Work in Progress

The following is an unedited chapter to the book I’ve just started. THE UNFLESHED is nearly finished and should be out as soon as it is edited. In the meantime, I’ve been exercising my writing muscles and begun a new one. Hope you enjoy and as always, comments welcome!

 

All rights reserved
© 2016 Lisa Vasquez

 

CHAPTER ONE

793 A.D. Northumberland, England                   
Lindisfarne Monastery

 

                The morning bells of the monastery rang out penetrating the dense fog rolling in from the water that surrounded their coast. Alkuin was coming up the pathway from chores when something struck him as odd.

“There are no gulls.” He said to himself, aloud.

Raising his eyes toward the grey sky, he stared deeply into the overcast that snuffed out the sun. Behind the soft cadence of the church bell in the background, there was a drumming noise and he realized it was the sound of his heart.

The monk turned in a slow, careful manner to face the sea. Even though he was grown now, the haunting stories of his grandmother lingered on him whenever he watched the eerie fog roll in as it did now. He braced himself, expecting some manner of monster to emerge before chiding himself each time it pulled back leaving nothing except the icy waves and dancing gulls. But today – there were no gulls to speak of. The drumming of Alkuin’s heart grew louder and danger filled the air he breathed, expanding his lungs with its imminent warning.

He stared harder into the fog until his site caught what his senses were warning him of. A creeping head pushed through the clouds with eyes of fire. Towering above the water, flared nostrils billowed more smoke around it, carrying the stench of death. It did not pick up speed because there was no reason to. Like Alkuin, everything before it froze and trembled in its wake.

The monk dropped all that he was carrying, the fresh vegetables from the garden now lying in the dirt, and shut his eyes tight.

“Run, Alkin!” He tried to convince himself, “Run!”

As if his feet were suddenly free from invisible bonds, Alkuin ran as fast as he could to the safety of the monastery, shouting to everyone as he did so.

“Warship!” he cried, “Warship! Hurry!”

The other monks spun from their task and looked to the origin of the warning. The low tide was at hand and the ship was making its way straight toward them.

“Quickly! Into the shelters! Hide!” They all shouted.

The normal serenity of the monastery turned to chaos as clergy ran, shutting gates and corralling livestock. Many of the monks rolled whatever valuables they had into blankets, tossing them into their hiding places which were normally piles of hay or straw.

Alkuin ran directly to the chapel and was met with Father Aidan.

“What is it?” He asked.

The look of panic on Alkuin’s features made the other monk uneasy and the two rushed inside closing the doors behind them. The large wooden board was eased into the brackets across the entrance, and Aidan slid the reinforced iron rod across as well.

Once Alkuin was assured the lock was engaged he turned to the other man to explain, “There is a warship approaching. It sits barely a stone’s throw off the shore.”

Aidan’s eyes widened and he turned toward the altar. On the outside it looked normal. A chalice flanked by two large candles, and behind it a large crucifix. Aidan and Alkuin were the only two that knew what hid underneath.

“What do we do?” Aidan asked.

“We wait. It is a last resort, you know that!”

“People could die Alkuin!” The younger monk cried out.

“Hold your tongue Aidan,” Alkuin snapped, “We all took the vow.”

Aidan turned his eyes down conceding in silence.

“Now go through the back and bring the brotherhood inside. Those that tarry seal their own fate.”

“Yes, Father.” Aidan bowed and ran to his task.

When the younger monk had gone, Alkuin looked down at his hands which were trembling with the surge of adrenaline. The secret contained inside the chapel was worth dying for, and he was prepared to see that mission through. Curling his fingers into his palms, he made fists with both hands driving in his conviction to the cause. He pulled in a deep breath and lifted his chin to inhale the air. Alkuin then closed his eyes to focus on separating the incoming smells.

The fragrant incense was pushed back allowing the salty ocean breeze to filter through. Northmen, his thoughts said, and he released the breath from his lungs. The Alkuin’s lungs expanded again, filling with the air. At least twenty distinct smells gave away the number of passengers that he could readily identify. Concentrate, he thought to himself then growled and pushed himself harder.

Once more Alkuin took in a deep breath, forcing the air through his flared nostrils until his chest expanded and ached. The smell of burning bodies was acrid and thick, almost choking him.

Women! It was distinct. He could smell the bodies and the fear rolling off the women they were holding on board. Rage boiled deep inside his chest and his jaw trembled as he tried to keep control of it.

Another low, rasping growl welled up from deep within his belly pushing its way into his throat. Alkuin hunched over and grabbed at his hair trying to keep himself from the transformation.

