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Michelle
It’s almost two years to the day since I found my lump. It’s been a year and six weeks since I finished active treatment (chemo, rads,). A year and a month since I started on Tamoxifen, so one down, four to go. Last year, I had peach fuzz for hair. Today, I can make a 2-inch ponytail. Yeah, I’ve come a long way, and if it hadn’t been for me doing monthly self-exams, things could have turned out very differently. My mammogram in Feb. 2011 was completely clear. I’ve seen it, had an amazing radiologist take the time to actually go over it with me last Nov. I’d had my doubts, you know, because how can cancer come out of nowhere? But it did, and by Aug 2011, the tumor was 2.5cm and in 9 lymph nodes, Stage 3. So I cannot stress this enough, ladies: do your monthly checks (or ask your partner, it can be fun, right?). If there is a history of breast or ovarian cancer, get checked for the gene. Be proactive.  If you love ‘em, check ‘em. I wish I had a T-shirt or a purse emblazoned with that statement.
Okay, that’s that. The point of this post is to update you about what’s next for me. I’m going to have reconstruction. It’s been over a year since my last treatment, so it’s time.
This afternoon, I’m having imaging studies to check the blood supply/vessels in what we hope will be the donor tissue. There are so many different procedures, and tissue can be harvested from various sites on the body: tummy (yes, please), thighs, butt, lats. These tests will tell us which we’re going to use. Guess which one I’m hoping for…
I don’t know if I ever mentioned it when I was blogging during treatment, but I had a single skin-sparing mastectomy of my left breast back in Aug. 2011. I left the right alone, I mean, she didn’t deserve it, she didn’t try to kill me. The left? There was never any question in my mind about which route I was going to go. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to my right breast even though the thought crossed my mind about a billion times a day that summer. Well, now, I’m doing it. I’m planning on a prophylactic mastectomy and immediate reconstruction for the right breast. No, I don’t have the gene. I actually have a choice about this, unlike the people we’ve been hearing/reading about in the news who are BRCA positive, but I’m ready now.
Why? Well, I don’t want to be stuck wondering and looking over my shoulder, waiting for cancer to sneak up on me again. I mean, it really did seem to come out of nowhere, and my only risk factor back then was my weight. Will it guarantee that I won’t get breast cancer again? Not 100%. Breast tissue is tricky, sometimes little runners shoot off from the main tissue BUT the risk will be very small after. There won’t be mammogram-induced anxiety to contend with every 6 months. Of course, there are the reasons I joke about: I’ll have a matching set. They’ll both be perky. I won’t have to lug the foob around. As you all know, I joked my way through the diagnosis and treatment in public while I was terrified OUT OF MY MIND and crying in private. It’s my coping mechanism and has been for a long time.
So at this point, I’m going for the studies today & tomorrow. I have to hunt down a front-close soft cup bra (have you tried to find one of those recently? Did you find one? Where?) and bike shorts. The surgeons have to come up with a date they can all be there. Basically, it’s a case of “when we give you a date, you have to take it.” There will be a few days in the hospital and then home. B will be surrounded by our family, which is good.
Thanks for all your support and prayers. I guess I’m asking for prayers again. I’ll keep you updated as we move through this process.

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So, yesterday I hit publish at my three go-to sites, Kindle, PubIt, and Smashwords and uploaded my latest YA paranormal/supernatural short story, Uninvited. The second installment in my Chosen series immediately follows Lost & Found in that the action takes place on Christmas Day (night). This story is told from Dimitri and Hope’s points of views. The zombies come a calling, Dimitiri and the Chosen run out to meet them head on. While they’re out fighting, Peter and Davis stay behind to keep an eye on Mariah, who isn’t happy that Christmas was interrupted. When the brave warriors return to base, the voodoo twins (as Hope calls them), two strangers with unknown powers, are visiting the trio. They vanish in a puff of smoke and the zombies invade the bunker. More fighting ensues.
Here's the excerpt I promised yesterday. It seems that short stories samples on Amazon and Nook appear to only cover the required front matter (title page, copyright/license notes, stuff like that. Occasionally a sentence or two might sneak into the 20%). Enjoy!

