Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Big Beginnings

I'm a believer in books starting off big in the first chapter. You need to get your reader hooked as early as possible. It doesn't have to be on page one, but before you end that first chapter, you need a big piece of action, or a large chunk of drama. Don't simply set up your character with back story and static action. Readers don't want to be introduced to your character as he or she is going through a normal day (unless a normal day is packed with more action than most people experience in a year, and even then you need to ramp it up). I'm not saying to forgo characterization in chapter one. No, not at all. After all, what better way to see how someone ticks than how they react to danger or other stressful situations? I'm willing to bet you'll find it easier to introduce your main character to your readers that way.

For example, in my novel, Dragon Guard, we meet fifteen year old Ben Phillips as he's walking to school, as he does every weekday. His mind is on his unfinished math homework and how his teacher is going to yell at him in front of the entire class. Pretty mundane so far, so to ramp things up, I have Ben run into a couple of zombies. Not only does the excitement level elevate (Hey, zombies!), but it helps set up the main story while giving the reader more insight into Ben than they would have received had he simply continued on to school, dreading math and wondering how best to not sweat during PE. And, as an added bonus, the reader also sees how Ben's world works. Based on his reaction, zombies and other supernatural things shouldn't exist. This action scene is a much more satisfying way to set up the story than simple exposition.

Sometimes you need to build up to the big bang of your main plot. It might not get there until chapter two, three, or four. (If it happens later than that, you'd better have a ton o' short chapters or it might be time to think about restructuring your story.) So what does this mean for the big beginning? One thing you can do is tease the main plot. You might start with someone other than the main character as the viewpoint character for the first chapter. Some people argue that you must start with your main character, but I'm in the camp of as long as he or she shows up by chapter two or three, you're fine. You might also start your story with a prologue, meaning your main character can still be there for chapter one. There are many anti-prologue sentiments out there, but I believe, as long as you do them right, prologues can be powerful storytelling devices.

If you decide you simply do not want to touch your main plot in chapter one, you have another option for your big beginning: subplots. Your novel is going to have them, so why not use one to hook readers into your story? Even if you want the main plot to unfold slowly, you can't have the story itself start slow, or you will lose bored and frustrated readers. A subplot can work great for a big beginning. Just as if the subplot were your main plot, it needs to set up the main character and setting in an organic way. And, of course, like all subplots, make sure to wrap it up before the end of your story.

What do you think about big beginnings? Do you agree with me that they are necessary, or do you have no problem with stories slowly building up? Do you have any favorite novels that started big, ones that always stick in your mind?

Monday, February 25, 2013

Writing Prompt #126

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm not labeling it this week, so take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun with it!

Your fingernails fall out, but are replaced by retractable claws.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

My #NaNoReMo Update

First off, here's the first post I made about my month of #NaNoReMo (National Novel Reading Month). As you can see from that, I chose to read Edgar Rice Burrough's A Princess of Mars. If I finished that, I had two others I planned to tackle. I've finished A Princess of Mars, though it took longer than I'd hoped (not because it was a hard book to read, get into, stay interested in, or anything like that, but simply because I didn't carve out as much reading time as I should have), so I won't be able to get to both the other books I'd planned. Since it is still February, I will continue on with one of them - The Phantom of the Opera. If I finish it in the next week, great, but if not, I'll continue on with it in March. Two classics that I likely wouldn't have otherwise picked up is a huge bucket of win in my view.

As for A Princess of Mars, I enjoyed it, and highly recommend it. At some point, I'm going to have to continue on with the series, as this one ended on a real cliffhanger. I also want to watch the movie, John Carter, again, as I saw it last summer, well before I'd even planned on reading the book. The only thing that really stuck out in the movie for me was that I was underwhelmed with the special effects, though I did enjoy the story. I honestly don't remember how well it followed the book, so that's why I need to see it again.

As for a review, I did post one on my Goodreads site. You can click to view it here, though I'll post it for those of you who don't like clicking links:

This was a fun read. The look at a Mars that could have been played out like any contemporary science fiction story. John Carter was certainly a hero in this, a step above basically every other character, both physically and morally, but he couldn't simply get whatever he wanted all the time, which made for a better read. It was a neat way to look at this land of Mars through his eyes, which were from Civil War Virgina. Description didn't always rely on images from Earth, but when they did, it flowed well with the story. All in all, even though this book is almost 100 years old, it still holds up, and I recommend it to any science fiction and/or adventure fan. 

