“Thank You,” I Said, Moving in for a Hug

  • by jena nasty slipping, grating sound
  • Perhaps I should elaborate.
  • at the same ranch
  • I’m not a machine
  • hidden beneath the refrigerator

Tune in next time part 145                             Click Here for Earlier Installments

“Thank you,” I said, moving in for a hug. Aimeloxym allowed the embrace, which I easily turned into a nerve pinch that rendered her unconscious. As her metal eyelids fluttered closed they made a nasty slipping, grating sound.

Perhaps I should elaborate. Not on the sound — I think I was pretty thorough in my description of that. Perhaps I should elaborate on why I incapacitated this woman who had just helped me.

If Aimeloxym had received her espionage training at the same ranch in the high desert that Freya had, it would explain her knowledge of and apparent immunity to my sister’s hypnosis. But it also made her far too dangerous. I couldn’t risk her finding out that “where the treetops glisten” was TinselTown, the year-round Christmas theme park I inherited from my uncle Jinx Damocles when he was presumed dead. I also couldn’t risk her making a pass at me, as so many women in my orbit seem to do. The past few days had been pretty much nonstop sex, and I’m not a machine.

As a rope ladder unspooled from the zeppelin overhead, I took possession of Aimeloxym’s harpoon gun and ran.

Through shadowy alleys and deserted warehouses I sprinted, eventually making my way to the royal pied-á-terre that my wife’s family keeps in this city for use during the annual calligraphy competition. I let myself in and went straight upstairs to the third auxiliary kitchen. I used the harpoon gun to fish out the small lockbox that I kept hidden beneath the refrigerator. Inside was my collection of diplomatic passports, a stack of currency, and a bus pass — quite literally my ticket out of here.

I made my way to the depot and caught the first bus to Harmonia, ancient enemy of Contraria. Being married to Fleur made it dangerous for me to enter the land of the Harmonious, but that’s where TinselTown was, and that’s where I hoped to find Tessa. It was a chance I’d have to take.

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The Glare of the Flashbulbs, The Clamor of the Crowd

We are celebrities!

Last weekend we had our very first book signing, and it was phenomenal. The event was held at a local independent bookstore and there were dozens of people in attendance! DOZENS!

We had a box full of Miss Brandymoon’s Device to sell, and sell we did. We left the store empty-handed. Except for the memories.

One of the reasons we have pursued writing instead of, say, acting or rock stardom, is that as an author it’s possible to have success and a certain amount of name-recognition without all of the scrutiny that goes along with real fame. (Our lack of great acting or musical skill also has something to do with it.) But, we gotta say, getting a little bit of VIP treatment was quite fun. The store’s staff was very kind and helpful, and bent over backwards to make us happy. They catered to our diva demands (one black coffee, one peppermint tea), provided snacks, and introduced us to our adoring fans.

The reading went well because Jen made Kent do it, and since she makes him do (almost) all of the reading aloud at home, he was well-practiced and in fine voice. The audience was rapt. At the end they all held up their lighters for an encore, and did the wave.

The coolest part was after the reading, during the signing. Mixed in with our friends, relatives, and coworkers were several strangers, one of whom had purchased the book before the event and was about halfway through reading it. She came up to us with compliments and questions, and was eager to chat about our characters! It was AWESOME!

So now that we’ve had a taste of fame and fortune, there will be no stopping us. It feels great to have a writing partner to share it all with, especially one who doesn’t mind doing the public readings. Plus, as a bonus, we each only had to sign half of our pen name in the books (Kent = Rune, Jen = Skelley). No writing cramps!

“It’s Out of Harpoon Range”

  • by Kentunhinged their jaws the next time she saw them
  • with a hammer and sickle tattooed on the side of his head
  • countless x-rays
  • and at the same time believable
  • an industry catering to “needs”

Tune in next time part 144                             Click Here for Earlier Installments

“It’s out of harpoon range, you know,” I said to Aimeloxym, hoping I sounded more confident of that than I really was. The presidential zeppelin’s altitude was hard to gauge, because of the vessel’s sheer size. Who’s idea had it been to choose such an easy target as the primary means of transporting the president?

