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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Imaginary Friends (VI)

(I) (II) (III) (IV) (V)
I complained about dishes in the sink and socks on the floor, and even though he never came, I imagined Donar lying next to me in my too empty bed, while I stared at the ceiling and talked.

Eric was a resident, and if I had thought he was never home before, I understood now what it really meant to be the wife of a doctor. I tried not to hate it. I tried not to resent the fact that the most I saw of Eric was his sleeping body beneath the blankets at odd hours and a hurried meal before he left again with fistfuls of granola bars for later.

Donar listened, and when my frustration became irrational, he calmed me with reason and reminders of the things I loved about my husband. He was Eric’s greatest advocate, his defender. But sometimes, I resented that too.

“You’re supposed to be my protector, my hero. Not his.”

I felt his laugh more than I heard it. Always, Anna.

“Then why are you taking his side?” I asked.

You’re married, now. There’s only one side, one flesh. His side is your side.

I sighed. “I hate when you’re right.”

And I hated even more that I spent more time with Donar than with Eric. I hated that the more I talked to him, the more I longed for him. I hated that I wanted him with me, real and solid. I hated that I missed the electricity of his hand against my cheek and the warmth of his blue eyes. I hated that it was impossible not to feel his love for me, like a balm. It was too easy to fall in love with imaginary men who could read minds and always knew the right thing to say, even if he could never touch me. Not really.

But sometimes, when it rained and thundered, I watched for lightning and wondered. When I was a little girl, he had been so real, so solid. He had brought me glasses of water and pulled blankets up to my chin. He had held me in his lap, all hard muscle and warm skin, and brushed my hair from my face while I cried. Did that mean he could be solid again? That if I believed with that same childlike conviction, I could make him real?

I never asked, and he never mentioned it. Eric’s side was my side, and I loved my husband, even if he wasn’t home as often as I liked.

Twenty-seven and a half.
“Did you talk to my mother, too?” I asked one night, lying sleepless in bed.

Once, he admitted.  Just before she died.

“What did she say?”

He sighed. She asked me to watch over you.

My throat thickened, though I hadn’t cried for my mother since I was ten. “Is that why you’re still here?”

One of many reasons, Anna. But it isn’t the most important one.

Another thing I didn’t dare ask.

Thirty and three quarters.
Blood and glass and twisted metal, and screaming. Screaming until my throat was raw and my ears rang and there was nothing but the sound of my own voice. What god had joined, man had torn apart, and I was no longer whole.

I cried until there were no tears left, and the only thing I could feel was the dull ache of my broken bones. Donar called to me, but I didn’t answer, just pressed the button for more morphine and turned my face into the pillow until the drug fogged my mind and I slept.

Thirty and seven eighths.
They pushed back the funeral until I was healed enough to leave the hospital, and I let Eric’s mother and sister do most of the planning. It didn’t matter, really, what we did. It wouldn’t bring him back.

I watched them lower his casket into the ground, leaning heavily on my crutches, and while the minister offered his condolences I prayed to a different god.

Is Eric’s death my death too? I asked him. Or is this what the Norse myths mean, when they talk about Hel, half beautiful and half rotten corpse. Is he gone now because I didn’t deserve him? Because I spent so much time in my head, talking to you?

You know that isn’t true, Donar said. You’ve suffered loss before, Anna. It has no method, no reason. Death claims us all in the end.

Not gods, I argued. Not you.

And I wish it were so simple for you, that you might think of him, and have him back again. But men are not gods, Anna. They are not meant to fade in and out of the world on the tides of mortal memory. Nor do I think you would care for it, if you did. It is a lonely long life, and it always ends the same way when you’re forgotten. Death upon death for eternity, filled with heartbreak when those who you love no longer love you.

If you’re a god, why couldn’t you have protected him?

I’m not his god or yours, and even if I were, I wouldn’t have had the power to save him from something like this. Shelter him from a storm, grant him strength to defeat his enemies, those are things I might have accomplished. But not this, Anna. I am so sorry I could not stop this.

I wiped the tears from my cheeks and let my father help me back to the car. He’d had to bury his wife, and now I’d buried my husband. Maybe they were together, watching over us, but I’d never really believed in that. I didn’t know what death was, only that Eric was gone, and for once it felt right that I should be alone.

Donar kept his promise. He never spoke to me again.