That's it for now. I'll post one final update about Phantom of the Opera when I finish it. Hope everyone else who is participating is having a great time with their choice(s)!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Writing Prompt #125

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm labeling it as fantasy this week, but, as always, take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun with it!

An app store lets you download magic spells.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Writing Prompt #124

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm labeling it as science fiction this week, but, as always, take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun with it!

Those toy laser guns at the amusement park souvenir stand aren't toys.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Chapter 3 Part 3: Dragon Guard

Click to read Chapter 3 Part 2

Dragon Guard
Chapter 3
Part 3

When Andi was alone, she said, "Okay, that was weird." When did Mom ever care if she did her homework? She sealed the bacon up with the zip top packaging, placed it back in the fridge, and headed out to find her parents. If she was quiet enough, they'd have no idea she was listening. She'd done it before.

A quick glance around showed them out in the backyard. If the window upstairs in the extra bedroom, which was right above the patio, was open, she'd have no problem hearing the conversation. And luck was on her side. Though Mom didn't look to have worked in here, the window was up. She snuck over as quiet as she could and listened.

"She's too young," her father said. "She's barely over 750 years old. The earliest her mate should come is at 900, and I'd much prefer 1000."

"I know, I know," Mom said. "And it's not just about her. The boy is far too young at 15. He looked like a deer in headlights this morning. But we're not in charge of choosing, no matter how much you believe it to be true. It's fate's decision, and there's nothing we can do to change that."

Dad grunted. "It doesn't matter anyway. She's a teenaged girl. She has a crush. I don't like that, either, but it's not a big deal."

With the tone of her voice, Andi guessed Mom had rolled her eyes. "She's the equivalent of a fifteen year old girl. I'm assuming she's had crushes before, but has she ever brought one up? No. And you can't deny you sensed something in that boy. I felt it, too. Don't be stubborn, admit it."

Her father didn't say anything for a minute, and when he spoke again, it was in a low voice, almost a whisper. "Being bound, married, at 15 might have been fine in the past, but it's not appropriate for this day and age."

"Fair enough, but you know as well as I that dragon laws can't always fit into human society. Do you really think it coincidence that the boy shows up at our doorstep this morning? We haven't been troubled by anything supernatural since Andi was born. His being here means something big is on the horizon, and whatever powers he possesses are there to keep her safe. If you refuse to acknowledge that, you do nothing but needlessly endanger both of their lives."

Andi could almost hear her father's teeth grind. She might have done the same if she wasn't being ultra-careful to stay silent. All of this sounded big, too big. She'd just met Ben. He couldn't be her mate, her husband, or whatever it was they were talking about. Dad was right; they were too young. If danger was coming, what could Ben possibly do about it? But having said all that, why in the world couldn't she get him out of her mind?

"Fine," her father said. "Since you're so big on fate, we'll let it make the next move. If it points to the boy again, we'll give them a minor binding. That will give him enough power to get through this. Whatever is coming will be directed at us, not them."

Her mother let out a frustrated sigh. "I can't argue with you when you're being pigheaded for the sake of it. There's too much to do inside." The sliding glass door opened and closed with exaggerated gentleness.

Andi snuck back to her room so her mom wouldn't catch her eavesdropping. As she went, she heard her father mutter, "Why can't fate ever make any of this easy?"

Chapter 3 Part 2: Dragon Guard

Dragon Guard
Chapter 3
Part 2

"A couple of walking corpses paid us a visit, and Ben was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Poor kid thought they were after him for a minute. Your father pulled him into the house, and I sent him in here while we dispatched them in the hallway."

Andi wrinkled her nose. "I knew I smelled something gross in there."

"Yeah, I'm sure you and your father will gag over it for a few days. It's times like these that I'm glad I don't have your sense of smell."

Andi picked up her bacon slice and continued nibbling. "There doesn't seem to be any disturbance out there, so the neighbors must not have noticed."

"We're guessing whoever sent them put a spell on the neighborhood, imploring everyone to stay inside for a few minutes."

"Who did it?" She finished the first piece of bacon and pulled off a second.

"Don't know. We've stayed out of the supernatural spotlight since you were born, so neither of us can figure it out. Might have been a random attack. Someone lost control of their zombies and they were drawn to our magic. We'll have to wait and see if anything comes of it."

