Halloweeeeeen is coming

Suddenly life got insanely busy 🙂

Over the past few weeks, I finally figured out where to go with the sequel to my novel and finished the first draft. On the opposite side I got a few of my short stories in condition to start sending out and *crossed fingers* maybe not only getting rejections. My son started preschool throwing off my entire schedule. I’ve also been working on a few Halloween shorts including one for an awesome collection on Wattpad- https://www.wattpad.com/story/8256175-thirteen-days-of-halloween

My story for the collection will be posting on October 20th 🙂 And the rest of the lineup is amazing.

Also my fifth wedding anniversary (and 10th year together) with my husband is coming up, in honor of that my story for the Halloween collection is based in part on our zombie wedding costumes (this is what happens when you get married on Halloween!)

horror wedding Jesse spraguedress Jesse Sprague zombie bride

Covers, Covers, Covers (and a dose of Nano)

I despise making covers. Hate it. Seriously. Anyhow… for my nano novel this year I’m planning to do the second book in a series. The first book being Spider’s Game.

Spider's Game3

The upcoming book is Spider’s Gambit. Its all outlined (as much as I ever outline) and now I’m starting the part I like least. Making myself a cover. So far I have three options. And I’d love opinions on what works best.

Spider's Gambit 2 Jesse Sprague Spider's Gambit 3 Spider's Gambit

I also have been experimenting with new covers for my fantasy novel Kingdom South. Two options there…

Kingdom South option 2 Kingdom South option 4

Now that I’ve spent all day playing with pretty pictures… Perhaps I should get back to the real work.

Family & A Tiny Terror

This week has been a scramble and I admit, I’m not entirely prepared to blog. Things with the family have just been so busy. My dog needed surgery (which in Seattle is unaffordable so I had to go down to Oregon) and before that it was camping.

Me, my baby boy, and one of his three grandmothers out camping

Me, my baby boy, and one of his three grandmothers out camping

Not only have I not thought through an adequate blog entry… I haven’t been writing. So… I thought I’d post the little bit of writing I have done. A short horror story I call- Laura’s Smile

Horror, Laura's smile

Jesse Sprague Author Laura’s Smile

The worst nights plunged me into the dream, always the same dream. Picturesque but somewhere under the layers I always knew, right from the start, that it was a nightmare. I step out the patio door onto the worn wood deck and drop my backpack at my feet. Heavy with books, it clunked down and at the sound they both looked up at me.

Laura had a plum tree in her parent’s backyard and the summer had been a hot one. The limbs still sagged from the weight of forgotten fruit. She sat in its shade, only her painted toes sticking out into the early September sun. Her blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail fell in an untidy mess down her back. She wore his sweatshirt despite the heat, but I hardly noticed because her smile outshone it all. An expression of pure joy that eclipsed the sun and inside I screamed at myself to look away. She lifted a hand and waved at me, motioning me over.

My eyes fastened on her smile, on the slight gap between her teeth, the crinkles at the corners of her eyes.

Next to her, he was a shadow, unimportant to the dream though at the time he’d seemed all important to me. This boy who sat beside my Laura, held her hand, gave her his sweatshirt.

I smiled back at her as my heart splintered into pieces. That happiness scalded me and internally I writhed under the weight of her joy.

A scream ripped me from the familiar dream. On the bunk above me my cellmate grumbled and turned over. The bed creaked blending in a cacophony with my erratic heart. Her smile followed me from the dream, painting itself on the night. A smile she gave to me.

I kicked free of my blanket and rolled off the bed turning to the wall where her face stared back at me. Most of the face was vague, forgotten with time but the smile was perfect, joyful and it accused me. Underneath the image were my words: Live for Laura. I fell on my knees and pressed my hands together in the only sort of prayer I knew.

I couldn’t undo that night. I’d come to terms with that. I’d come to terms with my actions and the iron finality of them. I had to own them and no action I took could ever undo what I took from her. Fifteen and with a single hour I’d defined my life, killed my future and hers. But I was still here and as I gasped sucking air into my lungs, I repeated my familiar mantra to myself.

Earning back her smile was impossible and I deserved the torment of the dreams. Seeing her smile and knowing I’d destroyed it and that I was only witnessing a reflection. But every day I could live in her honor, try and do her memory proud. Perhaps, was it possible I could someday outweigh that single act and meet her in heaven? No. That was beyond me, but perhaps I could earn a quiet peace.

When I’d caught my breath, I stood up again. Tomorrow I’d have a chance. Parole was the brightest hope I’d had. I was so young then, I’m a different man now. But I should try and be rested.

So I crawled back beneath the blanket. Laura’s smile never haunted me twice in an evening so I closed my eyes in peace. Sleep was foggy on my brain when a soft wind stroked my cheeks. Cold as graveyard wind, my first instinct was to turn away but my body was heavy. A smell like meat left out too long in the heat swamped my nostrils.

“Joey,” she whispered. Her voice was hoarse and wet. More of a gurgle than a human tone but still I knew her.

Laura. I squeezed my eyes closed.

