Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Wednesday Briefs: In Pieces #31 (8.4)

Good morning and Happy Hump Day! If it's Wednesday, then it must be time for more flash fiction from the Wednesday Briefers! We're a group of authors who bring you our finest flash fiction every week, 500 to 1000 words, inspired by one of our prompts.

So the birthday boy has arrived? Will he be a little Southern gentleman? Or an entitled brat who thinks he can have what he wants? And what if he wants Ben? See what's happening in this week's chapter of In Pieces. Don't forget to visit the other Briefers and see what's up with them. Their links follow my tale! Enjoy!

In Pieces #31 (8.4)

Everything had been set into position by the time they arrived. Bright lights pierced the darkness around and in front of the stage. Ryan had half expected to see theater seats in place for Miles and his friends, but there were none, just a makeshift floor.  More freedom of movement, he supposed, for dancing to the music, if they were so inclined.

But that presented another problem—how was he going to use his laptop? He’d been assuming he’d just find a place somewhere in the audience, probably in the back, and balance it on his lap. Of course, he’d also assumed the party would be indoors.  He hadn’t expected to be taking notes while sitting in someone’s backyard. If he sat on the ground, he’d never be able to see over the teenagers, much less take photos of the band. Of course he couldn’t sit anywhere and do that, either. 

Photography involved a certain amount of movement. Glancing around, he spotted a metal folding chair sitting next to the stage and breathed a sigh of relief. If the band wasn’t using it, he’d ask Ben if he could appropriate it for his use.

As soon as they’d reached the stage, Ben had taken on what Ryan assumed was his professional persona.   Hopping gracefully up onto the stage, despite the robes of his costume, he inspected everything carefully, making sure it was placed to his satisfaction. Keanu and Aiden stood on opposite ends of the stage, tuning up their guitars, while Abby fiddled with her drums. Ryan noticed a strange contraption sitting at Keanu’s feet. When the bass player stepped on it, the lights began to change color. Ah, so this was their light system. Ryan had never seen one that was controlled from the stage. Made sense if you didn’t have someone outside the band to run the lights. The concerts he’d attended had always had a guy who ran things from the audience. Maybe they’d hire someone after they got to be more successful.

Jumping from the stage back to the ground, Ben walked away a few feet, then swiveled. “Aiden, sound check, please.”

Aiden obliged with a few random chords, then a quick riff. “Do you want me to wait till the end of the show to smash this on the stage?” he quipped.

“Whenever you want,” Ben retorted. “As long as you have a new one waiting in the wings.”

“Guess I’ll never get to be Jimi Hendrix, will I?” Aiden laughed.

“Since he’s dead, maybe that’s a good thing,” Ben joked. He cast a quick glance at Ryan and winked. 

“Okay, sounds good. Ryan, what do you think about…?” Whatever he’d been going to say was quickly cut off by the arrival of several teenage boys. Obviously Miles and his best buds. Ryan suppressed his disappointment. Whatever it was could wait until later, when they were alone in their room. That thought raised his spirits instantly.

There were six of them, all dressed pretty much alike in T-shirts and distressed jeans . Ryan couldn’t help but notice that these were no ordinary jeans the boys had gone to such pains to mutilate, they were designer brands. He wondered how their parents felt about such wanton destruction of expensive clothing. Personally, he thought the look was pretty trashy.

The boy who led the pack was obviously Miles.  Blond wavy hair dropped to his shoulders,  streaked with the same colors that Ben wore in his. Ryan remembered his father’s comments about having Ben’s pictures all over his room. Crush much? Miles’ neon green eyes were obviously the result of contact lenses, and his expensively perfect teeth were revealed in a smile that stretched from ear to ear. Ignoring the members of the band who were on the stage, he had eyes only for Ben and made a beeline straight toward him.

“Hi Ben, I’m Miles. I’m glad you could come.” He held out one hand to Ben.

“My pleasure.”  Ben returned the smile with one of his own.

“I got your CD as soon as it came out, listen to it all the time. You really rock!”

