Excerpt from Project Burning Bush (a work in progress)

Harper shoved his hands in his pockets and wrinkled his nose as he looked around. “So-o-o-o, nobody is going to get excited about the weirdness of suddenly finding ourselves in the distant past, or future, or someplace that is NOT WHERE WE WERE?” He yelled in a whisper, but it was definitely a yell.

Luthor shrugged. “It’s weird, but no big deal to me. I’ve been in situations like this with my uncle. Sometimes in worse conditions, and with less supplies. I’ll lose my cool when we’re not concerned about basic survival.”

Harper looked at their most prim and proper member. “What about you, Minji? Doesn’t this bother you? Or is not showing panic some Asian thing?”

Minji rolled her eyes and curled her lip. “Stoicism is not ‘some Asian thing’. You do not even know if I AM Asian. Just because I have almond-shaped eyes and a vaguely different name does not make me Asian. Besides, there is nothing to panic about. We have food and a fire and a dry place to sleep that we can defend. It is far better than floating on a leaking boat in the middle of the ocean with no food or water, all alone.”

Nita laughed. “You’re boat people, but deny being Asian? Come on, Dragonlady. We’re not stupid.”

Minji started to snarl a reply, but Harper interrupted. “What about you, Nita? Isn’t this way out of your comfort range?”

Nita whooped and laughed for a few minutes. When she finally ran down, she wiped tears from her eyes. “Comfort range, huh? Listen, chico, comfort is no dog-sized rats trying to steal your food or worse, thinking you’re supper. Comfort is being able to sleep without wondering if your mom’s latest customer or boyfriend or pimp is going to check you out while she sleeps. I like this place. There’s a lot less people to bother me here. So far, at least,” she muttered, looking around.

Harper rubbed his face. “Okay then! I guess I’ll just keep my screaming to myself, but I make no promises about what I do in my sleep.”

“If you wake up gagged and bound, it’s because we didn’t want you drawing predators,” Nita told him with a shark-like smile as she rubbed his head with her knuckles. “Nothing personal.”

Excerpt from “The Warlord’s Heart” (WIP)

Edward looked around the room. His expression smoothed into blankness as he looked back at all the suddenly silent young men present. “Did I interrupt your discussion of me?”

“We weren’t talking about you. We were talking about your lady.” The confession was, of course, blurted out by the compulsive talker of the group.

Richard sighed and rubbed his head. “Would somebody PLEASE put their hand over Franklin’s mouth before Edward kills us all?”

Franklin’s protest was silenced by Darwood’s fist in front of his face.

Richard held up a hand in a placating gesture. “Don’t be angry, Edward. We weren’t gossiping about Betsy. We were discussing who she really is and why the Warlord, well, indulges her. You have to admit it, Edward. Nobody else gets away with what she does.”

“He does indulge her, yes. But it still sounds like you’re gossiping about the woman I love.”

“No, listen. We’re not being malicious. We’ve been trying to piece together what we’ve observed. You know, like you have said we will have to from reading battle reports.”

Edward leaned against the wall and crossed his arms and legs, clearly reluctant. “Very well. Tell me of your conclusions.”

Richard looked around the room. All the others looked more than ready for him to offer himself as sacrificial speaker. He looked back at Edward’s stony face and swallowed. “See, first, we know somebody is constantly trying to kill the princess, correct? So she has to be guarded all the time. Even in her bedroom and in the wardrobe, so the guard needs to be a female. Do you agree?”

Edward nodded slowly, his hard expression easing. “So you think that will be Betsy’s future?”

“We think that perhaps she already IS, and has been for quite a while, actually.”

“Why do you think that?”

Richard held up a single finger. “She’s the same age as the princess. She’s obviously already been trained in battle art far more than any of us. The Royal Guardsmen and palace staff show her an amazing amount of respect, far more than a simple maid should receive. Correct? She respects and obeys the Warlord, but she certainly doesn’t treat him the way anybody else does. We’ve all seen it. She treats him more like, like, well,” he took a deep breath and blurted, “Like her father.”

Edward slowly uncoiled. “Are you suggesting…”

Richard cringed. “We don’t mean anything ill! We know the Warlord is unmarried and childless. But if she is his illegitimate daughter, it answers everything!”