Oh yeah, it was mine. But I hadn’t really expected anyone to take it seriously!

Aimeloxym lowered her weapon. She blinked the fuzzy sweater strands loose from her metallic eyelashes. She looked my way, those glinting fang-lashes giving her snake eyes, eyes that I’m sure unhinged their jaws the next time she saw them in the mirror.

In even better news, she didn’t aim the explosive harpoon at me again. She said, “You have no idea how badly you’ve messed things up. I was trying to tell you that you were in the wrong place.”

I slapped my forehead. How had I gotten so confused? What made me think my tattoo’s message referred to the aquarium? My first thought had been of a totally different locale, not even in this city, and it had been correct. Maybe it had something to do with the red-haired woman and her mysterious jigsaw puzzle, which was now scattered and soggy, lost in the flooding when Aimeloxym blew the place up. But that didn’t make sense, because she didn’t show up until I’d already blundered to the aquarium.

“It was Freya,” Aimeloxym sighed. “She misdirected you. Her hypnosis skills have come a long way. You probably didn’t even notice the man with the hammer and sickle tattooed on the side of his head.”

“You mean that trash-Santa she was writhing around on?”

Nodding, she showed me a picture on her phone, of a young, fit mercenary with a shaved head. The soviet icon was clearly visible. “This is what he really looks like. And you should see this, too.” She swiped through the images on her phone, past countless x-rays of feet, until she reached a photo of a building and everything was crystal clear and at the same time unbelievable.

“Hey, how do you know about all of this? I only saw my tattoo for the first time today myself.”

Aimeloxym sneered. “I paid off the spa agents, of course. Such places are an industry catering to ‘needs’ of more than one kind, as you should already be aware. But now you must run, before the presidential landing party catches you. Thor is out of the loop and will only mess things up even worse.”

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This Was Not the First Time I Had Been Threatened With a Serrated Diving Knife

  • by jentangled in her sweater
  • staring at the sky, stunned
  • but she won’t let you
  • moving in slow, sensuous circles
  • enormous head start

Tune in next time part 143                             Click Here for Earlier Installments

This was not the first time I had been threatened with a serrated diving knife by a woman wearing only flippers, a skimpy bikini, and spiky metal eyelashes. I dashed for the exit, putting as many schoolboys between us as possible. Myxolemia’s flippers slowed her down as well, and by the time she got them off and fought her way through her crowd of admirers, I had an enormous head start.

I pelted up the stairs and into the walkthrough aquarium. The glass tunnel passed through the heart of the giant tank. All around me, glowing jellyfish were moving in slow, sensuous circles. All of the jellyfish in the Contrarian National Aquarium have been trained by my wife personally to dance in these hypnotic patterns. You can ask Fleur a million times how she trained them, and why, but she won’t let you in on her plans. Very secretive is my wife.

As I hurtled past the crowds of tourists staring raptly at the denizens of the deep, I tried to figure out why Myxolemia hadn’t passed along her message to me when she appeared at the hospital. Or when she turned up at the leather goods store. Was it possible that it wasn’t actually Myxolemia, but her identical cousin Aimeloxym?

I burst through the emergency exit and stumbled to a stop on the sidewalk, staring at the sky, stunned. The presidential zeppelin was hovering directly above me. Had Thor escaped his vegan captors? Or was this some power play of Mother’s?

I must have stood there gaping for longer than I realized, for suddenly Aimeloxym was at my side. She had tried to dress in a hurry – her metal eyelashes were tangled in her sweater.

She aimed her harpoon gun at the zeppelin.

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Predicting the Future – 2017 Edition

It’s time for everyone’s favorite activity: Strategic Planning!

What do we plan to accomplish in 2017? And how hard will this post make us laugh when we dust it off and look at it at the end of the year?

Kent, Jen, and Lady Marzipan took a nice long walk yesterday, and in between long, lingering sniffs of all the mailboxes in the neighborhood, we talked about how we hope to spend our time in the writing cave this year.

First and foremost, we’re planning to publish two books this year, sequels to Miss Brandymoon’s Device. Tenpenny Zen will be out in March, with the third novel to follow in late summer or early fall. There will be a lot of busywork involved with prepping those, which will keep us distracted from actual writing. But it’s kind of necessary if we want to release a quality product. Which we do.

