I fell in love with fiction long before I started writing.
My mother and I would make a weekly trip to the Sun Valley Library and come back with stacks of books. I always had Nancy Drew or Trixie Belden books, because I liked the idea of solving mysteries, but I ventured into Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov with the discovery of Star Trek.
I started writing fiction when I was eight years old, inspired by a friend who was writing a school play. My stories were wanted I wanted to see in books: people like me–girls–having adventures. That’s in my stories today: women having adventures.
Maybe even solving a mystery.
Private First Class Linda Maye Adams, U.S. Army
And I’ve had adventures of my own. I enlisted in the Army and ended up going to war. Story adventures are much more fun!
I just follow the front of the story like an explorer and see where it takes me.
Contact me at LindaAdams900 AT outlook dot com.
Randy hurried along the sidewalk, resisting the urge to look over his shoulder at Nikki. She was the splitting image of Adelia Chandler, right down to how she walked. It was like the family had skipped three generations and landed in Nikki.
It wasn’t supposed to be like that.
Molly yipped. Then she squirmed in his grip.
“Okay, okay,” Randy said.
He knelt, putting her on the ground. He pointed a finger.
“This time you behave. No running off.”
Molly cocked her head, all doggy innocence. Forgetting the time she had taken off after the calico cat or the rabbit. No attention to passing cars. She was going to give him a heart attack!
Dog had the attention span of a gnat.
She put her nose to the ground like a vacuum cleaner, snuffling eagerly where the lawn ended at concrete. Maybe some gentleman dog had been by here to leave his scent.
Randy chanced a look back at the Chandler house. He’d wondered if any of the family was still left after the last of the two elderly women died. They passed within days of each other, as if they were joined together.
But it left the house empty, for the first time in its history. He still remembered when the great stone foundation had gone into the ground, the scrapes of the tools as masons mortared the stones. His father had been out here every day to make sure the special mortar was mixed correctly, and also to reassure the masons.
Randy had been able to taste their fear riding stagnant in the air. Even today, when the sun was exactly just so, he could still taste it, though those masons were more than hundred years dead. It was like the fear had gone in with the mortar and the stones, into the house.
But the masons had all been handpicked by the Chandlers, and by Randy’s father. Many were brought it from the east coast, where their work had flourished in buildings of Washington, DC. They’d understood, too, of the risks and dangers of the special mortar mixture.
And the importance of what they were doing with this house.
Nikki walked to the car parked at the curb in front of the house, an older Hyndai in silver. He couldn’t help watching her legs, trim and shapely under the sun dress. She worked out, no doubt about it. He wondered if her arms were muscular, too, but the jacket hid that.
Molly bounced back to him, wagging her stubby tail. She sat on the ground and rolled over.
“So you want a belly rub.”
A smile stretched across Randy’s face. He scratched the soft white belly. Molly soaked it up. Pure dog pleasure.
He glanced up at Nikki again. She circled around to the driver’s side of the car.
Nothing could be kept secret, not in a small town this size. She’d inherited the house, but the rest of the family was trying to get her to sell it off. They just saw it as profit, or something that was too much effort to care for.
Selling it off…that could be very, very bad.
Story was being fussy, which is pretty common when I start a new one–especially a longer one. This is not going to be a short story.
The chill followed Nikki out of the house like it wasn’t ready to give her up. But the brightness of the finches warbling helped her shake off the shadows she had accumulated inside the house. She smiled as a brown rabbit froze on the lawn, staring at her with a big black eye. After a moment, he hopped for the bushes with amazing speed and agility, disappearing under an azalea.
She sighed, eyes on the spot where the rabbit had gone. A pink blossom shivered.
She wished things were simpler.
If anything, inheriting this house had made everything more complicated. The lawyer’s announcement had created a lot of chaos in the family, and even with her boyfriend Brian. Everyone had an opinion, and most of them left Nikki out of that opinion.
She owned this house.
She still had to repeat the words to herself as she gazed up it. As a child, she thought it looked like a haunted house right out of Scooby Doo, Where Are You? Now she thought the house looked like a stately gentleman who needed some love.
