A quiet cul de sac

A couple days ago I caught snippets of an interview with Patricia Cornwell, the bestselling author of the Scarpetta series, among other things. She talked about her work — which I found mildly interesting –, she solved a staged case — something a team had spent three days planning which she walked into and nailed in an hour –, and she spoke about her wife.

Yeah. Her wife. Which makes her gay, I guess.

You see, this is one of those issues that both Matters and Doesn’t Matter. If you’re curious Why It Matters, head over here. If you want to know why I believe It Doesn’t Matter, keep reading.

You see, there are readers who will now no longer enjoy her books. People who loved her work, loved her characters. Adopted them into their lives as if they were real people dealing with real problems. Eagerly looked forward to the next installment. The next leg of the journey. Knew they could find a solid escape from their lives between the pages.

But now because Miss Cornwell is different — and she’s been fairly open about her sexuality for several years, but it’s new to me, so I’m writing from that perspective –, they’ll turn their backs on her.

You see, she’s not like them.

Because she doesn’t think crumbling tortilla chips over a casserole, tagging the word Fiesta on it before insisting on being applauded for her culinary genius, they won’t buy her books.

She’s not like them.

Because she doesn’t spend every third Saturday staring at the ceiling wondering if she turned the oven off while the Mr. plugs in an impressive thirty humps before popping off, they’ll deny themselves the joy of her talent.

She’s not like them.

Because, in their minds, Miss Cornwell and her Mrs. — her MRS!! — are “others” who more than likely suit up every night for sexy intercourse with enough power tools to make a mechanic piss himself with envy, she’s not worth the read.

But it doesn’t matter.

Miss Cornwell writes books. Has been doing it for years with bestseller after bestseller with the next bestseller, her 20th, released this week. And for anyone who knows what the writing of a book entails, trust me, it ain’t easy. Who she loves, who she sleeps with, doesn’t really enter into the equation. The books she writes from here on out will more than likely adhere to the familiar, quite successful formula established by her earlier work.

In other words, I doubt her characters will start trolling Home Depot before heading home to Dykesville and their quiet cul de sac off Clitori Corner.

And, for some, that won’t be enough. In my opinion, that’s their problem. No one is obligated to reveal the truth of who they are on the Front Cover just so you, a potential reader, will feel comfortable.

The readers of hers who are mature and have their priorities in check won’t be thrown, won’t be bothered. Will continue to read and enjoy what she offers, wife or not.

Anyone else is welcome to donate those books of hers they refuse to revisit and enjoy to their local library or used book store, head on home to their own quiet cul de sac between Raging Hellfire and Eternal Damnation Lanes, light a candle, crack open the Good Book and begin working their way through all those “begat”s and “so sayeth he”s.

Personally, I’ll take Cornwell.

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fingers crossed

It’s been a long time since I’ve read for pleasure.

You see, most, if not all, of my reading is research.

For Martuk it was learning as much as I could about the ancient city of Uruk, the polytheistic religious beliefs of the time, and then, generations later, the world that was 1st century Jerusalem. Not only the brief rise of a soon-to-be crucified Messiah, but the politics, the government, the reality one finds in histories that aren’t Christian-based.

For Martuk … The Holy: Proseuche, the upcoming sequel to Martuk, I’m immersed in the sometimes shocking violence of 4th and 5th century Christianity. Bishops plotting and killing and destroying the lives of other Bishops. And the Pope, the most powerful man in the world at the time, always involved, forever scheming. Emperors claiming the Christian faith while still practicing their polytheistic religions and ancient magic, especially in Constantinople or, as it was called then, New Rome — much to the lingering resentment of that lumbering, wounded, dying beast Rome.

And, of course, all of this happening while the Christian world broke in two, the true Nature of Christ debated with swords and armies, a Priest threatened with death if he called the Virgin Mary Theotokos (aka God-Bearer), the East soon breaking away and remaining Orthodox, the West going on to become the Christian religion we recognize today.

And Jerusalem going from a forgotten slum to a haven for Christian tourists, stall after stall offering splinters from the “real cross” and other trinkets.

It was a fascinating, historic time.

And it makes for fascinating reading. I love it. And it gives an unusual weight to my work. A weight I believe my stories deserve. The need I have to wrap my characters in these rich histories, giving them historically accurate roads to walk while talking to historically accurate people, being too strong NOT to dot my “i”s and cross my “t”s.

