Jeanine O'Loughlin

Fantasy, Science Fiction & Historical Fiction Author, Blogger, and Geek

Month: May, 2015

Acolyte Trials – Part 2

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At the store Lizzie picked up eyeliner, mascara, dark red lipstick, and big hoop earrings and a cheap green button up shirt for Adrian. She put her hair in a high ponytail then changed into a red tank top with her leather jacket, dark jeans, and old boots. She thought she made a passable young adult. She met Adrian at the car, and she thought he looked good with his short-cropped black hair combed for once. The shirt fit his slim build well and the green brought out the jade in his eyes. If he could stop brooding for five minutes she might even call him attractive. Lizzie put her seatbelt on and waited for him to start the car, but he just stared at her for a minute.

“What? Did I smear my lipstick already? Damn it!” she jolted up to look at the rear view mirror and check her makeup.

“It’s fine. You look like a girl for once,” he said. Lizzie curled her hands into fists and glared at the glove box. She was trying to hold back her anger, but wasn’t doing a very good job. Adrian put an apologetic hand on her arm.

“I just meant that you usually don’t get dressed up, ya know like girls do sometimes.”

“Whatever. Come on, let’s just get going.” she pulled her head high and tried to focus on something else.

Adrian dropped Lizzie off around the corner from one of the bars. Her palms were clammy and gross, she’d never tried to get into a bar before. Don’t screw this up, she warned herself as she walked to the door. The bouncer asked for her ID and she handed it to him with what she hoped was a charming smile. She held her breath tight while he checked it over.

“Left hand please,” He asked as he handed her back the ID.

“Huh?”

“You need a stamp.” He held up a small self-inking stamp of a star.

“Oh right.” She raised her left hand. He put the blue ink on her skin and gestured her inside. It was still a little early and the bar was fairly empty. A few people sat in the intimate booths along the wall, a beer or cocktail in front of them. It took her eyes a while to adjust to the dim red lights. There was an empty stage with a DJ platform and two giant speakers standing like watchmen on either side. It was already warm inside, and she was tempted to take off her jacket, but opted to deal with it. The bar was a long wooden affair with shelves of liquor bottles prominently displayed on the back wall like trophies. Bright white strips of light illuminated the floor and workspace for the three bartenders. She took a seat at the far end with a good view of the main entrance. Hunters aren’t allowed to drink, but when the perky blonde took her order, what she wanted was champagne, but like a good little girl she told the bartender that she was driving and asked for a pop.

She took in all the exits and burned them into her mind as she was taught, then settled in for an evening of people watching. By ten o’clock the bar was packed and she was thankful for access to a chair, even if it was putting her butt to sleep. Her phone chimed and she looked down to see an update from Adrian.

Just more annoying music, and some girl who keeps asking me if I was a model.

She stifled a laugh and replied back. Was she cute? Too bad she’d end up in jail if you took her home.

He responded quickly with a Ha ha and an annoyed looking smiley-face. She looked back up at the room and did a survey for any new faces, but she was losing track with so many. The sentry speakers were booming some trendy dance song that throbbed in her ears. She ordered another pop and leaned a cheek against her hand.

“Don’t like the music?” a voice beside her asked. She looked over and saw a man in his early twenties with dirty blonde hair that had enough styling gel to updo Bigfoot. He had hazel eyes and a very easy smile. He was clean-cut and well dressed in a button up and casual slacks. She looked around to see if he was actually talking to her.

“What?”

“I said, you don’t like the music?” he repeated.

“Oh. No, not really,” she smiled and took a drink of her pop.

“I’m Kyle,” he said offering her his hand.

“Mary,” she said without hesitation. She had made a number of fake backgrounds for these kinds of assignments, it was like being in a James Bond movie, except they had to use forgettable boring names. He smiled then jerked forward as two girls, who were several drinks in already, were apologizing as they sloppily maneuvered their way back to their table of friends.

“Sorry about that,” Kyle said with another one of his charming smiles, but she noticed he didn’t move back much.

“It’s okay,” she maneuvered herself more comfortably on her chair and took a drink to give her hands something to do.

“Can I get you another one?” Kyle asked gesturing towards her drink.

“Oh, I’m good. I’m driving later,” she said maintaining her excuse to avoid alcohol.

