Author Feature:  Evalycer’s War by Margena Holmes

From Evalycer’s War by Margena Holmes. As Evalycer Nicholls gets more involved with a group trying to revolt against a corrupt government on the planet Startia, she struggles between wanting change and doing the right thing. 

“Who is this?” Ian asked.
“This is my trainee, Evalycer Nicholls,” Jax explained. “It’s her first day out in the field.”
“Well, Evalycer,” Ian said, facing the man again. “What do you think we should do with him?”
Evalycer didn’t want to get the man in trouble for thinking about committing a crime, but she needed to be trusted by the government. They were going to jail him no matter what she said, which only slightly abated her misgivings. She stated the facts.
“He was about to commit a crime,” she said, her voice steady. “I read his mind and he was going to give it to his wife without her knowledge. That is illegal.”
Ian smiled and turned to Jax.
“I like her!” Ian enthused, slapping the table. “Make sure she does more field work with you to get trained up. The last trainee we had was too wishy-washy.”
Ian turned back to the man.
“We’re going to have to hold you overnight for this.”
The man lowered his head and swore. Evalycer felt bad for the man, and this made her resolve to make the changes needed to get Atouu out of office. Thinking about committing a crime wasn’t the same as going through with it, but for now, she had to play by the rules.
“Jax, take him down to the holding area and process him. Take Evalycer with you. It’ll be a good learning experience for her.”
Ian stood up, shook Jax’s hand, and turned to Evalycer.
“Keep up the good work,” he said as he shook her hand.
“Yes, sir,” she said.
Ian left the room with the evidence as Jax put the binders back on the man and he and Evalycer took him down two floors in the elevator to the holding area. She watched as Jax filled out the forms on his tablet. It took about fifteen minutes to get everything taken care of, then she followed Jax as he took the man to his holding cell.
“We’ll let you contact your wife in about an hour,” Jax told him as he hit the button to shut the cell door. The man sat down on the cot in the cell. Head in his hands, he looked defeated and scared.
Evalycer took a long look at the man before following Jax back upstairs to the offices. This was Atouu’s government—arresting people before they committed a crime, or for even thinking about committing a crime. It made Evalycer nauseous.
“Good work, by the way,” Jax said, turning toward her as they ascended the stairs. “Ian hardly likes anyone. He hates when people don’t know their own mind. You answered him confidently and truthfully. You may have a new friend here.”
Wonderful, she thought sarcastically.
Evalycer wasn’t sure how she felt about the praise. She wanted to do well and be trusted, but she hated, absolutely hated what she had to do to get it. She was going to have to stop caring about her feelings and anyone else’s to get this job done.

A Bite Of… Margena Holmes

Would you rather be a hero or a villain? 

I think somewhere in between, like a gray/dark Jedi. Sometimes being good is overrated, but you don’t want to be totally bad, either. Just hints of darkness, which I think we all have in us.

What time of day do you write best?

I write best in the mornings and early afternoons. By about 3 or 4PM I’m done for the day unless I’ve gotten into the zone and the scenes are just flowing out. Then I’ll only stop once it’s time to make dinner for the family. I can’t write in the evenings anymore (I used to be able to stay up until 1 AM writing, but I’m old now. Ha ha!), I just get too fidgety. 

Have you ever written somebody you dislike into a book, just so you could make them suffer? 

I haven’t yet, but I have plans to write in the crazy Korean lady who owns the liquor store I used to work at.  Her catch-phrase (since women couldn’t bring their purses into the store because of theft) was “One bad person makes everybody suffer.” Well, she will suffer in the story, for sure. *wink*

Margena Adams Holmes has been writing ever since she can remember, writing her first poem in 1st grade. At her day job, when she’s not kicking young kids out of R-rated movies, she’s sweeping up spilled popcorn from the hallways and aisles (she’s not your mother, though, so please take your trash out). Her days off consist of writing science fiction, space opera, and more movie theater shenanigans. Reading is a close second to writing, and she normally has her nose buried in a book.

She has written for Examiner.com and Yahoo Contributor Network, where she earned a Top 500 award for her story on the Black Forest fires in Colorado. Margena loves all the Harry Potter books and movies, Star Wars, Star Trek, The Orville, The Crown, and the Los Angeles Kings. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and her own Website.

