Current of Time

The prompt this time was the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. It made me wonder how such ruins could have been concealed, and why.

Image from WikiMedia by DestinationFearFan

“The hanging gardens of Babylon still exist,” a voice slurred behind me.

I turned. A disreputable looking young man, shirt partly untucked from his pants, a section of hair standing up in the back, and smelling distinctly of beer, gazed earnestly at me.

“Do they now?” I asked. 

Clearly he’d overheard part of my discussion with fellow archeologists, musing on whether or not we’d ever be able to safely explore under the waters of the Euphrates, and discover if the gardens had in fact been flooded.

“Yeah. Underwater. You can see ‘em by boat, though, with a flashlight.” He raised a hand, folded some fingers, squinted at his digits, and rearranged them. “Scout’s honor.”

“Ridiculous. If it were that simple, we’d have discovered the gardens already.”

“You hafta be in the riiight spot.”

“Of course.” I stood, grabbed my satchel, and nodded to my colleagues. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Tragically, I didn’t see Gustavo the next day, or any after. He and Brynn had stayed to listen to the drunk, and then she’d retired for the evening, leaving Gus behind.

No one paid much attention to the two men leaving the bar, both weaving and in good spirits. A parking lot camera caught them disappearing into the darkness. And that was the end of the trail, a paucity of information that meant there was no way to know if it was misadventure or malice behind Gus’ disappearance.

Though I’d never been particularly fond of Gus, knowing that I’d contributed to his end was painful. If I’d demanded the drunk leave us alone, maybe Gus would still be alive.

Fifteen years later, I still thought of Gus from time to time, a worn-down ‘what could have been’ type of worry. Especially as I sat in a pub as I did now, the remnants of a substandard meal in front of me.

And then I spotted that same drunk–his straw-brown hair sticking up on the side, in a t-shirt and shorts instead of a button-down. But the same exact red-flushed face, with a constellation of freckles, and watery brown eyes.

Impossible. He hadn’t aged a day. Maybe a son, or a brother, or some other relation.

He waved a hand, and my heart leapt. The drunk from before had been missing his two smallest fingers on his left hand, only stumps remaining. Ugly remnants that had caught my attention, because you’d usually get that surgically neatened up.

It had to be him. Impossible, yet somehow true.

I had to know.

Settling into a corner, I nursed a variety of non-alcoholic beers, until he finally made his goodbyes and left. I slipped out after him a minute later, scanning the parking lot for his stumbling form.

Empty. Silent.

My ears strained as I turned in a slow circle. Nothing but the whine of crickets. Deflated, I headed to my car, keys jingling.

The lock popped, and I opened the door. A hand fell on my shoulder, grip so hard I yelped.

“It’s you again, isn’t it?” It was the drunk, only he wasn’t drunk. His gaze was steady and cold, and he no longer wobbled in place.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I swept my arm out to knock his hand off me, but my forearm clanged painfully off his.

He snickered. “You weren’t as subtle as you thought you were.” His gazed flickered past my shoulder, and he smiled. I wasn’t generally prone to exaggeration, but his expression was… evil.

Someone cleared their throat from behind me. I whipped around, straining to turn with the man still gripping my shoulder.

It was Gus, unchanged from my memory of the last time I’d seen him fifteen years ago.

He smiled. “You shouldn’t have left so early. You missed an amazing discussion.”

“What? How?” I couldn’t marshal my thoughts. This was simply too much.

“If you survive the conversion, I’ll explain,” Gus said. “And you’ll finally get to see the hanging gardens for yourself.”

The man behind me shifted his grip, and clamped a cloth over my face. As the world swam and darkened at the edges, I found myself wondering which I hoped for–answers, or an escape from whatever had claimed Gus?

Love Words Curse

The prompt for this one was curses. Sometimes the writing comes slow, other times it goes fast. As soon as I have the spark of an idea, I start writing, and see where it goes.

When I got the the end of this one, however, I had no idea what came next. I still don’t.

What do you think?

Image from WikiMedia by George Chernilevsky.

“I not-hate you,” Alan murmured to his wife.

