THE MANDATORY SIX, Part One: Ella Wen 9/16 | 10:30 p.m.

Meeting up to watch for possible news of a devastating earthquake wasn’t a typical date, but Ella was bored, and opportunities to hang out with D-list actors didn’t come along every day. Maybe Daniel had producer friends who could get her on a reality show. Even better, maybe she already was on a reality show.

She did a check in the bathroom mirror. A single swipe of thick black eyeliner. A bit of contour and highlight. Some clear gloss. She liked to keep things simple. This was technically a pajama party, so she chose her flowy golden pants and a designer tank top. The gold looked pretty in the artificial sunlight from the little bulbs above the mirror. She had them all over the apartment because they supposedly helped with depression and sleep cycles and all that, but she’d still been staying up until six every morning. At least last night, it was for an interesting reason.

It all started around 1:32 a.m. with four simple words.

Daniel:  David Youngstone came back.

She’d been halfway through a bottle of expensive champagne, and the sound of her “Hah!” echoed through the apartment. Drunken Ella had been even more determined to believe this whole thing was a prank, especially once she’d realized Daniel Hale was the same guy from those ridiculous crocodile horror movies.

Daniel:  He came back through time because whatever you were planning on doing, it doesn’t work. You can’t do whatever you did. You need to do something different to save Jasmine.

Ella:  I’m not planning anything. How can I not do what I did when I didn’t do anything?

Daniel:  You haven’t done anything YET. He came back to change whatever you would’ve done if he hadn’t sent me to stop you. He said Noland needs to help Jasmine. He’s gonna try to go to Pasadena the day she dies. We need to stop him.

Ella:  Who the FUCK is Noland? I’m too drunk for this shit.

Their chat had continued, and somehow, over the hours, and in between arguing and obsessing about David Youngstone and his multiple supernatural visits, she’d spilled her guts about her financial problems and obsessive shopping sprees. Daniel didn’t judge her on any of it. He was a good texter, and funny, too. They’d typed many a LOL before finally crashing around sunrise.

She’d woken up today in the middle of the afternoon with a headache and more texts waiting for her, including an embedded video.

Daniel: Someone who was there uploaded this.

MAN FROM FUTURE PULLED THROUGH PORTAL, it was called. Its shaky footage depicted a city street at night, darting about as a woman screeched and some guy yelled “what was that?” again and again. There were other sounds, too, like the roar of some sort of animal and another man’s shout.

The camera focused on a glob of something in the air near the street lamp. It was hovering there, spinning in place, growing smaller with every rotation, and then it was gone. The end of the video went on to show a dazed-looking Daniel Hale and a few other eyewitnesses describing what they’d seen.

Ella:  Special effects are good. But it just looks like some gunk. I don’t see a portal or a man.

Daniel:  I know. They didn’t catch it in time.

Ella:  How convenient.

Daniel:  He said the earthquake would happen tomorrow. Do you want to maybe come over tonight? Once the clock strikes midnight, we can watch the news and see. Plus … I really enjoyed talking last night.

Ella: Well, it’s supposed to happen on the 17th. That could be anytime in the following 24 hours.

Daniel:  You can hang out here for that long if you want. I’ll take the couch. Or you can just come the next morning. Or I could come there. Or not. Whatever.

Ella:  You provide the food and beverages?

Daniel:  Sure. I’ll order whatever you want.

That was all the motivation she needed.

Ella:  Then I’ll come to you. 24 hours. Unless you decide you want to throw me out.  

 

His apartment was upstairs in a small, quiet complex in Glendale. Daniel met her at the door. He wasn’t what you’d call unattractive, but he was no David Youngstone. Still, he gave her a nice hug, and he didn’t smell terrible.

His place was clean with decent masculine décor. A succulent plant and stone garden sat in the center of a glass coffee table. A carved swirl of dark wood hung on the wall.

She took a seat on the couch as he got her a beer. He skipped one himself, claiming this whole thing had sobered him up.

“Everything’s changed now,” he said. “I’ve changed. You can’t see something like that and not change.”

They got set up with their laptops on his coffee table, seismology websites open, the news on mute on the TV in front of them as soft piano music accompanied them in the background.

“You’re classier than I imagined,” she said, nodding and looking around. “It’s nice.”

“Thanks?” He watched her take a sip from her beer. “You don’t think it’s really gonna happen, do you?”