God, could this kid fangirl any more? Ryan shifted his weight from one foot to the other, wishing this Miles would just go away, then reminded himself he needed to be more professional, for Ben’s sake. He needed to get a copy of Salvation’s CD, too. He wondered what stores it was selling in? If nothing else, he could look at Amazon. They had just about everything under the sun there.

“I’m glad you like it,” Ben said. He tossed his  head, causing his hair to cascade in a colorful stream. Miles stepped toward him, reaching for his hair, as if he intended to touch it.

Ryan tensed. Teenager or not, he wasn’t about to allow this punk to get so familiar with Ben. But before he could say or do anything, Ben stepped back, away from Miles. “Nice to meet you, Miles. You’ll excuse us, won’t you? We need to finish setting up.” Not waiting for a reply, he reached for Ryan’s hand. Ryan gave it to him without hesitation, and followed him toward the stage. Ryan couldn’t resist taking a quick look behind them. Miles’ friends had crowded around him. Ryan wasn’t sure if they were consoling him or congratulating him on getting as close to Ben as he had. Whatever. He wasn’t going to get any closer. Not if Ryan had anything to say about it.

Ben steered them away from the stage, toward the shadows. There he kissed Ryan softly. “Thank you.”

Thank him? “For what?” Ryan asked, confused.

“Just for being there. And for being you.”

Ryan warmed at Ben’s words.

to be continued

Now go see what's up with the other Briefers!

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Book Review: Blue Exorcist, Vol 11 by Kazue Kato

Blue Exorcist, Vol 11   

Author: Kazue Kato
Publisher: Viz Media
American release date: March 4, 2014
Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/paranormal/210 pages
Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★

While Rin takes extra lessons to make up for getting a zero on an English quiz, Yukio goes to the Hall of Portraits to investigate one of the seven mysteries the ex-wires have been working on. There he runs into Shura, who is aware of the rumors regarding a certain portrait, which is said to show the observer the darkness in his heart. However, their meeting is no coincidence. She has come to tell Yukio he’s been summoned to go the Vatican the next day to give information on Todo, and she will accompany him.

Meanwhile, the ex-wires are tackling a different mystery, that of the statue of Johann Faust which moves at night. As they argue among themselves, the statue begins to move! As he observes Rin and the others, Yukio wonders about himself, wonders why Father Fujimoto chose to raise them, and if Rin is the son of Satan then what is he? Lost in thought he finds that he’s wandered into the Hall of Portraits. Or was that but a dream?

The ex-wires head to the Hall of Portraits after school, and find a cute doggy there, but it’s only Mephisto, up to his old tricks. He explains why this is the last mystery they can do, even though there are three others. The portrait in question is known as the family portrait, and it has recently become dangerous enough to require exorcism. The ex-wires must work together, each to his own strengths, to solve this mystery, and one steps forward to show unexpected leadership abilities. When the battle is won, Rin reminds Mephisto of his promise concerning the eye drops.

At the Vatican, Yukio has to agree to some harsh conditions and seal them with his blood! He tells them what he knows and, after he leaves, the matter of the Illuminati is discussed. It seems that they have spies within the Order! Two in the Vatican and one in the Japan branch. Shura is ordered to find the spy in the Japan branch.

A jealous Rin wonders why Yukio is meeting with Shiemi so often, but his brother is close-lipped about the matter. It’s not what Rin thinks – Yukio is helping to tutor Shiemi.

The Academy Festival is quickly approaching, time for the classes to decide what they are going to do. Rin suggests doing tonjiru and rice balls, which he can make, so his class goes with that. When he learns that on the second night of the festival a concert will be held featuring some bands that he really likes, Rin is ecstatic. Until he finds out the event is couples only! What is he going to do? He would ask Shiemi, but she isn’t a student at True Cross, and he knows few other girls. All of the male ex-wires have the same problem. Izumo turns them all down. Suguro has the opposite problem – he keeps receiving invitations that he has to turn down! Things take an unexpected turn when Shiemi suddenly shows up! Is this Rin’s chance to ask her to go with him?

I’m sorry there are no more of the seven mysteries to solve, it’s fun to watch the ex-wires in action, especially their interactions with each other. Rin has gained more of an acceptance from them, although they do remain aware that he is the son of Satan. I was confused when I noticed he keeps his tail out now, even at school, until I realized no one can see it who can’ see demons. Of course that includes his new friend Godaiin, who freaks out a bit when he sees the tail.