“So, since you’re not here for the music or a drink why are you hiding out in a bar all by yourself?” Kyle leaned against the bar with one elbow.

I guess he means to stay, she thought irritated. “I’m waiting for a friend.” It wasn’t exactly a lie.

“Ah, she running late?”

“Something like that.” Her phone chimed with a text message and she looked at the message from Adrian.

Are we sure we’re looking for a guy? There are a lot of women here. Adrian asked.

What are the chances of it being a girl? Slim… but if you think you’ve found it I can come by. I’ve got some random guy talking to me.

She looked back over at Kyle, “Sorry, my friend. He got lost on his way here.”

“Oh, he? You have a boyfriend?” he asked looking disappointed.

She laughed, “No, he’s not my boyfriend. We’ve known each other since we were kids,” she kept laughing to herself thinking of Adrian and she as a couple.

“Oh, so you’re single?”

“Uh yeah,” she said distractedly waiting for Adrian’s response. Weird question… she thought until she remembered that she was in a bar. Here was an interested cute boy right in her face and she hadn’t even noticed. She felt her cheeks warm in a blush, and suddenly forgot how to speak full sentences.

“So, what kind of music do you like?” Kyle asked.

Her mind was blank. Music? Do I like music? she tried to think about what she was listening to earlier today. “Rock music, I think,” she stuttered out.

“You think? Do you not like music?” Kyle asked confused.

“No… I mean I like music, rock music,” she said, trying to recover her composure.

Kyle smiled at her warmly and started to talk about different artists he liked and the conversation became infinitely easier. Some time later she heard her phone chime again and looked down, realizing that she’d missed a couple of messages.

Nothing yet. What guy? Are you okay?

Lizzie, is someone harassing you? Do you need me?

I’ll be right there.

“You’re friend again?” Kyle asked with a concerned look on his face.

“Yeah, giving him directions. He’s hopeless with things like that,” she said with a smile.

“Let me buy you another pop, while you wait,” he said taking a chair that had been abandoned next to them.

“Sure,” she said enjoying the attention. Kyle ordered them both drinks from the blonde bartender then excused himself to the restroom after ordering her pop. Lizzie took that moment to look over the crowd. She noticed a couple sitting at the other end of the bar, a young woman in her early twenties with a pop star thin figure and dirty blonde hair pulled up into a clip. She was wearing a corseted style blue top that Lizzie admired. The woman stood and headed towards the back restrooms giving her male companion a telling smile. Lizzie felt her face warm again as she understood the meaning behind the look. As Lizzie watched her leave she saw the girl was wearing incredibly tall heels that she couldn’t help but be impressed by the balance required to stay upright in them.

The woman’s date pulled out a bill fold from his shirt pocket. He was very well dressed in a deep burgundy button up tucked into black slacks. He was older than the woman, thirty at least, but very handsome with a strong jaw, a build that must take hours every day to maintain, and deep dark eyes that drew your gaze to him. Lizzie watched him a moment more as he walked towards the coat check window. He walked with an unearthly grace, almost floating amongst the increasingly wild crowd. Then a waitress tripped and nearly dumped her tray full of stacked glasses on him, but he caught it, and her, with a speed that perked Lizzie’s attention. As he handed the waitress back her tray and gave her a smile, the edges of his teeth just showing, she saw it. The exaggerated canine teeth that would just look odd to any normal human.

“Gotcha,” she whispered, and jumped off her chair.

*                                                                *                                                    *

Adrian parked in a no parking zone in the back alley behind the bar Lizzie was in, and jumped out running towards the front door. Lizzie almost ran right into the line of people waiting to have their IDs checked, when he spotted her. “What’s wrong?”

“They left, that’s what’s wrong,” she said in a hushed voice. “I lost sight of them for just a few seconds and then they were gone. We have to find them Adrian.” Lizzie went to the street looking up and down the road. He followed her.

“Hey!” he heard someone call to them from behind. He turned expecting a bouncer, but instead found a guy shorter than he was, walking towards Lizzie and the blonde young man put a hand on her arm. He was clearly too old for Lizzie. Adrian took a step closer to her.

“Hey, Mary.” The boy gave Adrian a quick curious glance. Lizzie turned towards him ramped up from losing her quarry.

