“Worth Dying For” [Pacific Rim]

After the sealing of the Breach and the ensuing celebrations, the crews continued to work. Not to advance the cause of the Jaeger program, but to mourn and honor their dead.

The salvage crews returned to the Shatterdome what they’d managed to find of Cherno. Of Typhoon, too, though the crimson debris didn’t interest Ein so much as the burnt and twisted ochre metal.

The left leg was nearly intact. The right hand, as well. No sign of the torso, though. Or the head. Destroyed in the battle with Otachi and Leatherback, they said. The details didn’t matter. The Jaegers were gone. Their pilots were gone.

Sasha was gone.

In the week since that terrible night, he’d had time to come to grips with that fact, though it didn’t make her loss any easier to swallow. He’d never again hear the steady tread of her boots as she walked toward her Jaeger, never again smell the clean scent of her sweat as she stepped from her Conn-Pod, never again see the quirk of her red lips as she’d train to the technical beat of her Ukrainian electronica.

The rest of Cherno’s J-Tech crew hated that music, but no one ever said a disparaging word about it within Sasha’s earshot. Ein liked it, though. Sort of. That Sasha enjoyed it was enough. He’d even asked her for a sampling, to which she’d smiled – smiled! – and promised him a datapin of her favorite tracks.

He’d fallen in love with her the moment she’d smiled at him. And just standing in the shadow of Cherno Alpha, under the gaze of such a woman, had been his reason to work, and strive, and fight.

Now, the weight of her sacrifice made Ein crumple on his bunk, that same datapin full of music files clutched in his hand.

The door clanked and belched with a pressure change, but he didn’t look up, instead groaning, “Not now, Albert.”

His brother had been trying for days to coax him from his self-imposed hell, with ploys and promises more fitting the privileged, selfish boys they’d been growing up in Ulm than the men they’d become: drunken challenges along Hong Kong’s stretch of dingy dives, scavenger hunts for the K-Science teams in the seedy black market maze, even amorous adventures in the city’s red light district. It was stupid. Pointless. And it dishonored the memory of his lost Valkyrie.

But, it wasn’t Albert who’d made the door shudder open, or who called his name in a tentative, curious murmur:

“Ein?”

That high, feminine voice made his thoughts stutter. It also made him raise his head, mumbling, “Una?”

“I came to see if you were all right,” she said, floating toward his bunk with her soundless step. She settled beside him, barely disturbing the blanket or mattress.

“I’m fine.” He returned his gaze to the floor, noticing that her toes only just touched the grates beneath his boots. The sight made him smile a moment, for some reason.

“You’re not,” she said pointedly. Her hand touched his back, between his shoulders.

She’d touched him like that once before, the night Cherno hadn’t come back. He hadn’t noticed then how the light, kind press of her fingers started a faint warmth fluttering through him. This time, though, he closed his eyes, to feel it spread and multiply, and fill him with a new feeling not so lonely.

He sighed a long, low breath. “You know me a bit too well,” he said, half-lamenting but half-amused, as he looked at her again.

Una returned his faint smile. “We’ve worked together for three years.” She blinked her brown, doe-like eyes, and her smile wilted. “But, in that whole time, I’ve never been afraid for you. Until now.”

Ein pulled the air between them through his teeth. “Don’t,” he said, his vision going narrow with a frown. “I don’t want you fearing for me.” He reached out, laying his hand very tenderly upon her jaw. It wasn’t the defined and noble edge of which he’d often dreamed, but rather slender and gently sloping. Delicate, even. He stroked it with his fingers.

She didn’t react, save for a slow, sad smile. “You say that like it’s possible. Like I can just close my eyes,” she said, and did, her lashes lowering with a weight he could nearly feel in his chest. “And forget I care.”

The air shifted, and his heart stuttered, making his throat ache with a sudden dry tension. He considered – only for a second – taking his hand from her face. But it wouldn’t move.

“Una…!”

“I care for you, Ein,” she went on, as though she hadn’t heard his quiet warning. “I care for you more than anything. I know I’ll never be like Pi Kaidanovskaya. Not to you.” She shook her head, adding, “But I cannot silence what is in my heart.” Her narrow shoulders drooped with the burden of resignation. “I wouldn’t want to.”

Ein froze. He’d muttered nearly those exact same words, himself, about Sasha. When he’d said them to Albert, his brother had groaned and cursed and told him to get over his potentially damaging schoolboy crush. But, here, Ein swallowed, hard. Because it shouldn’t have been like this. He should have noticed. He should have paid attention at some point over these last three years to the brave and kind and clever little single mechanic beside him, rather than pined in hopeless solitude for the powerful, untouchable, married warrior pilot who’d known him only as a member of her Jaeger crew and not as peer or friend or—

“Liebling,” he whispered, without even thinking the word.

Una flicked her gaze up, clear but cautious.

Ein nodded, slowly. And, slowly, he smiled again. He was still holding her cheek.

