circus

With The Greatest of Ease - Flash Fiction

It's been a while since I played with flash fiction challenges. However, this story practically begged me to tell it. You see, last Monday I was on Facebook and someone posted the formula for your steampunk name. It is as follows:Lord/Lady + The name of the main character in the last video game you played + the kind of tea you last drank + your favorite weapon I was christened Lady Valkyrie Chai Molotov. And I have to say I adore this name. It sounds like the heroine from bad 30s pulp serials. I decided I wanted to do something to that effect with said name. THEN Chuck Wendig posted his weekly flash challenge. This time we penmonkeys are to go here and generate a random crime-fighting duo. Pick your favorite, write it in 1000 words or less, post and have a drink. I realized that this was the perfect time to play with Valkyrie Molotov's character.

What did the random generator come up with for me? Several things. Here's the one that I loved most:

"He's a superhumanly strong zombie matador in drag. She's a cynical cigar-chomping bounty hunter who believes she is the reincarnation of an ancient Egyptian Queen. They fight crime!"

In playing with the ideas for this flash piece, I've come to see that I want to do much more with her, Greyson and this idea. Containing her to 1000 words is very difficult and I think this is just too fun. I've decided to turn this into a serial story. Each will be a flash piece (rough draft, 1000 words or less), but they will be a continuing story.

Cheating? Yes. But guess what? I'm the author. I outrank the rules.

Anyway, here's the first in the Valkyrie Molotov serials. I hope you enjoy it.

With the Greatest of Ease by Jamie Wyman

Greyson snapped his feather-fan shut and crossed his arms over the bodice of his gown.  “Well done, Valkyrie,” he sneered. “Once again your tracking prowess has led us straight to the den of evil.”

Teeth tight around her cigar, Valkyrie snarled, “Shut up, rotter. Mobius is here. I can feel it.”

“That’s what you said last month in…Majorca was it? And before that it was a shabby little town in the Italian Alps.”

“My instincts took me there. Just as they’ve led us here.”

“Well, could your instincts please take us to Paris sometime?” Greyson worried at his bustle. “I’m thinking something in an emerald green silk would look fabulous with my complexion.”

Valkyrie spat into the straw beneath her boots. “And here I thought you wouldn’t be caught dead in green.”

“Seasons change, Val. Besides, I’m caught dead in everything.”

She didn’t look at him but sensed the grin on his face and imagined the wink of his long lashes. Valkyrie Molotov had no glances to spare for Greyson when the bounty was so close.

“He’s here,” she growled.

“But where, oh wise one?”

She’d been hot on his trail from London south to the peaks of Gibraltar. They’d played a vicious game of hopscotch across the islands of the Mediterranean, danced up into the Continent proper. But Vlakyrie had always been a step behind. Now, though, she’d caught up to him. No more chasing a ghost. No more dancing with shadows. Her white whale swam in this sea of rubes and circus performers.

However unlikely it might be, this place reeked of Victor Mobius’s greasy presence.  The slime of his shadow coated everything: the muddy earth, the pennants snapping in the wind and cars of the train snoozing on the rails. Valkyrie let her eyes sweep over the tattered tents, their squat forms reminding her of mushrooms. Somewhere in that fungal forest lurked a creature more deadly than the most toxic of spores.

Valkyrie closed her eyes, listening. Barkers crowed of bearded women and sword-swallowing men. Games jangled in a cacophony, dissonant with the music of a calliope. As the crowd milled about, they created their own music of rustles, bustles, ohs and ahs. She had to dig down beneath the din of the circus and find the signature drag-thump of Mobius’s awkward gait, the metallic clicking of his clockwork leg and the jingle of his ornate pocket watch.

“Bast,” she cursed under her breath.  “Come on, Greyson. Let’s find the bastard before Mobius has a chance to get up to mischief. And keep your head down,” she added. “Wouldn’t want someone to add you to the freak show.”

Valkyrie barged into the crowd, her broad shoulders cutting a swath through humanity as she followed her instincts. The carousel. Was it spinning a little too fast? Over to the menagerie. Would he cause the elephants to stampede? As a child passed nearby with penny candy, Valkyrie wondered if the fiendish doctor would poison the lemonade.

As if he heard her thoughts,  Greyson bent and whispered into her ear. “He’ll be where he can cause the most damage.”