But there are times, I’ve been told, when you gotta close those big books, give the brain a rest, and dig into a really good read. Fiction. Spooky. Expertly written.

And instead of dusting off one of my favorites and wandering down yet another enjoyable, though familiar, path, I’ve decided to read something new from someone new.

I mean, the author has a very long, very successful career, so he’s hardly “new”. But he is to me.

So, as silly as this sounds, I’m a little excited. It feels like that moment when you organize the desk, leave a voicemail greeting explaining you’ll be out for the next two weeks, go down the elevator, give a friendly wave to the Security Desk, and leave the building, finally AT LAST on vacation.

Now let’s just hope my work-a-holic nature will let me have a brief break and enjoy a good book.

Fingers crossed.

Proseuche

So, yes, I have Red and Gold (the third in The Martuk Series) to write. That’s next on the list and, quite honestly, I’m looking forward to it. Definitely has the potential to be a strong continuation of the story started in The Wounded King and The Elder (TBR — To Be Released — today). It also promises to be a very good read. It’s chapter mapped, so I know. (^D

(fyi, the above emoticon, to me, looks like a man wearing sunglasses and smiling. I think it’s cute.)

That being said, I can’t escape 5th Century Constantinople. The rise of Antioch. The slow sinking of that desperate, fumbling power-that-was Rome. My mind drawn again and again to cemeteries and magic and Bishops killing Bishops and Priests slaughtering Priests and Christianity quite literally breaking in two, a chasm that exists to this day. I woke up this morning with them, their arguments becoming screams before exploding into violence.

And my immortal Martuk, still stumbling through immortality as the world around him spins into violent chaos. (If you know anything about the Church Councils of the 4th, 5th and 6th centuries, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about)

In other words, Martuk … The Holy: Proseuche (ancient Greek for “place of prayer” or “prayer house”), the full-length sequel to Martuk … The Holy is currently obsessing me. Ob-sess-ing me.

And that’s good. Really good.

But first, I want to pound out Red and Gold, keep the Series going, and then I’ll make the shift into Proseuche.

It promises to be a great ride.

(^D

the power of fear

(An excerpt from one of my WIPs, Martuk … The Holy: Proseuche, the sequel to the full-length novel Martuk … The Holy)

“God forgives,” the voice assured me from the shadows.

No, he wouldn’t comprehend it at all.

I smiled, then, hearing her again, the Waitress. Teasing, flirting, crying, cursing, her voice echoing from hours ago.

“You’re so funny,” she had laughed as we sat knee-to-knee at a famously cramped restaurant on the Rue Saint-André des Artes, the tourists seated in a room to the right, the French locals in a more spacious room to the left.

“You’re so wonderful,” she had slurred, her tongue thick with expensive Bordeaux as she slipped her hand in mine, the streets dark and quiet as we walked.

“You’re so … ,” she had whispered, the thought unfinished as her hand snaked between my thighs, the car speeding along the quay, the scent of her lust in my nose, her breasts warm against my arm, her breath kissing my cheek, the vast, leafy shadow of the Bois de Boulogne rising in the distance.

“I lied,” I finally offered the Priest, committing yet another sin.

Silence.

“You’re human,” came the tentative cinnamon-scented response.

“You’re a monster!” the Waitress had screamed as she ran, her hand clutching its twin to her chest, the blood pump, pump, pumping down her dress as I spat the orphaned finger to the leaves at my feet.

Shall I tell the Priest this? That I can still taste her blood on my tongue? How the crunch of her slender bone between my teeth excited me? Or how she ran and I followed? Should I breathe this between these slender strips of polished wood? How she darted behind a tree before I rushed forward, startling her, trapping her?

No. This sheltered, naive little man would never understand why I let her run again. Or how the chase invigorated me. How hopelessly addictive her terror was. How her tears delighted me. How the Darkness so very much enjoyed the thrill of those last moments of her life. His mind could never wrap itself around the thrill of catching her, trapping her, torturing her, her eyes wide, the snot dripping as she sniffled and sobbed.

He could never know the power of fear.

Her bloody eyes found mine …

(excerpt from The Elder, the soon-to-be-released second book in The Martuk Series)

The Seer sat motionless behind the ripped and tattered woolen.

I waited.

Her head forced back, she gasped, The Child, the throat swollen and round, the skin cracked and bleeding as it stretched.

The wolves paused, eyes narrow and rumbles in their chests as they backed away.

The Seer cocked its head, listened.

The Child’s head dropped with a crack. She swallowed, licked her lips, her chin lifted, and then her bloody eyes found mine.

