone. Real convenient the way your sister disappears, your parents die, and…”

“You better shut up,” Sydney warned over his words.

“…you get his bastard to hold and use to trap him when he shows up.”

“You’d better shut the fuck up,” Sydney growled.

“Uh-oh,” Ryan said softly.

Reed didn’t hear any of it. “I just might re-open the investigation into your folks’ accident.”

“Do,” Sydney retorted, “since all of you sat on your asses and did nothing when it happened.”

Reed turned on Chase. “Where were you when—”

Sydney started after him. Chase, barely able to take in all he was hearing, lunged to his feet. He remembered something else about Sydney; she had a hellacious temper once it was roused, and no fear. Ryan obviously knew the same thing. He moved the same time Chase did. Chase caught and blocked her from the front. Ryan snagged and pulled her back with a hold of her shirttail.

“Hiding behind a woman?” Reed sneered.

“He’s in front of her, you dummy,” Ryan shouted.

Reed made a grab at Ryan. Chase shoved him back. Reed didn’t fall, but he came close.  Recovering with a stagger, he snapped free the safety strap on his gun with one hand and gripped the butt with the other. He froze when a hand clamped down over his and a voice growled in his ear.

“You draw that weapon, and I’ll break your arm,” Sheriff Billmore told him. Even with silver gray hair, at six feet six inches, he looked more than able to do it.

“He assaulted an officer!” Reed shouted.

Sydney, held back by Chase’s arm, shouted, “You tried to attack a ten-year-old child!”

“Suppose we take this outside,” Billmore suggested firmly, “and let these folks eat in peace.”

Chase took a quick look around at the faces, reflecting either horror or avid curiosity. He grabbed Sydney by the arm and laid his hand on Ryan’s shoulder in one swift move.

“She used the F-word,” Ryan whispered. “She’s really, really mad.”

“I noticed,” he whispered back.

Monday, November 26, 2012

My Favourite John Rosenman's book

All right, an editor shouldn't have a favourite, but John's The Blue of Her Hair, The Gold of Her Eyes is one of mine. From the main lead, the challenges, the social story, to the end, to the cover, I love everything about this book.

The word count is only 8,200 and yet it's a massive story. Released back in July 2011, which means we were editing it back in August 2010 (from my files) I still know this story. I can still picture the scenes and the emotions. The ending...I can't tell you.

I'm so thrilled John subbed this to MuseItUp.

Rachel's mysterious disease causes everyone, including her husband, to fear and reject her. Then her body starts to change in amazing ways.


Rachel's mysterious disease causes everyone, including her husband, to fear and reject her.  Then her body starts to change in amazing ways.  What will she ultimately become, and can she survive and find a new sense of identity amid the terror of her transformation?


The next day Rachel went to the pond at noon and waited an hour. Marney didn't show. The stares of others made her feel more alone than ever.

What would it have cost her to try to return Marney's affections? She and Marney shared a bond uniting them against the whole world. As for Frank, though part of her hated and despised him, another part would take him back in a minute. Still another part, the largest of all, had grown away from him forever because of his betrayal and what she had endured.               
She decided to visit Marney. On impulse, she entered one of the park's gardens and picked a bunch of the white Narcissus Poeticus. Holding them, she headed for Main Street.

The address Marney had given her was forty blocks away, and since those with the disease were not permitted to use public transportation, she resigned herself to a long walk. Seeing a bus stop, she felt a surge of anger and a perverse temptation to break the law. Damn it, she was a citizen like anyone else. Didn't she have a right to take the bus, too?

Rachel held the flowers over the emblem on her breast, intensely aware of the Government complex across the street–towering steel buildings that chewed the sky. What if State Police saw her and got suspicious? Did she really want to take such a foolish chance? If caught, she would be locked up for good.

No police appeared, though, and within minutes, a bus marked MAIN STREET arrived.

She waited until several people got on before getting in line. At the last moment, realizing the risk she was taking, she tried to pull back, only to have people force her onward so hard she was unable to drop money in the collection box. Continuing forward, she decided to stand, holding a pole with one hand, the Narcissi over the necklace with the other.

People continued to get on, and the bus became packed.

They were all around her now—smug, complacent, and indifferent to her suffering. Remembering all she had been through, Rachel knew the passengers would view her only with horrified disgust.

Looking at them, she felt a wave of rage and power flow through her, starting at her feet and rising until her whole body thrummed and resonated like nothing she had ever felt before. It was, in fact, like being reborn, and the quiet, submissive woman she had been all her life was passing away even as she stood there.