“What?” she snapped then her face softened a little, and she blushed.

“You left, is everything okay?” the guy gave Adrian another look and turned back to her.

“Yeah, I just.. have to go. Something came up,” she said apologetically. Adrian saw the disappointment in both their faces. He felt annoyed by it but didn’t really know why.

“Well, can I call you? I’d love to finish our conversation,” he said pulling a cell phone out of his pocket.

“Sure,” she said and typed in a number when he handed it to her. He gave her a smile and promised to call her tomorrow before heading back inside the bar.

“What was that all about?” he asked with his eyebrows raised. Lizzie’s blush deepened and she turned away looking down the street again.

“Nothing, come on we have hunting to do,” she said heading down the street.

He gestured her towards where he had the car parked. As they were pulling out onto the street he said, “You realize that you can’t actually date him right, Mary? He’s too old and you’ll probably be leaving the state in a few days.”

“I know!” she said in anger. “I gave him a fake number anyway,” she turned to look out the window with that pouty expression she got when she didn’t get what she wanted. He tried to hold back a smile and turned down the street.

To Be Continued…

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What Effects Do Characters Have on Plot?

Thinking Through My Fingers

“Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.” – Issac Asimov

 

Last week I discussed how I go about creating my characters. I feel I need to know my characters inside and out. If I’m asked a question about my character I should know how they will answer. Now different pieces come together in different order/ways. Sometimes I have the plot first, sometimes the character, or sometimes just a world. However, it’s my characters who dictate the rest of a piece.

When I present my characters with an obstacle I use my deep knowledge of them to determine how they would react, and then the consequences to that reaction. Sometimes this will completely derail a plotline, but 9 times out of 10 I’ll change the plot to make sense with what the character would do. This can be very frustrating as it means reworking my story outline, but to me that’s what makes a strong character is that every choice and action they make is true to who they are.

I love reading and analyzing how characters grow and changes throughout a story. So, when I’m writing I try to think of how the consequences of their actions affect them mentally, physically, and emotionally. In most of my stories my character arcs aren’t well defined and are much more organic than my other story elements. Every time something happens to a character I put it into the list of events in their past and add it to the collection of things that help me decide their choices.

Let me give you a short example to show my point. When Claire was twenty and in college she went to her first rock concert with a friend. While there she had the worst time, she had her wallet stolen, had someone vomit in front of her while in line for the bathroom, and sound system was terrible which made the music sound like it was coming through a tin can. So, when she’s been invited to go to a concert again she always declines. Through the plot of the story you put Claire at a rock concert and everything goes right, she gets to meet the band who are amazing, she hears all her favorite songs, and no one vomits. Now how might this make Claire react the next time she’s invited to a concert? Would it completely change her mind about concerts or is Claire more pragmatic than that and puts it in the “maybe” category of experiences? If I knew Claire as well as I knew most of my characters I would be able to answer this question if/when it arose.

Happy Writing!

Weekly Writing Prompt

Books

These prompts can be used in any way to get you writing. Whether it’s the subject matter, setting or character; as long as you are writing that’s all that matters.

This Week’s Writing Prompt

Mob

Happy Writing!

National Pet Month – Black Beauty

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May is National Pet Month so here are some famous pets in literature.

Black Beauty

Black Beauty is a novel written in 1877 by Anna Sewell as a fictional autobiography of a horse named Black Beauty. It’s a great book for children teaching about animal welfare and treatment as well as kindness and empathy. I have a deep love for horses since I was little and read this book multiple times as a child. It’s a great story that touches your heart in so many ways and shows you the importance and value of treating others well. It was definitely an inspiration to me growing up and my feelings towards the treatment of animals.

Acolyte Trials – Part 1

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Today was the most important day of their lives so far, and Adrian was sitting on the floor digging through his closet. “Lizzie, where’s my duffle bag?” Adrian yelled as he popped his head out into the hallway.

“How should I know?!” Lizzie replied as she put her own bag on her bed. Adrian noticed she had a stuffed purple elephant in her other hand. He raised an eyebrow at her with a mocking smirk.