(I) (II) (III) (IV) (V)

Forged by Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1) Tempting Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1.5) Fate Forgotten (Fate of the Gods, #2) Taming Fate (Fate of the Gods, #2.5) Beyond Fate (Fate of the Gods, #3)
Honor Among Orcs (Orc Saga, #1) * Postcards from Asgard * Helen of Sparta
Buy Now:
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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Imaginary Friends (V)

(I) (II) (III) (IV)
Twenty-four and a quarter.
My father gripped my hand, much stronger now than when I’d brought him home, and I sat down on the edge of the bed the way Donar had often sat on mine.

“I worry about you,” he said. “The way you moon around all day, talking to yourself. I hear you sometimes, through the wall, and I know you can’t be yakking with Eric so often, busy as he is.”

I flushed. Old habits died hard, and at home, most of my time with Donar had been spent alone in the house. I hadn’t ever considered that anyone might hear me. “I guess I just like to hear the sound of my own voice.”

“Mrs. Phillips used to tell me she heard you carrying on conversations with someone, when you were a little girl. I thought you’d grow out of it. Or it was just something you picked up from your mom, thinking it was normal.”

“From Mom?” I asked, trying to keep the strain from my voice. “She talked to herself, too?”

His lips thinned and his brown eyes met mine, even and sad. “Your mom was sick, Anna. Real sick, even when she took her medicine. She heard voices. It was harmless mostly. Just gossip and conversations, but when she forgot her pills it got ugly sometimes. Especially at night. I’d hate to find it snuck up on you, too.”

My stomach twisted and I swallowed hard. “You don’t have to worry, Dad. I’m fine.”

He searched my face before letting go. “You should tell Eric. So he’ll know, just in case.”

“He’s a doctor, Dad. He’ll take good care of me.” I leaned down and kissed his forehead, like he used to kiss mine. “Get some sleep, all right?”

I didn’t speak to Donar that night. Or the night after. But I felt him in the back of my mind, waiting, wondering. There.

“You promise that if I ask you to leave me alone, you’ll go?” I whispered into the darkness. “Just like you said when I was nine.”

I was silent for the last four years, Anna. All of this has always been your choice.

I let out a breath I hadn’t realized I was holding. He was right, of course. He only came when I called.

Even if it was an illness, if I could control it, control when I heard him, did it matter?

I guess I’d find out.

I started studying the Eddas and the Sagas, and sometimes, when I could get away with it, even Asatru. I had never been a religious person, and I didn’t mean to start now, but I had spent the last twenty-plus years of my life talking to a something that claimed to be a god, and I couldn’t help but wonder if all of this could be ascribed to some spiritual experience. I would rather be communing with god than schizophrenic, in any event. I would rather be a pagan than wear a straight-jacket in a padded room.

I wasn’t sure what Eric would prefer. Probably something that could be medicated. Something he could understand. I still remembered Mrs. Philips and her threats to take me to the doctor. I still remembered what Donar had told me, too. Crazy or not, I wasn’t ready to lose him on anyone else’s terms but mine.

My father sent me boxes upon boxes of my mother’s books, unearthed from the crawlspace where he’d hidden them after her death. I sat with them in the middle of the floor, unpacking each one carefully.

“I wish I’d known we had all these,” I said, more to Donar than to Eric, who was watching me.

“Did you even know your mother was interested in this kind of stuff?” Eric asked.

I shook my head, my fingers lingering over the spine of a small green book. I opened it carefully and found the illustrations I knew would be there. The pages were yellowed and the cloth cover was frayed at the corners. “She used to read to me from this one.”

He took it from me, paging through it. “Are these all on Norse myths?”

“Three boxes over there are just Arthurian legends. She must have collected every book ever written that was even tangentially related. And those two boxes are Greek and Roman. I think this is the only box of Norse. Everything else is kind of a mishmash of whatever obscure mythologies she could find, and then some fairy tales.”

“That’s a lot of books.” He handed me back the green one. A children’s book. “What are you going to do with them all?”

I looked up at my husband and smiled. “Read them.”

“At least I know you won’t miss me while I’m gone.” He leaned down to kiss my forehead. “I’ll try to be home for dinner tonight, but I’ve got to go back in after. You’ll be all right with your books?”

“I’ll be wonderful with my books.”

Eric never questioned my interests after that. Even if he should have.