The bus started moving. Rachel drew a long, slow breath and lowered the flowers.

An old woman saw it first. Rachel saw her eyes bulge and her complexion turn the color of spoiled cheese. A shriveled hand trembled, pointing at her.


A hundred eyes swung to the woman. Next, they darted to Rachel. For a long, long moment they all stared at her.

Then came pandemonium.

Screams. Curses. Faces livid and distorted by fear. Rachel smiled, thrumming with power as people pushed and trampled each other and the bus driver braked frantically. As the vehicle slowed, hysterical passengers drove themselves against the front and back doors. They smashed them open, and their bodies spilled into the street. Laughing, Rachel turned to a black teenager with a boom box who looked like he was trying to climb the wall. "Hey, Dude," she said, holding out her hand, "ya wanna touch me?"

Amid the melee, Rachel saw the driver rubberneck his head around and rise open-mouthed from his seat.

Clutching her flowers, she started toward him. While the bus was still half-filled, her progress was aided by everyone scrambling to get out of her way. One man smashed a window with his elbow and started to climb out.

Rachel reached the driver and raised her pendant so he could see it.

"Take me to 131st Street, Bud," she said, "or I'll drive this heap there myself."

Five minutes later, the trembling driver stopped the bus. Rachel looked at the few passengers left huddled in back and started to get off. Smiling, she turned back.

"I'm sorry, it was so crowded when I boarded, I couldn't pay. How much do I owe you?"

Glassy-eyed, the driver wet his lips. "G…Get off."

"I insist."

"N…N…Ninety cents."

She rummaged in her purse, finding no coins. Shrugging, she extracted a dollar bill and dropped it in the box. Raising her hand, she blew the man a kiss.

"Keep the change," she said. "The ride was worth it."

Luke's Scuffle

Back in July 2011, MuseItUp Publishing released Luke Evan's A Scuffle for a Wrinkle. This, roughly, 10,000 word story was a quick fun adventure read. I've always wished Luke would revisit these characters.

Vonnel and his crack team plan to steal a device that bends space-time, but someone else wants it too.


Vonnel offers a proposition to his skilled team of thieves: make off with the most technologically advanced gadget on the planet, and earn more money than they can imagine. The gadget known as "the wrinkler" lines up the rifts in space-time and thrusts you through it, but there's a catch. They're not the only ones after it.

They set up a sting in a skyscraper hotel on the edge of The City. Vonnel's right-hand man is dressed as a woman, his techie can't get the volume right on his communications, and his bumbling diversion is doing things better left unknown. Vonnel intercepts the target in his hotel room. Problem is, the wrinkler is not inside, and the man who stole it, his old nemesis, has already used it to disappear. 

Now Vonnel must use all his wits to determine where his nemesis has gone, and how to procure the wrinkler for his client. It's a race up skyscrapers and through space-time for the ultimate gadget, and only one person can stop him: a man he has never before bested.


“Do you know what this is?”

Everyone leaned in for a closer look. A small oval device, no larger than a mole, lay nestled in his palm. Jet black, with sleek rounded sides and a small silver nodule in the lower center. Above this, a tiny screen, dark for the moment. Narin’s eyes grew wide, and he whistled low. Jestu nodded his appreciation, and settled back into his seat. Tannin’s nose twitched and eyes sharpened. Piro blew a cloud of smoke over it and reclined back in his seat. Gregario clapped his hands and laughed.

Finally, Tannin spoke. “It is…it is a transition device, is it not? I have never seen one quite like it but send me straight to the underworld if it ain’t.”

Vonnel withdrew the novelty and smiled at Tannin. “Of course you haven’t. No one has. This is not a working model. The screens on the real ones light up with actual images of other locations, borrowed straight from your brain by your Crancom implant. This model is in the final stages of production. However, even upon completion, its price shall be so exorbitant and its functions so extraordinary, it shall only be made available to the richest and most powerful.”

He turned from Tannin to face the rest of the troupe, leaning forward against the table. “Who here’s heard of the Harlaton Effect?” His voice, barely audible, remained stiff and authoritative.

For a moment, no one shifted a muscle; then Tannin burst out, “Yes, yes! I got it! Something to do with other realms, and the mechanics of quanta, uh, let's see…yes, I remember. It's like folding a giant blanket haphazardly, so, uh, ridges and overlaps appeared everywhere, and taking a knife and plunging it through two of the layers."

“Something like that," Vonnel said. "Gregario here farts, and a mosquito in Yaasama drops dead from methane poisoning."

