Mary The Outlaw: Chapter Thirty-Three

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I lowered my hat and strode up to the bar knowing that if Max were there, he wouldn’t know it was me. People often could not see what was right under their noses. My face flamed as my eyes darted around the boisterous room in search of him. I cleared my throat as I took a seat at the bar and ordered a beer. I sat there in the shadow of death drinking the malty, cool drink with my eyes staring straight ahead. The sound of women’s forced laughter and men’s jeering grated my eardrums. Max’s unmistakable, musky cologne lingered in the air. He had been there moments before I arrived. I inhaled deeply and glanced over my shoulder, but he was not there. My stomach fluttered as the familiar sense of danger fuelled my inspiration. My last few moments were going to be interesting indeed.

My gaze wandered over to the winding staircase. The building was a mansion knock off and I smirked at the tacky decor everywhere. I downed my drink and then made my way to the rear of the building. I exhaled in relief as dark solitude surrounded me. I stepped toward the garbage container and crouched down. The honky tonk music and loud laughter sounded far away. I would be able to hear footsteps when they approached. I held my loaded pistol and waited. My eyes adjusted to the overcast night. A few feet away, a couple of rats fought over a juicy piece of rotting chicken thigh. Their squeaks sets me on edge. A raven watched them from her perch on the roof of the opposite building. Or, perhaps she watched me. I wondered if she sensed my impending doom.

Waiting was not my strong point in regular matters, but as the minutes blended together into an hour without any sign of Max, the anticipation gnawed at my nerves like one of the dirty rodents. I gritted my teeth, longing to scream out in frustration. I held it back, but I was unsure how much longer I’d be able to crouch there waiting. While I sat out there with the rats and the raven, he was probably using one of his prisoners. I put my gun back in its holster and stepped back out onto the lively, lit up street. I collided shoulders with a grotesquely perfumed woman. It was similar to the scent I doused myself in years ago when I worked for Max. I covered my mouth as I gagged. Scents often evoked the most intense memories.

I stopped at the end of the street and my resolve bled out of me as I stood there. Tears blurred my vision and I tried in vain to stop from crying. The frightened nineteen-year-old girl nearly returned, but I reminded myself that unlike her, I had acquired an excellent aim and courage that had assisted in my survival. I wiped my tears away with my coat sleeve.

“I can do this. I will do this.”

Fantasy was so different from reality. I imagined over and over how the scenario in Dodge City would play out. Instead of a monumental show down, I was trapped in a maze of sorts and crying like a little girl.

“He can’t vanish into thin air,” I told myself. “I’ll find him.”

I faced the town and made my way back down the street. I was surrounded once again by the crowds. Their words mingled together to form unintelligible sentences until I overheard someone utter the devil’s name. I froze and searched over the sea of faces. My eyes rested upon two men standing a few feet away. One of them mentioned Max’s name again. I inched closer to the pair, straining to hear above the various mutterings and shouts. One of the men noticed me and narrowed his eyes. I cleared my throat; my lingering fear evaporated as my desire to kill took over.

“I heard you say Max,” I said.

Both of them stopped talking to stare at me. They appeared to be around Max’s age, handsome in a weathered way, but neither seemed to share his cunning eyes.

“Yes, we were. What’s it to you, little lady?” asked one.

“Just curious. Are you friends of his?”

The other man scoffed. “We’re enemies. Now run along and go play your little cowgirl games.”

I smiled wide and tilted my head. “Funny fellas, are ya? Let me ask ya somethin’.”

Neither of them could hide their curiosity as they both stepped closer to me.

“Where is he?” I asked.

“That asshole is probably at Long Branch Saloon winning a game of poker. He’s got all the luck despite all of the people he’s killed.”

“I was already at Long Branch and didn’t see him there.”

They stared at me appearing as stupid as I felt. It should have crossed my mind that there would be more than one saloon in such an infamous city.

“Does he own one of the other saloons?” I asked.

“A saloon? No. He’s the owner of the brothel.”

“Of course he is.”

“A sweet girl like you doesn’t belong here searching for a man like him.”

I kicked a loose stone across the road.

“I should be on my way. Thank you, gentlemen.”

