NaNo Chapter 1: Noah’s Bad Day

NaNoWriMo marches on. Here’s the “Chapter One” I wrote yesterday!

What story might follow it?


Noah approached the corner table, pen and notepad in hand.

“Good afternoon,” he said – trying not to make contact with the cat-eyes across the table. “My name’s Noah, and I’ll be your server today. Can I start anyone with any drinks?”

Thank goodness for three years’ experience of rote repetition. The girl sitting in the far chair (she looked like a preteen) was very distracting.

One of her cat ears twitched, and she smiled up at him. Gah! Her pupils were thin vertical slits! How easy was it for her parents to adapt to that? The other three in her family looked like pretty standard humans.

“Can I have lemonade please?” she asked.

“O-Of course,” said Noah, scribbling in his notepad.

It wasn’t fair, of course. No one knew where the mutations came from…and no one treated him differently for the weird scars on his face.

One night, he’d scratched his face…and woken up to find his pillow covered in blood. That’s what happened when you abruptly grew claws without realizing it.

Thank heavens for industrial strength nail clippers.

Noah smiled and nodded and went to put in the drink orders.

“Hey,” he said, nodding to the fry chef as he entered the kitchen. “Have you checked out Table 8? The girl’s got cat ears!”

Mr. Michael was not so much a “fry chef” as a Fry Master. He chuckled around the stumps of his tusks (every six months he visited the dentist to have them shaved down; it kept him from drooling into the oil).

“Have you seen Table 3?” asked Logan, juggling two trays. “Kid’s got honest-to-goodness butterfly wings. I’d hate to do third grade in his shoes.”

“Amazing his parents haven’t taken them off,” said Noah, collecting his orders for Table 1. “Hey, can anyone do me a favor? My shoulder-blades are killing me.”

Someone started rubbing his back. “Fresh scabs?” asked a voice – Jake, the manager.

“No, just crazy itching. I don’t know what it is. It’s driving me nuts,” said Noah. “Thanks, man.”

“Anytime,” said Jake, scratching his shoulder-blades. “Anything to keep you from touching it yourself.”

“Ha! This isn’t my first rodeo,” said Noah, flexing one hand.

He delivered the tray to Table 1, took more orders from Table 8, and refilled soda on Table 7.

As he came back into the kitchen, Jake was talking to Logan while sorting through the order tickets.

“One thing’s for sure — these mutations aren’t going away,” he said. “Which begs the question: do we try to pretend they’re not there? Or do we make the best of it?”

“Yeah,” said Logan. “If my kid came out with a tail or something, would I want to hack it off? Or show him I loved him just the way he was?”

“If you nip it when it’s small, they’ve got more of a chance to live a normal life,” said Noah, arranging a tray of drinks. “Ask how I know.”

“Oh, come on,” said Logan. “Don’t you ever have days where you say, ‘Boy, I wish I left my wi–’”

“No,” said Noah. “I like my job. I like my life. I like being able to get through the door of my apartment. I’ll keep telling my body what to do, not the other way around, thank you very much.”

His back gave a throb, but he ignored it and grabbed the drinks tray.

He flexed his shoulders and pushed the door open with his foot. He had no time to get achy right now; the lunch rush was just dying down, and then the dinner rush would pick up. He had things to do, and he wasn’t going to let something like a shoulder-ache get in the way.

As he was setting out the drinks for Table 4, both shoulder-blades throbbed. He clenched his teeth to stop himself wincing in front of the guests.

“I’ll – be back in a moment for your orders,” said Noah. “Unless you think…Actually, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be – right back in a moment.”

Hugging the tray, he headed for the front door. He didn’t smoke, but he needed a smoke break. He needed some fresh air, and a good, hard scratch on his back…and…

Something hit his back, and he fell on his butt in the foyer. Something was hanging on his back, trying to tip him over backwards.

Noah curled forward, hugging his knees. He had to get out the door. He had to do something. But he couldn’t even stand up and walk.

A little old lady with a walker froze on her way to the door, staring.

Logan came through the foyer with his notepad out – and dropped it to rush to Noah’s side.

“Does it look that bad?” whispered Noah – and yelped as his shirt tore.

“What on earth?” Logan gulped, his hands flickering around like mosquitos as he tried to think of something useful to do.

“Get Mr. Jake,” rasped Noah, rolling forward onto his knees and stomach as the thing behind him hauled even harder on his shoulders.

“R–Right,” said Logan, and darted away.

Noah started crawling for the doors. It was hard to move because the weights were all wrong…Gravity was treating him wrong.

He reached the doors and pushed the bar. Still crawling, he made it over the threshold – and got stuck.

He pulled, and twisted, and then tried to move backward – but he was stuck.

A family stepped up to the glass outer doors – and froze, staring in fascination.

Noah waved at them weakly, trying to smile.

Something tickled him on his shoulder – except the part of the shoulder that was still inside the restaurant.

Noah clapped his hands over his head. His own nerve endings were sending the signals to his brain — but his brain couldn’t handle it. It was all wrong. His body shouldn’t be like this.

Mr. Jake came through the second set of doors and stood in the entry-way, looking down at Noah.

“Hold on a second,” he said, and opened the door for the family still hesitating on the sidewalk.

“Good afternoon, folks,” he said. “Feel free to come in this way…Just a little medical emergency. It’s under control.”

Noah did not feel like having your enormous wings lodged in the entryway was “under control.”

Jake smiled and held the door for some more customers, then stepped to Noah’s side.

“We’re going to go straight through,” he said. “I’ve got this side. Logan, you got the other?”

Logan’s voice came muffled from beyond the bulkitude of Noah’s wings.

Jake grabbed one side and shoved inward.

Noah felt his two wings meet above his back and rub together (although his brain rebelled at this interpretation of the sensations).

