When Worlds Collide by Julie (An April Fool’s Extra)

*Go here to read the partial origins of this story*

Chances

Humming a tune to myself, la-dee-dah-dee-dah, as I close up shop. I exit out the back, cutting through the alley. My friends are waiting at the concert. There’s a message on my phone from the girl with the hazel eyes: I’m waiting for you.

Something tosses in the alley, glass tinkling, between the trash bins, and I drop the phone.

Hello?

A groan, deep like an animal. Then a girl rolls out, skin marked with bruises, blonde hair tangled and charred. Naked except for the trash stuck to her.

Who are you? she rumbles, yellow-eyed, and my skin seizes with prickles.

I won’t hurt you. I fling up my hands. I’m Quinn.

She snorts, blinks with reptilian ease.

Where am I?

——, I say. Heart of the city. Need me to call a cab?

Her voice stops me picking up the phone.

I think I did something terrible. She palms her forehead.

Her eyes sweep my suit, my shiny shoes, slicked-back hair. She frowns. There’s a question she doesn’t ask. I could ask her the same thing.

Fumbling, I unhook my jacket, slide it down my arms, offer it to her.

Here. You’ll get in trouble walking around like that.

She realizes her nakedness and laughs throatily. Smoke puffs into the air. She snatches the jacket.

My phone pings from the brick at my feet. She eyes it sideways, stare unnerving. I make a decision.

You did something bad? I say.

Her lips smoosh together, and she gazes at the dumpsters, the fire escapes, back to me. Rolls her shoulders.

Do you regret it?

She doesn’t answer.

I can make it go away, if you want, I say. Hazel Eyes might not wait for me.

The girl smoothes the jacket sleeves, just long enough to brush her thighs. She laughs, a more human sound this time.

I’ll take my chances on regret, she says. Why don’t you call that cab?

First I dig in my pocket and pass her the bills in my wallet.

Get some clothes, I say.

She smiles, her eyes mellowing to blue. Thanks, she says.

Once the cab leaves, my phone pings again.

Something up?

I start to type a response, pause. The alley sprawls empty behind me.

Can’t remember. See you soon.

~*~*~*~*~
A/N: Happy April Fools! I hope you enjoyed our mash-ups. We were inspired by last month’s Craft Discussion: World Building.

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When Worlds Collide by Anne (an April Fool’s Extra)

Tower Bridge © Copyright, Anne Marie 2008. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Tower Bridge © Copyright, Anne Marie 2008. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

*Go here and here to read the origins of this story*

Break Your Heart

The snap of power used during the divination burns the skin above my collarbone. It takes the breath of a star to get to Cheapside, London from Réunion in the Indian Ocean.

London hits me in the face with unwashed bodies stuffed into filthy clothes. Ratty-haired women roam the streets selling themselves. The reek of burning coal and sickness hang heavy in the cold November air, a sharp contrast from the fresh sea air and white sand beaches. Like a pack of vultures, my psychopomps swoop down to join me on the street leaching color with their black wings.

Two boys, arms slung around each other’s shoulder, step from behind darkly polished doors. Power emanates from behind them, blinding me with its multicolored light. Light shining like a beacon in the dark. It sings to me. Tempts me to cross that threshold and touch every single person playing fortuneteller until the light blinks out in a wink. But the taller boy carries darkness in his pocket like a handkerchief. He’s the one.

I remove my black-lace gloves and follow. The gang hangs back; their eyes burn holes through the fabric of my gown. Usually, I remain out of human’s sight. Unless they belong to the Diviner’s Club; they see through my illusions.

“Paul,” says the taller boy, doomed and unaware, “stop holding a candle to the devil and give us the goods.”

The other boy shakes his head, and then moves the brim of his baker boy up and down on his forehead. He drops his arm off his friend’s shoulders. Good, I don’t want to accidentally touch him. They look behind them, Paul stares right at me. He holds a hand up as if to say, “We’re not interested.” I smile, wide-mouthed and bright-eyed. He doesn’t carry the mark; he’s touched with light. Interesting.

My buttoned boots click clack click in rhythm with their steps. The taller boy doesn’t notice a thing. He continues ribbing Paul to learn some secret. Maybe he wants to know that his true future was told in subtle riddles, but Paul doesn’t have the first idea how to tease out the true meaning. He whips his head behind him a number of times before his friend notices.

“What’s got your knickers in a twist?” The other boy scans behind them, seeing no one.

“There’s a lady following us,” Paul whispers. I catch his words as they echo off the building and continue down the breeze.

A carriage led by a team of four clops down the cobbled street, distracting both boys. I slide ahead of them, faster than starlight racing across the universe. Paul’s friend flinches a tiny bit when I brush a cold hand against his cheek. He steps out in front of the horses. One of them bucks up, kicking well-manicured hooves into the boy’s face and chest. He falls in slow-motion, grabbing the pocket of his coat where the darkness hides.

The carriage bumps and hops over his broken body before stopping with a “Whoa!” and harsh yank on the reins. Both driver and passenger leap toward us. A pool of crimson spreads out, staining the stones and reflecting the gaslight in muted sparks. I replace my gloves, feeling the brush of dark wings sweep past me. My psychopomps surround the body.

