Rushed: Evancurt – Sneak Peek of Book 8!

Now that the Hands of the Architects trilogy is finally finished, it’s time to see what Eric has been up to!  And it looks like the weird is really going to shake things up for him!  I’m currently in the process of wrapping up the first draft of the eighth Rushed book. And since we’ve been teasing everyone on Facebook these past few weeks–even dropping a nasty rumor about killing off a character who’s been with us since the first book in the very first chapter–I think maybe we’ll go ahead and share a little sneak peek.  So read on and enjoy!

 

Rushed: Evancurt

by Brian Harmon

 

Chapter One

Everything was darkness, pain and fog. Eric drifted through an icy, black void, lost in the crushing depths of a vast, stinging ocean, his thoughts tossed in the strange currents, scattered and broken, grasping at desperate fragments of confused questions churning in the murky waves. What happened to him? Where was he? And why was he in so much pain?

Slowly, he clawed his way back to consciousness and struggled to open his eyes. He was lying on the cold, damp ground, his face pressed against the bare earth, the smell of dirt, dead leaves and blood filling his nose.

This wasn’t how he usually started his morning. Call him a pessimist, but this felt like it was going to be one of those days.

He tried to move his arms and felt a sharp, jarring pain in his left shoulder that jolted him a little more awake. His eyes fluttered open, but they didn’t want to focus. The world around him was a cloudy blur of mottled shadow and churning light. Again, he felt as if he were deep underwater, peering up through murky fathoms.

His head was pounding. There was a throbbing in his left knee. It even hurt to breathe. With a painful grunt, he lifted his head and blinked away the tears in his eyes. Some of the haze peeled away, revealing those deep-sea lights to really be a canopy of bare tree branches looming over him and swaying in the cold breeze.

A forest… But…why was he in the woods? He hated the woods. Bad things tended to happen to him when he went into the woods.

He blinked again, trying to clear away more of that haze, but not all of it was in his head. The day, itself, was gray and foggy. There was a cold and haunting mist hanging in the air.

There was a crow perched on one of the branches, staring down at him like a tired cliché of an ill omen, its head tilted to one side as if it were as baffled about how he’d ended up here as he was.

What the hell happened to him? The last thing he remembered was…

He closed his eyes and groaned. What was the last thing he remembered?

Again, he moved his arms. Again, his shoulder cried out in pain. But he managed to plant the palms of his hands against the ground and push himself up.

Above him, the crow spread its wings and took off into the sky.

The conference. He was at the teacher’s conference. In Oshkosh.

He curled his knees beneath him, grimacing at the pain in the left one as he settled his weight onto it. He coughed and the motion sent shockwaves of pain through his chest and left side.

This wasn’t the sort of thing that usually happened at teachers’ conferences. He was fairly sure he was missing something here.

Reaching up with a shaky hand, he felt a shallow gash on the side of his forehead. That was where the blood was coming from. It’d run down his face, matting his eyebrow and covering his cheek. But it didn’t seem to be gushing. Hopefully he wouldn’t need stitches.

He sat up and looked around, trying to blink away more of that confusing haze.

He was on his way home. He remembered that much. It wasn’t morning but afternoon. But that was all he could recall. How did he end up out here? And for that matter…where was his vehicle?

He blinked hard and then turned and looked behind him.

His silver PT Cruiser was there. It was mangled up among the tree trunks, utterly totaled.

His heart sank at the sight. He’d had it for six years now. It might not have been the coolest of rides. Karen was the one who picked it out. She thought it was cute. But they brought it home brand-new from the dealer with only twelve miles on it. And he’d taken good care if it, too.

Now it was gone.

He closed his eyes again and lowered his head. Was it his fault? Did he fall asleep? Did a deer run out in front of him? He didn’t see any other vehicles. He hoped to God no one else was involved.

With a loud and painful grunt, he rose to his feet and staggered a few steps toward the destroyed Chrysler. It was funny, he was never quite sure what to call the thing. The dealer told them it was technically classified as a truck. But calling it a truck seemed a bit pretentious. The same with just calling it the “Cruiser.” Like he was trying to lump it in with those souped-up Chargers the police used. But it didn’t feel like just a “car,” either. And it certainly wasn’t a van or an SUV.