“No.” He snarled, “Not…now.”

His eyes were burning and his skin was crawling as he forced himself to breathe and slow his heart rate. He willed himself to focus on the crucifix behind the altar and prayed for the strength to keep the monster inside but he could feel its claws tearing behind his ribcage. His eyes were tearing and he his entire body shook with the inner war going on but after a few minutes, the monk was able to gain control again. The effort exerted brought him down to a knee just before the rush of the brothers came in through the secret door in the back. They stood around him now in silence in what they was ardent prayer for their safety. They were half right.

Alkuin stood up and turned to face them, “Brothers, we have gone many years without the interruption of another human but our own clergy. We have discussed what would be our action if we were in the face of invasion. Our own complacency has led us to the belief that we would never have to practice those actions.”

He paused and let their sin sink in before continuing, “Today we shall reap what we have sown. It is in God’s hands now.”

The brothers turned to one another and there was a rush of whispers. Alkuin broke it up as he went on.

“We are under invasion and it is time for us to do what it necessary to save ourselves! Brothers, please. Listen to me, now, for there is not much time.”

The men hushed and faced him once again in silence.

“There will be blood. There will be sights you have never seen before in our peaceful life but do not falter, and do not hesitate to save yourself or your brother by any means necessary against the Evil that comes today.”

“Now, let us pray.” Alkuin turned and kneeled again before the altar and made the sign of the cross.

The others followed his lead and went down to their knees to offer their prayers for safety and guidance, others to eradicate the fear from their hearts. The shouts from outside began to subside as the ship grew closer and the other monks found places to hide. Alkuin could hear the oars push the water and the sound of the ship slicing through the waves on approach. The danger threatened to elevate his heartrate again but he controlled his breathing. Unleashing the rage meant he would unleash the monster within. It had been many years since it was free, he had no idea if he’d be able to reign it in once more.

Please dear Lord, offer your strength to me. Allow me to use this …thing…inside of me for your will. Even if it condemns me to Hell for eternity, I seek to do thy bidding while here on earth. Place your hand upon the head of my inner demon and command it, as you are creator of all things. I pray you allow me to be your humble servant and protector of these people who love you and serve you all their days with all their actions, and all their words.

The sound of the boat on land stopped Alkuin’s prayers and he could feel his breath rasping and he realized he was panting now. In his hand, his rosary was embedded into his palm and a slow trickle of blood was creeping down the wooden beads to the floor. The movement below the floorboards caused him to stand up in slow motion. Any sudden move and he could agitate it more.

“Brothers, stand up. Get into position. It is time.”

The friars all stood up slowly and turned. Each one with their back to the others’. None of them brandished any weapons but their bare hands. Alkuin stood in the center of the other men and lowered his head. He needed to concentrate if he was to keep his rage under control. If the invaders got past the other men, then he would have no other recourse but to fight. In a circle of plain brown robes, they stood there in silence for nearly an hour. Waiting.

 

Authors and the Readers: The Bond

Authors have a very personal relationship with readers. It’s intimate in the way a love song can produce children whoare conceived to a verse drifting in and out between a couple lulled into a moment bursting with romance (okay-okay, usually angst filled and passionate). It can bring a person to rock bottom, or bring them higher than the clouds. Same with writing, and the person behind the ink.  Their words can change a life, invoke a movement, inspire, and at the same time they can reach a silent piece of your soul the reader thought no one could ever find. 

For those reasons alone, readers feel a connection and cling to this invisible bond. So why is it that many “big” authors are so elusive? 

I can think of a few reasons.  Writers are introverted a lot of the times.  Socially awkward. Have the luxury of anonymity. Our they’ve been scared emotionally by a scene where, in Stephen King’s novel MISERY, the author is kidnapped, tortured, and forced to write a story the way a fan insists it should be written.  I admit the last reason is pretty compelling. 

However, indie authors have no other way to gain support unless they have a large sum of money to advertise. They do author take overs, they do guest blogs, they run their own author pages, etc.

You may think I’m complaining but actually I’m excited about this.  I mean if the Queen of the Vampires, Anne Rice,  can be on her own Facebook page engaging loving fans then I see no reason that every author cannot, or will not, do the same.

If you’re in bed with your reader, (doesn’t everyone read in bed? ) you can at least chat with them when they come in contact with you.  In this digital age of accessibility, anyone not establishing a bond with a fan/reader is missing an opportunity. Not only to create loyalty…but in creating friendship and a source of support.