“I don’t want you to live for me,” she said. Hands slipped under the blankets, fingers thin as bone stroked me. “You touched me, Joey, after you stabbed me. Did you like me better dead?”

“So sorry Laura. I can’t take it back.”

Her grip on me was tight and something slimy and cold slid from my ear to my mouth. Against my will my eyes opened. Her mouth was next to mine, lipless and rotted. She grinned, no longer a gap tooth smile. One of her front teeth was missing. I felt a phantom pain in my knuckle, remembering the punch to her jaw that had dislodged tooth, sending it spinning into her throat. Blood had spurted from her mouth as she coughed and gagged.

“Sorry? I don’t want sorry.”

She wasn’t there, couldn’t be there, but the smell blocked out all reason. And my body responded to her touch in ways I didn’t intend. Her flesh against me was spongey and slick. The nightshirt was torn at the neck, falling open to reveal sunken, rotted breasts in a blood-caked bra.

“Stop,” I said.

“There’s only one thing I want from you.”

I shoved her but she was stronger now. She held me down and even as I heard her finger bone’s snap I couldn’t so much as budge her. She laughed and black saliva dripped to my face. And then she was gone. I gagged and turned on my side, next to my head was a blade.

I picked it up reverently. A gift from Laura. The blade shone in the sallow light and I stretched a finger toward the gleam. The steel burned cold, far colder than the room around me. Even in the dim light, I recognized the blade.

Ten years ago, I’d bought this same weapon. Meant for hunting, it had an odd weight unlike that of the military knives my uncle kept in a locked cabinet or my parent’s kitchen knives. The impressive size impressed me at fifteen, made it seem destined, a sign I was acting out some sort of divine will not just a deluded teenage urge.

I slid a finger down the edge half-expecting her blood to coat my fingers, drip down my wrists. Half dried blood became sticky, like honey coating my skin… but the only blood was the warm, wet trickle from my finger. Laura’s gift seemed to drink the liquid leaving the blade pristine.

My finger lifted to my mouth and the sharp metallic taste brought a flood of memories. Her blood spurted up, spraying into my eyes, my nose, and my mouth. My hand fell away and I grinned, for a moment I might have walked on air.

Was this what she wanted? Could it be that my blood would pay the price, earn her forgiveness? I was willing to devote the rest of my life to honoring her, but I was aware nothing I did could bring her back. If my death could earn me true clemency…

I recalled her blood warming my thighs as I plunged the blade through the hand she used to shield her face and then again into her chest.

I lifted the blade to my throat. Fitting for a hunting blade, a quick pressure across the throat and the animal died. Cold steel settled against the hollow of my throat. My eyes closed, and I took in a deep breath, her scent still lingered in the air, abrasive and angry.

My grip tightened.

My cell-mate let loose a loud rattling snore and my eyes flew open to the dreary cell and the picture of Laura’s smile on the wall.

No. My death would solve nothing. It would not balance the scales. I’d already wasted one life, wasting another wasn’t the answer. That was why I’d tried so hard for parole. The best way to earn my soul back was to live. But if Laura wanted me to suffer, perhaps parole wasn’t the answer either.

I stood and pivoted, staring my grizzled cell-mate in the face. I lifted the knife and held it over his neck. So simple, I kill him and I’d never get out. And I’d be taking out a fiend. My grin broadened thinking of the deluge of blood. Thinking of how his hands would raise to his neck, trying to hold the life inside him. Power ran in me and I was a god. Life and death were mine.

Again the blade fell. No, it meant nothing if I enjoyed it. Would I have enjoyed it…No. It was only thoughts of earning Laura’s forgiveness that were confusing me. I wasn’t a killer. It was just a mistake.

I tucked Laura’s gift under his mattress. I was getting out tomorrow and I was sure she’d understand I couldn’t’ be caught with a hunting knife. I settled back into my bed. Yes, tomorrow I would be free.

** This story was inspired by a documentary I watched on mandatory life sentences for killers who committed crimes while under 18. While the central idea (the horror of the smile) was from a specific person in that documentary, the crime is not. I don’t like the idea of fictionalizing real people’s pain. Laura is purely fictional and not based on any real victim.

https://www.wattpad.com/159844646-12-01-and-other-tiny-terrors-12-01-laura%27s-smile

I Put Words on Paper (or Computers) so I Write Words

A question I’ve been hearing a lot of recently is “So what do you normally write? What is your passion?” My auto response has been that I write science fiction with an eye to fantasy but the more I think about it, the more that isn’t true.

The truth is I write a lot and I’ve always discounted my horror writing as being my slack off pieces. But that’s not what horror is to me at all, it’s just a different sort of release, a different style of imagining. Most of my short stories are horror and many novels have a bent towards that. But these aren’t slack off pieces or throw away bits. They just come from a different part of my psyche and refuse to conform to rules. In trying to make them fit for traditional publishing I do feel like I’d have to sacrifice the integrity of the story, but that doesn’t mean they mean any less to me… just that I won’t be querying them. So I feed them to the ravenous beast that is Wattpad, where they meet a few appreciative eyes.