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Editing A Series: Nick G. Giannaras' The Relics of Nanthara

MuseItUp carries series. I know, I know, pretty much all publishers will have a series or two or more under their banner. The Relics of Nanthara was my first epic serial edit.

Book One: Secrets Revealed, introduces the players and quest. As with all character introductions you want to be clear on their identities, their traits, strengths, and weaknesses. However, you don't want to risk lumping everything into one paragraph, or two, because most readers won't absorb or pay attention to those little nuances that may be vital in the next books. Allow these to be developed and seen throughout the story as required to move the plot forward.

The challenge with editing a book one...something I didn't pay attention to while reading to watch what you're suggesting be cut, tweaked, or changed. As the editor, and it works for all books, I don't always know the story coming up; therefore, what I'm suggesting here in the beginning may have a larger impact further in the story.

This is why communication between editor(s) and author is vital. Without open questions, patience, and trust your relationship becomes stressed and the book suffers...let alone your budding reputation as an editor.

Dust coated parchments forgotten, a foreboding prophecy considered as myth, powerful ancient relics lost…until now.

Determined to find the truth to the ancient prophecies, young Courtar defies his elders and journeys into strange lands. By befriending strangers of various backgrounds, he unknowingly completes a foretelling of the formation of an alliance destined to destroy the abomination and his desire to gain possession of four powerful ancient relics. Despite their assignment, the group’s inner conflicts could prove a thorn in their stability and negate the promises of victory.

After exposing a far reaching sinister plot to dethrone the Mhoren hierarchy, clues are discovered that lead the motley crew of adventurers to the possible location of one of the ancient relics. Assassins, foulskin, and black-hearted allies loyal to the Dark One battle the allies as the ‘chosen ones’ venture forth to end this nightmare. Can the alliance gain possession of the crown and stop the commencement of the Dark One’s dominion before they kill each other?


  “Yes, Gesach, these are the scrolls. And as we agreed, you can have the phylactery.” Sir Angelo reached for the prized container. Then he stopped.

“But then again, Gesach. You despise my kind more than any other being who walks the face of Nanthara. I am the ultimate antagonist to what you stand for. Your evil cannot be allowed to thrive. And if a Temple Sovereign knight ever has the ability to rid the world of such a demon as you, they will do so.” Sir Angelo stepped back next to Dreg, the paladin’s eyes lowered, his teeth clenched. “I have that ability.”

“Enough!”Gesach said, his voice grating across the air like hot coals sizzling in cold water. “Such debauchery from one whose walk is supposed to be pure. Your heart is as tainted as mine and your blood runs thick with refuse.” Gesach arched his head backward in a partial tilt as another short cackle left his decayed throat. “Too bad you have come all this way to have the scrolls in hand and die with them!”

Gibbering in a foul dialect, Gesach waved his frightful staff, urging his skeletal minions to attack before disappearing from the top of the building.

Sir Angelo turned a tense face to Dreg. “Destroy the trinket!”

Dreg raised Brighthammer and with a roar slammed his shining hammer down only to land in solid dirt.

Boren looked past the settling dust where Brighthammer sat embedded into the hard earth. “The trinket is gone!”

As the party stood stunned, E’Umae looked up with eyes wide open. “What are those?” she asked pointing to the western most ruins.

Spectral forms of ancient warriors dressed in polished brass armor flowed toward them with gleaming weapons brandished in incorporeal grips. Hollowed sockets sunk in gaunt faces stared them down and legs ending in wisps of smoke propelled these dreaded warriors with surprising speed.

“Valgaunts!” Vindicar yelled. “Run for the bridge!”

Before anyone could flee, Gesach reappeared near the armory and attacked the Bloodfists by surprise. Orange beams of energy sprayed forth from his crooked out-stretched fingers, engulfing several of the Bloodfists in raging flames. Charred and burning bodies slumped to the ground as the Dymwren snarled a sinister grin at his opponents.

The Rhöengard officer dropped to his knees, pleading to Gesach in fearful tones with arms held out submissively. “Have mercy on me! I was kidnapped by them. They want to destroy you, not I.”

Gesach snarled. “You and your men have held me captive here against my will.”

“It was not I, My Lord. My officers ordered me to do so, or they would have my head,” the officer said with tears rolling down his horrified expression.

A deep chuckle emanated from the Dymwren. “Allow me to help them.”

With a wave of his hand, Gesach levitated a rusted sword lying near the outside of the armory. Spinning like a tornado, the sharpened stake flew at the officer and decapitated him in one swift stroke. His lifeless body fell into the powdery skeletal remains in a pool of blood.