From the largest of the squat tents, a brass band blazed a fanfare. The crowd’s current shifted to flow under the big top. Valkyrie eyed the glowing portal ahead of them. The flickering lights within the tent showed the hunter pictures, strange silhouettes of too-large men and gargantuan creatures. Something called to her bones. Perhaps the gods of old whispered to her. She needed no clearer sign than the dancing shadows to know…

Valkyrie puffed once more on her cigar before throwing it to the ground and stamping it dead with the heel of her boot. “Finally.”

She led the zombie out of the sea of people and into the dark recesses of the lot. The stink of greasepaint, manure and grain alcohol grew thick as they edged around the rear of the main tent.  Valkyrie slipped in, her gaze alighting up to the center of the big top. Squinting, she could just make out something strapped to the king pole. Something all too familiar. The phantom scent of a charred village outside of Turin filled her nostrils.

“There,” she said.

Greyson gasped with understanding. “He’ll bring down the whole tent.”

“And burn everyone inside,” Valkyrie confirmed.

Valkyrie wrenched off her leather coat and thrust it into the zombie’s arms.  Twisting her braid and knotting it at the base of her neck she barked, “Find him! I’ll get up there and see if I can disarm whatever he’s cooked up this time.”

“Hurry.”

“Isis, grant me your wings!” Vakyrie breathed.

And then she was off, scaling rope ladders and shinnying up the poles. She climbed higher until the audience was little more than a blur below.  At the center of the big top, she examined the glass canisters secured there. Amber fluid bubbled and gurgled inside while watch parts ticked a wicked rhythm. She had no idea how much time she had, or what precisely would happen when those minutes expired. Experience warned her, however, that it would be catastrophic if she failed to stop Mobius’s plot.

“My dear friend,” sang an unctuous voice.

Her blood simmered. “Mobius.”

Join us next time for the continuing story of Valkyrie Molotov.

Brain Stew

This is a potpourri of random thoughts that I've had recently. They're too long for tweets, but too short for their own posts, so you get mental ramblings. Dive on in the stream of consciousness, kids! The water's warm!

Looks like I am now officially a Denver Broncos fan. Don't get me wrong, I'll still be pulling for my hometown boys in Indy, but with Manning joining the Mile High club, I'm going to be sporting some orange with my blue.

So, I told iTunes to run and play the other day and shuffle came up with a goodie. (Well, several, but this entry is about one in particular.) The song was Electric Head by Rob Zombie. Now, I've mentioned Sin Aesthesia before on this blog. It's the performance troupe that I co-founded. For one of our shows, we used an edited version of this song as our opener. The show was in 2008. We had a very limited budget, handmade/thrift store costumes and a rickety stage. And yet, when I hear that song, I see us as we were meant to be. Colors so vibrant you can taste them. Fierce dancers with swishing skirts and jingling belts. Shadows flickering from fire poi. My own little circus come to life. Strobe lights, absinthe addicts, circus freaks. Insanity and beauty fused together in a high speed collision. I see it all so vividly in my head and wish it could have been. I wish you could see it. I wish so badly that you could experience the way it is in my mind.  That's part of why I write. But there are things you'll never know and I'm alone with those visions.

I saw a pink Smart Car today. These things already look like toys, but when you paint one pink it looks like it should be pulling into Greenpeace Barbie's Malibu Dream Yurt. Speaking of girly things, today someone on Facebook posted a picture of a dress so stunning, so me, that I cannot stop staring at it. I have all sorts of fantasies. One where I'm on the red carpet at the Oscars, celebrating my nomination (and eventual win) of Best Adapted Screenplay. In another I'm just spinning endlessly through a field of daisies. Barefoot of course. Oh, I want this dress.

Circus Maximus

Today was the day! The family and I set out to see the Greatest Show On Earth!

Now, you probably know that I am an avid circus buff. When I was a kid, the circus was one of my favorite things. Ever. I remember keeping my first program for decades. The centerfold was a picture of that year's graduating class from Ringling's Clown College. I looked at that picture a lot and dreamed of a world where I was a pink-haired buffoon bringing joy to millions, travelling all over the country with the Big Show. Some of my most magical memories are from dark arenas, flashlights spinning madly as children of all ages scream into the night because they are astounded by three rings of entertainment. Flying trapeze! Gunther Gabel Williams taming the big cats, even draping one over his shoulders! Human cannonballs, jugglers, clowns... all of it. The smell of the arena, the sound of a brass band... the circus is one of my absolute favorite settings of all time. Many of my dreams take place in a musky tent in the middle of a dusty town.  So... getting to take my five year old daughter to her first circus? Priceless.