(I) (II) (III) (IV)

Forged by Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1) Tempting Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1.5) Fate Forgotten (Fate of the Gods, #2) Taming Fate (Fate of the Gods, #2.5) Beyond Fate (Fate of the Gods, #3)
Honor Among Orcs (Orc Saga, #1) * Postcards from Asgard * Helen of Sparta
Buy Now:
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Friday, January 23, 2015

Imaginary Friends (IV)

(I) (II) (III)
Eric’s touch wasn’t electric, and he didn’t smell like rain, but I never had to wonder if I really heard his heart beating or if it was just some echo of my own. When he walked with me to class, no one walked through him, and when I took him with me to parties, no one thought I was talking to myself. His features never blurred, and I never worried my hand would go right through his chest.

And he loved me.

He loved me, and he wanted me for always and forever, and I wanted him, too. I wanted to go on real dates, with my real boyfriend, in the real world. I wanted to know I wasn’t crazy.

I didn’t mean to fall in love, but I did. I fell in love with normal and real and Eric, who smelled like cinnamon and made love to me like there was nothing else in the world worth doing.

A half carat diamond framed by six sapphires, three on each side. After I said yes, I went back to my dorm room and hyperventilated. This was the rest of my life. The rest of my life laid out for me with children I wasn’t exactly sure I wanted and in-laws I wasn’t sure wanted me and what was I doing marrying a boy in his twenties? Donar had warned me about boys in their twenties.


Oh God, Donar.

It was supposed to be you.

Shh, he said in the back of my mind. I’m here.

And then he was holding me in his arms while I cried for the man I could never marry. The man I was giving up, because he wasn’t real, and he never would be.

“Marry Eric, Anna. Marry Eric and be happy. I’ll still be with you. I’ll still come to you, if you call.”

It was a beautiful fall day, and everything about our wedding was perfect. Everything about Eric was perfect. I smiled so much my face ached, but I didn’t notice how sore I was until the next day.

My father had a heart attack. Too many years of working too hard with too little sleep and drinking too much soda and eating too many French fries. When they opened him up, his arteries were so choked with cholesterol the doctors couldn’t believe he’d lasted as long as he had without some kind of trouble. Eric drove me all the way home, dropped me off, and drove all the way back in the same day, to make it to his clinicals. They don’t give you time off in medical school unless you’re the one who’s dying.

I picked Dad up at the hospital and got him home and into his own bed. Eric told me to stay as long as I needed to. As long as Dad needed me. I went into my old bedroom and shut the door, but it was full of all the things I didn’t want to remember.

I refused to call for Donar. It didn’t seem right, now that I was married. It didn’t seem right to want another man as much or more than my husband. Even if he wasn’t a real man. Even if he wasn’t anything more than a ghost in the best of circumstances. And he couldn’t do anything to help anyway, not really.

I’m here, he said.

“I know.”

At twenty-four, I was definitely too old for imaginary friends, but the nights got long and the days were empty while my father slept, and Eric barely had any time to talk on the phone. It wasn’t his fault. We both knew what medical school would mean for him, but how could we have anticipated something like this?

I talked to Donar even though I refused to see him, and when I couldn’t sleep he told me stories, like he had when I was a little girl, and I told him everything about the last four years. Of course he already knew most of it, being in my head, but he listened anyway, asking questions and offering sympathy in all the right places.

“I knew he wanted to go to medical school, and I knew in theory how much work it would be, but it’s different, experiencing it,” I admitted finally. “And it isn’t even that I’m not happy, because I am. Eric is wonderful. I just wish I saw more of him.”

You will, in time. And I’m here.

“I’m married, Donar.”

Is it so wrong to share your burdens with a friend?

I didn’t answer. When he said it like that, it seemed so reasonable, and those six months we had spent, that I had spent, loving him impossibly, were so far away.

“I can’t see you,” I said. “If I do this, we can’t see one another. We can talk, but that’s it.”

Whatever you need, Anna.

And I would try not to think about what it meant that I was still hearing voices in my head, twenty years after I should have given them up.

You’re not insane, he said, his tone firm. You’re not suffering from some kind of mental disorder. None of this is any different than someone who claims to speak to God in prayer, I promise you.

“I’m inclined to believe the people who make claims like that are kind of crazy, too,” I said. “And besides you’re not a god.”

He was silent for so long I opened my eyes and sat up. My heart thumped unevenly, afraid he was gone. Really gone. After all this time.