The undead clashed with the allied troops in a dance of lethal weapon blows and skillful parries. Bones were broken, flesh was torn, and armor was dented and gashed amid the din of battle. In trying to clear a path to the bridge, the allies’ escape was hindered by the appearance of more warriors pouring out of the woods.

Two of the pursuing Valgaunts caught up with the fleeing alliance and engaged Dreg from behind. When he turned to face them he noticed Brighthammer glowed as if reflecting the sunlight from above; yet clouds covered the skies. With a barbaric growl, he swung at the first Valgaunt. The transparent figure shuddered under the weapon’s impact. A high-pitched screech filled Dreg’s ears.

“Hurt, ‘eh?” Dreg said with a chuckle.

Dreg and a second Valgaunt exchanged deflecting blows until the barbarian slammed another mighty swing into the Valgaunt’s side. A second bellowing screech faded away as the image of the ghostly warrior evaporated into blue smoke, his armor and weapons falling to the ground in a clanging pile.

With Boren assisting Dreg, the rest plowed their way through the battle toward the stone house. Sir Angelo noticed Gesach was being pummeled by two Bloodfist elders. Angered from his adversaries’ successful attacks, Gesach stepped back, slapped his distorted hands together with a growl, and vanished.

E’Umae and Eriss looked back to observe Dreg and Boren. Eriss stopped, turned, and ran back toward the two battling warriors.

E’Umae’s mouth dropped. “Where are you going?”

“The trinket! It’s still on the ground!”  Eriss said.

E’Umae stood in disbelief until she saw the phylactery lying in the dust of the battle.  “Gesach tricked us!” she said.

Eriss ran at full speed past battling skeletons, Valgaunts, and Bloodfists toward the phylactery. Weaving through bodies and slashing weapons, she spotted the trinket lying half buried in the dirt. E’Umae screamed as two skeletons with battleaxes stepped on either side of the trinket with empty gazes transfixed on Eriss’s approach. Instinctively, Eriss tucked and dropped into a forward roll and grabbed the phylactery as the two undead warriors’ weapons whooshed inches above her.

Two energy bolts slammed into the undead soldiers, turning both into smoking fragmented remains. Eriss jumped up out of her roll, landing near Dreg and Boren who continued crushing the decayed troops around them.

“I got the phylactery! Run!” she yelled.

Sir Angelo swung his last attacks then ran for the bridge. The alliance sprinted past the Bloodfists, yelling at them to retreat, but they wouldn’t.

“Ganeth Ra, fall back!” Sir Angelo said.

Ganeth Ra bellowed above the chaos. “This battle is not over yet.”

Another Successful Kevin Hopson's Release

What can I say, I love MuseItUp books and their authors. I have been known to drive my family insane...okay, rephrase, I come by my nickname Chatterbox honestly. I may be shy and quiet when meeting face to face...yeah, no one's believing that one anymore, guess I've grown out of my old shell.

I love talking books. Here's Kevin's EARLY RELEASE FOR BAD BEHAVIOR

Someone is illegally moving death row inmates between prisons, and one prisoner finds out firsthand what the perpetrator wants with them.

“Evans!  Ready for leave!” A guard barked at me unexpectedly.

I dropped the towel in the sink and turned to face him. “What’s the reason?” My voice lacked firmness due to the uneasiness I felt.

“Just do it.” Though not much of a physical specimen based on his balding, bronze hair and flabby build, the guard’s stern-eyed stare forced me to take him seriously.

I took the mandatory orange top from the drawer beneath my bed and slipped it over my head.
“Arms out,” he said.

Every incarcerated man dreams of being on the outside one day, yet I was perfectly content on staying in my cell. When you can literally walk your entire world in two or three strides, it wears on you, and I had only been at El Dorado for a little over a month. In this case, however, I feared meeting the same fate as those death row inmates who were dragged from their cells before me.

I stepped forward and put my hands through the opening in the cell door. As the guard slapped his handcuffs on me, droplets of sweat started to roll down my face, making their way from the base of my shaved head past my hazel eyes. Despite the fact I was several inches taller than him and in impeccable shape for a guy of forty-something, I experienced a sense of helplessness. I was at the mercy of others now.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

I Fully Admit This Is A Selfish Plug

Figured I'd slip a tiny reminder of my own short story from MuseItUp. This story is not my normal genre, one I don't mix well with normally; however, I couldn't resist the idea of a visit to a dating service with no happy ending.