Horror Novel Cover

Horror Novel Cover

The reason I think I see my sci-fi/fantasy as being ‘what I really write’ is that those are the works I am willing to go through a gazillion drafts. They are the babies whose basic nature does not seem averse to traditional publishing.  I recently tried to put a fantasy novel up on Wattpad, or the beginning to one, and there is this horror in me that I’ve now killed this novels chances for publication. But it’s a tight spot. Having only horror and horror sci-fi visible means that any agent considering my sci-fi/fantasy works is going to say ‘Wow, she doesn’t really write what she’s pitching.’

In conclusion, this is one big vent. I write prolifically. I write because I must. I write because I’m inspired whether that inspiration be a shiver that crawled up my spine while darting across a dark parking lot, a fascination with gothic heroine’s and their kidnappability, a desire to build a world to suit a spiffy MMO character (Yes…this is how several of my characters have come to me…don’t judge.)Felix

I write how I read. My bookshelves became acquainted with Christopher Pike when I was twelve. They met their first fantasy heroine when I was eight. Science fiction came later but in a rush as I drank in old classics and newer gems. Telling someone which of these genres I read would be impossible because the truth is I read them all. I’ve even been known to sneak in a steamy romance when no one was looking…saved some of those too…they are all missing covers. I read and write fantasy because the world we live in can feel like a trap and a release has an exotic beauty to it. I write sci-fi because I like to play god, toy with worlds, universes, cultures. I read sci-fi because I like to be part of other authors playing the same god games I do. And I read and write horror because something about the dark undercurrent of fear makes me feel alive.

fantasy horror author

Kingdom South- New Wattpad story

I’ve finally worked up the courage to branch out on Wattpad and post a little fantasy. In its current incarnation, the piece is called Kingdom South. The novel is a tale that weaves a dark tapestry of fairytales together.

Kingdom South

Cover for fantasy novel by Jesse Sprague

It was a lot of fun to write and I hope it will be as much fun to read. If you are at all interested:

https://www.wattpad.com/152166383-kingdom-south-part-1-let-down-your-hair-chap-1

Lost to time Vayle waits, her hair in a pool around her. A single door leading from her tower. A door she dares not take. Magic has passed from the world, banished and feared but still Vayle abides. She sleeps until the voice of the third son of a king ignited the silence. Surrounded by a graveyard of time and trees, everything around her shouts of death but Vayle dares to hope for something else.

What happens to the maid with the long hair if the witch never returns to the tower? What happens to Snow White if the king is more wicked than the step-mother?

Part one Cover

Cover art for part 1: Let Down Your Hair

Featured List & Ice Cream: There is no Such Thing as Calories

Ugh, I won’t share the temperatures because most people would just laugh, but it’s ridiculously hot here. It’s my own fault for living in a place so temperate that even small variations seem extreme. But heat added to good news means celebrating with ice cream.

Yes, good news again. This has been a fantastic year for me and I will just have to cross my fingers that it stays that way. I submitted one of my stories, Deprivation, on Wattpad for the featured list, which for those of you who don’t know is Wattpad version of real publishing. The featured list serves to give Wattpad some validity in the writing world by showcasing works that are, if not publishable, close to. It also helps little nobodies like me get my work out where people can see it.

Deprivation

Fantasy/horror novel titled Deprivation

Any of you who are writers know the word ‘platform’ probably with a bit of a shudder. Well…this is fantastic news for my platform.

The actual change in my story from not featured to featured they said would probably happen in about two weeks. Which isn’t in time to use it as more than an aside at the conference but I’m not complaining.

The day I got the e-mail, I took my son to Costco for frozen yogurt. A. Because it’s cheap. And B. because I figured that would be fewer calories (kill me I’m a little vain and want to fit into my summer dresses.)

froyo

But when we got there the little guy saw they had a strawberry sundae and asked so prettily. So I’m pretending that has just as few calories. Because I’m often delusional when I try to diet.

Veryberry

Costco samples also have no calories if you are wondering.

This whole year so far feels like that, ‘calorie free’ enjoyment. Like somehow it’s going to happen that I’m just kidding myself and none of this is real. I do it every time. When my story got published, I sort of held my breath till it actually showed up in the magazine. When I got the call I was a finalist, an illogical part of my brain screamed it was a prank call. And now that same voice is telling me Wattpad could just change it mine be like ‘sorry, we got your story confused with another one… yours is actually kind of gross… why would you write about a severed hand sticking up out of the floor? Sicko.’

But unlike Costco samples, so far all of it really has been ‘calorie free’ enjoyment. Of course, if I’m to push the comparison further I do a lot more ‘working out’ for my writing than I do for my diet. Carrying my son to and from the car counts as cardio you know…even more so if I park in the basement and have to carry him up the stairs.

I think if I wasn’t getting rejections along with the successes I’d have pinched myself a lot. So far I’m making a 25% acceptance ratio, which I’m proud of thank you. Part of me thinks I should hurry and get two rejections in before the conference though…just so maybe I get a yes there.

Additionally, this is a lot more mentions of my son than I usually allow myself since this is meant to be my writing blog, not a parenting one. But as a stay-at-home mom it’s hard to remove the little guy from my stories without way more effort than I’m willing to put in when it’s this hot.