I’m here.

“Don’t do that to me!”

Do you remember your mother, Anna?

“Only a little.” The image of my mother’s empty body rose in my mind and I closed my eyes to block it out. Better if she’d really died in a fire, than wither the way she had, thinner and thinner until there was nothing left. “I remember she used to read to me before bed, and I’d cuddle up against her and turn the pages.”

Do you remember what she used to read to you, when you were very small?

“No,” I said, even as I tried to remember some clue. If he knew, I must. If he was in my head, I had to remember something. “Tell me.”

Your mother loved myths. She used to read to you from Bulfinch and the Eddas. You didn’t care for the Arthurian legends, but you loved –

“The Norse.” It clicked together like the tumblers of a lock, my mother laughing when I begged for stories of Thor and his goats. He always seemed to go on adventures, and I wanted to go with him one day. “Thor was my favorite.”

He was very real to you. Especially after your mother died, you clung to the idea that he would protect you. You believed it so absolutely. Children are very powerful that way, holding fast to ideas long dead and breathing new life into them. You started telling your own stories about Thor’s adventures, and the idea of his character in your mind was so complete…

“It was you,” I said. “Wasn’t it?”

Me, he agreed. And here I am still, all these years later, because of the love of a child.

“Anna?” my father called, his voice hoarse.

“I have to go,” I said.

I’ll be here, he answered.

Like always.

And forever?

(I) (II) (III)

Forged by Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1) Tempting Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1.5) Fate Forgotten (Fate of the Gods, #2) Taming Fate (Fate of the Gods, #2.5) Beyond Fate (Fate of the Gods, #3)
Honor Among Orcs (Orc Saga, #1) * Postcards from Asgard * Helen of Sparta
Buy Now:
Amazon | Barnes&Noble

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Imaginary Friends (III)

(I) (II)

Sixteen and a half.
John opened doors for me and carried my books like some boy out of the fifties, and when he kissed me my heart raced and a shiver slid down my spine. On the nights Dad worked, he came over, parking his car around the block and climbing in through my bedroom window so Mrs. Philips wouldn’t see.

I didn’t forget Donar, exactly, but John and I spent so much time together I didn’t think of him often, and when I did, it was only in passing. Sometimes, if John wasn’t with me and I woke up in the middle of the night from the same old nightmare of the burning house and my mother trapped inside, I would hear his voice like a whisper in the back of my mind. Go back to sleep, Anna, he would say from somewhere in the dark. I’m here.

It was all I needed to keep my fears away, and I didn’t ask for anything more.


My roommate’s love of techno drove me out of the dorm for some peace and quiet. But it was late, and when a twig snapped behind me, my heart almost jumped out of my chest. I threaded my keys through my fingers and made a fist around them in my pocket. Laughter drifted from the shadows, and two girls passed by me on the sidewalk. I forced myself to relax. It wasn’t really any different than walking home from school by myself, and I’d done that since I was twelve.

Except I hadn’t really been by myself then, and it hadn’t been dark. I stopped beneath a maple tree and closed my eyes, thinking of Donar. My hero. My protector. “I miss you,” I said softly.

I’m here. It felt like a caress, and my heartbeat steadied with the sound of his voice, even if it was only in my head. Even if he was only in my head.

Ugh. I was in college. The last thing I should have been doing was summoning imaginary men from the deep of my subconscious. It was one thing to cling to Donar as a little girl, one who had just lost her mother, with an absent father no less, but it was something else to think of him now. Maybe Mrs. Philips had been right about counseling all those years ago. I pressed my fingers against my eyes and leaned back against the tree trunk. Imaginary friends were for children, and I wasn’t one anymore.

But I would have given my left arm just then, for the familiar warmth of his hand around mine, and his voice coming from outside of my head. For anything familiar, really. That’s all that it was, I decided. A taste of homesickness. I’d get over it. And I didn’t need Donar to keep away the noises in the night anymore. He couldn’t do anything anyway. He was just a figment of my imagination.

A rustle of leaves sent my heart racing again, and my eyes flew open. The shape of a man in shadow. I squinted but I couldn’t make out his features in the dark. It was probably just a trick of the light. Or else it was some frat boy trying to scare stupid freshman girls into his bed.

The shape chuckled, warm and rich, and the leaves crunched beneath his feet as he came closer. “Is there no third option?”