She gave him a sideways look. “Are you implying I’d come over for some other reason?”

“Can’t think of one more interesting.”

She snickered. He was right, and despite what looked like a pair of kissable lips and pleasantly sparse facial hair, she restrained herself. If they screwed right away, she might face all sorts of disappointments in the aftermath—not to mention during or even before. Plus, she liked him. What if he could be an actual friend?

“You’re an actor,” she said. “So, I guess you can understand why it’s hard to believe this isn’t bullshit.”

“I barely count as an actor. I’m a comedian, and I’m not famous.”

“I knew who you were.”

“The first thing you did was ask ‘who the hell’ I was.”

“Yeah, but I was buzzed and not looking at the picture. Anyway, what’s your point?”

“Do you know what it’d take to set up a stunt with that level of special effects on a residential street without anyone noticing? Something like that would cost millions of dollars if it were even possible. They wouldn’t use me as their guy. They’d use some A-lister.”

“Maybe they’re trying to throw me off.”

“Then why not use someone unknown? Why use someone from a cult movie franchise?”

“Okay. You have a point.” She nodded toward the clock on the news screen. “Guess we’ll find out pretty soon. It’s midnight.”

“Are you sure you still want to spend twenty-four hours with me?”

“Gets my mind off the treacherous road back from the hell I’m currently living in.” She shrugged. “What about you?”

“Same, kinda,” Daniel said with an awkward laugh. “And yeah, of course. You’re the only person I can talk to about this. You and my friend Nelson. He witnessed the whole thing, but I think he’s getting tired of me texting him about it.”

“You two have theories?”

“No, not really.” He slumped forward, hands on his thighs. “None of it makes sense. Why didn’t you see any crazy shit? Why just me?”

“Because it cost a million dollars, and they could only afford to do it once?”

“Good answer. Wrong, but good. At some point today, you’re gonna become a believer. So, we might as well start discussing how we’re gonna approach Noland.”

Ella let out a gasp. “I’ve got it. Maybe this is one of those shows where they test your morals by seeing if you’ll go out of your way to help someone.” Her eyes widened. “Maybe … if we help Jasmine … we’ll get a million dollars.”

“If it was that, they wouldn’t do the earthquake thing.”

“Maybe it’s a test. To see if we’ll try anyway just in case.”

“You’ll change your tune soon,” Daniel said, giving her a smirk. “I can’t wait to see the look on your face.”

“You shouldn’t look forward to the mass destruction of hundreds of thousands of innocent lives.” She glanced at the television, where a group of political analysts were discussing something the president had posted on social media.

“Is that what I said? Don’t play it that way. I feel bad, I just don’t know what I can do. If I warn someone—”

“It’ll open up a whole other realm of possibilities,” she said. “I know. I thought about it too.”

“So, you have considered this is real.”

“I considered the prediction making me famous, and me becoming a world-renowned psychic with my own talk show.”

“But you’re not really a psychic.”

“Yeah, but I think if I got a convincing head start, I could probably fake it from there.”

He shook his head and sighed.

“Yeah, yeah. I get it,” she said. “The big, scary earthquake is coming. Oooh. I’m bored. If we’re gonna pass the twenty-four hours, we’ll need to find something else to do other than just sit here.”

“We’ll have to sleep at some point.”

“That wasn’t what I had in mind.”

His eyebrows perked up. “Uh … What does that mean? You’re being coy.”

“Do you prefer direct? Okay. How about we use each other for sex to pass some of the time?”

“Um—”

“We know how this is likely to go. The earthquake won’t happen. We’ll see about Jasmine, and it either will or won’t get us a million dollars. But either way, you probably won’t talk to me again after this.”

“Why would you say that? I want to talk to you. You’re cool. As for the sex—”

“Too late.” She rolled her eyes. “I’m already bored of the idea.”

“What?” He let his jaw drop open. “Aw, come on.”

She laughed in her cruelest voice. “Eh, okay. Why not.”

She crawled over and kissed him. So much for restraint. Who was she kidding? She was Ella Wen. Lying to herself was part of the gig.

It was easy to get lost with his arms around her, but that wasn’t saying much. Sex was an escape, just like shopping, but its effects were less life ruining—if you were smart.

“You got a condom?” she whispered in his ear. She had some in her purse, but the more she spent on condoms, the less she could spend paying off her debt.

He didn’t answer.