He started crawling again, and his friends followed at his sides. He made it through the outer door and kept crawling until he felt his wings spring free to either side.

As the huge, membraned limbs spread out above him, the sidewalk was cloaked in shadow.

Noah put a hand over his mouth to keep from swearing in front of his boss. “It was my good work shirt, too!”

“Man!” said Logan. “Why would they grow back like that? I thought you just had to trim the stumps every few months or so –”

“I did,” wailed Noah. “They never did this before. Why would they do this?”

“Well,” said Mr. Jake, hands shoved thoughtfully into his pockets. “Maybe, if keeping them trimmed isn’t working, you’ll have to find a new way to live with them. In harmony.”

“Harmony?” hollered Noah. “I can’t fit through doors! I can’t follow dress code! How can I live in harmony with an angry condor growing out of my back?”

“Hey,” said Jake, and put out his hand to help Noah to his feet. “Try brain-storming, huh?”

Noah staggered upright, and leaned forward to keep from landing on his butt again.

Without meaning to, he found the muscles that controlled the huge, freaky cling-ons…and almost knocked himself and Jake over with the air blast.

“Look,” said Jake. “Take the rest of the day off, and give me a call in the morning. We’ll work with you on this.”

“I’ll get with my doctor,” said Noah. “These beasties are going down.”

“Hold on,” said Logan, appearing around the corner of one tent-like, membranous wing. “If they grew back over about ten minutes, what’s to say they won’t grow back again as soon as you cut them off?”

“I’m to say,” said Noah, throwing out his arms to keep from toppling over. “I can’t live a life like this. I’ll figure out something.”

Mr. Jake gave a funny, smug-looking smile. “Tell me how that works out for you.”


Kimia was raised by an aspiring author, so spinning words and weaving plots are in her blood.

She currently lives with her family somewhere in the American Midwest, bracing for the collapse of society by knitting, baking, writing, hobby-farming, and reading as much Twitter as possible before the web goes dark.

Subscribe to the mailing list for a FREE e-copy of her post-apocalyptic adventure novella Soldier! You’ll also receive periodic updates on her latest reading and writing adventures.

Chapter 1—Ralph Roister-Doister Meets Zombies

November is National Novel Writers’ Month…better known as NaNoWriMo!

The goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 days…but this year, instead of writing one cohesive novel, my dad, brother, and I are writing 30ish scenes from different story ideas. Or as we like to call it, Thirty “First Chapters”. (Keep track of my progress on my profile here.)

Here’s what I wrote yesterday. Can you imagine the story that might follow it? What twists might be in store?


Chapter 1—Ralph Royster-Doyster Meets Zombies — Kimia Wood

Image from Pixabay

Ralph ran.

High school was bad enough – what with grades, and college applications, and girls that didn’t like you, and friends who were all trying to figure it out at the same time – but now things were chaos.

The Algebra 1 teacher – plus a bunch of freshmen – had charged into the cafeteria and started biting people. Mr. Morgan of the History department and Ms. Chambers of Social Studies had barricaded a bunch of students into the auditorium until the police could show up…but Ralph was not one of those students.

He’d just missed the closing of the doors, screamed while they piled chairs and tables on the other side, and then kept running as the crowd of bleeding, howling students charged down the hall.

His phone had been in his locker, so he couldn’t even call his mom to come pick him up…or to tell her to stay far away!

Ralph’s dad would be at the office, but that was all the way downtown…could he even get there without a car?

One or two of the crazies in the cafeteria had been strangers…just where was this coming from? How big was this? Would he be safe downtown? Or should he head into the suburbs, where there wouldn’t be so many people?

Ralph dropped to a seat on a curb, wheezing. So this was what came of joining the choir club, not the football team. He’d thought he would just avoid getting crushed by those crazy three-hundred-pound tackle-guys.

Apparently he was going to have a heart attack and die being chewed on by crazies.

A howl came up the street.

Ralph shivered and jumped up. Two white-eyed figures were stumbling up the street — the first one had blood streaming from a bite wound on her neck. The second had torn clothes, and no left arm.

Fighting the urge to hurl, Ralph got back to running.

The neighborhood around his high school was really nice. Some of these houses had wrought iron fences around them, and gates on the front doors and good alarms systems.

Finding a low curb that ran underneath one of the fences, he grabbed the top rung and levered himself up.

There was nothing for his feet to catch on. As he scrabbled at the vertical iron bars, more howls came from two different directions. He didn’t dare look for the freaky creatures who would be coming.

Ralph’s sneaker slid on the metal, then lodged between two bars. Great…now he was stuck half-way up a fence, and being hunted by crazy zombie-freaks!

“Thank goodness, man.”

Ralph twisted his head to look around, trying not to impale himself on the fence.

Grant (his lab partner in fourth period Chemistry) dashed up and grabbed his stuck foot.

“What are you doing here?” gasped Ralph.

“Great minds think alike, buddy. Inside the fence is better than outside.”

Grant grabbed both Ralph’s feet and shoved upward. Now with more leverage, Ralph could swing himself up until he was balanced on top of the fence.

He shoved one foot onto the support bar that topped the fence – then the other foot.

“Come on,” he said, putting one hand down. He tightened his grip on the ironwork. “Don’t get stabbed on the spikes, okay?”

Grant took his hand, grabbed the top of the fence with his other hand, and jumped.

Ralph hauled upward – Grant’s foot found the top support bar – and they both jumped clear on the inside of the fence.

As they rolled in the grass, groaning, a thunder of footsteps came up the sidewalk.

White-eyed crazies – at least five of them – pounded on the fence, moaning and howling. Their arms started to bleed as they shoved them through the rough metal bars…but they didn’t seem to notice at all. In fact, their blood hardly seemed to run —

“Let’s get out of here,” said Grant.