Christmas Day

*Dimitri*

Zombies don’t sleep and they don’t take Christmas Day off.
A thunderous banging on the access hatch above our heads penetrates my skull like a jackhammer. Bas wakes next; it was his idea to sleep on the upper level, almost as if he was anticipating the monsters would come calling. He rolls to his feet, grabbing the gun resting next to his pillow; it’s pointed up at the ceiling before he’s fully conscious. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I’ve lived a long time. Hope hops off the rickety sofa just as another noise jars Peter from his slumber. Daytime, nighttime, doesn’t really matter to any of us who live in the bunker.
“I’ll go out the cave entrance,” Hope says, buckling her weapons belt around her waist and adding a bandolier over her shoulder. Of course she stuffs several stakes through the loops. The girl likes keeping her weapons close. A sword in its scabbard is secured to her back; I think she may have worn it to bed. Not that she sleeps much, more like she cat naps. I think the reanimation process subverted her natural circadian rhythms, but that’s just a hypothesis. I haven’t had the opportunity to observe her long enough to know with any kind of certainty.
Bas nods once, moving toward the hatch, looking up the whole time. “Make sure Mariah’s okay,” he directs no one in particular, his unwavering gaze fixed on the ceiling.
Peter nods. “I’ve got her.”
Pauses between the impacts against the galvanized steel give way to a steady barrage that sounds like a smith forging weapons. The zombies are evolving. They’re using tools now. Just what we need, I think, frowning. Next they’ll be arming themselves. We really need to get out of this place.
Hushed voices on the lower level. Peter has moved Mariah. She, of course, thinks Santa came while she was sleeping. And, in a way, he did. Unfortunately, thanks to our uninvited guests, Christmas will be postponed. I hope she’s not too upset. Maybe Peter and Davis will give her a gift or two to placate her.
Bas’ head snaps down, his face in shadows; I see determination, anger, and confidence. Where once his hair would have fallen over his high brow, the currently short military style does nothing. “So, Nightcrawler, this is your territory. It’s your call, but my opinion is we go meet the bastards head on.”
“Hell, yeah,” Hope chimes in, gathering her thick dark hair in an elastic band and deftly securing it in a low ponytail. “Let’s get our fight on.” She rocks from side to side, a spark in her gaze. Sometimes that girl is too eager for confrontation. She lives life with a passion few possess. That’s what makes it so hard to understand why the virus that invigorated Hope changed the local residents into monsters. I suspect that it was some kind of targeted gene therapy or maybe the trace of vampire blood running though the Chosen’s veins was a contributing factor; I’m not a scientist, but it is the only explanation that makes sense.
I was one of the first vampires created. I was there when my maker made the Chosen to augment our forces in case a confrontation with his sister and her offspring became necessary. A little of their blood, a little of his, and it was done. A nearly immortal fighting force was born.
I shake my head. Focus! I silently demand. My mind wanders more now than it ever has.
Both soldiers watch me expectantly, awaiting my response, as if I’m their general or something. The military damaged them. Once upon a time, neither would have needed confirmation from me to implement a plan. “We’ll go. Peter and Davis stay with Mariah.”
“You got it, boss,” Davis replies, his voice thick. Sounds like someone slept cuddled up to his flask all night. He’s not my preferred bodyguard, but with Peter unable to fight, what choice do I have? Peter’s too young to withstand the sun for more than a few minutes anyway. Thanks to the perpetual gray cloud blanket, that isn’t usually an issue. But one day, the clouds will clear and then he’ll be a pile of ash. With our luck, that day is today.
Feet clang against the ladder leading up from below. Mariah pokes her head out from behind Davis. Peter stands behind them, atop one of the uppermost rungs. “Is it monsters? I don’t like them.” She frowns, a small crease marring her smooth forehead. “It’s Christmas.” The frown becomes a pout. “And I made everyone presents.” Her way of telling us to hurry back.
Bas and Hope don’t bother with body armor. It wouldn’t do any good against the walking dead anyway. They grab their army-issued sidearms and then gather an axe and long stake each. Blow the zombies’ brains out the back of their skulls and they stop. Or decapitate them and stab the severed head; that’s good for any number of creatures.
Crossing over to where Mariah stands, I crouch before her. “We’ll do presents when we get back.” The insistent clanging resumes. I grimace before flashing a smile meant to comfort her. At least the zombies aren’t smart enough to figure out when a tactic isn’t working. Mariah glances up with fearful eyes. “Hey. Hey, look at me,” I coax. Her head snaps down. “They’re not getting in here.”
Huge hazel eyes meet my gaze. “Promise?” Her voice quavers.
“Promise.” I smooth her hair and flash a reassuring smile before standing to face the two Chosen. “Let’s go.”

The sky has only begun to darken. About an inch of snow covers the ground. Dry stalks poke up in tufts, seeking the light. We slept through Christmas. Too bad Pete can’t help us topside. Focus, I silently command.
I scan the forsaken streets. In the fading light, amid the rubble, dozens of abandoned cars clog the roadways. All possible hiding places. All potential weapons. “Bas!” The dark haired youth turns. “Rig those to blow.”
I half-expect an argument, but instead he simply nods.

* * *

*Hope*

There are so many of them standing near the metal hatch cover. At first, they don’t seem to know I’m here. Trying to be as stealthy as possible, I hunker down and duck-walk toward the one slamming a garden shovel against the circular steel lid. The boys are somewhere on the other side of these things; they used the lab’s emergency exit, but the zombies are too stupid to know it’s even there. Gritting my teeth, I try to block out the incessant clanging. It grates on my nerves.
The wind lifts the bottom of my shirt and blows my hair off my neck, carrying my scent right to the enemy. I freeze. Every muscle tense, I wait what feels like forever before resuming my steady crawl forward. The gray-skinned creature doesn’t notice anything new; he continues bashing the spade against the locked hatch.
Thankfully the magic potion that wackadoo scientist, Dr. Wilson, used to bring me back didn’t change me too much, except my state of death, because I would not want to look like one of these things. They ain’t pretty: stringy hair, ash gray skin, colorless lips. Never mind their varied states of decay. I can’t imagine not being able to think, focusing on the hunt all the time. No thank you. Not for this chick. Life’s more than surviving, although that seems to be our theme lately.
The funny thing is, what’s left of the government—the suits rumored to be hiding beneath a mountain somewhere in what used to be Nevada—thinks a bunch of people they essentially turned their collective back on will come to their aid. Wrong. The only reasons there are any functioning military units anywhere in the desert southwest is because 1) the vamps don’t want the territory and 2) people like me and Bas. We’re Chosen. We’re the ones people turn to when there’s a monster to be dealt with. Once upon a time, there was a bunch of us running around, staking things and cutting their heads off, keeping people safe. Vampires used to be my gig, but with the zombies’ arrival, I broadened my horizons.

© 2013, Michelle Moklebust
Thanks for reading. To read more, you can find Uninvited here:
Kindle:   http://www.amazon.com/Uninvited-Chosen-ebook/dp/B00C6AG8VW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1365098571&sr=8-1&keywords=uninvited+moklebust
Nook:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/uninvited-michelle-moklebust/1114981266?ean=2940016602622
Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/302440
Sometime, hopefully soon, Smashwords will be distributing Univited to Apple, Sony and Kobo (it made it into their Premium Catalog!). You also don’t need an eReader to read my ebooks because B & N and Kindle offer downloadable apps for free! If you’ve read any of my stories and enjoyed them, please return to the retailer and leave a rating, or a review. Word of mouth and reader recommendations are essential for any author.