He stood there a moment, his eyes closed, swaying a little on his feet, just letting himself breathe. His head was still foggy. It was difficult to think straight.

Forget the stupid car. (Or truck or whatever it was…like it really mattered anymore…) Right now, he needed to focus on himself. It was getting late and the sky had been gray and dreary all day. It’d be dark soon. It was a rather unseasonably warm day for late January, but it was going to get colder as the night dragged on.

He opened his eyes and stared at the remains of the vehicle. Then he frowned. He turned and looked back at the place where he woke up. It was at least fifty feet away. Was he thrown that far in the crash? How was that possible? He knew he was wearing his seatbelt. He always wore his seatbelt.

Again, he turned and looked at the mangled wreck. It was crumpled and folded between three different trees. Between the impact and being thrown fifty feet, how was he not dead?

That couldn’t be right. Maybe he’d climbed out of the car, dazed from the crash, and collapsed over there. It made more sense than being thrown clear of the crash in spite of being properly buckled in.

He started walking toward the wreck again, his mind racing. Then something caught his eye. What was that sticking out of the open door? Was that…a sleeve? Was someone there?

But no one was with him when he left the conference…

He paused, startled, as he suddenly imagined walking up and finding himself still in the car, his body mangled in the wreckage, his eyes lifeless and glazed.

Was it possible? Could he be dead?

No. That was stupid. He wouldn’t have such a headache if he was dead.

Right?

He walked up to the crumpled door and peered inside. It was his sleeve. More specifically, it was the sleeve of his jacket, which he’d taken off before leaving Oshkosh.

“Get it together…” he muttered, running his hand through his hair. He reached through the broken window and grabbed the jacket. Then he shook off the broken bits of safety glass and put it on.

His chest still hurt on the left side. He felt it when he raised his arms. Had he cracked a rib? He hoped he didn’t end up spending the night in a hospital somewhere. That’d be annoying. Fortunately, the pain in his shoulder and knee seemed to ease a bit as he moved around and loosened his joints. But only just a bit.

Glancing back through the broken window, he saw that the airbags had deployed. Those might explain how he survived such a gruesome-looking impact, at least.

The fuzziness in his aching head was starting to clear up. But with this clarity came another bizarre realization.

He turned all the way around, scanning his surroundings.

Where was the road?

He turned around again, scanning those same surroundings a second time, and then a third, as if he were merely missing it. There was nothing but foggy forest in every direction. He couldn’t even hear any traffic.

How could he have run off the road if there wasn’t a road?

There wasn’t even any clear path by which he could’ve driven to this spot, much less fast enough to have done this kind of damage. He saw no tire tracks. How did he end up here? It didn’t make any sense.

None of this made any sense.

He leaned against the mangled fender and closed his eyes again, trying to think through the headache.

Then he looked up, his senses finally returning to him. “Isabelle!” he gasped. She’d know what happened. He reached for his phone in his front pants pocket, but it was gone. “What…? No!” He checked his other front pocket. His back pockets. His jacket pockets. He leaned into the driver’s window and searched the seats, the console and the cupholders. Then he pried the door all the way open, wincing at the awful sound of grinding metal and cracking fiberglass, and looked in the floorboards and under the seats. Finally, he turned and scanned the ground between here and where he awoke.

He had it when he left the conference. He was certain of that. He’d called Karen from the parking lot to let her know he was on his way home. He was fairly sure he even remembered returning it to his pants pocket.

But the rational part of his mind told him that if it was here and it still worked, he’d hear it ringing. Isabelle would’ve heard him and called before now. In fact, thinking more clearly about it, she should’ve been calling him from the start, trying to wake him up while he was lying unconscious on the ground.

But then where had it gone? It couldn’t have just disappeared.

He turned and searched the vehicle again. He wanted to believe that it was just turned off. Or maybe the battery had died. He only had to find where it fell and plug it into the travel charger. The car battery would probably still be good for that. But he knew better. He always kept it on when he was traveling. Karen insisted. And it was fully charged when he left the house that morning. And he’d kept it off all during the conference. It was either gone or broken. Those were the only possibilities that made any sense.

And he hadn’t even begun to process the fact that his wallet seemed to have gone missing as well. Had he been robbed? Maybe someone witnessed the accident, pulled him out of the wreckage and then relieved him of his valuables. It’d be a dick move, to be sure, but it was a scenario that at least made some sort of sense, he supposed.