She smiled at him. “I not-hate you more.”

“No, I not-hate you the most!” He kissed her forehead, her nose, and then her mouth.

“Will you two get a room! You’ve been married a month, surely you’ve got most of that kiss–” Thomas choked, the gangly twelve-year-old grasping his throat, eyes bulging.

Alan and Isobel hurried over.

“Oh, no!” She cried.

More practical, Alan thumped Thomas on the back, as the young man coughed and hacked. Several moments and thumps later, a toad leapt out of Thomas’ mouth.

“Can you breathe, Thomas?” Isobel asked, rubbing soothing circles on his shoulder.

 Alan rushed over to the town well, and drew a bucket of water, bringing it and a scoop over to the stricken Thomas. “You know you shouldn’t use those words. Think before you speak. The Curse War ended two years ago, and it’s been almost half that since the not-hate curse took all the not-ugly words away from us. You’ve got to remember.”

Thomas took too big a swig of water, sputtered it out on the ground, took a smaller sip, and regained his composure. “I was just having a bit of… not-dull.”

“We understand,” Alan offered. “Better not-danger than speaking in toad, though, eh?”

Thomas grumbled. “Yeah, yeah. It’s cruel, what those wizards did. I don’t even understand why they did it!”

“They kept building up the spells, I think,” Isobel said. “They were small at first, and each side thought they’d win with just an annoyance, but they didn’t, so they kept trying.”

“Wizards,” Alan growled, a common complaint in the town.

“We’ll get not-worse, all of us, someday,” Isobel said, offering each of them a reassuring smile. “And it could be worse, we didn’t get the blindness curse that hit past the river, too, just the speaking one.”

“One day, I’m going to grow up not-weak, and I’ll go show those wizards what they did,” Thomas promised.

Isobel’s smile wavered, but she fixed it in place, gave him another pat, and stood. “I’m sure you’ll be plenty not-weak, Thom. We should get going, Alan. Don’t want to be late.”

Alan nodded, ruffled Thomas’s hair, and they walked off, arm in arm. Neither wanted to talk to Alan about what had happened to the wizards to end the war.

Fruits of My Labor

This was from a writing prompt about quests. This protagonist is a rather practical sort, but in a post-apocalyptic world, don’t you kind of have to be?

What skill do you think you could bring to a post-apocalyptic setting? I have an assortment of random facts that might be useful. Maybe!

Image from WikiMedia, public domain

So, hello, stranger. You want to join the village? Be safe? Let me tell you how it works. You have to complete a quest. 

On your sixteenth birthday if you’d been born there, or after you’d rested up for a week if you’d come from outside–that’s you–you have to go outside the barricades. Sometimes they’d give newcomers longer if they were injured. But only if you had something they wanted. Otherwise, they’d refuse to let you in, or kick you back out even if you made it past the gates.

You’re not injured, so you’ll be going out tomorrow morning.

What quest, you ask?  Scavenging for basic supplies. Edible food, or safe-enough-to-use medicine. The village council will give you a list of things they need. Really need, and say, go find these. Quest through the burned out, broken rubble. Keep an eye out for the feral dogs and cats, and especially the escaped zoo animals. The crocodiles are doing well in the river, and the lions will eat you if they catch you.

And, of course, always keep an eye and an ear—or maybe both—out for the roving bands of humans. The broken in heart and spirit, who’ve decided to be even worse than the lions that will at least kill you quickly.

This village, which I stumbled on when I was an underfed thirteen—and started a debate that continued for days, about whether I should be sent out in a week, or three years—they try to be kind.

Obviously I was tough enough to survive out there, but rules were rules for a reason, so they settled on my sixteenth birthday. No skin off my back. I was happy to accept that almost three years of safety. And you better believe I ate as well as I could.

Since I knew what was coming, I kept up my skills with short little forays in small groups. Mostly with other teenagers and at least one adult. The village doesn’t send their teens out blind, they aren’t wasteful.

It wasn’t so bad, gathering and hunting nearby. We kept quiet and hid way more than we fought anything, and we stayed clear of any known dangerous areas. 