She pulled back to meet his eyes. They were huge, stunned, and not focused on her.

“Ella.” He swallowed, raising a trembling finger toward the computer screen. “Do you see that too?”

She looked over her shoulder. There, on the map of South America, was a big red dot in the northern part of Chile.

No.” She pushed herself off Daniel and turned around. “That’s not possible.”

He furrowed his brow, dark eyes lit with the glow of the screen. “Magnitude eight-five.”

Her arms fell limp at her sides. “Well.” Her voice was dry. “Guess you don’t have to spend the next twenty-four hours with me.”

“You’re right,” he said. “Figuring out how to save Jasmine might take a lot longer than that.”

__

 

Discover more of the story in BEYOND MY DYING MIND, available now on Amazon.

 

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Release Day!

Release day for BEYOND MY DYING MIND is finally here, and on World Book Day nonetheless! I didn’t plan that, but it feels like a happy coincidence, and I’ll take it as a sign that I’m headed in the right direction.

Much Gratitude

I’d just like to thank everyone who supported me throughout the writing process. My family, my close friends, my Youtube subscribers, and all of my friends on Twitter, thank you. Thank you to my wonderful editor Amy McNulty and my awesome formatter Kelly Hashway. Thanks also to my team of early beta readers whose opinions helped push this book in the right direction.

A special thanks also to every kind and compassionate person out there for making this world a better place. This might be a time-travel/afterlife fantasy on the surface, but at its core, it’s a book about mental health and the ability to find happiness in a life full of  rough ups and downs. I know firsthand how hard that is, and I appreciate everyone who makes things a little bit easier.

What to Expect From Here

Please subscribe to this blog to stay up to date on what’s to come. I’m working on a six-part series of shorts that tie in to BEYOND MY DYING MIND as well as some of my future books. I’ll hopefully be posting part one within a week or two, so check back soon!

The next book I plan to work on is one of my favorites. I started writing it back in 2013, but inspiration kept leading me in other directions. It’s not a sequel but rather another standalone that loosely ties in with BEYOND MY DYING MIND. More info on this project coming soon!

In the meantime, I’m going to be making some improvements to my living situation, and possibly taking some time off to travel and enjoy life after a long period of hard work. Maybe I’ll start some of the video projects I’ve been pondering too. Lots of good things on the horizon!

 

 

Beyond My Dying Mind: A Life of Struggle, and the Chance to Make Things Right

Hello world. It’s happening. I’m a legit author with a book on Amazon again. I have no idea how to feel or where to go from here.

I don’t have a marketing plan. I don’t really have much experience. Since the story involves all these triggering subjects like suicide, social anxiety, and the afterlife, I want to discuss it with sensitivity, but I’m not sure how. What’s the correct way to promote a book in which characters travel through time to stop people from killing themselves? How do you send a message of hope and inspiration to help people stay alive in this world when you’ve struggled with the idea so much yourself?

Wanting Off This Rock but Wondering if the Next Rock Might be Worse

 

The book stars Noland Randall and Jasmine North, both in their early thirties before death, both losers in their own eyes. Now, in some in-between realm where souls often end up post-suicide, they can see there would’ve been much happiness had they kept going.

One of the factors that’s kept me breathing during the darkest times in my life is the belief that killing one’s physical body doesn’t end anything. I could never get past the idea that I’d wake up in some twisted realm like Spine Desert, the opening location in the book. Or worse, that my death would force the burden of suffering onto others, both the people left behind, and perhaps a new existence too, reincarnated into a world like this one carrying similar negative patterns and traits.

I’m happy to say I’m doing pretty good these days, but mental health is a delicate thing that can never be taken for granted. That’s a point I tried to make in this book. Even if someone is saved from suicide, they aren’t cured. They could still become suicidal again a week later. Staying healthy and happy is a process with no end point.

Social Anxiety | I Love You, but I’d Rather Jump from a Moving Vehicle than Interact with You

 

Not really. But that’s how intense social anxiety can feel. Terrifying. Crushing. Exhausting.

Since the living Jasmine’s crippling social anxiety plays such a huge role in the story, I thought discussing my own experiences might be a way to introduce this book to the world.

I can be social at times. If I’m in the mood, I can talk with someone for hours, and I enjoy meeting new people, too. But often, I prefer to be in my own world, and sometimes, even after a lot of time healing, I find it difficult to be around people at all.

