Blood Tree Literature

Had some brand new words published last month at Blood Tree Literature. I wrote this poem while I was at my last job. A lot about that experience hurt my feelings.

Check out Issue 6, there’s some seriously awesome writing inside. I’m so grateful and honored to share space with these amazing writers and artists.

Thank you so much!!!

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Photo Credit: Blood Tree Literature

Bucket List

1. Get a job I don’t hate.

2. Find the scariest haunted house EVER.

3. Do an escape room.

4. Get an RV and travel across the country.

5. Get a boat and live on the river.

6. Go to Comicon.

7. Go to Dragoncon.

8. Have nice cosplay ideas for 6 and 7.

9. Cultivate a yoga practice.

10. Learn Tai Chi.

11. Meditate regularly.

12. PUBLISH MY BOOKS.

13. Visit the Grand Canyon.

14. Be a better birder.

15. See all the birds on my Life List.

15. Learn how to sing. Like, properly sing, not in-the-car-sing.

16. Write a crown of sonnets (sonnet corona) and do it properly…following all the rules…(kill me).

17. Learn how to ballroom dance.

18. Go to a ball and wear a big, floppy princess dress.

19. Grow my hair long. The last time I had long hair was in 1997.

20. Learn how to play a musical instrument and play at shows with all my favorite artists.

21. Join a prestigious writing association.

22. Hitchhike or just walk across the country. Or live in my car.

23. Become an “extreme” minimalist.

24. Be invited to talk about poetry at AWP.

25. Have one of my books nominated for a Locus, Nebula, or Hugo. Just the nomination, I don’t have to win, just tell me you love me.

Talking about the rest of NaNoWriMo 2019 in the middle of December because…

Am I at the muddy mushy saggy middle already? (Week 2)

SO! (Week 3)

Here’s what happened: (Week 4)

The mushy middle past my by and the bitter, bitter end bit me in the ass.

I did not do any writing past week 1 because finals are a bitch and I visited my in-laws for Thanksgiving. Zero. Writing.

But before all that happened, at the tail end of Week 1, Mr. J and I had a wicked 2.5 hour brainstorming session about my paranormal horror/contemporary fantasy book series The Slaughter Chronicles AND

*deep breath*

I’ve reorganized the whole thing.

Because book 1 was actually books 1 through 3. Has that ever happened to you? You think you’re writing one book and it splits apart in what I can only describe as some kind of overzealous meiosis. Not mitosis because of the fucking Law of Independent Assortment. (Yes, I just took a Biology final. No, I made a B but I have an A in the class. I digress.)

So the bad news is I don’t have a finished draft. But the good news is I can put all these pieces from previous drafts together and have a finished draft maybe by the end of the month if I can just stop taking naps every day.

I’m burned out. From school. From vacation. All of it. Burned. Fucking. Out.

I wanted to be diligent and blog about Nanowrimo every week. And I really, really wanted to win this year.

I want to talk about developing writing routines and share helpful tips and tricks but I’m all out of ideas and motivation.

When I get like this, overwhelmed by all the promises I made myself and all the disappointment I feel at not meeting my goals, I need to step back and re-asses. And that’s what you’re going to see here on this blog in the next few months.

I’m going to try to document how I make a routine from nothing, or how I fail miserably at making a routine, or how I throw the routine out the window and still manage to write all the things.

I’m not making sense right now but I don’t care. Check out my future blog post about how I get all my thoughts in order and detail my master plan for 2020 like a neat and tidy recipe. Haha. Like that’s ever going to happen.

Anyway, I didn’t want to leave this month, a month that was conceptually very important to me, without making some kind of comment.

Writing is hard. And I feel like I’ve lost communication with all the fun things about it. But I’m not going to stop. And if you are unhappy with your progress and if you didn’t reach your goals this year don’t stop. Keep going. You’ll get there.

And just so you know, when the setting sun hits the branches of my neighbor’s trees just right the branches are all lit up in gold and look like a massive spider web.

The Librarian

(for Suzie, my best librarian friend)

THE big table makes you look smaller than you are. Like a little morsel, a macaroon, a petit four alone on a dinner plate. You twitch, fidget. You curl your spine protectively over your phone screen despite the towers of books that surround you. Ponderous tombs of science, philosophy, and madness.

The World Atlas Extraordinaire sits on a stand older than this building next to you, propped open to the Pacific Islands, resplendently corralled by the cartography of the currents, dancing whorls of sacred scarification.

Each time the door slides open your eyes dart around in your skill like scared rabbits. You’re looking toward the door now; the shining glass, the herald of the morning sun. You are waiting for someone.

I like to pretend you’re waiting for me—but the girl walks in. (Besides, I’m already here.) The girl with the navy blue sweatshirt and hair the color of milky oil sliding off a dead whale. Her face is younger than mine. Of course, she is younger. All of you are. Her uniform skirt bisects her thighs perfectly, exposing her beautifully formed knee caps and the lacy pattern of veins and arteries flowing under her skin. Her sock-less feet are so dainty that her sneakers could easily be mistaken for ballet slippers.

She should be a ballerina with long, tangled hair. But she is a student and so are you. But you are not wearing a uniform. What day is it? Sunday? Monday? Where is the nearest school?

More importantly, what time is it? It must be near Lunchtime. I’m beyond famished. Even when I eat Breakfast and Second Breakfast I’m still a bottomless pit.

She sits as you stand. You do not hug like I expected you to but you do touch her shoulder as you lean over her chair. You ask her if she needs anything. She doesn’t. She pulls out a notebook and her headphones from her pink polka-dotted tote bag. (I have a bag too but it is not made out of polka-dots.) You walk away and she begins to scribble viciously across her blank page, her ears full of music I cannot hear.