And on my birthday, I took the small pack and the well-wishes they offered, and I walked alone into the hellscape that had been my life from ten to thirteen. 

Up until two months before I found the village, I’d had company—my older brother–and that had helped, but not as much as the stout walls, barbed wire, lookout towers, and hidey holes did.

I’d noticed that the teens got a longer list than the strangers—but I didn’t need it. I’d found a stash I knew they’d want, three days of hard travel from the village.

I’d move fast, but careful, and stuff my pack full. Then I’d come back to plenty of praise. See, we had food, or nearly enough, from carefully tended gardens and scavenging.

That was the only reason the village welcomed newcomers at all. It had started out as a small group of survivors seven years ago, and they knew enough to know they needed more people–both for the next generations, and for all the hard work that needed doing.

But what they didn’t have much of was variety. 

So the gone to seed urban garden I’d found on a rooftop was my ticket to staying. I could’ve told them about it years before, but obviously I didn’t. Instead I gathered up fruit and vegetables with precious seeds, and you should’ve seen the council’s faces.

And now I’m part of the council, and everyone gets to enjoy my harvest. I went back with a group later, and everyone was impressed at my lucky find.

Lied? Yes, I lied. If you pay attention, you know that the world isn’t really fair. I seized my advantage.

You should, too.

What I Did This Summer

Inspired by a prompt about summer vacations. This unnamed, teen narrator is writing an essay for school about what they did over summer vacation–and the answer is something the teacher wouldn’t expect.

My most unexpected summer experience was probably at a campground–either the time the whole tent blew into a lake, or the time the camp owner had a quarter-bobcat kitten, which was impressively large, with tufted ears.

Have you ever had a surprising summer experience?

Image from WikiMedia by Kelly.

This  summer I didn’t do too much. My parents, my older brother Joe, and I were going to go camping first thing, but it rained for two weeks straight, so we had to put it off. I’ve been camping in the rain before, and the mud gets everywhere. And then it dries, and that’s worse.

Anyway, we finally had enough sunny days in a row that we could go. We packed up the van with our tents—one for me and Joe and one for our parents, and the cooler full of ice, and the sleeping bags, and air mattresses, the portable grill, all the cooking supplies, and everything else you need for camping not to suck.

First thing, we picked out a spot, not too far from the river, which was moving faster and wider than usual from all that rain. But the ground was dry, just a little soft, so the tent stakes went in easy. The family rule is, you get everything set up first, then you can explore.

 So we put up the tent, inflated the air mattress, and spread the sleeping bags and pillows out. The food went into the bear safe lockers the campground provides, which are a pain to get to and from, but way better than a bear trashing our stuff.

And then, after Mom and Dad tacked on million chores to set up, Joe and I finally escaped camp. We’d been here a bunch of times, and we’d explored a lot of the area already. Down by the river, there were usually some interesting shells or rocks, and tiny silvery fish.

Joe clambered over the bank, reaching out for flowers growing in the shallow water, picking a bouquet for Mom. 

Suck up.

Some weird, twisty-looking craft, like a kayak in shape, but mostly under the water, swept by on the current, knocking into his hand as he reached. Startled, he yelped, and fell in.

Water splashed, but Joe had landed on the warped kayak-thing, so he wasn’t really in the current. The boat bucked under his weight, the far end tipping up, showing off a bunch of pipes and cables under a clear covering, like saran wrap only sort of green.

Joe flailed, clawing at the boat-thing, and it shifted, cables sliding under the covering, and wrapping around him. It got him trapped, and then it took off down river.

“Joe!” I yelled, and I heard him shout something back, but then he was gone. I ran after him, and then I realized I’d never catch up. So I turned around, and ran back to camp, hoping I hadn’t made a mistake.

You were supposed to get help, right? Not follow along and maybe end up needing rescue, yourself?

My parents didn’t believe me, about Joe and the weird boat that had scooped him up. And they didn’t buy the story he’d told, when we’d found him, two hours after we started looking—which was an hour and a half after I burst into camp, shouting that Joe’d been eaten by a kayak.

