Tag Archives: the skeleton key

A Few Things of Writerly Interest

Remember The Skeleton Key Blogvel? Well, Michelle, AKA Greenwoman, has started another one. If you’d like a serial read for the next few months, pop on over to Greenwoman’s site and start reading Bloom. Each Monday, a new chapter will be posted on various blogs around the net. Mine will hit cyber space on July 9th.

Remember Possession? Elana Johnson’s YA debut? The second in her series was just released and is available for your reading pleasure. The Fourth of July vacation is a great time to pick up a new book, so give Surrender a try.

Remember Spring Fevers? That awesome anthology on relationships with a short story pubbed by you know who? Well, publisher Matt Sinclair is working on a second one.  Titled The Fall, this newest anthology will focus on the end of the world (as we know it) and is slated for release in time to be used as a handbook for 2012 survival!

Submissions of fewer than 7,500 words in any genre except erotica are being accepted until August 17. For more details, email Elephant’s Bookshelf Press at antholsubs@gmail.com

You do know I’m kidding about the survival handbook thing, right? I mean, the world really isn’t going to end. Is it?

But, if it does end, what will you miss the most about our world as you know it? (indoor plumbing) What will you miss the least? (television and all that implies) What is one thing you’d need a lifetime supply of to make it through an apocalypse? (tampons and toilet paper–I know, I said one, but it’s my blog so I can cheat.)

Curious minds want to know.


I Stink: Blogvel Writing Truths

So, yesterday you saw my efforts to write a chapter of paranormal romance.  I loved the challenge, but learned some things about myself.  Namely, I stink.

Much of my Blogvel Life Lessons will be summed up in a post on From the Write Angle (August 24th, I think).  I hope you’ll join me there, as it promises to be jam-packed with awesome information.  Lucky for you, I’ll just share my stinky, lame truths here. 

My Blogvel CATastrophes

  1. I know next to nothing about paranormal stuff.  Oh, I’ve read a werebook or two and have scared myself silly reading spiritual snippets here and there, but never has it been more evident that my paranormal prowess is so…lacking.   What is the difference between a succubus and a vampire?  I think I might maybe have a bit of a teeny idea… 
  2. I absolutely, positively stink at coming up with “other’ words.  Yeah, I totally stretched my vocabulary here.  I mean, how many different ways can you call a monster?  I suggest nicely if you don’t want your head taken off, but seriously, my paranormal language smells worse than a dead skunk.  Twin’gan ka’an?  Uhm, can you say Klingon choking on a dill pickle?
  3. I’m hot.  Under the collar, that is.  And it was a tad bit awkward.  It didn’t take long for me to realize that by the time THE SKELETON KEY made it to my keyboard, I’d be called upon to steam things up.  Hello, I write for little people.  The kind that shouldn’t know dragons create fire in more ways than one.   All I pictured was my mom, my neighbor, my friends’ neighbors’ dogs, etc, etc, etc thinking, “And she writes picture books?!?!?”

So how did I fix my lame-o writing skills?

  1. Research, research, research.  Folks, if you don’t know the material of what you plan to write, research your little heart out.  I won’t tell you what I found regarding the difference between succubi and vamps, just know there is a difference.  Such a HUGE difference I would have been mortified to interchange them.
  2. Be less lame than me when it comes to language.  While I make up words all the time in my kid lit, I don’t have a clue how to do it for big peeps.  I do know that the words need to feel natural.  They shouldn’t stop the flow of a sentence or pull a reader so far out of the story they can’t get back in.  Maybe Yoda can help you.
  3. Get comfortable with your material.  Know that you are not what you write.  Nor does every piece of fiction have to be the same style, genre and age group as the last.  Writing is a freedom of expression.  Reading is a freedom of choice.  We are not locked into writing a certain type of story any more than our friends’ neighbors’ dogs are forced into reading the same old Bones Digest each month.  Said dog can always bury a story he doesn’t want to read. 

In short, writing a chapter for the Round Robin Blogvel was super fun.  It challenged me as a writer on several levels.

What do you do to challenge yourself?  Are you afraid to step out of the box, or do you go boldly where you’ve never gone before? 

Curious minds want to know!


The Skeleton Key: chapter 11

I have to thank Michelle for scheming up this summer fun.  I’ve adored her energy for years now.  First as a fellow NaNoer, then as an AQer and lastly, as one of the best cyber friends a gal could ever want.  I love you, Michelle.