My breath caught and the shape resolved into better focus, strawberry blonde hair and familiar blue eyes. “Donar?”

“I’ve always answered when you called.”

I frowned, reaching out. My hand passed through his chest, with just the barest jolt, like the spark off a weak battery. “You’re not real.”

“I’m not tangible,” he corrected me. “I’ve always been real.”

“You’ve always been a fantasy,” I told him. “Some imaginary friend I cooked up out of nowhere to keep myself from being scared. You were never real.”

“Maybe you’re right.” He looked away. “Would you like me to go?”

“No,” I said. “I just – I wish you were real. I wish you could be, and we could be…”

He smiled, or at least his eyes did, the rest of his face was still shadowed. “Let me walk you back to your dorm.”

“My roommate is there.”

He offered me his hand. “If I’m not real, she can’t see me.”

I hesitated, staring at the smudge of his arm, blurred at the edges. But I remembered what it felt like to hold his hand in the dark, and I wanted that reassurance. When I took his hand, it was solid and warm, and when his fingers closed around mine, I saw them clearly. These were the same familiar hands that had stroked my hair from my face and dried my tears, large and strong and calloused.

“Wasn’t there something about a hammer?” I asked him, feeling the roughness of his palm. “In one of the stories you used to tell me?”

“A magic hammer, yes.”

“Tell me that one,” I said.

“There were four dwarves who lived beneath the earth,” he began. “And they made many marvelous things between them…”

My roommate didn’t see him when we walked hand and hand into our room together, or when he lay down beside me in the bed, and I curled up in his arms. And she didn’t hear him when he whispered the story of the prince’s golden boar in my ear, made by the same dwarves as the hammer, though she did look up from her computer when his breath tickled my ear and I laughed aloud.

“Sorry,” I mumbled, biting my lip to keep from grinning. “I just remembered something funny. Um. Good night.”

“Good night,” she said.

Donar kissed my temple, his lips a touch of static against my skin. “Good night.”

It was the best sleep I’d had in years.

Eighteen and a half.
I didn’t want a boyfriend. I didn’t need a boyfriend. Dating was completely overrated, and the boys on campus were nothing in comparison to Donar. At night, I invited him into my bed the way I had once snuck John in through my window. During the day he walked with me from class to class, even sitting in at lectures when there were seats to spare.

He wasn’t real, but when he touched me, I could feel it. Electricity skating over my skin and shivering down my spine. He wasn’t real, but sometimes, in the dark, when my throat thickened with loneliness and homesick tears, I turned my face into his chest and swore I heard his heartbeat. He wasn’t real, but my sheets smelled like the air right before a thunderstorm and fresh cut grass after he spent the night between them. It wasn’t me. All my bodywashes and shampoos smelled like almonds and vanilla.

He wasn’t real, but I wanted to believe he could be.
(I) (II)
(IV) (V) (VI(VII) (VIII)

Forged by Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1) Tempting Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1.5) Fate Forgotten (Fate of the Gods, #2) Taming Fate (Fate of the Gods, #2.5) Beyond Fate (Fate of the Gods, #3)
Honor Among Orcs (Orc Saga, #1) * Postcards from Asgard * Helen of Sparta
Buy Now:
Amazon | Barnes&Noble

Monday, January 19, 2015

Imaginary Friends (II)

“What do you think?” I asked, closing the closet door.

The dress was green velvet to my knees, flaring at the waist, and it made me feel like a princess in a fairy tale. I looked up at Donar lounging on my bed. He wasn’t actually there, of course, but I liked to pretend he was. I liked to pretend he kept me safe when I walked home from school by myself, or while I was doing my homework before Dad woke up for dinner, and when I was alone at night. Always when I was alone at night.

I couldn’t remember a time when Donar didn’t stay with me, sitting at the foot of my bed, his blue eyes warm as he told me stories about a beautiful princess with a chariot drawn by cats, and her brother, the prince of all the elves, who rode a great golden boar. I’d had a crush on Donar since third grade. Now I was in eighth and I knew better than to fall in love with imaginary men. Not that I didn’t sometimes catch myself wishing he weren’t imaginary at all.

But he was, and that was that, and even if he had been real, it wouldn’t have mattered. It wasn’t like he could have asked me to the dance. He was too old.

Donar smiled, but it didn’t reach his eyes. “Peter won’t know what hit him.”