They both scrambled to their feet and headed for the house.

Ralph found it impossible to run, now – and it seemed Grant had the same problem. They staggered along in a half-jog, panting.

As they came to the front of the house, Ralph glanced up the driveway.

“Well, I feel stupid now,” he said. “The gate’s open.”

“Shoot,” said Grant. “You go close it while I try to alert the people at home.”

The last thing Ralph wanted to do was to near the street again…but with the gate standing open like that, the fence wasn’t doing much good. Besides, all the zombies seemed clustered where he and Grant had jumped the fence…so hopefully it wouldn’t be too dangerous.

He trotted down the driveway and grabbed the big rolling gate to push it closed.

It wouldn’t budge.

Breathing heavily, Ralph looked over the mechanism. Maybe there was a button to close it automatically? Maybe if he pushed a little harder…?

He braced his foot against a bar of the fence and shoved. Nothing happened. He shifted his leverage, readjusting his weight, and shoved again.

Nothing.

He ran to the other side of the gate. There didn’t seem to be any button or control box there, either.

And there were some staggering figures on the corner that looked like they might be zombies…and he sure didn’t want to attract their attention.

Ralph snuck back to the front door, staying low and moving as quickly as he could.

“It’s got an automatic mechanism,” he said as he came up to Grant. “And I can’t budge it.”

“Well, no one’s answering the door,” said Grant. “So we’ve got to do something.”

“If we can call my dad and tell him where we are, he can come get us,” said Ralph. “Let’s try to find a phone.”

“Yeah…so much for not having phones in class,” said Grant. “This is exactly why we should always have them on us.”

“I don’t think our teachers expected this to ever happen,” mumbled Ralph as they started walking around the house.

They found a side door — inside they could see a kitchen, but it was locked, and no one answered their pounding.

Along the back side of the house were steps that led to a second-story balcony. They climbed the steps and looked for a door that wasn’t locked.

The second door they tried opened into a bedroom. A four-poster bed with pink covers and curtains stood along one side, while a pink vanity covered with lacy, rhinestone-crusted little boxes stood opposite it.

A white wardrobe stood near the bed – the sort of thing Ralph’s mom might call an “armoire.”

“There’s a phone,” said Ralph. “I’ll call my dad. We’d better find if there’s anybody else here and warn them.”

“Yeah – with that gate open, it won’t be long until they’re invaded,” said Grant, and headed for the door.

Ralph dialed his dad’s office…but no one answered. He called home…but no one answered there, either.

He tried his mom’s cell phone…but she was always forgetting to charge it, or leaving it in weird places, or sending it through the washing machine…

He dialed his dad’s cell phone. Dad’s cell number was only for emergencies, since he might be in a meeting or something –

No one answered that number, either.

Ralph swallowed. He twisted the handset in his hands for a moment. The calls were going through – so it wasn’t this phone, or the phone lines, that were bad.

He went to dial 9-1-1.

Shrill voices came down the hall. The bedroom door burst open, and Grant staggered into the room – followed by a grey-haired lady in a little black-and-white maid’s outfit.

Did people really still wear those things? Well, apparently so –

“Out!” shrilled the old maid, smacking Grant with a feather duster. “Youngsters! That’s the trouble with the world these days –”

“But there are crazies out there!” yelped Ralph. “Zombies and monsters! They tore up our school, and I can’t get a hold of my parents, and –”

“You’re no better than burglars,” snapped a young woman, also in a maid’s outfit, coming into the room. “You should be grateful I’m not calling the police on you.”

“I wish you would!” said Ralph. “In fact, I’m calling the police right now! We need help. In fact, you need to close your gate right now –!”

“Oh, we’ll close the gate. As soon as we march you ruffians off the premises.”

Whack! Grant got another blow from the feather duster.

“You’re crazy,” said Ralph. “You can’t be serious. There are man-eating, howling zombie-beasts out there, and you’re going to –”

The young maid flourished a short-handled broom and swung it.

“Ow,” wailed Ralph, cradling his ear.

“We might be safer out there, man,” panted Grant, ducking another swing from the feather duster and heading for the door to the balcony.

“Are you out of your mind?” cried Ralph, covering his head with his arms as he followed. “They’re biting people out there! One guy lost an arm. Mr. Hernandez was straight-up chewing that girl’s face off.”

Smack! The broom caught him across the shoulders, and he jumped with a yelp.

“Move faster, you little hooligan,” said the old maid.

Grant and Ralph ducked out onto the balcony and started toward the steps they came up – pursued by the two maids.

As they made their way down the steps, a moaning and banging came from the front of the house.

Grant and Ralph exchanged the curse word they knew – they howled as the two maids beaned them on the heads.

“They found their way through the gate,” whimpered Ralph.

“We have to get inside fast!” panted Grant.

“Nice try, little imps,” said the old maid. “I know your type. If it was up to me, I’d give you a –”

They never found out what she would give them. It was drowned out by the howling as a group of the crazies rounded the corner of the house and spotted them.

The crowd (herd? pack?) surged forward and up the steps.

Grant and Ralph spun around and charged up the stairs, taking the maids with them.

Everything was banging elbows, stomping feet, clawing, pounding from the broomstick, and the sharp, fiery pain of human teeth.

Ralph broke free of the tangle and ran. He yanked a door open and kept running.

He charged through the bedroom, down a hall, and into a closet. Someone (or something) was following him, clinging to him as his leg smarted – but he slammed the closet door on it until it let go.

Shaking in his hands, his legs, and everywhere, he twisted the doorknob and leaned backward to hold it closed.

Screams, thumps, and bangs came from outside. Maybe the two Maids from Hell were beating the tar out of the crazies. Maybe Grant had made it inside, and was looking for a hiding place, too.