If you haven’t read THE SKELETON KEY from the start, you should right now.  Chapter ten can be found at Laura’s Universe, while next week Michelle will try to fix any plot  problems I throw her way with chapter twelve.

This paranormal romp is as delightful as the talented writers creating it,  and I hope I don’t disappoint them.  First off, it was waaaay outside my typical genre(s).  Secondly, I was drawn to the voice of Ax, and so followed A.M. Supinger’s lead and brought his POV back into the action.



A screech ripped through the air.  “This can’t be happening.  Thiscantbehappeningscantbehapning.”

Ax’s body worked faster than his brain and his wing unfurled, catching Rebecca before her head hit the ground.  Out cold.  He set her on a mat in the Embassy reception room.  As he did, his talons retracted into nails, his claws to fingers, his scales to smooth skin.

A trickle of fear slid down his back.  He had never lost control of his human form.  Not once in fifteen hundred years.  Not unless he wanted to, and he most definitely did not want to.  Not now.  Not like this.

He could ill afford for Rebecca to see his true form until after the mating ritual was complete.  If she refused him—and her new life—the destruction would ripple to the Quaterjarnexal Complex and beyond, a consequence he dared not contemplate.

The air wavered, hot and smoky. 

“Monster incoming.”  The voice rumbled with pain, prickling Ax’s scalp.  The stirrings of a crest rose with his hair, and he willed his body to behave. 

Skyniar’s form emerged from the darkness beyond.  He held a tattered wing close to his side and crimson blood oozed from a gash above his eye.  He reached out for Ax, his words burbling through thick foam.  “Twin’gan ka.”

“Skyn!”  Ax jumped forward, closing his hand around emptiness.  Skyn’s broken form shimmered, nothing but an illusion.  A manipulation of the magic inside the gate.  The gate Rebecca controlled.  Light flashed, taking Skyniar with it.

Ax’s bones ached with the need to change, to rescue Skyn.  Death didn’t come lightly to a dragon, and though Skyn was not nearly as powerful as Ax, his brother’s immortality should have been guaranteed.

Yet, ever since Rebecca had come into his life, nothing was guaranteed.  Quietly filing papers in the dungeon of the New York City Portal seemed like a past life.  Never mind that it was this morning.  He’d found his mate without looking, lost his physical control and tangled with an old flame. 

Angelica.   Just thinking her name made his muscles vibrate painfully and his skin itch.  “Get a grip, Ax, my man.  Get a grip.”

He sucked in a deep breath and opened his soul to Rebecca’s thrumming.  Her essence calmed him, and he refocused on the task at hand.

Angelica.  Fiercely beautiful and emotionally passionate, Angelica loved as deeply as she hated.  They first met over a chocolate cupcake—one of Genevieve’s finest.  He’d been enticed to try the pink-topped treat, only to get a bit of frosting on his face.  Or so Angelica said as she walked by and licked his top lip clean.  She smelled of lavender and sulfur, an odd mix that extended to her eccentric personality.  She’d nearly driven him crazy, and now, gatekeepers were dying at her hands. 

Gatekeepers and brothers.

Yet something didn’t sit right with Angelica’s story.  A thought nagged just out of reach.  Needing more clarity, Ax scooped Rebecca into his arms.  Her soft form molded to his and he rocked her in his lap.  Her hair—jasmine scented silk—fell through his fingers, taking him back to the New York City Portal and the last time he’d been upstairs before meeting Rebecca.

Mr. Harvey’s office overgrown with a new vine—an anonymous gift so potent Ax could taste the lavender in the air.  Genevieve and another pink cupcake.  Jim and Marguerite arguing over Jim’s whereabouts the night before.  Where had the vamp gone and how had he slipped through the portal without Marguerite’s knowledge? 

Something about her aural imprinting malfunctioning.  A virus of some kind.

And then the thrumming that brought him upstairs this morning and the revelation of Genevieve’s vision. 

She claimed a man killed Marguerite.  Something Angelica definitely was not.  Nor did Ax believe Damien had murdered the gatekeeper, for surely Genevieve would have recognized Damien’s imprint.

Once banished, a monster’s spectral fingerprints were transmitted to all transition station staff to prohibit unauthorized reentries.  Genevieve should have sensed his status.  Unless someone learned how to override the system.