If you’ve experienced social anxiety, I know you relate to the waves of dread rolling over your body. The thumping heartbeat. The shaking hands and trembling knees. The way it feels to see yourself become a high master in the art of avoiding people, leveling up your game every time you make a successful dodge. For the living Jasmine, this was her everyday life.

What’s helped me the most with social anxiety has been self-acceptance. Most of my anxious feelings and fears are just about wanting to avoid awkwardness, and the only reason for awkwardness is not being able to be yourself or speak the truth.

That’s the point of this blog. To say sorry if I’ve abandoned conversations, ignored messages, or not shown up to things. Sorry if I’ve ever avoided you in person. It’s not about you. I’m probably cool with you, and I might even like you. It doesn’t mean I always want to talk. The more I understand myself, set boundaries, and give myself permission to say no to things, the less reason there is to worry. And in turn, the more energy I have for people when the timing is right.

It’s the same for the living Jasmine, she just can’t see it. She’s spent so long isolated in a prison of her own creation that she’s lost the exit door. Because of her anxiety and PTSD, she thinks there’s no hope of ever having friends or being a healthy person again. Whether Noland can manipulate the course of life on Earth enough to change that in time, the story will tell.

If the Most Amazing Person was Standing in Front of You, Would You Feel Good Enough for Them?

 

This book tells of hungering for someone who feels out of reach. I’ve known that feeling. I’ve asked myself the above question and gotten no in response. It showed me what I still needed to work on. Healing is a process, and there are no quick fixes, but life is bursting with abundant potential, even if we can’t always see it. That’s the overall message I hope comes across in this book.

__

 

Fans of What Dreams May Come, The Butterfly Effect, and 13 Reasons Why might enjoy BEYOND MY DYING MIND, a time travel fantasy available on Amazon.

BMDM_COVER_FINAL VERSION

Blog Revival: Changing too Fast to Keep Up

Hello everyone. First of all, major thanks to the lovely Devon J. Hall, who designed my beautiful and mysterious-looking new banner, which I could stare at forever! 🌺

The Usual Catch-up Stuff

This past year has been transformative. So many changes, too personal and massive to get into but worthy of mention. I took a break from this blog due to being too burned out on writing and having no idea what sort of content I wanted to do. I switched my focus onto Youtube, which led me to a similar conclusion. I’ve been struggling to connect to my true vision for so long now.

The difficulties of needing income can lead you down the wrong path, but intuition always helps me readjust and go in a better direction. After chasing various dreams the last few years, I now see how unhappy I’ve been, and why it’s been so hard to manifest what I want.

I’ve spread myself too thin, pushed myself too hard, and hated myself way too much for not being successful. I’m now moving into a chapter of my life where I’m learning to accept myself easier. I just want to enjoy the ride, manifest what I can, and write as many great books as possible along the way.

Book News and the Plan for the Blog

I have a new book that’s going to beta readers in August. It remains top-secret until more of the details are figured out, but it’s a low/portal fantasy love story about an afterlife for suicides and a couple trying to right the wrongs they did on Earth. I’m nervous! This will be the first time my writing has been seen by outside eyes since I was still published.

I’d like to start using this blog for flash fiction and short series that interlock with my books. The process of writing books involves going through the story over and over, seeing it differently and learning things about what happened each time. I’m trying to streamline this best I can, but I also want my books to be perfect for you guys. While I’m working on that, it will be fun to experiment with shorter fiction and share whatever I come up with.

Creating Original Creatures: Inspiring Monster Lore from Around the World

One of the hardest parts of writing creature fiction is coming up with original ideas. It doesn’t matter whether your monsters are located in the physical or spirit realm—making frightening entities that people haven’t already seen zillions of times is tough. From things that mimic every form of insect, to gigantic, shapeless alien blobs, it probably exists out there somewhere.

There’s nothing wrong with creating a new story featuring classic monsters. As a long-time zombie fan, I know I’ll never get sick of reading or watching that genre. But if you’re like me, and you’re looking to create an original cast of horrifying creatures for your next book or film, you’re going to need to think outside the box to make your monsters different.

Monster Concepts: More than Just Design

It’s natural to start out by focusing on the physical design of your monsters, which is important. However, it’s often the other details about a monster that make it unique.