Gentleman was right, though. There was something very masculine about the house, in the color choices and the spare elegance. Built with her great-great-grandfather’s hands and eye for design. He’d picked piece of wallpaper, every piece of furniture, and even the deep, rich browns that dominated the exterior. Like he wanted the house dressed up for entertaining.
And she was going to have to make a decision about it. Soon.
She turned to head down to her car parked at the curb. A collar jangled and a frilly white dog about the size of a cat bounded up to her, dragging a red leash. The dog jumped up on her with light, delicate paws.
Nikki knelt to pet the dog on the head. Soft fur, baby soft. Fluff all over the ears. Had to be a girl dog with all the flippery. Too unmanly to be a male dog.
The dog jumped up again, smacking her chin with a pink tongue and giving her a whiff of dog breath.
“You got into someone’s bait, didn’t you?” she said.
The dog wagged her plumed tail.
Footsteps skipping across asphalt made her look up. A man was hurrying toward Nikki in a panicked run. The frilly dog had to be his. He did not match the dog.
He had a goofiness about him, and she would have called him a man who was perpetually a little lopsided. Dark hair threaded with gray and unruly. He was dressed in a chambray shirt, untucked, and jeans that had to be old favorites. Bony bare feet.
“I’m sorry,” he blurted. “Molly got away from me.”
“It’s okay,” Nikki said. “She’s just been lying to me that she doesn’t get enough petting.”
Molly barked. All these people were not paying enough attention to her.
Nikki scratched her neck in the dog sweet spot. Molly was soaking it up.
“She doesn’t take to everyone,” the man said with a small smile. “I’m Randy Southworth. From up the street.”
He tried to point, but his arms were full of Molly.
Disappointment clung to the word, though he tried to hide it. Molly twisted around, trying to climb up his chest, her pink tongue flicking out.
“Well, I’d better be getting back,” he said, like he was trying to figure out what do with his hands.
Nikki watched him head down the street, puzzled. It was like he’d met her before and been disappointed.
No cover for this one yet…not quite sure what genre it will be yet. Not even sure what length it will be. But it’s called Broken Notes.
The lawyer told Nikki Chandler not to expect much when she went to the house. Her house, now. It sounded strange. It had always been her great aunt’s house, or the family house. Four generations of family had lived in it.
The door creaked open, spilling morning sunlight across the plank floors. No power, the lawyer said. No heat either, apparently. She had brought a yellow anorak jacket, worn over her sun dress, and wished she’d dressed warmer.
The entrance stank of being closed up for too long, and of dust, and of mold. She stayed in the middle of the room, afraid to touch anything. Everything look itchy and spidery.
This could not be the same place she and her cousin had visited every summer when she was growing up. Somehow, she’d left for the adult world and the house had been abandoned without her noticing. She’d heard that her aunt had not been well not for many years, but she hadn’t realized the impact until now.
Still, the house felt familiar, like an old friend she hadn’t seen in a long time.
She found herself walking anyway, her kitten heels clicking on floor. The furniture was covered in white sheets gray with dust, making them look like dirty ghosts. She used the hem of her jacket to lift the nearest sheet.
Underneath was a couch with a half back, beautiful cherry red upholstery matched with deep wood.
The memory that came with it warmed her face with a smile.
Fainting couch. She’d been ten and hadn’t understood then why someone would need a sofa to faint on. She and her cousin had sprawled on this couch, dramatically fluttering their hands and sighing like they had fainted.
She lowered the sheet carefully, then walked to the stairway. Her fingers lingered just above the railing, but she did not go up the stairs. She couldn’t. Not yet. The bedrooms were up there, and more ghosts. Maybe even some real ones.
Then she saw the piano next to the stairs, and the chill rushed in around her.
She remembered this piano. It was one of those upright ones, like out of an old Western TV show, but made from black walnut. She’d played on it, banging out what she called music, but probably wasn’t much of anything.
The piano was the only thing in the room not covered by a dust cloth. It was caked with grime, keys broken and battered. Someone had wanted to silence this piano forever.