Ralph remembered the auditorium. He remembered the door slammed in his face, and the rattle and crash of furniture piling up against him.

A weight fell against the closet door, and a howl shook the wood paneling and the cold metal knob under Ralph’s hands.

He choked on a swallow and braced himself against the doorframe…determined to let nothing in.

Nothing at all.

He had no way to measure time in the pitch blackness. Finally, the screams died down. Even the clomping of feet and moans died down.

Crashes sounded in the distance, and then those went away, as well. Sirens wailed on the edge of hearing.

Ralph’s leg throbbed, and his shoulders and arms ached. One wrist stung. He couldn’t stay here forever.

Easing the door open a crack, he snuck a peek at the corridor.

A patch of blood stained the carpet, but that was all.

Good thing the carpet was pink. Maybe it would clean up okay.

Ralph opened the door the rest of the way and tip-toed forward. Pain flared in his calf, and he crouched to examine it.

The light from the windows was a rosy purple. What time was it? Where was everyone?

He dragged his pant-leg up and twisted to see his leg.

Clear, bloody teeth marks showed in his calf – already swollen and red. He’d better get that cleaned and wrapped up.

There was another bite on his forearm. That one didn’t look as deep, but there was more blood because the attacker had scraped a bunch of skin off.

Ralph held his breath to fight the urge to puke, and limped down the hall, looking for a bathroom.

He found one a few doors down, and slipped inside.

It was empty of people, too – like the rest of the house – and he washed his wounds and wrapped them in some towels he found. He tied the towels down with ace bandages, then ventured out into the house again.

Coming to the bedroom, he looked around. The glass doors had been smashed, and the vanity had been knocked over. He went to the phone, but it had been ripped out of the wall.

He tip-toed onto the balcony to see if anyone was nearby.

For all the blood and…ick…around, there were no bodies.

Well, there was one figure in the yard below. It wore a torn maid’s dress, and wandered back and forth between a couple trees…moaning softly.

The sun was setting behind the trees, and dusk was gathering under the leaves.

Ralph stepped backward into the house.

Someone was coming down the hallway.

Stomach twisting, Ralph knelt behind the bed – his injuries smarting as he did so.

Someone stumbled into the room – Grant.

Before Ralph could get his name to his lips, he saw the bite marks covering Grant’s arms…and the blood streaming from his missing ear.

Grant looked at him — his eyes were white and glassy and empty.

Grant snarled and lurched forward, arms out to grab.

Ralph snatched the first thing his hands found – it was the short-handled broom – and smacked Grant in the face.

Grant growled and lunged again.

Ralph jabbed him in the stomach, then in the mouth, then kicked him in the chest so that Grant sprawled backward onto the floor.

Ralph jumped onto the bed, then grabbed the top of the armoire. He couldn’t quite get on top of it – but his weight unbalanced it, and it started to tip.

As Grant was howling and trying to get up, Ralph leaped off the top of the armoire, falling onto the bed.

As he bounced gently on the overstuffed mattress, the armoire crashed onto the top of Grant.

Grant squirmed and growled, wiggling to try to get free.

Ralph got off the bed on the opposite side, and headed for the door to the hall.

There had to be a car here somewhere – and keys. Even if he hadn’t passed driver’s ed yet, he was in no condition to be walking the streets.

Why wasn’t he like the others? Why hadn’t his bites make him crazy?

Maybe he wasn’t injured badly enough? Maybe he would turn when he died? But all the zombie books said that when you got bit, you turned…either in about five minutes, or at least in a week or two.

He shivered. He didn’t want to end up like that. No one did.

But as long as he was still himself, and didn’t feel a hungering for human flesh or anything weird like that, he would try to stay alive.

As he crept through the darkened house, searching for the attached garage it surely had, he thought back to that morning, when his only worry was the Spanish test.

Which he’d probably missed by several hours.

So he was going to die and flunk Spanish. Great.


Chapter 1—Ralph Royster-Doyster Meets Zombies — Kimia WoodKimia Wood currently lives somewhere in the American Midwest, bracing for the collapse of society by knitting, baking, writing, hobby-farming, and reading as much Twitter as possible before the web goes dark.

Subscribe to the mailing list for a FREE e-copy of her post-apocalyptic adventure novella Soldier! You’ll also receive periodic updates on her latest reading and writing adventures.

“Wedding Score” by Amanda Tero

"Wedding Score" by Amanda Tero — Kimia Wood Stephanie – and her author Ms. Tero – are both single Christian girls inching toward thirty. I am also a single Christian girl inching toward thirty.

This short novella is all about the unique (or not so unique) struggles that we loners face when we have no one but God to depend on…and He doesn’t have physical arms to lean on.

I was super excited for this book from the moment I first heard about it in the author’s newsletter. After all, Christian singleness is a topic I’ve blogged about a time or two, and I’m still traveling the wave of acceptance-to-desperation-to-resignation-to-panic-to-acceptance…

By Single Gals, For Single Gals

"Wedding Score" by Amanda Tero — Kimia WoodMs. Tero has me by a year or two, but we’re both still waiting for our Prince Charming…and at times we’re not even sure he’ll ever show up.

But that’s okay. At least, it should be okay, if we affirm that God is the only one we’ll ever really need, and that His arms are big enough to carry us through anything life throws at us…even lifelong lone-ranger-ing.

But – focus on the story!

Stephanie is a relatable protagonist. To the point you might feel Ms. Tero snagged your own characteristics, changed a few particulars to deflect suspicion (for instance, I’m not a musician), and put you full-bodied into her work.

Stephanie is a conservative Christian young lady (wears denim skirts and everything!) and while I don’t think it’s spelled out, you can easily guess she was homeschooled (come on – denim skirt!). She’s also well connected to her church, reads her Bible faithfully, and has a large, loving extended family.