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This week is “Read and Ebook” week at Smashwords and I am participating in this promotion which runs through March 9th. If you go to Michelle Moklebust, Writer on Facebook, you can find the coupon codes that you can use at checkout to get Ghost Whispers for 0.99 and Lost and Found for free! Now, of course I want everyone to rush over to Smashwords and buy my books, but that’s not what this blog post is about. Today I am posting as a reader. (I know, most writers are readers, that goes without saying.)
The other day, on my Facebook author page, I posted a question asking readers if they were reading an Ebook in honor of Read an Ebook week and to share what they are reading. The big omission: I haven’t yet posted the title of what I’m currently reading. And here’s why: I have so many books on my Nook that I don’t know what to read next! (I know, what a dilemma!) I just finished a YA book written from an alternate POV from the original, but I’m still deciding if I liked it; I’m not really sure if being able to get inside the other main characters’ heads added anything to the series for me (but that’s another blog post.)
Anyway, when I used to go to the store to buy novels, I might buy one or two at a time and then read them before running out to the local B & N to buy more, but then I started running out of room on the bookshelves at home because I always kept the entire series worth of physical books until I finished a series. That’s when I got my eReader.
For the past 2 years, with the 24/7 access made possible by not only my Nook, but the Kindle app on the laptop and Amazon for physical books, I can buy a book whenever I want. And I do. Whether it’s a series I saw on the shelf at the store, or a new indie author I discovered while traipsing around the internet or saw on FB, I download the story. At this point, my virtual TBR pile is probably the largest of any TBR pile I’ve ever had. And since my Nook is backlit, I also read at all hours, particularly if I can’t sleep. In short, my Nook has completely changed my reading and book buying habits, for the better I think. I read a wider variety of fiction, take chances on stories I never would have discovered had I simply stuck with books from the brick & mortar stores.
So this got me wondering about other people’s reading habits. Do you prefer Ebooks or physical books? Also, how have Ebooks changed your reading habits?
I’m going to go figure out what to read now . . .

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Author page at Amazon’s AuthorCentral… check

(New) author page at Facebook… check (finally)

Author website… well, uhm, you know, ah, not yet. I’m working on it. Hopefully, I will procrastinate less than I have been with the afghan I began crocheting for B when he was about 3.(That translates to several years!)

Twitter… nope, add to the to-do list.

Every time I click “like” on an author’s FB page, or I add someone’s blog to my favorites, I feel like I’m dipping my toe in the stalking pool, but there are people who are willing to share their experiences and knowledge, so I should take advantage, right?

I realize I didn’t put the cover of Lost and Found or links to the story on the new FB page, but that is because I am trying something out. I envision Lost and Found as part of a series about vampire/monster/zombie hunters/fighters. At the moment, I am planning a series of short stories, but if I find myself writing a longer piece, I won’t say no. I also think I may upload a newer version of Lost and Found containing both Christmas Eve (the original title) and Christmas Day.  Other stories are running around my head, and there are some that I want to revisit because I think they might fit into this universe.

And if anyone can point me in the direction of a (reasonably priced) freelance editor, let me know because that NYS Certification has not happened yet. My applications are still “ready for review” with a bunch of “unmet”(s)’ next to all the items under the automated evaluation history link.

In the meantime, here’s an excerpt from my current WIP, Christmas Day, from Hope’s POV

The funny thing is, what’s left of the government, the suits rumored to be hiding beneath a mountain somewhere in Nevada, thinks a bunch of people they essentially turned their collective back on will come to their aid. Wrong. The only reason there are any functioning military units anywhere in what’s left of the desert southwest is because 1) the vamps don’t want the territory and 2) people like me and Bas. We’re Chosen. We’re the ones people turn to when there’s a monster to be dealt with. Once upon a time, there was a bunch of us running around, staking things and cutting their heads off, keeping people safe. Vampires used to be my gig, but with the zombies’ arrival, I broadened my horizons.

It’s survival mode out here in the streets of Southern California. Reaching over my shoulder, my hand finds the sword pommel. I kinda wish I’d thought to grab a long bow. I’m a crack shot, and an arrow through the forehead would be as effective as any other correctly aimed projectile.

©2013 Michelle Moklebust

Oh yeah, and about that website, I’ll let you know.

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Thanks again for all the support and encouragement. It means so much after all these years of hiding my stories under the bed, or on a hard drive. Lost and Found was first written about ten years ago, the original file is on a 3-½” disk. Remember those? I still get nervous when I put something out there, but my perspective has shifted. Mom keeps asking when I’m going to write a “normal” story, but that’s going to be a while. I’m working on an as-yet-untitled sequel to Lost and Found now. Like I said yesterday, this is a chatty bunch. Dimitri is the one speaking the loudest at the moment. I have some thoughts on the direction this series (I know, it doesn’t come up as part of a series on any product page, but there is a series of stories about this bunch of people hiding in my brain). I hope you enjoy getting to know them and accompanying them on their journey as I do.

Lost and Found is live at Smashwords, B & N and Amazon, although it’s still in the queue at Smashwords for premium catalog review, so for now, the only place you can download the story for iPad, Kobo or Sony is Smashwords. To find my story, include my last name in the search. If you try to use either B & N's "read instantly" or Amazon's "Look Inside" features, you won't actually get to see any of the actual story, just the pages I am required to include, such as the copyright and title pages. 30% of the story is available for sampling at Smashwords, since I can actually indicate what percentage to make available. So if you're a try-before-you-buy type and you're thinking about checking out Lost and Found, I'd recommend you go to Smashwords to get the sample.

In the meantime, here’s a peek.

The streets are deserted, and rubble crunches under my boot heels as I make my way, weaving among the piles of debris, toward the lab. It's the only place left standing in this town, if an underground bunker can be considered standing. We took up residence there shortly after what may very well have been Armageddon, as in the real deal, or at least our town’s version. The three of us, we're the only ones left. At least the only ones that still call this place home, along with a bunch of cadavers that don’t realize they’re supposed to lie down and be dead.