“You have to try again,” Morgan said.
He’d gotten that stubborn look in his face, arms folded across his chest. He’d already made it clear that they were not going anywhere.
“And what if I make it worse?” Eleri said. She was hunched on the blanket, staring dismally at the spot where she knew the tear was. The silver leaked out like tears.
“You are the only one here with water magic.” Morgan said. “And doing nothing will make it worse. Look, when I started teaching you cooking, you were terrible. You thought you couldn’t ever do it right. Think of this like seasoning a soup. Taste the soup, add a pinch of salt, and taste it again.”
His words helped. She knew how bad she had truly been cooking anything, and she was better at this. She wasn’t sure about tasting the tear, or how she would do that.
She dropped back into her magic, forgetting that Morgan was with her, forgetting all sound, forgetting all sensation of the chill in the air.
Instead, she hovered in front of the tear, studying the size and shape of it. Tasting it, as it were. Taking it in. Fighting the instinct to do something without thinking about it, like what she did with cooking.
She’d touched the left corner with her magic. It gaped more there, spitting out silver. The right side … maybe.
She smiled at the thought. It might work if she thought of her magic as salt.
She gathered it up with her mind, like a handful. The magic stirred, curious at this use. The two year old was back, ready to bounce along and see what this would do.
Easy, easy. She pressed the handful of magic into the corner. Not too hard. Just sticking it in there.
Then she drew back and examined the result.
Let out her breath. Was it her imagination or was the tear a little smaller?
Buoyed by this, she repeated the same process. She had to remind herself to take it slow. She found herself repeating the same steps over and over, finding comfort in the rhythm, in the sameness.
Then, there was nothing.
The tear was simply no longer there, like it hadn’t existed.
She came back to herself and to a joyful Morgan.
“You did it!” he yelled, clapping her shoulders. “You did it!”
Morgan sent word to the other water mages where the streams were fouled, telling them how to fix it. But for the river that had run white, Eleri and the other two water mages went out to that one. Between the three of them, it took a week to fix a tear almost six feet long.
As she sat down at the campfire for a meal, she wished she could talk to the silver woman in the other place and make sure that she was all right. But she thought as they’d patched off last of the big tear, she’d felt a bit of water magic from the other side.
The soup was hot and loaded with vegetables. She sampled it. Thought it needed more salt.
Might run a day late with the next story. My computer stopped working–Office Depot guy thought it was the graphics card. I was going, “No! I have two more scenes to do!” I ended up buying another computer. I did have backups, but it’s just a challenge getting everything set back up again…
Morgan insisted that Eleri eat before she go back out to the stream again. She was glad he insisted on cooking this time. She was shaking more than she wanted him to see.
Her belly comfortably full, she walked back down to the stream, stopping above the spot where her magic had run aground. She could see where the tear had to be now. The streaks of silver, like sparks, flowed out of that spot.
More than earlier. A lot more.
The food in Eleri’s belly turned to rock. How was she supposed to do this?
She might have turned around right then and there if she’d been by herself. But Morgan was already spreading a blanket on the ground so she could sit.
“No sense in being cold,” he said.
Woodenly, she sat, trying to find a spot that was reasonably comfortable. Roots were everywhere. She stuck her hands in her coat pockets to keep them warm.
“You can do this,” Morgan said.
She wanted to yell at him to shut up. Bit it down. He was trying to help, even if he was annoying her.
The magic curled up inside her fearfully. The stream was so near, and it did not want to come out. It didn’t trust her.
Maybe she didn’t trust herself.
Her mouth was dry.
Gently, like she was calling a squirrel to feed out of her hand, she coaxed the magic to come out. This time, it didn’t surge out, but inched out.
“Just want to have a look,” she told it.
She felt Morgan’s hands on her shoulders.
Now she dropped into the magic, riding it, looking at the water from its perspective. To her, the water had looked clear and cold. To the magic, it sparkled with bits of decaying twigs and leaves. Sediment swirling.