Our second highest priority is knocking out the first drafts for Son and Grandson of Science Novel. We’re currently something like halfway through Son, and we’re planning to just steam ahead and write them both back-to-back (interrupted only by the fiddly stuff needed to release Tenpenny). We’re notoriously bad at predicting how long it will take us to write a novel. Jen seems to think that if we really knuckle down it should only take one long weekend, whereas Kent is more realistic and assumes it will take forever. Hopefully we’ll land somewhere in the middle and finish up by summer. Maybe.

After that, well… After that it gets a bit scary. With the Divided Man series published and the Science series resting comfortably as a first draft, that leaves only the Music series. We like the elegance of trilogies, even if we try not to officially label things that way – who knows when we might feel inspired to tell more stories set in our various fiction worlds? Currently the Music series has two completed novels, which means it needs at least one more. We have a few notes about what that third story might look like, and yesterday while we were out getting lunch and taking care of a friend’s cats we talked through those ideas and expanded a few of them. We don’t know yet what form the third Music novel will take, but we have no doubts that we’ll figure it out.

But then what? After we wrap up the Music series, we run out of map. We’ve been living with these three story worlds for a long time, and it’s unsettling to think that we might be done with all of them as soon as this year.

That might be catastrophizing a bit because it’s highly unlikely we’ll finish three novels in one year, and even if we do, there’s still all the editing.

But. But! We’re still sailing off the end of world.

So, if we’re smart we’ll devote a couple of lengthy conversations to exploring what comes next. Road trips are a fruitful time for that, which means we’ll need to plan a few of those. Where will the new year take us?

Happy New Year, everyone!

Every Man Has At Some Point

  • by Kentasked to draw a map
  • the worst a beautiful woman could do
  • squeezed his head and arms
  • their gestures of greeting
  • never, ever name your daughter after that woman

Tune in next time part 142                             Click Here for Earlier Installments

Every man has at some point been asked to draw a map of his fears, where X marks the worst a beautiful woman could do to him. Usually it’s something about betrayal or abandonment, hardly ever has anything to do with harpoon guns. I didn’t think I had much to worry about this time, though. The glass of the aquarium would surely stop a harpoon. But then I looked at the tip of her weapon, and realized it wasn’t the typical sharp prong but a chunky explosive warhead.

The only reason I could think for the Headmistress to turn on me like that was if I’d somehow garbled the message. I had to try a different code. Grabbing the rude teen beside me, I squeezed his head and arms into the shapes of various ancient runes. The Headmistress aimed her harpoon gun at me, but only lazily. She was giving me a chance. Meanwhile, the rest of the schoolboys were now treating me like a hip-hop star, leading me to wonder if they mistook me for my brother Jason. In any case, their gestures of greeting were elaborate handshakes that interfered with the transmission of my new message.

The Headmistress lost patience with me and fired. I threw my human runic semaphore stylus one way and leapt the other, as the window burst out at us in a surge of brackish water. The Headmistress rode the outflow and landed adroitly on her flippered feet, now brandishing a knife. She tore off her mask and shook out her wavy black hair.

It was the American ambassador, my date to the prom. Myxolemia.

“What should we do?” whined one of the soggy teenagers.

“I have only one piece of advice,” I replied. “You should never, ever name your daughter after that woman.”

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An Entire Field Trip’s Worth of Teenage Boys in School Uniforms

  • by jenthe realm of cryptozoology and superstition
  • through an interpreter
  • to enhance its size
  • staring up at the ceiling with dreamy, lack-luster eyes
  • mere super-dork

Tune in next time part 141                             Click Here for Earlier Installments

An entire field trip’s worth of teenage boys in school uniforms blocked my view of the SCUBA woman. Contrarian schools focus almost exclusively on the realm of cryptozoology and superstition, so their presence here at the aquarium was a bit surprising.

I moved to the side of the viewing port and started to work my way in amongst the hormone-drenched throng, which necessitated pressing myself flat against the wall. As I inched along I encountered a plaque written in Olde Contrarian. I ran the text through an interpreter app on my phone, thinking it might be the message I was waiting for. When the translation appeared, I had to enhance its size and read it again.