She mirrored him, stroking her small hand over his prominent brow. “Darling,” she echoed, and leaned over to kiss him, only a touch of her soft and gentle lips to his, but it filled him with such fresh fire, he felt nearly consumed.

He pulled back before letting such flames fan themselves, their lips clutching only quietly, to murmur, “I’m sorry.”

She pulled away, too, curiously. “Why?”

“I never opened my eyes,” he said, drifting his gaze over the smooth lines of her face as it lit with another smile.

“I never opened my mouth,” she allowed, and chuckled, a high, warm, welcoming sound. She quickly turned silent, though, moving her whole body against his, this time, in preparation for a new kiss.

He backed away again, one hand laid upon her shoulder. It almost broke him to say so, but, with trembling tongue, he managed it: “Shouldn’t we wait? Go slowly?” He looked at her and cracked an uneven smile. “I don’t even know what music you like—”

“Chopin,” she said readily. An impish gleam shone in her eyes. “And The Pogues.”

He chuckled. “Or, your favorite food—”

“Goulash. But, only my babička’s recipe.”

His chuckling turned to laughter. “Or, oh, I don’t know…!”

She laughed, too, that most splendid of sounds he’d heard before but never so clearly as now.

“You don’t have to,” she said with a subtle shake of her head. “We’ll talk, and take our time, and get to know each other properly.” The gleam returned, brighter than before, as she brought her legs beneath her to kneel on the bunk beside him, cupping his face with both her hands. “But first,” she said, shifting one knee expertly over his lap so they sat chest-to-chest. “This.” And she kissed him again.

He knew he’d always remember Sasha Kaidonovsky, and feel a weight in his heart whenever he thought of her cool, commanding presence. He would always honor the memory of who she’d been, and what she’d done, and the countless lives she’d saved at the helm of her towering Jaeger, by the side of her husband. But this other woman, whose look and touch and kiss were meant specifically for him… This was a woman worth living for.

I’m published!

I’ve published my thriller novella!

A little over one year ago, I started the story of Number Seven when a friend of mine sent me a writing prompt for a contest. That prompt was “Awakenings”, and that’s what I called this story through its entire first draft. What I didn’t quite realize was that Seven’s awakening would lead to an awakening for me, as well.

It took me about six months to write the first draft, then another five or so months to take reader feedback and get it edited. At just about 33,000 words, it’s far short of the 80,000-word average for a novel, meaning that no traditional editor, agent, or publisher would give it the time of day. But I didn’t want to double the length of the story with extraneous subplots or details; I always liked that it read relatively quickly. So when Amorphous Publishing Guild (APG) came to me with an opportunity to self-publish, I took it. With APG, I got to publish my story on my terms. No doubt there are folks out there who think the way I published this story is wrong, hurting my brand, not exposing it to enough readers…but we each have to follow our own paths.

I respect and admire my writer friends who are dedicated to their goals of a book deal and big-time representation. That is impressive! It’s not for me, though. I write stories that speak to and through me, and the strictly business side of publishing doesn’t much interest me. Sure, I’d like to make back in sales what I spent on production and editing costs, but I really like my day job, too. For me, writing stories is about personal joy. By sharing the story, I hope to entertain others and bring them a little bit of joy, too.

Reading the Story

To pick up your own copy of my thriller short story “Number Seven and the Life Left Behind”, choose from the following versions:

  • Kindle Version, available from Amazon US, Amazon UK
  • Paperback, available from Amazon US, Amazon UK
  • For countries not the US or the UK, you can search for “Mayumi Hirtzel”. If the book is not available in your country but you’d still like a copy, let me know in the comments, and I’ll make sure we work something out!

If you decide to give it a read, thank you! I hope you enjoy the story of Seven and his friends. And look for more stories from me in the future!

5 Months, 3 Days, 1 Story

In late December 2017, a friend directed me to The Book Smugglers ‘Awakenings’ Writing Contest. The idea behind the contest – a speculative fiction short story/novella based on the theme of “awakening” – intrigued me, so I kicked around some possible ideas before one particular concept clicked. Here’s the very first original sentence I wrote for it:

original first line for the story

At first, I thought I could pull it off before the December 31 deadline: a short story about agent Seven and his handsome young charge, navigating the adventures of first lay and first love. But, as so often happens when a character grabs my imagination, Seven’s story became larger, more complex, and demanded more words. And more time. The deadline passed, and I had written only a fraction of the story Seven wanted me to tell. A new character entered the mix. An existing character wanted a bigger role. The main supporting character had a change of heart. And everyone’s conflicts came to a joined head that put all of them in danger from a common enemy.

The things we do for love (of a story).

So, what happened? Well, I wrote it all: every character, every subplot, every conflict. I put it all down in my main document and kept pressing toward that goal of writing The End. Far longer than I’d originally intended – five months and three days, to be exact – I finished this story. It went through changes, updates, even some 180-degree turns. But, I love it.