Rear tire lost its tread. We limped to my mom's place and arranged alternate means to get to the circus. (After the show, we got all four tires replaced on the car and all is well.)But first, our day started off more like Serenity. You know that opening scene where Mal is all "did the primary bumper panel just fall off my ship?" and Wash is all, "this could get interesting?" Yeah (click that link and watch it if you don't know what I'm talking about)... well, Sean and I were in the car and we had a bit of a moment. In the role of Mal? Your beloved Wahine (me). Playing Wash (even wearing the obligatory Hawaiian shirt) was my husband. So, for the past 6 years, Sean has done most of the driving of my car. I'm usually just the captain while he pilots. It's my boat, he gets to drive. In that time, he's put a few holes in my ship, but my mister and my car have held together. As of late, he says that he's heard a knocking and we'd planned to do car work this weekend. Flash to us on the I-10 toward the circus when this knocking becomes an outright shuddering. Then, there's a loud thud, a smash of something against metal and the back wheels got loose for a moment. But, no body flies like my mister...he righted the car without incident and pulled over to the shoulder to assess the damage.

Now, the show....the lights went down at US Airways Center and flashlights and glow-in-the-dark scimitars came to life. Drums rolled and soon, the arena floor was home to a parade of sequins, brightly colored stilt-walkers and running liberty horses. Elephants lumbered in trunk-to-tail. It's hard to tell which was more stunning, the glittering costumes or the light in my daughter's eyes.

I started crying.

I admit it. I'm a dork. I cried. I have such warm, fond memories of the circus, that getting to share them with my daughter was epic. It was magical in a whole new way. THIS is what makes being a parent so amazing. Sharing experiences with your children that are new to them...remembering what it's like to live in wonder.

Throughout the show, I found myself lamenting that this is not the same show I saw in the '80s. It lacked the spectacle, the pomp...but at the same time, I was under the spell of the circus. The singular charm of the center ring. My kiddo squealed and laughed and screamed and marveled at the whole thing. She loved it.

And she fell asleep during the second half of the show.

*grin* That's part of it, too, isn't it? That kind of safety and innocence. While ponderous pachyderms perched perilously on their plinths, my little girl slept. I wonder what she dreamed of.

We got home safely. New memories. Laughter. And a souvenir program. Sadly, there's no centerfold of clowns like mine had. But this one is just as magical to her as mine was to me. And that's something. Dinner and a Mythbusters mini-marathon have punctuated an adventurous day. An adventurous week!

Tomorrow, we'll rest.

Right?

 

Live! From the Center Ring!

Ladies and gentles, direct your attention to the center ring if you would please where our very one Wahine, the Illustrious Blue, will entertain you--no, astound you!--with her tales of daring do. Okay, so maybe I'm a little punchy this evening. The past few days have been a Convergence of All Things. This happens every so often. Everyone we know has something going on... on the same day. On opposite ends of town. Add to that one stressed out me and you've got someone who's hanging onto sanity by a tenuous thread of spider silk. And that is when running off to join the circus sounds great. Uh-oh... Ringling is coming to town this week.

No really, they are. And I'm sooooo going. Okay, I'm not going to run away to do something like play with fire all day or swing from the flying trapeze. But I will be taking my daughter to her first circus. *bouncy mom* I'm so freaking stoked. I LOVE the circus. Hell, I love circus history. I love carnies. I love it all. It's one of my favorite settings to write and researching the tradition is something of a hobby of mine. So, getting to take K to see the Big Show for the first time makes me freaking ecstatic.

Know what else makes me happy? My Life. Meet me after the jump and I'll give you a few reasons why.

First of all...Friday night. After a pretty stressful week, I got a surprise email from my mom demanding some time with her granddaughter. As it happened, we needed a sitter for a gaming session. Oh look! Serendipity! So, Friday I got to take out some of my aggression on helpless critters under the guise of a Warforged Warden named Six who wields an executioner's axe (brutal 2). (This is Dungeons and Dragons 4th ed for those of you who are going, "huh?") Sitting around a table at the house of friends...gaming...laying waste to evil doers...eating good food...petting the cats of said friends... yeah, it's a good way to spend the evening. Also a great way to let off some steam and find balance. Six reached level 4 and gets to go shopping for new magical goodies to make her even more formidable. Fear my squeaky wrath, ye villains of the Living Forgotten Realms. I will own you. And kill you. A lot.