“You just called the woman I love a bastard. I have every reason to challenge you to a duel right now, not only you but every man in this room. Nobody is allowed to blacken her honor in that manner.”

“We’re not! Just listen! Please! She would have grown up with the princess as her cousin! They would be bound by blood! Who better to protect her wherever she went? Who could be more loyal?”

One of the others snorted. “Idealistic, there!”

Richard threw his hands up. “Whatever! But if she was raised as companion to the princess, it is more likely for her to be bound by love as well as blood!”

Edward lowered himself into a chair. “I can understand that, barely. But why would she work in the palace as a maid, scrubbing and doing all the servants’ jobs? I’ve seen her at work. Why would the Warlord allow a child of his to do that?”

A grin flashed across Richard’s face. “You might not realize it, but we of the nobility have long understood one fact. The servants know everything that goes on. Everything. They talk about what they know, too. If Betsy worked among them, she would know every secret in the palace. She would also have personal knowledge of every room in the palace, servants’ hallways, and probably every hiding place there might be.”

“Necessary information for a personal bodyguard, indeed. To always know what was going on, who was in the palace, what the schedules are, and where the princess might hide in case of danger.” Edward rubbed his chin. “But why put her through officer’s schooling?”

Richard leaned forward, his eyes gleaming. “To receive the authority to command the guardsmen in moments of danger. Otherwise, some might question her orders at a vital moment.”

Excerpt from The Warlord’s Heart: “Love and Secrecy”

Edward cupped his hands around Betsy’s cheeks. He savored the velvet of her skin, the silk of her curls, her sweet smile, her soft blue eyes. She was perfect. Every inch of her petite form pleased him, from her curves to the strength he knew hid beneath her uniform.

He took a deep breath, praying he would recite the words he had practiced, had even written down trying to perfect them. If only they would come out without error. He wanted both Betsy and himself to remember this night for the rest of their lives, to tell their children and grandchildren with sighs and smiles, like his parents did.

“Betsy, I know we cannot make plans for our future until after graduation, when we receive our duty assignments. But I want to make my intentions clear so that you will know. I love you, Betsy. I love you and I want to marry you, as soon as possible. I love you enough to even dare ask the Warlord for permission to court you and ask for your hand.”

Betsy blinked rapidly. Her smile widened. She touched his cheek with trembling fingers. “Oh, my beloved Edward,” she whispered. “I do so love you, too.” Mischief crept into her smile. “But don’t say anything to the Warlord yet. He takes his role of my guardian so seriously, he is likely to make a great fuss and threaten to throw you in the dungeon lest you be carried away by your feelings before we take vows. Please, wait until after graduation. I turn 21 that day, and he will be totally different.”

Edward’s eyebrows pinched together. “What is he likely to say then?”

She giggled. “Most likely he will throw his arms around you, weep joyful tears, and thank God I am your problem now!”

He laughed with her, then blinked as the laughter drained out of her like water. “Betsy?”

She closed her eyes and leaned her forehead on his chest. “I love you, Edward. I loved you from the moment I first saw you. But I have secrets, my love. They are a terrible burden, and I cannot reveal them to you until after graduation. Once I do, your heart may change.”

“Secrets?” He tipped her chin up. “Darling, there can be no secret so dire it can change my love for you.”

Her poor attempt at a smile faded quickly. “I hope not. I pray not. I believe with all my heart you are a better man than all others. But like others in the palace, I have borne secrets for the princess my entire life. Sometimes they have caused me to weep into my pillow at night, or scream in frustration at the poor Warlord who could change nothing for me. Many men would either rage at me for only keeping the secrets, and others could not share the burden of my duties once I take them up.”

“I swear, nothing will change my love! We will marry no matter what your duties are!”

“I believe you mean that, now. But please, for my sake, speak no more of our future until you discover what I must keep silent about. The poor Warlord does not deserve to listen to my frustrated screams again.” She made a better attempt at a smile this time.

“Hmph. If I must keep silent for your sake, he may find himself forced to listen to mine!”

Where Did THAT Come From?