“Do you think he’ll kiss me?”

“I think he’ll want to. Whether he has the courage to act on it or not, I couldn’t say.”

I sighed and flung myself onto the bed next to him. “He just has to! Can’t you make him?”

Donar propped himself up on an elbow. “And is that what you want? A boy who kisses you because someone made him?”

“Well, no,” I said, my face flushing. “But I’ve waited so long, and now he’s finally asked me to the dance, and I made sure to tell Jenny to tell Matt that I wanted him to.”

He laughed. “Why don’t you just tell him yourself?”

“What if he laughed at me? Or he didn’t want to, after all this?”

“Then he isn’t worthy of you, and you’re better off without him.”

“That’s easy for you to say.”

The doorbell rang and my stomach twisted into a knot so tight I didn’t think it would ever come undone. I jumped off the bed and ran to answer it. Dad had already left for work, and Peter’s mom was driving us to the dance. I was already down the hall before I remembered Donar. I stopped, turning back. He stood framed in the hallway, watching me, but there was something sad in his eyes.

“Just call my name if you need me,” he said. “I’ll be waiting.”

“I know.”

When I opened the door, he disappeared, but then Peter was there, his tie crooked and a corsage in his hand, and I forgot all about Donar between one stomach flip and the next.

At the end of the night, my lips still tingling from my first real kiss and my stomach still filled with butterflies, I didn’t think about Donar at all.

I cried into my pillowcase, wishing I still believed in Donar enough that he could hold me. But I’d been too old for imaginary friends in eighth grade, and too old for them in elementary school, and if anyone knew I wished I had one now, as a sophomore, it would be the end of my life.

I still missed him, though. Even more when my heart ached like someone had torn it open. I’d given Peter everything I had, and now this. I thought he would be my first everything, and I wanted him to be my last, and then I found him kissing some stupid cheerleader under the bleachers. Donar, at least, had never hurt me. He never could. But I could already imagine Mrs. Philips, dropping hints to Dad that I needed some kind of counseling, and if she ever found out how long I had hung onto Donar, I’d be locked up in a padded room for sure.

“No one has to know,” a familiar voice said, and I felt the mattress springs sink beside me. Donar stroked my hair, and I kept my eyes shut tight, afraid that if I opened them to look, he would disappear. “It’s all right, Anna. He isn’t worth your tears.”

“I thought he loved me,” I sobbed.

“He’s too young to know what love is,” Donar said, stroking my hair. “Boys don’t understand that sort of thing until they’re in their twenties, and even then they’re likely to be fools about it.”

“Why didn’t you tell me that before now?” I asked. “You’re supposed to protect me. You were supposed to keep me safe!”

Donar’s hand paused on the back of my head. “It was better for you to be with him, even if it ended badly.”

“Better than what?” I asked.

He said nothing. I rolled over carefully, and opened my eyes. He looked so strange, almost transparent, his features blurred around the edges. But his blue eyes still met mine, warm and clear. The only clear part of him. It was like I had forgotten what he looked like, or like those first days, when I was four, and he had been no more than a shadow in the moonlight. My best friend, who whispered words of comfort in the dark when I woke because of some imagined noise in the house after Dad had gone to work. That was all he had been, at first. Just a voice. Just words. Until I had imagined him a face, and a body. I could imagine him again, I thought. My hero. My protector.

“You’ll find someone else, Anna,” he said quietly. “Someone who will love you the way you should be loved.”

“I don’t want someone else. I don’t ever want to feel this way again.”

His fingers felt like static electricity, pins and needles on my cheek. “You’ll change your mind.”

“How do you know?”

I think he smiled, but it was hard to tell when his mouth was nothing more than a smudge of watercolor. “Because the only thing you’ve ever feared is darkness, and love is sunlight, chasing it away.”

“Will you stay with me until then?”

“I’m always with you, Anna.”

I tried to catch his hand, but my fingers went right through it. “Like before,” I said. “Like you’re real.”

“I thought you were too old for imaginary friends,” he teased.

“Nobody has to know,” I said.

“Think of me, and I’ll come.” He dropped his head, seeming to stare at his hands in his lap, such as they were. Milky vague shapes with no substance. “But you might be better off thinking of other things, than trying to bring me back.”

“I don’t care,” I said. “At least with you, I won’t feel so alone.”

“No,” he agreed. “You’ll never be alone if you don’t wish to be.”