Not having a typical happy ending, in a romance, isn't necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes you need a boost, a fling, in order to pick yourself up from a disaster and plant your feet back on the path of your dream. Then again, there's a reason we use the phrase...a tall handsome "stranger." Or in Tina's case a bald, red-bearded stranger.

Care to discover Tina's MIDNIGHT FIND

Broken plans plus Vegas risks equal Tina’s dreams.


Left at the alter, Tina decides to take her Vegas honeymoon.  Her orderly life plans of marriage, motherhood, and togetherness in shambles, she throws caution to the wind and checks out the dating service, Distinguished Dates.

A midnight dinner with a bald, red-bearded, cartoon dog-sneakered stranger brings more than her dreams alive.

Walking into the offices of Distinguished Dates was akin to walking in my grandmother's house. Those were my first impressions. Warmth; home; belonging; comfort. A place to relax. For a dating service, their interior designer sure got the at-ease feeling down pat.

Who wouldn't feel secure here? And then there's Marie. Soothing happiness just glowed from her.

"All right, Tina, have you found Mr. Right?" Marie asked, smiling as I returned from their viewing room.

"I believe I've found Mr. Let's See." I couldn’t help but laugh as Marie rubbed her hands in a mad scientist manner.

Joining my laughter, Marie took the tape and looked up the corresponding file.

"Ahh, Mr. 666sxx. Hmmm, now doesn't that sound devilish?  Well he's a redhead...even if it's only growing on his face...and you know what they say about us redheads."  Marie winked.

"Stop, Marie, if I laugh much more, I'll pee myself."  I hiccupped as I sat down opposite Marie’s desk. It’s like I’d known Marie my entire life. Which was just as well since I spilled my whole life story to the Distinguished receptionist.

"So, when would you like to meet Mr. Devilish?" asked Marie. "He's indicated any time, day or night.” 

"Hmm, how about the stroke of midnight. Seems to fit with the devil image." 

"Sounds good. Here’s to the start of something new...and fiery, we hope. I'll call and arrange for him to meet you...where?" 

"The hotel lobby. I'll be the one in red."

"Right you are. Midnight at Desert Dreams."

When's A Perfect Ten Not So Perfect

Or, what to do with a short story when an anthology doesn't work out.

Karina is another author/friend I found through my reviewing. Will have more on her P.I. Vern later. However, in PERFECT TEN we spend some time with, I so dislike the term secondary character so I'll call him...a friend of Vern's. He's, not speaking of Vern though it does apply, an interesting character. I'm not so sure if you would care to bring him home to mom, though.

Before MuseItUp was born, both Karina and I wrote short stories for possible inclusion in an anthology. Great theme, great idea, fantastic editor, and really fun to write; however, as with this business, the potential publisher didn't bite. So, Lea...MuseItUp's very own...told us not to give up, but find each story its own home. Karina came to MIU (and so did I, but more on that later, too)

Join me as I revisit PERFECT TEN

He’s a perfect ten—but on what scale? 


When an insurance actuary lands a date with Coyote the Trickster, she discovers not every “Ten” is perfect.

No predisposition to diseases—and that body! Her mind was already calculating him at HRA two-point-five even as she laughed at his joke. She sipped her wine.

“Accident prone?" The words were out of her mouth before she realized it, and she hastened to add in what she hoped was a flirtatious way, “I mean, you must have some weaknesses. Or are you Superman?”

“Superman, that square-jawed comic book guy? He’s a stuffed shirt even when he’s wearing tights! Forget it. I want to live life, enjoying each moment, following my whims, savoring my passions. So I get injured? I heal fast. In fact, I recover pretty fast in just about everything.”

How could he be so ignorant of things like bank machines and so sophisticated with the double-entendre? Sheila felt the heat rise to her face, and glanced at the unopened menu beside her glass, hiding her grin behind a fist and ignoring the calculator in her head trying to convert “So I get injured? I heal fast” into concrete risk numbers. When she looked up, he was looking at her with that same…incredible…look he’d given her through the camera. Only this time it was just for her…
Shyly, she stretched her hand invitingly across the table. He glanced at it, met her eyes. She leaned forward.

He leaned toward her…

Then stopped abruptly to scratch behind his ear with short jerky motions.

She blinked. “Um, psoriasis?” she asked hesitantly.

“Probably not,” he said, crushing something between his fingernails. Still gazing at her, he flipped it carelessly aside.

She heard a—Plink!

“Now.” He licked his lips. “Where were we?" He leaned forward.

She flipped open the menu in front of her. “So, what do you think’s good here?”