EM-Drabbles – Seventeen

It was the divorce of the decade. Two A-listers, whose marriage had been ecstatically happy, were on the rocks. Mainstream and social media were in feeding frenzy. Fans scanned the words in his books and her songs, finding subtle knives aimed at each other.

They met for the last time before the divorce became final on a publicised mediation weekend in a secret location.

“I’m going to miss you,” she said, as she lay in his arms.

“Me too. Just think of the sales so far and how much free advertising we’ll have when we get back together next year.”

E.M. Swift-Hook

Sunday Serial – Maybe V

Maybe by Jane Jago and E.M. Swift-Hook . Sometimes we walk the edges of realty…

CHAPTER TWO: ANNIS

Annis looked narrowly at the guest who stood in her home, obviously ill at ease, and equally obviously totally bemused by finding herself an oasis of calm and cleanliness in the middle of a desert of dirt and destruction. This reaction to home would have been funny if it wasn’t sort of insulting. Why wouldn’t her place be clean and tidy? If you live with cats for company you tend not to like mess, she thought irritably. Then she laughed at herself. Why should she care what some human female thought of her. 
The woman opened her mouth to say who knew what, but Annis silenced her with a fierce look. She idly wondered how this Jessica came to be here, and why she had lied with the first words she spoke. The female knew precisely what would have happened to her at the hands of the drunken louts by the gate. She knew, and the waves of fear that rolled off her at that knowledge were what had prompted Annis to come to her aid. 
So. She’s here and you brought her here, Annis thought. Now you better talk to her.
Before she had chance to grope for the words to interact with her human visitor, two heavy thumps announced the arrival of a visitation of a feline nature. Unthinking, Annis opened the door and a matched pair of black panthers slid in.
Jessica gave a half scream.
“Not fear,” Annis managed before the cats bowled her over and started licking her with their rough, red tongues. How long that would have gone on for is open to conjecture, but the happy time was interrupted by more arrivals. Two more big cats, this pair of indeterminate breed, oozed into the room. One sat on its haunches, while the other stared inimically at Jessica. Annis wasn’t prepared to tolerate that. She growled a warning and the cat flattened its ears. 
“Cats not hurt.”
She thought perhaps she should say more, but her ears caught a faint sound at the same time as her nose was assailed by the smell of rotting flesh.
“It hunts…”
“What hunts?” Jessica’s whisper sounded only just on the right side of panic.
“Blood eater.”
Jessica opened her mouth to speak or scream, but Annis knew she could not be allowed to draw attention to herself.
“Silent.”
Greatly daring, and ignoring feline etiquette altogether, Annis leant forwards and put two fingers across the other female’s mouth.
“Must silent.”
She saw the panic being battled by something deep within the woman. Jessica’s eyes shadowed momentarily, then cleared as she found the strength needed to control her fear and swallow the questions that must be crowding her throat.
“Cats hide you,” Annis said, pushing the older woman onto the sleeping platform and arranging a black cat either side of her. Jessica looked at her in confusion, the fear was still in her eyes still and Annis smiled reassuringly.  Being unable to summon sufficient human words to explain her actions, she pinched her own nose with a finger and thumb.
“No smell. Old One comes. Blood Eater. Must not smell.”
Jessica’s face cleared and she managed a nod. Annis found herself feeling the beginnings of respect for the courage being shown by somebody who obviously knew nothing of the kind of life forms that inhabit the places humanity has abandoned. The silence came then, a cold silence, like the chilling silence that came after snow had fallen deeply. As if the world held its breath, not daring to breathe.
Then into the silence came the small sounds creeping, and slithering as every small creature fled out of the path of the Old One. Then it came. Something with multi-clawed feet and the heavy, scraping, scaly belly of the Blood Eater. Then it stopped. Silence. Cold and claustrophobic. In her mind Annis pictured the huge, ugly head she had senen before, lifting, nostrils opening and tongue sliding out to taste the air for blood.
She glanced at the bed, where the two big cats had pressed in against Jessica, their eyes, jewel bright. Jessica’s were closed and her face was white. Annis wondered if it was enough or if the living flesh of the human woman would call to the Blood Drinker despite the felines absorbing the perfume of her blood.

Jane Jago and E.M. Swift-Hook

Part 6 of Maybe will be here next week…

Lost

Once I strode along the road
Tall and proud and in control
Life as it is sold to be.

Then I fell.