Mephisto is ever the troublemaker, while I still don’t know what to make of Takara. The Festival is a welcome break and a chance to see the ex-wires acting more like the teens they really are than wannabe exorcists. I like the growing triangle of Rin-Shiemi-Yukio, although I suspect that Shiemi’s feelings for Yukio are more hero worship than anything, and I’m not sure what Yukio’s toward her are. I’ve known for some time that Rin likes Shiemi, but maybe it’s good for him to think he has competition, even if it’s his own brother.

I dislike Arthur Angel as much as ever, but Lightning seems nice enough. I wonder who the Illimunati spy is. Takara is a too obvious choice. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see. Another good volume, bring on more!

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Wednesday Briefs: In Pieces #30 (8.3)

Good morning and Happy Hump Day! If it's Wednesday, then it must be time for more flash fiction from the Wednesday Briefers! We're a group of authors who bring you our finest flash fiction every week, 500 to 1000 words, inspired by one of our prompts.

Salvation is playing a gig at a teenager's birthday party. It's obvious the parents have money since they hired their son's favorite band to play. See what's going on in this week's chapter of In Pieces. Don't forget to visit the other Briefers and see what they've been up to! Their links follow my tale! Enjoy!

In Pieces #30 (8.3)

“Hey, about time you showed up!” Keanu suddenly appeared in the gathering gloom. Ryan hadn’t noticed before how dark it was getting.  “We’ve got most of the equipment set up already. Deacon’s taking care of the lights if you want to grab some of the last stuff. There’s a small stage set up out there.” He gestured toward the darkness of the yard. A stage? That was rather impressive for a private home. Obviously these people had money.

Abby spoke up before Ryan had a chance to say anything. “No problem. Aid and I are on it.” She tapped her brother lightly on the arm. He nodded, and they hurried off together, followed by Keanu.

 “Should we help too?” Ryan asked. He wasn’t sure how much assistance he could give, since he was carrying both his laptop and his camera. He didn’t feel comfortable leaving them anywhere. Although they’d probably be safe, he wasn’t about to take that chance.

“No, they have it. Let’s go check out the stage area.”  Ben hooked his arm through Ryan’s, but before they could put Ben’s plan into action, a tall silver-haired man emerged from the well-lit interior of the house and strode toward them.  He was dressed in a charcoal suit, but the jacket was unbuttoned, giving it a less formal look. As he drew nearer, Ryan noticed his hair hung in a small tail at the nape of his neck.

“Good evening, gentlemen,” he greeted them in a soft Southern drawl. “Would one of you be Ben Coulter?”

“That would be me,” Ben replied. “Mr. Champlain?”

“Guilty as charged.” The man laughed, a pleasant almost melodic sound. Ryan found himself instinctively liking the newcomer. “Sterling Champlain.” He held out his hand and Ben shook it. “I should have recognized you from the way you’re dressed. Not to mention your picture is plastered all around my son’s bedroom.” Mr. Champlain turned inquisitive eyes to Ryan. “And who might this be?”

“This is Ryan Fremont, our author,” Ben explained.

Champlain held his hand out to Ryan, who took it as well. “You have an author? That’s something I didn’t expect. I met your two young men already, the ones who are setting up. Tell me, what does an author do for a music group?”

Ben replied, before Ryan could even frame an answer. “Ryan’s a very talented writer, we’re lucky to have him. He’s going with us on our first major tour so he can chronicle our exploits and get our name out there.”

“Very interesting idea. I’m sure it will be a fine book. Glad to meet you both.”

“You as well, sir,” Ryan said. He was grateful that the growing darkness hid his blush at Ben’s words of praise. “I understand this is your son’s birthday party, is that right?”

“It is indeed. Miles has been looking forward to this for quite some time. We gave him his choice of what he wanted to do and where he wanted to go and all he wanted was to have Salvation come here and play for him and his friends. He’ll be so thrilled to know you’re here, Ben. Apparently, you’re his favorite member of the band.”