He stood there a moment, still leaning over the driver’s seat, still trying to make sense of it all. Then he glanced up at the darkening sky above. There was a flashlight, spare batteries and a first aid kit in the glove box. He reached over and retrieved them, then stepped away from the wreck and filled the empty pockets of his jacket.

This was bad. The PT Cruiser was destroyed. He had no idea where he was, or even where the road was. He’d lost his phone, so he wasn’t going to be able to talk to Isabelle or call for help. Or even to look up where he was. And he had several injuries that seemed minor, but probably should be looked at.

Absently, he dabbed at the gash on his forehead again.

“What the hell happened?” he muttered to himself.

The forest, not surprisingly, offered him no answer.

He wandered off a few steps and then sat down on the cold ground again, wincing at the pain in his ribs.

An accident was one thing. It happened. And the phone could’ve fallen somewhere and broke. Or he might’ve dropped it while stumbling around in whatever unremembered haze carried him to the place on the ground where he eventually awoke. Or it could’ve been stolen with his wallet. Even some memory loss wasn’t unexpected, given that he’d hit his head somewhere along the way. (He should probably have that looked at sooner than later.)

It was the road. That was the part that didn’t add up.

He tried to remember the events leading up to the accident, but it was pointless. His last clear memory was of driving down the highway. He recalled nothing odd at all. Traffic was fairly light. The roads were damp, but clear of ice. It’d been drizzling off and on all day. Given the current light, that must’ve been at least an hour or two ago.

He glanced down to check his watch, as he’d been doing all day, only to remember that it was still at home. The battery had gone dead on him the day before and he hadn’t had time to buy a new one.

Just his luck…

He was starting to have a bad feeling about all this. Or, more precisely, he’d been having that bad feeling this whole time and was starting to run out of excuses to keep trying to rationalize it away.

Something weird was going on. And if he could talk to Isabelle, she’d probably confirm it for him.

What happened during that missing time? And what was he supposed to do now that he was here? Wandering around blind didn’t seem like a good idea. With no idea which way the nearest road might be, he’d only end up more lost.

Maybe he should stay close to the vehicle for now. He’d have the best chance of being found that way. Isabelle would’ve informed Karen of his accident as soon as it happened. And Karen would’ve dispatched his brother, Paul, to come searching for him. He’d be following Isabelle’s directions to the last place she knew him to be.

At the very least, he could just take a moment and rest and let his head clear a little more.

But then something strange happened. The wind abruptly died away and every branch and twig became unnaturally still. An eerie silence fell across the forest, leaving not a single sound but the pounding of his own pulse in his ears. At the same time, an intense and irresistible panic began to rise from deep inside him. Inside his bruised chest, his heart was suddenly racing. He jumped to his feet and turned around, his eyes wide, convinced that he wasn’t alone.

Something was here. He was immediately and absolutely sure of it. Something was watching him. Something in the forest. Something dangerous.

He turned the other way, scanning his surroundings, trying to find the source of this awful feeling. Beneath his shoes, the crunching of the leaves sounded as loud as gunshots in the eerie silence, and the noise he made only intensified his bizarre terror.

He needed to get out of here right now.

He didn’t think about which way he should go.

He just ran.

 

Rushed: Evancurt

Coming Soon!

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So Sorry for the Delay

Hello everyone.  I’d like to thank you all for being so patient with me these past several months.  I know I haven’t been posting much on social media.  I haven’t been updating my website or my blog.  And my next book release is long overdue.  I don’t blame you if you’ve become frustrated with me.  I’m sorry.  The truth is that things have not been well here.  You see, I recently lost my father to Leukemia.  It’s been a very difficult time for me and for my family.  I’m sure at least some of you will know what it’s like all too well.  The whole world has changed…  Everything feels different than it did before…  Heavier…  Hollower…  And I’ve had trouble finding my way back to the comfort of my fictional worlds.  It’s hard to be a writer when all the words in the world seem to fall short…  So I hope you’ll bear with me just a little longer while I sort things out and try to get back into the swing of things.  I just need a little time.  Just a little more…  And then I promise I’ll be back again.  Thank you.

