“Phelia”

by R. N. Jayne

 

I’m having that nightmare again—the one where I’m lost in the woods. Only I’m not on dry land: I’m underwater. The forest grows tentacles. These wooden jellyfish have arms like boughs. They reach for me. Tangle my hair. Pull me down.

Drowning, I choke on my love’s name. 

***

Phelia’s trying on a headpiece for her dungeon mistress Halloween costume. She fiddles with the formidable crown of spikes. I wonder who she wants to repel with this getup. Maybe she wants to people to think she’s impenetrable.

It’s been seven months since my passing. I should be jealous, thinking of her in potential romantic relationships with others. I’m not. It’s only natural for her to move on. I’ve watched her grieve, curled up in the quilt I made last spring, rubbing the fading hand-embroidered squares against her lips like she could absorb them into the fabric of her skin. I’ve leaned in to kiss her, to be rebuffed by her defensive self-hug against an attack of goosebumps. She was reacting to the sudden drop of temperature my presence incurs. Perhaps.

I wish I could slip into Phelia’s music apps—I’d send her a playlist. This is what I’m feeling for you right now, I’d tell her. Nothing’s changed; except I miss you more. I don’t need a body to hold you. I’m gone, but I can’t leave.

She considers a matching necklace: choker-style, smaller spikes; but it will truncate her slim, strong dancer’s neck. I see the one I want her to try. It’s a deep orange pendant flecked with burgundy and cat’s eye yellow. I imagine it against her bronzed skin.

“Choose that one,” I murmur into her ear. “It will bring out your eyes.” Continue reading “Halloween Short Story: “Phelia””

ApartmentApartment by Teddy Wayne 
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

4.5 Stars, rounded up.

This page-turning character study, ode to loneliness, and quasi-exploration of toxic masculinity’s detrimental effect on guy-guy platonic relationships makes for a fascinating read. Author Teddy Wayne has an aptitude for displaying painful truths and sharp observations with candid, witty prose. Of all his novels, this is my favorite to-date.

I’ve often wondered at the inscrutable bonds shared between men, especially straight men. In American society, there seems to be a code of conduct that I, as a woman, have never been taught. It mystified me when my late-teens guy friends would sit one seat apart (with a “buffer seat” in between) at the movies. When I asked them why they did that, they looked at me like I was nuts.

“Because,” one of them told me, “we’re guys.”

“Yeah,” the other chimed in. “We need our space.”

“Is this, like, a stretching-out-your-legs thing?” I asked.

They both shook their heads.

“It’s just a guy thing,” the first one reiterated. “You wouldn’t understand.”

He’s right—I didn’t. (And still don’t.) But in Apartment, Teddy Wayne’s approach to the often-unspoken intricacies found in certain male-male friendships gave me a bit more insight. It’s the fear of being vulnerable and/or emasculated that keeps the main characters—awkward, introspective Unnamed Narrator, and laconic, unworldly Billy—from building upon their intimacy in way that doesn’t feel like a power exchange.

Unnamed Narrator is that quintessential outskirts-guy who hasn’t opened himself up to close friendships or romantic relationships due to serious daddy issues and a weak sense of self. He’s also somewhat spoon-fed, since the same father who abandoned him in young adulthood is now responsible for footing the bill on his rent-controlled New York apartment. He’s aware of his privilege—even experiences guilt because of it—but also resents thinking of himself as privileged. All the while, he’s trying to make his mark in the collegiate writing world (which he assumes to be little more than a pipe dream, considering the lackluster reception his stories receive).

In a crucial moment of enduring scathing literary criticism from his professor and classmates, the narrator feels particularly insecure and humiliated; then a fellow student, the effortlessly charismatic, blue-collar Billy, comes to his defense. Billy’s casually offered snippet of praise supplies the narrator with much-desired hope for his authorial future. An affinity between the two aspiring writers—lubricated by large quantities of alcohol, shared paternal abandonment issues, and similar social detachment strategies—rapidly develops. Unnamed Narrator impulsively offers Billy to become his rent-free roommate with the condition that Billy cleans once a week and pays for some groceries.