Maybe she is a poet. Poets are delicious. They taste like burnt sugar and apricot pipe tobacco. (As opposed to artists, who usually taste like soggy, fermented herbs.)

When you return her head is bowed as if in prayer and your arms are bursting with books. Paris, Venice. Belgium, Madrid.

Travel or History?

What war, if any?

What’s your poison?

And why ignore the atlas? It’s been sitting right next to you the whole time. Just like I have. Surely maps are not obsolete. I know GPS exists now-a-days but you need more than travel diaries to travel. You have to know how to get where you want to go before you even think about going there. (I speak from personal experience, of course, but rarely does anyone listen to me…listen and survive, anyway…moving on.)

She plucks her headphones out of her ears and gives you one of the most dazzling smiles I have ever seen one human give to another. Her pink-frosted lips form the shape of the softest thankyou I have read anywhere, on paper or on flesh.

Maybe you’re planning to run away together. She’s already ready. Her tote has extra clothes and a very sharp knife hidden at the bottom (a gift from an overprotective mother, no doubt. Mothers should be overprotective). And you look like you have the money to buy anything else you two might need for a—what is it called? Funny, after all this time I still don’t know your words for it.

Getaway? Suicide?

When you only live from one meal to the next? No worrying about where to sleep, what to see next? Vacation?

No, you will have nothing to go back to. When you leave it will be for forever. Your family will disown you, will harry you through the halls and hedgerows, mazes and ballrooms and strip the skin from your sorry carcass if you ever return—no wait, that’s me. Not you. Sorry.

I’ve been living from one meal to the next without worrying about where I will sleep or what I will see next, unless it’s food. I eat food, dream food. I always look for food. But my version of you abandoned me long ago.

How long will you wait before you change your mind and leave her?

Good thing you’ll never find out. You’ll never get the chance to betray her. As you sit and study the geography of possibility I creep closer.

The shadows ebb and flow around your feet.

She doesn’t have time to dig out her knife.

(Copyright 2019 by Jessica Halsey)

The Librarian isn’t interested in working today. Don’t bother her.

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Photos by Oladimeji Odunsi on Unsplash

The Promise: a dystopian short story

The tunnels are deep and full of poisonous fog.

There is no exit, at least not for the very first or the very next.

Would you survive the end of the world? For Pyre and her friends that is a terrifying question. She may not want to know the answer.

For fans of Garth Nix’s Shade’s Children and Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake.

Disclaimer: This story contains mature themes including sickness and death, and the death of a child. Reader discretion is advised.

Continue reading The Promise: a dystopian short story

Little Girls

They carried the baby bird wrapped in a yellow, flowered handkerchief up the ladder and into the attic. Its eyes bulged behind their closed, membranous lids and its prickly down barely covered the stubs of its wings. The wrinkly, peach flesh was damp with perspiration and plant juice. It choked and twitched feebly, beak broken open. “We’re going to operate now,” said the little girl in the red corduroy dress. Her glossy black shoes were scuffed and muddy and her little white tights were ripped by the holly bush. There were no lights in the attic but Mother gave them three candles with the stipulation that Make Believe was not allowed to knock the candles over and burn the house down. The two girls scooted past boxes and trash bags filled with grown up things and tiny baby things from times neither of them could remember. They were like bright, neon fishes, easily distracted by strange movements, strange colors, strange noises. They crawled as one creature with four knees and four paws, dirt smeared and tipped with chewed claws, two of which were clasped together around the quivering baby bird. “On the operating table!” the little girl in the red corduroy dress whispered urgently, snatching the handkerchief from the other little girl and slamming it down on the top of one of the boxes. “Scalpel!” she cried. The other little girl pulled the handkerchief away from the baby bird and lifted it to her nose. There was something there that reminded her of earthworms and pill-bugs. Like the juice that dripped from the knife to the kitchen floor. Like the scolding she received when she stayed out in the sandbox past lunchtime. She reached into the pocket of her blue overalls and held out a sprig of holly.

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Photo by brabus biturbo on Unsplash

Direction

Take the splintered memory of your father beating you from between your mother’s clenched teeth. If you can still hear his screams, go west. You will come to a ditch cradling a dead cat. If his neck is twisted, proceed north. If his belly burst open like a rotten orange under a motorcycle wheel, go south. You will find the rider’s bloody boot prints scuffing the Black-Eyed Susans. If you mix the pollen with loose-leaf tobacco and roll a cigarette your doppelgänger in another universe will be gifted a front row seat to the next public execution. But that is not the direction you want to go. If you ignore me and walk toward the old Civil War battlefield marked with the city’s slapdash attempts at historical editing. Your old lovers, wherever they are, will turn pale as if a nurse has taken too much life force from the abrasive latticework of a failed experiment. You will taste blood in your mouth. They will fall to the floor and you will not be there to catch them or kiss the languor from their eyes. You won’t want to. If you don’t see a dead cat, continue west as if nothing is wrong. You will eventually come to a fork in the road. Or a river. And you must either cut off all your hair or throw your clothes into the Salvation Army donation bin that washed up on the riverbank after the storm. You have to go bare in some way, your own body acting as a trembling neophyte’s compass, pointing towards the sharpest point away. If fear bites down on you so hard your ribs crack and snap against your heart, you can choose a different direction. You can run, screaming, back home or you can try to walk on water.

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Photo by Oliver Roos on Unsplash