We were just being funny, they said.

I didn’t think it was funny, as I listened to Joe talk about the strange smell of the boat, metallic and green, like a pool of stagnant water and blood. How it felt, plasticy and slick, but strangely dry, the water beading off the surface as soon as it splashed on. He couldn’t remember much—landing on the craft, the feel of it moving under him, then over him, like he was drowning in the air.

It had wrapped around him, pinning his legs, and hands, and then he’d felt a patch of cold on one arm, and a patch of heat on the other, a sharp tingling sensation running from his legs to his chest… and blackness.

The next thing he knew, Joe said, he was on the shore, bone dry, his head spinning.

And of course, our parents thought he’d fallen in, and bumped his head, then luckily been washed to the shore. The day wasn’t bright enough for a couple hours to dry his clothes, but they let that little detail slide. 

We were telling stories, or confused, and that was that.

I stewed over that injustice for a while, but I stopped trying to tell the story pretty quick, when it became clear that neither of them were going to listen. Joe didn’t give in so quickly, until they started talking about therapy, and made him go to a session. Then he changed his tune, stretching the blackness part to cover the rest. 

He’d been picking flowers, fallen in, hit his head, and maybe been washed up, or maybe half-woken and pulled himself out, and then passed out again.

End of story.

Except Joe was still moping around. Rubbing his arms, where he’d said he felt cold or hot, or flexing and shifting his legs like they’d fallen asleep. So I started campaigning for a winter camping trip, which we don’t do so often because it might snow. But I think I can win them over.

And then I’ll have something to write about for what we did over winter break, other than family visits and who burned what dishes.

Reading Challenge Progress 2021

Image from WikiMedia Commons by Evan Bench.

I started tracking my books read in 2012. Each year from then until 2020, I read 350 to 400 books. At the halfway-ish point, I thought I should check my numbers.

This year, as of June 13, I’ve read 146 books.

That math says I’m probably not clearing 300.

And that’s fine. I adjusted my goal to a reasonable number, and we’ll see how it goes. Reading that many books represents an over abundance of free time, and I’m glad to have other things to do with it. (Hopefully things that will be productive, or have lovely memories attached to them.) And, of course, as I’m a pretty speedy reader, even if I can only read for a few minutes every day, I’ll still get through a decent amount of books.

The real issue is that one of the things I do with my time is read book reviews, book blogs, and talk with people about books. I already want to read more books than I can manage, and my TBR list reflects that!

Do you keep track of your reading and set a goal? Are you on track or behind?

Happy reading!

Fast Food

Image from WikiMedia by rahematshah kadri

When I first walked in, I was speechless. My best friend and my husband, locked in an embrace in the kitchen. Laura was almost hidden from view, except for one neon pink converse and the fall of her teal hair.

“Honey! How could you?”

Greg straightened, a smear of blood on his nose. “Oh. You’re early.” 

“Greg!”

He eased Laura down into one of the wooden chairs by the table, and wiped away the blood from her already closing neck wound. 

Her eyes were closed, expression dreamy.

“Oh, I um, sorry, dear. I got hungry, and you know, she was right there…” he shrugged and offered a weak smile.

“I told you not to eat my friends!” I snapped, scooping Laura up and carrying her into the living room, propping her up against the arm of the sofa, and turning on the TV. “Sit down!” I jabbed my pointer finger at the marching love seat.

Obediently, he sat. 

I perched next to him, channel surfing to find a good movie, and elbowed him in the side. “You’ve got blood on your nose, you pig.”

He scrubbed at entirely the wrong place. “Did I get it?”

“No,” I hissed, pulling out a tissue and applying it with more force than strictly necessary.

He winced, but held still.

Clean and rather red-nosed, he pretended to be engrossed in the movie. A few moments later Laura stirred, blinked, and then smiled, settling back on the sofa. The human mind was elastic. Something in vampire saliva helped smooth the gap between the moments before the bite and when they woke.

Unless the vampire was stupid and tramuatized the heck out of their meal, the human wouldn’t recall the bite at all.

