Bodies…Chapter Two: Waking the Living

Sometime in October

Jenna’s eyes opened to the sound of voices and gunshots. She wheezed, sucking in large gulps of air.  The dream receded, scratching and clawing as she forced it back, deep into her subconscious.

Outside her bedroom, bullets screamed like fireworks.  Damp and sweaty, Jenna struggled to sit up in bed, the room dancing dizzily around her. She fell back against the sheets and focused on the dull, streaky ceiling in an attempt to stop the vertigo.  Looking at the bland room, painted off-white, made her head pound harder. She squinted at the moonlight coming through the window, rubbing at a crust that attempted to keep her eyes sewn shut.

Every part of her body ached.

She gave into the pain and rolled into a fetal position.

Another gunshot.

Someone called for help.

Even barely cognizant, she noticed when the man glided like a fallen angel to the edge of her bed. Black hair escaped the edges of a hooded sweatshirt.

She swiped at her face again as if the movement would bring a memory back. Bits and pieces of forgotten time struggled forth. A flicker of a memory here, a whispered word there. She remembered leaving the High Point Inn to go see the horses in the barn. Was it only yesterday?

“Caleb?” Jenna whispered, throat parched. She could never forget him.

He knelt at the side of the bed, his long legs tucked gracefully under him,  poetic face aligned with hers fever-soaked one.

“I thought you were having another nightmare.” Caleb kissed her clammy forehead and then brushed the dark, damp bangs out of her eyes with a gentle caress of his calloused hand.

“What happened?” Jenna whispered, her voice raspy.  She tried to move closer to Caleb, but groaned when her stomach swam.  She tossed her head over the side of the bed as her insides heaved like waves in a storm.

“Okay?” He gently caressed her back, not expecting an answer. “You had me so scared. Everyone here worries about you so much.”  Caleb sank lower on the floor, trying to comfort Jenna. He sat stoically and waited.

Outside the door another shriek followed by rifle blasts.

“What’s going on?” Jenna asked when finally able to speak. She pulled her head up, ignoring the pain, and looked around. She was in her room at the inn. The oversized, sweat-soaked, rumpled t-shirt swam on her tiny frame. It was all she was wearing.

“Do you remember anything?”  Caleb’s hand covered hers.

Jenna noticed his nervous glance toward the door. He had ignored her question too. She shook her head, following his gaze.

The fever made her shiver.

She remembered little about the night she left the inn to see the horses except how impossible it was to fall asleep. And while she knew it was stupid to venture into the darkness alone, she had gone outside anyway. The horses provided some small comfort in this awful world like nothing else could, except maybe Caleb.

“Tell me what is happening. What happened to me?” Jenna needed to know made her try to pull herself up.

Instead of answering, Caleb handed her some water and Jenna sipped it, knowing not to rush him. “Do you want food?”

Her stomach heaved at the thought. She shook her head. The unexplained gun shots and screams had ceased, but the outside world, while muted behind the thick wooden door that separated her from the rest of her companions at the High Point Inn, pressed in on her.

She attempted to prompt the story from Caleb.  “I remember feeling sick and sleepless and going outside to check the horses…”

Caleb looked sad, pausing before he spoke. “Billy found you there in the morning, unresponsive. We don’t know what happened, but you’ve been in an out of consciousness for three days.”

“Three days? Can’t be that long.” Jenna paused to try and find the lost time. “I remember dreaming.”

She groaned as she tried to sit up straighter, muscles sore and protesting, but she persisted. Caleb got to his feet and positioned himself on the bed next to her. His body, cold against Jenna’s feverish skin, filled her with reassurance. He dabbed a damp cloth against her forehead, but it did little to end the throbbing. He sat close, once again positioning Jenna’s warm hand in his cool one. They rested for a long moment like this while Jenna attempted to puzzle out the information once again.

“Three days gone,” Jenna said. She rested her head on Caleb’s shoulder, her long bangs falling in front of her clover-colored eyes.

A thud beyond the safety of the door caused them both to jump.  “What’s going on out there?”  Jenna asked again.

Caleb, normally self-confident to the point of being smug, seemed unsure of what to do next. He released her hand and pushed Jenna’s raven black hair back so he could look her in the eyes.

While Caleb’s hair matched Jenna’s, the similarities ended there. Caleb’s eyes were a vibrant dark violet, a trademark of the “Others.”  At this moment, those beautiful eyes regarded her with a mix of love and concern.