Ryan felt a flash of annoyance at this information, but quickly quelled it. Naturally other people found Ben interesting. That was all part of what he did. No reason to be jealous of Ben’s admirers. He was the one who held Ben’s heart.

“I’m flattered,” Ben said. “Where is Miles? I’d love to meet him.”

“Inside, entertaining. A few of his best friends came early, the rest should be arriving shortly. I’ll tell him you’re here. I’m sure he’ll be right out.”

“He’s already on his way, dear. Good news travels fast. ” They’d been joined by a middle-aged woman with well-coifed blonde hair and a warm smile.  She carried a silver tray on which sat dainty-looking glass cups filled with something colorful.

“Gentlemen, my wife. Ruby Champlain. Ruby, this is Ben and Ryan.”

“Interesting costumes your group has,” Ruby said. “I bet the Catholics aren’t very fond of them.”
Ben laughed. “I’ve never taken a survey, but I think they’d be less than impressed.”

“Would you like some of my hurricane punch, boys? It’s well known around these parts that I make the best punch in several counties.”

“Thank you,  ma’am, sound delicious, but can we take a rain check for the moment?,” Ben said. “Right now, I’d like to look over the set-up and do a sound check, before we go on.”

“Of course, of course. I’ll tell the boys to keep it short.”

“Thank you, ma’am.” Ben bowed respectfully to the parents, so Ryan followed suit. When the Champlains turned back toward the house, they headed out into the yard, toward the stage.

 to be continued

Now go visit the other Briefers and see what's up!

Monday, December 3, 2018

Book Review: Blue Exorcist, Vol 10 by Kazue Kato

Blue Exorcist, Book 10      

Author: Kazue Kato
Publisher: Viz Media
American release date: July 2, 2013
Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/paranormal/192 pages
Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

It’s back to True Cross Academy and on with classes for the ex-wires! While in class one day, Rin finds a fellow classmate who can also see demons apparently. His name is Godaiin, and Rin befriends him. Unlike Rin, Godaiin is disturbed by his visions and only wants them to go away. Rin promises to ask his exorcism teachers for a solution to Godaiin’s problem.

Meanwhile, Arthur Angel and his angelic battalion have a situation on their hands, one involving the Impure Princess! I guess we haven’t seen the last of this family! A new mystery arises, involving a demon-eater, and the matter of Rin Okumura is temporarily suspended.

Rin receives a dinner invitation from Mephisto – why, he has no idea. But he hopes Mephisto can help him solve Godaiin’s problem. Mephisto puts things into perspective for Rin, then tells him he has homework but neglects to tell him what it is.

Yukio finds the Consultation center of the True Cross Academy Japan branch is busier than ever, and wonders why. Lord Pheles summons Yukio and the ex-wires to a meeting at a decisively strange hour – eleven PM! – in order to assign them a special lesson. They are to solve the seven mysteries of True Cross Academy that the whole school has been talking about. But the only way they can do this is if they cooperate with each other.

The first mystery involves a mysterious form dressed in white that wanders the academy at night. The catch is that it won’t appear before women, so the girls have to sit this one out. Speak of the devil, there she is now! Go to it, ex-wires! Er, male ex-wires.

As the boys deal with this ghost, Mephisto is summoned by Arthur Angel and his battalion to deal with a sticky situation involving a Gehenna gate!

The ex-wires receive their next mystery assignment – a toilet mayuko in the girls’ dormitory! This time, the boys have to sit this one out, leaving Kamiki and Shiemi to take care of the matter. Why is Kamiki so reluctant to admit that Shiemi is her friend? While the girls go to it, the boys have their own preparations to make.

This series just gets better and better! We thought the Impure King was a done deal, and now here comes the Impure Princess! We only scratch the surface of that, rather delving into the seven mysteries of the True Cross Academy. The first one, involving the figure in white, was hilarious, while the second one brought out more of Shiemi and Kamiki’s relationship. I think that bathroom spirit was a cross between Harry Potter’s Moaning Myrtle and Mean Girls.