Some questions to ask:

  1. Why do your monsters do what they do?

Are they on a non-discriminatory path of destruction or going after certain entities? Is there a sentiment behind their actions, such as revenge, or are they driven by something more primal, like hunger? Are they individual entities capable of making their own decisions. Or, are they mindless drones?

  1. Where are your monsters from?

There are many places that monsters can originate from. Outer space. A giant crack in the ground. A gateway to hell. A scientific experiment gone wrong. If you’re looking for innovative possibilities for your monsters, consider giving them a unique origin. Any of the things I just listed still have new possibilities within them.

For example, aliens don’t necessarily need the “conquer and steal resources” motivation you see in a lot of stories. Is there another reason they are here? Think outside the box.

  1. How Do They Communicate?

Communication is another big factor that sets monsters apart. Look at the difference between the Anne Rice vampires and those found in the 30 Days of Night comics. The former are eloquent, well-spoken, and glamorous beings. They can go unnoticed or even pass as human in the right situation. The latter vampires are much more monstrous, and while they can also communicate, it comes off in a different way.

Another example: That iconic scene in the original Independence Day when the alien manipulates Dr. Okun’s vocal chords to communicate. That was a good example of using communication in an innovative way. Since the aliens did not communicate to mankind throughout most of the story, it made that scene even more powerful.

Finding Inspiration: Monster Legends

I’ve always loved reading about monster lore from around the world. Everyone knows about Bigfoot and Chupacabra, so I did some research and came up with three less-popular monsters to provide you some inspiration.

  1. Manticore

The Manticore is a creature from Persian mythology that seems to have a lot of variations. The general features include the head of a human with a lion-like body, the tail of a scorpion and rows of razor-sharp teeth. Legend has it that the Manticore uses its

venomous tail to paralyze its victims before devouring them whole. Some describe the tail as something that can shoot venomous spikes at enemies as well as function as a stabbing device.

The Manticore story dates way back to a dude named Ctesias, who was a Greek historian in 5th century BC. His detailed descriptions of the creature inspired Roman author and naturalist Pliny the Elder to include it in his book Naturalis Historia, which was super popular throughout the Middle Ages. According to Pliny the Elder, the Manticore could also mimic human speech—which ups the creepy factor by a lot if you ask me. I’ve always loved monsters that could lure people out into the dark woods by mimicking human voices. So wicked!

  1. Hungry Ghost (Preta)

The legend of Hungry Ghosts, also known as Preta in Sanskrit, originates from ancient India. It is believed that pretas are spiritual entities stuck in a hellish existence in which they feel a constant level of insatiable hunger, often for something disgusting, such as decaying flesh.

They have mummified skin, swollen bellies, and thin limbs due to starvation. Their necks are slender, and their mouths are too small to eat normally. Some pretas are said to be able to eat but not gain fullness and others can’t eat at all due to their deformed mouths. They must endure this terrible suffering due to acts of cruelty or betrayal that they may have carried out in past lives.

  1. Mongolian Death Worm

I was proud of myself for discovering a new cool monster I’d never heard of–until I realized the Mongolian Death Worm is such a well-known thing that Sean Patrick Flannery made a movie about it in 2010.

Legend has it that the worms, which hide out in the most isolated regions of the Gobi desert, are between two and five feet long and can kill a human via touch using its poisonous skin. It can also supposedly shoot corrosive venom from its mouth and electrocute victims from a distance.

In 1920, the Mongolian Death Worm was featured in the book On the Trail of Ancient Man by Roy Chapman Andrews. He described it as being

“so poisonous that merely touching it means instant death.” How he developed this theory is unclear, and unfortunately, no one has gathered any real evidence of the Mongolian Death Worm’s existence.

That said, many locals stand by the legend. And I’m a firm believer that things exist if enough people believe, so let’s make this happen, damn it! #MongolianDeathWorm2018

Well, that’s it for today’s blog. I hope you guys enjoyed reading about these creatures as well as learning some of my tips for coming up with original monsters of your own.

Love Andi

PS. Some people have asked about my writing. I am currently drafting book two in my series. The plan is to write the entire series before I begin rewriting and perfecting things, so it will be a little while before I release anything again. That said, I’m thinking of starting a fiction miniseries of shorts here on my blog to go along with the novels. I’m not sure yet, but if this would be something you guys would be interested in, please comment and let me know!

Also be sure to check out my Youtube channel, which is growing every day. Thanks!