She glared at him then kicked her bedroom door closed. Adrian couldn’t help but chuckle as he went back to searching. The Acolyte Trials were today; a test for recruits applying for Acolyte placement. Acolytes are apprentice Vampire Hunters in their secret order. Hunter children are trained as recruits from the age of twelve, and at sixteen can volunteer for Acolyte testing or decide to pursue other roles within the order. Lizzie and Adrian decided together to volunteer when they first entered into training. Their guardian, Lizzie’s adopted father, Colonel John Winston, had encouraged them to seek other avenues of service, but neither relented in their decision. The Hunter law was clear, this was their choice, and Winston was powerless to stop it.

After they had packed for the night ahead, Adrian went out to the garage, throwing his bag in the backseat of the little black sedan they shared. “Do you think they’ll give us fake IDs?” asked a smiling Lizzie as she walked in carrying her red duffle bag.

“If we need them they’ll give them to us.” Adrian grabbed a few water bottles from a case on the shelves near the door and threw them into the back.

“Are we missing anything?” Lizzie took a quick look through her bag.

“We’re good. Let’s get going.” Adrian pushed the button that opened the garage door and sat in the driver’s seat.

“Right.” Lizzie put her duffle in the back with his. She looked around the garage and had to pull the passenger door handle twice before she could open it. She sat down and fumbled with the seatbelt, Adrian watched her with a curious look.

“You okay?” Adrian asked as he pulled the car out of the garage.

“Yeah,” she said with a quick smile. Adrian gave her a small smile of his own and headed across town to orientation.

The shared house for the recruits was a madhouse; the boys were arguing loudly over equipment and tactics and which radio channel they wanted.

“Remind me to thank Dad for letting us live at home.” Lizzie commented and flopped onto an oversized chair in the living room.

“Like he would have let you move out, even if you wanted to,” Adrian chuckled.

“Yes, my virtue and honor wouldn’t allow it,” Lizzie rolled her eyes.

“No, he’d just miss you too much. He knows no one here would touch you.”

“No one wants to date such a tomboy. ‘She’s too butch, smells like sweat, and can’t cook.’ Who’d want that?!” Lizzie snapped at him bitterly. She had a short temper, but this surprised even Adrian.

“That’s not what I meant! Geez, Lizzie.” Adrian turned away from her and sat on the couch. It annoyed him when she was so sensitive.

“Sure you didn’t,” she said sarcastically.

Adrian let out an exasperated sigh, and knew he should just ignore the obvious bait but instead tried to reason with her. “I just meant because of who your dad is. Who’s going to get handsy with the Colonel’s daughter? He’d send them packing off to Siberia if they tried anything with you.”

She didn’t respond but kept glaring at him all the same. Dating wasn’t a part of their lives. As potential Acolytes, they spent all their time training. They were still teenagers though, and the subject came up now and again. Lizzie was the only girl Acolyte recruit in the entire Chicago area, but no one ever talked about Lizzie in that way. She was pretty with her strong lean build that made her look like an olympic gymnast, fair skin, an oval face and those big brown eyes that were so expressive it felt like you were looking right into her mind. It was surprising amongst Hunter culture that she kept her brownish red hair long when applying for Acolyte training, it fell just past her shoulder blades in loose thick waves. She also got along well with the other recruits and was always good for a laugh or prank.

With her father’s intimidating position and the fact that she never showed any particular interest in any of the boys, Lizzie didn’t really come up when the guys were thinking about girls. More often than not it was Lizzie who had to remind them that she wasn’t a guy when they got particularly rowdy or crass. Adrian knew that while they accepted her, Lizzie always felt a little apart from the rest, except for maybe him whom she’d grown up with the past five years. Adrian tried to make her feel included, but it didn’t help.

Captain George called the recruits to order in the living room for orientation. The nervous excitement built to a thick fog in the room. On average only half of the recruits would make Acolyte, but the instructors had high hopes for this group of excellent fighters. Once the room was quiet, Captain George started running over the instructions they already knew. Recruits would be put into pairs and given a patrol area. A Hunter posing as a vampire would be there along with any potential Hunter ‘victims’ based upon a predetermined scenario. The pair must identify the target, isolate him, and once cleared by their instructor, take him out. The Captain also reminded them that during combat, sparring rules applied, and being detained by civilian authorities for any reason, would result in an automatic failure.

The academic studies instructor, Miss Timbers, walked around the room with an old Crown Royal bag filled with small wooden circles inside. Each was painted on one side with a color. Recruits started to compare them. When Lizzie and Adrian looked at theirs, both had blue.