Ax shook his head, bringing himself back to the present.  Spectral imprinting was the most sophisticated security measure the transition centers used.  It was also the most natural phenomenon used by paranormals, and nearly impossible to disrupt.  In part, this ability is what had drawn him to Rebecca, had alerted him to her status as his mate.

No, something else was going on.    

Rebecca stirred in his lap and mumbled.  “…hate dragons…nightmare…home….”

Her voice called to him, like nectar for a bee.  He dipped his head to hers, running a gentle finger along her jaw, over her lips.  Consciousness slowly returned.  She blinked, her eyes glittering in a way that made his heart quiver.  Perfect.  Everything about Rebecca was perfect. 

Until she opened her mouth.

She sounded like a dying cat.  The half screech, half mew raised a scale or two on the back of his neck.  He fought the change, just barely controlling it.  He was turning rogue.  And nothing was more dangerous than a rogue drake. 

His brother’s words came back to him.  Twin’gan ka.

The phrase and the impulsive need to change didn’t make sense.  Not until he realized Skyn had more to say.  Tin’gan ka’an.

“You’ve been poisoned.”  The warning nearly destroyed his physical control.

Rebecca’s flailing fists didn’t help either.  Apparently her nightmare wasn’t over yet.  She spat out her next words in a high-pitched voice sounding too much like Ashley’s for his comfort.  “My sister.  You have to save my sister.” 

Ax pushed Rebecca off his lap and stood.  “I can’t.”

“You must.”  She pulled herself up and stomped her foot.  Definitely an Ashley move. 

He suppressed the urge to shake her like a child.  Shake her into silence.  By all that was holy, he hoped the twin thing didn’t carry too far, because right now, he needed the old Rebecca.  Not a freaked-out, Ashley version.  “I can’t.  I’m sworn to protect you, not your sister.”

Rebecca’s eyes sparked and her lips curved upward.  “I demand it.  As my…mate.”

Bitter laughter erupted between them and steam escaped from his ears.  Ax reached out and tucked a stray tress behind her ear.  “Awww, honey, it don’t work that way in my world.  Trust me, if I could have left you alone, I would have gone after Skyn.” 

Her shoulders sagged and her defeat hit him like a physical blow.  When she looked up, Ashley was gone from her attitude.  “Somehow I knew that.  But I just had to try.”

Ax paced the reception room, running through the options in his mind.  “Does Ashley have a bit of you in her, as well?”

“What do you mean?”  Rebecca followed his path with her eyes. 

His chest swelled at the attention, something he hadn’t felt since he was a fledgling.  The juvenile reaction confirmed his fears.  Definitely rogue.  “Does she have your spunk?  Will she be strong enough to…?”

“Survive?  I don’t know.  It depends on what that spider lady has in store for her.”

“Death.  Torture.  Well, torture first and then death.  She needs the key, after all.”

Rebecca squeaked and he ceased his pacing.  Damn, he’d forgotten who he was talking to.  New monsters could be so touchy.  “I meant, Angelica will try to get the key from her.”

“Why didn’t she just take me?  I practically threw myself at her.  Is she stupid or something?”

Genuine laughter burst the tension building within him.  “Yeah.  Pretty much.  Angelica was never any good at being original.”

“I hope I’m better than that.  That you…,” Rebecca looked down, then swung his gaze boldly back to his.  “I hope..you know…that I’m…you picked…”

Ax closed the gap between them.  He didn’t ask for permission and she didn’t turn him away.  They met in a tangle of limbs.  When his lips found hers, Rebecca took the lead, releasing the passion within him.

He stroked her arms, reveling in the tingle that pulsed through his fingertips, that spread throughout his body.   She positively hummed for him.  He increased his ministrations.  In response, she arched her back, pressing herself against his chest.  His heart raced, keeping time to hers.  His breathing, too, mimicked that of his mate’s.

Mate, the word flittered across his mind and his lips curled against his will.  He’d never wanted a mate.  It’s why Angelica hated him so deeply.  She’d been nothing more than a bed warmer.  Even if he had been free to choose—to override his natural imprinting—he would not have chosen her. 

He wouldn’t have chosen anyone.

Rebecca pulled away and he reeled from the loss of contact.  Her skin shimmered iridescent blue, a reminder that she wasn’t a mere mortal.  They might win this war after all. 