Somebody is always asking Stephen King where his ideas come from. He has lots of answers, but one that stuck with me was that in his opinion, everybody’s brain has a filter, and whatever they observe will go through that filter. By example, he said that he and Zane Grey could both look at a bubbling, oozing tarpit and write a story based on it. Zane Grey would probably write a story of a battle over water rights and land by ranchers, while he would probably write one of monsters crawling out of the pool.

I’m currently writing a trilogy of novels that was supposed to be a quick sort of sword and sorcery story of young people who somehow wandered off the beaten path and wound up in a strange place with a magic weapon and saved the day from the evil overlord. You know, popcorn. It has been rattling around in my brain for YEARS.

But it would never gel. I started writing it. For some reason, it had to be two girls and two boys. I don’t remember why. A double budding romance, I think. But it wouldn’t work. One day I was staring at my computer screen and the short girl stares back at me and says, “Hey, stupid! I’m a guy!” and the handsome young man stepped up and snapped, “And I’m a girl! What’s wrong with you?” I looked at the other two and they held up their hands. “No, we’re good.” Okay, back to the beginning. So, a short, cheerful blond guy and a taller, aggressive, hostile Latina girl paired up with a really big, muscled black guy and a medium-sized girl from the Far East…uh-huh. I know. SO cliched and stereotyped!

But it only went so far as their wandering off the beaten path and meeting the downtrodden folk on the other end. It was a terrific episode. I did so much research on the location. I was holding my breath while writing it. The action! The terror! The suspense!

But it didn’t work. Back to the drawing board. I started at the other end of their journey. A dark scene, a dungeon, dying men, despair, terror, torture, and murder. Escape through natural disaster to freedom and a hard journey to the meeting place with the young people. It felt better, but…

About that time I got the opportunity to go to a writer’s conference and for an extra fee, get the first chapter or two of my work in progress (WIP) reviewed by other budding authors and two professional writers. The resulting opinions were interesting. One blew the whole story off because he hated the alternate world trope. I would have preferred he at least gave some opinion on how I wrote it, but he didn’t. Others weren’t ‘into’ that sort of fantasy or science fiction, so they didn’t say much other than “eh”. A few said it sounded interesting, but they were interested in short stories and didn’t like that it had no ending. One young man, who was my intended target group, loved it! Hope he finds it once it’s finally published (even if I have to self-publish it) and still likes it.

The two professionals’ opinions made me blink. One found it unbelievable because one of the girls was a prostitute. “Where were her parents?” The whole table stared at her. The other threw his copy of my manuscript down and announced it was all stupid because “nobody talks like this!” This time the table stared at me, embarrassed sympathy on their faces. Eh, I’ve faced harsher words. I worked the phone lines for the IRS…

But, again, it wouldn’t progress. Was I secretly inhibited by their criticism? I didn’t want to think I was. Maybe I was working too much. Then I retired, so I didn’t have that excuse. Then I wrote my three collections of short stories, and my sisters went through cancer, my mom got sick…you know, life happened. Then one day…(ellipses are my favorite vice…)

I was idly skimming the Internet one day during a rare moment of free time and came across a reference to ley lines in Texas. I live in an area where weird stuff happens all the time, so I clicked onto it. That started a long and winding path to Enchanted Rock State Park. It caught my interest and soon I was researching it, and ran smack dab into information about the Lipan Apaches who used to hang around there.

Like Stephen King, my mind went to “What if?” What if four modern teens ran into Lipan Apaches in the mid 1700s? What if one of the teens could speak Tex-Mex and one of the Apaches could speak Spanish learned from Spanish monks? But what would happen if that one teen was the exact double of the tyrant who terrorized them and was slowly killing the Apaches off?

Then my ‘ghostwriter for God’ kicked in and suddenly God was a major character. I took the manuscript I had so far to my writer’s group. One of the members remarked that it sounded like Exodus. Epiphany! It was, and the story was a trilogy. It was a tale of an enslaved people, a brutal tyrant, and four saviors sent by God to rescue them and teach them to be free. “Project Burning Bush”, “Project Exodus”, and “Project Promised Land” was born.