I enjoyed the encounter between Rin and Amaimon, though I frankly admit to hoping to see Rin thoroughly kick that guy’s a** someday. I enjoyed seeing Mephisto’s interactions with the angelic contingent. I really do not like Arthur Angel, and I hope Mephisto will bring him down to size, over and over.

The ex-wires are developing, learning how to work together and get along. The more I read of this, the more I like it. Keep it coming!

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Book Review: Blue Exorcist, Vol 9 by Kazue Kato

Blue Exorcist, Book 9   

Author: Kazue Kato
Publisher: Viz Media
American release date: April 2, 2013
Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/paranormal/200 pages
Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Rin has drawn his sword in order to battle the Impure King, to Mephisto’s glee and Yukio’s dismay. Rin decides he has to be who and what he is – a beast who burns everything. Meanwhile, Shiemi is battling to save Kamiki from the fungus which has engulfed her. Is she strong enough to save her friend?

In the aftermath of the battle, Yukio is furious, but Rin stands his ground. Yukio begins to see he may not always be right. Everyone retur5ns to the inn, where Tatsuma is healing and Mamushi is stricken with guilt for her part in what has occurred. Juzo attempts to console her.

Rin awakens to find himself lying next to Shiemi. She explains she came to check on him and fell asleep. Shura confronts Mephisto and demands to know what he has in mind for Rin. As usual, he’s quite enigmatic.

Juzo announces he is taking Mamushi’s hand in marriage, although she hasn’t agreed to accept his offer. The ex-wires amuse themselves at Rin’s expense. They pretend they have to listen to him because he’s Satan’s son, even as they explore Kyoto. Finally, it’s time to leave – but not back to True Cross Academy. The ex-wires are told to get some swimsuits, they’re going to the beach!

This concludes the Impure King arc – at least I think it does. Rin is coming to terms with who he is, and so are the others. Yukio not so much. But he has his own baggage, and sometimes it’s hard to let go of preconceived notions about one’s family.

The beach story about a forgotten god is great, and Juzo and Mamushi are hilarious. I can’t help but feel he’ll wear her down with time. Rin is every bit as headstrong and impetuous as he ever was but he is finally learning some measure of control. Mephisto is as devious and conniving as ever, but down deep, I think he has Rin’s best interests at heart.

Another great volume, looking forward to more.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Wednesday Briefs: In Pieces #29 (8.2)

Good morning and Happy Hump Day! If it's Wednesday, then it must be time for more flash fiction from the Wednesday Briefers! We're a group of authors who bring you our finest flash fiction every week, 500 to 1000 words, inspired by one of our prompts.

Ryan is going with Salvation on their first gig since he joined them. That must be exciting, right? See what's going on in this week's chapter of In Pieces. Don't forget to visit the other Briefers and see what they're up to! Their links follow my tale! Enjoy!

In Pieces #29 (8.2)

The reason for Ben’s words became apparent as they approached the overly large bridge that bisected Lake Pontchartrain. Ryan groaned.  Oh no, not again. Why hadn’t he bothered to find out where Thibodaux was? At least he would have been better prepared for this.

He swallowed hard, determined not to be the baby he’d been the last time. Bad enough Ben had witnessed his panic. He didn’t want to add insult to injury by embarrassing Ben in front of Aiden and Abby, although he wasn’t sure he could pull that off since he felt close to freaking out again at the sight of the bridge.

But his worries turned out to be groundless. Ben was amazing. He forestalled any attack of nerves on Ryan’s part by distracting Ryan with gentle kisses and soft words. Ben kept Ryan’s attention so focused on him that he had no time to worry about the bridge or the lake or anything but the man who touched him so tenderly. Before he knew it, they were on the other side of the lake, crisis averted, and hopefully Aiden and Abby none the wiser.

If either Abby or Aiden had noticed anything of what was going on in the back seat, they kept it to themselves. One of them had turned up the radio—a soft jazz station—in lieu of conversation, for which Ryan was grateful.

Ryan laid his head against Ben’s chest, inhaling his scent and his warmth, burrowing into him. Ben’s arm encompassed him,  comfortable and familiar, and oh so good. It wasn’t until they’d passed through Metairie, and were driving out into more rural areas that Ryan realized, with a guilty start, what he was doing to Ben’s costume.