Writing with Baby

     If you follow me on Facebook, you probably already know that I was blessed with a new arrival earlier this year. I’m now a father of three. As a result, I’ve had a serious, but I hope perfectly understandable impediment to my writing. It’s not nearly as easy as it once was to find time to work on my next book, and my progress has slowed down noticeably. Often times, I’ve no more than just found my word flow when Dad is needed again. There’s a diaper emergency. Or the other two kids are fighting. Or someone desperately needs a snack right now, even though mom is feeding the baby. Or someone has their head stuck between the stairs railings. Again. Every day is a new adventure. And a new opportunity to find yourself saying something you never thought you’d hear yourself say. Like, “We don’t put deodorant on the cat,” and, “Because you’re not a licensed dentist! That’s why!” There’s no preparing for this stuff. You just have to wing it.
     Regardless of how crazy it gets, I’d never give up this life for anything. Even now that my work is earning enough that my wife was able to cut back her work hours, I refuse to entirely give up my status as “stay-at-home dad.” I’m far too proud of that title to let it go.
     I truly have the best two jobs in the world. I have the best kids and the best fans! And I promise you many more dark adventures are on the way. I’m just moving a little slower than usual right now. Thank you so much for reading!

Oh, the Carnage!

 

     After many weeks and much begging and pleading and yelling and threatening and shouting and shaming and bargaining and bribing and more begging and more pleading, I finally gave up, accepted defeat and began cleaning my daughter’s room myself while she was at school.  (What can I say, stubbornness is clearly hereditary.)
     It didn’t seem all that bad as I began.  It’s just toys, I told myself.  An occasional scrap of paper or snack wrapper, maybe some cookie crumbs here and there.  More than a few dust bunnies.  Lots of laundry.  Maybe even a misplaced cup from a midnight drink of water.  But, of course, looks can be deceiving.  I had only just scratched the surface when I suddenly found myself in a queer and grisly episode of CSI.  I’ve apparently stumbled upon the scene of a complex and convoluted serial crime spree involving naked Barbies, cross-dressing Lalaloopsies and more than a few shady-looking ponies.
     Pieces of Ken are turning up in piles of strewn doll clothing and accessories and what appear to be dumping sites for biohazard waste from a Mr. Potato Head plastic surgery clinic, with disembodied lips and ears and noses and ever-staring conjoined eyeballs.  There’s also a Littlest Pet Shop dog’s head in a miniature plastic purse and a macabre collection of dainty little Monster High girls hands in a Cabbage Patch diaper under the dresser.
     So many questions.  Not the least of which:  How?  Why?  And where are Rainbow Bright’s pants?
     Terrified, I take a step back and survey the scene.  Suddenly, I realize how treacherous the landscape has become.  The wheels have been stolen from Barbie’s convertible.  A dollhouse appears to have been ransacked.  There’s a naked mermaid lying motionless in the back of a school bus and someone has been ditching stolen Hot Wheels in a Little People barn.
     It’s just a little girl’s room.  I keep telling myself that.  And yet I’m increasingly horrified by one gruesome discovery after another.  The carnage is so widespread, I’d think only Batman could possibly bring order to the land, but that appears to be his left foot lodged in the wheel well of the Mystery Machine…
     Just a little girl’s room…  Just a little girl…
     As I proceed through the devastation of this post-apocalyptic version of a child’s sleeping quarters, I try to make sense of what’s going on, try to tell myself that it’s not nearly as bad as it seems, but those stuffed animals seem to be watching me with their beady little eyes from their high shelves, like deranged gods gazing down upon their dominion, admiring the catastrophic art of their evil schemes ruthlessly realized.
     Slowly, determinedly, I sort through the wreckage.  I find both of Ken’s legs.  His arm.  Half of his torso.  His head.  Then I uncover a second body, this one headless, and I have no idea now which actually belongs to the head I’ve previously uncovered.  If either.  But I can’t think about that now.  Just found Mrs. Potato Head…  Great Jesus…  I think I’m going to need backup in here…

My Writing Process

I’ve encountered some interesting questions since I started writing.  People want to know about what I do and how I do it.  So I thought I’d share a little bit about my writing process.  You know, for those interested in that sort of thing.  Those of you who are just looking for more “Hot Naked Women” posts probably won’t be interested.  You can move along.  (But thanks for being the more than 75% of all web traffic that passes through my blog since that post was published.  You really class up the place.)  