“There are things I need to tell you.” Caleb wore his favorite hoodie and tattered, snug jeans. While the hoodie was large, it couldn’t hide the taunt muscles underneath.  His hair, straight and shoulder length, highlighting his chiseled face, which Jenna considered artwork: Straight nose, angular cheeks, and most importantly, kissable lips. Lips, right now, set in s straight line of concern.

“Something important,” Caleb continued. “I’m not sure you’re up for it, but I don’t want you to hear it from anyone else.”

“Tell me what?” She shook, not sure if it was more from fever or fear. What was happening outside?  Jenna reached out to touch Caleb’s cheek, making sure he was not a dream.  Eerily handsome, a fallen angel,  Caleb sat by her side in clothes Jenna was sure he had not changed in days. His midnight black hair was disheveled and he looked very much in need of a shower and a shave, something not easily come by before the group moved into the High Point Inn where they had been able to put a somewhat normal existence together, if normal was a word still in existence these days.

“There’s a stalker attack going on,” Caleb said. “Nothing we can’t handle, but we think Gunnar took some of the barriers down and let the stalkers in. That’s the noise you’re hearing. Half the people at the inn are holding them off while the others are out trying to find and fix the fences.”

“Why would he do that?” Jenna didn’t like where her thoughts took her. Gunnar was an “Other” like Caleb, but his beliefs were very different than most of the group.

As one of the “Others,” the virus that had decimated the planet didn’t to change Caleb or Gunnar into walking dead, but the plague had not left them unharmed. While most of the poor souls exterminated by the virus returned as stalkers, zombie-like creatures, some people had been changed in more complex, inexplicable ways. The “Others” weren’t human anymore, but tended not to gut and disembowel the living like their stalker relatives.  The “Others” survived off the blood of  humans and were similar to the stalkers in that way, they did not kill when doing so.

Caleb ignored her question, answering with one of his own. “Feel any better? It’s night time so I can take you downstairs or get anything you want from outside.”

The “Others” could not venture out into the sun, skin blistering so bad it could lead to their deaths if out in the bright light long enough. Still, the “Others” were stronger and faster than humans and stalkers, able to heal quicker than the remaining humans. They “Others were useful, and Jenna and her human companions had formed a strong alliance with them even when Gunner believed “Others” were superior.

When she didn’t answer, Caleb tried again. “Do you want to tell me about the dreams?”

“No. I want to know what’s going on.”

Jenna justified pushing Caleb for answers because of their new-formed, but strong relationship. Caleb ambushed Jenna with some powerful emotions, which she tried her best to at first ignore and then to resist. After all, love does not come easy when hordes of undead invade your private space and constantly attempt to devour the significant other in your life. Despite Jenna’s initial reluctance, Caleb persevered and Jenna succumbed to his charm. Intimate memories about their relationship flooded  Jenna mind, turning her cheeks crimson. She loved him. That was all that mattered in the world to her.

All I’ll say is they were bad. There getting worse.” She choked out the rest.  “They’re awful.  Too horrible.” She tried to shake the memories away.  “I can’t get rid of them even now that I’m awake.”

“I could tell you were dreaming all the time you were in bed the last few days. You constantly called for Eric. Talk to me. It’ll make you feel better.”

In the past, Jenna’s dreams had been about her, but the recent ones were different.  They were all about Eric and his death was still raw. She wanted to hold them inside but couldn’t. “The dreams are so real.”

“What happens?” Caleb caressed Jenna’s arm, which was still sticky with feverish sweat. She pressed against him.

“I see Eric in the woods. He looks like himself, but is somehow different. I can’t explain it right without sounding stupid.”

“You never sound stupid.” Caleb’s reassuring smile and kiss urged Jenna to say more.

“In the dream, Eric’s grown up, but these horrible monsters surround him. Not stalkers, but…”  Jenna paused, thinking about how to describe them, “shadow creatures. They’re all around him and then they were on him, inside him. Eric is screaming in pain.  Did you ever read Lord of the Flies in high school.”

Caleb sent her a confused look.

“Before all of this.  Did you?”
“No.” Caleb said.

“In the book the boys turn savage and swarm Simon, one of the little kids. They pounce on him like animals, clawing and ripping and destroying. They kill him. That’s what happens to Eric.  He called out for my help. I yell to him, ‘I’m coming for you.  I haven’t forgotten. I didn’t leave you!’  I kept screaming at him, telling him not to move, but when I finally got close, he was crushed under the weight of the swarm around him. He finally throws all the shadow creatures off and I look into his eyes, but he doesn’t notice me.  He’s dead, a stalker. His blank eyes terrify me. They’re evil. A watching crow caws from the trees mocking me.”