"Why didn't Ben mention any of this when we talked?" Andi asked. "It would have made a pretty big impression on my day, and I know this stuff exists."

"Maybe he convinced himself it didn't happen. Though I don't know how he can believe it was a hallucination after I drove him to school."

"You what? You drove him to school? Jeez, Mother, you really are trying to set me up."

"I swear I'm not. I didn't want him to be late on top of everything else." She paused and gave Andi a piercing stare. "Though I did feel something special about him."

"I did, too." Andi squeezed her eyes shut and shook her head. "No, no, no. I can't feel anything for him. I've purposely avoided this every time I'm at a new school because it can only end in heartbreak."

"Not necessarily," her mom said, almost too low to hear.

"What do you mean? He's going to grow up, and I'm going to look exactly the same."

Her mother stood and returned to the dishwasher. "Eat your snack and think about it. Do you have any idea what I am?"

She started to say, "Of course," but didn't have anything to add after that. She took a sip of soda and concentrated on the bubbles running down her throat. Mom wasn't a dragon, not like her and Dad. But other than that, she never really gave it much thought. Mom aged at the same rate, roughly one dragon year for every fifty human years, but besides her almost superhuman dexterity, she seemed normal.


"I don't know. You're my mom. Other than having a dragon age, you're human."

"I am human," Mom said as she put a few more plates into their new home. "Or at least I was. Now I'm a Dragon Guard, your father's bound mate."

"What does that mean?"

"It means I'm your father's one and only. We share a bond stronger than any other. Only dragons and their guards have it. I always know where he is and what he's feeling. And when he's in his true form, we can communicate without speaking, though you already know that. Plus so much more."

"Wait, what are you saying? You think Ben is this to me?" She jumped out of her chair. "No, he can't be my one true love or any of that sappy Disney princess stuff. I just met him."

"Like I said, I felt something about him this morning, but I mostly ignored it. We never told you any of this because fate waits until the dragon and her guard are in their late teens or early 20s, dragon-year-wise, before introducing them. That way both are physically and mentally able to handle it all. They never meet earlier unless…" Mom's eyes went wide, and this time she did drop a plate, though it was a cheap plastic one that didn't break.

"Unless what?"

Mom took a deep breath and headed out of the kitchen. "Finish up, Andi, and then hit the books. I need to talk to your father."

Chapter 3 Part 1: Dragon Guard

Click here to read Chapter 2 Part 2

Dragon Guard
Chapter 3
Part 1

Andi walked into this new house and yelled out, "I'm home!" even if it didn't feel like home yet.

"In the kitchen," her mom called. "Come in and tell me about your day."

As she breezed through the short entry hall, a strange scent hit her. It was mostly cleaning disinfectant, but something she couldn't place lay underneath it. Something that hadn't been there this morning. Something yucky. It faded as she passed through the living room, which still had boxes stacked against the bare walls. Mom must've tackled other parts of the house today.

She pushed into the kitchen and found her mom pulling plates out of the dishwasher and stacking them in one of the cabinets above the sink. When she saw Andi, Mom stopped and turned towards her.

"How was your first day?"

"Same as any first day, I guess."

"Meet any nice people?"

Andi shrugged, and though she tried her hardest not to, her face flushed. "There was this one guy."

Her mom had started stocking the cabinet again, but that statement froze her. Only her amazing dexterity kept her from dropping a plate. "Doesn't sound like a normal first day to me."

"Whatever. Not like it matters. Even if I liked him and started going out, it wouldn't mean anything. We'll still have to leave in a couple of years."

"What's wrong with having fun until then? Be a teenager."

She wanted to. For some reason, she really liked Ben, even though she didn't know anything about him. Sure, he looked good, with his playfully unkempt brown hair and understated fashion sense of a plain t-shirt and simple jeans that actually fit right, unlike how many boys wore them nowadays. But aside from his looks, there was something different about him, something she'd never noticed in any of the other boys she'd met. She felt it from that first second they locked eyes at break. And what about that shock when she'd touched his arm after lunch? That was definitely a first.

"I guess," she said. "Do we have any venison jerky left?"

"Sorry, your dad polished it off. We'll get more this weekend." Mom turned to the mostly empty fridge. "We do have bacon. I can heat it up, if you'd like."

"That's okay. I like it cold." Andi opened the package, peeled a strip off, and took a bite.

Mom took a seat in one of the chairs opposite her. "So, tell me about this boy. His name wasn't Ben, was it?"