As far as Laura knew, she’d watched some movie with Greg, fallen asleep, and I’d joined them. 

I narrowed my eyes at my husband, determined to have a talk with him later. He tended to be lazy, and grab whatever was easiest. Which was fine, as long as it wasn’t any of my friends.

Karma Check

II

Image from Wikimedia by Wolfgang Rieger.

I’d been waiting for this day for three years, five months, and one day. That time, plus two weeks, was how long I’d been working as Miriam Lindstrom’s karma balancer.

As a balancer, I did good works. As many as I could. And I suffered the misfortune of her bad karma–twisted ankles, broken umbrellas, bird poop on my favorite sweater–you name it, it had happened. 

I paid her debt constantly, wearing it down in small manageable bites. Some people tried to pay off a debt in one big lump sum–the most lucrative option, but also the most dangerous.

Try to redeem too much bad luck at once, and you’d likely suffer a permanent loss–of a limb, a loved one, or even your own life.

Miriam Lindstrom paid me handsomely for the balancing, of course. She didn’t want to have to worry overmuch about bird poop or hang nails. Some bad karma got through, but rarely, and very minor inconveniences.

She still railed at me over those hiccups, as if I could do my job any better than I did. Each time I accepted her payment, I got some kind of lecture. Instead of a simple direct deposit, she wrote a check because she wanted to hand it over in person and hear me express my gratitude. Gratitude! For doing a job, a difficult job she certainly didn’t want to do?

Entitled twit.

I hadn’t hated her at first, but when I’d picked up my first check, and she’d refused to release it from her manicured fingers until I’d groveled enough… That had done it. Kindled a burning in the pit of my stomach that couldn’t be quenched by anything except revenge.

And today, she’d finally delivered my revenge along with the check.

“Now, Lily,” –My name wasn’t Lily, it’s Dahlia, but the woman doesn’t listen to anything she doesn’t consider important– “Your work has been slipping lately. I broke one of my favorite heels, and I just cannot.”

She paused, tapping her fingertips to her glossy red lips. “I cannot express how that hurt me. You will simply have to do better the next week, then you’ll find the next check at previous levels.”

I didn’t reach for the envelope, my heart racing, but my expression calm. I’d gotten better at swallowing rage and offering a serene smile. “Some bad luck is inevitable. It isn’t possible for one balancer–or even two or three–to remove every possible negative event in a life. It’s in the contract.”

She sighed, as if I deeply wearied her, and dropped the envelope to the gleaming surface of her desk. “I’m not interested in arguing with you, Lily. If you’re going to be unpleasant, I can always replace you.”

No. 

I controlled the lurch in my stomach, and shook my head, eyes downcast. “I didn’t mean to be unpleasant. Only remind you of the contract. I didn’t write it, it’s standard for all karma balancers.”

“Yes, yes, I know you didn’t write it.” She waved at me dismissively.

I scooped up the envelope, and hesitated. 

“Well, go. I’ll see you in two weeks. And remember my shoes!”

Pressing the check to my pounding heart, I nodded in the deep almost bow that made her happy, and scurried away. She hadn’t fired me, which meant I’d finally, gloriously won.

Karma balancers were well paid, because no one would do such a terrible job without generous recompense. And most of my clients, I didn’t mind. They were polite, paid promptly and electronically, and hardly registered in my life. I did the job, served the term of the contract, renewed or didn’t, and moved on.

Miriam Lindstrom had clearly not read that contract, the one she thought I was too dumb to write. Which was very, very careless of her.

I opened the check, and saw she’d docked 500 dollars from it, which made my eyes well with indignant, pointless anger.

Well, not pointless. She’d broken the contract–she couldn’t alter my payment without written agreement. And she wasn’t allowed to dock my pay for any misfortune she received, unless she could prove I’d deliberately shirked my job.

Right there in the parking lot, I took out my copy of the contract, and pressed the check to the surface of the paper. It hissed and sizzled, the paper giving off heat that stung my face like standing over an open, working oven.

The words “contract void due to provider misconduct” appeared in bold red print across every page. 