And one more tidbit:

Pausing outside her bedroom, I smile slightly. They're playing a game. Operation, judging by the buzzing and subsequent "bloody hell's." I nudge the door, which they left ajar, with my toe and wait for someone to acknowledge my presence. "Did you get dinner?" Peter asks. I rustle the bag in response. He purses his lips to hide the scowl forming there. "What I'd give for a live . . . a little chase . . . " His voice trails off. She stares with wide blue eyes. He gives her a sheepish grin. "Sorry. Lost my head." I shake my own in bewilderment. Even now, in this regressed state, Mariah can humble us with a simple look.

© 2013, Michelle Moklebust

Thanks again, I hope you enjoyed!

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I pushed PUBLISH at Amazon and B & N yesterday and Smashwords Sunday night! Lost and Found is now live at Amazon and Smashwords, but something is holding B & N up so I don't know how long it will be until the story goes live there. The first draft of Lost and Found was written many, many years ago; it is a short story that basically is about friendship and traditions. Of course, it wouldn't be my story if there weren't some vampires running around. I think I really like these characters, and if the sleepless nights I've endured since last week are any indication, they may turn out to be quite chatty. I've got titles (one of the hardest things for me to come up with, right up there with story descriptions) running through my brain, and basic plots floating around up there too, so I'm excited to get to the writing! At this point, I don't know how many stories there will be, or if they will all be short stories, to be honest. A first for this story: I designed the cover and I am really proud of myself because layers were something I was having a hard time figuring out, although I can't imagine I'll be doing a ton of digital darkroom work any time soon, I've got writing and promoting to keep me busy, and that NYS teaching credential to obtain. But I had a bunch of fun making my first not-practice cover. Thanks to everyone who has stuck by me and encouraged me to put my writing out there. I hope you enjoy the new story! (And if you do, maybe you could tell your friends and/or leave a review??)                                                                                                    

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It’s been a year.  12 months. That’s how long it has been since my last chemo treatment. Thank you Dr. Hahn (he referred me to my surgeon), Dr. Lai, Dr. Agnihotri, Debbi, Dary, AVCC’s chemo nurses, and Dr. Mittelman.

Last year at this time, I was bald, tired, and scared. Yeah, scared. I’ll explain that. Dary had been my chemo nurse for most of my infusions. She answered questions, gave me blankets, turned off the thing when it started to beep, and put up with my smart aleck way of dealing with everything I was going through throughout my treatment cycles. She helped me stay positive by bantering back with me, and she put extra Benadryl in my IV when I had my first Taxol treatment (“because you’re allergic to everything”) and only laughed a little when I started dancing with the IV tree because, after a brief nap, I was so hyper. Honestly, she and the other chemo nurses at AVCC helped me feel safe when very little else did (Mom excepted, of course).  

On 1/10/12, I walked into the infusion center for the last time. I would no longer be seeing the nurse’s smiling faces (although I could visit whenever I went to see the doctor) or packing up my junk to go hang there for 4 hours every other week (I looked like I was running away from home, what with my notebooks, Nook, food, water, sweatshirt and whatever else I took with me to pass the time). Things were changing, and admittedly, the goal had been to get me finished with chemo all along, but the prospect of going out in the world, no longer receiving the toxins designed to kill any cancer cells ballsy enough to hang around in my body, waiting to see what my scans would reveal, scared the hell out of me. Of course, there was good stuff about to happen too. I’d stop feeling so tired, having tummy aches, experiencing neuropathy in my toes and fingers (not entirely, my right foot still feels like I’m walking on bunched-up socks in my shoes, even when I’m not wearing either), no more shots that made me feel like my bone marrow was splitting my bones, and my hair could reclaim my scalp. Finishing chemo meant I’d fought back (with an amazing team and wonderful supporters behind me and together we kicked that cancer to the curb)… I think this is a cause for celebration, but that could be my own personal bias.

So, a year later, I’m able to finally clip a tiny lock of hair back off my face (yeah, not terribly stylish, but with the winds in Palmdale it was the only way to keep my hair out of my face and now it helps cool my forehead during hot flashes), my eyebrows are back (somewhat skimpier, but that’s what brow powder’s for, right?), and my eyelashes are once again able to defend my eyeballs from dust and other offensive things. Yes, as I’ve said, I’m tired no matter how much I sleep or doze during the day, I get hot flashes (I think between chemo and tamoxifen, my biological clock has moved on) that lead me to go outside in 30 degree weather without a jacket to cool off, but those are minor inconveniences, as is having to go get my port flushed (that’s my next goal, get that thing OUT!). I still get anxious about what scans will reveal, but I’m not letting that consume me. I’ll be discussing port removal, reconstruction, and my next scan with Dr. Mittelman next month. I am home with my family and that’s what matters. I've been able to help take care of Dad after his surgery (he’s doing good and getting into trouble, just like always), able to have Christmas with my family without worrying that all my laundry is ready to be packed for my pre-New Year’s departure, and shovel snow so Mom didn’t have to. So things are good. In short, I’m feeling  light hearted this week, and blessed. I’m still not sure what I was supposed to learn from this experience, but one day maybe I will. At least there will be more days to ponder and analyze and all those other things I tend to do when trying to understand and/or make sense of something. But I won’t dwell, because I am moving forward with my life. Very blessed, indeed.

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It's that time of year again...

And it has been FOREVER since I posted anything here. So much time has gone by, in fact I feel like the whole year just slipped through my fingers, yet it seems like chemo was ages ago. And I haven’t even hit my one year out anniversary yet. Crazy.