A small, thin fish darted past her. A light flashed, then went out. The fish went limp, dead.
She must have stiffened up, because Morgan squeeze her shoulders gently. “Easy. You’re all right.”
The fish had died so fast! It wasn’t just the people and the animals, everything that lived in the water, even the insects.
She hovered within her magic sense, drawing closer to the spot near the old tree. The roots were like a knot that hadn’t figured out what to do with itself without the dirt. The tear—and it was a tear—was right next to it.
A hole, like Morgan had described it. Not in the water, but just there.
It was, perhaps, three inches and more like a cut in the skin that gaped. Silver light glowed through it.
What was causing it to gape? Not the current. Like her magic, it didn’t have any direct impact on it.
Maybe start with one of the corners?
She guided her magic in.
Her eagerness and fear made her move too fast. The magic touched the corner of the tear.
She jerked back instinctively. The last thing she saw before she withdrew was the tear.
It had gotten wider. She’d made it worse.
This week, I’m in the Depth #3 Research workshop, which is trying out to be a workshop I’d wished I had a lot earlier–and I’m only in week 2! Most of the writerly topics on research approach it from fear–either they’re being graded like a term paper or the one percent of the audience who might know the actual fact will call them out. Essentially that thinking makes research something unpleasant or to be feared. The workshop is showing me a very different approach.
Rosie Cima on Priceonomics
This is on how using the new technologies to make a film have a consistent color palette. Though it might have the same effect as Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat book–make movies all look alike.
Central Intelligence Agency
Okay, that’s not the title, which is not very interesting. But it’s about the CIA training puppies. From Piper Bayard.
Josh Hafner on USA Today
Can you imagine going out to the lake for a day and finding a real sword? That is just too cool!
Dear Donna: A Pinup So Swell She Kept G.I. Mail
Sometimes people have no idea how important the connection to home is for the soldiers at war. Some very nice stories about the letters the soldiers sent to movie star Donna Reed—especially when she wrote back.
Kristine Kathryn Rusch on Business Musings
The publishers are cutting even the best selling writers who aren’t doing as well. Instead of trying to find new ways to work with—and use—the changes in the market, the publishers are circling the wagons and trying to hold onto what they have. This does not bode well for them in the future. What are they going to do when the mega best sellers start to die off? They’re not going to have anyone to replace them because they’ve all gone indie!
This is a mystery set in Morro Bay, California
This is a GALCOM Universe short story I wrote while I was finishing up Crying Planet. It features the bug bots that show up first in Crying Planet.
This is the second book in the series. It was inspired by an exercise in one of Dean Wesley Smith’s workshops–ruins. Ruins became spaceship wreck–shipwreck, space wreck. Who wouldn’t like to discover a long lost wreck?
Eleri woke to the crackle and pop of a fire and its warmth flowing over her. She was under what appeared to be all their wool blankets, laying close to the fire. From the angle of the sun, it was around noon.
Movement stirred behind her. Morgan. “Thank God! I thought—”
He broke off, turning his head away from her.
Eleri sat up slowly, checking to see if her arms and legs were working. Her shoulders were sore, bruised maybe. How had that happened? She still felt strange—had she really been to another place, or had it been her imagination?
She hid her hands under the scratchy blanket to hide the trembling. Morgan would think she was ill, not that she was scared.
“What did you see?” she asked.
Morgan had to pace for a few minutes, frenetically, before he could find words.
“You’ll think I’m crazy,” he finally blurted.
Eleri was relieved. “I think I’m crazy. What did you see?”
He sat on the ground and gave her some dried fruit from their precious supply, watching her nibble on it. She did not press, giving him time to come around to it.
He stretched out his hands towards the fire, spreading the fingers out. “I never seen anything like it before. There was a hole in the air.”
“A hole? You mean like a hole in a fence?”
“Kind of. Except that this silver light was showing through. You were halfway in it like it wanted to eat you. I think it wanted to pull you in, but I held on to your shoulders.”