And, just like the rest of us (ahem), she gets hit with a debilitating case of “loner syndrome”.

Christian Religious Inspirational…

Writing about spiritual issues is a ticklish business. It’s so very easy to stray into preachiness, sticky-toffee sugar-coating, awkward marionette-plotting, literal Deus-ex-machina, pat answers to complex questions –

Ms. Tebo’s writing, however, rings authentic – probably because she supplied the text of Stephanie’s devotions from her own personal devotions. The trouble with a story is that we know it’s a story, and therefore that an author crafted it for a deliberate reason. By allowing herself to be vulnerable, and share her own struggle with singleness, Ms. Tebo allowed Stephanie’s journey to be as realistic as possible.

It also helped that the book description and marketing made it obvious this book would tackle religious issues. It wasn’t, for example, pretending to be a murder mystery (AHEM). Everyone who picks up this book will be expecting a Christian exploration of the struggle of singleness…and they won’t be disappointed.

Happily Ever After

"Wedding Score" by Amanda Tero — Kimia WoodEven before I received my early-access copy of Wedding Score, I knew the ending would be a deal-breaker. After all, when you’re writing a fictional story, you are the “god” of the story world, and can give your characters any ending you want!

It would be too easy for a sick-with-loneliness author to hit all her characters with the “hunky Mr. Right” wand. But that kind of ending would be the last thing a Christian single struggling to be faithful would need. And, that kind of ending would in some ways negate the whole point of the story.

Ms. Tebo escapes that simplistic solution! After wrestling through the entire book with leaning solely on God, Stephanie isn’t “rewarded” with a flesh-and-blood man to hold her hand. No, she still has to depend on God – even while her friends are still getting married all around her! – but the work of His Spirit in her heart has brought a change.

And that is what we have to hold on to, fellow loners! Cling to the knowledge that no matter what – even if we never get to wear that dress or have our own kids – God will be right by our side and we will be “sons and daughters” to Him.

Not Alone

So what else can this book teach you, other than that God is faithful and will be all you need?

That you’re not alone!

Yes, maybe you don’t have your own little nest, but there’s still extended family, church family, and all the other single Christians who are going through the exact same thing you are! Maybe they’re in a different “stage” of singleness than you are, but you can bet they’re bouncing on the wave just the same (unless through the grace of Jesus they’ve arrived, in which case NOT FAIR).

Cry. Laugh. Tell us about your struggles. On the bad days, come for hugs. On the good days, dish out hugs – ’cause we need them!

Somewhere, someone has walked the exact same path as you. And for me at least, that makes the wilderness a little less lonely.

DISCLAIMER: I received a free ARC from the author as part of the book launch. I was not required to write a review of any kind, and all opinions are my own (imagine me being vocal about my opinions!)."Wedding Score" by Amanda Tero — Kimia Wood


Check out my interview with the author!

Wedding Score releases this week!
You can add it on Goodreads, then find it on Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Kobo, or as a signed paperback from the author!

Check out the author’s official website at AmandaTero.com.

“Talk to the Hand” by Lynne Truss

Talk to the hand, ’cause the face ain’t listening!

How rude!

Well, you know what you can effing do!

Is everyone around you shockingly rude? Do you find yourself dissed by shop clerks?…given the run-around by customer service phone trees?…pelted with garbage by faceless, uncaring litterers?

Lynne Truss’ Talk to the Hand: The Utter Bloody Rudeness of the World Today, or Six Reasons to Stay Home and Bolt the Door will comfort you that at least you’re not the only one exasperated…and perhaps challenge you that there is something we can do about it. Continue reading

“The Lonely Detective Solves ‘Murder at Snow White'” by Charles Schwarz

"The Lonely Detective Solves 'Murder at Snow White'" by Charles Schwarz — Kimia Wood Lord Peter Wimsey, in one of Dorothy Sayers’ novels, calls detective fiction the “highest form of literature we have.” The essence of detective fiction is the conflict of good and evil…the idea that a crime (a murder) breaks the world, and the core of a hero is in solving it (bringing the evildoer to justice).

Thus it’s hardly surprising that Ms. Sayers is one of, if not the, best mystery writers of all time. Her novels are entertaining yet educational, tricky yet profound – grounded on a firm grasp of human nature, and grappling with how the very universe groans for the blood of the innocent to be repaid.

I’m not here to talk about her work. I’m here to talk about the short stories of Charles Schwarz – stories billed as “hilarious” and sarcastic murder mysteries…that probably ended up being more educational than entertaining for me.

(Incidentally, what first caught my eye was the cover. Something about it just looks sarcastic – and who doesn’t love that?)

Alert: SPOILERS Possible Continue reading

“And Then There Were None” by Agatha Christie

"And Then There Were None" by Agatha Christie — Kimia Wood Ten strangers lured to an island. A phonograph accuses them each of murder. One by one, they start dying.

Who will be left standing? And just who is the murderer?!

As the author’s note explains, Agatha Christie wrote this because it would be hard…and she certainly pulls off a spine-chilling whodunit stuffed with questions about morality and “the perfect murder.”

Characters and Voice

Ten characters. Ten unique personalities and voices?

Yes and no. A couple of the characters die off so soon we don’t really get to spend much time with them, although they do get painted in general strokes.

Mrs. Christie breaks all kinds of writerly rules – but hey, she’s Agatha Christie! Whether she’s writing from the perspectives of most of the different characters, or using stereotypical short-hand to quickly clue us in to the character types at the story’s start, she goes against what your author “guru” on the internet probably told you to do…but still weaves an edge-of-your-seat thriller.

We are introduced to all the characters at the start of the book. Thus, we have a working knowledge of each of them and what makes them tick before they start dropping like flies.