Gone are the days of being aloof, and elusive. Here are the days of being genuine and inviting.  Get to know your readers. They are your primary investors,  and occupy chairs on your board.  If you lose your readers, you might as well hang up your quill.

Amazon, let’s talk..

First of all let me explain something. Indie authors rely heavily on reviews.  Indie authors are also very close to their fans and readers, giving them access to themselves whereas traditional writers are more distant. Amazon offers support to “indie” authors that have a number of reads and reviews. 

Why then, is Amazon penalizing indie authors that establish these relationships and bonds with loyal readers trying to spread support.  What else does this company want from us? 

Oh let me guess. Money.  Since self publishing means we keep all of the (almost nonexistent) profits they feel is a source of untapped revenue. 

Or maybe they are in cohoots with the traditional publishers who are losing said revenue. 

Listen,  Amazon. What you are doing is wrong. If someone beta reads an authors book,  that means they read it.  If they don’t like it they will either A. Not write a review or B. Write a bad review. 

If I get a gift, and I love the product. .let’s say it’s a new phone. .are you going to tell me my review is manipulated? 

I’m getting sick of this form of censorship. 

Anyone want to weigh in?

Houston…We have a problem

So as many of you have heard, and are probably sick of hearing (sorry) that Houston has become an island. Yes, we’re soaked and miserable. We’ve not seen the likes of this in many, many years. And by “We” I mean Houston, not me. I’m originally from Chicago. Where there’s some normal weather! haha!

The trees turn into brilliant colors during the fall. It snows. Spring brings all the blooms. And summer is the place for friends, block parties, pool parties, house parties…did I mention parties?

So anyway, I wanted to chime in and show you first hand pictures. Not the disaster that you see plastered on the news channels but not pretty either. I went with my friend and daughter-in-law to explore the morning after and these are pics of the blocks surrounding my home. We are surrounded by a “bayou” (sorry, still trying to figure out what this is, other than a ditch with water in it) and it just rushed into the streets. There were ‘possums, turtles (no, seriously) and other critters running around looking for the Ark.

We’re OK here, I promise. A lot of people lost power, but Houstonians are some crazy people let me tell you. These people are trying to drive and go to work (!?!). I just shake my head. The news tells you to stay home and you guys run out. This is why I’ll be surviving the Zom-Poc. Because I stay my ass at home and let the others “test the waters” (no pun intended). Listen folks. All jokes aside. If you see water, please… Go.Inside. No job is worth losing your life over.

Friends and neighbors — If you see people in your neighborhood in need. Don’t stand and watch them. Go help. Talk sense into them, and get them to go inside where it is safe.

And without further ado ….

I Need A Moment..

Skull_Bones_Coffee_Sugar_Snow_Violent_CubeMe2Sometimes when you’re in the eye of the storm you see things around you so much clearer. There’s chaos floating around, debris tumbling in the wind like leaves in winter, and noise. So much noise. It’s deafening like the roar of a lion and it makes you freeze right where you’re standing.

Once you’re in that center though, it is like reaching out with the hand of God and plucking unnecessary objects from the fray. You see everything pass by and it’s like going to a buffet. Each item is neatly placed, pleasing to the eye. They are tempting and scrumptious but in the back of your mind you argue, “This isn’t good for you. You’ll regret it if you indulge.”

This is the way life  has been for me. I was always a storm chaser. Now, I like being in the eye. I can follow the storm ..but I’m not part of the storm.

Removing drama, even if it’s not directly related to you, is sometimes a necessary evil. By its very nature, drama breeds drama and attracts it just the same. I like breathing room where I can step away from it and stay clean from its aftermath. Because believe me, there is always an aftermath. There is always a broken relationship, however big or small, that can never be quite the same.

This is what my kind of people call, “the art of detachment”. We simply turn and walk in the other direction. It’s an easy direction and some people get lost trying to follow it. It’s called, the future.

It’s easier to pull someone off the chair than for that person to help you up to where they are. When people take advantage, taint relationships, show no remorse, or gratitude and devalue your existence in their life — that is the time to release your hold. Believe me, for every hand you release, there’s another one to replace it. Save the ones that help you save them, and let go of the ones that want you to burn with them.

#GoGetItLife – Why this little hashtag motivates me every day..

It’s a simple hashtag. GoGetItLife. It seems obvious to some and to others maybe it’s the new “YOLO” but for me it’s a daily affirmation of my goals and my direction in life.

Yeah, it started with Theo Rossi. And Yes, I looked into what it was all about because I am a huge fan, but  guess what? These little mashed up words became something more to me. I was already accomplishing things I wanted to. I finished my book. I had a good job. I love my family. But..