“It’s only a dream.”

Now started, the words gushed out. “The dream means something. Maybe Eric’s alive.”

Caleb avoided Jenna’s eyes, not wanting to have to relive the day in the movie theater when Eric died. “Let’s not.”

“Thirsty. Water please,” Jenna said.

Caleb handed her the glass of water. “What can I do?”

She gulped it greedily. Even lifting her arm hurts, and Jenna feels thin, skeletal. “I’m okay.”

“You need to rest more.” Caleb paused a moment, turning away and getting ready to stand, but then turned back to address Jenna. “You shouldn’t have to find out this way. Lilly’s gone. So is Gunnar. The same day we found you unconscious in the barn with the horses, they both disappeared. We didn’t know if Gunnar tried to attack you again.” He rushed to the end of the story. “We think Gunnar  kidnapped Lilly. There’s no reason for Lilly to ever want to go anywhere with him alone. He probably destroyed the fences to prevent us from following him.”

“Lilly’s gone?” Jenna asked before collapsing into darkness.

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BODIEs (COUNT them RISING)

For anyone who read Apocalipstick and wondered what happened to Jenna, Caleb and the rest of the struggling survivors, I decided to release the sequel as a serial.  Here is the first chapter. Anyone remember Eric? One of the twins who was presumed dead when the movie theater was attacked by stalker? Read on to find out what really happened.

All material is copyrighted and not for distribution. 

Newcover

Chapter One: Waking the Dead

Eric’s story — two months before Jenna wakes up

His nostrils flared. He recoiled from the smells of blood and sweat saturating the air. His heart pumped irregularly, blood roaring in his ears like a truck accelerating under a bridge. Disoriented, Eric looked around. While the room was murky, Eric could make out blood stains the color of dirty, sun baked bricks. The stains decorated the floor and walls like abstract paintings.

What had happened here?

Naked, Eric sat in a pool of his own blood, somehow alive. He pushed himself into an upright position. Everything hurt. Surveying his arm from which intense pain radiated, he held back a scream. He gagged, noise loud in the quiet, as he stared at the chunks of flesh loosely entwined with a string of muscle. It looked as if someone or something had attempted to chew his elbow off. Actually, his entire arm looked like someone’s dinner. His other hand went to cover the wound, but that hand was also decorated with missing flesh, half-healed scabs, and open sores.

A snippet of the previous day, at least he thought only one day had passed but he couldn’t be sure, surged back to him.  He and the rest of the survivors had taken refuge in this old movie theater, but stalkers, the undead, found them. A fragment of the battle flitted through Eric’s mind. His head pounded as more memories cascaded like tidal waves.

Dead eyes stared from outside the theater, not nearly as decayed as the rest of the creatures’ bodies that, in many cases, lacked clothes. Even with ruined body parts exposed, it was hard to differentiate anatomy when it was a blur of rot and decomposition.  The maggoty swarm assembled along the large glass windows and doors. They pushed, writhing and swaying against the barrier. Jenna and Caleb, Eric’s friends and companions, had tried to herd him to safety in back, but Eric pushed them away. He was nearly sixteen.  He had to fight. A stalker focused lifeless eyes on Eric, and then the window at which he stared, shattered. The battle with the stalkers began.

He looked around.

 Where were his friend now? Had they all died? Had they abandoned him?

Eric jumped at the crackle of broken glass, the sound bringing him back to the present.  Heart pounding in his chest, body hurting, he inched forward, surprised when his limbs responded and cooperated. Frantic, he searched the ground around him for a weapon, any weapon, but found nothing. He limped to the corner of the movie theater and waited. There was little else he could do.

The thing moved toward him. An atrocity Eric could easily smell from the distance even over his own unpleasant scent. As the figure emerged from the shadows, Eric noticed a face covered with tufts of matted hair. A long, unkempt beard hid thin lips and sunken cheeks. More hair, in knotted dread-like tangles ascended from the scalp and cascaded in all directions.  Twigs had lodged in the mess and Eric had an absurd vision of a bird springing out of the tangled dreadlocks like an animated character in an old-fashioned Disney movie.

The beast pointed at Eric. “What happened to you?”

Eric remained mute.  Could it be human? Before him stood a man, not a stalker. He warily surveyed the person in front of him. While in much better condition than Eric, his appearance indicated life had not been kind to him, but it was the zombie apocalypse after all. Life had not been good to anyone lately.

Eric, instantly a shy teen once again, tried to find a place in the room to conceal his nakedness from the man’s critical gaze. Finding nothing to shelter him other than darkness, Eric squeezed back into the shadows before he spoke. His voice deep and scratchy, sounded to his own ears, little like he remembered.