But each and every one of them has a deep, dark secret hidden in there, too – from the young governess-turned-schoolteacher to the soldier-of-fortune, from the ex-policeman to the star surgeon with a drunk past.

As more secrets unravel step by agonizing step, we begin wondering if we can root for any of these people…and yet we can’t help rooting for them after “riding in their head” through this harrowing adventure. (That’s part of Mrs. Christie’s theme – more on that later.)

Suspense

I’ve been struggling to read over the past few months, but I finished this little classic in just a few days. To be frank, I should have put it down earlier in the day, because that night I tossed and turned with half-dreams of these characters I had bonded with facing mysterious death.

With zero gore and very little detail of the actual act of dying, or the dead bodies, Mrs. Christie still paints a picture of horror and encroaching dread where the characters question their grip on sanity.

I ask you, can any modern torture-porn horror author claim to have written something as chilling yet lasting as And Then There Were None?

The Onion of Mystery

Unlike a Robert Ludlum spy book, there’s no deep conspiracy here (which is what I’ve meant by “onion” in the past) but there is a “mad” killer on the loose on this rocky, isolated island.

Who is the killer? Which of the men and women in this lonely house could be capable of this elaborate, even artistic death-trap?

Mrs. Christie admitted it was hard to write, but she pulls it off. I didn’t guess the killer at all (partly because I was hamstrung by a Get Smart episode with a false assumption), but once it’s revealed it makes sense.

And that is the mark of a great mystery writer: to string the audience along until the big reveal, then have them cock their heads and nod and say, “Oh, yes, I see how that makes sense, now.”

Justice and Murder

This book bears a very similar theme to Murder on the Orient Express. There, the victim was a well-known gangster and murderer. Here, all ten of the characters are accused of murder.

And yet, the law can’t touch them. One man ran over some kids while speeding…another kicked a pregnant girl out of her boarding house, and the girl committed suicide (understandable given the culture of the time).

Thus, the Big Bad assumes he/she’s justified in killing these people because they are “murderers” beyond the reach of the law.

And yet…is he/she really right to take the law into his/her own hands even though the others are supposedly “guilty”? (And without a true trial, can we be sure that they are guilty?)

The answer of the Bible is manifestly: no! The king is appointed to punish the wrongdoers (Rom. 13:3-4), and we are not to stand on our rights (Phil. 2:5-8) or take matters into our own hands (Rom. 12:17-20).

But a person determined to construct the “perfect crime” is understandably not concerned with Biblical morality. The whole situation is orchestrated to baffle the police and gratify the perpetrator (and vicariously the readers, who will devour this safely contained horror of a puzzle box).

I realize I can’t say more without giving spoilers, but I was intrigued to realize Mrs. Christie has explored these themes on two different occasions…especially as I had connected it with a more “modern” trend in detective fiction of adding grey to both detective and criminal, thus rendering the contrast less black-and-white.

But I guess trying to validate the evil-doer is nothing new.

Gather the Survivors for the Revelation of the Culprit!

Agatha Christie is the culprit. She wrote this.

I was the victim. I fell under the spell of this book, and thoroughly enjoyed every spine-chilling, stomach-twisting moment.

You are the detective. Read this book, and see if you can figure out who the murderer is…before it’s too late!


And Then There Were None is available on Amazon (Kindle, paperback, hardback, or audiobook), Barnes&Noble (paperback, hardback, Nook, and audiobook), Kobo (also offers audiobook), and the Book Depository (free worldwide shipping).

Subscribe to Kimia Wood’s mailing list for a FREE e-copy of her post-apocalyptic adventure novella Soldier! You’ll also receive periodic updates on her latest reading and writing adventures!

“Transmutation of Shadow” Chapter 1

"Transmutation of Shadow" Chapter 1 — Kimia WoodCheck out the first chapter of my upcoming action-adventure Transmutation of Shadow! Meet Eric Kedzierski, psionic human and assassin extraordinaire…and, yes, his last name is very “long, ugly, and Polish” (his words).

Subscribe to the mailing list to be alerted as soon as it’s ready for publishing! (We’re currently waiting on beta reader feedback…)


Business As Usual

In which I kill somebody.

I eyed the two-lane country road, twenty yards below me.

“Target is four minutes out,” came Oscar’s voice through the plug in my ear.

“Roger,” I said, low toned.

Combat mics are designed to pick up soft voices. Of course, I was the only human being in about two miles of the spot. I’d made sure of that when I first arrived.

I double-checked my handiwork on the tree. It was already dead, leaning slightly toward the incline and the road. A storm had recently passed through, as the lightening-scorched poplar a hundred feet to my right showed, so the set-up was more believable.

I had weakened the base of the dead tree with a focused energy lance, and now all it would need was a concentrated mental shove. The age of the tree, and the lightening in the area, would both discourage anyone from analyzing for psionic scorches.

“Target three minutes out,” said Oscar.

I knelt at the base of my tree, the better to see the road through a gap in the foliage. My form-hugging combat suit protected my knees from the damp grass.

“Any word on the escort?” I asked.

“Armored SUV, three bodyguards, one driver,” said Oscar, from the data pulled up on his computer screen in the command center at Langley. “Chase vehicle about eight minutes behind, looks like, so you’ll have to hustle.”

I nodded to myself. The branches I had tossed onto the curve of the road fifty yards away would look like storm debris, and would make the car slow down.

“Three bodyguards,” I muttered. “Oil sheiks are paranoid, huh?”

“I think anybody who makes it onto our list is paranoid,” Oscar answered. “After all, it’s not just the United States he’s ticked off over the years. I’m sure there are some rival oil kings who’ve lost minions or trade deals to him. Maybe he’s responsible for that ambassador we lost in the Middle East. I don’t know; they don’t tell me these things.”