Mom, in all her awesomeness, offered to keep K for an overnight, so Saturday morning, Sean and I went to pick up the girl and go house shopping. I have to brag about my kid for a moment. For a 5 year old, house hunting can be just about as interesting as a root canal, but K took it in stride. She is awesome. Her favorite part was testing the acoustics of each house. Being empty and mostly tiled, a good portion of the houses were excellent echo chambers. Always important to test such things. Hee...she loved one of the houses we checked out. It had a Cupboard Under The Stairs! Okay, so it was a closet. But in the back of this closet, was a little hidey hole with a light in it. Perfect for a small person to go crawl in with a book. She spent a lot of time in there and loves the idea of having her own little nook. (Alas, we're not likely to make an offer on that house.)

There is one house we looked at that Sean gave a solid A- grade. I am doing my damnedest not to fall in love with it. We've only started looking and we've still got a lease here... falling in love with a house on the first trip out shopping... yeah. Bad idea.

But yeah. Six houses... one of which smelled of old people. *shudder* We had fun. We narrowed down what we want. And we took a lunch break at Chino Bandito. Hells to the yeah. (If you live in Phoenix and haven't been to Chino, you must go. if you don't live in Arizona...you have to come here and go there. That's all.) So, after speeding back home to change clothes, we loaded up in the car again to take K to her gymnastics class. Sean and I went to dinner with friends who were celebrating their 18 year old daughter's last weekend at home until after Basic Training. Laughter...merriment... a bit of good Reisling. Yeah. Saturday rocked.

And today... Father's day. More awesome kiddo time. Some vegging out with Lego Harry Potter and many smiles shared with the husband.

I'm sitting here and admiring this little life of mine. For as crazy as I felt last week, tonight I am asking, "Can this get any better?"

Yup. The circus is coming to town! (And the husband brought home Thunderstone! *maniacal geek laughter*)

Hope you've all had a great weekend...especially all of the fathers/grandfathers/stepfathers/father-figures out there who make a difference in the life of a child just by being in the room.

Shine on, y'all.

Blog Gumbo

So, looking at the news buzzing around right now, I realize that I have some opinions on a few things. This post will be random, possibly offensive and may topic jump. (I have a pounding headache and am going crazy at the moment, but more on that later)... so sit back, grab some chai and join me in a trip through my thoughts.

1) Pottermore. Let's forget for just a moment that I haven't seen Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Part 1 yet. (I have a kid. This makes getting to movies difficult sometimes. Stop looking at me like that. No, I will not turn in my Harry Potter Fan card. Shut up!) The trailers for the last installment make me squee. The past couple of weeks I've been playing the Lego Harry Potter game. I even tried to start reading Sorcerer's Stone to K, but she's not interested yet. (She's 5, we forgive her and hope this is just a phase.) But... today... the big buzz is about Pottermore. What, you ask, is Pottermore? Well, it's a teaser site. Pink background, 2 owls and a single word (pottermore) hovering over JK Rowling's signature.

This gets a quirk of the eyebrow. O rly? I say. Click on one of the owls and you're taken to JKR's youtube channel. There you will find a clock counting down to some major announcement.  Merlin's beard, what could it be?! More from the Potterverse? (Seriously, you don't write one of the biggest franchises ever centered around a character named Potter and THEN start a new project with the same name and NOT include that character. Bad form and highly sneaky. And mean.) So my fangirl heart palpitates at the idea that we might get what I've wanted for years. Prequels! I want to see what Moony, Padfoot and Prongs were up to back in their day. Oh! Or maybe we can see some of Fred & George's exploits before Harry gets to Hogwarts. Will we see what happens after the epilogue of Deathly Hallows? Gah! I'm already going nuts for the final movie(s), now she does this? Shrewd woman.

So what do you think? Do you think it's not a new book series at all but some media tie-in to boost move #7? What do you hope it is? Geek with me on this one.