Mermaid.

I laughed. Well, that explained what the school kids were doing here. But the SCUBA woman was anything but a mermaid. All the parts I had seen (which was most of them, given the skimpiness of her bikini) were human.

Losing patience, I shoved the nearest teen a few inches to the left and took my place at the window. The “mermaid” spotted me and flashed a quick hand signal, then began her peculiar and complicated release of bubbles again. The code she was using was an old one, and she started off by complaining about how many years it had taken me to finally show up.

I shrugged.

She flashed another quick hand signal, this one much ruder than the first, then bubbled that I should call her the Headmistress. That was great news, except that I didn’t know how the hell I was supposed to pass along my message to her. I stood there for far too long, staring up at the ceiling with dreamy, lack-luster eyes, trying to recall the proper pantomimes for Fire, Delight, and Danger.

The boy that I shoved noticed me and elbowed his friends. The whole group began taunting me, calling me every name in the book from perverted ass-clown to pathetic pumpkin juggler to mere super-dork.

I ignored them and finished choreographing my message. As soon as I delivered it, the SCUBA headmistress’s eyes narrowed and she pulled a harpoon gun from behind a nearby chunk of coral.

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Sayonara (Not So) Sweet ’16

What a year. Politics were shit, and too many cool celebrities died.

But!

It wasn’t total misery! Looking back at our post from this time last year, it seems we more or less accomplished what we set out to do in the writing cave. Son (and Grandson!) of Science Novel are both outlined, and we’re well underway with the composition. Go Team Skelley!

Where we deviated from our plan was basically everything that had to do with Son of Music Novel. It did not get time to rest quietly in a drawer, it did not get a thorough edit. Since the other members of our writers’ group were not at a point where they had anything to share, Son of Music Novel got its critique debut a bit early. It’s been a challenge to divide our attention between the projects, but we’re managing. At least we have each other’s shoulders to cry on.

So how did we spend our year 2016 at SkelleyCo Amalgamated Fictions, LLC?

In January and February we were deep in the outlining for Son of Science Novel. It’s pretty much the only thing we blogged about.

March brought our brilliant scheme to outline both sequels before moving on to prose. We did accomplish that, and as far as we can tell at this altitude, we haven’t fucked it up yet. If we can ever get out of this holiday quagmire and chain ourselves to our desks again, we ought to be able to finish up Son and roll right on into Grandson.

Along with taxes, April brought an end to the outlining, and a trip down memory lane. We cleaned out the Writing Cave and took a look at how we used to do things back in the Olden Days. Then we partook of a different kind of nostalgia, beginning an editing pass on Music Novel, which hadn’t seen the light of day in a while.

May was spent elbow-deep in the guts of Music Novel, editing like fiends. Or skilled surgeons, if you’d rather.

In June we hit a couple of bumps in the road, but our partnership (and marriage!) are as strong as ever.

Come July we were all over the place, working in all three of our story worlds at once, and beginning the preliminary work for self-publishing our very first novel, Miss Brandymoon’s Device.

Happy Anniversary! In August, our chain story reached installment 100! And we were still getting through all the throat-clearing that happens before we actually start writing a novel (or two).

September was mostly spent in the run-up to publishing Miss Brandymoon’s Device. Kent created a beautiful cover for it and both of its siblings. We did all kinds of boring behind-the-scenes technical stuff with fonts and layouts and what-have-you. Jen took care of the final pre-writing tasks for the new novels.

And then Boom! October! Book birthday! We think our new baby is gorgeous, and we hope you love it just as much as we do. Hop on over to your favorite book retailer and pick up a copy of the ebook for free! Or order a physical copy from Amazon. You won’t regret it!

Suddenly it was November. How could it possibly be Thanksgiving already? Please explain to us the passage of time. As we always do, we ignored NaNoWriMo and kept our own schedule, with got us to 20,000 by the middle of the month. Not too shabby, when you consider how many distractions we were dealing with.

Good thing there are no distractions in December, amiright? Despite a very long list of things vying for our attention we’re going to finish up 2016 with about 45,000 words in the can for Son of Science Novel. It’s not as many as we’d hoped we might have by now, but it’s nothing to sneeze at.