Eleri told him what she had experienced in the sliver world. She didn’t try to hide the shaking now. Until he mentioned the hole—in the air!—she’d been thinking it had been a dream. It was real, and yet it couldn’t possibly real … and how was she supposed to fix the tears?
He had to get up again and pace again. Yup. She knew how he felt. Twice, he started to say something, and then he launched in pacing again.
“Honestly,” he said, “I don’t know what to think. I know that everyone who travels to Manchester has looked for the source of contamination. There are so many streams connected to the Great River that we thought there must be something common. Water constantly changes direction. I went out a month ago and tried to find that mystery stream…and nothing. And others have tried to.”
He stopped pacing, falling silent.
“I know that if we can’t find the contamination,” he continued, “it’ll reach the Great River and we won’t have any drinking water.”
Eleri twisted a fistful of blanket. Her throat was tight. She didn’t have to have water magic to know how deadly that was. She thought about her conversation with the silver woman, and the desperation she had heard in her voice.
The damage was spreading. They might be close to the point where it might not be fixable.
“I want to try,” she said softly.
She wished she knew what she was doing. She hoped she wasn’t going to make it worse.
Writer’s note: the earlier Scene 3 turned out to be a rabbit’s hole with a dead end, so a new scene 3.
Bright silver light was the first thing Eleri saw. So much that she squeezed her eyes shut to it. Her magic felt like she’d been in a lightning storm, standing up on end.
She was aware, somehow, that Morgan was holding onto her. But also that he seemed very distant from her. His voice sounded like it was from behind a closed door in another room. She wanted to tell him she was all right, but she couldn’t get her body working again. Her tongue felt too thick, and her mouth too dry.
Instead, she pried her eyes open, so he would see she was awake.
And she was … somewhere else.
Morgan was gone.
Had she imagined it?
But she was still by Hunter’s Creek, right where she’d been standing. She was on her back, roots and stones diggning into her backside. The cold from the dirt was beginning to seep in through her trousers.
The light was coming from the creek. Where she’d seen clear water darkened by the night flowing over the rocks, now the water glowed. Here and there, the silver darkened, like her lantern fly streaks.
Above her, an oak was being showy with red leaves. At least something that way it was supposed to be.
Footsteps approached. Not heavy, like Morgan’s. Lighter.
A woman appeared above her, pale brown hair and silvery eyes. Dressed in a woolen coat over a dark green dress. She seemed faded, like she was here and wasn’t.
Eleri would have gotten up, but something seemed to be holding her down.
The woman knelt, close enough that Eleri got a whiff of lavender perfume.
“We don’t have much time,” the woman. “I’m like you. Water magic. The streans are like a cloth stitched together between our two worlds.”
“Worlds? This is a different place?”
The woman nodded. “The same and not. We had a bad storm that tore the seams. It’s like a bag with holes.”
“Is that why our streams our fouled?”
It seemed incredible, but then Elieri was looking at a silver stream and a woman with silver eyes.
The woman nodded. “Ours are affected here, too.”
“How do we fix it?” Eleri asked.
She did not want to ask the real question that came to mind: Can we?
“I can’t patch from inside the bag,” the woman said.
What did that mean? Before Elieri could ask further, she heard Morgan yell. Then something yanked hard at her arm and she fell back into the blackness.