2) House Hunting. Don't I wish we were hunting THAT House. Yes, all I would have to do is force myself to look at Fox. But, no... not looking for Hugh Laurie (call me). So, Sean and I have been together for almost 7 years at this point. We've got a 5 year old...we got married last year...and now we're talking about getting a house. Like seriously talking about it. I spoke with a mortgage broker this week to see what we can afford...we've been looking at listings for houses and this weekend we are going to look at some of them . All I can think is, "when the hell did I become a grown up?" Yeah, I know that sounds weird coming from a mom...but really...when did that happen? And in the past, Sean and I have talked about getting a house, but it was talk. We knew at the time we didn't have the cash to do it... it was something for the future and sometimes just something to dream about. Now, it's actually happening. We're serious about it and every day something happens to push that forward one more step. Our lease in this house is up in January. Sure, we're looking early, but Sean and I don't want to do this last minute. (When we moved into the place we're in now, we had a month to pack and move out of our apartment...during Christmas. Yeah. Not again.)

So when did I become a grown up? I still don't feel like one. I just feel like a kid with more responsibilities. I still play with my imaginary friends and I can still beat people at Candyland. I don't want to grow up. Don't you lose part of your soul when you do that? Nope. Not me. I'm not growing up. I flat out refuse. Getting older is inevitable. Acting responsibly is preferred. But being a grown up? No. *blows a raspberry*

So yeah, please wish us luck on this as it's daunting and exciting all the same.

3) Weiner. *sigh* I really do wish that politicians people would just learn to be smart about shit. Taking pictures of your cock and posting them online when you're in a sensitive job position? Yeah, dumbass. However, I think resignation was the wrong way to go. Sure, he's in therapy. (And who wouldn't need physical therapy if they had to walk around constantly leaning to the left like that?) But, does this really effect his ability to stick it to the GOP? Does his propensity for finding alone time in the gym to take junk shots interfere with his political views? I'm sure that someone out there will say that this is outrageous. "We can't have immoral people in office!"

*blink*

What planet are you on? If I wanted a moral politician in office I'd move to the country where I can also have a unicorn ranch and where rivers run freely with decaf chai latte. Where dark chocolate and money grow on trees. We don't live there. Moral politicians? Don't they live at the North Pole with Santa and the Easter Bunny?

Point is, Weiner is a voice for good and now, because people on both sides of the aisle are still puritanical hypocrites, we have lost that voice. Did he fuck up? Absolutely. But who hasn't? Scandals come out every week about someone in government. For one thing, this guy had to work twice as hard to get where he is because with a name like "weiner" you're already starting in the back. Furthermore...why do I care if someone posted pictures of his junk online? Jon Kyl is a flat out liar and no one seems to give a shit. If we take a picture of 3% of his junk and post it (saying it's 90% of course) will that make you yell to get him to resign? Pretty please with chai on top?

4) Michele Bachmann. Seriously, can the woman EVER look at a camera? Must she always look off to the side? Dear Buddha, I want a plastic rocket, a pony and for her to not come near the White House.

5) GIVE ME THE BOOK! And while we're talking about teasers... editor Anne Sowards posted a picture of fresh copies of Jim Butcher's newest book GHOST STORY. This is the next book in the Harry Dresden series and isn't out until late next month. I want this book and I want it now. No, I won't go read the snippets online. Why would I do that? I don't want spoilers and I want to enjoy it all at once. In my hands. I want to be able to curse the name Jim Butcher and slam a book shut. Clicking to close a browser just doesn't have the same umph behind it. Along those same lines... Gail Carriger's next book in the Parasol Protectorate comes out in a few weeks. I will have HEARTLESS, oh yes I will.

6) My Book. As for my own writings...I will be starting preliminary outlines for Eli's story. Also, I'm trying to nail down a plot for the zombie sequel. In that case, I have too many ideas for future books and need to sort out what should come next and how to dole out information to get to my end result.

I have to say thank you. The support from you guys these past few weeks has been immense and I can't begin to repay that. The debacle with my now-former-agent actually improved things in my career. Right now, I'm querying again and have some interest in the book. We'll see what happens. Also, thank you all so much for your support on Eli's story. So many of you enjoyed just that snippet that I feel like he has a safe place to tell his story. You are all awesome.

So yeah... that's life around here. House-hunting, book shopping, being Mom. Gaming with friends. It's a silly little life, but I love it.