I turned on my heel and left them behind. They disappeared into the rowdy crowd and went on their drunken way. A large section of the crowd hovered in the middle of the street a little ways down. Two gun fighters faced one another in the middle of the ruckus. Beyond the town, the horizon came to life with the sun’s first rays. Dawn’s fight for power over the night had already begun and I had not yet caught one glimpse of Max. It should have been him and I in that gun fight.

The street grew so quiet that the tower clock’s ticking could be heard. I crossed my arms and scanned all of the people present. I chose not to wait around and see which of the fighters survived the duel. I had already wasted too much time.

I made my way down the street nearly ready to cry out from frustration when masculine laughter sounded from one of the buildings’ windows. Panic shot through me and I froze. It sounded exactly like Max when he laughed. I craned my head, lifting my eyes to behold a purple curtain billowing from the window of the building across the street. A feminine cry followed his mocking laughter.

I strode up to the front door of the brothel and pushed myself through. Perfume and cigarette smoke assaulted my nostrils as I stepped inside. There was no one in the parlour, but laughter, moaning, and hollering sounded from upstairs. I made my way to the staircase. At the base of the stairs was a girl far too young to even be considered a prostitute. A sloppy man wreaking of sweat and moonshine froze at the sight of me. He let the girl go. She tripped over her own two feet as she made an attempt to retreat.

“I am warning you once,” I said. “Get out of here before I shoot you.”

He narrowed his eyes and started to open his mouth.

“Too late.”

I fired and the girl screamed.

“Go home. Now,” I ordered her.

She stood there staring at me. “Ma’am! Ya gotta get outta here yerself.”

“I’ll handle it. Get out of here before another one tries to eat you alive. Don’t go anywhere near this place, y’hear?”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

Once she fled the building, I kicked the dead man down the stairs. I stepped down the hall expecting a door to open at any moment, but nothing happened. I reached the window at the end of the hallway. I stared out of it as a dreamlike mood filled my mind.

“Where in God’s name are you?” I whispered.

The second door to my left opened. I spun around and aimed my pistol at it. The soft creaking as it slowly opened made my stomach churn. The door ceased to move and silence followed. I creeped toward the open room. When no one sprung out at me, I held my breath and jumped inside. It was empty.

I groaned as my gaze found the open window. I went to it and peered down at the street. Across the road stood a masculine form in the shadows. Max. I couldn’t see his eyes, but I knew that he was staring at me.

I dropped to the floor just missing the bullet he would have lodged into my skull. It shattered the mirror on the wall behind me. I crawled out of the room and ran down the stairs in pursuit of Max.

Mary The Outlaw: Chapter Thirty-Two

 

I rode past the Kansas sign and attempted to fight off the emotional waves smashing into me. The numbness that wrapped around me like a comforting blanket vanished and I was left to bear all of my emotions in full force. My thoughts wandered through the past and present. Over a year ago, the one whom I thought was my angel stopped me from crossing over to the state. I breathed in a lungful of the early evening air. I was on my way to Dodge City after I chased Gabriel down the long, winding rabbit trail of love and marriage. Every inch of me itched to get to the sinful city and finish my mission. It was the only thing standing in between me and my destiny, my death.

The colours of the sunsets and sunrises of each passing day seemed more vibrant than before. The scents of the woods, grasslands, and bodies of water were more intense, stirring up various conflicting feelings. Some of them caused my eternally sensitive stomach to churn. Perhaps knowing that one was soon to die sharpened one’s senses. I needed to stop and empty the contents of my stomach at the side of the road a few times. Despite all of the things that happened to me since I rode away from my hometown at nineteen years old, I would soon have my moment with the wickedest man in the world. Every monster I encountered on my journey was only a lesser version of Max. Defeating and escaping from them strengthened me and prepared me for facing him at the end of my journey. Maybe I was young and had my entire life ahead of me, but I felt as though I had lived an entire lifetime already. Some people weren’t meant to live on into old age. I would grant myself the same mercy that I gave to George.