First of all, I should say that I do have a writing process by which I create all my work, but it’s not the most professional model you’ll find.  The biggest flaw in my particular process is time.  In addition to being a novelist, anyone who has read many of my other posts knows that I’m also a stay-at-home dad with an extremely creative four-year-old.  I’d like to dedicate a specific time slot to my writing each day and remain consistent, but I don’t have that luxury.  The other day I turned my back for a few seconds to get a drink and the child somehow managed to disassemble the television remote.  Therefore, I tend to do most of my writing not at a quiet desk but in bed after everyone is asleep or else at the dining room table where I can observe the play areas of the house.  I neither write for a predetermined amount of time nor a specific number of words or pages.  I write until I’m tired or until I can no longer concentrate or until I have to stop to tend to my household chores.  Or until it appears that the cat may be in mortal danger. 

Typically, I tend to compensate for my lack of writing focus by spending more time thinking about my work.  I am constantly planning scenes and feeling out characters and constructing new dialog while I go about my daily routine of managing the house chores and rescuing the pets.  As far as I’m concerned, daydreaming is just a part of my job.  (So to all those teachers who told me to wake up and focus on my work in school, I say suck it!)  (I’d also like to point out for the record that I still haven’t found a practical use for any of that trigonometry nonsense, either.) 

Every great story begins with nothing more than an idea.  But not just any idea will do.  After all, I’ve had some pretty bad ideas in my life.  (That meat slicer incident comes to mind…)  It has to be strong.  It has to be packed with potential.  It has to be the kind of idea I can build an entire world around.  No matter how cool I might think an epic battle between two scantily clad supermodels in a giant tub of chocolate pudding might seem, there is simply no way I can think to build a realistic plot leading up to such an event.  Regardless of how many times I try… 

When I have an idea that I can build a world from, I write the story.  I won’t bore you with a long, drawn-out description of how I go about sitting down and writing it.  Mostly because I asked my wife to proof-read this post and she told me you’d probably be bored with those seven pages…  I don’t know why that would be.  I’m sure you’re just devastated to miss out on hearing all about how I construct a thorough set of notes on plotlines and character development and progression outlines and how I’m very particular about the kind of pen I use and what temperature I like the room to be and…  Well, maybe that page about my bathroom breaks might have been a little too much information…  Yeah, let’s just leave it at I write the story.

Once the manuscript is finished, I put it aside.  I put some distance between it and myself.  I start a new story or I edit a previous one.  I read a book.  I watch some movies.  I engage myself in a good video game.  I work on that monster I’m building in my basement that my wife says I’ll never bring to life, like she knows anything about reanimation science.  It’s just not thunderstorm season yet, that’s all.  I get my mind off the story as much as I can.  Sometimes weeks or even months go by.  By the time I return to the manuscript, it should feel new again.  Then the editing process begins. 

This is where the most difficult of the work is.  I am an obsessive editor.  I enter the process with a firm conviction that my work is severely flawed and riddled with embarrassing errors that I will probably never be able to fully eradicate.  And I am, for all intensive purposes, absolutely correct.  There’s no such thing as a perfect story.  There’s always one more word you can change, one more sentence you can improve.  And as the writer, I know what I meant to say when I wrote it, making it difficult to see what I actually put on the paper.  Just a single incorrect letter in tens of thousands of words can have catastrophic results to a manuscript.  Don’t believe me?  Consider the difference between the words “message” and “massage” for a moment.  The sentence, “Bill received a personal message from his mom,” can become a dramatically different statement by changing only that one letter.  With one single keystroke, your young adult novel just became really freaky.  I am compelled to read my work over and over and over again.  I question every line, every word.  I become utterly absorbed in eradicating every possible error.  I am obsessed with it.  It’s not my best quality, I’ll admit, but it’s useful for the end result.  And it’s not like I obsess over everything.  Only over my writing.  And sometimes pickles, but that’s an entirely different discussion. 

As you might imagine, the whole process can be very time consuming.  It can take many weeks just to prepare a little short story.  But the end result can be extremely rewarding.  After all I’ve done, all the hours I poured into it, the endless reading and rereading…after all that…when I received that very first five-star review on Amazon…  I can’t describe how satisfying that was.  To love what you do is one thing.  To know that others love what you do just as much as you…  That means an awful lot. 