Paul walks to me and beats his fists against my chest. The men from the carriage gape at him. They might do worse if they could see he was assaulting a woman.

“He was my future!” he screams against the wind, tears streaming down his cheeks.

~*~*~*~*~
A/N: Happy April Fools! I hope you enjoyed our mash-ups. We were inspired by last month’s Craft Discussion: World Building.

Craft Discussion: World Building

CraftandWritingThis month, Jen hosted a discussion on world building and the process that goes along with creating our stories, whether they be short or longer projects.

What, in your opinion, encompasses a “world” in any given story? Is it strictly a base setting, or is there more to it than that?

Julie: I think world building can mean a lot of things, and it depends on the story. It also depends on what serves the story, and some of the world is built in the syntax of the lines. The rhythm of sentences can contribute to how a world is built or perceived by the reader. (Can you tell I’ve been reading about syntax?)

Anne: For me, the “world” is everything from setting to how it affects the characters and/or situations. Without world-building, there can be no dragons in Manhattan. No magic in New Orleans. It’s the base, for sure, but it seeps into every aspect.

Audrey: It definitely depends on the story, but in general, it’s the backdrop for every scene, what your characters live and breathe.

Jen: I agree, it’s everything. It should be full of sensory details, too. I want it to be almost tactile.

Julie: And of course, there are the things that make world building the foundation, the setting and norms and rules.

Anne: World-building is important even if you’re not writing fantasy.

Jen: Rules are a big thing, but especially in the genres we frequent. I think there are more rules in fantasy worlds because so many factors can be manipulated.

Julie: Yep. Every story I learn something new.
continue reading …

Anne’s Book Club 07

CGC_BlackThe Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black (summary by Amazon.com):

Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown’s gates, you can never leave.

One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a wholly original story of rage and revenge, of guilt and horror, and of love and loathing from bestselling and acclaimed author Holly Black.

My Thoughts on The Coldest Girl in Coldtown:

It’s no secret that one of my favorite YA novelists is Holly Black. Her Modern Faerie series changed so many of my perceptions of what YA could be—definitely for the better!—and Valiant, in particular, was incredibly moving for les raisons personnelles, as the French say. The world-building in her Curse Workers trilogy was fresh and innovative. I couldn’t wait to read her take on vampire lore. As a teen, I inhaled vampire books. Basically, I’ve never outgrown them.

The world-building of Coldest was first introduced in a short story of the same name published in the Eternal Kiss anthology in 2009. I loved the story because of the characters, but also because of the world. I wanted to know more about Matilda, so when the novel was announced I was sad to learn that Matilda wasn’t the main character. To be fair to Ms. Black, Matilda’s story was finished. I just wanted more. Coldest delivered, and I enjoyed Tana’s story just as much—maybe more than?—Matilda’s. In the world of Coldest, when you’re bit by a vampire, you turn Cold. You’re not undead until you drink your first drop of human blood, but you crave it over everything else. You would eat your kid and not even blink. Then you become a vampire, and there’s no turning back. However, if you’re strong enough (and locked up long enough) to resist human blood, the virus will run its course and you’ll remain human.

Coldest is Ms. Black’s longest published work to date at 419 pages in the hardcover version. There are chilling flashbacks of Tana’s childhood (her mother went Cold, was locked in the cellar by her father, convinced Tana to let her out, and she bit Tana. I was a little unclear if the bite was deep enough to infect her or not, but the bottom-line is that she survived). The vampire, Gavriel, gets to narrate his own story as well. I loved the Russian flashbacks! One of my favorite chapters, however, is not from Tana’s or Gavriel’s point-of-view. It’s Chapter 14 by Midnight; a blog entry on items you’ll need to bring to Coldtown. I sympathized with Midnight, and I remember so clearly what it was like to be wrapped up and obsessed with something. If Coldtowns did exist, especially when I was a teenager, I would have been involved on the boards. I would have watched the live feeds of the Eternal Ball. I might have rooted for the vampire hunters, but chances are I’d be a bigger fan of Lucien and his lot.

“And remember, if you do come into physical contact with a vampire, you are legally obligated to report yourself to the authorities. Do not attempt to wait to see if you’ve become infected. Do not attempt to self-quarantine. Call 911, explain the nature of the attack, and wait for further instructions.”

This book is built on vampire lore dating back hundreds of years, but it never feels stale. These vampires are burned by the sunlight. They can be staked. They might be beautiful and exotic, but they are predators; and as a reader, I never forgot that fact. There are strong parallels to the short story, and it was delightful to see how Ms. Black expanded the world. How she created a handful of characters that I rooted for or against (vampire and human alike). The newer lore (21st century new) she played was exciting too. In this world, reality television still retains that voyeuristic nature, but some of these characters are lured by it while others are repelled. It’s a fascinating fictional take on current reality shows and the public’s reaction.

Anne Rice wrote Interview with the Vampire as a short story. It was expanded years later into a novel. One of my Cimmerian Tale aspirations is to write something that starts here as a short story into a novel as well. I only hope I’m a quarter as successful as either Ms. Black or Ms. Rice.

What are some of your favorite short stories that have been elongated into novels?