Satisfied, I returned the pages to the folder, tucked them into my bag, then started the car.

I’d deposit the check, because I’d earned that money. Best to do it quickly. Miriam Lindstrom would very soon be realizing why she should have read her contract.

Misconduct on her part came with a steep price–all the karma she’d shed on me, which I had balanced with my good deeds and suffered through the negative–it would all rebound on her, in a flurry of misfortune.

I wished I could be there to see it happen.

I Hope They Serve Tacos in Heaven

Inspired in part by Terry Pratchett, and his wee free men–though just a small part of their legend.

Image from WikiMedia by T.Tseng

“Isn’t the afterlife wonderful?” Sam asked, craning her head around to peer up at the sky, the scraggly trees wilting in the parking lot, and the pollen-dusted buildings hemming them in.

Tyson blinked. “Huh?”

Sam had seemed normal enough a minute ago. They had a ceramics class together, and had bonded over how finicky the clay extruder was, and sat side-by-side at pottery wheels for weeks. Normal enough that when class had gotten out tonight, and Tyson was hungry, he’d invited her to his favorite taco truck, which was parked down the street.

“I said, isn’t the afterlife wonderful?” Sam repeated, proving that he hadn’t, as he’d hoped, misheard her. “I’ve been dead almost a year now, so it’s been on my mind as the anniversary approaches, you know?”

“You’re dead?” Tyson floundered, still thrown by the conversation’s sudden jerk of the wheel off the road and fast approaching a cliff.

“Of course. Aren’t you? You seemed like an–” she said a word that twisted through his brain, refusing to process. A painful dagger of static in his eardrums.

He winced.

Sam noticed his pained expression. ” Oh, sorry. I see that I was mistaken. You’re from here.” She shrugged, and took another bite of her taco.

Tyson watched her devour two more bites, then returned to his own food. The barbacoa, avocado, and queso fresco confection deserved to be consumed before the taco grew cold.

As soon as he’d tucked the last piece into his happy stomach, he picked up the conversation again, unable to help himself.

“How can you be dead, and living here? With me? And everyone else?”

“Afterlives are complicated,” Sam said with the air of someone who’d explained this many times before. “For space conservation, some people’s lives are someone else’s afterlife. Like your world is mine.”

“But… you’re alive?” Tyson protested. “You’re eating food, and everything.”

“Well, of course. What kind of heaven would it be if you couldn’t eat? Smell all these wonderful scents, and never be able to taste? I wasn’t a bad person, I’m not in hell.” Sam laughed.

“Uh. Right.” Tyson crumpled up the cardboard boat, and threw it at a nearby trash can. 

It skittered down the metal side of the can, and bounced on the asphalt, coming to rest a good foot and a half from its target.

Ears burning with embarrassment, he strode over to the can, scooped up his trash, and deposited it directly in. He glowered down at the black bag-lined cylinder, which was mostly of crumpled napkins and paper containers and, sacreligiously, half-eaten tacos.

He glanced up to see Sam dropping her boat, uncrumpled but properly empty, into the can next to him. 

She smiled. “Don’t worry, I think whoever’s in charge isn’t all that strict, really. I’m sure your afterlife will be a nice one, too.”

“Nicer than here?”

“Maybe,” she shrugged. “This world isn’t too different from mine, really. Except it doesn’t have the–” another painful static word, cut off midsyllable as she remembered. 

Tyson winced anyway. That whatever-it-was hurt.

“Doesn’t have… these dangerous aerial predators,” she corrected. “It’s nice to be outside during the day.”

She drew in a deep breath, and beamed.

Curious, Tyson took a breath, too. The humid air teemed with the scent of delicious tacos and spices, fumes from the truck’s generator, and the traffic from the road bordering the parking lot. 

He coughed. “What do they look like? These flying things?”

“Mmm,” Sam considered, and for a moment, he thought she’d run out of ideas for her strange story. “You don’t have anything like them here. My life… our planet’s atmosphere is thicker, and the air currents are really strong. So lots of animals are fliers–you can travel a good distance, over land or sea. Have to be small and fast, or big and tough, if you want to survive. People used to be small and fast, but we developed a lot like you did–bigger brains means better tools and higher survival rates.”