She spoke.

“Man from the mountains …” she began, The Seer mouthing the words, “He will come, will gain what you seek, will lose all in an end that never ends.

“Stone stained red … a darkness … a hunger …”

She stopped.

Her mouth suddenly opened in a cry, the power of The Seer ebbing as reality returned, the girl convulsed by sobs as the tears briefly ran.

And then, quiet once more, powerless and trapped in the shadows near the crumbled grey of the ceiling, her tiny, bloodstained body turned.

First her head, the neck rotating with cracks and snaps and pops. And then the slender shoulders, the chest, the arms and torso and waist, the little legs dangling as they followed.

The Seer swayed, the bent and broken body listing to and fro as The Child’s turns quickened, her pretty mouth held slack as the blood ran and the shadows danced and the wolves growled from the dark, their eyes aglow in the firelight.

Faster and faster she spun in the air, faster and faster The Seer swayed, lower and lower the wolves growled. My head spun as sweat stained my brow and bile rose in my throat, the dark now too dark, the rank air stealing my breath.

I closed my eyes, my palm to my forehead, the chill replaced by a sudden heat as I laid low, taken by a sudden illness. An odd sensation of warmth and cold and sickness and fear. The unfamiliar feeling of being trapped. Powerless.

The Child turned, The Seer bobbed behind the tattered woolen, the wolves now howled, and the cool of the ground soothed my cheek as I fell to my knees and then lay flat, my fingers threaded through the soil as I clutched the earth while my head spun and my stomach turned and I fought for breath.

Priest …

Liar …

King …

Yes.

Wounded King …

Yes.

He is coming …

“these tender bones”

— excerpt from Martuk … The Holy

The King’s eyes snapped open.

“Do you see me?” came the whisper.

The boy stopped, carefully backing away.

“Do you see me?” the King asked again, louder.

The boy nodded his head.

“What is it you see? Do you see me?”

The boy remained silent. Afraid to move. Afraid to breathe.

“Do you see my glory? My perfection? My power? Do your eyes see a god?”

Sitting up, he reached out and grabbed the boy by the throat, dragging him close.

“Do your eyes see a god?” he asked, pressing his lips to the boy’s face, smearing the soft brown skin with streaks of red.

“You, you are flesh and bone,” he whispered, his nose buried in the smooth cheek, inhaling deeply. “Yes, just flesh and bone. Nothing special. Nothing sacred or glorious. There is no god living here. You are expendable and soon forgotten.

“Do you know this? Understand this? Do you see how small, how insignificant you are?”

His hand tightened on the slender, delicate span of neck, the child’s face blushing red as he struggled to breathe.

“Who will miss you when you’re gone? When your dead flesh has been torn, devoured by dogs? Your eyeballs pecked and plucked out by birds? Who will miss these tender bones when they’re nothing but little piles of dust? Who?”

The boy’s flushed cheeks were now wet with tears. A thin stream of drool fell from his swelling lips, then, sliding off his chin and staining the hand of the monster choking the life from him.

“I am a God,” he continued. “I can never die. I can never falter. Never stumble. Were I to fall, the sun would go out, the crops would wither. The world would end. Just end. And humanity, these subjects, these grateful, ignorant, stupid masses who bless my name, they would perish. They would die.

“But they do not see me, a God in agony, trapped in this prison of blood and bones. All they see is power. And were I to be set free from this, this place, this body, this pain, this mediocrity, I would be mourned. I would be missed.”

He pressed his bleeding flesh to the dying boy.

“No one will mourn you. You are human. Mortal. Useless. You don’t carry the burden of greatness. You do not sit in the Heavens. You can leave your skin and forget your bones. You can find eternal rest in the Fog.

“But me?” His voice rose. “I cannot!”

He struggled to stand, lifting the boy by the throat. The tiny feet kicking frantically as his eyes rolled back in his head, small brown hands clutching the King’s wrists in vain.

“You can die! You have freedom! You have peace! You are not trapped!” he shouted at the dying boy, his hands gripping the neck, blood rolling from the boy’s ears and mouth, rivers of red staining his cheeks.

“You are not trapped!”

I felt sick to my stomach watching this. But I couldn’t look away. And I couldn’t help but wonder Why aren’t they doing anything? Helping him? Stopping this?!

“I am God,” the King then whispered, his lips inches from the boy. “I can steal your soul. Eat you. Swallow you.”

And then he kissed him …