“I don’t know what happened or how I ended up here.” He faltered, noticing the crowbar the stranger brandished in front of him. Eric attempted to slip deeper into the recesses of the darkened, abandoned movie theater. A wall met him.

In addition to the crowbar, a lethal looking curved sword hung from the belted loops of torn, stained jeans that encased the man’s long legs. A bandana hung loosely around his neck, but Eric could see scars that slithered from side to side. A grungy shirt with an ironic smiley face highlighted muscled arms underneath, corded and ready to deliver a deadly blow if needed.

Eric’s death.

He looked for an escape route.

“Wait, kid. Don’t get scared. I haven’t seen another human for months now, but, you look worse than the undead. Shit, are you human?”

Eric nodded. He wondered the same about the stranger.

The man scratched at the untamed beard, reminding Eric of the wizard out of Harry Potter but this man would not be able to help Eric with magic or spells to find his friends.

Eric didn’t know what to say next when the nameless man set down the crowbar and pulled his backpack off. A rifle was carefully attached.

“I travel light kid, so don’t expect a choice, but you need some clothes. Here’s my spare t-shirt and jeans. I don’t have extra shoes, but I’m sure you can find some, if you live long enough.”

“Who are you? What happened to my brother Billy? Where’s Jenna and my friends?” Eric’s mind was a jumble of unanswered questions.

The man shrugged, handing Eric the clothes, almost as grungy as the articles he wore.

“My name’s Abraham, but friends used to call me Abe. We seem to be the only two people crashing this movie theater tonight. I didn’t see anyone else, human that is, in my travels. There’s definitely no one in this town, unless you’re a fan of the undead.  They’re everywhere, so you better keep your voice down.”

Eric nodded and whispered, “Yesterday, at least I think it was yesterday, we were all here. I don’t understand.” He stood, awkward and shaky, as he attempted to put on the clothes offered by Abe.

“What’s your name?”

“Eric.”  He scowled trying to remember more of the past. He ran a hand through his blond hair, but half-way back it stuck to a matted clump of what he hoped was just blood. It felt a whole lot thicker.

“Sit down, kid. You look like you’re gonna die, if you’re not already dead. What do you remember?”

Eric, flummoxed, began telling Abe everything his foggy memory would release. “I was here with my friends. There were sixteen of us traveling together. And we were heading to this inn in Virginia. It was supposed to be safe, but we got stuck in this movie theater during the day.”

“Sixteen. That’s a large group these days.”

“They’re all good people,” Eric looked embarrassed at his zealous release of information, but even talking about them made him feel better. “Well, people and ‘others.’” He stuttered, stuck on exactly how to explain his former companions. “Some of the people we travel with are different.”

“The ‘others.’  I’ve heard of them,” Abe said, his expression channeling one of the original three wise men. “They have an allergy to the light. Tend to avoid the sun when possible, and they’re stronger than the average human.”

Eric nodded and spoke. “The front window shattered when a bunch of stalkers attacked. Me and my brother Billy had to save one of the “others” who ventured too far out to help in the fight and got caught in the sun. Jenna tried to get me to go in the back to safety, but I refused.” Eric’s head swarmed with bees. The pain traveled down to his spine.

“How’d you get left here?” Abe asked

“I don’t know,” Eric said. Frustration at the holes in his memory caused him to draw out his words. “We pushed Victor’s body back into the shadows and then chaos. I remember being swarmed by the stalkers and then…nothing.”

“Well, I’m making camp here tonight. As long as you don’t plan to eat me in my sleep, you are welcome to join me.”

Eric looked confused.

“A little stalker humor. Lighten up kid. I think we should move to one of the smaller theaters. I’ll see if I can patch you up some. I got some medical supplies and canned goods. I’m not usually willing to share, but you look like you’ve a tough day, and it’s nice to have company for once. Let’s just say the last interaction I had with humans didn’t really end well.”

“What happened?” Eric asked.

“I’ll tell you more once we set up in back. Let’s hope for an uneventful night.”

The two trudged through the ruined remains of the movie theater. Abe’s flashlight sending a weak beam across the cavernous space. The once grand Cineplex was now a chaotic wreck. Bits of plaster mingled with the remains of stalkers.  Broken benches and glass covered the floor like the water at the beach during high tide.  Eric tried his best to avoid the sharp fragments, but with every step, he felt the prick against the soles of his feet. He must be dead. He didn’t feel a lot of pain. Or he just didn’t care.