(Uh huh..there’s always a “but” right?)

I was coasting. I don’t like to just coast, I want to ride the waves! I didn’t know how I was going to do that yet. You see, I had a fantastic job, great pay, etc…the problem was I was getting sicker. (I have an autoimmune disease that makes me feel like I live everyday with some horrible flu, or strep, or any of the millions of nasty ebola-like illnesses.) Doctors tell me to workout, but there are days I cannot even get out of bed. I’m not one of those people that have a low tolerance for pain. I’m so accustomed to being in pain, when I do too much my body shuts down on me and goes on strike.

I’m a fighter, though. I don’t know the word, “No”. What I did know was coming to terms with this was a roller coaster of emotions.

Work out? Yeah, but I’m not producing tears, sweat, saliva. Ever  tried to workout like that? My muscles already feel like I’ve worked out with The Rock and his massive truck tires.

Watch your food intake. Yes, I already do this. I eat very clean, love salads, fresh fruit and veggies.

Drink lots of water. Duh? I have to drink water or I’ll collapse in a pile of dust because my body won’t produce its own.

I have plenty of excuses not to do something. So I started creating excuses to do something. I can’t drive an hour back and forth to work, sit all day behind a desk, and then fight traffic 1.5 hours to get home. It tore up my back and my hips. This caused a dark cloud to form over my head.

With my body doing it’s own thing, I had to make a choice. I decided to take my passion to the next level and opened a Publishing House. Stitched Smile Publications was born on Jan, 6, 2016. It was the best thing I’d ever done, career wise. It’s not rolling in the profits…yet. However, my team is amazing. They work for the passion of what our company stands for. They give selflessly and treat each other like a real family.

Whenever I start to feel doubt, they cheer me on and now with others stepping in to take on more responsibility, I have had time to (nearly) finish my second book, THE UNFLESHED. It’s my pleasure to show  you the cover below..

Unfleshed Cover

So you see? GoGetItLife means grabbing each situation by the short hairs and turning it into whatever you want. It means not bending to adversity and letting sorrow suck you into the depths of blackness. We’re only here for a short time. Dreams of fame and riches only come when you work hard to make it happen. I don’t care who says money makes the world go round. If your heart and priorities aren’t in the right place money will make you her slave. I don’t live to work. I live to make my time on this rock worth it. No one can do that but me.

In the bigger picture it may seem that people that have “everything” are happy, but that’s that’s just the view through a peephole. Something is sacrificed for having it all. Privacy, trust, love, etc.

LIFE is about fulfillment. The things I work hard for that I earn…I love. I’m down on the floor working with my crew and my family. I roll up my sleeves and take the hits alongside them. I want us all to make it because that means I’ve earned my title and I can honestly say, “I’m a success.” It’s a long, jagged road but I don’t care. Anyone that has gained things without working for it has not earned their stripes. I trust a leader that comes from a rich background of hard work, who can relate to me more than someone that had good luck, or inherited their fortune.

I want people to respect me for my experience, my fortitude, my tenacity, and my integrity. If I can make it to the top of the mountain with those things in tact then I’ve gotten LIFE, and won.

And now my thoughts on The Walking Dead Finale

Let me begin by saying this is my own opinion and if you don’t agree, I’m totally cool with that.

We all sat down that Sunday night, prepared for another death. Knowing it would be one of our beloved characters had us in a bundle of nerves. The introduction of Negan making us (sick and) giddy.

We all know that the show loves to leave us dangling like a dingleberry until the social media sites are blazing like Hell’s inferno..but this one? This one was cheap. And frankly, coming from someone that doesn’t mind cliff hangers..I felt my love and loyalty tested. 

We spent most of the finale watching the group drive, back track, drive, circle, with tiny moments of bonding. We spent the other part watching Morgan trailing Carol, finding her, losing her, finding her… ugh.

I kept looking at my watch!  Like, “uhhh you’re cutting this real close guys!”

And I knew it. A drawn out, cheapo finale that prepped us (like every. single.  season. before.) for someone to die.  Or might be died. For once I was screaming for a Game of Thrones scene that would leave me emotionally crippled, but at least satisfied!

It’s an old joke now guys. Real old. Move the story along.  You can only fake throw the ball so many times before the dogs grow disinterested. 

As an author, my fans and readers would’ve moved on by now,  and rightfully so.

I was so pissed…I didn’t care who died anymore. I just wanted to go to bed.

What’d you think? Post in the comments below.