Lost in curling chaos
Crying in confusion
Making senseless, unfinished…

Driven by dark winds to dark places
Ripped by strong tides
Not me, not I
A stranger in my own flesh

Lost.

Broken.

I landed hard, torn in tears,
Wrapped in shreds of self
Tattered banners of lost pride
Here there is no sanctuary
No place of peace
Fear stalks darkly
Sorrow talks starkly
Each time I try to stand
The earth shakes beneath me.

Above, the road of the world
Stately, unheeding, strolls on…

E.M. Swift-Hook

One of the poems you will find in In Verse, a new collection of poems by Jane Jago and E.M. Swift-Hook.

Weekend Wind Down – Blending In

From Iconoclast: Not To Be by E.M. Swift-Hook, the eighth Fortune’s Fools book and the second in Iconoclast, the final trilogy.

A slight buzz told her someone was at the door of her apartment and she pulled up a screen to see who was there. It was one of her neighbours, Nilis par-Yorken. Not much older than her own body made her appear, mid-twenties perhaps, scruffy cut hair which seemed to be the fashion and a face that looked like it would smile a lot.
She had run a check on him the second time he tried to get her to stop and chat. A local. Newly qualified as a pilot and working relief for the planetary run freight company, ATG, which was the only organisation running regular shipping to Arca. Another attraction of the place for Avilon was that in order to protect its own merchant fleet, none of the big corporations were allowed on Arca and any freetraders had to purchase a license to operate there.
So she knew Nilis would have been trained locally, but the fact he’d been offworld left him open to having been recruited by the CSF or the Legacy. She let out a breath in a sigh. That was the kind of paranoia that could cripple her if she let it run unchecked. 
It was late and she could use that as an excuse for not responding, if he bumped into her again and asked why, but through some sense of wanting to dismiss a phantom, she opened the door and moved to grab another drink from the synth. 
“What are you drinking?” she asked as her visitor walked in. He stopped a couple of paces from the door, his way barred by the couch.
“Uhh… Mys jist jooze, plars. Narms Nylees.”
Avilon grimaced internally and began to filter out his accent. It was one of the worst aspects of living on Arca, the isolationism had led to the development of a very heavy dialect.
“Maris,” she told him, turning back to persuade the synth to produce something that approximated fruit juice. “Maris par-Kenten.”
“Really?” he seemed surprised. “You sound like you’re from Central.”
She picked up the freshly created chilled drink and handed it to him, aware his eyes were not restricting themselves to her face. She returned the compliment. He had a good body. One he clearly looked after.
“No. But I spent the last five years there studying.”
“Studying what?”
“My master’s thesis was in Co-Regional Internexus Sub-Quantum Linkcast Technology.”
Nilis blinked.
“Uhh…?”
Avilon shook her head and chuckled.
“Mostly about how to optimise links from here to the main Coalition hubs.”
He smiled, slowly. “So, what do you do for a day job?” Avilon sipped her own drink and said nothing until Nilis looked uncomfortable. “Uhh yes, that’s a bit rude of me.”
“Not really, I just wanted to know why you were calling at my door this time of night before we got into the pleasantries too much.”
He hesitated so long she thought he’d not reply. Then he gave an embarrassed smile.
“Well, since you turned up here last cycle, I’ve been meaning to come round and ask if you needed anything, like a good neighbour should. I seen you in and out a lot so thought this time of day would work best.”
It was hard not to laugh. She put her drink down, feeling even older than her fifty-two years.
“You wanted to ask me out? Or were you just after a quick fuck?”
The sudden flood of colour into his face was comical.
“Uhh – I… Well, I mean-”
She put up both her hands in a gesture of contrition.
“Sorry. Central teaches you to cut to the chase in such things. I’m going to have to retune my sensibilities now I’m home.”
To his credit he didn’t retreat.
“I’m up for either. But I came round to ask if you’d like to come over to my place tomorrow. I got a few friends coming round, you might like to meet. Get to know some people.”
“That must be cosy,” she observed, gesturing with one hand to indicate the size of the room.
“Uhh, we won’t stay in, just meet up there and head out. Say yes? They’re all good people, most from this block. You’ll like them.”
She hesitated a moment then nodded. Better to accept one or two occasional invitations out with one young adult social group than wind up fending them all off with excuses. That would only make her stand out. This way she might be able to be accepted on the fringes of a group without needing to commit.
“Why not? I’m not busy far as I know.”
Nilis made a fist and hammered the air with it. 
“Yes! Kiss that! So can I ask where you work now?” 
Avilon had to laugh.
“Sure – it’s no secret. I’m doing some private consultancy work for the government.” No secret. Just a straight up lie, but one he’d find it very hard to check out. “What about you?”
“I work for the ATG – that’s the -”
“Arca Trading Group – what you do with them?”
She was regretting her earlier flippancy now, Nilis seemed to have taken it as an open invitation to hang around, he was lounging back in the seat as if taking root there.
“I’m flying shunts to some of the nearby Coalition places. Uhh, I mean, freighter runs. Works out well. I get a few days on then a few off.”
Avilon faked the start of a yawn and brought her hand up to her mouth. Then moved it away with a slight smile. “Sorry. Not you. Just been a long day.”
Nilis didn’t seem to take the hint.
“I can tell. So how did you get to Central? I mean I know a few who tried, but only one who succeeded and he got accepted on a virtual course. I mean just getting the visas and at that…”
“I got a scholarship to Central Main,” she told him, suddenly wondering if he was indeed the random neighbour being sociable or if her initial paranoia was merited.
“You did? Well kiss that! Impressive. Not just a gorgeous body, but an incredible mind.” Nilis smiled.
Avilon grimaced and turned it into another yawn
“Yeah. Well if you don’t mind, it is kind of late and I do have work tomorrow even if you’re on a break.”
She stood as she spoke and saw the reluctance in Nilis’ expression and posture, but under her insistent gaze he sighed, drained his drink and put the cup down before standing as well. 
“Of course. I shouldn’t keep you up. But don’t forget – we have a date tomorrow evening.”
Avilon managed a smile and opened the door. “Wouldn’t miss it for the world. I could do with making a few more friends.”
After he had gone she disposed of the cups and headed for bed, shaking her head at her previous doubts. Nilis par-Yorken’s motives were very easy to read.