I adjusted my goggles, switching to thermal vision to make sure no stray cars were coming. The last thing I needed at the moment was a civilian blundering in to the set-up.

“Not my problem. I don’t make the big decisions,” I said.

My handler of many years said nothing. It’d been a standing inside joke between us: we don’t get paid enough to decide who should die. That’s for the bureaucrats who run the Agency to do. Got a complaint? Go talk to Congress.

Car engine. With a directed psionic ping, I received feedback in one of my goggles for movement telemetry.

Sure enough, they were moving around the corner. They slowed at the tree branches, and lumbered carefully around the curve.

“American car,” I whispered to Oscar.

“Huh?”

“It’s a GMC. Are you sure –?”

“Look, the spooks have been tracking them for weeks. Yes, it’s the right car. Go for it!”

The SUV cautiously picked up speed. The driver was being careful, given the hilly terrain.

Digital overlays in my goggles gave me the timing. With all the technology, this job was hardly a challenge —

I lanced the tree, giving it an energized shove with my hand for good measure. The tree crashed into the road, and the SUV plowed into it, squealing as the driver tried to apply the brakes.

As I sprinted down the hill from my hiding place, I was already feeling out the lock. Very standard stuff…I mean, couldn’t a corrupt Arab tyrant invest in a little more complicated door lock?

At the touch of my finger, an electrical pulse overrode the car’s computer, and I yanked the rear door open.

My other hand cracked the top on the vial, and nonlethal gas blew into the car. My glance flitted between the unconscious faces

“Target ID?” I hissed, checking with another psionic pulse that every heart was beating.

“Guy in the middle. Chase car is picking up speed; hurry.”

“Did you do a biometric –”

“It’s the guy in the middle, Shadow! I know my job.”

Holding my breath, I leaned into the car and un-clicked his seat belt. Touching – Ruthless Oil Despot was imitating American culture, with a very nice tailored suit.

With an energized heave, I flung him through the windshield. A psionic pulse, and my Heads Up Display flashed a confirmed death.

I relocked the door and sprinted back up the hill. There was nothing left to do. The tree left no traces. The car lock was un-breached.

And there were no collateral deaths.

“All right, Shadow. HUD says we’ve got a confirmed target elimination.”

I started the hike back to my car, pulled off the road and hidden on the other side of the hill. As I forged deeper into the trees, I heard the chase car’s engine purring around the corner.

“I guess the Middle East will be safer, now,” I said. “Though I can’t help wondering that they’d stage his death on American soil.”

Oscar said nothing for a moment. “Politics isn’t my game,” he said at last. “Especially foreign politics. It’s not our problem.”

Again, I nodded to myself, raising my goggles to see the variegated greenery around me unobstructed. A chipmunk popped its head out of a fallen log, stared at me, and ducked back in again.

With thermal vision, I’d be able to see his heat signature. But what would be the fun of that?

Besides, sometimes chipmunks and I both had to hide.


"Transmutation of Shadow" Chapter 1 — Kimia WoodKimia Wood was raised by an aspiring author, so spinning words and weaving plots is in her blood.

She currently lives with her family somewhere in the American midwest, bracing for the collapse of society by knitting, baking, writing, hobby-farming, and reading as much Twitter as possible before the web goes dark.

Subscribe to the mailing list for a FREE e-copy of her post-apocalyptic adventure novella, Soldier! You’ll also receive periodic updates on her latest reading and writing exploits!

“Time and Again” by Richard Elkins

"Time and Again" by Richard Elkins — Kimia Wood — missionary Missionary autobiographies are one of those things. Memoirs aren’t really my cup of tea, so you can understand why I might approach Time and Again: God’s Sovereignty in the Lives of Two Bible Translators in the Philippines with trepidation.

But…my grandparents gave me the book, it’s written by and about a good friend of theirs, and, well, is it really that bad to sit and listen to the “old folks” tell some stories?

No. It is not that bad!

Quick-Reading

The whole book is pretty slim, which encourages reading. Each chapter or anecdote is usually pretty short, making it less of a commitment to “just read one story”.

And best of all, this is not a “kitchen sink” type of autobiography, where every memorable event from third grade onward is recounted. This book has an explicit purpose, stated in the sub-title…

Witness to God

The theme running throughout the pages is the provision of God and work of God in the lives of the Elkins. As missionaries and Bible translators living deep in the unreached Philippine jungle (living in thatched houses; learning the natives’ customs and trying to follow them; learning new languages and creating dictionaries, then New Testaments, for them), the Elkins had many opportunities to see God’s hand at work in direct or indirect ways.

The most touching account is where Mr. Elkins describes visiting a tribe deep in the forest – a tribe that could only be reached by a three-day hike over the mountains.

When he shared the gospel with them – comforting their fears about God’s judgement and sharing the joy of forgiveness in Jesus Christ – I had tears in my eyes.

[I said,] “Those first ancestors of ours, Adan and Eba, disobeyed, and we, like them, have also disobeyed [God].”

The datu [tribal leader] nodded. “That is true. I wonder why we always seem to do what is wrong and not what is right?”

“I have read in [God’s] Book that one day he is going to punish the people in the world who have disobeyed him.”

“We know about that, too, and it frightens us.” He thought for a moment. “You know, you Americans live way out on the edge of the earth, and we Matigsalug people live right here in the center. When [God] comes to punish, he will get to you first. Will you come quickly here and tell us so we can get ready?”

I looked into his eyes. “That’s the very reason why we came.”

Fear leaped into his face. “You mean that [God] is right now on his way to punish us?”

“No, I have better news than that. [God] has a “big breath” (great love) for all people. So he sent someone special to rescue us so we will never be punished.…”

Missionary Life

If you’ve never been exposed to tales of the missionary life, this is a good short-and-sweet introduction. Find out about the “good old days” when multi-day hikes through rugged terrain, native-built houses without plumbing, and short-wave radio communication were the norm.