At first, the arrangement seems solid: the roommates have fun hanging out while maintaining productivity in their writing. Billy is the more talented of the two, but he doesn’t flaunt his superior craftsmanship, which increases Unnamed Narrator’s respect and admiration for him. Their dynamic is a classic case of hero worship mixed with the giddiness of a new friendship’s “honeymoon period.”

Time passes and their relationship deepens; however, the narrator increasingly offers Billy financial assistance, and the imbalance that was present from the inception of their acquaintance grows outwardly problematic. Their fundamental differences in personality, world view, and upbringing become clearer, until the slow-building conflict between them gives way to a quietly devastating conclusion.

Apartment is one of those sleeper hits you might think to underestimate before realizing it hooked its claws into your heart from the start. It’s honest and observant in a way that can wound the reader, because it’s easy to imagine this scenario unfolding in real life (and variations of it already have). People will sometimes resort to desperate measures to feel less lonely; and the consequences of these actions can ultimately influence future relationships—not only with others, but with oneself.

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Free photo 625529 © Pavalache Stelian - Dreamstime.com

“Follower”

Author’s Note: the following short story is a 500-word flash fiction. It contains allusions to violence and sensitive thematic material related to hate groups. Reader discretion is advised.


Daniel always did what he was told: Brahms told him to follow that liberal woman home, so he didn’t protest. When she pulled out her pepper spray, he was already goggle-clad to protect his eyes from the burst of ocular irritant. If Brahms had instructed him to speak, he would’ve asked the target not to bother fumbling for her phone—he’d removed the SIM card and battery during her yoga class. (She habitually left her car unlocked.)

He would’ve told her not to waste her breath on hollering for help, because her next-door neighbors were enjoying their annual Fall Colors Tour and wouldn’t return until Sunday evening; and the widow who lived behind her, Mrs. Doussett, regularly bullied her on social media under an anonymous account that sported a Goldendoodle puppy profile pic. The targeted woman had no clue that her secret troll was a card-carrying Neo-Nazi grandma who would love nothing more than to watch the leftist feminist’s tattooed neck snap, entrapped within a self-inflicted hangman’s noose.

It’s not that Daniel hated the target, but he hated the type of person she symbolized: a pro-choice, equality-for-all, women-run-the-earth, freedom-grubber. He had no desire to kill her—besides, Brahms didn’t want to use his cop connections for any business that didn’t involve growing his radical conservative fanbase. She just needed to be scared silent. Stifled into submission. Snuffed out, like a trick candle on a birthday cake that’s been doused in water to keep it from relighting. Daniel could do it: he didn’t mind roughing up a woman, as long as she couldn’t positively identify him in a lineup. Keeping the trust of Brahms and the brotherhood trumped a personal reluctance to dirty his hands.

The damn thing of it was, he hadn’t expected her to be so resourceful. She didn’t carry a gun, but she kept a paring knife taped under the doormat—and she reached it before Daniel could reach her. He had a utility blade of his own, but he struggled to unsheathe it after she sliced his Achilles tendon; then it was impossible to retrieve his weapon after she stole it from his back pocket and slashed his throat with it. He hadn’t expected to exsanguinate on her welcome mat (or lament, in his last moments, about how he shouldn’t have taken Brahms’ reassurances that she’d be an easy target).

To Daniel’s great surprise, she tried to save his life. Ripped off her shirt and pressed it against his wound to slow the bleeding—attempted to dial 911. Her cellphone was useless: he’d done a bang-up job of disabling it. When he attempted to communicate that his own was in the glove box of his truck, he couldn’t speak, because his vocal cords were cut. In a curious act of compassion, she removed his goggles so he could watch the moon playing cat-and-mouse with the wily clouds.

The stars prepped a spotlight on Daniel as he followed Death, a superior leader, to his new home down below.


“Follower” © R. N. Jayne 2020

All Rights Reserved.

Featured image: Eclipse |625529| © Pavalache Stelian – Dreamstime.com


I welcome you to share your thoughts.

Hallelujah!

The day has finally arrived: my LGBTQ vampire novella Crimson (MASTER, Book 1) has returned to digital shelves worldwide (and, for the first time, it’s available in paperback on Amazon). I seriously cannot believe I pulled off this book revival at nearly 29 weeks pregnant, but this proves I’m tougher than I think. Rawr.