“Your sister, who does she care about?”

“Besides Jimmy Choo?  Nobody.  She doesn’t have a boyfriend and our parents are, well, less than connected, I guess you could say.”  Rebecca gave Ax a once-over before continuing.  “Well, not so unconnected they wouldn’t object to me marrying a dragon.”


A beautiful red blush crept up her neck and across her cheeks.  “Right.  Mating.”

Ax swept his eyes around the room and changed the subject before he found an appropriate place to complete the ritual right then and there.  “She has you, but you’re twins.  Ashley won’t change for you, even if she has dormant magic.”

“But she does have it, right?  If we’re identical that means, well, we’re kind of exactly the same.”  Rebecca’s voice trailed off.

The unspoken question hung in the air.  He did his best to evade answering.  When she crossed her arms over her chest, he sighed.  “There is that.”

She tapped a foot.  The red staining her cheeks no longer begged for his touch.  Instead, they mocked him with her anger.  “Did she hum for you?”

Ax swallowed his guilt, but took advantage of the moment.  “Does your jealousy mean you’ll take me as a mate?”

“Of course not.  You’re a dragon.  I’m a human.”

“Chameleon.  You’re a paranormal, too.”

Rebecca froze, as if this was the first time she’d actually thought about the eruption of scales and what that would mean.  She shook her head in silent denial.  “I’m a graduate student with loans to repay.  I’m a sister and a daughter.  I’m normal.  Not some freak.”

Ax stepped closer.  Close enough to see her flinch.  The sweet cadence of her humming spiked and he knew she heard his own.  “But you’re my graduate student with a skeleton key in your pocket.  You can’t deny that.”

“You’re a monster.”

“I’m you’re monster.”

“I have a boyfriend.”

“Not anymore you don’t.”  His arms closed around Rebecca and he sought her mouth.  Stars exploded around him, through him. 

He’d never wanted a mate.  But Rebecca?  He’d die for her.  And not because he had to. 

She pulled away.  “His name is…”

“Hadriax.”  He enticed her back, deepening his kiss until her arms circled his neck.  Caressed her back until she returned the favor.

He could do it now, complete the mating ritual without her knowing, effectively binding them for eternity.  Power surged in his chest and it took enormous effort to keep from controlling her.  It was his right, and yet he couldn’t bear to hurt her that way.  No, he wanted his coupling to be perfect, like Rebecca. 

He wanted her consent, not a stolen moment of physical ecstasy. 

Her delicate hands tangled in his hair.  He sought out her neck, tracing his tongue along her collar bone to the tiny dimple at the base of her throat.  She tasted as good as she smelled.

Thought left him as she returned his exploration.  Her moan turned to a squeak.  Without breaking the kiss, he opened his eyes and ice replaced the fire inside.

His arms crushed her to him.  His talons dug into her sides.  Once again, he’d started to change.

And this time, he couldn’t stop. 



The Skeleton Key

In case you’ve missed the Round Robin Blogvel news, I’d like you to consider a great reading project.  Put together by the awesome, energetic and always adorable, Michelle Simkins (aka Greenwoman), THE SKELETON KEY taps into the spirit and talent of (aspiring, published, agented) writers of the blogosphere. 

Please enjoy each chapter in THE SKELETON KEY as written on the following blogs and return to Words from the Woods on Monday for the next chapter of fun!

Chapter 1–May 30. Greenwoman

Chapter 2–June 6. Inner Owlet

Chapter 3–June 13. Word by Word

Chapter 4–June 27. In the Jungle

Chapter 5–July 4. The Creativity Rebellion

Chapter 6–July 11. The Party Pony

Chapter 7–July 18. Hey Now

Chapter 8–July 25. The Demeter Diaries

Chapter 9–August 1. Jello World

Chapter 10–August 8. Laura’s Universe

Chapter 11–August 15. Words from the Woods

Chapter 12–August 22. Greenwoman

Chapter 13–August 29. Chelsea Rose Fine Arts

Chapter 14–September 5. Tighty Writie

Chapter 15–September 12. Ready, Write, Go

Chapter 16–September 19. Write Away

Chapter 17–September 26. Stephanie Diaz

Chapter 18–October 3. Greenwoman

What’s your writing weight?