E.M. Swift-Hook

The Leveller

When holding close a tiny child
When dressed in whiteness undefiled
Or when one’s love is on his knees
Why is it then one wants to sneeze?
When in a church in silent prayer
When combing tangles from one’s hair
When eating oysters with a toff
Why is it then one has to cough?
When visiting one’s aunt for tea
Or browsing in the library 
Or contemplating lovely art
Why does one always need a fart?
In contemplation or elation 
When one moves above one’s station
As some kind of celestial frown
One’s body always lets one down 

©️jj 2019

Grandmother’s Life Hacks – Surviving Valentine’s Day

St Valentine’s Day…

Ah, that bitchfest in the name of lerv. That commercialisation of affection. That show the world how perfect your relationship is. That Gw***** P*****w of festivals.

In case you hadn’t guessed, Granny really don’t approve.

When I was a gel, your boyfriend sent you a card he had bought in Woolworths and probably forgot to take the price ticket off of. You showed it to your mum and your best friend and put it in a box with all your souvenirs. End of. And if nobody sent, well only you and your mum  and your best friend knew. No real harm done – unless your best friend was a bitch.

Nowadays nothing is that simple. Today you have to Instagram the card, the flowers, the jewels, the wine, the food, the guy, the naughty underwear…

Stop it. For the love of sanity. Do. Not. Do. It.

But. Given that it will occur and every halfwit on the planet will be posting the biggest lie they can concoct… 

Here’s the plan.

Buy yourself a bouquet of something pretty. Photograph it. Post it on all your social media with no explanation.

When somebody is rude enough to ask simply say the flowers were from your greatest admirer. Truth. And. Sorted…

Advice for chaps. If you are from the side of the room with dangly bits and facial hair the advice to you is Do Not Forget. Your life may depend on it… also a large present and a suitably soppy card can result in the sort of sexual favours you have only dreamed of.

A Valentine Drabble

Sarah braided her long silver hair, not so easy with inflexible fingers. Taking the crusts, she walked to the park. It was a daily ritual since her little dog passed, giving her reason to leave the house where she’d lived alone for years.

Sitting on the bench, scattering crumbs, bundled in her warm coat, she smiled when David joined her as he always did. His bald head and bare hands pale with cold.

She pushed a small parcel at him.

The warm knitted hat and gloves fitted perfectly. 

“Best Valentine’s gift I ever had,” he told her with a kiss.

E.M. Swift-Hook

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