As many people know, I moved back home. Yeah, I live with my parents and my son. We’re whatever they call that set up, I guess. So far, B is adjusting, although I still occasionally hear “you know what I miss about California?” He misses his friends, of course. I miss mine. Pretty much I’ve been hanging at home. Dad had a heart valve replaced on Nov. 29, so I’ve been able to be here and play warden so Mom and Cheryl can do what they have to. I have to finish the educational history part of my NYS credential application. I’m really hoping they look at ALL the classes I’ve taken since I really, really want to get back into Early Intervention. Yep, preschoolers and younger. I know many of my teacher friends are cringing in horror thinking, “What is wrong with you, Michelle!?” but there are those who know exactly why…

Writing? Well, er, uhm, ahem… I bombed NaNoWriMo. I think I managed 7,000 words, although the actual manuscript stands somewhere around 34,000 words. I keep thinking the story is going to go one way, but Max and Dani, the main characters, have other ideas… I can say, it’s not vampires, which’ll make some people happy. That’s not to say there will never be vampires, monster hunters, or werewolves, but I’m taking a break, I guess. Of course, it feels like I’ve been taking a break from all writing because I don’t seem to be able to center down and just write. Maybe after the holidays. But Ghost Whispers is still available. It’s even gotten a pair of reviews at Amazon, which you can find here:

http://www.amazon.com/Ghost-Whispers-ebook/product-reviews/B009937TH6/ref=sr_1_1_cm_cr_acr_txt?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1

Anyway, thanks to those who took the time to review it! If anyone else has read Ghost Whispers and enjoyed it, maybe you wouldn’t mind to post a review…

I really need to get my WordPress site up and running….

I know I said before that chemo seems ages ago, when in fact it hasn’t even been quite a year. Well, a lot has changed.  I’ve got hair now, which my friend Kristy will say was really my main concern throughout the entire course of treatment. I admit it, it was. You know, people said previously curly hair would come back straight and vice versa or that maybe the grays wouldn’t come back. LIE!!!!! My hair came back curly/wavy (and it curls around my ears because it’s still pretty short and my sister is threatening to spray paint it red and call me Bozo!) and the grays nearly all seemed to survive the meds… What did come back different, you ask? It is a completely different texture. BABY FINE. Me with baby fine hair. Let that sink in. Yeah, it’s great for softness, but can I really get it to do what I want? Not without whips, lots of product, and heat. But it’s okay. I’m still here. My hair is just something to think about instead of dwelling on all the things that could spin me into post-treatment depression if I let them.

I’m on Tamoxifen and there’s a pretty bad infection at the original surgery site, but it’s slowly resolving. Tamoxifen makes me tired (like, really tired, although that could be due to my staying up too late, but I’d rather blame the Tamox…) and my energy isn’t what it once was (yet) but besides those two side effects, the worst one is the hot flashes. Some days are worse than others, but what can ya do, right? At least I only feel like I’m walking around on bunched up socks part of the time and really only my right foot nowadays; the finger and left foot neuropathy have cleared up, for the most part. We’ll be talking about all kinds of things at my Feb. oncologist appointment, including reconstruction and scans (since I think I’m due). I had ultrasounds and mammograms done in Nov. and I am happy to report that all seems well on those fronts.

Wow, this is long. If you’re still reading, thanks for stopping by. It’s been a heck of a year, but B & I are with our family this Christmas (and not at the mercy of the elements to see them) so it’s all good.

In case I don’t post tomorrow night, Merry Christmas!

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So, like I mentioned in my other LJ entry, Ghost Whispers is just $0.99 again, for a limited time, to celebrate Halloween and the Kindle edition. Which means it is available on all eReader platforms. If you don't have an eReader, you can download free eReader software/apps to your computers, smartphones, tablets, so no worries! 
Enjoy!

What's going on: A vampire named Ron is chasing Alexis because she tried to burn him so he wouldn't kill her. 

            Ron’s footfalls changed as his feet met asphalt. Half hopping, half running she took off. A car door slammed. Ron plowed into her from behind, bringing her down where the shoulder met the edge of the woods. Gravel bit into her skin. She flipped to face him, playing right into his hands. Desperate, she kicked him in what she hoped was his most vulnerable spot.

           The hands that had been holding her down disappeared. She kicked him in the knee, surprised by the crunch that was subsequently drowned out by his pain-filled howl. Scrabbling, she darted into the woods.

            “Give it up, poppet,” he growled. “I’ll have that fragile neck of yours snapped before lover boy can reach us.”

            Panting, she burst into a clearing. She’d explored the woods extensively while scouting for photo ops. There was one cave-like structure she favored for shelter when it either got too hot or rainy. Spinning, she tried to find the right path. She couldn’t locate it. Everything looked the same. Where is it? Chest heaving, heart pounding, she set off deeper into the woods. Ferns slapped her legs as she ran. She was forced back more than once by destroyed stone walls or downed trees.

            Entering a clearing, she scanned her surroundings for Ron, although it was useless. After all, he was the perfect predator and she’d never see or hear him until he willed it. Her blood swished so loudly it sounded like Niagara Falls in her ears. Her feet twisted and the knee buckled. Overcome by pain, terror, and exhaustion, she fell. Curling up on the leaf-strewn ground, Alexis covered her head with clenched fists.

            “There, there. Don’t despair, pet. You’re overwrought. After all, you are only human. I’ll make it all better.” Ron’s patronizing tone did nothing to set her at ease. The caressing voices of the twins had spoiled her. She let herself go limp when his hands dove below her body. “You’ve gone and made this personal. That was my favorite shirt.”

            Rousing herself from the possum posture, she turned her head, fully intending to watch whatever he was going to do. Swirling red irises mesmerized her. Dripping fangs descended toward her neck. She held her breath, hoping it wouldn’t hurt too badly, wishing she had made up with Phillip.

            A thick tree branch slammed into Ron’s temple. His grip faltered and she fell. Leaves crunched beneath her; sticks poked her torso and limbs. She rolled, coming to rest against a rock.