Last night, I debuted a book trailer to whet your appetite. It’s my first time out of the gate creating a video teaser on my own. I’d love to hear your opinion on how I did with the limited, yet extraordinarily helpful, Microsoft Video Editor. I used a bunch of stock photos and combined them with original footage I took of my super-sexy-but-doesn’t-know-it husband. (Shh.) Fear not–I gave artistic credit where credit is due; all contributors are listed in the YouTube description section of the trailer.


Reminder: there’s currently a Goodreads Giveaway for the Kindle version of Crimson. On October 29, the giveaway will end, and 100 winners will receive their comped copy.

So far, 102 people have entered…and it’s only the first day! To say I’m ecstatic would be an understatement. My goal is to get Crimson as widely read as possible before the release of Luna (MASTER, Book 2) at the end of November (exact date TBD–I’ll make it official by the end of this month). 

Can’t wait to see if you’re a Goodreads Giveaway Winner to read Crimson? Sign up for my newsletter and receive a coupon for 50% off your purchase of Crimson from Smashwords. There are also deals available on Apple and Kobo (you get the eBook for $1.99 instead of $2.99, the current retail price).


Final thoughts

Self-promotion makes me feel like the following:

-a used car salesman

-one of the sharks from any corporate furniture store

-a self-loathing telemarketer

-The Devil

But hey! It’s a necessary evil, no? Still, I’m looking forward to getting back to writing this weekend in order prepare my final manuscript draft of Luna for my new editor (more on that later) by the 21st. There’s something uncomfortably pleasurable about working on a deadline…or maybe I’m just a sucker for pressure. Something to consider…

Anyway, have a splendid weekend! I’ll be hacking into pumpkins when I’m not pecking away at the keyboard. What’s your favorite Fall tradition? Mine is stealing my kids’ Halloween candy.


Until next time,

​R. N. Jayne

LusterLuster by Raven Leilani
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Phenomenal read.

Raven Leilani possesses an offhand brilliance. Her prose flows smoothly, naturally; seemingly without effort. As a writer, I’m hyperaware of the hard work that goes into preparing a book for publication. But as I was reading this novel–nay, experiencing it–never once did I consider how many edits Luster must have endured to arrive at the completed stage.

Over a two-day period, I immersed myself in this modern tale of a doom-and-gloom, problematic young person. The voice of narrator Edie is unforgettable. She’s harsh, but in a manner that’s not necessarily off-putting. At times, however, I wanted to shake some sense into her. Sure, she’s young, but why must she be so foolish?

Then again…I was talking with my friend the other day about what nincompoops we were during our twenties. Still hung over from the perceived invincibility of our teenage selves, it seemed inevitable we’d push the envelope even further into the territory of “a step away from certain death.” We were often drunk and/or high. Smoked our lungs into the danger zone. Searched for purpose in the midst of the party. Allowed our romantic partners take advantage of us…laid ourselves out as doormats. Developed imbalanced friendships, jumped from job to to job, sometimes bed to bed. We grew numb; apathetic. Self-loathing.

So, when I reflect on my post-college youth, I notice some uneasy similarities between Edie and the younger version of me. The lack of motivation, the constant depression, self-love, poor interpersonal connections and poorer decisions on who to date…the list goes on. Edie is bound and determined to wallow in her own apathy. At the same time, she’s won’t fully acknowledge her self-destructive capabilities, other than to tell the reader, in a matter-of-fact way, what she does to prove she’s alive. There’s a yearning in her for happiness/contentedness, but she thinks she doesn’t deserve it. Her upbringing and traumatic life experiences exacerbate her tendency to disappear into her worst self.

As a result, she engages in a cringeworthy, precarious relationship with the least deserving man ever, and falls into an odd, unbalanced dynamic with his wife and daughter. Bizarre events ensue. I was on the edge of my seat, waiting for her to either find her wings, or plunge into an apocalyptic tailspin. For the sake of keeping the spoilers at bay, I will only say that, by the end of the book, there is a suggestion of an open ending, yet also a resolution that feels more authentic than your average wrap-it-up-with-a-bow conclusion.

In short, this was a terrific book (likely the best I’ve read all year), stuffed with humorous zingers, apt social observations, and blistering clarity. Weeks after reading Luster, the narrator’s voice remains firmly ensconced within my memory. In wide-eyed awe, I anticipate Raven Leilani’s next novel.