Eleri insisted she was all right. She was a little shaky and had only been out a minute. Her magic felt like she’d been in a lightning storm and everything was standing on end. But Morgan insisted on returning to the camp and hovered at her elbow like he expected her to fall. “There was something there,” she told him over breakfast the next morning. Morgan insisted on making breakfast. That told her how scared he’d been. She’d made every meal on this trip to practice her skills. Breakfast was cornmeal mush, using some of their existing water supplies and heated on the campfire. He added a sprinkle of brown sugar, which Eleri liked better than the maple syrup. “What do you think it was?” Morgan sipped from a tin cup of tea. The time overnight had given Eleri time to think about what she had experienced. Her gut kept coming back around the to the same thing. “Magic.” Her words fell into silence. The fire popped, startling Morgon into asking, “But how does magic end up going down a stream?” All Eleri could do was shrug. There was only one way to find out. The moon hung faded in the western sky, like it wasn’t quite ready to leave them. Eleri found it a comforting presence as she and Morgan hiked back out to the creek. She found the spot easily enough. Her magic remembered it and wanted nothing to do with it. In daylight, she could see what night hadn’t let her: There was an object caught under the root of the trees. It looked to be metal, and was shaped like a ball, and about the same size as one. Morgan used a small fishing net to catch the object and bring it ashore, being careful not to touch it. Two metal bowls had been fastened together to form the ball shape. Rust covered it, and in one place, it had gone through the metal. Eleri knelt next it, trying to see inside the hole. Couldn’t see a thing. Could feel the magic. “It’s filled with something,” Morgan said. “I felt it moving around when I pulled it in.” “It’s similar to the helmet you found yesterday,” she said. “What if it’s from the war? An old weapon?” The problem was that it was still killing. They had to find it before more reached their village.
While Morgan checked on the horses, Eleri stamped out the last of the glowing embers in the campfire, kicking over the charred logs. She had to remind herself to take her time. Rushing meant carelessness. That was one of the things she had to learn cooking out on the road.
Morgan’s rifle butt banged against a birch as he returned. “Horses are good. I covered the wagon with branches to hide it. You ready?”
No, she wanted to say. This was the first chance anyone had to find the source of what was contaminating the water. No one had ever arrived as it happened. But this stream was too close to the town where she lived. What if they failed?
She’d seen what happened when anyone drank from a stream that fouled.
“Let’s go,” she said, her voice husky.
Before the fear made her change her mind.
They hiked down to the stream bed. She was glad for the full moon. This was a dangerous trip as it was with the light. The ground was uneven and twisted with roots and stones. Shrubs hid holes.
The stream sounded so normal to her. But as she drew near, the smell was wrong, off somehow.
“Do you smell anything different?” she asked.
“Just water,” Morgan said.
Her mother had the water magic on her side of the family, but it had skipped a generation. Eleri hadn’t known any of her grandparents, since they had died before she was born. Most of what she’d learned about her magic had been playing in the water, trying out things to see what she could do.
The stream was about six inches deep. Eleri did not touch the water, but she knew it would be ice cold.
“Hey.” Morgan pointed. “Did you see the water flash?”
Eleri got close to the edge. The rock wobbled under her foot as she knelt. She stared at the water for perhaps a minute.
Then she saw it.
A streak of silver, like one of those lantern flies. It lit up, then faded out a second later.
Was it alive?
She released her magic again, guiding across the surface of the water. She was aware that Morgan had stepped behind her, bracing her with his hands on her shoulders.
Her magic growled at her, wanting better water to play with. The silvery light was like dumping a bucket of waste into the stream. It mingled with the water, thinning out, spreading.
Not alive. But something else…
She stood, shaking out the ache in her knees. How long had she been kneeling there, trying to get a sense of the silvery light?
“Have you ever seen it flash like this?” she asked.
“No,” Morgan said. “But the Branch Creek up north…that was so bad it ran white, like milk.”
Branch Creek, Hunting Creek… Eleri tried to picture how they connected up. She wished she had a map of all the tributaries that connected to the Great River. The fouling appeared random, but she thought it might have a common source. But only the very wealthy could afford maps.
“I think it’s near,” she said.
There was only one way to go. They followed the stream uphill. Neither said anything, sweating in the chill night as they picked their way up the creek’s edge. The only sound out this late was their breathing and their footsteps, layered over the flowing water.
Then suddenly, the silver was gone.
Somehow, she’d missed it.
Her magic crawled across the stream again, this time more interested. The water was not fouled. The magic was a child, checking out all the lines of the stream, everything shiny and pretty. It liked the way the water flowed over the rocks, and the bits of twigs that floated along the edges. The current swirled around a tree root jutting out, dirt washed away by storms.
Her magic flowed with that current, spinning around with a leaf curled up like a hand.
Blackness rose up in front of her magic like a wall and then her world spun away like that leaf and into nothing.