The two covered the empty space cautiously, listening for any unnatural sounds. All was quiet until they tried to enter the last, small theater in the back of the building. The door squealed in rebellion, noise trumpeting across the emptiness. Both men waited anxiously for anything to reveal itself, but nothing ventured forth.

Abe handed Eric the crowbar and grabbed the blade, and the two inched their way into the theater first. The crowbar felt overwhelmingly heavy in Eric’s hand. It hurt to lift it. Nothing. Silence. Then, as if performing The Nutcracker, a dead body danced in front of the ripped curtains and the slashed screen.

“Not good,” Abe whispered.

Eric and Abe stood side by side. Eric remained silent, but crouched defensively, panic rising as the undead directed its gaze upon them. Dried blood etched a whimsical design on what remained of the stalker’s clothing. It shambled forward, stumbling over the seats in its path, moving toward Eric with unblinking, cataract-filled eyes. Eric readied himself to fight next to Abe who clasped the large curved sword.

Eric’s palms were sweaty. His body shook with fear.

The creature charged, the sound of its teeth gnashing together loud in the otherwise empty space. As it closed in on Eric, he could see and smell the putrid ooze dripping from between its lips and spots of mold devouring what was left of its already gangrenous skin.

Abe hoisted his sword and swung with all his might. The blade hacked at the creature’s arm, but did not stop the stalker. Abe stepped away from the stumbling stalker and swung again, his strokes sure and steady as if he had trained for this battle his whole life. Finally, the head of the creature flew off its decrepit shoulders and onto the carpet moments before its bone-bare, hooked fingers clawed Abe’s face. The headless body swayed briefly and then pitched forward. Greasy, dark blood decorated the already stained carpet. Eric sank to the ground, weak and nauseous.

“Dinner, anyone.” Abe joked.

“It’s not funny.”

“Sorry kid, but being alone for such a long time warped my sense of humor a little bit. You okay?”

“Yeah. I’ll live.” Eric gave Abe a small smile. “How’d you do that?” Even the brief exertion had left him short of breath and barely able to stand.

“Ex-military or rather I was in the military until the world collapsed around me.”

Eric grunted and moved further inside the small confines of the theater. “Need help cleaning up?” He asked, knowing he wouldn’t be able to do much.

“That’s the spirit.” Abe kicked the decomposing corpse, not at all flustered from the fight. “I’m good for now. You sit and rest for a couple moments and then I can use your help if you’re up for it.

Eric nodded but started to stand.

“Sit.  That’s an order.”

“Okay. Then what?” Eric wheezed.

“After I get rid of the stalker remains, we’ll try to clean you up, and then dinner. You hungry?” Abe didn’t wait for a reply. “I got beans or beans.” He went back to firmly close the door against any new invaders, sheltering the two for a few minutes. Eric collapsed further down onto the floor. The closed door and the small amount of security that it brought with it didn’t last long.

Abe, who had dropped his supplies and moved the pieces of corpse near the door,  reopened it in order to haul out the remains. Eric, wanting to be useful, held the corpse’s head by the sandpapery hair while Abe hauled the body out of the room by its legs. They also brought in the rest of Abe’s supplies, which he had stashed near the entrance in case there was a need to make a quick escape.

After ridding themselves of the stalker’s body, Abe surveyed Eric’s wounds under the dim light of a battery powered lantern and ripped up the last of the shirts he carried with his camping gear for bandages. As he ministered to Eric, dabbing iodine, binding the cloth tightly against the remaining bits of flesh that cleaved to Eric’s muscle and bone, he murmured in disbelief.

“You have wounds and scars everywhere. How’d this happen?” Abe asked.

“I still don’t remember it all. I’m trying.” Eric gulped water from a canteen in between answers.

“Don’t worry about it too much. We have a long night ahead of us.” Abe patted Eric on the head with fatherly affection. “I’m sure it will come back to you.”

Once Eric was bandaged and resting, Abe opened a can of beans that the two split between them. “Sorry for the meager meal, but I wasn’t expecting guests. I’m here because I was running low on supplies and needed to restock. Pittsfield was the closest town, but there are too many stalkers.”

“My group was trying to find a safe place too. There’s an inn in rural Virginia someone knew about, and we were heading there. At least that was the plan before they left me,” Eric analyzed Abe’s reaction, trying to decide if he was one of the good guys.

“Sounds like a smart plan by the group,” Abe said.

Eric looked around the theater in disbelief. His entire body shook when he thought that his twin brother Billy might have left him to die.