‘Tis the season for things that go bump in the night (with a little bump ‘n’ grind on the side). Take a gander on my award-winning hybrid-genre novella: reimagined, re-edited, re-packaged…remastered. If you don’t mind a bit of bite to your read, Crimson might be just the thing to get you in the mood to scream.
Warning: Crimson contains triggering subjects such as sexual assault, violence, and various forms of abuse. In addition, the story features a couple of brief, yet explicit, sex scenes. Reader discretion is highly advised.
Genres: Dark Fantasy/Horror/Paranormal/LGBTQ/Contemporary
Suggested reader age: 18+

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Crimson by R. N. Jayne

Crimson

by R. N. Jayne

Giveaway ends October 29, 2020.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway 

Re-envisioned. Revised. Remastered.

Eleven years ago, Crimson (MASTER, Book 1) was wrenched from the mewling cavern of my cacophonous brain, wiped free of bloody afterbirth, and sent sprawling into the chaos of the World Wide Web. This niche vampire novella seemed destined to remain an experiment in online-only publishing; until Summer 2020, when I decided it was time for my tween to gain substance–and a physical body, via paperback print-on-demand. The version of Crimson set to reemerge on 10/16/2020 reflects the craft development I’ve both self-taught and assimilated over years of trial, error, and careful observation. At first, my book baby flourished (winner of Best eBook in the 2009 Hollywood Book Festival Awards). Soon after, my toddler began to flounder (less than glowing reviews in certain circles; pirated eBook copies widely distributed). Finally, my older child retreated into hibernation like a hormonal, moody bat too ashamed of growing pains and obscure status to perpetuate increasingly awkward interactions with the outside world (removed from publication with the scowling demeanor of the Fox who shunned the “sour” grapes). 

Fast-forward a few years–past physical deterioration, chronic illness, multiple surgeries, death of loved ones, starting a family, raising children, and a mental breakdown or two–I’ve arrived at this RL point: 27 weeks pregnant, ready for the rebirth of my metaphorical baby mere months before the debut of my third flesh-and-blood child. This time around, however, instead of attempting to self-publish without any outside assistance (been there, done that, fell splat on my back), I’ve hired helping hands via Reedsy: Donald Weise, an experienced editor with a penchant for niche, erotic-tinged LGBTQ fiction; and George Cotronis, a talented illustrator and book cover designer who specializes in horror and dark fantasy art. Though my writing process is largely private, I require the assistance of other creative and analytical minds to maximize the potential of my storytelling impact.

As I eagerly await Crimson’s release date, I’m all too aware of the jaunting leap of faith readers will need to take on an unknown author. I don’t have delusions of grandeur, fame, and fortune: I’d simply be thrilled to (eventually) gain a loyal following for The MASTER Series. This saga of J-rock star/secret vampire Raiden, his vain actor co-conspirator-cum-co-star Gabriel, his Big Bad, pure-evil vampire-maker Justus, and his first victim, naïve fiancée Naomi, has stayed with me since its inception in the early 2000’s. Despite my best efforts at banishment, the voices of these characters won’t cease to haunt me. I’ve put The MASTER Series in time-out–shushed it–told it to go to its windowless room. I’ve ignored it, attempted to will it out of existence–done everything in my measly power to escape its sway–but, with a survivor’s grim determination, it keeps me locked within its bloody grip. No matter how often I’ve abandoned my ambition to complete the series, it always comes around to this: I must not leave it unfinished. What’s more: I want to finish it. So I will. With two more books awaiting edits, and the fourth in-progress, I’m about halfway to the seven-book finish line. I hope you’ll join me on the sidelines to witness its transition into adulthood. 

Learn more details on the impending release of Crimson, or preorder your Kindle copy here. You can also read an excerpt. A word of caution: this story contains triggering themes, such as domestic violence, substance abuse, sexual assault, and repressed sexuality. Reader discretion is highly advised.

Question of the week: if you could pick one supernatural creature to inhabit for a day, which you choose, and why? My pick: a faerie, because WINGS.

 

Until next time,

R. N. Jayne

R. N. Jayne

Author

Follow my social media for updates on The MASTER Series, sundry writing WIP’s, and pictorial depictions of my passions.