Now back to those supermodels and that pudding…

Lies, Lies, Lies!

How wrong is it to lie to your children?  I mean we tell all those elaborate fibs about Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy and that Mischievous Magic Gnome that sometimes locks mommy and daddy in their room for no apparent reason in the middle of the day…  Um…  Of course, not everyone celebrates the same…things…  I’m just saying we go to a lot of trouble for this stuff.  Milk and Cookies.  Hiding eggs.  Risking life and limb to sneak into a dark and treacherously messy room to exchange that little tooth for a dollar.  It’s like a game for grownups.  A few nights a year, we pretend to be covert agents.  Tell me you’ve never played the Mission Impossible theme music in your head as you slide your hand under that pillow.  It can’t really just be me.

     I’ve heard of people who get really bent out of shape about these kinds of lies.  They feel betrayed.  They trusted their parents and how could they dare tell these blatant lies to an innocent, impressionistic child?  Really?  Personally, I think these people are WAY too sensitive.  Seriously, grow up.  I love that my parents cared enough to give me a little magic in this otherwise grim and unsympathetic world.  No matter how cold the world becomes, at least I believed in something magical at least once in my life.
     But what about all those other lies?  As parents, we want so badly to protect them from the world.  And as such, there are truths that we’re not immediately comfortable with.  Like where meat comes from.  No mom is in any hurry to tell her children where pork chops come from.  Or cheeseburgers.  Or Chicken McNuggets.  And we certainly can’t discuss sex with our children!  God no!  We cannot possibly tell them where babies really come from.  We invent stories of noble storks and magical cabbage patches to explain away those perfectly natural, if incredibly uncomfortable questions about the origins of our individual lives.  And really, after we’re all grown up, we look back on those lies we were told with heartfelt gratitude.  Because Mom DID NOT DO THAT.  End of story.  And if birth is an awkward subject, death is unthinkable.  Family pets don’t die.  They just go away.  The goldfish is just taking the toilet back home to his family who live out in the ocean.  Sparky didn’t get run over, he just ran away.  Great Grandma moved to Florida.  We don’t even realize how many lies we tell.
     And then there are the lies we can’t help but want to tell them.  After you’ve spent all day cleaning that messy closet, don’t you just want to tell them about the child-devouring monster that lives in there so they’ll stay the hell out of it and leave it nice and clean?  Because you know otherwise it’s going to be trashed by bedtime.  Aren’t you at least a little bit tempted?  And what better way to keep them out of the basement?  Or the attic?  Or the cabinet where you keep your Spice Girls doll collection?  Or…you know…whatever you happen to be into…  All I’m saying is that fear is a powerful motivator, people!  Parents have been using the boogeyman and his kind to keep kids in line since the dark ages.  To this day, I’ve never incurred the wrath of the unthinkable demon that dwells in my dad’s dresser…  (Mental note:  sometimes when we outgrow the fantasy, what remains is infinitely more terrifying…)
     And really, it’s not exactly a lie that too much candy will give you nightmares.  I mean it could…right?  Maybe?  I mean it never gave me nightmares, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen to my kids…  Better safe than sorry, right?  And so what if I don’t have proof that my favorite kinds of candy just happen to cause the worst nightmares?  It’s still a valid theory.
     Is it wrong to tell them that it’s against the law to take them to the ice cream shop because you forgot to renew your ice cream buying permit?  Should I feel bad for showing my kids a picture of Hiroshima and telling them that’s what happens when a child shakes the soda her dad asked her to bring him from the fridge?  What about saying we can’t get a puppy because we live next to a Lutheran church?  (It’s a religious thing.  I don’t really get it.)  We can’t buy that doll because it might offend certain social stereotypes.  You can’t spend the night at Billy’s house because his parents are communist spies.  Little things like that.  Like when you tell them they need to take a nap because you need to take a nap.  Or that they need to eat more Brussels sprouts because they’re good for them, not because you hate them and don’t want to have to finish off the dish.
     I’m just saying that sometimes a little white lie can’t hurt.  And if Santa Claus can really come down the chimney once a year, when we don’t even have a fireplace, why can’t a few nightmares help ensure that they leave some of that candy for me?  I don’t think it’s all that unreasonable.