Andi stared at her mom. "How did you know?"

Mom had a hard time hiding a smile. "That poor boy had an interesting morning. I told him to say hi if he saw you."

"Wait. What's going on?"

"We had a couple of, uh, strange visitors this morning, and poor Ben got caught in the middle on his way to school."

Andi got up and crossed to the refrigerator. "Did you buy any soda yet?"

"Wouldn't you rather have milk?"

"Not after I found out my mother's trying to set me up with boys. So what do you mean by strange visitors and him being caught in the middle?" She found a can of generic caffeine-free soda and popped it open.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Dragon Guard Description

Dragons and the undead only exist in fairy tales and video games. Fifteen year-old Ben Phillips knows this as surely as he knows the sun rises in the morning and sets at night. And then he gets attacked by zombies on his way to school. But that’s not the worst thing that’s happened to him lately. He’s also fallen for the new girl in school, Andi Thomas, who turns out to be a 758 year-old dragon in a fifteen year-old girl's body. If that wasn’t enough to make it the worst school year of his life, fate has also decided Ben should be Andi's Dragon Guard, her bound mate with superpowers right out of comic books. And then an ancient evil bent on destroying the world kidnaps Ben's parents. Ben’s had better years. But evil necromancers and over-protective parents aside, Ben’s going to do everything he can, with or without the full powers of Dragon Guard, to do the right thing, not just for Andi, but for the world. 

And still get his math homework done on time.

Chapter 2 Part 2: Dragon Guard

Click to read Chapter 2 Part 1

Dragon Guard
Chapter 2
Part 2

Ben walked from his normal lunch spot to fifth period PE, a smile on his lips. His friends had resumed their teasing from break, but it had been good-natured, so he didn't mind. And each got a turn in getting picked on about a girl, so it was all fair. He supposed he liked Melissa well enough, and they'd probably be going out again, as soon as she pushed the topic enough for him to ask her. But there was something about the new girl. He'd never felt this way about Melissa, and he hadn't even talked to Andi yet. She'd been in his thoughts nonstop since break. He'd hardly even thought about the zombies.

Whoa! He stopped in his tracks. What was stranger? The fact that he'd seen what he assumed were real zombies, or that a few hours later it hardly phased him? Shouldn't something like that consume his thoughts? Give him walking nightmares? But it didn't bother him at all.

As if on cue, he looked to his left and saw Andi by herself at a drinking fountain. It was the perfect opportunity. With the distraction of everyone heading to class, no one would notice him talking to her. And her mom did tell him to say hi, right?

Who was he kidding? He couldn't do that. What would he say? Yes, he'd dated Melissa last year, but the guys were right. If she hadn't initiated it all, basically insisted, they'd have never gone out. And they'd been flirting on and off since elementary school. How would he start something with a girl he didn't even know?

She finished her drink and turned towards him. He should go, continue on to the locker room for PE, but his feet wouldn't move. What was it about this girl? He needed to at least look somewhere else so she didn't think he was some creepy stalker.

Too late. Her eyes caught his, and she smiled, ducked her head, and looked up again. C'mon, do it. There would never be a better opportunity. He'd faced zombies that morning. This whole day was probably a dream anyway, right? Go up to her. Say hi.

His legs obeyed even as him mind screamed, "No!" What was he doing? He couldn't think of anything to say. Wasn't his first remark supposed to be witty or funny or something? This could only end with him looking dumb.

Thankfully, or maybe unfortunately, she didn't run away. Her smile brightened and her cheeks blushed, but she held eye contact. "Hi," he said when he was close enough. "My name's Ben." Somehow his voice came out comprehensible.

"Hi, I'm Andi. Well, really Alexandria, but I go by Andi."

"Cool. First day, huh?" What? Lead with that? Stupid-stupid-stupid.

"Yeah. Seems like a good school. People have been really great so far."

"Nice. Where are you off to next?" Better.

"Algebra with Mr. Simms. Do you have him?"

"Yeah. First period. Always do your homework and you'll be fine."

"You can pretty much say that for any class, though, right?" she said with a laugh.

"He gets mean when you don't do it. Way more than other teachers. I'm still stinging from this morning."

"But I bet it motivates you to finish your assignments for the rest of the week." A half-smile lingered on her lips.

"Yeah, you're probably right."