One bright morning, I perceived that Dodge City was not far off. I stopped at a creek when the sun became too intense for me to bear. I stripped my clothes off, jumped waist-deep into the cool water, and floated on my back for a while. I sighed as the small indulgence relaxed my tense muscles as well as my mind. I supposed that even evil people could embrace some of life’s simple treasures. I had been through a lot and even though I deserved death, I needed to do things that would calm myself down or I would never be able to hunt down Max effectively.

I attempted to block out the memories of Gabriel and I frolicking in the river together, but it was impossible. The beginning of our romantic relationship was like an extra long summer day. I could never forget those days even if I wanted to. In a world of evil, even preachers could not be trusted, yet I could not regret my life with Gabriel. He showed me that there was some small part of me that was capable of being loved. Perhaps God saw some good in me after all, for I doubted that most people had ever experienced such an exhilarating romance as Gabriel and I had.

After I dried myself off, I rode into the next town and purchased myself some black trousers, a white shirt, a belt, and a red bandanna. They were brand new and fit me well. No more hand me downs. I examined my reflection in the mirror and a small smile formed on my lips. Max would probably not recognize me upon first glance. The last time he saw me, I was half-dressed with a pound of makeup on my face. My face and body had barely aged, but my countenance and my posture were both very different from before. Surviving death multiple times gave one exceptional confidence in themselves and in their abilities.

I rode out of town to sleep in peace for the night. I did not want to risk running into any unsavoury characters the night before I met Max. I woke up the next day to my entire body trembling. The morning was far too cold for my liking. Despite the chilling air, I braved it and bathed in the nearby brook. I got dressed and brushed out my long, damp hair. The soothing ritual settled some of my nerves, but my mind soon became preoccupied with thoughts of meeting Max again. I braided my hair to one side and then lit a match. I set my feminine clothes and undergarments aflame and watched them burn. They were the final reminder of the life that I once lived with Gabriel. As my clothing turned to ashes, I at last transitioned back into Mary The Outlaw. I had missed the outlaw in me more than I dared to admit.

Trouble pawed at the ground as the burning clothes filled the air with a terrible smell. I kicked sand to put the flames out and then rode on.

I rode into Dodge City at nightfall. The city lights could be seen from miles away and appeared like stars. My heart soared in eerie, masochistic glory as my dark destiny waited for me in the foreseeable distance. The sounds from the busy street jarred me. People talked, laughed, and hollered out their drunken babbling. Dodge City was far from what I imagined. I once thought of elegance and fancy architecture when I first heard about it from the woman at the old saloon. Instead, it was only a larger version of most towns I passed through. There were countless scantily clad, perfumed women flecking the arms of established gentlemen, gunslingers, and cowboys. It was the sort of city that Max and his sort would enjoy and capitalize on.

Rage erupted out of me at the thought of so many girls and women suffering at the hand of selfish bastards who possessed more money than brains. Max had lived out his indulgent, cruel new life for long enough. Despite all of my sins and failures, ridding the world of Max would do a great deal of women a favour.

I brought Trouble to the stables and paid for his stay. I kissed his smooth muzzle and hugged his strong neck. He did not move away from me this time. He would make a fine horse for his next master. I bit my lip to keep the tears at bay. His fidgety, unsophisticated behaviour had passed after a lot of training from Gabriel and I. I was proud to be the one to watch him mature, but as always, my time with a friend needed to end.

“Good-bye, trouble maker,” I whispered.

I stepped back out onto the street with a pounding heart. A busy saloon came into view and the people around me faded away as though they had only been figments of my imagination all along. I was a dead woman walking. I had crossed the boundary into a sort of middle world between life and death. As I walked toward the building with a hand on my holster, my final destiny hovered over me.

The knives spoke

Inanimate objects cannot speak, yet she heard the knives in the kitchen drawer calling for her. She lay in her bed with balled fists, begging for her mind to cling to thoughts of the beauty that lay just beyond the door if she could only reach it.

She shot up and peered out the half open window. The draft carried with it the scent of rain falling on the earth. She clung to the invisible gift of hope and raced past the sharp-edged tools that cried out of her to make use of them.

She reached the outdoors. The exertion pumped life through her veins and she continued to run until she reached the babbling brook. She submerged her hand beneath the cool, rushing water.