“Uh huh.” Tyson was impressed at how far Sam was taking this tall tale.

“Just like your bigger brains have some downsides, ours made us too slow. And gradually our wings were more vestigial, like your tails. We could glide, but not really fly distances. And we were slower. Too slow for the–” she caught herself before she said the word again.

“For the… deadly wings. We live underground, mostly. Build into the sides of hills. Travel in subways and tunnels. And luckily, the deadly wings have terrible night vision, so we can go out at night. But carefully, of course.”

“Of course,” Tyson prompted.

“Do you know how many predatory animals you have in your world that eat humans?” Sam asked.

“Um… one?” Tyson suggested.

“Tyson!” Sam’s eyes widened in genuine shock. “You should spend  your time on your phone on sites that are more educational than Grindr. There’s several–big cats, bears, sharks, and alligators, to name a few.”

“Oh, yeah, right.” Tyson scratched his head.

“Don’t worry,” Sam brushed her hands off against her pants. “Like I said, the afterlife is wonderful. I’m stuffed. Do you want to go for a walk?”

Tyson nodded weakly, planning his escape. He’d sit somewhere else in ceramics class next week. Or maybe skip it entirely.

Sam glanced to her left, then strode directly  into the road, and bounced off a car speeding down it. Thrown clear by the impact, she landed in a tangle on the sidewalk.

The car kept driving without pause.

“Ohmigod!” Tyson bolted toward her, just in time to see her stand up, unhurt.

“Whoops! I keep forgetting you drive on the right. So weird.” She shook her head.

“Yeah, weird.” Tyson goggled. “You have a little–” he pointed, hand shaking, at the smudge of oil on her jeans.

“Oh, dear. I hope that comes out.” Sam scrubbed at the smear, spreading it further.

“I’m–I’m sure it will.”

“There’s the spirit,” Sam winked.

Top Ten Tues: Fave Bookmarks

Top Ten Tuesdays, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, feature lists related to all things bookish–characters, authors, titles, and favorites. They’re an excellent way to find new interesting books on a variety of topics, and to find bloggers that love the books you do.

Check out their blog for their top ten and lists by other bloggers!

November 12: Favorite Bookmarks 

I have an impressive bookmark collection, so this is a tough one, but here goes!

Handmade cloth leaf bookmark gives me fall feels year round.
I have several wood inlay bookmarks. So pretty!
Finding neat bookmarks at art fairs is my jam.
I love how this one clips into place, and you can reposition the ribbon. Never lose your bookmark!
Fair trade upcycled sari fabric.
Dang cute.
Another handmade art fair find. Sequins!
Tiny sprout that folds into the book when you close it.
Zipmark. So fun.

Upcycled book spine with pretty bead tassel.

Top Ten Tues: Halloween

Top Ten Tuesdays, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, feature lists related to all things bookish–characters, authors, titles, and favorites. They’re an excellent way to find new interesting books on a variety of topics, and to find bloggers that love the books you do.

Check out their blog for their top ten and lists by other bloggers!

October 29: Halloween Freebie

Top Ten Spooky Elements in Books.

1.Black Cats. Though I’d argue against cats of any color being more or less spooky, this is a common Halloween theme. And black cats are awesome.

Image from WikiMedia by Misko3

2. Cemeteries. Fun things can happen in cemeteries–fights, revelations, magic–you name it.

3. Ghosts. I like ghosts in stories that aren’t necessarily ghost stories. Just casual ghosting about.

Image from WikiMedia by Tuvalkin.

4. Murder. The ultimate spooky event. Plenty of stories start off with a corpse.

5. Resurrection. It can be overdone, but in the right way at the right time, a character coming back from the dead is a great twist.

6. Monsters. There’s so much variety to the things that go bump in the night.

7. Unexplained Happenings. I enjoy a good mysterious noise, or objects moving, or strange sight. I think they’re best if they’re never explained at all.