"So there you go." She gave him a playful nudge on the arm, and a spark shot between them. Not like a static electricity shock, but something deeper, something he couldn't explain. She felt it, too, because her eyes went wide.

"Can I eat lunch with you tomorrow?" he asked, the question coming out all at once. "I mean, unless you already have someone to sit with. Or something." Not only did he have no clue where that came from, but it sounded way too lame for her to accept.

"Yeah, that sounds great."

Wait, had he heard her right? She said yes? Yeah, she did. "Meet me here and we'll pick a spot." Did she notice he had a hard time getting it out without hyperventilating?

Her slight smile said yes, but instead of commenting, she said, "Sounds good. I'll be here."


"We better get to class. You already skipped homework today, so you probably don't want to get a tardy, too."

"I'll be fine. I have PE. But you shouldn't be late to Simms's class. I'll see you tomorrow, if not later today."

"Sounds great. Thanks for everything."

She smiled, waved, and headed towards the math building. He watched for a second, and then turned towards the locker rooms. As he did, he gave a start. Across the way stood Melissa, dressed head to toe in her signature pink, staring at him with a big frown on her face. He contemplated waving, but that might make things worse. Instead he ducked his head and pretended he hadn't seen her. It wouldn't work, but at least it would keep him out of a confrontation for the moment. As he walked into the locker room, it came to him that he didn't care if he smoothed things over with Melissa. There was something special about Andi Thomas.

Chapter 2 Part 1: Dragon Guard

Click here to read Chapter 1 Part 3

Dragon Guard
Chapter 2
Part 1

"So you played all night instead of doing homework for Simms's class?" Randy said, laughing.

"Man," Jay said. "Even if you found good groups, it couldn't make up for the wrath of Old Man Simms."

"I didn't mean to," Ben said. "Every group I joined couldn't lose. I kept saying I was going to get to my homework, but all of the sudden it was after eleven."

"You should have seen it," Vince said. "Simms was in fine form. Especially since Ben was the only one who didn't finish."

His three friends laughed while Ben polished off the bag of potato chips he brought for a snack. "Glad you guys are enjoying this. It was a pretty crappy morning." He sighed. And they didn't know the half of it. In a way, he didn't mind the tongue lashing Old Man Simms gave him. It felt normal.

Jay punched Ben's arm. "Melissa says hi, by the way."

"When are you going to ask her out again?" Randy said. "She's only going to keep bugging us until you do."

Ben was about to say something about finding the right time when she caught his eye. Not Melissa, but the new girl, Mrs. Thomas's daughter. What was her name? Angie? Annie? Andi? Yes, Andi. As Mrs. Thomas said, there was no doubt who her parents were. She had long dark hair, the color of her father's, the petite, athletic frame and good looks of her mother, and…

She looked up at him, and her bright blue eyes pierced through him, like her father's. But unlike his stare, which brought intimidation, hers filled him with a sense of peace and happiness. It was unlike anything he'd ever felt before. She smiled, and he tried to smile back, hoped he did. He didn't dare look down because he was afraid he'd find himself floating a few inches off the ground.

His buddies burst out laughing.

"What?" he said, breaking eye contact. When he glanced back, she was already on her way in the opposite direction.

"Nothing," Vince said. "It was just perfect timing. We're talking about Melissa, and you're making eyes at the new girl."

"Yeah," Randy said. "That chick's pretty hot. You should've said hi, Benny."

"I don't know…"

"Sure, just like he did with Melissa last year," Jay said. "Oh, wait, that never happened. She had to finally make him ask her out."

Randy took a turn punching him in the arm. Like Jay's punch, it didn't hurt. Luckily, Ben's friends were all built like him, more for video games than physical activity. "For a guy with no game, you sure are a chick magnet."


Before he had to endure any more, the bell rang, ending break and signaling the start of third period. The guys all said bye and headed for class. Ben hurried to Language Arts, hopeful this would be the one he shared with Andi Thomas.

Chapter 1 Part 3: Dragon Guard

Click here to read Chapter 1 Part 2

Dragon Guard
Part 3

The front door thudded open, and Ben couldn't stand it. He had to see what was going on. He snuck into the living room and peeked around the corner to the entry hall. The two zombies stumbled in through the open door, and the man, Lee, moved too fast for Ben to see. The first zombie fell, decapitated. The woman leapt at the second, two swords in her hands. A few quick swipes and it dropped headless next to the first on the tile floor. Lee slammed the door shut and the lady headed back towards Ben, who retreated to the kitchen.