That broke the spell.

The Dreams

Norwegian Dream.

She had a dream, too. Of Canada. Now, I long to be close to where she was born. In a way, it will feel like she is still alive. Young and alive in Scandinavia and playing her banjo.

Goodbye, Grandma.

Her Rain

The rain always attracted her, called out to her. Its pattering against the windows awoke her from the monotony of her homework. She left the house and came to the rain, inhaling the fresh aroma no perfume could compare to.

She walked for a while, lost in thought, for the rain was what always fuelled her imagination and dreams. In the rain, she was content. She would never be alone as long as the soft trickling of water guided her.

City of Ice, An Excerpt

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I started a novel, City of Ice, about six years ago. It’s about a 28 year old suicidal princess attempting to survive in a cult ice world. The monarchy is a sham – the city is ruled by the cleric and their dark magic.

I am notorious for working on two projects at once, and my YA fantasy novel is still my main focus, but as a little reprieve, I will come back to this and start editing and adding to it.:) Here is how the first chapter begins.

Let me know what you think!

City of Ice, An Excerpt

Sunlight hit two large ice formations just ahead of them, making them glow. The light made Ivea nearly forget about the cold.

“So beautiful,” she breathed.

“We should turn back.”

She ignored Tercun, quickly urging her horse into a gallop over the crisp snow before he could say anything else to spoil the magic she was feeling. His mount caught up to hers and they both slowed down when they came to a large patch of ice.

“What if I can’t bring you back this time, Ivea?” he asked.

Instead of offering her alchemist friend a biting retort, Ivea watched the horizon ahead. She would do what she needed to, and he would follow her as he always did for the last twenty years. They rode ahead and reached a cavern. A human-sized hole only a few feet above ground level marked the mouth.

Ivea’s pulse quickened with that familiar blend of excitement and unease. She dismounted and approached the cavern, digging her treaded fur-trimmed boots into the solid ice. From below, Tercun gave her a gentle lift upward and she reached for the opening.

As she climbed up on the ledge, warm air collided with her face. Her lithe form slid down a sloped, icy wall; she grunted when her bottom slammed onto the cave’s floor. Her eyes adjusted to the strange and stunning surroundings, which made her quickly forget about her discomfort.

Light from a tiny opening in the ceiling hit the hot pools of rippling, steaming blue water and caused the walls to come alive with radiant designs. Ivea was sure that the sight was as magnificent and soothing as any heaven could be.

Her skin tingled as she unbuttoned her coat and let it slide down her shoulders. She could not have chosen a more fitting place to perform her most dangerous experiment. Today, she would find out for certain if there was life after death.

“Ivea, you can’t do this.”

Tercun stood right behind her. She would have jumped from surprise had it not been for his soft, even tone.

“Since when did you become so skilled at sneaking up on me?”

Tercun’s gaze travelled down her long, scarlet gown. Ivea rolled her eyes and went to the pool, admiring her dress in the reflection. She could be imprisoned for over a year if a member if the cleric caught her in such attire. She was Queen Mornia’s daughter, but that would not spare her from the wrath of a fanatic.

“Don’t you tire of always wearing white?” asked Ivea, returning her gaze to Tercun.

“I never bothered to think about it.”

“I shouldn’t be surprised,” she sighed.

Ivea twirled once, watching the bottom of her dress sway like a faraway flower in the breeze. How wonderful it was to break away from white’s monotony. White hair, white garments, white snow, and white skin was everywhere in the city with no reprieve.

“You don’t have to do this just because you want proof that a supreme being does not exist,” said Tercun.

She dipped her bare foot in the warm water.

“Yes, I do.”

“I know very well that you do not.”

Ivea could not be mad at him, even as his stern tone chased away the whimsical mood that surrounded her. She had adored his quiet, calm manner from the first moment they met as children. He was so different from her, from everyone. He was the only person that offered her a listening ear and she adored him for that. She also despised him for being so accepting of the clerics’ doctrine.

Taking in the surrealism of the strange water, her stomach fluttered. It was time.

“Ivea.”