I’ve always thought that stories are better when they’re shared, even the flawed ones. This one, no doubt, has its flaws, but in my experience, flaws are easier to see when you open them up to other eyes. So, I’m opening this story up to you, my friends and fellows. It didn’t succeed in its original purpose (that is, for submission to that Book Smugglers writing contest), but it did succeed in fulfilling my hopes for a new story.

~More than “Just a Job”~

My original thematic catchphrase for this story was “Just a Job”, and, if you decide to read it, you’ll probably see why. As the words – and weeks – went on, though, I decided that wasn’t the most descriptive title. In its place, I’m calling this one “Number Seven and the Life Left Behind”. (My other idea was “More Than the Sum”…but that titles was already taken by somebody on Goodreads. And if I ever decide to post this story there, I want it to stand out.)

Over the coming month, I’ll be posting each section/chapter of “Number Seven and the Life Left Behind” here on this website. Starting June 7, you can read a new section every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. If you’re on my subscriber list, I’ll be turning off email update notifications for the individual story posts. But, I’ll be linking to them in my various social media feeds. At the end of the updates, I will collect all sections into a single document suitable for download or reading on your e-device. (psst! There’s even a chance I’ll put it into real book form, for both your and my shelf!) As for the story itself, you can “Like” or comment or not; that is always your choice. I’m just interested in sharing Seven’s story.

 

“Buckle Up” [original FMW short story]

“Buckle Up” [original FMW short story]

I had not planned on writing a holiday story this year. Current events led me into a kind of lingering depression, where even writing my work-in-progress – a space opera of diverse and changing characters running for their lives, a story I love and want so badly to see to the finish line – had become difficult to do every day. I was putting down four, maybe five or six sentences a day on my commute. The spark had left me. Then I saw a throwback post to my Christmas story swap from 2014.

Kindling of a Tradition

For those of you who haven’t read my earlier blog posts about this and aren’t familiar, the Christmas story swap is a tradition my sister and I started when we were pre-teens. (Now, I guess they’d call us “YAers”.) We would each write our own stories – usually fanfiction based on the X-Men, Dark Crystal, Star Wars, or whatever had captured our fancy that season – in the days or weeks leading up to Christmas day, with the purpose of swapping them on Christmas morning. It was an idea designed to keep us busy in those wee hours waiting for our parents to wake up. I don’t even remember anymore who came up with it, just that we did it for a several years straight, and it became one of my favorite holiday traditions. Writing stories became a tradition for me.

The Rekindling

That tradition between us fell away as we grew older and moved away to university. I even forgot about it for a few years. Then, during a whirlwind bout of inspiration over the 2013 winter break, I wrote my not-exactly-romance, not-quite-coming-of-age novella “Finding Mister Wright.” Fifteen chapters over fifteen days, with the words flying from my brain to the page. I’d never before – and have never since – encountered characters whose voices and personalities have flowed so easily for me. Like Athena from Zeus’s crown, Marshall, Daniel, Rob, Paige, and the rest burst fully-formed from my brain. More than their easiness, though, I’ve loved how their lives and (non-)adventures have always brought me a simple but satisfying joy.

Finding Myself in Mister Wright

The original “Finding Mister Wright” novella takes place mostly over the winter Chicago holidays. Because of that, the cast of that story has always lived in a perpetual kind of winter wonderland, for me. I’ve written them through many different seasons and stages of life, but there’s something about the holidays that always bring out the best of them…and the best in me.

I love writing these characters in this holiday season. No matter how much they change – and they do – they always fill me with such love and a sense of family that is almost as good as having my real family around me. So, while I hadn’t planned on writing a Christmas story this year, when a little nugget of another “Finding Mister Wright” universe story idea struck me on my morning commute earlier this week, I had to run with it.

“Buckle Up”

I wrote this 2017 “Finding Mister Wright” holiday story over the course of the last three days, so it’s basically me falling in free-form. It’s about 3500 words and nearly a full twelve pages, double-spaced. It’s not as polished as it could be, but it’s something I made and that I’m proud to share, nicks, scratches, and all. You can click on the cover image at left if you’d like to read it. If not, that’s fine, too.

I wish you a lovely holiday season, wherever you may be!

Do you enjoy reading holiday stories? How about reading them? If you read my story this year, what did you think? I’d love to hear from you!

“Autumn Leaves” (original FMW short story)

“Autumn Leaves” (original FMW short story)

This is “Autumn Leaves”, the latest entry in my “Finding Mister Wright” series of stories. It follows Rob as he and Daniel take Paige off to college(!).

I tried to keep it from getting too sappy, but that often doesn’t work when it comes to these characters and the steps in their journeys. It has been fun watching Paige grow up from a sassy, somewhat bratty little girl, into the confident, still-a-bit-bratty teenager she’s become. It’s also been great to be with Rob through this particular adventure, too. He’s so used to being Paige’s knight-protector, seeing him have to let go of her as she matures has been both charming and heartbreaking for me. (Yes, I have shed tears for these characters over the years.) Click the title image if you’d like to read it.

I’m still sorting out the best way to present these stories. If you have a preference, why not let me know in the comments? In the meantime, happy reading!

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