“Well that’s lucky,” Harris, a tall blonde recruit, and one of Adrian’s good friends said with a sarcastic sneer.

“Jealous much?” Lizzie gave a triumphant smile. It had long been thought that Adrian was the best of the bunch, and getting partnered with him was a sure win.

Captain George called out instructor assignments to each team. Lizzie and Adrian were assigned Joshua Mathers; their instructor on covert operations and basic intelligence gathering. He was a great Hunter, but after losing his Acolyte in some kind of accident nearly a decade ago he refused to mentor, but still volunteered as a recruit instructor sometimes.

He handed the pair two fake IDs, showing both as twenty-one year old college seniors. Neither recruit could pass for twenty-one on their own, but Hunter forgeries were impeccable, and would dissuade any authorities. He also gave them a street map with an area outlined in red marker, indicating their patrol. “College district,” Adrian said.

“Cool. I’m driving,” Lizzie said grabbing the lanyard attached to the car keys that were hanging from Adrian’s pocket.

*                                                                *                                                    *

They had spent the last of the daylight hours casing the area, paying special attention to possible hideouts, before they stopped for an early dinner to discuss their next steps. “Well, we can’t just wander around all night hoping he just falls into our laps.” Lizzie swiped a french fry off Adrian’s plate. Now that her stomach stopped growling she felt she could think out a plan. The college district was prime hunting ground for vampires, but it was a large area and Lizzie knew that if they were going to find their target they needed to narrow their search.

“Most likely one of the bars,” Adrian suggested.

“Right, it’s Friday night and drunk people are easy,” Lizzie gave a little giggle then added, “Easy prey.” She pulled out a tablet computer, and checked a listing of bars in the area. Needs to be popular for a crowd, young pretty things, multiple exits. “What does divey mean?” Lizzie looked up from the listing at Adrian.

“Uh… seedy I think,” he said without much confidence.

Lizzie gave a shrug and pulled up two bars from the list. She handed the tablet to Adrian who looked it over then gave a nod of approval. “Our best bet is to split up and each take a bar. He’ll probably try during peak hours when he’s less likely to raise suspicions,” Lizzie suggested.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea to split up. What if he leaves and we lose him because we’re waiting for each other?” Adrian’s brow was pinched in a deep crease.

“We just check in by phone every hour, besides they’re not too far from each other.” Lizzie pointed to the bars on the map.

“We’re not really dressed to blend in at a bar,” Adrian said pulling at his worn out t-shirt.

“We’ll be fine!” Lizzie didn’t have any female friends, but she felt she had watched enough bad television that she could pull something together.

“I don’t like this idea, let’s run it by Mathers first,” Adrian insisted.

“Fine, we’ll talk to Mathers,” Lizzie said with a huff. “We need to check-in anyway I guess.” She took out her cell phone and dialed Mathers’ number.

“Hello?” he answered casually.

“Hey! It’s us. We haven’t found anything yet, but we think we’ve narrowed it down to two places and we’re each going to stop by one and see what we can find out.” Lizzie did her best to keep her communication over the open line cryptic.

“So divide and conquer? Do you think that’s best?” Mathers responded. Lizzie knew they needed to show confidence as well as good tactics. Lizzie didn’t want him to sense any misgivings either of them had.

“I do sir,” Lizzie said without hesitation. Adrian tried to grab the phone away from her but she stood and took a step away from the table, pulling it out of his reach.

“Lizzie, let me talk to him!” Adrian whispered angrily.

“Borzini agrees with the plan?” Mathers asked, a hint of suspicion in his tone.

“Yes sir,” Lizzie lied. Adrian was always too cautious, a little risk was worth earning a good Acolyte assignment.

“All right then, you have a go.”

“Thank you sir.”

“Reilly, keep your head on a swivel,” he told her sternly.

“Yes sir, we will.” The phone clicked off.

“Well?” Adrian asked.

“The plan’s a go.”

“What?! Is he insane? Partners are supposed to stick together.”

“Hey! We have our orders. Now, we don’t have a lot of time and I need to get to that drug store on Palm.” Lizzie set some money on the table and headed to the car, Adrian squawked at her the whole way.

To Be Continued…

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