            Forcing her eyes open, she watched Chance haul Ron to stand, his face full of fury. He backhanded the bulkier vampire, snapping his head back with an audible crack. Ron moved to strike, but Chance blocked it easily. Ron knocked him flat with a blow to the chest. Chance’s muscles flowed like liquid when he rolled to his feet. Punches flew with blinding speed. Chance wrenched Ron’s arm from its socket. He broke one of the bigger man’s legs effortlessly; glistening bone protruded from Ron’s skin.

            Covering her eyes, Alexis curled into a ball, facing away from the combatants. She’d seen more than any sane person could be expected to handle. But she couldn’t block out the thuds, crunches, and cracking noises. Or the growls. They were animals fighting for survival.

            Something tore. Fearing the burly vampire had bested her body guard, she looked up. Ron’s head landed inches from her sneakers, his features frozen in a snarl, eyes staring accusingly. Wet dripping things stuck out the bottom of his neck. With a cry, she scrambled to her feet. Not caring where she went, as long as it was away from that clearing, she ran. Ron’s face followed.

            Plants and branches snagged her hair and battered her face, which she didn’t bother to shield. She tripped over a root, sprawling in the spongy undergrowth. A stream babbled somewhere up ahead. This was an unknown section of the forest. The trees here grew thicker, their green leaves blotting out the azure sky overhead, preventing the sun’s rays from reaching the ground. She continued racing through the underbrush, convinced Chance would finish the job Ron had started, if only to punish her for being stupid.

            The stream turned out to be a river, the current forming ripples and mini whitecaps at the surface. Grabbing a handful of rocks and sticks she turned around. When Chance appeared, standing a few feet away, she hurled her weapons at him. His hands deflected them easily.

            Backing up to the water’s edge, she tried to keep an eye on him and gauge the chances of surviving a plunge into the rapids. It didn’t look good. She squeezed her eyes shut.

copyright 2012 Michelle Moklebust

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And you know what that means. I said to check back in a few days for another excerpt from Ghost Whispers.
What have I been doing? Well, besides checking to see if the book was accepted into Smashwords' Premium Catalog (it was), I've been working on another story. I'm not really sure where it came from, it wasn't something I was planning to write, but these drawings showed up in my sketchbook unexpectedly, and I decided they needed a story. Now if I can SBICAW (sit butt in chair and write), each day, maybe I'll get somewhere with it. We'll see. As it starts coming together, I'm hoping to come up with a title. I don't know if other writers have this problem, but titles are THE HARDEST thing on earth for me, and since finding time to write everyday, keeping everything consistent and not wandering off on tangents is not an easy thing either (the few times I've tried to outline, I failed miserably at sticking to it, so for now, no outline)... yeah, you know where I'm heading with this.
Anyway, what else? I took some family pictures for a friend today. We went to this stream off one of the canyon roads near Palmdale. It was so pretty. But definitely a place for water shoes, because the insides of my socks ended up super filthy because none of us thought to bring towels. And then I fell into the stream. Yep, you guessed it, no change of clothes either. I think my left sneaker dried before any of my clothes. One of my feet slipped on a slimy rock, and then where it ended up was slimy too, so I wound up laying on my back in the shallow pool. But the water was nice and cool, almost cold. More importantly, I saved the camera and my backpack didn't accompany me on my swim, and since I have a tendency to drop cameras, I'm very happy. But I should have known I'd be going in, after all, I fell out of the raft when the ex and I went whitewater rafting with friends many, many years ago. At least I didn't have to point my feet downstream and ride the current! By the time we finished, I'd taken about 50 pictures, and a few blurry ones slipped past my cursory inspection on the camera's screen, but overall they came out okay. She was happy, and the prints look good.
Oh, right, I'm supposed to be posting a chapter, not babbling about other things. Well, thanks for your patience. I wish I knew how to put things behind a cut, but I don't, so I'll have to paste the whole thing here. Enjoy! (And if you like it, you can buy the whole eBook at Smashwords.com and Barnesandnoble.com for $.99 for a few more days.)



Ghost Whispers-Chapter One

Dr. Walla kept them late again, but Milena stayed with her, which surprised Alexis. Today’s topic had been the house in Amityville, the one the books had been written about. How long ago did that happen? she wondered. Jason, the Teaching Assistant, moved across the rows of seats as he passed out the tan papers that had been sitting on the table next to Dr. Walla’s laptop since class started.

“Finally,” Milena, her best friend, muttered. She ran an impatient hand through her wild, currently red, mane and shifted in the hard plastic seat. “Now we can go.”

“Let’s just get the papers. Vanessa said it’s easy extra credit.” Vanessa, their other roommate, was a dance major like Milena. The pair had met during auditions for the Fall Festival. They hit it off and Vanessa moved in in December. So far things were working out.

“Like you need extra credit.” Milena opened her designer bag and fished out a pack of sugar-free gum. Sometimes Alexis believed Milena could support the gum industry single-handedly. She declined with a shake of her head when her friend held the pink box toward her.

Jason took his time getting to them. The lecture hall was one of the larger ones on campus. The layout always made Alexis feel like she was sitting in a balcony at some Broadway theater, their seats were so high up. When he finally made it to the top of the stairs, he set two packets before them. Eyes fastened on Milena’s heart shaped face, he smiled shyly. They’d been in class for about eight weeks, flirting for about six. Alexis thought it was time the pair got together. If he didn’t ask Milena out, she was going to set them up.

Milena folded her papers and cracked her gum, smiling at him. A strange light entered his eyes. If he hadn’t looked back before turning around, he probably would have fallen down the steps.

Alexis read the handouts slowly so they could flirt some more. A clip art Victorian farmhouse that resembled a bed and breakfast sat amid cartoon tombstones. The professor was leading a ghost hunt at the old Kittridge house, about seven miles from school. An overnight trip, parental consent required for anyone under eighteen, and space was limited, although the first two hours were open to anyone who wanted to attend.