"Don't see that sort of stuff everyday, do you?" the woman said as she walked in.

Did she know he'd been watching, or had she meant zombies in general? His "No," wasn't a lie either way.

"Sorry you had to get mixed up in that. Let me get you to school. I wouldn't want you to be late on top of everything else."

Ben nodded, not trusting his voice enough even to mutter an "Okay," and followed her though a side door in the kitchen which led to the garage. School wasn't too far away, just a couple more blocks. Normally he'd have turned down a ride, but today he didn't want to risk running into any more zombies. Or worse, if there was such a thing.

A sporty red four-door and a big blue SUV sat parked in the garage. She unlocked the four-door, and he climbed in the passenger seat. As she backed out, she started talking as if nothing weird had just happened.

"You can probably tell by the mess in there that we just moved in. Today's our daughter's first day of school. She'd usually be leaving by the time you showed up, but she wanted to get there early to get a lay of the land, so to speak. We picked up her schedule on Friday, but didn't have a chance to explore. What grade are you in?"


"Wonderful! A sophomore. So is my daughter, Alexandria. And I'm sorry, sweetie, I forgot to ask your name."

"Ben. Ben Phillips."

"So nice to meet you, Ben, though I wish it'd been under better circumstances. I'm Cassandra Thomas, and you met my husband, Leon. Maybe you'll meet Andi today."

"Yeah." He couldn't think of anything to add to that.

Like most mornings, there was a huge line getting into the parking lot, so he had Cassandra, Mrs. Thomas he should probably call her, stop across the street. Before he got out, she put a hand on his arm. "Ben, it might be best for all involved if you chose not to mention what you saw this morning."

Somehow he managed to smile. "I don't think anyone would believe me anyway."

"No, probably not," she said with a chuckle. "And if you see Andi, don't be afraid to go up to her and say hi. I'm sure she could use a friend today. You'll know her when you see her. She looks quite a bit like me except for her eyes and her hair color. Those she got from her father."

Ben said he would and thanked her for the ride, and she gave a wave as she drove off. He sighed and headed for the crosswalk. At least all of that had taken his mind off his unfinished math homework.

Chapter 1 Part 2: Dragon Guard

Dragon Guard
Chapter 1
Part 2

He turned to knock on the door but stopped himself. What right did he have to bring trouble to these nice people? Assuming they were nice, anyway. Maybe he'd be in worse shape if he got their attention. The zombies might be the lesser of two evils. And what if they were in league with the zombies? Not that he believed that, but all kinds of horrible scenarios ran though his mind. Before he made a decision, the door opened and a big hand grabbed his upper arm, dragging him inside.

"Should have run, boy. They weren't after you."

Ben turned and looked at the man. He was huge, standing at least six and a half feet tall and built like a truck, as Ben's dad liked to say. He had short dark hair and a thick mustache, but the thing that stood out most, which both scared and comforted him, was the man's piercing dark blue eyes. It was as if they saw right through Ben's skull and directly into his soul.

Ben gave a start and looked away. A woman also stood there, probably the guy's wife. The two appeared to be in their mid-30s, about the same age his parents. She was much shorter than the hulking man, around five and a half feet tall. She was pretty, and it helped that her eyes were plain green, not so noticeable as her husband's. Her hair was a stylish short blonde, dropping down just below her jaw line. He knew it was stylish because it looked similar to how his mom often appeared after a trip to the salon, and she always kept up on the latest trends.

"No need to scare him, Lee," the woman said. "I'm sure he's already freaked out of his mind."

The man, Lee, let go of Ben, who backed away. Would his shoulders have bruises from the grip? He looked at the adults. "What's going on?"

"Nothing to concern yourself with, sweetie," the woman said. "Why don't you head into the kitchen for a minute? There are some granola bars on the counter if you're hungry. I'll drive you to school in a few moments so you're not late. I assume you go to Valley Citrus?"

He nodded and followed her point out of the entry hall and to the left. He didn't know these people, so why should he trust them? But for some reason, he did. The floor plan wasn't much different from his own house and others in the neighborhood. The entryway opened into a living room, and a door to the left led to the kitchen. Were all the houses in the area just copies of each other?