He attempted to sit up, but Ben held him firmly. “What’s the matter?” Ben asked.

“Your clothes. I’m messing them all up, and you need to perform tonight,” Ryan said softly. How could he be so selfish? Ben was going to work, and for that matter, so was he. They weren’t teenagers anymore, and they weren’t on a date. He needed to learn better self-control where Ben was concerned.

“So I’m a little rumpled.” Ben laughed. “It’s going to be fine. These kids won’t even notice. Trust me. C’mon, baby, just relax.” Ben coaxed Ryan into his former comfortable position. He could feel Ben’s heartbeat, strong beneath him. He closed his eyes and let himself accept the security Ben’s embrace afforded. How times had changed. Once he’d been the one who offered Ben his strength and held him in the darkness of the night. Now Ben was his haven. His home. His heart.

If only he could stay there forever, safe with Ben, and forget about the rest of the world. How amazing would that be?

All too soon it seemed they arrived at their destination. From what Ryan could see of it in the fading light, the house where the party was to be held was a stereotypical Southern mansion-style, with large columns in the front and a wide veranda. The kind where genteelly dressed ladies and gentlemen sipped at mint juleps and fanned themselves in the moist Southern heat. The drive wound around the house,  toward the back, probably used as an entrance for trades people and other non-guests. Sure enough, the equipment van was already there, the back doors open, but no sign of Deacon or Keanu. Aiden parked Cameron’s car behind the van, and they all got out.

“I bet this place has a ballroom and everything,” Ryan speculated. Hell, even the back of the house looked elegant. He thought Cameron’s house was nice, but it was nothing like this. Then again, didn’t Ben say it was his second home, not first?

“They do, but we won’t be going inside,” Aiden said.

Ryan must have looked startled at that. “It’s an outdoor concert,” Ben explained.

“Friends and relatives of the birthday boy?” Ryan asked.

“About fifty kids his age, I think,” Ben said. “I’m not sure. Marge handles the details, then she tells us where to go. Ours not to reason why.” He winked at Ryan.

to be continued

Now go see what's up with the other Briefers:

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Book Review: Blue Exorcist, Vol 8 by Kazue Kato

Blue Exorcist, Book 8   

Author: Kazue Kato
Publisher: Viz Media
American release date: November 6, 2012
Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/paranormal/200 pages
Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

As the ex-wires are breaking Rin out of his solitary confinement, Yukio comes face to face with the architect of their troubles – Saburota Todo. Todo taunts Yukio about Rin in order to distract him. Meanwhile, having freed Rin, the ex-wires come across the injured Ossama. Not only that but they find that the Impure King is not only huge but beginning to resemble large buildings. Kamiki and Shiemi offer to take Suguro’s father to where he can received medical assistance, while the others take on the Impure King. From his lofty perch high above them, Mephisto observes but does nothing.

Todo tries to get Yukio to admit he hates Rin, in an effort to divide them. Will Yukio fall prey to a case of sibling rivalry? Kuro takes on his huge demonic form, and allows Rin and Suguro to ride him toward the Impure King. Suguro is to put up the barrier – if he can. After that, they aren’t sure what to do, since Rin isn’t able to draw his sword. Rin teases Suguro, calling him Princess, while Yukio thinks back on life with brother Rin. However, Yukio is not without tricks of his own.

Everyone has their job to do. Shima and Koneko fight their way through the forest, trying to get through before the sac bursts. But doubts assail one of them. They tried their best, and it seems futile to go on. No one will blame them for saving their own lives by running from danger. Isn’t that the sensible thing to do?

There is a lot going on in this volume of Blue Exorcist, and people are looking inside themselves for answers and solutions. Defeating Todo and his Impure King will be no easy task. Everyone must work together or they’ll all fall. Something I was wondering about in the last volume ends up being addressed in this – namely, does Yukio have any demon in him? While we are not given an answer, that is something to ponder.

The fight against the Impure King has become a very interesting arc, and I’m enjoying the character development. I’ve forgotten to mention that some of the volumes have bonus stories. I have to say some are better than others. I am really enjoying this series and look forward to seeing what comes next.