Jen was feeling a little disheartened that we weren’t further along, and as we worked on this Year in Review post she was able to diagnose her main issue. It feels like we’ve been working on this book for an entire freakin’ year! And that’s because we have been. But we took a huge break in the middle to edit several novels and actually get one of them out in front of people. Somehow that part had slipped Jen’s mind. But when you look at things rationally and see that we’ve only been actually writing this book since sometime in October, it feels like an accomplishment to be proud of.

So we’ll say it again, Go Team Skelley!

Next week we’ll talk about our plans for 2017.

“Come With Me”

  • by Kent“Is this an ocean menagerie?”
  • something that, in hindsight, looks strikingly similar to
  • shot him in the mouth
  • a converted fireman
  • young ladies usually are

Tune in next time part 140                             Click Here for Earlier Installments

“Come with me,” I said to Freya. She flung herself onto her ersatz Claus and shook her head, a perfect, petulant tantrum. It might have been adorable when she was two, and apparently the white-bearded man laying underneath her had much laxer standards.

I wrote her off. She knew she’d have mother to answer to later, and apparently she didn’t care. I had to move quickly, as the tattoo admonished. Quicken my steps, as mother had scolded.

The message inked on my chest was not meant to be taken literally. I knew, for example, that the glistening treetops it referred to were branching bioluminescent coral formations on view at the Contrarian National Aquarium. Handy that it was three blocks away.

Admission was free. I headed down three levels to the proper tank, and stood gazing at glowing, gently swaying fronds, like a deep-sea rave where someone subbed horse tranquilizer for ecstasy.

“Is this an ocean menagerie?” asked the red-haired lady beside me. It sure sounded like a coded phrase, but I had no countersign that went with it. She must be meeting up with a different operative. I nodded, because the correct answer to her question was, “Yes.” This exchange was something that, in hindsight, looks strikingly similar to acknowledgement of a coded signal. She set down her shopping bag beside my feet and wandered off.

Whoever was running their game, I would like to have shot him in the mouth with a squirt gun full of bleach. I stepped away from the bag so its intended recipient wouldn’t feel the need to do anything drastic when he showed up.

Half an hour later, I was still alone at the viewing window, with only the abandoned shopping bag for companionship. Maybe I misread the situation? Maybe the red-head was the headmistress? Worth a glance in the bag to figure it out, right?

The bag contained a jigsaw puzzle, or at least I hoped it was just one puzzle’s worth of pieces. Of course, the moment I picked it up was when more people entered the exhibit, so I couldn’t just leave it.

But something else distracted the arriving throng. I turned back to the glass and saw a diver in the dark water, using a converted fireman‘s breathing apparatus in place of real SCUBA gear. Apart from the breather, the diver wore only a bikini, and she wore it well. I noticed an odd pattern to the way she released her bubbles, but my view was quickly blocked by a few dozen high-school boys pressing their noses to the glass. When they swim in skimpy costumes, young ladies usually are an irresistible lure for teenage boys.

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Now That You’ve Checked Santa Off Your To-Kiss List

  • by jenonly full-blooded Navajo
  • a vast subterranean chamber of horrors
  • reflection of its luminous rays
  • Ahem.
  • and you’re still not dancing

Tune in next time part 139                             Click Here for Earlier Installments

“Now that you’ve checked Santa off your To-Kiss list, Freya, I think only full-blooded Navajo is left.” I shot a glance at Mr Claus’s tattoo before his beard covered it again, hoping it was not a twin to my own. It wasn’t, and instead depicted a vast subterranean chamber of horrors, a Hellscape overhung by a giant bloody sun, the writhing flames a reflection of its luminous rays.

Santa said, “Ahem. My eyes are up here.”

Freya smoothed his beard and kissed the tip of his nose, then leapt to her feet. “Mother sent me to find you,” she explained to me. “She says, and I quote, ‘Thor is a huge disappointment as president, and you’re still not dancing fast enough.'” Freya shrugged. “She said you’d know what she meant.”

Oh, I knew all right. I knew, and I didn’t like it one little bit.

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