Why four heroes? Why are they ‘red and yellow, black and white’ like in the old children’s song? That puzzled me and my writers’ group for a while, but I knew they all had to be there. My fellow writers warned me of possible complaints about racism, political correctness, and too many main characters! I couldn’t help it though. They all had to be there.

I was researching the Lipan tribe and found they had a website. I sent an email asking if I could ask questions and make sure I got details correct. I never heard from them, but they did have a book list of the Lipan history for people wanting to know more. I’ve bought three so far. At first I just skimmed, looking for certain details. Then stuff began popping up that BLEW MY MIND.

There were four teens, and they were those ‘colors’ because the Lipan spiritual beliefs were based on the number four and the colors black, white, yellow, and blue. Yes, blue, not red. Once you read the book, you find out how that works out.

The weirdest part of writing this story is that the details of the Lipan tribe were written into the story first, then I found the writing in the history books that backed it up. Like their myths and legends, and how the teens fit into them.

It is amazing how much research is going into this story. I’ve even got blueprints of early Spanish settlements in Texas and topographical maps of Texas. Dates, and names, and I love Pinterest for photos of clothing worn back then. Padlocks and keys of the 1700’s, wildlife and fish found in Texas, the fastest way to kill somebody with a knife (yes, there is violence, just like in Exodus in the Bible) and how to use an old fashioned slingshot – the kind without elastic. Headgear from the Middle East, Marine training and slang, spy gear. Survivalist equipment, medical supplies, priests and conquistadores, the food they ate. I have a very fat file of research details.

Project Burning Bush first draft is done. Now I am winding my way into Project Exodus, which takes place in our time, to the people left behind when the teens disappeared. More violence, mystery, good vs. evil, tragedy, and triumph.

I assume this story is coming from God, because I can’t figure out how I’m making it up. I can hardly wait to see how Project Exodus comes out.

All Warm and Cozy

It’s 5:30 in the morning and I’ve just finished my first cup of coffee.  I’d love to go back to sleep, but I have a plumber coming in today so I need to stay awake and get some work done before he gets here.  He was here yesterday working on several plumbing issues, and one of them waited until he was gone to suddenly spout another leak.  Now he has to come back and check his work or fix yet another problem.  He told us yesterday to get an electrician to check the wiring in our house.  When my sister got home she moaned, “This place is becoming a money pit!” A little dramatic, but accurate.

It’s Christmastime, and we still have gifts to purchase and wrap.  Several of my friends are staring at empty chairs after losing loved ones this year.  The news is full of sad stories, bad weather, foolish politics, and stupid scandals.  My arthritis is flaring, and my sleep patterns are erratic.

But you know what? I DON’T CARE.  Life is good.  I’m working part-time as a substitute teacher at a local small school, and I find it fascinating.  Frustrating, annoying, and exasperating, yes, but that happens anytime you deal with kids.  I enjoy getting to know the kids and helping them further their education.  It’s not just babysitting while the teacher is away.  My favorite moment was watching all the young ones from 3-year-olds in the Head Start Program through the 5th graders practice their Christmas program.  I know it was maddening for the teachers to try to corral them and get them to practice, but I adored watching the children just enjoy their day, running around, climbing all over the bleachers in the gym, and just being children.  Too many adults have lost the ability to live in the moment.

I had a good time last week when the local book club reviewed my first book, “Once Upon A Christmastime”.  Here is a link to the article posted about it in the local newspaper: Once Upon a Christmastime Review.  I was quite chuffed to hear them complain it was too short and they wanted a longer collection for next Christmas.  I’ve already got some story ideas lined up.  One of the club members posted a review of it on Goodreads: Kacy A Jey’s Review.  More than one of the members ran local bed and breakfasts and inns and said they were placing the book out for guests to read.

It’s always nice to hear they like the way you write, but it warmed my heart to hear it helped them get into the Christmas spirit, especially when, as one member said, she definitely wasn’t.  I smiled when they said at least two of the stories would make good Hallmark stories because my stories always seem like movies to me.  I would love to see them made into movies because I like to help lift the spirits of people.  Having people in a good mood around me makes all of life so much easier.

Especially when I still don’t have a working toilet and I have to clean house.  Merry Christmas!