She turned to him in annoyance, but was stunned to see how otherworldly he appeared as the blue reflection danced along his angular face. He could have married countless noble women that would have made his life a lot easier, but he never seemed to be interested in any of them. When he wasn’t busy studying new theories, he was trying to keep up with her self-harm experiments. It was almost as though he secretly enjoyed them.

She swallowed as a dull ache worked its way up from her chest, tightening her throat. She brought her gaze away from his pleading eyes and down to the water.

“Yes?” she whispered.

“I will bring you back. No matter what.”

“I know.”

Ivea cleared her throat and stood at the edge of the small pool, wondering how deep it reached into the earth.

Book Blog Tours

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It is time for me to invest in a book blog tour or two in order to get some more word out there about my ebooks. I’ve done some research on the best blog tours for your buck and so on and thought I’d share it with you in case you’re also interested in blog tours.

1.Blog Tours Are Pricey-ish

I’m an indie author still waiting to get my first cheque from Amazon, so the idea of paying someone $80 to $150 for a week’s worth of blog tours and reviews is steep.

On the other hand, sometimes an up front investment in marketing can be just the thing to boost book sales and move your ranking on Amazon to a better position. I get it.

I am not really a cheapskate, but the angsty artist chick inside of me bristled at the idea of paying so much for a service that claims to help indie writers. That said, it’s not a writer’s world and so it is what it is.

2. Most blog tours focus in YA and romance genres

My two most recent books are neither romance nor young adult, so it’s a little tougher to find a blog tour with a more alternative readership. The ones that specialize in multiple genres require more of an investment.

3. Many blog tours offer more than just blog tours

If you’re really strapped for cash, some blog tour providers offer book cover reveals and book blitzes for a fraction of the cost. I think it’s a smart idea for both parties. Some will even provide you with book reviewers if you can give them free copies to read.

I’ll likely invest in a book reveal blitz for my next publication.:)

4. Blog tours save you a lot of time

It does induce a sigh of relief at the idea of someone taking care of my book marketing for a week or two. Despite the surprisingly high cost (In my opinion), I can’t deny that I want the opportunity to be interviewed about my book, to have other readers who have never heard of my blog read an excerpt about my book, etc.

Writers want to write first and foremost. The idea of someone taking care of business is attractive.

5. Blog tour operators like Paypal

I don’t use Paypal for my own reasons. I had a blogger reply to me with an affordable book marketing option, and without asking, she said that once she received my payment through Paypal, that would be my consent for her to run my blog tour.

It was tough for me to decline, but I find it unprofessional to not offer direct email money transfer. If someone is willing to pay for a service, they should be given more than one option.

***

That’s my take on the blog tour industry to date. I’ll keep on searching, and take my time. I’m not letting myself become jaded, and at the end of the day, I’ll probably have to splurge on the service that will give me the best results.

I’ll let you all know when my blog tour runs!:)

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Writers, what has your experience been with blog tours?  Do you have a blog tour service that you can recommend? Do you know of any blog tours that do not require Paypal payments? 

Cheers! 

(Image Taken From http://www.everystockphoto.com. Titled as “Malecón”)

 

 

 

How to Deal With a Negative Book Review

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So, you’ve recently published your book. After seeing some glowing reviews from satisfied readers, you check back again and notice one nasty little one star review. What do you do?

Do not reply to the review! Even if the review was left by a troll or by a reviewer who prides themselves in trashing writer’s books, do not take the bait. People who look at your reviews might not purchase your book if they see a stream of comments between you and a reviewer debating about why they should have loved your book. Stay professional.

Take a deep breath. You cannot please everyone. This is a fact of life. Many times, bad reviews are very subjective and reveal more about a reader’s tastes than about your writing. Perhaps they wanted more romance from your book, or they did not enjoy the violence. Sometimes, all it takes is one wrong word to agitate a reader enough to stop reading and leave a review. It sucks, yes, but there’s a bright side to this.

Remember all writers get bad reviews. Yes, every best seller gets one star reviews, too. There’s actually a really funny article about literary classics who received one star reviews from readers. It is funny, because it goes to show how taste differs between every individual. People from different backgrounds, education levels, and walks of life will be reading your book.