“Anna? Are you all right?” Dad called through the door. He opened it a crack, poking his head inside, and Donar blurred into oblivion. “Were you talking to someone?”

“No.” I wiped my eyes. “I was just talking to myself. I’m fine.”

He hesitated, frowning, his hair sticking up and his cheek creased by his pillow. “Are you sure?”

“I’m sure,” I said, staring at the impression of Donar’s body in the blankets.

“Are you hungry?” he asked. “Maybe we could go out for dinner tonight. Catch up a little. I have the night off.”

“Sure,” I said, suppressing a rush of disappointment. I’d been counting on a night alone, but it didn’t matter. Donar would wait until tomorrow.

He’d already waited two years.

(III) (IV) (V) (VI(VII) (VIII)

Forged by Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1) Tempting Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1.5) Fate Forgotten (Fate of the Gods, #2) Taming Fate (Fate of the Gods, #2.5) Beyond Fate (Fate of the Gods, #3)
Honor Among Orcs (Orc Saga, #1) * Postcards from Asgard * Helen of Sparta
Buy Now:
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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Imaginary Friends (I)

After my musings regarding imaginary friends on twitter recently, I decided it was time to share a (longer) short story I'd written exploring the idea of the imaginary when it blurs with something... less so. I hope you enjoy it! 

If you prefer to read this in a more digestible kindle edition, you can buy it for just 99cents

I woke to a creak of floorboards and pulled the blanket up over my head, holding my breath while I listened hard. My mind whirled with men in black, faces masked, creeping through the house. Daddy, why did you leave me alone? He’d come home and find me gone, stolen away with the furniture and the television and the oven and all my toys.

I hiccupped on a sob and everything swam with tears. I wanted my daddy. I wanted my mommy, who was never coming back. I wanted someone, anyone, to keep away the noises in the night. I didn’t want to be stolen away!

“Shh,” a voice said, low and soothing. “I’m here. It was just the house settling, nothing more.”

I peeked out from underneath the blanket and the mattress groaned softly as a weight settled beside me. A warm hand touched my shoulder and I saw the shape of a man. Donar. My hero. My protector. My friend. The tightness in my throat eased and I pulled the blanket down, gasping for fresh air.

“Go back to sleep, Anna,” the shape said, a finger brushing the tears from my cheek, making my skin tingle. “You’re not alone.”

Even though it was a lie, I believed him. Donar was always right.

“I’ll be back to take you to school in the morning,” Daddy said, tucking me into bed. “If you need anything, you call Mrs. Philips next door, all right? The number is right here, next to the phone.” He held up the receiver, then set it down on my nightstand. “Sleep tight.” He kissed my forehead. “Don’t let the bed bugs bite.”

“Good night, Daddy.” I hugged his neck. “See you in the morning light.”

He turned out the lamp and pulled the door shut behind him, leaving only the whirling rainbow glow of the nightlight. Footsteps shifting from carpet to linoleum, the jingle of his keys, the door opening, then closing, and the click of the lock. I threw off the blanket and went to the window, watching him back out of the driveway, the headlights flashing in the rain.

“Aren’t you supposed to be in bed?” Donar asked.

I made a face at his reflection in the glass. “I just wanted to see Daddy.”

He ruffled my hair. “Now you’ve seen him off, back under the blankets.”

I sighed and crawled into my bed. “Will you tell me a story, at least?”

“Of course.” He tucked the blankets under my chin and sat down at the foot of the bed. “Which story would you like to hear?”

This was our ritual, Donar’s and mine, and I couldn’t sleep without it on the nights that Daddy left me to work. He had two jobs now, since Mommy died, and I saw more of Mrs. Philips than I did him. And Donar of course, but he didn’t count because nobody saw Donar but me.

I’d told Mrs. Philips about him once, but she said I was too old for imaginary friends, and if I didn’t stop seeing him, she was going to tell my daddy to take me to the doctor. Donar and I talked about it later and we decided it would be better if I didn’t say anything to anyone else. I asked him why I’d have to go the doctor, and he got real quiet and sad and I wished I hadn’t said anything at all before he answered.

“To make you stop seeing me,” he said. “With tests and medicines, if necessary. But I promise you, if you don’t want to see me anymore, you only have to tell me so, and I’ll go away without any of that. All right?”

“Why would I want you to go away?” I asked him.