There is a truth in physical health and exercise.  When we begin a workout program, we typically lose a pound or two right away.  We feel good about this and our energy level spikes.  After all, our efforts are paying off.

Yet, this two-day high comes crashing down around us when our weight picks back up and our jeans fit more snugly than ever.  A bulking up period quickly follows our seemingly overnight exercise success.  At the end of week two, we are ready to throw our sneakers in the trash and dive head first into a double layer chocolate cake.

The truth is simple.  Well, actually several truths.

  1. Initial weight loss is typically all water weight.  We burn more calories, sweat and forget to replenish our H2O levels.  All told, our hydration level dips.  We lose a pound or two and rejoice.
  2. Muscle weighs more than fat.  By a lot, actually.  The more “fatty” we are, the less we weigh.  The more muscle we have, the more we weigh.  So, as soon as our bodies kick in gear and we actually start using those long forgotten muscles, we gain weight.  This spike can dishearten many budding health enthusiasts.  When coupled with the third truth, newbies fall off the exercise wagon in droves.
  3. Fat is bigger than muscle.  While it weighs less, it still takes up more room in our jeans.  And since our long-dormant muscles happily respond to our renewed efforts, we build muscle more rapidly than we lose fat.  This creates the sudden need for more space in the waistband as we add muscle bulk to existing chub.

Two weeks in to a new exercise routine and we feel lost.  We’ve gained both weight and bulk.  We are sore and frustrated.  This is the time we need to look forward to a leaner future and hold on to the knowledge that physical health is right around the corner.

Truth 4: Muscle burns more calories than fat.  The more (heavier) muscle we build, the more efficient our bodies become at burning off our love handles and saddle bags. 

We may never actually reach our ideal weight–the one we had in our minds as a goal.  Yet our bodies will be healthier, leaner and stronger.  Toned, not flabby.  Our jeans will fit better and our stamina will increase.

Many newbie writers, like many newbie workout enthusiasts, jump in blind.  We don’t realize that writing is a process, not an overnight success.  Ironically, writing truths are almost identical to weight loss truths.


  1. We must replenish our writing juices as much as a runner must replenish water levels.  Writers need to surround themselves with a support network that quenches their thirst.   We fare better with partners who let us carve out writing time, workspaces that encourage our muses and reading material to keep our minds sharp and fresh.  We need to live life fully so we have experiences to draw upon for story ideas.  We must hydrate our creativity and passion.
  2. As new writers (either new to the biz in general or new to a project), we tend to vomit words onto the page.  We meander, over-describe and populate our work with larger-than-large casts of characters.  During this time, our writing is bulky and heavy.  Run-on sentences run rampant.  Redundant phrases endlessly repeat ideas.  Purple prose flourishes.  But that’s okay.  It’s necessary.  It is the rough draft.  Without this rough draft, we have nothing to edit.  If we give up during this bloated stage of our writing process, we will never reach “the end”.    And so, I encourage writers to ignore the pains of carrying extra weight.  Instead, focus on your ultimate goal: writing a first draft.  It doesn’t have to be great.  Heck, it doesn’t even have to be good.  It just simply needs to be.
  3. Editing is akin to the time when metabolisms reset and we are fat burning machines.  The more practice we get writing and the more we hone our craft, the more efficient we become.  Our manuscripts lean up as we weigh each word choice.  We replace fatty words with more muscular ones.

“But how?” you ask.  “How do I become a writing athlete instead of a failed exerciser?”

Practice.  Learn.  Push yourself.  Every serious athlete sticks to a workout regimen.  They watch videos and read articles on how to improve their techniques.  They set goals.  And when they reach those goals, they challenge themselves to do it all again.  They practice harder, fine-tune the process and reach for loftier goals.

As writers, we are no different.  
What is your writing weight?  Do you ever feel the urge to give up on the journey (writing as a whole or individual projects) after that initial bout of creativity?  How do you balance that fragile stage between creativity and completion?  What motivates you to push forward to the next stage despite the frustration?
Curious minds want to know!
PS: Remeber The Skeleton Key blogvel I raved about earlier?  Well, my turn is up on Monday.  If you haven’t been tracking the progress, please start at Michelle Simkin’s Blog for the first chapter of an intriguing and fun  novel project by fellow aspiring writers!
Your weekend reading pleasure: all The Skeleton Key chapters to date.