Abe noticed. “Right after the virus broke out, I was on active duty with the army. My wife and family lived in New Jersey. I lost everyone pretty quick. I didn’t even get to say goodbye.”

Eric focused on Abe. “I’m sorry.”

“Thanks, but most people who have made it this long have a similar story. I don’t think anyone has family left. Actually, I don’t think there are many humans left at all to wonder if they have family.”

“I have a twin brother, Billy,” Eric said. “At least I did before this happened.” He pointed at the wounds that laced his body.

Abe’s arched an eyebrow. “I didn’t see any human remains around the theater.  Maybe everyone escaped.”

“It’s just as likely the stalkers didn’t leave anything to be identified.”

“Stalkers don’t usually eat bones,” Abe said.

“The other option is that Billy, Jenna, and the rest of them left me here.” Eric’s frowned.

“Jenna?” Abe asked.

“My friend. How could any of them leave me here to die?” Eric whispered.

“You think they’re either dead or left you here to die?”

“I’m not sure which option I like better.” Eric covered his face with his hands so Abe wouldn’t see the tears fall.

“Maybe another option exists.” Abe patted Eric on the back with awkward strokes.

New Five Star Review

New Five Star review from Readers’ Favorite.

414zoddmEZL

The review says “Here is a story for fans of both horror and the paranormal, a story that will transport readers to a strange world with ghosts and humans caught up in a dangerous game. The question is: who is doing the killing? The writing is sweet, highly descriptive, and loaded with a lot of images that will arrest readers’ minds. Lisa Acerbo knows how to entertain readers and her writing will capture their emotions of fear in a tight grip.”

See the entire review at:  https://readersfavorite.com/book-review/wear-white-to-your-funeral

Sorrow’s Turn by Danielle DeVor

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Book Description
 

Some Things are Worse Than Demons. Jimmy Holiday, reluctant exorcist, is finally getting the help he needs from the higher-ups. The Order of Markers is sending him to the Vatican’s exorcism school. Now, he’ll receive the training he should have gotten at the beginning. One problem, someone wants to sabotage him.

When his time at the school is cut short, Jimmy receives an interesting new case. It is the assignment that no one wants—a corpse has come back to life. And it isn’t a zombie.

Too bad nothing goes as expected. Armed with his usual bag of tricks, Jimmy thinks everything will eventually be all right. Well, that is until his betrayer turns out to be the person he trusts most.

Excerpt

If ever I thought stuff couldn’t get any weirder in my life, boy was I wrong. Getting out of Arizona was—well, interesting to say the least. No way could we take Lucy on a plane—not without documentation or permission from her parents, which wasn’t going to happen. Poor kid had it rough learning how to walk on real feet again. Then there was the airplane itself. She’d been through enough having been possessed, separated from her body, and ultimately left with me to take care of her. Now this.

How did you call up someone to ask if you could take their daughter’s spirit that had just developed its own body on an airplane while they still had her real body in Virginia? It was enough to make my brain bleed.

And of course, I didn’t have their new phone number, but that was beside the point.

Like I said, things had gotten a whole heap weirder.

“Are you going to help me or not?” Tabby stood behind the car, fiddling with the suitcase.

I was in trouble again. It was starting to become a trend. One of these days she would clobber me. I could see it coming. I got out of the car, took the monstrous suitcase from her, and loaded it into the trunk.

“Car rental place said we can have the car, but there’s a fee,” I said, closing the back hatch.

Of course there would be. It wasn’t like some big organization was going to be nice or anything. Hell, I had trouble with people in general. Why would a corporation be any different?

“How much?”

I shrugged. “I didn’t ask.”

Thwap. My head rocked forward.

“Did you hit me?” I stared at her. Maybe being psychic was another added bonus to this marker thing. Nah, if that were the case, I wouldn’t have screwed up in Arizona.

Tabby stood with her hands on her hips. Her red hair framed her face like she was some sort of pissed-off goddess. Her eyes darkened, and I was reminded of that guy on TV who kept hitting his workers on the back of the head.

“Yes, I did,” she said. “Just because you love that magic black card, it doesn’t mean you don’t have to worry about it.”

I rubbed my head. Damn, she hit hard. “If this was my sort of normal I’d be worried. But how else are we getting this menagerie home?”

“Good point.”

I was glad she saw it that way because there wasn’t another option. It wasn’t like I had some amazing powers like flight or anything.

“Was that the last of it?” I asked. The trunk was almost full. I could maybe fit a small stuffed animal in there, but that was questionable.

“Yep.”

“Okay. Let’s blow this popsicle stand.”

Bio

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Named one of the Examiner’s 2014 Women in Horror: 93 Horror Authors you Need to Read.