Milena rolled her eyes and blew bubbles while Alexis hastily filled out the necessary forms and scribbled her signature on the line. “You know I can’t go,” Milena said, a note of irritation coloring her voice. 

Their mothers had been best friends; they’d known each other since their diaper days. Milena’s mother had been an in-demand model who traveled a lot so Milena practically lived with Alexis and her mother growing up. They were closer than sisters. “I know it’s not your thing. It’s okay. Despite what people say, we’re not joined at the hips.”

“I wonder if Jason’s going.” She sounded distracted.

“Ask him,” Alexis chirped, closing the pen and dropping it into her bag. Milena’s cheeks flushed a delicate pink in response. As her best gal pal, Alexis pretended not to notice. Dr. Walla acknowledged the papers Alexis dropped next to the podium with a nod. “Let’s go.”

Milena cut the engine of the Mercedes and turned to face her. Her usually bright blue eyes made it clear she was unhappy with Alexis’ decision to attend the ghost hunt.

Blowing a copper-colored corkscrew out of her eye Alexis said, “I’ll call if I need to bail.” Pulling her phone out, she held it up for her friend’s inspection. “See. Plenty of bars.”

Milena pursed her lips and sighed. Her friend didn’t understand, and Alexis couldn’t explain why she continued to be interested in all things paranormal. After a momentary internal debate Alexis wasn’t privy to, Milena grinned and kissed her cheek. Her friend’s eyes sparkled beneath the dome light. “The least you can do is fill your address book.”

A small crowd milled around the front yard; some of the attendees loitered on the porch. Alexis expected her friend to roll her eyes. Instead, Milena leaned forward and said, “Look at all these guys! Maybe I should change my major.” Scanning the throng, Alexis silently agreed. The majority of them were definitely ogle-worthy. A few not so much, but she wasn’t there to meet men. Milena’s gaze returned to her face. “You have your mission.”

Gravel crunched under the tires as Milena backed down the driveway. Alexis watched the car roll away, her sleeping bag and backpack leaning against her ankle. She reached into the canvas bag for the digital point and shoot she always carried. Before she’d finally broken down and bought the slim Nikon, disposable cameras had accompanied her everywhere. The digital was much more convenient.

The house loomed ahead, its white exterior and gingerbread trim newly painted. The lawn was patchy and the planters empty. At least someone tries to maintain it, she thought. A light burned in the downstairs windows to the right of the front door. Keeping her eyes on the entrance, Alexis tried not to think of the chill March air, ignoring the visible puffs accompanying each exhalation. She looked at the other participants. Most of them were holding their jackets closed and stomping their feet in an attempt to keep warm. She couldn’t blame them, it was freezing, but what was allegedly inside made her so much more uncomfortable than the cold.

Bending, Alexis grabbed her stuff. If she didn’t go in as soon as the door opened, she’d probably call Milena for a ride home. Not an option, she silently reprimanded. Shouldering her backpack she was glad Milena hadn’t helped pack; without her friend’s assistance, luggage always weighed less.

The front door swung inward and people rushed forward, eager to get inside where it was warm. The backpack slipped. A masculine hand snatched it from the air before it plopped into a pile of slush. “Thanks,” she said, knocking into her gear’s savior as someone stampeded toward the door. A gentle hand steadied her. “Sorry ‘bout that,” she said quietly.

“Not a problem.” He looked toward the house. “Bigger turnout than I expected.”

“If we come for even an hour, Dr. Walla is giving us extra credit. I guess a lot of people don’t expect to do well on the next assignment.” Alexis accepted her backpack from him and slung it over her shoulder. Squinting, she tried to think of something to say. Nothing came to mind. “We should go in. Are you in the class? You look familiar.”

He smiled down at her. “Let’s wait for the rush to subside.”

He had at least a foot on her, which put him around six foot three. The breeze lifted his dark hair off his collar and sent wisps of her own into her face. Eyes so light they look gold met hers. He was really cute. “I’m Alexis. I take it you’re here for the overnight?” She gestured at his rolled up blanket, proud that her hand wasn’t shaking like her insides.

“If you two would join us, we could conserve the heat,” Dr. Walla announced from the door frame.

Her new friend invited her to proceed with a large hand. His fingers were long. Elegant. The movement was graceful. So unlike the rest of the guys in class.

She tromped up the short staircase; the middle step creaked. The foyer was large and could have been a room in its own right. A coat rack stood in the corner near the door, laden with coats and hoodies. Since there were no available hooks, Alexis kept her ski jacket. It might make a good pillow.

They followed the graying professor into a formal living room furnished with period appointments and antiques. Most of the others were sitting. Alexis chose a spot near an ottoman; her unnamed companion joined her. He was even better looking than she’d noticed outside. His features looked like a sculptor had created them. Maybe I should try to fill the address book, she thought, smiling.

Noticing her expression, he leaned toward her. “What’s going on?” he whispered. His voice was deep, the tone reminding her of silk.

It couldn’t hurt to flirt. She looked at him from under her lashes, like she’d seen Milena do when she was interested in someone. His full lips tipped up at the ends in response. “I just realized I didn’t catch your name.”

“Phillip,” he answered confidently, offering her his hand. She studied his face, allowing herself the pleasure of lingering. This was so out of character, and she felt the blush creep up her cheeks. He was beautiful. He had cheekbones any model, male or female, would kill for. His straight nose provided a midpoint in the perfect symmetry of his face. Accepting the proffered hand, she noticed how cool his pale skin was, as if he hadn’t had enough time to warm up yet.

His palm engulfed hers. “So how many of them do you think are going to leave?” he asked in a conspiratorial whisper. Alexis shrugged.

Dr. Walla launched into the lecture portion of the evening, recounting the house’s history. Phillip released her hand. Oddly disappointed, she grew hyperaware of him sitting next to her. She couldn’t keep her eyes from straying to his profile. As a result, she missed most of the story, but the professor had glossed over the house’s history in class. Phillip’s lips pressed together, like he was trying to suppress a smile. Stop! she silently hissed. If he caught her sneaking glances, she’d die.