He could tell these people hadn't been here very long. The living room had a half-finished feel to it. The furniture and television and other big stuff were set up, but the walls were bare, and there were a few boxes in the corner with family photos and other decorations peeking out. Everything had a new smell that he figured was from carpet cleaners. He remembered the scent from when Grandma Phillips passed a couple of years back. His parents, along with his aunts and uncles, cleaned her house top to bottom in order to sell it.

The kitchen held more clutter. Dishes, cooking utensils, and other things lay in a few of the open boxes. If he poked through the cupboards, pantry, and refrigerator, he knew he wouldn't find much. No breakfast odor lingered. The granola bars were indeed on the counter, but even if he hadn't already eaten, he wouldn't have the appetite for one now.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Cover for Dragon Guard

Return to the Dragon Guard Hub

Dragon Guard Hub

Dragon Guard is available in paperback:
Buy it at Lulu

Dragon Guard is also available as an e-book:
Buy it at Amazon
Buy it at Amazon UK

Large Cover Image of Dragon Guard:
Cover Image

Description of Dragon Guard:

Interview about Dragon Guard:
Crazy/Awkward Interview

Links to Sample Chapters:
Chapter One Part One
Chapter One Part Two
Chapter One Part Three
Chapter Two Part One
Chapter Two Part Two
Chapter Three Part One
Chapter Three Part Two
Chapter Three Part Three
Chapter Four Part One
Chapter Four Part Two
Chapter Four Part Three

Chapter 1 Part 1: Dragon Guard

Dragon Guard
Chapter 1 Part 1

Ben Phillips dragged his feet and hated the heft of his backpack. Not that it was heavy, but it reminded him that his math homework wasn't in there. He'd planned to do it last night, but made the mistake of turning on his Xbox before cracking the books. Neither Mom nor Dad would walk in on him, so his only enemy was willpower, which he thought he could beat. He kept getting in better and better battle groups, and before he knew it, it was after eleven. Even with their constant bickering, Mom and Dad would notice him still up that late on a school night. Probably.

Okay, so maybe playing too many video games instead of doing homework wasn't that rare of an occurrence. It wouldn't be such a big deal if it wasn't Mr. Simms. The math teacher notoriously yelled at students who didn't finish their assignments. Ben was pretty good about getting math homework done as he'd been on the receiving end of the browbeating before, and it wasn't fun. Since today was Monday, it would be worse. Sure, he had all weekend to finish, but he also had other classes. Why didn't teachers get this?

Something buzzed on the back of his neck. It was a prickly feeling, like when he woke his foot up after it fell asleep, that feeling of a thousand tiny needles sticking him. His hand flew up there, but nothing sat on his neck. He looked around and found himself in front of that house that sold a few weeks back. He still hadn't seen who moved in. Whoever it was, they certainly didn't come out very often.

Come to think of it, the whole neighborhood was quiet this morning. Usually there were people leaving for work, walking their dogs, or simply out to get their morning paper. But this morning? Nothing.

The prickly sensation hit harder, moving up his head and down his back. Movement caught his eye at the sidewalk by the property boundary. He let out a yell and stepped back. His foot fell on the edge of the grass and sidewalk, and he tumbled onto his butt. Instead of pushing back up, he turned and scurried on all fours up the lawn towards the porch. There was no way he saw what he thought he did.

Ben bolted up to the front door and spun to look, sure his imagination had gotten the best of him. It was a holdover in his mind from the zombie mode in Warfare Zone, the first-person shooter he'd been playing last night. But instead of an empty lawn, there were two people lumbering towards him. No, not people, not really. They were walking corpses, zombies. Had to be. Their skin was a pale mixture of blue and green, and open sores littered every bit of exposed surface. Their tattered dress shirts and pants wore stains of dirt and who knew what else. Both of their jaws moved up and down as if they were trying to speak. Or, more likely, ready to chew up anything that got in their way.

If he ran quick enough, he could skirt past them. These looked to be the classic slow-moving zombies, not the super fast ones from some of the more recent horror flicks. But weren't they, regardless of speed, relentless? If they really were after him, they wouldn't give up, no matter where he ran, until they caught him.

Hysterical giggles threatened to overwhelm him. Here he was, trying to sort this out as if it were science, not fiction. But, then again, there were two creatures he could only think of as zombies coming right at him. How much more real could this get?

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Monday, February 4, 2013

Writing Prompt #123

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm not labeling it this week, so take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun with it!

Your imagination runs wild - everything you imagine comes true.