Right Now, Danielle DeVor has been spinning the spider webs, or rather, the
keyboard for more frights and oddities. She spent her early years fantasizing
about vampires and watching “Salem’s Lot” way too many times. When not writing and reading about weird things, you will find her hanging out at the nearest coffee shop, enjoying a mocha frappuccino. 

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Savage Yearning by Liza Street

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 Book Description: 

When a one-night stand feels like so much more…

Mountain lion shifter Laura Vidal has been given two choices: leave the territory to find a mate, or become a guardian of the pride. Unwilling to leave the only home she’s ever known, Laura chooses the rigorous and bruising guardian training. Honestly, she’s glad for the training because it keeps her too busy to see Dristan, the guy who rocked her world during an amazing one-night stand.

Dristan Rhees can’t forget the girl who stole his heart after a single night of unbridled passion. When she won’t give him the time of day, though, he vows to move on. Maybe he could focus on growing his small business and living a quiet life, if not for the vampires that invade their territory. With the vampires threatening their pride, Dristan and Laura are forced to work together, and they must confront the desire that still threatens to consume them.

Excerpt:

The bar top was warm beneath Dristan’s forearms as he hunched over it, trying to ignore the humans around them. He didn’t know why he’d let his brother talk him into going out—he not only hated going out in the snow, but lately he hadn’t felt very social. If he wanted to drink with his brother, they didn’t have to go any farther than the fridge in their apartment. But Frasier had some messed-up notion that Dristan needed to “get off his sad stick and go someplace fun.”

Thus, here they were at Hart’s. It used to be an old farmhouse, but the lower level had been opened up into a large room, booths added along the sides, pool tables in the center. There was an arcade upstairs, along with a few more pool tables, but tonight Dristan didn’t want to stray too far from the bar.

He felt like he was living in one of those country songs his buddy Rafe liked to listen to so much. Cold Montana winter, brooding man at a bar, trying to forget the girl who got away.

“You ever feel like you’re living in a song, Fraze?” he asked his brother.

“Only when I’m feeling melodramatic and self-pitying and generally no fun to be around,” Frasier said.

“Asshole.”

I’m rubber, you’re glue,” Frasier quoted in a sing-song voice. “Whatever you say bounces off me and goes back to you. Go get laid or something. You haven’t been the same since—”

“I know.” Since he and Laura had enjoyed a beautiful, perfect night in each other’s arms…and then she’d pretended it had never happened. For almost a year. It hadn’t been fun watching her go on with her life as if Dristan didn’t exist. He took a drink from his pint glass. “Why do you always think sex is the answer to life’s problems?”

“If you don’t start having fun on your own, I’m going to have to take drastic measures,” Frasier said. “There’s a blonde in the corner, sexy red dress. Or no, that cute little brunette in the silver halter top. She can’t take her eyes off you.”

Dristan didn’t even bother looking in either woman’s direction. “If she’s in a halter top, she’s a damn fool. It’s too cold for that kind of nonsense.”

“I’m no fool,” a familiar voice said from behind him.

Shit. Frasier had played him. “Laura?”

She shimmied around him and propped herself on the stool between him and Frasier. Her brown hair shone in a straight fall down her back, and her green eyes appraised him coolly. “Rafe, Mateo, and Justine are on their way. What game are we playing tonight? Take a drink every time a woman looks at Dristan?”

Was she teasing him on purpose? It was the same game they’d played the last time all of them had come to Hart’s—the same night that he and Laura had spent together afterward.

 Bio:

Liza got her start in romance by sneak-reading her grandma’s paperbacks. Years later, she tried her own hand as a ghostwriter of romance and it wasn’t long before she started developing her own series. Now she divides her time between freelance editing, ghostwriting, and mountain lion shifters with fierce and savage hearts.

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Thoughts on the Five-Paragraph Essay: Moving Away From the Number

 

High school English teachers often scorn the five-paragraph essay.  Educators complain it kills creativity, decreases intrinsic motivation, and forces students towards prescriptive writing. Using the five-paragraph essay, students are obligated to support three main points in body paragraphs, whether worthy ideas or not. While the above are valid arguments, the five-paragraph essay remains useful. It is a tool for students struggling with writing organization and structure and a recipe for student success in increasingly diverse classrooms.