The lecture lasted about two hours. When they broke for a snack two-thirds of the attendees departed, having earned their extra points and then some. Eleven remained, including Jason, Dr. Walla, Phillip, and herself. A couple of the hangers-on, Carmichael and Desiree, were part of the local Goth scene; she vaguely remembered seeing them in class. Vanessa and a girl named Amy sat on the sofa. Two other classmates, Jaz and Darick stayed, as did Dr. Walla’s niece Katie.

“Well,” Dr. Walla began. “Isn’t this a cozy group?” Underneath his turtleneck and corduroy slacks, the normally composed professor appeared nervous. With a trim figure and soft-spoken approach to delivering a presentation, he was a perennial favorite among students and there were often waiting lists for his classes.

He cleared his throat and nodded at Jason, who seemed jumpy. If these two, the only experienced ghost hunters in the group, were this apprehensive, what did that mean for the rest of them? Maybe she should have stayed home. If the instructors’ demeanors were any indication, anything could, and probably would, go wrong tonight.

Dr. Walla pointed to the equipment and explained each piece’s purpose then asked Jason to distribute radios and cameras as he laid out the plan. First, a quick tour and then setting the stationary sensors. Once lights out was called, teams would go room to room with the handheld equipment, including video and digital cameras, audio recorders and EMF detectors.

“This room will serve as command central,” Dr. Walla said as he wrote names on a portable whiteboard Alexis hadn’t noticed earlier. “Jason will salt the windows and entrances. Please take care not to break the lines when your team returns from its foray.” Salt the windows and doors? What haunted this place?

What am I doing here? she wondered. The room felt too small to accommodate their group. She needed to move, but that would lead to questions she’d rather avoid. Remaining silent and seated, Alexis clenched her fists atop her thighs. The only pieces of equipment she recognized were the cameras and the laptops. The rest was intimidating. Why hadn’t she left when she had the chance? 

“Hey,” a soft, confident voice said into her ear. Looking up, she locked gazes with Phillip and immediately forgot her trepidation. “You okay?”

No, she thought. Stupidly, she’d ignored the stories that were supposed to guide her actions and form her expectations of the night. She didn’t really know anyone. She didn’t know anything about how haunted this place was. Expecting the worst would befall them, her heart hammered against her sternum. Maybe the ghosts didn’t want them there. If they didn’t, what would they do? “Just a little nervous,” she admitted lightly but without conviction. Maybe he wouldn’t notice.

“Take a deep breath. Don’t worry about the machines. Just follow Walla’s instructions.” He winked and she smiled despite her rising anxiety. He looked completely unfazed.

“You’ve done this before,” Alexis stated.

His mouth quirked up in a crooked half smile that made him look closer to seventeen than twenty. “A long time ago. Come on. We’ve got the upstairs nursery.”

Alexis made an effort not to gape. Something about the baby’s room had struck her when Walla’d been talking earlier. It was a hot spot or something. Silently groaning, she chided herself for not paying better attention.

After climbing two sets of stairs, they turned left. At the end of the narrow hall a doorway stood open. More period furniture filled the room, which wasn’t as big as it needed to be to accommodate all of it. “It’s chilly in here,” she commented as they took readings.

Once he told the digital voice recorder the location and time, Phillip reiterated the nursery’s history highlights. He held the device toward the center of the room and invited whoever might be there to make themselves known. Something brushed by her and a child giggled. Whipping around, Alexis tried to locate the source of the laughter. No one. A ball rolled off a shelf and bounced. Phillip asked if someone there wanted to play. She didn’t speak; she really didn’t want to know. Another giggle floated to her ears. Phillip’s broad back was to her as he investigated something he found interesting. “Did you hear that?” she asked softly.

“It’s what we’re here for, right?” He sounded like he was smiling. What kind of answer is that, she thought, slightly miffed.

Something wound its way around her shins. She jumped. “What was that?” Scanning the room, she backed into a dresser, knocking over priceless antiques. Once she confirmed nothing was broken, Alexis closed her eyes. Breathing evenly, she tried to calm her nerves.

The mental pep talk designed to help her relax was interrupted by someone tapping her on the shoulder. Phillip was completely in view and there was no one else in the room. Pressing her lips together, she tried to slow her accelerating breathing. Another feather touch brushed along her forearm. She jumped back. A music box began tinkling.

Phillip, preoccupied with a crawl space door he’d found behind a nightstand, seemed completely oblivious of her situation and the various noises. The side of the white crib dropped unexpectedly and Alexis barely stifled a scream. Given his current position on the floor, there was no way it was him.

She had to get out of there. Her chest clenched, compressing her lungs, and her pulse thundered in her ears. Inhaling through her nose, she stepped forward and tripped over a pull toy that mysteriously appeared in her path. She hit the floorboards, and the thud finally caught Phillip’s attention. He set his flashlight on the floor.

Strong arms encircled her sprawled form and lifted her as if she weighed nothing, then gently set her on her feet. Her fingers rested on his upper arms as she regained her balance. The thin sweater he wore was very soft, his muscles hard. Her insides quaked, threatening to shake her into a million pieces. Phillip continued supporting her, amber eyes scanning her face. “You’re trembling.” He didn’t sound concerned; he sounded pleased. What kind of psycho was he? “Everything’s set. We should go.”

Not sure what the appropriate response was, she nodded. Muffled voices echoed around her, filling the room. He didn’t seem to notice, and that bothered her. 

When he withdrew his arms, the voices grew louder, more insistent. She stumbled. He caught her easily despite having retreated across the room to perform a final check on some piece of equipment. When he touched her again, the voices receded. He ushered her through the hall and down the stairs. The voices didn’t follow. Phillip’s hand remained on her back the entire trek back to the command center.

copyright 2012 Michelle Moklebust

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