In one chapter, Mr. Elkins describes how they rushed their son to medical treatment via porter, then truck…and God provided every step of the way.

Or how about when their native translation assistant chose to help finish preparing the Bible, instead of fencing off his field? His crop was destroyed by wild pigs, but he praised God as God provided over and above what he expected.

A Testimony

This would be an excellent book for introducing your children to the lifestyles and challenges of missionaries, with stories that emphasize at every point the power of God in the every-day…and how even the “super-obedient missionary saints” need the strength of Jesus to obey, to learn, and to overcome their own selfishness and arrogance.

In fact, it could be a useful book for anyone.


Time and Again is available on Amazon, at Barnes&Noble, Kobo, and the Book Depository (free worldwide shipping).

Subscribe to Kimia Wood’s mailing list for a FREE e-copy of her post-apocalyptic adventure novella Soldier! You’ll also receive periodic updates on her latest reading and writing adventures.

“A Newbery Christmas”

"A Newbery Christmas" — Kimia Wood — Christmas story Christmas is…an interesting topic.

What do you think about when you hear the word? What does a “Christmas story” mean? It forms an entire genre of fiction…but defining that genre is in the eye of the beholder.

Besides which, for some of us Christmas has the deeper purpose of celebrating Christ – the Anointed One – the Eternal God taking on flesh and walking the earth in the form of a human.

This collection of “Christmas” stories, penned by fourteen different Newbery Award-winning authors, was interesting on a number of different levels. Not only did the tone and style change depending on the attitude of the author, but also their view of Christmas (and what it means) was remarkably varying.

So, what is a “Christmas story”?

The “Just So” Fable

Some of them recalled the roots of Christmas. Theses stories have the flavor of a “fairytale retelling” as they relate the basic story elements – Mary giving birth to a special baby in a stable – and sprinkle it with their own twists.

For instance: Mary giving birth without making a sound…animals being given the gift of speech so as to relate the events from a thousand years ago…and Catholic saints traveling through time and space to get a peek at the manger scene.

For some people, this is what makes a “Christmas story” — Saturday Evening Post-type nostalgia mixed with church traditions.

The “Santa” Paradigm

The Newbery Award is for children’s literature, so the stories in this anthology are naturally geared toward children.

Some children view Christmas solely in the context of the presents they get. Older children are usually concerned about the presents they give away, also.

A good author captures the attitudes and thoughts of her viewpoint character.

But there is a line between accurately portraying a child’s limited worldview, and structuring your narrative with only these materialistic elements that reenforce the limited worldview. Sometimes, that line is very hard to find.

Is a “Christmas story” about giving gifts? Is it about discovering that what you really, really want is not as important as what you need?

Perhaps. For some people, that’s what they mean by a “Christmas story”.

My Personal Favorite

My favorite story is the selection by Madeleine L’Engle (ironically enough).

While not an “orthodox” Christian, she does a good job giving readers a sense of the “true meaning of Christmas” (as the clichés call it). Not only does her story follow a family celebrating the holiday with church, food, and snow – it gives a realistic portrayal of Christians acting in a way consistent with the character of God: with love, grace, and peace in the face of unexpected stress.

What is a “Christmas Story”?

To borrow Andrew Klavan’s explanation, a “Christmas story” is the tale of a character exchanging their value set. As in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, when Ebenezer Scrooge exchanges his own value set (selfishness and money) for a more “heavenly” value set (generosity, legacy, and community) his motivation, actions, and lifestyle change.

He is transformed. He is a “man who learns better” because of the new values that descend on his life (and once he accepts them, his behavior changes).

This mirrors the original “Christmas” story, where our paradigms of self-centeredness, self-righteousness, and selfishness are confronted by God’s system.

That system being that we could do nothing to rescue ourselves, but God in His grace came down to earth (wearing human flesh and bone) and gave Himself to us…not only showing us the example for perfect love and kindness, but also making it possible for us to live in a way that pleases Him (through His Holy Spirit setting up shop without our own hearts and changing us from the inside out).

This strikes me as a good, understandable explanation of what makes a “Christmas story”.

Does something count as a “Christmas story” if it’s a peppermint-flavored romance set in December? According to this paradigm, only if they focus on the protagonist’s value set being exchanged for a “higher” one.

How about all the stories that wrap around a child getting exactly what they want for Christmas? Well…is the point that they don’t get what they want, but rather what they need? That focus on receiving a fresh values set would make it a Christmas story under this definition.

(For what it’s worth, Mr. Klavan says that Holly in Die Hard is in a Christmas movie, because the system she uses to evaluate and measure the world is challenged and replaced…but John from Die Hard is in an action movie, instead. Having never seen the movie, I can’t appraise his appraisal.)

But This is Actually a Review

What do you expect from a “Christmas anthology”? What are you looking to get out of it?

A couple of these stories are thought-provoking or emotionally resonant. A few of them are short and quippy, or more geared toward kids.

So…to resolve your itch for “Christmas genre” stories, or to give your kids something short and easy to read, it would work. Also works as a Christmas-themed coffee-table gift.

These stories probably won’t change your life. But it’s all a matter of expectations.

So, what does “Christmas” mean to you?


A Newberry Christmas features fourteen stories, by fourteen different Newberry-winning authors from Ruth Sawyer and Rachel Field to Lois Lenski, Eleanor Estes, and Madeleine L’Engle. It is edited/compiled by Martin H. Greenberg and Charles G. Waugh.

It is available on Amazon.

Subscribe to Kimia Wood’s mailing list for a FREE e-copy of her post-apocalyptic novella Soldier, plus periodic updates on her latest reading and writing adventures.