The formula essay has been used since the early 1900s (Haluska, 2012) in part because it benefits struggling writers by providing a framework. Students often overlap structure and organization, and the five-paragraph formula helps delineate the differences. Essay structure refers to the overall presentation of the essay.  With a formulaic structure, students use five-paragraphs to help clarify how information will be presented.  The information within the five paragraphs must be equally organized and the five-paragraph structure creates a thesis statement in the introduction and topic sentences in each body paragraph that support and clearly relate back to the thesis. With a focus on structure and organization, the five-paragraph essay helps the writer take an often overwhelming big idea – the essay – and manage the components.

In Jan Haluska’s (2012) article on the “Formula Essay Reconsidered,” he uses the analogy of aviation training to explain the benefits of a formula essay.  Everyone from writers to pilots need training and practice. Students start as novice writers. They benefit from having big ideas broken down into manageable chunks and need to practice the different elements before combining. By chunking an essay into components – introduction with thesis statement, three body paragraphs with support for each idea and conclusion – writers feel less intimidated by the process. Once understood and competently used, students can free themselves of its confines.

Teachers act as writing coaches. A coach would never put a player on the court who has little or no experience and expect them to do well. Doug Hesse (2017) in “We Know What Works in Teaching Composition” states “Professors carefully sequence writing tasks. The idea is progressively to expand on students’ existing abilities and experiences.” At the high school level, the five-paragraph essay can be an important part of instructional scaffolding as teachers begin the writing process with a variety of resources, guides, and models. As students expand their writing prowess, they can break away from the limitations of the formula.

Students ask the same questions when they receive a writing assignment. They want to know the word count and if there has to be a certain number of paragraphs. My response continues to be the same. I tell them to use as many words and paragraphs as needed to answer the essential question. There will be equally as many students who do not use the five-paragraph essay as those who do, but when conferencing with the students who use the five-paragraph formula, they agree it helps organize and structure ideas.

The five-paragraph essay can help build the bridge to more complex writing, not limit it. While often be seen as prescriptive when tied to standardized testing (Schwartz, 2014), the formula essay should not be confused with the confines of testing. Students are instructed to use five-paragraphs to put forth their arguments clearly and effectively in order to earn a passing test score. Little thought is given to the development of critical thinking, personal expression, or creative writing. While teaching to the test is problematic and the five-paragraph essay structure has successfully been adapted to help students do well when tested. This does not devalue its merit as a writing strategy for students.

LaSalle’s (2014) article on “Intrinsic Motivation and the Five-Paragraph Essay” published in Urban Education showcase some of the benefits of the five-paragraph essay as one part of a larger writing program. It is an important beginning step for students who struggle with writing form and function. The five-paragraph essay works as a model. Students can easily visually deconstruct the five-paragraph model to better understand why a writer makes certain choses for coherency and completeness.

The five paragraph essay also establishes clear student expectations. An introduction with thesis, body paragraphs with topic sentence and a conclusion must work in collaboration to create the well written essay in its entirety. For students who are not natural writers, for whom the thesis statement and topic sentence do not write themselves, and for whom supporting points do not magically flow from the text, the five-paragraph essay can be the answer.

While Schwartz (2014) suggests that prescriptive essays are limiting, students’ ideas are in no way limited. Students should develop relevant arguments in their writing, whether personal, academic, or both (Schwartz, 2014), and develop the three most meaningful.  If there are more, remember rules are meant to be broken.  Once students have found success with the formula structure, they can move past it to attempt other modalities, employ additional rhetoric devices, and create more complex essays.

Classrooms are ever changing and becoming more diverse. The five-paragraph essay format works as a starting point for the class. It sets expectations that all students can meet, but allows more advanced students to showcase their creativity though advanced writing elements such as a sophisticated thesis, word choice, and sentence complexity, and then to even break from the structure.  As Michael  Ruegg (2015) puts it: “But, as much as it might make an English teacher cringe, the five-paragraph essay is our friend— a good friend, a reliable friend.”

 

Hesse, D. (2017). We know what works in teaching composition. The Chronicle of Higher Educationhttp://www.chronicle.com/article/We-Know-What-Works-in-Teaching/238792

Haluska, J. (2012) The formula essay reconsidered. Education Digest, 78(4), 25.

LaSalle, D. (2015). Intrinsic motivation and the five-paragraph essay: Lessons learned on practitioner research, the role of academic research in the classroom, and assessing changes in student motivation. Perspectives on Urban Education, 12(1), 22-36.

Ruegg, M. (2015). Five-paragraph essays are awesome. California English, 20(4), 13.

Schwartz, L.H. (2014). Challenging the tyranny of the five-paragraph essay: Teachers and students as semiotic boundary workers in classroom and digital space. Literacy, 48(3), 124-135. Doi:10.111/lit.12021

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