He half-smiled. “One day you’ll realize that no one else has any friends like me, and you’ll want to be like them, maybe. Or else you just won’t remember me anymore, because you don’t need someone to keep you safe at night.”

I thought the whole thing was silly. How could I forget Donar? Who would tell me stories until I fell asleep? Who would get me water in the middle of the night, after I dreamed the house burned down, and Mommy was still inside? And I was sure I didn’t want anyone else making me forget him, so when Mrs. Philips asked about him a few weeks later, I told her he’d gone away, back to his stone palace with his magic goats.

“Tell me about the princess who can turn into a bird and fly away,” I said to Donar. “Don’t her cats ever try to catch her and eat her? Mrs. Philips has a cat and it’s always trying to catch birds.”

Donar smiled, the rainbow nightlight turning his beard purple. It was almost orange in daytime. “She becomes a very large bird. So large the cats worry she’ll eat them instead. Do you remember how she turns into a bird?”

“How?” I asked.

“She has a magic cloak of feathers, and when she puts it on, it transforms her. But anyone can wear the cloak. Someday, if you ask her very nicely, maybe she’ll let you borrow it and soar into the sky like a falcon until your arms are too tired to fly any higher.”

I dreamed of flying that night. It was much too exciting for my arms to ever get tired, that’s for sure.
(II) (III) (IV) (V) (VI(VII) (VIII)

Forged by Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1) Tempting Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1.5) Fate Forgotten (Fate of the Gods, #2) Taming Fate (Fate of the Gods, #2.5) Beyond Fate (Fate of the Gods, #3)
Honor Among Orcs (Orc Saga, #1) * Postcards from Asgard * Helen of Sparta
Buy Now:
Amazon | Barnes&Noble

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Writerly Goals for 2015

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So I know I'm two weeks behind on posting about this -- and I don't normally post about this stuff anyway, but this year is going to be busy for me. SUPER busy. I've got HELEN OF SPARTA's release April 1st, and I've lined myself up to attend two conferences already: The Historical Novel Society's conference in Denver, and the World Fantasy Convention in Saratoga Springs.

And that's not all! On top of the travel, and the book releasing, I've got books to write, and I thought you might be interested to know what's on my docket for 2015 -- and not just because it might help me to stay on task if I make it public, though I'd be lying if I said that wasn't PART of why I was writing this post.

Let's do this in list form!

New Words, New Manuscripts:

  • Another Bronze Age historical (which I will leave vague for the moment though I do know exactly what I'm writing and I'm looking forward to diving in!)
  • Orc Saga 3
  • Finish my PNR novella featuring Ullr, Thor's stepson (it's about 2/3rds done)
  • Finish my Fate of the Gods novella featuring Ra and Athena (it's about... 1/4th done. maybe.)
  • Finish Marcus's story, whatever that turns out to be (another Fate of the Gods potential novella)
  • And if I can finish all that, then I'll work on the next Bronze Age historical, which may or may not have to do with Theseus and Antiope. We'll see!


  • Orc Saga 2 needs a round of revisions -- though the cover art is well on its way, and I am super stoked to share it.
  • Hippodamia and Pirithous aka TAMER OF HORSES, the bronze age historical I wrapped up in 2014 as part of NaNoWriMo will need some revisions, too.
  • And of course, HELEN OF SPARTA is hitting shelves!
  • I'm tentatively hoping to release BLOOD OF THE QUEEN (Orc Saga: Book Two) in the fall/winter!
  • And an Audiobook of FORGED BY FATE is coming!

Yeah. Basically I've got my hands full and if I can manage to finish all of this before 2016 blows through town, I'll be shocked and amazed, but I might as well dream big! As long as I get one of the Fate of the Gods novellas done along with my two full length novels, I think I'll be pretty pleased with myself, and any progress made in the others will put me ahead next year.

And I have a fun FICTION interlude for you blog readers coming up next, before I get back into the bronze age/myths/Helen/Theseus business again for Helen's release -- it's called Imaginary Friends, and Part I posts on Thursday!

Forged by Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1) Tempting Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1.5) Fate Forgotten (Fate of the Gods, #2) Taming Fate (Fate of the Gods, #2.5) Beyond Fate (Fate of the Gods, #3)
Honor Among Orcs (Orc Saga, #1) * Postcards from Asgard * Helen of Sparta
Buy Now:
Amazon | Barnes&Noble