Think about the legitimacy. It might strike a reader as odd if all of your reviews are glowing five star ratings. As much as nasty reviews suck, just remember how it makes you look more legitimate as a writer. Remember, every famous author gets raked over the coals by certain readers, too. Reputable websites do not tamper with reviews and that makes your work of fiction look reputable in turn.

Use it as constructive criticism. Use that awful little one star as motivation to write your next book with, perhaps, a little more care and detail. Even if there’s nothing wrong with what you wrote, it’s interesting to many authors to discover little quirks and writing habits that don’t resonate well with people. You can even take pride in the fact that your book caters more to a niche market.

Ignore it. That’s right. It’s a little traumatic to read a one star review from a reader that clearly never connected with your book, but it is better for you to ignore it and keep writing. Focus on the good reviews and cherish the readers who connected with your characters and story.

How I Handled It

I got my first one star review a couple of days ago, and it did not bother me that much. Obviously, no one wants a bad review, but when I read that the reader was simply confused by the story, it actually made me feel sort of good. I do aim to write more for a niche market.

Of course, I would love for everyone to enjoy my book, but I know what a lot of people enjoy reading, and I think that my stories are different. My writing is like my mind. It’s quirky, dreamy, and it might be hard to understand unless you happen to be pretty philosophical yourself.

I didn’t get upset. I didn’t reply. Never, ever reply to reviews.

After a little annoyance, I laughed about it and shrugged it off. Then I thought of writing this post!:)

By the way, out of curiosity, I took a look at other things this reader reviewed other than my book, and I saw that she rated Fast and Furious 5 with five stars. That explained everything.😉

Next Writing Project: A YA Fantasy Novel

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After focusing on writing and editing my shorter stories this past year, I am picking up on my unfinished YA fantasy story. Let me tell you, it was a treat to open up my Word document and see that it’s already at 52,000 words. That is quite the feat for someone who normally writes novellas and short stories! I knew that I had got quite far into the story, but I had almost forgotten just how much!:)

There are four main characters and they are based on the personalities of my grandparents. In fact, this story itself is inspired by life events lived out by my grandparents in their early to mid teens. Life was not easy for them at that point in their lives, and I hope very much to bring out their true characters in my book.

It’s complex with all four story lines being told throughout the book until they eventually intertwine. The story is also a parallel to a World War II type conflict set in a fantasy world. It would be impossible to make it into a novella even if I tried!😉

And so, I am on to the next writing quest. I will keep you updated on how it goes. I am determined to finish the story, rough as it might be, before the holidays begin!

Happy writing!

The Suicides: On Amazon Kindle Today!

My historical novella, The Suicides, is now available in the Kindle store on Amazon! It’s set in the late 1800’s and it has a gothic flair.

Get your FREE copy on Amazon Kindle today (Dec. 7) until the end of Wednesday (Dec. 9)!

Excerpt from The Suicides, Chapter One:

“Be careful. People have been talking about your curiosity about the suicides. You must understand that they are not impressed with your book idea.”

“I do, but this is a project that I hope to finish.”

“You will discover things that you wish you hadn’t.”

I cleared my throat. “I am prepared.”

“Are you certain?”

Her expression matched that of my moral philosophy professor before he attempted to trap me during a classroom debate.

“What in the world are you attempting to convey to me?” I asked.

She shrugged and turned away. “Forgive me. Do as you wish.”

“Good evening, then, Ma’am.”

I strode down the busy street shaking my head. Sarah seemed to suggest that some sort of doom would befall everyone should I dig too deep into the lives of the suicides. The last thing that I needed was more discouragement. I had only been in Sunny Harbour for a few days and I was already causing a bit of a stir. I needed to find better ways to glean for information.

What I wanted to find most of all was the place where the suicides’ bodies were tossed. I hated going to bed at night thinking about them never being paid the respect of a proper burial. I sometimes dreamed of them being tossed into the river, sent to drift away only to be eaten away by things that appeared only in nightmares and gruesome tales. It was yet another reminder to me of life’s darkness. It hovered over people whether or not they wished to acknowledge its presence. No matter what humans did to catch a wink of light, the darkness never stayed away for long.

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